We are smoking Cohibas on a balcony and I see cuts on your sunset hands. "Wanted to throw off my palmist," you said, and I laughed.
Your voice is salt on a Michigan bridge, when you read Exodus from a Gideon bible the verses leave your lips like dust kicked up by matted slippers.
Believe me, someone will fall to the depths of loving you, even when your skin is candlelight because one morning, when I said I’d drive to Denny’s you said, “Nah, not unless they serve gin.” and we laughed.
Son, I first thought of you at nineteen. You were strong and kind and I saw you, dreaming wrapped in a sea of white linen and anchors. Your skin will be stained by the equator, i pray you won’t spite me for it.
He roots deep, clearing the canopy between your split branches, seeds falling into the willing moss. before morning, someone will come to collect them in a ziploc bag but in this dim, pulpy darkness ever briefly, you blossom.
The last one I had was on the weekend of December 6th. On one of its nights I started thinking about my dad and stopped catching my sobs, I cried and cried about him even though it’d been twelve years since I saw him hooked up to tubes and machines in a Venezuelan ICU, his lungs charred and kept together by a respirator.
The last one I had was a Dunhill from a nearly full pack that I stole from a stranger outside a café. I smoked it outside a bar, while watching a girl projectile vomit into a dumpster.
Give me two things about a man: his name, someone he knows, and I can find him in five minutes. See, he’s a joker, his hair’s cut crew, born in the North, body built like it could knock me out cold.
Tonight, I tried taking a shower but couldn’t look at myself below my holiday gut. I called it a day and didn’t bother with the soap, rinsed the lather from my hair, eyes foggy and wrapped a towel around my waist before the rest of me could dry.
I looked down at myself hanging there, barely hanging there, while standing at the toilet. His must’ve knocked you out cold.
I walk with ants around my ankles whenever I am near you. There is an urgency, the itch is always there.
The apartment is small enough to let the scent of french roast stick to pillowcases. It happens most when it’s too early for coffee.
I want to tell you so much whenever I smell your shampoo.
Staring at the ceiling spackle, with you still buried under a day-fresh comforter, I wonder if the gray up there is a shadow, dust or mold. I feel simple, monumental statements to you thumping against my sternum. Before they snap the sinews I swallow them with tap water until they become, “hey, hi, hello, good morning.”
There were yellow tulips from the market whose stems rested against the lip of an empty kombucha bottle. I studied them while sitting at the breakfast table by the broken window, then texted a friend who liked writing songs about wanting the kind of girl who would cook him pancakes in her underwear. You were at the sink, cleaning your frying pan and spatula. I told him where I was, but not how it felt. I’d keep that to myself for months.
I watched you cry in the orange dark of my bedroom, your forehead against the wall. I wanted to say so much more to you between your sobs, but I stopped myself. I thought anything else would linger in the air like dust, I thought you’d think them weightless.
"It’s okay," you said, the night before I quit smoking cigarettes. "It’s going to be okay," you said as I sobbed in front of a parked car, thinking about my dad. You held my arm tight in your hands and it kept me walking. "They killed him," I said, groggily, eight hours later. "Those things killed him, you know," I said as my palpitations lost themselves in the early mist.
You listened. Thanking you wasn’t enough but I lost the nerve for anything else before we even had breakfast.
I’ve spent enough time lodged between my throat and spine.
Her tongue planted firmly in cheek grew until it became the only way she could speak while the lipstick she wore marks up his face, to circle and cross out every bit she wants changed. As ghosts dent her blood and stick to her insides she dreams of waking without sobbing on their bathroom floor.
You are my disciple, reach yourself into me. Kiss me like you won’t ask for more. Push against my silk. Push me into yours. Kiss me like you feel strange kissing me, like you feel funny tasting the cigarettes, like your friends are nearby, like they’re laughing because you don’t know what to do.
I am your servant, you are all-encompassing. Kiss me like I’ve disappointed you. It’s only us beneath ten layers of linen, make me wonder what you’re hiding in the folds. Kiss me like we are in cadence, so your tongue barely reaches my teeth, so both our breaths stay shallow.
Kiss me like you’re sorry, but please stop apologizing. I’ll kiss you like I’m sorry too.
there are places i want to go with you pocketed scenery where the reflections on the windshield are people’s headlights dotting the road where the parking brake can lock in fifteen clicks where the blinks of you in your four inch heels means you won’t strain to kiss my chewed lips over and over and over again
My uncle died in early May. I didn’t talk to many people about it.
He died two years after he was only just barely able to recognize his wife’s face. He laid gaunt on a hospital bed and his liver failed in the early hours of the morning. I imagine the sky in Jakarta that day to be close to orange but it was likely more of the smog-infested purple I was born into.
All the wine I thought we needed and the tones of bourbon on your breath before we went to see Elizabeth after that aneurysm took her away makes me doubt you even remember, but I hate that when we saw her lying there you peered into her casket and said, "She got chubby, didn’t she?" I hate that you lie about how many you’ve had whenever we go out to the bars so that any words that you force into me can get choked the next morning by the steam of the seventeen minute shower that you need to get rid of the hangover. I hate that regret never makes it past the fog on your bathroom mirror because anything that sticks around gets brushed away with your morning breath I just hate talking to you when you’re drunk. It leaves me hollow as the gutters.
The first thing I ever really wanted to get for my apartment was a nice, big, comfortable couch. Even before a bed or even an inauguratory case of Shiner Bock, I wanted wherever I would live to have a place to sit that could also be a place to sleep. For the first six months of living at my apartment, the closest thing I had to that was an inflatable mattress.
It was “borrowed” from my mother’s house because the Mattress Firm gave me damaged goods and needed another few days to replace it. I set it up in the middle of my living room, threw a brown sheet onto it and slept there until my actual mattress was replaced.
He grew up around the scent of smoke and yellowing paint. His dad used to take him out into town in a rickety Ford borrowed from the office for a day, smoking Marlboro Golds. Before each trip, they’d stop by the bodega near their apartment for a fresh pack. It wasn’t until later in life that Rob realized how much of a luxury those instances were, his siblings would buy him a pint and tell him of how they weren’t afforded nearly as much fatherly attention as they felt they deserved. This just made him think of how much of it he wasted.
Rob pictured the man being wheeled off in that ambulance with a carton of smokes in the hand they placed the emergency IV. He would go through at least two of those cartons a month. All Rob could really do at the time was watch them leave from the creaky balcony, painted a rusted green.
I am the aneurysm to you a wilting tulip in an empty kombucha bottle that rains like it always does back in Jakarta when the monsoons bleed through tin roofs I am a bit over twenty-one years old with a face that people should want to punch that can’t turn towards oncoming traffic while waiting to cross the street I am an ape who sits and dreams about silly things like walking out while the cars are rushing past yellow.
It’s eleven and the sun is being dampened by a bout of mid-April showers. Beth and Karen are sitting at a cherrywood table on the second floor of a coffee shop, a few steps away from a screened window.
The rain cuts through it and covers nearby tables in a soft cloud that nudges against the creases of Beth’s brain. She was only halfway into sleeping off four Old Fashioned’s downed under low-hanging indigo lights. You can tell from how her hair tangles from a makeshift bun and her glasses drooping down a bridge of caking foundation. Karen, sitting across from her, takes her right middle finger and starts picking away at its nail polish with her left thumb.
"I said he was selfish and I said he was weak." Karen’s left leg rattles under the table, the flat sole of her shoe flapping helplessly against her heel and the ground. It matches her cadence. "Because I sure as hell never considered calling it off, and I sure as shit didn’t put myself through the wringer." The words fell out of her with half a stutter.
"After that, I wanted to leave but he grabbed my keys and said, ‘You know what? Think of the thousand more things you’d want to say to me and give me just one word of it.’" An apostrophe forms on the right side of her mouth. "So I called him a cunt."
One of the last things my Dad did was teach me my native tongue. He said the word for my liver is the same for my heart, so I think if one’s this ravaged then it’s okay to destroy the other but when you twist around the syllables of what to call a set of hands, you’d get the word for being calm. Every time I can’t sleep because it’s raining like it does back in Jakarta and I remember that he’s just sitting in a box on a shelf in Texas, my fingers start shaking, and I start thinking you’re here, dreamy with the promise that even then, you’d still hold them close.
On St. Patrick’s Day, next to you barely wrapped in cotton and down, I wake up in a pool of sweat shaped like the birthmark staining the back of my crooked right leg. I become more conscious of my stomach when I look over to check your breathing.
You’re not quite asleep, opening your eyes just to watch the nightstand stumble. "The daffodils always bloom on St. Patrick’s Day," you slur, “even on that hill, with the view.” Your heater starts clicking through the dark and I’m sure you notice me sneaking outside.
I sit in arrhythmic silence on the fire escape for maybe three or four minutes, when I’m back you’re a bit more asleep sighing, "Even on that hill, with the view, and all those dingy little houseboats christened by the Puget Sound.”
Maybe I’ll start showering behind a frozen sidewalk of tile and a soggy shore, your bathmat, and wipe my face with your towel that always leaves blue fuzz on my cheeks. Maybe I’ll dress myself with the blinds open, peeling what’s left of your hair that’s sewn itself into to the arms of my sweaters. Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll wake up in the difference of you.
For now I catch blinks of you across the table drinking coffee, cooking my eggs over easy, eating a plate of grits doused with salt and pepper with a strip of bacon and a slice of toast. For now I ask myself if my brain is stuck in eastern time or if it could fry like yours did. All of a sudden, last night. For now I ask myself if the keys are still with you as I’m locking the front door.
Lately I’ve been sleeping (well, I haven’t been at all) I’ve been lying on my couch tricking my back into feeling the cold burgundy leather as you snoring and naked with your toes numb, stirring beside me, beneath the down awning we hold up with our bodies. Let me pour myself into you you are always so cold cold enough to snow and the only thing I have left from you is a pair of socks.
I’ve been missing a part of you (and I wish I didn’t have to) for a while. It’s raining tonight, in a February that hasn’t frozen yet and I’m stuck in a ballroom without an umbrella. I’m watching you cough up the candor collected in your belly, your navel and your nostrils and shaking the pastel walls. I don’t like talking to you you are a bronze statue losing luster in a city park but you are lovely again and I hate you for it.
I fumbled around for the wintry CD case for Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm at a fresh red light. It’s my second copy, given to me as a Christmas gift my freshman year of college by someone who frustratingly moved to a undying city far away from where I lived. She knew my sister lost my first copy. She didn’t know I blamed it on my previous theft.
I was fourteen when I bought it at a Wherehouse Music down the street from my mom’s house in Houston, pleading for an extra twenty dollars of allowance to indulge in my obsession with their song, “Banquet”. I spent that entire afternoon and night locked onto the couch with a Discman I stole from my brother. By then, he was on the tail end of his collegiate career and working at the university’s hotel. This meant he did silly things like buy cases of Rolling Rock and splurge on an iPod mini and leaving a lot of his things at my mom’s.
Bloc Party became one of my favorite bands at a little over the album’s 20 minute mark, when the twinkly guitar and cymbal hits of “This Modern Love” graced my pubescent ears and proceeded to reduce me to a pile of salt. The afternoon was turning blue I laid down on my couch and listened to the entirety of the album in one sitting. Then I listened to it again, skipping ahead to track 7.
Yesterday I chickened out on a yellow light and flung most of my back seat into the cupholders. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots smacked itself onto the steering wheel lock that I seldom use. and my heart preemptively broke if that meant the end of my belting “Her name is Yoshimi, she’s a blackbelt in karate.” to the windshield.
I “borrowed” that album from my sister the year my mother and I moved to the States. She was a dead broke college grad and I spent a lot of time sitting around her apartment watching anime on VHS and listening to her music collection while they were out finding us an actual home and a car. When we were moving, she gave me a few things to pass the time: her old laptop, her copy of Diablo II, her crappy Dave & Busters won boombox and a few of her CDs on the grounds that I’d give them back eventually.
I’m 0 for 4 on those, but I’d like to think the statute of limitations has passed on that bit of being an obnoxious kid brother.
I’m going to apologize in advance, because this is going to be me talking about my life again, and not even in a manner that’s really open to “artistic interpretation” or is much of an “emotional distillation”. It’s just me, collecting myself. I turned a year older today, and I’m writing this eating mac and cheese.
It’s been a few years since I regularly started cooking for myself, and I’ve since upgraded from Kraft dinners to those Velveeta boxes that are still mainly plastic but also involve meats and seasonings rather than just a pot and “cheese” powder. It feels like the first time I cooked myself pasta that required actual effort instead of instant ramen. I don’t feel older, but I think this is how growing up feels.
I’ve started to miss what I didn’t know left me, the quiet I’ve tied to the nights spent with our clothes entwined in rosemary bushes and the immensity of your heaving breaths, the memory of your elbows and the marks of your skin that hint at where you’ve been spending time healing after spending Halloween falling through branches.
Last Thanksgiving, talking in sweaters at a bus stop about a new kind of Listerine, I saw our voices click while yelling at each other about false advertising because the mouthwash wasn’t any less intense and tasted nothing like oranges. You were so lovely then but later that day, you’d watch me fall down some stairs and spend two dinners in a hospital room.
Now, you make me scared of my brain, of how it ruminates, and I don’t even know why I’m terrified of rolling up my sleeves to throw away all the pens and strands you’ve left around my house. They sit with your hair ties and lighters on my table singing hymnals like a church choir on Christmas Eve.
I picture you naked with your toes numb, running through a field on Christmas Day with your navel collecting frost like the nostrils of a bronze statue losing its luster in a city park, not squirming underneath a patio awning watching me cough up vodka tonics or staying the night, but always wanting to go.
There’s still cleaning fluid in the toilet bowl, the water looks like sapphire gin and when I flush it’s more like melon-flavored liqueur. Now, it’s ten at night and the fluorescents are hazy I’m sitting at my plywood desk finding words that I could have left with you on New Year’s, and I don’t love any of them.
at 7 am on a Wednesday, I was watching my breath and needing a scarf when my friend who ran a yogurt stand said the sky looked like rainbow sherbet, but all I was thinking about was how when I bought the shoes I was wearing, I meant to grow out of them. My toes clamored in an empty space of sweaty polyester stitching tied in dirty laces keeping balance on cracked rubber soles. I said to myself, “I guess I’m full-grown.” while turning to him to say, "I’m not sure if it does."
The world could end while I’m with my therapist telling him about how I wanted to cry watching a drunk old man singing carols surrounded by snow-covered poinsettias because it reminded me of being happy, holding her hand on spray painted concrete and kissing her in a bronze colored elevator.
Entire buildings could collapse around us like branches trimmed from a rosemary bush, just after I tell him that cold mornings make me miss her more than I ever thought, and how it feels worse than the sky falling in. If it does, I’d say to him as we’re running, “I fucking told you.”
Hey, guess what? I can’t help reminding myself, when I take off the stupid things that make me a real person to lie down with you, curled and warm in the pale collars of a rainstorm so our hands are quiet together, that I know we’re thinking about each other— about the dusty shelves and basements that neither of us have to fix.
I know you’re smiling from the friction against my shirt exploring the wrinkled sleeves. Your breath strokes the back of my neck as your hand swims through the covers to wrap itself around my shoulder and I know that being alive with you, two inches away feels terrifying and gorgeous and that makes it impossible for us to get up and leave this bed.
I was with him one hard whisked night after a dinner where he refused to eat from a broken plate he was sitting on a silver bare mattress writing letters to you, when you lived in your parents’ old house saying things you already know the corners of but you love healthy resignation, don’t you? That’s what they all were, some general kind of ballad an anticipation, an uncontrollable plague of a diary of your time together between Taurus and Cancer. I was there for his emotional prolonging, it was worshipful, pleading, it curdled and turned from a thronged disconnect
to a somber, astigmatic submission on a tacky parquet floor. He stared pissed at his left hand, his nature uncensored by your divorce while clipping his toenails before this wedding in Cincinnati. And now you’re here, and how selfish you are for that- a certain you could get away with letting him fall learning vulnerable and then denying his full love and attention tossing his courage in a clear plastic to-go box and you know that’s not the you tonight. I know you’ll care not of him, but of his did, were, and was, of how he doesn’t need a whole beer to love you again and hiding how for you, one could never be enough.
I’m saying that I just really want you here that I feel you with me when it’s too early to exist when it’s storming and still walking the chalky streets are people that grin without wavering as their faces pale in the rain I’m starting to think that they feel you here too and that’s why they’re all still smiling
The first kiss you gave me was softened by light pollution which yielded to a couple stars between our mouths as a light layer of makeup caved from your rested cheek and made me scared as hell to close the gap between us. That night you joined me in an almost reluctant shuffle and I apologized my hesitation as you said to me, "I would’ve ignored the rest of the week filtering through me, would’ve bought tickets to your voice last Tuesday even though that’s the same day I see my therapist who I once looked up online and noticed he’s lost some weight– I would’ve. But my friends kept shoving how they think something’s wrong with me. And I couldn’t.” You spoke like they held water. I stood there wanting to say, “They’re wrong, they’re not right, your friends, they’re young and stuck to pathology, they’re kids who haven’t given you a decent chance to solve yourself from the fissures in your scattered brain.”
There was something about your pale neck that night as we talked watching the sunrise in the back alleys of our eyes you wore a chambray shirt with one broken button while I slouched outside with a pint glass filled with wine swallowing hard on the dusty lawn chairs next to my front door. I dreamt your magnificence finally hits me on a morning where I’m on that same stoop that we called my porch, in the perfect corner to watch the dew fall, with you sitting next to me with a mug and a cigarette unlit drinking stovetop espresso as the air gets crispier; on a morning where we kiss under a row of yellow floodlamps as the day rises behind the darkened clouds where you squeeze the skin between my ears and it all just makes sense, like the first time driving through a quiet dawn feeling the sun through a sap-covered windshield.
I like catching people grinning on the sidewalk in the morning as daylight gets saved I swear they don’t do that enough The paper tells me you’re back in town to visit I’m looking through my open kitchen blinds even though I know you won’t be there
Is it weird for me to say I really miss you that I feel you here when it starts to rain There’s a mist today that hasn’t come for weeks that’s washing over the downtown hotels maybe that’s why people have been smiling they feel you here too