Duple (Story A Day May)

Having missed Story-A-Day-May yesterday, I give you a double story today:

1. Crawling through the underbelly of a city was not something I envisioned doing in my lifetime, which amounted to all of thirty-seven years and eleven months. Yet here I was, hands and knees, sparse clothing covering what needed covering, a helmet made of a cut-in-half soccer ball resting on my shaggy once-shaved head. Palms dirty, knees beyond, nose unable to smell anything anymore. It was a new low. Literally.

2. They say that cities have character. That Rome feels different than London feels different than Istanbul different from Tokyo from Paris from Cairo New Delhi Amman Tel Aviv Moscow Bridgetown Cape Town… It’s true. Each of us is different, created from the underbellies of human filth and the topsoil of human kindness, the biblical animals of the sea and sky and beasts of the earth covering us and the scientific spellbinding microscopic germs and plain-to-see beetles spreading themselves widely across us. Years and months and hands and knees don’t mean a thing to us. We’re larger than that and smaller too. We are multitude and each singular.

1. I wish I could say I was looking for an engagement ring, one hidden in a roll or at the bottom of a glass of champagne, but I hadn’t tasted either bread or bubbly for some years. I subsisted mostly on leftover chips at McDonald’s and the soup made of too many things without proper names served in kitchens when I was lucky. I wish I could say I was looking for anything at all down there, in the sewer pipe between two larger tunnels but the truth was I wasn’t looking. I hadn’t gotten to that point yet. When you’re running away from something, you tend to only start looking for a hiding or resting place when you’re sure you’re not being pursued anymore, or at least that you have a decent advantage on the other person. Persons. Beings. Whatever it is that’s chasing you. Or, in this case, me.

2. We spawn. Cities do. We create things imagined by too many people to ignore, things that we listen to intently in nightmares and daydreams, things described and things hidden behind walls of consciousness. We give birth not only to the biologically sound but to the criminally insane visions of murderers and CEOs alike. Sometimes we allow our creations to escape the place where only we can see them – what do you think we create them for if not for our own amusement? We know human patterns, and they become dull after a generation or two. Watching your reactions to visions and impossibilities, to things that go bump in the night or Tinkerbell in the day is almost as amusing as natural disasters on our outskirts. As a general rule, we don’t love those disasters happening inside us. It tends to be painful in all sorts of ways that we couldn’t explain to beings like you with sensory underload. Five senses and you think maybe a sixth and that’s a lot? If only you know how limited you are.

1. I’d always thought of the seventh sense as something that few people had. I’d discovered it when I lost everything. Them’s big words: “lost everything.” An exaggeration, maybe, but when my hands and knees were dirty and disgusting and yet only a little worse than they’d been for the last few years, being dramatic didn’t seem like altogether blowing things out of proportion. Especially when something was pursuing me. It skittled and scuttled and my helmet-soccer-ball made the noise reverberate in my ears even more so I wasn’t sure if I was getting any farther away or what. I was certain, though, that I wouldn’t be able to run forever. When I realized that, I stopped. I was in another tunnel between two hallway-sized areas, on my hands and knees again, but I maneuvered so I was leaning my minimally clad back against the clammy wall. The reason I had so few clothes on was because I’d left most of them in my hiding spot and let myself walk around in the July heat with the sun on my skin, which felt nice, and rare. Until I started being chased. Now, when I turned my head to see the thing with the tick-tick-tick feet that was chasing me, I saw that it had stopped too. It looked at me, cocking its body or head or whatever the glowing bit with the eyes was, and then turned and scampered off in the other direction. My heart pounded and I thought I’d have a heart attack, but I’d survived worse, and I probably would again.

2. When we get tired of entertainment we let them go, our prey, our bait, our playing-with-our-food-toys. We’re all different, cities, but we all agree that if there’s something we share, something vital, it’s a nasty streak a stratosphere wide and a galaxy high. Think we’re bad? Try living in the suburbs.

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Raggedy Ana Does It Again

Why does she do this to herself? Her arms are so pretty so shiny and squeaky clean skin soft like lovers say and here she lies in a bed of roses or rose drops or blood drops in a bathtub or red ties on the metal rails of a hospital bed.

…Mom Dad Someone

We’re right here, darling.

You are

Yes, can’t you see us?

I can see I don’t know what I’m seeing where am I how and why am I tied I don’t like

You tried to do it again, sweetheart.

I did

Yes.

How this time

The same as usual.

No different

No.

No change

No.

And she starts to laugh, the maniacal laughter that comes from being found freshly alive in a heapful of bodies, all the ones that live in her head, all with her face on them. But none of the others go the way she can, they’re all mangled or strangled or squashed against concrete or cartop or poisoned with malaise and arsenic but she, the one found alive no matter how far she burrows down into the heap is the only one who can’t get it right, too enamored with the process to let it go all the way.

Have I been here long

No, hon, only a couple of days. I miss you, though.

Are you sleeping with her already

No! Why would I do that? I love you. Only you.

You won’t not for long trust me

Yes, I will.

Okay

She will heal again, one sealed stitch at a time, a rag doll more than anything, dragging on everyone’s nerves, grating their elephantine skin and peeling their waxen faces and breaking them until they’ve broken her to fix her and put her back together again like a watch without a face and only the hands moving correctly, finally, until the next time someone, her most likely but sometimes someone else, accidentally or on purpose reaches into the clock and wrenches the hands up and out and breaks them, or twists them the wrong way until the time is all gone and out of shape.

Hello is anyone there

I knew you’d leave all of you proved you right didn’t I

Oh there you are you just don’t want to talk because you’re crying

…yes.

The last one lasted longer than you you’re leaving now aren’t you

…yes.

Okay

And she will still heal again, and it won’t matter how many times she is broken and picks herself up again, or gets picked up again, or has the crows pick her clean as carrion again, she will always go back to the old scars, she doesn’t pick new ones, it’s been long enough that she has her favorite places where things open again and open so well and so tasty, the blood melts in her mouth like curry, pudding, chocolate cake with candles in it. Burning the roof of her mouth. Scorching her until she laughs again for no good reason other than the swallowed cigarette trick she remembers from an old black and white movie and always imagined must have felt like this.

Good morning. How are you feeling?

Cat got your tongue?

Oh, I see. Yes, I see. That’ll definitely sting for a few days. But it’ll heal. The mouth is the fastest part of our bodies to heal, did you know that?

It’s because of all the blood vessels there. The mouth is very resilient.

hith ith

Better you try not to speak until it heals, sugar. The doctor will come later and see if we can remove these ties, okay?

Oh ey

Good girl. Or woman, I should say, shouldn’t I? Forty-six, you’re as old as my oldest daughter.

That’s right. Just buzz if you need water or anything. It’ll heal fast, I promise.

No, I Won’t Have a Heart Attack

When I know that they… And I know that I… There is a space in between where something happens and… But what if the shoe was on the other hand, tied tight with a sock puppet buried inside, casketed? Some things are best left unexplained, unexamined, unreliable, unrefined, underwater, undefined.

So when they… And I… And we together… And if only they wouldn’t… If only I couldn’t… There is a space in between where nothing needs to happen but… And what if the sock was in the laundry hamper, with a pair of jeans with tissue inside a pocket, and the washer/dryer at the laundromat covered all your shirts with white puffballs? Nothing would be clean, holy, sanctified, refined, defined, examined, but it would be explained: tissue in your jeans’ pocket.

And where do you… and they… How do we all… Doing things isn’t as hard as the space between where nothing happens and nothing proceeds and movement is restricted to peripheral limbs only, creating a vacuum of the face, an inability to speak or hear or see the evil, if it is evil, or the good, if it is good, or the grey, the in between, which most things are.

When you know that I… And that they… Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t I be working on things other than midnight lyrics and fortune cookie lines running through my head at a speed too fast to keep track of? So when my coffee gets… And I want to… Because there’s more but not enough… What then? What do I do then?

In the morning afterlight, the spaces in between come close together, the light drains out the Dark Matter, and a face as light as air and heavy as a stone is yours or theirs and… But maybe… Because… And after all… You understand me, don’t you?

Don’t word things at me, hurl them if you must but don’t be delicate. Remember I am not a poet. I am a straightforward mess of a manchild and my expressions are few and far between. So if… And I know that if also… Am I here with you or am I alone? Where are the spaces in between where I found you?

Because… And here I’m being serious, take my words for it, because what if… And that actually… And you aren’t… And I’m not… But what about them? And my jeans? And where is my coffee and my running shoes and sock puppet? Where are my underwear and where is my jersey, where are my shorts and where are my headphones. I’m going out to… I’ll be back when…

No, I won’t have a heart attack. Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll be home for dinner.

A Part

Spiraling light fixtures collapse the spectrum of the rainbow into single expressions of color. Mass. You are part of a moving mass. The snow in your veins is made up of each and every one of the lights flashing in front of your eyes. White is not the absence of color. Black is, like the holes in space that haunt your dreams on nights of dark sweats that crawl across the covers in teams of walkie-talkie communicating ants. Dance. Your body is one of a hundred thousand others in a stadium radiating with sweating sound. The screams are as distressed as any single body would be in the presence of such staged magnificence. Sorting out one scream from another is like seeing leaves on trees as individuals when you’re looking at the blotchy rendering three year olds make of the oaks in front of their suburban homes. It is an imaginary, purely self-serving process. Can you do it? Are you good enough? Can you see through the mediocrity into the art? Well. Can you? Hands tighten around your waist. Connection. Is that what it is? Skin on clothing woven by Taiwanese children lying on skin burned by yesterday’s oven mishap. All there is to it is to imagine that this contact is pure melding. The melting of whitened blood snow into your consciousness. Bodies bumping in the night. Carnality made spiritual. Spirituality made carnal. Does it matter which? You are an animal, your pulses tell you this, your sight tells you this. Each of your thoughts is rewarded when put into action, reinforcing the thought – your desire for contact pulses into your nether regions, pushing your back into the depth of a stranger behind you, bringing his arms around your waist. Thought. Action. Reward. Dionysus would be pleased. A spectacle of such end of the world beauty was rarely seen by his maenads.

You are not so good

You begin to realize you’re not as good a person as you wish were. You’re not sure whether this is because of who you are, who you’re comparing yourself to on a daily basis, who you’re aspiring to be, or what you’re keeping in your belly and is emerging, in fits and bursts, and shocking people. You think it’s the last of these. Because, after all, if you would raise things that worried you at the right time, they wouldn’t bubble up like boiling water. As it is, you end up burning people, and they resent you for it. They begin to think you’re not as good a person as they thought you were before. They think you are hiding malice in your throat and in your lungs.
You wonder if they’re right. Everyone hides evil inside them, but there is evil and there is malice and there is innocent selfishness. You know your evil, your malice, is not original. You know that it is a product of your fear and your embarrassment. But you know that others don’t know this. It bothers you that the innocent selfish are seen as better people, because they, after all, are innocent. Selfish, yes, but innocent. Selfishness is being appreciated in your current surroundings, more and more so. You don’t understand this. It puzzles you. You’ve never experienced people who admire it so much. It makes you wonder, and it is one of the poisons leaking into your veins.
Your skin is peppered with invisible needles, the syringes of these poisons, most of which are connected to your own head. Others, just a few, come from other people. But really, even they, are probably linked to your own head in a way you don’t quite understand. You wish you could get it. You wish you understood better how to pluck these needles out, simply cut them out of your flesh.

You sit and listen to people talk everywhere and you wonder what happens in their heads. You love listening to them so much. They distract you from everything else you should be doing. Their heads – you know – must be just as loud as yours, but you wonder how different or similar they are. You know that each of you, each and every one, must be wrapped up to some extent or other in their own private world, and that is fascinating. You want their stories. You want to know their stories.

Expectations

Prepare for liftoff. Count down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Feel the beat of blood through veins. Hear the thrum of an engine. Taste the stale air of unfulfilled expectations.

Empathy can go too far, and yet George Eliot had it right in Middlemarch when she tried to teach her readers to feel for the whole of unsung, everyday humanity. So what if the growing of the grass is deafening and overwhelming? So what if being able to read another’s thoughts on his face is searingly painful? Isn’t it worth it?

Scratch a pen over paper. Scratch over written words but don’t forget that they existed. Chalkboards don’t leave behind a trace – they waste words. What if there were a finite number of letters, syllables and words in existence? White boards are just as bad.

Fly with the aid of an umbrella from the roof of a doghouse, but nothing higher. Jump off a tree but only if it’s already been cut down and is lying on its side. Crawl along the ground and look at the busy ants in their long lines. Try to imagine what the sunshine is thinking as it bathes the cold-blooded lizards in its warm rays.

Expect to be disappointed. Expect to be happy. Expect to be sad. Expect things to change. Expect the earth to turn, the sun to rise, the moon to shine, the wind to blow, the ground to shift, the sea to overwhelm. Expect people to be not what they seem, to become different than they were, to throw you off guard. Expect people to be disdainful. Expect people to love.