Today I sat in a cemetary alone with the dead, eating chocolate ice cream
. I sat cross-legged
on a white wrought iron
bench with my little notebook and my pen and a pint of ice cream, trying to pretend that you would not haunt me here. The dead are quiet and do not rattle
their old bones, but your laughter is loud and insistant and the wind seems to carry a hint of that cologne that you wear. But the ice cream was rich and cool against my tongue, and I closed my eyes to savor it. Alone with the dead, eating ice cream, I still could not avoid all that you have said.
Yesterday, you called me "innocent". Your tone was not mocking and when I looked into your eyes for a hint of irony or sarcasm, I found none. I placed my hand on top of your hand and wondered what would happen if I told you how whenever I am near you I want to kiss you again and again and violently you would have to catch your breath in gasps. If you knew how this desire had all the urgency of hunger how innocent would you think me. I said none of this and but sighed slowly and laid my head against your chest. Instead, I asked, "what do you mean by innocent?"
You smiled down at me in a lazy, knowing way and replied languidly, "you are innocent and gentle and tender and I always feel safe with you."
You feel safe with me. I do not feel safe with you, I feel like I am standing at the edge of the world leaning over so far that I am in danger of falling forever. If i told you that, you would only laugh and stroke my hair and call me melodramatic. If you knew the things I never told you would not feel safe with me.
Last week, I sat alone in my living room reading Anne Sexton and with a sudden impulse chanted, "I will wear red for a burning" and spun around three times half-solemnly. Moments later, I saw orange and red undulate against the whites of my vertical blinds and heard the panicked voices of men yelling and crying out. Without hurry, I walked over to my window and pushed aside the blinds with one hand to stare out across the street. The garage directly across from me was on fire, the flames were dancing up into the night sky, leaping ever upward and I held my breath for a moment and admired their beauty before calling the fire department.
And then I was struck by how unreal such a moment is. The perfect coincidence of the line I chanted and the burning only moments after made me wonder if this was all a dream and if I was safe in my bed asleep, but the painful callouses I had from walking all day in bad shoes reminded me that I was awake. And as I watched the firemen put out the flames and white plumes of smoke curl up into a sky that was not quite black, I put my head in my hands and began to weep.
When I was fourteen, my Great-Aunt died; the Great-Aunt who came to visit me in the hospital and brought me Upwords. The fun, wise-cracking woman who once led a conga line through a swimming pool was gone. She was one of the only people able to call me out of my old black moods and make me smile. And when they called to tell me that she had "passed" (such an irritating euphemism, as if death was just a short trip to the bathroom in the middle of the school day), I hung up the phone, racked by sobs and ran to the shower where I crumpled beneath the assault of hot water and my own grief and sobbed and sobbed and wished for it to rain. I wanted water to wash away everything, I wanted it to cleanse me of grief and doubt. That night, it did rain. And it rained harder than it had in anyone's memory. Parts of the city flooded and the downpour continued without cease for the entire week. And I was glad.
I am not innocent. The mad know this. They greet me in the streets with nods and knowing gazes. Once a woman who had made a hat out of a plastic plant and numerous bobbypins stared at me and told me in a voice barely above a whisper that "they" were on to me and in no time I'd be chased down and discredited. She was once a Professor at a respected University until she discovered the way "they" could watch you even through the walls. She told me that even their blood was electric.
I am not an innocent. On a crosstown bus another madman helped prove this fact. He was a large man, with an unkempt, scraggly salt-and pepper beard, yellow, mishapen teeth, pointed fingernails with dirt underneath them, pockmarked skin and a faded once-blue UCLA hat. There was a surreal moment as I sat down in front of him on the bus and begin to scribble random thoughts in my notebook. For some reason, I wrote down the name "Carter". A moment later, the man began to speak to me, and to be polite I glanced back to look at him, on his wrist was a dirty hospital band with the name "Brown, Carter" on it. This frightened me more than the man's rambling about going to college at Cal State Dominguez Hills or being an educator. I knew this man's name before he told me.
I am not innocent. I've been noticing men more than I used to. I mean, attractive men. Sometimes I'll be sitting on the bus and see a guy who just oozes sensuality to me, and I'll try not to undress him with my eyes. I've never had that habit before. It's as if the long months of celibacy have opened something sexual inside me and the fragrances of this blossom has pervaded my senses. I smell, see, breath and hear sex. I just haven't felt it. Watching the rough clothes on the bodies of the working men rub against what's hidden underneath has made me feel like something not quite myself. Like a sexual animal who wants to devour and consume every attractive young man he meets without ever being satiated.
I don't know what will satiate me. I have a hunger lately and I want to do things I haven't done. I want to throw off my old timidity and grab you and claim you for my own. I want you to feel danger around me. I want you to treat me as if I were a jungle cat stalking you through the trees. I do not want to be your lap dog.
I want to be kissed. I want it even more than I want to be held and I want to be held so badly I ache for it and imagine the arms of dream lovers in the night until I have cried myself to sleep or given myself the delusion of touch. I want to be kissed. I want to kiss you until we both forget whose lips are whose and until we both feel consumed by each other and burn brightly in a conflagration.
And if I told you all of this, would you still think me innocent? Would your smug, secure smile falter, or would you just shake your head and laugh. Would you think of me alone with the dead eating chocolate ice cream, or would you just remember that I once stood in the rain spending all of my bicentennial quarters one stormy afternoon because I missed you? Or would you laugh at the boy who could never bear to raise his voice to you? Remember then, that a savage heart beats inside of me. Remember, then that I have been touched, if not by the miraculous then by the unexplainable. Remember that when I place my hand on top of your hand, it is as much an act of conquest as an act of love.