she seemed less than pleased with this particular revelation. in fact, i thought i could spy tears in the corners of her barely-green eyes. i bought her another drink and realized that somewhere in her mind, swirling around with countless other half truths was the idea that i was merely trying to get her into bed. i thought of what i was wearing the last time we had sex, nearly four years ago. brown pants and a dark blue button up shirt, 100 percent polyester and that sort of fake satiny soft that begs to be touched.
"i dunno...i just think it takes a degree of mental instability to...not even to tolerate the shitty up-and-down of it...but to get it to work out right. you need to be just out of your head enough to throw every single thing, beautiful or otherwise, that inhabits your mind at a blank canvas or page or empty billboard and hope that something legible remains afterwards. i used to pretend i was able to get there, that point of religious ecstasy, unable to do any wrong...and...and, and whenever i look at any sort of truly striking piece of art, i think about those times when i sat crying, and you or countless other people would ask why i was so upset...and so often i wouldn't even know. it's clear enough now though...the whole burden of having to pretend i was what i truly was not. to pretend that i felt this orgasm of creation when all it was was drunkeness and self-deception. i wanted to be able to let it all fucking go." i leaned back in my chair and knew, or calculated, or divined, or whatever, that this was the idea i needed made clear to her, and that it beared repeating. "i KNEW that i had to let it all go. i had to. there wasn't any other way. and i did whatever i could to make that stubborn light of reality and cynicism disappear. and it almost killed me...but in the end maybe i was too much of a coward, maybe i was too rational, too willing to weigh pros and cons to let anything like that happen to me. maybe subconsciously i knew what i was doing, but i don't think that's what's important-"
"how the hell is that not important?! that may be the only fucking thing that matters!" she sighed and shook her head slowly "was it all just for attention? or was it just a cop-out to explain to all the people who loved you why you never speak to them anymore?"
i leaned back in my chair as her eyes burned into me.
"you still want to make everything black and white...did you hear what i was saying? all of that bullshit, the writing, the paint stained slacks, fucking polaroids...all of it was a front...i mean, really...how do you tell everyone you know that everything they think you are isn't true-"
"fuck you..." she shuddered with a deep intake of breath, then stood, throwing her napkin down on the table, "just...FUCK YOU...if that's true then all i ever really loved...was a fucking facade"
i would've broken down and wept a year ago to hear her say that. now, all i could manage was a slightly stand-offish statement.
"me too...but all in all, i hated him more than i loved him"
she squinted a bit, her eyes still moist, but set and unwavering, looking directly into my own plain brown eyes.
i think about what i should have learned, sometimes. but it seems a counterproductive exercise. were i to learn somehow (is it possible even?) how to function as society deems and do so, death would only become more imminent. the ideal of criminal rehabilitation...hah. when the prison is run by the criminals is when this statement finally gains a bit of sense. criminals return society to its base, reduce the meaningless interactions of a day to a point where every one is eliminated and every conversation crucial to keeping oneself alive and well. it is life on a battlefield, asleep in beirut or showering in c block. all the pointless banter of the bullpen, the weight room hiding the commerce and politics of a very visceral business, this pound of flesh for that one, and when there is a problem to be resolved, the criminal rejoices in the relative dearth of bureaucracy. ritual replaces tact, vendetta replaces law and therein lies the draw for those who won't and wouldn't ever try to escape this place. when you arrive the repugnance is overwhelming, it resonates off of the walls and wakes you earlier than the stentorian clang of the AM wakeup bells. it gathers on your clothes and sticks in your throat, til, to spite your attempts to remain otherwise, you become it.
"i think you should leave..."
she was naked, wrapped in a bedsheet, pointing at the door and getting more and more adamant with each passing second.
i was too drunk to stand without swaying, but perhaps powered solely by gall and a slowly strengthening desire to see this night end in the total solace of blacking out, i slowly made my way to the door and walked out. finding my bike on the side of the house i got on and the realization must have hit me at some point how terrible an idea it was to attempt, in my current state, the steep unlit street that led down from her house.
five hours earlier we had gone to karaoke at the only good bar in the city, there was a contingent of friends who were due to depart the next afternoon and we closed the place down. pitchers three at a time at the bar and everyone was a friend, not even in the drunken reveling sense, it was the till you die truth. the bar tab closed at the end of the night read two hundred sixty nine dollars and i left a thirty dollar tip. i didn't have the money to freely spend that way, but it was indeed, already spent. i carried the last pitcher of boddington's back to her place. she was crying and i didn't know why. for some reason i held on to the pitcher, four years later it still sat among all the martini glasses and myriad wine glasses, tumblers and collins glasses in the cupboard, mismatched with the post-something decor, the tasteful lighting and the thick expensive carpet.
"-because that, in effect is what we're looking at, a massively fragmented target audience. and that's what makes advertising in this country, specifically this part of the country, so difficult. the barriers of widely varying languages, quality of life, ambitions, disposable income, etc. make this an especially intricate campaign to organize. and with that intricacy comes increased cost, not only the physical cost of running what, in effect, will be the micro-targeting of certain influential tastemakers throughout the country coupled with a somewhat restrained mass media campaign appealing to the more discerning customer you are looking to cater to, but also the research and increased amount of headaches i'm going to be dealing with in walking that fine line between gross commercialism and complete lack of exposure. however, this investment, i guarantee you gentlemen, will be worth ten times what you have put into it-"
i reached over a linen suited shoulder and tapped the spacebar once to stop the playback of the recording i had made of the earlier meeting with the board of sambayunaco llc. the face of my current partner, james carrasco, turned toward me with an expectant smile, "so how much is this intricacy gonna cost those clueless fucks?" i took a sip from a cup of water to mask my smile for a few seconds. "fifty eight mil...six mil on top of that for us to split for the year long campaign" "three million fucking dollars each?", i couldn't hold it back any longer, i was grinning like a hyena. "that's...yeah, that's about accurate"
there are days and moments in your life that you consider seminal. there are also days and moments in your life that you hold up as being pivotal or important, yet were, in truth, meaningless: the day you quit smoking, even if you still hide a pack in the glovebox, the night you met your wife, even if you ignored her and fucked her friend that night. it's these sort of things that tend to take over your life if you let the lies they are based on freely multiply. similarly, when you pile up trinkets to remember days long past on which nothing remarkable, nothing memorable, nothing beautiful happened, then you find yourself mired in these sub-par memories, these uninspired days. all in the pursuit, in the hope that preserving them will, in some way, preserve you.
after i was finally able to get ahold of her on the phone and plead forgiveness, it became clear that she was holding something back, some revelation had hit her and she was reluctant to make it known, i pressed for a while and she conceded to write me when she got some free time, while i conceded to wait for her letter before replying. i wasn't sure what to do with my time in those four or five days after that conversation, i went about my cashiering job at a local bowling alley with an even more automated demeanor, feeling the resignation settle, but never really accepting it and holding out with that one stupid fraction that always will cling to a forlorn hope.
she came by my work on friday, a week after our fight. i was standing at the desk staring aimlessly down the nearly empty lanes with my head propped up on my hands. she walked over and asked what i was looking at before i even had a chance to register that it was her. while turning my head to look at her my chin slipped from where it was resting on the heel of my hand. she gave a funny beautiful smile for a mere second and then began rooting through her bag for something. i caught a glimpse, or more accurately had a fleeting bit of jamais vu; her smiling at me was a frequent occurrence, but there was an odd sticking strangeness to this smile. she quickly found what it was she had been sifting through her bag for and handed it to me, a sealed envelope with my name on it.
i felt the coming cold nights without her as i looked down at the stupid, ugly pattern on the top of the counter and the neat white intrusion of the envelope. fuck.
i stammered something to her as she began to walk away, then followed her towards the door. everything i had regretted doing or failing to do for her came at me at once as i got to the door and something clicked far far down in my mind, some ingrained and archaic switch was activated. i called her name and she stopped and walked back to where i was standing, i reached for her hand and she crossed her arms and continued looking at me.
"can i kiss you?"
she sighed softly and told me to read the letter, leaned in, kissed my cheek and turned on her heel and continued out through the small patio dining area. i watched her for a while, the street was empty and it was windy, her scarf blew around her as she continued on towards market street and finally disappeared around the corner.
the first time i had really good coke was somewhat of an anomaly, i was three months into my first marketing job, assistant to the assistant type of shit, when a good friend invited me to his cousins place. thinking that it would soon degenerate into family reunion memory lane, i had planned to leave within an hour or so, claiming that i had to work the next day. instead there was an abrupt tutorial on high grade cocaine, it's uses and the ways it is discerned from ajax floor cleaner. the night took it's own damn time in ending, 8 am was a bell rung somewhere announcing nap time, curled onto the six thousand dollar leather sofa that ringed the too small living room. we all fell asleep with the ounce high pile sitting on the kitchen counter drifting through our dreams, one curled between a girlfriends thighs, one halfway up the stairs, completely asleep on the tenth step, and me with a good idea of where this was headed, but with a fuck it all curl of smile that one can only manage at age 21.
it was an abrupt introduction to a different strata of life, the next day, after waking in the mid-afternoon and going down the street for fast food, we were sent to the grocery store with the task of stocking up on alcohol for a party that night. after being given five hundred dollars as we were leaving and instructions to get a lot of grey goose and crown royal, it hit me how steep and high a plateau these people live on. once the decision is made to start making money off of cocaine, there isn't any going back down, only straight up, and at the end, you're either dead, in jail or inscrutably rich. but damn, five hundred dollars on a whim. to a 21 year old making less than that in a week, it was as much a shock as the first fat rail had been the night before.
she had a tattoo on the small of her back, a jaguar, solid black, curled up as if sleeping.
i woke fairly early that day, her flight was at 10 am. opening my eyes i saw her tanned shoulders moving slowly in the deep breaths of sleep. i began to kiss her neck with pursed lips, blowing on the skin that soon reacted to my touch with goosebumps. she slowly turned her head as i bit her earlobe, her face turning towards me, eyes still sealed softly closed with sleep. touching the back of her head with my hand, i moved my cheek's six days worth of facial hair against her skin, my mouth slightly open, hearing every one of her breaths as they slowly quickened.
she murmured something in the soft throaty cadence of the barely awake. i smiled and asked her what she said.
"let's take a shower"
i noticed as we moved to the shower, her turning the water on as i stepped out of my boxer shorts...i noticed the shadows jumping around on the walls, the outlines almost cartoonish, exaggerated with the south american sun slowly clambering into the room as she reached into the shower, testing the water. i moved behind her, kissing her neck again, her hand moving to my cock hardening slowly against her thigh. she turned as the steam began to rise in the room, kissing me a few times then kneeling and taking me in her mouth. the shadows told a story in a language as old as fire, stark contrasts as my eyes rolled back. she stopped after a minute or so and we stepped into the shower.
i see that morning all the time now, in this place, dreams recur only because the bulk of daily life inside could only be material for nightmares. but i'll have a night when the only part i see is the two of us walking from one terminal to the next, every face, every turn of every persons head, her hair up, sunglasses hiding her eyes from the sun now out of the morning mist. just fifty yards walking, happening so slowly as to seem like we were underwater. god