Wednesday, April 27, 2011

from "The Breakneck Speed Of Time Present"

It seems the girl was immersed in the inchoate feathers of a nap’s fugue-like temper when the yawing of the car’s wind-beaten ways woke her, and she culled the just-out-the-window landscape for recognizable features, trying not to whinge or work herself up into a swivet of back-to-reality plunging that she just knew would leave her with skin pebblings, red jumpy eyes, and a chronic wince. Crust-lidded, groggy, diverted to the dullness of what was playing ordinary with the dream melt still dripping into her rattle-to-consciousness, the girl, whose forehead had been mashed against the window for the last 10-15 mins leaving her bangs sweat-stuck crooked and misaligned, was now in the hand-dye-slow process of glossing over and then looting the outside world (the one outside the window’s glass) for clues as to her current circumstances in this place she happened to be now residing in (a place for which she was for now unsure of why she’d come to be in or obviously where that place was in the now extant realms of a reality, hers or an objective one, that was for some reason eluding all attempted nabs at.)

The sky curdled with messy throngs of soap-sud clouds. They passed small towns where the buildings’ bricks’ soot glistened and got scrubbed gold by escaped flecks of custard sun, and there was traffic here and there huddled, massed, honking and weaving too, and the girl washed her eyes in this newfound lightness, this calm trespass into the fields of now. Everything felt suffused with emptiness, and she too was part of this emptiness, and she felt alive, simple, and brushed with a wonderful and joy-encased emptiness.

“You sleepin’ there, shit-for-brains?”


The car hit a rather obnoxious pothole and the two people inside of the car, a male and female human, had their respective asses lifted for a sec and then plopped back down where they’d been. The girl’s elbow conked the window roller. A sharp twinge of pain. She held her breath.


Mosquitoes were unavoidably part of the air you had to keep breathing all the time you had to breathe because well now you just had to suck in air even if you were juggling cans of beans or whatever it was just something you had to do and those damn mosquitoes wouldn’t leave you alone in the dark it seemed worse and that buzzing always by your ear almost mechanical or like a windup toy and if you could slap one away or smash it crushed blood-splatted in your palm like a cranberry stain then that would be something but there were always more and what could you do anyway just being you and having only this one body and being this one person who couldn’t fight against all of them even in their all-at-once-but-one-at-a-time way of fighting?

Eat more limes.

A distraction. There is nothing boring. An escape is what is always there, something that’s followed so habitually that it is never seen. Keep an eye out, peel it if you can, for TV, for sirens, for chatter in the airwaves, market reports, hangings, the last of the typewriter repairmen. Youth kicks its own ass for missing out on being young only once, and you’ve got a hairline to worry about, the weather’s charm, and then socks to put on and pants to try to wear. Ablating thoughts that go before they arrive. Let’s work with an inflated excess of glyphic pre-tax kindness here while we can.

The man was rubbing her knee, just below the frazzled threads of scissor-cut jean shorts, and the girl didn’t quite know what the feeling was that she should be having so she made one up, and it seemed to suit. It was a vacant place she could occupy without actually having to bother to be anywhere.

There was always more emptiness available to her, and with the window rolled down just a tad she could let her brain rumble and starve full with repetition’s endless burrs. A rocking. Not a gentle soothing, but still a soothe of a sort nonetheless, though its grainy skein was replete with nicknames and horticultural terms and the names of dead first ladies. Her mind could glean from innumerable gold pots, flit and find furrows any old place therein. Comic books, the Harvard Classics, The Anatomy Of Melancholy, F.W. Murnau movies, dental records of rock stars, transcripts of famous trials, recipes that call for mandarin oranges, flow-charts for assembling various Rube Goldberg-type contraptions, the seasons of lawns, classic one-liners from sitcoms and standups, pre-election polls during Reconstruction, lives lost at various WWI battles, uses for various and diverse chemical substances such as lignon liquor and cashew-nutshell oil. She knows a few things about some stuff.

Her knee was no longer part of the picture. She was setting out for other disconnected pastures, and there was something there, in all that emptiness, that kept her the best company she’d ever get to know. Being disentangled from the her that others knew, or could touch, was how she came to know it. Or, also, not being smeared with the stuff of others. It was thinking herself away, and the fantasy was better than the truth. The girl internalized this, and it became a large part of who she was as a person, inflicted in this way with a fractured sense of what it was to be, well, the girl in this story, which was her story, of course, and one she couldn’t wish her way out of, but the trying in that was something she often failed at for the most part so it was hunky-dory for her way of thinking, though it unfortunately couldn’t be applied to her flossing habits.

A scalped swipe was the wind’s scream. The girl applied for a passport out, decided it was unnecessary, and got to know the gravel road very personally for a few scary seconds, scratching and tumbling her way away from the desperately unlocked and then pushed open door of the place where she’d formerly been biding her time. It was quick but lasted forever. The lights bashed and leaked and went in and out of fuzzy blurrings that were pink-orange-yellow spins like tracers but more opaque and wavering, that were there and then not there all at once and then back in almost circles that were never done completing but always churning and spilling the split of their difference, carouseling as she barreled over, bit the pavement and spit blood without knowing it, praying for the condition of her teeth as with flayed arms and a rock-battered head she limply somersaulted like a rag doll. One of her shoes had gone AWOL. Stunned, dazed, epidermis completely annihilated, eyes clenched shut in this new sudden all-over pain. There was nothing fun about any of it. A sharp gust of desert wind scratched across her limbs. She rolled on her side and let go a trickling laugh.

When she was in her pre-teens she’d found, for reasons never specified or explained properly, a Gloria Estefan cassette tape in her x-mas stocking. She had know idea who Gloria Estefan was or what this particular music was supposed to be, except that it was something that seemed tinged with adulthood for some reason, a possibly off-limits things, but not quite. She’d played the tape constantly, sometimes at a very high volume, as she lay in her bed and listened to the strange sounds. She played the tape over and over, so much so that she knew ever drum fill and precisely how long the gaps between songs were. Dancing to it was beyond her, but she grew to love the music blasting from her stereo’s speakers. It did somehow happen though that after much over-listening to this same cassette she came to develop a bit of a neurosis, which then turned into a fevered anxiety attack, and the girl was, on one cold afternoon, found in her bed crying, cover-pulled-over-head frantic, by her older sister who immediately attempted to yank said covers off of her younger sib, but was met with much resistance. The older sister, who was wise beyond her years in matters of pop culture as she was an avid reader of Teen Beat and 16 among other less-well known fad fan mags of the 1980s, continued tugging away at the covers as she was trying to attain what the matter was with this obviously delirious child. The older sister eventually proved victorious in this effort, and revealed the tear-laced face of a scared and shaky little girl. The girl kept muttering something about, “it’s going to get me,” which soon turned into a fearful scream of, “Stop! It’s going to get me!” The older sister inquired as to what the younger girl believed was going to get her, to which the girl exclaimed, “The Rhythm! The Rhythm’s going to get me!” The older sister began a laughing fit which didn’t stop until she’d left the room. From then on the girl had always imagined this Rhythm as being an abominable snowman-type creature with very wooly hair all over it and sharp saber-toothed cat teeth and with claws like scythes slicing through anything in its path. She was convinced, someday, that The Rhythm was going to get her.

The cartoon on TV was about a bull being shoved out of an open window by a team of mice wearing orange construction vests and white hardhats. The mice were struggling. A lot of heavy breathing and exaggerated grunts. The bull was calm. It had the stem of a white rose in its mouth and appeared to be smiling. The girl supposed she should be giggling, but she wasn’t. Instead she was on the verge of tears (her mother would say, “Aren’t you always?”)

A fly wasn’t a thing to be afraid of. So she ran. She ran away. There were lights out there somewhere brighter than any she’d ever known. She just knew it. Swat. Shoo. Get away. Be gone. Like things. Love others. Try not to hate yourself. A woman might walk on the moon. Get out.

The carpet was coarse, its thick curls the color of cooked ground beef, and stained more than it wasn’t in various colors and shades and shapes of dropped substances. The girl sat barefoot on it in Indian position, picking at her toenails, riveted to the TV, pretzeling her legs a bit, eye bugged, head malted with snack food. The ceiling was cottage cheese. Behind her lay a glum fat man snoring on the couch. A yeasty stale beer stench hung about him like that dusty cloud that followed Pig-Pen around. This is how the girl imagined it. A dust storm that stunk. His snores were a volcano sputtering up its guts, a dinosaur choking on a lively hamster. The girl wished and wished, but the man would not just go away like she wished he would.

“Us worriers got to keep away from things that’ll make us worry. If something's bound to make me worry, well, I just gotta forget it exists, if I can.”

A slice of baked and slim light snuck through the slits in the billboard, skittering and wrapping around the bends and breaks in some abandoned furniture set down by the roadside. The girl was seeing everything as smushed. The sofa and armchair tandem was puffed and distorted in a trash-compactor way, as if they were built for a family of skinny midgets. Something was off with her eyes. The taste of blood would not leave her tongue alone. She spit into the dirt and it was a deep brandy-colored slug. Things spun and her head felt lighter than those balloons they let go outside of Raferty’s General on the first day of summer. An itch was scampering around her legs, hopping from one place to the next without warning. The more she thought about scratching it the worse it got, and every time she scratched at it to try to catch it mid-leap it would just leap away anyway and go on itching and itching. She gave up and lay down in the dirt.

A defending principle as to the cause and rebar of the situation was that he was too far away from it to be apart of anything and therefore the logic of it was you see that whatever he did it was his own business and what’s that to you thanks a lot yep.


Having the urge to urinate was not something he could ever pinpoint. It would just come on with the thought of it, which might have had more than a lot to do with the actual urge itself, the thought that is, than any real physical urge. But it was there either way, the urge, and he had to deal with it. Once it arrived nothing would make it leave. He couldn’t think it away the same way it had come. That was useless. There was nothing to do except piss it away, so to speak, once it came on. Sometimes he’d try to think about Bill Mazeroski instead. But it didn’t help. Nothing would distract his attention from the urge. It was all-consuming. It took over his attention and drained it of all else but thoughts of having to pee.

He knew where every public bathroom was in the city, any place he could sneak into for a quick piss. Department stores, hotels, libraries, Starbucks (if they were crowded and you were slick about it), Office Depot, Safeway, The Women’s Building (even if you were a man), and many other lesser known spots for the emptying of one’s bladder. It was a good safety net for him to have. It made him feel more assured out there in the world, a place he was usually at least somewhat uncomfortable in. Every time he went into a new place he always had to make sure he found out right away where the bathroom was. He always had an eye out for who had gone in there and if there were a line. It was a compulsion. If the line for the john grew too long sometimes he’d join it even though he didn’t even have to go yet, just in case the urge came on and he was caught five or six people back, and who knew how long those people were going to take in there, especially if it was a solo-john with a lock. Some guy gets in there and starts taking a dump, forget about it; he was screwed. Standing there doing the potty dance, tapping his toes, hopping from one foot to the next, his face gone squeamish and strained. It wasn’t a thing he wanted to have to endure. It was better to be prepared.

“It’s hard. You’ve got to have bathroom etiquette, but also there’s bathroom rapport to think of too.” He was talking to a group of humans afflicted with Teaspoon Bladder Syndrome. “You’ve got to watch yourself. This goes for guys the most, I think. We’ve got to deal with the conundrum of the urinal situation. You’re standing there, like you’re at an ATM or something, and this other guy, who is most likely a complete stranger to you, is standing like less than an arm’s length from you, and you’ve both got your respective privates out there, zippers down, draining the main vein, so to speak, and the sound of the piss waterfalling down the back of the urinal, the stream’s steady babble and hiss. It’s close quarters. Elbow to elbow almost. But nobody’s saying shit. You’re both just supposed to stand there and take care of business, zip up, and we’d all like to hope, make your zipped-up way to the sink to wash your hands. No looking. Of course. Now, that’s obvious. Official business only. No lollygagging. No peeking. Well, let me tell you, except once I wandered into a gay bar because the urge just came on and I hadn’t checked the proper signage to see what the hell kind of a place I was heading into, as you know, that’s the last thing you’re thinking at a time like that, when you just gotta go.” A collective yawn of understanding went through the group, nodding in empathy with the speaker. “Yeah. We’ve all been there. So, I find myself trying to negotiate a trough situation with a few other burly dudes hanging out there already.” A collective groan from the audience. “Yeah. And I’m worried, as I’m pretty shy about these things in general, but there’s no way out. I’ve gotta go bad, and it’s coming one way or another. So, I squeeze in there between these two hairy specimens, who, I might add, are both wearing some sort of leather undergarments that I am like way not familiar with at all, and their jeans are pulled down past butt level too, something I rarely witness in male bathroom situations. Normally it’s just a downed zipper or a front pull, not the whole damn shebang like they’ve half-dropped trou or something. Anyway, I settle in as best as I can between these two meaty bastards, and they’ve both got quite a strong stream going, plashing at the bottom of the tub in an almost fire-hose type way, very yellow and bright too. Think they both took their B vitamins every day. And I’m unzipping, feeling totally unnatural and way far from my personal comfort zone, but it’s too late, and I’m trying to just test out the waters, so to speak, and am kind of letting it trickle a little at first. I’m nervous. It’s hard for me to focus on my own doings. These two dudes are actually like rubbing shoulders with me. It was insane. So, eventually, I get myself to start into the job, and get a decent stream going. Nothing like the two bears, but pretty okay for me. I’ve never had that strong of a stream. Then I look up for some reason. Just to have somewhere to look I guess. To distract myself from the current circumstances of my life, and what do I see but this fucking giant mirror that’s like totally angled to reflect the happenings down below, namely these two burly leather daddies and me whizzing into this bathtub-like trough. And they’re like both smiling at me in the mirror with their things hanging out there like deflated 260 balloons. I didn’t know what to do. It was horrifying. Should I smile back? What was the etiquette here? Would waving at them with my free hand be a faux pas? I couldn’t handle it. I looked away. I looked straight down. I pissed as fast as I could. Nothing much happened. They both remained there after I’d left, not laughing or anything, just standing there mumbling about something. It’s kind of a blur. I came out shell-shocked and disheveled. But, you see? This is part of it. I mean, this etiquette’s one thing. But what about the rapport? What if I’m up at a urinal and my buddy walks in and starts unzipping right next to me? Do we nod? Say hello? Have a little chat while averting our eyes? It depends I guess. Every situation is different. You’ve got bathroom rapport with some people while with others it’s no go.” The Teaspoon Bladder Afflicted murmured and hushed. A small man in a maroon Clippers baseball cap passed a packet of Eclipse Winterfrost gum to a Golden-Girls aged woman with Elizabeth-Taylor sunglasses on. Somebody sneezed three times in rapid succession. “I am an only child. This has nothing to do with anything except that I figured I might as well go on ahead and mention it just in case it deserves any type of mid-level scrutiny as to my whereabouts in the scale of rapport I’m getting more than a little ready to detail for you folks here. As they say, in the interest of full disclosure. They say things like this I’m told.” An obese lady farted audibly. It was vaguely reminiscent of the sound the Wheel Of Fortune wheel makes when it’s spun by a contestant. Nobody seemed to care or even notice. “So, well, I guess there are some people you can talk to in these situations. Chit chat. Shoot the breeze. And others you’ve got to just kind of do that hi/nod thing and stare straight ahead and pretend that both of you are not really there. But this is merely urinal stuff, and in the Men’s room. Don’t rightly know how you women folk do under these types of conditions. How could I? But stalls? That’s a ballgame played in a whole different arena. It’s like going from grass and outdoors to AstroTurf and a dome. Tough transition for some. But really, it’s a lot more of a dichotomy than even that if you squat right down and ponder it. That’s for sure. The stink is one thing, well, and the sound too. All that plopping and grunting going on in there, well, it’ll get uncomfortable, for certain if the stalls are connected by a dividing wall, a partition that doesn’t go far enough down, so you can see your compatriots pants and underwear down around his shoes right there next to yours. Imagine a conversation with one of your besties while straining to squeeze out a stubborn turd, and then think of the wafting essence of human feces emanating from you both as you sit there and have a little tête-à-tête around The SF Giants post mortem or whatever it is you find to rap about from your respective Cubicles Of Crap. Sometimes you can gumflap about stuff and not care about whatever the hell else is going on. Maybe there are some, and I’ve found this to be true for me with a few special fellows, that we both can’t stop laughing, and it goes on for quite a while like this, two lunatics cracking up while they crap. Shit. I feel sorry for the others in the place who are just trying to go about their business and all, but it can’t be helped, well, when you find yourself a bit too comfortable with somebody in one of these…situations. Maybe one of you females would like to get up here and relate the womanly side of these things?” All the female humans in the room recoiled and started wishing that nobody were looking at them or expecting anything from them, but at the same time did feel that all the attention was suddenly focused on their own very unique person and wanted to run, all at once, to the bathroom to “freshen up” a bit. Instead they all sat there trying to go very unnoticed and to not make even the tiniest gesture that could possibly be seen as a sign that this person who they were wanted to get up on stage and launch into an oration about chatting on the pot. The man who had previously been speaking stepped down from the stage awkwardly and sat back down in the audience.