Here is a ten year challenge when the city takes hold and squeezes your savings, your sanity, you’re old. I could jones in the street for one more no-name bar. Look up: unfamiliar intersections littered with twenty year old young skin, taught and dizzy. I can memorize the maze. What is left for me? you would ask but you don’t write anymore. The magazines all shut down. The soft faced boys moved home. The city multiples like so many nights in a car, blurring into two or three, this quick-spinning universe of everything at once in deafening unrecognizable roar. Too much, stop, spit those adjectives. I swear I remember where I was when I left. Someone buzz me in. Deadeye, I want to go back. It’s been ten or twelve years, maybe less, maybe more.
Introduced ourselves to the old man who smokes pipe downstairs. He’s lived—and—hoarded in his apartment since 1979. With a pipe. And a cat.
I don’t think he’s left that apartment in years. Through the smoke and dust, there was an amazing outline of our apartment’s former self.
“I just picked it back up a month ago,” he confessed. He put the pipe down on his bookshelf, guiltily. “Another good reason to quit.”
If I had to describe him in one word it would be lucky. I wouldn’t think twice about it. He wasn’t strikingly handsome, but he resembled a celebrity who was handsome. That was lucky. He was the son of an American car company executive. He was the middle child, browbeaten by lovelier children, protected in private palm tree enclaves. Statues were erected in his father’s name. He was shipped off to university. His roommate fell out of the window. It was the sort of secret he kept to himself until he felt close enough to someone to need to win them over. He told too many people. It was a badge of sensitivity. It was an excuse to drink too much, to dramatize relationships. He wasn’t even close to his roommate, he admitted, seven years later. He was drunk and fell out and he was gone. He told me like that as a perfectly good reason to sleep with him. He was used to getting lucky. Big, blue eyes and subscription to a political magazine. A mild, unimposing voice. He thought he was completely fucked up. He thought he was a writer. The laundry room in his house smelled like lavender. The bedroom smelled like pewter. Photos of palm trees on a near-empty bookcase. He was the charlatan of the neighborhood. He was lucky boy of Brooklyn.
Are you drunk?, she asked. I was lying down. I said I wasn’t. The truth was, I liked her advice more after a few drinks. I liked calling people and listening when I came home from happy hour. Like I was saying. I could hear music in the background. You’re not supposed to go to bed mad at each other, my grandmother told me. She winced in pain when she said it. I could hear it over the phone, the hum of violins behind it. She’s not allowed to drink anymore. No more scotch, no more wine. If you go to sleep mad, you’ll wake up with a bad back. She was silent for a moment. I turned on my side. The ruins of the stress on an old mattress run deep.
She said she would come back if he tried harder. So he tried harder. He painted the walls light blue and dusted underneath the seashells. He drew himself a saltwater bath. When she returned for her things, the room smelled like wet paint and the ocean. She took everything with her, even the cat—his tail was light blue. She left everything behind, even the ocean.
Long lines at the fish
counter made up of old
women, red lipstick, amino
acids, waiting in turn
for their for omega-threes.
My energy is wasted on the
time I spend on others
and removing skin cells
in the bathroom.
Posted in Poetry
Tagged exhaustion, poem