Gritty on my hands and grainy on my calves. Granules stick to the fat flesh of my palms and cling to the even fatter flesh of my boyish legs. Gritty and grainy like course sandpaper. The pieces stick to me like bad feelings, like leeches, and leave their mark the same.
It’s a strange sensation on the nerves, these small points of pressure and heat. I try to ignore the discomfort they cause because I know that eventually, with every pulse of blood from every beat of my heart-drum, the discomfort will fade. Pressure—heat—heartbeat—numb. And even after a while the numbness fades. All that is needed is time.
Acres and Manors
Like green top hats, the trees in the distance are an odd sight in a desert landscape. That’s the advantage of this perch, this rigid, angular peak; I can see how green the Upper Valley really is.
I know you don’t understand why I have made it a habit to sit on the roof, but from here, the valley becomes a patch of cultivated splotches feeding on the muddy vein of moisture slicing through the cracked earth. Like the congregation of millions of spores, the Upper Valley is the congregation of millions of dollars; at least that’s the common story.
The Westside—the land upstream—the rich side of the mountain—the wealth of a town confined to the Petri dish of southern style, multi-acre plots with groves of trees and overgrown grass and roads lifted from antebellum postcards—the only part of town that doesn’t feel like little Mexico.
Patches of fuzz from here, but through the lens of a microscope, the Upper Valley is teeming with southern belles and stately gentlemen; or at least that’s the illusion. Green with money. Green with life. Green with envy. Three times more green than the patches of bald earth around it.
Flipsides of A Coin Really, Divided by A Mountain
I know I’ve told you this already, but I grew up hugging the other side of the Franklins, where one can see the sunrise and not the sunset. I was raised by the desert and fed by the glorious smell of the creosote bush. My backyard was the sun-baked clay of the mountains, wild and teeming with coyotes, rattlesnakes and scorpions.
Everyone says that the east side of the mountain is for whores, dueling gangs and drunkards. All I can say about such accusations is that whores are everywhere, like tygers in sheep’s clothing; like you. And drunkards (very much like whores) are just as nonexclusive. And as far as gangsters go, growing up I never saw a gang fight with my own eyes, or heard a gunshot, but I can brag the time when I was twelve years old and saw a drug deal at Sunrise Park. It was the middle of the day and not at all like the movies. She must have been forty, non-threatening in her spanks, and he might have been younger. They hugged and discretely exchanged green for green in their handshake and went their separate ways.
I should be in my car, I-10 bound, passing the smokestacks by now. I should be outside parking, or walking up the sidewalk. Even though it’s summer, I should be on my way to painting class.
You’re there, I gather. And I expect you’re flirting with Angel more than you’re painting. You’re not painting because you’re a “flirt” (I’ll use the euphemism), but mostly because you’re a graphic designer and you like computers more than brushstrokes. I’m a painter. It’s a wonder how we ever met. And I think it explains why, from the beginning, the two of us were never going to work out.
It’s box city, that building—a series of cinderblock compartments and glass walls, with ramps leading up to the sunlight and down to the roots of the pomegranate trees. It’s the least architecturally interesting, the least Bhutanese, the least cohesive building on campus.
Inside there are painters, potters and potheads. Draftsman, designers and sculptors. Future educators, crafters, and frauds. There are metal-smiths, mothers, and morons. There are also musicians, dancers and actors; all with body image issues, personality disorders or sexual insecurities. There are bulimics, anorexics and alcoholics. Sex addicts, drug addicts and, even worse, general dicks. It’s a city of overgrown children—pursuing a dream—or a desire—or, even more disheartening, pursuing a paper.
The north side of the building has four floors. The lowest level has two rooms for metal-craft, one room for woodcuts and etching, a closet for screen-printing, a nook under the stairway for the homeless to nap in, and off to the side there are spaces for the prop and tech houses, the studio theatre and the green room (which you told me has a better reputation for bedding secret lovers than hosting actors).
The second level has the main theater, two gigantic spaces for ceramics and potters, a studio for sculpture and welding, a woodshop, a litho room and the freshman design and painting studios. There is also a bathroom with a single shower hidden in the corner. Like the green room, these tiled closets are better used for various sex-ploits, and are never used for their intended purpose.
The third level is useless to me. It’s dedicated to the tech-savvy graphic designers. It’s dedicated to your kind.
On the top floor is the main dance studio (which was once the art history lecture hall), a row of offices and a row of three painting studios, as well as the main art-ed facility. Tucked into the end of the hall is the main drawing room, which has seen more dick and pussy than the greenroom and the second floor showers combined (but mostly for academic purposes, not sex).
The south side is the foreign side of the building, and like crossing the border into Mexico, I’ve probably only ventured over there three or four times. It’s primarily dedicated to dance and music majors, chopped up into a maze of sound-tight practice and performance spaces. Like north and south of the border, north and south Fox Fine Arts are as culturally divided, notwithstanding cultural similarities.
We live here for now, renting out my grandma’s old house from my uncle.
You know that I refuse to stay in the master bedroom because that was my grandma’s space, and to me, she is still lying dead, swollen and waterlogged in the bathtub of the master bathroom.
The day we all moved in, I let fur-face take that room. She relished in it without any sort of thanks, but to be honest, it’s still hard to think that she occupies the same space that my grandmother did.
Ricky took the middle room—the room where the TV used to be. My cousins and I would spend idle hours on the floor watching whatever and nothing at the same time. It had carpet then, now it has tile (the better choice for renters). We would sleep off the turkey and cranberry of holidays. Right now I think there is a pile of dirty clothes and a careless condom or two occupying the floors of my childhood.
You took the front room. Your bed is exactly where my grandpa’s deathbed was. He lay there for months, skin yellowing and cells hardening—until his lungs, like wet grocery bags, stuck together and wouldn’t open up again. The fan that spins above your head was the last dizzying motion he saw before he became a spirit—a vapor—my very first greatest sorrow.
I occupy the “maids quarters.” It’s neutral space and it has its own bathroom anyway; not to mention it is devoid of familial ghosts.
Damn haze from cars. Damn haze from the freight trains. Damn black sooty haze from the incessant tire fires across the concrete valley between here and Mexico. I’m not an environmentalist, but I do enjoy breathing…
Worst of all is the heavy haze from evaporating thoughts. We’re a city full of people that can’t condense enough brainpower to formulate any meaning for themselves…
Every Tuesday and Thursday you would stare me down from across the room and mouth to me messages; your lips outlining the darkest words in existence, “I love you.” You moved your mouth with such lust that it was easy for me to hate you. It was creepy. You didn’t even know me. And I didn’t even know you. And you were so arrogant. You spent all class period laughing with her while the professor droned on and on about Le Corbusier.
I was trying to learn. I was trying to do my best to ignore you.
I dreaded that class and I even set up my mind to hate you.
But you wouldn’t stop. I’d see you out of the corner of my eye and you summoned my attention with your cocky head nod. Mouthing incessantly, “I. Love. You,” with ample pause between words and ample tonguing with the word love. You’d turn and chuckle towards her. I couldn’t discern if you were mocking me or simply humoring yourself with those laughs.
You raped me with your words. Your adamant faces. Your lustful eyes. You assaulted my better judgment and took advantage of my bright eyes.
It’s hot up here. Hot on my hands—hotter when I apply pressure. I sit here trying to be as light as possible, as if I could float away on a breeze. Evaporate into a vapor—into steam—or become a weightless gas. I sit up here and try not to touch anything, or feel anything, or be anything.
It’s hot on my ass, like an electric burner. Hot because the shingles on these god-forsaken houses absorb too much heat. Hot because it’s a desert here. Hot because heat comes from the sun—obviously.
Obviously, I like the heat and pressure of sex better.
I’ve already told you about when I was twelve years old and really, there’s not much more to explain. When I was 13-15 my brother dated my best friend. He got to go to Disney World with her family while I stayed home. When I was 15-18 I discovered the internet- its shallow pools of information and deep pools of porn. When I was 19 and 20 I discovered desire. At 21 I tasted alcohol for the first time. At 22 you saw past my softest clothing wooly bright and exposed the most clandestine version of me.
Really, there’s not much more to explain… throughout history, I’ve become a real ass…
The Cusp of Seasons
It’s the end of summer and based on my current feelings, it will be gone forever.
The summer is a season for swim practice (not school)—for walking a mile to the neighborhood pool early in the morning and staying there all day. It’s for eight to eight days of idleness. Summer is for tans and hot cement, for Speedos and endless games of “fox across the river” (only interrupted every 2 hours for 15 minutes of adult swim). Summer is for swim meets, and crushes, and cautious flirting…
It’s becoming more obvious, however, that summer only lasts so long, and it’s for the young, lighthearted and playful.
If I am supposed to be having a conversation with you right now, my mind won’t let me. The fact is, I’ve never been here before. I’ve never been this person either. So excuse me for my obvious ineloquence.
My key points:
- Constellation Street.
I have no words to tie thoughts together, obviously…
The sky must be mentioned… Poetry and paintings say that she is a deep, deep blue— and everyone’s muse. The herald of spring and the wind of romance and love. Constantly moving, and more mutable than motionless. The sky has the reputation of being beautiful, but also more tempestuous than whatever was “us.” She brings the night and carries the sun, and blessings and curses fall from her like fairy dust.
This of course is bullshit. And I call it like it is; the sky is a whore. She is the other woman—a lie—a fairytale—a sad man’s handmade fiction. She is the skin on the surface of time, bonded to the horizon, and behind her, space continues and valleys and centuries merge and emerge. She is a milky wax or a dirty window—a window in desperate need of glass cleaner, shadowed with grimy fingerprints and colored with plods of dust.
I’m right of course. How can poetry and paintings be so dense? The sky is a window with a foggy film of years of grime and colonies of dust along the frame of its windowpanes… Or maybe I am projecting…
Your hair was shit blond then. Orange really. And in a Mohawk. How artistic. How so fuck’n expressive. It made the scar that runs down the right side of your head absolutely obvious. You said that when you were seven years old a dog that looked like a lion attacked you. It was a sentimental story—sort of.
Now I don’t care half as much, so I’ll be honest with you, your Mohawk sucked. And you should have known that hair bleach would never be strong enough to drown out thick, dark Mexican roots…
Wordsworth lies, and his words carry no worth. I am dark right now, and though I try, daffodils bring me neither glee nor needed “jocund company.”
Strange how above me, things are blue and off in the distance everything is heavy, cloudy and dark. Nothing spans the distance between here and there, except the thought that I should be there rather than here under this halo of ironic pale blue light.
It really can’t be decided if clouds love or hate time, being left at the mercy and whim of every breeze, drift, and current.
Am I a lonely cloud?
Songs of Innocence
Before I turned twenty-two I had only had two alcoholic drinks, both on my twenty-first birthday, both at a nameless bar on Mesa Street with my girlfriend and her round older sister. The first was a margarita and the second was a shot called a “Monkey Fucker.” I remember the experience and the taste of both, but like the everyday, average cloud, it was nothing special. The drinks made me uncomfortable but I didn’t notice anything mind or mood altering about the substance. I knew that I was a bore that night. We were there for an hour and I must have been miserable company to hang out with… Truth be told, before I turned twenty-two, alcohol and real sex made me nauseous to even think about.
I can’t help but think about you, and you probably intended for it to be that way; and if you were here, I would ask all the questions I didn’t ask before.
Remember when you asked me if you were a cancer?… to be honest, now I can see the semblance… You’ve grown on my heart and in my brain, and I’m not sure if even chemotherapy can remove the blackened growths on my personality. But admitting it just might be giving you too much power, and I’m not dead yet.
Songs of Experience
I told you that the first time I ever touched someone was when we were alone in the dark stairway of my aunt’s house. I was cat-sitting and I was the one who lured you to come with me.
I told you that my first time actually ever doing anything… was in the darkness of your cheap apartment on my birthday. It was a lie of course; a lie as dark as that silent, secret night. It was awkward because your bed squeaked and I was embarrassed because I knew that we weren’t any good.
Okay, so maybe you weren’t the first, but you were the first that ever meant anything to me.
You Borrowed Paint From Me For That
When I saw the painting you and Angel made, it seemed to be the last bit of you that I could handle. During critique you said it “documented an important moment of intimacy.” You called it art because you hung it on the wall, but all you really did was roll around in blue, yellow, white, and silver paint with him. Half of me hopes that the paint was toxic, and that you got it deep inside you. Half of me hopes you get at least half of what you deserve…
I thought it was crazy seeing your little penis stamped all over the canvas in smears and smudges of yellow, blue… yellow-green and green-blue… because a week before you made fun of me for just talking to him. He left me a note, you remember, on my painting cart:
“It was really nice talking to you. I can tell we have a lot in common and I hope we can talk again soon.”
I tried to prove to you that I didn’t like him by tearing his note up (even though it had a doddle on it that I genuinely liked). You called him “bird-beak,” or something equally as stupid, and accused me of loving him.
We dated for seven hours I think, the seven hours it took you to go from rationalizing dating me to pursuing “bird-beak.” The everything before and the everything after, was, and is a disgusting gray. The incessant mouthing of “I. Love. You,” with your ample pauses between words and ample tonguing of the word love—gray. Your tricks and games—gray. Your cheap apartment in the silence and secret of the dead of night… on my birthday—gray. The embarrassment… the parties… the money—gray. The night you spent with your ex-boyfriend watching a “movie” in your bedroom—fucked up—and gray. That drunken night in the hallway of the laundry room, when you pulled down my pants—fun—foolish—gay—and gray. Bird-beak, paint, sex, critique… gray.
In the heart of the heart of a four-lettered word, lies your name, and we’ll just say that G—R—A—Y is not the only combination that fits. So out of all the four lettered words that exist, take your pick.
Ending or starting
I guess all I have left to say is that I’ve made it a habit lately to sit up here and think. Nothing is ever made clearer. And my only achievements have been the little imprints from the grit of the shingles on the palms of my hands.
I try to ignore the discomfort they cause because I know that eventually, with every pulse of blood from every heartbeat, the discomfort will fade. Pressure—heat—heartbeat—numb. And even after a while the numbness fades.
All that is needed is time.
And a Heartbeat…
So, why the fuck am I on the roof again?