The Wish Bathers, Chapter Seven

Gilded Temptations Running in Circles

Chapter Seven

A fast tambourine bangs through the walls of my apartment and my head like the heartbeat of a curiosity that won’t go away. I search for the sound like a set of misplaced keys—under cushions, in cupboards, and drawers—only to find the still shadows of dust and random debris. That same tambourine continues while a vaguely familiar melody plays in the distance.

“Hello?” I say.

The music pulls me through the doorway and into a strange hallway. It has bright red carpet, tall walls decorated with hundreds of mirrors, and it appears to stretch as far as I can see. This is not what my apartment building usually looks like, so I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore.

I walk down the hallway and into a large, pitch black room with gigantic, crystal chandeliers. A spot light shines above each chandelier. The air in the room is cold. The tambourine bangs again.

“Hello?” I repeat myself.

“Through the mirror of my mind, time after time, I see reflections of you and me.” A sudden spot light comes out of the darkness and shines on The Supremes, dressed in the same gown that I have on, and they are singing to me. Wait, The Supremes are singing to me?

The trio stands on a tiered stage that looks like the set on The Ed Sullivan Show. The applause of a live audience comes from the unlit parts of the room but a crowd is never revealed in the blackness. I am mesmerized by Diana Ross and her graceful charm and don’t even care that I’m in a world that makes absolutely no sense. I’m hangin’ with The Supremes, man.

“Hello, baby love. Do you know where you father is?” Diana says.

“You know my father?” I say. A loud siren disrupts our connection, and then I’m waking up to the sound of the telephone ringing next to my bed.

“Hey chick, did you see who’s on the cover of Rolling Stone?” Kat says.

“Who?”

“Joni Mitchell.”

“Man, that was weeks ago now. I think it came out around the Zeppelin show. There’s probably a new issue out already.”

“Oh, well, never mind. What are you doing?”

“Well, I was sleeping. But, anyway have you seen Midnight Cowboy yet? I hear it’s a ball.”

“Right on. Let’s go tonight.”

“Cinerama?” I rub the sleepy dust from my eyes.

“I dig it,” Kat says.

It’s been three weeks since the Grande night and I have been lost in a storm of uncool emotions. Kat, Greg, and Audrey’s sexual trinity quickly faded the next day after the magic of Quaaludes, and Boone’s, and reefer wore off. It was no big surprise to any of us, of course. I haven’t heard anything from Jazz or Sydney since that night and I definitely wonder if they’re ballin’, but maybe I don’t really need to know. The thought of them makin’ it just twists my mind and bends me in directions that are not comfortable.

On the bright side, the weather is getting warm and today the Motor City is hot; and I feel like having a date with a loosey downtown.

“Penelope,” Mr. Baxter’s eyes peer over the free press. He sits at the first counter stool so he can talk to the guy tending to the Coney dogs in the window.

“Thanks for the ride last time.”

“Oh, of course. I hope I didn’t upset you with talk of my son.”

“I don’t mind at all. What are friends for?”

“We’ve been missing each other at Aphrodite’s, I think. What have you been up to, young lady?”

“Getting into trouble.”

“Well, as long as it’s fun trouble. Is it fun?” He giggles.

“Some of it.”

“I say you must always have fun. Do you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know,” I say as I look down to my feet.

Ten minutes later, the place is packed for lunch—Coney dogs flying out every minute—and the long community table is bursting with laughter and commotion from all walks of life. The waiters are on top of every new customer and they take orders and tally bills with their sharp memory and smart minds; never wasting paper or pens or exercising their manly mental muscles.

“How’s yours?” Mr. Baxter says.

“Just what I needed today.”

“You know, I’m sorry I’m always blabbering away to you about my life. I don’t ask you enough about yours. Are you close with your family?”

“I’ve never met my old man and my mom lives in the city. I suppose we see each other in waves.”

“Have you ever tried to find your father?”

“I haven’t. I don’t know if I want to.”

“I hope he gets his act together. Any father would be proud to have you for a daughter,” Mr. Baxter says.

“Walter? Do you believe in the war?”

“I used to think I did, Penelope, but I don’t anymore. We were disillusioned in the beginning. It is not our war to fight.”

“Do you think they are really sending 25,000 home this year?”

“I hope so. Are you waiting for anyone to return?”

“Luckily, no.”

“Hey, what is purple and has conquered the known world?” Mr. Baxter puts his index finger up in the air.

“What?”

“Alexander the Grape.” Mr. Baxter laughs hard. “You know, I was thinking we could go for a walk since it’s such a nice day out.”

“That sounds like a grape idea,” I say.

You know, the thought of passing gas outside sounds safer for everyone,” he laughs so hard he holds his belly.

“Let’s cruise over to Eastern Market. I’ll drive. What do you think?”

“That sounds like a grape idea on this beautiful day.”

“How grape?”

“Alexander the grape,” we both say together.

The market is full of life and delicious things. Bountiful open stalls filled with the freshest ingredients—vegetables, fruits, spices, jams, honey, flowers, meats—line the aisles with smiles from toddlers, and grandmothers, and even some groovy heads in between. It has a neutral vibe where race and tension seem to be left behind and the local farmers can meet and greet the consumers of their labors.

“Do you need anything while we’re here?”

“I think I want to look for some honey. I haven’t been here since Mildred was alive. She loved this specific honey but the name of it has escaped me now. That’s what happens with age.”

“What?”

“Things escape from you—people, names, time, memories.”

“Is that hard?”

“It was at first, but now, it just feels like letting go. You can’t hold onto things if they don’t want to stay.”

“Fuckin’ A,” I get lost in my thoughts. “Oh, sorry, Walter.”

“It’s okay. I hear it all the time from your generation. You are a wild bunch.”

Mr. Baxter stops at a flower stall to smell a large bouquet of red roses. He pushes his entire face into the bouquet and takes a deep breath. The stall tender laughs at the sight of this cute old man stopping to smell the roses. The random passerby public also enjoys the view.

“Do you like roses?” I laugh.

“Mildred always wore rose perfume. It’s the closest thing I get to a hug now.” His eyes go distant and sparkly for a moment.

“Do you want to buy them?”

“Oh no, then I have to watch them die.”

“So, what was your son like?”

“He was a smart kid. He loved music and reading, too, and was the sweetest little boy.”

“Have you looked for him?”

“Penelope, I am too old and I can’t run around the city like I used to. He knows where I live. What about you?”

“I definitely run around this city.”

“No, I mean, why don’t you look for your father?”

“I don’t even know his name and it’s a difficult subject to discuss with my mom.”

“Ah, yes. Someday you will figure it out.”

“Walter, maybe things always escape us, no matter what age we are.”

“Perhaps, Penelope, perhaps.” He begins whistling and then stops when he sees something ahead. “There it is.” A jar of clover honey shines in the sun like a viscous jackpot.

“Is that the one you wanted?”

“It sure is.”

“It seems like Mildred is around today.”

“But, of course. She is always around.”

***

“So, what do you think Joe Buck is going to do in Florida?” Kat says. Midnight Cowboy is behind us.

“Man, that was depressing. I think he’ll find a way to beat the system.”

“Even if he ain’t a fo’ real cowboy?” Kat says in her best southern drawl.

“Yeah, because he’s one helluva stud,” I say.

“That party looked groovy, though, man. Does the Motor City have parties like that?”

“I bet we can find one. Dragonflower?”

“Let’s smoke some grass before we go in,” Kat says.

I pull into the Dragonflower parking lot and start rolling a joint. Carmelita is in the rear view mirror walking towards us. She looks upset and slightly intoxicated with the way she stumbles in her stiletto heels.

“Hola,” she knocks on the window.

“Hey Carmelita, how are you?” I say. Her face goes into a slow motion frown as tears well up in her eyes and mascara runs down her cheeks; disappearing underneath the curve of her chin and then plummeting into her scandalous chest. The right person could be envious of such tears.

“I am garbage,” she leans on the door and sticks her head into the car.

“Who are you?” Kat says.

“Sorry, this is Carmelita. That’s Kat,” I say.

“Mucho gusto,” Carmelita says. “You the next bitch in line?”

“What is she talking about?” Kat says.

“What’s going on?” I wonder.

“No love for me anymore. He’s grooming his next bitch. I’m the top bitch, you know, not that gringa. Darryl is all I’ve got.” She cries and falls back onto the ground. “You tell him chinga tu madre.” She slaps the pavement with her hand, sobbing, and then screams, “TELL HIM!” I get out of the car to help her, but she doesn’t want it.

The Gardener is calm at the front of the line; hands behind his back in a non verbal position of power, wearing an agnostic facial expression. The line before him is short and chatty and moving slow.

“Is Jazz working tonight?” Kat asks.

“I don’t know. When was the last time you talked to her?”

“Not since the Grande, I guess. You?”

“Same here,” Kat says with a sigh.

I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who is being ignored, or dare I say, betrayed. Inside the club, Greg and Jazz are doing their thing behind the bar. The vibe is bumping and the dance floor is packed.

“Hello, hello,” Greg says.

He glances at Kat in the honor of social graces trying not to be awkward but it is for everyone. I imagine something uncomfortable happened during their free love escapade the night of the Grande. I’ll wait until Kat’s had a few drinks before I start asking questions.

“So, how’s life, man?” I say.

“Life has been golden, you know, just busy,” Greg says.

Jazz stands next to him very quietly. She’s got a glistening gold necklace with a diamond circle pendant hanging from her neck. This is alarming for two different reasons: she does not wear gold and she does not like diamonds. I have no idea what to think.

“So, where have you been?” I stare at her pendant.

“I’ve been working a lot,” Jazz says.

“Is that how you bought that necklace?”

“This thing?” She grabs the chain like it’s a piece of ratty string, “It’s really old.”

“Are you still making that orange martini?” Kat interrupts. “I could use a drink.”

Greg hurries to combine the ingredients and serve her request up and chilled before any more weirdness is exchanged between them. It’s his non verbal way of smoothing the prickly feelings hanging around. A couple guys slide into the stools next to us just as Greg puts two martinis down on the bar. One of them has thin, combed hair and is dressed in a formal suit and the other has a shaved head and a bright colored shirt.

“I’ll be right back,” Kat says.

“Come on, Greg, spill the beans.” I say.

“Man, I just don’t know what to do.”

“About what?”

“It’s been weird since we all, you know, and I think I’m really into Audrey, man. I thought I was gone for Kat but me and Audrey, man, we just clicked. Has Kat said anything?”

“I know nothing.”

“Man, I’ve been worried,” Greg says.

Kat returns to her stool. I watch Jazz slip away from the bar and disappear into the crowd. The guys next to us are drinking gin and tonics and talking about Midnight Cowboy.

“Did you dig it?” I say.

“What?” the shaved head says.

“The movie. Did you like it?”

“Wasn’t Dustin Hoffman brilliant?” the suit says.

“I wouldn’t want people calling me Ratso, either,” Kat says.

“It’s pretty raw, man. New York is like that at night,” the shaved head says.

“How do you know?” the suit says.

The dude with the shaved head says he likes the movie, sips his gin and tonic, and then turns to the suit to discuss something else. Kat orders two more drinks and we head for our usual spot on the couches. We sit for a while and listen to the music before striking up anymore conversation. I’m dying to know about the Grande night and I can’t wait any longer.

“So?” I say.

“So what?” Kat says.

“What’s going on with you and Greg? That was weird.”

“Oh that. Something happened. I feel like he cast a spell on me.”

“What kind of spell?”

“Something clicked in me and I totally dig him now. He’s just so charming.”

“But he’s not Jewish.”

“He’s practicing. That counts, right?” She rolls her eyes.

“Whatever you say, Miss Stein. Are your folks still on your case about dating?”

“I’ve been burying myself in books and haven’t talked to them much lately.”

“Education is a productive distraction. Keep it up.”

“Do you think he’s into me?” Kat whines.

I can’t answer her question because then I’d be indulging in her annoying behavior. Maybe it’s rude, but anyway, Jazz hasn’t returned from wherever she disappeared to and Greg is working hard behind the bar by himself. The suit and the bald head drink their gin and tonics, and the more I watch them, the more I recognize the bald head; not the actual bald head, per se, because I don’t really know anyone with a bald head, but his profile reminds me of someone I used to know.

“Do you think they are midnight cowboys?” I say.

“Haha, I don’t know.”

At that moment, the suit grabs the bald head’s hand underneath the bar top and holds it like only a lover would do. He then slides up and takes a big squeeze of the bald guy’s butt cheek before he covertly returns to his drink. He probably thinks no one noticed.

“Scandalous! Oh my god, I think they’re coming over to us,” Kat says. The bald headed guy makes eye contact with me.

“Hey Penelope, please tell your mother I am deeply sorry,” the bald head says. “And for the record, I didn’t want to get you that bike.”

This news hits me hard. No wonder I recognized his face. I remember his profile from him sitting in the moving truck the day he left our house. Now I see he probably did my mother a favor leaving since he’s clearly into men.

“Who was that?” Kat says.

“Fuckin’ A. That was my step father.”

“Really? Maybe that was the guy your old lady caught him with.”

“Let’s go smoke some grass, man.”

I head for the hallway. Audrey meets us at the front door just as we’re about to go outside. She is dressed in a long, yellow kaftan and looks like an African queen. The night air is warm and friendly and strangely enlightening. A very hmm worthy night, isn’t it?!

In the mix of motor vehicles, Darryl leans over Jazz pressed against the Cadillac with one hand on the car and the other hand on her diamond pendant. They are too close for my comfort and are completely oblivious to the three of us walking by. We can only hear fractions of mumbling, lewd dialogue, but their body language is certainly easy to understand.

“I got a linotype job at the Free Press,” Audrey says and distracts me from Jazz.

“Right on. How’d you score that?” I say.

“It’s an internship for school.”

“Cool.” Kat says.

“Where’s Sydney?” Audrey says.

“I forgot to tell you that Simon called me the other day,” Kat interrupts like a thought fart.

“What? What did he say?” I say.

“That he misses me.”

Is she serious? Well, Simon really knows how to test my gag reflex more than anyone else, although Jazz is working hard for second place. I am at a cross roads and I don’t know what to do because, either way, I’m an asshole. No one likes the messenger or the snitch and I can’t survive on pleading the fifth forever. Or maybe I can.

“It’s never good to recycle the past,” I say. “Ditch that thought right now, man.”

“Yeah, sister, you don’t need him,” Audrey says. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

“He’s messing with your mind, you know,” I remind her how charming he is.

“Can we go back inside now?” Kat says.

***

One of the most peaceful times during the day is when I get into Aphrodite’s at 7am and the whole restaurant is empty. The echoes of laughter and conversations have faded, the hum of the coffee machines and kitchen appliances are gone, and there is a tranquility that fills the emptiness right before I turn the imminent switches and buttons to wake the place for a brand new day. Wake up, Aphrodite’s, rise and shine. The neon lights buzz and the coffee machines gurgle and things gradually start moving.

Pam and Deb arrive thirty minutes after I do to help me finish the opening tasks. Deb’s mouth is purple when she walks in. The death breath twins are cheery this morning.

“You drink Faygo this early in the morning?” I say.

“No, why?” Deb says.

“Uh, man, your teeth are purple.”

“Yeah, I know. They are stained. They’re always like this.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No problem. Most people don’t say anything. I completely forget sometimes.”

“You forget what?”

“That my teeth are purple.”

“That’s surprising.”

“It is?” Deb says.

Pam and Deb go back into the kitchen to punch their time cards. I continue sweeping the dining room floor. That familiar waft of cologne floats past my nostrils, again, and I know the boss is around somewhere.

“You better sweep the floor right this time,” the boss says.

I return to the mound of dirt on the floor and find his creepy, gold bracelet twinkling through the dust. I pick it up fast and put it in my pocket. If he asks about it, and I’m having a nice streak, I’ll give it to him. However, if he doesn’t say anything, I might just pawn it downtown for the money or give it to a stranger. By now, his fancy piece of jewelry is payment for my emotional anguish.

At 8 o’clock on the dot, Greg stumbles into a booth by the window, yawning and rubbing his eyes for an extended amount of time.

“Morning sunshine!” I say.

“Hey man.”

“You’re up early. Didn’t you close the club?”

“Yeah, but I thought you would like an early visitor.”

“Really? You don’t just want my advice?”

“Okay, man, maybe that too.”

“What happened after I left last night?”

“Sydney came in.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah and Audrey spent the entire time trying to score with Kat.”

“What is it about Audrey?”

“I don’t know, man. Kat makes me feel mediocre. I’ll never speak Yiddish or be Jewish and she just seems so perfect. Audrey doesn’t make me feel that way.”

“Did you talk to Sydney? I haven’t seen him in weeks,” I say.

“I didn’t because he and Jazz were in the middle of something deep.”

They were in the middle of something deep? Like, what exactly? Maybe I’ll ask Greg if he knows anything. Wait, maybe that’s not a good idea and I’m just being paranoid. I don’t know. Is this what happens when you, uh, really like someone?

“So, no more Yiddish or satin hats?” I blurt out.

“No, man, I’m over it. I can’t do it anymore.”

“Good to know your limits, Greg. What do you want for breakfast?”

“What happened to her mouth?” He laughs at Deb.

“She likes grape Faygo.”

“Okay, so, have you heard of any moon parties? It’s finally going to happen next month. Can you believe it?”

“No. Breakfast?”

“Right, sorry. I’ll just take eggs and bacon.”

“Groovy. Coming right up.”

I swivel around and head for the kitchen. I also need to go brew another coffee pot and collect myself. I know he’s not responsible for my scattered, possibly ridiculous, feelings. Weird ideas just invade my mind. Time-outs help. Pushing that ‘brew’ button also helps.

“Mr. Baxter was asking about you the other day,” Pam says.

“Yeah, I know. We hang out sometimes.”

“And do what?” Deb says.

“That’s none of your business. Go get your five bucks.”

“Man, that Sirhan guy didn’t get the gas chamber like he was supposed to.” Greg says. His face is stuffed into the crease of a newspaper. “What a load of shit.” He slaps it closed and puts it on the table.

“Sirhan Sirhan. What kind of a name is that, anyway?” I say.

“I believe it’s Jordanian.” Greg says.

“Right. Well, do you have a TV we can watch the moon landing on?” I switch subjects.

“I don’t but we have one at the club and I think Sydney has one. Maybe you need a little of my advice?” Greg says in a serious voice.

“Do I look that desperate?” I say.

“Hey, man, be nice.”

“Eat your eggs,” I put his plate down on the table. “And what advice could you possibly have for me?”

“Man, you gotta relax, you know. You’re like all wound up all the time.”

“Excuse me,” the boss abruptly grabs me and pinches my funny bone all the way into the kitchen.

“You’re hurting me. Cut it out!” I say.

“Listen,” he moves his hand down the side of my hip, violating me, and then points the same hand at my face. “I’m watching you.”

“Is that what your people call molesting?” He raises his hand as if he is going to smack my face but then runs his fingers through his stupid hair instead. “You know, Mr. Boss, you really should be thankful for all the business I bring into this grease pit. If they all knew how you treat your employees they wouldn’t come back. I’ve been here for years doing great work and establishing a strong camaraderie between Aphrodite’s and the guests.”

“Insubordinate waitresses are easy to come by,” he says.

That’s it. He’s not getting that precious, gold bracelet back now. His behavior is so gross. I need to get out of here.

“You can take the negroes,” Deb twirls the straw in her purple mouth. I guess she’s one of those people. I look over at the table to see Audrey and Josephine.

“Those negroes are my friends,” I say. “And if you have a problem, I’ll take all the negroes from here on out. Money has no skin color.”

“Did you get the money?” Josephine’s voice carries across the room.

“No, ma, daddy says he doesn’t have any more.”

“Is that what daddy says?” Josephine snaps.

“Hi you two,” I say. Josephine doesn’t recognize me. Audrey reminds her.

“I see,” Josephine says. “Pardon me, of course, but all you white folks look so similar,” she sticks out her hand to shake mine but positions her hand like I should kiss it and curtsy instead.

“You just missed Greg,” I say.

“Bitchin’.” Audrey sighs. “He’s been crowding my vibe lately.”

“Is Greg a nice, independent, black man?” Josephine says.

“What do you think?” Audrey says.

“Baby, I don’t know why you are wasting your time with these white folks.”

“Ma, you have to ask yourself the same question. I am white.”

“Don’t speak to me like that, child. The good half of you is black.”

“Uh, should I go or did you want some food?” I mumble in between their fight.

“I do apologize. I’m late for an appointment,” Josephine stands up, dusts off her outfit, and walks out of the building.

“Man, I’m really sorry about that,” Audrey says.

“No sweat. I get it. It’s cool if she hates me.”

“She hates me, too, so don’t sweat it. And I’m starving.”

Audrey picks up a menu and scans the options. I can see the disappointment in her eyes as she processes her mothers’ harsh words. It doesn’t feel good. She doesn’t even need to explain.

“Rice pudding always makes me feel better,” I say.

***

I drive up Woodward Ave to meet my old lady for lunch at Hedge’s Wigwam. The first time I saw Hedge’s I was 8 years old and I thought the place was a magical Indian temple. The building has a gigantic teepee on the roof and several Indian statues lining the perimeter. It’s different from all the other restaurants in town and I always got flutters in my stomach when I could see the teepee in the horizon and know we were near. I still do.

The inside of the restaurant is rustic and everything is made from wood. There’s Indian art hanging on the walls, covering the floor, and a cool gift shop with all sorts of ethnic charm. The tables are glass top with moss and butterflies pressed underneath like the prettiest science exhibits in picture frames. It wasn’t until I got older that I started thinking those beautiful butterflies were actually just poor, dead bastards killed for beauty and put on display in a twisted museum. Looking at dead bugs while you eat a delicious meal is a weird thing. Still, something is always special about it.

“Hi honey,” Valerie says. “Pot pie today?”

“Mom, the chicken pot pie is the best in town.” And it is. I look down at my steaming cup of coffee and relish in another part of the Wigwam charm. The coffee cups are decorated with a teepee that looks similar to the one on top of the building and the simplicity of the style is so homey.

“How is life, dear?”

“Life is great, mom.”

“Are you seeing anyone these days?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Penelope, I really wish you would settle down and do something with your life.”

“You mean, get married and have kids and buy a house with a white picket fence?”

“Honey, you make it sound so awful. I just know you have so much potential and you aren’t getting any younger, you know.”

“I’m only 25. Times are changing now, mom. I’ll be fine.”

“Well, how is work?”

“Steady and busy most days, so that’s groovy. I am looking forward to getting out of there soon.”

“What do you think you will do next?”

“I’m not sure but I want to do something different. I need an adventure. How are you?”

“Things are nice. I have my weekly bridge meeting and I’ve just joined a knitting circle. The neighborhood is quiet these days. You should come over for dinner sometime soon. Oh, and I meant to tell you that I’m sorry for leaving so abruptly the last time I was at your place. You just caught me off guard, I guess.”

“Mom, I don’t even know his name.”

“Your father?”

“Yes, mom, who else would we be talking about?”

“Most people called him Jack but to me he was always Jacky.”

Did she just say Jacky? The tone she uses sounds so foreign. It just makes me realize how disconnected I am from the man that makes up half of who I am, and to that woman sitting across from me that once loved him. Life is so weird.

“Do you have pictures of him?” I say.

“I have them somewhere packed away in a box.”

“Why haven’t you ever showed me what he looks like? I’ve never seen one picture.”

“I guess I was trying to protect you.”

“From what?”

“Penelope, do we really have to talk about this?”

“I feel like I’m old enough to know now. Can you please just tell me what is going on?”

“Your father had different priorities and they weren’t right for us.”

“Wait, they weren’t right for us, or they weren’t right for you?”

“Honey, you don’t understand how hard it is to raise a child. You were so little and I had to put you first. I had to make sacrifices.”

“What did you do?”

“I made him choose.”

“You gave my dad an ultimatum?”

“I had to.”

“You always ruin everything, mom. I can’t believe you did that.”

“Listen, I’ll be right back. I must use the powder room.”

My mother always excuses herself at the best times. The chicken pot pie is as tasty as usual but my appetite is lost, so I dig into the crust with my fork in search of something other than filling my empty stomach. Who is my father and what did he choose? What could possibly make him leave us, or selfishly, me? I am not impressed with this scenario and I don’t know where to stand. Are some people just wired so that they can make such decisions more easily than others? Is it because men don’t give birth so they feel more detached from their children?

I have so many questions, too little answers, and unreliable and absent sources to consider. All of this leaves me staring at the poor butterflies underneath my unwanted food, hoping that I may find some answers in their delicately, conserved wings.

“Hello, foxy,” Sydney voice pulls me away from the butterflies.

“It’s been awhile. How are you?”

“I know. I’m sorry about that. This is Will,” Sydney says, pointing to the guy next to him. “He’s my best friend I told you about in Vietnam. He got back a few weeks ago and we’ve been catching up.”

“Groovy. Glad you made it home.” I say.

“I heard I missed you at the club the other night,” Sydney says. “Let’s hang soon.”

“That would be cool. Greg was asking about moon parties. Do you have a TV?”

“Yeah, I do. It’s small but it will do the trick. Hey man, can you do me a favor? Can you give this to Jazz? I’m sure you’ll see her before I do and I think she’ll want it back.” He pulls that gold necklace with the circular diamond pendant out of his pocket and puts it in my hand.

“Of course,” I say.

“And who are these lovely gentlemen?” Valerie comes back just in time, of course.

“Sydney and Will, this is my mom.”

“Hello, Mom,” Sydney shakes her hand.

“Please, that makes me sound so ancient. Call me Valerie. How do you all know each other?”

“Will and I have been friends for years and he just got back from Vietnam.”

“Thank you for serving our country, Will.”

“I’m glad to be home. There’s nothing but bullshit happening over there, man,” Will says.

“Well, I never—” Valerie squeaks.

“It was nice to meet you. I’ll call you later, Star,” Sydney says.

Sydney and Will bug out of the Wigwam faster than a dream catcher catches dreams. I feel like such an idiot. Why didn’t I just give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was just busy instead of ignoring me? I mean, okay, so I have a little bit of an active imagination. My mother doesn’t seem to be too impressed, either.

“You are spending too much time with those long hairs, my dear. I hope you aren’t taking the drugs, too.”

“What did Jacky do for a living?”

“He was an accountant. Can we talk about something else now?”

“Are you giving me an ultimatum?”

“I think you definitely got his sense of humor,” Valerie says. I am stunned by her statement because now I understand a part of him, and I guess, me.

“So he was funny?”

“Well, some people found him funny.” She giggles and rolls her eyes like a squirmy teenager. I’ve never seen her this way.

Suddenly, my chicken pot pie is fuckin’ delicious, my old man is funny, and I’ve got gold and diamonds in my two front pockets. I feel like the ‘x’ that marks the spot that keeps moving around. Will I eventually be found by a band of pirates, or wait, pimps? I scarf down four more bites and then surrender to the remaining pie goop.

On the way back to my pad, I pull off into Palmer Park to ponder my life at the duck pond. It is a beautiful day and I’m feeling weird and the duck pond is quiet and the wind is warm. The wind is the kind of warm that makes me want to take off all my clothes and go skinny dipping, however, today I will refrain from soaking in copious amounts of duck poop and save this feeling for something else; something more liberating.

I step out of the bug and head for the water. There are three people sitting Indian-style on a blanket near the ponds’ edge and one of them is totally familiar. It’s the swinging amber pendant that gives him away.

“Hi Country,” I say.

“Hey man,” Country takes a huge drag off of a joint. “Do you want to seek the truth?”

Whoa, I need to seek the truth. That’s a complicated road for me right now. I didn’t expect to find this adventure at the duck pond of all places. And everyone says this is the place to be at night time. What do they know?

“I’m Harmony,” the woman says in a faded voice behind a pair of round, blue glasses. “Welcome to the truth.” She falls back onto the blanket after exhaling three powerful puffs.

“What’s your name?” the Princeton cut, straight looking guy says.

“Right man, you came with Sydney. Far out! How was your trip?” Country blows dope smoke into Harmony’s mouth very seductively.

“It was a blast, man.” I feel like I’m flying now. “So, what’s your bag?” I look at the straight guy for an answer.

“You know, the revolution and the experience, man,” he tokes and then chokes.

“Gotta cough to get off,” Harmony sits up and then falls back down, laughing hysterically.

“We should be making love, not war,” Country says profoundly, but funny.

“You can find the love right here, baby,” Harmony pulls Country down on top of her and kisses him. A few minutes later, he resurfaces for air and then takes off his shirt.

“Man, let’s pretend this blanket is a magic carpet ride to seek the truth,” Country’s chiseled muscles are tempting and his laugh is dangerous. He’s got the energy and charm of Fritz the cat.

“Only in our vulnerable nakedness can we find what we are looking for,” Harmony says. “Don’t you want to know the truth?”

Within minutes, we are flaunting our birthday suits like we’re advertising possibilities. Country hands each of us our own joint, because at this point, who wants to share, right? So we kick back and puff together while we bask in our naked glory and try to get there. Our nakedness becomes less sexual and more about openness and I find that having everything exposed cuts through so many psychological levels that we usually spend too much time in.

“Are you there?” Country says.

“I am there,” Harmony giggles.

“Where are we?” I say, laughing hysterically.

Sunbathing in the warm air with these strangers is something I’ve not done before. It feels a little awkward without Sydney but I’m not doing anything wrong. The sunshine on my breasts is worth it. I think I need to do this more often. Our group liberation party is quickly interrupted when a pig greets us with expected enthusiasm.

“No fornicating in public parks, you hippie bastards,” the pig says.

“Man, we’re just sunbathing,” Harmony says.

“Oh shit, all right,” Country stands up. “Keep it cool, man.” His truth seeking parts dangle in the wind.

“Your indecency is taking a toll on the children,” the pig points to the cars and the small crowd of distant spectators. “I should take you down to the station.”

Country remains calm and collected and pulls the pig into a deep conversation of power struggles and race issues while we gather our clothes and get dressed. By some esoteric charm, Country manages to level with the pig and avert proper lawful obligations. I take this as a sign to split before the mood changes and I’m hearing my rights and sitting in the back of a swine mobile. That’s not the truth I’m looking for so I hustle over to Gloria and make it out of the park and back to my pad before the pig even realizes I’m gone. Penelope Custer: 1; the Man: 0.

Mojigao

Hello, world, it’s been awhile since I’ve done a good ol’ review of a cool place in Goa.  I’ve been living here for five years and I must say, there’s always something new and fabulous hidden in the jungle.

I’ve recently discovered the micro-universe of Mojigao.  It is Artjuna‘s sister location and it is a serene wonderland tucked away on a gorgeous jungle property in Assagao.  Right now, due to monsoon season, everything around the place is a little covered and organized to handle the rains, but it is still rocking beautiful scenes and vibes amidst the downpours.

IMG_20200724_083040__01

It has a similar menu to the classic selection at Artjuna and you get a fantastic view of paradise while you eat or drink your delicious coffee.  Juices, espresso, and healthy meals are all part of the experience.

My personal favorites in the restaurant are the Caramel Eclair and the Healthy Breakfast, both of which I didn’t get a picture of because I inhaled them like a Tasmanian Devil and then remembered to document.

The Healthy breakfast comes with your choice of eggs, choice of juice, choice of coffee or espresso, yogurt, muesli, two slices of amazing, fresh bread and a whole selection of hummus, jam, butter, cheese, and guacamole. It’s amazing and two people can share it.

The Pasta Ratatouille was also delicious.  I had that for dinner and I cleaned the plate.

IMG_20200723_194934__01

If you’re craving fresh, healthy, vibrant food, this is your place.  You can find green smoothies, proper coffees, salads, and everything made with love and care.  At Mojigao, they take wellness to the next level.

On top of all this super yummy food business, Mojigao offers a buffet of different experiences.  For those of you people out there looking for a space to host workshops, have a concert, or needing an outdoor space, Mojigao has some good options.

IMG_20200723_144826__01

This tiered area can be a perfect place to teach your yoga class, attend a yoga class, a concert, etc.  It is also another dining area when the rains are gone.  At the moment, there is no charge to rent the space.

If you’re traveling through Goa and you have a skill to teach, definitely check Mojigao out for what they have to offer.  The views alone will make your work and experience cathartic.

I thought my tour of the place was done at this point, but then Sam, Mojigao’s manager, lead me down a mystical, jungle pathway. . .

IMG_20200723_145219__01

Wavy staircases, whimsical doorways, flowers, foliage, and a chorus of frogs singing the Mojigao soundtrack.  Balinese-esque cabins for rent are hidden in between the layers of the thick jungle.

FB_IMG_1596273926612

There are several cabins to rent for the night or long term stay.  They are made from gorgeous wood, have stained glass windows, big, lush beds, a/c, and so many little details to make you feel luxurious during your stay.

They range from 4-10k, depending on the size and length of stay, and of course, the season.  Right now in monsoon, they are offering some mega deals on their cabins.  If you’re in the area, check it out.

The cabin I stayed in for the night looked right out onto a beautiful pond filled with all the free nature perks I mentioned above.  It felt very private and tranquil.  I also really loved the hot water in the bathroom sink.  That’s something I don’t get to experience much these days as most Goan homes don’t come with that amenity.

There was water and a tea station ready and a nice menu of the services provided.  The bathroom also came equipped with Jata soap, handmade by a local with organic ingredients.

My geeky favorite detail was the closet.  It had a light that came on when it was opened.  I wish my closet at home did that.  I can never find anything!  You know, sometimes, it’s really the little things, isn’t it?!

Btw, I’m not including a snap of the closet because it doesn’t come out in pictures nearly as cool as it looks in real life.  You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

IMG_20200723_145647__01

The back of the property is currently under construction to build more cabins and a big covered area to host yoga workshops and other wellness activities.  As you can see above, the grounds are kept pristine like a manicured greenhouse even with scattered building happening.  You can walk the grounds and absorb the healing vibes of nature.

For any queries, check out Mojigao on Facebook.

For parking, there’s a car lot at the bottom of the hill and bikes can park at the top by the entrance.

You don’t even have to miss an epic Goan sunset when you’re deep in the jungle.  Mojigao’s views include them all.

IMG_20200723_191523

As we say in Goa, “It’s better in Goa.”

Check out Mojigao when you’re in town!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wish Bathers, Chapter Six

Kick Out the Jams between your Toes

Chapter Six

Ninety coffee pots later, or three days as some would say, I’m not really sure what to think of Valerie’s vague behavior. I just want to know what the hell happened to my old man. Who is he? Why did he leave me? And why is it all a big secret?

Someone banging on my front door saves me from whatever kind of mental breakdown I’m about to have. I don’t know if I’m in the mood for company, so this should be interesting. I hope it’s Sydney, at least.

“Shalom,” Kat bows her head.

“Oh,” I say.

“I think I’ve decided to become more orthodox.”

“What?”

“Yeah, my folks are starting to put dating pressure on me. They want me to date some Catholic boys they have picked out. I can’t do it. I’ve started going to Temple.”

“You just had to tell me this right now?”

“I think it’s the right thing for me.”

“Sure, Kat. I think you’re fine just the way you are.”

“Really?”

“What is it about being Jewish?” I raise my left eyebrow.

It takes forever for Kat to respond. I really want to know what her deal is. It’s been more than ten years and I just don’t get it. She’s got some strange identity issues, but hey, at least I’m not the only one.

Suddenly, Kat looks down at her finger nails. She shows me some chipped nail polish to obviously dodge my extremely overwhelming question. It’s not nearly as cute as she wants it to be. I’m so over it.

“So, there was a lot of buzz on Plum Street yesterday. I heard John Sinclair is promoting a new show at the Grande Ballroom this month,” I say.

“What show?”

“Led Zeppelin.”

“Far out.”

“Yeah, it’s on May 16th. Do you know them?” I say.

“I think I know who that is. I’ll get tickets.”

“Wow, groovy. Wait, are you sure that good Jewish girls can go to rock concerts now?” I laugh.

“Give me a break,” Kat crosses her arms, unimpressed.

“Hey, I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure out these new Yenta lines.”

“Don’t make be brech, okay,” she smiles as she slings the Yiddish words around like a professional Frisbee player. “Besides, we don’t need to tell them we’re going to the Grande.”

To my luck, Kat finally splits, and I’m not in a hurry to revisit my last mental soapbox. Thank god. Another cup of coffee sounds much better and just as I’m about to take a sip of my delicious, warm, aromatic beverage, another distraction steals my moment of peace. The phone rings.

It’s Audrey. She’s annoyed and she can join the club. Apparently, Jazz is up to no good. Audrey didn’t get into too many details on the phone other than requesting my presence as soon as possible. I’m thoroughly excited to see what’s so important this time.

I get into Gloria and pull up to their pad around noon. Jazz is still in bed. I knock loudly on her door. No response. I knock again. No response. At this point, I can leave and say I tried, or I can walk in like a nosy best friend, so I opt for the second choice.

Her room smells like sex. Condoms are flung around like a latex minefield. It’s pretty gross. I’m extremely careful not to step on any sticky surprises. The thought makes me more than gag.

There’s a man sleeping next to her. It’s not Greg this time. It’s not even a stranger. In fact, the guy snoring in her bed is the last person in the entire world I want to see right now in this moment. This is so not cool.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I scream.

The remnants of white powder under her nose look about as classy as her choice of men. This scene is absurd. I don’t blame Audrey for not wanting to deal with it.

“What are you doing in my room this early, man?” Jazz says.

“It’s noon, man. What are you doing with HIM? What the fuck is going on with you?”

“You know, whatever,” Jazz says.

It’s Simon. The douche bag who’s been ballin’ Kat for almost ten years. The guy who took her all the way to Paris just to ditch her. You know, that amazing mensch of a man she just can’t seem to shake? Yeah, that guy. That’s the guy in Jazz’s bed right now. Great.

“So, what about Kat?” I remind her other people do exist.

“What about her?” Jazz yawns and stares at me with demonic eyes.

I don’t know how much cocaine one has to snort to completely lose all sense of human emotions, but I’m pretty sure she’s snorted twice that amount. What am I supposed to do now? What the hell do I tell Kat?

***

It’s another day. I unlock Aphrodite’s at sharp o’clock and start my opening duties with listless fervor. Mindless tasks can be excellent therapy, and today, I’ll take whatever therapy I can get. Fortunately for me, rolling hundreds of pieces of silverware into paper napkins is just as therapeutic as sitting on a cold, leather couch and staring at the ceiling. Deep thoughts make tight rolls. That sounds like a fortune from a cookie but there is something to be said about the depths of thought perfecting the artistry of the wrapped utensils. I think, therefore, I roll.

I know the boss is in the building when an unexpected waft of cologne floats past my nostrils. He enters the dining room confidently and walks over to me. I watch the ground as his shoes drag a trail of dirt onto the freshly swept floor and then make eye-contact. He stops in front of me, picks up a fork, and uses it to point at my face and then down to the ground.

“Look at this. How can you work on that task before the dining room is even ready for guests?” he moves his hand above the dirt trail, assuming I haven’t swept the floor yet.

I have nothing to say so I just get out of the table and start sweeping. There is no sense in having a hopeless conversation with a man like him. It will only get me lost inside another black hole that I don’t want to be in. He watches me for a minute and then returns to his cavernous office like a scorpion disappearing into the crevice of adjoining rocks. I return to my therapy session.

One coffee pot later, the death breath twins arrive for their shifts. I acknowledge them both with a nod but have no desire to assemble an irrelevant conversation this early in the day. Deb ignores my nod while she searches for her special cup and Pam smiles back at me. Within an hour, the place is packed and time is going fast.

Greg shows up eventually. He has a book under his arm and an orange and red satin Yarmulke on his head.

“Shalom,” Greg says.

“Oh no, you too?”

“What?”

“Nothing,” I say. I feel like I’m in an episode of The Twilight Zone. “How’s the Yiddish going?”

“One word at a time.”

“Um, has Jazz been hanging with Darryl?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I thought she didn’t like him.”

“I don’t know, man. She’s been weird lately.”

“Hmm. Are you working tonight?”

“Yep.”

“Cool, I’ll see you later then. Let’s hang soon.” Greg hugs me and walks away mumbling vocabulary words underneath his breath.

“Wait,” he says. “I’m hungry. I came to eat something.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m a little distracted today.”

“No sweat, wild woman. It’s not your job to remind me to eat.”

Greg and the rest of the customers are gone in less than an hour. The death breath twins phase me from the floor so I can get out of this grease pit job. For me, it’s a place to make money. For them, it’s their life. I will not succumb to a meager existence of fry grease and fattening gossip to fill the bulk of my days on this earth. There is always something more. We just have to look for it.

The urge to see Sydney and break the groovy news prevails over returning to my quiet, empty pad right now. We haven’t spoken since the morning after our LSD trip and I can’t keep Led Zeppelin inside me much longer. There are some other issues taking up room now. Moral dilemmas are a real drag sometimes.

“Hello, foxy,” Sydney smiles when he opens the door.

“Are you ready for this?” I’m bursting to share the groovy news.

“Ready for what?”

“We are going to see Led Zeppelin next week at the Grande!”

“Far out. Really? I love the Grande. That place is out of this world.”

“Cool, huh? I thought you’d be excited.”

“It seems like forever since I’ve seen you,” Sydney says.

“Life has been heavy for me. Any progress with your old man yet?”

“No, I haven’t seen him. I’ve been inspired since our trip and have been working on songs.”

“No way. I’m so glad.”

“What have you been up to?” Sydney says.

“Uhhh, dealing with my insane mother. She isn’t too happy about telling me anything about my old man.”

“That’s a drag. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Other stuff, too, but I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

I collapse onto his bad and curl into the fetal position. Sydney moves in behind me to cradle me like a spoon. He’s warm and soft like laundry fresh out of the dryer.

For hours, we lay molded together like an innocent ball of love resting in the tranquil safety of our own little universe. I drift in and out of lucid dreams that carry me through scenes with my old man, images of Simon snoring in Jazz’s bed, and that sad lion. I see his regal visage in my memory and imagine marble tears falling down his polished cheeks. My unborn tears feel that heavy.

“Turn on, tune in, drop out,” Sydney whispers Leary’s words of psychedelic wisdom as if he can feel the heaviness of the world pumping through my veins.

The wrong people always want to interpret ‘drop out’ as some kind of bad, lazy, drug-induced advice, but the right people know it means to disconnect from expectations and limitations and the lines and boxes that control our lives. It has to be the mantra of our current times. How else are we going to wake up?

“All you need is love,” Sydney hums and it’s like he is replying to my inner thoughts.

“The Beatles save me sometimes,” I say.

“Music is medicine. Why do you think I have so many records?”

“Yeah, Elvis saved me from my parents and Motown saved me from myself more than once,” I laugh.

“Fuckin’ A. Let’s go out. Let’s do something fun.”

“Okay, I guess I can get out of bed. Dragonflower?” I say.

The Dragonflower is bumping and thumping like one hell of a groovy time. The Gardener isn’t at his usual spot in the front of the line because he is putting something back into the trunk of his car; like certain kinds of gardening tools, perhaps? He looks in our direction as we cross the parking lot, waving with a crowbar in his hand, and gives an expected stoic nod as he closes the trunk. I know too much information from seeing that crowbar and can’t help wondering which poor girl was just released into the night from the bowels of the infamous pimp mobile.

“Does he always have a crowbar?” Sydney says.

“Seems like it,” I say.

It’s a relief to see Greg behind the bar mixing and mingling and moving to the beats. The music is loud and the people are lively. Jazz is nowhere to be found, of course.

“Isn’t Jazz working tonight?” I ask.

“Yeah,” Greg yells over the music.

“Where is she?”

Greg’s index finger floats high into the air and points to the black glass above the dance floor. I guess I’m not that surprised. She’s on some kind of destructive mission lately.

“Man, how long has she been up there?” I say.

“Don’t know, man. I’ve been slammed down here for a while.”

“We’ll take two beers,” Sydney moves to the sofas across the room. I dig the orange one, of course. It’s probably the dirtiest because it’s been around the longest, but it’s ratty upholstery is especially charming. It could also be the copious amounts of lude associations we all have with the couch, but it’s hard to say.

I get a sudden urge to go upstairs. Sydney follows and helps me push our way through the dancing crowd. We are blocked by two anonymous dancers near a dark hallway. At first, I interpret this as a coincidence of clashing bodies and then figure it’s definitely calculated as we are blocked a second time. The men dancing near the doorway appear to be guards and they make it quite clear that no one will pass. I am totally amused by Darryl’s art of camouflage in certain aspects, even if it means my efforts are momentarily deflected.

“Back to the bar?” Sydney says.

“Hey freaks,” Jazz appears behind the bar. Her blouse is one button off of the correct alignment.

“What have you been doing?” I say.

“I was in the office.” Jazz gives me a deep stare because she knows I’m fishing. “Sorry about yesterday.”

“What about it?” I ask, even though I know exactly what she’s referring to.

“So, uh,” Greg says, “Did you know that Jewish people go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday?”

“Thanks for the breaking news,” Sydney says. Jazz conveniently moves down the bar and tends to newly seated customers. Greg pulls out his mini Yiddish book and practices some vocabulary while The Band’s song, “The Weight,” shifts the vibe down a healthy notch.

“Where’s your Yarmulke?” I say. He cocks his head and pulls it out of his back pocket. “I hope you have next Friday off. You’ve talked to Kat, right?”

“No, man, what’s going on?”

“Four words, man,” Sydney leans over the bar counter and pulls the book out of Greg’s hands. “Led Zeppelin Grande Ballroom.”

“Far out! I’m there,” Greg’s curls bounce with his enthusiasm.

“Let’s drink some wine and Day-glo each other before the show,” I say.

Fifteen minutes later, Jazz is still chatting with some customers on the other end of the bar. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but given yesterdays’ circumstances, I don’t know how to feel any other way. She can ignore me all she wants if that’s how she deals with her guilt.

“Hello Star,” a voice says behind me. I turn around to find my favorite person, Simon, and my blood begins to boil.

“How are you?” Simon says. He acts cordial and proper and it makes me loathe him more.

“Isn’t there another bar you can go to?” I hiss.

I am not amused by his presence. Not one bit. In fact, I’m so not amused by his presence that Sydney pulls me out of there before I start a riot in the club. It’s probably for the best. Between being pissed off at Valerie and Jazz, I’m in the kind of mood where my words won’t bother sparing anyone’s dignity or feelings, including mine.

We coast along Woodward Avenue towards Highland Park. It is the birth place of the 12th street riots and hometown of forgotten dreams. Abandoned buildings, broken windows, and desolate faces are wedged in between the forested streets. The aftermath of the devastation is everywhere the eye can see.

“The City of Trees is still beautiful,” I say. “Where are we going?”

“You want to piss some people off?” Sydney says. “Let out some frustration?”

“Maybe.”

Sydney howls and squeals past Puritan St. A group of people huddled inside a small chicken shack turn their heads when they hear the tires. Our presence is noted. A few blocks later, a car without headlights follows closely behind us and the sound of a gun shot echoes very quietly in the distance; like a crack of lightning almost lost to silence. The night is long, dark, and volatile and it evokes memories of the riots.

I’ll never forget the smoke and the way it made the air so hard to breathe; hanging above the city like a dark cloud of frustration and hatred. I’ll never forget the number of soldiers or the bellows of the tank engines driving down the tree lined streets; or the piercing sound of repeatedly broken windows, broken homes, and broken hearts. I’ll never forget the way all of our parents tried to act like they weren’t scared but we knew they were going ape on the inside.

“When was the last time you went to the duck pond?” Sydney says. I say nothing.

The duck pond is a beautiful place during the day for all kinds of people, offering a wide range of activities, and notorious for being a make-out spot at night. I’ll admit it and say that I’ve never been here to make-out with anyone, but it isn’t a secret why most people come here once the sun goes down. It’s not the only thing, you know, that goes down around here.

Sydney turns off Gloria’s engine so we coast into a parking spot without offending already parked cars. Nobody wants a spotlight when they’re having a ball. The fogged up windows and creaky shocks are enough. This secret code of conduct is respected again when a new car pulls in, minus the head lights, and we both start laughing at all of the bouncing cars around us.

“This is where I come when I’m frustrated,” he says.

“Where do you come when you’re not frustrated?” I say. It takes a moment for his mind to meet me in the gutter, but I know he’s there when his eyelids slightly flicker.

“Don’t you already know?” he says and then turns on the radio, flipping through the stations very quickly, frantically searching for something specific.

“What is it?”

“It’s just about 11 o’clock and that’s when this one radio station plays an hour of MC5. They’re the house band at the Grande and when I’m freaking out about something, man, I come here for an hour and listen to MC5. Do you know them?”

Sydney stops sifting through stations and sits back in his seat. Silver moonlight lights up his face. The car next to us squeaks with every bounce. He waits for me to answer but I’m momentarily lost in the moonlight.

“I don’t know them,” I remember to answer.

“They’re out of sight, you know, like raw energy going wild and free. Unroll your window and follow me.”

He turns the knob on the radio, unrolls his window and then gets out of the car. Five seconds later, a crackling, screaming voice comes out of the speakers. “Are you ready to kick out the jams, mother fuckers?” the voice goes wild and then maniacal noise pours out of Gloria’s windows. Sydney tells me to dance as hard as I can and to kick the air, punch the air, be free.

“Just let it out,” Sydney screams.

For the next hour, we beat the night like a punching bag and become vessels for maniacal energy to move through. The sentiments of MC5 are radical and anti-establishment and it’s just what I need right now. Boundless limitations come out of their liberating sound and allow me to release so much tension. I give every frustrating issue an imaginary face as I pummel the darkness. How do my knuckles feel, Vietnam?

I don’t think any of our romantic neighbors appreciate the psychotic dance party happening around them because after a few songs, the cars start pulling away one by one; a promenade of red tail lights disappearing into the night. When the last car pulls away, Sydney turns up the volume just one more notch. It is officially only our moment now.

“Do you dig it?” he screams.

“Yeah, I dig it,” I scream back.

We dance until the last song plays the last note and the radio voice speaks calmly again. I sit down in the grass to rest. Sydney joins me after he turns down the volume.

“So, what do you think your mom is hiding?”

“Good question,” I say. “Right now, I’m sick of everything.”

“I know what you mean.”

The perfect reflection of the moon breaks apart as Sydney skips a rock into the water. It skips twice and then falls below the surface. It falls with my dismal thoughts. Tonight is just right.

***

The next few days are filled with bottomless coffee refills and debating death count totals. They say the death toll is dropping but I don’t know what to believe anymore in this land of doves and hawks. Only 266 dead this week, which is far better than the 300 last week, they say. I guess it’s easier to hear the numbers when your family members aren’t included in the count or you’re really into ornithology.

Nixon just told us that he plans on withdrawing troops, finally, but in several different phases. Do we really need to wean our people from the bosom of this war? The mere thought is difficult to process, but at least the Grande Ballroom waits for us on the horizon. It seems music is our only salvation. Strawberry Hill and Day-glo paint help a lot, too. Hopefully Led Zeppelin takes it to the next level.

We all stuff into Gloria and make our way to Grand River and Beverly. I park a few blocks away in front of some decent looking houses to avoid the crowd. Everything is groovy until we get out of the car and hear a total buzz kill from the shadows.

“Give me your fucking wallet,” a man says.

A dark silhouette with a deep voice stands in the darkness. His malicious energy vibrates through the shadows. I start to freak out. I don’t know what to do. The man threatens us with a knife but the blade and his tone shake with trepidation.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Jazz says.

“Don’t make me kill you, bitch,” he stabs the air with the blade.

“Let’s get out of here. This guy is an idiot,” Jazz says. The rest of us start walking to the Grande.

“HEY!!!!” the man screams.

My heart beat thumps inside of my chest like a bass drum rattling my senses. Kat’s eyes dart back and forth as she processes hypothetical danger. Audrey puts her hand on her heart as if she’s trying to reverse a panic attack. Sydney stands a few steps ahead of the group, on guard, and Greg stands at the rear of our entourage for back-up.

“What did I fucking say?” the man says.

Jazz puts up her fists and runs straight into the shadows. The rest of us are completely stunned and still. We hear grunting, punching, kicking, a few gasps for air, and then a high pitched scream. Adrenaline kicks in and, just as I start walking to the madness, Jazz pops out of the bushes with tousled hair, a bloody nose, and scuffed up knees.

“Let’s go,” Jazz says. She wipes her nose like a 250 pound jock and shrugs her shoulders at the sight of her own blood.

“Biiitchiiinnn’,” Greg says.

“Who was that?” Kat asks.

“Some panty waist with bad timing,” Jazz spits out some blood.

An eclectic crowd of all ages and fashions hang out on the sidewalk near the entrance to the Grande. Bitchin’ vibes pour out the front door smelling like reefer and patchouli. The energy is so alive I can feel it like electricity on my skin.

“Are you ready to make history?” Sydney says.

The air inside is thick and hot and the crowd is a sea of heads, groovy teens, Princeton cuts, punks, business men, and a hodgepodge of ethnicities. People are barefoot, shirtless, out of their minds in a psychedelic world, passing joints and bottles of Boone’s in the open like there are no cops, no boundaries, and no limitations.

We follow the sound of music up a large staircase. The ascent is coated with hungry couples making out. The mixture of incense and dope smoke becomes so dense we get a second hand high as we reach the top step. A girl on roller skates misses my toes by a millimeter as she flies by on her slick wheels, and a man with a snake on his shoulders smiles at us like he knows we are neophytes to this ballroom culture.

The smooth wood floor glistens underneath our feet and the arched corridors—supported by white and gold spiraled columns—are reminiscent of Spanish-Moroccan palaces of the past. It is antique royalty and poise juxtaposed with raw, untamed, fascinating mayhem. I wonder if this is what heaven is like, and if so, I can dig it.

We are in awe staring at the sea of faces through the grandiose columns; feeling gripped by the intense smells and the kindred vibrations. It is history in the making and I think everyone else knows it, too, because we all have the same smirk on our faces.

Jazz and Audrey disappear into the crowd. Greg and Kat find seats outside the main floor to continue some boring Yiddish dialogue from the car ride. It isn’t long before the energy of the dance floor pulls me into the sea of dreams.

A large, floral proscenium hangs above what looks like the stage but all I can see is thousands of heads from this far back in the crowd. Sydney stops to listen to the wacky sounds of Sun Ra bursting through the air and I continue pushing my way through the packed dance floor. Sun Ra’s music is, well, complicated, encouraging only the innovative or intoxicated to groove along, so it’s not hard to wiggle my way into the center of this bitchin’ madness.

I stop in front of a woman whose face is glowing with yellow and pink Day-glo paint like she is a psychedelic warrior, smiling, and staring at the wall above our heads. Curiosity lures me in the direction of her gaze only to find a trippy projection of crawling pictures decorating the wall—oozing and morphing like oils and liquids of different colors.

“Sooo, what do you think?” Sydney says.

“Far out. What’s on that side?”

“Watch out,” He yells and tries to save me from walking like a spaz right into a full sized claw-foot bathtub that just happens to be sitting in the middle of the ballroom dance floor. I mean, I think I’m totally hallucinating until my kneecaps register the pain of crashing into the ceramic tub and it hurts like hell. Fuckin’ A. I’m not amused by Sydney’s amusement as he laughs at me.

Two beautiful brunettes sit in the empty tub bathing in laughter and black light like sirens wading in the Grande’s spirit. They don’t even notice me slamming into their porcelain vehicle because they are obviously high on something good.

“Hey man, do you want some Visine?” One of the brunettes leans over, holding the tiny bottle, and then falls back into her tub of mirth—splashing the giggles around like a small child at bath time, except without the obligatory rubber ducky.

“This stuff is far out, man,” the other brunette laughs, also holding a bottle of Visine. Their mood is severely contagious.

“Let’s get closer to the stage,” Sydney says.

The guy with the snake gets on stage and begins testing the crowd for more energy. Without much coercion on his part, the audience gives more and more; like a riot for music and groovy times and, most of all, freedom. We are all open in this moment of sticky, thick air, and deafening speakers, and our hearts beat to the same alternative drum. We are united in the name of the Grande Ballroom.

“Where’s MC5?” I say.

“I guess they don’t play every night. Maybe next time.”

Sydney lights up a joint and passes it to me. As I inhale, the ambiance finally settles into my relaxed soul. Jazz, Audrey, Kat, and Greg manage to locate us in the crowd of all the stinky, patchouli perspiring, grass coughing, groovy heads.

“Did you find some chutzpa?” I laugh.

“I think we’re going to start studying together and going to Temple, if you must know,” Kat says.

“Yeah, man, don’t make me call you a shiksa!” Greg says.

“Did you see the crazy girls in the bathtub?” Audrey says. “They gave me Visine.”

“Wow, man, is that code for LSD?” Greg says.

“No, I didn’t eat it. I put it on my face.” Audrey tilts her head back so we can see Visine patterns picking up the black light like tribal designs surrounding her eyes.

“I like the guy with the snake,” Jazz says.

The lights go down and the crowd takes a simultaneous breath before four pairs of bell-bottoms and insane hair walk onto the stage. The first pound of the drum cracks something inside of my psyche that loosens me up and hooks me instantly into their groove. I look around and see that everyone else is diggin’ the same vibe and we are officially at the mercy of pure musical power.

The crowd freaks out as Jimmy Page bends notes, wails away on the guitar—pulling on emotional and psychological strings like he is leading us somewhere unexplainable but amazing. I watch Plant intensely as he leans into the microphone and sings with all of his guts and soul, spewing out revolutionary ideas with an unrefined tone.

The guy with the snake passes us in the crowd, staring at Jazz, like he knows she was talking about him earlier. He looks at her and then continues onto the dressing room at the side of the stage. It’s only seconds before she follows him and disappears into the thick smoke curling around the mass of bodies in the room.

The rocking sounds vibrate below our feet and the floor feels like it is loaded with springs. Everyone dances—somehow, some way—and no one cares what they look like because Led Zeppelin doesn’t care either, man. The music bounces on the walls like trampolines for noise and it adds an extra groovy effect once it falls back down into the crowd. We are experiencing a musical rapture, and at this very moment, we believe in the gods of music. Maybe angels really do sing rock and roll.

A random tap on the shoulder pulls me slightly out of my trance and then a bottle of Boone’s comes from a stranger standing behind me. I take a sip and try to pass it back to him, but he insists with hand gestures that I continue passing it along, so I move closer to Sydney and place his hand on the cold bottle. He takes a huge gulp and finishes the last of the bottle in one, long shot.

Many more bottles go hand in hand through the crowd and we are definitely on the road to communal inebriation. Greg and Audrey stand on either side of Kat, holding her hands, staring like they are possessed. Kat pays no mind to their romantic gazing because she is too busy wondering which band member is possibly Jewish. I don’t actually know that is what she’s thinking, but by the calculating look in her eyes, it’s not a completely ridiculous assumption.

The mood changes when Jimmy Page kicks it down a notch and Robert Plant starts screaming the blues. Languid movements, sexy noises, droplets of sweat falling off thousands of bodies, and the crowd goes into sensual overdrive.

“Lude?” Greg yells in our direction with several pills in his palm.

I take two and then tell Sydney to open his mouth. A large, mischievous smile parts his lips and then he sticks out his tongue. The emeralds twinkle like freshly polished gems seeking admiration. I am so gone.

Sydney grabs my waist and starts dancing slow and dirty—grinding me like he’s making love to the music through my body. I melt into his pelvic movements immediately, grasping the nape of his neck, and throw my head back as I release all inhibitions. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” pulsates through the crowd, and soon, everyone is dancing like us; making love to the music through our physical, intimate bodies.

“Look,” Sydney says.

Greg and Audrey have Kat sandwiched between them as they grind each side of her like they are schmearing their shticks all up and down her legs. I am truly surprised that she appears to be enjoying the attention. In fact, she looks like she’s getting off on it.

Who knew the night would turn out so, ahem, satisfying for everyone?

Led Zeppelin shifts us through a roller coaster of moods. Kat, Greg, and Audrey move through the crowd to a place that is more suitable for their love-in. Sydney wanders off, too, and then it’s just me and the guy we’ve been passing Boone’s and joints back and forth with.

“This show is far out, man,” he says. “It’s so nice to be home.”

“Where have you been?” I say.

“I just got back from Nam, man.”

“Brother, I’m glad you’re home.”

“Me too. I thought I was coming home in a body bag.”

“How did you get discharged?”

“I went crazy.”

“Did you really?”

“I’m not sure anymore. It’s not hard to go crazy over there.”

The lights go up and the rock and roll angels parade off the stage; marching into the dressing room before a large percentage of the crowd tries to stuff into the doorway behind them. The girl on roller skates whips past me again—her shiny hair parallel to the ground—and then circles around one of the majestic pillars before she launches herself across the glistening wood floor.

I find Kat, Audrey and Greg on a random couch draped all over each other obviously exhausted from exchanging so much sexual energy. I don’t know what other drugs Greg convinced them to take. Right now, he’s definitely some kind of sex god.

“Man, the show was out of this world,” Greg says.

“You guys ready to split? I’m starving,” I say.

The temperature of the air drops as we get closer to the front door. Outside, the Visine girls stumble around on the sidewalk like slap happy kids offering the secrets of the world from tiny plastic bottles. The night air is cold and refreshing on my sticky skin. I think the smell of patchouli is burned into my nostrils for life now.

There is no sign of Jazz or Sydney. It isn’t until we get through the crowd and then I see them down the street. Sydney grabs her hand and she pulls it away madly. He tries a second time and she retracts again. I try to keep the ugliness of jealousy from rearing its stupid head, that is, until Sydney opens his arms and wraps them around her.

I bolt for Gloria and assume that the rest of the gang will follow. Right now all I care about is getting some food and going to bed. The other stuff can go to hell.

“What’s the plan, man?” Jazz says.

“Coney,” I say.

“American?” Kat says.

“Man, you go to American?” Greg says. “I’ve never met one of you before.”

“Let’s take a vote,” Sydney says. “Who wants to go to American?”

“There’s no vote. We go to Lafayette,” I snap.

No one seems to mind my decision making, and at this point, I don’t really care if they do. Greg and the ladies squeeze into the backseat like sardines in a can reeking of salty incense. They laugh and chatter about the recent events so loudly that I can barely hear the stewing anger inside my head. Sydney sits silently in the passenger seat. I wonder if he can feel the distance spreading between us like a big, gaping hole. Something about it feels so vacant. Is there a sign I should turn on now?

Are you Good enough?

In these times of humanity, what have you realized?  What have you been thinking about?  What are you doing?  And most importantly. . .

WHO THE @!$% ARE YOU?

Mother Nature has made the call.  She is forcing us to go within.  She is telling us to look in the mirror.

So, do you like what you see?

For the past eight months, I have been in a quarantine of sorts.  Not because I’ve been socially isolated or having to decide what “essentials” are, but because I’ve been in a vortex of self-reflection.

Some days have been liberating.

Some days have been debilitating.

Some days are just like skipping along a forest path and giving zero fucks about anything other than the blissful sunshine.

But, that’s life, isn’t it?!

When we go within, we can discover all kinds of surprises.  Patterns that have carved deep grooves into our psyche, thoughts that don’t serve us, belief systems that fail if we look deep into their core, and sometimes, there’s an awakening.

What is your awakening?

The awakening comes when we figure out what has caused the patterns, what has enabled toxic relationships, what has allowed us to tolerate circumstances that we actually don’t like, what are our boundaries and limitations if we really, truly, just listen to our heart-songs and hear nothing but that little person screaming deep within our soul.

Have you been listening?

In my life, I have found myself in situations that don’t serve me.  I have loved people that don’t deserve me.  I have done things I don’t understand. I have forgiven the unforgivable.  I have mastered the inconceivable.  I have loved others more than I’ve loved myself.

And I’ve survived it all, which is great, because I’m a survivor.

But, why?

That is the awakening.

It is also the healing.

Screenshot_20200505-234626

Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to be liked.  I have always wanted to be accepted.  I have always wanted to be loved.  These notions are all part of the human condition that we’re all trying to master, but what I’ve realized is that somewhere, somehow, before I can even remember, I lost myself.

Maybe it happened in a previous life, maybe it’s karma, maybe it’s my genetics, or maybe there was some trauma that triggered this pattern within the patchwork of my soul.

If we can recognize our patterns, we can grow, we can heal, we can be better people, we can relate to others and ourselves in a whole different way.  We can even be found.

But, patterns are like allergies, and more often than not, we crave those things that we are actually allergic to.  We become too used to the adrenaline, or the sugar rush, or the stress hormones, or the makeup sex and suddenly dis-ease becomes normal.  Dis-ease becomes what we crave and we don’t even realize it.

Do you know what your patterns are?

Because I lost myself, I didn’t love myself.  Because I didn’t love myself, I got stuck for decades in a pattern of trying to convince people to love me.  I always found the haters challenging.  I had so much love to give, so why not turn them around?  Why not show them so much love that they will reciprocate and finally SEE me?  Why not try to teach these dark beings that love conquers all?  I am love, after all, and I have so much love to give out into the universe.

This abandonment of self enabled risky decisions, sometimes even put me in bad situations, made me friends with people I shouldn’t be friends with, and slowly chipped away at whatever crumbs I had left of any love for myself.  Like a vicious cycle, as patterns are, I kept running around and around giving out all my love to “friends” and lovers over the years and never realized that if I just really, truly loved myself, I shouldn’t need to convince anyone else to feel that way.  It wouldn’t even matter.

Then it hit me, I have been doing things the wrong way for a long time.

Instead of starting with myself and emanating that deep love, I tried to give it out first to get it back.  I was essentially giving myself for free for what?  To feel loved?  To feel validated?  To feel accepted?  But I wasn’t anything except borrowed and spent.  No love coming back to me and nothing left to conceive of giving to myself.

FB_IMG_1573008350042

When we don’t love ourselves, we don’t know our own self-worth!

When we don’t know our own self-worth, we invite bad energy into our aura.  We invite bad people into our hearts.  We invite opportunities to be taken advantage of, deceived, and manipulated.  We invite reasons to not love ourselves.

After too many years inside this deep pattern, I found myself asking the same question again and again–with oceans of tears and on the brink of insanity. . .

“Why am I not good enough?”

Each time I would wonder what I was doing wrong, what did I need to change about myself, how could I be good enough to make the other person happy?  But, the funny thing is, I never cared about my own feelings, and the more I did that, the more I was called selfish.  That’s something, isn’t it?!  I was my own worst enemy.

Screenshot_20200521-171752

Relationships are reflections.  Whether it is platonic or romantic, we are mirrors for each other.  If I don’t love myself, then I invite others to disrespect me.  Narcissists are like moths to a flame if you don’t know your own self-worth.  Don’t give them a comfy place to lounge around in or else they will do it, happily, and the pattern continues.

Suddenly, after loops of thoughts deconstructing all these years I’ve spent wondering why I’m not good enough, I have realized that the people who reflect that sentiment DO NOT REFLECT LOVE, which in turn, does not reflect self-love.

The real question all of these years should’ve been:

Are YOU good enough?

In the dawn of this awakening, I have realized that I am on a path of deep healing.  I surround myself with people who reflect self-love, self-respect, and self-worth.  I don’t need any other reflections deterring me from the love I have inside myself and for myself.

If you are ever finding yourself in situations that question your own self-worth, just remember:

YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH! 

Screenshot_20200521-193518

*I don’t own rights to these pics.  They are just beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wish Bathers, Chapter Five

Do Rubber Band hot dogs really Exist?

Chapter Five

“Hey honey bunch, are you going to sleep all day?” Sydney says. My eyes flick open at the speed of light due to the strange sounds traveling into my ears like an annoying alarm clock that won’t go away.

“Honey bunch?” I say.

“Norman says it’s time for breakfast.”

“Norman?”

“Maybe you didn’t like those books,” Sydney scratches the top of his head as if he is solving the most complicated math equation. “Anyway, Plum Street is waiting for us. Thanks for letting me crash here last night,” he pulls me out of bed and into his gracious arms. I half forget that I’m naked or maybe I just don’t care.

“No problem. I have a weakness for red headed strays on my doorstep.” I get lost inside those damned lash traps again and try to send smoke signals from my brainwaves to invite the uniting of our lips, but it doesn’t work.

“Let’s get a move on this day, beautiful.” Sydney releases his embrace and heads for the living room.

“Honey Bunch and Norman, right, got it. Does that mean we can’t fuck?” Sydney stops in the doorway and turns around to look at me.

“What?” he says.

At this point, all I can do is smile. I know he heard me. He knows he heard me. Now what?

Silence ticks away increasingly louder as the wall clock thumps through the seconds. Sydney holds his stance in the doorway and studies my eye contact intensely. His unwavering stare is passionate and present, never indulgent of my bare skin buffet, and his demeanor glimmers like a late, golden, fall sun.

“You’re confusing,” I say.

“Man, I am confused,” he pushes me down onto the bed.

“Please tell me you’re not queer.”

“What are you asking?”

“Just kiss me,” I pull him close and then, for the next two hours, we ball. It’s experimental, it’s raw, it’s completely uninhibited and totally free; in the grooviest of ways, of course.

“You are wild,” he says.

“Did you get some LSD?”

“That’s why we have to go to Plum Street. I know this guy, Country.”

“Country?” I ask.

“Exactly,” Sydney jumps up, turns on the radio, and dances naked around my room—shaking and gyrating his man parts and exposed crevices like a comical mating ritual. It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

“So, next time you do that dance can you put on your fringe vest?”

“Anything else?”

“No, just the vest.”

When we get outside, Sydney’s raging smile is infectious to every passerby on the street. He walks in such a relaxed way that his body moves like the ground is Jell-O and his good vibes bump into each consecutive person that passes us—striking their psyche for a fleeting second, which is visible when their eyes widen momentarily. I am a few steps behind him silently reveling in the intoxicating vibe of our afterglow.

In the back of my mind I wonder if this energetic elevation will eventually fade and become awkward, but in the forefront I see nothing but free love and fun. The sexual revolution is cherry like that. We can just be, you know, and ball, and it’s all about the freedom to experience.

I am startled when Sydney grabs my hand and pulls me into running speed. We take off down the sidewalk, joined by a knot of fists, like little kids racing to an imaginary destiny. A few seconds later, he gives me a big grin and then yells, “Now skip!”

We start skipping like we’re off to see the wizard, eventually singing like Dorothy and the gang as they journey to the Emerald City, or in this case, Plum Street. Sydney’s grin widens and then he yells, “Fly like a bird!” and we break apart, our arms becoming white dove wings and we are flying for peace and love. I lose control because I can’t stop laughing.

I crash land on the same bench we shared with Carmelita. Sydney flies over and lands next to me.

“Am I having déjà vu?” he says.

“If you are, it means you’re on the right path.”

“Who said that?”

“Me.”

“And what else do you say?”

“I guess you’ll have to keep listening to find out.”

“Uh huh, let’s go. We’re almost there.”

“I’m ready, man,” I jump up, spread my arms, and fly down the sidewalk.

Plum Street is half bustling with bums and freaks and broken windows, but the sun is shining and our kundalini energy is unraveling towards the unknown journey that awaits us. Thick incense smoke curls out of the door of one head shop as we pass by. It sounds like an Indian temple with sitar music blaring from inside. The guy behind the cash register looks like Jerry Garcia.

Sydney stops next to the head shop at a bright pink and green staircase. Sensations of the temple fade as we reach the top of the stairs and a perfectly white door with a polished gold knocker guards whatever lies beyond this point. Sydney gives me a silly look and then grabs the knocker. He bangs the door in a pattern like a secret code.

The door swings open and a tall, blonde, chiseled man stands in front of us. He has an embroidered tunic hanging from his stature like a holy man’s robe and an enormous piece of amber swinging on his chest. I can’t help but stare at the glowing amber.

“Sydney, man, it’s good to see you,” he says with arms wide open.

“This is Star,” Sydney says.

“Righteous. I’m Country. Welcome.” His hand glides through the air and points to a purple couch in the next room.

“Got any groovy medicine?” Sydney says.

“Man, my guy just brought me some really good shit—like pure LSD, man.”

“Righteous. That’s what I wanted to hear.”

“How much do you want?”

“Four hits.”

“Twenty bucks, man.” They make the exchange and then Sydney tells me to stick out my tongue. I do, of course, and he places a piece of paper on the tip and then feeds himself an identical portion.

“Let it dissolve for a few seconds and then swallow,” Sydney says.

“Do you always talk to the ladies like this, Norman?” I know I should get my mind out of the gutter, but wait, should I? A wise person once told me that we must never ‘should’ ourselves. I think that definitely proves I am just fine walking through the gutter on a sunny day and enjoying the view.

“I hope you two have a great journey,” Country sparks up a thick joint.

“Hey Country?” I say.

“What’s on your mind, sister?”

“Is that really your name?”

“Funny you should ask, Star.”

“Good point. So, how long does this stuff take to work?”

“It’s hard to say, maybe an hour, but you will know when it does,” Country smiles and side glances Sydney like they share a funny secret that I am not privy to.

One joint later, but who really knows how long, we are peeling ourselves off of the purple sofa and heading on our way to a magical destiny.

“Later, man,” Sydney says.

“Peace,” Country waves.

“So, are you feeling anything yet?” Sydney wonders about me.

“I don’t think so, but were these colors this vibrant before?” The green and pink colors painted down the staircase feel so intense, as if their volume is turned on high like neon lights, and there is an underlying buzz of electricity that hums inside the brightness. A butterfly of excitement flutters inside the middle of my chest when I feel the colors surrounding me like warm, happy, vibrations. I’m sure the look on my face gives it all away.

“This is going to be fun,” Sydney says.

I get lost in the shifting colors and feel like I am riding an escalator down through the guts of a ripe watermelon. It’s weird and cool and pretty far out, actually. I haven’t felt this good in awhile.

“Wow! Do you smell that?” I say.

“What?”

“Watermelon, man. This is far out.”

Sydney waits for me at the bottom of the staircase with the most satisfied look on his face. I know he’s entertained by me. It’s cool. I’m entertained by myself, too. Suddenly, I get attacked by uncontrollable laughter.

“Come on, cutie,” Sydney holds out his hand.

I feel confused and slightly disoriented. The ambiance of the head shop is confronting for multiple senses. Jerry Garcia smiles behind the cash register. We pass the open door to the store in what seems like slow motion. Time morphs. My super sonic hearing kicks in when I notice one miniscule drop of sweat fall from Jerry’s face and hit the counter. It echoes like it’s the only noise in the room as it splashes onto the glass by his elbow.

“Where are we going?” I say.

“You tell me.”

“Tell you what?” I start giggling again.

“You cool?” Sydney sits down on top of a red mushroom with white spots. It stands about two feet high and appears animated.

“I’m great but that mushroom is huge,” I start laughing and then realize it’s one of the trash cans painted like a cartoon mushroom. “Crazy shit, man.”

“Yeah, woman. Let’s keep walking.” Sydney loops his arm around mine and takes charge of our awaiting adventure.

The morning sun is alive and rising for the afternoon. Sydney and I walk with linked arms like two, silent, happy bubbles floating along the psychedelic breeze. An overwhelming sense of calmness possesses me into a surreal state of clarity and I feel at peace with the world and the universe and just being with Sydney. Everything starts to make perfect sense until we hit Michigan Avenue like slamming into a brick wall. It’s loud and busy and I start to get a little uncomfortable.

“If we go that way,” Sydney points, “We’ll make it to Belle Isle.”

“Isn’t Belle Isle far from here?”

“Do you have an appointment today? Don’t worry. We won’t walk the entire way, but if you want to get into semantics, it’s only about five or six miles from here.”

“Semantics? Whoa, I feel funny.”

“Me too. Let’s jam,” he whistles so loudly every head within a mile of us turns in our direction, I think. A cab missing hub caps pulls up and we get in. The inside of the car smells like fried chicken, curry, and mold all wrapped up into one pungent concoction. I don’t like it at all.

“Where?” The cab driver says.

“Belle Isle, please,” Sydney says.

Watching the approaching traffic through the windshield is a strange thing. It’s like watching a movie for a moment and then the cars seem like they’re space ships and it feels like we’re flying in space, too. This is a little unsettling at first and then it’s just fucking hilarious.

“Did you see that?” I buckle over and laugh hysterically.

“Is she okay, man?” The cab driver says. I keep laughing.

“Oh yeah, she’s just a happy person,” Sydney says.

We get out of the cab in front of the infamous fountain and I am bombarded by images of Darryl—soaking wet, crying mercy to the stars—and a few tears well up inside my eyes and descend from my cheekbone down to the ground. A few seconds later, I am moving on and twirling to the fountain like I am Leslie Caron in a green dress dancing to Gershwin. There are no other people in sight and it’s like we have the whole island to ourselves.

The bottom of the fountain pool sparkles in the sunlight from random wishes that have been tossed in over time. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful before. Sydney sits down on the white marble and dunks his hand in the water.

“Wishes are beautiful, aren’t they?” I say.

“Wishes, yes.”

“What do you wish?”

“I want to be a songwriter. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, you know. My old man thinks I am being stupid if I talk about it, so I keep it to myself. He refuses to know about it and instead wants me to work at the shop.”

“I would love to hear your songs sometime.”

“Thanks. I love sharing when I get the opportunity. I’m not much of a performer but I do like the words.”

“You know, your old man means well.”

“I don’t know about that. He threatens disowning me a lot, man.”

“I guess I don’t know what that feels like.”

I wonder if it is better to have an old man that threatens you or not have one at all. I never realized how estranged I feel about so many things in life until my confession at the bed-in. Not knowing my father has left so much uncharted territory in my world. It makes me realize I don’t really know much of anything at all.

“Where is your old man?”

“I have no idea. My mother never said much about him while I was growing up. I just know that whatever happened between them caused her a lot of pain.”

“Do you want to find him someday?”

“Maybe.”

“Do you think he’s dead?”

“I don’t know but I suppose anything is possible. I think you should keep writing and prove your old man wrong. I know you can do it.”

“I hate having to hide my dreams from him because in every other way we are very close. He can be so rigid sometimes, you know. He actually thinks that songwriting is for women.”

“What?”

“I know. So old school, man.”

“Well, let’s make a wish right now,” I say.

I get two nickels out of my purse and hand one to Sydney. I kiss my nickel before throwing it into the water. Sydney crosses his chest and throws his silver coin into the air. Two consecutive splashes later, our wishes are cast into the marbled depths below. It is cathartic to watch them sink.

“Where do you think the wishes go?” Sydney takes off his shoes, rolls up his pants, and puts both feet over the edge into the water. “I mean, eventually, someone has to clear them out, right, because otherwise there would be too much change.”

“What a horrible job—being a wish cleaner,” I say while the idea still bends my mind. “I’d rather be a wish bather. Like instead of a fountain of youth a fountain of wishes. It would be like bathing in groovy vibes, you know?!”

“Haha. Groovy.” Sydney kicks his feet and splashes water. The rippling effect forms an intriguing pattern that continuously blends into another sequential pattern.

“Kick the water again,” I laugh.

“Wow.”

“I know.”

In this juvenile moment, I feel very connected to Sydney. It’s probably the insane chemicals I have floating around in my body, but I have this overpowering sense that we have a divine connection and purpose. I wonder if he thinks the same way. I don’t need to ask. I just feel so at peace with everything, man, and I love it.

“Is it getting hot?” Sydney says.

“I think so.”

“I still don’t see anyone here,” he looks around a few times and then jumps into the water. I am totally inspired to jump in. After a few rounds of splashing, my legs turn into a long, glimmering mermaid tail and I feel a mystical power moving through me. I leave Sydney to swim around. I find a friendly turtle floating in the sun.

“Hey, ma’am, where did you come from?” the turtle says.

“Over there,” I point to the downtown skyline across the river.

“But how did you get here?” the turtle says.

“Magic.”

“You are a beautiful creature,” the turtle says.

“And you are a kind turtle. Who’s that guy up there?” I point to the lion sitting above the turtles on another tier of marble.

“That is Roy. He’s grumpy today,” the turtle says.

I swim past many more turtles before I find my way back to Sydney. He’s floating with arms and legs spread wide smiling at the sun. I feel like this particular part of the pool is a safe haven from life’s demons, and maybe even, lions. The silence in the air turns into angelic arias that weave above our heads like golden, Celtic designs. The clouds are the puffiest marshmallows I’ve ever seen.

“Sydney?” I say. I gently move my hands under his head and cradle his thoughts like a precious stone resting in my joined palms.

“Hiiiiii.”

“I can feel the thoughts inside your head right now.”

“Really? What do they feel like?”

“Warm, electric,” I laugh at the notion.

“This is a good journey,” he flips over and sits up, facing me. “You are an interesting chick.”

“Um, I would kiss you right now but I don’t know if it will freak me out, so maybe it’s not a good idea,” I say.

“Freak you out?”

“Well, you know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t.”

“How long will this last?” I say.

“It could last a long time,” Sydney says.

“What is a long time?”

“Wait, are you talking about the trip?”

“Yeah, man, what are you thinking?”

“It can last twelve hours sometimes.”

I look into Sydney’s eyes again. His lash traps are doing that thing they always do. It usually makes me feel a little uncomfortable, but in this state, I feel fine. I think his eyes are so totally dreamy, dammit. Help me.

“Hello,” a strange voice speaks. Sydney and I look at each other with baffled eyes because we know the voice is neither of ours.

“Hello?” I say.

“Hey, up here,” the voice says.

“Uh, God?” Sydney says.

“I ain’t no God, son, just an old marble lion,” the statue above our heads speaks as water flows out of his mouth.

“Oh, hello, Roy,” I say.

“Roy is on the other side. He’s the grumpy one. My name is Hercules,” the statue says.

“Well, hello Hercules,” Sydney says.

“May I ask you a question,” Hercules says.

“Go ahead,” I say.

“Well, for many years I have sat here and watched the city from afar. A long time ago, we had visitors with happy faces and children making wishes. Not so long ago, I watched the city blazing with flames and screaming with sirens. I couldn’t see exactly what was going on but I could feel the pain and the struggle. Now, the city looks sad and quiet and we don’t get as many wishes. It can be very lonely,” Hercules says.

“The riots,” I say.

Memories explode inside my retinas. Flames and screams move around in my ears and the pain aches in my bones so deep down. These memories will keep the riots echoing in eternity as a constant reminder of what we can overcome. A constant reminder to keep hoping for the best in people, in situations, and for our beloved city.

“Riots?” Hercules says.

“Yes, that’s what you’re talking about. A couple years ago there was a war in the city. A war of hate and color. Some people left the area. Some of us struggle to stay and survive now. It’s vulnerable and tough in the city but it’s still got a lot of soul,” Sydney says.

“I can feel it and if I wasn’t stuck here I would do something about it,” Hercules looks down at his marble paws. “A tricky situation, isn’t it?”

“You do have a great view,” I say.

The marble lion lets out a long sigh, and just a few moments later, Hercules is hard as marble again and there are no remnants of his vitality. I look at Sydney, he looks at me, and we both know it’s time to split. Plus, all the good vibes bathing has pressed into my fingers and made them look like prunes.

“I think I was baptized at least three times today,” Sydney says.

“I know what you mean.”

“Back to my pad?” he wiggles his eyebrows.

“Yes.”

Sydney’s pad seems just right for now. My buzz is past the peak but it’s still there. The clock on the wall reminds me that time can exist and I calculate that it’s been about six hours since we were sitting in Country’s apartment. It seems like light years and seconds morphing together as if time could just be a rubber band stretching and shrinking over and over. I hope I never forget this rubber band time in all of my rubber band years. Or Hercules.

Sydney attacks the record spines with his thumb while I stare at good ol’ Babs. The cat like eyeliner and the angles of her facial bone structure persuade me to believe she is definitely elfin. I never noticed before but now it seems so obvious.

“Do you remember what you said on my bed last night?” I say.

“Not really. Was it bad?” Sydney says. We stare at the crazy poster for awhile.

“It was heaviness about not being able to do something anymore, and then you passed out.”

“Shit, sorry, man. I came to your place after I had a huge fight with my folks.”

“Cool. I was a little concerned. Is everything fine now?”

“No, you know, but hopefully the gap is getting thinner.”

“What do you think? Elfin?” I point to Babs.

“Do Jewish Elves exist?” he says.

“Do Irish Mexicans exist?” I laugh.

Sydney disappears into the kitchen. A very soft drum beat comes from some place behind me. At first, I think it’s a record playing, but then figure out I am mistaken when I see the turntable empty. An Otis Redding album sits next to the player waiting for Sydney to return. I hope he does.

Boom. Boom-boom. Boom. Boom-boom. The drum beat is relentless but so very quiet. I follow the noise above the stacks of records and find nothing but the Dali poster. It’s mesmerizing. The colors are vibrant and the image is fascinating to me in this state.

The drum beat becomes progressively louder as I scan the perimeters of the picture. The fine lines drawn seem to be hovering a millimeter above the paper, breathing. Boom. Boom-boom. Boom. Boom-boom. The center of the picture vibrates with every beat, and as I look closer, I realize that the people in the painting are dancing to the same sound. I become infected with their primal groove.

Suddenly, I am there with them, dancing gods and goddesses, and we are so free. Flailing limbs, echoing chants, expressing ourselves with the music in our souls. I am a wild woman pounding the ground with my passionate feet, stomping the earth so it can feel my intentions and hear my cries. Each strand of my hair becomes fiery flames adorning my head like Medusa’s snakes. Sweat and passion rip off my clothes and the drum beat guides the cosmic power inside of me. I am primal fear turning into primal love.

“Hey, are you hungry?” Sydney’s voice breaks my trance like nails on a chalkboard.

“Not really.”

“You haven’t eaten all day. Your body needs nourishment, my dancing goddess.”

“You saw me dancing?”

“I saw more than that.”

“Sydney, do you think my father is looking for me?”

“Yes. Do you think my old man will relax?”

“I know he will. You just have to help open his mind.”

“Try this.” Sydney hands me a slice of a juicy pear. The flavor and texture are out of sight.

“This is the best pear I’ve ever had.” I moan.

“Yeah, man, I know.”

Many hours go by while Sydney and I lounge on the floor and stare at the ceiling together. We bounce ideas around like ping-pong mind games and toss around shared visuals like a game of catch. It’s funny and liberating and so free of expectations. I could go on forever in a world like this.

Eventually, dusk seeps in through the window, dimming our reality, and reminds us that the day keeps moving forward. Time stops for no one. Not even two red-headed freaks wearing their birthday suits.

“Will you put on your vest?” I say.

“Anything else?”

“No, just the vest.”

Sydney finds his fringed friend and puts it on like a slow strip tease in reverse. He walks with a purpose over to the Otis Redding record and slides it back into a stack, promising a loud to return to it again. A few minutes later, he pulls out a new record and turns around.

“Are you ready for this?” he points his index fingers in the air just as the first note travels through the speakers, like he controls the music with his hands. The funky melodies of ‘Hair’ fill the apartment and I am humbled and amused while watching Sydney dance around the room—the fringe swishing like extensions of his personality dangling in the effortlessness of fun.

***

I kiss Sydney on the forehead and leave him snoring like a baby in bed. I feel slightly sad to leave him before he wakes but I have too many things on my mind to let another day melt into the horizon, even if the day is accompanied by ballin’ and groovy conversation.

I walk over to Jazz and Audrey’s pad. Their apartment building is completely representative of the architecture around the city. Tall, red, and white brick walls filled with carefully crafted arches around windows and doorways that make even the passerby bums feel like royalty when they try to walk inside. Next door is a classic Tudor Revival home fully equipped with sparkling cars in the driveway and a fountain percolating in the front yard. At first glance, I think Palmer Woods might have a runaway, but then I realize it’s not quite that nice.

A tall man dressed in a fancy, gray suit with shiny, black, Ferragamo shoes closes Jazz and Audrey’s door. He nods at me and continues on his way. His class and grace is exhibited by the angle of his jaw.

“Good morning,” I knock on the door. Audrey opens it and yawns. “Who was that bourgeois white guy?”

“That white guy is my old man, sister,” Audrey says.

“Oh, sorry. Is Jazz home?”

“Yeah, she’s in bed. I’m going back to sleep. You have fun.” Audrey leaves the door open and walks back to her bedroom.

“Hey blondie!” I say.

“Huh?” Greg’s head pops out of her covers.

“Greg?” I yell.

I am totally confused. Jazz sits up like a crack of lightning. Truthfully, I don’t really care who the hell is ballin’ who around me, but don’t come knocking on my door preaching love for the person you are not ballin’. It’s just not integral, or something. I don’t know.

“Oh, Star, hey!” She bites the corner of her lip and shrugs her shoulders like she’s explaining everything by taking passive responsibility in silence. Things always just happen to her.

“Don’t sweat it, man,” Greg says.

“No, it’s cool. I thought you were into Kat,” I say.

“I am, you know,” Greg says.

“Uh huh,” I say.

“Well, ladies, I think I’m going to split so you can have some girl time,” Greg says.

Greg gets out of bed and frantically searches for his clothes. It’s sort of funny watching him hop around naked. His awkward movements make me so glad it’s not me under pressure with my genitalia swinging around.

There’s a loud knock on the door. I decide to follow Greg, and when I open the door, a beautiful black woman with a half-smile stands erect and proud on the doorstep. She does not seem lost.

“Is my daughter around?” the black woman says.

“Hi, I’m Penelope.”

“Hello, my name is Josephine. Audrey is my daughter.”

“Ma, what are you doing here this early?” Audrey yawns.

“Girl, look at your hair. There ain’t nothin’ good about it. At least he could’ve given you something,” Josephine shakes her head as she picks into Audrey’s fro.

“Woman, stop touching my hair. It’s too early.”

“Can you please ask your father for some money? I am behind on rent.”

“Yeah, ma, I’ll ask him,” Audrey says.

Josephine dusts off her outfit, nods her head, and then vanishes again. The abrupt, curt, and unfriendly encounter makes me think maybe my mother isn’t so bad after all. I suddenly feel terrible for Audrey. Imagining how she’s endured that woman all these years is so depressing. It’s no wonder she doesn’t like herself.

“I’m going back to bed,” Audrey says.

“Wow, what was that all about?” I say.

“Man, Audrey has some weird luck,” Jazz says. “Did you know she grew up in Palmer Woods? Anyway, back then her old man was a lawyer and Josephine was his maid. They had an affair for years. He finally broke it off when he married some white chick and she moved into his house. Shortly after the marriage, Josephine found out she was pregnant and wound up on their expensive doorstep with a huge belly.”

“So he left his wife?”

“Nope, the wife freaked out when Josephine came claiming his seed and they banned her from the house. After that, he met with Josephine in secrecy to give her money from time to time and to see his Audrey.”

“Her mom seems tough.”

“Yeah, if birthing a rich white man’s child in 1940’s Detroit doesn’t make you tough, I don’t know what does.”

Anyway, I’ve had enough of this drama and I’m starving, so I split. I follow my hunger pains right to a table in the Lafayette Coney Island. I’m wagering the options of a Coney hot dog or a Coney hamburger with chili cheese fries and then a heaping plate of the prospective fries floats by on a mission to another table. The steaming visual is just enough to sway my decision and go for the gold.

“Penelope?” Mr. Baxter’s voice startles me. “I didn’t know you were a Lafayette girl.”

“I guess we have more in common than we thought. How are you, Walter? It’s nice to see you.”

“I am doing fine. I come here about once a week because I’m friends with the owner. He is a good man.”

“This place has been around forever,” I say.

The Formica tables and cramped interior give it a special charisma. There’s usually some interesting characters hanging around, too. Lafayette is a townie staple.

“Have you ever been next door?” I say.

“No, no. I would never.” Mr. Baxter says. “We go to Lafayette or to American. We never go to both.”

That’s exactly how it goes around here. I’m so guilty of this cultural phenomenon that I’m pretty sure I don’t actually know one person who goes to the American Coney Island instead. Families pass their Coney loyalties down through the generations and it’s like a caste or a religion for some people.

“I noticed your car isn’t outside. May I give you a ride somewhere after our meal?” Mr. Baxter says.

I don’t know how he can talk with all the chili and cheese between us. It turns out that he likes to eat the same kind of food I do here. Mr. Baxter always surprises me with his sharpness and wit. He is more observant than most people my age and that is tragic for my generation and awesome in terms of his own health.

We look at each other and then continue devouring our messy heaps of Lafayette magic. Twenty minutes later, we are lethargic, gassy, and bloated. It’s funny and stinky and purely disgusting, of course, but we find the greatest humor in our shared flatulence. A few bombs later, our waiter comes over to the table to clear our plates. His nostrils wiggle as he processes our Lafayette stench and then he silently looks down at us in disbelief. We crack up like six year olds rebelling against the world around us, or at least, the world around the beautiful Formica tables.

“Hop right in,” he opens the car door for me.

“Do you have any children?” I say.

“I do. I have a son. He works with Berry Gordy in the music industry. I don’t see him much.”

“Oh, he sounds busy.”

“Honestly, Penelope, he was never very close to Mildred and me and, when she died, I think he took that as an opportunity to disappear.”

“I’m sorry he doesn’t appreciate you.”

“I don’t know for sure, but I think he was hooked on some kind of drug. He changed one day. The look in his eye went hollow and distant and he never returned to his old self. I always thought he was hooked on something and Mildred never wanted to believe it.”

“Forgive me, but since you bring it up, have you tried any drugs, Walter?”

“Oh, not really, but I would’ve tried some of that marijuana,” he laughs. “I just never came across it. I guess you could say I spent time with a lot of squares back then.”

“Well, you’re safe now because I am not a square,” I wink.

I step out of the car and wait on the curb until Mr. Baxter drives off into the neighborhood. When his little red car vanishes, I swivel around and walk to my home. My building isn’t nearly as glorious as Jazz’s but it’s always soothing to return to it. There are lush green vines that crawl up one side and it always looks so mystical to me.

As I approach my front door, I notice it is slightly open. Panic starts to move through my blood. Who the hell has broken into my pad? I don’t even have a weapon with me, so I push the door ever so slowly to investigate the scene. To my good luck, or not, it’s the most usual perpetrator.

“Valerie! What are you doing here?” I say.

“I am not Valerie. I am your mother.” She puts her hand on her hip. “I came over yesterday and let myself in. Where have you been?”

“Wow, mom, you really know how to respect one’s privacy.”

“I’m sorry, dear, but sometimes it gets so lonely at the house, and you know what the neighbors are like. I haven’t heard from you in a while, so I thought we could spend some quality time together.”

She is right and I am guilty. Time flies when you’re working and partying and ballin’ and dancing, but I can’t tell her any of that. At least, I don’t think I can jive with her like that. I don’t think my extra-curricular activities would pass the “Lawrence Welk” test.

“Who dropped you off?” Valerie says.

“He’s a nice regular from my work. We met at Lafayette earlier.”

“That was gracious of him, but why don’t you have your car?”

“Man, he’s in his 80’s and is still rocking the clock. I want to be like that in sixty years.”

“Penelope?”

She exudes her generation with the interrogative, full name approach. I don’t know what it is about people her age but they really know how to make a name sound unpleasant. I recoil when her voice drops into that elongated, slow tone. It’s really uncool, you know?

“Sometimes I walk places. Just because this is the motor city doesn’t mean I have to use my car every single day.”

“Well, anyway, I made some coffee if you want any.”

At this moment, all I can do is pass her and go straight for the shower. I’ve got to rinse off these old layers, and who the hell knows what was in that fountain water that I baptized myself in. Dirty wishes do exist out there. I know I make them sometimes.

I get a sudden inspiration to confront my darling mother about my mysterious father. I’ve never pressed the subject before and it’s been heavy on my mind since the bed-in. I think today is as good a day as any.

“So, Mom, why did my father leave?” I blurt out. Her eyes look as if they go to the boundaries of her memory and are unsatisfied with what they find. “I know you never want to talk about him but I feel like I’m old enough to know something now.”

“Really? Is that what those long hairs are putting into your mind?” She says the phrase ‘long hairs’ like she is talking about the plague.

“What did you say?” I get pissed.

“You heard me.”

“I don’t even know who you are right now. Leave my friends out of this.”

“Your father was selfish,” she says.

“Is he alive? Does he live in the city?”

“I haven’t seen him since he walked out of the house 25 years ago. I haven’t looked for him and he hasn’t tried to contact us once. Maybe he is dead.”

“Did you ever meet his parents?”

“No. We were supposed to but it never happened.”

“Did he have an affair?”

“Penelope! Of course not,” she squeaks. “I think I’ll be on my way now. Glad to see you, honey.”

She grabs her purse and disappears. Her timing is impeccable, of course. I don’t know why my mother has to be so boring all the time. Maybe it just comes with the job.

Swimming

Screenshot_20200428-173311

Remember when we used to go swimming,

Wearing nothing but our birthday suits,

Romantic whispers in the air,

Secrets exposed like our bare skin

In the sun.

*

Remember when we danced

Like no one was watching,

Except the moon,

And the stars inside our eyes

Were enough to realize.

*

Do you remember every sunrise,

Reborn together,

Tying our heartstrings

Like little kids practicing

How to tie new shoes.

*

I put a spell on you

Because you put one on me, too.

I don’t know

Just how it happened,

I let down my guard.

*

I never thought I’d be

Adorned with karmic scars,

But they twinkle

In the moonlight

Like jewels from afar.

*

Remember when we used to go swimming,

Singing like sirens

In the middle of the sea,

Bathing in tranquility,

Discovering catharsis in our waking dreams.

Screenshot_20200428-154411__01__01__01

*I don’t own rights to these pics.  They are just beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are We doing?

Screenshot_20200419-201510__01

Daffodils bend down to the ground

Like they’re trying to understand

Something they have found.

Why are there no other flowers around these crowded streets?

 

These static-filled days

Spinning us inside a Gothic maze

Of passive aggression,

Sick obsessions,

So much love without confession.

 

Caffeinated personalities living a dark reality

Of expensive dreams,

Unaffordable jeans,

Lacking patience and kindness for those without means–

Those with an inner light that shines so bright

They can’t comprehend or make amends with

Familial stares, painful smiles—

Bubbles floating through miles of aisles,

Unaffected by green piles of denial and plugged into

The wrong source,

 

Forgetting the force of this concrete jungle of humanity,

Drinking poisonous vanity from teacups of insanity

And jumping off the bridges of time.

 

We don’t have to walk this line.

 

But sometimes, is the right destiny too hard to find?

Screenshot_20200419-203603

*I don’t own rights to these pics.  They are just beautiful.

The Wish Bathers, Chapter Four

Sometimes Flowers are Not what They Seem

Chapter Four

It’s raining. The death breath twins are exuberantly chatty by the coffee machines. I sit in an empty booth to escape their mindless octaves and entertain myself with the falling raindrops on the window. The grey sky is lonely today. Mr. Baxter pulls into the parking lot like a sudden ray of sunshine bursting through a crack in the clouds.

“Good morning, Walter,” I pat him on the shoulder.

“My dear Penelope, it is so wonderful to see you on this rainy morning.”

“I can’t believe you are out and about today. It seems like the rest of the world is staying inside.”

“Yeah, well, when you get to be my age you can’t wait for another day to do something you like. You have to have a little carpe diem because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

“The usual?”

“You know it.”

“I’ll be right over with coffee.”

Pam and Deb’s conversation turns abnormally silent when I grab a pot of coffee for Mr. Baxter. Pam has a mouthful of sausage that she tries to eat covertly, despite her bulging cheeks, and Deb slurps the last sip of her purple addiction.

“Hey,” Deb says.

“I think I’ll join Mr. Baxter for awhile until we get some business. I’ve already married all the ketchup bottles, filled the sugar jars, and swept,” I say.

“Okay, but if Five Dollar Guy comes in, he’s mine,” Deb says.

“Sure, fine.”

Five Dollar Guy is another regular who comes in twice a week and always leaves a five dollar bill no mater how much or how little he orders. He’s been a patron of Aphrodite’s for years now and sadly none of us can remember his name. I thought about asking him, but it feels too awkward after all this time and I just can’t bring myself to do it. Five Dollar Guy always comes in with the best smile and good vibes and he loves his blueberry pancakes with extra blueberries.

Mr. Baxter is staring out the window as I walk up to his table with a pot of fresh coffee. He seems distracted in his thoughts or lost out in the rain. I try to get his attention, but when I set his cup down in front of him, he remains focused on something outside.

“Oh, dear, I didn’t realize you were here,” he says.

“What are you looking at?”

“Nothing really. I was just thinking about Mildred. She always loved the rain.”

“Mind if I join you?”

“Please do.”

“Why did she like the rain?” I wonder.

“Because she loved going to the movie theater and she only wanted to see a movie when the weather told her to stay inside. She always said it was a sign.”

“Cool.”

“Mildred was full of funny traditions like that.”

“What else did she do?”

“Oh, let me see.” The bell in the kitchen dings before he answers.

“I’ll be right back. It’s probably your food.”

Mr. Baxter’s breakfast is underneath the heat lamp. It still looks insufficient to me, but then again, it’s better than Vietnam. Actually, since our bed-in, everything to me is better than having to be fighting in that stupid war. We have food and warm beds and we’re reasonably safe, you know, regardless of the everyday weirdos walking around.

Since our protest, I feel more grounded in some of my perspectives and completely lost in other ways. It was vulnerable to share bits of my soul but I think it was necessary for all of us. I feel a deeper connection now—to my friends, to myself, to the universe. The conversations we had make our existence seem more real.

“Star?” Five Dollar Guy says.

He walks past me to sit at his regular table and then I realize that I’m standing still in the doorway to the kitchen, plate in hand, staring into the distance and probably looking like one of the above said weirdos. I acknowledge Five Dollar Guy and hurry back over to Mr. Baxter’s table before his egg gets cold and chewy. Whoopsie!

“Anything important in there today?” I say.

“Moon talk, war talk, you know. The same old stuff for years now,” Mr. Baxter says. He folds the paper neatly into a rectangle that he puts under his plate like a place mat.

“Were you ever in the military?” I say.

“I thought about it, but when I met Mildred she said she didn’t want to marry anyone that she had to miss all the time.”

“How did you avoid the draft?”

“She told me to go to medical school and that’s what I did until I quickly realized that they might need young doctors overseas.”

“Hi Star,” Five Dollar Guy says in a medium voice from his table. I turn around.

“It looks like I’m being called.”

“Well, go on then. I will be here when you get back,” Mr. Baxter pulls out the newspaper from under his plate.

Five Dollar Guy has the biggest smirk stretching across his face. His smile lines indicate he’s probably older than I think, which means he’s somewhere around 40, but his body is skinny and wiry like a young school boy. Despite his perfectly tucked in collared shirt and flawlessly combed hair, he reminds me of an excited puppy ready to pounce and be free at the whim of anyone’s command. I don’t know who or what he’s waiting for.

“Would you make me a milkshake?” he says.

“Sure, but didn’t you ask Deb?”

“Well, you do make the best milkshakes.”

“Oh, well, finally I have a purpose in life,” I wink. “Let’s not tell everyone, cool?”

But, seriously, I don’t need that news spreading any further than the edge of his table. Making milkshakes is a really annoying request when you have too many other things to do. It also spreads like a vicious wildfire through a cotton field when surrounding eyes grasp the idea and make it their own. It’s like a sneeze that starts at one table and goes around the entire room and soon you’re stuck behind the blender trying not to bend the spoon with beads of sweat running down your face while a sea of impatient customers wait for you to return. After five shakes, you start wishing that each customer was that spoon only millimeters away from the deadly spinning blade in the center of the creamy goodness.

“Good timing,” Five Dollar Guy says. Deb meets me at his table with the rest of his order. I return to Mr. Baxter’s conversation.

“Hey Walter, tell me another story,” I say.

“Funny you should ask, Penelope,” he pulls out a stack of post cards and begins telling a story about watching the Aurora Borealis in Iceland.

Somewhere between the shades of green and yellow, a familiar man’s voice echoes inside my ears and distracts me from Mr. Baxter’s tale. I do not turn around immediately to see who it is because I am so enthralled by the descriptions of color and mysticism, but I know that I’ve heard the voice before somewhere.

“New table behind you,” Deb says, walking past swiftly and shooting the words like a drive by incident.

“Penelope, are you listening?” Mr. Baxter says.

I start nodding my head affirmatively. That’s when I hear a cane tap on the floor three times. Tap, tap, tap.

“Baby, why don’t you put that thing away?” Carmelita’s voice breaks the tapping.

“Penelope?” Mr. Baxter looks confused as to why I’m standing in front of him frozen all of a sudden, but he doesn’t feel the weight of my stomach thudding to the floor like a hurled bowling ball. Actually, it’s more like the aftermath of, say, swallowing a pretty cane in one gulp.

“I’ll be right back,” I whisper very softly trying not to make myself noticeable.

“Miss Star?” Darryl’s voice brushes against my spine like a creepy gust of wind and then the realization that he’s my table sinks in, so I turn around with an expert customer service smile and approach him.

“Hello, how did you wind up on this side of town?” I say.

“Business as usual,” Darryl says, but that can mean any number of things. Who really knows what a pimp is doing most of the time?

“What can I get for you?” I say.

“Oh, excuse me for being so rude. This is Carmelita,” he says.

“Mucho gusto,” Carmelita says. I follow her cue.

“What would you like?” I say.

“You know what, I will take the biscuits and gravy, that is, if you think it is the correct choice, sweet child,” A single sparkle shines from his incisor piercing my retina for a quick instant.

“I will have the same thing,” Carmelita says.

“Great choice,” I say but am thinking run. “Coffee?”

Pam and Deb are huddled next to the coffee machines. They are obviously gossiping about my table. I pour two cups. Eleven pots down and who knows how many to go.

“Who’s that guy?” Pam says, her breath still reeking from old sausage.

“He owns a club on the other side of town,” I say.

“Is she a hooker?” Pam whispers.

“Yeah,” Deb says, “Is she?”

“Why don’t you ask her,” I say. “I’m sure she would just love the friendly conversation.”

“You’re funny this morning,” Pam says.

“Well, you’re the one asking stupid questions,” I smile.

“What?” Deb says.

“You heard me. I don’t know what she does and it’s none of my business, so why don’t you two worry about cleaning something,” I walk back to Darryl’s table with coffee.

“Bitch, I told you not to be actin’ like that,” Darryl says as I set the cups down in front of them. Strangely enough, he says the word ‘bitch’ in a tone that is loving and kind and it rolls off of his tongue like fluffy clouds. Almost.

“Baby, you know I can’t lie to you,” Carmelita reaches across the table to grab his hand.

“Your food will be ready soon,” I say.

I walk back over to the empty booth I was sitting in earlier. Finally I can continue contemplating the world in the falling raindrops outside. I’m cashing in on small mercies today.

For pleasure, of course, Darryl and Carmelita’s voices carry throughout the entire restaurant.

“You bitches got to be controlled,” Darryl says.

“But, baby, you know I love you,” Carmelita says.

“Yeah, but you are my bitch and you owe me from yesterday.”

“I told you my trick didn’t show last night, baby.”

“I will not be peeled by any bitch. You dig?”

“Yeah, baby. I dig it, but I told you already.”

“So if one of my bitches doesn’t have work then what is she doin’ all night? You’re my top bitch. I made you.”

“I know, baby. You’re so good to me.”

“That’s right. So, what is my top bitch doin’ if she isn’t turnin’ tricks?”

“I was just out with some of the girls, baby, you know.”

“No, I don’t know because all of my bitches were workin’. So, whose bitches you hangin’ out with? Are you cheatin’ on me?”

“Of course not, baby, you know I am yours.”

“Well, I don’t want no sweet, sexy thing as yourself to be a lyin’ bitch now. You best be tellin’ me the truth otherwise that Cadillac is outside.”

“No, baby, I swear to you.”

“Well, then,” he taps his cane three times, “I expect a phone call from my bitches when tricks don’t follow through. You dig?”

“Yes, baby, I can dig it.”

“Now that we have an understanding—”

“Yes, of course.”

“Miss Star?” Darryl yells. “Would you be so kind as to check on my breakfast, please?”

It’s only been five minutes. The kitchen bell dings as I pass Five Dollar Guy slurping at the last of his milkshake. It better be the damned biscuits and gravy. Please.

“I knew she was a hooker,” Pam whispers.

“Yeah, now the whole restaurant knows,” Deb twirls the straw in her mouth and puts her hand on her hip.

“A customer is a customer no matter how they make their money,” I say and then pull Deb’s straw out of her mouth and throw it in the garbage. “You’re going to fuck up your teeth if you keep chewing on straws, honey.”

Thank you, small mercies. Two plates of biscuits and gravy glow underneath the red lights. I have never been so excited to see this food in the window. It just means everyone is that much closer to escaping pimp drama.

“Here’s your breakfast,” I say.

“This does look quite delicious, sweet child,” Darryl unfolds his napkin and finally puts his cane to rest on the seat next to him.

“Can I get anything else for you right now?” I say.

“This will be fine, thank you,” Darryl puts his hands together to say grace.

Five Dollar Guy retires from eating and pulls out his wallet. He puts a five dollar bill underneath his water glass, says goodbye, pays at the register, and then braves the wetness outside with a newspaper umbrella to shield his sculpted hairdo. His image fades into the distance and vanishes behind the misty wall of rain. The death breath twins clear his table and stare at the five dollar bill for a moment—reveling in the beauty of a patiently waiting tip—and then Deb folds it carefully before putting it into her apron.

“I get him next time,” Pam says.

“Yeah, yeah,” Deb says.

“So, how is everything?” I approach Darryl’s table.

“This is tasty. Thank you,” Darryl wipes the corners of his mouth and then flashes his incisor again.

“Would you like more coffee?” I say.

“You know, if such a fine lady as yourself gets tired of slingin’ eggs, we could always make room for you at the club,” Darryl puts one hand on his cane as if to make sure it hasn’t gotten up and walked away.

“Right on, I think I’ll stick to the eggs.” I fill their cups and head back to the coffee machines.

“Did he just proposition you?” Pam asks.

“Didn’t you say you were looking for extra work?” I say.

“What’s going on here?” The Boss suddenly appears and barks his words.

“We’re working,” Pam says.

“Working? I don’t see you working. I see you moving your lips back here and being lazy. Get out there. Talk to the people,” Boss says.

“There are only two people in here,” Deb says.

“Well then, get out there,” he says and pushes Deb’s back with his index finger. She turns around and glares at me and the boss goes back to his office.

Deb walks past Darryl’s table to rearrange the condiments on an empty booth. He taps his cane three times. I don’t blame her for not wanting to mingle but I know the tapping is a beckoning.

“Miss Star,” Darryl clears his throat. “We’ll take the check.”

The pimp and his lovely bitch manage to burn rubber as the Cadillac pulls out of the parking lot and disappears into the grayness just as everyone before—another tangible experience turned into a memory not fast enough. Deb stops at his table to see what kind of a tip waits for me. I pick up a crisp twenty dollar bill, folded in half, and grin.

“Wow,” Deb says.

“You can have Five Dollar Guy next time,” I say.

“Yeah, yeah.”

Once again, the restaurant is empty and the high octaves of the death breath twins echo inside the room. I return to my booth to stare out the window and just as I rest my head in the palm of my hand, Greg taps on the glass in front of my face.

“Hey man,” Greg says. Water droplets fall from the end of his ringlets creating tiny puddles on the table top.

“Hey, what are you doing today?” I say.

“Looking to score some grass, man.”

“Do you work tonight?”

“It’s my day off.”

“Groovy. Wanna hang later?”

“Sure, man. I want to talk to you about something anyway.”

“Meet at my place around 5pm?”

“I’ll see you then, fire sister.” His wet bell-bottoms drag on the floor and leave a trail of water behind him.

***

I collapse onto my bed. There is nothing like the comfort of my feathery pillows after a long day. The arms of sleep cradle me like a baby until I drift off into another strange world.

I am walking down the streets of shiny, silver city. The day is warm and sunny. The sidewalks are bustling with happy people prancing around in the enjoyable weather. A bright, yellow sun beam shoots through the alleyway ahead of me and I slow down to process the inconspicuous beauty of the vision.

Multi-colored pigeons flock in the sun’s spot light and seem so serene inside the thickness of the concrete jungle. I have this great sense of harmony between nature and the modern world and feel a peace within myself and around me that I haven’t felt for a long time. One particular bird floats down in front of me holding an orange flower in its mouth. I feel elated to experience the simple beauty of nature amongst all of this complicated chaos.

It isn’t until someone bumps into me that I realize the bird is not holding a flower but is stabbed in the mouth with an orange colored syringe needle. I gasp when the elusiveness wears off and pick up my pace with disturbed motivation. Suddenly, a bomb explodes one block ahead of me. I turn around and start running and then another bomb explodes. The explosions become more frequent and then the sound turns into a loud knocking.

“Oh shit!” I jump out of bed and look at the time. It’s five.

“Man, I’ve been knocking,” Greg says.

“Yeah, sorry, I fell asleep when I got home.”

“No problem. Groovy dreams?”

“Not really, more like disturbing.”

“Oh, well, shit, man,” Greg sits down on the couch and lets out a bummed sigh.

“I’m fine. What did you want to talk about?”

“Is Kat going steady with anyone?”

“What? You dig Kat?” I laugh.

“Man, I’m feeling pretty heavy about it.”

“She isn’t seeing anyone.”

“Do you think she would go out with me?”

“Are you Jewish?”

“No. Why?”

“She’s got this weird fixation with Jewish men, you know.”

“That’s a drag. Maybe I can pretend.”

“Do you know any Yiddish?”

“None.”

“Well, I’m sure you have other things going for you.”

“Man, I’ve been dreaming about Mexico since the bed-in.” Greg says and then pulls a plastic bag full of grass out of his jacket pocket.

One thing about Greg is he always scores grass. I don’t know if he has a million connections or he’s just got an endless supply, but it seems he’s got some really good reefer karma. I suppose that’s not the worst kind of karma to deal with.

“You’ll never guess who came into Aphrodite’s today. And Mexico would be out of sight.”

“Who?”

“Darryl.”

“Wow, man. That guy is intense.”

“Yeah, and he was with one of his hoes. Do they hang out at the club?”

“Man, they’re always around. Haven’t you noticed the amount of women compared to men on most nights?”

“Oh.”

“I am pretty sure he uses the club for pimping out his girls. The go-go dancers always go home with someone, too.”

“Are they hookers?”

“Yes and about a quarter of the crowd every night. Jeff, Jazz, and I are the only ones not working for the dark side, well, at least not directly.”

“How public is it?”

“It’s word of mouth, man. The people who seek out that kind of energy find it. Other people just have a groovy time like it’s a regular club.”

“What about Joe?”

“The door guy? He’s Darryl’s body guard. That’s why he takes so long to get people inside. It’s so he can screen them and weed out the suspected trouble makers.”

“He’s like the club gardener then.”

“I never thought about it that way.”

“So, what are you going to do about Kat?”

“Give her a bouquet of bagels?” Greg shrugs his shoulders.

“Don’t forget the cream cheese, unless there are footprints in it.”

“Yeah, yeah, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll just think about her when I’m alone at night. Heh heh.”

“Come on, man.”

“Heh. Sorry. What’s going on with you and Sydney?”

“Nothing. Why?”

“It just seems like there is something going on, you know.”

“He’s totally boss. We have a blast.”

“Okay, man, I’m gonna split,” Greg hands me a joint and puts the rest of his stash back into his pocket. “Thanks for listening.”

“Sure. Are you working in the next couple days?”

“I am.”

“Cool. I’ll see you soon then.”

“Dig it, man. Peace,” Greg opens the front door and Audrey is standing behind it with her fist in the air as if she is just about to knock. Her fro is a bit more untamed than usual and she has a crooked look in her eyes.

“Come on in,” I say.

“Catch you later, Greg,” Audrey waves goodbye to him.

“What’s going on?”

She pulls out an ornate jeweled pick from her purse to fix her almost perfect fro. Her flawless skin radiates like rich, light brown, silk and she smells of lavender oil. I’ve never noticed the floral smell before, but whew, it is really nice.

“I’ve just been in my head so much since our bed-in, you know,” Audrey sits down on the sofa.

“Far out, me too. I’m thinking about everything differently.”

“I think I’m into Kat,” Audrey says like Speedy Gonzales.

“Wait. You dig Kat? I thought you were into Jazz.” I feel like I am having some twisted version of déjà vu. “I don’t think Kat digs women.”

“Really? I totally get that vibe from her.”

“So, you are lesbian?” I ask.

“Not exactly. It’s all about the energy for me.”

“Have you been with a lot of women?”

“Enough to know what I’m doing,” Audrey smiles mischievously and I can’t tell whether she is being dirty or honorable with her meaning.

“I don’t know what to say.”

I find myself in the middle of a profound, personal revelation where I am completely and utterly confused that I can know someone for so long and never really see them. Am I blinded by my own projections and illusions or am I that oblivious? How scary.

“Do you think you can help me?” Audrey says.

“How?”

Sometimes I think that life is like being surrounded by multiple stages and we watch their curtains fall one by one, eventually—revealing truths like hidden images covered by a veil of false impressions. And why do we have these false impressions? Is it something that correlates with age or personal growth and how do we avoid it? Maybe we can’t avoid it because, without mistakes, we wouldn’t be human. Could these false impressions be the very essence of human nature or are we all just fucking selfish and seeing others without regard for their own truths.

“Star?” Audrey snaps her fingers to catch my attention.

“Uh, sorry. Your reflection is intense for me right now,” I half mumble.

“My reflection?”

“Yeah.”

“I dig the idea but how do you mean exactly?” Audrey says.

“It’s like what we share and reveal to others is like a mirror staring back in the sense that we are affected by what we see and it makes us reconsider preconceived thoughts about ourselves and the world. It can even change us.”

“Cool.”

“Like, when you look into the eyes of someone in pain you start to feel and process what they are going through.”

“So, why is my reflection so intense for you?”

“Because it is making me realize that I am not really seeing people for who they truly are. It’s making me look deeper into myself, man.”

“Far out!”

***

The next few days at Aphrodite’s are a blur of voracious business and too many coffee refills. I haven’t been to the club since our bed-in and I haven’t seen Sydney, either. Honestly, we’ve all been a little reclusive since those three days in Sydney’s pad, but I’m crawling out of my cave tonight.

“Hey Joe,” I walk up behind his firm, stoic stance. He gives me a nod, without blinking, and continues staring through each person in the crowded line. Joe is the gardener and he is serious in his assessment. I watch him in action before going in.

Joe makes eye contact with the next couple in line and does a “come here” with his pointer finger. When they approach him, he scans their bodies from top to bottom a few times and then checks ID’s. At this point, he either uses his left hand or his right, signaling to the party goers whether or not they will get into the club. The left hand points to The Dragonflower and the right hand points to the parking lot. Silently, Joe raises his left arm and the happy couple enters the building. I follow their bliss and feel glad I don’t have to deal with that bullshit. I am not a weed. I just like to smoke it.

Inside, Sydney sits at the bar talking to Jazz. The fringe from the bottom of his vest dangles below the bar stool and his shaggy locks lounge around his broad shoulders. The music is too loud for Sydney to hear me behind him, so I slide into the empty stool to his right.

“Hey chick!” Jazz says.

“Hey,” I say.

“Que pasa?” Sydney says like a nerd.

“Huh?”

“How are you?”

“Everything is groovy, you know, but I’ve been deep in thought since the bed-in.”

“Yeah man, I know. I dig it. I’m feeling this crazy vibe lately. Like something is going to happen.”

“What do you think it is?”

“Change.”

Jazz interrupts us to ask if I want something to drink. Her blonde hair parted in the middle and tied into pig tails reminds me of when we met for the very first time. She still puts her hand on her hip when she asks a question just like she did when she was 12. Another person trying the same hip action would seem like a snob but Jazz manages to sway her hip into her hand and look foxy. Maybe it’s the way the corners of her mouth slightly curl, too, as if they are hiding small secrets inside their crevices.

“Have you ever tried LSD?” Sydney says.

“I haven’t,” I say.

“Do you want to?”

“Like right now?”

“No, but soon.”

“Sure. I’ll try it.”

“When is your next day off?”

“The day after tomorrow.”

“Groovy. I know the perfect spot.”

“Will it be just the two of us?”

“Yes. Is that cool?”

“I dig your company.”

“Then I will see you soon. I’ve had a long day and I’m gonna crash.”

Sydney’s silhouette melts into the darkness of the black light hallway. I put my hand on the now empty bar stool next to me. It radiates heat like a leather car seat that has been sitting in the warm afternoon sun.

“Hot ass?” Jazz smirks, catching me molesting the stool like I am squeezing the bulge of a flexed muscle. Ahem.

“Yep.”

“You go all the way yet?”

“Not even close. We haven’t even kissed.”

“What?”

“I don’t know.” Is the back of my hand more desirable than my full, freckled lips? The thought is like a bad taste in my mouth that I can’t get rid of. Maybe it’s just me.

“Hey, you want to ditch this place and go somewhere else?” Jazz says.

Ten minutes later, Jazz returns from the backroom changed and ready to split. She is a vision in a teal dress that hangs just above her perfect knee caps. Outside, we find Darryl leaning against Gloria’s driver side door—dressed in his usual décor and charm—grinning mischievously as we approach him.

“Good evenin’, fine ladies,” Darryl taps his cane for exclamation and tips his purple hat like a southern gentleman. “May I assist you in your night time adventures? I’ve got an empty Cadillac and a whole lot of Dom.”

“Did he say Dom?” I whisper.

“He did, yes,” Jazz says. “Okay, Darryl, we’ll join you for a little while.”

“Excellent! The Cadillac is there,” he points across the parking lot with his cane—the silver tip reflecting light from the street lamps for a second before he pulls it down to the ground and walks toward his car. We follow a few steps behind him.

The top of the Fisher Building glows like a gigantic, golden jewel in the starry sky. It is a beautiful sight from any direction—shining like a beacon of hope for the city—and its groovy external architecture and lavish, golden interior are relics of an era that is not yet forgotten. Ahead of us, Darryl hums a silly tune and swings his cane in a whimsical way. It reminds me of Gene Kelly.

“Your chariot awaits,” Darryl opens the backseat door to his gleaming Cadillac. There is a man dressed in black with a matching cap sitting in the drivers’ seat. He is quiet and unassuming and starts up the engine at Darryl’s command.

“What have you got in mind?” Jazz says.

“Well, since it is such a lovely night, I have a perfect spot on Belle Isle in mind,” Darryl says.

“Is that where all your Dom is?” I say.

“No, sugar, we’ve got Dom right here in the car, but we’ll get to that when we’re at our destination,” Darryl laughs.

“Dom Perignon?” Jazz elbows me in the side.

“Oh, that’s what you mean,” I say.

“Jasmine, where did you find her?” Darryl says, giggling.

“Changing in the gym locker room in 6th grade,” Jazz laughs.

“And the rest is history,” I say.

Belle Isle is a small island in the middle of the Detroit River and it is our own little mid-western paradise. The views are picturesque and the monuments and botanical gardens are serene. It is also a peaceful place at night, providing the best view of the downtown skyline. When I was five years old, I used to think downtown looked like it was a million miles away and now it just reminds me how strange time and distance feel when one is barely older than a couple of toddlers combined.

The Cadillac stops in front of the infamous James Scott Fountain. Its huge sculptures bubble over with flowing water on three tiers of white marble and glow in the moonlight like an ethereal bathing place. Belle-Isle is empty tonight.

Darryl leans into the driver side window to discuss something secretly with the man in black. Abruptly, the Cadillac disappears around the fountain and into the night.

“Ladies,” Darryl says. The three of us sit down on the smooth, polished marble and get comfortable with Dom.

“This is cool,” I say.

“It’s one of my favorite places to think,” Darryl says.

“Have you heard any word of your cousin?”

“My cousin?”

“Yeah, didn’t you say you had a cousin in Vietnam?”

“Oh, right. I haven’t heard anything.” Darryl pours three glasses and we make a toast.

“To the war over there,” I raise my full glass of you know who.

“And the war over here,” Jazz says.

“Peace,” Darryl says.

One bottle of Dom is gone faster than it probably should be and we’re all starting to feel the fancy buzz. Darryl rolls up his sleeve, reaches into the fountain water behind us, and pulls out another bottle of Dom with a sparkly grin. His Gene Kelly charms are half-working.

“Did you put that there?” I say.

“Of course, sweet child, how else was it supposed to stay chilled?” Darryl says.

“All fountains should have Dom hidden in their depths,” Jazz laughs.

Maybe it’s the champagne, but Darryl doesn’t seem as creepy as he usually does. There is something more human and genuine about him tonight than I’ve ever witnessed at the club or heard through other voices. Could the man behind the glass be hiding from something?

“Do you always have a driver?” I say.

“Not always, but quite often. I can’t be drivin’ and entertainin’, you know,” Darryl says. “How are you fine things feelin’?”

“Great,” Jazz hiccups. “You know, boss, I never asked you where you came from.”

“Please don’t call me that. I came here from Mississippi about twenty years ago when my family relocated to work for Ford.”

“Do you still have family in Mississippi then?” I say.

“Not really. Most of them moved here or to Cleveland for work,” he says.

“Your family must be proud now at how successful you are, right?” I say.

He doesn’t respond. The only noise is the sound of the water flowing behind us— shooting out of turtles and dolphins—swirling around poised lions guarding the scene with their marble manes looking serious and majestic. Darryl puts his empty glass down on the pavement by his feet and laughs.

“Are you okay?” I say.

He raises his hand like he’s about to say something poignant, but instead loses his balance and falls backwards into the fountain pool. I take the last sip of my expensive libation because I can’t let it go to waste, man. That would be really uncool. Social graces are a must in these hard times.

Darryl crawls over the wall onto the dry pavement like an ashamed, wet dog and begins to cry. His green fur coat is destroyed. Jazz and I are completely confused and stunned by the strange vision of this previously confident man. His soft whimpers soon become thunderous sobs convincing the two of us he is totally drunk out of his mind or, I don’t know, bipolar?

“Darryl?” Jazz says.

“I’ve got to stop it,” he says through his breathy sobs.

“Stop what, Darryl?” I say.

“Pimping. I don’t want to do it anymore,” he looks up at us and then covers his face so that we can’t see his tears.

“Then stop,” Jazz says.

“But I can’t,” he cries. “Where is my cane?”

The Cadillac rolls up to the curb and the unnamed driver gets out with the ivory cane in his hand like a pimp’s knight in shining armor running to the rescue. He pulls Darryl off of the ground, grabs his hat floating on the edge of the pool, and tells us to get in the car. Darryl passes out as his savior clicks the seatbelt. The ride back to the club is long, uncomfortable, and filled with heavy, damp silence. And maybe a little confusion, too.

“That was crazy,” I say.

“I hope he doesn’t remember,” Jazz says.

“Yeah, I’m not sure if I want to remember.”

I drop Jazz off at her place and coast into my parking spot with a feeling of relief. Home. I hear my bed calling to me, pulling on the weight of my eyelids, as I walk up the stairs to my front door. I can’t wait to sleep.

The light above my door flickers with the investigation of tiny insects challenging their fate repeatedly. The air is warm and I can smell the nearby lilacs in bloom like a perfume floating in the breeze. Sydney is curled into the fetal position on my door step—sleeping soundly—looking like a lost kitten who has found refuge on a worn out welcome mat. I consider not disturbing him but he opens his eyes when I pull out my keys.

“You want to come inside?” I say. He yawns and follows behind me. I walk straight to my bedroom, take off all my clothes, and get under the covers.

“I know it’s late,” he says, not even flinching at my naked body.

“Is everything okay?” I say.

“Man, I just can’t do this anymore,” he crawls onto my bed and then passes out when he hits the covers.

Although I am confused, I seize the opportunity to fall asleep and deal with him in the morning. It has been a long day and as my consciousness drifts away, like counting sheep, I hear the soft words of a childhood bedtime story deep inside the depths of my mind. Goodnight moon. Goodnight sleeping Sydney in my room. Goodnight Darryl and Jazz and Dom, and goodnight Mom.

A Fortress for Truth

Screenshot_20200418-123028

False words are the building blocks for our walls.

I feel your lies and hear your truths

Because the world we once knew screams in the halls

Of our unwanted desires and dreams,

And the skeleton of our past life tugs at the seams of

The new world we crave to breathe.

 

We’re stranded on opposite street corners,

Juggling fools, painting smiles, peddling for a new life

And competing for the greatest prize–

Selling our character to the nearest passerby’s.

Think you can still mesmerize?

I’ve thrown dust into my eyes.

 

Apologetic tones through microphones,

Vicious conversations traveling through

Continents of ears,

Touching and rubbing open wounds of my fears.

Pile another block on the wall of these years

Because we can’t destroy what we’ve found.

 

We can’t break what these lies have built–

This foundation that we’re bound,

These cold truths that stick around

And echo through the shadows of the day–

So we smile and pile another block,

Another talk, another walk down this road.

 

Oh, please, let me lighten your load.

Let me buy your blocks

Because I can’t stand these talks

And that manipulating twinkle.

The world is not big enough for our hearts to mingle

Inside the same space.

 

Where is the key to these skeleton locks?

We are the creators of these building blocks–

Looking for peace,

Looking for new memories

And a place to leave the old ones behind,

Breaking this hide and seek game inside our minds.

Aphrodite is my Lover

Screenshot_20200415-210237__01

Touching the inner curve of your thigh

With the breath of my sigh,

Swimming through waves of long, hot hair

Daring me to stare

Deep into those crystal blue oceans

That surround the center of your eyes—

Making me realize—

I have been baptized in the light that you shine!

 

Oh Goddess, won’t you drink some wine?

 

We can bend hours into the shape of our desire

And unravel the heaviness that we bear,

Or should I beware?

 

I cannot deny the way you move—

Swaying and twirling to a salacious groove,

Moving my mind through rollercoaster moods

                         That keep knocking on my heart.

 

Is this love or is this art?

 

Roses bloom from sea foam dunes while

Time reveals your fateful wounds

And the harvest moon wonders when to start.  . .

 

Wonders if in slumber is the solace that you seek,

The wetness which you weep sends passerby

Sailors swooning down into the Deep—

Spooning the powerful undertow of your mind—

And below listening dolphins perpetuate

The Divine inside your being,

Provoking a wanderlust feeling

That you don’t want to hide.

 

Like a wildwood flower waving for me

Rooted in a half-shell bed,

I wonder if these thoughts that I’m believing

Are from your very own head—

           Coming in with the tides,

                    Riding across glistening waves,

                             Dripping down from the heavens into

                                                                                                             Sacred

                                                                                                                    Patterned

                                                                                                                               Ways.

Screenshot_20200415-220106__01

 

*I don’t claim any rights to pics.  They are just beautiful!