Put in Earplugs / 10.10.16 / 8:18-8:38

When I can’t sleep and it’s too late for pills and too early for coffee and the initial financial panic has subsided and I’ve rattled through the sadness of trying to remember my name and SSN, birthday and address, etc. etc. just to prove I’m not lost to the wilderness just yet and convinced myself of my place and time by reminding myself that M. exists and she’s mine and we have dogs and all three of them are in the next room and when I can’t be so sure that my mind is right even though I know – for shit sure – it is mine (or, at least, as sure as I can be without knowing anything to the contrary) I close my eyes tight as I can, so tight the blackness becomes kaleidoscopic and I listen hard past the murmur of the street and the constricting scree in my eardrums (too many shows and too little sense, it seems) and my own heart pounding for reason and breath for the sound of one or more of them breathing or coughing or snoring or rustling or something, anything to settle this moment among the money I’ve built up to be present and I know that I could just get up and look but my eyes are shit in the dark and besides, that would be conceding too much to the disorientation, conceding too willingly to the crazy. No, no. Actions are not allowed when the mind is a rustle of leaves on the creek and so I listen for as long as it takes and when I hear I can shape and remember and be at peace that, at least, I haven’t invented everything.

That I’m not alone in the universe.

That I’m loved or, at least, accompanied.

Not that that sense me to rest. Not that gives me much of anything more than a sense that when I open my eyes, today, I will not find myself in completely unfamiliar surroundings.

So I try and think of words. New words. Good words. Long words. Words of the day. Words of the year. I try and think of sniglets or portmanteaus or onomatopoeias – well, not onomatopoeias but the word onomatopoeia which I tend to forget from years of murmuring crude in the trenches. I try to think of words that would impress college girls back when I could impress college girls at all and mostly without being a middle-aging creep yearning for the kind of sex a young man could have if he could only get over his whole love, love, love bullshit and get on with doe-eyes and palimpsest because he was thin and smart and (literally) scarred.

Mostly, I try to think of polysyllabics but, mostly, I only ever end up seeing the word “salad” over and over much like I did this morning and I know or I think or I hope it’s a sign that I’ve grown too soft for my own good and with a little bit of greens thrown in over Budweisers and fries I might get back to my working stiff frame but it doesn’t read that way in the slightest.

It reads like stupidity and panic and stroke and emptiness raised up from the void to swallow the young hope I still reserve – when no one’s looking – whole.

Salad.

Birds / 10.4.16 / 1:14-1:44

“You don’t ask a snake why it slithers, it just does.”

I angled the throw from my hip, like how he taught me, forefinger and thumb wrapped tightly along the short edges. I wound up, then released. Watched it as it skipped along the brackish pond and lost it somewhere about ten feet away.

“Nice toss.”

I ignored her, just as I’d ignored her silly statement. She was filled with riddles and I wasn’t in the solving mood.

I bent over for another one, hoping for a smoother one, maybe a pale pebble of some kind, when I saw the ivory skull of a bird instead. My hand hovered above it, the contrast of my black-brown skin to the tea-stained white fascinating me into silence. It was a big bird, had to be, considering the size of the skull. The beak was long, the upper mandible slightly hooked, nostrils like uncovered tear drops.

“What’chu got there?”

I heard her rising from the banks and I panicked a little, swiping at the skull and shoving it deep into my hoodie pocket before her heavy, ungainly steps could reach me.

She treaded hard for a dead girl.

Her cold reached me just as I dipped again for another stone. This one was sharper than the last and I’d grabbed it too quick, a jagged edge digging deep and hard and fast enough to smear blood along the rest of it.

Reminded me of my first fuck.

She kissed her teeth and I grit my jaw.

“Makes no sense, hiding shit from me,” she said. “Just don’t break it.”

And suddenly I was warm again.

***

I was alone when I walked back through the sliding door, but the television was on full blast. Some daytime talking head was shouting affirmations of self-worth and self-preservation when I pushed the dial in, the overly made-up face collapsing into a horizontal blue pill before completely fading into a sandbag-settling silence.

To spite my mom, I walked through the rest of the house with my muddy sneakers. She wouldn’t buy me new ones, despite the new year and a growth spurt, so I only hoped my sore toes found as much satisfaction in this momentary vengeance as I did. I had no idea where she or her boyfriend was, but I didn’t give a shit either. Moments like this were rare and I had every intention of living in it.

I kicked off my sneakers and left them in the threshold as I pushed open the door to my room and shimmied over to the table that served as my desk, my bed being my chair. I stripped off my muddy jeans and tossed them in a corner and plopped down, bare-ass, on my comforter, carefully removing the skull from its polyester and cotton blend nest.

My hand shook as I laid the bone on the peeling varnish, turning it slightly so the tiny baby-yawn eyeholes could stare at me. I stared back for a solid minute before I felt a shiver hammer its way down my back and I felt compelled to push it away. I didn’t, just got up instead and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. The drawstring had to be pulled a little tighter and I was doing just that when the air shifted, fluttered really, then trickled past my left cheek.

I shut my eyes and listened to the rustling, listened as the plumage stretched to glorious lengths and heights and in that moment I could see it, I could feel that bird gaining life and its desire for freedom.

I shouldn’t have opened my eyes.

I should’ve let the theatre of dreams keep playing, keep going, keep projecting those pleasant beautiful images on the backs of my lids, but jealousy got the best of me. Pure envy made me open them, made me turn around to see the horror that was reality.

I didn’t see much after. The plumage got in the way. So many feathers. So dark and full and opalescent as it caught every ray of sunshine that had dared to enter my tiny room.

It was upon me before I could even gasp in with the awe I felt, with the tinge of regret I’d known was bound to happen at the discovering something so sacred.

The hook of the beak took my right eye first, let me watch as the contemporary dinosaur sat on my chest and devoured the jelly as if a treat it’d been waiting forever for.

Then it lowered itself to me, the tear-drop nostrils snorting thick spurts of air, the yawns of its eyes much larger now, more like an adult or an abyss.

Still empty.

Obligation / 9.28.16 / 12:13-12:36

The first time we fucked was at the back of the red barn on the Meyer’s property.

His cock had a mean 30-degree angle and no amount of warming up could get a woman ready for such brutality against the splintery wall. When we finished, he kissed me tender, thinking the blood was from my first time. I bit my lip and hoped I wasn’t losing my baby.

I didn’t and we married three months later. I let people assume our big-head boy was born early and surprisingly the rumour held weight. No one doubted those bright blue eyes had been inherited from my doting husband. Plus, ain’t too many of those looking like me snagging a white man.

It may have been my Daddy’s ties that kept me safe. Or my Mama’s ability to hold secrets loose enough to pass them to the next generation.

Me and my brother held that town in the palms of our sweaty, black as fuck hands.

We held it delicate. Until we buried our parents side by side, death claiming them in the form of a mean cough within days of one another. They’d refused the doctor and we weren’t ones to defy them.

They left us with nothing but those secrets.

Somehow they knew we would be okay. Somehow they were pleased with the dexterity with which we held and balanced the white lives of so many dirty motherfuckers.

My brother was the first to snap, squeezing the contents of his left hand a bit too hard and bucking at white boy Jim. Jim had exactly three screws lose and not one fuck to give. My daughter found her uncle strung up against an oak tree, his hands cut off and his tongue stretched.

Hostility grew, but gall didn’t. I still had my white husband on my arm, still had my hands full. My heart was heavy but my lips remained sealed.

Just once, I took a bite. Held the gaze of Mary Mulligan in centre square as I held her secret in front of her and let my teeth sink deep into its center, light bursting all around us. The town froze, watching as they tried to grasp the words floating, swimming, dancing all around Mary Mulligan and her hourglass shape. I chewed as the shadows converged, standing tall, melding until a man stood before her, translucent, but solid enough to let his tears smudge her makeup.

I swallowed and he was gone.

Mary Mulligan didn’t meet my eye after that. None of the town did, which was fine by me.

I still showed my face, still walked with my husband, still had my children play in the square.

No one bothered us. No one ever will.

Because every night, just before bed, I share my burden with my babies, all six of them. And they recite them right back.

We are the glue of this town, whether they want us or not. We are obligated to them to keep their lives pure and they are obligated to us to make sure we do. No relationship is perfect. But this will do.

Look Closely at the Most Embarrassing Details and Amplify / 9.27.16 / 6:45-7:15

My nipples have always been a little weird. A touch too puffy and surprisingly offset from the center of my chest so that when I reach a particularly egregious stretch of physical inactivity (as I have recently) they all but disappear into my armpits.

I used to be able to lick them.

Back when I was at the peak of my fat kid I saw a picture of Trinity Loren sucking her tit and I thought that was sexy as hell and so I tried it thinking – I think – that if I succeeded a. some girl would find that just as sexy as I did and be totally turned on by the fact that I could emulate a doomed pornstar and, I don’t know, do me? or b. I would turn myself on beyond belief thereby equipping my future masturbation sessions with a dissasociative ace in the hole.

But that didn’t happen.

All that happened was some sad fat white kid licked his nipple in the shower on sunny SoCal afternoon and got really stoked and then really sad because a boy with manboobs is gonna be a boy for a very fucking long time and I was, I was even after I discovered bulimia, anorexia and sexual intercourse.

But that’s another shame for another day.

Today I’m talking about my nipples and how much I hate them and will until some displaced tropical malady takes them or I finally go as Pink as I wanna be and then I know I’ll miss them.

Because they are a delight to pinch and flick and wet and feel harden in the winter.

So maybe I don’t hate them.

I just wish they were in a better place.

Assemble Some of the Elements in a Group and Treat the Group / 9.26.16 / 6:55-7:25

It’s been twenty-one years since my time in the hospital and I’m beginning to forget which is a shame because I always thought that was going to be my formative event. My definitive era and maybe it is. I don’t know. Doesn’t really seem like it, though and any reasonable man would take that distance with a great sense of self-satisfaction and congratulate himself on his growth out of the destructive indulgences of youth.

But I have never been a reasonable man and so I’m clamoring with all this unexpected and unwanted time on my hands to piece together the names and faces that populated those seven days.

The only one I can remember, for certain, is Jason.

Jason was a red-headed schizophrenic with a cowlick and a lisp and we hated him. Eh, maybe hate is too strong a term for medicated, adolescent disdain but the kid was a royal pain in the ass from day one. Always getting up in your personal space. Always spitting when he spoke. Always sucking up to the staff as if they gave a flying fuck about his wants or needs.

He was also a savagely sloppy masturbator. I think he might have been compulsive but who am I to judge that now? I’ve been known to lose whole days to porn and humorless erections but at the time there was something about the way he handled his dick that was just downright unsettling.

We only spent one night together. I’d been ousted from my room on account of a new kid needing to utilize the restraints and bunk up with the kid and as soon as it was lights out the motherfucker went to town. Huffing and puffing and hissing spit as he jerked off under his rayon blanket. It was hideous. I could barely keep my own erection for his merciless assault. I don’t think I did but maybe. At that point, I was more than used to jerking off in company. Three years in a dorm will do that. Hell, when I used to live with Josh and Bonk we used to have masturbation contest. Josh always won which was something he was unduly proud of and I always lost which – a few years on when I was finally fucking – would prove to be something of a burden.

Sometimes, you just need a quickie, you know?

Anyway, I remember getting up at some point during his rabid little marathon to go to the bathroom and when I switched the light on, I came find the room was positively drenched in cum.

It was like some German shit. Total bukkake nightmare. Cum on the mirror. Cum on the tiles. Cum on the can. Cum was fucking EVERYWHERE, man and some of it was still dripping and warm like he’d been marking his territory right up until we said goodnight.

Admittedly, I was somewhat impressed. This kid was Peter fucking North. Of course, I wasn’t going to admit that and no quiet nod to ejaculatory prowess was going to keep me from bugging the fuck out and wailing on him in his bed (dick still in hand) growling “What the FUCK, man? What the FUCK?!?” over and over again.

He just laughed and pulled the blanket back daring me to come into firing range.

I didn’t.

I left the room and headed straight to the nurse’s station to demand I be moved somewhere less grotesque.

“There’s cum everywhere. I can’t handle it.”

“Well, it’s that or you can spend the night with a violent psychopath if you’d like.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

Go to an Extreme, Move Back to a More Comfortable Place / 9.24.16 / 6:25-6:55

So, you’ve decided to kill yourself.

Fair enough.

We all die sometime, so why not get the jump on the motherfucker and make your death your own?

And before we go any further, please know that I am not here to stop you. I don’t know you from Adam and really haven’t given a shit that you’ve made it this far so why should I care if you go any further?

I don’t say that to be demeaning, mind you. You’re a person, after all, and all people – no matter what they may tell themselves after dark – have some reason for being, some impactful qualities no matter how incidental or inane. Everyone’s touched someone, for better or for worse. Everyone’s impacted each day in some way unless they’ve gone full shut-in and even a shut-in’s gotta eat, pay the rent, the utilities, etc. etc. So it really doesn’t matter how far removed you think you are from the species by allowing yourself to be alive at any given point in your life, you’ve made a difference to someone.

You’ve certainly changed the course of my day.

I guess it’s like that butterfly tsunami thing. In fact, it’s exactly like that only, usually, our impacts on the day are far less invested in mass casualties. Still, the impacts are there and they fan out exponentially. Some would say they go so far out into the world that they come back in one way or another. It’s certainly possible. Maybe that’s karma. I don’t know.

What I do know is that you’ve lived to this day and, in so doing, you’ve made a difference any time you did…well, anything really. It might not have been a big “D” difference like planting a tree or killing a man but difference is difference and your simple existence has done it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year and it will even after you leave here in a bag or a box or whatever means of disposal you prefer because someone’s going to have to deal with the dispersal, internment, etc. etc. and that person exists and so they take the actions of your end onto their proverbial wings and fan out into…

Well, I’ve never much cared for metaphors but I trust you catch my drift.

HA!

See what I did there?

Puns aside, my point is I don’t know you and I never have and so who you are doesn’t register at all with me but what you’ve done probably has.

Kelly Clarkson / 6.9.16 / 7:34-8:04

To say I miss you would be an insult so I won’t say I miss you, though I’ve already said it twice. Since you left me, there’s been a hole.

There’s really no other way to put it.

There’s a hole in the bed we shared for forty-six years. In the house we roamed for the seventeen since we retired. In the Buick that’s still running due to some inexplicable miracle, the same Buick you tried to insist I get rid of.

Who knew the Buick would outlast you? Outlast us?

The goddamn hunk will probably survive me, considering the mass eating away at my brain.

It’s funny, that mass.

It’s taken away my hands and feet. My taste buds and some of my hearing. But it hasn’t taken away thoughts of you.

I still feel you, still smell you in my bed clothes. I swear I hear your footsteps on the staircase in the middle of the night, right around two when you needed that glass of water that would nearly make you pee yourself first thing in the morning.

But that just may be the tumor.

For all the holes in my life now, thanks to you, the biggest one is the pit of anger I find myself falling down every time I think of you.

Two years. For two years, you’ve abandoned me, left me here, rotting.

I’m so angry with you, I shake when my nurse touches me.

You would hate her. Call her a hussy. And nosy.

She tried to report my shaking as seizures but I pulled her in close one day and just said your name. She got it then, though she didn’t share my rage. Instead, she looks at me with pity now.

You make people pity me.

And I want to say that I hate you for it but that wouldn’t be right.

If anything, I feel alive again because of it, but it doesn’t fill the holes.

Only you could do that.

But you’re not here, are you?

I should just let go, right? Let go of my anger, let go of the empty feeling associated with you, let go of you.

But I can’t. I can’t let go of you and of my pseudo anger and hatred towards you because I’ll die. I’ll finally let go and I will die and I don’t fear death. No, it’s not death I fear.

It’s the thought there’s nothing after. It’s the possibility that there will be no you, no us.

So I lay here, day after agonizing day, holding onto memories of you, of us, while my brain fails me, my body rots, and that goddamn Buick laughs at it all.

Each day that hole widens, traces of you slipping through. Forever.

I miss you. Goddamn it, I miss you. And I don’t want to.