April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
I woke up data blind, deaf, and dumb to a car-alarm symphony conducted by apocapunks. My head felt totally thwapped, like I swallowed one too many junk obs, but when I tried to clean my cache all that came forth was static.
You must have felt it. The big throbbing rip and black nothing then white white white…
Yeah, I didn’t understand much then. Now….?
I don’t know…. it’s bad enough talking to myself like this, but there has to be someone out there listening, a stray head that didn’t get fried by an e-bomb. Or the e-bomb…. whatever, at this point I don’t give a fuck.
All I know is that I woke up in my own vomit, and my circuit clothes were dead. I couldn’t see shit past the shadow glare, but I managed to crawl across the leafy sidewalk and hide behind a dumpster before the city devoured itself.
Maybe it wasn’t as bad for you. You could have been watching TV or something, maybe jacking off in a closet to the latest teleporn, and cursed at your kids when the power fled…. at this point it doesn’t matter, huh? Everything’s different now.
Anyway, I still haven’t recovered from what happened that night, but like I was telling you before, all I care about now is just finding Susanna, and everything and everyone else can just go to hell….
O.K. Bad choice of words. But what am I supposed to say or think or do? The whole world turned inside out and me with it, and no one….
I’m sorry…. maybe this is a waste of time after all. If you can hear this, you probably got enough shit together that you don’t even need my help to make it through. I don’t know why I even bothered to slap this transmitter together….
Fuck it. Either you care, or you don’t. I’ll never know one way or the other.
So where was I? Yeah…. behind the dumpster, wallowing in crumpled beer cans and newspapers, and the streets soon filled with little kids chasing the end of the world ice cream truck, along with their brothers and sisters and parents and gramps and granny too…
As far as I can tell, I was out for at least an hour after it happened, so the sun was starting to set and people had enough time to put their home-grown riot gear on. There must have been some psychic emergency broadcast system action going, because everyone had just one thing on their mind – fuck the police, fuck CX, fuck NU, fuck everyone and everything, moving or not. Or maybe it was just me, still shaken after my OS crashed and infoskin grew cold.
I still can’t get over it…. 4 years wired erased in a nanosecond, and I had the shakes and the sweats and my head felt like it had already exploded. Everything was a shadowy blur, and it didn’t help that all the street lights and neon were dead and buried. You would think that it wouldn’t take that long to readjust to the h/n, but it took me days to walk without bumping into shit, to move at all without feeling like I was on invisible, shaky crutches.
Of course, I was still too freaked to realize this – always Mr. Uber e-punk, ready for mass decontextualization at the twitch of a finger – and so as soon as I could make out the traffic for the cars, I staggered up and into the stream of urban locusts, carried along for the ride.
I guess I was high on reality or something, because I kept turning to everyone I saw and gave them the full stare on, tripping on the lack of bio-data. No social, no DMV, no dems or financials or even a simple position history, they were silent strangers that had neither past nor predictable future. After a couple of minutes of bouncing from person to person, and getting shoved and slapped away because, this glow-in-the-dark girl carrying a car-battery came up to me and asked what the fuck was my problem, anyway? I babbled something about the black white white and she frowned, took my hand, and led me over to a side street. Sat me down by a vidbooth, hooked some jumper cables up to my thumb nodes, and gave me some pure DC to collect myself.
5 seconds of absolute clarity, enough for my OS to clean up and shut down properly, and when I came to she smiled and sat down beside me, making sure to free the alligators before I got burned. “Shit. Where’d you get etched, anyway? Someone sure fucked up bad.” I was too happy for the recharge to take offense, and besides, she was too cute to bitch at. Like I said before, from head to toe she was all shiny, one of those phosphorescent dermal tints that were big with the e-teens and various wannabes, and her clear-vinyl dress only accentuated the positive. Kind of like a ceiling star sticker come to life, only sexier and with green eyes that looked straight through you. I was too struck to flirt, so I just nodded and gathered my senses.
It wasn’t just me after all. Everything was totally fucked up, and the car-alarms just wouldn’t quit. I asked her if she knew what had happened, but she just frowned again and told me to follow her with the quickness. So we slipped back into the crowd, and weaved through the angry skatepunks, housewives and armchair athletes, who all seemed to be headed in the same direction – the mall.
I don’t know if I’m doing the whole scene justice. Running though a gaggle of suburban horsepeople of the apocalypse carrying broomstick torches and assault rifles, past abandoned, screaming cars with the keys left in ignitions, and there wasn’t a stray electron to be found. I’m not even going to speculate about how big the EM burst was, but it managed to fry all the ATMs and stoplights, not to mention anything and everything that moved, beep or blipped, and yet was not alive. Of course, it also crashed every e that was even remotely logged on, and the only thing that saved my synapses was the fact that I had a street etch without any hardware.
Not that I was blessing my chickens or anything, I was too busy trying to keep up with Shiny, who wasn’t in the mood for stragglers. I did my best to follow her glow as she shoved past the populouses, and after cutting across Commerce Dr. – in the distance the Yogurt Hut and Valumart were already aflame – we ran on the off ramp and across the freeway, making a bee-line for the Fairview Shopping Center.
I don’t know where you’re from, but every city worth its property tax has some mall equivalent, and Fairview was the same old cookie-cut piece of shit. Super Circle X anchor, with the typical fast-food faster-death joints, not to mention circuit clothiers and 3rd world electro-emporiums. When I was younger I used to bomb the side facing the freeway weekly, trying out my latest burners and honing my crew. Then they got video-cameras and aerosol alarms, so if you even as much pointed paint in their direction, it was you spread eagle on SWAT! or another syndicated police-state crimecom. Anyway, I hated Fairview with a passion, and would only go there to harass the security guards and pick up Susanna from work. San…
Shit. I haven’t heard from her in weeks, ever since….
I don’t know where she is. I don’t know if she even made it back into the h/n…
It’s no use. You’re not going to have the answer I need, so once I spill my guts it’s back to the streets, hitting all the squats and micro-reality stations that are bound to still exist, somewhere. Someone has to know what happened to her….
Fuck this. I’m in too much trouble to be worried and love-sick, and besides, San can take care of herself far better than I can….
So Shiny and I cut through the freeway trees and followed the shoplifter trail to Fairview, and all the while she filled me in on what I missed. Seems the CXNU got ahead of itself and flipped the switch before the collective could pounce, and one of the first casualties was Frisbee. I never thought she really had it in her, but when the smoke cleared she had flown off and took all of the electrons with. Shiny didn’t know what really happened next, except that Jenny led the counter-attack and the whole world was limping because.
At this point it doesn’t really matter. Things just are, and I didn’t understand this fully until we met up with the rest of the e’s behind the SCX. The last person I expected to see there was Isabel, and she wasn’t orgasmic to be in my presence either. She glared at me briefly before going back to work, fussing with a tangle of wires, half of which dangled from the roof of the building, 4 stories up. While Shiny went over to her to help and exchange notes, I sat down on the nearest loading dock, feeling nauseous. Part of it was because I wasn’t used to all of the static that was flying up, around, and through my head, but mostly I was weirded out to be around Izzy again. It had been almost 6 years since the last time we talked, and I wouldn’t say we parted ways on a high-note.
But you don’t even give a fuck, huh? Here I am, last will and testifying to you when all you want to know is why I’m saying anything in the first place, why I can’t lick my wounds like everyone else and just let things be. Well, I’ve always been a jerk that way, sucking on the past like a security blanket, even though it never makes me feel any better. The thing is that Izzy is one big walking billboard listing all of the things that I lost, all the ways that I’ve hurt the people I’ve cared for the most, and meeting up with her just brought back the pain.
It wasn’t always like this, at least I don’t think so. I really can’t pin down where things went wrong with me, but I guess I started to notice how much of a jerk I was becoming back when Masking Tape was starting up. Doug and I had just liberated what was to become the Treehouse from an athletic shoe sweat shop, that was raided by the INS and had to scatter quick. The building was condemned, but no one seemed to put up too much of a fuss when we broke in and converted it to an all-ages monster punk rally. No, the corporates started to smash heads only after the home town bands started to break big, and all the $3 tax-free admissions started to add up. Still, we had a little over 2 years of unrestricted freedom, and during that time I was convinced that I could do no wrong. Of course, I did nothing but wrong, but no one dared suggest that then, because I was still tight was Doug and anyone passed basking in his glow.
He first started Masking Tape on a drunken dare cutting French 4 class; we were tagging the back of the Circle X over by the High School, and a gaggle of ripe girls passed us on the way home from 6th period. I picked out Izzy, all of 15 and already resplendent, and boasted that I could win her over by the sheer force of my artistic talent, which then consisted mainly of exhibits on the backs of buses and street signs. He countered by stating flat out that no girl in her right mind ever fell for an artist unless he was a total jerk or dead, and thus I was already half way to home plate. I let him get away with that, but not without first dragging him over to stalk the girl-pack.
We caught up with them a few blocks down, and I put on my best face and tried to ingrate myself with the crowd. I was far from the big man on campus, but outpunk enough that Isabel, Patricia and Becky had already taken notice, in a 9th grade sort of way. Meaning that I couldn’t help but prove sly giggles with my sophomore status, and entertaining tales of the street that were miles from the nearest salt lick. I was so enthusiastically full of myself that they bit, even more so with Doug because he looked liked a centerfold from some skater rag, all scabbed, scruffy and basically irresistible.
Somehow that day we ended up at Pat’s house, and camped out in her garage drinking homemade lemonade while we flirted awkwardly. Doug insinuated that he was starting a band, which I hadn’t heard shit about until then – since he had made it up just to impress. Then Becky and Pat ran inside and came out swinging guitars, and before we knew it Masking Tape was born. Well not exactly, because it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I quit (more like was thrown out) due to a complete lack of musical talent, and Susanna found her way to one of our practices. I can’t say that I was struck by her immediately, partially because I was too busy chasing after Izzy, but mostly because I was intimidated by her presence, her power. As soon as she took the mike during her “audition” – which was more like Friday night and a stray 6-pack, I wanted to run out of the room then and there, because I didn’t feel worthy of her voice. It was too honest and primal, like a baby’s laugh or the serenade of a grizzled woman spare changing in front of the supermarket. Doug gave her the mike and told her to “follow my lead”, but as soon as Isabel started tapping her cymbals San was already….
Fuck, I’m hopeless. I promised myself that I would just stick with the factoids here, and not float down the river singing songs of my stupidity. This’ll probably be the first and last time anyone will ever hear my side of the story, and I’m already wasting it and my batteries ranting about the good old days. That time and place is gone forever, as am I at this point. Before, I was Brian Thomas, stupid-ass Phone the high school dropout street artist, and now I’m just another cockroach crawling out from under the ashes.
I’m the first one to admit that it’s over, but the last one that’s going to accept it. Somehow along the line I listened to Sasha one too many times, and became convinced that we actually could make a difference, that I had a purpose above and beyond painting Suspender concert posters and getting on San’s nerves. But Sasha died years ago, and took my dreams with her. Slide Rule School and the collective might still live on, but it’s no big secret who’s winning the war.
That’s what I found out the hard way on the night the world ended, as Isabel and Shiny stole the Fairview Mall for one last hack. By the time some e managed to pop open the back door, everyone had made it across the overpass and was already tearing things apart. The e’s started to go inside, and Shiny motioned for me to follow, but I stood transfixed, watching toddlers raised on the shoulders of their parents cheer greedily as the strip mall was consumed by a sea of softball bats and shopping carts. The Super Circle X was the main attraction, and the night shift was carried out into the parking lot – a shaking, red mass of minimum-wage earners surrounded by ex-consumers, pleading for forgiveness. An old Chinese woman, dressed in a white nightgown and pink slippers, slowly approached one of the cashiers and raised her finger angrily. “Stop your whining son, and face judgement! Our day has finally come!”
Before his co-workers could stop him, he rose up to face her and shouted back at those assembled. “This is insane! What have we ever done to you?”
Then she reached into her purse, pulled out a pistol, and aimed it right at his head. “Jesus came on TV tonight and told me to seek out the mark of Satan, and wipe it clean from the face of the earth.” It looked like she pointed right at the X on his baseball cap, but after she pulled the trigger her accuracy didn’t matter all that much. His head jerked back and he slumped down to the pavement, bleeding red upon red.
She stood over his body, her arm still shaking, and the crowd started to back away as if suddenly broken out of a trance. She then kneeled down next to her still twitching victim, looked skyward as if to ask for forgiveness, and turned the gun on herself.
That second shot traveled through every last cellular phone golfer and former market segment, and they all suddenly rushed forward to obey the starting pistol to long-awaited anarchy. I didn’t stick around long enough to know where their gunfire was directed, who was screaming at whom, or exactly how brightly the imagined enemy was allowed to burn. I just ran inside, through a long access tunnel and up some stairs into administration. I felt my way around shadowy cubicles and copy machines, until I spied Shiny as she and Izzy picked apart the mainframe.
“Make yourself useful for once, and hold this.” Gave me a flashlight, which I steadied as she panned for gold. Soon enough Izzy pulled out a little black cube, which she quickly shoved in her satchel before replacing it with something similar, yet far from sanctioned. I had no idea what was up exactly, but I was smart enough to tag along as Shiny and crew suddenly shot for the entrance to the mall proper, Izzy barking cryptic instructions all the way.
Usually Fairview was one big consumer-bacteria culture, with ever multiplying masses of sex crazed teenagers claiming all unoccupied space for their stand-around swagger. Of course, they had to compete with the radioactive nuclear families, with 2.4 kids orbiting the harried mothers, pops usually no where to be found. That night, however, we entered the football-stadium sized center part to find a virtual ghost town, save for a few straggling night managers quickly rolling down the bars before the outside came rushing in. Over by the SCX entrance to the mall there were hundreds of security guards, decked out in their finest Christmas-crowd control gear, but the shoddy bars and fencing which usually held out the stray shelf-grazer were buckling under the force of disgruntled office workers and burger flippers. It was obvious that the barricades were only going to last a few more minutes, but Izzy and crew weren’t fazed at all, and instead started to unload a bunch of crap by the central water fountain and fucked-up abstract sculpture of “Our American Heritage,” which looked like a bunch of squirrels devouring a large chicken.
“Come on, we only have 3 minutes!” Shiny was spreading a big mess of aluminum foil over the black and white tiles, while a particularly anemic looking e reached in his backpack and pulled out what looked like a gray, translucent beach towel. The guards were too busy with the rioters to notice our activity, and I crouched nervously by the fountain while Izzy slipped out of her black overalls and Intruder Alert! t-shirt, down to her iridescent datasuit. As always she was a sculptured chunk of the sun, hard and smooth yet universally maternal, and I couldn’t help but stare, remembering the nights I explored her body, vowing never to leave and lying through my teeth. Before I had a chance to reminisce any further, though, she suddenly turned up to look at the ceiling, and what happened next quickly got my mind out between my legs. A piece of the air was missing.
Right below the “Welcome to Fairview” banner, a circular gap in everything suddenly appeared, a beyond-white throbbing other that slipped in out of nowhere and started floating downwards, towards Isabel. My first reaction was to rush forward to protect her from the light, but Shiny held me back as the glowing piece of heaven seemed to reach for Izzy’s outstretched hands. The other e’s were frantically fussing with tech even I couldn’t place, and at the moment her fingertips intruded into the beyond, everything seemed to reverse, like a film-negative only 3-dimensional. We were all touching the white with her, and my heart skipped an infinite beat as the mall faded out from vision, along with Isabel and Shiny and all thoughts of existence. It was that moment just before the pixels right themselves when you’re logging on, and you’re nothing but a diffuse data-cloud, all mind and power and potential. That infantessimile bit of infinite awareness suddenly rushed though every cell in my body, and I felt more complete, more whole, than anything ever. Better than sex, than painting the perfect stroke, than lying in the sun and just being alive. It was the bestest, and I wanted it all, forever.
After I don’t know how long of floating in bliss, the veil suddenly lifted and the world flipped back to its normal fucked-up state. It took me a few seconds to readjust, and then I found myself holding on to Shiny, facing her back and head resting upon her shoulder. She must have came to about the same time I did, because she suddenly jerked away and rushed forward to who I thought was Izzy, lying on the bed of crumpled aluminum and wrapped up in the clear cloth. All the e’s were frantically collecting their materials and whisper-yelling a fast retreat, for just as the white left the mall, so too did the barrier between the shadowy interior and the chaos beyond. I was jerked into action by a storm of gunfire and what sounded like a marathon of lawn mowers, and I quickly rushed to the body on the floor, calling for Isabel. Pushed aside Shiny and reached for her shoulder, only to draw back in horror.
It wasn’t Izzy in the blanket. It was A-Bell, naked and screaming.
“Get off of me, we have to leave now!” She threw my arm aside, grabbed Izzy’s clothes and satchel off the floor, and rushed for the door we came in from. I was too stunned to move, and so Shiny yanked me away from the floor and forced me to flee, my hands latched on a large strip of foil that trailed behind me.
I still don’t understand how they did it, or why. But A-Bell was leading us to safety, and it wasn’t the same A-Bell I knew. She seemed older and harder, like having just crawled out of the desert or something, and her eyes…. they looked right through me, right into my essence, shooting daggers of the white she sprang from. I didn’t have time to examine her any further, as we jumped down the stairs and out into the night, the mall behind us half-shrouded in flames that leapt up into the starry sky.
After we cleared the parking lot, A-Bell stopped by the side of the freeway and slipped on Izzy’s clothes, which barely fit her. The same e that had the towel then pulled out some boots from his bag, which she stepped in barefoot and didn’t bother to tie. While I caught my breath and crumpled my aluminum souvenir, she silently consulted with Shiny, who illuminated all those assembled. I couldn’t help but stare at the two of them, at how beautifully strong A-Bell was. I always had a thing for her, even though I knew she could never want me in the same way I wanted her. More than anyone else she knew how bad I could be, and although she put me through total hell for what had happened with Izzy years ago, she never gave up on me completely, and was one of the few friends I could count on to be honest yet loving. I wanted to walk over and thank her for everything, but before I could she kissed Shiny briefly, gathered Izzy’s things, and ran across the frozen lanes of cars, back to what was left of the city. The other e’s followed, and after a few moments they had disappeared from sight behind the wall of trees.
All I could manage was a stammered “where’s Isabel….”, which Shiny caught and addressed with a forceful hug. She said she would explain later, that she would take care of everything, but that right then we had to leave town, and leave it quickly. I just nodded and followed her down the bumpy freeway, watching Fairview implode upon itself in the distance.
After jogging a mile to the next exit, we took the long way around a police barricade, and hit the bike rack by Central library. Shiny put her universal keys to good use and scored a rickety red one-speed, and was kind enough to set me up with a muddy mountain bike. Then we meandered down past the train tracks – heading against the current of the homeless and otherwise disenfrachized, no doubt marching downtown to reclaim their 2 million cents worth – and found a cruddy warehouse to crash at. By this time it was about 11, but I guess the excitement had gotten to me, because I immediately found an inviting pile of yellowed newspapers and cardboard fragments and settled in for the night.
Well, more like passed out, because the next thing I knew a few hours had snuck, and Shiny was shaking me awake. “Hey, you fuck! We have to go!” I was all who what where but soon got the point as the corrugated metal walls started to rumble – it sounded like a herd of mute elephants were running past. Surprisingly, she wasn’t shining anymore – her clear dress was hidden by a dark poncho, and her head covered with a fuzzy blue cap with ear flaps. I didn’t even bother to ask about the change, and just followed her flashlight into the alley. While we rode away I got a quick peek at the source of the racket – a huge, dark, metallic mass, more like a mountain than a tank, advancing down the train tracks and towards town. Reinforcements.
To be honest, I’m not sure what the fuck happened next. We were almost countrified, over by the cereal factory, and I could barely keep up with Shiny (she claimed my 12 speed while I was asleep). Every so often I looked over my shoulder at the huge finger of smoke that pointed at the sky, severing the Milky Way before diffusing into a sea of shadow, and I kept trying to logon and send a v-prox back into the middle of the inferno. Some habits die hard, I guess – ever since my first etching I always wanted to be where the action was, at least virtually. But that night all circuits were permanently busy, and I was totally pissed-off because.
Anyway, the last time I peeked back at what we were running from, it looked like the sun was rising up from the growing ashes. I yelled at Shiny to stop and look and tell me what the fuck was going on, and once she turned around she totally freaked out, and started pedaling even faster. “Don’t look! Just go!” But I’m a stupid ass, always have been and always will be, so my legs stopped with the up-down and I stood transfixed, watching the light expand and wipe away the darkness. It was like yanking the chain in a closet, and everything, from the trees along the side of the road, to the cars abandoned in drainage ditches, was bleeding harsh shadows as the white leapt forward.
As soon as I realized that whatever was happening wasn’t just isolated to downtown, and was moving towards us, I quickly turned my red piece of crap around and pumped for dear life. But before I had traveled a hundred feet, a shimmering wave of warm whiteness rushed past my face, and the road in front of me dissolved into nothingness.
Where were you when the end finally came? Do you even remember the transition, how the world was devoured by the infinite other slipping out of every star in the sky and hole in the ground? Odds are you think I’ve totally lost it, because you woke up the next morning with a slight headache and coffee-slapped yourself silly. Or maybe you watched all insides turn out, and cried or laughed or peed in your pants as everything was made pure again. Not that it even matters any more – the end came, and went, and left me bruised and tangled up in my bicycle chain on the side of the road.
I didn’t even bother getting up from the ground, and just stared up at the night sky for a while, trying to make up my own constellations. By the time I got to the three-headed snail Shiny came rolling back for me, sat her bike down, and joined me in the dirt. She didn’t have to say a word, because in that universal moment of transition everything became clear, like a baby grabbing onto your finger and just pulling and smiling and drooling up a storm. We just lay there next to each other, wallowing in the afterglow of swimming in God’s tears, and after what seemed like forever she turned her still-glowing face to me and kissed me softly on the nose. “Come on, lazy. We have a ways to go yet.”
With that, she helped me rechain my bike, and patched up a big gash on my knee that I didn’t even notice until then. Left her poncho and hat by the side of the road, and lit our way down the highway, past the crickets and frogs dueling for our attention. After a few miles we turned left at a golf course, and rode into one of those suburban housing developments where every address looks the same. Circled around a bit avoiding any number of dead-end streets, and finally pulled up at a white number with brown trim. Left our bikes in the driveway, stepped over a sleeping cat, and Shiny strode up to the front door, gave me a shhhhhh finger, and entered with a key twist.
Yeah, I followed. Walked past a pillowed couch, turned left and creeped up the stairs behind her, and entered the room she nodded towards. She quickly rushed past, closed the door behind me, and waved me over to a purple bean bag in the far corner. I sat, and tried not to stare too hard as she took off her dress, dug around the closet for a while, and put on some gray sweats. Then she sat down in front of me, lit a few candles, and filled me in on what I’d missed.
Seems I didn’t know shit from toilet paper after all. Just because Susanna was in the collective, and she and I were together, I always assumed that she gave me the real deal, the secret board game instructions that always lead past go. But by the time Shiny was done with me, and the real sun peeked in through transplanted trees and venetian blinds, every little twitch and moan that San rubbed into me as she slept added up into one, huge mosaic of spare change and bottle tops. It’s the kind of grand design that only can be understood in retrospect, and before I had time to fully contemplate it Shiny was pushing me out the garage door, promising to get back to me when the time was right. Of course, she and I both knew far too well that the right time had long since past, and the only thing which lay ahead was the infinite stasis of long-wished for future present.
OK…. I’m being ultra vague, but at this point can you blame me? The net is twitching back into life, CXNU is already rising from the ashes, and every last e is being hunted down one by one. I’ve basically staple-gunned a dart board to my chest by sending out this message, because all the strong encryption in the world won’t stop the universal keys they pick-pocketed from the collective. In a few days they’ll find this transmitter, and in a few weeks I’ll be laying face down in a garbage dump, swimming forever in crumpled snot rags and microwave dinner boxes. Yeah, I’ve already backed myself up, but diffuse data-cloud consciousness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Eventually they’ll wipe all my v-proxes away too, and the only sign left of my existence will be stray tags and junkshop 7″ sleeves.
At this point I don’t give a fuck. All I care about is finding San, and apologizing one last time for all the ways I messed up, the infinite-plus times I held her hand and knew, just knew, that she was so much more important than I, yet I never told her, elevating my fool self instead. I always was the sarcastic lead of the big man sitcom, never willing to settle down, to zip up my pants and throw away the all-life sucker, and at this point I can’t blame her for leaving. I can’t blame her for anything, except walking away without smashing me to a pulp first. But she loved me too much for that, loved herself too much to stoop to my level.
It should be obvious by now that I’m a self-obsessed shit that never takes no for an answer. From the get-go she knew that it would end this way; as we rode home from the Treehouse that first night I wasn’t consciously trying to betray her trust, but it was obvious that the last thing she expected was for Isabel’s boyfriend to hit on her. Or maybe it was the first thing, the only thing anyone ever expected from me, for why else would she play along, hitting me right back as we devoured each other in her back yard, freeing dandelion seeds and scaring moths in our reckless bliss. We were the first two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly out of a jumbled box with no cover picture, and every last kiss and suck and fuck was a desperate attempt to smooth away all the rough edges, so that nothing could intrude into our forced union. It was all one big love game show, where she screamed maybe in the starlight, and I countered with always, never.
From that moment on I was held captive by her whisper-screams, and she by my insistence that Isabel meant nothing to me, and that nothing was great than my San, my sun, that lit up the world mirror-like, reflecting back only purity and beauty. It was one big joke, of course, for she was just as tainted as I, just as selfish and hurtful, only her darkness came from love, while mine from divorce and abuse and closeted tears. I shared my shadow with only her, and she tried desperately to replace it with light and hope, but in the end I would have nothing of it. All I knew how to ask for was love as sex, love as hate, love as anything but what I really deserved, and that’s why I kicked aside Isabel, that’s why I openly cheated on everyone, that’s why everything changed when Sasha died.
When we were preparing for the last Suspender show, Sasha sat me down and told me her grand unified CXNU theory, which started with cherry freezies and lead to the universal 666. I tried to laugh it off, to just follow instructions and wait for Susanna to get back into town, but she wouldn’t let me out of her grasp. “You’ll die in the shadow of Circle X, like all the other self-satisfied jerks who just don’t want to learn, to understand the truth.” I asked her what that truth was, and then she slapped me in the face and spray painted a huge, red, question mark on my favorite Fire Escape t-shirt. “When we meet again, you’ll know.” A few hours later she was dead on the floor, and my idiocy died with her. It goes without saying that unlike A-Bell, Sasha never gave me the benefit of the doubt, only the benefit to doubt. That, and the realization that love doesn’t conquer all; love is all.
I know, coming from me that sounds as solid as a whiffle ball, but laying here wrapped up in electric guitar strings and duck tape, sending my last will and testament out into the static, the only thing I know for certain is that love is something I never quite got the hang of. When I was little I always gave too much; even after dad traded mom in for a new wife and life I couldn’t even consider thinking of him as anything less than god-like. Every weekend he would take me out for video games and pizza, and when the big puberty demon came calling he sat me down and told me one of those secret father stories, where lust comes first and responsibility over time. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but I sucked up that imperfection with a twisty-straw, cookie-cut my adolescence into not the moral of his stories, but the plot. Every last girl that came and went as I did was my way of showing him how much of a man he wasn’t, only it came out as how much of a man I wanted to be. I blamed myself for his abusiveness, for all the times I came home to my mother cradled against the phone crying. How could it be his fault when he was just following his bliss, the natural compass that always led towards the next conquest?
No, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just one big babble, a stressed out nothing that tried his best and failed miserably. After Sasha left I totally straightened up and treated San right, but it was too little, too late. She left me for Frisbee and the collective, for the final promise of definite and irrecovable change, and I tagged along for the ride, following in her electronic shadow as best I could.
It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been apart, yet she never totally turned away from me. Whenever I came crying she would sit me down and remind me of the night Isabel found out about us, when I cowered between the two of them and begged forgiveness. Izzy had just come home early from work only to find San singing in the shower, while I lay steaming and self-satisfied between the tossed blankets. Instead of simply killing me straight out, she casually strolled into the bathroom and took a piss while San wiped away my sin. Of course she thought it was me on the toilet, and so she proceeded to tell Izzy that she had to leave soon, before Isabel came home. Izzy gave her best approximation of my mumble-grunt yeah, flushed the toilet in spite, and walked into our bedroom like nothing was up.
“Oh hey, sorry I didn’t call, but I thought I’d surprise you by coming home early.” I cringed, and prayed for lightning with my name on it. “See, I’m leaving on a little trip,” she said, gathering up her clothes by the handful and piling them in the middle of the room, “and I just stopped by to wish you eternal torment in hell.” I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, and just closed my eyes as Susanna filled the apartment with her songs of cleanliness, sneaking past the bathroom door. “Ummm…. Phone dear? Have you seen my duffle bag?” I pointed her the right direction, and as she stuffed her dresses and t-shirts into it I quickly tried to make up the perfect anti-excuse. Something like it’s exactly what it looks like, only less so. Before I could even say a word she smiled, walked over to the bed, and kissed me on the forehead while I trembled. “You know, you’re nothing if not consistent. Given time, I’ll learn how to hate that about you, too.” Gathered the last of her things and walked away, as I quickly got off my ass and ran after her. By this time Susanna walked out of the bathroom wrapped up in Izzy’s favorite towel – a Return of the Jedi beach model – and found me balled up at the foot of the front door, trying to block the inevitable. To be honest, I don’t remember what passed between the two of them after that, only that Susanna helped Izzy carry her stuff to the subcompact, and the two of them drove away together.
Eventually Susanna came back, with a note from Isabel and her own ultimatum. From this point onward I was hers to do with as she wished, and if I ever put up a fuss, ever fucked her over even once, she would personally see to it that I got more than what was coming to me. Actually, there was far more to it than that, but I didn’t find out the full extent of their agreement until Shiny filled me in. Basically, the two of them still had use of me, but for little more than a vowel in the ultimate scrabble game. So San pretended that everything was cool, that love indeed would conquer all, and that in the end she and I would be together forever. I bought it in bulk bin bliss, and swore to myself then and there to straighten up, and only cheat on her a little. The rest is history, is me the ship in the Circle X water bottle, and Frisbee the avenging angel spitting up bitter book bits.
It’s kind of funny, actually. Just before the big blackout, I was telling Susanna about my grand artistic plans for the future. For the past year I’ve been working on this massive virtual graffiti project, filling up all unused bandwidth with viral tags. If all went as planned, my mark would fill up every last nook and cranny of the net on a particular day of the year, effectively shutting down all packets except those blessed with the right headers, the one’s I specified. I was asking San for a suggestion as to what day to choose for my experiment, and she laughed at me half way across the world. “Well, I don’t think it matters all that much. Someone’s already beat you to it.” I asked her what she meant, only to be hit by final data tsunami, all black nothing then white white white…
OK, so I wasn’t laughing then. But now….
Fuck it. The car batteries are almost drained, and I haven’t even had breakfast yet. In the end, there’s no way that I can make you see through my stigmatism, so I might as well throw the toaster in the bathtub. But before I log off again, for the last time, there’s one last story I want to tell. It’s short, not that sweet, and potentially incriminating, but I never let that stop me before.
So. The first time I met Frisbee she and Jenny were still together, desperately scowering the city for a space suitably run-down enough for the antizine HQ. I heard about their search from Spazz – he was totally pissed about what had happened with Laura, but not enough that he wasn’t above helping her out – and he asked me to secretly see what I could do for the two of them. Anyway, eventually I came up with the perfect place, used to be a tennis ball factory. It was over by the river, long since condemned and left to gather spray paint, and it was the ultimate battleground for any and all turf wars. For every significant moment in my life there was an appropriate mark somewhere on that building, and when the two of them started to squat I pointed out each one with reverence. Once I got to the burner that Susanna and I made together – a few weeks after we started seeing each other behind Isabel’s back, during the first Masking Tape tour – Frisbee stared long and hard at the convoluted message, trying to figure out what it said. “Looks like a big bunny rabbit eating a bigger carrot.” Jenny disagreed, insisting that it was an obscure map to buried treasure, with more than one x marking the spot. At that point I was too embarrassed to tell them that I had actually forgotten what it said, because San and I were high out of our minds that night, picking up cans at random and spraying the wall, and each other, in an neverending, sleepy eyed giggle fit. When we woke up the next morning to the sound of hungry sea gulls, all that remained of the night before was a wall full of cryptic figures and dripped trails separating us from the world. Looking back on it then, I told Jenny and Frisbee that it was a self-portrait, and then they nodded and smiled to each other like it was obvious all along.
Later on that week was the grand opening house-burning bash, and when I got there the whole factory, inside and out, was painted over black. I asked Frisbee what the fuck was up, and she smiled while pouring the gasoline: “Fuck self-portraits. Some things just aren’t meant to be captured.”
She let me light the first match.
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
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antizine number 5 is made by Laura Watson and Jenny Samuels, and it’s cool if you copy some of it as long as credit is given. Fuck that, if you like this enough to copy it, then you must like us enough to send cash so we can subsidize future plagiarism. While you’re at it, Laura likes Japanese stuff and Jenny lives for weird 7″s, so include appropriate gifts with your guilt money. Shit, wouldn’t it be easier just to buy extra copies and stop this senseless cycle once and for all? Speaking of which, back issues are available for $1.00, except for issue 2 which we told Flexidick we wouldn’t print any more of, due to the fact that they broke up and all, not to mention they came off as real jerks in their interview, especially when the lead singer called Jo from Intruder Alert! a “gutter punk bitch”, which is 2/3 false and rude anyway. Which reminds me, the Intruder Alert! interview this issue is available on tape, and anyone interested can send us a blank and some return stamps. O.K.? Cool. Oh yeah, our address is P.O. Box 11501, Berkeley, CA 94701, which isn’t really ours, but Pat is fucking killer, and sends us the mail every other week. Anything else? Well, Jenny REALLY wants pictures of small children holding water hoses (see next issue), and Laura (that’s me) is in the market for a glow-in-the-dark frisbee on the cheap. Our b-days are coming up, so there’s no excuse for unwanted gifts, now is there?
J U N K
ENVELOPES WITH STUFF INSIDE
THOMASON STILL SUCKS
Jenny and Laura
fuck up your shoes!
INTRUDER ALERT! WANTS TO KILL YOUR PLANTS
Laura, Jenny took the pictures
Kick the door!
GET OUT OF OUR SHIT
Laura and Jenny
five through ten aren’t included because we ran out of money (sorry).
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ENVELOPES WITH STUFF INSIDE (!)
you can send things too, to
antizine, P.O. Box 11501
Berkeley, CA 94701
You girls rule (Laura!). After I read the first paragraph of “WHY WE HATE YOU PARTICULARLY” I couldn’t help but fall off my toilet laughing! (I keep all of your books near it for easy access). When I showed my friends what you wrote they didn’t laugh at all (actually, they got really pissed), I guess because when they go to Insert Coin they play foozball instead of video games. I would never be caught dead near one of those tables, so when you talked about how you wanted to throw one of the balls in someone’s mouth and yell “goal” I kept imagining doing this to my friends. I’ve enclosed a comic I drew of how my friends would look if I did this. I hope you like it (Laura!). Oh, and can you print Flexidick’s address one more time, my issue #2 fell in the toilet and I had to throw it out. Thanks.
We (Laura!) think you’re an idiot. When we were talking about hating our readers personally, we meant it in a general all-encompasing sense. It was not meant to be funny, and the fact that you found it so tells us that it struck a familiar chord within yourself. Which is good, since after reading your letter we (Laura!) have decided that we actually did have you in mind when we wrote the piece, so in all the copies we have left we (Laura!) crossed out “you” and put in “Bob”, to immortialize your stupidity, and to make sure that future generations know how much we dislike you, for the simple fact than you wrote a stupid letter for no apparent reason, othen than that a sit on a john inspired you to do so. We did like your comic, though, after a little bit of editing on our (Laura’s!) part [see idiotic scribblings on p. 4]. And finally, find Flexidick your own fucking self, prick.
Sorry I haven’t written for awhile but I’ve been caught up in a little computer mess; when I was entering the text of antizine 1 on the Phonecom bulletin board, some narc got it erased because it “didn’t meet Phonecom standards”, and then voided my logon so I had to dig up another. Fuck Phonecom (it goes without saying) because you have some real cool shit going on, especially your rant in #3 on your first week on the street, which had me really freaked out for you even though I knew everthing was O.K. in the end. That, and Jenny’s review of the Intruder Alert! 7″ were enough to justify de-stapling my issue and photocopying the fuck out of it, selling it to everyone I knew. I’ve enclosed the proceeds, except for a few bucks which I spent on some floppy disks – I’m going to take ASCII copies of all the anti’s so far and give them to my connection at U, who’ll put it on their network no problem.
Anyway, I’ll be in the area for the next couple of months, and if you need any “dumpstering” done then you know where to reach me.
P.S. Seriously come over soon; there’s something I have to show you on my computer.
Where’ve you been girl? I’ve been itching to give you that buzz you wanted (after Jenny dyes your hair blue, that is) but you’ve been off kami knows where fucking up phones and swapping free electrons. You left your backpack at Jenny’s and I’ve been looking at that cardboard box all duck-taped up, trying to imagine what better not be inside. Are you sure you know what you’re getting into? Word in the booth has it that they’re almost onto the scam, and you better change the codes when they do (if you know what I mean). Anyway, you’re the one that better come over soon, for more reason than one (hint!). And for the reader folk, contact Sasha at our P.O. if you need her “services”. Cool.
What is your fascination with Intruder Alert! anyway? They’re not really punk and nowhere near Vacuum Chamber, so basically they suck. Besides, just because Joan is your buddy doesn’t mean she’s worth writing about all the time; I don’t give a fuck if she got a new apartment and a new boyfriend (Issue 2) recorded on Flake with April from Potato Power (Issue 3) or used to be in Eskimo Guy (last issue). Write about someone you don’t know for once, and spare us the long naps between covers.
P.S. Laura is the only one that sucks. Jenny is cool.
Frank: You’re not really drunk and nowhere near a vacuum cleaner, so go get a Airco and a 6-pack and suck your brain out of your ass. Besides, you used to be Jo’s boy but she dumped you quick because the only thing between your legs is your thighs, so you couldn’t give a fuck if you wanted to. I don’t know you, so spare me the long slaps between your covers.
Lots of hate, Jenny
Thanks go to Annabelle, Cathy, Wallet, and 23 for writing really cool letters that are truly inspiring, yet not enough for us to find space for them this issue. We’ll write back, though. Now for what we promised on Page 2:
[Sorry, I can’t ASCII the “Bob” drawing, but it was hilarious – Sasha]
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THOMASON STILL SUCKS
Laura and Jenny
The other day when I was at the Circle X picking up some expensive Flavumm (watermelon, of course) I saw Bill, the head Youth Programmer at Thomason Memorial Hospital, reading through Today’s Detective, even though the sign clearly said “Browsing = Buying.” I felt like snitching to the girl behind the counter (Susan, the one from Eskimo Guy and Slow Cone) but that would probably mean him seeing me, and the last thing I wanted were those eyes to look upon me again. It didn’t matter that he had no power over me, that he no longer controlled my meals and medication and pocket change (along with my doctor, but he had her in his pocket in more ways than one, which I’ll get to later), but the mere fact that I escaped out of the hellhole he ran, Jenny at my side, was enough that I still freak out whenever an ambulance or cop passes, scared that they’ll pull over and drag me away. Of course, since part of our way out of Thomason involved breaking the window of Bills’s car with a ceramic 8-Ball, I really didn’t think that he would be happy to see me, at least not in the right way. So I threw Susan a quarter and slipped out the door, relieved that he didn’t take a second glance.
When Frisbee came home that day I was taking a look at some prints that I did up at U – Ray let me use the darkroom because I was a friend of his girlfriend – and I remember specifically that I was holding the picture I took of Frisbee after I dyed her hair purple-green – the one where she’s sticking her head in the freezer, digging for the lemonade pops we made the night before – because when she walked in the door blowing a big red bubble, her roots were starting to show and I couldn’t help but notice how well the black and white captured reality without reflecting it, how shades of gray could evoke more than color. After the bubble sagged to her chin and she scooped it back up with her tongue, the first words out of her mouth were “8-Ball” and I knew she meant William, I could see that she had Thomason all over her, like aphid spit on a summer’s day. What I couldn’t see was the little filing cabinet in her head that contained her secret feelings – the one she shut tightly in the quiet room that night when they ordered her locked in, the night that none of us slept due to her hoarse screaming through the walls – starting to budge open. “I want to go back,” she said, “I need to look through the fences on the right side, the outside, and not be afraid.”
When we got off the bus about three blocks from T-son my right arm started to shake, it felt like someone was grabbing onto it, rubbing alcohol into the vein so the drugs would poke through smoother. I couldn’t help but rub the spot that was tracked neatly into a tight circle, months old yet still visible, and because it was hot Jenny looked at me funny, thinking that I was cold or something. When I saw the first fence, though, it really did feel cold, like a pillowly cloud had hid away the sun, and as the doctors’ cars sat shiny in the parking lot, insurance dollars on wheels, my first instinct was to pick up the nearest rock and heave it towards the most expensive looking one. By then my arm was twitching so much that it was way off, landing on the newly mowed lawn, the one that the patients can’t see.
Frisbee was starting to freak out, so I grabbed her hand and told her we better go. She not only stood her ground, but started to walk towards the door. “What the fuck are you doing!” I screamed, but she was totally zoned, marching up past the hedges and American flag, approaching the lobby. I started to shiver but she squeezed my hand and whispered “just follow my lead. we’re cool.” But we weren’t. We were heading right back into the mouth of what we ran away from, and if anyone saw us the would snatch us right back. We walked past the receptionist, and I almost peed in my pants. Illyana was walking out of the bathroom.
I didn’t know what I was doing but I had to do it anyway, so when I saw Illyana – the bitch that put me in the quiet room in the first place – I yanked Jenny over into the phone booth. What are we going to do? she shook and I sat there running my fingers through the wall scratches I made when I was on Unit 1, when I was this close to the door yet still couldn’t walk through it. I promised Arnold I’d come back for him, and Jenny looked like she wanted to strangle me. I’m not going to have any part in this! They’re going to catch your ass and I’ll never…. She started to cry, but held it back before the lobby guard got suspicious. You better come back to me, and with that she left the booth and walked back out the door.
I hated to leave Frisbee like that, but she was totally insane then. Legally Thomason had us both dead to rights; we we’re their property until our doctors signed us out. It was like we were runaway slaves coming back to the plantation or something, and I wasn’t about to be whipped back into shape. But Frisbee… well, I couldn’t stand to see her locked back up, I knew that it would kill her. I had to do something, so I walked out the parking lot and snuck around back, where there were only double fences.
I had to think quick so I soon realized that since Illyana was wandering around it was free-time, and if I hit things just right I could snag Arnold before anyone knew any better. So I went over to the secretary – who was new, thank God – and signed in as a visitor. She didn’t give a fuck since she was busy reading a romance novel, and gave me the blue, plastic just-passing-through bracelet. I figured I had around 3 minutes to find him before I was caught, so the first thing I did was head for the pool room – taking the sneaky route, of course. I cut through the interior patio, walking this close to a jog, and ducked between the shrubs when Towel passed by on the inside. She was my totally anal-weird roommate before I left, and if she saw me I would be completely fucked. Once she passed I ran into the pool room, and realized that I had the worst luck in the world. Quarter was there.
It didn’t take long to hop the outer fence, but I had to put my jacket over the barbed wire so I wouldn’t get too cut up. Once I gathered my bearings I saw Arnold over on the basketball courts, shooting free-throws alone like he always did, so he could “ponder the fucking ultimate, you know?” I didn’t, but Frisbee always did – they were fairly inseperable for the first few months she was here, and even though she would never admit it something was definately going on between them. It could see that Big Bill had given him a haircut recently, because his dark brown head was particularly shiny. Picked up a rock – we always used to throw rocks at the fences, go figure – and tossed it over his way. Made sure to give a shhhhhh finger even before he turned around, because there always were spies among us. Seeing me made him miss his shot.
Fuck me! Are you completely manic, Laura? Get out of here! Shit, Doug was the last person I wanted to see right now. Quarter, where’s Arnold? Basketball… He put down the cue. Listen. If Big Bill finds you he’s going to have you in restraints forever. Fuck him, I don’t care anymore. He shook his head, reached under the pool table, and pulled out some wire cutters, ripping off the duck tape before he handed them to me. You’re free, and that’s the way it should be. Go. Don’t come back again. I could tell he was this close to freaking out, so I gave him a smile that I frankly don’t understand, and ran out into the back. Ducked around the records building, and saw Arnold over by the fence, talking to Jenny.
He didn’t wan’t to go. I couldn’t understand, but he told me that the program was really helping him to get clean, that he had promised his parents he would see it through. So when Frisbee ran up to him, giving a big hug and kiss, he frowned at her and said “I can’t do this.” “But I came back for you! We promised each other!” He lowered his head as he wrapped his fingers between hers, and whispered “you promised. I need to stay.” Frisbee stood staring at him for about 30 seconds, her face tensing up all the while. She took a last look around the yard, and then placed the wire cutters in his hands. “Just in case,” and she climbed up the first fence without looking back at him. She never looked back again.
I was so mad at Arnold that I just had to fuck something up, so as we ran back around front I picked up another rock and focused on the shiniest gas guzzler. Gave my best pitch, and I smashed a sunflower in the windshield.
Running away from hell, her hand in mine, I was glad that Frisbee finally got her arm back.
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INTRUDER ALERT! WANTS TO KILL YOUR PLANTS
Laura (+ Jenny snaps)
So I was at the Intruder/Slow Cone/Jumpster show, you know, the one where that guy was dancing around with an orange pylon on his head, yelling “Fuck traffic! Are you with me?”, which of course is the unnofficial slogan of this issue. Anyway, so he was ranting all night, up until the pre-set demolition berzerk-off that Jo and crew so pride themselves in, at which time he ended up with the cone duck-taped to his ass, which looked really cool when he was hanging from the rafters by his ankles, the rope supplied by yours truly (I always carry 100 feet or so on my bike, just in case). Anyway, so after the show we let the poor guy down, and I pulled out my tape-thing and this is what Intruder and me said:
(oh, for clarity’s sake, I’m not going to tell you who said what. Figure it out for yourself, you fuck) Jo – vocals, guitar, Circle X – guitar, 69rpm – drums, and Caroline – everything. Velcro is the guitarist for Slow Cone; who knows how he got in here.
– So you ran into Annabelle at the Treehouse…
– Oh, you mean A-Bell? She was such a sweetie, we had a great time together.
– Yeah, you should have seen them in the van…
– I didn’t know drum sticks had so many uses…
– Fuck you! Yeah, I remember her well.
– Good, because she’s a really big fan…
– ….and she wants to have your baby
– Well it’s true….
– Where was I…yeah. She really gets a kick out of you, and she wrote down a bunch of questions for me to ask you.
– Cool. I’m game.
– The first one was, and I’m quoting here: “Where did your rad name come from?”
– Wait! I’ll answer that one. You see..
– Shut the fuck up Circle X! The question was for me
– Oh, high and mighty Jo has the floor, excuse me…
– Alright you two, bicker all you like. I’ll answer the question. You know that game Berzerk? With the skinny joystick that has a fire button on top?
– Yeah, with the bouncing ball and the guy and robots shooting everywhere…
– Right. So when we first starting up the band, Circle X was down at Wonder Bowl pumping Berzerk full of quarters….
– And I came up to him just as the machine started to drone “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!”
– If I was smart I would have taken the warning, and stayed as far away from Jo as possible. But no….
– I suppose if she came over a little bit later, we would have been called “Chicken! Fight like a robot!”
– Which you have to admit has a certain ring to it.
– That wasn’t the story I was told, Caroline.
– Watch out! If 69rpm is talking then we’re all in for it!
– Thanks X, you’re a real pal.
– CIRCLE X. Get it right for once
– So anyway, I thought the name was this convoluted comment on the whole scene in general, you know, with bands like Potato Power and Eskimo Guy killing everyone, basically making a mess of things, and here we were, 2 guys, 2 girls, driving up to the club in our station wagon, and the punks were like you know “Intruder Alert! Circle the vans around the pit!”.
– O.K. I think that just about says it all.
– So her next question was: “A really killer song is “Loop” and I was wondering what kind of drugs you were on when you wrote it, because it’s really fucking cool.”
– Your friend sure knows how to ask questions.
– Stop it already!
– Well, actually it was a good question, because “Loop” has an interesting history behind it. You see, when I was still in Eskimo Guy..
– Here we go, another story about the good old days…
– …we were playing this show, God knows where, and only about 3 people showed up, because Flexidick (the assholes, and you can quote me on that) didn’t even bother to enter the state, let alone make it to the show on time. They had the nerve not only call ahead to the club and apologize for not showing up, but said that Eskimo Guy – “their backup band” – would be happy to play and any all of their songs that the audience requested.
– That’s fucked!
– Yeah, and so when it came time for the show word had gotten around that Flexi was a no show, and somehow a rumor started that we were to blame – something about breaking Tom’s wrist in the last show, which did happen but only because he had his hand practically up this girl’s ass – and so 3 people showed up to the show, and they were the most rabid-Flexi fans I ever saw in my life. We started the set with “Tornado” but one of the trio was an ultra-heckler – and had connections with the soundguy – so he actually plugged into the board with a boombox or some shit and started to play Flexi’s album over the PA, cutting me off in mid-chord.
– Well, you have to give Flexi’s fans credit for their ingenuity….
– ….Before this point I was this meek little guitarist that didn’t want anything but to play off in my corner and make some good sounds, but this really, really pissed me off, so when the tape-guy stopped after a minute or two – with this self-satisfied smirk on his face that I still remember clearly – I jumped off stage and had a little chat with the soundguy. Jumped back on stage, and the Flexi-tape continued, only this time in the background, leaving all of our channels open. Then I grabbed the microphone…
– Can I tell the rest of the story?
– O.K. Caroline gets to tell the rest because she’s such a babe.
– …So the main reason that I went after Jo to be in this band was because of the bootleg tape of that Flexi show that I got somehow, where she’s totally ripping their whole album to shreads, looping the songs over and over and laying this feedback-laced rap-thing over them. It was absolutely amazing, and you could tell that the rest of the band could barely keep up with her…
– Maybe at first. But they caught on soon enough, and by the time we reached “Blackout”….
– …I about pissed in my pants when I heard Jo and the rest of Eskimo Guy lift this crappy song about getting drunk after a show to some sort of eulogy of the whole tri-state punk fiasco, equating Tom with a Neo-Elvis-Hitler, stoned on the john while the planes of progress dropped bombs overhead. It was a brilliant show…
– yeah, but we had to run for our lives once the set was over, because the tape-guy and his two friends had called for backup, and there were like 30 hardcore Flexi fans ready to make us into boots and jackets. So we tore down while we were playing, ending with me at the micro while the motor was running out back, praying that the crowd wouldn’t figure out that they could kill us before we stopped playing. They didn’t, and I tossed off a “Fuck Flexidick” for good measure as I ran off stage.
– So to answer the question about “Loop”, as soon as Jo joined the band I forced her to commemorate that event with a song.
– And even I have to admit that it’s a really cool song.
– X, I didn’t know you had it in you.
– Yeah, “Loop” is about that night, and even though we don’t mention Flexidick most people figured it out. Especially Tom, which I’m sure is why he sent me the “Usual” 7″ with “Sounds like Shit” scratched onto the A, “Blow me Jo” on the flip. Sufficed to say that I wouldn’t suck his dick with a vacuum cleaner.
– Although I’m sure he would like that, considering that night in Arizona…
– Watch it, I don’t want any Flexi fans to kill me at our next show.
– Not that they don’t have enough reason to already.
– Next question! “69rpm? Circle X? What the fuck kind of names are these?”
– Man, your girlfriend sure is on the rag.
– Ouch! I’m not even going to touch that. I gotta take a piss….
– Thanks for sharing.
– Here, ask Velcro instead. He has a funky name.
– Hey! I was just coming over to bum a quarter.
– I’ll cough up a dollar if you explain the name.
– Damn, Jo. Take advantage of a poor scenster, why don’t you?
– Tell the story already!
– Fuck it. O.K….when I was about 10, I used to have the hardest time tying my shoelaces…
– 10? No wonder you can’t tune.
– Shut up….X. Anyway, so I always wore Zooms, the ones with the 2 big velcro strips on ’em.
– Simple enough.
– No! The reason they call me Velcro is much more involved. You see, I had this humongous crush on this girl, and when she invited me to her birthday party, I made sure to put on my best shoes, the Zooms. So when I got to her house…
– Her name?
– Please don’t embarrass me, Jo…..
– Fuck, I’m not going to let this go. Cough it up!
– O.K…. Susie Richardson.
– Ha! I always wondered who the Eskimo Guy was!
– He’s blushing! Awwww….
– Shit, I was 10, and she was cute…. Anyway, so I got to her house, present in hand. Right before I rang the doorbell I had this itch on my arm, and when I tried to scratch it the box fell out of my hand and into the rose bushes by her front door. It was really wedged in there, and when it tried to get it out the bow started to get tangled and the paper was ripping. I was totally freaking out, so I tried to brace myself against the base of the plant and give one final rip. I didn’t want to get my shoes dirty, so I took them off and put them on the porch. So there I was, tube-socked, fighting with the rose bush of the girl I loved, and as soon as I wripped the package free the door opened. It was Susie.
– I’ll bite. What happened?
– She took one look at me, holding the tattered box – which you could now see was a goofy doll my mom picked out for her – and then reached down to pick up my shoes, which were laying at her feet. “Ooooh! Velcro,” she smiled.
– That’s so sweet!
– Wait! As I handed her the present, her mother walked to the door. “What did you do to my poor roses! You animal!” She grabbed Susie by the arm and pulled her inside, snatched my shoes from her and said “I believe these….things…are yours.” I was this close to crying, but I held it back because I knew all of my friends were there, and I wasn’t about to catch their shit come Monday. So, I took my Zooms, walked backward down the stairs, and watched her throw back my present and slam the door in my face. I did the only thing I could do.
– Run home to your mother?
– No. Went up to her almost dead rose bush (later I found out that it was ultra rare), broke off the two remaining flowers, and stuck one in each shoe. Socked back out to the front walk, and looked up to find Susie staring down at me from her open bedroom window. I threw my right shoe up to her, smiled, and threw the left one through the house’s plate glass front window. Then I left, stupid doll in hand.
– And he still has that doll today. Sleeps with it, even. Or is that Susie….
– Fuck you Circle. Your turn.
– No problem. After that anything will sound perfectly sane and reasonable.
– I still can’t get over it. You two’ve been at it that long?
– Hey! My turn here. I’ve had it up to here with his fucking shoes!
– Stop posturing and get on with it.
– Short and sweet. My father owns the Circle X franchise, bought it cheap before it became the evil it is today. I’m the heir, don’t give a fuck, but everyone calls me Circle X anyway. At first it really bothered me, but after a while I took to it, in a perverse sort of way. You know, “If you’re thirsty, then we’re there/Circle X is everywhere.” What the fuck is that supposed to mean? It’s like fucking 1984, and my dad’s Big Brother…
– Guess that makes you Big Cousin, huh?
– Not even going to go there, 69. So… I hate freezies, we had a machine in our kitchen at home. All of our food was the nasty-ass chain brand. And for my last birthday he gave me official merchandise – fuck, our tour van is a painted over Circle X-mobile!
– But it drives so smoooooth!
– Yeah, and it has a radio to die for!
– Sorry, we’ve been giving him shit since way back when.
– Yeah, but we don’t mean anything by it. Besides, without his freezie dole, there wouldn’t be any 2nd Going records. No tour, nothing.
– Circle X, we salute you!
– I would kiss you, Caroline, if I didn’t want to slap you so badly.
– Frisbee, did we answer all the questions?
– At this point I’m not so sure. But what the fuck….
a – z – a – z – a – z – a – z – a – z – a – z – a – z – a – z
Did I tell you about the time that I was walking by the freeway, taking snaps of cars and shit? Well, it was a few weeks ago, and I climbed the fence so it wouldn’t get into my shots. So there I was, talking these really cool extra-long exposures, when all of a sudden this H.P. guy pulls up on his bike. I’m still taking pictures, not even giving a fuck, and then he jingles over – mirrored sunglasses and helmet, the whole deal – and he asks me why I’m standing on the side of the freeway. So I say “Duh!” and he stands there for a bit, scratching his nose. Did I know that it was illegal to “loiter” on the freeway? “I didn’t see any signs,” I said. What’s your name, girl? He pulled out his little note pad thing. “Here’s the deal – let me take your picture and you can do whatever you want. O.K.?” So the cars were whizzing by, and he stared at me for a second and then said fine, because all cops are vain assholes – a well known fact. Waved him left and right with my hand, gave him a “Smile!” and did the dirty deed. Then, I opened up the back of the camera, ripped out the film, threw it on the ground, and stepped on it a few times. Ran back through the sound-wall trees, hopped the fence, and before he knew any better I was already heading for the bus. I had some really good pictures on that roll. Shit, everything’s fucked, you know?
When I was little I had this little, hand-made fuzzy rabbit – I called her Hugs, because I always held her as I went to sleep. Aunt Jessica gave her to me, and she was probably my most favorite thing in the world, what I whispered all my secrets to. Well, when I was 5 my mother got on one of her maturity kicks, came into my room when I was at kindergarten, and bunny-napped Hugs. When I came home I found her sitting on the porch, neck half broken with stuffing poking through. I rushed in to mom and started crying my head off, and she gave me this crap story about how how Hugs tried to run away, and when she reached out to stop her they got into a big fight. Only one them could survive, she said with a straight face, and wasn’t I glad that it was Mommy? Obviously this was a bunch of bullshit, but I half-believed it anyway. So I picked up Hugs, took her to the backyard, and buried her in the compost pile, as the hummingbirds darted back and forth. When I came back inside the enemy tried to bribe me with a freshly baked cake, but I just ignored the sweet smell and sulked off to my room. I cried into my pillow, and cursed God.
Get it over with! What’s your fucking game? Wouldn’t we all be better off if the world just ended tomorrow?
I didn’t get an answer then. But don’t worry, a response is coming soon enough.
GET OUT OF OUR SHIT
Laura and Jenny
1) The new Intruder Alert! album is going to be out any day now, and it’s a double deal so you know it’s got to be good. Jo said that it’s going to be called “Unusual”, and after hearing the tapes we guarantee it’s well named.
2) Yeah, we’re in the process of getting our official antizine H.Q. When you see the party fliers, run like mad.
3) It’s true. Susan and Velcro from Slow Cone are back together again, although rumor has it that he’s not very happy about all the time she’s spending with Jo. Frisbee swears that there’s something up, or else why would Annabelle be coming to these parts soon? Jenny is dying to give you skinny, but lets just say that April from Potato Power just came into town, too. Details next issue.
4) “Jumpster Diving” is the new single on 2nd Going, and we could swear we recognize the keyboardist. Check it out.
5) No, we really don’t care about you. Give it up.
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Fill the pit!” The mic dropped screaming kick kick and I floated. Hands were grass blowing waves licking and I tried to remember the words (they yelled them for me). A scuffle growled from the amps and as they lifted I swam for the floor. Grope up my shirt so I punched as Velcro ate his guitar and the screech poked through my plugs there it is! can’t miss my mark. “Electronic faucet I drink from the socket” wrapped the cord around my wrist.
“Pull the plug!” Sasha smirked as she walked on heads.
“Throw the switch!” They lofted me by my legs, made a wish, and pulled.
“Fuck the microphone…” Shirt over face upside-down.
“….YOU BITCH!” 8-track pounded, Caroline dived in with me, and I kissed that cute girl that had been looking at me all night asking for it – licking from pierced lip to ear, following the invisible chain. She smiled from underneath her smoky green hair and gave me the finger as they dragged me back to the stage.
“Where the fuck is Jo!” this gutterpunk yelled between punches, as I tore the duck tape from my cheeks. The mic was somewhere down my shirt so I fished for it.
“Jo’s not home right now.” I choked up on the nearest guitar.
“Can I take a message?” Caroline jumped up on his shoulders, jammed fingers in his ears, and leaned back. He jerked forward and she flipped over onto the stage, knocking over the water bottles. I gave her the guitar.
“Alright, enough with the sound check.” Sasha flew up towards the ceiling, grabbed the tire-swing, and hung herself by the knees.
“We’re Suspender. Prepare to die.”
All this time Velcro was laying down his patented Nagasaki-buzz/drone, while 8-track shifted from a bouncy box-car to a helicopter lopping off tree-tops. Caroline joined in with this thing she stole from a laxative commercial the night before, and I looked for a hole in the noise to rip through, but I couldn’t see it, not like Jo could.
This is the story of the week I took her place. Of a dream come true.
I’m tempted to start at the very beginning, when Intruder Alert! ruled and I was a medium-sized snot, dreaming of sticking my tongue up Frisbee. Of course, she wouldn’t have me – too busy with Jenny and fucking antizine (sorry, Friz, that’s how I felt then) – but that didn’t stop me from fantasizing big time. The first time I heard Joan was on an Intruder tape that Jenny sent me, I guess it was a bootleg of one of their shows on the coast, and I didn’t take it out of my walkthing for a month, drowning in the buzz and her voice from I don’t know where. She must have been only 15, but to me she was fucking Athena or something, running through the woods bow drawn shooting all the boy bands in their crotches and loving it. Sure, Intruder was half guy, but Jo made them shine, gave them her smell.
Anyway, so whenever the newest anti came out I would read it in the bathroom, Jo singing in my ears while Frisbee ranted at me, and I would lock the door so no one walked in with my hand between my legs, lost in afterschool extra-special daydreams of a little queer girl getting what she wanted and then some. I always came but they never did – so abstract, so far away – and the constant rubbing, like I was calling up my own personal genie, kept me sane but alienated me from the “real” world. My first wish was always to fuck them both, the second was to make them fall in love with me, and the third to have them fight for my attention, to the death. Of course, nothing ever came forth but an indescribable longing. That, and the realization that I was alone.
The first time I saw Jo was at an Intruder show when I was 14, and although I didn’t realize it then, that was also the first time I saw Sasha. Intruder wasn’t actually on a tour, they just happened to be back east for a few days getting into trouble. I had no idea that they were around, but it’s true that I was extra-hyper that weekend, almost going so far as to tell Patricia – my then best friend and partner in grime – that I had this monster-sized crush on her. But I regained my sanity and only asked her out to the Treehouse, because I wouldn’t dare go alone, especially on kinda-new band night. So we gave our hair Kool-Aid dye jobs and borrowed her father’s leather jackets (he was that way in the 60’s), tried our best to look rough and experienced, and took the bus to 3rd street. As soon as we got there I knew that something was up, because there were about 500 pre-punks roaming around outside, shitting in their pants in anticipation, breaking the bottles they swiped from home before they even got drunk. Lucky for me Phone was working the door that night, and when he waived us to the front of the line he slipped a note into my right butt pocket with one hand, tagging that night’s icon our cheeks with the other. It was a upside down “T”, kind of like one of those perpendicular signs in Geometry, and the deal was that if he let us in penny-minus he could mark us wherever he wanted. Plus, he was a really good artist, and the note made up for any temp-hate from face adjustments (it took us hours just to get that punker-than-thou-without-even-trying look). What did it say? Well, as me and Pat passed through the living room (where the girls hung) and the kitchen (guys and band members), finally taking up space by the tetherball pole, I gave a look and….
INTRUDER ALERT! YOU OWE ME BIG TIME! (in quick, felt-tip black on the back of the next week’s flier – Slow Cone was playing)
“Uh….Anna…isn’t that…” Over by the bowling pin sculpture of God….
“Is my spit fawcet running? Do I have a straight jacket?”
“We’re both going to die!”
“Not quite. Watch my shadow, I’m gonna attack….”
I gave her the pointy “stay” finger and started to circle the room. No wonder the pre-punks were restless, fucking Joan of Arc was getting ready to burn us all at the stake.
“Where are you sneaking off to?” Arm on my wrist, and I didn’t have to turn around to know I’d been robbed.
“I’m busy, Slinky……come back later.” There she was, past the Trouble Twins – I could almost taste her aura of sweat…
“Where’s my Eskimo Guy tape? I want to get it signed.” Did I mention why we call him that? Had this slinky hooked in one earlobe, and it stretched around the back of his peanutty shaved head to the other side. Worse than it sounds.
“Fuck, I ate it, O.K.? Let me go.” Jo! Don’t talk to that don’t-know-how-to-be! I’m coming…
“Man! When I loant it to ya I told ya that the deal was up when I said it was up. It’s up!” Plus, when he got mad his head bobbed up and down like those wobbly-top toy people.
“O.K. You got me. Go and talk to Pat, she’ll set you up.” Hated to do that, but I had to get away.
“Yeah, I’m a winner….” Bobbed in joy across the room, and I watched Pat start to freak. Gave her the open-fist “bathroom time” sign. She got the hint, and hopped in the girl closet before Slinky caught her.
“Pixie dust?” Some strange (yet cute) slurpette wagged a stick at me. I paused, weighed my options, and took a sly drag, all the while keeping an eye on my target. It was the green kind, and it was good.
“Thanks.” Yeah, she really was cute. One of those half-headed hair jobs, with the back missing and the front really long, so she could brush it back and barely reach her neck.
“There’s a lot more where that came from.” She must have been about 14, and you could tell that she was smooth yet firm just by glancing at her shoulders, that peaked out past her official Circle X uniform, a short-sleeved, polyester, red shirt with the Intruder Alert! logo stenciled on her right breast, “Hack” stitched in cursive on the left. Her shoes were plastic, translucent hi-tops with purple yarn laces, so you could tell she was going sockless. It looked like she had overalls on, but her shirt was buttoned, concealing the straps. Absolutely adorable.
“Maybe we’re coming from the same place…” Always wanted to say that.
“Come here.” She patted the spray-painted cement floor next to her.
“I will. But I have to do something real quick.” Gave her that “I think I really want you” hand-waive/smile combo, and I fully intended to follow through. She smirked, and went back to her Pixie stick.
So. Gathered myself, stepped over who I soon determined to be Circle X – it seemed that he had the flu or something, because he kept throwing up but it didn’t stink that much. Besides, he always drank after the shows, never before – in that way he was terribly straight edge. Yeah, right. As I hopped over his fetal-ball – more like a bunch of lint because he had a nasty brown wool sweater on – the lights suddenly dimmed and Masking Tape took the stage. Sure, Susanna was a real babe, with a voice like a baby bird, but I wasn’t about to fixate on a band I saw every week when Joan was around. She was about 10 feet away, over by the equipment corner, talking to Caroline about their set I guess, when out of nowhere 50 pre-punks summoned a hurricane, a smuggled in boom-box playing Flexidick at the eye of their storm. Unfortunately I was sucked into the body-winds before I could prepare my elbows and fists, and then it was breast-thigh-drumstick, everyone trying to bucket the good pieces. Of course, no one but Pat noticed my torment – the girls too busy tagging the walls, the guys too busy watching. And she wasn’t about to do anything direct, because they would have torn her to pieces and used her teeth as guitar picks. So when I swung around her way I gave her the locked-hands-overhead “tetherball chain!” yell, and she shimmied up the pole, unhooked my salvation, and approached the pseudo-pit close enough that she could throw it to me as I spun uncontrollably past, when some jerk had his face up my ass. Well, as soon as I wrapped my wrist with power, I turned to the nearest offender – Ronald, the guy who was fired from Circle X because he kept stealing quarters from the videogames and using them to order pizzas from nasty-ass Peppies’ of all places – gave him 3 seconds to desist, and then made him a steel necklace, sized personally for a snug fit. Choking, he put me down long enough for me to get a good whack at the radio, killing Tom’s whiny voice before I really got pissed off. At this point the storm started to die down a bit, and everyone soon realized that I was not only holding a chain, but on the average was 2 inches taller than them. All it took was a few cautionary swings for the junior high scabs to scamper off, leaving a hand-picked bunch of nothings that I didn’t even consider giving my attention to. Draped the chain around the back of my neck, gave Pat the “Fuck yeah!” finger, and headed over to Jo.
“Uh, can someone remove their radio from the floor?” That was Not Ian, the unofficial announcer-guy that took the stage before each set. He had on a Potato Power shirt, the light blue one with the stapler. “And has anyone seen Isabel?”
“Who?” That was half the audience, or all the out-of-towners – take your pick.
“You know, Masking Tape’s drummer?” We called him Not Ian because one time, at this particularly horrible show, just after he made his stupid announcements, the lead singer for the next band took the mic and said “Who was that boring jerk?”, to which the drummer replied “I don’t know, but he’s sure not Ian.” To this day no one knows who Ian is.
“Never mind.” She was hanging out by the door. Did I mention that she and Phone were going out then? Or that he was cheating behind her back left and right? The night she found out is one I’ll never forget – but I’ll save that story for another time.
Anyway. Not Ian awkwardly jumped off the stage and I was this close to Jo when Masking Tape started to play – Isabel dived behind her drum set just in time. Caroline took the opportunity to whisper something in Jo’s ear, take her by the hand, and drag her out to the back porch. Shit.
I wasn’t about to go out there, because that was the de-facto dressing room/ rehearsal space/ kickball field. So I turned around and started back to Pat, when I saw that she was busy with Isaac, the boy that she had the hots for since 5th grade. I hated to see her look at him that way instead of me, but I wasn’t about to get in the way of her happiness. Besides, if you went for boys he was the cutest one around, with chin-length brown hair, the best band-T’s you could think of, and a sly way of smiling and frowning at the same time that drove everyone wild. Everyone, that is, except me, and as I was scanning the room, I suddenly remembered the Pixie stick girl. She wasn’t in her previous spot – over by the ice chest, which had “One Handful Please” written on it – and just before I got totally bummed there was a tap on my shoulder. It was her.
“I hate Flexidick too.” She slid the chain from around my neck, and then held out her hand. “Come with me.” I took it, and it was very warm, yet harder than it looked.”What’s your name?” I tried to be cool about it, but my glow was obvious.
“All in due time. This way.” I was too focused on her to realize that she was leading me out to the back porch. I started to tense up.
“Don’t worry.” She squeezed my hand. “I just want you to meet someone.”
We passed by Ariel – who always worked the back, was as tall as I am, and had arms to die for – and it took a second for my eyes to adjust to the bright light above the steps. At the foot, concentrating on their guitars, were Jo and Caroline. Over by the garbage can was 69rpm, practicing some riffs because he wasn’t about to set up before the show only to tear down again. Pixie (I’ll call her that for brevity’s sake) yanked my arm and dragged me down the stairs. Then, she tapped Jo on the shoulder, and I just about died.
“Oh, hey. You having fun?” Jo smiled at the two of us. “Meet someone cool?”
“God, Joan. Don’t even start.” She turned to me, giving a little wink. “This is my friend, Annabelle Spencer. She knows Frisbee.”
I stood there and grinned like a stupid fuck, because I was totally shocked. How did Pixie know my name, and Frisbee for that matter?
“Is that right? Sit down, girl. Don’t be shy.” I wasn’t about to resist a direct order, especially coming for Jo. So I sat behind Caroline, and Pixie snuggled up to Jo, giving her a neck massage.
“So. Are you from around here?” That was Caroline, the other real half of Intruder. She’s around 5′ 9″ now, but then she was an inch or two shorter (18 but still growing, I guess). Her hair was completely shaved off, except for a long, purple stripe about an inch in width, which split her between the eyes. She had on a floral dress that went up to her knees.
“…yeah.” I couldn’t speak. It was like a dream.
“Actually, Annabelle’s a real fan of Intruder Alert!” Pixie tapped her foot against mine; I could see that her toes were painted Circle X red. I had to say something.
“Yeah. Frisbee gave me your first tape, and ever since then I’ve been totally hooked. You are so amazing!” God, I sounded like a total sponge.
“What’s your favorite song?” Caroline again. Jo whispered something to Pixie, and both were smiling. Pixie handed her the chain.
“‘Loop’ is really cool, but ‘Half Open Window’ is awesome.”
“You are a real fan. Everyone seems to hate the B to ‘Usual'”
“No way! I mean…” Pixie squeezed Jo on the neck, smiled, and got up to leave. “…I mean it’s a really good song.” I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that an opportunity like this only happened once, and I wasn’t about to waste it.
“Annabelle….” Jo frowned. “God, that name is too long for me. Help me out Caroline. She needs a new name.”
“I don’t know. I kinda like Annabelle.” Caroline smiled at me. “It has an old-world charm.” At that point 69rpm started up this revolutionary drum-march thing, and everyone started to crack up.
“How about Oceana?” He stopped drumming for a second. I could barely see him in the dark, but it looked like he had a harmonica hanging around his neck. “I always thought that was a cool name.”
“No, no. All she needs is a good contraction, something that shows her essence…”
“I don’t know, Caroline. Everyone calls me that now.”
“I got it.” Jo put down her guitar, and stood up. Out of the cone of light, her face was half in shadow, and her brown hair – pulled back – dissolved into the night. Her white, pin-striped shirt and really loud tie took on an orange hue, and her dark, ankle-length skirt shifted in the wind. “A-Bell.”
Everyone was silent. Even 69rpm stopped with the garbage. I could hear Masking Tape play through the door; Susanna was just starting “Drinking Utensils,” the part when she sits down on her knees, closes her eyes, and whispers “I need a glass/so I can break it.” There was no doubt in my mind that it was perfect.
“Cool?” I smiled.
“O.K. then. A-Bell, come with me. Time for stage two.” Jo reached towards me, and I gladly took her hand. As she lifted me from the stairs, I could feel the callous on her fingers, I could sense the songs that flowed out of them continuously. We walked around the Treehouse to the left, towards the dirt parking lot and the tall, wide trees beyond. She swung the chain slightly as we walked; it seemed to clank in time with 69’s drumming, slowly fading in the distance.
“My cousin was telling me how impressed she was with you.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say it. I just stared at her tie – yellow, with green turtles crawling upwards.
“She’s the mysterious type. Never telling you what she thinks.” She kicked a rock. “Or knows.”
“I’ve just met her, yet….” I looked up at the stars, coming out past the clouds.
“I know. She has that effect on people.” She stopped. “Far enough. Now listen.”
And I did. Of course, all of the quotes that I’ve included so far are semi-manufactured, because I didn’t have a tape recorder with me or anything. What’s been said was said, more or less. But when we stopped in the back of the parking lot – right by Slinky’s station wagon, which still had windows at that time – and Jo looked me straight in the eye, I can never, will never, forget what she said to me:
“Frisbee wanted us to find you. She’s worried.”
I was confused. Sure, I knew Laura pretty well, having written to her since antizine 1, but we had never met, and I hadn’t told her that much about my problems.
“I don’t understand.”
Jo frowned, and then turned towards the Treehouse. The air pulsated slightly with Susanna’s voice. I could tell she was rolling on the stage about then. “It’s not a mistake that we’re here tonight. It’s not a mistake that you met my cousin.” She closed her eyes for a second, and then put her hand on my shoulder and opened them. “You’re so special, A-Bell. You can’t possibly know how much.”
I was about to die. Jo was saying all of this wonderful stuff, and she couldn’t possibly mean it. She didn’t even know me. But still….
“O.K. What’s going on!” I shook her hand off.
“Fair enough. We’ll talk.” She smiled. “We need to go to our van, though. I need to show you something.”
Part of me felt like I was going to get molested or jumped or something, but the other – A-Bell, my newly named essence – knew that it was right. So we went, and talked for about an hour. I can’t discuss the conversation, but sufficed to say that I finally understood what my purpose in life was. I understood my attraction to Frisbee and Joan, and I understood that Sasha was the one for me.
You see, Pixie was Sasha, only I didn’t find that out until later that year, when she started working with Joan in Jumpster, and by then she had changed so much that I almost didn’t recognize her. Of course, all it took was a second of hand-holding to fix that. I could never forget her warmth.
So anyway, when I went back into the Treehouse that night, desperately looking for her, all that was left was that Pixie stick, now empty, duck taped to the side of the ice chest, along with a note. It read:
Sorry about the runaround, but I promised Frisbee that I’d get you in contact with Jo. If you’re reading this then I assume you forgive me. At first, I was just playing along with the plan, but… I don’t know how to say this. It’s strange. I really do feel something for you, something that I’ve never really felt before. I need to think about it.
I know we’ll meet again, sooner than you imagine. Please don’t forget me, or this night. Take care of yourself.
Your Secret Admirer
As Intruder started to take the stage (the pre-punks tearing themselves apart in anticipation), and as Pat snuggled up to Issac in the living room – under the painting Phone did for the Treehouse-warming, “Yard Stick Vs. Tape Measure” – I slumped down by the ice chest, held the note to my heart, and cried. Cried while Jo sang “Half Open Window” just for me, cried while Caroline, 69rpm, and even Circle X (who recovered in time for the set, but didn’t bother to take off the sweater) made the most beautiful music in the world. I didn’t stop crying until well after the show was over, after I had said goodbye to Jo and made plans for our next meeting. Pat went home with Issac, Susanna biked along side Phone, and little male pre-punks snagged unlucky girls for their adolescent, temporary bliss. I took the bus, and the clouds were now far away – I could see some constellations that I recognized through the window. I didn’t want to cry under those stars, the same ones that shine upon us all at our respective births and deaths, so I wiped my face on Pat’s father’s jacket, made the chain into an quick belt, and prepared myself for the big mess.
Home was the big mess, of course. “What the fuck were you doing out so late?” That’s my dad. “Weren’t you supposed to be at Patricia’s house?” Mom. “How was the show? Any cute boys?” Mary, my “sister”. I was all cried out, so I just remained silent until the questions subsided, went up to my room, and put on my tape of the first Intruder show. It was loud, and I had headphones on, but I fell asleep pretty quickly.
I had a strange dream, one that I made sure to write down the next morning. Sasha, Frisbee and Joan were in it, along with a number of other women that I didn’t recognize, and everyone was older – in their mid-to-late twenties, I guess. Anyway, we were all at this show, some group we didn’t know was playing, and suddenly everyone in the band disappeared. Jo jumped on stage first and grabbed the guitar, and then Frisbee and Sasha followed. I hesitated a bit, but all the rest of the women pushed me onto the stage. Then someone helped a little girl up to join us, and she ran to Frisbee, who raised her into a hug and kiss. She put her down, and then the little girl grew older really quickly. Frisbee ran off the stage, yelling about something, and then there was a tremendous explosion. The only person missing, though, was Frisbee – all of the other women were still in the audience. Then, Sasha started to draw strange markings on herself, which reminded me of what Phone did at the door to the Treehouse. Soon she took off her clothes, covered her whole body with shapes and symbols, and then gave me a pen, telling me to do the same. I tried, but the marks kept disappearing right after I made them. I told Sasha this, but she just smiled. The little girl was now a full woman, and she started to play the drums, so Jo followed her lead. Then, Sasha started to touch the markings on her body, and each spot produced a different sound. I tried to touch myself, but nothing happened. So I walked over to Sasha, and asked her to show me how it worked. She put my hand against her face, and then I heard the most beautiful noise in the world. It was so wonderful that I couldn’t tolerate hearing it, so I pulled away and immediately woke up. My walkthing, which had auto-reverse, was still playing the tape from the night before. And the upside down “T” was transferred to my pillow.
Ever since that day I studied that tape, hoping that the perfect noise was somehow included within it, and just happened to enter my dream. I haven’t found it yet, but when I touch Sasha’s face I get the same feeling, that this-close-to-exploding mass of wonderfulness. Fuck, I even get it when I look at her, like when I was playing with Suspender that night, when Jo was off recording another one of her secret projects.
During our first encore, when John and Frisbee finally showed up (they said they got lost coming to the club, but I knew better – ask her to tell you the story), Sasha had migrated to the front of the stage, staring at me with those knowing eyes of hers, the ones that look straight into your brain and heart and caress them. Well, I was sweating up a storm, and the crowd was not even close to being tired, so I made a call and Caroline seconded it. Fortunately, 8-Track and Velcro were versed enough to know what I was going after, so once we regrouped and dug back in our brains to 1986, I took the mike off the stand, and gave Frisbee the secret sign, the only one I can’t discuss.
“This is a song that most of you don’t know, but it’s really dear to my heart.”
“Get on with it, you fuck!” Yeah, it was the “Where the fuck is Jo!” guy.
“It’s called “Drinking Utensils”, and fuck you if you don’t like it. It’s not for you anyway.” 8-Track started us off slowly, as Caroline and Velcro stood back and watched.
Staring at Sasha, I slowly dropped to my knees.
And I sang.
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
I died at 12.
Passed out behind a dumpster, my last breath took in urine, spit and stale beer, as wrists went red fingers red eyes red….
This is the part where you retrace your steps, looking for comfort just now lost. Fuck that. When I was 12, alone and cold on the streets, I wanted to die and all the fast food bathrooms were locked. So I cried around a corner, found rusty nail in board, and tore and tore until the chill was universal.
Never attempt suicide within 100 feet of a phone booth. Passing bums like to call 911, feel that it’s their duty to save poor, innocent girls that know the fuck what they’re doing, that don’t want Clear! and you a toaster thrown in the shower, dancing in and out of the white.
I remember the white. I belonged there. Not in the hospital with endless history tests and psychologists that vacuum up your secret shit. “We’re here to help you, Jennifer. You can trust us.”
They burned my clothes – too dirty to save. Gave my junk back in a ziploc, minus the $17.23 and my last will and testament. “To the world and everyone in it: Fuck You!” Now known as exhibit one in the neverending files of Thomason.
Thomason Memorial Hospital is a quaint little cottage near the coast, with triple barbed-wired fences and janitors that grab your ass while you sleep. It probably looks like a cement pretzel from the air, scattered salt representing the patients combing the halls for consistent realities. The color scheme was stolen from an ice-cream place, and instead of 54 flavors there were bottomless bulk-bins of anti-depressants and activity-supressors, in designer colors. They even give you those cute joke cups with your medication – “What’s black and white and red all over?”
Me, the very first night there, in restraints after trying to bite my doctor’s ear off. He looked like a Circle X grunt in drag, all nametags and “How can I help you?”. Fingered his head to my lips and whispered-licked a Fuck You before bearing teeth. I laughed myself silly as the cameras behind mirrors recorded his screams – I guess you had to be there.
But you weren’t. You didn’t die at 12, weren’t a ward of the state that needed to be under 24 hour supervision, and as sure as fuck don’t know what it’s like to be crazy.
I know.There’s this man I met on Day 3 over orange juice and graham crackers; he had a dark gray beard and knew the first 6 pages of the phone book by heart. Not the numbers and names – the instructions. As a treat for not yelling all morning, they let me go down the ramp into the day room, and I bummed a cigarette off of him as we watched TV. “Did you know,” Eric dragged, crumbing his pajama top brown, “that in 1996 the world will cease to be?” No shit, and he was “there’ll be fire and angry angels and dead folk come alive, and I’ll be in here watching it on TV.” I smiled through the stimulants and adjusted my 32 cent blue booties.
Crazy fuck, the world’s ending in the year 2000. Here’s how I know:
Day 27, according to the marking pen on my bedside table, I was fucking around with Quarter, showing him this cool pool shot I’d learned (you play a lot of pool when you’re insane) and this girl walked right up to me. In my face, smiling.
“Come with me.” Grabbed my hand, I dropped the cue (the green ball went in).
So we walked into the hallway – past the patients with cups asking passers by for spare pills – and she’s wearing hospital junk, white with light blue polka-flowers, that’s about to fall to the floor. Hair is balloon blue, half-on, half-off, and her bare feet covered with multi-colored marking pen stripes and circles. The ancient lady who spat in my breakfast on Day 4 laughed as we passed (sitting in her chair, tearing the ads out of old National Geographics).
“Where are we going?” Approaching the emergency exits, always a good question to ask.
“Fine.” Stopped by the vending machines. The MouthSavors were gone, the cola button blinking red. “Hey. I’m Laura. We’re leaving now.” Rushed for the door, they whooshed open with a department store alarm – when you just couldn’t rip the plastic tags off – and I just stood there staring at her, at the candy choices. What the fuck just happened?
And she hovered there, silhouetted in the sun passing through the iron gates beyond, and held out her hand to me. I wanted to hug her, to laugh at her feet, to give her some pants and forget about my pain, my hospital bracelet. She was like a neon cow-girl doing a rope trick, and if she was a soda she would have extra caffeine and twice the calories of the leading brand. My legs started to move me towards, but my left hand was latched to a pull knob for salted peanuts. Smiled as wide as a stop sign, stuck out her tongue, and held her hands high in the air as the nurses came, both middle fingers raised to attention. They knocked me down to the ground face first, and dragged Laura off kicking and screaming to the quiet room, her waving blue smearing sleeves.
I thought I was good. It took 7 hours for her to shut up, which I knew for certain because I was in the room next door, on “escape watch”. The first hour was the easiest to handle, with the occasional groan between the slaps and constant crying, and the nurses the only ones yelling, trying to “talk some sense into her.” Soon someone said fuck that and they opened the drug drawers. Hour two had her literally all over the walls, body-slamming the padding while not saying a word. I hid in the far corner, shaking under the rolled-up floor mat – the only shadow available. It was pointless to cry so I gnawed at my wrists until they reddened. Hour three, after I pissed in the corner since they wouldn’t let me out to toilet, she started to talk, and I couldn’t help but listen. First, she got inventive and started to yell out a blow by blow description of her stripping off pajamas. “I’m such a hot teenage girl, don’t you want to peek in the window at me?” Doctors do that, peek in with their clipboards, and I can only guess what they saw that day. “I’m naked here! Come on in and get some!” It was quite embarrassing and also rather exciting, because she’s cute to the point of exasperation. Finally, she gave a humongous “fuck this shit” and started at the walls again.
Hour four was when I started to pound back, and she noticed. “Hey, is that you?” and I yelled my loudest yes, all the while bracing for the inevitable doctor rush, needles dripping. “Cool.” She lowered her voice some. “Can you still hear me?” “Yeah.” “Still” “Yeah” “Still” and she was only yelling half as loud, but it almost seemed intimate – communicating by brute force through cement and rubber. I told her my name, and she said she already knew, that and a whole lot of other things. Hour five was when she told me about her life and her dreams, and hour six was when I told her mine. Sure, the doctors were recording every last word, but to them it was one big delusion, more stuff to jerk off with onto their PDRs. So when hour 7 came along, and Laura told me about the end of the world, they had proof that she was crazy but I knew better.
She was the one. My way out.
I was born at 12.
Laura was my mother, my savior, my secret lover that cradled me back to life. She had no idea, of course. Just her own problems to deal with.
On Day 4 I met Douglas – Quarter, I called him, because he always asked me for one – and the first time we spoke he just had to call his girlfriend on the outs. “She’s gotta be worried sick, and they won’t let her visit.” For some reason I laughed hysterically when he said this, and turned back to the industrial strength ashtray – it had a metal mouth that ate the butts, scratching wrists if you reached in too far. I traded bearded Eric my crackers for cigarettes – little did he know that I swiped a box off of the serving cart.
No, it wasn’t that funny. But when every window has bars, and there’s twitching people behind the couches, entertainment comes from the oddest places. I guess Quarter understood, because he eventually forgave me. We became TV room buddies, and soon enough he forgot about his girl and made his move. Yeah, it was still Day 4 when during the 6 0’Clock news I found his hand on my thigh. Now the rules were strictly NO CONTACT around those parts, but the last touch that I had that was anywhere close to loving was when I held my knees under overpasses, trying not to crack. So I let him touch, I let him want me, and even shielded him from the lazy guard sleeping on the bad side of the triple-tagged plexiglass, so he could have his way in peace. He didn’t do much, actually, just held there and whispered about the tracks on his arms, and the 3AM bathroom mirror shadow-self he couldn’t stand. I understood, and as soon as I held his hand back someone noticed, and kept us the hell away from one another.
Separation breeds desire, and on Day 5 I found myself kissing him behind the snack machine, where the cameras couldn’t reach. He wasn’t particularly kind, or clear about the mess he was in, but he held me and gave me his warmth. I was the one who grabbed him this time, I was the dead girl that needed someone to love. Beside the electric potato chip cabinet, he did just fine.
Day 6 over lunch he whispered in my ear that he wanted to fuck me, but all I heard was that he adored me and so I smiled over the mini milk cartons – 3 for me, 2 for him. The plan was simple – strike when the night shift started to yawn, and the juice needed refilling. So I straightened up my thrift store summer dress – the one Illyana herself picked out for me, the bitch – and waited in the TV room for him to come. The late night movie was about a war, and lots of men were dying horrible deaths – badly scripted, that is, with atrocious film editing. Even then I was the consummate artiste, always looking for the aesthetic in the miasmic. So when the wrong side won and the flags were hoisted, Quarter snuck on in and sat on the couch beside me. He had brought a blanket – it was cold, so it didn’t look that suspicious. Stared into my eyes as he reached up my legs, and as he drew close all I felt was hate. I hated my body, wanted him to take it away from me and rip it to shreds, and he did the best he could under the circumstances. Under the pink wooly blankets he licked my face and reached inside of me, and all I thought about was the war, about what side I was on. For a split second I was on his side, and grabbed for him despite myself, only to have florescents shine in my face and Bob, the guard with the yo yo, threw Quarter to the floor.
They called it attempted rape cause I wouldn’t stop crying and yelling. I was pissed off because he didn’t get to finish the job, because I wanted so desperately to have more excuses to hate myself. A suicidal run-away slut seemed a lot better then just a suicidal run-away. Of course, Illyana did her best to try to convince me otherwise.
Day 7 had her fawning all over me, promising to “make things right.” She saw to it that Quarter was put under lock and key, until I confided in her about what really happened. Then she went big sister and told me all about her first time (it wasn’t my first) and how horrible it was (mine was wonderful) and that after she had talked it out it all became better, somehow or another – she wasn’t too specific. I nodded as we couched in her office, and as we chatted I swiped a stray letter opener and stuck it down my sock. Parting on a high note, she gave me a warm hug and told me that my doctor said it would be O.K. for me to go to group tomorrow. Reminded me of a window-display dummy girl, stiff and happy with nothing to say except buy the crap that covers me, that hides my plastic soul. Gave her an elation-face that reflected back from her glasses, went straight to the bathroom, and cut my throat over the sink. The blood didn’t come at first because the blade was dull, but once it did I gasped and wallowed in the pain. Reflected back was a paper doll with her head half-snipped off, everything colored all out of the lines. I started to snicker-cough but my legs gave out and I slumped down next to the hamper, still warm and damp from the last shower. My eyes were filled with the white, as I balled myself up on the dirty red cement, and everything would have been perfect if Clara didn’t walk in just then. Clara the towel freak, Clara the screamer.
Code Red. Stretcher. Ambulance. Those machines that beep while they breathe for you. I was all set up on Day 8, and “fortunately” for me the wound was fairly superficial. Illyana came all the way to visit, with flowers even, and we cried together in intensive care. On Day 9 she snuck in some chocolate and cigarettes, along with the news that she had finally found my mother, and that she was coming right this instant to see me. When she left for her shift at Thomason, I tried to strangle myself with the IV tube, but ended up knocking the stand and everything over. There was a lone dust bunny under the bed.
Day 10 brought dear old Mom from dear old home to sit over in the corner, by the window, crying as the cars left the parking lot. “Why are you doing this to yourself?” All I could do was picture her on the floor, broken bottle in hand, throwing up onto the phone. I was 5, and terrified. I was 8, and confused. I was 12, and the bags were packed, and her wallet empty. “Please, come back with me.”
Day 11 I told Illyana about my mother. I begged her to send me back to Thomason, to keep her the fuck away from me. She kissed my cheeks and made the arrangements – I got the ball and chain, and there were no visitation rights. My mother was too crushed to fight for me, and she went back to her liquid hell forever broken. She died 11 days later – car crash, only she was the drunk driver.
Day 12 and the scab was beautiful. I was allowed one supervised trip to the vending machine, and I got some well-needed Grape Flavumm. Illyana brought supermarket tabloids and I wrote the first page of antizine. “Hate everything, to make room for love.” Life was a third-floor, bubble-gummed hell.
Good girls get what they want. I, being black to the core, was given a break on Day 13 and got to go back to the quiet room anyway. “We just need to watch you,” Illyana said, “You’ll be out soon enough.” So I sat.
You cannot understand. Locked door, locked mind, locked heart.
Hiccupping for air through tears and the crack between me and my mailbox-blue floor mat fort, I finally had proof that I was worthless. Broken. Crazy.
No amount of sticky red was going to stop the pain, and the only certainty was the way my face lay against the cool, hard, cement floor. I wanted to become that floor, to stretch long and wide and thin across the earth and be spat and walked and shit upon. I wanted to hug the world, to forever look up at the sky with misplaced wonder. Under the flickering lights, I finally understood why they called it the quiet room, when no one who went there ever shut up. They wanted you to yell at yourself, scream silent hatred until it hurts. So I did, and by the time Illyana came for me I had gotten pretty good at it.
Laura was way better, mind you. She made the quite room speak.
Day 17 and I was allowed to be in the same room as Quarter again. It was my 3rd group, and all the crazy kids were in full force. You would think that drugs and shit wouldn’t do that much to you in the end, but there in front of me were a dozen stories to the contrary. Yeah, I was the only pure death-junkie, but everyone shared the same basic illness. Life.
“My name’s Douglas. I don’t know why I’m here.” He was over by the kitchen door, slowly ripping up his yellow card. Definite no no, it was our passport to success, signed 20 times daily and more on weekends. Good for pizza and a handshake – I burned mine the day before.
“Yes you do. Be honest with yourself, with us.” No, not Illyana. Big Bill the magnificent, at your service.
“I said I don’t know. I should be in juvie, not some nut house.” He’d cut half his hair off yesterday with safety scissors, and now he looked as fuck as punk.
“Call it what it is. A psychiatric hospital…” Bill reminded me of an old sofa. Big and smelly, and way too soft where it counted.
“And we’re the patients. We’re sick.” That was me, glaring at Illyana. She was wearing a fuzzy sweater that matched the carpet perfectly – lint prone, scratchy and ugly. I’ve never known another woman as beautifully scary.
“Jennifer, you don’t have to be so negative.” Ah, the wisdom of Bill.
“I’m sick. I’m always sick.” Towel – Clara, that is, obsessing as usual. She constantly brushed her back-length, jet-black hair. I would die for her hair, so supple-shiny. In the very first group I was in, when Bill made her put away her comb, she convinced us all that dirt was a communicable disease. She could feel the filth dripping down the back of her head, and the itching wouldn’t stop unless she combed it. Eventually he gave in.
“None of you are sick. You just need help.” Finally my guardian angel. She smiled at me but I just looked out the window, counting the fence holes. Way too many.
“How can you help me?” Doug was this close to running; his forehead screamed it. I wanted to fly across the room, take his hand, and meet the stairs with him. But I just sat and thought about the carpet, until Arnold spoke up.
“They can’t. We can.” Obviously this wasn’t hospital propaganda, so I listened.
“You’re right. That’s what group is for.”
“I would tell you what group is for, but I don’t want to get off of checks. Sufficed to say that I sure as hell don’t deserve to be here. None of us do.” He was burning a hole in the wall with his eyes, his voice. “You can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be in our shoes, so you have no way of helping us.” His forehead was lickable, like a chocolate ice cream cone. “The only help Doug or anyone else is going to get will either come from me, or the crazy ass people on the unit. Better me than them.”
Everyone stared. Illyana started to say something stupid yet supportive, but then Big Bill gathered himself and quickly changed the tone.
So we talked about our feelings. About what “color” we were (I was gray, always gray…), and about all the ways we fucked up things. I just wanted to get out of there and smoke, and as soon as the meeting ended Arnold ended up joining me by the benches.
“Hey. Jenny, right?”
“Yeah.” I smiled. “I liked what you said up there.”
“Fuck it. We all say the same thing to ourselves before going to sleep.” He looked up at the clouds overhead, and the sea gulls far below, but still beyond our reach.
“How’d you get here, anyway?”
“Checked myself in. I’ll tell you about it, sometime.” Threw and shoed the fire out, and started to walk away. “But right now I’ve got an appointment. See ya around.”
He walked over the grass, past the door, and picked up the basketball lying by the fence. Disappeared around the records building, and as Illyana and Bill huddled us baby chicks back in line, his bounce, bounce, bounce, gave me a peculiar sense of hope.
Hope that Laura made shine brighter than the sun.
Day 28 I fell in love.
It was breakfast, and things were basically back to normal (except for double meds due to the day before). I had my rubbery oatmeal with extra salt, my 3 milks and 2 bananas, and Laura was led in by Illyana and pushed through the food line, obviously out of it. She had the overly medicated look well beyond any street-junkie, with lock step lock jaw nothingness, and I just wanted to cry. Pajamas were soiled and sagging, her hair leaking blue all over her cheeks, and I knew that as soon as she filled her red tray, she would be back to the quiet room. So would I, if I tried to talk to her.
As she approached the end, I took one of my half-empty milks and elbow-knocked it onto the floor. “Shit! Hey Steve, I need another milk. O.K.?” He nodded over his morning newspaper, and so I walked over to Laura, who conveniently was by the drinks suspended in ice. Said hi to Illyana, took my 2% and a napkin, and wiped off Laura’s face. She smiled slightly, and secretly placed something in my hand as I went back to my table. Satisfied that she did her daily duty, Illyana promptly ushered her charge back to lock up, and I bused my stuff as quickly as I could. Meeting was in a half an hour, so that gave me time to contemplate my gift in peace.It was a crayoned note, green upon a brown paper towel. In the bathroom, as the other girls took a shower or misapplied makeup, I read through my tears:
Did you hear me last night? I was screaming for you during the shadow watch but all that came was 3 men and something too sleepy to fight. But I kept a crayon from the day before, won’t mention where I hid it, and I’m writing this to you (over) cause we’re getting out of here girl, in exactly 40 days we’ll walk right out the front door and be together forever. We’ll talk on Sunday.
This was all wrong, all right, all mixed up with no where to go. I didn’t want to start swimming in her fantasy, in her reality, but in the steamy hiss I contemplated flushing the evidence, and ended up treasuring it always. She was right, you see, always was and always will be, and every time I walked passed the quiet room window, trying to sneak a peak at her, she would be staring right back at me, smiling.
Day 29 was activity time, with modeling clay and shrinky dinks (I made the first antizine logo, and gave it to Quarter). I got to vacuum the psycho kids club house, and Arnold got a whole extra hour of free throws because he knew how to kiss up. After dinner there was a PG-13 movie, and Doug tried to snuggle up to me during the over-sexualized chase scene, but Clara snitched and stray hands were lead back downstairs to the unit. I went to sleep feeling at home for once, and if I had a gun I would have shot myself right then and there. All that was available was my locker key, so I used that to fuck up my ankles (the cleaning crew had to give me new linens daily).
Sunday was Day 30, and I woke up with the unnatural urge to peek in Towel’s room, which was across the hallway. Everyone avoided that place and for good reason, because the floors were always strewn with wet wash cloths and extra hospital linen, which she used to buttress her bed from the evil, unclean spirits. She was afraid of something far more serious than filth, but that’s the way it manifested itself.
Anyway, as I looked in that morning, holding back my expected wince, there Laura was, poking around her night stand in an ideal Illyana dress. I couldn’t help but jump over the towels and bear hug her from behind.
“See, I told you.” She threw herself down on the bed, and I followed. Jumped up again to close the curtains, and then gave me this look that made me tingle all over.
“How the fuck did you get out?” I was tense, and I wanted desperately for her to lay down beside me and rub it all away. These feelings confused me, yet seemed so natural.
“Simple.” She joined me on the bed, the headboard thapping the wall. “I didn’t move for a day, didn’t open my mouth except to empty my 3 trays.” Brushed the blue out of her face, and smiled. “So in their eyes I was back to high society, and they had special doctor orgies which resulted in my freedom. Neat, huh?”
I stared at her, and at her tightly made bed. I felt so shy, so weird.
“What happened to your ankles?” She quickly Twistered herself around, flopping her feet onto the pillow while she cautiously caressed the new scabs.
“Sometimes I don’t want to walk any more.” Her feet were freshly marked, still smelling of pen vapor. “Or to live any more.” I cautiously touched a red circle, and it was warm.
“Listen here.” Started to tickle my feet, but it felt more like a kiss. “You are mine now, and that means I get to die first.” Clara walked in for a second, made a loud I’m listening noise, and then left in a huff.
“You are so weird….Laura? Frisbee?”
“Given name, earned name….it’s all the same in the end.” Turned back around and crawled up to face me. The bed creaked slightly, and in the distance I heard a laundry cart.
“Did you mean what you said the other day?” I was breathing heavily, wiped my right palm behind my back.
“You mean is the world going to end?” Her eyes, I wanted to lick them, to taste their vision. “Yes, but only for me.”
“No, I believe that.” She had a faint scar on her upper forehead, and I instinctively reached out to touch it. “I mean the note.”
“The note?” Took my hand and placed it to her cheek. How could I not want her?
“That we’re going to leave.” I drew my feet towards her, and when they touched I promised myself never to cut them again. “That we’ll be together.”
“Silly Jenny, we are together.” Brought my hand to her lips, and sucked on the fingers, like straws full of lemonade.
“I can’t stop thinking about you…” I was shaking, and she drew me next to her. She smelled like freshly cut grass.
“Don’t.” Brought her hand to my mouth, and poked inwards. “Please.”
Was it I that kissed her first, or her me? I want to remember the taste of her nose, of her lower left breast, but I can’t, not in the way I should be able to. Everything was too fast, too perfect, to reliant on some master stroke of fate that gave me life and started the countdown to irrevocable separation and sadness. All I know is that on Sunday morning I didn’t want to die anymore. I wanted to live, with Laura, and nothing would ever change that.
Clara came back again, and “accidentally” fell through the white plastic curtains, effectively putting an end to my bliss. I’m not sure what she thought she found, but I wanted it to be blatant, to flaunt my first and only love in her face. The half-nakedness was enough for her, and before I could regroup the room was full of nurses, and it took me on the floor begging to Illyana to not being put into the quiet room again. Laura skipped in with a smile on her face, and her silence filled the unit. Her heart sang of me, and of something else.
The white. Always the white.
My bliss lasted until Day 32, when Laura was allowed to go to her first meeting. She sat across from me but kept staring at Arnold. I hated her for that.
He tried to bum a cigarette off of her, but she didn’t smoke. She played one-on-one with him, while I cried behind my sunglasses, wanting the lounge chairs to become electrified. I really didn’t understand, she was supposed to be mine but there she was obviously taken by Arnold, and his tall, smooth brownness that even I could appreciate.
Quarter tried to make me feel better by letting me win at pool, but I just went off and sulked by the vending machines until bearded Eric came over and told me his only story, this time with a twist.
“You know the new blue-haired girl? In 1996 she’s going to eat the sun and all the lightbulbs will break. Do you understand me?”
I didn’t. I did. I asked him how he knew so much and he coughed-smiled.
“Come on! She’s broadcasting, like channel 6, 11 and 34 all wrapped into one, and everyone knows it.” Scratched at his bushy neck. “You think the doctors aren’t afraid? The blue hair….”
He was crazy. I was crazy because I understood him. He gave me some stray cigarettes and a pat on the shoulder, and babbled on to himself back to the TV room. That night they found him dead – heart attack – smiling underneath the static.
I didn’t do anything on Day 33. Didn’t eat, didn’t even get out of bed. Laura came by once, snuck in and kissed my cheek, but I didn’t even react. No purpose, no moment, no life. If she really didn’t know what was going to happen, then she would have stayed and caressed me back into the world. But I had a ways to go yet, and in the end she was just passing through. She would be back for me, when the time was right.
I had my first visitor on Day 35. My father.
“Jen, you look so much better.” 6 foot, clean shaven, flannel and jeans, and the most annoyingly lovable voice in the world. I missed him.
“I don’t feel any better.” He pressed his hand against my forehead, and smiled.
“But you are. You will be.” His new wife was going to have a son in a few days. Gregory – not as cute as Ai but then who possibly could be?
“Dad, get me out of here. I don’t belong here.” He sat down in the wooden chair by the table, and frowned, like when I was 10 and my mother was nowhere to be found.
“I’ve authorized your doctors to keep you here indefinitely, until everyone is sure that you’re better.”
“Then you can come live with me and Rachel, if you like.”
This was wrong. Why couldn’t I just die and be done with it?
“Yeah.” Problem is that I would never be better. Still am not. I couldn’t wait for the doctors to realize this
“You mean it? I would love to have you back…” He stood up triumphantly and kissed me on the cheek. I smiled away the pain.
“I’ll come back in next week, O.K.?” Rachel needed him. His family needed him.
“I love you.”
Silence, as he consulted with Illyana and I stared up at the ceiling. The tiny holes that regularly pricked the tiling were suddenly comforting, each one a potential route to take, a quicker way to the end. Why did I want finality so strongly? What did life have to offer me in the first place? I lived despite my mother, despite the terror and the pain, and no matter how much I tried to help, or to keep Dad and her together, she always ended up drooling on the floor – killing me slowly. The fuck with it, if that’s the plan then why not go all the way, and so when I left her I resolved to run and run until I couldn’t go on any more, dig my own grave, and be done with it. Then I could be free of my mother, of the scars that no one can see, of everything. Of course it didn’t work, and she got to die while I was poked and prodded and analyzed and medicated and told how broken I was, a gingerbread girl that needed reconstructive baking.
If I “improve,” do I win, or do they? And if I died then, in the halls of stately Thomason, or 2 years later in a dirty bathtub somewhere, wouldn’t that be just more proof for their hypothesis? The only choice was to live solely to spite my captors, and so I prayed to the dark behind the ceiling holes to give me enough strength to get out of bed, forsake the knives, and shame them all with my brilliance despite it all.
And I did. I put on my clothes, went to the next meeting, sat right down next to Laura and openly held her hand. I talked about my life, and my mother, and the nights when I would stare at the walls in the dark, breathing in the stillness, wanting to make it permanent. No more yelling, no more broken telephones, no more mistakes.
When it was all over, even Towel gave me a hug, and I didn’t push her away. It turned out that her father was like my mother, only he took it out on her sexually, and instead of screams through the walls there was the warm white stickiness between her legs that would never, ever wash away. Thus her obsession with being clean, with protecting herself from the invisible unknown, and after we had a talk we came to an understanding. She even shared a secret with me, one that turned everything around for the better.
It seemed that right after she found Laura and I together that Sunday, she had a massive flashback back to what had happened with her father, as anything even the most remotely sexual usually produced. So she was in a serious state, and when Laura finally was allowed back into her room Clara had stripped all of the sheets off of the bed we had glowed upon, and covered the mattress with towels. Laura got to the bottom of it all soon enough, and then started talking about me. About what had happened, and about how she felt. It turned out that she wasn’t ignoring me at all, but was just giving me space to get stronger. She needed me whole, so when we did leave nothing would trip us up. You would think that escape would be the last thing you’d want to tell Towel, but she never said a word, not even on Day 68 when everything was Code Blue and she sat crying on her bed.
“I’m not clean,” she yelled. “I’m not clean.”
On Day 40 I was up to a pack and 6 pool games a day. Bliss.
“I used to sell my brother’s Star Wars figures so I could have another hit.” Arnold only did half a pack, but his new record was 346 consecutive free throws – he didn’t remember the number of misses.
“Yeah, well I used to suck on 10 cent super balls, like jawbreakers. Between bounces.” Frisbee hated smoke, green felt tables and always tongued her meds. She had an empty shampoo bottle full of lithium on her windowsill.
“I used to make my Stacy dolls sell their bodies on the strip, and then strangle themselves with waxed dental floss.” I was hoping for lung cancer. To be eaten inside-out by car exhaust, melting pieces of death that look cool when you stand around holding them at your hip.
“Fuck, you’ve got me. I fold.” Went back to his book of the day. “Falling,” this trashy novel about an airplane steward wanted world-wide for raping passengers when they went to the scary plane toilets. I recommended it; at the end he’s blinded by salad tongs and dies in an institution. Best laugh I had all month.
“Chicken.” Laura was working on the connect-the-dots for antizine. One way, it was a TV, the other, a kids burger-meal box. Our pile of spare change and sugar packet loot was huge; the boys always overbid. “I used to turn on the vacuum cleaner and stick the tube in my mouth.”
“I used to open up the vacuum cleaner bag and lick the dust off my fingers.”
“Sick fuck!” She leaped up from the table in a mock fury as I swiped my winnings into my Illyana dress, which I had recently converted into a backpack.
“Sick but oh so sweet!” Arnold gave a Hah! from behind the paperback.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” and Laura dragged me out of my chair to the center of the room. All of the chairs were still pushed back from group; we were using the cafeteria for important Big Bill visualization exercises, and opted out of the popcorn filled after-party. Bribed Steve with future compliance, and so he gave us 15 minutes of run-wild time while he flirted with the cute nurses – especially the blond one that took everyone’s temperature.
“Not in front of the kids!” Too late. She was break dancing on the carpet, and forced me to join her in a wrestling match. I let her win, and she gave my mouth a victory lick. It was our second day of open affection, and Melissa from the night shift left me a Hallmark earlier that morning: “No tongues now!” I adored her, she let me smoke in bed.
Actually, I was starting to feel comfortable with the whole system – it was like junior high school only with a lot more detention, sex and drugs. In fact, if you were addicted to anything, the last place that you should be was in a hospital because everything was way too available. Arnold had to push away bags despite himself, and I had all day and night to plan my demise, with assistance from the staff. They loved to talk about that stuff, took notes even.Clara was gone that night, on a two-day stay with her parents, and Melissa looked the other way when I took her place in the shadows, Laura at my side. We whispered about our free future while she marked up my belly, the ink filling the air with intimacy.
“In 10 years I’ll do this again, and then you’ll understand what bearded Eric was talking about.” I moaned yes as I sucked on her earlobes, the water fountain down the hallway humming itself back to life.
She never mentioned John, even though she knew, but in the end that would have been too cruel. What mattered was that she was mine then, and I hers. Nothing else.
I sucked on her dangling hair as she covered my chest with sugar winnings, and every sticky lick upwards made me want to put away the dental floss for good.
The next morning, when Melissa sleepy-dragged me back to my room, I gave her the Illyana backpack full of coin, and told her to buy some red hair dye on the outs.
Not for me, for Laura. Blue just wasn’t her color.
I’ll never understand why Laura turned into Frisbee, but once she did there was no stopping us. The walls dissolved, the secret blatant, and we slipped out into freedom.
Am I ahead of myself? Yes.
Day 46 was the start of the conspiracy. Only the two of us were actively involved, but Quarter, Arnold and even Towel played their parts. We all started talking in fake school, when the annoyingly nice teacher wasn’t paying attention. The prevailing metaphor was basketball, as per the genius of Arnold.
“All we need is a semi-perfect pass, and then we’ll both go for the sweet 3 pointer.”
“But I’m already close to fouling out, and I can’t risk not being there in the final seconds.”
“Don’t worry Doug, Laura is a good coach. She knows what she’s doing.”
“Can I play? I want to play, too.”
“You can substitute, Clara. But first, we need to measure the courts, O.K.?”
So it was decided. After school we went down to the hoop and openly discussed our plan while we played. It actually did involve the basketball, along with a fake 8-Ball, the best intentions of Illyana, and a little help from Spazz.
The basketball was easy enough. Arnold had been trying to arrange a patient vs. staff tournament for the longest time, and somehow got it to happen on Day 68. So most of the larger doctors and nurses would be occupied on the courts while Laura and I made our move. The 8-Ball we made in activity, glazing a clay sphere the exact same size as a regulation pool one, with the expressed notion of making our own set, one ball at a time. Big Bill really thought that this was funny, which was appropriate considering what happened to it. What better way to sound the alarm than when we were already home free?
Illyana was far more problematic. She had taken the both of us as her personal charges, and Frisbee hated her because. I knew that she really thought that she was helping, what with her special gifts and heart-to-heart talks, so I felt awful to distract her the way that I did. But Clara was game, and on Day 68, during the big basketball affair, she started to freak out and kept calling for Illyana. “I’m not clean,” she sobbed, and there was no way in hell that her counsellor could resist. So while they had an intense one-on-one, I packed my Illyana dress with the bare essentials, left my almost full yellow card on the pillow, and met Frisbee out in the yard. We were both on 30 minute checks at this point, so no one would be looking for us anytime soon.
“Spazz’ll be here in 10 minutes. He’ll drive past the fence,” she pointed past the youth center, “and then we start the long walk.”
“This isn’t going to work.” Big Bill passed by, smiling. He had on his purple-intensive Hawaiian shirt, part of his extensive collection.
“And how are you ladies doing this afternoon? Enjoying the weather?”
“It’s a beautiful day. Yeah.” She was such a ham, but it was true. A perfect sky, with long, stretched-out clouds smeared across the light blue.
“Group today should be fun. Brenda and I have come up with some great relaxation exercises.” Brenda was new – very cool, always reading Kafka, too bad I couldn’t get to know her.
“Sounds fun. See you there.” Frisbee took my hand, and we walked over to the courts. Arnold was putting on a real show, slamming the hell out of Bob the yo yo guard. During a quick water break he sweated over to us and gave big hugs. Surprisingly, no one complained.
“I’ll come back for you. I promise.” Frisbee was starting to cry, which surprised me. Arnold wiped away her tears and gave a sad smile.
“I’ll be O.K. When I leave, I’ll come looking for the two of you. O.K.?”
She couldn’t speak, but I O.K.ed us both out of there. He went back to the game, Spazz’s car drove by, and it was time.
Walked past the records building – where my life story was filed away, only I could never read it – to the pool room’s sliding glass doors. Paul, the speed freak skater, used to always put band stickers on it, and they made him scratch them off weekly. That day, it was Intruder Alert! – the one with the walkie-talkie. Frisbee smiled as we entered.
Douglas was playing pool by himself, as per the plan. He gave us the fake ball off of the table, and pulled me aside quickly for one last smoky kiss. I let him, because I knew no one else would. Gave us his assurance that there would be 2 minutes until he broke the fire alarm open with his cue, and so we walked around the corner through the unlocked unit, straight to the lobby.
To the right, the central TV room and visiting area. In front of us, the hallway to our rooms and the cafeteria. To the left, the door to the outside, unguarded and wide open. Always wide open, always so bright.
We took five careful steps towards the phone booth, and gathered ourself while watching Spazz position the car. He was our ticket out of hell, but turned out to be an even worse form of torture for Frisbee. But that’s for another time.
Then, on Day 68, as Clara cried and Arnold flew, we left the receiver off the hook, turned left, and walked out into the sunlight.
Ran as we crossed tree shadow. The parking lot was old and cracked, but the cars doctor new.
Frisbee let the 8-Ball sail, and as it fractured Big Bill’s Porsche, alarms went off both inside and out. Douglas did his part.
Spazz waived us inside, the engine running, and I tore off my hospital bracelet with my teeth and left it on the curb. “Where to?” He was wearing his Circle X uniform, left work especially for our escape. Laura still has his shirt in my closet.
Crying in my true love’s arms as we turned the corner, the sunlight reflecting off of beautiful bus stops, I could only yell one thing:
In the distance were fire trucks and ambulances, fast approaching as cars swerved left and right. We waived to them as they rushed past.
They waived back.