Thursday, January 19, 2012

public service announcement #47 (abridged version)

male: Before meeting him, did you ever have trouble sleeping?

female: Yes. But not often. Just more like drifting off but never falling.

male: A slope. Yes. You’re headed downhill but…

female: There’s nothing, nothing there to…um, break my fall?

male: Slipping.

female: Or maybe gliding’s more like it.

male: What is it that keeps you gliding?

female: Well, you know, I was drawn to him at first-- well, this is kind of dumb-- but I liked the way he crossed his legs, how his socks showed a little. And it was delicate, almost like a balancing act, and his ankle kind of bobbing his brown oxford up and down softly. There was a certain way he had of leaning, reminiscent of James Dean, but not in the usual way, not in the glassy-eyed staring way of like coolly pressing the upper back to a wall while the legs shoot out at a sharp angle--something I call a reverse slouch. No. But it was similar, and it reeked of personality and style and a natural rhythm inherent in his internal combustion engine.

male: Shall I compare thee to an automobile?

female: Yeah. Ha. No. That’s just something I say sometimes. He had that certain charm that maybe an old Buick might have--a Cutlass. Ha. Or a maybe a Plymouth valiant. Just smooth but powerful, and graceful, you know? He had a certain something.

male: Je ne sais quoi?

female: Lightly. But no, I could put my finger on it. At least I thought I could then.

male: Then stranger realizations come, and then…

female: No. I’m confident I had him pegged early on. Souped-up sense of triumph, something dodgy in his willpower, a reluctance to admit the truth about his raison d'ĂȘtre. I shadowed him at first, you know that?

male: Just along for the ride.

female: Yep. And this got the proverbial foot in the door, for me. And he showed me this side of melancholy that he had, which I adored and hated at the same time. It was like having a crossword puzzle and no pen. You keep wanting to fill in the answers but you can’t.

male: Frustration at its subtlest.

female: Like spying on somebody who is totally uninteresting. It just bogs you down in this like morass of petty selfish habits, things you can’t swing your way out of. Back and forth, back and forth, and then it’s all the same and you can’t quit, like tics or something, things on the surface sinking in deeper until they’re part of you, until they take over and become all that you are. Then, well, you’re just…gliding along. Lah dee dah.

male: Those wounds heal ill that men do give themselves.

female: Lost and confused in a windowless basement, more like it. Lick away, you say. Well, that’s a man’s lost voice custarding over what, you know, we’re not associated to, well-- Pavlovian, right?-- to talk about?

male: The mad dogs of summer, and everything that you know.

female: I know. Queen of the barbershop. But where’s the pool table? I ask these things. Maybe that’s part of what gets me into trouble. And dreams, well, they sometimes just don’t come.

male: Floored me. Seriously.

female: I’m not taking notes. I hope somebody here is. It’s part of this, right? This equation?

male: Got me.

female: Rusting in peace, I see. Okay. Fair enough. So, back to this whole sleep-deprived looniness. It’s my way of crapping out maybe, lucking on to letting go, this shuddering around in dream-melt, just right on the precipice of nodding off, always never quite there.

male: Getting behind yourself.

female: Never even, never quite able to pull on ahead of the pack. Mildly in arrears to my past. I get it. I don’t get it. I’m attempting to not try to make an effort. An ashtray inlaid with a moon’s slice of silver surrounded by KO’d spoons.

male: Give thy thoughts not tongue and they will taste only themselves.

female: Is fear my way of staying safe? Blasted Quaker-Oats mornings. Shoes stomping overhead. I’m mid-shift in the work of my days.

male: Tell me about how you two met again.

female: Oh me. Oh my. Oh motherfucking my. Okay. Well, I was ordering a hamburger at this great little place called Pearl’s Hamburgers on the lee side of Nob Hill. It’s small and gets crowded, so I usually get stuff to-go. After placing my order for a well-done Deluxe (that’s what they call the regular hamburger there, I guess to make it seem more enticing to the average hamburger eater) I saunter on over to a table (it was actually quite empty in there that night), and plop down with my crossword puzzle and a Cactus Cooler to do some waiting. At this point I think I made up a song in my head (I do this quite often, you know) about my love for this delicious citrus beverage, something like, “I’m dreaming of a Cactus Cooler, just like the ones that the Jr. High vending machine in the PE locker room used to dispense for a quarter.” This was sung to the tune of White Christmas, but with an extended run-on style of squeezing all those words in the melody. It made me smile, and as I did so I guess I looked up for a sec, and there’s this guy sitting there across from me (actually rather close, as, you know, it’s not a very large dining area in there) leaning the back of his head against the wall with one leg balancing on the other knee, foot bobbing up and down, and I notice he’s got tigers on his socks. Interesting, you know? And I guess my smile was still there when I glanced at him, and he’s absently staring at me at the same time, and, well, our eyes meet, and I guess he figures I’m smiling at him. So, well, he smiles back. Right? Right? You know?

male: Cute.

female: Fuck you. Seriously. I no kid. I say, fuck to you.

male: Ah. You? You forget it, kiddo.

female: Why are we entering into another one of these….situations?

male: We’re not. You no worry. Continue, my fair lady, free of clouds and what not.

female: Okay. Well, then. Okay. So I guess it’s too late to pull back my smile. I decide without thinking to just go with it. He says, “Hey Delilah. Where’s Samson?”

male: Wait. He knows your name?

female: Oh yeah. I forgot. They ask for your name when you place an order there so they can scream it out when it’s ready. I always want to lie and give a fake name but I mostly chicken out at the last minute. He must’ve overheard me ordering.

male: Creepy.

female: No. Not really. Like I said, it’s a small place, and there weren’t many folks in there. Just a bored couple sitting at a table munching on sweet potato fries, and the tiger-socks guy, and me.

male: Oh.

female: So, this isn’t like the most original thing to say on the planet, right? It’s like when people sing me that awful Tom Jones song. Like I haven’t been hearing this shit my whole life.

male: People really lack originality in their banter, I’ve found.

female: Yeah. So, maybe this is like just a way of getting a conversation going. Usually I’d just brush it off and respond with monosyllabic shoulder-hunch type stuff until he stopped talking to me, and then go back to intently filling in the squares of my crossword puzzle. But, this guy? With him? I don’t know. It was different. There was a certain (and I know how this is going to sound) magic emanating from him. A charisma. A spell cast on me. Ugh. Yeah. That’s not really….anyway. We get to talking somehow, not really sure what my response was--probably something witty, a nice dry retort.

male: Probably.

female: And so we’re chatting. We start chatting. We are in the midst of a chat. Connections are being made. He’s very amusing, it turns out.

male: A plus.

female: Oh, I don’t believe in them.

male: Minus, then.

female: Sure. Maybe we’re just jabbing at each other, mostly. Feeling out the terrain. Scouting out features, taking things in with a swooping gander here and there. He’s got a bony physique. One of those guys who would actually look good in a skinny tie and tapered mod-style suit, which he is not wearing. It’s just something that popped into my head as I was looking him over.

male: Will that be a purchase or a rental?

female: Both. Anyway. He’s just got on some brown Dickies and a white button-up, a green army-type jacket, and fingerless gloves.

male: Oh. A reader of paperbacks in cold weather.

female: Perhaps. Those gloves are cool though. I like them. It wasn’t a bad sign at all. In fact, everything about our interaction was tickling me. I was doing a lot of giggling.

male: The techniques of flirtation.

female: Well, it’s fashionable to behave in public. I don’t like causing a scene.

male: That reminds me of something you said about…

female: I know. I know. I never wanted to be one of those people who’s always like getting all stressed out about relationship stuff. It made me want to vomit, those types of things.

male: Yes. That’s about right where I left off.

female: Jesus. We act like teenagers still, for the most part, don’t we?

male: To the young go the wasted spoils. Trivial delights; trivial ends.

female: Oh holy shit. Come off it. We’re just capitalizing on what’s put right there in front us. It’s to everybody’s advantage, really. Stalking from close range. Gauging the particular energy scope of what’s fluctuating from giving to taking. Even my toaster gives me the creeps sometimes.

male: Pop goes the…

female: Ahem. Well then. So, I’m not floored or anything, but it’s nice, you know? Just conversing and stuff. It’s like how dogs sniff each other’s butts when they meet. You go along through with things because you’ve-- I don’t know-- just got this feeling about it. And, sure, yeah, maybe you’ll find out that what you thought you felt was bogus, or that you are; but it goes and goes, this kind of thing, and it’s not like you get to choose.

male: Sometimes it just finds you…chooses you.

female: I know, right? And then you’re done for. That’s it. Love gets its mitts on you, sticks a fork in, flips you over a few times, and then lunch is over. Time to move on.

male: Or wait for dinner.

female: Or you just kill your appetite, starve yourself, and flounder around in between things.

male: For today we make do, though, bite through the gristle and give it the best we can’t.

female: The spin on my world.

male: What?

female: Just like that. Splat! And there it all goes, everywhere, gushing, longing, gone and here too. It’s all a jumble, and you dive in, you leap for joy and suffering into a forever never after before any of it could ever try and make any sense.

male: What? I mean, what?

female: Nothing.

male: Are we talking x’s or o’s here?

female: Nothing. Just drifting again. We used to trace each other’s hands on the placemats in fancy restaurants.

male: Oh.

female: Yep. Oh. That’s right. That about does it. There’s nothing. There’s just too much, so there’s nothing. He’d run his fingers through his hair all the time. He’d yawn a lot when he’d leave me voicemails. I rarely ever knew what kind of thoughts he had swishing through that hell-bent head of his.

male: On what?

female: Don’t know. Just a concentrated effort, well, maybe to just stay put, to go nowhere. Like a butterfly trying to stay in one tiny spot in the air, hovering, making all this commotion just to remain still. Inertia’s a full-time job, I guess.

male: This is me gasping with delight.

female: His phone was always on silent.

male: Gasp. See? Gasp.

female: Uh huh. Yep. That figures. When your attention wanes you get silly, lopsided and indiscreet.

male: If there were a wish to wear for a wish’s hair…

female: Stop it. Seriously.

male: Okay. Seriously.

female: There was something…I don’t know, magical about him, or us…whatever. I don’t know.

male: Nobody does. You just go around trying things. Maybe you learn. Maybe you forget, too.

female: Floating maybe does more to describe it. Spun wonderfully. Gooey and sustained. We’re not so delicate, really. Been all over town and around more than a few blocks. But now I…I only want to get on back home again.

male: Look homeward, angel.

female: Can’t.

male: Don’t I know it.

female: Not again. Like golden fields roasted to a burnt sienna by sunset. You just keep gazing, even after it’s long gone.

male: Like whisky and maple syrup. Like air raid sirens on your birthday.

female: And I keep lashing out, in a lather, dressed to go, and fretting over that first step-- or like testing out the water with a toe, being too scared to dive in, to be immersed in whatever the world’s going to eddy my way. Sooner or later, well, I get cold just waiting.

male: But the water’s still an unknown, and that’s chillier in your thoughts than anything you’ve got. But it could be better, right?

female: He used to sing me that John Denver song. You know, the one about leaving on a jet plane. Except he’d sing it in a real deep, gravelly voice, like Cookie Monster doing a bad Howling Wolf impersonation. It always made me very happy when he did that. We’d just be lying there in bed, just lazing around, and he’d start singing it, and it’d be so nice, just lying there like that, happy and warm all over.

male: Then so…

female: Yeah. Then it goes on and spills into a, “than,” a, “rather,” a, “just because.” And you’re all alone, drifting, gliding, slipping on down or away, and nobody’s going to catch you when you…

male: Get too sappy.

female: Yep. That about does it. And I can’t ever seem to ever get that goddamn song out of my head.

male: She who forgets herself is blessed to repeat herself.

female: Words made of breath.

male: And breath of life?

female: Ah, fuck it. Alas and alack, and all that. Harrumph.

male: It makes the eyes go blank. It steals your tongue. It advertises itself in the trembling of a hand. It drinks itself to sleep.

female: It lands on the moon. Reflections of what you missed the most, shiny and slippery, drowned before you even dared to dive in.

male: Old enough to not be young enough to be insane and lost anymore.

female: Never. That’s the sort of b.s. that gets you in trouble with the law.

male: The Law!

female: Yep. The Law!

male: There’s no use! We’re insufferable. We’ve become those boring people whose lives we used to spit on.

female: But we can still dance, just as well as always, blustering with moon-swamped hearts, capering around in clown suits through craters of misunderstandings. But. But. But. We can, right?

male: Don’t know.

female: He blinked a lot. More than most. It felt so nice, the way he held my hand, like it was a flower he was afraid of crushing but didn’t want to let get away.

male: Stand still.

female: Okay.

male: Now, close your eyes.

female: Got it.

male: Reach your hands out. Stretch out those arms. Wiggle ‘em all over the place. Now, go limp with them. Just let them dangle there. Now, shake your torso all around like you’re having a seizure. That’s it. Good. Flap and flop away. Flap and flop away. Great. Shake it! Shake, shake, shake it! Great. Feel better?

female: Ha hahahahhahah baahhhhh!

male: See?

female: What?

male: You’re just a bunch of bones and muscle wrapped up in skin. It’s easy, this business of being alive.

female: But danger’s so alluring. Guarantees lack a certain charm. And it always comes down to a, “when.” You know? When things were like that, when you were my everything and I was your only girl, when we danced all night long, always a, “when” that’s so far from a, “now.”

male: Get drunk. You’ll be alright.

female: I will?

male: Sure.

female: A loudness that’s almost something lost to sound, we plunge ahead, onward towards what’s up and out and all over the upside-down miracles of who we are.

male: As you were. There. Good. Got it. Great.

female: Wow. Much better.

male: Same as it ever was.