BOYS WHO READ SALINGER
They give me cigarettes, pick me up in their car when I ask them to, buy me coffee, refill my mug. They show me poems they’ve been reading, the notes they take on them; the highlight marks, the lines they feel are applicable to their life—always obvious links to love and cliche patterns of self-destruction. They tell me they’ve always related to Holden Caulfield and I suppress what feels inside like both an enormous yawn and a laugh: another white boy who thinks he’s Holden Caulfield, holdin’ onto his sadness like it’s depth, like it’s poetry, something to show to someone.
But didn’t I once say that I wanted you to show me anything? One thing after another for eternity? It was in a car, in a dream, the car wasn’t moving, a place where I could be with you without wondering who you are, if you make sense next to me.
They read aloud to me a Bukowski poem and not a single word of it registers. I only hear the tiny waves of their voice—timid, self-conscious ripples in a boring pond. Though there’s something sedative about their boringness; still I think I wouldn’t mind jumping in it, that boring pond. Their full neck still leaps out at me when I look at them, like the starkness of a sign, like driving your car into a tree, the powerful trunk of their neck. Their blue eyes still sting a little like looking up at bright lights fast.
When I’m in their car—as they drive me back to my house, listening to music they let me pick out, driving under the dull violet milk of the sky—I feel like I could dissolve, as if I were the boring pond, evaporating into the air contained in their car, like an air freshener.
Once, as we smoked cigarettes outside in the cold, you said to me, “You never actually feel the socks on your feet until someone says: think about the socks on your feet—and then you can feel them,” like some ersatz philosopher, an eager kid who just learned something, a boy who reads Salinger.
Oh, but what’s so wrong with Salinger anyway?
“I don’t feel anything,” I said to you. You said nothing, and I wondered if what I had said was true. We walked back inside, slowly letting our bodies become bodies again. He took me home and I felt a pleasure from the simpleness of this act that felt something like security or safety.
In their car I look at the boring pond of them the way one looks at something they used to take advantage of as a child but now, older, appreciates in a new way. A way that feels suddenly urgent, as if already seeing it as a memory. I walk away from them up to my front door, wondering what the memory might mean, feeling the socks on my feet.
Matthew Meriwether is a writer and performer currently living in Fort Wayne, IN. He writes and performs music under the name Fresh Tar, and is recently the author of Knock Knock (The Dandelion Review, 2018), a chapbook of narrative prose. His work has appeared in BOAAT Journal, FLAPPERHOUSE, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.