“What’s that, Christian? Repeat it.” The stuffed puffin stared blankly forward, barely causing a reflection off of Tunny’s goggles. Tunny inhaled deeply through his gas mask. He  put his gloved hand to his ear to try to hear the mutterings of the tiny puffin. Tunny listened
intently as the bird continued to sit lifelessly in front of him.
“Of course I can drink through the mask, Christian! I can’t risk taking it off anymore. The fumes are everywhere now- they’re spreading faster.” Tunny brought a crimson red and orange tea cup up to the nozzle of the gas mask and titled it back. The liquid gurgled as it funneled its way through the holes. Tunny smacked his lips together as he placed the tiny tea cup back on the deteriorating wood bench that he was using as a makeshift table. The crimson and orange of the cup contrasted against the dark interior of the bunker, somehow glowing from the little light the gas lamp provided.

“Well, must go replenish supplies,” he said, pushing himself up to his feet. The puffin slumped over to its side from the sudden change in weight, its lifeless eyes following Tunny to the far left corner of the bunker. Tunny tenderly began to pull on another pair of heavy, rubber industrial gloves over the pair he was already wearing. The gloves rubbed together and made a low-pitched, uncomfortable squeaking sound as he inched the second pair up his arm. The second layer of gloves produced a loud snap as Tunny managed to squeeze it up to this left elbow. He referred to these as his “urination gloves”- paranoia about the increasing amount of chemicals weighed heavily on him and he felt that this extra precaution was necessary, citing that “Even the pigs wore gloves so they didn’t get hooked on dope.” Tunny turned and grabbed a bucket from the far left corner of the small underground bunker after securing the other glove on his right arm. He hung it on a nail that was a little bit lower than waist level. He yanked down three layers of leather and rubber pants and undergarments, one immediately following the other. He urinated as quickly as possible and pulled up his multiple layers upon completion. Tunny lifted the bucket, now filled to the brim, off the hook. He gingerly place the bucket on top of a hot plate, glowing with heat.

Tunny began to walk back to the table where he initially retrieved the extra gloves. He removed them as they made a high pitched squeaking sound, like a piglet being strangled. He looked up at the wall; it was a tinted a dark shade of forest green and harsh gray through the lenses of his military grade gas mask. The cement blocks were covered in chalk doodles of monsters and explosions, remnants of what Tunny remembered of “The Disaster.” Stick figure drawings of a woman and a young boy and girl were amongst the monstrosities. The woman had long hair which Tunny had attempted to recreate the volume and lusciousness of it by rubbing the chalk against the wall. He was no artist. The woman has a slash over her throat and a dense circle mark over, what was meant to represent, her genitalia. The chalk markings over it were so dense that it nearly eradicated any existing area between her torso and her legs. The two children beside her had large X-marks over their faces. He did not spend nearly as much time trying to stay true to their actual human appearance as the woman. He kept them generic: a boy with a baseball cap and pants, and a girl with pigtails and a dress. The little boy, however, held something in his left arm. The figure was hardly distinguishable, just two circles with two lines sticking out from its side and a long pointy nose at, what could be assumed to be, its face. He picked the chalk back up and drew a diagonal line through six straight lines and let out a hefty sigh. He dragged his gloved hand over the figure of the woman he had drawn and stopped right over the dense circle he had created. “Forever and a day,” he whispered longingly.

He turned to look down on the puffin as he blinked back tears. The leather of Tunny’s pants chafed as he bent down to be eye level with the toy. “Hey, I know it’s not ideal, buddy,” he said softly, gently running his glove over the polyester fur, “But we gotta save the water supply. Every other day is fair enough.” Tunny smiled underneath the mask and propped the puffin back up on its behind. He looked into the puffin’s tea cup and saw that it was still filled with liquid from before. Tunny grabbed the cup by the mouth and promptly flung it against the wall. It shattered across the chalk drawings and ran down the wall. The shark with two eyes detached from its head began to bleed down the wall. Tunny grabbed the puffin by the throat and began to shake it violently,
“You ungrateful bastard! Do you think I’m happy that I have to drink my own boiled piss! Couldn’t even drink a damned sip, could you? You coward! It’s your fault we’re here! You didn’t warn me fast enough! You fucking think two days is enough time to prepare for The Disaster? You stupid bird!” He threw the stuffed puffin on the dirt floor and stomped on it three times with his steel-toed boot, grunting with each stomp. The bird contorted on the ground.  It flew up a bit with each impact. Tunny started gasping for breath as slowly began to calm down. The puffin’s previously spotless white belly fur was now matted with dirt; its tail bent and twisted into its back. Tunny looked down at the toy through his big eyed lenses. He gently scooped up the puffin and coddled it in his hands. He brought the bird to his chest and swayed back and forth as he whispered,

“I’m sorry, Christian. My nerves are at their end. I’m lost. I need your help. I don’t know where I’d be without you. You’re my only friend. You are my world. Please don’t leave me.” He pulled the puffin from him. Its head titled slightly to the right and forward. Tunny laughed,
“I knew you’d forgive me, Christian. I love you.” Tunny coddled the bird in his arms as he walked to the corner. He held it tightly against him as he slide down the wall and sat with his knees up.
“I wonder what the world is like now, now that there is nothing. No grass, no sun, no people- nothing. But that doesn’t matter, right Christian? Because we have each other and you will always protect me,” he muttered into the puffin’s head as he slowly rocked.

####

A dog barked joyfully as it played in the sprinklers on his front lawn and tried to play tag
with the spurts of water. The sun reflected off the vibrant green grass as joggers thumped down the sidewalk with their iPods blasting motivational beats. A man wearing a sky blue polo and khakis walked over to his neighbor’s house and chuckled at the dog playing with the sprinkler system.
“Hey Bob!” he called out as he waved to his neighbor, who was sporting a similar polo and khakis, sitting on a lawn chair reading a paper.
“Hey there, David! How are you my good sir?” He asked as he shook David’s hand
heartily,
“Doing well, Bob. Hey listen, have you seen Tunny recently? I haven’t seen him in a few days.” Bob shrugged and didn’t look up from his paper,
“Last I saw him, he was in the grocery store. He had two big carts full of stuff, not sure what he’s going to do with it all- not like he has a family, anymore.
“That’s strange. Hope he’s ok.”

Someday

Posted: May 8, 2015 in prose
Tags: , , , ,

She stared out the window of her apartment, neatly tucked on 168th street, right above a small bodega that sold fresh fruit and porn magazines. The smoke from her cigarette curled towards the ceiling, only partially escaping out the window. Her auburn hair grazed against her shoulders; the grey spaghetti strap top she wore had its fair share of coffee stains and even a small hole from a time she dropped her cigarette. She wore it so often that it fell off her thin body. Her black cotton shorts rolled up on her thighs, leaving nothing to the imagination (two months into the relationship there wasn’t much left for me to have to imagine, anyway). Her knees were tucked up against her chest and she rested her head on them while she looked down at the city. She let out a content sigh. The floor was littered with various books- most she had yet to finish. Jimmie was notorious for starting a book, quickly became infatuated with it, only to be lured away by some new title; she would eventually pick up the book she left, though, but only when she grew bored of the new one or when it was convenient for her.

“What time is your call tonight?” I asked her, trying to speak over the familiar sound of Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from her mother’s old record player. Years of being pinned under the needle made Judy’s voice scratchy and distressed. It was Jimmie’s favorite record- she played it almost every day. It became as routine as her morning coffee and cigarette.

She never responded to my question; I’m not sure if she didn’t hear me or if she was too lost in herself to hear me. I rolled to my side and grabbed my pack of cigarettes off the coffee table. Jimmie had stolen my lighter, again, and had tucked it into her pack of Parliament 100s. I never understood why she smoked them- I find them disgusting but she thought the recessed filter made her look more elegant. I prefer the smooth taste of Camel Blues, though. Yes, they are more expensive but I am more than happy to invest in the splurge.

“You know what I hope happens when I die?” she asked with her fluttery voice. I pushed myself up on my arms, cigarette hanging out of my mouth, to look at her. She still continued to look out the window and showed no signs of distress. It was like she had made a statement about the weather.
“Huh?” I mumbled, puzzled and concerned.
“Do you know what I hope happens when I die?”
“That’s morbid,” I responded coolly, lighting my cigarette. She turned her head to look at me and swung her legs off the ledge,
“No its not! It’s actually quite cheerful if you let me tell you!”
“Ok, shoot.” I leaned back on the couch.
“Well, I hope that I see a bright, white light.”
“Very original,” I replied, letting the smoke escape from my nose. She hopped off the window and pranced to my side. She knelt next to me and lightly hit my chest. Her eyebrows wrinkled,
“Will you stop doing that! Let me finish.” I yawned and tapped the ashes from my cigarette into my coffee mug,
“Ok, I’m sorry- there’s a white light,” She smiled and inched closer to me on her knees and continued gleefully,
“So there’s gonna be that big, bright light that everybody says, right? But instead of hearing, like, angels or something I wanna hear this.” She motioned to the record player.
“But I don’t want it to be perfect. I want it just like this. Nothing would make me happier.” I looked at her from the corner of my eye, unimpressed and unamused with her.

She smiled coyly as she looked down, once against becoming lost in herself.
“It would be as you die, ya know,” I corrected her, “Not when. You’re in the physical act of doing it.” She rolled her eyes at me,
“You know what I meant.”
“What made you think of that?” I asked her, half fearing the answer. She pushed her hair behind her ear and shrugged,
“Just a thought that popped up in my head.” She laughed lightly and leaned her face against my pillow. She lightly pressed her lips against mine. I didn’t return the effort.
“What song would you hear?”
“What?”
As you die, what song do you wanna hear?” I put my cigarette out. I rubbed my face and let out an exasperated moan; I was 25 years old at the time, I had just been promoted to a manager position for Vizio- I had no intention of planning my final moments just yet.
“I don’t know. What does it matter?”
“Come on, Seth just answer the question!” She laughed as she nudged me, somehow amused with the game she had just created. I sighed and covered my eyes with my arm,
“Ugh, I don’t know.”
“Just say something.”
“I don’t want to do this!” I yelled.

I lunged to my feet. Her green eyes became wild and bright. She slumped back down to her side. Her eyes fluttered. I pushed my hair back, trying to formulate an excuse for my outburst.
“I’m too much to handle, aren’t I?” she asked sincerely. I stuttered, trying to think of a way not to upset her. I rubbed my temples,
“I mean, I guess. Sometimes.” Her breath caught in her throat. She brought her knees back up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, becoming as small as she could.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. I loosened my shoulders,
“No, I, don’t apologize. It’s, it’s me. You’re perfect.” She didn’t respond. She was lost in herself again.

I walked to the record player and lifted the needle, causing the music to come to an abrupt stop. Horns honked from the street below. She looked straight ahead, refusing to look up at me as she asked,
“You’re breaking up with me. Aren’t you?” Her face was stoic.
“Jimmie, I,”
“Don’t sugar coat it. Just tell me.” I swallowed hard, again trying to find the proper phrasing.
“Yeah.”

She didn’t blink at my blunt admission. She looked to her right, finding a book she had only gotten half-way through and picked it up. She flipped through the pages. She threw it as hard as she could against the wall. She put her head in her hands. I walked towards her, getting on my knees to be eye level with her. She quickly turned away when I approached her.
“Look at me,” I said gently, reaching out to touch her hand. She turned her body away from me even more but allowed my hand on her arm. She whimpered softly.
“Listen, please, just listen. You are perfect, ok? And I don’t want you to ever change but you’re expecting too much out of me. I am not the right guy for you. There is someone out there just as perfect as you are and they will come, ok? It’s just that- I can’t give you what you need right now. I can’t give anyone that right now. It’s not fair to you, ok? Please, look at me.” She brought her knees even closer to her chest. I reached out and touched her face, guiding her to look up at me,
“I want to hear you say, ‘I did nothing wrong.’ Say it for me.” Her eyes were watery and tears ran down her face. She sniffled and whispered,
“I did nothing wrong.” I sighed, content with hearing her voice.
“C’mon, give me a hug.” She threw herself into my arms and began to weep into my chest. I did not speak, only ran my fingers through her hair.

“I have to go to work now,” I said, afraid to peel myself away from her. Her crying had finally come to a lull after a few minutes. She nodded, wiping her face with her hand. I picked her up from her knees. I pushed her hair back as I looked into her eyes for the final time.
“You’re going to be alright,” I said, reassuring her.
“How do you know?” her voice cracked. I shrugged,
“I’ve been worse than you are now. I’ve been better.” She hugged me. I pulled her away from my chest,
“Break legs tonight.” I gently touched her nose, like I always did. She smiled up at me. I picked up my pack of cigarettes and left.

Jimmie’s fiance` and I made eye-contact with each other. We gave each other a knowing nod. I hope she heard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as it happened, like she had said on that April day two years ago. I hope Jimmie will sing “Out There” to me as she leads me into that cliche` white light I once mocked.

Drowning

Posted: April 9, 2015 in poetry
Tags: , , ,

We’re drowning our sorrows in coffee and cigarettes
But the problem is, we are
Two miles apart.
If I wanted to,
If I was desperate enough,
I could drive up and touch you;
But I’m scared that
You’ll be in Philly or Boston
Or some other distant city. Or worse, you’ll be too busy to talk to me.
You’ll be locked to the computer screen or
Calling some person you may never see,
A person who is business savvy
Unlike me.
You’d rather drown, though, than feel
The pain of breathing.
With every cup and drag I take
I pray I am one step closer to salvation because, afterall,
We are drowning to survive.

My dad has always been quite a character- never short of a sarcastic comment or inappropriate joke. In fact, sometimes I have to remind him that he is an adult and long gone from the days of being a rowdy teenager. I’m used to finding pictures of him acting his usual charismatic self. We are not short of photographic evidence of him shoveling his face full of my grandmother’s homemade Italian cooking (a nice change of pace I’d assume for him after years of Greek food). I still laugh at the photo where he’s standing in just shorts behind a bush in my grandparent’s backyard and it appears he’s gone for a quick streak through sunny suburbia; or the photo where he stole my mother’s camera to take a shot of his wild and large eyes, disheveled hair and Miley Cyrus style tongue (of course, I say this with 2015 retrospective as this photo was taken in the late 1980s). These are candid shots of my father being himself so, as much as I do appreciate them, they do not hold special significance to me. The only photo that draws me in is the simplest one, the one where he is just standing and smiling.
The Polaroid is dated February 1990. It was taken somewhere in Chicago, where my mother had moved years earlier in order to be with my father. The apartment is basic, with white walls and the classic three-lock system on the door that is found in most inner-city apartments. My father is sporting dark facial hair which actually made him appear his age (when clean shaven, my father always looked five to seven years younger than he actually is). He is so close to the door and is smile is weak with disappointment of having almost made it out. His leather jacket has a dull shine under the poor apartment lighting. Underneath was a practical blue sweater and gray dress pants. The leather jacket was one of the remnants of the former rock star lifestyle used to lead; a time before he wore a suit to talk to investors and followed his friends’ bands around with my mom. I imagine my mother giving him a stern look, trying to get him to take a nice, serious picture for once. Her ego probably swelled when he actually listened to her.
Despite the photo not correctly capturing my father’s exuberant personality, it reflects the transition I am facing as I enter adulthood. There will be a day where I can no longer wear my lip-ring, or dye my hair pink or purple or the like. No matter how much the professional world may bog down my style creativity, I can always hold on to my leather jacket, though. It will add a tough layer to, what will eventually be, my somewhat practical exterior. Like my father, I may not be thrilled with it but I will at least smile and take it with grace and dignity.

It cackled at me as I walked in
Overpowered his genuine, “Good morning, sweetie.”
The black and purple ringlets circled his neck
Just like how his ring once circle my finger
But that was a long time ago and this is happening now.
He kissed me eagerly trying to heal my freshly opened wound.
Was it good, I say to myself, Was she what you needed
To get your through the night
Since a shot of Jack Daniels clearly wasn’t enough.
He saw his reflection in my eyes and
Looked down in shame
Like a puppy who had been reprimanded for chewing something he wasn’t supposed to.
My gaze was locked on him. I thought that maybe if I stared at it long enough
It would disappear like the Cheshire Cat’s grin. The teeth marks only mocked me more
With its malicious smile.
People began to question if I was a slut or just plain stupid;
I’d rather be a slut because then at least I marked what is mine.

He made me breakfast when I wasn’t looking.
He approached me cautiously, like a puppy with a leash begging to be walked
And said so softly I could barely hear,
“I made you this, sweetie.” I’ve always hated breakfast but
He was the only one that knew how to hit the spot.
He attempted to draw a heart on the plate with extra hot sauce but
It was runny and distorted.
He didn’t make himself any food that day.
I couldn’t eat it right away- I had to swallow my pride first.
I found him sitting on a crate in the back, head down and defeated.
“It was delicious,” I say, “But it’s dangerous to give hot sauce to a woman who’s already fired up.”
He laughed.
Laughing is a sign of game over, you won.
He hugged me tightly,
“I love you.”
“I love you most.”

Your eyes became dull and hazed
Overused razor blades
Tearing, scraping, pulling my skin.
You lost that smooth electricity in your gaze
That caused every fiber of me to stand on the edge of eternity.
Every breath you took became labored, trying to find a reason, any at all, to carry on.
And your reason was harder on me than the pills you swallowed.
I know living is hard to accept when you can wallow in alcohol and self-pity.
So I threw my ring at you to try and break
The circle we had been living in.
A year and a half I had to wait for you to climb back up
From the underground. The journey down is a lot easier than the one back-
It’s a slip and slide
Just down on your knees and
Go.
But after that year and a half, I don’t know if I’m ready yet
To accept the fact that
We both have changed.
Your eyes are no longer dulled but I still see
The reflection of pain staring back at me.
Your forehead is still wrinkled from all the time you spent worrying about
Where you still get your next fix. My bags are darker and heavier than you remember.
The problem is, there is only so long we can rely on the clowns to pass the show
Before we have to make the curtain call.
Sooner rather than later
We have to decide where we go.
Do we hold hands or do we
Walk blind and alone?
You tell me.

Birds of a feather flock together and
In much the same fashion
Mad people gather.
Clinging to each other
As they try to scrape together a sense of normalcy
While laughing at their abnormalities.
They lie through their Cheshire cat teeth
Sharpened to points so they bleed whenever they smile.
Every word they speak is a lie
And they speak often.
“Pain is best when it comes from within,”
They say, blood dripping down their chins,
“After all, those who smile often have something to hide
And those who smile brightest hold the darkest secrets inside.”

The Wanderer

Posted: July 28, 2014 in poetry, Uncategorized

It has always seemed to me that everyone has a nitch,
A warm place to call home,
Until I met this man.
I don’t know who he is-
He left with the wind before I could find out his name.
Constantly in movement,
He lives hour to hour
Because tomorrow is too far away.
Places that one exited him
Quickly fall to gray.
The one time he spoke,
He only had this to say to me,
“Sometimes, I get the feeling that
I’m never meant to sty anywhere.
Maybe I was predestined to wander for all time.
So, as long as my feet can carry me,
The road will be my home.”

For the longest time,
I sat in the dirt you left me in
Trying to compile reasons why I needed you.
But when the dust cleared,
I could see the trail of my wasted time and energy.
I was released from the spell of your eyes and I could see
You are nothing
But a leech whispering sweet things until
The veins run dry.
You are a curse,
A vampire with no direction, no purpose.
You have nothing to offer but a smile,
So you prance and giggle through life until you get what you need to survive.
You leave nothing but bodies in your wake,
With scalpels in their hearts because
You had always swore it was a needle and thread.
But now it’s on to the next;
There is nothing left here.
I got you to the point you needed to be,
Because Christ knows you would have never arrived without me.
But leaving me is the best thing you could have ever given me.
There is still enough blood in my veins for me to carry on.
I survived your killing spree.
I’m not entranced by your pretty face because
I now know the demon lurking inside.
Now that you are on your way,
All I have to do is wait
Because the day is coming when you will fall.
Then the corpses will rise from dirt and ash
And drag you back to Hell along with them.
They’ll pull away your porcelain skin so the world can see
The monster buried underneath.
And as you claw and plead for me,
Beg to help save you.
I’ll just laugh out loud and say,
“We’ll talk later.”

Ever since I can remember,
We would meet in a special place made for only you and me:
A bright, green field with nothing but a lonely sundial.
At the start of each spring,
That is where you would be waiting for me.
We were young and had no concept of time,
Or the consequences it brings
So we thought nothing of playing around that single sundial.
We were content just to be in each other’s company.
Then when the summer would fade,
We always promised to meet back in the same place at winter’s end.
We were naïve to think that
We would remain unchanged.
We were too stupid to see that youth melts away.
Our naivety died on the spring day when
We saw each other and realized,
We were two strangers meeting for the first time.
We were shocked to see a single winter could change everything.
We tried to smile through the grief but
It only made the hurt worse.
So the next day,
It was only me
Staring at that sundial.
I was made to realize
How much time had actually gone by.
Seven years never seemed like much until it was glaring me in the face.
I was forced to reconcile that
The shadow on the sundial’s face and I are one in the same-
Soon we both will fade away and be nothing
But a distant memory.
We used to chase butterflies but now
We are chasing dreams, trying to find where we’re meant to be.
Yet, I still can’t help but hold onto my childhood hope
That you will be brought back to me.
So, if your dreams do lead you to try and find me,
Meet me far from the sundial,
So we can be naïve again and try to outrun time.