Sneer

Sneer

Carpal-tunnel red-hot face morph. Sometimes my left cheek drags my face into a lopsided sneer I’m not entirely sure I’m in control of. The skin feels more taut and drawn across the dry planes and angles of my face as I get

ffff

older.

Sneer.

It causes an involuntary happy feeling. Wonder why it’s only the left side. You really can fake it ‘til you make it.

Wonder why it’s only on the left side.

The right side of my face feels underdeveloped by comparison. I can’t even feel it as well as the left side of my face. The left side of my face feels like we never stopped railing lines, it’s still

 

2009 and I still look amazing in that scratchy navy-blue sweater that will get bigger and bigger holes in the elbows and will fit me so good for so many years no matter how much butter I eat. A montage of almost imagined youth, scintillating and burnt, burning. Burning like a Parliament, like a Parliament you lit after I collapsed on your rug after I saw off the guy who just gave me the best sex of my life and I honestly just couldn’t stop laughing about it. We weren’t even really that good of friends but it was like that back then, just collapse on my floor and type poems on this old typewriter with us, God, you’re so funny.

“Can I help you?” God, what a shitty thing of me to say. How I met like all my writer friends. They we were waiting for my roommate on the porch but I didn’t like the cut of their gib. Was tense and nervous about a movie date I shouldn’t have been nervous about. God, just typing that makes it 2009 again. Oh, remember that beautiful straight boy who fell in love with me at your going-away party and couldn’t stop kissing me all night and then had a steady girlfriend 12 hours later?

God, what a shitty thing of me to say. “Can I help you?” We all watched that Czech movie Daisies together. Fuckin…omigod best movie. The start of something so beautiful. “Can I help you?”

You know how you can tell how fucking Midwestern I am? 10 years after the fact I still feel ashamed of asking some strangers in a snide tone of voice if I could help them.

Was probably the last year I heard a new Tori Amos song on the radio. God, what a record that was. Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Soundtrack of my 22-ness.

Having bruises on your body from two men at the same time gives you a remarkable, queasy feeling. It’s like when you really grasp for the first time that the earth is not only hurtling around the sun at a kabillion miles an hour but is also spinning on its axis at the same time, and you model it out with a tennis ball around your body and wonder why everyone isn’t constantly throwing up, what with all the hurtling and spinning. And then you marvel at the fact that only misplaced bloody Marys or that one guy’s voice make you vomit everywhere, and you settle into the transient notion that the ground is really, really solid.

You bunch up a hand-me-down around the bruises and wonder how you got so lucky.

 

The right side of my face is still considering my mom’s perhaps too gentle suggestion that I consider becoming an accountant.

My face is hot. The left side.

The left side. Bubbllllll

 

You put on your underwear and he admires his handiwork. You feel the bubbling irritation between your scrotum and your legs. Like he was trying to suck out your femoral bone marrow transdermally. You realize you are both pondering these leg bruises and take your underwear back off so you can both get a better look. No one ever said you were boyfriends, but you don’t feel like you would do that for just anybody.

 

The cat pulls you back. You could just stare between your own eyes forever. The tissue of each day clinging to the next until your past is a twisted and mangled découpage, painted black and shiny in parts.

 

Once you’re done marveling at the bloody Marys and that one guy’s voice and all the hurtling and spinning, you stop and marvel that you can keep cutting the cake, over and over. It’s like you’re in a Tom-Petty nightmare and you’re not one of the backup singers. You don’t run out of cum, or apprehension, or misguided and soon-to-be misplaced hope. Before every first date you wonder where this might go. Some asshole working a pulley in your reptile brain shouts “What if he’s the one!?” And you bang at the back of your head and white blood cells work to stop your spinal fluid from becoming blue-hot acid on his new wall-to-wall carpeting.

 

Everyone should have a cat. To pull you back at just that moment when some consequenceless fuck from seven years threatens to swallow you whole.

 

The cheek is the best part. This is the conventional wisdom surrounding fried fish in my family. Perhaps also yours.

The cheek is the best part.

They are very small and very tender. I wonder if this only concerns fish or if some predator species might also think the same thing of us.

Well, I guess, we are the predator species of us. But I don’t have the temerity to look up ‘cannibals’ favorite parts’ or whatever, because who needs to be on that list?

I think that my cheeks would have very different qualities, and that the discerning cannibal would note very different musculature. The left cheek I imagine to be…stringy, that is the word I’ve been trying to think of, stringy. The left cheek I imagine to be stringy from overuse, while the right is no doubt nestled, sessile, in a packet of cloudy white fat. The right cheek a sweetmeat, the left cheek a jerky.

My left cheek sometimes drags my face into a lopsided sneer I’m not entirely sure I control. Even as I possess it or it possesses me, I do not know if it is tic or affectation. Why would one side of my face be drawn up in one tense point toward my left zygomatic arch? Why would this be a thing I pretended to do?

 

THE THEORY OF CONDITIONED PSYCHOLOGICAL SELF-PRESERVATION

The theory of conditioned psychological self-preservation states that the tic arose as part of inculcation into imagined smile-reflex cult. Subject devised self-improvement plan of smile therapy, endeavoring to cultivate smile response to anxiety-provoking stimuli. It is further supposed that subject experiences so many unpleasant thoughts he eventually lost control of the smile response, at which time it became an involuntary tic.

 

THE MECHANISM OF UNILATERAL ACTION

Unilateral action may have arisen from subject’s fear of being seen to smile too intensely or for too great a time duration in public. Smiling on one side would eliminate a portion of potential onlookers, and take pressure off the social anxiety subject denies having despite obvious and compounding contrary indications.

 

I have a terrible tell. A need to tell on myself, really. Whenever my family played old maid, I would start laughing uncontrollably every time I got the old maid. I went home for Thanksgiving and had to admit really loudly within 15 minutes to my mother that I had brought a very large amount of whiskey with me to cope with my family that weekend.

“It’s the one bruise on my body you didn’t put there,” I said.

He shrugged.

 

Twelve Answers

    1. if
    2. then the way you upturn the cup on your mother’s carved marble dolphin glass catastrophe
    1. how
    2. eight canteens get forgotten in favor of
    1. in what fashion
    2. the exception was expressed in terms of the rule
    1. how many
    2. cloying moments with your nose in a brandy snifter
    1. after what
    2. came the way you paint up Venetian blinds with torn-up printouts
    1. who
    2. forget eight canteens in favor of
    1. when
    2. is the exception not expressed in terms of
    1. where
    2. did I put the cloying moments spent upended in a brandy snifter
    1. before whom
    2. did you perfect the way you misalign mother’s glass catastrophe
    1. for what purpose
    2. are the eight canteens forgotten in favor of
    1. towards what end
    2. is the exception shown to materially coalesce
    1. if
    2. then cloying glue breath puffed up against a mirror

 

June 13, 2010

C– and I are recording “Group Tightener” today. It’s 8.15 on a Saturday morning and I’m on the back porch, smoking and looking over my lyric sheets… or clutching them too close, like a lover, but not like money. I did a fuckton of Speed! on Wednesday, which kept me awake until Friday morning. I woke up Friday afternoon, so I took more speed about an hour ago to keep shit rollin’.

I played two songs last night at Birdsong – “Kolya Filipovich” and “Affection and Drugs.” M– said he was going to come, so you can imagine my surprise when he actually did. I’m so lucky he actually likes the country song I wrote about our breakup. I apologized for some reason after my set, and he just said, “Shut up, you know I love that song!”

(Side note: I just saw a guy bike past on a bicycle built for two. It was absurdly sad.)

 

Just one little muscle spasm. Well… just one little muscle spasm in an infinite line. Just one little twitch of the face and we there in the backyard, it’s… October, I think, and there is a piñata hung from a branch of our imposing bare oak. Is someone getting engaged? Is that what’s going on?

It’s dark. Why is it dark? Are we drunk? Obviously we are drunk.

That is a tree I thought I could worship. Am I making this up, or were there Jello shots? Imposing, that’s the only stupid word I can think of. That tree was half the size of our backyard and we hung a…I wanna say pink horse piñata from it. Unicorn?

Maybe the left side of my face sometimes twists into a sneer or maybe grimace even that I’m pretty sure I don’t control because I’m afraid I’ll become too calm. I mean, I don’t even smoke cigarettes anymore, are you sure I can still be interesting?

 

June 20, 2010

All in all recording was good. Now I know what a problem bilabial plosives are (living in clip!). Thank God C— was all calm and collected and not on speed and shit.

Her mom took us out for fancy Chinese that night. I was an uncommunicative zombie. I was so in my head. “Phantoms” was a trainwreck, at least in my mind. Looking back I’m sure we could have gotten a good take if I could have found a way to stop clipping. Oh well, it gave “Giacomo” a chance to come out and play. We got that on like the third take, 100% live, no editing.

Did backup vocals for the other tracks, really happy with how they turned out on “Right in the Gut.” So far my parents and a few other people seem to really like “Kolya.” Also, final verdict: apparently I’m Tom Waits, at least according to my dad, C—’s mom and E—. Maybe I should listen to Tom Waits records so I can steal his voice on purpose. Blargh: I don’t listen to Tom Waits, and it’s not my fault a certain kind of singer loves whiskey and cigarettes.

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