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.

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.

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 her collar bone.

“Vividly,”  I said, infinitely wondering what the fuck I was doing.

If Pain Is Weakness Leaving The Body Then I Must Be Bullet Proof By Now (aka Ask Your Doctor If Fukitol Is Right For You)

These pills are small and delicate, helpless little orphans,
and my body is a temple. Ain’t nobody got it like
this little bottle of mine- white little capillaries
pills of death that pulse and keep me (from) breathing.

One every four hours, do not exceed six.
I’m sixty nined from bars and dimes every minute so
I dose in doubles, puffing silver linings
on a rummy cloud. I am The Great Pretender,
forgetful historian, a series of bullet points
on what it means to be listless. I am the vague biographer,
caustic chronicler of the categorically insignficant.

But it’s not so bad. These woes whoa me no more
and dreams feel more real when I’m awake; I call it
lucid living. Though I’m still full of envy
a the bravery of corner vagrants, shouting crack-ed lungs
at pigeons in the park. But now he fades away, vague,
I don’t know where, like ripples in a pond. At least
he doesn’t linger in my mind and ruin me any more.

My heart no longer brags- no more
I am I am I am’s– it sighs.

But twice every four hours, my smile comes
easier, and I can see the faults in our starlit eyes
and badly thatched hearts. Stale highs eventually swing
violently low and I have to stop myself
from smashing something delicate. A bottle, or myself.
And I would, if only I could get a grip, but when
the night grows teeth and digs into the heart and
memories, what is there to do? Set the alarm
and try again tomorrow.

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Marginally Good People?

I’ve lived, broke bread with kings and
slept in tubs and public with the
broken and Diogenes. Alms and dearly departed’s
to men slain, made high or even by the needle.

Men leaning on a parking meter on 149th Street,
neck limp on passage to methadone clinics
and Elysium. Cigarettes bought and passed along
from one to his dearly delirious brother; shared puffs,
solemn thanks thank you th-thank you papa,
mumbling vows as they put the filter to their lips, sacredly,
like a Eucharist; an overdose baptisms.

I’ve lived, I have beloved and been beloved,
honey-eyed and drunk off nothing but a feeling.
Soft Saturdays staring at the freckles of her forearm,
fingers wandering and reading the arches of her body
like her skin was braille. Doors locked, blinds wide open,
condemned couch confessions with kisses and a slight of hand
trying to figure out where one of us starts and the other ends.
Stuck in a snowstorm of Tennessee and ourselves,
trying to justify why together we felt so centered.

I’ve lived, needed, and learned to do without.
Nights fought against the sun, savage at a sunrise- circling
Columbus Circle hungover on Amsterdam, searching SoHo
solely for a pleasure. A fool letting the music confess things
so I didn’t need to, blowing a buzz and two hundred dollar tab
on a backless dress that was not worth it. Draft beers
and daft company homering in, the distinct reminder,
I am alone in a world of people.

I’ve lived, by God, I’ve lived, because my life has been my own.
And everything that has been is mine, and shall never be again.