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The wind don't blow as cold with you by my side. You're a vintage from when men were made Gibraltar spined. By the banks of the river we dine, on nothing much, but I don't mind. You grab my hand, still holding a cantaloupe rind. Minutes earlier its curved surface was covered in pale orange flesh, alternating shadow and glinting sunlight as my teeth pried its sweetness loose. You played it cool, tried not to stare, sipped your wine. When there's nothing left you lunge for me, your calefacient tongue sliding over mine, our fingers wet from vanquished fruit spine.
You shake me out of my hebetudinous day. I do a full 180, shout "callou callay!" Is this what fuels folks to pray? The thing wished for at the end of the day? If I could make my thoughts solid, a shrine they'd form, a perfect likeness of you down to the smallest pore. I won't need to remember that old saw about removing everything that isn't the finished product. My veins hum with instinct and know what to do. I just clear away everything that isn't you, like so many packing peanuts obscuring the ultimate Christmas present from view.
You pull your thoughts out like couch stuffing. With fistfuls of fluff, you give yourself starlet hair poufy as whipped cream, an Old Testament beard. You place clouds, soft grass in your imaginary world. You left yourself with nothing to sit on, robbing Peter to pay Paul, left yourself with a pauper's ration in the black and white world. You try to apply nose to grindstone and clear your head of nonsense, but it gets confusing when your grindstone of choice is harvesting imagination. No wonder you misplace your passport, lose track of days, time zones, don't answer the phone.
Sometimes people bought you fancy paper journals to write in. It struck you as fussy, like collecting ceramic unicorns, or in any case made inaccurate presumptions about your orderliness. If you couldn't type, you scribbled on a White Castle napkin. Sometimes you tried to write in the fancy journals; it never lasted. Your past is littered with carcasses of neglected tomes. That's what your past looks like, period - stops and starts of good intentions, pages blank or ripped out, most of your relationships long dead, whittled down to Kilkenny Cat tails. You don't want proof of this to be eye-catching.
That lie you told crawls out of my mouth like a spider. My stomach walks a tightrope as I watch it trudge forth like a cartoon thief, its back heavy with full amniotic sac. The sac is clear and I can see the potential untruths eager to burst forth, legs quivering. I wanna step on the nasty thing. My index finger twitches, wanting to squeeze hairspray death on its haunches. I'm not a liar. But if the truth brings you harm, consider my pants on fire. Lies taste like insect feet and brimstone, but for you I'll choke them down.
You followed this gormless girl into a formless world. Or in any case, no shapes were recognizable to you. She was beautiful and you were lonely and restless. The turncoat fit and you changed your name, your allegiance. These must be the thoughts in the French Foreign Legion recruitment office, the willful quieting of the mind on the high dive. You just wanted beauty surrounding you, a warm body to run your fingers through. She smelled it on you. You were too far gone to even think with your cock; she wasn't so much a woman as a hot meal.
Take the cotton out your ears and put it in your mouth. I'm just fly-over country to you, a sentence of small talk you punctuate with your final destination. I'm the muse you kept in a jar and forgot to poke holes in. You clip me to your backpack zipper. I shimmy with your movements as you gallivant about the airport terminal. You throw the bag on a plastic seat and my face is smushed. I try to make small talk with Tweety Bird and the unfamiliar anime characters that dangle beside me. They know nothing beyond their own worlds.
The air blows cold and the wolves grow near. Mothers warn their kids about the wolf at the door but the old saw doesn't apply to me as I've no door and nothing but the sky to shelter me, an occasional tree. They encircle me with their fangs, their wiry furred haunches. I wonder should I run or just give in to the inevitable, lay me down on soft earth and become an obedient banquet, let them tear my clothes like Christmas wrapping, tear my limbs apart in glee, crunch my bones and suck the marrow out like Pixie Stix.
You were born in January, the month of Janus, the god of doorways. So maybe that's why you're always looking for doors, literal or figurative. Your fear pins you in place and you bite your nails on an island of indecision. Doorknobs cease to be utilitarian and become talismans. You only dare to open them in dreams. Still, knowing escape is an option is soothing, like a pistol in a drawer. You take it out and instead of shooting bullets it unscrolls a comical saying, urging your spirit forward like a well placed swat on the rump to a bronco.
People give you odd looks when you talk like your words are spat-out pine pitch. Then a random stranger heard them and sang them back with perfect pitch, no strain of voice or shaky notes. He knew them by heart 'cuz they matched his own, knew your inner embroidery and how it was sewn. The once empty air is now a symphony of possibility. Your heart pounds. You look around like the runt of the playground with mitts full of cookies, try to stuff them in your pockets so people don't hate you and jump you and take them away.
I must accept that most people are flawed because they're not You. I don't want to, but there's no other way out of limbo. Can't get over it, can't get around it, can't under it. Gotta get out some chalk, draw a door and go through it. Even you are not You, nothing is but the frayed paint by numbers page in my mind that I pinned up as a pre-teen, almost forgot about. Your colors were such a close match I threw hues in fistfuls, landing outside the lines, cat scratch fever dreams the center of which cannot hold.
I'm used to feeling everything up to 11. Not only that, but doin' it for two. I resented it and felt cheated. As well I should have. But it felt normal, and thus not scary. When I did all the work I was in charge of the thermostat. I'd write overwrought poems for more intensity, force myself to disconnect and think of something else if I needed to cool off. The object of my affection would just wade in the water and I controlled the tides, the weather. To meet someone as intense as me is swimming an uncharted sea.
I get mad at the molecules that separate us. You make me feel loved, at peace, like all is right with the world. Anyone lucky enough to find that should run toward it without hesitation. Yet I'm aware this is crazy, aware I get carried away and make foolish decisions that bite me in the ass when the buzz has worn off. I do my best to tether my feet to the ground, be my own bartender cutting off the booze supply. Would I think any of this if all was right in my life? Is that ever the case?
Most people hold onto love tight fisted, like money. They think it will earn interest if they keep it to themselves like a dirty little secret, that letting it out into the world will bring them harm, like sending a toddler out naked in October. That sure is what it feels like, 'til one is lucky enough to meet someone like you. You understand love is mortal like us, is to be shared freely and promptly like a bushel of apples or it will spoil and stink of missed chances and death. Most people breathe that and just think "air."
You came on like a heroin rush, as I understand through movies and song...I reach for metaphors beyond my experience; it's hard to believe anything natural could feel that strong. I saw you and your image was a daguerreotype on my heart. It fades slightly with time, but never leaves, can't be sweat out. It's the hazard of having an open heart. A mad patchwork quilt trembles with my heartbeat, like a cartoon suitcase with stamped ports of call, pieces of the world that once seemed to encompass its entirety. I read your graffiti scribbles as prophecies; no more.
My heart feels like the poor sap at the dunking booth after a perfect fastball pitch, only there's no bottom to the tank, just unending, exponential anxiety. The fabric of my clothes feels oppressive as an unwanted drunk's embrace. All because of my horripilation at the sight of your face. Every hair in my body wants to get up and leave. I should walk away but I'll be noticed if I do, then I'll have no choice but to talk to you. I pretend I'm fascinated with the Spanish soap opera on the bar's TV, like it knows my future.
I was antsy and followed your pied piper tune. The melody deceived me, painted the air with an invisible stairway to paradise. You put on the clothes of genius. I catch up to you and strip them off, expose you as a fool. But hey, make lemonade out of lemons, as they say. Your lips glint in the sunlight, a river I'd like to feel the waves of. I'm no longer impressed with what you say, but there are other ways to enliven the day. Now I write the music, wave the baton, show you what and how to play.
I tossed my words into the ether to amuse myself like a fisherman with his sea shanties. To my delight they summoned you like gold washing up on the sand between my feet. Yet it's all just connect-the-dots in the air. I long for your presence, for the space there is no words for. I long for the connection where words become third wheels, where everything just is, hot breath from nostrils, lips lightly grazed on the curve of a neck, where I reach out and know you'll take my hand like I trust the ground will meet my feet.
You see time as two-dimensional, a meal that's just a plate waiting to be filled. You toss a sandwich on it, eat it, then think "now what?" You panic at the crumbs, the empty spaces that seem to illuminate the emptiness in you like black light on cum stains, like holding up the pages of your tear-stained junior high diary for all the world to see. You try to see time as three-dimensional, a world to explore, a sea to swim in. It feels forced, like trying to dress like everyone else, never sinks in, never even touches your skin.
We say hello. You smile and run your hand along my cheek. Your touch smells sweet. You were eating an orange and still have white albedo under your nails, your fingers still sticky from citrus entrails. I take this minor faux pas as a compliment, decorum forgotten in puppy-like glee. You smile shyly, mutter apologies. I don't accept them and take your hand instead, run my tongue over your sweet stained life line, work my way up to your fingers, caress them with my mouth, the hair on your knuckles shivering under my exhaled breath as words melt into sounds.
I pretend I've no use for what you've got. I wrap myself in that tommyrot like an ermine robe. You wail and list your grievances like you're trying to show up Job. I'm the one who loves you more, but gentleness makes you snore. I've always longed for the role of the ice princess. For one thing, being desired is implicit, the title only earned from the pain of the spurned. Or from those rejected in favor of her. I can tell by the pleading tone of what you said that I'm now the one grinding bones to make bread.
I don't know what your cologne is called, but it might as well be "In Like Flynn." When I met you my resolve scattered like excelsior. You make me feel special, though I'm sure you think "is this Bridget, or Chelsea, or..?" My hands flutter nervously, smoothing out the clothes I wore. I don't want you to think I've made a fuss, that my grooming was a long, anxious process that made me cuss. You walk in, our eyes meet and I raise to my feet to greet you. You smile and hug me like you're trying not to drown.
You bludgeoned those gudgeons with promises sweet. Pristine gowned virgins to wash their feet, all the wine they wanted, a fine roast beast. They thought you held the fat of the land in the palm of your hand. What more did they know, being unschooled? They had hearts and families and dreams; you saw only fools to color in your schemes. With enough abuse, no one stays a fool forever. And so the ranks of your minions quickly grew clever. They met in secret and plotted a coup. I knew from day one that would be the death of you.
You long for sweetness, just like anyone else. But any time you got some it was accompanied by a sense of shame, shaky palms that know their actions will be judged. You feel like an orphan in a bake shop sneaking smidgens of frosting from a cake headed to a Good Kid from a Nice Home. Shame and joy were identical twins; guilt what feeds your flowers. You envy those who don't have to hide how they feel. You wonder if your feelings would change if you didn't have to hide them, if they'd oxidize in an atmosphere of approval.
You cling to your faithful existentialism, fear placing trust in phantoms, praying into voids. You shoulder your spiritual burden alone, stoic as a snow plow. No little kids sell cookies to fund soccer uniforms with the name of your faith on the back. You fear being emotionally attached to anything, want no barnacles on your vessel, want to smoothly glide through windless water. How many hosannas does it take to reach your creamy center? Why do I care? Something in me wants to fight your insistence you have no soul. It pulls a Boo Radley routine, but I've seen it.
I pull my lascivious narcolepsy routine, yawn languorous as a tiger cub. "Sorry, I can't keep my eyes open. And look at it comin' down out there," I say, pointing out the window at the snow. "Stay," I think with each cottony flake, willing you to say the same. If the Lord gives snow like wool, I'll happily weave it into an excuse. "You're right," you say. "You might as well stay. I'll just finish up the movie." I lean on your shoulder, the TV screen hazy through my half-closed lids. Your breathing grows more noticeable. You stroke my hair.
"Are you still awake?" you ask. I tremble at your whispered touch. I twist my head in the crook of your neck and murmur noncomittally to assure you I am, too afraid to say actual words. The anticipation is so delicious. "Want me to get out some blankets for you?" Bless your heart, you really think it's sleep I need? Or are you a newfangled gentleman not sure where "ladies first" ends and caveman begins? I pull my head away and look at you, your pomegranate lips unsure what to do with themselves, and kiss you. I taste whiskey, smoke.
The e-mail subject line says "a sight for sore eyes." You're so hungry for something that tastes like hope that a little part of you twinges like sparks from a dead lighter, though really, you know better. And, sure enough, you open it and it's about adding inches to your nonexistent penis. You feel like you could authoritatively answer if a falling tree makes a sound when there's no one there to hear because you feel like you are no one, wrapped in this monk's silence with no holiness, no witnesses, surrounded by indifferent trees that grow without your rain.
You're so far away you don't feel real. I had a dream where I made of the tectonic majesties a request, that our two countries should hold hands, the Atlantic rendered an awkward pause, the polite distance between wish and fulfillment. The extra water and fishes were sent to the Arctic as apology to the polar bears. Now that we're neighbors I borrow a cup, hips like sugar, hunger like cougar, who knew you were such a hothouse flower, your beauty unsung, your music unrung. More nectar for me, swimming in your symphony. No more Marco Polo, you've found me.
I rest my chin on your shoulder and you stroke my hair, tell me leisurely stories, your words tumbling to my ear like water on flowers, our heads bent together like they were designed to fit that way. I play with your free hand, run my fingers over the rough palms, the coarse, hairy knuckles. Your hand's so much bigger than mine it's like a jungle gym for my fingers. I notice yellow stuff under your nails. "What is that?" "Canary resin." "Huh?" "I went and built a sun for you. Canary #12 was the only color that would do."
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