Saturday, August 27, 2011

Driving through a quiet town in the rain waiting for a hurricane while water fell faster than I could see, darkness snuck past my headlights.

Earlier people drank at the bar while storm Irene approached. Gripping their drinks they watched the weather through fogged windows. Rain hit the pavement. Puddles filled. Sidewalks glistened.

Give us a hurricane drink, they said. OK. Dark rum, light rum, lime juice and Grenadine and shake. Impending floods and lightning filled the news. Roads closed after dark.

Finally at home I have a glass of wine and listen to water snap across rhododendron leaves and splash from the gutters. Thunder might come, and flooding. Daylight might break on a buried landscape, washed away and unfamiliar, or just heavily drenched with tall plants tired from bending in the rain.

Monday, August 22, 2011

You're not like those lazy girls with cigarettes, he said.

I imagined pouting red lips slick with gloss and innuendo staining a paper filter. Smoke would trickle from her nose.

She'll smoke and think and look for ways to be honest with herself back at home where too much booze sends her sagging toward bed, leaning on ugly wallpaper.

Earlier she had probably stretched a dollar in her hands and fed it to the wall. Music blared and she frowned, listening to the wrong song. That's not it, she said, as happy hour soaked in.

After closing time with the bar lights up I was not thinking of much other than a passing comment about lazy girls. He talked while I mopped and noticed shadows under his eyes. No illusions last under these bright lights that find grit in the corners.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I have not changed names to conceal any identities for people mentioned here because I neither know nor care where they are...

At 10:17 at night I would rather be tossing back a glass of wine and bitching that I lost my place in my book than working…

During an open mic night as drinkers dragged their empty hopes and broken hearts home I washed glasses and poured a glass of wine.

The band had a great night and veered away from careful notes toward something wilder. Their traditional encore flew in tempo. Raw voices and fast-paced urgency spilled into the chords…

Kendra, what do you think is the sexiest song?

Not sure.

C'mon! There must be something you think is sexy.

Really, I don't know…

I had stopped associating sexy with songs during my first day as a wallflower.

In the middle of a Snowflake Swirl in intermediate school I looked across the cafeteria and watched Kris's finger slide along the crack of Pam's ass as they danced slowly back and forth, faces pressed together. They were so into it.

A teacher's quick tap on his shoulder hardly interrupted their adolescence, but spared a little bit of mine.

I think that songs are about as sexy as K-Y jelly.

I dunno. I could probably think of a song or two, but they would never go well with Pam's silly ass.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

With wet hair, damp beach towels and dirty thoughts in our hearts we headed back to a car steeped in cigarettes and the sharp scent of hand-me-down-vinyl. I miss those lingering summers during high school filled with suntan oil and sweaty dreams.

We bought gas as the sun set and parked in supermarket lots or dead ends after dark and sometimes drank beer, but mostly talked big about the future with feigned joy to hide our fright.

Acting wise and wearing bad clothes I picked up a friend and we drove to Cape Cod. In my fedora from Goodwill and a tank top I had first seen in pictures of my mother with her long, parted hair and baby-blue eye shadow, I checked the oil and we were ready.

In my heart I am always reaching -- as I did that summer -- for a slippery distance that spills all around off highway exits and unfamiliar street signs, where young men with colored markers scribble away at something across the coffee shop. As I stepped out the door he poked a dollar bill into the fold of my ugly hat. My friend and I opened the bill to look at George Washington decorated as Ace Frehley, just a gaudy rock star. Years later as I approached a toll booth over a bridge in a traffic jam leading away from New York, a city that sits ashore above a pulpy river, I almost lost that dollar. If not for noisy quarters and dimes sliding under my feet, I would have had to pass Mr Frehley as legal tender.

This week flowers spill below my house on a rise, fighting now with Autumn's early leaves.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

About two years ago:

Ann asked me to buy bug spray.

See the little gnat things? They keep waking me up when they go in my ears, she said. Her house smelled terrible. A little garbage bin held stained tissues, a half-eaten apple, and food wrappers and lids. Steeped in the drool of afternoon naps and oily skin, of perspiration and sleep, her couch sat squashed in the living room. She slept there, ate there, and brooded there through the summer and winter while fruit flies swarmed in her trash.

Her TV was static and she refused to call a repairman to come take a look. The sonsabitches steal, she said. I saw one guy at the door. He was standing there watching me sleep, she said.

Ann rocked until she had enough momentum to stand. Wobbling around the cluttered room on ski poles used as canes, she stabbed a pointed tip through yellowing heaps looking for a wad of envelopes strapped in rubber bands.

I have so much paper work to look through, she said.

This month:

An envelope from Florida arrived a few days before my birthday addressed to Kendra ? Despite the question mark, I received the card wishing me a happy birthday, love Ann.

A few days later I came home to a phone message from Ann's daughter. Please call mother. She really wants to talk to you. Later today would be good.

So terse. I played the message for Jerry and said, I hope she is OK.

I called and found out she was bored, vulgar, loving, and an old woman with poor eyesight and unsteady legs trapped in her daughter's Florida home.

You look on the streets and there is no one, she told me. Nothing, all the way down the road, and it's a big neighborhood she said.

I hate the heat. It's always in the 90s and you go outside and it's sticky. I am always soaked.

She said, I have a three-wheel bike and I ride that around the streets. But we're all old people. I am 87. An old woman. And there are no children here. I love to hear them playing. I miss the children.

She asked, are you gonna get a proposal? It's Jerry right? He's a good looking guy. Did his hair grow back?

I stepped into the living room where Jerry sat listening and answered, nope. Still no proposal and still no hair. You said good looking?

I exercise every day to keep strength in my arms and legs, she said. How is my house?

Still there, I told her. Still quiet. Nobody has been around.

You sure? The other neighbor, she said she chased off two hunters that walked out of the woods. And someone stole my things. Clothes. Old lady clothes! And jewelry.

Ann, your daughter cleaned out your house. She emptied all the rooms and closets, remember?

Well, I was in a nursing home then, she said.

Remember the night the police had their lights in my face and you sat with me? They took me in the ambulance to the hospital and I had nothing. I had no clothes to wear, she said.

That was almost two years ago Ann…

She talked about the war. Poor Ann -- afraid of repairmen, towel heads, and becoming marooned in her daughter's house. I promised to send her a letter and use black marker so she could see it.

Does she really think she can move back to her house, Jerry asked.

She is hoping.

There is just no way.

She needs to hold on to something, I said.

She must really be blind if she thought I was good looking, Jerry said.

Ann and I talked about the dogs and the winter while she briefly lived her old life sitting next-door on the phone and talking to me. Her house sits on a rocky ledge above ours, dark and quiet.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

She sparkled in fake pearls and tears amid friends under tents in the rain. A new bride and her groom tapped plastic flutes filled with beer and danced as the DJ played.

Guests laughed easily under party lights on a humid Saturday night. With his cup raised the groom said, we're so happy you're here.

They gambled a little on togetherness and marriage, walking ahead with hope, baggage, a past, a future, and each other.

Candles glowed in early dusk where quiet desires loomed. Guests sat waiting for a glimpse to soothe daydreams kept quiet in their hearts.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Holding my pen like a prayer I trudged through lines of ink that turned heavy and mad, a garbled verse as blind as sleepwalking.

Some nights I get out of bed and wander the room. Tired, and annoyed, Jerry says, Kendra! Get back in bed.

I might be waving through clothes in the closet. I might be at the dresser opening and closing drawers. He says, Kendra. What are you doing?

Going to the bathroom.

Not in here.

I always think there must be a story here, and that if I write, then the explanations will pop out. Nope.

I remember being a kid and waking up in my closet. I also remember putting my favorite new shoes next to my head as I slept, waiting for school. Somewhere in my old bedroom is a past version of me stepping out of bed and going to the closet where I sit down in the junk that lives in kids' closet floors and sleep.

Dear Lily, please don't let me leave the house if I am walking around at night while I stare stupidly and remember nothing at all.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Look at the moon, Jerry said.

We walked past parked cars and oil stains reflecting neon open signs while a thin moon slumped overhead. Its color through the day's heat and fading dusk was a sick yellow hue in a sooty city sky. It hung low over a disorganized horizon of banks' and restaurants' silhouettes where shared alleys held whispers of trash brushing against close walls.

Across the street an hour earlier in the sun's low, long honey rays was a woman casting her threadbare shadow. The ground was parched. She had stooped to set down grocery bags, looked at nothing and waited for her bus.

I looked at Jerry, glanced at the moon, and thought of its many comparisons including a witch's fingernail, or the forlorn, misplaced claw that it was, and hoped that our ride home would somehow scrape away the dreary feelings cities leave on my skin like paste.

The dogs are home nestled on the cool tile floor, looking at nothing and waiting for dinner.