BEDS WE MADE
Toward the end
we slept in the same bed whenever you visited.
We made strange dance partners in the bar
where we did karaoke among people who didn’t know you.
You sang “Son of a Preacher Man”
and I knew you were singing about the woman
you were falling in love with. I was dating someone new
and you were freshly disengaged
from the man you were supposed to have married,
the house you’d owned with him out of your hands,
your new red truck all you had to show for it.
You always used to look me in the eyes
and then you’d also look at some distant thing,
that inward gaze I longed to penetrate. My thinking girl,
I loved your little house when you lived alone, the tatted doilies,
the aqua-colored pitchers, pink teapots, delicate French press
you served us coffee from. I loved your organ, your long splendid fingers,
your frilly bed I never slept in. When I left the state, I invited you down,
into my closet turned bedroom, my opium den,
where I’d taken several men, my simple futon, its soft blankets.
Your limbs were animals and I remembered this from our nights
in Venice. We lived by the beach above the boardwalk,
eight weeks scattered across two calendar years.
We pushed the hostel beds together each night, the nightclub pumped beneath us,
we sat by the lone window, stared into each other’s eyes
for whole minutes. You’re the only one who has done that with me,
talking without the bother of spoken language
as we smoked cigarettes, inhaled deeply.
The next bed we shared was in a stranger’s house,
someone’s marriage bed. We were kitten-nurses. Your limbs again were
nocturnal animals, grasping me in sleep, covering me with your love.
I broke the spell when I went out on a date, leaving you in the strange house.
This was all before my home in Los Feliz, ‘The Happy’,
and those nights you fell drunk into my arms and I held you up
so we could makeshift dance, arms locked, hands woven,
distance dilating between us.
The journey there,
the stops made. She and I sit in a parking lot,
Twentynine Palms Highway.
We pull off the road on the way to the campsite,
the hummingbirds like intricate purring motors,
sun out. We drink a beer or two and talk.
Her pocketknife slices into a lime. On the tailgate
of her red truck we talk Annie Dillard, where we’re headed,
the songs she’s learning on guitar. The chords, her voice,
thread around my heart in the desert.
Tiny frogs caught in hands. Sky shot
full of vapor trails. Shadows
on rocks, creosote in bloom, lupine
caressing our fingers until I press the trigger,
snap her picture.
Wendy C. Ortiz lives and writes in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books) and Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press), both to be released in 2014. Wendy is a columnist for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and curates and hosts the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series. She has a website here.