Bad Fiction

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Bad Ideas, Bad Choices,Bad circumstances, Bad Fiction

 

This Nightmare is your Life

 

2009

 

There’s a seventeen-year-old girl in your bed and it doesn’t get any worse than this. Granted, trying to stuff a dead man in Mark’s fridge wasn’t one of your finest moments either. But a seventeen-year-old girl in your bed can haunt you in just as many ways as a dead man and can lead to just as much jail time. Your recurring nightmare was going accordingly—one catastrophe after another, from sunup to sundown, and if you could only get some sleep, you’re hoping tomorrow will be different and the past will feel as though it were all a bad dream. Because “things haven’t always been this way,” is how you cope when the chips are down. This nightmare is your life—one relentless ass kicking after another and you wonder how much of it you disserve.

Her name is Annabelle but you call her Annie. Your swollen face is tucked into her damp chest and throbbing. She’s running her fingers through your hair and reciting Romeo and Juliet wrong. She wants to die in the “heat of passion” with you. These are a teenager's ideals of love, you suppose, the kind of love the Beatles used to sing about—“I want to hold her hand,” type of shit; the stuff dreams are made of. If not for ideals there would be nothing to dream for, you guess. You’re not a singer or much of one. When you do it’s unintentional and rarely ever in public. But you’ll sing for Annabelle because when she’s around you just can’t help it.

Her bare leg is wrapped around your hip and you’re too beat down to tell her how much it hurts. While the dead man was trying to beat you to death with his cane, he hammered you a few times in the hip, and in the teeth, and the ribs. Especially in the ribs—where God plucked from man the seed that created woman, or so says the bible, and man was created from the dust of the earth. If God were to pluck from your ribs the seed of a woman tonight, she’s likely to be born with brain damage.

You haven’t slept in two days and you’re barely alive. Your state of half sleep will always cause you to doubt the look of gratefulness you see in her smile because the details of this moment will always be hazy in your memory and diluted with dreams of running away with her into infinity at the heart of the ocean.

“Infinity” you agree, whispering for no reason. And why not run away, when every day feels like the last, and spent shrouded in a cloud of pot smoke that dulls the hours of the day to the dimness of a hazy memory. The wasted hours amount to days and so on and so forth and seem to lead back to the beginning with no end in sight, no matter which path you choose, and it all leads back to Mark’s—where you go to buy your drugs; where there still might be a day man stuffed in Mark’s fridge. 

 

Shit Eaters and Dildo Thieves

Head over to Mark’s after work to pick up an eighth because you’re cheap like that and knowing full well that you’ll be back tomorrow to score another 65 dollars worth of bud. When you show up, Mark and Derek are already shit faced. They’re drunk and stoned and look like they’re dying of heat stroke. Their faces sunburned, their limbs loose, their eyelids drooping, sinking into Mark’s lawn furniture, they reminisce about a van they found parked in the wrong place at the wrong time. That wrong time and that wrong place being anywhere near Mark and Derek ever

Sometimes shit happens. Sometimes that shit hits the fan. It’s as simple as that.  Sometimes you forget where you park and while searching for your car, frying balls on magic mushrooms, you discover a van ripe for the picking. The engine is running. The keys are in the ignition. The windows are down. Someone was unloading something and that someone is gone.

They scored a joint and a pack of USA Gold’s from the glove box. They scored five dollars worth of loose change from the cup holders. From the back of the van they stole three boxes of dildos.

The driver was either there to deliver or pack up a shipment of merchandise belonging to the adult warehouse outside of which he had left the delivery van abandoned.  None of that mattered—not the store, nor the driver, neither the van, nor the merchandise. All that mattered to both Derek and Mark was that whatever was in the van was theirs for the taking. Petty crime is often spontaneous in that way, you’ve often found--without skill, without plot, without scheme, and utterly retarded.

“But why three boxes?”

“How were we supposed to know what was in them, dude? You can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was to get rid of those things. Come on, it’s an adult warehouse. An entire warehouse! And we couldn’t sell a single box!”

Mark nods in the agreement, taking a gulp. “Cheers to that!”

They clink their bottles.

Derek continues, “We had dildos coming out of our ears! You can’t even begin to imagine how mad people got when we offered to sell them one.”

Mark nods in the agreement, taking a gulp. “They got even madder when we offered to give them one for free.” 

They clink bottles. Derek kills his beer, gets up, buttons his FedEx shirt, says, “Off to work,” and splits.

You ask Mark, “What did you do with all of the, uh……”

“dildos?”

“Yeah.”

“EBay, my man.

How much can you truly learn about a person if you’ve never shared a single sober moment with them?  Mark’s decent at drunken multitasking, that much is obvious. In his kitchen now he’s standing over the stove mixing cocaine and baking soda while weighing bud and watching The Hills on the flat screen in the parlor. Nothing is said for what should feel like an uncomfortably long silence, aside from the occasional “Kristen is such a bitch!” from Mark, until he invites you to come along the next time he and Derek go shrooming

You smoke your weed, that you paid him sixty-five dollars for, rolling joints on Mark’s kitchen table out of boredom. You pass him the joint, exhaling, "Fuck yeah, we should go shrooming.”

Apart from your excitement over the prospect of picking mushrooms sprouting from cow shit, the two of you have nothing in common. Therein lies your predicament. Mark is looking for, “A true friend,” he once confided in you, on a similar occasion, stoned off his ass, watching fake reality television; whereas you, on the other hand, wait impatiently for the day when pot deals will become more like atm transactions or buying a snickers from a vending machine. Until that day, you fear, you will continually find yourself surrounded by the likes of shit eaters and dildo thieves.

The night wind is hazy, glaring with a white glossy shine.  Finally fucked up, you kneel beside D in the darkness, puffing on a joint. With your hoodies on, you’re invisible to the rest of the park, ducking between a gap in a row of hedges that frame the park’s concrete borders. You whisper to D, “This is so queer. We look like a couple of queers huddled up in the bushes like this.”

“We don’t look like anything,” D whispers back.

“Yes we do D. We look like a couple of queers rustling around in the bushes!”

 “Shhhh,” He holds his fingers to his lips. He flips open his phone, texting blindly with one hand and shielding the orange glow of the screen with the other. Your cell phone hums.  You check the screen. One new text:

Thrsa 20,000 dola rwarrent ot 4 mearrest =(

You rest your back against the wall, drifting further into nonexistence. You lean in, whispering for his sake, “There’s a twenty thousand dollar warrant out for your arrest and the best you could come up with as a place to lay low is a row of hedges? How long were you planning on hiding here? Were you planning on gluing the branches to you? Is that what you called me here to help you do? Or were you planning on carrying the bush around with you wherever you went and you need me to help you cut it down?”

Homeless people reek. It’s a proven fact. There was a homeless man that bore a striking resemblance to Michael Jackson in Mark’s kitchen, stinking up the place, trying to use his bicycle as collateral for an eight ball. His body odor fogged the room until the walls were slick with beads of perspiration. You gagged once or twice, inhaling his fumes until you couldn’t take it and made a mad dash for the front door that’s always open for anyone to come and go as they please. You overheard Mark tell him to fuck off, not because Michael Jackson doesn’t have the money, but because Mark was of the opinion that Michael Jackson’s bicycle is painted like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. "What'd you do, rob The Cat in the Hat? Fuck off. And take that Seuss Mobile with you."

On Mark’s lawn, smoking a cigarette, waiting for Michael Jackson to fuck off, you received a text from D. According to the text, "D @ park 199"

 He was nowhere to be found once you had reached the park near three in the morning. If not for the bush smoking a cigarette and beat boxing, “bf-tt-k-tt-bf-tt-k-tt” you would have turned and gone.

 Fleeing from yet another burglary, he discovered a squad car barricading his escape route. He had never gotten around to fixing the stereo. He shifted into reverse and sped backwards, dodging cars parked along the curb of a narrow suburban road. The stereo clicked on, chose a station for itself, and cranked the volume up to 11. At the end of the street, through the rear-view mirror, he found himself blocked in by two more squad cars.  Danity Kane was whaling “Damaged” from the subwoofer in the trunk of his Accord, “I’ve tried every remedy and nothing seems to work for me!” 

He continued to gun it in reverse, once and for all proving that police cruisers do not bounce out of the way when you ram them with your bumper, as they do in video games like Grand Theft Auto.

After a few months he was able to bail out with the help of his folks. A week later, a $20,000-dollar warrant was issued for his arrest.

Heavy gusts of wind that have you shivering, shower you with droplets of recycled rain from the shrubs. Something shutters on the other side of the wall. D books it, from one end of the darkness and into another, until he’s nowhere to be seen.

You start after him, nearly running him over at the pitcher’s mound, where he’s squatting again, watching a figure peeking over from the other side of the wall.

“I see something, “D insists, petrified “Do you have any binoculars?”

“Let me check.”

You check your pockets.

“Nope! No binoculars! Must have forgotten them at home!”

“Shhhh” D holds his fingers to his lips. “You have to be quiet because…” He stands up beside you, whispering in your ear, “…I think it might be a ghost.”

He points in the direction of the outfield, whispering, “I’ll be over there. You go check it out.”

“Why me?

“Because I haven’t slept in three days.”

You humor him. Why the fuck the not?

“Fine, pussy!”

 You search for something to throw. A rock, you figure, considering it’s a park. What you find instead is a roll of masking tape just heavy enough to chuck at someone’s head and cause some damage.

You wind up from the pitcher’s mound. “Alright fucker! If you don’t make yourself known within the next...” What’s a fair amount of time? “..in the next twenty seconds, I’mma throw this fucking…rock… at your head!”

You count to thirty and chuck the roll of masking tape at the ghost. It’s struck in the side of the head, crumbling with a weighty metallic “Klang!”

D screams like a meth junky that’s just seen a ghost. His running footsteps in the wet grass journey further into oblivion. You start after them. You’re cell phone hums as D rams his fist into your eye. Biting into your lower lip, you wonder before knocking out, “Now who could that be?”

“Sorry Dude. I thought you were the ghost.”

He eventually falls asleep in a boogeyman free cradle of bushes. Purple clouds shred to ribbons across the pink skies they stretch out to consume, losing the battle against the rising sun.

Bad Fiction

Annabelle has attention deficit disorder. You swear to god. There’s no other explanation for her inability to shut up, sit still, or refrain from bursting into song and dance. And when she’s not rambling or singing or dancing or any combination of the three, she’s got this bewildered look of total obliviousness written on her face, as though she can’t quite put all of the pieces together. It’s this same look of blameless curiosity that prevents you from shouting, “Chill! Please, for the love of god, chill!” And instead, brings a smile to your face. Besides, she’s only seventeen, after all, and today is her birthday.

You wake to find D standing over you and apologizing for cold clocking you upside the head. “Sorry dude, I thought you were the ghost.”

He’s reading the text you received before you lost consciousness. The sun has yet to rise. The green glow illuminating D’s face is the only source of light in the entire park. “It’s a chick,” He informs you. “She wants to know if you’re coming to walk her to school. She spelt coming with a C-U-M. I think that means she wants to fuck.”

He studies the screen again, clutching it in his unsteady tweeker hands, before dropping it in your lap, his face disappearing into the shadows as it falls.  “Anna…Belly. What is she, fat or something?”

You sit up in the wet grass, tucking your phone away, checking your pockets to be sure that he hasn’t snaked anything else from them.

“No. She’s not fat.”

“Chubby?”

“No. Skinny. But, like, teenage girl skinny, you know?”

“Maybe you should call her Anna…banana instead. Or…Anna…rexia.”

“She’s not anorexic, got it, dick-head? And let’s just get one thing clear before moving on, alright? No one is trying to fuck anyone. Got it? Ain’t no one tryin’ to fuck no one. Got it?”

 “Blond?”

“Platinum.”

“Punk Rock?”

“No doubt.”

“Want to get high?”

“Absofuckinglutely.”

He shoves one of your missing joints in your face for you to see. “Cool. I know the perfect spot in the bushes.”

“As soon as you fork over the rest of my weed.”

After a mile-long trek from the park to her house, dodging puddles every few steps along the way, near seven thirty you enter her garage. When she spots you, skinny, platinum blond, Anna Banana immediately start to tap dance, singing, “Check out my new shoes!”

They’re smoke grey and pastel blue Nike high tops that only make her absurdly skinny black denim tights look skinnier and crush your toes when she pounces on them to wrap her arms around your neck.

“Your face looks like its melting,” she says, stepping back, tilting her head to the left.

“Rest assured. My face is not melting.”

She calls to Lindsey, who’s forever texting, standing off to the side. “Lindsey, look at his face!”

“No” Lindsey replies, without hesitation, without lifting her eyes from her phone.

“Lindsey, look!”

Lindsey submits to Annabelle’s nagging and does a double take when she spots the swelling beneath your left eye.

“You look like the elephant man.”

Annabelle starts to sing, “P-P-P-Poker face. P-P-poke your face!” jabbing her finger into your cheekbone.

Lindsey, forever texting, shimmies, shaking her 15-year-old hips in her sinking low-rise, boot cut jeans, singing along. “Mah-Mah-Mah-Mah.”

“Geez Annie! Please refrain from prodding me with your finger.”

“Who’s Annie?” Lindsey asks.

“Yeah, who’s Annie?”

“Just...No…poking, please.”

There’s that stupid look again. There’s a question formulating in her mind, at the speed of a dial up modem, you can see it in her eyes, in the way her chapped lips tighten. You take a wild guess at what the question might be. “Someone punched me, Annabelle.”

The explanation seizes Lindsey’s attention. She almost looks impressed. “Who hit you?” She asks.

“Just some tweeker.”

Annabelle asks, “What happened?”

“Did you hit him back?”

“No.”

Annabelle asks, “Who hit you?”

“Why not?”

Because you could throw a brick at D’s face and it wouldn’t register until he was sober and even then, it might take him years to remember what hit him.

“I just didn’t see the point.”

“Uh Huh.” She nods, her respect for you crumbling with the steady rise of her phone. 

The girls walk a step ahead of you, up hill, on their way to school. They’ve decided, after a good 15 minutes of heated debate, that if Edward Cullen, the cry baby vampire, were to watch television, he’d probably be a fan of “Gossip Girl.” While Jacob Black, the sheep in wolves clothing, would probably be a fan of “The Nitro Circus.”  Occasionally Annabelle will look back and smile. She asks, “Do you have any weed?”

“Always.”

“Want to get high?”

 “Absolutely not.”

“Why not?”

 “You know exactly why not.”

“Lindsey’s friends hook us up.”

This time it’s Lindsey who looks back and smiles. It’s maybe the first time she’s ever smiled for you. Someone needs to teach them both to floss. “He gives us coke too.”

Oh yeah, Annabelle’s Coke habit, which may or may not contribute to her infinite supply of energy. You’re guessing it might. She’s the fucking Energizer Bunny.

“See, I don’t understand how the two of you are even able to afford that crap. If you’re going to smoke anything, stick to the sticky green stuff. Please, I’m begging you. Speed kills.”

Lindsey answers for the both of them, ignoring the latter statement, in the same way that Annabelle ignores you when you ask her if she’s finished her homework or about how she’s getting along with her folks, “We give them lap dances. Sometimes me and Annabelle do stuff with each other.”

The smile never strays from Lindsey’s face for a second. It’s a sinister smile, border lining a sensuality that’s impossible to take seriously. In a few short years, however, it’s not hard to imagine, that same devilish grin bringing even the most deranged coke dealer to his knees. 

“How old are these guys?”

“30ish.”

You nod, fighting the temperature rising beneath the skin of your swollen poker face that feels as though it’s about to melt, fighting the visions surfacing in the darkest regions of your mind, where the unspeakable thoughts lay dormant, where the most painful memories and horrifying images remain boarded up tight. You thought stuff like this only happened in Lifetime Original Movies, the type of shit you only read about in bad fiction. The difference is that these girls seem almost proud of themselves. As if you should be proud of them too. At least, until Lindsey adds, “Sometimes Annie does more.”

Annabelle shoves her and tells her to shut up. Lindsey shoves her harder, knocking Annabelle onto her ass. You scoop skinny, platinum blond, Anna Banana, with the bewildered look on her face, off of the pavement. She falls in step with you, swatting the loose gravel clinging to the seat of her black and white Raglan T.

Lindsey asks, “How old are you?”

“21.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“I’m here in case any 30-year-old creepers come ‘round offering cocaine for lap dances.”

Both girls laugh, a little too loudly, given the punch line and the half-hearted delivery. The sad part is that until a few seconds ago, you thought it was true or at least possible and, despite your sarcastic tone, you meant every word of it.

Annabelle leans into you and attempts a flirtatious grin and a wink, supporting her weight against your shoulder with the back of her hand touching yours. Not wanting to upset her, you muster a smile, imagining a double barrel pressed to the lips of every grown man who’s ever offered her blow to watch her bare her sixteen-year-old body or make out with Lindsey and maybe do “more.” If only you had it in you, you wish, you would pull the trigger and blow their teeth out of the backs of their 30-year-old skulls, all the while screaming, “I’ll see you in hell!” But you can’t because you don’t have it in you. You’re not Robert De Niro and this isn’t Taxi Driver. All you can do instead is muster a helpless smile that changes nothing and Annabelle wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lindsey actually hugs you before disappearing into class. First, pressing her cheek to yours, raising her phone at a high angle, flashing her signature devilish grin with rehearsed precision, and snapping a photo of the two of you, for no apparent reason. Caught off guard, you chunk a deuce at the camera as a reflex. Crushing your toes, wrapping her arms around your neck, Annabelle lingers for a moment longer than usual to whisper in your ear, “I like it when you call me Annie.”

Moving backward through her classroom door, she dances, singing, “Ga-Ga ooh-la la…” She points to you, expecting you to finish the line.

You figure fuck it. After all, it is her birthday. So, you boogie down and sing along, “…Want your bad romance.” 

Style for Miles

Technically, you dance for a living. Technically, you’re a professional dancer. You dance your ass off for ten dollars an hour, five days a week and for eight hours a day, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, wearing a Styrofoam crown and waving a Styrofoam torch that makes your shoulder ache. 

You groove to the music that no one else can hear, raging deafeningly into your brain, to drown out the voices of the skaters that hang out in the parking lot of the shopping center across the street. They’re loud and obnoxious. When they’re bored, they’ll often chant, “Toga! Toga! Toga!” while you boogie. You crank up the volume on your iPod Nano, your ego pulverized, trying to remind yourself that it’s just business. Matt and Kim are chanting, “In the day light we can hitch hike to main. I hope that someday I’ll see without these frames.” You close your eyes behind your cheap shades, flapping your arms, imaging yourself tucked away in a shadowy row of hedges.

 The business is a print shop that’s empty more often than not. Your boss—a German women with a cute accent and little else—reprimands you, blaming you for her lack of customers. Apparently, you’re scaring them all off. She claims that costumers you’ve never seen have complained about the bearded homeless man dancing outside of the window of her shop. She threatens to fire you whenever she reminds you to shave. ‘How is it that I’m still employed here?’ you wonder, stroking your goatee.

You’re munching on a 7/11 burrito, looking up at the cables over head, scanning the sky for the culprit that nearly shat on your shoulder, when Hitler comes stomping your way. You still haven’t slept, which is no help at all when you’re a dancer with a Nazi for a boss that complains about your lack of spirit, poor posture, and B-Boy skills. Red Bull helps some. What doesn’t help is the black eye you’re sporting today and neither does your missing shades.

The Nazi drags you by your toga, out of the blinding yellow daylight, into the dull chill of the air-conditioned print shop, past the front counter, and into the back room. “Hand over the dress,” Hitler commands.

Ja, mein fuhrer. You watch her cut a strip of fabric from the bottom of your toga, a strip long enough to wrap around your head and serve as a DIY eye patch to hide the swelling.

Back out in the burning warmth that melts away the dull cold running down your shoulders, the skaters across the street chant, “Rrrrr! Me maties, shiver me timber!” And now you’re expected to dance for them. Yet, above all else—the get up, the hecklers, the Nazis, the dancing--the mounting insecurities combined, pale in comparison to the awkward side eyed glances at a girl whose name you can't even spell. Kristen or Christen or Cristen, you've heard her called. When you see her face your mind floods with a flurry of questions that you’ll never know the answers to and while your ass shakes and your arms flail, your heart sinks. She speaks with a lisp that you find as adorable as the red freckles that speckle her cheek bones.

“Excuthe me, mithter thtatue of liberty. Thomeone’s pathing through,” you heard her say, lisping over the ringing static of your blown-out ear buds. She was returning from her lunch break to her office next door to your empty shop. Your eyes were closed and you nearly bumped heads with her. Your cheap shades dropped to your sneakers and so did your jaw. Behind the lenses of her thick black framed prescription glasses, you found a mosaic of emerald stained glass staring back at you. You reached down to pick up your shades, whispering an apology, and watched her shadow stretch across the side walk. You heard the bells hanging from the door knob of her office entrance jingle and a wasp of air escape to grace her skin—her tanned bare shoulders, her diamond studded earlobes, her freckled cheeks, the freckled cleavage of her impressive rack.

You see her twice a day. When she’s off to and returning from lunch. She carries a brown paper bag that swings with the flow of her round hips

Cristen is the queen of style. Her bangs are chopped unevenly, highlighted with shades of gold streaking from the roots of her maple locks. One day it’s a blue plaid button down and a matching blue ribbon that takes your breath away. The next day it will be a long white cardigan that nearly reaches her knees. One day she’ll be wearing a pair of bright purple Vans, the next she’s gliding gracefully on a pair of heals with ruby lace that wind up her calves. One day her hair will be a cushion of curls and the next her shoulder length strands will have been burned with a straightening iron. If not for her glasses and ever-present glow tracing the edges of her being, that causes you to look away or be caught mesmerized and staring like a pervert, she’s unrecognizable from day to day. You decided last week that today will be the day that you tell her so.

You figure it will go something like this: “Hey. Pretend I’m not a guy for a second and please just hear me out. Because I promise you, there are no ulterior motives behind my next compliment. But I’m warning you, it’s going to be a compliment, perhaps even an awkward one, and hopefully not terribly creepy. I just have to say, if it’s alright by you, that I think you’ve got style for miles. I’m blown away every time I see you. Is it hereditary? Does style just run in the blood? Were you born with it? Did you come equipped with a style manual? I bet you could write one if you wanted. I bet you’d make millions. You’re like a Barbie doll. You’re like Professor Barbie in those glasses.” And hopefully, if all goes according to plan, one day you’ll be able to ask her if it’s ok to see her face without the windows shielding her eyes. You suppose that’s an ulterior motive, and therefore omit trying to convince her that you have none. Because you want to be honest; because something about her makes you want be better than yourself.

 Your speech is totally corny. You realize that. And yet, it makes no difference. It’s the honest truth. The lines you’ve plotted out in no particular order are the same that manifest themselves in your mind when you spot her and if only you could see her without those glasses--to behold the raw work of wonder behind its lenses--you know you’d be admiring a vision unlike any other.

But first, you need to get high. To take the edge off? You sneak off into the parking lot, and duck in the front seat of Hitler’s delivery van, blowing bong rips under the dash. The bud’s harsh and you hack until your throat burns. You actually swallow smoke, choking to trap it in your lungs. The smoke clouds the car, bouncing off of the windows and fogging them.

You take your final rip, tuck the bong away under the seat, and take a deep breath of chambered smoke. You open the door and step out. A grey mist pillows out of the van and is sucked away by the wind. You spray yourself with Axe. You catch yourself from falling by bracing your chest against the passenger window, pressing your palms to the foggy glass. Unbelievably stoned, you can’t help but giggle. Maybe getting high first was a bad idea? You stroke your goatee in the side mirror. Your right eye is glazed with a red tint. You remind yourself to smile, wincing, pealing back the green fabric wrapped around your head.

Here comes Professor Barbie swinging her brown paper bag and you have to keep your palms from shaking. Your body is behaving irrationally. You often wonder why the body sometimes reacts the way it does in tense situations—against itself. You understand that there’s no reason to be terrified, she’s a human being after all, but logic makes no difference and your pulse is thundering in your chest. You’re chewing two pieces of gum in case your breath smells doubly bad. Your legs feel heavy as you approach her. You don’t step in front of her. You merely fall in step beside her. “Hey…” The words linger in outer space and you hear them echo.

She actually stops. She actually smiles at you. “Hey.”

Your shoulder’s rise; you bury your shaking hands in the pockets of your Diesels. Then bird shit plops on your shoulder. There's that son of a bitch! Your spine snaps straight as if you’ve just been spanked. You remind yourself to smile. “So…um…pretend…I’m not a guy for a second,” You start, the two of you ignoring the bird shit dripping down your toga. “You’ve got style… for miles. Did you come… with a manual…” You forget your lines, mid-sentence. "Uh." You pause to take a well needed breathe. "Uh." The harder you try to remember, to stick to script scrolling in your mind’s eye, the harder it is to speak. Yes, getting stoned proved to be a bad idea. Only silence now remains.

She waits. Even when she’s grimacing, grimacing at you, perplexed, she’s beautiful. Your stomach gurgles, you hick up and burp the cloud of white smoke you swallowed in the VW. Your mouth falls open. Your glassy eyes widen. She coughs. Your gum rolls off of your tongue and out of your mouth. You stamp on the green wad, to cover it with your shoe, as if she hadn’t noticed the double mint plummeting from your lips. She keeps a straight face, ignoring the smell of pot smoke lingering in the air in the same manner she ignores a second plop of bird shit dangling from your Styrofoam crown. She breaks the silence with her lovely lisp, “Tho…you’re not a guy, thankth for the compliment...I don’t think I know anyone named Mileth, and no, I didn’t come with Emanuel.”

There are so many things you’ve wished to tell her, questions have lingered in your mind from the day she was hired next door four months ago and everyday since. There are so many things you’ve wanted to ask, so many things you’ve wanted to say, and at the moment you can’t think of a single one. You’ve run out of words. You just shrug, hanging your head, mumbling. “A manual,” to yourself.

Thorry.” She answers politely. “Didn’t come with one of thothe either.

She smiles again and waves, “I gueth I’ll thee you around.” Bells jingle. A wasp of air graces her skin. One skater shouts, “Smooth moves Casanova! Way to get shit on!” Another shouts, “That must have been one spicy burrito!”  Hitler stomps toward you, “Where’s your head wrap? What's that on your dress? What do you think you’re doing, standing there, smiling like a buffoon? I could fill a book with all of the things you’re doing wrong right now!”

 You holler back at her, “I wish someone would!”

And now you’re expected to dance.

A Reason for Being Part 1

.. ..

Head over to Mark’s house after work, still dressed as lady liberty, shit faced, too tired to lose the toga. Hop the gate, too tired to unlock it, and land on your face. Stagger dizzy across the dead grass and patches of red dirt, brushing the dust out of your goatee, scanning neighboring lawns for witnesses. Knock at the door that to your surprise is not only shut but locked as well. Mark answers and it’s like stepping into a Chucky Cheese. The place is swarming with kids!

“Nice dress.”

He’s left the faucet running on a steaming pile of bowls stopping up the sink.There’s ice cream! Melted ice cream is spilling over the counter, seeping from the corners of an open carton. There’s cake, ice cream, and blood everywhere—blood is dripping from the knife Mark carries to the sink; white frosting on a yellow cake is spotted with blood as well; the bloody gauze taped to Mark’s forehead looks like an accessory to his blood splattered wife beater.

You take your usual seat at Mark’s table.

 ‘There’s bound to be more life than this’ you try to tell yourself, searching your pockets for loot and watching a little girl in a pair of Crocs hopping up and down on Mark’s new sofa and croaking like a toad. "Wibbet! Wibbet! Wibbet!

No,’ you remind yourself. There is more to life than this, just not around here. ‘It’s out there,’ you try to convince yourself, ‘and it’s all just a matter of time.’ You’ll find it, and you’ll search, and you're willing to suffer, just as soon as you’re sober, just as soon as you’ve slept. Hell, who knows, maybe it will find you. Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow and find it waiting for you beside the bed & all you’ll have to do is push a button and voila, you feel alive. All you’re asking for is a chance and you promise life that you won’t let her down.

In the meantime, you wonder, ‘Who gets hook on pot?’ Is there really such a thing as marijuana addiction? You understand that it’s only natural that you need more to get a decent buzz now and it’s costing you. The pot meant to take the edge off of the Watson withdrawals and that’s what brought you here. The sight of a near empty bottle of pills alone was enough to cause you to sweat and shiver, already imagining the head aches sharp enough to cut glass; already chained to the carpet by depression that causes you to burst into tears along with the theme song to reruns of Dawson’s Creek. It's hard to deal with life when life revolves around one thing. You needed to break free or you may not have lived at all.

Admittedly, pot might have been the sucker’s way out. But all you saw was a way out. So, you took it. Now here you are in Mark’s kitchen again, Oxy clean for over a year, to buy your second eighth this week because you don’t want to run out of pot.

Kids are like ducks when their gathered together. It sounds a lot like conversing, when really, it’s just quacking. They’ve finally learned to speak. They’ve finally learned to express themselves and they jump at every opportunity. One child speaks, and then another, causing a ripple affect of quacking simply because they’ve found their voices.

Holding out her tiny hand to display the chocolate chip smudge on her palm, the 3-year-old girl in the pink Crocs says, “Mud!”

“Dirt plus water equals mud, you know.” says the sassy girl, with her hands on her hips.

“Mud is dirty,” says the cross-eyed boy sucking on his fingers.

“What’s with the circus, Mark? You didn’t kidnap them, did you?”

The sassy girl sees you and points, “It’s the Statue of Liberty!” She shrieks, causing a ripple effect of, “It’s the Statue of Liberty!” They stampede into the kitchen, their faces and hands stained with mint chocolate chip, some of them saluting, others holding their hands over their hearts and pledging their allegiance to you. The little girl mispronouncing the lyrics of the star-spangled Banner spots the bird shit on your toga and backs away. “Eeeeeew, bird poop,” she shrieks, causing a ripple of effect of, “Eeeeeeew!” that drifts toward the other side of the kitchen, and huddles around Mark, who turns to you splattered with blood, surrounded by kids, swinging his soapy knife over their heads and screaming, “Do I look like a kidnaper to you?”

 “All of you out the kitchen!” He orders the circus of ducks, as though they were hostages. Shoulders rise from two feet off of the floor and ice cream painted jaws hang. The circus waddles toward Shrek verbally abusing a donkey in the parlor. One girl stays behind and hugs Mark’s hip. “You don’t look like a kidnapper to me, daddy,” she decides. Mark picks her up and points the knife at her. “See.”

“You’ve got ten kids? I didn’t even know you had one.”

 “They’re not all mine, dumb ass. My ex wife dropped them off. She said something about, ‘It’s only fair that I baby sit all of them since I’m ten times the bastard I was before we got divorced.”

“Your ex wife wouldn’t happen to live in a shoe, would she?”

“They’re not all hers, dumb ass. What the hell’s wrong with you? Some of them are cousins, I think. One of them is bound to be related; two of them, maybe?” Mark messages his temple. “I don’t know who the fuck any of them are,” he finally admits. “My www…ex wife baby sits, had an emergency, called me a dead-beat dad, and dumped them here with cake and ice cream. She said it would chill them out. The bitch was setting me up, my man, I promise you. She’s a manipulative bitch. It only made them worse. Soon enough I’m stabbing my forehead ‘cause the albino one with the demon eyes jumped on my back while I was trying to cut cake. The albino was all screaming, ‘You’re a fwufy teddy bear!’ And I was all, like, screaming, ‘No, I’m not! ” 

How does one respond to that? “Awesome.” You say, because you’re tired, and shit faced, and don’t give a fuck anymore. “So…got an eighth handy?”

He puts his daughter down. She runs to Shrek in the parlor. You fork over the loot. He hands you the dope.

“Dope,” You say, stuffing the eighth in your pocket. “Peace out, hombre. I’m Audi 5000.”

“No wait a minute,” He stops you, grabbing your arm the second you’re standing.

“Stick around. Smoke a bone.”

“In front of the kids?”

“On the porch, dumb ass.”

“No. I think I’ll go.

“We’re going to the park as soon as Shrek’s over. It’ll be fun.”

“Who’s we?” You step away, inching toward the door, but his grip only tightens around your arm and you notice that he’s still holding the knife. “Oh no, I’m not going anywhere but home to bed. I still haven’t slept. Since the last time I saw you I’ve been sucker punched, chased by a ghost, and found out there are school girls giving lap dances for cocaine--”

“Oh, for reals, where?”

“I burped smoke in the face of a girl so gorgeous that I turn into an even bigger asshole in front of every time she breathes, and I’m being hunted by some sort of invisible sniper bird with an endless supply of ammo. All I want is to go home, smoke a blunt of this kryptonite, and go to bed.” ‘Who gets hooked on pot?’ You wonder, as you realize that you don’t want to go to bed sober.

He shakes you by the arm, aiming his knife at the cross eyed five-year-old sucking on four of his fingers and gawking at Shrek. “You see that one. Something aint right about that one. He’s fucked up in the head or something. He won’t stop eating his boogers. He’s hooked. He’s like a…boogerholic.”

“Mud is dirty,” says the cross eyed boogerholic, sucking on a hand full of fingers, watching the abused Donkey sloshing in a puddle of mud.

“They’ve been listening to this Muppets album all day—Kermit singing The Rainbow Collection or some shit. Fuck that frog. He gets inside your head.” Mark’s face grows grim, “and stays there,” he whispers.

“And you see this?” He asks, referring to the bloody gauze. “I’m suffering here, my man.” “And this pain,” He says, referring again to the gauze, “Is nothing compared to pain I’m suffering up in here!” He rests the tip of the knife against his temple and tightens his jaw. “So you have to do me this solid and come with me. Please. I promised them I’d take them to the park after Shrek and the clock is ticking. I’m afraid that if we don’t evacuate soon, Booger Face over there is going to give us all cooties.”

“Fine.” And he lets go of your arm. “Can I at least have some ice cream?”

 

A Reason for Being Part 2

 Mark back’s up onto the curb. The kids crammed in the back of Mark’s Van cover their ears at the sound of metal scraping against concrete.  One little boy without a car seat lifts his toes and screams like a grown woman. Mark accelerates. The tire falls from the curb. The children are air born—sent hovering; sent shrieking. The little boy’s screaming is silenced by the top of his head slamming against roof of the van.

 “Oh shit,” You and Mark yell, spinning in your seats. You wait breathlessly for the little boy without a car seat to wake up. He does, thank god, looking around the van. The first words to leave his lips are: “You said the S word.” He rubs his head, dusting off bits of plastic, squinting as though he has no recollection of cracking the dome light with the top of his skull.  The children collectively gasp. The sassy girl with her hands on her hips says, “Bleep,” causing a ripple effect of “Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!” to echo around the van.

Kermit the frog is singing, “The lovers, the dreamers, and me.” Mark pounds the stereo 3 times—off and on and off. “Fuck…that…frog!”

This is your second trip to the park. You forgot three of the kids the first time. You forgot his daughter on the counter in the kitchen where she couldn’t get down. You forgot the booger eater--the reason you’re here in the first place. Mark was worried he’d cause a plague. You suspect Mark left him on purpose.

The booger eater sneezes. Mark orders an immediate evacuation. “Everybody out! Threat level orange!”

Mark hops out and is splashed by sprinklers jetting from the freshly scarred curb. He growls, “You son of a bitch! My fucking vest!”

The children chirp, “Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!”

Mark peals the gauze from his forehead and tosses it in the grass. He was squirming in his seat throughout the entire ride over and picking at it. He’s wearing pleaded khakis, a pink oxford shirt, and a purple sweater vest. “I’m trying to look like a father,” he’d explained, flipping up his pink color. “I’m incognito.”  

“You look like Fonzworth Bently.”

 “Yeah? Well your fly is been down this whole time. I bet it’s been down all day.”

“Is that the best you got Kanye? George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

He starts to speak.

“Yo, Mark,” You interrupt.

“What?”

“I’m really happy for ya. I’mma let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!”

“Yeah?”

“Of all time!”

“Yeah? That’s why that girl didn’t want to talk to you. Your one-inch prick was hanging out of your drawers and she was all, ‘No thank you. You really think anyone wants to date a cross dresser? Miss America.”

Ouch. At this moment you could care less, you lie to yourself, even though you think it’s rude that no one told you you’re fly was down, probably, out of politeness. You were drifting off against the window, too tired to zip up, before Mark backed up the van onto the curb.

“How long do we have to be here,” whines the sassy girl.

“This is scary,” says Damien, the Albino with demon eyes.

The park is deserted. The stars are out, you haven’t slept and you’re going to miss Lost. At least the lamps are still burning white, humming along with the buzzing crickets.

“Yeah, how much longer Mark?” You ask.

“Until they’re tired enough to pass out,” he says.

"Why don't you go back up onto the curb few more times then?"

Mark pretends not to hear you, fanning his vest. “My fucking vest.”  He looks up and discovers an empty field of flat land stretching out before him-nothing but grass and soccer goals. “Where are the swings? Where's the fucking slide!”

“I like chucky cheese better than this,” gripes the cross-eyed booger eater, sucking on his fingers, kicking at the dirt. 

Three kids are squatting in a circle. The Albino is slapping at roaches with his flip flops. He pins one under his slipper. When he lifts his rubber sole from the gravel, he finds nothings. “It vanished!”  You’re somewhat impressed. That’s a big word for a four-year-old.

Mark picks up his daughter, who comes running to him. “Tough,” He says to the booger eater. Mark turns and a solution to the missing jungle gym presents itself. “Ok everybody,” he announces, “We’re going to play basket ball.”

The kids run to the courts, some of them twirling as they race, others doing cartwheels. The booger eater is in the lead, relentlessly twisting a finger into each nostril. Mark dribbles a basket ball and carries his daughter behind them. ‘Who gets addicted to pot?’ You wonder.

You slam the van door shut. The driver’s seat is still warm. You search your pockets twice until you find your weed. You roll a blunt. You blaze.

You topple out of the van and smoke bellows after you. You lift yourself off of the gravel, burping smoke. “That…can’t…be healthy.”  The white lamps scorch your heavy eyes. You close them and sway with the chilly night breeze. The buzzing of the crickets and the humming of the lamps tickles your face. Mark shouts from the courts, “Get the fuck over here!”

There’s an old man hobble, hobble, hobbling past with the help of a cane. He’s scooting in a pair of house slippers and high waters. He’s wearing a fisherman’s hat that casts a sharp shadow over his withered face. ‘What’s he doing out, at this hour, all by himself,’ you wonder. “Hey…what the hell do you think you’re doing...around here…old man?” You ask out loud to yourself and he must have heard you because he flips you off.

‘Who wants to get old?’ You wonder. Who really wants to live till their 90 when all you end up as is an old bean bag that can barely hobble? When you imagine an old man, the picture is always of him passed out on a recliner in front of the television where nothing but static is playing because he doesn’t know how to work the remote. Old people are best known for sleeping, which is exactly where he’s undoubtedly headed—home to bed where you wish you were.

You think old and the second thing that comes to mind is complaining and thirdly sleeping again, or a man so worn that he has no choice but to lay around like a 120 pound sack of beans and rest, exhausted after 90 years of a living—eating boogers, earning a degree, marriage, kids, and a pension. Complaining after having seen it all because he doesn’t like where the world is headed and no longer has the energy to do anything about it or even take the time to understand the remote.  

‘Not I,’ you decide. You decide you’ll live for now and you suppose that’s the problem. Because you can foresee the future--you’ll become so busy living, searching for your reason for being and the people that make life worth living, that you’ll forget about time and before you know it, you’re a wrinkly, aching, bean bag chair with little time left. And that’s the cost of living, you suppose, of being. Or at least trying to live. If only you could finally start living busy, we wish, watching the old man hobble off to bed. If only you weren’t addicted on pot. If only you could get some sleep.

On the court Mark shoots, still holding his daughter. A cigarette is dangling from his lips. Swish! Three of the children chase after the ball as it bounces past you. The kid without a car seat says, “’Escuse me!” The girl in the Pink Crocks follows, “Scuse me!”

“Where have you been?” Mark asks, blowing smoke in your face.

“You said…” What did he say? “You said it was cool to smoke...bones?”

“I meant at the house. Not now. Think I don’t want to get high? I’m losing my mind. At least booger face is done snacking. Threat neutralized. I told them 15 more minutes.”

“Why didn’t you say five? You never tell them how much time is left until it’s down to five! And then you lie after two minutes.”

“Oh shit,” Mark yells, putting down his daughter, flicking the cigarette.

Behind you, in the parking lot, the three are stomping the sprinklers, having forgotten all about the ball. The boy without the car seat is cursing “You son of a bitch!” Another child answers, “Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!” A toad croaks, hopping away from the sprinklers. “Fuck that fwog!” the girl screams, leaping off of the curb and flattening the frog under her pink Crocs. The others fall back, “Eeeeeew!”

 Mark makes a break for them.

The sassy girl rushes toward you. “Uncle,” she calls out to you, urgently.

Uncle? Who the hell’s uncle?

“Dillon tried to eat my boogers.”

Dillon’s tears are rolling down his cheeks, as he drags his feet in your direction. He’s hyperventilating “Sh…sh…she…a…a…ate my candy baaaaar.”

“I didn’t eat all of it.”

“She ate,” He hyperventilates, raising all ten chocolate coated fingers, “This much of it.”

“What do you expect me to do about it?”

Dillon tilts his head as far back as he can, taking a deep breath, a green bubble inflates from his right nostril and pops as he emits a frustrated cry, “Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

“You!” You turn to the sassy girl. “This is all your fault,” You’ve decided. “Ya don’t eat other people’s candy!”

“Why not?” she asks, with her hands on her hips.

“Because you just don’t. It’s not right!”

“Says who?”

“Says me! How would you like it if I ate your candy bar?”

She twirls in her yellow sun dress, “I don’t care.”

You try to reason with her. “At least say you’re sorry.”

“No.” She folds her arms. “I won’t.”

All the while the booger eater is crying out, “Blaaaaaaaa!” You take a knee. There has to be some resolution to this predicament. But what do you say after life has become so complicated that someone eating 10 fingers worth of your candy is no longer worth throwing a tantrum over? You grab him by the shoulders and shake him. “You’ll live!”

The sassy girl sniffles and giggles. The booger eater balls up with fist and scowls at you cross eyed. Crisis averted.

Over the booger eaters shoulder Mark’s daughter is warning a huddle of children squatting at the three-point line, “You’d better not.”

“Or what?” The Albino asks.

Mark’s daughter pulls a knife from her Oshkosh Bgosh. The same knife Mark was waving in the kitchen. The same knife Mark forgot on the counter. “Or all kidnap all of you!” She threatens.

“No!” You yank the knife away. She starts to cry. The albino notices a roach and lifts his slipper to swat it. “No!” You scold, grabbing his wrist. The mysteriously “vanished” roach crawls out from under his sleeve, flutters onto your Ed Hardy belt buckle and disappears into your open zipper. With one hand down your pants and the other wielding the knife, you scream at the children, “Nobody move!”

..........

The roach has vanished again. The children are frozen in fear, clinging to each other and cringing. You're already feeling guilty. You lower your voice.“Ok…now that I’ve got all of your attentions. You’re all going to line up, you’re going to follow me to Uncle Mark’s van, and no one is going raise their voices, or say anything, or whisper a word to anyone. Got it?”....

It’s strange how the body sometimes reacts in tense situations—against itself. You see the cane coming at you and know to duck. But you don’t. Instead you close your eyes. “Pinnnnnnng!” The aluminum chimes against your burning ear, causing it to ring.

The roach scurries. You see the cane. Against you better judgment, you shut your eyes.

“Ping..!” You taste blood and fall onto your back.

“Prepare to meet your maker, you junky kidnapping pervert!”

You shield your head, the aluminum pinging against your bruising forearms. You try to convince the old man, “I’m the one who was kidnapped! I’m the one who was kidnapped!”

Mark must not have wanted to get his fatherly disguise wet because he comes running your way, bare foot, dripping in his boxer briefs and blood splattered wife beater, carrying a sopping child under each arm. “I got ‘em! Let’s get the fuck out of here!”

..........

“What the hell’s happening?” He you hear Mark ask, with your eyes closed......

Ping! Ping! Ping!

“Looks like we got a hero on our hands!" Ping! Ping! "He thinks he’s protecting the kids! He's trying to rescue them!”....

..........

You hear Mark drop both kids onto the court to. You hear them both grunt. The beating stops. You're eyes snap open and you roll away.

The kid without a car seat is rubbing his forehead, squinting as though he has no recollection of being dropped on his face. The little girl in the Crocs is groaning on her back, holding a fresh frog leg. Mark’s knees are touching. He’s tugging at his waist band, struggling to keep his wet boxers from falling. “Rescuing them from who?” He demands to know?”

..........

The old fart bag starts after Mark. You grab his cane and twist it free. You wind up for the pitch. You spit blood at his house slippers. “Back the fuck up old man or I’mma knock the teeth out of your fucking face.”

The old fart pulls out his dentures, challenging you, tipping his hat, “Bwing it on young buck. I got nuffin ta looosh.”

The sassy girl screams, “Oh shit, no teeth!” The little boy without a car seat rubs his head and screams like a grown woman. The children scatter.

The lamps shut off. Dillon cries out, “Blaaaaaaa!” The Albino with the demon eyes glows in the dark. “This is scary.” “Pang!” You hear the child without a car seat run into the basketball post. You hear the sound of an old man dropping dead like a sack of beans.

Wow. You're almost impressed. He came hobble, hobble, hobbling to the rescue and went out swinging. You can’t think a better reason for deciding to live than surviving 90 years to fend off not one but two scumbags for the sake of ten children whose lives have barely begun, during your final seconds on earth, even when you can’t even work a remote. You just hope he realized that. He claimed he had nothing to lose. Or maybe he just meant his teeth. You just hope that he felt during those last few seconds on earth, beating your ass, a sense of purpose if he had ever lacked any--the type of purpose you stumble around in your drug induced haze too stoned to even pray for because the words never come out right; the type of purpose that gives a man at any age a reason for being. ..........If someone were to say that one day you’ll come across two scum bags attempting to steal 10 fingers worth of life but you’d have to wait 90 years to do anything about it, god damn it, you would live—you would suffer colds so bad you would be willing to eat your boogers just to find some relief, you would suffer heart break, poverty, bereavement, trauma, head aches and depression, and all the pain life has to offer, and you wouldn’t complain. All right, fine, maybe you’d complain to little. Fuck that, who the hell are you kidding? You'd complain every breath along the way. You'd complain like an addict too lazy to kick an addiction. But you’d know for sure that you were living for something and not a day would go by that you didn’t do whatever it took to die in the dark, beating the shit out of some lost perverted scumbag and maybe if you'd played your cards right, you just might live to see 91. It's not the action itself that defines the good, suggested Immanuel kant. It's the initial intention behind the action. In that regard, nice try old man. But seeing as how he tried to kill you, your ear is starting to bleed, you wouldn't necessarily consider yourself a scumbag or a pervert, and you sure as hell weren't trying to kidnap anyone, you’re still sort of pissed off at the guy.

You hear the sound of dentures breaking. “He must have been awfully sleepy” Observes the Sassy girl. "I'm awfully sleepy," You sigh. Mark’s cell phones hums. “It’s my www….ex wife. She’s waiting outside my house. She says I’m a bad parent. She called me an irresponsible bastard. Says I should go to hell! We can all go home!”

Two-foot-tall shadows cheer, clapping and jumping for joy. Mark sniffles and sneezes.

 

Broken Windows Part 1

 

There’s no room for the dead body of the old man riding in your lap, on account of the ten kids asleep in the back rows of Mark’s Van and drooling all over each other. Mark suggested putting the body in the trunk at first. You argued that for reasons beyond your grasp something felt wrong about treating a dead body as though it were a mere object to be folded up and stashed away beside the spare tire and jack, no matter how “roomy” the trunk might be.

Mark said, “Suite yourself,” and now a lifeless ass bone is digging into your thigh, putting it to sleep. The dead man’s head is hanging out of the window. His fisherman’s hat was sucked onto the road. You watched it tumbling in the rear-view mirror and begged Mark to stop the van, until you lost sight of it finally and were somewhat relieved, already in a hurry to soon forget that there had ever been a hat at all. In an instant and for an instant you felt an overwhelming onset of desperation to turn back. But Mark didn’t see the point in turning back for a hat that neither of you wanted, for the sake of a dead man, on the off chance that the hat had held any true significance to him. “Because who gives a fuck about a dead man’s hat,” was Mark’s reasoning. To you, it was all that was left of him and for reasons beyond you, death made all the difference. After all, a body falls to pieces faster than a hat and if he were passed out, as apposed to dead, you would have found a way to fit him in the trunk.

 The city lights are flashing across his bronze scalp. The old man’s toothless jaw is gaping and you might have heard him catch a fly or two in the back of his throat. It’s all so very macabre and his open eyes were only making matters worse. Mark was having trouble keeping one eye on the road and the other on the old man, swearing that the dead man’s sunburned eyes were following him.

“Following you where, Mark? You’re sitting in one spot.”

“Just…” He began and handed you his sunglasses to hide the old man’s cloudy pupils.

“And close his mouth, would you?”

Mark fills you in on the plan while you try to work the dead man’s jaw shut. At Mark’s house, he’ll dump the kids on his ex-wife. As soon as she’s left, Mark’s “dead” set on smoking a joint in his kitchen, having spent the entire day sober. Once he’s freshly baked, he’ll drive to the hospital and drop the dead man off at the ER.

“There’s fuck face,” Mark’s announces, blowing a snot rocket out the window and clearing his throat, pulling up in front of his ex wife’s Sienna, where she’s waiting behind the wheel with her scornful blistering headlights glaring at Mark and Mark’s headlights are glaring right back. For now, you’ll tolerate the petty staring match of sorts taking place between ex spouses, curious as to see who the first to step out and approach the other’s vehicle will be.

Mark folds, as expected, like a bitch, rubbing his eyes and kicking his door open.

“Wake up the kids,” he orders, in no mood to argue.

You wake the Albino with demon eyes last, in no hurry to bare witness to the hellfire blazing in the depths of his corneas.

You shake them. You’ve shaken all 10 kids and apart from crying they do little else but fall back to sleep. You’re only other option is to carry them. So, you strain and lift.

You hear the lock thump and the side door of the Sienna slides open as you cross between fenders, carrying an eighty-pound child like a sheep over your shoulders.

Mark’s ex wife is scary! And it has nothing to do with her looks, really, although you do find the different shades of pink and yellow beaming from her halter top disturbing. She just has that certain quality about her that urges you to drop the kid and run screaming in the other direction. But that would be rude. So, you don’t.

“You see,” You hear Mark’s ex wife say behind you as you buckle up the girl holding the frog leg. “Now he would make a good father. You would have never carried that child.”

I told him to carry her,” Mark insists, setting himself up to fail.

And with that, you were lured into the argument.

“Didn’t I tell you to wake them up?” He asks you, as you make you’re second lap to the Van for another 80 pounds.

“Uh…” You utter hesitantly.

You unbuckle the child without a car seat and lift him by the armpits. “I’m saaaaad,” he moans in his sleep.

“You see,” Mark’s ex wife says, “You said wake them up, didn’t you? I bet you never said carry.” Mark is having trouble deciding whether or not he wants to smile and hug her for seeing right through him or scream and pull her hair. She leans out of the window, forcing Mark to take a step back. “Did he,” She asks, “Or did he not, tell you to carry those children?”

You strain and lift and lie. “He told me to carry them.”

But Mark’s ex wife is smarter than that. A chimpanzee is smarter than that.  “Now look you’ve done, Mark. You’ve gone and turned the poor boy into a liar. Corruption spreads around you Markus. I’ve always said that.”

“Yeah, I heard you the first time.”

She leans out the window, forcing Mark a step back. “You know better than to tell lies, sweet heart! Come on and tell momma the truth!”

Momma?

Your knees are about to give. You shrink closer to gravel with every aching step. Mark should be the one carrying the kids. If Mark would only shut up and help than his ex-wife would get to shutting up too. Instead he just stands there outside her door in denial awaiting your answer and some false sense of vindication to follow.

You gasp, “I lied,” crumbling to your knees.

“Thanks a lot asshole.”

On your knees, out of breath, with the sassy girl over your shoulder, you groan, “Fuck you, Mark.”

“That’s right. Momma forgives you, honey.”

You strap in the last child—Dillon, the kid with the cold, his chin glistening with saliva, blowing bubbles with his nose. You scan the back of the Sienna and all ten heads are present and accounted for. You highly doubt you’ll ever see any of them again, and like the dead man’s hat, for reasons that are beyond your grasp, you already start to miss them, even if you still haven’t learned any of their names.

Mark’s ex wife thanks you, squeezing your wrists with her icy death grip and the urge to flee causes you to flinch.

“Now who…” She wonders out loud, staring beyond the hood of the van through the shattered windshield.  She leans her head out of the car and nearly bumps heads with Mark. “Would you stop hanging all over me!” She yells at Mark.

“I’m not hanging on to anything. I’ve been standing right here.”

“That’s the problem,” she claims, “You’re still standing there.”

“And you,” She calls out to the dead man sitting shotgun in Mark’s Van. “That’s right, I see you, old man! I bet you think you look real slick in those sunglasses! You think I don’t know what you to do? Well, I’ve got news for you, keep on living this way and you’re bound to wind up dead in the streets! But it’s never too late to turn your life around!”

The old man sits unmoving, calm, cool, and collected behind his slick sun glasses. “Oh, so it’s like that, huh.” Mark’s ex wife unbuckles her seat belt, throwing the door open, shoving Mark aside. She walks around the van to where you’re standing and takes you by the wrist, dragging you with her to Mark’s Vanagon and the old man so that you can watch her scold him.

“What do you think your doing out here with this little boy and my shady ex husband?” She hollers at the dead body.

“I’m twenty one!” You finally correct her. 

Twenty one,” She repeats in the dead man’s face, “and how old are you, ninety? This little boy don’t need to be seeing none of the nonsense you and Mark are up to. This is no joke old man. Life is no joke and you should have learned that a long time ago.”

The old man doesn’t flinch; doesn’t speak; doesn’t breathe.

“What’s wrong with your friend here, Mark?”

“He’s dead and he’s not my friend.”

Mark’s ex wife looks up at Mark, confusedly, and misses a fly that escapes buzzing from the dead man’s nostril. Mark’s ex-wife shoos the fly away. “What happened, y’all have a fight or something?”

Mark points to you, “They were fighting. The geezer hit him with his cane.” Mark’s ex-wife slaps the dead man across the face. The old man’s jaw falls gaping and his glasses slide halfway down the bridge of his nose. “That’s right,” She scolds the old Man, “Shame on you.” And with that, you allow her to smother you with her mammoth chest and press her sparkling pink lips to your swollen cheek. You shiver like a wet dog as she releases you and walks back to her Sienna.

Mark sneers jealously at the prints that her lipstick has left behind. “Fix his sun glasses, would you?” Mark whines, making room for her to pass.

“I’m praying for you,” Mark’s ex wife calls out the window of her Sienna to the old man as she drives off.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” Mark grumbles, “She dropped them off with me! I didn’t ask for any of this! She didn’t even thank me! It’s like she refuses to see things from my side.” He whips out his phone and aims it at you like you care enough to try to stop him. “That’s it, I’m texting the bitch.”

“Uh…don’t do it.”

“Why shouldn’t I? If I’m such a bad father than why the fuck should be the one to take care of them? I have every right to admit that!”

“But…you might regret it.”

“You’re right,” And he puts his phone away. “Fuck that bitch.”

“Her windshield is broken,” You note, as she turns the corner, and once she’s gone Mark’s eyes close and he screams, pounding the hood of the Van four times, “Would…you… stop…staring at me like that old man!”

“How’d it break, Mark?” you ask, separating Mark from the body and fixing its sunglasses.

“Uh…”He struggles to remember, “Oh yeah, I head butted it.”

“Why would you head butt a windshield, Mark? And how could you possibly forget a thing like that?”

“I was chasing her up the road. Once she was out the door and I heard the Sienna start up, I couldn’t stand to imagine a second of my life without knowing that when the Sienna starts up, it will always come back. I yelled that at her and tried to pry the side mirror off when I finally caught up. She parked in the middle of the road and ignored me, looking right ahead. I was, all, screaming, ‘why won’t you look at me!’”

“And that’s when you head butted the windshield?”

“Something along those lines.”

“How did you expect that to fix anything?”

“It got her attention.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

“I chased her car almost a whole block. I left the house open. I was in a towel. The towel fell off. I didn’t care. And she still refused to see how much I loved her.”

“Well how can you expect anyone to see anything through a shattered windshield?” You ask, trying to shake the image of a naked Mark in the middle of the streets, screaming at his wife who won’t look at him.

“That was the day she left,” He recalls, watching the corner where the Sienna disappeared from view, as if hoping she’ll turn back. “If you look closely, you can still see the scar.”

You don’t have time for any this soap opera bullshit because if you hurry you might catch the last half hour of Lost and if you don’t break free soon you may wind up falling asleep at Mark’s kitchen table. It’s time to get this show on the road, so you offer him a solution: “It must be a bitch trying to drive around that way, not to mention having to dodge cops with a car full of kids. It might make her happy if you offered her the money to fix it.”

“Nah, you’re right. She had her chance. Fuck her.”

Whoops.

Mark’s plan was thus: Dump kids on wife, get high in kitchen, and then drop the dead man off at the hospital. The problem with Mark’s plan is that once he’s stoned it’ll be impossible to get him to leave the couch and soon enough, you’re helping Mark empty out his disgusting fridge and stuffing the old man’s body in it.

 “I swear I’m going to kill this Old Man!” Mark’s hollers, trying to fit a six pack of Bud Light and a Snickers between the dead man’s legs. “I need something stick shaped,” Mark is certain, “to hold him in place to shut the door.”

Doesn’t a body turn stiff after a few hours? What if the old man stays bent that way? How does Mark plan on explaining that to the paramedics? Is he planning on telling them that when we found him in the park, he was doing yoga and that with any luck his temperature will have dropped back to dead by the time Mark gets him to a hospital?

“So…uh…how you planning on…um… telling the paramedics…that he… was…doing yoga?”

“Oh yeah,” It occurs to Mark, putting down the bong, “I’ll call the paramedics.”

 

Broken Windows Part 2

 

As soon as Mark begins to dial for an ambulance, before he has a chance to dial the third digit, you make a break for the door. “Alright, peace out,” you yell from the yard and the fresh air whipping your hair back tastes like freedom and the world has never felt wider. 

A few blocks down the road you start feeling the beating the old man gave you before he keeled over. Your ribs ache the most. It hurts to inhale, making it impossible to take deep breaths as you limp along side the freeway. Your left earlobe is crusty with blood the color of rust like a leaky faucet. You can’t resist the impulse to tongue at the scab inside of your lower lip.

An immense moon coated yellow is out in full, lying low above the earth as though it were plummeting at an incomprehensible speed, on the verge of impact. Clouds over head, being carried by the wind, shift shapes before your very eyes at the speed of the changing world they cast grand shadows across. But there are no stars, not a single star, just a sky that knows no bounds. When you stare up into space, you imagine the ocean; when you stare out at the ocean, you imagine space. The two are both alike in their limitlessness and eternity and, for reasons beyond your grasp, it feels as though the vastness of eternity would grow to far greater depths if only you had someone by your side to share it with. But you don’t. So, fuck it.

Professor Barbie’s eyes remind you of the ocean too, in the same manner that they seem to change shades from day to day, like the shades of a reef from sunrise to sunset—from the deepest greens to the deepest blues. You try to convince yourself that that’s all merely an illusion. What other choice do you have? And as often as you hear people say, “It’s best not bury them,” some emotions, some infatuations, were born doomed to suffer the fate of binding numbness swallowing them whole.

The seats are empty on the bus you catch and the sight of them causes you to feel left out. There are no other passengers. For all you know the entire world is having a fiesta and the only people that weren’t invited were you and the bus driver. A couple step aboard and you’re relieved that you and the bus driver aren’t the two biggest losers on the face of the planet. They walk up the aisle hand in hand, so high on love that they might as well have been skipping. Or maybe they’re drunk. You’re guessing both.

The guy’s face is covered in warts the size of pearls. He smiles and nods. You smile back. There’s not a space on his face for your eyes to rest where there isn’t a wart to be caught staring at. Of all benches, they choose the seats behind you and once they’ve settled, he accuses her loud enough for a bus full of passengers to hear, “You’re a cheating slut!”

“Fuck you.” She says, kicking the back of your chair and catapulting you forward. Drunk. They’re definitely drunk.  “I hate the way you’re always generalizing woman.”

“ At least I’m honest. You don’t even know how to be honest. You’ll never be honest with anyone until you learn not to lie to yourself. You say whatever you think I want to hear and then do whatever the hell you want.”

“Because I have every right to do whatever the hell I want. If you say I’m just like every other girl than why are you sitting here with me? It doesn’t make me jealous when you talk about your ex girlfriends the way you think it does.”

He raises his voice behind clenched teeth, “I told you …” He pounds his fist inches away from your ear and shakes your bench. “…I wasn’t trying to make you jealous!” 

“What would you do if I got off at the next stop?” She asks, and you can already tell there’s no way in hell she’s going anywhere without him.

“Leave if you want to leave. I’m done.”

She kicks the back of your chair and you fall forward. “Just say it if you’re done.”

“I did.”

“If we’re done” She dares him, “Say it. I want to hear you say we’re done.”

He doesn’t.

“Now who’s full of shit?” She tugs on the cord above her window and the stop requested signs lights up. “You’re a cheating fucking whore.” He reminds her.

She changes seats, on an empty bus, and of all benches she chooses the one across the aisle from his. The two pretend to ignore each other and you hope she really does get off at the next stop. The bus hisses to a halt and she doesn’t budge. As it turns out, they’ve both been bluffing. Her shoulders shake and she hides her face, blurry in your side view. And on an empty bus, of all seats, he takes the seat next to hers. She calls him, “Wart face.” And they fall asleep in each other’s embrace.

You limp to the one-bedroom shitter that you call home. You’ve got a mountain of macaroni and cheese waiting for you in bulk. You’ve got a television with rabbit ears, that only catches two stations and one of them is in Spanish. You’ve got a mattress. You’ve got a lamp. You’ve got a fortress of boxes towering above it all, chalked full of shit you don’t even remember packing.

On your way to your fortress of solitude, you cross paths with a dog just as mangy as you, growling at its own reflection in the window of an over priced furniture store and chasing its reflection back and forth. Or maybe he’s growling at the furniture. You wouldn’t be surprised. The question is: where’s the dog’s owner? You’re glad no one is around so that when you take a knee and clap your hands, calling out “Here doggy, doggy, doggy,” no one hears you.

The dog obeys and approaches you cautiously, raising his nose in the air like a stuck-up bitch. You offer him your hand to sniff and he wrinkles his wet nose. You guess your hand smells decent because he licks it and walks back to the store window to growl at himself.

You slink away guiltily, there’s nothing you have to offer the lost dog, at the same time, hoping the dog follows you so that your conscience won’t allow you to leave him behind to starve alone in the streets. You look back to find that he’s torn between the furniture and joining you home for macaroni and cheese. You check to see that the coast is clear. You clap your hands. “Here, doggy, doggy, doggy.”

The dog following you home is stupid looking, in the way his tongue hangs out of the side his mouth. His breath is heavy, hot, and rank. His legs are a blur beneath a full body of fur the color of wheat. He pisses on and or growls at pretty much everything standing up right—pay phones, street lamps, stop signs, the homeless—until you finally reach home.

Your first order of business once inside is to drop your jeans and waddle to the mattress at the center of the room and dive face first onto it, “Liberation.” You sigh,
 “Sweet lady liberty.” The dog is panting in the corner of the room and you wonder how it is that any creature that produces that much saliva can ever get thirsty.

The dog can smell the cheesy aroma emanating from the pot on the stove and becomes so exited it jumps onto the mattress and starts to chase its tail. “No doggy!” You shout. He hops off of the mattress, loses his balance, and slides across the hardwood floor on his belly, where he lays looking up at you with his chin down and his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth.

“I’m sorry,” You begin your apology and he wags his tail. “You caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting that. I should probably have mentioned the sleeping arrangements straight away. I get the bed. The bed is mine. You’ll be sleeping on newspaper tonight.”

You wonder why you even bother to make the mattress or mop the floors. No one’s been here in months but you and now a dog. There’s a hook on your front door. Apart from the hook your white dungeon walls are bare and concrete. There’s no closet and you don’t have a chest of drawers, so you try to fit as many hangers as you can on a single hook, especially your toga and crown, or you’ll forget them before you leave for work. You wonder why you bother to fold the clothes and sort them color coordinated in stacks beside the mattress.

On the far side of the room there’s a tower of boxes where the words “No use como toalitta para limpair a un bebe ni para limpieza personal” are stenciled.  You’re guessing it’s Spanish but who the hell knows. Whenever you’re standing at the stove your eyes drift back to the words and you swear once it’s unpacked that you’re going to set the box on fire.

You set the pot down for the dog to eat out of and spread newspaper out on the floor.As soon as the lights are out and you’ve leaped face first onto the mattress the dogs stops chomping and growls at something.

“No doggy.” You scold, with your face buried in a pillow. He’s growling at the Statue of Liberty hanging on the front door. He rises to all fours and charges, thrashing his head and tearing at the toga. “No doggy!” You spring forth from the mattress and land with one foot in a pot of macaroni and cheese. You slip and your elbow lands in a bowl of water that spills onto the hard wood floor. The hook on the door snaps and the dog slides past you on his back into the tower of boxes that rains Styrofoam as it topples. “No use como toalitta!” You shout, buried in Styrofoam.

 The dog jumps on the bed and starts to chase its tail. You hop on one foot to your stacks of clothes, throwing them over your shoulders, hunting for a shirt to wipe your foot with. Not this one. Not this one. Not this one. And the door bell rings. 

You grab your jeans from off of the bed. The door bell rings. The dog lunges and catches a leg between his fangs and thrashes his head, tearing your jeans from crotch to ass. The door bell rings again. You answer the door in a pair of split pants and find Annie standing on the other side of it. The dog bolts between both of your legs and out the door, never to be seen again. 

Annie pushes past you, letting herself in, and surveys the mess. “You’re like an animal,” she says.

The look of obliviousness is missing from her face. The look she bares is of one who’s just witnessed her fate, and couldn’t stand the sight of it. She has a seat on your mattress, the worst place anyone could possibly find her.

“Welcome to my crib.” You say, “Allow me to take you on the grand tour.” You wave your arm around the room. “One bedroom.” You point to the bathroom. “Shitter.”

She crawls to the head of the mattress and slips under the covers, pulling them over her head.

 

Broken Windows Part 3

 

There’s a seventeen-year-old girl in your bed and it doesn’t get any worse then this. You wonder how anyone can stand to have their head under the covers for as long as she has, in a white dungeon like yours with a single window, especially when their crying-crying so hard that their bodies collapse and bundle as tight as a fist for as long it takes to suffer the initial wave of warm salty tears that stain their cheeks the color of coal. It’s a wool oven under the covers and she must be sweating. You can hear the saliva gurgling in the back of her throat as she moans and the mucus being sucked back into her sinuses when she stops to catch her breath.

‘What purpose do tears serve?’ you wonder. If you had to look for proof in things beyond your grasp, you might be drawn to consider tears and their purpose in flushing out the sorrow from the windows to the soul and you might then be drawn to the possibility that a soul might even exist. 

Her muscles relax. She stretches her toes and spreads out on the mattress. She comes up for air, throwing the wool blanket aside, gasping for breath, as if waking from a nightmare in which she sailed aimlessly across the ruins of a world devastated by a flood from which there was no soil in sight to plant a future.

“What’s the matter Annie?”

Her chapped lips tighten. She pulls the blanket over her head. Her body collapses at its core and her legs retract into her chest, bracing itself for another spasm of tears and whaling.

And it goes on this way for hours. She’s stopped coming up for air. You’ve stopped seeing the point in asking what’s wrong. You raise one arm up in the air, sitting at the edge of the mattress, watching the clock. If you fall asleep your arm will drop and you’ll wake yourself up. When it does and you do, you find yourself sweating with your head under the covers, face to face with Annie, who’s rubbing her bare toes up your calves and running her fingers through your hair.

“We’re like Romeo and Juliet,” She whispers, with a grin that resembles gratefulness, and you can taste the pot on her breath.

You’re feeling the beating now and in the end exhaustion always prevails. The pain starts at your temples and ends at your toes, running down your spine, and setting your muscles ablaze. 

Wait a minute. Whose like Romeo and Juliet?

“I’m moving and we’re like Romeo and Juliet,” She explains. You wonder why she chooses to whisper, alone in your dungeon, confined by white walls of solid concrete, impervious to sound. 

The covers weigh 800 pounds and you strain with what strength you can gather to free your head from the wool oven.

“Annie, I can’t breathe.”

She peals the covers backs and with the rising of its curtains, the window above your head spills moonlight onto your face, breathing new life into you. A cool bead of sweat travels between your eye brows and down the bridge of your nose where Annie catches it and wipes it away.

Where are her skinny jeans? You feel her bare thigh resting on your knee.

What happened to her pants? And as her thigh drifts further up your leg it takes all the strength you can muster to roll. You roll into her and she catches you in her arms, pressing her wet cheek to yours, and wrapping her leg around your hip.

Oh no!

You wince and groan, “hmmm,” and she sighs, whispering in your ear, “But soft, what life through yonder window s…something.”

And for a moment all of those headlines flash to mind, the inconceivable celebrity scandals, the underage victims. And you wonder why and what the fuck were they thinking? Was it these grown-ass men merely trying to finally fill the gaping wounds sustained during their lonely, lovelorn adolescence and still pining for the unattainable dream girls they never quite got over: a petty revenge fantasy for all of the rejection they received, never realizing what an embarrassing, fumbling, bumbling mess young love truly is and how if most were given the opportunity to go back and do it all again they likely wouldn't, they'd likely have waited, if only they had known better. Or perhaps their unthinkable, immoral actions were the byproduct of something far darker, the spread of the contagious disease of childhood trauma. All you know is you'd never subject Annie to the recurring nightmares that occur from growing up far too fast.

“Breaks.” You correct her, attempting a subtle escape.

“What?” She whispers, letting go of your head.

“What light through yonder window breaks?” You say again.

 “She broke his window?”

“No.”

He broke her window?”

“No. It means…” You have no idea.

“I’d be pissed.” She whispers.

“Annie, why is my pillow wet?”

“Because I was crying.”

“And you gave me the wet pillow?”

She blubbers, “Yes.”  And proof of the soul spills from her tear ducts and rolls down her cheeks. “I don’t know why my mom doesn’t just leave my dad.” And this is a topic she avoids the most, apart from school, or anything not related to drugs--her parents. “If my mom would leave my dad then I wouldn’t have to leave you and we wouldn’t have to die. They get on each other’s nerves whenever they’re in the same room. Whenever they’re in the same room they’re screaming. When I’m in the room with them they scream about me. I wish she would just leave him already.” Her eyes turn vacant, she’s reliving a moment, and there’s that look of bewilderment on her face, as if she can’t quite put all of the pieces together, “That shit is bananas.” She sings in a whisper, “B-a-n-a-n-a-s,” clapping her hands. She takes your face in her hands. “But we’ll never be that way. We’ll never get to where we can’t stand each other. We won’t want each other to change. We’ll be like Romeo and Juliet. They killed themselves in the heat of passion. I don’t care that you’re a slob. I don’t care that you wear those dorky crotchless jeans. We’ll die like Romeo and Juliet. It won’t be because we fell out of love. It will be because fate tore us apart in the heat of passion. We’ll never forget why and how we fell in love. Not enough time will go by. We’ll stay those people in our memories forever. You’ll see. We’ll remember it as the purest love there ever was.”

 It seems like a simple enough clarification to make: NO. This is not love, Annie, or at least not the love you think it is. But when you wake up to find a girl running her fingers through your hair, with what resembles a grateful smile on her face, and baring her soul to you, things become a little more complicated then that and sometimes what’s best is just to shut the fuck up and listen. The truth can wait, you decide. If only for a night, the truth can wait. You gather what strength you have left to put your arm around her and whisper for no reason in her ear, “With loves light wings did I ore perch these walls, for stony limits cannot hold love out. And what love can do, that dares love attempt. Therefore thy kinsmen are no lot to me.”

“When was the last time you bathed?”

“Yesterday, I think.”

“Gross.”

“Sorry.”

“You memorized that?”

“I wrote it to a girl once upon a time.”

“What did she say?”

“She didn’t write back.”

“Why not?”

“Because some walls weren’t meant to be over perched, Annie, and some windows were meant to stay broken.”

“Not my windows.” She argues, “I’d never forgive you if you didn’t fix them and you’d better write me a sonnet while you’re at it.”

“I hope your windows never break. That way you’ll never lose sight of what’s in front of you.”

 “I have an idea,” she says, rubbing her toes up and down your feet excitedly. “We’ll get a boat and we’ll sail so far out that nothing but water will be around.”

“Infinity.” You agree.

“Nothing but infinity.” She whispers, “And dolphins,” She adds. “And whales. And fish. And also birds. And weed.”

“Where we gonna a get a boat?”

“You’re going to buy it.”

“This is my boat.”

“Your boat smells like a dog.”

You can smell the sea water that taste like Annie tears. You can feel your skin, soaking up the rays of the sun, in contrast with your fingers skimming the surface of an ocean sparkling so bright that you’re left with little choice but to close your eyes and allow your senses to bask in the warmth that lies at the center of infinity, surrounded by eternal nothingness. When you stare out into the ocean, you imagine the sky, and when you stare up at the sky, you imagine the ocean, and you dream of infinity. “I see infinity in your eyes,” You mumble in your sleep, into Annie’s breasts.

“I know you do,” Whispers Annie, resuscitating you. But in the end, exhaustion always prevails. Your eyes sink and you drift away from Annie and farther out into the nothingness, where all that’s left is her voice, singing in a whisper, “Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone. I’ll be waiting. All there’s left to do is run. You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess. It’s a love story. Baby, just say, ‘yes.’”

 

8. Infinity

 

Wake up, late as hell. Your room is grey. Your head is killing. You must have smoked too much. Every day you mouth the same words, sitting up on your mattress, with a headache that just won’t quit: “This needs to stop.”

Annie’s long gone, she’s left a joint for you—a joint of your weed that she’s smoked half of—in the ashtray on the TV. An entire day has passed and you hate that you missed it because it might have been a day worth remembering and you could use a few more of those. You can’t remember the last day you cared to remember because they’re all the same really and they all start with the same four words. Tonight’s bound to haunt you for sure, whether you care to remember or not. You already long to forget events that have yet to occur and dread how much longer it will take for the guilt to detach itself from the memory of the last night you’re likely to see Annie. According to the text that she sent earlier this afternoon, she expects you at her house at seven. In an hour you have to break up with a seventeen-year-old that you were never dating and the thought makes you want to go back to sleep. Of course, you could always ignore her calls and texts, every so often texting back or answering just to tell her you’re busy. You could always text her: “Sorry, cant b yr Romeo.” Or send her a long sappy email from your iPhone. But she deserves better than that. You decide that there’s no use in postponing the inevitable. You light a superbly rolled half joint stained with Annie’s lipstick and one fog crippling your senses is soon replaced by another.

You dial D, who hasn’t slept in 5 days and is fiending for another Heineken. He answers, “Guess who’s going to be the next president?”

“Think you can give me a ride in an hour?”

This guy!”

“I can’t see who you’re pointing at, D. Can you give me a ride or what?”

“Me, dude, I’m going to be president.”

You don’t go up to the guy wearing the tiara and standing at the corner claiming to be the messiah and try to convince him other wise. For one thing: It’s dangerous—he’s likely to beat you to death with his magic miracle wand. For another thing: It’s a waste of time. For whatever reason, they always fall prey to their delusions. The best one can do, is to try to understand them. If one were so inclined; if one had the time to waste. Or if the insane person sitting beside you, shit faced behind the wheel, just so happens to be your brother.

“When we get to my friend’s house, you’re staying in the car, ok?”

“Why? I want to meet your girlfriend.”

“She’s not my girl friend, and because I don’t need you spreading your propaganda around her neighborhood. And whatever you do, please do not put up any of those flyers. I’m begging you D. No flyers.”

“I worked hard on my flyers,” argues the ghost of your older brother.

“Yea, but-I just think that-purple Crayon sends the wrong message.

“I thought about using brown.”

“Yeah, earth tones. Next time try brown.”

“How long are you going to take with your not girlfriend?”

“Not long, I guess.”

“Gonna hit it and quite it?”

“No.”

He jabs you in the shoulder, “Hell yeah, you are!”

If D gets anywhere near Annie, he’s liable to make moves, and D’s moves are never subtle. D’s approach is very hands on. Luckily, for one of you, D’s an alcoholic. It doesn’t matter where he is or what he’s doing. So long as there’s a beer in his hand, he’s content.

In the liquor aisle, there’s a man that looks like a cross between Bert Reynolds and Yosemite Sam. It’s definitely the mustache. He’s in the process of choosing a bottle. However, he appears to have fallen asleep. His knees are bent, his head is hanging, and he’s dangling from a bottle of Jack Daniels that he has yet to remove from top the shelf. If he ever wakes up, you wonder if they’ll allow him to purchase the bottle. Only one way to find out: “Are you alright?” You ask. And his arm feels like it’s chiseled out of rock when you poke his hulking bicep to wake him up.

“Thanks, boy.” He says, wiping the drool from his lips and his mustache is frothy with spit. The two of you stand side by side, staring at the liquor. He’s balled headed but he’s left his red mustache to grow bristly and hide his upper lip. You doubt he knows where he is, only that there’s a bottle of jack in his hands. “It’s Saturday,” He slurs. “Why aren’t you out…getting drunk and…chasing women?”

“Well, we are in the liquor aisle, sir.”

“You’re damn right we are.” He pats you on the chest. “You got a girl?” And you wonder how clean his hands are.

“Nope. How ‘bout you?”

“Yeah,” He says after a moment of reflection in which it dawns on him, as though he’d long since forgotten her. “Yeah, I do. And now my wife is threatening to divorce me.” You wonder who he’s talking to. The tone of his voice has changed, as though he’s lost in thought—pale and monotone. He looks at the bottle of Jack in his hand and there’s a moment of clarity. He remembers what’s brought him here and he reaches for another bottle of Jack. “Can you believe that?”

Upon closer inspection, he’s the cleanest drunkard you’ve ever laid eyes on. His blue tailored suite is lint proof, wrinkle free, stain resistant, and dry clean only. You’re praying he’s not about to fly an airplane. 

“Bull shit,” says D, entering the aisle, carrying a bag of Funions. “He’s got a girl. He’s gonna hit it and quite it tonight.”

“She’s not my girlfriend and I’d rather not discuss it if that’s alright by everyone.”

“That’s what I like to hear, live it up while you still can” Says the drunken infidel, ruffling your hair.

“A gentleman never kisses and tells,” D teases, punching you in the shoulder. 

“Rock and roll,” slurs the drunkard, and you swat his hand away when he tries to pat you on the ass.

“Fine, yes. I am going to hit it and quite it. Everybody happy? And I don’t ever intend on seeing her again, never, not for as long as I live. That’s how much I give a fuck about her.”

“Live it up,” says the drunkard and staggers out of the aisle.

D rolls up across the street from Annie’s house. Her folks are out of town, house hunting for Annie’s new home. You’ve got the whole house to yourselves—just you and Annie. On her lawn you’re intercepted by an eighteen-year-old wiping his nose on the cuff of his long sleeve flannel and dragging a skateboard by the tail. “So, you must be Annie’s new guy, huh?”

“Not exactly.”

“Not into commitment, huh?” He flips his purple hair and tucks a lock behind his ear. He leans on his skateboard and spins it under his palm. “Yeah, me neither. Besides Annabelle, I guess. She told you, right, about me, Cole?” He puts his board down on the bench beside you both.

“Oh yeah, Cole,” you lie, “What’s up, Cole?”

“Chillin’ like a super villain.” He tilts his head back; his eyes are red and it’s not simply because he’s stoned. “I guess,” He says, “take care of her.”  He holds out his fist for you to pound, catching a tear with the cuff of his sleeve before it has a chance to escape from the corner of his eye. 

“Sure,” You say, and pound his fist.

Violent winds are howling with such force that it takes a conscious effort to maintain your center of gravity.  He offers you a cigarette and lights it for you, shielding the flame with his palm. He places one between his pierced lips and does the same, putting his leg up on the bench to show off the tear he’s cut from crotch to ass in his jeans.

You text Annabelle from the front door and she says the back door is open. In her room, Annabelle crushes your toes and wraps her arms around your neck. She leans in to kiss you but you take a step back.

“What?” She asks, “This isn’t about Cole is it? I promise. We didn’t do anything. I just held him. I told him I was his Roslyn. You believe me, right?”

“Sure.”

“Good. He’s obsessed.”

She takes you by the hand and guides you to the window above the garage, lifting the corner of the curtain enough to see a group of degenerate boys and Cole hanging out across the street. “Look at those burn outs. I told them you wear crotchless jeans and now they’re all wearing them--first Cole and now all of them. What a bunch of dick holes.”

The boys are standing in a circle with their legs spread, flexing nuts in their Levi’s crotchless jeans. The relentless wind is whipping their shirts like flags on faithful staffs, unyielding to the combative forces of nature.

Annie shakes her head, “Crotchless jeans,” And rolls her eyes, “Such a guy thing.”

“They hang out in front of your house all day?” You ask.

“Cole thinks he’s protecting me.”

Gwen Stefani is singing, “Cause I've been acting like sour milk fell on the floor
It's your fault you didn't shut the refrigerator. Maybe that's the reason I've been acting so cold.”

Cole lifts his phone to his ear. He looks distraught; agitated; panicking.

Annie’s cell phone hums. “See. That’s him. What a psycho.” She puts her phone down on her chest of drawers where she snorts a line off of Mickey Mouse’s face stamped on a mirror she bought at Disney World. She turns up the stereo. “Come on.” She insists, “You’re dancing.”

“No way.”

She jabs you in the ribs with her fingers, “You’re dancing.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Then just stand there.” She lifts your hand above her head and spins beneath it, lip-synching, “If I could escape, and recreate a place of my own world, and I could be your favorite girl…”

Annie’s cell phone hums again. She rolls her eyes. Cole knocks at the window that overlooks her lawn. He’s miraculously shimmied up the drain pipe with one hand, while the other held fast to his phone set to speaker. Annie pushes the curtains aside and slides it open. “OMG Cole, you’re such a pervert!”

“Annabelle, your dad’s home!” He warns her, still holding the phone to his ear.

 “Oh, fuck me” you say, when you spot her father standing in the doorway.

“You’d better be talking to me, boy.” Slurs Annabelle’s father.

Annabelle’s father is a cross between Burt Reynolds and Yosemite Sam. It’s definitely the mustache.

“Daddy! You’re home early. Where’s mom?” She asks innocently, turning down the stereo.

He grabs you by the collar and pins you to the wall.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing in my house, boy? You hear to hit it and quit it?”

“He’s my boyfriend, daddy and he’s taking me away on a boat so that I never have to see you and your stupid mustache again!”

“Is that what you’re here to do?”

It was dishonesty that got you into this mess. The moment of truth has finally come. “I’m here to break up with your daughter, sir.”

“What?” you hear Annabelle ask, hidden behind her father’s monstrous physic. She tries to push him aside but he shoves her back with one hand. Skinny, platinum blond, Anna Banana, lands on her ass outside of her bedroom. A whistling gust of wind blows her door shut, locking her out.

She’s tugging at the knob. You can hear her muffled screaming, “Daddy! Not another one,” as she pounds on the door.

Another one? And you already regret throwing the punch that has yet to connect and doesn’t. The slippery bastard.

You try to duck past him, to escape out of the window.  “Kiai! Kiai!” Her father cries, kicking you twice in the dick. Your knees give. You fall onto your side and bundle.

 He slams the window shut behind him.

He’s broken two of the many unspoken codes of conduct that are shared amongst men, in less than five minutes flat--You never shove a girl and you never aim for the ball sack. You decide, then and there, that’s one sin too many. 

Annie had to have heard the glass shatter and the wooden frame splinter, perhaps even the screen ripping, as she tried every key on the ring that her parents thought was cleverly hidden. When she stepped into the room the first thing she was likely to have noticed was that the room was empty. And the second thing that she was likely to have noticed was that her window was broken.

The four degenerates already have their camera phones aimed at you. Burt Reynolds is unconscious beside you on the grass. You’re both on your backs. The wind is knocked out of you and you wish you were unconscious too.

Cole comes running to the rescue, “Holy shit, Mr. Annabelle’s father, sir!” And stands there, not knowing what to do.

“Daddy!” Five Annies shriek in terror from five windows, a story above your spinning head.

“It’s cool, Annabelle,” Cole reassures her, “He’s just knocked out.” Cole dials 911 and hits send. “Because he fell out of your window.”

“No shit,” she screams to Cole, then to you, “You broke my window, you cock sucker!”

On your hands and knees, you look up at Annabelle and finally confess, “I can’t be your Romeo, Annie.”

“Damn right.” Says her father, half conscious.

“I knew it! I knew you were gay!”

“What? No!”

“You and your crotchless jeans!”

You attempt to stand, lose your balance, and land on your knees, staring up at her window. “I’m not gay, Annie!” And because of the neighbors gathering on their lawns you feel obliged to add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay or whatever. It’s just not my cup of tea, is all.”

“Than why don’t you think I’m pretty?”

“I do think you’re pretty, Annie. I think you’re beautiful, inside and out. But let’s face it, you disserve better. Above all other reasons, the truth is that you disserve better, and holding onto you would only be holding you back, when you disserve all of the good things this world has in store for you. But I want you to know that I’m sorry, Annie, that I’ve never been sorrier, and that years from now when you look back on this, I need you to know that I’m still sorry. I’m sorry for infinity, Annie. I didn’t mean for our story to end this way.”

You hate that this will be the last clear memory you’ll have of her—of skinny platinum blond Anna banana with that bewildered look on her face that’s your fault and the tears you no longer have the privilege to wipe away. You’re relieved that if nothing else, you’ve still got a soul, and you can prove it too her, if only she would look back at you, she’d see that a part of it is dying with her and the rest will always mourn.

“Juliet,” You start to sing, “The dice was loaded from the start and I bet and you exploded into my heart. And I forget, I forget, the movie song. When you gonna realize, it was just that the time was wrong?”

She disappears from the window before you finish the line. She’s no doubt rushing down her spiral banister to her father’s aid. By the time she reaches the front door, you’re ancient history. And her life moves on without you and yours without her.

You slam the door shut and pound on the dash. “Wake the fuck up, bitch. Drive mother fucker, let’s get the fuck out of this shit hole.”

“Dude, I swear, I wasn’t eavesdropping. I just so happened to overhear your argument.” He takes a swig and starts up the car, “And I know how you feel, dude. Love hurts. Heart break’s a bitch.”

“I wasn’t in love with her, D!”

“Oh, I know you weren’t, dude” And he pats you on the shoulder. “And I believe you about the gay thing too.”

 

END

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: March 22, 2019

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