Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dying is Not Like Sleeping

I was in their bed watching the Greatest American Hero when I heard my mother's car pull into the garage. I turned the television off and deliberately spread my maths homework across the sheets. But she took longer than usual to come inside that night and when she did she was noticeably different. Nervous. Tired. Not crying, but sad and her voice was soft. She seemed younger somehow. "He's gone," she whispered.

We slept together and in the morning we ate our breakfast on the veranda. "Dying is not like sleeping," my mother said. "Nor is living so simple as being awake."

Saturday, November 26, 2011


"It's a Bukowski poem," she says, referring to the words etched across the skin of her arm. It's 1990 and I don't know about Bukowski or poetry or girls with ink yet. "Did it hurt?" I ask.

"It always hurts," she answers with her now familiar deadpan drawl. Looking back I can see the truth in that. It does always fucking hurt.

"I'm taking the fIREHOSE," she says. It's today now and she's leaving and she's taking the music and the books with her. Our memories. I want to beg her to stay but I can't even swallow my own spit.


She's waiting for me to defend myself, to come up with any kind of halfway logical reason why she should stay.

It's two weeks earlier now and it's morning and I'm standing naked and half wet just out of the shower. I look at myself in the mirror.

"I'm disgusting," I say.

"I'm a terrible person."


And now it's today again, but later, and she's gone. It's quiet and I'm already lonely. I want to write about it because that's what we do. What I do, I guess. I write poetry. "Love poems," I think to myself and I laugh so long and hard that it turns into a cough and now I'm trying not to vomit.

"You shouldn't smoke so much," she says. This is about six months ago and I'm thinking "God damn it I won't quit smoking because what else do I have?" And then she kisses me halfway through a drag and I can't swallow so I share it with her; I let the smoke waft out of my nose and mouth as if my face was a just-fired gun and she draws it deep into her throat before passing it back to me.

It's today and I'm reading her Facebook page.

"He's an asshole."

"You deserve better."

"Good riddance."

"He's a fat piece of shit asshole fuck face garbage can."

I go back to 1990 and wonder what she sees in me. "I want to be a fighter pilot," I say. I'm drunk and I don't know how to talk to girls and obviously this is not how you do it because she is laughing and calling her friends over and now they're singing that song from Top Gun and I feel like shit because I'm going to be alone forever. But it's later and I'm still there with her and her friends and she says "you want to see something funny?"

And of course I do and so she slips her shoe off and peels her stocking down and right there on her ankle is another tattoo.

"Take me to bed or lose me forever"

It's 3a.m. now and I know I'm going to have to sleep at some point. But this has got to come out of me first. Words and cigarettes. That's what this has come to. But the only words on the screen are "I AM A FUCKING ASSHOLE" and they are in all caps and they are in 62 point font and I'm starting to realize that's about the sum of it.

I'm a fucking asshole.

It's six months later and she's here in our coffee shop. She's happy and she's with some guy and he seems nice enough and she's read the first draft of my novel. "It's great," she says and I know she means it because she always means it.

"But what does that say?" she asks, pointing to the ink scrawled across the back of my neck.

"It's a poem," I say. "I wrote it the night you left."
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