Letter to a Drifter

He was always my intellectual match and conversation was never dull or boring. Perhaps clouded by a night of poring over each other for hours drinking dingy basement-bar booze, wondering who might make the first move, but it was never dull or boring. It was bound we would separate, prophetic by the virtue that he grifted me away from friends who saw him more clearly than I, my eye was fogged over like the horizon on that first frosty fall morning; obscured by a shimmery dash of humor–laughing at the voicemail he left right in front of me after I relinquished my phone number, something I used to yield control over much less unabashedly. Also, a dusting of hope–for a future I wanted to share with someone shiny, new.

The 2am phone call nearly went unnoticed, it woke me but almost blended right back into the dream I was consumed by. He’d drifted in and out of my life over the years, coming and going but detachable, never staunchly staying put and to me this did not seem amiss, I always knew I couldn’t keep him. Not like a talisman to be worn or carried around everywhere or a collector’s item on a shelf.

Yes a fancy reminiscence. Except the me he remembers is 22, 130lbs, and a force to be reckoned with. Now 29, shaped like a squash or some other disagreeable gourd, and banal even on my best days. We planned to meet for a cuppa joe tomorrow before he heads up to DC. I hope the disappointment isn’t stronger than the coffee.

What is it about the men of my past? Present tense relationships are impossible with these disreputable creatures but they come running with a remembrance of me then, now. The post-apocalyptic me, a shadow of my former self. Wraith-like, I wondered out the window. My mind, mutable as the seasons, recalling my glory days–treacherous and agile as a goddess of war.

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And so I paddled away

I was pretty much convinced he has another girlfriend. Which didn’t really ever even bother me. I found it amusing; the waiting for the bomb to drop. Pathos was not a requirement there, because the devil was always listening. And I, like a cat in a bag, had nothing to lose…just waiting to do. In my mind I’d already gone to Oregon or somewhere far away and intangible; somewhere I couldn’t really get to but only imagined the satisfaction it would bring by quelling my need for escape.

We stopped on our way out of town, fleeing from our old life, at the Belmont Stakes where together we gambled wantonly, consumed copious amounts of mind altering substances, danced til daybreak and had a grand ol’ time. Me in my fancy hat and he dressed like a Dapper Dan–suspenders, seersucker suit, and all. So why were we running away? We left the dogs and the cat, barely made it out with the clothes that would fit in our raggedy backpacks. And I realized I was following him with blind hope, shreds of ghostly words, empty and hollow on the consummate end, a fable to my disillusioned manic self ever portending stoicism.

Maybe I should just slip away with my despair and count my losses. Evade the inevitable truth, however unwittingly I stumbled upon it. Watching the horses race round the bend gave me a new sense of revival, a seeming urgency to speed away from that moment and cross the country or even oceans alone. Instead of my emotions conspiring against me it was his company that began to draw out my paranoia. That fleeting glimpse of freedom, a vision brought on by the power and majesty of those thunderous thoroughbreds, was just the accidental impetus I needed.

Confidence, my easy-going nature, and humor had ever been my fortes and favored by the men in my life. This particular gentleman had somehow overlooked these traits or perhaps mistaken them and been hoodwinked by some other quality; but either way he took no alarm when I grabbed my knapsack and headed to the bar for another julep. I only looked over my shoulder once to see if his eyes were following me. They weren’t and though I had probably dodged a bullet by finally sliding away on soapy heels I felt a moment of panic and second guessed myself.

In that same moment along came a sign, literally and perhaps from the deities above, “Free Canoe, Looking to Lighten My Load and Perhaps Pick Up Something Better WorthTrading.” That’s when I knew what I had to do. The diamond was somewhere floating around the bottom of my bag in a folded envelope that had seen too many creases. I approached the man in his shitty VW van and asked if he was in a mood to barter. He smiled a bean-toothed grin and said it depended what I had to offer, but the look on his face suggested he had assumed it wasn’t much and might come from between my legs. When I produced the gemstone he laughed at me but a second glance at my resolute and unabashed composure told him I meant business and that I was as serious as the future for a racehorse with a broken leg. He became unsettled and wasn’t satisfied with simply giving me the canoe. He demanded to know where I planned to go and offered to provide me food, water, a tarp, warmer clothes, and a ride to the nearest river.

Four hours later with provisions a plenty and promises to write or call and a brief exchange of his contact information, I was ready to undertake the most ludicrous adventure from a little beach at Rockaway Park outside of Queens. I hopped in and got as comfortable as could be expected and began to paddle. I figured I could manage to stay fairly safe as long as I kept the coastline in sight and slept on land under the canoe at night. I rowed mindlessly wondering if my decision to leave it all behind was a wise one for what seemed like the better part of the day, but the sun appeared to have made up its mind not to set.

I awoke in the dregs of another sweaty confusion after the third night of the same dream. That scream…soul shattering. Had it come from me? I had thought that I would always be simultaneously too old to hook in and hold on or to be bold and break loose from my restraints but I had finally taken it upon myself to move on to greener pastures. I packed up my little camp and pushed out into the ocean once more hoping I was making legitimate progress and that no one was out looking for me. With the wind behind me and the sunrise to my right I moved northward and prayed that the warm ocean currents would be kind and aid my progress. I had nothing to lose and no-one to look back to and that empowered my spirit to float on for as long as I could knowing that wherever I ended up I could start anew without reservation or judgment.

When I Grow Up…

I want to be a writer. Hitchhiking in the desert and drinking ayahuasca tea. I want to imbibe heavily, whiskey in particular, and say nonsensical things while wearing coke bottle glasses with a beaded chain. To be the one who gets invited to all the parties, dinner or otherwise. Serve me covetous love and crazed loathing. And when the train’s coming through I’ll jump on. Travel to wherever, me my thoughts and I…

“Dip your hand into the water just so your first two fingertips are damp” said sister Ana Maria to my kid brother and me that morning during catechism. I let him go first, eager to obey and prove he was a good boy, avidly making the sign of the cross while I carefully set my hand in just above The Holy water so as not to touch it. Coming from the place I had just been, a commune with God seemed sinfully unadulterated.

I listened to the sepulchral silence of the sea. So rare yet enveloping when experienced. Whether you are a sailor out in the calm before the storm or shore bound as the tide recedes back as if taking an infinitely drawn breath. It is unmistakable in its profoundness. And it never bodes well. I dreamt of killing myself once and in the dream as I poured over the intricacy of each uniquely blue vein pulsing through my wrist I began to wonder if anyone else had ever taken the time to appreciate the intimacy of their own demise. Then I made the first cut and watched the vermilion liquid run its course and join the crystalline bathwater.

There’s a fat little bumblebee  on my porch. Every morning I find him seemingly dead, yet every afternoon as the temperature raises I see him climbing the screen; it has been so for three days. Thrice I’ve tried to set him free and thrice I’ve found him lethargic and torpid in the early morning chill then humming back to life with the sun’s radiance, a tortuous dance between life and death in a prison of his own making. I decided to let him be.

I want to catalog the lives of greater human beings than I and crush the literary competition into dust. I want to speak 8 other languages, German, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin, French, Hindi, and Russian so I can converse with all the diverse populations of the world while I sojourn around it on a peddler’s penny making and marauding memories.

Intellectual Quasar

quasar

The snow had stopped sometime in the middle of the night and as I sat in the chilly, early morning air, the clouds had taken on an opaque and seamless white color the texture of butter cream making it difficult to tell where the rooftops ended and the sky began. Since sleep had become elusive of late, rare like the sighting of a mystical creature, I mashed my third cigarette into the side of the smoke pail and thought about faces.

Well, rather I thought about one face. A face I had grown very fond of especially with the rarity of dreams and persistent white noise, visible, palpable on the backs of my eyelids. No sleep, only whispers and waterfalls of wide awake thoughts uncontrollably moving outward from my mind like a Fibonacci spiral. So many mornings I chose to drown the cerebral circus by finding things I liked about that face. It soothed my anxiety and gave me one focus rather than 54 million.

I crawled back into bed hoping that without my shirt or hat I didn’t smell too much like tobacco. His untamed hair lay across the far side of his face but I could still see the gentle crows feet by his close eye. And those eyelashes, two-tone bronze and blonde, not quite glinting in the unusual grayish hues of winter light peeking through his second story loft windows. Time almost seemed to stand still while I stared, he asleep so peacefully as if the universe was inside him and I nor nothing else around us existed. I decided to count the lashes but didn’t get very far before he stirred and turned into me, his face in my neck, breathing deeply and calm. The momentary quiet of my mind interrupted by his comfort adjustment.

Without any features of his face to fixate on, the whirlwind within began to hum back to life. What in the world makes a brain so active during normal lulling times remains a mystery to me. I pondered life, death, the whys, the hows, the what ifs, the beginning of time, the infinity of space, the nature of the beast that will become my future, and so on down a stream of consciousness I can’t seem to control. At this point I’m tense and too warm from his body heat so I push away swinging one leg out of the covers to cool down. Also, counting backwards from 100 seems like a good way to refocus and maybe even fall asleep for a little while.

99…98…97…96…82…81…80…75…74…73… and the thoughts fly out of nowhere rushing me like a wave. Imagine an atom with all its electrons whizzing around unimaginably fast, chaotic, constant. This is my mental state for hours at a time. Upon realizing I was side tracked from counting back I tried to start again but by 70 I was back to the abyss, the bottomless chasm of useless and worrisome thoughts.

Then I remembered my affinity for faces. Like a raven, which can recognize and remember human emotion and faces that have been kind or cruel, I have a storage vault of compiled faces that make up the things I admire the most in a person. And this man beside me embodies many of those traits. I am rapt thinking about the likeness of his face to so many invaluable passers by in my life. Each reminiscence when he smiles or frowns or laughs or grimaces reminds me of a time and place I once loved before and stored away for safe keeping.

The happiness brought on by recalling good people, places, and faces began to numb the tornado-like malice of my mind. My eyes finally fluttered to a close and my pace of breathing began to slow and align with his. A train rumbled by, steady and rhythmic rather than the usual upheaval into restlessness. And I drifted down into the watery chasm of a quasi-waking sleep.

Po-eems

sidewalk chalk

i’ve got this sidewalk chalk

in my pocket

i’m walking to where

we stood before

 

here is where i draw the line

you stand on your side

me on mine

it’s such a vivid yellow

don’t cross

 

i wish i could cut

my wrists wide open

dry my veins

bleed out all the blood

that pumped through my heart

as it beat for you

 

i’m cutting

you loose

i’m done giving

i’m giving up

finally

such a simple choice to choose

you lose

 

 

Phantom Photo

Eyeliner I am eyeliner

My crying eyes I’m hiding

At last shall unite dying

See you in a while

 

Could you please bring

Better assurance?

I want to know

If we’re on our route

We can be friends

You might say

This is living

As a ghost.

 

Have I been asleep

Through some dawn of

Us wearing each other out?

Losing sight of the intangible

Future.

Have you made your transition?

 

I am invisible

But for one picture

We’d taken it

With a disposable camera

Before I ever realized

We could be disposable.

 

 

riddles

you left so early

but not before a kiss

I worry did you mean it

after you dumped a pile of

just-out-of-the-dryer-warm clothes

on me

 

alone in your bed

a pillow over my face

mind mingling in muddled dreams

the relentless chatter of a jackhammer

woke me

 

the pure and simple truth

the rare and hopeless romance

the unconditional love

you still won’t embrace

I carry it home each time

with me

 

I only escape

the relentless chatter of my mind

in sleep in cold dark shadows in dreams

I question so much I close

my eyes again your smell still

around me.

 

 

Sex and Breakfast.

I stowed and sealed these things in mental boxes a long time ago. Boxes I swore I’d never open again but today the lock was broken and a piece of me was borne away.

 

I’ve been questioning my depth lately and I keep coming back to the same term: abysmal. Lackluster and lacking–apparently wildly cheapened somewhere, somehow.

 

I’m not the girl one brings home to meet the folks, never have been nor am I sure I was missing it. I’m the girl you fuck a time or ten but rarely stay to have dinner with.

 

Breakfast is a different beast. If it’s shitty diner coffee to hold hands with a hangover or eggs in a basket with meat and potatoes to match, sex and breakfast are my fortes.

 

 

Untitled

The earth gave its call

And nothing at all

Could stop the leaves

The leaves that fall,

That whisper and fall.

 

They hung in the air

Between here and there,

Where time stood still

And the trees didn’t care,

Didn’t notice or care.

 

 

Which is Worse…Hell or Nothing?

Have you ever wanted something so badly

that when it presented itself to you

you reached out and grabbed for it

wildly and held tight for dear life?

 

Only after awhile

you open your fist

and discover it’s empty

you missed by a hair

 

The thing was always just outside your grasp

and you’ve been holding onto nothing all along

it was never, ever there.

 

 

Here, Now

We are standing

At the edge of a

Goodbye. You cup your

Hands over my eyes

Gently, just to block

My view. “I’m going

To take a photograph;

Paint you a picture with

Words,” you say.

Dusk hangs

Over the trees below

A blue-white zenith

Like petite pink and

Orange flowers hang

From a ceiling plant…

Your hands drop as

Your eyes dart to the dim,

Hazy horizon where

A thin and blurry line

Of blue-gray water

Meets cloud. The

Pioneer stars poke

Pinholes in the evening,

One minute they are

There, then gone the next

When we try to focus on

The spot, because it is still

Too light. The trees sway

Before a roguish breeze

Reaches us; I feel it

And shiver.

The changing leaves,

Orange and yellow

Suddenly blend completely

With the sky and we blink

At the brilliant sunset colors.

In the silence a single bird

Chirps. You turn to me with

Fluttering lashes as your eyes

Readjust to the fading day

And you kiss me once

Swiftly but stunningly,

And I know that

This moment

Here, now

Is a memory

Forever ours.

Blind-side Dating…straight from my imagination.

Out of the rain finally, in a dreary, droopy-eyelid inducing dive bar, I sat with my legs crossed tightly at the ankles and wondered if the two near fender benders I almost got into driving here (neither being my fault) were a good indication that this might all be a bad idea. Fortunately, I’d dug an umbrella out of the back of my car and managed to luck out with a fairly decent dry martini from a bartender whose garbled chattiness after having a tooth pulled didn’t do much to improve the ambiance.

I waited.

Tap. Tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap tap tap. My foot twitched anxiously against the side of my somewhat rickety barstool.

From behind — “Um hi, are you Penny?”

“I am,” I replied, casting an over the shoulder sidelong glance. He was very tall, broad shouldered with chiseled features disguised slightly by a month’s facial hair growth; long dread locks tied back, a distinct widows peak, and shadowy grayish-green eyes–the kind that look blue until you’re close enough to touch noses. I smiled, stood on the top rung of the unstable stool and hugged him saying, “You must be Carter.”

He sat on the stool beside mine and the bartender delivered him a cheap beer.

“How was your Friday?” I asked.

“Uneventful.”

Aware that he takes photographs for a clothing company I probed further, “Busy day in the office? What’s the next big thing for you guys? Light up bathing suits?”

He came back with “Actually I think we’re taking on a more serious venture…panties, both crotchless and edible, along with strap ons, double ended jelly dongs, and high tech blow up dolls.”

“Ha ha ha ha!!” I laughed out heartily. He’d taken me by surprise with his quietly delivered wit and charm. I knew there was a good reason I’d chosen to meet a total stranger for drinks. We’d also predetermined that setting a 20 minute meet time rule would eliminate the potential for awkward silences and social discomfort if one of us was not hitting it off.

We flew through a tornado triggering conversation about everything from Kevin Bacon and the 6 degrees of separation to NPR’s Radiolab; food aversions against milk and maple syrup to drugs, sex, and music that inspires us to dance; books worth reading, movie stars worth watching, how to revolutionize camping sleepwear, irrational fear of things like bunk beds and having one’s teeth knocked out, past relationships, bearing children, cyber stalking, and Hannibal’s law…before we realized over an hour had gone by and we were clearly both still interested.

At this point, our only distraction came from Tray Papillon, my best friend who had planned to meet me downtown after the date, walking in and breaking the synapse-like spark of a connection he and I had been amplifying. As I snapped out of what seemed very similar to a hypnotic state, having been rapt with intrigue in my gentleman caller, one of my greatest formative year fears was realized…”What if he’s not as into me as I am him?! What if he’s already got his eyes set on someone else?”

In hindsight, I wonder if I’d said this thought aloud, would things have happened differently. Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all? Well it sure as shit isn’t life. If life were fair every rosy cheeked child would have a tricycle and a double scoop ice cream cone, every new born would have two perfectly suited loving, committed parents, Subway “sandwich artists” would smile more and attempt to evenly distribute the toppings on my sub, money would actually buy happiness and everyone would be rich. What had had the potential to be a momentous evening on the avenue toward hand holding and frolicking through a field of golden wheat grass promptly ended with the following words from Tray to Carter:

“Hey! Nice to meet you! Are you single?”

…”Yes.”

“Well, do you enjoy women?”

…”Not usually.”

How had I missed this infinitesimal yet mind blowing detail? The irony that papillon means butterfly in French, and this jaw-droppingly handsome man had burgeoned butterflies for me so quickly to all come crashing down in an instant with the help of an observant outsider was nearly too much for me. I paid my tab, thanked my company, and moseyed on down the cobbled street.

If only life, the continuous slingshot journey around the sun, came with a travel adviser. And caution signs for the hopeful, reminding us that hope is hardly an action, and disappointments are a lot more tangible than happily every afters.

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