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Calced in buskin, you deliver the sockdolager that finally shakes loose from you my heart, that silly barnacle behaving fool. It's just as well, though life's grown dull without romantic epics to aim my steps in. I no longer sigh over the lost luster of a fallen leaf, just crunch it under my boot, mutter something about "the cycle of life," if I stop to notice at all. I'm back to thinking of mutual funds and how to blueprint the outlines of a bourgeois Shangri-La like The Kinks sneered at (but who they kiddin', they ain't broke). Poetry mocks me.
You guttled up his lies because their taste indicated they contained a mineral you needed. You were proud to trust your instincts, at one with the elements. But when you're wrong, you find yourself stuck out in the woods eating mud like some crazy idiot. You turn around and no one's there 'cuz you'd charged ahead of them all, so sure you were right. In your cockiness you dismissed the warnings of the tour guide and plunged deep into the forest, sticking your head in a bear's mouth and saying "look at my fashionable hat! Why is everyone else afraid?"
It's exhausting watching your chaffer your way out of responsibility. You're so manacled to your preconceived notions you're blind to how simple things really are. You see chasms of difference between yourself and others, see life as this impossibly lonely struggle, when just growing the fuck up and accepting personal responsibility is the only e-ticket you need to be accepted warmly at the table with everyone else. But everyone else is wrong and you are right. You're the king of your sinking island. You throw up clouds of words like mosquito nets, strangling anyone who tries to give a damn.
So now your true nature has dehisced, and brother, I don't like it one bit. You'd promised me honey. Perhaps I wove my own fairy tale out of song lyrics, wishes and the remembrance of adolescent peeks at softcore. I may be a foolish dreamer, but you supplied plenty of paper for the dreams to be written on, and you liked the look of yourself in my dreams. My expectation of honey prob'ly is packed with more wish than fact, but it's hardly a notion conjured out of thin air. When it's your turn to care, you run. I'm done.
Stoicism may not come naturally to you, but girlfriend - really. Try it, do. Right now it's really the only antidote for you. You complain people only want to be entertained, that when your jokes have run dry, they want blood, they want tears, they want cerebrospinal fluid. You accuse others of this, but willingly bludgeon yourself with the pinata stick, naturally as you'd lift a finger to scratch your nose. Just stop. Pick a new role. Be your own Daedalus and create a new chrysalis. Realize that all the irritants you've let in won't turn into pearls, just dead weight.
He spells her name in cerumen. It feels cathartic and leaves no trace. That is, unless you shine a special black light on it; then, all the shame and obsession he tried so hard to hide lights up on his walls like tumors on an x-ray, cornering him like a scared animal. And sometimes during storms, at the right time of night, you can see her name spelled over and over again in his apartment. The letters flash for a second, her name become one with the lightning, rattling his bones as thunder crashes like a nightstick to the head.
You make obstreperous objections. I look at you unconvinced, your cheeks rubicund with rage, your demeanor and posture rock-ribbed as a soldier following commands he defends but doesn't understand. You're wound tight as a fist. If you uncurled your fingers, what would you find in it? Nothing but hatred and fear, the only friends you're sure won't abandon you. You say no one understands you; truth is, you just don't like what they see when they do. When love's offered freely you poke it for holes with your manichean machete. Its pulse stopped, you gloat, blind to your own role.
With your husband's cremains in your hair, you leave the seaside ceremony with your old friend Jenny. She could sell stripes to a tiger and has a pink convertible Mary Kay Cadillac to prove it. You lean in the backseat, feet propped up on the seat in front of you like a teenager. Now free to write your own story, you dive into the bildungsroman written by the hermit that stirred you so in your youth. You've always loved the feel of wind in your hair, especially now, as it brushes ash loose like a gentle lover wiping away tears.
You had a bibliomantic notion that quitting your job would turn you into Henry Miller and the only thing you've authored is whiskey stains on the floor. You think it's romantic to sneer at squares in their suits while you drink in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. Truth is, you'll just turn around and trot out your Prodigal Son routine for the suit whose sperm turned into you, turn his check into more bottles. You empty them, pretend your choice in brands makes you sophisticated, fancy yourself Hemingway in an overstuffed chair. The empties pile high, ramparts against adulthood.
A cosseted coxcomb are you, handsome enough to rule hearts from aubade to eventide. With equal parts legerdemain and the alchemy of attraction, you corner your victims, your persiflage profound to their ears. Hope bombinates in their brains, overwhelming as a Phil Spector wall of sound, nearly blotting out room for reason. But the joke's on you when you mistake affection for a broken spirit and stomp on what you think is a doormat. It's sad you think only doormats could love you, but life's too short for me to figure out why. There but for fortune may go I.
I spell out my sine qua non for you, underline it over and over again with every pen and marker I can find. You look at my efforts uninterested, dismiss them like an old newspaper drifting past the hero's feet in a movie about a ghost town. You'd turn me into a ghost town if I let you, take over my internal architecture and turn the buildings into slums you could lord over, all the tenants at your mercy for basic necessities. Or you might just lazily shoot my heart out piece by piece like beer cans on a fence.
You tossed me in my salad days when we thought we could reach the stars just by jumping high enough. You wrote a song for me and sang "for the real stars are you and me...the lights in the sky, they only copy." You were so beautiful with your bitable lips and determined gaze. You were so shy if you were doing anything but singing - as soon as the song was over, you'd look down at your guitar, the bolder friend who'd make you feel safe in the sea of faces and waves of expectation. God, I loved you.
You call me your only friend and your recondite ramblings pouring out of the phone are probably why. While fiberoptic guilt waves hold me captive, I paint my toenails metallic cerulean. They dry. I look at my reflection, imagining different haircuts. I try to reproduce my aunt's skill at Brandy Alexanders. Close, but no cigar. I assemble and drink five failed attempts, dedicated scientist that I am. I pick up the cat and make her dance to the "Flash Gordon" soundtrack. She bites me and runs away, so I do it twice more. Maybe we share the same sadistic impulse.
You think your pulchritude's a license for turpitude, and unfortunately, in our world, that's true. If you killed someone the jury would look in your eyes and see a tearful story of neglect and abuse, true or not, your beauty a blank canvas for wishes no matter if your hands do the Lord's or the devil's work. If you went to jail, there'd be overwrought women writing poems about the bars between themselves and you because they'll never be happy anyway and might as well crucify their hopes on a celebrity. Hell, it might even get 'em in the paper.
Your clinquant words charmed everyone. You knew your crowd and were careful not to disturb their omphaloskeptic worldviews, delicately eschewing anything that could cock an eyebrow or clamp a wallet shut. Your mannered mansuetude reminds the tycoons of themselves in their younger days, or at least they flatter themselves they once were you. They've reached impressive stature, to be sure, but you're a shape shifting trickster who can charm and manipulate anyone, from Marxist to Manhattan swilling capitalist. Your power is in letting others think they have power over you. They let down their guards and are devoured in velvet.
Your fatuous friends float around you like a cloud, their adoring gazes lighting you up like a stage. Their tinkly laughter comes from the throat, not the diaphragm, as they don't know how to dig that deep or give that much. Their titters surrounds you and flatter you like perfume. Now that your CD's been played on the radio and you opened for a band that made the cover of Spin, every freeloading wannabe hipster looks at you like their ticket out of here. You're too drunk with attention to see it's hollow, Behind the Music special in the making.
Hand in hand, we walk slowly like we're underwater or approaching a large, temperamental beast and must be meek and deferential and delicate stepped like Alice in Wonderland. With your right hand in mine, your left hand parts the curtain of crepe paper to reveal a sickly light the color of pee stained sheets. The light pulses slightly like a Parkinson's patient. We're here to make sure all the zombies are gone. We look like easy prey. That's the point. We were chosen for the task because our innocent faces mask our top ranked military training. Still, my heart races.
I heard a susurrus in the bushes. I didn't think much of it and returned to my book. Then the doorbell rang. I didn't know who'd be here at this time of night and generally avoided interacting with others unless absolutely necessary. Whoever it was could probably see me through the window, though, so I might as well act like a normal person. It was a man who looked old as Methuselah with long, gray hair and wrinkles like rivulets bled dry. His eyes and posture seemed to contain far more vigor than his outer shell suggested. "Beware," he said.
You work your wrist back and forth like you're erasing a witch's curse. It's laundry day, which means pre-treating the stains on everyone's underwear. You bitterly think of your sister out with her friends and how it was assumed you had nothing better to do. Your little cousin peeks in the laundry room and says "they want you to wear this!" and holds up a trucker hat that says "Kissing Booth - $1" in Sharpie. You smile in spite of yourself at the thought of being whispered about, your kisses dreamed about, if only by the retards at your Mom's job.
You thought you found true love with the singing scion of a shipping magnate. You thought her a common chorus girl, her claim to fame being prettier than her sisters and sluttier than her schoolmates. She made for a no-nonsense lover who knew what she wanted, an agreeable companion while clothed, enlivening the room with humor and stories spun out of thin air. You thought of marriage. Then suddenly she turned moody. Stone faced men in suits black enough to blot out the sun started showing up at your performances. You knew who you loved; your heart walked the tightrope.
I run my fingers lightly over your ears, your lips, your nipples, your fingers, any exposed surface, in no particular order, trying to memorize your skin, sanding and buffing the details in my mind for later retrieval. I do such a good job of it, it kills me slowly. It's impossible to embrace the remembrance without puncturing my skin. I need new memories. I see life beyond the Habitrail I once believed was all I could hope for. I'm grateful for this knowledge, yet angry and scared. Freedom means ditching safety and loneliness waits like salt for my slug heart.
You roll a cigar sized joint on the small of Jimmy's naked back. He lies there still as a desert night, the gentle rise and fall of his breath calming as a prayer. Somehow you grew to feel instinctively guilty if anything good came into your life, expecting people to hate your happiness, waiting for your parents to smack you down Old Testament style even years after you'd escaped their clutches. You gaze at the serene landscape of Jimmy's body and you wish you always had this energy around you, wish you could crawl inside him and stay there forever.
You try to muffle your sigh, but something tells you it's so obvious it leaks out your eyes. You glance at the popinjays and cormorants you have for co-workers, try to decide who'd be the least loathsome to sit next to at the meeting. There are the nonstop talkers who, in the course of five minutes, tell you about everything from the outfits for their cement porch geese to why they'll never talk to their in-laws again. Then there are the folks who pretend to mind their own business but pack fine-toothed combs for dissecting your chitchat into gossip later.
Eldritch lights paint the sky above us. The Northern Iota Aquarids, just like you'd promised. You're happy to narrate and play teacher, explaining how they're cosmic debris entering the Earth's atmosphere at such a high speed they leave a streak of light. We've brought a blanket and a thermos containing my famous Irish hot cocoa. You take a sip and try not to make a face but I can tell that it burns your throat in just the right way. Maybe we're all just debris in the atmosphere, but a gal could do worse than you lighting up her sky.
The sylvan woods seemed to have a salubrious effect on your spirits. At home you were a dead-eyed cog, immediately reaching for DVDs and pot after work, your body not seeming your own but a vessel you rented space in. Out at the Michigan cabin, you go for long hikes gathering mushrooms, taking dips in the lake. Your shoes muddy with adventure, you come back and prepare huge feasts. Yet it still feels like we're just existing side by side, I still feel like in your world I'm the house at the end of the street all the kids avoid.
Your dreams were deemed too big for the framework of your life. Schoolhouse Rock taught you any kid could be the president. They paint everything in bright colors for the kiddies when the truth looks more like a chiaroscuro of dark to swim through with a few morsels of light bobbing in it like fought-over chunks of meat in a stew that has to feed everyone for a week. People count every piece you take. Any natural desire is sneered at, dismissed as cupidity. All this contumely keeps others well fed while you get to build moral fiber. Fuck this.
Your febrile mind is too unkind. Step out of the sauna and do things you oughta. I'll kiss the wounds you've self inflicted, shine a light on parts neglected. Take my hand and we'll travel this land, grip mountain sides as we ascend. Water laps our feet as we walk in the sand like the end result of some cheesy personal ad embarrassing as Avon cologne from the '70s, yours with a rope and a Western font and mine with the name in curvy lavender handwriting. Cliches live on because they're true. I bless the light that shines on you.
Gather 'round me, y'all, and I'll tell you a tale to thicken your oatmeal. There was this guy named Pete, you see, who, in his foolhardy temerity, thought he could beat the devil at his own game. For Pete loved a girl who'd already tiptoed to the dark side and danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. The lawn of her soul had a "sale pending" sign, which Pete took as a challenge. She was the loveliest lass he ever did see, figured he'd better act fast while she's still in purgatory. In truth, he took bait; 'twas she.
With bootless labor I try to coax a smile out of you, making up silly songs, making the cat dance, putting your hair up in little ponytails. I may as well be morris dancing around a May pole for all the reaction I get. You won't stop staring at that review of your book. It's like the letters on the page are holes leading to another dimension where someone is diligently yanking you through to grind up your meat for a banquet being prepared for your worst enemies, laughter filling the air, pieces of your heart dribbling down their chins.
The raconteur's tale stoked the fire in you that had been dwindling. You were ready to dump sand on it and be done, move on with your life, but something in his words poked you like a firm stick and the glow began again. It started in your cheeks and you sort of hoped you could laugh it off as just the booze taking hold, but it slowly kept spreading, around your shoulders as if to shake you awake, then down to the tip of your spine and you knew you couldn't take another step without the fire moving, also.
Soft blades of grass tickle your ankles. It feels both pleasant and repulsive. Your brain can't tell if it's gentle green tendrils or the tarsi of insects crawling up your legs like the pleading fingers of a beggar on the ground. You went to Catholic school, so this kind of contradictory neural response fills you with shame, and suddenly you're drunk with desire. You're lost in the hedge maze at your rich fiancee's family home. Shame as aphrodisiac is what drew you to someone so out of your element. The wealth and disdain corner you like an insect.
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