Black Kettle OR Not Mine You’d Say / Filled With Junk
i remember the first night we kissed. it’s blurry in my memory yet i can slip there quite easily
if i just close / my / eyes
we were sitting on the floor with our backs to the wall
in the front living room of the place you called home
on Markoe St in West Philadelphia in the Spring of 2009.
i’m sure others were there, i know Others were there
but they were, and are, unimportant.
i don’t know why it felt so unexpected. it’s not like it didn’t feel natural–it did. i guess i was just so caught up
in my own whirlwind
of being young and lost and recently heartbroken and uncomfortably
vulnerable to really even consider
perhaps you felt the same?
i’m sure there was music playing, drugs being done,
drugs already in our bodies, keeping us awake, putting us to
sleep again, long after the stars were asleep, long after the sun
i’m sure it was dirty.
in that place
cigarette butts and empty little drug bags everywhere,
not quite empty but all of them torn open by some desperate souls
the grime of how-many-fucking-people’s saliva-licked fingers the last remaining remnants
i’d watched the same people pick up the same bags for months, then cast them down in bitter disappointment
random bits and fragments of could-be identities and might-someday-be talents
hanging on the walls.
Jackson, our then friend Stacy’s then pitbull puppy (then cuz Stacy’s dead now…cuz heroin’s a bitch)
Jackson was probably pissing or shitting in the corner next to us, probably on the blankets crumpled in a pile,
the same blankets one of our friends would curl up with the next time
they actually decided to get some shuteye
everything there felt dirty and criminal and unsafe.
covered in old sweat, devoid of dignity
but it was the place i kept coming back to day after day, because i had
nowhere better to go
i snorted ketamine to keep the terror at bay
keep me from myself
everything got hazy, felt good, reeeeeaaaaaal good, felt melty, flowing, elastic,
real, real nice
and suddenly our hands were touching–we were holding hands.
it was this feeling of utter surprise
like that time as a small child when the neighbor’s big dog knocked
me to the ground. it’s one of my earliest memories from the duplex on Walnut
Avenue in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in the early 90’s.
the early 90’s, when life still felt real.
i forcefully hit the ground on my back. i looked up, tried to sit up, tried to breathe,
couldn’t breathe, the impact was shocking. i panicked.
i gasped and within milliseconds (but it felt like forever) my lungs began to work again.
i took a big desperate inhale.
i lost my breath. it stopped me in my tracks
it jostled me out of whatever drug induced stupor I was in, because
we were holding hands
and your hands were so clean. clean and soft. baby hands. bigger than mine,
not small or anything but still, baby hands.
perfect and clean and soft and safe.
Nothing like the rest of that god-forsaken house. Nothing. Nothing.
maybe that’s just how i want to remember it, how i want to remember you, cuz i don’t want to remember me
maybe i’m fantasizing and romanticizing this like i do everything else in life,
maybe my therapist would classify this as “magical thinking”
but i want ti think of us as two perfect wholesome crusaders, two glorious beams of light
hiding out in our fortress, our love castle, our safe haven, ours
away from the madness, way away from all that.
we weren’t one of them.
not you anyway.
but it couldn’t be less true
we weren’t crusaders of anything
we were just as slobbering and stuttering and depraved as the rest of them
i was just a pot calling you a
our fortress was not a fortress but a room, a lonely little room
whose door had no doorknob, but instead a gaping hole
where hornier and even more desperate friends would peep in while we were
grinding our bony malnourished disembodied selves all over each other on that “bed”.
was it a bed?
it was a mattress of sorts on the floor. i think it was a mattress pad i don’t fuckin know
it was designed for a child and always looked so desolate and bent out of shape in the corner
like no one would ever want to make love on it
or even fuck
but i guess we still tried, with varying degrees of success
the room was not so much a love castle as it was
filled with junk
clothes everywhere. not your clothes. or at least not clothes i’d ever seen you wear. someone else’s. Stacy’s clothes you’d say. That other homie’s artwork you’d say. His stuff. Her crap. Junk.
“Not mine” you’d say
one time I found used needles in that room
“Not mine” you’d say
5 years later you came to San Francisco
and we made quasi-plans to
maybe get coffee
maybe have a chat
maybe have a laugh about that one time i accidentally got that sawed-off shotgun
pulled on you at Rothbury Music Festival, that time i almost got you killed.
instead you stayed at my house for 3 days in a row.
i called in sick to work. i skipped all my classes. i disappeared again in some
new but familiar space, with someone new but familiar.
and your hands were just as soft five years later
…with all you’d seen… all you’d touched… all you’d forgotten to love about yourself…
and you tell me you’ve been back to jail (twice)
that you’ve racked up 7 felonies
that you’ve been homeless, beat up
that you’ve stuck needles filled with junk in your arms, your neck, i don’t know where else, i don’t want to know where else.
i still somehow can’t even picture you like that.
Surely It Must Have All Happened.
but it eludes me.
and your hands feel like all you’ve ever done your whole life is bounce around in clouds
and lay your angelic face on pillows made of marshmallows and silk.
five years later and the mystery is still there
the shock. the milliseconds of i can’t breathe…