When I visit the beach without you I feel dangerous.
There is something I forgot to tell you. It is tiny and expanding through my body, feeding mostly on brain tissue. One day it will replace me, and this will be indicated by a systematic shutdown of my liver and a blank television look lingering between us.
I can smoke unfiltered cigarettes in a bathrobe from the balcony all afternoon, pretending to watch kids play with dogs. I can eat mints daily and unfold towels. The only thing left is momentum.
It is the tip of winter in Florida. I patrol vast strands of beach in the evening, searching for women who will forget my name but wear my slippers, casually eat cereal in the dim light of a hotel lobby lonely. I imagine them dangling from coffee shops or being abandoned in grocery stores. Their hair, tangled impossibly. Their mouths slowly fertile and fearfully forming a final syllable. There is a bouquet of blue orchids sitting in my room with the business card torn off.
I stack papers and fall asleep to dreams of stacking papers. My briefcase is anonymously light. Light spreading like cancer percolates through seams in the curtains stirring a weird sleep.
In the air stale: the idea of a conference call without a signifier. I cook a bowl of pasta and vaguely stare at my dick in the mirror. I look at my face and think how did I. I think about my teenage daughter. She is obscure on certain intervals, existing in the space between a phonecall and a breath. She attends a pediatrician twice a week who fill her tongue with colored tablets. I remember buying her cake when she was younger, and I want to cry. My wife is dead, struck by an automobile. My wife is living in Hawaii with a neuroscientist. My wife travels back in time and kisses me when she feels nostalgic. My wife wonders if she could have married me, how things would have gone, some days.
These past three months have been a runaway model train. My thesis fills slideshows and emails inconsequently. There are about twenty people in a room looking at me, mostly too tired to smile. I trace a figure eight around a diagram of benthic sediments and say the words gravity currents. This asshole is asking me about multivariate regressions, and I answer him. I feel like maybe I have run away from home but forgotten to bring supplies. Like I want to be back home but I never left.
A hotel lobby attendant slips a note in my blazer that reads you are the cutest person in the universe. She is anemic and frail. I hold her under the shower light from behind and tell her this is important, that true strength lies in erasure, that it lies in the unwinding of fleshy decaying motifs you have superimposed for a couple of years, in the deconstruction of expired patterns that once made you melt. She spreads out across my bed like cracked porcelain and eats strawberries and asks me to listen to the breeze. She is covered by remnants of freckles from last summer, the wide blue of linen cloth. She paints a portrait of me underwater, blowing bubbles out of my mouth, but gets embarrassed and tries to paint a landscape with seagulls in its place. It is an above average night. I make a smile look good.
In the morning, we drink two bottles of white wine and meander to the movies. We throw some popcorn in each other’s mouths, and I have much better aim than her. We sneak into a second screening, but this teenager checks our tickets and asks us to leave. We make out in an alleyway for like five minutes and then she has to go back to work.
I am in a room with about twenty people, and I am explaining novel mechanisms of Phosphorous cycling in lakes. My shirt is halfway tucked in and its first button hangs lazily open. I want someone to admire my dissolution, but they only ask about statistical analysis again. I want them to compare me to a broken snow globe, but they throw outlines in a recycling bin and exit the auditorium. The stimulus is gone, but the response lags reflectively.
I drop my cell phone in a puddle of water and it goes white, vibrates, gracefully fades. I see glimpses of languages I can no longer understand, languages that continue to flow steadily in my absence with new vocabulary. This inspires a hopeless sort of pride. This inspires a long-wallow drenched in the basin of a bathtub. I am infinite above my laptop averting looming speech impediments.
The carpet bristles detonated by lipstick resin. A suitcase overflow of wrinkling khaki. An alarm clock unplugged and hurled into a wireless telephone, into the vast and unforgiving cosmos of empathy. Silhouettes, older still, stuck to the ceiling. Forgotten pets wasting away. Seizures witnessed but unreported. A lighthouse on the edge of the water where the captain and crew are now asleep.
The kids look dangerous on the beach alone and together, converging and divergent upon twin paths, or occasionally, having reached an intersection with a particularly good ice cream shop or scenic view, stopping in the last patch of sunlight, holding hands without touching even once.
I wake up at the very end of a very long vacation and look around. The maid is knocking on the door saying to me should she come back later.
“Should I come back later,” the maid says.
“That’s okay. You can come in now.” I pull on a pair of jeans and put my toothbrush, contact container, conference schedules, and clothing into a suitcase.
“It’s sure been a warm winter,” the maid says.
“You can say that again.”
“It has sure been a warm winter.”
I look at the maid, and we both laugh.
“Are you okay, honey,” she says.
“Yes, I don’t know,” I say.
“Thanks,” I say.
I am walking out the door.
“Well, you have a good day now,” she says.
“Okay. Have a nice day too,” I say.
I leave the rest of the way until I’m gone.