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.

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 Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want To Swipe Right

This City Is Alive. Can’t You Feel That Pulse Vibrating On Your Sole? I’m not sure if you mean sole or soul, but either way I’m nodding along, feeling my way down that soft hill just where your spine dips and your back ends, and I can’t begin to imagine what else a hand is for. That’s when I get your back hand.

Don’t Be An Ass, Just Stop, Listen. And we pause for a moment to feel the wind and vague aroma of pretzels whisper and whisk us away to the promised land. You hear a voice in an empty street, I feel the murmur of midtown traffic. What’s with yours? The Fuck’s With Yours? We laugh it off, but in retrospect, that difference turns out to be so tragic.

It’s barely sundown but we’re near halfway done with this town. Flannigans, your favorite place, Oh My God You Remembered! Open balcony and buffalo wings so good They Must Have Got Me Pregnant. But I’m just gunning for sympathies. A last stake and a blunt mood while you blunt moods, swinging this weeks crush down my face like another God Damn meme. Oh, I bet he’s a fucking prince. Works where? Oh, you don’t say? Shut up and order me a drink, I can do without the Me-and-Him while I’m mapping out your decolletage. I’ve got a heavy heart with heavier thoughts, but if you want to brag, I’ll allow it. Because the way you say my name still makes me useless.

Go on then, I said. He sounds so great, please show me.

And you go reaching for your phone, flick, swipe, flick, turn page: Facebook gallery of couple selfies so synonymous with our generation. Too close for comfort in those comforts, vacation photos where you hide your feet in the sand because I know you’re too self conscious. He’s grinning, so damn winning, Joe-Yale jaw and an All-American gleam as he’s leaning on his side to your open arms and open-ended’s. And anybody else would say in dears, Awe, Well Now, They Must Be So Happy.

And yet, just like that, here we are. And yet, just like that, there we were: mourning in the morning, even by the evening, smoked in the dusk, and I’m the dew to meet the sunrise. Smell me, taste me, feel me, breathe me, breathe me. Inhale. Inhale. Tensely, deliberately, you ask for your iPhone charger while I am none the wiser and glimmering of you.

We had the whole of a sleepless town to dance around and be depraved in. The music calling, your hips responding, three missed calls on your neck where my lips felt they had a part in. (Near)missed connections in the way you said my name like a taxi cab confession, soft and blatant but underhanded, so our driver had to ask Can’t-You-Wait-Until-I-Get-You-There? And we laughed about it later, while you were wearing my shirt and I played footsie under breakfast, because fuck, do I wake up ready. Because last night is so distant and never enough, and I have these damn instincts that won’t let me let up.

But I’d be remiss to not reminisce in the way you smiled when we spent the day and I locked the door. To keep everybody out, or maybe forcing us in.

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

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.

We Won’t Last (More Than Six Seasons and A Movie)

I remember Rose was the kind of girl you could drunk text at three am, who would laugh at any hardboiled sentiment trying to pass for a booty call. The kind of girl to make you think, make you believe, make you want to make something of yourself. Two cups of coffee for eyes and a personality like your favorite song- I used to love the way her quiet felt like she were full of secrets. The pleasant kind, like birthday parties, or discovering you don’t like men. A smile hiding something volcanic in her honey thighs and wise passive.

“Look who actually showed,” She said, brimming in a backless dress and grin.

“Hard to be a snowflake in July,” I said.

I remember how the caramel she called skin was mine- for a while, at least. Leased bi-weekly, the sweat of summer scented on her french tip touch, the arch of her spine divining a message only hands could read like braille.

“You’ll have a good time, I promise,” She said.

“Either that or I’ll get super drunk and embarrass you,” I said.

Two is company, but in my case one is a crowd. I wanted an escape, a life and a quiet louder than the silence that moaned inside of me. Uncomfortable in my own skin, and not knowing a better recourse, I resorted to only concerning myself with getting under hers. So I hung around, biding my time and pretending to laugh at what you can bet wasn’t funny. Surrounded by fifty shades of fucking stupid, my character condensed to a form of social tailgating; full of whole-hearted soft agreeing and very empty head nods. I wouldn’t take the chance of saying something no one would listen or respond to. Nobody says a thing but deep down we all know you just had to go and say that, just had to ruin a really good thing. That kind of silence is suicidal, it’s the elephant in the room everyone’s rushing to ignore or get out of. Like being the last comment on a Facebook status, but in real time.

“Drunk yet?” She asked.

“On my way there,” I said.

But that kind of declaration is devastating. A sweeping sentiment is moving in a movie, but in reality nobody wants you showing up at their doorstep at 1 am. Sincerity is terrifying in a dating sense, it’s a quality that should come last, like a notion or decent boyfriend. Polite and empty flattery will get you everywhere. The truth is that nobody wants a nice guy, but someone who’s just enough of a dick to give the impression that he has options elsewhere. Leftovers are only good after Thanksgiving, and nobody wants to bang a hand me down.

“I’m really glad you came,” She said, the honey in her voice like a hand that squeezes yours just one, lightly. An assurance, or confirmation. “It’s so nice to see you.”

“Yeah,” I replied.

Something snapped and in the distance I felt a door slam. I excused myself and stepped outside to smoke, standing daffy in the rain rather than under an awning, wrestling and losing against my lesser judgment. Dark desires seething in me.

I can never kind of, any emotion I evoke borders on extreme. On or off like a light switch. I’d never learned how to dim a feeling. Or maybe it’s possible to be angry for the right reasons at the wrong people.

I took a $50 cab home without goodbyes and never spoke to Rose again.