Ceci n’est pas une cravate

“Dude. That’s a lot of fucking ties,” my roommate Alex ‘AG’ says, “What’re you doing?”

“Just organizing,” because up until last night they were amassed in a dresser drawer despite Tony’s tsk-tsking that I needed to press them or—for God’s sake—at least ROLL them, and what with it being the Father’s Day sales at the Bins–ties for $1-$3 apiece save for the Dolces and the Hugos and the Armanis–I’ve been compiling them like so many Medusa heads—albeit colorful ones–with sartorial fervor.

What can I say: I like ties.

AG remarks this, and I explain: “It’s kinduv a calling card and besides—you know how I don’t wear jeans anymore? but, like PANTS pants and in all different colors: I got merlot, saffron, taupe, black of course—”(and God forbid I call a ‘terracotta’ pair ‘bordeaux’ lest Tony correct me, fashionista that he is, and how fun to have a veritable Yves St. Laurent running around the House, just less bitchy, and without the 10 pack a day nicotine habit)—Well it’s fun tying together a top and a bottom with a third element, y’know, like a haiku.”

That needs further explication. (Here I go again, all writerly and shit).

“Cuz a haiku isn’t just stringing together 17 syllables and calling it a haiku, k?—there’s good haikus and bad ones. A good haiku? The second line is the fucking bridge, right? It builds off the first line but leaves a subtle tension. The third line is usually unexpected—it’s relative to the preceding two—but it ‘kicks’. It’s the satori, the punch in the eye. I mean, you could write three tidy sentences about a cherry blossom tree, but somehow relate that to ‘lying drunk in its petals’ or relating it to the passing Season, and you get a better poem.”

I go on: “It’s the same in cooking. You got your traditional flavor pairings—let’s say lime and cilantro. You got lime and cilantro for an aguachile but then you remember that lime and maple are this weirdly good combo—totally unexpected, kinduv a sweet and tart thing—so you throw some syrup in the mix, and suddenly you got the lime bridging the cilantro and maple and—in the end–it totally fucking works.”

(AG is cool—he allows me my weird tangents).

“Um, so that’s why I wear ties?” I say, stringing my neckpieces onto some newly purchased hangers.

“They’re the bridge.”


“Y’know when you’ve burned plenty of bridges in your life, AG, build ‘em where you can,” and I tidily unknot a stubborn Windsor from its noose and the night continues.


En Vino Veritas

She sits hugging a pillow to her body because she says she’s self-conscious and I tell her, ‘Don’t’, because I’m not the audience to be self-conscious around for that sort of thing—quite the opposite—and she proceeds to tell me that she doesn’t like to feel. Nope, and she has her reasons. This maybe surprises me as she is a passionate person, which I love about her—you could almost call her fiery if one were to resort to cliché, and she has had violent outbursts, a diminutive fury-thing that once even landed her a night in lock-up, but she only generally shares her temper in matters of realpolitik and thank God we share the same political bent else she would reduce me to dust—she likes to win arguments—and I’ve even sicced her on unsuspecting strawmen so she can handily dispose of them, she’s that cutthroat with her words.

“That’s why I didn’t read what you sent me,” she explains, and I instantly wave her off—no big deal. It was a writing about signing divorce papers and, ironically, it was about attempting to conjure the appropriate emotions—about feeling, maybe too much, too little—all ‘feeling’ which she has just admitted she likes to avoid at all costs, and although I like it when she reads what I write, I mean, she knows more about me than some, including my recent lapse with The Girl From The City of Twelve Bridges so she has keener insight into my machinations than some; and fair to say I’ve been privy to HER intimacies, which makes  this all the more choice—still I’m not offended when she says she didn’t read my latest sturm und drang. “Your writing just. So. Invokes. Emotion in people,” which I love hear being said—it’s the fucking point—“That sometimes I just can’t engage for fear of feeling something. I’m really invested in being comfortable.” And she proceeds to describe herself as something of a shallow woman, which she has a hard time convincing me of, because it’s patently obvious I’m attracted to her, and requisite to that is materiel upstairs, helps she has highways of curves and I’ve known her for ten years now.

I feed her wine, it is two a.m, and I am exactly six months sober. The wine must be vicariously enjoyed and instead of en vino veritas, there is just veritas veritas for me, of which I’m used to, having re-sensitized to the mundane. But veritas veritas is fine, and vino is almost superfluous anyway seeing it is as early as it is in the antemeridian–something about the single-digit hours and loquacity–and I say, pointing to her glass: “It’s funny—I used to drink TO feel,” which is true. It sets me apart in Recovery. How often people drink to numb out—it’s the most common refrain in the Rooms and maybe there’s some element of that for me, too, Jenny having called me “the Saddest Boy I’ve Ever Known” but I like the serotonin fix that, opposite a prism, takes muddy rainbows and focuses them into something white and laser sharp.

“Oh, the emotions are there, I just need them heightened and brought into sharp relief.” Like the Tin Man having a heart all along but needing the clockwork one awarded him to realize it, alcohol is that wizard. It’s cheating really. Like spiking a bed of onions with brown sugar to speed along the Maillard Reaction.

“I used to think that I needed it to write. Part of the Process.”

Hemingway did famously say, “Write drunk, edit sober,” And Tennessee Williams, he wrote about habitually taking a trip to Echo Springs—the liquor cabinet—to ‘get the click.’ The ‘click’ is the best term I’ve heard of for it and there are many, but the ‘click’ conjures thoughts of gears and cams rotating into sequence, a proverbial unlocking, and how addictive this is, the feeling of connection. Like Archimedes shouting ‘Eureka’ upon discovering displacement and how Eureka is itself its own displacement, the alcohol knocking loose buried words and feelings from the synapses for the reaping. Writing high, riding high.

“I came from such an emotionally-stunted family, it was a way to access passion” I explain, and it was Sylvia Path who said, “Even when I feel nothing, I feel it intently.”

So she and I are opposite in our takes on feeling, and I wonder briefly if the wine is a disservice, but she’s had a rough day as she has elaborated, starting with her husband stranding her at the hotel with the three kids, Uber and rail her default chariots to get to Disneyland and back. The Coaster failed to run come ten o’ clock so she’s two hours later than expected, but it is beyond nice having her here and hopefully the wine acts as nepenthe— a ‘not-sorrow’—to erase the otherwise busyness and sometimes calamity of parenting—her kid had a breakdown at the Happiest Place on Earth and why do the Princesses cease their photo ops at three, but if for the Ball?—and she says, “Now I feel bad. I’ll read it.”

“Don’t feel you have to,” and I mean it. She knows she is a select audience and that’s all that matters. She’s removed the pillow, and I feel better.   


Seeing Justin Dead

“Wanna see a picture of me dead?”

I nonchalantly shrug. This counts as icebreaker in Recovery. Seriously, nothing phases me.

His name is Justin, a weedy Horse addict new to the Program. He’s so strung out on suboxone, he tends to nod off in Group. Doctors think he’s actually overdosing on dopamine, which is a thing, so he has to micro-dose his meds. Like, razor blade the milligramage he keeps wrapped in a tin foil packet. It’s ironic: watching him med up on the cure is like watching someone tie off their arm. I’m not surprised he’s been dead. If only briefly.

He thrusts a. cell phone my direction. There he is, slumped down, chin to his chest. He has a blue pallor and a rivulet of saliva trailing from his mouth.

“I took some heroin. Didn’t know it was cut with Fentanyl.”


“My friend was annoyed. Wanted to take a picture to show me how stupid I look when I’m strung out.” Jenny’s done this, too. With me passed out on the couch. I’ve never been dead, though. Just Amy Winehouse close.

Fentanyl killed Prince. Would’ve been his 64th birthday today in fact.

“What’d you see?” I know to ask.

“’S true what they say about the tunnel. Light, man, just orbs and orbs of light. Like a whole galaxy. I’ve written about it.”

Of course he has. Justin’s an artist. Also a computer hacker. He breaks through firewalls with alacrity and is attempting to get into Sharp’s mainframe. For fun, he says.

“They resuscitated me, obviously, but I was dead for a good five minutes.”

Wasn’t the first time. He hanged himself when he was twernty-one. Had sold off all his DJ equipment for the Habit and had taken to a degenerate amount of thievery. A junked out Prometheus. Tired of it, and mortally ashamed of himself, he swung from his parents’ tree by a hangman’s rope.

Justin went through months of rehab to learn to walk again. Then he killed himself a second time over. He’s now only twenty-four. Were he a cat, he’d be thirty percent exeunt.

We became friends, me and Justin, though I haven’t heard from him in a while. Don’t know if he’s gonna make it. He relapsed while in Recovery a week in. The bupe wasn’t enough and he had found a vial of powder in his knapsack. Wanted to see if he could take it like a gentleman. Against all odds he wasn’t kicked out of his sober living; I used to drive him home and would wish him well.

“Good night, Justin. Don’t do drugs.” Or something to that effect.

Fentanyl is a scary motherfucker, and it’s in everything. Mexican cartels had to market something new in the vacuum legalized marijuana left. And, unlike H, Fentanyl doesn’t require acreages of poppies or serious manpower to produce. It’s synthetic. Cheap as hell. My current roommate? His girlfriend died during COVID trying to get a cocaine high. Whatever happened to cutting street triturate with baking soda?

Just stay away from the powders, People. Don’t get dead.