Let’s Not Fall in Love
It was only 8pm, but the darkness fell early those days.
We thought it was midnight and acted in kind.
We skirted the shadows thrown by warm ribbons of streetlight.
We breathed, shallow, short,
and hid in a corner,
sharing each other,
It was after 3 when you finally left to walk alone down those streets;
Dodging drunks, trash and beer bottles floating in the puddles.
You stumbled ever so slightly.
Adjusting your collar, you looked ahead until out of sight.
I was left staring at my open palms that still smelled of you.
Empty, dry, their blood glow burning,
crisscrossed by the same streetlights and shadows
we danced across.
I’ll grind my own soul to sand between these blooded teeth, compliant, just this once.
How do you imagine daily life before the internet and smartphones? Relating with others before social media and the gratification of an instant response?
At first, it’s just a casual graze.
Then comes a timid tickle around the rim,
that quickly begs for another.
Forbidden, yet no longer suppressed,
the tickle gives way to blatant thrusts,
each arriving with increasing hunger,
growing evermore forceful,
persistent and skilled.
Her inflamed skin buzzes
with penetration now so deep.
The tip plunges with purpose
into the warmth and darkness.
She quivers, hard moans,
at the mercy of each stroke.
Just a little deeper!
Probing and hot,
the tip searches,
prodding ever deeper
to find that one spot
of scalding release.
Soon, she’s completely overtaken
with seizing senses
by pleasure that cripples her reason;
pleasure that sees in triple and quadruple.
The tip, now saturated
and, slowly withdrawn,
by the most stubborn chunk
of imbedded earwax.
Freshly extracted, finally,
she could get on with her day,
with the calm of release.
Woeful amongst seafarers’ ghosts,
weathering Pacific gales;
wailing with tsunami sirens;
waiting with the spirits.
On Shaky Ground
they lived with the earth’s gentle rumbles,
until the ground split,
You’re Mitchell, my Mitchell.
Hovering unseen over my shoulder,
silent specter, guardian angel,
watching me, filling me,
everything I do,
every single moment,
every single day
you follow me.
I want to impress you;
my life is a regular show.
I’m loved and pretty because you watch me.
I’m so perfect as you watch me.
You’re my Mitchell.
I stand hidden outside your work,
day after day,
dizzy, just praying that I might glimpse
your coffee-colored hair
bob by a side window.
There’s no way I can let you go now,
Even when you blocked me,
blocked every profile I could invent;
even as you chased me from my hiding spot
among the rhododendrons at your house.
Now I can’t even come back.
Yet you watch over my every move,
eyes open or closed.
I can’t touch you; can’t hold you
...but I’m never too far.
As you watch me, I watch you,
wherever I can; whenever I can.
I need you no matter how I can have you.
All of that, but Mitchell,
you’re my constant gut punch.
You sit heavy in my heart,
even if, even because
I can’t touch you; can’t hold you.
...but I love you.
We Just Met
”Introduce me to the afterlife,” I choke, lungs awash in mud.
He strips me, grinning.
Creeping claws curl,
choke Cheryl’s collar.
compound Cheryl’s coughing.
Cheryl’s craggy coughing
crosses cold, clean corridors;
crosses centuries, clamoring,
counting can’s, cannot’s.
can cure certain conditions.
Cheryl counters, crying.
Crying can’t conquer
Chilly clinics can’t cure
Cheryl catches comprehension;
consuming cognitive calamity,
calls clinics criminal,
Can charlatans care?
JP was normally the one to wake me. He knew how much I hated alarms, even the gentle ones, and would whisper in low tones, “Morning; time to rise,” next to my left ear. Only this way could I pull myself from dreaming. His voice rippled, rose and fell; the best voice by far to wake me up. JP was on time every morning, 7:15am. Once awake, I heard the others going about their morning business; joking with each other; calling out to see if I was awake yet. Happy shrieks and gurgles came from baby Maddie in the kitchen.
JP guided me through my bathroom routine. He would tell me to brush my teeth, comb my hair, and take my prescriptions. I dressed in what JP suggested, and always tucked in my shirt. As we worked, I could discern more voices and breakfast sounds; forks on plates, the coffeemaker belching coffee steam. Footsteps tumbled down the stairs; doors slammed; keys clicked in the front door lock.
Miranda liked to be up before JP, singing while washing the dishes from the night before. Her songs bled into my dreams, and often, when JP woke me, I was already humming along with her. She kept track of what everyone else was up to and would report back to me when they didn’t feel like talking. When I appeared in the kitchen, she would remind me to sit at the head of the table, put my napkin on my lap, and to use the silverware set next to my left hand. Miranda never judged or treated me like I was unusual.
Today my feet hit the floor after 10am. I never heard JP. There was no song from Miranda already playing in my head. I had no idea when to wake, and had overslept for hours. The air should have been alive with voices by late morning, but I could make out nothing. The house groaned and sighed in the gale blowing outside, but there was no coffee-maker belching, no one singing with the running water. There wasn’t even breakfast waiting on the table. I strained to hear JP’s singular laugh. Nothing.
I stood in the hallway, looking over my one shoulder, then the other. Where the hell did everybody go?
Even Carol Anne, whose voice punctured my eardrums like a hot syringe, would have been welcome at this point. The one who wouldn’t help me; who called me a burden; who told the rest to leave me. Carol Anne tried to sabotage anything that would bring me joy.
For the past few weeks, I had been wondering where many of my roommates had been disappearing to, and if Carol Anne had anything to do with it. Little by little, I was able to overhear less, and what I did hear seemed faint or muffled. Miranda hadn’t been informing me as often as before. Once the epicenter of life in our house, I had been relegated to an afterthought.
What I appreciated about everyone at home was that they kept as strict a schedule as I did. Although I felt defenseless against their casual arguments, baby Maddie’s fussing, and endless daily commotion, it all had a predictability. I knew when the house would be noisy, and the times of day it would be more serene. My roommates’ daily rhythms stabilized my own by helping me tell the time of day, and whether it was a weekday or weekend.
I certainly did not appreciate this deviation.
Stumbling back to my bedroom, I called, “Hello?” into every room I passed. My veins burned from adrenaline and I felt my muscles quiver. I looked down and noted that my tattered pajama cuff caressed the floor. My throat tightened and I sobbed hard and silent against the mirrored bathroom door. JP would have never allowed for this; but there was no one to be found anywhere.
A sudden thought froze me in a silent panic after minutes of weeping into my hands. I’m supposed to take my prescriptions. All I could remember was that the pills were important, but not which ones to take or when. I guessed it was the blue one in the mornings. My hands grazed the bottles on my nightstand, the kinds with the hard-to-open lids. Those bottles scared me right then more than ever. I was almost sure that I had to take the blue one in the mornings, before I ate my breakfast. JP would always have my pills ready before I had to ask.
My sobbing punctured the dust and still inside, as the weather ravaged anyone unlucky enough to be caught outside. That one thing I could clearly hear, my own ugly weeping, echoed back to my ears amplified. I was deafening myself. It was then that baby Maddie chose to cry as well, and we howled for a while in unison. The gale outside roared with us.
At a certain point, the baby girl found a voice, a clear and true voice. She ceased crying and spoke for the first time, sweet but assertive, sounding so much like her mother Miranda.
“You already know why we’re all leaving,” declared baby Maddie. “And why we all got so distant.”
“When you want me to.”
I was stunned.
“Look at the bottle you’re holding, “ she instructed. “The one with the blue pills you take in the morning.”
“Pills chased everyone out of here?”
The infant girl stayed silent for a moment, as if waiting for me to come to a certain conclusion. I began to doubt that we had been talking at all.
“Read the label, William.”
“‘ Olanzapine, 10mg tablet. Take one tablet by mouth every morning with or without food. Dr. Claus.’ It’s one of my prescriptions. What about it?”
“William, you already know that Dr. Claus gave you the blue pills to help your brain quiet voices that aren’t real.”
“For auditory hallucinations,” I whispered.
Baby Maddie paused again. “And you know that I’m not real either. None of us exist outside of you.”
“And yet you all left me, one after the other.”
“We are all part of you, which means it’s impossible for any of us to ever truly leave you. But you’ll only hear from us rarely, if ever, from now on.”
“But I need JP for my morning routine, and Miranda makes breakfast.” Hot panic intensified the fear in my words.
“Is that really how it works?” Baby Maddie sighed. “Or do you complete every task yourself? You know all of this William.”
Heat flushing my chest and neck, I got to my feet and turned on the bathroom light. After much struggle, I opened the bottle of blue Olanzapine. Brain poison. I poured the month’s supply into the toilet bowl and held down the handle with a trembling hand. No more, Doctor. I want them all back, even that hateful Carol Anne. I slid down to the cold tile floor and held my knees to my chest. Not then nor ever again was I willing to ask, “Where did everybody go?” Leaning my head back, I dared to close my eyes.
Hours after I originally sunk to the floor did the faintest sound hit my ears. Miranda was in the kitchen, running water for tea, humming with the Beach Boys playing in the background. I heard JP there too, his voice rich and low.
“William’s been in a panic trying to find you,” Miranda mentioned between songs.
“Who knows why,” he replied. “I’ve been right here all morning.”