[The following paragraphs are purposely unedited. Please forgive any portion of really bad writing or poor grammar.]
I’m downstairs at my usual writing spot: the far end of the farthest couch in the den. The same old setup, 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Two cozy pups (paws still wet from the morning dew) are snoozing too close and heavy against my right leg. There’s a television table tray to my left supporting a three-wick scented candle, a large mug of black coffee with a shot or two or three of apple bourbon, my iphone, and a copy of Hemingway’s short stories. My laptop is propped on a brick hard decorative pillow resting just below the tie string of comfortable pajama pants which are as gray as a Dublin sky.
Denver and Peep Dickhead are silent. I stare into the cute eyes of the blue and yellow parakeets, respectively, and resent their penis-shaped heads and clipped wings. They never make a sound until you descend the stairs in all of your perfumed glory. This fact fascinates me. The very moment your face appears (and not a second before), the tiny couple bursts into a happy medley of cheeky songs. I’m jealous. Perhaps they’re still offended and angry at me for introducing your laughing children to Surfin’ Bird by the Trashmen. I don’t know.
(I wish I were a phallus with wings. I’d zoom through the house like a guided missile and sink deep inside your multiple pleasure strike zones whenever you least expect it. You’d jump and say, “Oooh!”)
I hear you walking around upstairs with an uncharacteristically heavy footfall (thump, thump, thump). It’s shocking how two hours of writing time have melted as fast as ice cream on a hot summer day and I find myself licking the last sweet drops of an unfinished paragraph. Whenever you flush the toilet, water rushes through pipes hidden behind the wall, a pleasant sound, hinting that soon you’ll be waking the children for breakfast and school–online school–which annoys me.
(I feel a caffeinated alcoholic ramble coming on and will probably erase every word when I’m sober again–who knows when that might be?)
I know that COVID-19 is real and that precious people have died as a result. Nevertheless, America is hiding like a bunch of sissies from a virus that can infect anyone, masked or unmasked, home or not home, working or not working, close or at a distance. Much the same as the flu, a virus is a virus, and viruses produce multiple strains that can (and do and will) infect both the religiously vaccinated and the unbelieving unvaccinated. Wisdom, caution, and an ounce of prevention are necessary but all the Henny Penny media hysteria and government overreach is not. This ongoing Biden-in-the-basement panic is so pathetic and laughable. The world might as well try to hide from the wind as to remain isolated from whatever floats in the air (in doors or out of doors). In the old days,I remember those “no shirt, no shoes,no service” signs and the understandable and reasonable prevention of public half-nakedness that was politely apologetic and mostly kind. But this latest “no mask no entrance” effort has reached a boiling point of obnoxious and hateful behavior and–dare I say it?– is completely illogical. For example, a mask is required to enter a restaurant (or to walk to the bathroom once inside) and only to be removed when seated at a table or bar. So a man chokes on his beer or little Suzie sneezes. Other customers simply talk or laugh. Such things were happening when I witnessed a masked waitress literally dive away from a table with a look of genuine horror in her eyes as if she’d been exposed to a colony of contagious rotting lepers or maybe even something deadlier–like mustard gas. She should wear a military grade OBA.
Recently, I entered a public restroom and lowered my mask to my chin. I blew my runny nose (it was only a cold and nothing more) while waiting for an unmasked whitehaired gentleman to finish dribbity-drib-dribbling at the urinal. He was whistling Old Man River and I smiled. His face covering was folded and visible from his back pants pocket much like a used hankie. An obese man, who had been destroying the shitter, finally exited after two coughing flushes and was followed by a thick hot stink. I stopped smiling, suddenly very thankful for my mask.
Another funny true story. In a grocery store, the masked little sister screaming at her masked big brother (Your breath stinks!”), not realizing, of course, that it was her own unbrushed teeth she was smelling.
I hear you coming down and decide to keep these disputed thoughts to myself. I’ve made a fresh pot of coffee and mix the first cup of your day with a tablespoon of creamy french vanilla. I present it to you like liquid flowers. You haven’t said another word beyond “Good Morning” (because it’s way too early yet to talk), but you kiss me once on the mouth, lingering there with eyes closed, and say mmmmm.. Your breath smells of toothpaste. This has become our unintentional morning routine. It’s the simple things.
These are all pleasant memories, of course. Right now, I’m not far but too far away from home. Here in the lost and found and lost again world of boho writers.
Airbnb. Montgomery, Alabama. Private room. A shared bath (toenail fungus is a phobia of mine).
Insomnia last night. So I sat on the porch with a tall can of Icehouse. I thought of pleasant things. Key West, your key on my chest, passing a bottle of coconut rum back and forth on Seven Mile Bridge (which is actually 6.79 miles), your hair blowing in the wind all wild and sexy. I never cared much for key lime pie until I discovered that it’s your favorite. You promised me that The Fish House in Key Largo serves the best key lime pie you’ve ever tasted. So we ordered a piece and I’ll never forget the nodding look of anticipation in your blue eyes as I took the first bite and closed my own.
“Well?” you asked.
“Like a tangy French kiss,” I said, “with a texture smoother than silk on my tongue.”
Hours later, there was Duval street. Your salty lips in the summer heat. The next day, snorkeling half drunk on 100 proof cherry moonshine. Parasailing. Kayaking. The rusty old barge. Hidden streams. Night walks. Shadows of unidentified sea life, maybe sharks, gliding beneath the submerged lights of anchored boats. How you held my arm, squeezed tight, and shivered at the thought. Remember the art gallery stacked with all the colorful paintings and sculptures of local artists? Lobster quesadillas by candlelight. Farting in the hotel at night, your mighty thundering rumblers under the covers that would make Nora Barnacle nod with approval, and tears in your laughng eyes when I tried to fight back, my neck veins distended, pushing hard.. Getting up to pee and taking another swig of what remained of the wine and rum, acting like Hemingway, remembering him the next day as we toured his house. It was raining, remember? Buckets. People ran for cover. I circled back to Hem’s writing room and had it all to myself for a moment. When I came back down the stairs, you were smiling. I became aroused by your wet hair. You approved of Papa’s last penny immortalized in the stone walk and I loved you even more. “Revenge is sweet–so don’t ever cheat,” you said.
I thought of Miami, the posh Hotel, the parking garage impossible to enter or exit, the young security girl mask shaming you when you popped an Advil for a headache, how excited you were to feed the racoons (bandits on the river walk) and your endless search for manatees (friendly puppies of the sea), the drawbridge raising while we were crossing on foot and completely unaware.
I remembered Asheville, beer, and Bohemians. Our favorite bookstore (Battery Park Book Exchange) was fettered by Covid restrictions and out of coconut cake and the distinguished proprietor feared closure–which made us sad–but O’Henry Street made us laugh again. The whole day was like a progressive dinner, from one restaurant to another, bar to bar–our favorite being a rooftop higher than the birds. We were escorted to a seat and told not to move anywhere else and to make sure that we were masked when not drinking. We rolled our eyes and sipped on surprisingly cheap Gin Rickeys, making promises to give up our drinking one day soon. We talked of God and family and mistakes and hopes and dreams and frustrations and happiness, love, and light. I talked a lot about sex and, when you diagnosed me as a sex addict, I didn’t dispute the fact but felt only pride and an eagerness to discover more of you. You told me to shut up.
Before I fell asleep last night, I finished off my tallboy and remembered Lake Jocassee (Lake Sink My Assee), of leaky kayaks and thunderstorms and free swimming and a thick water moccasin that might have killed one of us had we not escaped with help from an invisible hand. The serpent zipped within inches from my face. God watches over sinners. But I pissed my swimming trunks. Earlier that day I had almost bumped into a bee hive large as a mulch bag. You saved me from that painful possibility.
There was also a South Carolina summer stream and the dogs swimming for the first time. Your daughter wanted to baptize the puppy for “at least five seconds.” The shepherd was strong but the miniature pinscher’s eyes were popping out of their sockets, like a pup with Grave’s Disease. I went over a waterfall on a dare that bruised my body like a powerful drunken wife beater. Afterward, there was a rusty nail waiting for me on the hot pavement of a parking lot that sunk to the bone of my right foot and painted the gas pedal of the car bright red with my blood. I joked about tetanus and lockjaw (even tried to imitate it).
I think I’m cursed. You are my blessing. I am your curse, yes?
There was Cityscape Winery and an aromatic wind bending the tops of trees, and buzzing bees, and another more distant memory of purple wine spilling onto Pinot the pig’s snout and the ever-present memory of the functional but inebriated owner who somehow remains feminine and respectable, amusing, and kind even while stumbling to serve. You and I agreed that we’d be the same way and judged not lest we be judged. We were envious of her, actually. To own the place. A sample here. A sample there. Tasting one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind.
We talked of how romantic a wedding would be under the white lights of the vineyard.
A COVID swab up your nose and you came out of your chair the nurse went so deep, almost to your brainstem. I had to pee and was pinching it off. When we finally drove out out of sight, I urinated into your water bottle while driving through a parking garage. I think I filled it three times, moaning in pain and relief. You were laughing in a deep, sadistic voice.
Oh yes. I remember a weekend trip and the nightly visitations of a hungry black bear family at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. through the dumpsters and parking lot of a hotel made affordable by the Choice Rewards program. We put pizza crust in the lawn and moved our chairs out on the balcony but the bears never came. I remember skipping rocks on the Pigeon river. Gatlinburg. Pigeon Forge. Dollywood and rollercoasters. A giant turkey leg that I dream about to this day, pondering my inner caveman. The waterslides and your breasts bouncing when you came down. Moonshine and dizzy memories. I remember the sensual fountains how they gyrate to the music and reminds me of splashing semen (you actually liked that dirty thought, didn’t you?) I thought of those I love and those I’ve lost. Pleasure combined with pain. Old memories competing with the new. Faces that make me smile. Faces that make me cry. How my heart and stomach hurt at the same time. How I often wish I had been granted a practice life before the real deal. Death never gives back. And forgiveness never comes without a flinching memory.
There was also the Hampton on Reedy Falls, room 620 with the best porch view of Greenville, and the off key bells that ring on the hour. The Comedy Zone. Dirty martinis. Main Street. The Courtyard at Marriott, sipping wine and reading (me fiction, you nonfiction) on a fake grass lawn that will transform into an ice rink this Christmas season. The glass elevators in the Hyatt Regency and the children going up and down, up and down. I can’t believe we pretended to be business people and walked into their convention without an ID necklace and partook of the best wine and whiskey for free. A woman suspected us and we made up a story. You were believable but I wasn’t (I’m a writer but slow on my drunken feet). She called security and we took off and hid around the corner. Remember my favorite spot off Church street is a long ramp that angles down to the river, under a bridge, on a private rock smoothed by time, where we’ve talked and kissed in private so many times–it’s our place. We made it our goal to sleep in every hotel in the city, leaving our scent and the memory of love everywhere, orgasms on every floor.
I remember sipping a lager with you and listening to an older husband and wife play live folk music at a brewery when a bird flew over our heads and smashed against the wall. I picked the little creature up and noticed a BB or pellet hole. The bird was struggling. You dipped your sexy finger in a cup of cold water and dripped it into the bird’s mouth. Later, the baby flew away.
I have two birds and use them frequently.
I remember mowing the lawn one final time. Cut grass smells like sex.
I am thinking of Jones Gap. How I saved the shepherd from slipping over the waterfalls. I yanked him up by the collar but he didn’t mind. The icy mountain water soaked my jeans and I came close to breaking my left foot (again) and we talked on a rock in the middle of the river until the sun sank low behind the trees and the wooded path dimmed. We drank almost two bottles of wine and our conversation turned to crazy what if’s. I stumbled once and a young couple laughed at me but not maliciously. My teeth were chattering because I was waterlogged and cold but somehow you still made me feel warm inside. We were barefoot and the dogs were tied to a tree. They were grumpy. I wasn’t wearing any underwear.
I remember passing a certain horse farm and seeing the horse lady and her girls in the gas station diner. She didn’t recognize me because of my long hair. I was relieved. I cried in private. It all came rushing back to me. But I’ll save that story for another day.
There was the recent escape into the night. A questionable trip to May’s Lick, Kentucky, where a sweet Amish girl in a blue dress sold us three German shepherd puppies who puked all over our laps and were filled with little white worms. You, darling girl, are now the proud parent of two of them and that’s the only reason I am thankful for all the miles between us. Good luck with the living poop factories. I’m sorry that one of them went to your sister. I’d never want to belong to her. No offense.
Pit fires and seventies folk music. 24 and Jack Baur marathons, our latest addiction. And a kitchen that appeared to be the aftermath of a frat party late Sunday night when we should have been in church. Splitting headaches on Monday morning and a temporary repentance.
Homemade spaghetti sauce one romantic evening. I can’t give you the recipe because I make it up everytime. Just make sure to add the darkest wine to the sauce at the right time. Light some candles. Serve with garlic bread and tell Alexa to play songs by Andrea Bochelli. A perfect evening.
Oh baby. There’s the issue of my poor impulse control, backyard falatio, hot oil, and the memorable mess in the master bedroom that followed. And other forbidden things.
We broke the headboard. Twice.
Not long ago, I served myself Merlot in a coffee cup on the roof of your house (the wine glasses were dirty), and became silent after pondering the empty nest in the tree below me, the baby birds having flown away and I had barely noticed them.. I should have stared with wonder every day. My brain warmed with questions and screaming fears. You pulled into the driveway and the happiness of your presence popped the bubble of my gloomy thoughts. The sentences forming in my mind dissolved and scrambled letters fell like rain upon the worn shingles.
I remember how we fed the neighborhood deer with shriveled apples we never ate. We made plans to eat better but never followed through. It’s funny.
Evidently we’ve given the neighbors something to talk about. Unheard voices labeled me the Walmart Keith Urban. Though I wear boots, I rarely listen to country music and really know nothing of family next door or across the street except for their cracked blinds, peeking eyes, and unheard gossiping whispers. Good people are often bored people and better storytellers than myself. But blue lights and handcuffs have made me legendary.
I’ll never forget donating our blood or my gin-soaked platelets and us feeling wobbly afterward. We medicated ourselves with New Amsterdam..
All of these things and more, darling girl. I only mention the unexpected visit and a whirlwind summer.. These are the wide awake real time dreams of an insomniac presently trapped in Montgomery, Alabama.
I will eat a sandwich from the gas station later today. I miss your cooking. And your striped pajamas (and trying to sneak into them when you’re finally snoring and I’m extra horny).
But most of the time I just watched you sleep. There is something holy about your face whenever your eyes are closed and your hands are clutching the sheets.
NOTE: The above is an unedited fast writing exercise promoted by novelist Judy Reeves on her Youtube lecture entitled, “Taking Pen in Hand.” I started with a writing prompt (dreams I see in the waking moments of my insomnia), and wrote without editing for a measured space of time. A little over an hour (sorry, I cheated by a few minutes). Whenever I get around to editing, something much better will come of it (so Ms. Reeves has said). It’s painful for me to post this fun mess. Enjoy it (all two or three of my fans). Later, I’ll go in and underline whatever is salvageable (which might be a line or two).