Thursday, January 31, 2008
Eight year old short story, found, along with the crinkled origami of her digits in an empty Doc Marten shoe box....circa 1998
--It will come when it comes, she tells me, not a modicum before the moment is due.
It is intermission. The patter of palms taper off into golf claps as bustling men and women alight from rumpled seat cushions, elbowing toward the lobby. A serpentine line forms outside of the ladies room while men respectively smile and nod and stretch, popping knee-caps, loosening the knotted pentagon of their ties, grousing about the heat. Backstage you once again feel like a novice. You feel inept. You feel like no one in the house full understands what you were trying to say. There are the obligatory compliments and salutary sniggers from the company and cast who would swear on the Gideon bible that you are good. They say you are really good. They use the word verisimilitude in your review. They use the word superlative. They pat you on the back when you pass them by. They keep the ticket stubs from your performances thumbtacked on a bulletin board at home. People like you. Really, they do.
Backstage there is always warm Pepsi in Styrofoam cups and volunteers who look
like Keebler elves squeaking into the dressing rooms, holding up a splayed palm to indicate the dwindle of minutes, the lapse of time, the foil of your furlough. All around you the heads and necks of cast members hurtle in and out of costumes. Girls in bra's quibble over eyeliner and mascara. Males mired in a ring of collar sweat falter to put on their own makeup, unless, of course, they are gay which Dougie Shriner-the actor who portrays your best friend David Hale-obviously is. Every other Thurs day night at one am Doug doffs his boxers and dons his kleenex-chocked D-size brassiere and Lycra jumper to become Vanity, the Virgin Queen. Vanity rubs her taut ass and slouched surrogate tits in front of oglers— a bespectacled bevy of middle-age queers who fawn and foam at the mouth every time she lip's syncs anything by Macy Gray. Vanity once got arrested for peeing standing up in the girls bathroom stall at Perkins, an event which Dougie Shriner somehow regards as a personal violation on behalf of his own womanhood.
In the dressing room everything smells like hairspray, you think, as Vannie Hallmark,your on-stage romantic lead, swaggers past you trying hard to be noticed; arching her shoulders and curving her back like she an underwear model. Vannie Hallmark is very intelligent and very beautiful. She is a spume of blonde tresses and an oracle of intrigue. Her lips look like a Clinique hyphen and her angular features are origami delicate. Off stage she tells those who tip their hats and query that yes, it really was her on page twenty-two of the September Victoria Secret catalogue modeling the petite bra's that unbuckle from the front and are such a bitch for most males to get undone. Vannie's pallid countenance is highly reminiscent of a diminutive espresso shot-glass. Her nose is configured like a light-switch, beseeching Vannie with an eternal aura of unbidden arrogance and uppity pride.
In Act one, scene seven, your first tete-a-tete with Vannie, whose stage name is just V.,as in the Pynchon novel. The scene takes place in a rather lethargic looking college classroom at a private college located somewhere in the Midwest burrowed like a mole in a middle-sized town which houses minor league franchises and smells like pee. Both of you are falling madly-kicking-and-screaming-clicking your heals together-in love, which is rather unfortunate because the two of you study English at a school built for budding Engineer students and rich kids from Chicago who drive $20,000 cars, have short haircuts and wear Greek emblems on their chest.
You first descry her rapturous beauty in a writing class. She was Midas with a
ballpoint pen, turning ink into golden paragraphs strewn with bucolic beauty, ushering forth stories of her rustic upbringing and the perpetual loss of being both, alas, miserably beautiful and miserably gifted at the same time.
On stage you tell her that her prose is so beautiful that reading it gave your heart an erection. Off stage you endeavor to cozen a kiss, but she just sighs audibly as if expected, turns the other cheek and truckles to the vagaries of the director, whom you revile. On stage the Professor, who in this production is from India with a pearly smile, laughs at your erection witticism, commenting that it was duly-appropriate for his class session that her incendiary prose only made your heart erect and nothing else. The heads in the class room hop forward in laughter like kernels in an air popper. The audience is on the floor.
The first onstage kiss is performed in front of the backdrop known as the Silver
Vagina. The Silver Vagina is a ubiquitous stage backdrop since it towers directly in front of the C.D.library. Somewhere in his cliff notes on the origin of your script, the director has written that once a year, preferably between the months of November through February, a gaudy frat boy with short hair and sideburns ends up getting his tongue stuck to the metallic contours of the monument. The library staff always snaps a Polaroid before calling the fire trucks.
You should have told the director from the outset that there was just no way in hell
that this rapport would work out, even though by act two, scene '3 Vannie and you are
biting into each other like twinkles, groping beneath restaurant tablecloths, and yes, even talking about rings and receptions. The audience loves this- salivating like a Pavlovian Chihuahua at even the notion that sex would be performed onstage, publicly, in front of an audience whose programs tell them the real names of the cast members and what their hobbies are.
As the elfkin-pygmy holds up a peace sign in front of you, you wonder, just for a
moment, if any or all of this is real.
Backstage you amble through the curtains of mangy costumes searching for a moment of solitude, seclusion, and possibly a few puffs on a cigarette before the actress who portrays your on- stage Mother clumps into your shadow and charmingly chides your vice with maternal detriment. Your stage Mom is built like a milkjug. You stamp out your smoke and surreptitiously slush warm Pepsi around the inside your lips, swallowing when the penisu1a shaped dungarees of the director eclipses your imminent view. His gruffness is apparent and he verbally berates that on stage you were opaque and that your whole body delved into an asphyxiated stutter whenever the spotlight landed on top of you.
“It was as if the spotlight end-capsualated you rather than emancipated you, Da-vid"
He reams, once again exhibiting his proclivity toward double-entendres when he
pronounces your first name. The directors last name should be Lambaste. He says that you fucked up again. That your knee's knocked together like abacus beads. That your voice was reticent. Your solo, sour. He asks you if you are coy? Are you fucking coy? Did you know what you are, he inquires. Do you even know what role YOU are suppose to be playing?
Do you boy?
As Vannie's right-triangular nose struts past you on her way to stage left the Director tilts his neck to check out her ass and then smiles to himself shaking his head left to right once and makes an 'ummmm' sound. The pending act out Herod's Harrod when it comes to tumult. In this act Vannie will leave you and then come back. Then you will leave Vannie and then come back. Then eventually both of you will leave and you will get in a car wreck and almost die.
You remember once getting broadsided by a cement truck. You had monopolized the
semester slathered in a rueful dither, working third shift. You were an exhaust pipe of enervation. Your tank was always on E your debilitated and stressed vision was the color of a stoplight from fatigue and scholastic duress. You felt blessed beyond a collegiate measure if you got four hours a sleep a night. Crashing at Four a.m. and car pooling back to campus with your Mom at seven thirty. You remember lying supine in the stretcher while the ambulance attendant said the word extricate into his shoulder 'radio over and over again. You remember feeling manacled and marred by images of yourself wanting not to be yourself anymore. You remember wanting to unstrap yourself and leave. Just to leave. Your eyes drape shut and then sprout open. Your brain feels like a slot machine
whose eyeballs keep reeling blurred images of fruits into the back of its head. You wish you were situated in an antipodal location. In fact, maybe you are.
* * * * * * * * *
"When it comes, if it ever comes, I want to feel real. Mostly I just feel like a bladder most of the time. That's why I did it. I had to prove to myself that I was more than just a urinary emission. More than just a faucet. I wanted all the pain and loneliness to be accounted for something. I wanted to watch it drip out of me. I didn't think prozac was an opportune plumber. And going to school counseling and adolescent therapy on Wednesday evenings during Lent sure as fuck did nothing to cloy or clog my vacuity. I was nothing but a bladder. A hot water bottle. That's all."
"So this is why you did it?" Her voice is inquisitive, straightforward and sounds like ahandbell Your shrink has this annoying proclivity of raising her vocal resonance at the end of every sentence. She is trying to sound professional. This is what they taught her to do in grad school. They taught her to sound professional They taught her to sound fake. As if it were really somehow a possibility for her to empathized with you. To commiserate with your trauma. To just understand where you are coming from. You think that true empathy is impossible.
"I wanted my depression to be accountable for something," You tell her, not looking
into her eyes, "I needed a receipt for my sack of sadness. I wanted to see just what it was I had purchased and why the product wasn't working. I wanted to lash into my own investigation. I needed to unplug my item and look for impediments. With each
welt I was probing myself for errors. I wanted to be like every other product. I wanted to have a function. To have a purpose. I didn't want to be saddled down in my own deluded dystopia."
"David, what would you say championed your march into masochism?" she says
again, gesticulating with her arms, trying-to sound like she is on an afternoon talk show. You decide it best to humor her, after all she graduated from a prestigious University and dates a man who has one of those simple, forgettable one-syllable names and who flippantly peruses through every section of the paper except the Sports: and the funnies.
She knows every drug you have ever done and the name of every girl you have ever
written poetry for. She knows all about you. About your dyslexia. She knows how words
swim on the page and scatter like guppies in a fish tank when you try to :make sense out of them. She knows how, for you, reading is a quote 'motherfucker' -yet reading and writing is the one predilection you love above all else. How every word you encounter you bleed over, in one sense or another. She knows how books are your best friends. She knows that when you were sixteen you used to trundle beneath the glowering street globes which align Moss Avenue nursing a cigar and quoting 'The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock' by heart. She knows that in highschool you did more 'shrooms than a Mario Brother. She recalls the warmth in which you told her that, in high school every Saturday afternoon you would make it a point to lay on your bed and listen to the Texaco Opera live broadcasts from the Met. She remembers you telling her how you would fall asleep with the radio on and wake up harboring wet dreams of Cecilia Bartoli's succuelnt soporano-thinking that she may be the closest Dante-inflamed vision of the Beatrice you could ever experience. She knows that you lost your virginity on Bloomsday, 1997,on a rest stop off of 1-74 to a girl whose name was ironically Molly. She remembers the way you described. Molly to her. Molly was a bluestocking bandanna granola cruncher who wore ankle-length khaki skirts, sandals and studied philosophy in Urbana. She knew all about Derrida and Levinas and kissed with her entire face entering yours. She remembers the way you tersely recounted loosing your virginity. Not the act in itself, but what followed: How Molly closed her eyes and untucked her bottom lip and wailed O MYGOD O MYGOD O MY GOD three times in a row without a comma—her eyelids opening and closing the way a garage door opens and then closes. And how afterwards you held each other like how lovers in Rodin statues clasp each other ad infinitum. Then, chain smoking a clove cigarette, Molly told David that out of every human mating, every time a ovum is germinated by a sperm and fertilization occurs, that there were 53,000,000,000,000succinctly diverse possible fetus ramifications and that all of us are one out of 53 trillion (that night she drew the twelve zero's on his naked chest) different possible ferrotypes of what is possible.
All this the shrink knows and still she does not know much.
"When I was 16 I carved the word POET into my chest with the severed glass neck of
the Jack Daniels bottle I had recently smashed., like a captain christening a ship's maiden
voyage, on the lip of the porcelain sink in the bathroom. "
She says the word yes three times in a row and then asks me how it felt at the time.
"Actually, it felt good. It felt like I was letting something out of me that I had kept
cached in me for so long. It was not mawkish or maudlin-like how in high school I would
attire myself in black raiments, telling my teachers that I wore black on the outside because black was how I felt within. No, itwas more like-here, try this analogy. The mother in labor who suffers exorbitantly to deliver. She frees hersel£ in other words, so that her child, intrinsically part of her-will be severed yet nursed. Kept inside it will kill them both.
The silence in the room impels your lips to continue.
"I had felt like a thing for so long. Not a person but a thing. There's a difference. I
didn't know how a human being was suppose to feel. I knew how loneliness felt. Loneliness was being all the same and yet not. I knew what it felt like to feel-all alone. I remember in fourth grade cowering in the back of my closet hoping I would find my Cair Paraval But it was all the same. Like Narnia before Aslan. It was always winter and never Christmas.
"So I ripped into my own flesh with Prufrock Claws. I wanted to verify my validity as
a human being. I cut deep to assuage the loneliness-to assuage the fuckin' ennui. I cut to prove to my own self that my loneliness was different than the loneliness promulgated by producers and brought to you by yearly automotives and household provisions. I needed to unplug, rewire, and then plug myself back in with so much electrical force and frisson that there wouldn't be a doubt left in my mind about who I was or what I was. Just that I was. It's pretty profound if you stop and think about it."
“What else?” She interrogates.
She wants to know. Everybody wants to know. David, will you tell her? Will you be a big boy for once? Do you have the fucking balls?
Your chest is now a helium balloon that has lifted far from its stratosphere and is about ready to….
"When I was either six or eight, old enough to toddle down to the 7-11by myself and watch older boys play pac-man, I was sexually abused. His name was Frank. He was friends with Dad. Dad wanted us to call him Uncle Frank All of us did. Uncle Frank shaved big head every other day so it was bowling ball smooth. He had an earring and talked like he was black. Mom used to say he looked like Mr. Clean. Mister he was, Clean was debatable."
She nods her head like a hand puppet and gestures you to continue.
"He and Dad worked during the week at a factory North of town putting together
tractor parts and smoking dope in the break room. On weekends, when my sister Beverly
would relentlessly chase me around the house with naked Barbie dolls, Dad and Uncle
Frank would hunker in front of the RCA in their undershirts yelling at us to shut the fuck up, adjusting the Y-shaped antenna and guzzling case after case of Strolls Lager which they called ‘Regal Shorts' always snorting out a wheeze as if astounded by their sozzled ingenuity. Oh, and by the way, my parents still don't have a fucking clue about what spawn my lachrymose. So don't tell.
'Frank and I and Dad were all buddies. We were all pals. We were the guys. Men. We
would all watch football games together. We would an say the words' Aw shit' in unison when the quarter back was sac'd. Some days we would wrestle on the front lawn and on other days Frank would place me on his shoulders augmenting my height, enabling me to toss the ball over the brim of the hoop. Frank and I would arm wrestle on the coffee table and Frank would always let me win. Clutching his wrist in feigned pain as t discarded my
shirt, distended my biceps like Hulk Hogan and asked everybody in the house "What's ya
Gonna do?" doing my damndest to emulate Hulk's throaty inflection. I remember Frank
trying not to laugh when Dad called Mom a Pussy and said she had a Watermelon for an
Ass. Mom was attired in her mauve leotard and strawberry legwarmers counting to four and doing jumping jacks in front of Jane Fonda. Dad said that Mom looked like she was treading water when she exercised and Mom after Dad had passed out, went outside and emptied the air out of Dad's tires, blaming it on the Vice Lords down the street."
Good stories too often have no beginning and no endings….
“One Autumn afternoon-and I succinctly recall it being Autumn -Dad had long since
succumbed to his inebriated snore and Mom was showing Bev and Emily Zubar down the
street pictures of her homecoming dress and her high school sweet heart, who looked like
Ted Koeppel—I can't recall the year exactly but soda pop still came in the glass bottles with long translucent necks and Resees Pieces were the posh juvenile sugar rush . It was around the time my Uncle Larry got his arm caught in the elevator door at Sears. Around the time I overheard my Aunt Vera, who had a moustache and a birds nest perm, tell my Mom that she wouldn't mind giving Reverend Kopenski a blowjob during the epistle reading on Sunday. It was somewhere around the time Dad and Uncle Frank stopped drinking Strohs and started gulping Budweiser—giving me the moniker Bud Light Around this time, the year my Dad couldn't afford to get me an Atari for Christmas even though Santa said I would—the year Mom taught Bev to keep her legs crossed when she sat with Aunt Vera in church this was the year Uncle Frank would invite me into the bathroom to watch him pee."
'It was what men who were Buddies did together. he said. I remember the way he
held his out in front of me. I remember not knowing what to think. He made a sordid and sick analogy about Gepatto and Pinocchio, which I'llomit here because even now, close to a decade later, I am still haunted by his advances. Can still vividly recall how his fingers felt like icicles beneath the button of my pants. How he would snap the elastic band on my underwear leaving rosemary patches on my skin. How he would smile a sandpaper smile when he did this. I can still remember him asking me sick questions about it. I remember wondering why his had a moustache and mine didn’t. I remember him asking me to pet his like Donna Lapis invited me to pet her hamster, Alfonso, who bit me. I remembered feeling scared after the first time this happened. I remember feeling dirty about out secret. I remember wanting to tell mom and dad but instead I hid in the closet with Bev’s naked Barbie clinging to it like a rosary. I remember crying. I remember feeling like it was somehow all my fault.”
She pushes out a breath and inquires how long it lasted.
“Years,” You say. “It lasted for years.”
The day my best friend lil’ Robbie Coover from west Moreland got hit by a Schwann’s truck while trying to cross the street on his pogo ball, Frank took me out for ice cream and then touched me. The day I set the school record for most accelerated reader points in the month of March, Frank stuck my finger so far up my ass that I bled. The day mommy and Dad came home from the bible retreat with shorter haircuts, cleaning out their liqueur cabinets in the name of Christ, Uncle Frank picked me up from Boy Scouts and took the long way home.
“On and off for five or six years, I would come home from Uncle Frank’s house with cum-stains the size of Kennedy-halves on my corduroys. I would cry. The world didn’t make sense. I didn’t want to have his phallic in my face. I didn’t want to have my squeezed like it was some kind of stress relief putty. I didn’t want to ask if I could take off my clothes while frank flashed shots at me. I didn’t want to be myself anymore. Eventually, I didn’t even want to be and after a while I simply wasn’t.
Somewhere else a Keebler elf flips you the bird without being vindictive in anyway, shape or form.
You ask her if she mind if you cry in front of her, just for a moment.
“It’s not that I’m weak, just tender,” you amend….
When I was 17 I got a job tutoring phonics at Common Place to little black boys with very white eyes who sang songs about black Jesus and wore one hundred dollar Jordans.
One day at lunch I went for a walk. The wooden telephone polls seemed to be a continuous stream of cyper-optical crucifixes. I saw him shadowed beneath the hung head of a hollow street lamp. He was withered and wore make-up. He was sitting on a bug stop whose placard was the color of a finger nail and flouted Dukakis and Benson in '88. He was drinking what I could only imagine to be a 40 of either Strohs or Budweiser wrapped in a brown paper bag. He looked off in one direction at nothing in particular. His limbs looked like a dead tree in Autumn. His eggshell eyebal1s blinked into the vacant avenues of the South Side. A GLAD trash bag stuffed with prodigal aluminum sat next to him. He looked exactly like how I felt for so many years. He looked all alone.
It will comes when it comes, she said to me. It will come when it comes.
And as I walked up next to him and sat down on the bench ( he didn't seem to recognize me-it had been nearly six year since the Union strike and Dad's Christianity) I wanted to tell him that I too was a Christian. As I put my arm around him. my palm on the shoulder of big tattered jacket, I wanted to tell him that all of big come-stains had been washed clean in blood of the Lamb. I wanted to tell him that what he did to me didn't matter because sin blinds everyone from the truth. As I marshaled my right arm around big waist reeling him now into my chest. I wanted to tell him that I had forgiven big icy gropes, forgiven the way he touched and tangled my formative body. Wanted to tell him that it was over. That it was all in the past. That I had grown out of it like the underwear I grew out of whose elastic he snapped.
As my arms now fully extended big cane-like semblance, I wanted to tell him that all
was right in the world and that I even loved him.
If only that was what I told him.