Bailey Cohen-Vera (he/him) is a poet and jiujiteiro. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Short Story: Garden Party
There was music in the garden. I rode the train to be here; for a moment I hid from the world and then the world came back out. The sun was lower and buildings were taller. I wouldn’t have noticed if not for the reflective grass, which still felt like normal grass. It made me look upward. I decided to lay in it. I think I’ll be a different person tonight, that’s what I’d said.
There was music in the garden. I’m struggling to remember how I was invited here, sitting on pillows and eating rice with the holiest of councils. When I walked into the evening, it was dark, so I turned on the light. Don’t be scared said the boy stroking my asshole, so I exhaled into him from a pillow. Do you understand, now, each cause and its effect? You could take a good person and give them flowers and a gun, or you could give each to two different people and tell them to try and trade with one another. What comes next will be oblivion’s fault. That’s what God sounded like, as he rearranged my furniture for four afternoons. When I complained he had overstayed his welcome, he told me such words did not rule his time. Then he took the bones he found in my bedroom and flung them at my feet. I had needed this, had welcomed it, I had thought it was good. Anything else would mean my mind was astray.
There was music in the garden. Priya was wearing her floral skirt, moving as if silk. The grass bowed and yawned. We had wanted to be like the other iridescent bohemians, so I spilled coffee on my shirt to tremendous applause. A thousand analog clocks struck four. During that time, when I spent each day picking under my fingernails with computer wire and mechanical pencil lead, most dreams I was capable of remembering began this way. I hadn’t yet met the people whom I didn’t know, so colors had more feeling and emotion. Breathable air seemed sweeter and more abundant. Right now—how am I to know if my love is ordinary, if my passions are abandonable, when my father will die?
There was music in the garden. I had tied my hair in a high ponytail so that I would feel adored. Winter like a switchblade felt threatening in its sharpness to me; I rode my bicycle over the bridge and stopped midway through. I like to pretend there are actions that things take entirely separate from the self I embody which encourages them: the coffee pouring itself into my mouth, garbage leaping from my hand, heart emerging on the sleeve. When you told me I was loving you in the wrong way, I did not ask What would be the right way? but instead began walking in an unspecified direction. Sometimes, I miss being manic, as if it made each sin more predictable, comprehensible, forgivable. Could you keep me on the side; on the side, could you keep me? I have no emotions worth deliberating. I am a mess and trying to comb my hair.
There was music in the garden. A shattered mason jar on the floor leapt up and put itself back together around a heart. It started beating steadily inside; I had failed to stop wondering what tomorrow would bring. When I looked up, the servers hanging around the bar stopped laughing or maybe it was the other way around and I was being self-important. That thought was all it took for me to lose sight of myself entirely. I began to feel distant from my shadow, so I walked on all fours for a year. I decimated my posture in favor of grasping at moral righteousness. I enjoyed grasping; it reminded me of how desire could ring. Nine thin aluminum hollow rods of varying lengths clanged in the wind. It was soothing, they made me fall asleep. A timeskip began in the world.
There was music in the garden. It’s difficult to imagine that there are others that felt this way before me, though all literary evidence seems to contradict such vanity. If I have no voice to write in, that’s not my fault. I’m trying to be understood while I non-consensually spend my paycheck on the less extravagant things in life—rent, health insurance, lunch. If writing to process, I expect to be billed by my audience, reading previously manifested and come-to-fruition dilemmas upon which I’ve yet to catch up my thinking. I think tomorrow’s poem will be my own sad fault. I’m trying to be less like the Florida man who, upon hearing his therapist’s advice to leave his beloved, screamed LOVE IS NOT A LOGICAL PROBLEM and then shot his therapist with a gun. But there was no man, there was no gun; there was only the screaming and that was enough.
There was music in the garden. I had poured myself a glass of whiskey that didn’t taste like whiskey, so I topped it with pineapple juice. I say that I hate drinking like I say I hate my life like I say I love drinking like I say I love my life. I was offended when you walked into my home and asked to whom the prayer candles belong, as if they could be anyone’s but mine. I love a little fire. I’m learning how to be more alone each day. I’m the talk of the town. I’m the officeplace whore. Don’t you think you could do more, be better, write faster, act stronger? One time I wept and the person I love more than anything else in the world kissed the tears off my cheekbones and it made me want to change my body entirely. I disagree with the notion that a poem is inherently a confessional space. So you’re pushing back against this? I am doing everything I can. I’d even beg if you asked me to, but you’d have to ask. Otherwise, I’d waste so much time. And I’d rather spend it begging.