They had run out
of your favourite ice cream,
so I put my heart
in an empty tub
and handed you that instead.
I watch you attack
with a vicious spoon,
trying your best
to eat in even layers.
that it tasted like strawberries,
but could use some sugar –
“It’s a little bitter.”
That came as no surprise.
Getting a haircut in a foreign country is like going to the dentist anywhere in the world; it sucks. Yet, I’d live in a dentist’s office before resorting to a man-bun, so I do what I have to do. I can tell that they can tell I am American before I open my mouth.
I nod. They lead me over to the sinks. They place a large black plastic robe around me and sit me down. As always, there is no position that is pleasant for my neck and my head is so far back that I can’t comfortably breathe. They wash it twice, three times.
I sit in front of the mirror, wet. I sigh.
“Style?” The woman asks. Embarrassed, as always, I find the screen shot on my phone of some much better looking man with much better hair than me and show it to her. She looks at it, then to my hair, then back. She frowns.
“Your hair, not like this.”
I shrug, taking my phone back. “Something like this then,” I tell her. She starts cutting, I close my eyes. Then, the worst part of a haircut arrives; talk.
“Where are you from?” she asks.
I open my eyes.
“America,” I say to her reflection.
She makes a face. “Why do you come to Russia?”
I try to blow off a piece of hair that’s fallen on my lip. It’s wet.
“I like it here,” I tell her.
She makes another face. I close my eyes, again. Only a moment.
“My friend go to America before. She went and came home with girlfriend.”
I wait for more, it comes.
“It is so strange, people in America do this a lot?”
“Girls making girlfriends.”
I can’t nod so I tell her, “yes, it is quite common.”
She makes a disapproving tsk. “She had a boyfriend when she left Russia, but came back with a girlfriend. She wants to marry her.”
“Yeah,” I say, instead of saying something. She continues snipping around my ears, obviously deep in thought.
“Can she do that?”
“America is strange.”
I shrug. “It’s not that unusual there. Depending on where you are from,” I say, then close my eyes.
“Do you have a Russian girlfriend?”
“Will you take her back to America?” she asks, moving around to my other side.
“We will probably visit someday. But maybe I shouldn’t, she might come back with a girlfriend,” I smirk.
The hairdresser is silent. She keeps snipping with a concerned face.
“No,” she decides, “that would not be good.”
It seems to be the last of her ideas on the matter. I sigh and close my eyes, finally.
I suffer the rest of my haircut in peace.
Maxine Groffsky talks too much and I hear too little from any of you, but the kettle’s on. In my head one time we made a career of it like Jean-Paul & Simone everyone had weathervane opinions on the winds of influence but I still only knew either of us like I know her: through words, choice. She edited her own interview, for chrissake. The limits of imagination are four words that could title a book it’d take an eye blink to read, but most poetry would say a lifetime, and take it. Lifetime, you decide.
Take words out of your stories, you’d say, and stop trying to write yourself away. Stop trying to hide something and pretend it’s essence, stop trying to say what it’s all about. I’d know what you meant, having recently finished a little something by di Benedetto I felt I was supposed to appreciate but didn’t, partly because it was just too austere. Laferrière said “there’s nothing more false than real life” and it’s convenient for me to agree right now. Imagine how much freer we’d be in speech if we weren’t so compelled to riddle. I wonder if the pictures taken by strangers contain some message to me. What might they be trying to say?
I fill in the blanks, because I have a way of thinking I tend to say too little and a corresponding way of making up for it. On my own, ironically. When I was younger I called this “research” and spent time at prestigious institutions full of people I could keep away from, filling my head with others’ ideas of how to appropriately tangle with this great mad web of overfunctioning desires, dreaming of wholeness like it was a bill a real person might fit but everywhere seeing only pieces to emulate, and excelling at making lists, but having a hard time knowing what to redact.
Some things never change. Dreams, speech, others, and what of reality. Imagine the simple joy of dreaming without hope, in spite of what you know, finding meaning in letting meaning be, longing, but no longer longing to escape the in-betweens, no longer conflating satisfaction with complacency the way we often mix authenticity with originality. Borges called originality a modern superstition. Of course he would, and when I read that it felt like Satie’s No. 1, if you can imagine, easy and free, comfortable with distances. And I had nothing more to add, no answers, no replies, no noise. What would you say to that, anyone?
Driving from the grand canyon into Vegas feels as I’d imagine a flea feels hopping from one side of a warzone to another.
We drive in at night. A sea of lights, a fire that refuses to die–or even flicker.
“Holy shit,” I say.
“Holy shit,” my brother agrees.
Our mother is in the back. “It’s the tackiest place on earth,” she tells us.
We get closer, a giant pink lighted sign advertises collision insurance. “Tacky, tack, tacky,” my mother says, in awe.
“It’s like the birth place of tacky,” I admire, as we head straight for a beam of light shooting into the sky.
My brother, trying desperately to concentrate on the road, can’t help but add, “the festering wound of tacky.”
We laugh, agreeing that ‘festering wound of tacky’ is the greatest height our joke will attain. “Where are we staying, again?” I ask.
“The giant glass pyramid,” our mother says.
My brother and I frown. “The what?”
“The giant glass pyramid.”
I don’t know exactly what we expected, but it turns out to be exactly that; a giant glass pyramid.
“Why?” I ask, staring up at the top where the beam of light is shooting into the sky.
My brother shrugs. “I think Las Vegas is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.”
“And what’s that?”
We make for the long entry-way into the pyramid.
“You realize if I were an alien, I would think this was the capitol of Earth.”
My brother nods. “Maybe this place was made by aliens and that is the capitol of Earth according to the rest of the universe.”
I can’t help but feel like that makes more sense than any other explanation I can come up with. So, I agree. Inside is motion–pure motion. People move, lights move, the air moves. It is 2 a.m. We carry our bags through a crowd of open containers, lit cigarettes, and bachelorettes. Our mother calls it “The Floor.”
It is endless, yet, it ends. The elevator goes up at a slant. A woman in a sequined blue dress stumbles into an elderly Hispanic woman holding a sleeping child.
“This is some wonky shit,” the sequined woman blurts out.
“I wonder what’s going on at the bottom of the Grand Canyon right now,” I whisper to my brother.
He looks around and shrugs, “probably the same.”
We laugh. Neither the elderly Hispanic woman or sequined dame seem terribly impressed.
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And watching these twisted tangerine sunrises means so much more to me when you’re not standing beside me with your arm around my neck telling me how much it means to you to watch the sunrise with me
“What did he say when you came home?”
“Go Cowboys…you left a mark”
“Is it big?”
“Did he notice?”
“She called five times in the middle of the night.”
“Why did we?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“I have to go.”
“I have to. I said I was getting coffee.”