anyone who’s been in love knows. you don’t intend for it to happen, it just happens, and you can’t control it, and then it’s gone.
The second post in the Photos vs. Words series. I sent Will this story. His photo is below.
A Law School Conversation
See, this was the exact sort of thing I didn’t want to be a part of, but because I was in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time I got sucked in. I was sitting in the courtyard reading my book about a Dominican man’s messed up sex life when this girl from my class glided past me like a magic trick, and, before even taking a second to sit down or shift the bag on her shoulder, started yapping at the girl on my right who was nose deep in her studies.
I looked up from my book as best I could to make an impression, but that didn’t stop them from talking. If I’m being god-honest with myself they probably didn’t even notice. They were definitely the kind of females to not notice a guy reading a book.
“Oh, are you studying,” the standing one said. Her name was Sally, and she looked like a Sally, too. Pearls and everything.
“I have to get it done before class, yeah,” the studyer said. She was a girl named Anna-Marie but we all called her Amy, really for no reason except that it was something to do. She was the prettier one but she had less confidence.
“I always do mine in the morning,” Sally said.
“Yeah,” Amy said, “I’m not really a morning person.” She laughed after she said it, god only knows why.
“I wake up by seven and I’m usually in here by eight. That way I can take advantage of the free coffee and get the homework done before class and have my afternoons free.” Sally had both hands on the strap of her French purse. I’d seen what she kept in there, and it led me to understand that she possessed very strong shoulders.
“Oh, that’s smart. I usually try to get it done the night before.”
“I remember it better if I do it in the morning.”
“That’s true,” Amy said. “Sometimes I forget.” She laughed again. “Sometimes I just won’t do it, though, if I leave it to the morning.”
“Oh, see, I force myself. I have very strong willpower.”
“Lucky,” Amy said.
“Well, I really don’t think it’s a matter of luck. In fact, I don’t think luck has anything to do with it at all. I’ve always had strong willpower. My father said that I was the most stubborn child he’d ever seen. And he was principal of a private school in Chicago for eight years.” Sally readjusted the strap on her shoulder. “Not to be completely blunt about it, but I think I could probably make myself do just about anything if I really wanted to.”
“Not me.” Amy laughed again. She must’ve really been in a mood, or something, to be laughing at everything like that. “I can’t even go to bar review anymore or else I’m a complete mess the next day.”
Sally looked past Amy’s shoulder and frowned, which was a very bad look for her, worse than everything she already had going on. “I went last week and it was ok. I was only there for an hour.”
“See,” Amy breathed deeply, “if I go I end up drinking more and staying out later than what’s good for me.” The sun had found her from in between thumb leaves and made it obvious to anyone who looked that she was lovely. “I can’t only drink one beer and leave even though I really wish I could.”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I did last week. I had one beer and then left. It was pretty fun.” Sally stopped as if a memory very much beneath her had suddenly dawned on her. “Yeah, I didn’t think I saw you there,” she said, not in the most curious tone. “It was actually really fun. Actually, the funniest thing happened that night. I can’t believe you missed it.”
“Dangit,” Amy said. “I knew that would happen. What was it?”
“You didn’t hear about what happened that night?”
“No, I don’t think so. You’re not talking about Teddy are you?”
Sally nodded, slowly.
“Oh my god. You weren’t there when it happened were you?”
If she wasn’t such an ogre you wouldn’t have even been able to tell Sally was nodding, it was that slow.
“You didn’t see it happen did you?”
Sally shifted her big fat French bag from one shoulder to the other. “Girl, you’re gonna need to sit down for this.”
It is Sunday night, or more specifically early Monday morning, though technicalities are less important than gut feelings, and there is something—the play of the entire weekend—that I am trying to digest and capture. Today was by far the most interesting, which is not to downplay Friday or Saturday, but to emphasize the craziness of the past twenty-four hours. But as with most climaxes, one must first be built up, warmed and stretched and guided along the journey in much the same way it was produced in order to appreciate it for all its merits and ferly. I am not sure I am up to the task, at least not at this very moment. But the intensity of today’s events has made me strike pen to page if, for nothing else, the tranquility it engenders, the peaceful white noise of steel tip to treated paper, the scratch and the black ink left behind that is evidence of the mind’s nebulous thoughts and memories, its habits and capacities, its biases and its invisible facets that help to constitute the idiosyncratic gem in each of us that some people like to call the soul. No, I cannot possibly begin to chronicle this weekend, the weekend before Halloween, when the leaves have started to change colors and the weather is warm enough to enjoy cold beer outdoors and cold enough for worn sweaters and snuggling. This spontaneous trip with friends new and old, with tragedy and uncertainty and lots and lots of laughter. The kind of laughter that fills your belly and hurts your jaw…
I have this friend (W.Grace) who shoots photos, who, every time we get drunk, wants to stay up all night and talk poetry and art and watch the sun rise out of Lake Merritt. He’s a goddamn romantic, straight up.
I told him to send me some photos to inspire quick story ejaculations. Yes. And I’d send him some words to inspire photos.
It’s the same idea as a couple’a Irishmen outside a bar slapping each other across the face to see who feels it first.
This is the first post in the series. Inspiring my story below, Will sent me this:
The Weekend She Came to Visit
She came up from the South on the Chinatown bus, the first time in that bus’s grisly history bearing a god-honest slice of heaven. You’d never seen somebody so charming in a bus station before. She stood in the middle of traffic behind her pink luggage, its long-necked handle sticking out, typing away on her cellphone, parting the flow of fools like a big fat rock in a river. Of course I carried her bag for her. I damn well nearly carried her just so the crummy world didn’t spoil her pretty little ballerina feet anymore than it already had.
She was too pretty for the suburbs. She was too pretty for a lot of things, and I was one of them. But what you realize after a lifetime of sweaty palms is that pretty people have flaws, too.
I was renting a two-bedroom twenty miles outside the city with a pathetic painter who was terrifically popular among people who were paid for their opinion. He couldn’t clean up any of his shit despite, you know, me telling him how important this weekend was to me. But that’s a roommate for you; some days it’s enough if there’s any milk left in the fridge for a knockout before bed.
He was there in the living room when we got home, naked on top, throwing paint at a canvas like a goddamn stereotype. His entire closet and his magazines and rubber fruit—everything he had the nerve to call his muse—was scattered across the floor like a goddamn grenade blast.
“Sorry about this, chapstick,” he said, not looking up from his work. “Thought you’d be home later.”
I coulda killed him right then, but Natalie thought he was funny. She was always thinking people who made fun of me were funny. She was an angel.
I had made a reservation at a glancing silverware-type joint and arranged for the flowers to be on the table when we got there and all that sweet stuff you see in the movies. It was all very cliché of me and blasé blasé, but she was the type to drink that kinda stuff up. She was wearing a tissue-paper dress and hoop earrings. She wore a tissue-paper dress better than any of those girls in the magazines, good god.
“You wouldn’t save me if I were choking?” she said, which you may think is an odd thing for lovers to say to each other, but it made sense within the conversation we’d been having while we were waiting for our food.
“I’d probably save you,” I said.
“Well, it would depend on how bad you were choking.”
“Well, swallowing a chicken bone is different from Ms. Damsel in Distress,” I said, swinging my arms around.
“I would never purposely choke myself for attention,” she said. “You’re crazy.”
“Good. That’s good. You’re very sensible.”
Our food came and we both ate. She had the lasagna and I had fettuccine with a pesto sauce and basil and fresh tomatoes and caramelized onions and the chewiest pieces of chicken you’d ever ate.
“You know you never call me girl?” she said. The thought had just occurred to her. “It’s always lady or woman or sometimes female.”
I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. A heroin vein was probably popping out of my skull at that exact moment from chewing that damn chicken.
“It’s not a bad thing,” she said. “I like it.” She was giving me a compliment, I guess, but she looked worried, as if she was doubting whether it had been a good idea to come. She seemed to remember suddenly, all within a second, the promises she had made to herself to hate me forever. She hated me right then—I could see it in her face—even if it was only for a second.
“You look very pretty tonight,” I said.
“Thank you.” She brushed her hair over her shoulder and a sheening swath of it, the luckiest sheening swath in the world, fell over her breast. She breathed deeply and that sheening swath and the breast underneath soared and sank in one fell swoop. “I’m mad,” she said. “The season’s over and I didn’t get a chance to wear a single thing that I really wanted to wear.”
I admit I had issues, I hit you, but still I stayed with you, because I guess I wished you would change, and you wished the same didn’t you? but now it’s here we go again. I let you get under my skin, fuck up my relationship with my friends, you bitch, you left and took everything I had with you. I miss you. But I need no tissues. And I don’t need to talk to anybody because nobody will understand my situ-ation. Facing major felonies, not listening to what anybody is telling me, getting drunk, yell and scream, none of my friends are feeling me, spilling beans as well as all of our intricacies, wishing things could have been different. Now I’m a misfit. I had a shot to win the game and I missed it. I missed it.