Two Is A Crowd, Episode II

No bouncer at the door and a newly drawn sign “Welcoming Lost Souls To Oblivion…and $9 Cocktails. For Madmen Only.” I made my way in.

“I told you we had a true one, Anna,” Said Sam, his gunmetal gray eyes the first I met as I walked in. Like he were waiting for it.

Anna, with her back half turned and a song see-sawing her her waist and shoulders, “He must have a sixth sense for a good time,” Said Anna.

Everything inside could have been crafted by their hands. Dim lights, swirvy armchairs, the smooth smell of leather and wood in the air. Hems of polka dot skirts bobbing along the sparse room singing and laughing with freshly decked men that had their ties loose and top buttons undone. All singing and laughing to the melody of congruence. Even the bartenders chiseled and serious chin lowered and smiled, like he was in on it. Whatever “it” was, or is.

“Lucky guess,” I said, taking my place in the only space between them. “Next time don’t brag, and give me an address I can Google.”

I smiled, or tried to, but Sam looked away. Displeased and annoyed, like he’d been given a poem for a place to meet up but nobody showed, I thought I was being casual, but when I turned to Anna even she had hid her face,

“How did you find us?” Anna asked. Boredly. A question with about as much significance as How-Was-Your-Weekend on Monday morning.

I sat between them and stared at my bubbling pint for the courage and words. They wouldn’t come, but, I wouldn’t drink until I found them either.

“I tried to think like you,” I said. Forcing myself. How difficult it was, knowing honesty was in a glass within my hand I couldn’t take. But there was a thing they wanted and a thing that needed to be said. A confession or rite of passage. A three legged beast and club I was on the verge to become a part of. But if I were drunk, well then, yes we would be friends but not really.

So I did it with the comfort of knowing what I was confessing was something hard to label in the aftermath that doesn’t come off as stupid. “A certain taste in the air, the way people on Bleeker moved when I was smoking. I got a scent, and I followed and…fuck. I don’t know! I tried to…I did, see thing, as you’d see them. Then I got feelings, hunches on which way to go.”

“And?”

“I went. Something told me you were here. Like a fucking voice or something, I don’t know. It wouldn’t tell me where to go but it would tell me where I shouldn’t. So I got here and, I don’t know.

By then I took a drink. “I just got the feeling that you would like this sort of place- out of the way, but still in the thick of it. Dark but light, quiet and loud.” I looked around unsure. “And it is nice, and you. This place is very you. But like I said, I got lucky.”

Sam and Anna laughed, together and alone, separately but cherused. They bought me a drink and kissed me with their smiles, as they had a tendency to.

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Two Is A Crowd (Episode I)

It was five minutes before a bad day at work was almost over when I felt my pocket buzz, and before I even read it I knew it would have something to do with sex.  I should have gone home and ordered pizza the way I planned, but, I wanted to see them. Even if their text didn’t have a place or time to meet, just a train station and vague mention to what might happen phrased like a warning, Meant as an enticement. Succeeding in both.

Took a midnight train to forfeit soon as I logged into Instagram and saw how much fun other people were having. Punched my ticket at the deli in a $9 bottle of rum before the 1 train rolled in, and I roared in ready because Spotify had a playlist I hated ready for me.

Seventeen stops later, seventh Avenue opened up to me in swank high rises and suavely slacked strides clicking towards the distant turn-lights of neon bar signs. Overtly overdressed mademoiselles applauding down the avenue, distracting my attention with their contoured faces and purposely painted high cheekbones. New York is a terrible place to be unsure of where you’re going, with blackened windows at every bar and bouncers bishoping lines make everywhere seem like the place you should be.

They didn’t provide an exact address, so I thought actually finding Sam and Anna would be a mild goose chase; a red herring they text me to be annoying and their idea of funny. But as I exited Bleeker Street subway station to nobody, and my texts received no answer, I leaned against a lamp post. Annoyed and a little anxious to review the test she/he/they sent me, some clue I could Mapquest or decipher.

In a hidden seventh avenue lies a street
and Steppenwolf; some beast astray
that finds no home or joy in Greenwhich
or world that is strange
and incomprehensible to him.

Drunk texts after 1AM with “intellectuals” are annoying like this. Throwing a book reference with where we might have met is bush league, and I did leave my apartment thirty minutes after I said… yet. Something. Hard to label what in the aftermath that doesn’t come off as stupid. A certain taste in the air, the way the crowd of people on Bleeker moved and wavered between my cigarette smoke. I felt a scent, and like a psychic or lunatic I found myself heading in a  direction purely guided by instinct.

I would find them, I thought. Or I wouldn’t, and have a drink anyway. That’s what I thought as I wandered into The Slaughtered Lamb. A neat little dive bar quartered to a corner near sixth avenue where the streets get all whacky in Greenwich Village.

No bouncer at the door and a newly drawn sign “Welcoming Lost Souls To Oblivion…and $9 Cocktails. For Madmen Only.”

I made my way in.

Jingle Bell Blues (aka All I Want For Christmas Is You…To Shush)

A part of me likes to socialize for the sole purpose of disliking it. A self prophecy or flagellation, depending on the mood I’m in. Instead of rotting at home between four walls and the endless void of myself, I could grab my coat and finally answer someone I only left on read as a power move. Boys are cute and men make for better conversation, but in the end I like to think the games I play are less because I’m a bitch and more because I’m just window shopping.

Most guys still get angry at the fact, but then again I guess most guys never worked in retail.

“Can I buy you a drink?” He says, a little nervous but hiding it well.

“I hope so. This dress doesn’t come with a wallet.” I said, not disclosing the fifty dollars I have stashed in my bra because mama taught me well.

I like my loneliness throughout the year but then November starts turning the bend into Christmas- “cuddle weather” or “cuffing season,” depending on where you stand, culturally. Then all those days I spent alone bird watching in Central Park, or drinking enough wine to want to practice yoga poses at home, they start feeling less and less fulfilling when the holidays rolls around. Those wide, dead eyed Macy’s-Holiday-Sale ads glaring from the side of buses and subway platforms. A generic couple or family staring at you, actors actually, complete strangers that still manage to give you the impression like you’re missing out on something.

“This is nice,” I said. “How many other pretty girls have you brought here?”

It’s all bullshit, and I know I go right back to being bad all by my merry self once January comes around. But who doesn’t like a nice looking stud or vixen to grab you by the waist, pull you close and make you feel wanted once the ball drops on New Years? I sure as hell do.

“Its my first time here,” He said. But the way the bartender doesn’t even glance my way makes me believe otherwise.

“Let’s dance,” I said, fully aware that he doesn’t like to.

“Hell yeah,” He replied, smiling softly. In a way that almost makes me start to like him. “I’ve been practicing.”

So I’ll be gone til’ November and when December comes, I submit to carefully worded invitations laced with subtle flirts and sexually charged emoji’s. A couple drinks in Mulberry’s or High Bridge with another yuppie that thinks he either has me figured it out or has it all together. Throw the dust off my social withdrawal and take my place in a song, dance in the hysteria of a mob bouncing to a base and dissolving into a sea of other people. Move my hips in a rhythm that begins to feel instinctive, almost natural, and that despite myself feels good and on the fringes of having a good time. A place where words or thoughts or how stupid he looks in that ascot are no longer necessary.

“You have gotten better.” And he has. It’s the most honest thing I’d said to him the entire night.

“I was tired of you making me fun of me,” He said, trying to laugh.

Then I could bring him home, sleep sound and full of thoughts, and sentences, and sometimes bodies, other than my own. Happy, or at least, on the verge of some semblance of it. Him hopping through the hoops and traps I lay behind me. My conscience feeling awful for it every time he lands the fall. Then Christmas comes and he gets me something stupid and sweet like a yoga mat or blue rose, and then I wake up to hate myself for being so mean and a hypocrite.

“Then you definitely should not have worn that thing around your neck,” I said.

Or I could sit outside of it all as an observer and reinforce my prejudices, safe behind the looking glass of a bell jar. Convicted of my convictions and incapable of seeing the other side of the coin. Say Fuck-You to Macy’s the next time I see her, grow out my underarm hair and make an Instagram entirely dedicated to The Makings Of A Cat Lady and Drunk Yoga. Isolated and un-reproachable, impossible to hold the mildest of conversations with until he goes to the bathroom and comes back without the ascot because I can be that cruel. And as I’m emotionally ostracized and lie about having to work early because his eyes start looking a little angry, I can wander off home. Alone but a little glad- proud and the champion of my own misery.

“You’re kind of a bitch, you know that?” He said.

But I guess he never worked in retail.

My Baby Takes The Morning Train, When Uber Pool Is Too Expensive (aka I’d Quit Tomorrow If Sheena Asked Me To Stay)

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.

When You Reach The Last Stop, Show The Grim Reaper You Have A Transfer Card (aka Subway Soliloquy)

STAND-CLEAR-OF-THE-CLOSING-DOORS-PLEASE.

Crowded, packed and stuffed with no AC.
Doors close, open, close, open, close, open, cl-
open. Somebody sucks teeth and the whole train sighs.
An afternoon turning evening ride home, ten stops away
from Wednesday rituals and the nonsense we do to get
over the hump of a work-week. Walking starts looking
like an option from all these delays. And if this
old ladies bag pushes me ONE MORE TIME I swear I’ll-

LADIES-AND-GENTLEMAN
PLEASE-GIVE-UP-YOUR-SEAT
FOR-THE-PREGNANT
AND
THE-ELDERLY
IT’S-STANDING-UP-FOR-WHATS-RIGHT
AND-COURTESY
IS-CONTAGIOUS.

Sweating, hot and suffocating in 9 to 5 company.
Undone ties and tired eyes fanning magazines,
smearing makeup, grunting offhand conversations,
complacent and wailing for home. Singing to the rhythm
of train tracks and middle class disappointment.
ka-kun ka-kun…ka-kun…ka-kun…ka-
A Game of Thrones Ringtone plays and somebody sneezes.

LADIES-AND-GENTLEMAN
FOR-YOUR-SAFETY-PLEASE
DO-NOT-BLOCK-OR-HOLD-THE-CAR-DOORS
WHILE-THE-TRAIN-IS
IN-THE-STATION.

Two men argue over who touched who first,
but it doesn’t matter and devolves to racial slurs.
Fingers, movements, violence vibrating in IF YOU COME
ONE STEP CLOSER
and voices getting louder
and louder and louder and louder and
more uncomfortable the longer neither of them backs down.
Then one says F**K THIS and starts reaching in his bag and

THIS-IS-A-SOUTHBOUND
SIX-TRAIN
THE-NEXT-STOP-IS
SAINT-LAWRENCE
AVENUE.

Crowded, packed and stuffed with no AC.
Doors close, open, close, open, close, open, cl-
open. Red floor, red doors, red rails, red everything.
Red advertisement on prescription acne treatment
on sale with Dr. Zimmerman, blood blushing his smile.
People running. Screams. Yelling. Shoving. I TOLD HIM
HE SHOULDN’T. I TOLD HIM. I TOLD HIM.
Sirens.

STAND-CLEAR-OF-THE-CLOSING-DOORS-PLEASE.

He’s Always So F**king Late & Smells Amazing (But You Didn’t Hear That From Me; aka A Party Night Prelude)

It was cold that night – not that it made any difference to you back then.

With your first step out of the smothering embrace of a stuffy building, the cold wintry air was a stifling but liberating pang against your lungs. There was something indefinably invigorating about leaving the warm pleasantry of home into the unforgivably bitter night at so late an hour. The tender, luminous bulbs from indoors seemed to shine brighter as you took your first steps into depravity. A soothing glow calling out your name with a flickering beckon begging for you to return. But you turned your back on these cries, stepping nimbly into the enveloping darkness while ignoring its silhouetted plea. Waltzing into the familiar embrace of a dark city, the last trace of light recoiled from your jacket and the transformation was complete.

It was calm that night. At this hour, even in a city so restless as yours, everyone was either asleep or on the verge of it. But not you. You took a deep breath, soaking your mind in the wet moonlight, reveling in the chilly stings of the winds embrace, and watching your soft breath take shape in the form of a thin vaporing smoke. You couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. There was something almost exotic about this time of the evening – the silence deafening. Only occasionally could you hear the distant rhythmic melody of urban traffic joined by the thin blue layer glow of a television screen echoing from a first floor apartment window. As you walked, you enjoyed the rustling sound of your coat and the feint but persistent click clock click your shoes made against the hard concrete with each passing step. Not a soul to be seen for miles. The night was a voiceless orchestra.

Walking further, you creeped toward the distinctive but familiar black car with the ominously tinted windows. The world seemed to echo off of the small but elegant vehicle. There you saw the reflection of surrounding cars, the distant flick of a lamppost, a nearby cat scurrying across, the past, the future, the present, and most importantly yourself. This was no regular car, too unworldly to ever possibly be of this universe, but neither was it part of the ongoing symphony. As you neared the apparatus the passenger side window slowly lowered, carting with it a cheerful and familiar tone. He said something, but you didn’t hear what as you slid comfortably into the sleek leather seat. The inside of the UFO was even more brilliant than the exterior. Glancing through the window you felt completely separated from the outside world; the hue of the tints increasing this effect greatly. Though only an inch away, the orchestra now seemed unreachably distant through the thick dark coating enveloping anything that nestled in its den.

”…I didn’t say you could get in.”

You laughed, briefly, and flashed an unimpressed smile.

“Will you shut up and drive? We’re going to be late.”

He laughed too, as were your way of things. There was never a need for hello’s or how-have-you-been’s. Changing gears as you slipped on your seat belt, the engines soft rumble exciting your heart as the spacecraft came to life, bound for distant unimaginable lands. The night was young, adventure was just one mistake away, and you had an entire list to finish before the sun rose and made you human.

Tinder With Your Ex Is A Wildfire (All You’re Left With Are Ashes)

On rare occasion, I love being wired as a man. Where at a glance I can forget women bite their nails or have bad dreams, and for a night or afternoon are fun and fresh as snow.

There are degrees of sex, and Sheila’s had a thoughtless and intimate excellence. She removed her top, threw it to the side with a careless confidence that left me awed. With the fluid wave of her bangled and slender wrist, she cast aside any remaining notion of neglect or lingering resentment between us. With the stroke of her warming touch and kiss it no longer mattered why-weren’t-you-there or never-called-me-back. I forgot all rhyme and reason to why her being here was a bad idea.

Lust, although a primitive emotion, makes a lovely anesthetic.

Hesitance gone, caution numbed, I closed the breach between us and found her excitement waiting like an old friend. Our hands and lips, once so familiar, explored the whispered wants of each others skin once more. Silked and shuddering, we dissolved to a desire that was a devastation of man and woman, of what was expected or instilled in us. A thousand years of evolution torn asunder, become nothing to the nurture Nature had adorned us in. The windows shut and doors barred in- for a time the world had no place or say in anything. And in that freedom our instincts made demands that we surrendered to.

Her honey-darling skin was a temple that took me with open arms. She was a poem, a fire, a mountain in the distance that shook and filled me with a burning wander-lust. Such supple breast and forgiving lips, she accepted me entirely with a hushed thrill and gasp that simmered as our bodies found rhythm.

I laid her across the mattress, her hair long and tangled like Medusa- the ancient hymns and sacrifices of the Greeks and Incas riddled along the veins of her skin like snakes. I ran my tongue along these secrets and found a magic I’d only read and felt no part of. At times and touch she folded under my caress and presented herself like a gift, waiting to be loved and intensively undone. Her passion came in tides and suddenly she would revolt, rise and take control. Eager and commanding, she left me powerless and quaking under the demand of her wild search for her fulfillment.

Our highs peaked, settled, then took wind and climbed much higher. We gave and took of one another until there was nothing left to be given. Consumed by consumption, a gentle tide came like an earthquake and swept our frenzy to exhaustion. And as we lay catching our breaths, I traced my love into a poem on her back in fingerprints.

“I’m quitting soon,” I said, and she took it to mean the cigarette.

“Good. You know I hate that it lingers.”

“Like my affection,” I said. But she didn’t move, scoff, or breathe.

“You’re so heavy,” she said finally. “I worry that I can’t keep up. That you’ll get bored eventually with someone like me. Some day you’ll up and leave and you won’t look back. I know you don’t. You’ll leave one day like I’m not enough, like nothing ever is.”

They say there are times life presents us moments of greatness that define us. Where what we do will shape not just your life, but the world and those around you. In my bleeting heart I felt it to be one of those moments, and in that moment I was speechless.

“You’re terrifying,” she said.

I nodded and stared absently at the short distance between us. While the reality of one-and-only has always remained for me a distant implausability, for a touch and moment she was mine, if only for the night and orgasm. The night done, we picked up the fragments of ourselves scattered about the room like clothes. And despite the withhold we both know we’ll find ourselves here again, in a month or week or decade thereafter. Two torn souls tearing a room and each other for satisfaction.

The smoke may clear, but the dust, much like our hearts, never does quite settle.