Clutching at the soft cheek in the dead of night;
“hi”…. “hi”; giggling
Sitting on the cupboard in the living room
From the couch her eyes take pot shots at
Panting on the broken waterfront
Gray waves flick uneasy water on
Ripping Italian shoes thud the manicured tar
The stillness of suburbia screams all around
Dabbling in cigars and sipping on frozen liquor on the rooftop
The raucous laughter the last night of the great Gentlemen
Staring out the window of the greasy bus, brow furrows,
To contemplate the green of Connecticut
The first beautiful day only stopping where the land met the sea
To have a cigarette and let the bikes and the bodies cool
Squatting in the backyard of the house of the squirrel writer
The dying light showed the mischievous grins
Sliding on the board as it flew down the streets of the north end
The three sat in the shade of the old man park
Lying down in the frolicking green grass in the back fields
The hands did the talking for the mouths were deep in thought
Watching the cool night sky unfurl contented
The strongest human bond embraced the heart
Dipping the head into the cool water the sky opened its arms
The sun winked its way through the trees— loveliness
Looking back a year in review
The good times haunt worse than the old, no opportunity to relive them
When it’s thrown all away by
The concrete squeaked the rubber soles of my Nike Dunks
In time with the relentless thumping of my heart
The concrete still slick from the midnight rain
The words glued to my mouth and
When I ripped them out the true meaning stuck
To my tongue
The nausea of ill communication
Of wasted time, and miles and miles of space between
I tried to take back them all but was failing hard
I could not think over the thump thump thump and the squeak squeak squeak
I could not think so I looked at her
I looked at her through the fog of the night
I looked at her through the cigarette smoke
I looked at her through my coke bottle lenses
I saw her smiling at me then
Big wide smile, big enough for two
I stopped the squeak squeak squeak to stare
I stopped listening to the thump thump thump
For that smile melted through it all
It melted through time
It took away everything
And got straight to where I was
And where she was
Where we both were standing on the promenade at 2 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday in the early days of winter
When the November rain subsided and left the Manhattan skyscrapers stranded on islands in the fog
How she took me by the trembling cold hand and told me the three words I had been dying to hear since the day I was born
The last words I want to hear before I die
The lights from the buildings shone
Like they had first shone
When I first
But there was no first; there is only always
And I jumped knowing I would fly
We stumbled out of the hookah bar with a blast of smoke and giddy juvenile excitement only to be swept up into the explosion that was the night. It was Saturday night, and La Ferria was in town. La Ferria- a cluster fuck of light and sound with the sole purpose of creating pure unfiltered excitement for the citizens of Torre Del Mar. Saturday is the sacred party night for the Spaniards, it is the time when the wild gets wilder and it seemed the occurrence of the traveling fair was the gasoline the blazing night needed to turn itself into a full on wild fire. While pounding our way down the crowded screaming I caught a glimpse at the blaring green flashing numbers resting above the neon cross of the pharmacy. It was already three in the morning and it seemed like our deranged Spanish guides weren’t letting up. I caught eyes with my fellow alien in the fray, Jacob, and gave him a silent nod, it was time to make like a couple of rocks and get the fuck out of there.
We slid off the smooth marble boardwalk and shuffled our way past two booths selling mind-numbing nick-knacks and we sauntered off onto the cooling sand of the beach. Besides the muffled howls of the bacchanal at our backs the beach with its amiable arm around the Mediterranean it’s tranquil voluminous depths petting the shore in waves welcomed me to an instant feeling of relief. We were both about three beers too drunk from the street party we had attended before the hookah bar and dozen hours on the wrong side of fully rested from the lesser beast that was the night before. But like all rational young men of our generation we decided it was a good time to smoke a joint. I clutched the joint and slowly lent back onto the sand taking a satisfactory drag and looking up into the sky. And as I was doing so music from somewhere far off started to play, it was the most soothing sound I had heard in a long time, whatever long means to a teenager. I let the lilting Spanish lyrics wash over me as I took a hit and the sounds lapped up into the nooks and crannies of my soul. Then from my soul poured out the realization that it was the peak of summer, the peak of the party, the peak of my youth, and this song was the translation of my happiness because I knew right then and there it couldn’t have gotten better than that. Then the corners of my mouth shot up in realization, I knew the song that was synthesizing my thoughts, I mean I knew the melody but the lyrics themselves were in Spanish. The English version is good don’t get me wrong, but this was like taking a photo and painting a picture of it that would make people weep at the sight of its beauty.
But after I had finished packaging that wonderful thought I let it get carted off to be stored in my memory, I resumed the flow of contemporary thought. There was a beach party down by the lighthouse where gallons of wine, guitars, and beautiful Spanish girls were waiting for us in order to celebrate this wonderful life in style. I looked up the song immediately when I got back and upon listening to it I am swept back up into the arms of that fantastical evening. But it is a feeling of discontent as well because it never has sounded the same as it did that night on the beach and I don’t believe it ever will.
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
I find this very apropos.
The sun shined bright that morning giving a warm start to the day that was unusual for the season. As the day urged forward, the rays of light slowly crept into the nooks and crannies of every corner of the vast metropolis on an unwavering mission to illuminate the entire city.
The light stung; he could feel its oppressive heat on his closed eyelids. He had a notion to move away from the revealing sun. His limbs felt like they had been filled with concrete the mere thought of the effort in which to move made his stomach curdle. He groaned and slumped over in agony. What had he done last night? The thought bounced of the walls of his brain seeking out an answer in blurry thoughts and blacked out memories. Once again he felt dizzy and his stomach twisted violently and he drooped his head quickly to one side so as not to vomit all over his black winter coat.
The quick violent movements made him jerk his eyelids open making him fully come to terms with the intruding light. Daylight meant that the world was conscious again, he could hear people scurrying to work and the irregular hum of cars commuting from stoplight to stoplight. There wasn’t a place for vomiting drunks in weekday mornings. At that moment he heard an unusually loud and familiar noise from above his head. His eyes discerned two black shoes pointing towards him from the entrance of the alleyway. The noise was repeated and this time it took shape.
“Get up. Ain’t no loitering here.”
He felt her eyes watching him stumble to his feet. Embarrassment and shame crept up his spine prickling his skin with hot rage. As he stood up, he placed his hand against the brick wall and leaned his head over to make sure all his dirty business was complete than worked his tired face into a smile. He flicked the switch and the charm was on. He drew himself up to his slightly impressive height and spread his hands open wide as if to embrace the squat female security guard.
“C’mon now, I was just having me a little nap. Gotta get me my morning coffee is all. Na’mean officer?” His nasal voice let out a charming giddy peal of laughter that split his goofy grin open wide to reveal a set of surprisingly white teeth.
Her shrewd eyes narrowed at the slowly approaching man. She gripped her walkie-talkie firmly and placed her feet in wide stance like a cowboy in a spaghetti western. He quickly observed a fancy corporate park and tall skyscrapers behind his tiny nemesis. She wasn’t going to let him go that easy, he was in a rich neighborhood now.
“This is private property. You better get moving before I escort you from the Metrotech.”
“They should make a reality show about Lawrence Street.” His face loomed over me beaming in a naughty grin. “Everyday’s a different story.”
The black bespectacled face broke into raucous laughter. The solitary sound of mirth was met with surprised and slightly forced smiles from the other customers, who were unaccustomed to the sound of laughter in the tiny bodega.
The Mall, as we all know, is home to a number of characters. But there is no character quite like Slangston Hughes. I first met the great Slangston Hughes in that tiny shop on Lawrence Street. He extended a long arm to me from his tall gangly frame disguised in his big puffy winter coat.
“How you doing brethren, the name’s Slangston, Slangston Hughes, pleasure to meet ya,” He wheezed as he exuberantly scooped up my hand. “I like your glasses. I got the same pair myself.” He said pointing to his frameless wayfarers.
He is not only a poet, as his name suggests, but a philosopher as well. Slangston’s pearls of wisdom vary in topics from technological advancements, “Why did the iPhone come out before iPad? Don’t things usually get smaller when they get better?” to fiscal responsibility. “I would buy something. But, you see, my change is sticking together.”
Today Lawrence Street mourns the loss of its prodigal son. Slangston’s presence in the mall, like many others who brighten our day-to-day routines with their eccentric antics, was only fleeting. I have not seen him since the onset of winter. I hope his big, fake Nike Air Ones lead him back to our School’s neighborhood in the warmer months ahead.
It is Wednesday; your head is pounding with fatigue as you attempt to surmount the hump of the week. Blearily stumbling out of a tedious long block you peel your tattered schedule out of the pocket in your skinny jeans to gaze over its contents. A glint of the delight you generally reserve for Friday night flashes across your features, for you realize you have a free, a nice long free. But alas, the student lounge is packed with the primal screaming of feral freshmen. You find yourself displaced, yearning for a non-existent haven within the halls of Pearl Street. Let me assure you, dear reader, those days of surrendering to slumping against your locker are over for I shall impart with you a slew of chill places within walking distance where you can spend your independent study period.
If you have a morning free and a few dollars in your pocket, a trip towards the northern part of a mall off of Flatbush will bring you to the famous retro restaurant of Junior’s. Though it is widely known for its cheesecake, Junior’s offers a delicious diner breakfast complete with complementary coffee and assorted pastry for under ten dollars. You can rest your tired hind on a bar school in between a sad-eyed vagrant and a businessman in a cheap suit. I find early morning solace in a warm coffee and an amusing conversation with the Trinidadian server, Eugene, who peppers me with West Indian flavored insults.
If the lunchtime fare is not the type of food you want besieging your taste buds then I suggest a short five-minute walk up to Tillary Street on the other side of Flatbush Avenue. For just five dollars you can enjoy what (enter website here) calls, “the best fish taco in New York” at the Loading Dock. This new Café, Taqueria, and gallery comes equipped with a secluded out door area where you can enjoy your meal nestled into a wooden lawn chair, sealed off from the tumultuous traffic of downtown Brooklyn. It is also open in the mornings if you are craving an expertly made cappuccino compliments of barista extraordinaire Colie, whose magnetic charm keeps the customers smiling and her tip jar full. The quiet atmosphere of the converted industrial loading dock allows you to inspect the walls decorated with avant-garde art created by established Fort Green artists.
For those who are not interested in spending cash or consuming food but would still like a nice place to take a moment there are a series of places for you to enjoy. If you feel like you have more energy then immediately surrendering yourself to a bench in Metrotech, the Fort Greene Park is a fantastic bit of tranquility in the urban setting. A short eight-minute walk down Willoughby a grassy slope is beckoning you to lie down, rest your head on your pack, and take it easy for a while. The park is generally devoid of people during the school day because the yuppies that inhabit the surrounding neighborhood have long commuted off to work. So next time you feel the need to escape from the hubbub of the day-to-day remember a peace of mind is close at hand.
I started to shiver violently as the subway let out a blood-curdling scream as it skidded its way around another turn. The man across the way stared down at my wobbling feet through his designer glass and I saw his eyes cloud with concern. My entire frame was soaked through scrunched up on the subway seat and outside it had just started to snow hard. My whole body was quaking by now trying to seek out the heat that had obviously left me and wasn’t going to come back for a while. I stared down at my hands and they were still an ominous blue gray color. I decided to put the fact that I was dying out of my mind and flipped back to the main thought, how supremely fucked I was.
Here I was tweaking out on the subway, high off my nut, and shivering but that wasn’t the worst of it. The train sighed like into the station like an extraordinarily overweight gentlemen shifting his fat flaps around in his seat and I saw we were at chambers, I had about half an hour before I had to come face to face with the two scariest people that ever walked this earth; my parents. Now to explain why these two people are my hellish tormenters I have to back track a little bit.
I think my brain has some faulty circuiting because no matter where or when I have to be doing something against the rules. It can be a little thing like j-walking or tipping back in my chair at the dining room table, or showing up to thanksgiving dinner piss drunk and high on speed. Yes drugs were my new mode of trouble making ever since I had gone up to boarding school and was introduced to the wonderful world of drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Now this is why I’m supremely fucked because it was that thanksgiving dinner two weeks back I got fucked.
I mean sure I could’ve been kept my shit together around my parents, not have drunk that half bottle of gin, snorted those lines of speed, or wandered home with a half pack of smokes and a half bottle of gin bulging in my pockets of my coat. But sure as shit I did, and I got caught, and my reason is simple; Grace Tobin.
Grace Tobin, also plays a big fucking factor why I was shivering to death on the subway and cursing my very existence. See the thing is about Grace is, that I’ve been madly in love with her since the fifth fucking grade and maybe even before then but I can’t go back that far these days. You ever seen those adds on TV with that crazy looking emo bitch in her twenties or something? A real stereotypical “Bad Kid” for the parents to instantly recognize when the commercial pops on in between their re-runs of Seinfeld before they tuck in for another sex-less stress dream filled night. Anyway this bitch is standing in the kitchen. Sorry I shouldn’t use bitch it’s a little demeaning but who am I shitting, I am a little demeaning. So she’s standing in the kitchen over this pan frying and she plucks up an egg and in an obnoxious voice I guess was suppose to sound like she had a “bad attitude” she goes.
“This is your brain.” And the camera flips to the egg so it can ease mom and pop into the metaphor without any heavy lifting on their part.
Then the emo chucks it into the pan and goes. “Well this is your brain on drugs.” And theirs kind of a long shot of the egg frying in the pan for the nice dramatic factor so the folks can get a little stirred, turn to each other, and the hysterical thought trickles into their crusty minds. “Gosh Mermer you think our little Timmy’s on the pot?”
Anyway that’s what my mind has been like lately, that egg frying. And I could feel it sizzle as I was sitting there on that fucking subway to hell, with all the fucks around me staring at me and my quaking self.
Grace Tobin, that was what I was talking before I bored the shit out of you with my thinking. Now I don’t really like most people, don’t get me wrong, I like people liking me because I’m a little fucked in the head, but I don’t like people. Everyone has little nuances, little kinks that make them unique and human. But these little kinks these little differences also rub against other people’s kinks and don’t make for a good time. Like I was standing on the street corner with taking my little sister Allie home from somewhere and I was lost in my own little fortress of thought and I took a step from the grey cement onto the black asphalt. Well I had enough sense to take a gander to my right and lo and behold there was a bus, New York City’s Transits best hurtling toward me from about ten yards off so I decided to retract my step and settled back onto the curb. My kinks in my mind told me to step off that curb and then subsequently told my to step off.
“It should’ve hit you.” I turned surprised by the voice that I instantly gleaned was pointed at me. It came from a little man probably no over five and a half feet, done up in yuppie garb, probably heading home from a mediocre days work of kissing the ass of civilization at some kinda schwanky office somewhere in Manhattan. He was probably in he early forties so he wasn’t old enough to be excused for his senility.
So I retorted at this man, “I’m sorry sir, I wasn’t paying attention.” Me not paying attention, it seems I have to dole that excuse out atleast a dozen times a day so I can be left alone. He then retorted “Don’t you know the white man from the red hand.”
Now this pushed my kinks over the edge. I know it was his fucked up kinks that took j-walking personally, like his ma got run over by a bus a few years back and he never got a chance to say he loved her or some shit but that was no excuse. First of all he had actually wanted me to get killed, he announced to me that his fucked up mind wanted me not exist. My whole life, everything I have ever done to end by being run over right then and there. But that didn’t piss of my kinks too much because I had already excused him for having a tough day and was about to go back into my thoughts when he cut into me with his second comment. He was calling me dumb. That fuck of a man was saying that I was stupid, that he was better than me. Well I’ve known me for sixteen years, and personally I am much better than the fuck who gets his kicks from teasing adolescents on city sidewalks.
This anger welled up inside and me and blurted out loud enough for everyone in a four-block radius. “Fuck, you sir.”
Fuck you, fuck your kinks, fuck your mother who was crushed by a bus, fuck you for trying to fuck me, to suppress me and my nature.
Now Grace isn’t like that. She’s nice, smart, and tells some pretty interesting stories, she’s grouped into the very small group of people whose kinks I enjoy. But the reason why I’ve always liked Grace Tobin is her smile. I’ve even had acid trips about that smile its so profound to me. Whenever I catch I glimpse of it there is a ball of warmth that appears in my stomach and it flows good feelings all over me. It’s fucking hypnotic is what it is, it makes me feel like everything’s going to be all right and I’m the only guy in the whole goddamn world. And every thanksgiving for the past few thanksgivings my family eats dinner with her family. I think it’s because my pops in English and her pops is English and my Mom is a bat shit crazy neurotic woman and her mom is a bat shit crazy neurotic woman they get along okay, their kinks match. And it was this thanksgiving I was going to tell Grace Tobin that I loved her, well I was going to tell her that I liked her a lot I didn’t want to freak the shit out of her just yet. This was going to require a lot of balls on my part, so I decided I’d need some liquid and powdered courage, but I never got there. My mom noticed I was a drooling monkey when I walked in and decided that she wanted to see the compromising bulges in my jacket.
And that’s why I am fucked. We sat around the table, taking a small hiatus to thanksgiving letting everyone chill out in the next room, cornering me with no allies. Needless to say I hadn’t brought my A game, I had left most of it in that bottle of gin an hour back. They new my defenses were down so they let me have. By the time I they were through, they had decided to put my in drug counseling and I was a blubbering mess. I looked up from my arms and saw the stony face of my mom glaring at me trying to bore her hatred into my soul, trying to change me, to tame me and make her little pet, her little employee. Now Grace wasn’t too happy I had ruined the dinner and I still wanted a chance to get with her so we I met her the next day and we talked and walked. I told her how I felt even though my insides were exploding with nerves, she accepted and now I got me a Grace Tobin. I decided to go down to the city the next weekend because it was her Birthday. I planned it all out the whole week. I got one of my friends to steal me a good present to give her and I spent all morning on Saturday drawing her a picture of a rabbit, her favorite animal. I’m not a shabby artist if I do say so myself but I never do it, drawings gay and I’m too busy fucking around to settle on something constructive like being an “artist”. My parents had thought I was out with Grace all day but they would be watching out to see if I was high. This weekend was a trap, they were letting me come down to the city as a sign of truce and to test me to see if I would crack and revert to my old habits, and I fell right into it.
My plan that day wasn’t originally to get high, it was to tell Grace Tobin that I was crazy about her, and celebrate her birthday in style if you catch my drift. I had the present of a notebook and drawing shit and the sick picture I drew and I invited her out to lunch. We met at a café and I ordered her a last minute cupcake, she didn’t eat it, she pecked at it for my sake but then put it aside, she wasn’t hungry. We talked about this and that me pecking at my sandwich and lingering on my ginger ale, I wasn’t hungry either. Then we decided to go back to her place a couple blocks away because she said there was no one home. Now that’s the usual come on and my mind lit up, me her, alone, in her house, the playing grounds had change so my plan of action changed up accordingly. We went to her house and started hooking up, she decided to tour me around the house after they had gotten it done, the bedroom first. But this fabulous scene took a turn for a worse. I’ve known Grace for ten years and like three months, that’s a long time, I’ve known my little sister for only eighteen months longer. Grace, even though I am very attracted to her, is also very close to me. I didn’t know if I should’ve gone all the way or no.
I mean every time I’ve instigated sex before it got messy. At the ripe age of sixteen I have been with two girls. But neither of them were anything special. None of the sex I’ve ever had was very special. I’m one of those guys who thinks that virginity is sex you should hold onto tight and cherish, as the great Zach Galikinakis once said “That’s for fags.” My first time was with the school whore, in my apartments pull out couch, while my parents were still awake, not to my knowledge at the time in my defense. Now only if I actually went out and purchased a whore I couldn’t have made my first time anymore special than it was. The second girl I fucked and found out later was fucking my best friend around the same time I was fucking her. Now if I may interject, that is very weird. But Grace, I want it to be special, not for me but more for her. I owe it to her. That is why when I was hooking up with her I decided to play the gentlemen, if you catch my flow. And if you’ve caught it you’ll know that what happens next is kind of weird.