Monday, May 26, 2008

Love in Five Acts

Used to be, there was a cat lady living in my building. Every time I passed her door, all I’d smell was piss and stale tuna. This was a problem because, when she stroked out, her body rotted for two weeks before anyone found her. The smell of a dozen cats can totally mask a decomposing corpse. And get this: when finally the door was kicked in, when finally they found her, the cats had chewed her face off. Burrowed right through the soft meat of her cheeks. What I'm trying to say is, if you’re going to love something, love something that can love you back. Or at least love something that can use a phone.

Greg, he’s my buddy but sometimes I’m not too sure about the kid. Late-twenties and broke and living with his Mom and not really giving a shit about any of it. The other day, we sat in his basement room and he told me he had something to show me. “I have a secret,” he said. What he had was a box of porn. Movies and magazines and eight by ten glossies. And the thing was, all the girls looked really homely, kind of ugly. “I can’t stand that commercial shit with the dime-piece chicks, the fake tits,” he said. “This I love. These girls, they’re totally accessible. I could actually bag ‘em.” But of course he doesn’t. He sits around in his Mom’s basement and watches someone else do it.

From time to time, I’ll close down a bar. When I have nowhere better to be and nothing better to do. When I have too many places to be and too many things to do. One night, a couple weekends ago, as last call loomed and stools began to empty, an old man started talking to me or his drink or nobody in particular. “I masturbate to my ex-wife every night,” he said. “Every single night.” He was balding and fat and hunched over, the type of guy every local watering hole needs. “You know how many times I masturbated to her while we were married?” And when neither myself nor his drink nor anybody in particular answered, he said, “Not one goddamn time.” Then he stood up to leave. “Love, you never really love anything until it’s gone, until it’s lost. While it’s still around all you can feel is infatuation.” And as he stumbled out the door, I figured he had a point alright. He had a point, only he had it all backwards.

“Surprisingly, when it comes to bootlegged videos, dramas are the top sellers.” My cousin told me this over lunch. “Action films don’t transfer well. The explosions and screams blow out the recording microphone.” Always, he’s been obsessed with movies. As a kid he would write his own Disney sequels, storyboard them and everything. “With comedies, the theater audience’s laughter gets picked up. It’s very distracting.” And when he started bootlegging movies, it was only to help pay for film school. But money aside, he never got accepted. “Horror flicks always sell but that’s because of the audience. Kids don’t have the coin to see all of them in theatres.” He likes to romanticize, likes to say he’s destroying what he loves only so he can build it up again. But I think it’s something altogether different. I think what he loved destroyed him. And now he’s just trying to get even.

My niece is four years old. And as much as her parents and grandparents and even I tell her she’s special, she’s actually pretty typical. Everyday she wears either blue overalls or a blue dress. To hear her tell it though, she just says, “I love blue.” Every evening she runs around with her favorite toy, a fuzzy stuffed elephant. To hear her tell it though, she just says, “I love Mr. Bobo.” And every time she sees someone she says, “I love you Mommy, I love you Daddy, I love you Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle.” And every night, every single night, she falls asleep with a big smile on her face. What I'm trying to say is, sometimes love is enough. At least for a little while.


Katrina said...

What an awesome way to end these five pieces. I absolutely loved it!

Chels said...


em said...

I thought some of your imagery was kinda cliched. We've all heard about the cat lady or know of the loser living in a basement, and there wasn't much original in your use of them. The drunk starts to turn it around in my opinion, and the rest of the story I loved. I thought the film major and the little girl were done brilliantly.

Autumn Renae Rays said...

If you haven't yet, read Daniel Handler, especially Adverbs. You'll fall in love.

Kimberleigh H said...

Wow. I loved it.
I've been obsessed with Chuck Palahniuk for some time, I've written many essays and done projects on him.
This story has to be, of what I've read so far, the closest I've gotten to finding another author that I can actually perceive in the same light.