Excerpt Katie Rising

The woman under the spotlight at Beyond Baroque read lines about licking the view like an ashtray, the smoldering palm trees and I imagined her hair catching on fire under the light. I thought about how her eyes kept flickering up at the audience to make sure we were watching her, and I was watching her, and so were they.

It’s a good technique, they say, to make eye contact.

I was thinking about the ashtray, the view like an ashtray, the fact that no one was smoking at this party…well, I guess it’s California. The picture I did not take was the view in front of me. Stephen was in the hot tub with a woman named Zelda. The neon blue angles of the light on the water hung between her body, black, and his gangly arms along the side of the tub, the two men embracing at the far end. I love when people come together under the awkward shimmy of an afternoon party to take off their clothes and soak in the darkness. The release of the awkward it’s too bright I don’t know anyone here to….well, I’m a little stoned and my feet are in the hot tub, so I guess the palms will sparkle a little brighter tonight.

I pulled my boots on too fast. My feet were wet. Release is a difficult thing, and its best not to let oneself go too far into the moment, especially among strangers.

When I wake up it is eleven thirty, and I take two pills because I must. The cat is awake. This is usual. The cat is awake and she leaps on the counter and rubs her head all over my hand as I try to make coffee. I tell her, “This is about to get very hot, Nevada. You will not want to touch this.”

I fill the paper filter with grounds and set it in the coffeemaker while her grey head bobs and whirls around my hands.

I think about how I wanted to like Sandra Cisneros’ poetry, but found that I did not.

I think about how I missed a rival’s book party last night, and felt guilty about it

I think about how my best friend, Stephen, thinks he has herpes, and drove us around all yesterday trying to find a clinic that was open.

I was a little stoned. I am often these days, since my girlfriend has a prescription, I was a little high and it seemed like more fun then the death march towards diagnosis really should be, riding around Echo Park in his old Buick with the windows down and the summer outside and watching the orange stucco and ferns and palms and warm air streaming in with music of ice cream trucks and far-away sirens. I remember I had my arm slung on the window and I was watching the tattoo I had always wanted to get color put onto, the white hairs above the black nurse shape and my skin, tan.

Stephen was talking, talking about the size of the pustules and how he was afraid his new boyfriend would leave him. We had been talking about all of this on gchat for an hour before he picked us up.

“There is an electronic record of almost everything we talk about these days.”  I said.

Katie said, “You’re so paranoid, so what if there’s a record.”

“I’m not saying it’s bad, it just is what it is. It’s kind of nice, it’s like, we can look it up later.”

“Oh my god, so, like, someone could look later and see that I was offering to show you my pustulent herpes-covered penis?  To see if you could tell me what it was?”

“Okay,” Katie said, “Andrea, pie chart. How much of your life do you spend talking about herpes?”

“Okay,” I said, “Pie chart. How much time do you spend making fun of me?”

“But it’s so easy.”

“Guys… is Billy going to want to keep going out with me? Is anyone ever going to want to date me again?”

He swerved into the parking lot of Los Angeles Presbyterian Medical Center.

The coffee was too hot, and I put the carafe into the refrigerator as soon as it was done brewing. The Men’s Health clinic had been closed, and we had returned. Plans made in the summer were never quite followed through on. A party with free entry and drinks that we all were going to meet at, then Stephen and Billy showed up at our door to let us know that we had missed the whole thing.

We ended up sitting in 4100 Bar, which was fine with me. I drank the gin that Billy had bought me and watched the texture of sequins and velvet against the wall, the gilt mirror hanging there that reminded me of the Cat Club where I spent so many nights long ago. I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying so we communicated by gestures. When they laughed, I laughed. I bought Katie a Newcastle and we kissed, cold lips in the warm room. When “It’s Getting Hot in Here,” came on everyone laughed and I went inside myself to a summer in 2002, where that was the song that swelled the dance floor in a bar in San Francisco. We would dance and everything would seem simple and right and beautiful. We were young and slutty and full of cocaine and beer and cheap synthetic fibers, and that was all there was. And at the end of the night we would whisper out in pairs and go home in new combinations. And that was all there was.

But the song ended, and I was still sitting in the bar with Stephen and Billy and Katie. And she was my girlfriend. And she was beautiful. And now she made things seem right and real, not endless strands of half-seen faces.

She is asleep now. She sleeps in her lavender panties wrapped in a white comforter with a tattoo that says, amnesiac visible on her left shoulder. She is young. She does not have these memories. She does not have these past flowerings and faces in the night. She speaks of forgetting because she wants me to forget, forget and remember only her, and I want this, I want this more than I can say