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Your street has trees with blossoms that release a scent so stupidly lovely the air is like breathing the Emperor's tea. The air buzzes thick and languid like you're standing in water, without ever having jumped in. Summer, that wicked master of ceremonies, has stripped you of your shyness when you weren't looking. Everything is possible. You don't need to think, awareness sings through your pores as a drop of sweat slides down your chin, to your neck, down your sternum, between your ribs, past your belly, then slides down between your lips like a pinball down a score slot.
Pieces of rosaries fall from your lips when you try to act tough. You copied the angry, staccato movements of the class cutting girls in the bathroom mirror at St. Theresa's. But your hair's too thick for the feathered monstrosities that surround their heads like lacquered armor. Now, alone, you look at the phone number of your once best friend in your Badtz Maru address book. Written in purple pen in her curlicue handwriting, she drew smiley faces and wrote "CALL ME!" around her name. You're glad you're not this person anymore yet feel you'd breathe easier if you were.
When your eyes meet, they quickly skedaddle elsewhere like nervous birds, feeling like refugees not wanting to overstay their welcome, embarrassed they're there in the first place. You walked through pigeon shit covered streets to get here, passed a pigeon run over by a bus, its blood so primary red it almost doesn't look real, viscera scattered clumsily like change from a hastily dropped purse. Your cheap shoes dig into your feet like gluttonous monster teeth and you're embarrassed by your cheap shoes and the gimpy walk they give you. Thinking of magazine pages, you try to re-align yourself accordingly.
The barking dogs under my skin want me to strangle you. I fold my arms in my lap, each hand holding down the twitching elbow of the opposite arm. I'm actually twitching. I'm that pissed. If your image were talking on a TV screen instead of right in front of me, I'd be drawing a fake mustache on you, bags under your eyes, black spaces in your teeth, and a balloon that says "Cum and get it" next to your mouth. My therapist says I should stop dreaming and start doing. I reach for the marker in front of me…
I stamp down my anxiety with a Chocolate Riesen chain, greasy wrappers falling like blossoms in the bottom of my rental car. I can't explain why I don't want to meet you. You're perfectly nice. Just don't wanna see you. Your niceness and normalness feel inversely proportionate to my dorkiness. I sit in a basement watching Schoolhouse Rock while you strut on the beach in flipflops that jauntily spank your heels. You're right. I'm wrong. I'm the negative one. But everyone worships your flipflop sandals and pretends my Payless work shoes don't exist. I resent you. That's it. That's why.
"Fuck, she's almost home!" you say. Your eyes stab the mess on the coffee table, then me, kabobbing us together in purpose. I loathe my unthinking willingness to take orders, but that's really probably why you chose me. I feel like crying as I grab one, then another empty beer can. Fuck! I grabbed the second one by the mouth part. "Do you...have a Band-Aid?" I ask, unobtrusively. "There's no time," you say. "Just leave." You shove me out the kitchen door and I suck the blood off my finger while admiring the roses she probably planted in the yard.
I first heard about you through a friend I don't talk to anymore. She said "yeah, there's this really crazy guy who comes into The Depot. He sits there writing in a big notebook and drinking coffee. One time he gave me this drawing that he said was of me. Then he left without paying his bill and we never saw him again." She made it all sound casual, but you could hear the "I'm trying to be casual" tension in her voice. So that's why you were so intriguing; I'm still competing with someone I don't speak with anymore.
Like a drug, you dissolve on my tongue and enter my bloodstream. Get yer mind outta the gutter – I'm tryin' to be poetic here. I shouldn't let you in my bloodstream – my digestive tract at best; something to be consumed, shat out and forgotten. I dare you to ask the guy with the Circus World Museum hat, jacket and bag what he thought of the Circus World Museum. No, I'm not changing the subject; it died of natural causes. No, I don't care that your mix tape from Margaret's still in your car. But you space out when it plays.
"So what can I get you to drink?" your roommate says, bustling into the room. I want a beer but feel shy about having alcohol unless I know what everybody else is having. "I know," she says, smoothing over the pause, "that catch in your throat? I've got the perfect tea for it!" She bustles out the room, a born hostess. You look up, making sure she's gone. "The thing about her is, she talks to the Verizon Wireless guy," you say, nudging your head toward the billboard outside. "She thinks he ANSWERS. Bitch oughtta know he's talkin' to ME."
"Well, your cat certainly seems healthy," you say as we watch Ignatius terrorize the pink plastic ring from the milk bottle. What a weird thing to say – did you think he'd be strung out or shitting himself in the corner? He's a kitten. It seems like your M.O. for dealing with people is Crisis Mode. Er…well…I guess Iggy WAS a stray – am I being defensive? He didn't come with a file full of medical records like that catalog dog on "The Simpsons." My M.O. must be to thrust and parry the hankies, brooms and dustpans of the Crisis Mode folk.
Whiskey and Phil Ochs are a dangerous combo when you're in a mood like this. Have your years taught you nothing, you dumb fuck? Didn't you read "The Savage God" like they told you to? No? You were too busy falling into old habits and sneering at people who gave a shit. You can't even do depression right; it's just like a make-up shade you smear with your fingers, just one hue in the palette of the oh so many facets of oh so fabulous you. And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody, outside of a small circle of friends.
If you wanna be known by the Dewar's Profile type image you use to get laid, then you probably shouldn't admit this, but really - is there any feeling more satisfying than smashing a china plate good and hard against the wall? It satisfies the urge to break your bones and jump out of your skin and makes your pain larger, more theatric, a thing alive in and of itself, laughing like the shadow puppet of a demon. Hey, you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelette. Caterpillars form and shed cocoons by instinct; we gotta be more resourceful.
Does it speak ill of me that I find the phrase "a beautiful tomorrow" to be kind of sinister? It sounds like a suicide drug. Or the ironic title of some super violent Japanese movie that has an absurd twist thought up by a stoned art school kid - like all the dead bodies, though miles apart, fall in the position of pieces on a chess board or something. The killer sends the cops letters that say "checkmate!" (or whatever "checkmate" is in Japanese). "A beautiful tomorrow." Sounds like some mantra people want to believe but don't. Like "I do."
She wears the candy colors of summer. Mick Jagger would (allegedly) have to turn his head until his darkness goes. Her companion wears a Ramones T-shirt taut over nightclub bouncer muscles. There's a swirly dragon tattoo on his arm. You know he knows you wish it was YOU biting his bicep or at least shyly tracing the pattern of his inkwork, pretending to admire the craftsmanship. They're on the City of New Orleans train. The two of them have this matchstick energy; when they rub against the world they ignite in Tarantino adventures while the rest of us eat popcorn.
She walks toward the Quincy stop, carrying a guitar. She has huge, raised cuts on her upper arm, right around the deltoid. Two sets of about 10 horizontal lines. There seems to have been some grand scheme in mind, though executed in an offhand way, like a child's drawing of the ribs on a skeleton. She must want people to look; she's wearing a tank top. Does she just want to shock? Or is she, like, a representative of the DSM-III – "ask me about my scars!" – the way a Wal-Mart employee would wear a "how can I help you?" smock?
I seem to pride myself on how little I can get by on – how little money, sleep, sex, friends fun – for what? A medal? A camel can go how long without water? I'll remember to look that up when I'm done working my second job. When life says "the usual?" and you order your sour grapes, after awhile you can't differentiate it from the taste of your own saliva. When your Mom can't stand to talk to you for five minutes you grow up to read books that say "drench yourself in loving-kindness" as you drink alone on your couch.
A plop of whipped cream from my frivolous icy cappuccino drink spills onto my lap. I really like the skirt I'm wearing, too – denim with a small suede lace-up thing. I was looking forward to strutting around in my post-Weight Watchers body, which I'm still afraid to trust. Like I won it in a card game or something. "It's just got too much love to share!" you say, as you see the fluffy globs fall. Is there an "off" switch for your charm? Your sunny attitude makes me feel guilty. I still yell "FUCK!" but your silliness deflates my venom.
I'm woken by the sound of the guy in the front row chitchatting with the bus driver. "Four chicks and two dudes, man!" He cackles in an ugly way. These are the people that'd made me scared of sex – to think I'd ever be the subject of such an ugly cackle… He's got a hefty build but he can still get laid if he can convince people he's a football player. He has beat-to-hell jeans and a cut-off sweatshirt on. At the lunch stop, in the Arby's, he chats up the two cute punk girls who'd been sitting behind me.
I've got blisters on my feet. All from following your footsteps. You were supposed to have carried me partway, like the poster said. But I carried you and you tried to convince me it was for my own good, 'cuz of your big sacrifice and all, so mythic. Well, I'll show you - I'll be the star of my own myth and somebody else can take notes. I disengage my sandal. I peel off my blister skin and lay the pieces as petals at your feet. From the cut on my toe I bleed onto my canvas of sacrifice: "Forgive me."
"Precious and few are the moments we two can share..." I guess you see the irony, too, 'cuz you turn off the radio. I open the crumpled bag of food, dig into the french fries. Lately it seems everything in our lives is portable, impermanent, as if we're trying not to leave a trail. As if anyone's following us. I guess the effort and gravitas of a home-cooked meal just seems too depressing nowadays - a rehearsal for a life we don't have. The moments we two share are like having a shadow with an unwelcome mind of its own.
Bladder full of ache - this was a mistake. Bathroom line's too long so I break out in song: Every Weird Al tune I can think of. I'm hoping to annoy someone into letting me cut in line (I'm too superstitious to say "lady with a baby on the way!" - you gotta dig to find my Catholic guilt, but it's there). To my horror everyone is singing along; I'm the unwitting Pied Piper of dork. Greasy haired guys place their arms around me in impromptu barbershop quartet. Have I lost a bet? No, don't take my picture - FUCK!
If I could keep time in a bottle, the muthafuckin' drops would still evaporate somehow, I just know it. Should I keep my time in a bottle on a shelf and preserve myself? Or would I get vinegar-y? Should I just chug it without bothering to wipe off the rivers that slide down the sides of my mouth, let my lover lick them off, let him lick up my life and share it with me? I make some comment about how it's a sacrament and how we're now joined and he seems not to hear as he grabs my ass.
The cutest shoes I've ever seen; I feel like I'll walk into Amelie adventures. A handsome stranger holds a photobooth picture of me in a mask like it's a key to a mysterious world he thought only existed in storybooks. Ha! Is this what all the moony American students think Europe is like? They're colorful slippers that look like something an Eastern European doll would wear, a doll that rests queen-like on a bed & breakfast shelf as the owner lovingly dusts and sings to it, swearing it comes alive at night and moves things around, leaves her love notes.
But these shoes really hurt to walk in. I bet if the doll in that Tyrolean inn DOES walk around at night and leave notes, she writes "help me! These shoes are nailed to my feet. I'm in pain; you can't know my pain because my smile is painted on, too. Please - I beg of you - take them off. I tried but I haven't the strength." When the kind hausfrau finds the note in the morning all she sees is a delightful drawing of a woodland scene, curling vines and deer and birds as solicitous as maitre d's.
You told me you'd build a stairway to paradise and I was drunk enough to believe you. You prob'ly just overheard that I liked "An American In Paris." That's what good liars do - listen for intimate details, quilt them into their own story so I wrap it around myself and think "I've met the best guy ever," when really I'm standing in one of those carnival cut-out things with my head on a clown's body. Your stairway to paradise is one of those illogical Escher drawings that seem to lead everywhere at once but just sends one in circles.
Isn't the whole point of S&M to try on a persona that is NOT the you they'd identify with dental records, NOT the you who punches in at work at 7:57? To play with the you that maybe comes out somehow in writing or art? Or just the you that spells its name out in lashes that say love to a willing, lowly slug? It's more than listening to "Venus in Furs" and bragging about Spin the Bottle games. If it's magic it's the same thing that fuels a Stevie Wonder song - a passion that's written in your DNA.
All I can think is that I need to go home and eat some soup but you won't leave me alone. I know you don't work for a charity; you just ripped some crap about a disease out of a magazine and threw together a sob story about some dying kid. You've pegged me as a bleeding heart, the type who'd be ashamed to walk away from you. "But I've seen you before," I say, "don't you remember?" Your smile flushes in a flash and you pull down the emergency knob and hop off the el. Bleeding heart's not stup
"Look, I'm a bird!" you say, with a Sponge Bob beach towel across your shoulders, Superman style. You grabbed Tommy's crutches and you're running around with them, holding them out to your sides and flapping, like one of those movies of would be airplane inventors.
It's a beautiful and terrible thing to watch you. Tommy laughs as he watches you, but I know he's gonna wanna do it himself… Why'd you have to be so Goddamn charming? You'll make people wanna do things they can't do. You'll give your mother gray hairs and good memories, be elected prom king. Yeah.
The pain in my head must be glorious, starting out bold on the horizon of my temporal lobes, shooting up in shafts around my frontal lobes like a Statue of Liberty crown. An internal sunrise that grasps my head like a greedy paw that grab and grabs at me ‘til the excess spills outside its fist. Yeah, bitching about a headache isn’t terribly original but I just couldn’t sleep last night, the last night of my vacation. You said “you’ve had your last supper and soon they’ll walk you down the hall to the chair. That’s why you can’t sleep.”
I put my makeup on on the train like I always do. I’m so out of it I almost rubbed my red lipstick into my cheeks, thinking it was the beige foundation, almost making myself up as a car crash or burn victim. A yuppie-looking chick sits down next to me. “I got my pants on – the peach ones,” she says into her cell phone, as she toys with the purse strap on the lap of her black pants. “I know,” she says, “I just…don’t wanna think that when I don’t talk to you it’s ‘cuz you’re with someone else…”
The door looked menacing, like the priest's face when they took us to confession. There was booze on my breath; I couldn't breathe without exuding "sinner!" I'll tell him "but I only touched his perfect body with my mind – y'know…like that Leonard Cohen song…" If you can fit your life into song lyrics you'll be forgiven, right? I was drunk but I wasn't stupid enough to try that one.
I couldn't walk in the door; I spent the night in the hallway. I tried calling Mr. Perfect Body on my cellphone but must've passed out mid-dial. He must hate me.
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