by Jeffrey Murrell


What's up, man? I haven't been gone for long,
but it seems as if I've lived, then died wrong
or lived too fast since you last heard from me!
You know, time is one of life's stranger things;
It has control over our perceptions,
it governs our every reaction.
It's just so bizarre how a man-made thing
--or a man-made concept, actually--
can have such a powerful influence,
especially when it doesn't exist!
That's what we get for wanting to control
the way things are arranged and seem to go.
It's the price we have to really pay
for the "control" time may seem to convey.
Sometimes people can be such idiots,
fooling around with things not their business!
The world isn't a bad place at all,
but we try to hide ourselves behind walls.
Oh, well--what the hell can anyone do?
In the end, we all die, and our minds, too.

I'm back in "Winteropolis" on leave.
Man, that's the perfect name for this place--we,
are glad you invented that stupid name!
You know, we were really smart not to hang
Around in this place too long after school.
But it's good to come back and visit to.
The only real reason I come back
Is to visit Zina and my old pack.
But most of my old friends are all gone now.
Except for a few who don't have clues how
to find a way to make it in other
places, for work or just for whatever!
But it really wouldn't be so bad here
if it weren't for the dark and cold weather.
Well, at least it's never too damned snowy;
I hate it when snow's up to my knees,
after it starts out so white, fresh and nice,
then it turns sooty grey after a while.
With the streets all full of the filthy shit,
it's just such a burden to deal with it!
At least here it's just a nice, white powder;
Too bad it dusts the streets most of the year!

I went downtown before I saw Zina,
down to the theater mall to see a
really great movie, and to go shopping.
I have always loved that big old building,
with all its ornate facades and sculptures
and floors with mosaic pictures.
I used to think it was sort of a shrine,
or an ancient old temple of some kind.
I would imagine so many stories
about what must have been its history.
I just love to see its splendid marble
outline rising up against the dismal
grey curtain of winter clouds hovering
all around--how many of those stories
did I write about it? Maybe dozens
about how it was once a theater.
I often wondered just what it was like
before it became shoppers' paradise.
But I'm so glad that it finally did!
Imagine what life would have been in
this city, man, you know, for us without
that mall to go to, to play and hang out.

And do you remember all those neat shops?
Zina and I used to love the bazaars.
Do you remember how you used to make
such fun of us in our weird-music phase?
You were just as much into it as us!
You were always just too damned self-conscious,
too worried about your macho image
to go all the way along with the rest.
Well, your loss, my friend--we had a great time;
I still listen to the music despite
the fact that it makes me feel like an old
geezer, or someone who can't really know
what's going on, and what's in style today,
what's the latest this and that, what's the craze?
But those days give me an identity
to reflect back on when I lose what's me.

And they still have those cheery little lights
strung up all along the downtown street sides
to lighten up everybody's spirits
in the face of all the dreary dimness.
It's strange how these people behave so warm;
you'd think that crabbiness would be the norm!
Maybe the hardships the weather presents
work to effect a strange cohesiveness
that serves to make them all cooperate.
Well, you know, that's my best guess, anyway!

Damn! Zina hasn't changed too much at all!
But either she's shrank, or I've grown more tall;
and now she has three kids from that dumb guy.
We've been going out to do stuff at night.

She's got an apartment in one of those
metallic monster highrises, you know,
on the West Side, where the zoning laws are
a little goofy--in fact, quite bizarre!
All structures taller than the shopping mall
are confined to spaces west of the wall
that divides all the downtown area
from the areas zoned for cinemas.
Yeah, Zina is in real-estate school.
She's been telling me all about those rules.
You know, I used to always wonder why
tall ones only get built on the West Side.
Zina says it's 'cause they restrict the view
of the mall and other buildings who
maintain historical significance
and which they want to maintain prominence
on the city's skyline viewed from the south,
from rich neighborhoods and traffic in-bound.

She's got a really nice place way up there;
plenty of room for her kids which they share
with a big-ass dog who won't keep away
from me, always frisky, wanting to play.
And her dynamite view is really raw!
Strange how those buildings just never caught on;
nobody wanted offices in them,
so they had to make them all apartments,
converting the spaces from commercial
and into something more residential.
And then they found much greater acceptance
as apartments with affordable rents.
But despite the greater acceptance rate,
the owners can't fill even half the space.
(Apparently, no one'd rent them at first,
so they had to make the rent cheap as dirt!)
They just don't seem to like tall buildings here.
I just can't believe it--they're just too weird!

But what really grabs me is how stupid
the local developers have all been
after all their failures with the first ones
(those three giant buildings that they put up
years ago when we were still in high school).
A fourth one got put up by some bright fool!
They had such problems funding the project,
they couldn't even finish building it!
So now it stays only three-quarters done;
a towering metal half-skeleton.
And it's completely empty except for
some tenements leased out on the ground floor.
So, the four of them rise up together
like spikes on a graph line that gets flatter.

Anyway, Zina's the same, like I said,
still acts goofy, like no brain's in her head.
And I still have something for her somewhere
deep inside me, and I know that sounds queer.
But she seems just as gorgeous as ever,
except for the race-track stretch marks on her.
(They're all up her torso from having kids.)
And, oh! What a serious shame it is
that she got her tits so damned deflated!
She had such deliciously firm, ripe breasts;
now she's stuck with a couple of real prunes!
Poor little thing; but, you know, what to do?
But she doesn't care--and I'll tell you what,
She's still like I remember--just as hot!
We used to go at it furiously!
(And not just like that night in your backseat.)
Remember that night we double-dated?
We were hot, and you guys were sedated!
I still fantasize about having her.
(Did you know that we were eachother's first?)
God, I was lucky to have that girl then;
a teenaged boy joining the ranks of men,
with the type of girl most guys dream about
slamming me good, man, and dishing it out.
I don't think anything quite compares with
the sweet taste of a young girl with pink lips
who's crazy about you, who'll die for you,
who lives and breathes so you'll want her, too.
That's how a girl gets a man to stick close,
that, and she must be patient and have hope.

Too bad Zina tried to push us too fast;
love is something we were too young to grasp.
Her motivation was just too suspect
to expect to command a boy's respect . . .
But she was just too flaky in those days,
with no direction, living in a haze.
I used to think that I really blew things!
But it was all her instability.
Well, of course, I had my own dumb problems,
and you know that every kid always does.
But my problems didn't cause her to throw
more than two years of love out the window.
I remember we went to the town fair,
and we had a fight 'cause I wouldn't share
a stupid little box of hard candies;
we didn't speak after that for two weeks.
So I thought that I'd be a gentleman,
call her up and give her satisfaction,
and apologize for that dumb quibble.
I was eager and ready and hopeful
to make amends and get on with our lives.
Then is when she told me--yeah, man! That's right!
After two weeks, she said she had some "news,"
way before we ever started dating,
and with whom she kept in touch by writing!

I was so stunned that I could hardly speak.
I wished her good luck, and said "Oh, that's neat."
But I really wanted to yell at her.
I wanted to scream and shout and just curse
the living shit out of that stupid chick!
What a moron she really must have been.
(Now, that was her weirdness at its apex;
not what I seek in the opposite sex!)
Man, we could have had something so special.
She wanted to marry, but I was still
not quite with it, you know, young and naive.
Marriage was something I just didn't need.
But her homelife sucked--she had to get out.
"Let's get married" always sprang from her mouth,
and I'm sure it was 'cause we were in love,
not just 'cause her family life was tough.
I still have some of the books she gave me,
with quotes from love poems she scribbled sweetly
inside on the blank pages and covers.
Now I read those and think "what a liar!"

And what's really the most bizarrest thing,
the guy she married was MILITARY.
Imagine that! After all that big fuss
she made over the military stuff
that I brought back home from the recruiter's,
thinking of joining for a few tours.
She took those brochures and ripped them all up
like a pissed-off cat defending her cub!
She said she wouldn't want me to get killed.
(I admit the thought of it gave me chills.)
So she goes off and marries a soldier?
It's just beyond me, man. You go figure!

But she really got hers, though. Didn't she?
I knew what a snake that guy had to be.
She should have been able to see it, though,
when a guy is going to creep so low.
Yeah, you just know that kind's not trustworthy.
They're trouble. Period. End of story.
It should have come to her as no surprise
that he was cheating and telling her lies,
and doing some girl back at the office.
(She should have detected it in his kiss!)
But like I said, the girl isn't normal.
Now I get the last laugh at her downfall.

I worry about her kids in that mess.
Someday, Zina will be forced to confess
what an insect their real father is,
how he threw away his wife and his kids!
I looked at her little boy one evening
at her place, as we were all watching TV,
and I wondered what it would have been like
if the boy had turned out to have been mine.
That snake she ran off with is so handsome;
her kids are gorgeous--you can imagine.
She always wanted five or six babies.
Well, that guy got her halfway there, at least.
Hell! She even had to describe how they
made it so nice and slow--he had to lay
on top of her and leave it in so long
because of her fertility problem!
Did I really have to be told all that?
She couldn't figure out it'd make me sad
to hear exactly what that slime stole from
me? She must be insensitive or dumb!
I guess you could call us friends, more or less.
But see what I mean? The girl's dangerous.

And speaking of how dangerous she is,
we were getting it on and making it,
I guess to relive old times, or whatnot,
but she told me she likes to "get bruised up."
Man, I was shocked--with a capital S !
That led me to wonder what kinds of risks
she's been maybe exposing herself to.
(I could have had safer sex in the zoo!)
What has she contracted from some deadbeat
whom she had slap her around like dead meat
while they were doing it unprotected?
I sure wish I had thought to use a hood!
Now I wonder what I've done to myself.
(Can't be too careful--you never can tell!)
And what would her mother think if she knew
the kinds of things her daughter is into?

You know, her mom was always pretty cool,
but I wrote her off too much as a fool.
She knew what me and Zina were doing!
Wonder why she never said anything?
They all used to be really religious;
Zina said her prayers all the time and was
up on all the Church's strict-ass doctrines,
but you could never tell by all her sins!
(Well, at least when it came to sex and drugs.)
The religious types are the naughty ones!
Her mom's come a long ways since I knew last.
Now, on the North Side, there's a shop she has.
She's so cool--she told Zina she's crazy
for not really trying to get back with me.
Man, I'll tell you--I relished hearing that.
But these days, for Zina, it's just too bad
because I am no longer an option
for her, but only for other women.

I'm dying to ask Zina what happened
to her mom's ragged-looking old boyfriend.
He damned near rebuilt her little pink car!
That poor little thing was always apart.
I don't know if that thing runs anymore.
Zina won't say--she just seems to ignore
my questions about the little roadster.
For some reason, those questions bother her.
That pink car's what we went to the fair in;
It's what she marched off to and left me with.
She drove it off to our separation.
She drove it home to more desperation.
And it drove her hastily to decide
to break off our love and to change our lives.
She still has the thing, in her garage parked
and wrapped all up snugly in plastic tarps.
It brought back a lot of fun memories
to venture down to the garage to see
what had once conveyed the object of my
youthful conquest of hot carnal desire.

But looking at it, I saw it was more;
it was really a key that unlocked doors
that were holding me back from achieving
any type of a prosperous living.
Yes, the change it invoked was for the best.
Had I stayed with her, my life'd been wrecked!
I would not have been able to grow up;
I would have remained a dumb little pup
always trying to break off of my leash,
pinned down in place by one girl's stupid dreams,
never being able to know myself,
useless, dependant on other folks' help,
unaware of my real potential;
only there with her, bound to grow scornful
that she cut me off from the whole wide world,
that she had suddenly changed from that girl
who had the plump bosom and the tight skin
to this woman with stretch marks and prune tits.
There I'd be, trapped in this cold city,
only warmed by her wrinkled thin body.

But then, would I never have known better?
Would her wrinkled tits have really mattered?
I bet she'd have those six kids she longed for!
We would have kept eachother nice and warm
during those cold Winteropolis nights,
heaving one another into our thighs
and making love just as we always did,
and it would be me who would leave it in
a long time because she has that problem
(that'd be no problem 'cause we'd be in love)!
And man, she had such a spell over me,
I just NEVER would have gone out cheating!
Boy, she just blew it as far as men go.
Virgins who deflower eachother know
that their love is special and forever.
Well, at least I was the first to have her.
At least that's something I stole from him first!
(The chance she took was really for the worse.)

But like I said, it's best we parted ways.
A life with her would have been a mistake.
And I never would have joined the service!
How'd I get in? (I didn't deserve it!)
My grades in school were so mediocre.
But they said I had high aptitude scores.
You know, my service training was a bitch.
Wonder how your training compared with it?
There can't be any comparing civil-
service school with the military haul.
But I'm sure they are very similar;
you just had a few more weapons to learn.
We had physical harassment, like you,
but we had a lot more mental stuff, too.
I'm glad I joined--pat yourself on the back!
All your persuading led me to a chance
to get the hell out, and to get a life.
(But don't you forget, it earned you a stripe!)
Yes, the government duty is a lot;
but I like it just fine, high pay or not.
At least they gave me a college degree,
and send me all over the world to see
the different places and different peoples.
You know, life would otherwise be so dull.

So thank you, my friend. Thanks for all of this!
Without you, there's so much I would have missed.