the man-boy

March, 2014.

ssht.

ssht.

ssht. A man — accurately, a Boy: still self obsessed, cocky, insecure — had gotten into my head. On our first date, he told me: how he had fowled up all of his relationships, how estranged he was from his family, how all of his friends are recovering-somethings. How he was recovering. It was overwhelming, having someone’s life laid out for you like that, up front, for me to take or leave.
“I just didn’t know people were actually up front like that,” I said, “I’ve never had someone just tell me all of their secrets.”
“I don’t know why you are surprised,” The Friend said, “you interview people.”
ssht.
The Boy who had gotten inside my head and into my bed was strange, at least to me. He was young and hip but worked a blue collar job that required physical labor. He had done all the things I made a point to avoid: he had struggled with addiction, he had slept around, he had gotten in fights. This Boy was immediately interesting, if only for his novelty. I want(ed) to break him like someone does a wild horse.
ssht.
I wondered what warped this person next to me talking in his sleep. I traced the tips of my fingers over the tattoo the boy had given himself, imagining the home made tattoo gun. Did his hands shake as he tattooed his own chest? Then they wandered down his spine, lingering on the bump between two vertebrae where his back had been broken.

I wondered which came first: being broken physically or mentally. He was a wild thing, something I didn’t understand and tried to personify. But I wanted to tame him. I wanted to have him curl up in my lap and eat sugar cubes from the palm of my hand. He was a raccoon digging through my garbage for treasure. I wanted him to love me.

After watching the way the boy half smiled and ruffled my hair, saying: “Well aren’t you cute,” I knew he wasn’t just wild, but a predator. I am out of my depth. I wasn’t sure how this one ended— hopefully, not like Timothy Treadwell. (Shit.) My bet is that he will get bored and find something else to chase, but I will have mixed feelings. I will be relieved, for sure, but I wasn’t his wild thing either. It won’t be the first time I felt discarded this way, nor the last. My friends say I was spared, but I feel forsaken by the shark that didn’t bite me, but the surfer further down the beach.

Should a predator be frowned upon for doing what it evolved to do? Should I assume that every stray dog will bite? Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, some sort of consideration for their feelings. But this seems like more credit than the man-boy earned. There’s a fine line between optimism and foolishness, and it is one I have too much pride to cross.

Space Cadet

I dreamed of being an astronaut,
drifting through space like floating
through the sea without salt water.

I still dream of seeing the Earth from the Milky Way.
Of exploring space, free of constraints,
the laws of physics.

independent
and alone.

I stare into the stars from the sea,
immersed in the salt water.
Rolling with the waves,
suspended in the current,
holding my breath till my lungs ache,
alone with my thoughts.


“Your head is always in the clouds,”
lost in imagination.

2013.

to stumble

I’ve never been known for grace,
walking or waltzing, stumbling, recovery,
an expert at saving face,
skinned knees, cut palms, hurt pride.

But I had trouble keeping pace,
trying to not to forget your tricks, or
skinned knees, cut palms, hurt pride.

But it’s the thought of you
that had me stumbling into love, unlucky.
I’ve never been known for grace, nor
for skinned knees, cut palms, hurt pride.

2012.

blood moon

December 31st and January 1st are just a sun set and a sun rise apart, although they feel so different. You could be someone different with the new year: someone who went to the gym, someone who didn’t worry, someone who ate more vegetables. But you still don’t go to the gym and I still worry myself sick, but we do eat more vegetables. You win some, you lose some.

Time pauses once you step on an airplane and the earth just spins beneath it. The time at the destination changes, the time at the departure changes, but I notice no change except for the aches in my muscles from sitting still. Then you’re in a time zone between the two, and it’s hard to go to sleep and it’s even harder to wake up, and then you’re wearing the sad, tired eyes, too.

“Did you hear about the blood moon?” I asked. There were only a few more hours left until the lunar eclipse — morbidly, the Blood Moon.
“Wasn’t that yesterday?” you asked.
“Nope, it’s tonight. At 3:40, if it’s clear out,” I said.
“Hopefully we will be finished by then,” you said.

I was driving home, flying around winding curves, but slowed to a stop when I saw pairs of reflective eyes from a thicket of trees. A fawn stood, knobby knees pointing inward, ears at awkward angles. It was small enough to have just been born, the mother standing behind it, watching my headlights. “Born under a blood moon,” I said to the fawn, but really just myself. It’s a phrase I haven’t quite been able to shake. There’s something beautiful about something so innocent born with a curse.

0:15:00-0:19:55

“talk to yourself for thirty minutes and record it, then transcribe it.”

0:00-10:00 10:00-15:00 0:15:00-0:19:55

I have come to accept that I will be fine. I’m relatively healthy, I have a family that loves me, friends who are there most of the time, and have enough hobbies to keep me busy. If I want to reject the idea that I am a GYPSY, does that make me one? I work for those people, girls who break their phones a couple times a year, drunk, doing laundry. I have to tell them no, we can’t take your mom’s credit card information over the phone. But am I that girl if I drive a BMW? What if I told you it was falling apart, fifteen years old, and I only got it when my dad got a better car? What if I told you we had to move six hundred and sixty seven miles away once my Dad’s company was bought out? My dad’s company consisted of my dad, a desk, and an office chair in our basement. They didn’t want the company, they just wanted him. What if I told you about how when I was little we had to live in my grandmother’s two bedroom rancher because we had no money? I shared a bed with my Grandmeré, but if I was going to be technically correct, I slept on my grandfather’s side of the bed. They had two twin beds pushed together, fifties sitcom style.

In the almost twenty two years since his death, I have slept in that bed almost as much as my grandfather did. Sometimes I would hold her hand when I was scared of her old pipes creaking. She would mumble Tony under her breath, (predictive of the dementia that was developing but still asymptomatic,) and squeeze my hand a little. Instead of giving her a kiss in the middle of the night, like Tony might have, I would lean my head close and listen if she was breathing. She has been every time I’ve checked so far, but one day she won’t be. She’s been forgetful for years now – showing significant symptoms for at least four years. I will miss her, but I miss her already. She’s not the same person, instead a stubborn child in a wrinkled skin that tells off color jokes. But what really worries me is that I will have to do it all again, but with my mother. One day, maybe someone will have to take care of me that way. But until then, I will be fine. I will be as happy as I can be, and if not, I will do what I need to to be happy. If that means getting over my fear of needles to be inoculated against the unfiltered world, so be it.

At this point, depressed and tired, I turned the recorder off.

0:10:00-0:15:00

0:00-10:00 10:00-15:00 0:15:00-0:19:55

Thirty minutes of silence. I stopped talking to figure out what to say next, and had fallen asleep. I am still exhausted on the other side of a nap.

I don’t know what to talk about for another fifteen minutes, but I will wing it. I have thought about writing this almost every day on my rides to and from downtown, but I haven’t been able to get the words to flow cohesively out of my mouth. I actually thought I recorded myself for ten minutes before realizing that I had not hit the record button. C’est la vie. I wanted to tell you about the lightening storm I drove through – rain drops the size of grapes smashed against my windshield and the sky turned purple and white with lightening. I wanted to describe it to you, and maybe make some sort of poetic declaration about the entire experience. The way the street lights reflected off the wet street was beautiful, and as dark and shitty as it was outside, the world was full of colors and washed clean again. But then I realized that “you” were no one in particular, and that really “you” didn’t exist at all. There are boys that have come and gone, friends that have come and gone, but when it’s late and I’m driving, I hesitate on who to call and talk me home. I often don’t call, just turn the radio up and think about people I used to call. People I still could call, but I didn’t want to bother them on a rainy, shitty, friday night.

I worry a lot that this isn’t healthy. I have been “single” for a long time, and have come to accept it. I don’t find myself lonely often, and in fact, people annoy me. Couples annoy me. When dates run out of things to say, turn romantic to fill the silence, reciting lines about how beautiful my eyes are or my smile is, and I roll my eyes. Oh, please. Except I want someone around so bad, it twists me up when someone with promise comes along. Someone with potential will ruin my week and invade my brain. Figuratively, I will erect a shrine to a man with a great smile and who laughs at my shitty jokes. I’ll look at the shrine for a day or two, notice the shoddy workmanship, take it apart, and be over it by the week’s end.

This week’s flavor of the week is a single ladies mix of sky high standards and our signature sauce: biting sarcasm sprinkled with self criticism. Ask for the “fuck that guy” sundae. For a limited time, or until the vacation days are up, is the West Coast Cutie, an orange sorbet made up of delicious, refreshing sweet and tartness. The West Coast Cutie seems like a contender for a permanent flavor addition — smart, makes sharp nerdy jokes, shares your interests, fantastic smile, well dressed, shy, and has an impressive job that takes him around the world for one of the biggest companies in the world. And he’s handsome, to boot. Now that you want it, you can’t have it- it’s only available in California locations. You always want what you can’t have.

0:00-10:00

“talk to yourself for thirty minutes and record it, then transcribe it.”

0:00-10:00 10:00-15:00 0:15:00-0:19:55

I want to boycott this assignment— I don’t want to talk to myself aloud for thirty minutes and record it. I can barely talk for twenty minutes, period. I’m not a fucking talker. I have other, more productive, things I could be doing besides sitting here talking to myself. It doesn’t help that I am already on the verge of melodramatics and hysterics.

This morning, I went to a doctor’s office where I dealt with my worst fear. I walked into the doctor’s office – late, as usual – where a blonde woman was lying in wait for me. “Hi, are you Lauren? I’m Myra. I’ll do your allergy testing.” Someone had called ahead to warn them I was coming. She looked like I would imagine a nurse named Myra – heavy set, short, curly blonde and grey hair pulled back into a pony tail. She had sons my age- one was studying equine management, whatever the fuck that is. One could assume, as I did, that he was in Clemson, South Carolina, jerking off horses. That was where my mind immediately went – why would anyone want to do such a thing? He was probably a deviant for all I knew. My knowledge of horses is limited, despite having taken several horseback riding lessons as a child. But he was probably taking care of them. Not their sexual needs, don’t be gross. Is there money in horse care taking? Myra was probably wasting her tuition money. I did not say that to her. The only people I have ever met who took care of horses could be summed up: young blonde white women, retired yuppies who owned an equine sanctuary with the money from their OBGYN practice, and adult men outside of Nairobi, Kenya. An eccentric bunch in their own right becomes more bizarre when categorized. But Myra’s son is one of them.

Before she would torture me, she showed me the devices – the piece of plastic dipped in poisons that would make my skin flush and swell, the individual needles used for the control tests. Fine, I said, and tried to distract myself. As soothing as Ira Glass usually is, it didn’t work. I felt every prod, every poke, every milliliter of the outdoor environmental irritants as it was pushed beneath my skin. Sixteen on my left arm, sixteen again on my right. Great. I grit my teeth and sit still, an accomplishment in itself, for twenty minutes, letting my immune system soak up enough to thoroughly freak itself out. Three spots swelled up to a lima bean, white with an angry, red, pointillist halo. The rest, because they were only raised to a “four” on her scale, were tested again.

Myra gave me sixty four shots this morning, thirty two in each arm.

She was very worried about me passing out, which I laughed off. Once I got past the primal fear of someone pushing a piece of metal into and through my skin to deposit some sort of venom, I chuckled it off, feeling light headed. “No, I’ll be fine. I got teeth filled with no Novocain, got major surgery and took tylenol,” I said, your allergy shots have nothing on my pain tolerance. But I do feel woozy, now, saying this. I felt woozy in the car on my way home. I caught myself wanting to close my eyes and just let my car drift across the double yellow lines, onto the left shoulder and into the woods. I tried to hold onto the steering wheel, tight, and keep the car in control. But my eyelids were so heavy, and the sunlight was warm and NPR did nothing to excite me, despite how lively the discussion was. I’m laying in bed now, trying to force myself to talk, but finding it difficult. I want to close my eyes still, as heavy as they are, but there is so much work to be done.

BIC

James was thirteen when he got his first tattoo. He sat on the peeling linoleum in a double wide trailer, with no shirt or shoes, watching his best friend get a tattoo. The tattoo “artist” was his best friend Mat’s older brother. Bryan was paroled that morning, got home and immediately started making up for the lost two years of getting Mat in trouble. Bryan held the tattoo gun (which was really only a melted tooth brush, a pen with a needle stuck in it, a little motor and some other stuff James couldn’t identify) and dotting a smiley face with crossed out eyes on his younger brother’s shoulder.

“Stop moving,” Bryan said, and tried to hold his squirming sibling still. It was already crooked from Mat’s fidgeting but Bryan’s shaking hand didn’t help, either. Bryan pushed the needle deep into his brother’s soft shoulder, marring it until his brother finally asked him to stop in something closer to a sob than a scream. After pelting him with curse words, Bryan dropped the tattoo gun, picked up his cigarettes and stepped outside.  Mat tried to play the pain from his shoulder off, “Well at least I didn’t pussy out”

James had declined earlier, saying: ‘ladies first.’

“Let me do it,” James said — he had seen Mat cry after falling off their skateboards, so he was sure that he would be able to do better. James flipped on the tattoo gun and paused— not for fear of pain, what his mother would think, or future regret, but deciding where it should go. The hair on his legs and arms were just starting to darken, his chest was still bare as it had been on his birthday thirteen (and a quarter) years before. He decided on the nautical star (he was not a sailor, but had seen it on a band’s album cover and had doodled it ever since) should go on the left side of his chest, where he put his hand over his heart for the pledge. Instead of pledging allegiance to the United states of America, he would give his to punk rock. James took several deep breaths and then plunged the needle into the skin of his left pec, exhaling through gritted teeth.

Smell

I spent my Friday afternoons suffering in an oncology waiting room (that smelled sterile and like bad air freshener) for Andy. Other patients and their caretakers sat in the uncomfortable chairs waiting for treatment, too. The “plus-ones,” caretakers invited in for moral support, were waiting for their loved one to be called in for treatment – and they usually were loved ones – only to wait again for them to come out, sedated, and carrying the discharge instructions.

I stared off into the TV, trying to ignore the sensationalist news. Is there radioactive waste in the sewers? More after this break. This cable news channel had the senior demographic wrapped up – preying on fears of big government taking away rights, medical malpractice, inferior vaginal mesh. There were commercials for medical implants and personal injury lawyers, perfectly curated for a hospital. My favorite was for a catheter: an old woman (on a couch) and a middle aged man (in a wheelchair) sat, knee to knee:
“I use catheters. It’s so messy and expensive!” the white haired woman said, wringing her hands together.
“I’m worried about infections,” the man said and reached out to touch his costar.
“I wish there were a better way!” they both cried out.

I leaned back and wondered where I could get these magical, easier to use catheters for all my pissing-in-a-bag needs. I wrote myself a note: order catheters. Neither Andy nor I needed them, but we were never sure what the next side effect would be.

The door to the treatment room opened and a man hobbled out and crumpled into the chair across from me. He smelled like he had been sterilized and doused in the same bad air freshener. But the smell of sickness still oozed out of his pores – it was in his hair, on his breath – the smell was thick and hung around my head like smoke. I watched the man out of my peripherals – he was waiting on his significant other, his loved one.

He was just like my Andy waiting for me. Maybe she would walk him down to the cat, drive him home, and tuck him into bed. He would sleep all of the next day, she would leave him alone and go to work. By Tuesday or Wednesday he was coming out of his pharmaceutical stupor. By Thursday he felt great and visited work, but was never strong enough to actually finish anything. Then he got the treatment again and the cycle started over again. I knew after laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and with that week’s worth of poison flushed through his system to kill what ailed him, Andy would smell like that when he came out, too.

2014.

kentucky mule.

I feel the words rumbling in my stomach, churning, bubbling,
threatening to make the journey from my stomach and out of
my mouth, puking fill words and syllables I shouldn’t say:

So, hey, and bray like an ass. it’s just the mule unbridled.
Watch him withdraw, dive behind walls, turn away. Suddenly,
I’m sure I am going to throw up more than just “um.”

I’ve done it again, always saying too much, too soon.
I’m painfully aware of every over share. Let me start over.
I care, but let’s pretend: I forget names, I couldn’t care less.
Until the whiskey makes me miss you again. Take a long
sip from the metal mug. cut my lip on the the edge,
sharp as my tongue, the taste of copper in my mouth
mixed with the bitters and bitterness
that comes with wearing my heart on my sleeve, and
all my emotions on my face.
Another day, another night,
another mule, another try.

january 2014.