Sunday, February 21, 2010

All My Roads Pt 7

"From Orlando, take I4 east." Take it until you can't go any further, until you've gone off the interstate, off the road, off the sand and right into the ocean.

Take the ocean until you hit land again. That may be Greenland or Africa or the UK or somewhere else. It really doesn't matter where you end up exactly, as long as you keep moving, heading east into the land of the rising sun, that golden orb which blinds you if you gaze at it too intently.

Not all things that glitter are gold. Some are dross, base metal, some are pyrite, fool's gold, and some are, well, some just are. Glitter, that is. Some things that glitter are just glitter, little flecks of metal you can stick on valentine's or birthday card with Elmer's glue, or sprinkle in your hair to catch the strobe of a disco ball. I learned that long ago, glitter isn't necessarily gold, during my infatuation, my transition time with hamelech malchai hamlocheim, the king of king of kings, the man who would be king, king in his own mind and universe, anyway, that was for certain, and for a blaze, as long as it takes a match to strike and burn, king of mine, ruling my emotions with a toreador's flourish, ole!

If you go long enough, past the ocean, past the first landfall, still moving east, always east, past the oared ships of the Aegean, remnants of a mighty kingdom now sunk beneath the sands and waters of time and tide which wait for no man or woman either, covering memories with salt dust while the holder of those memories wonders if it's safe to blink, you find a greater landmass.

Keep on east, snows and desert, hop a ride on a camel or an elephant, take a train or three, Orient Express, Tibet Express, bullet train, heading east right across the Bering Strait. Look for that overland passage Prester John spoke of, that Sir John sought, the one that crushed the Erebus and filled all with Terror. Or maybe, instead, risk everything with the absurd passion of the besotted and shoot south right off the tip of Africa and set yourself up for a repeat of Shackleton, the ever rising sun now a shadow gazing over your left shoulder, shading everything you do, casting darkness alternating with blue glare so sharp you can't even see your own hands as they work. Maybe you'll be crushed as I was crushed, as my endurance was repeatedly crushed by the ever shifting pack ice I couldn't and can't escape, that I carry with me as my boon companion, still.

Anyway, look for that overland passage, the opening in the sea ice, quick, quick, and maybe you'll escape before it grinds you down and turns you so far around there is no north or south or west anymore, just east, east, east. Keep moving even though north is south now and you're so far from the equator you have to zigzag back to your point or place of beginning, if that matters.

"Take I4 east."

Or you could just take it east until you find a turn off that takes you home.

You can find a home.

You can make a home.

Your home can be anywhere or anything or anyone.

Because some things that glitter are gold, 24K, warm to the touch, reflecting your own affection back to you, and soft enough to reveal your own fingerprints when you press your hand down on it, your personal tattoo, brand, mark, malleable enough to spin into a cloak you can pull around and use to keep out the chill of setting suns.

Some roads lead you home.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

All My Roads Pt 4

"What did you want to see me for? You told me it's over. You said it, not me."

"You lied to me. You lied over and over. I just told you what I saw, what we both knew. When the words and actions disagree..."

The words and actions. The way he'd changed, all business-like about things that weren't business at all. From long hours of playful to "Are you finished yet? Haven't you had enough? I have to walk the dogs." As she tried to close the gaps, he hammered wedges into the fissures. She wanted a man; he was a hollow statue on a pedestal. He knew she'd discover the truth, sooner or later, see through the glamour, be unable to ignore the spotted elephant in the corner. Accepting his flaws was unacceptable to him. He had to be better.

"There's too much distance between us. Oh, that's an interesting metaphor, there's too much distance between us. Certainly, there is now even if there wasn't before." Neither of them had moved, but the miles had doubled, tripled. The not unreasonable commute had become a burden, heavy, torturous when it meant clocking miles on his vehicle. Hers was expendable. Anything of hers was expendable, unimportant.

When she drove past the interchange where once upon a time she'd been airborne, that interchange of vomit she'd never been able to find a short or long cut around, that interchange where she'd realized what a turd he was, a selfish, immature turd, she found it hard to breath. And yet.

Here she was again, questioning, talking, pleading, why don't you love me anymore, what did I do, what makes her better than me?

"I think... I dunno. I love so many things about you. I love fucking you, the sex is like, amazing-"

I'll never say that to anyone, she thinks. I'll never tell someone I love things about him because I can't say I love him. I won't say anything. I won't spin.

"-and I love the things you do for me, the way you treat me, think about me, try to make my life easier, advise me on things-"

But you don't love me, the real me. You can't love me. I see through you, right to your core. I won't lie and say you're wonderful or perfect. I see your flaws and love you anyway, but that's exactly what's wrong.

"-but when I found out you'd lied me, when you broke up with me... I dunno, it changed how I see you, how I feel."

"Oh, please. You are so full of it. My lies were nothing compared to yours. And you knew, don't tell me you didn't know. You're not stupid. My lies disappeared and yours blossomed. It's like we had a constant, set total of lies. So when mine shrank, you had to fill the empty space with bigger, better lies. And I bought into it. I swallowed them and asked for more. I'm a fool.

"You love fucking me. You love the way I treat you, care for you, help you, but it all comes down to one thing: you don't love me. Everything about me is replaceable. Everything.

"You know, you call me all hours of the day and night, ask me this, that. Confess to me, repent to me. You depend on me, you know I'll help you in any way I can, do anything in my powers to help you. And you? I can't depend on you for shit. You can't be bothered going ten minutes out of your way when for all you know I could be dying, forget about really inconveniencing yourself and helping me when I need something. How can I trust you for anything?

"And me?

"I'm a fool. You're an ass, but I'm a fool."

"Hey, c'mon. I think you're being a little harsh." He folded his arms, then tossed his head to get the hair out of his eyes. It reminded her of runway models, sullen-faced, skulking so their feathers wouldn't shift. He was vain enough, so vain he'd plagiarized her work, used her letters to get into other women's pants and been insulted when she'd broken up with him.

"I'm not nearly harsh enough. I know you. I know everything about you, how you think, how you work, how low you'll go to get what you want. Your ends justify any means. That hurt? Yeah, ends justifies the means, and albeicht macht frie. Fuckhead. You can't stand it that I see through your games, that I see what a clayfoot you are. I hold up a mirror and you see the cracks. You despise yourself for being scum and you despise me for loving you anyway.

"You can't stand it."

"You love me anyway? Even now?"

"So? I can love you and not like you. I can love you and hate what you do. I can do all sorts of things. But you know what I can't do any longer?"

"I'm afraid to ask." He smiles, a small smile, refills his coffee cup. "You want?"

"We've known each other how long and you still can't remember that I drink tea?" The first time she'd come to his apartment, he hadn't thought to buy tea. Not the second or third time, either. But she'd noticed the waxed box of chai tea in his cabinet, the same kind the hostess at his favorite restaurant drank, next to the box of tea she'd finally broken down and brought over. She wondered if he'd bought the chai or if Sushi had.

"Just asking. I can boil water for tea."

"Don't trouble yourself. I wouldn't want to impose."

"You never let me do things for you."

"That's right. Because what I want you to do for me, you won't do. I want you to be you. And that's not good enough. I don't want a god, I want a person, a flawed, striving to be better person."

"Oh god, sweetie, you know me like this, like no one knows me, better than I know me-"

"Damned straight I know you better than you know you. And just think how I'd know you if you weren't such a compulsive liar. Of course, your lies tell me even more than your truths, such as they are. When they are."

"Don't cry." She didn't feel the tears. "I'm going to miss you, I already miss you."

"No, you're not. I'm already history, out of the agenda. If not this one, then the next. Or the one after that. Or however many it takes."

"I want a relationship and I can't get past what you did. I want simple and honest."

"Simple and honest?" She snorted. "You wouldn't know simple and honest if it bit you on the nose. I have to go. I don't know why I'm here, anyway."

"What are you going to do?"

"Do? What do you mean, what am I going to do? Go home, what else am I going to do?"

"It's late."

"And your point is? I can tell time."

"I'd let you sleep here, but..."

"What, you can't trust me to sleep in the guest bedroom? You think I'd crawl into your bed? I have some pride, not much, but some."

"I don't trust me."

"Oh, please. That is so typical of you. You can't put yourself out one iota for me, can you? Three a.m. and you won't let me crash in your guest room. You could sleep at your office or in your car or anything. I'm leaving."

"You're too tired to drive."

"Tell me something I don't know. Tell me an alternative."

"You could stay at a motel."

"You going to pick up the tab? You make ten times as much as I do. You ask women all the time to go on trips with you, all expenses paid, but the one trip we went on, we split. Where's my trip to Vegas or the Bahamas?

"You know what? I bet if you put me up in a motel you would write it off as a consulting fee. You've done it every time we've gone to dinner. You know what else you are? Besides a jerk? You're cheap. Cheap with your wallet and cheap with yourself. It's all about your bottom line."

"Do you feel better? You called me a few names, you feel better now?"

"I'll feel better when I stop acting like a fool over you, stop caring about what happens to you. I'll feel better when I stop loving you. But I won't." She bit her thumbnail off, chewed it. "Nope. I won't. Stop loving you, that is."

"But it's over. You've said it, I've said it. I'm seeing someone else. You'll get over me. I'm a compulsive liar and scum and a fuckhead and an asshole and whatever else you called me."

"Well, it's a reflection on me, not on you." It was really over. He wasn't going to ask her to stay, hold her, kiss her, let her cling to the illusion that he maybe somewhere deep inside loved her after all. The first time he was honest with her was to tell her it was over. "I have to go now."

"Are you going to be okay? I'm worried about you."

"Huh. If you meant that, you'd give me an option. You don't. You care about you and you care about the newest bang you're sticking your dick in. At least, you care while it's a novelty. It'll wear off. It's already wearing off. With you, it's all about the conquest. You still think like you're seventeen. Hell, you compete with your kids."

"That's disgusting. And it's not true. That's really disgusting."

"Yeah? Then why'd you compare me to your son's girlfriend?"

"You have a better body than she does. I told you that."

"Exactly my point. Why are you looking at your son's girlfriend like that? I have to go. I don't want to argue anymore. I'm too tired." Please ask me to stay. Please. She knew he wouldn't.

"Can I call you?"

"What, when she dumps you in a month or so? I'm growing a spine. I hope."

She gets in her car, starts the engine. She opens the window. "Go to hell, asshole. Go to hell." A few miles down, she pulls into a strip mall. Cries for a bit. Admits to herself that she's too bleary-eyed to drive safely, might end up in a ditch again and she's already crawled through alligator infested ditches for him. She wonders what the Florida Highway Patrol officer would say if he saw her now. "About time, ma'am. Surely is about time." She falls asleep with her head on the steering wheel.


He is the ostrich man, with wheels.
Or is he the stork, emu, flamingo?
Whatever bird-hipped being he is-because he's not human, no human could be that fast, lithe, etoliated-
with legs so long his feet blue shift as he moves
pate as hairless as the eggs dropped from any of these
whole being the perfection of aerodynamics
spinning in a hyperbaric wind tunnel
as government grants measure the carbon dioxide released,
lactate threshold achieved of his scrawny limbs, gnarled veins throbbing.

If he lifted his arms from the aerobars, he would fly

Modern Medical Miracles

"Just take a deep breath. Yes. Another. Another. Good. Now, roll up your sleeve. That's fine, just going to hook this up so we'll have a constant read. What? Oh, it's an electronic blood pressure cuff, we watch your pressure right here on the computer monitor. It beeps if your BP goes too high or low, so we can adjust your drip. Yes, there is new technology every time you blink. This is so much safer, before one of us had to sit and watch you. Now, we can take care of other patients and the machine alerts us if there is any aberration. Excellent. Okay, then, you relax, the doctor will be with you in another minute or two, the anesthesiologist, too. Relax, honey, you'll be fine."

She blinked. It'll be fine. They'll start the drip, 100, 99, 98, 97, 96 and when she woke up, in five or ten or twenty minutes, it would all be over.


Again and again and again and again.

They'd start the drip and she'd go to sleep and when she woke up, she'd be peachy keen, right as rain, all things bright and beautiful, neat and clean inside and out, good as new.


Again and again and again and again.


What was wrong with her?

She turned, watching the monitor click, the gentle inflation and sudden deflation of the cuff on her arm a warning, a link to everything else that told her what she wasn't. 70/40. Well, that couldn't be good. If her pressure started too low, they couldn't put her under. If it dropped too low, they wouldn't be able to wake her up. Could they? Did they have paddles here? A crash cart? They must, it's a surgical clinic, they had to have emergency equipment. Paddles weren't even anything special. For goodness sakes, Disney had paddles. Restaurants had paddles. And they had transport here, if the paddles didn't provide enough power. She giggled. Maybe they had tazers, those would wake the dead.

Yes, paddles, just in case someone decided to go to sleep and stay asleep, decided it was easier to go on in that lovely twilight of nothing where there was no more trying and failing, no more planning and counting, and certainly no more watching and mourning. Sleep is a wonderful thing. Maybe she would sleep now, for a bit, before the hullabaloo started.

She closed her eyes, head still turned to the machine and lay very still. Another minute and the ruckus of scrubs and sprays and latex gloves, talk talk talk, should we do this, should we do that, as long as we're in here, snip snip, can you make a decision, not making a decision is also making a decision, you won't feel a thing, it'll be done, scrape scrape snip snip, no worries, be happy.

She despised Bobby McFerrin, with his noisy mouth and twisted a capella renditions of classic crock. That ‘Be Happy" tripe? That was the worst of all. How could any thinking person be happy in the messed up world?

One eye open, slow. 64/38. Hmmm. Shallow breathing, oxygen in only the upper lobes. Keep it steady. 64/36. Fine. No more again and again and again.

"Oh dearie, this will never do, no, it won't. We can't have you like this." The nurse picked up her head and shoved another pillow under it. "This simply will not do. You have to sit up, get your pressure up. Doctor can't operate if your BP starts that low, it has nowhere to go, and believe me, you do not want to undergo this procedure without anesthesia.

Procedure. It was a procedure. Not an operation. Not a test. A procedure. Did calling it a procedure make it smell any less foul? She sat up and took a few deep breaths, tightened her legs, balled her hands into fists. 80/48.

"Much better. We'll just keep you up until the doctors come in, there they are." The nurse nodded in the direction of the hallway. "I'm going to watch you myself, I am, after. The feed is right here on my waist. It'll only be a few minutes, but we don't take chances. You keep breathing like that. Excellent. We don't want any problems, now do we?"

She smiled at the nurse, at her own thoughts, at her power. She could do it. She could do it easily, just let it drop-see, 74/46, back up a tad- let it drop until it was done. No more masquerades, curtain drops, fine. She took another deep breath.

"No, we don't want any problems, no we don't. Thank you, nurse. Thank you so much."