Open the blue screen door and rap on one of the windowpanes. No Chihuahuas yap, nothing stirs. Yuengling bottles on the kitchen table, down the hall.
He’d always said that he lived at the bottom of a hill, no matter which way you went. At the top of the next hill, coming around the corner by the projects, he said, “If you wanted to leave at 9:30, you should have come at 7:30… And if you’d said we were leaving at 11:00, it would have been 1:00…” But his hoagie order made me laugh, and he paid for my coffee and bought a donut that he said he was saving for later.
Later, the cool, clean house in Towson, with oldies hits and the chocolate lab puppy and all the books on prayer.
Laughing inappropriately, helplessly on the porch. Watching the fly die in the web. Blood and ice cream, opening beer bottles with a spoon handle. So much love. Portraiture and the intimacy of portraiture.
The six-pack from the Pilot down the road mostly gone, the motel room mostly dark. He worries he is seeing too much color—more color than is there. The shapes of the subconscious. We list off the people we know who seem unsuited for the world.
“You’re just trying to think of people who seem less suited to ordinary life than you. But Ted’s father sells skin.”
Without talking about it, we both set an alarm for 8:20AM.
Memphis is a brown city like the Mississippi.
The Rendezvous dark and quiet, the table eerily near to last year’s, the order unchanged. The little rib-eating monster, he worries that even as he tries to create, to transcend, he will still never be perfectly himself. Licking one finger to scrub the paint—or BBQ—off another.
Don’t think that watching someone write a song, stuck in endless construction on 40, pleather sun-hot against back and thighs, is glamorous or interesting. It’s not. Writing nonsense is a gift you have or haven’t, it’s not for faking. Put the mandolin away, read all of Alice aloud, the tune dissipates uselessly into the afternoon.
AR, OK, rolling by, the crescent moon a guiding light, “We could drive all night,” he said, and he didn’t know he couldn’t. Surreptitious one-handed texts signaling off while he sleeps in the passenger seat, driving to George Harrison and the moon, swerving sharply as our headlights hit the bulk of the dead raccoon.
East of OK City, maybe all Midwestern Walmarts are filled with nighttime consumers who trade their open outdoor vastnesses for the immensity of linoleum and steel shelves, white-wash lighting, bottled water and medication, overalls and tube socks and cheap sunglasses.
We drink the water, take Tylenol for toothaches, don’t wear sunglasses in the dark.
Never am able to tell when someone’s nose is crooked. Holistic view of faces.
Stop on the side of 40 to look at the stars.
There is no food between Clinton, OK and Amarillo, TX. Try all the exits anyway.
The atlas, every location from “Willin’.” More atlas. Imagining CA and the redwoods, the logistics for trips that will never happen, bank accounts and balances, bikes and busses and no more beer, not wanting to wait—is that an expectation or not? Driving the mysterious NM-104.
Arriving, beer in the fridge, dead jade tree in the bathroom. Dinner out, strangers must see us as a couple with nothing to say. We go home; I send pictures of the sunset to other people, he corkscrews the rubber-band ball, I whirl wildly around the house.
I stay so much more focused when reading to someone else. Do we all? The skunk traverses the backyard.
I said that I did not want to read a book on philosophy because I was too sleepy. “I’ll read it with you,” he said, and read to me as I fell asleep.
Not breathing, birds, using up all my questions.
Trying to read and the smoke rasping my throat.
The conversation about saying what you mean, on the patio with the lavender and the lemon verbena. Our egos interfere, make us express in ways and on levels that are not how we most naturally are, and maybe ultimately the best way to communicate and express is to be perfectly who we are, on the level we are meant to function.
We worry, and we find the moments when we are ourselves, perfectly.