Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Present an excuse that will stick to the sky's wall.


That girl at the front of the line, behind the register, the one with the same haircut hanging over her head like a halo, the same haircut she's had since I spotted her two years ago: it hangs down in these effortless locks that are so short they might not even be referred to as 'bangs' depending on who you're discussing it with. I'm pretty alone, though; discussion concerning just about anything is a long shot. I might as well be lowered onto a tight rope suspended between two cliff faces. Wearing a dozen water-soaked blankets balanced like clumps of rubble on my shoulders. I might as well dream it up, my day.

Walking into that store and saying Hi. She says Hi back.

Dreams. Fucking dreams.

That girl with the white supermarket button-up, the nametag I still haven't honed in on. Her two year smile. That girl's been hovering about the front entrance at the cash registers since I came here first. She never has looked a day older than that first glance. As for me, I must be as unrecognizable as shadows in a dark room. I found that fairly telling. Also, reality too. I found reality awful telling. A boy can be pretty stupid sometimes. Pretty awful fucking stupid.

What does it take, really, for that to happen in one's life? Some kind of miracle? You'd fucking die if you saw her, I say, to no one, in the frozen foods section, while I ponder the individual prices of microwaveable pizza versus a bulk purchase that will fuck me over in no time flat come midnight when my tapeworm belly growls out the chorus of a pack of wolves. My body will yawn and I'll eat bricks and mortar, suck up the tiles in the kitchen and the spots of tomato sauce spattered on fragments of crumpled foil. I'll kiss the mere scent of toast that may have still been lingering from the morning's breakfast. I will dig graves and fill them with my big plans. And I'll eat dinner made of plastic cups, shitty pizza from the microwave and droplets of dew from the morning-wet ears of the demon John who crawls from the carpet just like the sun crawls into the horizon and stains it orange with that really very particular swagger of a slightly drunk worker preparing for a full day's work and the all-too-near eventuality of sobriety.

I fucking stare at that girl at the market and pick at the bubblegum on the aisle rack. I pick at the options and put down some batteries, a tight little pocket-sized fucking book of crossword puzzles, two chocolate-covered cherries and a car-key light and a packet of fresh-breath tablets and two copies of the same gossip magazine.

It doesn't matter what you buy. She still smiles and laughs. She doesn't care at all, and I am so drawn to that. Her smirks posit the banner of "a life," and I know she has that in abundance the moment she clocks out at shift's end and disappears into the town. Leaving me in line forever and ever, in my stupid head.

I want to say stuff like, "Oh fine, things are great," in response to a general question. And then ask, "How are you?" I just want to hear her say FINE, ignoring any semblance of real conversation. FINE. Who is ever fine? I deserve so much less than that response, but I crave it. I fucking crave it.

But I've never heard her voice up close. Not once. Just from a distance. Certainly not speaking to me. I couldn't just stand there and have her ask me about my bank card. I'd sound as stupid as could be. Like the time I caught that kid's kite from crashing to the park grasses before it was demolished and his mother practically shoved her eyes into mine, and that goddamned grin, and how I said "no problem" and how I know she used her kid to just crawl onto to some guy in the park, out of loneliness or whatever, and how much I didn't care. I understand a lot when I don't care.

But when I do care, I don't understand a frigging thing.

And I could not bear to prod the cattle of my scared wandering thoughts into such a conversation with the girl at the register. Fuck no could I stand that.

Eternal cashieress, I'll just hope I always see you. That's what I will do. I can't ever talk to you. And it's not because I feel that you would not care. But seriously, my parents both died when I was yet a teenager, and my first sexual experience was with a blind girl in a hospital flower garden. She called me by my full name, like she was sounding out words in braille. It felt like that game where you enter a closet with some girl whose name was picked from a hat, and everybody waits outside the closet door and listens to just how much isn't going on behind the racks of coats.

I spent three years in the county jail for assaulting a bank teller. In the parking lot of a downtown bank, after closing hours. I spent two years on the payroll at St. Gibbons as a caretaker, but I was really just an assistant to the maintenance crew who knew more about buildings and upkeep than I did. I spent three years tracing my fingers in the obituaries, trying to feel something for people who knew so many people who saw fit to feel something when they'd passed.

That girl in the supermarket makes me wish I could finally kill myself and get it overwith.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

For if the creature had not.


An interesting thing happened mid-way through the proceedings, and I raised my head slightly at that, but it blew over.

Considering that everything could only become a matter of course, in due time, and that here in the back benches of the court where no one mattered, time itself was our every hope. But the proceedings had just dragged along, and on and on. At times I'd nodded off, propped up at the end of the bench, uncomfortable and also irritable.

But the trial was an important one, and so I waited. Along with everybody else.

At night I took the train home, and the stillness and the unvaried silences of the packed-in bodies seemed to scream at me some kind of a warning. The train sped me home with muted bodies that only differentiated themselves from those in the courthouse by the fatigued drain of their complexions -- the incredible sense of relief to be, just like me, going home.

It was a warning, all right. As much as the softness and warmth of my bed was a pleading.

My home was pleading innocent of all charges, and it wanted me back. The lights turned on without flickering, washing the blank white walls with a pure light, revealing the etched wood, the tiny little loops of the carpet's weave, and a small white spider that crawled aimlessly up at the corner ceiling in the foyer. The fruit and cut-up strips of meat in the refrigerator were fresh, pulsating with the need and the desire to become part of my body. And the water from the tap in the kitchen was cold, invigorating and somehow sweetly reminiscent of lemonade. As I climbed the stairs to retire for the evening, the plush white steps began to push me up along my way without my having to climb so hard on these weak, overworked legs. In the bathroom, the shower head spoke a gentle rain to the skin of my back.

All of this was my home in the process of pleading innocent by reason of neglect. It wanted me to stay home, for good.

And I felt for it.

I fell for everything and I apologized and sympathized, out loud in the blank white kitchen and in the well-lit hallway and the bedroom, and to the bed I caressed an apology, deep strokes of care and understanding into the fabric of the white linen and the thick white comforter.

But in the morning I snapped on the light. Bright and early, to catch the early train back to the court house.

The light in the bedroom had dimmed yellow. The house became puppy dog eyes. The shower head wept onto me, and the bristles of my tooth brush almost refused to scrape my teeth clean they were so weak and lifeless. Down in the kitchen, in the dim yellow of the rising sun that was cutting through the white strips of the window blinds, the knives seemed less sharp. With a dull meat-cutting knife I smeared butter and a pale jelly over an unwelcoming stale bagel from the back of the pantry (like it had been hiding from me), and I slipped it into a dish in the microwave, but the machine had to be prompted for almost six whole minutes before it would comply and heat up my small little breakfast.

I sympathized, out loud, and asked forgiveness, but that I had a task, and a responsibility to be there, at the courthouse. It would end soon, I reasoned. There would be a culmination, and a verdict.

The little light in the refrigerator snapped off, with a tight sound of grief, and the carpeting fell dead underneath my feet, and would not offer to escort me to the front closet to get my coat. Indeed, the knob on the closet door seemed as if it might ultimately refuse my grip, but at last it turned, and the other white coats did not want to be near the one I had been wearing of late, to the trial. It hung there, lonesome, without another coat's shoulder to rely on. When I pulled it out, it was cold, as if it had slept alone.

On the way there, in the train, I felt such stress in my body. But I had to steel myself for the long process of the proceedings. Hopefully things might wind down, and I would see a miracle.

There had been no crying yet. No heated arguments. No jibes or barbs. Hopefully, yet, I would see a miracle.

Your friend,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Your hollow chest, and that winsome heart murmur.


With the sleeve of my shirt I managed to cover the portion of sheet paper onto which I'd copied all of my codes and the locations of each locker. There were long halls abound and dozens upon the hundreds of lockers, and I knew everything, every last second it took to pace the hall, all by heart. It was not dumb luck, and it was not persistence; I carried everything of measure inside my heart like a hole might be called empty.

I gave it my all.

My seven hundred and sixty six seconds of sweat beaded at the forehead only just as rightly as the tick-tick-tick of the wall clock might just about count me off. You could stare at the son of a bitch. You could fucking wind it up to fraudulently gain half an hour. But you couldn't touch the fucking swift switch of the hand when I passed a scalpel from one pocket to the other.

True, it could tumble from the pants and knock against the side of the door closest to my doubled over body, but no one notices these things. And I take it to the great mouth of the White 300 Hall, and, virtuously, I dive the fuck into the mess and the shit and the cloud of the heads and the necks and the shoulders and body of the fucking sea of the pedestrian crowd.

These hunched fucks are too cold to notice.

But give them time. Like I have time for that.

The paper onto which I've scrawled the numbers is already looking old. The corners of the sheet are still crisp and unhandled, and it makes me cringe. It moves me to shudder. I am fundamentally set with jaws agape. There is no reason to carry on without further note. So I bury the bodily curve of the scalpel's tip into the fabric overlapping a soft thigh. In the bustle of the hallway, what's to become of such cries as might be heard?

Search and identify.

If you can pick through the sea of jerks.

The curt scrapes and smears of blood that just barely line the fine invisible silence and deadly cull of the scalpel's blade only look so red to me. Against the washed white walls and the peach hue of growing faces, I see strawberry orchards or lipstick smiles. I smile back, widely, at the shit painting my scalpel's blade. Oh I'd wish you might run. Fat fucking chance, I guess.

You have to dig a whole lot deeper if you want something to take back home with you. But if you smile nicely and don't see me at all, there's so much to gather from what you can scrape off the clouds of mold that are growing inside you. I'm touched, really. I could reach out and touch the underside of the roof of your mouth for that.

When I round the corner and the screams have died down and I have sliced rather uniquely down the left side of spinal column bisecting the exposed back of dear m'lady of the back entrance to the hall, I do notice with a distaste that rushing to one's means do not equal the perfections of the quiet or the wholesome backdrop upon the blank walls of the adequately retained. I am displeased.

There is crying of course.

But, too, there are options.

The basic facts stand alone herein:

a) Sliced peers at the opposite end of the Hall have begged great attention.
b) Attention here at the L-shaped back exit are skimpy, like the bathing suits of oceanside ladies.
c) Weeping means nothing but sound that can be turned down. And our scalpel might still be as sharp as the day is young.

Another fine swipe and the wind is expelled from throughout the slash in that smooth, unlined throat. That hole could expel unswallowed kisses, I note. Or it could whistle, sounding off lunch for the Hell that might be called Discovery.

"Of course," someone'll say when one point is brought out to amplify the previous unlauded remarks. They just know when the right time to say Yeah is. They know how to nod their heads Yeah.

Have you ever seen someone swing a scalpel through the air in a crowded hall? Could you point it out if the blade was buried in your side while brushing past strangers? Or people you fucking knew?

I know all of this is small stuff.

But if you'll also appreciate it, I also know how to pull the shades down over practicality, over eventuality and over the basis of decency.

What I really don't know is how to react. So I keep a couple of dead lockers with living padlocks, none of which are assigned to me but all of which are employed by me. But, fingerprints are like teeth; they match the hollows from whence they have been ripped to hide the great tell-all. And I suppose that's where you'll get them in the end. All of them. All of us. So it's a good thing your body is just skin.

Pretty skin, too, you beautiful painting, you.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

A comment on travel.


The following photographs were shot during the morning of the 8th of June, 2008 in the city of Denton, Texas. This is from the book tour, with Unwed Sailor and Sybris. The night's show had been a couple hours previous, on the 7th; those in attendance will recall Richard's mother buying rounds of beer and spirits for the entire bar. And some angry guy trying alternately to offer humorous barbs (that really sounded like bedridden-jock childspeak more than passable humor) or to pick fights with the bands or anyone who was dancing. I didn't actually see evidence of a subculture in Denton; the band listings all kind of looked safe and radio friendly. And I asked around if there were any local punk bands, to which I received various versions of the answer No, some of which were phrased as Probably Not. The drink situation was fab, but the setting, after nightfall hit and we couldn't venture off too far beyond the confines of the club, seemed drab. As most clubs will. It's worse when it's slow, the conversation isn't very interesting AND the drink situation is bad. But directly after last call we'd been led to some stranger's house for a party, and things changed.

What actually ensued was much more than a party, to be sure. It was almost like a long, never-ending shift at work, if your day job was to drink as much as possible but still stay awake and somewhat cohesive and then go swimming for the seventh time of the night and then drink some more but still be able to sing along to whatever song is playing. A block of nine whole hours filled with noise, dancing, smashed furniture, smashed bottles, ridiculous food (bacon wrapped party dogs?), some guy ramming his head into the sliding glass doors, against the fence and even eating a shattered crystal pint glass. People yelling at each other, small groups breaking off. Everything floating in the pool at some point, even stuff that's not waterproof. And unholy amounts of liquor.

This party did not end until 11am, following a slightly confused but genuinely hilarious altercation that drew a quiet stillness to the (by now late) morning and to those few not yet passed out in the yard.

By sunrise, the attempted composition of mixed drinks had definitely degenerated into splashes and spilled cups, and so with little effort, as the sunbeams began to fill up with heat and burn away the coolness of the morning air, the domino effect took place, where every person had their own bottle and just drank from it straight:

And by the time sleep finally did fall over even the sturdiest of the crowd, I'm pretty sure that Eric had jumped into the pool wearing just about every dry article of clothing in his suitcase:

Eric is the type of person who can tell you a story about his childhood, and it'll last for about half an hour, and instead of walking away feeling like someone had just talked about themselves for an hour, you kind of get the feeling that you understand your own childhood a little better. The way Eric can tell a story makes a person feel reflective. Every once in a while you meet a person like that, at work or in a bar after work, at school. Even sometimes you can meet a person like that in somebody's band, but it's not an everyday occurrence.

Eric's a lot like Keith Moon, only not as destructive to himself or inanimate objects.

At some points during the party, it seemed like things were dying down. Drinks would become less sipped and sort of just held. But then something would come crashing down the stairs, or you'd hear another piece of furniture break, or you'd see Eric in mid-air, holding a shovel, or a lawn chair, diving into the pool wearing another set of dry clothes.

And then it would go haywire again and people would be pulled from slow motion. It just took one more bottle to get opened and then everyone was doing it. This happened like five or six times throughout the night. People were in zombie mode. Break stuff mode. A lot of the time I sat back and watched it happen. I like watching people climb out of themselves and start headlong into doing things they won't remember come morning but will be apologizing for nevertheless. It's fun watching people explode.

This here is Johnathon, myself and Angela, during one of those short three-minute lulls between confusion and noise where it looked like the night would be winding down:

But of course, it didn't.

I started to see things flying through the air, landing in the pool. Empty bottles, broken chairs, various articles of trash, Eric, lawn equipment, weight-lifting equipment. A flagstone. Somebody's shoes. And then, whatever Shawn had decided to do with his shirt in the background here, it got even spookier in just a short few minutes:

After the irony of three Red Hot Chili Peppers songs in a row had worn entirely thin, I'd snuck into the phantom ipod that must have belonged to somebody who lived at the house, and I tried to pick out a song that might bum out the party. I was looking for something long and drawn-out, but not danceable. What I'd found was Metallica's 'One'. But it didn't bum out the party. Not at all. No, somehow this happened:

Shawn's actually standing up on a picnic table, leading the people:

This is a long song. And this lasted from verse one, until the very end.

And then some of us spent the "night" by the side of the road and tried to prepare for the drive to Norman, Oklahoma that would be taking place in about three hours:

But I have to be going now.


"You should never try to mold people in your image. Just maybe, one of them will snap out of it, and rightly try to break that mold, to bring it, and you, to pieces. Good luck taking it back, in that case."
- Travis Cambridge.

"I remember when I was 18, I wanted to fuck on the floor and break shit. When I was 25 I wanted to fuck on the floor and break shit. When I was 35, I wanted to fuck on the floor and break shit. Now I'm 40, and I want to fuck on the floor and break shit."
- Henry Rollins.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Forgetting near toward everything.


Initially it was so cold that I switched on all three of the overheads, climbed up onto the sink and removed the glass lamps over the bulbs so I could be nearer the bright white heat coming from them. One or two of the bulbs seemed to be dimming, but I pulled my knees up into my shirt, splitting a few seems in the process, and I couldn't care about the bulbs so much or the shirt much more or less than that, and then I sucked my arms into the shirt too, somehow, and just rocked there on the sink, gathering heat in a tired, wounded little ball.

Time seemed to pass quietly. The house stayed moderately quiet; a few pops here and there as the beams settled after all the running and the shapeshifting. I was not surprised in the least that it was easy to set aside the temperature of my body. Things had progressed from confusing to outright unending, in only a matter of seconds. There were arms sticking up from the deep-pile carpeting in the den, like palm fronds. The blood let loose from my surprised body had caked somewhat at the shoulder, suppressing the wound even though I kept ripping it open again and again as I ran and climbed the stairs with both fists and feet clenching the steps and clawing at them to just get up and as far away from her as possible.

The cool bathroom mirror turned frosty against the side of my face that leaned against it, making me wince. Out of the corner of my eye, the front of the sink, the door, the handle, the light switch, all of it was smeared dark violet. As thin as my blood was, it dried fast, and didn't run so much.

This helped my arm from seeping half the life out of me after the first plunge from the knife my sister kept sinking into me turned into several quick stabs. She got me pretty good. I'd never have thought she could be so fast.

Our father lay in a tiny pool of his own blood, down in the cellar on the shag carpet. He was probably as stuck to it now as houseflies to paper traps. I could bet he went out like a light, that guy. I'd got it pretty easy compared to him, who took the first unchallenged wound right to the throat. Mine was belly and arm, strictly. Bad enough, but not as bad, respectively.

He probably never had much of chance, but I didn't see what really happened to him, actually. All I knew was that the walls inside the house were changing shape, and the stairs slithered out from under my feet, so that I had to dive down half a flight to topple down like some discarded heap of clothes at the foot of the staircase. And my sister, her eyes were closed the whole time. When she put the knife into our mother's chest, ripping through her bathrobe to get at the breastplate, the whole table closed up like a thick wooden book and swallowed her as if it were some kind of carnivorous plant or a steel bear-trap. My sister stepped back and fled the room with her eyes still closed and the doubled-up table, for all I could tell, was actually eating our mother's dead body.

The knife she had in her hand was one I had used many times myself, but for purposes of eating food at lunch and dinner, and stuff like that. Not for attacking anybody. There were spiders just about everywhere. They were crawling all over my sister's face when she stabbed me in the belly.

That's the one wound I'm trying not to think about. I can't even feel it right now, which may be worse than if I did; speaking in terms of the long run, that is. In fact, now that I've been curled up on the sink in the upstairs bathroom, trying my best to stay warm under the three bathroom bulbs, I realize that I can't feel my legs at all anymore, and that I've since stopped rocking. Because I can't move my legs or hips.

I'm pretty sure the mirror is whispering into the ear that's rested against it, but I reach forward with great pain in my chest to shut the lights off regardless of how cold I feel, because I hear the carpet shifting outside the bathroom, tearing itself up and possibly climbing the outside of the door.