{charlotte, played again}

I heard a song over the weekend that I hadn’t heard in an incredibly long time.  It got me to thinking about the first time I ever heard that song and the short piece I’d written as a result of the experience.  I’d never really liked what I’d written, but the bit at the end was lovely and exactly what I wanted to say.  It was a bit of a rough weekend for me, so I sat down and wrote it out.  This might sound familiar to some of you, but I like what I’ve got much more this time around.

*****

It’s dark when I leave the theatre, clothes heavy with sweat and dust.  Your car waiting in the parking lot, ready to take us away for late night drinks with our friends.  Another night like so many that summer.  Phone rings, my father’s voice aching at the end of the line.  Hey, kiddo, sorry, you got a sec?  And I know.  Just like that.  Like Don and Lupe and our tortoiseshell cat.  Just like every other time.  I wonder if I’ll always know.

My mother now, voice betraying her worry.  She’s trying to sound light but it never works.  I’m too calm, too rational, asking for details that I know are useless, but what am I supposed to do?  I listen and nod.  You stand patient against the driver’s side.  I close my eyes.  How long do I have until I must make these calls?  Less than a year will pass before it’s my turn:  a friend’s mother, cancer, too young, not fair.  I don’t know that yet, of course.  The last vestiges of my sloppy, shattered childhood are unravelling on the beaten pavement of the parking lot.  And I don’t even blink.  It’s all so remarkably simple.

You take my hand and lead me to the car, open the door and help me in.  The engine crackles and you start driving us nowhere.  Just turn off the music and watch me talk on the phone.  Okay.  I’m okay.  No, really, I’m okay.  There’s nothing more to say.  There’s never anything to say.

Too careful putting my phone away, close my eyes as tears trace ancient patterns down my sooty face.  Your hand finds mine and you bring it to your lips, and suddenly I can’t breathe anymore.  Eyes off the road, you touch my face.  You smile.  And you begin to sing.

John Darnielle.  Scratchy and low, a hair off-key.  It’s everything I’ll ever need.  A memory that floats up on lonely nights a hundred years later.

The tears are coming quicker now, but your fingers rub them away.  Your eyes clear and calm and full of a lifetime of promises you’ll end up breaking.  You pull the car into a space outside the liquor store and unbuckle just to hold me.  Not saying a word, not pressing for more.  Breath coming steady and keeping me close.  You wipe my eyes and I stutter.

There’s snot on your jacket.

I really don’t care.

I can’t believe she’s gone.

Looking back, I know it doesn’t end well.  Anger and tears, words we both regret.  Missed opportunities and embarrassing displays.  We might laugh about them someday.  But for now, it’s just us and your car.  McDonald’s wrappers in the backseat and my tattered bag up front, the weight of future calls and funerals on my mind.  I’m wondering who’s next.  Your arms pull me back to Earth.  In our secluded cavern you are the epitome of life:  calloused hands and cleansing heat, your smile like being born again, rescuing me from the darkness in my mind.  Newly baptized, I look into your shining eyes.

I have never loved anyone more in my entire life.

 

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sweet future sabotage

Ode to Tom Hiddleston’s Hip Bones
for Liz

Dear, sweet Hiddlebones.
Like, seriously?  Wow.  I–
I can’t even.  Nom.

 ***

This poem was originally inspired by this picture which I discovered last weekend while on Pinterest. Of course, this only led me to other Pinterest pages, which only made the need for poetic expression so much worse.  This is what I refer to as ‘Pinception’.

…I’m really looking forward to someday having a respectable writing career where my plays are performed and my books are published and the hilarity that will ensue when the critics find all of the creepy haikus I’ve posted on the internet.

{excerpt from ‘no place i’m going’}

I spent a great deal of time in auditions this week, which leads to plenty of writing, but less self-reflected, blogish writing and more disappear-into-my-head-during-the-downtimes writing.  And while I hate to leave you without an update every week, I also think that posting a haiku to the amazing pasta salad I just ate is a bit of a cop-out.  (A haiku?  An haiku?  Grammar, why have you abandoned me?)  So here is something completely unnecessary and adorable that I wrote up earlier this week.  Don’t read through if you don’t want to see two dudes snuggling on a couch and maybe flirting a little.

*****

     Daniel smiled as he watched the pencil in Oliver’s hand.  The man was a breathing hypocrisy.  His handwriting was an illegible mess of shaky letters and ink blotches, but the strokes of his sketches were steady and precise.  His skin was forever fever-hot to the touch but he always bundled up like an Antarctic explorer.  Sometimes Daniel caught his eyes off in some distant, murky world, but he had never known a quicker smile nor a brighter laugh.  He wondered if Oliver would ever cease amazing him as he breathed in deep the astringent tea.

‘What did you call this liquid atrocity?’  He nudged Oliver’s bouncing knee with a bare toe.

Oliver smiled and grabbed Daniel’s foot with his free hand.  ‘Rooibos.’  The word was strange music on his lips.  ‘My dad swore by it.’

‘And it will help me how?’

‘Don’t be sour, Danny.  Even if you are sick.’  He bent to fish through his tattered bag.  Daniel was lost for a moment in the shape of his forearm, for once exposed by a rolled-up sleeve.  A small scar halfway down on the left side, like a scab he wouldn’t stop picking.  His gaze fell to Oliver’s hand as he pulled out a new pencil, identical to the last in Daniel’s eye, but clearly a world of difference for Oliver.  The butt of his hand was smudged black and dark marks lined the inside of his middle finger.  Daniel spotted scratches on his thumb and the back of his hand, calluses from long hours holding his pen, torn cuticles and bitten nails.  He realised too late that Oliver was looking at him.

‘What, love?’

‘I said it’s full of antioxidants.’

‘What is?’

‘Rooibos.’

‘Oh.  Good show.’

‘What were you thinking about?’  That crooked, impish smile again, as if he already knew.

‘No.  I don’t want you to get a big head.’  Oliver laughed and Daniel felt it melt into his toes.

‘You’re quite sweet when you don’t feel well.’

‘It’s a trick.  To make you take care of me.’

‘It’s working.’  He frowned at his drawing, placed a final flourish, and set down his pencil.  ‘There.’

‘Can I see?’

‘No.’  Oliver spun to Daniel.  ‘You should sleep.’

‘I’m not tired.’

‘Of course you’re tired.  You’re sick.’

‘I’m not a child, Oliver.’

‘No, you’re sick.  Rooibos and sleep.  Best thing for you.’

‘But I’m not done with my…roybus?’

‘Rooibos.’

‘Rowboat?’

‘You’re getting worse.’

‘I’m not done with my tea.’

Oliver laughed again, grinning at him from under messy fringe.  ‘Alright.  What shall we do instead?’

Daniel sighed and stretched.  ‘Let’s have a film.’

‘What film?

‘I don’t know, darling.  Any film.’

‘I’ll fall asleep.’

‘Good.  Then I’ll fall asleep.  Everyone wins.’

‘Why will my falling asleep make you fall asleep?’

‘I’ve grown accustomed to my hot water bottle.’  He smiled at Oliver and set down his mug.  ‘Now put something on the telly and come be with me.’

‘Alright.’  Oliver gave his foot a squeeze and crawled to the television.  Daniel stretched and snuggled into his blanket.  ‘How about this one?’  Oliver held up a case.  Daniel squinted and nodded.  ‘What’s it about?’ he asked, putting in the disc and flopping onto the couch.

‘I’ve no idea; I couldn’t see the box.’

‘Here.’  Oliver scooted in behind Daniel and under the blanket.  He settled Daniel in his arms.  ‘It’s got Jack Nicholson on the cover.  Something about a bird.’

‘Wait, you’ve never seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?’

‘I don’t watch a lot of films.’  He yawned as if to demonstrate.

‘Yes, but there’s films and then there’s Cuckoo’s Nest.’

‘You sound like ’Jani.  Always yelling about Lawrence what’s-his-name.’

‘You are not telling me you don’t know Lawrence Olivier.’

‘See, this is why I think you’d’ve gotten on well.’

‘We would’ve had some key differences.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like both of us wanting to shag you.’

‘I think we could’ve worked something out.’

‘Of course you do, darling.’  He nudged Oliver’s temple with his nose.  ‘Meanwhile, Ajani and I are duelling each other for your hand.’

‘Did you cut it off?’

‘Good Lord, are you already asleep?  You’re acting batty.’

‘You’re all warm and snuggly.’

‘I have a fever.’

‘I like it.’

Daniel sighed and resigned himself to Oliver’s madness.  ‘I don’t know why I tolerate you.’

‘Because I make you Rooibos.’

‘Which I don’t even like.’

‘You’ll thank me in the morning.’  He yawned like a jungle cat before returning his attention to the screen.  ‘What’s happening?  I thought this took place in the mountains.’

‘I don’t know, darling.  You’re talking through the exposition.’

‘Are…are they in a prison?’

‘It’s an asylum.’

‘Where are the Alps?’

‘What–?’  Daniel turned to stare at him.  ‘What on Earth are you talking about?’

‘Cuckoos are from the Alps, aren’t they?’

‘It’s a metaphor–  Oh, never mind.’  He laid back in Oliver’s arms.  ‘Could you fall asleep already?  I’m exhausted.’

Oliver kissed the top of his head.  ‘I told you so.’

He dozed off within minutes.

 

© Kiri Palm 2014

daniel powter wrote a song about this

Everybody has rough weeks.  In my experience, most of my friends seem to have bad weeks during the same weeks as my other friends who are having bad weeks.  And occasionally, I’m having bad weeks as well.  It’s kind of like how women who live together get on the same menstruation schedule, only somehow much worse.

This has been one of those weeks.

In an attempt to keep my head above water, I’ve spent almost all of my free time making hats while watching serial killer shows or re-reading The Hunger Games.  No, this really should not be at all relaxing, but the system works so I’m not questioning it.

In unrelated news, I have had some really screwed-up dreams as of late.  No idea what that’s about.

So the hats in my apartment are multiplying faster than Tribbles and Shemar Moore continues to be a stone-cold fox.  And even though it’s been a rough week, I’m optimistic that next week will be better.  And if next week isn’t better, there’s a week after that to look forward to instead.  And one of these days, things will be brighter again.  I know they will be.  That’s just how it works.

And just in case you need something today to make your life a little brighter (or at least pleasantly ridiculous), here’s a stupid poem I wrote a couple years ago about Bill Murray.  I am proud to say it is one of the only things I’ve had published.  I hope that if you’re having a bad week or helping someone else through their bad week, you can take a moment in the conversation to say, ‘You know, I met this weirdo once who managed to get a bunch of haikus about Bill Murray published.’  And if that non sequitur doesn’t put a new spin on the conversation, I am out of ideas for how to help you.

Central Illinois
Is what we both call our home.
Glad it’s not just me.

So sad when you died
Onscreen in Zombieland. I
Wanted to boycott.

Take me under seas;
Let’s stop the jaguar shark
For poor Esteban!

Battle ghosts and sprites.
Save the girl from possession.
Then get sandwiches.

Perfect Saturdays
Spent watching, absorbing it.
Your face on the screen.

Take care of yourselves out there, friends.

{excerpt from ‘all things considered…’}

I’ve actually managed to spend most of this week working on fictional writing (meaning writing of the fiction genre and not pretending I was writing when I’m actually marathoning Parade’s End, which I would totally not do ever and definitely not last weekend).  The upside is that I got some writing done.  The downside is that I don’t have an actual blog post to share with y’all.  Solution:  share some of what I’ve been working on on the blog.  I am a problem solver.

Fair warning:  there’s some of what my mother refers to as ‘inappropriate language’ in here, including a xenophobic slur.  It would probably earn a rating of PG-13/14 on the Nielson scale/12 on the BBFC scale.  You were all warned.

*****

     Dov is bigger than he is.  He’s never noticed before; it was never important.  But now he shoves Jordan against the brick wall of the alley as easily as the quarterbacks in high school did.  Dov’s face is too close to his, smelling of whiskey and another man.  ‘You smell like a Mick,’ Jordan mutters against the hands on his collar.

‘D’you feel better now?’

‘No.’

Dov slams him hard against the wall and the last bit of air hiding in his lungs rushes out.  ‘What is wrong with you?’  He lets go and Jordan crumples against the dumpster.  Dov sinks down next to him and steals the pack of cigarettes out of Jordan’s coat pocket.

‘I thought you were going to punch me.’

‘Yeah, and I still may.  Jesus Christ.’  He tugs a cigarette between his lips and flings the pack back at Jordan.  He runs a hand through his hair.  ‘I’m too old for this, Joe.  I don’t know what you want from me and I’m tired of trying to work it out.  So you can either tell me now or fuck off back to Idaho.’

‘Iowa.’

‘What?’

‘I’m from Iowa.’  Dov stares at him.  ‘They’re completely different states.’

‘Is that answering my question?’

‘No.’

‘Well?’

‘I don’t know how to answer it.’

‘Jesus Christ.’  Dov struggles to his feet.  ‘You are–’  He yanks the cigarette out of his mouth.  ‘You are literally the most frustrating person I have ever met.  Do you know that?’  He shoves the cigarette back into his mouth and tries to take a drag.  He groans.  ‘Jesus Christ, would you give me your bloody lighter?

Jordan finds his feet and lights Dov’s cigarette.  He watches him smoke with wide eyes.  ‘I–’  Dov glares at him.  ‘I’m sorry, Dovi.  I don’t know what to say.’

‘You never do, do you?’

‘I guess not.’

‘Jesus Christ,’ he says again.  Jordan wonders if he has forgotten how to say anything else.  Dov takes a drag and peers at him.  ‘You know what your problem is, Joe?  When you get right down to it?  It’s not that you’re a bad guy, you really aren’t.  You’re a mess, mind, but you’re all right.  Clever and fun and quite cute — and no, I don’t care what you say, you are.  Shut it.’  He shakes ash off his cigarette and Jordan cringes at the waste of good tobacco.  ‘But you can’t let anything go.  You can’t ever just be a normal human being.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘My birthday, Jordan.’

‘Oh, come on!’

‘No, we were out for my birthday with my friends, and what did you do?’

‘You know, you really need to get over that.’

‘You start in on how much of a bastard your old man was.  Right there in front of everyone from my work.’

‘And I don’t let anything go?’

‘Okay, fine.  How about Christmas?  How about last Christmas?  In Manchester.  With my parents.’

‘Look, I said I was sorry!’

‘And you going on and on about some bloke my poor mother has never even heard of when I’m sitting right next to you!

‘Donovan, I told you:  I’m sorry.  I was drunk and I’m sorry.  I’m still sorry!’

‘That’s not the point!’  He chucks the cigarette down the alley.  Jordan watches it fly still smouldering through the air.  Dov is on him again, Jordan’s back scraping against the rough brick of the wall.  ‘Five years, Joe!  I gave you five years of my life.  I left the country, just for you.  Does that mean nothing to you?’

Jordan shoves him off.  ‘Of course it does!’

‘Then prove it!’

‘And what do you think I was doing tonight?’

Dov laughs.  ‘What, just now?  No, mate.  Doesn’t work like that.  You spend five years wasting my time, dreaming of someone else every night, and you think you have the right to yank a bloke off of me when I’m in a club trying to forget about you?’

‘Well, not when you put it like that.’

‘Would you grow up for five minutes and actually have a conversation?’

‘I would if you’d quit shoving me!’

‘Shut up!’  Dov pushes him again, blind to the irony of his action.  ‘Just shut up, alright?  I’m sick to death of you and your–  Your juvenile behaviour!  No!  Don’t you dare say a word.’  Jordan bites his lip.  He thinks better of it and fishes for a cigarette of his own.  Dov’s eyes sparkle in the tobacco fog and Jordan realises he’s crying.  ‘I love you.  You know that?  You’re a bastard and a child, but I love you.  You put me through hell, Joe.  The least you can do is give me is some kind of explanation.’

‘Explanation of what?’

‘Of why I’m not bloody good enough.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

‘Jordan.’    His voice is just this side of pleading.  ‘Please.’

He sighs.  He fiddles with his cigarette.  He swallows.  ‘Okay.’  Dov’s eyes feel like nails pressing into his skin.  ‘It’s like this,’ he says at last.  ‘I won’t say he completes me.  That’s a stupid thing to say.  It’s not that I’m missing some vital organ that he somehow manages to replace.  It’s much more like…like when you’re at the library and you find a gap where your book ought to be.  You know?  It’s jarring.  Disappointing.  And, yes, I’d say there’s a sense of loss — at least there always is for me.  But you’re fine.  You won’t die or anything.  It’s just that, maybe, if you’d been able to get that book, something about your life might just make a little more sense.’  He wipes his nose on the back of his sleeve, a lost, childish gesture.  Dov won’t take his eyes off of him.  He wants to crawl behind a dumpster and disappear.  ‘But you can read other books.  And some of them, they’re good; they make you happy.  And maybe you find some book that sort of feeds your appetite for that other book you couldn’t get.’  Dov makes a sound in the back of his throat.  Jordan barrels on.  ‘But that’s the thing about appetites:  if you want a burger and you order the salad, you’re still hungry, aren’t you?  So you keep reading.  But the longer you go without that book, the more you start to feel…sort of itchy, I guess.  The more you feel like you’re missing out.  And you just keep thumbing through the stacks, hoping you’ll stumble upon it someday.’

‘And that’s Charlie, is it?’  It takes a moment for Jordan to nod.  He sighs.  ‘Alright.  Fine.  It wasn’t worth five years of my life, but fine.’  Jordan stiffens at his remark but stays quiet.  Dov toys with a loose thread on his cuff.  ‘So what are you going to do about it?’

He wets his lips and takes a slow drag.  ‘I guess I’m gonna keep reading.’

Dov coughs a hollow laugh.  ‘Of course.  Okay.  And may I ask why?’

Jordan flicks his cigarette to the ground, taking his time to crush it beneath his toes.  He shoves his hands in his pockets and meets Dov’s gaze for the first time.  ‘Because one of these days, I’m going to walk into that library.  And I’ll see my book where a gap used to be.’

© Kiri Palm 2013