(published by freewilliamsburg.com)
-ponce funeral home-
*by someone who’s found self-awareness
won’t get you on the l train without a swipe*
(frankie leone, just a man)
*i lied myself into thinking i did it for sex. this lie coursed through my veins and i believed it would’ve been better to have done it for sunrises and roses.
i see more truth now. i did it trying to feel a few rays from a sunrise and catch a whisp of a rose.
looking backwards from the end of the line i know i should’ve done it for sex.
she did it because she could. she did it because she knew i would.
we both did it because it was where we were.*
*she wears impure thought-inspiring skirts and red lipstick. it sticks to my lips without forgiveness. i wear scars and a version of my truth. she reads both through my eyes like a pulp novel.
i ask her why she likes me. she bites words into my earlobes, “i love the way you touch me.”
i love to touch her. especially her legs. in braille they tell me my favorite lies.*
*we’re in my dimly lit bedroom way past midnight. my left hand creeps across her features. she says to me, “you’re like a blind man.”
i tell her, “there’s a lot of dim lights in this city. they usually only tell half the truth, if any at all. i normally wouldn’t want to see anything you wouldn’t want me to. sorry baby, i’m reading your truth and i won’t ask for permission”
i know i’m lying. the darkness only betrays our silhouettes. still, i see the scoreboard shining brighter than the afternoon sun. it laughs onto both of us.
i know we’re both losing these frigid february weeks*
*she walks out of the cold and draws the door of my battered car shut. i put my lips on hers. they almost seem there. the corner of lorimer and jackson might feel embarrassed.
it has no reason to. our kiss is passionless. the fog on the windows is my faulty defrost.
we speak a lot about nothing. it’s time to shift the gears of my jalopy’s automatic transmission. i do, steering towards the fourth street-light on the left and straight on ‘til dusk.*
*following their usual m.o. the streets gusting around the outside of my car are disinterested. i sense they feel like an exhausted woman after work having a glass of wine at a neighborhood bar. the passengers of my 96′ toyota camry are tipsy players coming out of the shadows to get lucky.
it’s clear crossing the bushwick border into east new york the street-lights, glowing under the prematurely falling winter sun, are reaching into their purses for spray bottles of battery acid.*
*i know i don’t belong. i think she does too. not certain though.
the neighborhood smells like bodega beer on the concrete, the police blotter, and forgetfulness. this is ironic. no one standing outside our destination has forgotten a damn thing.
the sky’s gray and unconcerned with the mirthfulness of anyone’s expression. definitely not the people at the ponce funeral home in brownsville, brooklyn.
their skin swirls with coffee. their eyes with espresso. skull caps hug their heads and cigarettes burn matter-of-factly between their fingers. when they speak it’s to the point. they don’t speak much because there isn’t much to say.
i admire them for this.
i realize the absence of something to say doesn’t stop me from writing volumes of nothing across yawning air.
one man’s expression remains onyx when i say like a fucking asshole, “sorry for your loss. i didn’t know him but i’m sure he was a stand-up guy.”
his eyes breeze freon into mine. his short response, bristling with unconcerned intensity, etches itself into my psyche, “he was playboy.”
we walk around. she holds hands, is sad, and speaks soothing words softly and sweetly. i stand silent and nod with nervous politeness; the only white boy in a room full of people who don’t know me. i don’t belong.
*his (?) mother is beautiful. her hair’s straightened and pulled back into a bun with streaks of gray. on her thick body is a black dress and blazer. she probably puts the other ladies at church to shame most sundays.
for some reason she directs a space heater at me- the cold white boy in a room full of strangers.
she grips her husband’s hand while they sit in the first row of folding chairs in front of his (?) casket. full lips covered in red lipstick part to smile. she asks in a confectioner’s voice, “did you know him (?)?”
“no miss. my friend did,” i point to her and continue like a fucking asshole, “but i’m sorry for your loss. i’m sure he (?) was a wonderful son”
i know she’s going to walk with her head away from the concrete and her back straight most days. even if tears escape those light brown eyes. she continues to speak to me like she’s known me longer than an instant.
she sounds like a violin solo absent of self-pity. “at least i had him (?) for thirty-two years. i tried to raise him (?) the best i could.”
i feel everything i can.
i know beyond any shadowy doubt i love her*
*we leave the ponce funeral home passing groups of men and women wearing dark sunglasses. this sunless day is over. we step onto atlantic avenue and into my car.*
*it’s after dusk in brooklyn and my skull. she tells me about her other men while i grip the steering wheel with one hand trying not to listen. a dirty-south hip-hop song plays through blown-out speakers.
it tells her, and me, it doesn’t care. the tires spin with indifference as i feel as little as i can.
we cross into bushwick but my thoughts are back in the brownsville of my brain. they’re scouring the alleyways of my psyche. i need to find the woman i love more than drawing breath. i need to apologize and give the embrace i was too afraid to give.
i need to find momma. she’d been sitting in the first row of folding chairs in front of his (?) casket.*