Night, Shift

Guy that drinks lattes, but only in the cup, not the mug
Have you got cream? Put cinnamon on the top!

Cecil with the green takeaway container with masking tape, that says Cecil, on it.
Cecil reading a book on ancient roman history, he says
Bush and Obama have used lines in their speeches which coincide with roman leaders
He says Cicero was important in the forming of public speaking
He makes a passing comment about a ginger cat that chased the other cats
Around his neighbourhood, he says
It seemed small, but it was strong and agile

Simon’s the same as always

Alexander the woodworker in the red flannel
Black Buddhist beads around his neck
Hands stained the same from oiling wood by electric lamplight

Pauly takes his time changing the oil at 4am
The world doesn’t need councillors, it needs company.

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Dinner for Juan

Juan hadn’t eaten with another person in months. He couldn’t remember the last time. He couldn’t remember what it was like to sit across from someone discussing inconsequential things, like the quality of the food, what the people at the corner table might be talking about, or what he’d do when he got home.

Everyone that knew Juan, thought he was busy. A man-about-town, appearing everywhere at once and shaking every hand.

Juan had a knack at first impressions, they all agreed on that. They thought him affable and charming, though no one could tell you why.

No one could give any definitive answers about him, and as time passed they were more inclined to avoid the subject.

All in all, Juan was an acquaintance. He was nobodies friend, but everybody’s buddy. They would smile at him in the street and he would smile back, an empty mouthed, tight-jawed smile, wrinkling his eyes on reflex because he’d read somewhere that is appears more genuine. Everyone would smile this way.

It was only by chance that Juan found his way to parties. No one went out of their way to invite him. He wouldn’t be invited anywhere. He’d hear about these events after the fact, and everyone would assume he’d been there and they missed him, and he would lie and say he had been, or that he’d left early, or that his cat was sick, even though he didn’t have a cat. The only thing for him to tend to was his reputation.

Things were simply assumed of Juan. That he was kind, cultured, intelligent, desired by many women, envied by men. This is what people said to one another, but no one had expressed the fact, only shared it as second-hand knowledge.

Juan knew all of these things about himself, yet he was incapable of remedying them. He fermented in his skin daily. He’d ask himself why it was that he was forgotten so quickly? He would listen to others stories, feeling rejection well within him.

He would eat lunch at the same café every afternoon. During this routine, he would torture himself by watching couples and groups walk past, sharing their days together, and he would imagine that he was looking out of their eyes, living their stories.

Juan had no stories. His were confined to books, which he quickly forgot the details of because the quality lay in reading the words and not in the re-telling, or so he said. The only ones he told were his stock stories, which he would perform when meeting new people. These were tried and true tales. Ones that guaranteed to make his impression a good one. These were much like stock photographs that come inside picture frames from the stores, which incidentally, Juan would put on display, lacking any of his own to put inside.

He could never tell them true things about his life. He didn’t even like telling himself about those.

How he was miserable, desperate for affection, though unable to give it. How he still cried at night when he remembered how his brother would punish him by smothering him with a pillow. Juan had become so accustomed to this treatment that he found if he could get a hand in with his head, he could use it to push in the plush and produce a tiny pocket of air to breathe in. Juan’s mother did not believe him when he told, even when he showed her the outline of his face, impressed on the underside of the pillow by his crying and panicked sweating.

Once when Juan and an old girlfriend had been play-fighting, she began to force his head down with a pillow, and he beat her so viciously that he blinded her left eye permanently. Juan could not recognise her face from his brothers, through the tears, bile and burst capillaries.

How was he to tell people these stories? Blinding somebody in a blind rage over being blinded by a pillow.

He’d never get past the gate. And once he was through, he’d be confined to the foyer. He would never be allowed into the show, private viewings were for the inner circle. Juan had never been in.

Despite being seen as affable, it was unspoken that he made others feel anxious, guarded even. It’s as if everyone wanted to think him charming but really wished he would leave.

This is how Juan felt when on empty evenings when he looked at photographs of nameless families on his mantle. This is how he felt when he would smother himself with his pillows, leaving the shadow of his face on the casing. This is how he felt when he could no longer leave his room, and no one came looking.

Juan felt that he no longer existed, that he was imagining himself. Someone would come searching for him if he existed, he thought. They knew his name, his face, but all else was left to speculation if anyone took the time to speculate.

When someone did come looking, for the late rent, they found Juan with a blue velvet cushion tied to his face with a polyester-leather belt, and the picture frames of strangers arranged around his body like a funeral procession. His face had welded to the fibres and the skin pulled free from his skull when it was removed. Juan was unmasked and proved to be empty and decaying.

Cheap Beachside Motel

I.

In my solitude should I be found wanting
Would you say that misery sits alone?
Accustomed to the habitual trading of skin
Grafted hand to cheek, to thigh
Tracing lines around the outer sides of faces
It’s grown tepid, the atmosphere scares
All memory of shared spaces
Chagrined smiles, pulling teeth
Evaporate in body heat
Held to feel the breeze caressed between
Your lungs do the same as mine
Let us share each exhalation

II.

Search to find that it exists on both sides
That tender ache for the interlocking islands of time
Melancholy brought you to a gentle acceptance of a life once known
Remembered with significant nostalgia
Photographs record a faceless exterior
Amongst raging kicks and the onslaught of images
Tired tired
Make amends though limited
Touch hands with severe militance
Afraid to brush lightly for fear of breaking
A kiss grazes the senses and leaves a mark
Of burnt out desires which warm still hearts
Lucky to catch fire with you

III.

A sea of letters, held by the adhesive muse
Holding the heart of a word smith in her lips
Planting gardens of novels in his heart
Many petalled page leaves across his skin
The inks all over him
Her fingers smudging edges
Penciling a sketch of his outline
A spoiled manuscript touched by many hands intertwining
Never to touch
It excites even when she is gone
Provides an outlet for song
A soft body to lean on
Let her hair fall around
Drowning doubts swimming through mouths
Adrift in a sea of sentenced nows
Weigh anchor
Announce a steady resting place amidst an onslaught of images
Frightening hallucinations and premonitions
Peaceful in arms
Her tenement of repair
When washed ashore she recovers the wreckage
Moored and forlorn
Fixed not forgotten
Blessed is the spoken mind traveling backwards through time
To collect scattered moments
Hello today, holy tomorrow, wholly together

A Ballet

“It’s like, at this time of the night there isn’t as much interference. Other people’s thoughts and minds aren’t clogging up the air space. You know what I mean?”

We’d gotten into the habit of walking home together after work, talking for twenty minutes and finally getting somewhere. We would really be talking, then we’d reach her house.
I’d say goodbye, lingering that few extra seconds I knew she noticed, and wanted her to notice, but neither of us would ever acknowledge.
My house was still another forty-five minutes away, every other night I would catch the bus. Sunday was our day for walking.
I had that forty-five minutes to continue the conversation inside, mumble regrets, and imagine what the night could have become had I hugged her.
In my mind, our conversation flows through the evening. We’d manoeuvre the initial awkwardness and then speak freely.
I imagine it every night after we say goodbye.
It’s no matter, though. I don’t need company. Missing people isn’t a problem. It’s only when I want someone specific.
With her it was specific.

“I’ve always wanted to go see the ballet, but I’ve never had anyone to go with. I don’t really want to go by myself, you know? I’d like to go with a group of friends or something. But, no one will want to go.”
“I’ve always wanted to go, we should go, yea? We could ask Nyla as well. It would be fun, make a night of it. Dress up all fancy-like.”
“Really? That could be good.”

We never went to the ballet. I never bought it up again. We both knew that we wouldn’t go. It was one of those conversations you have to fill time. It’s like talking about what technology will be like in the future, we might never see it, but it fulfills something just to toy with the idea.
I should have asked her again. More regrets.
It could have played out like The Nutcracker, but instead I walked home with the combined sound of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet, Schoenberg composing beside me, and Coltrane improvising during his free period.

“Hey, are you walking home tonight?”
“Oh. Yea, no. I’m sorry, I’m meeting somebody for a drink. Next week, we’re back on like normal”
“Ok. See you.”

She smiled when she said that. There was no walk the next week. Or the week after that. Or ever again.
I couldn’t take it. I quit. Working there was a reminder that at 4 am I would be lonely and unable to sleep.
They went to the ballet. Of course they went to the ballet. He asked her. Of course he asked her.
Evolution was at work. Not my evolution, though.

“Hey, long time. You’re looking well.”
“Yea, you too.”
“Hows things? You kind of just disappeared on us, huh?
“Yea. I needed it. A change.”
“That’s cool, I guess. Well, I’ll see you around then?”
“Yea, of course. See you.”

I didn’t see her again. Better said, I never let myself see her again. We passed on the street once, but she was with him, and so I tucked my chin into my chest and pretended to button my shirt cuff. I went to the ballet alone.

Simon

He would smoke and drink from sun up, and continue for the rest of the day. His front teeth were black-yellow nubs, and the rest looked like termites had crawled from the cigarette smoke, through the filters and bored holes in every one of them. The skin on his face was pockmarked, scaly, and came off when he moved his head. His eyes and nails were the colour of jaundice and stale nicotine.
Though, despite this outward appearance, he had a certain charm.
He made you laugh, and he was so self-effacing that it made you feel warm, giddy, and good about your own life in that morbid kind of way you only get when you feel better than somebody else.
“I can do card tricks you know?”
He botched them, every time.
“My father was the only person outside of Africa, to have been kicked in the chest by a zebra. Any higher and it would have killed him. Sent him shooting across the room and broke his glasses.”
Somedays he would lose his mind.
“Your grandfather was a criminal associate of H.G. Wells. A spy in the emerald castle, 1884. Look it up. Ask your parents.”
When I asked him if it was my mother’s, or my father’s side, he couldn’t answer.
“Did you see that? Someone’s just died. I saw it through the T.V screen. An EMP just burst out of it. Someone’s having a bad time, somewhere.”
I asked him why he sat on the street all day. He didn’t know why.
“It’s been, ‘the day of the stingy git’. Are you feeling slightly benevolent this afternoon, by any chance? Do you think you could spot me twenty dollars, so I can get a pack of cigarettes?”
I told him that I couldn’t give him money if I knew I was contributing to his smoking.
“Well, you can be an arrogant, self-righteous prick if you want.”
He was still there at two a.m, when I finished my shift, sitting cross-legged outside the record store, waiting for money to fall into his lap.

12:29

And here I was considering
Myself invincible
Bonding with an empty seat in a cafe
Reading coffee grains
Like tea leaves
Drinking page leaves burning with the
Oil spills of bookshelf dreams
And wishful thinking
And invented identities
These fragmented images
Assuming the character of my youth
My mistress Fate caressing my bones
Destiny the slavedriver
Owner of my soul
Oh rapture
I thought myself invincible