But This is Who I Am

I often remember traveling; remember the trains. They are the easiest to recall because I ride the train here sometimes. I would be on a train sometimes for two days with my big green back-pack. I remember the Roman I met in Aranjuez, he was raising money for AIDS research. I bought a pink silk camisole in Paris and I wore it in Aranjuez for myself. For me and for Nobokov and Lolita and Henry James and the whole gang. We had a grand party. Dried nuts and fruits and everything.

Sometimes I’d rather be alone. I can identify and deal with it better than anything. Sometimes I wonder when I’ll have cause to mention any part of the past year to anyone. How will it be relevant in any way beyond a storehouse of internal beauty to which I can retreat and wonder if it wasn’t all a dream? A dream that I privately remember while my secretary drops the mail on my desk. Like these entries.

“But this is who I am,” a voice will nudge inside of me, while I smile into some eyes one evening. Eyes that stare back at my glittery eye shadow and tell me about the professional singer who sang on Amateur Night over at the St. Mark’s Bar. A third party will help us strike up a whole conversation about the kind of joint that place used to be. I’ll tell him that a friend of mine works there and what kind of place it is now. But I won’t tell them that this friend is not really my friend. That I’ve been thinking lately that I don’t really trust the guy so much and how I’m realizing that it’s time, after all the shoddy attempts at communication, to let him slip away.

I shift on my feet. I’m anxious because the rhythm of the train is slipping away, down my spine. It’s becoming opaque and obscure. My present company is distracting me and now I’m thinking about someone who should be slipping away when, instead, it’s the rhythm of the trains that’s slipping.

I’m losing it and I’m distracted. And I know those eyes that belong to that man across from me do not want to be looking at my glittery eye shadow. It is distracting him from remembering the dream he had last night. It scared him and he tried to brush it off his shoulder this morning with his freshly shaven whiskers. He was glad when his secretary brought him his mail this morning, because that was the sane thing to do– to shuffle through his mail and to organize it with paper clips. But it’s evening now and he’s holding a drink that he doesn’t want and he’s irritated with my eye lids, as much as he’d like to kiss them sometime, too. But that would be like succumbing to the dream that keeps poking at his shoulder with that one whisker that he missed, like the voice that nudges inside, “But this is who I am.”

My lips move, “How true…” as I think back to my apartment in Florence. I think back to cakey white walls and Megan and Tammy. I am recalling the risky conversation we might have had, that we all felt we were having. We all felt we were trying to tell each other something. Something secret about a dark place we had been.

“There’s a very fine line between going crazy and being sane.”

“Really, one could snap. One could go at any minute.”

I had secret thoughts then that made me shift my feet. I recalled the newsman in Natural Born Killers going ballistic in the prison bathroom, killing. I identified with him. I felt like killing. But I knew I never would and I crossed and uncrossed my legs and a voice whispered, “But this is who I am.” And I sent the most subliminal message and I wanted people to read my mind.

The third guy has got cracked mud on his shoulder and an empty room in the back of his head that propels him forward. His teeth propel forward into the conversation. From the side you can really see the momentum. He wants us to confide in him, pour ourselves into his empty room. It has southern exposure, but the blinds are drawn and it’s overcast anyway. There is a table and it’s cold and white and it does not belong to him. He just uses it to put down his milk and his keys. There is a sofa, in the purest sense of the word. It’s wool and of just that sort of yellow and green tweed design that makes it seem to have always been there, like it arrived there all on its own some long time ago. It does not belong to him. It was there and so he uses it. And there is a bare bulb and a string hanging from the ceiling.

He wants us to re-affirm his room and his protruding teeth. He is sad and when he is alone, he thinks that the sofa is maybe not so bad and, in a way, he even kind of likes it because it holds him at night and in those moments, he at least feels like something is his.


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