Do the clothes make the man, or does the plan? Carefully spread across motel beds and this is never how I anticipate getting to know myself. Naked in the mirror and staring at nothing, until the mini-bar in my stomach gets into my blood and I can float on the surface of the pool that closed three hours ago. Plans- Hands- Road maps that leave us guessing. Leave us eventually. Like the plastic key, or the rear-view marquee that reads “Cheapest Rates on Highway Eight!” and not a moment too soon before the internal clock strikes noon and an open road is like a hand, like a plan, like the clothes carefully spread across the motel bed- Leading somewhere. Leading nowhere. Leading anywhere.
I didn’t feel a thing from the top floor balcony when you decided to plant yourself in the pavement below. Sounding like you always had before. Screaming until something shut you up. Now, when I drink too much, my head rolls back and I let the reel play thinking on how it could have been different. If I had saved you. Grabbed your wrist. Your ankles. Your dress. And it’s not something I am proud of, so don’t mistake this for an apology. I remember the dental impressions that the detective showed me after that hollow knock and a swift handshake later when we stood on that same balcony because everyone was convinced that you could never have been that sad in your whole life to throw yourself to Death’s waiting arms. And so here I am armed with nothing but a clean slate and no one to blame but you. Thank you, for being everything no one thought you could be.
Today I sketched a man dancing on the palm of my hand. Dancing through rain clouds spitting thunder and shaking lightning. It’s easier to fake living than to make it. And what I’ve been doing feels counterfeit. A labor of love that has no weight to it, no heart to give or place to sit. It’s just standing at the foot of my bed, waiting when I wake up and turning its back when I make up excuses as to why it hurts so much to do rather than think. I have weak ventricles and the centrifuge stuck in my throat won’t catch the right gears to untangle the mess in this chest that keeps caving in no matter who comes to roost in my arms or what spills from my mouth when I have too much in my head. This is a square box of desperation and guilt. Feeling that I’ve lost my name and my bones have started to wilt. And so the man I drew is me. Frame within a frame. Box within a box. Life within death.
The clouds are bleeding above the coast and if this means you’re crying again, then congratulations to all the men who have ever felt your skin but never spoke your name.
Not like me. Because my voice has nothing you can’t find inside the sea when you fill with water and become another piece of lonely driftwood.
My friends don’t talk like they used to and the lies told between us are just kindling for a fire we have yet to start. A fire we need to start before the sun goes down, because being afraid of the dark has me begging for a rope the size of your hands to slip around my tongue.
“Mute” sounds better than “talks too much”. And I’ve been called a lot of things. “Yours” was never one of them.
Maybe when the rain stops, I’ll sleep better knowing someone has finally shut you up.
“I’ll admit that renting the monster truck was a bad idea, if you admit that inviting the strippers back to my house, where we were keeping said monster truck, was a bad idea.”
His voice is hollow.
“But the monster truck was a great idea.” “It was, a horrendous fucking idea. The thing gets like two miles to the gallon. I told you we’d never reach the coast.” “Well that wasn’t my idea, was it?” “Bullshit. It was definitely your idea. I believe your exact words were, ‘If we drive slow and don’t hit anything, we’ll hit the coast by morning.’” “And you said, ‘What’s the point in having a monster truck if we’re going to drive slow and not hit anything?’”
He takes a drag of his cigarette and wipes his brow with the back of his hand. It’s starting to get stuffy in our eight by six concrete box.
“Yea. I did. I did. But I’m fucking right.” “You were right. Who knew cars were so hard to crush.” “Right?” “Thing has to be what, a couple tons?” “Pure carnage.”
An hour goes by. Nothing happens. We just smoke and bicker.
“Did you get your phone call yet?” “I can’t remember. You?” “No.” “Who are you going to call?” “I don’t know. Maybe Chet.” “Chet? Fuck that guy.” “Listen, Chet knows people that know people. He might be able to get us out of here.” “That’s what you said in Utah. Chet doesn’t even live in Utah. Where does Chet live?” “Not sure.” “Fucking great. Here we go.” “Chet it is.”
The guard comes and tells me that I get to make a phone call. Chet’s number is tickling my fingertips and playing on repeat inside my mouth.
It rings twice before he answers.
“Hello?” “Chet? Hey man. How’s it going?” “Oh fuck. You again.” “Don’t hang up, don’t hang up. Please. I need your help.” “Oh yea? Maybe I’m not in the holiday spirit. I’m on fucking vacation, man.” “Chet, just listen. Give me fifteen minutes. I have a story that is going to blow your fucking mind.”
Silence. I’m not sure if he hung up or not. He might be breathing, but the connection is shitty. My heart is pounding.
Three dreams in three nights. Six sentences between our mouths. Nothing is said. We move on, again.
The road is hot and I can remember the rain. How she clutched fast to my hips as we walked to the corner store. I needed cigarettes.
Bee hated that I smoked and asked, “Have you ever had a cigarette after sex?” “No. Haven’t had sex in a while.” She could taste how stale I was but was kind enough not to rub it in. “Is that why you want to buy some?” “No. I’m going to buy some because tomorrow while you are in class I am going to write.” “Do you have to smoke while you write?” “It helps.” “With what?” “The stress.” “Why do you write if it stresses you out?” “Because it’s the only thing I know how to do.”
Bee kept quiet until we got back to her dorm. She stripped off her clothes and I watched from the hallway. They were wet and fell in heaps at her pale feet. A comb ran through her hair and I could smell the fresh fruit and spices. I kissed the back of her neck and shoulders before falling asleep. Her goosebumps were like braille and I wish I could still read her now, like I did then.
Three dreams, in three nights. Six sentences, between our mouths.
Because there is a fine line between fact and fiction. The goal is to make sure that the two run parallel but never touch. Never speak. Never see the reflection of themselves as the opposite half of an ugly or beautiful truth.
And I have spoken on the behalf of the shovel and of the mirror, but never on the twin that lives behind my eyes and tongue. Because the fact and the fiction of my world have crossed many times. To see people squirm and watch their knees give out or lose the contents of their stomach along tiled floor is my goal. To test the strength of those that end up between my fingers, whether in love or in dissection.
Maybe now it is time to speak on behalf of the knife.
There is a small disclaimer written underneath my tongue. And I show it to every woman that tells me their name or shakes my hand. Two-point font. Barely legible.
We’ve met and now you are reading the underside of my tongue. No, this didn’t hurt. But it hurts to keep my tongue up like this, so hurry up.
Tonight things will happen. We may part or we may end up in the bed of a stranger. Come morning, nothing will be in focus, except skin still warm with sweat.
Just know that when we laugh or sing or get drunk or fuck or fight or leave each other for months at a time, my mind is sharp and I never forget anyone, no matter how hard I try.
You will slide off this tongue. More than once, if I’m lucky.
And it might hurt to read or to wake up. Your name may change and we may change, but this never will.
If you end up as nothing more than a sentence in a notebook, or a line in a song, just know that you have touched my life and whether you want to or not, living forever through ink is something you have no control over.
Congratulations on etching yourself into my life.
The hardest part, is always getting back to the point where I can remember explicit detail. Remembering diction or how a glass is held. How teeth look during a laugh. When the things I say hurt the most. What keeps a person latched to my puppeteer strings.
It’s so hard to remember. Digging deep takes time and patience. And I always remember and I always carry a shovel.