Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night

Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night

Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night, the stores have reverted to their true selves – which is to say that they are mirages now again, fragile beneath the great emptiness yawning over the streets, insides scooped out of illusion. Bars disgorge the happy and drunk and the unhappy and drunk and those who can’t make up their minds. I can’t see the stars, but the sky is dark with the knowledge of them.

You’re walking me home and I’m thinking that love doesn’t know when to quit. Love is not people. People quit every time. People roll their suitcases down the sidewalk and are swallowed up by “around the corner,” by “in the distance,” not to mention “time.” People close doors behind them. People fly in airplanes, telling the flight attendant that they want another little bottle of bad red wine, instead of telling her the truth, which is that the world is splitting wide open like a wound on either side of the airplane, the wings are scraping tissue and drawing blood, and does she know that you can quit but love doesn’t come with that option.

My feet hurt. The reality of the body has a way of intruding on historic occasions. My feet hurt but I’m telling them to suck it up. Don’t fail me now, feet. Don’t make me get into a cab.

The buildings here are superimposed on reality, on immigrants, the Lenape, settlers, glaciers, Pangea, broken before it was broken, like everything that lives in the world. I like to think that you and I will also haunt these streets, because I’m vain, and because of the way you look right now, like the light isn’t falling on you as much as it is dancing around you, like it knows things about you that I thought I knew alone. Continue reading “Walking back from the Lower East Side on a hot night”

Dress Like Water

Dress Like Water

Mr. Hodges says that not enough people come to see him and that those people who don’t should get their hides ready for a slow roast in hell. The nurse says he’s rude to put it like that, but Mr. Hodges argues that dying men don’t need manners. What can you even say to that?

I guess the fact that I come over reminds Mr. Hodges of how Billy isn’t coming over. When I say that Billy’s not around, people’s facial expressions turn complicated, and they say things like, “So he took off? He snapped?” They say it like they’ve been waiting for him to do it for a long time.

The truth is, Billy is in Louisville, he has a job and a house with a big yard, and his wife is already pregnant with their second child. Billy is solid – not snapping, breaking, cracking, or otherwise disintegrating. He just doesn’t want to see his dad. Or else he wants to see him, but feels like he can’t. He won’t say either way.

So it’s been pointed out to me that I’m not necessarily the one Mr. Hodges wants to see, but the old man’s grip on reality isn’t as tight as it used to be, so certain things he can let slide. There is also the fact that Mr. Hodges says that “a good-looking woman who knows Billy” has been to see him.

“She’s a sly one,” Mr. Hodges murmurs, eyes closed, facing the wall. “Slinks around everywhere. Her dresses look like water. I like her.”

The woman sounds awfully like the bitch Billy left me for. I’m not staking her out – but I’m staking her out.  Continue reading “Dress Like Water”

The Girl Who Went For a Ride: a tale of horror (maybe)

The Girl Who Went For a Ride: a tale of horror (maybe)

There once lived a girl who knew she was destined for great things, but great things were always taking too long to appear on her horizon. She bided her time with her husband, a street magician, and her best friend, whose main like of work was being an artist’s mistress. Greatness teased the girl, slyly peeking around the corner up ahead and disappearing again, laughing with other people at parties.

One autumn day, when the skies were clear but the air already smelled like snow, the girl was walking home from her job, when a long, black car pulled up next to her in the street. There was a man in the back seat of the car and he rolled his window down. The man’s eyes were shiny and rich and dead, like drops of oil. “I’ve been looking for you,” said the man, and opened the car door, inviting her in. The girl got in, congratulating herself on her bravery as she did so. Greatness required bravery. Continue reading “The Girl Who Went For a Ride: a tale of horror (maybe)”

Thing, a short biography

Thing, a short biography

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had an official name – the name on her birth certificate, a name for bureaucrats and people who didn’t know her well – and a true name. The true name was Thing.

Thing was taught charts and graphs early on. She knew one’s beautiful years must be maximized for profit.

Thing was not symmetrically beautiful, but this too was an asset to be maximized – rich men with brains got bored of traditional beauty, the same set of breasts, the same set of lips, they weren’t collectibles. If you broke one, you could always get another.

Thing’s looks and intelligence made her a collectible. Rich men with brains came up to her at parties and lit her cigarettes for her and informed her of the fact. “If I broke you, I couldn’t get another of you,” they said.

Intelligence was problematic, though. It wouldn’t be bought. Instead it cried out inside her like a child lost in a fairy tale forest, worried about the possibility that there were creatures with teeth in it.

Intelligence wouldn’t let Thing sleep at night. And the men next to her couldn’t sleep either. And men like that valued sleep.

To be perfectly honest, intelligence always had it in for Thing.

It caused her much suffering when she was young, because she couldn’t figure out who she was. This upset the boys.

Things were supposed to be things, boys knew that, their mothers and fathers and gods and televisions had taught them, and a thing that didn’t act accordingly was engaged in false advertising.

She deserved to be punished, and punished she was, painfully and repeatedly, in a way that left marks.

The marks of pain spread inside Thing and grew darker. The darkness covered more and more territory and became a breakaway republic. There was war there, and death, and yowling cats, and cockroaches whispering across cracked plaster inside lightless buildings.

Thing liked it, though she would not say so, aware of the fact that nobody would light her cigarettes at parties if she let on about what was going on inside her, and lighter fluid was expensive, truth be told.

In high school, Thing had been an ugly duckling – you’d think that this would’ve forced her to open up to the possibility that if no man wanted her to be his thing, she could try being human. But nobody taught a class on being human. There weren’t any pamphlets she could read.

So Thing went through life and paused in the archways of the night and listened for the wolves who could always smell the darkness on her. Continue reading “Thing, a short biography”

Bug, tooth, moon

Bug, tooth, moon

There once was a woman who gave up financial security, doctor’s appointments, decent living conditions not involving very large bugs, and other important things in order to become the true version of herself.

And the true version of herself was a version that no one was particularly interested in. Aside from a handful of men who correctly surmised that her struggle to become who she really was left her exhausted and her exhaustion left her desperate and her desperation made her available to them in ways they could enjoy.

Until the teeth started wobbling in her jaw, that is, and the circles darkened under her eyes into night.

And then she was alone. Unless you counted the very large bugs.

And one of the bugs said, “I guess you feel pretty stupid now.”

The woman took a rotten tooth and threw it at the bug and missed. Then the woman started to laugh. The bug also started to laugh.

The woman and the bug became very good friends and the woman wrote a play about their friendship and it didn’t sell. Winter came, the heating pipes froze solid, the bug died of old age.

Moonlight fell through the window, fell on the woman as her lovers had done before. She watched the smoke from her pipe curl upward and upward. One day, she thought, human beings would live on the moon. And the bugs would follow. She wouldn’t live long enough to see it happen, but she still wished all of them well.

No guilt-trip, just good times