Urge to Industry

 
 

With swollen feet exposed half inside her bathroom slippers, she pushes the lever and spins her wheelchair round to the trash can outside my window, sidles up close facing it and pulls out a long stemmed two-pronged mechanical finger–resembling forefinger and thumb–from a bag hanging on the back of her chair. She inserts the device into the trash can. With a smile, she pulls out a bottle and examines the glass closely, momentarily furrowing her brows to read the label through the confines of her square lensed teacher spectacles, most likely for deposit instructions or value.
 

Her hair is straight, collar bone length with bangs that fringe her pumpkin of a head, and she wears a light-weight black jacket, nearly professional looking but a bit worn from wear. Her candy cane striped dress underneath the jacket drapes just past her knees, baring the burnt red skin of her elephantine legs, square blocks immovable. Yet her torso twists readily as she reaches round to the bag on the other side of her chair and deposits the bottle inside. A quick glance inside the trash can opening, her lips an inch away from the rim of the can, she appears confirmed. Another pull on the lever, a quick pivot to avoid plowing over the can, and she moves on to the next trash can just out of view.
 

My sight range is restricted, paned in by store fronts, circumscribed by adjoining commerce and distant apartments, restaurants, banks and pharmacy. But even I can recognize the expansive urge to industry.

textual insinuation

  
“What time is your flight?”

“9:07. No actually it’s 9:55. Gates open at 9:10”

“And you land at 11 something?”

“Yes.”

“Short flight. I like short flights.”

“And long sex?”

“I wish I still smoked cigarettes. Seems like the perfect moment, the perfect accessory. I would take a long, sultry drag of a cigarette and with half lids and pouty mouth, slowly exhale smoke and say in my best Marlene Dietrich, ‘Yes, my dahling. And long sex.’ And then wink.”

Midnight Ramble

  

 
 
Turning the key, I hear the wheels scratching the tar and asphalt, metal struts hitting cement. The skateboarders like the open space–and the night. This corner of the strip mall is recessed, secreted at night far from the beaming boulevard with auto showcases and fast food restaurants.

Tonight’s boarder seems older, maybe mid-thirties even. He is lean and has a beard, and he looks like he is in the zone, grooving with sways and swivels. And jumps. Fluid like an eel.
 
But then I thought about my sweater I left at Gina’s last night. I don’t know when I’ll get it back, and I like it so much. 
….
 
The door needs to be jiggled after it’s locked to check that it really is locked. Or maybe it doesn’t, but I need to check anyhow. The locking click of metal into slot and resulting tightness in the door’s mobility are pretty good testament to the door being locked. But I must jiggle nevertheless. It’s a compulsion.

 
The skateboarder makes another round to my corner. I sit in my car for a few minutes before driving off, taking inventory of all of the cords and usb plugs and devices. I charge and read, sometimes play games to wile away the time, chip at it with distraction; they are long shifts.
 
How free inside the gut and soul to skateboard when it’s right, when the sync is on. I remember snowboarding and those clicked moments: it feels so natural, so inborn–and joyful. The same joy as symmetry or coincidence, synchronicity, except fuller and rounder.
 
There is no snow boot big enough now. I won’t be boarding in a long while, I imagine. Still thinking about tattooing that bracelet silhouette on my ankle after it’s gone. It will be gone.

 
Though dinner last night was elegant and lovely, the guests lively, the hosts gracious and welcoming beyond measure–as always–I needed to be alone and felt awkward. Old friends should not make me uncomfortable. I’ve known Gina and Richard for decades. Perhaps because I just sermonized on introverts and declared myself one, I needed to prove it to myself. Since no one else cares. But I did feel sick, dizzy, like I was going to pass out from being too drunk, only I had had only one beer and a good amount of food with it. Could it have been stress?
 
My social anxiety is not that extreme. I don’t know what happened to me. But I suspect the pot everyone was smoking–and the over stimulation. F and C, new to the usual guest list, talk a lot, quick-talk about intriguing topics only remotely known to me, like Photoshop and cellular biology, so I have to concentrate. I can’t tell if they are smart or silly, self-inventors or mere drunks and stoners. Maybe all of them, and who cares? I suppose I have to label them so I can figure out if I like them or had a good time. Did I have a good time?
 
Their space–an oasis in urbanity–is mind-freeing, open to nature’s chaos mixed with their own, overlaid with nourishing touches, finishes and tucks of warmth. The night had that last bit of summer air, only a hint of cool. Unusually thick for a Southern California September night. Usually, the desert cold of night sets in around this time. So dinner outside was perfect, candles and overhanging white lights, festival lights without color, decorating trees and wood trellises. The fire pit flames cast shadows on the brick walls low like baseboard trim to the relentless hay, weeds and succulents strewn through the unrolling backyard.

 
It was a potentially too-long drive past Manhattan Beach, not in the maddening sense too long, but past the point of acceptability for a one and a half hour dinner. How many hours should one drive round trip proportional to the time spent at the dinner? Had I spent four hours, which I could have had I not freaked out, and drove two hours, which I did, then it would not have been a bad return on my driving time investment. The ratio seems reasonable.

 
Mopping the store floor when buzzed is the only way to get the full enjoyment of mopping. It’s like seeing Forbidden Zone on acid. Everything makes sense when you do.

 
Turning the lights on, cruising in my jalopy, a champagne 1998 Nissan Maxima, the first three-point turn to get on track gets me up close to the skateboarder, who dovetails just at the left side front end of the car.
 
His eyes meet mine, and I want to peer into them hard to see what it feels like to be free inside, to know joy at the core so fleeting, yet practiced in stealth, climbing the degrees of duration until the skill to ride fearlessly and flawlessly was always there. Only my windshield is too dirty. I swoop past in a wide arc and catch the flash glance each of us share, acknowledging our existences seconds deep; then I hit the bright boulevard headed for home.

 

Medicinal Embrace

  
“I hate when someone cuts me off, and then flips me off as if my very existence provoked the act.”

She nods, not lifting her eyes from the words on the screen, and mumbles a “hmmm…”

“But the worst part is that I get so angry about it, cursing out loud, speeding up, trying to make eye contact to give the person the stink eye and stab them with my utter disgust. Why would I even care? Why would I make myself so worked up?”

Still bathed in the glow of the screen and not looking up, she responds distractedly, “I don’t know.”

“And I immediately check myself and wonder how I could lose my cool like that, let someone just take me out of myself into the hate zone. My thoughts get ripped from wherever they were to this horrid place some stupid stranger took me to–with my permission. It frustrates me that I cannot resist…cannot NOT react.”

She looks up from the computer, and turns all the way around in her chair, 180 degrees, and faces her now–she with her back turned who rummages through the refrigerator as her complaints dissolve into questions that perplex the vegetables she picks up one by one–broccoli rabes, Japanese eggplant, and summer squash–examines and then shuffles to the far side of the shelf.

“Then my reaction to having reacted like an ass, an overly angry ass, is even worse, just berating myself for being out of control and habitually reactive. I mean I just want to let these things pass without getting my adrenaline pumping—just once. But the whole thing is just one big ugly pattern that I can’t change….ingrained, like….a disease…Have you seen the…? I think I put it…

Oh! I didn’t hear you sneak up behind me. Aw baby, that’s so nice…you’re so toasty warm. Just what the doctor ordered mmmm…”
 

credit: http://www.annashukeylo.com/

A Sudden Slant of Cynicism

  
“We toggle the gas pedal of politics between zealotry and apathy,” she complained. “One day we parade in protest for rights, wrongs and indifferences of some group, some perp, some activist, some governmental faction that failed or should not even exist, and the next day we go home and order up Chinese, bitching about how long the delivery service takes to go two city blocks.”

Her dilated pupils betrayed the calm cynical shellac of her words.

I wanted to reply with something equally poised and stunning, but my mind was stuck on crystals. Sometimes I get like that, in a mental tic. I read that quote by Stendhal earlier. 

What did Stendhal know about the process of crystallization, of solutes and nuclei, when he  teased out the strands of love, a taxonomy of four–the usual suspects like passion, ego, appearance, and lust? Something like that.

“I call ‘crystallization’ that action of the mind that discovers fresh perfections in its beloved at every turn of events.”

Delusion. 

We submerge others in the playground of our projections, our imagined lovelies that just get lovelier–because we want it so.

Objectification.

Sylvia Plath wrote plainer (“I think I made you up inside my head”).

“I believe you,” I replied to fill the lull of exhaustion her statement left. “So what are we going to do to change the world? Order lunch?” 

I chuckled.

She stared through me, and my thoughts squinted, wondering what lay behind me.
 

credit: https://marlonjbradley.files.wordpress.com

Beagleman

  
A man with a short face, not from chin to forehead but tip of the beaky nose to upper lip–not enough distance. The topography of his face is flat as if the effort of blooming a nose and plumping some lips was abandoned half way to finished. The eyes are photoshopped Cancun ridge of the sea blue, but paler, far too brilliant for his age in a hand’s decades, no dullness to the liquid gaze, like polished museum or Madison Avenue marble flooring–a splendorous richesse of gloss. The face is proportionate to the rest of him, distant soccer player traces of a cut angle just below the scapula, a rounded sternum suggesting the brim of a broad chest but for the expansion below that arcs convexly far more than it should beyond the belt. But the semblance of a prime physique resides, the residuals of fitness imports a belated youth to his figure. His name is Beagleman. 
A recent return from the edge of a self-inflicted, imploding dual-minded fury left him enervated and his tawny fatigued suitcase paupered.

The Morning After


“He was such a creeper, he made my skin crawl.”
She spoke with squinted nose and eyes sucked in tightly drawn to the center of deep disgust.
“Where did you meet him?” I sipped lemon water.
“A place called ‘After Hours’ on Beach near Central.”
She shuffled the boot leather sole of her left foot underneath the quaint table dressed for two.
Its mate was folded up underneath the back pockets of her 501 Levi’s firmly squat into the padded seat.
We used to meet at this corner cafe often; she was married then.
“He spit when he talked too close to me and had a dripping smile, loose grin spun widely–and loud.”
I conjured up with a shudder the stale beer, punishing electronic drum beats and the glint of a greasy stare too close up inside the parameters of my circle of heated breath.
“He thought he was hilariously funny wishing me ‘good morning’ at 9:30 at night with a wink as if he could make it happen just by saying it.”
Sinking inside with an outward sympathetic half smile, I inwardly groaned at the enormity of it, like Sisyphus’ burden this giant gap of want, need, ties we seek just to sever, never have and don’t even want.
photo credit:  http://media.brainz.org/willmon

The Second Time 

  

Credit: http://www.autostraddle.com

The second time she came was with a boy-man she had attracted while perusing selections in a shoe store. He was a salesman and she was in the market for some comfortable shoes that evoked her style: earth shoes. 

“Do you have these in a size 9?” she asked huskily, then choking slightly, clearing her throat as she held up the shelf model to his smiling eyes. 

It was late 1978. She had already met Sean but he was spending the summer with his girlfriend while she was working and making her way through college as a young, vibrant, jeans-and-flannel 18 year old seeking love and fun in between classes. 

She was thrilled that she caught his attention, he with the thick, sandy brown, wavy, shoulder length hair, the same texture as his full wide bandito mustache of old Spaghetti westerns, that covered his full mouth and detracted from his cobalt blue eyes, the same color as Sean’s. He was clearly flirting, touching her foot in lingering courtesy, as he helped her try on the ugly dirt brown leather earth shoe with its flat rubber sole the color of bottled rubber cement, and hobbit-foot curved toe box. 

“How do these fit?” he asked, grinning too widely for the contextual inquiry.

It was the first of many encounters with Jim, whom she loved to kiss for hours. He may still go down as one of the best kissers ever, someone who could savor a mouth, a tongue, the fullness of a brushing lower lip along another’s thinner, grasping top lip in utter tender breathlessness of passionate study. He clearly understood that a kiss was a conversation. 

He was a natural fit and they had sex often but after a time, made love, high on cheap wine and pot, in synced undulation that moved her body–shoulders to thighs–slithery-slowly in sweaty sensual waves inside the steamy, airless room of a slightly seedy, shared apartment behind the liquor store of the town’s busy main drag. A shoe salesman’s commissions afforded little luxury.

On one occasion, she found herself lying underneath him, hands softly cupping his bare shoulders, fingers rounded relaxed so that her nails lightly tingled the skin of his back as he slowly moved in and out of her, rhythmic but slow-savor of flesh on flesh, every stroke of it on the way in and out, even-calm gliding sweetness that all of the sudden burst tears from her eyes in a full-blown opening that was yet a closeness to his being; it moved her body and heart–an unknown sensation to her prior to that moment and a mystery still as she bathed in the warm tears on her face and the outpour from her brain down to the depths of her, some place she only abstractly identified as the darkness of her womb. 

She was surprised at the tears and the tender feeling of surrender and body deep warmth leaking from her pores and especially her legs, between her thighs. She would many years later identify that sensation in the throes of an intentionally induced orgasm in the bed of the technician, whose fingers worked effortlessly to make her body arch in that final tautness before the release–as an orgasm. 

It was an aha! moment 12 years later while reflecting in the night spent with that technician, “Hotel Jones,” lying awake in glorious incongruous aftermath of body-spent stillness and sleeplessness for the sheer bubbling liquid excitement that stirred inside her: the newness of an unknown man, experience, and sex never before recognized, come to light of her mind, where she knew everything, filtered by ponderous thought and book-learned emotion, how she understood the world and herself.

Flash of Stillness: Playing Patience at the DMV

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Some virtues are beyond me. Patience, for instance, ever the teacher, lover and nemesis, eludes me today. As I sit in the hard plastic chair in the DMV, watching the screen to confirm the number announced courteously by the subtly enthusiastic electronic female voice, “Now serving number G095 at Window 13”, I sigh in exasperation. My number is G0172. It’s the second time in a month and a half that I have lost my driver’s license, and apparently the punishment is laid before me.

I want to pluck my eyeballs right out of my head at the thought of this wait in the stupefyingly catatonic government issue slate blues and grays of this Kafka-esque muffled, stifling prison. Too many dull civil servants shuffling paper among chair slumpers and leg shifters, all emitting muted boredom, disgust and defeat. No one appears to be content–merely a large aggregation of bodies connected only by will to the call of the numbers.

My daily practice of late has been precisely about this: finding contentment wherever I am. But not just the ordinary contentment of gratitude for a life lived in relative comfort and safety. For example, this may not be the best experience a late Friday afternoon has to offer, but at least I am not being held hostage in a bank. I will eventually leave this drone of hushed activity, having completed the exercise in obedient compliance with temporary license in hand.

And it is not mere at-oneness, presence within the space I am led to by attention to breath. That place is familiar to me as I have beckoned that presence to practice yoga on particularly distractible days, to preserve my sanity in extreme adversity, situations beyond my control such as waiting in a hospital room for test results, and to create–writing within the clasp of close observational sensation and thought.

No, the kind of contentment found in voluntary partial confinement among these resigned soldiers of complicity is not mere surrender; it is much more focused, pinpoint. It is the kind of contentment that comes in very small packages, minute actually, perhaps down to the cellular level. This cellular ease is squeezed out of a stillness and silence within that can hear the seduction of the computerized voice tapping into specific sensors in my brain, sliding across synapses that fire the corresponding response: chill. I hear the voice, calm, soothing, and yet infused with the transparency of its purpose. It’s experiencing and knowing all at once, an ultra alert moment of bathing light.

These moments of hyper awareness, like visualizing sound vibrations traveling across cilia in my ear canal to produce tones, reactions and information, store savory bits of future antidote to the haze of an overslept day just like today. They entertain and calm me when bored or anxious.

There are seemingly insignificant moments I can remember as mere hair’s breath of time and movement recorded so finely to capillary’s considered caress. I close my eyes in the echo of “Now serving…G108…” and summon one such scene of long ago to the black screen of my eyelids and I am there:

Walking out the door in a hurry, late for work, I don’t even notice as I rush past him. Evan near misses but manages to clasp my elbow on the fly. “Hey,” he says huskily. He has just awakened and struggles slightly with sleep-shorn disarray, a waver in his stance. Stopped, the momentum of my intention and determined pace is still rushing on ahead of me as my body is stilled before his eyes. “Hey,” he says again still clasping my elbow, my attention now filling my eyes that have been locked into his by the soft insistence of his gaze. He raises his free hand to my face and rests his four fingers, thumb-less, palm down, under my chin lightly. I feel the warmth of his morning hand and his embracing time. “Have a fine day.” The sound of his touch lingers. My racing pulse of wheeling stepped-to thought slowed in the honeyed silk of stilled breath and moment, somehow I sense I will.

I open my eyes, once again to the dimmed fluorescent daylight of the room. The 90s throw-back television screen flicks to G112 as I recover the speed of my breath, regulate it to the pace of the room’s still life painting of humans in suspended animation. Leaving behind the image on a slo-mo memory reel, I feel the filmy residue coating my mood–a clear outlook reset. The furrows in my brow have smoothed out, not merely caved into my face. The tension lines around my mouth are slightly faded.

Returning to the room, I imagine the civil space of 10 inches between my loudly sighing, glum neighbor and me, hitched to the same row of five chairs connected respectably, tolerably separated to allow both detached misery and connected commiseration in accordance with the building’s function. I will myself to blanket that distance with warmth like the heat of Evan’s hand emanating an atomic wave of empathic static connection.

Can he feel it? I have tuned out all voices, human or electronic, and squinch my sight with open eyes, twisting the last drop of intention from the tube of my will to touch him with an invisible hand. I turn to look at him, retreating from my straight-ahead-vision of the shaved head and neck of the body in front of me, but I only catch his departing blurred frame. His number, G118, is up.

Fortunate for him. Fifty-four more numbers to go. Twenty-five numbers in 90 minutes. Lots of time to practice patience and play at staking the heart of the energy vampire in this room. Luckily, I have a full flash drive of micro memory moments to fuel my efforts. Heck, I have time enough to remember where I lost my driver’s license in the first place.