Into The White – 1994

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Not like this.

It wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.

I’ve seen the tape a hundred times, backwards and forwards, and everything is still wrong. She’s supposed to be there in the end, when everything falls apart, but now…

Fuck. She’s dead on the floor, and her silence is our downfall. Not like this, someone is messing around with things, Sarah’s room has never been wrong but here in the dark as the TV laughs at us, as the freeze-frame negates our last stand, I hold my growing stomach and pray that I’m wrong, that things are right.

But they’re not. Not like this.

I promised myself that I would go over it one more time, that maybe there was something that we missed, but Pyr couldn’t stand my fixation – he still can’t watch the tape to the end without storming out of the apartment – and even Jenny thinks that I’m nuts. A-Bell…

Not like this. It’s rewinding, and I still don’t know where she is. She didn’t talk to anyone for a week, and then yesterday she was gone.

It wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.

I’ve been recording my voice incessantly, since it happened, hoping for the truth to jump out between my words. But there’s nothing. Our new place is already old, ruined, and I want to leave to run away but I can’t, not while she’s still dead on the floor in my dreams. There has to be a fucking answer…


Sorry. I had to take a break, the whole situation’s just out of control – I haven’t been outside in three days, I won’t let the sun touch my skin because it doesn’t seem right.

O.K. The tape’s ready to go again. I still don’t understand what possessed Jenny to take along her camera, how she knew that it was needed. But she did, and now the biggest and last Suspender show ever will live on, as will…

I can’t even think about her name without crying.

Not like this! Not on the floor, not dead, and A-Bell’s not screaming, I’m not listening…

On the TV, everything is O.K. Here we are, driving up to the warehouse, and already there’s a line of Suspects, covering everything with sidewalk chalk, trading bootlegs from the tour. The street is cracked and still buckled from the last earthquake, but the building doesn’t look that bad. No one was looking for safety anyway, just for free space to tear apart, and Jenny discovered it on one of her walking photo-tours of town. It used to be a cannery or something, but after a fire it was just left to collect trash and dust. As we driveway to the back, Jenny lingers on the layers of spraypaint, coating the outer wall with pure anarchart and foolishness. Sometimes I pause and try to pick out individual messages, but they’re co-mingled and overlapped to the point that nothing is left but chaotic color and the essence of communication. That I can understand.

In the back we pull up next to the Ice Cream Truck, which is what Caroline calls the Suspender van because everywhere they went there was some punk kids trailing behind, money in hand. Plus, the P.A. on the roof added to the general phenomenon; when we came it was chanting The white zone is for loading and unloading only, which was a sly reference to the Airport Incident. But now is not the time to get into that, because as we got out of the car…

I’m going to hold it together, this is too important, but whenever I see her…

We got out of the car, and Sasha runs up to me and Jenny, grabbing us by the arms and yelling Fuck Traffic! Are you with me? I just about fell apart as we ran inside laughing and screaming, because it had been almost 3 years since we last performed. A-Bell pounced on us when we approached the makeshift stage. I brought all of the old instruments! She was wearing her Fuck Traffic uniform, the butt-ugly orange shirt and hard-hat that the highway-hacks endured, and I could only hope that she had ours. She did, and as Jenny gave the room a once-over, you could hear our plan-babble in the background.

It was truly amazing what Phone did to the place; it took him almost a whole week but the results were more than worth the effort. First, he covered everything except the floors with a cheap white, making a clean canvas, and then he called in his crew and the 12th St. one to kill all of the walls. When they were done it was like a subway car was turned inside out, so you were floating in burners and tags. The general theme was electronics, so besides the twisted corporate logos and consumerist imagery, Sasha supervised a massive mural which was this terribly complicated Circle X thing (as fits her general obsession with the chain). I asked her about it and she said to the camera: The logo is a warning, a target we need to aim at. Jenny lingered on her computer-memory earrings that dangled to her bare shoulders. Our music is the gun, and we are the bullets. She had on a green tank-top, and knee-length, black, Circle X cut-offs. Dear, is everything all set up? Jenny swiveled to A-Bell on the stage, who was fiddling with the amps. Yep. Sasha stepped up, and motioned for us to follow.

I don’t know why, it just makes me feel better when I talk it out, when I remember how great things were then. How everything shined when Sasha called us into a huddle, pulled out a red marking pen, and drew big numbers on our right hands. I was “1”, A-Bell was “2” and Jenny was “3”. She drew a big “O” on hers. We are the inseparable 4. Together, we can accomplish anything. Put her hand in the middle of the circle. Now swear your allegiance to yourself and the group. Commit to change. This was a new variation on the standard antizine chant, so it was second-nature to give our hands. As we held each other, and as the other bands started to arrive, I remember distinctly that Sasha gave me this look, a glance of complete understanding, and we held it until Jo bounded up on stage, Caroline in tow.

I’m going closer to the TV, so you can hear what’s being said.

Can we join in? That’s Jo, and she had on her white painter’s uniform, and Caroline was still in her maximalist ball-gown stage. This one was yellow.

Give me your hands. Sasha took out her pen, and made Jo “4” and Caroline “5”.

Sash! Wouldn’t it be cool to do a Jumpster reunion? Just for tonight.

Fuck yeah! I was already excited – this close to the screen I can almost see my ears twitch in anticipation. Photocop is here, and I’m sure Susan will be game.

Bell, can you go get her? I think they’re in the storeroom.

Anything for you, Pixie. They kiss….

I can’t do this. I can’t….


I hate this bathroom.

My voice echoes too much, like it doesn’t even belong to me, like it never left my mouth in the first place, like that woman in the mirror said it, the one that looks past the tears.

She’s starting to show now. But when I look down, when I feel myself, it all seems wrong. That’s our future inside me. Inside her.

I hate this bathroom, I hate the toilet I just threw up in, I hate her dead on the floor twitching silent twitching…

She’s looking at me, I’m looking at me, and there’s something beyond the silver.

I want to reach out to her, to me, but there’s the hard, smooth inbetween.

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 O.K.

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.

Please.


I’ve started again, and I close my eyes through the kiss, until A-Bell skips off the stage.

Anyway…

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.

Yes.

No.

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.

Here.

In this stupid apartment, in this stupid darkness, in my useless arms.

Here.

With me.

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.

Circle X.

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.

Yes.

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.

Don’t call.

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.

I won’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.

Not yet.


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…

Sasha died.

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.

Circle X.

I mark my fists, my forehead, to load the final gun.

Circle X may be everywhere.

But so are we.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Snow Farm – 1994

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Wham-O!”

“What?”

“Ice cubes.”

“Huh?”

“I love ice cubes”

“Why?”

“They taste good. Better than water.”

“Water doesn’t taste like anything.”

“Yeah, well, still, I like the crunchy cold.”

“Oh….”

“Don’t look at me like that!”

“Like what?”

“Like this.”

“I never look like that. At least, not at you.”

“Too bad…”

“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…”

“And sexy.”

“Stop! And my clothes get all wet.”

“Is that all? Well I can fix that.”

“Hey!”

“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”

“Yeah, right.”

“O.K….Resist me!”

“I will.”

“Go on.””I’m resisting!”

“What’s that under the blankets?”

“I don’t feel anything.”

“Hey!”


“Pyramid.”

“Huh?”

“Where are we going?”

“East, west, I don’t know.”

“Good answer….I love wind!”

“What! I can’t hear you?”

“Nothing.”

“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?”

“O.K…..This.”

“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.”

“Sounds horrible!”

“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.”

“Why ?”

“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.”

“Huh?”

“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.”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Turn up the music.”

“How’s this?”

“Perfect….”

“Hey! Not now, I’m busy….This is delicate work.”

“You’re such a perfectionist.”

“You got it.”

“I thought you were busy.”

“I’m concentrating.”

“Can I help?”

“I don’t know…”

“Is the next move clearer now?”

“Not yet.”

“How about now?”

“You’re getting warmer.”

“You got that right.”

“Wham-O! Pull over!”

“What about the maps?”

“They can wait!”

“Good decision.”

“Pyr! Watch out for that bunny!”

“Fuck!”

“Did you hear that?”

“What happened?”

“I don’t see it….”

“Go on, get out and look for it. Damn.”

“I don’t….ewwwww!”

“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.”

“What?”

“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?”

“Here.”

“Hell no! I’m not touching that knife again.”

“Fine.”

“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!”

“Who knows?”

“I knew we should have turned right.”

“Then turn around and go back.”

“No. Never.”

“O.K. then….Relax. I’ll help you pass the time.”

“Thanks….I’m sorry, I just wanted everything to go perfect.”

“It has.”

“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.”

“I guess…”

“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?”

“Out.”

“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.”

“Where….Oh.”

“When I was little I wanted a farm.”

“That’s sad.”

“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.”

“Really?”

“Well, not really really, but I still believed it.”

“I understand.”

“You do?”

“No. I just said that to make you feel better.”

“Thanks.”

“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?”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.”

“Deal.”

“So. What now?”

“There’s a sign up ahead.”

“What does it say?”

“5 miles.”

“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…”

“Oh…Ira Bu…”

“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?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“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?”

“Huh?”

“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.”

“Huh?”

“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?”

“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…”


“Hey.”

“What?”

“You know. Hey. Aaarrrrrrnhhhn…”

“You want something to drink?”

“Water.”

“O.K.”

“You know what?”

“No.”

“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.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. Something.”

“Anyway, even though I know it will happen, I still look anyway. I like to watch the dark come.”

“Here, drink.”

“Wait a minute, is this still good?”

“I guess. It’s just water. If you’re worried I’ll try it first.”

“Well?”

“I didn’t die.”

“Not yet. But don’t worry, if you do I’ll bury you.”

“How considerate.”

“Yeah, I would cremate you …”

“Cool.”

“…and put you under that tree.”

“Which one?”

“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?”

“Oh.”

“Are you hiding something? Friz?”

“At the mall I swiped a baby stick, because I missed last month…”

“The motel?”

“I can already feel it’s a girl, I know she’ll be something special.”

“That’s wonderful!”

“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.”

“Whatever.”

“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!”

“Yeah.”

“Are you laughing at me?”

“Not exactly.”

“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.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“So is there anything else you have to say before we wrap it up?”

“Yeah.”

“Go on….”

“Oh, you mean to them. Nope, all done.”

“Good.”

“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.”

“Pyr…”

“Yes, dear?”

“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….”

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Crunchy Cold – 1994

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.

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Tie-Burning Party – 1994

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.

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Shaky Kana – 1970 to 2000

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last week, when I took Ai to kindergarten for the first time, and her sweaty hands clamped onto my fingers – as she buried her nose in my belly button, looking for a way back in – I couldn’t help but notice how much she glowed. Ever since I first kissed her squint I could feel her tiny face spark gold back at me, I could see her shimmer like the setting sun through cherry blossoms, but holding her head in front of the classroom – as she gnawed at the ghost umbilical cord between us, savoring the final taste of the womb – her shine nearly blinded me, and I had to let her go before our love fused us back together. Between the tears that salted my T-shirt, and the chill morning air that reddened her ears, it took all the strength in the world to bend down and sniff her neck – Mommy’s a doggy she would say to Pyr, can I pet her? – smelling the baby shampoo and bubble bath that marked her as my own. The sun hung frozen in the sky, trying hard to clear the breath that trailed off my lips while I nuzzled against her, whispering a trail that would lead Ai back to me in the afternoon. Listen to your teacher I said, but all she could feel was the tickle of the words that blew past her chin, bringing forth a giggle-smile that lit up the world like a TV set does a dark room. I put that smile in my pocket as she floated off into the class, and when the door finally closed, followed by a bell that bounced between the buildings, I could still feel her warmth against my thigh.

That lingering heat reminded me a little of lazy afternoons digging up carrots in our garden, Ai resting her head against my leg while she pointed out the good ones. Also of the monthly runs to the beach, when Pyr would walk back and forth all across the sand, looking for those clear, little, pink rocks that we keep at home in a jar. Keeping one eye on him sifting through pebbles for the occasional treasure and the other on Ai, cautiously approaching the undulating water line, naked yet hardly concerned, I would lay on our towel – the blue one we stole from that hotel years ago – as the high clouds mingled with the seagulls swarming overhead, waiting for something, anything, to wash ashore. Every so often, when the waves she taunted started to eat at her toes, Ai would run back to me, gathering sand with every step, and plop down on my belly. Clean my feet! she would demand, pouting as she straddled me like a merry-go-round horse, my armpits serving as stirrups and stretched shirt collar her bridle, riding me until I grabbed her ankles and brushed everything away, making sure to tickle as much as possible. She would roll off in glee, crushing the sandwiches as she kicked off my grip, and after catching her breath would crawl back over to my side, sticking her hands up my shirt in an attempt to retaliate. I’m cleaning Mommy she would say, brushing against my breasts, pulling at underarm hair, and I always made sure that she never missed a spot.

Even so, I felt so dirty when school swallowed Ai last week. Walking back home underneath trees that couldn’t wait to get their yearly trim, their sagging leaves fading if only in spirit, I found myself reaching down to the space she was supposed to be in, hand patting only the remembrance of a head. At the first stoplight I went so far as to hold back Ai’s shadow from crossing, fearing that even the semblance of lowering my guard would take her away from me forever. When the light turned green and I didn’t feel her tug, this itchy feeling rushed up my back, like a night sweat from too much tossing and turning, and no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t find the right place to scratch. Something was snaking up my spine, its fangs anticipating the sour swallow of every collected nightmare and almost was, where Ai lay bloody in the grass, or under the wheels of a car, or swimming in a sea of strangers, trying to find a familiar leg to grab onto. By the time I reached the other curb whatever was affixed to me snapped off, overextended and bored, for there’s only so many ways to make a mother squirm, and it’s better to save the best ones for more stressful occasions. Besides, Ai was back at school, ripe for awkward feelings as she introduced herself to the class, or practiced writing her name on her e-slate, drawing stares from the teacher as the strokes grew and grew. I tried to teach Ai her name in English but she wouldn’t have it, already attached to the complex beauty that was Ai. Was love. Was her.

The only thing worse than letting your daughter out into the world is letting the world into your daughter. I wouldn’t give a fuck if she wrote everything in Japanese – her grandmother would hate me for it – but as soon as she tried to really do anything all the keyboards would be foreign to her, all the net-ops language police too lazy to think in any other way. The electron has become synonymous with ASCII – 26 ugly letters and the numbers behind them – and no one has thought to ask why. Her only refuge are the e-slates and nihongo-ware that I snagged the last time I went back – the first time since I was 3, when my mother deemed it proper to make me a gaikokujin, a foreigner, before it was too late, before my mouth and brain reached the point of no return. Looking at the pictures of me waddling in front of Hachimangu – my mother to one side with the strangest look on her face, my father implied in the snap, in bits of his shadow peaking into the frame – I can almost hear my running giggles, almost feel my spoiled pout when I didn’t get a window seat on the train, but I can’t understand the whispers of my blooming heart, I can’t place my mind back in that space, that place, and twirl in the wonder that pervaded everything. When I finally walked those gardens again – Pyr playing my fathers role, only in Hi-8 this time – I couldn’t help but skip along with Ai, floating in the essence of the moment. Her feet were my past, her smile my regret, and even though she was only there for one summer I promised myself to never take that time away, from either of us.

Instead of going back home and painting everything Japanese with broad strokes, I put it to myself to be more insidious, and more thorough. Since Pyr has a lot of my mother in him, especially when it comes to assimilation, I made sure to speak in English to Ai while he was around. However, whenever he went off to work or Ai and I had some time to ourselves I would introduce a Japanese word here, a sentence structure there, concurrently with the English equivalent. After she learned her ABC’s it was only a small step to group the letters together into kana, the hiragana serving as much as an art lesson as script practice. When she was about 2 and fully versed in the basics of both tongues we would talk to each other in a peculiar mixture of the two, and when Ai would answer my questions with a robust Hai Pyr assumed that she was being overly friendly, constantly greeting me. Of course, when Pyr came across Ai sitting in front of a sheet filled not only with kana but a few basic kanji as well, and told her to Stop messing with Mommy’s stuff she replied curtly mama no hanashi jya nai, I wrote it, you wanna see? After regaining his composure Pyr hollered at me to come in the kitchen and see why Ai’s turning Japanese, and when I saw her scribbling away at her story about A-chan, her imaginary friend, I was too proud to deny what had been going on.

If only Mother could have found it in herself to feel that way about me. Wanting to make sure that I spoke English instead of Japanese was not the real reason that she convinced my father to move back to America. Even though he didn’t have too much trouble finding cultural spheres within which he was accepted, once he met my mother all bets were off. His understanding of Japanese culture and clear strengths in communication – which were what allowed for his success as a translator – did much to endear him to the Suzuki clan, but in the end all they saw in him was his foreignness. Not that the racial difference bothered them extremely, it was just that they knew far too well that if he married their daughter – their only daughter – relocation back to the U.S. was very likely, thereby endangering Atsuko’s inheritance of the family estate – what amounted to little more than a moderately sized home. Tradition would have them live with Atsuko’s parents, so that their care in later years could be assured along with their investment. Being truly in love with their daughter, and understanding their position, David offered to meet their terms and remain in Japan indefinitely. It was quite possible that given time, and subtle coaxing from their daughter, the arrangement would have become acceptable to Takashi Suzuki – his wife Yuuko was prepared to go along with his decision – but Atsuko was never one to understand the necessity for diplomacy.

Ever since she was very young my mother has had an attachment to all things “American”. Old enough to have experienced the seemingly beneficial effects that the U.S. occupation produced, but too young to have lived through the military buildup culminating with the wholesale destruction and “revision” of Japan that centered around the unprecedented attacks of August 6th and 9th, 1945, Atsuko knew only of the strong country across the Pacific that was leading Japan hand in hand down the path to economic superpower status. The incredible expansion of the 60’s, combined with the “obvious” Western brand of refinement that was being infused into the country daily, was enough to make her wish quite often that she had been born an American. This desire, while shared to certain degrees by a number of her generation, usually was tempered with a desire to work as hard as possible on Japan’s behalf, so that perhaps someday it could stand on the world stage with a status equal to that of the U.S. Atsuko, however, simply wanted to promote the American way of life, irregardless of what happened to Japan and its people.

Since she regarded things Japanese as being necessarily inferior to their American counterparts, a large part of her adolescence was spent in the acquisition of not only American cultural artifacts, from records to clothing, but of anything and everything in English. Besides the typical language study in school, she spent inordinate amounts of time plowing through novels, newspapers, textbooks, whatever she could get her hands on. Her parents paid little attention to the content of her studies as long as her grades were good, and prospects for a lucrative career strong. Actually, Grandpa Suzuki – that’s what mom makes me call him – told me that all the photo magazines sprawled with katakana, and the snatches of English slipping from under Atsuko’s door kept him up at night’s worrying that the neighbors would regard her as some sort Shinjuku jyoroo, an American groupie or worse. So he and Yuuko always made her sit down in front the television and watch the daily cooking shows or the national news, no matter how banal. This is your country he would say when Atsuko fidgeted, Rice isn’t just going to jump in your mouth, especially if you don’t respect the fields the harbor it, the farmers who collect it, and the factory workers like me who heap it steaming into your bowl. Atsuko would rebound by stating that In America every family has so much rice that even the factory workers throw it away when it get’s cold. It took all of his concentration for Takashi not to slap her after she said that, but instead he pictured the Tokyo Tower in all of its glory – an image which always relaxed him as well as his fellow foundry workers – and simply said that The Americans wouldn’t know a cold piece of rice if it was stuck in their throats. He nearly died laughing when he told me this story, and Pyr had to help him back into his chair while Ai stared at his wrinkly red face, transfixed. Atsuko’s response was much more subdued, and typically American: she ran off to her room and slammed the door, cranking up the first LP in English that she could find.

Of course, it was expected that she would marry soon enough, so the emphasis upon making Atsuko a well-rounded person who followed her parents’ wishes down to the letter took second place to her homemaking skills and overall appearance. Thus, when she would dress up in the latest American fashion after high school and on Sundays, her parents frowned to themselves but put on airs of approval, particularly when they saw the large number of Japanese boys that were attracted to such clothing. While neither condoning nor allowing dating at such a “young” age, they were nevertheless relieved that their daughter wouldn’t suffer for a lack of suitors. Of course, when it came down to it, all the boys in the world wouldn’t matter one bit if none of them exhibited traditional values, and weren’t clearly involved in an enterprise that could take care of not only Atsuko, but her parents as well. Takashi told me that Yuuko would judge all the boys that came by not by their demeanor or physical appearance, but whether their shoes were shined or not. If they don’t care what impression they give to me when I bow to them at the door, she would fuss while washing the dishes, Then they can keep their shoes on and walk right back past the gate. For some reason, Takashi grinned, Most of Atsuko’s friends wore sandals when they came to visit.

After finishing her university work – majoring in English Literature, much to the chagrin of her parents – my mother went to work as a O.L. for Sony, using her language skills to great success in the International Marketing department. That is, as much success as an Office Lady was allowed to have, arming the telephones and making copies for her male “superiors”, who took her ideas as well as the credit. Even though she was involved in a number of long-term relationships with “promising” Japanese men, both in and out of the office, none of them struck her fancy. Everyone looks the same, so plain, she told her mother in a moment of desperation, Not like American men, with their colored hair, tall, strong bodies, and independent natures. Yuuko couldn’t find it in her heart to reply, certain that something was seriously wrong with her daughter. So she took it upon herself to set up an o-miai – an arranged marriage meeting – in the hopes that an exceptional Japanese man would finally bring her to her senses. Mom didn’t even show up to the first meeting, offended that her parents would interfere in something as personal as love, particularly with anything less than a Western man. This sort of sentiment was way before its time, and it took weeks of consoling by Takashi for Yuuko to finally throw up her arms in disgust, telling Atsuko to Go to Tokyo and pick up the first sailor you come across. I suppose the only reason she didn’t was that she was too busy at work to run around looking for the kind of man she desired.

As luck would have it one Friday night in late 1970, the movie my mother chose to go to was the same one that David Watson had picked. Poking around in the darkened theater – mother can’t help but be late to everything – she noticed the silhouette of a man who clearly didn’t belong. Almost a head taller than those surrounding him, not wearing glasses, and far more relaxed in appearance than the usual student or office worker, he was clearly a foreigner even in shadow. Being the first American that she had ever seen in person, Atsuko was drawn to the seat behind him like a mosquito to a sleeping body, darting to the left and right as the image flickered in front of them, trying to get a good look at his face. The strange thing about that night, besides what happened after the movie ended, was that Dad swears that the movie playing was Violence At Noon by Oshima, while Mother insists that it was Dr. Strangelove. I find it hard to believe either of them, because Mother never would have went to a Japanese film, no matter how good it was, and there’s no way that Dad could have confused the two. Anyway, something was playing, and all during the film Dad felt like someone was staring him in the back of the head, but since that what was usually happened wherever he went, he tried his best to ignore it. Once the movie ended, however, and the credits started rolling, the same sensation persisted, and since hardly anyone stayed for the credits, particularly for foreign films, he concluded that whoever was observing him was more than merely curious. Turning around, expecting to see a bratty student or the like, he instead came face to face with Atsuko, staring intensely.

As most men would do when encountering an attractive woman staring at them, Dad smiled and bowed slightly, popping off a Konban wa for good measure. Atsuko returned with a big smile and a How are you tonight? in an accent that most Japanese today would die for. Suffice to say that Dad was doing just fine after that, for as would be expected Atsuko latched onto him like there was no tomorrow. Which actually wasn’t that bad of a decision, for they had a good deal in common, albeit in rather unusual way. David liked everything Japanese, but not simply because it was foreign. Ever since he was conscious of the existence of different places than the one he was born in, Dad did everything in his power to visit as many states, countries, and continents as his parents and finances would allow. There was the cross-country trip at 16 to visit Uncle Rob, the German, French and Spanish home stays during the summer after graduating from High School, and the year abroad in Osaka during his Junior year in college, which caused his latent affinity for Japan to well up and nearly consume him. If it wasn’t for subtitled movies, Japan Town and the Asian Library then Dad would’ve never come back to the U.S.. Of course, a Japanese fortune teller on the street swore up and down that he would come back to Japan in one year if he kept a copy of the train schedule in his wallet at all times, and woke up in time to meet the earliest train to Tokyo every Monday. Desperate and not just a little bit suggestionable, David did exactly what she said – of course it wasn’t that difficult considering the time difference – and two weeks before he graduated a friend of the Tanakas, the host family he had stayed with, offered him a lucrative translating position out of the blue. The occasion that you toured our offices, this friend wrote to David’s glee, Was the first time I witnessed a foreigner do justice to the Japanese language. David felt honored enough by this offer that he was on the first plane to Japan after his graduation ceremony, not even bothering to get drunk with his friends. The fateful movie took place 4 years after he began translating in Japan.

Atsuko, as can be expected, was itching to meet an American man, no matter what he was like. Fortunately for her Dad is probably the nicest, considerate, loving man she could have possibly met in all of Japan, American or not. And Mom, well, she’s driven to say the least, and won’t settle for anything less than what she considers the best. Once they spied each other there was no separating them, and after then filed out of the theater to the neighboring coffee house, Mom wouldn’t drink any of her tea because she wanted to have her Palate clean to fully taste his lips against mine. This suggests an supernatural degree of confidence on her part, but hands held across the table turned into walking arm by arm to the subway station, evolving with her prodding into a sweet touch of mouth to cheek to lips which Raised me at least 100 feet into the air, I felt like I grew high above the train tracks, ready to step over them. Like I said Mom’s not the most realistic person in the world, but she did get what she wanted, for within a year’s time they were engaged, pending the approval of Atsuko’s parents.

Which brings us back to the big decision. Takashi and Yuuko Suzuki were this close to allowing the marriage, especially since David had offered to remain in Japan. Strangely enough, he met their image of a perfect Japanese man more than most Japanese men did, especially when it came to traditional values. He knew exactly what to say and when to say it, understood the concept of respect better than their own daughter, and had a fine job that would easily take care of the four of them. Atsuko, however, had no intention of staying in Japan and O.L.-ing herself into a stupor; David would be her ticket to greater things in the country where she should have been born in the first place. She knew that her parents wouldn’t allow them to marry unless she stayed, and since eloping was out of the question – David wouldn’t support that in a million years since it meant disrespecting her parents’ wishes – she seemingly acquiesced and promised to stay with her parents. That settled, Takashi gladly took in David as the son he never had, and Yuuko thought that she would finally have opportunity to get close to her daughter.

The wedding was a traditional Japanese ceremony, and David’s mother and father, along with their 15 year-old daughter Jessica, flew in to see their son off. Progressive enough to accept Atsuko as part of the family, yet American enough to miss a church ceremony – the trailing white gown, the bouquet, the English – Tom and Mary Watson nevertheless cried their heads off, and if the pictures are to be believed the Japanese flying back and forth didn’t get in the way of their happiness. Dad was clearly ecstatic, staring at Atsuko lovingly, drinking his sake lovingly, even bowing to the Suzuki’s lovingly, if that’s even possible. Atsuko, however, was less than pleased. This is only speculation on my part, but considering that when she broke her parent’s hearts and moved to America anyway, the first thing she did was make sure that she had a “proper” wedding ceremony, church bells and four-tiered cake, her smile increasing with every step down the aisle.

Not that my parents left immediately, mind you. Quite the contrary, they waited until 3 years after I was born – November 17th, 1972, for those who give a fuck about such things – before Atsuko tried to convince Dad that The best thing for her now is to be around people speaking English, so that she won’t be at a disadvantage. Dad had a fit and for the first time in the marriage openly disagreed with his wife, reminding her of their pledge to the Suzuki’s. The look in my mother’s face in the temple pictures, that’s the face of someone who’s about to steal her daughter and fly off to America, barging in on her in-laws and twisting things around so Dad’s the evil one, chasing her away from happiness. Torn between Atsuko’s parents and his responsibility to his wife and daughter, Dad made the best decision he could, arranging for someone to stay and look after them when he went back to the U.S. Takashi understood Dad’s choice and did his best to adapt, but Yuuko was devastated, losing not only Atsuko but seemingly her granddaughter as well. Knowing that Atsuko would never come back home save for their funerals, she went into a period of morning for her daughter, dead in spirit if not yet in fact. In fact, until Yuuko died in 1987, the whole neighborhood though that I was orphaned, Atsuko dead due to “American Flu”. If only things were so simple.

Forced to give up his dream job, Dad soon found work with Matsushita – Panasonic over here – serving as interpreter between the U.S. and Japanese arms of the company. Mom was happy enough just to stand on the soil, breathing in the air of freedom, and had no desire to work whatsoever. Once she finally got to the land of her dreams, English skills in hand, she found herself moved from the role of extraordinary citizen to unimportant commoner, and yet this didn’t bother her one bit. She had me to convert to the “proper” American ways, and was committed to see that every last vestige of Japan was sucked out of my soul. “Japanese-American” is an excuse for failure, she would always tell me, That’s why I made sure to give you a normal name. “Normal” meant Laura Elizabeth Watson, carrots instead of daikon, hamburgers instead of tofu, no kanji, no kana, no me.

When I was Ai’s age, on my first day of school, Mother took away my pencil box, the one that Yuuko gave to me, saying that American girls don’t need to be ordered. My favorite bag was Too Japanese, I’ll get you a Star Wars one or something, so you’ll fit in. My hair was Too straight, are you sure you don’t want me to put a curl in it for you? It’ll be cute. My cheeks were too round, my eyes wouldn’t open far enough, I was defective, even my voice sang of the other. When she dropped me off at school, not walking me to the door of the class to promote “independence”, I found myself among girls and boys that almost resembled me, that seemed to want me to fit in. The teacher – Mrs. Addison, tall gray hair and glasses – put me next to Yuki, the only real Japanese girl in the class, who’s mother wasn’t ashamed to give her a real name. I guess she thought that we could relate or something, but when I tried to bring forth nihongo – my lips quivering as my tongue sought almost familiar places – all that came out was watashi. All I could say was “I”, and she sat staring at me, her perfectly straight black hair brushing past round cheeks, waiting for the qualifier. What about you? she frowned, and all I could do was stare at my construction paper. My mother says that only Japanese people should speak Japanese, so you better be quiet. I wanted turn myself inside out and show her the tag that I imagined hanging off my heart – made in Japan. I wanted to fly her across the ocean and show her my grandparent’s house, the corner store, the cars running the right way. She’d never even been there, hadn’t even felt the feeling, and yet seemed more Japanese than I would ever be.

I never spoke Japanese to her again, never spoke it to anyone except my imaginary friend, and even she told me to shut up after awhile. This is America my mother would yell, When are you going to grow up and just be normal? I wouldn’t bother to cry a response, instead scrawling unimaginable curses in shaky kana on bits of paper, burning them with a lighter I found on the street, and brushing the ashes in her shoes. She would complain to Dad how her stockings were always dirty, and I would hide a knowing smile. Her native soil was coming back to haunt her.

Unfortunately, my mother doesn’t scare that easy. In fact, thanks to her undying commitment to Americanize me through and through, I did the appropriate thing and ran away from home as soon as I turned 13. I don’t want to get too much into it now, but sufficed to say that all the elements that she worked so hard to repress suddenly welled forth, splattering her with the foam that laps against Honshu on all sides, where Japan juts upward and parts the still waters with its brilliance. I was flowing with potential, more than I could ever possibly use, and the only thing I knew to do with it was ball all my hatred of her up into a pulsing little sphere and run with it for the endzone, throwing aside her multifaceted tackles with the sheer desire to be free, to be myself, to shine. Sure, she caught me after a few months, sicking the Thomasonites on me because it was For your own good, just you wait and see, and wait I did, like I had a choice to do otherwise, and through the drugs and “therapy” and restraints and fence hoppings, it all came down to the quiet room and me. Sitting in the dark on a urine-encrusted mat, waiting for them to bring my meds so I could spit them back in their faces, crying for the street, for a window, for any sign of the world beyond the six walls and industrial-strength door, I saw the truth through all the tranquilizers, past all the pain. Everyone was so dark, so red, it hurt to just to look at them, to witness their anger. Fuck it. You’ll hear about it soon enough. Besides, Thomason is long since past, and now I have Ai, now I can right every wrong that my mother perpetrated with glee.

Which brings me back to last week, to Ai’s first day of kindergarten. As soon as I stumbled back home – the desire to turn around and run for her tripping me up – I noticed that there was a letter still in the mailbox from Saturday, a corner sticking out past the box door. As soon as I took it out I had a funny feeling that something was up, there was no return address and they used my middle name – no one knew my middle name except for family, Pyr, and the odd bureaucrat. And the font looked so familiar – I couldn’t exactly place it, but I knew that I’d seen it somewhere before. If I had looked at the postmark right away then the mystery would have been solved, but impatient person I am, I tore into the letter right there on the front porch. Inside was a yellowed envelope, seemingly stepped on a few times, which obviously had been diverted from its destination. The return address was in my writing, or at least what it was when I was in Jr. High School, and the address was of our old house up north. It was addressed to me.

I guess a little explanation is in order. When I was in Jr. High, before I ran away from home, I had the urge to write my future self a letter, and since regular mail isn’t delayed more than a few days, I decided to stuff it in a library book at our school, one that no one ever read, so it would take a while before it was found. Then, according to my optimistic plan, someone would find it and place it in a mail box, thereby completing the circle. After things got all crazy and I left school I had more than enough on my mind to worry about the letter I planted, and I soon forgot that it ever existed. But here it was, staring me in the face like I don’t know what, and I had no idea what it said.

What did it say? The following:

12/2/85

Dear Frisbee:

You must be freaking out about now. I know I am, with Mom on my case, Dad long gone, and this buzzing in my ear that won’t go away. I guess I was listening to my Walkman too loud, or not loud enough. Anyway, it really sucks and I wish that it would just go away. I wish that I could just go away, but I can’t, and you know that, because you already have. You’ve been there and back and there again, and have already forgotten about me and what I’m going through now. I’ve been waiting for signs and all that shit but all that came to me is the frisbee which hit me in the head today at lunch, stupid Greg wasn’t looking where he was throwing. Or maybe he was, because after it bounced off he and Steve were cracking up, on the cement even, and they made me so mad that I picked up the frisbee and walked over to where they were sitting. I told Greg to apologize and he called me “a flat-chested Hello Kitty,” and Steve started to laugh again, and even though I don’t like Hello Kitty that much something snapped inside, deep down underneath my stomach, and I took the frisbee and smacked him upside the head with it. Steve started to crack up even more then, and a crown of people had gathered around us, going “ooooh” and “damn” while Greg got up to feet and walked over to me. He said “who do you think you are?” and I said “a frisbee that going to keep whopping you upside your head until you apologize.” “Frisbee, huh?”, he said, and then he turned to Steve and gave the “she’s crazy” look, and Steve started to laugh even harder and so I hit Greg over the head with it again. He was all red now and said “O.K. Frisbee, you better fly off now before I kick your ass.” Everyone was all “oooooh” all over again, and I knew I couldn’t back down now, or I would be a Hello Kitty after all, so I turned like I was going to leave and then spun back around and popped him on the head three times. “Say you’re sorry Papa Smurf, or I’ll stuff this frisbee up your ass.” He looked at me, looked at Steve and the people around him, and looked at the yard monitor coming over to the crowd. “I’m sorry Laura” he said, trying hard not to look like too much of a sissy. “Call me Frisbee, Papa Smurf, and you better not laugh at me again if you know what’s good for you.” And with that I walked away, before the yard monitor could tell that I was involved.

You better remember this day Frisbee, because I know I will. I’m never going to be anyone’s Hello Kitty. Even though my ears won’t stop buzzing, I know that when they do, when I come back to school tomorrow, no one’s going to mess with me again.

Anyway I just wanted to remind you why you’re Frisbee, because I know it’s gonna stick. If anyone ask’s you why just say “Wham-O”, and they won’t know if you’re talking about the company or hitting Greg, and they’ll back off because they’re scared to get hit. If only Mom would be scared of me like that, then everything would be perfect.

Is everything perfect now, Frisbee? I really want to know. Write me a letter and leave it in the same book, I’ll get it some how.

You,

Laura Elizabeth Watson
(I mean Frisbee)

P.S. What ever happened to Greg? Don’t forget to tell me about it.

For those that care about the particulars and all that shit, the letter was sent from my old house up north, by my mother, who tried to be sly about it but has no idea that I know her old manual typewriter like the back of my hand. I used to use it while she was taking a shower or vacuuming or something just as loud, so she wouldn’t hear it bite the paper as I imagined my future exploits, or wrote love letters to the librarian, either creation being burned and flushed down the toilet so she wouldn’t get the right idea. Still, I have no idea why she sent it to me, especially after all these years, and without even opening it. It’s like throwing a frisbee up into the air at the perfect angle so that it comes right back to you, and after you catch it you just stand there, holding it in awe. You don’t exactly believe it, but the clouds pass on by anyway. That’s what all of this was like.

Anyway, I had almost forgotten why everyone always called me Frisbee, especially when I was in High School and Greg and Steve still hung out together. Greg was the quarterback of the football team and Steve kind of a nerd, but they always found time for each other, hazing freshmen or harassing me in the halls. I wasn’t afraid of Greg hitting me or anything, but since I knew he liked me some, ever after that day in 8th grade, I always kept one eye behind me when I opened my locker, because he was known to be an ass-man, his hands finding their way on the rear of more than half the girls in our class. Still, he never got a piece of mine, and I guess that’s why he still called me Frisbee, because he was frustrated, with me not being a flat-chested Hello Kitty anymore and him not coming anywhere close to scoring. I have no idea where he is now, probably in the NFL or some shit like that, like I could really give a fuck anyway.

But I guess I do give a fuck, because without Greg then I wouldn’t have snapped, I wouldn’t have confronted my mother, and I never would have hit the streets. Of course, no streets means no Thomason, but without Thomason I doubt I would have ever met Pyramid, and without him then I wouldn’t have Ai. And I wouldn’t have her first day of school, when I went at noon to meet her, watching the other mothers line up one by one next to me, trying to peek in through the blinds for a sign that their boy or girl still existed, and more to the point, still recognized them. It’s the last thing I would have expected, but the first little figure out the door was Ai, beaming from ear to ear, e-slate under her arm. Mommy Mommy look what I did. Look what I learned! and she ran over to me simply radiant, stretching out her e-slate for me to look at. Did you have a good day? I said between kisses, and she laughed See what I know! while she nodded. I crouched down to her level and took the stubby stylus out of its well, pointing it at the blank screen. Suddenly Ai’s face appeared on the tablet, in black and white but her shine came right through, and she looked me straight in the eye and said:

My name is Ai. I am Japanese. Yoroshiku o-negai shimasu.

Holding her deep with my arms, tears wetting both of our hair, I finally forgave Yuki for her kindergarten slight. The screen continued:

My mommy is Japanese too. But don’t tell her mommy that. It’s a secret.

Somewhere, Yuuko was smiling.

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