Her-peas

  • I'm at my friend's cabin, deep in the Siskiyou wilderness near Yreka, California. We've run out of bud and I let some people borrow my car to make a run for some more. Halfway out the driveway, I'm waving them goodbye when the car rolls over on top of me and sprains my leg. I hobble back to the house and into the kitchen. Suddenly my hands and forearms are infested with pea-sized warts that crawl all over my skin like tiny, evil moles scampering around below the surface. I am in excrutiating pain and can only be relieved by holding my tortured flesh under running cold water. Leslie, my friend's kind mother, looks over my shoulder at my condition and remarks, "Looks like you caught the herpes. Can I get you some ice cream?"

I was having a conversation with my ex-girlfriend and I can't remember what it was we were talking about. I knew I had to go somewhere but I couldn't remember what in the world I had to do. I realized I hadn't been paying atention to what Aubrey was saying and she just said something really important. I struggled to remember the syllables but I couldn't focus. She realized I wasn't listening and got very angry. After she stormed out I remembered I was supposed to meet my friend James to go riding. I raced out there on my bike but there was no power response. Every time I pulled on the throttle it wouldn't really increase speed at all. I couldn't shift so I was just stuck in first gear. I knew I wasn't going to get there in time and what I realized was that I would rather be talking to Aubrey anyway. I wanted to go back and stop her from leaving but I knew I had already ridden too far away and my bike was too slow to make it back in time.

I am backstage, during a high school production. It is hot, stuffy. A piano plays somewhere, loud swelling notes that (however unlikely) echo in the humidity. I follow the sound and find you, in the locker room at the public pool. The chlorine and moisture sink into my pores. You are faceless, nameless. In my consciousness I have no clue who you are. But here, behind the stage, you are someone important to me. I don't know who.

You sit behind a tangle of pipes, pounding the keys as though they are your last hope. Oddly enough, you are playing Leila, a song you have always hated. Something wells up inside of me, it could be love. It chokes me, and I reach blindly in your direction, grasping at your hands, I can't see. Your fingers ignore mine and nimbly finger the piano.

I can't kiss you, you tell me.

I start to heave, dry sobs that hurt my head, sweaty and shaking.

Leila, got me on my knees, Leila.
Begging darling, please, Leila...

You play as though I'm not there and behind the cold music I hear applause as the cast takes their final bows.

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