Swimming

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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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are We doing?

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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?

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*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!

Can You Tell Me

Screenshot_20200414-081550

Can you tell me

Where is the door

To the place

Where memories can be erased?

Is it somewhere in the

Back of my mind

Or in the nick of time?

 

***

 

How do I remove these lies

That stick like butter to my ribs?

Calling dibs on sanity,

Questioning humanity,

Trying to understand

What God has planned

In these loops of insanity.

 

***

 

When I close my eyes

I realize

That Love was just another

Four letter word

You said like Shit.

But that’s not it.

Time reveals your clever tricks.

 

***

 

How do I clean up these

Piles of deception

Turned into misconceptions?

Fragments of truth

Abandoned without proof,

Just another exploitation

In the name of flirtation.

 

***

 

Can you tell me

Where is the door

To the place

Where memories can be erased?

Is it somewhere in the

Back of my mind

Or in the nick of time?

 

Screenshot_20200414-114945

 

 

*I don’t claim any rights to pics.  They are just beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wish Bathers, Chapter Three

War for Breakfast in Bed

Chapter Three

Days fly by, the war keeps breathing, and the world seems heavier with each new calculation of death and defeat and lies. News of more bombings drop into our newspapers and radio shows like explosions of nausea and anger and it feels like the whole world is united in pain. I am fortunate to only know people who know people who have been shipped off to their imminent end for a country that survives on a wealth of deception.

I put a pillow, a blanket, and a toothbrush into my tie-dyed bag and book it over to Sydney’s pad. He opens the door as an angel of peace dressed in a woman’s long, white night gown with a large blue peace sign painted on the chest. Blue sweatpants hide underneath his ethereal gown and his bare feet bare bohemian mischief.

“Welcome to the peace zone,” Sydney says.

“I come in peace,” I laugh.

I walk through the doorway and set my bag down by the wall of records. The coffee table is moved to the side of the room and a mass of blankets and pillows fill the middle of the floor. It looks like we’re about to have some kind of ball in this place.

“Since we all can’t really fit in my bed I thought I would make the whole room like a bed,” Sydney grins.

“It looks groovy.”

“Thanks for coming.”

“I can’t think of a better reason to stay away from my grease pit job.”

“John and Yoko are in Amsterdam right now. The press has visiting hours during the day to speak with them in bed.”

“Is the press coming here?”

“That would be awesome, man, but no.”

“Sydney?”

“What?”

“Do you think you will get drafted?”

“I suppose it’s possible. I don’t know about Nixon, but he gives me the creeps.”

“I don’t like his face. Something about it doesn’t seem genuine and I don’t think he’s telling us what is really going on in Vietnam.”

“You are a smart ninja,” Sydney says.

“Do you know anyone over there?”

“My best friend, Will, is probably in the jungle as we speak. He got shipped off three months ago.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“He wanted to go despite all the times I tried to convince him otherwise. His old man was in the military. I guess he felt a family obligation.”

“I hope he comes home.”

“I don’t think he will.”

“Well then, I hope you are wrong.”

“Me too, man.”

“Do you ever think about leaving this town?”

“Are you kidding me? All the time. Don’t you?”

“Everyday.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Somewhere peaceful, somewhere free” I say.

Kat, Jazz, Greg, and Audrey burst through the front door. We jump out of the bed and congregate in a circle on the floor. Sydney tells us his intentions for the bed-in. Even though he doesn’t agree with the war, he wants to pay respect to the people who volunteer their lives and wants us to take these days at his pad to focus our intentions.

“Sometimes I wonder if we would be in this mess if Kennedy was still alive,” Jazz says.

“Man, I won’t ever forget that day,” Greg says.

A cloud of remembrance hovers above our circle for a few minutes while we all revisit that fateful day in our minds. It seems like yesterday when I watched the TV and cried all the tears that Walter Cronkite held in while he delivered the horrifying news to a heart broken nation. Now, it makes a lump bury in the back of my throat.

“It seems like anyone who is good for our country, you know, and really tests the first amendment is murdered,” I say.

“What are we even fighting for?” Jazz says.

“Dr. King was right about so many things,” Audrey says. “This war is a war against the poor.”

“I’m leaving the country if they go lottery draft crazy, man,” Greg says.

“Where would you go?” I say.

“I think I would head down to Mexico. Man, margaritas and marijuana sound better than short hair and sudden death on the front line,” Greg rolls a joint in his lap.

“Is this really about communism or control?” Jazz says.

“The better question is why are we spending thousands of dollars on killing innocent people?” Sydney says.

“What a drag, man,” Greg sighs.

“So, let’s put our heads together and imagine a more peaceful time,” Audrey holds the joint in her hand and waves it around like a magic wand as she speaks.

I close my eyes and search for some kind of memory that makes me feel at ease. My mind goes blank until a pair of shiny keys appears. I remember my 16th birthday and the way I felt looking at my keys to supposed freedom. That was until I went to the driveway to find a bicycle instead of my dream car, of course. It was embarrassing and tragic then. My hormonal state at the time didn’t allow me to find it quite so character building as I do now.

“How do all the Christian types vote for a guy named Tricky Dick, anyway?” Greg laughs.

“Oppressed by guilt?” Sydney says.

“I don’t really get why communism sounds so horrible. It just seems like it is a more equal environment,” Jazz says.

“Yeah, man, it’s like my friend, Sammy, who lives in a commune down south,” Greg says.

“We can’t all run away and join the commune, though,” I say.

“But it’s the same kind of thinking on a smaller scale,” Jazz says.

“What’s so bad about it then? My folks are always talking about the commies,” Kat says.

“Rich people can’t keep getting richer,” I say.

“And poor people can’t keep getting more poor,” Audrey says.

“Aren’t you talking about Socialism?” Sydney says.

“You know, I do get them confused sometimes,” Jazz says. “I’m just throwing out other ideas to think about.”

The room goes silent. I don’t know what everyone else is thinking about, but I start to wonder what it would be like if Kennedy was still around. How would the world be for us? Would we be in Vietnam? This notion is just as confusing to me as when I try to picture what my life would be like if I knew my old man. Would I be the same then?

“Would you like one of these?” Greg opens his palm to reveal a handful of pills.

“What are they?” I say.

“Black Beauties,” Greg puts the pills back into his pocket. “We can save them for later.”

“Where do you get them?” I say.

“My folks have an endless prescription so I asked if I could try some and they gave me a bottle. They told me they didn’t like the pills because they couldn’t sleep,” Greg laughs.

“Wow. My folks go ape when I take an aspirin,” Kat rolls her eyes.

“My old man said the same thing about sleeping, but I was thinking that I didn’t get why staying up was a bad thing,” Jazz says.

I always felt bad for her old man, Ed. He had a really tough job raising a daughter by himself. Jazz was not an easy teenager. She did whatever she wanted whenever she wanted and he didn’t know how to handle it. Me and Kat didn’t help, either. I think all three of us learned how to drive with his car. Jazz was always stealing it in the middle of the night.

“Hey, how is your old man?” I say.

“He’s still Ed,” Jazz says.

“At least he’s consistent,” I say.

“Sydney, is listening to music non-violent?” Kat whines.

“Usually, yes,” Sydney says.

“Then maybe we can listen to some music,” Kat says.

“Of course,” Sydney crawls over to his records and starts reading off titles.

“Hendrix,” Audrey says. “You know that brotha was in the army?”

“Did he volunteer?” Sydney says.

“What do you think?” Audrey says.

“Elvis was in the army, too,” Kat says.

“Mexico, man, is what I’m talking about,” Greg’s face appears through a cloud of smoke.

“Are you experienced?” Sydney says, spinning on the floor like James Brown.

The first track of Electric Ladyland moves through the speakers and into our ears like strange, warped sounds of terror and excitement abruptly ending before the needle moves onto the second track. It’s too cool.

“This guy is crazy,” Kat says.

“I love it,” Sydney says and lies down on the floor.

We mimic his actions and all lie down in a circle, feet together, staring at our own piece of the ceiling while listening to each others’ voices. My part of the ceiling is cracked and peeling. One of the cracked lines looks like the profile of a rabbit.

“By the way, I love Babs,” Jazz points above her head to the poster on the wall.

“Wait until you see it later,” I say.

“What is later?” Jazz says.

“I can’t tell you otherwise I’ll have to kill you,” I laugh.

“I’m a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls,” Jazz says in a funny voice.

“Who are you calling an onion roll?” Kat says.

“Isn’t that what your people eat?” I say.

“Miss Stein,” Jazz laughs.

“Maybe you should hyphenate your name and be Smith-Stein,” I say.

“At least my distinguished ways continue to entertain your goyim minds,” Kat says, rolling her eyes.

Kat’s repugnant facial expression takes me back to the 6th grade. I remember sitting at the dinner table with her family, listening to Kat beg her parents to give her a Batmizvah for her 13th birthday, only to find out by her mothers’ dismay, that they were in fact Catholic and not Jewish. That was the first time I learned her real last name, Smith, instead of her self-adopted name of Stein.

“Okay, so, how can you tell if an elephant has been in your refrigerator?” Greg says.

“Let me guess, there’s footprints on the butter?” I say.

“Or footprints in the cream cheese,” Kat says.

“Or in the cheesecake,” Audrey says.

“I don’t see why everyone gets all jazzed up about these jokes,” Sydney says.

“But you all know them, don’t you?” Jazz kicks at our feet and we all crack up.

“Sydney’s never been on an elephant,” I say.

“Have you ever been to the circus?” Kat screams and sits up in shock.

“Nope,” Sydney says. “Strawberry Hill anyone?” he laughs.

“Yes,” we yell out together.

A few seconds later, I follow him into the kitchen. It has orange wallpaper and barren, white cupboards. The refrigerator has a jug of milk, orange juice, eggs, and baking soda inside of it. All four items are placed in a row on the same shelf. The cupboards are mostly empty except one that is filled with a few plates and bowls. There’s enough silverware for only four people and none of it matches, as if he picked up each piece somewhere completely different to make an intentional miscellaneous collection.

“Sydney?” I say.

“Star,” he stops searching for the wine opener and looks at me.

“Why haven’t you—”

“Hey ginger twins, where’s the wine?” Audrey jumps into the kitchen like she was secretly spying on us around the corner. I am dying to know what Sydney was going to ask me, but the moment is gone now.

“It’s here,” he says and we follow her back into the living room.

“What is this? A sleepover? Who’s hiding the candy?” Audrey says in a playful voice.

“Man, I love Swedish fish,” Greg says.

“You would,” Kat says.

***

Several hours and bottles later, we’re lying around the living room floor like drunken, comical, non-violent freaks. Jazz demands a dance for peace because either she’s really excited about our current conversation or that funny strawberry stuff is working like it’s supposed to after so many ounces of consumption. Audrey shares in her dance for freedom and stands up to shake it alongside the hiccuping bombshell.

“What do you chicks want to hear?” Sydney makes his way over to the record player and puts Jimi back into the stack.

“Something with a soft beat, and feeling, and soul,” Jazz says.

“Miles?” Sydney pulls out Kind of Blue from one of the record stacks. Jazz nods her head and he lifts the needle.

The slow piano melody gets us into the mood. The light drums groove and then the horn cries softly—moving the mood into the ears and out through the fingertips. Jazz and Audrey turn towards each other and snap their fingers along with the delicately, persistent cymbal. Their bodies begin making small, languid movements that follow the rhythm of the horn and they close their eyes to surrender to the journey.

“You don’t know what you’re missing up here,” Audrey shimmies around, inspiring the rest of us get up and get loose.

“Do you remember when Nixon said something about how we’re spending more time on going to the moon than dealing with the war?” Jazz says.

“God, I hate him. He knows nothing about peace,” Audrey roars.

“What does peace mean to you?” Sydney says.

“Man, I’ve been reading about Buddhism and those guys really have the peace thing down,” Greg says.

“They’ve been practicing a long time,” Audrey says.

“So, I’ve been wondering, Jazz. Why do you call your old man by his first name?” Sydney scratches his head.

“Something happened when my mom died and his name changed from dad to Ed,” Jazz reveals herself reluctantly.

“Your mom died?” Audrey says.

“Yeah, when I was 10. She went out to get some Vernors for my stomach ache and she got hit by a drunken teenage driver on the way home.”

“Fuckin’ ginger ale, man,” Greg says.

“Tell me about it. I haven’t had the stuff since then. I actually hate it. I don’t know how anyone can hate a carbonated beverage, but I do,” Jazz says. She looks into the distance as she recalls that night waking from sleep to the sound of her old man falling to his knees—the cops standing in the doorway when she reaches the bottom of the stairs—and seeing the desperation dripping from three sets of eyes. I remember that night like I was there. Her old man called our house the next day and, to me, she never seemed the same again.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you drink Vernors,” I say.

“Not my thing,” Jazz says.

“Is it time for Bab’s?” I redirect the mood.

My question ends with a hiccup and then my noisy belly reminds me that it’s way past dinner. Time seems to be going by fast hanging around these groovy heads. I’m sure Boone’s is doing a good job of moving it along, too.

“I found popcorn,” Kat appears from behind the tapestry and sits down with a huge bowl of it.

“Cool,” Greg says. “Man, I was thinking, like what is war, really?”

“What are you fighting for? That’s the real question,” Sydney says. “That’s the question we all need to ask ourselves before we can ask out there. What war are we fighting within?”

“The color of my skin is confusing,” Audrey says. “I’m not white. I’m not black. I’m in the middle but there’s no place for me.”

“My mother,” Jazz says.

“What do you mean?” Sydney says.

“I can’t deal with her memory,” Jazz says. “What about you?”

“I’m struggling right now between what I want to do and what my family wants me to do,” Sydney says.

“I don’t want to go to war, man. I’m so scared of death,” Greg says.

“Well, I just want to be someone,” Kat says.

And then there’s me. What is the war I’m fighting within? I guess I don’t know who my father is. How can I know myself if I don’t know where I come from? I feel like something is missing. I feel like a stranger in my own skin. Who am I?

“I don’t know my old man. I don’t know where I come from,” I say.

***

It is daylight again, which means we must’ve fallen asleep in the middle of conversation last night. My head thumps at the back of my skull and my mouth is like the Sahara at high sun. I get out of bed in search for water and have to rub my sleepy eyes when I look at the clock on the wall. It’s almost 5pm. Sydney crawls out of bed while I’m looking at the time and walks past me into the kitchen.

“Man, what time did we fall asleep last night?” I say.

“Thirsty?” he says noticing my parched voice.

“Like the desert, you know.”

“Star, I really dig you in the mornings.”

“But not in the evenings?”

“No, I mean to say, that I like starting the day with you.”

“Sydney, that’s—”

“Man, I’m so hungry, I could like eat a whole house,” Greg walks into the kitchen, yawning, with his eyes barely open. He gets up on the counter, crosses his legs, and lights a joint.

“Do you pull doobies out of the back of your ears, or something?” I say.

“What do you mean, man?” Greg says.

“Like a magician pulling coins out of your ears, you know?” I say.

“No, man, I just roll them, man,” Greg says.

“Is everyone else awake?” Sydney asks.

“I don’t know if I’m awake,” Greg laughs.

“Maybe we’re all dreaming,” I say.

“Oh, man, I gotta split before she gets too deep. My head hurts from yesterday,” Greg says and then disappears, leaving a trail of pungent smoke behind him.

Finally, we can get back to where we were. But wait, what were we talking about? Why does the moment always get interrupted? What the hell is going on?

“You want to be on pancakes or eggs?” Sydney says.

“I’ve got dibs on the pancakes,” I grab the spatula out of his hand. “Take care of your eggs, man.”

“Star?” Sydney traps me against the counter.

“Yes?”

“Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t trust me.”

“What?”

“Just do it.”

So, I look into his eyes. I get all lost and dreamy in a daze. His lashes catch me as if I am a sunbeam descending through the trees, penetrating each leaf, in search of the forest floor. I splash into a brilliant green natural spring with a flat, black rock resting in the center and I am overwhelmed by the warm, healing water that surrounds me. Nothing but the thickness and density of the forest can bear witness to my exposed body. In this untouched moment, I lay my head on the rock and let everything go.

“Oh Shit,” I snap out of it.

“What is it?”

“Your eyelashes are long.”

“And?”

“The color of your eyes feel so nice,” I say and drift, for a moment, back to my optical pool.

“Well, that’s something I haven’t heard before, but do you trust me?”

“As much as I can trust someone that I’ve only spent a week with.”

“Okay, that’s fair.”

“Don’t sweat it, man. I think you’re really cool.”

“Yeah?” he presses his body against mine again. The energy exchanged between our pelvic bones is fierce.

“What’s going on in here?” Jazz walks into the kitchen and interrupts our moment. Sydney jumps back and tends to the eggs.

“A little breakfast for the protestors,” I say.

“A peace meal. I dig it,” she says and then grabs the only plates and silverware available and returns to the living room.

I want to get back to our interrupted moment. The feeling of not being able to escape this kundalini master is not the worst thing in the world, but somehow, the moment has passed. I missed the boat again. I’m not so good at boat moments lately.

“Man, I had the craziest dream last night,” Greg says.

“What was it about?” Kat says.

“The moon. It was like a big ball of cocaine and every time I took a step, man, the powder would swirl into the air and go right into my nose. I got so high and then I got scared because I didn’t want to be any higher, you know?”

“So, what did you do?” Jazz says.

“I just stood there because I didn’t want to kick up anymore dust and all I could hear was my heart beat racing faster and faster.”

“And then?” Audrey says.

“I don’t know, man. I guess I woke up,” Greg says as he bites into a pancake.

“Do you think they’re really going to do it—go to the moon?” Audrey says.

I look down at my plate of pancakes and eggs and wonder why it even matters. Who cares if we go to the moon? What will it fix on Earth? Or in Vietnam? Or hell, what about Detroit? What about all of us that are hanging on trying to find good in this world? Does going to the moon give us some kind of hope?

“What is the point?” Kat says.

“The space race, man,” Greg says.

“Anything in the name of science,” Sydney says.

“Racing the Soviets is more important than saving our people,” Audrey says.

“Do you think so?” Sydney says.

“Well, that’s what it seems like, doesn’t’ it?” Audrey says.

“Mexico, man,” Greg says, holding up the peace sign with both hands.

“Do you even know how to speak Spanish?” Kat asks.

“I’m a fast learner,” Greg says confidently.

“Of course you are, amigo,” Kat rolls her eyes.

I get this funny vision of Greg in a sombrero on the beach. He’s got a fruity umbrella drink in one hand, a joint in the other, and he’s surrounded by mounds of grass and some foxy babes. Now I see why he wants to go to Mexico.

Jazz and Kat collect all the dirty dishes and take them into the kitchen. Greg wanders over to the window and sits down on the ledge next to the beautiful virgin and her beads of faith—exhaling puffs of smoke into the fading light of dusk. Audrey stares at the Dali painting above the records and I sit on the bed thinking about Sydney while he sits next to me and feels so, gulp, far away.

“What is this painting?” Audrey says.

“Metamorphosis of Narcissus,” Sydney tells her.

“It is amazing.”

“There’s just so much going on in it, you know. I can stare at it for hours.” Sydney says while he puts his hand on my knee for a moment and then walks over to Audrey.

“Aren’t we like Narcissus and the war is our reflection?” Audrey says.

“So if we stare at the war for too long than we’ll become death and decay and rise up as beautiful flowers?” Sydney says.

“Man, that sounds like we’re fertilizer,” Greg seems bummed.

“Anyone who wants to be buried is fertilizer,” Sydney says.

“Okay, okay, stay cool. So, is she ready yet?” I try to change the mood again.

“Who?” Sydney says.

“You know,” I point to Bab’s with my eyes.

“Oh, yeah,” Sydney then turns off all the lights in the room.

“Right on. Is it naked time now?” Greg laughs.

“Not exactly,” Sydney says.

Sydney turns off the lights. His apartment is just dark enough to see how sweet that funny girl truly is. She glows, indeed, and Sydney looks completely amused at his treasure.

“Oh man, that is far out,” Jazz says.

“Yeah, it’s actually pretty rare, man,” Sydney says proudly.

“That you have a Barbara Streisand poster in your room?” Kat says.

“No, kitty, that it’s a black light poster. They don’t make many of them,” Sydney says.

“Don’t call me kitty,” Kat says.

Sydney lights the virgin and a few other candles around the room. Two bottles of Boone’s appear. I really just want to tell everyone to get the hell out of here so I can get laid, but it’s not my place, or my bed-in, and it’s not so John-and-Yoko’ish of me, I guess.

“I’m really craving some Creedence,” I say.

“I’m really craving a cigarette. Any of you heads have one I can bum?” Audrey pleads.

“You smoke?” Kat says.

“Doesn’t everyone?” Audrey smiles.

“You know what? I think the government needs a spanking,” Jazz randomly says.

“Yeah, that would be great. Public government spankings. Like instead of public hangings,” Sydney laughs.

“Oh man, I wonder how they would hire the spankers,” Greg says. “That might be a totally groovy job. Can you imagine? I wonder if they’d use a paddle for the spankings,” Greg laughs. “Ooh, maybe they’d have different tiers of spanking, man, depending on the charge, so some people would get the bare hand spank. I would definitely sign up for that job.”

“Oh no, not the bare hand spank,” Kat says in a playful voice.

“BHS, they call it. For when it’s real bad,” Greg says.

“Wow! Vietnam is teaching us so many things,” Audrey sighs. “Too many.”

“Like that we know how to be prisoners, but we’re still learning how to truly be free,” I say. “I think the spirit of our country is answering and what does Nixon say about it?”

“That he’s not ready to pull out yet, man,” Sydney says.

“Really, man, are we fucking the war or are we trying to end the war, you know?” Greg puts a peace sign up.

Hours later, everyone is asleep except for us—the red headed freaks—and we lie on Sydney’s bed in the purple glow of the black light, staring at the ceiling and blinding each other with our neon white teeth every time we laugh. Greg is passed out in the bean bag chair, half naked, and the girls are huddled together on the floor—each one snoring softly to their own rhythmic breathing.

Sydney turns on his side, facing me, and rests one hand on the slit of exposed skin near my belly button. His fingers are warm on my stomach and the moment is lucid and calm. I try to absorb as much of these moments that I possibly can.

“So what happens tomorrow?” Sydney says in a soft voice.

“We get out of your bed.”

“What else?”

“I guess we go back to work.”

“Do you think it will be the same as before?”

“What do you mean, Sydney?”

“I don’t know, you know. I just feel a little different.”

“What feels different?”

“The last two days have been real cathartic for me.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m glad we did this.”

“Man, I’m so glad I’m not in the jungle right now scared and restless.”

“I know, Sydney. Me too,” I say.

The next morning, I feel content to walk through the door of my apartment and revel in the fact that I am fortunate enough to enjoy the notion of home while so many other people across the oceans fight just to breathe; confined inside vulnerable lines of fear and anger, struggling for an intangible victory. Melting into my sofa, my mind tumbles around ideas of deconstructing the fucked up state of our country and finding ways to break down the walls of power and ego that are drawing too many boxes for all of us to fit in. We cannot be confined anymore. We shall overcome.