You are twenty-three years old, half drunk, and you find yourself running down Heading Avenue at four-thirty in the morning. You have sloppily sauntered around Peroria all night searching. Your friend was supposed to be home but no one answers his door. You tried sleeping outside for an hour, using your book bag as a pillow. You have twelve pages of a novel, a work in progress tucked inside your book bag.
You are so damn proud of those first twelve pages.
It is late October 2000 and you are running. Your limbs are flailing, circulating, gyrating. You can feel sweat; little beads of bourbon begin to accrue on the top of your brow, lining up the way football defensive men line up at the line of scrimmage prior to the hike.
You find yourself running, thinking about her. Your entire body is pedaling. Every muscle tucked beneath your flesh is exerting a commanding forward presence. You pass the flower shop and the cemetery and for a moment, beneath the hushed dim glower of the arched streetlamp you see your shadow, an elongated fabric of joints that seems to spindle and bulge into a quavering blanket before it vanishes, between streetlamps, between increments, between silences and botched years. Between trying so adamantly hard to become that person, that individual, that man that you feel should be.
And you are running, sprinting. You've spent the entire night downtown, combing the hard sidewalk avenues named after dead presidents, seeking her face. On the corner of Adam's and Jefferson, across the street from the police station, a middle-aged man with a waterfall mullet and a jean jacket with his collar up-turned accosts you and inquires if you would like to "fool around."
You ignore him and continue to walk. Your ebryonic novel, all twelve single-space pages heavily fonted pages (the longest script you have ever written) is tucked under your arm like a flag after a military ceremony. You walk continue to walk You are looking for her. In between the snycopated-electronic din and butterfly flutter of strobe lights, between dank bars with tufts of cigarette smoke levitating into the ceiling; couples rhymatically biting each others torso, groping on the dancefloor, between old men hunched over the barstool like wooden question marks, dribbling beer off their cidert chins when they talk about their ex-wives; between all of this, you are seeking the outlines of her perfect face.
You run into Jenane and her girlfriend Jen inside a dyke bar. An aged Queen wearing mascera and pantyhose and talking with her wrist offers to give you a ride across town and for some reason you accept. You get into the vehicle with her and she begins to sob as she tells you about her childhood. She parks in front of a fire hydrant facing the opposite direction on a One Way street. She removes a bag of weed and begins to roll a blunt. You are in a neighborhood you have never seen before. You hear the cackle and authoratative squeal of a cop car zip past. The Queen holds out the blunt in front of you like she is at the make-up counter. She tells you not to worry. She calls you honey. She tells you that she used to work this section of town and that the cops know her, honey. You want to leave but you don't want to offend her. In a way she seems just like you. All alone in an overpopulated planet trying to find her identity. All alone with no one left to hold.
It is the year 2000. Things have not changed too much. Things have changed completely. You are a student, an internet adress, a bobbling Christian, a cavalier drunk, a lover, a philosopher, a writer. You are a human being. You are nine digits and three slashes on your blue social security card. You are sinner. An american, A world traveler. You are a citizen, a dilletante, you are in debt. You are an employee, a boyfriend, a bastard. You are the digits on your discover card, the digits on a cell phone number. You are a person who wants to change the world. A person who wants to be remembered after your remains are pocketed in a seven foot casket and planted into a fresh slant of earth.
You are arrogant. You are a smoker. You are a dickhead. You hurt people sometimes. Six months ago, when you found out that the love of your life was boning the roommate across the hall, you ran a red light and was broadsided by a cement truck. You should have been killed. Glass splattered all around your upper chest and forehead coating your upper frame with a chandelier bib. You were taken to the same hospital where you stayed at a week before you graduated from High school. It would be the same hospital where, in less than two years, you will watch life slowly drip away from the lids of your father's eyes.
You are lonely. You are searching. You are complicated. You are curious. You want to experience everything. You want to read everything. Drink everything. Smoke everything. Kiss everything.
You study Hinduism. You drink lots of coffee. You read Carl Jung. You worship James Joyce. You want to write a novel like Ulysses. You want to precisely capture what it feels like to be a human being in an age where everyting is marketed; where every covert kiss becomes a global commodity.
You get pissed off with your parents when they talk about their son like he has no future.
You work third shift. You entertain people. You hang out with bohemians. Your best friend, the one who isn't home, is a folk singer. You think his song "Merry Monday Happenstance" seriously rivals Bob Dylans best work.
Tonight you want to see your girlfriend. You want to see Brook. You want to see your own face in her eyes a second before she blinks and smiles.
After the car accident the love of your life, the one who left you for her roommate comes into the library and gives you an embrace. For a second you hold each other like lovers. For a terse moment you hold each other like you are one teething creature. You like the way her skin feels around your skin. You like the way her mouth contorts when she says your name. You still haven't had that talk indicative of closure.
She comes in the next day with a VON MAUER bag. She has it adeptly packed. Inside there is the quilt you wreathed around her shoulders the last time you kissed her goodbye in your old apartment. There are old videos and old shirts. The variegated autumn-colored sweater; the shirt you were wearing the day you kidnapped her from Creative Writing class. She is wearing her new boyfriend's jacket.
Everything you have ever given her, she is giving back to you.
You have almost died but it hardly seemed to matter. You seem to have felt already dead and draft cold for quite sometime now.
It is late October 2000. Either Armageddon or Jesus was supposed to accompany Y2K. The bookstore where you worked at for four Christmasses closed in early January. The Yanakee's beat the Mets in the Subway series. A vote for Nadar is a vote for Bush. Napster is a no-no. The World Trade Towers still salute the New York skyline. 9-11 is only something you call in an emergency.
Boy bands and glitter are seemingly sprinkled everywhere.
The night of your father's death two years later, your mother will tell you that she was grateful she still had two weeks with your father after he was diagnosed.
"Those people in the World Trade Towers never had a chance to say goodbye." Mom says. The room is white and circled with tears.
After your accident your mother filled out an application for you to leave. You find yourself in Normal, Illinois. Inside Manchester. None of your previous classes appear to have transferred.
You are running. Sprinting. Heading Avenue is a runway for your spirit; an emotional launchpad blasting your anchored spirit into the atmosphere of your dreams. Your mother works at the end of the street, in the catholic orphanage. 100 meters from where Brook lives. The nights you stay at Brook's apartment you park your station wagon four blocks over, in a different manor, so not to alarm your mother when she arrives to work in the morning. Your last night in Peoria before you left the two of you went dancing. You found her body flailed around your limbs at the Red Foxx Den, in between shots of single malts, Boys with short haircut and manicured smiles flame in front of you telling you how gorgeous the two of you look together for a straight couple.
On the dance floor her innate poisonous rythmic sway finds your animal rythm. Her movements find your movements. Your body is pressed up into her body and your lips and tongue find solace in her breath. When the two of you stumble out of the bar and get into her convertable you tell her "fuck it." You tell her that this is what you want. You want what you have next to you right here. Even though she is ten years older than you are. Even though she has more baggage than an international terminal at O'hare, you the want the girl with the velvet hair and smooth forehead and gemnii constelation smile. You want the girl, the woman, who stopped you after class and invited you out for Guiness. The woman who is ten years older than you are, the woman who is sheerly academic, who is the subtle clack of rushed heels stirring in the jaundice hallways of Bradley Hall.
This is what you want. You think that you are sure of it this time.
You get down on one knee and tell her this and swear to her that you will be there for her no matter what, swear that you will protect her, swear that she is the most important thing in your life right now.
Brook bats her eyes like she is changing the channel when you ask her to marry you.
"Do you realize that you just propsoed to a married woman?
Your ears register the gnawing bark of her huskie when she answers the door. She seems nonplussed that you are here. You want to ask her the status of her dwindling marriage. If her husband is considering moving back in after all. You want to ask her about the "other man." She is wearing your old Pearl Jam t-shirt and panties. She invites you inside and sleepily invites you back into her matress and when you try to hold her your body titters and cowers and shakes and you tell her that you can't. The thing you have sprinted towards is in you arms and you have never felt more lonely. Never felt more disparate and empty than you do right now at this moment.
This is how you fall asleep. Your body spooning her body and then shaking and then holding her and freezing.
"If you don't like what we are then why did you come back to me." She says.
"Because you were the only thing inisde my chest I could hold and believe in." You say, only it sounds differently when it escapes your lips. It sounds like a tear.