Smoking Glass

Should I write it like a letter? A letter that goes on and on until you get tired of it? Until you stop reading, stop making eye contact in the hallways, stop slipping easily into conversations, into green lakes, in and out of clothing. I’m out looking for you on all the street corners. I’m out looking for you under the dumpsters and cactus pots. I’m out looking for you inside your skin, I keep poking past your teeth and down your throat, looking for the music, but I don’t find it there. I don’t find it.

In September, before anything had died, we struck out at the afternoon like a hand-rocket. We sparked against it. It was me and you and Angela, back before she was Angela, and I felt like even in the city we could find grass anywhere. We could start a farm right there in Central Park. We could be the apiarists of the Metropolitan, lay eggs in the White House, intent as spiders, one by one. So we got blue ring pops. And the cashier said, God you kids are young, and we laughed at him and asked for a light, and because we were young he gave it to us. He told us to watch his chihuahua, he kicked her right out with us. Amy, with the squishy, straining face. Who nursed a mouth full of shark teeth, who had to be back before midnight or she’d turn into a pumpkin or something worse. That's how I’ll remember it, blue candy and cigarettes and that shocking bubble of contentment. All through the day I clung to its soapy surface, the soapy surface of contentment, and I pressed my face into the colors, and I didn’t think about slipping off.

We dragged her down through Central Park, Amy, wheezing barks like an old Iggy Pop. You said, When did people watching us start to feel like a compliment? And I thought: soap bubble, soap bubble. In Central Park we found a man selling gushers and good advice. Amy came with a stipend, 20 dollars for a whole day of fooling and wrapping her tail around our fingers. Hair in the ring pops. There's this big tree over by W. 77th that we flop under, you and me, and Angela and the little dog, who you’ve been carrying for the last hour because she’s ancient and can’t walk more than half a mile on her own.

Underneath the tree is a hazy world of pixelated light, gold and heavy. We turn our tongues purple from gushers. Angela bites hers in two and sticks them one by one to your face until you are an odd, scaled, pre-Cambrian creature: sticky and illuminated. I say that you look like Mephistopheles, and you say, Won’t you sell me your soul, I’ll treat you so well, I’ll give you everything, I’ll never leave you. Faust, his hand, face, soul pressed to the pages, wishing a person out of them. Angela laughs: all she wants are the gushers on your face. What, do we think, are the health benefits? Brightening, surely. All I want is something different. The dog's got a hold of a gusher and is chewing on it steadily. Doesn’t candy kill dogs? No, chocolate. Chocolate.

So we head downtown, downertown. In Bryant Park, we play chess with the cig stubbs, crumpled up pawns and burning castles. You want to go up to Harlem. You want to buy overpriced chocolate, or just look at it. You want to see if the dog needs a metro card. But I’m out looking for you and you don’t really want those things anymore. Let’s reset.

Let’s say this time it’s cloudy; let’s say this time, the sky has a stomach ache trapping all summer’s heat down here with us. Angela’s gone to look for smokes or sympathy from all the people who live on benches. I’m sorry Angela, I don’t have any extra sympathy today. She got mad, she got real pissed. I always have extra sympathy.

Let’s say that this time it’s just October, just you and me, and you don’t say anything, you don’t want anything, not the chocolate and not my soul. I’m asking, How are, what are: the thing you love, the thing you love. But your eyes are the precise green of lake water, your eyes are everywhere else, and the shuddering light seems to flatten your face out. Someone put a mask over you and I can’t tell if it was you or me who built it, this new face, the one that seems to repel light. Who changed the way you look, since the other week when you passed me in the street without tilting your head and voice to me? There’s thunder. There’s a string of missed phone calls and overlooked messages. Do you want to go look for Angela? The question we used to ask Angela, back before any of us found her. But this time, it’s roll away, grass on your back, I need to get going. And you get gone.

January. I’m ankle deep in filthy snow. If I see you, it’s a bad joke. When you crack it, I’m too surprised to laugh. Everyday I wake up with the bruise inside me living out its bruise life, a strawberry ripening backwards into sickly green. This time, I know every route to your apartment building and every day I go out looking for you in the windows: a stalker, farming silhouettes. I want to say, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you by the looking. I swear. I didn’t mean anything by it.

I want to say that this time, I would make the deal with you. My whole soul for the promise of company. This time I would steal the book and say the words and slip my arms around the devil in relief. Instead, you need to go get things: toothpaste and basil. Every day is a busy day. This time I would make the deal with you. But this time, you don’t ask.

The September sun is pressing its mouth over us as we head down towards Union Square. The quest is this: You, me, Angela, and the dog are going to smoke in every park in the city. At every tree, you crow, at every flower! We’ve got all the boxes tied to the dog's harness. We’re more than eighty percent smoke: forward rolling and backward rolling, passing Amy between us like a football. She’s gotten used to us. We’ve given her gushers and cigarettes and power over angels, so of course, we belong to each other.

We belong to each other. And thank God. Thank God we belong to someone. More than half of everything that happens is kite and key, identity and electricity, the tying together of the two. Let’s worship one offs, after all, they’re our entire lives. Why can't I cut it, the habit of wondering if, even then, you were in the process of unbelonging. Let’s reset, let’s say—

Last spring: an impossible number of flowers. You: stretched out across a park bench—the split of that moment—half laughing, half untethered. Spring leans into my lungs with every inhale. The little holes in your shirt let in enough light to make your body a pin hole camera, your arms a sky, reflected over. When I tip over next to you I fight the noble fight with myself: not to kiss you. I wish I could say that I lost, but we both know I'm a better fighter than that. I wish I could say that for once, I had broken something decisively.

When I comb back through time, this is where I catch: the faded pinstripe of the three of us lined up against the bright peel of sky—the dog cradled safe between, the cult of cigarettes circling our feet, the smoke that still knew how to move upward.

Let me sign off. I’ll say dear Sincerely, I’ll keep it unemotional, unconventional, I’ll shoot the author. Let’s all sign off, except you. In September we dive head first off the Williamsberg. We’re face up in the sunset, our mouths blue sugar and fossilized fire. You have eyes the green of a car crash. Angela’s humming, her arms grass stained and tight around us. Our throats are slick with soap, the surface curling on and on. The surface that doesn’t end ever in this lifetime. That surface, I swear, we sparked against it.