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
We were in the middle of some state, one of the rectangular ones, sorry I don’t know the name but such things aren’t important to me. Anyway Pyr was driving, and the car was really funky due to the heat, which brought forth the summer stickiness that I hate, the slow sweat that licks at your forehead all day and night. The towel we took from the first place was already full and salty, and I know how it tasted because I had it draped over my face like a wedding veil, which fit because we were married only a few weeks before. So, the towel was just sitting on top of me, and we were dripping back and forth as I laid dentist chaired back, and the road wind was flapping it off now and then, offering peaks of passing trees, signs, all the usual highway shit. Everything had that long day smell, that 200 mile burnt plastic odor that windows rolled all the way down couldn’t get rid of, and the tapes were starting to warp. I didn’t mind that much because I heard them all before over and over again anyway, but Pyr did, because they were his precious sounds, his music, and he was just that way about things. He was like Shit Shit everything’s falling apart so I took off the towel a bit and gave him a soft look, and the sun just sat there lounging right in front of us turning orange and red and so I knew it was getting late. I popped up the seat and leaned over and whispered in his ear something inspiring, he smiled that I’m tired of all this fucking driving but thanks anyway smile, so I brushed back his hair going There, there, we’ll stop soon, which was just the trick. Kicked around a cereal box or two and then back to the towel.
I don’t know if I said before but the towel was powder blue and so when I was under it the whole world was like a baby’s bonnet or something, soft and cuddly but still holding back that long, loud cry that’ll come when everyone’s asleep. It was like somewhere else, the beach maybe, with the wind rushing by like waves, and the bump bump of the road the sway of the water as it cradles you even though you’re all wet and coughing, wanting to go back to the sand. And when you do it sticks all over your feet, making you run back in but not too far, maybe just to the edge so it can come up and slip on by, grabbing at your ankles until you almost fall over, but you don’t because your strong and it’s hot and even though your tired you don’t want to get your hair wet again. It was almost like that, only with an engine.
Cars can be that way. When you’re going to the mall or something and the brake is kind of squeaky suddenly you’re Fuck why am I here and all that until the light turns red and you have to stop again. I always thought it was the vibration on your butt and that little clicker hypnotizing you click click click until everything’s a windshielded blur and the horns become your theme song and Drive you shit the chorus. Whatever it is, give me the keys and I’m out back in Pole Position land going around in circles preparing to qualify, lost with only the click click click until I find myself where I want to be. That’s why Pyr always drives I guess, he was born on the way to the hospital so he’s used to it. I wonder what that would be like, to stick out your head with everything all sirens and lights flashing and the road bump bumping, your mother on more of a TV tray than a bed, the paramedics with no mouths dancing around It’s a boy/girl let me slap it for you. If I remember right I first screamed safe at home, not that I would recall the actual moment, but that’s what mother said when she dusted the furniture, Here on the rug they didn’t have time to move me to the bedroom yeah right. Actually I think she was on the big bed for wasn’t it pretty obvious with the extra size the pain and all that something was up, better boil water. She was probably making one of her points like If you don’t clean the floor then how will you ever find anything, when it’s obvious that if it’s all out there spread around you’re bound to trip over what you want sooner or later.
I have a feeling you’re lost so back to the road. In the car, under the towel, world is hot and blue, and I’m hyped because nothing has gone wrong so far. Pyr is starting to bitch and I’m like We’re almost there O.K. but everything’s cool as I lay calm and the sun sets. He finds a tape from between my legs that still works, well, that why he says his hand was there, but a finger wiggle reveals a lot more than he thinks sometimes. A simple touch can have me rolling on the ceiling begging for something – it doesn’t matter what – and I won’t come down until I get it. If he does it wrong then I’m on top of him ordering what I want what I need and I take it no excuses no complaints. Either way, he was up to something, and it was almost 18 hours since the last twitch and moan so I was all squeezing my thighs around his hand forcing him to pull it out unless he didn’t want to. He was driving though so he just wiggled a bit and then left. I wasn’t surprised. Always gets me riled up only to trim the edges, when what I want is to bite into overgrown bushes, and bring forth that green smell, that perfect smell, can’t even come close to describe it. Who cares. It was late.
By this time Almost became There it is, which I knew because I’d been there before. Didn’t remember exactly when then, but as I grabbed his shoulder pointing to the dusty parking lot, I could hear long ago radiator hiss. When I was little we stopped there – car trouble and all that – but it seems so far away now, dream-like, that it feels like someone else’s life, a drive-in movie without the sound. I never understood why at drive-ins they just couldn’t set up one giant speaker and turn it up to 10, no more boxes no more trouble but that’s besides the point because you’re in a car and you should be driving not watching what good is a wheel if you don’t turn it. I would like it just fine if they told you to park your car in a lot somewhere and made you sit outside on cold concrete, while the single speaker blared and the fog slowly settled in, if you were by the water that is, and the picture so large sat like a billboard in front of you, only they were selling stars not car wax. That’s fine because people shine their hoods too much anyway, and I like water spots and dust, especially the red kind that the car kicked up when Pyr drainage-ditch dipped into the motel lot. It was empty except for us.
Actually I was kind of surprised about that because you would think that a motel would have people staying in it and all, but there we were parking by the chainlink that painted hollow shadows all over the car, and we were alone which I knew for certain because the sign even said vacancy in big red letters. Not that someone couldn’t have gone out to take a drive or something before nighttime but I doubt it, where could they go except to a cornfield or a silo or just back and forth on the highway until they ran out of gas. Anyway we were there at last, and so Pyr was like Cool, now I can get a shower and I nodded Fuck yes because he stank. All I wanted was to just get out of that fucking car which I was so sick of then, now too, so I threw the towel in the back seat, on top of the pillows, and hot-tub toed outside into the dying heat. And when I stood up on the loose ground, the same kind they have in the middle of baseball fields – which I would know since I walked on one once when my Dad’s friend invited us to the coliseum for a guided tour, and it was so fucking boring but we got free baseball shit which was cool – I felt more complete than any other time that I can remember. It was like home, except it wasn’t at all, you know?
Pyr didn’t. I was all This is so great while he just yawned and stretched up like he was trying to poke through the clouds. Then he popped the trunk and threw the bags on the ground, like a pissed-off luggage guy at the airport when you don’t tip enough, even if it’s because he’s an asshole. Not that Pyr was an asshole or anything, but he was fucking close when I tried to help, and he was like Baggage handling is next to godliness and pushed me away. So I spun around like a push top, the really clanky kind, and kicked a dust devil into his face. Well, almost that high, except some wind came out of nowhere just in time like it was planned or something, and slapped the dirt back to the ground. Made me wonder if he wasn’t just reaching for the clouds before, but actually shaking their hands, asking them to spit on me for him. Maybe not, but it did rain later.
I’m sorry if I’m getting ahead of myself or even a bit confused, but everything blurs together in the end when you’re looking back and trying to make sense. It’s not like I didn’t give you warning though, but since I haven’t got to the good part yet and I want you to be there with me, I’ll try to get things back in control. Anyway, after the wind killed my baby storm, well, actually it was just a cloud, but I wanted it to turn into a tornado or something and suck him up into the sky, after that Pyr went Why don’t you just go get a room O.K. and that made sense so I did. Up to the front part where all the signs were, like Welcome and Enjoy Your Stay and No Fucking Solicitors, well, maybe not that one, just normal motel shit, you know, hole in the ground smart assdom. The porch part was creaky wooden and kind of rotten so as your feet came down everything stopped for a second to make sure that you were walking, and the whole world laughed at you for making stupid noises, because you’re not supposed to draw attention to the cracks the faults the little things, that you know are wrong but no one else does, so they stuff you into envelopes and put you in a mail box somewhere to be sorted out later. What I mean is that the whole place was old, flat roofed, and when you stepped on it’s toes it gave out a little moan begging you to clip its nails. Looked like no one had done that for a while, with the walls flaky white, yellow showing through, and some weeds – Dandelions, I think – sticking out here and there by the horse-post fence thing which ran wild around the front side. Guess it was to stop runaway cars or something, because corn can do that to city people, make them all crazy wanting to look in the cobs for a second while they drive by, to see if it was actually there or just a hoax – corn actually being like carrots dug out of the ground, so you have to pull the stalks two handed and shake the dirt off – and when they do a crow flies by and makes them skid off the road into a ditch and flip over, dead. If they were going fast enough then they would surf dust belly-up to the fence, and crack through it so loud that the people inside could run out the back door and hop on the tractor before the water heater exploded, or maybe the oven because flat landers like gas. I don’t.
Anyway the front door was a screen – with a big dog-rip at the bottom, like it just had to go and couldn’t wait to bark – and through it you could see a desk. Not that I saw it or anything, for when I jingled inside, kicking up the doormat a bit, all that was there for me was the icebox. The Icebox. Silver-metal half red painted sofa, with cool ice written all over it, really. In general store letters – no one cares if you drip a bit – it sang at me like an ice cream truck, except you didn’t have to run after it trailing nickels, no it just sat there stupid waiting for you to come over and put your head inside. I always liked to taste crunchy cold, let my tongue stick to a big fat cube fresh out of the freezer tray, and just suck away at it, melting it slowly, as I sat on the porch or walked around the block just looking and thinking. That’s what I remembered when I went up to the icebox, lazy cloud days and a numb mouth, and I hardly noticed anything else in the room, except maybe the map above it, all dot-lined and tiny printed, not even helpful, well, maybe to those who already know where they are, and want to double check, to lick themselves on the back. I hate maps, hate borders and capitals and perfect scale, and I never get lost, because I’m always happy where I end up. Happy to look down some strange alley and see nothing but black, glad to ask someone for directions just to hear their voice, and how it shakes because they feel so good showing you all the shit they know, all the places they’ve been that you haven’t. Personally I don’t give a fuck what they know, I just want some pocket change and a good pair of shoes, and to get where I’m going, where I’m supposed to be. And when I touched the icebox – my sweaty fingers shining the handle – and lifted the lid, I knew I was there. The right place.
So I didn’t wait one click to grab a wax-coated paper bucket off the top part, and scoop down deep inside, making that perfect ice noise – like a rake against concrete only without the wince – and up came little clear chunks of heaven, steaming. It was bite-sized ice, the kind that you can stick between your toes after a long run, and I couldn’t help but just stare at it, to smell it, and don’t let anyone tell you that ice, or water even, doesn’t have a smell, because it does, like the minute after you turn the shower off and slap the water down the drain, like 6 AM on a rainy day when you first throw off the cold covers, or like laying back-down in the middle of a field, when the stars are popping up one by one, and the grass is crying dew. Ice smells like all that, only more, it’s the base that every other scent is thrown on top of. I never told anyone this before, but when I was little I used to open the freezer and lie down in front of it for hours, reading the labels off popsicle boxes, or trying to imagine the chickens at the TV dinner factory hopping around on one leg, and all the cold would jump down to the floor and then float around the kitchen, while the grate at the bottom of the frigerator hummed hot air, trying to suck back in its secrets. But I wouldn’t let it, I’d take dirty towels from the laundry room and stuff them along the base, and watch it cough, its mouth wide open, helpless as the ice slowly melted. And, as soon as the frosty walls started to drip, I’d grab a chair and stand tippy-toed on it, take all the boxes and unlabeled bags out and stack them on the counter, and then crawl inside the freezer as far as I could go, letting the slow water mingle though my hair, sticking strands together, and close the door behind me. If you ever wondered if the light stays on when the door is closed well it doesn’t, all that is left is cold dark, frozen rain puddles, and the whisper mumble of forced stillness. Balled up, my face pressed against the far corner, I’d take in that clean smell, imagining myself as tomorrow’s dinner, ready to be thawed out, until the air started to fall to the ground, water started to sneak up my ankles, and my heart yelled at me, making me kick at the door with socked feet. It would wheeze for a moment and then slowly creak open, I’d dangle my legs back out, feel for the chair’s back-rest, and lower myself down. Put everything exactly back into its place, turn up the dial to coldest for an hour or two, and when my mom came home she’d find me off in a closet somewhere, playing with coat hangers. I only did it three times, until she got suspicious after finding sock lint in the ice tray, but by then I was too big anyway, so I didn’t give a shit. Some things aren’t meant to last.
Anyway, after a few seconds of looking, feeling the cold slip through the bucket onto my palms, I couldn’t wait any longer so I raised it up to my mouth, stuck out my tongue and wormed deep down into the pile, not even worrying about my shades, which scratched against the top, fogging up a bit but I didn’t need to see just to taste, to slide the chunks over the roof of my mouth, making as if to swallow but at the last moment slapping to a cheek, killing them with back teeth, sharp. It was perfect, like a commercial in a show you forgot to tape when you really have to pee, except that when my jaw was exploding I couldn’t hear him come up behind me. I hate that.
Sure he fucking loved it because he was all A quarter tapping me on my shoulder making me throw the ice up into the air bend-spinning around squeezing a fist for the groin, on automatic pilot like I was back there or something, because strange hands asking lead to dumpsters and no money. Crouched down with fake hail hitting the floor, he jumped back clear to the desk, the one I didn’t see until then – wasn’t much; old, brown, you know – and he was like Hold it, I just wanted a quarter for the ice, which was already melting into the floor cracks. I couldn’t help but laugh at him, only it came out like a soda in your nose cough, because I still had some in my mouth, well, I did until then. It flew-slid across the floor, picking up some shoe dust, and stopped at his feet. Are you all right? he open handed, and I was like I guess so as I took them and he helped me up. His hands were strong and kind of sweaty, which usually meant that either he washed them too much or liked to touch, and as I swayed to my feet I was hoping the second. What was all that? he grinned as I brushed back hair pocketing the shades – taking in red shorts, bare chest – and the best I could come up with was I don’t know, maybe we can find out later. Grabbed his eyes and gave a passing car stare – the kind you don’t expect to see again – and he fumbled O.K. Whatever and went back behind the desk, out of his league.
That was cool because I’m patient, especially when it comes to reeling in what I like and he was pretty much it. Reminded me of this library guy when I was little, he used to work at the check-out desk and I would always get these stacks of books – didn’t matter if I wanted them or not – so that I could just look at his big eyes made bigger by glasses, while he shucked and branded them. And I would keep them longer than I should of, so I could take them up to the return counter one by one, pleading to get out of jail free. He would adjust his tie and squint at the fine sheet really careful, and then smile and say I didn’t see these, putting them on a book truck. I would sigh chin-low and see myself on top of him, reaching inside his pants, feeling for it, but I doubt he knew, don’t think he even cared, not that way. His ring finger choked so loud each time I saw it, make me want to put it under the paper cutter in the back and just chop red, and as he screamed or cried or whatever I would take some of that book cover tape and scratch paper to wrap up his hand, careful not to stick any right on the bone, and then kiss him on the ear hoping to suck out all the thoughts of anyone else but me. Anyway I was way too young, hadn’t even had a period yet, so all I could do was go off in the library bathroom and stare at the mirror, waiting to change into something that he would want, something that could take him. By the time that happened he had already gone, all that was left was the fine sheet, which I stole and hung up inside my closet, to calculate the cost of wanting while I chose what to wear. It always was too much.
Actually, the guy at the motel was nothing like him, except for his fingers maybe, although his were free to wiggle their own way. Free to wiggle my way, and they almost did, but I’m jumping ahead again, breaking all the book rules, making a mess of things. Good. Fuck grammar I used to say to my 8th English teacher during detention, and she would be like That’s not a complete sentence young lady and knock me over with a yard stick. Well, not actually over because I could sue her ass, just into the desk making my number 2 hop to the floor point first. No, the guy at the motel was more like a garbage man, all noisy and dented, slamming doors while you sleep, turning dreams of swimming pools into bathtubs, when the water is gray and everything starts to itch from the heat. When I watched him shuffle through drawers looking for a pen, he gave me this feeling that Pyr could never hack up even if he wanted to, kind of like sitting on the porch waiting for the lightning to come, the hair on the back of your neck standing up just a little. And when he found a Bic and said So, what can I do for you, I wanted to take him right there, but I couldn’t because the front door jingled and Pyr came in banging the bags around, obviously out of it. He was all Have you got it yet? and the motel guy – I’ll save his name for later – came with a quickness Number two is all set, and pulled some keys out of his pocket. Thank you I leaned forward, taking the keys from his hand, making sure to reach between his fingers some, scratching the edges gently with my fingernails. Everything was all shining really great then , so let me just step a bit while he gives me the pen to sign the guest book, so I can show you where everything was, how it was perfect.
O.K. Obviously we were in some sort of room, and it was typical motel type, with two doors, one behind the desk, and one in front – the screen, remember? Icebox was over to the left – well, universal left, like when you watch the sun set – and it was about so high, up to my waist. Map above it was old, hanging by only two tacks, which was cool because it would flap a bit in the fan-wind that came from the corner, where there was this big blade in a flat birdcage on top of a coatrack kind of pole, and even if you couldn’t actually feel it blowing around, due to the heat you dragged in, there were these shoelaces tied to the action end, flapping around like shredded flags. One was white and the others were brown and black, but you don’t give a fuck do you because a person can be too particular and make you want to skim ahead, so let me just move on to the main wall, all Hawaii postered and travel pictured. Next to Honolulu was a really neat snap of one of those big rocks you see out in Arizona or New Mex, the ones that Pyr always wanted to jump off of, and even though it was in black white you could still make out the orange, red and blue as the sky wrapped around the pimples of the world. I guess it’s kind of mean to call them that, probably will piss off some geologists, but they can be real shits putting you to sleep when you’re trying hard to learn about glaciers, with their drone drone continental drift wheeze crap, like I care if the ground moves an inch a year, get to the point. There were other pictures too, of places we had passed or were going to sooner or later, and every one was really out of focus which added to the mystery, wanting to know who was squinting behind the camera. Anyway, along side of the wall was a park bench looking thing, all Singer cushioned like mom used to fake, with corners tied to the posts to make sure someone with a sore ass didn’t stuff one down his pants and walk away I guess, but they were sweater thin so I don’t see how they would help much. The bench was long enough to lay on if you stuck your legs underneath an armrest, and it was about as high as a 13 inch with remote so if you sat down you had to trip out your ankles, probably scrunching up the floor rug-mat when you did. Looked like it needed to be fucked up a bit so the dust could breathe, but who wants to touch something everyone else has stepped on, except of course if it was something you lost. Nothing else dead was of much interest, so let’s crawl up on top of the people proper, starting with me.
I had on a gray tank top that was a size or two too big, so as I leaned over the desk anyone who wanted to look could see pretty much whatever they wanted. My hair was about back length, red if I remember right, with a yellow streak splitting me between the eyes. Shorts were about knee high, blue-greenish with big jacket pockets, and they were roomy enough that the wind could kick them up past my thighs if it was absolutely necessary. Shoes were standard All-Stars – maroon, with penned-in go-go checks along the soles – and I was going sockless because I used the last good pair a couple days before for hand puppets, to prove a point to Pyr. Not that he understood or anything, which goes along with the general impression he sweats. Hard to describe, maybe it’s something in his eyebrows, the way they twitch at you when he’s a couple of minutes late, or it could be his shoulders, which lop to one side when he looks you in the chest. In any case, he oozes irritation, and whatever it shoots through turns radioactive with discomfort. Especially his clothes, and how they wrinkle up as soon at they touch his body, adding a sense of laundromat leisure to even the cleanest T-shirt. The one he had on that day was already seat-soaked all along the back, and the picture – Uncle Sam giving the finger, WE WANT YOU TO FUCK OFF around it – was fading and starting to dandruff. Not that it didn’t match his shorts, which were actually camo cut-offs that he lifted from A. Surplus. They had seen one to many under-table screws, with the biggest hole just below the crotch fray-framing his 3-pack boxers. His only hope was to distract with hair, and he did that pretty well, even though I fucked up the back a bit when I dyed it black, and he was all What is this shit on my head? until I found some scissors and buzzed him from ear to neck to ear. Actually it grew out kind of cool, but you wouldn’t know unless you were standing a block away. He likes it though, says it makes him look like A fucking bum which is what he was aiming for I guess.
Pyr was by the door sitting on the bags, and he was giving the motel guy a real thinker, elbows and all. I already told you some about him – shorts, chest – but that was only the throw-away part, the packaging that lies about the ingredients. If you looked past the navel hair, and took in the way that he stood, the curve of his wrists, and shoved it deep back behind your eyes into the dark, then you would start to understand what I do, you would feel the tingle. It was like when you’re at the drug store because someone used up all of the college ruled, and you really don’t want to be there with the rows and rows of sick shit, the romance novels that make you want to take up arson, then as you pick up boxes of whatever and place them in a shopping cart to add balance-weight so you won’t fall over after crashing into weekly specials, this music rains from the ceiling and it’s that song that you used to sing when you were 3, only you could never remember the words even if you really tried, but there it was bouncing off the Hallmarks, and you let the cart wobble off into some deodorant as you RCA’d up. That was it, with the stupid hooks that no one dared sample, and it was so pure, so snowy, that you just wanted to fall to the ground right there and make toilet paper angels. When he handed over the pen, all the while keeping one eye on Pyr, I had the same sort of flush, the breeze of twisted up memory-love. It was wonderful.
Come to think of it, all the shit I just said doesn’t really professor the essence of that moment. Maybe it was only the light skipping off the fields, throwing shadows into every little sidewalk crack. Yeah, with the screen holes hitting blurry road pictures, Pyr’s head stretching into the icebox and looking pissed because, the day-end vacuuming of the sun from far-away corners and half-full cardboard boxes. In any case, when I look back I get this something extra that’s missing now, and to put it on any one thing probably isn’t fair, so I won’t. Don’t want to be one of those people who are always pulling your teeth, their sharp needles filled with what they think is the cure-all great thought, the one point that will make everyone shut off their cars and go buy a Coke, but I don’t want to waste your time with New York Timed literary vomit. I just have something to say, and when I can ring it out of my life’s sponge then I’ll shut the fuck up.
So. Took the pen and faked a name address in his book, along with a rende-note to the effect of 11:30 I’ll be waiting here for you. Bet he could read upside down cause when I perioded he gave me a side eye and babbled If you need anything don’t hesitate to call, number’s by the room phones. Drawered the book, ping-ponged Pyr a I don’t know what the fuck’s up look and slipped though the door before I could think to blink. Tossed the keys to Pyr but his hands were still chin-locked so they jingle-pledged his allegiance right on Uncle Sam’s scowl. He was all Fuck you and you’re little dog too but I just smiled and runwayed over to the door, flipping hair and flashing thigh until he had to grab for something, opportunities being hard to pass up and all. Baby-slapped him away cause what’s mine’s mine to give and take, any questions? Not from him, wants me too much to raise a tongue, fucking coward.
Elbow-swung the door open, and as the outside flew in light tinseled off gutter mouths and telephone floss straight into my eyes, making me snow-squint until I could ear my Arnolds. That done I gave Pyr a Let’s go already so he creaked up soon enough, duffled his right, back-packed with a groan, and samsonited me with his shit, fortunately a lot lighter after the washing machine scam a few days before. Not that I forgave him for snatching the bag of quarters before our shit was dry, had to grab wet handfuls and drip-run out the front, with hangers dropping baskets kicking and that fat ass lady What do you think you’re doing! sorry bitch, no gun, no luck. Actually I felt kind of bad as we squealed out, it being the only mat in town and all, think of all the overalls, sun dresses and fashionable T’s it takes to fill up a change machine, divide that by the hick population, and you got a lot of twinkie dreams lost forever. Fuck, why spill milk, there was mud, shit and grass all over town anyway, someone was bound to trip over their hand-me downs in time for Sunday dinner – like the laundrolady needed to eat any more, she could barely fit out the door to see me give her the finger goodbye. And since it was bingo day or something the only cop we saw was too busy pissing in the bushes behind the grocery store to notice us, by the time he finished shaking we were long gone. Still, hope she could at least get something for the clothes we left behind, scamming always leaves a moral aftertaste that takes a little extra Listerine to wash away.
Anyway, I really don’t give a fuck about what we carried or how we got to the room, but since you weren’t there and all I’ll wave my little flashlight over what I remember. Turned left outside the office and walked along the porch planks, walls left, crash fence right. Above there were G.E.’s hung by wire nooses, swaying slightly as the wind began to pick up, as the clouds shaving-creamed past far away trees. There were a few doors closed that we passed, red with nailed-on numbers, and through curtains drawn shadow beds slumbered and table lamps shaded caught flies, not quite dead yet. In front of us the fence held back green corn stalks, rows and rows of potential movie pop, and beyond were the tips of houses and barns, shingle-faded from heavy noon times. Past our car was the road – just like all the tracked veins of the country, dot-striped and gray skinned, dry and bumpy – and past that was a big field of something, short enough that the brown still peaked through in near parts, but the farther you looked out, the more it all blurred into greenish-black, blending with tree heads and electro-poles, barely countable. It was so fakey natural, so producerial and agrocentric, that I wanted to throw a bottle match right in the middle of it all, and watch the flames reclaim the land that one had buffaloes and people and real things on it, priceless and value full. But it’s stupid to even waste a thought on the past because it’s gone, and no one gives a fuck about other dead bodies besides their own, and not really even that, because it’s so much more satisfying to tobaccoalcocaffinate yourself to death, and if they didn’t then think about all the homeless businofacists roaming the streets, bumming espresso-drags off passing consumers. Makes you want to TV, to walkman and U.S.A. Today, to jack-off to obscene sound bytes dripping from your wallets. And you will.
I won’t. I won’t fuck your sons and daughters, I won’t lick your conscience clean, I won’t shit in your urban toilets, and watch my dreams circle-spin down the drain. I don’t know who you are, don’t care either, and what gives you the right to even read this, to stuff me inside your head between boxes filled with useless educrap and advermyths, moldy from the water that showered in your ears and just stayed there, caught behind the wax. But it’s already too late, I’m in and I’m a little dead virus that’ll tear you apart with whisper screams of all the ways you suck, about how your faith in a better life is wrong, how your thoughts are stupid, how you aren’t worth saving. You probably won’t notice until it’s too late, until I grab your eyes and spin them back so you can look in, and you’ll see nothing, have nothing, know nothing. And then I’ll take over, put your athletic shoes on, walk you outside, drive you to the nearest body of water, make you open the gas tank, and throw the cigarette lighter in. Dinosaur juice’ll explode like the time they fucked up, and body bits will fly along with tires and rear-view mirrors, 250 million mushroom clouds rising past joyous sea gulls. When the last piece falls the cool will climb up and wash away it’s secret shame, the mistaken gasp of air that led to fast food, and after a day or two things will be the way they should be. Without you.
And now you’re probably all What kind of fucking story is this, and this’ll be the last sentence you’ll read. Which is fine by me, because the damage is done, and no matter how many times you recycle this I’ll still be inside you, waiting. So if you want to stop, fine, now’s the time to do so. If not, then I’ll walk you to the motel room, and explain why things turned out the way they did. That is what you wanted, right? The gossip, the bones of the plot, the caramel center to it all. If so, you’ll get more than enough, if not, there’s hope for you yet. Either way – the room.
Yeah. So where was I? Oh. We were walking towards the corner and as the light turned into not-so-light you could just make out the scratches on the bumper where we ran into that one way sign, trying to make it point in our direction. But poles are metal for a reason and so the car got fucked up, not that much, just enough so that Pyr was Fucking shit, I’m glad this ain’t my car and I rebounded I could have swore it was a breakaway pole which I couldn’t have since nothing like that exists anywhere and they weren’t about to start using them in the middle of nowhere, not to mention Iowa. Besides I never swear that way, because there’s a big difference between You asshole and I pledge allegiance, and if you ever start taking about responsibilities to higher powers then I’ll just put my ears in my pockets until you get to the part about abortion, which’ll be the time that I’ll slap you silly. Anyway, around the corner were rooms 2 and 1, ours being a few steps from the turn, and as Pyr tossed the duffle at the foot of the door – which has one of those metal guards on it, to prevent drunken kick-throughs I guess – I swung his suitcase at him, spanking him hard enough that he took the position, arms straddling the room number. Put his shit to the side and approached him with imaginary sleeves rolled, and patted him down for the keys while I cooed Come on baby, you know better not to block the door before we even get inside (give his faucet a good yank) because that’s bad luck to the worst degree (shimmy my fingers under the shirt, hooking his belly button) remember what happened the first night? (remind him with a nipple twist) I know you don’t want that again. Aha! Finger the keys from his back pocket while I kick his legs apart enough that I can crawl through to the knob, looking up with a smile while the room twist-clicks into life. Falling forward a bit before grabbing for the door jam, he watches me paddle through the shadowed carpet to the bed, not saying a word because by now he knows what’s good for him. Take a peek beneath the mattress before I break it in with a belly flop, spreading my legs wide open to test the clearance. Queen size to the inch.
You may proceed I sneered and so he kicked the duffle in and then threw his backpack off into the corner – between the dresser and garbage can, I’ll get to those later – his shit still along the outside wall where I left it. Shower he mumbled, digging through the duffle and taking his cue I went outside to get the suitcase, since the good soap and shit were inside it, and I knew how particular he could be about moisturizers and perfumes, even though he’s only fifty-six hundredths of a percent pure. Anyway, as I fetched the bag there was this way too weird feeling in the air, kind of like shag-carpet static, combined with a whisper in the breeze that sent a shiver right down to my butt, so I didn’t wait a click to get our shit into the room and bolt the door behind me. Of course, now I know that it was just the world talking, making sure that that night went as it was planned to all along forever, but then I was simply freaked, so I started filling up the dresser, since if it’s one thing my mother ever pummeled into me, it’s that you’ll never sleep right unless everything is put away. Guess that’s some pseudo-American folk wisdom, go figure.
So, and this is one of those good parts I was talking about, when I opened up the top drawer, where I usually put my underjunk, there was one of those small, green New Testaments that someone leaves at every place you stop, because they get a kick out of it or something. Usually they seem hot off the presses but this one was obviously touched, with a bookmark even sticking out of the back. Maybe some of the air outside seeped in underneath the door, or it could have simply been one of those strange impulses endless hours on the road produces, but I felt almost commanded – O.K., bad word in context, but it’s true so sue me – to take that Bible and read the page that was marked. Took it, closed back up the drawer, and plopped back down on the bed, finding a good position to take in the message.
Sure, I didn’t know it was a message then, but I’ve already passed then, already know what the storm brought, but you don’t so let’s continue at the point where I open it up. As those things go it had to be The Revelation of St. John, because my mother always had a thing for the Apocalypse – which I talked about a long time ago in Antizine 5, when the dreams came back. Oh yeah, unless you’re Jenny you have no idea what I’m talking about, so a little cheat sheet is in order. My mother, even though she was Japanese to the core, wanted to be an American like I don’t know what, and one of the things which she though was absolutely required was Christianity. So she always went to church and dragged me along, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it or anything, but I do remember being scared out of my Sunday dress, going up to the front and having to eat those crackers that were actually chunks of our Savior, and I believed it, which really sucked because meat always disgusted me, even then. Besides, why couldn’t I just let him into my heart, not my digestive tract, you know? Well, anyway, when I was 7 the first dream hit, which I remember like I don’t know what because it came every night for a whole week, each time more freaky than before. The first night, this girl, younger than I was then, was sitting in church next to me, where mother usually did. She was dressed all in white, or simply was really shiny, because her arms and legs didn’t exactly stand out from her body. I asked her where my mother was and she said Up there, pointing to the choir. And there she was, singing her head off, and I couldn’t help but laugh because she wasn’t singing with everyone else, instead she was belting out early 60’s pop. But no one noticed, that is until she stood up from the front row and started screaming. Yeah, my mother was in the front and singing in the choir, how I don’t know, but the one in the front was yelling in Japanese about the fall of Babylon – which I know now but at that time I thought she was yelling Baby Lion – and my mother in the choir stopped singing, took out one of those Han Solo laser guns and popped her double right in the head. You would have thought that it would have stopped her, but instead she kept screaming louder, so riled up that I couldn’t understand what she was saying. But my singer mother did, and so she jumped out from the choir and ran across the altar, knocking the Bible off the main podium as she did. When it hit the floor it went straight through, and kept on going down into the earth, until flames shot out of the hole. Watch carefully the girl next to me said, as my Japanese mother was knocked down by my singing one, who started to reach up her dress, yelling There will not be another one! She didn’t fight back at all, only telling her that There will be one removed, who knows the bitter taste and yet complains not. Then, from out of the flaming Bible hole came this demon guy, red and everything, who grabbed my Japanese mother and pulled her in. The hole closed up, my singing mother came back down to sit with us, and the whole church stood up on its feet and yelled Amen. When they sat back down, the girl was gone.
If you haven’t figured out by now I’m slowing down story time to a grinding halt, because these dreams are really important, especially considering what happened at the hotel that night. So anyway, the second night was kind of like the first, except my mother sent me to church alone, because she was sick or something. So Aunt Jessica took me there – which makes no sense since she was a thousand miles away – and dropped me off at the door, saying Bring back some water for me, O.K.? I nodded and waived as she pulled away, and when I turned around to go in there that girl was again, shinier than before. Did you say your prayers before you went to sleep? and I said no, because I wasn’t sure if she was talking about the real world or the dream one. That’s O.K., but I need to show you something, so say them now and then we’ll go. So I knelt down on the steps and gave a quick Our Father…, which was the only thing I knew. Great, now you know this is a dream, right? I looked at her and looked around the church, and things looked pretty real, so I shrugged. It’s very important that for the next 5 nights you are ready to hear what I’m saying, so tonight I’m here to get you ready. O.K.? I nodded, although I didn’t exactly understand then. You may be wondering why I remembered this so well from so long ago, but we’ll get to that soon enough. So, she took my hands in hers and said You like the park, right? Let’s go there and then there was this flash and black and white and lots of green and brown because we were in the park. Wow, can we do that again? but she smiled No, let’s go sit down by the flowers and talk, O.K.? So we did, and the flowers seemed so colorful and large and smelly that I knew that it was a dream, which was strange because that never happened before. Laura, do you remember me from last night? Yes, you were at the church, and you told me to watch Japanese mommy fight American mommy. Good. Now I need to tell you something that you can never forget, O.K.? I’ll remember, I promise. O.K, and I don’t want you to cry, because everything will be O.K. I won’t, I don’t cry very much. She took off the white, how I don’t know, and underneath were the strangest clothes, especially this thing she had on her head and over her eyes, kind of like an X-Wing helmet. They told me you won’t retain any of this unless I prepare you, so I need you to put this on, and then she handed the helmet-thing to me. O.K., is this Star Wars or something? You could say that. Now, put it on tight and look at me. And I did, and then I saw her, but she wasn’t her anymore – she was someone else, a part of me. I woke up in a cold sweat.
The third night I was really scared to go to sleep, because I didn’t know what to expect. Usually I didn’t remember my dreams so vividly, and I was only in the 2nd grade so I had no context to put things in. But, I still believed in magic and monsters and the power of daytime and darkness, so I just took it in stride, and trusted that it was just a dream after all, no matter how strange. When I finally got to sleep, my pajamas covered in sweat, I found myself in the park again, looking at that girl. Sorry about that, they tried to give you too much at once. Do you remember anything? Just looking at you and thinking of me, I half-truthed, because I actually saw me, and far more. Very promising. You don’t talk like any girl I know. Remember, Laura, I’m kind of like your imaginary friend, because you’re asleep now, remember? Oh yeah, and everything seemed to shift a notch, becoming clearer yet more uncertain. Then I could wake up if I wanted. Or I could fly…and then I started to lift off the ground, rising above the trees. We have lots to cover! she screamed from below, and I came down because I was kind of scared and all, flying around and shit. O.K., so you remember the first night, in the church? Yeah. And last night, here in the park? Yeah. And you know this is a dream? Yeah. O.K., so we can do anything we want, right? I guess so. Good, now take this camera, and then she gave me this camcorder thing – but this was 1979 so I have no idea how I thought of it – and told me to Put it inside your ear, and imagine that it will record everything you see, like a movie. A movie? Yes, and you will remember everything you see, and everything you hear, because you can play back the tape in you head, when you are awake or asleep. O.K.? So I put this in my head – and then I imagined it small, placing it deep inside my ear. Very good, you’re catching on faster than we imagined. Now we’re going to play a game, O.K.? What game? Hide- and-go-seek. You’ll be it Laura, and I’ll go somewhere to hide. In the park? No, anywhere in the whole world. This is a dream, remember? You can do anything you want. And with that she disappeared, leaving me alone in the park.
Now even though this was a dream and I knew it, I was still freaked out like I don’t know what, yelling for the girl who’s name I didn’t know, holding back kickball tears – the one’s when no one picks you cause you don’t have a dick. After a bit I stopped and remembered that I had a camera in my head, and imagined that I could take pictures of my memories, which I did, including the dreams of the nights before. Then, I kept the camera rolling and started to look around deep inside, thinking that if I was dreaming then everything – the park, the girl, everything – was in my head too, and so all I had to do was look inside my dream head, instead of outside in the dream. That probably sounds spazzy but as soon as I turned a couple of shady corners, past blurry pictures of Japan and the first day of kindergarten, there that girl was, sitting in front of me in the park. I opened my dream eyes and she was really sitting there, smiling while she messed with the X-Wing helmet. You’re quicker than I thought. I don’t want to wear that again! and she frowned while I pouted my best pout. What are you afraid of, Laura, isn’t this just a dream? Yeah, I guess. And doesn’t that mean that everything outside actually is inside you, just like you figured out? Yeah. So whatever happens can’t hurt you, and is completely in your control. And I can take a movie of it! That’s right, and then she turned white again while handing over the helmet. I have many things to show you in a short period of time. Put it on again. The dream-world blacked out for a moment while I slipped it on my head, and then I saw the girl, but she was more and less than she was before – a shadow of light in a glass of water, and a reflection of me mirror-bouncing off into infinity, all at the same time. I know you….I said, and her light smiled as she floated into the air. You don’t know me yet, and she ripped open the blue sky with her little finger. This way.
This way was up, then past the curtain of air that I always though was far away but turned out to have draw strings hanging all over the place. On the other side was nothing but white, and when I looked back I could see the green of the park peeking through the hole. I don’t have time to explain this place to you. That’s O.K., I’ve been here before, and I had, when I fell off the swing that time, and my mother called for an ambulance and everything. I don’t remember the hospital that much, or the big gash across my hairline that you can see when I get a buzz, but what I never forgot was the warm white that I floated in for what seemed like weeks, throbbing and comfortable, until someone pulled me away. I thought it was my mother but when the dream girl took my arm and said I need to take you forward a bit, I knew that it took more than my mother to bring me back to the world. Where are we going? And what’s your name? She was the one frowning, turning a rain-cloud gray, as we came to a halt in the middle of fluffy, milky, everythingness. Is your camera rolling?
I’m glad it was because everything started to get really trippy all of the sudden. My name is Sarah. I’m your granddaughter. I’ve come from the future to make sure you know. Know what? I said, letting the family stuff slip for later shock. Know that things are going to get really bad, but that it’s for the best. How bad? I could see a little spot of black poke through her chest, growing bigger with my every breath. I only have 4 nights left. You have to look past the white. I knew she meant the spot, the one that had covered her chest and was heading for her arms and legs. It was a hole, and I could see nothing beyond it. Nothing.
My mother shook me awake that morning, because I slept through the alarm for school. She said that I looked dead, and would’ve started pounding on my chest if I hadn’t opened my eyes. I floated through that whole day like I was dead or something, not talking to anyone at school, coming straight home and closing myself off in my room, feeling my heart against my hand and wondering why it hadn’t already stopped. That night, when I sank down into the white, missing the park altogether, Sarah was waiting there for me, although she wasn’t the Sarah I knew. This is how I really am, and she looked a little older than I am now, a beautiful woman with the saddest air I had ever come across, 10 times worse than Jenny ever was. We’ve reached the point now for complete disclosure, do you understand what I mean? The words were getting tougher but the meaning was clear: something dead serious was up, and this wasn’t really a dream. I’m ready to go forward (I lied) and so she ripped past the white, tearing into the sinews of the inbetween. The other side was white too, but in a normal sort of way, with walls and ceiling and floor. This is the farthest I can take you, and when she said it I knew I was inside her head too, taking up space in her dream although it was the kind you plug into the wall. I knew that I was where I shouldn’t be, that there was a bridge between us that went beyond time and space, and I knew that if I took the X-Wing helmet off, I would be back in the park, back in 1979, waiting to wake up. I knew this, and yet I was a 7-year old girl. I wanted to know more.
What year is this? She frowned to herself, and then the walls and ceiling and floor went clear, and it was like we were floating only we were still standing up. It’s whatever year you make it, and somehow I knew that she wasn’t being difficult, that it depended on me. O.K., here’s the deal. I’m sorry if I seem terse and unfeeling but you’re inside my space and dragging you here, even through a Vprox, has been hell. I can’t tell you what year this is because I don’t exist in the same sense you do, and visa versa. All I can tell you is that the beginning of your next millennium – the year 2000 and up – is the end for both of us. You have 21 years to grow, and I have 21 to devolve. Where we meet is your daughter – my mother.
The concept of having a real, living baby didn’t fit into my 7-year old mind that well, and so I started to freak out which effectively broke the spell. I tried to go back asleep, to go back to wherever I was before, but all that came to me was the look on Sarah’s face when I asked her what year it was. It wasn’t a frown, it was more of a grimace, like something was stabbing at her heart. I didn’t get any sleep that night, and so when my mother dragged me sleepy eyed to school it was no wonder that I kept nodding off in class. There was the park (chalkboard) there was the white (finger painting) and there was Sarah’s room (bag of carrots at lunch). I barely made it through the last bell, and as my friends ran home to play, ushered past the school by crossing guards, I trodded off to the library and fell asleep in the childrens’ section. Sarah was waiting for me in her room, talking to it like it was a old friend. Laura, from now on I want you to tell me if you feel uncomfortable. We can’t afford any more premature transference. I knew what she meant even though she didn’t say it right, and so I nodded. Now, I want you to imagine your camera to be like a telephone, so that you can dial it up and talk to it in pictures and words. I want you to let my room talk to your camera, so that it can show you what I can’t. This room is you, right? Yes, but it’s connected to everyone else here in a way that you’re not used to. It’s like we have televisions and telephones and radios in our heads, so everyone can see and talk to everyone else at any time. That sounds scary, and she didn’t answer because it was. I’m ready to talk to your room, and so I sat down on the white floor and dialed the imaginary phone in my head that talks to God and asked for Sarah. What came was nothing. And yet….something was in it, was beyond it, and it found a way out, or in, depending on how you look at it. Things were made fast, light coming out of dark, but there was a balance between the two, like the sun and the stars in the sky, hot yet cold, always there but only depending on how you looked at it, where you were. It was the beginning of everything and the end of everything, and yet the middle was so strange, so fuzzy, that the start and finish kept flip-flopping and fading in and out, to the point that it was like there were as many paths to go in as there were stars in the sky, and space inbetween. The more time that passed, the more tangled it became, until everything was a cloudy-grey that contained all yet had nothing. But the beginning and end, black and white – the choice – still existed, but it wasn’t for any of us to make alone. 1979 was one side of the gray, Sarah’s world on the other, and stuck dab in the middle was my daughter, an island in the apocalypse. Japanese Mommy and American Mommy were in the throws of the universal battle, and Sarah and I had to watch. That was the curse, and the privilege. When I hung up the phone I woke up, face spittle-pasted to a picture book.
All day I rolled the dream-film back and forth, watching the birth and death of everything, but in this abstract, PBS-ish sort of way. I had saw a little bit about the big bang on one of those specials, but before then I though it was like a bomb going off, not like the path a bubble takes rising in a soda. When I looked out at the clouds I though of where they came from and where they were going for the first time; I saw the cycle in the step, and understood the danger of taking a part away, no matter how small. When I went to sleep that night, finding myself on the floor of Sarah’s room, I had this to say to her. Why does God have to wipe away all the black? What happens if the holes don’t get plugged back up? Sarah looked and looked at me, and then sat down on the floor, legs crossed. The end of the world has always happened, will always happen, and is happening right now, no matter what we do to counter it. It’s the nature of man to fiddle around with the working of things, which is why I’m able to talk to you here and now. The way that I tear through the white isn’t natural, it isn’t right, but I had to get in contact with you, I had to let you know that it’s O.K. We are balanced by the end – by the beginning – and if neither of us survives in the world, we will always meet again in the white. I’m going to die, aren’t I? Sarah didn’t answer, but I dialed up her room when she wasn’t looking and it showed me the end. It showed me everything.
The rest of the dream dealt with the specifics of the final year, and even today I can’t handle looking at it. Not with all of the little things coming truer with every sunset, not with the hotel room and the road. When I was 7 it didn’t mess me up as much as it should of, because I was still afraid of the dark, and was more worried about the thing under my bed than the thing in all our hearts. Besides, I knew I was going to die someday, and it took off a lot of pressure when I knew when. That is, when I told myself it would be, when Sarah showed me that it was. It wasn’t until the last dream, the 7th night, that I actually made it back to the park on my own power, poking a hole out of Sarah’s head back into the white we all came from and are heading to. She didn’t come with me because she knew she didn’t have to; when I called her up on my own, asking for what she needed to give but couldn’t bring herself to, the X-wing helmet faded back into her shine, and she curled up into the little girl again. I need to show you one more thing, but you have to promise that you’ll forget it. I couldn’t promise that but she showed me anyway, tucking it away deep down in the filing cabinet in my head, a tape that would play itself back when the time was right. I had already forgotten about it when I slid through the inbetween back into the dream park, and for the rest of the night I laid amongst the smelly flowers and overgrown grass, eyes closed, resting for the first time in quite a while.
Sarah never came back, but when I was 14 some of the dream tapes did, along with the shine that my mother pushed back since I was 3. And at the motel – which is where we were headed to in the first place – the thing I had to forget made itself known. I was reading the green bible, taking in bits of the Revelation, when all of a sudden Pyr came dripping out of the bathroom, fussing about how the hot water was colder than fuck. Something about how the way he was wrapped in the towel made me want to wrap it right off, which I did, promising him that I would warm him up in no time flat. I didn’t even bother wiping the rest of him off, instead just slipping off my shorts and letting my thighs rub against his shiny legs. Fuck, I don’t want this to sound like a romance novel or one of those letters in a liquor-store magazine, but at that moment I was so out-of-control in lust for Pyr, and even though we had our first official night in New York, this was the time that felt right, this was the time that was special. So, I didn’t hesitate to hamper off my tank, letting my chest slide against his, the warmth shooting through me like I don’t know what, and as he latched onto my butt, sliding his hands down and in, searching for what I wanted him to find, I sniffed and licked around his ears and neck, sucking up the freshness mingled with the pure smell of sex, just starting to well up out of our pores. From there it didn’t take that much to find himself within me, on top or on the side, or me hanging my head over the end of the bed, knees bent, looking down to the bible that fell down on the floor, Revelations still facing up. Between the moans and waves of tingling that rushed every which way, and Pyr’s wonderful hands holding me together as the rest of him blew me to pieces, something clicked like nothing ever did before, and when he finally came I was already gone, lost in the white and the thing that I had to forget until then.
The white was more than a dream, more than a place of absence, of silence. It was the beginning, the inbetween and the end all wrapped into one, it was where Yuuko was and where I was going, where we are all going, and where we came from to begin with. The white that Pyr gave me that night only hinted at the power, serving as a reminder of what it means to be cloud, to be part of the never ending cycle, forever floating and falling. What I forgot to remember until then was the face of my daughter, actually more like her shine, and as I shuddered I could feel her entering me through us, through our union, even at that micro-moment where nothing but potential exists. Pyr’s warmth against my back was her warmth against my breast after she was born, and even then I felt it, the whole 9 months compressed into a electric second, and as soon as he drew still, staying inside while he pulled me by my shoulders back on the bed, I felt the reach and scream of birth and knew that she was worth it, knew that Pyr was the right one all along.
We lay together for I don’t know how long, and when 11:30 finally rolled around the sky was full-to-bursting, all grey and angry, itching to let out the energy that had been building ever since we left New York. I told him I was going to fetch some ice, which I was, but I still needed to see the clerk once again, to make sure I made the right decision. I didn’t bother to put on any shoes because I like the feel of steamy-damp cement pressing against bare feet, and even though I knew it was going to rain soon – that it had to, for all of our sakes – it just seemed right to meet the future totally grounded. When I finally reached the front office, passing the sleepy silence of unknown travelers and temporary liaisons, he was waiting for me, obviously tired.
I needed some more ice, and so I glided over to the box, still glowing as my daughter made her way inside me. I didn’t bring any change, can I pay you tomorrow? I guess that’ll work… and he shifted his stance a bit, waiting for whatever it was I wanted from him. Until that moment I didn’t quite know what it was, but as soon as I scooped out a bucket – cradling the ice as the cold steam rushed out the hole in the screen door, wanting to meet the rain half way, to rejoin the process it was kidnapped away from – I knew that the tingle I felt before wasn’t love, wasn’t even lust. It was recognition.
I’m sure I know you from somewhere. Have you even been to the coast? No, not that I recollect. Then where could it have been….and suddenly I saw the radiator again, I saw our family trip away from the house my father grew up in. All of the tension and fakey games to distract my attention, all the hours spent at this motel, sitting around on the front porch, waiting for something to happen. Have you always been at this motel? He just smiled and said Sure, my parents raised me here. I haven’t been much of anywhere out of the state. Then I knew that he was the little boy that sat down on the porch next to me, showing me the good bugs and asking about all the places I’d seen. I told him about Japan and the big house near the forest where my Grandparents lived, and he couldn’t imagine anything but the flats, didn’t even believe me when I told him about Tokyo, about trains that go past too fast to count the cars. His name was Jeff, and I knew that the man at the counter was one and the same. My first American friend, who didn’t even notice the foreign within me, only the wonder. So I just shook his hand over the counter, as the fan in the corner helped liberate the water vapor flying out of the icebox, and told him to go visit Japan sometime, because it would do him good to feel crowded. He had no idea what I was talking about, but as I pushed open the door with my foot, giving him a last, long glance through the window, I knew he felt the porch against his butt through Toughskins, I could tell he understood.
Yes, it did rain that night, enough to bend the corn stalks every which way, enough to seep through underneath the door of our room, before I took the extra towels and stuffed the crack shut. There was thunder and lightning, too, and a wind that whistled past everything, but through all of it I didn’t miss a wink of sleep, because I had Pyr by my side, and an all-pervading warmth justifying my insistence through it all that things would turn out as they should, and that Sarah visited me for a reason.
Of course, I have no way of knowing that I didn’t just make all that stuff up, Sarah being a 7-year old’s imaginary assurance that there was life far beyond a demanding mother. But when I watch Ai toddle up and down our apartment, I feel the same glow that the girl in the church gave, the comforting shine that fills the white to the brim. When I hold her I know that she has a future, and when she smiles….well, I guess you really just have to be there.
At this point I really don’t know what’s going to happen in a couple of years, whether the shit will hit the fan or not. All I can say is that I’m committed to seeing Ai make through all the stronger, even if Pyr and I can’t be around to see that happen. I guess that’s what it means to be a proper parent, but at this point I just want to bask in her shine so I can recognize it when I join back up with the white, and find her in nighttimes future – the best time for messages of hope.
In any case, the road lies behind us now, and I know from my dream tape of our final year that the next time we join it may be our last. But that’s O.K., because highways are made for transitions, and I would rather go out moving towards where I’m supposed to be – even if it is the end – than waiting around for the universe to fetch it here.