Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Charles is sitting in a cafe window. I can see him through the reflections of clouds cast from above. He’s wearing a herring bone knit sweater over a cream colored button down shirt. He has grey flannel pants on and brown wingtip shoes. His light brown hair is long in front and short on the sides. It’s brushed over to one side in a rakish fashion. The red in his cheeks makes it look like he’s blushing but really that’s just his complexion. He’s smiling self consciously as he listens to his companion, a hand on his mug and his long legs crossed lazily. He looks both rapt and relaxed at once. Charles must be a good three inches taller than my six feet and he’s as skinny as a rake. I know this because I see him daily in the health food store where he works. He’s pretty much the friendliest person in the place, always calls me sir and has a smile. He makes me feel old. He must be no more than nineteen or twenty.
In the cafe he’s sitting across from Sebastienne, a girl he knows from school. Sebastienne is explaining something in depth to Charles, the look on her face suggests that she doesn’t believe he understands and also that she doesn’t know how to make herself understood. She has dark curly hair, a red wool coat and jeans on. She’s stunningly good looking and numerous patrons are staring at her sidelong, spilling the cream as they fix their coffee and tripping on the doormat, sodden from feet covered in brown snow. Sebastienne’s knapsack is hanging over the back of her chair, books threatening to spill out onto the wet floor. In her hands, on her lap she holds a tawny colored, nappy teddy bear. You can tell that the bear is old, an heirloom of some sort and it’s also obvious that Sebastienne always has her bear with her.
The cafe they’re sitting in is remarkable in it’s success. Remarkable because it is so unremarkable. It has large, lightly tinted windows encased in black anodized aluminum. They face onto a street which carries a great deal of traffic which slowly drools by. Next door is a laundromat and next to that a gas station. The cafe interior is without charm. It has cheap round tables and cheap uncomfortable chairs. The walls are unadorned but for a couple of travel bureau posters advertising Lebanon and Syria. The whole affair was thrown together in the eighties and hasn’t changed since. It’s greatest charm is it’s smell. It is odiferous of coffee. Strong coffee. In the back, the real reason for the cafe, they roast coffee beans. One merely has to enter the premises to get a caffeine fix, the scent is so strong. And so the place has developed a loyal clientele. I’ve gone in to get a coffee to go but I’ve never sat down and I’ve never understood why anyone would, unless you were a cousin of the owner. But that’s me.
“Luther, my cat, threw up all over my bath rug last night. I walked into the bathroom this morning and there was a big slimy hairball in front of the tub. I almost stepped in it. Aghh. It was so gross.”
“Do you think he’s sick, Baz? Maybe you should take him to the vet. How old is he?”
“No. He just has a bad diet. He licks himself all the time and he has such long hair...I tried feeding him hairball control food, but it made no difference. He gets sick at least, like, once a week.”
“He seems to know where not to get sick, though. Even though I’ll have like all my clothes all over the floor, after coming back from the laundry, he never pukes on them. I always think that he will but he always does it in the bathroom.”
Charles was noticing how every line she spoke sounded like a question. He was always noticing things about how people spoke. Accents, ticks, stutters.
“I think I might like to become a speech pathologist.”
“Really? And work with kids who have behavioral disorders and stuff like that. Wow. That would be so altruistic. I could never do that. My sister was dyslexic and she was such a pain. Cost my parents a mint to try and fix her. She was always yelling and breaking things. A real drama queen. And of course she was the favorite. Because she was fucked up. Squeaky wheel.”
“Well I was thinking I’d work with kids who had unusual speech impediments and, like, I don’t know, accents or something.”
They both started laughing, realizing how ridiculous Charles’ idea was.
“Oh yeah. Like a kid moves from England and your going to analyze his speech patterns and determine that, like, he come from England. I think you better stick with psych.”
“God I hate psych. Its all so boring. I wanted to learn about serial killers and stuff. I’m so sick of hearing about self-actualization. And Mr Berringer is such a creep. He’s always staring at the girls in class and asking them questions and making fun of the guys. Except for the jocks. He leaves them alone. What a creep. And that cheesy moustache he has to cover the scar on his lip. Do you think he had a cleft palate?”
“You should take an art history class. I really like it. You sit in class and and its dark and you look at pictures. It’s at Nine, so if you were out late you can just sleep through it.”
“Art. Who cares. I can’t believe they give classes in that. Lets analyze why this artist paints people with blue faces...because he’s color blind and has no talent. It’s all bullsh...”
Charles stopped talking when he noticed that Baz, who had her hand held against her temple as though leaning on it was extending a finger in and out, pointing at something, or someone, behind him. Charles turned to see Anthony standing right behind him, a wry smile on his face.
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to hear you, like, completely trash my way of life. I guess you didn’t learn anything when we were together. God, sometimes you’re so immature.”
“Oh, shut up. We were never together, Don’t flatter yourself. And I don’t think that by being in a first year art program you can call it a way of life. You’re a student.”
“Oh Charles. Like I always told you, the difference between knowing what you want and sitting around thinking about it is the thing that counts. I am what I do, Chas. I work. And you are what you do, dahling. You talk. See you two later. Love your teddy bear, Baz. I see you still haven’t washed him.”
“Yeah, whatever. Is he still standing behind me? ‘Cause I think I feel a hairball coming on.”
“No, he’s gone. Don’t you mind him, Ally. You don’t smell. You’re perfect.” Sebastienne was talking to her bear, which for the first time she had brought above her lap and now held in front of her on the table.
As I walked past the cafe and saw the bear through the window, one button eye barely hanging on to it’s woolen head, I thought how sad that bear looked. And I remembered a line from deep in the past; All is to no purpose, all the ways of men are to no purpose.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
The story of a man and his love for the lizard who is his downfall due to social inhibitions. (The lizards friends gossiped.)
They meet in the library, in the reptile section where the lizard walks out of a picture in the book the man has opened, thus releasing it from it’s two dimensional imprisonment. The lizard smiles at the man and passes carelessly by. Later, they see each other in the lizard lounge; their eyes meet and are interlocked in a transfixed gaze between brown almond and lizard slit. They sit together, talk. He buys it a drink and they make a date.
That night they go together to an unidentified sushi restaurant where they eat uncooked fish and avacado and drink saki. The man’s eyes are now slits like the lizard’s due to overindulgence. They go back to his place for a nightcap.
His apartment is the exotic home of a habitual horticulturist. Rare plastics of faux tiger and leopard skins hang on the walls. The furniture is sweetmeat arborite and the floor is finest astroturf in black. The music of Martin Denny flows soothingly in the background, whisking them along on a semi dream of jungle delights. The man pours the lizard a swamp soother, made of over-proof vodka and creme de menthe, the lizard’s favorite potion. As the alcohol works on their cool liquid minds they become freer and drink a toast to all that slithers. They talk of their pasts, their dreams and themselves. His favorite color is green while the lizards is blue. They respect their differences.
“I’ve never felt comfortable with a man as I do with you.” The lizard rasps in a hot but gentle whisper.
“I feel the same way.” He confides.
As the sharp point of a lizard tail begins to massage his now sweating calf, the man reaches a clammy hand down to caress the scaly, translucent white belly. His hand falls further to find it’s sticky warm lizardhood. A six inch tongue playfully tickles his inner ear. He reaches over and shuts out the amazon light.
Within two weeks of the consummation of the affair tensions set upon the relationship and they weigh heavily on the lizards tail, which rests now upon the plastic padded, button-back footstool, jerking awkwardly in apprehension. It is thinking now of the man’s peculiar tendency toward meglomania and his desire to rule all things. It thinks this may be obsessive. The lizard picks at a toe claw. It’s friends have created a great fiction concerning it’s relationship with the man. The man is not well looked upon by the lizard’s friends, who feel he is disreputable and unfavorably mammalian. At lunch they told the lizard that he is opportunistic, selfish and carries disease. The lizard breaks the toe claw and lets out a low hiss in pain.
In every leaf of every tree is encased the souls of all lizards, as yet to come and those already gone. The lizard stares longingly at a ficus which it had always fancied might be it’s mother, looking for an answer in this swirl of confusion. The lizard had never known it’s mother, who had left it as only an egg to fend for itself. But it had forgiven this transgression and yearned now for maternal advice.
The lizard feels strongly for the man who is mostly kind and unusually good under the vinyl. Yet it knows that it’s real home is amongst the reptile world. It’s confusion mounts. Two ants pull in opposite directions on a piece of food that’s fallen into the ficus planter, vying for control of this morsel of sustenance. An unusual breeze blows through the room, dislodging a dead leaf which falls through the hot stale air and lands at the lizards claw. With a barely perceptible tick lands a small sad lizard tear upon the dry leaf, turned yellow with age and a hard life in a cruel world. The lizard knows now what it must do.
After the lizard had informed the man of it’s decision the man became very depressed. He didn’t understand what it had been saying about the family and being where it belongs. To the human such concepts strike as being archaic.. The last kiss they had shared had seemed the cruelest to him for being the most tender. It was to him a statement of the extremity of all life and how horrible that was.
He thus took to extreme drinking. This was accompanied by some empty shapeless affairs he embarked upon with other unhappy bipeds, each of which seemed to further his decline. He discarded the objects of his passion for horticulture and became a neophyte necrophysiologist, devoting his time to looking at bones, decorating his apartment with skulls and conducting interviews with people who had died and come back to life. All of these things filled him with revulsion, but wanting to remain true to the only emotion with which he felt compassion, he explored them feverishly. He alternately hated the lizard for its loathsome betrayal of him and then he would break down and cry of his loss, selfishly spilling his sperm on the vinyl leopard skin sheets, the last remnants of his happier life.
It was in one of these fits of extreme hate and regret, countered by the immense happiness of nostalgic revelry, that the man in turn made his decision.. Fumbling frantically through his new collection of objects of perversity, he withdrew his latest and most odious acquisition, a telescopic stun gun with amplified output. He intended to kill the lizard and then turn the weapon on himself in a psycopathic orgy of electrified blood. As he walked the long blocks of barren parking lots to the home of the lizard he slipped on a puddle of mucus slime spilled in a trivial parking accident. He fell upon his weapon, which turned on him, ending his life in a brilliant fluorescing glow.