A Pleasant Feeling

Here on the roof day-drinking and we are quiet. The talk was small for the most part, and eventually when the talk began to loop ‘round to politics and the spirit world, we silenced ourselves, and gave ourselves room to think quietly. Up here on the roof day-drinking – Spring is new and Winter is old, and the cold that kept us cramped beneath blankets on the couch has turned into something refreshing and almost virile. The fresh air touches my groin. The sunlight fading near the end of a long afternoon, its grapefruit hues color the air. There is something faintly exciting about this time of day, a vague expectation of having something to do or to enjoy. Of places to go.

From up on my roof I can see the road and how it wraps the planet. Long dusty stretches of highway; rust-eaten gas stations in Michigan. Romance in Venice, let’s take a walk on the pier, and feel the anticipation of eager kissing as the lights in distant Malibu one by one come on. Finding matronly strippers at Brinkley’s in Philly, maybe later tonight around two. I could be in Denver by midday tomorrow. Brick alleys waiting to be explored in Hoboken, histories of unsung drunken melodies pitched into the ivy along Boston’s side streets. I can meet a young woman whose name is Mica and for a night pretend we’re in love. Pretend we’re in love and escape our shadows, we’ll leave them behind 1,000 miles down the road.

Sacrifice Is A Black Latex Suit And Tie

There is a black latex suit filled with stuffing beside my bed. Just standing there, really, for long afternoon hours.

Bills are tacked to the walls to keep them from getting lost. They’re difficult to find once the power’s turned off. I admit I have never voted: confusion filing my application to the Selective Service. I tried to drive to Walgreen’s to buy Benadryl for my existential allergies, and spent the day in the driveway listening to NPR. I can’t sleep at night because I get nothing done all day. I can’t do anything during the day because I’m exhausted, nightly staring at a blank ceiling leaves me exhausted. My wife leaves me notes in the freezer each morning, before she leaves for work. She must be suspicious I’ve been hogging her vodka. The notes are to-do lists.

  1. Keep kid alive
  2. Pay bills
  3. Buy health insurance
  4. Finish school
  5. Find work
  6. Don’t quit on me

I let her watch TV all day while I fall in and out of dream-drenched sleep. She stays put – I know she won’t get lost… There is a black latex suit filled with stuffing on the floor, playing dolls with my daughter.

The man is a black latex suit, a featureless creature keeping closets full of dead rats. The rats were allowed to feast on dreams and desires (To prevent these from reappearing through the ends of the rats’ intestinal tracts, the vermin were drowned in bleach). Flies swarm the closet, and this corner of the soul is closed tight.

The black latex suit wore a cap and gown down the graduation aisle.

The black latex suit couldn’t smile at the cake to celebrate anything at all.

The black latex suit finds it hard to speak with the bottom of his throat at the back of his teeth.

The black latex suit has made no mistakes. It understands what is required to fill the plates at the family table.

Strung up on the wall is the black latex doll, for the machinery to use for its pleasure.

Death By Rush-hour

We saw ourselves marching down the parkway at dawn, head-long into traffic, carrying signs and beatnik anthologies – at night while the city slumbered we remembered what the next day would bring: Defiance on the turnpike. Sitting on the footbridge drinking bum wine and trying to rap, at night, to pass the time; feet hung over the slab of concrete, toy cars sliding by down the highway beneath and we saw what the morning would bring: Revolt on the outer-belt. We dropped beer bottles into commuter traffic at dawn, would light sticks on fire for the commute home. And it all seemed so spectacular and raw to be spurning the throngs of traffic we said were traveling in the wrong direction; but we knew it was the better guess to assume, though we could never admit it, that there was only so much in us to fight against the friction.

When flesh is water-logged it swells and pushes oils out the pores of taut skin. Greasy, wet with a hint of green –

eat your lunch at the office.  

When bones corrode the marrow sours. Rust holes eaten through –

your desires at the ends of their demands.

When time decays it leaves behind the taste of pennies, pine for youth to try again –

you didn’t have to be this way.

They Eat Through Your Skull

There were rats in our ceiling though I know you couldn’t hear them. The house was crowded, it was loud, little house reverberating with the sound of New Year’s tidings. You were speaking to your friend’s parents, the ones who work at a hospital, and my sister was planning her wedding. Everyone was talking, everyone was watching the countdown on TV, everyone was enjoying the simple normalcy of things. But there was a scratching in the ceiling over the kitchen, a noise, that isolated me. I had to focus to hear the little claws. I admit it was easy, to disconnect from the party and hear the silence in my head quickly broken by the scurry of little claws. And maybe the silence had been there a while, is why it was so easy to find – spaces in broken conversations to hone in on, like the air you find inside the cardboard décor of furniture stores. It is all empty air and the silence it was piercing my head. And this is when I first heard the rats, seated in silence at the kitchen table hearing friends go on about fantasy sports and TV shows to ring in the new year and the vacuity of it all suddenly transpired – in me the distance, the fear of floating away in the wake of a cruise that’s already left the bay.

I believe they noticed I was pale and clammy, these people at the kitchen table with me. They regarded me with a safe distance, like a child around whom you carefully choose your words. I was the idiot they looked at and had to repeat exactly what they meant when they said the stock market was a better way to hedge their bets. As if I were the idiot! They couldn’t hear the rats clawing six feet above our heads. The tendons in my chest began to tighten, I was sweating with a pain that could have been the flu or claustrophobia – more rats were filling into the ceiling, the scraping reaching a frantic pitch and no one could hear a god damned thing but their own platitudes and plaints. My eyes were stuck in the middle distance of nowhere, focused compulsively on the silence that surrounded me, filled me – and how quickly it was broken by the clawing in the ceiling! I had to act. Visions of insulation and wires being ripped apart by the clawing horde making nests in my ceiling.

It was the footsteps they heard, paired to the conspicuous vacation from the kitchen chair I’d occupied all night: they knew it had to be me on the roof. Figure, it would be only me they heard through the ceiling. I admit I was stomping trying to find a weak patch in the roof, a way to get through to the rats making nests in my ceiling. I didn’t notice them at first, my audience below, and the sight must have been something to see – the front yard matted with leaves I never raked, garbage bags piled in the drive I never took to the street, and the dozens who gathered in the cold New Years’ drizzle to see me stalking the roof with a flashlight and cleaver. My plan I hadn’t fully thought through. It was you who called up to me first. I waved you away and said go back inside, this was something I could handle. And this must have been the stroke of midnight, because somewhere behind our house fireworks were going off. And I imagine the fireworks put me in silhouette because the light of them was bright enough to hide the shine of my flashlight. I was looking up in the trees over the house, for the rats, because even on the roof I could still only hear the scraping somewhere above me.

Merry Christmas, I’m Dead Inside

The boxes beneath the tree tremor with soft scraping sounds etching into the cardboard from the inside-out. The tree is dry and I haven’t watered it since you dragged it into the house, put it up yourself and strangled it with lights. The strands flicker electrical shortages. I am in the armchair across the room, alone and in the dark – the dark broken across the room by the white and green lights sparking in and out, and behind the tree in the lousy bay window (bay window stuck to the front of our drowsy rental by a landlord finding a reason to charge more) are the outside lights hanging from the gutter and these lights too sputter in and out, a madhouse effect of lights’ electrical shorting and the rats in the fucking boxes wrapped in cheery Ho Ho Ho! are finally scratching through the cardboard.

I am in the armchair and I am wracked. My hair is at odd angles from hands that tried to hold the itching, the itching inside my skull, from cracking out, greasy and clammy from three days’ sitting here to remember what this was all about. I don’t how I arrived here to live in this house, with you. I can’t remember why I went to college, or why I dropped out, or why I stopped going to work last week. I don’t know how it is that you can cry, or what it is I’ve done.

I can’t rationalize why I should feel pleased that you – or anybody else – thought to buy me a sweater or a DVD or a god damned mouse for my laptop. ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THE WAFFLE IRON? I want to crack my teeth on the concrete steps that maybe the pain will be sincere enough to let me enjoy a moment of quiet television-watching so I can tell your parents how glad I am for the 12 months of Hulu they gave us.

There is something wrong here that I cannot understand. But maybe it’s me. I never remembered to buy you a gift, and to be honest it was far down my list of important life goals to accomplish. I sit here now, in this armchair, with a shuttering heart of regret as I watch, with a head that feels the pressure of a thousand leagues down, the sparking lights set fire to your tree.

I do not flinch, I do not think twice about the presents or your dreams or the life we’ve dumped into our little house, I can only sit here and stare as the flames reach the ceiling and I am drowning in a feeling I may someday call remorse. Remorse that I could never tell you how much I cared for us, because I could never put together what I wanted for myself.

There is something eating away just beneath my scalp, the frantic nail-breaking appeal of a damaged mind just trying to get out of hell. And I am sorry I dragged you in without properly marking the door.

I don’t know what it is I wanted with you, if I just can’t remember or if from the beginning I never knew, what it was. But the problem remains, every day; I am still completely in love with you.

I just want to one day be able to wish you a merry Christmas.

The Moon, Lost In The Fractal

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.

Little Mister Full of Promise

Here are ten years spent searching for the antithesis of a life uselessly lent to Keurig machines brewing, daily traffic migrations idling, flat-screen TV’s streaming: Here are the screams of the mad-eyed peeling their scalps to let out the vacancies eating away at their brains. Here are the years spent shifting desks in dormitories where your youth went for a degree in death management: You found yourself crawling naked hysterical on the sidewalk well past sun-rise. You took the plunge and scrapped gum from the sidewalk, making yourself a lunch to carry downtown for a day staring listlessly at trees in the park, where you found, on a pedestal, a mirror looking down at you. Here are your dreams above the obscurity of the crowds – a PhD in philosophy, Mr. Little Camus you could change the world.

Here are the scars on your forehead the time you realized the ceramic-tile wall-corner could set free the termites tunneling hollow through your head. The termites hurt worse: unconsciousness was blissful. Then: three years later dragging your guts pornographically through the bars you realized the misfortune well-spent on bathsalts in a single boarded-up bedroom – the obscurity you feared was waiting right here beneath your piss-stained mattress. In a dumpster you found a desk and picked up reading the Existentialists where last you had left off – Mr. Little Camus you could change the world.

Here are the months you spent hitchhiking both coasts because the idea of getting lost beat finding your way through the mainstream maze that still makes no sense. Remember the time you cried, head to your mother’s chest, about the nihilism of this and that? It thundered true then and it thunders true now, with your shoestrings dangling through the holes in your soles. Is there lunch left in your pockets? Did you manage the time to find the ticket for your shuttle-ride to the stars. You are 35 and still longing for your home with your child and wife, and they are there, and they are waiting – for you to find they are the meaning.

Mr. Little Camus you would’ve changed the world.