No. 15

seventy seven and sunny
forcing your body to do work
sweating out last night’s booze

convex lens in hand, I have an excuse
to exclusively train my eye on your knee highs
bold as blood amidst a sea of black and white

you love knee highs.

in fluid motion passes plastic
body to body, hand to hand
with varying ease and grace

but none with such as yours.

through this rotund glass I
choose to frame and compose
to see the field I want to see

reduce each figure to anonymity
remove myself, the context
remove the meaning of Person

with the exception of you.

despite my manipulation of space and shape
I still taste the saline on your upper lip
feel your fingers pull my pony tail

you’d said stop, bashful and embarrassed
by the griminess of your sinewy limbs
and the grass stuck in your beard

I didn’t care.

at times it can be better to live with
splashes of mud on your hands
drops of sweat on your tongue

a little dirty.

spring ’09.

There’s a three-foot lizard on the bed. He belongs to that man in the corner, who I think is more beard than man; more hallucination than human. But this lizard is real, in all four feet of his scaly glory. Scratch his rough, pudgy belly and he writhes not from pain but from pleasure, before falling back asleep.

The fact that he can sleep in this 9’x12′ is in its own small way a miracle, as the space is a tiny box of chaos. Some hooded dude in sweat pants is sitting at the desk rolling a blunt, four high-heeled girls by the door are on round three of shots in as many minutes, the bearded nonbeing is trying to make a phone call in the corner, and as I sit on the bed tickling this giant lizard, a guy begins to pitch to me a Bud Light commercial. It involves werewolves and “sorority bitches in bikinis.” I tell him it sounds great. He shakes my hand and suggests we do a shot. Sure. Why not.

The Captain Morgan goes down easy, even though I hate rum. I never chase. It’s not an act of bravado, but more of an embracing of the burn and what it signifies — it’s a conscious reminder of what I’m choosing to do, and tonight, it’s a reminder that perhaps I shouldn’t do it again. I can’t be hungover tomorrow. It’s the last night, and I don’t know whose room this is, but he’s gonna have a good time cleaning in a few hours. The desk is covered with partially filled beer bottles and cans and liquor bottles and shot glasses and pong balls and dutch wrappers. They tremble, and at first I think my lubricated brain is fabricating their subtle shaking, but then I realize that I can feel the subwoofer through the bed — FlyLo is pumping, only barely drowning out the sound of M.I.A. playing a cash register in the living room.

I wander away from my lizard friend and join the party again. I find my people friends dancing on tables with wings on their feet, their heavy hearts temporarily lightened like helium balloons cut free from mailboxes. I know them only by their silhouettes against the soft light falling from the paper lantern hanging in the corner. No one stands still — everyone is beyond caring about their outfit, their hair, their make up, and everyone sweats together in a nonstop orgy of untethered joy one last time.

I slip outside onto the balcony for a breath of fresh air, and by “fresh” I mean “smoke filled.” I don’t care — can’t. Don’t know how any more. The cool mountain air feels good against my damp skin, and the faces leaning against the brick wall are just as refreshing. Everyone’s chillin’, chatting coolly about how fucked they are. “The REAL WORLD, man. Fuckin’ SCARY.” I find myself thinking about how I don’t really give a shit — they might have to go out and be adults, and that sucks and all, but I’m going to have to be here without them. They’re leaving me behind.

But that’s what happens, right? We are kinetic beings. We move in different directions, at times unpredictably, chasing down some kind of happiness we aren’t sure how to attain. We all know we’ll never be happy again in the way we’re happy now, and we’ll never be together in the same way, but when it’s all over — and it does end — we all go looking to replace this hedonistic pleasure however we can, until we’re satisfied with what pleasures we learn can be more deeply satisfying if we let them be.

I don’t want to think like this right now. I go back inside. Weave my way through the dance party, resisting as my friends try to pull me in and rock out to MJ. Pass the pot smokers in the bathroom, who are mingling with those girls on line who always complain that, “oh my god, I can’t wait any more,” and those other girls who always insist on running the sink tap while they pee. (I never understood that.) I retrace my steps back down the hall.

The bedroom’s empty now. FlyLo’s been replaced, oddly enough, with The Decemberists — “The Bagman’s Gambit.” “No, they cannot catch me now. We will escape somehow, somehow.” I curl back up in a corner of the bed with my lizard friend. I feel bad for abandoning him earlier, knowing how badly I feel at the thought that tomorrow, my friends abandon me. The drunken romantic in me considers the night to be the end of an era, but in a way, it feels like any other night — a dream melted into a dream, encapsulated by the fog of another dream. A number of people wander past the room, looking for someone or another, but no one stays. I’m glad. For the moment, choosing to be alone in the crowd with none but a sleeping lizard feels good. “With the wave of an arm, you were there and gone.

Being honest about being well.

I often hate when people (myself included) start off a bit of writing with phrases like “Let’s be real here,” but in this case, it doesn’t feel wrong: Let’s be real here. In a matter of speaking, people don’t want to be well. People don’t always want to be happy. People don’t always want to be healthy.

It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s so much work, wellness. It requires a considerable amount of conscious effort to eat properly, exercise regularly, sleep enough and at normal hours, and balance work with play, sociability with solitude, making a life with living. And let’s be real here: at this point in our lives, it takes a lot to really WANT wellness.

In a way, we love our depression. We love the lows because they allow us the highs. We indulge in the bitching and whining and moping, so we can indulge in the hedonistic pleasures that allow us to block all that out. In a way, it’s so you have an excuse. It’s actively making bad decisions. It’s staying out late and drinking too much and sleeping too little last night so you can say, “This is why I was unproductive today.” You know it’s poor reasoning, but it’s an explanation nonetheless.

But it’s nothing more than that, either: it’s only an explanation. It’s not a legitimate excuse. I find myself, lately, trying to convince myself that I’m working hard to get better in mind and body and emotions, but I only half believe it. It’s not that I don’t WANT to feel better. I don’t want to be so depressed, so unhealthy. But I also don’t want to lose the joy of the highs that have helped me survive the last few years. I don’t want the responsibility of taking care of myself, when it’s so much easier to neglect myself and my life in favor of other things.

I claim to want balance, but if I’m being honest, I can admit that I don’t truly want to work for it, and I don’t want to lose the comfort of having a built-in explanation for my portfolio of failures. Being unwell is a way of stunting growth, isn’t it? And refusing to cease being unwell is a way of refusing to grow. It’s stubborn and petulant and child-like, a Peter Pan-esque denial of maturity. I don’t know how to shake it — how does one learn to want to care for herself, to want to be taken care of? How do you learn to let go of the masochistic pleasures of unwellness, and desire what you know is best?