The Shit Eyes of Love, pt. 2

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Courtney and I moved in together three months ago based solely on our decision that we felt that we were ready for it, mentally and physically (“It just feels right.” were the words that she used). We found a place on a small residential street in an “up-and-coming” section of town, according to the girl we sublet it from. Around the corner several restaurants line the street, all different according to their cuisine’s origin: the Colombian steak house, the Cuban café, a greasy Chinese place called Lin’s Garden, an Argentinean chicken shack, and of course the few Mexican places that are shit randomly into vacant buildings in every city of America. We frequent these sullied fronts whenever our wallets allow, about once or twice a week. Courtney, being the more au courant to the various choices supplied by the eateries, usually chooses and I, wanting only to stop my complaining stomach, invariably shrug her a yes. The neighborhood offers few other places of interest save for the small bars that I find on nights that we argue.

Our apartment is positioned on the southwest corner of the top floor in a quaint three-story building. I had recently become interested in growing various houseplants (and everybody knows the importance of the sun’s natural rays flooding plants with warmth), so I made the decision to take this one after the multitude we’d already looked at based solely on its placement in the building, letting the light pour in for most of the day. We have four rooms: kitchen (enough of a room to keep the dining room table but scarcely to eat comfortably in), sitting room (where the front door opens to and if company were present the conversations and visitation would take place), a small bedroom (big enough for a bed and a place to dress), and what I like to call the library (which is where my books line the walls in homemade bookshelves and where I am allowed to smoke). The decorations are few but select. An oil painting of a solemn baby graces a sitting room wall, the bedroom keeps Courtney’s large pictures content (maps, foreign movie advertisements, etc.), while the library holds all that I keep dear (posters of various writers, cheap prints of priceless paintings, random found figurines). We have a few area rugs spread around and a coat rack next to the front door to make the place feel commodious. Courtney has done her best to drape the tables and windows tastefully, leaving few complaints to the visitor. We split the cleaning chores as equally as we can but seeing as how we both work full-time, the quality of the job is sometimes lacking; cups with remnants of liquid, socks in the cushions of the couch, etc. Although Courtney regularly spends her money on candles of various scents, the place always seems to have the same smell: cigarettes, my contribution, and skin, something that I attribute to two bodies living in such tight quarters, leaving their discarded follicles scattered about like invisible snow.

As I remove my shoes, Courtney’s voice explodes from the kitchen exclaiming in my cold, red ears, “Is that my Alex?!” Her jubilance for everyday occurrences, like the availability of pepper in someone else’s house (“Oh, how fantastic!”) or neighboring seats on a bus (“Look! We can sit next to each other!”), often perplexes me. I used to find it endearing, almost precious, but now I find it confusing to the point of revulsion. I say nothing. Rather I start undoing my left shoe and think about the drink that I’m going to pour myself as soon as I am in stocking feet. “Are you ready?” Her eager question fails to raise my pulse. I throw my shoe down and begin to walk to the kitchen. I am ready to turn the corner into the doorway when she emerges quickly, nearly causing our bodies to collide. “Woah…,” I utter as I collect myself and then focus on her head, and then her hair. “What the fuck?”

“Do you like it?”

“Honestly?” I feel my lip turn up and my eyes widen, not in disgust but of wonder.

“Of course.”

“I don’t know.” I peer into her hair as if it would have an answer for me. “What happened?” Her hair had been shoulder length, give or take a few inches, since I’d met her three years prior. I’d always liked it. I do find discrepancies in most things but her hair was never one of them. What I see now is short-cropped-little-boy-hair. This is the result of what a mother who spits on her hand and presses down her son’s cowlick right before his school picture wants.

“I got it cut and styled!”

“By who? How much did you pay for that?”

“What’s your problem? You don’t like it?” I notice her face change from a check-this-out look to an I’ve-just-learned-Santa’s-not-real look.

“No. I really don’t – listen; it’ll just take some getting used to that’s all. You kinda surprised me.” (Dear god…when you pay people to remove things, its usually bugs or rodents or cancer…not beauty!)

“I thought you’d like it…but you don’t! You don’t like it! Not at all!” Her hand raises quickly and smacks me on the shoulder in a impish, pouting way. I hear her feet stamp to the couch and see her ass jiggling underneath her pajama bottoms that she always wears on nights that we remain home.

I know that she wants me to follow and to comfort her on the couch (pull her close and say, “There, there…”), which anybody should’ve done, but instead I turn around and continue into the kitchen. I can see her without looking – eyes facing forward, looking at nothing, with arms crossed underneath her breasts so that they rest in the saddles of her elbows, and pursing her lips in a puckish anger. I know that it’s her way of asking for a kiss and an apology.

I shuffle my feet across the kitchen floor and place the packaged bottle on the counter. I open the cabinet and place my finger on the underside of an upside-down whiskey glass, drag it to the edge, grip it, turn it over and place it gently down. The bottle, after its neck is grabbed and yanked out, separates the narrow wrinkled opening of the bag. I set it, now naked, down, making a distinct glass thud, and twist the cap off. Opening the freezer, I am swallowed in the condensation that flows out, spilling around my cheeks and over my shoulders. I know that Courtney will now become tired of me ignoring her and will soon yell something in the direction of where I am, finally forcing her to move. I pull out one of the ice trays and wait for her monumental inquisition.

“What in the fuck are you doing?!”

There it is. “I’m fixing myself a drink. You want one?”

“NO!”

I picture her on the couch, arms still crossed, but instead of staring forward she is looking to her left, away from the kitchen, and down towards the floor. Her head is shaking slowly from side to side and her lips apart, noiselessly asking the ghosts, “Why do I stay with him? Why? Why?”.

Standing in the kitchen I whisper, “I don’t know, Court. I don’t know. I don’t know,” into the ice tray that I am twisting against its will.

A voice inside of my head screams, “The situations that you place yourself into always juxtapose what you really feel, Alex.” Don’t use my name. “Why, I am only calling you what you are – “ I know…its just…whenever I hear my name in a serious conversation, or situation, that I feel uncomfortable… “You take this as a serious conversation? Alex, you are talking to your own head. This is insignificant, like seeing a bomb drop from a paper plane…this is me…YOU! You can run whenever you want to…it’s like a dream, but you can’t control it. Are you ready to run?” Yes. “Well, you can’t.” Why not? You just told me that I could. “No I didn’t, I just asked you if you were ready to.” But I control you. “No, Alex. I told you that it is like dream except that you can’t control it.” I told you to not use my name. “Will you kill me for it?” I just might. Let me find a weapon. “Go for it!”

“What are you doing in there?”

I look in front of me and see a fork in my left hand and a drink in the other. When did I pour myself a drink? “Nothing. Why?”

“You’re making a lot of noise. Why don’t you like my hair?”

I look at the fork and the drink. I look around the kitchen and the dirty dishes. My eyes rest on a wine rack that nestles itself between the refrigerator and the wall. Where did that come from? There is a dirty rag and a note, both hanging on the fridge. The note reads, “Went shopping with mom…be back at 5:00. Love, – C.” Everything reminds me of Courtney and I living together. I shake my head to believe that it’s not true. “I don’t know, I just don’t. Don’t ask me now. Not now. You know what?”

“What?”

“I want to be young again.”

“What do you mean?”

I see her now becoming more passive and cocking her head to the side honestly wondering what I mean by my words.

The barnacle of youth…gripping and preying on the side. The passing current washes away the sins of choice. Eat free and be the same! The mouth must remain open for there is a particle that ye have yet to devour. Butterscotch and oats – the new food of the gods resting on your palate waiting to be praised like a new choirboy, so angelic in the face…a mouth in the shape of the letter O asking you to be friendly and to pass judgement only to the less deserving. Will I accept? If not then who else? Restless in the sleep (picked upon by the scavengers of the earth), I will rise, though, rested. The new day will greet with the sun proving to all that one is powerless over nearly everything. Nearly? What am I not the ruler of (asks the man with one arm and a bartender’s foot in his mouth)? The water and the vomit. The sea anemone and the pianist. The things that I cover with a quilt are the same things that will set it ablaze. I can’t say no and I can’t stop it. The sea will go on churning the bodies of the dead and the sky will rain down the prophecy of the pimps and moneychangers. Though the hand holds itself out on a flagpole screaming stop! the index finger beckons one to dare approach closer for the time of youth is eternal and the will of man is unshakable.

I look to the left of the refrigerator and see the wine rack holding six unopened bottles. “When did we get a wine rack?”

“Didn’t you get my note? I went…”

“”I just saw the note now. You went shopping with your mother today?”

“Yes. I took the day off of work.”

“Why is your mother in town?”

“Come here.”

I clutch my drink and begin walking into the living room, awaiting her glance. It meets me as I step onto the area rug that cushions the floor and I bring the drink up to my nose to smell its bouquet. I smell pepper and pussy. “What’s going on?”

“Cousin Jerry died.”

“Who the fuck is Cousin Jerry? And why did you cut your hair?”

“Shhh!”

I look around me to see if there is a bandit or a sniper and then I look back with a look of Why the shhh?

“Mother is in the bathroom,” she whispers jutting her chin forward and looking up at me with eyes that ask me to take her seriously.

I look around and settle upon the bathroom door, waiting for an answer. I gaze back into my drink. The first sip makes my eyes clutch. I breathe deep the breath of the news. “Why is your mother in the bathroom?”

“For the funeral.”

“Is it in there?”

“No, Alex, it’s not in there.”

“Then what do you mean? Is she getting ready for it…eighteen hours early?”

“Alex…don’t.”

I plop down onto the couch next to her. She reaches her arms around my neck and I suddenly feel strangled and force out a mock cough to show my unreadiness at her action. “Don’t,” she speaks softly now, “I just want to tell you what’s happening. First of all, I’m sorry.”

I move my head back and attempt a glance into her now close shit-eyes. Her elbow stops my movement and I settle forward, “For what?”

“I was thinking…it seems to be a lot of stuff to come home to, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, yes it is.”

“Well, I’m sorry. The hair was mother’s idea. She said that she saw an actress on television that had the same cut and thought it would look good on me. I don’t know how I feel about it myself and I was worried on how you would take it. You’re not good with change, you know.”

“I know.”

“And now mother’s here…”

I sigh and take another drink.

“It’s for these things that I’m sorry.”

“Tell me about Cousin Jackie.”

“Jerry.”

“Sorry…Jerry.”

“I never mentioned him to you because, well frankly, I never really knew him that well, either. He was mother’s nephew but he went out west a long time ago, when I was about five or six, and never made it to any holidays or reunions. Mother said that he went out there for a job but always seemed to be broke. She supposes that he was some sort of male escort.”

“They make good money, though.”

“That’s not the point. The point is his body has been flown back here…”

“Why here? He’s not from here…is he?”

“Yeah…my Uncle Gary, his father, lives here.”

“I didn’t know you had relatives here.”

“Well, just him. Anyway the funeral is Thursday and…”

“That’s two days away!”

“Shhh!”

I roll my eyes. Again with the shhh.

She leans in now, very close to my ear. I feel a slight erection at this movement. “Don’t worry, honey, she is staying in a hotel. She’ll be leaving soon.”

I breathe a sigh of relief and take a silent, celebratory drink from my now dwindling whiskey. I turn and, almost touching her lips with mine, whisper, “How soon?”

She breaks a smile open. “Soon, baby.” Her crooked, sympathetic smirk raises her left cheek and shrinks the corresponding eye with almost happiness. In a thought her face returns almost perfectly symmetrical. “What did you mean when you said that you wanted to be young again?”

“I was just singing.”

My heart thumped hard three beats in a row. As much as she can make me cringe, I love her in times like this…simple, almost childlike. I take in a fresh gulp of air and a healthy drink and lean my head back to enjoy the fact that she is lying her head on my shoulder and, most importantly, not talking. She reaches her hand around to the opposite cheek and pulls my face to hers for a wild, carnal kiss. Her breath tastes like a lover’s and she kisses with the excitement of the first time. With my hair clenched in her small fist she pulls my head back to tell me, “Don’t worry about anything, baby,” and her shit-eyes turn into sinless comfort and I smile for the first time in what seems like weeks.

In a moment her mother will burst from the bathroom and set our forest of solitude ablaze with useless words, but I won’t think of that.

I can’t think of that.

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Comments
2 Responses to “The Shit Eyes of Love, pt. 2”
  1. RJ says:

    PS: Part two is better.

  2. RJ says:

    PS: Part two is better.

    Something about this passage makes me shivery:

    I shuffle my feet across the kitchen floor and place the packaged bottle on the counter. I open the cabinet and place my finger on the underside of an upside-down whiskey glass, drag it to the edge, grip it, turn it over and place it gently down. The bottle, after its neck is grabbed and yanked out, separates the narrow wrinkled opening of the bag. I set it, now naked, down, making a distinct glass thud, and twist the cap off. Opening the freezer, I am swallowed in the condensation that flows out, spilling around my cheeks and over my shoulders. I know that Courtney will now become tired of me ignoring her and will soon yell something in the direction of where I am, finally forcing her to move. I pull out one of the ice trays and wait for her monumental inquisition.

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