On The Surface

“Jesus Christ! We’re painting this room grey!”

“Swirling Smoke.” Jack dipped the roller into the pan and traveled the incline until the roller was damp. He lined from baseboard to molding and rapidly smoothed the trek with hurried whisks. He bent to the pan and rewet the roller.


“Swirling Smoke. That’s ass. It’s grey.” Tim lifted his sweatshirt from the waistband and mopped the sweat from his face. He dipped the brush into the can, soaked it with paint, and edged the window. “And I’m stuck doing the goddamned trim!”

Jack methodically moved along the wall: roll, sop, whisk.

Tim set the brush on the drop cloth, grabbed the sweatshirt from the waist, and pulled it over his head. “What the fuck is this heat on?”

Jack turned and saw Tim pinching paint drops from the hairs that descended from his navel. “Quit bitching. We’ve got to get this room finished by the weekend. You bitching is just going to make it worse.”

“I don’t want anyone in here. I use this room. This room is mine. I don’t want anyone in here.”

Jack set the roller on the lip of the pan, pulled the plastic paint gloves off his hands, and walked over to the pack of Camels that balanced on an ashtray that sat on the floor in the corner. He lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. “Listen to me. This is our room. Ours. Just because I don’t use it doesn’t mean it’s not ours.”

“Fine.” Tim snapped. He grabbed the sweatshirt off the floor and used it to wipe the sweat from under his arms. “How long are they staying?” He picked up the brush and returned to the window.

“Just the weekend. Annie and Dave are coming Friday night and Joe is coming Saturday morning.” Jack exhaled and tamped the cigarette in the ashtray.

Tim pitched the brush at the drop cloth. “No fuckin’ way! Joe isn’t staying here! I can’t stand that sonofabitch!”

Jack silently walked out the room; Tim’s volume followed him into the kitchen. He withdrew two beers from the refrigerator and returned to the room. He handed one to Tim. “Yeah, he is.”

“No! He’s not!” Tim twisted the top and took a pull.

“Yeah, he is.” Jack took a long drink. “Now let’s get back to work. I don’t want to spend all day on this.”

“You fucking know I don’t like him. Why the hell did you invite him? You know I can’t stand him! Our house – our invitations. You should have asked me!”

“You want to know who I can’t stand right now? You. And you’re staying here.” Jack slid a smile on the left side of his mouth and then drew his mouth into a line. “Now are you listening Tim? Are you really listening? We’ve been on the brink of a major fight. For about a month. We can have it, or not. It’s up to you. But right now we’re going to paint this room. We can do it and be in love or we can be quiet when we do it or we can fight. You decide. But, we’re painting this room.”

“It’s kinda hard to fight in a grey room.”

“It’s Swirling Smoke.”

“You should have asked me.”

“I should’ve.”

Tim crossed his arms over his chest and leaned into his words, “There’s another option here.”

“Which is …?”

“We could fuck in the room and then paint it.”

Jack laughed. “As tempting as this is, we’ve got to get this room finished!”

Tim walked over to him. “On my side? It’s not a big fight. It’s a lot of little fights. And I don’t think we need to have it.  I think there’s stuff we’ve got to get over.”

“I don’t need to have it. But we’ve got to do a talk.”



Tim kissed him. “Paint then fuck?”

Jack laughed.

Tim bent down and picked up the brush. “Then let’s paint this fucking room!”

Jack laughed as he saturated the roller, drained the excess paint, and turned the corner and resumed his rolls.


(Photo courtesy of fthmb.tqn.com)



“I don’t know,” he paused and licked his lips. His eyes darted around her living room and settled on her family pictures spinning in a digital frame. “I’m sorry. I can’t remember what I was gonna say.”

She shifted herself in the stiff-backed chair. “It’s okay,” she soothed, “take your time.”

He covered his forehead with his hand. “It’s the goddamned medicine. It causes short term memory loss.” Sweat began to bead under his palm so he dropped his hand onto the arm of the chair. He quickly lifted it off the fabric and wiped his hands on his trousers. “And sweat. It’s like I’m a pig.”

“I’m sorry you’re so sick. Tell me what to do.”

“Nothing you can do.” He tried to bathe the roof of his mouth with his tongue. The medicine caused dry mouth too. “Oh I just remembered. I don’t know why you didn’t come backstage. Or at least stay until I came out. I wanted to know what you thought of it.”

“I was overwhelmed.” She crossed her feet and tucked them under the chair.

“Did you at least th…” his voice cracked, “ink it was good?” He swallowed. “Jesus Christ, I sound like I’m going through puberty.”

“Honey, I didn’t hear the play. I only saw it.”

He squinted his eyes and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “What? I don’t understand.”

“I only saw how sick you were.”

“I can’t believe how sick I was. But I finished.” He began to cry. “I finished.”

“You did.”

“Was it obvious?”

She stood and walked and knelt beside the chair. “Only to me.”

“I don’t think I can do this. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

She took his hand inside hers and pulled him into her embrace. “You’re going to finish.”


(Photo Edvard Munch)

In A Dither

In bed.


The glimmer from my iPad clouds my periphery. Like cigarette smoke did. I push the icons with fingers that tremble and twitch. Spinning a chronicle to people I don’t know.


Bed spins. Jitters. Sweat solid as syrup. A heart heated.  Fairy feet tapping a trail inside my chest.  Runs. Ventricular tachycardia.  The tremors make copy and paste a tricky task.

Jerks & Jitters.

Every day. Every night. 365 cycles.

Caused by Metoprolol? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. It’s been replaced. Maybe the Amiodarone? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. It’s been swapped. A new substitute: Sotalol.

And still I whirl. And still I bolk. And still I heave the emptied.

Every day. Every night. 365 cycles.

Eyes opened. Eyes closed. Twirls. Jitters. Quivers. Quakes. Tangible creepings. Felt fear.

Heartbeats in my ears, in my hands, in my blinks, in my testicles.

Jerks & Jitters.

For years I yearned for the act to be completed by quakes and quivers.  It was the mission of my bed.

Jerks & Jitters.

Every day. Every night. 365 cycles.

Tomorrow EKG at 930.

Tomorrow 10:40 the scrapes and scratches and punctures and pricks from the ablation must be poked and prodded and approved.

Too many jitters & jerks to rest.


Every day. Every night. 365 cycles.


(Photo courtesy of vox.com)

Making Memories

Okay. No edit. Just blurt.

About a month ago I laid in bed and realized I was fucking up. I realized the choices I made were wrong and that I had blown opportunities. I missed important moments or even worse – I had terrible reactions.


See the thing is – and we all miss this and when I type this it’s going to sound so goddamned trite – but all moments are finite. You only get one chance to say you’re sorry and you only get one chance to catch someone when he trips and you only get one chance to offer friendship to someone who feels lonely and you only get one sentence to defend someone who’s abused. It’s all so finite.

And about a month ago I saw my tally. And I knew I had blown it. All of it. I knew I was not the man I should be. And I was afraid it was too late. And so I panicked. And sure. This is about death. My death – my heart – my parents’ deaths. Sure it is. But it’s also about a forgotten word: responsibilities. Goddamn it. We’re responsible. If you think personal happiness is the goal than it’s time you remember that your hands were meant for more than to please yourself. Your hands were meant to serve.

So. I decided to go out with the best report card I could possibly earn. And I haven’t been all that successful. Well, because in so many ways I really suck. But I’m trying hard. I am.

Tonight was a great night for me. Today I decided I’d stay home and watch the game with my Dad. And make no mistake. I hate sports. But – he doesn’t. You want baldass truth? I spent a childhood in my room listening to games and judging them banal and the spectators as limited. But I knew how important this game was to my Dad and so I stayed home and I watched it beside him. And I’m thrilled I did. We shared moments – finite wonderful moments – of such joy. Of such communion. Tonight was all about made memories and camaraderie with my buddy: my Dad. So. The Vikings won? My Father cared. And I care I could share a moment of joy with a man who’s giving me infinite love. Earnest? Do you know me at all?

(Photo courtesy of gannett-cdn.com)

Getting It Off My Chest

extractables-and-leachablesAn IV bag drips into the crook of my left arm. I’m afraid. Ablation. I mull the word through my thoughts. Ablation. Isn’t that a Church word? Latin isn’t catalogued in my mind like it was in my past. Away. Something about away.

His name is Trevor. Kind and gentle. He talks to me as he preps. I ask if I can raise my arm. He says I can’t. I tell him I just want to make the Sign of the Cross. I’ll be awake during the procedure. I want to pray my rosary. I make the Sign of my Faith on the roof of my mouth with my tongue. A technician above my head tells me he’ll say the prayer for me. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” he recites. I listen for the pitch of ridicule. Absent. The technician is too young for the Latin to be loaded in readiness. “Were you in the seminary?” I ask. “No. Just a lot of years in Catholic schools.” Trevor raises his voice, “I know the Hail Mary in Spanish.” I turn my head to my right and look into his eyes. “8 years in a Catholic school in San Diego,” he offers. I listen to him pray and recognize the words from Spanish 3. “San Diego? Why are you here?” I ask because the day is cold; why would anyone be here without purpose? “The obvious reason,” he says. We laugh. “A woman,” I say. We laugh.

I watch Trevor as he negotiates the electric pink razor over my chest and abdomen. Prepped from thighs to collarbone. The tufts of hair wave and sway beneath the V of his scrub top. Trevor doesn’t manscape. I don’t either. This is only the second time. And neither time I hold the razor.

I think of her. I remember our game. A clawed bathtub sat on a cracked tiled floor haloed by a spackled baseboard. The ceiling dampened and stained by the absence of a fan. “Let me shave your legs!” she giggled. It was a new tease for her. We were young. Sex was as much about the new as it was the desired. Once she had painted my toes; shaved legs wasn’t a leap. In the dead of winter – only the two of us would know of our game. I allowed two inches up my thigh. “Stop.” I didn’t demand; she didn’t insist. “How about this little part here?” She plucked the patch in the center of my chest. I had been bullied as a boy. Hair on my chest was an accomplishment. A proof of my masculinity. I spent my youth in the era of the hirsute hero. Tom Selleck didn’t shave; I didn’t want to return to the prepubescent; I didn’t want to return to the pursuit of a woman. I returned the razor. There wasn’t much to shear. It was gone with a couple of whisks.

I stand in front of the bathroom sink and pull the tape from my arm. The bandaid is stained with a dot from my dried blood. I look into the mirror and see my smoothly patched chest. Clumps of hair line the surfaces outside my nipples. I don’t recognize myself. My body looks featureless and soft and absent of color. Like alabaster from some Sherwin-Williams collection. Freshly stirred. Smooth. I feel embarrassed. Feminine. Perverse. The opposite of clean. Not clean shaven. I don’t recognize myself. I have a habit. Since college. Or before. I habitually rub the space of skin that cocoons my heart when I think. I strum the space with a rhythm that echoes a flamenco beat. Rapid. Too rhythmic to be a tick. I lean into the mirror. My belly meets the porcelain. I look into my eyes and rub my heart. My palm grazes. Cold. Clammy. Like touching the unresponsive skin of a woman. I pull my hand away.

I step out of the shower and grab a towel. As I dry my body I see the stripes. Shaven from grin to groin. I look centered but I don’t feel centered. I don’t recognize myself. The ablations offer no solutions. My heart is broken. I feel vulnerable and weak and out of control.

(Photo courtesy of gerstelus.com)