Something Like a Phenomenon: 1.1

Posted in Something Like a Phenomenon with tags , , on May 3, 2016 by Israfel Sivad

It’s the first day of spring, and I’m still trying to quit smoking… since the first day of last spring. I don’t know why I can’t give this up, but I know why I started. It had something to do with Axl Rose.

I’m sitting on my girlfriend’s couch, drinking a cup of coffee from out a French press. She’s played by Beyoncé in the movie version of my life. I’m certain of this because a coworker recently showed me a picture of the pop star on Instagram the other day. Muted morning light shines through multi-colored drapes. A shadow of the windowsill’s lone plant is cast on hardwood flooring. Cora’s younger than me by 12 years. But neither of us minds. We already discussed that. She just started letting me call her my girlfriend last Saturday.

It’s her French press with the red top brewed this coffee. She brought it to me in a wide-lipped, purple mug, hand-thrown somewhere in Baltimore. I used to own a purple car, but I haven’t owned a car in over four years. In fact, the last car I drove I didn’t even own. I’d already sold it to my step-dad a few years before upon my return from Santa Fe. Cora and I woke up early today to the sound of Cat Stevens coming off her iPhone. It was earlier than I would have liked it to be. And I realized maybe if I opened my own blinds in my basement apartment, let the sun stream across me on days I was alone, it may not always be so hard to get up. But we both have to go to work. That’s something I didn’t always do.

For some reason, there’s a Beastie Boys tune worming through my mind, something off of Check Your Head. I remember discovering that record in the midst of a store’s fully stocked shelves somewhere off the 5 freeway in San Clemente, California. The same store where I first discovered Rage Against The Machine. This song goes, “Now Ad-rock and MCA, let’s rock this joint in the old school way…” which I say quietly to myself.

Cora laughs. I love her light sound. I don’t know what that means, and I don’t know if it’s the words or my phrasing brought her humor on. The caffeine must have already hit our brains. When I said it, I wasn’t sure whether or not she would know the line. But even if she doesn’t, I’m certain she knows Ad-rock and MCA. A 12-year gap isn’t that big a cultural difference. Or so I’ve learned since my mid-thirties – despite technological advances.

“You know, the Beastie Boys weren’t great rappers,” I say, “By any stretch of the imagination. But they had amazing production…”

Cora agrees, nodding through the cloud above her cup. Her curls spill over bare shoulders. Her mouth is pursed, blowing the steam from her lips.

Recalling collegiate discussions on the merits of the Dust Brothers’ work with The Beastie Boys on Paul’s Boutique, I remember I didn’t like that album when it first came out. I’d loved License to Ill, but in fifth grade, the video for Hey Ladies was beyond my tastes. I’d just discovered heavy metal. By the time I got to high school, though, it was a whole different story. “And a great sense of aesthetics,” I go on.

I first discovered I wasn’t a hipster in the fall of 2001. I was 25 years old, the same age Cora is now, and the Twin Towers had just gone down a couple months before. The scent from their immolation still lingered in my nostrils, and the sight of their smoke still burned my retinas. There I was, two months after 9/11, a poet in my girlfriend’s painting studio, somewhere near the campus of Pratt University in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I had on a pair of dark blue jeans, flared out at the calves to cover the buckles on my motorcycle boots. My shaggy hair hung over my ears and in front of my eyes. I wore a black tee shirt emblazoned with an orange AK-47. The tee shirt said – Defend Brooklyn. It was one size too small for me. The only size the traveling, California street artists had left when I bought it from them on the main-drag of my own Brooklyn neighborhood. “It’s cool. Kinda heroin chic,” they’d said to me as I slipped it over my emaciated torso.

Annie, my then girlfriend, had on a ripped up, sleeveless tee shirt with glitter encrusted paint smears streaking her legs and dotting her Chuck Taylor’s falling apart at the seams. She’d just invited me over to see her artwork for the very first time.

We’d met at a bar. The buzz saw slice of late-70s punk rock blared from out the heavily-stickered juke box. I’d been shooting pool and just lost another game. I was sitting at a table in the corner, drinking my Bass Ale, when a tall girl with bleached blonde hair slammed a pitcher of beer down on the table, slid into place across from me and said, “I want to talk to you about politics and philosophy.”

“Okay,” I said. “Anything specific?”

Marx and Nietzsche,” she answered.

Back then, Annie’s most recent paintings were composed of cellular shapes undulating across dark canvasses. She said the lights polka-dotting her cells were inspired by the cityscapes of her most recent cross-country flight back home to San Francisco. After spending her childhood in a Buddhist commune outside the city proper, she grew up in the Haight-Ashbury District. Her mom had made millions by marketing the dot-com boom. I was reminded of brain synapses. We were smoking pot from out her one-hitter and taking pulls off the gin in my flask as I rolled cigarettes tight with dark, French tobacco. She and I lived in a pair of conjoined neighborhoods, little-known at that time outside New York, just north of there called Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

“You know what the hipster kids back in Williamsburg don’t realize,” I said to Annie.

She shook her head, No. She smoked so much pot, she never really got stoned.

“Is the history of that word. You see, Norman Mailer, all the way back in the 1950s wrote an essay about it. He said hipsters were basically educated kids who moved into the city to drop out of society… by embracing drugs and poverty. It’s not a fashion statement, you see. It’s not a way to gentrify New York by turning all of Brooklyn into the suburbs… a place where all these college kids can feel safe and at home. Just like they never left their dorm rooms. It’s a philosophy, a rejection of all the middle-class values we grew up with. See, you and me, Annie, we’re hipsters in the sense Norman Mailer was talking about. Not the way people use that word today…”

As I tell this story to Cora right now over our cups of morning coffee, she laughs. “You do see the irony in that, don’t you?”

I nod and smile.

Cora grew up outside Baltimore. She went to an artists’ high school there in the city that, once upon a time, rewrote my entire life’s trajectory. “It’s funny, though,” she goes on, “When I was in high school, me and my friends, we all wanted to be hipsters. They were the Wham City kids we thought were so cool…” She’ll be starting law school at Georgetown this fall, but she’s been talking about wanting to do some new paintings again recently.

“I know. That’s the crazy thing. Back in the day, being a hipster meant you could never say you were a hipster. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because we all showed up in Brooklyn thinking we were so special. We read these books. We listened to that music. We liked this artist. We watched those movies. And then, suddenly, we were all in the same place surrounded by people who were just like us. And that meant we weren’t so special anymore. All while the rest of the city kept saying we were just a bunch of hipsters, like Williamsburg was some sort of new wave fashion show. So we rejected the title and tried to show everybody how different we each were. It probably has something to do with how my generation grew up. The music we listened to, the movies we watched, the courses we took in college…”

After leaving Cora’s that day, as I was walking to the Metro, that’s when this idea first hit me. But I didn’t start writing it until tonight, on a new pad of paper I bought to jot down notes for the meeting about this film I’m to help write. It didn’t come to me fully formed. It was just the title striking my brain like it was thrown straight from Zeus’ clenched fist – Confessions of a Reluctant Hipster.

Preface from “The Death of Sophia”

Posted in Andrew's Songs with tags , , , on April 28, 2016 by Israfel Sivad

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Preface from The Death of Sophia
By Israfel Sivad

My main area of philosophical interest is that of the dual nature of the term “subject” in which humans exist both as “metaphysical” and as political entities. Primarily, I am examining how the evolution of the metaphysical subject evolved simultaneously into the individuated subject’s subjection to a political authority. It is my thesis that the modern, metaphysical subject either gave rise to or developed as a result of the notion of the political subject’s placement within a state. Which came first – the metaphysical subject or the political subject – is of less consequence to me than the idea that it is necessary for one to view oneself as a distinct, metaphysical subject in order to be a proper political subject within the modern state.

It must be stated that from its early modern inception, the philosophical notion of subjectivity has confronted the question of insanity – albeit, at times, obliquely. Descartes, in his Meditations on First Philosophy, asks and responds to his own question, “But on what grounds could one deny that these hands and this entire body are mine? Unless I were to liken myself to the insane…” It seems to me that, in this instance, Descartes has missed his own point. The point is not that he himself is not insane and that, therefore, he can discount such a viewpoint and continue on his own line of questioning. Rather, the question is: If one person, at any moment in her life, on any grounds whatsoever (rational or irrational) – provided that those grounds correspond with her direct experience at that moment – can deny that she is constituted subjectively in the same manner that Descartes perceives himself to be, then might not Descartes’s own notion of subjectivity be in jeopardy?

This idea does not sit well with me. For, it appears that the concept of a thinking subject (either independent or intersubjective), given the trajectory of modern philosophy from Descartes through Kant to Husserl, is an experience so basic to the human milieu that it is the most primary fact that must be proven once one endeavors upon philosophical reflection. Therefore, if this notion is so primal to the philosophical project, then, since there are moments in people’s lives where this subjectivity appears to break down (and in contemporary times, through the aid of medication, be reconstituted), we must continue to analyze the rational foundation for the idea of subjectivity itself.

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Quantum Fluctuations

Posted in Andrew's Songs with tags , , , , on April 23, 2016 by Israfel Sivad

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Quantum Fluctuations
By Israfel Sivad

The first time it had ever happened was when who was now a man was still a child. The second time it had ever happened was when he was a teenager. The third time it had ever happened was just now… just now…

The first time:

Who was now a man was playing alone with his GI Joe men in the flowerbed where his mother did the weeding with a spade and a fork and gloves on her hands. But she wasn’t weeding right then. Instead, who was now a man was playing alone in that flowerbed with his GI Joe men. His dad was in the garage. Who was now a man could hear the roar of the table saw. He could feel the pounding hammer. He could smell his dad’s beer-drenched sweat.

Who was now a man was playing alone in the flowerbed where his mom gardened while his dad worked in the garage because the week before, he’d gone over to the house of some kid from his soccer team, some strange kid with a French mom and an American dad who went hunting all the time. They’d invited who was now a man to go hunting with them the next weekend, this weekend in fact, but who was now a man didn’t want to kill a deer. He didn’t want to see a deer’s blood. He still remembered Bambi, and Bambi’s mother still reminded him of his own.

But the real reason who was now a man was playing alone was because after that weekend at the strange kid with the French mom’s house, who was now a man didn’t trust any other kids to play. Most sensible children would never believe it, but who was now a man no longer knew what children might be sensible: That kid with the French mom buried his GI Joe men when they were killed in battle. He would perform a funeral dirge, and he would bury them in his own backyard’s Arlington cemetery where he’d never dig them up again. That strange kid with the French mom’s backyard was a veritable graveyard of dead and decaying action figures. If he were precise about whom he killed and simply killed off the action figures he didn’t like such a notion might not have been so bad. Who doesn’t want less uncool action figures? But somehow, in that childlike world of play, the fates managed to dictate their decrees and spin the non-existent bullets from the little plastic guns in all sorts of directions different from the ones you wanted them to go in. Zeus himself had never had less control over the world he was supposedly responsible for. Any action figure could die at any time, and that action figure would never come back to life. Who was now a man had had a huge argument over his own Snake-eyes who was somehow hit by a non-existent stray bullet. Who was now a man refused to part with Snake-eyes, but the kid with the French mom said the Joe had to die. Who was now a man didn’t believe him. Permanence had yet to infiltrate his world of play. His action figures had infinite numbers of lives. They suffered, died, went back into their boxes, and came out themselves again – an 8 year old’s version of the transmigration of souls. The kid with the French mom was more of a nihilist. He didn’t believe that consciousness could continue after a non-existent bullet ripped through an action figure’s lungs, and he certainly didn’t believe that that action figure could go into a box and come out itself again. Who was now a man decided that if Snake-eyes were going to have to die, then he wouldn’t play. He snatched his Snake-eyes out of the kid with the French mom’s hand, and he walked all the way home. His parents weren’t mad at him. They were actually quite understanding when he explained the situation. After all, Snake-eyes was his favorite Joe.

And it was a good thing he hadn’t let Snake-eyes die because at that very moment, Snake-eyes was rescuing Lady Jay from Zartan’s clutches. Not that Lady Jay was defenseless. Who was now a man was not a chauvinist. As could have happened to any GI Joe on a dangerous mission, she’d simply been tricked by an under-handed ploy of Zartan’s. Snake-eyes crawled up the rose bush and sat in a nook where a couple of the branches came together. He took a sniper’s careful aim. He slowly squeezed the trigger. And he popped one shot straight into Zartan’s brain. Zartan died instantly. And even though who was now a man didn’t like Zartan (not that the character wasn’t cool (he did change colors with heat), he was just evil), he still didn’t perform the action figure’s last rites.

With Lady Jay safe and Zartan dead, who was now a man took his box of action figures and walked back to the house. That was when it happened. Who was now a man was passing right by the garage. He heard the sound of the saw. He was close enough to smell the sawdust. “Damnit!” his dad said. It startled who was now a man, and he dropped Snake-eyes. But as he leaned down to pick the action figure back up, who was now a man was passing right by the garage. He heard the sound of the saw. He was close enough to smell the sawdust. “Damnit!” his dad said. It startled who was now a man, and he dropped Snake-eyes. And he leaned down to pick the action figure back up. Yes. It happened twice. Who was now a man stood still. He didn’t have the words to describe what he had just experienced.

The second time:

The mall was a real madhouse that night. All of the adults there kept trying to figure out what the kids thought was so funny. Little did the security guards know that acid was making the rounds. The high school kids, the middle school kids, everyone was looking to score, and most already had.

Smoking a cigarette, Joe Smith was standing out on the sidewalk in front of the food court when Jay came back up to him. Jay was the one who’d hooked Joe up earlier that evening, about an hour before that cigarette that Joe was smoking. Jay was already tripping pretty hard when Joe and his girlfriend had found him sitting on the curb, staring intently at a long line of ants. The blond-haired hippie-type-headbanger had told the freshman couple that he was pretty sure he could get them both a couple more hits if they’d front a few bucks for Jay to get another one as well. This shit was good and he didn’t want the trip to stop. Joe and his girlfriend didn’t think twice about it. They pooled their money (which incidentally added up to twenty bucks – she had fifteen; he had five) and bought four hits… one and a half for each of them, and another for Jay. Needless to say, Jay was seeing tambourines and elephants when he approached Joe smoking that cigarette.

“Man…  I swear to God you’ll never believe what I just saw, man…” Jay said. Joe nodded. He didn’t want to hear about it. He wasn’t tripping yet, and he didn’t want to hear about the wonders another was experiencing. It would only be a second, now, he was certain of it, before he’d start catching trails. What time was it anyway? How long ago had he dropped the acid? Was that a trail following behind Jay’s hand as he ran it through his hair? Damn it, no. Patience, Joe, patience. “Man, I was just talking to Zoe Tan, and I swear to God, man, I could see her thoughts. No shit. She had these little bubbles above her head just like in a cartoon, man, and I could see what she was thinking right in that bubble, man…  It was fucking wild. This world’s a fucking cartoon!”

Joe thought Jay was sure as hell crazy. He’d already dropped a bit of acid in his time, and he’d never seen anything like that. But one thing he did know was that on acid, anything was possible. He just wanted that hit and a half to kick in…

Walking through the mall: “You know, man,” it was Jay again, “You know why they call it a trip, man? See, I realized this tonight. As I was walking it felt like I stepped down a little bit, and suddenly I was tripping, man. You get it? It was like I stepped off reality’s ledge and into acid-land. Like there’s another reality right next to this reality that I just stepped right into. You know, like it’s just a couple inches away from us, and acid can drop us down to that level. Somebody must have tripped once stepping off the curb like that, and that’s why they call it a trip…”

Jay wasn’t annoying Joe anymore. Joe’s cheeks were warm. A smile was plastered across his face. His lips felt purple. His pupils were dilated. His joints cracked whenever he moved his arms: strychnine. He was nodding. Everything Jay said made perfect sense. Everything made perfect sense. Had Joe stepped off a curb when the acid had kicked in? Maybe. He wasn’t sure anymore. That seemed like it could be right, though. There was another dimension right next to where he was walking. A scientist had tripped into it a number of decades ago when he intended to find something else. Acid existed. That other dimension was so close Joe might have been able to reach out and touch it. That’s what made him laugh. He could touch it…

Suddenly, he was smoking a cigarette outside in front of the food court again. His girlfriend, her long brown hair splayed back from her cherubic face, was sitting on the ground. Joe thought she might have stumbled and fallen. But she looked all right. She was laughing. A young security guard was helping her stand back up. That sure was nice of him. He was smiling at her and asking what was so funny. He probably had a crush on her. That was okay. She was hot. Joe had a crush on her, too. He laughed. Of course, he had a crush on her, silly, he was her boyfriend.

A beat-up, gray Toyota pulled up in front of the mall. It was Joe’s girlfriend’s older sister. Cool. Time to go home. Joe got in the car. He sat down in the backseat, scooted all the way across the pleather to the window. He touched the car’s ceiling. It looked like a mattress, which made him think of sex. He glanced out the window to his left and then, looked to his right again. Joe got in the car. He sat down in the backseat, scooted all the way across the pleather to the window. He touched the car’s ceiling. It looked like a mattress, which made him think of sex. He glanced out the window to his left and then, looked to his right again. His girlfriend was following him into the car. Joe leaned back in his seat. His eyebrows creased. That was weird, man. That was fucking weird. He’d just tripped into another dimension, and contrary to what he’d thought earlier, it wasn’t funny at all. It wasn’t until the next day that he remembered that that had happened to him before, when he was a kid, before he knew words like deja-vu, at a time when there’d never been any drugs heavier than sugar in his system. It had happened to him before… without drugs.

The third time:

I just finished this story. I woke up this morning at 5:30 AM. I couldn’t get back to sleep. I made a cup of coffee. I ate a bowl of cereal. I sat down at the computer, and I wrote this story. When I finished, it was 8:30. I went to go to work. I opened the front door, lifted my foot to step outside, and I woke up at 5:30 AM. I couldn’t get back to sleep. I made a cup of coffee. I ate a bowl of cereal. I sat down at the computer, and I wrote this story. It wasn’t until I was done that I realized I’d already written this story. I went back through the files on my computer, looking for something entitled: Quantum Fluctuations. I couldn’t find it. Thinking that maybe I’d changed the name again sometime after the point I’m at right now (this is the fourth title I’ve given it already) I reread the beginning of every piece of writing in My Documents. None of them started with: The first time it had ever happened…

I’m not 8 years old anymore. I’ve become a man. I’m not on any drugs right now. I haven’t eaten acid in close to fifteen years. But still, I wrote this story twice, and I don’t know what happened to it the first time. I don’t know how six hours have passed since I woke up at 5:30, and somehow, it’s 8:30 and time for me to go to work again. This last paragraph is happening right now. But the last time, it must have happened right now. I’ve done this before. This has happened to me before. This is at least the third time. It’s like three times I’ve taken a pitch. The first time, I dropped something. The ball flew straight by me while I stood there staring. The second time, I tried swinging, but I tripped. The third time… What happens after three times?

Click here for more stories from Israfel Sivad’s collection Psychedelicizations.

Recipe for a Future Theogeny

Posted in Andrew's Songs with tags , , , , on April 18, 2016 by Israfel Sivad

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Recipe for a Future Theogeny
By Israfel Sivad

We must communicate this to
those in future generations who
want to free themselves as well…

just in case reincarnation exists.
Remember: Dionysus was half-
woman. Apollo was God, Artemis’

twin. It is not this body; I
am this body…  “It” am not
this body. “I” is this body.

A girl when I was a child called me
her brother. She asked me to get
undressed in the closet; she is no longer.

If you want to follow me, you’ve
got to play pinball. Just put in
your earplugs, put on your eyes…

Time – Zeus’s father. All –
Zeus’s children. Chronos
is Zeus’s father. Pan are

(god in man’s image
– Michael/Lucifer –
man in god’s image)

Zeus’s children. All are Zeus’s
father. Time is Zeus’s children.
Pan – child. Chronos – fathers.

Put in your eyes, pull out your
earplugs. Don’t play pinball
if you want to follow me…

A boy when I was a child called me
his sister. He asked me to get dressed
outside the closet; he is still with me.

I is not this body; It am this
body…  “I” am not this body.
“It” is this body’s twin:

Artemis loves Pan/All/God –
Apollo was the divine half
of Dionysus’ reincarnated man.

Wanting to free the society as well,
those in future generations must
communicate this to themselves…

 Schizophrenia is the food of the gods.

Click here for more poems from Israfel Sivad’s collection Recipe for a Future Theogeny.

All Being, All Time

Posted in Andrew's Songs with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2016 by Israfel Sivad

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All Being, All Time
By Israfel Sivad

All you kids stay cool. Don’t
ever give in to this world. Don’t sell
your bodies; don’t sell your souls.

We’ve returned from the underworld
where we learned the mysteries of being.
Give us time… we’ll share them with you.

The feminine bears fruit; the masculine
breathes fire. But neither male nor
female is one or the other.

The masculine drinks whiskey; the feminine
dances holy. But neither female nor
male knows the lunacy of Venus –

Dionysus.

We swirled into the madness. We
observed Apollo from the corner
as he contemplated all being,

all time before he disappeared.
We looped the music of the spheres,
used it to power our generators,

but we never took off from this
earth – not because we didn’t have
the capability, but because we didn’t

want to. We wanted to share
the mystery with you so you would
realize why we dropped out of school,

why we turned off our brains and
sewed up our lips while we pulled
up some chairs to contemplate this koan:

Confucius asked Zhaozhou what
all being, all time meant, but as Krishna
pulled his hands down from the crucifix,

Lucifer slapped him upside the head.
“Ouch!” he screamed, but before he
sued for peace, he told Saint George,

“I know the answer now. I don’t
have to do anything.” With that,
we kicked aside our chairs. While all stared,

we meditated.

But we refuse to pray in public…
so much so that we refuse to
admit we pray in private…

so much so that we will never
tell you we believe in God.
We don’t. We believe in the mind.

We believe in chemistry, the chemical
combination for love – was revealed
to us once, but we forgot it.

Have you understood us yet? We
have worlds to share with you, and
we will spend our eternity doing just that.

Click here for more poems from Israfel Sivad’s collection Indigo Glow.

Imaginary Mountains

Posted in Andrew's Songs with tags , , , , on March 31, 2016 by Israfel Sivad

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Imaginary Mountains
By Israfel Sivad

There’s so little of my life that I want to remember and so little of it that I can’t forget, but you can never escape your memories. They prey upon the deepest recesses of your mind. They’re the monster that you can’t outrun in a nightmare. You pump your legs, but your limbs are waterlogged with the past’s disease. You try to close the door, but you move too slowly. A claw reaches through and catches hold of you. You cry out. You wake up, and there the past confronts you in reality. In the darkness, with pale moonlight streaming through an open window onto your mattress, lighting a swath across your eyes, your face contorts and you pound your hands against your skull. You retch from wretchedness. Your memories feed upon you whether awake or asleep, dead or alive, talking or dreaming. These monsters have devoured me.

It was in Baltimore, right after I graduated from college, that they first bested me. I was starving and struggling, living on ramen noodles and water. The roaches had taken over my apartment. It was summertime, and I spent the hot nights sweating, listening to classical music as I attempted to write and my body dried out more and more until I wound up constipated from the dehydration. Then, I sat on my toilet until well past midnight killing the roaches, listening to them crunch beneath the toilet paper in my fingers as they scampered around my feet. The bugs were nothing but babies just like me, fledgling critters dead as soon as they’d hatched. They were my only friends, and I both loved and despised the hovel we had created together.

My nights were spent dredging my memories in the attempt to devise short stories. Childhood held me rapt. I couldn’t get past it. More interesting things had happened since, but to think about that…

Finally, one night, I threw my pen into the binding of a notebook that I kept back then, and I left the fetid place to wander Baltimore’s humid, mangled streets. In the darkness, I wanted to see the inner harbor, the moonlight glowing upon the water. It was an image I’d often contemplated four years before when I’d first moved to that gray and red, brick and concrete, economically depressed city. There was a girl, one girl, a vision of whom wouldn’t let my thoughts be. Imaginings of her hair wrapped around my neck. The strands strangled me. I was willing to do anything to forget her, anything to return to some previous incarnation of myself. On the way, my attention was arrested.

East Baltimore Street is quite an interesting place. As I strolled in and out of streetlamps, chain smoking cigarettes, its vibrancy sang to me. I’d passed it on a number of occasions during my stay in Charm City, but never before had its lustful promises seemed so fulfilling. The strip cubs that dotted that block beckoned with a notion I’d never been aware of before, one of complete and total immersion in a world of forgetting. I didn’t drink at that point in my life, and God, I needed something, some semblance of connecting, some vision to provide a fantasy, anything other than reality. I turned and headed down the block in search of fleshy wares.

The street, an unrequited ocean of masculine desire, was thick with drunken, stumbling men. They swerved in and out of clubs, shouting at and dragging along their fellows. They poured down side streets and their catcalls bellowed out the open doors. Female and she-male prostitutes dotted the corners. In short skirts with their breasts bunched close together, they waved at the passing cars, and they ran in their high heels to open windows. They giggled and laughed with one another, and they harassed the bums tripping along with forties in brown bags. The bums slurred to every man who passed – Buddy, could you spare a quarter? Stumbling over their falling apart shoes, they collected nothing. Desire left them bereft. The men were deaf. Whatever was in their pockets was paper gold saved only to drape across a dancer’s naked thigh. I passed a corner club with a doorman who invited me inside to view the merchandise, and I acquiesced.

The lighting lay dark and truculent across the white trash remnants downing their drinks. I was the youngest customer by ten years. Kid Rock blared through the stereo – Baw-diddy-bah. Soft, rhythmic Christmas lights flashed swaths of color on the walls of mirrors. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a coke. Dollar bills were piled across the stage-front.

Like a prowling cat, a hunting lioness, a dancer, on her hands and knees, slinked across the stage. She reached the pole, fluidly slid up its length, and twirled a ballet-like pirouette. With her back rigid, she collapsed to the ground, spread her legs, and rolled onto her chest. She slid through a yoga posture, prayed to the sun, and rose to her feet again. She had blond hair cut to the nape of her neck, a smile on her face, thick legs, a tight stomach, and full handfuls of breasts.

A sickly, heroin addict seeming dancer quickly slid into place next to me. She shivered from her nudity. Her fingers trembled as they brushed against my arm. “Wanna buy me a drink?” she asked. Her teeth were crooked and mangled. Her skin was blotchy and translucent. I choked a sip through my straw.

I glanced from her back to the dancer on stage. “I’d rather buy her a drink,” I said, nodding to my performing choice. The girl on stage was shrouded in the beauty of perfection and mystery. She was healthy and full – something that could fulfill my deep-seated need for a pure evening of fantasy.

“Suit yourself,” the heroin addict said, and she stood up. “Heather, you got a customer,” she shouted at the stage. Heather turned her head, looked right at me, and smiled. I melted. The memory that had been strangling me since before I’d left my apartment melded quietly into the nightclub’s bright silence. I could breathe again. Like the ghost of a murdered child, my memory stared at me from the corner of the room, but I hid from its angry, judgmental gaze. As long as I could see Heather, she expanded to personify every moment of my current reality. I sipped my coke and for the first time in months really felt quite happy. I closed my eyes and basked in the forgotten sensation.

Warm breath breathed across my neck: “Hello.” I opened my eyes. Sitting down next to me, in a tight, black top and black skirt cut high upon her thighs, Heather was smiling. I smiled back at her. She ran her hand behind my neck, tickled me with her painted nails, slipped her fingers through my hair, leaned forward, and kissed me on the lips.

The sensation was kinetic. Life pulsed through her lips into mine. My eyes exploded a wave of colors into my brain. My capillaries carried her sensation through my arteries and into my very blood stream where it warmed my stomach and filled my heart. My fingers tingled against her back and ribcage. Her soft, milky flesh lit my hands afire. The flames consumed my body and overpowered my soul. To further feel her burgeoning electricity, I ran one hand across her warm chin and neck. She purred, a pussy cat, and leaned closer to me. Her tongue darted between my lips. Our saliva commingled. Our tongues writhed as Chinese dragons in a fight. New Year’s fireworks exploded across my taste buds. For that brief moment, every thought that had tormented me for so long now that I couldn’t even remember a time without them vanished in death’s blinding, white light. It had been months since I’d been kissed.

“Wow,” she said when we were done. “That was great.”

My eyes glowed. My hair was out of place. An inner warmth crept through my cheeks to heat my face. “Yeah, it was,” I agreed, still tasting her snap and pop amid my emptiness.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

I told her.

“So you wanna buy me a drink?”

I nodded. Of course I did. It cost me twenty-five dollars, and according to the rules of the club, she was my property until it was done.

Heather led us to a table in the back of the club. The lighting here was even softer than that up front. The newfound darkness added dimensions to our tryst. Somehow, this all seemed more legitimate. Low-lying jazz should have been playing. A candle could have been lit. It was as if we were pretending that we’d met at a normal bar on a normal night, that I hadn’t already seen her naked, that the future might be opening up instead of closing in on us, and that somehow this might evolve into something incorporating dates and moving in together, a wedding and children. Instead, because of our falsity, I enjoyed the change of scenery and the chance to focus all my attention upon this woman I had paid for. I needed to get my money’s worth. What that was, I wasn’t quite sure. Heather nestled into my shoulder. We kissed again. I rubbed my hands up and down her smooth legs. Her skin warmed my touch. It warmed me so much, I shivered. “So what do you do?” she asked me when our lips parted from one another’s. She tilted her head back on her neck. A smile curled the corners of her lips.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Really? Have you published anything?”

“I just started. I just graduated from college. I’m working on a collection of short stories.”

“What are they about?”

“Real life. Divorces, drugs, fights… Someday, maybe this.”

“I read a lot. My favorite writer’s J.D. Salinger. Have you ever read Franny and Zooey?”

“No, but I just finished Nine Stories.

“What did you think?”

A Perfect Day for Bananafish is one of the best things I’ve ever read. If I ever get famous and get to put together one of those anthologies, I’ll definitely put it in. Along with A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Hemingway, A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Connor, and Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver.”

“You aren’t crazy like Salinger, are you?” Her eyes opened wide as she said it. Her gaze glassed over to nothing but the present. It was almost impossible to believe that less than ten minutes before, she’d been writhing like a suffocating fish for two dozen jeering men.

“Not that I know of.”

“You wouldn’t ever want to run away from the world?”

I smiled a smile that died somewhere between my cheeks and my eyes. “I’m already trying to do that,” I answered.

“That’s okay,” Heather said. “Let me tell you a secret.”  Breathing into my ear, she whispered: “I want to, too. I want to run away to the mountains and leave all this far away behind me. I want to be a little girl again.”

Something opened inside of me, something like a flower in spring, one of the many-petaled denizens of a great trap door to the source of all my nightmares and dreams. Like a hummingbird overdosed on nectar, a thought tickled the back of my throat and died. I choked on it and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I pulled Heather closer to me. Curling her hands up to her neck, she nestled snugly into my chest. Our bodies fit together so well. My emotions swelled from the scent of the sweat from her dance. I said, “Let’s go to the mountains together.”

Heather pulled back so that she could look me in the face and judge my sincerity. Beneath the somber gleam of the lights glowing in the front, her eyes sparkled. Her lips twirled into a full grin, and she said, “Have you seen Life is Beautiful yet?”

I told her I hadn’t.

“First, you need to take me to see that. You’ll love it. It’s perfect for our first date, if you don’t count this.”

“I don’t count this.”

“Good. I don’t either. You can’t count a date at a place like this. We’ll pretend like I’m a waitress and you met me at the restaurant where I work. You ordered a hamburger, and I left you my phone number on the check.” That sounded like a good idea.

A few minutes later, the club’s lone waitress approached us. She was middle aged and sallow. Pudge trickled over the top of her jeans, but her flamboyant mannerisms implied that at one point in time, years ago, she very well may have been one of the girls twirling around the pole. “Heather, are you done with your drink yet?” she asked, a certain persistence in her tone, an admonishing glint in her eyes.

“Almost.”

“Is he going to buy you another one?”

Heather looked at me. I nodded to say I would. “Amelia,” Heather said, “Could you bring me a pen, too, and be discrete about it. Whatever you do, don’t let Jimmy see you.” When Amelia left, Heather turned back to me. “We aren’t supposed to give our phone numbers out to anybody,” she explained. “But you’re different. I’m glad I met you.”

Amelia returned with the drink and a pen. Heather grabbed a cocktail napkin. In a flowery hand reminiscent of all the notes the girls had delivered to me in high school, she scribbled across it. Her “H” had trills to it. Her “t” had a flowing tail at the end. The crosshatch squiggled across the page. To set them off from everything else, the numbers had hearts around them. She slid the napkin across the table to me. “Thank you,” I said. I slipped it into my pocket, and we kissed to confirm our need to see one another again.

I bought Heather two more drinks before I left… one hundred dollars. I’d only spent that much money one other time in my life: the first time I ever went to a strip club in LA. My shoes, which by that point had holes in the toes, didn’t even cost that much. But that was the going rate in Baltimore to spend an hour running away from your memories. Even without any alcohol, her scent and her smile, her breasts and her eyes were inebriating. Every time our lips touched I tasted wine. Every rustle of her nails through my hair distorted my mind. She buried reality in a tomb of its own design.

We cuddled and kissed between minute sips off her drink. She tried to make every glass last. But Amelia kept her eye on us, and as soon as Heather started swirling her ice, she was upon us again, breathing into our faces, disturbing our embrace, forcing me to ante up and hold onto my place in the club. There was a hint in her mannerisms of us doing something vaguely illegal. It must have been against the rules, some sort of unknown sin, for us to enjoy one another’s company, to simply talk as I held gingerly onto Heather’s fingertips. I fumbled through my weekly allowance and forked over the bills I didn’t want to part with. Heather and I discussed everything from art to movies to literature to our dreams for the future. All around us, the rest of the customers were getting lap dances. Faceless girls ground their hips into unknown men’s crotches. Hidden in the corner, my heroin addict from earlier had her hands down an old man’s pants. His eyes were closed, and he held his head tilted back towards the ceiling. Spittle spouted from his lips. Heather wanted to be a preschool teacher because she loved children. We decided she could do that somewhere far away in our imaginary mountains.

We said goodbye slowly. Grins toyed with both of our faces. My hand slid down her arm to end with a light touch on the tips of her fingers. Her eyes sparkled with delight as I promised I’d call her the very next night. “I’d like that very much,” she said. I leaned down and kissed her one last time. She bit her upper lip as she told me, “Good night.”

Outside, on the street, the heat was suffocating. I could already feel myself dehydrating. The doorman asked me if I had a good time. I said, “Yeah,” in order to be polite. I reached into my pocket and felt the cocktail napkin with Heather’s number on it. Its rough edges were comforting and nice. Then, something shifted around inside of me. In the glare of the streetlights, with a barrage of honking horns, fantasy gave way to reality. My facial expression collapsed. The trap door that I’d been dreading opened up. I fell headlong into a black hole descending into my gut.

I pulled the cocktail napkin from my pocket, and I dropped it – hearts, squiggles, and all. It twirled in the stagnant air and fell into the empty gutter as I walked back along the vacant streets to return to greet the roaches who ruled my apartment while I was out, to spend all night sweating into and writhing across my lonely sheets. I never made it to the inner harbor.

Click here for more stories from Israfel Sivad’s collection The American Apocalypse.

Crossroads Blues

Posted in Andrew's Songs with tags , , , , on March 29, 2016 by Israfel Sivad

06_Crossroads_Blues_Cover_for_Kindle (1)

From the novel Crossroads Blues
By Israfel Sivad

From the observation deck of The Empire State Building, 86 stories above the teeming mass of humans gawking and mumbling and screaming and shouting and talking and walking and running, the streets and lights of New York City spread like veins and cells, a spiderwebbed body, many-headed like the Hydra, covered in eyes like Mithra, animate in its grandeur, breathing as a spreading amoeba, breeding with itself, consuming the flies, the demons: Beelzebub – their lord, their savior. To one side, the shores of New Jersey are visible. On the other side, Brooklyn spreads out across the East River. Queens is in the distance, one skyscraper rising, phallus-like out of the duplex plane. The flat and pointed roofs of the buildings that, from the ground, rise so high, blocking the sky, encasing their victims in alleys and walkways, lie a multitude of feet below, a mini-metropolis from heaven’s perch. Unlike anywhere else in the city, the sky expands and shines with the radiance of stars, a seeming reflection in the water’s above the firmament. Manhattan’s grid of streets and avenues is a Euclidean map with one imperfection: Broadway, the defect built into the mosque, slices across the mathematical precision, scarring the earth. At the end of the island, the Twin Towers rise, glittering, glorious boxes dwarfing the financial district, a brother and a sister, fraternal lovers giving birth to all that lies beneath, morphing from SoHo and the Village into Midtown’s masculine monument, falling off to the demure Chrysler Building, descending back into Harlem, Washington Heights, and the river that borders the Bronx.

“Do you ever feel like you’re living the skyline?” Michelle asks.

Andrew pauses for a moment to think about her question. He stares out through the grates in the fence that encloses the observation deck, that discourages the suicidal from plunging from the dream of infinity to the reality of quantified concrete below. He’s distracted by a vision of the fall, the wind, the freedom, the thought of death being so close. Milton’s Lucifer. He blinks and looks back at the skyline spreading out all around him. He – in the midst of it all, in one of the anchors – gazes across the gulfs and ridges that have framed the aspirations of so many actors, brokers, musicians, writers, bankers, lawyers, painters, directors, models, entrepreneurs, immigrants from every continent on the globe, dreamers the world over – artists all. “I’m living the skyline right now,” he says.

“Really? Look at it. Are you sure you’re living everything that that horizon promised you before you showed up here?”

The warmth of the alcohol consumed with Charlie in Midtown and with Michelle at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge colors Andrew’s thoughts and feelings. Over the course of the subway ride, while waiting downstairs in line, the mellowness of its glow in his bloodstream has faded, but it has given way to a subtler sort of contentment. He exhales thoughtfully, “Maybe not everything, but pretty close. Think about it. I’ve been here for a year, and today I spent my lunch hour talking to an old friend about being in a show that I wrote, that one of my friends is producing and directing. Over the course of that conversation, I finally figured out how to start my screenplay. Tomorrow, I’m going to begin writing it. I live in a rundown, railroad apartment with a gay actor in one of the hippest neighborhoods in the world. My bedroom window has a perfect view of the same skyline you’re talking about. It’s a little after ten o’clock on a Friday night, and I’ve already been at two bars tonight, talking about things that interest me, putting together a schedule for that same show. And now, here I am, standing mildly drunk on top of the Empire State Building, surrounded by tourists, with you asking me whether or not I’m living my fantasy. Look at the city all around you. This is the skyline. This is my dream.”

Michelle isn’t so sure. Her forehead and eyebrows crease in a way that one of her ex-boyfriend’s found irresistible. She purses her lips and stares through that same grate without the thought of the fall. She feels the swirling presence of the tourists around her filling the landing they’re standing on. She hears the laughs and shouts of playing children excited to reach the heights that, previously, only their fantasies had imagined. She says, “I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I’ve found the skyline, and other times, well, New York is New York, you know.”

“I’m not sure if I do know. What do you mean?”

“Think about the city. No matter what you do, you can never get on top of it. Sure, there are people, who, for a moment, think they might have beaten it, but sure enough, the city will come along and spin their whole world upside down. I guess the skyline means different things to different people.”

“What does it mean to you?”

“Fame. That’s what it meant when I showed up as a little, lost freshman at NYU. I guess it’s never really changed.”

“Well, you never know. You might be becoming that.”

“Becoming what?”

“Famous.”

“Fame isn’t so important to me anymore. All I really care about is getting by and having a chance to do the best I can with the things that are important to me.”

“You know, sometimes I wonder who out of all the people I know here is going to wind up famous. Next to me, you’re in the lead, girl.”

Michelle laughs a laugh that ends in a smile that radiates through her face, crawls up her cheeks, creases her eyes, shines an aura that reaches out and tickles the inside of Andrew’s stomach. She spins her head to send her wavy hair tumbling back over her shoulder. With her hair out of the way, her profile is sharp. Framed by the lights in the distance, she’s a poster, an album cover, a frozen moment embodying Andrew’s dreams. She is his skyline. He’s inspired. He says, “Think about it, Michelle. In, what, four days? You’re going to be riding an elevator up in one of those towers to something like the 90th floor…”

“Something like that. Can you imagine what the city will look like from up there?”

“Tell me that’s not living the skyline.”

Michelle’s smile spreads even farther. “Yeah, maybe that is something.”

“You know, I think it’s in Mao II, Don DeLillo says something about the World Trade Center being the hermaphroditic god of the city.” The two pieces – the rook and the bishop – glow in leopard print dress. Off the bishop’s crown, a thousand points of light, Jacob’s ladder, penetrate heaven.

“I can see that. I guess the one with the antenna is the male part?”

“Something like that.”

“A god, huh?”

“It makes sense. If you think about it, ancient people worshipped the gods of the earth, deities that were place-specific. They lived in their cities. There’s definitely something very primal about New York. In the subway, it feels alive to me, and the World Trade Center is kind of like New York’s monument to itself.”

“More so than the Empire State?”

“Well, the World Trade is more directly connected to our mythology.”

“And what’s that?”

“Money.” Andrew smiles contagiously. Michelle is infected. “Our Bible is The Wealth of Nations. Our faceless god: The Invisible Hand. The Twin Towers are our idol.  You’ve been in the city long enough to know that.”

Michelle nods. She stops suddenly. She tilts her head to the side. Her eyebrows crease again. Her gaze cuts through the night, slicing the air, dissecting the words hidden in it. “I don’t know,” she says, “The Empire State is an idol – New York’s hard-on. I think a hermaphrodite is a little more than that.”

“In what way?”

“Well, I remember this acid trip when I was a freshman. We went down to the World Trade Center to lie down and stare up at the lights. I can still see its shape kind of stepping out of the night and flying off above me, its foundation seeming to reach out beneath and support me… Anyways. When I was down there, I remember thinking about the same thing you were just talking about, how the city feels kind of alive, especially in the subways, and I remember thinking about how the World Trade Center starts down there underground and winds up going up – God knows how many feet, I don’t, and how many thousands and thousands of people go in and out, underneath, and all around it every day. I could feel it, you know…”

“I can imagine.”

“The electricity was coursing though me. Being down there, for a second, it was like the whole city shot through me. I could feel the souls of ten million people refined into one single point, one place – the forms of those two buildings I was staring at. At that moment, I knew that the energy of those buildings, the mental energy of designing them, the physical energy of building them, the psychic energy that’s contained in them, and the spiritual energy of the dreams directed towards them has made them into something much more than simply the physical shapes that we see. They have a presence that, now that you mention it, must be something like what people felt when they first came to believe in god…”  Michelle laughs at the intensity of her monologue. “I don’t know. I guess I was tripping pretty hard, but I’ll be honest, ever since then, anytime I pray, I picture myself praying to the force that I felt surging out of the Twin Towers that night.”

“That’s pretty intense, Michelle. Now you’re making me feel like a real ass for making my joke about capitalism.”

“Yeah. I like the idea of New York’s god being a hermaphrodite, too.”

“Why’s that?’

“It fits the city better than this monstrosity of masculinity that we’re standing on.”

“You don’t think New York’s masculine?”

“Not entirely. London is masculine. Paris is feminine. New York is a hermaphrodite.”

“Some of the most ancient conceptions of God are as a hermaphrodite.”

“As they should still be.”

“I figured you’d want God to be a woman.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re a woman…”

“You forget. Women are more giving than men. I don’t have to own all of God. Only men need that. Besides, if God’s a woman, who would I make love to when I die?”

“You could try angels.”

“Why settle for second best?”

Andrew pauses to think about what Michelle has said. He stares at the curve of her lips. They tremble ever so slightly, as they always do when she’s made a point after a few drinks. He has to agree with her. He nods. He laughs. “I’d expect that from you,” he says.

“What?”

Looking into Michelle’s eyes, he whispers, “You’re a perfectionist. That’s what’ll make you famous.” Michelle shakes her head proudly. They start walking around the perimeter of the landing, Michelle next to the fence. They walk slowly, gazing out at the expanse of the city as they go.

“Okay, perfectionist. If you could choose the perfect way to die, what would that be?” Andrew asks.

“That’s a pretty morbid question,” Michelle says.

“I know, but you’re the one who wants to make love to God, so just answer it.”

“Do you think about this sort of stuff a lot?”

“Every once in a while,” Andrew laughs. “Answer the question.”

Michelle thinks for a moment. The wind blows her hair. She gives herself a hug. “Nuclear explosion, right in the epicenter.”

“That’s original. Why?”

“So that I can see something that nobody else ever gets to see. The splitting of the atom, and all that…  It’s probably the closest any living person ever gets to seeing God, right? That way if there’s no God after I die, I won’t die disappointed. How about you?”

“Ripped apart by wolves.”

“That’s gruesome. Why would you want that?”

“So that I’m fighting to stay alive until the very last minute…”

“Interesting view.”

They pass Brooklyn. They pause for a moment to point out their neighborhood to each other (“Right there. There’s the Williamsburg Bridge. That’s Queens. There’s Brooklyn. That’s right where Greenpoint is.”)  They start walking again, brushing shoulders every once in a while, the invisible shields that they have on the streets, the ones that somehow manage to always keep urbanites at a constant distance from their neighbors, disappearing. Andrew cocks his head to the side. He asks, “But who says God would be the best?”

“The best at what?”

“Making love.”

“I can’t imagine that anybody could be better.”

“What about the devil?”

“I don’t believe in him.”

“Neither do I, but as long as we’re speaking mythically, if I were you, I’d take Lucifer. Seems to me he’d know a little bit more about the whole thing.”

“Hmmm…  You could be right about that. No. Maybe if I was younger – still in my rock star phase – I’d want the devil, but at twenty-four, I’ll take God.”

“Why’s that?”

“Sensuality of course.”

“Lucifer seems extremely sensual.”

“Not the way I see him.”

“Maybe you just don’t know him like I do.”

“All right. Now, you’re scaring me.” Michelle laughs. Along with her, Andrew laughs at himself. They’ve strolled half-way around the building, spun half a rotation atop the unmoved mover at the center of their world, reached the summer solstice of their journey. To their left side, the lights of Times Square, the eternally vigilant, virulent, beating heart of the city that never sleeps, shine the white glow of daylight in night – the sun imprisoned on earth. The monstrous advertisements in the pulsing atrium of capitalism are visible even from their distance.

“Can you imagine what New York would look like after a war,” Michelle says, “The depth of the rubble from all these buildings?”

“It’s mind boggling,” Andrew says.

In front of them, a little to the right, the Chrysler Building, decorated in a pleated skirt of lights, rises to the Empire State’s shoulder.

“See, even Midtown has a feminine part,” Michelle says, nodding at the Chrysler.

Andrew looks. “I never thought of it that way.”

“I guess, if the World Trade Center is New York’s hermaphroditic god, then the Empire State and the Chrysler Building are the city’s king and queen.”

“And the rest of the skyline is pawns.”

“Maybe it’s a giant chess game: Midtown versus Downtown.”

“The spiritual versus the temporal. God’s kingdom versus man’s.”

“You’re taking it too far again.”

“Oh, come on, Michelle. Can’t you see it? The financial district is powered by the faceless god. Midtown is the custodian of the riches. It’s the church and the state lined up to do battle once and for all, to determine who will rule mankind – God or Caesar, papal doctrine or human law, the stock market or hard cash, theoretical economics or practical business? And the war is being fought all across New York City, with the lower classes as cannon fodder – you and me, moving back and forth, captured by opposing sides, sent back to the front with a new suit, a different face, making one wealthier to spite the other until it all spins back around.”

Michelle grabs Andrew’s arm. Her fingers are a shock. Andrew’s excitement rises. She bursts in excitedly, joking, “Maybe it’s not a chess game. Maybe they’re really working together, the hermaphrodite, the king, and the queen. The posture of the game is just an act to keep us from rising up and going to war with both of them.”

“Yes. Yes. The financiers and the entrepreneurs, the church and the state determining our American Dream: a new opiate for the masses. You’re probably right about that. Capitalist scum…  ‘They’ve got the guns, but we’ve got the numbers. Gonna win, yeah we’re takin over. Come on!’  Worldwide revolution of the proletariat! That’s what I’m calling for, and it’s going to start right here in Gotham, with me and you, Catwoman, robbing the Chase Manhattan Bank in Times Square.”

Michelle shakes her head. “What the hell are you talking about, robbing a bank?”

“My screenplay.”

“What screenplay?”

“The one I’m going to start writing tomorrow. I didn’t tell you about it yet?”

“No.”

“It’s about this writer – me – who needs to come up with an idea that’s going to sell, so he comes up with an idea about a writer who needs to come up with an idea that’s going to sell so he comes up with a plot for a bank robbery, but as the original writer’s writing the story, he realizes that the robbery could work. So he gets the help of this friend of his who runs a theater company – that’s you – and they enlist the help of a bunch of actors – that’s Michael and Carey for starters – and they do the whole thing like a play, with a stage manager and a director and everybody having their roles. We still need to figure out all those parts, plus how to rob the bank…”

“That’s a really cool idea. I can’t believe you never told me about it before.”

“I wasn’t sure if you’d be in to robbing a bank. Besides, you might steal the plot and take all the money for yourself.”

“Andrew, I don’t write. I direct. Somebody else has to give me the words, and I make sure that people see them right.”

Michelle’s arm is still wrapped around Andrew’s. Her hand is resting on his thin bicep. His face is turned to hers. She’s smiling. Her lips are soft and pliable. Her glassy eyes sparkle with a scintillation of heaven. She blinks. Her eyelashes hold together for a moment and pull apart. Her halo expands to encompass his still liquored brain. It contracts and pulls him down towards her. He closes his eyes. She closes hers and reaches up on tippy-toes.

They know the future, the next moment, perfectly.

Their tingling lips meet. Their mouths open. Their heads spin and lock. Andrew caresses Michelle’s cheek, his palm cupping her chin. Michelle runs her fingers down Andrew’s arm, up his back, nestling the tips into his hair. Their tongues extend to wrap around one another’s, tasting each other’s breath, merging two bodies into one in the simplest, the purest, of pleasurable practices.

Above them, the Empire State blinks. Beyond them, New York glitters. Around them, children laugh and couples nuzzle. Inside of them, a seed shoots out roots planted in the other’s stomach.

Shared, conjoined, they step back, Andrew’s hands resting on Michelle’s arms, Michelle’s fingers at Andrew’s waist. In awe, they gaze into one another’s once familiar, now brand-new eyes.

“How come that’s never happened before?” Andrew asks.

“Because we’ve never been together on top of the Empire State Building before,” Michelle answers.

Click here for the whole story.

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