Jack I met through Dave- they are childhood best friends, and I envy them. Envy their natural native New Yorkness, their comfort in every borough of the city, their confidence riding the subway and the buses, their confidence ordering coffee and eating street pretzels. I envy the sense of entitlement intrinsic to every New Yorker I've ever met- they are unafraid to be demanding, to expect the best, to be treated like royalty even if they look like shit. Most of all I envy the wonderful smoke-throat scraping gnarl and curl of their accents. I need only open my mouth and I am an easy West Coast give away even now.
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Dave thought Jack and I'd make a nice couple but I was in love with my best friend at the time. Life has a truly acute sense of irony. And love is a black comedy, dry and bitter as old leaves.
When we first met we sat together in the park- Dave and Polly danced off and threw stones at the pond shrouded in the softness of spring leaves, tempting dogs into the water, an officer yelling at them. They were of another world to us then- we watched them and laughed. Jack told me he was photographer, but most of his cash comes from dealing. I smiled at this- another drug person. I looked at him until he turned to me and I could trap his gaze, until I knew he wouldn't look away from me. And he surprised me by not only meeting and holding my gaze but by returning it with a softness I've seen so rarely in mens' eyes. He didn't frighten me, because there was nothing fierce in that gaze, no hint of any desire to own, conquer, possess- whatever it is that seems threatening in the eyes of most men and which regardless, I so often desire, even as it frightens me. But he didn't look at me the way other men did. I liked Jack instantly, because I could see through his eyes, and I knew he was seeing a person to be loved, not an object to be taken.
But I turned him down. And there have been lovers since for both of us.
Jack can be light hearted at times and even fun. Especially since he was blinded by this unfathomable adoration for Noya, his plain, dispassionate girl- when she treats him well, those rare times. I wonder, childishly, pouting, why he loves her and not me- perhaps because she represents the self control he wishes he had. The strength people like us wish we had. Maybe I remind him too much of what we are. Of what he is. Of this thing he is so ashamed of.
Jack is blackcurrant colored hair and huge, sorrowful dark eyes. Like me he is pale and slender. He is sensitive, introspective, shy. He dresses the way I think men should dress- in smart button down shirts,- in winter the wings of his shirt collar rest over V neck sweaters- and in black pants that sit just above his hips, not sliding off and below his butt, the way skaters and emo kids dress. On his feet he wears beaten black leather shoes or old black chucks. His camera, an old 35mm, clumsy and bulging in front with its alternating attachable lenses- they are like huge snail eyes on their fat stalks- hangs always around his neck. I've never seem him without it- it reminds me of the charm I wear around my own neck- the silver cage filled with alternating gemstones. We are both choked by our seperate charms- amulets for warding off fear, or bad luck, forgetfulness or loss.
He is always taking pictures, he is always taking our pictures, Polly and Dave walking in the park, Polly dressed as Marilyn Monroe, David dancing to Love Machine, and always pictures of me- me walking barefoot thru the village, sometimes hanging from the balcony, or smoking, or listening to music , my head encased in bulbous headphones, reading, Polly painting my face. Sometimes he pictures me dancing, high on amphetamines, down the block to the store, buying chocolate milk, sometimes drinking morning coffee and smoking, or laying half comatose, loaded, in the grass of the park, leaves tumbling into my hair, my eyes fully black with insomnia, paints and mascara. Once kneeling over me with the camera in my face, he waited for hours for the light on my face to move as he wanted it- the way Arbus would do- and with my muscles cramping, feeling each part of my spine twisting, pushed into the thin flesh, the tender skin, pushed into the hard floor, and I would say nothing. I liked the pain, I liked feeling small and submissive.
We would sit together afterwards in the bathroom he'd set up as a darkroom- red lightbulbs, and trays of chemicals, pictures soaking or hanging dripping dry like underwear on a line. How those pictures swam in trays of fragrant liquids, revealing their secrets, slowly and painfully, until their hidden images would magically appear before our expectant eyes.
Sometimes he wears thin framed square glasses that make him look serious and studious- but mostly he wears contacts like I do. He claims they make his eyes water, but I know what it is that makes those eyes heavy and full of tears. I've seen the darkness come down in my own eyes enough to recognise it, and then it is like searching for the remnants of yourself, hidden deep within those still black waters, worried you have lost yourself completely.
He is ashamed of his beautiful, heavy lidded eyes, heavy as opiates and their red itch, heavier than if they were crusted with jewels. He is ashamed that he is often so close to tears. People think he's moody, so often he turns from us, won't talk to anyone, buries himself behind his camera, putting others in the frame, spying on us all behind the bulk of this, his mask, perhaps in vengeance, but I think mostly to escape the prying of our eyes, our eyes that pick out the feelings he wishes he could hide, as one picks the imperfections of loose threads and bobbles from beloved clothing.
I know why he won't talk those times- he is about to cry, he's afraid his voice will crack and break like a mirror, and his cut fingers will bleed and become slippery in that crimson, so that he can never gather the fragments to put his voice back together. And so he is ashamed. These are the times I want to embrace him the most, to cup his cheek and kiss his downsloping mouth, and tell him not to be ashamed, but to cry, and cry and cry, and I will do my best to keep our heads above that salt water. I want to promise that I will keep him from drowning, and drown with him if I cannot. I want to whisper to him, either I shall raise you from these depths or drown with you, wreathed in green weeds and pearl white lilies, crowned of flowers like Ophelia, in this sorrow that has trapped us both in its oceanic blue wine.
But unless we are alone, I can't find a way to reach him. I cannot reach him. Maybe he still itches and smarts from my rejection- but I don't have such a high opinion of myself that I think it could possibly be that alone. I have seen him upset and unhappy over many failed love affairs, lost and bleeding, lonely and cold as I have felt curled in my own bed, alone again. And I have seen him sad over nothing, seen him cry over nothing, watched him turn away from us and everything, over nothing- over nothing at all. And I think- we could be twins, soul brother and sister, cut from the same fragile fabric, both born entangled in this same inexplicable sadness.
He takes my picture as I paint his, or sing him so many things, cradling my guitar, the way sometimes he will cradle my body, limp as a broken doll, as finally I slip into sweet unconsciousness.
Things can be happy, but only when we are all together and reality is distant, boozey eyed with bottles of whiskey or wine and lines of uppers, singing and trying to waltz, falling over, catching each other, laughing.
But when Jack and I are alone, sinking into his living room floor, wrapped in the cashmere stillness and calm of diazepam, the sweet itch of opiates, - coming down cushioned in downers-we find ourselves lost in a slow, drugged fumbling for each other's mouths, touching with heavy palms and fingers-full of the clumsiness of the benzos and booze-a mess of tangled limbs and too many pills, too much wine. I tell myself, I tell him, I cannot be an accessory to cheating, not again, but we are so close....so close. We both need this, he will sigh and so I sing to him softly, we lull each other to sleep, I encase him in my arms, press the blood of my heart beat to his, and sing soflty to him, whispering, my voice thru cigarette smoke is silk and dust, our faces so close the smoke of our breath mingles, entwines, forming twisting chinese dragons of blue and black fumes.
Sober I can only sing to him in French, hiding behind words he won't understand, but hoping they carry all the comfort of my voice. I murmur in his ear as we lie drained and unhappy in bodies overstuffed with pills and booze and half starved from weeks of the working diet- uppers, downers, uppers, downers. We are both full of the rich pleasure of slowly awakening still heavy with sleep, tranquil in conscious sleep, a new sleep without darkness.
And I sing in a voice ruined- hushed and husky and breaking with the settled tar of cigarettes.
I have felt the trembling of his body above mine, the rise and fall of his shoulders as he cries into the jasmine perfume of my neck, I have felt the wet of his tears and my own, their caress running down my skin, pooling in my collar bones and sliding below and below, under my shirt, between my breasts. And I stroke my fingers across his hair, a fetal touch before the growth of love, and sing, sing the only songs that I can find to tell him how I feel. But our happiness together, our helpless, drunken kisses are tempered always by the fragility of such an affair- we are friends, not lovers.
Then why do we find each other always at the end of the night? Amid the heady scent of stale smoke, red wines and weed, the night clinging to our clothes, mingling with the jasmine perfume through my hair and his sweat and cologne, the heady dark scent unique to him, as heavy and warm and safe as his body pressing atop of mine, tumbling in a midnight garden of tiny white flowers, the night's winding down music and lazy, booze laden talk, tranquil and distant, coming gently through the wall from the other room. This only, and the weight of our breath breaking like warm, red waves upon the near silence. Can this be friendship and kissing and nothing more? Nothing more than a mutual need to be warmed, to be touched, to be held and caressed? To feel that physical and emotional rapture that comes only in the first flushes of romantic obsession, yet to feel them again and again, as if enchanted, trapped each night, in the same night, in each other's arms?
I have seen the Indian indigo ink come blacken his eyes, he soaks his sleeve with it. He soaks my neck in the indelible stain of his tears. We could be sister and brother. I love him as a brother, I love him as a friend, I would love him as a lover. I love him in a way perculiar to us- I love him the way we love our reflection from time to time- the familiarity of a grief that might as well be our own. Maybe it is my own. Maybe it is my own heart that fills with this double blood, my own heart that carries the weight of both our bloods, of all the fluids of our bodies, all the thoughts in our minds and visions behind our eyes, the third degree burns on our retinas, the echoes in our ears.
Maybe we are the same shattered mirror- a few dozen fragments each, and if only we could patch ourselves together again...could we be complete? Or would we remain a parody of a mirror- a ruined thing, reflecting never a complete person, but only the millions of tiny pieces of two people that won't fit back together, no matter how carefully we make our repairs. We will be left only the sticky, bloody mess of a project that can only end with us hurting each other and the other who loves him, the one he by rights belongs to.
He isn't mine.
I will leave soon anyway. I will find a new lover. I will bask in the city of light. I will make love in the rooms of Parisian apartments, full of stories and dust. I will study at the greatest university in France, I will be a student of all the arts. I will be art itself. I will live within the celluloid of French cinema, I will breathe from within Renoir's, I will be the shadows preserved, eternal, in a Bresson. I will think and speak and listen and dream in French, my blood will return to that rich gallic wine that flowed in the hearts of my ancestors, I will dance through les jardins, I will sing from the top of le tour d'eiffel, I will spin on the top of l'arc de triomphe, the spinning center of a sun. The city will eat me alive, I will swim in his stomach, I will be a trace in his blood.
I will be shit, I will be eradicated, I will wither and die.
I will smoke wherever the fuck I want.
I will not miss him, because he isn't mine.