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a mist hung across the cemetry gates, obscuring our features, we were lit blue in the glow of the moon. you were a skeleton in a top hat, i was a gypsy and you were the tarot card, my death, my sweet death. i was all mint liquer and smeared make-up, my throat scratchy from too many cigarettes. i don't know what to do when you try to hold my hand, you silly skeleton. because no matter what the songs and movies try to tell us – there may not be a time, there may not be a place for us.
i reside in a cold water flat, and sometimes i hate all the clichés i have lived up to. am i the true definition of a starving artiste because i survive from eggs and bread, tea and cigarettes and candy bars? it is a cold water flat because we can't afford to pay our gas bill; not enough hours at work, too many hours intoxicated and working on a new project. it is so cold in here, the ghosts make it even colder, but i warm myself with spiced rum and sweaters and an old fire-hazard of a space heater.
forgive me for being all doomsday, but doesn't this election have anyone else clicking their way over to priceline.com for a cheap plane ticket to europe? and, once you get there and realize that you don't have the money even for a cheap plane ticket, haven't you started fashioning a noose out of your grandfather's old necktie? all my other problems pale in comparison to this one. the states are so incredibly fucked right now. the only thing for it is to drink myself into a stupor. which is why i'm putting whiskey in my coffee at ten forty-nine a.m.
my wife of fourteen years has divorced me. the telephone doesn't ring, there are no green envelopes lettered with her careful script waiting in my mailbox. friends say "forget the bitch," urging me to throw away all photographs of the two of us, and erase her from my stories. they don't understand – she means more to me than they ever will. she was present for all the defining moments in my life. her wild blonde hair and chocolate brown eyes, her copper skin and sweet giggle, even her belches and farts, they'll haunt me forever.
dames can be so cold.
there is a tom waits song for every mood. whether you're getting ready for a night on the town, or sitting in your apartment and crying in your beer, or even preparing to go on a murderous rampage – there is a tom waits tune (or two) that will be appropriate for the occasion. i relate more to his persona, the rumpled suit jacket and ever-present whiskey bottle and that tin cans and gravel voice than i do to any of the women he sings about. i have often said – "if you don't get tom waits, then you don't get me."
oh hipsters, i hate you. your clothing is so overly tight, it looks like it's cutting off your circulation. you're messy and don't match, but you're messy in a perfect way. i can tell you paid eighty dollars to get your hair looking like that. what's with the white belts? you don't
soul! what's with the mesh trucker hats? you're not white trash, you're from the suburbs! and you know what the worst part is? none of you fucking dance at shows! you stand there like scrawny trees, swaying gently when people who actually are dancing brush past you.
she couldn't remember what her tea was called, some herbal hippie-shit name, but in her head she was referring to it as déjà vu. that's what the whole day had been, with yet another boy that made her feel so intensely emotional. they were sitting at a dirty table, chain-smoking, and when he asked her what she was thinking, she shook her head to make the thoughts fly away like bats. her tea had grown cold. cold like her bed, her heart, and the dreary november day. the tea was the same color as the sky – a gloomy, milky brown.
tongues of blue fire licked at the sky, twisting and twining their way across the black canvas, all the way from the train yards to the lake. we stood outside in the parking lot, just watching, not saying anything. someone had to break the silence with a drunken joke: "look, god's wearing a tie-dye t-shirt." but it wasn't like that. everything was frozen and pure and sapphire, the sky was fire and ice, the ancient gods making their journey from work to bed. my hands numbed, ice cubes sparkled like diamonds. i felt the blue fire burning in my lungs.
i used to wish for excitement and adventure. i started making my own adventures. and now. . .there is rarely a dull moment. something crazy and fucked up is always happening to me, or around me, and drama follows me everywhere. be careful what you wish for, right? it's exhausting, and life spins out of control. i long to have a week where absolutely nothing extraordinary happens. i long for a day where a drink at the bar doesn't turn into a wild night of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll, where going out for coffee doesn't end with me getting arrested.
god invented bourbon
to get people through rough patches.
there is a scorpions' record
to wake me up in the morning
and beatnik poetry to sing me
i've got fingerless gloves and a
box of hair dye, pool cues and
switchblades and a warrant
for my arrest.
this is juvenile delinquency
to the tenth degree.
i know where i want to go,
but i don't know how to get
there cos i have no idea
where i am.
please, hand me my bourbon
and my cigarettes. thanks.
when am i not going through
a rough patch?
when you're at a movie premiere, you have to drink a martini. blue sapphire gin, with a twist. you'll be wearing the outfit that makes you feel most like a star – something sleek and black is always good. you will smoke french cigarettes and the candlelight will shine through the martini glass, making sparkling, rainbow patterns on the walls. people will walk up to you and say: "oh, so you're the poet," and you will smile graciously and say: "why yes, yes i am." the air will be poetry, and there will be stars in your eyes. long live showbiz.
would you stop treating me like a doll? i'm not some pretty plastic figurine in a lacy frock that you can sit on your shelf, only taking me down when you want to play, and then put me back on the shelf, where i collect dust, until the next time you want me. when i try to tell you my needs, you don't notice – because dolls can't talk.
i'm not made of plastic. i am not hollow, i have feelings. if you want me to stick around, sometimes you're going to have to do things for me.
shopping list: one can of tuna. one loaf of whatever bread is on sale. one small container of milk. three packs of camel filters. one two liter bottle of coca-cola. 750 millileters of jack daniels. a box of lubricated, ribbed, extra-sensitive condoms. a box of burgundy hair dye. two boxes of pepperoni hot pockets. a six pack of pabst blue ribbon, just in case. some kind of sugary cereal. coffee. and tea. maybe a boquet of flowers for the kitchen table, if i can afford it. a pack of gum. and some vitamins – wouldn't want to be unhealthy, you know.
if people are going to consider you a freak anyway, you may as well revel in it. you may as well make money from their fear and awe.
what is the american fascination with the circus? it is a showcase of the darkest parts of our psyches. each of us is a dwarf, two halves of a pair of conjoined twins. each one of us contains a bearded lady, a lizard man, a fortuneteller, a fire-breather, and a geek.
embrace the darkness inside of you. put your freakiness on display. run away, run away with the circus. never come home.
i am always looking for signs. anything can be a sign. i guess you could say i have a lazy eye for detail. a new jersey quarter in a handful of change, a flock of sleeping cranes roosted in a dead tree, a man playing the fiddle in a subway tunnel. signs. i consult the tarot cards at least three times a week, hoping they will give me insight into what the fates have in store, or give some sort of order to the seemingly random patterns of my life.
usually, they only serve to make me even more confused.
may 11, after a failed job interview: i noticed a tall man with electric-shocked white hair. i walked past the bourbon cafe, which always makes me think of tom waits. then, it hit me. the man was jim jarmusch! "i don't mean to bother you," i said, "but you're my favorite director. all your films are sad and lovely. it's a quality i strive for in my writing." "thank you," he said. "and you are?" "jessica wilber." "nice to meet you, jessica." we shook hands, and i went on my way, suddenly not caring that i didn't get the job.
someone once said that writing is the only acceptable form of schizophrenia. people assume that writers dream up their characters and plots, but really, that's not entirely true. more often, i feel like my characters are dreaming me. people and places pop into my head, seemingly of their own volition. they clamor and shout and bang on the inside of my skull until i agree to write their stories down. they tell me what to write, what words were said, how the story unfolded. and maybe, just maybe, if i tell it right, they'll stop chattering and leave me alone.
road trips gone wrong: toronto to montreal; six hours on no sleep, and a pocket full of meth. sleeping in a field behind a mcdonald's, just outside baltimore. broken down in the middle of gary, indiana, late at night on a sunday, with only two cigarettes left in the pack. food poisoning in kansas city. driving from portland to san francisco to see a punk rock show, and then getting there, and all the tickets are sold out. wandering the streets of philadelphia, looking for car keys that were accidentally thrown in a garbage can. never wanting to go home.
i had some blood tests done at the doctor the other day. they're checking on my liver. the results are in, i could call the receptionist and get them, if i wanted. honestly, i'd rather not know. i wouldn't be surprised if my liver looked like swiss cheese, ruined from all the booze and cough pills i've been steadily pumping into it over the last seven years. but i don't want to know, i'd rather just live in ignorance. until one day, when i'm 47 (like kerouac!), i'll go on a bender, and my liver will give out for good.
all these neighborhoods, all the way up highway thirty-two, are stuck in the past. factories with smashed-in windows, "for rent" posters, flickering neon outside bars advertising "blatz – milwaukee's finest." i saw a tiny old cemetery i'd never seen before, never noticed, and i've driven this route so many times, i could do it with my eyes closed.
this coffeeshop is a time warp, too. i'm wearing a gray cardigan and smoking galouises. the coffee cups (and matching saucers) are the kind you'd find in a thriftstore, and they're playing old 45s of people like chuck berry and screamin' jay hawkins.
he was sitting in the smoking section, waiting for me. i'd never realized how young he looked. his hair was a mess, like he'd just woken up. his usual light-brown stubble was shaved off, leaving his face smooth and boyish. "ever have one of those nights," he asked, "where you can't stop thinking, no matter how you try?" he fidgeted in his seat the whole time, staring at his hands that shook as he lifted his coffee mug to his petulant lips. he's a sweet boy, but so inexperienced. and i can't be the one who teaches him about life.
the ghosts won't leave you alone. they follow you down these wet city streets, i know. you see their reflections in every window, and their faces in every crowd. but they're ghosts, my dear, and they have no effect on the living. they can't touch your ripped skirt or your smeared lipstick; they can't hurt you if you don't let them. they make a lot of noise, but they can't touch you. ignore them. drink your milky coffee, buy yourself some shiny silver jewelry, play some songs on the jukebox. if you don't acknowledge them, soon enough they'll fade away.
i had a dream that he'd taken the lighter i'd left in the motel room, kept a hold of it all these months, even though it's long since run out of fluid. when i last spoke to him, i asked him about it, and he said: "oh my god, how did you know?" it was a small blue lighter, and i'm glad he has it; lighters come and go, i was not attached to it.
since we cannot be together, we hold on to scraps. handwritten notes, photographs, empty lighters, and voicemail messages. i wish i had stolen his shoes.
i often dream of trains; their howl through the night, the rhythmic beating on the train tracks. i want to get on one and ride through time zones until the train comes to a stop – a big city, or a nowhere town with a name like "tekonsha" or "sheboygan." i'd get off and wander around, find a place to eat some greasy food, or sit on a park bench with my notebook open, surveying the landscape. then i'd get back on the train and head south, drifting in-between asleep and awake, until the sun rose orange through the eastern windows.
the corn stalks are tall and brown, scratching at the midnight sky. the night is a tar pit that drowned the moon. the wind sneaks through a rotting chicken coop, causing planks of wood to bang ominously against the rusty wire. a black cat runs across the road, its eyes glinting green in the headlights of a car full of teenagers that is going way too fast – they're drunk, and if they don't watch the curves in the road, the winter trees will jump out and wrap themselves around the car. there are so many things that can kill you.
why is so much importance is placed on family? just because they're tied to you with genetics and blood, doesn't mean they care about you. family gatherings make me want to claw my eyes out. there are a handful of relatives i'm close to, but the rest of them, with their hateful eyes (or the ones that are worse than that, like my rapist uncle), make me lose my appetite for starchy thanksgiving food. i wish i could have spent the holidays with my best friends and a bottle of wine, listening to jazz records and talking about the future?
there is a certain kind of loneliness that comes from a november day in michigan, an acute sensation that pierces your heart, which you'll never quite grasp unless you've experienced it. i spent my childhood there, and it is in my blood.
it is a crow flapping blackly against a gray sky. it is the smell of automobiles, and pine trees stretching up to pierce the clouds. it is men in hunting gear, roadside antique stores, and the sadness of a dying state. it is the knowledge that no matter what, deep down, you will always be absolutely, utterly alone.
holiday wish list: girly crap that i don't need, such as flouncy skirts, expensive red lipstick, and high-heeled shoes. a rail pass, so i can travel around the country and see my friends. homemade bitters. good irish whiskey. a fiddle. an accordion. anything circus or carnival related. a shitload of blank CDs. a new tattoo or two. mix tapes from people i love. a ticket to the blue meanies concert on december 23rd. a gift certificate to kinko's (or some other copy place), for zine-publishing.
those are things i want for xmas; but the only thing i need is you.
we ran through the subway tunnels, with the CTA guards hot on our trail. they thought we were terrorists. c. was wearing a pair of shiny red pajamas; i was in a pair of shiny leopard-print ones. my boots fell off and landed on the tracks. i continued to run in my stocking feet. there was broken glass everywhere, and my feet got all scratched and bloody. i left a trail of bloody footprints behind me. when we finally emerged into daylight, it was no longer winter. we went back to c.'s house and drank a pot of licorice tea.
winter makes me want to listen to the pogues. there's something about the whiskey-soaked voice of shane macgowan, that hard-drinking punk poet, which is akin to the way i feel in all this fog and rain. a love song with a mandolin and a tin whistle kills me, and i relate to all those tales of the drunk and the down-and-out. oh, and sometimes i fear i am becoming one of those celtic clichés. my throat is scratchy from cigarettes, and my shirt is stained with blood and whiskey. i cry and write sad tales of death and lost love.
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