Drop #172: Why?

at your disposal‘Why does this keep happening to me?’ Jane asked, following Sarah outside to bum a smoke. She wanted more drinks too but was broke and too proud to ask Sarah to buy her another. ‘Am I just a loser? Do I suck? Am I ugly? A dork? Why does every guy cheat on me or break up with me? Am I a psycho? Too selfish? Too needy? Do I smother them? Do I talk too much? Why do they all dump me? Why, Sarah? Why? Am I delusional? An idiot? Am I annoying? Too fat? Help me understand. Am I gross and stupid and useless and boring? Tell me, Sarah? Am I? Hey? Am I?’

‘Well, actually, yes. Yes you are. All those things, in fact.’ Sarah tipped ash and watched it paraglide down to the pavement. ‘A guy would have to be bat shit crazy not to run once he gets more than a glimpse.’

By EM Vireo

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Drop #160: Love

burrata and heirloom tomatoJen had a dinner meeting so Hal decided to treat himself to his favorite meal at Tony’s. He was the first customer and the staff greeted him warmly. ‘No missus today? It’s OK. We feed you good.’

Though eating alone, he ordered a full meal, starting with the burrata over heirloom tomatoes, and following with the wild boar ragu pappardelle. It was what they always ordered. He drank two glasses of Chianti as he finished every last morsel with gusto, sopping up all the sauce with bread, and even had space for panna cotta. Most satisfied, he asked for the check just as his phone rang.

‘Hi, honey,’ Jen said. ‘Good news: my meeting was cancelled so I’m all yours tonight.’

‘Great!’

‘Listen, I’m starving and I can’t think of anything better in this life than meeting you at Tony’s for wild boar pappardelle right now.’

‘Oh yeah? Right now?’

‘Yeah. I’m so in the mood. Let’s get a bottle of that delicious Chianti and have a really nice big meal together. I already left. Think you can be there in twenty?’

‘Pretty sure I can.’

‘You didn’t eat yet, did you?’

‘What? No. No.’

‘Great, I’m excited. Can’t wait to see you. You make me so happy.’

‘Well, that makes me happy too.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 147: Invitation

lovers‘Want to come up? No one’s home.’

‘You want me to?

‘I asked, didn’t I?’

I pause, tapping a sneaker against the curb. ‘Don’t think I will.’

Her disappointment is at once recognizable and foreign, like a childhood home revisited as an adult. She is wearing one of the many similar simple dresses that suit her so well, and those olive-green knee-highs that remind of all I must have missed in the sixties. She is playing, as she often does, with the tiny gold seahorse hanging from her neck, and she is beautiful–a little too alluring to have to deal with, really. Too much expression in her face, too much roundness in those cheeks. No one wears glasses better, and that practiced naïveté she flaunts only belies a sensual cleverness, a roguish greed.

‘So, that’s a hard no?’ she asks, sliding hand under cloth to gently scratch collarbone.

I look at her as a quiet man might watch the winter sea from a deserted beach. ‘I can’t,’ I say. ‘I won’t.’

We kissed earlier—kissed in a way that stole something back from time: some magic, some truth. We kissed for several minutes, naturally, comfortably, as if we had always been in love.

‘Really?’ She leans against the door frame and smiles, mocking my attempt to postpone the inevitable.

I have already, over the course of the afternoon, imagined her a hundred kinds of naked, met so much of that nakedness with fingers, mouth, and face, been shattered over and again by the thought of her tightly around me. How gorgeous it must be in there. How perfect.

‘Is it your wife?’ she asks, ‘or my husband?’

After three weeks of close, almost daily interaction, the project is finished; we won’t be working together any more. Nothing happened in all that time, until today, but it was instantly flirty and easy between us—and almost immediately I had also imagined this moment, this invitation. The possibility has lived with us since, like terrible, lovely, exciting disease that is never discussed, but will not just go away.

‘I guess,’ I say, watching her stare at me, unblinking, ‘but that’s not the whole of it.’

She looks down coyly, and I resent already missing her eyes. I know it spells madness, but it’s a deep relief when she looks back up.

‘I fear if I touch you again today, I won’t be able to let go.’

‘Hm. Fear.’

‘Look at us together. Look at what we already are. This could never be a passing thing. Of course I want to come up—the thought is beating me to a pulp, but I if did it would be too good, and prove what I already know: that I like you too much. We’d definitely do it again, start a proper affair and be really into each other. I might even leave Sarah for you, and you might leave Will. We’d move in together, and it would undoubtedly be wonderful, maybe even for years, but who’s to say it won’t lose that drive and wonder?–it would already have to carry the weight of all we have given up: everything we have hurt, and risked, and betrayed. We might fight, and get frustrated, and start new affairs and only end up back where we are now. Why set all that up when we could just absorb this perfect moment, this perfect day between two recent strangers and move off into the night?’

‘Wow. Someone’s a fucking downer.’

‘Sorry.’

She shrugs but I can tell she feels this same tectonic force, but for some reason is was willing to act, as I might be willing to do on another day, or maybe still am. I have always been careful, though: too careful to throw something great away for something else that is sure to be incredible.

‘No, that was a good speech. Articulate and charismatic.’

I know this sarcasm is used in defense, maybe as a stalling technique too. Even now the invitation remains draped on her face, and I still haven’t formally refused it. Minds are seldom made up with the words they sell to mouths. Half of mine has already climbed the stairs to her bedroom, or is it more than half, or less? Sex itself is not so dangerous but there’s no room here for love. Not today, in this falling dusk. Not for love the destroyer, love the callous cunt. Souls are impatient; we tend to appease the offhand passions they peddle, riding them on into the new and the immediate. But not every time, on every watch.

The hug goodbye is brutal, so heavy with the sadness of sense.

By EM Vireo

Drop 130: Hookah

lover A waiter brings a hookah to a table nearby.

Ah, Jim thinks, maybe I’ll get us one of those. She’ll dig it. Apple tobacco—no, cherry. Will be cool to hang out, drink and smoke. Learn more about one another. Build this spark, this ember into something bigger, warmer, tastier—what a perfect metaphor for the beginnings of love. Haven’t met a girl like her for … well, forever. She has so much more than looks. She has smarts, opinions, strength. And our tastes are so similar, with music (well, except for Elliott Smith), movies (except for Charlie Kaufman’s stuff), books and all.

He raises his hand for the waiter.

Man, I don’t want to jinx it, but this one feels good and I want it bad. And it feels like we are already so close, that it’s just a matter of destiny playing out! That love has already laid claim to us and is just waiting for a cue.

‘God,’ she says, squinting at a man blowing smoke, ‘nothing as stupid as a fucking hookah, right? I mean, can you try any harder to look cool without actually being cool? Okay, maybe it works for some bearded dude in Turkey, but for any white guy it’s the epitome of modern douche uncool. No opinion, no personality. Um, yeah, give me one of them funky pipes with that yummy flavored tabacky everyone’s having. How about apple—no, cherry! Jesus. What a fucking crock!’

‘I totally agree,’ he says, dropping his arm. ‘Total bull.’ The waiter’s already coming over.

‘Cool. I like that about you Jim. You dig the cool shit I dig, except for not liking Elliott Smith, of course—oh, and Charlie Kaufman movies. Guy’s so great!’ She frowns and shakes her head almost imperceptibly. ‘Anyway, you’re not all about the bullshit, and I appreciate that.’

‘Yeah.’

The waiter arrives. ‘Did you want to order something?’ he asks.

‘Oh. Did you want another drink?’ Jim asks Sadie.

‘Mine’s still full but fuck it, sure, let’s get another round.’ She smiles at him in a way she hasn’t before. ‘Like I said, I like the way you think—I really do.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 128: Lucky Man

tea smoked egg‘That was just amazing, Jolene.’

‘Thanks Bill.’

‘Yes,’ said Mary, ‘just delicious. You’re a lucky man George.’

‘That I am.’

‘How did you get the potatoes so smooth and creamy?’

‘Now, that’s a secret,’ said Jolene.

‘Come on, at least give me the recipe for that tea-smoked egg!’

‘I’ll email it to you tomorrow.’

‘Seriously,’ said Bill. ‘Best meal I’ve had in ages. I can’t believe that chicken sausage was home-made!’

‘Well, believe it!’

‘And that sauce! I haven’t tasted such depth since … since Paris. God, George, don’t let this one get away. She’s too good to be true.’

‘Absolutely, Bill. I don’t intend you.’

 

‘Can I fix you a drink?’ George asked Jolene when their dinner guests had left. ‘You sure deserve one after that incredible performance.’ He smiled warmly at her.

‘Oh God, yes please. You fix the best drinks.’

‘That’s true.’

‘Thanks for not saying anything,’ Jolene said when George gave her her glass.

‘Come on,’ he said, ‘you peeled the potatoes—and the carrots! That was a critical job.’

‘Shut up!’ she said, slapping his shoulder.Oh, can you send me—’

‘It’s already in your inbox.’

‘You’re the best.’

‘I might be, but you know, what they said was still true.’ He kissed her. “George really is a very lucky man.’

By E.M. Vireo

It’s Time

Things are changing. You can see it, feel it, right? We don’t have much time.

No time anymore to be angry, hold grudges, spend hours with those who don’t inspire in any way, or think that a bunch won’t inspire in at least some way; no time to think we are so great, or forget we are full of potential. It’s no time to be lazy but to be efficient and ambitious. No more time to mess up for the fifth and tenth time, treat people poorly, speak meanly, love too little, not take chances. No time to worry about death, care inordinately about longevity, vanity, inanity, or give in to shame and regret and all those possible problems swimming around us. They might seem big as whales, but most whales eat krill, so you can rest easy. There’s no time to feel so damn down. If you zoom out, you will no doubt see, it’s actually ok, if not spectacular.

Things are changing, for us, and those to come, but we are here, now, as Ram Dass said; we’ve had loads of life to mess up, to scrunch into a ball and burn, and now, it’s time to stop worrying, bickering, being upset when the dish you wanted is sold out.

It’s time for music, time to dance, and dance some more; to share and walk with what moves you; to accept and give affection, pleasure, beauty, newness and comfort, and not to steal them when they haven’t been offered. It’s time to be intimate; to kiss and touch and fuck; time to care and listen and show you are human. It’s time to make the effort for the things, the pastimes and the people you love, and find them if none come to mind.

It’s time to stop being so fucking selfish; time to be stronger than you were, and than they can be, and ask nothing back. It’s time for accountability, to be the one that takes responsibility, that makes it happen; time for lovely things you haven’t even thought of, and for conflicts, as caterpillars, to morph into enormous blue tropical butterflies (don’t be fooled by their dull brown wings at rest). It’s time to be with nature.

It is time, you all, all of me, the lot of us, to claim power over time, with an act, many acts, a community of action, our will, wiry and stubborn, clawing through a field of generic thorns to find place at this flowing, eccentric, endless, colorful table that still holds so much fruit. It’s time to row to the limits of our potential and put it all out there; and it’s serious, sure, but no one asked us to stop laughing. Enjoy the struggle to simply get it right, get it wrong, and get it right twice more. Powerful. Optional. Essential.

It’s time – come on, you got this. We got this. I know we do.

EM Vireo. Not quite over, not quite out.

Drop #106: Moth

MothThey were young and in love – the type of fresh, true love that makes wall paper peel down castle walls in sticky, messy ribbons – but it was war-time (someone wanted to appropriate someone else’s means of exploitation, to strip bare land just stolen from a different someone) so the fellow, call him Theobald, was sent to a distant land full of swamps and strange foods that smelled of armpits and leather, to offer his brawn, mediocre intelligence, dedication and if it came to that, his young life. (He was barely old enough to have grown his first mustache, which he proudly bore and trapped morsels of cheese in.)

After some time in the field, in which Theobald lost a toe to infection and an earlobe to the wayward swipe of a countryman’s saber, and during which he watched many of his friends die gruesome and peculiar deaths, several others twist ankles, some badly, and still others become crippled with terrible haircuts, his troop joined with the ninth battalion, a hairy, smelly bunch, and fortified a stronghold on a cliff near a pretty little peach tree with the most delicate branches and intricate silk-like leaves, that caught the afternoon sun to show off a potpourri of colors and textures so varied and lovely, the sky looked dull and silly beside it.

Here, the courageous men awaited reinforcements, playing cards, singing songs out of tune, and dabbling in buggery, and here, at last, Theobald (or Theo BO, as he was sometimes called) finally had a chance to write to his beloved (call her Beatrice) and state his undying love anew:

Beatrice, my dove,

The ugliness of war has done nothing to douse my love for the world’s one true beauty: thee. I think only of a return to your delicate arms to plant endless kisses upon your visage. I do not know how long this hell will endure, and when I will be set free, but perhaps you can come to me instead, in not too long. We will soon depart for Cottonsmere, not two days travel from our cherished abode. It will take us some time to march there, so I ask you to wait for a month, and then set out to meet me. We can spend the day together before my troop pushes on towards the coast.

I cannot wait to nestle my fellow in your bosom once more, my sweet, pillowy darling!

Yours, ever in love,

Theobald Nungus III

He sent it with a carriage at dawn and thought of nothing else as they took off once more, marching miles in ill-fitting shoes, and the days dripped slowly by.

Theobald worried that the letter had not reach his beloved, but it most certainly had. Unfortunately, he was unaware of the tragic typo he had made when he wrote it. He had written moth, instead of month, and so, ever since the letter had arrived and filled her heart with the most luxurious glee, Beatrice, who’s astuteness was inversely proportional to her ample bosom, had been waiting night and day for a moth to appear.

She anticipated their reunion with great excitement, looking oh so forward to snuggling with and caressing her love again, and particularly, to feeling his soldier a rap-tap-tapping deep inside her belly once more. Without pause, she stared out of the window, bags packed, cucumber and lard sandwiches prepared and wrapped, just waiting for a single moth to appear so she could leave for Cottonsmere post-haste. There were spiders and beetles and plenty of slugs, but a drought had beset the land and nary a moth was to be found. Three months past as she sat, growing old with dejection, eating, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, and remaking the sandwiches, till her despondence grew too heavy to withstand. So, broken willed, Beatrice ran into the forest and lived the life of a wild woman, mute with anger and indifference. She ate berries and salmon like a bear and never saw another human again.

In the meantime, after waiting for Beatrice for a week at Cottonsmere, Theobald had to push on towards the coast with the army. He wrote two more letters, concerned and looking for answers but this time, each was lost in the mail. The first, which had been scented with honey, was eaten by a snaggletoothed raccoon on route, and the second, having the wrong zip code (another typo!) was still in transit somewhere between Lagos and Zurich. After four months, Theobald, a gaunt shell of a man, returned to his home, their home, but finding no one there, fell into a deep depression. He went to sit in front of the TV, and has been watching game shows while drinking beer and smoking bongs ever since.

Anyway, that’s the story of how an imaginary moth ruined a succulent slab of young, true love, and this is the lesson: don’t make typos or you’ll either end up eating berries in the woods, or on the couch, smoking a bong, watching Wheel of Fortune reruns, forever.

-ENDE-

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #82: Jacket

I smell her jacket to force nostalgia but get only mold and distant smoke. I probe with questions: What fire was she sitting beside and was someone playing a ukulele? Did mosquitoes bite her legs? When did her jacket get moist? Was it that same night? Did she sleep near the fire and soak up the morning dew. Was someone with her? A boy? A girl? What did she share with him, her? More than she did with me?

I found it at Larry’s over the weekend and smuggled it out. She must have left it there before moving to Pittsburgh a couple of weeks back. I hadn’t been at Larry’s place since it ended.

I push my face back into the coarse fabric looking for more and recognize a subtle strand of perfume. But it isn’t the one I bought her. She’d said she loved it, but maybe she’d gone on to throw it away. They say smells carry memories better than flavors, sights or sounds; this is true, whether you want to remember, or not.

I do. I seek out the places that link me to my loss. I return to the coffee shops we hung out at, to sit outside like we did, and order the milkshakes we shared, and burgers we cut in half. I watch the movies we found and loved together, and make the desserts she taught me.

I steal and smell jackets.

It may sound like I am obsessive, mad; that I’m refusing to let go, but this is not true. I know it’s done, that she’s moved on, and mostly, so have I. But I also know it lived too short, it ran its course too soon. So I’ll keep her close a little while, till scents betray my gloom.

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #76: Echo

‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘But I just don’t think of you that way.’

How could I have got it so wrong? I had been confident, assured, even! I had convinced myself it was only a formality. But no, she wasn’t interested.

She was gentle letting me down, to drown in the futility I hadn’t seen coming. With empathy in her exquisite, apologetic smile, and clear, moist eyes she looked even lovelier, which only made it harder, cause desire and possibility had never been further apart.

Real dejection leaves little place to hide, but I certainly could not stay, so I muttered a wet slug of a line and skulked away. At the bar down the road I looked for relief in drink but only found hurt in the space I’d cleared to think.

I was taken back to an event in my youth – one I had repressed, one I had removed. But now it reappeared, clear as winter ice, triggered by the misery of my recent inadequacy. I was a little boy, on holiday with my parents, swimming in a hotel pool in Saint-Tropez, when a man pulled me repeatedly under water by my feet, till I thought I would die. I screamed, but my mouth was mostly submerged, and when above, my cries were muffled by the jovial splashes of other swimmers.

Strange, how this particular rejection had brought it all back: the flashes, the feeling, the tone of the attack; how these two events, so far apart, and seemingly unrelated, shared so many traits, and provoked the same result; how a precise blend of fear, sadness, helplessness and despair displayed in one, had resurrected the other as an eerie echo, adding startling depth to the ubiquitous and indifferent darkness that shades a human history.

And though shattered, hovering over my scotch, as I had also felt that day, pulling my skinny little body out onto the pool’s concrete edge, I could not help being fascinated too, by the complexities we each carry into time, and the profound intricacies trapped in the intimacies we must endure, day after day, devoid of any cure.

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #73: Gone

The place was packed. I saw someone get up across the room and ran to snag the table: somewhere to relax till our plane boarded in an hour.

‘Well done, babe!’ she said, dropping her bags. ‘You watch the stuff; I’ll go get us something. What do you want?’

‘Sandwich, coffee – whatever. Surprise me.’

‘OK.’

‘Here, I have some baht left over.’ I took some dirty notes from my back pocket and put them in her palm.

She gave me a soft, unhurried kiss, and walked to the counter to wait in line, looking like one should after a holiday, with her deep, even tan and sun-bleached hair. Her movements were soaked in relaxation, exuding the warmth of beaches and freshness of the rains.

It had been an incredible two weeks in Thailand. We’d trekked the jungles on elephants and snorkeled the reefs with the manta rays. We’d feasted in local food courts and drank cheap beer. We’d driven all about on our scooter, finding deserted bays, bizarre shops, and old, toothless women laughing at everything. And mostly, we had enjoyed each other.

A good holiday can leave you optimistic and strong. It can ease the bleak winter you will find back home, and the hours spent at your dull job. And sharing it with the one you love swells this momentum exponentially. We were closer than ever, having built on the trust we felt in one another. Things couldn’t have been better.

After a couple of minutes I looked over to see how she was doing. She had almost reached the front of the line and waved with her free hand. She had something wrapped in plastic in the other. I made a funny face, smiled and waved too. Buoyed by this simplest of interactions, and the clean fullness of my life, I turned back around. Margie’s bag, the one with both passports and her wallet, with the credit cards and the bulk of the cash, was gone.

By E.M. Vireo