September 20, 2011

The living valley



I watched a dog chew at cigarette butts on the sidewalk, eagerly gnawing concrete for a taste of ash and rust. I wondered how hungry you have to be to find that an appetizing flavor. The leash attached to the dog's neck tugged taut and it was dragged away, relinquishing the morsel of rubbish with a look of such untainted sorrow I did not know capable in terriers.
I wonder if it tastes the way someone's mouth tastes after they had been smoking. I wonder if that's the sort of thing that's any indication of the kind of night I'm having.

I'm surprised at the ease with which I'm able to accept the kind of affection that boasts no virtue or promise. I take back everything I've ever said about true love. I take back all the awful slander I've hissed beneath my breath about it. It's all just a bunch of sorry self-pitying rubbish, still embarrassed at having been caught by it with my pants around my ankles, so to speak. Sometimes I can fake it, but most the time I'd rather just make it.

Do all men in their early thirties in Brooklyn seem to have the same modular sofa? The back cushions are tossed aside to make room for bodies, lain straight and tangled. The lights are off except for the dingy sepia streetlamp filtering through the horizontal blinds. It's enough to mute the color but not shapes and forms. It's enough to make someone uncomfortable. That someone isn't me.

"You're right-- you do have a staring problem," he remarked, half smirking. I hadn't realized I'd been staring. I don't even know what I was looking for. I don't even know if I'd recognize it if I did.
"Yes, sorry," I apologized. "Does it make you uncomfortable?"
"No..."
"Are you lying?"

I shut my eyes and stared at that instead, relishing the dumb contentment of proper affection. This must be how pets feel. They don't mind who coddles them, they just require a good scratch behind the ear from a well-intentioned hand.
I spent most of those efforts concentrating on relinquishing all my former associations with this sort of rapport. It's difficult. It is difficult to not wish you were someone else, that I was somewhere else-- to exist beneath those layers, like a veil of cinematic retrospect. That smoke stays risen. It can smother you if you let it. I hold my breath, nestled in the valley below.

I have taken to sniffing around the neighborhood, searching out old portals for nuances. There are neither. It's not the same place as a year ago. I am grateful and restless. The moon hangs too low to howl at. It's only a low and insistent hum. A hunger pit.

We found a cat that comes when we call. And it looks at us like it knows us and it sits in front of me expectantly and lets me pet it and pick it up and looks at me with a less than discerning gaze that suggests I could be anyone. A stranger.
It climbs onto my lap, resting its head beneath my hand, this cat that does not belong to us. It stalks away and licks itself, quite pleased. Then, glancing back with a swish of its tail, it's through the gate. A pause and a decision. It heads towards the bushes once more.
I step to the fence, put my hands on it, clicking my tongue. But I don't call it. If I call it now and it doesn't come, it won't ever come back again. It's the only tactical instinct I know of, rain-checking all those exhalations.
I always hold my breath. I always wait too long to call. If I called you, would you come?                    

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