“It’s messy and complicated and it’s doing everything it can to just be a song.”
Garrett is talking about making music outside the store as I smoke a cigarette. He’s waiting for his date to show up. I am waiting for I-don’t-know-what.
Finally my cigarette burns away. I take a sip of coke and wonder how to excuse myself.
And then Salma shows up.
Short, forward, and a bit bubbly. She’s barely said two words to Garrett before thrusting her hand out.
“Hi, who are you?”
“Do you sing Christmas carols at Christmas?”
She asks about photography. That’s a nice camera I have. When did I start photographing? Do I take nudes? Am I looking for a nude model? What kind of nudes have I done?
Would I like to do Karaoke? Would I like to get a drink?
She’s cute and fun, and I find myself a little bit jealous.
Garrett is emotionless. A cold, still lake high up in the mountains. Where nothing will touch his unwavering facade.
I make some excuses. I need to take photos.
She hugs me.
I go out to 5th and veer into a Barnes and Noble on a whim, scoop up a handful of photography magazines, and head to the register.
The guy behind the counter can’t stop telling me about the Barnes and Noble Email Savings Reward Program for Nothing Going On NOW. I couldn’t care less. He couldn’t be more thick, or diligent.
“And you can get a free cookie if you go upstairs and order a coffee.”
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
I’ve been stuck in a haze. I move slower and can’t seem to make up my mind about anything.
Every day is a parade of images just barely out of focus.
“I need you to write an article a day,” my boss tells me.
So I stare at a computer screen and wonder about the disparity between two people’s feelings.
About abject despair.
And the desire to avoid an existence alone.
Under trees at night, swaying in the breeze that comes down and washes over me. Another night in Brooklyn. Another night.
She leaves me a voicemail while I’m asleep. While I’m dreaming.
And it wakes me with a smile.
That smile lasts for days.
And I’m a fucking mess.
People keep telling me stuff. I don’t hear it.
I keep wandering around. Pausing outside of a hotel on 44th to take a photo through a window.
My own ugly self caught up and fixed inside that moment. Caught like a fly in amber, forever.
Drinking again, if only to escape this slow, inexorable and growing sense that it’s all coming to a head.
That it’s all headed south.
I get completely shitfaced with a coworker. Then catatonically meander through midtown.
As long as I’m not smoking, I think.
Then I think about her voicemail and that smile. And then I buy a pack of cigarettes.
It doesn’t matter what you feel. I know that. It only matters that you do feel it. You don’t have to tell anyone. You can even lie to yourself. But you’ll still feel it, even if it is never acknowledged.
In the night, the flowered boughs of a tree crest and fall away like waves. I think of North Carolina. I think of my family. I think of the country and the stillness of nights there. And I think about the flow of a slow, timeless river.
Under the light of the street lamps, those flowers look like something else.
Everything just looks like something else.
There are no signs to read. No hope to keep hold of.
Just the endless parade of gray days. The feeling that you’ll never quite measure up. And the persistent ache to get closer.
I wake up at 2 am and walk to the corner store. I buy a drink to drink while I smoke another cigarette.
“You know those give you cancer?” someone says to me.
You know I don’t give a fuck? I mumble back, light up, and jerkily stalk off into the night.
Everything sucks and I want to carve the heart out of my chest.
Under a street lamp, I stare up at a tide of blossoms, sighing into the night.