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Cautious the National

Photo by Joshua Porter.

We met on a dating site. I don’t remember what screen name I used. Yours was “Cautious.”

You’re a Minneapolis girl. You love music and bands define your life. You’re also artsy and edgy. Definitely too cool for me.

I don’t know much about indie music but instead of asking smart questions I tried to talk about something else. I think I thought you’d be impressed that I worked at an art museum.

You did recommend a band for me. “The National.” They’ve gotten you through some tough times. We talked a little about that band and I decided I should listen to them. Maybe I was just hoping that if I listened to them you’d like me. But you kind of sold me on it.

Sorry about the rest of the conversation. I was nervous, and there was no chemistry as you know. It was one of those painful how-can-I-fill-the-quiet things. Kind of like dry humping, but for talk.

This is the best part.

“I had fun tonight,” I said, wondering why I said that.

“Yeah, me too,” you said. That was nice of you.

“Let’s get together again…”

“I don’t think so.”

Thanks for being direct like that.

I don’t think of you often but here’s the thing. When I got home I did check out The National. I put them on a Pandora station. I tried to imagine you listening to these songs after a breakup or when you’re all alone. Maybe you listened to them that very night. I couldn’t picture it.

But the songs were pretty good, and I kept the station.

Over time I changed it. I curated. It still has that same seed band but now many others. It’s still named Cautious The National.

I don’t remember your real name, Cautious, or exactly what you look like. But you did educate me a little on indie rock and boy-girl relations. And once in a while I listen to my station, and I think of you.

Thanks Cautious.

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Adventure, New Orleans, The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life

The view from her window is just like Vietnam

I’ve never been to Vietnam. But I see from her window. Layers of tropic plants bright as noon with a cloud-stained sky. Past the trees, the white porch of a French mansion. The French were here, once; the French were there, once.

She has no curtains. Any French colonel could see us nude. But the colonel is away. He has not been home in some time.

This street is forgotten. It’s the last road to the Zone, the place where the sidewalk ends. Only memories live here, and ghouls, santurists and painters.

This one is a painter.

Strange noises break the hum. A squeak, the clash of a shutter. Once this was a swamp. Then came the wealthy. We feast on their leavings, like the rats who never left.

I look at her in that sunlight. It’s a cold white light, a half-spring half-rain light. Her den smells like linseed. She has 80 grand of furniture, made by her own hands. She’s not selling.

She looks at me and smiles. I know you, I think.

I can’t say the words. What if they’re a lie? I would never lie to a woman but I do lie to myself. What if the words, the dreams are wrong?

I lean back on the bed. In June she goes north; in June I go south. As with all good romance, we are under the threat of destruction. But one doesn’t promise the other.

She mumbles. Maybe “I know you.” I didn’t hear. I hold her hand and I breathe, sweetly drumming, sweetly drumming. One day we’ll be too old for ghost mansions. She’ll have kids and a more reliable man. I’ll have stories and an empty bed. Her great-grandkids will forget her name. Stories get forgotten, too.

Every wave recedes to the ocean, even the Flood, even the Flood.

It all goes to the ocean in the end.

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