Three stories by Chris Campanioni

 

Let’s hope there’s a way to do this

quietly, without much time at night, the same as in the day. We move side by side to the longing clinic so we can learn to long again. Something forgotten or something we forgot to adopt in the first place. Permission to land, pass on or part with. Half-opened. Like being down

on one’s own knees. So many beggars at the gate, in the waiting room waiting patiently. Only time will tell. The slow steady beat of the sun on the pane of a window. A bus breathing at the bend. Letting others off. Letting others in. Before the breathing begins again. Next I know my name is called, to be ushered into another room to wait, cede salt samples to be taken to the lab to test for proof of life, love, everything in a quick exchange. Put your money where your mouth is

they tell me & I do, chewing & gathering, gagging & spewing cold harsh cash. “Communion”—the longing clinic’s exploratory session designed to ingest some kind of passion, hunger to yearn again, or to yearn for the very first time. Like new. Only time will tell.

I’m still taking it in.

 

A run in rhythm
(to be read while listening)

“The Big Ship” by Brian Eno

0:01

In the afternoons, my eyelids stir like woods. Like sky and skin.

In the evenings. In the mornings.

0:17

So cold I start to cry. Or maybe just the force of the act. Recognition, waking. Waking and running and crying at the same time.

0:32

If I know the route well enough, I can close my eyes.

The deliberate build-up of percussion, mallets or castanets, any and all expectation. The way a snake moves through the brush.

Something that resembles rivulets, people and places and things swiftly pushing forward. Pulsing into feeling.

1:00

But I never forget to collect random samples.

Numb cheeks

Ashen sand

Tracks left by an excavator

A leaf slowly falling through my gaze

1:33

Certain uncertain ideas about love. The nature of wanting and possession. Terminal inertia. Holes in the soles of my shoes.

How maybe the gap is intended. Cavity, lacuna. Depression around the short bend, something that provokes. How maybe it’s better this way.

You’re moving faster now.

2:08

Pause before the applause
You imagine at some other time
In another place

2:25

We keep passing, every day.

Silent smiles with each exhalation and raised foot, and then you’re just a figure receding into dawn. Legs kicking in the distance.

2:47

Unbearable glare of the sun on my face, or the face I imagine as light ripples over the Hudson, breaking and receding like a fractured mirror.

Discarded Photoville stubs in between cracks of gravel. Faces degraded in gelatin for posterity, and a fee. A fence to frame it.

I can smell the coffee brewing, I can smell the people moving. Hair and breath and sweat and shit mingling in the breeze.

Some person is still dreaming.

3:03

Each and every time you try to write it down, memorize a sunrise for later (always for later). The sound and shape. Each thin gradient. Each slow unfurling.

3:05

Sometimes I just like to hear my own breathing.

 

Love stories from the twentieth-century
caught on film

i.
If there’s a train, there’s a man running after it.

ii.
We agree to meet at a bar.

She walks in from the dusk, sun spots lingering on her cheeks. As if lit from within. The camera pans across the room to show the eyes, how each face turns.

I’m pretending to be on the phone.

Something to hold.

iii.
The scene involves climbing a fire escape with a bouquet of roses, conquering a fear of heights with music and a kiss.

iv.
The illusion of being in someone else’s possession.

v.
He’d run by her home every morning.

He didn’t know if he was more afraid of seeing her, or not seeing her. Every morning.

vi.
As the two lovers talk, the Amalfi coast rushes by, slow enough to catch a glimpse, quick enough to want to catch it in place. The camera focuses on their faces, each exchange cropped in medium shot, leaving the site secondary, letting the setting recede into a fabulous black-and-white blur.

vii.
I kept looking for suggestions of her presence, as if she was everywhere. As if she’s everywhere. The bend at a corner. Silhouette turned toward a street lamp. Puddles on the sidewalk. Especially, behind the window. Tracks left by sandals on the prefab beach, sand driven in from somewhere else. On a day like this.

Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?

viii.
Hoist a boom box over your shoulder and blast the song you first made love to
On a loop
As if it never stopped

ix.
The soft blush of flowers. Lonesome whistles. Press my ear to a tree and listen.

x.
The airport, right before the take-off. Someone is always arriving, or leaving. Or taking.

Or off.

Pull back from a piece of luggage, the roving escalator in the distance. Shouts and the skid of rubber, loud enough to turn around.

The camera encircles them in wild swoops. Reverse angles. It makes you light-headed, just to watch it happen, just to see it outside yourself.

xi.
The way she points her thumb and index finger to salvage the crumbs.

xii.
The reason why song is so beautiful is that it’s temporal. Three minutes, four. Epiphany with a countdown.

xiii.
Such a long take between when our eyes finally meet—me still clutching my phone close, speaking to no one—and when she glides forward, drifting as if being carried. Glass chandelier, a bar with shelves that reach toward the ceiling. A fireplace and exposed brick. Soft shadows. Entrance of a piano without anyone seated to play. Kind of place with a coat check girl and a man that opens doors. In the bathroom, for the privilege of watching me empty my bladder, he asks for money, preferably dollar bills.

Green with envy; wanting to be outside at the same time I’m within it. Wanting to remember the first time as if it were still the first time.

As if it were five minutes ago, when we’d looked at each other from across the room and it started to come down.

xiv.
There’s a French saying. Or at least I heard it said in France. There is one who is loved, and one who does the loving.

This would come right after the opening credits but before the names dissolve into a panorama of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

xv.
Best to meet a man or woman who’s already moving. Capable of flight or fancy.

All the strangers who would not be strangers disembark, moving through Grand Central like a billiard ball, slipping in between each other on a dolly, cross-cut with a close-up of the station’s clock, the big and little hands.

Through a bus’s cloudy window, the city looks unexpected, carameled and soaked in sepia, strange landmarks spinning toward the audience like a carousel with every twist.

xvi.
Hunger for everything I’ve never had, for everything I’ve ever had.

Wondering what it was Meat Loaf wouldn’t do after all.

xvii.
Tell me more.

xviii.
Aerial shot of the bridge during a storm, gaze slowly edging toward the promenade. A city that could be your own. Two figures at a stoplight. Lightning that sounds more like laughter than shrieks. Slow-dancing in the street.

xix.
I put you into my memories for a purpose.

xx.
Something has been left out, but I don’t know what. A wipe, change of scene, sound of rainfall to match each pearl of rain, the passage of time.

I don’t know what. Only enough to know something has been left out. Only enough to know something is missing. The way you sit silently and wait for it. Even after the lights go.

Even after everyone else has left.

 

Chris Campanioni’s recent work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Prelude Magazine, Quiddity, and Fjords Review. Find him here or in person somewhere between Brooklyn Bridge Park and Barclays Center.