chaos kitten.

stories_from_a_bar_COVER

After Steffi went on maternity leave, then left Castlebar for maternity life, Brigid promptly stepped into mine. An Amazon blonde with a full body of hairpin turns. Round face. Barberry cheeks. Large, powder blue eyes.

God introduced us on a Sunday afternoon. A platoon of regulars dotting the bar, drunken polka dots. Jukebox on break. Oasis playing on the company iPod. Back room a nest of empty tables, naked stage awaiting the call to open mic night.

She tossed a coaster on the counter. Irish brogue dancing lightly off her tongue. “What’s good for you, then?”

I set my notebook down. “I don’t know how to answer that.”

“Take your time, dear.”

She coasted down the bar, threw a look over her shoulder.

Pair of lengthy braids going along for the ride.

I lit a cigarette, and thought about my options.

She returned with a wine-stained take-out menu in her hands. “Any decisions, stranger?”

“Not yet.”

“I was going to order some food from the deli on the corner. You know it?”

“I do.”

“You want anything?”

“I’m ok.”

“That mean you know what you’re drinking, then?”

“No. You keep giving me things to think about.”

“Wouldn’t want to do that. Not on a Sunday.”

“Tell you what, though…” I took a drag. “You trust me to do as much, I’ll pick your lunch up for you.”

“Maybe.”

“Eventually, it’s going to be a yes or no question.”

She grinned. Crossed her arms as she leaned over the bar. Gave her breasts some heft, and for a moment I was petrified she was already scrounging for a tip. “Then how about an arrangement?”

“Yes?”

“I’m new here.”

“Hello.”

“Hi. And I’m guessing you’re a regular.”

“Yes.”

“So, what? Your usual pleasure, I’m also guessing, is something along the lines of a bottled domestic? Or maybe a pour of whiskey, vodka, something on the rocks?”

“Sometimes. Occasionally, always.”

“Ho-hum…” She put her hand to her mouth in a contrite yawn. “Ho-hum-de-hum.”

“Probably, yes.”

“I want to cut my teeth. Expand my horizons.”

“You remind me of me when I was you.”

“That was a long time ago,” she said. “I’ll allow you to fetch my food, if you’ll allow me to make you my lab rat.”

“Grease the squeaky wheel.”

“I need practice and you need a drink. Perhaps many drinks. No charge. Long as you’re willing to swallow whatever I’m serving…” She tilted her head, mimicking a keen observation. “And my guess is you’ll say yes.”

“Yes.”

“You must be Lucky.”

“You must be psychic?”

“Actually, I’m Brigid.”

“With a D?”

“And it was a fellow named Lincoln who said you’d be the man for this job.”

“Lincoln said that?”

Brigid nodded. “So what’s good for you?”

“Whatever’s good for the gander.”

She winked.

I did my best not to stare as she shook the concoction. Poured a stream of watered down B-negative into a martini glass.

“One cosmopolitan for Mr. Lucky Aurelius.”

“Saurelius.” I took a sip. A few large swallows. Wiped my lips, lit a cigarette. “And I think we’ve got ourselves an arrangement.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Brigid tossed a bar ticket in front of me, scrawled with an order for hot pastrami on rye. “Now fetch me my meal, lab rat.”

I polished off the cosmopolitan, and let her pick my poison.

***

It was a couple of weeks after that afternoon with Lincoln and the Blue Label.

Rowan had tagged in for Brigid, and Brigid had taken it upon herself to cop a seat alongside mine. Her presence took precedence. Rowan breezed past the other customers, tossed a coaster. It slid to a stop at her elbow.

“What’ll it be, Brigid?”

“Pint of Bass, please.” Her eyes shifted towards my notebook, for just one split – “And a shot of Jamison’s as well.”

Rowan propped his spindly body against the bar. Playful eyes and a wicked grin channeling the charm, his beak pointed at my remainders. “What you got there, Lucky?”

I grit my teeth. “Girl’s Night Out.”

“Yes, I imagine you and Brigid have quite the evening planned.”

“You know what I mean.”

Vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice,” he recited. “Why do I always catch you drinking all these bitchy little drinks, Lucky?”

I felt Brigid’s hip brush against mine.

Our arrangement was secret. Sacrosanct. “Just have me what she’s having, would you?”

“Two Bass, two Jamison’s, for one girl’s night out.”

We got our due.

The jukebox broke its silent streak with Billie Holliday’s End of a Love Affair.

She raised her glass. “Slainte.”

Slainte.”

Clink, drink, down they went.

“What are we doing tonight?” Brigid asked.

“Meeting Paco and Trudy over on the east side. Said they were celebrating something.”

“What time you heading over?”

“What happened to we?”

“It was the colloquial.”

“You don’t want to come?”

Brigid took a sip of Bass. “Drink up.”

We never did come to an agreement.

Though neither one of us can say the music didn’t give us fair warning.

***

We took things east. Heading along Third Street, becoming Great Jones, back into Third. Into alphabet city. Watched the bar signs turn a thematic red. Last of the remaining dives overtaken by ant colonies, hipsters and young professionals descending in leather –clad swarms. Night rhythms blasting b-sides from every doorway.

Corner of Third and Avenue A, Brigid zipped up her black hoodie. “I’m excited.”

“Me too.” I stooped down, picked up a quarter. “You first, though.”

“Year and a half since that Sunday, finally heading out on the town with Mr. Lucky Saurelius.”

“Finally.”

“Always wondered what you did with yourself outside Castlebar.”

“Porn. Masturbation. Writing.”

“I don’t mind any of those things.”

“I’m excited, too.”

An inebriated couple tipped into our wake. Living mannequins, the beautiful people. Artificial tans and smiles a wasted white. The male half of some future star child reached into his jacket and handed me a pint of rum.

“We’ve had too much, man…” he laughed. “You’ve got to help us get out of here.”

His lady giggled, and as they walked away, I heard her garble and Oh my god, you just gave them your rum, you are so crazy!

I unscrewed the cap. Took a hit of Bacardi.

Handed Brigid the pint. She indulged. Let a little escape down her chin. Wiped satisfaction from her lips. “Now I have become very excited,” she said.

“Also, I found a quarter back there.”

We went north along Avenue A.

***

I ducked into a tiny deli for a pack of cigarettes.

Left with an eighty-year-old woman on one arm, a bag of groceries in the other.

Brigid was waiting outside, eyes wired with surprise. Mid drag. Tossed the cigarette aside as though caught behind the barn.

“Brigid, this is Millie,” I said. “She lives one block up.”

“He bagged my groceries,” Millie told her. White curls tight over a face of grey wrinkles, mercifully free of rouge or horrid foundation. “It’s Brigid, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Brigid shook her hand, slipped in with her arm. “Happy to help.”

We escorted Millie, bent back and all, towards her apartment of sixty-two years. Once home to a husband and World War II vet who had lost his left arm  when a surrendering Japanese soldier, hands behind his head, pulled the pins on a pair of grenades. It was a casual canter along the sidewalk, and boys in skinny jeans muttered complaints to retro girlfriends about the slow pace of these three tourists.

Empty tallboys of Pabst Blue Ribbon adorned the steps to Millie’s stoop.

She sighed, gave us a smile. Told us she’d take it from there.

“You’ve got yourself quite a fine man, young lady.”

I frowned. “Who is he? I’ll kill him.”

“Don’t ruin a nice gesture with stupid remarks, Lucky.”

“Thank you,” Brigid said. Gave Millie’s arm a squeeze.

I handed Millie her groceries. Romaine tips tickled my nose, and I held back a sneeze.

Small bite from the Big Apple. Teeth marks in the shape of a half-hour.

***

We figured the sign knew what it was talking about. So we peeked into the window, hoping to settle an argument. Bar or restaurant. Or possibly diner. They caught our noses pressed against glass and waved us in.

A six-five monster with a broken nose and thin widow’s peak unlocked the door. Ushered us in to a round of applause. A private party of twenty-some Russians, celebrating someone’s birthday. Didn’t seem to matter whose anymore. Empty fifths of vodka littered the tables in irrational numbers.

“WELCOME TO SIBERIA!”

Within seconds we were juggling five or six disposable cameras. Freelance photographers. Cries of exiled madness washing across the empty bar and barren tables, stretching towards the back. Vibrations rattling red light bulbs from their lanterns. Turning off one by one. Five fresh bottles cracked open. Shot glasses overflowing.

Brigid and I joined them for a round. Then another.

One of the bottles got knocked good and sideways. rolled its way to the floor.

Shattered.

Under the cover of wild applause, Brigid put her arm around my torso. Still a good half foot taller than me. Leaned in and whispered in my ear. “These are Russians, Lucky. We can’t keep up with them.”

I leaned right back. Slid my hand past her waist, along her back. Tilted my lips upwards, “Aren’t you supposed to be Irish?”

“Admittedly.” We were locked in an embrace, then. Somehow. “But when was the last time Russia was colonized?”

“So how do we get out of this?”

“This is your doing, Lucky.”

“How is this my –”

A swift fist sent one of the revelers across the table and onto the floor. In a dazzling display of mitosis, one dispute begat two, four, split into eight people shoving their way down the bar. Followed by the whole lot of them.

In the ten seconds it took us to spot our moment, everyone apologized. Bear hugs all around, some seven words of muddled Russian before they were at it again. Vicious blows to the body, face, fingers wrapped around soft necks. Bodies thrown against barstools, and when it ended, if it ever did, they would have seen the last of the their photographers.

Documenting their way north and taking a right on Tenth.

***

Lou’s 649 was an easygoing sort of cocktail joint, bathed in streaks of violet and yellow. Artisanal tables clashed with the bar’s modern fixtures. Tenders decked out in black ties. A Lower East Side identity crisis held together by a disco ball rotating some ten feet above the floor.

At least, that’s what it looked like by the time Brigid and I stepped in.

Up three vodkas, and one pint of Bacardi.

I spied Paco and Trudy at a corner table. Brigid missed by a mile, unaccustomed to seeing them outside Castlebar. Rounded glasses on the left, encased in long black hair and a lengthy beard. On the right, purple plastic rims. Curly hair, shoulder length. Plush features, sturdy chin.

We sat down.

Paco and Trudy ran a business out of their home. An inexplicable service of sorts involving the internet. None of which I understood. They never held it against me, and would frequently take me out for drinks.

Thought there was something different about them that particular evening. Their mood, their roaming hands, the caliber of the cabernet, a pricy bottle that didn’t quite fit the profile.

“We read your book, Lucky,” Trudy said.

“We did,” Paco added. “First page through the last, as per your instructions.”

“Didn’t actually think you’d do it,” I said.

Brigid leaned forward. “Was it good?”

“Of course,” Trudy said.

“Of course,” Paco said.

“Of course they’re going to say that,” I said. “What’s the real reason we’re all here?”

“We’ve sold Chaos Kitten.”

I kept the wine along the right pipe by taking a second swallow. Wiped my mouth against my shoulder. “You sold the company?”

Paco nodded, “Don’t tell nobody, but we’re rich now.”

Brigid stood and hugged them both with loud congratulations.

I stayed put. Unsure what good news looked like. “You sold Chaos Kitten.”

“Yes,” Trudy said.

“But that was your…” I paused, poured myself the last of the wine. Put the bottle down. Paused. “What is it you all do, again?”

“See, he doesn’t even know,” Paco told Brigid. “Doesn’t even know what Chaos Kitten was.”

Trudy disguised a caring smile behind a survivor’s smirk. “What’s got you so frazzled Lucky?”

“Lucky thinks we’ve sold out,” Paco said, stroking his beard.

“Lucky thinks we’ve given away our lives,” Trudy replied, both of them involved in their own conversation now.

“He doesn’t know yet.”

“Think he ever will?”

“Depends. Think Lucky can ever give it up?”

“Settle down?”

“Stop being Lucky?”

Trudy stuck out her tongue. “Bleah.”

“Bleah.”

“Bleah.”

“Bleah!”

“Yes, sorry,” I polished off the wine. “Clearly I was wrong. In fact…” I turned in my seat, calling out to all customers. “Everybody, if I could have your attention! All of your drinks tonight are courtesy of Paco and Trudy!”

The second half of my announcement was lost as the disco ball hit the floor. One foot from my chair, shattered into one thousand pieces. An abrupt suicide sending a collective cry of surprise, saving Paco and Trudy from blowing their hard earned millions on a single night in Manhattan.

Paco shook his head. “That was a close one, Lucky.”

“Pulling a wild stunt like that,” Trudy said.

“For fuck’s sake, Lucky…” Brigid slapped the back of my head. “Can’t you let them be happy?”

“Never,” I said. Finished my glass, and sighed. “Next bottle’s on me.”

Trudy rolled her eyes. “You’re drunk, Lucky.”

“I am how I am. Next bottle’s on me. Next two.”

The bartender had rushed to my side. Dust pan and no broom. Unable to fulfill his task, he went about checking on my relative well-being. Raining down apologies. Leaning in close, tie dipping in and out from between my legs. Assurances that my tab would be taken care of for the evening, and what else could they provide me and my friends?

“No worries,” I told him. “Just going to need two more of this Cabernet. We’ll use the same glasses.”

He ran off for two bottles and a broom.

I turned back to the table. “What are you thinking of doing now? What’s next?”

Trudy gave Paco’s cheek a warm kiss. “We’re going to open up a barbecue pit upstate.”

“Barbecue?”

Paco smiled affectionately. At his wife. At the entire table. “Some of us have more than one dream.”

“A toast, then. To the both of you,” I said. “In exactly one minute and thirty seconds.”

The time it took for the wine to arrive, poured evenly amongst us.

Brigid slid close and put her arm around my waist.

I held up my glass, said something honest and sad that was best left to the walls and empty tables.

Wouldn’t see Paco or Trudy ever again, but it was fine, at the time, to simply brush stray shards of disco ball from my lap as we dug into both bottles with savage glee.

***

Brigid and I stumbled out of Lou’s, no stopping this chain reaction.

Arm in arm. Down Avenue B, skirting the iron fences of Tomkins Square Park. Laughing soundly to a botched punchline. Ripe springtime smells from the gutters.

“Is this how your life works?” Brigid asked. “You go out for an evening stroll, and the events just explode around you? Shrapnel from every corner of the city?”

“Maybe.” I paused to light a cigarette. “Either way, I’m stealing it.”

“What?”

“What you just said.”

“You can’t, it’s mine.” She lit one of her own. Put a hand to my face. “It’s mine. This evening is mine. So are you.”

“You have me for the evening.”

“Reach out.”

I did. Palm against her face, thumb resting against the corner of her mouth.

“Chaos kitten,” she mumbled, closing her eyes.

Leading the way for mine. Paving the way for infantilized kisses.

Wet, loose. Unconcerned with technique. Thrown violently against early memories, to the earliest addictions of the everyday. Exploring.

“I love your tongue,” she murmured.

I replied with the first few words of a joke that never made it past her lips.

Subtle tones of plum and red cherry…

We pulled apart for just a moment.

“Don’t think I need to tell you this,” she said, eyes still closed.

“Then don’t.”

She smiled, was about to ignore my request when

An old man with rags for clothes walked past us. Caught the pure appreciation in my eyes. Momentarily met them with a smile. It wilted. Disintegrated into raw hatred as he continued north, shoes stuffed with yesterday’s headlines.

“Why are you sad?” she asked.

Took a time out from what was. “I’m actually ok.”

“Ok?”

“Ok.”

“Me too.”

We pressed against each other. Obnoxious kisses in plain view of turning seasons. I made the mistake of opening my eyes for just a moment. Caught a man rushing past, purse clutched in his left hand.

Chased down by the cries of someone who had just been robbed of all they had.

***

A spindly punk rocker had parked himself in the middle of the sidewalk. Knees close to his chest. Ankles crossed. Arms wrapped around his shins. Fair skinned, not a bruise or scar that couldn’t be explained by tattoos or barbell piercings.

I noticed him first. Brigid noticed nobody else noticing him.

We both bent low. Heads tilted to better check his eyes, those wide, engorged pupils.

“You ok?” I asked.

“I’m fine to stay,” he said, few consonants managing to stick their landing.

“You’re in the middle of the street,” Brigid said, voice loud, looking to make an impression. “Do you need to be taken somewhere? Is there someone we can call?”

Our concern was attracting more attention than our actual patient.

We rephrased the questions in as many ways as we could. Got nothing back but a blank stare, bad trip gone worse. But not as bad as it could have been.

“He doesn’t want to change,” I told Brigid. “Let’s move on.”

“He doesn’t want to change?”

“Happy where he is, slice it any way you like. We stay here any longer he’s going to be our responsibility when the cops roll by.”

“We’re leaving now!” Brigid shouted into his face.

“Come on, Brigid. No kidding. Now.”

We left him behind.

“You sure he’s going to be ok?” she asked, checking street signs for our way forward.

“We did what we could.”

“Sure?”

“Just drunk enough to not make a serious mistake.”

She didn’t reply.

“Did I ruin the mood?”

Brigid smiled. “We had a mood going, did we?”

“Had. Past tense. I was right.”

“Easy way to solve that…” She gave me a swift kiss on the lips. “Easy way.”

“Drinks?”

“Drinks, drinks, drinks.”

We kissed our way through any misgivings and went to continue the cycle.

***

The Castlebar crew looked on with buzzed disapproval as Brigid and I knocked back tequila, Jamison’s, Yeager Bombs, Skittle Bombs, laughing before the jokes had bloomed and spilling ice cubes all over each other.

***

We were half way to the N, when someone shoved a bowie knife right into the sky, split its belly apart and unleashed a thunderstorm onto the streets.

Brigid screamed. For a moment I thought she’d want to run. And she did. And we did. But not to get out of the rain. Not even to where we needed to be. We tore across the mine fields, dove into puddles, never once taking our eyes off the rainclouds.

Save for one moment, where I happened to look over. Catch her jacket tied around her waist. White shirt soaked through. See-through, wet to the point where the water appeared to be running down her face and along her bare breasts, down to the very foundation of our time together.

She caught me staring and drew me close.

We kissed in the rain, until we ran out of air,

and when we ran out of air, our memories ran out of use.

***

My basement apartment. Both of us surfacing for seconds, then back under in black immersion. Bodies wet, slithering along the bed. Misguided heel smashing against a lamp. Head down, my face between her legs. Early morning birds tapping at the window. Neither one of us interested in impressing, as though this were the greatest of all adventures that needed to be gotten over with.

***

I awoke to an infuriated cat, repeatedly collapsing onto my face.

Desperate meows.

Dragged my face across the pillow, over to where Brigid lay sleeping. On her back. Naked from the waist down. Black socks pulled up to her knees.

I sighed. “All that, and I never even got to see your tits.”

“Hmm?”

“Brigid, I have to feed the cat. You working today?”

She turned her head to kiss me. Perfect scent of a sour depth charge. Moved my hand up along her body. “These tits, Lucky?” she whispered into my mouth.

“Hello.”

Then she stiffened.

Shot up, top set of teeth banging against my cheek. “Shit, I do have to work today.” She glanced around. Put a hand absently against her pussy, brief snooze button. “Time, Lucky? Time, please?”

I glanced at the radio. “Ten. Morning, in case you were –”

“Shit!”

She scurried after her pants. It gave me the chance to realize I had been liberated from my own pair at some point. Realized Brigid wasn’t in so much of a hurry, she couldn’t pause, and send my windsock a quick wink and a sly Hello.

She barreled past me, into the bathroom.

The living room was a disaster.

Pants hanging off the back of the couch.

With that mystery solved, I opened a tin of tuna, looking to make amends.

My cat howled in anticipation, then set about wolfing it down.

In all the rush, I forgot to wonder whether I was supposed to be smiling.

***

The custodian had opened shop for Brigid. Gotten her chores started with enough speed to allow us to charge through the door, send her behind the bar, just before the regulars came crying their way from the sun.

We stared at each other ruefully. Back to where twenty-four hours had first found us.

“Amazing,” she said.

“I’m surprised you remember,” I said. “Thank you.”

“Shut your stupid face.”

“Face?”

“It’s as though last night’s madness won’t let go,” Brigid mused, pouring us a pair of waters. “Followed us right back in here. I thought for sure I’d be fired.”

“I won’t tell.”

She reached over and held my hand. Felt nice, comfortable. “Want a drink?”

“Greyhound?”

“Do we not have an arrangement today?”

I smiled through my headache. “Surprise me.”

“Want to help me cut some lemons?”

“I would love to help you cut some lemons.”

She hoisted a mesh bag of yellow stoplights onto the bar, and we began to slice.

***

I spent the morning with Brigid. I spent the afternoon with Rowan and some of the regulars, sipping whiskey outside a bar in the West Village. Back in time to see Brigid off work. She invited me to dinner with her friends. I had a birthday to tend to in the unfortunate bars and Karaoke slums off the L train. She kissed me goodbye. Thanked me for a perfect evening. I told her we would see each other soon, left out the details.

After all, we had an arrangement.

Problem was there were still disco shards in my shoes. They followed me to the party, where the best friend went into Nitrous seizures. They dug into my heels when the thieves came looking for whatever they could steal. The incident on the Upper West Side. The illegal impersonation of Alex in a Red Hook courthouse. Waking up at six in the morning to find my face caked in blood, one inch gash stenciled along my left eyebrow and no memory of where my bookbag had gone. The wounded bird. The magician. The mad rush to write it all down taking me one month past our potential, when I finally synched my schedule to hers and sat down, only to have her ask what I’d like to drink.

“Not sure,” I said, resting my notebook on the bar.

“I’ll come back when you’ve decided,” she said.

I pulled out the crossword and let the regulars distract themselves further.

She came back with the same question.

“I’m sorry,” I told her.

“You could have called,” she said.

“You didn’t get my notes?”

“You can’t just leave notes behind and assume that I’ll assume the best.”

“It never occurred to me to call. You’re right. Cell phones are stupid, but you are right.”

Brigid let the honesty ease the anger. Left the pain right where it was. “I think you must know I fancy you. That I always have.” She threw a look back over her shoulder, then continued. “But that night was a mistake. I made a mistake.”

“Nobody made any mistakes.”

“I didn’t see it.”

“See what?”

“Maybe Lincoln was right about you.”

“What’s that?”

“Even with luck on your side, you’ll never stop.” She reached out to grab my hand. Smiled to herself for even trying and withdrew. “And now I’ll always feel like I was just another part of it.”

“Another part of what?”

“Chaos kitten,” she said. Gave me a sympathetic frown. Lips parted. “There’s not a woman alive who’s going to stick around for what you have to offer.”

It was my turn to do something with my hands. Made it about as far as she had. Picked up a pen instead and tapped it on my wrist. “We can rebuild.”

“It’ll take some doing.”

“We can try. Starting now.”

“Ask me for a drink, and I’ll get it for you. That’s generally how it goes.”

“Jack Daniel’s, rocks. Please.”

Our arrangement at an end, she fulfilled her obligation and accepted my tip with a rehearsed smile.

The cubes cut like glass along sore gum lines. And while that may have been our last conversation, I did finally find those disco shards buried deep in my shoes. Put them in a tiny box. Put the box in the closet, where the cat wouldn’t bother to look.

Even still, I lost the box.

And years later, when I went looking for it, I found something else instead.

And I’d say you have to believe me, but I don’t know what time it is where you’re living.

And wherever you’re living, I hope you are able to sleep.

And if you can, finally, sleep

could you tell me what it’s like?

###

stories from a bar with no doorknobs is available at smashwords.com

for free. for shame.

 

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blacklist.

dead

People talk about the various liquors they can never drink again courtesy of an upset stomach, hangover, case of the shakes so bad there’s a country somewhere waiting for a butterfly effect to take the shape of a squall, monsoon. hurricane.

not so much on my side of the street. there’s not an alcohol overdose that i haven’t welcomed back to my lips, ‘specially if a stranger’s buying. no hangover bad enough, no three day dry heave so desperate, no way, no how.

what i’ve got is a list of bars, street corners, parking spaces where the memories went so well that coming back is next door to hell. no bouncers or bartenders keeping me away, just simple facts that i can’t go back. a welcome patron, but there are numerous counts of the what was that are waiting inside.

first kiss might throw the first punch, but just as likely an earnest compliment of some story i wrote takes a swift kick to the solar plexus, gut shot in the guise of a smile, choked out by that casual conversation we had about the dollhouse she found in the middle of the woods, even a swift kneecap from the time i walked in and my appearance was met with actual excitement.

so now i’m left with barstools that laugh, outdoor seating complete with splinters, parked passenger seats and raindrops, patios and steps upon stoops, and i’ll take tequila, and Jack, vodka, 151, Wild Turkey, Jonny Walker with bruises red, black and blue.

…well, alright. i’ll admit i can’t handle champagne like we used to, and even red wine sends my stomach some several months back, but the bars i once loved are so certainly off limits that i’ll drink whatever, come rain on the windshield or hint of a hollow smile to keep it secret

that I do believe in ghosts.

###

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so long and thanks for all the pish.

predictably heartbroken.

doom

“The problem is, you’re boring,” she told me.”You’re predictably heartbroken. I’ve been reading through your secrets. Doesn’t take a fine tooth comb to see what’s got you stuck. You’re obsessed with the ocean, sky, palm tree.  Sex. Sex, as though it were your invention, you really believe you’re the first person to think of it? You do know everyone has it, and they’re probably better at it than you. Right? You’re shallow as gulf coast waters, ‘cept they got actual stories to tell. If you had sixty cents in you pocket, you’d wish for a roll of quarters. The last time you had an original idea it was just me, telling you that you might have had an original idea. I know you lie on your side, absently lick the back of your hand and wish it were anything else. Hip, neck, collar bone, pussy, whatever keeps you in the business of repeating. Have you even considered the drag you impose on conversations? Quick doesn’t translate into funny, sexy. Anything that anyone would bother with, but you, turns out, made an art out of pretending to be interesting. Must be interesting, that only interesting thing about you is your ability to make fake. My god, you keep your mouth shut in social situations, dress the silence as something worth listening to, when all there is, the instant you open your mouth, is the moronic slice of a lime in your drink. Seriously. The elixir that keeps your hands from shaking is stronger than ten times yourself on any given day. Have you ever wondered why nobody sticks around to listen to you? Coincidence? Wormhole?  Is it denial? You’re so fucking important that her or him, or anyone needs their space from how intense you are, my god, Lucky, you’re just so much that I can’t handle it… Or maybe they were just done. Maybe there’s a cemetery plot, urn, bottom portion of the Mississippi just waiting for you. You’re the type that already has their headstone spelled out, just in case anyone cared that you were murdered in a central-city bar, cancer, whatever it is that will spare the rest of us. Headstone? How about: Here lies. That’s it. Here lies. If you were any less something, you’d still be nothing. Meaningless was created as a way to deal with your smile, face, everything about you… Jesus, Lucky, you are so boring.”

I felt the line behind me swell with anxious curiosity. “So can I get a coffee to go? Please? My head is hurting something sharp and clearly predictable.”

She snapped too. Maybe wasn’t too sure where the two of us had gone. Sure she was right, though. Tousled blond hair hanging over topside eyebrows. Dark pupils wondering why we had gone down this path. Coming to. The kind of face I could fall in love with if I weren’t so clearly incapable. “Sorry?”

“Just a coffee.”

Someone from the back of the line registered their complaints, wishing we could just move, move, move.

I ignored the coffee and walked past him.

He wore his suit well, buzz cut and a decent shave that spoke volumes.

He was boring.

I decided to let the day go, wandered out onto Canal Street and gave my change to someone who might know the difference.

###

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wind your watch.

hotel

I was thirteen years old, and suddenly, there was a family business.

And so, suddenly, there was a room, 30th floor of a hotel in Sydney, Australia. Bedroom for my parents, living room for me. Never mind the comfort of a luxury couch. Yes, nudity on the TV was something, in pre-internet days, that came close to post-apocalyptic currency. Ignore the temptation to try 1:30am room service for the first time in a lifetime.

What mattered was the telescope. High powered. Came complimentary in every room, nothing I questioned. Think I know why, though, my memory insists that it was plated in gold. Every room. That meant windows facing east, west, north and south. And that meant, they must have known, that all there was across from our side was another hotel.

I think we faced west.

With the TV turned on to a low enough volume, I crept to the window. Anticipation didn’t make my hands shake quite so much in the wish fulfillment of younger years. There was a certain surgical way about how I went about it. Eye to eyepiece. Focusing. Ok. One window. Next. Next. Next. Next. Cataloguing. I kept track of how the angle felt for each silver screen, preview of what I would never be a part of. It only took minutes. Sometimes even less to memorize the position of the scope.

The room with the East Asian women, seniors, gathered around a card table. A reunion, I wanted to gather from what I saw.

Gray haired man fresh out of the shower, naked and talking to a woman, topless, absently slipping towels between the sheets. Something about it that made me feel the marriage could only be fresh off the press, or yesterday’s news.

Pair of kids jumping on the bed. Mother seated at a table, face planted in the curvature of palms. Possibly crying. Not as though I could ask her, even though that’s all I wanted.

Not as much as I wanted to check the next slide. Back of someone’s head, peaking out behind the couch. Checking out the same skin flick I was pretending to watch. All lights extinguished. Flickers of tits, thighs, on-set sweat projected in pale blues off the walls. Like swimming in a pool without someone to draw close, take what little effort to wrap legs around weightless encounter.

I made a low murmur.

That sound means turn the page – to a frustrated sort of man, writing in a notebook. Cigarette smoldering in a glass ash tray. White tank top, naked from the waste down. All wrinkles. Four different suits hanging throughout the room. A gallery, perhaps. Art installation. Or maybe a desperate list. Pros and cons. Which one to wear, because tomorrow would be the most important day of his life.

I caught a kiss between two men, one floor down. The suicidal kind I couldn’t recognize, because I was years from my own meeting of the minds. The kind that requires that you touch someone’s face, take in all that you can, while you can. One night only. Maybe years in the making. Only one night, just now? Whatever came next, it would never be again, and whatever came next was cut short by the snap of purple curtains.

Checking in. Now that I had it down, teenage hands could guide my Galileo and take in all it needed. Window one, friends laughing, one crying. Window two, naked man, topless woman argument lasting so long, they remained unable to clothe themselves. Window three, those kids hugging their mother – was it their mother, they seemed so close, but some secret had just slipped. Window four, soft core porn over and done with, the frustrated clicks of a remote leading this individual to put a phone to their ear after dialing a number, some other kind of room service I couldn’t bring myself to giggle about. Window five, the man with the notebook gone now. Just not there, never was. Window six, curtains still drawn, shame that they couldn’t be that way with each other, every night, shame that I had missed this singular meeting.

I went and came, back and forth between the exciting and mundane, but that last word was never true to itself. Nothing everyday about he everyday. I was never one for sleep. I grew up unable to close my eyes by the demands of either tick or tock. Never understood why. Because, eventually, sleep would find its way inside.

And now, this, hotel rooms with stories to tell.

The rush of what I might catch, if I just stayed distant.

Isolated kisses from the corner of my eye.

Staring through the telescope, wondering if maybe I wasn’t born that night, thirteenth hour on planet perfection, relating and keeping watch, watching though eyepiece and objective, as the sun grew hot on the other side of the world.

 

###

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wreck.

Photo of Down Under Pub - Durham, NC, United States

The good news is a lot of people out there can’t throw a punch, not worth a damn.

The bad news is one of them lot of them is me.

The worse news is there were a lot more of them.

Wish I could say it was heroic. Bunch of white polo prodigies ganging up on a woman, black kid, queer, pick their poison, whatever it was they happened to be hating on that particular evening. Truth is, I’m a coward. The times I’ve found myself in a fight boils down to the fact that men don’t like me. Not someone else, generally reviled, on those occasions. I’ve got a small soul and a big mouth. And I tip my bartenders well; little secret from the alcoholic’s hand book.

But to bring it all together, wrap it in a bow.

I was just fucking tired. Twenty-two, and hadn’t slept or eaten in days. Every time I tried either one, my stomach became a summer solstice. Just an extreme. Food is cancerous. Dreams are too full of flavor, and what do you do with all that love when you wake up?

There’s was a mismanagement somewhere inside. False syllogisms.

“a” equals “b” equals “see?”

Having the world figured out was a clever excuse for knocking down everything the world brought my way. indiscriminate slaughter. Sometimes I got lucky. Most times the glass slipper belonged to no one but me.

Sometimes there was good news.

Other times, I was at the bar, with a pint of Gin and Tonic on ice. This was The Aussie, last of the dives in Verona, circa 2001, pre-towers, pre-pentagon, pre-ordained everything. Still able to ride with an ashtray sitting in the bucket. Ass parked in the vomit seat. So called due to a time when a patron had puked, long after close. Everyone around him to drunk to clean it up. Bar got locked, cleared out for the night. Left that pile of inside to sit. Soak into the wood. First shift came in next day, tried to wash it away, but too late. The stench stayed on. A decent parable, fable with an unwritten lesson. People simply didn’t clean up after themselves.

People and my own self, tilting my head past the raucous crowd of locals. Food service denizens, professional drunks, small time hustlers, my ears tuning into the rare table of Pantheon Grads, sharing a pitcher of Yuengling. Sharing their stories. Who was the latest to beat that pussy up, take a pop, how many times in one night… Pooling their tips.

Wasn’t much more I couldn’t stand, let stick in my throat, than bad story telling.

I tried to focus on my own reflection, but it only shifted ignition into a higher gear. Something about my skinny frame, hunched shoulders. Self perpetuating blandness, inelegant lips, eyebrows so thick their only hope was that someday, butterflies might come as a result.

Their voices tuned out all the rest.

“I’m just a lesbian in a man’s body.”

“Yeah, man, that’s me.”

“Where the fuck is Sammie?”

“SAMMIE!”

“Lesbian in a man’s body, dude, yes! I am trapped!”

“Lesbian trapped in a man’s body, what the fuck!?”

Then they kind of stopped. Wasn’t sure why, until I noticed them staring at me. Noticed I must have been noticing, because I had turned my head. Jaw slack from lack of muscle memory. I had turned to stare. Really stare. Stare at a quintet of faces so indistinguishable, it was as though they had taken a vote.

“What?” one of them asked. Maybe with less of a question mark.

“You’re lesbians…” I told them. “Trapped in men’s bodies.”

“So?”

“All of you…” I said, forgetting my cigarette, taking a bit from everyone else’s. “Lesbians trapped in –”

“Yeah…” came the interruption. “SO?”

I shrugged. “Table of lesbians, so…” I reached back for my cigarette, just because I thought taking a drag might make it even sweeter. “I’m going to go ahead and suppose that kind of means you’re all kind of attracted to each other…”

Uniformity didn’t stop at the skin.

All standing at once, then surrounding me. I was already so bored with our conversation, so ready for it, that words didn’t even reach their destination. I knew I was in for a beating. I felt the rest of the crowd turn. Each head in the place rippling towards this encounter. Got a fistful of my shirt groped by a set of wing-stained knuckles, they couldn’t even make that part interesting.

And when Quigley stepped in to run interference, cut the fuse I had so liberally lit, escalation was inevitable. As for the explosion… never quite sure what I saw. Because I was caught in a six-way cluster of shoves, fists, knees. Knocked off my stool, but never quite hitting the ground. Up and down, punching bag clown, tossed around, as a mid-level brawl spread. Caught on. Incendiary remarks turning to wildfires. I felt my temple take a hit. Boney excuse for a chest welcome a knee, that sent me back against the bar. Knocking over my drink. I was the storm, named after me. Felt the ashtray flip, grey snow like deceased glitter, falling, and realized

that Quigley was taking all of them on. Others joining in, but not soon enough, so I watched with daydreams on hold as they sent him through the window. Total defenestration. Out onto the deck, and the bikers didn’t much like their drinks soiling leather duds, leading to instant retribution, but then what?

Quigley’s arm was wide open, blood washing over his thick arms, tattoos, a particular piece of art sliced down the middle, making me sad, remembering the story behind that one, the woman he loved, gunned down some ten years ago. He was looking to stem the tide, reach for the closest article of clothing, dirty blond hair stuck to a pudgy grimace of pain, while I sunk to the floor, nothing but secondary bruises and a realization that not a single punch had landed.

Really landed.

I was a disaster zone, calendar from two years back.

It took days to clean up that mess, and even though Quigley never blamed me, every time we shared a drink, from that moment on, I saw the scar on his arm split the murder of his one, could be only, love, right down the middle, maybe to meet again, some day.

JAN and ICE.

###

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alphabet cum.

face

i’m not going to not say what it was about that one moment. sometimes you marvel at on top, side to side, from behind. one of us gets strapped down, turned around. so many ways you can breathe into someone’s ear, maybe several someones if the world had a way of smiling that day. there is no such thing as the best. sometimes, it’s chest to chest. then again, the sweet and severe meld to welcome parallel positions that give hands – and this is nice – an absolute everywhere; legs that widen up towards thighs, occupied slit, clit, can you catch the chance and wish for a moment, if only my fingers were tongues. actually, every last bit of me, object, subject to investigation. and what if there were several of me, wait. what if there were so many of you, hang on, one more time. either hand tied, joint spread eagle, and even though there was no way to touch each other beyond, we’re talking, wet, absolute damp and luxurious kisses, there would still be more of us. so many ways i could straddle, six ways from Sunday you could rub yourself, waist giving in to whatever yesterday was, just one hour ago, it seems it was Tuesday, and one of us would open our mouths, seek. sublime. sleek. all of us slither, take the time to feel, and find subject so we could all flip each other over. back, knees, shoulder blades, maybe one of our one of us would slide between us so neither could tell them how good it feels. neither one of us could even sit up without someone in our face, behind us, kiss one more time. if one hand is bound behind, the other me, you, gets to search, feel. pinch and scratch, how many hands with their nails across our backs. spelling out the last time we felt the world collapse, swallowed, swallowed, covered in each other, why stop when the brilliance of a single hip peeks out between the tangle of sheets. a compass drowned in water. imagine the stars in your eyes, wide and wild, when was the last time you wished for something that just wouldn’t stop.

and ok, one of us breathes. can we?

have you ever fucked hard as you could, and ever would, to the tempo of

please.

 yes.

###

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dispatches from Jazz Fest, day one (III).

jazzfest03

sat myself outside. red steps. back against a closed door. cigarette. Jack Daniel’s. music still bumping, catching a row of bikes parked against the fairground fence.

and what was on my mind…

6.25, here’s how the air feels on a perfect day, taste of a willow tree. sun at a slant, some 71 degrees. plane in the sky coat tailing Cats Karaoke and the pilot can’t see it, but she’s not paid to care it’s only me. seagull flying past, wondering who’s going to be looking up at this bird anytime soon. pedestrian’s with canes. so many limps, just how damaged is everyone in this city? pregnant woman nursing a diet coke. stroller for the next cycle, mother and ambulating child, both with headphones, passing on wisdom from one ear to the next. gospel kicking around. seven bike riders in a row, and one more without foot traffic, then i get my wish. turns out my hope is too dirty for destiny to allow, so instead a waiter, fresh of his shift from Santa Fe takes long strides to make it through the pride just a little faster. cat crawls by. stares at me as though i forgot to buy him a drink. but i can’t be bothered, because the blonde trailing to steps behind her boyfriend pauses to send me a smile; causing the sun to dim for just one second, did the world just end? maybe not, because now a pair of gray horses goes past, off the beaten track, no numbers or odds, can’t beat the spread, two officers atop, both women, smiling behind tinted aviators. a single stoic senior, walking along with bulging garbage bags. some kind of story bundled up inside them. and the patrolman leads with his badge. tells the kids slinging ice cold water, only one dollar, to beat it from the  streets, point west and east, because, let’s face it, that’s what they do best. then i stare at a pair of compact shorts, bent over, jeans that whisper hello, somehow louder than the tattered music of a closing act. and speaking of which, foot traffic is speeding up, survivors with chairs all coiled, slung over sunburned backs. packing it in before the headliners make headlines, making minds wonder, why show when you can’t even prove? and i feel like royalty, because to them, living seven steps from Jazz Fest is like Beverly Hills, though next month rent is booked, and even the mosquitoes won’t bother with what’s already been spent. it’s going to grow quiet, soon. this is just a drill. day one winds down like circular slide, and inside, Kiki’s taking a nap from the noise, and our girlfriend is barely one mile away, wondering why a table of tourists can’t stop drinking water, ordering nothing, sharing spreadsheets on what’s happening in the rest of the world.

and all i can think of, as the breeze makes plants nod in tempered measures, sending the city into a never always coma, is how tired i am, how stuck i’ve been, pretending to pretend, again and again, that there are people i don’t think about and love when i’m sitting, facing north.

###

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