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Fish Tank
--Excerpted from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights, Fall/Winter 2008).

I’m kissing Rue’s ears and forehead and he starts sobbing softly, tears running down his face I’m kissing them it feels romantic. Maybe that’s the wrong word—I'm wondering about the way beauty accompanies sadness and whether that's scary. I look at Rue's  eyes, so much softness and yearning. All that glassy green and why do I look away? 

I hold Rue and he says sometimes I just wish I could spit it all out, all the horrible things in the world—I’ve just been so stressed, I need to find what’s going to  give me the most meaning and I’m just not sure. In Rue’s dream, he was worried about a fish tank, how it needed a certain kind of water. He says I’ve just been so busy, all the doctor’s appointments—I’ve decided not to drink or do drugs at all, it just doesn’t make sense when the alcohol and the psych meds were so much a part of what got me to where I am—I mean, I take full responsibility, but there were just all those nights when I blacked out and found myself wandering home at 6 a.m., no idea what I’d just done.

Rue says maybe I stayed negative for so long because I wasn’t on any psych meds. I’m glad she brings up the meds because that way I can talk about them. I say honey, you were scary when you were on the highest dosage, you’d get that crazed violent look in your eyes like that time on the beach when he started talking about how wouldn't it be great to know how do kill an animal with your bare hands?  I mean, that was with me and I thought it was the meds, but then I thought maybe you were becoming scary. I didn’t want to take away your right to choose. But then your dosage went down and I thought good, she’s back.

In one of my dreams, there are hundreds of cops in the kitchen, a naked Latino hustler with a hard-on and I worry that the hustler’s going to get arrested. We’re in the center of a dark city like Warsaw, above it all in a fetish bar/hotel-for-Pride but it’s also organized crime and dangerous red chandeliers. In my second dream, there’s a huge cop, towering over the rich straight couple who are accusing me of stealing the woman’s purse on the beach, before I even get to my trick’s house. How am I going to defend myself?

I wake up to a message from Jeremy saying I can’t wait to see you. I go over to meet him in the East Bay and we eat at Cha-ya, then go over to his house to lie in bed because he’s tired from doing K all weekend. It just feels so great lying there with him, especially hugging him from behind which is the way he likes it, even if it makes my shoulder hurt. I want someone to come in and snap a photo.

We go to Aquatic Park because Sarah’s home. I want to have sex in the apartment anyway, but I guess there is only that sheet separating Jeremy’s bed in the closet from the rest of the apartment.  We walk out on this dock to a pagoda and etch M + J into the railing because Mattilda + Jeremy is too hard to write. A woman walks her dog as the sun goes down and the fags start arriving, Jeremy says does she know what goes on in this park? The mosquitoes are biting my legs while Jeremy’s sucking my cock—which he’s become an expert at, seven months really helps—then he’s holding me from behind while I shoot deep into the trees, and the woman throws a ball for her dog with one of those ball-throwers, and a few guys sort of watch. Jeremy hugs me and says I love you and it’s so sweet. I always resist saying I love you after sex ‘cause I’m thinking that’s cheesy, but it’s weird to resist—it’s not some random person, it’s beautiful beautiful Jeremy who makes me feel little and strong.

Later, I’m holding Rue outside some terrible party because it’s way too smoky for me inside, she says I just want you to know that you’re such an inspiration to me, you’re so calm and healthy and clear. I want to cry—I’m not sure if I feel calm or healthy or clear. I say you’re an inspiration to me too, she brightens like a little boy—really? Of course you are—you know that—you always have been. For ten years. We’re hugging outside, and when the cops arrive to shut down the party—straight indie rockers and suburban jocks and bad bad music—we’re still hugging.

I wake up from a dream where Jeremy wants to die and then he does, just from willing it, and when I wake up I’m scared, even though I know it’s just superstition. I call Jeremy anyway and leave a message. Then I get all hypoglycemic and worried about losing him, which happens so fast, my stomach clenches up and I feel nauseous, what if he met someone else? I know it’s stupid but I can’t help feeling it. At therapy, I close my eyes and picture the exhaustion, my skeleton with blood and guts everywhere, standing in front of me with huge fangs, ready to cut out my heart and eat it. Karen says what do you want it to do—I let it eat my heart and then I’m dead, that skeleton on the ground with bugs and people stepping on it, cracking my ribs. Even though I’m dead, everything still hurts.

Then there’s a part of me floating away in a flower basket, seals in a pool but that pool’s not big enough for seals. Mountains and lakes for the seals—and I’m playing with them, it’s so much fun. Then people arrive and kill the seals for their fur, I keep seeing the image from the zoo of seals cut open and their bellies filled with the pennies people throw in the water.

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