the life of richie


Posted in is by Rich on September 10, 2011

Dad says: the jerks next door moved out. They left their junk on the curb.

I look at the barricade: evicted mattresses piled up, getting wet in the rain; mattresses stained with summer sweat and suntan oils where the surfer boys would pass out after endless days spent at the beach and half-naked nights spent on the porch drinking, when they would scream to people on the street, “I take it up the ass!” Furniture: high chairs with palm tree patterns, a bureau; home appliances: a vacuum cleaner. How often did the surfer boys keep house, I wonder. I imagine the little blond one in a moment of domestic servitude, vacuuming in his slouchy board shorts, unsure about what he is doing even. Turn it on. Turn it on and it goes. Just pass it over the dirt. Over the spilled spliff. Over the cereal bobs. Suck it up. Suck it up and see.

The porch, which once was a mess with a big gas grill and dead beer bottles and surf/skate boards and towels and cast-off clothes, now is nothing. It looks so clean; so clean and peaceful. So empty and clean. The end of their endless summer. The sense of an ending. And where did they end up, I wonder. Where: like convicts taking off one afternoon (they would have slept in, after all; never get up before noon, unless it was to get in a quick surf, and then go back to bed), just throwing everything out the window, off the porch, getting into one of their trucks blinded with the Billabong stickers in the rear windshield, and then gone. The surfer boys, who must now have to return to the world of shoes and shirts (maybe late for their Return), now do they enter the world that I know. Sometimes I would see them on the porch and think, “That was never my life,” and “I was never that young,” and not in a regretful way, just in a way that made me realize, “I was always too old to play as kids play. To party like that. To have that life. To want it, even.”

One imagines, though, seeing all of the exfoliated refuse shed like an itchy skin, sloughed off onto the sidewalk, about their life; about their inner lives. There must have been something more beating beneath the taut, tanned torsos next door. There must have been some fleshier truth there. One looks at the chairs and the mattresses and the vacuum cleaner. One looks closer. Squinting a bit.

One imagines and…




Posted in is by Rich on July 31, 2011

The last in the Grace Kelly-Hitchcock series at the Arts Center is Dial M for Murder. Thirty minutes in, Caroline slides in next to me, just come from her latest doctor’s appointment, while the two men are plotting the wife’s murder: how it must be done and why. She has appointments all the time now (Caroline). After class and before yet another, she stops into the law office on Friday to see me, to have lunch, and to complain about how her body is not her own anymore. It has been rented out to a noisy tenant, like those surfer boys next door. She can’t wait for the end of the summer: for the eviction. “I fart all the time,” she limns. “I never used to fart before. I used to pride myself on my not-farting.

The boys next door hang out half-naked on the downstairs porch after spending all their days surfing, and all their nights drinking. A fussy old lady comes into the law office before Caroline, to bitch. “Has anyone else complained about them?” she wants to know. “They’ve been vomiting into my yard. My husband –– he’s just had surgery. I can’t sleep. I’ve called the rental agency, but they won’t call me back.” I tell the woman I will make a note that she has called. A few hours later, through the blinds I can see them emerge, all glistening flesh like the vampires in the Twilight movies…

On Friday night, after locking up the office (all of the lawyers are away: my mom and dad in Hudson visiting my sister; his partner off on a spa afternoon with a state judge), I take my mom’s convertible over the bridge to Somers Point to attend a gallery reception. I think of Anne: in June, I drove to New Haven, and then with her up to Boston for a wedding. (With the top down, the whole world is yours, to be played with and tossed aside.) At the gallery, the porch is overflowing with mismatched characters from many of the stages of my life. I find Joni and Gerri on the patio. “I’m just going inside a moment,” I explain. The gallery itself is a furnace, all the artwork thrown into this kiln to be melted down (one might think), to meld together into some new life risen like a savior’s bread when the buzzer sounds; devoured by dogs. Some friends of mine (of my parents) are welcome distractions from the temperature, but after talking a few minutes, I escape back outside, where there is a coy yet sometimes willing breeze.

The reading of four poets commences. I stare at my friend Gerri standing on the porch, her gray hair pulled back into calculated serenity, and smile. Afterwards, we go to Joni’s condo that overlooks the water, where there are boats. We drink wine and talk about literature and college. The next day, I think of this year at school, and recommend to myself a new course. This year will be a vengeance, I have decided. I will strap myself to the college, but. When I go this time, I am gone, and I will not (will never) come back again. (I want them to hear this. I want them to know this and to be ashamed.)

For when the heat breaks, there is usually a terrific thunder. This is how it shall come to pass.

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