Readying for 8/29

Dear Nathan,

I sort of have a habit of clutching that key around my neck, the one that goes to a Brooklyn P.O. Box we no longer share, and that shirt you’re so fond of, it says, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and you were never not wearing it.

I cannot shake the image of your backpack, the posture developed from lugging heavy equipment dangled from rappel hooks, a mess of half-curls, a trail of dark beer. You see a picture in the most mundane objects, you’re always constructing, calculating, formulating. I recognize you in other people, they are all pieces of you that have been disassembled, glued together, ripped apart, sewn up, rendered into other personalities. I can barely stand this. You send me notes that say you flew over Chapel Hill, and you waved from the jumbo jet, and it’s not enough. You would love it here.

The alleys. . .all the alleys are painted with murals of turtles and violinists, royal blue puzzle pieces and bits of graffiti splayed, huge ochre necklaces and skylines, mirror image renditions of the bell tower painted on a certain wall in town so if you stand in the pay lot behind the old Miami Subs and Grill, you can line up the painting with the actual bell tower on campus. . .you would love to see it all, I just know it. I know it.

“They shoot horses, don’t they?”

There are underground restaurants, so dimly lit, with brusque waiters and expensive cheese bowls and rooms with themes so that one night you can eat in a train car with passengers painted on the walls, and the next day you can eat in the Lautrec Room (because it’s “Too-Loose”) with its low ceilings and Irish toasts painted all over the stained wooden booths.

Outside there are trees that grow with less rain than you’re accustomed to out west. You’d sit in the shade they create on stone steps and you’d stare at the deserted picnic tables, the parking meters alongside Technicolor foliage, and wonder why you didn’t arrive sooner, why you didn’t trust me before. Out in that amphitheater you could sit, and you’d know that’s where I’ll get married one day, if I ever quit leading the trek up Spinster Mountain.

“They shoot horses, don’t they?”

Down the street within walking distance is one of America’s Top Ten Art Towns. You’d love it there. The dreadlocked peaceniks pulling their stray dogs on rope leashes, singing Bob Marley songs loudly, incoherently. The cigarettes piled innocently next to wooden benches and left there by pocket philosophers, the myriad of pubs with rows of taps gleaming in artificial light. The bars with faux-rock walls, the rooftop terrace string quartets, the indisputable nuance of jazz flutes and snare drums floating past Zen Masters who dance though there is no discernable music. The vintage clothes, the shoe stores, the ubiquitous organic produce. The recycling programs, the literature festivals, the ability to meet beautiful, wild-haired, bathing-suit-clad descendants of poets laureate, the boys who know about the best parties and the best mountain bikes, the girls whose minds are like Tiramisu, delicate and layered. I can provide this for you.

You remember everything. You make references to the time of day it was that you left me, references to sad stories that should have kept you there, you talk to me about my old neighborhood in New Orleans, and you tell me that you saw it on one of your photography trips, and it was ransacked and ruined, and you got it all on film.

You took pictures of motels completely ravaged by the rain, paint peeled and mud-streaked, sad little husks of homes. I can’t even identify pictures of my old city, and it burns me up that you were there and I was not, that I am here and you cannot be. That you got to see what was left of Rock-n-Bowl, of Camellia Grill, of Carrollton Avenue, and I’m here with Village Lanes and Mama Dip’s Country Cookin’ and Franklin Street. And then you went to Florida, where Dave and I used to hang out at the beach condo, and Dave said last time he went there after the hurricane, the interstate ramp leading to the seafood restaurant where we would always eat. . .it was broken in half, the ramp leading up and up and stopping abruptly in midair, its metal support brackets jutting into the sky, making the brackets look like cardboard tubes that held cotton candy clouds.

“They shoot horses, don’t they?”

I do not think I would recognize you if I saw you now because you’re so ethereal to me at this point. You’d smile with your entire mouth hanging open like you were in the middle of a huge laugh and you’d be all, “Listen to this heartbreaking story! Here’s a quarter for the jukebox!” and I would have to turn around and go back inside and smash my face against the wall, rattle the framed photos of millipedes and Boy George and make the Pixies poster fall down and I’d have to kick my roommate’s kid’s shoes out of the way and move his girlfriend’s Clorox disinfectant wipes off to one side and I’d be out the door, running past you and hurtling towards the kudzu meadow out back.

And the obstacles of mosquito bites and ghetto blasters and tripwires in the form of naked shrubs, they’d all move aside so I could drown in that snake-infested pit of weeds that comprises the end of my dead end street.

And behind the kudzu I’d sit, and let it choke me, while I peered from behind the twisted metal of the “No Parking” sign stuck inconspicuously in the grass, and I’d watch you walk away with a bewildered look on your face and off you’d go, back to the Big Bad West, and I’d have lost my chance to resurrect the spontaneity and clamor of what we had.

“They”

“Shoot”

“Horses”

“Don’t”

“They?”

-Me

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1 Comment

Filed under adventure, life, random, relationships

One response to “Readying for 8/29

  1. A friend of mine called me to read this aloud the other day. I said, “see? See…”

    I read this often and it never gets old and always brings me to a visible emotion.

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