Strip Poker

Cigarette smoke and the ashy pang of regret stabbing at the pit of my empty stomach, I crush out my smoke on the dirty pavement and head back into the bar. It’s early but it’s winter so it feels like the night has laid itself down right in the middle of the afternoon. The sky overhead is heavy with thick gray clouds, and the street seems to speak to me about all the paths in life I should have taken but didn’t dare. Hindsight is laughable in so many regards, but the city streets don’t care about that, nor do they hesitate to taunt you with their jagged cobblestone call to mischievous deeds.

He’s ordered us Manhattans and despite the somewhat drab surroundings in the dimly lit place, they do the martini up properly with a deliciously dark sumptuous cherry. As we sip and talk about nothing in particular, my eyes take in the scenery. Graffiti slashed upon the walls all the way up the green tinted stairwell to the bathrooms on the second floor. Dark wooden chairs and scratched out tables, each with a single glowing tea candle at the center. He is kind but offers nothing new to my mind so I half-listen and half-smile and watch the way the beautiful bartender swivels her bare hips as she serves the increasing crowd. There is something about a gorgeous woman with a golden tan in the middle of the coldest month of the year that melts my insides and turns me into a shy kind of liquid lust. I say nothing but reflect my admiration in healthy tips which is probably just as well for everybody.

I do not realize I am fidgeting with the zipper on my tall black boots until he covers my playful fingers with his palm and asks me what I’m thinking about. I hate this question because no matter what I say it feels like a trap. I’m thinking about literally everything. I’m sitting here with him but my mind is off in a thousand directions both existential and pathetic. Why do people always prefer to speak about the news or sports or the weather when I want to pull apart and dissect thoroughly the gruesomely dark thoughts which claimed me in full from 3am until the alarm went off unironically at 4:45? It’s like we trade our potential for expansion in for the cheap glow of neon tricks. More substances, less substance.

I know he wants this to be easy because that’s all he can handle. Or can be bothered to try to handle. I have been raised all my life to not be difficult. The trouble is it never stuck. Complexity is to me an aphrodisiac. I want to feel my brain chew on a thing, tear the meat of it off the bone of it. But all he and everybody else seems to be interested in is the weather or the newest flashy toy somebody bought to hide their soul-sucking dread of growing old without purpose or direction. To let us both off the hook of attempting to bridge a compatibility gap far too wide, I suggest our next stop be at a strip joint a few blocks east toward the river. He smiles and I smile and at least we can agree on distractions if not anything that could possibly matter in the least in the end.

Just the Thought of It

They say that in the end it’s all a stream of soft quiet light so perhaps work backwards from that. Like a destination where you arrive empty handed and alone. Forget it though, even just the thought of it gives me the shivers. Death is coming but no one can say when. Meanwhile, here we are.

We sip whiskey as we walk through the crowds at a fall festival way out among the rolling countryside hills. The wind is whirling dead leaves all around us in the air, which is also inexplicably full of gigantic bubbles blown by some machine far off behind the guy selling bacon on a stick. The line for that particular delicacy is endless. What is it with people losing their entire goddamn minds over bacon. The smell of bonfire smoke and funnel cakes makes me nostalgic for years gone by when all that mattered in October was a count down of how many sleeps until Halloween.

He steals a kiss as we stroll past the tiny scarecrows assembled as part of some kind of scarecrow-making competition. He likes the way my mouth tastes like raisin lipstick and peaches. It has been quite some time since we have been together and when he takes my hand in his, my heart melts which turns into the low simmering heat of lust all over my body.

We buy a handful of cigars from the local shop. The guy behind the counter is trying to be helpful but he never stops talking about himself and his odd little cigar salesman life. He asks if I would like a blueberry flavored cigar and I tell him no, to which he responds by informing me that ninety-nine percent of the blueberry cigars will go to women. I stare at him blankly because this is not useful or interesting information. I don’t like blueberry anything.

Stepping out into the sunlight with our little bag of tricks, we decide the festival is adorable and far too crowded. On the drive home we put the windows down and turn the music up as the green and orange pastures and farms fly by alongside of us in a magical blur. Autumn is ringing its gorgeous amber light through the multicolored trees and I feel more content than I have in a long time.

The wide open blue sky is painted wild with ferocious charcoal clouds, monstrous and menacing. When we arrive home, we undress and put our bodies to good use pleasuring each other. His touch is disarmingly sincere in its desire, breathtaking in its expertise. Underneath the dark grip of a late evening storm, we are alone but tangled up together. The sky turns to purple and then fades smoothly into black as he sends me into orbit with just the tips of his fingers in all the right spots. For a few sacred hours, we are the only ones anywhere for miles and miles and miles. The only ones on earth.

Sweet Erotic Dreams

Sunday morning arrives cold and blustery. I’m hesitant to exit my warm cocoon of soft blankets to shut the window to keep the frigid air out of my otherwise cozy bedroom, but I bounce up and do it anyway. Hot coffee and fuzzy socks. I snuggle in and grab my notebook.

I sketch out an erotic scene about a male Dominant and his lady submissive at the breakfast table. As I write the words, my entire being comes alive, intrigued, invested. I don’t know if I am obsessed with the tingling heady buzz erotica gives me or inspired by it, but either way it is such a delicious high for me.

All these fantasies in my brain feel like they come from my bones and blood. I don’t share them anywhere which perhaps is stupid and perhaps is for the best. I write them to force myself to explore my own desires and creativity. To uncover my own dark secrets. To push myself to new depths and heights of feeling. To open up and look where I was told never, ever to look. He knows I do it and he thinks it’s hot. But there is pleasure for me in remembering that my sexuality is my own and that I can stimulate, excite, entrance, and turn myself on all by myself. There is sexuality in the way my mind works, in my artistry, in the way I touch and taste and see the world and myself in it.

Perhaps this is one of the cruelest things this world repeatedly denies a woman. The freedom to be herself in front of herself and no one else. So driven we are to only imagine ourselves as objects to be observed, judged, and dissected by others. We are so much more than that. We have so very many more intricacies inside of us that are hidden even from ourselves. Writing erotic scenes opens me up to myself in such electrifying ways.

I cut the scene before it’s over. She is on her knees asking for permission to suck his cock and he has a tight grip on her hair as he instructs her in response. She and I are now both dripping with need.

I decide right there and then that I am out of my goddamn mind and I kinda like that about me.

Inhaling a smooth bit of the cannabis, I refill my coffee and pick up my new copy of The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton. Within the first few pages I am fully transfixed. The very notion that we could have more people with higher emotional intelligence among us makes me want to scream for joy. We are constantly surrounded by the painful disasters brought on by emotional ignorance and if we can educate just a handful of us to become more evolved with awareness about our own interworkings it would be a major victory for us all. I am not optimistic. But I don’t think it’s entirely impossible either.

The rustling of the autumn trees is soothing as I take a break from reading to scroll through my media feeds. I come upon a pop star who is trying to convince her followers to get to church and something about god and forgiveness, resurrection, redemption, and caring for thy neighbor. Something about this strikes me as comical but I cannot put my finger on exactly why. There’s an absurdity there that I can sense but not explain. Maybe it’s the idea of spirituality and celebrity all mashed together. The boob job, the glossy plump lips, and the crucifix. Maybe it’s that church to me is an atmosphere I can create anywhere – or not. Maybe it’s that god to me is most beautiful and alive in the sweet frustrating ache at the hot apex of my thighs on a cold Sunday morning and the way my lover won’t judge me for being the dirty little head case that I am.

An Affair Such as This

In the center of your heart lies the center of the universe which beats the seconds by like a drum. You cannot hear it as much as you can feel it in the pulse of the blood as it courses through the veins in your neck. When he presses there gently with his fingers it makes your breath quicken, and he knows this. There is a perfect pressure point. He’s learned it. And so you are his but only when he’s holding you.

The dream is the same each night but with a different person. I try to kiss a faceless man. He always disappears, but just before he does, his face is revealed. It is handsome. I can never remember it. The night hangs around into the pale blue of early morning, a pink blush sky and the soaring cry of geese, outstretched and black as ink against the wind.

As my eyes flutter awake, my mind is already alight with ideas, words, tiny flecks of embers of imagination. It has been quite some time since I felt hopeful. But somehow today I do. Like perhaps things can get better for me if I could just learn a lesson I have been fighting learning for years. I’ll keep that to myself because it is, as are most lessons in life, complicated. What I can tell you is it has to do with the lies we tell ourselves to keep from accepting the naked truth.

Somewhere down the street, a dog is barking and I know the one. He’s a beautiful German Shepard puppy, maybe nine months old. I met him weeks ago but forget his name. All joyous flashing brown eyes and high perked ears, alert and a tad rambunctious. There is some kind of spirit in him that is so innocent with passion for being alive it could almost break your heart into bits. What is it about some creatures that melts your insides. Claws the iron bars away from your calloused heart. The pure charm of his oversized paws could kill me dead with adoration.

I have written on this blog for so very long now. Lately it feels a bit more like an observatory. A journal, a diary of sorts. I think of Nin and Miller, sending massive bound handwritten journals, letters, and various correspondence to one another across the sea. No subject, no observation or experience of event or circumstance or feeling, was off limits. That, to me, is every kind of riches.

People, writers, artists, have been writing for centuries and yet it is never done, never complete. The work of living as though through the pen. Mmm… the keyboard, as it were. This never ending quest to feel the words come through for their own sake. What is there to say of writing, its allure? It is an affair. An affair with all aspects of life and death and every experience inbetween. I ache for it.

What was it that Elias Canetti said over half a century ago... ‘I cannot be modest; too many things burn in me…’

Imagine all the things you could write if decency were of no concern. I do.

I pour my dark coffee and pick up my jet black pen.

Forward and Back (audio)

She removes the silver instrument from the wooden drawer, contemplates the scent of blood and sage. The dark sliced moon is ringing high and hollow as a bell in the tower of the midnight sky. Shaky hands. She shivers though it is not cold. She doesn’t want the fear of falling she wants the high of flight, although any kind of movement feels like only a fantasy now. The screaming went on for so long she cannot remember anything else but the deafening sound. The way it slammed through her over and over like heavy footsteps running. In the ghostscreen of past lives, a soft pale hand moves in and out of the surface of the water which separates tenderness from time. There is a black hole where eternity comes from. There is a beginning even when you do not know where to begin. She drags a blade across the skin. It would be romantic if it weren’t so clearly happening. Mist along the meadows in bathed glow. All the beauty she will never know, slides through her hands like sand through a sieve. It’s funny to think she was once young enough to do some real damage but after him, she was never quite the same. Never quite herself again. An empty swing set in the dark. A mouth, chainlinked. Brittle white lace in a satin box above the attic stairs. The fire in her heart has grown cold and burned out. A single candle in an empty room. Sometimes a ritual helps. Sometimes you need to shut the door. Somewhere behind the static, the universe folds back into itself. Normalize ending a thing when it’s over. Quiet down to save yourself.

Black Out

He has to hide his weed in the tool shed way out in the back of the yard so she doesn’t find out he gets high which would be comical if it wasn’t so ludicrous because he’s gotten high every single night since they met. A fair share of mornings, too, but only if the night before was rough or even if it wasn’t. Life, the relentless everyday grind of it, can be excruciatingly hard to take. It wouldn’t be the smoking that bothered me, though, but the way it makes him go limp in bed.

The rain is coming down so heavy the drops shoot the autumn leaves clean off of their branches like a spray of liquid metal bullets. Watching from an upstairs window, I tug the curtain back and lower my eyes to the road, slick with cold hard shine. A car speeds by about a hundred miles too fast for a residential street and I say a silent prayer he doesn’t mow down some innocent children as they meander home from the school bus. The kids never walk on the sidewalk. They’re never looking where they’re going because they are staring into their little black phones. We fall like leaves, like rain, like tears, in a rattled race toward the indifference of solid ground.

My heart holds a secret longing only the precious melancholy can hear. It’s not that we don’t care about suffering, or that we glorify it, worship it, or even are obsessed with it. We see the agony which is inevitable, which is collective, and we move a tender hand toward it, caressing. We do not deny it and we do not turn away. Alain de Botton refers to melancholy as ‘a noble species of sadness,’ and when I read that I felt like a woman lost and finally found in a thick secluded wood. That someone, anyone, even a stranger, saw my soul and deemed it not correct but worthy. Warm and sweet in its peculiar gloom.

I can be mean when I want to be and sometimes that’s exactly what I want. I want you to hurt as bad as I do so that I am not alone in what is killing me soft as a winter snow suffocates the earth. That’s no way to behave, of course, and I am learning to get better at managing my emotions. I have so many that they can overwhelm the system. As a general rule, people are shit at managing their emotions. We can build vast cities and launch billionaires into space for photo ops, but the hell if we make progress toward empathy or compassion. All the money and all the power and we don’t learn and we don’t learn and we don’t learn and we never fucking learn.

Closing the curtain, I walk to the kitchen and pour the wine. As I swallow it down, it blooms smooth in my chest, blossoms like heated velvet heaven in my blood. For a second my mind drifts to a memory of his fingers in my mouth and the way I melt against them in surrender and calm. Thunder slams the house and shakes through my glass, prickles my skin. I think about the sun and how it is still out there screaming its shine somewhere behind the black out clouds, and I rejoice with every fiber of my bones that it has spared me here.

While Trouble Is Trending

I light up a cigarette and continue staring into the shadowy darkness of the unfolding night. In the thin cold air, the contours of your face emerge from within the white curls of smoke and then evaporate and disappear as though nothing ever happened between us. As if you weren’t the one outside looking in. In and out of my life because I can never decide and decisions aren’t as important to you as dragging a thing through the slogs of proverbial mud to its inevitable filthy death on the side of a road less traveled.

It’s funny how we trade our bodies for a little bit of goddamn time alone. Women know this. We know how to toss ourselves, raw and trembling, out to the wolves and somehow find peace in the way at least while we are being devoured the exhaustion of the hunt is over. If they can just get on with it then we could finally rest.

A branch snaps somewhere on the ground near my little makeshift bonfire and for a second I think of turning on some music just to kill the haunt in the stillness of this quiet night in mid-October. But part of me enjoys the simmering noise of the pulsing crickets and the rush of the traffic on the highway off in the distance. And like I said, I’m tired, but it will be quite a while before I make my way to bed. Sleep is fitful lately so I do a lot less of it.

My doctor tells me sleep disorders have risen exponentially in the last two years. Exploded to some insane degree of regularity among average people such as myself. I never had trouble before in my life so I never once thought about it until it became all I can think about. That’s the way of things though, right. You don’t know what you had until it’s gone with the wind. You do the best you know how and where you don’t know you make shit up as only you can.

Sucking the last drag of my smoke, I toss my phone into the grass and turn my wide eyes up to the black velvet stretch of the starry night sky. I wish you were here with me. I wish I didn’t crave affection and loneliness in equal measure. I wish I didn’t know you were such a beautiful kind of destruction. But the human heart is a strange and slippery thing. While something in us is forever wild and bold, something else in us is always frightened. Something in us is always huddled in a tiny corner trying to be brave.

Make Me an Angel

They tell you to make something of yourself and you want to want to try but you cannot imagine where to even start. Time has carved you out so deep you find yourself far behind yourself, following the shell. Make me into what? A bicycle to ride into the stars upon. A jewelry box dancer spinning in her felt lined box to some kind of sweet ballerina sadness. I don’t smile so please don’t ask. Cradle to cradle. Grave to grave. I want to offer you everything I have learned but I’m afraid it cannot last.

You will make connections not because they are really there but because you need them to be. The human mind constantly seeks to plug things into one another and make them fit. Make them dovetail into a story that can slide inside the veins. Divinity into tragedy and back again, the grains of the castle are still a pile of sand at their structure. A collection of beads infinitesimal, the whole is in the pieces. The pieces of ourselves we let wash away against the beach, they never really leave. The human heart seeks affection where it is surely impossible to find because what’s the harm if not. I am a freak because I want to crawl to you naked and taste all of your pain. I want your tears against my lips and the heavens to erupt in a beautiful kind of hurt which falls as heavy rain. As hard and wet, glorious and punishing. Metal in my mouth. The awful, elegant, succulent weight of it.

They tell you to do this or that and you just get high and watch the cars sail by. It’s not that you are hopeless it’s just that you know there’s plenty they won’t tell you and they don’t want to hear. Plenty enough they try to hide but you look anyway. You spend an obsessive amount of time peeling back the curtains, the curtains you were not supposed to recognize as drapery. Why fault ourselves for looking when all we ever truly seek are reflections of ourselves undistorted, frightening and real. When you touch me, close your eyes and tell me what you see with your insides. When you touch me as a blind man reaches out steady a hand, breathing, feels the satin heat of my skin, glow recognizes glow and thus the world may see. Romance inside the longed for and unexpected, mysterious and removed. That thing inside you out on the horizon looming. Vultures circling the deadness in the jawbone of eternity, cold miles and miles over head.

Yours for the Taking

The holidays are headed straight toward us like a speeding truck and he doesn’t want to hear about it but I can’t care about that right now. Not when I’m surrounded by cinnamon and spice, pumpkins and evergreens and twinkle lights in window panes earlier and earlier every year. It’s strange the things that warm us and the things which turn us inside out with nostalgia when we least expect it. The way a soft falling snow would glisten just outside my bedroom window as I fell asleep waiting for a fairytale to leave me presents under the tinsel covered tree. One day they tell you it isn’t real but the magic still exists inside of you. Once you believe in wonder it can never really be snuffed out entirely.

The trick is you get to conjure the magic whatever way you know how and if you don’t know much, or at least you don’t know enough to know better, you just may find yourself chasing it in vain to the bottom of a thousand bottles tossed away into the emptiness of an endless night. Who was it that said there’s not enough night? Kerouac? Heaven knows you can’t get away with a misquote these days. You have gotta know your shit and do not play especially not around writers.

Have you read, I’m so sorry but I am gonna bring it up, have you read the Bad Art Friend? The two lady writers, the ‘writing community,’ the kidney donation, the plagiarism, the backstabbing, lawsuits, and general flagrant misery? The ganging up on the one behind her back? It is, as you have probably assumed, a hot mess of a story some guy published in the New York Times. It’s a lengthy tale which held my attention for almost a solid hour mainly because of its many wild twists and turns and layers of writerly aggression and bullshit, and also because things were slow af at the office.

I think ultimately the question that really grates on the conscience is not did you plagiarize, did you steal, but if you were called out for it would you admit it. How many relationships are destroyed because one or the other or both just cannot bring themselves to come clean with themselves and/or each other that sometimes we are terrible, terrible through and through, and only think about defending ourselves, right or wrong, come what may. Be it money, guns, and lawyers, or book deals, or creative freedom or saving face. Or even the fantasy of making perfect art, and holding it in the palm of your trembling little hand, right before the illusion of its infinite magic is obliterated because what you failed to realize is its perfection – its indestructibility – never existed to begin with.

Finding out that not everything is yours for the taking. Coming face to face with what you are allowed to have and what you are not. Tasting the edge. Walking along the wall which exists between where you belong and where you do not. Feeling the sting of where you as an artist must accept that your realm of experience ends and someone else’s begins. Writers are thieves by nature. There are bad guys out there. Bad girls, too. But none of us are perfect and we love us a scandal most of all the ones where everybody is suspect, everyone is guilty and innocent and vengeful, deceitful, and ultimately damaged and bruised and afraid. Just like everybody else. Just like you.

Cover Story

The way his hand brushes mine and I accidentally feel the graze of his toughness against my softness. Caramel lattes and the taste of vanilla and orange swirl ice cream when we kiss. There are scattered leaves which break away from their branches and spin as they fall to their concrete graves.

As the ocean waves glisten and roll beneath the afternoon sun, I imagine swimming out past the rough choppy water and floating until my heart stops racing like those little seabirds which run just close enough to the water’s edge but never get their little tiny delicate bird feet wet.

I don’t know if there is a God or a being watching out for any of us from the great beyond but there are so many of us wild strange creatures here together it seems impossible there isn’t some kind of magic stirring in us somehow. Butterflies in trees. Dolphin by the dozens jumping, swimming, playing out by the jetty. The smallest crab I have ever seen scoots sideways across the sand at my feet. He must be cruising at twenty five miles an hour easy, eyes all popped up and buggy.

In the squeeze of my chest I can feel the way so much joy tugs itself into sadness in spite of my best efforts. When I visit the pharmacist she asks if maybe I am depressed as well as anxious and this had never once occurred to me, to be honest.

All my life I have felt on high alert as some kind of way of protecting myself from an invisible harm I cannot name or describe, I can only say with certainty it is in here and out there and it is always waiting. But it did not ever dawn on me that perhaps beneath my hyper vigilance there may exist a wound so deep and so wide that it can only show itself in brief swells of melancholy when the sun is so high it pierces through the heart and soul of everything, and makes the pain burn hot and bright and true, and beautiful none the less.

I breathe the salt air, taste it in my throat. Squint my eyes and stare past the tall lighthouse which is a dot far off at the bend where the cove meets the point. People and their little critters shuffle off down the beach. We see each other and we do not see each other. Shadowy shapes moving in and out of the mist.