Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Like celestial jelly on toast

Like celestial jelly on toast

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Coral. It was at a barbeque in Logan Square in early September. I was looking at my reflection in a car window, trying to determine whether or not my sunglasses made me look too much like a rapper and not enough like a writer. My public self-examinations must, to those watching me, look like a practice of narcissism. But in reality these assessments are less for my ego than they are to ensure I don’t look like the vagrant my mother leads me to believe I resemble.
I take the glasses on and off repeatedly trying to see which looked best. I studied my beak like nose and lips that rest in a permanent pucker.
“I look like a fucking muppet.” I growl and my reflection shakes its head in discontented consignment. Just then, as I was entering what was sure to be a spat of image-conscious torment, I saw a girl so immensely beautiful that at the sight of her, my amygdala deleted several terabytes of memory from itself so that I could fully remember and store those first few moments of our meeting in all of its unassuming magnificence. (Consequently I can no longer remember my Father’s birthday or place the color of my first car.)
She wore a black leather thigh high shorts that displayed her perfect, honey colored legs, knobby knees and crimson red Sperry’s, with no socks of course. She was draped in a blue tank top with some intricate yet absolutely meaningless print on it (Multicolor triangles with antlers.) Four silver bracelets accented her skinny right wrist, and the way they dangled and fell inside of each other was as elegant as it was understated. Her hair was silken with a hint caramel. Her eyebrows threaded in a staggeringly perfect arch that resembled what the arch of the gates of heaven must look like. Tan skin and sleepy eyes and peach sweet lips and a gait that was more of a glide but still vaguely unnerving, like a leaf on a harsh wind.

I put on the sunglasses, deciding it would be best to conceal my eyes so that this majestic, ethnically ambiguous, fashion savvy, nymph couldn’t see my heart melting through my stare. I gave myself one final look in the reflection of the car window, I practiced the smirk that a former girlfriend told me was ‘the best my mug ever got’ and decided that if I could maintain that exact face, maybe the girl wouldn’t notice that behind the ray bans and the grin I looked like a Simpsons character. 
Coral walked in the middle of a stable of other girls, each lovely in her own right but to deny the matchless radiance seething from Coral would be as futile as trying to stick to your diet while piss drunk and alone on a Friday (living next to a McDonalds. Eating ranched bathed dressing)
The trick when approaching girls, I’ve learned over the years of strike outs and miserable defeats, is to come bearing gifts of good tidings. Imagine every woman is Pele, the Hawaiian volcano Goddess. You wouldn’t you ask Pele for a season of plentiful harvests without first throwing a few virgins into the mouth Mauna Loa. So why would you approach a woman without sacrificing proverbial virgins to a proverbial magmatic death.
I quickly begin looking for Wes, the home owner and resident drug dealer. I had devised a plan to purchase some of his weed along with some joint wraps, and then I’d approach the broad of babes, armed with charm and a few joints they’d be flattered and giggle and blush at my jokes about how the drummer of the band that was playing in the backyard looked like he was ejaculating every time he hit the cymbals.
I find Wes and purchase the a strain called ‘Devil’s Lettuce’. I ask him if it was ok for me to stay in his living room while I’m rolling the joints, he agrees after first making a vague threat to me about stealing his product. (“No problem, I just hope nothing goes missing.”)
I start rolling up but I’m rusty, rustier than the tin man before he met Dorothy, so the joints are coming out like swollen French fries and all the while I’m going over the scene in my head. I imagine myself a foot taller with my muscles filling my chambray like James Bond’s muscles fill his suit. I imagine telling her the pizza stain on my chinos is actually the blood of a purse snatcher I’d heroically foiled. I imagined her getting my Dragon Ball Z references and knowing the origin of my Final Fantasy tattoo. I imagine her voice, a valley girl falsetto with the tinge of urban I love.
I venture out the house and into the backyard where the band and hipsters take polaroid’s and I spot Coral with her group. The sun’s rays galvanized her, like an armor of honey. Sweet and sticky. I steel my resolve, pop some gum in my mouth and charge the group. Confidence is paramount to success is any avenue, vaginal or otherwise. I consider myself a confident individual, but when our eyes met that first time
“It’s amethyst. It’s supposed to ward off poisons. The Greeks would wear amethyst to promote sobriety and clear judgment. And yes I realize that I sound like a hypocrite for wearing amethyst while I’m on my second solo cup of merlot. But I’m a walking paradox.”
Everything I said sounded so caustic and lame but she skated across words with the self-assured grace of a pro-figure skater. She told me that she wanted to buy a male iguana and a female canary and at night she played Barry White hoping they’d mate and make a dragon and she said she wanted mummification to have a renaissance. She was completely nuts; everything I wanted but didn’t know existed. I closed my eyes and nodded, listening with the attentiveness old black women have in church. Her words were my sermon, and when she sheepishly asked me if she was talking too much, I wanted to smack her across the face and tell her that I never wanted her stop talking. I wanted to tell her that all the words I had ever heard before this very conversation were asinine garbage, and that all the words I’d hear after this would be nothing but the murmurings of worms, and that if I never heard her words again I’d cry like a man on death row hearing his favorite song for the last time.
She continued in that splendid manner for quite some time, and what was even more surprising than the fact her mouth was a fountain of divine non-sequiturs was the possibility that all of this was a means of flirting. That this conversation wasn’t one of transient courtesy, but that she was actually enjoying my company and the possibility of further (less clothed) company.
This revelation was almost too much to handle in my incredibly stoned state. If this was in fact flirting then I was doing a piss poor job at it. She was monopolizing the conversation, and although I was reveling in her mild lunacy I begin to realize that she knew nothing about me save for my name (which I’m sure she’d forgot) and the fact that I was stoned (my eyes were red as the devil’s dick). I felt the need to formulate words, to paint a picture in subtle strokes of the man I was, I’d talk about my job working with special needs kids. She’d think that was adorable.
“I’ll tell her about the time Jerome pooped in the waste basket.” I thought with an explosion of self-assuredness.
“Are you stupid? Girls don’t like stories about special needs children pooping in public.” A voice in my heads rings out, inciting a choir of others.
“Girls don’t like stories about poop at all. You’re so juvenile.”
“Well what else can we talk about; all I’ve got is poop stories.” I mutter, disgraced.
“That’s fucking sad, you’re an adult male, fixated on feces, you think this girls gonna sleep with you?”
“Sleep with him, hell she won’t even like him. You look like a muppet, you know. Like you wear a prosthetic felt nose.”
Anxiety builds from this internal exchange and as the volume mount I begin to get sucked out of the divinity of Coral as if by a black hole, the vacuum of my conscious. I know the vacuum all too well, it has eaten up many day with its permeating nastiness. I’ve developed a method of quelling the voices and the nervousness they bring in three steps. The first being the unclenching of my butt cheeks. A slack sphincter promotes a looser disposition, that’s why gays seem so jovial. The second is to smile, smiling as been scientifically proven to improve temperament. And the third is a tactic I learned from a former girlfriend, to talk, loudly, over the opposition with such ferocity that eventually, like the waves in the ocean, the voices crest and roll back. I unclench my asshole, crack and smile and get ready to open my mouth, just then she gets nudged by one of the women she’d come with, the two meet eyes, then she gives a sly gesture over to an entourage of men dressed in clothes I could neither afford nor wear without looking like an imposter to something much more chic than myself.
 The men enter the backyard and they are greeted by handshakes and hugs and Corals voice loses it intent and I can tell the desire of talking to me is deflating and in a pang of desperation I grab her wrist and compliment her bracelets. Her skin isn’t as soft as I thought, it isn’t silk, its merely flesh, making her even more perfect in my mind. Her eyes give way to an indisposed soul. She frees her wrist subtly but full of intent. Coral says thank gives me a smile that says throw in the towel. She’s psychic, and I’m not blind. It took me milliseconds to realize that one of those dudes in this new posse was a suitor or a boyfriend of a prospect for all the love I wanted to receive. It’s better to leave then to be left so I hop of the cement and give myself a hearty stretch.
“I’d better make the rounds. See what the crew is up to.” I say, knowing full well the only members of my crew that were here were busy either with girls or dice.
“Alright. I like you, you’re a good listener.”
“Ha, it’s a necessity for a writer.”
“Oh you write?”
“Yeah. It’s my thing.” I say with insecure fugacity.
“Write about me.”
“Okay, what do you want the story to be about?”
“Love, of course. With a happy ending. It’s so cliché to end a love story with heartache. Happy endings are a rarity.”
“Believable ones at least.”
“Believable is a cliché to. Reality is played the fuck out.”
“You’ve got a mouth like a crossbow, you know that?”
“You should of said harpoon. And you’re a seal. A little baby seal with a cute mustache”
“Thanks. And that’s an awful statement.”
“Fuck seals, they don’t deserve fins. Fins should be reserved only for fish and mermaids.” She pauses for a minute, noticing with vested interest the group of mashers. Her faded lavender lips part curiously and she seems transfixed on one of the mashers like a cat is to a laser light on a wall.
“Whats my name?” She asks me without looking at me.
“Coral.” I say like a marine addressing his superior.
“And do you know what Coral is?”
I shake my head with the dutiful shame of that same marine.
“Well coral is made from the bones of fish.” And her eyes find mine and they are an opulent brown and I’m not sure how any man on the planet could get tired of looking into those eyes.
“And mermaids.” I whimper in a voice that was hopefully sweetly laconic, and not as intensely pitiful as I felt watching her walk away from me and into the trepidation volley of flirtation and burning sexual tension that often permeates the air space around the cool kids.
Hours pass and I start a drinking spree that I I’m sure annihilated several weeks off of the tail end of my life. I’m stumbling around the party, wedging myself in-between those tight circles people form when standing at social events. I mumble and slur and make no sense and I’m sure I embarrassed myself and a few of my friends but I don’t care too much because I spent an hour talking to a goddess only to find that she as penchants for suave dressers with trimmed facial hair. I’m mildly heartbroken, and the scars of this lose will run deep. It’s hard to get back up after a lose of love, its hard to see the world as right and just and pleasant after you’ve been robbed.
I don’t see too much more of Coral at the party, my speculations is that she was swept off her feet by one of the mashers and now has face buried in a pillow as she screams from the mashing she is receiving. Horrific thoughts on this warm evening, thinking about an unrequited love wiping another man’s jizz from the small of her back.
I find some solace in cigarettes and conversation with a group of a guys who look defeated and lousy and held together by paper mache, we are kindred spirits and to the rest of the party, of which occupancy is dwindling, we much look like a scale measuring heartache. At the beginning being and man named Rick, whose thick beard and college bookstore hoodie indicate that cares not for fashion or trend, kudos to him. And at the end, the epitome of a sad, sorry sap is yours truly, looking three sheets to the wind, my eyes barely open on my 5 ciggerete in the last 30 minutes, talking deafeningly brusque about absolutely nothing.
My night continues in this sad manner until I notice Coral running up the back stairs of the house into the kitchen. It’s a frantic run, and not the frantic run that says ‘I’ve got the fucking piss.’ And the frantic run that indicates ‘I need miles of space.’ Recognizing this immediately, I survey the circle I’ve formed with the other romantic misfits; they all seem to recognize the look on my face, that mask of idiotic hope. I bid them farewell and split for the interior of the house.
I make my way up the stairs onto the back porch and through the door and into the kitchen where there is a couple of people talking. I must have looked like I was on the hunt because without even saying anything I’m pointed into the direction of the living room by a hipster with a jewfro and a zorro mustache. I shoot him and nod and make a break for the living room which is peppered with cool looking people of fluctuating levels of drunkenness.
I would of walked passed Coral if I didn’t hear her call out.
“You’re still here?” She sniffles from under balled up mangy Kleenex.
“Yeah.” I say, sounding a little scared.
“I would of thought you’d gone home with some girl by now.” She says flattering me.
“I could say the same about you.” I state gravely.
“I should be so lucky.” Her eyes, those auburn gemstones are surrounded by red veins and the skin around them is puffy like the coats worn by rappers in the 90s.
“Stay right here, and whatever you do, don’t lose that look on your face.” I tell her before rushing off to find the friend whom was throwing the party, I eventually catch him and pull him away from a group of girls with remarkable breasts. (I mean all three of them had near perfect tits and it seemed like they were part of hidden camera social experiment about how the average person reacts to seeing 6 amazing breast. As if they had met at some amazing tit convention of on a forum for girls with lower back issues.)
He eventually sells me a 3 quarters drank handle of Bacardi for 15 dollars and shoes me away. I find Coral back in the dining room in the same corner, and the best part is she isn’t buried in her phone to give the illusion of preoccupies, instead she she gazes and her hands as they toy with a Doyle on the table. I slam down the bottle and place a red cup in front of her.
“Tell me all your woes.” I say.
And she tells me about the boy, Elliot, who she had been holding out hope for, for the last 5 months, she told me about the smooth words and the long kisses and the time they went to visit his grandmother in the nursing home and how much Elliot’s grandmother liked her and how she thought this could be the one and how tonight he broke it off and hoped in a cab with Kieran who, in Coral’s elaborate day time fantasies, had imagined would be in the bridal party of Coral’s wedding.
She exhales on my face and her breath is molten hot with the smell of booze. She kisses hard but not deep, the kinds of kisses you give someone whom you never plan to think of again. The kinds of port town whores would give navy men. Loveless and wet and my hands skirt underneath her shorts and I touch her pussy and its good and everything is like it should be, and by that a mean wet and inviting. I’m in there and she moans and digs nails into the back of my neck. But I can’t help but feel like she’d rather be with someone else. And the film on my fingers and the tongue in my mouth can’t feel the void in my heart. But we ride the whirlwind to a cab and cab to her studio and she is taking the lead and I’m following her orders.
“Shoe’s by the door.” She bark, rolling her shirt over her head. Once the shirts off she throws it into the shadowy recess of the closet, her hair falls down and resets it self in an identical mannerof her shoulders. Her bra is black and it pushes her breasts up and they look so good I call them photoshops.
“You can stop with the lines now. You’ve already won.” She laughs before unfastening the top button of her shorts. They hit they ground like a boxer with a glass chin after an uppercut. I’m hard enough to cut diamonds at the site of those lace panties and I want to give her another compliment, but I know too many sweet words work like salt on a fire. And I want this fire to burn all night.
I suck in my gut and lift up my shirt, I don’t have much of a body so she steadies her gaze on my face, she smiling and I go over to kiss her but as I grab her waist she tells me that I can’t stay afterwards. I say that after what I do to her she’ll never want me to leave, and I drop to my knees and eat like it’s my last fucking meal before I meet the gallows.
She falls over on the bed and she spreads her legs like celestial jelly on infinite toast.
And that night I work hard and she works hard and we allow each other to unzip and fume. And in the act our sweat soak bodies find peace in the exertion. We were two perfectly unraveled strangers lucky enough to find each other.
And after its all finished she makes a nest in between my arm and shoulder and even though I kind of have to pee and I’m slightly cotton mouthed, I don’t get up, because I know that moments like these are houses of cards.

In the morning she is still in the nook of my body, and I study her face and sexiness was sweated out and I notice the acne on

I didn’t have to work the next so I didn’t shower. I let her scent stick on me, let in sink deep. That next my victorious air was apparent even to strangers. I looked like I got a winning lottery ticket, and to be honest I would have traded one for the night I had. It was validation of a sort, I felt, a deep, sweet vindication. That I was infact a man, that I was capable and masculine and attractive. And no matter what happened in the future, those facts would remain chiseled into the side of all existence, like commandments or the faces of presidents or the names of dead solider. No matter what happened, nothing could take away my night with Coral. To feel attractive and capable.
A week later I’m heading home from work on the 72 bus when my phone erupts into a block of closely spaced text message alarms. When I see that the screen reads “1 unread message(s). Coral.”, I hear the scream of bottle rockets tearing through the sky, I smile on the train the way you’d imagine a teenage girl. I look at a girl sitting adjacent from me on the back of the bus and my smile extracts a smile from her and I unlock my phone and read the first line of the message and it reads;
Hey Adam, this is Coral. We met at Chandlers and Ray’s party and we had sex? Well there is no easy way to say this, and I belive in flat talking and plain speaking so I’ll just come out with it. I’m pregnant, and I’m 100% sure it’s by you. It’s been a miserable two weeks. I;ve been a pussy about telling you because, well, its just akward. And this next part is going to be even more akward, but again, plain speaking is key; I’m not keeping it. I don’t know you, and even if I did neither of us are ready, especially me. I havnt told anyone, me and you are literally thee only to being on the planet who know. We are in the VIP section of the fucked up/secret reality club. The procedor costs 350.00, an amount I’s ashamed to say I cant fully coer right now. I’m going to need half the money (175.00) from you. Please text or call me back soon. The longer we wait, the more money (and damage it will do to me) this will cost. Alright. Talk to you soon. Do not tell anyone. Bye.

My ears felt hot, and I saw myself sitting in a stupor on my futon as light smeared the room as if it were the bleeding carcuss of an elk being dragged by a dog.
“Shit..” the words exist my mouth an echo like the liberty bells being rung in the grand canyon. (In greek myhthology Echo was the name of a nymph who was on the pay roll for the soul purpose of talking to Hera as a means to distract her from her husbands, Zues, numerous affairs and infidelities.)
I don’t reply to the text immediately, instead I microwave a burrito and put on a reality show about people with mental disabilities trying to dates.
I’d drink, but I havnt got the money to have ideal alchol around, I havnt got the money for ideal booze or ideal bus rides or ideal abortions.
I think about Coral, her thin face, with her skin so damn smooth. It was so damn smooth. And she moaned like bird call, a primal way of communicating. She knew all the right things to, as if she was from the future. As if she’d lived our moment 600 times before.
She looked like something inbetween the states of evloultion, like something half human and half whatever comes after us that future folk will deny they eveolved from like we do with chimps.
Her lips pursed and full, painted a organic pink, a coral pink. (how do girls know all the minute colors in the swatches, it’s like car people knowing the make and year and extraneous series of number that follow.)
Her legs were tines of smooth marble, but not the sediment, tines of marble cake, immaculate yet begging to be devoured,
I sit on my couch and watch as this man who’se face is on a slant dicuss how lonely he is, and I’m spirally into the dark place and I look at my all purpose cleaner my momther sent me in her monthly care packages and I consider the option
I robotically grab for the phone and call.
The phone rings, and in my head I can see her grabbing her phone in the hurried/trained manner a kung fu artist can grab a house fly in the grasp of chopsticks. I can see her reading my name and taking a deep breath, I can see her getting ready for what is to be a human experience. And as we all know human expirences are with out a doubt the scariest.
“Hey there.” She says with a starling calm, but I don’t know wht it s starltilng it’s the calm shes had forever. Well atleast our forever.
“Hi.” I say, completely vacant of tact or purpose or anything admirable. I feel a knife twisting in-between my solar plexsise.

“Whats my name?” She inserted with some air of sly apathy. As if it didn’t matter, as if this moment didn’t matter. As if I got lucky, as if this meeting was a fluke, like a first time bowler getting a stike out on his first roll, like gambler hitting a Royal Flush in the first hand, it doesn’t make them a good boweler or a seasoned gambler, it wasn’t  providence or phrophesy, just a dirty fucking fluke.
In that moment my heart exploded and was pieced back together by a magnamious
“Coral.” I say like a marine addressing his superior.
“And so you know what Coral is?”
I shake my head with the shame of that same marine.
“Well Coral is made for the bones of fish.”
“And meramids.”

On the train Ilook across from me at  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

woeful ingénue

Ken Thiedman was a lawyer with over 2 and a half decades of bailing out mobsters and thieves and a hitman known in criminal circles as ‘Heart attack Hank’ whom was responsible for the murders of six people, including two women and a small child. Grisly deaths, spread across 4 states, high profile targets; Politicians and one Retired actress. The media made a carnival out of it, the trial lasted around 3 months and despite certain articles of damning evidence (footprints, audio recordings, and even the testimony of a man claiming to have been a witness to an alleged strangling of one of the victims.) Heart Attack Hank was exonerated on all charges, live coverage of the trial ended with a bone-chilling wink from Hank to the camera man. The nation collectively shit their pants.
Ken was of Cuban descent, tall and stocky. No facial hair, he hand a slick, sleek brown face framed with perfect eye brows and lips women from the Valley or Manhattan pay top dollar for. He was fucking gorgeous and I say this as a man who loves women more than I love freedom, food and the right to vote or hold office. Ken was also in the practice of taking long silences inbetween thoughts to stare at you. My Thai friend said it was a power issue, he said that Mongol warlords would do it to other Warlords to infiltrate the confidence and soul of enemies, he said that Ken wouldn’t actually be looking in your eyes but at your ear lobe, but ones eyes, always seeing slight, mundane illusions inflicted by our brains and  their isistant misreadings of the multiudes of others actions, beilve he is staring past our eyes, into our souls we keep shaded and hidden and solitary, like a dairy, like a secret to rich and soaked in personality to reveal.
Ken joined me on the veranda of the hotel I was staying in while I was avoiding Lathary’s goons. I’ll never forget, even though I was 6 mimosa’s into my afternoon, what his first words were to me when he pulled out his chair and sat down across from me.
“I know who juo are, and juo know who I am. Lets not phuck aroun’. In my bag, there is a pistal. You can take de bag up into your room and blow jour brains out and on thee walls. That way jou can sorta dodge all de bullsheet that is to follow these meeting. Is dhat somethen jou would be interested in?”
I shook my head sheepishly, but still maintain eye contact.
“Good, becase that would hav made my flight very much pointless.” He laughs, and waves the waiter over. Orders himself a beer and a egg with crabmeat a garlic. He order me a Tom Collins.
“I’ve been drinking mimosas. I’d sort of like to stay on that path.”
“No moar of jour bullshit faggot mimosas. That for 16 year olds and woman at bridal showers. Jou are a mans in thee company of a mans and jou will dra-ink as such.”
I laugh it off, semi-offended but also not trying to get into a altercation with a 6’5 cuban with a pistol in his brief case. He was like a wolf, Ken was. Like a Stevie Ray Vaughn lick with some tribal drums and faint chanting in the back ground.
Our drinks came before he said another word. My mimosa was watery orange juice and had somehow lost its taste after he insulted it.
“I ordered jou a Tom Kollins because its my truth syrum, I’ve foun’ that no maan can lie with a stomach full of Tom Kollins. So before we talk anymore, jou need to drienk thee whole. Fucking. Thing.”
I’m sorta petrified and scared and I think about how if Tam was still around we’d laugh at Ken’s accent and machismo and then when have a fuck session were she secretly francize I was Ken and I secretly fantasize I have an accent.
But Tam is gone and Ken is here as a direct result of that.

Tam was my woeful ingénue, I learned that word after she died and it break my heart that I didn’t recognize her has that when she was alive, when she was mine, when she’d sing  Leonard Cohen naked in bed plucking at her guitar. When we’d hold hands and breathe deep on cigarettes and wonder why can’t a love this strong, this real, be visible, like rainbows or the aurora borealis. Why couldn’t the world feel our love? Why couldn’t the dictionary have a separate definition, or atleast an addendum to the word love that described her and I. It was the sorta of love that enslaves the imagination, like the idea of Santa to a child, like the idea of blood to a shark. We loved so hard it could have crushed the universe and I guess that’s why the universe, being the coward that it is, took her from me. My woeful ingénue, what I’d looked for all my life.

To be continued...never..maybe

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Bigger Picture

Irene was enrolled in an art school in the Midwest were she took pictures of meadows and lovers. ‘Lovers’ is too intimate a word for  her bues; Patrick, Rob and Allen. She just fucked them a few times over the course of a few months but they each had a striking physical quality that were to her keen eye as a corner of a wallet poking out of loose pocket to a thief. Patrick played football in high school although he wasn’t so much a player as he was a large mass of meat that intimidated players. He was a creative writing major, and he wrote honest but painfully trite pieces about his father and drunken nights in cars, which, taking from experience, is a common stage for dramas written by young hacks. (Including myself.)
She didn’t like Patrick much. He was startlingly simple from his attire to his Neanderthal -esqe way of eating. (Heaping fork/spoonful’s shoved into his face like a jailed man whom is afraid of having his meal stolen.) She hated how he crowded her when they slept, she especially hated that he lived with his parents and sometimes he, albeit innocently, coerced her into spending the night at his parents house where they slept in the den on a dog hair covered futon. Patrick’s parents loved her, he had not had many girls over during high school and seeing Irene, all dark haired and smirking like a girl in on a joke told to her by the president or the cool girls at the mall, they were happy to accommodate her in hopes that she’d stay with Patrick. After all, Patricks father was a security guard and his mother on disability and the idea of shelling out the tuition to send there son to school for something so nebulous and not financially lucrative as creative writing was a touch pill to swallow, so anything right Patrick did they cherished and smothered. They even had a picture of the two on the refrigerator. Patrick, giant sized and lumbering with his arm Irene who smiled, but a rehearsed smile that masked the distance she wanted from 6’5 Patrick and his simple, bleak family.
She photographed Patrick first. Black and White photo’s of him walking down a crowed city street holding her coffee and his energy drink. She was attracted to him in that moment more than she’d been in all their knowing of each other. With his hands full, his dusty grey hoodie and K-Mart pants it ignited something in her core, in the sticky reaches of her brain and she fell in love not with Patrick but the huge, black and white oaf that showed in the photos.  Patrick could sense a rise in her energy that afternoon. She seemed manic and feral in a way that excited the writer in Patrick and as he watched her hop from angle to angle, snapping a hundred shots a minute he felt, for the first time in their short union like he wasn’t winging it, like he wasn’t a burden but that he was as special to her as she was to him. He smiled awkwardly and hopefully and although the heat from her coffee pained him he’d hold it there for close to 20 minutes as she photographed him. With his hands full he was severally handicapped, unable to write or tie his shoes or open doors and there was something in this perceived inability that rang out as true. That afternoon she gave him only the 2nd blowjob in their 3 months (Swatting his hands away from her hair and face, even forcibly placing them on his rotund hairy stomach with the same intent one would use to scold a puppy.) and called it quits the two days later.
Rob was next. He rode a dirt bike and worked in the kitchen of a restaurant. He had neck tattoos and a bun that was a millennial girls wet dream.  Rob was a certified babe, scruffy face, gruff voice, but short  dressing in all black. A son of the dark emo days, he sledded the CDs for Otis Redding albums and rolled cigarettes and talked about net neutrality and never said ‘bitch’ or ‘cunt’ or ‘faggot’ (Anymore.) Most women who gush but Irene, was in many regards gorgeous. Ample chest, full lips, no notable ass but thighs that were as classically feminine as they were genderless and ideal, as if a unisex prosthetic. And her eyes, seemed to see exoskeletons in color. She never seemed intimidated, never bowed or broken she could when a staring contest with Medusa. Rob had girls but never on the caliber of Irene. They met at a house party and kissed on the balcony. Irene left intentionally before they could exchange numbers but a few weeks later popped in his restaurant ‘casually’ with a few friends. Rob played it cool and Irene’s friends swooned and blushed and giggle and had immoral thought but Irene played coy. They met that night and Rob spent $250 on diner and drinks and cabs and ubers and a caricature drawn by a man claiming to be blind who need to molest their faces in order to perfect his sketch. They didn’t fuck that night because Irene was too drunk but in the morning they had a slow sort of sex that looked like a caterpillar walking up a mirror on his reflection. The sun painted Rob’s blue room and although she didn’t particularly like that his ‘bed’ was two mattresses stacked on the floor, she felt inspired looking at his naked tattooed, fit form, rolling cigarettes and talking shit about the bands his friends were in. She excused herself from his apartment but came back 10 minutes later with a disposable camera. He was making breakfast, Irene made Rob stop, go back in his room, and take his clothes off. He asked her if she’d take her clothes off too and she did. And Rob stared and her naked body, her pubic hair was dark and matted and looked irresistible tucked between her thighs. Her naked form made Rob hard, so they fucked but not just to fuck but to get rid of the pesky hard on. Because Irene had bought the camera to take photos of him soft and naked and dressed down and preforming cool or hip or mysterious. She had him continue making breakfast; eggs and sausage patties and hash browns. She wished she could make scratch and sniff prints of these photos.
She wanted photos of his tattoos and little pink prick and hair in a messy albeit still, painfully, amazing bun. She wanted a vulnerable Rob, she photographed him until the camera was full and they fucked again but never spoke. Not Rob’s choice.
Allen was third. He was comedian and he was a friend of a friend of a friend. Allen had ease dropped a conversation Irene and her friend Harley were having at a bar about a girl they disliked named Nicole.
“Anyone named Nicole is problematic.” He said. They looked at him. His short hair and glasses and sheepish eyes, his uneven mustache, and a smile that said ‘I’m an alright person. Alright is powerful word because its nether good nor bad, alright is layered and complex. Alright is storied and deep and needs inspection. Alright is neither day nor night, buts its dawn and dusk. In many ways alright is the most realistic condition we can ask for.” That night Allen’s shaky charm and the sentence; ‘If you’re going to have a threesome, we might as well have it with a black guy.” Whispered by a drunken Harley, lead the three of them to Harley apartment for a threesome that wasn’t nearly as cool as pornography has lead the masses to believe. The next morning Harley rushed to work, leaving Irene and Allen alone. It was awkward, they needed Harley, they needed that third energy from when their own became too reactionary and not proactive enough. They stumbled through conversation before Allen cut his losses and went home.

Days later Irene ran into him after class and they, feeling energized and maybe a little hopeful, had coffee and talked and it was good. Irene found Allen attractive in a sort of plant on a window seal type of way, as if she knew that in the right dirt he’d grow into something timeless and iconic but instead he was homogenized and put in a cheap thrift store pot. Allen thought Irene talked like a movie character, as if the greatest minds from stage, screen, prose, poetry, politics and music’s crafted her words. He wanted to be better for her, to work hard and open veins and build inverted pyramids all to prove his worth to her. He though of Harley, who was more conventionally pretty, but Irene was the one he loved, he could tell from the moment she turned her head to meet his brown eyes; Her hair whipped back and it made a sort of ‘stage curtain pulling back’ affect.  They began dating and Allen’s ex girlfriend scoffed at his new white girlfriend and one time Patrick saw the two holding hands and felt small and alone. It may have been love but they were on shaky ground. Allen didn’t have a job and thus felt inadequate and Irene’s affection needed gusts of unbridled confidence like fires need air and kindle and eventually they became strangers. Irene never photographed him personally, but she had did have several pictures of the two of them others had taken on Facebook. She grabbed her camera, a Canon ESOS 5D she’d saved 3 months paychecks for, and she pulled up all the images from her and Allen’s 7 months and took pictures of all of them from her computer screen. Then she edited them, almost like mixing paint, the images became liquid a distorted, one could make out and hand her or a leg there but for the most part it was a conglomeration of photos superimposed on one another like candle wax melted together. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fire Tower

I had just finished eating my McDonalds, mouth still dank and warm from the chewing of the burger, when I looked across to the driver’s seat and saw Hilary’s face, and the scowl that sat on her face like a reluctant mask, I knew she was upset that I’d bought McDonalds, I knew she was furious I’d eaten the burger because of all the effort she had put into the making of the sandwich and other surprise dishes for the trip, and I knew she’d get off Scot-free in 9 out if 10 court room trials if she killed me for not also buying her a burger or some fries or an ice tea the way she likes it (sugarless and devoid of taste.) I knew all this before I ate the burger but still defiantly, like a child or an abused dog, I ate the burger because who is my girlfriend to tell me when and where and under what extraneous conditions I can eat my mother fucking McDouble.
“Are you going to pout the whole drive?” I ask with vile terseness, the sort that has and will continue to beget arguments ranging in intensity from tawdry recreational-bouts to ‘I’m packing my fucking shit up and calling my mother to come get me you pig.’.
“Just shut up Otis.” Hillary says, index and thumb fingers massaging her the bridge of her nose. Her skin is graham cracker brown but sometimes, without any accurate explanation I've been able to concoct in the last 4 years of our on courtship, her digits will go ghost pale, as if the blood in her fingers freeze.
“I’m serious, I was hungry and we have literally a 3 hour fucking drive. What did you ant me to do starve?”
“Correction I have a 3 hour drive, you have a 3 hour time to nap and make eyes at women in sedans.”
“That was one fucking time and I tell you literally every time you bring that up, which is tortuously often, that she looked like my cousin my family hasn't seen in 2 years.” Which was true, the woman did look my cousin Shawn, but there wasn't any real inkling in my head that the woman I saw in that sedan was Shawn, I was in fact, regrettably (but only to a point) looking at her cleavage which was ample and prosperous and usually I stop myself but the fact that she looked like my cousin combined with the sheer magnitude of those most stupendous tits made a shameful, exotic, erotic cocktail that my weak brain couldn't (Nor really wanted to.) resist.
“Whatever Otis we are getting on 87 and you know how much I hate highways so please just give me a fucking break, I can wear my face however I want, so just leave me alone and enjoy your burger.” She sends me that last verbal knife and it cuts but not deep enough for me to continue, after all she is driving, I opted out because I’m a little weary of 87. Last time I drove down 87 I had a flat tire and my decrease in speed coupled with the distinct lack of awareness of the material, physical realm (He was on his phone) of some jackass named Roger Welda lead to me being violently rear ended. The collision that lead to a fractured wrist that swelled and morphed to the size and hue of a grapefruit. While in my hospital bed, Hilary talked to me, like she hadn't in years, about her Dad and Mom and her new hobby of knitting and how when she was in college she’d do headstands while reading school books because it made her feel like an ‘efficient ass bitch’. I watched her small mouth, never opening too wide but articulating fully. Her lips, full but not bulbous, looking slightly like duck bills and slightly the curved line that divides yin from yang. I saw them as thoroughly kissable and magnificent and for the rest of the night, long after patient visitation hours were over and Hilary had driven to our apartment, I thought of those lips and the their peach color and soft majesty and the all the sudden the agonizing sensation of a wrist full of splintered bones didn't bother me so thoroughly. I’m sure the Hydrocodone drip and hospital bed blowjob played their fair share in my recovery as well.
We’re on the first hour of the trip cruising on 87 and we haven’t said a word which isn't the most ideal way to start what was intended to be a restorative excursion to an un-meddled by human hands, tranquil, woodland paradise known as the Catskill Forest Preserve. When I moved  to the east coast 5 years ago from the Midwest I’d  heard the name Catskill’s mentioned in various contexts and it always seemed like it had a faint familiarity, like a song you hear in an elevator know the chorus to but aren't quite sure where you've heard before. She proposed it the trip four days after returning from wherever the fuck she went after our big fight. My natural reaction was distinct aversion, 3 days in the woods sounded terrible. Terribly dull, terribly dirty, terribly inconveniencing, terribly Caucasian, just plain terrible. But in order to fix things that are severely (fatally) damage, one must withstand terrible circumstances, like paying a swindling mechanic to fix a carburetor or allowing the pimple faced intern to send not-so- sly-but he thinks are very sly- insults at you as he fixes the Xerox machine.  We must endure unsavory things for the betterment of one’s personal standing.
Hilary love’s camping, loves nature, loves animals and insects and I’m sure would choose to be reincarnated as a tree rather than a Saudi princess or Amazon Warrior. She is a child of the tree’s, she’s the Lorax’s hot sister. (Mustache and Danny Devito voice included.)The Catskills were her idea, having been only once as a small girl, her mother took her and her brother for a Parent-Kid bonding weekend that completely changed the families’ paradigm after the father took his third and what would be his final impromptu, unannounced, motorcycle pilgrimage to visit a brother no one had ever met in Alaska. Having a dad leave on a motorcycle vacation is one thing, having that dad abandon a family of 3 without a goodbye or clear reason, instead leaving 35,000 dollars in a shoe box on the bed is a whole other. They struggled that first year without their father, even though to hear her tell it he was always sort of a shit bag; inconsiderate, harsh, absent even when he was around, but still, a kids need a father and a mother needs someone to help lighten the load, both financially and when the endless menagerie of bullshit two teenagers can conjure. At any rate she claims that 6 days and 5 nights in the Catskills repaired what could have been a tragic reality of a broken home. And if it can mend family ties, it has to be able to mend what we have.
“Look at that!” She says as she reaches for the nob to turn the radio down. (The radio; whose music to play and when to play it was another volatile issue that could have catapulted us into a verbal melee so for sake of shaky peace I decided to relinquish control of the tunes to her. Mature of me, isn't it?)
“At what Hilary?” I mutter, not feeling like matching her energy, even though I could, and should and would have if my head wasn't so far up ass.
“That!” She sang, her voice concise, full of feminine edge.
I look over through her window and we are zooming past a road side stand of some sort with a large ceramic Native American in front of it. The statue is about two stories high and is missing a leg from the knee down. Yet there it stood, as I can only assume it as been for a great long time.
Hillary turns her head sharply and looks at me with a child-like glee. She is sick of being mad, she is beckoning me to be as well.
“What do you think his name is?” I ask, cracking a smile myself that I hope doesn't look fake because I’m not faking it, I’m happy I just don’t know how to smile.
“Hmmmm…Travis.” She says unsure, now with both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.
“Nah, Travis is too cool a name for a one legged Indian.”
“Mark is too white a name for an Indian.”
“Yeah but who knows Native American names.” She says with a sneer.
“They used Animal names I think. Like little bear or black fish and something.”
“Oh where did you learn that from? Some cartoon when you were a kid.”
“No really that what they used I think.” I reach back to where I’d heard this bit of information, and I’m almost certain she was right, that it had been a cartoon but I say nothing.
“They probably called him flamingo.” She says thoughtfully, eyes level on the road.
“Why flamingo?” I ask.
“Because the way he stands reminded them of the way flamingos stand, on one leg in the water.”
I let out a pleased sounding introspective grunt. She leaves the radio on low for awhile longer, hoping I say something. But I’m tongue tied, I consider saying something about eating a flamingo, or talking about Native Americans more, or something about how her legs have a brown tint like egg rolls fried to perfection and how she has a smile better than a hundred dollar bill found in your pants before you put them in the wash, but it all seems shallow and pedantic and grossly insensitive given my transgressions (The ones that brought us to this trip). So I let the silence bubble until she turns the volume back up, unsatisfied with me. Almost more than I am.
Three toll booths, four highway wrecks and a piss break at a Sunoco later and the only thing we have said in the car of substance was “You should change out of your work clothes. I bought you some more comfortable  camping attire.  Its in the red duffel bag in the back seat.” I oblige her and before too long I’m out of my Fred Perry sweater and into some blue, ventilated shorts that come up a little above the knee, an orange tee shirt with a cartoon of a duck repelling down a rock wall and some red hiking shoes and ankle socks. She smiles breezily at me, potentialy because of the similarities in our outfits; She wears a red under-armor with shorts and red shoes. Her hair is tied into a bun that resembles an obsidian birds nest. Stray, wavy strands poking out at random, she looks bookish, she looks literary. And in many she is literary; her appearance is something akin to a dream I had as a little boy, looking at racially ambiguous children actors and rueing the fact that there were no girls that looked like that outside of a Hollywood production studio. She’s short with with curly hair and skinny limbs and one time I saw her stretch her skinny arms over her head as she woke up and it made her head seem adorably gigantic. Modest hips but surprisingly plump ass, good breasts, and perfect areolas. She has a birthmark on her right elbow. It splotchy like eczema but the pattern is identical to the Galapagos islands.
She’s unique, anal-retentive about covers, blows her nose in her palms in the showers. Sometimes she wakes up whimpering and it’s a sound that could break any heart. She’s trouble, but life is trouble and she is my life, well sometimes.
It’s nearing dusk when we first see the rolling mountains, they look like humps in the backs of giants. It’s fairly majestic looking. How the sun erupts over the mountains like foam out of a champagne bottle. How the wings of the birds arch and fall and look like mouths smiling and frowning in bi-polar glory. Hilary puts her hand on her thigh and I grab it from her. I feel a warmth like a flare or a fire or a bag of popcorn. I’m happy, for the first time maybe in weeks.
After a short drive through a pathetic looking town we pull into a camp ground.  We pay $85 for a parking voucher for three days.  As we unload the car I survey the area. Cars of all makes and models and colors and conditions make up the population of the lot.  We strap back packs on, I’m carrying the tent we bought for the occasion, it’s a four person with this conveit little interior for zipper for dirty shoes. The packs were heavy, sleeping bags, pots and kettles, ponchos, two pairs of boots, toilet tries, a flash light that could easily double. I felt the weight, and I’m 5 ‘9 and relatively strong for a man my size. I cant imagine she packed our packs much differently, maybe 5 pound difference, maybe she even decided to pack her bag the heaviest, knowing that if my bag was too heavy I’d complain and bitch and say something hurtful, that’s the type of person she is, a person who is willing to bare the weight for what she believes in.
Shes got a brown paper bag that looks like it has weight on it. I’m excited to see what she made for food. On our first date she made me chicken nuggets in spaghetti sauce. She blamed it on college living but that’s hardly an excuse. I didn't hate it, but she shamed her so for it I thought that maybe I should. She’s come along way since that first dinner, since that first day. From nuggets in sauce to whatever deliciousness was in the bag. From being my student in my Thursday poetry writing class to the woman I’d signed the lease to a two flat in Brooklyn with. From that girl to this woman.
Fuck what have I done? How did we get here?
The forest has an undeniable charm, the crunch of leaves, the foreign, yet unmistakably earthy sounds that emits from the woods like the faint echo of lapping waves in a conch.
“There are a lot of couples it seems.” She says, reaching back to grab my hand. I was going to reach in my pocket for a Marlboro but the warm grip of her hand a this time seems more appealing than sweet stench of a doom stick. She tells me that she wants our own private land, where no one can see or hear us, so we hike east. I make a comment about visiting the Catskills winery that she waves off. I look at the brown bag she has tucked under her arm. I’m sure amongst the food there is some sort of alcoholic beverage. A bottle of Merlot, or a sixer of high life. Something to whet my pallet, to get the old talk-muscle going, something to help me get over the silence that I struggle with sometimes. Especially on this trip, especially when I’m certain this is our last chance to fix what we have.
What’s broken you ask? Well the short answer is trust, but short answers would be unfair in a story this long. I met Hilary at NYU, where I teach creative writing and poetry and must recently a copy writing class because the administration didn't like the “flow of my work load” so they gave me three bullshit copy writing classes. At any rate, I met Hilary her sophomore year. NYU is host to a slew of beautiful undergrads, from all around the known world, and while I’ve been enticed by a uncovered thigh here or a giggle there, I’ve never been moved to act until I met Hilary.
Her writing was layered and often sad and the class really respected her work. During my mid-semester one on one workshops with the students (A thing us creative writing teachers do in lieu of a midterm.) I was a tad drunk from a lunch meeting I had with a few other professors in the department (Another thing we creative writing teachers do in lieu of responsibility and professionalism.) we talked for 15 minutes about a poem she’d written about climbing a mountain to say good bye to someone, then the rest of the meeting was me talking rather pompously about my writing and her telling me about restaurants she orders from. She made me feel young, she made new shit feel possible, she was only 20 and I was 27 but I was suffering from something like the bends do to me mother’s passing and she reminded me of my mother but in ways I don’t want to talk about. But I will say that they both reminded me of houses on prairies, like dreams of people who slept in a pre-television age.
We began to date and eventually yet rather rapidly fell in love. And there are a multitude of happy stories in the years with occupied each other lives. But this is a story of Hillary and I and our camping trip to get over our fight that was caused by me cheating. With a student. In our apartment.
The girl, the student I mean, was young and white and wide hipped and represented something all self-respecting men of color try to avoid. The death trap of the white girl, with her eyes and charm and skin the color of a glass of milk after a slice of cake. I get sick and need a drink just thinking about it.
She’s a student, which has been a fucking foible in my past. The people in my department look at me differently. The women on staff subject me to cruel jokes and the men have a note of jealous-bitterness when Hilary is brought up. The chairman of my department brought it up once at a Christmas party, pulling me aside, with a firm grip on my arm, and a glare that was, if I’m being honest and why shouldn't I be by this point, scary. He told me that the only reason I hadn't been terminated was because he liked my story I had published in the New Yorker and that it made the creative writing department look good in the eyes of the rest of the school, it made asking for funding for a new computer lab a bit easier.
But that was many years ago and Hilary is now out of college and working at a high school in Queens as a guidance counselor. She tells me stories about kids going hungry, for both food and love. Horror stories, shes strong, her job is considerably harder than mine. That’s because she lives a harder life than me, but its high time I stop saying that, as if its any sort of constellation for living a shitty life and not considering the feelings of people I love or even mildly know.
She’s just about as pro as one can be when it comes to hiking. She attributes all of her wilderness know how to girl scouts but her brief stint in Girl Scout Troop 63061 occurred nearly two decades ago so I doubt it was that influential. She’s good, she can identify birds and turds and poison ivy by the smell in the wind, not just the cheap leaf counting method. She trudges on and we make conversation and things are pleasant, the bugs aren't unbearable, the weather is temperate and after awhile the weight of the pack gets melded with your natural body weight so you don’t even notice the flapping it does or the way it passively, yet most defiantly pulls against your shoulder.
I had a student once who hiked the entirety of the Adirondacks in a month. He wrote about it constantly, his adventures with other hikers, apparitions of the past, addiction, he wrote very vehemently about it week in a week out. I would read his assignments and sometimes quote them for Hilary and watch her face light up and feel a pang of jealously but it dissolved because I would not tell her that the quote was from a handsome, square jawed, outdoorsy student of mine but that the quotes came from me, that I camped as a young man and I still had a connection to the commodity that was nature. The truth was I am a city man, tried and true, I prefer subways over streams, the waling of addicts and derelicts over birds, and the smell of exhaust and street food over morning dew and honey suckle. But I could never confess this to Hilary, this was one of the many things I felt improper for in our relationship. I loved her and she loved me but some of the things we individually loved the other hated and its hard to encounter someone (a square jawed, woodman.) who shares similar interests with a loved one and not fabricate a reality in which those two parties hit it off and leave you to waste away.
As we walk through the rather dense foliage we feel a change in the air, something like the feeling when you walk into a house and you you know a TV is on, even if its on mute. The air felt busy, it felt young, completely strange but also familiar. After awhile Hillary stops me by putting her hand on my stomach, then she turns around, her eyebrows raised. She pinches the front of my shirt to pull me down to her level, then she whispers; "They're fucking."
I give her a confused look, then she points down a small hill to a blue tint. Poking out of the tents entrance flap are two sets of legs, one on top of the other, one toned and hairy, the other shorter and dainty. The hairy set of legs pulsates, slowly and rhythmically, implying long deep thurts, and the feet on the bottom set of legs sway as if leaves in a mild breeze. The scene is hot and made all the hotter by th fact that the couples faces are obstructed, they could be anyone. We crotch down and listen as the moans echo lightly, we do this for awhile. I put my hand on the nape of Hilary'd neck, and she reaches her hand back and places it on the inside of my thigh. We sit like this, until it is time to move on. For awhile I think about that young couple fucking in half way out of their tent, I think about it and these mesh shorts don;t do well enough to conceal the growth I'm getting from watching Hilary's ass in her shorts. We haven't fucked in weeks. Sometimes its easy to lay in bed, knowing the wrong that I've done can;t possibly arouse her. But some nights, I'll catch a glimpse of her bare thighs or, if she showers, the way her hair lays on the back of her neck, and I can't help but want a piece of her.

Eventually we find a spot, Hilary doesn't think it’s ideal, but it will do. We set up the tent, which is surprisingly easy and start a small fire. Now it’s time for the grub. She finally opens up the paper bag to reveal some Tupperware full of the Shepard’s Pie her mother taught her to make, it’s a little cold but also in the bag is a special outdoor skillet so that we can warm it the perfection on the fire. Also in the bag is 4 ham and salami sandwich, my absolute favorite. Some crackers, cheddar cheese, and pepperoni. Also in the bag are paper plates, napkins, and a bottle of Suntory, expensive Japanese whisky that we drank on my birthday three years ago on what we both consider to be the best night of our relationship.
I grab her hands and thank her, and we smile and I feel warm.

She hands me the bottle and then goes back to gazing into the fire. Her face is glowing like it should all the time. I drink the beer, I let in the chemical change, any reason to let loose, any reason to be an asshole.
“What do you want from me?” I know the answer. Every idiot does. She wants honesty and love and trust and compassion and truth and clean towels and effort and cock and food and a kiss on the head in the morning.
“I don’t want to do this.” She says, her eyes lost in the orange blaze.
“Well I do.” I’m rearing up to go, there is no stopping me, I’m a machine hell-bent on tears and tragedy.
“Otis just stop, lets get along. Do you want to lay down?” She says looking up at me.
“I don’t want to fucking lay down.” I breathe hot and take a pull from the bottle.
I’m an alcoholic, I’m abusive with words and in the past I've been a monster worthy of fathers or mothers brandishing shotguns. I've tried to change and I've made head way. But sometimes I get so angry I see red and I’m like a bull and there is no reasoning, no compassion, I’m a small creature who will destroy anything to make itself feel large, to feel like anything other than a speck whose feeling don’t exist.
“Stop yelling.”
“I’m not yelling. Why do you think every time I raise my voice beyond a whisper its yelling. Grow up Hilary, really.”
“Please, okay, just stop.” She says through sighs. She won’t cry, she only cries when there is silence.
“It’s just ridiculous; I told you I made a mistake. I told you that I fucked up but fuck look at everything I've done for you. I pay the fucking rent, I bought that car, I don so much.”

“So you’re saying that your respect comes to price? You're saying that you can fucking cheat on me with a teenager cause you pay for things?” She’s revving up herself. She’s often right in arguments, but I can’t let her ever know.
“No but I am saying that I’m allowed to make mistakes.”
“Are those mistakes fucking one of your teenage students in our bed, in out apartment you fucking pig.”
“Where was I supposed to go, her dorm.”
“Yeah you should have gone to her dorm so all those little fucking freshman could see you for the old, creepy pathetic bastard you are.” Her jab goes straight to the heart. She means nothing by it but the word ‘bastard’ means someone from a broken home, someone lacking parents. My mom died before I got to ask her so many things; her favorite color, her goals as a child, if she really liked my book. I felt parent less because my dad was entering a state where he wasn't going to be the strong man I knew. I felt like a bastard and she said it not knowing and it was at that moment I felt ripped open, like an envelope and letter ripped do to excitement.
“You're such a bitch.”
“Oh now I’m a bitch.”
“Yeah, you are.”
“Whatever, Otis, look at yourself.” The words I rue the most. ‘Look at myself.’ Who’d want to look at themselves if they were in my position. Fat, aging, in the woods, cheating, arguing, ruining love, ruining life, about to make a gigantic mistake.
“Look at your fucking self.” I say, wondering if Hillary ever loved my writing, ever loved the man I was on the page, ever loved my art. Not sure why any of that
“This trip is a waste of time, We are leaving in the morning.” She tells me. I hate that she called that, not because I want to be in power like she thinks, but because I want to be with her. But what a shitty job of showing it I’m doing.
We sit in silence and watch the fire. Well she watches the fire and I watch her with careful glances, careful not to get caught staring at her illuminated face, carefully so that she didn't know I cared, carefully as to imitate hate. I’m such a asshole, I’m not that great a person. After a while the weight of the situation hits me, the silence (That I’m causing.) dissects, so I stand up.
“I’m leaving.”
“Where are you going Otis?”
"Away from you." When we were young, or I should say 'younger' because we are quite young, we used to call each other 'dude' in arguments. It was a sign that we had devolved as Hilary and Otis and become faceless, nameless, dudes, inhuman, mannequins. We no longer call one anther 'dude' but the intent, the desire to see outside the person still exist in both of us.
I charge forward, through the woods, away from the fire we started and into something less populated, into something darker. My ears are burning, that what happens when I get like this. My ears become warm enough to fry eggs on, and its almost like the baking warmth from my ears bakes the section of me brain that regulates common sense, because in a situation like this common sense would decree I turn around and make nice with the woman I love cause the sun’s descending like the volume on porn when your wife/mother/father/boss enters the room.
But my ears are hot and I’m marching into the deep, dark, haunted regions of the Catskills. And to think I took off work for this.
An in detriment amount of time later and the moon is up painting the forest in a ghastly grey, as if under a spectral veil. The temperature dropped as well and these shorts aren't enough to stave off whats becoming a bitterly cold night. I don’t know where Hilary or our fire or our tent is. In my tizzy I forgot some essentials like a flash light and a poncho, and although the trees tower over me and their leaves umbrella me, cold droplets still make their way down on me.
Hilary is probably in the tent, infinitely more pissed off than I am, and with so much more cause. I feel choked. I feel like giving up and digging a hole in the moist soil to sleep in, using dirt as a pillow, blanket and bed, waking in the morning and screaming Hilary’s name for her to come help me, as self-fish as that sounds. But I don’t stop, I instead keep walking, through thorns bushes and poison oak and spider webs that cause mini-panic attacks every time I walk through one. The darkness grows and the only light I have is from my cellphone, and the battery is rapidly dying. Every now and then a beep goes off signaling that I have a voice mail, I am un-able to check it though because this forest is a nullifies satellite signals. This worries me; has Hilary tried to contact me, has my boss left a message, am I fired, did he to find out about me and the student? I’m in miasma of all feelings shitty.
Last time Hilary left a message on my phone it was to tell me that she had watched a baby bird fall from a tree die. She called during one of my classes and when I called a 15 minute bathroom break (Although at NYU bathroom breaks are essentially cigarettes breaks.) I checked the message, and her voice was soaked in disbelief. I knew exactly what face she was making. I had my students write her letter after they returned from their breaks. We read them that night and laughed, then she became upset at the thought I might have fucked one of the letter writers.  
Eventually the woods become painting into a lumisncent grey light that is quite beautiful. I enter a clearing and for the first time feel the full impact of the rain. It’s not coming down hard, but it is fast and between its conception in the heavens to its magnificent flight to earth it freezes. It miserable but as I trudge through the soaked grass the slosh of my feet are akin to the sloth of the feet of knights trudge into a blood soaked battle field. In the distance to my left I see a large man-made structure that towers above the tree, I make my way to it over the sopping wet grass. The water leaks through my shoes and every step I make has the most uncomfortable slosh, my drunk is wearing off, morphing into a sluggish, morose tiredness. The rain pelts me, brutally, and I feel like a sort of death, I feel like a sort of soaked denizen of hell.
I approach the structure and I recognize it to be a Fire Tower. Fire Tower’s  were built on the highest peaks of the region and they were manned 24 hours a day by park rangers. It’s said that from the top of a Fire Tower a ranger could see any telltale signs of a fire. There used to hundreds of these things, but since the 90s these things became obsolete due satellite monitoring and helicopter surveillance. A few conservation groups decided to save a handful, and here I am looking at one.
I climb the tower, hoping to see flashlights or camp fires or that couple fucking again, any sign of human life. But once I climb the metal steps, at the landing at the top, all I see is a shadow on the wet ground casted by myself. I look at the shadow and wave to it, it waves back mysteriously. I accept the shadow to be me, I far away me from another demision that is directly affected by this demision. I understand that I will always have this shadow, but it will always be in my control, it will always be at my beck and call, me and the height of the sun in the sky. Well in this case the moon.
Looking out at the arces of woods, I know Hilary is out there, I know somewhere in this dense collection of foliage is the woman I love, the woman I thought would be the last stop on the railroad that was my love life, but this shadow is still waving because I’m making it wave. This shadow is still here. I curse and spit on the shadow. Then I see two lights heading my way from the clearing. Finally some life, maybe they will have compasses or food or clothes, finally I can back to humanity, maybe its that couple we saw earlier, maybe they can walk me back to Hillary and she can thank them and we can live maybe trade partners and become swingers in the woods, maybe that is what will save our relationship. My shadow takes catches the spit right in the neck. I make my way down the wet stairs.
Hilary must be worried sick, she must be cold and scared. All I want to do is hold her. I make a misstep on the stairs. I slip and in trying to catch my grip, to stave my balance I twist me body and the gravity of my weight is too much and it makes my descent worse. I bounce down the stairs like a soceer ball kicked down a rocky hill. When I settle at the bottom of the tower my ears are ringing and I taste nickles, I cough hot liquid. I hear something faintly in the distance. Maybe its Hilary I think. Maybe I’ll have to go to hospital, maybe she will drive me and talk to me. Maybe we can make it up. But maybe what I hear is my mother or angels or ghosts or nothing. Maybe I hear my shadow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For Streak C. Lawson

I hear the uncoordinated patter of his long neglected nails on the kitchen tile from the basement.
“He’s not doing good.” Dad says in a tone so resigned it seems terminal.
It’s a rainy December in Chicago, like God’s trying to wash the city. But the city isn’t a car with bird shit on the hood and it’ll take more than a moderate drizzle to clean Chicago.(The zoological term for bird (and bat) poop is called Guano. Guano.) I don’t mind the rain though, it means the weather will hold its relative warmth and after the Polar Vortex last year I deserve a holiday season without the distinct displeasure of shoveling snow while mucus pour out of my nose and freezes in my mustache.
Over Dad’s voice and the murmur of the TV from the living room I  hear rain drops landing on the awning over the kitchen window. An impartial melody, like the strokes of keys from a pianist who doesn’t give a shit about what he’s playing. The world turns, the sun burns and rain falls. The ether doesn’t (and shouldn’t have to) alter itself because my Dog can’t walk anymore.
Dad and I are standing in our kitchen looking down at the dog, making grim plans to drive to the vet, holding together a frail artifice that this isn’t a tremendously horrible Monday and that we aren’t on the verge of bawling.
The Bears are losing and the Dogs hind legs are weak as _____  and for all intents useless.
Earlier that day we had taken a trip to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. I was to receive a sweater and watch. My mother was getting a sky blue robe and new socks (A pair of which she already wearing.) I got my Dad a book and an atrocious burgundy shirt-thing with a zipper that disappeared into fabric half way down. This had become our tradition; An afternoon at the mall in which we all indiscriminately buy each other whatever is chosen. Christmas made practical, albeit considerably less festive. 
When we got back, bags in hand and guts rounded from food court vittles, Mom noticed a batch of shit in the dining room. We share a collective forgiving sigh, noting that we were gone for a few extra hours and the dog, at 14 years old, hadn’t the bowel fortitude nor the shame of indoor dumping he used to have. Dad picks up the dropings with a plastic bag.
“Poor thing. He just couldn’t hold it.” Mom says.
“He just old.” Dad commiserates.
I give a whistle but the sound does little to summon the Dog these days. Long gone are the days of a whistle and an eager gallop, now he conserves his energy. So I go looking for him. Dad gives a glance downstairs at the basement from the staircase in the Kitchen and reports that he doesn’t see him. I run to the second floor and find nothing but a wet spot on the carpet.
Mom says that ever since I moved to New York the Dog doesn’t make the trip to the second floor. Too many stairs for too weak of hind legs. So that fact that he, the Dog, exerted the energy to make the pilgrimage was so impressive that I didn’t mind the piss soaked carpet, same way Tibetan monks probably don’t mind letting people use their toilet after they make the journey up Mt Kailash. (Tibet is called ‘The Roof of the World’ because its nearly 5,000 meters above sea level.)
No Dog up there. So, admittedly a little nervous, a hastily head to the basement. I flip the light switch and see The Dog laying on the couch. Mouth open, tongue flopping around like some alien appendage. A breath of relief then I take a seat next to him and stoke his black, dusty coat. Feeling the familiar heat pulsating from his vibrating, solid body. A few seconds Dad comes down the stairs and he too has an exaltation of relief in the form of smile. We probably look like a painting, on the leather couch with moss green pillows, looking at him, Dad. A boy and his dog and the inherent unspoken, vast, unsurmountable love.
Dad calls him over to him, to take him out in the backyard for his last bathroom break of the evening. The Dog and Dad had developed something in my absence. Something not unlike a symbiosis, something like parent hood or friendship or love. I’ve been in and out of this house since I moved away to college in 2008. Plus it was a busy few years, exiting the chaos of teenage years for a new sort of chaos of my 20s, I was busy and wasn’t the boy the Dog remembered. So in my absence Dad stepped in and they formed a bond that kept them both happy and fulfilled.
Adorable I’m sure.
The Dog goes to Dad and together they head up the stairs. Half way up the Dog slides down and comes to crash landing on at the bottom on the unforgiving tile.
“Fuck. Shit.” I say.
Sometimes in moments of extreme trauma or grief or anxiety I’m able to watch myself react as if my life is a movie filmed in second person. Watch the Dog slide down the stair was one of these moments and the cruses were a feeble natural reaction to the moment, like hitting the knee with a mallet and watching it kick out.
After about 15 mintues of observing the Dog and his clear in ablity to climb the stairs and our suspicions on wether or not he could even stand up. Dad goes to get an old pair of throw away pants. He’s good with this sort of thing. A savy man who’d probably make a decent run at life on a deserted island. Or at least think of an effective way to off himself once the solitude transformed into delirium and psychosis.
He explains to me once the pants are for; We are the position them under the dog, like a hammock going horizontal. Then once once the dog is firmly placed in the concavity of the pants were are to pick him up using the sections of the pants that are exposed.
This is way lego instructions come with diagrams. Because sometimes genius is inarticulable.
We rig the Dog up and hoist him up. He does some mild freaking out, kicks his legs and panics because he can’t feel the ground underneath him.
We get him up the stairs and take him outside but he doesn’t do anything. He only lays on the cold, wet ground, so we use the pants to get him back in the house and that where the end begins.
Hours pass and at some point Dad says through a shaky voice that we have to put him down in the morning. The Dog hears the words but is deaf to the meaning and I find that strange and insulting to discuss his demise right in front of him. My dad gets a phone call from a neighbor who is good with animals but about 15 seconds into conversation he implodes into tears and sniffles and hands me the phone but I have no desire to talk in times of misery. I prefer to write and cruse and drink and hope there is a decent movie playing on TV to watch. So I keep the conversation short and regrettably curt.
The fall took out what little remnants of strength his legs had left. Walking became more of a balancing trick, how could he support his heavy frame on two hind legs that had the durability and rigidness of uncooked noodles. But still he managed through out the night. He breathing was so heavy it that it sounded like the panting of an adult man with thyroid issues. And his walking was shaky like dying leaves in the wind. But I fear that’s too graceful to describe the stumbling of the Dog. It was more akin the sound of a CD skipping while playing your favorite track. Frantic and painful. An error in upkeep that destroys something beautiful.
My parents retire around 12. Leaving me and the Dog and the night and the silence that comes with knowing the end isn’t a far off finish line over mountains, but that the end of this thing is only a modest collection of hours away, less than 100,000 seconds.
He won’t eat which worries me because this is an animal whose main allegiance lied with his own gluttony. And looking at his the apathy chiseled into his sullen face while a wave a biscuit soaked in steak sauce (Our favorite.) under his face is a starling realization that behind his will to stand is a resignation. I wonder what that resignation feels like, does it wash you like wave, entering your nostrils and feeling your lungs. Or does acceptance of the end come like a bullet. Do you die before your heart stops?
Eventually I hear the desperate clamoring of nails and the panting kicks up again as if it were a fire being stoked. I gather my own strength, it’s getting late and all this worry is riding me like a cowboy in some morose rodeo. By the time I’m off the couch and he’s stumbling around and breathing fire and his heads down but he’s walking with so much fucking intent you can almost, and maybe for the first time, feel his presence. In this walk that scared by age and bad bones I can feel the flames of his will. He turns to the kitchen and pauses at the back stairs. I rush into to stop him, fearing a face first plummet. My hearts races and I realize this type of worry is the shit that kills people. I manage to put the child-safety gate we took from my aunt after her kids were too big for it to be an obstacle, in the doorway to block his path. He seems annoyed but turns around and makes his trudge to the front door. It’s apparent to me now that he wants to go outside. That he has already soiled the inside of the house and that he is still capable of making the trip outside to handle his business like any other respectable, housebroken dog. He has dignity. So I oblige and open the front door and he looks out and the wet pavement and the night sky that seems to have a deep purple hue.
There was something so amazing about this moment; Watching the Dog survey the stairs, watching him confront his limitations, and thoroughly ignore them for the sake of pride, for the sake of taking a shit in the designated shit taking area like a functioning member of society. Like there was nothing wrong, like he was fine.
His front legs make the first stair down with no issue, but it’s the back legs that give out on him. He plops down, on the second stair, sunk like an anvil. He looks around, his mouth open, confused, where had his strength gone. Why was this so fucking hard now? There he was, stuck on the second of six steps, the rain, still falling without regard, the sky wrapped in a dark lavender so brooding it would have been sexy with a cognac and oj and a ciggerete.
I go back in the house and get a the pants we’d used to lift him out of the basement. I position them under him again, wrap the pant legs around my fore arms and lift. He seems grateful, as if he understands this is the only way he’ll be able to move. Resignation like a wave, resignation like a bullet. While he gets why we need the pants, he doesn’t get how to fully use them, and since neither can communicate we fumble about in the rain for 3 minutes trying to understand what the other wants. Eventually I realize we are going to need to leash to. Which means I’ll have to wake up Dad. And I was so hoping not to. I don’t want to leave him on the steps, in the rain with pants tied around him so I hit the doorbell a few times. After about a minute I see Mom come down the stairs from the open front door.
“Whats the matter you got locked out?” She calls.
“No. I need some help with the dog.”
Mom puts on her coat and shoes and I hand her the leash. We hoist him down the stairs and he pees and does some sniffing around in the lawn and Mom says that this won’t work for him. And then I realize Dad hasn’t told her about tomorrows plan.
That night my Dad slept on the kitchen floor with the Dog. Mom sat in the dining looking at them. The next day we use the pants system to put the Dog into the car. I’d been drinking and crying and my parents had been making small talk in voices too genial to be real.
In the car in the back seat he gives me a few last kisses. And I’ll never miss a womans tongue like I’ll miss that collie’s. He seemed to be crying with they gave him the shots. He eyes were watering and I don’t know if dogs cry and I won’t google it because sometimes facts get in the way of reality. I wanted to bury him in the back yard but Dad didn’t want to handle the body and none of liked the idea of not having a coffin for Streak, the Dog.

So I’ll remember him not as a headstone in the garden, but as the dog hair on my sweater. As the biscuits in the kitchen and as the warmth in the basement. I’ll remember Streak as friend. And every other dog I see will seem familiar, because I’ll know that somewhere in me on the borders of my mind, always orbiting inside, is the part of me that’s still just two eyes, two ears and the desire to run.