10 May 2013 § Leave a Comment
The first time they did it, she became overwhelmed with emotions that an influx of tears dampened her face and her chin. It was embarrassing because he didn’t understand it and he drove her home without walking her to the door with the impression that she was girlish and odd. She didn’t understand it either and she hated herself for it. She worried she stamped him with the image of her begging for his attention but it wasn’t attention she wanted.
Two years later, she was packed to go back home to the place where she had long forgotten about him and his puzzled brows. She sat in a black car with tinted windows and leather seats chatting with a man from Flushing. They met at a bar and he liked what he saw so he braved the cold and laughed with her just outside the gate. She was nervous. He was the oldest man who’d ever given her attention and he was only twenty-three. It was foolish of her to not take advantage of being eighteen and full-figured and relatively smart. She couldn’t gotten a long way with a nice set of heels and a smooth attitude, but she didn’t want to go a long way. She just wanted to quietly soak in the lights of her campus of then and let the light-eyed, dark-skinned man try to make her laugh so that she could respond to his puns charmingly and force some kind of sincere chemistry into their fun, flirtatious exchanges. But in the grand scheme of it, there was no chemistry. He wasn’t clever, just coy. And she felt overpowering not giving him the slack to just let him let her believe he was good at what he was doing. She could’ve just giggled a little louder and made him feel convincing. She could’ve just laughed along, as boyish as he, letting him feel in control. His sly groans and fake pouts; his stories of being a gentleman because his mother always taught him to or because he grew up with a bunch of sisters or whatever. It bothered her, seeing the reigns of a conversation wrap around her neck and knowingly giggling forcibly all along so that he didn’t feel castrated and she didn’t feel dominating. And he’d feel clever although he didn’t deserve that liberty. She yearned for a genuine, hearing conversation.
He sat comfortably in the driver’s seat because he knew something she didn’t. His mind moved around in a maze to get her to say the things he wanted to her to say. She knew what those things were. She knew how she was supposed to react. He couldn’t hear anything else but the “ooh’s” and the “aah’s” and was growing confident with every opportunity to push the conversation toward something intimate. It irked her when men asked her about intimate things because they knew they weren’t willing to share a part of themselves and they knew they truthfully didn’t care; it was just a lot like gossip or getting someone naked. It was easy to fall for a person who gossiped because it seemed they knew everything about anything when, in fact, there wasn’t much an interesting factor holding them up. Private things were valuable and revealing those things gave them the upper hand like a woman in her underwear in a room full of men so, when he asked why she was so interested in him, she instinctively didn’t feel the need to tell him.
“I guess the right song was playing and it made me feel romantic.”
She let him ask her on a date and she ran upstairs with her face smirking and unstitching loose, dying to smile.
“He asked me out!” she exclaimed, dropping herself to the floor, “I can’t believe he asked me out!”
She wasn’t absolutely senseless to not recognize her natural beauty or her magnetism or slapstick humor even under her careless choice of wardrobe, but she had never actually been on a date before and so had reason to believe that there was maybe something wrong with her breath. There was something doubtful in her that made her feel undeserving. She thought too many dirty thoughts or was either too nice or too headstrong.
She forced herself to sleep that night, feeling more anxious than nervous and her roommates told her not to worry about it as long as she didn’t overthink it. The next night, their suite became full with students getting ready to catch their flights or trains or buses.
“Aren’t you supposed to go on a date tonight?” Luka asked.
“I think I’m being stood up right now.” she smiled.
She stayed up the entire night until the sun came up in the dress she felt she wore so perfectly. Her eye makeup became cake on her eyelashes with the humidity of the room and the dryness of the throw pillows. Her eyes burned from the moving darkness of the room. It was as if her retinas never touched a glare of day. She watched movies online, dozing in and out of a rigid, dreamless sleep. And then the campus reopened and the common room spread out with the grey overcast sunrise of Floral Park.
She went back home and didn’t know the boy she left. He didn’t know her either. They never had a history. They never spoke again as if he wanted her to disappear. He wanted her and what they did to disappear. So she pretended she never gave him anything at all and ignored the phone calls from the man in the black-on-black car. And she went about the holidays renewed.
Three years later, she was on her third date ever and she felt a lot of pressure on her end to be more than just flirtatious and entertaining. She felt she owed him something, and she wanted to go back home before he felt he had control over her willpower. She left, forgetting to thank him, which she guessed didn’t matter because she never heard from him either again. And then there was the night the tattooed guy wouldn’t touch her so she tried getting him to talk and didn’t realize how stupid it was of her until after he dropped her home without saying goodbye.
“Alright.” he said, not putting his car in park.
“Okay.” she said back, wondering if maybe the way she sat at the table was the part that annoyed him.
He smiled at her and let her get out of the car and she didn’t hear from him either again. There was Henry who seemed to fantasize about taking her out for years but left it up to her who didn’t want to be too dominating and danced around cuisines with the invitation for him to take initiative. She wanted to be sure he actually wanted her or that he actually listened and knew she hated Chinese but he finally told her it was getting too late and that he was feeling sick and that she should come over.
“Why would I come over if you’re sick?” she asked.
“I guess you’re right,” he said, “Rain check?”
She spent the summer in New Jersey and never heard from him again. She felt, for sure, she had something in her teeth.
The second time she did it, they did it for the first time in a room filled with compressed love. He didn’t understand it but he walked her to his door and he stopped and stood before her, watching. It wasn’t a critical kind of watch. She didn’t feel girlish or odd. She didn’t hate herself for it– she felt finalized. She felt her eyes being introduced to a tiny shimmer of strangeness and it stung so much she teared. And her self expanded with a yellow rise of pleasantness only found in healthy, corduroy-like sunflowers.
He stood there with his left hand gripped around the door and he stepped forward, looking at her, and kissed her.
Did he really just kiss me goodnight? she thought, He really just kissed me goodnight.
She didn’t know much about him and didn’t expect anything either but they went on a date and then went on another and she didn’t feel overlooked. It was odd. He was persistent with talking with her and he seemed extremely conscientious about it but not in a way that made him nervous or insecure. He was modest the right amount and he was talkative the right amount. He didn’t wrap his arm around her in public or get her to just come to his room. It seemed he was reading her every time she moved. He didn’t make her any ridiculous promises, believing himself more than he expected her to believe him. He didn’t talk just to get her to please him. He didn’t overlook what she was trying to do. She saw him for not conversing with her like it was a skill, moving around his head like it was in a maze and avoiding her responses that begged their exchanges for a little bit of genuine banter. He genuinely bantered back. They talked and she felt okay talking more.
“You can stop me if I’m talking too much, seriously.” she said.
He laughed an equaling laugh and told her to go on.
Her eyes stung with the image of a man who liked everything she did. She didn’t feel the need to wonder if she should hold back or if she wasn’t asking enough questions or asking too much. Or proving to herself that she could create something real out of something she expected was tomfoolery. Or not looking at him because she was nervous or saying things too outlandish or keeping personal things from him with the fear that he’d just keep it to hold in his upper hand.
He kissed her goodnight and she felt something. It rose from her heart through her neck and through her head. And it came back down slowly down into her body where a bit of adrenaline told her it was okay. And she left, stamping him with the image of her blushing face knowing.
2 May 2013 § Leave a Comment
I hate the feeling I get when I listen to old songs and remember why I became tired of them. A playlist called “Hearts” or “Walking” or “Running.” It didn’t matter. Those were tireless times. I wasn’t feeling good inside; I wasn’t going anywhere special. Nothing in me was changing. I was on an unplugged treadmill running in place and getting shin splits. And then the shin splits hurt and I remembered that time as being painful and pointless. My heart rate was too high. My feelings were exhausted. The music didn’t matter to me anymore. So I stowed them away in the history of my computer and didn’t hear them again unless it was in passing. And it reminded me of bad times. Times where the music played out. I was tired of those times. Those were tireless times.
The time between breaking off and never talking again or starting something new reluctantly or being in the middle of something else I really didn’t want to finish because I knew it would end badly but I wasn’t a quitter. Those times bothered me.
And then I took a hiatus and then the music came back. And it was with a pale face and red lips that smiled at everything I did and used dry jokes and jaded love I was attracted to for some reason. All the music came back but bereft of all the pain. I forgot, for a moment, that I could even be sick to my stomach with circumstances again. And the music sounded lovely again. It was new like virgin ears to quick fingers on the bass. It was like the first time I was hearing the lead sing about California even though I was from the east coast and he from the midwest. So we sang together and cantered back and forth. He talked into my back, his voice vibrating the bed; I talked into the empty room with my back to his chest.
2 May 2013 § Leave a Comment
It was the middle of the night when people’s bodies began tossing because the sun would come up soon and sleep became redundant. She lied on her back, watching the room turn into a bluish globe of dusk. The figures on her nightstand began to take shape and, staring off at her bureau, she saw the faces of her siblings smiling in the frame. The light to her charging cell phone stopped glowing and everything was orange within minutes. The day began to expand throughout the earth, the dirt becoming warmer and fertile. She suddenly lacked the motivation to put her uniform on. She had been thinking all night, her eyes wide open and pulsating with her heart. It was as if nighttime released the endorphins in her brain and she was restlessly prepared to do anything. She promised herself the world; the day would be over soon and soon would be her life. But the more she disgraced her laziness in hindsight, she knew it was forthcoming. There was no reason why the moon was the able to work tirelessly all night long— a rock floating in space doing a job that relied on something else. It was a mass of nothing that got credit for barely anything unless mid-shifters just so happened to step outside. And, even then, the smooth silver they so admired in the sky was the doing of the majestic sun everyone knew and worshiped. Yet, it still worked— the moon. She promised she would do more. She vowed to try harder. And the sun rose and she became bothered. Its overpoweredness stung her eyes; the heat was too much. She went to work five minutes before her shift with her shirt untucked and her shoes badly laced. The smell of Chinese food whisked through the dining room and she suddenly had an urge for Gin.
1 May 2013 § Leave a Comment
Perhaps it was the idea of going on a date that made her uncomfortable. She had only been with one person and it was hardly a genuine relationship. It had been six years since Hansen Burns broke her heart and made her promise herself that she’d never cry over a boy again. Tonight, however, she was going on a date with a man. He was the manager of a bank in Manhattan, which she hoped meant more because of the geographic. Managers, she assumed, were like the hall monitors of important businesses because someone had to be in charge, and it didn’t help in areas like Queens and Brooklyn where banks were robbed like the place was a giveaway. They were the heads of minuscule portions of big companies run by bigger people. She looked forward to meeting him, though. She spritzed herself three times with the presumption that the smell of subway would get into her coat. Midway, she realized she sprayed too much and had to beat her clothing over a sewage drain to smell more authentic. She looked around, slipping her arms back in, and noticed the restaurant across the street. It was nicer than in the photos online. She charged across in heels she immediately regretted wearing. She prayed they wouldn’t take a walk around the neighborhood, contemplating getting ice cream or something. It was too cold for ice cream no matter how romantic and delicious it sounded, and she much rathered getting on the subway and running straight home before she did anything embarrassing. She walked into the restaurant and was directed into the dining room by the hostess.
“I’m sure we’ll run into each other.” she smiled.
“Good luck.” the hostess smiled back.
Weslin stepped into the dining room graciously, praising herself for a good start. A man in an ironed, painted-on button-down blouse waved her down and she walked over to him with a pep in her step like she hadn’t seen him in a long time. She hadn’t seen anyone like him in a long time. He was built and glowing and dark and standard height.
“Hi,” he said, “I’m waiting for a date but I am about to wither I’m so hungry. Is there any way you could bring me some croutons or some bread– something to hold me over– and then dispose of it before she gets here? I don’t want her to think I’m some inconsiderate pig.”
Weslin didn’t know what to do. She stood there, considering pretending to be one of the servers and then leaving to save herself the shame of stooping to that level. But he wasn’t nasty; he was just hungry. He didn’t deserve to be stood up. She noticed a large ring on his middle finger that appeared to only be worn for special occasions. Her boss mentioned he was a construction worker before transitioning and Weslin knew that construction fashion carried over unless they really didn’t want to dress like sixty-year-old dads from Illinois all the time. Weslin noted that he didn’t want to dress like Dan Conner and it pleased her he would get dressed up for her. The ring, although supercilious, was a nice touch. Weslin then thought about whether or not he had seen her through all his ranting. Perhaps she could get him the bread, wait a few minutes, and then rearrive with something cute to forever banter about. It would be a nice ice breaker and a light lesson for him to pay more attention to his surroundings. But she wondered why she would go through all the trouble and instead said the first thing natural to her.
“Hi.. hello. I’m your date, not your server.”
She smiled to relieve him of the pressure because his attention shot up like she was someone important. For the rest of the night, she was important, his eyebrows cross and innocently apologetic. She giggled at his boyishness, uncomfortable with the role of having one hand over him.
By ten o’clock, the servers began kicking them out with waving white cloths polishing the tabletops.
“I think they absolutely hate us. Let me get the check.”
She considered fighting for it but figured she deserved to be treated. In the event they would never see each other again, she at least deserved a free dinner for tolerating him. He was articulate and well-read and he knew both of his jobs so well he could teach it. But he didn’t want to teach because teachers made minimum wage and money, realistically, was the backbone to happiness. He did fine without a backbone before but, now, it sure made him stand up straighter. He smiled after that statement, his teeth white and his eyebrows perfect. It was the moment she realized she wasn’t meant for him. He paid for dinner and she didn’t say a word, quiet as a gold-digger behind her man. It was sickening to her but it was done many times in the history of dating so she justified it with an episode of Girlfriends or Sex in the City. They would never see each other again, she was sure.
Their server delivered their receipt, which was stowed in her pocket and which was printed on thicker paper than usual. Weslin’s date commented on the paper industry and how hopeless they were in comparison to the internet. And then he made a comment about how impressive the restaurant was for using such sturdy paper for their receipts. It meant they were well-to-do but it was also a foolish waste of money.
“You gotta think about profit.” he said to himself, shaking his head.
She was growing annoyed with his platitudes and didn’t respond at all. He talked while jotting the tip down. Weslin attempted a peek. As he reached around for his suit coat, the server retrieved the check without a “thank you” or a “come again” and punched around on an iPad she used to ring their orders up.
“Technology, right? Before you walked in, she brought me my water before I even asked for it. It’s like people are developing the skills to read minds.”
He laughed loudly at himself and she realized he was telling a joke. She thought to herself if she even resembled the server. She tried to remember what the server was wearing but the noise of him vexed her and blocked her mind. Stress built inside of her as she tried again to distract herself from listening to him but he ignored her distant body language and spoke louder. She began blinking seconds longer like a mother irritated with her children, trying with any patience she had left to recall. It wasn’t as if it mattered or that she cared whether or not the server was less attractive than she was; she simply wondered if he had any regard for anything and, showing he didn’t, she refused to process the dim-wit he considered conversation any longer.
“If only my Makers Mark was as common as a glass of that polluted water. Free my ass,” he said, “Free illnesses, that is.”
It was the first time he cursed all night. She figured it gave him a bit of courage.
As they walked to the subway and her feet began aching, he insinuated a quick ride uptown.
“You live just over two hours from me. It took me one hour and fifteen minutes to get here.”
“If you’re worried about work, I can set my alarm.”
“Tomorrow is Saturday.”
“Well, some of us have to work.”
“Maybe we should call it a night,” she said, “We’ll talk sometime soon.”
“Are you saying I should come to you? I’ll be out before the night is over.”
“No.” she said plainly.
She reached into her bag and slapped a pair of flats on the dirty concrete floor. He watched as she shook her feet out of her corduroy black wedges and waddled down into the subway like she was walking on fire. When she arrived home that night, she listened to the faint sound of bass vibrating the yard next door and boys flirting with girls who squealed like they didn’t like it. And her eyes welled up with frustration for the boys who didn’t understand when playing was enough.
30 April 2013 § Leave a Comment
It was the month of April when the weather fluctuated between extremely freezing and extremely hot. It was humid Friday morning and it gave her anticipating for the weekend. Cars honked in traffic and the subway was a rushing gush of warm, sweaty air. She would be a few minutes late for work and running into the building. Sharon was waiting for her at the front desk behind the secretary, her hands on his shoulders massaging.
“This is Wingo,” she said, “The young girl was stealing.”
Weslin nodded at him faintly and then looked at Sharon for anything else. And then she looked at Wingo again when she noticed he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstocks. His shirt read “Paradise” and Sharon gawked at Weslin while massaging his chubby shoulders like Weslin should’ve said something pleasant. She didn’t know what to say and she stood there stuttering her steps toward her office. There was nothing wrong with an impersonal co-worker. Sharon patted him on the back and told Weslin to follow her into her office. It was an intimidating statement– “to my office.” Sharon’s office was always flowing with air from the rush hour in the street. She placed plastic plants on the sill to waft it in faster and it worked. Sharon sat in her desk chair with her waxed and shiny legs crossed. Weslin became uncomfortable. She pushed herself away from her desk, pulling herself slowly back and forth like she was doing wall push-ups with her fingers. Weslin asked her how she was doing.
“Great.” Sharon smiled.
She liked the anxiety. Weslin looked around to pick something up for conversation but Sharon interrupted her and “cut to the chase.” It was a bold move to Weslin when people used clichés in their everyday language. It meant they were really trying to appeal to people, as Sharon did. Weslin felt cursed herself for not allowing Sharon to just be her friend. It would be delightful in the long-term. All the memories and free drinks if Sharon was actually a lesbian. It wasn’t a terrible deal faking a smile or two and it wouldn’t be strenuous with a little Bourbon in her blood. Jim Beam washed her l’esprit d’escalier away because he made her feel expressive and aimless and it, without fail, felt good.
“I just wanted to know if you’d go out with a friend of mine if you won’t go out with me. I mean, Jesus, Weslin. You’re been here a good chunk of time and you can’t even laugh it up with us in the break room. Will you, at least, in order to prove you don’t hate everyone and, not only that, your loyalty to this company and America, go out with a friend of mine from Manhattan? He’s a catch. It’s hard to one hundred percent hate him. I think you’ll have fun. It’s a free dinner. Who doesn’t have fun with a free dinner?”
Weslin cleared her throat and looked around the room to look for something to talk about after she would deny her boss again and walk away feeling like a jerk. She couldn’t go on dates. The last date she went on was at a bar in Harlem and it was only a date because the guy ordered her cheese fries and let her grind on him like she was in junior high again. But Weslin agreed and didn’t say anything about her plants and left Sharon’s office in a dash to not display any feelings of distress.
29 April 2013 § Leave a Comment
Weslin wasn’t one to complain so her head began filling up with animosity for her neighbors. They were teenage residents who thought highly of themselves because they were second-year students at NYU. Their place was one of the loudest. She felt like an old woman at night, going to sleep at nine in order to beat their ruckus and pouting at the glares of the bright lights of whatever they were playing with. It wasn’t firecrackers or strobe lights. It couldn’t have been a lamp. It taunted her. She thought about moving. She thought about sacrificing her investment and moving. There was a quiet area in Queens but it was probably too serene. She didn’t like the idea of living in the suburbs. Perhaps somewhere far enough from the subway but close enough to the 6 line so her favorite bar wasn’t too much of a hike. She had friends who came from the G line where a combination of anti-social working artists lived. It seemed fitting to her limited yet sporadic want for community. The lights went out at two or three-thirty and she’d hit her alarm three times until the end of seen forty-five when she absolutely had to get up. Every second counted.
She slept a bit more on the train but was so afraid of missing her stop it exhausted her. The only thing she found herself appreciating was the limbo between sunset and the end of every university night class. She debated napping each afternoon but preferred watching lineups and old movies instead. And then the music came on and a young girl’s shriek triggered her irritation for ignorant college boys and naïve college girls worldwide. She thought about the grown men who licked their lips while maintaining their balance on the train, and then leaving the subway and never seeing or having any care for her again. She couldn’t bring herself to have fun even on Tuesdays when the soup shop served lobster. All the movies she watched on Hulu and all the little snacks she indulged in equated to her regret for not just taking advantage of taking a nap.
She worked at a marketing firm downtown where she had to wear tight suits and high heels buffed with polish and baby oil. Her supervisor preferred it. The whole company had a “preference” for beyond the better standard. She had a feeling her supervisor, a Russian refuge-turned-citizen, was a homosexual or else Weslin herself was just cocky. The constant invites to Five Guys were becoming pushy. And then there was the night she ran into her at Prospect Park for a non-profit concert of some American-Swiss band. They danced until she and Sharon kicked all the chairs out of the way and then she and the woman in charge of her had their bodies pressed shoulder-to-shoulder and Weslin’s mind danced about peeling away without seeming rude. Sharon was beginning to take Weslin’s rejections personally. Weslin merely enjoyed the mystery of having a work-strict boss who didn’t share anything with her or invite her anywhere outside of the office. She was starting to realize that rejecting her boss was doing more damage than taking them and risking all bad things that come about business and pleasure. Anyway, perhaps it was a culture thing. Her supervisor seemed naturally comfortable, talking with her arms and using her body. It was a characteristic that both made Weslin uneasy and admiring to her boss. Sharon was truly an effortful individual and Weslin believed in nuances of conversation.
18 April 2013 § Leave a Comment
It had only been the second week since she arrived there and she wasn’t so excited with the idea of going home but she did. It was a missed bus, a pricey cab ride, and an expensive train ticket away. And she spent an hour on her cousin’s couch sleeping. That night, she took a late bus back to be sure she’d be safe from TAPS and, still, she was seconds from the somber trumpet tune because the Greyhound driver got lost in Maryland. She marched into the dormitory quadrangle upset because it was a weekend worth a waste of money and time. She felt like she was the only one awake. Everyone’s lights were out and all she could think about was drowning in her own dark room and in her sheets before she’d have to awake to the shine of sunrise as six o’clock before the duty day. Her stomach fluttered with butterflies, anticipating her room warm with sleep. Everything was so quiet it rung in her ears but it soothed her because the tangled disorder of traffic was miles away. All she heard was the subtle honking and snoring of cars squealing on the freeway.
Someone was awake. He talked quietly outside of his room. He lived on the other side of the building where a tattered red strip of duct tape separated them from even knowing each other. The week was crammed with studying general facts about planes and physical fitness and details and running back and forth to finance. She couldn’t remember seeing him after the first day she arrived and then there he was alone. He was pacing back and forth with his hand on his hip, looking at the ground and saying quietly, “Yeah, it’s all good, though.” It must have been his father talking to him man-to-man or his mother rubbing his head and telling him to be strong. Or it must have been a girlfriend crying because he was away and he was comforting her because it wasn’t that bad.
She charged into her room, driven by the last bouts of anticipation, stripped down to her underwear, and set her alarm to five. And she listened as lights out echoed throughout the base and lied still in the dark until she finally went to sleep.