Monday, June 22, 2009

How to Talk to Them

The bartender asked me first if I was squeamish
before uncapping my beer
and setting the already sweaty bottle
on the bar.

I answered,

and she leaned over the bar
so that I could see the tattoo between her breasts
even better
and she took my hands in her hands
and ran my fingers across the her forehead
pushing hard at certain points
so that I could feel all the ridges,
the bolts and metal plates
that hold her face together.

“A crowbar,”
she says,
“Took my face off down to the eyeballs,”
she says with a snort.
We had been talking about New Orleans
and New York City so I wasn’t sure where it happened.

One could be mugged with a crowbar anywhere on this lonely planet, I guess.

She tells me about how she saw a surgery show one time
and watched a woman have a her face taken off,
“That’s what they did to me,” she said with a degree of wonder
as if, were it possible, she would hover over that operating table,
a beer-slinging ghost of herself and watch them peel back the skin
to see the deep dark underbelly of her very own skull.
Watch herself be taken apart and put back together again.

I tell her I fell off a waterfall and split my skull open too.
I like the way it sounds when I say it like that,
to her.
She nods.
Earlier when we came in, the only two in the bar,
cardboard boxes full of beer bottles,
warping in the heat, she let us in even though she wasn’t set up.
She said she could do with the company.
Her name was Michele and she said us redheads have to stick together.
“Even if it ain’t real.”

This was just one of those times,
where you find one of those souls
that maybe you knew a million years ago
when you met on a deserted island
or in a pub at the end of the world, past Death Valley
or deep down in the sweaty hull of a ship
full of iron weapons that can take you apart.

but when you see them again,
because you survived,
you know how to talk to them.

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