Post Road Magazine #25


Trinie Dalton

righteous sleaze
While I enjoy entertaining the fantasy that I'm some vixen, imagining often that at the next party I attend I'll be bold enough to try ultra abject things, and imagining what I'll do to certain strangers as I prowl the neighborhood streets for action, I mostly go home at night like everyone else, eat chips and guacamole, and enjoy chauffeuring dogs around in my station wagon. On this walk, sun vanishing while crackheads emerge to prepare for another night of overdrive, it's my next big chance but I talk myself out of it, my idea of sleaze might differ from theirs. I don't think blowjobs in alleys are that sleazy, really, because they're as played out as black lace lingerie. I remember one night, oh, ten years ago, downtown at a club, a friend of mine was so proud he was going to go score penis satisfaction in the alley that he announced it to me as he was exiting into his idea of paradise, a dick suck behind dumpsters, and me thinking how dorky that was. What I've found sleazy recently: chihuahuas, a cactus with its tips lopped off, a bleached goat skull mired in sand beside the Rio Grande in West Texas, bubble gum, and wicker among them. This is a story about a Southwest fetish crossed with an eye for tropicalia! Two hours of walking spent compiling this litany I'll write instead of focusing on an actual burlesque action I could take in my neighborhood's vintage movie theater, or the grass hula dance I could perform in the local tiki bar. Smashed berries, juice smeared blue on the sidewalk. A fellow growing corn on his apartment porch. Keep it in your pants, man!

An old song comes on my iPod about my friends at an orgy—who paired up and who watched, which dude had a ferret on his back while pumping some chick. I'm not interested in drug parties anymore; instead, watching the way the desert darkling beetles on the sandy trail were just arching their butts up in the air with stink threats, and the skunk who showed me her clean pink butthole for the same reason while I smoked a cigarette on my porch earlier are exponentially dirtier this evening. The way that man tugs his puppy is extremely sleazy, his control fixation being jerked into that poor dog via a tawdry chain leash. The way this woman I'm walking past has her big ass in a chair and feet up on her wrought-iron porch fence railing, hair up in curlers and dressed in a muu muu, totally sleazy not for her sloppy obesity but because her three frayed plastic brooms stand bristle-up next to her—pink, blue, and yellow— after she's swept the dirt yard in which her figs trees await ripening. Brooms, budding figs, and her feet in combination: so sleazy! The way women's breasts sweat in sports bras, and the way that lady on the trail wore a bandage wrapped around her calf like she was a racehorse. Peacocks, macramé, nudibranchs, and magenta-ink pens. How easily I'm shocked these days.

For or against sleaze? It's so far past that. My crystal ball predicts a tornado so I've been considering an entire wardrobe of Desert Storm fatigues, tan as hell and spotty enough to invite onlookers to question what's beneath. Men in uniform have never done much for me, but until I'm brave enough to charge a plane ticket to an oasis in the Sahara on my credit card, Paul Bowles style, I'm thinking of channeling a hardcore sand dune look. Anti-war protesting in camouflage might be as cliché as the French Maid outfit, but it also might just be post-M*A*S*H enough for me to get off on how sexy I used to think Alan Alda was as a comedic surgeon healing soldiers. But to introduce the healer archetype in here is to invite real romance, compassion transferring from flawed human to flawed human, nothing sleazy about that compared to the guy who wears too much cologne in line at the market and gets out his wad of moneyclipped cash to purchase steak and margarita mixer. The sleaze lies there in the youth flashback: listening to Duran Duran with a bottle of coconut liquor snuck from under the bed, us girls in nightgowns de-knotting shag carpet snags with our toes between sips while picturing guys who wear Revlon red lipstick and black eyeliner before we knew that signaled Ladyboy! I never bought in; honestly, I always found Simon Le Bon suspicious due to our similar obsessions for painting faces, but my cheerleading girlfriend was smitten. Justin Bieber on People Magazine's cover at the market just today, looking like a mini Nick Rhodes, post-hair metal, thinking how many girls now consider him the Tiger Beat Edition when really he's probably going to be cruising men in public park bathrooms a few years from now. My flax-woven summer dress patterned with blueberries is positively Victorian in comparison with the things men do near filthy toilets. Kudos to them. But for me I'm set with simple sleaze, and happily settle for fantasies that can easily remain fleeting pictures that move through my mind of Veronica Lake and Barbara Stanwyck in the Preston Sturges films I adore. I watch the lascivious orange sun set behind the hills lined with century plants, whose erections might not blossom for another hundred years.

The dewy datura blossom has not swirled closed yet this morning, which means last night's new moon is still near. Watching its umbrella creep shut returns me to the sun, accepting time's passage, those hours containing uncertain outcomes. Gray hairs occupy my scalp, my lettuce is slimy, and I have become an expert at scattering ashes. Time's circuitry reveals itself more plainly if one remains in the same place and upholds habits. Embroidering chevrons into cotton yardage, their patterning device—small arrows hinting at forward momentum though their repetitive stitch—tells a seamstress otherwise. Getting my old records out, becoming a regular again at a bar I used to frequent. Honoring what one loves through re-experience is not necessarily nostalgic, as I've always thought; the datura blossom seals up until evening. Sensing our short time here coupled with a desperation for experience, I've fixated too heavily on forward movement; to drive the same road meant another went neglected. Funny how that never translated to grandfathering plants, returning to the trails to smell the bay laurel, predicting where the lemon lilies will sprout, checking late summer's chia for seeds ready to winnow, happy to see this datura, my clock, spiraling its conical, bellshaped petals clockwise and counterclockwise day in and out. How wondrously slow plants are, how I've admired their protracted experience of time despite a personal preference for barreling forward like a chuckwagon whose horses have been scared by firearms. I'm practicing now how to love what moves slowly, and in turn, how to slow my body's calendar down: watching orchids grow and snakes sunbathing. Seeing a red dragonfly police its watering hole for hours, hearing a mockingbird burn through a seventy-five-song cycle before looping back to its original call. This mediation on the sluggardly, I hope, will stretch itself far into the future to become a story not about time passing but a story in and with time—never and always compressed into now. Patience is the hardest lesson to learn.

Otters comb the shoreline, cracking abalone on rocks and making beelines through seaweed; to understand one's territory does not necessarily signal retrogression. To make a place yours again, visit it especially if you faced your greatest difficulties at that bench, in that house, between those hills, under the shadow of that building. Take the time necessary to neutralize the massacre locations, inhabit the gruesome spots with your slower self to expel hungry ghosts. Let the hardship flow through you until it dissipates. Very different but much more, my Gertrude Stein poster reads, only then can these places become more, become a different home. Change is guaranteed to come. I've stopped running. Home is not property one purchases but a mind in which past and future resolutely punch their timecards, curl up and expand under the instruction of sun and moon like this datura flower, in which your expansive ever-present and transportable shelter, your hardened tortoise shell softens to become breathable, with each timeworn reconciliation of your own presence in space.

rag rug
On days I feel like roadkill, I peel my limp body off whatever floor it's plastered to and drag it into the kitchen, to fry a piece of salmon, cooking the pink fish to honor to how hard it has worked swimming upstream, to spawn and die, or to get netted, gutted, sliced, and packaged for my nourishment. Thinking of this noble creature while I eat a slab of it satisfies my hunger in a deep way and gives me the strength to continue. I become so enamored of imagining the salmon's journey while I cook that I forget to flip it over and I burn it. If you are a person for whom the story of food is as exuberant as the eating, especially if you consider the meat part of your spirit animal, in which case you're worshipping the fish during its preparation, you might consider purchasing a timer that tells you how long to cook things. It is easy to get lost in the prayer, especially when you're lightheaded from starving yourself. In which case, even if the flesh is delectable, and you need protein, sadness disguised as gravity might still have its leaden grip on you. To that I say: pull your trousers on and begin to braid a rag rug from the shrapnel of your life! I recite this mantra daily and now my rug resembles the yellow brick road, a giant spherical tongue wending its way out my front door into this shimmering poppy field I'm almost brave enough to step into. I've got my pants pulled up with suspenders, my stetson hat, and red glitter shoes on, visualize myself letting go of everything I've known with only a knapsack on, as the part of me that is still alive knows instinctively that the living belong out amongst the living. The other part is mired in a dismal troll's cave littered with fishbones, and this inability to rise up and exit enrages me so much that even my dreams are grayed by anger, fuzzy and inscrutable as if the troll has spray painted the hidden camera lens I normally rely on to peer in on dreams with lucidity while I sleep. Even if I have to sedate my hideous prison guard, render tallow to mold a candle, and sneak out by its candlelight, I will find an escape into the land where birds of paradise tickle each other with rainbow feathers and people toke opium pipes in hammocks and have ten orgasms per day.

Remember I told you that you gave me good dreams, that I saw my dreams again the morning you woke me up with a poem. Color and language-less communication returned to me, a sure sign of healing, and you're a gifted interlocutor in the conversation I'm having with myself to continue existence with positivity and to continue living for love when it has recently bruised me. I want to give you a significant present, too. I think we're in a sweepstakes but I don't know when we entered or what the fuck we're signed up to win, though I remember how impossible learning to tie shoelaces seemed, and look how far I've come. Some days, the fjords appear to be labyrinthine while other days their rapids mellow into currents manageable with a simple paddle and raft. This is a story about the day you were a lifesaver, and I loved you for that.

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