Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Never Not Near

There is a pile of ripped up paper by his feet. Bits of popcorn that doesn't make his mouth dot the perimeter of the pile. His companion looks back towards the road they took in and squints to read the sign. His elbow brushes her arm.
"Huh?"
Ralph keeps staring forward.
"Why not the favorite Ralph? Why these long shots? Why do you do it to yourself? Just go with them. Ralph, go with the winner. Go with the winner."

She pulls out the chair at the short table and asks to change the channel on the television to her right.
"You can't smoke in here."
She removes the cigarette from her lips and flips open her wallet. Her fingers graze the ends of dirty bills while she counts backwards in her head.
"Six Seventy-Two please."

Ralph wrings his hands then flattens his shirt against his bulging gut. He pulls a paper from his pocket and blows it a kiss.

"Go with the winner."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Salad Days

We spent all day in the car. I haven't driven like that in ten years. We checked landmarks and empty buildings off a list of places that shaped us. You pointed to an exit that you just drive past now. I stole drags from your cigarette. I made sure to hold it in as long as possible. And to graze your fingers in the exchange.

I kept my window closed. The smoke sat in front of my eyes and the headlights bloomed. You sang along with a girl younger than you but knew your pain. Somewhere down the road I sat.

I watched us pass by, a blinking of eyes and swirl of tongues.  I counted stripes to see how fast we went.

We passed a plastic bottle of lemonade that had turned sour from the heat. It only amplified the booze we got that morning.

I never wonder how I got here.

You told a story of your mom and her patron saint. Of her knickknacks and charms. Of her rituals and spaces. And how you find yourself slipping in. And for all your flailing you just sink deeper. And maybe you should just swim. Or maybe you should just stop.

I count your breaths and think of gardens I read about and gardens I've seen. I name boats after the children I'll never have. And breathe life into plans I'll forget in the morning.

I could apologize for the world. I could board up the windows and doors and let it all go. I could make a list of names that never meant anything to me.

I never wonder how I got here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

sports

I have never pounded on a door. I have sat half way up the stairs to the landing of an apartment. The little stones pressed into the hand I sat on. I examined the skin on my knee and tried to work out plans for the morning. 


It was a list. 

Names of friends and coworkers. Distances from that stair case. The availability of a couch or floor. 

I had developed an ability to create long detailed lists internally and never cross any of the entries of. 

Occasionally I flick a cigarette that's not there. And it reminds me I eventually learned to make less lists. And to cross things off. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

A Long Time Coming

The pages have been stacking up. They yellow in lines as the sun breaks through the mini blinds in the second room. On days when I am home I throw one hastily penned page in the trash for every church bell ring. Cobwebs, dust, spiders, and rings from wet glasses gather anywhere they can. Some melody bounces in my head and I think about when I would just run to some dark space to drown and choke whatever demons or semi-demons would pop up.

The joys of your skin growing is that it gets easier to grab a hold of. It is easier to start ripping from the rest of you. And you can push it back together. You can make it fit how you want. You can use it as an excuse for the things you do and do not want to do.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Brian Cummings

You left town about sixteen years ago. One Tuesday in March you were sitting in front of me in a science class. Then you weren't. But I heard you were doing pretty good for yourself.  A new pair of boots showed up in time for the first snow. And your second son is saying his first words. The car starts every morning and no one mentions that night at Ray's anymore. I wonder what you think about every night in that second just before you fall asleep and dream of the old boulevard and that house on the corner you told your mother you would buy for her when she retired. Does the sting of no one clapping when your name was called during graduation from eighth grade return? Does the smell of Kristen after your first kiss at my birthday party bring back the chill of November desert nights? Or do you hope this is the last night away from home?

Friday, December 28, 2012

pieces of fabric

I am back to tearing off labels of beer bottles. I rip them into small pieces and roll them into balls. They sit inside the front pocket on the shirt I wear when I go out. It used to have snaps, now it is held together by buttons. There is a hole on the left arm, half way up from the wrist to the elbow. I press my finger into it and feel the skin of my arm. Sometimes I pull on the hairs that stick out until one lets loose and I put that in the pocket too. The guy next to me sits on his stool like an egg and rests his shins against the red vinyl. He spins his bottle on his right knee and some formerly attractive woman rest her hand on the other. There is lipstick on her teeth and the butt of her cigarette. She laughs at a show on the television. There is no sound, just her laughing. The man keeps starting a story and stopping. Her laughs make him drop his head and spin his bottle more. The woman puts on more lipstick; I order another drink.

Friday, September 28, 2012

shallow water

I had a dream you had died. Some piece of conversation between two strangers I overheard. A couple of months had passed, from what I could gather. That happens sometimes. When I woke up I called an old friend to see if it was true. He said he hadn't heard from you lately but felt pretty confident you were alive. And that made me sad. Not that you deserve to die, or that you should die. But that I thought you could be but weren't. I guess people can't always be what you want them to be.