BAD LUNCH.

The night was hungry. There was a man named Sidney Talker. He walked along the border of the flame, and flies drew towards the amber flame in the night, and the flies lofted along the brink of fire like grey moieties of ash, and the flies trilled softly underneath the louder crackles of burning timber, and the grackles were loud over all that, swooping every which way, seeking the warmth emanating from his burning house. It seemed even like they were attracted to the smoke; that, or it disturbed them.

The aural scud of cicadas and hairflies left to murmur on the edge of these larger sounds. All of it, and him too, a measly film over frequencies in the woods. A paste that God plays at.

There was a resemblance in all this to something of Hell. The kind of hollow vicious drone of the flies that mingled with some Hellish crack in the underpinning. The sparked schisms of the wood, the lumber foundations burning quick to ash.

The rims of his glasses and the frames reflected the blaze and each abrupt spurt of the blaze made the bronze rims glitter beautifully as he watched, and the mirror-like frames of the glasses made the fire appear like miniscule animals lain within his eyes. The animals would snap their yellow teeth, before vanishing from reflection, and Sidney’s eyes would again be seen instead.

Futile precipitation hazing the character of the moon. Sidney Talker was smoking a cigarette, and as he blew, the smoke wafted slightly before him, and then dipped fast into the tail of the wind, and then flew off into the dense air like a demon escaped. And Sidney Talker then flicked his cigarette into the jet of the smoke and then he made an oblique doubletake and then yawped.

Sidney Talker tried to fix his eyes upon the demon, but it had gone, and Sidney Talker had little time to think on how or why he burned his house and felt tired.

. . . . . . .

Johnny Beel said: “What in Hell is that?”

His mouth hung open and showed mangled teeth. balanced neatly between two teeth was a long, slender piece of straw, which lazed over his lip, which hung low over his chin, which formed low and hale over the physic of his neck, and made him look neckless, at certain angles neckless. Johnny had something of a loose jaw, and his lower lip protruded downwards, to the chin, making him look stupid.

“I don’t reckon I know,” Bell Beel clutched a rag in both her hands, and the hands were small, and they grasped the cloth sweetly, like a child.

“Maybe we should get Sid out of the shed. We should tell him to bring his gun.”

Bell clutched the cloth and walked inside.

Johnny squinted to where they were, by the grey woods three fourths of a football field away. Looming over them were five large covered wagons, attached to bristled and underfed horses. Around the wagons there were many figures. Hunching like demons, spirited as rats.

“Must be in the blood of sacrament.” Johnny intoned. It looked as though there were twenty of them, circling round a small fire, chanting, vaguely and loudly, they danced, they bellowed curses to the World.

“It sure don’t look like no welcoming committee. Mmhmm.”

Johnny Beel scratched his chin and lip with one hand, and let his hand drop back down quickly, then hocked and spat vulgarly, and Bell called Sidney Talker from inside.

Looking fully upon the caravan, it was as if they were attacking each other. Wounding and ripping apart themselves like wolves.

“Mmhmm.” Said Johnny Beel.

. . . . . . .

“Sid, it’s Bell…oh yes, we’re fine. It’s just—oh no, nothing that bad. Oh yes, I remember—that’s right—” She laughs. 

“Well, it’s just this group, you see. A caravan or somthin.” 

“Caravan,” Sid said. “Whado you mean?” 

“Well, I think they mightn be violent. Very loud. I’m damned if they do not come over to us. Afraid they’re out there perpetuatin voodoo or somethin or even just hoping to sell shill. I hear drums. It’s scary…no, never ever seen this before. A good dozen, I’d say. Yes. Ok.” 

The conversation continued briefly and ended with, 

“Waita minnit, I’ll be out.” Sid hung up and looked at his car.

. . . . . . .

Sid’s axle to his car broke one day. As he was backing it into his shed, he heard a heavy ping rattle around, and Sidney Talker knew he was screwed, and he lost control of the wheel, and the car crashed through the shed, and splintered wood and paint buckets and paintbrushes and tools and everything dashed like hail onto the hood, it was the most terrifying event he had ever experienced. Sidney had managed to get another axle from a buddy in town. He thought about how screwed he would have been if he’d been on the road, or in town. Too many pedestrians. It was uncomfortable to think about. Thank God he wasn’t in town for that one. Thank God he wasn’t hurt. The kids with their Moms. And the moms with their bags. Snuffed. Walking across the street launched a few meters. A bust axle just that.

Sidney Talker remembered mostly that it was the first time he had ever become truly afraid. He had been afraid before, of other things, but not like this. It was a physical sensation more than anything: fear opening up his chest, like a surgeon, a supreme heaviness—it barreled down his throat, stomach, then; it made like it would rend ope his guts if he didn’t scream.

And, as the car strode backwards across the pavement, there was an empty feeling there. A feeling of him being spilt out. A feeling of wind dashing against his ribs, blowing against the chasm of his body. He remembered it as a sort of sickness of being lighter than you once were—as though he had breathed in too much oxygen—so that all Sidney Talker suddenly knew was that emptiness, as he pressed his foot, madly, against the brake, and, yet, the car sank its dead mass further, further.

He realized it with excruciating slowness, though the whole ordeal only lasted moments. That he had no control in the matter at all. To press on the brake or honk the horn or do anything but sit and wait for death would be but powerless gestures towards what was unstoppable yet wholly covert. An invisible force gave substance to his fact, the fact of his powerlessness. It became apparent that Sidney Talker’s life could be liquidated by a metal thing, without his choosing: the car had no notions of life, no brain to fondle gropingly with questions about life, was not aware of Sidney Talker’s existence or its rather important connection to his existence, thus, had no conscious desire to cease his existence: the car still had the power to cease what it could not know.

Sidney Talker then relaxed his foot from the brake. He winced. His eyelashes got stuck together because he winced.

Sidney, thus, walked to the Beel house, gun in hand. The gun was a rifle. The large barrel was tilted triumphantly to the sky; it was stuffed with bullets and weighted down by the bullets. In the cartridge held many iron teeth, filed neatly together like sardines. Sidney Talker had not used his gun in a while, and he kept a finger on insecurity as well as the trigger.

Walking alone brought on a fitful unbroken quiet, so Sidney began to jog to the Beel house, and after losing his breath a strange odor rose in the air. The smell materialized in an ugly fog that escaped from the woods, and the woods were green and mysterious like the fog. Sidney Talker walked off the wide dirt path into the woods, away from the Beel house.

. . . . . . .

“Where is that goddamned boy? What in Hell are they doing?” Johnny Beel stood upright on the old planks on his porch and the rocking chair on his porch rocked wildly in the background and creaked on the planks even though there was no wind.

In the afternoon distance was the attesting echo of a hawk, whose sound rattled brief and determined through the dry acres of the forest.

A bee rested quietly on the steps before them. Johnny Beel cleared his throat and looked forward, eyes pale and unmoving. The wind sprang up then dropped from the old painted rafters, the heat grew. They continued looking. There was light. There was light all over. Saturating the house with light. There was light: it was veiled over the fixed faces of them both, Johnny Beel and Bell Beel. It was as brilliant on their heads as on the impossible source of it. Huge fire, flames, green flames, searing, green, in the forest gullet, the green and filledup mouth of fields.

. . . . . . .

The smell was bitter. Sidney brought his coat over his face as he wandered through the woods, and the air he breathed from inside his jacket was heavy and sour as well.

His glasses were settled meekly on his face, and soon the fog saturated the frames, and Sidney could no longer see. Numbness took him; he became less frustrated. His labored breathing became not so labored. He reeled drunkenly from side to side.

But his brain would not as readily morph into a maladroit pile and was sober and was clear. Sensibility and gravity were soon to leave him, and he did not know this, and soon he would become a maladroit pile.

His hands felt very heavy, and the tips of his fingers had little cavities of feeling that pinched.

Sidney thought of many pebbles collecting in the sacs of his limbs, slowly collecting, slowly gathering into a single heavy rock, weighing down his arms and legs.

His muscles flailed, he watched them flail, he could do nothing.

And then, the feeling came again, but the feeling as something gently awash upon his soul, more like an old friend, this time. The sinking feeling, he called it the sinking feeling, when he was drunk. That feeling of being trumped by the machines of the physical over the mental. The feeling needled into his softening bones. And he walked, and his muscles drooped. Nauseating weariness. He soon began to feel as though he were being contained by some kind of supernatural enceinte on all sides. Barriers that protected him from those who did not understand. Barriers not defined because the fog was not defined but to breathe was a labor and it didn’t feel like Sidney was outside—and, it seemed to be killing him, the fog, the World was a massive coffin it seemed, and yet the coffin protected him. Sidney Talker examined the possibility of his death with detached fascination.

He marched on and everything became thicker, the saliva in his mouth thickened. But then, the ground lessened; the density of the dirt collapsed into mud, and the mud leaked into Sidney’s shoes, and it was like many arms grabbing and pulling him down. That familiar sinking feeling. And he craved to end the long struggle of moving. He fantasized about letting the arms of the mud take him under. Then, mud gave way to weightlessness. Then, the World he knew evaporated: trees, roots and grass, and empty, rusty trucks, abandoned—all gone.

“Where am I?” His legs throbbed, and Sidney could barely heave them forward.

But something still made him endure all this. Something that was still awake. Green mist drenched his coat and burnt his stomach when he breathed in.

He realized, there was something elusive yet watchful about the fog—as though Sidney were as safe as a baby in a cradle. And yet he did not know why he felt so safe. And yet the more he walked the more he felt as though his life had ended. That the turmoil of life, his own life, had been a fire finally quenched, and his abuses let up, and that all that was left was himself to be consumed by the fog and its deranged appetite, the fog that now blurred the lines of the trees, even made the ground beneath him flag into oblivion, Sidney Talker’s body lunged itself into oblivion, ahead of Sidney stood two Phantoms, like stark pillars in the fog, they were black things, imageless, more entwined with the unreal World about him, wherein they had not bulk nor tangibility but were rather an accumulation of something in the fog, Sidney strained his eyes to catch at least a face, or eyes that gazed reproachfully back. He found nothing but blackness. He walked towards them, a dull smile on his face, dull face on his skull.

As he neared the Phantoms, the urge to see a face became more desperate. Even if it was just one of them: just one face, so he could fasten his eyes to something. They wore no cloaks, and carried no swords, and were not any sort of goblin or wraith or ghost and had no features at all.

What amounted at the top of the forms—the supposed heads—was something like a spread of black oils on canvas. A screen of black and nothing else was there. The permanence of this vexed Sidney, scared Sidney, because the figures felt so permanent, yet had no actuality to their forms, no points to recognize, as though smeared in the confused ether of dreams.

He ached for a face, because he ached for humanity. And he ached for humanity, because he ached for what was real, what was dynamic; he ached to be rid of dreams. He longed for the dynamic of noses, the quantity of chances possible to be rendered regarding the human facial anatomy, the angles in the cheek, or forehead—he needed the pursed action of anger or reproach to flex out the morbid shadow. To even lend a nose to these miserable, pateless pates, would be a dream, yes, oh, a dream, he thought, and, yet, he saw nothing, nothing but figures routed by flatness, no choice but black, no nuance but black, no clutter of symbols, merely an eternity of languorous black: each absolute portion staring reasonless. Each portion summing itself into a great black eye.

And one knows, there is oftentimes an identity to things: the blackness was both the primary identity and primary anonymity. Enough nothingness packed to solid.

The Phantoms spoke lowly to one another, and they hummed when they spoke, and, when Sidney tried to hear, the phantoms whirled towards him: for a terrifying second, Sidney Talker thought he saw an eye staring ravaged. The creatures looked at Sidney and hissed. The sound dug into Sidney’s ears, like a snake from the other side of a tunnel, and the sound began to poison him:

Ghosts populated his head. Like flowers in bloom. They whispered out ideas. Ideas that burrowed beneath his skin into realms that Sidney had believed were gone. Of lost wishes, lost loves, lost identity. These ideas arranged themselves across his head exiguously. Like nice things listed, as opposed to lived. Like small wheels fixed to his body—used only for the locomotion of something useless and tired. The fog chafed his movements—the mess—the bugbears—traveling, traveling nowhere, traveling onward, onward, to no such fatherland, he has no fatherland. None, indeed, and, yet, he chugs with conviction, into nowhere, that is the core, the middle of nowhere, the core, like a meatgrinder, he thinks of a meatgrinder: the meat, the precious meat of the matter, plocked onto a plate or tossed into some deranged bucket, and served, one day, one day it will be served, to him, one day, a blessed mess, this, ground into ludicrous blocks, and plocked on a plate—his calves, heavy, heavy, like cement blocks—and, yet—the force of the meatgrinder, yes, braiding out a force, a force to carry the blocks. The force of the meatgrinder is no longer for merely this one man’s casual albeit shortsighted reconnoiter of himself, himself observing himself, a mirror of the meat of the matter of himself—it is for some other mind, bobbing in a solution of muffled anguish, and of inability, the inability is no longer about pushing the pedal of a car, but about accepting the inabilities that his horrid life gives him, and in his mind this is only some alien notion, definitely for another with greater wit, not him, for, how serious about it could he ever, ever be?

Sidney Talker became a strangely humorous wretch of self-pity, and of agony.

And so, he agonized and stumbled and writhed in himself, and when Sidney’s socks and clothes were wet and putrid, when he moaned out candidly,

“My life is useless!” And when his eyes turned red in the fog, he tripped on a solitary root in the ground. He fell, and Sidney knew that the time had come for him to really die, truly, now.

Sidney Talker asked the figures: “Why?” he said. “Why is it now?” They did not reply to him.

. . . . . . .

And yet the sky was sterile and blue and the mountains majestic, and the reeds flapped mindlessly in the fields, and yet, there, a great plume of green smoke escaped into the sky, and a green fire pulsed: and the Beels watched it pulse: and the Beels looked at the green inferno and said nothing, and did nothing but look at what was before them without moving. The paroxysms of the figures were increasingly chaotic, vicious. They shook violently like animals around the green inferno. The gigantic blaze was filled with green murder.

. . . . . . .

The life Sidney Talker led had been wrought of normalcy. Even idiosyncrasies that should have tossed him into a more extemporaneous nature were duplicated and scheduled into that unwavering pattern by which Sidney Talker lived his life: his very existence had long ago simplified into a paycheck and into a beer: the comforting images now formed in his head: the untraceable fulfillment of the paycheck, the cool touch of the beer.

He worked for the Beels, and had for a while, as a general groundskeeper, and helped fund the local bar in town. He now tried to remember the regular barflies there, whom he had countless times deemed friends: as he fell, he could not remember.

They rippled all of them into the same carelessness by which Sidney had lived his life: all the memories suddenly stacked in front of him were illegible and out of focus. All the things Sidney had ever done were out of focus. The choices he had made that had brought him here were benumbed and out of focus, and much less could be said for his actual depth of vision, peering through the fog through glasses.

“I’ve been falling for my entire life,” said Sidney. “And the Beels, they are falling as well. The Beels; the man who built their accursed house; and, the barflies, my God! We’re all falling! People have always been falling!—for centuries, people have lived, and done nothing but try to dignify the nothing of their lives, attaching themselves to nothing, to some glory long ago disintegrated and profaned, and they are and they were falling, and all the while, the clock ticks. What they don’t realize is that it is not the dignity that matters but the clock. All the while, wiling away the centuries that shoving off the years come between the birth and death of humankind itself! It takes death for us to realize our destiny, which is to die—to die, knowingly—to die, knowingly, knowing that they will…like me! To DIE!”—a moment of breathlessness, then—“I must die knowingly! Of course!”

The liberation of discovery coursed through Sidney’s veins. Sidney’s voice shouted in his head and yet eked past his lips. Then Sidney Talker screamed when the steel of a long knife proceeded to break the spring located deep in his gut.

. . . . . . .

Blackness descended on the lofty wheat fields and the mountains. The night was humid, and the miles of fields were enveloped in the thick darkness. The marshes silent and pious yet in darkness more, shaded by a distant sense of upheaval. And the thick darkness twisting air out of the woods, as though the forest gagged itself to listen—and the trees, turning blue and then black, keeping as still as possible, in an effort to catch the patter of some hellhole.

For all was in darkness, save the fields near the Beel house, and they were not shaded but paralyzed in light and in the fury of the caravan, and the light was a green pallor of the green fire. The rankling of too much peace. The hellhole now flashed baldly even from acres away. The hellhole had become a wall of terrific green flame. The smoke conjured from it was a separate, immense body that covered the sky like a powerful hand.

The yelling men made the ground tremble. Caricatures against the green glow. Twisting improper bones to the fervor. The green blaze nipping at the caricatures. Could be seen clear and eerie as the rising moon above—and the brightness of the hellhole, the giant green fire, sparring with the prolific darkness of the nightfall.

Then, Johnny and Bell Beel heard the screams stop, and a sudden, spatial pause coated the dust. A presence was in the Beel house, as if eyes had sprouted from every table and chair, eyes in every lamp or vase. An oppressive silence led into the corridors and into the shadows and into the shadows in the bathrooms and into the closets. Wind agitated the curtains, and the movement sent hushed and broken shadows across the empty floor.

Johnny and Bell Beel waited in their closet as the minutes struck by.

“They’ll kill us,” one of them whispered this. Death was touchable now, touched with the hand. Bell Beel touched the closet doorknob with her hand. “What are you doing?” Bell Beel focused on the stolid face of the closet doorknob. The doorknob was normal. It had a purpose. “Don’t open it!!” Johnny,, 

and,, Bell Beel,, screamed. The screams were stifled under the havoc.

The house began to shake off its foundations and the house howled with the force of the caravan. The caravan enclosed around the square diameter of the Beel house. The twenty members of the caravan shrieked like hundreds. Plaster crumbled off the walls and a group of stacked plates scattered to pieces across the floor. The noise drew shattering and crisp: everything rattled, shattered: the paper thud of books on bookshelves and the frames of pictures chattering on the walls. The shouts beat in time with the seism of the treading of every foot, together. The feet surrounded the Beel house, wild limb to wild limb—a few fists wielded sticks of green flame.

And, so—as the Beels hid like moles, crouched with fear in their closet like moles, hearing the vanity mirror shatter to the ground, outside the closet, and hearing the profligate skreak of the caravan coming from all sides—as the inferno lit up their very rooms in sickening green—they thought solemnly, somewhere beneath the disorder and panic, on who these people were. Why they were here.

. . . . . . .

When stabbed, things became questions. Sidney Talker suddenly questioned whether he was dead at all. For a long time, Sidney had sensed he was in heaven, careening through the fluffy gorges, headed for his redemption and halo. The clouded logic of the fog, the happiness of being finally lost beyond his body’s getting—these deceptive things inched away from his body and replaced themselves with an aching soreness in his muscles, and a fiery pit that sat like vinegar in his throat and lungs and stomach.

He questioned that unit of Phantoms, or those people, or whatever they were, back there, they had dissipated quickly to nothing by now, both of the figures had dissipated into the bleak fog. The bleak fog, too, had begun to dissipate, as if it had done its baffling duty upon Sidney and had shooed off. He questioned the fog, which had been like an old friend, blending the plasma in his blood with a soft, cocoon-like green plasma…now it had gone. And why?

It had deserted him. Like all this anger and fear was a jest. The cruel gambols of the apocryphal. The deceit of myths. Sidney barely even understood that he had actually been stabbed. He attributed the whole scene to perhaps bad lunch.

No jest. The wound was there, making him bleed. Again, sadness tolled. Depression clanged like a hammer: there was the surprising reality of having a choice now, instead of being suspended forever in sweet misty vagueness, existing as little more than blurred shadow, being so out of touch.

Sidney Talker had been ready for the sweet misty vagueness. He had been ready to go out of touch, even to have those strange figures dice up his limbs and head and smutch his eyes to jelly, for the sake of permanently achieving such breeziness of spirit as he had felt—and now, the tangible nature of choice made him plummet back down to the World.

Sidney’s death was a choice, a choice that he had made; this was clear in his thoughts, clear like the emerging lines of the trees. And the tangible burned on him, and the burn was human folly at last recognized.

He collapsed down upon his white knees and clenched his fists into the tangible dirt, and gazed at the ground under him, which clogged up with the fat ooze of dark blood. Sidney’s spine ached with ambivalent pain. His head burst and rung with pain.

He felt his body reduce to candy: so easily corrupted and destroyed, so unimportant, so trivial—

Most pertinent to him was the question of how long it would take for him to die. The blood drained out of him. Death was plain as the dark, voided sky above him and the brown dirt beneath his feet. The sky and the trees could be seen again, and the air flowed freely. Sidney laughed. He opened out his arms on his knees and the blood drained quicker out of him. His shirt was scarlet with blood. Sidney Talker laughed the harder for it:

No green miasma clamped and drifted evilly about his neck, and the figures Sidney Talker had seen judge him were gone. They had given Sidney Talker the answer to life and then had taken his life with this wound in his belly. Sidney laughed and bellowed out. He realized, he did not need that mist, or those Phantoms, back there—what he needed, was to be fearless, because to be fearless of death is to lose the need to dignify life.

He breathed in. Death wreathed around him as like the blood on his shirt. The green ether was gone.

The wound now sent tremors through him. He felt cold. He felt his muscles and insides squeeze furiously and painfully to keep in place around the gash. Sidney trembled, stooped his frail body to pick up his gun, and walked back to his house, liberated. He had to burn. Everything inside, charred to the cinder. From Sidney Talker came the overwhelming need to take action and account of his life.

. . . . . . .

Dawn was a press upon everything. The weeds that erupted out the back of the Beel house cringed in the open light. The beige wheat cringed also, and the yellow fields of corn seemed unused to showing their yellowness, and the corn shifted in the wind without confidence.

Johnny and Bell Beel came out onto the porch and into the sun. Their dispositions were like timid rabbits. The caravan had gone.

“Do you think they got Sid?” Johnny Beel was humbled by the night before and his voice yielded.

“Yes…they must have. I didn’t see him once.” Bell Beel’s voice trembled and yielded. Her tired eyes were not as sharp this morning and swung from image to image. Her muscles were overworked, and her legs moved slowly. Johnny and Bell Beel sighed with relief when, after a moment, they sat down on the unkempt rocking chairs, on their porch.

. . . . . . .

Dawn spread her colors like a psychedelic eagle, and Sidney reared back his head, and with failing vision stared gaping at it. Sidney Talker wept for the beauty of it while walking to the Beel house, bleeding a steady trail that did not idly drip like his tears upon his cheek but poured out onto the grassy dell where he was walking, like a fountain.

Sometimes as Sidney walked, he realized a weight jerking him down, every so often. And his legs would swerve uncontrollably, and as this happened more and more, he began to visualize an eagle’s claw that pursued him, snapping at him; and, the eagle swam in a weird and gaping abyss below him, and the abyss was hidden under the attractive grassy dell. He was in the pangs of delirium. Sidney became afraid of the thing lying below him, and walked quietly, so as not to stir the proverbial claw.

“It’s beautiful,” said Sidney. The words burped up out from his swimming, stinging stomach acids.

As he saw the Beel house loom visible against an early sun, he remembered the gun in his hand. A gentle sedation had spread like fire through his fingers and toes, and now it ate at his spine and his brain. His shirt and pants were completely red, and as he stumbled holding the gun, he resembled a sort of a backwoods devil, consumed by a sort of illformed evil, a sort of laughable hate. Inexplicably, he felt emancipated—the lucky mug he had used dependably, the feeble chair he had enjoyed resting in, the meager house and worn shack he had so prized, had all disappeared. And he was never before so open to the World he would leave so very soon.

Nonetheless there remained business to take care of.

“Business.” Sidney croaked.

A satisfaction tweaked at a corner of Sidney Talker’s mouth, and he prepared himself. Johnny and Bell Beel came running towards him, having seen him from afar, faces pale as angels. He scowled, and an unnamable loathing angered him further.

“Sidney! What happened?” Their shouts dulled to tormented whispers in Sidney’s dying ears. Sidney Talker proved to the fresh wind:

“I don’t need to listen to you. Any…more.” And that also was a whisper, unheard by the Beels.

Now was the time! The time to save the World, somehow, thought Sidney. Now was the time to save them from the destruction their own lives would, have already, put into motion, and that every life will put into motion.

I’ll kill them and get it right, and this offering will be my humble make up for all that fallibility, destruction, and ire they started, thought Sidney. They could never know. They could never know it, thought Sidney. They could never know how they and I and everybody ends up as crap and then from crap into dust. The only reason we move is to keep moving, only the people in the mist can do anything necessary about life.

The rest is just a waste, thought Sidney. Even I have a lot to learn, even I am still green to the wisdom of the Phantompeople, green like the fog, thought Sidney. We are all green like the fog, always all green thought Sidney. Green and stupid.

Just pull up the gun and fire thought Sidney.

He strained to pick up the rifle. His body boiled and his heart thrust forward with what spare beats he had left. His poor body contracted once under a last vital gnaw of energy. The cosmic necessity of killing. The thought: Pick up the rifle.

And yet, his arms, pale, bloodless, barely moved.

“The people in the mist were right.—Back off!” Roared Sidney.

The Beels had run up closer to Sidney to help him, but when he lashed out at them, the Beels saw something in Sidney’s eyes, and they began to back away from Sidney Talker, and their eyes were wide.

“I cannot hide from death just as I mustn’t leave broken things broken. You’re broken because of me! Life can only squash a man down! It’s useless to push something that’s broken! Everything is broken forever! I am broken because of you! I’ll blow them fucking apart! I touched them, I discovered people—in the fog? You see?” Sidney tossed his head to the sky as though addressing God, “I understood you…you killed me for it. They hid from you, rejected you. But their lives go on! What fairness comes from that—? Am I your soldier, or are they? People of the mist! Phantoms! Blacknesses…”

Sidney screamed at the sky as if in the agony of rape.

For a little while after that he screamed, screamed; and the Beels continued to back away, eventually breaking into a run, back to the perennial Beel house.

All the times deferential. All the quibbling brief errands always obstructing his life from living out. In him. As himself. And the Beels. Their simple heads. Filled to the brim with air, ordering him to perform duties just as airless.

A power welled in his bones and brought about a tempest of feeling in Sidney’s head: the primal want to kill, to destroy. But, Sidney barely flinched, and the thought grew less grand, and then he dropped his gun to the ground: leaving his cumbersome body to wallow in the wasted marshes that culminate around the Beel house, next to the clean, sparse fields.

ALL KINDS OF DEATH.

Besides the youth the train was mostly empty. There was himself, and a few other passengers, and someone who had gotten up to leave the train, but now had turned around, and was staring at him from a few feet away, by the open doors. And quite conspicuously, the youth thought to himself.

Just within the youth’s peripheral vision, stood—though slightly obfuscated—the figure and presence of an old man, hunching his frame against the trainrail and looking looking at him. The pretty and quite perished blue eyes of the youth continued to trace the modest, unassuming suburban country out the window and would not meet his gaze. The old man hung his brownish overfed eyes on the youth, who looked out the window with the look of one not registering anything they are seeing. The other passengers did not seem to notice the old man.

The youth had eyes of some blue color and they seemed to perish and fade into the back of the retina, and then, one got the feeling, become a tender and human lightness, perhaps theoretical, but telling of good human character, if it was there. But for all that, shining, as strong as it could, from the charred back of his skull, taking some of the blackness from there with it, from wherever corner in his head it originated, to the torsional surface of his expression, so that even when he relaxed his eyes, there was some momentary thought of void, whoever might be looking into them, at the moment.

The youth was a youth, but his expression was that of someone older, though not necessarily more mature. To anyone who bothered to observe, he appeared not yet wholly disciplined by life nor yet wizened and made tough by the going out of experience…as if desperate to accomplish, yet haunted by a failure, one that announced coming, without coming. He was dominated by an infinite premonition of failure. Any failure in the meantime was simply not The Big Failure. Some odd fixation or permanent thought on this loomed, that it was still to come and to bear, and that it would, if and when instigated, throw into question whatever meaning there might have been for his life.

Something oafish, something burly and oafish, standing in the way.—

The old man continued to peer and wither and he knew all of these things and his movements were few and baffling and he swayed gently back and forth in a dull torpor as though drunk and he stared at the youth with an intensity both strange and familiar: unfocused and dull and yet a conscious urgency beneath it, however subtle, was there, as if the old man desired to swallow both of them up into his own nakedness, an intimate, static, soundless place. Dedicated to watching and waiting for the youth to watch him back.

From time to time, however, his eyes would suddenly widen, and the old man would give a sharp twitch of the head as if making to stifle a manner of nervousness felt between them and which was unspoken and abstract. And the more he peered and withered and twitched the more the old man became instead an old, barnacled creature—or, a monster—in the eyes of the youth.

His eyes his blue eyes we are speaking of the youth they continued more desperately now to trace the suburban countryside, disregarding the stare but widening their blueness slowly as the blue youth wondered why the train continued to stay at the same stop, until he understood, promptly terrified, that the train, and this particular slice of time—time, itself, had stopped to wait for something, anything, to go on, between the youth, and this form of dreams,—a man to be seen externally not but mere and frail and this made the youth feel more alone—like these other passengers were mannequins, lifeless props.

All was still: it was the stillness of the World itself in pause for the sake of whatever discourse to follow.

The youth’s knees went together, and he clenched the muscles in his thighs, and the train did not move, and the old man’s eyes were fire on him.

The youth was sitting down in a seat five feet away from the elderly old man stood inert against the train rail looking looking.

Sweat moved along the crevices of the two shiftless forms on the train. Something like fungus grew within the quiet between them. The quiet was bloated and pungent. It made green the things around it. The train doors closed vaultlike at the old man’s stop.

The train shrieked as it lurched forward, as if in a cyclone, and the youth finally could take no more, and looked into the ravaged eyes of the old man and saw him, the eyes, like wet cinder, like slugs. And the train was a cyclone.

But neither spoke. The youth could not stop looking nor could the elderly stop and their eyes were contrasts of each other and also their eyes were contrasts of their very souls because the youth’s eyes were blue and peaceful and the sickles of his irises were defined yet he was angry and afraid and the elderly’s eyes were like wet cinder and dirt and the earth and they looked blind and without aim and yet the elderly old man seemed to know more than the youth ever could at least to the youth.

The old paranormal spoke to the youth and it was like the sound of the bray of a beast and it was wild and echoing in a trance outwards to breach the dark air and the sound was cloistered in the heart of the placeless wilderness of quiet that existed between them: and the youth listened closely, and the paranormal said:

“I KNOW YOU.”

…And that in a voice, a voice which B. would feel drifting into his mind whenever recalling the early, emptier days spent in the care of his mother and father, days now to him as but an intrusive gap in time. The train stopped once again, and, without another word, the old man with eyes burnt to black ash and the Earth pushed his old bones through the stubborn doors towards some destination like a humble ghost.

B. was the sitting youth and as the train moved forward and away from the humble ghost B. slowly allowed his expression to lax into a soft frown—a frown that, like the pace of a clock, changed slowly, to the point no change was recognizable. After what seemed like an eternity, the train slowed down to his stop—and he, before getting off, as if to put emphasis on the change, said at almost whisper:

“No. You don’t.” And that, as though to defy whatever placeless sort of uneasiness the old man gave him. Something grey and infectious that still managed to trickle down; it was invading his character and ribs and drowning his heart with fluid. Something would be there, would be there and would come out, during this visit, he sensed; something cold, something vague and cold that made B. think that this would be a very bad day.

“Give them a chance.” B. smiled and, and, and the smile was abandoned. “Shit.”

. . . . . . .

George had got a pool installed. They had more money these days but were not as pushy as most old people were and did not complain when the drain was not put in right. Until today, George and Eleanor had busied themselves inside the house just to avoid that drain, which growled and crunched terrifically, and seemed to shake the pool itself, as though it were eating it.

Until today, when George decided to do something himself. His arthritic bookkeeping hands (for he was the owner of a bookshop/for he had bad arthritis) and baggy muscles together straining to rearrange one pipe after another until finally, after four hours of work, damning vain sweat: the whole vain thing was giving him a headache: the fatigue of his body, and the soreness of his joints—and the bookkeeper hands barely able to move—all hilariously spent—and he, finally preferring the suave and shady chaise lounge to the sunpale concrete, and pungency of the chlorine.

George looked grim. In his old mind, he felt something push. Some obscurity—some kind of obscure bubbling in the swamp. A last croak of perhaps testosterone, withering out like an agate in marble. failure infiltrated his old mind like a gas. The pipe continued to roar.

“I took action though. That is what counts.” This being the weak-kneed voice of George.

“Let me call a professional.” This being Eleanor, who sat down elegantly and lovingly next to her husband and stroked the patchy tuft of grey hairs atop his wide, blatant skull.

“Oh, dear.” She said.

. . . . . . .

B.’s senses sharpened too much and B’s weight in step or body lifted suddenly and the sun seemed to protrude and boil his courage up but still he moved down the road and he popped and fumed in the heat. The sun protruded further against B.’s tight-woven blazer and pressed pants—giving an edge to everything B. looked upon—giving an edge to even the asphalt B. walked on.

And he stopped and stood outside of his home, once again—for the first time, in a long time. There was a strong, solar heat swooping and burning him out and it swooped wildly up B’s socks and evilly drifted about the clamp of B’s collar, and his tie was a noose.

And…it exposed, as well, those familiar and ignorant lilies, sitting blithe on the front step. The windows, he felt, and the door itself all positioned as one fantastic and ignorant face, waxing welcomes like those lilies. With lips whitewashed and pollenyellow tongues, they chanted, over and over chanted:

“Welcome, welcome, welcome.”

. . . . . . .

“Goddammit, that’s the door.”

George had let Eleanor get him a cup of tea but she always made it too hot and so it sat there on the living room table, sifting off its English Breakfast warmth in curlicue tones. George sat upright on an old couch on which the cushions had begun to deflate and with his wasted spindles against an afghan cloth and white eyebrows, curling, not unlike the warmth from the tea he held in his hand, George looked like a very wise, very blunt old cricket.

“George, don’t you get up! I will get the door. Rest your head; please, just rest.”

Eleanor walked from the kitchen to the door and had some swiftness, some orderly bounce about her that implied a certain list of expected ringers: Nancy Charles for her math homework help, or Don Drieser for the polish back, or that old war veteran George knew…what was his name…

“Nancy, I don’t know about today—” And Eleanor opened the door and saw, standing gaunt and fearful under the suburban summer, B.

. . . . . . .

Looking upon him, George and Eleanor saw B.’s postwar form, which was not so different than before: B. Softness was a short man, but his arms were long and when his arms bent, the intricacies of bone shifted mechanically under a timid layer of skin—but his hands were not timid. They were pale and a bit too hairy; they worked with a natural and studious grace that suggested someone more understanding and wiser. When he stood, his arms hung languidly, his hands both drooping downwards, like long snakes.

To describe the thick insecurities of this family, one would have to look at what was not said. It is with silence that thoughts are procured, that people are measured—it is with silence that strategies are made. Eleanor Softness—then fixed upon her son, had little to say but: “Oh.”

Now evidently there was much going on between them and much that wasn’t said. Eleanor had said what she had said while still believing that a general acquaintance stood before her. Too distracted by the mechanisms curiously at work in her head to change the tone of her voice.

So. She said—‘oh’—and,

upon witnessing for the first time in a long time the face of his son, George Softness quickly picked up his tea and gulped, burning both hands and lips in the process.

But Eleanor, then, seemed to suddenly realize B. had been there. Eleanor’s plasticity in smile and feature faded as quickly as George had burnt his lips:

“Come in, B.…”

“I’m going to get some more of that tea.”

George got up for a refill of that tea, but his mug was already full, and Eleanor did not seem to let B. pass.

“Come in,” Eleanor said, still standing, meekly, in the way.

So, B. came in—

. . . . . . .

The odor itself held in it something sickeningly familiar. The familiarity of home stank like rotten meat. It was the smell of an age: a violent age: a long-ago, long-dead sense in him. It cheapened with years; unlike wine it grew rotten.

But it had a sort of revolting antiquity, sort of the inverse of wine, cloying and needy with apology: the smell apologized for itself: B. Softness was angered by the smell because of that: the smell did not deserve to apologize. And the memories. Memories boiling in the humidity of the smell; memories amputated like an arm from B. Softness’ mind.

He held his breath when coming in out of some inchoateness that quickly lost meaning. B. Softness laughed like a wretch, but it came out like something warm. He wondered that he had been gone—for a long time he had been gone—

Looking outside then it seemed about afternoon, as the light through the window had a vigor and acuteness only made to a sun in the middle of sky.

B. Softness pulled up a wicker chair and dust erupted off it into the suffocating bay window light. He felt suddenly very allergic to this place. B. Softness sat down to approach George, and Eleanor, his eyes were swelling, George and Eleanor sat before him. Their little faces peered at B. Softness with concern.

Someone spoke but no one was sure who it was that spoke.

. . . . . .

“How are things, are things alright? It’s been alright here. I’ve started a few backyard projects. You know, I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who had a green thumb. Tell him what you have done, George…oh, he’s done some truly wonderful things, alright, truly wonderful…George, tell him about the bookshop. George owns his own bookshop, now, B.”

“Oh really? Well—tell me about it, if you would. Of course, it’s—”

B. paused and folded his arms pleasantly and did not finish the sentence because he was caught off guard and distracted by something in him that hated the posture of his own folded arms—because it was pleasant—and somehow subordinating.

“Well,” George’s hands felt themselves along the knuckles,

“I’ve worked on this particular business project for over a year now. The store is actually doing quite well.” His hands pressed forward conversationally.

“Oh really? That sounds great. I’m glad you found something that suits your tastes.” B. Softness’s hands coiled around themselves:

George’s hands advanced further, then bailed out abruptly and swung around to scratch his chin, then clasped together, as well, secretly mocking B. Softness’s own funnily coiled ones: “What tastes?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Meaningless. Disregard it.” B. Softness wrote the thing off and his hands flapped awkwardly in George’s face:

“No, I want to know what you mean.” George smiled warmly; the hands, perching like puffins on his upper thighs, retreating.

“And you, mother. How have you been?” B. Softness pushed his hands together at the palm as if a slice of ham and lettuce and mayonnaise were scrunched inbetween the two extremities:

“Oh,” she leaned and glowed and cast a fleeting eye on George, his fingers tapping soundlessly on the soft couch. “I’ve just…been helping George with his business—”

“And we’ve been getting business from people who’d rather shop in a simple bookstore than a megamart.” Said George.

. . . . . . .

You see, this old, repeated adage, by most regular, level-minded folk who shop local and talk their agenda without knowing it and fear their big business was the perfect stopgap to keep George from talking about how it felt when you walked into the store, the first time: the hoary musk of decomposing paper and print: the wealth of ownership in something: a great, goldeny sort of a wealth that realigned George’s tired, pained, spine. These things were not so pleasant to B., thought George, he would not be interested, he would not understand. He’d just think I was talking about myself too much…well, damn it, I’m old! So what? I deserve to talk about myself—

—There was a spatial pause that breathed deeply.

“Well, it’s nice that you’re back, now, now…” George smiled broadly and said this. The smile reeked of distance.

B. Softness—pulled up his tie—to try to look nice—

“Well it’s nice to be back—you know, for a little while.” B. Softness emphasized the last words. He felt a refreshing release of hatred when doing this but after that a sadness, and a disgust, like he would visit then go away forever. Like he meant no harm.

. . . . . . .

His hands seemed to balance themselves in the air and his thumb counted each smooth fingernail; George’s pounced back out at B. and lightly tapped the bulb of B.’s knee as George moved and shifted; Eleanor’s launched like firecrackers over everyone when Eleanor stretched her entire body and moved her arms straight up.

Then, everyone’s hands fell, furtively, to nowhere in particular.

. . . . . . .

Eleanor Softness was stealing looks at her husband. And George stole looks at her: the eyes asking each other, nervously, relentlessly: “What does he want?” And, yet, Eleanor, preening each vowel:

“Why don’t you stay for dinner, B.? We’d love to have you stay for dinner.”

Eleanor Softness also reeked of distance, smilewise, yet B. noted a dip of the head—a subtle, subtle widening of the eyes—that suggested truth. George, though, looked at Eleanor, gripped his tea handle, and coughed gruffly:

“Yes. Yes. Why don’t you stay for dinner?” Said George, wavering. And,

yet, George sharpened, and said: “And…make that tea cooler, next time, Eleanor?”

So, B. stayed for dinner—

. . . . . . .

When George and Eleanor had a chance to leave the living room they hurried to the kitchen, just far enough away to have a private conversation, but close enough that B. could hear it if he tried—and they stood, in silence. Turning over the situation.

“George…B.’s back.” Eleanor had very wide blue eyes and when she said this they stuck out like vast, opulent pools, as if she were begging for something, and George could not tell whether she was afraid or confused. George thought: Eleanor usually always seemed so reserved, so willing to please George, so agreeable to him. Throughout the string of their lives together, Eleanor and George had always been close, always a team. But he could tell sometimes that her female clemency would push her away from any of George’s more vigorously brutal preferences. Eleanor would still be in her supporting way, and yet George detected beneath the oddly imperial sand of her thought a foreknowledge that whatever brutal preference it was that George had at the time, it wouldn’t succeed. This applied to their plan to put their rival bookstore, ********, out of business; this applied to George buying a gun. These objectives settled relatively around the house—picked up off the floor, and dusted off, and put back down, sweetly. George still had no gun, did not know what type to buy, did not bother looking. And Eleanor continued to support the vacuum of these endeavors with a nod.

George’s eyes were muddled from age but were still a nice baby blue. B. Softness always thought it strange how a cold man like him could have such soft, forgiving eyes.

But George was the old, stinking madman…the crotchety father, whatnot…just wanting a little peace, and some books to tide him over…even if his eyes were muddled, he saw that Eleanor seemed more distracted than usual, and he confused her mixed feelings with aloofness, and thought that she probably realized B. Softness wanted something out of them. Something that was hard to draw out.

Forget about it. Money was tight, and emotional timeslots—a commodity.—

As that day went on B. Softness would look into his parents’ eyes and would feel in them the same hot glare of the old man from the train.

“He wants something. I know that!” George tensed and thought of how to approach his son. He’d always been angry, that boy. Not angry, just difficult. What kind of difficulty? George couldn’t place it. Every instance he could think of had its own flavor of anxiety.

They took him out, didn’t they? But B. wouldn’t have it. So, they let him stay home, and he became anxious. He complained all the time—that was B.’s definitive accessory, his wiseass, dissatisfied, mouth.

And he talked and George listened. And soon enough George got tired of listening; I mean, energy isn’t something you just snatch from a fucking tree, he thought.

He needed time for himself, and B. refused to accept that. And

they talked, to an extent, George thought. But him, George…friends? That wasn’t how it was with his old man.

What really got George angry was the fact that he always meant well with B., loved him, to whatever extent he could love him. But B. didn’t—well. He didn’t do something.

And it had to be something more than his own strained fatherhood. It was more than a problem of acceptance, George knew that.

“Fah.” Said George declaratively. It was as if Eleanor was not, nor anyone else, in that moment, were a presence enough, for George to bother with making sense of his narrative, for them.

It was something similar to chess, this parenting business, George thought. The right words had to be said in order for things to turn out well, the right moves made across the board. But most of all it was a game and it was nothing more than a game…

George felt his own dry pensiveness throbbing in his head like a wound. He thought of life; he thought of B. He thought about the dimensions of parenting, about how many layers there could be regarding this; what it meant to be a parent, to raise a child—while Eleanor spoke mostly through her big worried beautiful calming eyes. And both of these people completely alone.

. . . . . . .

B. Softness smiled insanely at his mother and father, retreating like startled deer to the kitchen, away from him. Yet for the most part it was unlike deer:

This reaction, or response, to the situation, that is. His own parents, once again face to face with B., deciding once again to promptly turn their faces away, after one desultory attempt at conversation, less than a minute, with him—who was the situation—and, really, B. didn’t want to be.

They, mother and father, always had to have the certain disinterested thing to say. Here and there, a statement of poorly veiled ire, even nearly hallucinatory ire, at, well, uh, this sudden arrival of their boy, no less,—and an excruciating disturbance for them it must be!—And, which, however much it was an arrival inspiring panic, and skittishness, and other deerlike things,—was a response, made by his family, in execution, quite unlike the graces and finesse of deer.

His presence, which was the presence of their offspring—it managed to stiffen them up so much into the state of vigilance enough that they could blame him, again. The way a deer might stiffen demeanor at a loud noise.

Or at least, they did not seem to stiffen more than usual, at the moment. There was no more to become, for all of what they had stiffened themselves into, so far, over the years. Just for him. Like the way deer’s necks get upright when they freeze at a threat, somewhere to be traced, in the unknowable distance. Let the imagery end, B. thought. A few deer that stiffen and perk up at the sound of a gun, a hind still in the hunter’s sights, and the cacophony of his missed target still ringing in the woods.—

Wherever woods of a soul, in that family, maybe just latent, that there might be, here, in his old home, to brave through to get to…what? Yikes:

And would I only find more of the pain of this scenario? They are this situation, this metaphor, this clutter, thought B., eyeing some fake flowers and doilies on a cheap table in lieu of the hip new coffeetable book nobody will even pretend to have read, but which at least would have been there to give the impression of literate people. Not cute doilypeople.

No, it is not so much a finesse as that, as the stillness of deer, but more it is them bleating to themselves, bleating like sheep led forth, down into the valley of fucking death, by something named spite, possibly, B. thought. To find their shepherd, they went bleating: all the dumb anxieties and testimonies and beefs and contrite hosannas, about him, he had heard from them, bleating, before, at one time or another, throughout his adolescence…

I am through no will of my own the hunter of them, thought B.

B. supposed he was expected to pick up on the reason for all this melodrama, which he did, and see behind it a sort of validated importance: regarding how very full of gravity, earthshaking, lifechanging, his appearance at their front door was, if they were freaking out like this.

Why had he come back? He heard them say, at a somewhat louder whisper, just loud enough to imply their wanting him to hear. B. walked around to the other side of the house.

And his father, leaning against the counter, slouching: the wellfed sphere, the pooch, of his old consuming gut: both of them, mother and father, speaking but with looks that whispered. And both, in B.’s blue eyes, wringing conspiratorial hands, sweating out some plan to get him out, to leave.

B. Softness smiled, chuckled. He was barely able to keep from letting out a big laugh, an awkward, sizable laugh—struck by their obvious discomfiture. It is over this untimely arrival of his, no doubt, not what to make for dinner, like she said to me. Oh, these blatant parents, and their discontent, discomfiture; and their blatant discontent, that they do not even know they let me see, B. thought to himself. Or discontent at their obviously expressing the discontent, enough for him to know.

At this point, if the cat was already out of the bag, his parents’ begrudging increasing of obviousness B. would expect to reverberate publicly throughout his home, ever more, to the point of making clear a shady moment, through obloquy—a string of oaths muttered from George—once he got not two steps deeper into the kitchen.

A discontent felt of being made the object of a literal and emotional parsimony. Miserliness, an aloofness. At least on his father’s side. As if just even wanting to connect took cash only.

Yeah. A laugh. That would have really scared them.

B. Softness—could not resist smiling, could not do anything but that. The appearance of being happy was something that had become instinctual, almost an obsession, so that no time was left to actually feel that way. Like riding a bike. Instinct. It wasn’t long before B. Softness would start smiling, grinning, to put up a front elsewhere—recognizing early on the need to perpetually smile around his parents, in his own house, to connect with them and their lives, slightly, their lives free of all drama save the drama of birth: and B. learning to smile at others as he did at his parents, in such and such a way, of obsequious mania, so as to appear idiotic nearly. Often he was made fun of as being a vacant mind, a retard, a faggot, a bitch.—

In discovering this tacit forbidding of any genuine expressions at all, from him at least, at home, B. knew also, then, of a drastic need to mature. Quickly. On his own. And he worked ever harder throughout his years spent living with his mother and his father to conceal the further indignation of having to camouflage his own discomfort, in order to be accepted by these people—these parents—and, so, yes, you see, he grinned, smiled, now—for that same, sad reason—That is, in order to cover up a feeling of globlike frustration that was now thumping out to him the memories of the old, stilted times between him and his mother and his father: times becoming unburied in his skull, like corpses: their definitions may putrefy but with a look at the teeth you can find that frustration, globlike frustration, globlike because something of a fungus had been thriving for so long on these times, these corpses of memory, oncelived.

Fucking times, times from the beginning rotten, born rotten. They would only succeed in getting rottener. But B. Softness had in him like an intimate gong something else that sounded out to him that childhood could be better than it was, for him. Forever he searched his parents for that something extra. But, if he had gone to the dentist, the talk at the dinner table would solely and in scrupulous detail involve his trip to the dentist…if the conversations grew in depth they would extend as always to the far reaches of what was on television; which neighbor or friend had done what to someone else; and, if B. Softness pressed on, his parents would either grab any reason floating in the air to be angry with him, or would plain change the subject back to dentistry. And then things would fall back into monotony. It went this way, for years, and wet, sloppy, globlike time piled on him. And the want…morphed into frustration…

B. Softness, when sleeping at home, during the masque that was his childhood, would have nightmares in which, upon leaving the table and going out of earshot, George & Eleanor would speak of their feelings and dreams in secrecy.

. . . . . . .

The conversation did not range far. No talk of much else but the T.V. news, or the local news, or the neighborhood something. In fact, the whole thing seemed a great slew of banter: a mighty brick wall of bullshit stood proudly on the coffee table between B. and his mother and father: George Softness built his bricks, built them readily, proudly:

Something happened:

Eleanor had just finished cooking. In the background, one could faintly hear the busted pool pipe, straining,

making its strange, rhythmic gargles—

“I think there’s going to be a fireworks show next week,” George said. “That should be fun. I haven’t seen one of those in a while.”

“Yes. Fireworks. Yes that should be great. I won’t be around though, unfortunately…I can’t come. I—have to go back.—Overseas—” He finished his tour months ago and didn’t even know when he’d go back. It was too early to tell.

B. Softness thought glumly that the time had come to finish his visit. After dinner, he would leave. He would say goodbye and leave. But none of it would matter. He forced himself to think that this entirely futile operation wouldn’t matter so it wouldn’t matter to him.

B. Softness smiled and clenched his bones. He was angry. Eleanor came out of the kitchen. George Softness looked at her expectantly; B. Softness looked at her too, politely, but expecting something else,

some relief from the banter—

“Well…smells good.” Said George. And they all advanced towards the table and Eleanor Softness chuckled a bit—almost said something, haphazardly—

. . . . . . .

When B. had entered George & Eleanor’s house the mood had blackened between all, so it would be hard for an outsider to discern that Eleanor’s comment came with it an eruption of deeper, stranger blackness. The conversation had become personal. Old questions and problems were brought back. Problems of who was to blame, for what reason.

B. had thought, vaguely, that those questions would be solved when he joined the army. It seemed at the time like a period of closure for him—a period in which he’d regained a stability long misplaced—

—this would seem sensible to anyone who saw B. before he went off. It seemed as though he were struggling against the turning of the Earth—all the time—

George coughed awkwardly

. . . . . . .

B. recalled proudly his years in the military. The places he’d seen in THE MARINES. Mostly, the people, the people he’d met and known well.

It was there he had changed. He had become his own man. He had learned to hold a gun; had wished more and more to become the gun he held. Had fumed over this and had to do this…had fumed, and fumed; then, learned to control his head enough to rise through the ranks, and became elite, yet somehow did not attain peace from this, and from this learned that peace was not a matter of control but of letting go.

Yet, he could not start over, impossible, from when nothing had yet called for his attachment. Much less if it were his own accomplishment that he loved in the first place, that he’d have to get rid of, just for some cruddy theoretical enlightenment.

He became his gun, that is: accurate, and quick, and efficient. Such violent persistence…so sad.

. . . . . . .

Then, he aimed himself at his estranged relationships, in the confidence he also would not stray. But there were darker things—as well—things more primal, more guttural: things that roiled out of B. a distinctive, guttural anguish: a very private and specific overexposure that only he could know: though what exactly he was exposed to, he could not know.

A psychologist might have fastened him somewhere under the broad umbrella of what is known as trauma, where so many others who experience combat are fastened, like shrapnel to thigh. But B. would have found that answer too broad for his liking. In his mind and maybe or maybe not in all others, what he had wasn’t common enough for any sort of backwards notion like that. Like shellshock. Shellshock? Call it shellshocked by life. But it was too horribly mutated to be called any—one, or two, or three—sorts of pathology alone.

That is to say what is wrong with him, it is too ugly to be resolved in just examining the psyche: and all of that might as well be just this ugly jetsam to be sucked through a busted drain, B. thought, somewhere in all this, to himself.

. . . . . . .

And there were busted things in his family that were unnamed and that were dark too because the more they were refused the more indignant they became. In the eyes of B. the root of this virulent numbing power over his life he now realized lay planted in who his parents were, who they always have been:

And he looked at his parents, then. And his parents looked back at him, with eyes of disgust and horrible loathing.—

All this B. thought. He thought: My dear mother: my dear, dear mother. She wants to know all the little fucking details. Now she does. Now that I’ve almost died a few times. All and every bit—of the brutality—and seemingly as extraneous, as wasteful—all this turmoil, in my head, about it too?

Too late, Mom. At least George doesn’t play like I exist. Too late ha fine time to ask

. . . . . . .

“Fine time to ask,” He murmured.

Anger sprang up from nothing it seemed to B. because anger was always there but he never used it—even in combat—he never used it, instead glazed himself over with that very impersonal, clinical virtuosity given him as inheritance by parents who for so long and in that same way of distance had attenuated his own resolve and had with the damage done weakened to nothing his own soul. To nothing: by now, probably to be observed by him as a gray and still-waning pallor in his chest: utterly faceless and so then unidentifiable and seemingly comprised of phlegm.

And yet B. withheld from lashing out at his mother. Poor woman. The damage was done too long ago—had always been there. Blinded by anger and frustration, B. promptly and without warning forgot all the years he spent in the military at once. Every minute’s recollecting, even, that he had spent in the military. Forgot everything up till the moment he walked through the door into his parents’ home. But still knew, somehow, that he had been in the military, erasing one link in the chain but keeping the chain.

—B.’s mouth opened slowly—

A trespassing numbness tiptoed, further, through all of his limbs, but from some crucial beginning, some placeless core, in himself, not anyone else; the numbness did not make him feel in himself placeless—at first it jimmied the figurative lock, in the figurative door, but it could get no peace open—so, the numbness opened up the belly of his brain to some other, new Cosmos, and he felt like the numbness was really God performing a caesarian section for his child to be given him one way or the other, so as to consummate the birth of a life that would be his, but him as his own son.

Two years, three years, four years—a hunk of fat cut from him and left to die bizarrely and unrequited. But that did not matter. The cost did not matter. It was a massive artery that had been redirected to where his mind did not toil; there slept the memories of what he tried and could not requite, and now that there was no need to requite, the memories of warfare were useless. All this was told to him by God. He could feel and hear the blood pump through the artery but could not see fathoms to where the artery led, and when he tried to find the friends he had, looking through a vascular hole, he found nothing, because his soul could not fit. His soul in all its wilderness and woods.

B. closed his eyes and put his long hairy hands to his long hairless face, the face of one who is deranged by the sweetness and obscene frailty in letting go.

. . . . . . .

Why can’t I remember? He thought, and he thought

. . . . . . .

B. thumbed through each artery in his mind and pulled out the very heart of his mind if only just to find one single memory of any moment from his past. Any date on the calendar. Anything recent at all besides erasure, before this afternoon.

It was as if all the things he did without his parents—any and every scene onstage to himself, the very meaningful rest of it, without them—were precluded from linking in his memory, excluding the bouts of soliloquy he crafted, when a child, to find an answering voice, while living in minutest silence, in a room, in these peoples’ house, before the eyes of his parents, then not before the eyes of his parents, and now again today before them, saying things to them that he sensed were making him upset, saying them to his parents, now, yet neither could say they heard, and he himself did not hear it, though he heard himself speaking, but sensed ebbingly it was so as for others to, who are perhaps outside of time—he wanted them to hear and read his coded answer, as their own answer—adopt him that way—it were as if these things were excluded from his memory in an astonishingly, terrifyingly swift fashion that in its swiftness concluded all. As if nothing without someone else mattered, enough, to remember—all of him so sickly trivial—but because he had thought that of himself, and made it the reality. Was his own fault. Had thought that, of himself, for so long.

And then, to his horror, B. saw, erupting, from the opacity of thought, bursting forth, through an opening in that mire, the visage of that strange old man—and the old man, watching him—and those eyes of pulp—and the old man, saying

“I KNOW YOU.”

Like he had on the train, and that—over and over. The words. That sentence, delivered coldly, simply; almost nonplussed. It was then B. knew what the eyes had meant, the meaning in them was eloquently figured before him, in the knots of some other language, but he knew it was for him and all his eloquent soliloquy.

The meaning rang aloud in B.’s head, and the ring reminded him of the cry of grenades. The sounds and the feelings of it, combat, were there, almost—but the stories and the soulful touch and consummation of identity, of having an identity, had gone—

. . . . . . .

B. was suddenly back on the train, except it was him and the old man alone, not one single, other, faceless, pedestrian, and the old man looked different, and the old man shuffled towards B. on the train, and his eyes were black abstract whorls that popped and popped and popped in his head.

The abstract whorls writhed in his head as the old man neared the youth. A pair of naked imperfect vibrating spheres. Quickly flashing to and fro. Or perhaps dynamos…made by the vulgar hands of an inventor with either no time to do it right or no understanding of dynamos much less dynamos that will churn the light of my epiphany back living, B. thought.

I see: if that is what they are they are unsuited for the visions they were made to receive, the dynamos, thought B., and have grown depleted and tired: also they seem angered  by their wear, wear that took place over time, and angered at the acquired limitations of said mischances. Hence the black bolts of lightning, hence the frustration peeking through muddled means. These are eyes with a pension, thought B.

The vibrating spheres writhed crankily, like demons gripped by some scorching, wreathing pain,—the eyes rolled and writhed in the old man’s hollow, shriveled head, like beasts set on fire by some almighty sadist. Eyes with black lines of lightning quickly flashing, here and there, from the sockets, outwards, uncontrollably outwards. The old man took B. and shook him and spat out to his face that he had to go. The old hands gripped his shoulders—wanting to grip the man—

B. convulsed, and, seeing it clearly, with a sensation of beauty so grea,t as to suddenly know himself redeemed—this youth, with the perished blue eyes, opened up his brain, and, he found gasping for air, there, in the center of his brain, another, frailer youth, and he knew then, for the first time, an agonized, insane craving to father a child, it was the only way.—

. . . . . . .

He had to have a child: but that came from him, from no one else it could come. A voice distinctly his and yet independent of his. That wasn’t hocked with the phlegm of untouched, filmy life—never any visceral sense, any friction or bickering or that old brutal pursuant called love between him and his mother and his father—just some coagulated pieces of tissue laboring around the house, playing with flowers, books; graying every so often and more and more each time.

He reached out manically for something fresh: an infant born from the little sheltered scraps of beauty still raging around in B.’s belly: the infant, with eyes so clear and blue and clean, writhing deep: somewhere within the white sheets: wanting everything, absolutely everything in the World and, and, and only concerned with the new.

. . . . . . .

All of a sudden he was red in the living room

A kind of ulcerous pain tried to jump up his throat and out, every part of him red and close to collapse. However, one looks and there ah there and wrenched horribly in B.’s features—wrenched, woven deeply into his features—were the spiritual contortions—the metaphysical knots and disproportions—the hurt twists of blameless injustice or blames not taken for the injustice—the carnages—and—at—the—same time the dusts of what perhaps was his true and very soul. He clutched that face, that heap of contortions: that possible soul. It was his child. He clutched it with his hands and he cradled the odd thing like a child in his arms with hands that had killed other men, men often themselves children, and the strings in his hands shot from his own fingers and went back at him like something sent whipping from a single strong gust. His body palpitated as though to a drum. The stitches in his neck projected outwards to their limits.

The soul of B. would creep out when he opened his jaw and screamed. Blinded and wheezing and crying, barely alive and drowning in its own primordial ectoplasm—it would creep out. The soul, that climbed, and climbed, up his throat, hoping to be regurgitated.—The sweat inched down B.’s neck in the effort—yet it was overall that strange old paranormal from the train, who said—that said

“I KNOW YOU.”

He screamed, and all the breaths in the World went into his body as he screamed again

. . . . . . .

George said loud and haggard shaking off the afghan cloth he had been wearing:

“What’s the matter with you, B.?”

George said the name with an attempt at authority.

“B.”

George didn’t know what to do. So, he said:

“Do you have to leave?”

George pointed a cantankerous finger to the door.—

There was a tin of nuts on the table, and as George got more flustered, he ate more and more of them, and they crunched and growled terrifically in his mouth. George seemed more frantic suddenly, more scared. His old eyes were those that were weary of surprises.

Eleanor had been watching quietly and sat closer to George when she came back from the kitchen. The moments went by. B. looped himself over himself, on the wicker chair that he sat on. Looping himself over himself, over and over.

George & Eleanor—watched him—

. . . . . . .

And…then, B. stopped. There was a calm among them, the calm hissed. The hiss carried and vegetated around them. It spoke fruitlessly into the minds of Eleanor & George.

B. opened his eyes. Eleanor & George were staring intensely at him.

“You’re right, Dad,” B. said—now knowing he had lost.

“This was supposed to be a short trip. I just came to pick something—up.”

B. had not come to pick something up.

. . . . . . .

“Come, everyone. Let’s get to the table now. And stop this.” Said Eleanor, hurriedly. Her hands shook as she set the table.

. . . . . . .

It had to be around two in the afternoon. B. Softness would be leaving soon.

B. and George both stooped over their plates and cast long shadows across the table as they did so. The shadows themselves mixed together in a formless shade. B. looked at what was on his plate—saw how unwelcoming it was: the carelessness of the meat—the meager helping of potatoes—the low-quality plate. All devoid of comfort. B. loosened his tie. The time for change was over.

“This was always a nice table. Good. Built pretty well. It’s the cherrywood one, from when I was little? I see the little dents in its surface from when I banged spoons into it. I guess I was, uh, still learning how to use silverware.” B. Softness said this, attempting good humor, and began performing surgery on his chicken. “Oh—yes. Yes, I don’t quite remember that. With you being out so long.—” George said, as though B. had been out at a grocery store at the very farthest point on Earth from there, buying a jug of milk, for all these years.—“Ahem,” Said George.—He glanced over at B., weighing him, waiting for a response, but, none came,

only a sigh, a sigh—soft and it is broken.

. . . . . .

B. said:

“I should get off then, shouldn’t I? I’ve already taken enough advantage of your hospitality. Ha ha. I’ll see you soon. I love you. Yeah. Bye.” He was burning inside.

. . . . . .

George turned to Eleanor for a supportive nod yet received none. He laughed. Eleanor instead looked quite sad. George continued eating and believed that the visit had gone quite well. He had maintained the situation and been friendly to B. He looked upon the whole day as a success. He did not measure the situation frame by frame because each frame was bad but equaled out to something good because B. had gone but would probably come back wanting something else. Everything went perfectly. Except for the end part, of course—an irksome hiccup in George’s life that he would never quite understand.

But George found himself suddenly trapped in reminding himself of the hiccup and more hiccups throughout the day became visible and then suddenly these lifted feelings of his plummeted into the ugly fencing of his old and present life and it was like something thrown in the air and coming down. The cosmos of his own before and ever after coming down. The psychic residue of the before: things strange enough to remember: like jaunts into emotions unrelated to the event: like some leathery depression slinking into him while on vacation sharing beach chairs with his wife, by the sea, during a trip to some anonymous, florid, isthmus.

Or, bizarre happiness while driving to the pharmacy to fill his prescriptions, which he hated doing.

Or even nausea and disgust at the chipper, repetitive greeting to him by his neighbor across the way. The chipper wave of Mike’s hand that came surely with the day, as would all other natures of this diurnal World—and it irritated George because Mike was not diurnal like the World was and so then he should not try to be with his greeting, and whatnot; and all of it mysterious like that and lacking form: the bookstore and getting angry at bookmarks in the antiques, ruining the page—I paid a fortune for this. And Eleanor with one tooth in her mouth now dark with general rot. And George seeing the whorls on his knuckles developing like wee caverns of flesh and age.

George said and his eyes were looking at blurs

“Gravity.”

Gravity. The short buoyancy of it. The small annuity of an object to be afloat in the air as though supported firmly—then, down to the ground it goes—descending without meaning or specificity and meeting the cogent argument of that ground, which is greenery, and sunken pelts, and the excrement of all things, made samewise. Were these random blots of feeling nothing more than the chemical omens of a longbeen mind?

Were they not this?

Were they, instead, the ludicrous discord of something welled in George’s head; the argots of a hidden canker in George’s life, given speech to their shadow by sometimes pulling apart the platelets of his ego…to get him to feel the difference in having his son, or wife, or soul?

At that point B. had gone and Eleanor was washing the dishes and was in a trance of thought in which she thought keenly, and realized this:

That boy came from me.

. . . . . . .

B. Softness would not try again with his mother and father.

He was on a train from his parents and he thought about why he had gone back to see his parents in the first place. Thinking of it carefully for over an hour gave him nothing, and B. realized that maybe it didn’t have an answer. At first, it seemed like it had to be done. But nothing had come of the trip, and B. felt fine.

Besides of course, the mysterious disappearance of his life from his memory. He racked his brains to recollect any of it—there were no faces to remember—no tragedies to linger on—just the pungent feeling of all kinds of death.—

B. believed, however, that it was better to not dwell on these things, death; to not truly understand one’s parents was relatively normal in this society.

Parents did not really matter when it came to those big things: the relationship he had with his mother and his father did not end up gnarling, worsening, B.’s sensibility; relationships do not, should not really be able to break apart that necessitous probity of the right, necessitous brain, that reasoning will of his brain, to create ambition, idea, action—the thoughts, the figuring, the memories, the feelings, instinct—should all really be able to stay in their own ganglia of nerves and fat without altering themselves, deviating to ugliness. B.’s mind, to him, was never anything more or less than what he made of it. As for parents, well…it was just a hard bump that everyone passed over just fine, as long as they tried…

In fact, there was something endearing about his parents’ fear of him, endearing because it was the one defining example of who they were; it was the one characteristic, the one reaction to him, that appeared and reappeared without fail; something they shared, together, in his presence—something, that they shared.—

. . . . . . .

Yet, B. did, and would, feel himself grow older, and wearier, as he grew farther away from his own parents.

Oh George & Eleanor. And—maybe I’ll be just like that old guy from the train…B. first thought this a joke and smiled to himself as he thought it.

But the more it stayed in his mind the more he ruminated on what it was exactly that the old man had wanted. Sure, he had uncovered his own psychedelic meaning for it, but why was that meaning what it was? And why so baffling? Was he just a conduit I was using for my own alienated cognitive plan? Did he not even want anything; what was it he had wanted? Thought B. And was he even real, and if so, which one was the real, or more real, one, the one in my head, or the one I saw on the train, in person, earlier today? Am I going crazy?

He wished passionately to know—something. To at least understand someone besides himself—to connect however blindly to other wayward people, ones with a past they can remember. Ha, thought B. distantly, knowing he’d forget it, being always the flake when it came to his mental health: Ha, I should see a neurologist.

Then, he started relating himself to the actual stranger he saw, or thought he saw, on the train, earlier that day, and the old man, too, seemed a presence, once again,—though not visible this time—come to consciously share something like a secret with him, the way he had, with the old man, but just as likely, without the strange figure ever knowing, probably.

The way he had mistaken him for someone obviously close: he obviously was able to see something positive like that in B., some friendly cosmetic in B.’s face that made him one of the World.

Such unapologetic brotherhood most likely prompted me to freak out like I did at the house. I…I just couldn’t take it. Must’ve…

But B. caught himself. This did not suit him, no, not very well at all—no matter what else he said, or he thought. So, instead, he dismissed it, and watched the upstate country pass before him, and thought of the times to come.

The unction of the train chugged on the tracks like a martyr. Sunlight wimpled out across the windows of the train and made B. squint. The sunlight eventually disintegrated like crumbs into the chaff of the evening.

He looked out at the fugitive corners of light against the trees and as night came the cars on the highway shone like traveling eyes through the darkness.

And B. closed his eyes to sleep and found no sleep and found he saw only the old man from the train.

The old man stood like a magus on the planks of the head of the youth. B. made the old man’s eyes green because it was more pleasant that way; more pleasant than brown eyes—the brownness of reflection tormented by vagueness, or as though concealing some inner judgment, or doubt.

The green eyes brewed knowingly in the old man’s head. B. craved an answer from the old man—an answer to rebuke, or something, some concept, to destroy.

B. made the old man say something with B.’s own words: his image merely a vessel to speak the sane and caged eloquence of the blue youth and the venerable greatness in him finally dusting itself off, and the words less embarrassed in their saying: and the old green eyes penetrating, nonetheless. The old man said:

. . . . . . .

“There are no such absolute terms for the little universe that is family. But why must we be so muddled, when it comes to those we love? Why must an answer be so expository, when the rest of anything else is written off with concretions, and facts heavier and harder than brick?

“An answer can be found in this example: a rock is a rock—a concretion, to the brickhead—is something else to the geologist. A fountain is a fountain to the brickhead, something more to the aesthete or architect. Yet geologists, architects, are specialists to special things; we are each the specialist regarding this thing of commonness called family. This is why it is something more than concrete.

“Specialists run for a dime in this World. Everywhere is more information to whet the blade of the brain. Nothing is concrete, really. What it comes down to is that there is nothing of substance to rely on, merely an edgeless reasoning bobbing up and down on a sea of additional aspects: all visible only beneath the surface: aspects known only to the people who wish to dive infinitely into them.”

The old man then darkened himself:

“One learns that the facts arrive later—ironically, with the death of a family member comes the requirement for a simpler answer to manifest itself. A sudden necessity for reassuring order and finite means and ends. At the funeral, the anecdotes are told as though they were the man: the neat and acceptable subject matter and endearingly sad stories of closeness altogether pull the past—the past of the deceased—into a dramaturgy.

“Even the faults are hilariously overblown; which, before, had been scrutinized past the point of obsession, and argued over. Overblown to make the negative seem piddling. Seem charming and okay. It is a way to sum all the multitudinous reels of terms into one sensible and orderly explanation for death. One absolute term. Parents were children looking up once, just as their children will be aging men looking down, free of their parents’ ghost. Leaving them behind. At their death…”

B. thought of his Father’s death.

B. felt the sensation of death creep across his body once more when the train he was on jarred and derailed as it hit a red car that had been idling on the tracks.

THE THOUGHTS OF THE TEEN IN THE RED CAR.

The car was a red car and the red car made a dust trail. The air was cold, and the tree branches were brittle. It was late in the fall. The road and the thickets of bush were dry, and the road let loose dry billows of dust that spewed out when the car’s thick tires grinded over it all.

The dust billows rose with the black exhaust of the car and together they made an allergenic cloud that spread down the dirt road thirty feet, and the red car was still clean and red while the marshes and the shades of brown and grey clung to the amorphous fall wilderness, which grew in the background of the red car like a tapestry.

The man clutching the wheel was David. He had just received his license yesterday. David’s hair was brown and dull. His hair parted outwards in a teenaged-blasé way. The coat he wore was leather and it was new. His teeth even looked new: flawless in color and straightness. The cotton white shirt imitated his blasé attitude tenfold, as the three top buttons were not buttoned, revealing a cheap trifle hung from his neck.

He liked wearing the cheap trifle. Thinking of it created a restful place in his head, some anonymous pit-stop. It reminded him of the beach where his mother lived, and he thought about how he used to visit there.

But it was always by bus. She never visited him.

He did not know why the cheap trifle reminded him of his mother, but it did. It was just a silver necklace. It had sharp and menacing edges that glinted thirstily in the sun’s light. The necklace was like many other things in David’s life. Things that could not be explained save one cold hard sense that David had about them, and the sense alone would give meaning to the thing. Things infinite as the look of the day, like this, the way it was now, shining through the naked oaks and dressed pines. The day seemed already in its ebbing afternoon hours at 10 A.M., and the winter already brought into fall; those winter days when the sun abruptly moves into evening and dark, and in between that movement there is something about the texture and color of the sun that looks hurried and thrown on, thrown on just as quick as it will be thrown off, thrown off when the hours quickly pass into evening and the yellow sun becomes orange and then dips behind the trees and the crest of the Earth.

The texture and color of the sun seemed to David over-bleached, and soft, like a boiled egg; the texture suggested a reality in which he was perennially disaffected by his own hardships and mistakes. This to him was the emblem of maturity. That there was always a way to change things. That life was lived and decided as weightlessly by the moment, by the fast-changing color of an egg in the sky.

All this, the winter sun, and the first trip he was taking in his red car, and the cheap, silver necklace, all this converged into one feeling, the feeling of a new age. A new and somewhat confused happiness, some feeling that David could not probe was there, nonetheless. Was sensed by him.

His hands reminded him of gargoyles, and they were shrunken and bizarre, more like growths than hands. David constantly was alerted of their presence on him, because he had to look at the road, and in his line of sight was the arc of the wheel manipulated by his hands. His hands looked as though they were being sucked in by his wrists, and they vaguely formed a triangle shape. The thumbs and pinkies arched inwards to create a grotesque pyramid shape, and while the palms were small and shriveled the fingers were long and clumsy. At an angle hanging off the wheel, the thumbs took on a stubbiness like the tail on a bulldog. He frowned when he thought of them. When he was unhappy, it was like falling into a dark pit. David felt cramped and queasy and afraid when he thought of his hands. He moved his arms a bit and could not see them anymore, and then laughed.

David looked in the mirror and smiled appreciatively to himself. He enjoyed the sudden control of driving. This feeling of being a tyrant unto oneself, of having a sense of command over a piece of large machinery.

The car relied on his aptitude so as to avoid destruction. David relied on the car in order to get where he had to go. On the open road, there are no frustrations. Needs are satisfied swiftly. The need to get to the next curve in the road is swiftly accomplished; the need to get to the end of a mile is also satisfied swiftly. The need to get to his destination, satisfied—all at the will of his own, albeit mutant, hands. At his own hands. A big metal hunk of death machine, turning with David’s will to turn.

But driving had a strong cerebral aspect to David. The rules of the road were not set in stone. He knew that he would have to one day improvise. Drive defensively. Too many other cars like big monstrous judgments from the good lord, barreling, towards then away from him, testing him.

But for now, David serenely led the red car down the dusty road with easy confidence, and the cloud of dust and the exhaust trailed behind the car ten feet.

He was thinking these thoughts about himself the way a boy would think when left alone with nothing else, and he was getting so lost in thought that David began to mumble, and then, the red car hit a pothole, and a slight bump was felt under the vehicle, and David swerved but was fine. He stopped the red car a few yards up, continuing to mumble; and the tire-grinded dust and the exhaust all slowly settled back to the ground, and the dust wafted lightly down.

“Dammit, David,” he swore to himself loudly. “Why do you do that? Why do you act so stupid?” His ugly little hands were twitching at the thumb. He kneaded his dull brown hair with his hands. Out of nowhere, David’s body took on the rolling of a big wave, and he began to shiver the way a wave would shiver and scatter on the sand and then froth up after it hits.

The hands rolled around on the wheel painfully, and that pumped the blood through the wrists, and that pumped a sort of frustrated energy to the brain, and when the hands rolled quicker because of sweat the body rolled, and the body shivered with frustration, like a wave swelling, more and more, aching to crash, but never crashing, only the heaviness of the wave looming and narrowing. One small irritation sparked bigger irritations, each aching to crash. Each spasm had to be fought by him to keep from turning into a hernia. He stepped more into discomfort the more he thought of settling the discomfort.

David realized he would be better just not thinking of discomfort at all, but he could not do that. The pain bullied into him. It made itself seen and touched as though it were a figure sitting next to David, hanging on him, like Coleridge’s Albatross.

. . . . . . .

In the alone wilderness, and among the wilderness of himself, he rubbed his hands on the wheel, until they were red, and grotesque, trying to soothe the anxiety that left him shaken.

He thought, did it come from him receiving his license? This? Did the anxiousness start when he turned [insert age]? As David’s whole body rocked in his seat, the padded seat of the red car squeaked like a parasite. A small, indiscriminate parasite or bug that fed off his anger with each squeak. The squeaks were high-pitched yelps that ripped through his eardrums. He wished to be rid of the squeak of human imperfection, of imperfection in the carseat’s design, evidencing the bad constitution of its metal, of his flesh; he wished to be rid of it.

“Calm down,” The crazy squeak, squeak, squeak of the seat. “Calm down.”

. . . . . . .

When he said that it was like confirming the danger of it. The hurt of it that would come if he went too long without it.

David went rigid as a pole, dipped his head, calmed down, he calmed down. It was a slow process, one of control, of focus. He summoned up those things as much he could, and he calmed down.

He slowly shoved away the strange needs of a mind in panic, and repeated various mantras he had learned, inward talk, muttering them all in his brain at once. The need to stop the ‘squeaking.’ The need to see weird and frightening things when he closed his eyes, such as fat, expressionless eyes staring back at him or people bleeding from their faces. The bleeding people ran and screamed on a bridge, he opened his eyes and closed them again, and they were screaming in a desert. He knew that all of them knew something about him he didn’t…and there was the overbearing need to be swathed in blankets. For he was suddenly very cold.

Thoughts were bugs that were crawling on his skin. “Fuck God. Fuck God,” David repeated, as though he had to.

He said it again, wondering why:

“Fuck God. Fuck God.” His lips moved the same exact way for the same exact syllable until David clenched his mouth shut and screamed into his hands. It wasn’t working. He bit his hands and he yelled. He shut his eyes. He shut his eyes. He thought of an anchor: this was his secret way to calm himself, and not even his mother knew it. He regarded the anchor happily and secretively.

He thought to himself: well, an anchor was a heavy thing.

He thought, an anchor always did its job. It never changed. It grew old over time, yes. But the staunch attitude of an anchor was not lost, never lost.

Despite his airless, ephemeral stresses, he got lucky. David imagined himself like an anchor, dragging across the sands of the deep, halting entire ships, stilly lying in the water, until it is brought up, only to be plunged in again, brought up again. He realized the intensity of now was dust against the whole thing, like dust on the ever-winding road. His eyes went to lazy slits. He struggled not to think of what he needed to think.

David expanded out onto the seat of the red car like pus. The fat wave yielded and deflated. David expanded the way the sand flattens out a footprint with one salty wave. A wobbly pretense of nervousness still clanged a bit, as the marble, in the tin can that was his stomach. David reassured himself more, more. He thought of his mother, and the ocean; the constant assuring nature of the sea. Of the surface of it bobbing on and on for miles, so that one could almost make out the curvature of the Earth.

Sweat, expanding down the neck of David’s shirt. His smooth shirt was suave and lax and sweat-addled, at the same time. David tried then to think of his shirts, but he thought of his medications, instead, and his heart beat out less certainly, and the anchor soon dissolved, and he felt on the edge of a cliff. Soon David could feel nothing but the shaking of his heart soaking through the white of his shirt.

David started the car eventually. But first he looked for his medications. He looked on the dashboard, but he knew he’d never find them anywhere. He pulled out his two red bags and dirtied his clothes when he threw shirts and all in the dust looking for his medications: each clean shirt flung into the dust gave David a release of anger by making a frustrating situation even more frustrating because he was ruining the shirts and he knew it, and by doing so, he cared less and less; since everything was all screwed up anyway, what was another pain to deal with but more proof of the cruelness of God? What was another ruined shirt but a reminder of the pain that God can give?

“Oh, God, why you are so cruel?” David muttered, confirming the thought; and then he winced animatedly because he had to be ashamed. Or because he was ashamed that he wasn’t ashamed.

David believed in God because it meant not having to mount a horse that high himself and he scoffed and babbled with liberals about atheism and nihilism and the menace of capitalism and to most of his friends he pursued interests that were particularly stamped “out there.”—And he liked this phrase, because it was simple yet identifiable.

He looked also in his glove compartment and was startled when a map contorted like an accordion burst from it, but no medications. Another wave gathered in David’s belly. His stomach clenched, and when David noticed the heaviness of the clenched muscles he felt the rest of his body clench again too and mysterious veins that had not been seen before now emerged humorously on his forehead, and his hand was claw-like and pumping scarlet when he reached over to the passenger seat, spotting the medications tucked away under the seat, and he laughed wryly and loudly and angrily and dramatically as he grabbed them and pushed his spindly fingers into the small tube, barely able to pinch two white tablets between his fingers and shove them down his throat. He started the car and was gone and he deflated again and a great sigh summoned up from David’s lungs, and he knew it had not gone away after all.

Again, he streamlined down the rustic terrain, in the red car. He was off again; as the road stretched on and separated the grass and brush from the dirt and corrupt pavement David’s mind stretched, and he thought of the same things he had before.

He thought inwardly, of himself, and inexplicably brief pictures of his mother pierced through. After thinking of his mother for a while, he gained a certain momentum: the car, time and his heart all beat the same hands forward on the same clock.

He collected shards of another personality: a smooth yet purposely offbeat one, a partyready one. Night came.

. . . . . . .

The night condensed and blurred everything, and everything was all shadows except the moon, whose holes and orifices shown clearly, like halos, or weird pimples, or large craters, which was what they were. The monotony of travel oppressed him; his partyready personality grew less fresh and wearier, time became indistinct. The more control he had on the road, the more bored he became, the more he itched for conflict.

He thought a bit more of his mother’s hair tossing in red, on the beach; more of the pills stacked neatly in the seat, ready for him. David was responsible now, made things easily done, didn’t dwell on things now. He no longer thought of himself, did not worry about himself, and when he did think of himself it was to build his temperament into more something expected.

But he thought of his own mother, as well, thought of her hair tossing in red on the brownfaced beach that seemed to glow like his mother did. His mother, her build, like an arduous painting or marble, filled with the lovely crevices and nuances of a thing prepared and sculpted and perfected. His mother, perfect, centered, correct, beseeching wisdom like a painting, untouchable like a painting; yet she touched all it seemed to David. She was a fortress: she was the singular definition where all other definitions would darken and lose scope. She seemed more distant, and Godly, the more that David thought of her and was away from her, and he admired his mother for that. It seemed to David that she was there not only for him but for the whole World; that she knew and understood the whole World, and sometimes he felt selfish when he hugged her, or told her why he was depressed. He felt like he wasn’t using his Mother correctly, or in other words, completely utterly.

There was something he didn’t get, and she did. David sighed at the thought of his mother’s soft clutch. David felt as though he would never, ever see his mother again, no matter what happened. David’s mother as this sort of universal beacon of comfort somehow made him angry and he did not know how long he had thought that way of it. It didn’t seem right. It didn’t explain everything. Mothers as sources of empathy, understanding, were not mothers, but clichés. David hated his Mother for giving him such shallow feelings for her, for where was the love in that? He hated her, and he was happy, happy because he meant it, something, for the first time.

. . . . . . .

The teen brushed off his weariness, for he was becoming queasy with boredom. He took two other white pills spasmodically. David slapped a half-smile on his face.

Within seconds, though medically speaking it would take longer than seconds to work, he felt the pills alleviate him. David pictured the pills like two muscled men, exactly two, with handlebar mustaches, and pronounced chins, wearing tights like in those old movies where they get in fights and hold up their fists in that funny oldfashioned way, but, instead of each other, pummeling up his bad feelings of queasiness into dust. Flattening him down prone, to sleep. Wrapping him in blankets and taking away the bad pictures of the people bleeding. David scoffed at his thoughts, embarrassed at their puerility, though no one was around to witness his thoughts. He pictured his body becoming more and more healthful, stable; suddenly he was so happy, so healthful and young, that he felt likely to cry. Everything was working out so well.

David’s shirt swelled the gap between the collar even more, in even more of a teenaged blasé way. Between the collars was the silver necklace hanging there. He thought of the beach, which lay expansively beyond the wiry stacks of trees and their tusks. It was the place he was to go, the beach, his mother, it was beyond the treetusks that were all dim in the night and looking fake, like projections onto a screen. There was a train crossing ahead. He looked at it, his eyes squinting.

“Huh. Cool,” Excitement ran in David’s veins. The old and dusty road had reworked itself from one long line of pavement and woods into a crossing for it. His personality screamed adventure; the personality that had David’s hand dangling out the car window while speeding, that had him buying these red cars. Something else in him also listed off worries and hesitations, and his mother choired somewhere on in the hesitations, and David held his head and scowled, and dropped his head to the accumulating shadow in his red car. This something else seemed more natural but it was also private, and when he thought of private matters it was almost like the unhappiness. Like squirming in a pit. He did not want that, and he felt the grip of sweat and nervousness more palpably. David laughed to himself, without reason, as if to release some new compression of energy.

The car had been speeding up for some time, very slowly. David had not noticed this: he continued to press his foot to the pedal with ease.

It seemed definitively abandoned, for maybe a few years even. Green, toothy weeds and grass protruded up from the wooden planks and the metal tracks. The pebbles were dusty for the speeding belly of a train had not sent the low wind whooshing around the pebbles or the metal tracks. No wind from a train like a rocket had come to polish the stones here or polish the rusty XING sign. Everything was dust. No train nay anything had cleared the strange tepidity of air, which seemed to congeal on the car windows and soak into the wilderness around David. At the tracks at night the air was like a sauna. His face and body held the primal solitude of a man who knows his death and has no other concern. David stopped the red car on the train tracks and, looking vacuous, instinctively parked his car there. The car had groaned when he stopped; thick, ugly tracks were printed on the road.

. . . . . . .

“Oops,” He said. David laughed, selfmockingly, the façade contained even in isolation. It was as guttural a thing as putting the car into park.

“Well, I suppose I’ll wait. I am kind of tired, anyway.” He sighed, afraid to ruin his good work by putting the car into drive. The selfmocking, breathy façade came out again, as though David were constantly stretching while he was speaking. David did feel sleepy, though. It seemed too complicated to start up the car, at least right now. There was still time, so, he contrived to place his hunched hands on the lever, heaved the lever backward, and the seat moved down, and he lay, and slept. An owl was in a tree nearby, watching him, and gave a contrary hoot before flapping down to grab a mislaid field mouse.

Fear was a bellow from the train. Fear was quick and hopping in David and the train quickly horned out like his fear. It was quick and hopping and severe. And David, for one brief shake and rattle of time, realized he had felt it, the entire trip: fear had nipped at him while he had driven. He had scratched it like something that had bit him, and left it alone, and the itch temporarily had quelled somewhat but did not fully disappear. The itch, the fear, had been slightly and sickly infecting his mind. Only now was the first time the fear had been so close and felt so dire.

But the close fear quelled in a flash after David was fully awake in his car, his red car. The intense feeling had gone so fast that David had now fully forgotten it. He brushed the silver necklace with an absent, contorted hand, but the look on his face was purposeful.

David thought of his mother. He thought of trying to get her, and of being with her. His mother embodied the moon in the lurking night—it was the only lighted thing, giving clarity to those who looked at it, the only clear and purposeful thing. He groaned when he thought that. “Fuck God.” But, he brushed the urgency away, brushed his mother away curtly but kept the purpose of her, and forgot his needs, and his nervousness, as the train chirped out mildly in his ears.

David cackled in the silence, then paused for a few minutes, then cackled again, as he, again, realized the position he was in. So easily could he decide not to move the car. So easily could he decide.

“So easily fucked.” He said. Through big teeth entrenched in big gums. David laughed again. It was a strange thing, doing the unexpected. So many nights David had felt queasy with tedium and routine. The more of a pattern he was in, the more the pattern looked like bars on a cell. He had time. He wanted his mother, but he had time to breathe in the idiosyncrasy: the wild abandon of youth: something so intangible in the wet clutch of his medications, something that morphed and altered as David felt the pills go down and change him. Something that was not a necessity but an evil and wasteful enjoyment clutched David, and David clutched the seat, and felt his bones cave. The seatbelt was wrapped tightly, viciously around him. His eyes rounded in sudden fear: the train was closer, or was it? Was David just imagining that it was closer, or had it actually gotten closer, had it actually moved nearer to him, on the tracks?

The horn of the train gave another muffled yell, which dispersed its sound across the winding wild treefilled hills and the many staunch wooden poles of trees around him. The poles brayed and bent, it seemed, but it was again the yell that did this, snaking across the twisted branches, but this time it was a roar, and a roar not only because of the train’s diminishing distance from David but because David himself heard the sound rattle in him. A thick web of doubt unraveled over him, the strings pointing several different ways to several different choices, strings toppling and crossing each other, the right thing to do suddenly banished from David’s mind.

He gawked at the key in the ignition, moved his hand there. The fingers twitched, searching for meaning in the gesture, searching for something. His pupils widened over the irises like an ink blotter, and David dimly cricked his neck while his strange hands shook; and he gawked also at the gas pedal, and his leg and foot over it were like a useless and heavy log, and he did not move at all but for cricking his neck again and looking down at the seatbelt and doing nothing. The roar of the train. He had just taken his pills.

“This should not happen.” David said.

He had somehow forgotten that the queer white capsules he had been taking had nothing to do with curing his nervousness. It was his mother’s prescription. She had had a retiring case of something or other when David was younger, and had never thrown away the pills, and they sat in her bathroom closet, until David had one day snatched them, wanting a change. Wanting something that was big, something that boiled in him but could never be found in any part of him or anything else, because it was insatiable and always moving.

David was abruptly divided of his whole self: the panic of death, the running metal on metal of the train that seemed to have already destroyed him, now clamored in his chest, which heaved nauseously. The blasé teen, the airhead, the class clown, the jock, the stoner, the goofoffer, the token homosexual, the hardworker, the criminal, together howled furiously in his head like the men and women who bled from their eyes. “My pill, my pill, my pill,” repeated David, and with his words the howling of these individuals.

He did not hear himself. His lips wagged flabbily, transformed the words into ghastly mumbles, and he mumbled and breathed out, but this time did not calm. Web upon web was being woven, made of paths: one path led into a labyrinth of delirious schemes to escape involving force fields and prayers (maybe if he wanted enough not to die, it wouldn’t happen); also, he tried to ignore the train, the fear, and focused on the moonlighted leaves and trees, wishing to forget; he tried to move one part of him only, then another part only, and never moved the two together, then, hearing his chest beat into his jaw, he tried to move every part of him at once.

He grappled with whether he should deal with accepting his fate or continue to rescue himself; and also, not mindful of it, estimated the minutes till his demise, then seconds: David from this acquired some makeshift reassurance, some solace of knowing at least when. He tried to remember what he had forgot, but the very maze of the other thoughts tumbled down over a pragmatic answer, and it was too much effort to still the thump of his heart and remember that the ignition key and the gas pedal were the two elements that would save him. The train gnashed, roared.

However, through the confusion was the simplicity of his destination. He did not need to have any plans but road plans for it. It was his goal, his simple and straight goal; it was not like creating a persona for the personae, one to please one culture, another to please another group. Seeing it in this way was as simple as getting up and going; David seeing himself took time and effort that he did not have. What was important to him was not important to him. His values and virtues were all nice words, and yet, to poor David they were all abstract and unattainable traits, to be given to others and not to him, others worthier than he; so that he could be alone and be ridiculed for being alone. And that was the way he saw it, possibly.

But he thought of the sand, of ocean, of his mother, of the simplicity, and accuracy, of getting up and going, and that cleared David’s mind enough to remember the necklace. He groped at it, the sharp, primal edge that could free him somehow, but, then, felt the responsibility of saving himself stay his hand. The load of life, his life, dragged him down. His arms seemed to collapse like an old building, and his body collapsed, and David slouched in his smug, sad cotton shirt, as though shot.

“I’m not ready for this. I shouldn’t have to do this. What if I fail, what then?” And he gave up, without reason, and blindly demanded his pill, and his hand crinkled in need of it. My pill. My pill.

The train was so close that its sound filtered into the car now, the red car, shaking the seats; and David’s savage hands burst forward, looking for his pill:

“My pill. My pill! My pill!” The headlights of the train clarified the insanity and pain and fear in David’s face with one damning beam and the beam spread further the closer the train came, proliferating the shadows of the wooden poles of trees. It lighted blindingly into David’s red new car. David opened his eyes to the light and to the furious hosanna of the train, and his eyes were as pale as his skin.

As lights and convulsing Earth swam violently about him, and as the train coughed out sparks when it tried vainly to halt against the red new car, and seconds before the train would give a fatal monstrous thrust into the bare frame of the car, David ripped the sharp metal necklace off of him, stabbed it into the seatbelt, cut through the thing and went hurtling out the window. He hit the dirt; a perturbed quiet drummed in the shadowy wood, anticipating collision, a collision itself echoing in the quiet, the trees then suddenly peacefully still…and in the twilight wood there then was a smash and cacophony that blew the birds from the trees, and the wings rustled together out of the oaks and the pines.

The racket tore open the wilderness. David eyed the blur of the Amtrak with no expression. David’s mind sloshed, and his legs sloshed gaily from side to side, and the pants and the elbows of his shirt were patterned with dirt, like the tires of his red new car.

Looking at him, looking at David, you see not shock but nothing—you see a struggle to understand the experience, to comprehend its depth, and then he fails. Because everything is an object to David. You can see that. But you can also see the creation of depth out of David’s mind; the formulation of depth and webs from nothing, the formulation of something simple into something complex and unanswerable. Or maybe none of these things are what David is experiencing. Maybe he is just confused, as he sits on the ground, looking unworried and looking at the train, and hearing the horrible scratching sound of the metal wheels of the train. The big sound grows, grows into the wilderness, soaks up all the feelings of David and all his thoughts, and is so loud that it clogs time itself. The screeching and the cackling and the sparks blow the past out of existence, make the group of seconds that David stares into space on that patch of dirt and rocks seem not like seconds but a wedge of some different time, some purgatory without memory and without feeling; and once you left, you felt no different, but everything was. David threw the ridged necklace to the ground wearily, though it had saved his life, and got up.

He immediately thought of a moral for all this, because his mother had said always to get the most of a unique experience, and this was sensible enough advice.

So, David walked on, limp and restless, and for the moment had forgotten anything had happened, because it was the easiest to do. There we go, there’s the moral: forgetting is always the easiest to do. We forget, and then whatever had happened before loses meaning and weight. We move on, without learning from or facing what happened. People sometimes try to forget, and don’t succeed, and are sad their whole lives. Others don’t mean to forget, and they don’t even know what sadness is, because they don’t remember when they had been sad in the past. Forgetting is such a thorough entity, it is in all of us: one could cultivate an entirely new life by just erasing the old one. David thought of this, or didn’t, and the ocean both in and before him pulsed, and he thought it would be a good idea to forget as slick flames bobbed behind him, feeding off the odd piece of car scrap, drenched in gas.

“Who am I?” He said.

The red remainder of the car jerked away, and it was another quartermile before the train completely stopped.

MAN WEEPING.

[All the fragments walk to jobs where they are paid to be fragments. Their shoulders bend obsequiously away from the morning, jettisoned by force to various altars. Their eyes muse elsewhere, somewhere perhaps less religious, more humane. But then, I only obsess over the dreams of my own eyes enough to perceive a westward direction, nowhere in particular. The fragments’ pink, sinewy lips weave stories or remain chapped in silence. In both cases this is for individual benefit. The words in curls of talk mingle sometimes with the acrid smoke curling from sewage-grates, fanned away by the odd hat. Garbage and exhaust griming the façades of buildings and the innumerable particles of skin are all a part of the dirt that is a dust almost moisture, something vulgarly nameless in it indicating growth, billowing out upon the unlovely impact of one hurled hefty trashbag by men who don’t care anymore, into a mass grave of hefty trashbags in the back of a dumptruck with fetid stink. The CITY air is diseased. The dust is swept into the street and from there has nowhere else to go but into my lungs. The dirt hidden in the air and piling up as we breathe, thriving in shapely sinews between our teeth, passing through our sinewy, chapped, chaste lips. Other limbs, blotted from view by other fragments, and those fragments, squarely blotted by others. Hundreds of fragments squeezed like rotten sardines, improperly sealed, the source of this perhaps in a factory malfunction. Somewhere in the depths of assembly line another snoozing on the sealant. Sardines, all! Lurching down the street and walking on top of each other and together shaking the Earth, melding together all their half-selves into a great two-faced laughing half-living giant Penumbra!–they do not notice, and their hands rustling together and off like a flock of birds, and our big, fat WORLD does not notice what I know that day, and I and I only notic,e with fear, the space inching, inching yet again into the morning, inching like a spider, a lethal spider, that is spidering on slowly, on through the line, with eight hairy legs; that keeps me itching things that don’t itch in the first place. Except sometimes I really have to itch myself, and I feel like a faker if the itches prior to that one are not real. Like I don’t deserve to have a real itch: like I should only itch when I need to hide, and any other time would be to disregard the rules of my life. But I have come to know by now that people do not care about the rules of my life, they pay more attention to that insufferable thing, that—thing, for there, in full pursuit, in all of us, was a space of unutterable nothingness, itself suspended in a different, further nothingness, a space of intensity that rung in my ears, a thing that was yearning itself be filled, yearning, crying, every day, always somewhere sensed, as we walk, up and down, on the flat, chary pavement of our streets.

I think of the gack and tar, straying in puddles throughout. Collapsed potholes.

I scratch my nose and there is no itch in it when I do this. Thing is I feel like a faker if I have to do this silly fake thing just so people won’t look at me in a strange way.

But anyway

The swine in suits now, they are a race now, a curlytailed, whole simulacrum, doling out to the WORLD their sentiments about your inferiority, throwing around their weight, their nervy overstressed superiority and general chauvinistic self-regard, like a race now—swine power—and the swine, in their suits, waiting at the BUSSTOP.

They are dirty like chewed gum and spit together flattened on the pavement. The spine of tire imprints scuffing the tracks of the loafers and boots and sneakers and the socks within them to cover the feet of untranquil bodies, swaying as if hung aloft by a string, waiting for the coming BUS.

All huddled from the pain of wind beneath a small black shelter made and pelted by the CITY over-dramas, both the old ones over with, and the new ones, but it’s all already over with, it was born over with, whatever daily creeps in, any weeping reprobate can find outlet. I hate them though, The Over-Dramas. Dramas! All of anything that communicates the humanity of another I despise, because it is a lie.

What a stop: this damned drab spot. Cracked, with red sanctuaries of rust here and there. A BUSSTOP made and pelted by the CITY minds and the streets.

People in suits you’d never know, and probably wouldn’t understand, standing so close you can see their Pimples and Pores and whatnot, and their Eyes aching. Where people huddled, away from themselves, most crucially themselves, they, clutching to some still-quiescent reserve, like the way the staples hang off their skin. Well not their skin.—

Other skin, thicker skin, stretched over the bubble of every person’s real face, stapled in a strange bubble formation.

Sometimes the bubble gets hot and boils under the skin, you know, putting pressure on the staples, and the bubble hisses the blood and bones and gack through truant veins, gack that come out through the rips and tear apart your body like a doll. But that is only done if you are too long in hiding. When you hide your face under your skin for too long.

I may sound insane, I’m not insane.]

The Wind blows more than ever that day like a vacuum that tries to suck up everything so it can know everything. And yet it is sultry, it is heeding winter. Cold all the same. Made colder when distilled by the passage of day to dark. You should know I hate the dark as much as I hate the wind. On cold nights I awake to the fearful darkness. The stately Roman edges of the buildings of our CITY are manicured by the wind.

Our CITY’s extensive industrial plateau lets free the gusts like an animal formerly chained. The gusts trim aborted newspapers from the streets, meandering like snips of hair down, collecting on your barber’s floor. Natural stuff that gets trashed, like toenails. At least, for the CITY natural.

The caved cement valleys between buildings that to some are alleyways are to me valleys, not alleyways, and the buildings, themselves, sooty mountains. The valleys are humid fissures between buildings knocked into our CITY like dents. They construe the drafts within our lungs from the outside blowing. The drafts whirl past us as we walk: anointing with rage the valleys not alleyways, and within deep sound human; and they inflate the shirts hanging out to dry like a fat human.

And, the entire theater of our CITY, pushing as a clock into service, the prolix of everything pushing pinion to pinion. I view it all: and the mountains that are buildings, and the humid valleys, not alleyways, between the mountains so fat and woebegone, and yet, at the same time, it is all so genius, so sprawlingly efficient.

My window, a wide perfunctory face, huffs itself with steam and cold. Stubbles of frost had developed around the frame overnight. I awaken to the sound of my windowpanes being thrashed by the wind. I watch them seize like a muscle flexing, then droop down again as the wind departs. Then flex, and droop, and on the whole throb rancorously, which made sense, for in my dreams [for I had been sleeping] there had assimilated the inaccurate vision of a bloated heart, and only that, straining and beating with the panes: so let us say I dream that and do not see the glass squares, plastering loudly against their wooden frames, pleading for support, but rather see the beat, and the beat, of my heart.

To this racket I awaken: a low thud against that last cuff of dreams, that last mist before waking, which so many people are able to get through, then wake up from, from the mist, to all this that grows around me. I sensed it had rebelled off the thickness of my skull, as I slept, and now, or soon, it rebels again, and again, off the thickness of my skull, that day, it rebels; another spread of wind, like you know, maybe, like jam, spread like a thick, sticky jam of the wind, in fierce little haste to release its horde of jam-filled locusts: yes: they are locusts, and they are all over my poor window, they are rapping upon my sticky skull: both almost become unhinged, and thereupon, I wake up.

My feet would be cold when I put them to the wood I think and the air around me and the frosty window is cold I think so I hold my breath. I clench my buttocks and I put my feet down to the wood. After that, I go to the window. I feel the window as I fix the hinges. The window is sultry, burning, boiling. The wind is what I will continue to remember,

but, you know, the important things happened before the day happened, before I got up, even, and got to work late. But, the waking smell,

it was the dry smell of wind and of morning. That smell of dormant air soon freshened by morning, likewise the daily morning rot in the mouth decides not to be there, that day, I smell my breath and it is oddly fresh. Like God is getting me fluffed for the performance to come.

God is getting me ready for something big, I think.

I have come to know my life as profoundly sculpted by that day. A singular cross and hedge of time that proved and disproved every thought I’ve ever had about life. All of it was like being in a movie: because I judge my days on how I first feel the rest of that restive day felt movie-like, like a lapse had occurred in the space-time continuum, and the events of that day were handed over to some nebulous yawn of the universe, to be played and copied over and over secretly by God only, until one day our CITY by incalculable chance nets a copy and plays it: the frayed unfocused effigy dripping out my eyes like glue, because it stuck with me: ha: get it: sticky: that day:

Yet, as that day was played out, what should have happened was played out in my eyes, and they overlapped and clashed against themselves, what could have happened and what did happen; and it makes me think it all could have gone differently had I decided not to be a nut. [WEEPS INSIDE]

The situation that day was uncertain in all cases but was especially anxious I sensed to lay bare any passing doubt I had, especially as to exactly where the humanity of things was located, in people, in things, so that at times I felt positively sociopathic, until I realized that this was a humanity alone that my thoughts would entreaty, and might not be the thoughts of others, an idea which seemed to fluctuate with the weather, that day, that is, between human and inhuman, because the wind was strangely warm and things around it were cold, except for the window.

The strangeness of it all was probably God trying to show me the first of the contradictions of that day, and the hot humid air weighing everything down, but the objects, they are sinister and cold to the touch. Not cool capricious wind but a hot-blooded dog blowing up the skirts of our CITY, tapping hats off bald heads, overall not doing anything but fattening the air with high humid larks, while everything else, while the bronze balls of my bedpost of my bed remain cold enough to burn.

And my soul sways like my bedpost when I toss in sleep.

I’ll explain it best I can if I can’t explain it best.

I have toast. Eggs with ketchup. Etc. I have to go to the bathroom and after I urinate, I try to spit into the toilet-water. My phlegm drops onto the seat of the toilet instead so I lick the mass off the seat and spit it into the sink and turn the sink on to rinse the disgusting thing down the drain and when I come back to the table my breakfast is cold.

Lately, The Wind has been trying to turn my apartment into icebox.

It somehow worms itself, through fissures and cracks, shrinking itself briefly from despotism. As in, Wind, felling the frequent pulses of our CITY. As in, the king of the air. Graying the tinctures though the king is colorless. So far, this powerful force only manages, and dwindles. Cachoos that lightly conquer the moment in my place and do nothing more. They twirl around a bit then fall flat. Oh wind: limy hop-footed scavenger, you bully, you make do with small fissures and cracks happening about my house, just to freeze my eggs.

‘It would be cold,’ I had thought. I would be fine I tell myself. ‘I am rational now,’ I had thought. I remember saying to the nothing of my kitchen that I was ‘rational’ that day, and, nobody, nobody but Wind, whistling, elusive and invisible, Dominant, nobody but the curtain lapping, lapping bore audience to that remark.

First off, let me apologize. These thoughts are really tedious ones. Wind, Wind, Wind, over and over, I just keep babbling on about it. I promise I won’t talk about it anymore. I didn’t really think about it much that day besides the morning, when your senses are most vulnerable and your skin seems thinner, beckoning the pain of things.

This bemused observance in the Wind, I felt, throughout my adventure, this is true; but for the most part the Wind heated or froze eventually to no level more than what would cause an equivocal discomfort I impelled to the back of my mind.

I really don’t hold that much weight in my arguments, though. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I’ve been acting out these crazy sort of antics. Crazy people never hold that much weight in their arguments, I guess. But back to the antics: it doesn’t seem anything could go any other way. The antics are all I have. I feel like a rook in a chess game. I move from side to side and up and down only: there’s an abyss always deepening every place else besides up and down and side to side.

You’ll see what I mean.

I walk out of my apartment and my apartment is a threshold. Something sticks to my heels as I walk out of my apartment. Thus out of my life I go. Something sticks to my feet like tar, that sticks them, my feet, to the fused grit concrete SIDEWALK, like we were part of the grit all along. We just pulled out our roots moved around a little and got jobs.

And it causes these unexpected spasms, in my toes, my feet, like vessels pinching.—

I feel the observance I feel the pinch in my feet I close my eyes it pinches and I visualize a contrived lattice of pink bodily nerves in me, squeezing, pinching. I think this, and I wonder if that is what is happening in my body?

I walk down the phallic extension of concrete sidewalk, extending outwards, and feel like someone that lives in the sidewalk will grab me by the ankles and pull my feet under the gum and spit dotting the pavement, pull me under, where the slime flows like chocolate, in the sewer—and tell me things that I would rather not know.

I arrive at the BUSSTOP. There’s a man in a black suit, waiting, with a distinguishing white shirt against the blackness. The man in a black suit sucks his pores away through a cigarette he’s smoking. It is a breast. He does not hold the cigarette with his fingers but rather toys it about his mouth, as though he were picking his teeth with it, chewing it like food, letting it slide over the thin hammock of his lips and catching the filter between his teeth from time to time.

The cigarette, to me at least, seems to be a form of meditation for the man: as though he were tonguing his mind, with the slow rotation of the cigarette across his mouth.

I watch his stocky shoulders melt into his stocky hands, which will sit together complacently away in his pockets some hopeful moment soon, in the moments following, perhaps a bit longer, perhaps. And the limb used to hold the cigarette quitting its silly estrangement from warmth on this chilly day. For now, he smokes, so his hand freezes. The eyelids loll over his eyes. They look at nothing, looking as though intensely preoccupied with some intensely important nothing-matter.

I watch his lips stretch across to the molars, his teeth characterized by an erratic sneer, by those fleshy, baby-like parts the lips that all of us have—the same way a smile characterizes the teeth like a neat white phalanx. Or the way anger grits the teeth into white disorganized realms.

If one were to just see the teeth, without the lips, and face, to distinguish emotion; if they were to see the sole unvarnished skull, they would see only a wide neutral grin, draped below hollow sockets.

Maybe God made skulls that way because he wanted humanity to be happy all the time.

I lower my head with caution. My eyes are motors. They rotate upwards to watch the man in a black suit.

His enjoyment of the orange embers. Etc.

I try to crawl surreptitiously into his world, I try so hard I can almost see the specter of a human when I look at him. This doesn’t happen often. But maybe, I can grind all the pasty relics and shards of his life into something that makes sense to me, not just to him.

But it doesn’t work. Instead I become shallow and I see this man as a novelty. The shards become quaint things to me, weightless and blasé, as if they would sprinkle through the air with one final trademark Gust of the Wind.

These people wanting to get somewhere, but never really needing, just seeking: to fulfill a chophouse errand to an invisible place, a palace I never see but know it is there.

I’m not that crazy. Traveling people have these great looks of almightyfucking focus, like, whatever they’re doing is important to them, and that’s it. Always, and I know, they do it to mock me: because they think I don’t have Purpose like they do.

But they’re not really focused at all. They’re just focused on suckling the teat of the Great Faker even if they don’t know it.

I may sound insane: they’re all in on the joke of the Great Faker and know I’m not and they know I never will be, so I am ostracized simply because I don’t get the joke of the Great Faker.

But I do get the joke of the Great Faker.

It is made to seem like my life is meaningless because it does not ball itself up into the Great Faker’s Almighty Wad of ambition. I see people now laughing in cafés and swigging swigs from their moderately-priced lattes and laughing at me. I have no almighty wad, ball, to give myself I suppose. I’m not insane.

I shouldn’t have come out here they’re all just looking at me.

The Great faker turns you into something hollow like a rotten tree if you don’t have crazy antics like me. Remember what I told you about briefly? Those antics are the only way I know I am well, and still with enough capacity to avoid the Great Faker, at all.

Not antics. Routines. Routines that clog up the Space of Suspense in Nothingness. That get you to think you are untouchable. Which is the closest thing to being untouchable. The problem I have is that the WHITECOLLAR serfs of our CITY also seem untouchable, for some reason: subservience appears as a cause of itself, and repeats through the ages, ranking on beyond the best of us, that there be one above them.

The Almightyfucking Focus, I guess, keeps them from focusing on others. Thus, they seem untouchable, but in reality, they have been touched and fucked by the Great Faker, like vacant idiot dildos.

The Almighty Focus is a very telling trait of one who has whored himself off to the Great Faker, is chained to the serfdom of the Great Faker.

This Almighty Focus, that others have, and I do not, mocks my routines.

I’m telling you. I look on every day at these people. I see their bearded faces, motherless lips. Their clothes, the things that conceal them physically and mentally. Right? But,

I never see into the coils of their parts, their hearts that dangle in their bodies in a canary cage. They conceal them. There’s that word. Conceal. I suppose I had to use that word at some point, but I think it’s often incorrectly defined. Has the Great Faker taken them? I don’t know. [WEEPS INSIDE]

Yeah so what directs the heart? Besides the Great Faker I mean. Nothing directs the heart anymore. My heart’s gone away to live in Vegas off of my alimony. It’s gone.

I’m walking with no heart. I’m left here to the excrement swimming like still fish in the waters of the gutters. I cannot take much more of the Great Faker looking over my shoulder. I just want to forget about it all and give in.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the salty spindles of a goatee, and high cheekbones, and I know it’s the Great Faker, I know it’s him, I turn around and he winks at me, then turns back into another man waiting at the BUSSTOP, now. This man has a goatee as well. A less salty one, mind you.–

Then, I see the goatee and cheekbones again, but it’s only when I blink, after I blink I see the darkness as my eyes close, I see the Great Faker only then, in a flash with my eyes closed—I feel like he’s trying to tell me something. And, then, I open my eyes and see our CITY: but still his image is impressed all over my eyes, and at the outskirts of every focal point, trying to tell me something, or maybe nothing, maybe I just want him to try and explain to me why everyone loves him so much, him and his trademark fucking dark black goatee swaying sillily in the trademark wind. Never really dwell on the Worlds of other people, nope. Except for that one time just now with the smoking man and I was feeling adventurous. Just wait for that good Space of Suspenseful Nothingness to close up. Then, I can go to my job. The space in that line drags on forever, like a line through the sand, displacing all the atomies of the sand, pushing aside all the crumbs of the sand on the white board on everyone’s face, so that the board is all white, pushing, until no sand can be seen on the white board, because something that is all one thing can never merge with any other thing; I tell you, push the sand apart, with the stick of the Great Faker, and you will see that the face has become the soul, indeed, here, in our CITY, the

faces, the many faces, and just a white board: that tries to push apart the sand, white and empty, and so flawed that the boards have entered a sort of flawlessness, accepted by others as resultant of being statically beyond repair. They all have too much sand to get rid of but they all keep trying to get rid of the sand so they can affirm some individuality in them that they haven’t given up because everyone has the same sand on the white board of their faces and that’s what makes everyone the same but the only board that doesn’t have any sand on it belongs to the Great Faker, which is why everyone follows him, because they want to get rid of the sand: there is always going to be sand on the white board,

though, but, there is a beat, a drumming order to the perversion of them: the way they are perverted by the Great Faker, they are, people picking their asses like no one is watching, tapping their kitschy tennis shoes waiting for the BUS: I count them one two three four five six there are six of them that are the same inside though outside they may look different, I mean, maybe that’s why people make their souls into faces, because at least their faces are different even if those faces are plagued by the same sand, but, also, these people make their souls into faces because it is simpler, it has symmetry to it.

The longer you make your soul into a face, the more sense it makes to continue doing it. I mean, if the soul was inside you—you couldn’t see it, couldn’t comprehend it; why not shrink it down to more sensible diagrams? Diagrams that can be figured into order, like the order of a Face:

Part I

I count the buttons on my jacket. A stiff breeze snakes itself through the perforations in my clothing. My shirt my coat my pants my underwear. A chill runs down my spine, like the spine is drying itself off, like a dog, or it is like a cat catching his musk, and I rub my imperfect shoe against the ground, and feel the merciless concrete sidewalk. Oh, bestial pave…something is going on in my head right now: I can’t make sense of it: my perspective is a teeter-totter: my perspective changes balance, as though my perspective were breathing with my lungs, pumping with my veins:

I switch between two WORLDs. Standing at the BUSSTOP as myself, being as much myself as I have always been, organized, unique, intelligent, great, this is the first WORLD; and I stand as someone else, someone who senses he is trapped in the implacable goo of his own retributive processes, more reasons for revenge sprouting from botched retributions, things that did not even maim.

I am also someone who questions how eloquent his own thoughts are if he has sensed the presence of a powerful force over people, only to stamp that force with as juvenile and jejune a sobriquet if you want to use the fancy word, as ‘The Great Faker’ or, oh, yeah, ‘That Space of Suspense in Nothingness.’ Ha: and, this is the second WORLD, which, I suspect, breeds from the natural doubt I often have towards myself and my endeavors. Interesting that both WORLDs are just as sensible, just as judicious.

I tighten my gloves against the Wind.

I feel like my words are spreading rumors about me. Cupping their hands when they mention my name or my purpose, through the language they embody.

It is as though I say my feelings about what it is that I say, and yet what I say is not how I feel. The words themselves are laughing at how insanely they are being used.

The thing is that the line in the sand made by the stick from the Great Faker—because the only reason people follow the Great Faker is that he is able to dust off some of their sand with a stick—turns the sand into something completely different: it turns the sand into something that makes the white board compress into a narrow crevice, drawn out with the stick by the Great Faker. I am repeating his name too much, it makes me woozy, I will stop–the narrow lifeless crevice displaces the nature of everything so that people have no nature anymore and have to look at their watches or sniff or cough or communicate the barrenness of themselves, speechlessly: they look at me, and smile, utterly briefly, then, their faces begin to crack into fissures, the horrible gack oozing from their faces through thick stapled skin. They leave it there to rot, and let bacteria congregate around the wound. Someone does that to me just now, and I smile back, pus flying everywhere.

Waiting, so simple and benign, it seems! Something that should be done without thinking, it seems! Sometimes, I hear people around me thinking and during that space of time at the BUSSTOP, the people waiting with me all speak their thoughts together in my head, to the point I can barely make out my own thoughts. The people howl together like a dog and scream in my head because they are all nervous that the Wind will get them. The people shouting in my head, and stuff…I want to tell the person next to me that it’s ok I know you’re normal. I loathe how they think they’re not, when they tell me in my head. They don’t know what abnormal is, they’re not even in that realm, that recess of abnormality.

Let me just say that the voices in my head are purely metaphorical. Just for the sake of proving to you there are some sheltered scraps of normal thoughts and behaviors still whirligigging. Sometimes I feel like these people are the same as I. Yeah, I bet they’re just as anxious as I am to close that lordly Space of Suspense in Nothingness.

Just, like, acknowledge it and get on with their day.

I don’t know how to pull myself together. [WEEPS INSIDE]

These people! They’re protected by the stupid Great Faker so they shouldn’t be worried about the wind. But they are worried. I need to be worried about the Wind because the Great Faker spies on me through the Wind and blows up the skirts of people and taps hats off bald heads like a dog. The words are shouting in my head, right now, as I peacefully stand and wait at the BUSSTOP. They always shout in the most uncomfortable spots.

The thing is I hear them plainly. I really do, I sympathize. But I am not letting on that I sympathize. Because that would mean I would want to connect to other people, and if the Wind knew of that weakness it would get me.

The Great Faker and the monster in the BUS and the Wind are an axis, drying out the LIFE of people. They all work for one another and the monster and the Wind both work for the Great Faker. Alright I’ll start over: because of the Wind, and the apparent master of the WORLD, called the Great Faker, pushing the wind—and the trite inquiry as to the time of day, from a passerby—someone makes me have to look at my watch and tell her the time, and, thus, I scratch the Space of Suspense in Nothingness, like the ears of a dog—because of the judgment of the Great Faker, that annoys in the Wind, and the judgment of people, who sense I am different from them: because of all this I have become the tragic victim of Routine.

You know…those crazy antics? The ones that keep you away from the Great Faker? He has shaken out everyone’s sawdust and put his own sawdust into everyone. I have developed a routine to rid myself of his trickery, though. If I let him, he could deceive me into thinking that I don’t need to rid myself of the sand on my own white board, that he can do it to me with his stick. But I can get rid of my own sand thank you very much.

My routine.

I do this not because I want to keep my sawdust, but—because I cannot do anything else, or I will lose. I need to keep thinking my own thoughts or else he will start thinking his thoughts in my head: the Wind would get me if I did anything before thinking, anything that slackens the armor, any blood that seeps through, I wipe up.

Inevitably I’m so bothered with routine that I don’t bother to know about people.

They seem so full of contempt anyway. So full of apelike superiority, so full of almighty focus, so full, that they don’t bother to know at all about me. The thing that most oppresses me is the fact that these people don’t care at all about me.

Because of this I sometimes try to care about them: so, I smile, so they can smile back to me, so they can look at me, and say, “Hey, he’s a nice fellow. I should care about him.” And, that sometimes makes me feel better, about the masses. I mean I almost want to be a part of them when I feel like this, even if it would mean being a part of, well, you know: but then there’s that troublesome liquid growing growlingly under my face, the skin, thickening with fluid.

All I seem to know is that they are as impatient as I am on, this damn tired Space of Suspense in Nothingness. On this curb in the line for the BUS.

Smiling does nothing, besides keeping the staples intact, of course. Why would I have staples, you ask? Well, I may not be a part of the masses, but I am too much of a skeptic to believe that I have not grown a second skin myself,

however thin a coating may there be.

The thing that sometimes compels me to roll my eyes: my vacillation, my alienation is by no means an original concept.

This is somewhat paradoxical—the syndrome of the black sheep, the contagion of those who are rejected, those who break a crust of bread their own—this is celebrated in fiction, in philosophy. These fucking jailbirds are everywhere.

On the Glassy Surface of our CITY–to be unique is to be a saint.

But, ah, this, is, on, the glassy, surface, only.

Taking all that has been said into the jumble of things, you can now recognize what is rattling in me like a marble in a tin can. I stand here, and do that repulsive thing called waiting, and I wait, and am repulsed at it. Too afraid even to shift my weight slightly, disturb the rigorous hold of my slacks. Damn slacks. I wish I could twiddle my thumbs, expend some sedentary load, however teensy, but I do not.

And it is a sheet because it is warm inside and covers the whole city like a soiled rueful sheet. How terrifying is the idea of public travel, the pressure of it is everywhere, making everything shrunken and unyielding. To travel is to expand yet we condense.

The servile nature of it: the BUS is not aiding us we are aiding the Monster in the BUS. We are all going places, but no one is moving just judging. This being of truculent metal, its headlights scowling, ingesting my caked-up fear. I could go for some CARROT CAKE right now. Carrot cake and a coffee with lots of milk and sugar. I am hungry so I lick my lips. It must have looked weird. Whenever I eat, it is as though I am digesting my head. My mind goes even further into itself, into the bowels of itself. My peripheral vision goes away, and I eat a TUNA SANDWICH and drink my SHAKE and my synapses finger the taste of the meal. The primitive satiety of food being swallowed. Food for enjoyment, underneath it all food for survival. No one wants to admit that. All that is casual about eating is null when put against the fact that food has a convenient propensity to make us live. All that is casual, fosters necessity. We live in a WORLD where necessity is taboo. One would rather keep his cool, and amble over to the emergency room, or at least the front desk, where he can take a number with all the other maimed schmucks—rather than scream what he really wants to scream:

“MY LEG! IT IS BROKEN! OH, THE PAIN! THE INTOLERABLE PAIN!”

It is a common misconception that people feel uncomfortable in the presence of strangers because, in shyness, they are daunted by the rather obvious fact of a lack of familiarity. For a long time, I have known that the opposite is true. Let me explain:

You see, when I talk about the Monster in the BUS, or Truculent Being, if you will, in itself, I do not mean the Great Faker. He at least makes people feel normal; the Monster in the BUS makes them wary of any others because the Monster exposes everyone to the Space of Suspense in Nothingness.

This exposure sprinkles some nice confections, there, on the minestrone. The confections make us have awkward feelings of shyness towards strangers, which causes the discomfort, in one’s realizing their aforementioned exposure.

Yes. It eats itself. As you could guess.

The Space of Suspense in Nothingness makes people uncomfortable because in the presence of strangers, it is not shyness that is the culprit. Truthfully, people are able to see bits of themselves in the strangers around them, this recognizance imbuing in them a suspicion that they do not control their own lives, that some God has made them all alike, all into copies of the same lemming.

So you see, now, that the awkward feeling one may have towards strangers comes not from any unfamiliar grounds, but from the sense that one has tread those grounds before, and the only reason one cannot, when in the close mien of friends, descry the Space of Suspense in Nothingness—the reason the same discomfort is not felt among those who are familiar with one another—has to do with the fact that one’s amenity to the Great Faker is blurred in the eyes of a friend, blurred by that friend’s subconscious will to see no darkness, fear, nor discomfort, in the happy aspect of his or her comrade.

I guess, now, after talking you through that, it should be obvious, that I have no friends. As a result, my perception is not blurred, as it would be if I did have friends; and thus, I see the Great Faker in everyone, I suspect everyone. Granted, in a sense I too am like Them because I too am ruffled by the Truculent Being in the BUS, and uh the Space of Suspense in Nothingness, so.

But I don’t know like I said I never could know. I go on with the tedium of routine and I wait in the line at the BUSSTOP like I said. Routine, the bore of my life it is. But it’s still a plan! A plan that can lead me through life, piece by piece. It gives me a calmer perspective on the pieces. It is the one level I have above all my problems. It is a necessary procedure. It is a saintly procedure.

I keep yammering on about this…self-christened ‘Space of Suspense in Nothingness,’ and you do not ask what it is? Do you want to know? I’ll tell you.

It is by definition, I guess a—yawn—if anything—yes—a brutally unrequited yawn requiting uncertainty…a hidden motion, incomprehensible and fast. Blipping across the inner radars of men. It is not blatant like a muscle flexing or a shot look. It is something more transitive. I guess you could say it is like being in an elevator with only one person.

Both of you depress everything, depress your lungs, still your heart, and by doing so, your goop stands stiller than still. Pardon the strange phrasing. You bolt the harnesses of otherness at the bottoms of your legs, so you don’t kick the other, and—look at the ground. You pretend to think about something else. You play with the personal trinkets at hand [a cufflink, a watch] and, most importantly, you never speak. If you do, you’re never sure what it is that’ll come out, or how long you’ll be able to speak normally before your voice starts to twang up and down, or croak, or something. But, ah, it is more than that.

It plucks at all the notes my daily frustrations manage to hit: the falsetto the staccato. Plucking the notes, and making it all ache a bit more, like an instrument, playing me, the Space of Suspense in Nothingness does this; it craves to open wide the futility of my character, so it plays me. Like the Great Faker wishes to play me I do not let him play me. Like a clam, it wants to open up the futility of my character, my character.

Any sudden reel from the norm prompts the gestation of a worse monster, worse than the wind worse than the BUS. I have a lot of monsters:

One that magnifies my every move into a spangle of wrongs it immediately turns into propaganda against my wrongness; one that publicizes accidental trips of the muscle, so that all those catty eyes of the catty people who staple their thick skin back together every morning can see that ‘trip’ and know once and finally for all that something with me is not right, and when the masses see that I am not right, then the Great Faker will see that I am not right, and he will make me right. Oh, this monster.

This Monster is a worm. Ha. It constantly forces itself into my thoughts like a worm. The more I try not to think about it, the more powerful the sensation of the worm becomes. It is like when I was little at SUMMER CAMP playing soccer and. Then suddenly, I said,

“FUCK GOD FUCK GOD” even though I didn’t want to,

what I suppose was the worm wanted me to: the worm was pushing with its misconceived little finger on some relative button in me, it was as if trying not to express something taboo gave it all the more attraction; an instinctual avoidance kicked in, and I left the soccer game, and went to curl up under the merciful shade of a tree. Jabbering on about Fucking God. “FUCK GOD FUCK GOD.”

—The worm has many faces speaking in a language that is occult and ominous and long gone. The languages shriek at me. The languages shriek at me like the people do, in my head. Maybe they are the same thing.

The worm inches its way into me, kneading and squirming in the dirt, there: maybe the right squirm, one day, will send right flying all the muscles I smooth over, smoothed by the quaffed Nepenthe of my Lassitude, all the fists I must make red, and then pocket, each day—send them flying into space, into that abyss of the unrestrained. My big fat rook, traversing the squares of a bishop.

Because I am in public you see and when my hands are in my pocket they are surrounded by something like the cotton walls of the pocket and when they are out of my pocket in public my hands are in the quite relative atmosphere of our CITY that has so many possibilities in it, electrifying the air. Send them flying for who knows where, and with a power that I don’t know and have always balked at knowing.

Send them flying like tentacles, tentacles with suction cups. The tentacles would not spare anyone.

Why would my tentacles no not spare anyone? Because, and I know: they, being my fists, my legs, anything lethal that is attached to me, the worm—all those things want their violence to hold the value of something absolute, i.e. not sparing one life—absolute—dry and pure and all the bad things discarded from it, absolute, it would be the only thing in our CITY that was absolute. [WEEPS INSIDE]

My hand wants to explode and send flesh and blood onto this stupid line so they know for the first time what they have made me into but instead I just pull up my gloves a bit and that eases me, I go through the means of that motion as though it were a natural process–but then my ear wants to explode so I cover it quickly with my hand so no one can see, and the quick jerk of my hand to my ear makes two people stare back at me strangely. Their eyes are dirty white heavens that make me want to spew:

“Mosquito,” I manage to belch this placation out and there is a flash in my head of me spewing. As if it were mosquito season in the dead of winter! What they all don’t know is that every step of life is as procedural as a coffee maker. Some just furnish the steps with a more natural grace. I do not have that grace. But that’s why there’s this routine I keep talking about. Do you want to know?

The main thing I do when most vulnerable to the Space of Suspense in Nothingness is I hold my movements to my chest when people around me start to breathe, or shuffle their feet, look at their watch. I hold it tighter when asked the time; tighter, when offered thin hellos, coughed sparingly from others, their noses thinner than their words—and with their words comes the necessity for you to return the droll greeting, whether with a curt nod, or the word itself. What makes me sick is how these people can fool me into thinking that they really wish for my friendship.

The WORLD of our CITY is stuffed with fragile connections: the absurd ones, the hellos for instance, become knotted together in a glutted convoluted sphere that eventually melts and washes over our CITY: a flood of trite nods and hellos and failed attempts at human association. The other more singular connections merely buckle slower, and break like ice from the societal glacier, into the largesse of other melted meetings: the forgotten name of a co-worker, the avoidance of a fellow you met at a party and never saw again, the feigned happiness at a relative’s arrival–these are the fruits of a person’s lazy try at human interaction. If you want to know me, know me. But there is no need to. You do.

For I, too, am you; for, I am all.

I look around: and, my eyes stop, for a moment, on each face, so ignorant, banal, all of them, ghosts that stand up, once filled with life, now minimized, now staring at THE DAILY NEWSPAPER, never absorbing, just slowly blurring, it is only when we look at ourselves and see the triviality of that self, gawking in the mirror, that we reach to suckle at the other, outsider selves, in the hopes of making some sort of correction, in our souls, through whatever self we find, on the outside.

The thing is, the more you suckle on an outsider self, the more of a second skin you have to wear. I’m not insane.

The more the grime begins to clot behind the mask of your fake self, the more your real self begins to roll downwards, into your heart, which in turn shrinks, and it shrinks, which is why I hate going out: because I have too much to correct, and I don’t want to end up wearing a mask in place of a heart shrunk to nothing! But ah I am at least above those who stoop to suckling, ah! AH!

I walk out of my house each day. The sidewalk is made up of large cement sheets that come after one another and create cement crevices in the sidewalk. I try not to touch the crevices with my feet. And, of course, I walk fast, so nobody has time to notice this rule of mine.

I keep my hands in my pockets all the way to our BUSSTOP. So that they don’t fly off and hit someone. I keep gloves on to conceal my silly hands further.

In this way I stand as straight as I can on the left hand corner of our BUSSTOP, where people tend not to build up, and think of a ruler: and try to straighten even the curvy bones of my knees, and breathe deeply for two seconds, deep, because, the body, of course, needs oodles of oxygen, and exhale, and wait another eight seconds, and, I count the numbers in my head with a ‘Mississippi’ for good measure. And—wait. Oh no. Haha.

Oh no thinking about it is itself a folly when it comes to it being done properly. This is a process to be done without any emphasis on its purpose or, indeed, method.

If I do start to think that maybe I don’t have to live this way, I get confused. My personality becomes a teeter-totter. I turn into two people. I immediately lose what momentum I had in my body to the braking realization that this could all be a farce. And that is a problem: you see—I was born without momentum, without the mental strength to make action acquaint with reaction.

As a result, I must lay out each day like a blanket, pre-made, straight and flat and the same from end to end, most people are born with wheels like circles, I was born with wheels like squares. That is all I have energy for, please.

But just because my days are the same doesn’t mean I am just another roaming cog within the apparatus of our CITY; nor am I akin to the nihilistic post-modern depression of most white-collar business suits, snoots, a brooding genus of American culture that is nowadays the favorite topic of existential NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERS and book-of-the-weeks.

I refer to those people as suits, because they are that and nothing more. I am none of those. Because, I have my mind: it is my thoughts that are my flesh and my bones: my brain, I am sure, not only cogitates in my skull but my hands and arms and belly, and by that I mean the physical fat of my brain has literally been stuffed into my whole body.

Yes. My mind distinguishes me so much, that it has gone through the trouble of distinguishing me physically, yes, although no one can see it; literally, if I were to be cut, bits of brain would come out, instead of blood.

That is why I avoid getting cut or else I might lose intelligence, I may sound insane, ha, then again, I keep apologizing to no one! What a day it is to think! I fear any arrhythmia in my pattern. If it breaks, I have nothing but my feet on the ground, and I would feel this sensation disperse as well with time, and thence-flaccid hope. I think about these purveyors of small talk, you see.

A grim chuckle almost escapes from the nepenthe of my lassitude. As I think in the back of my mind—I think, what if I cut myself? Right now, just to see what it’s like and if brains come out? It would be bad but still…

I like to think my stomach and heart and lungs are managed together and straight down like tidy cards, but they are not: they are lined with cragulous, indulgently placed veins, and are snared within a jungle of muscle and fat and blood like a repulsive mobile!

But HA!

—Small talk. Made by those who are afraid to have the realm of their lives crack slightly, but, more importantly, open slightly; too afraid to take action without a foundation, even if they might have two perfectly good legs to stand on. Those who cannot go on without a little gab, because they cannot bear the Hiss.

The Hiss of Silence makes people even more rotten, if you ask me. Sometimes, eh, it is hard for me to explain things.

I believe that my chowderheaded chowder of images and castigation is nearing a point in the story, which is to say, the catastasis:

Which means that something sort of climactic/important is about to happen because, you see, this little cyst between my temples goes much too far now, for just being a cyst.

And to be honest all that chowder doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s all really barely footed, but for the physic of my foot stuck to the ground: and meanwhile, my chowder percolates upwards, into the lofty, the genius, the trite, mostly, the trite. A dash of genius. I hope.

If you live in our CITY, you will come to hate these people I call teen tribes.

Sometimes you see them as they get out of school. Sometimes you see them before they even go to school. Sometimes they’re on a ‘field trip’—but besides all that—they’re never around, so I’m usually safe to go about my own rhetoric.

But when they are here there are always a lot of them and do they ever talk, and do they ever talk!–

They stomp out on the concrete like washing machines and they step on the cracks of the sidewalk when they know they’re not supposed to and talk all thousands of them like a mass of talk and saturation and fluids and their hairstyles are in their mouths, blowing into people’s faces and it is like a chorus of the things I hate, a mountain of Talk! that bears on everything like a great, voluble avalanche.

An oppressive brachial loudness. Loudness jamming the air like an avalanche. A mountain of grease and words.

I hear them acutely, like the electric sibilance of television—the hiss of the silence slung over the words of the talking heads, like a coward peeking through the bush.

They usually go down the street after, but today they have decided to go down this street. Through some manic whim. I feel self-conscious. I feel awkward. I feel criticized. They talk and scream at each other, like dogs.

I think strange thoughts: I think strange thoughts that I can’t explain. Things that are unnatural things that worry me.

I begin—I begin to want to laugh with these morons. Laugh in the same way a high ledge dares you to jump. I am taken by the bubbling urge to start a fight, or scream, or sing, or grope a woman, or a man, and what is worse is that there is no reason dictating this. I begin to squeeze my hands, over and over, imagining something being crushed under that small weight, like molecules or cells. I shut my eyes, over and over, flattening the little dust as by chance might’ve wafted onto the lenses. Yes, yes, that would teach them. And

and yet they hurt my ears and my ears begin to hurt my head and I feel my hands and my arms begin to rise and peel away from my mind to hit someone, until they die: but instead, I put my tongue to the roof of my mouth, and for some reason this always calms me: but, the talk, talk, talk.—

The hollow meat of it: talk: that lazy cousin of action.

See I locked up my mind this morning like I always do this morning I doubled it and redoubled it and chained it up so much that I almost locked myself in in fact I might have locked myself in and yet this happens and everything my points my ideas they are dashed away into that loose confederation of talk from tribes, talk from tribes,

and I hate—the tribes, there’s so many kids, so many people walking I just, I just can’t take it. [WEEPS INSIDE]

Part II :

I begin to see these little red spots out of the corner of my eyes. These miniscule red spots that waft about my eyes.

And, they oscillate to and fro, in these miniscule red flocks of twelve, the red spots do this, and, then, I see: these neon green squiggles in my eyes that want to show me that life is not that bad, is not bad at all.

And each of the squiggles says one word to me without a mouth and then the squiggle, or whatever, goes falling through my iris into the cavern of my head and suddenly I am no longer myself but I am everything and any ego I had dwelling disappears for a pale instant, and I see

someone’s perky pencil of a sister. Just beginning to rudder her way through the longitude of teen years. Passing waifish through that arcade of depleted selfhood and innocence: young Lotharios turned by sex into Louts, and

I see her mushrooms of perhaps darkness, and of doubt, growing with each year in her; and I see moments

The friction of feet against gravel; the touch of an elbow in a crowd; the careening of blonde hair through the wind; the vacuity of a baby’s understanding; the baby’s mother’s perusal of the dairy isle, or her father’s reading of the paper; a truck’s headlight before a crash on a wet road

The light of the headlight screened by the fecund drips of the rainwater. And then the crash and the intimacy of the metal and the dropping out of life, and the victim swaying into death. And his sudden value for that lone headlight in the last seconds of breathing, because it was the last real thing he will ever see again

All the mundane things and wonderful things and horrible things here turned sojourn by the very majesty of life. By the poetry of only living and taking that perpetually retiring chance to live the zest again, along with the torment, and the zest and the torment both equal in their importance. You see I used to have this chaotic little fantasy,

whereby I imagined, every person I walked past in that moment when I and the person were closest to one another, before going our separate ways—at this moment, I would imagine this person revealing a knife from some random nest in their pocket and stabbing me.

Every time I passed someone on the street, there would be a flash, in my mind’s eye, of me being stabbed.

Up until now, I had not realized this was crazy, and, well, if I can dream up crazy things like this regularly, then maybe all the other things I had previously thought to be real were actually not so,

and that, at the nut of every being is a platonic connection to their fellow man, that/whom may pass by them on the street. And yet they do not stab. No one actually had the knife behind their back, it seemed. Or something.

No one had, shaking, in even some primordial alpha-chest, a passion for violence. They…we…I…have only passions for connection, etc.

Mechanisms made reactions to mechanisms. And they still do to this day, tricky buggers. But:

My mind had fissures in it: my mind it almost decided to abandon its dithering post and up and leak through the fissures, like a gas leak. I dodged unmarked things in my head. As yet unmarked things, placed along the latitude of my head, or longitude, whatever I said. The mouths of the fissures in my head were soon covered, my hand stopped shaking, I realized abruptly it had been shaking for that entire ordeal. The cacophony ended.

The tribes siphoned themselves back into some one of many a variable flume of our CITY and the silt of their voices a drifted wastrel like sewage into nothing, and I felt different now.

I felt suspicious. Aware, now, of my position. Like I finally knew what they were all up to. I saw them, saw them finally for what they were, these diaphanous hominids, these open books were suddenly that.

There were no longer any questions about it no questions about the man with the cigarette who would definitely not have lent me a dollar if I had asked him; and the rich lady in some furry hat who was waiting, too, alongside him.

An eternal layabout for a carelessly rich husband, who bilked him out of more and more gaup.–

And yet, she got the botox to make him love her.–

The civic booby of a man I saw, also, every day, and always on time, at our BUSSTOP, who would always let people onto the BUS before him.

But I saw him one day and he didn’t get on the BUS after letting everyone cut him in line—and he would say, “Here you go. Here you go.” Waving his hands when he wanted someone to cut him and the day after and the day after that he didn’t get on the fucking BUS either so I realized he just plain never got on the fucking BUS to begin with he just wanted some quick thankfulness from strangers.

An appreciative nod perhaps that I always gave him out of pity for he was the type of person who never had enough of something to join the Great Faker though he wanted to and so uh whored his spot on the BUS out, in order to get, garner, lasso, wrangle, snatch up the dropping crumbs of the appreciation of those who got to do so, got to eat up that whole wretched baffling food.

It was all so pathetic. So passive-aggressive, so…these people were, so wretched baffling, and. Are to this day too. Nasty.—

How could I ever get to know them, how could I even try? It was not as though one could waltz up to a stranger on the street and proclaim friendship. Friendship is an equation that cannot be solved without Time, Time I had none any of.

But I did not know exactly what it was that I was seeing I didn’t know exactly what it was that made me become so damned fucking cold towards everyone.

A minute ago, I was praising everyone’s name, instead of figuring it out I burrowed even further into myself out of frustration. He, ‘HE’ ehr, did.

All this phrenic trouble just waiting for a BUS. It didn’t well, it didn’t feel like anyone noticed me. I could feel people staring at my coat. I know it sounds kooky. But I felt it. A confused miracle of pressure lightly lightly on my back. Where I could not see.

Perhaps the answer to whatever it was I was wondering about was located on my back! Ah! I touched my back and nothing was there so I thought of all those eyes!–

Yeah, the faultfinding eyes and the dew-lacquered brown pupils. The dew washed over the eyes and seeming valid and paring the touch. That were inhuman and disgusting.

Pupils that spread their shaded selves large over the eyes, pupils that were holes, pupils that swirled in their holes like the cartilage that swirled all round in my ears like fish.

They looked at me, and fed well from my embarrassment, and struck hands in me, grabbing for my innards, unflinching, terrifying, but I could tell, trying to hide something, like I was; and, I closed the balls of my own eyes, as I saw them: the eyes all expressionless and pulsing, the middle of them—so dark, that the color itself pulsed—it was, in any case, a poignant feeling.

I gazed in confusion at the emotions and desires and the unknowable facts behind them that I could never see. I only was able to gaze at them, with fascination, as if they were animals in a ZOO.

Things, things in the eyes, things I had many times warped out of fathoming at all with my tonedeaf postulations and my cynicisms chancing wry. Things in the eyes that was just the beginning—what more could I learn or claim to learn by examining the entire body of another human!

What criminal fallacies could I find by pulling apart the calluses of a hand, or by pinching the fastened skin of an earlobe?

All facial limb or bodily feature conspired or conspires or whatever the tense is at this point, I don’t care, it conspires to conceal what

hath corrupted, uh Them. The facts of their lives that hung on Them, like chains, and I knew, indeed, how hard it was to muffle the rattle of my chains. I was sweating.

The man in the black suit was still there: by then he was probably past his sixth cigarette. All of them were waiting. There was an arrhythmia of feet tapping against the gummy concrete. Feet that wished to sprout roots and cling to the ground: a sensation crept over me, then: I realized that just standing there, completely silent, I had done some of the greatest thinking of my life.

It was like this: I had had all these strange thoughts before, but I had never assimilated them as concisely as I had that day, today. Spontaneously! Never before had I been thinking, truly, with such verve! Such dynamic! Ah such clarity there was to all that went through my head, so unbelievably acutely did I feel the stability of ground beneath my feet, that I juggled with the idea of whether I had been drugged.

The man in the black suit was at the front of the line; I was nearer the back. Various men and women were in the middle. A girl ran panicked across the street from the curb and the curb was delineated by the gleam, the glower, of the lights, coming. The BUS of our CITY stopped at the front of the line, with a Hiss.

The man in a black suit did not toss aside his cigarette in a way that one would usually toss aside something that was killing you.

I walked past the defeated ashes of the cigarette, and I contemplated crushing the filter into the ground, just to release energy, you know, to improvise something, but I did not do that no and stepped up the rubber steps into nothingness.

You did not do anything on the bus. That’s why it was nothingness. You dug your shoes into the filthy rubber floor, and fiddled, maybe, with the BUSPASS you had just used, folding it over itself with your fingers until it became a tiny square. This can be done, with one hand, in your pocket, so as to avoid looking conspicuous.

You grabbed the shiny pole that sprouted from the floor. And you felt yourself sink and dive as the bus went on inclining and declining.

And there were rules, too: the rules on the BUS were [1] that everyone sat, [2] no one stood, and [3] you could not look at anyone. Unless things got crowded; then people were forced to stand.

Their shoulders go icy cold if I push past them, if they push past me. Their cheeks go blue.

And their tongues dried up. The BUSMAN sat with sunglasses, wide and blank. Sunglasses, he looked nowhere you could see. Glasses like a group of actions and emotions contained dully behind that blubbery, especial second skin. What was called a job. Some people got so swept away into the busy whirlwind of jobs simply so that they could afford to be indifferent about everything else.

I fiddled around. It was easier to maintain composure on the BUS if you were sitting. I laid my bag down. I suddenly realized I had brought my bag, a bag.

As though it were an item intruding upon a place and time disparate from its own: suspicious nervous of the place it had been ushered into. It was like a leather sheep with a zipper.

I did, do not blame the bag, I too would be suspicious—only controlled by the hand grasping. No feet to command whatever impartial ambition a bag might have. It merely levitated around its owner, serving its purpose, never sure of a thing, but it helped me out because then I played with the zipper, and pretended not to know what was inside [even though people already could see through my whole façade] and opened it up and pretended to look at what was in it.

And as I was lucky enough to have found a seat, my body and ass vibrated with the heated movements of the BUS, and I grabbed the edge of my seat firmly, for if I fell off the seat, I wouldn’t know what to do.

I expatiated on such a situation.

And after a while, the end of my spine began to tingle, and I felt like I was going to finally drop down, because my mind had never let me imagine what I would do.

Predicting future actions to a hypothetical is something quite foreign to me, I don’t have the imagination. [Jesus who was he?]

I looked at the corner and not, did not–

Weary suspicion. [First stop] mindless functioning with something. That needed to be done. The wheels slid over the asphalt. The potholes jarring. Fiddling with lint in my pocket. The BUSSPASS was already folded, unto oblivion.

And one needed to curb their thoughts, use a width of thick skin, even if the thick skin was incomplete, or made you incomplete. For some reason, I understood the feeling of being tired of myself.

[The wind blew from a second stop] I did not, no, I don’t like the stops. The rapping of feet on the BUS floor interfered with benign reflections on the benign. The odd loudmouth that came in.

And I [watched him] tried to keep a person’s actions from my mind.

He had come onto the BUS when I had and had sat down across from me.

The man in the black suit, he got off. He got off he lit a millionth cigarette, he squinted into a destination. I tried to find what he was looking at. I was sweating [stop now, stop it].

I looked to the ground. I shuffled my feet. An old BUSSPASS folded in half on the ground.

PART III

It was a gentle humming at first.

A joke. A very bad one, Suspended in the isolate air.

Then, we were fixed to our seats as though by nails. A variable whimper—like a burp—natural and rolling. A sigh a blow a sniff. These tentative chasms of sadness: all hilariously brisk.

Then screams. Horribly stifled ones, with so much energy—anchored down to their little, suffering things. As moans, as sobs hinting at some graver cleft in the feeling, some crueler tone dared not to be expressed.

He would not show us that cleft, and even if he lost control, it would not really be losing control, of course. There would still remain an unconscious will to curb that cleft—to be coddled by his Great Faker.

And to have that singular cadence of approval from Him-Holy oh Hosanna-fuck.

The Great Faker, and, and, and: then, the real screams, open and wild, like something that tried to be utterly said from the coffin of truth up through the dirt just as loud through the dirt mound and huddled grass of the coffin and it echoed and it shook the last earnest crumbs of the living.—

A man behind me coughed into his hand. He quickly shifted his weight and his Dockers screeched at his thighs. He was petrified because of the screech. He was petrified that even a particle of commotion was started by him, though no one noticed. I noticed though, and I looked at the selfish Dockers man, thinking he mattered enough to disturb this:

I saw all the follies he wished to keep caped and more people coughed, coughed to the ground, caping themselves, they were flinging a cape over themselves. Knees were scratched. People began to blink too much.

People become aware of the Great Faker and the Space of Suspense in Nothingness, as a collective group, for the first time. It was surreal to witness. His grief controlled us like puppets. No, less lively. Like clockwork. Like the steely pantomime of machines. La La La. All of us. On the BUS. Going to where our mornings break us.

I started to think, how could this man on a public BUS go on weeping heavily in front of everyone at 9 in the fucking morning?

We witnessed his hands all white as new snow. We witnessed the pipes and loam of his life. He made us witness the pipes and loam of our own lives. He was a wall that stood there, between us and a sincere life, and the wall was grey and cold like the shoulders and noses of men. His life was our lives. Intimate sounds. The unloving noisy issue of snot into the napkin. The sponge-like contractions of his throat. The spasms of his legs. A scream bogged in the fluid of sorrow and the foul phlegm of weeping. His loud emoting began to actually corner me. As if it itself were a hungry dog. It swelled and compressed around my throat. His crying. He’s Crying Hah.

And then I sneezed I sneezed but no one was paying attention, maybe some halfjerked heads. So much for inconspicuous. I looked over at him. This was the first time I had done so.

Like a creature absorbing all the calculi of my environment—the wind, the angles, the velocity—I started, and halted, and then, with only my eyes, I ventured to find where was the crying man.

[I didn’t realize he was that close—my head was looking down] he was trying to soothe his embarrassment. Embarrassment made him stiffen, excruciatingly, all the poor little blue veins in his neck.

Oh, how he despised his audience, oh, oh, all of them, mouths agape! And me! I couldn’t see myself from the outside, but I probably looked the same, damn me.

I wondered.

The stertorous drone of the engine of the BUS, however, made any public exhibition trivial. The humanity in everyone was consumed completely by his tears. Etc.

A woman wanted to dive into her purse with the purpose of scratching off like a lottery ticket the leftovers of her humanity and she used the leftovers to glue back her staples rightly and she found combs and photographs and innocent stuff: each thing had its own tiny story, but innocence was not a part of humanity, to me, humanity was no comb, humanity was in the socket of an eye, in the eye of the cry,

in the crying man humanity was there and it was No Answer: no great truth, only the relic of an unknowable validity, the phantasm of a generous physical vibration that one could not ever posit.

Through his tears the crying man said, “I’m sorry.”

I counted each pent life and the lives raveled down onto the BUS floor like wrapping paper. The sole rectangular floor that seemed to shake the concrete earth of our CITY. Seemed to but didn’t. It was just the BUS moving over the paved blemishes beneath us, potholes, and potholes filled with too much cement, and I counted the pent lives like vegetables. I counted the piggy crop.

And: there was the WHITECOLLAR white youthful man with tie slackened, business casual, with cheeks red and hearty, but then was the crying man and the cheeks became blue, and all mischief gone from the tie, and, the red stripes of the tie drooped with bashfulness. And the man himself, stuffed with college swill, a stomach full of frat beer, sucking the last marrow from his alma mater days, greening his liver with alcohol, and fattening him up—and yet he grinned with such a ghastly indifference that his face exploded onto everyone and the thick skin was ruined and staples not holding.

And: there was the rude tapping of the manicure, on crossed shoulders: on one nail showed cheap the tiny facsimile of a white flower, and the woman herself was a tacky white flower, slathering on her face like butter a thick skin. The mask of some cardboard ennui. Thinking about her salon. She dipped up her blue-plated eyes from the grim places in front of us to anything that still held fantasy in it.

And: there was the prune-like liberal wook who appropriated everything, who wrote poetry, who bloated his pittance of a resumé at cocktail parties with his rich friends, who wore a coat made from hemp and had dreads. And yet he lacked the assertion of his clothes. His chest was small and inverted. His arms were bone.

And: there was the caustic brow of a fiftysomething who played the family game too much, the squareness of his square face and the rectangle of his torso refusing to acknowledge the hipness of his jeans, the legs sheathed like magnificent swords in hip boots, the man himself, untrendy, awkward, old, trends flapping forlornly from the destitute fringes of his mind, he, grabbing the fringes, at least. His focus, for the majority of his life, to be grabbed—by his hairblowing kids, and he, angry, about the whole thing, he, just wanting to be a fiftysomething—

The crying man dipped uniquely into some deeper, ravenous infliction. The sobs garnered a new inflection, a higher decibel, with every breath; the man became caught in the inertia of his own sorrow. And his cheeks were wrung and pores were wrung, and he uncurled himself, and his chest inflated, and his shoulders curved in opposite directions, straining his ribcage—and he opened his mouth, simply: and the natural desperate wonder of it sucked us all in: something so palpably raw and finite that—just—hurtled out of him.

That unceasing note. And stop, and stop, we listened to that note, over and over again: more dumb, unpleasant semi-lives were dumped and were filled: the dumb show to add importance to the platitude of the semi-lives by adding distance. Neither touched nor understood, the BUSMAN conveyed a vast nothing and the note, well. The note conveyed everything.

And we witnessed his hands all white, and

and and then, it occurred to me: exclusively, finally: it was hail coming down, hard and cold, each infinitesimal skull of ice a different and more obscure idea, a different fact yet to be proven, but, that one idea still, above it all, the deep dark cloud that sprouted the droplets, was undeniably clear—the idea that was in the Wind, and the slave of the Great Faker, and to be expedited, still.

So, I worked so hard to pick up all the little pieces of hail before they melted, and most of their genius slipped away forever down the clans of the gutters that lined each street, and I said

“No! No tell me! No, tell me your secret now!”

But apparently that was in my head or I only mumbled it because no one was paying attention or maybe their minds were too wrapped up in the effort of not focusing on the crying man.

            Believe it or not, I don’t blame them.

These people, these nervous people were nervous because that was what they were, their actions, their nervousness; in the meantime of my eyes were they constituted solely of their discomfited sourness, their inability to face this man, to be rather wrapped in themselves like an impotent fajita.

They might have been someone else when they were alone, but it was the same as asking if a tree fell in the forest with no one around, would it make a noise? If a bastard was nice to his apartment wall when no one was around, would it make him nice? No!

The way I began to see it, people were around others so often, they took mirrors along with them, and their mirrors reflected off of whatever stranger, too; whatever debris that also happened to pass by them. And yet, those strangers they carried their own mirrors.

And I thought of how I was as nervous as they were, I was just like them–AM I, I, I AM, I, not but a thick skin, and I nothing more? I hated them, I detested THEM, but I obeyed them, I

ruled my life by what they thought but if they did the same for me then who did the actual judging, who did the actual categorizing if we all turned ourselves inward in order to discount those static outward impressions, which in reality were never made?

What was this hulking manatee of public scrutiny?

It then occurred to me:

Was I not like them? Was I not, a statistic? To be blurred and rounded, to be cut from the WORLD like an umbilical cord, and I was the cord, and the WORLD was the child?

We were all cords. Each one fed one sum: that sum of ourselves, or of this disgraceful CITY, or of this fetal mound on which we lived. The child-mound that would not take much longer to blossom into some unfathomable newness, separate itself from the billions of people who fed it; and then to be bred by the large and filial hands of God.

Not the Great Faker, this mound, would leave us after it realized we were all fake, weren’t we? Phony phony phony. Fake. So, we joined him.

It was the WORLD. The clever earth, under the stagnant pipes and loam, the maze of forgotten systems of concrete and sewage, under that, under the layered urban frontier of waste, of lazy contractors and the cracks in the pavement and the broken ducts that led nowhere that harvested all the continuous excesses of the CITY minds and the streets into their depthy pools of the grey wash of the puke and Styrofoam, and rind—under that, it was the earth, the oh clever earth, the oh clever earth that was that sum of ourselves. Not the Great Faker, the earth. That was the final reflection off our mirrors, that was the original, that was the child we fed with our reflections of nothing until the child needed more than our food of otherness, other food.

The blank board on which we drew, off-chancing a smile with some pen or instrument of itself, and us drawings drawn with our drawings: until it all left us, left the drawings we made for it.

Because it realized we were not worth the trouble because we were all not real. And our drawings probably weren’t that good anyway. And the crying man: his flaws became the symbols of his self. His flaws represented what we did not see in the mirrors because the mirrors reflected God and God was perfect and the man was flawed.

And,

I looked out the window and I was made madly human and we were all made madly human with him and we each yes we do have our own wonderful, foul phlegm didn’t we…? Ah! Beauty, life, and beautiful life!

And yet we let him slip, slip deeper and deeper.

I looked at my feet. I had to be more than them, I had to be the ORIGINAL, I had to be that saintly original thing all the mirrors reflected, just had to, I daily heaved the magnitude of my soul like a porky stone; my feet dragged under the weight of my soul my soul like a stout rock.

I never saw anyone else dragging their feet due to the porky stone! That stout rock!

What I experienced was real. Each deed of mine possessed thousands of reasons that were buried in the porky stone, the stout rock; and they nested there, incubating, and then sprouted from me into actions, sprouted as would careful daisies [of rottenness]. [WEEPS INSIDE]

There were so many quirks that were too tired to be interesting anymore. I had so many perplexing rituals, in order, I thought, to feed the soul of myself. But I was actually just feeding the fetal mound, wasn’t I? He would leave us soon enough.

There was a hurricane in me. It made me hate myself; it was a brief, stinging hatred I had for myself. The hurricane entered into that long radius of skepticism run between my thoughts of others and others’ thoughts by me: it beckoned forth every quashed feeling, beckoned forth the feelings both normal and abnormal. Strip yourself of the gum of the thick skin. Let open the levees of the ape. Let the idiosyncrasies be naked said the hurricane.

For years quashed for the sake of escape. I escaped from the masses and thus escaped from any acquittal of the soul. Wading in my pissy little swamp of personal misery without believing there was another way when I did not know that way I was on even and didn’t even have enough otherness to realize I had welded another prison of that, the iron bars were doubt, the dusty bricks years, and, I incubated in it like a fetus, and I pickled into a man instead of grew into one, yes, pickled, no daisies, and, I was and I am, as inhuman as the Great Faker, hah, merely the freak of objective chemicals.

Indeed, my mind was unique only for its roots in the calculative unfeeling machinery of the WOMB itself: or, whatever abyss I was coughed out, of, damn, damn, damn.

In the moment of his great revelation, he did not know, he did not desire to know that the reason he was so upset was that he had entered into the infertile collection of all minds and the streets, and all the cranial bombast of his CITY, and, upon feeling a rush of energy, promptly surrendered himself to this state.

There was too much connection in his fear and theirs.

Too many similar muscles pressing. Too much like-minded sweat sweating.

My hair began to get sensitive. I desired to itch it but did not. Then it was like all of my hairs were squeezing out of my head like worms out to tell everyone how crazy I was and the worms quaked the floor with a buzzing sound and the sound turned into gophers that wanted to bury themselves in my head and munch on my brain fluid and the small black gophereyes frightened me. Before I knew it, I was standing up on the BUS yelling

“You sick men and women! You—insensitive jocks like there were at my high school there were jocks. Jocks. There were jocks and I was a misfit! Can’t you see? He’s making us all up! He’s trying to create us off the page!

“I bet you all play a sport, don’t you? Yeah, sick fuck. And, and you don’t have to tell me you’re normal anymore, ok? Stop screaming!”

You might not remember when I said that I could hear all the voices of the BUS folk screaming in my head so what I say here makes sense.

I took two steps forward, and a woman with her bag with a picture of a still life on it of fruit or something, she took her fruit bag from the seat next to her, and she put it on her lap, like it being closer to me would mess up the still life, and I got so angry at this that I said,

“Your fruit is going to be fine! I’m not a criminal! You are because you listen to him! The Great Faker! And don’t play like you don’t!”

I looked around. Everyone was staring off into their day. The person that/who could tell them it’s alright, and it’s ok to do whatever it is they want to do it doesn’t have to be like what I want to do, was ignored.

I received no respect for this gesture of magnanimity.

Starting in my thighs there was an engorged pair of hands pushing up brains from the stem so that the hands would push all the flabby meat up through my throat and everything would come out of my mouth and quite literally everyone would know what was inside me

but no one was reacting. It was like as soon as I got up everyone’s mind instinctively trickled down to their feet, then up and left their body. Playing poker with the Great Faker hah.

They sat in lines, packed tightly. Lines. A line in the sand. Their eyes were like rows of corn. White, spherical corn.

PART IV

“You know the right decision always goes two paths. One path is if you let’s say you had to go to town. Some town somewhere. You have two paths let’s say. The one path is on the train, you can take a train into town. The thing is you don’t know how the train gets to town. You look at the train when you get there and it seems as though it’s going in the opposite direction of where you’re headed. You just know it gets there without you knowing it. The other way to town is a dirt road. The dirt road goes into town too. But you understand why the dirt road goes to the town. You see that the dirt road runs straight in the direction of where the fuck the town is. You use your sense of fucking direction and you know that this fucking dirt road leads straight to that fucking you know town. Now you can take the train and know that you’ll get there somehow but not know why you get there. In fact in some cases you’ll miss your stop and go headed somewhere else. But with the road it’s different. With the dirt road you’ll be aware of every step you take into the town. You won’t miss the town because by being aware of every step you’ll be aware of the last step and the last step obviously is the destination. But most people they end up taking the train. They feel like it’s safer. There’s no bumps. With the road there can be bumps. You don’t know how long the road is but you’re not sure either of how hard the road is. Most people don’t understand that to get to the right choice you have to take a few hits. There has to be a few gaps. People naturally avoid the gaps because they want to get from A to B quick enough. They don’t understand that by taking the train they’re making garbage out of some crucial choices. Choices you have to make before you get to B. There’s always small choices to be made into the bigger ones. Most people though they say that it’s all just one big choice after another and those guys are the guys who take the train and they don’t even notice where it is they’re going as long as they get there and then no one ever knows how tough the fucking dirt road is since no one ever traveled on the dirt road and they all take the train and sleep because they can’t take the uncertainty they just want the fake certainty the fake certainty that makes people soft and softens their face into a mask and the mask gets way too soft and falls off because of the trains.”

And everyone continued not looking at me and I stopped and this time all their voices really did speak in my head as though they really were looking at me with their minds and all their words were sucked into my skin as though I was a sponge and it was not the words of the people but the words of God lighting up the voices of the people and the words were sheathed in God, and as suddenly, my Worldly comforts gone, I seemed to leak out of my own body, I did not hear what I said anymore o ruinous God, I became a line, my feet touched one end of the Earth, my head, the other end, by your obeisance, sir: and God said:

“…These days, you see, we find complacency in bitterness. Bitterness and idleness and capital. We work like ants and go home to regurgitate our day’s wampum with the slack partition of individualities we know as friends. Filling our bodies with alcohol. Digging into our soul with a spoon. Dallying our time and ingesting the vogues of our era as though they were the final rejoinders to some everlasting, smartass quip about our WORLD, some quip we have finally answered.

“But the vogues. They are weak. The vogues are just silly endocrines that seep out the asshole of whoever bothers to eat up enough of our WORLD. They seep out and evaporate into time.

“However, when we realize that there will be new vogues, new endocrines, that new important things will happen after our personal extinction, we collect whatever balm we can by worshipping the quick yet rooted stigmas that happen to pattern our WORLD at the moment. We snug ourselves right well into our own universal bed. Sleeping, chucking definitions and judgments from our dreams. Stacking up like cards all that we do not understand. As though the place we live in should be the only place. As though the vogues should not change. We criticize that which is at present mysterious in order to make its discovery less enticing to those who wish to dig outwards with a spoon. We chuck criticisms like footballs.

“But when criticism does not work, we quench our short thirst for knowledge by scrawling a name on what might be nameless. Because we are afraid of what is nameless. What is nameless implies what could be named when we are gone. We have our era of opening up one window, and so: we age, and age and age, and realize that we will be denied an extra breeze from another window that may open, as time goes on. So, we turn up our noses and define and we refuse to get out of our universal bed: and we dream hard of a World that does not change, so that we will not miss out on anything after our death.

“In terms of mysterious people we do not massage that real quiddity of those real others, because it would create a void in our tongues–if I were to pluck out another’s eyes and use them myself, I doubt I would be able to express the difference in what I see. The difference from human to human cannot be adequately blurted. The difference is nameless. But the difference is as much a part of the change, as anything else.

“So why not savor the change? Why not nod at the perpetual motion of generations, of ideas? But instead we nod off into the closet of our own minds. Lingering in dust next to the old bad coats. But why not believe, that a war does not make the World?

“…Uh, that, violence does not have to be a road from which we cannot turn back; or, that religion makes as much sense as science? Why not say that religion and science and art are simply absurd furrows upon the pate of a consciousness old as time? And consciousness—pah.—

“Well who’s to say about consciousness, as nothing; that it’s nothing more but some peevish addendum to what are at the most useless and meaty organisms that sit and wait on the EARTH like mushrooms?

“Savoring the change will open our minds, you see. If we rid ourselves of walls then perhaps the bitterness, that need to always go more inward so much so that you eat your own head—perhaps that sensation will disappear, and the vogues will no longer be as idolized. Because we will have rightly accepted their obligatory flux into something different. Maybe then, we all will reach an understanding.

“But universal understanding is impossible, because misunderstanding is essential. There is no single fact to any of the flitting cadences, flirting along this singular expressive brow and worn of culture. We’ll always—and how lovely—go at each other with opposing truths, that we can pick like groceries and wield over our opposing lives, like a torch:

“I was stuck in the subway station once, a moist, humid pipe, cluttered around with people. But you all know that, don’t you? I moved down to the end of the platform.

As I moved down, there were less and less folks in my way. I realized, if there weren’t people to believe that the front of the platform was the best place to wait, if there weren’t people who were too tired to go to the end of the subway, than there wouldn’t have been room on the lower part of the subway, and that, if everyone understood the differing of good places, if everyone understood that no one spot was the best, well, all those people in the subway would be spread out, equally, like paper dolls, diversityless, all through the station. There would be no mixture only the one ingredient there would be no fresher place to breathe because everyone would have the same tepid air to suck into their lungs. Equality is impossible because it negates the variable element that should be present in the nature of humankind.

“The variable element is what makes for extremes. The good and the bad the sad and the happy. These laughably simple extremes cannot exist without each other and thus cannot exist without the variable element because that element is exactly what can split an atom. To garden a spot in your mind with one idea displaces ten million other ideas from that spot. It is cliché to say that conflict is innate but there is a reason that clichés are made. Don’t you think?”

His legs were braced, shaking yet trying to move forward, as though they were squat in the center of a broken swaying bridge, between what he wanted to say, and what he said, and his legs shook with frustration.

He threw his hands up in the air like a man cleansed.

“Comfort him.—”

During the speech, he had tried to hem his words back into more familiar stitchplaces, he had tried to go back to what he started with before. His mouth had been stuffed with cotton the whole time. God’s cotton. God’s cotton of rhetoric, damn it. He had tried to spit out the cotton of rhetoric.

The remainder of the speech swerved more and more into random pontificating—

he would lose focus and babble on in the hopes of concluding an inconclusive point.

He would heave his chest up, as though he were about to burp, and say nothing. As though some bean of disapproval was about to chuck itself into the fray. And then he would sigh and continue. One would have expected him to cough up a sweater. The crying man’s seat was empty. He had left a while ago. His seat was like a vacuum of gravity where something of substance had collapsed upon its own mass. No one sat on that seat for the rest of the ride because of the vacuum. I hadn’t even noticed him leave. I didn’t even try to sit there.

Once I got off that stupid BUS, I realized I had missed my stop, and was lost. That whole thing didn’t even mean anything. Fuck the words of myself Fuck the Words of God Fuck God …

just. gave me cotton.

it began to rain:

.Equally irrational
.Equally in love

[EPILOGUE,]

It began to rain, and the pomp of the thunder, and the gruff pomp sounding resolute, thundering, and the streetlights specking like odd decorations against the granite and brick and brownstone, and the mountains of brick of the buildings in light and darkness, a seconds’ bath in light, then darkness waiting, and the rain coming out because it had to, no tangential prelude of rain, just brief spells of thunder; and lightning never hitting anything visible, still resolutely there, hitting, like slow and hesitant percussion, and the drumming of a beat behind the mask. And the hesitant prisms of rain that press with the drumming and the percussion. And the brief, yet unfettered, thunder, organic, pending thunder, unfettered, resounding, gorged like the clouds are gorged with something like despise or villainy, a villainous, drumming orchestra of thunder that will run out the epochs, and for epochs, and the thunder-orchestra ringing. And it, sounding with the cult wiseness of those strange, maybe evil, yet all eternal portions of nature: evil because those portions can be frightening, despotic, satanic, ominous—eternal because they never go away, through epochs.

Nature has never felt the need to dispose of thunder or of the lightning, the lightning mumbling behind its pomp of thunder, as nature lingered on and on, and mumbled; and thus from lingering comes the cult wiseness of thunder, of lightning, from the lingering of anything comes the wiseness; the first distant hum of it was crisp, whole, the second was closer to me, and irregular like the physiognomy of lightning itself, and, then, ah, the beautiful rain, the transparent particles, each one WORLD, each raindrop a wonderful WORLD that is born from the explicit hugeness of the sky. It is so private and secret and never known before it finally splashes and scatters and diverges into the current of a puddle, a dip in the concrete, the many holes in the grid, slowly aiding in the dismemberment of the sidewalk over the years due to the groundswells of water and refuse upon the grey concrete, a dip that eventually overflows with the water, and the water works hard to become a single entity, and pushes forward, down the slight slight declines and inclines of our CITY streets, forming another puddle when the street forms a bigger circular dip or impression: and it flows like this, halting and delving, a puddle at each impression, each recession in the level of the street, the street’s failure to adequately plateau; then, that dip in the concrete overflowing with water and the water continuing its travel to another, bigger dip, and the cult wiseness of the lightning reaching down from its canvas.

If it did plateau, or if every street was identical to the most sniveling degree, was completely flat, what then? How would the rainwater catch momentum? It is impossible to imagine this because defects pimple the WORLD. It is how runoff is created; and spaces that flirt too closely with flatness are visited often by tornadoes. No one place on WORLD is completely flat anyway because WORLD is an orb, but what if it was different, and our whole big CITY was a single giant impression, a single great, inverted roundness in the earth, a single dip for rain to collect in, that depressed the earth like the indentation of God’s thumb on the land, and after a long time, after many eons, were latched onto by the roaming cogs people are, trying to make themselves useful, when they never were.

And the teeny compositions of buildings and the smaller dips within, made up of all the smaller ventricles of our CITY, all the conurbations and sub-cultures, all that, manipulated into that one imprint of a thumb, that giant dip!

What if our CITY was a giant dip our CITY is a giant dip. Our CITY is a giant puddle. It floods with too much rain. The people drown. The CITY falls to anarchy. We are trapped we drown in our buildings…

It stopped thundering and lightning. A few ornery forks of lightning that came and went like a starved dog. The tang of teeth jutting from the dog’s lip. The thundering of teeth. Teeth that make thunder behind the lips, the Thundering of something much bigger and more imprisoned.

As I walked down the street in the rain, it began to rain harder. One could hear soft coos of pain from those people who walked in the rain down the street but we all thought nothing of it some may have glanced waywardly upwards. I walked down the street and the rain came harder and it was coated with purpose. It began to hurt the tops of my ears and my scalp, and my hands. Finally I could take no more and ran towards a church the church had cratered steps that had begun to sink into the sidewalk over time and I ran along with hundreds of others and I noticed that people were huddled with fear under every available storefront or in the lobbies of buildings, and in the sidewalk were millions of little dents in the pavement where the water had fallen, and I panicked when the sidewalk itself started to boil and the peripatetic steam rose from the sidewalk in triumph. And I was reminded of a steamy kitchen of a diner when I saw that, and a great many people screamed and ran as the sky let its Rapture fall. A molten spell onto the frontier. Our CITY all soaked with burning water. The lurid Parent of the WORLD made carnivorous. The sky became garbled clouds. They moved silently and amalgamated. Like something whispered from a large, stuck ember. And through the smoke signs and choreography of the clouds were the raindrops equally graceful in their dropping. Onto the changed WORLD gracefully and onto the particles, who make their own streams across the streets and across the WORLD, and I hear a scream far off, then another scream, and the screams gathering like sticks tied together for the winter months, for the hearth, the hearth that will soon be not more than ash against brick. Then the sky setting everything weeping onto the land of our CITY, and the screams pursing the air, and the weeping out of the bucket of the sky. The rain burned the tarps of the stores. Small holes burned through the tarps and hurt those who sought cover under them. It burned the faces of people who could not escape. Hundreds lay curled like a fetus in the middle of the sidewalk, on the ground, with their maimed hands to their maimed faces and blood exiting from a wound not seen, an uncharted opening somewhere in the bundle of scrouched limbs. Blood moving down the street from the spoiled bodies on the street, like a fraud saving face.

One of the bodies looked at me, and her face was not hers anymore, but it was as if someone had taken a fat hide and slapped it onto her face and had punched holes for the eyes to see and the mouth to eat.

Her lips were frail. The fabric of her eyebrows had begun to burn and her eyebrows too looked wormlike and emaciated. We both looked at each other for that second and the rain beat down and her wormy lips suddenly began to crawl unaided down the surface of her face from where they would normally be under her nose and the lips almost slipped off of her face altogether but stopped and rested against her ear while the rest of the eggy membrane of her face strung itself out like cheese over her skull and teeth, and the gums were grey and the bones of her jaw pushed out against the spackle of melting flesh. The rain hurt so much. I kept my face to the ground and kept the rain from touching my face but it still managed to hurt because the wind made the rain fall nearly sideways and my face at first had stung and now was in real pain and it felt as though there was some fluid running between my skin and my bone and the fluid made my cheeks into round sacs of fluid that had no definition. I realized I had to get to a mirror immediately I needed a mirror and as I ran I tripped over an angry and defeated bearded Russian Fellow who looked quite familiar and lay in the street with the rest of the bodies and he tried to tell me something he learned but I didn’t listen and I ran past all the bodies in the street the bodies like pathetic rocks. By the time I got to the church I was burning all over and my face was swelling and my hands were, and my shoulders were stippled with rubies of blood and the blood traveled through the fabric of my jacket so the shoulders of my jacket looked as though they had neat red polka dots or rubies and I stopped and touched my cheek tentatively and I ran with the throng of those seeking safety in the church they all seemed to be running the same way the same way through the pews even how they bended at the knees was the same I touched my cheek tentatively I took my hand away from my cheek because I felt a stinging sensation and I focused on my hands because my own flesh was on the tips of my fingers like cookie dough blood ran down from where I had dabbed my face, and the indentation from my fingers had created wet bloody portals on my face and the blood was cool and soothing as it ran down my chin and around my neck like a horrible necklace. No brains coming out. I ran to the nearest mirror and I looked for a long time and I saw myself the skin on my face now a misshapen mass of skin put onto the wrong skull, and I took my other burning hand and grabbed my face and pulled and beneath there were red muscles and veins breathing in the fresh air, and I pulled the delicate placement of the muscles and veins all like tangled strings and spaghetti I pulled that and it was like pulling my entire head off because the tangled melting hair and the melting accessories that were my ears were all replaced by the entirely new head of a young CHILD with white filled-out cheek and with blush, and with everything sweet about him, and yet his eyes were my own and they popped inhumanly from the young sockets like gargantuan bulbs that lit up in terror once more before going out and dying with my body in the must and heat of that godforsaken church.