Stories

cynlm – Dan Brat

Keep it polite. Piano keys slide dew drops of sticky sweat. Abode is made of wood. House/Krautrock/Psychedelic music sounds like it’s underwater. He passes three bursting fire hydrants on his way to the subway (fact of life in Bushwick summer).

A kid on a tricycle approaches him from behind. There’s a set of large speakers hanging on the back of the three-wheeler. They’re brick wall transcending, ear piercingly loud. The cyclist has his iPhone hooked up through auxiliary, playing the intros to popular rap songs, wears a navy b t shirt that says STAFF on the back. Plays ten seconds of the beginning of a song, and then changes it. The tricycle makes a right turn and the music dims loudly in the distance. He passes a fat black woman with a short afro wearing a graey t shirt that says BROKE on the front in somewhat graffitied lettering. She asks him if he can help her out with some change for the bus. A sign reads “The Black, The Puerto Rican & The Jew Radio Show” as he walks down the stairs to the subway.

He holds on as the train shakes underneath the East River. His arms shake. His fingers tremble. His eyes widen, word for word of the The queen is Dead in Last Exit to Brooklyn, thinking of a knife slicing through his right ribs, being shoved and pulled, an image of blood on cement. His legs sway from lack of cadence, his eyelid flickering off. You feel the breathing of the city on the back of your neck. Someone opens the window and the pressure drops in your ears, like the flushing of an airplane toilet, a violent gangrene death, your mother’s tears as she holds you while you shed red, a cold blade to your throat. He gets off on fourteenth street union square and walks towards nineteenth. He passes by Andy’s Deli, where he’ll be stopping by around ten thirty-six to grab a three dollar twenty-five bacon egg and cheese croissant. There’s a pothole in the street in front of his office building with red spray paint delineation. It’s grown larger since he first saw it. He gets to his desk at nine fifteenish.

Togna sits there looking at the faces of people. He’s discerning who in his office thinks about death constantly and who lives an arrogant existence. He thinks he can tell who obsesses over life’s abrupt halt by analyzing people’s expressions when they don’t think anyone’s looking. People sitting in front of non-touchscreens, white squares reflecting on determined eyeballs. Now he thinks he should include people who walk the block up to go to the kitchen or the bathroom, because, although they may be aware of the peeping their respective self receives when they walk past others and portray an uncandid depiction of their vibe, it is sometimes a good indicator of how they vibe (forreal like) with death once studied and c&c’d against snapshots of their inattentive, socially-dead self.
Anne is a heavy set girl who dresses like other heavy set girls who like to keep most of their bodies covered at all times, but in a fashionable way, with layers upon layers of thin paper-like articles of clothing that skinny girls wear as shirts. She smiles profusely when she walks back from the kitchen, with a look in her eyes that can only be described as “far-peripheral.” Lack of fear of death? Most likely, too self-obsessed with her own depression and self-loathing to consider dying, is what Togna thinks.
His phone interrupts his train of Anne thought with a buzzing vibration accompanied by a chirp followed by what Henry describes as “digital water drops.” And it’s actually a text from Henry #whatafunnycoincidence (This whole sentence is actually spoken in Togna’s head #notfootnoteworthy).

HenPee: Yeah they’re more popular than the Beatles over there bcuz it seems they were the only band playing live during the occupation 12:37 PM

Me: Big fish in a communist pond 12:41 PM

Me: Do I have a tights fetish, or does everyone else feel this incredible the first time they put on long johns? 2:01 PM

HenPee: Lol long johns, they’re either great or they don’t do shit, I can’t tell 2:15 PM

Me: They feel amazing I want to wear this everyday. Sign me up for one of those one piece suits everyone in the future seems to be wearing. 2:18 PM

HenPee: Lol warmsuit 2:20 PM

Me: I don’t care if it’s hot or cold, I feel like myself when i wear tights #comeonbroit’safunnyjokegiveaniggaaL-O-Lthatlookslikeit’swalkingdownthescreen 2:23 PM

HenPee: Ive always liked tight clothes and would wear more if it was socially acceptable 2:48 PM

Me: L 2:49 PM

Me:      O 2:49 PM

Me: L 2:50 PM

Me: I don’t care if it’s socially acceptable, I’m telling Facebook about my tights fetish 2:59 PM

HenPee: Lol 3:04 PM

Togna regrets not having typed “big fish in a gay pond.” Ursula is a full-bodied girl, not in the heavy set sense, like Anne, but the full-bodied way of attractive women. Her face isn’t a gift from heaven but is what you call “cute.” She’s a pretty cute chick in Togna’s opinion. She gives Togna these terrible forced smiles which are anything but genuine, that smile where only the lips tilt up against cheeks, eyes and brows in place. Togna’s considered telling her that he likes looking at her, but hates saying hello because he feels like he’s upsetting her when he does. He’s been making highly-suggestive and sometimes frank comments to the women who work and breathe around him. He gets random erections in the office which he suspects are the product of female sprinklings in the environment, coating his essence in sexual liquidity. Sometimes he gets discouraged. He thinks about Usrula and himself coiled nude around each other in a sweaty room having a post-coital conversation about love and death.
He looks over at the Werner guy. Vernie, hey Verns. Does Werner consider his demise? He’s probably the kind of person who stresses over a painful death, hopes for something quiet and unnerving. It’s the craziest thing, Togna thinks, for people with high anxiety to wish for a peaceful death. Earth opens up to swallow you back in, you want to over-analyze that moment? Better to have a fussy and noisy death, can’t really think once or twice about it. A sudden impact, a snapping of the neck and an overbearing pressure lulling you to rest. Not on a bed, resting back, lucid eyes staring out at family members or what have you, final thoughts, you better make them good. You better make that last toast count, because you never know. Say “love you” instead of “hate you” before you hang up, or else, or else what? You might never say goodbye again? And who will say goodbye to you when your turn comes? Are people perpetually missing each other in lifetimes? The misplaced focus on the hate and love of last statements starts to depress Togna. Are people so self-absorbed that they completely miss the subject? He has eight espressos, doesn’t do a lick of work and calls it a day.

Fire hydrants gush through the afternoon. He’s walking home around six fourteen and the sun is nowhere close to setting. A four year old girl in a wet white t shirt and white booty shorts sits on a hydrant and contains the flow of water with a bucket. A motorcycle is approaching the street. She lets go of the bucket as the motorcycle passes, drenching him. The adults around the block start laughing. The children are laughing. The four year old girl is laughing, replacing the bucket for the next sucker. The biker doesn’t do shit.

He walks inside his apartment. Towards the bathroom, he passes mid conversation:

Jamal: This country is getting fatter.

Kurt: I think the poor are getting fatter.

He says hello to Henry taking a piss. He props it up on the edge of the sink and streams into the basin, no hands. Best way to piss if you’re a man, and if you’re not, you wouldn’t understand. You think into the shower is easier? I’m sorry. It’s just that, it’s way easier to pee into the sink, and you can’t understand that and I dig you. Sometimes I feel so happy. Especially around you, with your hair up like that. He finishes peeing, looking into his eyes in the mirror. Wanna smoke some hash?

Jamal: I heard they spray weed with water to make it weigh more.

Kurt: …Whhaaaaat?

Jamal: I bet maybe they put some like commercial grade chemicals on them.

Kurt: Oooh…Wow. Commercial-grade. That’s like that Ted Nugent argument last night about whether or not he did drugs.

Jamal: Oh yeah, cause he like denies that shit now, or something? He was, or Jeff was like denying it?

Kurt: Yeah…Exactly, he was like, but I mean you saw the clothes he was wearing, you heard what his music is about.

Jamal: Yeah, and then he said maserati, and I was convinced.

Kurt: Yeah, cause it means speed.

He joins Henry on the television couch. A bowl sparks.

Henry: This movie is one of the classics of our generation. A lot of people on the internet have been talking about it, so…I’ve been reading that.

Teleprompted news shows of missing white bitches his father sloths on, vacuum laughter, top ten onepercenter shit, animation product pavement, sacrilegious zesty latino spice, bzz non-sequel unhigh-defi buster blocking, rolling sci-fi, cosmopolitan chronicle of montaged events, hey I mean this look at me this is serious you need to take this seriously, endless stacks on stacks of this fucking show is the best thing they’ve ever done, whoever the fuck they is, I guess if you see a difference between the wire and sopranos then you don’t see a difference between going places and a bummer. Jazz jizz is watching the local news daily. Out of college and without a job, noon and noon thirty and four and four thirty, sometimes into five and five-thirty and if you’re bored enough six and six-thirty, the local news provides one of the clearest pictures of the world as a gigantic bolt of silk, institutionalized assimilation and traditional convention. You go straight into the previews. You’re enticed by salacious obscenity. They’re gonna make you wait for it. Death is involved here, at a minimum threat thereof. Stories are double sided, always the same two sides. Stress this: the greatest paradigm facing the conscious mass of human intellect is two-sided. Red and blue. Big and small. Free and free. Extreme and radical. Regressive and narrow. Everyone lives like this. And this fucking screen! People tell Togna he is naive, and then call him a snob because he doesn’t suspend disbelief for the sake of a black rubber suit and bat shaped weapons.

  

            An unnerving day dream where your first memories slide in. As if stumbled upon, a hypnagogic ceramic blue frog, a toy you’ve only seen in pictures, is clutched in your hands. The memento no longer exists. These memories deviate our emotions and deeply shape our beliefs. The root remains obscured, where did this frog fall out of? He fell in love with the first Barbara in kindergarten. Blonde, an ideal image of the dolls his sister kept in her larger room. She has blue eyes and summer tan skin with freckled brown spots. His amorous conviction develops on the first day of school. That night, at the dinner table, he proudly tells his parents that he has met the love of his life. His parents are excited. They start teasing him for having a girlfriend, and asking him what his girlfriend’s name is. It’s Barbara. He speaks her name and regrets it. His mom asks him if she likes him back. He starts yelling, runs downstairs and locks himself in his room.
            There’s a class dance at the end of the year. Some of the children come in costumes. The students line up at opposite ends of the room. The first boy closest to the teacher is instructed to pick a partner and dance in front of the class. They go one by one, until everyone has danced. Some of the girls have to go twice. There’s more boys than girls. Barbara is dressed as a fairy. She’s picked to dance three times before his turn. He’s next. He walks over to her. The teacher instructs him to choose someone else; some of the girls haven’t danced as much. He chooses a brunette dressed like the queen of hearts. She smiles at him and giggles, arm in arm. She reminds him of his aunt, his mother’s ugly sister. He’s plain-dressed. Barbara is a year older, and as he twirls with the queen he catches his last glimpse of Barbara through the corner of his eye.

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Jamal puts the pipe down. He’s leaning against a white bookshelf. Henry’s flipping through records. In the kitchen sits Togna by the nook, next to a black tabletop, listening to MJay entertain him with a story involving a cell phone, marijuana, whiskey, and some chick’s vagina. They went to Sushi Samba, all you can drink. The chick’s name is Dasha and MJay’s really starting to dig her. He fell for her on their first date. He shows up for a picnic in Prospect Park with salami, jalapeños, sun-dried tomatoes, havarti, a lime and a baguette, finds her sprawled on a light blue sheet licking at a split chocolate vanilla soft serve next to a boombox playing a Kim Fowley mixtape. They’re both excellent kissers, barely talk to each other. Kurt’s taking a shit.

When Marie gets a little lonely she has a glass of red wine. She’s starving. She had a dream a week ago: She’s in a black and gold dress in an empty ballroom. Blue spills out from the toilet. Fluorescent greenlighting of her varicose veins. It’s Sunday. Everything feels a little late. Marie calls Catherine who on a Sunday is probably at a bar getting hammered. Kevin’s with her. Catherine is from the west coast. She goes to see a band from her hometown play a show and meets Henry. A week passes and they don’t work out. They have fun on the second date, when Henry finally gets it up after getting something heavy off his shoulders. He tells her, Cathy, I like how much fun you are. She still comes over to watch movies, and get with Jamal. Jamal’s head is tied to a center gravity he tries to balance where he doesn’t overstep nor bids too low. It has do with a paradigm, a social ignorance most people are self-aware of, but not the absurdity of. He is well aware that people align themselves on a scale. He’s well aware that people are stupid. He is not aware of the absurdity of aligning yourself to a red and blue scale, and he’s absurdly unaware of the stupidity of his right leaning argumentation. He has absurd conversations with Togna, who does not align with any scale. When Togna tries to talk to Jamal about it, he’s accused of being left leaning. Jamal presses it on him. His friend tries to talk to him about the absurdity of left and right leaning, and Jamal leans right and sees left opposite him. This is the power of the paradigm. You never have an argument if the other person cannot fathom its existence. It also doesn’t help when you throw the concept of argument out the window. Togna’s stopped talking to Jamal when they have conversations. He feels less contrite when he lets his ears do the talking. Jamal picks up the pipe and asks Henry if he wants a hit. But did you even have to ask?

Togna sits in his room trying to write something. He looks out the window and is inspired by the city:

The city has your hands behind your back, and its tongue down your throat.

Togna cringes and strikes out the line, gives in for the day. He checks his email. No updates. He scrolls through picture blogs of spazzle. Henry walks in and asks Togna what he needs to do to hook up the tapedeck. You have to take the RCA cables and plug them out from the tapedeck and into the receiver.

Henry: OK, so there’s a cable, and where do I plug it in?

Well, there’s actually only in and out, and it’s the RCA cable. Henry walks out of the room. He comes back in while Togna is standing on top of his horizontal expedit shelf to put up a poster.

Henry: OK, so is it this cable?

Yeah.

Henry: And so in the back, where do I plug it, you said in?

Well, no, out because you want to be able to hear what the tapedeck is playing.

Henry: OK, you don’t have to be condescending about this Togna.

I’m not sure what you mean.

Henry: You have this really condescending way, you talk to people, you make me feel worthless. You’re very unpleasant.

Catherine, what are you up to? She’s with Kevin, at a bar. I’ll come meet you up, says Marie. She takes the next Rockaway Park bound L train and gets off on Morgan. Marie is from Connecticut. She used to punch her thighs until they bruised black and blue. Her mother found out on a holiday in Cape Cod. She accused Marie’s twenty-one year old boyfriend of abusing her. At the time Marie was seventeen, and locked herself in the rental home’s upstairs bathroom. She screamed about how ironic it is for her mother to accuse Brad of beating her, when he’s the one who hates it when she does that. Brad moved to Boston and Marie never bruised herself again.

Togna, MJay, and Kurt shotgun a round of beers because cause. I was with my brother last night. We had gone to Fort Tilden and met these two girls who own a house in Rockaway. We go back with them. I mean, they’re older, and my brother wasn’t too into his chick, but he might have. He would have never done it, but he’s been reading this book lately, about some African tribe’s philosophy, and it teaches you to never be stingy with your sex, that you have to share your genitals no matter what the woman looks like. Henry hits the chimney and Jamal’s dumbphone buzzes:

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Kurt’s gonna pack three bowls, MJay will spin two seven inches and Henry an LP, Togna and Jamal are gonna bring three more rounds for each from the fridge, then they’re gonna head out. “The thing about the food industry in New York is that it’s so competitive. Like, maybe you go to the grocery store, you buy some things, or maybe you can even get a pizza, or sometimes you just go to McDonald’s. Not that I go to McDonald’s, I haven’t been for a long time, for, since we left, since this whole circus started. It’s a scientific. It’s the big bang theory” says the youtube video at different points in time.

Henry met Catherine at dba. The band introduced her. He was on his fourth whiskey and coke. By his ninth she’s climbing up his bunk bed and he’s skirting his fingers up her dress and not feeling a thing. Henry is a heavy drinker. Jamal drinks excessively. Kurt is always drunk. MJay stays chilling on the weed, but he’s always got a drink in his hand. Togna empties jim beams. One of them, and we won’t say who, but one of them, started mixing up the pills in the apartment. No one’s gonna say no to another if another thinks it’s a good idea to have another. Would it always be like that? If everyone’s doing it, if you fall off the bridge, but no one realizes it, they think you jumped off the bridge, but maybe they’re not exactly sure, so they lean over and try to find your body, and then a dual dilemma: Did he mean to jump, and then should we jump cause we’re his buds, and if he didn’t, is he hurt and should we go in after him? Jamal happens to be Cuban, and so is Henry and Togna. Henry lived in a mid-state university town in Florida, met a lot of white girls, girls from the gulf coast who are bronzed and freckled and who’s equilibrium blossoms between Myrtle Beach liquor intimacy and outdoorsy red shorts and short red haired alt rom. Togna once dated a Cuban girl who called the cops on him, and who’s father threatened to shoot him next time he saw him. Then the father called the cops on him. His parents were out of town and she got over their problems and spent the night. The father told police his daughter had been kidnapped. Police stormed in through the back with pistols cocked. Besides Togna and daddy’s girl they handcuffed a blonde haired kid in oversized b shorts and princess’s friend from one of her architecture classes. The boy in the b shorts pulled his handcuffed arms from his back underneath his legs and a pistol pressed smack against the side of his head. Togna dates an Argentine girl who’s visa is expiring and offers him some money to marry her. They see each other for seven months before they ever seriously speak about going through with a certificate of civil (ain’t nothing civil about monogamy) heterosexual monogamy. Her text message patterns become slightly abrupted. Used to take her fifteen minutes, three hundred or so characters to reply, now she drags to send a mono-syllable. She shows up at his parents’ front-door steps in yellow short shorts and a two inch blue splotch on her legs. What happened there? I hit myself against the dresser. Two weeks later she lets him know that she’s found someone who would marry her for two grand less. She marries Joe three months later. A girl Togna tongued for two weeks at sixteen has a second kid on her way and a ring finger tan where a diamond band used to flaunt its monetary value. There’s a Colombian girl who changed her mind from unconditional adoration to dismissive spurn in less than a month. Girls who come to lay in his single mattresses stacked on top of each other, sand grainy legged girls at the beach splashed by waves and lying on towels, an uncle who is more of a father with a passion for hunting and gun ranges, who teaches him to press the butt of the rifle against his shoulder and cock his head so his eyesight aligns to the rifle sight near the stock. He looks through the reticle as she looks onto the uneven hairs behind his right ear, happy that she’s found someone who likes her family. Samantha is getting married in October and Togna’s been invited, though he’s definitely not going.

“I remember there was a delay in our laughter,” recalls and relates Jamal to Kurt and Togna. Jamal’s not the biggest fan of Kevin. He doesn’t find him threatening, and that’s what it is. He knows Kevin’s slipping and sliding around Catherine and is slinking about it around him, and could care less. It’s that he’s so ineffective, is what bothers him. Catherine lay on top of him one night in the early golden hour and retold a story wherein Kevin describes a fairy tale he’s working on. The gist Jamal got from the story: not only is his attempt to impress Catherine a bust, he’s too asinine to make a thinly veiled metaphor about capitalism vs. communism interesting. He’s talked to Togna, who’s writing he admires, and asks him if Kevin is any good. Togna has no opinion, but more importantly, he has no interest. Which is strange, since he’s known Togna for such a long time, knows of his overabundant enthusiasm towards other writers. This throws him off about Kevin, and dreads seeing the impotent jester. He’s gonna be there, snaking Cat.

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           On a white chiffonier lays the translucent half-dozen bag of bread rolls, in between two silver candelabras, as on a pew. The baked dough holds the son of the holy trinity. It’s beyond him what the slight Catholic and Evangelical differences in theology might be. He knows he doesn’t have to switch rooms when the class studies religion. Half the kids split. Supposedly they’re not allowed to draw Jesus. He’s aware of luck charms, and believes that people are predestined to mythical qualities that bring them good fortune. A miniature white Jesus is cooked within the dough of every sixth roll. Who in the family will find him? The special one.

            His mother Carmen rolls a navy blue canvass bag on wheels down a paved hill in the breeze of early winter. She’s going to a department supermarket in a Swiss city that’s free of trash debris and violent crime, where they don’t give you an option between plastic or paper, you bring your own. She eyes the stack as she walks in. It’s the time of the Jesus rolls. One Jesus in every bag. Is this the way to inspire faith in her children? A feat so unenthusiastic, she feels, dragging along sleepy kids to spiritualist sessions, and a father who could care less about ghosts that aren’t on television.
            He climbs up the hill from the other direction, on a cobbled footpath along a row of apartment buildings opposite fenced-in woods. Behind the woods is a farm, and along the fence grow raspberry bushes. He eats one and takes a few home to his mother. He and Stefan left the kindergarten for lunch. They’ll go back in the afternoon. The kid with a brown haired bowl cut asks him whether he’s ever gotten the Jesus roll, and that he had accidentally swallowed the plastic figurine last year. He tells him that this is his second year among the holy rolls, and that last year’s blessing graced his mother. His friend says he’s gonna try to choose the right bread before his younger brother gets home, who’s also walking up the footpath a few meters behind them, and skedaddles. Before reaching the front door, he walks past a curly haired blond woman in her fifties with pasty skin and varicose veins galore underneath baby blue short-shorts, with a carmine chow chow on a leash by her side.th26th20

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            The elevator reaches the top floor and opens to a plastic white door with a cylindrical handle, and Carmen turns the key in the slip and walks in. White light reflects off the marble floors. She rests her roller grocery luggage in the kitchen. She picks up the bag of rolls and places it on the pew and lights the candles on its sides. Her son dances on his father’s feet to a waltz in a memory of his third birthday as she unloads oranges on the varnished kitchen counter. She’s feeling hungry and happy, and she smiles to herself when she imagines her son devouring the baked chicken wings and chopped onions for lunch. She peeks at the bread as she sets the glossy blue plaid table cloth on the glass top. She shouldn’t, but the bread is fresh and delicious. She reconsiders and grabs iced tea from the refrigerator. Greasy chicken odor fills the room and the mutt makes its appearance from the balcony. She drinks a glass of tea and sets the carton down on the tabletop. She hears her son faintly call out to her in the distance, in the wind. She sits herself down on a chair and looks at the lovely mutt. They’re both teary eyed. She grabs a wing from the oven and gives it to the dog, then unrolls the plastic string from the bag and bites into the fluffy dough. She’s startled as soon as her front canine hits something hard at the core of the bread, and is startled again by a quick buzzing of the intercom. The intercom buzzes again. And again.
            He’s not sure what to do. It’s a year before he’s allowed to carry a key to the front door on a purple thread necklace underneath his shirt. He used to be a little shorter and would shout out for his mommy at the top of his lungs and the doors would buzz open. Now he can reach the buzzer with arm’s length, but not past the large opilione, whose legs cover the range of buttons on the intercom, menacing. He shouts his mother’s name, but no luck, no buzz. He shouts again, and then again, angrier with each shout. He starts to cry. After a few tears, he takes off his left shoe and flings it at the buzzer. A miss. He tries with the right one. Dead hit. He recovers the left and smacks the final blows goodbye to the harvestman. He hurts his finger with pressure as he holds the intercom.
            The dog buries the chicken bone in one of the potted plants in the verandah. Carmen sets a steaming pot of rice colorido on an aluminum trivet. She looks outside at the polka-dotted sky. A subconscious impression gives her the feeling that tomorrow will rain.
            He elbows the front door open. His backpack always goes to the left of the entrance, in front of the umbrella stand. He heads for the dining room. Carmen asks him how his day is, and smiles. She offers him a roll of bread.
            I want one. I’m gonna get the Jesus one.
            Why don’t you finish mine? I can’t finish it.
            No, I want the Jesus.

            Carmen feels nauseous as she goes for the glass plate of chicken wings. He tears the bread in half, after taking one bite. No Jesus. He’s forgotten all about the spider. He feels a heavy sink in his chest. His mom asks him if he’s feeling sad.

            No.
            Do you want to try another one?
            He shakes his head and forces the rest of the bread down his throat.

 

Helena and Hannah smoke Henry’s cigarettes. MJay’s forgotten their names. Catherine and Jamal walk towards them from Pearls. It’s Togna’s idea to switch bars. He’s inside paying twelve dollars for a pair of beer and shots. Togna lived a period of six months in which he didn’t dare explore a girl beyond her hands and lips. He’s with someone for four months of this period. His routine doesn’t fluctuate. His alternative to sex with his girlfriend turns into a habitual night out at gay bars where he stalks the one straight girl there until she steps out for a cigarette. Success has the better ratio, persuading girls to oscillate conventions and take a walk on the wild side. One night he dares [Sara] to run across the highway with him, hands entwined. Typically his method shifts from a hesitant kiss goodnight to a plain tongue in mouth reward for trying something new. His pockets hold a phone, a thin wallet that was once part of a larger wallet, cigarettes and a lighter. Marie closes her purse and thinks about tomorrow, the dreaded eight a.m. train into the city to get to midtown on time. She can’t get it out of her head. She tries to wipe her anxiety clean with drinks. With each she becomes more oblivious and capable of dismissing her surroundings. She loses Togna mid-mind obliteration. She’s been rambling. Henry comes rumbling in. It’s raining. There’s thunder. He’s a bit prolix at first, but she warms up to it. After all, there is no greater importance distinguishable between words, and sentences are strung along as the subject matter comes, so let the Sunday blues dissolve and the non-sense prattle on. You won’t remember this conversation next morning.

Togna doesn’t like how negative Marie is /she’s such a downer. He introduces Henry to some girl neither of them know. He lets them talk alone for thirty minutes and then checks back in to drop some relevant information to the girl [Ashley] about Henry to keep conversation interesting.

vc gosta de negras (blacks) ? / uma vez eu fiquei com uma eu te conto essa historia mais tarde quando a gente for pegar um cafe, vale a pena, e voce? e racista (racist) ou nao? /  ja peguei tb uma no brasil era prostituta (prostitute) , mas me deu de graca (free) /  era bonita? / nao era muito nao, mas tb nao era feia tinha um corpo normal e tinha braces (braces) / estou amando essa conversa / hehe / a minha era linda / bundao / peituda / magra / e mais importante / bebada (drunk) / 

hmm, q delicia meu

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            The walk over to the pool is exemplary. The route is freshly paved. There’s little need for repairs. The cars are tuned and maintained. Drivers respect weight limits. There are no potholes, and collisions are a rarity. So much cement would heat things up, if it weren’t for the balance of greens and blues that are the product of thought-out and well-intentioned city planning. The roads match the ergonomic architecture.
            The double file line of school children in the first grade isn’t ordered or commanded. The students are naturally inclined to walk next to someone from a sense of camaraderie. He’s walking with Ricardo, a neighbor from down the hill. Thursday is the class favorite, a short period of arithmetic in the morning, followed by a long lunch and a trip to the swimming pool for lessons in the early afternoon. The modern pool has an adjustable water level. An electrical lever is placated and drilled into the northeastern wall of the well lit gymnasium, plentiful with windows. The lever raises and lowers the floor of the pool, which holds up weight and allows water to pass through small holes. The first time they went to the pool, Herr Schneider, the curly salt ‘n pepper haired swimming instructor, lifts the floor of the pool all the way up until it’s level with the floor of the gymnasium. The children walk onto the center and sit cross-legged in a circle. Herr Schneider tells them to close their eyes, as he gently presses his finger down on the lever, and submerges the children. That’s how he learned to swim.

dreamboy
            In the locker rooms, where the children change their clothes, hangs a large dryer which is operated by a time switch. The circular vent blows a heavy heat on their heads as they stand on top of a fiberglass circle which drains out the drips from their bodies. He doesn’t stand underneath it long enough to dry. His friends tickle and whack each other in the nipples, tugs at the skin marks. Some attempt to whip their towels.
            On this Thursday they find the girls’ locker room under construction. The teacher helps the boys and girls hang towels above the racks in the boys’ locker room so that they separate into two different sections with some privacy. He feels as if the locker rooms have always been this way. He takes off his shoes and then his socks. His tee shirt comes off and his pants. A few of the girls shriek, and a giggling blonde boy named Kodura comes running back from the girls’ side. They start teasing him. Kodura eggs them on. He doesn’t join in on the conversation. He stops undressing and listens to the dares. Everyone is chicken. He doesn’t waste a second. He’s sure no one else will peek. He thinks of the second Barbara, a short haired blonde girl, and remembers which side of the room she walked towards. He opens a sliver in between two towels and looks through. The girl grips at the lining of her underwear and pulls it down. He’s not sure what he’s looking at. As she leans back up they lock eyes. He doesn’t look away. Barbara doesn’t make a noise. They stare at each other. She starts to frown. His red face backs away as he lets go of the towels, exhilarated and abashed. There is a fragment of a fissure inside of his mind. It crumbles and shakes, Barbara’s blonde hair the center of focus, eyes that dart above the image, a loud noise and a wind swirl. He tries to shut his eyes and focus but he can’t, the embarrassment locked the image out, and all he can remember is how happy he felt, and how weird it looked.

            Months later, closer to winter, after the swimming lessons have come to an end, the class takes a trip to the woods. The children walk with bags packed with sealed sausages and cartons of fruit juice. They walk for a few hours as Frau Gupte points out a few species of plants, insects, a large waspy hairy spider, the beauty of nature. He and a few of the boys throw rocks at everything they see. They reach an open area in the woods and Frau Gupte builds them a fire pit with a few rocks and some sticks and dead leaves. The children pick out sticks from the ground and puncture their sausages, place them over the fire. Adrian, a brown skinned Bosnian, who happens to be the biggest kid in the class, picks up a bratwurst from a paper bag on the ground. He’s halfway through toasting his sausage, and looks around for Barbara. She’s walking back with two other girls on either side from a distance. He thinks they might have gone to pee, but he’s not sure. He watches Barbara walk a circle around the fire pit with her head knelt down, in search of her bag of sausages. She picks one up and puts it down, looks around some more, then comes back to the same bag and pulls out the empty wrapper inside. She looks around and sees Adrian, who has the only bratwurst in the circle. Tears roll down her eyes. She runs to the teacher and nags. The teacher starts asking Adrian why he didn’t bring his own sausage. The kid has no idea. A sausage falls from a stick into the fire.
            About a half an hour later, he’s playing a game of tag with seven other children. He’s tagged and starts running after Barbara. Barbara dodges down a footpath. He follows her close. He pounces on her, and as she tries to pull her arms away he wraps them tight around her chest, and squeezes her. He’s laughing, and smiling.

 

“She’s wearing a crazy wig. You won’t be able to recognize her.” He elbows around the room until he spots a fitting cheetah skin dress and black high heels on a tall and slender girl. It’s undoubtedly Tina, except for her hair, which is slightly different. “Peter used to be a girl. Watch your pronouns.” You should have just not told me anything. I’m sure she would have preferred it, and I wouldn’t even consider calling her ‘she.’ Are all girls crazy? I heard the first thing a girl looks at in a guy is his crotch. Is this true? I don’t know, but I know for a fact that the ‘first thing a girl looks at in a man is his shoes’ has been mentioned to me by a few people.

I guess I’m trying to be the male [insert name]. That would make me the female Jesus. I can’t write from a woman’s perspective. I heard of girls who have a hard time writing from a woman’s perspective. “There is no male [insert name]. Her writing involves feminism and female self expression, female sexuality. How would you know about that?” Well, I don’t want to use the word opposite, but I would still talk about sexual image. “No, you can’t write from a woman’s perspective, you don’t know what it’s it like.” I agree, you can never walk in someone else’s shoes, but I wouldn’t be doing it on female sexuality, but the inversion of? “I don’t follow you.” I can’t write about female sexual image.

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Togna walks home in the rain. He walks on top of a shaky sewer grate. Henry and MJay will come home together. Kurt swooped [Ashley] from Henry. In his head, Henry doesn’t know what to do with it anyways. Jamal goes back to Catherine’s with Kevin and Marie.

The next morning Togna’s walking through the park to have brunch at a french café. Something with a “G.” Gee. Gash. That place has a lot of gash. Gash vibes. I’m looking for the GV’s. A postcard form the fifties? A buddy telling his pal back in somewhere Midwest about NYC. Two lines, doing well, and

                 There’s a lot of gash here.

I want some alt gash. I want some married to the DJ mid thirties likes to dance gash. Hey you, let’s have a gash. The sun is cooking his head. “Let’s move to the shade nigga” says a man walking his pitbull in the park. The man just said that to the dog on a leash. This perplexes Togna, and he bursts into laughter, gushes ironic psychotic sarcastic heckling at people, his mouth like a fire hydrant, the motorcyclist passing by, wide open mouth hurling ha has at things taken seriously. There’s extraneous water shortage awareness across the oceans in outlying continents. Bingo! You’ve solved the problem. Overstatement, you cause your own problems. Humble, there’ no humility in being conscious about your self image. You’re on a stage. Raise your hand towards someone’s face, you’re a lunatic. Smoke weed, be more open minded. He reaches the café, presses the “push” button in his head and his arm swings him towards a seat next to his pal by the bar.

He orders a weak mimosa. His pal notes the gash. He’s making sense. There’s a path, paved and laced on the side with velvet ropes. He spirals into a scramble. Monday he’ll be bubbling into the same drunken dreams, a dark black background and shiny outlined bubbles of soft forest greens and rainy afternoon yellows and blues and a tinge of red, into that bubbly good champagne wine with cheese and washing detergent. His right foot gently presses the accelerator, his left hammers to the beat of The Clean’s point that thing somewhere else, left fingers hold a cigarette dangling on his slinging arm resting out the window, right hand holding the cup of his sweet intoxication, right knee steering the wheel, and then his right foot slams the brakes as soon as she raises that delicate voice of hers to yell stop, she laughs before he panics and then giggles, his heart in a curl of sour acid reflux in backwash and an empty stomach tied to pressure that’s starting to feel like a sardine can, his right foot gently impelling acceleration. “I’m really liking this band.” She yells stop again, he slams on the brakes, another stop sign. “You’ve blown past a stop sign, you know that right?” She’s unconcerned with his recklessness. He’s close to blacking out. They drive underneath the groves of South Miami Summer. She puts his hand on her chest and he feels the sweaty dew drops in her concave. He skips to Big Star’s Thirteen when he turns right at the street before he turns left and then left again and then right into her driveway. They wait for the song to finish. She invites him in. She plays him a song on piano. He sings a tune that will never exist the same way again. Photograph share, a video or a paragraph of prose, old watercolor paintings and a laminated catholic school ID, songs by emotional bands of the past, bands that sing songs about swimming in American lakes and that old tee shirt, you look up at the ceiling and in the uneven shapes of the light blue paint you see a Vietnamese eyeball. The bubbles fizzle and he’s stirred into a murky curdle, dry in the morning.

He walks into his home and takes three shots of whiskey, then stumbles into the shower with the kitchen garbage can, turns on the water and with his index and thumb and the grip of his left hand snips away at his hair until his head is covered in bald spots. He falls asleep on the bathroom floor wrapped in a towel. At four a.m. he crawls up the ladder to his adult bunk bed.

 

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Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Chicago, IL

Through a zig-zag of black walls, he reaches several reflections of himself. He see his back for the first time in years. He detaches from his body and observes the carapace he lives inside of. Light bounces off his orange glowing skin and disappears. His heartbeat becomes audible. He thinks of that line in White Noise, “who will die first?” How can someone be first or last to death?

If a girl is sending you a lot of smileys, she wants to bang.

 

 

It’s 2012, and I still ain’t met no barbie.