life

Misgivings

You know most of this already.

In the car with them, sitting in the back seat with her up front passenger-wise and turned back to me the two of us and talking fast like always like she had something to sell that she knew we hadn’t the cash or care to buy and the rain pelted the windshield and the wipers swung right back and the dark was outside full of unfocused and flickering points of light, streetlamps and headlights and incidental bokeh, while some vague figure in shadow form all the while drove us on.

Afterspiel, when she’d used up all her words and most of the air in the vehicle, I told her in fact no, our problem is we try to do too much too fast, all force and no finesse, just blind dumb vigor and ataxia and too little brains, like these wipers here, perhaps, I felt, reaching for a metaphor, sweeping dismissive overreliance on artificial intelligences built up around sleights perceived and true and entitlements seemingly due, ungrounded emotion and mechanical philistinism with an inarticulable mission like the goons who forcibly removed that doctor from a plane in Chicago and probably went home that night and had the nerve to believe in civil society though in their idiomatics it’s hard to believe any such nerve is needed, they haven’t even the proper vocab for the fact that kids in the same city kill with AK-47s and five people died last Wednesday just because, nothing happening, nothing going on, just a Wednesday in the city and what do you make of that, if you were to stop and sit still and be quiet for a minute.

The other there with us in the back seat with me was compelled to agree with me and I wondered what keywords in her repertoire of principled social consciousness I tapped, knowing for sure she wasn’t packing even the slightest hint of directional allegory, as oblivious to irony as those goons and maybe just as gullible, just as crowdsourced, giving a mere simple pacific piggybacking mhmm and nod of head, pleased that someone had done the thing and spoken out because somewhere along the straight and narrow well-meaning way she acquired the notion that speaking out said something but it at the very least for the moment changed our atmosphere.

And with that, nevertheless, just her up front stillness and quiet and that slight sound and musculoskeletal gesture in the back beside me within the still-floating presence of my words, I’ll be damned if a faint fellowship did not for a moment shine upon us all four road-weary travelers like the immediate aftermath of a photograph flash, a fraction of assent trying its best to be illumination and hanging in the air and draping us in what I can only think to call our common humanity, common and shared and base, and for that instant it felt not as if we were two against her brazen, impudent one, not as if the three of us outshined and consumed his resolute nothing drive-along indifference and better-knowing onlooker’s bemusement, but as if we were actual, and in that actuality a forward step might be taken, an honest word might be uttered, some responsibility assumed, a tide turned, a leaf flipped, a change made.

But it swiftly turned to dust as always tends to seems to happen with everything with vocal chords and no backbone and all was once again rain and shadows and distorted glows and she just looked at me through streaks of darkness and light and a sort of crazed eye blaze on par with Colonel Kurtz and I wished I hadn’t said a thing, wished I could vanish along with the dust of our fleeting fellowship, right along with it be turned to dust myself and taken away by wind and washed away by rain,

but all I could do was shrink from the terrible inordinacy of the space she occupied up front in that fractured darkness, already shaking off my rejoinder like a dog fresh out of water while I began inwardly apologizing by proxy and diminished presence for others’ misdeeds, her misnomers, our great misanthropy, daymare dreaming in my passive defense a wishful little thesis about going beyond thought as if awareness were something cartographical lying somewhere off the edge of the world, somewhere where I might forever sever ties to the false freedom of staying small amongst the throngs and the safety sense that silence might be the way to say what life’s about, beating myself into a backseat submission that like a deep bruise I felt lacked his up front strength and dignity, and yet

And yet there is hope, he said, and stopped us all.

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Fall In Two

Ah, what good does it do. Could mine meaning from every last phrase but sometimes it just fills space.

I told you that and you said you like the way(s) I talk and I heard the parentheses. We sat on the big brass bed in the old white house on the hill where so many of my dreams seem set, recurring stage, varying scenes, and I talked about kissing you and you moved closer on instinct, still sitting up, us both.

The comforter was pillowy and soft and I thought the same of your lips, knew it, didn’t that time say so though. I said instead something annoyingly poetic about the inability to imagine a room you weren’t the center of, hazily depersonalized as if it were some first principle, still thinking about a couple somethings you’d recited earlier, memories and a dream, and I forgot the order and quantities and wondered like I usually do what the difference was, is, and what it makes.

But all I said was even the rooms you’re not in revolve around you, your beautiful energy. It sounded almost too good, the feeling almost too easy, too clear, too shallow, too too true, almost, the echo of my own words in my head making me cringe conscious self and I turned it around to get it out—energy, beautiful—and said so and you said “sometimes the truth’s like that” and I started to tell you the whole of it, soft and low.

*

So, we’d been standing at a red light corner in the daytime, I said, another scene, a brand new different setting seen, new city, it was, not ours but could easily one day home become. Who knows about these things. Skies grayish like a storm coming or just past or both and we were of course in between laughing about the story you heard about the former navy man from Florida who was found unconscious in an LA motel room and only spoke Swedish and called himself Johan Ek when he woke up, which I heard as Johann Eck and said that’s some funny ridiculous impossible shit and that made it feel a little more like it. Home, I mean, like home.

The light changed and we crossed the street on a slight decline, short caterpillar string train of stopped cars to our right, cab at the lead with its blinker on in that dim broad daylight, rows of silent empty vessels parked down each side like bowling lane gutter bumpers from where we were doing our us thing hand-in-hand, down each side to vanishing like the sea was out there and I for no apparent reason said from time to time I defect from time and this is the result and you looked at me like it meant something which made me feel good because I wasn’t sure it did, just that it came from somewhere and had been floating around my head for a while. It came from somewhere and a “from somewhere” always to me meant a thing must not be nothing so I’d developed a penchant for bugging people about sources and origins and preceding thoughts and you were the only one who ever really went along, really and truly wondered and knew because you did too.

Midstreet I told you I can’t be anywhere when I’m with you because being with you is everywhere at once and you stopped walking and turned me to you in some unfelt gesture about three paces past mid and I could feel the cabby’s dead eyes on us from behind his bowling ball’s steering wheel, staring down the spare, could hear his blinker out of the corner of my eye and then I came to, came back, went away, woke up, however you’d call it, before I could find out if we’d get knocked down and swept away, drearily mad at my alarm or consciousness or daylight or whatever I could think to blame for the abrupt cessation.

That’s where I started and truly could’ve stayed, where I picked our big brass bed talk up, with that chopped off cliffhanger, telling you about waking up from the sleep that brought it all, still caught on and trying to prattle us away from that dream of yours you’d recounted about seven minutes before, give or take, the one where you came to stay with me and found another woman there as though she were your rival and in the dream I ignored you and kissed her goodbye in front of you (that time I heard the punctuation) as if that was just a regular thing to do and she was skinny and not pretty and you walked with her down the hall to the elevator bank and she was mean and cold and cruel, rubbing your face in what you’d just witnessed like she lived for that.

Then you had a hard time getting back to my apartment because you couldn’t get the elevator to go to the sixteenth floor I don’t live on unless you break that out as six plus one and so you were scrambling around the terrible Vegas hotel-type maze labyrinth mystery dream building and couldn’t get back to where you were supposed to be, lost and upset and you said you weren’t sure even in the dream sure why you were working so hard to get back up to me and that stung a little because the truth is sometimes like that.

But I understood, dream considered, and who wants to get lost in a Vegas hotel with a skinny little nasty bitch rubbing your nose in ugliness where there’d once been pure beauty, vast and open an untarnished by either word or deed. It’s ok, you said, you’re here now, we’re here, together, only for life.

*

When I’d finished my retelling and finished dwelling for a quiet blind minute in yours from before as if I’d done you wrong in sleep I came back again at the thought of those together words, for life, back to a lifetime of desire sitting in front of me at the old white house on the hill in the daytime still.

You got up to take a shower and mix a drink and I laid myself back on that big brass bed to fall back into the soft duvet like it was a fantastic cloaking cloud till monkey mind did again what it does sometimes when you’re away and I’m out of bananas and turned stormy, replaying bits and pieces of what you’d told me about some guy from before who misread all your poetry, trampled your prose, and was more or less deaf to your speaking spokens and heartfelts with eyes always half-elsewhere on nowhere else and nothing much but who knows what besides his vacant self and I thought “figures, typical” and said it breaks my heart to think of you unheard, unseen, unfelt, un-anything and you said he didn’t care enough for it to really matter or harm and in my stormy replay head he started getting mixed on theme with that arrogant, cocky asshole other I too once knew and knowing he more than knew you made me wish him dead while a not small part of me simmered in self-deprecating resentment that either he or the unlistener ever had the chance, their differences made no matter, that anyone ever had anything even remotely like the chance but me, as if the chance was all and only ever mine and they’d stepped in and trampled my you like how I felt coming out of that other dream that other time where I almost had you and then lost you and woke up dazed and thinking in the waking of who am I to own you who am I to own you who am I to own you.

But that was just a song from the night before.

And the monkey wondered mid-scatter if he, the cocky asshole other, was somehow the one I’d been standing beside in my rueful nighttime darktime imagination when you rushed up out of nowhere and hooked his arm and said hey stranger with a big beautiful smile beaming and he turned like I had and you kissed him a friendly hello lip-wise right in front of me and I thought I’d release my insides mouth-wise and later I told you so and got some odd not-you vague dismissive rejoinder about how you noticed my bother but it was a non-issue though we could address it if I thought otherwise and my misreading mind’s eye saw that as “non, issue” in modest Francophilia but all I said was “ok.” Like me. And like me I didn’t at that moment get up and come tell you in the steamy bathroom what I wondered.

But that was just a dream, too, mine, from the night before.

That’s ok, she’s here now, we’re here now, for life, awake. And in a few minutes you came back into the room in that short green robe and towel on head with a fresh sweating glass in one hand for the both of us and shook me from my trance looking like love and stunner-smelling, talking as you entered about one of those shower musings along all the same lines we’d been tracing and clinging to since words broke into day and proceeded to tell me about a time when … that’s ok … his place … she’s here now … back when … we’re here … beside him … here together … unseen unheard unfelt undressed … for life … and it took us both back in the telling, then.

I listened but only heard pieces, went back in parts cut with parts because parts were all I had to go on and more than enough, my parts and pieces cutting in to that remember dance, and a smaller, sicker part of me was sick at my small sick self for being in any way conscious of what I gave as if the giving were only a countermeasure to counterbalance and tarry with some negative and I thought of Žižek and how melancholy obfuscates, how what we never possessed can also never be lost and of Proust on how the immensity of what’s immediately before us leads the rest of the world to assume the insubstantiality of a dream in comparison and I always liked to wonder if it wasn’t the reverse, knowing my chosen refuge, reveling in the irony and the solace of literature and theory.

I listened, though, stubborn and stuck. I heard and kept hearing till you leaned over to me on that big brass bed and lips on mine erased my mind and in my head I knew that nursery-rhymed and didn’t at all for a second care, because we were back to where nothing else mattered like in the middle of the bowling lane and behind closed eyes I saw pieces of us back in that night the one night the real night the great wide waking night in the pool under stars and my hands under your long back so you could float sky parallel and watch the heavens while I should’ve kissed your stomach but didn’t the same way I didn’t tell you I loved you long ago and only looked and missed and then in the water that night holding you I looked up at the pin-prick holes we might fall into and felt the nighttime flight that brought me there under those same sky specks and over the electric ones around us, all the patches and clusters glowing down below between departure and arrival and the relief inside of simplification and silence, the falling away shedding of peripheral pieces, images discarded from a central all-that-truly-matters-whole that’s always been because I was coming home, finally coming home to where a mountain and a desert were waiting for me, hot, arid, clear, glorious, and as infinite as infinity needs for all intents and purposes to seem.

Fall into these pin-pricked holes; just not seeing right; defect from time; sometimes it just fills space. Say something beautifully, ugly. Say something ugly, beautiful. We found each other in dream, you in night and I in day and in the end I can hardly remember where it started anyway, setting down the shovel and the pick-axe and the troubles they unearth and freely choosing instead to find all the meaning there’s ever been in the finger- and tongue-tip tracing of the soft contours of now, falling apart, together, and back again, no thought, no dream, no fear, no house, no room, no robe, no cover, no bed, even, nothing but it all. For starters, for finishes, foreverything in between and again.

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fiction

Stranger

Is this your girlfriend? The guy at the next table asked me loudly in one of those booming broadcast voices, pointing at her, as if she couldn’t answer for herself and was some kind of stranger even though she was clearly sitting with them, clearly sitting and smiling, and clearly smiling at me when I looked at her not so clearly like he’d asked me to identify a set of keys he’d found on the floor. She had blondish hair, soft features, a sweet smile with slightly too-big front teeth, and classic curves, I remember thinking, odd thought, thought it just like that, classic curves, and I was pretty sure she wasn’t mine, but she did look like a girl I saw in a dream one time so I took the bait and told him so.

Ah! Dream girl! AHAHAHA! No no, that’s not what I meant, not at all, but he was too full of toothy guffaws and eyeballs to hear my feeble clarifiers so they got left dangling and I gave up and laughed a little, just some, to mold to the mood a bit, I’d say, a little uncomfortable because he seemed a little like the relentless type and I had no interest in being hung out to dry, friendly-like or otherwise and thought that thinking who knows where this might go was nothing but a weary cynic’s rhetoricism.

It was probably 4-ish in the afternoon on a cold, overcast day, at the big café on the corner there, the one where that diagonal crosses perpendiculars to make six and no one knows when to turn or where to look when they do. And when I say cold I mean not jack frost in your face but old man hiver with the north wind freezing you from the inside out with each breath you take through numb lips and stiff nose. North because it’s cold up there.

Four of us, there were, to go with the time, my friend and I and an acquaintance and the acquaintance’s ladyfriend who was more like an acquaintance squared, if I math’d it—we’d just met her, were meeting her for the first time, maybe the last. She wore a pink coat and smelled like marshmallows, I thought, and I wondered how he found her, then thought maybe by scent because maybe he likes marshmallows. How little I really knew about him, faintly surprised at how little I cared.

We’d paid our bill by the time of mr. loudbusiness, as had he and his, and we sat, lingering, talking small-ly, coats on as if in preparation, and the boisterous one just had to jump in and make us nine with his five—himself, a couple other guys who seemed straight out of a clockwork orange, a girl with pigtails, grown girl with grown girl pigtails, and my “girlfriend,” who was by then engaged in an elaborate process of bundling up to what must’ve been twice her actual size and I wondered if she was Russian. Not because of the bundling, though, just because. Maybe it was the accent in her smile and the clockwork boys.

Thing was, I’d just finished getting mad at my friend and our squared acquaintances, so maybe the mouth had stopped talking long enough to hear me, us, and that was his in, when I flipped out in an animated but uncrazy way in the middle of a conversation my table’d been having about not love (in its magnificence) but relationships (in their banality), and he—my part-known friend—had taken to joking and teasing me about my apparent indifference, my unwillingness to Put Myself Out There, which, yes, I heard as a bad title to an even worse book that I wondered if maybe I should write for purposes of fame and riches, to hell with dignity. And I let go of my stoicism and let them have it, tracing my words out angrily on the table like they’d be etched there for the record.

And so we got up to leave and so did they and so we ended up leaving together, the two groups linked by his simple tease, the common bond of banter, and with the subtraction of our head count we all but cleared the place and I realized on our shuffling departure how empty it had been and how much space he managed to occupy with his booming broadcast relentlessness, and how blind I’d before him been with my first silent then outward aggravation.

We stood out front for a moment by one sixth of the corners to say farewells and chat like strangers do, searching the moment for the unsaid signal from the angel of dispersal before he gave me a congratulatory shoulder slap and “eh?” combo and I wondered what I’d won, with no idea what had just been said before. I smiled and laughed again anyway, more freely this time because we were on the outside then and I could run if I wanted, into traffic if I wanted, in front of a bus if I could find one, so I let him have whatever fun he was having while the magnificent nine shivered and shrugged and rubbed their hands and squinted in the wind and coats ruffled and breaths condensed and vaporised and the mumbled talk that we dragged with us from inside had shrunk even smaller with the influx of weather and strange strangers merging two separate into one single midst was chopped through chattering teeth.

The angel did at last descend and he and his mates and I and my friend (our acquaintances had already gone on their way), began to separate, our brief communion stretching like melted mozzarella, making me wish more than ever for a knife, even just a fork, either of which I felt might then and there serve several purposes. But she and the grown pigtail girl—who appeared to know her better than the clockwork fellas did—came along with us, fiend and I. They just came along. No invitations, no acknowledgement, we simply started to cross the street in our direction and they joined. You kids have fun! AHAHA! the boisterous one called out over his shoulder, and I waved a goodbye that was more of a good riddance, even though I kind of liked him when I was leaving.

The girls walked with us for a couple blocks before I politely took my leave and drifted off the way I tend to drift away and she gave me a wink that I missed. My friend grinned devilish and we exchanged a quick nonverbal in the midst of audibly saying ok see ya later ok yep and he continued on with the two girls ever so predictably, bundled curves and pigtails, while I went back to the old flat we were staying in, sharing, I should say, sharing so he could look for a job and I could look for ways to avoid one, just around the corner on a street that was almost always perfectly empty, and I thought as I walked both away and toward, chilled but not yet frozen, that the whole scene was like something from Dr. Zhivago, kind of around the beginning, and maybe she was Lara which definitely would’ve made her Russian unless she was the actress from the movie who was probably British or something.

He texted me not long after I got back to the creaky coldness of our beat up flat, probably an hour or so, saying some shit about how he was getting on smartly with her and I felt more stupid than jealous because I knew he was telling me I could’ve been in his shoes if I hadn’t been so stupid but what I really felt stupid for was thinking for a second that he was right. Which he was, but not how I mean it.

He came back late that night when I was taking a hot shower because I couldn’t sleep and my feet were iced. I heard the door slam and knew he’d been drinking and would probably barge straight into the bathroom to recount the tale of the past several wasted hours, hours I’d spent in some roiling combination of tossing and turning and trying to write a story, first on paper, then just in my head, then back on paper again, before my feet got me up. He’ll barge right in, I thought, right in, to make me uncomfortable and give himself something to do, which he promptly did, succeeding on both fronts. I told him to shut the door to keep the steam in and he said She gave you a wink when you left. Really? I totally missed it, trying for an unknown reason to sound like I cared, but for a second I must say I did forget how cold my feet still were.

There’s diversity in the mystery, he said, endless and seeming possible; details get tired, and then you do too. This girl is sweet, pretty, and other. Yes. I’m not thinking now on details. They’re really not attractive anyway, and I mean that philosophically. Not listening: You and I both, attracted to preliminaries and basics, then blanks get filled in and we get bored and/or annoyed, as much with ourselves as with them, he said,

and I knew right then and there that that was it for us, me and he and these non-entities, and all I wanted in the great wide world was to be left the hell alone.

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fiction

Skinny Girl

Silently crying on the morning train she was, all arms and legs and despair half-heaped and sliding like a pile of melting Dalí clocks over the blue vinyl seat-back beside her and I thought she might finally pour off onto the floor in a puddle of person if not for that crooked arm all crooked for cupping her buried face, crooked and hooked and holding her in place, I saw, snagged as if on a broken branch like the one that cut the inside of my thigh when I was seven, it seemed, and I wondered if I should do the thing and go unhook her.

It was just us we two, me and she perched up above on high on inward-facing foldouts on the car’s second level, windows at our backs, the always-empty aluminum luggage rack overhanging the first-level aisle in front like some kind of gang plank running from the front end of the car to the back, complete and perfect strangers separated by unknown degrees and about four empty seats.

I watched her without watching; lingering peripheral scans and a few quick eye darts enough to catch piecemeal sights of her face once it had risen from its hiding hanging place upon hearing the conductor rapping, gently rapping, rapping on the metal bar by her feet with his shiny silver hole-puncher from the floor below, requesting her ticket.

Miss, ticket. Tap tap. Ticket miss. Miss. Ticket please.

She looked at him with liquid eyes from deep underwater and I peered into the pool as best I clandestinely could from my angle and saw hair matted to moist cheeks streaked with eyeliner like two river deltas viewed from airborne heights before she broke the surface and leaned forward to extend a mechanical hand at the end of a mechanical arm to pass the kindly mr. blue-capped conductor fella her paper rectangle ticket just like mine and I thought he should’ve just left her alone this time, should’ve just let her be.

Maybe he thought so too once he saw, because his expression changed slightly just barely for a split of a split second as he reached up to receive the offering. Just for a split, I saw it seemed, before his sedately aloof workdayman-like placidity washed it away and without a word or gesture he resumed his business of minding his own, punching her ticket with three rapid clicks like they were a single motion and handing the maimed marker of mostly guaranteed safe passage back without his eyes landing anywhere near that teary face of hers again, handing it back with the subtle, arm’s length cordiality we learn to show to strangers with the sads, and I wondered where we get it.

She cried quietly, quietly draped, hooked, and sliding, from the moment I noticed her till we got off. Yes, we. Seven stops, and the last the same as mine. Then off the train and half-hurriedly with obstinate resignation into the small crowd of bobbing mannequin heads she went with my eyes a few degrees shy of squarely watching, off into an undulating stream of hair and coats and bags so thick I could hardly tell her from the rest. But I caught glimpses, and down the platform she went till around the back of the train and across the tracks at the crossing and gone and I walked myself along to work like nothing happened but inside my insides were stumbling back and forth between relief and apprehension and I can only imagine what my face said about all that.

*

It wasn’t the first sighting, or the last, just the end of that one. I’d spot her often, almost every day twice and both ways in quiet reverence for the benefits of solitude, from and to the city, morning out and evening back, as a matter of fact. She wasn’t unpretty, as far as people go, but I don’t remember what she looked like, only how she seemed, and how she seemed was not unpretty if I had to put a silly watcher’s word on.

But details… those are another story, one I’m in no position to tell. I surely couldn’t pick her out of a lineup of tall, skinny, crying girls of indeterminate age with light brown hair and colorless coats and bags, and long, almost cartoonish limbs like she’d been pulled and stretched to fit almost any situation and eyes of some other shade of brown or maybe blue or hazel, the kind of girl with a nose and mouth and ears and all that, a being of unreal, deceptively shifting proportions and implicit indistinction whose movements conveyed a middling grace that suggested she could be some things and not others and I often wondered all the things anyone would, like why does she feel familiar. And she was so something that day that it hurt to look at her, and hurt more to look away.

Then I lost her, and here’s the beginning of the twist. Because one day, not long after that tearful morn when I wanted so badly to go sit beside her and quietly absorb the pain my own often in those days un-dry eyes were already soaking up, kind silent dumb companion of the moment, she wasn’t on the train, not in the morning, not in the evening, not at all, as far as my perception could concede. And I didn’t even notice she was gone till that one day became a bushel or a slew or a jumble or whatever a bunch of days become—the day after and the one after that and after that and that and that and after, absences adding up to an almost perfect almost nonexistence held together in frayed scraps of recollection and splintering cross-sections of feeling and I began to wonder what kind of real she’d been in the first place, if that whole crying melting mechanical arm thing had even happened. Or if I had.

And after a while I even forgot to look for her, the alluring mystery of objectified miseries fading into a distant-seeming moment and that moment into a span and that span into just time, plain old time, sights and senses diminished from the hopeless, ditch-dug perpetuity it seemed to be when I finally climbed up the slippery, muddy banks and out, my coiled insides finally unwound and on to bluer skies and greener stretched out open pastures, gleefully naïve in ceasing to think about how we feel and think and act in cycles.

But I never forgot that day of the tears and quiet agony and matted hair and spiritless reach. In thinking about it now, I wonder how much more beguiling she became when she was suffering and I was looking on like watching my very own self suffering too, that true and honest and irrepressible disclosure of person in the midst of a traincar full of regular empty day-blank faces that so utterly seemed not to see, not even to be. And how much clearer, stronger—how emblematic, say—this little big memory came to be once its object was no longer around in the rough-regular outline flesh to impede my ever so impressionable impressions.

I think about it now, today, on the same train, gliding west, and thought runs like this, speeding, slowing, stopping, opening up: An essence not so much hers as ours, hers and mine, very much mine, it seems, I saw, in fact, I think, now, thinking—a still-life living composition of sadness on the morning train, that’s what she was, unbound by time, disentangled and abstracted from me and my own sad days, for once unhidden and picture-perfectly present, not photographed, though, not captured on film or pixel but painted, painted in the thick, soft-textured strokes of another being, being. Bodily-departed and there, comely, delicate she—per the grandiosest corners of my imagination—sitting just out of reach, crumpled in quiet tears, and doused in the merciful gray light of an immemorially cloudy autumn morning blur diffused through big, green-tinted heavy scratched-plastic train windows. Just sadness, another -ness, shining back at me.

And I think about never forgetting how for a while, looking at her there beyond me as the towns rushed by and the stops came and went, I didn’t feel so misplaced, and I loved my sadness like a woman who couldn’t possibly love me back, vaguely distinct and sort of beautiful—for a moment, that is, one drawn out and elevated to beauty by rumination and incomplete forgetfulness, by misplacement and self deep-diving for a long, slow resurface.

That’s what I think, sitting here without thinking, gazing out the window, detached and present, and as I do so the train stops, pauses, opens, people on, people off, closes, starts again, picks up speed, slows, stops, opens, people off, people on, and I look outside and there she is. There she is, standing on the platform alone, same coat, same bag, far as I know, same hair and limbs and expression, same eyes staring straight ahead, apart, straight through the car. She makes no move to board, just stands, waiting for the next train, maybe just waiting. I don’t wonder, though, I only shift my vision to my own faint reflection in the plastic window, the face I see there encircling the figure on the platform and how fitting, mind says, how fitting, all in my head, passing by.

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prosetry

Clamo(u)r

Read something in a dream last night that was better than this so I revised it—this, not the dream but in the dream I could plainly see the words and world and almost taste them both, so when I woke up I exhaled and did.

Did it, I did, pushed the air back out of mostly empty lungs like backward going for comfort first, starved of art and full up on food and shelter after years of choking down silence for dinner and only really making sound in sleep, remembering how someone I know and daresay might as well trust said it might be hard out there to find good old fashioned neuroses and interesting conversation and so I closed my eyes and stayed inside and pictured people all around and everywhere frozen with the scream face. At the table, at the corner store, down on the avenue, crossing the street, driving, in bed, everywhere muted terror and I felt ok.

Then I remembered and the story happened. Two times in New York one night, time one in some small seedy hotel room from horror films and horror thoughts and the not so distant past—old of structure and worn and soiled from top to bottom and inside out, more like too much had happened, though, than too little cleaned. The big wet spot on the bed—just left of center—had been made by an almost steady drip from a crack in the ceiling up above which felt like the firmament pressing down, the world pressing down, ready to break through. I was there with at least one other, some other standing silent seeming far off away from me in the shadowed corner, not benevolent, not malicious, but instead a being of perfect indeterminacy split 50/50 good and bad and making my neck hairs stand. Yellowing light like old book page paper corners and just as thumbed-through fuzzy crept through lowered and downtwisted jaundice blinds as if their decay and nicotened filth was in fact the source of the room’s meager illumination, aside from a whitish slice of hallway light wedged beneath the door. The bed stood an inexplicable most-of-the-way across the room like it was edging toward the window and I didn’t blame it, its featureless brown wood-like headboard a good foot off the wall, an accidental screaming statement of incidental significance and I wondered why and, as usual, how I’d ever get out without motion and how I’d move without sound.

Later in a car, parked, motor off, windows up, and cold. Vastness of a nighttime parking lot, the verysame nighttime night, but time two this was. Same part of town, though, still unfamiliar, tall scrapers looming all around and a snaking river nearby reflecting scattered lights, the water at least eight shades darker than the black-orange sky. Trying to get hold of him, that’s what I was doing, because I needed help, and there I sat in that car in the middle of that no man’s land scrolling thumbwise and hopelessly through some absent someone else’s misleading tangle of contacts, a glowing rectangle of scrambled names and numbers in my hand and I hadn’t the faintest sense of where to look or how. Or maybe that was just my head. Not in it, just it, because for the death of me I couldn’t tell who was who or even if any of those seeming non-whos were, if they were anything more than entries on an endless catalogue of indistinction, known and unknown no ones even more silent than me.

All I needed was his help, just his help with that fucking leak—ah but here I am telling it bolder than I felt, bolder by far with the angry voice and firm tone since we have appearances to maintain when there’s a low-hum of almost white-noise terror gripping, moving, consuming with psychopathic eyes, the kind of eyes that pose threats and all you can think to do is yell back and shout them down but they freeze you and grab you and hold you there and then it’s you with the scream face and no way out, no sound.

That leak, though, I could even hear it from the car, from the lot, over the river, over the city, that water drip       drip       drip      slow steady drip dripping from the ceiling back at the run-down yellow-brown-dying room in the building at the lot’s looming fringe and all that seemed around me were a scattered smattering of empty cars and an equally empty goddamn fucking ticket booth and that wide and snaking river with its mocking shimmers and there I was faking bold with searching scanning fearful eyes projecting solidity like how we talk our way out of jitters from the retelling of a nightmare as if it’s really something as elemental as sound that’s gonna put us back together and save us.

But that wasn’t the dream. That’s just a story, another story from another dream from another night and through that story I, teller, wondered if the dream is where I found it, if those were the words I read and, waking, knew this waking state couldn’t top it

and if in between this waking state and the next twilight moonlight recess I’d without intention find a way to stop it

and still be around to say I did, after being quiet for far too long.

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