A WATERLESS WHITE
SAND BEACH UNDERNEATH
A LOW PURPLE SKY,
A moth, backlit by the blueish streetlight, looks like it’s swimming in the dark across the window against the glass on the outside looking in at MB. He feels like a fish in an aquarium, watched by the moth pressed up against the glass, as he shuts off the light, tucks himself into bed like an anemone.
He wants nice ice water. Two cold diamonds not quite clinking in his favorite cup, the one the Swimmer took from MB’s work when she stopped to have lunch with him. Maybe the ice clunks in this cup, clunking, the more accurate word.
He saves any coupon he gets, feels guilty if he doesn’t—four now for a loaf of some kind of bread he never buys pressed behind magnets on the fridge. It’s a way to dog-ear the days like checkpoints, between when he first gets the coupon, and when he can use it or when the coupon expires. He likes to do his errands on his walks home. But pretty often, after having a cold glass of water standing in front of the fridge before heading out, he forgets to take them off the fridge and with him—he’s worried about other things like if he blew the candle out, or if he has his keys, or if Jacques looks content to be alone for a short while. It’s only when he’s in line that he realizes he forgot the coupons.
He’d go home with two somethings, then stare at the old BOGO coupon magneted to the fridge with a jagged and wry expression.
Jacques and the Swimmer are still out on a walk somewhere. Where’d you go? he’ll ask when they’re back, and he may or may not be a little jealous. Enough to know whether or not he wished he went with them instead of staying back when they asked if he wanted to go. He’d thought, go, or stay back? Stay back so he could work on his big project. Because he has his big project to get to. But he’s just sitting at his desk weighing the options. And now they’ve returned and he tells them that he’s actually going to go out for a walk.
You only remember the beginning of things, he’d told the Swimmer once.
He thinks about how this is true of himself too. The middles always muddy. The end reduces itself to a detail or two. Is this part of what the Swimmer was talking about, semantic memory? Or the opposite, he thinks. He might be off.
Arbitrary as an emotion paired with an object that lacks the ability to reciprocate that feeling—or instead an object that dials in that feeling so perfectly so.
Missing his favorite pinkish shirt from when he was younger, for example. If he can find it, he’ll wear it for the Swimmer now, as he serves her noodles. Elbow patches from the same material doubled up. She’ll love it, he thinks. After he’s changed and garnishes their plates with—he figured it out—wood sorrel to make up for last time.
The Swimmer says she loves that color orange on him and he hands her her plate.
He had no idea. Sits, looks down at his shirt. He thought it was pink. But better since she likes orange so much.
Good daily decisions to be proud of and simultaneously worried over. Like he is glad he lit the candle but did he blow it out before leaving? Did he wear the right shoes for the weather?
The embarrassment of all he can’t cross off. Because once, they were with people and they had to turn back around to check if he remembered.
The certainty and dexterity of excuses he can use to convince himself otherwise is wearing out.
He burns his hand like he burned that sauce not too long ago and yells some made up sounding word—he was trying to recall an old familial expression inside the moment he burned his hand, felt the pain and automatically needed to express that pain. But it was like things got knotted up all moving towards the same thing at the same time.
It’s more that he’d burned certain fingers instead of his whole hand. His three middle fingers. Decides to use the regular lotion even though the Swimmer’s been liking aloe recently and keeps recommending it.
That reminds him: Where did they put the flower that fell off the plant?
He hopes they didn’t throw it out.
Where to start with an original idea as the case in point? Like do it because you love it however you can?
He thinks about a single coral planula sticking and reifying.
MB imagines being where he wanted to be with the Swimmer. And he tried to picture where she’d want to be—her favorite beach probably.
An echo-y, empty place where they could spend a year.
Somewhere by a handful of hills so it sounds like a cove.
A waterless white sand beach underneath a low purple sky, perfectly still.
The Swimmer once told him how, growing up, they’d drive home at night along the soybean fields wrapping around the road, she thought she could see waves and seafoam and that the red blinking lights in the middle of the fields were lighthouses or buoy markers depending on how high up they looked.
The excuse is that the day’s already closing in. Like a riddle: What never coming is always getting closer?
As a kid he couldn’t believe that John Denver was singing on the radio about how he died before he did.
He felt it was suspicious.
Worried about ending up with a single chair in a square room directly squared up with a TV 5-7 feet back.
True love in a movie or book.
Sitting underneath a statue in some shade.
One of the hardest things he’d ever had to do was listen to someone reflect on the past.
These were a couple of restless days.
MB needs to reel himself back in. Get control again, don’t let his thoughts slip too much.
Some days he didn’t feel like there was any time left.
Some days he stays up late without meaning to, into the opaque, half-lit dawn. He thinks: Imagine how many people have done that before. And he thinks of dawn as a great word in both how it looks, letter-wise, and how it looks when he’s awake for it which is also what the word means really, that clean early morning that’s more high definition than everything else.
Something like a euphoria felt in it sometimes and how the day ahead of that will feel, like a mistiness, a heavy-humid fatigue.
Give him something to look at. Let him have a look, he thinks. Talking to himself like it’s a secret.
He loves seeing a pretty bird on a branch. New place made an old place in his head. The feeling from seeing the bird leave the branch to seek relief in a puddle underneath an evergreen.
This made him think he might finally be rounding this bend and opening up to anything that might make him feel better without trying to figure out how to capitalize on the thing.
One blink at a time, it is important for him to remember.
Nathan Dragon’s work has been in NOON Annual, New York Tyrant, Hotel, and Fence. DRAGON is from Salem MA, and co-runs a small publishing project called BLUE ARRANGEMENTS (see here).
‘Landscapes for the Homeless #1,’ 1988
© Anthony Hernandez, 1988