The Drums They Beat

Arm in arm go the couple in white, down the aisle, through the crowd. Vows told in lace, speaking secrets in the midday sun: a bouquet soars across its yellow face. Consummation is a popular word for their grandparents. There’s a quiet announcement in the newspaper: congratulations. Congratulations from friends and family, a high school teacher, a neighbor down the road. Flutes of spirits that sing like bee stings and second helpings of steak. A Bloody Mary drops on the floor. Loosening ties, shimmying off shoes, slipping from dresses getting ready to dance. Loud voices in the barroom, singing on the dance floor: the bride and groom sneak out the back with a bag full of checks and cards. Empty cans of tomato paste clatter down the asphalt, memories of the bride and groom told long after they’re gone. Absolved of old schemes, and disease, and dishonesty, the couple in white take the highway red with sunset. A new house, a new family, a new history to be told: bedsheets aren’t bloodied once. The nursery will not birth itself. The modern Magi come with pins, tack the bedsheets to the roof, and voices come like thunderclaps through the rooms. In a dream the new bride can cry alone, and unravel her dress, threadbare through the red of long years.

Rising Tides

In the mornings the big house smelled of ocean air, cool shadows in the hallways, a chill to the couches and chairs not sat in since the night before; his older sister’s book lying open on the alcove’s cushion. The sun soon to chase away the comfort of quiet dawn. Before the house awoke, before parents rose for morning showers, before his aunt’s pancakes and cousins who liked video games, the boy would ride his bike. Down sandy streets and sidewalks shaded by beech trees, the boy on his bike that was his for the week, would pedal to the bakery in the shopping-center nearby. The damp air breezing on his bare arms and legs always felt kinetic, fresh, a harbinger of the heat to come; cool shadows fleeting post-dawn. He’d buy himself a bagel, an orangejuice and newspaper, and pedal back to the families’ rented beach house where he’d sit, at the table in the screened-in porch, to eat and read. Sometimes his mother would join him, with her eggs and tea and magazines. They’d eat quietly: the boy, annoyed by her presence, kept his wishes padded with silence. Then, for a few hours, he’d lie on his towel in the sand beside his parents and sister and cousins, listen to music and sleep. He’d swim in the sea with his father, and watch from a distance the girls who bathed in the wake. The boy had seen pictures of Ibiza and Corsica: in the late-afternoon’s drowsy heat he’d shower and feel himself ache: Daydreams of midnight seasides, conspiring liberties, they’d sneak from her window and creep the beaches with soft kisses and laughter only heard by the moon.

Anecdote of Fools

The campus looks greener in the dark. Long lawns of grass and the old ivy’d buildings at the top of the hill. The floodlights glowing up from the foot of the oaks and the towering maples and the smoke wreaths in your hair. This would be the third night in a row we’ve come here. In a depression wet with dew and darkness, a miniature mystical forest of oaks, and maples and dogwoods, spread in clusters through the park. It is Spring and the air is scented sweet with dew and dogwood flowers, fresh, vital, aromatic aphrodisiacs. You ask me to brush the pine needles from your back. Stillness in the humid air. This has become our bench. We come here when neither of us can easily find sleep, and you text me, and I meet you, I meet you because of the sweaters you wear, two sizes too large for your thin little frame. What could be hiding in there? In the darkness that encroaches like walls from between the trees, giving no depth and only immediacy. Erasure of past and future, disclaimer from the vast expanse of stars we cannot see above: what else is hiding there? Two supple truths would be my best guess. I haven’t known you long. From a distance like a novel with 98% of it pages half-erased, a nimble beauty moving with quiet confidence through the library and down the halls. Speaking to no one, smoking cigarettes by yourself. Why the long face? Why the hidden dilemmas and the aura of existential doubt? What is it you were hiding I found myself so anxious to find? Here in the wet depression, comforted by night’s big blanket, you tell me the anecdote of fools. You tell me what you study in the daytime, you tell me of friends and the music you adore, you describe for me your bedroom. You show me the scar on your arm from when as a little girl you took a fall. And it must be a trick of the moonlight how clearly I can see your face, pock-marks on your forehead and little wrinkles beginning to show round the corners of your mouth. A picture forms, and I don’t like it at all. Your dreams are full of clobbering machinery. I don’t like you at all. I can feel the warmth of your body through your clothes, the soft touch of skin, your lips on my neck. The way your limbs are wrapped around me, the two of us entwined in the grass. I really wish you hadn’t taken to talking. You’ve ruined the night sky. I am distressed at how this has turned out. Your belly-button, I can say with confidence, would’ve been plenty deep for me.

To wander away from peace

We found ourselves along the lakeside at dawn, no sounds but the birds and the gentle words you whispered to me. You wouldn’t come with me to Boulder. Suitcases stuck in the corner of your closet that I’ve been living out of; the thought of crawling in there for another 6 months made my stomach itch with spiders. I wanted to strangle you, for the catharsis, a stress test around your neck to hear you scream because, after all, hurting you hurts me — there is one thing I can feel and I feel it beautifully. The one person I thought I wouldn’t live without has changed her dreams, and fallen asleep without me. We sit in the sod and you open your palm. No hard feelings? I want to throw my shoes in the lake, throw my cellphone and my notebooks and my wallet into the lake. I would rather destroy every last thing, shoulder a single little bag and walk heart-heavy across the plains to Boulder. I don’t want to flee; I want to brood my time in peace. I want solitude — from you and your parents, from my future, and from any responsibility. I never loved you: you put your palm back in your lap and look out at the lake. Did you hear me? No, I didn’t, fuck you. She should never have expected me to stay. I expected me to stay. We made love in the fishing boats off the docks; we drank most nights and slept long days in the hammock behind her aunt’s. We wasted weekends downtown at the cafes. We took off our skin and let each other in, and were always foolish to think I could stay. The beauty of these months we’ve spent, it was always meant to be looked back at, a memory of what was had and what we regret.