whirlpooled topics unbackspaced. streams of consciousness. blurts. scribbled notes. outlined ideas. velocity waves. snatches from icloud. because self-editing is a writer’s cowardly way of preventing a reader from fucking the writer's confidence. dates don't matter. memories and moments aren't chronologically marked on the soul.

Cast A Long Shadow

See it’s the shadow part. So frail and still and the doctor comes in and I want to scream and say “you’re seeing her shadow! My Mother is vibrant and strong and independent! You’re seeing her is not her was!” 

He’s not seeing the girl who parted the crowds as she jitterbugged in 3 inch stilettos. 

He’s not seeing the school girl who defended herself on the playground and came home each day with the belt torn from her uniform. 

He’s not seeing the teenager who stopped her stepfather from beating her mother. 

He’s not seeing the 15 year old who worked 60 hours a week as a carhop to support her alcoholic mother, drunken stepfather, and their 7 kids and stayed in school and graduated from a prestigious boarding school. 

He’s not seeing the wife and mother who sang and prayed and taught us as she worked and built our world. 

He’s seeing a shadow. 

I still feel the warmth of her shine in the sun.

Ablation

An IV bag dripped into the crook of my left arm. Or my right. I don’t remember. I remember the afraid. Ablation. I mulled the word through my thoughts. Ablation. Isn’t that a Church word? Latin isn’t catalogued in my mind like it was in my past. Away. Something about away. His name was Trevor. Kind and gentle. He talked to me as he prepped. I asked if I could raise my arm. He said I couldn’t. I told him I just wanted to make the Sign of the Cross. I’d be awake during the procedure. I wanted to pray my rosary. I made the Sign of my Faith on the roof of my mouth with my tongue. A technician above my head told me he’d say the prayer for me. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” he recited. I listened for the pitch of ridicule. Absent. The technician is too young for the Latin to be loaded in readiness. “Were you in the seminary?” I asked. “No. Just a lot of years in Catholic schools.” Trevor raised his voice, “I know the Hail Mary in Spanish.” I turned my head to my right and looked into his eyes. “8 years in a Catholic school in San Diego,” he offered. I listened to him pray and recognized the words from Spanish 3. “San Diego? Why are you here?” I asked because the day was cold; why would anyone be here without purpose. “The obvious reason.” We laughed. “A woman,” I said. We laughed. I watched Trevor as he negotiated the electric pink razor over my chest and abdomen. Prepped from thighs to collarbone. The tufts of hair waved and swayed beneath the V of his scrub top. Trevor doesn’t manscape. I don’t either. This was only the second time. And neither time had I held the razor. The monitor said the ablation wasn’t necessary. The PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) are controlled by the medicines. Trevor pulled out the tubes. I pulled on my clothes. I waited the required thirty minutes and my sister drove me home.

I stood in front of the bathroom sink and pulled the tape from my arm. The bandaid was stained with a dot from my dried blood. I looked into the mirror and saw my smoothly patched chest. Clumps of hair lined the surfaces outside my nipples. I didn’t recognize myself. My body looked featureless and soft and absent of color. Like alabaster from some Sherwin-Williams collection. Freshly stirred. Smooth. I felt embarrassed. Feminine. Perverse. The opposite of clean. Not clean shaven. I didn’t recognize myself. I had a habit. Since college. Or before. I habitually rubbed the space of skin that cocooned my heart when I thought. I strummed the space with a rhythm that echoed a flamenco beat. Rapid. Too rhythmic to be a tick. I leaned into the mirror. My belly met the porcelain. I looked into my eyes and rubbed my heart. My palm grazed. Cold. Clammy. Like touching the unresponsive skin of a woman. I pulled my hand away.

I thought of her. I remembered our game. A clawed bathtub sat on a cracked tiled floor haloed by a spackled baseboard. The ceiling dampened and stained by the absence of a fan. “Let me shave your legs!” she giggled. It was a new tease for her. We were young. Sex was as much about the new as it was the desired. Once she had painted my toes; shaved legs wasn’t a leap. In the dead of winter – only the two of us would know of our game. I allowed two inches up my thigh. “Stop.” I didn’t demand; she didn’t insist. “How about this little part here?” She plucked the patch in the center of my chest. I had been bullied as a boy. Hair on my chest was an accomplishment. A proof of my masculinity. I spent my youth in the era of the hirsute hero. Tom Selleck didn’t shave; I didn’t want to return to the prepubescent; I didn’t want to return to the pursuit of a woman. I returned the razor. There wasn’t much to shear. It was gone with a couple of whisks.

I stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. As I dried my body I saw the stripes. Shaven from grin to groin. I looked centered but I don’t feel centered. I didn’t recognize myself. No ablation but no solution. My heart was broken. I felt vulnerable and weak and out of control.

I stood and stomped my feet to warm myself. I pushed pleasantries from my face and tried to be upbeat despite the excessive random heartbeats. An insult was hurled; the target was absent. Usually I raised a defense but I remained silent. I felt weak and vulnerable and unable to raise my confidence. A young man raised a rebuttal. I admired his risked. It wasn’t his crowd; he wasn’t our age. Yet we shared the same sex and sentiment. Soon I became the punchline. An insult aimed at my heart. I lacked the confidence to defend myself. My pride was soft and fleshy and pliable. He raised my refute. I silently stood back. I recognized myself in his deed. He reminded me we’re men.

I sat on a bench inside the store. I wanted to catch my breath; I hadn’t. I asked the man to pack the bags as lightly as possible. “I have a bad heart,” I apologized. I felt embarrassed and emasculated. “I’m not a man anymore.” I told myself. He packed less than twenty items in more than three sacks. “I’ll carry them for you,” he said. “Thank you. I’m so embarrassed,” I whispered. He walked alongside me as we walked to my car parked in the handicap space. I didn’t look handicapped. I’m embarrassed. But it’s too far to walk. As we walked to my car he told me his story. A car accident. A tailgate. He was animated and although he struggled to speak my language, his patter was brisk and energized. I listened and returned his passion. He felt outraged and relieved to hear my echo. He shook my hand and closed my trunk. We both smiled with the joy of our communion. I watched as he walked back into the store and recognized myself in his gait.

Still

The faint hiss of the radiator shattered the silence. Neither man spoke; neither man moved.

He shifted in his seat and repositioned his legs, “Silence doesn’t fit you.”

He lifted his head and looked at him, “I was just thinkin’.”

“Care to share the thought?”

He stood and walked to the window. “I’m thinking I talk too much.”

He relaxed in his shoulders. “Is this in jest?”

He turned and looked at him, “No. I’m dead serious. I think I talk too much.”

“Well, talking’s what we do here.”

“I know. I don’t mean talk like in reveal. I don’t mean I tell too much. I’m thinking I actually talk too much. You know, like too many words. I’ve thought about it. That’s all.” He turned back to the window and looked outside. “I hate snow.”

“What brought on these thoughts?”

“Have you ever noticed there’s no quiet anymore? No one shuts up.”

“Sure. I’ve noticed that.”

“I sat in a waiting room this morning and I listened to people. And no one was quiet. If they weren’t talking to someone, they were talking on the phone. So many syllables of absolutely nothing. Christ we’re a self-regarding nation.”

“Were you talking?”

“No. I’m too tired to talk anymore. But that’s just now. I always talked. I talked all the time. I’m a self-regarding asshole too. So many words of absolute nothing.”

“So you feel lately you’re hearing too much nonsense?”

He returned to the chair and sat down. “No, I’ve thought about that too.” He leaned in and pedestaled his elbows on his knees. “I used to date this woman.” He leaned back into the chair. “Date. Such a proper word. I used to have sex with this woman I was completely embarrassed of. And let me just say I know how putrid that is. But that’s not the point. The point is that one night I saw her in a bar and I was with some buddies and I didn’t want them to know I’d slept with her. So every time she’d started to talk, I interrupted her so she couldn’t say anything I didn’t want her to. It became almost violent. It’s like I snatched the words before she got them out of her mouth. Do you get what I mean?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to sit.” He stood up and started to take a step. He put his hand to his face and covered it with his palm. “I’m so Goddamned dizzy I feel like I’m going to fall down.”

“Sit down.”

“It’s okay. It’s a brief thing. It’s one of my heart medicines. And I should be used to it now but I forget. It’s okay. I’m okay.” He walked over to the bookcase and stood in front of it. “I’m okay now.” He put his hands inside his pockets and felt his rosary.

“How are you feeling?”

“Sick. I’m feeling sick.” He returned and sat in the chair. “Here’s my point. I listened to all the talking today and it reminded me of me. All the talking so no one can say aloud all the things no one wants to hear or think.”

“Is that why you talk?”

“Sometimes. I think everyone does that sometimes. But I think we do it for other reasons too.” He stood up and waited until he felt his bearings. “Do you remember when you were a kid and you were on a time-out? You’d sit there all quiet and pretty soon you’d think your mother forgot you. So you’d move the chair or clear your throat? Did you ever do that?”

“Sure.”

“I think people do that. I think people make noise so someone – anyone – realizes they’re there.”

“Are you worried no one knows you’re there?”

He shook his head. “No, people will forget me. But they know I’m here now.” He turned and pulled a book off a shelf. “Do you still read?”

“Is this a conversation about nothing?”

He slid the book back into its place. “No. I’ve run out of words. I haven’t anything left to say.” He turned around. “I told you I talked too much.”

Take Care

They wait at the table. Wait for meals. Wait for doses. Wait for bedtime. Wait. 

She doesn’t hear well anymore. Oh with hearing aids – and repetition – she can understand the words. 

He doesn’t see well anymore. Well, not completely. A big black dot seems to interlope. 

They await together. 

Behind the table – a desk. On the desk – a speaker. Music streamed at the highest volume. Some notes are heard. Some sounds are recalled. 

An aloud family. Everything is allowed aloud. 

In the kitchen, I wait for the eggs to scramble. I stir. Stirrings. Everything is stirring now. All emotions are stirred up. 

In the dining room, “That’s Life.” Sinatra. She tips her head toward the sounds and slightly smiles. 

I hear the sounds of singing from the dining room. I glance in and sees the two of them singing. I smile and stir the spatula. 

“True Love.” Dean Martin. Their song. The song. “Do you hear that?” He pats her hand; she smiles. She turns her palm up. An embrace. They smile and wait for their eggs. 

I put their eggs on plates, carry them into the dining room, and wait to do their dishes.

Strong Armed

Tonight I’m juggling without elbows.