‘Friends With Benefits’ Sounds Like A Health Insurance Plan

Can lovers remain friends?

No, but May makes me wonder if there isn’t something else our relationship could settle into apropos. Feelings are pretty sticky in a gross way you would expect, like syrup or childrens hands, and it isn’t often after the playground tumults of lust and love that I find much in the debris of interpersonals. Yet in the spaces I thought her absence would leave vacant and yearning, instead there is the same respect and adoration for her company as before. Instead I’m asking my phone out loud, I-Wonder-How-She’s-Doing, then text to ask out of no obligation other than I’d like to know.

“If that’s what you want, it’s fine,” She said. “But I know you, and I want to make sure we stay friends.”

There’s no point in stating the obvious, like those trust exercises when somone falls backwards into a persons arms. It’s not the height that makes me nervous, but why you can’t just take my word that I believe when you say you’ll catch me. I’d unconsciously decided to become defensive because of it. To a monster the norm is monstrous, and my first instinct was to reject any resemblance of feelings becoming stationary or steady. I can’t stand to sit down, am too odd to ever be even. Give me my coffee boiling hot or cold enough to make my teeth clatter. Let my experiences, and not my telling of them, be exaggerate and exhausting. A life lived in extremes is the only life worth living- I’d sooner rather die right this instant than one day look back at all my sufferings, loss, and achievements thinking “I guess it was okay.”

“Friends, right?” She said again.

May is stubborn in her pleasance, and my heart is rendered incapable of offending her love in any form. I remember the spiritual muck she saw me lying in, the hands that helped hang away the hang-ups keeping me grounded six feet deep. My life is owed to her, and whatever she should ever desire, my very bloody hands will find the way to deliver it to her.

“Friends,” I repeated, but more like a question.

I don’t know what the word entails. Will I be a weekend ruin with her, damning our souls and morality down Amsterdam chasing thighs and feelings? Another Roger barking up my phone and timeline on Saturday nights, pseudo-social sojourns with dim girls and coworkers, howling at the moon because we’re too young to be this lonely. Or will she only call me when her boyfriend is out of town and she’s bored, looking to lose herself in the arms and eyes of someone else that isn’t hopelessly decimate in an unhappy relationship? (Here’s Looking At You, Kid.) Or maybe she means the kind of people that only reach out when they need something, like someone else to double date because his girlfriend thinks you’re too ugly and grumpy to make a move on her or suggest a four-way.

“Friends,” She said again, this time softly under her breath. Then something went soft in her eyes that seemed to add

“I can tell you need one of those.”


Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous: Isabella

I’ve never been good at listening to other people’s problems and I’m chronically late to pity parties. I don’t have the patience for whine and dining, I’d rather jump straight to bed where the daily inconsequentials about yourself take a back seat to the deeper things that are at play. Most people are old fashioned and like to take things slow after sex, consider honest truths about themselves too “intimate” to be shared before the flesh or so immediately. I suppose that must make me a slut, spreading my heart to the first pair of honey eyes and warm thighs with a violent pulse.

I don’t blame the shame because I’m no romantic and either way it doesn’t last. Nothing does. Maybe that’s why I have a tendency to hit it and quit it, emotion wise. And sometimes when I’m standing in a grocery line or watching a movie I have this incredible urge to stand up and yell. I never do so I never know what I would actually say. It can’t be anything healthy, whatever it is that’s pent up, but I’ll never let it out. That might be counterintuitive but that’s life.

Nature can turn against itself. My cat likes to chew on plastic.

“There’s something in the way you look at me,” she says. “I don’t think anyone’s ever looked at me like you do.”

Isabella doesn’t drink, she simmers. When I stare into those bright, cloudy pools of milk and caramel she calls eyes a dark desire fills my heart and all extremities. Like burning alive on a smaller scale, and there is no lie in her fire. My nerves tingle in a calm excitement and I become painfully aware, sensitive to the slightest touch that tethers our bodies. Her beautiful mouth curves a smile and I’m called…no, tugged and compelled towards her like a marionette by a string.

“Do you have a wife?” She asks me casually, and I answer no. “A girlfriend then,” she presses, and in the soft intimacy of her legs wrapped in mine, I confess to so-and-so’s. To my heart having grown brash, bitter and unstable. That I don’t trust these whimsies and so called feelings, for they’ve betrayed me, and in their wake I find less beauty in life and even lesser of myself. Sentiments leave a wound and I’ve never been able to resist a scab. Yet it was in that flame of deception and lies that I was tempered, and I was surprised to find my mettle too strong to be melded.

Outside five burros are crying to the dry, arid sunrise. A cricket chirps, two coyotes wail at the moon, and between the bitter thymes of El Torito and Sergio Vargas it begins to rain. Begins to wet the still and thirsty earth so yearning for its due. Isabella mewls and I feel her warm heart thump against the imprint of palm. the crease and edges of her skin smooth and tell a story to my fingertips like braille. Its five am and soon a cab will call me down to home and other sunsets. The notion numbs me. I can’t bare the thought, to leave her side or moment unfulfilled, but what matter that we lay together when sleep tears us apart and a dream will keep us separate.

“Will you stay the night?” She asks. And I nod to confess so.

The coyotes howl and somewhere back home my cat is chewing happily on a garbage bag. I kiss her sweet lips and feel the the ashes of my soul ignite my passion once again.

Love, like life, must find a way.

Lovers, By God Tell Me, Whats The Desperate One Of You To Do?

Raquel is pretty. Not hot, not sexy, bad, or “banging” but…pretty. Gorgeous, even.

There’s something so innocent in her sexy, and whatever makes her sweet so appealing isn’t from the swing of her hips or the way she makes her golden-nether eyes flutter. No, what I can’t resist is her simplicity of skin, the arch of her spine where the back dips like a sunset into her jeans. A smile full of secrets and a sigh carrying the anatomy of stars, clouds, and void. She’s a cosmic cutie; summer solstice for lips and planets where her eyes should be. A kiss full of whispers that fills you with a feeling easy to describe, but wouldn’t want to tell your mom about. A shame without the guilt to it, sin of the highest piety: she makes me emotionally horny.

There’s such a thing as natural talent; people that are good at something for no reason other than that they’re the one who’s doing it. Seduction is a skill, and whether she was aware of it or not, Raquel was gifted.

“Don’t you hate sports? Why do you have a baseball jersey?” Raquel asks, poking through my esteem and closet.

There’s two kinds of lust, I think. The kind we feel at movie stars or your brothers girlfriend- the one for the unreachable and endless. Then there’s the other especially reserved for that girl that makes funny faces when she wears your glasses, the one that’s yours but just out of reach and inches from your hands.

“So this is what it’s like to have a parole officer.”

She laughs, and the melody, I imagine, is the sound of galaxies being born.

“Is that your grandmother?” She asks, and I nod in a numb silence.

But another person in your heart can be terrifying, the way they echo so warm and easy to a place and memory. She has on socks with skulls across the ankle, size 6 Puma’s leaving imprints on the sands of my mind and studio apartment. Sunday nights well spent not doing much. Mum nothings in the sink, the kids are at the sitter, Making A Murderer on a loop and remnants of Peru leaving Pio Pio marks in green sauce. Taxicab confessions that don’t feel so scripted. Netflix and spills.

So many sanguine sensories, unforgettable as amnesia.

“You have her smile,” She says, and the picture of my grandmother keeps scowling.

Raquel is bright as ever in the darkness of my longing.

She walks along my room, my marble monastery, soft and curious. A note I scribbled on the dresser this morning calls her and she almost reaches to read it, but a reserve catches her and she flinches. She admires the scrap from a distance instead: observing it and the mess of books and loose change with a careful and aloof interest you’re scared to touch, like items in a museum.

I’ve never let a woman in my apartment. For sex or otherwise. I liked the privacy, the sanctity, the heaven of having a hell all to myself. A castle in the corner of a second story cloud- I’d left confidences in the kitchen with the cook too dark to share. The joys and pangs aisling my closet were biblical – an entire library of wounds and darlings these bare rooms bared witness to. Secrets of the deepest matters I’d sooner take to the grave than to a therapist.

So if these walls could talk, they wouldn’t be talking for very long.

“Your mirrors cracked,” She says, and I pretend I never noticed.

“I didn’t notice.” I said.

“Because you never use it.”

“Are you calling me ugly?”

Her face, bright and bold by the smooth bows of her eyebrows, is blue and blushed and full of so many beautiful things. I feel the way people must feel just before they get the idea of getting a tattoo of somebody else’s name – positive, but absolutely fucking insane.

I want to call her beautiful, but I know she would resent it. Raquel doesn’t take kindly to compliments. There were names, sources that I could cite vaguely on as to why. Gerald, David, Joseph and maybe a Tom or two. Men that swore their loves to the fullness moon but were waning, waxing girl-crush poetics until someone was late or a baby bump. Men that left nothing but a trail of dust, smoke, and children in her face.

Assholes or the usual suspects, who’s to say?, the only matter to mine being having to compete with the graves they left behind. I want to call her beautiful, to lay my affection for her luna eyes in words just like the wolves. But I couldn’t. So I didn’t say a word. Keeping my wants all to myself and watching her desperately from a distance, stuffing my lust into a look because she finds words and kisses so questionable.

A loaded look is better. Intent has a wider palate than the tongue.

“What is it?” She says. But I don’t say anything.

She starts to undress in a loud silence, and I watch the subtle fluxes of her spine rippling a Rorschach. Dark and mesmerizing shifts slithering beneath her skin like snakes. She came to me that night like dreams, unexpected and all at once, waiting and ready to take my love and passion like a guillotine. Tracing her finger along my chest and hands, reading the cuts and grooves like a wound or tarot card. I hold her close and not at all, run my hand along her face and side in a distant admiration. The way you hold a marble that shines a certain way when you hold it against the sunlight. I turn cruel and deliberate. At times I found arches on her neck, thighs and lips I would love fiercely. And when I feel her ache, feel her breath and heart pause and quiver, I retreat to a tender but empty caress, then say her name when I meant to sigh.

“What is it,” She whispers, somewhere between exasperation and a beg. “What is it, don’t you want to?”

I’ve never liked sex, although I have enjoyed it. The act goes rotten with analysis if you spend more than a thought on it. As a man, anyway. To penetrate a woman…Christ. There’s a moment before momentum moans you on when the act feels terrible and invasive. But nature has its safeguards, and before you have the mind or heart to turn away, a certain sight or sound boils the blood and instinct takes the wheel. Then all is lost, and all is gained.

We’re all slaves to the pleasure principle.

But this was hard to phrase, so instead I traced my name across her chest with my fingertips. Stuck on the stillness that makes my skin feel useless.

“You’re so strange,” She says, bordering between pensive and thoughtful. “When you’re in the moment you really are, but when you’re not…you go somewhere.”

I’ve been told that I have the eyes of a pianist – sad and a little lonely. That I looked like the kind of man to slam a door behind him. I can’t remember who said what. The dead tell no tales and I’ve still got grave dirt under my fingernails. My own Gerald’s and David’s I buried in women and bottles, people that left me pregnant with hurt and my own undoing.

“Where do you go?”

And they’re both the same, aren’t they? Children and a heartache. Sometimes you love or just fucking hate them, but no matter what there’s no ripping them from your veins. Incomplete or inconvenient as they are, they’re yours.

“Nowhere,” I lie.

Because even when they die, they’re yours.

A Cheaters Guide To Dating (aka Whatever You Pretend To Not Know Will Definitely Kill You)

My aunt has a rubber strip that separates her kitchen tile from her hardwoods in her dining room, and her dog, Dusty, knows he’s not supposed to cross this line. Especially when people are eating in the dining room. He always did, though. One minute Dusty would be behind the line, but then, when no one was looking and what seemed within the blink of an eye, he’d be several feet into the trash bin dogging on the leftovers and whatever food whittled onto the floor.

I decided to observe Dusty one day, just to see what was really going on and what he would do.I waited behind the line until he thought no one was looking, and then put one paw over the line…no one yelled. Okay. Now the other paw over the line…no one yelled…? Okay! He dragged his whole body to those two paws and no one noticed?…Dusty was dusting off what was left of tonight’s meatloaf in the trash bin.

Dusty is representative of many of us – we know there is a line we are not supposed to cross, but we want to cross the line so bad, so we break it up into tiny little steps that are so subtle and small you don’t notice or do anything until they are way over the line.

In the difficult do I divide my same, and I am Dusty. For someone hard headed, “DON’T” sounds like less of a warning and more like a challenge.

“Hey” My text said.

“wassup” Hers replied.

I could feel it bubbling again- that secret, the need to spill the moans groaning from my sleeves and slithering in these veins. A systematic sickness hell bent on nothing but a laugh, who rears his restless head from madness to make the best good times feel mediocre. A long quiet had put my soul to sleep. There’s little solace in silence, and I found myself in that deafening howl: the quiet of yourself. When you’re staring out the window and finding white noise where there used to be thoughts.

Who’d have guessed apathy and the infinity of nothing could be so loud, like turning to a channel with static and the volumes at a hundred. And in the silent spaces between myself there was an anger growing. I was surprised to see him there, cross and glaring at the dead eyes of a subway advertisement. He doesn’t talk or budge, but he’s there, slowly filling the space of whatever used to occupy these veins.

I can’t be left to my own devices.

Especially without Wi-Fi.

My father used to bark that rage is impotent, that nothing ever comes from it, but farmers raze their fields whenever the crops are poisoned and they need to start again. A prescribed burn was in the works, and maybe, before I could make something better of May and these bones, I had to destroy them first. Devastation is a form of creation, after all, and my hands were wet with kerosene and reaching for a lighter. Self-destructive tendencies are a staple of my bloodline. The Spaniards turned against their kin, burning men and women alive in the name of their Christ and God. My grandfather put a pistol in his mouth when ___________ took the capital.

‘Por pays y patria’ was all the note said.

My own father left my mother and the state’s to go back to the motherland and chase 15 year old girls. You could make the argument that Hepatitis took him instead, but I’d say that’s just semantics. I followed closely behind his footsteps, a drink away from texting someone May wouldn’t approve of. But I’m no liar, so I took the cowards accomplice and dickless alibi of – “if she doesn’t ask where I was, I wouldn’t tell.”

I took a drink to rev the engine, finger hovering over SEND like a foot over the gas pedal. What is it about becoming uneven that I found so exhilarating? So cathartic? The world spun just the same, felt farther from the bottom of a glass. But behind the bell jar, for a night or hour, I was still, and tingled to the touch and joys of other people. A wise man once said the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but he forgot to include ‘not giving a fuck how you get there.’ I said a silent prayer called Fuck It and hit SEND.

“Let’s meet up.” Sat staring at those black letters, glaring back on a grey background like a tombstone. RIP dignity.

There’s fucking, then there’s love; there’s bruises, then there are cuts. My cruel intentions were PG rated at best; and knowing Kendra to know my situation with May, with Lesbos knot tied securely around her waist, my mile high lust was balanced in reasonably low expectations. I didn’t need to have sex with Kendra, although I undeniably wanted to. I wanted to skirt around the edges of it to see how low the hem goes. Even if she had a history of preferring strawberry chap stick.

An hour long two minutes, three dots, bated breath, and then-

“road house” was all her text said.
Two trains later I hovered down Crosby Street, stray as lint, hungry like the wolf but too sheepish to make a move anywhere passed the bouncer. Suddenly the oak exit doors shot open and out came tumbling the body and bra straps of a thirty something pierced tongue Goddess Spinster; gracefully fumbling for a light she must have conjured from her dress, because it didn’t have any pockets in it. The corners of her corneas painted black in winged shadows, she took two long steps (that would take an average height five,) with a confidence that bordered on Does-She-Even-Realize-Anybody-Else-Is-Here? Goddess took a hard, long drag and her hazel eyes locked directly past me, the way glances hit glass windows looking for a reflection; directly but not really. Almost like the glass isn’t even there.

I do not trust appearances, much less a woman’s. Have you seen them dress? The brushing of their hair, artful apply of colors, contour, shadow, blush, and makeup. Deliberate stress to décolletage, lips, eyes, and other more lucrative assets. Whether they do it for men, other women, or themselves, is immaterial. A woman is a carefully constructed false pretense, and as a man who only seeks the truth, however ugly, in all things, they are my opposite and natural enemy.

I stood on tiptoes to look past the mirage for the further illusion awaiting me.

Past Goddess I caught a glimpse of a crowd of cool, casually dressed twenty somethings warming to the closing personal space getting smaller by the second at Girls Get In Free admittance. They all looked so happy, sapped in smiles, laughs, and strobe lights. Then the giant wood door slammed shut and that beauty turned to the brooding figure of a man with baggy eyes and a chip on his shoulder staring back at me. It was like peeking into heaven, only the bouncer probably wasn’t named Peter. Plus the line was surprisingly short, and all things considered, I actually had a chance of getting in.

A half hour and sour patience later, God must have forgave me. Uncomfortably shifting between the inflated egos and skin littering the club, Kendra was where I thought she’d be: standing neatly by the bar with her hands in the air and waist agreeing with the beat. The sight of her made me want to wake up on the right side of a bad decision, fiddling thumbs and pleasure points. Turning down the thermostat and letting the body do the heating.

She was self-maintenance in the most baseless facets of company, batting her eyelashes and biting fingernails all in the same sweet, calculated, and cornocopious motion. As if she were surprised to see me, after telling me to be there. An oxymoron I couldn’t resist like being drunk and feeding my insecurities. She was an Arctic Monkeys junkie, a little bruised, maybe, but not broken. Hobbies including hot yoga and lady bug tattoos, weekend silent retreats which were surprising considering her inability to stfu. She might dap or do the running man, take a shot or the next cab ride home. Help you up or kick dirt in your face and laugh, depending on the mood she’s in. Love you and leave, or stay and not. Picturesque, her the face the frame. Sitting there holding my world at the sway and mercy of her tongue, and whatever the hell it was she was saying.

Unpredictable and fractured like a stanza, she spoke in the unmistakable allure of poetry and pandemonium.

“You like this song?
I’m feeling Distortion,
doesn’t it remind
you of an ex? True.
But minus the e, like
TRU. What
are you drinking?
Shut up, I like to ask questions. And
I’ll like you
if you ask me things too.”

She was like a song stuck in my head; lyrical ligaments that kept me present but somehow disassociated from the moment. All it takes is two song plays for us to segue into gentle How-You-Been’s, ignoring the lace thrusting on the stage to settle into familiarity. I’m uncomfortable in a strip club setting but some instinct kicks in and my reactions are scripted. The insecurities and self-doubt jiggling from 5 stranger’s tits take a backseat, and I’m only smiling and laughing at Kendras jokes because I’m supposed to.

Kendra doesn’t have any friends here, just a bartender she calls by first name. She was alone, standing next to someone else, sharing in the lawls and woo’s of a song that made everybody sing lyrics. So where did I fit in? A friend, I thought, only invited to be as live as the women moving their flesh for currency. A subordinate to split the tips, drink, tits, and inevitable tab at the end of the night. A wingman on a test flight, in less than words: company for the sake of it. And I was okay with it, palming Kendra a wad of dollar bills and watching her watch the dancers while she rocked and balanced her hips and attention between us.

There’s power in surrendering to someone else’s expectations, of letting go. Only…I’m never really submitting, and it’s more of a performance. Knowing where we stood with each other gave me an active freedom – I could carelessly shift my likes and passive aggressive disinterest. Peppering looks bordering on eye-fucks, to a gaze foreplay mumbling Sure-Whatever whenever Kendra started to whisper something that bordered on boring. I must have had a latent talent for saying all the wrong things right, because just when I gave up on her marked when she started getting into me.

“Four year no calls!,” She screamed, singing along.

“Now she’s looking tipsy in strip club bar,” I yelled.

Her head cocked back to a laugh she couldn’t hold, and her body fell into me with the warm abandon clothes must hit bedsheets after laundry. Our hands found each other, and as they laced like sneakers I could tell she was genuine and enjoying the moment we shared together. And when the kiwi scent from her curls blended perfectly with my Bacardi, I enjoyed it too. Her face resurfaced from my neck as she stood between my legs, and I could feel the dampness of her sweat and center sighing on my skin. Our hands never separated, and I made a conscious decision to rub her thumb with mine.

Letting her go then, in that moment, with the sweat beading down the open neck of her décolletage and all my feelings, it was as hard as kicking an addiction is. Like a bad LSD trip, I felt the strychnine and moaning in my veins, felt so high, felt so perfect, felt there was nothing in this world I’d rather do. Then the song changed, an air released, and immediately I felt dirty. The euphoria from the flesh against me, the tones tonging from the sidebar like waves that come crashing down, hard, left me feeling dirtier than I’ve ever actually been.

Kendra was a contraceptive, which is ironic considering she’s a lesbian and wasn’t on one. Something that could easily be taken for granted (or precaution) to avoid a bad night and 18 years. Hilariously serious in her senility, curious and invective, ready to bust it open or break it down; depending on how the mood hit. I was scared of her the way people are afraid of an apocalypse.

God forbid.

…but fuck, isn’t it fun to imagine?

The motel lights are flashing: red then green, red then green, red, red, red, then green. A brown carpet gone black and the curtains are dingy, while I smoke out the window because the nicotine affects her asthma. Another late night charade of two souls deluding and deluded enough to think it might just work. Always on the verge, of a relapse into the same old trap and mistake of marriage, kid(s) and picket fence. A tale as old as time, and these violent delights have delightful ends,

Hope dies last, they say, and being the dog I am, I would rather perish like a dog than deny them.

“Mnf…close the window,” May shudders from the bedside.

I flick the cigarette outside, and she isn’t Kendra but fuck…isn’t it fun to imagine?