Charlotte E. Wilde

Identities constructed on the linguistic champ de bataille | Words, like little foot soldiers, march out in the armies of my poetic failures

Tag: prose

Mr. Right Swiped Left, aka. modern romance [is dead]

*Note: This is an updated version of a post from July 17th 2015 that I decided to come back to and re-work.*

(A Tragicomic in 10 acts)

{ACT 1}

He was one of those rare, mythical creatures everyone’s heard of but nobody’s actually seen — like unicorns, or people who know how to fold fitted sheets — the Cinderella of Tinder profiles, a 1000 yard stare and an ass to write home about.

Swipe right.

Despite showing up 15 minutes early (a rookie mistake wherein the desire for control trumps that of any possible dignity) I hadn’t seen him walk through the door. He was camouflaged by the bobo decor of  the bar like one of those employees at over-priced specialty-stores wherein their sheer level of aloof-yet-cool is somehow enough to convince people of the appropriateness of spending a month’s salary on that “must-have” silk skirt.  Europe excused the monotone of his look, set off by a turquoise ring that matched mine and a tattoo that desperately wanted closer examination. He was done but not overdone in a way that screamed ‘don’t even think about it.’ But I make a habit of never taking my own advice. Something about the way he walked over, offered me the requisite “bise” and arranged himself in the chair across from mine made my mouth dry.

In the span of hellos I conclude he must be one of these people who always finds themselves asking what’s wrong — there’s never anything wrong, of course, it’s just that you constantly have the impression around them that there’s something in your teeth, that your smile is screwed on crooked, or that you’ve committed some egregious faux pas while ordering your wine.  Meanwhile, it seems my legs and hands have somehow forgotten how to sit or hold a glass. Not something I’m used to, but the phrase ‘out of my league’ was 1000 under the sea with a fish like this and colloquialisms don’t translate well. I’m watching from the outside, subway-struggling to breathe, looks sliding off him like water on scales and scales breaking under the weight of his stare until I catch myself looking away just to break the tension.

Happily, alcohol winds all inhibitions and some time later after my third mojito and a 20 minute mental detour I find myself ready and willing to cash out. Turns out ‘out of my league’ bites hard in the rain and one slow grinding song topped with a licked-lip-stare finds us holding hands in a taxi cab listening to the driver chat away about his ex-wife’s seemingly egregious shortcomings to god-knows-who at 4am. Romance is dead, I think, but I feel his fingers rubbing mine and I realized that 29 stands its ground on the scale of take your wins where you can get them. So I do. Sensibilities swallowed like a #tobedeleted hashtag, I’m envisioning myself a liberated-liberal-lady-luck with requisite flaming torch and toga. Fuck it, it’s a Thursday and I’m painted into these jeans like a mainstay attraction complete with lipstick stained teeth and a doe eyed grin. What do you want? He tastes like a 14 dollar whiskey, decadent if over-priced, and I make a mental note to congratulate myself in the morning.

{ACT 2}

My heels are too high and he has hands softer than anything I’ve never felt on my skin, the combination of which helps me forget how to walk, reading like an invitation or a warning.

“Are you inviting me up?” he asks in the hallway, and I want to smile or respond but somehow my face feels angled all wrong. Words are slippery things– like peeled grapes or spaghetti without a fork they’re best enjoyed cold, alone, and without the pretense of good manners required by someone else’s presence. In any case, what comes out must have  resembled “sure” because I quickly find myself pushed  up against the wall in the stairwell with his hands in my pants.

Romance is dead, I think. ‘Who cares,’ chorus two glassed of wine, three mojitos, and a forgotten dinner.

Majority wins.

{ACT 6}

“I really can’t see you again,” I warn him the next day after acquiescing to an ill-advised whatsapp exchange, but I got the impression neither of us were entirely convinced of my sincerity. An army of half-baked protests ranging from hair-washing to grocery-shopping later he shows up at my door with a Nick Cave record and a dozen roses stapled with awkward and three of those little packets that keep the water fresh.

“The florist asked me if I wanted to add a card that said ‘I love you’ but I told her it was a bit early for that.”

I choke on my gum, or my tongue, and go to the kitchen for a glass of water under the guise of looking for a vase. Desperate times, or measured ones, call for eventually cutting the stems short enough to shove them in a rinsed spaghetti jar. It occurs to me that I feel less moved by this trite little display of good faith than I probably should, it seems the only thing that can move me to tears or heartstrings of any sort is the carriage scene in Lady and the Tramp.

But hell, I’m nobody’s fool. Love always starts with roses but frequently it seems to end with bloody lips or lost bets and belt-wrapped wrists. I’ve been reading this book by the guy that won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, he thinks love often ends with Gillette special blues and, at the risk of bandwagoning, I’m inclined to agree.

Still, he’s standing by the window and I think he must be perfect.

He seems a bit disappointed about my lack of reaction to the flowers, but honestly not as much as you might expect. I’d like to find the words to explain to him that people both horrify and enthrall me. I sometimes imagine I’d be better off if I could watch them interacting as one does at a zoo, preferably with soundproof glass or a script of some sort indicating entrances, exits, and X’s where I’m meant to stand at certain moments, complete with stage directions to elucidate appropriate responses to such boy-meets-girl offerings. Words continue to elude me so I shrug instead and silently hand over the spaghetti jar stuffed to the gills with its strange cargo. Problem solved.

{ACT 7}

Having relocated the flowers we walk and sit in a cafe. I want to smile but I’m feeling  sure I have chocolate on my teeth. “What?” I say, accusingly, when he looks at me. “Nothing, you’re beautiful,” he replies.

I stare at a dog on the other side of the street hoping my feigned interest will negate my awkward as I digest the compliment. I think this may be a good time to introduce some fun fact about myself, such as the fact that I have double jointed thumbs or that I always wanted to be a truck driver as a kid. Instead, I go to the bathroom and checked my face for signs of “beautiful.”

Turns out I’d been wrong about the chocolate.

{ACT 8}

When I get home the roses stare at me. A rose is such a horribly stuck up flower, I immediately regret having poured the three little packets into their water. I put them in the bathroom and feel satisfied when they looked a little surprised.

{ACT 9}

The next day I think about baking him a cake or doing his laundry. I go with the former, decorated with blue frosting that reads “how about a blowjob?” I’ve always wanted to make a cake with something horribly inappropriate written on it, probably motivated by the same appealing juxtaposition of the cross-stitch patterns that sometimes pop up on my Pinterest — perfectly demure tiny pastel threads arranged to read: “Fuck the patriarchy” or “Cunt.”

In the end, unimpressed or just plain underwhelmed by the results, I swirl the blue and white into a tornado instead.

Romance is dead.

{ACT 10}

I gave the cake to a homeless man outside my apartment, my teeth stained blue from the frosting. I go back up the five flights of stairs and get the roses. I give him those too.

I’m on my way back up to my apartment, two stairs at a time, when my phone buzzes in my pocket.

“I really can’t see you any more,” I text.

“I know, I know” he replies, “but let’s just get a drink.”




Biding [y]our frozen time

My role is preordained perhaps, the dupe or the damsel.

I never mean to wait up for you to come home but somehow I do anyway. ‘Breathing is easy,’ I try to remind myself, wishing my hands would warm and the icy cold of my feet didn’t betray my racing mind when you slide into bed next to me.

I’ve been counting again so I know it’s quarter past 3am. Eyes closed to the obvious, I’m thankful that sleep sounds the same in any  language.

I think our love turned off its read receipts some six months ago, but at the time it had seemed best to pretend not to notice. So I did.  Now, back to backs turned, binding un-cracked, I bide my time and yours. Warm heart, cold feet; with each inhale I imagine surrealist landscapes and wonder if you’ve seen how ice crystals splay dentelle secrets when you sing them a song. I take mental note to stop drinking so much water in hopes of re-gaining some control over my kaleidoscope mind.

In moments like these I wish you knew that I can’t help but wonder about her…about you. Does the thrill of the chase get you hard, does her lust make you feel alive? I mull over the thought that maybe I’m a masochist, a voyeur, because I find myself wanting to hide in your mind, to experience the burn of this new desire on your skin. Does it taste the same as mine?

But your breath whispers that you’re already asleep and between inhales I’m reminded once again how my analogies never add up in time for my my brain and my tongue to coordinate some sort of response. Metaphor’s imaginations mapping tongues like minefields; save it for another sigh, Charlotte, another night.

If you’d only ask me, I’d tell you I’ve been trying to forget, but freezer burnt feelings just don’t taste the same.

If you’d asked me, I’d tell you everything. But when the cigarettes you don’t smoke tiptoe onto my pillow it’s always been easier for both of us to pretend I’m asleep.

If you’d ask me, I’d warn you; nothing keeps forever, not even here in the cold.

Luke-warm regrets (AKA Tinder, Take 10, but who’s counting)

You’re un-showered but sipping your Americano like you know you’re on deck, watching her watching you with all the anticipation of a casual Goodwill shopper looking for a halloween costume three weeks in advance. You don’t feel bad about the Beiber pants, (after all, you’ve got a plane to catch) but fuck if you don’t smell like last night’s foray into the land of cheap tequila. It drifts off you like the Sunday morning remains of some “mature slash not-crazy” Vegas-style bachelor party– caution jettisoned like whiskey shots or the unsolicited ass grind from a pair of cowgirl boots wearing too much mascara. Still, even with 11AM’s improbable staring you in the face,  you can’t help but imagine yourself two tongues deep in the mouth of this Tinderella.

If you’re perfectly honest, you’ve had one foot on the flight home since you pawned off Miss Miller Light (and accompanying lashes) on Jake’s eager look between bars. Somewhere shy of 3AM you’d Ubered back alone– bells on bobtails ring, swiping all the way, whereupon you’d dedicated an hour to marketing yourself to fellow insomniac, age 28, and seemingly smarter than the average catch.

You’re not one to critique but really, this is just what it’s come to– a generation that sells itself better via text, a slew of photographic sex-appeal culled from social-media humble brags, evidence of eligibility and success. And admittedly, you’ve been spinning like a soccer mom through the human buffet– at once a willing participant and somebody else’s middling fare– happy to be on the winning side of that right-swiped midnight mistake.

This morning found you half-bored and with only a hazy memory of last night’s conversation to go on but 9am room service came with a Bloody Mary side of bold, resulting in a nude hotel-room selfie, complete with strategically covered/not-so-covered junk. You were hoping for a blush but she gave as good as she got and before you could lie, “I don’t usually do this,” you found yourself and your hangover draped in a chair outside a pun-heavy Nashville coffee shop masquerading as not-a-Starbucks.

When she walked in the door your look dwelled like a long Monday, but hell, actual-size doesn’t happen often in the land of love-by-application. Headache shifting into 2nd you’re only mildly surprised to find yourself copying her coffee order– half way so you didn’t look uninformed, half way because you figured she’d find it fortuitous that you take your coffee the same, half way because you were too busy thinking how weird it was to meet someone for the first time who’d already seen you naked. “Cheers,” she says, distracting you from mathematical impossibilities, “cheers” you reply and you compliment her shoes, meaning her legs, presupposing her capacity to read between the lines.

Tinder does have its perks.

Yeah, this girl’s worth a ten second pause. There’s something about her walk, a little awkward and with a bounce that belied bralessness, or at least something close. No, that’s not it. Maybe it’s the way she talks, like she fell out of an indy chick-flick; 500 days of Zoe Deschanel’s little sister, all dark eyes and a morose so palpable you imagine her skin must taste like the last day of vacation.

You picture telling her all your secrets, that you’ve been fucked since your ex, never found a home in another human and how you secretly liked the idea that you probably never would.  “Serial dater,” Frank used to say, but maybe it was more akin to “in love with being unloved,” ’cause you’re the first to admit the minute you start feeling chased you cash in your chips and switch casinos.

Well, you can’t speak for her but personally but you’re plenty comfortable in the cliché of wanting what you can’t have — New York being filled with the exact opposite, having far too much of what you can’t want. The nice thing about the impossible is you can build this lithe creature a sandcastle complete with moat and never have to watch the waves knock it down. Two sips in and you’re already thinking about Skype sex, but hell, let’s just see where it goes.

The middle is a blur but must be a success because she offers to drive you to the airport. You accept, having already fallen hard for the feeling you’ll get when you walk away.

But hey, it wouldn’t be millennial romance if it lasted longer than a replayed Snap. Happy endings are for cult-members, not modern-day heros with an axe to grind and a lifetime-layover’s worth of luke-warm regrets.

Thoughts on time, language and other such slippery things

I sat candy-land still, concentrating as a half formed idea crept into my ear, down my throat and into my mouth. I sat still, but there it stayed, caressing the sides of my tongue, reluctant to slip from lips, resistant to fingers and their pens, fremissante, patient.

I’m not sure how long it’s been, I suppose I’ve lost track of time; I’m sure the clock hasn’t stopped but the hands seem to speed and slow on a whim.  Time can’t be frozen, I remind myself, rendering it impossible to grasp, which is perhaps why we tend to metaphorize it as water– something that is trickling away, through our fingers, down our throats like this thought, slippery. 

I consider that perhaps my problems began with the letter V. I’d never been one for hard consonants, having always had a marked preference for easy vowels like A and E. Still, I tried it on, felt teeth slipping over my bottom lip, the mouth open [ɛ̃] , the sliding /s/ that seemed like the time, like the water, to slip not entirely away but into the space of the final /ɑ̃/ to which my accent vehemently refused me access. Yes, the problem began with that V, with mouths, with letters, with control.

It began with a V and it ended with an F. F for /fʁɑ̃s/, for foreign, for fear.

I’ve begun to conclude that while there are few things we can truly possess completely in this life fear is certainly one of them– we can entirely become it, allow it to become entirely us. Fear and time are similar in that way, at once impossibly ephemeral yet pointedly present, happily spiderwebbing anyone who pays them too much mind.

Temporal binaries and triptychs aside, I’ve a bad habit of living partially in the past, partially in the future and never in the moment. Still, I’m finding that where I’d tended to lose track in the hollow space of a vowel, I keep re-finding my bearings in the consistent touching presence, the constance of a consonant.

Perhaps the problem didn’t begin with V after all, perhaps it merely came back to meet itself at the root — cyclical, like time, a revelatory [re]solution.



Lost [my way to you]

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Ugly idleness sits uneasy, manifesting guilt in hobbies found & lost, tilt-a-whirl horizons, or hopes of escape from the blade of a cyclical midnight mind. I’m beginning to think there’s something in the water. The night feels deeper here, as though you could get lost– walk straight in and it would fall behind you as a heavy velvet curtain, separating acts 1 and 2 of your life.

Last night I think I found you swimming in the margins of my post-apocalyptic dreams. We were spiraling, splayed in the crease where the words disappear, blank space where milky silence reigns sovereign and poetry yields to our imagination’s wild. Tonight, when I pass the threshold into the void of low-toned bullfrog silence, I can taste you.

I’m standing at the edge, staring down at a sky reflected from above as a skewed surrealist version of stars scattered amongst spirals of ink colored algae. The water beckons, black and infinite, and I feel you there, sighing.

Thoughtless, I slide into the murky depths. I sink down and tangle my limbs in the weeds on the bottom of your mind and with one slow inhalation I draw you in. I want to drown in your perspective, swim into the recesses of your mind and trade my memories for a lung full of your hoarded secrets. I want the last breath I take to be silent depths, languid liquid, the voiceless, visionless version of a hidden soul slipping into me and filling me up.

I feel you then, slowly thrumming in my temples, chest, veins, until a heavy stillness takes over. Solitary confines spill a freedom born of weightlessness and I am nothing– just slipping, inky silence, and the void of middling missives in a looping life.

I look up. The sky blurs and stretches to meet the horizon, the water sighs and leans to meet the sky, and I, blank and seamless, lie mired in the weight of silky mud. A pale body quietly drifting underneath it all, drinking it in, hair like algae spiraling and glassy-eyes reflecting a skewed surrealist version of the stars.

The night feels deeper here, as though you could get lost, as though every breath could take you entirely away from it all. I’m beginning to think there’s something in the water; each swallow may well be the last.

Phere[moans], don’t fly so close

I’m a kamikaze, a whirlwind of mistrust, distaste, can’t keep the pace with my thoughts between the hours of another 4am solitary (but let me lick this music-mind clean). You slip down my tongue like an impulse buy or a midnight snack– sweetest when I’m not allowed. And can’t we all agree that what happens between  thighs should stay there?

Let me teach you how to love me: unconditionally and at arms length; recklessly and on the side. Playing it cool was not a forté of my lo-fi fantasy. I can’t help but question if the thrumming in my chest was replaced by a double-bass in 2006 and has been tricking hapless humans into believing they see themselves in my pulse ever since.

You trace the pathways of my veins and lines of ex-marks-the-spot leftover from times when I was living. Do I hate myself to leave you the necessary room? I decide to love myself instead, and ignore my body when it scolds me for the lie. I came so hard with you on my mind, but mindfullness says ‘take it slow’ for sexual tension mounts like the physical downfall of our metaphysical touch.

Yes, I’ve been thinking. Thinking I may be the static electricity to your triboelectric effect; spread thin (hip-bone maverick), a peanut-butter and logic sandwich in which you are the surrounding brea(th) and I am lying jelly-still but trying on metaphors like Sunday’s best. Your whisper brings me back: asking if I like the idea of you more than the reality, when you know full well the impossibility of attaining the apex of this imaginary. I say nothing, but I write in cursive down your spine– this spot, as yet un-inked, the canvas of our possibility.

At night cyclical thoughts spin out in technicolor sublime, the waiting has me writhing, flying headfirst into future’s windo[pains] where I thought I was Iccharus and you were my father’s wings.

A mystic in the wild (another eloge)

In every odd moment I lack the necessary courage to love this life — three, five, seven seconds in the day of nine, eleven, one o’clock and back again.

[Our innocence would make you cry, lost thing, sorry thing,
hug your knees to your chest and be thankful.]

I want to call upon all the mysteries buried in myself, wake them like so many specters. Día de los Muertos, let’s celebrate the madness of life. One by one, masks fall down and my secrets grimace their sublime surprise at having been summoned for such public consumption, such shameless nudity of self.

[I’m looking for a cleaner language, the geography of consecutive circles that Aristotle assures must be the key to all things. Squeaky clean and soaped with the glossy bubbles of a purge, a solitary sun.]

I’m a widow of love; lost breed of unravelled entrails. ‘I love you’ is reduced to its grammatical structure, the subject subtracted and direct object of a  performance enhancing drug.

[I suppose it’s true because I’ve been biting my cheeks again, exsanguination and defenestration of the worries of calcium deposits in my head.]

Where do we get off getting off on an idea of intimacy that never existed?

Fluffy words float like clouds above the heads of so many lovers, nouns or verbs or even adjectives, invented by yours truly (mine not so truly), sloping like telephone lines between one human and the next. Silently, a lesson learnt. A sorry that must be seen to be believed and eyes closed to rationales or blinded by perspective.