Painted Pictures

I moved out with my princess bedroom furniture, college loans and cat.  We moved into the loft together and I lost my virginity to a writer who was twice my age.  In short, I was lost and frightened for a while.  

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Working in the city meant semi starvation rations, living in the city meant free days at the museum of art, tranquil walks even in the coldest winter months.  My worst day was when Pristina died.  She came with me to the city when I moved from my parents home in the suburbs and the community college that taught me nothing.  They tolerated both of us (yes the college as well).

I moved out with my princess bedroom furniture, college loans and cat.  We moved into the loft together and I lost my virginity to a writer who was twice my age.  In short, I was lost and frightened for a while.

After I found myself awake beside the man I didn’t know,  my longing for Pristina grew – she was just across the hall all alone.  I crept out of bed, gathered up my strewn clothing and crept along the hallway to my own studio apartment.  I cried and petted my cat telling her that I would not leave her again.  I fell asleep, the next day I was late for work though refreshed.  I received a promotion, raise as well as a corner office in the basement that year for my diligence.

I didn’t go home for Christmas that year.  In the new year my parents wrote me from Florida encouraging me to visit them in the new retirement community they had found.  I started working a second job in the evening and for two years Pristina and I worked and slept in a studio apartment and the writer across the hall slipped us poetry under our door.

I paid off my last college loan on November 16th and that night I ordered out and shared a rare New York Strip with soft wedged potatoes sprinkled with sea salt and vinegar for myself and Pristina.  Pristina sneezed over the potatoes and licked her lips each time she swallowed a dainty piece of meat.  She taught me the art of savoring a meal.

Pristina and I moved to a one bedroom apartment with wooden floors and an ancient looking bathroom which depressed us both.  The kitchen was dark green with brown linoleum and I told myself we would get used to it because the skyline of Chicago was worth the depressing dark interior.  It wasn’t and one year later we moved into a renovated old brick factory.  The writer who turned poet lived on the bottom floor with his wife and their golden retriever.  The writer turned poet’s wife would tap on my door; she had long dark black hair and her face was smooth but she would smile at me and invite me to their apartment.  “No worries, no worries, I’m not jealous.  Come and eat with us.”  I always refused and Pristina would sit upon an old heat register meowing at the poor dog who lacked exercise.

I left for work one frigid January day and was late coming home because the CTA was running slow and the sidewalks were slippery.  Pristina was alone and in the dark when she died without me.

Her funeral expenses set me back financially, and I had to miss a day of work but I came home with a jasper jar with her ashes in it.  I called my mother to tell her and after explaining that Pristina had not died years ago I hung up and sat in the dark.  I understood the coldness of a smooth jasper jar.

The writer turned poet, turned writer showed up in February with a great framed painting of Pristina for my brick walls.

“You need color up here.  Pristina, her dark fur and golden eyes will make this place feel like home again.”

I said nothing to him while he drilled and worked and swept up the dust of his labors.

“Why don’t you have dinner with us?”

“No thank you.”

He slid the wide door of my apartment shut and tip toed away.  I sat in the dark for another night with my back to the painting.

April in Chicago can be violent.  The wind slammed and bounced against the tall buildings and tumbled down to rattle old brick ones sheltering poets, writers, wives and administrative assistants.  The dog below howled in a low whimper when the lightning was replaced by the thunder.  Pristina lept down from her perch on the wall and walked, her tail perpendicular, to the register and sat to mew in the old register.

There was calmness.

I thought of making love one more time to the poet before I had my picture painted and hung next to Pristina but thought no, I did not want to surrender again to my needy self consumed psyche which was only fodder for the deceitful.  You see, I spent so much time imagining my happy ending I discovered I loved being relieved it never happened.  In fact I realized that there was no such thing as poets, painters or writers only a terror of being alone.

Like Eden

When I speak of simple, I mean simple.  Simple has been distorted.  When I say simple, people nod their heads sagely and agree while thinking of quick and cheap. 

When I speak of simple, I mean simple.  When I say simple, people nod their heads and agree while visualizing quick and cheap.

Granted simple today is distorted.  Finding and recognizing what’s left of, well, simple isn’t easy.   If you look hard enough, you can find simple.  It’s the age of the entrepreneur (which rhymes with manure) who built their factories and made their millions.  They built their factories over the drained cornfields that were once the greatest gardens in the United States–the Limberlost.  There are traces left here and there on the surface.  The Limberlost strengthens beneath the rusting facilities of man, trust me there, and will rise again to take over.

Can you follow me at all?  Simple is one table and one chair with no roof and no window. If a window is inevitable, then it must not picture frame nature of any kind.

Oh, and no one can teach simple, you need to remember simple.  You will lament the idea of simple and live on anger, confusing the whole concept with the idea of fate.

We still have the rich and the poor, the foolish and the wise, the extravagant and the simple.  Nothing has changed in humanity, and nothing has changed on the earth, it all just looks different; that’s what makes deception successful and immortality work.

One hundred years ago most would shake their heads and think me mad (I am) and walk away, but today I am patronized even admired.  I don’t care what they said one hundred years ago, or yesterday, I’m the living proof of immortality waiting on the rise of the Limberlost.

“We all have our own truth man; I like your style.”  I hear “truth,” all the time.  Idiot-speak, but I keep quiet being immortal, for now.

By style, most admire the table and chair I made from using the wooden slats and rusted nails that had been tossed into a heap outside the back door of some RV manufacturer.

Thanks.  Enough of that let’s talk simple immortality.  Immortality and what the hell does that have to do with the Limberlost, right?

Well, let me explain.  I believe in God, but we had a falling out some time ago.  The mortal sees in God only a pacifier because they cannot withstand change. Mortals grip God in a subconscious dive into the contemplation of death.  Those who feel the presence of God and all representatives of God long for death.  Trust me on this; I see it all the time.

That belief is not for me.  Though I understand God exists I’ve chosen to ignore Him and live forever.  I can you know and I will, within the tangle of the Limberlost and the sure knowledge that I’ll have the blessings of all those who believe God as only a transcendental force just like them.  Like the gone Limberlost, like Eden if you will.

You know it wasn’t my intention to destroy that place, I just thought it would be better without the human factor.  Still do, and I’m gaining.

Simple.

By the way, be careful who you stop and talk with, strangers aren’t always a good idea.

Immortal Spaniels

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Maudlin music and less than red linen made for soft people she felt, yes felt, which was beyond knew and just before faith –

In oneself.

Her red was of the blackish kind and her curtains blocked out the sunlight and opened to the rain of days- she was content.

She knew that was it.  She knew.  The world bloomed red in small startling places and she searches for the sear and pucker of it in the dead of winter

This proved effective to draw her attention away from the doggish way he looked upon her.  He had a spaniel that she liked and wished was hers

But he wasn’t.

They were well sheltered within the stonewalled cottages that were between a farm house and just shy of a manor house — and the walls encompassed them and there they lived.

Her looking for scarlet and he looking at her.

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Magicians were not allowed through the gates and witches could fly over but the breeze was constant and she could not tempt fate with this or that bauble of love.

A nod, not even a sur name offered when they met upon the cobbled street, she always with her eye on the corner of a stone building looking for red.

What could he do?  Learn to dance?  Pray for drought? He walked the dog and they spied her over the scarlet rose of autumn.  Embolden he walked to the place and bent his head to smell the flower.

He looked back up to see her gazing out upon the horizon.

“Stay,” he said, “and the dog will dance until you see the famous scarlet sunset.”

She stayed and as the sun played out the light of evening he whirled her round and the dog barked and gamboled about their feet.

And the scarlet of sunset reflected against the once stone walls of their lives.

Alone Too Long

God help me it was the books, the books, the books that went about and about and about my head and in my hands the weight of words, the smell of dust upon yellow pages that crumbled and revived my heart.  My heart that no one noticed but him.

I’ve been alone too long.  I have become the silence, the shuffle, the witness of depthlessness and to invite you in would build walls of contentment that, though pleasant, would stifle me.

Me.  Sounds so selfish and unreasonable.  For most of my life, I felt the weight of wanting to be alone but hating the loneliness.  I spent my nights dreaming of being beautiful and spent my days close to the walls trying to obtain invisibility.

My clothes were always tight or loose or scratched or were too soft or revealing or concealing or…wrong.  I would feel myself burn into embarrassment and would cry alone.  I listened to music with whispering wind and blowing trumpets and voices that rose to clouds and cathedral buttresses.  I cringed at drums and guitars and lyrics that repeated.

I met a gentle stranger.

God help me it was the books, the books, the books that went about and about and about my head and in my hands the weight of words, the smell of dust upon yellow pages that crumbled and revived my heart.  My heart that no one noticed but him.

I had no one to lean upon, don’t you see?  I had no one except my faith in the words a stranger left for me.  I was fucked and dumped and left to care for someone so much like me.  That gave me the determination to hurt anyone and carry on and write the hammer that comes down on the hands that reached out to me.

I had one to protect and I did and I have and I will.  Alone.

All the languages of history do not mock me anymore; I have all the time of eternity to learn.  I have come full circle.

I am still alone and cradle the feeling of lonely as my very own.  I have been alone too long.

 

Photo by Elisabetta Foco on Unsplash

Marrying a Friend

“Dude, are you in love with this chic?”

“No, no.  I’m not.  We’ve been friends since our freshman year in college.  We were paired up together in Spanish class.

“So, then I asked for some guacamole.”

“Why?”

“Because I was hot.  Hot.  You have no idea how hot it was in there. “

“But…guacamole?”

“It was a Mexican restaurant and I needed something to cool me down, so naturally I ordered some guacamole.”

“Naturally.”

“So, this waitress, she asks all sweet like if I want chunky or smooth.  Now, I’m hot and the thought of anything chunky made me wince, so I said smooth.”

“Wait a minute, why didn’t you just get up and leave?”

“I couldn’t, I didn’t pick the restaurant.  While I was begging for smooth, cold guacamole and sweating into my clothes, she is sitting across from me as cool as a cucumber and happy as can be that she only spent $10 on her dinner.  I shared my guacamole.”

“Why did you share your guacamole?”

“Because it was room temperature warm and tasted like they opened it from a glass jar.”

“Well, they probably did.  How many times do I have to tell you not to go to a cheap restaurant and especially on a week night?  If you want to go cheap go on the weekends, at least the microwaves are in good order. “

“I’m telling you I didn’t pick out the restaurant I had nothing to do with it.”

“Dude, are you in love with this chic?”

“No, no.  I’m not.  We’ve been friends since our freshman year in college.  We were paired up together in Spanish class. “

“Spanish class.”

“Yeah, we needed to learn as partners.”

“Man, you are monkey shit crazy. “

“Why?”

“You’ve been putting up with a friend who gets happy over spending only $10 for a meal?  This is a friend?  Someone you are supposed to be happy to see.”

“Well, I was sort of happy to see her.  She actually spent $10.18”

“Okay, I’m leaving. “

“No.  No.  Don’t leave me, man.  I told her I was with you tonight and couldn’t meet for coffee.”

“Coffee?  Checkin’ out the coffee at McDonald’s?”

“It’s not bad.”

“I’m gone. “

“Listen, don’t leave me.  I’ll buy the next brew, not a problem.”

“One’s my limit on a week night, you know that.”

“Then help me forget about that meal, I would do the same for you.”

“Dude, how do you want me to help you forget a meal?  I have no words to describe the idea of you sitting there in the blazing sun, expecting guacamole to help your predicament and you eating a quasi-cold Mexican meal that probably came out of a box.”

“I’m scared of her man.  She orders water with lemon and no ice.  No ice.  Then she had a plate full of food and I spent $17.58 plus a four-dollar tip because I had lemon aid and guacamole.  What if we get married.  I’ll have to retire early with a woman like that.”

“You just told me you didn’t love her.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got to marry someone one.”

“Okay, this is what I’m gonna do.  For you, I’m going to have another beer and I’m going to pay for it.  Then I’m going to take my time drinking it while I describe for you the excruciating torture I will put you through if you ever propose to that woman.  They’ll never pin your disappearance on me man because your Mom loves me more than she loves you.  Then we are going to get up from these chairs and go make idiots out of ourselves with that group of women over there as a sort of cure by fire; a cure for picking terrible dates and for even considering marrying a friend.  You got me?”

“I got it.  Thanks, man.”

Photo by Pawel Kadysz on Unsplash

Gossips

It’s time for tea and to set the world right.

“Well, he’s at least 16 years older than her. Please pass the salt.”

“Mother always said, “There’s no fool like an old fool.””

“All I can say is poor Anne. Did you use real mayonnaise or is this salad dressing?”

“Mayonnaise. I don’t quite follow you about Anne. They divorced over two years ago.”

“Yes but the kids. They still get together with the kids. What happens now? Him running around with a younger woman. Are these the lavender cookies you were talking about?

“Hmmm. I guess but I think they get together at different times. And yes those are the cookies. I picked them up at the bakery this morning.”

“Whatever, they both still live in this town. He and that hussy could walk into a restaurant and Anne could be there. Is there pepper on the table?”

“Well, I suppose but Anne wouldn’t necessarily be alone. Really is she rarely alone?”

“Well, I don’t blame her. Did you see her latest?”

“So tall.”

“Just enough silver along the temples.”

“Oh, we are horrible gossips.”

“Yes, yes we are. This salad, I think, just needs a touch more pickle.”

“Yet, I don’t know what he is thinking. She is so young.”

“Do you see how she can’t take her eyes off him? She follows him with her eyes whenever he’s in the room.”

“They’ve kissed in public. Kissed, not pecked.”

“O mercy, did mothers hide their children’s faces – pass the ketchup please.”

“Sure. No, you know how people are nowadays. I guess they’ve set a date, at least they’ll be married.”

“Already? Mercy.”

“Yes, Anne told me herself. Kids are all attending. I think she’s hurt she didn’t get an invite.”

“Well, I don’t quite understand that. Why would you want to watch your husband marry someone else?”

“EX husband, dear.”

“Whatever. They still knew each other in Biblical proportions. Pass the cake, please. Is there cream for the coffee?”

“Oh dear, we are horrible gossips.”

“Yes, yes we are.”

 

Professional to the End

He thought of lifting her onto her desk and pulling her hips up to his.  No words no sounds.  Her deep blue eyes serious but soft looking up at him. He imagined the sweet, peach taste of her perfect lips on his. 

He thought of lifting her onto her desk and pulling her hips up to his.  No words no sounds.  Her dark blue eyes serious but soft looking up at him. He imagined the sweet, peach taste of her perfect lips on his.  He thought of just taking over, feeling her slip into his embrace and following his lead, perfectly trusting his every move.

He had never met her before face to face, they had talked a couple of times over the phone.  That was her job, customer service.  He was a client.

She was nice, pretty too, not beautiful and not athletic just pretty.  She smelled really good.

She was too nice to be up on her desk and pulling his body toward her in a less than ladylike fashion.  He wanted to stop thinking about her that way, but it was her scent, the clean, cool scent of her skin and the way she looked at him, straight on with an open smile.  He felt thin and hollow, and his heart beat deep down into his echoing stomach.

Her office was full of papers, and she was talking and working.  She was walking between her computer and the copy machine and telling him that she was always ready to help.  He needed the help, paperwork wasn’t something he was good at.  He needed her to slow down because he needed to look at her while speaking; when he got nervous, he went deaf.

Suddenly rather than thinking about fumbling with that tight-fitting slip that he knew she wore under that flowing summer dress he wished he was sitting across from some pencil pushing moron from the IRS who had no interest in helping him at all.  He felt the hot prick of sweat spread out between his shoulder blades.

She was still smiling at him and still handing him papers.  They stood side by side, and she was pointing out key and important telephone numbers, websites and email addresses that would get him through his present dilemma.  She didn’t lean in, her hands moved slowly when she talked, and the pen she used to point out what might keep him alive was tucked up nicely behind her ear when she was done.

They had not shaken hands brushed up against each other nor stopped the flow of conversation between them in any sort of meaningful way.  He was someone off the street who needed assistance, she was doing her job.

“Well, I think that should get me through.”

She was already looking at the papers on her desk.  “Don’t ever hesitate to call me.  I’ll try and help in any way I can.”

He hesitated, he had been taught never to extend his hand to a lady, but he wanted to touch her before he left.  She stood smiling totally oblivious to the fact that he had made love to her in his head during the whole damned ordeal.

He extended his hand as a sort of reward to himself.  She stepped forward smoothly placing her hand in his.  There was no spark, no electric current, only the cool, soft grip of kindness.  She was professional to the end.