Most people are barely people and I’ve met everyone twice. Personalities copy and pasted from recycled memes you can find on Reddit, who pretend to exhibit behaviors they borrow from social disorders on Wikipedia. Give a hungry man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, but give him the internet, and he’ll probably spend it anonymously calling other fish faggots right before his 10AM Sociology class.
“Gotta light?” She asked me outside, with peach mixed moscato on her breath and the feint scent of burning incense lingering in her hair.
She had a way with people- even in my heightened state of over compassion I could tell as much. There was a manner she looked your way that was so notable, that felt like suddenly hearing your name in public, but with eyes. Disarming and little captivating; how being noticed always is. And yes, it helped that she was beautiful. An all-American vee’d chin with an uncle named Chip, that mythical half they must be talking about when they mention two point five kids and a picket fence.
“Brighter than you know,” I replied, and struck a fire for her.
“You’re funny,” She said grinning, smoke and hair billowing from her nose. “You look unmade, and a little dangerous. But I can’t believe you smoke this menthol crap.”
She played it loose and hated slow songs, always kept a 20 hidden in her bra because mama didn’t raise a sucker, and she’d herded her own fair share of douchebags. Ink resembling May 2nd with a year I can’t remember occasionally trailing from out her sleeves.
“If I’m going to slowly kill myself, I’m going to do it right.” I said.
Her name was Cassie, not with a y, and it was short for Cassandra but don’t you fuckin’ dare ever call her that. Stacked to a low 5’4″ on her tippy toes- beautiful skin tinted in a blushed red, lips curved like a sunset or rose tinted Cupid’s bow. She had it going on, beautiful, but basic at best, eye shadow of a modern fashionista, but not the kind daft enough enough to romanticize vogue models or an eating disorder.
“I can’t handle it, I’ve got a VSD.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s like a hole in your heart,”
“I’m so sorry,” I replied. “What was his name?”
She was not a miserable person, nowhere near delicate- only threaded, maybe. Overexposed like an electric wire in the rain. A victim to the elements and boys who swear they’re different. With a hot heart for the coldest matters and a gentleness that feels more earned than inherent, she cried when she missed her train for work just like any body else. That bitter and hardened exterior only a New York experience can make.
“Who you here with?” She asked, squinting at something other than the smoke in her face.
But I’ve been wrong before.
There was a stale remnant of the weekend hanging on my breath, a dark and shapeless nag pestering against the flickering subway lights and dimming silver handrails. Thick and smothering between pressed buttoned shirts, noose ties and summer dresses huddled on the express Lexington avenue bound for midtown before a final stop to nowhere. My thoughts felt like strangers at a party, huddled close to one another but no one knowing what to say.
A small-suited man bumped against my shoulder and apologized. I meant to do the same, opened my lips to speak, but they did not make a sound. I glanced up at the dead eyed glare of an Asian woman baring her teeth in what some might call a smile. A poster for a college or language learning center. Bold, black marker graffiti obscured most of it, so that the only visible parts were the slender neck of a woman and a tagline written in a worn, exciting red.
“GENERATION AFTER G NE ATION!!!” It said.
I got off the next stop, sent a vague text to my boss about feeling sick and began to wander Manhattan. Everywhere was a feint, hostile, seething unrest bubbled from the gum spotted granite sidewalks; steaming softly from the city grates like vapor. While the oak and marble fronts of restaurants, businesses and delicatessens glistened with the unnatural sheen and polish of something new and untouched. Beautiful and prosthetic.
It was all so awful.
I wanted to be drunk, or dead, or anything except that feeling lingering beneath my tongue like a razor blade. To forget myself and all my troubles, if only for a little while.
It was only 7AM but in my heart it was twenty minutes to last call; and I had all day to no longer feel human. I have to forget, otherwise I fall in a pit of something. A madness and not the poetic kind. The mad kind. The kind that roams the empty city at 5am smiling at the air. The kind that wakes up in strange apartments and motel rooms wet in somebody else’s sweat without a clue or memory of how he got there. The kind that talks and wiles like it’s all just a clever little game, but is burning alive, is howling in laughs and I-Like-Your-Hair. The kind that’s quietly out to ruin something because a moaning in his blood compels him to, reminds him it’s all just a cosmic accident and that devils do not exist, were molded after men. And women.
Terrible for each other, and much worse for anyone else.
Window with a view to fill my lungs,
wet air, dry eyes, smoke and a
heart full of bourbon, sipping
out of a styrofoam cup the way you did.
Old Grandad on deck and jazz on vinyl,
humming bluegrass. Tapping foot. Cast-iron
skillet and some cheese I don’t know the name of.
Its a ritual, reserved for the unusual
moment I feel like missing you,
a maligna of the mind I treat
the way old doctors did insanity.
Summon a memory of the body,
the carnage of love, sapphire wounds;
gilded kisses lost so long ago that glass Summer.
But I don’t like the taste of whiskey any more,
my cigarettes don’t have menthol,
and lyrics sound like people I used to know
but have nothing in common with any more.
Friends lost for no particular reason
other than growing apart as people.
Strangers I shared death with.
It was early morning, around six thirty AM I think. That un-Godly hour when men in construction work boots march soul-less towards the MTA, and a handful of office workers with long commutes start their day before the sun will. When transit is slow and sluggish, quiet besides the scuffle of winter coats and urban foliage stirring awake. Early birds and no worms.
I slouched off of the 39 Bus hungover as the moon on the horizon, dragging my feet towards Nine To Five with my body in tow. Hungry, because I’d ate too late last night. Angry at another schedule I couldn’t skip, because rent’s a bitch and cheesesteaks don’t grow on trees. Calling out was out of the question, and I didn’t have any sick days left anyway. Between the bus fares, nephews, and bottles of rum lining my recycling bin, I needed the money. But not desperately. Enough to get me out of bed when I’d rather be somewhere else.
Not a unique feeling, I noticed, as I watched a couple stop on the corner. He was about my height, not much more handsome with a handful of grays around his cobble-colored hair. She was all legs, nick-knacks dangling from her wrists, ears, neck, jacket, boots, lips; everywhere. Hands just barely held, calm and comfortable as they lazily rushed towards their obligations as the rest of us. They hit the corner and slowed, spoke some four to five words or syllables I tried my hardest to listen in on (all I could make out was ‘Don’t—this weekend—‘) and kissed each other on the cheek goodbye.
She clicked on toward the subway, he stood and stared at her go for a while. I stood there watching while he was wrestling with something. An idea maybe, words or feelings he should have shown or let shed. Or maybe he was throwing in the towel on the rat race, would have rather run down the block and take her by the hand back down where they came from. Board up the windows and lock the door at home, let the rent and bills pile up, spend all day listening to quiet comfort of her soft breathing on his chest, and the nick-knacks dangling off the dressers and coffee tables.
Then a car honked, he looked at his cell, and marched towards the 9 bus to work instead. He needed the money too, I guess, or couldn’t manage to break the habit. I looked at the 9 bus, marched towards the liquor store I knew would be open in an hour, and called The Boss on my cell.
Because I couldn’t either.
Felice walked into the bar looking like the kind of girl they wrote songs about, and I made it a point to not make that obvious.
“Haven’t I seen you wear that shirt before?”
“Where do you get it?” She asked. “This confidence you definitely don’t deserve.”
The air smelled like starched shirts, mistakes, and too much perfume. Sex. Such a sick validation of a grotesque existence. My heart strung on the soft tendons of her knuckles that left me wondering where the arches of her neck leads. A feminine physique, the scent of raspberries; wide hips narrowing to fine waist. They say a woman’s collar bones are the front lines of a mistake, and Felice was made of divine proportions.
“The smartest disease,” I said. “Is the kind that can disguise itself well enough to look like it’s a part of you. To fool the body into thinking it’s just another blood cell. That’s the way it is with people too. You gotta fake it til you take over their immune system.”
“You just compared yourself to cancer.” She said.
So young, beautiful, and cruel. She enriches me as a lover but ruins the writer, makes lighter all those tragedies I rattle with a beer can. Kissed by fire and freckled by 80’s rock ballads; she was terrible at the song of vice and liars. Honest to a fault with fireworks in her eyes- Felice. It means happy in Spanish and you had to smile to say her name. Hair halfway down her back and a dip between her shoulder blades. Thin fingernails and long, smooth knuckles that looked like almonds hiding under a bar of chocolate. Smokers lips and eyebrows that were either always sad or frowning.
“But I’m a Taurus.” I said. And she tried not to laugh, but failed.
We were coworkers at one point and I used to obsess over all her nuances. She was beautiful to me in fractions, not from the sum of all her parts. Each arch and nook of her frame and body seemed so unique, that I could tell the shape of her from anywhere. We remained light friends, occasional Facebook comment and el-oh-elling at a meme. An acquaintance that never quite made it as a friend, but if she ever cut ties and left, I would be a husk.
Because a cage without a bird is an empty thing.
Twenty something and full of stupid, sliding into your DM’s without a shame in the world. “Wyd” texts after midnight are a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, and I’m watching from the bench thinking I might just steal home.
I’m the type of guy that needs to set 4 alarms to wake up on time, dressing myself up in moments that don’t mean a thing to me. But I’ve read enough Dostoevsky and Nietzche to make just about anybody think they do. Boredom is an understatement: what I suffer from is an emotional atrophy. When you can’t stand grand-standing any more and need to feel something, so the nearest dead end starts feeling like a welcome sign.
Some addictions aren’t so easy to kick – especially habits that text you back to say they miss you too.
“sure,” Her text read. “whats one drink”
“Ask Socrates.” I replied
“that was hemlock” She replied. “you fucking nerd 😓”
And I knew it would be a good night.