I live and work in Indianapolis. A city Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once called the Prague of
the United States. Maybe once. When a kid I made my mother...read more buy me a She-Ra doll. Why? He-Man
needed a lover. I did not know He-Man and She-Ra were siblings.
AGAIN, I FOUND MYSELF at a place in which I was unaware of how I had arrived. It was as if the events prior never happened, and somehow, I moved forward without physically moving. I can’t determine if the memory is from a dream or from reality. It has a feeling of both.
The memory starts with a drink in my hand; a thin glass tumbler. Condensation droplets roll down my knuckles as my palm contracts around the glass. I bring the tumbler to my lips and imbibe a sparkling, warm mixture of diet cola and cheap vodka. The taste creates an effect upon my face of struggle and bewilderment. My eyelids squint in an attempt to understand the flavor and to ward away any attempt of rejection. I take a bigger gulp; possibly in an effort to appease the host of the party, or possibly to show off to any who may be watching that a cocktail like this is something that I have drank for years and thusly wished the glass to be deeper.
In this memory, I never asked for the host’s name and he might not have offered it. To be sure, it was his studio I was in. And his cheap vodka I was drinking. He was an artist; a painter of bright, primary colored scenes. A messy scene of the city’s market entranced me for some time. I tried to see into the painting, to walk among the wavy ghosts of the figures and the lightning bolt lines of the shapes. My blue or yellow or red skin would run off of me and into the next shape as do rain puddles collect along the sidewalk. Against a wall, he left an unfinished work on canvas featuring modern appliances as dancing characters in a minstrel show. I wanted to laugh at the blender. He had a fondness for color, the Artist, as in the same way that toy makers for toddlers have a commitment to sensory empowerment. The longer I stood in his studio, drinking his house cocktail, the more I grew fond of his work. Not for its art or its development, but for how much of his spirit flowed from each painted canvas or chipboard and into its audience.
The Artist’s studio was a spacious pad. Large windows and a high ceiling gave the first floor studio a high-rise feel. He kept a stiff pull-out couch and a rocking chair around a small television. The rest of the space remained cluttered with spent canvas, two by fours, paint cans and chipboard piled in stacks. He drank coffee by the gallon. He wore scotch-taped plastic rimmed glasses and spoke of his work as kicks. He was currently on a glitter kick. He wanted his work to sparkle.
I was among others there, in his studio. I met them at a bar or a record store; they looked to be constant occupiers of both places. A wandering lot, we must have seemed to him like caravanning merry-goers; travelers of a group, arms around shoulders, singing off-key choruses of ribald mirth. Forever clinking our glasses in celebration of the night. Yelling in unison a punch-line to a joke about fucking someone’s mother. I separated myself from them, for I did not know who they were really. And consequently, they were meaningless to me.
I must have been in pursuit of Lux. A hipster girl that wore V-neck shirts and floppy knit wool caps; she existed to me like a bright hamadryad playfully floating through a nighttime forest. And I, the dazed lumberjack, dumbly following such a sweet perfumed, glowing, wing-ed creature.
We buzzed through the city from bar to bar. Party to party. She pulled me along with an imaginary rope. I couldn’t help but follow. Her lithe body must have been a ballet dancer. Her hips moved with such purpose and fluidity — her feet bounced like upon clouds, her mid-body and shoulders held a line that seemed chiseled from a stone mold — that I questioned my own gait’s meaning and decided to forever give up the act of walking.
Ah, but alas, she was just a hipster girl in a memory that I cannot trust.
While drinking another of the Artist’s cocktails I sat on a corner table as he in the rocking chair, spoke of his memories. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Lux fiddle with the Artist’s record player table. She picked a song with whistles and violins. She then danced slowly along. The Artist’s voice tinged with an aged hipness. He became fervent, at times, in an effort to convey his meaning. He spoke with such a display that if we could not understand him, at least we could be entertained.
“I am from the land of the duplexes! Rows and rows of ‘em. People need places to live. Build one house make it two! Great migration. Ha! Get outta the city rich folk! Helllllooo, poor folk! A lotta things can happen in the land of the duplexes, man. Dig me? Get ‘em or get you. All types. All crazed. If life is a ladder, man, the land of the duplexes is a bottom rung. You gotta hang on to it though, man. Hold it tight. Just to stay on that ladder. Hang on and hope somebody else on that ladder ain’t tryin’ to knock you off. Ain’t tryin’ to get up that ladder by knockin’ you off yours’. And this is before you’ve even seen up the ladder! Before you’ve gotten to see what the ladder has to offer! The ladder can be a crowded mess, man. With ever’one tryin’ to get up the rungs, you know. It’s hard. I had to do a lot of chin ups. But I am here now. So many years later. I have my paints. I have my television. Those that tried to knock me off my ladder, man, they’ve gone and fallen off probably! Eh! Probably got knocked off themself. Some of them though, beat on up that ladder so fast. Never looked back. Rung after rung. I never had the speed! But, I’m here now. Praise the Lord. Where does the ladder go anyway? We all know. It’s a race to a coffin bed, man! WE ALL END UP IN A COFFIN BED! Get off on a platform, young sir! Go up a-ways, take a break on that platform. Go up some more ways, get off on another platform. Ya dig, man? Ain’t worth hustlin’ up that ladder, if we all reach the same finish line. That’s what I say.”
Lux played another song, a chorus from Verdi’s Nambucco. She danced, danced, danced so pleasantly. The Artist looked at my face to see I was no longer paying attention to him and agog with Lux. He turned his whole body in her direction.
“Giuseppe!” He said. “Hold a minute.” He made an effort to stand from the rocking chair. Little waves of coffee from the mug in his hand splashed over his fingers. He handed me the mug and sucked the coffee from his fingers.
“Ahhh. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. All the time.”
As Lux danced her subtle, lonely dance the Artist and I watched with great pleasure. He turned off the lights to the studio. After a bang and a crash he turned on a funneled work lamp toward her. It cast a high shadow upon the wall. Her movements flowed like a pappus of a boneset seed angling along a slight breeze. The Artist stood and watched her. He made quiet grunts of appreciation. The song stopped shortly afterward. Lux bowed like a bashful child and ran to the bathroom.
We left him at his studio among handshakes and promises of a return.
He said after us, “Just know that you gotta make mistakes in life, so that when you don’t make one, it feels good.”
I thanked him.
“Why do you have gloves in your purse?” I asked her.
“I’m a nurse,” she said.
She pulled the powder blue latex gloves over her fingers.
“How many shirts are you wearing?” She asked.
I gave a look down my Kelly green polo and multi-striped undershirt. “Two.”
“Let me have one.” She said.
I gave her my undershirt without much of a thought.
She knelt down by the mangled raccoon carcass. Its face was forever caught in a moment of snarl. In a delicate manner she forced the raccoon into my shirt and placed it, head poked through, leant against a lamppost.
“Smells,” she said.
In the basement of a worn-out rental house, we listened to a band play a song that mixed every form of modern music into one cacophonous, electronic malady. We drank from a keg of dark lager and smiled into each other’s eyes.
“I think it’s the goal of every band to write a song like Summer Babe.” I said.
“Not this band, their goal is to write the anti-song.” She said as cymbals crashed into an abrupt ending.
“So what kind of music do you like?” I said.
She curled her top lip. “Ha! Music! Music is not music anymore. It’s an advertisement chorus. It’s a soundtrack to a life you don’t live. Music these days is like a leaky faucet in your brain that you can only fix by replacing it with another leaky faucet. Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip.”
The band began a new song with a function generator machine producing a frequency that might have induced a small animal to vomit. The sound built in volume while the guitarist plucked a chord and the drummer beat a low drumroll. The machinist reached out to the keyboard. As a key lowered, the basement exploded with a myriad of sound. I felt as a fly caught in the spray of an elephant’s sneeze. Waves bounced around the concrete walls and bare wood crossbeams. The party-goers heads moved not in an altogether sway or nod, but in random, kinked jolts. A man screeched and clapped heavily. Two young women took to the stairs in a hurry. I drank from my plastic cup of dark lager and leaned against the dusty concrete wall. She seemed content in that moment. Her sense of hearing kidnapped by the band’s biggest attempt at greatness. Their Summer Babe.
“I don’t want to be a failure,” murmured the singer. “I just want to rock and roll.”
She lit a cigarette, clumsily, and exhaled a thin grey stream.
A man with one feather earring remarked to her, “Excuse me, I’m trying to live. Do you mind?”
I later saw that man snort a line of cocaine from the back of his hand.
I said to him, “Many people are not living now, so you could do that. You don’t mind.”
The man’s eyes processed my remark. He jerked to headbutt me, but he was taller and I had time to step aside. I swung my right fist into his chin and neck. The man fell hard to the musty basement floor. It wasn’t because of my punch. He began convulsing as yellow foam exited his mouth in spurts. The crowd encircled him and shared stares at me. I pulled my shoulders back.
A little woman collapsed at the man’s side. She struggled as she pulled his wallet from the back pocket of his tight jean capris. She kept the chain attached and shoved the wallet into the man’s mouth. She wiped his forehead and repeated to him, “It’s ok, Jethro. It’s ok.”
The band seemed to play louder.
We left the worn-out rental house as a police cruiser parked along the sidewalk.
“I called them.” She said. “That party was fucking lame.”
“I thought you were a nurse,” I said. “That man I punched was having a seizure.”
“Yep,” she said.
In a little bar on Virginia Avenue, I looked down and saw a neat peach Brandy in front of me. It might have been my third. The guitarist in front of the microphone had a habit of pushing his glasses up his nose with his pick finger. I wanted to buy him goggles. Nevertheless, what his fingers could do to that electric guitar seemed to transfix the seventeen people in the little bar. (I have a habit of counting the room, so that I know how many people I have to get through if some maniac starts shooting a gun.) He played all over the instrument. His fingers moved with a mathematical rhythm along the frets. The bassist and drummer merely kept a beat. The guitarist stood awkwardly as the band leader. He held his guitar at a mid-abdomen height and with a reluctance to accept the medium of his talent. His humility frightened me. He owned such talent, yet he maintained himself in a manner that he would rather be doing something else — he had the look of a man that enjoyed lawn mowing.
The guitarist was given a stool, and he sat with an acoustic guitar while his band mates refilled their drinks. He spoke into the microphone in an unsteady voice that sounded surprised by its own volume. He pushed his glasses up his nose.
“I’d like to do an original here. I wrote this some time ago.”
He strummed a few chords. He pushed his glasses up his nose.
“Why doesn’t he wear contacts?” She whispered to me; her breath bulgy with vodka and cigarette smoke.
I shrugged. “Habits sometimes are necessary to maintain order.”
She belched. “What does that even mean?”
…meet your maker, everyone, gather the guns/maybe next time I’ll be the one who lays down/meet the needle, meet the gun, meet the whisky, and the habit on the run/meet the monster, yes, yes, meet the monster…
The bassist stood next to me at the bar as he waited for a drink. He wore black jeans and a black t-shirt. His bald head needed a towel.
“Your man is good up there,” I said to him.
The bassist snorted.
“Who that guy?” he said and pointed to the guitarist. “That guy is a sonofabitch.”
…trapped inside a luxury/playing out riddles and dancing jesters/we were all waiting for some history/fates making lives less sudden/getting eaten up by some great unknown/meet the good book, meet the ledger, meet the mirror and the treasure, meet the monster, hey, hey, hey, meet the monster…
She kissed me on the cheek then. A sudden, silly gesture. Her eyes began to glisten and open a little wider. Her head slowly swayed. I smiled at her.
“That man is a real sonofabitch!” The bassist yelled as the guitarist finished his song. Nine or ten people applauded. All seventeen should have lain prostrate. I found two fingers in my mouth from her playful hand. I clamped down on them and growled. She laughed ridiculously.
“Whistle!” she screamed. “Whistle!”
I heard children scream and laugh and whine and cry. I heard jackpot rings and parking lot carnival chimes. I stood in the front of the line for Polish sausages as the people behind me grew impatient. She hung from my arm like a flag from a porch eave.
I spooned onions, relish and yellow mustard atop my sausage and bit into it. The toppings smeared together and slid down the side of the bun. I tore away a hot bite and chewed with dumb satisfaction. I had a ball of brown napkins by the time I was done.
She kissed me again on the Ferris wheel. She put more effort into it than before. I felt her tongue poke around the inside of my mouth. I smiled into her eyes again; if that were such a gesture. (It’s similar to using mirrors to check one’s teeth.) A mile away the city’s skyline blinked at me. At us. All of us. Anyone who looked. She glanced away from it and sighed.
The portable wheel machine grinded and clinked. A metal latch separated us from the air. I wanted to unlatch it and step out of the chair and into another, bigger Ferris wheel. As it cycled, I’d step out and into yet another bigger, grander Ferris wheel. I’d continue on until I reached somewhere I needed to be; until the last Ferris wheel cycled into an area of my psychological happy place. (A place, I am sure, that does not exist.) I smelled the night air, ripe with fried sausage and hydraulic fluid; pavement and iron.
Her hand had a firm grip around my penis. She giggled.
“I’m your turbo lover,” she said. “You’d better run for cover.”
I walked along the street. The sidewalk mere feet away seemed too safe. I left Lux, her name Lacy or Laura now, asleep in a booth at an all-night diner. She had begun to eat biscuits with hamburger gravy, before muttering a statement about the food then resting her head against the wall. I asked the waitress for ketchup and she responded with a coarse, “We ain’t got ketchup.” I thought I must have been in Hell if the restaurant didn’t carry ketchup, so I promptly left.
As I walked, I sung aloud a chorus to a song that didn’t exist. Sedans and hatchbacks drove by, their drivers oblivious. I felt like dancing, though the steps were unknown to me. I shuffled a bit and waved an index finger in the air. I bowed to the ghosts.
Along an interstate overpass, I stopped and stood against the concrete ledge. I outstretched my arms as the speeding wind from tractor-trailers and minivans rushed by. The pulse of the interstate; the engine echoes, the hum-roll of tires against pavement, the halogen headlamps was as the ocean’s tide and setting sun.
I awoke on a city bus to a woman poking my arm. She wanted money. She needed something to eat.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “All my money is tied up in envy. Pity yields poor returns.”
She stared at me. Her eyes were wide and blank. She moved along the aisle and asked another passenger in the exact rote in which she asked me. She repeated this process with more passengers before asking the bus driver and exiting. She was no longer a human being. In the act of day to day survival she became a program. Self-awareness vanished into a singular desire for money to maintain an upright life.
I pulled on the stop string with the ferocity of a miss-stepped tight-rope walker. I jumped out of the bus. I threw up on top of an over-flowing garbage can by a small, worn bus stop. A Styrofoam cup rolled off and onto the ground.
I remained a virgin until well into my twenties. I regarded love and sex and courtship as fanciful special bonds to be shared with a destiny-picked partner. It was a ridiculous notion.
At twenty-one, I fell for a despondent fifteen year old with a spotty peach complexion and short blonde hair. Cesty. I could say her name a thousand times and I would not lose the taste in my mouth; a flavor of salicylic acid, scented sodium lauryl sulfate and minty chewing gum. I told her I was a virgin. She did not believe me. She lost her virginity at twelve. I confessed sentiments to her like she was there to be told everything I ever knew and felt.
“I want it to be special,” I told her. “I’ve been waiting for the right person. Sex is a powerful action. I don’t want to waste it on just anyone.”
She may have rolled her stone blue eyes a few times. She often did.
“Once you do it,” she said. “It won’t matter as much.”
In a park shelter, on a picnic table, I tried to get on top of her. I was forcing myself into her. We were still fully clothed. I had no idea what I was doing.
She pushed me off of her and said, “You have the sexual characteristics of an adolescent.”
She never called me again.
The new scent of the air, a maple sulfur mix, assured me that I was walking along a sidewalk on the city’s south side. The streetlights shone a duller yellow and the skyline seemed to hang below and away like an uneven wall poster. I felt as if rusted-metal spring traps existed around the building corners of decades-foreclosed fabrication shops and car dealers. Traps built to catch and kill weary, dumbfounded travelers like me. Mole-eyed, dirty families living in the crevices of the abandoned buildings would come out and pick my body clean while I lay prone and crushed. The next day, as the buzzards circle, the mole-eyed family pulls my body apart for an oil drum fire roasting. Smattering me with garbage sauces and spices, they feast and exclaim what a good suburban white man meat had been raised. A little chewy, perhaps, but nonetheless the best white man they’ve ate for some time.
Behind me, the hum of the interstate rolled along. The interstate’s presence kept me at ease. It was my ocean; it exists day and night ebbing and flowing along, always in motion, and always there.
Ahead, the buzzing purple and yellow neon sign of Club Pegasus, coaxed me to come inside. On the door, a typed paper sign read, “Please refrain from touching the dancers and waitresses. Two drink minimum.” Scribbled in marker on the wall near the door, “Big girl, big cunt. Small girl, all cunt.”
Tiger’yall asked me if I wanted a lap dance.
“Yes, of course I do.” I said. “You’re name is Tiger’yall?”
“Yeah. Like, Imma tiger y’all!”
Tiger’yall wore a gold bob wig and a silver teddy combination. Her dark brown skin stretched around her thighs in pink streaks. Her breasts protruded from her bra like oversized cupcakes. Her glossy red lips pouted in front of large, bleached teeth. She outsized me by a hundred or so pounds and at least four inches.
“It’s twenty.” She said. Her mien resembled an out-of-order sign.
I pulled seven crumbled dollars from my pocket and held it up.
“A dance is twenty. That all you have?”
“Yes. It is.” I continued to hold the seven dollars in the air as my only negotiating tactic.
“Ok.” She said and slipped the money inside her shiny silver bra cup. She walked over to the jukebox and put in a dollar. She played Gimme That Nut by Eazy-E.
I smacked her on the right butt cheek. I laughed and smacked her again.
“Quit it.” She said.
I continued to smack her; I included both cheeks and hit each one with increasing energy.
“Tiger’yall!” I heard someone yell from across the bar. “You better calm him down!”
“I done tried!” She yelled back. She rotated her body around and nearly crushed my rising erection. She stood and intermittently buried her breasts in between my nose. Near her panty-line I saw razor stubble and raised hair follicles like aggravated goose bumps. I imagined her at home, in a hurry and attempting to get ready for work. The pressure of maintaining her life weighing down on her as she stands naked in front of the bathroom mirror and quickly runs a disposable razor around her vagina. She needs to make money tonight, rent is due, gas is due; her child needs new asthma medication. Tiger’yall finds herself not really knowing what to do or how to do it, but always knowing money is the main objective. She bounces around jobs and lovers, and has found a few successful nights de-clothing and dancing. She still struggles to stay ahead.
“We all do,” I said aloud.
“Huh?” she asked.
I put teeth marks into her right breast; she pulled away and slapped my face.
“Tiger!” The voice yelled. “Leave the customers alone!”
“He bites!” She yelled back and looked at me with a sneer.
“So give him something to suck on!”
She scowled at me as I smiled, stupidly.
She removed her bra. As she did the few dollars from inside her cup floated to the ground.
“Oh!” she said. “Umph,” is the noise she made as she unflatteringly picked up the cash. With the money held in her hand, she sat down on my lap and beat my face with her enormous breasts. The voice laughed.
The song finished and she remained in my lap and stared into my eyes. “You’re kinda cute,” she said as she ran her free hand through my hair. She kissed me on the cheek.
“Is that all you have?” she asked as she rubbed my torso. “I can give you a better time in there.” She nodded toward a dark doorway.
“Possibly,” I said. “There’s always ATM’s. Let’s find out.”
As I floated to the ATM, the bartender put a shot of clear liquor on the bar-top and looked at me like a cop checking for sobriety.
“Is this what you want to do,” I imagined her thinking.
“Yes. Oh Yes.” I responded in my head. Or aloud.
“Cheers,” she said as she tossed one back with me.
The bartender seemed too good to be in a place such as Club Pegasus. Her dark brunette hair pulled to a ponytail, she had the shape of a distance runner; all limbs and tanned. She may have been an actress researching for a role. A moonlighting law student. A ukulele song I have never heard played in my mind as I watched her pour another shot. I wanted to run across the country with her.
“I’m gonna go on to that back room, back there. Over there.” I slobbered. “Would you like to join us, the both of us?” Tiger’yall put her hands on my shoulders and made a nostril noise by my ear.
“No thanks,” the bartender said with an open hand. God, she was strong! “Would you like another shot of Rumpleminze?”
“Yes!” I said as I handed Tiger’yall my debit card.
The bartender turned her back to me as she tended to drink tickets. I imagined calling out to her, raising my glass and winking. A sort of toast to her and our life paths crossing, however brief, and to the potential of us had it been under different circumstances. Tiger’yall pushed a little mirrored compact in my lap topped with two stringy lines of cocaine. My eyes widened and a spoke with approval like a caveman.
“Yearrarrrhhh.” I sniffed deeply. The cocaine tasted like horseradish in the back of my throat.
“How much?” Tiger’yall asked, holding my debit card between two fingers like a long cigarette.
“All of it,” I said.
The city’s sidewalk carried me downtown as four masked individuals attached tall penis and testicle shaped sculptures over the posts of parking meters. Each penis stood erect or flaccid and varied in shape and size. The fleshy paint tones exhibited clear mastery of human skin. They may have been the leftovers of castrated giants. I was quite impressed by the Art Deviancy Operation.
They moved with a practiced pattern like experienced bank robbers through a teller line. One drove an old pick-up truck that contained the penis sculptures in the bed along with a generator powering an acetylene welder. Two individuals went along and slid the penises over the top of the parking meters and attached a c-clamp at the base of the balls. The other followed with the welder and made slow, precise welds to the c-clamps. It was fantastic. A Hulk Hogan mask looked up and saw me approach. I gave a thumbs-up. As I walked by and admired and laughed, the lamplight caught a stunning pair of gray eyes behind a frog mask. An orange curl of hair strung down her face. “What a woman,” I thought. “Deviant art woman.”
The Hulk Hogan mask and the welder’s mask, communicated non-verbally. The welding machine was loaded in the bed of the pick-up truck. They grabbed skateboards and took off in different directions. The driver sped away. The frog mask skated by me just close enough to wink. I walked into the street to get a look of the row of penis covered parking meters. They stood like welcome home banners for a troupe of gay marines and travelling bachelorette parties.
Inside the Genesis Lounge, I had a bottle of Hornsby’s in my left hand and a dart in the other. I never drank cider or played darts with strangers. I was no longer in control. I sat and watched myself stand at the throw line, close an eye and throw the plastic dart with the follow-through of a baseball pitcher. A short man in baggy, maroon slacks and a matching short sleeve button-up jawed me about my dart skills. He walked to the dart board like a man asking a lady for a dance. All the while he talked.
“Look it, man. What you aiming for here? I know it wan’it this double twelve. Uh? Sheet. You throw so wide look like a blind man threw this here. Ugh. You betta not be tryin’ that shit over there at the pool table. That Mink Man’s table. He don wan no bullshit ass, wide throwin’ ass white boy trying to game. No sir. You lucky I need the practice.”
I had no desire to shoot pool. I listened to him like he was my part-time coworker. He pointed to my last dart.
“Look at this one here! What the fuck is this?” He laughed in hiccups and bent over.
I furrowed my eyebrows. What was so funny? He continued to laugh and bend over. He made whooping noises.
“Sheet you no good, boy!”
Some men at a round table looked at us and laughed too. What was so funny?
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
The man laughed harder. So did the men at the table.
I shrugged and went to the bar.
The cute, community college girl bartender wore grey yoga pants. Her butt was small and firm. I made a silent prayer for the invention of yoga pants. I smiled at her as she poured me a shot of Grand Marnier. I wanted to fall in love with her. She wore a tight and worn blue cotton t-shirt with an Auburn Tigers logo.
“Did you go to Auburn?” I asked as she handed me the Grand Marnier.
Her smattering of freckles below her green eyes wrinkled. She wiped her left wrist to a red bandana that framed her face.
“Oh.” She said, pulling on the bottom edge of her shirt. It tightened over her breasts in such way that made them look plump and edible. I wanted to watch her shower. She made me hard. I wanted to marry her.
“No.” She said. “This is an old shirt. Do you want anything for last call?”
With that simple explanation and question, she buried my fascinations. She must get it all the time; the lonely, wayward men stumbling to the bar, fawning over her. She can see it in their eyes, that moment when they realize just how cute she is. She then either turns up the cute and pours ‘em stiff or dissuades with a wave of the hand and a comment like ‘do you want anything for last call.’ I was heartbroken. I could have raised a family with her.
I ordered another Grand Marnier and a well whiskey on the rocks.
Two women a few stools down, tipped their glasses to me and coarsely laughed. One blew smoke from a Menthol, while the other one talked in her ear. They did not move their eyes from me. One had shiny orange hair and muscular arms. The other had black hair that grew from blonde roots. The skin on their faces sagged around the eyes and jawline.
They were sisters, Kaye and Darlene. Kaye had the shiny orange hair. They would not tell me their age. Kaye had a son in high school. Darlene mentioned attending an after-party of a Skid Row concert at Market Square Arena.
They lived in a duplex along a street with abandoned homes. They let me drive there. I had a ball. I rolled the windows down and yelled like I was on a roller coaster. Kaye sat in the passenger seat and rubbed my thigh. Darlene sat behind me and patted my head. I kissed them both. Darlene had arm tattoos of a name, “Charley” and a jagged vine. She had another tattoo on the side of her neck that read in fancy cursive, “Destiny.”
I stood in their kitchen and drank raspberry vodka with orange juice. They both drank some too. I wasn’t attracted to them. They rubbed their hands across my chest and arms. It was four a.m., the time of day when the world’s nefarious thrive and make their plays for further acceptance into Hell. Nothing good happens at four in the morning. Kaye, maybe it was Darlene, whispered in my ear that they wanted to take me to bed. I was no longer in control.
“We do adult films,” Kaye said to me, naked from the waist up and sitting on her knees on the mattress next to me. I was in my boxer shorts and sprawled out on my back. I held a plastic carryout cup of more raspberry vodka and orange juice. Her large breasts hung down and away, as if they were ashamed of being breasts.
“Very low budget, I’m sure.” I said.
Darlene stood at the end of the mattress. She was also shirtless and with similar breasts. She played with a handicam.
“We do good for ourselves,” she said.
“I’m sure.” I said. “You two have got it going on.”
Darlene asked me questions like I was a naïve boy. “How old are you?” “Do you want us to come to be with you?” “What do you want to do to us?” I had a forced smile on my face as the ceiling fan steadily broke apart the lamp light. The mattress had a flower pattern sheet and a couple beaten pillows. I wondered what other drunken men the sisters had cajoled from the Genesis Lounge into this bedroom to be recorded performing sexual acts with them; and if, like me, they regarded the moment as one of uncontrollable, head-on desperation. I felt like a bum, digging through a sidewalk trash can for something to eat. A wave of blood came to my face. I closed my eyes and vomited beside the bed. Upon seeing the mess and hearing their laughing and cursing, I vomited again against the wall. It sprayed beautifully. I regarded the stain as a Rorschach blot. What I saw was the stain of a man’s cry for help. I vomited again as Kaye rubbed my back. Darlene held the handicam closer to my face. It felt fantastic to vomit. I wanted to crawl into that feeling and stay there away from the sisters. I could have done it for days.
I awoke with my cheek on my hand. My hand was numb and cold. My boxer shorts were gone. Kaye lay nude next to me. She had a faded black ink tattoo of a sun pattern around her pierced belly button. Her stomach protruded in a bulge as to make her piercing look to be the valve plug of an engorged beach ball. She laid with a hulking leg over the other; her mouth half-agape and her cheeks were puffy and rosy. Maybe in another man’s eyes, she looked to be an object of desire while nude; but not to me. She snored like a goat, also. I stood while the room did spinning dances around me. I didn’t see my clothes. I walked into the hallway, as the walls continued to dance and sway. I didn’t remember the house. I grabbed a red towel from a wall rack in the bathroom and wrapped it around my waist. I chugged a yellow antiseptic, spitting what was left into the rust stained sink. In the mirror, my terribly bloodshot eyes mixed with a weary, confused face. I looked beaten by a much better boxer, whom could punch without leaving a bruise.
I found a pair of bath slippers in the living room. I put my feet into them and scuttled away from the house.
My mother used to tell me that I was in one in a million. As a child I took it to heart. I was unique. I could accomplish anything. I would one day be an astronaut, an explorer, a professional baseball player. But, as I got older I regarded it as meaning that I am just one of a million. There are a million other people on this Earth that are just like me. Thoughts. Ideas. Actions. Style of dress. Accomplishments. I wasn’t as unique as she wanted me to believe. I am just another human being; and significant only to those I knew. This thought kept me from pursing much of anything in life. There would always be another human being out there pursuing the same thing. I found women to be the sole alleviator of this feeling. In the pursuit of a woman, my purpose was separate of others. I could feel unique then. In whispered bedroom conversations, brushes of lips to skin and the writhing crush of her hips I could feel, briefly, the maddening exalting experience of one in a million. And, when we lay together, breathing and thinking of what’s next, she could be my Little Girl and I her Rapeseed Flower; letting me float along the brook to everyone else. I felt nothing when absent of this pursuit. I often imagined myself blending into the Earth’s other zillion molecules; counting me as just another wheat shock whipping in a breeze. I yearned for more depth or gravity to my being. Something! Anything! For the love of God, feel what it is to live loudly! Hey, you! Hey! Feel this? Touch this! Fuck this? Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I want to hover above this city and inhale everyone and everything, only to gasp it all out in mangled, mismatched placement and covered in my spit and blood and breath. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Yet, when not in the pursuit of a woman, my core was weightless and hollow. I passed by people as a pebble by a pebble on an infinite coast.
As I walked through the neighborhood of abandoned homes, I came upon an intersection in a part of town in which a man wearing only a bath towel and slippers should not be walking. I clenched the towel with my left hand. My waist was never any good at supporting pants without a belt. I began to feel eyes upon me. They seared into me and I felt like a forest rabbit lost in a coyote-rich prairie.
In front of a little garage I found a payphone. I held the broken receiver and clicked the switchhook for a dial tone. Nothing. A dullness that resembled the absence of sound in a vacuum. I closed my eyes and found respite there. Never before had I found such peace. The clarity and calm; the ceased mobility of waves. I had a sudden feeling of gravity. The city block surrounding me — the constructions of humankind; the aluminum signposts, the brick walls and mortar foundations, the flywheels of delivery trucks, the inductive loop wires of traffic lights, the waxed metal slats of bus stop benches and the flimsy vinyl siding of so many remodeled rental homes all pulled toward me. I breathed. I saw myself from a distance. The bath towel felt heavy on the tops of my feet as I let go. I left the payphone and turned in the direction of my apartment building; many more blocks away. Cars honked and slowed. Heads hung from windows and faces yelled with amusement and anger. I paid no attention. I had weight. I was a viable, detectable being within the universe. I did not need to feel anything more than the moment. I raised my hands above my head and looked skyward. Spit hit me in the face. Gravity.
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