I was born in Miami to a Colombian woman and an Anglo man. I have ‘pieces’ of
myself scattered across the internet and my nail clippings...read more float in multiples
oceans. I edit TheOpenEnd and blog at MySwag. Like Don DeLillo, I believe each
word triggers an electrical impulse inside our brains. When a perfect string of
tiny explosions goes off, both readers and writers experience the deepest kind of
pleasure. Tiny TOE Press published my first novel, Austin Nights.
I open my eyes and see how the oak wood floors are actually uneven.
I see the scrapes of past lives. I admire the trim. I stare into the vertical slits of sockets.
“Care to adjourn to the balcony?”
My roommate, Russ, asking if I’m able and willing to step outside of my bedroom and do something.
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
Me, Michael, saying I’m not quite ready to emerge.
The thing is, a lot of people who write have lived in Chicago, and if they haven’t lived in
Chicago they’ve slept somewhere very close to the floor.
It just happens that way, like a calling.
In which I speak like a prophet: If you find yourself sleeping very close to the floor on a regular basis, either by choice or by necessity, and haven’t written a story yet, consider putting in the effort, it may very well change your life.
Case & Point: On twitter, there’s an update from Amelia Gray, a real-life author, in which she says:
Tonight’s fashion goal is for people to look at me & say, “I’m pretty sure that woman does not sleep on a bare mattress on the floor”
The balcony is slanted and doubles as a fire escape. Russ and I live on the third story, in a brownstone in Noble Square.
He wears a red-hooded sweatshirt. He carries a yellow pelican case.
Forgive the sudden ‘tense’ change, from past to present.
The thing is, I like to write in the present tense, I tend to slip into it once I manage to transport myself to another time and place, and I like to digress, too.
For me the important thing is not to tell the story. The story is secondary. For me the important thing is to pull what I am on the inside and slap it on the page. After that I write a little about what things are like on the outside of me.
There is something to be said for rawness, about letting things grow in their own way, without taking a mower to them.
But I think we all know, both you and me, that letting things grow freely is an illusion.
Freedom is heavily monitored. There’s no way around it.
That doesn’t mean I can’t try, again and again, knowing full well such attempts make me insane.
Is there any truth to that definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Probably. It seems pretty airtight.
The yellow pelican case is also airtight. Inside is a glass pipe and a baggy of tea.
Even though Russ is taller than me, we’re the same height on this lopsided balcony.
“Good,” I say. I say, “I got up right after you left for work and wrote until lunchtime.”
“Cool. When’s your lunchtime?”
“Noon-ish. How was your day?”
Russ doesn’t answer my question. He’s busy packing the glass pipe with tea. I watch his fingers, admire their dexterity.
It’s dark outside even though its pretty early. Wintertime in Chicago. The sky is clear of visible stuff. I can see the Hancock building, all it’s tiny lights, the white halo around the top.
Between me and it is Cabrini-Green.
I put my hands in my pockets and blow air out of my mouth.
“I can see my breath,” I say.
A pigeon coos on the eave of the brownstone next to ours. The pigeon looks pregnant, or like it’s hiding something on the inside. The pigeon turns its head and stares at me with some beady yellow eyes. When the pigeon blinks, I blink back.
Our other roommate joins us on the lopsided balcony. Her name is Melissa. She isn’t a smoker always, but sometimes she likes to hang out.
Russ looks at her. He hands her the glass pipe to do honors. She strikes fire against a corner of the packed tea and holds her breath.
I look at her holding her breath as she passes the glass pipe to Russ.
This ritual is part of my life in Chicago. It’s a simple pleasure that seems sustainable. It keeps my life in Chicago very basic, like my rectangular bedroom with one window and a full-size futon mattress.
“Thanks,” says Melissa, “Evo just asked me to marry me.”
Russ pretends to choke. “What?” he asks.
“Evo just proposed to me.”
“And you come out to the balcony?”
“I said I needed a minute, you know, to think about it.”
Russ passes the glass pipe. I accept and touch flame to tea. Their conversation becomes secondary. More important is what is happening inside my body, the way my brain gets wired in a new way.
I join the conversation: “Is he inside now?”
Melissa smiles. She says, “He’s sweating on my bed.”
“Does he have any clothes on?”
Russ looks at me as if this were inappropriate.
“He might’ve put ‘em back on by now.”
Russ shrugs his shoulders. The image of Evo sitting naked, alone, on the edge of a girl’s bed after proposing to her is kind of funny.
I pass the glass pipe to Melissa, but she waves it away.
“That’s what everyone says. I’m probably going to say ‘yes’ and marry the guy.”
Russ slaps her on the back and says, “There ya go!”
Melissa looks at us with a serious look in her eyes. Neither of us have slept with her, but I think I can speak for Russ when I say we both know what it would be like, based on the sounds that come out of her bedroom, and sometimes when she’s alone in the shower.
I stare at her shoes. They are colorful and made of canvas. She is my age.
Melissa goes back inside, leaving us alone again on the balcony.
“Wow,” says Russ, “marrying Evo.”
I nod my head. I wanted to say something like, “We saw it coming,” but, the thing is, we really didn’t.
We didn’t see it coming at all.
We grow pensive.
Russ stares at the pigeon and puts on his hoodie. It’s getting cold outside.
I look at the air that comes out of my lungs and smoke some more tea and hand the goods back to their owner.
“Want to go for a walk?” asks Russ.
The yellow pelican case shuts on the glass pipe. He cradles it in his hand as if it were a textbook.