A Beautiful Thing Part 27

Underneath the stop sign were a pair of mannequin legs with black fishnet stockings, placed there to advertise a yard sale in the morning. Jane walked up and put her arms around them, sort of where the waist should be, and started slow-dancing with them while humming an old love song. The moon strummed a chord above the city, stars poked holes in the velvet sky. I was tipsy, so was Jane. Just when I was about to join her she tripped over a sprinkler, landed on her chin and cut it open. Before I saw the blood staining the sidewalk, I laughed. Because it was funny…

Seat 32 D

The caress of your skin, like an eclipse of the sun, made my eyes tingle and my blood reverberate; everything changed with just that one touch, that one kiss, that one cancelled flight you ended up in my bed, our bed (156$ a night!), after talking in the airport bar for what seemed like a decade, but was really just four hours in St. Louis. You were an angel and I was at my best. And there was a blizzard over Ohio. And we both were drunk.

We live on opposite sides of the coast, but for that one night we pretzled together, wrapped up at the Hilton in starched sheets and the desire to freeze time, blocking out the world with a double set of blinds and our need to be present. It was like the culmination of a quest, a temporary marriage of souls in air conditioned, mini shampoo bliss…

Like a dream, everything fades, becomes mixed up.

“Hi, I’m art,” I said… “I’m Xanadu,” you replied. “Shall we get out of here and find a pool?” “I’d love to.”

We never did swim.

We didn’t even fuck, we just laid in bed and talked all night, sweet meandering conversation that flowed like a lazy river, and drank the one bottle of wine we bought from the sketchy liquor store down the street where a homeless guy tried to sell us a “joke” — I told him I have plenty of those but still gave him 5 dollars anyway, because I support struggling comics — and it wasn’t that good but neither of us were looking for Napa’s best, just a sweet grape that would let us relax and forget about being stranded in Missouri.

I lie… we bought two bottles and drank them both.

Morning came, rough and rugged, like my unshaven face, bristling.

We got on the same plane — finally able to fly after the snowstorm that shut down the East Coast moved on — sitting in different rows for two hours as the plane bounced along turbulence, levitating on a science I don’t comprehend or fully trust, while flight attendants pushed trays of vodkas and stale sandwiches through the narrow aisle. I wanted to run up and grab you and drag you into the bathroom, tear down your clothes and bite your ear, kiss you as hard as my heart pumped, I wanted to send your body into such ecstasy the force of your orgasm would bring down the plane, instead all I did was peer every now and then to see what you were doing, if you were looking back, but not once did you turn your neck to seat 32 D.
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Bernadette

My hope, my only hope, some soap
will clean this rope-a-dope; los cambios,
I’m hoping for is close, so I’ve been told
from most folks looking for a toast,
a ghost they wanna hold close
behind moats and fraudulent votes,
banditos and popes; LA to Los Alamos,
I comb, honing in on a new home,
a sea foam to roll in, a swollen, sullen
sudden poem to fold and place under a
pillow, a whisper, a slip on a finger,
a gnome on the lawn, a cheek to plant
a kiss on, everywhere a bone,
a scavenging, meandering, pilfering
zone, we found ourselves in all alone,
abalone and bologna and the pony
you wished for when you were only
six or four, not yet in this rigamarole,
rat race you phoned-in, ordering
room service with tapioca thrown in
in San Antonia or Barcelona jet set
million dollar champagne Moet,
six dollar sandwich in Rome,
I called your name in the rain,
told you I love you, you didn’t
reply the same, now we’re strangers
meeting on the train, just the same
silhouette on the dusty window pane
sliding, shifting, drifting down a one-way
lane in a yellow corvette with a chick
named Bernadette, her middle name
Jane.

Amethyst Stone

He put the necklace around her neck and rotated it so the small amethyst stone fell flat on top of her chest. He stared at it, unable to formulate thoughts, caught in this timeless place. Her breathing was deep and he felt her heart rise and fall while his fingertips lingered momentarily on her skin. He loved this girl, no, woman, for so many years that having this day finally arrive felt otherworldly, like fiction.

There was a crowd of a hundred waiting in the capacious hall just outside. He looked into her eyes and saw fear, trepidation, yet, also, hope and elation. It reminded him of the raw feelings he concealed on his wedding day, and wanted to express such, but instead he pulled her forehead toward him and placed a tender kiss on it. “You’ll always be my daughter,” he told her, causing her to sigh and laugh at the same time, a exhalation of nervous relief. She told him, “Thanks, dad. I love you.”

The music began playing and they entered the hall in a slow, methodical walk. He couldn’t see her face behind the veil, but through her fingertips he could feel the reverberations of the gentle tear that proceeded down her cheek. Rows of heads turned to watch them approaching the altar and the handsome man waiting there to take her hand from his.

He knew this marriage wouldn’t last. He could see through the kilowatt smile and Bel Air refinement. He knew the true character of this man, a man who never had to work for anything in his life, so he’d probably not work at this, but for today, she was happier than he’d ever seen her since her mother died, and because of this, so was he.

Tuna Underbelly

When in the fjord of your life, swim to the mountaintop.

I’m vain, I’m made of lace and champagne.
I like the finer things. Dancing in the rain.
Shouting your name.

Write me a fan letter, I’ll pin it to my sweater.

Surprisingly fawn and gentle, you sauntered into my life.
Exited like a grizzly trapped in a gas station bathroom.
Now the days are stitched patchwork of bland distraction.
Bottles filling the space where the fights used to go.
Polishing halos with Saudi Arabian petroleum.

Deconstructed delirium.
Grey Goose and Valium.
Designer pandemonium.

Walked into the bar with an Indian headdress,
ordered a scotch and watched the soccer game,
alone, checking my stocks online,
wearing argyle socks and black boxers.
I’m the American Undisturbed.

My heart is a bleeding blister. Come to me
and whisper my name. I’ll write yours
on seven sea shores.

It’s a short drive.
End of the road.
House on the right.
Down the hall.
Door is open.

I am waiting.

Life Raft and the Needle

Go to sleep and dream of origami,
your passport stamped salami.
Come home and brag about Brussels.
Scream at your mom and dad,
‘I’m tired of the American hustle!’

There’s six Canada goose around the pond, honking at the cars.
I’m wandering in bars, looking for a gentle heart that’s fond
of the pedestal I place her on, hope she’ll settle for my mettle,
my stars, and my fawn.

This year I’m not going to count the months.
I’m going to clean out the fridge.
I’m not going to write poems that rhyme.
Not at all; except this time.

I’m a night sailor, blind tailor.
Scooping dirt from the garden
to fill up my coffee pot. Stitching
blankets from Brillo pads.

Your favorite Loteria card
is El Corazon.
Mine’s El Borracho.
We both have dirty dishwater eyes,
we use to see through lies.

Even if I was a watchmaker — I couldn’t make time with you.
If I could play guitar — I’d write a ballad about Jesse James
and the painting on the wall…

Was he lost in its charm? was it crooked?
could he see Robert Ford in the reflection?
did he laugh at his imminent death?

This canyon made of crayon,
painted colorless and dark,
traps me in its meandering palm.
Canyon walls like cannonballs,
exploding, falling,
disintegrating
all around.

Only way out is to take the river.
You’re a life raft and I’m a needle.

groos

Coffee and Brussels Sprout

It was only 8 in the morning but outside, garbage trucks were making a tremendous commotion. On top of that, Gary was snoring next to her, almost as loudly, a half grizzly growl/half wheezing sigh. Sleep wasn’t an option despite how tired and fatigued Annabel was. She felt achy but got out of bed anyway and glided like a ghost into the jagged morning.

‘Better make the most of it now, I guess,’ she told herself.

She went to the kitchen, planning on brewing a pot of coffee, but they were all out. Annabel looked through her cabinets for a possible spare bag of coffee that she knew wasn’t going to appear, and after a minute gave up, slumping into a chair. Her grey hair fell in front of her eyes and she left it there, blinding her. It had been a few months since she last went to the beauty shop.

After a minute of quiet despair, she looked up at the calendar with tomorrow’s date circled and decided not to spend today sitting around the kitchen, watching the clock spin around in circles.  She got up and left a note for Gary that she was going out, even though she doubted he would be awake by the time she was back.

It had been a few months since she opened the garage. When she did, something scurried into the pitch black corner, causing her to almost drop the door on her foot. “Goddamn,” she cursed. “Gary, come out here!” Annabel waited for a minute, debating whether to go and get him or let him sleep, then felt foolish for being afraid of a mouse right now and a stern courage overtook her.

‘Screw it,’ she said aloud and plowed in. There were some boxes blocking her way. When she moved them and squeezed over to her bike, Annabel discovered both tires were low on air. Just another disappointment in a string of them… ‘Screw it,’ she said, acknowledging this was quickly becoming her mantra, and emboldened by this newly found motivation to carry on in spite of it all, she grabbed the handlebars and dragged the bike into the street.

It was difficult pedaling, but she kept on riding on those two flat tires, doggedly; because if you don’t stay on top of it, a bike is just another useless thing you have to push — like a husband without a job.

We either age gracefully or we rage against every grey hair and discolored pore in a desperate attempt for love, relevancy, and covetous currency. Annabel saw nothing wrong with that. She had used an arsenal of creams and dyed her hair when she could to keep up a more youthful appearance. When she was younger, she was a beach beauty back and aspiring actress when L.A. still had orange groves.  ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’ is not a comforting axiom for Annabel. It’s also the last day you’ll ever be that young again — that’s how she looks at that.

It took five times as long to get there, but Annabel finally pulled her useless bike up to Trader Joe’s and locked it to a phone booth — another useless thing in this useless world today, she glumly noted  — and took her basket off the handlebars and entered. The store was busy and brightly illuminated. She winced under the harsh, unflattering light and sighed loudly enough for people nearby to turn their heads.

If only Gary didn’t love the bottle more than her, more than paying the car bill and mortgage. If only she didn’t settle for him when she turned 30 and thought it was now or never. Oh well. She tried to change her thoughts. The past is just a book we’ve already read, no use flipping through its dog-eared pages over and over, she told herself.

She steeled herself, repeated again, ‘screw it,’ and plunged into her shopping. First she grabbed a bottle of Charles Shaw wine, a perfectly suitable wine, especially given its price, she’d argue, if anybody was around to argue about it, but then, realizing that today was different, put it back in exchange for something ten times its price; then she made a beeline for the frozen food aisle and found her favorite meal, the Trader Joe’s frozen Cioppino soup, delicious and so simple to heat up. Eggs, coffee and milk were next. When she reached the coffee, she put two bags into her basket guaranteeing she’d not run out for some time.

With her shopping basket filling up, she, too, felt filled up. Her body hadn’t felt this strong in months, reinvigorated and excited. In fact, she had forgotten all about the flat tires and her doctor’s appointment tomorrow and Gary’s recent violent turns.

Doing this, Annabel felt… alive… what a concept! What irony!

All the other swirling dust molecules in her shuttered brain were settling into a fine layer of sand that she now made footprints through. This must be what it feels like when you hit rock bottom, but come out the other side on top of a mountain top… seeing everything so clearly you feel like a fool for ever wasting your time in the valleys. Up is down. Down is up. Death is life. A dishonest dollar is still worth one hundred cents.

There were samples of smoked salmon and crackers at the display in the back — not an item Annabel would normally enjoy, but these days why turn down something for free? She stopped for a taste and even had a pleasant chat with the young girl with a lip ring behind the sneeze-proof glass.

Annabel was feeling a sudden desire to not go through with it tomorrow. Maybe just let things take their course?

The only thing left on her list were brussels sprout. She went to the fresh vegetable section where they normally were, but instead of finding them, there was an empty hole on the shelf. Annabel scoured the section but there was no sign of any brussels sprout. She stood there for a full minute, convincing herself of bruising righteousness.

Annabel marched up to the manager stand where a friendly Hispanic man with a dark goatee and thin glasses greeted her. He asked her what he could help her with today, bored yet focused.

Annabel reached inside her and found the dark inspiration for this mid-afternoon theater. “First, you could operate a store fully stocked with common household staples!” She lectured in a rising, admonishing tone.

The manager was taken aback, quickly responded, “I’m sorry, ma’am. We don’t carry staples or stationary, or anything like that. There is an Office Depot down the block on Wilshire. They’ll have staples.”

At this she made her blood not only boil, but turn to lava. Her motivation was anger and she dove down deep for it, pulling every slight and failure out of her, unfurling them like a long rope to lay on his desk. “Not staples like that! Not…” She made a violent, stapling motion with her hand. “Staples means essentials like vegetables and meat and bread and you very well should know this as manager of a grocery store! Is there nothing you can count on anymore?!”

The manager looked around nervously. The other customers were all distracted by the racket Annabel was making. “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, ma’am,” he told her. “What is it that we are out of you were looking for? You know we carry only the freshest and most affordable products so from time to time…”

“Oh, I know all that malarkey,” she interrupted. “But Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on in the world when you don’t have any brussels sprout?”

“Oh, so that’s it? That’s what you’re looking for?”

“Yes. That’s what I’m looking for. It should be there on that shelf over there,” She pointed. “Next to the asparagus and zucchini.”

“My apologies. I assure you if you come back in the morning our trucks will have come in and we’ll have plenty of Brussel sprouts for you.”

Annabel’s jaw dropped in shock. She was now reaching the crescendo of her performance and was feeling electrified. “Brussel Sprouts? Brussel SPROUTS?!” She screamed so that even the nice girl with the lip piercing in the back stopped plying crackers with smoked salmon and listened. “It’s brussels sprout. Brussels!” She hollered. “Sprout. Brussels. Sprout.”

The assistant manager’s face reddened. From the corner of his eyes he spotted his manager approaching. “I’m sorry. I was not aware…”

“Of course, you weren’t! Nobody is! Why should you?! Nobody cares about anything anymore! Just because I’m an old lady doesn’t mean I should be treated like this!”

Just then the head manager reached them and asked how he could help.

Annabel pivoted on her heels and screamed in his face, “Fuck off as well,” she told him.

She then snatched her basket and stormed out of the Trader Joe’s without stopping at the checkout to pay while dozens of people stood speechlessly and watched. She was a wild storm nobody wanted to confront. The managers just let her leave.

Nobody could have guess that this was a woman whose t-cells were in rapid decline.

She attached her basket of groceries to her bike and pedaled quickly through the parking lot, through the swarm of cars circling for a spot. Once she was safely down the block she laughed and released an ear-to-ear, face-splitting smile, enjoying the thrill of what she just pulled off.

Their social security checks will come in next week and maybe she’ll go back to pay, but for now, if Annabel was going to endure Chemo, she damn well wasn’t going to do it without a decent cup of coffee.

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