Moving to, Moving from
Of Tulsa I remember most about the house June bugs clapping against our small front porch, our cat Stubs snapping them into his greedy mouth, and the Arkansas River lapping at our door during an unforeseen high tide. I remember, too, the apartments before the house and a smiley-face yellow plate with mac and cheese one night, carrots or peas the next. I remember our pets: strays. Five years ago I would have told you I remember my first kiss, getting hit in the mouth with a baseball, a broken arm, and tornadoes. Ten years ago, suspension chemical imbalances rebellion swimming pools. I recall not memory but conjunctions—movements and homes from Connecticut southwest to Oklahoma without apparent strategy yet simultaneous, similar, and concurring threads all wrapped up struggling to get me to where I am now and keep me put. Conjunctions because copulative—a large family, ritual, religion, late-emerging masculinity, girlfriend after girlfriend, submarine to first house. None of it my own. All of it shared.
The last joint was a two-story early forties get-up with wild front and back yards mowed twice monthly. I miss it. The red-bricked, urban home, like all the other homes, faced the city street front porch first, two peeling white columns, and thick-wood, front door window right. My study sat squarely above the four rooms below. It was my favorite room, the only reason for renting the dump. I set up the desk, small couch and library to best view the backyard through the porch door. After working all night, I often sat on the porch watching the morning rise through an old oak. I fell asleep in the pink and orange fractured sun.
I took a smaller room for my bed; I spent little time there as it was. A living room, dining room, kitchen, and pantry leading out into the back, an alley and the north neighborhoods beyond all squeezed into that house together meaningless now not layers but facts. The study, a party, the back porch, the sun, the poems, and quiet nights lit with cheap money luck candles all intersecting now pointing “there” and saying “at that time” and nothing else.
Floods for my brother and rain for my mother and parties for my friends. Meteorological fascinations in verse that covered for fear that each bolt of lightning once sang to me now hunted me. The roof wasn’t strong enough and my head too bald. I chopped-up favorite poets into Frank O’Creeley & Howe, Inc. The readings were fantastic all-nighters that grew into theme parties. The house was too much for me; so, I shared it with friends.
I hate being alone.
During the first party my closest friend was arrested for refusing to let the police into my backyard. Patrick, in cut-off shorts and vintage Hawaiian shirt, was drinking from a vintage tiki zombie mug. “You can’t just come back here officer. You can’t just—wha?—no, I will not unlock the gate. You have to ask.”
Patrick in his adamant pose wearing his old-school Vans drinking colada in the hood informing cops about his rights and taking deliberately slow sips from his vintage tiki zombie mug.
He’d talk about the cup that way and introduce it to the guests. “This? This is my vintage tiki zombie mug.” They would ask him about it.
I put them up to it, of course. “Ask him about his mug.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Yes, you must. It’s like show and tell for him. Ask about the mug.”
“It’s a cup?” People are so literal.
And Patrick stood out in crowds without my help not so much in response to his stature—thin and tall—his cowlicked part, nor his desire to tell stories of origin about everything from toilet tissue to mod music. He stood out because cracked double joints and squirted clear liquid from his nipples. He could talk about the birth of the light emitting diode while milking himself without blinking an eye.
“Hold my vintage tiki zombie mug; I’ve got something to show you.”
I was on my studio perch when the police knocked on the front door. Patrick yelled from the backyard, “You can’t come back here.” Rather than answer the door, I ran downstairs and through the kitchen in time to see Patrick being thrown to the ground by a cop with a mustache. Patrick’s pain always came in clichés and awkward moments of self-realization. I watched his eyes follow the mug as it fell almost slowly shattering on the back patio. That moment with the vintage tiki zombie mug will remain with me longer than Patrick. His eyes following the mug. The mustache. The knock at the door.
Patrick screamed like a young girl on a roller coaster.
I spent thirty minutes talking to the police about “my housewarming party,” “my college friends,” “the easy going crowd,” “my friend’s over-zealous-albeit-drunken mistake-who-would-be-watched and had learned his lesson.”
“Come on guys? Is this really necessary?” My neighbors watched from their porches.
“He was way out of line!” The mustache did not move when he talked; he had yellow teeth.
“I just moved in, you know.” I took a second to think about what might encourage the police to let my friend loose.
“He’s a fool. And look at him anyway. He has never been in jail. Don’t take him in this state.”
I pleaded. It worked.
They let him out of the car then the cuffs. “You should know better, Mr. Taak.”
“Yeah! You should know better!” Someone was yelling from the front porch.
“You better straighten your friends out.”
My neighbors heckled the police when they let my friend go. Patrick apologized between dry heaves at 4 am. A young woman, I don’t remember her name, massaged his scalp and pulled the bangs from his eyes as he heaved into my toilet.
“There, there, you dumb-dumb. There, there.” She had cornflake freckles under her small eyes.
He wanted breakfast.
I watched him get sick and ask for food and her care for him as she cursed him. Her voice and his ran together and for a moment I thought they were talking to me. I was sitting on the floor leaning against the cabinets under the sink. I am so sorry man oh I really am you dummy can’t handle it there there my broken vintage tiki zombie mug I can’t believe it there there you dumb fuck.
As Patrick fell asleep, she let his head gently slide into the bowl of the toilet.
She was something. Beautiful brown hair, shoulder-length and pulled back with yellow barrettes. She had worn a striped, yellow and alternating white striped A-line dress to the party to accommodate my yellow theme. At some point she had removed it, folded it in half lengthwise and hung it over the shower curtain. She sat in bra and underwear for a few minutes watching Patrick breathe; I sat watching her; Mike stood in the door way watching me watching her and watching her as well. Patrick’s breathing making slight hissing noises across the surface of the water in the toilet, her small chest rising and falling with each of his, my eyes unblinking on her chest, Mike breathing for me.
As if disgusted with herself, she stood up, removed her underwear, grabbed Mike’s hand, and took him to bed.
I didn’t say anything nor moved from my spot near the passed out zombie mug owner for an
######more on mike
######on drifting: birth to denver, the trains, highways, hubs
Patrick didn’t talk to me for a week.
######his silence and (s)mug hipness
######the continental divide
That was the first party—The Yellow Party. Yellow, Red, Brown—all one four months’ mess and loss of control. People brought blue objects as a sort of admission fee. They left their gifts at the door and added to the Blue Manifesto written on paper I pasted to the large foyer wall. Blue plastic wrap, blue Christmas ornaments, blue dogs, blue cats, blue cow, blue Madonna, blue vinyl pants, blue chuck taylor’s worn out, blue panties, blue socks, blue stockings, blue bras, blue water glasses, blue bottles of various shapes and sizes and levels of translucence, blue wigs, blue beetles, blue dildos, blue cakes, blue vinyl albums, and many nameless blue creations.
Parties like these have cycles. I always used the cycle to my advantage to slip away into my room or study with a few chosen guests or a flirtatious woman for hours on end. There were well-wishers, true socialites, campers, unknowns, super stars, and always the punks in attendance.
Pam was a consummate well-wisher. We knew each other for five years. She is the kind of friend who you know everything about and who knows everything about you yet acts like a complete stranger. Pam was my friend-at-a-distance. She, like all well-wishers, arrived as early as possible and sat with her friend du jour on my couch, legs crossed, top leg wildly circling.
“So, great party.” Well-wishers like Pam pretend to not know how to function socially, but really don’t know how to get beyond small talk.
“Yeah, should be a great night. I mean, I hope it is, Pam.” I was in the chair across from her staring at the ceiling.
“I am surprised you and Sandy never met.” Sandy wasn’t talking. Pam wasn’t happy.
Sandy was shy. She had her blonde hair tucked neatly under a blue farmers’ cap—the kind with the plastic adjustable band in back. The nylon netting was blue; the poly front was white. Centered on the front over a blue bill was the word M O R O N also blue in a non-seraph font.
“Moron! Drink?” Mike looked at Sandy.
“Ok.” She took a bottle from him. Mike sat down next to her purposefully close.
“She got it for tonight, Norris.” Pam referred to the hat.
“Sandy, you’re not a real moron?” I asked; she smiled. Mike got up and went out back. The screen door slammed shut.
Well-wishers are hard work. They make me nervous.
“I like your shirt Norris. I do. Pam told me you wear it all the time.”
“I clean it you know.”
“I didn’t mean—”
“I didn’t mean.”
“He’s a smartass, Sandy. A bonafide Smart Ass. That’s why we love him.”
“But he does have good taste in music.” Pam left me with Sandy; she went into the other room to dig through my records.
I sat for twenty minutes before another guest arrived. I sat and stared at Sandy. She watched me watching her; I think she mocked me.
“Ok Moron, let’s go.”
“You and me.”
#####make out memories and tie into kissing intro
person and tense
more on conjunctions theme
conversation in study about "going places"--that denver conversations all the artists have