Lunch again. 1:30 pm martinis. For her. My work day doesn’t end until the last word typed before my eyes close. A bit dramatic, yet still, lavender double shot espresso blended iced latte for me. Yeah, I’m needing something lavender. From decay grows the lotus.
“My fantasies were filled with faceless men. No, actually the same man, I think. He never had a face, like any man of your fantasy fill-in. He was the kind of addictive cruel, one part sadist, one part devourer–obsessive and possessive. You know?”
“Any way, I always used him to start me off…like my go-to Playboy centerfold. A pre-pubescent boy’s wrinkled up centerfold he hides under his mattress to jerk off to when the folks are gone. I embarrassed myself with such a cliche fantasy: the cruel lover who made me do things. You know?”
I didn’t want to know. Not on an iced latte. I’d have to switch to martinis. I nodded.
“A writer should be able to masturbate to something less classic, more creative than a faceless fantasy fascist.”
“In your defense, you write feature stories not erotica.”
“Yeah, well…Johnny Depp, even as jackass pirate shows a little more imagination–and taste…
But then after a few years with Vincent, it hit me. The faceless fascist disappeared. And you know what an obsessive-possessive nut job he turned out to be.”
“So, you’re saying you manifested Vincent? What’s the moral of the story here? Was he really that demanding? Or commanding? Or I should say, commandant. Did he totally control your mind and body, violently, if necessary? Maybe just a little bdsm?”
“Yes, all of it. He wasn’t violent. I wouldn’t have stayed. He just…just…I don’t know…owned me. Subtlety. In inches. He crept up on me, and before I knew it, I was not going out with friends, and cutting down my hours at my job, and worrying if someone stopped by to visit and stayed too long, when Vincent would come home and wince at the sight of anyone ‘intruding.’ Well, you know. You called it my ‘leave of absence from myself.’ And it was. But he’s gone, and so are the faceless fascist fantasies. Now I slap a face on my imaginary friends. Like that checker at the food mart. He’s adorable.”
I reflected a second in between chuckles. Some fantasies are fantasies so long as there’s little possibility that they become real. In fact, the more far-fetched, the sexier, more enticing. But when fantasy becomes reality, the thrill is gone. At least I doubt women (or men) slapped faces of Stalin, Mussolini, or Hitler on their fantasy men. But I can’t be sure.
She wrapped me in her quilted smile
then torched the salty fabric of us,
tear stained and aching.
She knees cruel in the balls.
And I love her that way just the same.
She hangs me up to dry,
then cuts me down for air.
The breathing windows of us,
pulsating walls setting chairs rocking,
us inside, lulled in four-arm sleep.
In my thirties, whenever I’d go to a party or otherwise meet new people, inevitably the subject of what I did for a living came up. So often when I revealed I was a lawyer, I’d end up hearing someone’s legal problems. Of course, I’d make the salutary joke: “Okay, I’ll listen (tapping at my imaginary wrist watch), but I’ll have to charge you.” Ha ha (sigh).
The dreaded question, “What do you do for a living?” became a drag, so I started answering, “I’m a bartender.” It came to me on the spot once, and then it stuck. Everyone who asked me what I did, I answered, “bartender.” Then the conversation moved on to something else. Rarely did anyone want to hear more, and I was fine with that.
I once had aspirations to be a bartender. I was 19 and working at a Mexican restaurant as a hostess, training to be a waitress. I was promised a shot at bar tending when I became of age and had enough experience waiting. Until I got “laid off.” My manager, a middle aged man (could have been 30 from my young perspective of what middle age was back then), and I butt heads on this one point. He hinted at first, but after I didn’t bite, then insisted that I wear make up; he thought I needed a less hippy, more sexy look as greeter and server, especially when I worked the bar.
Ten or more years later, one early morning when I found myself watching the sun rise outside the window of my 12th floor law office after pulling an all-nighter to meet deadline, I closed my gravelly eyes before heading home to change clothes. Heaven forbid I should be seen with the same suit from the day before. In the soothing warmth of closed lids bordering on seconds of sleep, I flashed on a flicker of fantasy: I’m giving up this hellish grind and going to bar tending school.
That thought–that I could always be what I pretended to be–gave me solace. Still does. When I grow up, I still want to be a fifty-something year old bartender. Is it too late?
I don’t know why I bite. I practice keeping my distance, detaching from all the crap around me, only to self-sabotage in weaker moments. Quixotic behavior, fighting windmills, I collapse, fall into the delusion that cyberspace is real, people on Facebook are real. They are not. They are as solitary as I am, poking at keys to create effect. There are no people in cyberspace, just ones and zeros. I know this, and yet…
Going out to dinner with my housemates, dad and partner, that is real. Though the restaurant was too noisy to facilitate conversation, we know what we want to say–and the food is always good there at our corner joint called, “The Corner.” Upon seating, the waiter, who knows us by name, delivered a cellophane wrapped wine glass we left there a month before. They knew it was ours, and the bartender brought it to our table upon seeing us. Even though we have never sat at the bar, the guy recognized us for our frequent patronage.
That’s real life–in the flesh.
To feel the pulse of America and predict the outcome of this upcoming election, I need to get out of cyberspace, off my computer, and walk among real breathing human beings, who can look me in the eye and tell me who they are and what they want. Only posers–personas–hide on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and all the other social media sites created for production, the creation of false spaces, rooms, and people who perform pieces of their lives, oh so convincingly.
Image: around the corner
“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.”
I’m sure this is true.
She told me so herself.
She said, “I get the best of you. The rest your wife gets.”
I cannot deny it.
That I love our secret love,
safe like the internet.
Everyone hides in the safety of their slippers and screen
to enact who they believe they are
and do their best selves because no one really checks,
no one wants to call bullshit,
end the game so
just go with the make believe.
For us too when we are together,
we two for a few,
a cherished time between us to live high just a while.
I mean, who does not want to be loved like crazy?
To meet up in the imagination’s room and lie for a while.
I am not hers,
and she is not mine,
but I can be sure she keeps me
close in her dreams,
so that upon awakening in warmth and quiet
soft pillows under her head
and silken comfort between her thighs
she feels me beneath the sheets as good as there
from so much practiced production
the fantasy we inhabit
every time we meet.
Oh yes, but she is mine.
“You need to get a long ways away from people before you can learn to listen properly.” Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear.
“People want to weep. Pathos in the form of a narrative does not wear out.” Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others.
“Metaphor is a property of language that gives boundaries to worlds and helps scientists using real languages to push against these bounds.” Donna Jeanne Haraway, Crystal, Fabrics, and Field: Metaphors that Shape Embryos.
“Monet, a simple man with a child’s outlook on life, and no formal academic training, had seized upon a great truth about time before anyone else: An object must have duration besides three extensions in space. Monet did not write down any theories or express one as an equation; rather he illuminated this truth in the limpid colors of his silent images.” Leonard Shlain, Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light.
Be my bittersweet,
my never have,
never and always want to have fantasy.
Be the ever longing up my sleeve
to pull out on a rainy day
when love is dried up, wasted and wanting.
Be my can’t be,
my dying to keep and ready to lose everything.
Think of me with you,
carry me deep,
breathe my outside in
and draw me near as I do you
however far you are from me.
Dream me by your side upon awakening
and let me lull you to sleep
with my weighty invisibility.
Let my curdling heat linger on your skin,
arouse your thickening drowse
til you darken the conscious keep,
lights out of your mind.
Be my owner,
the idea of us,
on the leash of imagination
impossible to lock and cage
for wishes bait but won’t be bound.
Be my whisper’s discrete,
my here and only now,
for no past is ours but pretend,
no future to go there ever be.
My one true zen love,
be my soft kiss of the hand
that airily slips through mine
like a memory’s warm breath
upon the shadow of my nape.
Be my long lost lover never found
and not a care for caring til it’s gone.
Be the stinging sleight
and the honeyed finger slid in sheets.
Be mine of the moment gone for good.
Be my sweet bitter sweet.
Some texts are memorable by a single, sublime sentence: “Call me Ishmael.” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” “Gregor Samsa awoke one day to find himself an enormous vermin.”
Rothfuss’ Auri story reads like a long prose poem, so lovely for the logophile in its wonderland of creative and created words (I looked them up) and specificity in naming things.
On to Book 2 of The Kingskiller Chronicle, a place I have enjoyed inhabiting almost as much as living in Middle Earth 40 years ago. Feels as good to wend my way through the words of this world as it was to learn to speak Elvish.
However, Rothfuss’ little side venture tale of one of the mysterious waif characters in the main plot appeals more to the poet in me than the entire lengthy two-volume story appeals to the fantasy-adventurer. And this from a Game of Thrones fan.
A short but delicately sensual read, I recommend the novella–an echo of an ache itself–to all the beautiful broken people the author addresses through it.
I nod in agreement.
“I require so much space. Who is it that needs so much that is not there? Possibility is my lover, potential my partner. Otherwise, people bore as much as they excite. Those poles–like hot and cold, boredom and excitement–exist elsewhere too, you know, some other place and circumstance like thunder storms and endless sunny days, or the laughter and terror of loving daughters.”
I nod again and consider how I love my own.