knock at the door.
let's take some action," said Mark, entering with pen and yellow legal pad in
hand. His smile was laced with formaldehyde.
gets the boot: signed, sealed, delivered."
noticed light streaks of hair on Mark's knuckles, a strawberry-blond down.
Desiree said, her eyes averted.
should do it." She continued, "I'll write it. I want to do the right thing." So
Spike Lee, she was, pulling on her Kamel Lightthat being Kamel with a K,
the company's futuristic retro re-launch, an ad campaign marked by dry millennium
irony, stylish '20s uniforms and bob haircuts.
sat on my mattress and gently gnawed the insides of my mouth as I listened to
Desiree and Mark deliberate who should do what and why.
This was the first time I'd ever formally kicked out a housemate. There'd been
a slew of informal episodes, piles of clothes being thrown out the front door,
sensational arguments over stolen jewelry and unpaid phone bills, whiplash screams
over who was cheap or rude or to blame, or Dana, the roomie who couldn't argue
for shit but still got the last word on her way out the door, pelting me in the
face with some white-trash bean dip concoction.
woke up to Mark and Desiree looming above me, two shadowy towers surrounded by
glaring fluorescent light.
need you to sign here," said Mr. Mark.
had fallen asleep while they did the dirty work, pun not intended. A quick scrawl
of my sobriquet, and Klonipin and I returned to the z's.
I was, a worthless drug addict participating in a conspiracy plot against another
worthless drug addict. What was right and what was wrong whirled around my subconscious
like tunes in a dj booth; it was becoming increasingly complicated to pursue a
single line of thought.
following day, after Desiree tacked the 30-day notice to Airick's door, I awoke
late in the afternoon to find that we'd been served a surprise via certified mail.
An eviction notice.
it hyper-karma. Call it another obstacle in my path. Whatever you call it, while
I was a great fan of the complicated, this was an unwelcome pain in my ass.
we were losing the apartment.
the last four years I had lost a pair of Armani glasses, my favorite vintage candy
pin-striped shirt, the deposit on my last three places. I'd lost a ring of housekeys.
A leather trenchcoat when I was robbed at gunpoint. Nearly a month's worth of
mail when I stopped paying rent on my P.O. Box.
lost alternative music to the mainstream, the Goth subculture to Marilyn Manson.
Shit, I was into nine inch rails, not the band!I even lost the desire
to keep up with what cool had become.
downtown, Love Lost, Lost and Found, I was always losing things: both grandparents
on my father's side, three friends to the ravages of AIDS, and contact with countless
others. Oh yeah, and the person I used to be to a nasty addiction.
more I thought about it, the more I realized this was nothing new, really should've
been expected after all.
what are we gonna do?" I asked Desiree, thinking what goes around comes around,
even if nobody knows it.
sighed, considered it a hot second.
Well, she said
it firstand we were off, pooling our funds at the downstairs corner store,
counting out every last penny and nickle for our purchase. Of course we were buying
vodka. Apart from $12 margarita pitchers from Puerto Allegre, vodka was Desiree's
poison of choice. But no charcoal-filtered cheap stuff tonight; our living
situation had reached its nadir. We were maudlin; we were drinking as our only
recourse, our own little house party hopped up on Skyy.
way I saw it, these things were diametrically opposed. Skyy Vodka in its expensive
cobalt-blue bottle, the stuff of cross-processed ads in fashion magazines, and
our apt., which was soon to no longer be our apartment, in a glorious state of
dilapidation. Moonshine would have been more appropriatecorn liquor brewed
up in a backwoods still.
you might've guessed, my tolerance for uppers is surprisingly high. With alcohol
this is just not so. It's practically nonexistent; I'm a teenage girl, affected
by the fumes alone. So the fact that I was already comfy from tranks put me at
Fully Loaded after a few sips, stupidly giggling and staring into the open mouth
of the plastic glass before me. A harmless drunk. A happy drunk.
on the other hand, was really drinking the sun down. Slamming 'em.
she sang, then took a slug. "I'm living in squalor."
slug, then, much louder, violently so: "AB-SO-LUTE squal-orrr...."
of nowhere, Desiree grabbed a frying pan from our pile of dirty dishes and lunged
at the video game, one of those bulky, rectangular relics, some race car crap
that somebody had given Airick. He loved it; Desiree hated it. So did I.
watched as she, pummeled it brutally. Smash. There went the outer glass
pane into a thousand pieces, falling and twinkling like shooting stars. She didn't
shriek or anything; she yowled in joy and disgust, laughed maniacally and scrambled
among the broken bits, swinging the frying pan in a victorious dance, like she
couldn't believe this was happening but wasn't it funny?
the actual video screen, the monitor, was something else. Those things must be
made of kryptonite or something. They're indestructible. Desiree pounded and pounded
until her anger collapsed to exhaustion, the frying pan curled in on itself like
try this," she panted. "It absolutely will" bang "not"
bang "break!" Desiree tossed the spent kitchenware aside. Defeated,
it fell to the floor with a metallic clang. I retracted a hammer from my room.
She was right; the video screen wouldn't break. The metal hammerhead bounced right
off it, as if the screen were a trampoline.
I was saying as I plopped onto a chair, one of those hard plastic ones reminiscent
of public school cafeterias. "I'm waaaay polluted."
then, the answering machine kicked on.
the phone?" Desiree slurred as she turned up the volume, "Oh, its
your mom. Want me to"
uh. I cant deal." My head shook no. She flicked the switch silent.
were on a mission."
gave me a quick nod and sped down the hallway, her hair an obsidian flame.
Airick, Air-ickkk," she trilled in a demented cackle. "Check out my latest installation
art piece. It's called game"
she made an airy Star Wars sound, a cthoo cthoo chtoo chtoo bullet simulation.
flipped her hair and roared with drunken laughter, really baritone stuff from
her diaphragm. Desiree was pleased with herself. She slapped her hands together,
slapped the thin luan of his door, all the while ha ha haaa ing.
I forced myself up to get in on the action; this was freaking excellent!
door opened a crack, just the length of his chain-latch.
police're gonna be here any minute," he muttered and peeked through the slat.
His teeth were chattering, and he looked kind of wobbly and pitifulfeeble.
Man, he's been up a while, I thought as I stood there, taking in another
night's episode. Did he really call the cops? Time for some miso soup and a
disco nap! Then I swear, he shielded his face with one of his hands, nicotine
stains on his smoker's fingers and bitten-to-the-quick nails, and sealed his door
shut. What did he think, that Desiree was going to hit him? Give me a break.
in the course of these inebriated antics I must've contacted a dealer, because
all I remember next is "coming to" with a needle in my arm. Desiree was sealed
up in her tomb of a room. My left forearm was distended with little landmines,
flushed deposits from skin popping and painful misses in the circulatory neighborhood.
The apartment was an eldritch quiet. Darkness was indisputable. It stretched and
I'd arranged a felonious exchange, or I had drunk luck locating a reserve baggie
in my roomone of those glassine savings accounts tucked away in CD jewel
cases or albums' inner sleeves and often by my failing short-term memory. I have
countless memories of hiding my stash at high-speed, ensconcing it in a title
that seemed significant in the amphetamine-brazen moment, 50,000 Watts of Power
or Void Dwellerthings like that; mnemonic devices which failed
me almost instantly. I'd be ready to re-up and then Id forget which hiding
place I'd chosen, unable to fine-tune my whirlwind of thoughts to the appropriate
I had when I couldn't get my other habits together, the mad hunt for meth, was
an enormous affair in a close proximity: a jumble of cardboard covers and plastic
cases being thrown about. But I was high. However it had come about, I was blazing,
drifting through our apartment in random ideation, my body being bandied about
like my thoughts, the flow of movement being snapped off like bits of brilliance
bifurcating into nothingness: I was in the kitchen, finally tending to the mold
blanketing my pots and pans; then I was in my room (Wait. Now what did I need
from in here?); then I was back in the bathroom, lost in the mirror's reflection,
this stranger before me, his eyes black tide pools, his hair tit-length and the
consistency of something tossed in an oily vinaigrette.
happenfind a new apartment? I should go downstairs and get a paperno
later wait till later now I've really gotta write, work on my thesis it's past
due what to do what should I
I did was another shot. A ridiculously large one, the spoon so full I couldn't
draw it all into a 1 cc, feed it in a single stream to a vein.
drugs took my balance, knocked me back on the toilet seat. The sensation hit my
brain like a hot wet tongue lapping my pleasure centers. Warm waves, a tsunami
through the blood canals; an electricity flickered between my teeth and seared
my spine. Move, my mind commanded, crystal meth stomping down on its accelerator,
You have to move.
stood up and wobbled for a moment on my legs as the circulation shivered painfully
back into them. My appendages were asleep again. Do I have diabetes? My
grandpa did; dad does. What was wrong with me?
eardrums rang with the flat's silence and the air felt charged, textured with
electrical currents, collecting and forming shapes. Nightmares were awakening,
stained and featureless specters entering this vault of an apartment, three-dimensional,
real. The air was slate and vision was a thick, oily fog. I felt something wet
winding itself around my neck and wrists.
Then my body split into two parts: one part floated near the ceiling like a lost
helium balloon, bobbing along, detached, and the other part could watch me, Clint
Catalyst, like a creature of myth, a character on a late-night television program.
watched Clint Catalyst stare into the violated air, his eyes dark and decaying,
his face whitening like dry bone. He was starved impossibly thin, his body dangerously
slight and twisted, a parched root, an exposed nerve with a charcoal-colored Current
93 t-shirt and pajama bottoms draped over it. There were elaborate symbols around
the folds of his left arm where entire sagas had been tattooed, pierced in a frantic
deliberation, punctuated with vulgar red flowers, the bluish-purple of bruises,
tiny dark pinpricks centered in the darkness. The track marks were like a passageway
into the meaningless rubble my life had been reduced to.
there was something more, yes. His obvious proximity to death disturbed me. He
was dying, pathetically, tediously: his skeleton jaggedly asserting itself beneath
his loose clothing, his movement measured in inches.
thin pink and white marks braided his inner arms, rope-like scar tissue that held
the ruined beige together. They were, he was, trying to tell me something. Something
simple, elemental: that this life was an illusion; that I can step out of it.
The chains will drop from my upper arm, tourniqueted, stretched to its limit,
tight. The air can become clear as a winter evening instead of just cold, and
my flesh can be transformed. Skin can turn, the molecules rearranged, created.
Identities can be shed like stained bandages.
in a red flash I was back in Clint Catalyst, he and I the strangers each. Again,
I was housed in these interior regionsa slum, abused and infested.
struck me in the flesh of my arms like meteorites which are still part fire. My
skin was embedded with scarlet; there were speed bumps trapped beneath and between
layers of epidermis. I looked in the mirror and found my face was a smear. It
was like a television program where, for protective reasons, they used special
effects to block out someone's features with swatches of cubistic blurriness.
As I breathed, the image swayed like intricately colored sails.
with poisons, the darkness of the evening hung without mercy. The air was scarred.
Contaminated. It was lethal with static fumes and the contagion of spirits. As
I said, nightmares were filtering in, born from carcasses, boiling over with ash,
and I was scared. I retreated to my room and bolted myself in for protection,
somehow scratching my right thigh in the process. The soft cotton of my pajama
pants ripped as the skin of a peach, blood oozing through a tattered slit of material.
the wind whipped and moaned like someone being brutally raped. Even in my bedroom,
the choreography was constantly moving, swirling clouds dark as pitch, shadows
hovering above me, vultures descending to feed with a wet, throaty snarling. No,
were a black swarm of wasps. I burrowed in my bed, yanked the covers up around
me, peeked out to see if they were gone. They weren't. I braved an arm beneath
my mattress, felt for the hammer and retracted it, abruptly slung it in the air,
attempting to fend them off. I battered at the evil smudges with a fierce determination.
in the apartment, the phone began to ring. Once, twice, over and over. The machine
picks up, outgoing message starts, Hi, we're not home butclick. Machine
picks up, outgoing message starts. Click. I froze and listened. After several
tries, the caller decided to leave a message in what must've been a last resort.
Hey Cliiint....I miss my Peeps. Wanna pick up the phone now?"
was Filip, his voice bouncing off the hardwood floors, invading this private terrain.
hello hel-loooo?" Pause. "I know you're home."
couldn't bear the thought of talking to him, of attempting to contain how insane
this moment was. But I also couldn't bear the thought of battling the interminably
dark night, which had lost all increments of distinction, the shadows hissing
at me, alone.
the bedsheets off me and bolted to get the phone, still clutching the hammer.
I swung it into the stormy air as I ran into the kitchen, trying to shield myself
from the contamination hanging above me, around everything. Nearly busted my butt
in the process, skidding in my socked feet.
appliance wasn't on the cradle. Fuck, where had I left it?
it was, resting on a Ramen noodle wrapper, on the counter.
"Hey, I'm home," I was telling my cordless phone, breathless, the plastic cold
in my clutch. "Just couldn't find the damn thing."
Filip said with a friendly chuckle. "I wondered. What's up, baby?"
come over?" I cut to the bottom line, eliminated chit-chat. My left hand remained
wrapped around the hammer.
Bring some hooch," I blurted, wondering mid-sentence if he had indeed answered
or said that he'd stop by. His voice resembled that of adults speaking to Charlie
Brown. "Crown Royal and Coke."
ears were ringing.
he concurred, and I was off to bathe, peeling off my clothes and stashing my paraphernalia.
The drugs I left on the edge of the sink; I'd decide what to do with them later,
but knew this time the hiding place would be someplace obvious. I was in no condition
to play Nancy Drew.
hammer stayed with me, though. Yes, I carried it into the shower. Water beat into
the tub and I beat the tiled wall sporadically, chanting nonsense to keep the
evil spirits at bay. Unscrewing the shampoo bottle cap with one hand proved to
be particularly challenging.
tub had a greasy film. Oh yeah, I remembered, I should be doing this
in flip-flops. Then, I dont even want to think about it.
Afterwards, I utilized my blow-dryer to dry the wound on my leg, speed up the
scabbing process. Gotta keep up the appearances, you knowthough I didn't
want it to look like I was trying. I ran the dryer across my chemically-scorched
hair; it was brittle and tangled together in clumps like weathered snakes. Next,
I moved to my bedroom and shifted hanging clothes, struggled to pick something
semi-presentable out of my closet. I decided on a well-worn pair of CK jeans,
fresh gray cotton socks, and a long-sleeved t-shirt my neighbors around the corner
had given me, the folks from Gothic.Net. It had a stiletto buckle boot printed
on the back, the slogan "Nice Boots . . . Wanna Fuck?" on the front, an alphabet
of white letters piercing the warm black fabric.
yeah, and the speed. I slid it beneath my meth artpiece, the Jenny Soup frame.
Figured it was as good a place as any to hide it. The hammer, of course, already
had a spot saved beneath the boxsprings.
earthquake broke out within my ribs; my chest shook from the tremors. The floor
where I stood was swaying, so back into the bed I went, attempting to arrange
myself among the tangled comforter and sheets. This would serve as a temporary
stopgap until I figured out what to do.
I was, lying alone in my thrashed bedroom until Filip arrived, enduring. Thinking,
I need Valium, Klonipin. Dilaudidsomething to control the
liquid enormities flowing in my head.
tongue was hard, dry, and tasted, strangely, like sand.
to me, help me, I called without words across the stormy gulf separating us,
meager attempts to render the night tolerable and erased of danger.
dongthere he was, asking, "Hey baby, how's it going?" wrapping his thick
arms around me, a shiny silver pot in one hand, brown paper bag in the other.
said, breaking our embrace. "I thought I'd cook you dinner." He smiled a smile
involving arched eyebrows.
I couldn't imagine eating; the drugs were too fresh in my system.
I felt the right side of my face quiver, twitch. "What're we having?"
turned and twisted my way up the stairway jagging out from our flat like a serrated
tongue, his shoes and my socked feet hitting the ancient wood in dull thuds, wavering
I said, stepping into the foyer.
What happened here?"
followed the trajectory, his gaze. Oh. The video game. Broken glass and plastic.
I'd forgotten about that. It blended into the ruined scenery now.
like it? It's Desiree's latest installation art piece."
he didn't get the joke or he didn't think it was funny.
the hallway, a light bulb was dying in spasms, an erratic strobe. The kitchen's
floor was cold beneath my feet, so I pushed a clearing aside on the counter propped
my carcass up on it.
put the water on to boil.
eyes were blue, a gorgeous blue, blue as the flame on the gas stove. His skin
a powdery shade of tapioca, smooth and even except for his face, the palette he
blotted white with MAC studio fix, N1 back when they still manufactured it. N
presumably stood for nuclearIve never known anyone that light naturally.
Except for a couple of the vampire stripper crowd, that isbut their look
was purely supernatural, a facade Filip was striving for. Too bad the fade of
powder on his neck proved otherwise.
I hate when
people ask me that, especially if we're on the phone. Makes me feel put on the
spot, as if some producer just granted me a thirty-second slot in which I'm expected
to pitch the newsworthy plot of my life.
Uh Hmm," a mumbled I don't know and shrug.
What's up? Well, let's see: there's a whirling feeling inside me, and around me
the night is aiming its shadows, cobalt darts. I am absofuckinglutely losing my
mind, my apartment, any reason to live. My complications are enormous and my actions
unjustifiable. And, to top it all off, quelling these shudders as they pass through
my body is a task I don't think I can handle, though I'm trying, just so you won't
know I'm strung out. That's what, what's up. But "Nada," was all that came out,
suppressed hysteria lurking behind my breathless voice.
opened his jacket and extracted a matchbook from the breast pocket, each gesture
intricate and refined. He paused, studied the sticks flame as if it contained
mysterious equations, fed it to a PM Intl, then extinguished the match with a
the big one," I said, cocking my head towards the checkered linoleum floor. "Everybody
give me one of those."
I do," I lied. "Every now and then."
placed one between my lips and fired it up. The cigarette tasted lousy but functioned
as a good distraction, a prop. Gave me something to cling to, just like in that
song by The Smiths.
you even inhaling?" Flip blew out a thin stream of pollution.
Of course I am."
the cigarette to my lips, released a mouthful of smoke.
you're not." He laughed. "I knew you weren't a smoker! And are you blushing?
"No." My voice
grew small. "I'm not."
are! You're blushing. Aww," he put an arm around my shoulder.
never thought I'd see you blush," he said with a flush of victory. "Here. Let
me show you how."
then he didhe showed me how; how to breathe in and fill my lungs with nicotine.
Twenty-seven years old and I had to be taught how to huff a cigarette. I wanted
to crawl into myself.
Filip announced the pasta was done, although I hadn't seen him pour it in the
I assumed our ladle
was lost somewhere in the rubble of dirty dishes, Xerox that for the colander,
so he dabbed his cancer stick out on the countertop and used a fork to dole out
the portions. He split the mucousy feast into halveswet and glistening and
covered with Ragu pasteand thrust a plate at me.
dug in. I pushed the food around on my plate with the clink of silverware. Eating
was hard work when the drugs were eating away at me, coursing like piranhas through
my bloodstream. My goal was five bites, though I rarely made it past two or three,
the food thick and tasteless. This pasta was particularly bad.
the matter?" Filip pulled a stray noodle into his mouth with a slurp. "You not
"No, not really.
Plus that cigarette."
away your appetite?"
me feel kind of sick."
My little lightweight." Filip smiled, his cheeks bulging with another bite.
your little lightweight. I donated my dinner plate to our science experiment
of a sink, the dishes pure Petri.
if I fix a drink?"
jauntily motioned to the brown paper bag, Go ahead.
just this work for grad school. My major project. It's killing me," I told him,
fingering the purple fake velvet pouch, cracking the cellophane seal of the Crown
Royal bottle and twisting its neck.
poured a generous serving of, a splash of Coke and sloshed it around the shell-white
and plunked his fork onto the empty plate, immediately lit up again. When he hit
the cigarette, the cherry flickered in his eyes.
he monkeyed, the word floating in a wisp of smoke.
gulped the liquor. There was something hard in me that wanted him, no matter how
awkward it might be, which in turn got me hard.
crawled through my limbs and the taste of adrenaline twitched the back of my throat,
fingered up the scotch-coated walls. Were we going to get it on? We needed to
get on with it!
shirt," he said, expelling another long gust of exhaust. "And yes, I do."
was about time!
yeah?" I went, all faux-naive. "You think so?"
huh." He stubbed his ciggie in the sink, popped an Altoids from the tin he had
on hand. Just like Odysseus, ever-ready.
this sex scene, it was lights outnot even the glow of a candleso he
couldn't see the lesions adorning my flesh, the private cache of bruises. We kissed
in a distracted way. His mouth tasted like a pasty ashtray. I kind of liked it.
coitus was a prolonged spasm, my performance commanded by fear and undefined schizophrenic
insecurities. Everything was jerky, off-balance. I couldn't catch his rhythm.
He kept bucking against mine.
know what we need? A little jump-start."
beat, then Filip asked "Hmm?"
know, a line. Maybe we should do a line."
made some kind of noise, which was followed by the embarrassingly loud sucking
sound of me pulling out, like a boot stuck in mud or soil pulling water.
think I might have some . . ." I mumbled, extracting the framed surface, pseudo-casual.
"Yeah, here. Bingo."
By then, my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, so I cut the stash by pale moonlight.
Left a reserve in the baggie, hacked the rest into two neat rowlets: one moderate
in girth and size, the other borderline gigantic.
do what you want. I'll take care of the rest," I explained and leaned forward,
tying my coif back with a loose strand, my voice an ornery whisper, vaguely conspiratorial.
"Then we can go all night."
yeah-baby smiled at that and huffed up a bump no longer than my thumbnail. Mine
was the length of the mirror's width. Ten inches? Twelve inches? Something ridiculous.
And the drip, the drip was like gargling with ammonia.
bumped and grinded, but his booty leaked. I should've learned from Airickspeed
lets more than just your inhibitions go. I didn't have tissues in my room so I
grabbed a towel from my laundry basket, stifling my gross out.
fags have to deal with getting shit on so many different levels.
course I won't tell anyone," I promised and I didn't, though here I am writing
about it now. Good thing Filip's not really his name. It's the nom de plume of
the nickname known as his name.
up and whacked out, and within minutes I was crawling back into his body, pulling
him toward me by his hipbones and shoving in with a wet slurp. Filip's torso folded
back, the arches of his feet cupping the air, we thrashed stickily on my faded
black bedsheets and matted rug floor. The mattress had slid off the boxsprings
and neither of us bothered to fix it.
pressed hard, harder, shook him into a liquefying sensation but could not come.
Finally my cock softened and slowly slipped out. Spent I was, exhausted.
let me help you with that." He reached for my unit, but I waved his hand away
and lay down. His body heat was like a radiator; I was slick with sweat.
okay, honey," he coached, embracing me as if I were some impotent old geezer.
My body went rigid. It felt like there was something stirring beneath his skin.
stroked my hair. I pushed away, to the side of him, not really anywhere else to
gothe two of us on my twin bed crammed on the rug covering the theater ticket
sized stub of hardwoodand my hair ran out between his fingers, long, stretched
out like ivy.
myself out, struggled to catch my breath. A sour odor found its way to my nose.
Buttjuice and B.O. Yuck.
hands tapped the mattress nervously. He was tweaked. Couple specks of dust and
he was off his rockets, his sex raised and swollen.
he said, propping himself up on an elbow. "My little Peeps."
felt harried, that something was being expected of me, other than the obvious.
Conversation, I suppose. Boyfriend stuff. I was short on material.
I tried to rearrange my mouth in the shape of a smile but dry lips snagged, clung
to my teeth. What was I supposed to say? I felt stripped, exposed. It was so much
easier to ignore him when we were having sex.
weaved a hand through the rubble around me, negotiated objects, scampered into
a rough estimate of my clothes. The material was gelid, felt gummy. Involuntary
tremors accompanied my every labored move.
you getting dressed?"
know what? I'm thinkin' maybe I should move in. Give San Jose a try," I
You mean it?"
Sure," I said, though I cannot imagine what I was talking about.
unbelievable, the things you hear coming out of your own mouth. At least me with
be so great."
it? Immediately I had a rush of remorse about what I'd done. Bullshit. Bullshit.
You are so full of shit, mocked a voice in the back of my skull and blotted
out whatever Filip said next, speed chatter about fixing our new place up. Glass
myself, attempted to hide from the situation and his uncomfortable touch. Boxer
shorts slid beneath my hipbones. In the blind search I had put on Filips,
which were several sizes too large.
resembling a sigh escaped my lips.
something wrong?" A kiss landed on the side of my jaw, sloppy and scented
of stomach gases.
lay coiled next to me, restless, rolling from side to side. Fidgeting, groping
at me desperately. The mattress squeaked with every movement. It was brutally
ridiculous. My genitals pound pounded, and a venomous rage snaked its way through
my veins. I wanted him here; I wanted him there; I wanted him gone.
and the enormity of the situation accumulated and something seemed to tighten,
grow in my gut, claw at the back of my throat.
of me, a kept boy, trapped in Silicon Valley without wheels, my hubby away at
work. Images I neither wanted to see nor feel.
I was tired, the struggle gone out of me. Strung out / hung out and cheap for
my lips said. "Nothings wrong. At all."
was striving for nonchalance, though these words had bordered on shrill, so I
closed my eyes and invited blackness into my head. And blackness accepted my invitation.
some point, the pitch of night drained into dusk and Filip left for work or San
Jose or somewhere. Im not certain, wasnt really sure of much of anything.
I do know is that I wanted to move the mattress, cover up the rust and "water"
marks on the boxspring ticking, though I never seemed to get around to it.
day was gray, overcast. Frosty. I piled on a wool sweater assaulted by lint, two
pairs of socks, and remained bolted in my private abscess of a bedroom.
began to rain, first a few stray drops against the glass pane with a plop and
a splash, then torrents piercing the sky in spears and daggers, deliberate, aiming
for the wasted city below. The window flexed and clattered, throbbed with the
deluge. The rain had a voice, a sharp howl. It said something I couldnt
I alone? Was anyone home? I wondered but was too bummed burnt-out bananas to go
But no, there
was someone else in the apartment, someone among the shadows; I was sure of it.
I unbolted my door and peeked around the frame, stared, waited, looked again,
but he was quicker and always dashed just out of sight.
spoke out loud to hear myself. Its the drugs, I said. Get a grip.
it dawned on me there was a towel decorated with someone elses poo in my
hamper. I spazzed and tossed it out the window, the plush rectangle meeting the
alleys slick concrete with a thick lazy slap. From all directions came the
sound of giggles and excited voices. Whats that freak doing? a female
voice mocked. The girls downstairs can see you theyre laughing at you
shuddered, retrieved a bundle of sage from a garbage-choked corner, lit it, struggled
to believe in the power of that white light shit. Tried to get on intimate terms
with the room, all in an effort to mollify the paranoia. I wanted it, needed it
on my side. It felt like a shrinking box, shadows swollen on the walls. So many
of the dark smudges around me, I was being buried alive. And my body, that skeleton
with skin shrink-wrapped on it, begged me for food.
I don't have the pasta when I need it, was my pretzled logic.
the meantime, time passed or failed to. Dismantled itself like a drag queen slipping
off her heels.
was busy, but there was nothing. Thoughts did not flow. They dribbled. From
the cradle bars. Song lyrics flashed in fragments, strobe lights on the underside
of my eyelids. Comes a beckoning voice / It sends you spinning.
I felt like I was late for something, was forgetting something, when actually,
I'd forgotten everything I'd ever learned. Following the footsteps. Feeling
had been edited away and I'd been edited away. Of a ragdoll dance. Not
dead but something else. An ellipsis. We are entranced. What was human
in me had been consumed, and all I wanted was to slow down my head, if not stop
it completely. Spellbound . . .
I wanted was my head to feel like my own again. At least sex with Filip, someone
else touching me, almost made me believe I was there.
Filip was gone, and the rain battered down and I was zero, a nothing, empty. My
room was plagued with shadows, though I couldn't cast one myself.
heard but tried not to listen to the metallic cries of the 24 Divisadero outside,
screeching muted in the hallucinatory periphery. Rest was impossible. Besides,
the black-lava tongued monsters rendered sleeping and waking indistinguishable,
anyway. I was trapped between these places.
there were grainy, malevolent shapes, everywhere. Darting about, everywhere. It
was a show-down. I closed my eyes and pulled the covers over my head, but Siouxsie
Sioux and the shadows were living Spellbound inside my skull.
back, back up. Work through this, I chanted. Write it out. A spiral-bound
notebook and blue Sharpie from atop my stereo. I tried to get into the
rhythm of language but it kept disappearing, pen poised over the lined paper,
fingers shaky, expectant. So I composed memos to myself: we dont have
history; we have the present / from kosmos to circumference / spiritual vocation:
aggressive truncation. I fingered the pages with bungling digits, ripped
them out, let them fall about my room, certain these messages would give me insight
later. Yeah, right.
eyes were dry in their sockets and I was terribly thirsty. No spring water in
the flat, so I sipped H2O from the tap in a recycled Gatorade bottle.
It tasted like pennies. Ive heard ass described before as tasting like pennies,
though I cant say I agree.
was freezing, though my edges were thermal. The pores of my skin pushed out poison,
toxic perspiration which made the skin under my sweater itch. My lower back was
sore and balled into knots from my staying up for days, and my nerves were the
frayed cord of a weathered telephone line, subject to sparks and eruptions. Obviously,
I was short-circuiting.
clomped distinctly up the stairs, like a proud pony. I heard the tinkling of keys
at her bedroom door, the gentle roar of the television set that she never turned
off, and I froze, afraid to face her. All those times I had pointed the finger
at Airick; I couldnt handle her jabbing hers at me.
I had to pee. Badly. Rather than brave the bathroom, I let it fly in the discarded
Gatorade bottle and tossed it out the window. Whew.
stalked the hall, came to my room anyway.
She knocked once tersely, opened the door I neglected to latch, offered me the
phone. Desiree wore a calico blue knee-length 50s style dress, the prim
and proper kind, with little cream-colored checks on it and matching buttons,
sensible collar and cuffed short sleeves. I couldnt help noticing that it
was a good eyebrow afternoon; they were penciled crisp and perfectly arched like
the McDonalds logo, except carbon black instead of yellow and not conjoined
in the middle. Her face fell into a blank fury.
I see youve had a full day," she sniffed, her chin uplifted. Her small
mouth was a serious red line. "Or however long its been." And
shut the door.
resembled hurricane wreckage. Stacks of blue-inked chicken scrawls on torn scraps
of paper covered the rubble like a rumpled blanket.
Clint," a voice queried through the appliance. "Clint?"
shit. It was my mother.
Mom," I said, suddenly fighting a quiver in my voice.
are you, pookie? Ive been tryin to call you for days."
Im fine." I felt tears begin to well with despair and an incomprehensible
your major project? For school?"
a cautious pause that I did not fill.
I mean, howre you doin?" She added, "With your problem."
problem. Silence encircled me like a necktie, a noose. I felt so inert,
and when she asked me, "Do you need to come home again?"her intuition
for the miserable was purely maternalthe choking noise I fought to control
in my voice broke into maniacal sobs.
Mom," I wailed. "Im freaking out!"
somewhere, I heard background voices, snickering at how I blubbered. Was it Airick?
Desiree? Another figment of my mind?
fuckin losin it!" I slapped my leg for emphasis; the unhealed
scratch smarted. "And the apartment. WereImlosing
and I went back and forth until it was decided shed arrange a plane ticket.
By then, ropes of snot clung to my shirt.
gonna be fine," she said, to which I repliedin words she couldnt
hear because she was then so far away, on the other side of the dial tone"I
love you, Mama."
dropped the telly and quickly changed clothes, shoved my limbs into a wrinkled
white oxford from my short-lived temp career and paced back and forth in the postage-stamp
sized space, two steps turn three steps turn two. This was my perimeter: that
apartment, my bedroom, this frame which held me. I stumbled amongst the debris,
the set of another days episode of As the World Burns.
cordless rang. I answered it, voice still thick and mucousy from sobbing.
Are you okay?"
voice was familiar to me, though perky, pumped-up.
is this?" I barked, bitter that I hadnt screened the call.
laughed. "Its Jade, silly. Who did you think it was?"
Her timing was impeccable. My former partner-in-crime called to let me know shes
been clean six months, and I was crazy beyond belief. Deal the coup de grace,
Jade, can you hear that beeping? I think the batterys dying on my phone,"
I lied and then promptly hung up, ripped the power-pack from its guts, and threw
the gray plastic shell down the hallway.
months. "Just One Time" had smeared another six months.
this is it. This is the end," I said, bolting back the latch, and the youthful
sense of infinity that got me to this moment in life was gone.
Reagan made it seem so simple: why is there nothing within me that can only say