Into The White – 1994
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
Not like this.
It wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.
I’ve seen the tape a hundred times, backwards and forwards, and everything is still wrong. She’s supposed to be there in the end, when everything falls apart, but now…
Fuck. She’s dead on the floor, and her silence is our downfall. Not like this, someone is messing around with things, Sarah’s room has never been wrong but here in the dark as the TV laughs at us, as the freeze-frame negates our last stand, I hold my growing stomach and pray that I’m wrong, that things are right.
But they’re not. Not like this.
I promised myself that I would go over it one more time, that maybe there was something that we missed, but Pyr couldn’t stand my fixation – he still can’t watch the tape to the end without storming out of the apartment – and even Jenny thinks that I’m nuts. A-Bell…
Not like this. It’s rewinding, and I still don’t know where she is. She didn’t talk to anyone for a week, and then yesterday she was gone.
It wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.
I’ve been recording my voice incessantly, since it happened, hoping for the truth to jump out between my words. But there’s nothing. Our new place is already old, ruined, and I want to leave to run away but I can’t, not while she’s still dead on the floor in my dreams. There has to be a fucking answer…
Sorry. I had to take a break, the whole situation’s just out of control – I haven’t been outside in three days, I won’t let the sun touch my skin because it doesn’t seem right.
O.K. The tape’s ready to go again. I still don’t understand what possessed Jenny to take along her camera, how she knew that it was needed. But she did, and now the biggest and last Suspender show ever will live on, as will…
I can’t even think about her name without crying.
Not like this! Not on the floor, not dead, and A-Bell’s not screaming, I’m not listening…
On the TV, everything is O.K. Here we are, driving up to the warehouse, and already there’s a line of Suspects, covering everything with sidewalk chalk, trading bootlegs from the tour. The street is cracked and still buckled from the last earthquake, but the building doesn’t look that bad. No one was looking for safety anyway, just for free space to tear apart, and Jenny discovered it on one of her walking photo-tours of town. It used to be a cannery or something, but after a fire it was just left to collect trash and dust. As we driveway to the back, Jenny lingers on the layers of spraypaint, coating the outer wall with pure anarchart and foolishness. Sometimes I pause and try to pick out individual messages, but they’re co-mingled and overlapped to the point that nothing is left but chaotic color and the essence of communication. That I can understand.
In the back we pull up next to the Ice Cream Truck, which is what Caroline calls the Suspender van because everywhere they went there was some punk kids trailing behind, money in hand. Plus, the P.A. on the roof added to the general phenomenon; when we came it was chanting The white zone is for loading and unloading only, which was a sly reference to the Airport Incident. But now is not the time to get into that, because as we got out of the car…
I’m going to hold it together, this is too important, but whenever I see her…
We got out of the car, and Sasha runs up to me and Jenny, grabbing us by the arms and yelling Fuck Traffic! Are you with me? I just about fell apart as we ran inside laughing and screaming, because it had been almost 3 years since we last performed. A-Bell pounced on us when we approached the makeshift stage. I brought all of the old instruments! She was wearing her Fuck Traffic uniform, the butt-ugly orange shirt and hard-hat that the highway-hacks endured, and I could only hope that she had ours. She did, and as Jenny gave the room a once-over, you could hear our plan-babble in the background.
It was truly amazing what Phone did to the place; it took him almost a whole week but the results were more than worth the effort. First, he covered everything except the floors with a cheap white, making a clean canvas, and then he called in his crew and the 12th St. one to kill all of the walls. When they were done it was like a subway car was turned inside out, so you were floating in burners and tags. The general theme was electronics, so besides the twisted corporate logos and consumerist imagery, Sasha supervised a massive mural which was this terribly complicated Circle X thing (as fits her general obsession with the chain). I asked her about it and she said to the camera: The logo is a warning, a target we need to aim at. Jenny lingered on her computer-memory earrings that dangled to her bare shoulders. Our music is the gun, and we are the bullets. She had on a green tank-top, and knee-length, black, Circle X cut-offs. Dear, is everything all set up? Jenny swiveled to A-Bell on the stage, who was fiddling with the amps. Yep. Sasha stepped up, and motioned for us to follow.
I don’t know why, it just makes me feel better when I talk it out, when I remember how great things were then. How everything shined when Sasha called us into a huddle, pulled out a red marking pen, and drew big numbers on our right hands. I was “1”, A-Bell was “2” and Jenny was “3”. She drew a big “O” on hers. We are the inseparable 4. Together, we can accomplish anything. Put her hand in the middle of the circle. Now swear your allegiance to yourself and the group. Commit to change. This was a new variation on the standard antizine chant, so it was second-nature to give our hands. As we held each other, and as the other bands started to arrive, I remember distinctly that Sasha gave me this look, a glance of complete understanding, and we held it until Jo bounded up on stage, Caroline in tow.
I’m going closer to the TV, so you can hear what’s being said.
Can we join in? That’s Jo, and she had on her white painter’s uniform, and Caroline was still in her maximalist ball-gown stage. This one was yellow.
Give me your hands. Sasha took out her pen, and made Jo “4” and Caroline “5”.
Sash! Wouldn’t it be cool to do a Jumpster reunion? Just for tonight.
Fuck yeah! I was already excited – this close to the screen I can almost see my ears twitch in anticipation. Photocop is here, and I’m sure Susan will be game.
Bell, can you go get her? I think they’re in the storeroom.
Anything for you, Pixie. They kiss….
I can’t do this. I can’t….
I hate this bathroom.
My voice echoes too much, like it doesn’t even belong to me, like it never left my mouth in the first place, like that woman in the mirror said it, the one that looks past the tears.
She’s starting to show now. But when I look down, when I feel myself, it all seems wrong. That’s our future inside me. Inside her.
I hate this bathroom, I hate the toilet I just threw up in, I hate her dead on the floor twitching silent twitching…
She’s looking at me, I’m looking at me, and there’s something beyond the silver.
I want to reach out to her, to me, but there’s the hard, smooth inbetween.
Fuck the inbetween!
I shouldn’t be doing this Shit! my hand’s still bleeding on the carpet on Pyr’s shirt and there’s little silver pieces of her, of me, everywhere, but the TV yells silently as they kiss.
It’s good that I’m in pain as I watch this. I deserve it. I wish these hands would just fall off, because when they touched her…..
She wasn’t moving.
She isn’t moving.
Next to A-Bell, dead on the floor, it’s the same now as the red hardens around my fingers, on the tape-recorder. My fingers can’t do shit.
I’m not O.K.
The pause broke and everything’s static in the dark and I still feel sick. My daughter’s trying to say something in there. Aren’t you? You’re telling Mommy to fuck off, to get a life, to end it all now before I’m dead on the floor, too.
I’m not. I won’t.
She’s gone for a reason.
I can’t be gone yet. Can you hear me in there? Do you even have ears yet?
Sarah’s room said that you’re important. That you’d make things better in the end.
Make things better now. Please, for Mommy.
I’ve started again, and I close my eyes through the kiss, until A-Bell skips off the stage.
Jo sits down and hangs her legs over the edge. I figure we start at sundown, and if Jumpster can get back together then well go on first. Then…
Dust Lag needs to go second, because they have to hit the road before 10.
Cool. At that moment A-Bell walks in, dragging April, Susan and Susanna behind her.
Trick or treat! Jo gives April and Susan big hugs, and Susanna a firm handshake.
It’s been a while. Susanna looked just like A-Bell had described, even though Masking Tape was like 10 years ago.
Wait, wait. I have an idea! A-Bell grabs Susanna by the shoulders. Is all of Dust Lag here yet?
Yeah, in the van.
A-Bell whispers something in Sasha’s ear. She nods, and then A-Bell ran out the back door.
I think we have a situation here. Sasha walks to the far left side of the stage and then turns around. We were planning to have a Fuck Traffic reunion…
No way! April always liked us, the sweetie.
Which turned into a Jumpster reunion…
I’m all for that, it’s been such a long time. Everyone knows that Susan was at her prime then.
But then A-Bell figured out that there could be a Fire Escape reunion, too.
That would totally rule! I was already planning the concert review, and then Sasha blew us all away.
But I have something more in mind. She reached into her pocket, and pulled out the pen again. Let’s make a new band. Tonight only. Went around to each person, and gave them a number.
April was “6”
Susan was “7”
Susanna was “8”
Look who I found! A-Bell bounced in with the rest of Dust Lag in toe. She corralled the girls to the stage, and let Sasha mark them.
Rebecca was “9”
Elizabeth was “10”
Isabel was “11”
Don’t tell me you’ve playing games without us again… 8-Track waltzed in carrying baby Joey. He’s so cute lately.
Sasha walked over, kissed the both of them, and then marked 8-Track “12”.
We are the 13, and together we can do anything.
We need a name! Jenny was obsessive that way.
Fuck Slow Power Escape Jumpster Dust! I couldn’t resist.
I got it. Jo started to gather her forces, walked over to her cousin, and kissed her on the cheek. I started to get a tingle, and I still get it now whenever I see this part.
Slide Rule School.
Sasha looked at Jo for a second, and then gave the biggest smile I ever saw her possess. Yes.
No. No. No. This is all wrong, she’s not dead on the floor, the mirror’s not broken, it’s not like this.
I hate this fucking life!
I don’t want it. I don’t….
Look at her. Sasha didn’t want it, but I forced it on her.
She’s was so beautiful then, with that smile…
I want to reach past the screen and snatch it away, save it for the bad times.
I want it to shine upon my daughter’s birth.
I want her back, not dead, not smiling, not anything but back.
In this stupid apartment, in this stupid darkness, in my useless arms.
No. That’s wrong. She should be with A-Bell. I don’t deserve her smile, her shine, her love that lapped against us all. No one does, except for A-Bell. And now she’s gone too.
Not like this.
You don’t want to know what happens, do you?
You don’t care, you’ve already heard on the streets or on the nightly news or in the fucking daily newspaper how there’s an unidentified dead woman dead Sasha who shook and shook and grew still…
You were there in the corner, staring as Jo leapt off the stage.
You walked over the message that someone painted on the sidewalk, you stepped on her name and didn’t even notice. You didn’t know any better.
Kiss the fucking ground. Lick her mark from the earth. Taste her absence, and be afraid.
I’m know I am.
There’s this part when Slide Rule School is playing and I’m holding up numbers and everyone’s freaking out Music! Music! and Sasha’s just smiling at Pyr holding the camera, smirking even as she strokes her keyboard, making things come out of nothing and everyone knows it’s right. Pause at that part and you can see the bottle sitting by her feet.
It has the mark. I didn’t see it until yesterday pressing my face against the pixel glass but it’s there.
She was thirsty, we all were, and when she asked someone threw, and I can watch the water fly to the stage in slow-mo a thousand times but I can never see where it’s coming from, only where it’s going.
At the part where she’s smiling, when the bottle’s nearly empty, I know she knows – I can feel it.
But she drank anyway. She’d asked for it.
I didn’t ask for it. For this.
Not like this.
Slide Rule School.
Everyone else was kind of confused, but Sasha and Jo soon got us into line. None of us had ever played with so many people before, and A-Bell suggested that we’d better form an orchestra or something. That sounded cool, and since I didn’t play anything I was appointed maestro-gal.
The guys continued to set up the show – Phone was manning the doors along with Velcro and Circle X, and Pyr was helping out/getting in the way as only he could – basically standing around doing absolutely nothing except frowning.
Of course, he had other things on his mind, like planning the ceremony behind my back. That’s about the only part that I can watch and still smile at, when the School convened and every single post-punk in the audience was stunned. Then up comes Pyr on the stage, holding a bridal veil in one hand, a bouquet in the other.
All I could was think was Not now, not ever, we’re already married where it counts and all that shit but he took the mic and was
Cough. Can you hear me?
Someone goes Marry her already! and so he picks up a roll of duck tape and throws it at them. Rip on a chunk and shut up the easy way, O.K.?
Then he turns to me and there’s this strange look in his eye, like when he talks back to the commercials knowing far too well that really he is wrong, and that no one cares if the acting is bad or the print’s too small, and then he turns to you and goes Well? Am I right? and kneeling on the carpet, glowing, he never isn’t.
Keeping those eyes on me, he put the veil on me and handed over the bouquet. The rest of the 13 started up the appropriate music, only with more hooks and clarinet parts than usual, and I blushed like a sweet apple because.
Because we weren’t really married yet.
Because everyone was here and then some.
Because I could still say no and mean it.
Holding his hands as the School reached the high point, I meant yes.
My I do was a sniff behind his ear, and his was a gentle brush against my cheek. And the kiss was a ripple through my life’s ocean, starting small but building into a big wave that was coming for the shore. There was nothing else but us, and everything along with us, and when my eyes opened to meet his, I knew there was no turning back.
Throw it! That was some plink in the front, and everyone knew what was meant so I did. Some baby’s breath fell to the floor as it floated over the stage, and all A-Bell needed to do was to stick her hand in the air, and it swerved about 10 feet and rushed right towards her. Or maybe it just seemed that way, because she was the tallest thing going as usual. In any case, she cradled the flowers, put down her clarinet, walked past Elizabeth and April, and grabbed Sasha by the hand.
Understand this. No one moved for the next minute, while the two of them stood before each other, filling the room with something altogether different from mere love. It was power undistilled, like a battery meeting both contacts, and the buzz filled our hearts and ears and encircled our necks, growling necessity. There was no way in earth or heaven or any place else that they were to be apart, and when the minute of revelation ended I walked over to A-Bell.
Can I give you away? and she smiled Yes, but I need to do something first. So she took off her Fuck Traffic helmet and switched it with my veil.
Sasha seemed so vulnerable then, so human, that for once I really felt I could see her, that the invisible barrier had lifted and she was ready to join the world. But as soon as they walked to the front of the stage, that opening ended before I could even enjoy it, and A-Bell was sucked inside. They were one then, and no ceremony or stupid pretence was necessary. No ring would suffice, no kiss full enough, no vow doing justice to their bond.
No I do. Just We are.
I didn’t cry then. But I’m crying now, and I’ll never really stop.
Not like this.
On the floor her back arched and arms legs shaking, Jo was growling for help, A-Bell was grasping for air, for life, for her. All I did was watch the wall crumble, her face constrict, her earrings dance like caught fish against her face. I was there, yet I wasn’t.
I’m here, and she isn’t.
I’m nothing, and what is she?
Caught on my tape, forwarded and rewound, in an endless cycle of pain.
Why can’t I let her rest?
My hand is hurting again, I don’t think I got all of the pieces out of it, and the tape has long since reached the end.
The end is when Pyr drops the camera and rushes to Sasha, screaming.
Not like this! Not like this!
I don’t know where that came from, it was like the whole room was channeled through his teeth, but as he shoved past the 5 as the screen went blank, he looked in her closed eyes and wet her face with his salty fingers.
This is not right this is my fault this is Fuck! Someone dial 911! you can’t be dead yet!
He kept yelling life into her mouth Breathe! but she gave a final shudder Fuck! and finally I had to pull him away. A-Bell turned inside out revealing the essence of a scream, the kind you can only hear at birth and death. She knew.
It’s too late.
She pressed herself against Sasha, warming her for the coming cold, and if you didn’t look carefully, if you didn’t know better, you would have sworn that she was lying there alone on the floor, cuddling against shadows.
You could barely see her green chest past A-Bell’s arms and back, and their hair seemed to mingle into one sweaty fabric, smoky and dark. Jo seemed to be paying more attention to her than to her cousin, stroking her shoulders between the tears.
Fuck You! Get out of here! Jenny took it like a punch to the stomach, and was throwing around the crash worshipers. I tried to hold her back, to stop her from passing that point, but she just reached around and slapped me, scratching her nails into my face.
Not like this.
I fell to the floor laughing, laughing until I puked.
I was back in Thomason, in the quiet room, and the cement floor licked at my cheek.
I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think – I couldn’t.I still can’t.
Jenny can’t calm me down now. Pyr can’t make things better.
This is the beginning of the end, and it’s not supposed to be like this.
We’re all dead on the floor, and who’s going to mourn our passing?
We’re Slide Rule School. Take your seats.
Everyone listened to Jo, and promptly met the floor. There was at least 1000 people milling around that night, from all 50 states and then some. At first I tried to account for them all, going back and forth over the faces until the tape started to groan from the abuse, but I’ve narrowed it down to the prime suspects.
That’s what this is about. What we learned at Slide Rule School. Sasha knew that it was going to happen, she had to have. Why else the numbers, and the mural, and the bottle? Why even bother, unless there was something we could do.
I started off the lessons with a simple song, holding up each numbered card carefully and deliberately, calling forth the awkward silence of anticipation before the teacher speaks to the assembled class. Isabel started with a easy flute, constructing the playground outside the window, Jo and Elizabeth countered by sketching the classroom with broad violin strokes, and April’s cello became the desks and seats. Sasha assembled the teacher’s notes on the keyboard while 8-Track drummed the slow clock into existence, Jenny providing the hearts of the students, and Susan that of the teacher. A-Bell and Caroline then started a sly duel of the woodwinds, the sax barking out the curriculum while the clarinet gave rote responses tinged with boredom and disgust. Rebecca brought in her bass, providing the first right answer, and then Susanna and Jo countered with loaming guitar lines, the racing thoughts of all parties involved. When was class over?
I took the opportunity to add the first vocals, a wordless sweeping of the clouds over land, and then Susanna and Elizabeth chimed in with the sun and earth, respectively. Jo’s guitar then broke out of the classroom, followed by her voice screaming for release, for reality. Susan countered by barking for order in the chaos, and a chorus of disapproval slowly came, as I called for more life rhythm, more constructive strings. Everyone had effectively reached their moment, and then Sasha started to lead with stirrings of the other, of the subject matter being taught. It was of the electron, the basis of matter and the space inbetween, and everything was an oscillating pulse of information, of difference, of approximation. At first, the class and teacher tried to comprehend the material, to keep up, but then Sasha changed the key, and everything was transitory, obscure, unseen. She sung of the invisible machine, a lament to the wired air and the body as antenna, and no one understood, no one could answer, save for A-Bell, who gave a strong, low affirmation. The soon struck up a duet – the machine was becoming known – and Jo and Caroline quickly sketched in the details. It was as large as the universe, and as small as the space between something and nothing, and it was working. It was building something, doing something, and the class raised it hands with drums, guitars and questioning voices. What is it? Who are we? Where is the product? Then I ran the first bell, and the song ended.
No one clapped, because no one could move. Their ears were sitting on their hands, forcing them to wait for resolution. I wasn’t about to give them any, so I lifted the cards clearly calling for Fire Escape, and the School responded. April started out with the most Photocopian hook she could muster, and Joan countered with a testy Eskimo Guy growl-thing. Susan was about up to speed at this point, slapping her drum kit around like it really did something bad this time, and Caroline gave up the bass as A-Bell started to sing. It was the theme to Fire Escape, and as soon as the audience started to perk up in recognition I shuffled the deck and reunited Jumpster. Susan quickly switched over to a slower, more halting beat and Sasha crawled in with her trademark wail. Jo sputtered and crooned to her as she picked out unwholesome chords, strumming them gleefully. It was Sloppy from Mine!, and I couldn’t have been happier. So happy that I let it go on a bit longer than I should of, but long enough to come up with an idea. That’s when I rang the second bell.
I gave a quick flash to Jenny, who joined Susan with a complementary beat. Then Susanna got hooked in, and she met Jo’s guitar with more structure, while still maintaining the tension. Finally, I got Sasha and A-Bell back into the action, letting them work off of each other as the whole thing got even sloppier. Seeing the opening I wanted, I quickly called for the violins and flute and tore the roof off of the school building, grasping for the chalkboard scrape, the death of education. It was time to grow up, to move out, to shine back at the sky, and so we did, and the audience came to its feet. More drums! More guitar! Rip through the blue, into the white.
And we did.
The crowd fell against itself like bowling pins, as multiple holes poked through the floor and pockets of people swirled around in circles, spinning faster by the second. This was the power of the inbetween, this was what it all really meant, this was what all songs referred to, what your ears longed to hear.
Everything and nothing, together.
Noise not noise.
I wanted the world to hear it, to feel it. I wanted to take us all there.
But I couldn’t maintain it, it wasn’t the time, and the 4 sensed my apprehension and quickly plugged the holes with forceful silence.
I didn’t hold up any more cards after that, because they weren’t necessary. Slide Rule School had already graduated, and the whole room was a complex dance of wet leaves in the wind, swaying in the flux yet holding fast. That storm lasted for the next half hour, until strings started to break and Sasha got thirsty.
Then school ended, and the bottle flew.
I know she saw the mark, it was her life.
Even dead on the floor, she sang of Circle X.
This is what we’ve become, to the tune of the catchy jingle.
Not like this.
After A-Bell and Sasha made it official, the four of us left the stage and Dust Lag took their places. It was the first time I saw them live and they did a really fine job, bringing the best of Masking Tape and Potato Power to the table. The team supreme didn’t stay for the set, and went out back for an impromptu honeymoon. Pyr and I hovered around the stage, and then we got a tap on the shoulder.
What the fuck was Steve doing there? It wasn’t like it was N.U. night or anything, and so we hardly gave him the time of day, but that was enough for him to rant on and on about how he liked Suspender, and how great Slide Rule School was, and other insincere shit that made me want to slap him right there. But I didn’t, and after what Pyr told me about New York it’s probably best that I didn’t. Still, when worse came to worse he was there for us, helping to clear space when Sasha…
It doesn’t even sound right.
Fuck Traffic was forever, right?
antizine will never die, that’s what she always said to us.
Well, antizine died with her, O.K.? Fuck Traffic is gone, O.K.?
Everything’s going to fall apart and it’s all my fault. I accept this, but that doesn’t make it any easier, that doesn’t make the pain go away, that doesn’t bring Sasha back, and she’s supposed to be there when I die, she’s supposed to take care of my daughter, she’s supposed to grow old with A-Bell, and everything’s supposed to be perfect. My dreams have never been wrong, Sarah’s room has never lied to me, so why now?
Why now, when everything was right for once?
I can’t play my Suspender records anymore without seeing her dead on the floor, twitching as the pit swarms about her. I can’t look at Jo without watching her go limp as Sasha does, dropping her mic as the crowd consumes her.
I can’t do anything anymore, except sit here in this fucking apartment watching this fucking tape and when I wipe away the tears that won’t stop this blood gets in my eyes, and it’s her blood on my hands, not mine.
She saved us. Died for us. For our daughter.
And I all I can think about is killing myself, about joining her.
I should join her.
I can’t do it. I have to go on.
Something held back the knife, held back the white, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
But you know that, right baby? This whole tape’s for you, because no one else can really understand it. I want you to know the price we all paid to see you into this world, and how important you’ll become.
Can you feel me feel you against my belly? Are your nerves even turned on yet? I hope not, because there’s no reason for two of us to go through this.
A few months ago, when I first told Sasha about you, she was so excited you just wouldn’t believe it. You see, she knew exactly what was going on, and where you were headed. The very first time we met, when Jo introduced us, she looked me straight in the eye and said
You’re going to make a fine mother.
I didn’t know how to take that, because I was barely a teenager and wasn’t about to get pregnant, but now I really hope she’s right.
Anyway, when I told her that you were coming, she gave me a big hug and asked me what I was going to call you, boy or girl. I hadn’t even thought about it, and said so. While A-Bell was messing with Pyr, telling her adventures to this very tape recorder, Sasha simply replied
Ai. Name her Ai.
She had been studying up on her Japanese just for this occasion. Ai means love, and so I guess she wanted to make sure that you started off on the right foot.
I like that name. It reminds me of home.
Ai, as soon as we can, I want to take you back to Japan, so you can grow up the right way, like I did before I was stolen from it. I’m sure that Sasha would like that.
No. I’m sure that she will like it.
The tape is rewinding now, and I don’t need to watch it again.
The police say unsolved, the doctors say natural causes but it’s murder in the worst way, it’s everything hitting the fan and then some.
My hand is still throbbing, but she’s not dead on the floor anymore.
She’s gone into the white, and Pyr and I will be there soon enough to join her.
When you come out of me and know the world, you have to understand this moment, you have to realize what we’re fighting for. It’s us against them, and they have to win before the fight really begins. Before your fight starts, without me.
Lying on our new carpet in our new apartment in the ancient dark, I unwrap my hand and write revolution red with my fingers. I know the sign, and I’m afraid.
I mark my fists, my forehead, to load the final gun.
Circle X may be everywhere.
But so are we.