September

fiction

We’re on a park bench, facing a lake, and though her body is positioned forward, away from me, I can see from the corner of my eyes that her head is turned in my direction. She’s burning holes in me with her eyes, figuring something out, so I turn and meet her gaze.

I look in and she looks back and though we’re physically close, there is a distance. She holds an expression that’s fixed on the line somewhere between anger and joy, and I don’t intend to betray the intensity of this connection.

There was a time when we were obsessed – with ourselves, with each other, with the world. We couldn’t have enough, almost as if existence itself depended on the guarantee of doing, which was no guarantee at all.

We had each other, each with no commitments, yet with the unspoken promise between us that there would be no room for anyone else, no matter the situation.

Hope beaming out for an audience, like red blinking lights communicating across the darkness of the night sky.

We held no illusions about the world, and we still don’t. We knew that it was brutal and callous and simple, so the idea of making real and gimmick-less moments with each was important. Is important.

There is a chill and as we maintain a closed circuit, minute by passing minute, we come to terms with the truth.

It’s too late.

The cold months are on their way and the Fall is about to take over with its short days and even longer shadows. The swimming pools are just beginning to go unused and the leaves are starting to pile up on the top of blue canvas covers. Walks around the block at night, hand in hand, will soon become contemplative lonely journeys with our arms crossed behind our backs, shuffling away in silence, holding on to the present as if there is no promise of a future.

We outgrew each other.
We are outgrown.

Green River

fiction – 

Mike rides like the wind on a night during the last slow stretch of Fall. Cold, fast, and gone before you have a chance to see it move the palms.

From PCH to the 710 to the 5, straight into the heart of the city, we fly down the dark concrete band toward the collage of bright lights which taper up to one elegant and crowning point.

The nights are getting colder and the days are getting shorter and the dark will turn to dawn before we’re all home.

We stop at a bar near the river just after midnight.

We started in Orange County and made our way up the coast quickly towards the blue light bridge. At its base, some turned around and headed back, but a small group went further. Itched for the long ride, searching for the empty streets of the big city.

“I could use a beer,” Nick says, as he takes his helmet off.
“Fuck, I could use a few son,” replies Mike, still seated.

There is a staggered chuckle from the group.

 

The red neon calls us, but as the others make their way in, Nick and I wait outside and smoke.

After a long silence he coughs and asks, “Are you gonna’ see her tonight?”

I mull this thought over.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

I pause again, hesitate, and then reply.

“I just don’t.” I then continue, “There’s nothing more to it than that. It flickers and happens sometimes and then sometimes it doesn’t. It just dries up and fizzles and dies.”

He thinks over what I’ve told him.

“It’s not a regular thing,” I add.

He nods and then takes a drag and asks, “So what do you do about it?”

“I just run with it,” I say, “Let it happen, but I don’t push it.”

Nick tosses his cigarette onto the floor and crushes the glowing embers under his boot.

“Well,” he says, “I’m not one to tell you what to do, but just handle your shit, alright?”

“Alright,” I say, with a grin, “You don’t have to worry about me.”

He pats me on the back three times like an old friend looking out for me.

“You know me man, I always worry,” he says.

“I know. Thanks.”

He starts walking the entrance and I take my time against the wall, waiting, smoking. Watching every car that passes by. Carefully observing the catalog of moving shapes, looking for a familiar one.

CCR plays from inside and I pull out a joint from the case inside my jacket pocket and light it.

Well, take me back down where cool water flow, yeh
Let me remember things I love

The nights are bleeding into days and the days are getting shorter.

Objects

fiction

We’re in a cafe with red vinyl 1950’s style booths. There are tiny little jukeboxes on the ends of every table, and Sheryl Crow is wondering if it makes you happy over the speakers. Elle sits across from me, playing air guitar to the chorus of the song, rocking her head gently back and forth to the rhythm. Her bangs move in front of her face, but she looks at me, never losing eye contact.

I half expect her to get up from her seat and stand on the table to drive the point home. She gradually stops and looks away, never quite losing the tempo, and runs her hands through her hair, fixing the strands that have fallen out of place. She turns to me, placing her elbows on the table with her fingers interlocked, and smiles.

You know what the sad thing about people is? she says.

What? I reply, after a beat.

That they want to look into your world. They want to look because they can’t deal with the ugliness of their own, so they turn away from their own, never really facing what makes them look. It’s as if they can’t stand to be bothered by their own insecurities.

I let this thought enter and find a place in my mind where it can settle and carefully diffuse over ideas, strands of thought, never fully articulated.

I bite my lip, and mull over what she said, looking for a concrete example of what she means. The song changes, and Blink 182’s Dammit comes on, and I wonder who picked this playlist.

I away and then back at her.

You know what the funny thing about some people is? I ask.

What’s that? she says.

That they have an appetite for things that they can’t have. Whether it’s objects or other people. Somehow they, we, always seem to desire that which is the other. Other than me, other than you, other than this.

You want to know what’s really funny? she says, with almost no break between the previous thought.

What?

Why is it that Spandau Ballet always plays in the prom scene of every cheese-ball movie that you can remember? That’s the real concern here, she says deliberately tapping her right index finger on the table to the pace of the last three words. Real. Concern. Here.

I smirk, and then look away, crossing my arms, and leaning back into my seat.

You’re not going to make me laugh, I say, looking back in her direction.

She takes her elbows off the table and gives me a deadpan stare. I uncross my arms and look out the cafe window. There’s a lady crossing the street and she’s holding the hand of her little boy and he looks happy to be outside. Next to them is a couple in their late teens and the boy is on his phone, clicking away, and the girl smiles at the lady and her son. When the traffic light changes, they all cross the street together. Breaking the stillness between us, Elle picks up her glass of water from the table.

This much is true. This much is true, I fake croon in her direction.

We both laugh, and she snorts as she takes a drink, and sprays the table between us. Gross and Thanks, I say, from behind a grin.

You’re an asshole, she says with smile drawn across her face. I knew you were waiting for me to take a drink, and I still gave in. I saw it coming, and I still went against my instincts, she says.

Isn’t that the truth, I say.

I help her wipe down the space between us, and then we place the used napkins on an empty plate next to the jukebox.

Do you have any quarters? I ask her.

Let me check, she says, and starts digging through her purse.

I look for Smashing Pumpkins on the jukebox.

Play Peaceful Easy Feeling, she tells me, still looking for a quarter.

No, I say. We always listen to that song.

Yeah, she says, because it’s really pretty. Do you just hear it, or do actually listen to the words? Don’t you want to lay with me in the desert at night? she says.

I turn away from the jukebox and look at her with a crooked smile.

Found some! she says, lifting her hand from the small coin pocket of her wallet.

Yeah, but Mellon Collie is such a good album, it’s been on my mind for the past week, and I haven’t heard anything off of it in I don’t know how long, I say.

She sets the quarters down on the table, closes her wallet, and then in one swift motion, tosses it back into her purse, which she then returns to the seat next to her. She smiles at me, and I continue to search through the list on the other side of the glass for something to play. When I look up, and meet her gaze, she stares right back at me and starts rocking her shoulders smoothly back and forth.

Time is never time at all, You can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth, she melodramatically croons at me.

She then lifts her arm up and sings Tonight, Tonight with an open hand, and brings it down slowly like Freddy Mercury bringing a microphone back into his orbit, making a fist as it moves along its path.

Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight, tonight, she emphasizes the last two words with a fist pump in front of her.

We both burst out in laughter and a man on his phone in the booth next to us looks over in our direction.

A Book of Portraits

fiction

I want to take your picture
I want to guide your eye
I want to love you deeply
I never want to die

Let’s run out of the city
Let’s run far from the sun
Into the darkness of each other
Into the void where we are one

 

I wake up in her room around eight on Saturday morning.

I quietly get up and step out to get water from the fridge and the bright morning light immediately washes over the headache that’s brewing and makes clear the taste of lipstick and cigarettes.

The view from the room looks out over most of the small cities in the Arroyo and the world seems to stand still. Her dog sleeps peacefully in a soundless patch of shadow in the corner. I step back into the room.

She turns over and faces the wall to block the sun.

“Close the door babe, yeah?”

Later, when we both get up, we joke around for a bit and listen to Oldies, but slowly, with no cue, we transition and start to catalog an ever increasing list of the previous nights bad decisions.

 

“I don’t want to fuck this up,” she says while we’re laying on the bed, her fingers playing with my hair.

“Neither do I.”

“So what do we do?”

“I don’t know,” I say, “I have no fucking clue.”

 

The house gets warm and the day gets brighter, so we shower together and get ready to leave. We drive towards The City and listen to The Band and Muddy Waters on the way.

We drink Micheladas at a place East of Downtown and they do a good job of clearing up the bad feelings and the air of uncertainty. We talk about going to the batting cages, but then scrap the suggestion and go back to her place where we have sex again.

We drink tequila while we watch baseball and chase the taste with the sweetest limes that I have ever had, and I never want to leave, but we both have to go.

We smoke on the patio and take in the view and both silently prepare for the rest of the day.

 

“How are we going to make this work?” she says, breaking the silence.

“I guess we’re both going to have to be ok with lying and deceiving,” I say.

 

A sense of future moments flashes in her eye and then I lean over and kiss her.

The Little Death

The Little Death

fiction

“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
— The Sun Also Rises

Jake takes a drink from his flask and a drag from his freshly lit cigarette. He has shaggy black hair and a black jacket on.

It’s 7 pm on a Tuesday night, and he’s sitting in his old blue Dodge, near the corner of 2nd and Alameda.

He’s waiting for Dee to text him. He met her a few weeks back after a show in Echo Park.

They hit it off, exchanged numbers, and kept in touch.

When she finally does text him, he takes one last swig, and then proceeds to tuck the bottle into his vest pocket.

He throws out the cigarette, rolls up the window, and makes sure that he has everything in his pockets before getting out of his car and heading toward the bar.

It’s a cool night out, with a layer of fog creeping into the city, slowly and assuredly. There are a few people out tonight, but not enough to make a crowd. Nick texts him just as he arrives at the bar next to the neon mermaid, her crooked smile looking down into the void, and sends along the address to a show that’s happening around midnight on the 2nd floor of a loft in the Fashion District.

Inside, the pace of the room is unhurried, but the din has enough buzz to almost make the sound of jazz coming from the band inaudible. Dee, sitting at the bar near the back, near the band, is focused intently on the episode of Dragnet on the TV in the corner of the bar.

Jake sneaks up behind her and whispers in her ear, “mind if I buy you a drink?”

She turns around, without missing a beat, and looks right into his eyes, “only if that drink has Whiskey and nothing else.”

“My kind of girl,” Jake replies.

She laughs and then gets up from the stool.
“How are you darling?,” with the last word rolling off of her tongue in faux transatlantic accent. She hugs him, and Jake hugs her back.

He suggests that they make their way toward a table.

“I actually have another idea,” she says.
“Sure, and that is?”
“Why don’t we jump in that cool car of yours and head toward my place, then we can walk somewhere more central. Yes?”

Dee lives at The Elroy, not far from they are now. On their way over, they drive to the school near the 4th street bridge.

“I’ll be back in second,” she says, as she steps out of the car.

As Jake waits, sunglasses on, even though it’s almost dark, he reaches into his vest pocket, and pulls out the flask.

As he’s about to take a drink, however, he pauses, and looks out toward the city. He feels like he’s been dreaming for months, or maybe years, almost as if there were a large dark cloud in his field of vision. But right now, right at this moment, all of the points in the cloud have started moving away from each other. The last of the light is making its way through the structures in the center of the city and something moves him. He doesn’t know what exactly, but something. Something big and calm.

As Dee walks back over to the car, her fresh red lipstick visible, bright against the background of the old train station, he takes a drink from his flask.

She walks over to the back door, opens it, and throws her stuff in.

As she gets in, he asks, “Ready?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” she says.

Incanto

fiction

“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.”
— William Blake

The light in the car is bright. They are parked on top of a hill, with a view of the city to their right. She looks over to her left and watches as he pours liquor from his flask into a small cup. When the cup is a third filled, he stops, closes the flask, and places it back in the glove compartment.

As he reaches over, his hands brush her knees. Not hard, but enough to bring chills up to the surface of her skin.

An image of when they went to Santa Barbara and picniced on the beach flashes across across his vision . The sun overhead, the cloudless sky, laid out under an umbrella, eating homemade sandwiches brought with them in a basket.

In the car, high above the city, she takes his right hand, and looks at it in the light.
“Your hands look like they build things” she says.

Then, she takes a breath and exhales slowly through her nose. She looks into his eyes.

“I’m pregnant,” she says.

He looks at her and smiles. “I love you,” he says. “With everything I have, I love you.”

That night, they lay still, awake, without a word between them, in the cool darkness of their room.

At five in the morning he gets up and goes for a run around the park near their place. As he runs back up the hill and toward the front steps of the building, he turns around, and sits to watch the sun rise.

He thinks about his brother, face down on the kitchen floor on the morning of his 19th birthday. The night he overdosed and died and all of the sadness that came with that moment, that day, that year.

He puts on a pot of coffee, and at seven-thirty, kisses his wife on the forehead and moves toward the front door.

As he arrives at work, he sends a text – I love you very very much.

A Far Place

fiction

We were there the night that we became mortal.

It was many of us, faces blurred in half-light, which stood out then like orbs against the shadow.
I see it clear now, in my minds eye, as if I were still there.
Present.

It was a forgettable night, and we were forgettable people, living forgettable lives, and the details shouldn’t matter, but somehow they do.

We didn’t think much of anyone else then, and what counted was us.
Who we were, or rather, who we thought we were.

Who we thought we were going to be.

What mattered then was us – creations of an entity above any physical realm.

We were Gods. Unshakable.

It was a cold night, close to freezing, and though we were in California, it was the deep Mojave in the middle of a winter night.

The stars wrapped us up like a celestial blanket.

“Let’s spin baby.”
“We’re on top of the world,” she said.
And we were there, where there’s still much to see.
“Do you think we could ever go up?” she asked.
“Well, what do you mean?”

There was a slight pause.
A thought was forming.

“Up to the stars …” she said.
“Beyond where we could touch the sky. Beyond the sky!”
I smiled from the inside.
“Just you and I?” I said.
“Poetry,” she said.

Hand in hand, hands intertwined, fingers together and inseparable, even by us.

Desires were so sweet.

That night I dreamt of cities in the dark; vast plains of electric hum. Streetlights flashing on and off like blips in the pattern; while sunrise on film washed over the dark behind closed eyes.
An ocean and a whisper from the sea. Rocks, dark and jagged, thrust out from the earth, reaching in pained gestures. The earth as a colossus thirsting for the sun. Love set in permanence.

I take a breath and my nostrils pick up a cool swath of salt water. Earth eats sun in this dream and now its night.

A touch.

In the dream I turn around and there’s no one there. The moon and I share half a smile each and slowly she pulls the tides closer to me while I begin to walk toward the ocean.

The next picture glows and flickers. The sky is black and orange and we stand at the bottom of a hill. We start our slow descent, but will it be like Sisyphus? Arbitrary reasons, we each have our own that keep us going.

Reasons, logic, life. Our walk beats in odd time rhythm and we could be floating.

I sense glitches in the pattern – they are the empty freeways around sunrise when the system slows down. A time when you can wake up and find the streets asleep and the signals still marking phantom traffic. A time where you can reflect in pale shadows returned to us by mirror.

It is a space for breath where you can judge your days, your pasts, your actions.

The blips allow a space for life.

Eyes blink and hide these internal traces.
Our hearts beat faster as we progress up, up, up.

Next to ocean masses, we made our promises. Of flesh and body, of health and spirit – of life yet to be lived.
Water tundra asked no reasons – gave no quarter.

We are still climbing, and When our glances meet, an electric touch works its way down into our toes. We are becoming more present.

We were becoming more present.

Warm sand and our bodies roll over it, our purpose becoming clearer laugh by laugh. Smile held and lips apart and breathing life into each others hearts.

Wanderlust through the rain.
A fragment of memory really, a far place.

Nearly at the top and we can’t stop now.
A thousand echoes rise and fall.

They are atoms smashing in my mind. Actions made constant, like clockwork.

We’re reaching the crest of the hill and our fingers begin to slip apart. Slender loaded springs of hope. The glow intensifies and as our feet reach level ground our hearts stop.

Time stops.

Within the city whispers, breathes. A veil of fog rests above the basin.

Up above, beyond the universe in view, in a realm of pure imagination, there’s always a panoramic shot of our cityscape – alive, electric, caught in time.

Noiseless space threads sun into the day.

The last thought was on my back, staring straight up at the pristine cloudless blue stretched like a blanket between competing horizons, between competing sides of the same bed.

I had bought her a vase and I told her to fill it up with something beautiful.
They were fragments.
We are stars.

A far place.