I dreamt a dream tonight.
And so did I.
Well, what was yours?
That dreamers often lie.
In bed asleep while they do dream things true.
Oh, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
Snow attaches itself to the metal wings of man-made birds. I ride on the tale, last row, middle seat. I think about how you would be sitting next to me, probably asleep.
I steal a view of the clouds and the city lights growing smaller and smaller and I think about how nothing has changed but everything has. I still wish to gaze out the window like I did when I was a child, but my longer legs and older knees make me feel stuck instead of free.
The manufactured breeze pouring from the plastic panel above me makes my neck tense up the same way you say that my neck and jaw tenses up when I sleep. It makes my brow into the bark of a redwood tree.
In general, I think change is good, especially in cycles. The change in my location takes me north late in winter, the delayed migration of a sort of queer bird refusing to stay with the rest of the flock. I know you find it unsettling that I am willing to travel without you.
The metallic ridges shoot up at me like a row of knifes on edge. I step on them and they carry me. I don’t go up, but further. Further into myself as I move closer to my gate.
I’m walking now even though the blades below me continue to carry me. My headphones know the situation. They scream into my ears like a hell-and-brimstone-preacher:
There’s nowhere to go but on
The sky is frozen and black, shining through vertical puddles of melted sand. The melted sand is what separates me from heavy frost warnings and fresh air. It’s what keeps in the rabid energy of travelers. The energy reverberates off the slickness of the weather-shield and radiates back on me. The energy penetrates my heart and instantly creates a cancer. My cells begin to deny oxygen and instead begin to separate using the process of fermentation.
I feel like running now with the interior beat of the sand-trap but a mother and daughter stand side by side blocking the frenzy. I know that if you were here, we’d be moving much slower.
I step off and back on another autowalk. It walks me while I run. My mind slips behind because it knows better than me. It probably knows what you would know, that I will miss my connecting flight.
I run into the darkness of florescent lighting acknowledging but ignoring the suspended blackness frozen on the other side of the vertical puddles. The preacher is almost done with her sermon now, all that’s left is the inescapable prayer of the alter-call. Her voice is ethereal and it comes out like air:
Take it slow
Take it easy on me
And shed some light
Shed some light on me please
I continue to run anyway.
I want to argue. I want to cuss and cause a scene, but I don’t. I know that if you were here you’d be embarrassed if I did. And after the slow, winding movement of waiting, the monotone voice gives me a voucher. I step out of the manufactured ecosystem and cut my way through the frozen air aware that I will be back in line less than 12 hours from now. Maybe you were smart not to come.
The asphalt and rubber carry me away into a world where a “free night’s stay” in a strange body-stained bed is enough to pacify me. It’s a Band-Aid covering the inconvenience of this unexpected layover.
I look out into the darkness. It feels as heavy as my eyes. Because you aren’t here, my eyes and the darkness lean on each other, keeping each other from collapsing.
In your absence, I can’t help but recall that Denver is where he lives.
If you ever find out I’ll never admit it, but it was a moment of Jack and Coke, a mere moment of desperation to relax and make the best of the inconvenience. Either way, he hasn’t answered my text, so it really matters very little.
Watching the cubes of ice settle further into the cup, I know it’s for the better. My mind-space echoes the words:
What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?
You’re at home and I am not a cheater. And really, lying in the middle of this oversized bed, I savor the odd opportunity to go to bed alone.
My alarm wakes me with the ringtone you have come to hate.
I shower away the feeling of the sheets along with my desire for sleep. I grab my stuff and leave.
Passenger aboard rubber and asphalt again, I check my phone and there’s a message from him. I realize you’d never believe the serendipity of the situation.
I meant to text you last night, but it turns out I didn’t hit the send button when I thought I did. Hope you are doing well. I woke up super early today and I’m at the Airport. On my way to Mexico with my family.
It sounds funny and super convenient, but it seems Fortune has had her fun.
I hesitate before responding. I stop for a second, conscious that perhaps it isn’t fate but Prospero meddling with amusement. I walk into the manufactured ecosystem and make my way through the zigzag of waiting.
What time does your flight leave?
Mine leaves around 8 too.
I think it’s B, but I’ll have to check.
Well I leave from B, but if you’re in
a different terminal, I would love
to meet you.
I go through the prescribed radiation, sans belt, sans shoes, sans everything in my pockets.
On the other side, I grab my bags, put on my belt and my shoes, and refill the voids of my pants. I start my search for the restroom.
I know you wouldn’t approve of me finally meeting him. You know some of our history, but not all of it. What you know about him is based on the one phone call he made while we were at a bar and I ditched you to talk to him. Truth is, ten years ago he had a close friend that had the habit of doing stuff to ruin his life. I was one of his bad habits. We were stupid kids and even though we lived hundreds of miles apart we got into the habit of having hours of phone sex in between our Math and English homework.
One day, instead of his friend calling me, he did. Maybe it was an intervention or maybe just a curiosity, I’m not sure. But I have much to thank him for either way.
Him and I began to talk without the script of sex; and I stopped looking for chat-room distraction. We talked about everything, and we told each other anything. Okay, so you know me better than that; he did most of the talking but I listened. And there was no pressure or embarrassment because miles, lives, and autonomy separated us.
We grew up, and grew into each other, but life incessantly divided the physicality of space and time between our orbits.
I don’t really blame you for hating him, but you should understand that while I love you, if I’m being honest, I have much to love him for too.
I stare into the mirror. Reality hits me; there will be no way to hide my acne scars or working class wardrobe. I think about changing, but really, the thing I fear the most is the fact that there will be no way to hide behind silence.
My mind-space is sporadic and darting around everywhere like the universe at its origin point. You’ve known me long enough to picture what this looks like.
So much is riding on feeling him with my eyes. I’m here staring at magazine covers but really I see nothing. The blackness of my mind blocks out all of the other senses. The florescent burn buries me in the dust of unflattering light.
I imagine this is what if feels like to be a lump of clay off center on a spinning wheel. It’s really a moment of contained kinetics. Maybe he wont be —maybe I wont be—everything we imagined.
My back turns to the magazine covers and I divide the clean, white isle of this overpriced commodity trap in half.
He does not speak but I recognize him, his stare slicing through the tangibility of everything. A look of recognition registers on the ridges of his universe and his planetary orbs radiate light. Suddenly the need to move, to do something, slips from my skin and releases.
You know that energy is neither created nor destroyed but transferred, and I become calmer when he says hello and his voice sounds familiar.
I know you’d rather not hear any of this, but we talk. We skim the surface of various topics in our lives, bouncing from one to another. We read the lines on each other’s face. We say way less than we are thinking.
I evaluate his smile. White. Cosmetic. Perverse.
I evaluate his clothes. Expensive and perfectly fit, especially where his legs bend and create the foreshortened valley leading up. I pack away the image of him before it evaporates.
People divide our thoughts. Some of the divisions float up to the ceiling where they condense. I become aware of the people around us. They remind me of you. Enough of our thoughts condense and indiscriminately fall back down on everyone the same way lawn sprinklers water the grass and the sidewalk evenly.
“So why are you going to Seattle?”
“I don’t know. To get away.” I’m conscious that this comes off as a dismissal of you. This makes me feel bad.
“Have you been to the market, what’s it called, the one where they sell the fish and the flowers?” Odd mixture of smells. A painfully typical question.
“Yeah. It’s a cool place.”
“I know. I’ve never seen so many flowers, and they’re so cheap. If I lived in Seattle, I’d have flowers in every room. I would need my sunshine to come from somewhere…”
It’s a perfectly valid statement, except it points out the gap in our disposable income (like the clothes, like the smile, like his hospital residency). It makes me feel small for a second, but also enchanted. And I doubt that I’ll be able to forget—but just as much—I doubt I will be able to remember the exact colors of this spell.
I’m very much conscious that our conversation would have frustrated you. But I will contend even though it may seem wrong, that maybe it was better that you couldn’t come on this trip with me.
It’s seems obvious to me that both him and I are thinking similar thoughts. His glance up and down my body, held firm by his smile confirms at least one. We both envision would-be moments of bodily energy transfer. But we are also both secretly grateful that this moment will have a definite end. We have flights and boarding passes with times and different destinations. And the brevity becomes part of the trance. It allows for future free-falls back into this moment without conscience—future horizon lines blurring into colors as of yet unknown to either of us—with the comforting expiration of a jarring return to reality—the jarring return to you.
After I settle into the space you reserved for the two of us, I set out on the streets. The fog rolls up into itself and back down, slowly, too slow to notice. Idle desires do the same thing, sometimes rising to the top of the mind-edge where a tickle taps on the ridges of the brain. Sometimes the same thing happens in the heart. But more than anything, when I feel things rise, I feel it down there below the belt.
The streetlights change and I walk.
For whatever reason, I think about when my grandma drowned in her bathtub. I took one month from school. When I returned, I hadn’t missed anything.
I think about the guilt of not appreciating her more. I think about how the guilt planted itself on the edge of the water like moss growing between the street grates. I think about all of the runoff that has rolled over it. I realize that it’s no longer painful to look at but beautiful when I stop to notice it. She’ll be there forever, fed by the water cycle.
I wonder if I will ever feel the same things about you.
I walk on water at night, not like the Nazarene, but like a person on a pier alone, in the rain and in the darkness. I feel isolated. I feel the peace of vulnerability. And I can’t help but acknowledge that if you were here with me, I would have gone through my whole life without ever experiencing this feeling.
For a second, I picture the water eroding the wood I’m standing on and I feel myself crashing down with it. Cold. Bleeding. Frozen. Dead.
I feel myself adapting to this death and I see myself swimming with the jellyfish. I give birth to a new me in secret and hide there like an unknown treasure hidden between rock and sand and gallons upon gallons of water below what anyone could ever find. I stay there in my underwater bathtub and get clean and save face and relax my tired muscles.
Standing here, raw from the darkness and alone, I am alive.
Three things I will tell you when you call me:
1-It’s cold and the rain, like your gentle touch, makes my neck simultaneously tense up and relax.
2- Green flowers upset me. Why people buy them, I’ll never know.
3- The breeze is wet. I taste it. It tastes colder than dirt. Someone opens the door and I think about how I feel bad for leaving you behind. Except there was no way I was going to stay. I needed this more than water. And non-refundable trips are expensive.
I’m in a glass box facing the street corner. I see a man with a bedroll on his back and a cardboard sign. He digs through the trash and picks out a half drunk Starbucks cup and looks at it like it’s a kernel of sunshine. Straw in mouth, he finishes it off, making his army boots and jacket seem fragile and brittle like a dried clump of dirt.
The fit girl in pink leggings, clean looking and fresh, is smoking crack with another bum and I’m scared they see me watching. It’s one of those moments I wish you were here with me, if only to protect me.
I am waiting for the bus. You probably wont humor any of this, but the cool air pins me down. I imagine it lifting me up. I imagine evaporating into a cloud and ascending to heaven. There, I am pieced back together and free-fall back into myself. From above I see a fragile lady crossing the street alone. She holds no company, just a green flag above her head so that drivers can see her.
Seeing her makes me realize that I am not really a cloud. If I was, I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable at home but strut around town like I’m the shit while I’m here.
I will admit that I have always carried the fear that once I met him, the 10 years he fed my what ifs would seem foreign and all the rain in my water cycle would become polluted by the reality of the moment.
He’s no longer a dream. Meeting him by chance, seeing him standing at the end of rows of pre-fight magazines and Dentyne gum ignited a flicker on a wick of a new candle like the unexpected water-swell, crash, and tumble of a wave on a rocky shore.
I can blow it out… If I want…
I’m at one of the restaurants you and I know from two summers ago. Spilt creamer on stained concrete channels Jackson Pollock. It gets wiped up by a manly busboy and a rag. I fight back the desire to step in it and find my Seachange. But social pressure always makes me fear. Creamer is for coffee and not for floors. Creamer is not paint for footprints.
You know how I enjoy trying to fit in with the locals when I visit places, but her balls caught my attention and I found myself staring:
I don’t want you on my bus.
I don’t allow people that call me names on my bus. And you been drinking.
You heard that.
Well, you honked at me.
I honked at you cuz I didn’t want to hit you. You was in the street.
Lady, I just need a ride up the hill.
I don’t care. I don’t feel comfortable with you on my bus. I already called them.
Well I want to be here.
I’ll call again. They’s already coming to remove you.
You just gonna sit here?
When he left, I audibly smiled while the bus mounted his hill.
Some places are too loud to be quiet- too loud to let silence think, so I left the confines of the quiet hotel room to roam.
I’m in the narrow space between the long walls of this bar. Here there is much space to think. Mostly my thinking is done with my dick. It makes a cutting sound like a siren.
Wei-ner! Wei-ner! Wei-ner!
It’s not the sound of the modern, lights flashing on the top of a white metal box type of siren. It’s the ancient draw you into the depths of your own ocean sound. But thoughts of you keep me tied safely to my mast and after this one very strong drink I’ll leave.
We are talking on the phone and I notice the distance in our conversation. It’s the distance of a thousand miles, just like the distance between the logs separating the park from the beach. It’s the distance between the meniscus and the water’s bottom. I fear that we are dividing into separate cells, but it’s only an illusion.
Inside morning texts are sadnesses of lives not lived. What I mean is, this morning I found myself lying under a sheet of glass looking up. I saw all of the raindrops accumulating into bubbles of refracted light. The earth was cold and moist below me. The smell of raw earth mixed with the faded scent of humanity and flooded my sinuses like the infection of a paper tree air freshener. The moment I read the drama of perfect words, everything shifted:
Hey, I hope you are enjoying the rainy emerald city! I still can’t believe I dreamt about you the other day, but it was an amazing dream! Hope to have that dream again soon!!! Very Soon! Also hope to reconnect with you more now that we have a spark. Let’s fuel this fire. Have a wonderful day mister J Makes me smile to have finally seen you!”
Never mind his overuse of exclamation marks. The pools of water evaporate and the fresh air fades like it’s caught up in a fan. I think I realize now that I belong in the sun with you, and there’s no space back home for melodrama.
I delete his text after I write it down in my notebook.
All around me is white space like four-inch tiles clinging to a wall. Things weren’t this white last time we were here. Everything is white like the fuzz on an old orange. White like his bleached smile, and for whatever reason, I think about how I kept my mouth closed out of inferiority when I met him (I had meant to go to the dentist at some point). As I stare at the white lines of the crosswalk, the rows of white space in his smile—the white space with perfect grout lines—fade. The orange hand is blinking now and I don’t know if I should cross.
The honesty of seriousness is a slice of pie seriously sliced. I eat it because it was served.
The conversation I had with my friend in Chicago allows for the moss growth of honesty on the park bench where I sit. It allows for the moss growth along the sides of the trees where I Skyped with her. It allows for the acknowledgment of the resentment I still need to work out with you.
The slice of honesty allows for the stepping on dog shit and the wiping of my shoes in the unsuspecting grass and moss by the sidewalk. Honesty allows me to think that now I want a new model… of shoes, not you.
I laugh at my own compulsion to take pictures that capture everything, but nothing at the same time. For the first time I feel the tartness of being aware of not having someone to take pictures with. It is the strangest thing I have felt since the nights I used to force you to stay with me while I worked well into the morning.
Meanwhile, the color blue spreads its fingers out like watercolor. Wet on wet. It makes for a beautiful moment but a boring picture.
I wake up to the smooth sounds of a sunny day. A jubilation of sorts. A jazz melody not at all blue celebrating my departure. I’m aware that the rain is tired of me stealing from it. It whispers to me:
I’m okay with that. It’s time for me to leave the jocund company of daffodils growing on metal awnings.
The neon clock ticks up. The sea of cars and people, vans and bikes, tourists and locals walk every which way. I sit still for a bit, shaded by the brown patio umbrella low in my seat—so low that I am inches from the floor.
The sun makes me realize how much better the downtown smells are in the rain. The mixture of cigarette smoke, car exhaust, crime and the god-awful mixture of food smells, which is usually strangled out by the water, is now a thick butter of humid air. Revealing the gritty is the nature of the sun.
The same bum I saw before, the trash digger, the used Starbucks sipper, passes by me. I think he recognizes the feeling of my eyes on his back. It’s a different street corner, but it’s his city and he can do whatever he wants…
While I soak up the last few minutes here, I let the thoughts in the back of my mind un-file themselves:
- There is no mystery about us. I call you Guy, and the 6 years we’ve been together is no rush.
- I like licking your elbow because it annoys the hell out of you. I like driving you crazy.
- I really doubt I could ever be myself with anyone else. The problem is, I will never know unless I find out.
Maybe you would be proud to know that I didn’t buy a single flower while I was here; not a single daffodil. If I were at all romantic I would have bought one just because he said they’re so cheap. If I were a cheap romantic, I would have ventured back out to the park again where I saw them growing to pick one. But right now all I can think about is how much my feet and ankles are sore from walking.
Instead, I stop in for my last cup of coffee in town.
“I like your shirt with the cactuses”
It sounds weird, but to be fair, I am wearing more than one shirt so the distinction is accurate.
The desert is back on my sleeve, and for better or for worse, I am slowly becoming myself again.
It’s two-thirty in the afternoon and there is so much to think about inside of this bullet shelling forward. I begin to feel you next to me in this barrel of mass transit pointed in the direction of reality.
No more strutting around like I own the place. And slowly I pick up my insecurities all over again. Pre-packaged like flight food, I become less calm, more anxious, and characteristically abrasive.
Next Stop: Blasé.
And really, there can’t be much wrong with that.