Tired of the same old thing and having been beaten to a numbed pulp by the status quo, you and I take a bottle of bourbon down to the boat docks to watch the sunset on the water before the stars come out overhead. These are strange times made even stranger by the fact that we thought we’d already been through everything that could possibly break us apart. But nothing is forever and there’s simply no easy way to explain to you why in a manner which doesn’t sound callus. Cruel. Foolish. Cumbersome. The things which swim around in my soul are complicated and deep and it’s not that you can’t understand me it’s that it’s really quite possible that nobody can. The birds in the reeds are singing their various springtime songs out across the bay, oblivious to death and viruses and Wall Street and all the rest. Humans would be better off to stay hidden away from nature as long as possible. We’ve become too toxic, too plastic, too chemically infested. I could swear the squirrels and the soft flowering trees look a good bit happier with us all locked inside. Pollution is clearing, smog is lifting, there are actual swans swimming and dolphins splashing gleefully about in a sea port in Venice. As the human race appears to be hell bent on offing itself, creatures all around us great and small rejoice for the end of the world as we have abused it and dance forward into a time when we leave them in well deserved peace. Taking a swallow, I scan the horizon as my insides warm in contrast to the cool air of evening. The smell of wet wood and sandy beach. How many times I sat here with you looking out into a fiery distance which is both frightening and awe inspiring as the sky turns to streaks of reds, purples, and electric pinks. What is the future we think we want to build together and why would we ever think it could work. I go left when you go right and in the end that might be what does it, it’s impossible to be sure. All I know is I don’t want to end up like everyone else because everyone else is barely holding it all together. They work some job to pay the bills for a house and a lawn and a couple of kids. The spark leaves their eyes only to be replaced by the anxious look a wild animal gets when it suddenly discovers it’s trapped in a cage. Though they smile, something behind their fake expression is cut through with sharp alarm. Instead of freedom, calculations are being made, trade offs, compromises, accommodations, until they no longer recognize themselves in the mirror. As they scroll like zombies through their Facebook feeds, something inside their perfectly performed existence always feels like it’s just about to snap.
Never enough time to do what you want, you trade a flashy smile for a few moments to yourself in peace. Is it you or is it them or is it the encroaching of everything that has you short of patience with the mundane? You know the stares and the blankness which surrounds you so well you can see it with your eyes closed. It curls around you as you sleep. You feel it in the backdrop of the dreams you once had which you let fall away like tissue paper snowflakes disappear on the warm cheek of a woman you once knew to whom you no longer speak. All of those wishes for grandness, for a way to touch the sky and dance along the edges of a drunken starry night. The way your hands slid easily up her shirt and encircled her perfect milky breasts as she straddled you in the backseat of your beat up old hatchback, Radiohead, vodka, cigarettes. One at a time your tongue thick upon each nipple, your teeth sunk deep into her cinnamon flesh until you felt her pulse quicken as she sucks at the empty air for breath. You with your angry bloodshot eyes and she with the tight body ticking like a clock. With every thrust you make her count backwards from the end of innocence. Now there is no time like the present and there’s so little hope for a future as the world drapes a noose around itself while humming holiday classics. Sinatra, martinis, pantyhose, mobsters, excess. And for all the elegance she displays somewhere out there where you’re not allowed to be, you can still feel her trembling skin underneath your fingernails, taste the sweetness of her heavenly folds as she lay open, blossoming before you, begging for you to stop. Not to stop. The mind is a dangerous place without escape, your addictions spread inside your bones like wildfire. And as you walk along the streets the swollen winter sky turns from white to gray to black. The traffic lights blinking are signals you’re sending to your own tired heart. Walk. Don’t walk. Yes, no, maybe, try again later. Go, baby, go, and don’t you ever, ever look back.
These strange days crawl into the palm of your hand like little wild animals hoping to be tamed. I can’t get your voice out of my head and it’s making it hard to breathe. What was it you said to me that split my heart in two? Something about love, something about forever. The taste of it is still stuck between my teeth. As I sit on the steps in front of an old church, I watch the people shuffling by with dreams in their pockets, echoes of lifetimes crowding at the heels of their tired feet. If I don’t write I can’t think and I don’t know what I think if there are no words on the paper in front of me, it is a lonely feeling, well, lonely and not lonely. I think it was Audrey Hepburn who said, I don’t want to be alone, I want to be left alone. That’s about right. My head hurts and my vision is pained. Too much light, too much wine, too much darkness coursing through my veins. How much money do you have to throw at the problem to make the world stop spinning. How many boys do you have to kiss before you turn into something you think they might want. We turn ourselves inside out. We turn the pleasure into pain and the pain into an excuse not to explain why we do the stupid things we do. If I don’t write I can’t see. If I don’t write I can’t get out of my own way. But it’s you tying my hands behind my back. It’s you piercing roses against my wrist with a look in your eye like you need me so badly you can taste the tears inside my mind. It’s you lodged in the back of my throat. Tell me, sweetness, tell me so deep. When is forever and if it’s forever is that all you need.
Click the play button to hear me read this to you. It feels like a time for reading to each other, I don’t know… I hope you like it and if you do let me know and I can read more each day….
Fairly unnerved, I sit atop the little bed in my writing room sipping coffee and staring blankly out the window. Birds are chirping their various greetings and announcements from trees near and far through the dense fog which obscures a clear view of anything in the distance. The thickness of the air is strange but other than that the scene appears much as it always has. Early morning, hazy light. Rooftops among bare branches, tiny windows and inside them, tiny pale yellow lights. I can hear the rushing sounds of the highway a few blocks away, but on my street the parked cars stay put. Dog walkers, a runner, but no children walk by to school. No school. In a time like this, with the COVID-19 virus spreading like invisible wildfire, it strikes me that there has never been a time like this. Not that I have lived through. Hope to live through. And I look around me, observing, as any artist does, the reactions and emotions of people, and of myself. I see cycles. There are spirals, there are tracks we race around like figure eights, climbing up, spinning down. I go from anger to fear to rage to rage to fear to anger to planning to compassion to love to strength to helplessness to hopelessness to heart, and all around and back again in a matter of moments which repeat in a loop but the loop feels endless and new and dreadful and old and stale and jarring and shocking and surreal and numbing all at once. Repeat, repeat, repeat, check the news, repeat. And coffee. Much coffee. And while over the past few months I have told so many stories I’ve lost count, the only thing I can think about right now is nothing and everything in a terrible clashing symphony inside my head. My little plants reach for the sheer washes of light which mist through my open window. They are green and leafy and reaching, little creatures of springtime silence. And I thought I would read this all to you, let you hear my voice. Not because I have anything profound or even necessarily helpful to say, because I don’t. But some voice inside keeps asking me to be a voice on the outside, maybe just to let you know I am here. And in a way, here with you.
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.
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.
Breaking the silence open with my teeth, I chew on my tongue while trying to breathe. It isn’t always this way, but sometimes. Sometimes. Writing is a complicated beast, you wrestle with him. You try to seduce him. Just when you think you’ve pinned him by the wrists, he’s got you by the throat. The truth is I must like the threat. I get a rush from the danger of coming close enough to myself to move in for a kiss. Walking along the highway, I watch my footing on the concrete curb as high above the clouds are rippled tightly together, layered thick as powder white and blue tectonic plates across the broad expanse, as far off in the distance as I can see. My onyx tights are thick enough to keep my legs warm despite the chill in the air. It is winter inside my body. It is any given day of the week in the sanitized hallways underneath my skin. My boots are heavy and I could use a drink. And though they are saying otherwise, I could swear it looks and feels and smells like snow. You remember that feeling when you were a little kid? Snow was a feeling you got in the pit of your tiny stomach. You could sense the icy crystals melting on your tongue before the first flake ever descended. Snow was a taste for something magic to come. Winding my way around the track which encircles a full sized baseball field, I light up a cigarette as I pass the bench they built as a shrine for a local boy who died of an overdose. There are fresh flowers by the small tree they planted right next to the bench. On the front of the clay flower pot is some sort of small woodland animal announcing the joys of spring. Butterflies and angel wings. Demons and nightmares and all the ways some of us never find a way out of the pain. I wonder what his dreams were and if any ever came true. If the ones that didn’t still exist somewhere out there, waiting on an autumn wind in a far off place, for their turn, for their chance. I wish I could say I know exactly how to change my life so I could die with no regrets. The cluster of evergreens by the tennis court must be a hundred years old, shaggy towering pines. In my mind there are ghosts. In my hands there are lines that cut off at the edges. A heart full of stories that beg to be told. It is too early for sunset, the days are too long for my melancholy taste. I’d rather the dark move in all around. Watch as the softness in the gunmetal clouds turns slowly to black.
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.
What will you do when the words run out, when the sands of the grains of the time you spent together slide through your fingers only to scatter on the wind. Not everything you want is something you need. How do you tell the difference? I carry within me multiple hearts. I know because at least a few have stopped beating but I’m still here. People have come and people have gone, some a complete surprise and some I have helped along. I sit at my altar staring into a single flame which flickers and sways slowly in the morning breeze. I picture you and your liquid movements melting all over me. I imagine a pale blue sky above a cathedral, so full of black birds circling the steeple that their bodies and wings block out the sun. I wait in a smooth black dress by a fountain, my hair undone. Water cascading in grand arched streams, from the hands of topless maidens, from the mouths of naked children who reach for the heavens, white marble statue eyes, cold, like ecstasy unfeeling. A filthy city crawling to life beneath my fingernails. My skin is hot with a fire I am dying to remember. I’m wearing that lipstick you like, dark as blood, you hesitate to touch. You watch me like a picture you suspect may come to life. The ache in you possesses me like a predator, hungering for prey. If you come for me with teeth, I will offer you my neck. If you come for me with roses, I will fasten them in my hair for you, that you may imagine me innocent. I open my mouth and swallow the sun to keep precious the night. When I close my eyes, I still see you. Feel you ring through me hollow as church bells as they clang high above, shatter the air against my chest, locked in a tower made of stone. I once wrote a poem that went like this. A boy takes a girl and carries her home. She kisses him deep, makes love to him sweet, and come the serene light of dawn, can never return. And though one of them dies, the rest of the hearts within her continue to beat.
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.