Marquee

In the town of young men and women voices could be heard shrilling in the quiet pocket of night. Streetlight glow painted the walls of the closed brick shops on main street and the young men and women walked drunkenly by them clutching at one another and laughing at nothing but the levity of their shadows and the understanding that this world belonged to them under some unpenned contract with the figurative constraint of time looming somewhere indiscernible. The young men and women came from privilege and knew that privilege would be awaiting their immersion back into the real world and clouds danced swiftly in front of the oblong moon so close and yet so distant from their lives.

They lived in shared light and they spoke of the dreams they often had with nothing but youth in their guises and the young women drank and danced and the young men drank and watched the women and all of them were living deviations of those people they otherwise always were. They fell in love with the poisoned facades of themselves and squandered their summer days and nights and some of them discovered the nature of their childish rue while others glimpsed clear and firm into their future and saw a formal departure from the very youth that bound them. There were many days of heat and stupor but there were even more nights of blithe abandon and the recklessness we tend to tolerate until a particular age or experience of life’s revolving strain has been reached.

The sun or the scent of a friend awoke them in the afternoon and carried them through another boundless and eventful evening worthy of their potential narratives in the far-off and same but somehow much different life. They knew they were constructing the future diagram of their fondest and most bereaved reminiscences like the perfumed skin of all their favorite summer romances, like the collective delight of all their twilight laughter. The young men and women operated beneath the protective shroud of the town’s own undemanding regulations and flourished in the narcotic bliss of being young and knowing it and heeding to no authority save for that which lives among the tanned hide and billowing hair and rampant nubility of its hormonal supplicants.

I knew this town and I lived there as witness to its mystical lessons. I grew disenchanted by its charm for I was no longer young nor free of responsibility and perhaps I never had been. The tension swelled within me so that soon I grew to imagine a world where the town of young men and women no longer subsisted but burned steadily somewhere between the iron gates of perdition and the subtle snickering memory of those who had escaped the wrath unforeseen. I imagined the young men and women running naked and hairless through the smoldering streets beneath a bloodred autumn sky with their skin bubbling from the heat and their eyeballs liquefied and melted to their cheeks.

There was caution in my rumination but I believed the agonized fate of the young men and women to be taut and certain. Each night I dreamt the same horrific dream where the town collapsed in fiery ruin and the sky turned black above those callow heads and all the smiles and all the town clocks were washed away in sweeping conflagration while sparing the select few dramatis personae compliant enough to withstand the terror and each morning I awoke from that same dream smiling. I would walk to work and see the young men and women in the town still awake and poisoned from the night previous and I knew that God would play the role of god in the film version and I would direct the cataclysmic beauty of the tale to the visual medium and watch orgasmically while the young men and women of other towns across the cosmos sat mesmerized into silence by the film’s searing truth. And I knew my name would appear on the marquee just above the title of the film in thick red letters and that the earth would ultimately swallow that black hole of loathing where neither future nor past was ever paid any deference.

a memory in algorithm

Everywhere I look is where I see him.

Downtown city streets awash in morning glow, throng of heads bobbing with the tide of rote obligation. Lives wholly separate but flowing together, a predesigned uniform cause. Thousands of personal histories carrying their preternatural weight, their stories. These are intersecting bloodlines, divergent strains of DNA coiled in distinct splendor, yet each of them anonymous and irrelevant when condensed by the crowd. Personal struggles no longer matter. Children and time and detailed subplots are trampled and forgotten underfoot. Fifteen paces up ahead a man turns his head in profile and the cold sunlight splashes his face, my father’s face, a snapshot frozen in memory long after the man regains his centeredness, facing forward.

I quicken my pace, my eyes stuck on the back of his head. The image remains branded into my mind and my father resurfaces, not just his image or his face the way I remember it but his chided spirit, what it meant to be my father in this world, his burden of strain and deep disconnected habit. In a span of seconds I’m thinking of how my father’s legacy is imbedded in my body and mind. I’m thinking of my commitment to him, of our brief interaction on this planet and its stranglehold on everything I touch. It was just a stranger in a blinking moment of illusion but it was also my father, a careful revelation into my origins, a walking memory of a man that has become so much more than flesh and blood.

The crowd seems to thicken, to intensify in density, a calculated frustration of my pursuit. I move faster, sweating now in the morning frost, hoping he’ll turn again. Next time I’ll get a better look, I’ll prove to myself that it is just a stranger and not my dead father. It couldn’t possibly be him, the man I hated and loved, the man upon whom my own genetic habits and tendencies were patterned. I walk faster still, his steps matching mine. He moves at a rate of imminent escape.

An old man stands against a giant gray building and plays songs on his battered guitar, the case open and virginal in front of him. His face is scrunched into the drawl of a song, a slow expression compressed by years of struggle. He looks nothing like my father. His song is beautiful, a steady weaving lament of molten silk, and in this brief encounter I’m saddened by the way it gets lost in the bawl of activity. The streets throb with the morning crowd, an aura written in plumes of people’s steam, the vehicle exhaust. Paper coffee cups and flickering traffic lights and cellular phones. The history of the city is written in the rebirth of the morning, in the success and toil and steel and glass and concrete of yesterday, the forgetfulness, the failed dreams scrawled in stained sidewalk residue. I look up and the likeness of my father has gone, merged into the confluence of everyone and everything.

Pretender

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I opened the door halfway and peered into the shadowed hallway, rows of closed doors disappearing into the darkness, rain splattering on the roof above. I came to investigate the mysterious scratching noise but it was gone, nothing but silence and dust in the hall and so I closed the door, my back pressed against it. Solid shafts of white moonlight shot through the alley window into my kitchen. My feet were cold on the linoleum. 

Those were the days and nights I pretended at life. I wasn’t actually living. I heard noises that weren’t really there and saw things that were hundreds of miles away or thousands of years in the past. I was a sickly Roman guard in the time of Augustus or I was a truck mechanic in Barstow in the mid-eighties, drinking cheap whiskey and threatening my wife with a butcher knife. I was an apprentice Panther in Chicago the night the cops stormed in and killed Fred Hampton in his sleep. I had all these dreams, I was living vicariously in my sleep, breathing through unfamiliar faces with a stranger’s lungs, seeing things as though I had adopted their histories and experiences and somehow suspended my own. I believed I had control over this. 

I walked to the bathroom and swallowed another pill, water from a glass on the dusty sink. A brief glance in the mirror was all I needed to know I’d rather not see the real man, the real face. 

I went back to the bedroom and slipped in between icy sheets, wincing at the muscular contraction in my back and legs. I settled in and lay on my stomach, the spare pillow tucked tightly in the crook of my arm, rhythm of breath, mouth twisted into a beautiful crescent-shaped lie. I wondered what I was going to be next, where I was going to live, under what circumstances I was going to die. I wondered if I would experience love and what type of woman it would be  and what time would feel like on my skin and I didn’t think about my real life, laden with taciturn responsibility. I ignored the bills that had been collecting for weeks in my real life mailbox and I didn’t care when I had last eaten real life food. What concerned me ultimately was descending back into some parallel existence I could occupy without the needless truths and trivialities of the life I really had but never wanted. 

I had this idea, I told this friend of mine that mental waves are just like radio waves, man, only they travel on a different plane in a separate dimension, all around us. They’re out there. Just like radio and light waves, our thoughts can be intercepted if there is something to receive them. Something that recognizes the data and catches it in flight. I was sure of this. It was my personal scientific experiment. I was the receptor, the gifted one, my life completely fulfilled in subordination to the lives of others. I was the ultimate spiritual medium. I wanted to unstitch time and experience history first hand, catalog the memories, document the universe as the stories were told to me by the people who actually lived them. It would be an endeavor unrivaled in the history of the universe. I told my friend that ever since people had unlocked the mystery of the solar system and defined the hazy and ubiquitous machinery of time, they’d been trying to subvert it. 

This was the premise. All those other lives were so much better than mine. I was enthralled by the magnificent uncertainty of it all. Each time I swallowed another pill and laid to rest I was frightened by the possibility of not knowing what to expect, where I would end up. 

I was just happy because I didn’t have to be me. 

There’s a cock crowing somewhere nearby, darkness, the smell of animals, dirt. Lying on my back, thick hay needles stabbing my ass, my legs. The sound of running water, chill of morning, eyes adjusting to thin beams of light fighting through cracks in the wall. I’m in a barn. I look around, stand up, acknowledge my nakedness, the wide door opens, giant rectangle of sunshine exploding inward, blinding me. 

“Well, well,” a man’s voice says. My hands in front of my face, eyes scrunched to fight off the excruciating light. Large silhouetted figures of people. “If it ain’t the great pre-ten-dor.” 

There is women’s laughter and I feel suddenly vulnerable, exposed. I drop a concealing hand to my manhood but the organ feels too large, it’s humongous, ridiculously grotesque. Violence and death are present in the room, living beings, tangible shadows lurking. 

“Do you think this man went and got a horse’s dick, or this horse went and got a man’s body?” the man asks the women. He’s moving toward me, holding something long, thin. A rifle or shotgun. The women laugh again and there’s an aura of diamond fire about the man’s silhouette. He wields considerable power, celestial power, and I know without seeing him complete that he’s a traveler, he’s a receptor like me, a dreamer but a killer, perhaps something even more grand. Wanton and unscrupulous. 

“Horse-man,” the killer says softly, moving toward me, the giant gun in his hands. I can’t see his face. “You should be fuckin’ horses. Not women in this ‘ere county.” 

He keeps moving toward me and the women loiter in the background, squealing with girl’s delight. The man approaches nearer, nearer, and I’m still standing naked and bare with one hand shielding my eyes and the other hand hovering around my giant snaking sex and I have a sudden lucid understanding of the man’s nature and his influence on history, the spirit of the murder-at-large, transient violence for all occasions and without discrimination, the embodiment of darkness masquerading as brilliantine light. 

“Go on, now,” he says over his shoulder and the women take a final lasting peek at the freak standing naked in the barn. They leave in quiet reluctance, two dark figures shuffling out of the light, out of sight. 

“What are you?” I ask the man, and my voice is something like a man’s but not really. There’s an animal resonance in it, a throaty tin shriek boiling up from my chest, the words barely discernible as they leave my mouth. I realize the sound of running water has stopped.

The man walks in close and his head eclipses the bright light and I can finally see his face and I drop my hand from my eyes. It’s the same face from all dreams, eternal in its youth, a study in perfection, a million arcane and familiar likenesses of everyone that I’ve ever known, the face of those select scenes from all the books ever written in time, the man from the light, the same face that paints every decimated body  hanging on every crucifix in every building and revelation, the same eyes of the glittering mad as they pay reverence to it. 

“Forget it,” I say, and I close my eyes and the man’s light swallows me entire, the life of the transient dream traveler, my real life as it was lived without moderation or truth of spirit.

Untitled

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Throttled awake by nightmares, these powerful dreams command my participation. Dreams of ridicule and exclusion. Nightmares of a severely practical nature. They descend upon me like latent fire and floodwater, frightening in their tangibility, their believability. I experience them fully and lie awake ruminating once again my precise role in this life. I ponder the nature of the nightmares, their purpose in my world. Have they been born to thrust me into some sort of action or inaction? Fear is a mechanism of creation, a shield against failure. My mind is sending me signals, frightening me out of this trap where ideas fall short, where indolence and stunted creativity are hell because the turning point is always right at my fingertips. Like a stutterer burdened to defend his life with a torturous oratory, the ideas clear and righteous in his mind, the words webs of quicksand on his lips.

I tell myself to think of the nightmares as a safety net. They leech the sleep away and drain the mind of energy but at the same time resuscitate the deepest channels of recent creative void. This is having a new toy and no batteries to operate it. What results is a haggard presence in this world, a deep commitment unfulfilled, always searching for that next clear idea, that next deep sleep.

Dreams

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I don’t know, doctor. Things just aren’t right. I think the overall problem is compounded by these dreams. 

So you’ve been having dreams. What type of dreams? 

Well …  I guess I really can’t describe them. I mean, I’ve never tried to describe them. I probably couldn’t even describe them to myself … 

You can try here. Just relax, lie down. Close your eyes. Think of yourself as resting easily. Think of the world as black, your body melding into the blackness. Think of the universe as a giant sponge-like void. Think of yourself as water infiltrating the sponge. 

Infiltrating the sponge? 

Infiltrating the sponge. Try to control your breathing. Focus on your breathing. Slow. Deep. Easy. 

This is helping. 

I know. That’s what it’s supposed to do. I’m a doctor. Think of the world as a giant mound of ice. Think of yourself as a flame, melting into it. 

Okay. 

Now try to tell me about these dreams. 

It’s like I’m in the future, I don’t know when. I’m married to some woman, but I never see her. There’s just this sort of implicit acknowledgment that I’m married to her. 

You’re not married in the waking world? 

I’m not. But I’m married in these dreams. 

How often do you have these dreams? 

Every time I try to sleep. 

Are you having one now? 

No. I’m not sleeping. I don’t think I’m sleeping. Am I sleeping? 

Tell me about these dreams. 

Well, there’s this woman. 

You think you’re married to her. 

Yes. And I think she’s plotting to murder me. I don’t know how I know this. I’m paranoid in my own home because I’m certain she’s trying to murder me. 

Are there children around the house? 

No. 

What is the house like? 

It’s just a house. 

What does it look like? How many rooms does it have? Is it in the city or the country? 

It’s the house I live in now. A two bedroom one-level in the suburbs. 

And there’s this woman you’ve never seen that you think is your wife and she’s trying to murder you. 

She hasn’t actually tried yet. But she’s plotting. I’m sure of it. This is really hard to explain. 

Go on. 

And so I lock myself in whatever room I’m in. In any room in the house. To keep her out. I go to the kitchen to cook something or get a drink of orange juice. I lock all the doors I can. There’s a hallway opening in the kitchen that has no door. I turn to face the opening, always within reach of some weapon. The kitchen is the safest even though it can’t quite lock me in completely. All sorts of instruments of death in the kitchen. One can always feel most at ease in a kitchen, even without a crazy wife plotting to kill them. 

So she’s crazy. 

I don’t know if she’s crazy or tall or fat. I’ve never met her. I say she’s crazy because crazy people plot. This is what crazy people do. 

This isn’t true. But please go on about the dreams. 

I always feel most vulnerable in the bathroom. I feel exposed. No deadly weapons in the bathroom to protect myself. Just a little razor I use for shaving. There are two doors, I lock them both tight. I can’t hear her walking or laughing or breathing but I know she’s there. I can feel her on the other side of one door or another, standing with her eyes closed, plotting. She’s waiting for me to come out of the bathroom because she’s not going in after me. She’s holding a knife. She’s very calm and patient. She will wait until I die just so she can kill me. 

How do you know it’s a knife? 

I just know. It’s a giant knife. It shines, even in the dark. Like it gives off a certain amount of light. 

To be cut is the most invasive of violent acts. Body raped by steel. 

I’m tired, doctor. 

How do you leave these rooms in your dreams? How do you get up the courage to face whatever is on the other side of the door? 

I don’t. That’s the thing. I wake up because I’m so frightened and tired. I’m tired of waiting to be killed. I’m tired because I wake up, because I have no courage to face her. Each time I try to sleep is a different room, same wife. I wake up still stuck in whatever room I’m in. 

By not facing our fears we allow time to control us. 

Sometimes I wake up and I’m holding something tightly. I’m clutching handfuls of bed sheets. I’m holding a book. The pages are creased and torn in my hands. One afternoon I woke up holding a knife that I must have got from the kitchen. I had no prior history of somnambulism. It was a huge knife. I could have killed myself in my sleep. 

Dreams of violence and paranoia as inward manifestations of our primary urges.

I always wake up sweating, dying of thirst. 

Our brain matter absorbs the body’s nutrients and uses them to sustain our doom. 

These dreams are in the future, doctor. I don’t know how I know. I just know. 

The future frightens us. We cannot control it. We are fascinated by the violence around us. 

I want to wake up, doctor. I want to sleep without being frightened all the time. I’m so tired. I want to live in a world where the future doesn’t matter, not even for a microsecond. I want to be able to dream peacefully, forget my backward flaws. I’m tired of stretching out on the crux of this world. I’d rather operate as a vigorous fixture of my own rules. 

The world we know is created by us. It’s not the real world. It’s the world within the larger world. 

I can’t sleep during the night because it’s too dark. I can’t sleep at day because the noise blinds me. 

When we fail to mesh with the world we create, we lose all identity. 

The strangest thing is that I’m deeply attracted to this woman. My wife who’s plotting to murder me. I see myself making love to her facelessness. She’s silent and holding a giant knife, the shiny point scratches my temple while we screw. 

Desire is destruction. Our most primitive truth is not to reproduce, but to destroy ourselves. 

I’m tired, doctor. 

Every conflict forces us to either run or stay and fight. 

I think of what type of offspring we would create. Me and this mad wife. I wonder if one night or day I will wake up and I’ll be on top of her, strangling. I won’t be able to disprove her existence. I wonder if our children will plot with her or against her. I wonder which of the forces of good and evil they’ll adopt. 

Our identity lies in the liquid shape of our actions. 

I’m tired, doctor. 

 We are the sum of our dreams. Take all the maddening irregularities and add them up. 

I’m in the bathroom again. I’m locked in. 

We cannot hide from the truth. 

The walls are bare, doctor. Pure white. I smell gasoline. 

Take all the lessons about life you’ve ever learned and watch them burn. 

The mirror is rimmed with fire, doctor. 

Our strongest moments of clarity reside in complete submission. 

So much blood in the tub. 

We see what we never thought we’d see when we simply allow it to take shape before us. 

My throat is dry. I’m having trouble breathing. 

When we are too afraid to kill ourselves we thrust our imaginations into guilt. 

I’m bleeding, doctor. My throat. 

Our lives flow away from us in pigmented thickness. 

I’m tired, doctor. 

We spend our entire lives speaking to ourselves. From idea to thought. From thought to language. 

I’m dying, doctor. 

Our voices carry eternally. They are the tokens we keep. They add substance to our memories. A whisper becomes a breeze in the cold night across the galaxy. 

I think I’m falling asleep, doctor. 

Death is a state of eternal subconscious activity. I think you’re cured. For now.