Maggie never liked her name
that's for openers
but the day was fresh and promising
there was lots of sun
and her hair looked good
so she was feeling pretty jazzy
not pissy and negative
like Jimmy was always accusing her of.
Maggie paid attention to male asses
and on a scale of 1 to 10
Jimmy was a 9:
a nice male ass
with good definition
and cheeks pouching out like a male butt should
but his deck always seemed to be minus a few cards.
The problem is he never finished his sentences
as if he didn't have any periods in his brain
and always ended up muttering into his shirt or something
But Jimmy didn't see it that way
and really wasn’t trying to communicate anyway
he just wanted to convince people
he was really there
since he had some doubts about that
because no one seemed to take him seriously
at least not the way he wanted to be taken seriously
so he used his mouth horn to broadcast his "facticity".
-- he got that word from Sartre, even though he still pronounced
Ed joined Maggie and Jimmy
at a plate sized coffee table at the Hippopotamus
and suggested the shop be renamed
"A Very Large Animal"
since he kept confusing it with a rhinoceros.
It actually was an easy place to forget
with its wobbly white plastic chairs
but it did have a good location
and some delicious dark bread you could knock somebody out with
if you hit them with a loaf of it.
Ed was bony
his essence was bony
he was bone city when he walked into the room
but he was evenly constructed
had a little money
(certainly more than most of the clientele of "A Very Large Animal")
which he tried to use to his advantage when fishing for women
by talking of flying to places over the weekend
places like that
but no one ever knew if he actually did any those things
and really didn't give a shit
but still Ed talked his bony, money talk.
The white plastic chairs
didn't participate in the antics
of the bipedal life forms which folded themselves like "h's" over them
and when testosteroned graduate students
made theoretical pontifications
about their quantum soup entrails
to impress their (always unimpressed) dates
the chairs would have turned a deaf ear to these speeches
had they any ears to turn
but in point of fact the white plastic chairs
were neither white nor plastic
and for the cockroaches which ran amuck
when the sun was on the other side of the planet
they were more like towers in the sky
and hard to climb even for these oblong survivor machines
but sometimes possessing feasts de jour on their aromatic plateaus.
When Jimmy made eye contact with Ed
he'd snap away quickly
not wanting Ed to think he took him more seriously
than he was convinced Ed took him
even though Ed did the same
but only because Ed didn't like to make eye contact with anyone
since he was a strictly a turn-off-all-the-lights male
when it came to sex
plus Ed knew his body
wasn't that of the jock
he’d always dreamed of being in high school
but since he always ended up getting A's in math classes
that locked in his fate
and so eye contact for Ed was
Verboten because he was scared shitless
of what he might see looking DIRECTLY back at him
in the eyes of others
and never wanted to find out.
Eye contact anxiety was never a problem for the Hippopotamus
the building that is
with equations, names, and pictures scribbled on its inside walls
and the structure never concerned itself with Sartre or Sart
and was never seduced into depressions, passions, or even resignations
since the building was basically a box
with things inside it
like white plastic chairs and plate sized little tables
you couldn't put both food and books on
A box among boxes on a vast turning ball in deep space
scurried into and out of through rectangular holes in the wall
by bipedal life forms with names like Maggie and Jimmy and Ed
thus not the common denominator of anything
BUT a cool place to get espresso (those weird machines!)
and dark, heavy bread.
The beat goes on.
Maggie: Hey, this cheese Danish is really great today! I can't believe it. Why don't they always make it like this?
Ed: Yeah, but no one ever makes any serious money in places like this. I wonder how they get investors in the first place. It's probably their relatives.
Jimmy: Jesus Christ, Ed, who gives a rat's ass? Anyway, what's the story about this titty Mary Lou you were talking about? You know, that "dancer" you met on the plane coming back from
Ed: Well, she turned out to be married or something, so much ado about nothing.
Maggie: Why? Don't you studs (Ed loved that one) know housewives are DYING for it? Hell, getting laid is the LAST reason a woman ever gets married.
Jimmy: Boy, you got that right!
Ed: Yeah, well I think she has a kid or something.
Maggie: Duh! Why else would she be married?
It was already twilight
when Ginger breezed into the Hippopotamus after her classes
as the regulars were defending
their table's rights of possession
with demitasse residues of tepid liquid
which would play no role
in the hoped for religious experiences of the swallowers
during their yoga class around the corner.
Ginger was not bony
and her breasts stuck out like two little tents
as the strap of her shoulder bag
creased between them
no, Ginger was not bony.
The yoga teacher was well intentioned
and physically functional in those ways
practitioners of yoga are deservedly healthy
but troubled in his secret, oh so secret, heart
because even though spirituality was his thing
he had no son and he had no daughter
no little angels to bless his vulnerability
trailing clouds of glory through his days and nights
to love and protect a thousand times a thousand times over
so he was a guy with good intentions, cotton clothes
relatively good digestion and lots of paper back books
but he had no children
and something in him would
never, never stop weeping because of it.
Hippopotami too have children
whom they love with Hippopotami hearts
and they worry, protect and are loved back by them.
Occasionally they even eat tourists together
but if Jimmy could read the heart of a submerged mother Hippopotamus
while rushing to the aid of her endangered son
Jimmy would no longer be Jimmy
but he would never be able to explain to anyone else why not.
When Ginger sits down between Maggie and Ed
Maggie knows she's there in ways
exquisitely oblivious to Ed
classifying her, as he does, as the presence of sexuality
and only in tangential ways a person.
Ginger's parents know otherwise.
Ed's body also knows otherwise
since bodies know universes unknown to universities
or the hormone goosed fantasies of memory
and had the name "Ginger" been stamped on the body
now sitting between Maggie and Ed
that body would have taken it no more seriously
than today's lipstick or the variable shoulder bag.
Jimmy: (now more alert) Hey.
Ginger: My GOD, I never thought those classes would end today, and that last one, with Professor mouse face, Jesus, I thought he'd NEVER shut up about "rational functions" and their graphs with "asymptotes" or something -- at 4:00 in the afternoon!
Ed: Yeah, well you're the one who took the class as an elective. Why'd you do it?
Ginger: Don't look at me, it was my advisor. She said a math class would round out my music major. It's ok, I can do it I guess, but it's so . . . abstract. I mean, how do you math majors (looking at Ed) keep your SANITY during all that symbol, symbol, symbol business?
Jimmy: That's easy, they don't. Ed's already seeing a therapist at student health, aren't you Ed. You know, the one you'd like to eat (and then mutters something).
Maggie: Are you really Ed? Hey, that's cool. I think therapy makes a lot of sense and if I had the time and money I'd be doing too.
Ed: It's actually not expensive at student health. Five bucks a pop, two or three times a week. The problem with the one I'm seeing now is that she's, well, very attractive, and that sort of trashes my soul searching. I go there to talk about my dysfunctional childhood and always end up looking at her crotch. (Jimmy snickers)
Ginger: Oh that's disgusting. What do you men do when you AREN'T watching our crotches?
Jimmy: You don't want to know.
Bubbles of bipedal conversation
float above the plate sized tables
like demitasse flotsam and jetsam
jostled by Brownian motion
now this way
The air participates in these conversations
as the medium of vibration
the necessary but not sufficient condition
for jokes, threats
and the talking heart of things.
In the void between the earth and the moon
there's no breathing
no significant looks
no coffee tables or sexual innuendos
Jimmy was cognizant of his mutterings
and knew something peculiar was going on.
He also knew it was noticed
like a tick or stutter
but hoped it was mostly ignored
like a pungent smell can fade, in time
into the forgotten basements of consciousness.
Maggie never dreamed the disorientation she caused
when she twitted him for this "eccentricity"
and received in return
muted, guarded anger
dressed up as free floating criticism
from an ambiguous friendship.
Jimmy had been the successful jock, in fact
Ed had aspired to be in fantasy
but then, abruptly
left that Spartan world
of sweat, showers, and symbolic warfare
and became, to the astonishment of his family and friends
a philosophy major
and followed this commitment
into the bookish haunts of graduate school.
But for the core confusion
which lay in the center of Jimmy's life
the tomes of Immanuel Kant were no quick fix.
Maggie and Ginger once gigglingly, and privately, summed up
Ed as a mind without a body
and Jimmy as a body without a mind
but Jimmy was far from mindless
far, far from mindless.
And the beat goes on.
The sidewalk in front of the Hippopotamus
is never confused about anything
and never accepting of anything either.
It's uninsultable, never meditates
and the dogs which piss on it
or curl up on it when it's warmed by the sun
don't see it as the personal property of the human condition.
But for the bipedal denizens of the Hippopotamus
even the very air itself and the ball of the sun
cockroaches, pencils, and the very everything of everything
are frames merely, or adaptations
to the variable, designer stories of these creatures with names.
But the sidewalk
minus its name
is no longer IN a story.
How about you?