The lights of the gas station are still on and flickering about at five until five into the morning. As the freeway passing by is enveloped in a soupy fog, its concrete constitution set firm in a blanket blowing in cool off of the coast, the attendant (a man whose name must be missing a vowel (or possibly two)) is finally lulled off to sleep by the promises of an existence only perhaps more exciting than the one he is currently, well, living. As his eyes pull closed heavy bearing the weight of a night lost in the pursuit of an ideal that would stand at the back of the store mocking him, its fingers crossing back and forth in the air, gestures willed in an instant by energy that is lost and found by youth in youth and made for youth. Crossing with wisps in the in-store wind, unhinging his eyes in a manner of obtuse permanence, frothing for a desperate purpose in the morning of his excitation. The door swinging shut and open and closed spasmodically with the bluemorningtime gush increasing in the wake of sour caffeine and disillusionment.
A ringing – a loud rush – of ringing startles him awake (his eyes spreading and fluttering closed back and forth (his mouth opening and closing, back and forth, like the mouth of a dry and desolate pink and black cave (his yellow teeth as the stalagmites and stalactites, forming and hardening over the course of prodigious existence unrecorded))) and to (in)attention. Slightly annoyed, far more interested. Sighing with a hypocritical purpose and respect for some company. The bags beneath their eyes their collected haphazard and various yawning motions and the dull empty grins flushing with exorbitant ego and pitiless youth worn on their complexions implying that not only have they been up all night but that they-are-not-from-around-here.
- this neighborhood; this tonalitive victim of gerrymanderish greed. This cross and line of concrete and wire fence, and this crux and axe support underbelly of the exploitative society that fosters it. A place of long days and longer nights, of eyes that never are fully shut, of a sun that paints the pavement in a sparkle of white and silver sadly the closest to diamonds and jewels that its inhabitants will ever come. Sprawled out on the pavement, their blood flowing over diamonds the television cameras rolling, and recording nothing. Where the television is shown in color but watched in black and white. The radio is tuned to the correct station but it is up in a static. His home. His (forcibly) adopted domicile, the place that where to walk down the street with your head held high is disrespectful, where walking down certain streets at all may be considered against the rules, if there are any that actually apply. This place. Where holding your head high is most likely an explicit acknowledgement of illegal activity.
Where faith is all there is to purchase – though nothing is for sale. Sauntering on for immensity, wasting away and down in time like a clock whose fingers tick and then return to tick again in the same place, crawling forward and sweating, flipping backward. Across the freeway lies in waiting more of the same (where a quarter is a quarter, a dime a dime, as opposed to something more or most likely less). Now up the freeway, descending in four lanes and passing on leaving rusted bumpers and dead engines, where no one who knows how to fix them, much less own them. A place discussed and never seen.
The digital clock to his left with its numbers a red passion against a deep black, changing and it’s now about five into the morning. And he’s only been at work since eleven the previous (morning?) night. Having no idea exactly how long he has been awake (who really does, right?) he thinks that maybe he has been a whole day without sleep. All he knows is that it’s been so long that he can’t remember. The only thing that he does remember is the lights and how they’ve been on and how he has never had to change them. Wondering what it’s like to feel the torque exerted by the wrist during the act of changing a light bulb the exertion and the will.
They would tell him stories as a child of all the lights that do shine all day in America – that Americans are so rich that they always leave their electric light bulbs on, because they can simply just be replaced. (That above the Earth when the Sun had gone off to the other side if you were to be floating there you could see the shape of the country inherent in the computation of numerous tiny concentrated specks of golden fire (as you would just drift off and away)) He often thinks of the ease of the water and the stroke of the wind across the back of his neck and the way the small grains of salt kicked up with the water would fall on his face. And of his mother. All the promises, for these. The lights, how they never turn off, and what such a thing does to someone. How the days last and never end, always bleeding into each other seamlessly and without record and without heat though hot.
The fog lifts a bit and moves down. Like the Angel of Death passing over this house. Oh just let it die, end it fast, with no pain. How the lights would shine on the horizon and the lip of the Earth would turn. And how his mother’s dreams had brought him there to watch the lip of the Earth turn over. Then suddenly it all stopping turning and it stuck. And he stands up and tries to move it, his frail bony stained elbows flailing off in the air. But it wasn’t to be anymore. (You are the only angel that I have left) How the Angel moves on without alacrity.
The last time he dreamt was of a large, vibrant light, and it shone down and fell in separate beams on mirrors, and reflected, absorbed and recycled (there was a loud crash, almost like the noise of a great rocket as it shoots off into the distance something), and that was the dream.
As the fog lifts ever more down the highway. Now looking outside he makes a grade of their truck (as they rustle about and whisper with baby gaunt voices) – a square thing. Its green frame laden with strong cross bars and firm rotators and bumpers. A Benz truck. A rare thing (a square thing). (A symbol to him that even Mercedes Benz makes a truck (that even a king may get down on his knees and scrub)) Probably years old (more than years actually – eras old, out of fashion, bygone and forgotten) – their quirky interest in cars – that must be them. They must work on them in a garage; spend precarious time tweaking all the parts; rotating the rubber tires. What fun it must be for them the way trucks like that once rode down the streets of his father’s village, and how they brought him here, a passenger. The way their blue jeans brought him here. The way their soft drinks brought him here. The way their headlights shone through the trees and the vines and how in the nighttime the hot engines would steam and breathe and stand there in the clearings, the moonlight shining on them. How the moon would sit atop the lights as they faded away together in the dawn. How he missed the daybreak and the callings. The truck engines steaming gray and moving up; the fog moving down.
The headlights slowly moving across in the night, their eyes shining through the large and shapely leaves. Beads of sweat in singles or pairs slowly rushing down their faces and catching, clinging onto the edges of their profiles in a last response of affirmation, and how they would drop and fall to the ground, to be swallowed whole by the Earth, to be made again into what they are. Low hums in the night, rumblings, roarings, the headlights slowly moving back across in the night, their eyes shining large through the large and shapely leaves. More sweat coming.
Now, as they rummage down the aisles, rubbing their fingers in sloppy motions across their noses and sniffing, their legs kicking out in an easy strut (their arms hanging loosely and flailing about their legs in a similar (albeit more rigid) motion). His belly folded over his belt in an irony that has somehow been lost to all of them. The bags beneath his eyes less like citations of achievement and more like bruises. The bathroom light has been on all (night) this time. So he goes to turn it off. A low buzz shares the space with a light color that either bleeds into or out of the walls. Who could be sure in this light. He reaches for the switch and pauses – turn it off (end it) – notices that the mirror has been demarked with a deep black ink, in the scrawl of someone with so much to do in so little time, but who apparently had enough time to write
sleep away all the time
They wait for him at the counter, silently looking off into random directions, drumming their wiry fingers on the counter, leaning on their elbows on the counter, just merely loitering about the (his) counter. As he stares at the mirror for a minute, and then returns, walking stiffly and staring forward, only once darting a glance at them as they stand and wait. Infuriated, accusative
you come here you write on (my) bathroom mirror you sloppy lazy disrespectful brats you cause havoc in my community you leave, same story but this is a different day another two over privileged red faced freckled Americanos pale white children walking around without a care stomping on me like im just a bug
Their shoulders reaching back and their eyes growing wider darting side to side looking at each other. Scratching the back of their necks with their unclipped and unwashed fingernails. (This guy must be crazy) (I don’t know let’s just get out of here who knows what he is talking about)
alright sir this has just been a misunderstanding we’re not from around here you don’t like us it’s early and that is clear enough
Their yawns being delayed until further opportunities not to be rude to men who are obviously long off of the deep end. The whole time he is stuck in a range of motion his head hooked down and his arms swinging up and his fingers pointing off in all directions but still solely at them, his shoulders reaching up into his ears they slightly threatened by this paralysis of action
dude – my friend and I have been here a minute and we were just shopping and now you’re yelling at us why? what mirror? What community we just want to pay and leave and be on our way we’re just tired it’s too early for this shit, please calm down we didn’t do anything we’ve only been here for a minute you saw us come in (you are going to watch us leave)
Exchanging legal tender, no one among them having the faintest idea about what is (has been) – only knowing that the night is always longer than the day, and when you hallucinate, best to do it alone, or in a small group of individuals that you trust, and barely know. It’s actually best to do most things alone or with a small group of individuals that you trust, and barely know (better that you don’t know them at all). So that the only thing available to lose, is the trust.
Another ringing. He sits and stares at the door as it swings slowly shut and his eyes move up and he stares at the neon sign that reads closed above the door (from the outside, obviously, it would say opened). How this whole place is closed how all the paths were closed before any of us even came to the first fork in the road. And how we stood there twirling our fingers and lifting our legs in the mud and snow, taking every bit of inch given, though every inch was merely slackened. Slackened and thrown around our necks and tightened, like a noose though only tighter.
Now he returns to the mirror and traces with his fingers the path of the marker. The light flickers on and (completely) off with a jolt, like the sound that one of those lamps (furnaces) makes when it catches (swallows) a fly (man) and fries it. In the darkness he opens his eyes for the first time possibly in his life. Written across every possible space in the bathroom in invisible ink that glows hot pink in the darkness is the same thing
sleep away all the time
Each word and letter shining against the black like a star in the sky like the star on the front of the truck like the way all the stars would sparkle and sit on top of the world and then slip off and go away and fall into forever. And how the sun would rise and he would move up and down and the crust in the corners of his eyes would sit there and cook. The stars would return and fall again. For constant. For the silence of a solitary existence and the moments when you would stare at the stars and actually hope for to see them all start falling down upon you and upon it all.
He flushes the toilet and leaves (goes back to the counter). He sits back on his stool that stopped spinning long before it became his stool with his second chin resting plump on the spot where his shoulder and chest bisect. Slowly placing and rubbing his fingers (but not his palms) on the edge of the countertop, back and forth, in a jutting motion, as if with a care (or fixation). As he closes his eyes, hoping that finally it is his turn to know a little peace, a little bit of what it must be like when the smell of gasoline and the burn of the hot sun are fused together and melded into with the synapses. But he hears an engine outside stall first, and then burst to life. And he hears the screech of worn tires as they peel off and away at much too fast a speed with no regard for the atomic construction of rubber or asphalt or the human beings set atop them or even in front of them.
He peers over and seeing the outline of a truck at rest about to peel out of the parking lot gray smoke ascending from its rear the tops of the trees breathing a deep black smoke into the sky as he turns away and misses his mother again (his lungs perforating an immense struggle of thick smoke in a hellish circle) he rests his head onto his forearm. (His chest heaving the great jungle heaving a sigh of defeat into the dark sky) Which he has rested on the countertop (turning his head away from the window), and as he is softly swept away into the dust of a sleep well deserved but not earned, his last thought
yes, eventually you too will pay, both of you.
The high afternoon sun filtered through the windshield shining in his eye, divided into purples and then further subdivided into yellows and whites, a trace of it falling into his other eye. Burning the left side of his face, shining in his left eye through the windshield. Inside of a morning fog dense and yet still fluid, or lost. Shifting and squinting and turning and returning, the fog alive breathing onto the windows. Like a great beast too great to see its whole, it has swallowed them and keeps them hidden from salvation. (Or maybe Salvation is hidden from them) Stuck in it, the chassis sits in a slight vibration that builds with time idleness. It builds in a great arc and never are they aware for the slightest that as they sit and furrow their eyebrows and stare out into (but not a splice through) the muck they are sitting upon pure energy and fire. A throne of sorts supplemented by a great cycle of fear and regret, stolen from across and brought to their feet in gallons, in ink and digitized, purchased and stolen.
Betrayed to a sense of fawning self-immolation the delusion that their white hands are clean and that (business is business). The fog, the great beast tenebrates and shifts on down some more. Moving over the oscillating frame of the smaller beast it has swallowed in currents and rows of teeth, leaving it behind wet and soaking and steaming. Struck by the sunlight washed upon the concrete (sand) and the heat that rises when the surface is warm and off in the distance the air rhythms in vestigial wavy lines, frothing softly and pinching the back of the neck sharply.
A scar is left to cist and coat over; possibly itch like a chicken pock. The Earth is violated and their white pale thin and thick washed hands are not clean but are saturated in a black blood. Watching back they see the slums and how they lie shaped in a sun of the high morning and how steam rises off the windows horizontally. Engendered of the Angel of Death (the great camels bobbing up and down for black apples lost in wet gold (are those camels)), spindly little things lagging off and behind in the act of knowing. They see where it is they are and feel a slight tension. In their throats. They see the Great Beast and its offspring move on down and engender them there, stuck, foreigners in a foreign land (as is everybody, so we’re (not) told). They see what they have done (are doing) and don’t think much.
(They don’t think much of it yet feel it crawling and squirming in the back of their minds. You are here and you feel it we have you, we have you and you feel it)
They are here, lost. Sitting on a vibrating axel, without a map. Pulling off from the freeway they crawl like a small bug that doesn’t understand that it is small but knows it somehow but won’t face it and they don’t dare look too long or too straight or too short at anything (the difference between anything and everything is that everything is what is and only what is and anything is what is and what could ever be). Dream it up.
The Angel of Death has delivered them unto a greater maker and consequence, or forsaken them to a fate uncertain and unwinding even more uncertain off down the road at a present, or most likely simply had other places in which it was needed. In Death all things are equal (except others can be dead much longer).
Quick and oblong snaps burst out into the last night – his brother lay strung out like a mattress of bones and festering skin on which to lay his troubles. They burst like firecrackers shining for an instant and following in recession a gap of space and a gulf between each utterance of defamation. A victim and (everybody is a suspect here) one hardened bother crystallizing in his adolescence on the porch; sweating; with a cola in his hand.
Sipping and staring through the window (can’t help but wonder) as the light is broken through it and disjointed, specified. (These boys could be brothers they could have each other while I have nothing, not a thing to myself only this cola that’s all warm while my brother’s blood is dry and I am cold and the sun beating on me and washing on them) Taking a drink and setting it on the top step (the cola slowly wallops on down past his tonsils and milks for a distance heavy) he walks up over on them
you guys seen my brother around anywhere? he’s a big one about eight feet tall (he rose his hand up over his head in the air, his eyes squinting) he could rip you two in halves with a twist of his wrist and a deep breath in a second and not even notice what he did
Their eyes darting around frantically behind large sunglasses meant to (make them appear something like them) resist the assault of the glare upon their eyes (which have seen so little of anything (much less a teenage boy without a hope)). He puckers his lips and raises his chin and looks off down the street, his arms hanging down and swinging expectedly on the inside of the car fulcrumed by the window
I see you two aren’t from around here (his hands twirling around in the air) well you better look out my brother is dead so that means you could be dead too (they shot him last night down like a dog in the street all they did was choose to pull it and he was dead – bang – just like that)
They reply in unison, out of some sense of mutual solemn fear and sympathy (or more like out of a sense of apathetic determination to not get killed (nature selecting their words for them))
kid we’re (sorry about your brother) not looking for any trouble we’re just lost that is lost in that fog it just dropped us here we are trying to get back
The kid chews on an imaginary piece of gum, tracing a line with his eyes down their clothes and to their shoes, making note of what they have and what he’s (they’re) missing
you guys got any change you look like you could spare some change for a poor brotherless boy like me, with just a few bits of change I could buy a new brother even – I mean they’re all the same around here right?
They hand him a few dollar bills and drive on (the exhaust pipe backfiring in a rush) and he’s walking down the pavement as the moon hangs yellow in the sky and very few stars shine (more like hang loosely and tilt). For an instant he feels good walking tall meandering about all night with green shards of attainable attainment rolling through his fingers like a soft fur washed over (who knows how he came to possess them?). The mist stalks in the street sitting on it like a squatter if anything more than a thief. In the mist some street lamps pour through a scattered and softened light while the moon commands the scene like an eye disturbed in a permanent blinking. He walks on down the street making sure to step on every single crack in the pavement. Straight or crooked or cracked.
Like a poet he sees the lights and the mist and the black and is gifted with an idea. Demanding an ancient attitude he dances on down the street ahead of the crowning mist and turns into (then comes out of) the store a Moses with the utilities and a yearning for a space on which to record his commandments. The dull light of the store framing him haunches in a presence of enlightenment. Searching down an alleyway damped moist and its walls calling back and forth (there’s no light here, there’s no light, here).
He stands on down the alleyway and lights a cigarette. The flame mixes with the mist and rises up encountering a wall space and moving off of it onto other spaces revealing their animalistic turf speeches (other lines of ghettoized graffiti). Crushing the cigarette beneath his shoe and into the hard Earth (that is more Earth than Earth is Earth to him) the cigarette wallowing in its own ashes breathing in its own dust.
And now he shakes the can up and begins and before he is finished beginning he is finished. And in the black he continues over the wall in every direction on every surface. And he steps back, admiring what he has done, because he knows that it – and by virtue he – is good. As good and pure as anything could ever be. Smiling
(they found him off in the street by the manhole cover face up with a smile on his face the mist had barely left when they found him and moved him away from in front of my mother’s house and the sun started shining and it cooked his blood up and dried it into the tar and I sat in the sun and drank the cola I had been given and I thought that the cola was too warm and pasty but at least I have the sun all to myself because everybody had gone away from the street like they do when some boy gets wasted (the women go to cry the men go to laugh the kids go to talk) but then they were there parked right on the spot just looking and I sat there and thought (I can’t even have the sun to myself for a little moment) and now I’m standing here all alone again with a pasty cola and a dead brother and now I have no brother)
The young man was shot dead last night sometime around eleven o’clock. Though no witnesses have come forward and no suspects have been questioned the authorities are convinced that the shooting was gang related. (That dude is boxing above his weight class) A retail scan of the immediate crime scene has lead the authorities to believe that the slain young man is the perpetrator of an operation in a nearby alleyway popular for graffiti. Apparently the young man left his own message and (before or after they will never know) sprayed over the other gang related citations. According to investigators he then apparently walked down the street and after engaging in a confrontation with the assailants, was shot dead not even a hundred feet from his own porch.
Handing him a cola they walk him down the street (who are these two are they really together(?) he’s totally boxing above his class) and turn into the alleyway where tears pour down off the roof tops in gushes of brown remnants. They show him the entire wall (this is what got your brother killed) the strokes of which are not haphazard and thin but thickly taut and controlled and spread across the entire surface, a deep black grime piled on in layers and already peeling away (acid sure can burn through a surface quickly). They feel their fingers about it and smudge off little collections of ink, rubbing it between their fingers the foreign way it shines into their skin (your brother must have been crazy (they believe that he was on drugs)). They look up and watch the tears as they fall down onto their faces and slide down their cheeks and off as they become their tears and their heartstrings and their memories and they feel a bit tight in the alleyway as the tears wash down upon them but don’t wash them (it was damn near suicide what he did). And their smells mix with the damp ash and the putrid ink and climb up into their nostrils as rogue letters bleed out behind the black layer (we just wanted to make sure that you know better, don’t make the same mistake). And they know what it must’ve been like, to smell the minds of your friends and their hearts, and not want to anymore. And the tears are falling form their cheeks (we want to show you what he did).
But now the boy is already down deep into the alleyway that he has never been allowed to see and he is holding the cola down by his side. His head is held up to the wall and his lips are puckered (that’s what your brother died for – not much sense in that is there dying over thoughts and letters and strokes of the wrist). They surround him and one of them steps forward placing a coat onto the boy as the tears fall down seamlessly into him and out of him
It must’ve pissed them off real good considering that they didn’t even bother to block it out they probably just ran out there and down the street and shot him and ran off down the street some more (howling)
And now he’s standing there where his mother always told him never to and his brother was always told never to and where his father probably stood still for the only couple of moments in his entire lifetime just to scribble in paint a monotonous jibe of sacrosanct neanderthalish pabulum (subconsciously) designed specifically to make sure that he would never stand there in that spot and do the same. But now he’s there standing as tall as he can surrounded already by officers (oh how it begins so young) of the law their black uniforms engendered of the Gray Angel to come and remove the mess it has made
soon we’re going to start removing all this useless stuff and paint it over new so that hopefully this will stop (though they all know that it won’t) you should always remember kid not to disrespect the dead, because if you disrespect the dead you’re likely to end up disrespected yourself, understand
But he listens to them as they shower down coming down all around him and the way all those lies and memories are consuming him and becoming him to be renewed in their spirit and to beckon them into a new age, a better age, a place where for the first time they may have hope of freedom and exclamation and he reads it
Turn your back on me
And see what happens,
When I turn my back on
In thick staunch confidant gross black splotches and with a free hand, breathed upon by a minute and perfect layer of ash, engendered of the ash. And taking a deep breath the tears are swallowed and generated, to be reborn again. The officer places a hand on the boy’s (not on the) shoulder (but on the coat on the shoulder)
you see son, every big talker that ever cared to waste his time with this stuff is lost now, lost and never coming back
And he swallows nothing. Fidgeting a little, maybe shivering, he turns his head away and his brow furrows and the tears are ducked down his nose and he raises the cola to his mouth and drinks. Turning back to the message and thinking
yea they sure are lost
Now he turns off out of the alleyway and walks down the street to sit on his front porch and drink a warming cola as the sun emerges and finally pushes off the heavy fog, a truck with two white kids in it rumbling on the place where last night his older brother was assassinated for being literate. Talking to them a bit, receiving some cash from them for his troubles, they drive off down the street and turn off as their exhaust pipe backfires down and back off into time.