He left behind so little for me to piece together. There was one photo of him with a timestamp of 91 with the Pyramids at his back. Over dinner he passed it off that he was in Rome too, years from that. But not much else, save for the little notes he left on Facebook. Poems from ’81. I’m sure he wrote more than that. I wouldn’t know. Right around a month after I came back from that Manila trip, right after the entire whirlwind, I pined for his books, his notes. Didn’t find anything to keep save I had three other little ones who knew about it save for me – I’m a big brother to four souls. That’s a tough duty. My cousin sent me a photo of himself and our estranged Lola, who to the accounts of my silver maternal grandfather, ‘left him for another man’. He didn’t ask any further than the usual niceties, my cousin, since the first and the last time since we saw her we were still learning how to jerk off. Fifteen years ago. The father of her first three (disputed, four) children was dead to him but the seed, the progeny had found its way from Boston, to Sydney, and a long drive of three days down to Adelaide. Now my cousin and I have to piece it all together too on our side of the family.
But look at that. I’m trying to write contracts down and planning the next financial moves but, what for? Told my cousin I’ll be over there in SYD by ’18. If the world doesn’t fall apart. I’d be in HK in 6 months, but Hendri says it’s too far out to tell. Back in ’17 I swore I had to be at Basel. Just to prove something after the breakup. Or was I?
He was in Rome, and Egypt, in the States too, in Jersey. Even my grandfather spent a tragic two years there as a bus driver till he went home to deal with woman problems. And then my mom and him too. Old Richard made him kneel infront the archbishop and had the press blackmailed, that’s what he told me on the steps of the church he built when he died. Look how things circle around. And we’re left with a great many things for us to piece together as much as we’re trying to piece ours.
I don’t think about it a lot anymore. Used to ask you a lot how it’ll ever end or if it ever ends. It doesn’t happen in a day. I imagined it driving out into the ends of the world and a big revelation and then I stop running back to you in my head. A year plus in and it hasn’t been the case – somehow i’ve resigned the idea that i’ll hold it this way always. I don’t think about love anymore. Lately it’s all about work. I’ve got shit to finish and people depending on me. But there are days like this when I find myself thinking about the both of us in that messy room that belonged to a 21-year old, red in debt, way behind submissions, broke, hungry, the last of my coins for cold water right before you wake up. Was that love? It was terrible. It was in the middle of a dark time back then. But we were there. Laying in the sheets. I held you there. Was it real? The scent was. You smelled like Mangoes, i told you, and we’d argue how to say Mango. I used to look at you sleep and listen to Amy and it’s laser-etched at the back of my head like a barcode to a photograph of me and you. It felt like a Hopper. The day you left before everything changed we were on a night out and I broke my leg bringing you home. Your mom yelled at me for not taking care of you and I couldn’t talk back, you know that. I wanted to just let you be. I just always wanted to let you be. It was your choice. I had my own thing going on back then and I hung on to you since you were the only thing working out for me back then. I was falling apart. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. Was that love? It was terrible. I’d be drunk and stoned at 8 in the morning. You were off to class and all the things you wanted to do but there I was holding you back with the little ego I held on to. Nothing made sense. Nothing ever worked out. But was it love? and furthermore, was it real? I don’t think about these things anymore, I have things to figure out. I went my own way as you went yours. I don’t even know you anymore but that’s okay. I’m glad you’ll find yourself eventually. And if you do come across this one day do know that I’m glad we had all of that. Remember all of my dreams, the cathedrals, the waves – the ship rides and the burning lighthouses, I told you as if you were me in the mirror. It was a difficult time. I lost you there too. We couldnt’ even have time for the most fundamental thing we did- talk over beer. Talk over coffee. I couldn’t even see you in the eye anymore. A month before we broke up we had this one dinner I didn’t enjoy much and it wasn’t you. It was in my head. Things were falling apart. A year after that, when I went to see you again you told me you had a great time. We were really in two different places back there. I don’t miss you anymore as much as I used to, and I dont ever think anymore if it was real or not or if it really meant something to you- but to me it did. It does. But lessons like that make you carry on in life knowing things could be worse – and we’ll walk out of it polished. I woke up from a dream last night about you. It’s a long one. We were in someone’s funeral and I met you there. Asked you if you really are happy. You said yes but I can tell from your eyes the hesitation. Fished you out of there but I guess you were telling the truth. You left. Took a long bus ride day and night somewhere, a long hike up the mountain to a spot where we went once to desecrate the memory, only to find family and friends there. I scanned the place for you and I thought I saw you there.. But I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t tell. So much for that long hike up.
I don’t think about it so much anymore but this morning the dams in my head broke out from that dream. There’s so much I put under the rug after all of that. But I carry it with me. This time I put it all on paper once and for all and out into the vessels in the back rooms of my head. Where I also put our photograph that looked like a Hopper. That afternoon in my place. It gets humid in midday and you’d leave for stuff to do.. I wanted you to stay all the time. I wanted you to take it slow with me but the great flowing river of time swept us (or) it was time for me to move on too. But was that love? It was terrible.
And love is terrible. I burned my soul close to yours and I saw you through. I opened my entire life out to you, the first time I ever did to anyone else. I was happy in my little room in my head but you knocked and I let you in and told me all the good and the bad in it. And you left. I was on the broken bed and asked if you could stay for another five minutes. I know it was wrong but damn, why did I let you in anyway. Why did I let you throw away all the old things I held dear. Why did I let you change my own sheets and get a new carpet and have it all fixed out up from the inside. But I guess I’m grateful for that. For that it was real. And I thought I was ready every single time you had to leave from the hollow you left on the bed that smelled like Mangoes, that smelled like Mangoes.
Aristotle is dead. And so is Plato and his friends. No man even went to war to fire a thousand bullets and come home to write a million more to speak about it. I broke it off with my manager and said, I’m leaving the job. That also meant putting my ass on the line, giving up the on-the-whim sushi and the blow cash. It’s all quiet on the western front, after all. Now the Verdun needs a Somme. That also meant no midnight burgers after smoking grass. I thought I was okay after a couple of weeks of normalcy but then the boat just demands to be rocked. Signing the resignation papers she said, is it the hours? Is it the pay? All the sages are bones face down in the books. The monks hole up at the peaks in Kathmandu counting the rest of their beads. I told her I just needed my balls back. The black kitten that hung around for a weekend is gone.
And that’s how it goes for you. It’s the first time you tie your laces again and go for a run on tuesday nights. You skip the hump day beers. Fight the gut acid and go for that extra cup of joe around six in the evening. You shake on deals. You skip driving around town in a hotbox and sit down to do the work. The dentist says your teeth have been good, and you know since you brush before you hit the sack these days. You run on thursdays too if you pass on the mat class. You learn that a kilo of chicken is two breasts. Dinner is half of one. You bury yourself in the work. You don’t like mushrooms but then throw it in the saute in honor of something new. You close deals. We’re moving on, you tell a stranger over a martini. You’d rather give the olive. But you try and swallow and it still doesn’t work out for you. Saturday morning you’d rather run but you’re home way too late for a Friday again. So you sit on the bed and rub your feet on the carpet. Feels new. Flick a light and burn the tip of a joint and you tell yourself, a day at a time, man. A day at a time. You click on a name and it’s your favorite familiar stranger. It’s sunday morning and you go run an extra loop. Old habits die hard, after all. Maybe that’s how it goes for her too.
My knees cracked as I bent down
To write a letter on my phone.
5% left, ten minutes or so
I dont mind if I miss the ride home.
Ive got all the time to walk to know
We never spoke about it
Maybe you just had a bad day.
Wrote you something (as honest as I try)
But never once, with 5% left,
An urgency, a flush
But man, maybe she aint got any for you, (my friends said)
But I guess shes interested (my other friends said)
Nah – I wont count on it, (i told them all)
But here I am.
A ride away from home,
All but a mind of questions, and
Thanks for giving me this- (though I pulled a Popoy on you a couple of times) a relatively peaceful exit. Unlike the recent one, since I left Door Five with a footed 12k bill. In that final two weeks I had to wake up earlier and fill a gallon of mineral water just to bathe. Though I felt holier than usual, I was fronting that the building’s plumbing was in leaks- when the truth was my pocket was sparse dry. Knew I had to leave soon. Snuck my entire life out of that room on a sunday afternoon. I’m bad with money like I’m bad with words since I shell out too much, you said. I slip the receipt under the gap of your door this time. No knocking, no demands. Two years ago (on the very same date I move out of you) I packed my boxes out of my first apartment unceremoniously so. Can’t say that was enough practice but it will do.
We drive around town in the big gray car and it starts to rain, Hendri says, That’s why we write about cities, he says, eyes on the road. He never wrote about Porto. Or New York. Or Bali, Manila, for that matter, and you don’t think he’ll get to start anywhere but here. We sit in his kitchen and offers me tea, (that’s chinese of you and racist of me) offers to give me a book as a pasalubong from an 8-month trip. Here’s a book about a trash man, an odd job and lots crosshatches and all the dead dreams about writing and drawing. Thanks, Hend, appreciate it and you read it on the bus ride home after Indian.
Sandra had her house on Mango Street, Junot has New Jersey, a mythology. An education with Carver and the whys of short stories- (you figured you were more or less the same). You can’t quit your job, can’t stop doing design work for clients, you trudge through the drudgery (but it aint that bad), since you get beer on the weekends and gin and tonic if you felt fancier in a crisp white shirt.
On sunday nights you read the New Yorker till you run out of free articles (5 per month) that’s the fucking quota, it’s hilarious. You skip reading Amundsen an all the cold-ass stories that start with a train or a station or a below 20 temperature, since the closest you got was the fridge freezer. Or that one particular January where everyone back in college put on their boots, ‘The Fall’ by Rhye, and a girl with the same name as the immediate ex.
You guess it’s a lot warmer here, more passion than the Old World and less explosive than the New World. What are we? What do we sound? You’ve been asking that yourself for years but you’ve found that there are only few who sit on the eggs these cities on the east lay. We’re not too worried about it since it’s always going to be sunny tomorrow. Or maybe the next. Or after the monsoons pass.