Malade Imaginaire (Cassie, Episode I)

There was a stale remnant of the weekend hanging on my breath, a dark and shapeless nag pestering against the flickering subway lights and dimming silver handrails. Thick and smothering between pressed buttoned shirts, noose ties and summer dresses huddled on the express Lexington avenue bound for midtown before a final stop to nowhere. My thoughts felt like strangers at a party,  huddled close to one another but no one knowing what to say.

A small-suited man bumped against my shoulder and apologized. I meant to do the same, opened my lips to speak, but they did not make a sound. I glanced up at the dead eyed glare of an Asian woman baring her teeth in what some might call a smile. A poster for a college or language learning center. Bold, black marker graffiti obscured most of it, so that the only visible parts were the slender neck of a woman and a tagline written in a worn, exciting red.

“GENERATION AFTER G NE ATION!!!” It said.

I got off the next stop, sent a vague text to my boss about feeling sick and began to wander Manhattan. Everywhere was a feint, hostile, seething unrest bubbled from the gum spotted granite sidewalks; steaming softly from the city grates like vapor. While the oak and marble fronts of restaurants, businesses and delicatessens glistened with the unnatural sheen and polish of something new and untouched. Beautiful and prosthetic.

It was all so awful.

I wanted to be drunk, or dead, or anything except that feeling lingering beneath my tongue like a razor blade. To forget myself and all my troubles, if only for a little while.

It was only 7AM but in my heart it was twenty minutes to last call; and I had all day to no longer feel human. I have to forget, otherwise I fall in a pit of something. A madness and not the poetic kind. The mad kind. The kind that roams the empty city at 5am smiling at the air. The kind that wakes up in strange apartments and motel rooms wet in somebody else’s sweat without a clue or memory of how he got there. The kind that talks and wiles like it’s all just a clever little game, but is burning alive, is howling in laughs and I-Like-Your-Hair.  The kind that’s quietly out to ruin something because a moaning in his blood compels him to, reminds him it’s all just a cosmic accident and that devils do not exist, were molded after men. And women.

Terrible for each other, and much worse for anyone else.

Advertisements

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. 

Because Every Goodbye Needs A Name (And This Ones Yours)

Another person’s apartment can be terrifying. The way the vase is cut, China shaped, and bedroom laid at such strange angles. There’s a windfall of history on the vase by the windowsill, vortexes of the past lying in throw pillows and dead eyed picture frames glaring from the dresser. I wouldn’t dare look in her closet, where entire eras are forever expanding in his old t-shirts and a shoe-box piled in yesterday’s love letters.

So many pieces of a person on display can make you feel like at any given moment their reality might swallow you whole.

“The next time you snore so loud I’m kicking you out.” She said.

We were having breakfast in her kitchen warm as the silence of the morning. Her cream blinds held back the brightness of the sun, but the snow building on her window sills shimmered into the room and came stabbing through the dim. Elis liked the night as much as I did. She was fine with simply existing and letting me and life alone, so long as she could be herself and go along her own playful, sinister way.

“What if there’s a storm?” I asked. And she answered with a shrug.

Elis was lonely as a firework – sharp and quick, over way too soon, and beautiful. Shuffling in her chair, dark and dank as her favorite memes, rolling her eyes at my long stares and stealing glances from her veggie omelet. Obvious enough to notice but never admit to, her affection was bloody and juvenile. It ran and pinched and hurt enough to remind you that you were real, and every day with her made me painfully gracious for life, like skinned knees.

Her iHome speaker popped to life and a hum of music came between us.

“I love this song, listen…” She said.

Drums and a distant pluck of a guitar strung softly, harmonous. The sound of rain and footsteps pacing against the damp clay of Earth. It resonated with images of forest, of nature, of Africa and distant lands I would never know but held a notion of. A man spoke with the rhythm: calm, tenor, and confident. What he was saying I didn’t know but he said it avidly, a moving moan of ache, of pain, of a violent inner victory. While saying nothing he said everything, spoke the wordless hymns I often heard chorus silently within me.

For a moment I wondered what he was saying but decided against it. A translation would have been a mutilation. Some things are not meant to be known, but only vaguely understood.

“Pass the ketchup” Elis said, and I stared at her like a sphinx. I couldn’t understand or come to terms with her laissez faire. She was refreshingly blunt, disarming and forward- like a poem with too many curses in it. When she saturnines my Sunday morning with that frank, playful innocence, I’m reminded of the subtle intimacy in a pair of bare knees.

“We could be like this, you know.” I said. “Nice to each other.”

She laughed, shy. Kittenish.

“No,” She said. “I don’t want that.”

“Why not.”

She chewed her egg and glanced around the room, looking for the words. The drums and man trapped in the speaker sang on with a blue and bridled passion.

“Because it isn’t fun.” She said finally.

I wondered what it was that drew me to her, why that thoughtless honesty was so refreshing. How her dark smile made me giddy and thawed so puckishly at adulthood.

Adulthood, that prison of constraint by way of conventional. I thought of bygone lovers, artfully carting their personalities and intellect on a cell phone. Yawning over life in half-wit consciousness. Quiet, empty head nods and cataract conversations, calculated candids. They were wordy, they were wise, they were sensitive to words and sunsets.

The kind of women I considered smart, in my stupidity. They were many things, but they weren’t Elis.

A wild, sudden impulse punctured me and I flicked a finger. A dozen ketchup packets flew across the floor, scattered in six different directions, and a thousand moons couldn’t compare to Elis’ beautifully annoyed smile.

“Fucking asshole,” She, lied. And was right.

This was more fun.

Lunar Interlude – Reflections Of A Recovering Nuisance

Crowded back seats, a choking lust
for sex, for life, for mushrooms,
weed, cigarettes, ecstasy and dick jokes.
My twenties a hard blur of important moments,
never the full cut, like clips from a music video
the teenage years strive for but
never had enough access to the confidence
or drugs to see it through. An era one might consider
overkill, petty, premature,  and thoughtless, down the road,
but that’s tomorrow and my therapist problem.

I like the wild restless crowd:
people you don’t necessarily trust
but never mind having around.
Only benefits without the friends.
Deep down I think Hannah’s the kind of cunt
who’d fuck your boyfriend on your own bed
and not have the decency to take her shoes off.
but she calls me handsome, and compliments my haircut,
so she might fuck me too one day,
and hey, pobody’s nerfect.

Validation is funny, necessary,
like air, gravity or taxes, I guess,
but I don’t understand it.
Then again, there’s many things
I don’t understand. Most, actually.

Like marriage, and microwaves,
or friends who call
“just to see what’s up.”
Cynical, paranoid, maybe, but
I try to see the angles.
Ask me how my day was,
and my answer’s always

Why?

Bonafide Blue Ribbon (aka She’s Like Calling The Suicide Hotline And Getting Put On Hold) Part I

Twenty something and full of stupid, sliding into your DM’s without a shame in the world. “Wyd” texts after midnight are a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, and I’m watching from the bench thinking I might just steal home.

I’m the type of guy that needs to set 4 alarms to wake up on time, dressing myself up in moments that don’t mean a thing to me. But I’ve read enough Dostoevsky and Nietzche to make just about anybody think they do. Boredom is an understatement: what I suffer from is an emotional atrophy. When you can’t stand grand-standing any more and need to feel something, so the nearest dead end starts feeling like a welcome sign.

Some addictions aren’t so easy to kick – especially habits that text you back to say they miss you too.

“sure” the text read. “wats one drink”

“Ask Socrates.” I replied

“that was hemlock u fucking nerd 😓”

And I knew it would be a good night.

Curiosity Killed The Cat, But Satisfaction Brought Him Back (More Jaded)

“Do you know what poisons cows?” He asked.

A plastic bag was rustling between the long limbs of an old, wrinkled tree stump. Two paper coffee cups tumbled down the street, their plastic lids clinking against the worn and grey gravel of a bubble gum strewn sidewalk in New York. Urban tumbleweeds sifting between cars, bodies, half-opened trash bags and brown dry grass never to see Spring again.

“What?” I said, not really listening. I was too focused on the fauna fouling around us.

A valley of ash without the eyes or pity of TJ Eckleburg, the machinations of New York City they never write about in the movies. Grime, industry and man conglomerated into one. The wind had picked up, the bags rustled louder, cups clinked faster, and I thought there was a kind of music to the pollution of a city.

“The cow.” He repeated calmly. “You know what poisons them?”

I shook my head and he nodded wisely to himself,  shifting slightly against his cane which made his thousand year old Puerto-Rican bones groan. A while passed and he said nothing, stood leaning against the earth with the patience of trees.

“What poisons cows,” I asked absently, and his mustache twitched like cat whiskers, as if the question startled him awake. He smacked his lips, a bad habit he’d retained after years of chewing tobacco.

“The cow.” He repeated, again  calmly. “Do you know what poisons them?”

“No, Mingo. What poisons the cows?”

We were leaning on concrete slabs just steep enough to take a seat in, meandering the morning in fifty cent cigarettes and a small bottle of Jameson tucked safely in a brown paper bag. Me, looking too deeply into everyday scenery, and Mingo’s lively little eyes glinting grey, gazing out to Third Avenue the way a farmer does his crop.

He had the patience only age can teach- the still, sturdy, wise air of witnessing and being a part of decay. Wise and old, or old enough to seem wise; I couldn’t tell. An old man can say just about whatever he wants and get an absolute veneration from me. Remnants of my inner Catholic I’ve yet to snuff out: respecting elders and thinking too highly of them, feeling overwhelmed by guilt if I didn’t. Or possibly I trusted experience more than anything, because the hardness of life is also a teacher. And from what I’ve seen, we don’t learn as much from happiness as we do from the scars of healing.

“Esperanza, is a plant. They eat it, and then,” He ran his index finger along his neck, a universal sign, clicking his teeth. The little calf was done.

I felt a stubborn, humid heat smoldering my skin. It was close to 10AM but the day didn’t seem to want to start. Sunlight lingered on the horizon and yawned across the fruit cart vendors temples, slouched between the children across the avenue who’d stopped jumping and found more interest staring at their own feet. Lazy, dingy rays dragged between the plastic lids nestling in the gutter, crawled along the sidewalk and halfway up the 99 Cent and bodega storefronts. Then, just near the top, seemed to wince and suddenly retreat, giving up on ever moving on with the day. The morning was a low, dull Monday: fat, bloated, and sitting on itself, waiting.

But for what?

“Why do they eat it,” I asked. “If it’s poison.” And Mingo shrugged.

Esperanza is a flower, bright and beautiful with yellow petals. And Esperanza is also hope, just as bright and ruinous. I couldn’t decide which he meant, what he was referring to: the toxins or definition. And as I wondered this, Mingo dug his shoes into the sidewalk and began to show his roots.

“I killed somebody once,” He said unexpectedly. “Coz’ of a woman.”

He was calm, not sad or entirely delighted. Not resentful, or proud, but with the air of a man that’s lived, and in living, was reflective of what he had done. I lack the grace to remain kind in cruel situations, but a hot heart for the coldest matters. Mingo had purposefully either confided in me as a friend, or turned the sanctuary of our corner into his personal confession booth. And in either scenario I couldn’t think of what to say, so chose to remain silent and sip the bottle of Jameson as if he’d just commented on the weather. I preferred to come off as indifferent than commit to either condoning or forgiving him, listened as a cars exhaust coughed awkwardly down the road.

“You got a girl?” He asked after a while.

Down the street, a gilded goddesses hips swayed toward us, and she reminded me of a girl I reminded myself to forget. Gray eyes with dark, somber lips; the kind of face easy to compliment and hard to miss-remember. I was staring and I didn’t care, and the longer I dared the sooner I realized that familiar was just wistful thinking. She didn’t look anything like her. Her face, the angles, the sighs were all wrong. She didn’t have the unhappiness riddled along the creases of her cheeks, she didn’t hold me like a gasp for air while crying at the sight of her hand or freckled forearm.

She passed us swiftly, her heels clicking behind her like a round of applause, and swooped around the corner. Mingo slapped his lips again, and the girl I had almost remembered was gone.

“Yeah,” I said to Mingo, and I heard the sound of his neck creaking a nod.

Strange, the debris our hearts seem to build even after years of street cleaning. Odd, how songs still sound the same but lose meaning once outgrown. The plastic bag still rustled between the limbs of an old and wrinkled tree, and a car horn’s scream got louder, but sounded just a little farther off. The wind died down, the cups sat silently in the gutter, and I thought there was a kind of music to the pollution of a human being.

“Never killed anybody for her though,” I added, and Mingo laughed, ominously.

“You might,” He said.

I clipped my cigarette and said goodbye.

Some Goodbyes Don’t Require It (aka There’s Three Sides To A Story For Every Beast With Two Backs)

“Everyone says you two are fucking,” Lindsey tells me, flat as an iron, or her chest. Whichever is less cliché and more offensive.

We’d stayed friends despite myself, or rather, she stayed on talking terms with me no matter how much I didn’t deserve it.

I asked who started spreading, focusing on the stack of files in front of me, but she wouldn’t say. Gossip is for gluttons with a reserved taste: they only feed if they are fed, and I had nothing to barter with. Besides, we’d had a past, shared scotch cobblers and orgasms between shrills and bolognese. It’s much harder than you would expect to find a middle ground when the candle of a relationship burns out on both ends. Easier to abandon ship, call her crazy and him an asshole, keep that kind memory of how much they meant buried somewhere so deep you can pretend to forget about it. Right next to your 6th grade friends phone number, or the thing you said to your father.

“People say a lot of things,” I said, because I didn’t care about Lindsey any more.

But I cared for Lindsey, if that makes any sense.

And if I could omit a line of history so that her rage could remain in hypotheticals, she’d sleep easier while still hating me the same for it.

“Well are you.” She said, not asking.

“Am I what?” I asked, not saying.

“Fucking her.” She demanded.

Right and wrong, the difference between righteous and a travesty. I used to know the difference. I was a good man once, but a long time ago I learned a good man is good for nothing.

“No, right now I’m filing,” I said.

So she smacked me.