Cassie Episode VI (Stop Googling Your Personality)

“If you embarrass me I’ll just pretend like I don’t know you,” Cassie said, idling red eyes between me and a cigarette.

Dressed in all black like a bad omen, tastefully undressed in shoulders, arms, knees, and other non erogenous zones. Non-conformist and un-plus with a tattoo of Anubis coloring her forearm, eye-liner running at just the right angle to look more punk than it was depressing. I loved to watch her leave as much as I loved to follow, admiring the fun and dire looks she threw back at me as I took a mental inventory.

Another sixty bucks might mean a workweek full of tuna fish and sardines until the next direct deposit saved me. Rents a bitch but more than anything those bar tabs will kill ya. Bottom shelf shots are every New York booze hounds salvation, but even those start adding up when you’ve been at it long after twelve. I should have gone home a while ago, on moral grounds and debit card balance considerations, but I find it so hard to act your wage when I’m in the face of good company.

“I mean it.”

Cassie stood neutral but on the sidelines of chaos, and made it so easy to forget that I should give a fuck about tomorrow. Like that manic pixie girl they make all those movies about, but way more toxic. On the train ride there she stared at a couple passionately trying to swallow each others tongues. And when the six foot big spoon asked if there was a problem, she laughed and casually asked if there was enough room for us to join the show. They sucked their teeth and left at the next station, long testosterone glares I half heartedly reciprocated. And when I asked Cassie if she had such a problem with PDA to be so embarrassing, she shrugged and told me Not-At-All. I-Just-Thought-That-Would-Be-Funny.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I said, shuffling my internal playlist of wisecrack and dumbass to best match what I thought would be her rhythm. “But one quick question: how do your friends feel about Syria?”

I thought Cassie was burning inside as bright as I was, full of that quiet crazy staring at strangers and waiting to socially erupt. I thought she was as fed up as I was with faux pas pleasantries and nominal living, ready to yell at pigeons in the park and be an island of revolution. Choosing yourself over this paper thin etiquette and simulated version of honesty. True above all else, and refusing to let our madness be private.

“I’m serious,” She said, stopping with a hand firmly pressing into my chest. “Do not embarrass me,” she repeated, red eyes idling between me and the half finished cigarette nearly burning the wool of my jacket.

Thin and bright red letters dimmed against the darkness like an alarm clock ahead of us, neon shadows casting the words ‘The O D E O N’ looming on a marquee. Caught up on the wrong side of reality, the feint fragrance of shay butter and too much hairspray. The click of our shoes against the sidewalk filled the aching creaks of our empty headspace, but now there was only an odd and busy silence as New York revolved around our feet. She was so serious and I didn’t know what to say.

I had half a mind to bring up the problematic train ride that got us there, but her cute face and my aversion to conflict got the better of me. I trust no ones judgement, and my own much less. But when you’re morally bankrupt and already in enough debt to be thrifty on the last sixty dollars you have left in your bank account, it’s easy to overlook hypocrisy for a few free drinks with a pretty girl.

“I’ll be good,” I said. She nodded, and we made our way.

Into Odeon and the rest of the night with her friends, I wondered what would be the cost of that little or small a lie.

My 2AM Text Aren’t A Bootycall, This is a Løvset Maneuver

You never saw yourself as the kind of person to be in this type of place at this kind of hour. But here you are, talking to a woman with Bright Red Lipstick in a dive bar you may or may not have considered something of a halfway house just one or two weeks prior. Or was it one or two years? You check your watch for an answer but Time has become pretentious and over-bearing: hands pointing with a fatherly reproach to 3AM. You’re tired and sleep deprived, knowing better than to waste those precious few hours of rest and rejuvenation on midweek slumming and Thirsty Thursday half priced top shelf liquors. But you’re horny.

Necessity is the nagging mother of invention which compels you forward, the steady rhythm of Bon Jovi over a neon jukebox and double-digit Whiskey Sours has abandoned you on the outskirts of that thin line between reasonable and mindless intemperance. That fleeting toxic sweetness is grinding to a slow halt. You can feel your charming buzz evaporating through your every pore and faked half-smile, and as these chemicals grow sober they turn to poison. The room begins to have an odor you can’t quite categorize but have mentally filed as the direct midpoint between ‘wet’ and ‘dog’. Everyone is suddenly missing teeth, the bartender has a lazy eye and bullet scars, the couple three seats down won’t stop arguing over their bill. 

But tonight you are the epitome of self-control, managing to cloud this distaste and disinterest with the local vagrants long enough to find Bright Red Lipstick: a dull nickel among the slime, shining like sterling silver in a cupboard. She’s talking about her coworkers assumed and scandalous affair with her boss, but you haven’t been paying much attention. You’ve been diving back and forth between minimal interest and complete disregard, more focused on the feel of the bar counters damp wood against your leaning hand. It reminds you of the real wood, ant bites and the soggy feel of  tree bark after it rains. Rain – something that exist only outside of this dim lighting with seven dollar mojitos and popular soundtracks on a static speaker. 

You stop yourself.

Any and all thoughts of another world or perspective is too much for you to handle in this state. The long drought has a habit of taking you somewhere far, somewhere far and dark, somewhere you can’t afford to take yourself in the company of others. With a deep breath you try to catch up with Bright Reds narrative but the music blaring in the background and the solution dissolving in your blood stream makes it hard to keep up. Her long and uneventful story has become mute – your own personal silent film; capricious lips, hand gestures and head nods. A small pause in her movement cuts to words flashing on a blank screen: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Black backdrop, white lettering. It reminds you of Shakespeare, nights better spent tanning in the warm blue light of television screens and kisses creased in grins. Skipping work on Monday mornings to lay in bed and count the freckles on her shoulder, ordering takeout and answering the door wearing her bra. Shrimp lo mein and bed-sheets.     

“You know what I mean?” Bright Red’s waiting eyes snap you back to the moment, and you vague a response as best you can but feel it lacks conviction. Inevitably you’ve began to feel like a foreign entity in the bar. A carefully disguised virus soon to be discovered among the giant red and white blood cells marinating in the plasma that is youthful bliss. Organs devised solely for pleasure, its source of energy the lust for the next big moment, every agent acting on behalf of a selfish nucleus balanced carefully on a keen apathy for the profound. You feel disgusted: with people and with yourself.

You watch as Bright Red knocked back a shot and notice she is beautiful, in a ‘we’re both here so why not’ sort of way. She tells you she’s considering a change of career as you nod, considering her body. There is a feint aroma in her brunette hair and neat sweat across her temple: the smell of strawberries and a thinly veiled low self esteem and suppressed inner monologues. The scent is unmistakable. Your laundry reeks of it.     

It was the strangest thing. When I stepped outside all I smelled was smoke but I couldn’t tell if there was something burning nearby or if I was.

“It’s bad for you,” she’d say, pointing to the rolled tabacco between my lips, and I didn’t feel like explaining how that was the best part.

Instead I talked about cancer, how it’s something I think of often. Cancer, but not a fear of it or death or anything so pointless, just my contemplation on whether I would quit or not because of it. And I don’t think I would. I mean, you caught it already. Tough break, right? Fuck it. Smoke more. No use crying over spilled tumors.

“You’re always so negative,” she’d say, and a sick twinkle in her eye told how she secretly liked that fact a little too much.

And I explained how my optimism took longer to die than my youth, that as a teenager I spent 40 Years Underground. But she didn’t get the reference, so I told her that there’s a thin line between cynicism and indifference: that not all emotions necessarily have emotion. Apathy being one of the greatest examples, sex being another, and sometimes even love. But that last part I couldn’t find a way to phrase, so instead I just fucked her and left the motel before she would wake up.

So I guess she’ll just have to read between the lines.

You’re walking down the quiet bustling city street now as you feel Bright Red slink her arm around yours. You don’t really notice, though. You’re too focused on the  melody of engines stuck in traffic and _________________. It was a short walk, a block or two at most. You feel a soft pull from Bright Red as you nearly walk past her apartment. She’s fumbling for her keys, apologizing in advance for the mess in her living room. You’re not sure how you got here or where this night even began. You feel a twist in your gut, a far echo screaming ‘run,’ telling you to get away from here as fast as you can.

Bright Red is smiling at you nervously, moving a few strands of her auburn hair from her nickel face. She tells you she doesn’t usually do this type of thing with guys she’s just met. She says she thinks you’re some type of player, so quiet and mysterious.

“Have you ever even been in love?”

You don’t respond, smiling instead as you take her by the hand, brisk steps into the abyss as the door closes behind you.

The Kids Are Not Alt Right (They’re Just Fucking Fascist)

Fed up of the circadian rhythm, I rebelled against my own innate patterns of routine. I would brace myself against the wheel or be crushed by the weight of its bloated inactivity. Home and safe, overworked and underpaid. Or half a bean in my bindle and walking on hungry socks. Either way, something would have to give.

Darting towards my undone I grabbed what I considered to be fundamentals-

Lighter, phone, Kools cigarettes and a bottle opener. Doubling back towards the kitchen sink cabinet, where I kept hidden a half pint of Jack Daniels, tucked behind two bottles of Advil and a handful of 5 Hour Energy drinks. A corner pocket of my apartment I only visited at 4AM, or when the hearts clock strikes a zero hour. Pregame mistakes and hangover essentials which may have well read “In Case Of Emergency- Break Glass (before yourself.)” 

Already I could taste the gunmetal of whiskey and poor decisions eating away at the edges of my insides, regret looming around the bend of another night I should have spent doing something else. A long list of life responsibilities and errands taking shape within my mind, obligations nagging me the cons of spending a night out in sharp and boldened bullet points I’d feel the exit wounds of come morning. 

I braced myself and took the shot, groaning loudly before I grabbed my coat and went limping out the door. 

I realized the dangers of going alone, but God forbid I went sober. 

Cassie, Episode V (The Hangover Strikes Back)

We roamed the streets, howling at the moon with our eyes wet in hunger. Biting at each others heels in soft compliments disguised as insults, because neither of us ever truly outgrew the playground.

“Nice buzzcut, asshole.” Cassie snarled.

“I like your Ugg boots, where’d you get them? High school?” I hissed.

We were free of responsibility and chose to use that time unwisely. To be wild, untamable and young(ish)- daring strangers to approach us by baring our teeth in what they mistook as smiles and seeming friendly. Barking at cars and traffic that honked at us on lanes that said, B-U-S O-N-L-Y painted white in symbols we could no longer understand. A man tried to explain:

“Get on the sidewalk assholes! That’s the bus lane!”

“Says-Fucking-Who!” We howled back.

Scampering down West 4th Street with tails high as our moods, taking turns on a brown paper bag that was full of what makes the moon shine and absolutely nobodies business (especially if you were a cop.) A toxic duo of brash and lonely only looking for a home or good time; rabid and shameless, one with ourselves and the anti-thesis of decency.

Cassie and I two sloshed peas in a pod. We didn’t think we were greater than people, but we were better than them for knowing that. Than thinking we were anything more than animals packed into a steel cage we call a city. As if there were any more reasonable way to live than with this wild abandon of decorum, to stop the facade of a cowards living we dress up as social etiquette. No leash, mortgage, bar or cute stranger could tie us down for long. We were free and beautiful, recruiting strays and mutts in downtown Manhattan for The Army of the Dog.

“Can we leave?” I asked Cassie when I caught her in a smoke break. “I can’t stand this yuppie bullshit they keep playing.”

“Hey, it’s your breakdown. Only right you get to choose the soundtrack ” She yelped, and we pawed our way up Macdougal.

It’s what I liked most about her that night and ever since. With Cassie I’d wouldn’t need a good reason for anything or have to think so hard. She never asked for a cause or explanation, and there was a certain comfort in that. A relief of not having to validate more than the surface. 

“I know a place,” She said. “You’ll like it. I know the owner, we can stay late.”

“Sounds suspect. If you’re going to harvest my organs can I at least call my mom first?”

“I already did. don’t worry. She said it was fine and gave me permission.”

A smile spread across my face, completely involuntarily. Because in under an hour Cassie had somehow cracked the code to my affections. I was beginning to like her more than an off-chance encounter, and already I could feel my brain making memories where I didn’t need it to. Mockery is the sincerest form of flattery, in my dark and immodest opinion, and is the default language of love for anyone suffering from the fatigue of compassion. Kindness in the world is necessary, of course, but usually forced. A due process that can feigned, deceptive or hollow. To be mean in a nice way requires a cold but tender honesty, a step too far or close and the intentions become too obvious.

Somehow Cassie threaded that line quite perfectly and turn me softer towards her. I would rather open my heart to whoever called my dick small over some sweetheart asking how my weekend was any day.

“That makes me want to take you out some time,” I said laughing, and a little bit too sincere.

“Somewhere nice?” She asked, smiling a wine soaked and bloody tooth grin.

“Like a Kennedy,” I shot back. She punched my arm, and we pattered down to the stairs to the 1 train.

Nothing Good Ends Well (aka An Ode To Your Oh-My-God’s)

I love being wired like a guy, that in a glance and eyeful fuck I can forget women bite their nails or have bad dreams. That for a night or afternoon they are fun and fresh as snow.

There are degrees of sex, and Elis 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. 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 nature Nature had adorned us in. The windows shut, the 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 entiretly with a hushed thrill and gasp that simmered as our bodies found a silent groove and 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. Someday 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.