With The Lights On

This picture was taken by Andy Wauman on a rainy afternoon outside Canggu, Bali. 

I want to talk about what you don’t talk about when the lights are still on.

In the Las Vegas airport I am sitting at a Dolly Parton slot machine, eating mentos and thinking about another time when I was here and how hard I could cry and then, and how I couldn’t now at all not even if I tried.

You say we are similar but I don’t see it. I think we just want to be like each other in ways we can’t touch our tongues to. In the kitchen the floor is checkered a tile that reminds me of Minneapolis, and you watch me drink water where your girlfriend used to stand and you aren’t saying it, but you wish was her. I see her bobby pin in the bedroom, a diamond cross on your night stand. Your hurt is something I used to know well but am made very aware by your presence that I cannot access it anymore. This tells me something more than any kind of conversation ever could. We talk about getting tattoos and I suspect both of us might like a little pain in the bedroom. We talk about everything we can think of sober and with the lights on, and it makes me think I might not be the saddest person to ever be a person. I don’t even know where I might keep it these days.

The foothills are dusted white at the tops and a lulling brown hangs above the city line, the capitol building, the edge of my motel window. When I am in there alone I am sure the world has stopped or at the very least has found a way to close down around it. This city feels like someone I used to love but don’t know anymore, and I don’t eat, even my favorite sandwich makes me sick. The party is long since over. 

I come out of the bathroom and I wonder if my being here reminds you only that she is not there. And I find myself being careful about how I sit like I am wearing someone else’s clothes. In the best of light we are both strange for this. But, like we are saying there are not the right words for all of the feelings and perhaps if we spoke Portuguese we would know this is not strange at all.

I write about certain places so often I convince myself I made them up. And I am sure, sitting here at this pinball machine as I win fifteen cents, that your living room will take on the hue of the imagined and the whole afternoon will become ether.

In hopes that it will not, I anchor myself to small particulars. I narrow my window of focus: the unburnt wood in the fire-place, the picture of your daughter on the shelf, the single bobby pin on your dresser, the sound of your boots on the wood floor. The light changes and we lose track of time, the blinds drawn because the neighbors are strange and I am a stranger.

You ask a lot of things but what you want to know is how I got better: how I can talk about the thing that makes your ribs separate, like it’s a continent I once visited. But, my advice is circular and you are watching my lips, and the both of us only believe half of what I say, maybe a quarter each. I am careful about how I drink my tea because this is not my house. And I am aware that my walking through a doorway is an anomaly.

You tell me you had thin years.

I tell you hills will turn green and the hurt will work its way out and that the good thing to do is to only give them thirty percent of what they ask for.

Viva Las Vegas is playing on the loud-speaker and the airport makes me sad, but sad isn’t the word at all is it? I think about the glass of water. I think about the tattoo. I think about where I might go next like it’s something I wrote out already.


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