29 September, 2009
Beatriz sat in the aftermath of the most recent fight. She was in the living room. AJ had been gone less than five minutes and he’s sucked all the anger out of everything when he left. It was always that way. There wasn’t as much to clean up this time, at least. There was very little left that could be broken, except the television, and AJ would NEVER do that. The television was his escape. He spent more time with that black box than he did with Beatriz and her nineteen month old son Colin, or even his friends. He worked, he slept, he drank and got stoned, and he watched TV. Beatriz took care of Colin, cooked, and tried to get AJ’s attention.
She wiped the remainder of the tears away and went upstairs to check on Colin. He was standing in his crib, smiling. Beatriz picked him up, kissed his cheek, checked his diaper, and laid him back down. She was grateful Colin wasn’t a colicky baby; even when the fighting was bad, Colin went back to sleep pretty easily. She rarely had to do more than give him a pacifier and wrap him in the gray blanket her mama had made for him before he was born.
With Colin settled, Beatriz went back downstairs, lit a cigarette, and turned on the ceiling fan. She wanted to call her mama; she didn’t like being alone. She didn’t like silence. She didn’t like to think AJ wasn’t coming back, even though he always did. Eventually. He’d gone somewhere to blow off steam. She knew he at the bar next door, the Oasis; he didn’t like there – said it was all old men, Aqua Velva aftershave, and watered down beer. All that meant, Bea knew, was that there weren’t any pretty girls there for him to ogle and try to pick up. That was what he did when they had a fight – which was becoming more and more common. When he came home, he’d stink of beer and half-assed apologies.
“Come on, Mamasita,” he’d say, giving her a hug so she could smell the cheap perfume and pussy stank on him. “Let’s not fight, ok?”
Mamasita. He thought it was cute whenever he abused the Spanish language. Beatriz hated it, but he did it anyway. He only knew a few of words and he butchered them all. She supposed she could learn to tolerate it; but he also tried to speak Spanish whenever he talked to her family. And that only made them hate him more. When she tried to explain that to him he just dismissed her. “Una mas cerveca por favor, he said. Only it came out “Oo-na mass sir-vay-sa, pour fay-vor.”
“Son of a bitch,” she hissed under her breath. She had to compose herself. Sometimes he was gone for twenty minutes and sometimes he was gone for three days. Regardless, it was always the same. He’d hug her and kiss her and tell her he loved her. Then he’d expect sex. If she was on her period, he’d expect a blow job. She only denied him once; and when that happened, he left again and returned with the whore’s lipstick still on his dick. The time after that she gave in and right as he came he held her head so she had no choice but to swallow. While she vomited afterward, she could hear him chuckling.
Beatriz finished one cigarette and lit another. She wanted to quit, but she was afraid of getting fat. That happened to her sister, Consuela. She quit smoking and started eating peppermints and her old man left her for a skinny bitch he’d fucked in middle school. And they were actually MARRIED. She and AJ weren’t married and she knew he wouldn’t hesitate to leave if she gained more than a few pounds. He found girls easy enough when they fought. And while he claimed to love Colin like the boy was his, he never really spent time with the boy, or even held him; so it wasn’t as if he would feel any responsibility to stay.
She cleaned up. It was only a few pictures, broken frames, and magazines. No plates. No spilled beer. All of her little trinkets – the tiny figurines her grandmother left her – had gradually been broken over the course of many fights, so there were none left. When she was done she poured herself a Pepsi and called Mama. She seemed to know exactly what was going on.
“So you two fought again, eh?”
“Yes, Mama. But…”
“Did he leave?”
“You should changed the locks while he’s gone.”
She sighed. “I can’t DO that, Mama. We RENT this dump. Remember?”
“Then call the landlord. Even dumps have landlords. Tell HIM to change the locks.”
Why do I always call her? She always says the same fucking thing. “I can’t do that, Mama. And they wouldn’t just change the locks. I’d have to pay for them. And they probably still wouldn’t. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be tonight.”
“You know he’ll come back, right?”
“Yes, Mama. I know.”
“I told you, hija,” she was scolding now. “I told you to get away from that white boy. Nothing but trouble.”
“They’re not all like that,” Bea defended. “You can’t just say that based on…”
“YOUR white boy is nothing but trouble. He’s a bad example for your son. I told you about him before you decided to move in with him.” Mama huffed. “Living in sin. He don’t go to church. He don’t make you his wife. He treats you like a whore…”
“When you were with Manny, at least…”
“I’m not with Manny anymore. Ok? And I’m not gonna go back with him. Understand?”
“You throw out your son’s father,” Mama went on, “and replace him with a pinche’ California Beach Boy.”
“Has he brought home any diseases yet?”
“What do you WANT me to say, Beatriz?” Mama’s voice softened, though to anybody outside the family the change would’ve gone unnoticed.
Tell me I can come home, Bea thought. Tell me you love me. Tell me everybody makes mistakes.
Losing Manny was no great loss as far as Beatriz was concerned; but Mama only saw that Manny was Mexican (actually he was half; his mother was Brazilian) and that his family had a house in Veracruz. It wasn’t even near the beach – those spots were for tourists – but the fact that it was in Veracruz was enough for Mama. Beatriz left Manny after he told her he was going on the road with his band. From anybody else, Mama would have never forgiven such a thing; but Manny hypnotized her with his big brown eyes and flawless smile and his descriptions of the beaches of Veracruz. Besides, he was Colin’s father. That countermanded all her common sense. When Manny informed her of his decision, Beatriz knew what it really meant. It meant whores in different towns. It meant her being stuck at home. It meant him getting to have life while she didn’t have anything. So he left with his band and she found AJ. He didn’t have rock star dreams. He had a regular job as a baggage handler at the airport. He didn’t mind Colin. He didn’t fuck as good as Manny – but that was something she could deal with.
The conversation with Mama wasn’t going anywhere, and it was only making Beatriz feel worse. She sat through a few more seconds, then begged off telling Mama that Colin was crying. She hung up while Mama was in the middle of a sentence and tossed the cell phone on the couch. So pointless. She felt herself starting to cry again, but she fought the urge. She didn’t want to cry when there wasn’t anybody around to see it. AJ would come home eventually; she decided to save it for him when he stumbled in drunk and wanting sex. “Then,” she told herself and the empty room, “then I’ll cry.”
After smoking another cigarette, she picked up her Pepsi to take a drink; then she thought better, set it back down, walked over to the fridge, and got out one of AJ’s beers. It was cheap American shit, but it was cold and would notice its absence. Manny had always bought Dos Equis or Modelo Negra. She’d tried to get AJ to drink it, but he said he didn’t trust the water. “I’m not gonna get the shits,” he declared, “and pay extra for the privilege.”
Colin had been asleep for about an hour; as long as there was nothing to wake him, he generally slept through the night. And with AJ gone, there was nothing to wake him up. Colin was a good boy, even if he was a little needy. He’d end up a mama’s boy, Beatriz thought, just like her older brother Hector. Hector could knock up half the whores in Nogales and come home with every disease known to man; but their mother would still pat him on the head, cook him huevos con chorizo, wash the stank out of his clothes, and say another prayer to Mary to keep him safe. Sometimes Beatriz saw this developing weakness in her own son and she hated it. Sometimes when he clung to her leg and wanted to be held, she just yelled at him; but the minute he started crying she would always pick him up and tickle his belly until he laughed. Guilt and love, she supposed, weren’t all that different.
“Maybe I could sneak out,” she spoke aloud. She started to feel excited at the prospect. She couldn’t go far, that’s true; but there was the bar next door –The Oasis with all its fat old men and watered down beer. That might be just what she needed. She flounced into the downstairs bathroom, flipped on the light, and surveyed herself in the mirror. She was still young and firm. Child bearing made her boobs grow in even bigger and when she was done with nursing they hadn’t diminished. She’d managed to lose the baby weight, and except for a few stretch marks, her stomach was flat. She knew that men noticed her – especially the fat old variety that would be sitting next door. she enjoyed the feeling of their eyes scoping out her body, following her across a room, taking her in head to pedicured foot. She wasn’t a cheater, so she had no intention of fulfilling some limp old man’s fantasy about young senoritas in the moonlight; but the attention would give her the jolt she needed.
She thanked God everyday that she took after her aunt instead of her mother. Mama was short and squat, like a linebacker, with skin like worn leather, a large jowly face, and tired bitch tits. Her aunt, for whom she had been named, was skinny and shapely and fair skinned. She’d moved away, too; all the way to California to be a model and an actress. Beatriz knew she would have been successful, too, if she hadn’t been mistaken for a prostitute and killed on the way home from her job as a waitress. When Beatriz told her mother she was moving to Phoenix, Mama cried and screamed and prayed to Mary. She lit candles and said novenas and hid all of Beatriz’s clothes. But in the end, Beatriz went anyway. She was going to go to school and be somebody someday. She was going to have a life besides being a Nogales breeding factory. She’d only been in the city for a month when she met Manny. By her 21st birthday she was six months pregnant. She was going to get an abortion, but Manny talked her out it. And even though Manny refused to marry her, Mama loved him like she was her own son. She loved Manny more than she had ever loved her own daughter.
Beatriz lost track of herself in the mirror, imagining what sexy outfit she should wear. She pressed her hands on her breasts and ran them down stomach and sides. She considered wearing one of her outfits that didn’t require a bra; that ALWAYS got her lots of attention. She replaced her hands firmly on her tits and felt her nipples harden. That sent rippling waves through her body. AJ’s hands were weak and sloppy. Sometimes when he played with her boobs during sex, it was all she could do not to laugh at him. She pressed her hands against herself firmly and squeezed the way Manny used to; she closed her eyes and for a moment imagined they were Manny’s hands, and that they were married and living on the beach in Veracruz, with Colin playing in the sand.
Her fantasy was interrupted by the sound of Colin crying.
Her eyes snapped open and she rushed upstairs to see what was wrong. When she stomped into his room, Colin was standing in his crib, crying. He wasn’t wet and he wasn’t hungry. She guessed maybe he had a nightmare. She scooped him up and he buried his face in her shoulder and hugged her. She spoke to him softly, desperately, and bounced him the way he liked. Then she sang him his favorite song. At that moment, she felt the weight of him and just how heavy he was.
Eventually, he went back to sleep; but she knew there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t wake up again. That meant one more night staying in. She laid him down carefully and covered him with his favorite blanket . The ugly gray one Mama had made; the one she made only after Beatriz told her she was giving birth to a boy.
Beatriz watched him sleeping, the steady rhythm of his breathing, and pondered how easy it would be to kill him. If I smother him, she thought, he wouldn’t cry anymore. He wouldn’t cling to me. He wouldn’t need me. I could even use Mama’s blanket. The thought made her smile just a little. Imagine how she would feel about that. Let the old bitch live with that. Manny was free. AJ was free. Why shouldn’t she? Why couldn’t she have her own life?
When she broke down and finally told Mama she was pregnant, Mama sat her down and informed her that to be a woman is to be cursed. “We are born,” Mama had said, “so that we can bear children. Our bodies are used up until men despise us and our children don’t want to look at us. But this is how we are born.”
Beatriz didn’t buy into Mama’s Old World Original Sin notions about the sexes and all the bullshit about Adam and Eve and the apple and the snake; but it was pointless to tell Mama that the world had moved on and that a woman could be whatever she wanted to be. But standing in front of Colin’s crib, surrounded by the vacuum left behind by AJ’s anger, she started to feel like she had been damned. And for no particular reason. She felt her chest tighten. She turned and left the room.
When her feet hit the bottom of the stairs, she felt herself starting to cry. Again. But she held onto her pride and refused because that was what Mama had told her women do. “We cry alone,” Mama had said, “so that the world of men can move forward.” The buildup tears was making Beatriz angry. There was no one to yell at, and she thought again of the look on Mama’s face if she used that ugly blanket to kill her only grandson.
Then she looked over at the TV. That had been the cause of the entire argument; this time, anyway. Beatriz had gone to the trouble of lining up a babysitter so AJ could take her out; she shaved and waxed (even her pubes because she knew he liked her bald) and gave herself both a manicure and a pedicure. She was planning on an outfit that would make her the most beautiful woman anywhere they went. But when he came through the door, he was drunk from being at the bar after work with his work buddies, and all he wanted to was keep drinking, smoke a bowl, and watch Dancing With The Stars. And he had the gall to ask her why dinner wasn't ready.
The TV was small, maybe seventeen inches, with rabbit ear antenna. Without really thinking about it, she walked through the living room, through the kitchen, and through the laundry room, and opened the back door that led to alley; that was the door he normally used. Then she walked back over to the TV, pulled the plug from the wall and picked it up. She immediately felt the weight of it; it was heavier than it looked. She hauled it out through the living room, through the kitchen, through the laundry room, and out into the alley. Then she heaved it as hard as she could against the sidewalk. The TV landed screen first; she heard the tube shatter with a loud popping sound. There, she thought. Whenever he DOES come home, let that be the first thing he sees.
After she walked back inside, shut the door, and locked the dead bolt, she walked over to the beer she hadn’t finished and chugged it. Then she got another out of the fridge, sat down on the couch, and started drinking that one. She looked at the empty space where the TV had been; she let the satisfaction wash all over her. Then she thought about how heartbroken Mama would be if her only grandson turned out to be gay. She’d probably writhe and moan and pray novenas to Mary, while Beatriz would then be the better mother. The supportive loving mother of a Mexican cock sucker. Beatriz drank her beer, meditated on how she could make Colin gay, and waited for AJ to come back home.
24 September, 2009
Left to its own devices
a poem is its own and
only best explanation.
is some dead poet’s ego
getting in the way, trying
in vain to outlive the lines.
Essay: Regarding Occupation
Every job is designed
to do one thing – use you
up, brain and body.
One way or the other.
The trick is knowing that
and having the insight
to sleep in.
Essay: Regarding Art and Compromise
Whenever a would-be artist
speaks of compromise –
with the husband or wife, the kids,
or the day job—check the eyes.
If you look close enough, you’ll see
what’s left of the soul evaporating
and escaping out the ears.
Essay: Regarding Happiness
The Puritans and the Buddhists
got it right – all life is suffering.
Today I put two dollars on a horse.
It held its own until the last turn.
Up until that moment, I was floating
on my chair. When it lost (came in last)
I drained my beer and walked home.
21 September, 2009
I listen to Gershwin
to move outside my
self – the consequence
of loving music
but tiring of words:
my words, your words,
the neighbor’s words,
the words of strangers
on the street and
in the bars.
is just too goddamn
much at times, and
I need the silence
that can only exist
by the human voice (This,
I suspect, is why I
have no ear for opera.)
The words, they
wear me out – it’s all
so imprecise, so crude,
so fucking inefficient
to explain what goes on
when I close my eyes
and wait for those moments
of absolute silence
between tones; because
even deft fingers
can only move so fast
over a keyboard. And there is
no art without that slowness – the tension
that is proof of the singular touch –
there is no silence so precise
no words so precise
as that moment
when the words roll back
and all that remains
is a pattern that approaches
without the weight
of one more person
abusing it so
20 September, 2009
I have always loved you.
Every kiss is an echo of years.
There is a point
in a man’s life
where he understands
more than he knows.
You occupy the space beyond
and call to me, laughing, arms
open wide and welcoming
while I wander and continue
to ponder the nicities of love.
Though it is not something
we fall into willy-nilly
(mostly it finds us whether
we want it to or not) still
I live for those moments
when I can return to you again.
Every kiss is an echo of years.
and in those quiet seconds
we return to the place
we were born.
The days begin with discontent;
rumblings and rememberance of dreams
imprinted on our irises
and reverbing in our ear canals
like bad show tunes
or a hangover. In these moments
we are our purests selves – animals
awake under one more apatheic sun
one more eye
of one more decayed god
we conjured to explain
away our primordial fears
from the night before. Falling
out of bed and down the
narrow stairs, into the daylight
where all our inequties show
and are burned away in the struggle.
What we’re left with
is pure and real and awakened—
but only in that single moment.
18 September, 2009
Everybody’s got a flag to plant. When
I was a kid, it was the churches:
pews stuffed with people full
of faux piety in need of soothing
salvation in form of a large number
of people who look and talk and act
just like them— so that,
when they wake up early on Sunday,
they know they’re not the only ones
feeling like a dumbass.
it was the blue collar workers
and their ethic of time clocks,
self-destruction and company loyalty.
Then complacent angry bikers looking for new blood
and fresh bitches. Then other struggling writers
seeking disciples. Then academes locked
in dilapidated office buildings,
and street and library cloistered
philosophers who liken themselves
to Socrates. They all wanted me. But
Like a lonely man
at closing time, all any of them wanted
was a warm body – which is (we all
know) the best form of justification. That
need for group think and the comfort
of the collective mind in tune and honed
for a singular purpose to be determined
at the next meeting.
They are still
coming after me – pseudo-intellectual
colleauges and administrators of the tedious-minded
(The exchange of ideas is a screaming match in which
everyone is hoarse but no one will rest.) spitting
theories and rhetorically constructed insults,
demanding and commanding me to defend my existence.
They scoff at poetry not in the tradition of Shakespeare.
They spit on stories that aren’t copies of
They critique paintings that deny the style of dead old masters.
Then they look at me with shock and surprise
when I laugh at them and refuse to answer.
16 September, 2009
for something, I guess
than not be known
at all. I’m often
remembered for my
drunken eloquence on
the state of man; the
All Men Are Dogs speech
was always a favorite
among the old guard
of friends and lovers
and wannabee back wood
revolutionaries who have
now (like me, I guess)
settled out, settled down,
found a more or less
stable job, got married,
and most of them (but me)
are having kids and talking
about their mortgages.
When I talk to them
(especially the women)
they recall my dog diatribe.
I typically lay blame
on the bourbon; but they
know better (and so do I)
and the conversation moves
on to other, better, more
eloquent lies. I try
telling new stories –
it’s crucial to stay current.
So I tell them all about
telling my 15 year old daughter
how all men end up becoming
baboons before they die:
bald and irresponsibly hairy,
deaf, angry, and (in the end)
screaming what seems like
nonsense at the sky – giving
voice to that ageless endless
rage that all men are born with
and that most women waste youth
and beauty trying to understand.
The new story never goes over
in quite the same way;
and usually, at least once
before the end of the dialogue,
the person I’m talking to
will ask if I’ve been drinking.
It would be a shame to
disappoint them. Otherwise,
they will never call again.
14 September, 2009
50 percent off day at Goodwill
and the wife and I waded
into the crowd
out for what they could get
loading shopping carts with shit
other people throw away. I know
better than to follow her around
when she’s shopping – even though
it was a specific trip this time,
for art supplies. Frames and boards. So
I strolled into the books and records
section to kill time and to see
what books didn’t make the cut. At first,
it was the usual kind of stuff. Religious tracts.
Bible study guides. Diet books. Self-help minutiae.
Outdated textbooks. A bunch of old literary journals
and college literature texts – looked like
some poor bastard either got the point of it all
or was evicted. Came across a hard cover Nabokov.
I passed it over. Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet
was meant for someone else. Left a Thomas Wolfe—
one more whiner in the stack won’t make
a difference. Contemporary pulp with
made into movie covers. Jammed between
a Vegan cookbook promising Tasty
Tofu Sloppy Joes and
a biography of the Pope, I spied a copy
of The Monkey Wrench Gang. It was just
a mass market paperback. No pious introductions,
glossaries, reader’s guides, or hollow critical
interpretations by scholars
who wouldn’t know good writing
if it car-jacked them mid-day
on an empty city street. The price sticker
on the spine read $1.99. I looked around.
I was sandwiched between a woman
who looked like she inhaled cheap romance novels
and ice cream with the same speed
and a housewife
with an annoyed husband standing behind her
(he hadn’t learned not to follow) either
waiting on her to be done or
protecting her from the grabby hands
of the questionable folk who shop
at Goodwill… one of them might
grab her ass or (even worse)
his credit card. She moved on
and I was going to grab the book and go;
but she was replaced by
an asthmatic shopping cart stuffer
in search of the perfect book
to cure her raging kleptomania. I waited.
I kept my eye on the book. For a second
I thought the romance eater
might grab Abbey first, but she picked one
with sleazy cover, all cleavage and broad
shoulders, and squeezed out
of the narrow aisle. I saw my chance,
grabbed the book, and escaped,
only to find my wife standing there
staring at me and wondering
what the hell was taking me
11 September, 2009
FM dial in the 100’s. There’s three of them:
two guys trying to talk younger than they are
and a chick who’s function is
to act offended when their comments
verge on sexism.
20 minute block,
not even commercials
(and I hate commercials)
and the jokes all sound the same
and their voices all sound the same;
even the woman’s nasal tone. For all
anybody knows, it’s really just
one fucker with a voice modulator. Or
maybe they’re not even real – it’s just
one IT asshole with a computer
and a soundboard filling the silence
with something more noxious
than the morning traffic reports.
She’s getting ready for work.
I’m holding down my position
on the couch, trying to
block out the fake laughter. Now
they’re taking calls from listeners
who are probably all too real
who call in to air embarrassing stories
of getting dumped. (The worst story
gets free tickets to some concert
by somebody I’ve never heard of.)
The announcers laugh at all the callers
and hang up on them; yet they
keep calling on cell phones,
stuck in rush hour traffic
towards a cubicle
in an antiseptic office
where the boss peers
over their shoulders and forbids
At lunch, they will talk about
being on the radio and how cool it was
to be laughed at by famous radio personalities,
though the chickie did sound (just a little) sympathetic.
She turns off the radio and comes downstairs,
then pours her coffee, makes her lunch
and gives me a peck on the cheek. She
leaves, forgetting to lock the door behind her.
I sit and think about turning on the radio
just in case
she calls in on her way to work.
09 September, 2009
Once, when I was broke and in need of cigarettes, I walked to the corner gas station and wrote a check. The check was for 89 cents – not the cheapest pack they had, but the cheapest that didn’t taste like total shit. The gas station attendant glared at me, squinted, and shook his head. Then he took the check. Apparently it cleared; but the next time I went there was a new sign by the register that read NO PERSONAL CHECKS. I thought of that today when I got a royalty check in the mail. The check was for 96 cents – not enough for a cheap pack of cigarettes (anymore) or even a beer. I’d deposit it, but I’m afraid the bank teller will glare and squint, only to laugh about it later in the break room.
08 September, 2009
and left a message
on your birthday; just
like I promised. And though
your mother will tell you
promises mean nothing
you should know
I sang badly (on purpose)
and I thought about you,
forced to see the truth
than I was.
two days before
to tell me
your friend is dying
and I suppose,
with my usual
reticence, it may have seemed
like I didn’t care. But
(you should know)
I hate all that canned language;
the usually clichés people spout
when they know they’re not
brilliant enough to be quote worthy.
You didn’t call last week, you began,
and in your tone
I hear the echo
of that old condemnation
and I know
where it comes from.
The reasons never matter.
The reasons have never mattered.
We are alike
in our total disregard
of anything not having to do
with us. You’re still hiding
behind other people’s problems
and trying to convince yourself
that goodness counts. I have since
given up trying to fake my concern
and retreat into the only honest thing
I have ever known.
A poem never lies,
non-child; and most people
never lie on purpose. Being born human
traps us all, and you
are just beginning to see this
as your fifteenth year
rolls around and
by the grace
of one missed phone call
not to call me back.
Father / Not a Son
I’ve been told
the silence fell between us
when I turned thirteen; the way
mom (still) tells it, [I] just
stopped smiling one day
nobody ever really knew why.
I hadn’t yet found
the language to explain myself.
I was still scribbling
soppy poems and
frilly lines, swooning
over snobbish girls
and feeling guilty
because I fantasized
about them. But I knew,
somehow, that at least
I was being honest—
which should have counted
far more than it actually did.
I think I was angry.
you never taught
me to throw a football,
or took me fishing,
or talked to me about baseball.
Not to say you didn’t love me.
But now I suspect
you were mired in your own shit:
your failing body,
the life you wanted,
the sons you thought you’d have,
the family that never understood
anything you you did, and never
accepted your insistence
on not explaining yourself
to their satisfaction.
Now the silence has crept
into my bones. My daughter
tells me she doesn’t know me
and I have difficulty explaining
that a man can only talk to so much
before the words start running together.
Daughter / Not a Father
Some images are stamped forever
whether I like them or not
and they return
with near hallucenogenic accuracy.
In the moment
you are three (or maybe four)
and I am not sure
your legs will carry you;
but they do. And the moment
I release you, you run
down the embankment that leads to the park,
onto the grass and towards
the merry-go-round. You are
laughing, wanting me
to chase you. And so I do –
beginning the pattern
that has defined our relationship
04 September, 2009
They fall like May flies –
and in this heat,
it’s no wonder. Dreams
like half-starved babies
crawl in the streets,
left to languish
in abandoned adolescent journals
filled with badly rhymed
poems and laborious
stories after the styles
of Kerouac and Faulkner.
Just close your book;
put down the pen.
Open a beer and
turn on the TV. Watch
one more rerun
of a western –
like the ones
you made fun of
when you thought
you were something
02 September, 2009
awful Russian accents from
a 1980’s made-for-TV movie –
which meant she was probably
Czech or maybe from Poland.
She was nice enough, I guess. She asked us
where we were from while my wife
got settled in the hospital bed (An orderly
had to steal it from another floor.
I couldn’t help but wonder if somebody
had died in it recently.)
she’d just moved from Chicago
and that her husband had a job
in Seattle. I felt bad for her –
big blue Non-Russian eyes
lost in the desert and
relying on frequent flyer miles
to hold her marriage together.
Lots of flying, she said. My wife
groaned; the anesthetic was
wearing off and the pain
was kicking in.
apologized and told us
she couldn’t administer pain meds.
Some computer glitch … they were
waiting for some other nurse to
input the order. Or something.
My wife groaned. The nurse
apologized again. My wife
didn’t care. I didn’t either.
The nurse left,
then returned with ice chips.
She gave obvious bullshit
advice: don’t talk. Don’t move. Suck
on ice chips. I thought we could do this at home.
I had her script in my pocket, but that meant
running out to fill it and I didn’t want to leave her
alone. The nurse was developing that
wide-eyed lost in the forest look
you see in over-wrought soap opera actresses
right before the serial rapist strikes.
would return often with no new information.
My wife groaned. She kicked at her sheets
and started to cry.
Eventually, I went
to the desk to Do Something. When I
got there, Natasha was gone. Her
replacement had a doughy face
and no discernable accent. She told me
she was waiting for the computer
to tell her it was okay. My wife
is crying, I said. She shook her head,
smiled instead of a real apology
and said she’d look in soon. I stood
there for a second, watched the
dough-faced nurse and her flock
of zombies in purple scrubs
staring at me. Then I turned
trudged back to the room in defeat.
My wife was cursing the nurses, me, and
the last person who cut her off in traffic.
I fed her ice chips. I kept my eye out
for the dough-faced nurse, wondering about
how Natasha would talk about her day
long distance. Then I suddenly
had a strong desire for vodka.