Spiral

We drove faster when it rained soft and humid like mermaids’
breath in the wild
blazing summers that didn’t adhere to time but
stretched on with sun and wind and the scent
of gardens housewives spent their days potting and planting to avoid
their children home from school
while their husbands’ backs burned under the sun
in suits on Fifth Avenue too proud to wipe their brows with cotton
they carried silk instead smelling the
sweat from the metal-boiled hot dogs and farts of the
sputtering cabs

 

they spent the weekends on the Cape or Vineyard

eating too much shellfish

drinking too much sangria

none of them knowing that surf like we did because

we drove fast to get there in cars

with no air conditioning or radio

crammed six in the back and three in the front giving us an excuse

to drive in the carpool lane our paleness sticking

to each other through cut-offs and camisoles

driving barefoot and eating with one hand the cheapest items

off the drive-thru menu made with

the greasemeat of American mentality

 

we got there in one piece and parked sideways

illegally putting the emergency brake on

in case we got towed

jumped in without changing into our suits

forgetting towels and sunscreen in the trunk

braving landmine jellyfish harboring in the undertow

flirting with beach cruisers and off-duty lifeguards

all cut and tan and mature with thin smiles and sharp eyes from

big houses in Belmont here in Chatham for the summer

they would hand us more bottles than we could handle

and with each ejaculation they claimed

it meant something

we worked so hard so hard so hard to get there

only to leave too early sunburned

with welts from grinding too hard on the sand

and phone numbers on scraps of paper we later used to spit our gum out into

 

we worked nights serving vanilla milkshakes straight from

the Statue of Liberty’s nipple

counting each quarter in the tip jar

with our college on a piece of masking tape

 

we cheated on our timecards and pretended not to understand

the comments the Ecuadorians in the kitchen made about

our bodies and instead

kept our heads bent and backs hollowed to appear gaunt and unattractive

something easy to do in baggy khakis and T-shirts

we had to wear

 

men in overalls came in for lunch

their hands cloaked in grime even

the creases of their knuckles

we respected the work that got their hands dirty like that

even if they didn’t belong to unions or have benefits

they lifted lumber and gravel

and got paid cash for it in good amounts

and that’s more than I could say for my parents both with college degrees

 

they chatted with me when it got slow and lifted up their

newspapers or coffee mugs so I could wipe down the counters with

bleach and Windex

or refill the coffee grinders or brew iced tea for tomorrow’s lunch rush and

they watched me with the pride and closeness

my own father never did

 

and I knew I could make three times as much wearing

Heidi’s blue apron at the four star Swiss B&B on the lake

but here I knew how the customers took their coffee and how they liked their eggs and

nobody asked for all-white omelets or fresh-squeezed juice with pulp

we turned our brains off for those two-dollar-tip jobs

because we knew it didn’t mean shit knew that

those jobs didn’t define us and so long as we kept that in mind

we stayed safe and sane

 

we dyed our hair black or blonde depending on our mood and

every color in between

we wore thick waxy fuck-me red lipstick and

thrust-through-’em fishnets

$2.75 a pair

 

we sat in commercial bookstores all day

reading from foreign language phrase books which we never bought

but instead put back on the shelf

with the pages dog-eared and the spines broken

 

we had bonfires in the backyard by the tire swing

even on Christmas Eve

nobody brought fruit cake and we had too much Coca-Cola and not enough rum

so we drank cheap vodka that went down stubborn like generic cough syrup

without mixers or chasers and drank

cold cucumber soup from red plastic cups and

I’ve never tasted better tahini in my life

 

I sat with the Buddhist

asked about his life on the commune

the more drunk I got the more insightful he became

we walked outside around the flames and

the frozen blades of grass beneath us cracked like glass and

made us feel like God

 

we bullshitted our way through books

we hadn’t read yet

we spoke in quotes from movies and poems which no one else recognized

as a result we came across as brilliant

we read too much philosophy to think for ourselves on any given subject

tried in those nights to find out

what it meant to be alive or how strong to show it

we wanted more than cul-de-sacs and mailboxes which matched our shutters

and with each breath we swore

we wouldn’t become our parents

so we passed guitars and blunts and filled the holes in our pockets where most people kept money with camaraderie

 

       we read too much dirty realism and wanted reasons to be miserable and hate our lives too so we dragged safety pins across our forearms to spite our parents’ SUVs and covered up the scabs and scars with long dark sleeves even in summer and if anyone saw and asked we told them they were cat scratches

 

we shared our sweatshirts on cold nights

shared our thoughts too

making mistaken brazen love

in those sweatshirts so thin we felt the buttons from the couch cushions

chafing our backs with each motion

hoped the people passed out

around us wouldn’t wake up to hear

or smell us as we lay open and raw

towards each other in moments melted after August

 

I left them all

while everyone lay asleep

took myself to the park in

windy forty-degrees

began to just

write write write

until I pressed too hard into the paper’s flesh

stopped and realized

the whole time

I hadn’t been breathing

but what scared me more

I couldn’t read what I had written


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