You came crying on our doorstep, sweet baby, the day after you’d gone with him. I named you Butterfly because what else can I call you after something so ugly? I put you in his way, the man who owns the hotel where I’d once worked, the rich creeper who pays for young guys. I practically begged you to go with him. I didn’t feel bad because what else could I do when I’m so thirsty? When the clouds no longer look like elephants and kittens and banana splits, when they look like fucking nothing, and the whole world is pressing down like hot shit?
I think of your index finger pressed to your lips in a shush while the landlord banged on the door. The place is crumbling but we never answer because we owe so much back rent. The toilet doesn’t flush, we didn’t pay the water. The drink will numb it out.
I ache under the weight of it all. My back from waiting tables at the greasy diner. Last night this sweaty little guy counted loose change in the exact amount of his check so I wouldn’t get a penny. So many people are that guy. My mind burns, my feet hurt. The smell of catfish -french fry-oil never washes out of my hair. With all the different ways we sell ourselves, sell our bodies –I can’t remember their worth.
Thousands of leaves thatch a matrix of sunlight and shadow on your face. It was worse than I thought it could be, you said. Your eyes are liquid but also harder now. Now they look like mine. You flash a fistful of cash. It smells like a small promise the way money always does. Instead of comforting you I stuff it in my bra. We walk to the liquor store on the corner, the cicadas scratch out a sound as violent and fine as creation.
The urgency of the booze, the quenching of our thirst, snaps us out of reality if only for right now. Here there is no dread, no landlord at the door, no shit floating in the toilet. There’s honey in the walls. We’re finally drinking again. This is a living moment. Time holds itself inside this hustle.
I’m not totally immune to beauty.
So I read you a poem.
So I sing you a song.
So I light you up like the first cigarette.