a girl was playing in the background, yet looking across the room, i saw nothing but fabric.
she was of ipanema, infecting my ears, making me wish for more than a comfortable chair and the affect i apply with thick, used vinyl. the impressive collection of books, the pad full of perfectly metered poems, the posters on the wall, the special trinkets i hide inside my cigar box in a corner only i can find, the revolving getz, gilberto and jobim. how vanilla an existence, surrounded by the trappings of happiness.
this agreeable stillness sets a scene, encased in wood paneled class, with the sweet smells of a native leafs. a scene of descent that opened the inkwell.
there is a certain momentum, in stillness. fingers were crossed that a she may notice this and board the harbored boat. there was a craving for something foreign to join me in this hyperbaric chamber, decompressing from the ills outside. the tigers are losing. the weather is lousy. no one can afford health care, when it disagrees with their politics.
a we would not be of the now, cloistered within walls that preach the doctrine of optimism. and no, i am no optimist. but something brown, alien and slowly undressing, sliding closer across worn leather . . . a we to spoil the darkness until it burned our nostrils. this princess, traveling from grambling or on a visa from morocco. yes, that’s it, with nipples surrounded by stubble, fighting against her heritage and surprisingly pleasing to my ambiguously heterosexual lips.
she likes the deprivation of sight.
“i don’t want to see,”
she enjoys my sadistic desires.
“where you’ll hit me.”
she craves a markéd subordination,
“do anything to me,”
contrary to her health and safety.
“i need it to hurt.”
she has no concern for morality.
“punish me, daddy, give me what I deserve.”
she shows no fear,
“i don’t care if it burns,”
and is surprisingly ambivalent.
“shower me with wax, cover me in cayenne.”
she is breaking me open.
“i know this is what you need,”
she is changing my mind.
“and can feel that inside me.”
she is a corpus anomaly,
“your cock will break me in half!”
into which i deposit my humors.
i will be her beautiful ending.
but some bite off more than they can swallow. and feel fouled wiping the unmasticatable mess from their chin. something about class. a jabber on studies. nonsense, focused around the future. still sharing my pillow, draped in my bohemian low thread count, she was in need of relief.
seeing this, i used my tools to provide, welcoming a knee wrapping my hips and “that will all come, the future is a spider. poisonous, sure, but more afraid of you than you are of him. and your laptop can plug in right over there, i’m rather sure it is grounded.”
my contrivance is contrived, my device faulty. but aren’t we all rather vulnerable to suggestion when naked? we went again, and she scribbled onto a keyboard, and heard her tastes from my speakers, and stayed a while longer.
but dirty doesn’t clean itself off. a thick layer of perfume, and a long walk home. a night and a morning that bled to afternoon that bled to the first colors of sunset: forgotten.
this transgression would linger on my lips and fingers for days, like so many cloves of garlic pressed between digits. refusing to leave the creases. but i had no fragrance to cover the stench, no soap to wash it clean. retreat to my hardwood floors and particleboard bed frame and throw pillows and rhyme: this is the answer.
but this today, nothing will fall into place. the stink won’t shake, and is corrupting my meter. i am writing, in pieces
in parts and dropping
my lines and pounding enter and
quitting safari and biting
my knuckles are bleeding and i’m burning the reddening pages out of my thesaurus and writing and stroking and wishing i had more hair to pull.
and i type in my password and i delete it from my settings and there is nothing to hide and i text someone with the necessary follicles for this fist vainly clenching air.
now speeding, swerving headfirst into painless collision, rumble strips a neutered reminder of caution. interstating through another automotion alley county, en route to legs i’ve instructed stay spread until my arrival. unapologetically plugged into earbuds to an mp3 to something perversely melancholy.
i pretend it suits my mood, i am a victim, i am cassandra, i cannot escape my fate, i cannot turn away my muse.
and i am losing focus on the road and the fag in my hand and the ashes are dropping onto the upholstery and sticking to the window and that window’s barely open and the rain is still hitting my face and the charred remains of my lungs are caked to the paintjob and chances are they won’t be cleaned off when the weather breaks.
i’ve ditched the vinyl, it doesn’t travel well.
i called ahead, even though i knew the answer. i’d googled and researched and did you know abortion clinics have yelp reviews? and in case anyone was still wondering, no, they don’t sell death. They don’t just cater to teenagers with salty mascara-streaked cheeks who lied to their parents, and lied to them again, and said they were heading to soccer practice.
“thank you for calling planned parenthood, this is cathy speaking, how can i help you?”
“hi, do you guys offer free aids tests? hiv, i meant hiv.”
“no, we don’t.
“you don’t, right, they are 50 dollars.”
“yes, that is correct.”
“and it doesn’t matter who i am, right? i mean it doesn’t”
“it doesn’t matter that i am. . .”
that i am a man. boys don’t cry, but men hang up in embarrassment, far more than we let on.
seven thousand words had spilled onto a liquid crystal display the night before, and not a single one was justified, the spacing was all wrong. the page wasn’t filled, and neither was my prescription. there was no rush, but a grinding compulsion pulsated my girdles to know i hadn’t damned myself to die from a cold rather than the emphysema and cancer and blackening teeth.
i wanted time. i needed time. this news couldn’t come now, i was moving to fast and writing too much to be afraid.
so i thought back to professor muchembled, to his orgasm in the west (hall), to the plague they feared and the superstitions that failed them. they thought dipping into a virgin might cleanse, especially if she was wrapped in parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
of course she was clean,
“i’m clean, i’ve been tested,” an ear nibbled and then “i promise.”
but of course trust is just another superstition. even if she was beautiful and came from a respectable family and played simon & garfunkel while i came in her ass.
superstition isn’t covered under the affordable care act. it didn’t save them. it won’t save me.
“please sir, i want some more,” is a popular climactic trigger for anyone involved in musical theatre cosplay. this wasn’t the next night, but it may as well have been. there was never going to be enough patience in the process to wait for the test results. and the morning after i decided to scrap the manuscript for a spell, i’d pen something for the stage instead.
all of my protagonists had hard cocks and the costuming was oh so very off broadway and san fernando valley would casually ask for the movie rights and i’d blow them off and say it was art.
away from the tangent, i called her honey that night. and she kissed me for the first time. and i felt i love you, and she said it. and she didn’t even blame the alcohol, just let it linger.
and before i knew it we were driving to boston and disengaging from entanglements and jobs and classes and the ills outside no longer mattered because we had escaped outside.
on the way we picked up postcards to send to ourselves. a running history trampling the margins and spilling onto the stamp. and we wrote of the night forgotten in pittsburgh when we stole our own car, of the italians we met on the north end, and how they fed us for free and smiled when we told them the whole joint smelled like oregano, only because it was a word that translated well.
i took a picture of every one, not letting a single word slip away into the depths of our postal service, jostled and lost alongside the milieu of bills and junk and letters to santa.
the process was pleasant and mild, but obsession creeped.
“we’re going to need to buy some white out if i keep letting you write,” and she laughed, sheepishly, thinking she knew i was kidding.
“this isn’t your project!” and she sighed, thinking she knew i was just tired.
and we never got those postcards. they arrived in a bin in maine, never risked for public consumption.
we were sweet the whole ride home. we stopped at ponds, and tested no trespassing signs. we picked eyelashes off each other’s cheeks, and touched each other’s hair.
and syrupy prose was pounded into her drums as she sank back, arching into her seat.
“only with you is littered across the storybook pages
that little girls cover with hearts and mull over with sighs.
but those young things could never understand how it feels
when what is kept
between just us
inside this musty bus
are nails ripping into backs
the most perfect sensation you might never know
if you don’t take the plunge.
the world i want is so much more abbey road than a hard day’s night
and girl we know better
pull me in closer to your heart than any words could take me.”
and just as she was coming to, i sang her off the pavement, and she knew i meant it. sometimes people don’t like that.
skinny people don’t like it when you call them.
when you call them.
subtext clear, there is only so much room for your gratification. it may taste sweet at first, but a spoonful of cinnamon won’t cooperate for long.
and then home, where she bakes cookies from scratch and fills my nose with the season. we sit by the fire, and fuck on the kitchen counter, and spill nutmeg that blends well with the color of her thigh and smells nearly as sweet as her pussy.
i look over the dunes, and can hardly remember feeling this something my brain wants to define as joy.
“i love you. i love being here with you. i’ve never felt this way before.”
it doesn’t matter who said it.
days pass, we play all our favorite songs, we smile and we kiss. we laugh because all our favorite films are animated, and we can’t watch them. if only we had a VCR.
and we are together in my wood paneled class, as happy as all the normal kids.
this was the she, the one of my dreams, to make my stillness less lonely.
and every word i wrote rhymed. and every page was crumpled.
and here lay the crux of my internal debate. how would i define myself?
“i love that one! it is so sweet!”
and for the first time, i struck back at her nascent mind, “it is garbage.”
you are stupid.
you are weak.
you know nothing.
go back and hide in whatever lower middle class, undereducated hole that bore you.
she always reminds me to use the cream cleanser. it will help clear the grease from my face. to not forget how important an aging psychiatrist thought gluten free bread would be to my sanity. that brushing your teeth at night was twice as nice.
sucking the despicable self-expression right out of me. my words unctuous as oil, her love pure as water. there’s a cliché here.
she relented. she sacrificed her purity. and i fucked her again like that first night. and she bled more freely than my frustrated fingers. and i wiped her tears while i pounded away at the keyboard.
a light bulb must be shared, an idea understood, that even in the darkest of herbs were speckles of sweetness. that i must have some evil in my joints, that i cannot return to that stillness if i’m to love myself.
“i will never give you the love you deserve if i do not love myself.”
“i will never love you if you are this cruel.”
and with that, we cracked. i clove our bond.
i made sure to put the lock back on my phone before i started searching for inspiration.
“i tore the mirrors off the cadillac, didn’t like it looking like i looked back.” speeding again. drunk of course. i sped towards the craigslist ad that promised heavenly hands and all of the arts of relaxation and the motivation to write my grim tome.
her sad eyes and willing depression turn more pages than i have flipped in ages. i feel like a king, and tell her so.
“you should light a cigar, you big cheese.”
she lets me fuck her again, for free. after a few more cigarettes, i’m weak, i’m driving.
and the waves are crashing, and they are coming fast, and looking from the inside out it all seems just right. each decadent new sinful diversion another consigliere, whispering yeses into my ear.
yet, something is lost on the exterior. not every sense can be trusted. the mexicans in southwest, they only use the leaf to make your taco seem fresh. i prefer the seed. ground unrecognizably into powder. heavy on the nose, subtle on the tongue. oh sweet coriander, bring me peace. and while whipping up a measured meal, i take some time to read what i’ve written.
and the words, they taste like my meal. contrived. a ready to bake recipe that might taste better once it’s reheated. it was easy to forget, no matter the efforts to flee the safety of my stillness, i was still stirring the same pot, draining emotions through the same colander. even in recounting, this imagery is stale.
was it time to fly further afield.
perhaps i could move to a town near you, and tend bar and deplete the stock room and show up late and sleep with my boss and keep my job and flirt with your daughter and write about it all.
or board a ship headed east, and follow the breadcrumbs left by my ancestors and carry a backpack with too many compartments to keep track of and ride a train and find my way to the warsaw ghetto and try to cry and lose myself in a city i used to know the name of before i took too many tabs and end up in budapest and fight my way through the market and fall to the ground, and wake up to the smell of paprika and shit and poverty. and my pack is gone, and my laptop lost, and i realize at least one peasant had a payday.
there’s a novel, here.
shame i quit my job in search of inspiration.
that ticket will cost me a lot of savings.
becoming clear, quickly, that it is time to change tack. and so i cut back on the drinking. and the smokes. and i ignore a few of the texts looking for pleasure or money or drugs or all three. and i cut back on the personal judgment, and the self-loathing, and i try to remember this all started so i could enjoy who i was. and i kick back, and put my feet on an ottoman, and pet my dog for the first time in weeks. she appreciates my affection.
and i call her. she appreciates the affection, too.
“i’m just losing momentum, honey.”
“don’t forget, i used to be your muse, i was your canvas. find me again, find yourself, don’t give up.”
her love gives me words, those sweetly dark ones i thought leaving would help me uncover.
but moderation as an end to itself can be a kind of extreme. how can i express i don’t really want to give up the sport fucking or the poor choices, or laughing whenever a recipe calls for cumin?
“i want you, but i do not want to lose myself.”
to the one you love, the truth is often a ladder too tall, reaching heights to nowhere. months pass of trying again without any effort, and it all comes too easily, we dance so gingerly around every meaningful sentence. i have her, i have myself, we fuck, we fight, we kiss, i write. and i stand on stage and tell strangers words not polite enough to share with her.
she is not even invited.
i find her crying in the walk in, with only one strap keeping her breasts afloat. still spoked with heels, and surrounded by all the shoes she tried on earlier that night. she’d sought the honesty i begged her to ignore. followed me down the street and around the block. heard my words, watched my hands, felt the echoes of our past play hot across her body as i tore through another, and ripped her apart.
with legs crossed, i do my best to comfort. she already knows i am sorry. she is looking for something more.
“i can help,” i whisper into her hug, “i love you.”
“don’t do that. i didn’t fall for a man who was afraid to say what he meant. to do as he felt. don’t trivialize these tears with bullshit.”
“ok. i know i could help, if only i was someone other than myself.”
there were more tears that followed. many adieus with pretentions of forever. and both parties fled from the aisle. we’re seeing other people, at least that’s what we say we are doing. and the days that lapse between hearing her ringtone begins to mark the time better than any calendar.
the incense in this rickety apartment is slowly growing stale on hastily chosen tapestries. and yet i don’t hate it, and i don’t hate her, and i think they are dipped in sage, and i wonder how they pull oil from leafs and she pulls out her phone and why must wikipedia ruin all the world’s mystery.
i know moving on is the right choice. but rationality is just a temporary respite to passion.
and the new is still learning what it takes to drain me into the fountain.
we’ve been seeing other people.
“love still isn’t the right word,”
“ankles!” and morocco obliges, big toes almost flush, but always flared just so. perhaps, i think, her only malformation.
“he’s there, but I’m not ready to let this die. we’re just going – tight!”
one more time around for good measure, “will that be alright?”
she nods a submission, “going steady. but we’re not stuck. i hope you know i’m still looking forward to october.”
“wrists!” and she turns over, my remnant purples and blues almost entirely faded away since last we’d spoke. a few more wraps.
“but he gives me something . . . some things I need. you know you can’t make me happy every day, when you always pepper me with the future.” and then breaks into laughter, no stopping through an angry knot.
“face!” and the conversation ends with a strap.
after that, and a cigarette, we continue.
“he fucks like his whole life has been leading up to this, you know?”
there’s really no response, honest or otherwise, that can diminish the secret revolution gaining power inside her.
“my life doesn’t depend on anything so insignificant. impermanent.” i mean, my life doesn’t depend on you. “what i love is between just two, and takes me closer to the heart than any over eager john can do.”
maybe she already knows this. perhaps she knows i’ve found something new. it truly started so innocently. one kiss. i didn’t even let myself go, no matter how smoothly she blew out the candle. but inertia, once broken, greases the limbs. and i think i’m training a new apprentice, a new muse.
“beautiful. don’t let those words be your last i love you.” she still floats to long passed clouds. those words were not for her. and now in retort she’s made this too perfect a goodbye to ignore.
sour grapes do not begin to cut through this feeling. that last i love you was hers, not mine. i kept holding on, sometimes with her hand in mine, but far more often through the words i ought to be getting from someone else. and i grow bored, and bitter, and my sinuses clear around the passover table as i dip again and again into the horseradish that has signified my people’s tears for generations. and i stand up, and i storm off, and i call her, and i cry into her voicemail:
“we’ll talk occasionally. we’ll share a few cigarettes. youll drift away. youll be the happy housewife you want to be with no college degree with a rich east coast husband who serves you cheese in a house on the ocean with not a care in the world sober and sappy and unaware of the love you had once upon a time who needed your help like he once sacrificed and lost himself slowly dying from sadness and whiskey and losing his mind and control of the wheel youll be safe and warm and you wont even get the call when hes dead and hes buried.
You are not his emergency contact, anymore.
My wellbeing is out of your hands.
Wash them clean, Lady Macbeth.
Everyone was right.
Fools we were, to so long fight such consensus.
At least, at last, you have come to your senses.
Congratulations, on your wide-open future.
I have found mine, circling the bottom of an inkwell.”