Basket Case

From the storage space under the basement stairs, I took out my mother’s wooden picnic basket. I opened the lid, with its grinning sun. I removed the plastic utensils and plates. I spread the checked napkins on the bottom. On them, I laid

  • a ceramic chicken
  • a plastic mouse in a vest
  • a triceratops sticker
  • a drawing of a snake-clad woman

I closed the lid and took the basket with me.

I kept the basket safe for years, never opening the lid until one day, you needed me to open it. I took out these precious talismans, hoping somehow they could help me help you. I released the pieces of my heart they held and tried to bandage your wounds.

Too strong. Not strong enough? Spoiled? For whatever reason, it did not work, and there isn’t enough of my heart left to try again.

A Few Miles South

You are there

On the cusp of the beanbag,

The protected island but

Near the edge of the storm.

Close enough to

Hear the wind scream

Through the window screens

Close enough to

Hear the wind suck

At the shingles.

And after,

You find pieces of

Someone else’s life

Lodged in the mud

Of your backyard.

You are perched on the edge.

And you face forward,

You look over the cusp.

You close your eyes,

And thank Whoever

That you were on the beanbag.

Even knowing you don’t, I can’t help but.

I covered my face – though no one but god was watching – and sobbed, the water of the shower washing my tears down the drain, wasted just like my feelings. I blew my nose in my palm and washed that down the drain, too. I slapped myself.

Snap out of it. Don’t spend yourself.

Well, I have to afford it. The grief shows me that I am not cold, isolated, or bitter.

I felt the imagined loss as if it was real, and I mourned it. I mourned you and the believed-death of beauty in potentia. I asked myself why? Because I do, and I can’t help but.

Instantaneous Rate Of Change

One of the best days of my life was the day you called me to come pick you up because you totaled your Camero.

You took me to the lot with you, and I told you it was stupid to buy it, that you should buy something sensible. You rarely ever took my advice. I remember looking at that car and thinking, I’m going to die in that thing. You always drove, and you always drove fast and sometimes drunk.

We took every curve too fast.

I watched you take out the T-tops, lay them in their special cases as if laying a newborn babe in a bassinet. You loved her so. You never touched me with such tenderness and care. Perhaps if I had been more expensive…

The heat was on full-blast, my hair whipped into the night air. I think I had fun the first time, until I realized that if we wrecked, I would lose my head.

It had to be CLEAN, and god forbid I tracked in dirt or got cigarette ash on the door panel.

You loved that car, and you drove it the night you left your dog in the woods. I cried, begged you to go get him. He was still sitting in the same place, his blanket made into a nest, his food covered with twigs and leaves. He knew you weren’t coming back, and when he saw you, he peed himself. I held him, shaking in my lap, on the trip back home. You gave him away a month later.

Two months later, your next dog vomited all over the back seat.

The month after that, you wrecked.

Pantera

Sitting on the concrete bench in front of the building, I smoked between classes. I liked the spot, a kind of perch atop the wide stairs that overlooked sidewalks, flowerbeds, oaks planted after the campus burned during the Civil War, and the crosswalk. Despite a flashing neon yellow sign that read, “Stop for pedestrians,” someone got hit there every semester. Stupid kids, driving like stupid kids, and hitting other stupid kids like they were squirrels.

I hogged the bench. I had my feet up, my knees tucked up to my chest. I liked sitting that way – the way they made us hunker during tornado drills or actual tornados when I was in elementary school. With my right arm wrapped around my knees, I clasped my left arm just above the elbow. With methodical timing, I bent my elbow, took a drag, and straightened my arm. Then, I watched as the smoke wafted out of my gaping mouth or streamed from my nostrils. I’m a dragon, I thought childishly and smiled at myself.

“Hey,” someone called to me.

Like a Viewmaster, I blinked to switch from what I thought to the real world. I looked two steps down to find the guy-in-the-Pantera-T-shirt. He always wore one with faded, black jeans, black Chuck Taylor’s, and three wallet chains. This day, he wasn’t wearing his dog collar bracelet or armor ring.

“What’s up?” I asked.

He tossed his backpack at the base of the bench and took out his pack of cigarettes. Since he meant to sit, and I felt polite, I swiveled, letting my feet drop, and sat on the bench normally. He patted himself, and knowing what he sought, I offered him my lighter, keeping my hand out as a reminder for him to return it. He did and sat beside me.

“How’re you doing in this class?” He waved his cigarette at the building.

Simultaneously, we turned our heads and blew smoke over the azaleas instead of in each other’s faces while never breaking eye contact. I rubbed my cigarette under the bench to put it out, not minding when bits of hot tobacco stung my hand, and set the butt on the bench between us.

“Good,” I said in answer to his question.

“I thought so. Could you maybe help me? I mean, I can pay you, some.”

“Yeah, I’m real busy.” After a glance at my watch, I knew I had time for one more, so I bent sideways to fish out a smoke from the front pocket of my backpack. Pantera bumped my arm and offered me one of his.

When I took it, he said, “Yeah, I figured, but look, I’m serious. I have to pass this class.”

I lit the cigarette and took a drag, exhaled and took another, making him stew just a bit. “How about Saturday?  There isn’t a game.”

He winced. “I can’t do it then. My friends and I…we build rockets.”

My eyebrows darted up at that. “Really?  Like fifth grade science class?”

“Well, not dinky ones.”

“You build rockets,” I mused and thought of the little engines that looked like rolls of coins with tampon strings. “Do they have parachutes?”

He laughed and looked off into the bushes. “Yeah, and one weekend, a buddy of mine had his dad down and he helped us make napalm.”

I choked. “That’s just…not normal.” Then, I laughed because anyone who spoke to me for more than five minutes knew I wasn’t normal. “Yeah, okay Pantera-Napalm-Guy. When are you free?”

We made plans to meet at the library on Thursday afternoon, and when he finished his smoke, I said I’d meet him in class. I sat a bit longer, wondering how much money the University spent on grounds upkeep. The azaleas were quite beautiful, cotton candy pink.

When I stood, my bottom was numb from sitting for so long on that hard, concrete bench. Nintendo butt, my brother called it, like Nintendo thumb. Except now, there was Sega thumb, X-Box thumb, and Playstation thumb. I wondered if anyone had ever used a Playstation dual-shock controller as a vibrator.

I pinched my cigarette just above the filter and rolled it between my fingers.  When the hot rock fell out, I scrubbed it across the concrete with my boot and flicked the unburned tobacco free. I always left that little bit because I hated the taste of burnt filter.

After buying a coffee from the street vendor, I pitched my butts into the trash and headed back in the building to class.

Decartes

It’s painful to care about someone who doesn’t acknowledge your existence unless you’re in the same room together. Mariposa was the first person I ever met with this ability. I have always wondered if she is this way because her mind is so full of other things – worries, school, work, her lover, herself – that she has no room for anyone else, or if deep inside her, she believes that no one really exists unless she thought of them. She is the creator. She could bring me into the world or remove me with a thought.

When I send her an email, does it cease to exist until she chooses to receive it and open it?

And not just her. So many sociopathic gods. I ask myself these questions: how do they do it? How do they convince themselves that someone they met, someone that made an impact (for better or worse), is no more?

To all the gods, if I meant something, even if you can’t define it, how can you ignore me?  The only answer I find is that you tell yourself that I don’t exist anymore.

But, you won’t read my words or hear my voice because you’ve already forgotten me.

Even so and throwing like a girl, I send out the digital version of a message in a bottle. My message reads like a fortune cookie fortune. It isn’t really a fortune, just some vague advice or nonsense that’s funny when “in bed” is tacked to the end, and then is tossed it into the trash bin with the used napkins. I’ve grown used to it to the point that I’m not sure I exist unless I think of me. Then my head hurts because I’m a paradox.

Worry not. I think of you, all the time. I’m keeping us here.