- A: If you could describe yourself with one word, what would that one word be?
- O: Am.
- A: What?
- O: I am.
- A: ---
- O: Wouldn't that suffice? (A bashful, playful smile apologizes for the disinterested attempt)
- A: --- (Only a silence that asks for more)
- O: Guess not.
- A: C'mon. Indulge me... One word...What would you be?
- O: Uhm...I don't know... I guess... I'd be... unedited? And all that that implies? I don't... I don't know...
- A: What does that imply, then?
- O: That I'm unpolished? Rough on the edges? Transparently raw and unrefined...Brutally, imperfectly maybe even melancholically honest, possibly unfinished... simply written. (A sigh) That's about it. I am a resigning shrug. I told you... I don't know. I just am. (The expression of a saddening realization that you don't really know who or what you are.)
- A: Sometimes that's the best thing to be. (There's a condoning, consolatory smirk at the end of the statement)
- O: What about you? (A smile resurfaces)
- A: I... hm... I guess... I'd be hypothetical?
- O: What do you mean by it?
- A: That I'm a possibility: figurative, speculative, without closure... and when I'm the best of myself... infinite.
- A: I like that. That's a very nice thing to be.
Part 1: The Initial Offer
“What if we were all clones? What if we’re not who we think we are- just copies? Just 2nd hand copies of ourselves? The real selves?” Bob says as he enthusiastically scrutinizes his hands, staring down his fingertips wondering if it was really his. A bewildered look on his face like Einstein might have looked like when he thought he was on to something. Something big. Like a rabid dog chasing its tail never realizing the grand circle it was in. The look of a saddening epiphany, a false hope, which is triumphantly elusive and easily believable. And you almost always fall prey to it.
“I’d say you’re high which isn’t a bad bet judging by the look of your pupils.” I grab his face to stare him down. Pupils dilated. Eyes flushed red. Whiskey breath. The works. He slaps my hand away as he pulls his face down.
“You’re not listening to me. What if, Jeff?” He had said it. The deadliest two-word combination query: what if. This dangling phrase that rids you of closure because it invokes all the possibilities. A limitless and therefore unfathomable amount of possibilities. The infinite question that dangerously toys with you, that knows your weak spots: hope, desire- the probability of getting it right, of getting it on, of at least getting something.
“What if?” He repeated. Eyes even more filled with a glorious mystery, a bubbling naïve enthusiasm. Taunting me with imploring eyebrows and a wolfish smirk that slyly say: “let the thought marinade a bit. Give it a chance.”
And with it, with this profound question: A million dimensions open, infinite worlds and their infinite situations simultaneously play out. Everything cascades with anything. And nothing plays its part. No wonder his pupils were dilated. The endless had always had this power of reducing one into a grand child filled with a terribly ravenous gaze, a wondrously insatiable curiosity.
“Alright.” I take the bait. “What if?”
“I was just asking.” He says. And all the worlds close. Slamming the sweet door of relativity shut. Infinity denied. My wounded, toyed hope begins to lick its wounds with a sigh. He smiles wickedly as I do.
“That’s it? I thought at least you had something else to offer. A second argument. A wonderful fiction to lead me on…”
He smiles cockily. Mischievously, perhaps, beneath it even apologetically. It’s hard to say. Smiles are hard things to read.
“Sorry to disappoint.” He says. “But I have none. I do think it’s possible, though. Not now but someday. Someday we’d all be copies and humanity would have reduced itself into an arrogant commodity.”
“Wow” I don’t know if I had said that “wow” with a scoff, a mocking defensive scoff that wants nothing to do with this tomfoolery or with an openness of a slightly healing hope that we’d make good conversation. A forgiving wow. A trusting wow. Or maybe a down right rhetoric of a wow. Exclamations have their undertones, I suppose. Tricky undertones.
“I read this book… Seroks? Good book. Told a story of a world where cloning is rampant. In fact, clones can be copied- pirated edition clones. I wonder what that world must be like? Can you imagine?” I can actually: I bet it’d be terrifying. Depressing. More so because such a world, as Bob had claimed, is realizable.
“Imagine it.” He goes on. “I bet nothing would be sacred anymore. I bet everything would be plastic, dispensable. In a world where humans are products, rights vanish. And maybe humans will lose its humanity.”
“What is humanity, Bob? It’s just our race and whatever our race surmounts to. I think it plain arrogance to consider humanity another term for benevolence. Can you picture the audacity? As though we’re the only species with compassion. We’re also the only species with mass murder, war… hate. The only creature with this much hate.”
“What’s with the bitterness, Jeff? Don’t you like being human?”
“It isn’t that. Or maybe it is. Or maybe it’s the changing times. I don’t know what being human is tantamount to these days but I bet one day, I’d just wake up and realize I wouldn’t be able to live up to the definition or worse I wouldn’t like it because… well because…”
“Because we’d all be lesser copies of ourselves?”
“You should read the book. Has your favorite shade of melancholic.”
“Oh and what shade is that?”
“The slightly darker ones, the ones tinged with a soft anger, the brewing anger sort. Not enough to allude to destruction but it’s there.”
“Bob, you know me so well.” I say with a smile that’s partly alcoholic, slightly sarcastic, and maybe a tiny bit sincere.
“I’ll lend you mine.”
“I’ll buy a copy.”
“Your obsession with having to own a copy for yourself… I don’t get it. We could share, you know? It’s more economical. More practical.”
“I like to smell it. You know that. It’s a fetish. A selfish clause. The only thing I feel I could really own even though it isn’t really mine- the scent of the book. The feel of the paper.” I inhale deeply. The thought alone excites me, subdues me into a happier mood. Not in a venereal way or anything. Just a happy way. Simply happy. A rare, unorthodox happy.
“Hm. Kinky.” He says with a half laugh and a condoning, patronizing head shake.
“This thing… this quirk… “ I go on feeling the need to justify myself. “…it’s beyond the considerations of economics and practicality. It’s a matter of well being not simply pragmatism. That is, if today’s society hasn’t equated well being into whatever’s pragmatic. These times? Even pleasure is a matter of money.”
“Maybe that’s the price we pay for progress, for modernization. We have this impulse to quantify everything to solidify one’s worth with a number. To reduce things to efficiency and prudence and pros and cons and nothing else.”
“You see? Even the terms: “the price we pay” everything’s a matter of payment, of debt or loss or profit. It lacks feeling that’s all. It lacks…”
“A certain sense of being human?” He interrupts. “I thought humanity, being human is what we make of it?”
“Well yeah but it doesn’t mean we don’t see how the definition changes. And to some extent we’re partial for certain definitions rather than others. I don’t like a mechanical humanity, Bob. I like the magical element of feeling. I don’t subscribe to feelings myself but collectively, I like it. In fact, we need it. It humbles us.”
“I never thought I’d see the day when you’d defend feelings, Jeff. My you’ve changed.” He says playfully, childishly.
“Hasn’t everything?” I say with a scoff and maybe even a soft, conspicuous chuckle.
I don’t know what to do with myself. The pen is a high maintenance lover. It demands all that you can give and after, it wants more. So much more. In fact too much. But that is the irony of the pen’s excess- it is never enough.
We once had this dream- this dream of starting a family in a dusty stack of yellow pad paper. Of making stories from scratch and leaving them in the dirt to be born. This dream of growth. We could’ve had it all. But, you see, this simplicity was a tricky simplicity. Because it was eluding and in fact not so simple, not really.
This “simplicity” that has no satisfaction is the deadly sort. The pen demands that. It demands death or nothing. The whole of you or nothing. Your life or nothing. I could not commit to such a love. I couldn’t. This was the scariest way to love after all. Mainly because it was the real way. The true way. For us, I mean.
All that is left of me is abstract bone. Porous and hollow. The sort that time had bitten into, had sucked the marrow out of. The kind of bone bruised by it, by the ages. The pen was reduced to a cancer plastic. Blackened blood by cigarette smoke and brandy kisses. The previous, mine, the latter, the bottle’s. Our secret mistress. Our holy vices. We’re a wishful thought in a trailer park, now: A dried-up hag with curlers in her hair and only a red secondhand satin night robe on. My potbelly lover beside me with its musky 5’o clock shadow that darkens a once idealistic face. That’s an accurate depiction of my current relationship with the pen. We’re the sort of desperation that only clings to the threads at the seams. Because that’s the only thing left to cling on. That magic thread. This poem. This one poem we used to recite over and over and over again during our youth- our promisingly glorious, dangerously illusive youth. We’ve become the hiccups left when the Champagne bottle had finished itself and the luxury had faded away- the luxury of free time, of free thought, of dreaming- the whole “you can be whatever you want to be” idealism. That deadly ideology. It’s idealism that killed the Jews. Hitler’s to be precise. It’s idealism that killed us. But maybe we’re better of dead- dead and still wanting. Maybe this is the devil’s heaven: we still want after all. We still have the energy to want. We still have that going on for us. Even if we have forgotten our dreams. We can still want.
Maybe this implies that we haven’t really given up. Or maybe this is our idealism again- planning to kill us the third time around.
"I have had the privilege of being heard all of my life. Of course not by a lot but I have been listened to. I did not fight for my liberties of speech, not directly. I have not shed blood for this privilege; I have not given anything up. I have not defended myself, my right. I have always had a voice and now I am not sure if I deserve it."
There’s a storm cloud in my beating penchant. A condensing thunder typhoon that wants to find its peace, that wants to overflow. That wants to spill into the Earth, quiver it with waves that kiss like punches, spill over like a death grip, hug tip. It’s the destruction in me that doesn’t know how strong damage can become, how powerful scars can get. I want to yell like a Zeus thunderbolt. I want to strike like lightning cuts on frail string veins holding up a clicking wrist. I want to slice the life cake with a butter knife. I want to jump because gravity is just a theory and maybe the crash won’t seem so hard, maybe I’d fly into my undergloom. Soar into my Hades’ sky. I’d like that. Maybe falling needs redefining. I want silence. Or maybe I’ve had too much of silence. I want to let the noise out. Turn the mute lock open. Spill my secrets like sour milk on a garbage bin. Unstitch the lip stains with champagne or other alcoholic sedatives. For Christ’s sake. I need to unzip my self-shell, caress my hallow. Be that empty dark. Scrape the physical off my abstract bones and holy blood. Be soul. I don’t want to exist as (w)hole. I want to be vapor. I want to be essence. I want to be phantasm. Not here. Not there. Not anybody’s. Christ, let me desist.
"In the silence. In the dark space at the back of your mind. It isn’t as threatening a place as it sounds. In fact, it’s quite cozy there."
"What’d you do?"
"I went looking for myself. The bits of me I’ve forgotten. The parts I’ve buried. It was all still there. This lonely child with the best questions. This jaded melancholy with a sweet imagination. I found her. My sadness. How I’ve missed it."
How I want to disappear. The thought of slipping into formlessness. Of being barely there. A dangling haunting.
This essence of technically woman.
To be Cheshire cat.
Waxing and waning.
I don’t want to exist.
But life requires it.
I want to be. [Without the being.]
A vapor. A hollowness.
A light thing.
A moon beam.
Cigarette death smoke. Dandelion kisses. Wishful thinking.
Let me fade.
Grant me this.
You almighty thing.
Grant me nothingness.
“ We are all mortal… until the first kiss and the second glass of wine”
I don’t know who said those lines or where it came from but the quote says it all. For me at least. I was invincible. I was the better part of me. The yes part, the thrill queen, the aggressive seeker. The need. I was more. But I think for her it went the other way around… It’s the kiss that turned her mortal. The wine that made her kiss. Because we wouldn’t be as splendid without our vices. We need them from time to time. This ash tip French kiss. This blowing smoke. This losing reason. This sightless inhibition. This alcohol fling. This baby, we couldn’t get much higher feeling. This private euphoria that your parents warned you about, cautioned you against even if it was the best time they’ve ever had. They just won’t admit it because society had gotten parenting hardwired. Had gotten morals confined into a certain way. Had gotten the police involved in dreaming.
It was 3 a.m. The unholy hour that only validated this unshakable thought in the back of your mind… maybe God exists. If not for anything else, for her. For this moment. Maybe God exists. For this. Because of this. That instance where thoughtlessness gets you somewhere. 2nd base. 3rd base. Homerun. Skipping middle lines and grey areas. There was no technicality with her. Only a sliding fluidness. A sweet impulsiveness. Because at that instance, she became woman. Not a goddess. Not ethereal. Just real in the most divine of ways, the most sublime of manners. She lowered herself for me. Or maybe alcohol had a way of lowering everybody. Either way… thank God for that. Thank God for vices. Thank God for weak flesh and caving wills. Thank God that God exists because then the devil in us wouldn’t even try to make mistakes. We’d just be. Blandly be.
And she’d be forever out of reach.
It was wrong though. The morning made us realize that. The morning after makes us realize a lot of things. Maybe it’s the headache. Maybe it’s the reason. Maybe it’s the mind waking-up. Maybe it’s just the rooster’s third crow that shakes us out of our denial. The St. Peter predicament. Third times the charm. Third croak’s that straw that breaks the donkey’s back. The zooming in on a dilating pupil, the junkie revelation that the first score was the best and the worst. When the coffee kicks in with a little stir of wine. And the sheets untangle themselves and the hot shower does its work. When we rub the dream out of our eyes, we realize it was wrong. But the imp in us makes us smirk. Slyly and subtly. Maybe wrong is relative. Maybe our system hasn’t completely flushed the night out of us, the disco in our dance, the sweetness of the past. Maybe a little bit of foolishness remains.
What was in that drink? This strong mix of moon blood and star kiss and fermenting fruit- the excuse we robed our lusts with, the escape goat that took our chemistry out, our affinity for women skin, for blessed holes, for lovely contours. It took it way out. Far away into the skeleton closet. Into the other side of ourselves, into Johari’s fourth window. The part no one ever has to know. But we wanted to remember. Even for the sole thrill of remembering. For the naughtiness of the memory. For the disbelief. It happened didn’t it? It really happened. And nothing can take that away from me.
Except maybe roofies. But that’s another story. And our drink was clean. As clean as vices can get at least.
I remember everything.
She was electricity. That E.T. touch, that fingertip connection. Dynamic. Galvanizing current strokes. Up and down spine shivers. Jelly knee consequences. Firework burn. Soul shock.
She was soul shock. The feel was addicting. You wanted more. But too scared to have any. It was much. Too much.
And yet too little.
It was our hands coalescing. Actually only the tips playing. Exploring. Content with the small patch of skin that merged into oneness.
And it progressed to palms having their way with each other. Life line crevices intertwining into a whole new narrative. Predicting a different sort of future.
She was ivory keys. And I was the pianist. Or was it the other way around?
She was Duke Ellington. I was a Jazz sheet.
Maybe we were both. Simultaneously.
I was calloused. She was satin.
I was nail-hammer. She was fresh spring-stained sheets.
I was scar. She was nurse touch.
(Thank heavens for the Florence Nightingale effect.)
I was wall flower. She was an orchid. A petunia perfume. A Tiger-lily siren.
We took a liking to the contrast.
We took a liking.
And it grew into a passion ball we just couldn’t help but submit to. And it turned into a romance no one anticipated. And it turned into a secret everybody talked about behind our backs. And we became (the) story.
But what were we?
“What are we?” We couldn’t answer. Only shrugging gestures that cared too much but said too little. Only shaking heads that pretended they knew better.
“What are we?” We didn’t know. So we hid the label under the rug. And left it in the tip of our tongues to marinade like lost vowels and unintelligible gargles of forgotten language. Simmering until a phrase rises out of the rubble.
We were some sort of happy. The happy that had to pull its own weight. The happy that had to work two jobs and raise three kids alone but it was worth it. The happy that had to cope. The good type of happy. The earned type. The imperfect sort. The kind that knew how to fight and throw peppery invectives, the kind that kept its anger and its frustration and mixed it with the damp smell of sex. The type that got confused every once and a while. The sort that got tired. Cramped in a secret 5-storey walk up with cold water when you flush and unpredictable train noises and a frigid landlady but with a heck of a gorgeous view. A view we saw every Friday of the second week of the month when her husband has his routine factory visits just because he likes to keep his employees on their toes, and his pecker filled with power. This secret view of autumn snuggling and zealous lip pecks and unexpected gestures.
It suited us, this happiness. It was ours. We were ours.
Your sympathy alone is enough reason to love you. You have a way of initiating care without meaning to. And a way of inflicting anxiety cuts with pleasure. I guess you’re right. We are masochists that love like sadists. But it’s okay. We like it. We like the pain. It reminds us of the innervations of our penchants. It forces us to see past our conclusion that we are unfeeling night beings. And that maybe, we can hold light one day. Hold it and not be ashamed of it- unlike naturally coalescing hands beneath the dinner table when your husband is around. The sly, dirtiness on our smiles when we think about chicken breasts. The secret glances when wine touches lip.
You behind a grey desk, always. Me, on the back of a secret wish. No one notices the language of our eyes. Maybe because it is ours and only ours. And no one else knows the words of our body language.
is an awkward silence. A soft sigh that tries to not seem rude or lonely but it almost always does. A naivety that wants to throw the desk and chairs away, until there is only white space between us. No power. No problems. No issues. Only you could decipher me, could decode me. Only you.
My body is brail. Your body is a blind man’s finger sweeping past. Reading me like a book. Knowing every stuttering phrase of a longing innocence. Knowing all the gaps and pauses; filling it in with continuity. Finishing each others mind sentences. Telepathic beauty.
This is our relationship.
This is our poetry. This is our dialect. The dialect of forbidden dreams and rubber hopes that try to stretch themselves farther than they ever could. Good thing we’re nimble enough, flexible enough to bend otherwise we’d break.
My body is a sore thumb. Your body is healing. Disguising. We make each other work. We give each other reason.
Your reason alone is enough driving force for admiration. Your dirty talk is an equation. A differential for sense. A revelation of morals and politics and –ism words that aren’t scary just vague, just abstract, just overwhelming merely because of their vagueness and abstractness.
I wish you could see me more than a longing thing. Than a foolish kid that never knew the right things to want or like or love. But I’ve always had this proclivity for the left-wing. So what’s right got to do with the matters of dreams? My dreams. You.
To touch you. I bet it’d be electric. Your sacredness. Your holy flesh. Your wonderment. I wouldn’t dare. I’m too grimy. Too creased and shriveled and scarred. I wouldn’t dare. But I would dream.
I would dream.
Couldn’t we make this work? What have we got to lose except everything? Everything had always been too heavy. Maybe we could use the losing. Maybe we could use the load off.
Maybe we could use the loving even though it’s forbidden.
What’s he got that I don’t? Except for a dick that knows how to play power? Except for an age that says he’s acceptable. A sex that says it’s proper.
What’s proper got to do with us? What’s acceptable got to do with things? I can go down like no ship ever could, no reputation. This is my power play: submission.
Maybe it doesn’t have to seem so wrong. You said once that things needed changing, that norms are cages. Well, let’s turn this into a key. We could use a little bit of freedom.
Ma.te. My king is dead. My queen surrenders. Check my game. It’s all yours anyway.
I remember your smile.
There will be people who will burn you at the stake because of your proclivity to want illumination. We are all moths pining for the light, frying in the electric judgement; dark, winged spirits that dare to touch that which will destroy us- a bright white. A pure shining. Shadows that crave to touch the sun. That dare like Icarus, because the smell of dreams can mask the smell of burning skin. Because our restless curiosity is the life in our nature, though it may also be the death of us. Because to know is part of man’s arrogant pursuit, man’s vainglorious attempt to control the abstract and intangible. Because we are attracted to the blindness of white. Of sweet light, like insects charging to their deaths declaring to their demons in the undergloom, that yes, they held within themselves, enlightenment. That yes, they touched the sun and burned. That yes, they asked and knew and died. Contently.