It is Tuesday and I am chasing sticks-and-bones down the winter street. Not chasing, following. I don’t think he can run. He has no meat on his bones, only femurs and ribs and a spine etcetera, and the sticks in a silhouette, an outline of the man he is, something you can see through. No one else can see through him. He keeps a jovial expression and catch-phrases in his pockets though I know he doesn’t wear pants. He has no hip flesh to keep up pants. And everyone he meets is immediately impressed, such a young man with such promise. Glowing praises. You should see how well he sits at a desk, 8 or 9 or 10 hours at a time, completing assignments and making meetings feel like conversations between friends. I have to hand it to him, sticks-and-bones he’s a wonderful fit. He is going to pick-up my son. Sticks-and-bones taking a self-pleased stroll to the daycare center. There are little snow mounds still along the sidewalks, dirty white and wet, the pavement stained with salt. This neighborhood wears great overcoats, aerobic yoga pants and khakis. Sticks-and-bones eats at Whole Foods, gets his fitness from club-member packages. You should see his sinews, if he had any. You should see the tendons in his neck when he gets stressed, and the heated words in his chest – a passive insult she can’t quite get – when Mrs. Callahan fumbles his requests, at work. Sticks-and-bones can laugh at any joke. Sticks-and-bones knows how to impress the men who sign his paychecks. Sticks-and-bones masturbating amid the flatulence of bathroom stalls. Mallow for marrow. Dirt in the teeth of the sidestreets of yesteryear: smiles in the third-floor apartment’s kitchen smelling of spam, linoleum flooring, coughing cars, and the passion that once seeped with the tears. Gone for long, gone forever. Follow sticks-and-bones round the wrong corner. The wrong direction towards the lowhead dam near Third and Vine where once I drunkenly had sex. I hadn’t been drinking, just felt like I were overflowing. Drunk on substance, drunk on purpose, long filled with blood that kept flesh hard: Eager to succeed in self-definement – memories now just dust behind eyelids. Sticks-and-bones, dreams like semen wasting through my fingers, open my eyes to drive my SUV just a little bit farther, traffic stop-and-go. Sticks-and-bones. And now I hear the sound of clanking arms, ribs that clatter on the ground, the jaw that chatters all the while I fracture his form. The silhouette will disperse. The bones will grind. Families will flee at the sight of a madman arduously assaulting this stranger. Fools. This perpetrator of the madness, of the fleeting and the vain, cast this skeleton into the river, I tell you it’s for the best, heave the bones into the water and cast myself adrift, yet again, appearing and disappearing in the torrent of back-water just beneath the lowhead dam.
You told me to buy presentable clothes and I did, a whole new outfit from Target. Neat slacks and spiffy shirt, even found shoes to match. And now here I am dressed like a fish trying to understand what it means to breathe air. We’re toddlers on a see-saw, you and I, for the first time trying to find stability. But this gala is full of coroners. My first big affair for a serious career, and my editor escorts me to a corner booth to meet the district managers who pay us both. I laughed at the right jokes but I kept my mouth shut, and they never once saw the tattoos ‘round my gums. The molars I had pulled from eating rocks as a drop-out. Clean-shaven clean-cut and dressed like the guest of a judge who doesn’t recognize my face from four years before, I could maybe fit in if my conscience didn’t heave. The walls are turning purple. Faces start to swirl with open jaws of twisting laughter, vortices of features. The chandeliers are bleeding light. The hotel porters are cackling rapists out in the foyer looking for a fix and I don’t know what I’m into but I’m out in the rain. I am the news man who screamed out the window and tossed himself to pursue his echoes. There is a limo parked in the curbside puddles, seven porters to open the limo door. Out steps the Big Man himself, CEO of Gannet. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” My editor masturbating through his pocket. I am pouring vodka into champagne so no one will notice the changes bringing back the alcoholic. Unemployment gets me paid about half as much but if I don’t need a car or to keep my appearance, well, that’s money well saved and spent at the bar. No – I should give you a call to keep my head grounded but our conversation cannot be heard by these howling de Sades. Their suits are worth more than the hearse they’ll wheel me out on. I am cackling at the bar. Am I the Marquis in the mirror? Behind me spins the eloquent calculations of Murdoch’s publications, wives and the mistresses of breaking war stories and the talking heads from GE that just won’t quit. I am performing Coyote Ugly on the bar, finally shouting all the things that should be said. I haven’t had a care in the world since Makers’ Mark let me forget the debts I owe and the kids we support and I may be the Marquis in the mirror but god damn these cruel fools, our see-saw will stay stable if we place a god damn trailer on it.
The chain breaks at one of two ends. I’m certain I have the world in my hands but can’t make it to stand two whole days without imploding. The gift-wrapped box in the sky with bow-ties engraved with my name, I can have it: in the land of the free in the 21st century, any one of us can have it (supposedly). The night sky hides 10 billion galaxies the world can’t yet see, just waiting for someone with the perseverance to reach long enough and grab it — a whole new realm of possibilities. The imagination isn’t separate from reality; they’re in the same box. Today I was on the phone for two hours trying to pay six different bills to eight different companies. I washed dishes and shoveled the driveway. I looked at my kid and couldn’t see a reason why I shouldn’t be reading just to pass the time. If life is a puzzle it disintegrates just the same. Just like in a movie, when a typewriter flies down a flight of stairs, the slow-motion bursting scatters little springs and keys in an upward shower of catharsis. Thoughts of self-castration are not far from mind. I could’ve been a fucking Jedi.
It was a dead monkey I heard say it, is how I know this to be true; deep in the verdant jungle where nature still appears real, the hunted-dead monkey said to me, “All life has a point.” I agree this is ridiculous, that a dead monkey spoke to me, but anyway that isn’t the point. The point is this: All life has a point.
On this I still haven’t heard from Jesus or Buddha, Moses or the sun god Dionysus or Ra. But the dead monkey has spoken and said it succinctly: All life has a point. And for a while the daylight imbued the sidewalks and little grass strips along the road with a peculiar, pleasant beauty; and the moonlight shone white blankets to heighten, by contrast, the mystery buried in night’s distant streets. There I found proof to show what the monkey claimed to be true: down the thousand unknown side-streets of a thousand foreign cities, kept secret and inviolate in the folds of night, is the mystery that creeps unbidden near the extremities of the known, crouching and goading over the untouched possibilities of life. Therein lies the point.
What soon became clear was that I needed to find every little alley-way and nook of the mind that hadn’t been fingered. At night I went skipping with a mind full of nebulae poured into dextromethorphan: there are versions of trees you can see when the streets are vacated and your eyes are too bright to miss the massive conduits between the earth and air. I spent a week on hunger-strike with no particular gripe in mind, just starvation for the sake of seeing what worlds would spawn across my bare white walls. I scavenged the dumpsters of seven holy cities for messages cast-aside. I watched the bottoms of people’s feet from behind as they walked, to discover what maybe they always hide in stride.
I burned three-day stretches between the coasts on methamphetamine and bass-drop overloads. I got lost in the tome of the man driven mad by his will-negating drive to unleash good Dionysus, who grew into the perimeter with no stars. I scratched and crawled up the sides of buildings I had no purpose being in, and found on the roofs the castrated and sacrificed will of the dead who could never dare to explore, for themselves, the mystery at the end of their cul-de-sacs at night.
What I found there at the end of my parents’ cul-de-sac one night (alone, I was wondering if I should finally accept shelter; I did) was the collective unwillingness to explore the dark secrets lying dormant at the end of our world. The crushing machinery that has built the AI to digitize our dreams into little pixels of digestible pastries, the algorithms and political house-keepers issuing well-dressed drones to hunt down and devour the little mystery still left hiding at night – at night the immensity of the mysteries unexplored, sprawling; the purple moon at night is circular and will say nothing at all.