May 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
She always barged in, half-dressed and drunk, flinging herself on my couch and my mercy. I say that with my tongue in my cheek to indicate there is no mercy here… she’s incapable of accepting mercy. She is, however, capable of looking like a heaven-raped starlet, flung over my beige flowered couch like a housewife finished with her chores. Her lips bloomed brightly in the worn pattern of the sofa, and the petals of her mouth seemed to make the fabric more limp than before. I looked busy with the curtains instead of the upholstery of her skirt, rough like the tongue of a cat.
“Let’s play cards,” she demanded, reaching under the couch to retrieve the deck kept there for her predictability.
“Not tonight, Angeline.” My heart is already thudding under my thrift-store shirt. I’ve worn holes in the armpits, but she says she doesn’t notice.
I start here not because it is our beginning, but because it is the eventuality of our lives together. I know a story ought to start with the beginning of things, the creation of a character leading with his occupation and his life’s work. But instead I feel it only serves the purpose of this diatribe to being in the middle, in the wear. I’m broken in and there are holes in my shirt.
This isn’t to say I didn’t still feel the bite of newness between her stinging visits, but to say that it is a half-life, a life spent waiting for her to fall into my doorstep again. I wish furtively that she will be swallowed into the relics of my flat’s sagging belly. I want the florid landscape to become a portrait of a her, as unreachable as the surrealist wreaths of fragrance on that sofa. But she only trails vapor, whiffs of a torture.
At intervals in her absence I huff the scent she’s left in my bed and my shower, wandering her trail’s lost luster. I think about her hair and the strokes it makes in the soap of her back. She’s washing her hair before leaving me, depositing my scent in the drain with those amber strands. I don’t clean my drain anymore. I can’t bring myself to yank out the clots of her, spray disinfectant on those strings which, with any luck, contain my particles and hers pressed together.
I see her again and again, her hair a dark cloud under the glass surface of a porcelain lake. I started for a moment, just after her eyes burst with red clouds. Angeline’s eyes are now exactly like her lips, red reminders of a drab furnishing.
And so there is where we begin, in the middle.
She smelt like smoke and drink when she leaned into me to make herself heard in my ear. The brush of her was exquisite.
And there it was, in the beginning. We were in the beginning of things and the feeling of love wracked me into her. I lusted in my heart and my mind and my tongue was swollen.
And now, a million miles later, outside her window, it didn’t matter that she blushed and closed her eyes for long blinks. It mattered that she arched into him in increments which felt tailored to me in the night. It mattered that her hands found his hair and there it was, the thudding of blood and burned promises.
I dropped my keys into the gutter. I stubbed a toe on the subway steps and I sat next to a talkative woman on the train.
The woman looked momentarily hesitant to extend me the courtesy of her conversation, but after a pause she launched into the reason why she moved to the city. The city, the city. She’d come to the city, so her story went, to make something of herself. At 40, her brown eyes held a trace of what she once was, ambitions she’d misplaced along with her children’s socks at the laundry. She’d wanted to be a star. I didn’t want to know her name.
Names make life more complicated than it ought to be. The convention of naming ascribes value to items which really deserve no nomenclature. Who cares that a tub is a tub, and that somewhere in the world it’s not even a tub. It’s some equally made up word with etymology traced back to the time and point in which someone discovered vocal chords and had the bright idea to trace words into them. An entire race muttering grunts incognito as society.
I ended the train ride with a nod to Crystal (of course she’s named Crystal), and started back down the streets to my empty flat.
“Eat it! Eat it!” my best friend screamed in delight when I put a snail to my mouth and, with my eyes closed and a big gulp of air, sucked in the mucus and muck of a gastropod.
It wasn’t the anticipation of the taste and the texture, as with some things, that was worse than the reality of an act. The act itself was unforgiving grotesque. We had been, as it happened, studying the French Revolution in school , which led to the eventual suggestion of sampling what French cuisine had to offer. Of course upon maturity I realized my folly, that French cuisine can’t be boiled down to the raw ingredients of the making of one dish. But with the naivety of child, and with a child’s imagination, a snail plucked from my mother’s garden was a French platter as good as any.
Through my repulsion, through heaves of my stomach, my lips formed a seal around the opening of the snail’s home and found suction. I felt a wet motion in my mouth, and the bitter bile bit into my taste buds and stomped signals to my brain. I made it perhaps two more seconds with the writhing garden creature in my mouth before I redeposited him into the dirt, unaware of the finality of the fate he was spared thanks to my repulsion.
Do you understand now?
The rain eventually stopped. I looked at myself and wondered where my flesh went. The face in the mirror looking back at me was a vague reminder to eat more.
The end of things. I settled into the sofa cushions and rubbed each palm slowly and intentionally over the barbs and balls of my least favorite reminder. I stroked the edge delicately, remembering the feeling of the fingers I brushed over her, wanting to savor her lines but also impatient, eager to press her into this pattern. I’d push into her deeply, with each retreat checking her edges to see if I’d had success or gained purchase in my dreams of art becoming art. She crept no closer to becoming the inanimate portrait I so desired. I’ve made do with the loneliness of longing for such companionship.