a spontaneous picnic in pasadena, 76 degrees on a Saturday afternoon and lily’s wearing a t-shirt with a iron on print of my 8th grade school picture. I flick a bit of red pepper hummus onto my b&w baby chub face and she fakes offense and tries to shove a bit of cucumber into my nostril. eugene is rolling an orange on his thigh to loosen the skin from the fruit and his stoned girlfriend is lying down busy running her hands on the cool grass and at the this exact moment as I’m watching her, the shadow of a cloud breaks from her face and her skin lights up like a happy thought. I think about eugene and the time we collided on our bikes resulting in having the skin off the back of my ankle torn and him having his lips busted open, bruised, cut and swollen for the following two weeks, I don’t know why I think about this but the memory was from a long time ago and the distances makes it funny. he peels the orange and the skin comes off in one big piece and he tosses it into the air and the wind, gravity and mischief work to make it land in his girlfriend’s splayed hair, she just laughs then eug leans over her for a kiss that must taste very much of citrus. lily and I watch awkwardly, she’s always just been a very good friend, but the weather is so nice as if the sun and the clouds were expecting us to kiss too, so I lean in, her eyes form a soft surprise, I lean further and down down and I press my lips to my lips of my own 8th grade school picture just above her belly button and I press really hard and blow a long, deep raspberry right next to the hummus stain. the face on the t-shirt flutters and giggles.
As you sit on the toilet remind yourself: this is interesting, this is life, my toenails need clipping, wow this is interesting too, life is interesting, everything has a smell, I want to know.
One Last Adventure
So they drove north. They exchanged few words during the drive. Music was a good mediator. They heard what to feel. The constant view of the coastline of California was a good background from which they could turn to find the other staring out the open window.
They drove the entire day and made it to the lighthouse near Santa Cruz. The wind made their hair wild. They took in big gulps of gust and were unable to say much. The sun was low and hues of pink and orange were born into the sky.
They switched sweaters. The residual scent and warmth of the other was overwhelming in the circumstance and his eyes began to well up. She held his hand and they began to walk to towards the sound of breaking waves. Soon, they were close enough to the water to hear the froth burst above the ocean and the sand. It looked infinite out there.
What do you say on your last adventure? There was a hold in their minds that you might be familiar with. They were unable to say a word not because there were no words or thoughts, not because there was no need to speak — they certainly felt a draw to say, to acknowledge, to ask — but there was just too much, the past, the present, the sun, the waters, the wind, him and her, the end, the completeness of it all. So they stayed honest and quiet.
They had plans. They had plans to drive up to San Francisco from here. They had plans for meals and nights they much deserved and dreamed about. They wanted to go even further north. They wanted to be lost among pines and they wanted to see snow at their feet. They wanted tired nights, nights that made them love anew, nights drawn up in bathtubs, nights under glass skyscrapers blue reflecting the moon. But they were here, the first leg of their trip and —
In their eyes, the sun was lower. It dipped into the sea and the waters grew red and warm. It tore at them because they both knew what the other had realized.
They arrived at the motel and without undressing lied on the bed. The room felt too bare and empty. They stared at each other’s faces above the bed sheets, each not saying a word, each feeling too sorry, each wishing while trying hard not to lie. They fell asleep right there just like that.
Tomorrow morning she flew back south but he drove east not wanting to trail after her. He saw deserts and drove up mountain trails. He drove north across the big flat plains of Idaho and then south through the strange rocks and colors of Utah. He kept going knowing at some point he won’t feel it so complete and so finished and he kept going not wanting to feel that space ever again.
But you don’t understand. I have this real genuine feeling that it’s all going wrong. We’re not okay. This isn’t okay. This isn’t normal. We can’t be so nervous and anxious about each other after so long. It’s like every time we talk something is going to break. The worst part is that I love you more and I want you more when you’re not around. Then when you’re here all those good feelings just slump away. We’re not supposed to be like this. I don’t want things to be like this. We had and we still have something really good. And I don’t want to fuck up all those memories and good feelings I have about you now and the good feelings I have about our past by just continuing this thing and dragging it on. We’re going to break everything good we have or had until I hate you and you hate me. Then we’re going to really fall out and we’re both going to be victims. And years later when we come across each other, I don’t want us to look at each other with spite and anxiety or fear as if we violently stole something from each other. Let’s just do one more good thing together.
Let’s just do one more adventure, you know? Then we can leave each other as something beautiful.
As if it wasn’t enough to love, as if it wasn’t hard enough, here’s the cellphone ringing ringing ringing.
The touchscreen reads Soft Cheese Chardonnay, not sure in what kind of a drunken stupor we have to be in to think it wise to name secrets as such in our contacts list, but here she is calling him because we all need more.
"Softy," he whispers. "No, sorry. I was just talking to someone else," he lies even into the phone.
He heads into the garage, far away from his wife, out from the pressurized calm of his home.
"You cant be calling me," he reminds her. "I miss you too but you can’t be calling me."
He stares down at the spot of car juice. He thinks of a fat plump baby god on a floating cloud. He spits on the fluid. The bubbles float above a viscous dark. He watches them pop and he grows tumescent.
"I know. I miss you too," he tells his phone. There’s a creak and he diverts his glance to the closed door.
"Tomorrow. Noon? Noon," and he kisses the phone screen. He places it back into his pocket. His body’s muscles tighten and wring out a familiar fluid feeling. He blinks hard, wipes a sloppy expression from his face and reenters the house.
His wife asks.
"No one," he tells her. "Not no one. I mean, it was work. I don’t want to think about it."
Sadly, she loves him for this, the way he buffers out the stress of life for the safe nuptial space they maintain in their conversations. And his wife kisses him right there on his lips, right there on the same lips that spit into the puddled car juice.
"I love you," he reminds her. She responds, too kindly.
They kiss and kiss and kiss and grope. He grabs her sides and feels an all too thin stomach. Then he breaks their embrace to speak.
"I’ve been thinking about trying something new," he tells her.
She draws a wicked smile.
He tries to remember how it goes.
- Did you know that otters hold hands when they sleep? They do it so they don’t float away from each other while they’re asleep.
- Thats sweet. Do you want to try holding hands while we sleep?
- Yes. But. But. But our hands might get clammy.
- Shut up and hold my hand.
- You tolerate me.
- I really really tolerate you.
- I tolerate you too. I want to tolerate you forever.
- And ever.
[Yawn. Silence. Night drifts to and fro.]
- I want to tolerate you so hard.
If it wasn’t the zoo, she wouldn’t have left. Something about all these confined animals, wordless and frustrated, that triggered the voice she heard whispering from the sky. She heard something you might expect the sky to say and with this whisper she felt justified in letting go of her son’s hand, giving him one last calm and soothing pat on the back of his shaggy head, and walking away to melt into that crowd of nameless strangers.
The son stood staring at the furrow where the baby panda was resting. He mentioned out loud how pandas almost always have twins, and when there was no reply or a reassuring pat from his mother, he turned only to see a tall stranger pointing a camera towards the bear. The woman standing next to him wasn’t his mom but the son called her so anyways wondering if by some life’s trick he had yet to learn that she could be, would be.
He did not panic. He stood there at that spot before the panda when the panda was taken from the display to some backroom to be fed and rested. He was still standing there when someone came and bent down to his eye level and brushed some hair from his face and started to speak. Then, just then, when his ears and attention heard the pull of a question but just before the noise had time to become words, he started to cry.
Can you guys give some movie suggestions?
Hiking in L.A.
Babes, he reminded us. We left the beach and hit the trail. Even before five minutes in we discovered that he was right. He was so right. He just nodded at us sagaciously like Mcconaughey’s character from Dazed and Confused, each bob of his head saying: alright alright alright.
Some people are good at these things. I’m not but luckily he was. After the hike we were having fish tacos with four girls we’d met on the way down and we were already planning the night like good friends.
Your place at five?
Alright, sure. Message us the address.
Do you guys smoke?
Well, you do everything.
Can you guys get pills or coke?
One of the girls has a charmed life. Her house was perched on the hill and if you were to roll down the woody hill in a drunken stupor, you’d be at the beach in a few minutes. We entered. Met the girls again and another we hadn’t met before.
We broke the reformed ice pretty quickly with alcohol and swimming. The sun was just starting to set. This house was beautiful.
We got ready to head out. Some of us had already found pairs and one of us even had help changing from his swimming clothes. Taxis came and we wrapped up with shots and you could tell by our volume that tonight was going to be a fun mess.
Insert bits of memory: making out while waiting for the bathroom, someone got jealous of something, that tear in the dress, we were dicks to the taxi driver at some point, what happened to the drugs and my phone? Oh yeah.
Back to your place?
Nah, we’re gonna go to my place. I live right down …
Mesch, you have to call me in the morning okay?
Can I get a cigarette?
Your pupils are so huge.
I’m jussr little drunk.
And finally morning. Wood floor. There was someone sleeping on the floor. She must’ve fallen out of the bed and not cared. There were earthquakes during the night (or so we’re told). We called each other to find out where each of us ended up, some numbers were unavailable.
She woke up.
She looked at her phone.
She pulled a pillow down from the bed and asked me to join her on the cool floor.
It was Sunday so I did.
By this time, they had taken over her bedroom. Thirteen in all. The best of the girls wore taut dresses and some displayed light bruises about the inner most portions of her thighs hinting less at pain or accident but more of the night before and the potential of this one. A bottle of orange juice was passed around followed by a bottle of milked vodka. They settled into the most natural pose they could maintain while the biggest guy in the room, a slightly heavy set guy with unkempt locks of curly, orange and red hair, laid out the lumps and piles of white powder onto the reflective dish and began a chopping motion which caught the eyes of the reddest and most flushed. There was a moment before the windows were opened in that stiffing room, a room mainly composed of bare white walls with holes from nails long gone, the cleanest wooden floor, the leaned and, at most places, pressed bodies of the gathered, when the music paused and the old citrus’d and pine strands of smoke held in the air. It smelled of yellow and the ember was passed along to the nearest when a girl in a dark floral patterned dress leaned over an edge of a table as if to kiss the surface or pray then she breathed quickly and forcibly inwards making a white question mark disappear from above her reflection. Immediately afterwards she lifted her head and held down her nose then crashed backwards into that welcoming body of others. Everyone smiled and her light body and the flowers about it were absorbed back to the circle. She was beautiful therefore they became beautiful. Everyone took their turn to pray and they were all made holy by the thought that beneath the gift of life is the slight but sharp promise of death and behind death was a depthless, recycled meaninglessness far more necessary and feared. A window was opened and the lungs of her East Village apartment exhaled into the lit and tinsel night. The room felt alive as if they been touched by the soft, cold hand of a stranger. There was a desperate need to enjoy this moment: I need you, they said, Here, while pointing into themselves.
I lost a toof ∴ I can no longer write.
I’m going to press my bruised face to my pillow and browse amazon while occasionally sucking up bloody spit for eternity.
Have a good life beautiful face.
you’re v. v. pretty, i tell her. she mews graciously and presses her head against my knuckles. we stare at each other and blink slowly and deeply. then we stare at our own dark reflection in the coffee cup. once satisfied that we are both beautiful, she leaves to lie on a stack of books.
this is all i ever want in any relationship.
The day in which cat walked up to the bed and slapped the crap out of the sleepover house guest in the face because she was snoring too loudly.
Friday Night Mantra:
I am just a normal brown bear out and about in the city looking for humans who share beer.
three o’clock, twenty minutes into the lunch and
My Spanish has been exhausted. In the wane before I give up to my natural English, I begin to converse with her father in a mixture of both languages under a flair of an adopted Spanish accent. It’s not an accent I was taught in school, it was more the one I picked up from food/travel shows featuring tapas and barbecued pulpos or Catalan wine.
But we’re drinking Dutch vodka and her father is salvadoreño. He speaks too fast for me and his daughter (my date and favorite ex-coworker) helps by translating the more cultured phrases while his wife lovingly asks him to slow down. But as you know, a man develops a certain kind of conviction with enough alcohol in the afternoon. Her father speeds on and asks a question that seems to be about my recent job and in the middle of my response he asks me in English if I am rich.
No. My name is Jay, I tell him. He doesn’t laugh. (No one laughs at my jokes anymore. And I’m not rich. Seriously.)
He quickly chalks off my response as a lingual misunderstanding and enters into a rhythmic speech which seems to escalate in volume with every mention of what I think is the word fontaneros. I start to rack my brain and I’m assuming he’s got some issues with some plumbers that did some work but the rest of the words don’t seem to paint a context where plumbers would be involved. So I try to match my facial expressions to his and I nod my way through a flurry of words until he stops and stares at me as if he’s waiting for a response to some question.
My date takes my hand and turns from her father to me to help explain the question but before she can start her father holds up a hand towards her.
At this point I get scared. Things are too quiet at this table and I can really feel the vodka in the back of my throat. I feel like there’s some big dumb cloud blocking all clever thoughts in my brain so I tell him a truth. I have no idea what you’re talking about, I say with furrowed eyebrows.
He laughs. He fucking laughs joyously. We all follow along by laughing but at that moment I decide that I hate this man and think about sex with his daughter.