Monday, October 18, 2010

so many chinese restaurants so close to home.


chapter 57

Claire had a facing seat on the bus, and she was sitting with one leg crossed over a knee, kind of bouncing her foot up and down in the air while reading the New Yorker. A rather obtuse stranger in a Buckingham Palace topcoat with White House slacks and Raindrop shoes was hurriedly gathering himself against the hurl of the forward motion. His face was a gurney of indecision and red splotches. The sunlight leaked in. A dragonfly slingshot through a window and clipped Claire’s elbow with its wing. She ignored it. It wasn’t something worth getting her dander up about. There was some dandruff on her shoulder, and she brushed it off with a lithe twist of her wrist. It went away. She sighed, flipped a page in her magazine, and thought, “I don’t even want to do the things that I want to do.”


class dismissed

a-- why does every girl i get involved with turn out to be a radioactive waste dump?

b-- because your isotopes are all screwed up. probably got too many neutrons, or too few. watch out for spontaneous fission, my friend.

a-- bad stuff?

b-- damn straight. damage you up pretty good.

a-- sure. that’s really it. damaging me up. damn girls. but can’t stay away from them. don’t know why. just keep going back and back and back again, to get hurt and mauled and made an idiot of.

b-- drink it away. come on. your good friend mr. whisky will put a stop to that hurt.

a-- don’t wanna feel like this no more. no more. can’t take this for another minute. this getting-stepped-on in-constant-pursuit hot-and-cold-running thing that comes along and saps me of being me.

b-- sometimes you’ve just gotta know when to get the hell out.

a-- how do you ever know a thing like that?

b-- i don’t know. when it’s not worth it anymore. when what you’re getting doesn’t quite add up to what you’re giving.

a-- push, pull. push, pull. it’s a sham.

b-- and a shame.

a-- i could follow my heart. i could let her have the rule of the roost in my mind. i could be attached to mercy. i could leave and never look back.

b-- run, run, run. ah. there’s not much in that though, is there?

a-- just the loneliness of the long-distance runner.

b-- four-chew-a-nate-lee. yes. there’s that.

a-- but when the signals get crossed, when the moods run inky, when descending is all you seem to be able to do, when you’d cross her tees for just about anything, when you smell a witch, when capital letters are too much to take, when cops create havoc, when undulating sighs for help plead with the more deaf and dumb parts of yourself, when kleenex wads itself up.

b-- and he beats the buzzer by a tenth-of-a-second, folks.

a-- pluralistically speaking, well, we’ve got other notions, like zemblanity showing up at just the right time.

b-- or would that be badly timed serendipity?

a-- half of one, four eighths of another.

b-- um…hello darkness my old friend?

a-- yep. that kind of thing.

b-- oh. well. then. um. sure.

a-- stringing along hope like a tin can tied with rope to the back of a bicycle. it jangles. it jingles. maybe?

b-- or the line breaks and we’ve got common ground.

a-- hearing isn’t always believing.

b-- but when the sky’s so blue it hurts my eyes to look…

a-- then. well. kind of.

b-- my love has gone. my love has gone away. will you stay? will you be mine for a night?

a-- sure. yep. there’s that sort of talk. a violin sonata for the lovesick.

b-- those things that spell shifts in the transitional nature of the way seasons smell.

a-- things that swing from moods that shift.

b-- garnishing thoughts with hassles of never-to-be imaginings, wincing at the possibility of thorns pricking the armor of delusions, of safe guesses, at assurance’s self-willed staying power.

a-- fuck. shit. dang it. shoot. creamsicles. puffed nuts. powdered wig!

b-- let it go. here it comes. oh no. look out. wait. stand still.

a-- and look at us here preaching passivity.

b-- actively though, you must admit.

a-- yeah. like a full-court press of sadness.

b-- deee-fence! dee-fence!

a-- it’s less likely that i’d equate the morose tendencies of shit-stained memories with the man-to-man structures, pliant negations without my heart in it, or fried-egg sandwiches for dessert.

b-- corn nuts.

a-- bishop takes rook.

b-- the scenarios for dimmed lights keep becoming fewer as the bulbs burn out.

a-- like taking little kids out to dinner with you. never monumental in the peace it keeps pace with.

b-- delving into dreary days dissolves less dread than droll drums of defeat.

a-- not so cool…dude.

b-- behaving is for the crap-tasters. loan me a martyr. kill me a lion. jet before the going gets what’s left of you. set my bones on fire.

a-- a bonfire.

b-- pretty much. so, there’s this here conundrum of what to do concerning this dame in question who shall we say keeps roping a misunderstanding around your neck, yoking you to her flighty whims. the push. the pull. the opposite of mutual affection. more like mutually assured destruction.

a-- moping won’t pay the rent. that much i know.

b-- not so sure about that. but, ahem, well, due to circumstances beyond my control…

a-- oh. i know. it’s fast women, slower horses…etcetera.

b-- it’s not though. it is within the hemisphere of your grasp to elude these so-called pressures fettering you to a broadsided technicality of love.

a-- a chemical alliance?

b-- taking advantage of the situation. preparing sides. looting the craven stores of your regret. things like this, see?

a-- no. i don’t see shit.

b-- but what have you learned?

a-- the sky isn’t blue. it’s just an illusion. it’s what my mind makes of what my eyes take away.

b-- good. that’s a start.

a-- well, at least it’s a good left jab to the ribcage.

b-- that’ll do.

a-- amen.

b-- but have you ever thought that maybe you might be the one suffused with this so-called nuclear waste?

a-- wha…?

b-- maybe it is you who are rummaging through the landscape of your amorousness, spreading dust and cankering up the soil, taking without thought of what you give back.

a-- me?

b-- sure. let he who is without sin…

a-- yeah. yeah. blah, blah, blah. i know who i am.

b-- but do you know why?

a-- why i am?

b-- well, yes. that too. but more importantly why you keep involving yourself in these situations. could it be possible that you are helping to orchestrate them? that it is you who thrive on these self-defeating/self-destructive relationships?

a-- oh, would you like me to lie down on a couch and talk about my childhood fears, mr. freud?

b-- nice. i see your defense mechanisms are still finely tuned.

a-- best in the beeswax.

b-- such typical american taking-up-too-much space attitude. it’s like that time you had greensleeves stuck in your head.

a-- oh yeah. for weeks. and i kept humming it all the time. it didn’t matter where i was.

b-- quite beyond annoying. even for you. and that’s saying something.

a-- asamwhatsiam.

b-- sure. but that’s changing all the time. always waking up to a brand new day, a new set of fractured calculations of how to make it through that day, a random equation to try to make something, anything, stay. you don’t need words. just something steady. a tune to hum. a ferris-wheel pattern of thought.

a-- that makes more sense than trying to hold onto something that’s just going break all apart and like diffuse into plenty of nothing, when, really, all you want is something. you’d kill for something, anything. but all you get is that nothing. and you keep getting it. it’s all that you let yourself have.

b-- let yourself. yes. you maybe have stumbled onto a point there.

a-- really? little ole’ pea-brained all-american me?

b-- i know. surprising. but there’s something there. you have to not let yourself let yourself do this to yourself, not to mention the other person involved in said scenario. things don’t just happen to you because. you have to make things happen, right?

a-- let myself let myself?

b-- there’s nothing tautological about that. it’s a reinforcement of big deals going down with or without you there to have an opinion.

a-- dick muncher.

b-- ahem. um. so. forging ahead. why do you keep getting sucked into this misery?

a-- because i find it to be worth it…i guess. falling in love with someone i really hardly know. using the adz of not-knowing to shape the fictitious means of my temporary escape from being alone. and it’s me. i’m worse than any of it, and i see those things in them that i see in me, those things i hate about me, that aloof weirdness that drives me insane. i let it get to me. i can’t let go. i just hold on and hold on, even when there’s not much left to hold.

b-- or even if you don’t really want to be holding anything, because in the end it just turns out to be nothing, right?

a-- no. i’m just a cucurbit for leftover feelings. sopping up the floodwater when all’s done in.

b-- tears?

a-- i cannot stand tears.

b-- then what?

a-- maybe to say something like this, and mean it, “existing in the place where you’re most comfortable being isn’t always the best way to exist. she doesn’t deserve me. at least what’s here. after delving cuts what’s left. i want a love that is not like fog that burns away with the first licks of sun. that isn’t there and gone in decapitated swans of luck. and that moves of its own volition. not with the busied scars of past business, imperially jaunting off to a long traumatic winter, undone limping along and tracing the windless breeze of circles. open almost all night. undetermined and to be noticed at a later date.”

b-- what a bunch of baloney. you’re just pluralizing tomorrow ad infinitum.

a-- and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

b-- ok. that’s enough of that. some of us can only live in self-constructed snow globes.

a-- and when two snow globes meet?

b-- broken glass and spilled tears.

a-- lamentation grows and goes and gets nowhere, and here is far, and now is later, and we pule from the crevices of indecision about how much we are willing to lose, which is everything, in this willy nilly chase after immortality, while we’ve got an atom bomb in our soul that’s always just about ready to explode.

b-- we all need our secrets.

a-- i lost her address.

b-- keep it to yourself.

a-- i lost the way she used to look at me.

b-- to yourself. to yourself, buddy.

a-- she is empty.

b-- no. she’s gone.

a-- gone?

b-- keep your own secrets. you might need them someday.

a-- gone?

b--

a-- gone?

b--

a-- gone…


a field guide to the symbols of love

Hearts - mist dying and the stink of shoeless feet

X - when close pushes farther away

O - (an emetic for canceled plans and other such minor catastrophes)

Winks - dates drenched in moonlight, covered in sand, resting swamped in miracles…if you need one

Smiles - music dialing wrong numbers

&^! - so say this (vehemently if possible): “Vapors distilled by major-market junkies run turnstiles, squawk at boxes, limbo options of spent halves gone too long on empty.”

Chills - loaned books, fingertips tracing letters on an arm, argyle socks, whispers, popcorn machines

Sleep - when the moths hover, when the rocking chairs dance, when the sun is sick

“>^<” - unreturned phone calls

* - naps and returned blank checks

! - maximum room capacity one person

@~@ - the avoidance of inertia, frustration, boredom, and depression can at numerous times in the life of an individual lute plucker become a well-honed tool of defense

-arm-less hugs

Q - all queries remain on neutral turf, shored on timidity, left wimpy and waiting

Slabs of cement - exposure of nether regions

u--u--u - we’ve got to talk

deodorant - don’t come around here no more

checked box - you should come with a warning label

√§ - time flies when you’re dancing

à - hard to swallow, pit in stomach, sweaty palms, glasses falling off, constant need to micturate

Elvis Presley - running hands through hair

V>>V - and then she screams, “Fuck you, you fucking loser, sick fucking sonofabitch! Fuck! Fuck you! I hate every single thing about you! Don’t ever fucking touch me every again you fucking motherfucker! And I hate your fucking dog too!”

Bishops or Rooks - hair of gold and lips like cherries

/`o`\ - life’s been good to me so far

Dog-eared pages of old paperbacks - romance wearing charm as a badge of honor, again

&& - that’s not even funny

__ – sex without drugs or rock’n’roll

Cowboy hat - sundown

() - restful evenings in the uneventful swath of television’s blue glow

g…i…r…l… - everything’s a must

shadows - there’s this feeling called, there’s this feeling called, there’s this feeling called…

#--# - more please (or turn the music down)

Helvetica - loose change, polaroids, smashed flowers, famous hairstyles, lumps in the throat

taxis - the placement of options for worry bludgeoning remorse with uselessness

lavender – suitjacket vest pockets

fog - stomping in on giant dinosaur feet

busy signal – there’s something in your eye, let me smell your hair, get down on your knees and draw some dolphins with chalk on the sidewalk, make a newspaper hat

N+** - lose my number you son of a gumshoe

Angels - dragnets out to catch a few stars or tears

V{ - personality traits notwithstanding there are a few things left about you I still care about but those things aren’t enough to give this damn thing another go

Pulse - you didn’t exactly bring any good-fucking-tidings with you

Skip James – Steve Martin

Gum – if the clothespin fits

~`~ – that can’t possibly be the shirt that you’re going to wear

E=% – nothing else matters when you’re dancing

ee cummings – achy sugared coffee

clingclingcling… – the morose tendencies of indifference flute bluebells and radio matadors but who knows what a little spring might bring if the moods of misbehaving down too much coffee and take hands for granted


a roomful of mourners overheard

“she could write pop songs. has a great internal editor. not like me. i get too mushy. i leave too much stuff in that shouldn’t be there, and am often wrong about what will be embarrassing later.”

“appleteeth. toothpaste breath. braised bicycle tires.”

“that’s bored househusband talk.”

“she could write symphonies. she could play potatoes like drums. she could teach frogs to lisp. me? i can’t change a flat.”

“mercy, wielding the sun, remains untested on the blackboards.”

“i’m just gussying up monotonous wordsalads with the tang of zesty dressing.”

“she’s not one for prolixity. she keeps it curt. a real laconic lassoer of the heart. i mumble over myself. everything’s indirect. she gets right down to it.”

“while you get right up over it. the matter, that is.”

“rubberbandhair days”

“that’s what they don’t say. it’s not the beginning of the world, neither way.”

“chop. chop. let’s keep a roof under our heads when it’s sunny.”

“i’m skimming across a lake of superficiality. my skies are feathered with incomplete thoughts. her mind’s only dotted with a few important things, and she knows just when to put them to use, and how.”

“the why is whoing with the does of wants in a sealed case of notrightnow.”

“blam is the operative phrase. she buttons shoes. she zips hats. she climbs rivers. i am not a fencer. i paint when the days grow recherch√©.”

“aluminumcanmachinegun.”

“blotting out reasonableness with unencumbered redressing. she’s a floater. i’m always sunk.”

“all that talk of settling. or was it settling down? settling for?”

“it wasn’t intriguing at all. that was the one thing about it. there was a manufactured ease to it. that was another thing about it. nothing grabbed your attention. a compartmentalized satisfaction.”

“greet me.”

“hello there.”

“umpire my judgment.”

“with a rhadamanthine temperament.”

“true tests of character rely on terror and infrequent accomplishments. under this flag i fly.”

“grim and parrot.”

“if she’d learn to just go with it, maybe for a longer stretch, keep it going, keep with it, flail around a bit with it, that’d show ‘em.”

“grainy pursuits of purity only lead to more paths of muggy inconsistency. if i am jumpy with forged courage, if i am lean with aligned stars, if i am pretty cool, then costs must be exceeding the evidence of flying away to some foreign country where nobody knows who you are. and somebody who might know you better than you know you, and before they even know your name.”

“people throw out hope into the wind where it dances like sand. don’t clomp off towards your destiny with marbles in your mouth.”

“she’s touchy. she’s not too sensitive about it. she’s had more sleepless nights than she lets on. she brings flowers to the mailman. she drops a kind glance now and again.”

“brighter than morning, a smile rises like a punch of elderberry.”

“a silver rose spraypainted for the end of the world.”

“everything comes down to appearance. putting on a show. impressing. making an impression. an imprint on how you’re seen and thought of. class comes and goes and we put up with classy things. we broom our mistakes into the past.”

“entering through exits. clobbering intuition with bad timing. jump. jump. go ahead. jump.”

“wander. pursue. run out of talk. charter silence. see what happens next.”

“she makes pixels scream.”

“waiting in line at the grocery store can be exciting too.”

“phoning in the recipe for greed from a payphone of well-to-do accomplishment.”

“sometimes 4 am just happens to you.”

“twist before you shout. be game for the also-rans of your excitable nature.”

“trepan your way through it all. guess. grouse. be lousy at things.”

“stay chancy.”

“if there were only blame to place.”

“to delete the harbingers of readyornots. to be glassy with hastening. worming through things. tinkling take-me-out-to-the-ballgame with the tines of shiny silverware on coffee cups.”

“and the hand-picked assassins crouch in the shelterbelt. everything becomes unbuckled. hickorydickorydoctor.”

“she doesn’t delve. she won’t ponder. she ducks under windows like some shy mountebank scrolling through the unread leaflets of her whims. the underexamined life. a purpose with accident insurance.”

“glide. don’t be a quisling when they arrive late at night and break down your door. their questions are all gung without any ho.”

“bittersmush. buttermesh. bettermets.”

“there’s a loopy mirrorstare she’s got. it puts prayers to sleep. i leave the windows open. i blabber and stumble. crumbs of empires spider by.”

“clearsooty and shotwithcare.”

“all she does is shovel away surety with fickle scoops.”

“rarely welldone.”

“she eddie-haskels her way into your life, and then highanddries you.”

“turbulence rescinds the value of empty days with minarets.”

“soggy goshawful hairpulling fried days.”

“as you were.”

“the chips without the salsa. all eggs but no bacon. the days alike as dollar bills.”


and I sat there getting drunker and drunker and more in love and more in love.

It was like cinemascope skeletoning out into all these various branches. But like scaffolding. You don’t get arrested for hating a tree, as long as you don’t act on it. I’m going to light off a firecracker. Please excuse me.

Coincidences arise. Madame Bleep has taken a lover. His or her surname is Lackluster. He (or she) makes things with her (or his) hands. That is all that is known at the current time.

“Don’t court the wedding guests, you little son of an oligarch,” whispers the minister to his cousin Lew. Lew is bald, and his breath smells like old tires. Nobody is paying attention to the ceremony happening on a balsa wood platform. (psssst! It’s a wedding ceremony…here comes the bride and all that.) Lew is nervously wringing his hands. People are checking out Madame Bleep’s dress, and her tiny tiara too. It’s so small (the tiara) that most people can’t see it. Only people with seats pretty close to the front row have a decent chance at seeing anything. The balsa platform is about 50 feet away from the first row of folding chairs. The whole ceremonial shindig is happening outside, on God’s green earth, under the sun: a place where there is never anything new.

Madame Bleep is stuffing her face with Jr. Mints. She is pondering a way out of this so-called blessed union. It has been two whole days since the wedding, and Madame Bleep is already thinking about jetting. This Lackluster bastard just talks too much, and worse, he thinks. And, worst of all, he has actual emotions which he feels compelled to relate to her. He wants to feel close to her, to bond. It makes Madame Bleep’s stomach feel like a pinball game with a multiball going on. She starts to believe that if she eats enough Jr. Mints all of her troubles will go away. Why can’t they just have fun? Just stay bobbing on the surface of things? There’s nothing to be gained from all this blabbering. She wants to pop his head like a balloon with a giant needle.

That firecracker was loud. It did the job. It scared the cats out of the alley. Now, at last, I can have some peace.

A plenitude of brides had been bought along the border for the love-starved soldiers. They had been fighting each other over who would make pancakes. The colonel lit his hat on fire and waved it around like a happy fan. Nobody cheered, but a few of the soldiers’ new wives kissed their hubbies with tongue. It was a grand time for the fighting soldiers, who really had nobody to fight except themselves. It was really a doozy though, when it came to who would marry whom. Sometimes one of the soldiers would get his heart all set on one gal in particular, and then some other soldier would get the same idea. They’d try to woo her and court her and all that crap, but in the end it was the lady who got to decide whom she wanted for a groom, and usually it was neither, but instead some boring school teacher from the village whom she felt more capable of having a professional working relationship with, though a passionless one. Sometimes love is like that. Women are capable of many low-down means to attain their selfish ends. And all the soldiers could do was pine and worry, and fight among themselves.

If only mogigraphy wouldn’t tag along with insomnia, then maybe there would be more middle, more beginning, and perhaps an end.

Senor Lackluster spent much time and money trying to win the favors of Madame Bleep. Though it was official now, they were married according to all the laws of the state, he still felt her to be absent, to be a long ways away, to be going, going, going, gone all the time, as if he were being constantly shoved, slapped at, and hurled through windows. He took her on long vacations, on tropical cruises and to many exotic foreign lands, and bought her any present she might even slightly show an interest in. She spent much time yawning, breaking plans with him, and lying in bed staring with a blank look on her face, as if it were not possible for her to have even one thought, as if her brain were turned down to dim, just barely hovering over the brink of black sleep. He looked into her eyes. He saw only emptiness. Everything about her told him to stay away. It was like living with a woman trapped inside a snow globe; and Madame Bleep did not want to leave the comfort of her little bubble. The world was not kind. She’d rather live in fluff. Senor Lackluster spent many nights alone. He started wondering why he couldn’t make any decisions for himself, and why he let this woman control what he did with his free time, and why he always thought of her when she was away, and about what she was doing and who she was with, and what the hell he was doing with her because all she did was make him nervous and anxious all the time, and all he wanted to do was relax, but he couldn’t because of this damn woman who was now his wife to have and to hold and all that, and, and, and, well, all this thinking hurt his head and he didn’t like being angry, so he gave up and went out to a bar to drink beer and listen to music, which made him happier than anything on earth. He decided to never make anything with his hands again.

A tall soldier died the other day. He had no wife, but he was very tall. Perhaps the tallest soldier in the history of soldiering. A thing like that is hard to know. There was no war. His death was from self-inflicted sleeplessness. He went crazy from being alone too much and never being able to dream.

Madame Bleep didn’t mind being alone. There were many worse things. In fact, she loved her time spent in isolation; she craved it. It came to consume her, this need to be lost inside her own make-believe world, to not be bothered by others, to be safe and warm and comfortable. But sometimes she felt the need to see Senor Lackluster, and the urge was so strong she couldn’t fight it. It was like a wraith had wriggled its way inside her body, and she’d soar on its fickle flights, without caution or any thought as to Senor Lackluster’s current state of affairs, into the life of her husband, who was often alone, lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling fan in the den. He would always acquiesce to her advances. Afterwards, one time, she threw him a rose spray-painted silver. He pinned it to the lapel of his favorite suit jacket. She never noticed it. They’d go weeks without talking.

Cunning is used by the soldiers to get the wives they want. They play games. They use hacksaws and rapiers. Music is played. Rose bushes are painted silver and pulled up by their roots. There are no survivors. They use cinquedeas, yatagans, saifs, macanas, and toothpicks. They will use razors and flamethrowers and axes too, if necessary. Jazz is played. A funeral procession forms, and everybody dances as they weep. Pincers will work to remove what’s left of the soldiers’ broken hearts, or a nail file, or a safety pin, or a dangerous pin, or cold dead hands. Some soldiers will descend on a crowd. They will fill in the gaps they find with Ethylene vinyl acetate. Often they will build things with just their hands: sculptures of women they’ve loved, wives they’ve lost, situations that have gone awry. The rain will not hamper them.

Goop was clouding up the scene. Senor Lackluster had on his waterproof watering gloves. He played poker with them on. He played Rummy, Pinochle, Omaha High-low Mixed, and Go Fish. But for now he was just standing on the top step of a small step stool with a rope tied in a slipknot around his neck, and he was saying, “Why must I continue to suffer so much? Why must my pain always be almost too much for me to bear? What are days when you don’t have music to live them in? I am not a microphone. I am listed as a clencher on most people’s lists. Camden Yards broke my bat on a balmy September afternoon. A purple elephant dreams of me sleeping. Why am I alive at all?” The rope around his neck snapped his neck just a moment after he slipped and fell.

A not-too-tall squat soldier with two too many wives was using masking behavior to hide his jealousy. What he would do when his jealousy rose in him like the sun over the waiting earth at dawn was to pump a whole cartridge into a telephone pole with his Beretta M12. Nobody suspected he was jealous. They just thought he was going a little stir crazy and was using the telephone pole for target practice, which wasn’t all-together untrue. There were many things that caused his jealousy. When one of his wives would make plans to attend a dinner party, a dinner party which he was most noticeably not invited to, and he would find out about his wife attending said dinner party, a la carte as it were, well, then he’d shoot up that damn telephone pole real good. Just knowing that she was out there, quite possibly getting tanked on whisky sours or old fashioneds with lord knows what caliber of persons, mingling with other soldiers and other wives, possibly to be whisked away to some dumpy barracks to be further wined and talked out of her clothes, well that was just too much. He couldn’t sit still. It was all he could think about it, and it made him nuts. This soldier wanted to be needed. He wanted to matter so much to somebody else that they would never be able to stop thinking about him, that they would do anything for him, anything he wanted, even though in reality what he wanted was nothing more than to be loved, and that was all that he needed. But for him it just never seemed to happen. No matter how many wives he had, his nights always ended up with him pounding that damn telephone pole with bullets. The chips of wood would fly everywhere. The metal plates and rungs would spit sparks into the black sky. Then, one fateful evening, after an exceptionally brutal barrage, the telephone pole tipped and cracked into two, tumbling to the ground in a forlorn heap, and the dust rose in giant clouds, and the soldier sat down in the dirt and cried. Nothing was meant to be.


grisly and golden as ever

a-- i had a girlfriend who went completely insane. out of the steely blue nothing. just went plumb out of her gourd. no warning or nothing.

b-- no warning? nothing?

a-- nope. just turned nutty one day. and it wasn’t just a little. it was a lot. like i didn’t even know whom i was talking to anymore.

b-- whom. you’re such a fancy bastard.

a-- yup. yup. but this lady. this out-damn-spot bitch. well, she all of a sudden like wouldn’t even let me touch her. it was so nuts. like one day we’re all lovey dovey, making out in restaurants and petting pretty damn heavy on street corners. stuff like that, you know?

b-- nice.

a-- yeah. and then, out of fucking nowhere mind you, she’s like, git your goddamn hands off me you sick son of a bitch.

b-- what the hell brought all this on? i mean, were you like messing with other ladies, or like being an a-hole fucknut to her, or what?

a-- no way man. not even in the slightest. fuck. i was the goddmandest perfectest motherfucking gentleman this fucking world’s ever known. i treated her like a god damn princess. i bent over backwards and kept on bending. i made her fucking breakfast!

b-- breakfast? oh shit. man. that’s some fucked up shit.

a-- you telling me.

b-- so. well. what was fouling her all up.

a-- no fucking idea. you couldn’t talk to her. not about stuff like that.

b-- pretty vacant.

a-- lights on, but they’re pretty dim. gorgeous though. and her eyes. man. i ain’t ever seen eyes like that. all kinds of glittering going on with greens and blues and gold i don’t even think i can venture a fucking guess as to the real names of.

b-- body?

a-- oh lordy. never seen her equal. curves that looped and lilted and spun. and the way she moved her hips. man. she could just put the teakettle on the stove and i’d start drooling.

b-- shit. i’m about to put a teakettle on the stove myself.

a-- what?

b-- i don’t know. nothing. so. this girl’s like super fucking hot.

a-- uh huh.

b-- but nuts.

a-- well. not really. just…well. kind of weird at first.

b-- how so?

a-- well. i don’t know. we started dating and things were pretty hunky dory. and we kind of fell in love with each other.

b-- um….

a-- it’s hard to explain. i mean it seems really superficial. i know. but it just felt like we’d known each other our whole lives. like i knew her better than i could even know myself. and we didn’t have to talk too much. we just goofed off and laughed a lot, and we went out dancing and ate at fancy restaurants and snuck up on the tops of buildings to watch the sky and smoke cigarettes.

b-- romantic fodder. come on. that shit don’t last.

a-- i know. but this was different.

b-- of course. it always seems like that. i suppose you’re going to tell me how special she was, how there was no other girl like her, and that you appreciated her soul, and she understood you in a way that nobody else could, and how the kisses you shared were magical, and blah, blah, blah. shit. like shakespeare once said, “same bitch. different face.”

a-- i know. i know. that’s what they all say. but. fuck. i don’t care. i know how i felt. and you can’t ever know that, even though you think you can. you can’t.

b-- okay. whatever. i guess i can’t argue with that. i can only try to feel…what is it, sympathy?

a-- no. i think it’s empathy.

b-- whatever.

a-- well, like i was saying, everything was rolling along all smooth-as-a-bowling-lane…

b-- is that an expression?

a-- sure. it’s something people say.

b-- people don’t say that.

a-- yes they do. i’ve heard people say that.

b-- people?

a-- sure. people.

b-- ok. whatever.

a-- so things are going good. we’re happy as a meal. we’re like beer and salty snacks. we’re…

b-- ok. i get it. enough.

a-- so. one day. and mind you this is like apropos of nothing. she calls me up and is like, “i’m feeling all weird. i need to see you. meet me at this bar.” and so i schlep my way down to said bar. take a seat at the bar. order a beer and a shot of whisky.

b-- sounds about right.

a-- but she’s nowhere to be found. i’m not that surprised though. she’s not the most punctual gal on the planet. i spent a lot of time waiting around for her to show on most of these occasions when we were supposed to meet up. it was annoying, but no big deal. i drank my drinks, pissed, and sat back down. i was about to order another beer when i see her shoot in through the door. she looks real harried and sweaty, scared, like she’s just robbed a bank or something, and she’s looking for a place to hide out. i don’t know. it’s just the impression that i got. and so she sits down next to me, and i try to put my arm around her and go in for a kiss, but she fucking pulls away.

b-- the pull away? out of nowhere?

a-- out of fucking nowhere.

b-- fuck. that sucks.

a-- to say the least. this is a girl, mind you, that i’ve like dedicated a lot of time to. put in a lot of effort too. i mean, i’d do anything for her, and i pretty much did. and i didn’t even care. it was worth it. she always made it way more than worthwhile. she made me more than happy. and i thought i did the same for her. at least that’s what she said. and that was the way it seemed too. that was how she made me feel. that everything was all peachy keen and then some.

b-- oh….you were in love. how nice.

a-- well, it was. i don’t care. i’m not embarrassed. i threw my heart to her.

b-- and she thumped it into the stands.

a-- so what? i’d never done that before. i went all out for once. no holding back. and it was wonderful. it was fucking amazing. while it lasted.

b-- while it lasted.

a-- so what?

b-- so…

a-- well. she just like pulls away, and i’m like, well, really pretty shocked. and i kind of try to laugh it off and i ask her what’s wrong and all that, but she’s like dumbstruck. she’s not even saying anything. she’s just got this dim, empty look in her eyes, and she’s kind of swaying back and forth on her stool. i’m thinking, did she just get lobotomized? so i get her and myself a beer, and she kind of smiles and seems to lighten up some. she sips at the beer. i down a long swallow of mine. then i kind of lean in with some small talk, and she seems receptive at first, but then i go to put my hand on her leg and she like pushes it away.

b-- wow. the push away. that’s fucked up.

a-- i know. so of course i’m starting to get a bit irked, and i’m like, what gives? you know? what’s going on? and she like freaks out and throws her hands up and is just like, “i can’t do this anymore if this is how it’s going to be!”

b-- can’t do what?

a-- i don’t know. i’m like what the fuck? what the fuck did i do?

b-- for sure. you’re like, “lady, explanation please.”

a-- she’s having a fucking fit though. she’s like flapping all around and acting all insane and screeching and shit. and then she calms down for a minute and she says to me, “i just can’t be with somebody who doesn’t like steely dan.”

b-- what the…?

a-- i know. fucking weird as hell.

b-- and mean.

a-- yeah. like that’s a make-or-break issue. totally fucking nuts.

b-- loony tunes.

a-- and she’d never mentioned this before, or anything like this for that matter. she’d been pretty cool and even keel. never really even freaked out about anything. i mean, not more than most girls.

b-- which, you must admit, is a lot.

a-- well, of course. that’s a given. but this shit was like way too much. i mean, steely dan?

b-- a band named after a vibrator. that shit ain’t right. it just ain’t right.

a-- i know. reelin’ in the years. stowin’ away the time. fucked up shit.

b-- to say the least. so what did you say?

a-- well. i was like in fucking shock. it’s not like steely dan was playing on the juke box and i was like talking shit on them and making fun of their lyrics or anything. though i’m sure i would’ve been. and we’d never even talked about steely dan before. i had like no fucking idea in the world that she felt this strongly about…about fucking steely dan! for fuck’s sake. it was absurd.

b-- fucking nuts. what a crazy bitch.

a-- so i just sat there trying not to laugh, which is really what i would normally have done. but she was acting so weird, and there was this like whole eerie energy sweeping through things, and i somehow i knew that this was like really really fucking serious.

b-- how long were those guys around?

a-- the seventies mostly. i think they still play.

b-- really?

a-- yeah. and they’re in the rock’n’roll hall of fame. can you believe that shit?

b-- fucked up shit man. fire in the hole.

a-- yeah. really. anyway. i try to gather myself. and i look at her, and her eyes are like going pinwheels, and she’s all shaky. so i try to calm her down, you know. try to get her to get it together. and i’m like, “what? steely dan?” and i’m like crushing my beer can in one hand and i turn around to face the bar, and everything is like spinning, and i know, just right then, that there’s nothing that i can say that will make any difference. her mind is already made up. there’s nothing left to do except sit there and drink my beer and let her go and wallow in my misery.

b-- fuck…

a-- serious shit. and at this point the bar starts getting really crowded. and we’re sitting next to each other at the bar, and all kinds of folks are like coming up next to us and between us trying to order drinks. it’s like some party bus just let off a bunch of 21-year-olds out for their first night on the town. and this girl, let’s call her simone…

b-- simone? okay by me.

a-- good. glad you approve. well, simone, she used to tell me that she would think about me all the time. this is the same girl who said she couldn’t have any fun doing anything unless i was with her. she rushed to meet me places, and we kissed and kissed and didn’t care who was watching us or where we were. it didn’t matter. as long as we were together.

b-- stop. you’re making me want to vomit blood.

a-- and now, simone, is sitting there telling me not to touch her. that she doesn’t want me to kiss her anymore. and the whole reason for this? that i don’t like steely dan.

b-- that was really it?

a-- yes. i kept trying to get her to tell me what the fuck was going on, and how ridiculous she was being, but she was not going to budge from that point. maybe it was just an excuse to get out of this thing. i don’t know. but it was getting really loud in the bar, what with all the dumb fucks shouting and ordering mai tais and going woo-woo and playing the jukebox.

b-- any steely dan?

a-- ha ha. no. i don’t think so. i was going out of my head. and this one thought kept tumbling around in there, ‘the things that bring you happiness are becoming fewer and fewer.’

b-- that was the thought?

a-- yeah. it was really strange. i’d never had a thought like that before. like i was talking to myself as another person. like i was trying to tell myself something important, but it was hard for me to decipher exactly what it was, or what i should do. i was too disturbed to make any sense out of it. i just kept trying to talk to her, to make some kind of fucking rebuttal, to tell her how fucking stupid she was being, ruining everything we had because of something so fucking meaningless and petty. but it was so loud. and she was acting all jumpy and wasn’t making any sense and i suddenly realized that i didn’t want to deal with her anymore. not at all. it was like some light switch just clicked off, and i was free. i was going to be alone for a while. and that was okay.

b-- there are worse things.

a-- and it was like i was all alone in the bar. like i was in a bubble. and nobody could get to me. and it was like i couldn’t hear anything anymore. i was just floating there in space, and it didn’t matter where i was. the bar didn’t matter. the bartender, the beer sitting in front of me, the stupid young people strutting around and making all their noise, my now insane soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend sitting next to me. none of it mattered. i was alone. i would always be alone, floating along through time and space in my little bubble. nothing could touch me. i sat there and looked at simone, this woman who had claimed to love me, whom i had spent so much time and energy trying to get close to only to get pushed further and further away. it was bullshit. this whole charade. love me, love me not. plucked petals of days lost forever. god fucking damn it! i hate fucking steely dan!

b-- good for you. that about wraps that up then, right?

a-- yeah. i let her go. we went our separate but unequal ways. she kept trying to call me after that. kept trying to fit herself back into the folds of my life. but i didn’t pick up. i didn’t respond. i didn’t do anything. it was easy. i just floated along in my bubble, just like nothing had ever happened. as if i’d never been madly in love with a crazy girl named simone. and i knew that i had no idea what love was. and i knew that i never would. but i also knew that it didn’t matter. that i’d spend the rest of my life trying to find it, that i’d never find it, and that that was okay. it was the search for it that mattered. the, i don’t know, journey or quest or whatever you want to call it. that’s what life was. just the getting to somewhere that you’ll never be.

b-- and then you die.

a-- of course. so. well. don’t be in such a hurry to find out what the hell it is you want. maybe the looking is all we’ve got. and maybe the finding is just death. the finding is what never happens. you just die. so. well. keep up the search. it’s all you’re ever going to have.

b-- and maybe it’s all we need.

a-- but we just don’t know it.

b-- of course not. who wants to know a thing like that?

a-- i don’t know.

b-- wanna go listen to some steely dan records. i’ve got a few at my place. it’s pretty decent stuff for what it is. give it a chance. maybe it’ll float your boat this time around.

a-- ok. what the hell. i’ll try anything twice.

b-- you really are a fucking nut job. you know that?

a-- reelin’ in the years….stowing away the time…

b-- fucking shit.