29 March 2009

11 Ways of Looking at Lisa

She's stealing, stealing, stealing money at work all the time. In her hands, credit card charge slips transform themselves and ones and fours and sevens become nines, threes fill in to eights, zeroes fall into unexpected but significant places, and the cash in the coffee can on her closet's top shelf rolls tightly around itself, a cocoon in which her brooding future incubates.

She never eats it herself but she often steals meat from the kitchen to bring home to her dog. Her boyfriend will often steal if from them both. She can smell it on his breath.

His drinks will almost certainly appear on some other drunk's tab and that is a kind of victory, a kind of seduction performed with alcohol and a BIC round-stic fine point pen and it will almost certainly work and he will certainly drink more and she will glow with the gifts she's given, setting up shots of raw vodka all around.


She's breaking things in the kitchen and it punctuates the things she says.

She's asking, "Are you happy now? [crash] Is this what you want? [crash] Is this the way you want things to be? [crash]" and the shards of Corning Ware and Pyrex and glass arrange themselves across the linoleum like messages, like codes, like hieroglyphic gestures and they glitter as they spin toward brief rest in litter under her 100 watt bulbs. There is a clarity to this performance, its meaning quite clear, yet it will remain a kind of performance.

"Are [smash] you [smash] happy [smash] now? [smash]" she wails, forlorn in anger and gathering repent.

He is thinking.

He says, "I'm thinking. I'm thinking."


She's working on the StairMaster and it's been 45 minutes. The sweat spreads but does not fall from her face, her lips, her chin; it outlines its own movement across her shoulders and down the furrows of her vertebrae. It is hard for her to concentrate on the article in the Harper's magazine she holds. She savors the movement of her thighs, her calves, her ass as she climbs and she lets the magazine slowly fold itself closed and then it slip to the floor beside the machine and she lays her forehead between her hands and she keeps climbing.


She's drinking and she's drunk and crawling around the living room floor, a mosaic of cassette tapes and CDs spread underneath her elbows and her knees and she's looking for something particular, a special song to accompany this special moment spread underneath her elbows and her knees and she's looking for something particular, a special song to accompany this special moment and she knows it here somewhere and if she can just remember who sings it and what album it's on and where that album is, she can listen to it over and over and over all night long and she keeps looking because she knows what she wants to hear.


She's dragging her nails across the plaster of the bedroom wall and making noise, plenty of noise, and it all means she likes having sex. Her back is arching and her shoulders toss and her breath goes in and out like cats gasp and it comes out like a long, drawn out "oh, fuck" and that noise rises and hardens as it escapes her swollen mouth and everything she does and says is absolutely inspiring and he's working at it hard, he's trying his best and she's rocking.

"Fuck, baby. Oh, fuck."


She's driving fast across west Texas plains in a car that's about to break down on roads she's deliberately not chosen, roads she's deliberately just taken for no reason at all. She has chosen not to add any oil to the engine and the temperature is rising and she's singing along to a radio station that has seemed to just appear on the dial and she really doesn't know the words to the songs, so the sounds she makes are just a split second behind the sounds the radio is making.

"Heartache hmm hmm hmm and whiskey hmm hmm hmm," she sings. "Lovin' arms hmm hmm hmm and freight trains moanin' hmm hmm hmm."

At the same time, she's thinking, "This is the life, sure enough."


She's getting ready for another party; she has them quarterly. She is vacuuming the living room carpet and cutting up the vegetables and working on her hair and working on her face and opening bottles of wine and setting out plates and napkins and silverware and picking out some music all more or less simultaneously and when guests start arriving she is more than ready.


She's screaming at the boys in the car who yelled at her but they're not listening; they're already way too far down the street for her voice to reach them though she can still hear the heavy thud the music they play makes.

"Fuck you!" she screams but it is a thin sound and is quickly lost in the air, unravels and disappears until only dogs can hear it.

"Fuck you, you fuckers!"


She's counting boyfriends like counting prayers with a rosary; she lays out their photographs like a collection of holy cards, like a dealer starting another game of casino blackjack with all the odds behind her. She makes a circle, she makes a star, she puts them in a long, long row. She picks them up like paper dolls.

"Hey, you!" she pretends one of the photographs says. "You were mean to Lisa."

"I was not," she pretends to make another picture say. "She's a bitch and she was mean to me."

"Take that back."

"Make me." And then she pretends the pictures fight and she jiggles them both across each other and the sounds she makes sound like fists hitting flesh and grunts of pain. She pretends the good guy's picture wins the fight and then she gathers all the photos together into one neat stack and puts them back in the envelope in the box in the drawer in the dresser in the room she calls "spare."


She's laughing and the dog is in the water and across the brown, flat river the new condominiums with red tile roofs are laddered up the mesa, rising like dull bees from the cottonwood bosque. Even Ray-Bans cannot control the vibrating reflection of the sun in the water in her eyes in the windows of the houses half a mile away.


She's sleeping while the morning sunlight enters the east window and he sits in the wing back chair that sits in the corner of her bedroom and he watches it, the light, and the way the sheets are tangled around her legs and the way the arrow of soft, fine down tracks her spine and the way the growing light has made her perspire and how each tiny hair has begun to glisten, to shine golden in the curves her back has made this morning.

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