April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
Not like this.
It wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.
I’ve seen the tape a hundred times, backwards and forwards, and everything is still wrong. She’s supposed to be there in the end, when everything falls apart, but now…
Fuck. She’s dead on the floor, and her silence is our downfall. Not like this, someone is messing around with things, Sarah’s room has never been wrong but here in the dark as the TV laughs at us, as the freeze-frame negates our last stand, I hold my growing stomach and pray that I’m wrong, that things are right.
But they’re not. Not like this.
I promised myself that I would go over it one more time, that maybe there was something that we missed, but Pyr couldn’t stand my fixation – he still can’t watch the tape to the end without storming out of the apartment – and even Jenny thinks that I’m nuts. A-Bell…
Not like this. It’s rewinding, and I still don’t know where she is. She didn’t talk to anyone for a week, and then yesterday she was gone.
It wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.
I’ve been recording my voice incessantly, since it happened, hoping for the truth to jump out between my words. But there’s nothing. Our new place is already old, ruined, and I want to leave to run away but I can’t, not while she’s still dead on the floor in my dreams. There has to be a fucking answer…
Sorry. I had to take a break, the whole situation’s just out of control – I haven’t been outside in three days, I won’t let the sun touch my skin because it doesn’t seem right.
O.K. The tape’s ready to go again. I still don’t understand what possessed Jenny to take along her camera, how she knew that it was needed. But she did, and now the biggest and last Suspender show ever will live on, as will…
I can’t even think about her name without crying.
Not like this! Not on the floor, not dead, and A-Bell’s not screaming, I’m not listening…
On the TV, everything is O.K. Here we are, driving up to the warehouse, and already there’s a line of Suspects, covering everything with sidewalk chalk, trading bootlegs from the tour. The street is cracked and still buckled from the last earthquake, but the building doesn’t look that bad. No one was looking for safety anyway, just for free space to tear apart, and Jenny discovered it on one of her walking photo-tours of town. It used to be a cannery or something, but after a fire it was just left to collect trash and dust. As we driveway to the back, Jenny lingers on the layers of spraypaint, coating the outer wall with pure anarchart and foolishness. Sometimes I pause and try to pick out individual messages, but they’re co-mingled and overlapped to the point that nothing is left but chaotic color and the essence of communication. That I can understand.
In the back we pull up next to the Ice Cream Truck, which is what Caroline calls the Suspender van because everywhere they went there was some punk kids trailing behind, money in hand. Plus, the P.A. on the roof added to the general phenomenon; when we came it was chanting The white zone is for loading and unloading only, which was a sly reference to the Airport Incident. But now is not the time to get into that, because as we got out of the car…
I’m going to hold it together, this is too important, but whenever I see her…
We got out of the car, and Sasha runs up to me and Jenny, grabbing us by the arms and yelling Fuck Traffic! Are you with me? I just about fell apart as we ran inside laughing and screaming, because it had been almost 3 years since we last performed. A-Bell pounced on us when we approached the makeshift stage. I brought all of the old instruments! She was wearing her Fuck Traffic uniform, the butt-ugly orange shirt and hard-hat that the highway-hacks endured, and I could only hope that she had ours. She did, and as Jenny gave the room a once-over, you could hear our plan-babble in the background.
It was truly amazing what Phone did to the place; it took him almost a whole week but the results were more than worth the effort. First, he covered everything except the floors with a cheap white, making a clean canvas, and then he called in his crew and the 12th St. one to kill all of the walls. When they were done it was like a subway car was turned inside out, so you were floating in burners and tags. The general theme was electronics, so besides the twisted corporate logos and consumerist imagery, Sasha supervised a massive mural which was this terribly complicated Circle X thing (as fits her general obsession with the chain). I asked her about it and she said to the camera: The logo is a warning, a target we need to aim at. Jenny lingered on her computer-memory earrings that dangled to her bare shoulders. Our music is the gun, and we are the bullets. She had on a green tank-top, and knee-length, black, Circle X cut-offs. Dear, is everything all set up? Jenny swiveled to A-Bell on the stage, who was fiddling with the amps. Yep. Sasha stepped up, and motioned for us to follow.
I don’t know why, it just makes me feel better when I talk it out, when I remember how great things were then. How everything shined when Sasha called us into a huddle, pulled out a red marking pen, and drew big numbers on our right hands. I was “1”, A-Bell was “2” and Jenny was “3”. She drew a big “O” on hers. We are the inseparable 4. Together, we can accomplish anything. Put her hand in the middle of the circle. Now swear your allegiance to yourself and the group. Commit to change. This was a new variation on the standard antizine chant, so it was second-nature to give our hands. As we held each other, and as the other bands started to arrive, I remember distinctly that Sasha gave me this look, a glance of complete understanding, and we held it until Jo bounded up on stage, Caroline in tow.
I’m going closer to the TV, so you can hear what’s being said.
Can we join in? That’s Jo, and she had on her white painter’s uniform, and Caroline was still in her maximalist ball-gown stage. This one was yellow.
Give me your hands. Sasha took out her pen, and made Jo “4” and Caroline “5”.
Sash! Wouldn’t it be cool to do a Jumpster reunion? Just for tonight.
Fuck yeah! I was already excited – this close to the screen I can almost see my ears twitch in anticipation. Photocop is here, and I’m sure Susan will be game.
Bell, can you go get her? I think they’re in the storeroom.
Anything for you, Pixie. They kiss….
I can’t do this. I can’t….
I hate this bathroom.
My voice echoes too much, like it doesn’t even belong to me, like it never left my mouth in the first place, like that woman in the mirror said it, the one that looks past the tears.
She’s starting to show now. But when I look down, when I feel myself, it all seems wrong. That’s our future inside me. Inside her.
I hate this bathroom, I hate the toilet I just threw up in, I hate her dead on the floor twitching silent twitching…
She’s looking at me, I’m looking at me, and there’s something beyond the silver.
I want to reach out to her, to me, but there’s the hard, smooth inbetween.
Fuck the inbetween!
I shouldn’t be doing this Shit! my hand’s still bleeding on the carpet on Pyr’s shirt and there’s little silver pieces of her, of me, everywhere, but the TV yells silently as they kiss.
It’s good that I’m in pain as I watch this. I deserve it. I wish these hands would just fall off, because when they touched her…..
She wasn’t moving.
She isn’t moving.
Next to A-Bell, dead on the floor, it’s the same now as the red hardens around my fingers, on the tape-recorder. My fingers can’t do shit.
I’m not O.K.
The pause broke and everything’s static in the dark and I still feel sick. My daughter’s trying to say something in there. Aren’t you? You’re telling Mommy to fuck off, to get a life, to end it all now before I’m dead on the floor, too.
I’m not. I won’t.
She’s gone for a reason.
I can’t be gone yet. Can you hear me in there? Do you even have ears yet?
Sarah’s room said that you’re important. That you’d make things better in the end.
Make things better now. Please, for Mommy.
I’ve started again, and I close my eyes through the kiss, until A-Bell skips off the stage.
Jo sits down and hangs her legs over the edge. I figure we start at sundown, and if Jumpster can get back together then well go on first. Then…
Dust Lag needs to go second, because they have to hit the road before 10.
Cool. At that moment A-Bell walks in, dragging April, Susan and Susanna behind her.
Trick or treat! Jo gives April and Susan big hugs, and Susanna a firm handshake.
It’s been a while. Susanna looked just like A-Bell had described, even though Masking Tape was like 10 years ago.
Wait, wait. I have an idea! A-Bell grabs Susanna by the shoulders. Is all of Dust Lag here yet?
Yeah, in the van.
A-Bell whispers something in Sasha’s ear. She nods, and then A-Bell ran out the back door.
I think we have a situation here. Sasha walks to the far left side of the stage and then turns around. We were planning to have a Fuck Traffic reunion…
No way! April always liked us, the sweetie.
Which turned into a Jumpster reunion…
I’m all for that, it’s been such a long time. Everyone knows that Susan was at her prime then.
But then A-Bell figured out that there could be a Fire Escape reunion, too.
That would totally rule! I was already planning the concert review, and then Sasha blew us all away.
But I have something more in mind. She reached into her pocket, and pulled out the pen again. Let’s make a new band. Tonight only. Went around to each person, and gave them a number.
April was “6”
Susan was “7”
Susanna was “8”
Look who I found! A-Bell bounced in with the rest of Dust Lag in toe. She corralled the girls to the stage, and let Sasha mark them.
Rebecca was “9”
Elizabeth was “10”
Isabel was “11”
Don’t tell me you’ve playing games without us again… 8-Track waltzed in carrying baby Joey. He’s so cute lately.
Sasha walked over, kissed the both of them, and then marked 8-Track “12”.
We are the 13, and together we can do anything.
We need a name! Jenny was obsessive that way.
Fuck Slow Power Escape Jumpster Dust! I couldn’t resist.
I got it. Jo started to gather her forces, walked over to her cousin, and kissed her on the cheek. I started to get a tingle, and I still get it now whenever I see this part.
Slide Rule School.
Sasha looked at Jo for a second, and then gave the biggest smile I ever saw her possess. Yes.
No. No. No. This is all wrong, she’s not dead on the floor, the mirror’s not broken, it’s not like this.
I hate this fucking life!
I don’t want it. I don’t….
Look at her. Sasha didn’t want it, but I forced it on her.
She’s was so beautiful then, with that smile…
I want to reach past the screen and snatch it away, save it for the bad times.
I want it to shine upon my daughter’s birth.
I want her back, not dead, not smiling, not anything but back.
In this stupid apartment, in this stupid darkness, in my useless arms.
No. That’s wrong. She should be with A-Bell. I don’t deserve her smile, her shine, her love that lapped against us all. No one does, except for A-Bell. And now she’s gone too.
Not like this.
You don’t want to know what happens, do you?
You don’t care, you’ve already heard on the streets or on the nightly news or in the fucking daily newspaper how there’s an unidentified dead woman dead Sasha who shook and shook and grew still…
You were there in the corner, staring as Jo leapt off the stage.
You walked over the message that someone painted on the sidewalk, you stepped on her name and didn’t even notice. You didn’t know any better.
Kiss the fucking ground. Lick her mark from the earth. Taste her absence, and be afraid.
I’m know I am.
There’s this part when Slide Rule School is playing and I’m holding up numbers and everyone’s freaking out Music! Music! and Sasha’s just smiling at Pyr holding the camera, smirking even as she strokes her keyboard, making things come out of nothing and everyone knows it’s right. Pause at that part and you can see the bottle sitting by her feet.
It has the mark. I didn’t see it until yesterday pressing my face against the pixel glass but it’s there.
She was thirsty, we all were, and when she asked someone threw, and I can watch the water fly to the stage in slow-mo a thousand times but I can never see where it’s coming from, only where it’s going.
At the part where she’s smiling, when the bottle’s nearly empty, I know she knows – I can feel it.
But she drank anyway. She’d asked for it.
I didn’t ask for it. For this.
Not like this.
Slide Rule School.
Everyone else was kind of confused, but Sasha and Jo soon got us into line. None of us had ever played with so many people before, and A-Bell suggested that we’d better form an orchestra or something. That sounded cool, and since I didn’t play anything I was appointed maestro-gal.
The guys continued to set up the show – Phone was manning the doors along with Velcro and Circle X, and Pyr was helping out/getting in the way as only he could – basically standing around doing absolutely nothing except frowning.
Of course, he had other things on his mind, like planning the ceremony behind my back. That’s about the only part that I can watch and still smile at, when the School convened and every single post-punk in the audience was stunned. Then up comes Pyr on the stage, holding a bridal veil in one hand, a bouquet in the other.
All I could was think was Not now, not ever, we’re already married where it counts and all that shit but he took the mic and was
Cough. Can you hear me?
Someone goes Marry her already! and so he picks up a roll of duck tape and throws it at them. Rip on a chunk and shut up the easy way, O.K.?
Then he turns to me and there’s this strange look in his eye, like when he talks back to the commercials knowing far too well that really he is wrong, and that no one cares if the acting is bad or the print’s too small, and then he turns to you and goes Well? Am I right? and kneeling on the carpet, glowing, he never isn’t.
Keeping those eyes on me, he put the veil on me and handed over the bouquet. The rest of the 13 started up the appropriate music, only with more hooks and clarinet parts than usual, and I blushed like a sweet apple because.
Because we weren’t really married yet.
Because everyone was here and then some.
Because I could still say no and mean it.
Holding his hands as the School reached the high point, I meant yes.
My I do was a sniff behind his ear, and his was a gentle brush against my cheek. And the kiss was a ripple through my life’s ocean, starting small but building into a big wave that was coming for the shore. There was nothing else but us, and everything along with us, and when my eyes opened to meet his, I knew there was no turning back.
Throw it! That was some plink in the front, and everyone knew what was meant so I did. Some baby’s breath fell to the floor as it floated over the stage, and all A-Bell needed to do was to stick her hand in the air, and it swerved about 10 feet and rushed right towards her. Or maybe it just seemed that way, because she was the tallest thing going as usual. In any case, she cradled the flowers, put down her clarinet, walked past Elizabeth and April, and grabbed Sasha by the hand.
Understand this. No one moved for the next minute, while the two of them stood before each other, filling the room with something altogether different from mere love. It was power undistilled, like a battery meeting both contacts, and the buzz filled our hearts and ears and encircled our necks, growling necessity. There was no way in earth or heaven or any place else that they were to be apart, and when the minute of revelation ended I walked over to A-Bell.
Can I give you away? and she smiled Yes, but I need to do something first. So she took off her Fuck Traffic helmet and switched it with my veil.
Sasha seemed so vulnerable then, so human, that for once I really felt I could see her, that the invisible barrier had lifted and she was ready to join the world. But as soon as they walked to the front of the stage, that opening ended before I could even enjoy it, and A-Bell was sucked inside. They were one then, and no ceremony or stupid pretence was necessary. No ring would suffice, no kiss full enough, no vow doing justice to their bond.
No I do. Just We are.
I didn’t cry then. But I’m crying now, and I’ll never really stop.
Not like this.
On the floor her back arched and arms legs shaking, Jo was growling for help, A-Bell was grasping for air, for life, for her. All I did was watch the wall crumble, her face constrict, her earrings dance like caught fish against her face. I was there, yet I wasn’t.
I’m here, and she isn’t.
I’m nothing, and what is she?
Caught on my tape, forwarded and rewound, in an endless cycle of pain.
Why can’t I let her rest?
My hand is hurting again, I don’t think I got all of the pieces out of it, and the tape has long since reached the end.
The end is when Pyr drops the camera and rushes to Sasha, screaming.
Not like this! Not like this!
I don’t know where that came from, it was like the whole room was channeled through his teeth, but as he shoved past the 5 as the screen went blank, he looked in her closed eyes and wet her face with his salty fingers.
This is not right this is my fault this is Fuck! Someone dial 911! you can’t be dead yet!
He kept yelling life into her mouth Breathe! but she gave a final shudder Fuck! and finally I had to pull him away. A-Bell turned inside out revealing the essence of a scream, the kind you can only hear at birth and death. She knew.
It’s too late.
She pressed herself against Sasha, warming her for the coming cold, and if you didn’t look carefully, if you didn’t know better, you would have sworn that she was lying there alone on the floor, cuddling against shadows.
You could barely see her green chest past A-Bell’s arms and back, and their hair seemed to mingle into one sweaty fabric, smoky and dark. Jo seemed to be paying more attention to her than to her cousin, stroking her shoulders between the tears.
Fuck You! Get out of here! Jenny took it like a punch to the stomach, and was throwing around the crash worshipers. I tried to hold her back, to stop her from passing that point, but she just reached around and slapped me, scratching her nails into my face.
Not like this.
I fell to the floor laughing, laughing until I puked.
I was back in Thomason, in the quiet room, and the cement floor licked at my cheek.
I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think – I couldn’t.I still can’t.
Jenny can’t calm me down now. Pyr can’t make things better.
This is the beginning of the end, and it’s not supposed to be like this.
We’re all dead on the floor, and who’s going to mourn our passing?
We’re Slide Rule School. Take your seats.
Everyone listened to Jo, and promptly met the floor. There was at least 1000 people milling around that night, from all 50 states and then some. At first I tried to account for them all, going back and forth over the faces until the tape started to groan from the abuse, but I’ve narrowed it down to the prime suspects.
That’s what this is about. What we learned at Slide Rule School. Sasha knew that it was going to happen, she had to have. Why else the numbers, and the mural, and the bottle? Why even bother, unless there was something we could do.
I started off the lessons with a simple song, holding up each numbered card carefully and deliberately, calling forth the awkward silence of anticipation before the teacher speaks to the assembled class. Isabel started with a easy flute, constructing the playground outside the window, Jo and Elizabeth countered by sketching the classroom with broad violin strokes, and April’s cello became the desks and seats. Sasha assembled the teacher’s notes on the keyboard while 8-Track drummed the slow clock into existence, Jenny providing the hearts of the students, and Susan that of the teacher. A-Bell and Caroline then started a sly duel of the woodwinds, the sax barking out the curriculum while the clarinet gave rote responses tinged with boredom and disgust. Rebecca brought in her bass, providing the first right answer, and then Susanna and Jo countered with loaming guitar lines, the racing thoughts of all parties involved. When was class over?
I took the opportunity to add the first vocals, a wordless sweeping of the clouds over land, and then Susanna and Elizabeth chimed in with the sun and earth, respectively. Jo’s guitar then broke out of the classroom, followed by her voice screaming for release, for reality. Susan countered by barking for order in the chaos, and a chorus of disapproval slowly came, as I called for more life rhythm, more constructive strings. Everyone had effectively reached their moment, and then Sasha started to lead with stirrings of the other, of the subject matter being taught. It was of the electron, the basis of matter and the space inbetween, and everything was an oscillating pulse of information, of difference, of approximation. At first, the class and teacher tried to comprehend the material, to keep up, but then Sasha changed the key, and everything was transitory, obscure, unseen. She sung of the invisible machine, a lament to the wired air and the body as antenna, and no one understood, no one could answer, save for A-Bell, who gave a strong, low affirmation. The soon struck up a duet – the machine was becoming known – and Jo and Caroline quickly sketched in the details. It was as large as the universe, and as small as the space between something and nothing, and it was working. It was building something, doing something, and the class raised it hands with drums, guitars and questioning voices. What is it? Who are we? Where is the product? Then I ran the first bell, and the song ended.
No one clapped, because no one could move. Their ears were sitting on their hands, forcing them to wait for resolution. I wasn’t about to give them any, so I lifted the cards clearly calling for Fire Escape, and the School responded. April started out with the most Photocopian hook she could muster, and Joan countered with a testy Eskimo Guy growl-thing. Susan was about up to speed at this point, slapping her drum kit around like it really did something bad this time, and Caroline gave up the bass as A-Bell started to sing. It was the theme to Fire Escape, and as soon as the audience started to perk up in recognition I shuffled the deck and reunited Jumpster. Susan quickly switched over to a slower, more halting beat and Sasha crawled in with her trademark wail. Jo sputtered and crooned to her as she picked out unwholesome chords, strumming them gleefully. It was Sloppy from Mine!, and I couldn’t have been happier. So happy that I let it go on a bit longer than I should of, but long enough to come up with an idea. That’s when I rang the second bell.
I gave a quick flash to Jenny, who joined Susan with a complementary beat. Then Susanna got hooked in, and she met Jo’s guitar with more structure, while still maintaining the tension. Finally, I got Sasha and A-Bell back into the action, letting them work off of each other as the whole thing got even sloppier. Seeing the opening I wanted, I quickly called for the violins and flute and tore the roof off of the school building, grasping for the chalkboard scrape, the death of education. It was time to grow up, to move out, to shine back at the sky, and so we did, and the audience came to its feet. More drums! More guitar! Rip through the blue, into the white.
And we did.
The crowd fell against itself like bowling pins, as multiple holes poked through the floor and pockets of people swirled around in circles, spinning faster by the second. This was the power of the inbetween, this was what it all really meant, this was what all songs referred to, what your ears longed to hear.
Everything and nothing, together.
Noise not noise.
I wanted the world to hear it, to feel it. I wanted to take us all there.
But I couldn’t maintain it, it wasn’t the time, and the 4 sensed my apprehension and quickly plugged the holes with forceful silence.
I didn’t hold up any more cards after that, because they weren’t necessary. Slide Rule School had already graduated, and the whole room was a complex dance of wet leaves in the wind, swaying in the flux yet holding fast. That storm lasted for the next half hour, until strings started to break and Sasha got thirsty.
Then school ended, and the bottle flew.
I know she saw the mark, it was her life.
Even dead on the floor, she sang of Circle X.
This is what we’ve become, to the tune of the catchy jingle.
Not like this.
After A-Bell and Sasha made it official, the four of us left the stage and Dust Lag took their places. It was the first time I saw them live and they did a really fine job, bringing the best of Masking Tape and Potato Power to the table. The team supreme didn’t stay for the set, and went out back for an impromptu honeymoon. Pyr and I hovered around the stage, and then we got a tap on the shoulder.
What the fuck was Steve doing there? It wasn’t like it was N.U. night or anything, and so we hardly gave him the time of day, but that was enough for him to rant on and on about how he liked Suspender, and how great Slide Rule School was, and other insincere shit that made me want to slap him right there. But I didn’t, and after what Pyr told me about New York it’s probably best that I didn’t. Still, when worse came to worse he was there for us, helping to clear space when Sasha…
It doesn’t even sound right.
Fuck Traffic was forever, right?
antizine will never die, that’s what she always said to us.
Well, antizine died with her, O.K.? Fuck Traffic is gone, O.K.?
Everything’s going to fall apart and it’s all my fault. I accept this, but that doesn’t make it any easier, that doesn’t make the pain go away, that doesn’t bring Sasha back, and she’s supposed to be there when I die, she’s supposed to take care of my daughter, she’s supposed to grow old with A-Bell, and everything’s supposed to be perfect. My dreams have never been wrong, Sarah’s room has never lied to me, so why now?
Why now, when everything was right for once?
I can’t play my Suspender records anymore without seeing her dead on the floor, twitching as the pit swarms about her. I can’t look at Jo without watching her go limp as Sasha does, dropping her mic as the crowd consumes her.
I can’t do anything anymore, except sit here in this fucking apartment watching this fucking tape and when I wipe away the tears that won’t stop this blood gets in my eyes, and it’s her blood on my hands, not mine.
She saved us. Died for us. For our daughter.
And I all I can think about is killing myself, about joining her.
I should join her.
I can’t do it. I have to go on.
Something held back the knife, held back the white, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
But you know that, right baby? This whole tape’s for you, because no one else can really understand it. I want you to know the price we all paid to see you into this world, and how important you’ll become.
Can you feel me feel you against my belly? Are your nerves even turned on yet? I hope not, because there’s no reason for two of us to go through this.
A few months ago, when I first told Sasha about you, she was so excited you just wouldn’t believe it. You see, she knew exactly what was going on, and where you were headed. The very first time we met, when Jo introduced us, she looked me straight in the eye and said
You’re going to make a fine mother.
I didn’t know how to take that, because I was barely a teenager and wasn’t about to get pregnant, but now I really hope she’s right.
Anyway, when I told her that you were coming, she gave me a big hug and asked me what I was going to call you, boy or girl. I hadn’t even thought about it, and said so. While A-Bell was messing with Pyr, telling her adventures to this very tape recorder, Sasha simply replied
Ai. Name her Ai.
She had been studying up on her Japanese just for this occasion. Ai means love, and so I guess she wanted to make sure that you started off on the right foot.
I like that name. It reminds me of home.
Ai, as soon as we can, I want to take you back to Japan, so you can grow up the right way, like I did before I was stolen from it. I’m sure that Sasha would like that.
No. I’m sure that she will like it.
The tape is rewinding now, and I don’t need to watch it again.
The police say unsolved, the doctors say natural causes but it’s murder in the worst way, it’s everything hitting the fan and then some.
My hand is still throbbing, but she’s not dead on the floor anymore.
She’s gone into the white, and Pyr and I will be there soon enough to join her.
When you come out of me and know the world, you have to understand this moment, you have to realize what we’re fighting for. It’s us against them, and they have to win before the fight really begins. Before your fight starts, without me.
Lying on our new carpet in our new apartment in the ancient dark, I unwrap my hand and write revolution red with my fingers. I know the sign, and I’m afraid.
I mark my fists, my forehead, to load the final gun.
Circle X may be everywhere.
But so are we.
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
“I love ice cubes”
“They taste good. Better than water.”
“Water doesn’t taste like anything.”
“Yeah, well, still, I like the crunchy cold.”
“Don’t look at me like that!”
“I never look like that. At least, not at you.”
“I thought you didn’t like it.”
“I don’t. It makes me feel all hot and sticky.”
“What’s wrong with hot and sticky?”
“Stop it!” You’re making me warm.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, and when I’m warm I start to sweat.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“It’s not! I get all smelly…”
“Stop! And my clothes get all wet.”
“Is that all? Well I can fix that.”
“No clothes, no problem.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Why not? With less clothes you’ll be colder.”
“Not with you around I won’t”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’m irresistible”
“Go on.””I’m resisting!”
“What’s that under the blankets?”
“I don’t feel anything.”
“Where are we going?”
“East, west, I don’t know.”
“Good answer….I love wind!”
“What! I can’t hear you?”
“Aren’t you cold?”
“Yes! It’s wonderful!”
“I don’t know how you do that. My eyes always water.”
“Oooh, poor baby!”
“You want some music?”
“Nothing like some good ‘this’ to liven things up.”
“This is great!”
“It’s O.K., but I like Suspender better.”
“No silly! I mean this trip. I love it!”
“Oh. Yeah, it’s been pretty cool so far.”
“The motel! Ice buckets!”
“Yeah….I’m gonna pass this slow ass. On the right.”
“No, on the left. I want to wave.”
“All right, but just this once.”
“Hi! We think you’re sexy!”
“What is he driving?”
“I can’t tell. The sun is right behind it.”
“Put on your shades.”
“Where are they?”
“In the glove compartment, I think.”
“I’ll check….Nope. Nothing but maps.”
“They’re my Dad’s. We used to always take trips.”
“Yeah? Where to?”
“Flat, hot places. Arizona, New Mex.”
“I liked it. He always got lost, and our car would overheat. It was pretty cool.”
“I don’t think I could stand it.”
“It’s not so bad. You would like the nights.”
“They’re darker than at home, and a lot colder.”
“Yeah? Well, still, I need it like that all the time. None of that 100 degree shit.”
“O.K. Loose the maps.”
“We’re not going to use them, so rip ’em up and throw them out the window.”
“What about your dad?”
“I think he’ll have other things on his mind.”
“No shit….I hate states with corners.”
“Then fix it.”
“Good. Turn up the music.”
“Hey! Not now, I’m busy….This is delicate work.”
“You’re such a perfectionist.”
“You got it.”
“I thought you were busy.”
“Can I help?”
“I don’t know…”
“Is the next move clearer now?”
“How about now?”
“You’re getting warmer.”
“You got that right.”
“Wham-O! Pull over!”
“What about the maps?”
“They can wait!”
“Pyr! Watch out for that bunny!”
“Did you hear that?”
“I don’t see it….”
“Go on, get out and look for it. Damn.”
“No good looking at it now.”
“It was the brown kind….”
“Move it off to the side or something.”
“We can’t just leave it here!”
“It’s the cycle of life and shit. Distance between the cradle and the grave one busy highway.”
“If we leave it the ants…and everything’ll be picking at it!”
“Take it then.”
“We should bury it. Right over there.”
“Come on, that’ll be a real waste. Mr. Rabbit….O.K., Mrs. Rabbit, cut down in the prime in her life, and all we’re going to do is dirt her? Frisbee…”
“I wonder what it felt like to get hit.”
“Throw over your knife.”
“You’re not going to eat it….are you?”
“No, I’m just going to skin it.”
“Nature’s going to take it back anyway, so we might as well make some good outta this mess…”
“I don’t know…”
“It’s still warm….”
“Don’t say that!”
“But it is….all its life, radiating off into space”
“Ewwww, it’s all pink!”
“No pinker than you….there.”
“Who you calling pink?”
“Hell no! I’m not touching that knife again.”
“Don’t put it over there. At least lay it in the grass or something.”
“Whatever you want. Sorry rabbit, next time look both ways.”
“There isn’t gonna be a next time, Pyr. And stop talking to rabbits, let alone ones you murder.”
“So now I’m a murderer.”
“No….just the scourge of wildlife everywhere.”
“O.K. I can live with that.”
“So what are you going to do with the fur?”
“Well, the way I figure it, that rabbit died for a reason. I got this skin for a reason, and we’re going to needing it sometime, somewhere, all according to the plan of the universe.”
“If any one’s listening to this, I’m married to a lunatic.”
“Hey! At least I reuse.”
“How long is this fucking train!”
“I knew we should have turned right.”
“Then turn around and go back.”
“O.K. then….Relax. I’ll help you pass the time.”
“Thanks….I’m sorry, I just wanted everything to go perfect.”
“No, it hasn’t.”
“What about New York?”
“Sasha took care of that. Not me.”
“Come off it, you’re doing great. We’re here, aren’t we.”
“Yeah….if it wasn’t for this train!”
“It’ll pass. Things usually do.”
“Hey, where’s the camera?”
“Why? We don’t have any film left.”
“How about your e-book?”
“Batteries died yesterday.”
“Then where’s the gum?”
“I would be fucking mad at you right now, but I love you to much to scream.”
“Do it. The train will kill it anyway.”
“That’s alright, I’ll save it for after the honeymoon.”
“Thanks Friz, you’re a real pal.”
“Flattery will get you a ten-second head start.”
“I’ll remember that….Finally! Let’s get out of here.”
“I wonder where it’s going?”
“The train? Who cares?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I just wonder about things like that.”
“God Friz, you’re so intellectual.”
“Stop! Let’s go already!”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.”
“So, where to?”
“I don’t know, look for signs or something.”
“You’re a fucking genius.”
“Hey, there’s some town up ahead.”
“Town? Looks like a dump!”
“I guess it’s one of those farming towns. They don’t know any better.”
“Yeah, there’s a barn.”
“When I was little I wanted a farm.”
“Not a regular farm. A snow farm.”
“What the hell is that?”
“They grow big fields of snow, by planting snow flakes.”
“You’re a bit offsides, honey.”
“When I was young that’s how I thought snow was made.”
“Well, not really really, but I still believed it.”
“No. I just said that to make you feel better.”
“When I was young you know what I wanted?”
“You’re brother off a bridge?”
“No, besides that. A flashlight.”
“Why didn’t you just go buy one? They’re cheap.”
“Not the regular kind. I wanted one that would suck up darkness.”
“Don’t they all do that?”
“Yeah, but when you turn them off the dark comes back. The one I wanted would store it.”
“Like a vacuum?”
“Yeah, a darkness vacuum. That’s what I wanted.”
“I don’t know if I would like that.”
“Why not? You could save the dark for later, when you really needed it.”
“I never thought of that. Cool.”
“You know what?”
“You were right. This place is a dump.”
“They all are. A big country full of garbage, stacked into stupid little piles people call home.”
“Yeah. What you said.”
“High, middle or low America, it all stinks.”
“The parts inbetween are O.K.”
“There’s no inbetween left! It’s all corrupted, chocked to death by the hand of progress.”
“I guess I hit a nerve.”
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. I just want something that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t found it yet.”
“Maybe it’s out there. We’ll find it.”
“I hope so.”
“I’ll find it for you.”
“We’ll find it together.”
“So. What now?”
“There’s a sign up ahead.”
“What does it say?”
“5 miles to what?”
“I can’t tell. It’s all shot up. Something City.”
“Something City. My kind of place.”
“Oh, I almost forgot. We’re out of blank tapes, too.”
“You fucking shit! What are we going to do when this….”
“O.K., here we are in the biggest mall in all the land, and I’ve just swiped a brick of tapes, one of which I’m using now.”
“Actually, she left a 5 back in the bin, so it doesn’t really count as a swipe.”
“Hey, dear, let me tell our story my fucking way, and no one will get hurt.”
“Fine. But let me just say off the bat that I’m in no way to be held responsible for the validity of this recording.”
“Shit! When have you ever been valid?”
“Ouch! I’ll shut up now.”
“Our audience thanks you. I’ve been trying not to address you folks up until now, so that all of our talk could just come across all shiny, but I’ve been listening over the tapes, thinking about what would work in the next antizine, and most of it pretty much slobbers.”
“So what’s she’s trying to say is that I’m not entertaining.”
“Well, that’s besides the point. What I’m getting at is that I’m sure I’ll eventually edit the stuff, cause if I don’t everyone except Jenny’ll be up in Alaska.”
“O.K. Friz, stop hogging the mike.”
“Hey! I remember specifically asking for some Fruit Stripe, and I expect it, pronto.”
“Don’t electric chair on me dear. I’ll head to the Circle X Jr and do a little foraging.”
“O.K. So now that’s he’s gone, let me offer a little context. For the sake of prosperity, or if we die before this sees print, I’m Laura Watson, otherwise known as Frisbee, and the annoying presence that just left is the love of my life, my brand new husband, John Carver, who I can’t help but call Pyramid, although no one else does. We were hitched about…..4 weeks ago or so, in New York, where we stayed for about a month scamming off his brother Abe and getting into a shit load of trouble. Seems Pyr has enemies he doesn’t even know about, but Sasha took out the trash and all is now well. Oh, did I mention that Sasha is this cool e-punk who’s girl is A-Bell, the team supreme that’s touring with Suspender and are gonna meet us in a week or so? Don’t think so, and such important shit needs to….”
“Are you a reporter?”
“Nope, just a porter.”
“Then what’s that…”
“Well, you see, even though I look really neato I’m actually a cataloger of fine individuals like yourself. Your name…”
“First name only, we’re all friends here. So, Ira, why did you come up to me?”
“Well, we don’t see that many punks around here, and so I thought you must be talking about stuff, like, you know, our mall.”
“Our mall? Interesting article there Ira, do you consider this piece of shit yours?”
“Uh, well, not really, it’s just that it’s the biggest and all, so we all call it that. Everyone comes to see it.”
“I’m sure they do. Now, Ira, what would you say if I was to make you famous.”
“Cool, do you know someone?”
“You could say that. You see that guy coming over here, the one with the black fuzz?”
“Good. He’s been following me for days, trying to give me gum and shit, why I don’t know, and it’s really starting to freak me out. You’re a good fighter, right Ira?”
“From what I hear he’s really weak, but I can’t fuck with him because he has connections. You, on the other hand….”
“Hey, jump back and all, I just came over to flirt.”
“Ira, you poor dear, I’m a married woman, with no time for hormonal geeks, let alone ones who use a mall as the locus point of their existence.”
“Hey Friz, you want some gum?”
“Go on Ira, before he reaches for his knife.”
“Hey, am I on Asshole Video or something? Where’s the camera?”
“Frisbee. Didn’t I tell you not to fuck with the natives?”
“Stay away from her! How’s that?”
“Great. Work with it, the camera’s rolling.”
“Awww, come on, I don’t feel like this now.”
“Stop following her, man.”
“Do you know what?”
“Yeah, what. It’s a word people use to formulate questions, and to point out things. For example, what the fuck are you doing with my wife, that would be a what statement. Do you understand?”
“No, not really…Is this part of the show.”
“Yes, Ira dear. Give it to him!”
“Son, I think you’ve been watching a bit too much static. What I’m trying to say, and this is a what statement too, is that I think it’s best that you just walk away from this, go back to your minimum wage job, and forget that you ever met this girl, before you regret it for the rest of your life.”
“Uh, what should I do? Is there a script I could see?”
“Tell you what Ira. Give me your address and I’ll mail it to you.”
“O.K. Cool. Are you sure you’ll be O.K. though, with him following you and all?”
“What do you think?”
“That’s a what statement, right. You see, I’m catching on.”
“Damn he’s dense. Hit stop already, I’m starting to get an air-conditioner headache.”
“Wait. Ira, now where did you say you live…”
“You know. Hey. Aaarrrrrrnhhhn…”
“You want something to drink?”
“You know what?”
“Sometimes, when I watch the sun set, my eyes start to hurt and I have to look away.”
“That happens to a lot of people.”
“No, I mean it. They hurt all night, even in my dreams.”
“Cool. Maybe that means something.”
“I don’t know. Something.”
“Anyway, even though I know it will happen, I still look anyway. I like to watch the dark come.”
“Wait a minute, is this still good?”
“I guess. It’s just water. If you’re worried I’ll try it first.”
“I didn’t die.”
“Not yet. But don’t worry, if you do I’ll bury you.”
“Yeah, I would cremate you …”
“…and put you under that tree.”
“The one with the white berries.”
“Why that one?”
“I don’t know, it just looks nice and shady.”
“What would you do then?”
“Well, after I cried a bit, I would take the car, and all the junk, and keep on going.”
“That’s so sweet.”
“Wait! And then when I got old and was about to die, I would come back with our daughter and sit under it, in the shade, until I passed away. Then she would burn and bury me, so I could be with you always.”
“Daughter? But I thought I was dead?”
“Are you hiding something? Friz?”
“At the mall I swiped a baby stick, because I missed last month…”
“I can already feel it’s a girl, I know she’ll be something special.”
“Hey! Not so close, I’m expecting.”
“But I guess I have to get a job again….oh well, it was fun while it lasted.”
“What do you mean while it lasted? Pyr dear, we’ve only just begun.”
“Give me that water back, I don’t want our baby drinking that shit.”
“So what are we going to do now?”
“A-Bell and Sasha are going to meet up with us tomorrow, if we make it in time. I figured we could follow Suspender back to the coast, and settle down in holy matrimony and all that shit.”
“Sounds cool. But what about money? I don’t want to raise a child if we can’t provide for it.”
“Don’t worry. Sasha’s working on it as we speak.”
“Wait a sec….”
“Watch out, he’s going for the tape!”
“Uhhhuhhuhhhmmm! O.K., just for the sake of prosperity and all, I want to take this moment to say that I love Laura Elizabeth Watson-Carver, my wife and best buddy, with all of my heart and soul. And I pledge, standing here next to her on the side of some road in the middle of nowhere, that I’ll die before I see her go wrong.”
“Yuck! Don’t spit on the ground!”
“But that’s to seal the promise. Come on, work with me here!”
“Are you laughing at me?”
“Well then, I guess I’ll just kind of have to sorta kiss you.”
“For God sake, chuck the tape already. A couple’s gotta have some semblance of privacy.”
“I was just waiting for the word.”
“No! Not towards the road…..”
“We just bought a new cassette recorder….”
“Seems that someone missed the car by about….oh…100 feet or so.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault that the earth was turning so quick that night.”
“So is there anything else you have to say before we wrap it up?”
“Oh, you mean to them. Nope, all done.”
“Good? What the fuck do you mean?”
“Well, if I’m not mistaken that’s A-Bell standing over there, which means Sasha can’t be far behind. If we keep talking then A-Bell’s bound to hog the tape and it would be a real mess to transcribe.”
“Fuck off and go play with a flashlight or something, I’ve got work to do.”
“Ah, I can already taste the domestic bliss.”
“And that’s all you’re going to taste unless you learn to cook for yourself.”
“Ouch! I guess the honeymoon really is over….”
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.
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
July 7th, 1994
Heat. The bus broke down. “I thought this was charged. Fuck!” That was me when my e-book started to blink out. Fortunately I brought the photovals. Sasha already has rejoined the Suspender tornado – I didn’t know that Jo was her cousin, but it makes sense considering what Friz just told me about… whatever that band was. Ask, and Frisbee tells me it was Jumpster; actually, “Jumpster, what, you mean you really don’t remember ‘Mine!’? Get out of my shade!”. “Mine!” was their first album, and “my shade” was the tree by the road which half the bus has gathered under, while the driver and designated mechanics ratchet and grease away. We’re literally out in the middle of somewhere, all 35 of us, including the baby that likes to throw up when the windows are rolled down. Well, throw away, brat. I’m too fucking hot to complain.
Frisbee just peaked over at what I wrote. Apparently I didn’t do “Mine!” justice, and she won’t let me back into the shade unless I recant. O.K. Looking at the notes she wrote on my left palm, Jumpster started in the middle of 1986, right after the Intruder Alert! double album. Oops, I’ve already lost you, but that’s the price you pay for reading someone else’s journal. Anyway, as you already know (insert snicker), Intruder Alert! was Suspender’s pre-cursor, Jo and Caroline bouncing around a bit before they settled in on the now tried and true formula. So, between Intruder and Suspender Jo was in two side-projects (I consulted Frisbee from across the field, and she says that’s accurate enough for this forum), one of which was Jumpster, which involved Sasha (who we know now to be her cousin “on her mother’s brother’s side”) as an unnamed participant. Their first 7″ was…… you know, this is growing really tired (and the notes are starting to track my wrist black), so why don’t I just throw this over to her, and let her give you the absolutely complete tale.
This is me. Don’t listen to John (he hates it when I call him that). Jumpster was a really cool band, with Sasha and Jo and Susan from Slow Cone (who also really rocked but that’s another thing altogether). “Jumpster Diving” was their first 7″, and you probably would recognize “This is Not a Drill” off of it if I played the first 10 seconds. Anyway, after that came the absolutely amazing “Mine!”, which was probably the best record Jo was involved in – pre Fire Escape, that is. When I first heard it I just about slapped Sasha silly, because she never told any of us how utterly grand she was, like one of those little whistles you get in a box of breakfast sugarcubes, that are so small and cheap and plastic yet make this sound that jumps up your nose and pokes tiny holes in your eyeballs, so that all the white stuff runs out and you can’t see anything but you can smell the music. Yep. That’s Sasha.
At this point I got to mention Fire Escape because A) It was another Jo project from the same time period, and B) A-Bell, her luckiness, found her way into the beautiful mess. April from Potato Power. Joan and Caroline from Intruder Alert!. Susan from Slow Cone. A-Bell from…. well, let’s just say she has connections (Sasha can be sly….). I would talk about it here, but I’ve talked it to death in antizines – it happens to be the best record of the 80’s, but you already know that. Everyone knows this. Fuck, it’s was on Flake. Do you need more?
O.K. So we were talking about Jumpster and Sasha
No, actually we were talking about me, John, because this is my e-book. Give her any sort of recording instrument for a minute and it’ll come back not only filled, but whining. At this point we’ve already established that Frisbee is just a little bit musically obsessed (well, “Jo” obsessed is more like it), but for that matter so is Annabelle, I gather. I’m not about to hazard a guess as to why; there’s so much I don’t know about not just Frisbee, but Laura. It’s been a couple of years, and I still don’t know what makes her shine so, I don’t know where her breath comes from. I suppose her record collection whispers of her essence, but I need something more blatant, more concrete. I’m hoping that this road trip will be not just a period of growth for us as individuals, but that we will grow closer as well.
Did I mention it’s hot? Frisbee let me back in the shade, “but on one condition – foot massage!” At this point I’m not about to argue.
July 8th, I994
I have to apologize for yesterday’s entry; at all of the banks the bus passed by (yeah, it finally became operational again, but not before the sun set and that baby was all thrown out) said 91 degrees in big, blinking lightbulbs between the time. To me that’s akin to talking a barefoot stroll on the surface of the sun, but Frisbee – Laura, for the rest of this entry I want to use proper names – well, she kept yelling “Higher! Higher!” everytime we shot past an N.U., like she was on a game show or something. Which reminds me of the dream I had last night, in which I was still working at the bank – big surprise there – and Tanya was late coming back from her break. Not that this wasn’t common, but today was the big inspection by our district offices, and our boss was shitting in his pants because he wanted as many windows open as humanly possible, so when the official contingent finally walked through the doors, past the lazy guard, the only person in line would be some homeless guy asking for bills for coins, an act which would be demonstratively shunned by some hack-teller, who would be forced to “escort” the drag on our economy out of the door as everyone applauded. Well, that’s how it was supposed to work, but today there was a line out of the door and then some, and the vault was completely out of ones and twenties, effectively causing severe money rationing at the windows. Wanted to cash your paycheck? How about 5’s, because that Lincoln guy sure is honest, no? Change for the subway? Fuck, I’ll buy those ones at $10 dollars a pop, because the merchants are about to come in and that girl from Love Affair – the “adult accessories” shop that just opened up – will do just about anything for crisp Washingtons. But the customers were really being difficult, asking for odd-amount cash advances and trading in pennies for quarters. Plus, when the Love Affair gal finally got to the head of the line Steve called her over, waving and smiling up a storm, and I could see a big wad of ones and twenties sticking out of her deposit bag, so I left the old man at my window with his machine-washed paycheck, grabbed the nearest stapler, unfolded it, and snuck behind the desks over to Steve’s lair. Just as I was about to pounce Tanya came running up the stairs, obviously freaked out, screaming “They’re here!” Everyone in the bank turned around to the front door, even the lazy guard and his best friend, Clarence – who came by twice a week to play chess – and in walked Laura in this red power suit, flanked by two bank goons with dark glasses and red ties. Behind them were 5 Circle X workers – 3 girls, 2 guys – decked out not only in the official red shirts but the official red aprons and the official red baseball caps with the official black logo. Plus, they had the black pants made in a fabric known not to nature that just wouldn’t crease or wrinkle, but the official red tennis shoes with black laces were missing, so all 5 slipped into the door with official red socks on. And I do mean slipped, because as Laura’s henchmen escorted her into the backshop, the Circle Xians were gliding around the lobby like professional ice skaters, doing triple-axle-flips and shit while one of the girls – the one that looked just like my sister Esther, only with all of her hair shaved off and far more piercings – was wheeling around a freezie machine, setting up the customers as they oooh!ed and aaah!ed the floor show. Finally, as one of the guys jumped in the air with a official red blur and landed on the glass table where all the deposit and withdrawal slips are kept, Steve, Tanya and the other tellers held up these numbered signs – you know 10, 9.9, etc – and the guard came up to the triumphant Circle X jerk and handed him a bouquet of flowers, easily provoking tears. Everyone was cheering and jumping up and down, until Laura turned on the emergency loud speakers – “Use only in case of Nuclear Attack!” said the instruction manual we all had to read – stood on the nearest desk, and said “Thank you! You’re too kind! Now hit the floor, punks! This is a take over!” Suddenly all of the official red aprons revealed official black fully automatic weapons (perfectly legal ones, mind you – the Convenience Store Protection act of ’93 saw to that), and the red gang of 5 secured the lobby. The two sunglassed bodyguards took strategic points at either end of the teller area, and Laura started to disrobe. I was terribly embarrassed, because I didn’t want anyone except me to see her naked, but she stopped at what looked to be a white, cotton nightgown, which I don’t think could have fit underneath that short skirt. But there she was, almost angelic, and she continued by saying “Alright! This is to officially announce the National United/Circle X merger.” (Reality check – I was hearing rumors before I quit about this, didn’t believe a word, but when the bus was broken down yesterday I got e-mail from a source that told me it actually went through.) At which point she put down the microphone, took off the nightgown from foot to head, revealing nothing but empty space. She had disappeared. The bodyguards started to freak out, and picked off Steve and Tanya without flinching. Mary, who went on break 15 minutes later than Tanya, chose that point to walk in the bank, carrying a small baby in her arms. I thought that it looked familiar, so I came out from the ATM room – yeah, I was hiding, so sue me – and crawled over to the buzz-door. “Get out of here!” I yell-whispered to her, but she just smiled and handed down the baby to me. A Circle X guard saw this and shot her so many times that her head was severed at the neck. I shielded the baby from the blood and held back my vomit as I crawled back to the ATMs, all the while dodging the bullets that were knocking down N.U. workers left and right. As soon as I rolled into the room I shut the door, knowing far too well that it locks from the outside, and I didn’t have the key. I looked down at the child, and it seemed like a girl – make that a woman, she looked at me with Laura’s eyes. Someone was fussing with the lock so I started to panic, looking for a place to hide her. There was an open machine that needed a twenty refill (and remained empty due to the bill embargo) so I placed her in the deposit-envelope box, which was more than baby-sized. She smiled at me knowingly as I locked her in, spinning the dials and pushing the buttons as security mandated. Not wanting to give her away, I sat down at the cash-counting table just before the two bodyguards and the 5 Circle X agents rushed in. “Where’s the child?” the winning sock-skater demanded, and I just shrugged my shoulders as two girls in official red aprons stuck their gun-barrels (without flash suppressants, as demanded by law) in my ears. “O.K. I was hungry. I ate her.” I just about threw up saying that, but then everyone started to crack up, even the two protecting my ears lest they escape. “So the comedian wants to play games… Fine.” Then the fucking chairman of Circle X walks into the room, looking just like he did on the commercials, and sings “If you’re hungry, then we’re there/Circle X is everywhere.” Picks up this foot long hot dog and stuffs it in my mouth, effectively calling forth the gag I wanted to suppress. The nasty, wrinkly official red sausage dropped on the table, and the chairman patted me on the shoulder, going “It’s O.K. son, your files have already been changed to record this unfortunate reaction.” I was like What the fuck? as I cleared my mouth of my breakfast, and he just smiled as he handed me a black metal squarish box with three official red buttons on one side, blinking. “I know and you know that the girl is in one of the machines. What I know that you don’t are all of the access codes. Membership does have it’s privileges.” (O.K. There’s no way that I could have remembered the dream this clearly, so I’m just accentuating the positives and all that. Anyway….) Still What the fuck? and he saw it in my face, so he was “One button will set you free. One button will set her free. One button will open all of the machine doors. Press none, and we kill you, and open the doors anyway. Choose.” I stared down at the dead imitation dog, and noticed that a piece of metal was sticking out one end. Grabbed for it, ripped off the official red meat, and out came a letter opener. Weighed my choices one last time, turned my salvation towards my chest, and plunged it in as far as I could. I woke up sweating as we passed a N.U. 89. 2:45. 89.
Please, can you tell me what’s wrong with me? Every night I’m shot down, blown up, burnt to death or cut open, and every single time Laura either gets out of jail free, or oversees the dirty deed. I mean, she’s not even close to being that bad – actually, she’s quite wonderful and lovable, and I would literally do anything for her. Maybe the ring is starting to burn a hole in my pants, and the whole idea of…
Wait. I haven’t mentioned this before, and I’m not sure if I should now, because Laura’s been sneaking a peak at my e-book as of late. Like last night, when I woke up from that bad-ass dream, it was totally missing from my side. So I tap her on the shoulder about 100 times until she wakes up, and before she strangles me I whisper “O.K. What did you do with it?” She was “What?” only it came out more like “WHAT!!!!!!” and half of the bus snapped to attention. “E-book….” I said while I tried to shrink down in my seat. “Ididn’ttouchyourFUCKINGe-bookletmesleep!” I thought she was just being coy, but I let it rest, went back to sleep, and it turned back up right where I left it at 8 in the morning, when we stopped for breakfast. That was a couple of hours ago, and some of my tripwires were broken, so I know that she was reading it. Or at least that someone was…. but who else? She’s been after me ever since we left on this trip – we all know what’s going to happen, now it’s only a matter of when. Fuck, I have to talk about this, so I’ll just throw some extra encryption over this entry so prying eyes won’t.
Tomorrow I’m going to ask Laura to marry me. I wanted to wait until things had stabilized again, but when we stopped by Jenny’s before we left – bless her loyalty to Laura, she gave up a third of her apartment to stow away our stuff until we swing back – after she had a long talk with Friz (complete with yelling on both sides that filled the whole building even past closed doors) she pulled me aside while Laura took a quick victory shower. “You love her, right?” and I nodded because I could never speak to Jenny when she got like this. “Then do it. Do it soon.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out a beautiful gold ring. “When I was 9, my grandmother gave this to me from her deathbed. She made me promise that I would only give it to the person I loved most in the world.” Put the ring in my hand, and glared at me. “I’m giving this to Frisbee through you. Grandma would approve.” I almost couldn’t hold back my tears as I pocketed it, and Jenny quickly composed herself and fussed with our bags. When Frisbee came back in the living room, toweling off her hair, Jenny walked over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Have fun.” Until we left, she didn’t say another word to either of us, and then it was only a whispered “bye” that almost got lost in the emotional vacuum. Jenny knows what she’s doing, and just hope I can live up to her sacrifice. So I have it all planned out. When we hit the outskirts of New York tomorrow morning, I’m going to propose just before the driver lets us out to stretch. That way, if she goes after me teeth bared I can just run out of the bus as fast as my feet can carry me, and hopefully hitchhike my way to Abe’s. Of course, my fear is pretty unfounded, because when it counts she’s nothing but a big sweetie – one that I want to spend the rest of my life with.
That said, I’m going to triple-key this and get back to the business at hand; namely, revving up my right hand’s courage so I can demonstrate my heart’s sole wish. Watching Laura watch the passing show, cheering along the temperature as she sweats, I can’t help but yell along with her. “Higher! Higher!”
Everyone stares. Just wait until tomorrow….
July 9th, 1994
“Yes,” she whispers as the bus slows to a halt.
“Yes,” she tells the barf-baby’s mother as we head for the door.
“Yes,” she smiles at the bus driver, distracting him from the TV listings.
“YES!!!!!!!!!!” Everyone in a 500 foot radius now shares in my bliss.
Jenny’s ring sits on her right “medicine finger”, as she likes to call it, which rests in turn intertwined in my fingers. Puffy clouds dot the sky above; the restaurant is half-empty since we always stop at dumps; Laura is glowing and everyone’s getting the tan of the summer. I love the clouds; I love the sickly bacon smell; I love Laura, most of all. That was 6 hours ago, but it’s ever present.
Her hand has not left mine; as I write this I feel her warmth in my palm. Nothing can bother me, not even the fact that my photovals are missing, and that I think someone swiped them last night. I just want to hug her forever, but I have to finish this entry before my batteries run out; we’ll reach Abe’s by 10 tonight, so I can recharge then.
Quickly then, because I have more important things to do:
1) The Circle X/National United merger is all too real, and the media has all but ignored it. I got some mail last night that confirms all of my suspicions as to what this specifies. I can’t talk about it now, but sufficed to say that we’re all in some serious shit.
2) I’m scared about staying with Abe. We really haven’t been getting along all that well, and I know Esther is going to be stopping by (someone told her that we’d be visiting…) which will only make things worse.
3) Someone’s been fucking with my e-book. I need to do a complete dioscan when we get to Abe’s; at this point I have my doubts that Laura was digging through it. But if not her, then who?
4) Take all of our money out of N.U. as soon as possible, for obvious reasons.
5) Give Laura more attention, because she deserves it – now more than ever.
O.K. What else….
Oh yeah, the dream. Yipes, and I thought that the game-show one was wicked. I was back in school – 1991, my sophomore year – and Yael (my then girlfriend) was giving me a hard time because I had forgotten our 1-year anniversary. Now, I would never forget a thing like that (actually, it was yesterday, which shows you how truthful I am), and so I tried to make it up to her by taking her to the movies. It was the one she wanted to see, by that director she really liked (dreams can be vague that way), and so we went to see the 7:30 show, which was an extravagance for me because I barely could afford matinee. Anyway, I let her pick the seats and she headed straight for the front row (she was very nearsighted, and even after she started to wear glasses she never broke the neck-bending-back habit). I was in love with her and it was our night so I couldn’t care less, as long as she was happy. The lights dimmed, and the first preview was totally crazy – it started out at some punk concert, where everyone was jumping around until this woman started to sing, at which time everyone fell to the floor with an audible thud and exploded. When the light cleared then the band left the stage, leaving the woman standing in spotlight. The camera slowly zoomed in to her face while she sung, and even though I couldn’t remember most of the lyrics the last line stuck with me – “If your hurried, then I’m there….” at which time the screen went black and “CIRCLE X – SUMMER, 2000” appeared across the screen in big, red letters. Yael turned to me and said “Don’t you just love these movie commercials?” and I just grinned and nodded yes although I wanted to leave. The second preview was even worse – A woman in silhouette was running down your typical, rain-kissed, dark alley as if someone or something was chasing her. Suddenly, Frisbee jumps out of the shadows in this scuba get-up, complete with airtank and mask sitting on her head. The mystery woman moves towards her, but then Friz pulls off her mouth-piece and hands it to her. The connecting tube seemed awfully long, so that after she gave it to her Frisbee started to run away from the camera, the tube lengthening as she ran. Close-up off the woman breathing noisily, still in shadow, and suddenly a dramatic light reveals her face as the camera frames it. It was Annabelle, with overalls and everything, and she was crying. Fade to black, and then an official sounding male voice over: “Breathe deeply. This too shall pass.” It ends, and as the movie studio logo came on the screen Yael turned and said “Oh, I really want to see that! She’s my favorite star!” I was completely confused, so I just smiled and pointed to the screen to distract her attention. It was lucky that I did so, for just at that moment Annabelle, Frisbee and the “Circle X” girl were talking around a round, wooden table, with a fourth woman with her back to the camera. The credits are coming and going as they go about their business, and I notice that the music’s being done by Joan Gordon, who even I know is in Suspender. So I lean forward once the movie really begins, and then Frisbee turns to Annabelle and says “They know. Fuck!” “Fuck them! You know?” – Annabelle. “No fucking way!” adds the Circle X girl. “this is so profound” Yael whispers to me, but I shhhhhhh her. “Wait.” This was the 4th woman, who stood up from her chair. “I know what they’re doing.” She slowly turns around to the camera, and points her finger at me. It was Sasha. “He’s one of them!” The screen goes white, the lights raise, and Yael gets this look in her eye. “I knew it all along! It was that tie!” And suddenly I’m dressed for work, and the audience is filled with Circle X workers in full regalia. She turns to them and rips off her dress; she’s wearing a uniform, too. “He’s got a tie!” she yells to her comrades, and the nearest one goes “Freezie this, you teller!” and smacks me up along side the head with one of those long plastic tubes that you swing around and make whistling noises with. I start to run for the exits, but Tanya and Steve are guarding them. They’re both Circle X’d. “We traded in our ties,” Tanya smirks as she reaches in her pocket, “For this.” It’s Jenny’s ring, and it starts to glow. “Don’t let him have it!” Yael bellows, and everyone starts to bolt for me and Tanya. “Oh well, better luck next time…” and she throws the ring at me as she escapes into the alley. I try the door, but it’s locked, and before I’m swarmed in red synthetics I pop the ring in my mouth, and swallow. “No!!!!!” Yael and everyone else suddenly freezes in place, and the theater workers come in, dressed like N.U. workers, and start to sweep up small change from around their feet. I sneak out into the lobby while this is going on, and suddenly this TV Crew runs over to me, the well-preserved anchorwoman (the stench of hairspray met me before she did). “Reactions?” The lights are in my face, the “LIVE” light is on, and I don’t know what to say. The sound man pulls out a large gun and points it in my direction. I start to feel really sick, fall down to the floor, and up comes the ring onto the carpet. “Wrong answer!” she screams, and the grip puts me out of my misery.
I’m not even about to go there, but sufficed to say that I held back the ring long enough to be in the wonderful position I am now. Which happens to be next to the woman I love, headed to stay with family I can’t wait to get away from, and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world.
Thanks Jenny, for everything.
July 10th, 1994
Fuck. Our money’s gone. All of it.
Got to Abe’s with little trouble, and the spare bed was already made. Annie was really sweet about it even though you could tell she didn’t want us there, and Abe – well, he’s exactly the same. But who cares. My account’s been closed, and the money is nowhere to be found.
As soon as I recharged the batteries I finally remembered that card that Sasha gave me, and so I gave it a look this morning. Basically it said that I was fucked, that as soon as I quit someone inside N.U. transferred all of my money in minuscule amounts all over the country, effectively taking away any hopes of retrieval. Sasha knew that it was coming and so she slipped me some excess dollars, converted from the yen-trash she had stashed away for a rainy day. I could use them on the net, or make them physical with the appropriate hack. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that whoever arranged for this dispersal was seriously pissed off at me. So much so that he or she – the e-punk Sasha was warning me about, I should have stayed awake! – had destroyed my credit rating, maxed out both of my cards (and my limits were astronomical because of my N.U. clout), and fucked up my DMV just for the heck of it. At first I thought it was Steve, but this is way out of his league. I mean, when I went to the nearest N.U. and asked to close my account, I peaked over at the teller’s screen and her code 79 had a screen full of warnings on it, plus some hazards I’d only read about in books. So when she went to her supervisor to get “approval” (that is, to call the guard over), I was already well down the street, looking for the nearest subway entrance.
Fuck. My life is ruined. I’m nobody.
I can’t bear to tell Laura what’s up, especially not after yesterday. When I got back from N.U. a couple of hours ago she was still showing off the ring to Annie, already planning the wedding. Shit.
Sasha’s bound to know what to do, and probably’s already working on it. I hate to depend on her like this, but she’s all I – we, have to get used to it – have right now.
This is too much. I can’t write anymore. I wish I didn’t exist anymore.
Wait. That’s it!
I’ll continue this later, I have to contact Sasha.
July 14th, 1994
I haven’t been able to communicate because Sasha wouldn’t let me. In fact, this is the last entry before we wipe my e-book clean. I never though that I would have to resort to this, but desperate times and all that.
“You mean I’m not me anymore? Cool!” I thought she was going to freak when I told her about Sasha’s pseudogen, but it only seems to add to her path of negation. I, on the other hand, like my name and my life, and it’s going to take me a while to adjust. Still, we’re only taking on different electronic identities, and even though that means we have to start our official lives anew, we’re still us – Pyramid and Frisbee, waiting for the end and loving every minute.
The only thing that seems strange is the marriage part. I only proposed a few days ago and starting tomorrow we’re going to officially be husband and wife, without even the slightest of ceremonies. True, it does save us the trouble of constructing totally disconnected virtual identities and merging them in the future, but still, I for one wanted the occasion to be a little more special. But I love her, would marry her a million different ways if necessary, and we can always have a proper wedding when we get back home.
Anyway, Sasha’s going to appear in one hour to collect our new names; she’s already prepared the most elaborate histories imaginable. Laura has a list of about 20 possibilities, and I frankly don’t know where to start. I’ve always considered myself a Carver, latest in a long line of troubled, principled, and all-around difficult Carvers, and even though Abe and his talk of “sustained economic revolution” makes me want to throw up, and Esther’s ER gossip reason enough not to get sick, I love them because they’re such pains. We’re all pains, but that’s our lot in life, that’s what our father instilled in us when he wasn’t off doing “secret government research” (read: military computer design). Be quiet, get the job done, and don’t give a shit about the people you love. That’s what he taught us by example, that’s why Mom left when she did, dragging us along.
In one hour, I’m no longer my mother’s child. This scares me. She was who defined me when I grew up, she was the one that made sure I focused my talents on school and not the street. I promised her, the year she died, that I would follow my dreams no matter what, and make her proud that I was her son. More than anyone else, I wish that she could have met Laura; I know that they would have gotten along perfectly. Neither puts up with any shit, and neither can love too much. Fuck. I thought I was over the loss, that I could carry her in my heart and move on, but now I have to lose her again. Now I’m killing her and myself, for the sake of survival. I hope someday, when we meet again, she will be able to forgive me.
This is so weird. It’s like I’m waiting for my birth, and I’m going to be delivered by my own hand. To Laura this is second nature, because the hospital forced her to start over as many times as it took to survive. I’m too attached to myself to understand that process, and no matter how many times I listen to her try to describe what it’s like to become nothing and yet still exist, no matter how completely she lets me share in the pain and anger, slowly leading to renewal, I want to close my eyes and shake away the ambiguity. I’m supposed to be me. No one else. Until death do us part, you know?
I look at my brown-red fingers as they type, my soft hands as they hide my face from the choice. Who am I? Who will I become?
The cursor blinks patiently. It could care less.
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
July 3, 1994 –
Frisbee’s asleep but I can’t join her; the dream came again this morning, and it scares me. It was payday – the universal payday that scrapes off my fingerprints, counting, counting, counting – and I was working for Mary because she wanted to spend the weekend with her family. Customers were running in so they could be first to wait in line, because National United was having a promotion where if people waited more than 7 minutes to be helped they would get a free automatic rifle, the Chinese kind they were talking about on TV. So all of these homeless people were camped outside even before we opened at 8, cups full of change in hand, hoping to be the lucky recipient of instant power. There were a few lawyers, too; Mr. Snarly showed me his stopwatch and made me throw in a free clip, which we were supposed to charge customers $5 for. My boss gave us a memo from the NRA which said that since the sale of firearms was being increasingly regulated, they were testing new markets by giving away “premiums”. This made sense to me somehow, and as the line snaked around the block, into the subway even, I felt a peculiar glee at the transference of strength. Everyone that the bank fucked over now had the means to pop off a few rounds whenever they couldn’t cash their checks, or there was going to be a hold on their funds. One lady told be that she came from 137 miles away just to pick up a piece, because her husband was an ass and he had it coming. None of the looks on their faces – homicidal grins fused to dentist-chair stress-lines – nor the elevated tone of their voices fazed me, but when I saw Friz in line, letting other people pass her, I knew something was up. She was carrying her Empire Strikes Back lunch box, which she only whipped out for special occasions, and kept waving at me, smiling her “I’m eating carrots” smile. I had a feeling she was going to fuck things up, and when she finally arrived at Tanya’s window, the one next to me, she swung open the box and pulled out a thermos full of coin. “I hit it big at the subway, bitch, selling tickets to the stars.” Tanya just grimaced and said “you need to roll those and write your social on the wrapper.” Friz was pissed and she dug out her whistle and started to blow it, drawing stares from all around the bank. “Give me your fucking manager, bank slut, I want to complain!” Tanya ran away from the window while I closed up mine, because I was scheduled to close at 3:33, per the new policy. Friz leaned over and said “Pyr, can you make two copies of this for me?” and she pulled off her right, middle finger, placing it on the counter. Unfazed, I carried it over to the Dubox while the boss sauntered over to the window, followed by Tanya. “I’ve been waiting for 24 minutes and this assholette wouldn’t give me my gun.” “Is that true, Tanya?” he asked her, and she shook her head no. Friz then whipped out one of those videocameras with the large, color screen on the back and played a tape, on which Tanya looked straight into the camera and said “go get your own gun and stick it up your snatch!” Tanya started to cry while my boss apologized and tore the shrink rap off of a gun, handing it to Frisbee. “Ms. Watson, to make up for this horrible transgression, I will give you 3 tellers to do with as you wish.” So Friz closed up the lunchbox, hopped the counter, and yelled “all right, I’ll take stupid-ass Steve, Tanya of course, and him over there” pointing right at me. Cocking the gun she waived us over to the windows, and had us line up facing outward, with me in the middle. “Did you make that copy for me?” she smiled, and I nodded while handing over the finger and its two duplicates. She took them and stuck them in my ears, fingernails inward, and blind folded all of us with the paper tape the adding machines used. “I’m doing this for your own good,” she said, shooting off a few rounds into Steve, who fell to the floor at my left. “If I didn’t take care of everything for you then nothing would get done,” and Tanya slumped down, bleeding on my right leg. “What’s my social security number, Pyr?” she whispered as she approached, “I need to cash in everything I earned.” I tried to remember but all that came to me was the bank code for travelers checks, and as the tip of the gun met the back of my head, I said “wait a second, let me look it up for you.” She simply laughed, took out the finger in my left ear, and whispered: “even if I shoot you, I’m still your hostage.” Gave me a kiss on the ear lobe, put the finger back in, and pulled the trigger. Then I woke up.
Sometimes Frisbee makes Tanya rape Steve before she kills them both, other times she forces everyone to wrap and unwrap coin, while the customers get target practice with flying brochures. In any case, it always ends with the same whispered message, “even if I shoot you, I’m still your hostage,” and then everything goes blood-red and I open my eyes to the crack on the ceiling. Of course, this time there was no crack, only the track lighting on the roof of the bus, dim enough to fuck up your eyes if you try to read or write, bright enough to peek in through your eyelids while you try to call forth calm. It must be around 6 now since the sun is peeking over the horizon; I’ve been waiting and waiting for the light, so I could write down the dream before I forgot it again, and it took long enough that some things slipped away back into my brain. But all I want to know is what Frisbee means by that, and how it fits in to the mess we’re in. The dream started the night I quit the bank, almost a week ago, and every night it comes back stronger than before. I’m not afraid of Frisbee actually hurting me or something like that, just of that little phrase, a warning, promise and lament all in one. Watching her breathe in the stale air that others tasted minutes before, flowing with the hum of the engine that spins the tires which imperceptibly flatten the interstate a little more every mile, I want to nuzzle against her, reaching up short sleeves to rub her cool, smooth shoulders, preparing them for future burden. I don’t know what’s going to happen when we make it to Abe’s; when I called and asked if we could crash all he yawned was “if you’re gonna be in the neighborhood and you wanna, I guess so.” He’s always been an “I guess so” kind of guy, slipping by through the sheer force of ambivalence, but in that non-commitance is a real power which I have yet to truly understand. He has the money, the wife and the “life” – all through well placed shoulder-shrugs – while I have the bills, Frisbee and only what we can carry, worrying every second. I guess that’s O.K. and all, as long as I’m happy, but sitting here in the bus to New York, wanting to give Frisbee a kiss but scared she’ll give me back the finger or something, all I can do is wait. Worry about being happy, and wait for the sun to rise a little higher.
“Even if I shoot you, I’ll still be your hostage.” Damn, why can’t I just dream about flying around and shit?
July 5, 1994 –
Last night as we watched the “fireworks” – A Treesol can that Friz found in a dumpster behind the Circle X, which she rubber-banded to a constant on, lit, and threw in the air like a shooting starlet set against the Arizona sky venetian-blinded shut, the hissing flames ending with the inevitable gravity-regulated thud – for some reason I was reminded of the little push-locks on the signature card drawers at work. Fuck that, the bank’s not my work, not any more, and I can’t understand why I keep thinking about it, when I’m free to do whatever I want, whatever I should do. Still, the sensation of kicking-snapping the doors shut at the end of the day, imagining all of the irate non-customers or snippy higher-ups in place of the fire-resistant cabinets, punting them into submission, stuffing them inside and locking up the keys, was pleasure enough that I dreaded the eventual lock-opening the next morning. Every card was its own Pandora’s info-byte, which when held to the light could and would determine the right everyone had to their own money – the potential worth they lease from the powers-that-are. Digging in those misfiled reflections of everyone’s pocketbook key, I wanted to set fire to them all, releasing with the ashes the essence that window-chained bank pens sucked from unknowing customers, blackening the signatures that are, and yet are not, the builders of capital. However, as soon as the first flame lapped against the “A’s”, I knew that 10 fire-extinguishers would come running up to right the obvious wrong, to protect that which should be held sacred, the basis of the world as we know it: verification, validity. Money-lighting would no doubt provoke the same response, as would microwaving a bundle of twenties to oblivion in the cafeteria, but the idea of reducing the pretense down to its undeniable essence – misplaced trust – and blackening everyone hands with the truth, the same way that my fingers darkened from the never ending counting, checking, calculating digitalness of it all – on, now off, now on again, lather, wash and repeat ad infinitum – was attractive enough that every bill dealt out became potential for subversion. I started initialling the backs of every 10 I could get my hands on, and sometimes would tear a 50 right in two, condemning it to the “malconditioned” envelope we all keep – kept! – in our drawers. Whether I simply hate money, the people that handle or covet it, or both, is frankly beside the point; when the air-freshener was spewing forth fire, cleansing the air of bus-stop ozone and tourist-skin dust, all I knew was that every canned convenience carries along its own negation, and just as Frisbee’s “pine bomb” ended in a brilliant flourish contained within its own warning label, so too would ATM machines some day spit up green ashes along with a blank receipt.
Guess I make too much out of not much at all, but a simple finger-wiggle by Frisbee has been known to spawn bungee-surfing suicides. Which brings me to last night’s dream, in which Friz and I were taking a subway trip down south. Since she always like to sit backwards, we were – in the last car, no less – and as she stared out of the window, watching the passing condos, I noticed this woman at the other end of the car, fiddling with the sliding doors. She would open them about a foot, stick her head through, and let the slack be automatically taken up, her purple-green hair hanging into the inbetween, and every so often, when someone wanted to pass between cars, she would scream at the top of her lungs “I’m trying to understand the connection here, so back off!” and then open the doors, sit back down, and smile as the person passed. After we left 17th street she started using her whole body, letting the industrial-strength rubber-bordered glass press against her forehead and nose, cleaving her breasts and pelvis in two. Whenever people got on the train she would rub up and down, obviously getting off on it, and read the emergency instructions located at the car-end into the red emergency phone, connected to the train-operator’s booth. Strangely, no one seemed to notice all of this except me, and when we were one station from ours the doors suddenly started to crush her, the light above them flashing “Emergency Seal Activated”. Concerned, I jumped up and ran to the end of the car, trying to find some sort of switch that would make the doors open again. The only thing I could find was a fire extinguisher recessed into the wall, and as the doors imprinted a trough into her chest and stomach I fumbled with the nozzle-switch, trying to make it work. Then the lights started to flicker, all the side doors opened, and the driver announced over the speakers for everyone to “please exit the train immediately, the North Korean army has attacked substation #1! You will find levitation devices directly underneath your seats; follow the instructions printed on them and fly to safety.” As if on cue the passengers crawled underneath the seats and pulled out these orange cushions with two backpack-straps, which they put on like miniature parachutes before they jumped out of the car, falling to their deaths off the elevated skyway. “If anyone cannot read Japanese, translators are available to assist with the devices’ operation.” The driver’s warning was obviously too late, and as I continued to struggle with the doors, Frisbee walked over and pointed out a panel in the wall. Opening it, she told me to “enter my death-date, or else the doors will snap her in two.” Perplexed, I tried to remember when she was going to die, but we were still alive, and I wasn’t about to guess when there was a life at stake. “Here Pyramid,” she said, picking up a paper off of a seat while she put on her orange pack, “look at the headline.” I took it from her as the doors continued to close in on the woman, who was now yelling “I think I understand the essential dichotomy, but I need more time!” The headline read “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”and the date wasn’t today, but November 17, 1972. “Enter it, before she’s torn apart!” Frisbee yelled, before jumping out of the train and flying off into the clouds. Looking for the first time at the woman’s face, I could see that she was Frisbee, only older. “I need to see I!” she screamed, but I couldn’t understand what she was talking about. Then something flew in one of the doors and the other end of the train caught on fire, so I ran down to try to put it out, but when I turned the extinguisher on nothing came out but a blue light. I looked in the nozzle and there was a little CRT with a picture of a small girl on it, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and she told me to “give this to Laura, and never leave her side.” I knew she meant Frisbee so I ran back to the doors and handed her the extinguisher. Immediately she held up the nozzle to her eye and began to smile, nodding and whispering to the girl although I couldn’t understand what she was saying. The doors continued to close and so I went back to the keypad but now it was like an ATM machine flashing at me to enter my right hand in a slot on the wall. I did, and then it told me to enter a date and so I entered the one on the newspaper Frisbee gave me. The machine started to click and whir and behind me the fire was racing closer to the end of the car, and the older Frisbee was still staring into the extinguisher, mumbling something. Then the machine spit out a ID card with Frisbee’s picture on it, looking exactly like she did between the doors, down to the purple and green hair, and it said to “Enter Card into Retrieval Slot,” which appeared right next to the door. I did, and Frisbee looked right at me, eyes filled with tears and said “I told me that she forgives us” and then the door cut her clean in two. The extinguisher dropped with her half inside the car, and when it hit the floor it broke into two pieces. Inside it was a picture of the little girl and her parents, and as I reached down to look closer at it the fire leaped to the end of the car, burning me alive.
At this point I don’t know what the fuck’s going on with me, maybe it’s just the stress of traveling and all, but I’ve been having the weirdest ass dreams. This one wasn’t like the rest, though, although I don’t understand it any better. I guess dreams aren’t meant to be understood that way, it’s like they’re TV programs flying off into space that someone picks up millions of light years away, and as they watch these little fleshy figures run and yelp about, I bet they’ll be as confused as I am. Still, there seems to be something in common with all of these dreams, like they’re selected episodes of a larger story, that I have to watch all out of order and piece together at the end. Or I could just be that nasty-ass pizza we ate yesterday talking, my stomach cursing out my brain for putting it through such shit.
Anyway, today we’re heading out of this shit town we spent our 4th in, only because Friz though that it was “quaintly fucked up in a Southwestern sort of way.” True, there were lots of people BBQing and playing football and shit, and there was really nice weather, especially for laying down in a field of tall, dry grass and just hugging and kissing each other, like we did as the sun set. Plus, there was the obligatory Circle X, with the Freezies that no one in their right, thirsty mind hates (“and Circle X’s,” Friz told me, “always have a wide junk-food bar for dumpster dining”) and the general atmosphere of holidayness, which helps to distract from funky-looking strangers like ourselves. But we have to leave, have to get back on the road, because dreams or no dreams, something is up and the sooner we face it, the better.
The bus doesn’t come fore another hour, so maybe we’ll have some time to hit the Post Office and…oh, here comes Friz with breakfast from behind the Circle X, so excuse me while I dig into some stale powdered donuts. She swears up and down by them so you know they got to be good.
July 6th, 1994 –
I don’t remember my dream at all, except for the last few seconds, which involved this little computer-book thing that you would hold and control by thinking. I was thinking it to show a picture of Frisbee but instead there was a picture of that little girl from last night, and she was yelling “mama, E tie” or some shit, crying her head off. The more I thought of Friz the more she would cry, and I started to cry too as a vicious pot-hole woke me up. The bus has grown really tired, really quickly, but Frisbee seems to be having a real ball, talking it up with the other passengers – like right now she’s trading road stories with Annabelle, this punk girl who’s following Suspender all across the country on their first real tour. I think Friz is trying to trade a ‘zine for their tape, because she likes to collect that sort of indie-shit – not that it sucks or anything, it’s just that she’s very clingy when it comes to cool junk, and has to tell the whole world about it. She won’t tell me what this month’s book is on yet, but I snuck a peek at a few pages while she was asleep and it seems to be about when she was 15, along with some collage of bank stuff that I have no idea how she snatched. Annabelle seems to be exactly Frisbee’s type, fire red hair cut into a little bob, blue-tank top 2 sizes too big, beat-up walkman in her Osh-Kosh short’s chest-pocket, laugh that could stop a truck, smile that could start one. She introduced us last night, and as I tried to come up with something cooler than “nice to meet you” she squatted down in the aisle and whispered in my ear “if you two aren’t, like, together or anything it would be fucking keen if I could borrow her for a month.” All I could bring myself to do was lean over and kiss Frisbee smack on the lips, which brought forth a playful “kiss your own fucking lips, I’m busy,” which she was, digging through her bag for a picture she wanted to show A-Bell (that’s what she likes to be called). “Here it is, look at that stupid motherfucker!” and as she handed the snap over to her, I could see it was of Spazz, who I never had the displeasure of meeting but know far too well through Frisbee. To put it short and sweet, he was her second boyfriend. “Yeah, I know this prick!” A-Bell boomed, as everyone on the bus turned to face us, “but the last time I saw him he was in Minneapolis, crashing at my sister’s.” “Your sister? The slut!” and the conversation went on, as I gave A-Bell my seat and walked up front to her’s.
It was my supreme luck that A-Bell’s travelling partner was a hardcore e-punk, her dynabook riding on the bus’ carrier wave for uninterrupted net access. When I came up to her, around 10:30, she was dumpstering Japanese bank trash, piecing together discarded signatures for some quick Yen. “That’s not your seat,” she mumbled as she flew over the keypad. “That’s not your password,” I said, whipping out my e-book and hooking up to her signal. “Whatever,” she smirked, going back to business, as I continued to check her out. Far from Annabellesque, she was dressed in a plain green T-shirt and faded jeans, her long black hair tied back into two pony-tails, held by twist-ties. A little bit of hacking and a unlocked door on her side got me her name – Sasha – along with a brief bio she’d prepared for just such an occasion. “I’m a junk-byte dealer, an info-scavenger that will dig up just about anything, if the price is right. I only take clean credits – account to account transfers are ideal – and have little respect for anyone who doesn’t know where there trash is. Presently my specialty is reverse information engineering, with an emphasis upon mass subversion. Leave any inquiries at SW.3472c?. I take no responsibility for unencripted crap.” Impressed yet a bit skeptical, I backdoored and tapped her on the shoulder. “What are you doing touring with Suspender?” She frowned, put her dyna to sleep and replied “I’m not, I’m touring with A-Bell, but you already know that, don’t you?” “Not necessarily,” I smiled as I put away my e-book, “but I just thought I’d inquire because she’s been hitting on Frisbee,” and I pointed over to the two, who were huddling together trading dirt. “You’re a lucky jerk, and you haven’t the slightest idea why,” she said as she reached in her bag, “but since Frisbee chose you I’ll cut you some slack.” She handed me a card, which I was smart enough to put away for later, and told me to “watch out in New York. There’s an e after you who’s pissed because of 1992, and if you don’t lock your doors he’ll take it all.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I half-lied, “then I’ll cover your ass for you, for Frisbee’s sake,” she half-truthed. “Until then, heed the net and all that crap, and stay out of my shit. I’m going to sleep.” With that she leaned towards the window and shut her eyes, clutching her dyna as she drifted off.
Sun’s well up there and it’s about time to kick A-Bell out of my seat, but I think I’ll wait until I give that card Sasha gave me a little look. I have an idea who she was talking about, but you never can know; 1992 was one hell of a year. Not that this year isn’t. It’s just that ’92 was the year I met Frisbee, and a guy can only be that lucky once. I take that back. It would be even more lucky if I can keep her.
I just looked over my shoulder and was surprised to find Frisbee staring right back at me, sucking on her finger. I think I actually might have a chance after all.
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
So. Back then when things weren’t like they’re now, when you could still find bubble gum machines and quarter newspapers, me and Pyr were about to start our campaign of terror when we realized that we didn’t have 7 bucks between us. I had just quit Yogurt Hut because the asshole manager tried to fuck me after hours, pulling it out even, and as soon as I stopped laughing I kicked him in the balls – my two-second notice. Payday had long since passed and I wasn’t about to wait around for the next check, so I spent my days in the library, the only free place with couches that would let you hang no matter what color you hair was that week. Pyr was busy working at the bank, which you think would pay well, but with the apartment and all money earned became MasterCard interest and long-distance minutes. Since I wasn’t swirling frozen cow piss anymore we could barely make the rent, let alone worry about the bills. Grazing from bulk-food bins and friends’ cabinets was the only thing separating us from the streets or home, and since I would rather sleep on 23rd then put up with my mother’s shit, I begged him to do something.
At first he was all Why don’t you just go work at Burger Shack or something and after I reminded him that they wanted a High School diploma he shut the fuck up. After Thomason I could never stomach classes and teachers, with all the rules and judgements that made no sense to me, and when I dropped out the only thing I had to fall back on were my charms. But ass-wiggling only gets you as far as your supervisors pants, and I wasn’t about to trick my way up the ladder to success. I’m willing to learn and try just about anything, but with all the records hanging over me, especially then, I was afraid to open myself up to what I thought was a sure dis. Pyr knew this, and no matter how much he tried to build my confidence, no matter how much he gave me after I left the streets, he never could find the key to the little filing cabinet in my heart where I kept all my insecurities locked up, treasured reluctance which spun me in circles. Sitting on the floor in our one-bedroom, sucking up the constant shadow of lightbulbs we couldn’t afford to turn on, something had to be done but neither of us knew what it was.
About 4 days before the first Pyr came home bitch-moaning about how we was short $375 at work, which put him over the edge and into probation. Being a teller is one thing but when you’re a anal pocket-protector like Pyr every brown Lincoln has to be there at the end of your shift, or you’re nothing more than a calculator-hack college student slumming until you go to Law School. Most of the tellers didn’t give a shit where their money went, as long as the difference was small enough that it wouldn’t count against them. Pyr couldn’t professor this and so whenever he was short or over he filled out the forms and bussed home stressing over the transactions, wondering which customer got the extra cash, or what numbers he mixed up. $375 was the most he had ever been out, and since all of his work seemed to add up on paper, he knew that someone had to have snatched it. As he told me about his list of potential perps and their motives, I couldn’t help but wonder about the possibilities of a situation like Pyr’s. Sure, he was fingerprinted and supervised to death, but I was free to do whatever I fucking wanted short of a scribbled note and ski-mask. I had a savings account ever since I met Pyr, and even though there was only 67 cents left from my last Snapple binge, it could serve as a foot in the door for some old fashioned scavenging.
While Pyr was taking off his tie I scarfed around his neck and kissed him a question about what happened to all of that misplaced cash and the poor tellers that lost it. Most of it’s just clerical he grimaced while slipping off his shirt, And the cut-off is 5 bucks or so before anyone starts to care. What would happen if you put a little money in someone’s account once in a while? I said while hanging up his pants and he was all Wouldn’t work, they would notice soon enough that the cash deposit amounts match the differences. Isn’t there any way to scam the bank? and he just stared at me for a second or two before he said Believe me, I thought about it, but the only way you’re going to get money is through forgery or counterfeiting, which promotes getting caught and would get you in tons of trouble, intentional overdrafts with the help of a teller, which means the loss of a job along with the heat of the bank, or ATM fraud, with empty envelopes and maximum cash back. All you could get from a machine is $300, and it would be a one-time only deal, with your account being closed immediately until you paid the money back, plus a record that would follow you until the day you died. There’s got to be some way I moaned, and Pyr shook his head. Unless the money’s already there and you are associated with the account or know someone who is, you won’t get away with that much. In the end it’s more productive to plan on earning money rather than stealing it. With that he grabbed some fresh underwear and headed for the shower.
Now all of this was news to me, and while he was washing the money off his hands I was thinking of ways that I could get some quick cash. When I opened the account I conned them into giving me a Visa, Pyr’s pull probably helping a lot more than my Yogurt Hut gig. I had only used it a bit since I got it, enough that my limit went up into the low thousands and other offers started to trickle in. All around the apartment were brochures and pre-approvals from this bank and that, and the more I thought about it, the better some of those offers started to look. Adding up National United’s cash advance limit along with those of the other fool banks, I could figure to net around $2500 or so, which I could pay back in little spurts when the money became available, if at all. That would be enough for a used car and gas across the country, which I always dreamed about doing ever since I first hit the streets, hearing lies about how this girl hitched from Montana or that jerk knew someone who had driven 66 in a stolen truck. Dumpstering after the dinner rush or crashing at the Y, I had the itch to go where the passing cars were headed, wherever the roads that scraped my shoes would take me. The only time that I had been on a real trip was when I was a snot-nose, and all I could remember are miles of corn and the motel that we stopped at when our radiator went rabid. Imagining myself back there in one of those rectangular states, living on the road with Pyr at my side, I guess I lost most of my sense of Nightly Newsed reality and signed all the acceptance offers I could dig up, hiding the envelopes under the mattress so he wouldn’t find them. I wanted our trip to be his birthday present, he could use up his vacation time while we devoured the country.
The next day after Pyr went off to work I post-officed and spent the recycling money on stamps, crossing my fingers as the blue box ate the envelopes. Knowing that it would take a couple of weeks before I heard anything, I libraried like usual, only this time pouring over the road atlases, planning our trip down to the fleas. For the life of me I couldn’t locate that motel, no matter how small the scale, but I did snag a beat-up map of the US in the free box, which was bound to come in handy, and checked out one of those travel books that tell you about all the cool shit. Scammed my way onto the subway – horny businessmen always fall for the lost-ticket story – and sponged up the potential stops listed in the book while touring town, trying hard to imagine what Donut World actually looked like, and hoping that Six Flags had low fences. When I finally got back home, after stopping by Jennifer’s to pick up some spaghetti and toilet paper, Pyr was already there, sulking on the bed.
I asked him what was wrong and all he could do is turn over onto his stomach, staring at the bus schedule tacked onto the wall. We were robbed, I was robbed he moaned, So they made me come home early. What happened? I yelled as I lay down beside him, tossing the bag of stuff I brought onto the floor, and he hesitated for a few moments before telling me. Turned out that a little after 2, when he had just gotten money from the vault, this guy came up to the window with the proverbial note. Although the bank showed cheesy movies during training that told how you were supposed to basically lick the perp’s ass and give them whatever they wanted, Pyr wasn’t about to be out of balance again unless he literally had a gun to his head. So he took the note, which used the standard line, and wrote on the back Why should I? The guy looked at Pyr’s message, and not wanting to cause a scene, answered that he had a gun in his jacket, that’s why. Pyr countered by asking to see it, and the guy, now quite pissed, reached over the counter and grabbed Pyr by the tie, whispering to him to cough up the money. The teller at the next window noticed this and proceeded not only to pull the alarm, but to leave her window and tell the supervisor what was going on. While news started to filter through the branch, Pyr was still giving the guy a hard time, placing all of his rolled coin onto the counter. This act of defiance was enough for the gun to make its appearance, at which time Pyr simply locked up his cash and walked away from the window. The guy started to shake a bit and then held the gun up into the air, yelling for everyone to Get down. Pyr walked back over with the fire extinguisher that he had pulled from a nearby corner and let loose in the guy’s face, causing him to drop the gun and fall down to the floor screaming. Then he climbed on top of his stool and jumped over the counter, fucking up the guy until the security guard had to pull him off. Since the police wouldn’t go into a branch while it was being held up, and since the bank rules said not to pursue any criminals, the guy ran out the front door before anyone could stop him.
For the next hour the branch was closed, as the police and bank security questioned Pyr about what the guy looked like, what he asked for, and why the hell did he have to do all that shit. All he could say was that he wasn’t concerned for his safety, didn’t think the perp was smart enough to have even loaded the gun, and frankly didn’t give a fuck what the bank thought. If the guy was going to pull a gun on him, money or no money, he was going down. His supervisors mistook such honesty as post-traumatic stress and promptly sent him home for the day, saving the chewing out for the next morning. So Pyr was all worked up, stressing over why he snapped like that, and before I got home he had even made up a quit sheet, thinking that two weeks notice was the best thing to do considering. Inching my hand up his thigh, I chirped reassuring junk in his ears like It’ll be all right, they’ll forget after a few months, but he wouldn’t have it and it took nothing short of turning on his faucet to get his mind off the whole mess. Not that I minded giving him some, it was just that if he flipped off the bank then we would be in serious shit, and when the shadow of rough times ahead passed over my brain the last thing I wanted to think about was coming.
But he came anyway, and as Pyr tissued the mess I couldn’t help but think of our second time, in the employee bathroom at the bank, when we improvised a hat with one of those wax-paper toilet-seat covers. Listening to him hold back his moans as I straddled him – licking the ink off of his fingers, wondering where he had been all of my life – we didn’t even notice when the manager walked in to take a piss, and with my legs around his waist and head leaning against the stall I guess he thought that Pyr was wrestling with one hell of a log. It’s always been like that, since I first walked up to his window asking for change, and through all of the shit we’ve been through, all of the nights I’ve stayed up just to watch him sleep, he’s always been the hand swinging the string, with me at the other end ready to fly off into space. All the other pricks in my life were either scared off my by enthusiasm or wanted even more, but not Pyr, ever since he brushed against my hand giving a one for some pocket jingle, looking me straight in the mouth, I knew he would never let go.
Letting go of the bank was another story. When he went back to work the next day, pocketing his notice just in case, all of the tellers were giving him a hard time, except for Mary, who pulled the alarm and had a thing for him ever since he trained her. If he went to the cooler to get some water then Steve would ask him where the fire was, and when the daily engine flew by Tom buzzed the door open, telling Pyr that he if he ran he could still catch the truck. That, combined with a big fat warning from his boss that the next time he pulled something like that he would shoot him personally, was enough that Pyr threw his keys across the branch, trashed his name tag, and made 30 copies of his resignation, so that he could hand out one to everyone in the bank, including the customers. Well, actually that’s what he should’ve done, but after a thorough shredding by his superiors, all he could muster was a whispered Fuck you as he gave the note, requesting to use the vacation time he had saved up through his last day. By then his manager would have given him both vault keys if it meant that Pyr would get out of his branch, and so after a hasty balancing he left, saving his last goodbye for Mary, the only person who would’ve appreciated it.
I never would’ve imagined that he would actually go through it, and so when I came into the bank around 5 that day, hoping to surprise him with a bouquet of daisies that I got from my friend at the subway station, all Tanya gave me was a tight lipped He quit. If I had a telephone pole handy I would have stuck it up her ass, but after Mary pulled me aside and explained what happened I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all of the other asshole tellers, spit-shining their customers’ wallets while their bosses pocketed the tips. Since I knew Pyr wouldn’t be in a floral mood when I got home I left the bunch with Mary, telling her to enjoy them while they lasted. Before I left I closed my account, asking Tanya to give me it all in pennies, and as soon as she did I broke open the roll, sweeping the Abe’s onto the floor, every single click on the linoleum a slap in her face. Tossed off a big Bitch that had everyone duck and covering, slapped my ATM card on the counter, and left. The guard didn’t follow.
As soon as I got home Pyr was already packing, and it only took one look at his face to tell that he had been planning his escape for awhile. I knew that we had enough money saved up for next month’s rent, but when I first saw the bus tickets lying on the table I didn’t make the connection. Watching him gathering up the good tapes, matching and folding our socks, I figured that he had already called ahead to his brother in New York, who always promised a floor to crash on just in case. When he finally turned to face me, the sunset skipping off his glasses and onto my chest, all I could think about was how much I loved him, how itchy I was to hit the road. After the packing was done I lined the bathroom with the Sentinel and gave him the buzz that he wanted forever but N.U. wouldn’t permit, and when his scalp was free we gathered up the clippings and watched them surf down the sink, along with the ashes from our tie-burning party.
When the 1st finally rolled around we were cutting across the New Mexico night, 7 dollars and two seats between us. I didn’t wait for the credit cards to come.