Monthly Archives: December 2010

american spirits are fifty cents a piece now. still, you bummed me a newport and a sucker punch. – m4w – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

 *

-a number and his number seven-

*by someone fighting himself

for the freedom to find her*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*our cigarettes burn but hope’s been in the butt can awhile. fear and distrust smolder even through torrential rain. no matter what burns and what doesn’t this place is dark on sunny days. 

we don’t smoke here because it’s an option. we smoke because there isn’t another. we all have full packs of the same cheap brand of resignation.

the little clarity i’ll gain later will reveal i smoked it long before getting here. memories of this harsh brand will keep me coughing through too many brooklyn nights.

*

my green eyes take in too-familiar concrete, asphalt, and dirt. breathing deeply i inhale razor wire and chain-link through the marlboro in my long fingers.

i exhale the scent of a petrifying heart.

i stare at him with squelched curiosity and ingrained intensity. my cigarette’s taken in more dramatically, desperately. ineffective forgetfulness curls slowly from my nostrils.

i ask grayness loitering in still air, “why does that dude always hang by himself?”

“slow your roll playboy. i know you ain’t trying to parle with father time. you straight wildin’,” a fellow number with a face answers.

wiping droplets of sweat off my cheek i heel out my cigarette in the dirt and get up. i start walking to approach a man i’ll see later as a brother.

this man walks alone but is spared by jackals. he isn’t spared because of his clear ability to fight. he isn’t spared because he’s kin.

he’s spared because he’s locked in a scrap. he’s thrown down on himself believing he’s kin to none.

any jackal who’s seen enough knows a few important things. one of them is that if you don’t want to risk joining the loser don’t approach a man handling beef.*

*

*as i ease onto the ground next to him, against an unremarkable concrete wall, he chooses not to make eye contact.

i speak, “my man, can i get one of your newports? on my mother i’ll pay you back when i get my commissary.”

not changing his expression he stares straight into something, somewhere, or someone i can’t see. i’ve seen enough to know it’s there. i almost want to see it too.

he speaks in a calm tone, “didn’t the other young bucks school you to ease up off me baby boy? didn’t they drop on ya that i’ll make you smile with your neck like i was brushing my damn teeth?”

i should be afraid. this day i’m not.

i answer, “nah. they said you’re a prince. a regular mother hen around here.”

a smile disrupts his features. his teeth are rotted in a way i’ve never seen; mostly there but eroded to less than a quarter their original girth. rotten sawed-off toothpicks fill his mouth.

“you’s some kind of joker ain’t you little homie? even you gots to know it ain’t never christmas round here. i’m gone bless you. never again though. you heard?”

he even lights it for me.

while he strikes the match i see numbers one through seven tattooed on seven dark knuckles. all of them were done with a machine except one. number seven’s homemade. done here. on the back of his hand is a name in stylized cursive.

a woman’s name.

“what’re the numbers for?”

“you writing some kinda book?”

there’s silence. a long silence, before he speaks again.

“to let the devil know how many times to whoop my ass after the reaper hollers last call.”

he doesn’t need to explain. i understand. those numbers are men.

men not with us anymore.

“why’s seven a stick and poke?”

he surprises me by answering, and answering more quickly, “you seen’t any tattoo spots round here?”

“nope.”

i hesitate then continue, “but the captain said nobody’s dropped a body in the twenty years he’s run shit.”

“ain’t no guy. she was a woman. she was my woman. dead last year. i done kill’t her. shut the fuck up and puff your port. you getting on my last nerve white boy. i fucked with you too much already.”

i can’t say why i keep talking. it’s not because i don’t know better. i do. these moments help keep my fear forgotten.

“you’re doing twenty-five with no wake up. you’ve been here way more than a couple years.”

he looks at me.

no. he looks into me. he speaks into me. there’s no anger, hate, love, or hope in the tone of his voice.

“i’m gone spit some shit. best listen. i ain’t said this much in a good minute. you pop off shit after you in the morgue. feel me?

“i snatched my boo’s life.”

he points to the number seven and proceeds.

“she was finer than foxy brown until she weren’t no more. whole time ’til then she waited on my black ass.

“there’s plenty ways a nigga can murc a bitch. the way i deaded this one’s colder than a blade, burner, or louisville. i been contemplating how i done it. i ain’t mack diesel. i ain’t the first to kill a bitch behind a wall.

“mad niggas kill bitches on the street the same way. they even be sexing they shorty on the regular.

“ain’t no thing to the bitch though. she still waiting for the nigga in her to come home.

“just like she done.”

he points to the number seven and pauses again.

“we done white boy. dip and stay gone. keep them eyes off my face too.”

he stops for a few seconds before resuming. his voice never raises.

“don’t trip about the smoke. you gone get me back now.”

he kisses the number seven and presses it against my temple to collect.

a loosie can cost a half-hour of consciousness.*

 * 

(out of my norm- significant details modified.)

*


i joked, “if dating was poker the loan sharks sitting around in bamontes [at 32 withers st near lorimer st] would have my thumbs” – m4w – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-blind date-

*by someone that’s stopped

trying to run from the check*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the sun’s fresh to the sky

-

and she sits next to the window 

in a soundless restaurant

-

on the north east corner of n6th and bedford

-

wearing an undisguised face

-

sipping black coffee timidly

i sit across from her in the seat without a view

without resentment

-

momma says ‘that’s where a man belongs on a date’

-

wearing uncomfortable eyes i greet her

-

“you’re a breath-taking woman

i feel undeserving of your company

-

so i’ll do what i do when i’m terrified

construct a maze of thick smoke and distorting mirrors

-

reflecting images you and i cringe and cough looking at

-

while i confuse you with

trivial lies and inappropriate truths

-

time will pass and i’ll forget the way out”

-

she smiles authentically and responds

like she’s recognized the sun outside

-

“stop you’re making me blush

i love this place too

best coffee on the north side”

-

i nod in agreement speaking into

light eyes and unmarred skin

-

“i’ll try to mold your perception of me

knowing that’s how you’ll sculpt a grotesque one

-

aware many love a thoughtless presentation of me

-

but i’ll meticulously stress

the superficially impressive anyways

-

hiding depth and the sublime

-

the sources of my feelings

-

feelings of resting in the hospice bed

of being different from the rest of humanity

-

somewhere i’ve always lain

somewhere i’ll recline through our relationship”

-

opening her eyes wide and sighing

with friendly intrigue she sips

-

in a joking self-deprecating tone answers

-

“i’d kill for a life as exciting as yours

-

i graduated two years ago

and am still trying to get comfortable

-

with the idea of being a young urban professional

-

and putting my love of glitz glamour

and romanticized wandering to bed”

-

i stir my coffee and read the menu

seeing a humorless prophecy in familiar cursive

-

i scribbled in the last time

-

and nudge my voice towards her again

-

“i won’t trust you

enough to let either of us relax

-

people i care for have surprised me

-

so i’ll act jaded

asphyxiating

magic you deserve out of our moments

-

with what’s been called ‘dark profundity’

-

fear and speculation will drive choices

to bump calls and return texts late

-

especially after you get nervous

when i avoid giving details of my past

-

even though the truth is ugly

in a much more usual way

than you

and i

-

are afraid of

-

still, my deep-rooted shame

will be a leading contributor

to you walking out that door”

-

her smile seems less genuine

-

she fidgets awkwardly before asking

“is everything alright

you seem distracted and quiet

-

it’s ok though, i get blue

when the seasons shift too

-

let’s try this again some other time

but my next couple weeks are super-busy”

-

she slips five bucks onto the table unnoticed

standing up to put on her coat and scarf

-

my eyes are blinded by rays

of a setting sun i can’t see

-

i finish a eulogy to a memory about to move on

-

“you’re going to grow weary

after giving this everything you have

-

everyone wants happiness

-

and it’ll be clear enough

i’m too lost in myself to help you find it

-

so you’ll do what i forgive you for instantly

before my name becomes a missed call

-

and your beauty becomes cursive on a page

written in my hand-writing.”*

*


you wouldn’t meet at northeast kingdom (on 18 wyckoff ave and troutman st) explaining, “brooklyn’s not my scene.” lost your number. – m4w – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

 

 

-kings county orchestra-

*by someone planning to keep his seat

until it’s time to cross over*

(frankie leone, just a man)

 

*these streets

my streets of brooklyn

 

don’t tune their instruments

wait for a maestro

or perform the same tune twice

 

they play this symphony effortlessly

 

strings start the morning with a sunrise

bringing to life first

the chords of east new york

 

bowing forward to bushwick’s strings

and lastly north williamsburg’s

 

awakening dirty windows of a loft

of an old warehouse building

filling the tiny bedroom of a lost boy

 

a lost boy whose tried to

find himself in the most irrational places

 

finally finding what he’s chased

to catastrophic ends

hearing himself in cursive

 

as rays vibrate his pen

 

he feels relief as a duo joins him

 

the single mother in sheepshead bay

doing what she can to make ends meet

melodically sighing a deep sadness

 

thinking of her child’s father

gripping a bottle of malt liquor

near the bowery mission

 

aided by the park slope bar owner

a tired expression his pick

 

playing knowing his bar’s strings will

be cut soon by a lawyer in a cubicle

stamping forms without emotion

 

all three remind the audience

wearing bow-ties and evening gowns

 

what’s important

or maybe what isn’t

 

until the section’s soloist begins

 

the puerto-rican boy

instilling hope with sounds of his foot-steps

walking to school through sunset park

 

thinking of how amazing the girl sitting

in front of him looked in those jeans yesterday

 

the solo ends

as his teacher begins attendance

and he tries not to stare too hard

 

the percussion comes in right on time

 

opening with the construction worker

passionately playing his jackhammer

in a gentrifying neighborhood

 

smashing in progress and higher rents

 

abruptly balanced by the hustler that does

what he has to on the block in brownsville

 

sickly and sadly justified

because even new jacks know

only one person can eat off a corner

 

hollow tipped notes

from the barrel of his drum

aren’t making threats

 

just delivering the only promises

brooklyn makes those that play the game

 

all-the-while the steady beat of trucks

 

stopping and going on flatbush avenue

in and out of bushwick warehouses

up and down the brooklyn queens expressway

 

hold the section together

 

the winds itch to be heard, coming to life

with the russian woman in brighton beach

 

breathing instrumental words to

her daughter in a realistic tempo

 

“america’s beautiful and can bring your dreams

be like these americans, but never hold their belief

the world will conspire to take care of you”

 

her sound’s accentuated

by the hasidic man’s steps

 

hitting notes of confident purpose

through south williamsburg

 

keying deliberately away from hateful outsiders

they are only men, their judgements meaningless

 

a final pair of musicians bring the crescendo

 

the teenager in bedstuy getting a cut

laughing rich notes in tune with his barber

 

who plays a joking melody

about being angry with o.j.

that fool’s kept out of the news too long

 

all three sections

strings

percussion

winds

synchronized perfectly

 

the audience feeling

life

struggle

beauty

hardness

love

resentment

and hope

 

but all good things end

 

the italian head usher from

the small remaining italian community

in bensonhurst

 

smiles in approval from the aisle

 

wearing a perfectly tailored suit

holding a rocks glass of chivas regal

 

and fading the sun

with a casual turn of the knob

quieting the music until tomorrow

 

as a lost boy prepares the cap for his instrument

 

you’ve just heard this symphony

you’ve just heard these streets

my streets of brooklyn

 

you’ve just heard

a lost boy’s humble contribution

to the kings county orchestra.*

 

 


you were molten candle wax on the q train – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-coney island bound q-

*by someone strung out on an idea*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the sandstorm tears

through the hour glass

-

when he sugar-walks onto

the coney island bound q(ueen)

-

her car keeps the prisoner

half an hour most days

-

dripping molten candle-wax on him

the entire trip without fail*

-

*

-

*the journey to home-made purgatory

is simple enough

-

feet forced onto the floor

friendly bantering, music playing

-

prayers to a rising sun

visible through a dirty window

-

unwashed skinny jeans onto chicken legs

battered wing-tips onto tattooed feet

-

slinking onto the street

walking slowly, always slowly

-

dancing alone waiting for the l(ove)

the delfonics making unrealistic promises

-

finding the most beautiful person in the car

intermittently looking at them

-

through tortoise-shell wayfarers

-

the l(ove)

approaches 14th street

and he gets off *

-

*

-

*she’s coming, he embraces it

with every fiber of his humanity

-

the q(ueen) smiles brightly

through the darkness

slows and stops

-

a depressurizing sound

permeates the air

-

the doors open and with

loosely-gripped six-shooters

he steps in yet again

-

to the final scene of

butch cassidy and the sundance kid

-

there are other options

it’s unnecessary

-

but it’s beautiful being sick

sick on her

-

the thera-flu

the vaccine

the chicken soup from a dear friend

the fully-insured visit to the doctor

-

all on the streets and avenues

at tips of long skinny fingers

-

but the blue light of a memory

a memory of eyes unmeetable

scorch both retinas

-

he’s completely blind

as she softly speaks

-

and answers her

with thoughts

that warp the world

-

thoughts that

-

take the cork

off the ice-pick

-

take the made-in-china sheath

off the canal-street sword

-

open the top drawer and light

the old zippo needing silver polish

-

spill the shelved box from last halloween

revealing a broken plastic crown

-

and carefully weave them all into him

within the walls of ribs

that’ve taken a few blows

-

while he sits across from a stranger

who’s rightfully unconcerned

of course, oblivious

-

the tears on his scarred face

disguised by shades

that sometimes mask guilty stares

directed at beautiful strangers*

-

*

-

*the q(ueen) proceeds

her scepter unfaultering

towards coney island

-

he sits in her car, sick

marinating in a warm jacuzzi

filled with hopelessness

-

and his i-pod

goes dead.*

*

you stopped being a white girl at sugarland (on 221 n 9th st and driggs ave) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-every three years-

*by someone that tries to record

most of his “…truth ~ (pause.) ~ and lies”*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*every three years she makes a mistake with a man. thirty-six pages have evaporated off the calendar.

she’s on the other side of an uncrowded bar on north 9th street. i watch her run her eyes across me.

looking around i realize most of the women here stopped making mistakes with men in high school.

the clock smirks with intact inhibitions. it shares the early hour.*

*

*my friend’s drinking. sticking to his m-o he’s over-shot the mark. his androgynous face is inches from my ear. the volume of his voice is past the border of comfort. a thin arm wraps around my shoulders.

i’ve never had rigid boundaries. disregarding this proximity isn’t difficult.

he speaks. i listen. “don’t let the boyishness throw you a curve ball. you can see she’s got a lot going on even if she isn’t plugging it into amps at the garden. don’t think i’m lying. definitely don’t think it’s a hopeless cause.

“a couple guys have felt those lips.”*

*

*“you’re not a midget. you and i could dance.”

she laughs warmly. my out-of-place bluntness makes her uncomfortable.

“yeah, i’ve always been awkwardly tall too. it makes dancing with most people comical. it’s no tragedy. i’m terminally a white girl on the dance-floor.”

we’re standing close to each other. my eyes half-smile into hers.

“the caucasian cop out gets over-abused. it’s a handicap overcome with a sex-driven beat. a touch of apathy breaks it down. add recklessness and it crumbles.

“someone else’s hand in your back pocket doesn’t hurt either.”

her smile continues. even though it sounds like i’m almost joking she seems interested.

“ok. help me stay alive in brooklyn. how do i know if my crumpets and tea are turning to guava juice and soul food?”

she plays along, and well. however, she hasn’t mastered rolling the dice with confidence. unlike mine her discomfort’s displayed honestly on her features.

my eyes don’t fade. i wink, blow on the dice, and roll again.

the music’s loud. not too loud. my body moves close to hers. i speak into her ear anyways.

“hypothetical situation: we’re dancing. hip-hop’s playing. this place is full of white people originally from the suburbs.

“everyone should gawk in disgusted judgment. if we feel disinterest we’re still sipping high-balls on the golf-course.

“want to take a ride on the j train away from manhattan?”

smiling and laughing she nods with eyes locked into mine. something with fun mistakes in the bass courses through the speakers. it helps me bite my lower lip.

impure thoughts project themselves through pores of my scarred and illustrated skin. it’s satisfying she doesn’t seem to want to leave my theater.

my wrists are sore from manual labor. my calloused hands find their way to her hips. i pull her against me completely.

she’s been honest. her movements brawl the beat.

eventually she submits. her hips allow my hands to guide her to its will.

our movement intensifies and her gaze escapes the windows to my soul. for once this doesn’t spark self-consciousness. i believe she wants back inside.

we move. it becomes clear to me, and i conjecture her too, where our subway ride on the dance floor is taking us. the room reeks of sweat and forgetfulness.

we grip our wallets in a neighborhood of our minds with no tourists.

i smile and lift her arms onto my shoulders and around my neck. she reacts with shy laughter. my hands grip her hips firmly. in moments it isn’t a laughing matter.

my fingers curl around the back of her neck drawing her ear close to my lips. i speak with deliberateness, “i heard you only mess around with men once every three years.”

her nervous laughter makes more brush strokes on the air between us. i continue, “how long’s it been?”

“three years.”

my palm’s on her neck off-center. my thumb’s resting lightly on her chin. the music plays with intent.

i move. she moves. our lips move onto each others.*

*

*eventually the song ends. that’s what they do. there are more words, “i’m not going to leave with you tonight.”

my half-smile does what it can, “i’m into exactly what we’ve had.”

“you seem like you do this a lot.”

“i don’t know what you mean.”

i know what she means. she explains what i already know. half-disputing i give my version of my truth.

she seems satisfied.

“this is uncomfortable. i’m used to seducing straight girls. i don’t like having no control. you have it all.”

“you’re right. you don’t. you’re wrong though. i don’t either. neither do they,” i gesture at the masses of dancing strangers, “some just think they do.”

it’s hours past midnight. the clock’s irritated. glaring at me, it ticks angrily at my work day starting at nine am. i put my tail between my legs.

i explain then move closer to whisper. it’s my experience things mean more said this way.

“i know this probably won’t happen again. i dug that we rose above the caucausian cop-out after midnight together. please, let’s try not to be awkward if we see each other again.”

in silence we stare at each other for a few moments. point-blank.

i finish, “good night.”

we move our lips onto each others. our lips separate.

that’s what they do.*

*

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*


outside the wyckoff starr (on 36 wyckoff ave between starr st and troutman st) you said i “walk with a swagger” – m4w – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

sugar-walking-

*by someone striding towards the belief

“all those who wander aren’t lost”*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*a man walks slowly

 -

he’s young

by standards of most

 -

but doesn’t look so young

-

like the street-lights

the clock often fails to forgive him

 -

his body’s marked

by rhythmic stabbings

of body illustrators

 -

and numerous testaments

to mistakes that drew his blood

 -

large three dollar mirrored glasses

sold on flatbush avenue

are large enough to cover tears

 -

while walking confidently

down crowded streets

during moments of weakness

 -

but not his scars

 -

he smiles often

and has much to be grateful for*

*

*a gorgeous woman with delusions of grandeur

and a large birthmark on her neck

tells him he’s mastered the half-smile

-

before purring she’ll make him a star

 -

he flashes half his teeth at her

knowing an idle promise

when he hears one

-

and walks her to a luxury car*

 *

*he stands on street corners

a lanky sentinel

in close-fitting garments

-

watching futures and answers

within passing crowds

 -

the blonde with the legs

the latina with the tattoos

the brunette with the flowing brown hair

 -

all with passionate kisses

in the subway

-

blissful forgetfulness

-

and his nose-dive off

the williamsburg bridge

in their steps

 -

he breaks to remember*

*

*he remembers

 -

the old man with thick black hair

who used to call his father “chooch”

 -

always with lit lucky strike in hand

and wife-beater covering a fit torso

 -

famous for battered knuckles

and ability to bring things

not his into his possession*

*

*he remembers

 -

the stormy night

“chooch” was heart-broken

 -

he couldn’t make it

to say his final good-bye*

*

*he remembers

 -

a young girl with powder white skin

no one talked to

 -

he admired from a distance

as a boy

 -

the white rose a friend

gave her in his stead

 -

he was too terrified

-

how she waved

yelling thank you

 -

across his middle school’s parking lot*

*

*he remembers

 -

a lost boy

arms covered in tattoos

 -

a play-ground legend

for time living behind the eight-ball

 -

afternoons drinking five-seasons rum

during days without hope

 -

conclusions of nights

suns rising over the interstate

 -

him filling a seat of his beat-up cadillac

-

red-eyes filling his skull

emotionless metal swelling his waistband

 -

four horsemen wearing doc martens

pulling him past every exit*

 *

*he remembers

 -

someone

he couldn’t look in the eyes

 -

she smelled like hope

from across a crowded room

 -

walking in the sun

without fear

as only the truly beautiful do

 -

how she smiled at him

he twisted inside*

 *

*he remembers

 -

a man who’d seen more than him

 -

his gold tooth

skin like burnt coffee

and superior game of chess

 -

speaking well

despite pervasive slang

 -

he saw him cry once

 -

this man who’d done things

under the street-lights

a full moon closed its eye to*

 *

*he remembers

 -

the most beautiful woman

who’s ever glided this city’s concrete

 -

her green eyes

and wrinkled skin

 -

how she held his hand

as he slipped into an abyss

 -

he’d go into her bedroom and

wake her up to kiss her goodnight

-

she’d never complain*

*

*he remembers

 -

the stories she read him as a boy*

 *

*he remembers

 -

a young man

who was his brother

 -

with an aesthetic he envied

 -

their time blind-folded

wandering around a hell

steadily shrinking

 -

he wonders why his brother

is still blind and wandering

 -

and his own green eyes

framed by scarred skin

and a face not half as pretty

 -

can see the beauty

of his brooklyn neighborhood clearly

 -

as he lives a life he never thought

was there for him*

 *

*he remembers

 -

and forgets

 -

walking

his streets and avenues

slowly

hopefully

 -

the lost

the plastic

the wicked

the gold

the resigned

the accomplished

the hustling

the beautiful

 -

his backdrop

 -

accepting

the clock and street-lights

won’t accept his apologies

 -

smiling knowing

in the near-future

-

although they won’t speak of him

they won’t forget him.*

*

we left the blackbird parlour (on 197 bedford ave and n 6th st) to fuck at my place (on 151 kent ave between n 4th st and n 5th st) – m4w – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-one night stand-

*by someone who can swim

in an empty idea until he drowns*

(frankie leone, just a man)

 *

*“you brought me here to fuck me didn’t you,” she says with a cigarette a half-hour later in her voice.*

*

*i lie myself into believing i want to understand why she’s here. i look through the windows to her soul. they’re light blue, her eyes, and have a calm intensity. they say something terrifying. i lie myself into believing it’s a promise, lie, or both.

i desperately want to believe it’s hope i see. like a miniature sail-boat on the pond in central park during the summer. it could be the hope of a drunk who’s had enough floating down the east river on a winter morning. my truth keeps repeating i’m full of shit.

it’s passionately ignored.

she’s been drinking but isn’t slurring her words or stumbling. this helps me not loathe myself (more than usual) for her presence. without breaking eye contact she bites her lip. she sees it makes me nervous. the guilt i’m fighting’s harder to detect.

“you brought me here to fuck me didn’t you,” she says with a cigarette a half-hour later in her voice.

there’re a few moments of silence. i’ve had enough. softly, my voice jumps into the east river.

“i’m only a man.”

her expression changes with the speed of a hustler hearing sirens on rivington and allen. (back when they still stood on the corner. when they didn’t have to hand out business cards for tutoring services subtly referencing narcotics. when i wasn’t on them.)

she waits before replying, “yeah, you are.”

she looks away from my green eyes and turns her gaze to the coffee table near her knees. it might not be meant for my ears but she whispers, “i guess you aren’t my prince either.”

i decide no response is best. i look at her. she doesn’t look back. i can’t see her eyes well.

i make due. i like looking at her hair. it’s blonde. very blonde. bleach-blonde. almost white. i ran my fingers through it when we spoke in the dimly lit blackbird parlour a block from the bedford l stop.

the blackbird isn’t far from the loft building i live comfortably uncomfortable. we’re inside its thin walls these moments. our skinny bodies are seated across from each other on vintage furniture found on trash days.

on trash day lady-luck smiles at my mild-mannered, 35 year-old, kind, gay, and corporately cordial roommate.

i rise to my feet speaking quietly, “i’m going to get a piece of fruit. would you like one? there’s apples and bananas. the bananas are really brown though.”

she doesn’t speak. only shakes her head. my lanky body rises, walks, and picks up one of my roommate’s apples. it’s difficult to tell which are bruised in the dark kitchen. the street-light filtering through the windows near us doesn’t reach the bowl. i pick one at random.

i look at her. she continues staring at the coffee table. there isn’t anything interesting on its surface.

my spirits are ground out on the sidewalk. i sit down and shift the apple from one hand to the other without biting. getting it was unnecessary. i’m not hungry. i feel childish. a few moments pass.

she speaks. the guiltless passion’s left her voice. “that tattoo in the crook of your left arm has scabs on it.”

“yeah. it’s new. i got it last week.”

“why?”

“it would’ve happened a month ago. the guy that put it there cancelled twice. same day. guess life happened to him twice without caring about ink getting into me.”

the muscles around her mouth seem to tense and relax. i think she almost smiled.

“that’s not what i’m asking. why’d you get it? why’d you get them all?”

this question’s asked a lot. i volunteer the answer even when it isn’t. i don’t need time to formulate a response.

“it started because of my scars and bad skin. i wanted distractions.”

i point to a pronounced scar on my upper cheek. i pull down the guinea tee inside my open short-sleeve shirt. this exposes a deep scar on my sternum. it’s ugly but she doesn’t wince. if she did it wouldn’t bother me much.

it’s a response i’ve grown accustomed to.

“there’s more. a lot more. eventually the reason changed. i started commemorating people, places, times, emotions, or just where i was in my mind. it wasn’t intentional. my skin, with all these scars, tattoos, and unpretty marks is my scrap-book.”

“that’s poetic. almost admirable.”

when she finishes i pause. there’s no emotion in her voice. she said “almost admirable.” it’s unclear if she’s being sarcastic. i decide it isn’t important.

she asks, “what’s the scabby one about?”

“it’s about my ‘good’ ideas after midnight. it’s about wanting sunrises and roses. it’s about trying to substitute one for the other even though it’s clearly failing. it’s about loathing myself while i’m lost in brooklyn.”

“that’s poetic. almost admirable.”

there’s more silence before she resumes with aggression.

“revolting. i’m one of your ‘good’ ideas after midnight aren’t i? you’re on another break from hating slash feeling sorry for yourself? i could end up a tattooed scrapbook piece from this cliche period you’re searching for love?”

“yes.”

i pause, look into her eyes, and see what i need to. i whisper, “and i don’t think i’m something too different to you.”

she looks back into me like she’s searching for something. i think she finds it. this might be bullshit though.

she speaks with calm matter-of-factness.

“sounds about right.”

our business is concluded. we’ve gotten what we need from each other.

a few moments pass.

she speaks.

“should we kiss?”

it’s too long after midnight to act surprised.

“do you want to?”

“not really.”

she lights a lucky strike. my roommate and i don’t smoke in the loft. i choose not to object. through the dirty windows the sky looks lighter. the sun’s probably rising. it’s difficult to tell through thick clouds.

her and i don’t speak anymore. however, the awkwardness drowned during our time together. every once and a while there just isn’t anything left to say. i enjoy the silence and feel a pang of hunger.

i take a bite of my roommate’s apple.*

*


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