Walking home alone from the small cafe we used to frequent when we were a thing and things were a good deal less exhausting than they are now, I light up a smoke and inhale the soft springtime evening air. The trees which cover the stone city square are quietly creeping to life in mossy greens and deep pinks which tickles me in all the places I have left inside that still feel young at heart. How we used to collect pastel eggs in baskets at my grandparents’ house on Easter. My favorite aunt teaching me to use chalky painted chocolate eggs as lipstick, my eyes wide with defiance and excitement at eight years old, lips a freakish crookedly applied shade of lavender. There are new beginnings and disastrous endings along the curve which inevitably leads to grown up problems and more years piling up on top of your bones than wisdom of ages. We are hopeful underneath it all but rattled just the same. Rounding the corner along the park’s edge, I make my way along the path by the river and take a seat on the grass to finish my cigarette in solitary peace. Though I try not to let it happen, whenever I am still my mind floods with thoughts of you. Staring off into the murky grayness of the water, I curse myself because I am not myself when I’m caught up in your gaze, in its heat I am lovelier than I deserve to be. Something in the darkness of your desire calls to me, brings me down into the depths of my being that make me burn, make my tender parts simmer and twitch. How long has it been since we last grazed our lips over each other’s skin? So long the body aches. So long the song in my soul has all but gone out. I crush my smoke into the pavement while imagining every dirty thing you ever said you wanted to do to me. All that fire in your eyes, all that blood on your decadent tongue. As the night sky crawls its way over the tall glass high rise buildings behind the river, the cold air moves in with it. I pull on a hat and zip up my jacket. My hands are raw from washing so often, and the many blocks home move beneath me without my even noticing. A bottle of wine, another cigarette on a balcony overlooking stacks and stacks of squares filled with electric neon lights. In a velvet bar across town, tight young girls dance for dollars, swivel their naked hips like the sweet promise of a violent end to an undeserving world. And you taste them in your filthiest dreams. And you gush with jittery life as their headless bodies become the blackness you carry around all day and can’t let go of no matter how hard you try. You down another drink because you just need something to take away the pain you feel that tells you you are so empty that even happiness falls through you like grains of sand cast aside on the breeze. You just need one more chance to build a different kind of life. You just need the itch in your palms to stop keeping you up at night. You just need to kiss her but everything about her is nothing more than a whisper on the wind.
I don’t want to write about you. I don’t want to write about me. I don’t want to write about the state of things because there is no state, only stasis. I comb through the works of recluse poets as though there were any other kind. A poet lives in a room in her heart, and stays there writing forever. Listening to words of wisdom, words of strife, I am not transported in the least. I ache for the words I cannot find anywhere. I am looking for something I do not know how to see. All I want is to be alone and the world has served the opportunity up to me on a silver plate. Is this what you wanted? Is this how you like it? How could you have let this happen? Perhaps we wash our hands forty seven times in a single day and never once come clean. Perhaps we can’t come down with an illness if we’ve no longer got any skin. In the trees I see the stars as they blink on and off in an early morning sky. Winter, she hangs on and hangs close and drapes herself like ice frosted along the branches. Yesterday I saw some little pink buds, tiny whispers of life, preparing itself in spite of the sting in the cold. And as those on the outside talk and talk, on the inside I don’t hear a thing except silence within silence, I can’t feel anything but a strange eclipse of fear over distance, fear over distance. Time like the ticking of a clock. Time like a lead balloon. There is something at work here that we refuse to see. Weakness, indecency, arrogance, hysteria, seeds of anarchy, greed. Cruelty. There is a cruelty which marks the heart in the declining character of the civilized world; indecision, dishonesty, incompetence, deceit. It goes on in its bluster, it is a joke, it is entertainment, it is ascending, it is the nameless name of all venomous things. It claims lives. It is numb. It is senseless. It is afraid. Please define civilized. Please spell civilized. Please use civilized for me in a sentence. You want to make love and I want to scream my head off until my throat bleeds. You want me to paint the kitchen cabinets, keep my hands busy. Keep my mind off of things. My mind is a thousand tentacles writhing freely, even at home, even in the living room. Even as I speak back and forth with you, unblinking. Even as the news breaks and breaks and breaks all day like tsunamis over our heads, my mind grows three hundred arms as she reaches, reaches, reaches, grasps, grasps, grasps. What will become of the flesh. Will all of our molecules be transformed, will we emerge as new creatures when all this is over. Will any of this finally change us.
Giving you the middle finger, I smile and take another sip of my drink. We’ve been messing around for hours discussing the disastrous state of the world as the fools who run it flick on the code red emergency lights right before taking off in their private jets to masturbate themselves to a comfortable death as the rest of us run the streets and spin wildly out of control. It’s a sickness that lives in all of us I suppose, something like self-preservation perverted into a blood sport, but you and I have decided to try to be on our best worst behavior in order to forget about everything just for one forgettable night. Pouring us each another, you lead me into a darkened room with a plush rug upon the floor. You trace your finger along my jaw while telling me I look like somebody famous, you just can’t figure out who. The taste of your kiss turns my insides to liquid heat. I’m so warm from the whiskey I’d be anyone you want me to be just to feel your skin on my skin, but I don’t tell you this because it sounds so goddamn cliche. There are lovers and there are players, there are nihilists and there are fatalists. Romantics and devils and jokers and right now we are all of these things and so much more. Like two drunk fugitives, we build a crude fire in the fireplace, smoke something to take the edge off the edge we always seem to be teetering on, and make mad love as our little hearts pound like heavenly thunder rolling out across the breathtaking beauty of a crimson apocalyptic sky. To the moody sounds of The Cure, I curl into your arms and wonder what it would be like to live in a world where everyone is free. Everyone is loved and no one is ever left out in the cold. Impossible, of course. But sometimes when I’m alone, when I don’t have to fake being hopeful or charitable or kind, something inside me is anyway. There are people in this world who are so much better than me and at times I wish I were one of them. They are compassionate and sweet, even when nobody’s looking. I watch as the fire weakens to a cold electric blue, turns to smoky embers and then flickers out. You have fallen asleep, the opalescent light of the moon glowing a sheer path across your peaceful face. I close my eyes and fold my hands praying for escape, but only the stars disappear. Inside I am a wide open space, a static vacancy, an empty silence where faces in dreams fade in and out, but none ever stay.
Like fresh fallen snow which blankets an endless field beneath a heavy gray winter’s sky, the page spreads itself before me in all its pristine whiteness. As would a child, I want only to run right into in, stomp my little feet right through its glorious empty perfection, dig in, disrupt, burrow, tunnel, build, destroy. Leave tracks. Impose my footprints over and over just to see what they look like trailed out like alabaster snakes behind me for miles. My mind is a meadow of infinite expanse. I write because I am trying to touch it everywhere all at once, like a wild tentacled beast. I trace my fingers over the mouth of it, open wide. Alone with myself, I scan the dim backlit horizon looking for shapes of things I’ve long forgotten but would somehow recognize, I’m sure of it. There are shadows which lengthen out upon the snow like fangs. A full moon rising as the stars begin to reach out in all directions. We forget the way the universe extends itself from every angle. We think everything is pointing toward us but it isn’t. We are not the center of it all, much as we would like to imagine ourselves to be. I watch the people who can’t see past the end of their nose. I see the people who cannot see beyond themselves and these are the ones who terrify me the most. The blissful, the unaware, the ignorant. The ones who have all the answers. The ones who care only for the sick bulk of their wallet, get off over the throbbing size of their stock portfolio, thinking all the while they can separate themselves from the obscene indignities of the rest of the world. Stone hearts and hungry mad saturated eyes. Living for greed as though it won’t be that same disease which annihilates all of us in the end. Meanwhile, I sit in a small room and listen as the geese cry their shrill cry, soaring past the clouds in the sky overhead. Somewhere across town, the sign on the front door of a small cafe flips from Open to Closed too early. Two young mothers fight over the last small tin of tuna fish. And the earth somehow stands still in its spinning; darkness, like an eyelid tired, swollen, descends all over the globe.
People will take as much as you give them and then ask for more without so much as batting an eyelash but maybe that’s why we only pass like ships in the night instead of slowing down long enough to see each other’s faces. I don’t want to see, I don’t want to know. I’ve seen and known enough as it is to last a few lifetimes, most of them just as chaotic and aimless as this one. The rain is coming down steady and quiet. I listen to it plinking on the tin roof of an old farmhouse just down the road. You can hear that the street has been soaked for hours already and tiny lakes are sinking into the places where the sidewalk is cracked and uneven. There is no wind, there is no chill in the air as there had been all week. It is a random warm day nestled in among the others, more seasonal. I write about the weather because I need to know what’s inside me, and the way in is always through. Through the things you can sense with your body, touch, taste, caress. The trouble is, of course, I see just as much inside me as I do outside me and it can sometimes be tough to tell the difference. We long for a life instead of just the same day on repeat for an eternity until it’s over. We want the magic but we resist the change of seasons. We want the sun but not the burn, the light but not the dark, the pleasure without the pain. I want all of it. I want all the wrong things and the more I keep that locked away the more it pricks its claws in my veins. In an old hotel room with crooked wooden floors and a high slanted ceiling, I am drinking rose wine and trying to abide by the nonsmoking rules of the establishment. Above a distressed looking chest of drawers, there is a painting of an enormous pale blushing pink peony, its dense heavy head hanging low, its single wide eye gazing down at a shadowy garden below. There is something about the way this delicate flower appears to possess all of the ancient secrets to melancholy, whispers from the beginning of time about the way beauty and sadness are forever intertwined. The way its petals are layer upon lush layer of story, of feeling. It is a universe with endless depths. Its softness like the bend of a sumptuous ache which attracts me to it. I run a hot bath and think of the way you pull my hair and kiss my neck. The way you trail your tongue along the curve of my hip, leave little bite marks on my pale smooth skin. How even though I feel it, I am still alone inside and always will be. When the rain falls I can hear its voice, I can feel it wet and healing as it pours itself over the gravestones on the hill underneath a full gray sky. In the stillness I am most alive but what is ever still anymore. What isn’t constantly chewing on itself. What isn’t lying flat on its back, staring up to the heavens, as the earth comes falling in.
In the time it takes to burn the bridge back to everything you have ever known, you could build a dream that extends from the sharp gravel in the street to beyond the expanse of the clouds as they feather and separate like candy pink taffy on a sticky summer evening. Reaching up for the stars was never on her mind, just reaching out for the boys who made her a woman without their so much as changing a single thing about themselves besides maybe hairstyle or bad cologne. Inside she is becoming something she always was but no one has ever seen since her childhood. Nine years old, sky blue eyes and strawberry golden hair, too scrawny and too loud. Too much fire, too much passion, eyes too big to leave any corner of her tiny world unseen, unswallowed, undesired. When you can tell stories, you learn you can tell any story you want, yours or otherwise, and people won’t know the difference. This is how you become an entertainer. This is how you become a chameleon. You can hide anywhere. You can hide in plain sight. You could be anyone and you’ve been just about everyone by the time the jig is up. But on this particular morning, as you sip your second coffee and type, listening to the traffic sliding by down below on the highway, you want to tell the story of yourself. The story of yourself as you are, not as you should be. There are no words bubbling up inside because the words have not yet formed. There is only a feeling. But it fits. It is the exact size of your insides and your insides are infinite. It is a story without words, only memory, only freedom, only voice. What does it say? You cannot only listen. You have to feel. And you know that it is that feeling, the one you aspire to be, though it is already within you. The voice that you are is the one you’ve been missing.
Reading a few lines about the supposedly dreadful effects of Mercury Retrograde, I wonder whether or not one can really make her own luck or if the cycles of the giant globes spinning through the universe really do control our emotions and energy and there’s not much we can do about it one way or another. People are strange creatures who, more often than not, aren’t sure what they want of themselves let alone of you, but so many of them carry on as though they do, dragging the rest of us right on down with them. They tell me to speak up, they tell me to quiet down. They want me naked as the truth, they want me covered up in shame. The more I think about what to do next, the more paralyzed I become so mostly I try to leap before I look and speak before I think so hard I never say a single thing at all. The year is advancing at a speed I feel unprepared for but how many of us are ever prepared? If anything we are much better at hindsight than foresight, and absolute rubbish at apologizing for the mess we’ve made either way. We live on a giant rock hurtling through space as it burns out of control, out of existence minute by minute, as ever a new disease threatens to annihilate the weak and destitute, and put coins in the pockets of the rich and weaker still. It’s enough to make your head explode, but sure let’s talk about the eerie threads of misplaced weather and laugh about the state of affairs we know we can’t control. As we climb out the window into the dark summer evening, the sky turns a deep bewitching purple as the millions of little stars twinkle to life and I take a seat next to you on the roof. You’ve got one cigarette left and we pass it back and forth between us along with a bottle of dry white wine, virus be damned. We are already sick, our sedated veins already hum with whatever it is that will bring us to a blacked-out close in the end. You tell me about a time long past when you met the girl you thought you would marry but then it all fell apart as young love so often does. Lying back and gazing up into the endless atmosphere, I feel as though the entirety of time and space beats slow and steady within my tiny heart. The words you choose tell two versions of the same story at once, one laced with sorrow, the other hope. The air moves in soft circles around me and I am listening but I am drifting out over the lights of this glittering city of smoke and pollution, energy and sin. We don’t have plans but the promise of an experience beyond our wildest dreams beckons us forward. Some days you can barely hold it together, you make it out, but only by crawling on your hands and knees. But some nights. Some nights you run so fast you fly like an angel on high, dance like a carefree child along the Milky Way with a flash in your eyes, arms and hands and heart open wide.
Perhaps what frightens me most is not having done it well enough to feel complete before I’m erased from this mad place for good. Perhaps I overcompensate, cut off my nose just to spite my face. The way I write the words like tossing smooth rose petals one by velvet one into the void which only widens as the time rolls on. Words like sharp knives flick themselves in my chest, trail little fires along the blue veins in my wrist. The mountains we scale inside our old cavernous souls, searching ourselves for signs of a life worth living, a life that is ours and ours alone. The blood we spill, the tears we cry, the tears which refuse to come and instead bloom into addiction, hidden hauntings, long halls of vibrating thoughts on repeat, on repeat, on repeat. The lovers we take into our darkened caves. Kiss them, fill them, tease them, kill them, walk away. I’m not looking for a savior. I don’t need your plastic Jesus Christ. If what’s within me isn’t enough already then I’ve got nothing more to offer you. Take this skin, take these bones and carry them off into the setting sun as it swallows this wracked planet down whole. It was Bukowski, of course, who nailed it: Don’t try. In some obscure interview decades ago he said it, That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it. How many have made a pet out of me. Fastened me with a slick leather leash and told me to crawl. Stroked my little animal head and led me straight into the pleasures of the moonlit gardens of hell.
Unsure if I’m playing the fool or I actually am the fool, likely both, I decide it best to write what feels good to me instead of waiting around for anybody else to shove me over the edge into my own frightening abyss. The unfortunate side effect of which is that I write a lot, and I write often, and I do not check myself or my feelings at the door as perhaps would be the more sensible thing to do. But I’m so very tired of sensible. I’m so very sick to my stomach from reigning myself in all the time just to fit in in a place I didn’t sign up for but have nevertheless been forced to navigate as best I can divine. It feels lonely in the place where I live, the deep caged chasm in my chest, but there is something about it that I cling to with all my might. I couldn’t tell you why., I couldn’t tell you a lot of things though god knows I try. Taking a seat at the bar, I order a whiskey neat, something spicy warm and delicious from down south. Staring at the talking heads on the TV for a brief moment before turning my attention to the messages I mindlessly scroll through on my phone, I take a swallow and notice a guy coming in the side door. He is handsome in a rugged kind of way, but also has a certain boyish wide-eyed look to his chiseled face. Removing his hat, he shyly asks the bartender for a whiskey neat, twist, and she swivels her eager hips as she turns to fulfill his request. She is young, friendly in an aloof kind of way, and devastatingly gorgeous in her tights and tee shirt, knotted just above her navel, hugging the slimmest part of her toned waist. Hair and makeup all softness and gloss, I watch as her perfectly manicured fingers unscrew the top of the bottle, pour with precision, and screw the lid back on in a flash. If I were the hat guy, I would be imagining her naked, but perhaps that’s not for me to say. I tend to write other people’s stories for them when I should mind my own business. There are so many things you are not supposed to say, I’ve lost track of whether I should be keeping track. I know we wander the outside world all the while looking to just for one fleeting second come back home to ourselves, but give us a little flash of something raw and wrong along the way. Take that top off and blind the pain that eats at the back of my heart. Show me something I’ve been missing since the beginning of the ending of it all. Finishing my drink, I pay up and tip the bartender well. She’s good people and it’s a much tougher gig than most will give her credit for tonight, I’m sure of it. The evening welcomes me warmly as I light up a cigarette and exit out the side door the chiseled boy came in, and as I breathe in the early springtime air, everything is sweet and still. There is a pale buttery sun sinking low in a flossy pink cotton candy sky. There are buds on the branches of the tree which hangs low over my car, I notice their tight green nubs just barely visible as I open the door and climb in. It’s been a day and it’s only sunset. It’s been a week and it’s only Wednesday. It’s two months in but something fluttering inside me feels like today is the beginning of a new kind of year.
As I’m trying on a pair of heels, I roll the ankles of my jeans up and walk the carpeted runway toward one of those silly little low mirrors they put at the end of the aisle. Who cares what just the shoes look like? I need to see my whole self to really get a feel, but alas in any case I’m pleased with the strappy nude sandals and so make my purchase. We walk toward each other and we walk away, we expose ourselves and then retreat, and just hope to make it through another day with a little something decadent here and there to keep from losing our sanity completely. Later as I’m sitting in a business meeting, the man who is speaking is making his case about something he appears quite passionate about but I just can’t seem to make myself feel any kind of way about it here or there. The world to me often feels like my inner life must be a distant relative of this alien place, but seven or eight thousand times removed. Beginning to scrawl little designs in the edges of my notebook, my mind wanders away from me toward a provocative scene wherein a beautiful woman lies naked upon a blanket on a floor, surrounded by a ring of glowing vanilla scented candles. Like a goddess, like a sacrifice. Her attention is fixed on the man kneeling next to her who is stroking her sex gently but firmly as his fingers slowly begin to work her blossoming folds more fervently. The penetration is drawing her glistening honeyed sap forth, which he uses to wet and spread her pretty pink lips open even further. She closes her eyes as she gives into the pleasure he administers, moaning softly and rocking her hips, encouraging him. One finger, two, three. And he has her now, in his open palm, her sweet juices soaking him there. Another woman appears from the shadows, naked, curious, hungry. She circles her tongue around the erect nipple of the perfect breast of the woman lying on the floor, before placing her mouth on her mouth and kissing her deep. The sensation of soft lips and hard tongue, thick fingers stretching and probing her aching cunt, sends her tight body spasming over the edge with electric shocks, ecstatic waves ripping through her head to toe. I can see her cascading hair draped about a pillow as she breathes heavy, panting in euphoric bliss, skin shining and a glow in the darkened room. Feeling warm all over, I suddenly drift back into the business meeting and force my mind to try to concentrate on the matters at hand. But truth be told, a lot of the time, I don’t think I’m suitable for work.