You are drowning.
Drowning in rage.
You have squinched your eyes so hard and punched a hole in every wall, Mom has to plug them up to keep the boat above water. She drags the bucket of paint and spackles. Like a machine. A soft, caring machine. One who would spend her entire life following around behind you and cleaning up your mess.
You could say it’s because she loves you. You could say it’s because she cares. That’s not it, though. It’s that she is your mother. It’s that motherhood is the role she has chosen. Not firefighter. Not minister. It’s that she chose to become it. In some earlier day. In some forgotten time. When ice boxes were really boxes of ice. That’s when she grew up. Before the internet. Before phone numbers had 10 digits. In an old land when people’s lives were simpler. Before everyone got divorced. Back when sex was safe—or as safe as sex could be. None of you remember that time, do you?
My mother’s name is Sharon. My father’s name is Van. Sharon met Van at college. They got married, even though my dad showed more interest in drugs than he showed in my mom. Even though even back then, in his day and age, all that amounted to was pot. But it was the drug of the day, still highly illegal, and he smoked it until he smoked his way out of school, working in a saw mill one summer. Having contact with a man there who was bisexual—this making such an impression on him that he told me about it one night as I fell asleep. And the idea of a lifetime of manual labor sunk into his brain—hard—and he came back to college, married my mom, and the two of them escaped to Dallas Texas and that is where they had me.
And two sisters, Joanne and Leona.
Before Leona it was just Joanne and I.
Joanne and I. Playing by the railroad tracks. The mystery of an old mattress. Old bedding wrapped up on the rock embankment. We thought it was a dead body—television wouldn’t let us think it could be anything else. And Dad walked us down there. We walked right up to it. Poked it with his foot and showed us: See? Just a mattress. Nothing you two need to worry your little heads about.
But the fear stayed on. The questioning. At night I laid in the darkness and re-imagined my father kicking the mattress and then it was a bed of coals. Fire had ravaged the body (some homeless guy) and Dad’s foot kept the homeless guy alive in my imagination. I gripped my teddy bear and laid on my back, breathing and smelling through my security blanket, looking on the ceiling at the shapes cast by my light fixture—the outside light coming through my window and twisting its way through the glass cover of the light. I don’t think my parents ever knew that I was scared by the play of light on my ceiling as I tried to fall asleep at night. Nor were they aware that I could change the shapes that it made—just by changing my mind.
I was the monster in this case.
Also the one being scared to death.
Even back then, I had a plurality of my thoughts. People later in my life noticed this. The doctors in psych wards. Even my friend Julian, who called me a “just-for-fun stubborn asshole” for disagreeing with my own thoughts one second later. I was not doing that for fun. I was testing myself, seeing how far I could take it. Consider me a younger Kierkegaard (and one less grand) taking both sides of an argument and playing each side against the other. Or a young Bobby Fischer (one who never played chess)—posture crunched to one side on a park bench with his tiny self-made chess set, playing both sides of the equation.
If Julian brought white, I brought black.
If Julian wasn’t around, I played both sides of an idea, writing out the dialogue in two columns of loose leaf. I had all the opposition I ever needed, right here in this extraordinary brain—all the opposition I would ever need. As a teenager, I loved our debate class, reading through both positions with interest, waiting like a mantis for the teacher to assign my side.
If I got the side I believed in, that was fun.
If I got the side I didn’t believe in, that was even more.
I won every debate I argued. I asked the hardest questions, the ones that stumped my teachers. On the path to baptism, I asked our pastor what the eternity of heaven would be like if there was always a next day. This idea disturbed me so much as a child that the danger of it, the fear it caused in me, has lasted in my mind to this day.
Every day I think of this.
Every day I think of nuclear war.
Every day I think of aliens, having moved the moon into its current orbit not just to study us, but to see if our mutated genetic intelligent peace can survive our genetic single-mindedness can survive our cultural racism our propensity to subdue a culture or breed into being our slaves. Every day I think of my life continuing after I die and I am certain now that this is the way of things.
And every day, in every city I have lived in since my birth, I think of the day in Dallas Texas when my mother taught me what the word “hot” means.
I could hardly talk.
She had me sitting on the kitchen counter and she was cooking something in a pot. The stove was electric and I kept reaching over to grab it.
She said, “Don’t touch that—it’s hot!”
But I kept reaching for it.
So she turned the heat down low—to a two.
And she let me reach for it. She didn’t say anything.
I reached for the burner. Closer and closer. And it felt comforting at first.
Then it felt like the sun. Like that thing I was never aloud to look at. Which if I stared at it, it would make me blind.
Then it felt, like hell, like the punch of a demon fork.
Then my fingers touched the burner.
And I whipped my hand back into my own space.
And I looked at my mom and said: “Hot!!”
This is something I wrote in my journal:
The hardest thing to do is to be intimate. Art is being intimate with the entire world.
And I believe that.
And somehow that goes back to my dad.
Back way far, to when I was a little kid. And we were in Dallas. And Joanne was there, too. We were little kids. We were with our mom. And Mom was taking care of us, by herself, as our dad was in Florida. Romping. Sewing his wild oats. And this is one of the many events our dad lies to us about. How do I know he would go on these trips to Florida leaving us all behind to fend for ourselves? I know because a few years back, while helping my mom scan all her memorabilia, I ran across a set of letters sent from my dad in Florida to my mom in Texas. They were postmarked that way. They were written in my dad’s hand. They detailed how much trouble he was having taking care of us. He wanted to leave Mom. I kinda wish he had. I do. I would have rather had him die to me back then with so much easier a chance we would have had to grow up poor but with a clear marker on my dad: Dad was dead. At least to us he was.
Dad claims he doesn’t remember ever going to Florida.
Not doesn’t remember writing the letters. Doesn’t remember going on a road trip to Florida. When I brought this up to him that’s what he told me.
So how do I continue the conversation? I didn’t save a copy of the letters. I gave them to my mom and kept at the scanning task. I gave her a copy of the data, respecting her privacy, and erased the temporary files.
Mom now claims she doesn’t remember our conversation. The one between me and her in which I showed her the letters. I wish I had kept a copy.
I wish people had the same historically looking, scientific approach to our family’s past. If it isn’t based on the facts of the past, what’s the point? Now they’ve discovered that since I have bipolar disorder, they can claim I’m having fixed delusions, muddying my memories, and they can pretend that certain conversations didn’t happen. And when I ask my mom about things I clearly remember, events happening between me and her and others, she says (and I believe her) that she doesn’t remember.
Problem being I remember. My uncle who lived in Pensacola remembers. Somehow my parents have forgotten all the instances where they did me wrong. And the memories that no one else shared, are mine, mine only, and I’m living a life with a past that no one remembers but me.
And I’m the only one available to hold accountable to the past—to our shared past which has gaps when you put it all together, when you puzzle it all out, but which does exist and which did happen. It leaves me tied up, my typing hands the most constrained, my feet, my head, my brain.
I’ll tell you a little something about my dad.
It’s about this trip he and I took in Ruston.
I don’t remember whose idea it was. Let’s say it was mine. I wanted to set off some fireworks. Even though it was illegal in Ohio, where we lived at the time, it was perfectly legal in Ruston Louisiana, where my parents met and where my dad’s parents lived.
So we went to the nearest fireworks store and bought three bags of smoke bombs, a handful of M-80s, a bunch of other varieties.
Dad drove us to a sand lot on the edge of a forest. That forest was on the edge of what my dad called a “small mountain.” I called it a “large hill.” We unpacked it on this sand lot (where we could not possibly set fire to anything) and began setting off fireworks.
I tried setting off a few M-80s in my hand, then throwing them up into the air, watching them pop! fizzle, resound throughout the forest.
My dad told me this story about that forest, that small mountain or hill he had climbed many times: “As a boy, as a boy I went hiking on that hill many times.”
“I went hunting up there. At the top of the mountain. But on the way up there the ground was dense with snakes.”
“Rattlesnakes. Yes. There must be a higher density of snakes at the base of that hill than anywhere else in Louisiana. You couldn’t go three feet without seeing one.”
“Did you wear snake pants?”
“We didn’t have anything like that back then. I wore jeans. And boots.”
“Did you ever get bit?”
“No. I never did get bit but I sure tried!” he giggles.
“Hey Dad, watch!”
That was me and that was me stuffing an M-80 into one of the glass bottles at our feet and throwing that bottle as high as I could get into the air.
That was the sound of glass breaking and both of us looking upward with our hands covering our eyes.
That was the two of us watching this old beer bottle blast into a million pieces, the M-80 rocketing its sound along the base of his small mountain.
That was the moment when Dad and I looked at each other and Dad said:
“Let’s hold off on those M-80s.”
And I nodded that was a good idea.
And I went to the paper bag and dug inside to see what other kinds of surprises we had bought.
Turns out, we had bought a few packages of nine smoke bombs of which only one was needed for me to light it, flick it, turn my arm back and throw it and for it to land not in the sand lot where we stood but in a zone filled with dry pine needles, on the edge of the sand lot, where future glass lay mixed with brown leaves and brown pine needles and dry dry everything.
And it only took a second for my dad and I to look at each other. And it only took a second for us to see that the smoke bomb I had picked out of our slowly dwindling connection of 27 total smoke bombs..was defective..and instead of throwing out blue smoke, it threw out white hot flames and caught the leaves and the rubbish at the edge of the forest..on fire.
Dad said we better go stomp it out and I agreed.
These two men, one young, one old, ran over to where our fire had started—to be specific, where my fire had started—and we stomped on it. And the fire did not immediately go out, as both had hoped, but with every stomp we threw down the fire got bigger.
Dad said: “Boy! This fire is a bitch, idn’t it!?”
“Try gettind’t over there!”
I went to the left, my dad went to the right, and we tried to squeeze it off like an errant shit but it wouldn’t go away. Of all the smoke bombs that was the one I picked! I was thinking this and I knew my dad was thinking the same. Of every one in 1,000 smoke bombs produced at some factory somewhere, one in 1,000 (or two) was allowed to go through with defects—or went through anyway—that was the one I picked of the three bags we bought. This was supposed to be our father-son moment and we were spending it trying to put out a forest fire.
I suppose if I wanted to, this would be the perfect place for me to craft a metaphor about my relationship with Dad. It would be something like blah blah me and Dad plus minus times would equal a metaphorical forest fire. A fire so big it requires a hundred men to contain, destroys millions of animals and leaves the two of us watching a public service announcement while we sat on the couch with his family and ours and the PSA is saying words like deadly conflagration and human error and we would never look at each other again without the look being weighted and we thought of that one pickup truck that had driven by before we ran into the defective blue smoke bomb whose blue smoke we never saw because it was shooting white flame into the edge of the forest.
I could do that—I could put that metaphor right here.
But I don’t have to. Because it’s all true. We almost started a forest fire and it was half an hour of us stepping literally into the fire before we put it out. There was no sigh of relief. We stood there another 20 minutes, stepping back into the sand lot, and it went without saying that there would be no more fireworking that day.
Dad parked his pickup as far up the driveway at his parents’ house just in case—just in case we might be recognized.
We did sit in his parent’s living room and we did not look at each other. I remember going to sit in his mom’s “sitting room” which was a room you were absolutely not supposed to sit in. Everything was touch with a glove sensitive in there. I just wanted a break from having to listen to baseball on TV and snacks in tidy little jars that you could only have one of per day and the memories of me as a much littler me who burned my security blanket on a faulty electrical outlet which caused my once-yellow pristine blanky to be yellow with shades of black.
You sort of start to wonder if my life was ordained to contain these sorts of events. Everyone has childhood tragedies like burning their security blanket, yes—but no, not everyone accidentally almost burns down a pine forest, inadvertently killing thousands of rattlesnakes. And yes, I do wonder that: Did I subconsciously start that fire to kill those snakes? Am I Stephen King’s Fire Starter? I’m kidding—but I’m not.
My brain doesn’t work like normal people’s. It doesn’t allow me to start fires by will alone. But it does provide me secret edits where it tells me that maybe I did start that fire! It does this for a long time after, until I can’t discern the difference between the two. So I might as well have done it on purpose.
They become like two sides of the same coin.
And all I know is that I’m carrying the coin.
You might have noticed that in my books I write with voice. A male narrator, a female narrator. Twisted thoughts motherfuckers. This book also has its voice. And it’s the closest I’ve ever written to myself. I felt after all this time you deserved it. I guess Clarity;) has this voice too.
That night after the almost forest fire, after getting kicked out of the sitting room for sitting in it, I grabbed a book on animals and geography from my grandparent’s shelf and went to my bedroom. My sister Joanne was there. She asked me what I was reading and I showed her the cover. Joanne gave me a big nod and held up her own book. Nancy Drew \##100–A Secret in Time. We both made faces of defeat.
I’m not sure when I fell asleep that night but it was after reading about the Zulu tribe and when I was sleeping I dreamed a Zulu tribesman came to me crossing South Africa and we met in a coffee shop before Starbucks™ existed and I was crying to him over my potential forest fire and he looked me up in some kind of ancient Rolodex™ and told me the water brothers, star people, had warned him about me and to look over my shoulder because the fire was real, and it was burning, and it was coming after me.
I have another dream.
It’s of this demon who is a version of myself.
Therefore I must have existed first and in this dream I had formed the devil of my own hands, made his face shapes look like mine but just a little different. Made his color like mine on crack, brightness turned up, hue set to pure red. He was taunting me and choking me and slapping me and making me move against my will. And he did this for fun, as a just-for-fun stubborn asshole would.
But he had to stop. Because (and I know this due to the fact that he was a version of me and therefore somehow I could feel his thoughts) but as he said: He had to stop attacking me due to his genesis, which if you remember is that I created him..and when I did so, I put enough of me in there that when he attacked me, it was him attacking himself.
And so this demon ceased to have any power over me, as this demon had a healthy dose of self-respect and self-love that he could never ever kill his maker.
And ever since he realized that he ceased to be a demon. I won’t kill him. He won’t kill me. We’re both still here. Inactive on the killing-each-other spectrum. He’s in my back pocket in case I need him. A mini dragon with a scary face who always asks me to let him out when someone fucks with me. Haven’t taken him out yet—I’m no longer in the business of fucking with people who fuck with me. (Now I just watch them go—I watch them play themselves with no help of mine—it is not in my desire or to my benefit to do so.)
One of my earliest memories was in the first grade. I was wearing red overalls. Had strawberry blond hair. I swang in swings even though they were lined up with girls I got in there and pushed my swing as high as possible (trying to reach the sky) and I almost got there. I pushed it so high it scared me. Getting down off the swing, I thought I would die. But I only jumped into a girl named Kelly Bannister and smacked her to the concrete.
Scraped her face.
And the teacher sent me to the sidewalk’s edge—which is where the bad kids sat, the ones who had done something wrong. And that day it was me.
I didn’t find sitting on the sidewalk to be a punishment. It was a different perspective, to be sure. But instead of thinking of what I had done that was bad I leaned back and looked at the sky and the trees and enjoyed that no one was chasing me or clamoring me or getting in my face telling me about their burps, wondering why I couldn’t do big burps that the whole playground could hear.
“Your voice wasn’t meant for big burps,” this kid told me. “Your voice is clear and pure for a reason.” This is another first grader who said this to me. He said: “Your body is a temple.”
Yes, a first-grade kid said this.
I was on the concrete where the bad kids sat and I was so deep into my remembrance that I hardly heard my teacher talking or my mother talking to her. And what did they say? The teacher was laughing. She was chatting up my mom with her delight that she had to put me in the time-out place because I had finally done something bad! She had never been able to catch me doing something bad before—I wasn’t a pusher, or a shove-er, or a name caller.
My mom said to me on the walk home: “Your teacher was so happy with you today.”
We were holding hands.
It didn’t make any sense to me. What I’d done was hardly bad, it wasn’t good. The punishment I’d endured was hardly a punishment—I enjoyed the break from the other kids. But that’s a story about the goodness in me. I only once in elementary school was grounded to the pavement for kicking Kelly Bannister in the face.
I’ll tell you another story real quick and then I have to go.
This also happened in first grade.
I was wearing my red overalls again. I sat in the first row. I had to pee but I was too scared to ask if I could go. Holding it, squirming it, I finally squeezed it out in bursts, tickling down my leg and the chair and forming a serious-sized pool at the back of my chair.
No one noticed, not even the teacher.
Her name was Mrs White, I remember, and she had a big white cone-shaped bun about the top of her head.
I moved my chair. Imperceptibly. Silently. Snail slow. Away from the puddle of piss. Right up near the teacher’s desk. Mrs White eventually noticed. She came around to examine the situation. She asked the girl behind me—whose name was Kelly Banister—yes, it was the same girl who I had hit coming off that swing—Mrs White had asked if she had done this. Kelly denied involvement and the teacher looked at me and my chair: Plenty far away from the puddle that it couldn’t have come from me.
Mrs White called a janitor.
At recess I walked to the swings. To dry my red overalls. And to swing as far as I could go.
There are a few things I’d like to tell you before I begin my main stories. One is White Water, located somewhere near Texas. This is where we had a summer pass. Where my mom would take Joanne and I and where my dad would sometimes show up after work, the season pass being indicated by an elastic pin you put on your bathing suit. It seemed like we went there once a week, Joanne and I knowing precisely where to play: On the oak ships half-buried in the water, gun turrets placed around the pool, climbing to the second story of the ship meant you could slide down crooked slides and back into the pool. Gun turrets inside the ship made climbing to the slides even harder. We’d play on that and the mild-ish slides past the wading pool—which nowadays would be a surfing wave pool—and by the end of the day we would have burned our feet bottoms on the concrete. You could travel in slippers but for some reason I don’t remember, we found barefoot preferable.
And because of those reasons, Joanne and I ended out the day with bloody feet, just slightly red but in pain—oh!—pain.
I bring up this child version of me—purely happy till the end of the day, go-going down the slides and taking my seat on the anti-ship turrets—I bring him up as a key version of me. They say that children who demonstrate high intelligence tend to grow into adults with mania. Not that all do, but that they tend that way with some coefficient.
Sometimes I think of that child having never moved with his parents to Philadelphia. I wonder what kind of an adult I would be, if the easier life of having never moved would have resulted in an adult who showed less mania. Who was less bipolar now. Who was less of a schizoaffective now. Would he have grown up to be a Christian minister (a pastor of a church)? I check in with my alternate self from time to time: What Christian goals would I have accomplished by 20?..25?..30? Compared to my actual accomplishments at those ages: Made 100k/year, moved into a tent in my friend’s back yard, mired once again in a tech job. I assume my idea of God would have changed as well in my Christian-pathed one, maybe not as drastically, but it would have changed.
I include these images of my childhood because they have to do with fire, with burning. The gorgeous crystalline sun burning the tops of our feet. And because they have to do with water, with c o o l i n g, the opposite of fire, of burning. And they include my head—my headspace. And it was as c l e a r as it is now, the increased knowledge and loss of beginner’s mind—if I was on those turrets now I would surely fall off as I’d be too big. But that same clear quality of mind exists both now and then. The burn of the sun is pretty much the same now as it was then.
Now versus then: Twitter people have their finger on the hair trigger of their gun, barely holding off at calling me a racist on the sole combination of my whiteness versus me asking not to be included in the “all white people should be locked up” for the latest grooming. I guess I fail to understand why any demographic similarity between me and the latest gunner should qualify me to be locked up by some political faction that was previously my friend.
Now versus then: Then I was just a kid, adults swirling ravenously about my head with their racial overtones and me not even knowing what they’re saying. Now that I can contribute to those conversations (and bring my debate class acumen with me) and when I do choose to participate, I bomb the entire area with my logic, turtle dove it to death, I always make the best points but I get lost between the sheets of bad logic, making enemies of my friends whose logic is not as sound as mine. Most of my friends are mentally ill and we can only stand each other for one week out of each year.
Then your radio shows and gallery shows all become too much for me and I have to hide in my room for safe space for this genius. Safe space for a thinking and feeling machine who is nuts for a wicked piece of dialog or a fascinating turn of the scene.
I knew I was something special when I asked this question of Nancy Ellet Allison, what would it be like if there were always a tomorrow (in heaven)—what would that be like (an open-ended question: What would it be like if there really was no ending)? And when she (in front of the entire church) admitted that she didn’t know, that is when I knew something of the nature of myself: I could ask a question that the whole church including its pastor would not be able to answer.
I wondered what it would be like if I was the pastor and some little shit had asked me that question.
I spent my upbringing asking questions like that. To pastors. To teachers. Had them all wanting to throw me out of the classroom due to behaviors they didn’t like but that were legal within the rules. Asking questions that were way above our grade.
My method? Burn myself. Burn my own mind.
Then cool it off. Cool it down.
Ask from right above the particle shelf of a block of dry ice.
There you share particles with a cold and a hot side.
Words become emotionless, stateless, cold and hot at once.
Where cold and hot touch, you have electrocution, where the particles in your heart burn, then cool, then stop.
Everything stopped must start again. Everything started must stop.
There’s a certain amount of genius in knowing you’re not one.
Just as there is a certain amount of sexuality to you when you’re young. Older people see you and they think of themselves when they were younger and they think about what they’d like to do as that younger person. Fuck you or whatever.
There was a guy named Dr Hal—a materials scientist—who I knew when I was younger. I was in denial that he liked me—actually that’s not true. I knew he liked me and he came over and brought this lotion bottle and lifted up my shirt and I put up with the lotion massages (because on a technical level, about my software projects and inventions, he was the only one I knew who understood what I was doing). I would have been 18 or 19 when this happened.
Dr Hal would say, “You have no idea what this is doing to me!”
I said, I think I do!
Dr Hal explained that there was something special about being an older man being able to touch a younger man. Something special I imparted by being younger than he was.
He would lather me up and rub my back, especially the lower areas, right above my butt. The lotion was cool. And smooth. And I heard Hal making sounds behind me. I assume his dick got hard but he was always very closed off about its status. By the time he was ready for me to turn around, he was soft.
This happened several times.
One time sitting in a Wendy’s parking lot. Eating chili. I don’t recall whether this was before or after that back rubbing—I’m thinking before!
He was like, l’m gay!
And I was all, “Ok!”
He was like, I might get in trouble with my job.
This was 1998–you could still get in trouble for that.
Dr Hal said, Do you that will interfere with our working together?
I naively said, “No.”
Hal had shared his most secret trope with me so I decided to share mine. His could get him fired. My most delicate hiding of the truth was that I was cheating on my girlfriend. (Not with Hal—that question still eludes me: If I was the victim of abuse with him, was that just me cheating on Ashley?) But I said yes. Maybe it’s not a matter of consent. Maybe it’s a matter of how maturely I can take it. Maybe there’s a whole set of yesses I can consider this way: For the sexual maturity of the adventurous. I can’t say yes and say I enjoyed it at the time but now that I do, I think differently on the matter.
I said, of this girl I was cheating with: “Maybe it’s just a mass of sexual awakening. Well—Ashley first. Ashley has a good pussy—right good. And friend. Ashley is who took my virginity. But Charisma—and Charisma could never be my friend—but Charisma has this extremely tight puss. After we do it I can smell her on me for days.”
Hal said, “That’s the whole thing. To find someone with a really tight hole.”
And as soon as he responded this way, I knew I had mis-expressed myself. It wasn’t just about finding someone with a really tight hole. It was what I said before, a mass of sexual exploration, awakening, whatever. The difference between what Hal had interpreted in what I said was immense. He and all the other gay guys I knew around that time were always predisposed by a focus on sex.
We finally went our separate ways when I went to his house, I walked downstairs into his basement, and he and his son were chalking up his board a design based on my idea of creating a file system that used tags to create searches which were much faster and easier to process than normal (searching all the text for a match)—computers at the time did not have these. I took one look at those computational dudebros and walked out the door. That’s the last time I saw Dr Hal, except for a pic scanned by a friend for his profile: It was labeled “The Doctor Lives!” and it featured someone looking a lot like Dr Hal, in profile, driving the bus. I don’t even know if that was him but it looked enough like him for me wave his picture goodbye.
My mom told me a similar thing: that “If you were young when I was your age..!”
To which I pressed her: “Tell me more!”
It was during a period when I was living at her house and also during a time period when we both slept downstairs—it was hot enough that we moved her air-conditioner downstairs and slept in down comforters, it was so cold. I figured if we were going to do something sexual it would be at that time.
Of course we didn’t. Some taboos have pure roots, biological roots, and while I don’t mind breaking one of the non-pure ones, I don’t think I’ve ever broken one of the pure ones: Based in murder, cannibalism, and one more, I forget.
I have pictures of Mom from when she was younger. She looks incredibly skinny to me—malnourished. I would go for it, she would let me. If we were on a desert island with no chance to escape, we could do it without causing children to come about. I would go for it then. Even knowing we would never see each other the same. If we both had needs and we could accomplish those, I would go for it.
This one picture I have specifically is Mom when she’s five. She is starving—at least she looks like a white kid from Africa, no one giving her food. It makes her look close to death. Happy but unknowing of the conditions she’s living in. Alcoholic dad, mom who works as a schoolteacher, three other kids in the house.
We are a society with a far-along militia—killer weapons—but no one, even in the military line, has enough food on their plate. Like we made ourselves expert in the making of guns without ever having taught ourselves food. We forgot about food! We managed on corn and wheat.
Our military: A bunch of technology designed by dead people, with kids holding the controls. It’s the same thing as they did with the McDonald’s down the street: Ripped out the order by people leaving us only with IQ-challenged individuals. Who are allowed to ask us if we’re experiencing trouble using the touchscreen—no thanks! We use touchscreens all day!
This picture I have, it’s in black and white. Mom is the only one in it. It makes me feel sad—go figure. Of course I would rather see my mom in the light of gras, of richesse. She looks clueless, she looks spacey. She looks less intelligent than me but we have the same IQ. She looks so innocent.
I wonder what she was doing a moment ago, wonder what she’ll do a moment from now.
If this picture was taken by her mom or her dad, taking a picture with his left hand while drinking from the tumbler in his right. Drinking so much he was dead by 54. I drink significantly less than that but I often drink in binges—which I hear is bad for you. I think I mostly understand why he did that. Why he wanted to get always from his family. Why he wanted to get away from life on this planet: He was a smart, creative worker. The school systems of El Paso and Baton Rouge Louisiana weren’t prepared to handle a 136-IQ worker. That’s what me and my mom’s IQs are. They say IQ doesn’t change more than 2–3 points in a generation.
I never met my granddad before he went to the hospital. When I was there, I couldn’t understand what was meant by dying. I just remember him underneath bright lights. He was making jokes that no one laughed at. Everyone seemed happy for him to go, though. He beat my mom with belts and improvised family trips to Disney World™ (everyone out of school, my mom’s mom takes vacation from her job, all pile up in the car with no change of clothes, no snacks for the car, just everyone go!)
I think of my family as a dynasty, even though everyone is as fractured as a broken window. At least half my mom’s siblings hate me, like hate that I am alive. My only bright point is that chances say they’ll die before me, that way there will never be a room full of them acting sad that I’m gone—I expect more of the no funeral send-off, with only my GF and her family there. I don’t even expect that, though. I’d like to outlive them all and die on a beach.
I lament my family—that it couldn’t have been cooler (for me). There’s a clear maxim of bipolar disorder: Saying it runs in families and if you’re in a family where bipolar runs, and you didn’t get it..you’re just lucky.
Maybe I’ll get into some bipolar stuff before the time is through. All I’ll say is that mental illness has its grip on this family and it would take a lot of explaining to bring you up to speed. Just read one of the bipolar one-sheets you can find on the network and count yourself basically read on bipolar disorder.
While you’re doing that, I’ll be over here holding that picture in my hand, sucking every piece of nostalgia and caking every new layer I can imagine on it about the picture’s subject. This woman has the wisdom of women most wise. She also breaks down poorly—the same as I.
Her a toddler in black and white, the sweetest face, a face I don’t recognize. It doesn’t look like her. When I first saw it, I had to be told it was her.
Five generations from the 1900s to now. Not only people changing within themselves but people changing through generations.
My mother’s suffering being impossible for me to comprehend.
Me being able to recognize it.
Her going to counseling for adult children of alcoholics.
The picture—this photograph and this rendering of her life—paints her as poor as sharecroppers—breaks my heart. There’s a subtle theme of poverty through the generations starting with my mom. Not going to college, racism, ignorance between my aunt and uncle, kids wobbling through their lives with their parents’ poor advice as their primary guide.
This book is about Mom holding me to care for my psychology—and me holding her to do the same.
I’m certain she has a picture of me she runs across. Me as a child. I hope that even through our non-talking period she sees that picture of me. The picture of me with my mouth open and me showing a ball of snow within it.
Maybe she thinks through my life’s arc: Happy as a kid, troubled as a teenager, all that she thinks of my early adulthood is that I was working jobs I hated. Not any technical details, not the company names, just that she had lunch with me every Friday morning and that one morning we saw an albino squirrel in the parking lot and it made me cry.
The thing is, though, about this world (and what you like about it, and what you hate about it)—is that you’re gonna die anyway.
These minor things, like being deaf-mute or using a wheelchair or having a mental disorder: You just gotta work around that shit and get as much done as you can before you die.
And this dying event, it’s usually a lot sooner than people think.
Or other fountains like the one I used to when I lived in Philadelphia, a little place called Logan Square which was not much of a square but everything a circle. Circle drive around a circular fountain. Before I went there I bought a bottle of wine, filled my 76ers sippy cup with the wine, and I sat there with a Moleskine inventing alphabets, covering every letter, every dove, every jot and tittle, every piece of punctuation, every structure like a paragraph, every concept like a page.
Then I’d go inside the Franklin Institute and watch films in Omnimax.
Then I’d return to my fountain, carved into in copper with two goddesses and a god, reclining with giant turtles beside them, everyone shooting a spout of water from their mouths, between their legs, reaching to just below the outer ring that contained the water pool and kept the sidewalk dry.
Kids played in there, in that 76ers ice.
I remember the first time I went to a hockey game, at Ohio U. Something froze my personality at that first game. I thought I would hate it—the violence seemed so distant to me when I saw those body checks on TV. But in person it instantly riled me up—I threw my own body onto the plexiglass, cheering on the checker. It was wild, how angry I was. Just seeing the littler guy get crushed against the glass, I had to show my support by crushing him on the other side—the safe side—and the ice-cold fights, skate rails upending shards of glass and—B A M !!—the victor crushed his victim. Making him cower! Crushing him down! Carving his grave into the ice. A frozen-cold victory. (And it was all the better that I knew the victor. He lived as the resident assistant in my dorm.)
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont—all places of my childhood, they featured ice and ice picks and gigantic ice picks for your car. They featured poles for slamming interminable ice sheets into workable ones. Heavy/duty everything for your car, for walking, even for riding your bike.
Those places, too, featured tools and techniques for dealing with water once it breaks the pipes. Hopefully when you’re not away in some hot place like Fiji or some shit.
Wetness, cold, ice, warm, water parks, theme parks. The video game I played at the restaurant after. How it looked 3D but even at that age I could tell it was not: Just isomorphic shapes forming a fixed perspective—like the way people do, now, over 30-years later, on sidewalks with chalk, producing “miracle” scenes by visually representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions. Like that one, “Politicians Meeting Their End” by Julian Beever—that’s one of my favorites. It’s just a bunch of pols meeting their end in a meeting tunnel of their own creation, drowning drowning drowning!!! Drowning of their own hand—the only suicide for those who have already opted for the murder of others! In every other ways—in every other way.
The hanging and the water boarding and the secret measures used by secret people doing secret things—agencies with no name, who leave no trace, who never know who even pays them! Who never did know. Single pulse takeout: Explosives in the brain that just read spark! and the brain just looks like neurological collapse reads like snap! taken a seat out under the name John Doe. Sections or s e n t e n c e s reading into cool f o u n t a i n s once I’ve seen the water parks of my childhood and how White Water™ would burn our feet anyway, toes slipping out of s a n d a l s. Blurred (italics and/or s p a c e between the letters). I like this idea that set apart from the text or buried within there will be these splashes into cool language..yeah =)
C o o l language the language of b u r n i n g my own feet by walking my childhood s e l f on the concrete at White Water Water P a r k™. Faint streams of b l o o d s t r e a m I n g from the plate of my sandals—no, not those, a b a c k u p set of sandals, backup from my normal set of sandals, made of leather which was more expensive than the polygraph so that every time I wore them I couldn’t tell a lie. But we wouldn’t want to wade out into the water with this lie-detector set, would we! Must save those for special occasions, m u s t s a v e, must save.
Wetness—affecting everything! Start with the rain—move to tornadoes. Even make paragraph-length passages describing water and coolness everywhere. Water ice and Push-Ups™ set apart with italics and l e t t e r - s p a c i n g everywhere!
Those medium-spacing arcs of bright bright followed! Like my god if I had thought that time like I had one—that puritanical god blaming from inside the fingernails..out. That puritanical god who could feel the grit between them, who always wanted them purely cleaned, who cleaned them in the grass between the White Water™ attractions, facing down from the light of a downward-facing tree You said you had to face your teammate I ask why he must be fired? I trim my nails I trim my nails and some girl I do not know reaches over to me, under the tree and slaps my hand away from my mouth, saying, “You know you’re not supposed to do that!” and I went back into a light-lust trance for the rest of that day at Wet ‘n’ Water™, until we got to the isometric video game that was in the pizza parlor in the way back.
Later, when I was older, I set fires. Started in the basement, re-modding a box labeled, “LEARN CHEMISTRY.” I’m certain that I moved right past the warning labels and introduced model rocket engines (what’s inside of them—not much more than caked black powder to be scraped out trying not to spark it) and I grabbed some fuses from unlaunched-as-yet model rockets looking like they were brought to us by Germany’ way packaged for every fifth grader to get his fire-loving stinking pyrotechnic know-it-all hands upon them.
For fire to flow.
And flow and flow and flow.
My dad took me out of the basement and said to make fires upstairs.
“Where am I supposed to go?”
“Somewhere with better air supply.”
I went to the kitchen, pulled out some paraffin that I had separated from its candle base. Popped it on the counter. Popped up a chemical engine, burned it. It was on indestructible countertop which amazed me. My mom had stated this about her new counters. Not to cut them with a knife. Not to cut on them with sharp knives. They weren’t indestructible at all—this is what she really said—as long as no one used sharp knives on then, they were as good as indestructible.
But! She said. You can do anything else on them—they will hold up to a dinner knife but no more. She hadn’t mentioned fire—and more to the point, I wasn’t aware that I was starting a fire. That’s one of those slip-arounds in my mind. Is fire, fire?—or is fire, not-fire? I learned this from: Age, very young—from Dad, I think, due to my treatment with many contradictory statements. Statements visible to me once I pointed out his inconsistencies to his sister about my inability to reach my dad by telephone in order to get his part of my college transcripts. And his sister who believed him, that Dad said I hadn’t asked him this. But hearing what Dad had told her was just the price of my education. He said he hadn’t heard from me at all—I was dumbfounded.
Years earlier I was burning that pile of paraffin in my mother’s kitchen and trying to make it stop and not realizing that the flame part of it was not all that’s hot. All the way through the middle and on the bottom was hot even though around the edges it was soft and plasticky. I went from rubbing with a rag trying to get the used paraffin off to setting wax fires on the outskirts of my un-erasable mess..to pouring cool water all over the counter, hoping to cool this avalanche with H2O.
That was when I discovered that water doesn’t cool a wax fire, not the kind I was making, with the paraffin boiling,
That was when I discovered how much my mom loved those counters. We had just moved into a house in Philadelphia and this kitchen had these wax-based countertops in the kitchen that mom had said she was really going to like. It had decorative gold flecks in the surface, and a loop motif patterned in between the gold—the whole structure made to be destroyed by a scofflaw named Matthew T. And it really was destroyed by that one little fire: The counter was cut to fit. There was no way we could afford another.
By the time it went out I saw an oval-shaped, dense thicket of charcoal black where my fire had been. I felt terrible. So, while some of my channels speak to me achieving the Macdonald triad, here is an example of excessive fire starting which I’m solidly sorry for. I would find my little friend from Manheim Street in Northern Philly and I’d be like: “What should I burn next?”
“A trash can lid!”
“A trash can lid!”
So I’d figure out a way to burn that. And I’d have these elaborate ways to turn a trash can lid into a spinning container of fire, and I’d burn the one trash can that nicked my knee one time. The only cut I’ve ever had that would require stitching, my mom said when she saw it. (But by the time my mom said that, it was “too late” according to Mom, to get stitches.) It was too late to stop when Dad got home. He wasn’t into spanking discipline into us—not since we were little. As long as my burning paraffin trip didn’t dig into what he wasn’t doing—that was his attitude when my mom took him to therapy: “As long as I don’t have to dig into my feelings and express my truths, I have time to go! As soon as you ask me to be open, I’m out, therapy monks! See you on the flip side. Of divorce. Whoeee! I’m rich, biotch!”
I built a bomb for my teacher in the 4th grade.
It was made with match heads, model rocket engines filed into particles of dust.
These days, it might be reason to expel me, more likely arrest me and charge me with white boy terror.
I stuck it inside her overhead projector, plugged into the fuse socket, set it there over lunch.
Then went out to playtime with my friends.
I don’t remember feeling remorse at that time.
Except whether it would work.
It didn’t work.
For which I’m glad.
She was one of my very favorite teachers.
And she helped me through a hard time.
Things go normal speed until a burn event occurs. This blows out in rings, slow motion, of the f i r e (e x t e n d e d scope/scape) then after the f i r e is over, regular time recurs. We see this as the audience does, in spaced text, s p r e a d across the screen—if PowerConsciousness™ is enabled in the host environment. Powered up and ready.
PowerConsciousness™ rolling, ready. Allows for automatic transmission of textual content into visions of l i g h t—permanent v i s i o n, lovely smells each one benefiting through this transition. If there is a conscious being present, all data is potentially feeling data, which is what it is, simply c o d e d as feeling, and thereby causing the being to f e e l, t o c o n c e i v e of tactile wordless emotive feelings—
You can visualize a poem so easily and see it as though you were not the author..of power, or stuff, or anything contained within, without, with over and under and a lot more besides in between. In between my mother and father. In between the walls of my sleeping bag. In between Astral Taylor, she was always set before me and only before me by seats name of z e r o, Bedouin™ times, potentially weaponized lunchboxes behind every Batman™, every Superman™ concept album ever played with ElectricPlus Teeny Tires™, every plunk of the rock risking striking my eyes with enough force for me to die, every hit between the eyes a lethal one, every strike a killing hit.
Just enough to kiss a bee-fly away.
Maybe someone treating her as an infant.
Mother’s womb, assorted colors, variety of flavors, she is coming after me in the reality plumes of heaven—grace—of the spoken tombs unspoken. After she calms down she allows me to say:
“We are coming to you for help, coming to you in body to help you with the fires, coming to you like a poor-paper rescue truck which has just a magnet on its door to help you with a sign it carries you with officiality, so that when they get out you know not to open fire as the people inside the car are here to help you.”
Why is there this enormous life-creation/life-construction process inside the mother’s body and yet there’s no similar life takedown process. No womb for the dead, to disassemble us in mirror to assemble us in reverse..connecting to heaven or the afterlife. I think if you look at that asymmetry there, you will find some answers about this life.
I find when I remember events from the past I sometimes see them deeper, more clearly, with meaning ascribed.
I remember: (rain, coolness, and water, the anti-burn).
A walk home, partially, then my girl and I split and she got on her bus. We were running in the rain a few minutes before and as her bus pulled away the rain let loose. I walked and spun and running in the rain many blocks home. Got so wet! Clothes got so wet!
And the stars fell from the sky, one by one!
And the story goes..a young man will come and save the universe from the forces of evil—Kid Cudi
Burn Annie burn. Flunk Devon flunk. Burn Tyler, burn. Drench Annie drench. Roll us together like a cigarette. When did you become naked to my concepts, to my conceptual grid—tell the exact moment of the exact day and maybe we can get it back to us, punch in the coordinates, friendy-friend! Everyone wants to be like Skywalker™, then the man in the desert who saves him, then for a moment Han Solo™, which sounds so ridiculous a name that we even call him that, with the confidence in the spelling of that. Win the winning charm he’s about to speak his final words after backing out from that final cutthroat m o m e n t a r y glance.
Putting my dog on anti-depressants is surely the whitest thing I’ve ever done—@BitchMcSugarMittens
is so racist. Is so, g i g a n t i o u s l y McRacist™ this I can’t even force that shit to land itself on one line. Is so forcefulness I cannot see it clearly for all the tears in my face, coming from behind my eyes, so repetitiously g r a n d this machine won’t in colds or codes it will end with your deliriously dance-like Monaco™ culture: I want to get into that culture! Somehow. Wake up inside a dream inside Monaco™. That would be the only way to begin to get in Monaco. Be the be behind it all. See the beginning and the end of Monaco™ culture.
And in the mid stop of the seventh grade, this was when the latest war involving Iraq, Iran, Kuwait—not sure why I remember this except it’s a kinda important struggle as world struggles go. Sometime into this complicated and facts-never-revealed by my oh-so-perfect and worshipful government and school had decided to become patriotic for so many seconds decided that the pledge of allegiance under God in 1945 was made the sacrosanct legibility of that certain point of view they added it under our noses to say this most Christian™ thing. This oh, no so Christian™ thing of this Pledge™ being said by all of us and I decided it was it was not the description I wanted to have under my name: Person, Here, I Citizen, dissolved of will, of status, will not ever be seen as the last of the self-examiners, the observers of self, I will burn myself before that I ever violate my own ideas. It will not be the way I go out—with black flag over my mouth, black cloth placed above my lips, black flag placed above my breathing mouth—if that is how it is, then that’s the way I will go, with executioners at four sides of me, carry me to my grave.
So now you are existing.
Now you are my friend.
We have set upon us a series of themes. Excursions. Distractions.
A cast of characters, including moi. My mother’s name is Sharon. Dad’s name Van. Two sisters of mine, both younger in age, names of Joanne and finally Leona, this last is the star of our immediate casting, ending with little Leona, my youngest sister, the little girl, the actor, the terrible mother—but this is years before that, when Leona was a baby, an infant, and my naturalist parents decided it would be cool to take all three of us camping. Maybe they decided for the two of them that they wanted to go camping, and it would be a good idea to take the rest of us kids to go along.
Before Leona was born, Joanne and I had gone on camping trips when we were young. We could talk and walk, we were five and four, and this—the story we tell I guess depends on your point of view. From me and Joanne’s point of view, we were camping (in our own tent—parents were in their own tent) and it started to rain. Joanne and I turned in our sleeping bags. Adjusted to some slight water precipitation. Went back to sleep. More water came. We noticed a slight river forming between us. Then our parents come by (our dad does) and he says:
“HOW ARE YOU KIDS DOING??”
“We’re fine!” (Smiles to prove it.) “Fine Dad!!”
Dad leaves and comes back with Mom to show her what he’d found. Their two kids, awash with water, cooling, cool-celerant, frozen frozen lakes, beyond the opposite of fire..its agency entombed in a word encumbered in a word entrenched in a goddess-style FFIX black mages will never be e n c o l d e n e d in something of this type ( f r o z e n ) girl two kids in sleeping bags complaining of nothing because we didn’t know how!—we had never learned to em-pain another with our needs. We learned m a l l e a b i l i t y and that is how we survived.
We didn’t get points for complaining, suggesting, having our own ideas.
I was putting together a DJ album when I was 20, my mom told me she didn’t understand why I was doing it.
“To make money! I tell you my idea, you listen to part of one of the tracks and all you say is: ‘Huh.’ What is up with that!“
“But,” Mom says, “did you listen to what I said?”
“What did you say?”
“What I’m telling you! That I don’t see why you would do this as it seems like it’s far off the path that you’re on. My fear for you in this is that you will succeed! Oh yes. Like you succeed in everything. But that this isn’t what you want.”
I was stupefied. My mom has Artistic Tendencies™. Lingual skills. I didn’t understand how she thought that my c u r r e n t path (programming for Mead Research™) was going to be a long-term path for me. I called up those MR bastards a few years ago and all they were was b i l e and j u n k and d i r t. My closest co-worker gave me the runaround when I asked for a simple letter. He thought we were in a bargaining pattern (when we weren’t). He thought I was competing with him and he made sure I knew he had won.
That’s dead-end shit.
Company chooses the languages. As a programmer at any of these top firms, you are always, only, forever a high-priced assembly-line worker of C++, Java, Python, Ruby. Whatever. And when the company chooses the next language, they really keep around the best few operators and let everyone else go..to go get Java training, or training on one of these new languages, so you can go to work for (not the same company, but) some neighboring company who needs workers of this new kind. Then five years later they switch it all again.
That’s my mother. That’s my dad.
My mom doubted me—and not just in this one area.
When I wrote my first book (that she knew about) she was impressed. When I told her the accolades it gained me, she celebrated with me. When I told my dad, it was nothing to him, outwardly—but inwardly I know the comprehension level was shallow because he started talking about publishing a book being akin to “living forever”—I didn’t even correct him. In the society I see, everyone has written books, everyone is celebrated for various skills. We can do everything we do on Earth™, plus a whole lot more and for a whole lot longer and everyone lives forever but the way it happens there, living forever is just a footnote.
Dad was easy, see: All I had to do with him was make more money than he. I did this in about five years. Punch. Drunk. Love. I was never trying to beat him as a writer, ‘cause he wasn’t seriously pursuing that interest. He had pursued business salaries and I figured out my own ways to be “worth more than him” (using that business lingo).
With Mom it was more difficult and more subtle. I didn’t see myself as in competition with her like I did with Dad. Mom encouraged me to write my second book and that opened up the world of thinking and writing in a new way, a way like none before.
But I was still in competition with my mom.
For our psychologies and our well-beings.
And it was a weird sort of competition. In that embrace, we held each other closely, stroking and cooing and wanting the other to be ok. Dad had hurt us both so we were likely dupes for a comfort triangle.
Here’s my version of the story. In a minute I’ll tell you Mom’s version.
We were camping, all five of us, after Leona was born and before I moved away, out to go to college, we went outdoors camping (the kind with a tent) and we went on a hike and this is when we get back to the campsite there was a struggling, to get home, to get back to our camp, and in this hustle and ending of bustle Leona (who was let’s say one year old and could just pick herself up enough to fall)—Leona waited long enough for our delinquent parents to both be in their tent changing clothes and she went up to the fire and tossed herself in!
The fire was left from that morning’s breakfast, coals white hot at the bottom. No flames until you need flames—eh? Leona fell in and caught herself by her hands. I imagined her rising up before this fall like an Indian Cobra, rising as high as it can get before falling down, before striking down on its victim: The fire. Except this baby could not escape back out of its plunge to save itself. And soon enough me and Joanne were screaming: “Mom! Dad!! FIRE!!!”
Dad’s head comes out of his tent.
He sees Leona, baby fire, face down in the flames. Going for it. Squeezing her clenched fists together—Does she know what hot is?—How could she not know! I learned this not much older as a toddler sitting on the kitchen counter, Mom deftly turning down the electric burner—How did I get this far? So far away from that clock radio performance that had got me, had got me so h a r d that it shook my hand s h a k a shaka shake—shaka shaka shake shake. Like I was clamped between two boards and stirred up from the inside, shaken down like salt at the bottom of pop corn. I see how easily you can shake yourself loose of this universe, shake yourself loose from this life. AND PULL AWAY! Go! Pull my hand off so defiant, so hard, so everything is working with me to keep me alive. And I pull away, after a story flipped into my mind of my dad when he was young playing with a hair pin sticking it in some wall socket next to where his dad was shaving and my dad had somehow worked his fingers around this pin and my grandfather had caught him just as he was about to stick it in and my grandfather had stopped him from going any further and and and—
—Flash of a memory of my girlfriend’s face as she cums holding onto her husband who fucks her from the beginning, the end, and the all in that Nadia held on to his neck holding him there while he came—holding him there so that she could cum so hard so hard, her grip like an electrician’s, like she was the kid version of me, holding onto that clock/radio knowing that was the bed her grandmother had died in, now the bed would be the place where Nadia’s first child was conceived—
Shake shake shake. Shaka shaka shake.
—Dad runs out of his and Mom’s tent, he is quick to the campfire, scooping Leona up in his arms with Mom coming right behind him rushing to him and taking my sister Leona out of my father’s arms, Dad brushing white hot dust from the girls’ arms and loosening Leona’s grippy fisty fingers from the white gray dust which had come from the center of our fire—you could see by the color it had come from there—see by its fucking color where it had come from: The white-hot center of the Tootsie Roll Pop. And Leona started to cry.
Joanne and I looked at each other and Joanne gave me a sideways hug and I imagined she was wearing her Supergirl™ costume and I was wearing my Superman™ costume and in that moment right there under sidewalk trees this was the only Superman™ and the only Supergirl™ in that instance—we took over the space-time importance, the meaning, of Superman™ being supported by Supergirl™, of me being Superman™ and my powers had been replenished by my sister Joanne (who is really, underneath the costumes, Supergirl™—no doubt about it).
Who is really the mother taking Leona from my dad.
Who is really the son, looking up at his Dad.
He did not come to us to put his arms around. He did not say Everything is going to be alright. Never said those words. He suggested Joanne and I hike down to the woods to be safe.
So we walked back, back. Down the hill and into the woods. Our parents’ words fading as we went.
Leona crying—really crying now, that choking/coughing kind of cry.
And you could hear it all over the campground.
My mother said, “I think we should take her to the hospital. Here! Give her here!”
Dad said: “Let’s wait a little while.”
“We don’t know how bad her burns are.”
“I’m not even sure she’s burned!”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?? Her burns are all over!”
“I can’t see anything.”
“That’s due to your untrained eye. I went to school for this! That’s a burn and this is a burn. She’s burned all up her arms!”
“How’s her face?”
That was the conversation we stepped into the forest to avoid. Shouts from Mom and Dad about when to take Leona to the hospital, echoed in later life this time Joanne and Leona and I were walking around Center City Phila and Leona said she had never felt pain like this before (I asked her) and we called her an ambulance (quick) and they took her to the hospital to remove her appendix—if we’d waited longer Leona could have died—
“Let’s wait till the morning and then take her.”
Shaka shaka shaka shake shake.
I picture my Mom taking Leona into the tent for the night, suckling her, wrapping her up in one of my parents’ flannels. Holding Leona’s face to hers, loving her how I would.
Hoping I would love my sister well if I had to.
Having no idea when was the right time to take someone to the hospital.
And holding hands with Joanne. In the forest. Down a trail and by the lake hugging and crying and saying desperate prayers to make our sister be alright.
That’s the story as it exists in my mind.
This is the story according to Mom:
Joanne and I were playing by the lake, saying prayers. Our prayers went like this:
Many many miles
How many many miles
We come to you again
At the darkest of our light
Joanne and I held hands. Held them tight to indicate our unity at this fight. Sometimes we ask for a fight—and when we ask for a fight we do it so rarely this way that usually we get what we ask for.
Many many miles, our god is without gender
Stronger that we could ever see you
Come down by our lake, here..
..We have a problem now
Reverse the B U R N
On our lovely sister
She is too young to die
We haven’t even seen how lovely she can get!
We have to see—we must!
My dream that night of an ash baby. My little sister’s brain and skull partially burned through. She would never be as able, never be as smart, as lively as she could be. If I get hit in the head I will suffer the same as her. Same fate. Same idiocy as Superman™ being struck lame. Flashes of images of a cool fire, as hot as it could get, of Leona lying in the fire, face down, me unable to reach her. Her, not being able to extract herself from the puff-white visions. Unable to breathe for just a few seconds but those few were enough.
Enough to damage her thinking apparatus.
Enough to snuff her to death.
Enough to erase my beautiful, beautiful sister, Leona. Break her into the white stuff clouds are made of. Break her into the filling of cotton candy. Break her into the foam they fill couches with. Into the stuffing inside airplane wings. Into the fascia of ghosts.
Me and Joanne hugging and crying and feeling we had lost something. Either our live sister or the perfection of a dead one. Permanence. Would she be the same as before she fell into the fire?
My dream, of an ash baby,
my little sister’s brain and skull partially burned through.
Her lying in the fire, face down, me unable to reach her.
The next day,
we took her to the hospital and the doctor said,
“Yes, you should have brought her yesterday as soon as it happened.”
That is who I learned how to go to the hospital from. From people who waited as long as possible to go. That’s how we went to the doctor, too: Wait as long as possible. See if it goes away. Wait another day. We would rather lose a little bit (or a lottle) of our lives rather than inconvenience a medical professional for 15 minutes.
Mom, rushing from her tent. Dropping to her knees. Shifting and sifting in the coals. Herself unable to catch a burn as she was in super human mode, could lift a car of two tons to save her baby if she had to. But in this case it wasn’t enough. A two-ton car wouldn’t leave second-degree burns on Leona’s hands, wrists, forearms, neck, jaws, forehead.
Mom, saying we were all hiking—this is her version of the story—so Mom took Leona up to the tent while the rest of us were in the woods. Leona was 18 months—a toddler—Mom went into the tent to do something—left Leona on the outside it was just for a second or she was too far away to catch Leona as she toddled up to the fire and tripped into it—the tiny girl caught herself with her hands—and she tumbled like Alice into Wonderland™, and Scooby-Doo™, and fucking Mindfreak™ and she twice blew everything up, and on her potential death bed my sister Leona burned.
She burned through the emptiness, the fame, burned right thorough that shit.
Leona rolling into or crawling into the campfire.
Could she move? Could she escape that shit?
Joanne and I were not able to help and there was question about whether to take her to a hospital or not. Mom saying yes! and Dad saying no! and him just getting bandages and burn cream from a local grocery.
That was one of the scariest days of my life.
I guess it doesn’t matter, whether Dad’s version is true. Or whether Mom’s view was true. They were all true as I was concerned, because why not believe every one? Why not believe every zombie’s touch or every maniac’s bludgeoning entry to your scalp?
Why not believe every zombie’s touch or every maniac’s bludgeoning entry to your scalp?
And a whole pizza romp—catch what you can! Even Leona can catch a piece of cheese and wonderfulness. Even Leona can breathe fine because of her nasal surgery I don’t know what they do but it fixes “The Temple Nose Problem” right quick right now with one little snip and now Leona breathes like an African™ with no need for nose duty!—try that without surgery, see how far that gets you.
Momma didn’t hold me captive for long after that.
Not long after that did my mother hold me in her arms.
Nor did I see the little wisdom that it gave me. I forgot the direction in which wise drones surfaced like domes among the Serengeti. Before that, Momma held me to her breast, calmed me, comforted me, invited me for spells of rutabaga harmony.
But after my sister Jo and I cried for one week in the usual way, by the edge of the lake. By the trail that’s what led us to the lake side. We knew it, infinity traveling from the lake to the campsite, l i s t e n i n g (to what my parents said) barely holding onto the faith the lake provided and dropping it (like a hot potato).
We stepped to the campsite and Mom and Dad and Leona were all having their say.
Mom said (to Leona): “What did I do? What did I do?”
We couldn’t see Leona or any of them—they’d relocated to their big tent, the parent tent.
Leona said (deep breath): “WAAAAAAAAAAA!”
My dad said: “Let me take her. Let me hold her. Yeah, see? She’s fine. She just needs a big hug. Big, big, hug. Come here, little one” and all this bullshit to make himself feel better.
Mom said: “Give her here. Here, here. Come here my baby—come here here. Ohhh—This is your Power Mama here, once again we set you up in light, value, and stars. There, there. You’re my good good dear, beautiful as an angel—slingshot to the stars! I was there when you were born, little one, and I never meant to hurt you—certainly not so soon! You were sent to us by God and your daddy and I are here for you now ARE YOU SURE WE SHOULDN’T GO TO THE HOSPITAL!?”
“Well, I—we—you said we were here on the condition that at any point if you wanted to go, we would go. We can go at any time, Sharon.”
Her eyes sliced through Dad when she said this: “I asked for us to go an hour ago! Meanwhile we’re here not knowing, not seeing with a hospital’s tools. Sitting here in this tent—“
“What would I do?” my dad said.
“Same thing you always do. Nothing.”
“Let’s be calm here. Let me have her.”
“I just wanna take on some of the responsibility,” my dad said.
“Why don’t you check on the other kids?”
To which Joanne and I shirked back away from camp, down to the lake, and began our prayers again. To understand our form of prayer, understand a humble request to the universe as an abstract whole which sometimes comes through for a desperate, desperate prayer to the hope that something’s out there of our lowest desire.
In this case that our sister was ok, had not been damaged, would bounce back, alive, happy, pain free, no scars, and playing with us again.
“We will promise never to drop you in a fire. Never to leave you too close to a fire. Never to ever take you camping, as you’re too young to stand and walk everywhere, too needing of carry help to go from safe places like tent to tent. Or boat to boat! Don’t float the boat!” (Some childish phrase from a sign illustrating a boat, upside down, suggesting how to rectify a capsized sailboat.) Joanne squeezed her eyes together like a >< duckling cute, fireboard turning, flip of the whiplash (pony tail tigress) we were all hands and fingers, standing toe-to-toe, forming curved corners with our digits that were certainly not burned but expression learned “psychology seated in place in a cosmic telescope” this consciousness is like a hope of a hope of a hope or a wish of a wish of a wish that is granted by the stretch alone, the lean—a drizzling Doritos™ finger-muddle “(massage) (given) (by) Annie and taken by me.” This is what we whisper in our prayers.
And back then we carried book bags and straps and lathers and whips.
Nowadays they carry everything in a single tablet application that unfurls like lattice. You can fold it up to infinity, smallest obfuscation of a frozen pea, a pinhole smaller and down to the pop of a sewing needle.
Down to the pop of the book-burning button up to the Pop Rocks™ of civilization, Joanne and I rebuilt and rebroke and refound and refunded our ways of coming into existence around our prayers in light of the big burn. Joanne and I built a plastic fire, which we would never eat, it would never get us going. It imitated the fire Leona had stumbled upon, only our fire drew cold air from the surface of the lake. Only our fire had been reimagined and re-engineered to make our fire just as happy as not being a fire at all. The fire we built by the lake encouraged our use of local materials. Its pieces are silver and fire. Smashed and forged with forgotten rounds.
We stoked it.
Made sure our fire burnt (( cool )). Burnt wild with wind (( flow )). Coals of dirt is (( all )) we made of ourselves that afternoon. A symbol fire. And we began to draw in runes, in response to everything Leona’s path had taught us. Being wrapped in a onesie. Feet: Nothing covering. Her signature thumb maneuver. Sort of a zip-zip-fire! Sort of this (( snuff-you-out ))-with-my-only-thumb maneuver. Sort of w a v e-ing a rooks’ piece across the air, signifying nothing—crying for rain, practicing the user manual again, Leona is burned in the tiller, (( superfreak superfried )) super a g e n t of a (( friend of a friend )) of a friend is my Leona busting crack this is how we pray for it all, down here, room for wishes for people who once upon a time had (( the boldness of gods ))—and now that there aren’t any, once again return to the agency who manages reservations and checkouts—you’re supposed to take care of all your explanations, suspicions, and misnomers before we can take your sister into the (( crash ward )).
And the next day, we had to remember to go to the hospital—if any one of us could forget.
Crying through the night—a surprise of wailing, curdling tortures breaking the nighttime, punctuating the animal life so frequently that it couldn’t start again.
We scared the whole camp site and all the wildlife within it.
Even the crickets moved out of the way for our parade of sadness, of our little sister, reminding the older two of us that we. As a group. Had gone south a bit with this latest burning of our youngest sibling. Lost with one hand gone southernly, the other hand brought to the mouth—gobbles of shock and foul play—let’s all figure out who the spying party is!
And there are multi-spies, multi-traffics, multiple knows and don’t-knows planted around the roofs of our establishment. Our multi-castle with multiple entrances and exit through the (( s k y b o x helium )).
There was that monk who incinerated himself—burned himself (lickety-split! on the attitude of all, one finger in, the other up)—out, scraping my insides for shit that is where they find the roots of their equations, the best material yet for figuring us out!
He remembers (rain, coolness, water, anti-burn): A walk home, partially, then we split and she got on her bus. We were running in the rain a few minutes before and as her bus pulled away the rain let loose. I walked and spun and running in the rain found myself many blocks from home. When I got home my mom asked Where was I? I had been away from the house, as my self-favored narrative favorited you favorited me favorited my monster and was my (( favorit-est )) place to keep my monster hands—these hands spoke bully English(tm) rooted between their legs where monster hair closed upon their junk (monster junk displayed by:) Mom teaching herself Morse Code™ on the playground steps while she took Joanne and me to play on the weekends up the hill to the left, make a right, go all the way up the hill and straight forward to the school and its playground open on the weekends!— each of her faucets caters to eight tit-sits each one will house eight, and those eight and the eight that follows those eight—all the way to the bottom of the orgiastic matrix who owns you right fucking now.
Play the matrix today, right here, right now.
Play your way out of it—impossible!
Play for your home—either risk it all (in d e a t h!) or win it all (in 20 years lost your life time traveled backwards and shoved through the same drawer)—the transported man! I have slipped through and underneath the mask! Caught me a love tunnel. Here is the back of magick and the mask!
So I just have one more major story of burning—a burn that happened to my mom, and that I will always remember. As you can see these aren’t just stories of me and my family—they are stories that happened in my family (or in my world) that involve b u r n i n g, or (( freezing )), of the intertwining of these two features of Earth(tm) and Heavens(tm), shown so globally, here in my test document. This will become one of those who is novella, the short novel, for the reading masses. Have you been able to follow them? Good, I’m glad you’ve had not too much trouble. Fix the problems with your government, then read again in freedom. Freedom’s fire—burns not to express the freedom is free maxim but the nature instead of not information wants to be free (that, while true) requires facts that I am ready not to believe. Bizzit. Bizzit.
In the morning we woke up early to go to hospital, now seeing the developing damage on our mother’s daughter’s hands. Her arms. Her forearms, her neck and her face. B u r n e d yellow and brown. From in to out. Our sister’s crying coming to us in spells. Hiccups. Seeming more emotional that they were (probably)—coming to us as emotional scolding machines when it was really just a pain response, coming to her in waves, like pain does, the pains of the night disappearing at sunrise, their power of blank running through me like loose veins, disappearing when light comes in like the kinesthetic analog of vampires, bleeding raw, bleeding all over my back yard. Bleeding paradise for me (cause I am a v a m p i r e)—
—we didn’t call the cops and we were scolded by the hospital admin by saying: “Didn’t you call the cops?” and we were like (well, my parents were like): “We thought we should bring her here first off” and one cop stepped to us and he was like, “What do we have here?” (Flashes of them taking away my dad, my mom—and every one of us in between.) Leona getting put in some home where the only one who ever sees her is the cop when he occasionally stops by, shaking his head at my parents and even me and Joanne for ruining Leona for life, ruined ruined ruined!
The cop pulls up a chair and helps us fill out our form work.
Every time the admitting nurse came across a new field the cop would provide us the proper tense to use in our response. We composed, verbally, to the tune of his tense knowing full well that if our tense juggled the one provided by the cop, we would be instantly taken into custody. Remanded. Reprimanded. All those nasty names needed to describe the actions of the cop, who were unconstitutional, immoral, inhuman, and everything like them, down, down, down to anti-conscious murmuring, b u r n i n g so hot inside my ears I had to take my headphones off and sit on the ground with my hands outstretched and Joanne’s headphones falling off as well, left sound of the lake waves lapping at the dirt below us, and me forced back to envisioning every burn I ever took or watched my mother take, that my mother took upon her body as nature decided—or that nature directed upon her!
My sister sat with me and we worked these things out.
The laps of waves at my right—at Joanne’s left—hissing, bubbles.
The huff-panting to my left—to Joanne’s right—that was a one-year-old named Leona, my sister the youngest, wrapping my care for her while she felt around in a physical place called “burning”—life left out of of those places in her arms and head, places that—once burned—however little that place will never be the same, will never grow the same, will never, once burned, ever contain its characteristic roots and fingerprints.
She will never again grow naturally from those places.
Even the ones foretold with infinite powers, to always be unique every unicorn that’s in the universe—that is false among every fortune teller in the uni.
That universal truth, pushed and found false.
Will never be the same.
If this sounds like a school lesson, skip ahead.
Many years passed, a few, a handful max, and Leona got better. Truthfully she got much better on the second day of rising, her skin (as an infant) resilient, richly healing, growing—her body prob’ly not even knowing whether it was a burn or regular growth—it prob’ly just sent a whole bunch of skin-heal serum to the right spots on her fists and neck and head. Leona had it 100%. Mom held her in the passenger seat and rocked her to love after this little drama:
(Mom is looking toward Dad.)
Dad says: “What?”
Mom is cry-face.
“Sharon, what is it?” He slows driving. “Sharon, what is it?”
“I don’t think I deserve to..” (Mom tears up.) “..to hold her!”
“No! You deserve to!” “You deserve to hold her best!” (Joanne said this.)
“No! I was the one who dropped her in the fire! I left her outside the tent and she ran right into it! She ran right in. I never should have let her out of my sight I don’t believe that I let that happen!”
We pulled to the side of the road. They let us hold her while Dad brushed Mom’s hair, ego-wise, and Leona’s eyes are bright and alert and Leona had adjusted her finger flexing to constricted. Then active (having not been fully used for a day). Then she clearly recognizes us, with darts and zerps of her brown eyes.
“She seems fine,” Joanne says.
I amplify her signal so my parents can hear: “Joanne says,” I say, “that Leona looks fine.”
But they were still talking and mentioning who was right and who was wrong and Dad comforting Mom and encouraging her to hold Leona so I came again, around the gate and through the front-and-center seats:
(I was confident as hell:) “Joanne says that Leona is better.”
To which my mom says, “Leona..is not better. She may look better to you. We’ll leave it to the doctors to tell us when she is better.”
Dad took Leona from us and was gruffing “Give her here, here, gruff gruff gruff. Here. Sharon. Take her from me, alright? She’s got..she’s tangled here..God dammit Christ Almighty Mary blood of saints..take her from me, I’ve got this jippity-jipped-up thing next to my neck!”
This got us jippity-jipped-up in the second seat back—I always hated to get those words’ meaning inside my own head when they originated in the voice box of some trans woman working in a Louisiana warehouse—or somewhere else!—they had special meaning to my head like “son of a biscuit eater!” or “that’s not the long pole in the tent” because some other pole is the only longest pole and “it would behoove us” to address “the low-hanging fruit” in the situation etcetera motherfuck you, etcetera, etc-etera et-cet.
You can always tell what a person is really about if you listen to the lowest common denominator when they talk—and to listen to the phrases they repeat. With my dad, it’s all about the money. When you listen to him talk it’ll be about the total dollars and cents being spent by some group of people that only tangentially includes him. Like how much money he was spending on gasoline by person of this road trip.
He did this by keeping a running tab on mileage, one record per every stop, and by calculating the per-person total by dividing by four—conveniently one-less-him—as though by him being the calculator, he was fairly-well less contributing to the total of our complete five.
I got the idea that he felt somewhat clear from using up resources in that he was replete of them.
Mom told me one day: “I do not think it’s him recusing his own resource-consumption.”
“Why is that?”
“I think it’s more likely he’s counting himself out because he’s subconsciously eliminating himself as someone who is willing to go without food, without water himself.”
“Oh,” I said. “That sounds a lot like me.”
“I know,” my mom said.
And this is where she hugged me and scragged around my neck—that’s my imperfect remembrance of what happened. What really happened is that we met eyes, across the messiness of a table at Big Boy™ and in the stillness of those pools, we began to dissect our common family history for the first time since both our aging allowed us to do so further.
I am in my room masturbating after our trip to the orchard to pick berries. Blackberries most and raspberries next, a full morning’s journey out of the city and into nearby country to a farm where you pick your own berries, put them in containers to weigh out at the exit. Lots of people come to bring their kids to have fun picking while the adults..I guess the adults have fun too but we were always in two separate modes—the adult mode was business and the kid mode was play—the adults’ mode was destined to make jam while the kids’ mode was designed to have fun picking and eating all throughout the day.
Of course I wasn’t thinking of all that while I was masturbating. But in between times I was, hearing my family downstairs working on the jamming process. But I’m planning on giving you a little narrative of what had been going on in my mind (a place I had grown extremely fond of) in terms of my opinions of m a t t e r s and n a t u r e s wherein I found myself sinking deeply as into a hole.
I started out masturbating. M a n y times. I don’t remember what age I was—I just remember when boys in French™ class joked about masturbation, making a spray of paper flakes fly up in the air during a test, screaming “Ohhh!!”—I remember at that point I was far ahead of joking about masturbation. Had become an old hand. I don’t know when I started..it was fifth or sixth grade, but it was constant by this point.
I also remember cheating on a test in French One™, pasting a piece of paper on the seat part of the desk in front of me. I cheated perfectly, didn’t get caught. But I didn’t need to—that’s the thing. I am excellent at languages—I knew that by the time I took Latin in the fifth. I got 100% on every vocabulary test that teacher gave me. My brain, somehow, grew in for the fifth grade Latin™ parts sooner than my language parts and math parts grew in for the seventh grade. I caught up by eighth, but by ninth we were moving out of Philadelphia™..to Ohio™..and I was no longer the mystery academic kid with the blond hair—in Ohio™ I was not really comprehensible but for a few kids. Not even the teachers got me—they would just edit my novels and put me in a special class (of two people) to teach ourselves computers. That’s the only time I remember cheating in school, on this French One™ test.
My walls reflected my mind:
A copy of an Absolut™ commercial redone by me in watercolor.
Legos™, still from early childhood, in states of built, half-built, destroyed, destroying, done.
The plant/amphibian/reptile wall, where I had dismantled b a s i c a l l y all of my mom’s shelves and infrared lighting and bought or found terrariums to fill every shelf with plants from our church youth group’s trips to go canoeing, plants numbering to the 100s, snails, snakes from the neighborhood. I had tadpoles growing, was repeating an experiment we did back in the fourth grade with silkworms. My favorite were these fish tanks meant for beta, which I had repurposed to house snails and algae, and the snails would climb down the sides of the tank, go to its center, and float back up on the action of bubbles being released there. That was their whole life. It was beautiful.
My first job was in that house, in Philadelphia. Our neighbor paid me to rip the weeds out from between her sidewalk blocks, some of which were large slate blocks, most of which were bricks. I made $8/day.
I guess I’ve liked gardening my whole life, past a certain point. I took it on literally on the shelves in my room. Special interest in gardens inside computers—the idea that you could create a program which was extremely sensitive to input conditions and that you could grow them in large clumps.
I like the idea of two types of life existing right beside each other. Like the aquarium I installed on my sixth grade desk. Always the bubbles, that took my interest. The extra clarity created by two bright colors sitting right beside each other. But every student in the class wanted to come by to say “Hello!” to the fish and that wasn’t working for my teacher so after the one fish died she politely told me the other could go. That was Mrs Campbell—she brought in her friend to teach us some math that was supposed to prepare us for Algebra One™ and if you understood this math you would be ready for Algebra One™. I barely understood what was happening but I made it to Algebra One™ in the seventh grade so I must have done alright. I can see how some blurring of the concepts would make this more comfortable for the students.
I started to get hard again—back then it didn’t take much. I had a couple Victoria’s Secret catalogs I had straight-up stolen from my aunt’s house in Richmond. Those were my first big-time masturbation toys and I loved them. I’ve always liked soft core porn from that moment on.
I questioned why I liked smaller breasts rather than large ones—I think small ones have more structural integrity than large ones.
Theorizing why the female zing button is so outside the cum.
Those were pure thoughts—thoughts from my youth. If it was today, I’d be jerking off with my background noise screaming at me: “White privilege means writing (and publishing) bestselling books! Directing super-hit movies! Singing songs about the struggle to find yourself. Persons of limited means aren’t allowed the luxury of an Eat Pray Love crisis—for us, the struggle to find yourself is swallowed up in the struggle to live.”
My fly was unzipped all afternoon and I wasn’t wearing any underwear so my monster was show-showing in my room, sho-owing forever, sho-showing in my room.
I flopped it to the side, flopped it the other way.
Made up the words for one side of the duo. Pretending I’m in her mind. Inside her skin. When she moves on me, takes nothing of a twosome, nothing of a threesome—I talked my way outside a raptor-wheeling punishment (caught on three songs, laced, link, interlink, interlink, link)—interlinking god so you had grape juice all over your front it’s all just the myriad of Hughes™ contracts in her slippage (i n t e r l i n k e d) and the forward girl, the sideways look on my cadaver so I slip around to the left, around to the right! to the center mode of my attachments, buzzing bee, holy mount to the sisters,
Holy swift! When I masturbate I cum to the image of the older sister. The older one, the two of the sisters I crave like a sidewalk s q u a r e of iced cream, she crawls on top of me and sucks my dick. I don’t worry what size, just go for her mouth, my fingers in her hair, it was really the older sister that I had containers for—the younger one was my age and a trait introduction, the older was one class year older and so I had Algebra Two™ with her, Mai Nguyen (don’t worry—she’s American) and the eldest of the two attractions filling my mind is Kray one (Lindsay) and Kray Two (I don’t remember her name!) (I’ll call her Elizabeth) and in my mind they’re having a two-bit conversation that goes:
“—but don’t you know boys are going to be masturbating over your photos?”
“I want boys to be masturbating to my photos. When boys stop masturbating to my photos, I’m through.”
For me, masturbating—lust is a little f i r e. I would always start with Lindsay, at my place behind her, to the left, but her hair was too yellow! and her skin was too light. I quickly moved to the second sister, one year older and therefore out of place in my home room. I must have been bored even then, I remember picturing several girls in my home room, including the one right before me, Victoria Spelling™—she woke up in my backyard fantasy, lying in the grass, playing with the spaces between her t o e s and them all partaking of the three-way conversation begun above—about when boys stop looking at your photos and either never come back to them or stop moving on, ready to look at that one photo in detail, with the colors brightened, and learn that detail, every single dyed-hair jumble on Kray Two (name forgotten) was electrified, backpack shoulder rig with more batteries turned my page for me, her hair dyed brown and now she probably works in an o f f i c e, turning pages in her screen, doing a reverse-Facebook to find me but you can’t reverse-Facebook me ‘cause I am no longer on Facebook you can however win this plush hallucination from Government Cheese™, blurted out on me as two roads diverged into that illusion, this one was between Kray and Kray, One and Two, and of course I took the road less traveled, kicking Kray One to the side with my minimal foot (it had less practice) and locking on Krey Two undressing her with strapped-down grips—invisible grips of her hands pulling her tighter ‘round her virginity straps she holds them tight to keep attached to the ride (it’s bumpy!) bumpy as shit and I take her squishy vagina there to keep me attached and awake, pulling those straps with my fingers, strapping them closed, strapping her neck and mouth to suck me by that tip of her mouth, to that tip (of a dick), that harness of straps, and all this is play. All I had to do was write a sample paragraph that conveyed my fantasy-ship with that famous Kray (Kray Two) sucking my dick, getting me off, sharing her intimacy with me, and the truth is my fantasies were very basic then, sucking a dick my favorite, copulation being something I hadn’t experienced back then and as such I found it hard to emulate in my mind.
Really the thing I remember fantasizing about the most was kissing (French kissing™) I saw these couples kissing on soap operas and they kissed so long and so hard I wanted to know what it felt like, and in real life, since this is a memoir, I got my dick sucked in a closet in my best friend’s closet while everyone partied outside. Janelle Wuud sucked on me and I ran my fingers through the outermost part of her pussy and it took a while (it took forever) before I came and we both wrapped up our bodies and took themselves downstairs to pee. Giggling that we had just done that together. No real sexual attraction to one another. Just the attraction of sex itself, to cum, to get off, and the first time Janelle saw my cock she announced:
“That’s all you’ve got to work with?”
“Yep!” I said.
But on the inside I hurt my feelings, craving for a second that I had a different dick. Something deep and wide like a bass guitar. But in the next second I was ok with it: When I played band at that school, I chose an instrument that would be easy for me to carry on the bus and subway—I chose the flute. I don’t remember much but I do remember a much later girlfriend telling me she didn’t understand “what those guys with those dicks do” when they carry around their gigantoid cocks between their legs and they’d be strolling and struggling to keep it together inside their pants.
And talk about the family. The divorce as b u r n. Us all growing older.
Talk about the family. Wizard of Drawers™, Master’s in Towel Folding™. Getting yelled at for folding the towels wrong. Having to stand there watching my dad re-fold every towel in the cabinet, never getting a chance to re-fold my mistakes, never a chance to show I could do it right! but that wasn’t the point—teaching your child—the point was that he wanted the towels folded right, every one in awe of the next, each one last touched by my father’s hand—perfect by His™ plan—and the power he had to make me stand there and watch him fold them, listen to him, in awe never in learning, the sacred right to be held from my masturbation, in my room, in my control, held to him as to a love-ed teacher but there was no love (my counselor later told me) between me and my dad, only random chance giving him the luck of occasionally doing it right, occasionally doing it right when he took us to the forest our counsellor said, “Wait!”—he only ever took himself—Joanne and I were lucky along for the ride, we just happened to like forests, too. He never took us for us he didn’t watch us while we were there and what consumed his thoughts?
His thoughts ran to half-forgotten memories stuffed in the muzzle of a WWI™ piece, carrying the M16™ he swore he would never carry to Vietnam™, flash-lighting an imaginary grenade right in his h e a r t, right in his core. My dad was a wannabe Vietnam War™ resister (except he was never drafted)—a wannabe war tax resister (except he had this dumb family on his back)—in general he was an idealist, except I am an idealist and I don’t find my dad and I often stepping in the same puddles. The last I saw him, he and his new wife were watching negative-profit Christian™ “movies” (the reason they’re negative profit is that no one would watch them if they had to pay for a screening). Anyway: My dad. My dad’s now-wife sitting on the couch while I nestled into place on the floor and the movie starts..with the text of a scripture filling the screen—that’s what they watch, and I looked up and over them, their eye-sockets dry and with a box of tissues between them. And I think: What has come to this family? My mother, the Christian™ minister, would never sit still for this stuff. Because there is some authenticity in her singleness that my dad prob’ly never had. Some individuality in my mother’s stances and here’s my dad, an empty core, snuggled up next to someone who despite years of working with people at a nursing home (sorry: convalescent home, skilled nursing, whatever) who despite years of training, has never been that good with people. And now she’s slipped from real entertainment to slip-shod idiocy like the kind we used to watch in Sunday School™.
Johnny forgot to pray for forgiveness for his latest sin (lusting over big-bootie Rhonda) and now he gets into his car, goes round a turn in the highway not looking and there’s the logging truck coming at him as he swerves into the oncoming lane. Cut to black! Johnny’s dead! His forehead was cut in two when the convertible windshield cracked back into Johnny’s brain as he thought those few last thoughts. Running free like electrons in both halves of Johnny’s brain and I wonder if his consciousness split in two when his brain was split in two.
That’s an actual film Joanne and I watched in Sunday school™ in-between us memorizing the books of the Bible™, we had a song that went with it, too, singing “Hey nanee nanee / Hey nanee nanee noo!”—“Daniel, Hosea, Joel.” Huh: My sister Leona must be using this list (this song?) to invent her baby names. “Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah.” I know when I get to Micah I can sing it from here to the end. “Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi!”
I will never know what started the divorce—except that it must be the kids. Isn’t that what divorced people always say? Don’t worry, kids—It’s not about you—when it’s totally all about the kids. Not usually our personalities—but the kids in the abstract. My parents said they’d stay in contact for the sake of the kids, so we could get help from them when we needed it.
And they stayed in contact for a while.
They were there for me for my first couple tragedies.
Then they stopped talking. And somehow that’s ok. For them. They promised to be there together for me and they didn’t keep that promise. Likely it’s too hard for them to see each other. I have an ex that if we had kids together it would be hard for me to see her. But it wouldn’t have stopped the show. For me. I could have dropped a kid off to her opening door (maybe even mustered a few kind words) and left! Boom! I’m outta there. But it would be the case for our kid that we would still maintain an entry for the other parent in our address book.
I guess that’s all I’m saying. Whether you write it in your book or type it into your computer you carry everywhere. No matter where you put it.
I used to think that was the case with everyone in my family and friend circles.
Like my mother and her brother. I knew they fought online but I did not realize that neither one had the other’s phone number.
And back to Lorena, back to the camping trip. Was that the last camping trip we made as a family? Too shell-shocked to continue? It doesn’t feel like something we would have given up on, after a short little b u r n.
It seems like the type of thing we would have continued—intrepid—unbothered by tragedy!—so willing to march our band up to the camp fire, the lake, a practically infinite wood.
Like, we would have driven out of the city in our eight-passenger van, under every overpass, over every underpass, marking time with the first homeless spikes until the last homeless spikes, a total of 10 locations from there to here, we kids counting each one (and debating others!) making my parents cringe with each one we passed. They were social-justice workers, moved here to promote their political candidates by producing a mail-order magazine sent out with a spin on the liberal. They ran the whole operation out of our basement—the whole enchilada, with a graphic artist and everything. Our dad was the CEO™ of this five-person crew producing this newsletter every month. They had us kids help with the folding! It was a raging mess: Our dad’s kids and a coupla college students using cans of finger-moisturizer so our fingertips didn’t split. You’d 1) wipe your thumb in the loosely gooey glue, then 2) swipe the envelope shut. Wipe the raw/n a t i v e envelope gluing strip and then swipe the envelope shut. Sounds like fun, huh? Sounds like child labor to me. It took about a hundred envelopes before my sisters and I retired to floors above the basement to make ramen noodles and laugh about things unrelated to the business in the basement. Have you ever had a business in your basement? I have.
I have sat, my face against a window, counting all the homeless spikes from Philadelphia to West Chester, seeing ones my sisters didn’t even see, not bothering to count them aloud. And I let my vision blur. And I saw a thousand—a hundred thousand spikes—every free space covered with spikes (just like they do with pigeons!) in this final step in the Western world’s™ evil empire imagery.
I did not know I would be homeless someday.
I did not know enough about homelessness back then to understand the circumstances surrounding it. The methods by which one could become homeless. All that was not even lost to me—it had never even be found by me. Maybe they should teach a class on it—show meandering-mind little kids like me that homelessness sucks and you prob’ly won’t be able to get out of it and they would show scare videos like they show in driver’s ed.
This sort of education would be lost on me.
I would throw up a hand and ask questions about becoming homeless.
Why do they have those spikes over every surface possible? Where do homeless people sleep when their normal places have been covered with spikes?
Teachers were gobsmacked. Covered me up and continued with their lesson plan. It didn’t include painful outliers of the type I mentioned. Either the world was too complex for them to handle, or they feared losing their jobs by allowing classroom discussion to slide to the left, politically—and they were right to fear this. Just about everyone is against police brutality, but almost no one is willing to say this out loud for fear of being seen as a liberal. Being republican is even worse, though: you’re n o t allowed to say anything representing your point of view, you just sit by quietly and let the man with the g u n do his speaking for you.
This is what I thought about in my youth (which I consider the space between five and 35): Cops who are literally raping, torturing, and killing the people they are paid to protect. Only in 2019 were these laws passed. Before that it was legal to rape your prisoner if you were a cop. You feel this world is normal, but that is what was normal: Last year you could rape someone you illegally jailed and it was covered by the law.
Literally. Only this last year did the states pass laws prohibiting cops from raping citizens in their custody. And this is what consumed me! This and the parade of police officers who use lethal force unnecessarily I mean it’s getting to be where your choices are between the total state and the zero state. Mothers are violating federal drug laws to get pain meds after back surgery. When I have kidney stones, I can hardly get enough hydrocodone to last the length of my most intense pain. I lie awake in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, wishing my urologist calls me back. Please, return my calls because the next step for me isn’t a week of me dealing with the pain—it’s me breaking a sober streak (and that is more dangerous for me than starting a Vicodin™ streak).
They tried that shit at the hospital when we registered Lorena after her burn. My father was holding her in his arms and there was a cop in the lobby (I call a cop a cop and a police officer a police officer)—so this cop sallies up to my dad and is like checking out the wounds asking questions, all “What happened to her?” hand reaching for his gun, and “Why didn’t you bring her yesterday?” And my mom steps in, places herself between the cop and my dad.
“Is this going to be an interrogation?” my mom asks (white woman asks) “We’re just people,” my mom says. “You know? Sometimes mistakes happen? See my other two?” she says. “They seem to have turned out alright.”
I wanted to speak to him—I wanted to step to him—but my mom pushed me and Joanne behind her legs and we hid there while my mom ripped this cop a new asshole. She brought out everything: The white, the female, the minister, and only this last attribute caused the cop to step down.
“Ahh, see! I gotcha. I’m not wearing my collar. Just like you, sometimes we work undercover.”
This cop was overmatched. High-Q. Multiple college degrees. Confidence. Even the fact my mom was a woman didn’t sink her here. Just his adoption of a Christian™ faith that twisted his value of everything human, good and evil, right and wrong, one God—
—and we went from family with improperly burned child to representatives of the holy Lord instantly. No more questions. And I stuck out my tongue at this cop as he left.
Dreams of white supremacist police gangs attacking unarmed black men and putting them in illegal chokeholds. The guy says he can’t breathe and goes limp.
“Is he subdued?”
(Yeah, he’s subdued..he’s dead!)
People wrapped up in racist hunger to kill the unknown. If they simply had dinner with their minority n e i g h b o r s instead of knowing them only on the job. Every police station in the world is racist toward blacks..you start to wonder what happened to these people in the past. I guess it could still be racism from the not-so-long-ago American Slavery™. People longing for their Happy Nigger™ soup days, sitting in the sun taking Nug Mary back to the room and fucking the self-hate out of her, him, the whole institution. Watch Naked and Afraid™ for an example: Only the men quit! They’re ex-marines, can’t survive a day in the jungle and they cry like babies. While the women next to them always complete—they’re like the black man, the ones who have been suffering through all this time, since the birth of the candle, since fire was put into the jungle, all those women and all those black people have soldiered on, capturing the essence of life—to struggle a little harder than the monkeys and bringing us to the fire age. We are nothing without our trillions of pages of documents we have written on how to be a human all the way up to building complex surgeries with aberrant computers only any little bit of it invented by the human being on hand.
With so many rules, it’s impossible to guarantee avoidance of criminal labeling. It’s legal to start a fire. Legal to burn hot dogs on it. But it’s illegal not to have totally protected the fire from all young children, and for one to burn your small child, and to accidentally damage your child, to turn your back and make one little mistake that causes your child’s face to burn, her arms and wrists and hands—so obviously a mistake—and you can go to jail for that, captured and prosecuted and locked away, for an accidental burn that you never would have intended—that you care so much more than the police, the judge, the jailer—so much more than any of those people care about your your kids do you care about your own daughter, your own sister, your a m a z i n g human friend that you would put your life before. Would the cop who almost handed in my parents have died for Leona? Would the judge? Would he spare the tip of one finger? Would the jailer even look twice at their new inmates, read the file? Punch it up and take some responsibility for who they’re jailing? Would that ever happen?
There’s that t h o u g h t puzzle where you have a sniper, and a sergeant, and a victim, and the sergeant gives the order to kill and the sniper pulls the trigger and the victim dies. Who’s responsible? The one who gives the order or the one who operates the gun? My argument here is that it’s both equally—since if you removed either one from the equation the victim walks free.
Put that together yourself. We agree that if the jailer took some judgement on himself and jailed people sent to him as he saw fit, that fewer? different? people might be spared. I should think that having the d e a t h of an i n n o c e n t man on your hands might weigh more on the jailer’s consciousness if we all recognize his culpability in the matter.
You say: “But taken to its end you’d find chaos. There would be more questionably guilty/questionably innocent people running free. We would move further away from the rule of law.” That’s the point. We move away from the rule of law a little. What do we have to lose? Prison is for violent assaulters, rapists, murderers—that’s it. All I’m saying is who drops their baby in a fire on purpose? That’s the question. Doesn’t the judge know how such an event would haunt you for the rest of your lives? A baby you birthed, carried, conceived. Then accidentally didn’t watch for a few seconds while the t o d d l e r trips and falls—falls into the fire—falls into the motherfucking fire!
T h a t ‘ s my parents. That’s my story. What more can I say? A family of five walks into the forest. Builds a fire. Takes a hike. Mom returns to get her inhaler from the tent. Leaves Leona unattended—a mother leaves her baby for five seconds as she goes inside the tent. And boom! Leona wanders toward the light, falling under her own weight, touching the fire (and is so enamored with the flames and so unfamiliar with her fledgling sensorium that she doesn’t even c r y until my mom picks her up) and then she cries and cries and cries, mom holding her tight and brushing the ashes from them both.
When you fall responsible for someone else’s death, someone else’s pain, and when that person is close to you—friend, family member, foe—the judgment applied is within. It’s guilt, if you haven’t been conditioned to feel none. If you’re not from a church, the g o v e r n m e n t, or a special interest group..well..I guess just c o n s i d e r that a lot of us who aren’t law enforcement haven’t been trained to subdue the suspect to use deadly chokeholds—to do all those things that are the pulling the trigger of today’s first analogy.
You see what I’m saying?
I heard my great great grandfather was the inventor of the Bunsen™ burner. That’s on my mom’s side. She was using one said burner in college when she burned her hair (almost off) with it. I asked her when she told me this story if she knew at that time the Bunsen™ of Bunsen™ burners was a relative. She said yes, and that as her hair flashed-burned in the chemistry lab.
Did you know it’s illegal to buy chemistry glassware in Texas? Know it.
And know this: my mom worked as a medical technician in Philadelphia, in her spare time. Once night she spun up some blood samples and the glass broke on these AIDS-infected test tubes. She had to get an AIDS test the next day. And for that entire day, we wondered if she had got AIDS at her job just for pressing s t a r t and splattering AIDS blood on her face and in her eyes.
She described using an eye-wash station to wash her eyes.
I thought of how thin the line was between having AIDS and not having AIDS.
Outside your power.
Dependent on the chance of the eye-wash station and the geometry of your eyes.
Also..I would like to set up the concept of burn to represent hells on Earth™, hell portals—these portals being the first way you can try to go there.
A key you turn in a knob (the knob being to a secret and basement door), a setting on the paraffin wax that I added to my chemistry set (that warps temperature and time) sets us all back a moment with the Philadelphia Experiment™ which maybe it was a hoax or maybe it was real—the world may never know. A key that’s stuck in the lock to an attic door, broke off at the handle, dumbfounded—there shouldn’t even be an attic there!
Not even. Not even enough for a human to pass behind the fireplace candlesticks I would like very much to s l o w (( die )) stuck between thither and wither hardly enough room to breathe properly as a warm-blooded human—I have already put out larger fires with my feet than you can blow with this horn. I want two hands crossed on this flame surface, ready to blow—to b l o w—to burn—to incinerate my face, reach it from within, the pendant beneath my neck welcoming all that is ghosty from your realms welcome to come through at the opening of this stone, one to die for and one for children—for children can safely allow such openings (if they’re not pure sucking evil through) and for a while that was my arrangement, until years later in an Ohio™ driveway when no one was at the house I stood in the middle of the garage with no lights on, a special stick, r o a r i n g in my most sincere voice, not to interact wit me again, for there were many benevolent spirits who haunted me and walked with me to school. I did a bit of a friendly (but serious) anti-invitation exorcism which only recently (at 40) I pseudo-undid, calling the spirits back into my life, something I couldn’t have considered possible until this last year.
I’m a bit of a magnet for high-octane spiritual workers. I never pray to them. Never follow them. I’m just more of myself now, like my mother is with her Bunsen™ burner. She’s more susceptible to burns by the device, as it’s in her genealogy, even if she didn’t know her uncle or whoever had invented the thing.
Burn Annie burn.
Flunk Devin flunk.
Just like my memories of the gym teacher, Dobos. There is this middle-weight, probably drunk, hopefully single example of a human being talking to my fourth grade ears, saying what to me is nonsense, words coming from a mentally ill survivor, a man who would be best off lying in a couch chair, mouthing words to the television: “Flunk Annie flunk. Burn Devon burn!” We will open a portal to the devil from you in a lightness. The man steps back through an oval of fire—nothing about him light—he melds with the ring and all you can feel is his hate—his darkness—and I am glad he is an alcoholic (at least I hope he is) so his hate is buried under a decades-long period of sleep, walking, waking, sipping and shaking his cup he occasionally returns to his office to refill, shuffling madness, he is probably on one of the original antipsychotics, probably Haldol™ (that was more prominent in use back then than the atypical antipsychotic that messed me up (Risperdal™) but I feel closer to Dobos now than I ever have before). The fucker had prescription medicines affecting him—not alcohol—and in my opinion Dobos was deeply fucked by a lifetime of schizophrenia encouraging him to say, “Burn Annie burn!” instead of doing a straight count while we all did jumping jacks and crunches and hip stretches and toe touches: “One two three four, two two three four, three two three four” became “Burn Annie burn burn, flunk flunk Maureen flunk, burn Devon, burn!”
Of course I ignored him as much as possible and went after my exercise. Every toe touch, though painful, was one more I didn’t have to do. E v e r. For Dobos and his crunch cup containing..ice, vodka, who knows.
His chanting made me hate gym class.
I participated as little as possible, wandering outside the gym door to get some of my own headspace back, walking all the way to the principal’s office, informing on Dobos, getting walked back to the gym by an adult office aide who opened the gym door a sliver, and all the aide sees is the entire class climbing ropes and Dobos cycling among the three ropes holding his cup up to the climber. “Burn Annie burn!”
The aide pushes me into the gym and says, “He’s not doing it now!”
I say, “He will be as soon as you leave!”
To which the aide simply c l o s e d the door in my face and I stand there, watching Dobos order, l o u d this time:
“Burn, Annie, burn! Flunk, Devon, flunk!”
And he looks over in my direction.
I dare him—dare him with my mind—to add me to his circle of names. I dare you. Dare you, pussy. If you ever add me to your circle, I will invite every spirit that I’ve been hiding from you all these years to suck all the spirit out of you, suck it so dead and so hard your body will stand unknowing for three whole seconds before you realize that you’re dead and you no longer have the ability to stand.
Jerking off to Zulu men, Zulu women, to their deepest darkest browns, almost black, almost no color at all, to the woman I later fucked from the strip club, her reds all the redder for being next to that brown skin, labia turning pink as I near the hole, the glorious red tunnel resting my mind, letting me know there is a destination, there is a place that wants me, after all my school friends dissed me not ‘cause I was white or male but because I had pizza face (pimples) all up and down my neck, shoulders, head—reminds me of this time when I was in tenth grade and I won alternate at the science fair as a recipient of an all-expenses-paid trip to the international fair and my dad labeled the winner “the kid with zits all over his face”—this is exactly the sort of thing my dad forgets when he talks to you later..he will admit noticing that the kid had pimples, but will forget he said “the kid with all the zits.” Bong—zing! Fuck!
Two Zulu tribesmen. Dear Thus. Of water caused to move by the moon. In dreams. I was talking to them after having traveled to meet them—this is what they say. They say they are friends of the space men, the star men, those who put us here in the shadow of the ancient satellite. You know how we see in the ancient record histories of others who came before us, but never an accurate record of what’s been going on with this planet? There are two reasons for this:
One, we have been made to forget. With the great flood appearing in so many histories, and other apocalypses (not caused by humans)—instead caused by godlike or unseen visitors, we have to consider that our history has been interrupted by an alien hand which has caused us to forget, as a species, what the fuck’s been happening down here.
The second is this: Usually the texts of ancient historians are true verbatim, but when we read them, we assume they didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about—but they so do, they so do. Historians and ancient storytellers were not idiots. Think of Herodotus’ (or whoever the Greek™ historian perspective is) on Atlantis™. He describes a great water-based city, the greatest of all, and we all read these records and say, “He was crazy” or “Herodotus? Sounds like a scam to me.” And then (now) 2,000 years later, scuba divers find the lost city. And this is definitely it. No doubt. A great island city sunk to the bottom of the ocean and the lesson is what? Don’t doubt historians. They almost always are speaking the truth in whatever way is possible within their language. If Herodotus says Duck! I’d just Duck now and figure out the truth later! but the key is: Ancients had their ways of telling the truth. They knew the difference between playwriting and history. When reading them, read them straight and wait for the fantastic island to appear before your eyes.
This is the truth: One night I slept in the arms of a Zulu woman, American™ name Mercy. Who told me fairy tales that seemed to me to come from the sky. But I could get used to that without much prompting. Lying in a bed at the Super 8™ in Hollywood™. And when she told me stories, her stories were intertwined with the stars, not just stories of her people but also the men from the stars, whose histories were two strands of three woven together. The Earth™ was the third. The Zulu had gone into the spacemen’s craft, ridden with them throughout the galaxy. The Zulu’s credentials? Mostly their ability to pass a verbal history through time (measured in thousands of years) without drift or changes. They had been chosen by the wise men from another planet (which of course is our planet) to hold the aliens’ stories to pass on to our children at the right time. Which right time is our time. Which children are ours plus the aliens—which genetic overhaul is happening right now. At the quickest possible progression (which to us is razor slow).
But don’t you think, if you were an alien power, and you were sticking around watching us from within the hollow moon, that uber-underground genetic takeover from within us as we live, right now would be the smartest takeover mechanism. Of all!!
They become us. We become them.
When they’re finished we have intelligent upgrades and smart bodies. When they’re finished there is no military antithesis to peace. They have learned better how to interpret DNA and how to mix it—them and us no longer exists, so there is no war—we’d be fighting ourselves. From the toes up, our primitive Earth™ bodies get a giant upgrade. We become the post-human entities who have come back in (( space and time )) to upgrade our ancestors, to fulfill the shadows they have seen from the future and don’t you ever forget it.
These are the fairy tales my Zulu woman told me as I fell asleep lying on her stomach in the Super 8™ in Hollywood™.
Go normal speed until a burn event occurs—this is normal—this normal-speed event blows out in rings, slow motion, of the fire (e x t e n d e d scope/scape) a f t e r the f i r e is over, regular time recurs.
I remember you from gray times: Rain, coolness, water, anti-burn. A walk home, I think you told me—speedy speedy and then we split!—and she got on her bus. I got on mine. We were running in the rain a few minutes before and as her bus pulled away the rain let loose. I walked and spun and (( running )) in the rain—m a n y b l o c k s h o m e.
It’s about those 9/11 jumpers—that’s what we think about most.
Now that the flames have cleared..but what? You mean there were no flames? I mean there were no flames! What am I?—Stupid? Just another bitch box spouting bullshit—just another hundred million of us singing the regular tune. We can hardly get away from it—it’s as magnetic a set of thoughts given to us like a set of Legos™ for our enjoyment as we wash those memories d o w n with milk and cookies (( love child )) my secret about my rage, my anger kept deep, within the walls of rage—I push my walls of anger buried at (( a safe distance )) from the loci of my rage—never will it rise above a certain bough—
More about rage, about anger—suck me inward—give me post-9/11 therapy about no one I particularly knew, just a few giga-ass buildings that giga-ass people worked in—skinny ones, fat ones, everyone I am in touch with now that they’ve crossed the veil, I have the power of Philip Seymour Hoffman™ combined with the talent of everyone else combined, looking at the tower, anger, rage, everything you feel she knocks herself out, knocks herself down. (( Looking. )) Just watching and never knowing what you see. What is clear is that no report is clear. Not the man on the street. Not the CIA™. Not the NSA™. Not the fastly removed FBI™ and DARPA™ and DIA™ and this and that and the list goes on and on.
Burning in the fire of my mother’s womb. The elevation. The Guess™ flag/logo. First came me, and that was something significant because I was the first who came inward, who came through her, having gestated like a fly and her maggots, like everything known from an animal who only lives 25 days, who only had enough time to write one sloppily written book in such a sharp shift. In life, I suppose, in one life as a fly looking under her wings, checking to make sure her thousand eggs are intact, joined properly as a contraction of words, each one a bleeding slushy of contractive pieces of brain divided like breakfast, which has been divided in plate spaces to make it easier to eat, which has been divided in plate spaces so it will be easier for us to think about.
I am enjoined by my friends as I write up this book, every dead relative here to help, every father, every mother, standing behind me, reading over my shoulders, disagreeing here and agreeing there, every one who hated me in this life cheering now my grandmother first!—She stands behind me cheering, cheering me on, but she must obey something like Star Trek’s™ Prime Directive™, not interfering with the development, the consciousness, of alien life. Not to play god with lesser-developed species—which we have as a less-developed species and reverse-interfered with more-developed species than our own. Maybe that’s why we are interesting to species of under-developed versions of ourselves, our time-traveling counterparts, every one of us from the future getting to time-travel ourselves or our ancient descant lines.
In this way, our mother becomes me. She becomes me as does my father become me, by showering me in their wisdoms (if properly so called) and by me suggesting which wisdoms I choose to keep, and which of their pieces of advice throw to me from a speeding train as they h u r l themselves from this life, with a speeder’s passion! That rock climber’s passion—clocked—at a foot traffic’s speed is 22 miles per hour when hurling oneself over said cliff—this mileage sufficient to hurl oneself all the way over the top ridge and all the way over to the essential bottom.
Some of them hit the bottom like 9/11 jumpers, quickly evacuated by the CIA™ as righteous souls, put on the invisible helicopter, flown to WPAFB™—a “research base” protected mainly among the population by this stigma that WPAFB™ was a research base protected by Aerial Invisibility™ and cooperation with Google™—to be made invisible to the Sky™—a rabbit’s hole in one in a speedy mountain uptake, I’m talking a quick-motion photograph mostly shows the hole is closed—and maybe one frame out of 30 reveals the door open (mountain supremely victimized, fleet may come and go) and the surrounding exposures may reveal 29 empty frames, but every once in the spread, on trajectory to the hole, is a streak blurred between those frames—unintelligible—and you’re forced to accept that this mountain is hollowed out—that this place is an Air Force™ base that nobody talks about except in mystery gabble in Air Force™ nursery homes it is for those whose memories have been erased by a certain keyword (in this case it’s “work”) so that means everything you can recall by the tag “work” is suddenly turned up searchable by your brain, suddenly your brain is running a bit flat on terms you used to live by..and you can’t remember what you used to do for “work” and then the next day is a “work” day but you can’t remember how you could ever have gotten there, or where there was. You can tell for a few days the techniques you once employed somewhere and you know they were powerful, unique techniques and sometime after that you have forgotten them—my friend I guess I used to work at came to my house and watched me drink a soda he had poured me—that was the last time I saw him, for about the next three days, then after that my memories of him faded (I guessed he was someone I worked with—that doctored soda his last gift from out employer) and I sat there and got emptier and emptier, feeling the weightiest weight ever thrust on a man, of knowing they’d been maimed and written off the charts, government ordered social execution, which we’ve all submitted to and accepted, boom..click..shut. Another one for the livestock feed, truth is I tried to avoid it altogether but it was ahead of me, every step.
It seems that this has happened in our family, a member stomped down until his use is impossible to recall.
Our last contact, my mother refusing to re-evaluate her stance that her brother and sisters were wiser than me. This is in support of an idea that I tell the truth when we talk, and from any of them they lie to each other: First, Susan, reporting to the world her dumbshit perspective. The pretty one, my aunt Paula, who is beautiful and graceful to her family but would drop any of the rest of us if she had choose (she has had to), and my mom, the smartest one of all, who would keep her own mind sanctified instead of being bothered by it all, whose choose a life (the preacher’s life) that kept her in this pattern of professional people and those are always kept online—which, hell, I understand that. But who categorizes me as broken, among her princesses and bro (her bro is so dumb as to resist categorization of this type). In the end, I felt so burned by my mom that I stopped talking to her.
That was three years ago.
And I see myself as hero, typing in my palisades of light, wrapped in streaks of it from behind the counters. Going this, to my childhood heaven, which always has another day for me to live in, where eternity suits me and it was just a dirty trick by a family of dirty tricksters who may suggest my suspended animation, who got so used to that as a way to play with me (and got so used to it working that I didn’t even keep my enemy at bay).
It had me so hard and so tight I can even make Rebecca the invitation to join me for a night in my jumbling clown day life, Rebecca my spirit guide on this second half of my life, jumbling and fumbling through, forgotten through my world of “work ”—maybe now that they got rid of that phrase, I will have more room to store “play” in my body of words.
And Kid Cudi will take us out (in his minister voice, looking like the coolest cat in the universe) just dancing under a skylight of the universe:
And the story goes..a young man will come and save the universe from the forces of evil.
That’s the! Kid the Cudi!—spiritual leader of the rest.
What leads me here—I forgot?
Of course! It’s the fiery nature of 9-1-1.
How it captured me, enraptured us, how an unstoppable event, engineered by at least three intelligence agencies to make it happen—and that wasn’t fully known until it happened. Everyone had a card played to their face, and if you do not think it changed the face of countries, then let me tell you again.
This burn did not come by accident—more like a cup of Sleepytime™ tea with a racehorse back—all of us collectively falling for it, the event, the word, the laws modified for husbands’ ears but a hairpin twist of details around the third falling building. Totes empty. CIA™ headquarters. There’s this whole swathing truth in actions played: After buildings one and two come down—boom!—Giuliani sings like a bird but to the wrong people and now it’s my song: We (( hadda )) pull it, he says. We tried to wait but we (( hadda )) pull it. That’s a government agency building which was not impacted by the previous explosions, pulled (demolition term) down from the sky, instantly on to site-wide mission-to-pull, excoriating Building 7™ when there was no (public) need for the public to know.
I hope you will give me leeway, in terms of mentioning 9/11–
I mention it simply because it is a burn that happened in my lifetime that clearly indicated that someone is lying because everyone, in offices everywhere, are telling different stories. And for all that contradicting set of lies does not tell us, it does tell us some things: Either someone is lying..or everyone on the news is speaking in a new language that poor chaps who are watching the news do not understand. I now understand my parents’s view of the CIA™ in light of JFK™—it’s their generational crime, committed by our government, who is trying to keep us safe—trying—trying to keep us safe? If they are, they have generations of us—not playing in the yard—but left shredded the wake of their mower.
So don’t I forgive Mom? Of course I do. (( Any one of us )) might make that mistake. It just happened to be Leona’s hands falling away by accident, after she was left outside—anyone could have, anyone would have done the same—take those too-quick glances away from the primary thing you’re focused on, and that is one glandular reflex too q u i c k to avoid Leona being burned.
I mean take it down to the very basic thing: Opera music playing. Opera house rocking the godly tunes of Elton John™, rocking the people of the house. But you’ve got people underneath the stage and people planted on the roof, and they’re all here with the purpose of keeping us safe, enjoying John’s music except this: It’s modified as it slams around the nuts and bolts of that opera house, clarified by the agencies, and we all want to help them in the end! And, you know, everyone wants to be a spy—but I think at a certain age there’s two parts of national security: The fun part of intercepting codes, seemingly invincible, and changing the direction of the war. And then there’s the national security part of national intelligence, where you keep your secrets till you die. And where until you die comes sooner than you think.
But my mom, with zero fingers on the truth of Leona falling into the fire..if Leona was our asset, and the campfire opened up around her, she would be d e a d before the rest of us got back to the campsite.
Pushed to her death by a responsible CIA™ officer.
From a building in Manhattan™.
These are growing pains, from an organization still growing. Trying to make death signs less obvious.
And which has succeeded at this. Through doubles, accidental deaths that look like witchcraft. Fake moves, fake divorces, fake deaths.
For every victim and every technique, a real or imagined mistake. Three-way perfect ending (in which three people go from knowing something to the original three, knowing nothing, either replaced by three more or by none at all)—people’s skin aging around the edges, certain organs need to replaced as (( often )) as possible, irradiating by bodily host a generation who have finally realized how (( gap-inclusive )) consciousness is: When I wake each morning, I spend the first few seconds remembering who I am. I have to remember my skill sets, bring them online, then I remember my pain! my discomfort!—all my existential problems and my existential joys.
Mom and especially Leona would have been resetting their consciousnesses.
Leona singing Whip whip! Boom boom! going Rattle rattle down the hill from Mom and Dad’s tent and her consciousness goes Snap! and she’s in the fire and her consciousness goes Snap! and Mom’s goes Snap snap!—Oh, shit! (That’s how Mom would curse.)
And then Mom rushed her entire body to the campfire with her precious precious thing! Any of us would have caused her to feel this way and act this way—mother-loving and crazy-caring who would have jumped into a bonfire (( instead of our barely-burning in one )) but all coals fire burning with a quickness drawing my littlest sister and coming toward her my mom, with a half-distance of a traveling mother breaking basketball rules, approaching the two-step rule then breaking it, dusting off coals that would have been white and gray.
As hot as they are, Mom reached through them and grabbed my sister by her whole body with nightmare screams, you couldn’t tell either one from the other as neither one made a sound, each one looking the other (( in the eye ))—until Leona realized she was burning and let out her “Waaaaaa!”
Mom could have done better.
She would know if she was raised on games.
A generation raised on games would never have made this mistake.
But for me, my mom always exists as a pre-game entity. She exist in black and white, before the internet, as the poor girl from that picture I have of mom.
A picture of her I worship.
And who doesn’t fit my impressions of her.
She’s prob’ly a small-time hero—at least she was with me.
My mom is a c h a m p i o n, though—always kept in the background, even as a pastor of churches. As a leader of people she ministered to crowds from her pulpit, but to couples and individuals my mother represented stability and wisdom—even as, at the same time, they murdered her on the hill of her being one half of a gay couple (which she never corrected)—she’s a single girl from here till the end, she’ll be sitting in the school playground where she’s a generation above that skinny picture I have of her, with a yellow Steno™ pad a pair of headphones a pencil, and she’d watch Joanne and I play on the swing sets, far away from the location of the dead body on the train tracks (which was always going to be a dead body to us) all this while tapping dee-dee-dee-dot-dee-dot-dee-dot alongside a tape recorder she had set on the picnic table. She kept an (( eye )) on us, though.
She kept an eye on us when we went to that fecund water park when everyone was a couple years younger. She kept an eye on us when we went to school on the subway and bus for the first time! Walked us straight up to Julia Reynold’s Masterman (high school for the gifted)—walked us there and sent us on our way. But she saw that we would get there each morning and (if there was any luck in the world) she thought of us at 3 o’clock when we started back home this time. Just a coupla (( shits and giggles ))—we didn’t know what those subways held or what those teachers were gonna teach. Joanne and I were scared/e x c i t e d until a few weeks later we had conquered it and it was nothing! Just the way to school, if we kept our tokens, if we pleased the bus driver, we could still ride.
It was really the say of the driver, and in a later city Joanne had learned how to modulate this say by bringing her birthday presents and a card to which she stopped the bus to thank us, to have a little cry, and what was the point if we didn’t do this? If we failed to fill out a comment card for our mail carrier but didn’t stop there: We really thought about that shit, writing a page plus a half a page which we stapled to the official part of the form and—let me t e l l you—I don’t know what this mail carrier thought of what we wrote (a treatise by those whose gulps are too big for this world!) but it gave us the thrill of a day.
And it was the right thing to do, to fill out that questionnaire, to never exaggerate but to speak as strongly as our speech could possibly be pushed without ever presenting a lie.
To write without presenting a lie—but to speak strongly and write boldly—that was the growing up guidance that Joanne and I grew up with. Leona didn’t follow this guide. Now my mom went down there to Texas™, not far from where I was born, to live near Leona and her husband and her three kids. Dad is off somewhere (I don’t know where). Mom has abandoned her earlier ideals, of being here for us older kids—she used to leave me a birthday message but no longer does that—I guess ‘cause I stopped picking up the phone when she called.
The reason? Well, that’s not exactly known. Prob’ly that after this last election when I went c r a z y with my youngest cousin’s Facebook™ post and let her parents and my mom have it—parenting malpractice has happened here. I’m done communicating with those people, though. They don’t want my perspective and I don’t want theirs. They have ruined themselves from the inside out with a rot that doesn’t ever un-stink itself.
Imagine a day—imagine a day so horrible, experienced by a kid, and the fear involved was that of a kid, and imagine that kid was me.
Imagine a day so dark I can only still imagine it as plagued by the dark cloud™ subterranean whipping box. Imagine a world where every surface is covered in spikes—where every comfort is precluded by self-torture and where a look into the sky turns every eye black, every tongue the same color, every earwax jiggle turns green, piss turns green, every die die die that is the kind of day of which I speak:
We were at home in Philadelphia™ (outside of which was the farm where we picked blackberries and raspberries and even us kids couldn’t eat them all)—we dumped our berries in the big troughs of our parents and they said:
“Thank you for your help, kids! You don’t have to help!”
To which we said, “We (( like )) to!” We like to help. We love to, actually. Wouldn’t even come here with you if we weren’t allowed to help. “Yipeee!”
To which they waved us in and took our berry piles and said, “Why don’t you take some apples!” And we took their advice and tried picking apples on some of the short trees but even the short trees need ladders and Joanne and I weren’t ladder types of kids.
I remember the mess of closing time—4pm, sun still massively light, buckets massively heavy, and everyone in a long line weighing their takeaways (I think it was just a flat rate per pound, something like that) and we were tumbling back into the (( van )) which my (( dad )) had painted all blue when the gray-and-blue paint started to chip. The original gray-and-blue custom paint job was the colors of the Dallas Cowboys™, to which my dad was a fan. There is a picture of me as an infant, in my dad’s arms, next to a Dallas Morning Herald™ where the front headline is of the Cowboys™ winning the Super Bowl™. I thought it was weird when I saw it as a kid but as an adult I have grown to think it is a reflection of my father’s values. (The importance of me == the importance of the Cowboys™ winning the Super Bowl™.)
We brought our berries home and everyone in the back seats obeyed the sleep instructions laid out by our brains’ to get sleepy after lunch and we all leaned our heads to the sides and let our eyes run low.
When we got home to our house in Philly, the parents hauled in all the buckets of berries and they were still talking as they had been in the van about how many cups of which types of berries would go for this kind of jam, etcetera. My sisters decided to “help” with the jam-making operation, that meant four people in a small kitchen, people bumping all over each other, and not my type of environment. I went from upstairs to downstairs, up to down, up to down—downstairs playing my new favorite song on repeat (Mozart’s Rondo in K) and upstairs jerking off (see earlier section) thinking my thoughts of the moment, somewhat manic (though I didn’t know till later) making myself cum seven times a day, standing up to watch my snails as they, too, went up and down within the water, bubbles bubbles bub.
Then came the call.
Dad screaming from downstairs (unintelligible).
Dad never screams. His voice doesn’t scream very well. But even though I couldn’t hear the words he was saying, I knew he was screaming for me—everyone else was downstairs. And I knew by his screaming that something important (bad) had happened where they were.
Pants up. Stop jerking off.
Run to the stairs. Grip the handrail. I didn’t have shoes or socks on so my bare feet were the best method of conveyance and I—bam! bam! bam!—flew down the stairs, punching it, making the turn below and coming into view of my family and Lorena had stopped talking and Joanne had stopped talking and my mom was standing in the kitchen with a rag over her lap—I couldn’t see what was hurting her.
Lorena had stopped her babbling. Joanne covered her mouth with her hands.
Dad handed me a ten-dollar bill and said: “Get ice at Martin’s! Go!”
And you know how sometimes you know enough without knowing everything—this was that type of time. I knew my mom needed ice and now—it was definitely needed now.” I took that ten-dollar bill and took it one step further: I would not be needing change at Martin’s Mini Mart™. Not at all. I was out the door and left it open I was useful for some reason I was sent on this journey instead of my sister Joanne she couldn’t do it she might break under pressure Joanne was turned off in the corner of the dining room WITH HER HANDS OVER HER MOUTH I wouldn’t do that! I would be functional while terrified especially in this world, especially.
I ran out the front door putting my track experience to work.
Seeing that the front gate was closed and locked, I pictured myself doing it like a gate—legs make a single line—could I jump it?
No. But I used the extra cycles in my brain to calculate the most efficient method for opening it, running out into the street if necessary.
My mom had burned herself making jam out of berries. She was burned through her pants. And of course: The jam was so hot that if she pulled off her pants with scalding hot jam..soaking through her pants, it would pull the skin off her bones.
So I ran. Yes. I ran to save my mother from that burn.
I ran to the left, to Manheim Street. I looked left and I looked right—cars a block away—ran out, crossed!, came down from silver wings, landing on the sidewalk, rushing into the corner store.
Looking, hearing—Vietnamese™ spoken by the owner/operator who was safely (( ensconced )) behind a four-inch bulletproof b o x. I saw him out of the left corner of my eye. Searching, searching. The owner/operator had somehow taken the name Martin (probably to fit in better with the neighborhood). He was sitting up on a swivel stool, speaking Vietnamese™ with his buddy who was on my side of the glass—speaking up a storm, waving his arms in the air, saying: “Those guys! Those fucking guys!” and his conversation partner nodded (( wildly ))—whatever those guys had done was awful, deserving at least the ire of these two business owners—prob about some robbery elsewhere in Philly™, some useless killing of a store owner in Center City™, some gun, some guy, some single-person killing to get to (( a buck fifty )) behind the register, forgotten, family moved back to Vietnam™, owned, dissed, pissed, and thrown away: One family sent back home to work poorer jobs, the other working here at poorer jobs, if he even had a family (he was probably a drug dealer, etcetera, probably a murderer) who needed cash (as we say here)—probably a poor black dude ever down on his luck, hard up for birthday candles for his son, the s c o u r g e of our nation, destroyed image from the first year, hated by business owners of all types: What do they see? A man who’s probably a chemical engineer, ready to work at BP™, Shell Oil™, the likes? Not likely. He’s much more likely seen as a criminal by the leaders of those corporations, useless, uneducated, un-showered—someone who would shoot them in their safety parking lot in Galveston™, slice their ankles from underneath their car, cutting through their Achilles’s™ tendons going home to tell their wife: “Someone jacked my ankles, boo! Jacked them right up!!” (( And I’m back with Martin. )) And I’m back with the Mini Mart, and I have to feel a little bit more. A little bit more on Vietnamese™ racism. A l i t t l e bit more of seeing into the future for me in this place: Able to get jobs like Cracker Jacks™ even though I had bipolar disorder, but always ever beside me are people like my best friend in high school, who are black, who have a helluva time getting any job at all and so they call me racist and hate/block me out of (( their lives )) probably because they are hurting and it’s people who look like me who are why they are hurting. I actually went to some length to stand beside them, changing my name to Inhaesio Zha, refusing to send a picture of myself when a picture was requested, and other reflections of the part of me this should not indicate my breed before the actual job interview (at which point they can afford to be racist). At which point the interviewee looks around at eight white people who are the same color as me—or around at eight white people who are not the color I am.
And I’m running. Running. Running toward the ice machine in Martin’s Mini Mart™, running for speed. But this whole time I am 100% inside my head, thoughts sparking, abstract to to the simple formulas they taught in Algebra II™, thinking of Mark Twain™ and his writing, remembering some mote of his that was penned in before or opined in after about America™ and now since we were founded much more as a racist nation than a capitalistic one, that we would always be a racist nation..that the good ol’ USA™ had this in its kernel—we have it in our veins!! We have it in the DNA™ “of this great nation”—our racism is so ingrained in our thinking that it will outlast the life of this great nation indeed. That there will always be black-only lunches at work and cliques of white people who just like to eat with white people, and it may be alright, it may not serve as the impetus of violence, but that there will always be people who hate each other for the color of their skin and the shapes of their bodies..until there is no more distance between your color and mine..we will be racist until there is no color—only beings of extreme intelligence or beings who have grown past melanin-oriented ideas of breed—how—how—
Forget it, forget it all. The difference between racists and non-racists—it should be such a low-level of thought that any adult individual who thinks in blatantly racist ways..is idiotic in nature..soon to be lapsed and die..and I grab two of those bags of ice and slap my ten-er on the glass (on my side of the glass) and I say “Thank you!” and I run out the door leaping through cars and weaving my body through terrible traffic and I run! across Manheim™ street—missing cars who fly by me, one bag of ice in each hand—and, slowing, coming to my gate. Slowing. Shuffling the ice to one hand. And. Slowing. Pulling the ice bag's metal closured closings open with my thumbs. Popping them into the grass going up the sidewalk with my most fashionable and decorative walks-turned-runs, to my father in the living room—gave him the ice and he sprinted up the stairs to help my mom.
It was many hours after that point that us kids got to see my mom again—not in the hospital but upstairs, in their third-floor bedroom. We all held hands with her and kissed and loved her from the side of the bed. She was strong—undefeatable in our kids’ minds. I guess she still is. She’s the softly spoken angel, in a family who does’t believe in angels—a family with a goddess name, in a family that does’t believe in names.
Back at the house where no one could believe I was back with the ice so quickly..but it’s no surprise for me, I was with me all along and I saw my uninterrupted stream of pixels across the screen it was like a double-buffered layer cake of strawberry goo.
My mom is more than loved to me—she is honored, revered, idolized—I would give my life to save hers, if that was the deal.
But our family’s got problems, like all the rest.
For example, when I first got back with that ice, my dad tried to gate-keep my mom from us (he met us at the bottom of the stairs, had one hand to each side of the walls). But we get through to her anyway. It wasn’t an issue of safety, and Mom wanted to see us, too—just a minor case of everyone trying to take care of everyone, and each getting in the way of the other. “Love” does that sometimes. It gets in the way. “Family” does better, loving everyone through dysfunction, even when it’s messy or wrong.
I sometimes think about how extraordinary our family is.
Then I think the other way.
We’re not that exceptional as a family. Each member has its strengths, if you believe that. Leona has her stitching and clothes-making ability. Joanne is a multiple genius: Drawing, writing, and she teaches dance and does improv. But I guess everyone does improv. My dad writes sicky/sweet short stories. Mom—I guess the most skilled of any of us—she has written more sermons and covered more words than I ever will writing books.
And me: What about me? Do my skills even matter? Only if they help me connect with other people or to feel proud of myself. And at 41 I don’t have much to prove to anyone—and that was what I used to doing: Proving myself to myself, to decide whether I was believable to me, and (dangerously) trying to prove myself to others—whose desires change like the falling stars, who keep their secrets to themselves, and all the while, I’m interpreting them at face value (which is pretty much how I present myself) and what I expect from other smart people that they will do—but of course they don’t.
Mostly these days I stay with the few people who don’t treat me abusively.
That’s like five people.
And when I say “abusively” I mean they try to fuck me over by withholding their truth from me until it is too late to stop it from hurting me (which was their goal all along). I’m just not that scared, in this life, of other people or other people’s abilities (( to kill me, to hurt me, to scare me )). It came from loving myself, from priding myself on my own work..and by being very clear about what work is mine and what work is someone else’s—ie in the workplace, writing amazing code and taking credit for it..but what am I saying? The people I’ve worked with and for are on the whole Mad Men™ trip..trying to make a buck. They don’t care about (or can’t produce) this quality.
I’m not saying I’m a super programmer—certainly not. But I am better than everyone I’ve ever worked with. And there is part of my brain—really a substate within my brain that will always be a programmer if you look underneath. It’s the part of me that says “substrate” and “sequence” and “sets” and who values the precision in those words even thought they sound too technical and clunky to the actual person I am speaking to.
If I haven’t already, I’ll be speaking here with the intention of trying to impress you, trying to tell you there was some good reason I pulled the emergency break on my dad’s Chevy Vega™ in the grocery store parking lot..causing him to scream (Out of control!) and cuss (At me!!) and the car came to a stop in the “Derfrey Doors!” (the grocery store, my childhood pronunciation) and fortunately me and dad were way in the outlands part of the parking lot and he told me never, never pull the e-break while someone else was driving.
And I saw in his eyes both anger and fear—and I knew deep within me that those were words I liked my dad to feel. He was always popping off at the mouth telling me my predictions were wrong, making me clean the shit off my shitty shorts with my hands and he has the luxury of either really not remembering or conveniently having forgotten this series of events.
But I don’t mind. I got him a few times and they weren’t intended to kill but once he had built up an improper number of dings! I let him have it: While we’re drifting through a circle in the Derfrey Doors parking lot a little zing! from the e-brake and what was at first a Disney™-glorious swing around the lot with our hair flying and each of us dreaming of where this life would take us.
A fish does not swim, it is swum. A bird does not fly, it is flown—Viktor Schauberger™
I like that quote. Even though it came from a Nazi™ scientist—he was a profound thinker. I love this quote, actually—it speaks to determinism and the mind/body problem in a way that makes sense. Maybe we are all being walked through the air, arms like fins—even arms like wings, designed to let us fly (or be flown) by some combination of forces we aren’t even aware of.
Monday, September 23
I go to the post office and check my mail. It’s one letter from my Zulu™ pen pals (isha isha isha!)—reminding me that every major advance made by human beings is made through war—before war or after war, expending and researching, remembering, predicting, meditating.
And the pen pal says yes, we were given the secrets of life on Earth™. To hold in secret. To be here when the gods return and you will know this by one sign: They will claim they are not gods. Will claim they are not complex, yet the most simplest of all. But you will look upon them and you will know they are complicated, you will know where you fit: In the middle. Not simple. Not complex. But like the rest of every snit of life in this bowl. Desperate to know more, to see more, to invent more, to travel more. And when I break through your front door to fight the fires, I see you, given up, and I’m here to help you. Not to grab your hand, but to wish my wishes for you upon the crackling air, between the tooth of fangs, searching for your virgin arms among the coals, you are my sister, my sister is me, I retire at. The. End. Of. This. Sentence.
A bee hive made of Cracklin’ Oat Brand™, the paper walls flush with advertising traffic.
Imagine a beehive with walls of Skittles™ wrappers, somehow generated from within.
Trash messes of hive culture, interstellar doorways found under hedge fences, places where kids play, national forests on a planet that would take its own destruction to explore it all—to kill it all until we suffocate ourselves for lack of a substance that would have been plain if we had just left a few things alone.
Fires burning in the west coast—human started, and not on purpose. Throwing cigarettes out the window, with a highway running straight up the track: On each side it stretches out to the ocean, to the desert.
It’s not that we want to burn down our planet. We just don’t have that overview effect™: Not in our work, not in our lives. People don’t know how fragile our lives are, how limited the stretch of our arcane secrets truly is.
In this book I’ve laid out a series of burns.
The main ones, the main three (learning hot with my mom, Leona accidentally burning herself in the coals of our campfire, and Mom spilling scalding burns all over her lap)—all three of those involve my mother and me—in some sense of a relationship. Hence: This story is about my mother and me. Our relationship. Her burning me. Me burning her. In other, broader, ways than the physical. They’re about who is taking care of who. Who is neglecting who.
I wrote this book with the TV blaring, the headphones blaring louder, with people coming and going, not knowing a thing about the universe (what’s behind the burn). Maybe some of you physics people can explain it to me. Always saying things like: I want to study physics because if you know how the universe reacts on the smallest and the largest levels, you will “be able to understand everything.”
Does physics explain human emotion? It might be what is used to implement human emotion and human interaction—that doesn’t mean physics explains it!!
My perspective changes drastically between age 30 and age 40. At 30, I looked up to people on TV—at least looked up to them, age wise—but in the last 10 years it seems that everyone on TV has gotten younger than me! Even presidents’ ages are approaching mine backwards and everyone’s lies don’t go down so easily—they stick in my throat as I try to repeat them. Can you imagine me saying some of that nonsense?! A five year old can get at more truth than that. I mean that literally. I guess I’m more concerned with truth than the average human. More concerned that I represent my thoughts accurately. More concerned with how secrets unfurl. Think keeping secrets that will turn out to be the bad surprise instead of a good one, are wrong. Are unhelpful. Are evil perpetrated on the most massive and intimate scale.
And here ‘round will I stop thee, stop thee of my story of mothering things, things that burn, things that burn without people knowing me—stories of my mom and of people that I care for, stories of me in my formation. It took me a while to write it:
And you can tell everybody
This is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it‘s done
I hope you don‘t mind
I hope you don't mind
That I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you‘re in the world
And when you and I are dead to this world (in whatever sense) our descendants can plug-and-play this text and listen in a minute. Listen over grandpa’s Malt-O-Meal™ which takes exactly one minute for him to eat. Watch your mom’s legs heal and she is back to normal (partially because of the ice! I brought her). Leona is totally healed on her surfaces. She doesn’t even remember getting burned. She says she’s over it, that if it had long-term effects she isn’t aware of any. I never got the chance to ask Joanne what of any of this she remembers.
Our parents? I don’t speak to them anymore so I don’t know what they think. Mom gave me her version of these events before I wrote this book. Dad has chosen to make himself a non-factor.
And Me? How did all this affect me? I remember it all through my warped mind. What did I learn from it? I don’t know, man, I’m just writing it down.
Dad died January 28, 2039 in his sleep, clutching his pillow and his new wife beside him. Mom died five years later, in Austin Texas, where she moved to help Leona with her baby-making and household chores.
Mom went then Joanne.
Then Leona—(the last one out was the last one in, according to chance and the benefits of marriage)—it got her, ruly claws and life’s perilous jokes and all.
And what of Mom's long age? The ice I got her must have helped. Sharon outlived the fires that she started—she outlived the ones she didn’t.
And..ultimately..I cut her out of my life—why?—I perceived she was abusing me emotionally and I couldn’t take that from my mother.
Life is so short and so sad. It’ll inspire you—then it’ll break your fucking heart.