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.”