I watched him stare at her. Watched his face lose its stern expression by the thought of her being in the same room. His mouth twitching funnily before it would widen to a warm and absent smile. “You see this woman?” he asked without directing his eyes to me. Making it unable for him to see with how much admiration I kept studying him. “She’s homeless. She makes a few bucks every day writing bad poetry on the street. She’s buying red lipstick and black ink to keep her from realizing how poor she really is. It works, I see her stroll the waterfront in Brooklyn on the weekends. Once, I walked up to her and she showed me a black can, she said she saved up all week to buy it. She confused she shit out of me. Being so pretty but so odd and broken. She worked hard to keep her smile from fading. And when she explained that the man that had sold her the can told her it contained a ghost, I couldn’t help but fall for her.”
I kissed his temple. “You’d make a fortune asking people for a penny for your thoughts.”
His head moved to me and he shrugged. “Who’s gonna pay a bum in this town? There are too many.”
We did this almost every day. Picking a place somewhere in New York, our Home and Blood and beating Heart. We’d ravage our brains, spit out ideas, make up stories.
“What is life?” I wanted to know.
“A streak of miserable jumps into the unknown where for the splitsecond of rare moments in time you feel weightless and safe inside a crumbling and self-destructive case shutting out endless darkness?”
He made me smile. I didn’t belong to him but he made me ignore the numbing pressure life had on me. He was weird and dangerously smart. His smile promised happiness but his eyes spoke in sadness with every blink.
I steered his attention to another girl sitting by the window.
“His father left her when she was six. A raging alcoholic. Now she sits in this bar. Every single day. Alone. Always alone. All the men in her life never wanted her. They broke her. Just like her Dad did. The old pathetic classic case. She wants to be somebody’s muse. She craves weirdness and intelligent conversations. She’s so scared of failing. Basically because it’s all she was ever good at. But most of all, she’s tired of fate fucking her up. Throwing her up for a single inhale of joy but letting her rush down in seemingly never ending streams of beating ups. She’s been fucked up so badly it makes her loathe herself so much,she developed a habit of smashing every mirror she passes.” Sometimes when I was finished telling my story, I felt pushed out to sea. Struggling with water rushing in, eager to keep the memories out but overwhelmed with storytelling. We made it a rule not to speak the truth even if we knew, even if we hurt. But here I was, failing. I pushed his hand away. Ignoring him trying to make it easier for me. He knew. He always knew.
“You oughta take a shot at fiction.” he nudged my head, playfully displeased.
He got up and walked to the big arch window. My fingers traced his steps, my eyes always on his back. The bar was dark mostly. Dark wood, just a dim light so the bartender could at least pretend he was working. But his back turned to me lit it up. His plain white shirt was my light, bright like the center of everything. His brown hair ruffled and tousled to a point I doubted he could ever get rid of the snarls again. His right hand always lifted up, scratching his beard. He never did not look like a picture perfect lumberjack waiting for a freight train to arrive so he can jump on, unnoticed, leaving behind ghosttown after ghosttown.
“He who belonged to this city right away. He came to this wondrous place and expected the world. Only now realizing that the city was his world. It was his creation. Every moment he spends touching lifes of the millions and millions of people he meets he comes home a little more. He doesn’t wait for that train any longer even though he still looks so lost. But he got here with heavy boots and a cut out heart. He got here pleading to be healed. And look at him now. Filling up a tiny room in a tiny street on a tiny intersection in a tiny part of a tiny neighborhood in a tiny borough of a tiny city in a tiny state in a tiny corner of a tiny country on a tiny continent on a tiny planet in the infinite universe. He fills it up and it’s his doing alone. And he makes the girl so unbelievably, utterly happy to be standing behind him. Touching his flawless features showing underneath the white fabric clutched to his broad shoulders.”
He turned around, looking at my fingertips writing words on his bones.
“Why, oh why. Does he never see me?”
He looked at me then. So much of this city in his eyes. And with a gesture so wide and welcoming he shoved me closer to the window, the back of my head resting on his chest. “I see you. And this. Is Home.”
I smiled at myself in the mirror behind the dozens of booze bottles stacked at the bar. Wondering if I should be smashing it with my fist or the fine vintage tumbler glass they served the Whiskey in. He was long gone. Without ever actually talking to me. Just a figure I made up in my head. But he was good. He was my favorite. That’s why I kept him so alive in this place. At least in my imagination I knew someone I hadn’t disappointed. Someone who would get lost with me, letting a day pass, never once looking at the time. Creativity and oddness. Moments more valuable than everything there has ever been before. At least in my imagination I did have someone like New York City.
And he did. He looked at her. In a hazy moment he stared at her and for a while their gazes lingered. In that dark alley, surrounded by screaming lights. The girl remembered nothing. She just still felt so wrong. Every moment she and him shared, she had felt wrong. Like all the potential she had been so much in love with didn’t even try to stop haunting her like she had wanted to believe. All she ever felt for him, always bound for wrecking. She knew that even now, more than fours years after they first met. “I wanted to remember Paris.” she thought. “Wanted to remember the good and how I’m done with our story.” Her fucking big mouth. He hovered over her, he still rushed in and out of her like that disaster he had always been. And she was still paralyzed by him. Still so unbelievably angry by everything he said that was not directed towards her alone, by how he moved when it was not for her only. She had always said that he takes up a room like a king, with fanfares and trumpets. That what to others felt like a revelation of sorts, to her it was an unnecessary mask. For her, he was art alone. And she remembered well. How tiny it could make her feel. All the hustle and bustle of his act and her in the middle. Stripping it all down until it was just the two of them again. Like, to her, he was the only person alive in this world.
He was back. “Stay, Stay. Stay.” she whimpered to herself.
But of course he would leave. And naturally, it left a hole behind. But then. She was the girl with the Open Heart surgery. She was the girl in Paris. The girl seeing him walk off, vanish into SoHo’s Bustle a million times. She was the girl sitting on the red bench alone, smiling the tears away. It was funny. After all those years, she could still watch her heart break inside of him.
Thank You For Existing
She knew nothing could ever hold her down long enough. All her life, she moved places without seeing anyone or hearing anything. But wherever she went, her fingers would trace a map until she would find a Lighthouse on top of a Hill. Like clockwork this place would become her favorite Place in the world and she would find ways to escape, every day. Moving lightly, up the trodden pathways with the surges of wind lifting her feet. Strangers Thoughts and Resolutions lying on the side, crunching beneath her shoes. She smashed hers down, too. Making those Hills graveyards, leaving something of herself behind everywhere she went. She stripped down. Until she was nothing more than a blank page, swaying in the wind. Making it swoosh through her clothes, pushing her back and forth so the beautiful force of nature was all she would feel for a moment. They pinched her eyes that day. That day, exactly one year ago, gales of the ocean entering Boston Harbor, they made her blind for a second or two. And when she reopened them, still blurred from her lashes slowly parting, she saw him wandering down this long empty hallway. Coffeecup in one hand, his Home embroidered on his cap covering most of his face. And she felt what everybody must have meant with ‘seeing things’ or ‘hearing things’ or ‘feeling…someone’. Fresh impulses reached the deepest corners of her unwritten mindset. Overwhelming, new impulses of everything there was. All of him. And when they clashed in smiles and Hellos she got overrun by the world. She learned about gratitude. Which up until him had felt like the strangest concept to her. She learned about it that day. Gratitude that was pure and sincere. Gratitude that felt no longer strange but inevitable.Trials and Tribulations of this life swirling above her head,dancing and wafting like there was no weight to them anymore now that she had let go and seen him. He became all there was. Her beaming ray of sunshine. Her windwhirls and her Lighthouse and her Escape. He became her plan. The only plan she’d ever have.