Sunday, March 30, 2014

The highs and lows of Robert Smith (2010)

Photo by Patrick Calder;

At the 80s-alternative night in the itty-bitty purple-lit club
you talked about a school bus that got melted by lightning.
I said that sounded awesome but kinda sad, and
you said no – no one got hurt so it was just awesome.

Elvis is still alive!
My name is Humpty, pronounced with an umpty.
Robert Smith sang "so wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully pretty!"

I drank firefly juice out of a glass with Scottish terriers on it,
got up on the low platform and danced

you were right there, so I was showing off.

I watched your dimples as you laughed with your friends.
You seemed like an enlightened being, like Buddha or Yoda but sexy.
Something in me went warm
and I felt that I had loved you for so long, since before there was time.

You set your hat on the bar, and
my fingers went to the brim before I could stop them.

It was velvety like a rabbit's ear.
It was like some sacred thing.

I danced and I felt that we were
making love with our clothes on and from far away.
I thought how well we'd fit together.

Robert Smith sang "oh I miss the kiss of treachery."

I thought about how you said that love is one thing that doesn't lose strength
when it's spread around, so
I danced and loved everyone

I loved the DJ mouthing along to guilty-pleasure songs...
I loved the tomboy style of the bartender...
I loved the imperious event planner shining her tiny flashlight down as she scribbled notes at the bar – tidy bun and cleavage, business and pleasure...
I loved the guy with the skull bracelet from New Orleans, and the skull tie from Hot Topic...
I loved your beautiful roommate with the T-shirt that says she eats boys.

My hand brushed yours when we passed the dutchie on the left-hand side.

Purple chandelier glow, orange-glitter-padded DJ booth,
Devo hat,
my shouted comments so inane; I need quiet for verbal profundity.
You seemed so sturdy, and I thought about how
you learned that you had continuity, how you would go on as you, even if other people were
no longer there.

I hugged you hard at the end of the night.

We walked to our separate cars – you and your roommate, and me, just me.
I sat down on the curb, 2 a.m. in the ghetto,
feeling the most irrational loss at your absence.

Robert Smith sang "how it ends, always ends," and

I drove home with the sweetest ache.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Interior galaxy

At the beginning of the story, there's a girl who works in a Starbucks. When she comes home from work at night, there are mocha smears on her knuckles and raspberry-syrup splatters on her forearms. She doesn't have a boyfriend, but she thinks that that could be a sexy thing, for a boyfriend to lick this stuff off of her when she comes home, if she had a boyfriend.

What follows is a pause as the writer tries to think of what should come next. A pause has already been effected by double-spacing after the beginning of the story, the part with the girl in it, but there will be ellipses for a little more emphasis: ... Okay, now the writer has an idea of what could come next. The idea might be lame, but the reader will proceed out of curiosity.

What the girl does have is an ex-boyfriend. She dumped him about a year ago. He'd been doing so well these past few months, so well that the girl, who is really more of a woman than a girl, and whose biological clock is ticking, as they say--the girl had begun to think again of one day having a family with him. He would make such a good father, if only he weren't suicidal and unemployed. Anyway, he'd been doing well. And then she'd posted that photo on Facebook. It was a photo of the girl standing in front of the Pacific Ocean. In the photo, one of the girl's shoulders is visible, and over that shoulder her black bra strap peeked out from under the strap of her hot-pink tank top. The ex-boyfriend had sent her an e-mail: "That picture of you and your bra is classy." She had immediately deleted the photo and replaced it with one of palm trees in front of a sunset, a photo that did not have her in it at all.

This is the part where the writer admits that the ex-boyfriend part is not there because it follows the beginning of the story in any obvious or even yet-to-be-revealed way, but because the ex-boyfriend part just now happened in real life.


What else is there to write, about anything? The writer is in the attic of her parents' house. There's a boring, complicated explanation for why she's living there (at the parents' house, not in the attic) again at 30, but the explanation is boring and complicated. She's staring at a shaft of light on the slanted ceiling. The light has an amber quality to it, the color of candlelight. Or not really amber, but something warmer than just white, and for some reason "amber" is the word that comes to mind. Also on the ceiling in this house that was the writer's home throughout her childhood from age 4 on are glow-in-the-dark stars affixed with adhesive panels right onto the paint. The writer loves the stars because they're gaudily poetic. Because they make her think about how her parents are not the kind of parents who care if their children put glow-in-the-dark stars on the paint, even though removing the stars would probably mean leaving behind a constellation of holes in the paint, shadows of the stars' deaths. The writer thinks that the previous sentence reveals how sentimental she can be. She often worries that the sentimentality is a bad thing but usually comes to the conclusion that it's not.

The writer just logged onto Facebook for the 17 trillionth time today, and saw the ex-boyfriend's current status update: "[Name of ex-boyfriend] hurts people." The writer left out a part -- after deleting the photo but before starting to write this in the attic -- where she and the ex-boyfriend had a fight on the phone, about the bra photo.
"That wasn't my bra -- it was a black tank top under a pink tank top." Why did she always lie to him?
"Well, it looked like a bra to me. The black strap had that little thing on it, that little snap thing..." Damn it, he was so observant. And despite his other faults, she had never once caught him lying to her, not in 10 years.
She said what Dr. Phil probably would have told her to say: "Tim, I am not having this conversation." And she had snapped her cell phone neatly in half, with dramatic relish.

Now as the sun is setting, the shaft of light has darkened, to a shade that can accurately be described as "amber." How prescient I am, the writer thinks in a sorry little attempt at a private joke with herself, although it's not really with herself because she's also sharing it with the reader.

The light is dying. It was sunny when the writer entered the attic, so she hadn't turned on the light. With the room darkening, the writer feels a sense of urgency. What wisdom can the writer impart to the reader here at what feels like it ought to be the end of the story? Is it a story -- does this "count"? It's real life scrambled and trying to be clever. Was the writer supposed to admit that?

What can I tell you? I can tell you that love hurts but that it's worth it. I can tell you that things that don't make sense right now might make sense later, in retrospect... or they might not. I can tell you that the shaft of light is now rose-colored, and growing more duskily beautiful as it dies. I can tell you how glad I am that my parents aren't too concerned about chipped paint, because when the light dies, these gaudily poetic stars are going to glow.

Old lovers

"When I think about it now, the idea of living 'happily ever after' with your 'soul mate' sounds exhausting! I'd be stressed out about trying to look hot all the time." 

I say this with apparent conviction. 

You and I are in your hotel room. You're here for work. We're both married to other people now but we hang out when you're in town. 

I have gained 20 pounds. Your chest hairs have started to turn gray. 

We agree that staying home on Friday and Saturday nights is nice. We're both homeowners now. We take pride in our work. We make good money. 

I brought to your room a bottle of red Spanish wine even though I'm trying to get pregnant and at any moment could have life inside me. I just got my period the other day so it's alright. 

The wine is from Spain, from grapes grown in Spain, bottled over there then shipped over the ocean to here. I'm not trying to be all Virginia Madsen from "Sideways," but these are facts. 

The wine is from Spain and you and I never leave your hotel room. You pour the wine into glass tumblers from the hotel bathroom. 

Back in the day we would have drained the bottle -- thanks largely to me -- and gone out to someplace else for more. A bar, a club. A restaurant with a bar. A minibar. 

Now when I leave the room at a decent hour -- work in the morning; gotta be up at five a.m. -- I leave one-thirds of my tumbler of wine on your nightstand, undrunk.