Cash Bar Only (aka Only Dickheads Tip On Their Debit Card)

A part of me likes to socialize for the sole purpose of disliking it. Self prophecy or flagellation, I don’t know. You be the judge, boo.

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  just window shopping.

Some 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 said, 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 had stashed in my bra because mama taught me well (and had dead beat boyfriends. Hi dad!)

I like my loneliness throughout the year but then Summer starts turning the bend and the heat creeps inside your bones. Then all those days I spend bird watching in Central Park, or drinking enough wine to want to practice yoga poses at home, they start feeling less and less fulfilling. Those wide, dead eyed Macy’s-summer-Sale ads glaring from the side of buses and subway platforms. Half naked and generic couple or family staring at you, actors probably, complete strangers that still manage to give you the impression like you’re missing out on something.

“This place 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 September comes around. But who doesn’t like a nice looking stud or vixen to grab you by the waist, pull you close and treat you like something thats only good for being used for a night? 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 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 start taking those eggplant emoji’s less seriously. 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 on the fringes of a good time. A place where words or thoughts or how stupid he looks in that ascot are no longer necessary.

“You’ve gotten better.” I said, and he has. It’s the most honest thing I’d said to him his entire life.

“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.

I guess he never worked in retail

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful (aka Any Mythical Beast Try To Step They Are Catching These Hands)

Evenings are my clementine, when the sun dips and the world bundles into itself. An atmosphere perfect for the monomania of melancholy, where the mass of sound has a quiet you’re afraid to disturb. Like a cutting board to gut these thoughts. There’s dirt beneath my fingernails and my lungs taste like apple cider beers and tinder. Tents pitched some distance apart, the soft swish of sifting body bags and sex tinge the air.

Beyond the bonfire is a boundless void and damp darkness, with monsters, goblins, ghouls and God knows what lurking in the shadows. Twigs snap, earth brushed, A movement that isn’t human and yellow eyes dancing wildly out in the expanse. I stand and take my phone like a lantern towards them, because bourbon veins and my sex make me courageous. Let me face demons before the lush or my virtue fades untested.

I am alone but not, in a quiet I am afraid to disturb.  Like in my city I am braving the night, but in a different type of solidarity. There is no loneliness in nature, only peace and an acute sense of how insignificant you are. But as the moon makes wet shadows on the floor and I raise my sword, the monsters that greet me have names. Tara, Joseph and Adam. Lost, bleary, red eyed, high and chuckling; empty head nods.

A deep desire for isolation overwhelms me. I want to be alone, but more so. To be by myself is not enough. Some pieces would remain, parts, fragments, fractions of dismantled moments floating through the recess of all that thought they knew me. All my love(s) and acquaintances stumbling on a memory of me like a tombstone. Notebooks full of words and a catalogue of half-started almosts. Someone somewhere would come across something Summer or frost enough to summon me and think, Oh-Yeah-Just-Like-Him. Pollute me with their thoughts. No, I want to be alone, but more so. Memory is a form of life, a mental gossip, social whisper, scandal and internal dialogue. Casual inferences never spoken but permanently embedded in thoughts. I crave something more permanent- to be erased and irreversibly forgotten.

To be alone without the pollution of what another person thinks.

To face monsters, not people. 

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.

Bonafide Blue Ribbon (aka Nice Guys Finish Last, and We Generally Warn You Before We Do) Part II

Feelings are cute but can turn monstrous, and should never be fed after midnight like Mogwais. None the less, or more the lesser, I waited for her in Connolly’s, wetting my desires with a whiskey neat and giving names to the little gremlins taking shape around my head and heart.

My mother always said an idle mind was Lucifer’s playground, and I never tempt the devil unless I’m ready to dance. Especially not after 12:00AM, the darkest hour, where you’re either climbing to the top of the world or on the verge of being crushed by it. Luckily my mind was made up and I had on my most comfortable shoes.

Enter Felice, stage left, who walked into the bar looking like the kind of girl they write songs about. Gorgeous enough to know it, so 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. 

“My shirt? You know I only shop at Hot Topic.”

“No, this confidence you definitely don’t deserve.”

The air smelled like starched shirts and too much perfume. My heart strung on the soft tendons of her knuckles that left me wondering where the arch of her neck leads. A feminine physique, the scent of raspberries; wide hips narrowing. What a waist for time.

Sex, such a a cheap trick and emotional shortcut; like skipping to the best part of your favorite song when you’re drunk. A quick high without the progress or buildup, that burns out as fast as it lights up and taste only as good as the oral is. But it’d been a while and I needed to feel a little needed, even if it were from somebody I didn’t give much of a damn about. But first there was the social foreplay, and some of the little monsters in me liked to chew the fat long enough to leave the bone dry. 

“The smartest diseases,” I said. “Are the kinds that can disguise themselves to look like it’s a part of you. Fool the body into thinking it’s just another blood cell. That’s the way it is with people, too: fake it til you take over their immune system.”

“You just compared yourself to cancer,” She said.

So beautifully cruel. She enriches me as a lover but ruins the romantic, makes lighter all those tragedies I rattle at with a beer can. Kissed by fire and freckled in 80’s rock ballads; she was terrible at the song of vice and liars. Honest to a fault with fireworks in her eyes- Felice, 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 milky bar of chocolate. Smokers lips and eyebrows that were always either feigning surprise or frowning.

“But I’m a Taurus.” I said. And she tried very admirably not to laugh.

We had met from a mutual acquaintance at a rooftop bar over near the west end last Summer. We remained light friends, occasional Facebook comment and a meme for posterity sake. An acquaintance that never quite made it as a friend, but if she had ever cut ties and left, I would be a husk. Because a cage without a bird is an empty thing.

“Tell me something.” I said.

“Like what?”

“Anything, as long as it’s not about your how much you hate your boss.”

Her eyes rolled, so drastically she nearly back-flipped, then fell restlessly on the crowd. Searching between the bodies, as if somewhere in the sea of strangers she could have found what she meant to say. What are you wondering at, you beautiful wonder. But that’s just the way she was- with a heaven in her smile and a frown in her eyes, the kind of storm in her thighs that consumed you by degrees.

“I don’t want to end up alone,” She said, a bit too honestly.

Company comes with conditioning, a terrible case of cotton mouth and Pavlov’s jaw, that creaks and rust and is afraid at any attempt at something honest. I couldn’t stand it, the pseudo sociable. Talking about your job and weather is conventional and safe, but feels more like a constraint than a conversational mattress. I could only get along with people that people call unhinged – the kind that are un-apologetically themselves and never learn to stop sniffing markers. Alcoholics, drug abusers, sex and love addicts anonymous. I fell into them the way people fall into bad habits and addictions.

“You just haven’t met the right person yet.” I parroted, not thinking, just responding in the way some blood cells  and chemical reactions are supposed to.

“But I hate that idea. Of fucking…I don’t know, presupposing. Like meeting someone is so inevitable. If you can find happiness in different things, in like, songs, or traveling, or a really good book, why should mine have to come from some other person?”

We sat there, loud, but empty.  Like glass bottles clinking. Humanity is a strange enigma, toasting to his or her own empty fantasia- specific instances of precise happiness undefinable by sobriety. An escape endlessly clouded by the myriad of errors that got you there. Forgotten, wasted, and inexplicable. Taken for granted like keys you swore you lost but show up at your bedside.

“They write songs about people who fall in love the way you do.” I said coming from a haze, shooing the last few gremlins. “But that’s all they are. They’re just songs.”

My lies are noble. I didn’t think that was necessarily true, but perhaps what she needed to hear. Misleading a horse to water is a treason I’m likely to commit, even if those were never my intentions. Because then again, what consequences ever are?

She looked back to the crowd a little angrily, ran her knuckles on the counter in a way that made me hungry, and smiled like she had just said her own name. Her pupils stuttered and whatever emotion that almost revealed itself winced back to the chasm from where it came.

“You’re a good guy,” She said.

“I’m no hero.”

“No,” She replied with a smile. “Heroes don’t shop at Hot Topic.”