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.

Early Morning Sweet Nothings (aka I Wake Up With Enough Morning Wood To Build A Cabin)

2AM again, a restless dream, undressing under twilight
but somebody has to keep the moon company.

Yes, yes, you said. Not yet, no, not yet. 
I call you Gaia and kiss the sands, 
jump and dance and make a mess, 
and I laugh, you laugh, we laugh;
the moonlight kisses us.  

If only I could love you properly- 
my fingers ready, edging, always aching 
for yours. So young, and bold, and hairy. 
Able. Graying. 

No, no, you said. No, not yet, not yet. 
You call me worrier, kiss my hands, 
jump and dance and make the bed, 
and I laugh, I laugh, I laugh; 
the sunlight kisses us.

But my hands start thinning.

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.

Remember the Alamo(ny)

There is a distinction between being angry
at or with yourself, and I am full
of a gangrene envy I do not outgrow.
Resentment rooted too deep in the soil,
hate, too often, being something inherited.
Oh how I want to be let alone, but I am no good
for myself. To replant would be a practice
in redundancy, a gray and daily drone,
monotony of the routine- a lovers caress
I used to miss, known all too well
and (not) enjoyed.

Doctor, doctor, won’t you dose my heart
in drugs and soma? Dry my dreams and
wet my sight, glazed awake and comatose.
Excuse these vacant eyes, medicated,
euthanasia of the soul. Asleep and listless,
I am not human at the moment, but something feral.

This land is my land and it is rotted,
overrun, a sickness spread like smallpox
blankets of love, life, friends, and other
tragedies. Ash it all and start anew;
controlled fires, prescribed burns
on bridges I won’t ever use.

How best but flame to break a bond?
It is wood, the oldest metal; tinder,
common, precious, and little. Smoke
rising to settle, the deed done but
never finished. Fuming eyes, smoldered
heart left alone to wonder-
how will I get around myself?

Her Name Was Z Because She Was Supposed To Be The Last

Z’s name smiled from the capsule of my Motorola RAZR, her contact saved in all caps because even then I must have known: 2009 was a good year.

I found my old cell phone with a list of baby names saved in the drafts. Bullet points full of Connor, Clara, Autumn, Optimus Prime, and Abigail’s. A pleasant ring with each of them remained, had ripened against the test of time and our codependent fantasies. Dearly-Beloved’s from an Elvis preacher, personalized wedding vows we drafted in text messages- we were joking of course, but not really, because can-you-actually-even-imagine-us-as-parents? We could, I think, even if we pretended not to. Love is surrentine but not everything gets better when it settles. Some stuff rots if left unfinished or open ended. It’s all in the ullage, the empty spaces that tempers and separates grapes from wine, the quality of the batch.

“Let’s go to Coney Island,” She says. “I want to get my face painted.”

“That sounds like a stupid reason to go all the way to Coney Island,” I shot,  even when I was already Google-mapping our way there.

She was folded across my futon, thumbing the pages of her latest anesthetic on her Kindle. Something Jennifer Campbell or Sophie Divry, I think. Whatever it was, she wanted to read it together but changed her mind when I asked if the author was dead. I could never trust or like a writer that was still breathing. They might change their mind.

I watched her finger turn the page and remembered she always had such pretty hands, the kind that were made for holding. Thin, brittle fingers and fawn knuckles that shifted beneath her skin like a Rorschach. As she drummed her fingers against her chin, a habit she did whenever she was stuck thinking, the slender of her tendons slithered and I saw something waiting to be surfaced, like a kitten hiding under bed covers, or something Oedipal. A work of heart with a breast so full of feeling that she cried every time she had an orgasm.

“Your face sounds fucking stupid,” She harks, not bother to look up.

She’s always had too much imagination. The world inside of her head was so much bigger than the one outside of it. Every day at two she texts to ask what I’m wearing, but she doesn’t settle for a picture. She tells me to describe it, and when I asked her why, she said she loves the way I internalize. That I have a way of seeing things, a perspective she can’t get enough of. Then she sighs and shakes her head, a signature move when she thinks she isn’t making any sense.

It’d been six years since we had been so casual. It all (re)started with a benign butt dial that turned to small talk turned to catcalls, that evolved to morning texts reluctantly leading to dinner and a woo me. The hours snuck through the wine and what we thought would be so hard came easy. Her every word filled me with a hundred more and she couldn’t stop laughing when I kept calling our waitress by her first name. Relearning what we already heard about each other or didn’t know, almost like a first date, except strangers didn’t know each other this well. Caught up in catching up, oh my god look at the time. It’s already late, why pay a cab ride? You should stay over anyway.

“What if I don’t want to go to Coney Island?” I ask.

I leased a pocket in my heart and dresser reserved for her, and she occupied the space with her time and tie dye tops in a sweet but silent resignation. She refused to keep any work clothes in her dresser, not a single earring or piece of jewelry. Only t shirts and pajama bottoms, only things she could leave behind in case of a fire or some act of God.

Naturally, she packed for me the way people pack for disasters, and given my penchant for my love shifting like the sea, I didn’t blame her.

The love that bore me was violent. I grew up, having yet to grow into myself, and the way I wanted Z was constant and addictive. A young, brash, and preoccupying kind of love. The type of enamored that won’t go to bed, that stays up clutching at a pillow and a memory the way cats dig their nails to keep from falling off of a ledge. Desperate and needy affection, a passive addiction. Spending my nights yowling, scratching, pawing at the phrase trying to understand and get to the center of it.

“Then I guess I won’t go.” She says.

We never spoke about what was happening. The shift in our relationship going back to something similar felt about as reliable as a groundhog. Commitment chicken was the name of the game and she was doubtlessly afraid I would pull another Marcus, to leave just as she was getting comfortable and used to needing me. Marcus, her father, took sails when Z was 8 years old after digging the family in debt over horse races, lottery gambling, and drinking. She lived in a shelter for six months until her mother moved in with an uncle and put the family back together.

Prone as I am to habits, I think Marcus may be the reason I’ve picked up drugs the way people pick up hobbies, yet look down on gamblers the way people look down on heroin addicts. There is a difference. At least with (enough) alcohol I got a high – zero risk, high reward, and I’ve always preferred a safe bet.

“Why wouldn’t you want to go alone?” I ask.

In 2010 he came back to her life, full of regret, love, and kidney problems. All those years of the bottle catching up. He was dying but swore he wouldn’t, because he’d changed. But then he did, because he hadn’t. It was a Thursday when it happened and Z spent that whole night staring out the window drinking coffee, and all I could do was sit with her and do the same. She didn’t move an inch, only bit her lip the way she did whenever she was reading, either thinking or waiting to wake up and for it all to be some kind of dream.

We were six months past the honeymoon and the grief that grieved her was quiet, anxious, and sudden. She spent a lot of night crying after that, but it wasn’t over orgasms any more. Her sadness seemed to spring from everywhere. While we talked about the cute kid with a lisp from her job, returning books at the library, when we were watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The world was full of places and smells that shoved Marcus into her heart again, and the poor thing couldn’t take having lost her father twice.

I never knew what to do when it happened, except hold her in my arms until I couldn’t feel her tears or convulsing. Swear I’d never leave her, because I loved her. But then I did, because I didn’t.

“Because I enjoy you,” she says, to summarize.

She enjoys me, she says, but I don’t entirely understand what she might mean. No one’s ever told me anything so simple and disarming, and while I can’t make heads or tails of it, I still like the way hearing her say it makes me stutter, reminds me to feel. Reminds me of the excellence of skin, the great fire that tethers at the thighs. And the smoke oozing from their mouths like entrails. My lust is passive aggressive. I’m hopeless- trying to weigh my options but the scale is broken. It’s all love with me until the day it isn’t.

Women are like French fries in that way: spectacular, but I find very little appetizing about just one.

The distance happened the way it always does- not at all, and all at once. Soon weekend visits turned to afternoons until it didn’t really matter what the color of my tie was that day. Baby please aimed to tease, the affection was forced but her heart was in the right place. I was blooming into May and she was falling into Hunter, and despite my pretending to have absolutely any kind of will power, I had a deep and burning need to look him up. To see the face of my replacement.

Maybe it was envy.

I found his Facebook page. He had a long face and dead eyes- the nose of a philosopher. Notable and tragic. A modern agonist. Poets, always so sad and nostalgic, the boys in blue. Men more afraid of life than dying, whose hearts turn grey long before their beard does. I clicked the red ex and closed the laptop, listened to the lull of traffic from my window, had a glass of wine and went to bed.

The next morning Z was looking out the window with a cup in her hand, thinking…no, waiting. My memory sneaks between her and the hour like a second cup of coffee and that 2 o clock feeling. Something you indulge in behind a laptop and password protected WiFi, when the doors locked and you think nobody else will ever know. The secrecy of it is only to give a false sense of control. Like incognito mode, or the “close door” button on elevators.

I knew I was losing her. Our love had turned to a blank envelope, and before I let it go, I had to address it. Even water, if left to standing still, stales, and goes bad. We must learn to flow.

“Tell me a story,” She said. Women are always asking me to tell them stories.

“Once upon a time…” I said.

“Once upon a time, I forget from where. But there’s this story about a couple. They went to see this wise man. They weren’t sure if they should get married, but the wise man wouldn’t help them. He just kept talking about this treasure. He was blind, I forgot that part. It’s important. He was blind and he knew about this treasure, and it’s all he would go on about. The couple left and they decided, fuck it: let’s go look for that treasure. So they did. From all the shit the old man said they found exactly where to dig. They dug and they dug and they dug and they were crazy excited. Eventually they find something, it was this rock. Tiny little thing, they damn near kept digging when they found it actually. It was the size of like your thumb or something, and on the ground it looked like any other piece of rock. But when they held it up into the light, the thing shined like something they’ve never seen before. It almost looked like a diamond. So the guy says, well, it’s not much but this must be it. This is what the old man was going on about. But the woman, she wouldn’t have it. She kept saying this can’t be it, this can’t be it, it’s so small. There’s got to be more. We’ve got to keep looking. He takes the stone with him every day to help her dig. After years of going back, eventually she snaps. She leaves. So the man goes back to the wise man with the little stone, can’t bear to keep the thing. He tells him here, I brought you the stone you kept talking about. Wise man looks at him and says:

“What stone?”

She sat across from me, the lovely lashes of her eyes flapping slowly at her finger dainting the edges of her glass of orange juice. Her mind and heart transfixed on some soft, hurtful thought I couldn’t fathom or nerve myself to pry. All of a sudden she smiled, hummed a routine thank you, dashed her cheek, and the spell was broken.

“The point is…” I began.

“You still don’t want to go to Coney Island,” She said, glooming out the window, and something in her voice made it sound like more of a tragedy than a triumph.

He’ll never love you like I do, Z.

Fortunately.

wonder