Discover more from Tony Zentelis
Butterflies Trapped in a Cavern of Entrails
“…In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Eyes flicker open, fixated on the emptiness of the ceiling. How long has it been? Twenty minutes? Three hours? Forty-thousand years? I take naps on the floor, vampire style, because I will sleep too long if I take it somewhere comfier. The floor nap is ideal for pregame preparations, as it allows you to cross over from life to death and back to life once more - for reasons unexplained, floor naps on one’s back is a close simulation to finality.
“…Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
The shower is a key component of my ritual, and it needs to be distinct from any other shower I might take, such as one after a greasy workout. The way I do this is simple - I turn off the lights in the bathroom, and leave the door cracked ever so slightly, so but a mere sliver of God’s incandescent light peeks through the slit like a Jedi wielding a lightsaber in a pitch-black forest. And then the music - two to three house songs, depending on individual length of song. This gives me an optimal amount of time to cleanse myself - I must be Goldilocks, as too much time in the shower will send my mind spinning in endless circles, and too little will not allow me enough time to prepare. Two to three house songs.
“…Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”
And there are two various kinds that pique my interest - first, the agave, the one whose fruit bears a nectar so potent, so delicious when fermented in the Jaliscan Highlands. The second, Tilia, whose green, sour fruit bears a nectar so complimentary, so biting yet soothing. Combined, they form the cocktail of hopes and dreams - the tequila soda, complimented with lime juice.
“Let us make mankind in our image…”
And with mankind came sin, and tonight there is only one sin that matters, and that is the sin of lust. Rested, showered, dressed, liquored, mentally prepared - all key components of my ritual. It is time to leave.
I always show up - no, I always arrive - arrive sounds more intentional, more commandeering, more firm, and by God what I am doing tonight is intentional. Anyways, I always arrive fifteen minutes early, give or take five minutes on either side of the arbitrary threshold; This gives me ample time to assess the landscape and locate a locale within the establishment, especially if said establishment is congested. This particular establishment I know all too well; it is my preferred spots for first dates, and tonight, on this frigid Thursday night, it was packed tighter than a tuna can. Swiveling my head around the single room, I looked for a vacant table or pair of bar seats, which was a fun game to play, and why I suggested this over dinner, as dinner is too rigid - a predetermined table, with predetermined stoppages, depending on how ambitious the waiter is, and a predetermined outcome. Now where is the fun in that! With a bar, we can drink until the keep throws us out, or bounce after one drink if they play shitty music, all the world’s our oyster, and I’m deep sea diving tonight. This is going to be the beginning of something special.
There were no tables, and there were no available bar seats, but there was a few open stools situated at the end of a countertop that attached to the storefront window and overlooked the city street, which would be a perfect spot for people-watching. I set my coat down across the two stools, trusting social norms that no one would dare move it as I supplanted myself at the corner of the bar and ordered a drink before she arrived. I glanced up just in time to see one of the tenders making eye contact with me as she reached in the cooler and pulled out two Bud Lights for another patron. What can I get you, she remarked hurriedly, as she juggled the bottles and a credit card while taking my order. Tequila soda, with a lime. She smirked. I’d be offended if you didn’t ask for a lime. What an odd comment to make. Or am I remembering this all wrong? Oh well, who knows and who cares. She handed the Buds to a couple of bros on the other side of the bar and poured me my mixed drink in a glass cup, which was a nice changeup from the plastic I was accustomed to drinking from. You can keep it open, I confirmed, as I grabbed the cup and took a precautionary sip as to make sure it didn’t spill as I walked back to my quasi-reserved spot, which to my suspicion, was still unoccupied.
Just enough time had passed for me to consume my first beverage, and sure enough, she was arriving at the exact time we had agreed upon, eight-thirty eastern. I saw her through the window as she walked past me and towards the door; I’m sure she saw me as well, but I would act like she didn’t. And I had already texted her my precise location within the spot, so she knew where I would be anyway. I gave it five seconds before I looked to my left, with the timing of a motorcyclist in the dome of death, she was walking directly towards me as our eyes locked. She smiled as I stood up and pulled the bar stool out from under the counter, and she introduced herself first. Hi!, nice to meet you! Yes, nice to meet you Melissa, the tall brunette with an accounting degree and yoga addiction, the girl with a big family who she loved dearly but also felt pressured by to succeed, the girl who is borderline brilliant but is afraid of fitting out, and the girl with a nice ass. A nice ass. Hey Melissa, nice to meet you too, I’m Tony. Let me grab you a drink. I got a tequila soda, would you like the same? She blushed. Haha, no, I shouldn’t drink tequila on a weeknight, but that does sound good. How about Cab? Yeah, no problem (this isn’t going to work, but we will see). The same lass was still making drinks, so I delivered her the bad news - one more tequila soda, and a Cab.
After getting through the laundry list of checklist items such as education and employment history, we finally dove into the more interesting stuff. She asked me about my writing, and I asked her about her time in Italy. Yeah, I’ve been three different times now, and my dad loves it so much, he’s thinking about buying property. He already has citizenship through both of his parents. Wait, so that makes you half-Italian, I interjected. Yes, half-Italian, one quarter German, one quarter Irish, she bragged. Well, I have to say I’m jealous, as you have me beat by twenty-five percent, although I like to say I look the part more than my genetic report might say. She giggled and agreed. Yeah, I’d say so.
(as nice spending time at rich girl’s Mediterranean villa sounds, that is not well-suited for my current stage in life. Who ever wrote an Americana novel whilst sipping a Calabrian on the coast of the Ionian Sea? Get back to me in twenty years on that front.)
We continued on, having another beverage or so, but I sensed her responsibility spidey senses tingling, and soon enough, she told me she should get going soon, as she didn’t want to miss seven AM yoga. To each their own. I myself had work the next day, but I’d gladly sleep through my 9 AM “touch base” (what the fuck is a touch base? Are we landing on Mars? No, Allen, we are selling software. Get the fuck out of here). I stepped up to the bar, now cleared out for the most part, and asked for my tab, from a different bartender than the one that had been serving us all night. Such a shame, I quite liked her. After some mental math and a quick scribble on toxic receipt paper, we departed, and her Uber was arriving just in time. I’m walking. Well, that was fun, I hesitantly said, we should do it again sometime. Yes, I would like that, she said back, and leaned in for a hug, but I had already committed to a kiss, and intended to follow through on my primal desire, and so I did, to her surprise. She let out a half-hearted goodbye as she scurried to the ride share vehicle.
Later that night, I would send her one of my unpublished essays, via PDF, as I had promised…
I always show up – no, I always arrive – well, you get the point. Today, today is Sunday, and today I was seated on an eroding park bench, but not just any eroding park bench – I was seated on the park bench that was tucked away between the conifers atop the hill overlooking the manmade pond and accompanying fountain, where dogwalkers, duck feeders, flaneurs, loafers, joggers, and other classifications of humans were enjoying this glorious Summer afternoon. There was no reason to be discontented, and yet I was contemplative. Could this be the beginning of something special, I wondered, as I sipped chianti out of a brown paper bag. Drinking in public places where drinking is not allowed will always be a simple pleasure, and although she may think I am homeless, which is just a derogatory term for being temporarily displaced, she will stick around nonetheless, because there is nothing a girl likes more than an unfinished craft, and what craft is more unfinished than a broken man. But she won’t really think I am homeless; what homeless man has quads that eat his 7-inch inseam shorts for lunch!
The persisting tranquility and gentle breeze had steered me into a blank gaze, so I hardly noticed the sly fox of a woman approach my eroding park bench from the rear. How did she know? Oh yeah, I had told her I was sitting on a bench near the lake, and was wearing a red shirt, and after a quick scan around the surrounding area, there were in fact zero other males who fit the description. Without saying a word, she plopped herself down next to me and told me we picked a lovely day for a first date. Indeed we did, Alli, the one with tangled dirty blonde hair and a frail build, the one who overachieved in school and yet hated she had become a part of the system, the one who thought it was clever to combine her love for art and economics into a risky yet rewarding path, and the one with pierced nipples and no bra. Pierced nipples and no bra. As much as I enjoy this bench, she said, I brought six free beers from my brewery and a blanket that are burning a hole in my tote bag, and there are better spots in this park to finish your bottle of wine, you know, spots where you have a better chance of not getting arrested for drinking in public. She gestured at the wilted paper bag and half drank bottle of wine that I was now cradling between my legs, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. It wouldn’t be the first time the Feds got me, and it certainly won’t be the last, I retorted. But you are right, we wouldn’t want to start a forest fire, now would we. Do you want to sit in the sun or shade? I prefer the sun, as I am a child of the sun, born late August, Virgo, but you already know this. You look like you might want to sit in the shade. How about that tree over there? Perfect, she said.
We spread the blanket together, and she handed me a craft beer from a local brewery I knew all too well. Craft beer is public enemy number one, but exceptions can be made when it is free and offered to me as a symbol of commensality. I set my fermented grape aside and we began talking – talking for hours, as I recall, and talking about everything under the sun – fitting, considering the atmospheric conditions of the day. Astrophysics and urban planning. Friendship and the future. Work and play. She asked me about my writing, and I asked her about her time in Guatemala. Most people think Guatemala is muggy and humid all the time because it is located near the equator, she explained, but that’s not the case. Where I was, in the Highlands, it was temperate, even chilly sometimes. And there were no bugs. No mosquitos. Well, maybe the mosquitos didn’t like you, I chimed in a tone serious enough to make her hesitate and question her sarcasm detector. I mean, that is certainly possible. Some people don’t get bit by mosquitos, but I don’t think I am one of those people. Maybe the Guatemalan variety is not keen to my blood. I find that difficult to believe. She looked up to see a wry smirk on my face, and returned the expression.
We kept sharing our company, and as the steamy afternoon transformed into a pleasant evening, she regrettably notified me that she had to get going soon, as her mother expected her home for dinner – they were having a cookout. Just the two of them. How wholesome. Or she’s lying. No, of course she’s not lying – only blackpilled lampoons desperate for a darker world would think such a thing. I told her that as much as I would love to continue this conversation on my balcony with that unfinished bottle of chianti, I understood, and respected the commitment to family, which seems to be a rarity amongst our generation these days. She agreed, as we packed up her belongings into that cute little tote bag, and strolled through the park towards her car. As we walked towards the automobiles parked along the adjacent street, I attempted to determine which one was hers without asking, and to my surprise, hers was the cool little purple BMW convertible – not sure of the model or year, but it looked semi-vintage – maybe 80s or 90s. I commented that her car was way too stylish for her, and she wholeheartedly agreed – the only reason she was driving it is because her late grandmother insisted, and despite her not being the flashy type, she had come to appreciate the relic, especially during the warmer months. Well, usually it’s the other way around according to the stereotypical films, but maybe you can take me for a ride next time, I probed. Yeah, maybe, if there is a next time that is. She used my own wry smirk against me and looked away as she opened the driver door. There will be, I avowed. I quite enjoyed our time today. How about same time next week? You can finish telling me about your master plan to infiltrate the government. That sounds lovely, she said, as we wrapped our arms around each other and said goodbye. You drive safe now….
I didn’t leave early tonight - in fact, I was running a few minutes behind, running laps in my own mind, and sent a text to tell her I would be about five minutes late. No worries!, she replied, stylization with the exclamation point and all, which annoyed me. Highly unlikely she was enthused at the fact that her first date would be tardy, but whatever. I hopped in my car and put on my most angsty of music; fittingly, First Date by Blink 182 was first in the queue. I chuckled as I exited my covered garage and made a left and then another left and then a right and then another right to merge on the highway and head towards her place. This isn’t going to be the beginning of something special, is it. Of course it isn’t.
But, we all have to start somewhere.
Park Bench Philosopher
We got the afternoon
You got this room for two
One thing I've left to do
One mile to every inch of
Your skin like porcelain
One pair of candy lips and
Your bubblegum tongue