Sasha [excerpt] – Jules Lewis
November 6, 2019
Somebody was knocking. I slipped on my Lakers shorts and my favourite white undershirt and opened the door. Squinted down at that poor little guy, swaddled in light. Poor Ola’s only child. Sad fat kid in oversized EXCO T-shirt and grey sweatpants. Staring down at his undone sneakers. Those Nike high-tops were all he could trust, poor guy.
—How are you, Mikey? What’s the news?
—You sleep at your Grandma’s last night?
—It’s my birthday today. You know that?
—Wanna get something to eat?
He didn’t answer.
—Don’t be alarmed by my eye.
He didn’t look at my eye.
—It’s nothing. Just a scratch. You hear that?
—Follow me. I’m starving.
We walked through the blades and dots of August morning sunlight, following that old circus tune. I bounced on top of the sidewalk like a spaceman. Mikey dragged his sneakers behind me. His laces dragged behind his sneakers.
The schoolyard was crowded with the regular clusters of kids and parents. Mikey kept his eyes on the asphalt. He kicked at pebbles. Nobody said hi. Nobody tossed a ball in his direction.
—Don’t you know any of these kids, Mikey?
When it was our turn in line, I laid my elbows down on the hot metal windowsill of George Michalas’s truck.
—Give us two extra large vanilla-chocolate twists with sprinkles. Lot’s of sprinkles, George. Extra sprinkles. Load em up.
George Michalas stared down at Mikey.
—How old are you?
—Dunno. Ten or—
—When I was your age, kid, I never sleep. Not once I sleep. Anybody knows me, somebody asks, is George Michalas sleep? — anybody knows me — anybody knows George Michalas — they will say, George Michalas? Never. Not once is George Michalas sleep. Screwing all night. Banging all night. Every time. All night. Never George Michalas is gonna sleep. Not once.
Mikey and I headed down a side-street, under a canopy of prehistoric trees. A Gypsy lady smoking an extra long cigarette stared at us with chemical green eyes. Our ice creams were crooked on our cones. I bit off the tip to keep mine from tumbling over. A yellow sprinkle balanced on the slope of Mikey’s chubby cheek and I told him about how when I was his age I used to spend hot August days like this one with my older brother, playing in The Loony Bin across from our house on Shaw Street. I told him how we played Running Bases, Five Hundred, Amazing Plays, Wall Ball, Whiffle Ball, Sniff Ball, Stink Ball, Spit Ball, Glove Ball, Death Ball, Dirt Ball, Dumb Ball, One Hoppers, Red Ass, Elimination, you name it, Mikey, we played them all.
—What’s your favourite sport?
—Dunno. Ball-hockey or.
I stuffed my mouth full of ice cream.
—Ball-hockey! That’s a great sport, Mikey! One of the best there is! I always loved a good game of ball hockey!
That’s when I swear on my life Serena Williams walked past us on the sidewalk. I turned around to see her again, from the backside, and she was younger than Serena Williams, lighter too, two scoops of hot fudge in short jean shorts that cut off just before the pink. Standing there I could almost taste her pink. That pink Maraschino cherry. On the pink peak of my chocolate birthday Sunday. I could feel my banana splitting inside all that gooey sweetness as she disappeared around the corner.
Then we were moving again, back towards Queen Street. Ice cream was melting sticky and cold down my fingers.
—Gotta eat it quick before it all melts, Mikey. That’s the trick with summertime ice cream. Can’t let it wait around. Gotta take big licks just like this – you see? – so you can taste the serene pinkness of Ronké’s buttery black skin. Did I ever tell you about Ronké?
Ronké! Ronké, my first true friend!
I told Mikey that when I was ten years old my best friend was Ronké. She had three older brothers, the kindest and most beautiful people in the world, gentle tall friendly men, the tallest I’d ever seen. I wanted to be black and tall and friendly and speak no English just like them. I loved to look up into their milky eyes. They smiled down at me. They were so happy that Ronké had a friend. So happy that after school we walked along Queen Street and went into shops. So happy that I helped her put on lipstick and eyeliner in Shopper’s Drug Mart and watched her dress up in bright skirts and shiny plastic jewellery in FX Clothing and peeked through the changeroom door to catch a glimpse of her underwear and she always knew I was looking. So happy that on Friday nights in the warm summer air we stood outside the City TV building at Queen and John to watch Electric Circus. The dancers in their skintight fluorescent colours. Their moves like sex.
Ronké, my first true friend! Ronké with pulled-back frizzy hair and crooked white teeth and the way she never walked but instead put her head down and charged forward! We never kissed but we loved each other! Then the day before her twelfth birthday she vanished. Her brothers too. I never got an explanation. Where did they take her? They wrapped her up in a carpet. Deported her to hell. Put her in a pot. Burnt her alive. Now she’s the clitless slave of some teenage warlord. Now she’s sold to Dubai. They stole her away from me. I never heard from her again. Never saw her brothers again. They ripped her out of my chest.
—You have any friends, Mikey?
—Aren’t I your friend?
—It’s my birthday today. I got nothing to do. Maybe we can go to the EX. It closes tomorrow, I think. Summer’s almost gone.
Back on Queen Street the traffic was dense. Air thick with exhaust and overripe sweating garbage. Sunlight hover-buzzing around the parked cars like alarm systems.
I told Mikey to wait a second, I’m just gonna pop into Tetra’s Internet Café, buy us each a cold can of Coke to wash our ice creams down, I’ll be back in two minutes, don’t go anywhere. He just looked down at his Hightops. He wasn’t smiling but in his downturned eyes I could see a Ferris-wheel and a waffle cone and the flashing lights of the Mega Drop tower against a black city sky.
Even this early Tetra’s Internet Café was crowded with shy-smiling Tibetan teenagers who look like sculptures but already talk tough. And big old bald Tetra swiveling back and forth on his office chair pretending to change the channels on his extra wide flat-screen television but really he was drooling over the Tibetans. Staring at them with great cruelty as they played their shooting games. Frowning at their asses with vengeance. Like their asses had stolen something vital from him and one day he would take it back.
I sat down at my usual computer in the back of the place. I didn’t bother checking the scores or the news. No birthday horoscope for me. I needed an anchor. Something to keep me from floating away into dark space. Something casual. One encounter is all. No strings attached. I was a dangling puppet in a dark room somewhere. In search of a master. I wrote five easy lines to spread the word:
hot out this aft
looking for some company
outdoors or wherever
got my Lakers shorts on
get back at me
I copied and pasted my message into the regular categories, M4M, M4W, M4T, W4M, W4W, W4T, T4M, T4W, T4T, then signed out of Craigslist. What a relief. I could suddenly breathe again. The day was once more filled with hope.
I opened a new window and I typed THINGS ARE LOOKING UP into Google then deleted it. I typed SASHA MCCOOMBS POSSESES THE GAZE OF ETERNAL LOVE then deleted it. I typed MY 2 EYES ARE 4 UR 2 EYES ONLY then deleted it. I typed ME PLUS U EQUALS LOVE 4 EVER IN ETERNITY then deleted it. I typed I WILL PROTECT ALL WHO CHOOSE TO PUT THEIR FAITH IN—
There was damp paw on my shoulder. Over one strap of my undershirt. Tightening its grip.
I turned around and it was Tetra himself. Wet-lipped, loungy. Like he just stepped out of a sauna. Like his towel was too loose around his waist. That liver stain slugging its way down to his eyebrow from the middle of his big bald head.
—Tetra! How are you? What’s new?
He didn’t say anything. Just stared down at me in his walrus-sized way.
—Listen, I’m sorry to run off like that the other—
—You’re a prize-fighter now, Sasha?
—I was just checking my bank account. The Hilltop Labour Agency transfers money in there twice a month, but I’m still waiting on—
—How many rounds you last?
—What are you talking about, Tetra?
—He catch you with a right hook?
—Oh, my eye! No, that’s nothing. That’s just an honest injury. Don’t be alarmed, Tetra. That’s just—
I glanced around the room, lowered my voice.
—Tetra, I just want to let you know that I didn’t see anything the other day. Nothing at all. I mean, you don’t have to worry about me. And I didn’t mean to run off like that, my stomach was just. I wasn’t. It was nothing personal.
—Where’s my sixty bucks?
—Did you know that my mother is very ill? She can barely get out of the bathtub. Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s a terrible disease. I’m going to visit her this afternoon. It’s the least I can do.
I couldn’t find much sympathy in Tetra’s damp, rubbery smile.
—Listen: tomorrow, after I get paid, first thing I’ll do – I swear on my mother’s burning shiny bones – is give you your money. And if you throw me two cans of coke now, I’ll pay you seventy bucks instead of sixty. I swear on my mother’s bones. You can count on me, Tetra. I swear.
Mikey and I headed east on Queen Street, past Sun Fa Restaurant and Greta’s Always True Psychic Mansion and Thirteen Oceans Dollar Extravaganza, our throats alive with that ice cold Coca Cola burn. Some crackhead squiggled past us like a dying jellyfish. Three jammed up streetcars jerked forward in the traffic, gasping like sperm whales every time they stopped. Mikey looked sad and lonely so I started talking to him.
—I read the other day that this kid in – I think it was Texas, can’t remember – but he was about your age, Mikey, and he refused to wear shorts all summer. And one day – this is the truth, I swear on my life– his legs melted. Turned to soup. Leg soup. Just like that. What, you don’t believe me?
—How’s your Coke?
—It’s important to stay hydrated in this weather. We’re like whales. Without water, we’ll die. You ever seen a whale?
—I’ll take you whale-watching some day. We’ll go to the coast of Mexico. They got giant turtles there.
—Size of tanks. Turtles the size of whales, in fact.
—What or. But I thought—
—And what you can do is pay one of the turtles fifty pesos – thirty if you know how to bargain – and he’ll let you hop on his shell and swim you out to the middle of the ocean, where you can see as many whales as you want. All sorts of whales. That’s the best part about Columbia.
—Didn’t you say—
—Cambodia, Mikey. I’m talking about Cambodia. I was born in Cambodia, in a Tiki Hut.
—What’s a Tiki Hut?
—A Tiki Hut is made out of pineapples. And inside a Tiki Hut you can always find somebody to—
—Frank O’Hofsky arnt yer?
—No, my name’s Sasha. Sasha McCoombs.
—This yer son?
—He’s my brother.
—What? You’re not my—
—Hi theres Frank’s little brother.
Mikey didn’t say anything.
—Yer got an extras dollar Frank?
—I remembers yer now.
—Think you’ve got the wrong guy.
—No I remembers yer. Wait a sercond. Slows down. I’ll … I’ll come with yer twos wherever yer going. Wheres wer going?
—Thash good Frank I was jush thinking about thash Mexican march with them skeletons and that oogabooga and them ladies with them skullshakershahahaha and the …
He was wheeling after us in a tattered hospital wheelchair. I could feel him growing into a giant behind our bodies. His round red face some Sun God or Spirit Father I learned about at Ossington Old Orchard Public School. Seal blubber melting out of his Coors Light T-shirt. Jeans sewn from birch bark. His arms raven wings, flapping a message in a language of wind, of captured Time, the language of rock-coloured pterodactyls who once swooped low over this land.
—I told yer Frank I said Shures buddy yer could teach me about painhahahaha – and yer said Okay Pal if weres gonna be friends I’m gonna baptize yer in it. Frank!
—Sorry man, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
—Yer said First yer gotta baptize me in pain before we was gonna be friends, yers weres gonna baptize me … Frank!
—That’s not my
—Slows down … I jush … Imjush … Imjushima …
Frank O’Hofsky, museumed Totem Pole. His mother was Mother Earth and my mother was Mama’s Hole. Wheeling fiercely after Mikey and I through blood-soaked Queen Street sidewalks. Atop deep roots of injustice. Severed from his tribe. Booted from the Pow-Wow. A bloody bayonet permanently gouged into one eye, received from a British Soldier. I wanted to empty my pockets of change into The Indian’s mouth then sew his lips shut. With a belly full of brass, he’d be whole again. I never felt comfortable around Indians. I’ve always been terrified of Indians. How come I never met an Indian?
—Shure whatevers yer wants Frank yer can baptize me in pain christen me in bloodhahahaha—
I put my hand on the back of Mikey’s neck and sped up. The Indian did too. He knew how to use a wheelchair. He moved like a washed-up Special Olympian. Still had some fight left in him.
—Yerl forgive me after the baptismhahaha…
I started telling Mikey about the rides at The Exhibition Fair, just to put something else in his ears. I told him about Pharaoh’s Fury and The Cuckoo Haus. I told him about the fat woman who sells waffle ice-cream sandwiches out of a pink truck. I told him about her marshmallow eyes and Wonder Bread Lips. I told him that before you order your waffle ice-cream sandwich you gotta stare deeply and tenderly into her fluffy puffy sugary face until you can see—
—A white girl dancing and yer told me Frank yer said Shes Melvin’s Head way shes dancing thash Melvins Head and I said Who the fuck is Melvin?
—Sorry man, I really can’t help you.
—Jush Lishen Frank!
—That’s not my name.
—I said Who the fuck is Melvin?
—I don’t know anybody named Melvin, sorry.
—Yer said Melvins dead! Yer said Buy thash Melvins hell bent white bitch a shot. Buyer shot. But who the fuck is Melvins Hell Bent?
—No, Melvin’s bell bent. Yer said That white bitch is Melvin’s hell bent.
—Don’t know him.
—Yer says Yer gonna turn green if yer dont buy thash melvinshellbent white bitch a shot and I look down and seen a blade in yer hand, right Frank?
—Thash the word. Maleviolent.
—What about Melvin?
—Yer had a blade and yer said Ima slice yer dick off if yer dont buy thash. Thash maleviolent. Yer said She’s a maleviolent white bitchhahahahhaha. Maleviolent. Yer said Frank yer said Im gonna slice yer dick off if yer don’t buy thash maleviolent white bitch a shot! Slice my dick off? Hahahaha! Yer crazy Frank … yer … Hey! Slows down … Wheres were going … Jesus loves yer … and yer little brother … Jesus loves both of yers—
The Indian rose out of his wheelchair and lit a peace pipe. He began to limp across Queen Street but a sixteen-wheeler smoked him and he splattered all over the road. The city didn’t blink. A newborn caribou departed from his mangled body. The last buffalo shed its last tear. I didn’t turn around. Mikey and I kept walking east, towards The Exhibition Fair.
In the Parking lot outside of Ming’s Five Star Café that old yellow-haired witch was sitting on her red buggy next to Paris The Latino. She honked her horn at us as we walked by.
—Mikey, what you doing with that guy?
He just looked at her.
—Your Mama know where you are?
—I’m taking him to the EX is what he’s doing with me.
Paris The Latino waved at me; adjusted his sideways ponytail.
—Ju gonna win me a prize, Papi?
—Ju want a blowjob, Papi?
—Forget about it, Paris. He doesn’t have a cock. I got a fucking bigger cock than he does. Look at him.
—I think he looks juicy. I think he got—
—Mikey, let’s go.
—This earwig your buddy, Mikey?
—Of course we’re buddies. How long I known you?
Mikey just looked at his shoes.
—Papi, come here a second. I want to feel ju arms.
—Next time you can feel my arms. We’re in a rush.
—Ju gonna win me a stuffed banana at the EX?
—Good afternoon to both of you. I hope you both have a great afternoon. Goodbye. Ciao for now. C’mon, Mikey. Let’s go.
We carried on through the swampy air. It felt like it was about to start pouring rain but there wasn’t a cloud above us. Just a coating of hazy light under the blue sky. I put my hand on Mikey’s shaved head; it was wet with sweat.
—You think Paris is a man or a woman?
—I think he’s a man.
—How come your Mom wasn’t there?
Mikey didn’t answer. He was breathing heavy. He was focused on walking. He had his eye on the prize.
—Everyday I see her there sitting on a milk crate. Talking to nobody. Smoking. Quiet as a swan. When’s the last time you saw her?
—Maybe three days ago or. Dunno.
—What’s her name again?
—Ola! Round like the sun. Ola like a wheel in the sky. Like the moon. Like the sun and the moon together. Let’s go find a cold glass of water somewhere. You want another Coke?
—How come you have a black eye?
—It was an honest injury.
—You excited to go back to school in September?
—What’s your favourite subject?
—Dunno. Gym or—
—Gym! That’s a great subject, one of the best! One of the best subjects around. I always loved Gym Class. When I was little, I always used to … I … Sorry. I don’t know what I’m saying … My head is feeling a bit … Mind if we just sit down here a second?
—Just need to catch my breath for a minute. The heat’s getting to me, I think. Let’s just sit here a second. You alright?
—You ever played Break A Plate With A Ball?
—Or how about Water-Gun-Fun?
—There’s tons to do at the EX, Mikey. We’ll spin the Money Wheel, toss the Skee-ball, Ring-A-Bottle, whatever you want. Pick-A-Duck, Mikey! Step right up! Did you ever notice that your Mom is a tiny woman?
He didn’t answer.
—She’s nearly a midget. And the other thing I noticed about her is that there’s just enough orange hairs for her head, not one too many.
—Do you like staying at your grandma’s place?
—Every time I see your Mom she’s wearing that same yellow skirt.
—Sometimes I feel like I’m inside her.
Mikey didn’t know what to say.
—Like right now. Maybe it’s just the heat, I don’t know. But it’s like I’m wearing that yellow skirt, I mean. And I’m like your Mom, inside of her, or whatever. Looking through her eyes. You know what I mean?
—I don’t know, Mikey. That happens to me sometimes. Like I’m going inside of other people. I mean, I never really talked to your Mom but sometimes she comes by the backyard and I just watch her smoking. And I keep watching her until I’m the one who’s smoking and I’m the one who has lipstick on. And I start thinking about your Dad and how they got together. And I start thinking about how your Mom felt when they first got together. And then I start thinking about my Dad and my Mom and I realize how long it’s been since I’ve seen them, two years, maybe three, ten years, who knows. I don’t know, Mikey. It’s nice to feel like you’re inside of somebody. Like you’re not a stranger. Not bouncing off the hard surface of somebody else’s skin. You know what I mean? I don’t know. I don’t have many friends these days. Ronké was my friend. And you’re my friend. Isn’t that right, Mikey?
—When I was your age, Ronké used to put lipstick on me. She stole it from Shopper’s Drug Mart and I lay down on my bed and closed my eyes while she painted my lips the colour of a squid. She called me Mr. Lipstick. You ever put on lipstick, Mikey?
—Would you like a brother?
—I think you would like having a little brother. I think if you had a little brother, you’d take care of him. You’d never let him out of your sight.
—One day you’re gonna have a brother. I promise. Mikey?
—It’s nice to see you on my birthday.
He didn’t say anything.
—Sometimes I don’t get up in the morning. I don’t know. Or I get up. But it’s just to go to the bathtub. And then that’s where I stay all day. In the tub.
—It’s good to have a best friend. If you have a best friend, it means that—
—Would you like to explore Soul Travel?
—Soul Travel. Do you have interest in exploring Soul Travel?
—No, not today. Thanks.
—Very good, yes. But I could not help but see you two sitting outside of my shop, so I will just leave you with—
—This is your shop?
—Yes, my friend.
—Sorry about that, we’ll be on our way in a—
—Are you familiar with The ECK, my friend?
—If you do not mind, I will leave you with this pamphlet.
—‘The ECK … is a Religion of Light and Sound … of God.’ Very interesting. Thanks. I’ll keep this in mind.
—Come inside to browse, if you would like.
—Does The ECK provide a cold glass of water?
—Of course, my friend.
—Mikey, you wanna go into this guy’s shop and get a cold glass of water?
—Aren’t you thirsty?
—Alright, suit yourself. I’ll be right back. Just wait where you are.
He was staring into my eyes.
—Just need some water to cool me down, that’s all. I’ll be right back. Then we’ll head to the EX. I promise.
—Why you looking at me like that?
He didn’t answer.
—I’m just gonna be one minute. I swear. Wait here.
He looked at his shoes.
—Watch your step, my friend.
—Of course, my friend.
—Wow. This is great. Just what I needed. It’s a Mexican desert out there.
—Sit down. Please.
—What are all these books?
—These shelves contain the complete works of Harold Klemp, the living Manhanta leader of Eckaner.
—Oh I see.
—If you take up the study of Eckaner, one of the first things Harold Klemp will teach you is that we are all Soul. And the more you study, the sooner you will come to discovering your true nature as an infinite, eternal spark of God. Here you go, my friend. Drink.
—You were thirsty.
—Sheesh, yeah. It felt like my head was about to—
—Would you like a refill?
—The higher you go, the farther you can see.
—And the farther you can see, my friend, the better you can plan your life. Rising is a natural phenomenon. Here you go. Drink some more.
—It is important to drink water, my friend.
—Did you call me old man?
—I called you my friend.
—I heard you say old man.
—You are mistaken.
—I’m thirty-two. Today’s my birthday.
—Do you ever feel that you are living your Life without the letter ‘F’ in it?
—I was watching you, sitting there on my steps with your son, and I could immediately sense a great Search—
—That’s not my son.
—It is rare, my friend, the level of Search I detected in you.
—That’s Mikey. He’s just a kid. His grandma lives in the room next me; he stays with her sometimes. You see my eye?
—It is swollen, yes.
—Last night I hear something and I walk out onto my porch, and there’s Mikey’s dad. Trying to bust into my neighbour’s house with a screwdriver. Tells me he’s fixing her lock. At four in the morning he’s fixing her lock? I don’t know what the hell he was doing, but I was asked one too many questions and the next thing you know I was on the ground with a—
—Would you like some more water?
—No, I’m alright. I should really be going. But thanks.
—When I ask you if you feel that there is no ‘F’ in your life, I am asking about your relationship to Truth: to the infinite realm of Goodness and Soul that exists beyond the barriers of your skin.
—Thanks for the water. Next time we can discuss more about—
—Do you believe that man can do Good?
—I just live from day to day, that’s all.
—But do you believe that there is Goodness in the world, my friend?
—Well, yeah. Yes I do. I believe we can all do some good.
—Then you have faith. And faith is the beginning of—
—No, what I mean is – forget it. It’s not important. I gotta go. We’re going to the EX. You ever been to the EX?
—Do you think it is a coincidence that you sat down on the steps of this particular shop? And that you are now here in the presence of The Holy Eckaner?
—I’m not really so big on destiny and all that. Just safety. That’s all. Safety is what’s important to me. For me safety means Goodness. I do my best to protect people. Thanks for the water. Have a nice afternoon.
—You see the man on this poster?
—That is Harold Klemp, the Manhanta leader of The Holy Eckaner.
—He’s a handsome man.
—His mission is to reveal how God speaks to us through past lives and dreams and Soul Travel. And today, my friend, what you are not aware of, is that he has brought each of us a gift. The gift of each other. Harold Klemp has blessed us. Chosen us. I am looking into my Inner Visual Screen and I can now see with certainty, my friend, that you have entered into this shop not only thirsty for cold water but thirsty to set off on a journey towards Truth and Freedom: the Freedom to truly understand and relate to the source of life itself; the Freedom to know with certainty that we live forever and that death cannot destroy us. Death is just a beginning.
—I gotta go.
—We have meetings here every Saturday, at 10am. Together we chant Hue, the Sound of all sounds. This is the most basic spiritual Exercise of The Eck: simply to chant Hue, the holy name of God. Some people have chanted Hue and after only just a few minutes have experienced The Divine ECK, the Holy Spirit. I urge you to attend. Wait, my friend. I can see in your eyes that you are searching for—
—Sure thing, I’ll be here Saturday morning. See you then. Thanks.
—Hue is the voice of God speaking to all creation.
—Thanks again for the water.
—I wish you strength and happiness on your Journey towards Freedom and…
Mikey wasn’t on the steps outside The Holy Eckaner Bookshop. I looked across the street: Happy Time Bar and Skyline Diner and no Mikey and that lady of Queen Street with the painted face and long flowing dresses and sudden glances behind her back. She was staring up at a NO PARKING sign and moving her hands with great passion. He was never the master, she screamed, but the master speaks, and if you hear the master, the master speaks, but he never was, he never was, he never was …
—Excuse me, you seen a kid around here? He’s fat. Shaved head.
—He was just sitting out here. Just a minute ago. He’s fat and his laces aren’t tied up.
—Nah man. Sorry.
A puddle of blank space was spreading inside of my chest where Mikey had been just five minutes before. Creeping up into my throat. I felt the white space move over my heart like an erasure and I thought I was going to die.
I started walking east, towards the EX. I tried to guess the places on the sidewalk where Mikey had stepped.
—Hey any of you guys seen a kid around here?
—His name is Mikey.
—The fuck is Mikey?
—Sorry, don’t know him.
—Excuse me, Sir, I was just wondering if you’ve—
—Sorry, I have no change.
—I’m looking for a kid. You seen him?
—Wait. Wait a second, maybe you saw him. He looks a bit mean with his shaved head but he’s actually very sweet. If you look him in the eye, you can tell he’s sweet. He’s just had a tough life that’s all. His Mom is on drugs most of the time and his Dad gave me a black eye last night because I—
—Sorry man, haven’t seen him.
—Excuse me, Ma’am, have you—
The underpass below the Dufferin Bridge cooled my head. Pigeons huddled above me in the damp shade with their purple feathers and pleistocene eyes. I started to tell Mikey about pigeons, that pigeons are the loneliest species of all the birds, because they have been here longer than anybody else, longer even than the dinosaurs and the slow-moving ugly fish, but he puddle of blank white space kept expanding in my chest. It was going down my legs. I could hear my Reebok soles slap against the sidewalk. I was singing some song to myself:
I am blat
I am a black bloat
I am a bloated black boy floating on an Ionian goat
Birthdays are the firstdays
Birthdays are the worstdays
What’s a life without the letter f
What’s a soul without a shoe
What’s a Hole without a You
My head is