Cut

I cut myself last night, a slice not deep but well-placed

like a knotted finger string, center tip of the left index

or pointer, that guiding gun dog of the hand.

It happened as I chopped and spoke, diced and

listened, as she teasingly warned, “Careful. Don’t cut yourself.”

And then, not five minutes after smug riposte, “I don’t cut myself

any more. I’ve been chopping longer than you’re alive,” the eye first,

followed a hair-pin later by stinging prick alarm, ending with

stifled exhale and reflex footing to clear water.

Quick pouring like a scalp wound, I swiftly improvised a napkin

tourniquet, then resumed my chop in plump, papered digit,

slow labor, but serviceable, hidden, blunted, wrapped

crimson seeping like shame, pride and irreverence tucked

under the skin resting on disbelieving bones.

I slipped so quickly to the sink and back, returning

to my task unfazed and fluid, so they wouldn’t see, she

who pronounced my fate and the other who witnessed.

Brushing off the slight speed bump in the banter, I turned

the absorbing wrap growing redder toward me, out of sight.

And soon they left me for work and parties, wounded, hindered

and aching to know, the pain signal, what attention needed

paying, which moment or opportunity squandered.

Today, I press it, that slit in consciousness, right thumb to

left index, cataloguing input–sensory, intuitive and cognitive–

carefully20160807_202150.jpg caressing the seconds at my fingertips.

 

 

 

 

At the Wine Bar


We decided our favorite coffee is wine on this sweaty hot summer late afternoon. The temps rose to about 88 degrees even here at the beach. So we met at a wine bar by the water instead of our usual siesta hour coffee place. I enjoyed a Patson Hall Chardonnay, chilled, and she a Central Valley Pinot Noir, whose name I forgot. Cheers, clink, and she was off. First the job, politics, and then her current “person of interest.”

Her:  I like a guy who talks me up dirty. Just gets me going, like when D***** says, “Gonna pump sum jiz in you” right before he cums. I want to scream, “Go, go, go for it, fucker!!” And her voice does get loud.

I wince, probably visibly. I mused how I’m more of a Nike kind of girl. Don’t announce. Just do it.

Her: I must have some sort of oral fixation that I get off on sex talk like that, his mouth clenched in urgency, coughing out, “Here it cums, baby.” Makes the finale all the more spectacular. I should have been an actress, not a business major. It all seems so meta sexual, you know, like acting out sex inside the sex act. You know what I mean?

I nod. Honestly I did. Like sex in front of a mirror. The self-consciousness of the act as act. The wine buzz would not let me fall into the full possibilities of sex, mirrors, and performance. I shook it off, silently.

Her: I mean when T** and I were seeing each other, he was the quiet church mouse type. He performed all right, but I never could gauge the decibels of his pleasure like I can with D*****.  I can coordinate my own orgasm much easier with the verbal cues. 

The church mouse visual stuck in my mind, I just then remembered the guy who shushed me during sex. We had been dating for a few months; it wasn’t the first time we were going at it. But he all of the sudden unquestionably shushed me, like I was making too much noise. The only thing missing was the hand covering my mouth.

We were at a hotel. He had kids, a divorce, too soon, all of that. And what? He didn’t want to disturb other hotel guests? I wasn’t screaming, that’s for sure. He was a serviceable lover but not scream-worthy. I was stunned, totally thrown off. I didn’t even question why or how or what. But afterward, I became hyper aware of the sounds I would have made had I not stifled them before they came out. I couldn’t cum.

It wasn’t long after that we broke up. I’m not sure if it was because of that. We just didn’t have enough gelling to get over the breach. 

The server came by just then. “Yes, I’ll have another. Same.”

 
Image: the Purple Passport

Coffee Trees


“I wanted to grow into a tree when I was five because the trees around my house looked like they all had arms that reached to the sky or really high places like rooftops, and my arms were so short I could not even reach the counter to steal back contraband my mom confiscated: cookies, silly putty my brother and I fought over, and fake clip-on earrings snuck from my mother’s jewelry box.”

I stare at her perfectly halved hard boiled egg chin as she speaks, mesmerized by its perfect oval shape.

“The Wizard of Oz kinds of trees all bramble and sparsely leafed. Not because they moved or were threatening but because they looked like outstretched arms. I wanted arms to heaven.”

I laugh. “Sounds like you’re going to break into song or start a book Elizabeth Gilbert might write. You know transformation…arms to the heavens…that sort of thing.”

“No, I’m serious,” she counters. “I wanted to grow up to be a tree, a coffee tree. That’s what they were in my mind, for some strange reason. I have no idea what a coffee tree is, but that’s what they were. And for the longest time I could not shake that dream, had literal dreams of being a tree like some Greek goddess. Who was it, Diana? No, Daphne, escaping Apollo, only I wasn’t running from anyone into tree hood. It felt natural, like I would evolve organically into a tree, starting with my fingertips elongating into thin spikes with wispy leaves drooping from the tiniest reaches of the branches that my arms would become. I could almost feel it then…even now, a little. I can summon up that feeling.”

“How curious, specific and lovely,” I silently acknowledged. “I wish I had imagined that as a five year old. But I was too busy wondering if God could wipe out nightmares for me or if I could somehow fly without wings or nun’s habits like the flying nun did.”

 
Credit: fineartandyou.com

Weekly Coffee: deep trout

image
Credit:http://melodieperrault.bigcartel.com/

“I adore looking down at his face, his mouth and chin wet with my pussy,” she sighs.

An unmistakeable internal wince triggers the 20-second rapid-fire movie reel of analysis playing before my mind’s eye: 

“Why the discomfort at glimpsing a peek into her fucking? It’s not like I’m intruding. Certainly I have outgrown my culturally infused hang-ups about nudity and pleasure long characterized as pornographic guilt sources. And the word “pussy” ceased to make me bristle decades ago, ” I muse.

She and I confess daily details hidden from the public in the corners and crevices of our lives each week for years now. “From whence does this auto-shame come?” I hear a feigned British accent ask inside my head. 

I watch her circle her hollow straw round the inside of the half empty mocha blended drink she seemingly speaks into. Her fingers are long, delicate and deceptively thin for how strong they are. I have seen them finger guitar frets and forcefully rip out knotted laces of a five year old’s shoes with ease. And her lips belong to a much younger woman, half her age, the way they remain stained pink-naked like the color of her fingertips after strumming that guitar. 

The rolling analysis halts at the sound of her voice.

“But he still can’t make me cum.”

Shaking my head, “After all these years…?”

“I know, right? You would think he could figure it out. Of course I don’t give him much help finding his way. I give hints like it’s some sort of treasure hunt or game of you’re-getting-warmer…put your finger here, circle like this, now move here… but I lose interest when the whole lesson becomes teachy and disruptive to the flow. I prefer to masturbate for cumming and leave the loving to him.”

“Hmmm…” I intone. Funny how we parcel the sides of ourselves out like that, almost a division of labor delegation to those who specialize according to training and capability. Who is more trained at knowing a body than its long-exploring owner? And it’s far greater, multiply abundant, to love physically with another than alone. 

“How ’bout dem Ducks,” she mocks, and we’re off to more surface ground.
 

Our weekly or sometimes bi-monthly lunch date

  
“How was class today?”

“I finally convinced my students that writers are like magicians. They make something out of nothing. Turning a blank sheet of paper into an essay is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, changing the properties of one thing to transform it into another.”

“And they bought that?”

“They did.”

“Because you hold their future, namely their grades, in your hands, you think?

“Maybe. Whatever it takes.”

“Sounds like teaching is a lot like extortion.”

“There’s a lot of ‘or else’ in life, not just in teaching. Everything is a matter of dangling carrots or dodging sticks: Pay your bills on time or pay penalties, finance charges or lose your electricity. Pay your bills on time and build good credit, so you can have more credit. Sticks and carrots.”

“Speaking of which, I’ll get the check this time. You paid last time.”

“Carrot. You want me to show up next week to reciprocate–or retaliate, right?”

“Clever girl.”

Cryogenically Yours

 

 
“Wait, Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen, right?”

(We are in the car.) 

“No, I think that is just rumor, one that’s been around forever.”

“Really? Because I think he actually was frozen.”

“Look it up. You have a phone.”

“Oh look, ‘Disney on Ice’ it says, so it’s true, right? Wait, that’s a joke isn’t it? Oh shit, he was cremated.”

“Yep. Hard to freeze ashes.”

“When I go I’m going to be cremated and have someone throw my ashes in Harry Styles’ hair.”

“Um…you better put that in your will, so that your ash delivery person can justify throwing your dead-ass ashes in the man’s hair. And so he’ll feel bad enough to allow it since he will feel compelled to  honor someone’s dying wish. Bet that would go viral on Twitter.”

(high pitched laughing) “That’s a great idea! It would so work!!”

(SMH, eyes on the road ahead)

 

credit: http://www.flinthosts.co.uk

A Sense of Things–who we are

Rehashing things now at our same old table in the corner of this cafe for our monthly meet-up, same old insecurities, I asked why she always doubted herself.

“I may seem composed to an outsider, but I am not always competent. A client once described me as ‘not a genius but brilliant enough to get the the job done.’ I have always pegged myself in the above average intelligence, education and common sense category, but not overly. I have natural intelligence, a fair amount of luck, and a decent sized bit of emotional intelligence I inherited from my mother. The rest I supplement with stubbornness and tenacity–maybe a little intuition.”

I reminded her of her ‘wall of shameful boast,’ as she calls it: diplomas from Stanford and Berkeley, a Masters and a Doctorate. Not exactly slumming it in the competency department.

“But I am no natural when it comes to education. I’m not a quick-smart learner. I study and process long. Not sure how much is self-fulfilling prophecy or truth. I am simply a product of genes and messages from my cultural experiences, like anyone. My articulate, self-taught literary reader and critic mother and gambling good-with-numbers-and-rages father formed the most of me. I have my mother’s stubbornness and my father’s reckless anger that threatens everyone’s safety on the road.” 

I reminded her of the time we drove to Vegas, and I opened the door to the van going 90 plus miles an hour screaming to be let out, figuring my odds were about the same getting there in one piece at the same rate, one by ambulance and a hospital stay and the other by several days’ walk. We laugh, me with a twinge of intestinal grating.

“I have anger in me–sometimes deeply uncontrollable anger that threatens to drive me into the ground. Most days, I have balanced peace and calm, but speed bumps send me to the sky quickly. Perhaps I am fermenting into the real me, the older mellow me. Somehow the downslide feels a whole lot like the upswing–the breaking down as hard and incremental as the building up. It is a painful process, seemingly out of my control most days. The waves of resolve ebb and flow, taking a layer of the sand with each receding tide bringing more of the world into me than goes back out, sometimes with surrender, sometimes with struggle. And so it has been for a span.”

My thoughts silently nodded to her last dozen or so words floating in my brain’s air and swimming over my tongue. How do we separate the outside and inside worlds, delineating their boundaries, enough to know?

A Conversation

 
 
“When are you getting your Christmas bonus?”

“This week, like I told you.”

“Do you know which day this week?”

“Can you give me break?!! I’m sick and you’re pressuring me for money!”

“I asked a reasonable question. You need to get a grip. Just say you don’t know if you don’t.”

Dialogues go like this sometimes in long-term relationships. And it is hard to imagine that the speakers still love each other. “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” Strother Martin says in Cool Hand Luke.

Lurking behind this simple conversation lies fear, frustration and comfort. The backstory is the whole story because the front story makes little sense. One world colliding with another, each orbiting a separate sun. 

HE awoke sick at a time far too stressful to be sick, the holidays. And SHE asked a simple question at the wrong time, when HE was off to work feeling like shit. SHE asks, unsuspecting of the pending attack awaiting a target, for what gives him a great deal of stress and frustration: not enough money earned from working a demanding job HE detests when so sick. 

Her voice–after so many, many years–triggers both irritation and security, a safety net landing when all of the rest of it, everything else dissatisfies, falls down or short. SHE provides both acceptance and provocation. HE depends on her loving him warts and all. And so HE abuses with abandon with cutting words never sliced into another human being. And SHE abides, knowing that tests far greater than this one have passed, their history too deep. Until SHE turns tables on him.
 

http://www.en.wikipedia.org

Bar Deflection

  

  

A man walks in to the bar and sidles up to me, stool side snug,

gives a side glance quick-like, casual, and motions for the boy;

at least he looks like a boy, tatted up the arm muscle contours,

blues and greens twitching and bulging in the heaves of lugging.

But his face smiles baby-faced 21, hype curbed in sedative cool.

Fleshy-courteous grin, his lips precede his face to our bar seats.
 

“Scotch, straight up,” he orders as if awaiting a standing ovation.

I make for my screen, avoiding an audience for what’s on Twitter,

scrolling in feigned interest, the intensity frosting an act of denial.

A momentary pondering how my deft fingers in memory motion

flick images by the dozens past, rehearsed in the skin of bones, 

I lose sight of him who I spy in the heat of electromagnetic sense.
 

But he makes himself known with shoe scuffle and breathy groan,

the kind that signals satisfaction of the quaff, smack of the throat,

wedging himself in the blankness of space I apportioned off to me.

“What are you drinking?” the gargling chuff of each word spit out

in rhythmic steam of Scotch, cloying ambition, and blind incursion.

Lifting my head with a start, I flash from half-mast to widened lids.

 
“Liquid, something liquid,” I reply, speaking to the drop on his lips.

His chin is at 5 o’clock, at shadows, retiring, and sun-downed dark.

Slicked, stay-put hair, one rogue strand licking forehead to cheek,

peppered head to toe with an in-between-ness of age and youth,

he stares, hiding discomfort behind the glaze of liquid eye screen.

“My optometrist knew my diet by my crystal clear corneas,” I offer.
 

Then he smiles, his eyes disappearing inside of his face in pause.

Deliberately he turns away, glass in one hand, the other propped,

a podium for his head, as his eyes bore holes in the wet, oak bar.

I study his exposed cheek a minute, while he recomposes himself.

Will he strike again from his fox hole retreat, re-armed and ready? 

Then likewise turn my head downward, alit to a screen of options.     
 

 

photo credit:  beeroftomorrow.com