Artists muse around me. I’m drinking coffee in a cluttered coffee shop; isn’t everyone an artist? But I’ve got to focus. “I’ll stay for another cup,” my ridiculous boyfriend says. “I’ll stay for awhile. It’s raining out there where my car is anyway.” I feel something sinking in my face, the grim onset of disappointment. The atmosphere is bleak in here to begin with, bleakness augmented by the stress of the—focus—human life in front of me, tugging at my thoughts, pursuing the darting hooks of my attention. My best effort, my best self-lie, all the wondrous cold concrete screening out rainbows and eyelashes, tie me mercilessly to my flat-bottomed wooden coffee-shop chair.
This boy, this love-struck chico, with his puppy dog eyes and his unwagging tail misplaced on the front side, follows my wandering gaze like he’s trying to read the impossible map I draw with my thoughts. He knows I struggle to listen to him, and I am consumed in something that neither of us can understand. There is a mist around my neck and the puffy areas under my eye sockets glisten even in the dimness of the lighting. I can’t swallow. I think and think and think of her. He is here like an echo in a ghost, breathing next to me.
Are you listening? Yes. What’s on your mind? My cranium. Any deeper than that, and you drown, so don’t ask again.
I seem distant lately…it’s almost as though I’ve disappeared inside the body of this ADD-laden, preoccupied ball of what we call ‘negative fun.’ Not only am I not fun, but I’m below un-fun. I am like a dentist’s suction device for the mouth of our posse’s good time. Naturally, naturally he worries about me. Yes, it’s so natural that he should worry. Perhaps I should, well, talk about it?
I don’t reply. I never reply anymore; one can’t, from this side of the universe. I need to pop the bubble under my sternum. Even if it means telling her.
Is this about that girl? The one with the black car that you’re always riding around town in? Fuck you. Stay out of my head. Stay out of my head, my head. We’re all wondering about you. Can I help? You can talk about it, with me. You know that, right? Out, out! You smudge on the white face of this love, wrap up all your words and roll back down that tiny hillock of my defenses. I long for a severe correction. A slap in the face, or a long wet kiss with this girl in my mind who simply will not step in front of you. And I cannot step on those hairy feet of yours, so please, leave, of your own accord.
Then, only a minute and 24 seconds late, she opens the door and a soft bell alerts the room about her. I begin to rise to greet her. Immediately sit back down. She smiles and pulls a chair up next to me. We talk. Something—some horrible little black monster— breaks up in me and dissolves back into inactive potential. Her hair falls around her face as she describes her conversation with so and so. He grows bored. Eventually, he stands up, puppy dog eyes deeply wounded and resentful, and moves to the door, then to a display of bookmarks, then the magazines, then to the door again, then to his car, and then god knows where and god cares why. I explain to her this sick, non-love feeling I have trapped myself in with el chico. I describe my outward calmness; my inner turmoil, his dirty cups of coffee and hoards of deep-voiced chatter.
She smiles and moves closer. We finish my drink. We bring ourselves home in her black car…my hands pounding her dashboard to blaring music. Her house is quiet ecstasy.
I listened to her smile all night, and watched her touch my arm, and felt her sing her mother’s favorite Irish folk song into the cluttered night in her backyard. We sat, tangled on her deck, my back against a sliding glass door, my lips crazy with the need to get inside of the cave of her mouth. You’ve never seen this much love.