You And Me And The Devil Makes Three (aka I Want To Hold You In Contempt)

Her kiss is a relapse, misfortune,
worsening of my worst impulses;
an awful influence full of irresistible.
Her words are drugs and drugs are a clutch,
til highs do us part and lows make us
whole again. Bags of heavy yesterdays
weigh down, and I don’t know what to do with myself.

Taken hands, hushed words, rushed stalls-
what a waste to not grab waist and do
a four letter word (love). Plans to keep
and make her a home, 5PM lockdown, rush hour,
crowded public when doubts double and my mouth
taste like cinders. Slipping  into a thought of her
like a favorite pair of jeans.

Snug, familiar, and warm; she fits well. Run my thumb along the holes
and coffee stains, wonder what memory or feeling
the moment will settle as, when the honeys and the moons
fade. If my name will be a sigh, wistful as a cloud,
or vague as rain humming to what the radio plays.
A feeling haunting me in the distance, a reminder
that you are in tangles and I am tangelsome.

Still I pray for relapse and disaster,
addiction and her sex to once again step into me,
far from fog and drizzled Sundays, so I might tug
on her thoughts like a shoelace.

I am undone again.

Cassie, Episode II (aka Never Go Out Of Your Way To Be Unkind)

That morning I had called in sick to work on my way there, because something about subway posters at 7AM can just be so fucking depressing? Those wide, grinning, dead-eyed actors trying to sell you college courses, some stupid movie, or Old Navy cargo shorts. Baby crying in a stroller, some asshole blasting music through the speaker on his iPhone, some sixty people crowded side by side with nobody saying a fucking thing. Just the hum of the subway train burrowing to Manhattan.

Kachung, Kachung, Kachung, 

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” 

Ding-doon. Ding-doon.

It was enough to make a man exhausted, too tired to clock in and pretend to give a shit about Bridget’s new baby or an Excel spreadsheet. And if you can’t relate to that, well, then this story isn’t for you, bud. 

So I sent a text pretending I was sick and got off on 96th street, booked a room at Carmine’s like I used to when I was more degenerate. I wanted to get away, needed a low cost escape and bottom shelf liquor type of abandoning ship, and not knowing where to go, I went back to Amsterdam Avenue, where I had traumatic and yet awesome times in my youth. An instinctive return to chaos and creation; natural, the way sea turtles go back to die or lay eggs in the same beaches where they’re born.

There’s also such a safety in what’s familiar, how easy it is to slide into old habits like a pair of your favorite jeans. 

After an hour of checking and settling in to my room I hopped back on the train downtown. I had to get to 79th, which was where the bars stopped and everything south became  skyscrapers and big businesses. Suits, ties and bored housewives walking yorkies on their way to $200 manicures. Not my tempo or atmosphere, to say the least.

The subway was less crowded by then, only a handful of bodies too distinct and all over the place  to categorize as 9-5’ers.  Those wide, grinning, dead-eyed actors on the posters didn’t bother me as much. I felt better, knowing I was on my way to a good time I should not be having. I sat down and let the hum of the subway train burrowing through Manhattan rock me gently to all the irresponsible things I planned on doing. Satisfied, anticipating, feeling like I escaped.  

“BECAUSE DISEASE IS NOT OF GOD.” A womans voice, booming, echoing. I didn’t look, because I didn’t care. Religious fanatics were pretty common at any hour of the day on any corner of New York.

“SATAN IS THE AUTHOR. HAPPINESS RESIDES IN YOUR HEART, BUT YOU SHRINK FROM THE LIGHT. YOU HIDE FROM GRACE. YOU WALK IN DARKNESS.” 

79th Street came and I stepped out of the subway car, the woman’s voice echoing behind me as the doors closed. 

“But what about your soul?”

Stand clear of the closing doors, please. 

“But what about your soul?”

Ding-doon. Ding-doon.

“But what about your soul?”

Kachung, Kachung, Kachung. 

“But what about your soul!?”

The Agony Columns: Katherine

Constantly being concerned with being a better person is cause enough to realize I don’t actually believe myself to be one, and I honestly try my best not to hurt someone else’s feelings while I pursue my own space and happiness.

At least, that’s the reasoning I use for when Evan says he loves me, and I lie and say that I love him too. And I did, I know I did, at some point, because I can’t deny those Summers when I’d watch him working on his car from the rooftop of our house and he was all I could think about. 

Our parents were kind of friends but we only knew each other in passing, because in a small town like ours if you didn’t it was obvious you were doing it on purpose. He was tall- even when we were teenagers he towered above most of us, and even some of the teachers. With quiet, hazel eyes and a sweet but little oafish face. Halfway handsome and gentle in a way that makes you trust somebody instinctively.  He didn’t talk very much back then, a fact I constantly remind him of now that he doesn’t shut up, and even then I had a feeling it was because he was either shy or self conscious about something. Some secret defect he was scared to reveal if he said too many things at once.

We hardly spoke throughout high school so I can’t calendar exactly when I decided that I wanted him. At that age your hormones are so all over the place, it’s impossible to tell, to place it to a single moment. But I do remember it as a slow and steady realization, like a favorite color, or discovering you might like girls too. Watching him play lacrosse during lunch, his long and lanky body rushing and slamming across the field. That year his parents bought him a car, and he spent every single Sunday under the hood of that marooned and beat up Subaru; his face and tank top soaked with a thin layer of oil and sweat. And on Thursdays after art class, him pretending to read the bulletin board outside of choir: his dark, coffee colored hair draped over the his bronze eyes. I remember this exciting envy when I would watch, when his girlfriend would come out of class and brush it aside. 

Lots of these moments made me stare, made me sink stupidly into the thought of him, so the exact one that took hold of me I couldn’t say. But I do know the Summer I turned seventeen was when I decided to seduce him.

It was a blind and thoughtless resolution, and honestly, a part of me didn’t believe I would actually go through with it. Confidence was part of the issue. I wasn’t exactly self-conscious, but I wasn’t arrogant enough to consider myself beautiful or seductive by any means, either. My chin and ears were very pointy, giving me slightly elfish features, which is why I’ve always had bangs and let my hair drown past my shoulders. My mothers side and two years of track left me small, what some might call petite but is really more like a little boys body. Unlike some of the other girls I was nothing to turn heads or stop traffic, but even then, I liked my frame and freckles. I had a quiet confidence in myself, and whether Evan would or not, I would like them and me just the same.

My entire tactic was non-existent. It was a thought that brewed in the back of my mind, that I thought about on the bus ride to school or during my runs. It was Saturday when it happened, I remember, one of the hottest days of the Summer, and I left early for my usual morning jog. I love running; the freedom of it, the feeling of my feet thumping against the pavement and my heart thrusting against my rib cage. Reality fades further and further the more I push myself against the strain of my lungs, my muscles tensing, my chest tightening, until everything becomes obsolete and all I can see or have the capacity to think about is the road ahead of me. And all I can feel, all I care about, is the warm and desperate air I’m gasping for. The blood pulsing in my veins so loud I can hear it. And then I stop and the world comes crashing back in a winded rush, as I struggle to catch my breath and remember my personality.

When I finished that morning, a thought struck me and I decided to go see Evan. I swung around my house, grabbed a pie mom had left on the kitchen counter and made my way to his garage. He was hunched over the hood like so many times before, his clueless gaze thoughtfully considering something. I cleared my throat to get his attention.

“Hey,” I said. Still winded, and my heart struggling against something else. He looked up with a calm surprise that grew as I approached him. “Mom asked me to drop this off,” I lied, gently raising the pie.

“Oh, yea. Thanks,” He said, wiping his hands with a blue and oily rag.

To his credit, he maintained eye contact for much longer than I expected him to, except it was obvious his neck was locked in a brace to keep his gaze on mine. Still a part of me had doubt, thought maybe I was making a mistake.

“Real hot one today, huh?” He added, coming closer. 

“Yeah,” I said. “Keeping cool in here?”

My hair was in a ponytail and I could feel beads of sweat brimming down my temple, sides, stomach. I could feel my chest heaving against the stuffy Summer air as I was pacing the garage. I couldn’t keep still, so I decided to focus on the feeling of my feet wading against the pavement and my heart thrusting against my rib cage. The heat crept into my lungs and I could feel a strain, my muscles tensing, my chest tightening, my body anxious and waiting for something. Deep breaths of the warm and desperate air I’m gasping for, the blood pulsing in my veins so loud I could hear it.

“Not like you,” He said, and I laughed, or at least, pretended to.

But for a moment I saw his hazel eyes flick down, then up. 

And I knew. 

The Cassandra Complex

You can’t honestly love a dishonest thing, and the loneliest women always find a way to me. With their steel eyes and emptied hands, pockets full of lint and wedding rings. SoCal socio-megalomaniacs; idle, only innit for the lol’s and cheap thrills. Desperate, for attention maybe, often restless and occasionally cold feet. Melancholy misfits and Tinder-ed housewives, specifically of the military variety (Here’s Looking At You, Kid) curious to see beyond the veil and iron curtain of their staled lives of routine.

“Little young for jazz, aren’t you?” Says Marianne.

Everybody’s got an audience, my uncle used to say, and I happen to know mine very intimately. I provide risk with a bit of comfort, I suppose; the safety of A hedged bet when the thought that There-Could -Be-Something-Better-Than-This creeps into your bed sheets and makes a home inside your head. Because nobody puts baby in a corner or ever really bets it all on black, that stuffs for the movies, so the easiest way to steal second base is by keeping a foot on first.

“I won’t card you if you don’t card me,” I replied.

Friday’s are dry, dull, and take forever to get you anywhere like a NY taxi. When the office population is sparse and I can’t bare the sound of another fax or thunk of the copy machine, I like to throw on Spotify to help fill the empty hours in anything work appropriate. Personal playlist are a hard pass and immediate negative; there’s far too many expletives and small tragedies behind those lyrics for me to care about e-mails, when Arctic Monkeys are asking the only two questions I give a damn about. Whatever’s on top of the charts sounds so recycled I can’t tell one song from the other, and is usually popular for the kind of people who still laugh at the word faggot or don’t shut the fuck up about Beyonce.

And I honestly don’t really need that kind of noise in my life. So Jazz stations are the safest bet, not necessarily out of choice, but a process of elimination. Much like Marianne.

“It’s not polite to ask a woman her age,”

“I never said I cared.”

She was pretty. Not hot, beautiful, stunning, breath-taking or amazing. Pretty, like a painting or very well kept apartment. She had a fading glow of gorgeous, the makeup, accent nail and deep-vee blouses stressing just the right amount of collar bone and decolletage to make her desirable. But there was a hunger about her, a poverty of touch, expressive gestures of the mouth, hands, and tongue. Eyes that said yes to questions I hadn’t been asking.

When she talked she had a habit of putting a hand against my arm or chest, remarking casually about receptionist schedules or what Debra said to her last week. Let it rest and linger for just enough time for it to be considered suggestive, although not entirely inappropriate. While I go by on empty head nods, trying hard not to smile in a way that’s too obvious or says Hi-My-Eyes-Are-Up-Here.

“Have you had lunch yet? I’d kill for some eggplant. Doesn’t some eggplant sound so good right now?” She asks. A loaded question as far as emojis were concerned.

“The killing or the eggplant?” I say. And she smiles, not answering.

Honesty is the best policy and I am a liar of the worst degree. But God is good and prone to favoring symmetry, so She evened me with a horrible poker face, so bad the only way I could be any more obvious would be a tail wagging between my legs. Which, in a sense, there actually is.

“How’s Richard?” I ask. A Self sabotage, because I love to ruin things for myself.

Poor Richard, off on a different kind of fishing. I’d heard his legend, the atypical over protective and underwhelming handsome- pale, blue eyed and red tan lines notorious in men of adventure. Likely under the impression that golden ticket of appearance and arm candy doesn’t start to fade after six years of a flat-lined marriage, hadn’t seen the signs in the sand of Marianne building castles elsewhere.

“Around. Visiting his brothers.” She says, her thoughts elsewhere.

I couldn’t blame her. Emotional ransom is a dick move and there’s nothing worst than feeling indebted to someone. Infidelity is a sin big as littering, in my humble opinion, especially if the alternative is a long conversation on what’s wrong that is on its fifth resurgence. Nut up or shut up, I guess, but that’s much easier to say without a mortgage and your entire life nailed down to another person.

“You should call him,” I say, and quite honestly. She scoffs like I’d ask her for ID and takes her hand from my arm, collects herself in a physical retreat.

Un chiodo fuori un chiodo,” She says.

“What?”

“It’s Italian. It means, a nail takes out a nail. Or, you need a nail to forget a nail. Something like that.”

I understood, I think, how much cheaper it is to add another coat of paint than go all in on another lease. How we bury uncomfortable in other things, money, people, sex, memes.

“Sounds like a painful way to solve a problem.” I say.

“I’m going downstairs to close up. Keep your phone on in case I get stuck,” She says, dismissively, turning away from me and the suggestion down the hall.

Leaving me to wonder why do I not lose my voice when the moments are so critical? Why do I see a light at the end of tunnels and look for shadows? I’m terrified of not standing in my truth, of growing younger, because regression is a form of death and I’m proud of the monster I’ve worked so hard to become. Was it desperation? A hunger and poverty of the soul? Unexpressed gestures of the mind, heart, and tongue. Sometimes, above all else, I wish I knew how to just shut the fuck up and enjoy a bad thing well.

A while passes and my phone screen lights up, with a message from Marianne.

“Deb leave yet”

The worse weight a man can carry is a conscience, and a best practice among sex and love addicts anonymous is to pack light.

“Negative.”

Because the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, especially when it comes to orgasms.

“Come to elevator rm when she does”

It’s heaven on the way down but one hell of a climb up. Which may make me a hypocrite, but only on a technicality.

“Are you trapped again?”

Like atheist who moan about God during sex.

“No. Bring 🍆”

Un chiodo fuori un chiodo.

There’s No Street Cleaning In Providence

Father-

Your days weigh more than the family around your neck.
Nine months and nine pounds without your voice or hand,
my mother called, and you said: “Give Him My Name, Noel.”
And she abided, faithfully, by the promises made
that warm May night. But years proved these words,
like so many other parts of you,
were broken, and so I am yours
in name only.

I haven’t your dark eyes, fair skin or welcome wiles.
That cooing air of arrogance
in your smile, or the graceful way your beard
rises and settles into a dignified chin.
Your daughters are your spitting image,
shorter and effeminate, but telling tales
of their ancestry by the nines
of their soft and thoughtfully thin
eyes, a wild nose above cupid bow lips.

I am not like them;
every camera and mirror whispers,
how my genes have aborted you.
And yet strangers say the strangest things-
like that I am most your son when I look most annoyed.
Something in the nothing of demeanor
makes me summon your image to men and women
that have known you. The passive opening and closing of a fist.
In a folded leg, an unconsciously tapping foot,
staring into the distance with a cigarette dangling from my lip.
All of these acts I thought my self are borrowed,
are not my own, are ghostly references to a man
this man
who grew up growing you
says are bestowed;
are reflections of the seed
being strong.

But…how?

My first razor was from the deli man,
his eyes lost when I asked him how to do it,
until he could understand that I was young and
that I needed. My first day of school was Johanna
ironing clothes, running me over with a lint brush,
combing my hair and reminding me
no girl likes a boy who sucks his thumbs.
Sex came from a box, a secret, a word of mouth
passed along the boys and bus rides.
Shared and studied in the dim blue tint of monitors
and television screens when nobody could see us
in our vile innocence. YouTube learned me
with tutorials, my first suit from my first check
a baggy thing. Green shirt, black tie, but
from your few visits I’d already known
how to make a knot
having been left in one.

Yet I am most your son when I look most annoyed.
The passive opening and closing of a fist. A folded leg.
An unconsciously tapping foot. Staring into the distance
with a cigarette dangling from my lip.

And I wonder, can character carry in a vein?
Have I shed and denied your look but not your scowl?
Am I as doomed as you are, to the rum on my breath
and vagabonding with the boys on Tuesday night’s
rather than with my family home? Father,
our days are numbered like the calendar
and when I’m fugitive to a feeling;
waxing gibbons and poetics at the moon,
I’m tempted to think my temperament is nothing
more than an heirloom. Is a remnant of you
in the recesses of my blood,
and I’m tempted to take a razor and gut you out.

But there is no salvation in suffering your self;
it’s best to leave that to the masochist.

Instead I’ll wear your name proudly,
but like a cautionary tale.
Instead I’ll learn to love
better than how you’ve taught me.

Well.

The ABC’s (Of Going ↓ On Me)

And beauty couldn’t define every flawless girls hair I’ve joyously kissed; lingering moments necessitate our purpose;quixotic reveries stolen, taken under veiled windows. Xeroxed youthful zeal.

Again, beyond cold dawn, effervescent fevers gaining heights. In jasmine kindled love, my needs overcome piety, quiets religion. Sexuality that undoes, venerates, with xoxoxo’s, yielding Zion.