Stay and Drown

In a room with 2008, while 2009 is tapping his foot by the door. (With excerpts from “A Primer for the Small Weird Loves” by Richard Siken.)

So, 2008, I know we started out on the wrong foot. Remember that I cried on New Year’s Eve 2007 because the phone lines were clogged and the one phone call that would augur the awesomeness of your year could not go through? Remember? Oh, I’m sure you do, you sly windbag, you sneaky little fuck, you poor excuse for slime. Ah. Ahem. I do apologize for that outburst: things have been weird lately. Yes, weird. I am a year older, but apparently my linguistic capacity has not improved, save for some choice words like ruckus and propensity and, that dear old favorite, litote. Where was I? And before you point out how my habit for digressing has not been shed, I’ve found my train of thought, there, chugging on the edge of a cliff, little puffs of smoke dotting the too-blue skyline. (Yes, I still enjoy metaphors, especially of the dramatic, hinting-at-despair sort.) Anyway. Anyway. I’m speed-writing two stories as application for an award, because no one awards you freely these days, you gotta go to them with magic signatures and a stack of paper by the inches — leave that short skirt at home, keep your red suede ankle boots at home. Stay with me, 2008. If I could snap my fingers, I would. But I can’t snap my fingers, I can’t whistle, I can’t dance the swing, I can’t go out of the house without my sea-green bangles, I cannot understand colorblindness no matter how many times it’s been explained to me. Yes, all that and more. Hello, my name is Sasha Martinez —

* * *

Says to himself
The boy is no good. The boy is just no good.
but he takes you in his arms and pushes your flesh around
to see if you could ever be ugly to him.
You, the now familiar whipping boy, but you’re beautiful,
he can feel the dogs licking his heart.
Who gets the whip and who gets the hoops of flame?
He hits you and he hits you and he hits you.
Desire driving his hands right into your body.
Hush, my sweet. These tornados are for you.

You wanted to think of yourself as someone who did these kinds of things.
You wanted to be in love
and he happened to get in the way.

* * *

— and you, you killed my father. Prepare me a bottle of champagne before we dine. Yes, I admit, that was a bad pun on Iñigo Montoya’s speech from The Princess Bride. I love that movie, by the way. That’s one of the good things you gave me, 2008: looking at Mandy Patinkin all moustached and bloody and waving his sword about with heartbreaking precision saying, Hello-Hello-Hello in different levels of softness, in rising level of volume. Thank you for that. There are many things I should be thankful for, I suppose. I got some new journals, and a lot of books, happy tree friends, a lot of little joys, what I then thought were Big Bangs. But I wanted a yellow dress, a yellower room. And a Palanca would’ve been nice too, or a revision of that anticlimactic pre-nineteenth shindig at the Mandarin. Oh, you don’t have to scramble to get me them now, it’s okay, sit down, I can hear your knees. Rest, stay, it’s over and done with, it’s really okay —

* * *

You have your own body to deal with.
The lamp by the bed is broken.
You are feeling things he’s no longer in touch with.
And everyone is speaking softly,
so as not to wake one another.
The wind knocks the heads of the flowers together.
Steam rises from every cup at every table at once.
Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.

* * *

— and that’s just the way things are, you know. Don’t worry, I’m past all bitterness. It’s over and done with, you and I are over and done with, there’s really nothing you can do for me now. Please don’t take that personally, I know this is the first time this has happened to you, in this short-lived relationship, but, well, this happens to me all the time. When I was a kid, I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the others: they just drifted away. But you. You’re special. You are. Well, you were. (Most of the time, hindsight isn’t flattering at all.) But you have to go now, I’m not staying here for you any longer than should be. I mean, yes, I’ll stay here and hold your hand, of course — but I have to leave, you know. I have to leave. What? Yes. Sure, I’ll stand right here, and watch, although I will have to admit that this isn’t what I’d imagined when, just a little while ago, you wheezed around, proclaiming —

* * *

…you want a deathbed scene, the knowledge that comes
before knowledge,
and you want it dirty.
And no one can ever figure out what you want,
and you won’t tell them,
and you realize the one person in the world who loves you
isn’t the one you thought it would be,
and you don’t trust him to love you in a way
you would enjoy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way is filthy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way keeps weakening.
You thought if you handed over your body
he’d do something interesting.

* * *

— you know, things you wouldn’t have believed in otherwise, but, yes, would still do: that yellow dress, that yellow room, my Big Bang, a goldfish, a little dog. Waking up in time for class is yet another example. Slowdancing at the fiesta to sappy music is another. But you couldn’t really do that. You’re a stubborn old goat, is what you are, and I say that with as much fondness for you as I can. We had some good times, let’s leave it at that, shall we? We shall. Please do this for me. 2009 is eager to sweep me away from here, from you. He’s promised many rainbows and cavorting bunnies, and “handsome pay” — I’ll try to hold him to that, because, well, let me tell you something, 2008, my bittersweet buddy. Come closer, dammit, oh wait, I will, it’s the least I can do. Here. Yes, yes, there. That’s it. Okay. You ready for this? 2009 was shady at first but he was something new, something strange. He told me, I will haunt you, but you’ll enjoy it. Frankly, I prefer that the Enjoy part comes before the Haunt part. But, well. He’s true to his word. The H-word. It’s been a rough ride with him so far: I pulled down the windows to hear the wind rasp and howl into my head but I got hit by branches and those signs that bear Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees”. I cried, 2008, I cried a lot. But —

* * *

…there are no more couches and he will have to
sleep in your bed. You try to warn him, you tell him
you will want to get inside him, and ruin him,
but he doesn’t listen.
You do this, you do. You take the things you love
and tear them apart
or you pin them down with your body and pretend they’re yours.
So, you kiss him, and he doesn’t move, he doesn’t
pull away, and you keep on kissing him. And he hasn’t moved,
he’s frozen, and you’ve kissed him, and he’ll never
forgive you, and maybe now he’ll never leave you alone.

* * *

— I think he’ll never leave me alone, no matter how long the silence was after I gathered my courage and asked him that. He asked me to Stay, 2008. Where else would I go? Really, where else would I go? Although I did ask him, Should I stay or should I go?, even if that reminded me of a song that played only in bus rides to far-off places. And there was that silence again, that long, seemingly interminable silence that just stilled me, stole me, and I thought, Dammit, I can’t do this, there will be others, but finally he spoke, he spoke, 2008, and though he was still hazy, I imagined a pendant glinting in that hollow where his collarbone dips, I imagined a beard, I imagined there was an tattered red book in his back pocket, a red book I’m sure he was going to throw away as soon as he had the chance, and he said, 2008, he said in his deep voice I now know I cannot bear without me hearing it, he said, he said, Stay. He said Stay, and he said it with no punctuation marks, no squiggly lines, no finite dots, no sickly alluring dashes, just Stay, and the white space bloomed after that, it bloomed. I could say it blinded, but all of this has been too purple, even for my liking.

I have to go now. I’ll knock on your door every once in a while. But, well, you know how this is.


About Sasha Martinez

Her sins were scarlet, but her books were read.

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