This Happened Before The Quarantine, So Nobody Can Judge Me Now (aka Cassie, Episode IV; A New Hope)

By 6PM we were getting eighty-six’d down a string of bars on Amsterdam, where I made ends in low places and chased my blues away in short skirts and everything except a positive outlet. Old stomping grounds where I’ve got a reputation worse than Diogenes, pictures of me hanging from The Lions Head on 109th Street all the way down to the Dead Poets Cafe.

NO ADMITTANCE written in thick, bold and black letters like a wanted poster from the old west. After all these years they hadn’t taken it down, and I couldn’t tell if it was because times change and people forget, or if the bounty on my head was worth so much to the bartender I called a thieving crook cunt for stealing tips and the bouncer who cold-cocked me. Don’t bother asking, because I won’t be telling you that story. It’ll be up to you filling in the blanks and decide if I deserved it or not.

“These’re some friends from work,” Cassie briefed me on our way to the table. “So don’t fuckin’ embarrass me.”

She charged ahead and I followed, passed by my college footprint staring back at me with that wide, stupid grin and a smile I can only describe as It-Was-Worth-It–So-Fuck-You-Too. I don’t remember being so reckless, but the look was something I recognized. There was a dog on my walk home from middle school that had it, these solid black eyes that could be so quiet and almost tender, but the stillness is what made him  terrifying. That gave the distinct impression of what they say comes right before a storm.

“Well now that’s all I want to do,” I said. “What’s a touchier subject for them- religion or white guilt?”

Coming back to Amsterdam Avenue was in a ways a sort of homecoming. I might have missed the ceremony but still graduated sorta-come-loudly. And what better venue to revisit my putida alma mater than the bar I met Sheila in before we painted this whole city red with our stupid fights about Facebook and juvenile love. Which, funny enough, had the same name as the guy who taught me how to pop a beer bottle open with a lighter.

“Me pretendin’ I don’t know you and you’re following me around,” Cassie replied.

Jake’s Dilemma, is what they called it; and his was like mine: Do – or – Don’t.  An easy answer when I was young, back when this place was a big deal because the bulldogs those pretty waitresses asked you to try while leaning just a little too close needed a goddamn leash, and they hung a bunch of bras over the bar top for reasons that were none of your fucking business (if you were stupid like me enough to ask why.)

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.” I said. “Better be safe and just talk about my dead parents.”

I guess back then I had a hard on for experiences I would now consider in-genuine. Chasing highs in low places with my dick leading the way like a diving rod. My first memories of hunger surfacing in a language I couldn’t speak, but understood. I craved, wanted, needed and surrendered to these wordless demands my body exhausted me with. Cocaine might be a hell of a drug, but have you ever tried it on sex? Rolling down a hill of physical inclinations every single fucking night, waking up and not remembering where or how you got the bruise. Life lessons that I lost to whiskey sours, Sheila, Cassie, myself, and the infinite desires of the body.

“Is that really how you wanna go down t’night? The weirdo, then,” Cassie said grinning, eyes propped up so high they almost became a part of her hairline.

Madness may be doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, but to ruin yourself on a nightly basis for the fuck of it doesn’t have a name yet. For me it was an instinct, a deep and natural longing that watched over and laughed at me as I tried to not swear and give a damn about starving kids in Africa. An impulse that was impossible to ignore, and the nights I tried to was when I learned why lions pace around their cage.  And I was happy, to be honest, letting Jesus take the wheel while I didn’t believe in God. Wounded, really, although I couldn’t say from what.

“I guess not,” I said, trying to look like I wasn’t trying to smile.

And now, much like then, I think, when I look at it from a distance, it seemed to be happening to someone else. And through that lens, unhealthy as it was, or is, it also happens to hurt a lot less.

“How do you want to be remembered, then?” She asked, tugging on the strings of her sideways eight pendant dangling from by collar bone.

“Vividly,”  I said. Infinitely wondering what I was doing.

It’s Not The San Andreas Fault, But Someone’s Taking The Blame (aka Sorry I’m So Sorry I Think You Look So Good In Blue)

And where love used to come to me at night like dreams, she dawned upon me suddenly in broad daylight. A calm, quick and, at first, uneventful revelation whose silent gravity weighed on me greatly in the hours that would follow it’s discovery. I noticed that I loved her the way you discover liking pineapples, or that you should call your mother more. When a thought flashed, crowded by some nine others, and I softly filed each to where and when they belong. But when I thought about her an awareness happened, one I couldn’t blink or wave away as easily as I would have imagined.

Maybe, was all I could think. And Maybe persisted throughout the day until Maybe erupted and it was all and everything. Then, having awakened this nameless consciousness, I felt it inhale its first deep and gasping air for breath, and like a newborn, take one long and finite pause before screaming.

Maybe.

For a while, days which were only seconds, I refused to acknowledge this very daunting and real idea. I ignored it, the way I ignored the concept of me liking pineapple or that I should call my mother more. Whims exist and are only true for a certain amount of time, after all. But this only kept the Maybe silent, I felt it panicked, pacing around my heart, thrashing and waiting desperately to finally exhale.

I said it once to myself, unsure I guess, or perhaps to see. Sometimes putting words to a feeling does not make it real, but only exaggerates how ridiculous it really is. I said it once to myself: what if I love her?

And suddenly I felt the world around me twirl and change it’s shape. What I cared for grew twice the size, and what I didn’t now had such a tremendous sympathy with it. I looked around, expecting a disaster, but the people and my desk were all the same.

Maybe I was the only one wasn’t.

 

 

Cassie, Episode III (aka Baby It’s Cold Outside- So I Hope You Called An Uber)

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.

If Pain Is Weakness Leaving The Body Then I Must Be Bullet Proof By Now (aka Ask Your Doctor If Fukitol Is Right For You)

These pills are small and delicate, helpless little orphans,
and my body is a temple. Ain’t nobody got it like
this little bottle of mine- white little capillaries
pills of death that pulse and keep me (from) breathing.

One every four hours, do not exceed six.
I’m sixty nined from bars and dimes every minute so
I dose in doubles, puffing silver linings
on a rummy cloud. I am The Great Pretender,
forgetful historian, a series of bullet points
on what it means to be listless. I am the vague biographer,
caustic chronicler of the categorically insignficant.

But it’s not so bad. These woes whoa me no more
and dreams feel more real when I’m awake; I call it
lucid living. Though I’m still full of envy
a the bravery of corner vagrants, shouting crack-ed lungs
at pigeons in the park. But now he fades away, vague,
I don’t know where, like ripples in a pond. At least
he doesn’t linger in my mind and ruin me any more.

My heart no longer brags- no more
I am I am I am’s– it sighs.

But twice every four hours, my smile comes
easier, and I can see the faults in our starlit eyes
and badly thatched hearts. Stale highs eventually swing
violently low and I have to stop myself
from smashing something delicate. A bottle, or myself.
And I would, if only I could get a grip, but when
the night grows teeth and digs into the heart and
memories, what is there to do? Set the alarm
and try again tomorrow.

Baby I’ve Really Got A Thing For You (And It’s Called Contempt)

Love is nothing but a well told lie,
comforts from a broken place bearing
gifts- from me to you, for me.

Dangerous, like a razor blade
under your tongue. A Touch
that needs more hands and kisses
with too many teeth. Emotional insurance,
unnecessary luxury, the promise
everything will be okay.
Even if it won’t.
And before getting better
making it worse. misery that bares no poetry
only regret and blood. Emotional miscarriages.

Desperate, needy, reaching for release,
like gasps of air while crying.

Kamikaze Pilots Don’t Wear Helmets

Bed covers don’t cover much-
only cold feet and secrets two lovers share.
particulars wondered out of window sills,
hiding in plain sight from a stranger or husbands eye.
no heat or warmth this dire night,
only bodies and throw pillows
tainted in the thin evidence of s[k]in.
wrinkled, like my grandmother’s hands
before she died and showed me how to read a tarot.

come nightstand, by the record player
a deck of red cards already shuffled,
random, pristine, perfect and predestined.
queen of diamonds across the jack of spades
and I lost the king of hearts a long time ago.
the egg timers clicking, counting down,
a wet shade of grey across our shared living.
room quietly loud, like the gasp before a scream,
and the alarm clock ring sounds like a sigh.

and sunrise, and yawns, and brushed teeth and breakfast
and the roulette wheel of responsibility and love
spins again. my heart winces at the thought,
wondering, unable to determine where I stand,
how I fall. the days keep coming, back to back,
relentless. two people can’t keep a secret and
our winning streaks come to an end.

another hand dealt, we place sour bets.
diamonds over spades, tainted, quiet,
forced to look the other way-

aces high, aces high.

You Look Like I Need Another Drink

A kiss couldn’t contain me, I can’t be made still when my world is always rotating. Spinning on a spindle far as the bar can see, high as the stars orbiting Neptune when the sun sets for the first time in a thousand years on Venus. Can’t call tonight quits so I’m proof-reading draft text messages I meant to send, trying to draw that fine line of flirting while running perfect circles around the moon.

“You don’t like Skylers mom.”

“am I that obvious?”

“No, but I can tell”

“what gave me away?”

He has honest eyes- two black marbles and red strings marinating in a pool of milk; soft and terrifying. Sometimes when he smiles his gaze will wince and flash the hot secret of what he really thinks; open windows that reveal a cold and sensitive man behind the blinds of polite social interactions. A shore forehead full of forethought, with a strange canoo shaped scar bobbing down the river of his beard. He had a quality I couldn’t place but softly identified, a secret in his faded Caesar I had to unearth.

“im really good at reading people”

“Like a mystic? Forget Skylers mom, tell me the future, specifically in terms of lotto numbers.”

“venus is in mars and he’s not too crazy about pegging. your lucky number is 69”

“You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“no but i do kiss yours”

“I’ve always wanted a step-momdad.”

You cant stop the earth from shaking, no matter how hard you hold on and tug. Your best bet is to grab a friend and ride the tremors, hope he isn’t going to make the night any more than the natural disaster I was meant to be. A social inventory insist that I am something of a catch 22- a little jaded, maybe, but more like blood diamonds than single mothers at 45. Twenty something reprobate, “waist hip proportionate” (whatever the fuck that means,) that doesn’t mind a night full of fancy clothes and jazz bars or McFlurrys in a beat up Ford Escape around midnight. I’m down to clown or play sophisticated, depending on where my mood is. So long as I don’t have to justify why I think everyone should recycle and wearing denim jeans with dress shoes looks ridiculous.

“I can’t think of what to say so I’m going with a very hopeful and loaded ‘wyd’.”
“laundry, little brother baby sitting”

I should be home with a book or jaw so cut it leaves dimples along my waist and pillows. Where I lay my head is home, and lately I like resting to the thought of him. I wonder what kind of lover he would be, in the romantic sense. Classical maybe, holding open doors and keeping between myself and traffic. Like I were a pet or something that needs protection. Or is he rather renaissance, regarding me with an equality and respect of a fellow human being. Dutch dinners and gender neutral nuances, bland sweet talk that means well but borders on boring, lacking that playful sentimentality of oh-baby-please.

“hey.”

“Hi”

“i miss you.”

“I know”

But that’s all I ever think about. Even in my raunchiest I can never get to the actual sex part. My fantasies are underwhelming as the movies are- I only care about everything leading up to the moment before my mind fades to black and I’m suddenly out of breath or staring at the ceiling from my pillow.

“saturday, you and me and a dinner. you can talk about your baby brother and that stupid movie with kate blanket that you like. ill wear the shirt you said doesn’t make me look so ugly and you’ll make my face say something my mouth wasn’t ready to. will be fun, or not, and awkward. but whatever it is, it be something better than what we are.”

Read on 7/1/2019