small town

Lacy always gets bitch seat. She doesn’t mind it’s kind of cozy and that way she can keep her eyes on the road because she doesn’t always trust the person driving the car. It’s not great when the seatbelt is missing or broken which happens a lot because she can’t stop thinking about her head going through the windshield.

The bass ricochets through her eardrums and she doesn’t care much for the music but moves her head to the beat anyway. It’s the middle of July and the air is wet and sticky, unlike yesterday dry as a bone, and that’s typical for a New England summer. The Driver’s air conditioner is broken in his ’99 Civic so the windows are down and she wishes she could put her arm out but it probably wouldn’t make a difference.

The Passenger hands the spliff back and Jenna grabs it. She inhales and exhales and passes it to Lacy and Lacy passes it to Emily because she doesn’t know how to inhale without coughing up a lung and she’d rather not. Lacy is looking through the windshield and The Driver is speeding up because they are on Westboro Road by Tufts Campus and it’s really long and really straight and drivers like to go fast here. She hates when the drivers do this because she doesn’t think it’s cool to get into an accident and die over something small like this and that’s all she can think about as the speedometer hits sixty in a thirty.

Jenna asks The Driver to slow down and he does.

At night this town dies and life happens inside of cars and basements and parking lots. In fifteen minutes they are on the other side of town and The Passenger passes back the second one and Jenna grabs it and this time Lacy takes one hit and she coughs for five minutes straight. She asks if they can stop at Cumbies for some water.  They pass the high school on the way and in the parking lot, they see Joey Silva’s Mazda and later find out that Sara Strindberg was with him and left her ring at home. They pass the Stop and Shop on Pleasant Street and see all of the F-150s decorated with Confederate flags and the kids who drive them sit in the truck beds and have no idea what any of it means.

‘We can go to Paul’s,’ The Passenger says.
‘Do you guys want to go to Paul’s?’ The Driver asks.
‘Sure,’ the girls say.

They pull into Cumbies’ parking lot and Lacy sees the Black Acura. She looks at Jenna and Jenna is looking at her and Emily says, ‘should we leave?’

Lacy gets out of the car and walks into the convenience store and sees him by the slushy machine.

‘Hey,’ she says.
‘Where have you been?’
‘I’ve been calling you.’
‘I know.’
‘I miss you.’
‘I miss you, too.’
‘I don’t get it.’
‘You know how it is.’

His eyes are bloodshot and it seems like he might be looking at her but he’s really looking just past her. He’ll never remember this conversation and it will live inside of her head for weeks.

She waits for him to ask her to come with but he doesn’t and when she walks out she sees Her in his front seat and it hurts. She starts to cry but only a little, no one notices, as she crawls back into the middle seat and waits to leave.

They head to Paul’s and they sit at the Millbury Street stoplight for what feels like hours and for some reason The Driver didn’t put the music back on and it is very peaceful. The crickets sing songs in the tall grass in the open fields and in the distance there are tires screeching and an engine revving and Lacy likes this music better.

Paul lives in the south part of town and his mom is never home and his dad lives in Florida so there are always kids in his basement drinking Sparks or Red Bull vodkas or both. They walk in and it smells like dirty laundry. Paul looks up from his water pipe and smiles.

‘What you guys do tonight?’ Paul asks The Driver.

The Driver sits down and grabs the pipe. As he exhales he says, ‘Nothing. Just drove around.’

ricotta and jam

i met a girl
at a coffee shop
in europe
i said hi

we got to talking
she said it’s time i get out of here
but i don’t know where to go
i said the same thing
to myself yesterday

follow your heart
what else could i say
her half smile, a crescent moon
her dark eyes, nothing special about them
she fixes her hair
her words flat:
i can’t take that advice

because my heart built a home
in a polished seashell
the one that lies on the coastline
of a ruined city
seventeen hundred miles away

disguised as a lipstick stain
on the rim of a red solo cup
filled half way with liquor
half way with lust
lust at a frat party
i am a passerby

it makes hootch
in the rainforest
and dances to the sound
of languages it can’t understand
makes love to flamenco
in cobblestone alleys far away in the past

i always forget that
it sits idly in this coffee shop
waiting for visions to become words
ten thousand words, ten thousand more
my fingers like rocket ships

my heart takes rest in a city
blooming in frondescence
wrapped up in auburn curls
curls that do not shed, i shed

underneath a sticky bar mat
in a busy city center late night
conversations of substance, or not
company of substance, or not
i’ll make you a white russian
with my eyes closed

my heart salutes the sun amongst the Joshua Trees
a place where it never rains
my heart hallucinates
the clouds put on a show
i could stay,
what happens if i stay
if i leave
do you see?

if i follow my heart
ill be stretched so thin
my skin will blanket the galaxy
my bones will float mid air

if i follow my heart
my elbow will live in France
while my toes march the rockies
my lips will sing country songs
in dive bars and dorm rooms

my ass will sit on a train
with a one way ticket to nowhere in particular
just because the thought of starting over
tastes as sweet
as this ricotta and jam
this ricotta and jam, have you tried it?

i have
how’d your heart get there
to all of these places
the wind, i guess.
maybe you should follow the wind, i said.
maybe i should follow the wind

a very short story

There’s this girl behind the bar and I think she must be the new barista because they took down the We’re Hiring sign out front and I’ve never seen her here before, and that says something, because I come once sometimes twice a week. The only reason I don’t have a lot of patience right now is because she keeps dropping the portafilter (you really have to get it in there right and pull like your life depends on it) and the partially packed espresso is all over the floor and it’s distracting me from the conversation I’m trying to hack. I’ve been listening to the couple sitting at the table in front of me for awhile and I’m doing that thing where my headphones are in and sometimes I type so it’s very, very inconspicuous. But, I’m listening. Hard.

We’re at Sally’s, my favorite place, come here all the time. I like it because it’s quiet. It’s not the place you go to have a serious conversation so I don’t know why they’re here. Maybe they don’t know. It’s more like a library with a coffee bar and (now) shitty baristas. I like the quiche they make on Wednesdays and I like how I don’t have to order a soy cappuccino anymore they just bring it over. I know what you’re thinking, soy, but one time I tried it just for the hell of it and I’ve never gone back. I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning and the birds are singing so lovely I swear they opened the window in here just for them. I would have sat outside at one of them European type tables, it’s that kind of nice with the sun and the breeze and the girls in sundresses, but I had to charge my computer first, and now I’m pretty hooked on this heated conversation.

“I’m not ready,” he says, pulling his face down with the weight of his fingertips. He is facing my direction so I’ve been observing and so far I notice his hands. He likes to run his fingers through his hair and play piano on his thighs.

I can’t see her face but I know she’s pretty. Something about her hair maybe. It’s a soft, golden blonde and it looks perfectly straight and perfectly cut and you hope that it’s natural even though you know that it’s not. I can’t see her hands but her left foot has tapped at a steady tempo for the last hour. Maybe it’s the one thing keeping her from ripping his eyeballs out.

“I’m keeping it,” she says, tapping.

“I can’t.”

“You are, David. I’m telling you right now that you are.”

I don’t know whose side I’m on. I don’t know if I have any strong beliefs about it I’ve never really thought about it. That’s the thing about being a guy I guess. You don’t have to think about it until something like this happens.

I take a quick look around to see if anyone else is doing what I’m doing. There’s an older guy in the corner with a newspaper and a chocolate croissant left untouched, but I doubt he can hear much besides his nasal breath and ruffling papers. There’s a woman at the table next to him with black and gold rimmed glasses and a cat necklace (she’s a regular too but we’ve never acknowledged it), and I know she’s preoccupied with what is supposedly a novel about the fourth dimension. And really that’s it, just us, except for the old barista teaching the new barista how to make a latte and I hope they’re not listening in on this because she needs focus!

“You know how I feel”

“You know I disagree.” His fingers playing piano. “There are other options.”

I do like David and he says all of this in a very matter-of-fact manner I really don’t think he’s trying to make her upset, I think he’s trying to be honest, but what do I know? Her left foot has picked up the pace, double-time, and I find myself bracing for impact.

“I’m having the fucking baby, David!” she screams. She stands up and in one fluid motion throws her hot, black coffee in his piano-playing lap. He, more or less, screams too.

“You’re fucking crazy, Diane!”

Now everyone is doing what I’m doing.

The old barista runs to the couple’s table, while Diane runs out of Sally’s. For someone who just burnt his scrotum, he is awfully calm now. He takes the napkins and thanks the old barista and pats his lap and takes a deep breath. He runs his fingers through his hair and gathers his things and leaves just as quickly. I stare at the empty table with the wet napkins and the spilled coffee and the ultrasound photos she left behind and I’m not sure I like David anymore. I don’t know what to think so I just sit for a while.

Eventually, I pack up my things because I tried to leave an hour ago but David and Diane happened. It’s still a beautiful day, despite the mood here at Sally’s, and I could use a little fresh air. As I’m wrapping my headphones and taking my last, lukewarm sip of coffee, I hear the all too familiar sound of a fallen portafilter.

I swing by the bar on my way out to grab a breath mint.

“See you next week.”