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Archive for the ‘short shorts’ Category

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She made me lie down in the sand next to her in the rain. We held hands.

“Just be still,” she said. And the rain came down. “Spread your fingers wide, like this.”

The rain hit my face and ran down my cheeks. It soaked our clothes and our skin and our hair and everything got sandy.

I spread my fingers wide.

“Can we get up yet?” I said.

“Wait,” she said. “I’ll tell you when.”

Minutes passed and we listened to the rain come down with our eyes closed and the thunder far in the background.

“Do you know what causes thunder?” I asked.

“The lightening,” she said.

“Yes, but what about lightning?”

“It never strikes twice… Okay, let’s do this.”

We sprang up, turned, and saw our silhouettes carved dry on the sand.

We were here. We were together.

The rain quickly filled in the blank spaces.

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Last Evenings of Summer

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It’s the open windows of summer that I’ve started to miss. I miss all the people in town sharing their indoor space with the world. On my walk home, I used to be able to hear a conversation every night outside an open kitchen window. It was a husband and wife, both just getting home. It was the same time every night, the three of us doing our societal clockwork. I’d hear only small fragments and always the same questions: the how-was-your-days or anything-happen-at-work-todays? The mundane exchanges coupled with the openness of the window always lead me into nostalgia, like they should have a pie cooling on the windowsill or something.

My neighbor plays his piano every night. He lives alone with his master piano and he isn’t very good. Still, as I sit in my home and he in his, I wouldn’t trade our evening concerts for anything.

Air-conditioning can sometimes feel like a godsend, but God, it’s so nice to feel like nothing’s changed.

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Oak Street

Amie flirts with the subway guy enough that he lets her ride for free. When her wink is just right, or when she’s not wearing anything over her bikini top, he lets both of us through the handicapped entrance. There’s a 25 yard ramp down to the train platform and I wonder if it’s to make it handicap accessible or just so we could race down it. Everything feels that way, made for us. This sky above, this city slowly making its way closer out the train window, this rocking action of the train that puts Amie to sleep on my shoulder, the damp darkness of the subway tunnels as we head underground, all of this is for us.

We liked Oak Street Beach because it was pedestrian only. No parking lot, only city dwellers. The night before, we listened to an album called Endless Summer and I listened and loved it and not because of the music. I thought if we sat and just played it on loop it would somehow make the dusk last longer and into the night, that we could be back porch sitters until the end of all things. She told me that night that she never waits to get her toes in the sand, that she loses flip flops that way, that she still gets upset when she sees any real shoes at the beach and we should go tomorrow.

Sure enough, when cement became sand after crossing under Lake Shore Drive, the flip flops flopped off and were left behind, me watching, as she ran flicking sand behind her, dropping bags and towels haphazardly as if she needed to get to the water before her next breath. Amie took pride in being a Great Lake Swimmer. She called it her tribe, a sense of belonging that the ocean-front dwellers would never understand. She’d say their water is too buoyant, that you don’t even have to try to stay afloat. She liked the metaphor of working to stay up, “like Carl Sandburg’s Chicago,” she’d say, “even our leisure time we muscle through.”

Her hair tangled, she made her way to the towels I laid out, collecting her discarded belongings on the way.

“The water’s cold,” she says.

“I read something about how it never really gets above 70,” I say.

“I like that I feel it everywhere. I like this I feel this everywhere.”

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She sat across the table thumbing at the handle of her cup of espresso, reading over the local news paper, a school graduation, a street rezoned. I stare over her shoulder at the men across the street sorting out tree branch from power line up in a crane. I want to tell her about how as a kid, there were two trees in my front lawn, and only one of them I could climb to get above it all. I want to tell her about how when I finally started wearing jeans instead of sweatpants to school, how sad I was when the men came to cut the lowest branch off so the cars could park , the first arm hold, and it wasn’t that I could no longer climb the tree that got me, it was that I was embarrassed for the tree, looking all awkward without its missing limbs, abandoned circles cut out. It looked like it could never fully yawn.

I want to tell her how as a kid, at the start of every soccer game, I had a ceremony where I would eat a blade of grass because I thought it got me more in touch with the field. Maybe about how I felt like more than winning every game, if I could get every kid on the team to score in the season, then the record didn’t matter to me. Or about how I took a punch to the kidney that bruised and hurt for a week because I didn’t want to watch Josh Martin shove Christopher Henry into the bushes anymore just because he was slower than everyone else.

I want to tell her about the year the cicadas came out and left their shells everywhere and Jeff Harris across the street used to cook them on the grill and talk about how much protein each one had. There were so many shells that the sidewalks were covered and the lawns and the trunks of trees got piles around them and I used to try to avoid stepping on them on the way to school because it seemed disrespectful. All the other boys would stomp on them for the crunch they made.

I want to tell her about how every time I heard a fight in the kitchen over homework or boyfriends or work schedules or just because people fight, I would hide in my room and put my arms around the dog petting her telling her it’ll be ok. They’re just upset. It’ll be ok. And Molly would look up at me telling me the same things and then I couldn’t hear the shouting as loud.

I want her to know about how Eve Winnepe would take off her shoes in math class and how much it bothered me because I didn’t think the teacher would like it, and then I started to realize just how long her feet were and how they didn’t have any veins like mine and I would watch the way she moved her toes and it didn’t bother me anymore. And then how bad I felt when I did bad on those math tests.

I want her to know about the time that I first realized that sadness was temporary and that we often need to remind each other of that.

I ask if she sees anything interesting in the paper. She says the town council is debating whether or not a Lane Bryant should be put in on River Street. She says people are worried that it would detract from the artist district around River Street and how they don’t want anything so corporate.

I want her to see my sister crying at the kitchen table and how she never made any sense and I never knew what to say so I’d just sit with her and let her cry. She’d talk sometimes and then would keep talking and talking and I’d just watch and let Molly tell her it’d all be ok. But I’d sit and even after she left to go upstairs and close her door, I’d still sit and I’d see that she wouldn’t brush her teeth but I wouldn’t tell anyone.

I wish I didn’t remember when Eric Lansing took Beth Kobie home after fixing her his special drink and how much I liked Beth Kobie. She wore a prairie dress in the school play and I thought she looked like the most beautiful woman who ever walked.  I left flowers on her locker and wanted her to go see The Truman Show with me one weekend but she said she couldn’t and I saw Eric take her in his car and the next morning how Beth didn’t wake up. Or about the bleach, or the roulette, or how hard grace is to find.

Maybe I’d tell her about the time my sister picked me up from an Indiana jail cell at three a.m. because I gave the cops her number as my legal guardian. She went with it and drove me home. We picked up donuts on the way back and I bought her a cup of coffee with the change in our parents’ car to say thank you. She never mentioned it again.

I want her to know about test after test after test and how it all opens to light. I want to tell her about how I’d walk barefoot in the park by my apartment complex in New York every autumn just to feel the crunch of leaves under my toes. Or about how big the sky gets anytime you head south and how vast horizons over oceans are. I wish I could just show her a morning without an alarm clock or how good it is to lock the door and rumple the sheets.

But I end up saying something like Yeah, but I bet all the revenue something corporate would bring in would be good for taxes. She empties her cup and asks me if I’m ready. I start to get up but then say In a second. I have to tell you about the two trees in my front yard.

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Rita starts smoking on the Trasher tour. Elie gives her a pack of Marlboro Lights and she thinks he’d be impressed if she empties it that first night. After coughing and laughing and smiling just because eye contact is made, Elie still seems disinterested.

The first therapist Rita sees is in college, the free one at health services. During the first appointment, Dr. Picard asks Rita if it’s alright if she has a cigarette while they talk. When Rita asks if she has any relation to the Captain, the doctor lights up a second.

Elie gets upset with Rita for what he calls trying to please too hard and he’ll say it over and again. Baby, why are you trying to please too hard again? She’ll apologize and go out for a cigarette.

One night, when Elie gets home late from a gig, Rita is there with dinner ready. She stayed home that night after too much office gossip and celebrity stories from coworkers and two cigarettes into the evening at home, regretted not being there to support. Elie comes home to fish and two vegetables, which is his go to when he’s trying to get his life back in order. Elie gets upset, uses the bathroom, staring at himself too long in the mirror and yells at Rita saying again, this is her working to please too hard. Then he leaves. Rita wonders if she’d be asking too much if she could just try too hard to please. Just once, switch the damn word order, say it right. She decides that yes, she’d be asking too much.

Elie sent Rita to Dr. Picard because he decided she needed help. Her anxiety gets unbearable when Elie starts asking her who she is attracted to and getting mad no matter the answer. If she said no one, Elie would say that she shouldn’t just say what she thought he wanted to hear, that she was trying to please too hard and she should just tell him. If she said Luis, or even Johnny Depp, Elie would get distant and cold and bring it up any chance he wanted to make a situation awkward.

Rita gets told by strangers she has to speak up. Every time at a restaurants, she has to say her order three times, too quiet for the waitresses to hear.

Rita tells Dr. Picard about Elie and Dr. Picard says she wants to meet him. Elie agrees and during the appointment, they all have cigarettes together. Elie tells Rita she should hold her cigarette the right way. Dr. Picard makes a comment about how Elie makes Rita second guess herself, that his aggressiveness makes her nervous. After the appointment, Elie says to stop seeing Dr. Picard because “she’s just not working out.” Rita complies.

Elie’s mother is leaving the agency to start a private practice. Elie decides that he and Rita should go see his mother together for couple’s counseling. Rita complies. When they get to the office, Elie lets them in with his key and helps himself to a Diet Pepsi in the office fridge. During the session, Rita sits there and listens as Elie and his mother talk about her issues communicating and how she needs to learn to express herself. Rita can’t bring herself to tell his mother about how her son told her to stop seeing her friends or how he sometimes doesn’t come home after a show and the next morning smells like someone else. She just sits there.

That night, Elie asks Rita to rub his back. He’s sitting at the kitchen table they got from Rita’s parent’s garage and he complains about the wobbly leg as he thumbs at an empty box of Marlboros. She continues to massage his shoulders. He asks her if she liked the session. She says yes, that it was helpful. They’re right. She should work on finding her voice. He taps her hands and says, “Good. You did well today.” He goes upstairs and gets undressed.

She stays and sits on the uneven kitchen table, rocking it back and forth wondering how long the ride will last before it all comes crashing beneath her.

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Two Limes In.

Richard is trying to figure out the profound meaning of having the ocean closer to his bed than the bathroom. He’s taking it deep talking about “the soul of man’s desire” and I think that phrase only came out because he’s gone through two limes now on Coronas alone.

“We want conveniences,” he tells me, slapping a mosquito, “just a carefully packaged substitute for what’s real. Modern amenities are such bullshit.” With that, I make it a point to accept any argument that ends with fill-in-the-blank is such bullshit. Well argued, Richard.

He goes on talking “back to nature” and “back to ourselves.” I feel my bare feet on the wind-battered wood looking down to see the sand still wedged between my toes. My skin feels like raw hide and I don’t remember the last time I saw a mirror. Richard sees me looking off and says, “I mean, you get it man, right?” Slap.

I give him a “yeah yeah” or maybe a “the simple life” and I think I threw in a half-mumbled “but Richard, amenities don’t kill people, people kill people.”

We’re sitting at Mateo’s bar and Mateo is flicking wine glasses dry next to the tiki torches. He’s wearing plastic shoes and still has his sunglasses resting atop his head despite the fact it’s nearing one in the morning.

I start ripping the label off my Tecate and Richard sees I’m more in the stars above the roofless bar and less with him. “Hey Mateo,” Richard says. “Whaddya think? Are we digging our souls an early grave?”

“Interesting,” Mateo says, “that given the choice between finding truth and talking about finding truth, most of us prefer the conversation.”

I balled up the Tecate label and wished the long walk home was just a little bit longer.

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Mix it up.

Joel moved out to California expecting something and after a year moved back to the east coast. “I liked it fine,” he told me, “but I mean c’mon, not even one tremor… Is it too much to ask? I want the earth to move.”

I commented on it, and he said that he seriously didn’t mean the metaphor.

To each his own I suppose.

 

 

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