(Author’s note: This story wouldn’t have been possible
without the help of someone I don’t know, or rather,
someone I know but only through her blog and fb photos,
both of which I boldly and slyly used to write this story)
It’s fucking dark tonight. New moon.
I’m sitting in the same seat a cigar-smoker once sat in as he drank his espresso with honey and 2% milk. I miss him. He brought life to this balcony. Without him my basil goes to flower. Once basil flowers, the leaves lose their bite.
That’s the price of beauty.
But really I just wanted to come out here and write. There’s nothing in terms of story on my mind.
I do have a manuscript ready to be published, though it could benefit from 1 more revision. Always 1 more revision.
I’m not an artist. I’m not even a writer. I’m a person who understands her own immaturity. These aren’t big words I’m using. I’m a person who doesn’t care to adopt beliefs. I’m a person who is unwilling to uphold convictions.
Except for love, if that can be called a conviction. I do believe in love, in both its sacredness and profanity and comfort. Love has a tiny crumb of everything, and I’ve been in love with some boy or girl ever since I was 13.
It’s because by 13 my breasts were already as big as the ocean. My breasts made me a lover. Boys started liking me strong without me doing much. All I had to do was show up. As long as I was present, some boy would eventually come my way. And how can you not fall in love with boys?
I never toyed with their hearts. If I wasn’t into them, I didn’t string them along. I understood early the power of the schoolgirl. I also understood that there was more to me than schoolgirl calves and schoolgirl breasts and it was important to make this obvious to the boys who eventually came my way.
I was Ramona. I read poetry. I wrote poetry. I had a mixed background. I was half Puerto Rican and half Portuguese – some might say I was all fucked up. I spent a lot of time thinking about things. I had a lot inside of me I’d someday express. Although every boy I loved eventually came my way because of my oceanic breasts, they stayed with me because they ended up loving Ramona, not my accessories. This was important to me, but don’t get me wrong, I love to fuck.
Let me skip ahead some. I’m getting tired of this introduction. Ramona at 13, while budded and interesting, isn’t nearly as immediate or insightful as Ramona at 25, a world traveler, published poet, and much more versed in sexuality – the Ramona of today.
On the same balcony again, but the sun’s still hanging in the sky. It’s hot out here. My butt hurts on this hard chair. How did the cigar-smoker manage to sit here for hours?
I touch the basil to give it some love and listen to a body diving into the pool. Chaotic water sounds and laps against the sides. Trapped.
Have you ever felt the world spin? Sometimes I do. Actually, every morning. It first happened in Positano, Italy, where I had a particularly beautiful view from my bedroom window. That’s where I got in the habit of never closing my curtains. Since Positano I always keep my windows bare, my way of inviting the universe into my life.
I don’t know why this habit started in Positano. It’s not like I had a special degree of privacy there. My bedroom looked into the Brikette hostel. Everyone who stayed in this hostel – all the wayfarers with their accents – could easily see the oil painting of my cat, Delores, above my little bed. But still I kept my windows bare, and every night I left the lamp on, even when I wasn’t home, like a reminder of my evanescence.
Actually, I do know why it all started in Positano. That is where I met François, my French Fry, hometown Paris. He was visiting Italy when I was there, and I caught him peeping into my bedroom many m a n y times. I didn’t care. I liked his seawater skin, his raw-meat lips, his white-armor teeth. I liked the misshapen depression in the center of his chest, as if his sternum were afraid of asserting itself. I liked the incessant leafing through newspapers and his rock star sunglasses.
French Fry wasn’t ashamed of peeping. I think his brazen grins in the middle of the night made me his exhibitionist. For him I’d wear different outfits than the ones I wore on the street, stringier, translucent-er. I’d read poetry and let him chew on my big Puerto Rican eyes. Sometimes I’d get on the floor and look up at the ceiling and breathe with my arms at my sides and the ocean moving all over my chest.
Balcony, sunset, magic hour. Where’s the camera. Quick! Someone take my picture now!
I laugh alone, laugh at myself for only myself to hear. But I’m not lonely.
I lick my fingertip and carefully put out the joint. Whenever I feel like writing about past loves, I always smoke some weed. The past always comes out a little drippier when stoned.
Here goes nothing.
In Paris, I found a pistachio-green key on the ground on the quay. I picked it up and looked at it as if it were something precious.
“La clé de la France.”
My French Fry laughed and said something about how the Prime Minister must have dropped it. He had a deep voice grimed with cigar smoke. I liked his guttural music, especially when it vibrated my ear cilia.
We stopped at a cafe and had our daily coffee, wine, and croissant. Seriously, this is what we had everyday. Then we walked to the flea market to scour for some souvenirs.
I found a small box made of 4 glued together matchboxes filled with intricately tied feathers that some French fisherman used for fly fishing. I knew right away that I’d have this for the rest of my life. Someday it would make me cry.
We walked around Paris.
When I saw the Eiffel Tower, I tried to be impressed. Normally it’s easy for me to be impressed. I’m pretty much a simple girl. But the Eiffel Tower didn’t do anything for me.
When I looked at my French Fry to gauge his reaction to my indifference, he was bending down to pick something off the cobble. He turned around holding a sliver of tree bark across his face with 1 hole big enough for 1 of his pacific blue eyes. He looked at me through his found mask, my handsome cyclops.
“French Fry! French Fry one eye!”
We went back to our room and took off our clothes like a tornado and fucked under the shower. I could see our reflection in the bathroom mirror, the deep divots in his butt cheeks as he pressed me against the wet stone. My pedicured toes writhing, my heels grinding into the back of his knees.
I lifted his face out of my ocean and held his eyes steady on mine. I wiped his hair off his forehead. I cried and smacked my lips together. I cried. Since I was 13, all the boyfriends I’ve ever had, all the boys I’ve ever loved, have had slightly lazy eyes.
The evening I left Paris, French Fry took out his camera and tried to make a joke about the m a g i c h o u r. He never quite used the term correctly, and I didn’t want to set him straight. I wanted to keep my French Fry wobbly in whatever ways I could, like his beautiful lazy eye. Let him wobble. Let him wobble.
“Something to remember me by while you’re in America.”
“It looks expensive.”
“It wasn’t. I bought it at the flea market when you weren’t looking.”
“Put it on.”
But before I could raise my arms and clasp the gold necklace around my neck, my French Fry handed me a pistachio key, the one I found on the ground on the quay.
“First you’ll need this.”
I threaded the necklace and knew what love was, what love is, has always been, will be forever more, love, my love, your love, his love, love, love, love.
“Now you’ll always have the key to France.”
And I left.
Cheese. I know that’s what you’re thinking, and it’s completely fine if you are, but just remember that it’s my cheese, so back the fuck off!
Yes, I’m again on the balcony, here with the basil that not even my love can restore. It’s not weed with me early this morning, but a cold glass of 2% milk. I write like a cow when I drink the stuff, and for some reason I think cows would make crusty writers.
My French Fry visited me once after our Paris affair. He flew all the way to Wiscon-sin and slammed on the breaks the first time he saw a field of corn. He got out of the car and walked into the corn, which towered several feet over his head.
At some gas station called the KUM & GO we bought a pair of plastic hillbilly teeth and went to some seedy bar wearing them thinking we would stand out in a funny kind of way, but everyone there was also wearing plastic hillbilly teeth.
We danced a little to jukebox music and raised our mugs in the air recklessly enough that splotches of domestic beer conditioned our hair. I’m pretty sure someone tried to talk with us and we talked back. Then we found an eerie motel in an eerie town with this place called The House On The Rock, where we saw dioramas and porcelain dolls hanging stiffly against wallpapered walls.
The motel room had a radio and a squeaky bed that wasn’t squeaky enough to drown out my whale sounds that sometimes molded into the names of deities. I think I bumped my head against the wall once before my French Fry realized he should stuff a pillow there.
Roughshod fucking to romantic music is good for the heart though.
For some reason, I started to cry after my French Fry got up for a cigar in the doorway. He set his smoldering phallus on the threshold and changed the radio to happy music to make me feel better, but this only made me rummage for my dirtiest panties and throw them at his face.
Like a clown, he put them on, one hairy sac hanging open-aired, and tried to make me laugh. He even whipped out from somewhere that sliver of bark with 1 hole big enough for 1 of his pacific blue eyes.
“You fucking pack rat!”
He grabbed his plastic hillbilly teeth and started gibberish.
“You fucking pack rat p i g e o n!”
And I strapped my bra – big enough for the ocean – around his bird chest when a waltz came on. My French Fry stood before me, a gallant tranny.
“May I have this dance, mademoiselle?”
I wanted to slap him. I don’t know what monster I was but I wanted to slap the shit out of him, send him home so I could rot by myself in this eerie fucking motel. But instead I laid my cheek against his shoulder and waltzed.