“It’s time to fall,” whispered one mountain to the next.
“But I am not ready,” said the other. “It is too soon. Let’s wait. Let’s wait and see and then vanish in the night like we came.”
“I cannot wait a second more. They have drilled holes in my stomach and taken everything. They’ve shaved the trees from my back. I am naked. Look at me! Every minute, pieces of me fall and they don’t care. Yes, they’ll miss the birds that sing in my hair but soon the birds will be gone. I’ve heard them talking. The coyotes are gone and now the deer pound my head worse than the drills. Every day there is a war up here and they don’t care.”
“I think it will get better. And don’t you like listening to them sing around their fires at night? Watching their faces when they reach and see what we are?”
“Hah! You’ve gotten soft in your age. They will never see what we are because we have always been what they have wanted us to be. Do you remember how it was when we first came? How you could feel everything being born? Now it smells like everything has been overcooked.”
The other mountain sighed and did not speak.
“Fine, stay. You’ll see. In dust, my friend.”
A family screamed, the windows shattered, atop a mountain, determined to fall.
There are cloves of garlic, peeled, on the cutting board next to an onion and a cabbage. Ready to be transformed. They have waited all day as I smoke outside and sip whiskey from the bottle on the window ledge in the kitchen. I am working from home. I put them back.
It’s time to stop now, says the small, sensible part of my brain. The only part that cares about me.
I can’t, says the oversized brute who thinks only of itself.
I like this, it says. This feels good for now.
Drunks and drug addicts don’t get enough credit, you know. Do you want to know what it feels like to live in the moment? Every moment.
What I need right now is this. Not for tomorrow and not for yesterday.
It is what my brain needs to stop existing in the past and in the future and to be here, with me.
It is the only way to stop seeing black holes.
I don’t really know when everything fell to shit. It happens gradually, little silent destructions along the way, you’re facing the sun so you can’t see them, you’re distracted by the trees and smiles. But they’re happening. Little explosions, puffs of smoke and falling walls along the way. Fires and earthquakes, flashes and shudders. One morning you’re in Hawaii planting toy choy and picking lilikois and by 5 o’clock your mom’s downed 60 sleeping pills and a bottle of brandy – thousands of miles away, gone into a coma for 20 hours, ending in ICU, then psych hospital for evaluation. The next day you’re at the store buying facial cleansing cloths and a bag of peanut M&Ms, thousands of miles away, why the fuck why. Two weeks later she will come home and cut her wrists in the shower. Her wrists, then hands, then inner creases of her elbows, searching for the veins and destroying them, like enemies.
One day you think you’ve made the best decision of your life, the next you can’t remember the last time you were happy. All of a sudden everything seems to have had its last time. The last time you truly laughed. The last time you truly loved somebody. The last time you felt in control. The last time you slept all the way through. The last time you drank too much. The last time you didn’t drink too much. And it feels like it’s now a long time coming for the next time. You start thinking of everything in the past tense. You take away your future because, firstly, you have no fucking idea what’s going on and, secondly, you just assume whatever will happen is going to be fucking awful.
That’s what I’m doing right now, in Hawaii. That shit I mentioned earlier is real. Shit sucks. These days I feel two feelings, sadness and hopelessness, and I feel a thousand shades of each one. Each day a different degree. Some days are better, lighter degrees. Some days I reach new depths to the feelings. Go places I’ve never been before. I almost go where she did. But now I never can. In a way that makes me kind of mad, she took that away from me. She did what I have only dreamed of. And now everything feels like a movie. Now nothing will be the same, which may not be bad but it’s fucking scary. Now I know what it will be like afterwards and that’s all I ever really dreamed of. What it would be like after I tried to kill myself, or after I did kill myself. That’s the problem with the dream. You’ve got to be around afterwards to see it. You’ve got to stay alive.
You didn’t look at me or say anything or move, except your chest rising and falling.
I also lay still and quiet, repeating in my head, promising,
promising to be strong,
that if you didn’t reach out and touch me in
I would move, leave without a word. Never see you again.
everything dark and still.
I wait, hating myself and hating you.
You reach over and wipe off my back with your boxers.
I inch closer but my pride won’t let me touch you. So many lonely places I’ve been.
You mumble something about sweat. I put my clothes on and leave.
Five in the morning.
never see you again.
Now you say you love me. That I snuck up on you, real good.
You never want to let me go. You beg me to stay longer, to let you make me come.
I let you do these things. I tell you I love you.
But when it’s quiet between us, and nothing holds our bodies together
except a prideless hope that everything will be OK if we are loved,
I almost cry, conjuring the tears,
never letting them go,
and I get scared when you’re holding me, you clever stranger,
that you’re this close to the blood in my heart, because I have no idea who you are.
Something is lost every time you don’t say, “I love you”
and say, “Thanks for calling” instead.
More than losing you,
I am afraid of not hurting as much as I’m supposed to when you’re dead.
I drink to this animal because I don’t want to think.
Please don’t ever love someone so much her skin burns when you breathe.
You rolled a cigarette for me,
I thought of the time we danced in the rain with the homeless people on the street outside his house,
the tobacco pulled through and a strand lay on my tongue like an eyelash,
I wished that what I felt for you was love and that it would be enough.
The woman sitting next to me on the metro is hideous. She has a fat rock on her finger. I can mock and recoil from her blotchy skin, fat cheeks and terrible ski jacket, but at the end of the day, who is happier? Her and the crusty bits at the corners of her mouth and her husband who bought her a fat rock like that.
…I can’t believe how important you think you are. Milling around in your various mismatched suits (Is that in now, GQ?), headphones dangling from your ears like umbilical cords. You’re name is Brett and you order coffees with more than four ingredients while telling the man next to you, “Well, the thing with marketing is.” The person you are speaking to is 10 years older than you with two kids and knows so much more, you weedy little shit, what do you know about love? About giving?
I think the loud, chubby barista is more important than your funeral-clad friends in this Starbucks. He gives you what you want to feel important, a small piece of your busy, busy day, and drinking coffee always makes you feel important and busy, you love it. And this barista, you probably think little of him, you probably take pity on him, yet you need him, Brett. You have no idea what you’d do without him. You have no idea what he’s done for you.
I’ve started worrying about the plates again.
I open the kitchen cabinet and there they are. A whole massive stack of them, like very white pancakes. Perfect. And there are, like, 26 of them. No, 20. No, 14. Either way, there are too many plates per family member (three of us in this house now) for them all to get used in between dishwasher loads. It can’t happen. Every day, I take three or four plates, now clean, out of the dishwasher and stack them back in the cabinet, on top of the tall pile of untouched plates, and I feel sad for them, the plates that only get used two, three times a year.
I worry, will the ones on top wear out before the ones on the bottom? The ones that keep getting used over and over and over again, day after day, while their unsullied counterparts remain lifeless, purposeless. I imagine them as Beauty and the Beast corpses. I see gleeful tea cups turning away in horror, all of their chipped but thriving relatives cringing in fear and disgust at the faceless plates.
Then I get angry. What’s the point? What’s the fucking point of these plates that we never use? Should I come in here and mix them up each week? But why would I do that? Am I crazy? Should I smash them, put them out of their misery? Should I, personally, use more plates? Shit. Why am I thinking about these things? Fuck. Do I truly, to the bone, have nothing better to do? And that’s the worst way to end because always, always the answer is, “Yes,” but then the mean, sulky, self-hating sycophant you kill hundreds of times a day whispers from the sticky depths which it has fled, “No. Now come back.”