He sent us flowers without a card,
God did—that trickster soul.
It must have been a sound that started it all,
And he’s still out there somewhere, laughing
While we seek directions, or direction,
While we, the addressees, search for an addresser,
While we sort and sift and categorize and collect,
Divide, classify and analyze. Our refrigerators hum to us,
And heaven knows the bugs make their merry at night.
Once I even saw the color yellow hum
When I imagined van Gogh stroking its thick,
Vibrant passion onto the page.
That yellow song was anything but hum-drum.
I swear, I felt it on the roof of my mouth
And at the back of my throat
Like a yogic ritual or some sort of Tantric stunt.
Even deep in my chest, yes, I felt the hum.
And in the other room—the clothes in the washer,
Round and around they went, their own spinning universe,
And next to them, a parallel world, the dryer,
Connected to the same outlet,
Hum, hum, humming away.
This life is anything but ho-hum,
With all this motion and noise.
Hell, I can hardly even hear over the hum of my phone,
Which I have cursed for interference,
Which I have indignantly labeled, “that silver piece of shit,”
Which I have threatened to replace (like it cares),
And which was really Om all along.
Washing clothes, I’ve since learned, is an act of prayer.
YOU LOOK UP AT THE TWO OF THEM. He's a cigar-smoking piece of shit leaning over the rusted balcony railing. His greasy blond Mohawk hangs over one eye. His lanky torso needs a shirt. You don't remember, but this fucking loser is the same kid who, until recently was the awkward bank teller who had to ask his manager for help when he screwed up your transaction.
She looks peculiar and out of place among the rust and grime. Her shiny boots and silk scarf are ridiculous in these surroundings. It makes no sense, the way she's weeping. The way she touches the shoulder of this loser with his spotty, stinking jeans and bare feet.
He knows it, too. He knows she doesn't belong here. Every time they go out together, someone says, "No way. This isn't your girlfriend."
What they’re really saying is, "You can't get a woman like that." But they're wrong. He can. He did. Standing on the cluttered balcony of his shit hole apartment, her sobs and words are ambient noise. He remembers what she used to be: an unattainable fantasy. A hot MILF. He searches his memory for the instant, a frozen piece of time where he might have glimpsed her transformation; the moment of her metamorphosis into a hysterical, insecure control freak trying to maintain a white-knuckle grip on her youth.
WHEN YOU NEED HEROIN, you can’t sleep, you can’t eat or drink. Your teeth shatter and goose-bumps run up your forearms, the downy hairs stand on end and you know these are your hands, your hairs, your goose bumps, but you don’t feel like it’s you.
It’s been almost a day, and hot sand burns in my bones. In my mind I reach inside the grainy marrow and scratch the lining with my nails. In my mind I have sharp nails. I never have nails in real life. I bite them to blood. But in my mind I shred the tenderness, claw out the gnawing ache, scrape the sand out clean.
I dial the number. My fingers shake. The long beeps in the phone are loud. Louder than Maddy’s screams in the other room.
“Go pick her up,” says Jack from the hallway, his jacket and hat on. “Take care of your fucking kid.”
“It’s your kid, too. I’m sick,” I say. “I need a fix.”
“You’re a mother,” he says.
He puts a purple scarf around his neck, and says, “You can’t do it, you need to get over it, you’ll get your fix when she grows up.”
He reaches his hand in the stroller, under the mattress.