Maybe I’m in love with you. I say this in a diner. On the train car. In the boulevard. She says the same. Probably we’ve got secrets. Or maybe not. Does it matter? My father is diabetic. My maternal grandmother as well. They took limbs before she passed. I tried cooking for her. When she passed. The middle of the night in the small apartment my brother and mother and I shared. The bedroom where my brother and I slept, a tape deck and twin beds. My mother lay down next to me in the dark of that room. I didn’t know what to do. So I cried the best I could. What was that about my father? And about how I love you. Both are true. Both are important. Neither one over the other. So I love you. While sitting alone in my apartment in the middle of the night.
And why do I feel embarrassed? That last retinue of youth and naïveté and hope. Is there any better sound than a box fan turned on in the nighttime. The creaking of bridges. Or is that curiosity, or boredom. Have I always been shy? My mother says, sure, kinda, yes. And so has she. Until now. And I, like her – presently. Her father taught boxing. Her father was a wayfarer. Her father had his nose cracked by a feather. And my own? Soft brown vessel. Slow and confounding and ornate Latin. We are all shy. And quiet. And mainly alone. And mainly friendless. Yet we are capable of our own ecstasies. Loudness and might. Such fault lines and fractures in past loves. And now? And again? Weren’t you supposed to be my only come round the bend once more. Aren’t I always driving home to you. Isn’t there so much I need to tell you?
CIRCUMSTANCE + ERROR
The entire block smelled like awesome marijuana
and lilacs + honeysuckle. Summer pulsed incontinently.
I was crying. I was hugging myself – myself! –
and walking fast. I was sending messages
on my phone and regretting each and every one.
I was swerving all over the place, as though liquored,
as though punch drunk. My shoes were scuffed;
sweat mottled my brow and darkened my pits.
The pavement glistened like dew-slick grass.
Heat shimmer stacked and swayed, did its shook
Jell-O impression. I pressed send and send and send, then
checked compulsively for answers, for pity + understand-
ing, for an imagined shoulder, an invitation, yet, nothing!
I was bereft and alone in my small corner of the world,
left at the side of the road at the crucial moment, as
meaningless and insignificant AS I’D ALWAYS FEARED!
So I was oblivious to the capering of the squirrels, the
chirping of the birds, the kids playing punchtag in the street.
I walked and tried to maintain a straight veneer of face, craven
and honest. It didn’t work and my mouth cracked like cheap
paint. The heat pressed. Radiators gulped and panicked. AC
exhaust pipes pissed into the alleyways like incorrigible sots.
CLOUDS swam through the sky like gigantic MANTA RAYS.
Cars rolled by forever with their stereos bleating and
blatting, yet drivers sat buckled and stone faced as carved
monuments. I looked at everyone and ranked them according
to sexy. Which was – duh! – wrong. I should have been thinking
of my WIFE! She is BEAUTIFUL and her smile a chevron
stamped into her jaw. When I lie to her, when I make love to
her, her heart beats like a rabbit’s. But we were fighting! We’d
yelled so loudly the window panes shook their frames, cracked
the glazing. Neighbors banged the walls with their fists.
So we stopped and I slammed out. I hesitated in the hall.
No one followed save my fear and misgivings, my contempt,
my SADNESS. My phone held silent while my ATM card
rumbled in my pocket. Bars beckoned. Escape, relief,
the primal tang of urine and perfume! Boredom, the
same old ancient bull hockey banter and chat and smile.
I like your eyes, what do you do, I’ll have what she’s having, k?
Tell me MORE. That’s hilarious. Isn’t it so that we’re all after the
Same fucking FUCK, dissatisfaction, and stick? The
same fleeting opportunity to posture triumphant come
morning. So whatcha got? How simple it would be to sit and
shout, I want to know your ANONYMITY, to gather it like
clumps of hair! I want to taste your desperation and need
+ desire for AFFECTION, I want to wake and be SURPRISED
and not unhappy with the accompanying haze and fog and
smear. The clatter + no goodbye. I’d said that aspects of love
gave me the Larrys. Because I have the recall of the
eidetic. The limpid impressions, the huff and pull, the way
shadows fall across scars and drip from limbs, the linger
of touch. As though I’d just lightninged into existence free of
all godly relics, wholesome as milk, wheat waving in the breeze.
I was the only one to blame. I’d been sneaking drinks all
f–f–f-fucking day and stalking the living room. I’d said,
There is no such thing as innocence but can’t we hold out
for a little virtue every now and fricking then? Huh! I’d said,
and stabbed the air with my index finger. I walked and
walked. The same relentless monotony of crumbling blocks,
apartment houses. Dogs waddled behind their owners.
Couples hunched in a reluctant shade. Garbage cascaded
in the streets. Gigantic TVs flashed through open windows.
Nobody FUCKED ALONE; nobody held hands. Exhausted bees
float-hovered over blooms and on the opposite side of town
a kid tossed the one millionth pair of shoes to hang and sway
from the sag of glistening power lines for eternity.
I choked back a sob and pinched the soft white of my bicep. The
sun thumped behind the clouds, radiated as a single giant coin
in an endless palm of blue. Cold gripped my body and laid
me low. I missed her so much. That phantom limb shit, that
majestic longing, that keening MOURNER’S WAIL! I could
see her gray eyes. Her brassiere. Her humanity. Her squiggling
hips. The muscled torsion of her unclad back in the soft hue
of morning. Too I could ask myself, Who squirms not alone
in the liquid night among the rank wet panels of a Midwestern
summer’s humidity atop a freight train’s engine car with
their own tepid stranger, thinking all the while, what? Who?
Fucking who, my bruv, my love? I entered no bars, I sat on
no stools, I brushed no bare forearms, murmured no bland
encomiums, no worn flatteries, made no eyes at no adjacent
sets of eyes, carnaled not in any slattern streets or alleyways,
enticed no one to anchor in no bar bathrooms as if to say this is
my aura bastion of spit and sway and through the mélange you
will come to know me as only I allow – and – isn’t that nice,
isn’t that polite. I kept my ATM card at bay, my dwindling stores
of charm and manly appeal; I did not loiter there at the crossroads
of indifference and bitter conjecture; I did not eddy at the
confluence of aggrandizement + loathing + regret; I did
not yet suborn my tenuous reliance of self. I put my phone
in my pocket and pretended it was not there. The moment
was come to put to bed my GLOBAL INSECURITIES. I breathed
the cotton air, filled my blood with it, my belly, until the
bloat of courage coursed Venus hot through my veins. I longed
for all furious odor. I RAN and RAN as fast as I could. I felt
truly that runner’s high and euphoria. MY tears and sweat
and spit and melancholy and rage all ran together, commingling,
commiserating like friends forced into a shambled joy by
circumstance + error.
I stood there in front of her and thought but did not say,
…….MY LOVE IS A HEART IN THE SHAPE
……………………..OF A CORNER BODEGA
……………………………………THAT IS ALWAYS OPEN FOR YOU.
The Flood of Your Grief
Sometimes the best screenshots of despair are in real life. So maybe I’ll come over to gloat in the flood of your grief.
Sometimes I think of buying a gross of bowling ball-sized rocks and wheeling them onto a chartered boat.
OFTEN I cannot remember the bulk of my twenties. When I was beautiful and young, when I was angry and drunk and craven, when I could not move because of a sadness held dear as an impossibly sick infant.
Sometimes I can see you. Half-standing, your back against a wall, the movement of a discordant rhythm keeping you in the dim. The seeking weight of body and push, hot breaths expiring, asking, Is this pleasure, Is this daring, Is this sexy.
I’ve had partners too. And most of that is private and hush. And only one was a scoundrel. And all the rest mainly forgotten, elided, scoured by dust-blown winds.
The captain of my chartered boat will look at me and intuit: ABYSS. He will take in his brine-swollen hands his waxy maps, his stub of pencil, his arcane tools of navigation (sextant + astrolabe + astral glow) his clairvoyant foreknowledge of the ocean swells, and will steer his creaking vessel through the water, its nose inching toward where it is most deep, the water cleaving before the bow.
We’ve not sat in the summer warm asphalt of a rural town, have we. We’ve not fucked in the yard, the street, have we. We’ve not bobbed in the ocean.
Haven’t I regrets, having never taken home a stranger, having never felt her foreign and uncharted, having never seen her aquiline silhouette in repose. Having never basked in the notion of having been used.
Are we that unalike, walls of a trenchen chasm.
In the night, the murmuration of stars above, my torso clad in a damp sweater of wool and salt rime and palsied shudder, the cold wind, the endless mist and clap of wave.
Squint, the darkened warren of memory.
In my bunk, I can hear and feel the reassuring churn and thump of the engine. In my bunk, I can hear and feel the endless swirling movement of the ocean, its giant stillness, its horrifying fullness.
I want to tell you that I know what it is to be and to feel disembodied.
I think of this because when we arrive, I have preordained that I will take my gross of sizeable rocks and tip them over the railing and into the ocean. As they fall through the air, they will be soundless until they meet the water. When they meet the water, their surface will meet with that of the water’s and there will be a resistance, and then a give, and then a clap and splash, and then the rocks will be no more, as the endless deep will have consumed them. And as this is happening, I will take hold of the last and heaviest stone, the one that I will have scored with my initials, and I will hoist it, and the two of us will follow the others into the black water.
I was drinking on Tuesday. I was dedicating myself to it. Tall glass of whatever. Outside was winter. The nighttime was robust. The air cold and damp, thick as a pelt of suede. Wind pushed against the surfaces. A sheet of ice came loose from the roof and clattered to the ground. It sounded like an old glass sliding door opening and shutting. Sudden hush of frigid air cleaving through the heated room. I looked at my glass, the eddying whorls of my fingerprints. I thought of art and solitude. Eyes wet in the evening. Because my father became a septuagenarian last year. Because I feel older than I used to be. I thought about the woman I love. If I had money. A little bit of cash. The roads are covered in ice being broken apart by rain, and the ice floating like depressed arctic glaciers. It’s been too long since I’ve worked, so I’ve been writing. Men laugh in the background. How good it is to enjoy and imbibe. Thinking these things, my reverie is occasionally broken. The breathing of the insulating plastic I’d taped over the window. But it comes back. As usual. The ease of quiet and still. Sometimes it felt as it was always about to rain.
I want to tell you, I know about love. I have known it and mashed it with my hands, churned it with my hips, my eyes open all the time. I have put my tongue on it and licked. Meal of plaster, of honey, of rot. I have thought elope! and slammed doors just the same. I want to know your bad secrets. Your anonymity. Whether you have carnaled in a bar bathroom with a stranger. The idle streets and smell of beer and rank of sweat on brow. Remnant of saliva, and what else. File away and wait. The crinkle of paper, the register of memory. I want to tell you the names I can’t remember, those precious few. I want to appear sexier than I actually am, ever was. To dream there was a small era where I could be found being daring, being irresolute, being shameless. That something more than ringing ears and a rank stomach came from my squall of aimless unsober wandering. To wake and smell like success and a swimming pool. I haven’t any keepsakes. Not beyond those moments of laughter in summer, in spring. How we smile when we’re frustrated in the night. Yet, there is crumble and fawn. There is me becoming feeble. I want to listen and take it in, then pretend I am evolved, and say, OK, and say, Yes. But haven’t we all. Louche and pedestrian and unbrave. Difficult and not, the simplest thing in the world. The cheapest, the costliest. Sere the desert and its lack of water and ease. There has been so much to recover from. But I am getting older. Here is a curve, a slowing, the dull plow blade, and tug and sigh through hard dirt. How it was to learn to trust in my mouth again, to feel strength. Modicum of power. On a slant, slight tickle of knuckle on forearm. Stiffen and contort. Be an amateur for another’s benefit. What keeps me wakeful at night. Big city confessions. Books. An ID found in a toiletry travel kit. Histories in a living room. Perspiring and soughing on our shelves. What is true, what is hyperbole, the littoral and intersect. Two waters not the same. And too I wonder if you wonder about my ghosts. Questions asked mid-grope. Swaying of the ocean under wooden slats. Do you have anything. Fumble and guess. Move forward, the tatty creak and shudder. The hard mattress. The why bother but you don’t have to leave. The blah-blah histrionics that follow. I want to tell you that all is not secret. Like, Who is this. Is this your bed. Or hers. The pictures on the wall. The orientation of the bed. The sun rising on the wrong side of the room. Ceiling fan ticking overhead. There’s old coffee in the pot. There’s bread on the counter and meat in the fridge. There is an inventory of a life. Come into focus. There she is, or was. I want to tell you: these are the shirts that weren’t mine to begin with, and how many the number of hands that have clutched and assisted in the lift of arms and pulling over. I want to tell you with touch and feel and look, with pulse and motion, that there is happiness to be had. To scoop into our hands like water, like grain, like sand.
Edmund Sandoval is a writer living in Chicago.