Coffee With Dean

“Some people credit Abraham Lincoln for freeing the slaves but I blame him.”

Dean looked at me with his most sincere face.

Yeah…, you probably shouldn’t tweet that.”

It’s a long standing tradition; an ongoing contest to see who can say the most offensive shit in the most non-nonchalant manner.

Dean sipped at his coffee and took a thoughtful look out the window.
“There’s a fine line between credit and blame”, he said looking back at me to see if I was following.
I waited for him to meet my gaze and added, “Hashtag, emancipation.”

Dean snorted on his coffee a little bit.

“I had it all planned out for us this morning” he said. “Had the house to myself for, like, four hours. I had visions.”
“Why’d you let your kid stay home from school then?”
We were sitting in a Starbucks because fate was laughing at our plans.
“She says ‘I’m gonna stay home to spend your last day in town with you’, what am I supposed to say to that? No??”
“Yes, you’re supposed to tell her to go get smart, at school, where she belongs.”

“So why haven’t I been hearing from you lately? You don’t call, you don’t write.”

“You’re the one who ran off to Memphis”, I said.

“Yeah, that seems to be the general consensus, that I ran off.  Still doesn’t explain why I haven’t heard from you. Maybe you don’t need me anymore since you spend all your time bangin’ Vince.”

“I told you already that was one time, months ago.”

“In your car”. He always likes to throw that part in.

“I don’t see what the locale has to do with it.”

“So tell me,” Dean leaned forward, eyes sparkling the way they do when he thinks he’s onto something, “at what point did you decide to throw in the towel and become a cougar?”

“I am NOT a cougar! I had a cougar moment, there’s a difference.”

“A cougar moment in your car”, he added again.

“You’re hardly one to talk”, I said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“How old is Kelly?”

“26. So?”

“So Kelly is three years older than Vince but you’re four years older than me which makes you a man cougar plus one.”

I can only imagine that the good people sitting around us were sufficiently horrified and confused all at the same time.

“What?!?! Noooo, men can’t be cougars.”

“They can, and you are.

“So that doesn’t explain why I haven’t heard from you. Who are you bangin’?”

“Technically, no one. So, what did you say to Coleen?”

“Nothing?”  But he knew what I meant.

“Yeah, you did. You were all excited to tell me the big news that you and Coleen were no longer together and I didn’t see how that was news since you’ve been divorced for over a decade, remember?”

“Oh that. I told her that Kelly is my girlfriend now and that I’m with her.”

“Unless you’re in another time zone. It’s not cheating if it’s in another time zone.”

“No, I’m not like that anymore.”

“No? What did you have planned for this morning?”

“Well, that really has no bearing on the situation… Just so we’re clear.”

“Right. Just so we’re clear.”

We were clear.

“So you told Coleen ‘game over’ and she just said ‘ok, tee-hee’?”

“She says she’s ok with it on the phone but then she hangs up and sends me all kinds of mean texts.”

“I can’t imagine why… What did she have to say about Carrie? I mean, you were engaged to her.”

“She didn’t know.”

What?!?! Are you shitting me? She didn’t know? Where did she think you were sleeping?”

“I told her I was crashing at Mark’s place. Because we would be getting out of the Blue Moon so late, we’d just go to his place after because it was close by.”

“Seriously? And she believed that? You know, I told you when you would say ‘she knows where she stands with me’ that, no, I don’t think she does. Oh my god, I was sooo right!”

I just went out and bought a whole new wardrobe that I kept at her house. I…”

“Oh. My. God!!! You cannot even say anything about me being worse than you! Ever! “

“What?”  He was all smiles and innocent puppy eyes.

“What?!?!   You had a 2nd wardrobe? Oh my god! I’ve never done anything like that.”

The good people around us were getting up and leaving.

“Oh come on now, you would’ve if you had the chance.”

“No”

“You totally would.”
“You can’t convict me of something I would’ve done if I had the chance. This isn’t the Minority Report!”

“Come on…. You know it’s true. You would totally do that if the situation presented itself. I get all my evilness from you. So where are we gonna go? Can we go to your office?”

“I guess, but I only have chairs”

“Or we could use your car. We’ll just park in the driveway and hope Coleen doesn’t come home in the middle of the day.”

“I dunno about that.”

“Why not? You didn’t have a problem with Vince in there.”

“Stop it”

“So what happened? I thought he was all over that shit?”

“Yeah, he was, once, and then he grew a conscious.”

“He had a moment of clarity?”

“Yeah, after the fact. And then he was all ‘Wahhhh, I don’t feel right about this because you’re married‘, and I was like ‘well isn’t that fucking convenient for you?!?!‘”

Dean is laughing so hard he has to set his cup down.

“You are such a man!”

“What?” My turn now to look innocently puzzled.

“Do you hear yourself? You are such. a. man!!!”

“He sleeps around you know, I’m a little worried to be with you now.”

“Stop”

“He is a guitar player and all.”

“Stop it.”

“You know, when you were working at Aztec Lodge, spending all night by the pool tripping on XTC, I never said any shit like that to you. I was never all like “eeee, I don’t know where you’ve been. You might have some fucking cooties!”

“Did you just say ‘fucking cooties’?”

“Yeah, I’m busting out all my words on you.”

“You’re using all your sen-tences.”

We were both laughing too hard to keep talking.

“So where are we gonna go?”

Later, on a chair at my office, I held his face in my hands, “it’s been 20 years, you know.”

“Can we have another 20?”, he asked.

Coffee Grounds

He wondered how many times I would pass his driveway so he stood on the porch to count. Somewhere around the 4th time I turned in and he forgot right away that he had been counting something.

I got out of my car and stepped over a snake that was coiled lazily in the sun. He didn’t see it but it saw me. It always does. Red touches yellow, me and this fellow.

Travis invited me in. He had survived the Leo, but the Scorpio is a different kettle of fish entirely. He was apprehensive about my visit.

Unusual. A déja-vu of sorts, like pulling an old book off the shelf. I should be a stranger here but I don’t feel out of place. I press my ear against history to listen for voices. Nothing.

But there’s my picture on the wall. Memories of me that I didn’t know existed were kept alive. I was here in a parallel universe, hiding in plain sight.

“You wear your clothes well” he told me and I remembered that I forgot he had a clothing fetish; an odd quality for a guy who hates underwear. I forgot but he knew all along. The things he carried were with him the whole time. I didn’t tell him about the times I would get up from the couch to cry alone in my bathroom. I couldn’t explain why I would do that. Nor did I mention any of the other things I did to forget him, to get over it, to cowboy-the-fuck-up and get on with the business of living. I couldn’t sit in his house and tell him about these things as I clearly had not done them with any measure of success.

Reality is an all or nothing proposition so I opt for nothing. The key aspect of any lucid dream is the realization that all the characters are you.

I thought I heard the devil talking. “Hey son, why ain’t you got no face? I could paint one on you, for a price.” I wondered which of us was being spoken to and decided it wasn’t me, or maybe it was me talking. My portraits have faces in any case.

“I liked it when you asked if I thought about you”, he said, “and I want you to know that I still have your filter and I use it every day.” He poured me a cup of coffee. I had no idea what he was talking about so my reply was only a quizzical look. “Your metal coffee filter”, he explained, and I still looked confused, “from the gallery“, he seemed to think it was so obvious and then suddenly I remembered and it was funny and sweet all at the same time.

This morning I woke up to find my kitchen floor flooded. I splashed up to the counter to dump yesterday’s coffee grounds into the sink and prepare to start over. Brewing coffee in the rising water: the way the world ends, the way the world begins.

My Current Ex

There is a stream that flows past my house. It is old like the beginning of time and it flows into outer space.

Four years ago Travis dumped me for his wife. They were already married.

I visited their home once and his wife, The Leo, was not there. While I did not fondle anything that belonged to her, I left with a telepathic uplink directly to her scheming little head. She was a high stakes gamer. I guess it takes one to know one.

I am a formidable adversary but it wasn’t my fight.

I told Travis, “Your wife is having an affair.”
“No, she’s not.” he replied.
Yes, she is”, I insisted.
“No, she’s not, but even if she were I wouldn’t care.”
“Ok but, yes, she is.”
“No, she’s not. I know her and she would never do that.”
“Yes, she would, and not only that but she is.”
“You don’t need to say anything more about this”, he told me.
“Ok, but I don’t want you to get all pee-pee hearted when you find out.”

I don’t know exactly HOW, but I knew with absolute certainty that I was right.

Two weeks later, on Friday of Memorial Day weekend, The Leo went out of town and accidentally on purpose forgot to log out of her email account on their shared computer.

There is a stream that flows past my house. From time to time it turns rancid and kills all the fish.

The next day, while I sat in my car in the parking lot of a church, Travis explained to me all the ways in which he was to blame for his wife’s affair and how he would walk through fire to get her back. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!?!” I demanded. I hung up the phone and went inside to photograph a wedding.

That same day, Dean told me that he was dying. I had been angry with him but the sheer desperation of my mood as I watched the wedding ceremony and prepared to shoot myself in the head, I mean shoot the family groups, had driven me to reach out to the one friend who could calm my heart in a crisis. I thought he was being snarky, and he was, but I did not realize until almost a year later that he had just suffered a 2nd heart attack following the death of his fiancé. We needed each other but I could not reach further than one simple text.

The Leo, upon realizing she was caught, divulged only as much info as she knew was on the loose, which wasn’t actually very much. Then, in one brilliant stroke of table-turning genius, she convinced Travis that it was his fault. I pointed this out but he was not able to follow my reasoning. Well played, Leo bitch, well played…

The Leo promised she would end her affair.

“No, she won’t”, I said.
“Yes, she will”, Travis insisted.
“Whatever”, I said.

Two weeks later, The Leo accidentally on purpose came home with condoms in her brief case. Five years prior to that day, Travis had a vasectomy.

“I will try even harder to win her back”, Travis said.
“Why?” I asked.

There is a stream that flows past my house. It comes from nowhere and it goes nowhere.

The Leo continued to flaunt her affair while simultaneously blaming Travis and claiming to be unable to decide whether or not she could still love him.

“I feel so close to her now”, Travis explained, “because she’s being real.”
“She’s clearly fucking with you now“, I said, “because she can.”
“No…, no, she would never do that.”

Here we go again…

Travis remained tragically unable to grasp what was happening and I grew increasingly unwilling to explain.
“Seriously”, I threw up my hands, “are you retarded?”

This went on for months until finally I gave up and went away. As a parting shot to the heart, I told Travis, “When she finally gets around to settling for you, you’ll think you’ve won, briefly, until you discover that you don’t want her anymore and then you’ll see what a sad waste of time this has been.” Naturally, he didn’t believe me.

There is a stream that runs past my house. If you swim in it long enough, you end up where you were.

Three and a half years later Travis and The Leo are now divorced. Dean has left me to go to Memphis and Travis has returned. I don’t know why I am still drawn to him. It makes me nervous and I’m afraid of what might come of it. It clearly didn’t go very well last time and yet, I don’t send him packing.

The revolving door turns but I think the point is about something other than opportunity. Maybe I have something to teach him or maybe he has something to teach me or maybe I just want someone to play the part.

There is a stream that flows past my house but actually it’s only a mirror.