Philip Kobylarz

Posted on February 13, 2012


I still go on having the most impossible and not very seemly love affairs.
– Van Gogh


How High the Moon


   The dingy white carpeting is stained in what seems to be blood or years of tea spillage & yet she asks me to take off my shoes. She is Japanese. I should have worn better socks. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. My socks are a gray that matches the carpeting.
   I am a simple Midwestern boy. What I am doing in a third story walk up in the lower Haight is beyond immediate understanding. I have been lifted by a force, by aliens, by un-understanding and deposited in someone’s acid 1970s hungover, post-sex dream only without the acid. And the sex.
   Across the street, the Arabic shop owner will give you a free American Spirit if you ask. His store has everything. It has booze and ice cream and duct tape.
   Her hair is a raven that has been lost in the wilds for 14 years. She is from a southern island of Nippon. Shikashima, near Fukuoaka, where the women are known to be fiery, stubborn, much like the mindset that gave birth to kamikaze pilots. The most skilled ones are purportedly from her part of the world.
   She, as one might envision, is not rail-thin skinny. C cups. She actually has a butt. I cannot ethically tell you her name, it just wouldn’t be right, but it is beautiful and it rhymes with yo-yo. Crème-colored skin, ample lips, a voice like a bird whose wings were once clipped, eyes like jewelry a shark might don, big feet for a girl, and a respectable five foot five.
   My ABJ friend Ted tells me that we all go through our J-girl phase just as they all go through their blond haired blue-eyed boy phase. My eyes are green– something I can forgive him for missing. He’s right. He’s wrong. I can’t get over her.
   At this moment I am tempted to see out the AVIs on my laptop that I have recorded of her. Her speaking to friends on Skype. Her friends who summed me up as if I were a cut of beef, appraising my looks, my facial features, my build, my height. I must admit something: I like being a piece of meat.
   You get to that point of life in which you realize that it is all just a large bad oil painting you are sitting for, one day to remain unsold at a staving artists’ fair at a local Ramada Inn and there is nothing more to do than try to look pretty and try to enjoy the swaths of brushstrokes. My eyebrows are pointy like Jack Nicholson’s.
   And broad brushstrokes at that. The carpeting that was once white and now some insidious shade of not exactly white nor gray is so saturated in mistakes that it looks like a monochrome Twister mat. I was beside myself when she asked me to remove my shoes because they are not clean.
   Soon we will be twisting ourselves in lustful origami is the only thought that comes to my mind. And somehow I will be able to perform in some quasi-Asiatic way that conforms to her idea of romance that will calm her cat-like eyes. Ah, the simple priorities of men.
   Not a drinker of beer other than Kirin or Sapporo, I have nevertheless convinced her that 2 bottles of Pinot Grigio will quell her desire for a flavored saki-type buzz. Like a fly trapped in a windowless room she does like to buzz unless it is in the confines of non-public places. I notice that all the paper shades are drawn.
   Yet, this is better than where I ended up last week. When a marriage ends, and divorce rears its Hydra head, and the woman you dedicated your life to for 23 years walks out, with the dog, let me tell you, Donne’s compass is fucking broken. The story I will never write is the one in which I am in a house under the BART tracks in Cherryland with what turned out to be a gorgeous tweaker. I do not know how exactly. I met this radiant blonde with big puppy dog eyes on the sidewalk patio of the Bistro. She had bags and bags of groceries with her. I offered her a ride home, eyes glued resolutely to her cleavage. Oh how when boobs are taken away, the drive to replace them is purely genetic and infantile.
   It was only until we got into the rational light of the IHOP (nothing else was open at 1:30 a.m.) that I could tell that there was something twittery about her. Her eyes, of course. Sunken and unreal. Blank. Desperate and lizard-like, just like my libido.
   She wasn’t crazy just sad. And the meth hadn’t evaporated her body yet. Tan, she was. With soapy skin.
   But back to scene I, act 2. The Filmore Street apartment was nothing more than an attempt at white paint painted over dirt and a few plants, a plank at the entrance of her room to forestall the advances of a mouse, nothing on the walls but wall, shoes aligned in the hallway. My new shot in the dark with eastern sun rising was quite the opposite. No drugs ever. Thirty-sixish. Marijuana confused and frightened her.
   The refrigerator was stocked with inscrutable Asian products the kind we Westerners would have absolutely no idea what to do with. I swear I saw a value-pak of nato. Just the thought of opening that for breakfast with a raging hangover brings up the smile of bile.


   Her room– like someone planning to go on a long trip. Total random attempt at organization, of course the sleeping mat on the floor, boxes of perfume and lotions, jewelry on small tables amassed like pirate’s booty. The overall sense of always being in a rush. Some travel books indicating destinations desired. Everything in flux and at the same time so static.
   Sweet or some would say semi-pretty view out the window behind the cheap Venetian blinds backed by paper shades that could never be pulled up for fear that some pervert might be watching her from other apartments, from the street fifty feet below, waiting for the exact pose that could give them gratification or a murderous inclination. Voyeuristic spasms. A painting covered of the north slope of Twin Peaks, torn cotton blouses of fog spinning from its spinach covered teeth.
   I simply should have known. I simply should have known it would come to this. Dates in which I buy her flowers, show her the best eateries such as the Italian place in Potrero from which the fabled city lights twinkle in the immediate distance. Where she ordered a Riesling and then complained about its sweetness not knowing it tasted that way because she paired it with a salty shrimp risotto. I could only look out the window through the letters painted backwards on the glass in brown and wonder why my dream life, why my personal Woody Allen movie was going so very off script.
   Television image in my mind: Godzilla rising from the sea. Screaming that Godzilla-y scream. Puppet gestures. The Tokyo of my emotions in flames.
    Somebody orders something in Italian. A woman in a trench coat appears in the door. Glorious distractions.


   I take her home after the ambiguous dinner. After flavored saké, peach it might have been, that she had procured especially for me/us, she takes me into her lair and I notice the tour guide books of the desert U.S.A. & the Southwest stacked in a corner. Her hair is not hair that I have ever known, like a horse’s mane sort of, like a synthetic fabric, like the bristles, long of course, shoulder length, of a shaving brush, yes softer,  but in a way, similar. Her skin to me is Mediterranean, her nails are perfect slices of petrified almonds, and she has no smell not even where she should and when she should and we are somehow together, quickly, entwined. Shangi-la on Filmore at two a.m.
   Until she tries to touch me with intention.
   A fish stroking its gills against your belly. A small jolt of electrical current while unplugging the hairdryer. A fake punch in which you can feel some anger. She did not now how to touch another because no one had ever touched her in a way that she could learn from. Like a stripper going in for a bulge tug, this is how her hand was: greedy. Sharp. Pointed. Aggressive. Needy.
   It was desperation and not lust. It was premeditated and not improvised. It was somehow the opposite of what desire should feel like.
   Beyond anything I could have ever believed in my life, I did something wholly not in my character. I refused to have sex with a beautiful other.
   Monogamy is a bitch. Since I had been with only one woman for 20 years of my sexual life, using a condom became a conundrum. Hadn’t even used one in high school due to a Catholic school upbringing and the lust for stupid danger. My walk of shame was that little prance into the bathroom. The ripping open of the package with my teeth. The assault of the disgusting chemical smell and taste of industrial strength lube. To put one’s tool into a sausage casing. It just wasn’t going to happen. Instant hard off.
    The bathroom with its one damp washcloth next to the sink. What did it mean. The window open, exposing an inner part of the building, with vents and pipes. Looking down, people’s dropped toothbrushes.
   Not even the vision of her ample breasts could stir the beast within once the sacrament of the condom donning had occurred. When I attempted to mount her on my lap, grow grow the rushes grow, it just couldn’t happen. Downpours of guilt. I am cheating on a woman who left me. I’m that dumbly loyal.
   She wondered what was wrong. She internalized the situation to be of her own undoing, thus, resorted to insult. Really, no other had had a problem in this arena with her. She told me I wasn’t a real man.
  So I did something people resolutely tell me was a bad thing but to this day I have no regrets.
   I had to. She forced the card. An ace in the hole. I left the room, lights miming supernovae behind the paper enshrouded window, and I broke out my laptop.
   As I am a man, I had my own porn downloaded from tapes I made of myself and my true love. Quicktime movies of me carnally satisfying my beloved. And there were sound effects. It wasn’t me making most of the noise.
   I forced her to listen. But note this: only listen, not watch.
   I pressed the sideways play triangle.
   Lights, camera, action.
   She was mortified. Her eyes widened. She stood up straight. She walked out of the room. She picked up my bag and escorted me to the door.
    Mission accomplished.


   On the long drive home, she called me. The phone chimed mid-way through my exodus on the Bay Bridge, the moon full and low slung, waxing through a subtle gauze of brume.
   She said these words to me “I do not know if you can see what I see. It is so beautiful. Open your eyes and look at the sky.”
   She had opened her shade. The moon was ours, a parting gift of sorts.
   The city looked like a backdrop from some cornstalk theater production of a film noir and shook in my rearview mirror. A cardboard cutout illuminated with dime store Christmas lights with its boxes all aligned towards the highpoint of one single needle. It oozed blackness. It was painted the color of lonely.
   And that’s when I realized it. Something I had always known.


   I wanted to fuck the city. Not her.


   The city with its impossible to count and remember hills, its labyrinths of possibility & excellent little restaurants that had not yet become write ups in glossy magazines people read on airplanes, the sultry swaying of its bridges like ocean powered metronomes, its insanely beautiful people all who know the basics of at least two foreign languages, its shops full of stuff I could never in three lifetimes afford, its views that are so postcard that you have to look away for fear of becoming a person in a calendar or dollar store picture frame, its homeless people who are our wandering Sadhus no one ever solicits advice from, its Chinese markets that are souks of no personal space whatsoever, its Tenderloin that is an Abu Graib of desire, its seedy strip clubs full of klutzy, thigh-bruised girls all named Jezebel, its museums that are strip clubs of the mind with much more decadent knick knacks, its sadness vortexed in a giant swirl of want turned need that the pigeons know is good good eating.
   So fuck you YoYo kindly and fuck you San Francisco.
    Only because I cannot.



Philip Kobylarz‘s recent work appears or will appear in Connecticut Review, The Iconoclast, Visions International, New American Writing, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Salzburg Review and has appeared in Best American Poetry. His book, Rues, is forthcoming from Blue Light Press of San Francisco.

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