An Organic Novel
Special Thanks to Terry Williams
“A pound and a half?”
The man put his ruddy, chunky, dry hands on the counter and leaned forward. His small eyes met her small eyes in a small eyes only staredown.
“Yes!” Virginia said curtly.
Virginia sensed movement and glanced at a striped notepad being brandished too enthusiastically by a woman next to her, a woman on her cell phone with too many things to say and not enough endings on her words. The striped notepad came to a momentary, face-up rest in her hand. Virginia quickly read:
Call about fngrprnts
Check on TB tstng
Start 3rd trtmnt
She was irritated that not only did this woman drop endings off her spoken words, she dropped vowels from her written words. And not bland ones like call and check, but juicy words like testing and treatments, words that would tell Virginia what she wanted to know about this woman’s unfortunate medical day. She filled in the holes herself, silently attending to the woman’s deathbed.
The man with the ruddy hands, hands Virginia wished would not be responsible for slicing up her pound and a half of yellow American cheese, began working the cheese block at the slicing machine, snapping Virginia back to the deli. She looked forward to her Miracle Whip and cheese sandwiches. She ate a pound and a half of cheese every two days in the company of her cats and her birds in her kitchen of silver linoleum and plastic-lined chairs. She liked how each slice was exactly like the one above it, and after a day and a half there was still no sign of pale crustiness as she peeled off the yellow squares and looked for mold.
I am a few feet away from this guy, let’s call him “John,” and he’s in his car making the morning commute. Because he forgot his ipod adapter and has sold most of his old cd collection, he is forced to listen to the radio. The station plays classic rock, and John’s relationship with classic rock is very tenuous. In fact, as far as the songs that classic rock stations play go, there are probably only a handful that can substantiate John’s commute in a meaningful way. In fact, it would have to be a song from one of the bands on the following finite list: Led Zeppelin; Metallica (only considering here their first 3 or 4 albums); Black Sabbath; or Pink Floyd. It cannot be a song by George Thorogood (i.e. “Bad to the Bone”), or the Eagles’ song “Hotel California”. John doesn’t dislike the Eagles song that much, but cannot withstand the existential despair evoked by the guitar solo that is played towards the end. His logic for this being: “You guys chose to shoot heroin, not me.”
John is tepid whereas I am burning up. I am burning up because I am selfless…because I am so poignantly and accidentally an object of others. I am compulsion, consumption, addiction, and desire. I am urban blight and suburban sprawl. At my best, I am restorative faith, and at worst, I am familial dysfunction or merely hope.
It is within the realm of sacred magick that the concept of a sigil, an object or symbol alleged to contain occultic powers, finds its full expression. It is within this, the present world, the “here and now”, that one is instructed to harvest their latent magickal powers. I, as sigil alone, and not as myself, tacitly ask you, by the commonness and mundaneness of my objectified being, to tacitly accept me as an impetus towards the strengthening of your individual exercise in mythmaking. Drink up commuters.
Micah had never been to Coney Island. She had been to New York once before, and she didn’t like it. It had its attractions, but she could never live there. She wouldn’t want to live “at fucking Disneyland” either. She had seen a documentary on PBS in which they claimed that “not to have seen Coney Island is not to have seen your own country.” There wasn’t really much of the real Coney Island left anymore, but she still wanted to go. She thought maybe she would be able to feel what it used to be if she stood there on the boardwalk and closed her eyes.
She didn’t want to be away from home for too long, though. She loved Oregon. There was something magical about it; the mist, the green, the fog, even the nine months of continuous rain. Her last trip had been to Mexico a couple of months earlier, and she had come back determined to make changes in her life. Tonight, snorting coke in a shed with a guy who calls himself Tony Vegas, was not a good start. But she could feel the change coming. She hadn’t found a new job yet, but she could take one more trip before she needed to work. She would go to New York, see Coney Island, and then come back and find some shit job.
The trouble was getting there. Riding in cars, Micah always imagined the door flying open, her small body falling out and rolling across the pavement. She saw herself lying in the street watching the cars careen towards her. Standing on a balcony, she looked down at the street below and imagined each distinct moment of plummeting over the side to her death—flying was about the same. She dreamed nightmares of herself as a child, watching through her grandmother’s picture window as nuclear bombs exploded and fires rolled towards her. Even walking down the street, she imagined cars jumping the curb and crushing her between the light pole and the newspaper box. Every moment held the potential for her death. It had been that way as long as she could remember.
But she wasn’t afraid. These images were like watching a movie that wasn’t about her. Not like when she was a child, when she awoke in the middle of the night feeling tiny, and then, as if she had blinked, felt suddenly gigantic, too big for the world let alone the bed she lay in. She would run to the bathroom and huddle on the floor over the heater vent, with all the lights on, until she was calm enough to go back to her room and sleep. Now she had grown used to the dark.
When she was young, Micah looked for meaning in everything. She imagined that there were beautiful connections between everything, from the patterns that the wind blew into the sand, to the strangers that she saw in the street. In the summer, she would sit on the beach, pretending to be invisible, and watch her parent’s friend’s kids play. The youngest of them was ten years older than her, so they weren’t really her friends. They played volleyball, drank beer, water skied—while Micah the invisible just sat, observing. She loved watching the others, their gestures, expressions, the way that you can tell what someone is feeling by the look on their face and the way they move. She used to think that everyone had psychic abilities; it’s just that most people choose to ignore them.
She had a much lower opinion of people now. She thought that maybe they just didn’t care to know things about each other. They were selfish. And she saw herself becoming one of them. She lived her life—it was just that nothing was terribly exciting for her anymore. Her life had not “progressed,” in the way that adults tell you things are supposed to when you’re young and they think you’re stupid. Anyway, she didn’t believe in progress, really. You just live, and then you die, and the way that you lived and died was mostly dependent on chance. Though she still wanted to hate the idea of apathy, and inertia, it was gaining more pull on her all the time. Anyway, why should she pretend that she cared if she didn’t?
Tony offered her another line, and she accepted. She didn’t really know him, and didn’t want to. They talked and laughed about bullshit, sure, and they had mutual friends. But she would never see him again, and it didn’t matter. She wiped her hand across her face, thanked him, and got up to go home. She had plane tickets to buy.
Jeane sat in the spare bedroom, clad in a mint green sweatsuit and an ancient pair of K-Mart slippers. She had decided to dedicate her afternoon to “dollhousing,” the verb she gave to the act of working on her dollhouse. She knew it was a little odd for a grown woman to own a dollhouse, but it fulfilled a childhood desire.
Jeane had wanted nothing more than a dollhouse as a child, but was told it was too expensive each time she asked. When Juliet came along and made the same request (conveniently during a bout with chicken pox and just after a physical altercation with another first-grader), their parents caved without a second thought. Jeane asked for her own once again, but her parents’ logic ran as follows: You cannot have a dollhouse because there is already one in our house. You cannot play with the dollhouse because it belongs to Juliet.
Jeane’s husband passed away mysteriously eight months ago. He had the flu, and had taken a nap. He never woke up. Prior to his passing, he had been nearly wheelchair bound for years after a trucking accident early one Christmas morning, and since then had never been quite right. Jeane had never thought to leave him. Three months after she lost George, Jeane drove to a local toy store and bought herself a dollhouse. She figured it would give her something to do with all of her spare time. She didn’ t realize that it was the most self-serving thing she had ever done.
Today, Jeane was working on the dollhouse kitchen, gluing miniature fruits into a tiny bowl that would sit on the wrought-iron doll’s table. She aimed for the perfect balance: not too many apples, enough oranges and a banana for good measure.
The phone rang in the other room, and Jeane let out a sigh.
“Jeane. I need your help.” It was Juliet, and she sounded stern.
“What’s the matter?” asked Jeane hesitantly.
“It’s Cafe Paradise! The pilot light’s not working, and if I can’t get the stove to work I’ll have to close for the day. And you know I can’t afford to lose a day.”
Cafe Paradise was Juliet’s latest business venture. She had filled a small, dumpy restaurant space with plastic greenery and fake toucans in the hopes of piquing the interest of both local tourists and parents looking for a themed locale for their children’s birthdays. For the time being, she was only offering soups and melt sandwiches.
Jeane was silent for a moment, wishing she had never picked up the phone. It was times like this when she thought about her last words to George. He had been complaining all morning of feeling tired and achy, and she had grown tired of his grumbling.
“So just go take a nap, already,” she had scolded. She had forced George onto his deathbed, literally. Since then, whenever she wanted to brush someone off, this memory seeped into her consciousness from the grey folds of her brain.
Jeane knew she did not have the emotional energy to replace her slippers with boots and leave the house to help her younger sister. Yet she believed feeling this way was unreasonable. So, she made up a lie.
“Oh no, that’s horrible. I left my car at the garage for some brake work, so I can’t even come by. I’m really sorry!”
Jeane hung up the phone and turned off the ringer. Before she could put it down, she turned the ringer back on, but set it at a lower volume. Then she went back to the dollhouse and began hanging a miniature valance.
I was reared on unextraordinary 1980s pop culture. The precise names of my idols are of no real importance; they are as good as any you can come up with. What have my unnamed inspirations left me with you ask? Not much actually. In May, I will graduate from Xavier High School, leave New York City for good and re-settle in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a freshman at the University of Michigan. I will leave behind a life that had left me behind many years before. A new life, a new start and a chance to re-make that which I really am. In my head I am a suave, strong, intelligent, good-looking young man, when in reality I am callous, devious and introverted. I am no producer of society, as I once dreamt, I am a bruised apple disguised underneath a well-kept sheen.
I cannot wait for the day I say goodbye to the constant crowds and oppressive noise of the city. I long for the day I can wander aimlessly without being pestered. I miss the grass more than anything! I dislike crowds, but I find it so easy to melt into them. I need to stop doing the easy thing. I need to carve out a space of my own, settle down, and figure out who I want to be.
On this uncharacteristically balmy April morning, it was The Clash that was burdened with the task of inspiring me on my walk to school. Lost in the Supermarket blared as I walked down 8th Avenue drenched in sweat. Everyone and everything seemed to be sweating; the city itself was dripping; I needed to leave before the heat swallowed up what was left of my creative faculties. The heat rising off of the searing pavement made me daydream.
A few feet in front of my eyes, bright sunlight glimmered off of a top of an air conditioning unit, leaving me temporarily blind and disrupting quite a pleasant daydream. As my eyes readjusted, I felt as though I had descended into an alternate universe. Time slowed down, and I sauntered past the glimmering light into empty space in front of me. My legs buckled, I leaned against the window and braced myself. The world looked cloudy and my throat felt as though it was slowly being filled with dry cotton balls. I was about to pass out. Darkness began to cloud my peripheral vision and I felt uncharacteristically tired. "So this is death," I thought as my head hit the pavement. It bounced, crunched and all I felt heard and touched was darkness.
Thick, hairy hands were shaking me. A few moments later they began to paw at my face.
"Are you alright," asked the hairy hands.
"Here, drink this." Water was poured into my mouth, down my neck and sprayed onto my face. I coughed most of it back up, spitting it into the face of whomever was holding me.
I slowly came to. All right, time to take inventory, I thought. Let's see now, my legs are still here, arms, check, all right, everything works. I can still reason, that's a plus, didn't seem to loose vision, maybe I even knocked some sense into me.
The hairy hands were still there, imploring me to sit up slowly. A crowd had formed around me. “Wonderful," I thought. My pain was their excuse to be fifteen minutes late to work. I peered at the circle of bodies surrounding me. There were ten men and three women staring down at me, each with their mouth contorted in some sort of horrific circle. On my left was a man of about fifty, a face full of friendly creases, smelling strongly of French cigarettes, with salt and pepper eyebrows and tobacco-stained teeth. Behind me were the three women—one, to keep her balance, rested her forearms on the back of the hairy man. She was in her twenties with short black hair and wonderful green eyes that implored me to get up.
Clearly, I thought to myself, no one was here out of any deep regard for my safety; they were there out of curiosity. Two of the men in the circle were fidgeting with their Blackberries. As they performed the unmistakable finger movements that now define an era of technology, I grew angry. What assholes, I didn't need their help; here they were, drenched in sweat, standing around me when they could have been in their air conditioned offices doing what they do best—quarterbacking hostile take-overs, managing middle men, and even possibly high level fact checking. One of the Blackberry men no longer looked concerned as to my condition. In fact, the longer he stared at his Blackberry, the redder his face got, until without saying a word, he turned, broke into a sprint and bounded into the closest subway station. Serves him right, I thought. Even in my delirious stupor, I knew that I would never be like him.
A conversation began between the hairy man and green eyed lady as to my health. Although groggy, I could easily make out the words, "ambulance" and "concussion". Wonderful, first period Biology might have to wait.
I turned my head to the hairy hands—and quickly realized that they were connected to a man with dark skin. His exposed torso, also covered with hair, was glistening with what I could only image to be sweat. His shirt was face was covered with flour. The logo of Amore Mio Pizza adorned his shirt pocket.
"I'm fine, let me be on my way."
The crowd, disappointed with my tenacity, slowly began to disperse, although my green eyed muse remained with the hairy man.
"You passed out, it looked pretty nasty from where I was sitting." The hairy man pointed to an overturned stool on in front of a building about twenty feet behind me.
My head ached as I lifted it from his hands.
"Your head bounced like a melon on the pavement, you must have a noggin of steel." Taxis steamed by, horns blaring; the world had not stopped for Sam Kingsley. Didn't they know that someone was injured over here? They should have some respect! Each honk of their horn made my head pound like never before. God damn this city! Where else would a crowd form around an injured teenager with an indifferent tone! I will never understand New Yorkers. Half of them are too wrapped up in their lives to worry about their neighbors, yet they stop and gawk as if I were handing out money. The other half no doubt would look upon me with disdain. To that half of the city, I wasn't strong enough to call myself a New Yorker.
But I was fine, I didn't need anyone's help, I was just going to be on my way. I sat Indian style upon the pavement. The hairy pizza man left me to be, and the intriguing woman did the same. I thought about running after her, but decided that first period Biology was more important. The sooner Biology was over, the sooner I could leave. I got up, gathered my things, which had been scattered all across the sidewalk and continued on down 8 th Avenue just like any other morning in New York City.