He looked so much like another man Suntanned and aged with soft edges but also hard ones And the receding salt and pepper that for some reason kills me and the old tattoos but not as many as the other man And the easygoing but not chasing manner that always gets me dead He had some quasi-fit swagger, shirtless in low-hanging cargos with no discernible underwear and the lines on his pelvis beckoned
I wanted to see him naked
He was staying at the same cheap motel where I was staying Standing inside the gate of the tiny pool that abutted the parking lot where I’d just pulled in after a jaunt to the beach He leaned over the gate, smoked a cigarette and held a bottle of beer, surveying the area I noticed him immediately and sizzled inside for a love I can’t seem to stop losing and I felt like he watched me park my car and as I got out and walked around the pool to the stairs that led up to my room
His face wasn’t quite the face but it was a nice face He even wore the same kind of sunglasses that the other man wears He had a beard His nose was pointier He was shorter
I vibrated as I made my way up three flights of stairs Released a little moan as I entered my room that overlooked the pool Ever so slowly shut the door to try to get a good glimpse of his face as I closed it
I felt cursed and blessed
Is he for me?
I dropped all my stuff in my room and stepped back out on my landing, still in my bathing suit hoping I looked cute He looked up I asked if the pool was still open “We’re ok to use the pool?” He smiled from the little pool patio below “What are they gonna do? Tell me no?”
He was all set up there with handyman gear (white plastic bucket with gray spackle and paint splotches) and - case of Miller lite and his sneakers and a JBL speaker (I know because I asked)
“Come on down!”
So I did Three young, tough women also came by sporting tattoos (one had a semiautomatic linked to brass knuckles on her thigh)and Newports and resting bitchface that faded into giggles and shrieks when they felt the cold of the water All of us hesitating to jump in like you do when you’re grown up and getting into something new
He and I made cheery small talk Not fully flirting he wasn’t giving me the vibe that mon obsédé sends at every contact But I could feel something happening I can always feel when it is And I had to have something
The other girls left
The two of us played up-and-downstairs hellos Until he asked me out in a shruggy, nonchalant, whatever-happens-happens kind of delivery
WHO ME ?
I of course shruggingly and smilingly and nonchalantly accepted
We watched a sunset and talked about music and our homebases and the state of the world and complicated families Ate seafood on the boardwalk and shopped for clothing we didn’t need, shocking the sales woman with our tale of happy random meeting Had frozen custard and bought candy
We didn’t kiss or hold hands He smokes too many cigarettes I felt crazy chatty with a pandemic still raging and people still picking their noses in public
But at the beach on what felt like the absolutely official last day of my summer, some part of surrender was in progress
There was an uneasy ease about this that one or both of us both needed
Neither of us were trying to make a move Our goodnight was neighborly
The next morning he knocked on my door while I was on the toilet, saying my name as he knocked, which pleased me since he hadn’t said it since we introduced ourselves many hours earlier
We exchanged numbers and pleasantries (I really had a great time last night) And I gave him a hug
he was going to work and then home to upstate New York I to pick up my son in Philadelphia
Our first and maybe last words to eachother (via sms) I had a great time hanging out with you! Yes! Me too!
So that’s no love story but I love the beach, and I hadn’t been in three years so maybe it was
It was all you wanted for days weeks months, two years, in fact. It’s here. You did it. Made time Took that time Didn’t get dissuaded by screws in tires or a frustration-induced hangover or the apathy that would normally pin you to the couch You got in your fucking vehicle and put in the effort
You aren’t as prepared as you would like Forgot things Hurried in order to stave off the indecision paralysis Remembered for just a moment what it was like to be a teenager grabbing shit and running out the door because the destination was the most important thing Not the crossing off of list items
It was loud when you parked your chair and hastily-packed bag and sprayed on some shield from the sun The sound of crashing waves and wind are beautiful if not for the cacophony of other beach goers discussing NY celebs and 9/11 The air buds don’t do much to drown them out because some ladies cackle like you do But you’ll endure it for sandy toes and a few speckled shells
And the missing piece is still felt The non partner The significant no one The unknown lover Nowhere to be seen You’re here on the beach But it’s just you Table for one please That familiar phrase feels like a forehead or neck tattoo It shouldn’t matter It shouldn’t hurt anymore It shouldn’t register as a noticeable source of emotional pain But like the sciatica that comes and goes at your age It does.
Try to stay in this space where you brought yourself Imagine taffy and cheese and dough and maybe some frozen custard with chocolate sprinkles and the sound of your feet plodding along the boardwalk (that Sandy tried to annihilate but humans are resilient about their vacation spaces are they not?) Try to remember why you came Because we don’t know what we have left We have to live now We have to look for the beauty Appreciate what is still here for us Despite all that crumbles
Try not to cry just yet You have a room where you can do exactly that It was what you wanted And now you’re here You’re here You’re HERE
That’s the voice that’s starts off before you even write a word because you got starry eyed reading prose poetry and learned for the first time what that might mean about the years of words steadily leaking out of you
and the poet paints pictures in your head of a pirate stashing away his dead wives and you wonder how she knew to end a phrase on one line instead of the other and you imagine someone “professional” asking you how you came up with your own structures and you have NO idea because you’ve been winging this all along
and while you’re in the soap scummy tub making the most of your sitz bath, naked reading poetry and feeling all artsy and interesting, the diastasis recti have caused your large intestine to shift to the right of your lower abdomen filled with gas from chocolate ice cream and sugar cone you’re going to have to expel some of that
you suddenly feel more like Charles Bukowski in a flop house in LA than you do a moderately fit middle-aged woman laying in her bathtub holding a poetry book with dental floss resting loosely between her jaws like an old fishing line still hanging from a big catfish jaw
bubbles bubbles bubbles bubbles bubbles
turn off the water bathing beauty and go write something down so that all those farts have some meaning get it all out THAT’S something to be proud of
It doesn’t matter They didn’t matter I almost cringe when I see my little fixations The momentary distractions When you arrive When new images of you fill my eyes It begins anew Behind the deepest desires and dreams and haunting There is you
A song plays and a memory surfaces Someone laughs Someone is surprised Someone has a regional accent And I can feel the fur on your chest again I can feel you in my mouth I cry I fail to break free I will not let go under any circumstance Because you will not let me
These days pass So many My perpetual homme-based stasis Is it some kind of sick bliss?
You will not come You will not go You will not put a foot down and release me You will not slip an arm around my now small waist and embrace me as you should have four years ago You will not declare anything
So I’ll wait Until death Until it’s clear that love has finally blossomed in some other meadow Until something shiny draws me away for long enough that the dust can finally settle Until maybe someone different and unexpected slips an arm around my waist and claims me for good And even then there will be no permanence Until you close the door on me
Makes me possession Makes me possessed Freezes time Burns fine cobwebs away that had gently begun to form after four months of silence Stirs rich, luxurious memories Sets imagination on a runaway course to fantasies of love and lust and perfect resolution Narrows focus to a pinpoint Spreads my legs and heart open wide to the mere idea of his smile Brings tears to my eyes Fills my throat with mewling noises and whispers Starts a ticking clock Stops the incremental healing Erases offenses Draws possibilities Leaves me struggling with questions …so many questions
Who acts like this about something so infinitesimally insignificant? What do I do next? When is he coming back? Where is he right now? Why now? How do I walk the earth knowing he is present again? Does this mean return is imminent? Will he? Is he? Can we? Finally?
It was nothing more than a virtual nod It was a nonchalant acknowledgment of fact about a Smithereens song