Poetry, Water Head Business, & Sex
O Monica, O Love…
Byron H. Jones
Birth, air, life, flowers… Monica…
Unlock my chains, admit me to a new scene…
Your name is like a poem, why, about thee, need I even write a poem?
O Monica, a new nobility is conferred in groves and pastures…
O love, I feel you shoot your strong New England roots
Into the hot soil of my Soul…
Wondrous woman whirling wild wonders,
I watch you weave your sinew,
You rise up through the earth like a growth of flowers
That, O Monica, O love, is so very real…
There is a line in the Koran that, loosely translated, says that many people who are currently in their graves did not think the world would go on without them—but it has. A week after meeting Monica, I did not believe that I could go on unless I saw her again. I thought of that line and was certain that if Monica were to ever leave me, my world would stop. I wept at night after dreaming about Monica suddenly dying. I had a dream in which Monica was thrown off a subway platform. Why did I have this dream? I sobbed for hours afterward.
Of course, once I lost her, as foretold, the world did proceed, but nonetheless—
I’d never had a girlfriend in the thirty-five years of my life, though I have tried, at times. I mean, there was a time when I wasn’t aware of how horrible I appeared, of how disgusting it was to look at me. I would ask girls out then, because I had been blessed not only with a disfigured head, but with a ravenous libido. I have always had trouble thinking of anything but sexual intercourse. Even the word sexual intercourse excites me sexually. Women have this hypnotic scent, this beautiful aura, that is mesmerizing, even without perfume. With the correct perfume, of course, it’s absolutely stunning, horribly magical. To a monster, it’s ungodly torture.
I often think that one of the reasons Che liked hanging out with me was because I was the living embodiment of ugliness and a living affirmation that he was inordinately good looking. I must say that one of the things he hated about Ray was that old Ray was damned good looking—very handsome, tall, very black and compelling, with chiseled features and rock-hard arms. He must have been delighted to find Monica in bed with him. More on that later, though.
Since the world is peopled with about 50% women, I, a monster of sorts, am in a state of constant amazement and sexual preoccupation. And then this girl comes along and looks weird at me like she wants to devour me… Very confusing. I still haven’t decided what that’s all about. But one thing is for sure: this Monica had directed more attention to me than any woman in years that day with Che and Tom and the pot and all, so, of course, I fell in love with her. I kept thinking of how she said to Che, “Is he Hollywood?” You know, in that excited sort of girly way.
Before I get into that, though, I want to tell you about my brother’s dream.
My brother, Jackson, a small, normal-headed version of me, awoke one morning with his .32 revolver on his bloody shirt and a bag full of money on the floor beside the bed. We shared a tiny bedroom in our tiny little home in the Bronx—an ugly little brownstone on E. 187th St., just down from Amici’s (the best goddamn restaurant in the world, best pork, best rolls, best Chianti). The neighborhood was filled with bakeries, so the whole world always smelled of freshly baked bread, an aroma that touched your soul like some kind of invisible mother-spirit.
Jackson had had too much to drink and had robbed the same corner grocery store again. He did this a lot and hated himself for it, but it did keep him in money and away from having to work. And, he had the fortune (or misfortune, perhaps) of never getting caught. Oh, sure, the police were on to him, they knew he lived somewhere around our neighborhood in the Bronx, but our neighborhood was a family neighborhood, so they didn’t push it. Plus, they figured the guy robbing all the little Korean grocery stores was black because my brother always wore a ski mask. The witnesses always said he was a black guy.
Jackson had these big broad eyes and he was painfully nice. He’d checked the cylinder and, thank God, no bullets were missing. He pushed the gun under his mattress, then repeatedly flexed his hands (obsessively, a little Mrs. Macbeth action there) as he tried to recall his evening debaucheries. He recalled going downtown on the train, he recalled going to McSorley’s after all the yuppies had left. His favorite cat had died. Drank a lot of ale there. Damn, that’s where it all ends. But he looked at me with those eyes and said, “But I had the oddest dream, Hollywood.”
“I was in the forest. Like, the woods Upstate, you know?”
“I couldn’t barely get through with all the woods and limbs and shit and I’m, like, trying to push through all these leaves and limbs, you know?”
“And then, like, I see this guy with a huge head—“
“Yeah, you’re much more handsome, though. This guy’s a retard.”
“And I get to the edge of the forest and there’s this big sign that says: W.H.I.T.”
“Yeah. And all these guys with big heads are walking around with clipboards and books and rulers and shit—“
“Yeah, and then I ask one of them what that sign stands for and he looks at me like I’m—you know—stupid, and says, ‘Water Head Institute of Technology.’”
“Yeah. Fucking Water Head Institute of Technology. It made me think that you’re going to be a famous guy at a university some day or something—‘cause--“
“Yeah, that’d be cool.”
“’Cause dreams tell us about the future, right? Messages from God and shit, right?”
I threw up my hands. “Hey, man. I don’t know. Beyond me.”
So my brother had this dream that foretold that I was going to be important. Since then, I’ve been waiting for the moment when this would start to happen. Sometimes things happen that seem to be pretty important, like the time I wrote my first poem about the soldier coming back and drinking whiskey, but the moment is not huge and heavy—filled with the kind of gravitas I’d expected. The moment will come and I will emerge, like Jackson, from the woods, and find myself in an important place. Of course the dream could mean nothing, it was Don Knotts who said that dreams are the refuse of our mental lives, and he might be right.
But this moment with Monica, the goddess of frost and clouds, was of immense importance. The structure of my life was altered and my heart was expanded like a cartoon—out of proportion with my body, or, at least, my perceived body. I was becoming more than I am, and that is what I think love is—to become more than you are, to transcend your boundaries and expand your soul. You’ve never really been in love—and I think that’s sad. I have loved and I have lost (as you know) and I am pleased that I did, it is better. But this time, I felt I was going to love and win—and I did, a round or two, before I lost. Tennyson was still right, it is better to have loved and lost—but he’s right that Nature is red in tooth and claw, too. Sometimes Tennyson’s Love business and his Nature business mix. That’s my perception, just ask Che when you see him in hell. Ask Ray if you can find him. I haven’t seen him since the trial.
My brother and I rented the upstairs room of my parents house at 565 E. 187th St. Once I had announced to my mother and father (whom I didn’t see very often) that I was leaving school, they stopped talking to me. “Fine,” they both agreed. “Leaving school is a terrific idea. Poetry? Great idea!” They were furious, but it makes it easier for this narrative because I don’t have to describe them and get into their issues—which are very culturally distant from the issues we face today: they’re into trees, community, ethics, benefits, and savings. You know, they’re so totally influenced by that Beatnik-y/Elvis is King/early-rock-and-roll shit that they don’t understand what the hell is going on nowadays; so it’s best that I don’t include them and their screwed up vision of the world—except to say that they procured, very often, some of the best pot and turned me on to some of the coolest Dylan bootlegs I’ve ever experienced. Like the drivers on 95 on that fateful night as they approached the Mighty Mianus River, I flip them off and whisper, “Fuck you, assholes.”
And so it happens that Monica found her way to 565 E. 187th St. in the world of bread and snow and sirens and Jackson’s lingering pot on the second floor (private entrance at the side of the house--top of the old wooden stairs: creak, creak, creak). She’d met up with Che and they had dropped by after an afternoon of--as far as I could tell from Che--her begging him to bring her to my place.
A brown paper bag full of money sat in the middle of the living room, beside it rested an ash tray filled with roaches and Marlboros—our alpha and beta intoxicants. Jackson was in Florida. After this hold up, he was just disgusted with himself and flew down too Miami for a month of drying out and getting back into shape at the Fontainebleau Spa. He took what he could, left what he could.
I had, of course, called the restaurant and told them I can’t work this week (why should I, I’ve got a bag of money?), so it was just fateful, wonderful timing on Monica’s part. I thought it was very nice of Che to bring her by, though, he did not know that. As he saw it, he was just dropping by with his new lady friend to hang with his best homie.
I kicked the bag of money under the couch as they came in, then dropped onto our green plaid couch. The barred windows looked out on a Bronx winter wonderland of bricks and snow and the smeary lights of undifferentiated traffic.
“How’s Tom?” I asked.
“Who the fuck cares?” Che offered. “Didn’t I kill him?” He laughed insanely and alone. Monica had found her hole and was staring into it. I was straight and needed a green, cold bottle of beer.
“He’s okay,” Monica whispered. “They took him to the hospital and they patched him up. The bullet had shattered his leg and he thinks he’s all that now on his crutches and shit.”
She smiled softly and looked deeply into me—she found me to dig into visually. “How are you, Hollywood?”
“I’m okay,” I said.
“You guys are like—“
Che smiled. “Like what?”
I never thought of myself like that, but what else could I and Che be?
“No, man,” Che said. “We’re the good guys.” He dropped an arm around her and she pushed it away. “We only fuck with the bad guys like Tom. He’s got a reputation as a megadick.”
“ Tom’s okay.”
“He should keep on his side of the tracks.”
“No,” I said, a bit quickly. Che looked over and I could hear the very small machine in his head start to life. It died after a moment, though, and he smiled warmly, revealing the epiphany that my concern with her is all based on the concept that I want Che to screw her—that Che is my hero and I work, like a presidential assistant in the White House, for his good only. Of course we want her on our side of the tracks—so Che can have his way with her!
“You couldn’t party with me and Che if you stayed away,” I said.
“How old are you?” Che abruptly asked, revealing, always revealing, how far along he was in his plans. He was absolutely transparent.
“Nineteen,” she said.
“No way,” I said, sounding shocked, but filled with an ineffable joy.
“Yeah—“ She produced a CT driver’s license and shore ‘nuff. There she was in a halo of beautiful spun gold hair with her little unspeakably, unbelievably beautiful face. She looked—and probably was—stoned. “I’ve failed a couple of years, you know. School’s really hard for me. My friends are all in college.”
Che smiled. “That’s so sad,” he said, and, to my horror, dropped an arm around her that was not rejected.
Monica then asked Che for the Samoan Thunderfuck weed and, to my relief, that explained the submission, the acceptance, of the arm. Che had a blueing tattoo on his forearm of a snake coiling around a knife, with the enheartening message “Born to Die.”
A bag of weed hit the floor and I started a bong, then passed out Heinekens and put on a Creed CD.
Monica held her ears and said, “This so sucks. I so hate fucking corporate rock, man!”
“Yeah, Hollywood,” Che said, pushing my shoulder. “What’s wrong with you!” I knew he was bluffing for her benefit—he winked.
So I found Nevermind and we all settled back and started our own Mary Poppins-Uncle Albert-up-on-the-ceiling party.
“ Kurt is so absolutely cool,” said Monica.
“Yeah, and he’s dead, too,” Che said brutally, with a laugh.
Monica winced. I knew she hated him, but I wasn’t exactly sure if she really liked me or not. I knew that both of them were playing some game off of each other. I knew what Che’s was, but I wasn’t sure what her game was. It would have all made perfect sense if her game was to use Che to get to me—to win me over and seduce me and have her wanton ways with me--but that was too idiotic to even examine once I’d thought of it.
“Hollywood,” Monica said, pushing me away from the bong, “Do you like Kurt?”
“Oh, so much! He’s, you know, like you said, really cool!” I’m such an idiot, she turned me into such an idiot. God, I just hated myself.
Che smiled at my awkwardness. He knew I was being stupid.
“And he’s not corporate at all,” she said.
“Oh, definitely not!” I said, not really knowing what the fuck she was talking about.
She winked and made a little rabbity-like expression by wiggling her nose. I sucked down my beer and started another.
Monica kept pushing the bong back to Che and skipping me. I knew she was a Bogart, since day one at the school, but I thought it was pretty rude to keep passing me. It was, after all, my bong, my beer, my apartment, my fucking party.
Of course, that was cool with Che because he was a fucking junkie and anything that was intoxicating was always welcome under any circumstances—regardless of the justice issues.
So the snow snowed and Kurt Cobain shrieked and the room filled with dope and levity and we all figuratively rose to the ceiling.
Not long after the third bong, Che passed out. He’d, after all, thanks to Monica, smoked most of it.
A look of satisfaction crossed Monica’s face and she asked. “Where can we put him?”
“My brother’s out of town. We can put him in his room.”
“How far is it from your room?” she asked.
“Other side of the house,” I gasped.
We dragged Che to Jackson’s room and laid him out on the bed. I tucked him in. He was so sleepy.
The minute the door was shut, Monica grabbed my shoulder and threw me against the wall. “God, I’ve been waiting for this for too long,” she said, and she drove her face into mine and kissed me. It was like a punch in the face. She grabbed the back of my head and seemed to be tearing at my brain. Her body was bumping into mine like a beating heart, soft and squishy and throbbing. We rolled along the wall toward my room, kissing and tearing at each other’s clothes. My door was opened and we fell into the room, like dropping into a hole.
Monica slammed the door shut and stood triumphant. I fell to the bed. She grasped the edges of her shirt and ripped it off her body and threw it on the floor. Her breasts were amazing—there they were. I was shocked since I had never seen real naked breasts before. They swung around as she spoke, nodding their agreement to whatever insanity she was mumbling—something about passion and pain and agony and waiting too long, stuff like that. She flew out of her pants and leaped upon me howling.
“ Jesus,” she said, “I’ve never wanted anyone as much as I want you! You’re an animal, a fucking animal!”
Her breasts were softer than anything I have ever felt before. They were warm and as soft as clouds.
Her hips found mine and she started pumping like a jack rabbit.
My, God, I thought I was going to die—and I did, very quickly, but that didn’t stop her, she just kept going and going and going. She whipped her head around and splashed me with a warm spray of perspiration—then she started beating my chest with her fists.
In a few minutes, she rolled off me and gasped. “ Jesus, Hollywood—You’re a god, a fucking god…”
I was completely perplexed. “So are you,” I said.
“No one has ever ripped me apart like that,” she whispered. She rolled back atop me and pushed her head into mine. “You’re a monster, Hollywood.”
She was the most beautiful girl in the world and I was completely in love with her. At that moment, I realized that I was at the mountaintop of my existence. I had somehow muddled my way up, and here I was in post coital (post coital, an adjective I had never expected to be associated in any manner with me) bliss--bliss, man, I had apparently sexually satisfied the most beautiful woman in the world—and then she said it: “I love you.” It just kept getting better and better, each moment, each click of the clock.
“I’ve always loved you,” she said. “I’ve known you in other lives and I always recognize you. You’re Ganesha, my god of wonderful things.”
I love you, too, I thought, but I, for some reason, a reason I still do not know after all these years, could not say the words—I couldn’t let the words travel out. It was a bit of a trust thing—and I knew (even in this strange new world of passion, maybe because of it) that she was fucking crazy. I mean that not in a poor-poor-pitiful-me way—Woe is me, how could someone love poor old disgusting me? God didn’t give me much, but He did give me good sense.
We fell asleep, we waited, we talked a little, we listened to the snow fall—you can hear it if you listen very carefully.
“Let’s not tell Che about this,” I said.
“I think he’d just blow my fucking brains out,” I said.
Wow. Cool. “Let’s just, uh. He’s my friend and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. You know, he really likes you.”
She winced. “I know. I hate guys that like me. Fucking hate them.”
Oh, Monica, I thought. If you only knew how much my heart is filled with love for you… Oh, Monica, how can I tell you how I feel… Oh, Monica… O Monica… Birth, air, life, flowers…