Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Damage We DiD

“The only definition of a “hipster” is that he is a person who can stand on certain street corners in any foreign big city in the world and connect for pot or junk without knowing the language, it all makes you want to go back to America to Harry Truman’s face.” – Kerouac


I throw my phone aside on the kitchen counter and walk over to the great big glass sliding door that leads to my balcony in New York City, getting only one of three important things, balcony; rent is ridiculous and the location is not ideal. Nevertheless, this is my second favorite apartment of all time, only losing to the one I had when I was at USC because that one was paid for on the top floor of a sky rise high-rise building in the middle of downtown LA (before it got all remodeled and expensive with Nokia Center and all that other crap coming up like a fungus overnight). From the roof of my LA apartment, which you were not technically allowed to go up to -- the Jamaican desk attendants liked to be ruthless and smoke pot up there and hated to see anyone else doing the same -- you could see the Hollywood sign, the 101, 110, and 10 freeways vibrating out from nucleus in all directions like blood veins running out to extremities, and you could even see USC!, and Century City in the way distance of LA west.

It wasn't just the view, there was also this great feeling you got, standing out on that balcony, or up on that roof all alone, that unspoken yet very sightly line between East LA and West LA made you feel like a time traveler in a way.  Downtown LA was the last great reminder of past times, at least as I picture it having not known such times growing up post-1984 drudgery of indulgent eighties, crazy future date from forty-eight where I first came to be and Orwell, in all his infinite glory and rated success in seeing a story of dystopia, 1984 glory, wrote about communism takeover in future world, two days after first Macintosh computer released to the world I breathed air of planet Earth, and wondered, like Kerouac, "Who asked to be born anyway?"

It was Downtown LA where you could see the vestige of the neon era looking east toward Orpheum Theatre, the 'Jesus Saves' building lit up bright red, and out that famous LA balcony I've made so with my recollections, I could look left and see all the depravity of high powered, greedy 1980s in the high rise buildings and republican businesses taking up floors in their four walls, lego squares and higher than we prepared for, and looking straight to Skid Row, the glow of trashcan fires and wails of poverty, shame and rage, what an interesting place.

Of course LA as I knew it back then is all ruined now, it's different in an urban yuppy kind of way, even with it's slight scariness it still had charm.  I sort of appreciated the change in character from sun up to sun down, the blessed safe place of afternoon hours to the grimy and isolated streets during nightfall where the desolation was actually eerie for me, a new kind of subtlety of a lost time, only imaginable in worst dreams, where windswept newspapers littered the abandoned streets east of Hope and Broadway, coming off 10 Freeway at Midnight through Los Angeles Street meekly while thinking about being stranded all alone there, where anyone could come up to the window creepily, searching deceitfully for entrance to 405 freeway, sudden knife or gun to the head while shouting abruptly, no-nonsensely, for us to exit the car swiftly.

Anyway, standing out on my balcony now, in the middle of another process of ruination in 7-elevenification East Village New York, it kind of reminds me of my apartment in LA (why I entertained tangent in the first place), even though I am not on the top floor and even though I cannot really see a great view, nothing more than St. Marks with all its tourist leather bracelets and head shops, pizza joint down the street and just a bit of Tompkins Square Park if I really lean my head out, I'm actually quite fond of this location and it has a sort of downtown LA charm because the yuppies haven't quite vilified or integrated, subjugated it yet.  That will come later.

Now it's four in the morning and I open my balcony door and walk outside into the cool, sweet twilight air of almost morning in New York City, adoptive city of my late twenties. I am no longer dripping wet cold from the sweat of my restless night’s sleep. The nightmares that assailed me are not as frightening now that I’m awake, standing up, walking around and seeing the first hints of daylight on the eastern horizon out the balcony that mesmerizes me in this strange city. The air feels refreshing, almost right, invigoratingly sweet as I breathe deep the cold, fresh air of nowhere New York, lungs scarred yet still hopelessly functional, looking for respite of which I'm not capable, time in my life where I'm still insatiable.

Sighing unknowingly, irreproachably, I look down to St. Marks and think to myself privately, 'My nights were not so tormented in LA'.  Nevertheless, I'm here now for the foreseeable future and I need these deep, centering breaths because I have been frustrated of late, not just personally but also professionally; there are at least two major things wrecking my night's sleep.

First, I am still not able to connect for some morphine, which is a huge fucking bummer. I have known a lot of unsavory people in my life and some of them even in New York, so it seems one of them should be able to help me out. But it seems they all hate me and wish I would just go mad and die already. They want me to suffer a few days, cold sweats, quivering lips, dreams verging on utter madness, paranoia, sickness, everything undeserving of your worst enemy, landing on me. These are the thoughts I think at desperate 4 AM.

Second, I am unable to sell my last novel, mostly because it is unfinished, barely started actually, hardly an idea to build around, I guess I'm lacking brilliance, all the stuff they rely upon to sell their special brand of shit, so all that bothers me incredibly, fills my head ugly with so much insecurity and uncertainty.  I lean my arms on the balcony, fearing silently that they will have their sinister wishes soon enough, the worst thoughts of 4 AM that I am nothing, no one, agh oh man.  I hate myself and everyone.

Basically at this point it comes down to one simple conclusion, if I don’t get the drugs I need to covet the inspiration I require to write the legendary, annals of time kind of book that my agent says is the only way the publisher will re-option my option, the kind of book that will propel me into financial security, literary relevancy, and all the other narcissistic trivialities we are taught to crave in this material world of our births, planet Earth, I will surely go mad and rob a liquor store with a toy gun and get put in jail for countless years and end up a cautionary tale, someone people talk about and warn about and try to dissuade their children from hanging out with and turning out like.

I suppose if all else fails I could just run to Australia, debtor’s paradise, and live among the expatriates. I light my pipe and take a modest hit, has to be modest because all that's left are flakes of green immersed in what seems like mostly charred remains of the night before, cherried almost entirely, now exhaling slowly, cautiously, aware that I am poisoning the air I was just championing vociferously a moment ago, fresh, clear twilight city air, I guess now I'm the asshole, feeling like the junky who scours old cottons for a tiny boost when his dealer isn't answering his phone.

Actually, a simple life in Australialand doesn't sound too bad as I stand here punishing my lungs in early morning New York City, watching the coffee cart workers trudge down the street slowly, painfully, uncertainly, their lives a misery, while I complain about my writers' block up here where the air is somewhat clear, somewhat cooler and at least I'm not packed into a studio apartment in Sunset Park with six other wannabe artists trying to make it in cruel, cruel New York without a prospect. I take another, this time futile hit, charred black already, steady placebo effect as I ponder my aggressive mediocrity in sight of the consequences of this country's wannabe meritocracy, ah me, I still want to complain and still would rather not see my life come down to a choice between robbing a liquor store and running to Australia, but ah well, I suppose the choice is quickly slipping through my fingers, dense unknowing of rapid years going by, try, try, trying so hard to be the oblivious talented kid before it's all in and I can't fake it anymore.

I’d rather make it and stay in New York where I can walk this mad city everyday and just marvel at all the sights and the people, never seeing the same person twice, unless requested, with all the pleasures and horrors of big time undesigned capitalist America before me, a city that is really just the grand old epitome of capitalism, Times Square, and though I hate going there, I appreciate it as brainchild frontrunner of Shanghai.

I pace back and forth from the balcony to the inside of the living room and then back again, over and over, chain smoking marijuana (because I found a hidden joint in the counter), pacing and smoking, wearing out my legs and making my lungs protest, back and forth like a demented closed-lined circuit, trying to come up with an idea, a plan, a next step I can utilize so that I can find the right words and the right story so I don't fade into that terrible literary irrelevancy that I fear so greatly.

I look out toward the horizon and marvel silently at the beginning of day. The sky is lightening, slowly, morphing from black to blue on its edges, showing some slight hints of pink toward the ocean out there somewhere, the eastern horizon, where the earth will twitch and turn in time, and the circumstantially still sun will rise with a fierce vitality one again, hazy and orange at first and then brilliantly yellow when it realizes the full potential of morning New York. Where will I be by then? Still here pacing and smoking and thinking? Or will I be down the street getting an espresso and big egg bacon cheese bagel to give me calories and protein to face the day? Maybe I'll be sitting at my computer, massaging my words and thinking about all of the promise of a new day, early morning, maybe this will be the day that I achieve something, all of my goals, or at least the first step in a very minor goal. It’s nice to have dreams, just wish they weren't so circumstantially ridiculous.

Despite the weed, I feel raw and churned up inside. I let out a loud growl (more like a Shiloh grumble snort) as I walk back into the apartment, looking for something, I'm not sure what, some kind of incentive or initiative, I hate these nightly terrors meaning to tell me that I'll never be more than a junky smiling just so charmingly, as everyone else tries to undermine me, fuck with me, they want to mess with me because they can't understand me, or they envy me, or they see some kind of opportunity, they want to devastate me, they legitimately hate me for some reason and I think it's the reason I have yet to make something truly great of myself, all this ill will directed at me, unable to create that thing that makes others nod their heads and say ‘job well done’ or think, secretly, ‘I hate her cause she has arrived!’ Or maybe it is not them at all.  Maybe I haven't arrived because of my own sick, sad kind of devotion to living life in the meantime, life and all it means, going after everything just to know it completely, really see it and believe it entirely, sacrificing success just to get a taste of whatever it is that equivocates to arrival, my survival, a way to feel good about living and making money in the twenty-first century.


Damien first talked to me about "arriving" when we were twenty-two, remembering it now distinctly, driving in my Jeep Wrangler on the 10 somewhere West of USC, and we were both freaking out about what it might be like to be older than we were at that time and have a job that depended on us, responsibility, basically being an adult scared me, scared us and we both shuddered at the prospect, not wanting time to go by so fast, us then reveling in our youth, just so glad to be twenty-two. It was then that Damien gave me the subtle definition of the term "arrived" as being successful and getting lots of money, basically being able to say to a room when you enter, "I've arrived" and having it mean something, like big career and big money, lots of prospects, having everything figured out.

Of course at the time we were both underemployed and staring graduation in its cold, hard dispassionate and scarred face, thinking about our futures and the crazy, sad reality of a life that could never, circumstantially, be fulfilled in the meaning and terminology that we had thought of in our young brains. We hated the idea of life, yet we loved the indulgence, hedonistic pride in being physically present, carnal ability, and yet the decay our flesh would one day endure, the future, terrified us to our very cores. Damien, like me, was afraid of reality. But it was for very different reasons.

Damien is smart, was so at 22 and even now at 27. But he is also overly arrogant and has a bigger impression of himself than others do. It's good to be confident but bad to be unrealistic. I don't think he realized that night that he could never arrive with all that's holding him back. Like me, he's too infatuated with living in the moment, and the really successful people already transcended these juvenile dreams. Yet there is another element holding Damien back, one that I never, luckily, had to deal with in my youth. Damien is in a ping-pong relationship with religion. When I say ping-pong, I mean that he goes back and forth between embracing drugs and embracing god, a sick, sad cycle of insecurity and unimaginable fear. It's really quite sad actually but it's entirely a result of how he was raised.

Damien grew up in a Christian household, the kind where the mother was cold and unreasonable, the father was scared and subservient, leaving the children to fend for themselves, obey unthinkingly or risk abandonment and indifference. Damien chose the latter, telling me he had been estranged from his mother now for just over three years because she is a Christian nut-job who holds ridiculous, unsupportable grudges that he has no ability and no interest in lifting. This happened after his father had an affair -- apparently he was tired of the pro forma sex for propagation of the race theory the wife had arranged which had ended twenty-five years after Damien's youngest brother was born -- and Damien took his father's side in the fight. This was something his close-minded mother could never forgive of him, taking the extremes of her religion, a fundamentalist of Christian nutjobery, to heart.

Her ridiculous tactics made the children either heavily ‘on fire for the lord’ as Damien puts it, or like Damien, devout atheists who take pride in using Bible scriptures to refute born-again Christian spewings whenever they assault him. His two brothers went the way of their mother and Damien chose the rational route, which has essentially excommunicated him from family functions. He finds solace only in that his father is similarly unwanted. Although Damien downplays it, I can tell he's pretty bitter about the whole thing.

Damien has since become an adamant atheist, and he spends a lot of time trying to prove he's right, so much that he misses the bigger picture; organized religion isn't worth the hassle. The effort he expends on trying to refute Christianity and those who believe in it just makes him seem petty and not altogether convinced of his decision. I secretly think Damien will one day become Christian again, and in that way, I cannot fully respect him.

I know that I am lucky I was not raised like Damien. I was raised atheist -- more accurately religion was a non-factor in my household -- and it stayed that way even despite my father’s occasional, political rantings about democrats and homosexuals and the ruination of the two-hundred plus years of what he always calls a traditional system in America. His Catholic upbringing sometimes makes him say things like, “The devil is in that candidate [meaning Obama]!" He goes on to say, "I can tell by the way he carries himself and his ghastly affiliations and community agitations and how he wants to ruin the country by turning it to socialism and breaking down the institution of marriage so people can marry their dog and their brother and so forth.” My dad is only libertarian to an extent; he likes the idea of legal marijuana but he hates the idea of gays marrying and welfare and universal healthcare. While I admit the universal healthcare thing doesn't sit well with me either, because of the mandate, I cannot sanction his other complaints.


I pace around my apartment as the sun slowly rises, wondering if I will actually get anything accomplished today, thinking about the past, LA, my days spent hanging out on rooftops with Damien.  One of our main obsessions of the time was to get up to the space between the bar and the building in old SBC building (the FBI had suites there) we could see from the rooftop of Met building on 9th and Flower.  Eventually Damien and I, accidentally, did get up there to that very space between where SBC logo hangs all blue, that space where no one was supposed to be, fifteen feet, almost no railing, and peering out all the sides, all the views, we got there through an unlocked door, one we actually thought led to the bar upstairs, that top few layers of the rectangle, but that middle space was actually just the place that you are supposed to switch elevators and go up to another floor.  Instead, we opened the door and found ourselves outside in between that space, look at that space, looks so captivating, that space, in between beams holding up a higher level, that space where the logo is placed, that space where you can't see it by the picture but also has space lights on the ceiling right below that upper floor shining down on what I wondered about for so many years.  We found ourselves in that place and that space, just like we always wanted, always talked about, amazed then to see LA from such a sacred, secret spot, the circle lights shining down for no one but us, the only ones there in the space looking down. I was just so blown away, that we got there, without locked doors in our way, or guards leading us astray, the times of 2005 were more pure, more fun.

I shake away all memories of LA and I rush off down to my lobby, out the door to Ninth  Street Espresso on 10th, funnily enough, right near the park and there I gobble up a four shot latte before I make it back to my place, my heart racing, feeling pumped, that whole noise about hope for the future, eager to write something meaningful, at least an outline or some trajectory of a story, but then I realize I don't have my keys and that means I'm locked out of my place.

I growl loudly and curse my bad luck.  It's the first time this has happened to me in New York. I'll have to go down and get the landlord.  But I almost think it might be better (and safer) for me to try to find a way to break in, maybe climb the fire escape ladder, anything to save me from having to go to the landlord. I've been avoiding him this past week since I'm late with the rent and he's going to point it out in his brusk yet trying to be polite way when I ask him to let me back in.  If only I was on the top floor I could ascend to the roof and then jump down to the balcony, like we did years ago in LA when the same sort of situation occurred.

Back then it was Tegan's fault we got locked out, although I think she tried to find a way to blame me somehow, as was her way. We ended up deciding to walk down the street a good mile to the nearest Home Depot and buy a rope, this was our good plan to get out of paying $50 to get the landlord to let us back in. We figured we left our balcony door unlocked because we always did being fifteen stories up. Our brilliant plan was to scale down to our balcony from the roof and this would alleviate the $50 burden. After buying red climbing rope, we tied it off on a pipe on the roof.  Our roommate Mike said it was good and sturdy, so I started to get up on the rooftop ledge, the edge, because apparently I was the one chosen to do the climbing down to the balcony below. I wasn't afraid of heights but the problem was that I couldn't get a good grip on the rope because it was so thin.  It scraped up the palm of my hands, when I started, and I felt like I was going to fall.  I suggested tying knots but Tegan's boyfriend Mike said he would give it a try so I climbed back up and then he scaled down, experiencing the same problem I did for a bit, he lost his grip, skinned his knees, palms bleeding and fell at least five feet, Tegan screaming, "Oh No!" But after that, he was down to balcony level and we ran down the stairwell to meet him, see if he was OK, he was just a bit scraped up when he let us back into our apartment again.

Having no other option, and not wanting to waste the day pacing around and thinking of creative and yet futile ways to break inside, I asked my landlord to let me in, which he did, after which he promptly asked me for my rent, something I told him was forthcoming, a lie in its entirety, at least he believed it, kind of, went away without calling me on it. The whole experience left me exhausted, physically drawn, and I didn't want to sit and write anymore, didn't want to look into myself for insight, a whole day of intense anxiety stuffed into thirty minutes of uncertainty.

So I reverted back to research phase, decided to get high and think about everything and leave the writing until tomorrow or the next day; my whole life has been about trying to do better tomorrow. It's sick and sad, although I feel it's also vaguely endearing, thinking I'm actually capable of doing better tomorrow. The prospect of arriving, not compromising, is electrifying, not humiliating, at least I choose to think so in hoping to convince myself that getting high for the rest of the day is the right thing to do. Excuses, useless but I like them because they give me a slight sort of peacefulness, feeling of future productivity, perpetuity, thinking I could soon have relevancy and security.

And that's how I finished off the day, returning to pass out and nightmares the next day, same as before, wishing for more, saying to myself charmingly, almost believably, tomorrow will be different. I've made a private career of betting on tomorrows. It's never brought me anything more than sorrow, the regret of a creature that does not yet get it, that habit controls us solemnly, invariably, wholly, and to think otherwise is folly. I still like to think I'll be better tomorrow, knowing and simultaneously not knowing that the prospect of tomorrow is anything but guaranteed.

And then tomorrow, it comes with all the angst there's always been, feeling grave, waking up drained at three o'clock, too late to make a night of it; too early to get up, just purgatory three o'clock where nothing can be done except lay in bed and twist and turn, and fret, nightmares come alive, like the one where I'm on an elevator that doesn't work right, dangerous elevator going really high and it wiggles and wobbles and there are no sides to hold onto, just a tired, weathered rope that sways me back and forth, and up so high like a skyscraper in Dubai, and then it jerks the wrong way and I fall down down down to the ground and it's all my fault anyway because I got too impatient to take the stairs one at a time, knowing somehow that the elevator would lead to my downfall but choosing to take it anyway because I damned the consequences, with don't care attitude or thinking I was somehow better and more apt to succeed than others, who knows why I took the elevator.

Now 5 AM, again, the lightest of light blue skies on the horizon, beautiful for what it will become, cerulean blue at highest hour, the cityscape, picturesque, opaque, surreal, hopeful skyline of summer New York. Balcony is magical, dawning of a new day, hopelessness and endlessness of 3 AM is distant memory as sky lightens on beautiful city, and I remember I don't have to feel the suffering of uncertainty in my head now because I have heroin, in the desk drawer, there somewhere, waiting for me to utilize it.

I don't wait to think it over, grab Chicago novelty spoon and get started, cooking up the chemical, blood chemical, it will make me feel measurably better, in immediate future, and after that I don't have to care what happens, beauty of being mortal creature in nowhere Earth. We live and nothing we do matters, we die and we are soon forgotten, so the best thing to do is to live in the moment and try to find some fleeting kind of happiness. For better or worse, narcotics present a kind of answer and anyway, it's the only thing I have to offer.

It takes a long time poking around to find a vein, blood rains, drains, arteries strain, dark red crimson stuff tickling trail down my forearm, drip, drip, dripping on hardwood floor beneath me, the blood that makes the difference between life and death, trickling softly following gravity, insignificant material of a life I only rent, a life I could never own, not in the system carved out for us, yet in this ritual, heinous, cryptic, beautiful, it shows me a life more peaceful, if only for moments, atonements and sufferings never seemed so far away. I am enchanted by the abysmal nature of it, so wrong and so right, they hate what they cannot capture, pure bliss in chemical nature, this is the way to save the soul, the material they ascribe to more, something ephemeral or supernatural, who knows, I'm willing to strike bone, take the pain for a glimpse of pure tranquility.

Today I have trouble finding that bliss, that tranquility, science betraying me, veins collapsing unceremoniously, due to abuse, overuse, now utterly, seemingly unwilling to take fleeting happiness I set before them, the only thing I can offer them, the juice that propounds from narkoun, promising pleasant numbness, ingenious, yet they've seen this, perhaps too much to believe it, this will cure all feelings of unrest, a test proving this body is just for rent.

Finally I locate the perfect one, a vein still dark blue and raised, praise the naive body, constantly reformulating and rejuvenating, letting me locate an irreproachable vein that is circumstantially just what I am looking for in a vein for this business, seemingly healthy and willing to take fleeting pleasure for a lifetime of pain, my kind of vein. I stick it in and think no more unpleasant thoughts.


I feel heavy and good and I need to document this feeling and adapt it into a great, dark and inspired novel of some kind of imagined importance. I need to document something so future generations will know the remarkable qualities of heroin and live real lives because of it, reading my words and becoming intrigued, inspired to their own greatness. This is my underrated hope as an author. I also, of course, want people to read my words and think, ‘damn, this writer is a literary genius, amazing in every sense of the word, someone who has full command of the English language and knows how to really paint a nice word-picture’. That would be a great legacy to leave. But my moments of brilliance can be fleeting and my narcissism can be exhausting. When I come down, I almost never have the same thoughts.  Not at all.

I open my laptop slowly, and then I think over the password for a long time, type, type, type, can’t get it right, it keeps coming back wrong, denying me access to my computer world, the world where I try to think and type and record my thoughts. What is my password? How could I forget it? Then finally I type something in and it works (is it exhaustion on the computer's behalf or is my perseverance endearing to it?) and it unlocks and I bring up a new blank document and wait to see what my fingers will write on the metaphorical blank sheet of white paper. I can’t wait to read what they will write, those fingers of mine. I want it to be inspired; I want to read it in one of my sober hours and think that it is true genius. I want it to be a masterpiece.

I wait and wait and wait. I watch the blinker, blink, blink, blink, on my empty canvas of a computer screen, mocking me like before, like nothing has changed, like I haven’t advanced to a better, more transcendent state of being since last we met. Maybe I haven't.  My fingers seem impotent; I don’t type anything, nothing at all, legendary or otherwise because they are frozen, maybe in shock, or maybe just not knowing how to type something that has yet to be transmitted, the limits of appendages without a brain to guide them, drive them, is this what I now have to be mindful of, the uncertainty brought with irreproachability?  I smile lazily and look out the window, thinking maybe I should just write what I am thinking right now, this same tired shit about writing, about waiting in anticipation for words to come out of my fingers, like my fingers have some kind of literary genius all of their own.  But nobody wants to hear of it; it's not exciting, or engaging, or heartbreakingly tender.  I hate the rules and the boxes and the lines.

I decide to smoke some weed to recover a bit of the high, propel myself into some kind of inspiration, or sedation, happy with all the unknown things of future me, writing or maybe doing something else, lawyering, dang I hate knowing the future is still so bleak for me.  These days, I rarely smoke weed for just the fun of it, that once novel feeling now absent, weed has become for me, the after high, the rescuer of my pride in come down lostness of other big drugs, ecstasy or call it molly or whatever, it speaks louder only for a short while and I find myself turning to weed, like at twenty-three when I started to embrace it as the final act in the night, sit around outside the electric fly lamp, watching them drawn in with glazed over eyes, smiling, laughing, passing pipe around as moths, they flew to their ultimate doom, knowing it would be me someday, tragedy, who asked to be born anyway?

I take up the pipe for my own selfish get up, bump, c'mon save the high, save me, save everything I well-intentioned thought the day would bring me, naivety, bring me back to first second of heroin high hitting main vein lifeblood, swimming so perfectly, feeling oh so good in my skin, in my head, healthy stuff of heroin, first few seconds like unknowable pleasurable things of past life, want it back, all of it, want to live inside it, pot smoke in lungs get up, rile the heroin up, get me going without having to stick the needle in, again, a trend with me nowadays, sleazy early morning routine.

But I took too much of course, again, heroin and pot and now I'm freaking out, pacing back and forth in my tiny apartment on St. Marks, waiting for the drugs to chill, wondering if I should be a dumbass and call for help, the terrible unknowing of what's going on in your body, feeling head high over high, might faint and die.  To make matters worse, I get super-paranoid and I start to perceive everything around me as a threat, an insurmountable, simply awful threat that I just want to hide from so that it will not injure me. I swallow once, twice, three times and try to imagine that my throat is not closing up on me, that my world is not attempting to wordlessly suffocate me. I contract my throat and swallow once more. The tightening feeling is almost unbearable. There is a fine line between feeling good and feeling as though I’m about to pass out and my world is about to end with pitiful abruptness. As such, I tend to run through the entire gamut of feelings --- from ecstatic to paranoid --- in a matter of seconds when I mix any drug with weed and I realize as much. But then after a little while, when the drug loosens its stranglehold around my throat, I am back to numb enjoyment and I can go out and socialize and not even think about the drug or its influence over my life.

It passes as it always does and I get by.  Before long it's early afternoon and the words are still not coming, words to tell a story of glory or just of ordinary not even extraordinary adventures, nothing, they don't want to grace me, embrace me, they would rather forsake me, regardless of the measures I've taken, lost cause in its entirety, early afternoon brings misery, the pain of brilliance lost to me, I can't write anything of dignity, originality, it's a conspiracy, they are all after me,  betting and hoping and preying with an "E" that I will fail.

Exhale, it's early afternoon and the weather seems to be holding, outside mild and calm like California springtime in early teens when spring was almost better than summer, thunderstorms and changing atmosphere, ruined middle teens, '15, summer so far would remind me of New York, without all the greatness of Big Apple insaneness.  But this is two years previous and I'm trying for present tense and it's east coast summer in megacity and the humidity is probably a travesty but I think I need to take a walk and enjoy this seasonal weather before it gets dashed up and disappears into cold, windy New York City Novembers, turned winters, idyllic and aesthetic, yet colder than expected, colder than they look in quiet soulful pictures of leaves falling, snow falling, so cold I understand now what parents were talking about, seeking warmer ground in fertile California.

I need to take a break from the hate of the blank page, computer screen seeing me tap, tap, tap and then wrangle with the delete button, something should stick, sick of it,  let the stories and ideas come to me in inspired heroin haze because that is the literary lubricant that I have endorsed for the time being, seeing it as a savior of sorts, manipulating the course to fit my particular needs, the greed of a kid looking to make it in a world seemingly deadset on taking whatever we got, forcing us to rot under the waves of dirt they heap upon us, the debt magnanimous, extravagant lives they lead while we bleed, it's obscene.  But I'll never make it by complaining about it, railing off against it, trouble with this generation, unrealistic lost dreams of making it.

I won’t force it at all, not me, so I get up and start walking around, get the blood flowing and the words going, or something to that extent.  My legs feel flimsy at first and the room spins momentarily, sprinkling of white dots and black dots, static channel reminders of nightmares but I am able to right myself after a few moments and wrangle it into something I believe could be somewhat positive in time, a design, maybe even something with timeliness, eventually.

I feel a warm rush to my head, blood that was previously sitting suspended, fixed while I was on the nod, is suddenly circulating again, and with a new rush of vigorous euphoria, store it and walk for a little while, let it come full circle, blood circulating like it is supposed to, making me feel vital, the feeling I want to capture and captivate in time, the meaning of my life.  Is blood the line, the all important go nowhere line between that which we know and don't know?  Is it the fragile moment in time between life and death, blood making up organs, veins, cells?  Is it molecules?  Perhaps it is all science I do not understand, cannot understand, beginning anew with indefinable scientific prophesies, leading the way, me somewhat ashamed of what I have put them through, thus far, those molecules, adapting and mutating unabated, demonstrated reluctance to abide in time to the constraints made by the regimented, law instructed, societally constructed ones who read once, snap judgment, those who cry intervention, not knowing what they might create, words of unimaginable greatness.

I ponder it not long, slip out the door unnoticed, still blissfully entrenched in the afterglow of my heroin experience and wanting more, always there's more.  I do believe in a certain way that this city is magic, at least to the extent that it can inspire genius by virtue of its largeness, its oldness and its magnetisms. While it hasn’t really bestowed upon me any sort of promise yet, I’m not giving up until I reap the rewards I know exist here, somewhere, I just need a good breakthrough that I can nurse to completion, laughing at the prospect of such a thing and also because of the immature overture, childish, sexual overtones and double entendre of the entirety of the statement. Ha, ha, ha.

Hopefully my breakthrough will come soon and hopefully it will be legendary. I just need some time away, something that will recharge my body and mind and convince me in the stated hopefulness of a tomorrow in all its glory. As it stands, I am not really capable of giving myself that kind of cunning inspiration, that fleeting brilliance that all we artists rely on to make something great, worthy of celebrate, words that can ring true now and generations to come, grand plan, I'd like to be known for more than just person who lived once.

Maybe prison with its intimidations, dominations, sublimations, its way of enforcing compliance, might be the answer to all my problems, help me focus of my mind entirely, something momentary, get me clean and yet not too clean, to make words imaginary and yet exemplary, something I could share with brilliant literary groups who make the decisions and visions, the things that get published, not the rubbish, I shake my head.  Prison is no one’s great solution. I am just being silly and irrational here. The heroin in my blood is putting a golden glow and silver lining on everything around me, including the inane ideas that have come from some of the unwell wishers who surround me, ideas that I have nurtured despite their incredulity, they call it mastery and I call it blasphemy, co-opting the word for my own purposes, selfish incidences where I feel like the one persecuted, rallied against, a sentence sought of acts undone, for crimes uncommitted, I'm sort of the scapegoat citizen, in law, institutions of justice, fuck it all up, think they are working for the people, not coming after the people, I guess most of us will let it go until their arrow is after you.  Critical, immense ridicule, this is kind of what they put you through, the ones who reach out, try to make the best of a bad situation, a rape of twenty-two, see what they have to offer you, probably something akin to servitude, a new rape that is supposed to teach you, fuck you says the victim to those who prosecute.

It’s a really dark time when someone actually thinks that going to prison could be the answer to all current problems in life. Admittedly these are dark days for me, the darkest, dealing with constant harassment and what can only be quantified as dastardly threats to my person and my very livelihood on a regular basis, from nut jobs and stalkers, only one of whom are student loan bank members, feeling the strain themselves as just thirty-three year old out of work gay dudes who just want a regular paycheck, wreck your life and make you crazy, they are not the problem, just zombies doing whatever it takes for monthly rent.

Prison should never be the answer but I have descended into a tempered kind of intelligent madness that sees prison as a feasible escape.  I've been thinking of hiding in prison for days now, maybe weeks.  It feels very fucking brilliant to me at this moment because solutions for my state of affairs have not come easy, only sleazy, very shady things come to mind.  It may be that the heroin is fucking with my mind, making me think things imprudent, things that are not necessarily correct, things that in practice would be inefficient and loathsome at very best.

Prison would suck and that is the brutal truth of the matter. I shouldn’t be taught to think otherwise or led astray by the seductive, anything goes power of the heroin in my blood. In prison I would get beat up; my face would get bashed in repeatedly, broken bones and those only look semi attractive on men. My particular brand of charm wouldn’t go very far in a place where people only gain notoriety by being tough and shanking others, trying particularly to lacerate internal abdominal organs and force lifeblood to leave the body in an unceremonious, pitiful little crimson pool at the bottom of bathroom stall, shower wall, blood so lavishly large, others look away and shrug, glad it's not them.  Prison is no great solution.

I cross the street and head back to my apartment shaking my head, almost disgusted that I had these visions in the first place. I didn’t walk very far (just around three blocks in one big circle) but I feel a renewed sense of purpose nevertheless, wanting more than this, more determined to fight for some kind of prosperity. The walk was helpful in that it allowed me to work out certain inconsistencies in my mind, the trouble of following the right path in a branch wielding, dividing, diverging mess of unknowing results.

I know prison is not the answer; the walk helped me clear my mind, I'll come up with something in time, something better, something that allows me to reach my potential without sacrificing my sentimental attachment to sentient being, the physical pleasures of the flesh and the body, where it might lead me, I need to be free to create and propagate, the only way to inseminate the world with my kind of new brand of storytelling.


As I’m taking the stairs two at a time, down, down, down to the lobby floor, my landlord suddenly appears in my path, providing an unscheduled and unsought after obstacle to my ultimate goal, an interruption that I hadn’t accounted for. There is no way to avoid him. We have already made eye contact and any distasteful dodge now would be ill advised to say the least, he would know I was trying hard to avoid him and he would become so suspicious of my ulterior motives, he would attempt to evict me here and now. So instead I decide to brave the encounter, look the beast straight in the eye, and issue a believable enough excuse that will buy me one more day on the rent that I know he will seek out imminently.

It’s the ninth, LuX, my landlord informs me drearily as we pause next to each other on the stairs, like the North and South Facing Zax, so stubborn in our own resilience, neither one of us interested in budging an inch to let the other pass by, both of us knowing that it would signal a type of defeat that we are equally and respectively uncomfortable with. We clearly feel the same about each other, a tempered dislike that is somewhat hard to quantify. I’m unimpressed by him and he’s unimpressed with me. It’s the usual arrangement between landlord and tenant, but we make it somehow more dramatic, mostly me because I'm always late with the rent, having spent it on ill-conceived things, the fruits of a moment, the addict, not me, would agree.

Back in California, I spent a year doing unlawful detainers in the southern district and the state courts of Los Angeles and San Diego, so I know how these dynamics usually play out. Typically I would lose the case that I tried because everyone hates the tenant, even the judge who is supposed to be fair and unbiased, hates the tenant.  Then me, the tenant, would file bankruptcy or remove to the federal court for some drawn out verdict, typically thrown back, delay, delay, delay until the point where I'm living free for a year or more.  But that's California and I literally have no clue the New York rules.  At the time it was utterly defeating and wholly exhausting trying cases and appearing for motions that were constantly and unanimously denied, tried and failed to make a difference, insistence that we make the best argument, inspire of the resentment and bias, try this, try fighting a losing battle and see how long til it beats you down.

Now more than ever I feel the tenant’s pain in this ancient arrangement, the ever increasing, strengthening, tightening grasp around their throats, the sheer terror of eviction, employed often unconstitutionally by the landlord against the tenant in order to squeeze every last penny out of an already dried up well. I have come to hate the entire justice system, mostly for its collusion and utter hypocrisy, justice nominally, in name only, no adherence to original definition, justice, not felt around these parts.  But I suppose the dumb poor kid trying to defend them is the true asshole, c'mon now please.

This is not really the same situation at all but on principle I hate my landlord in the same vein that I hate most movie villains (at least the ones that I don’t secretly sympathize with) because they are all throwing a tantrum over not being able to easily screw their victim, taking it out on me as the bad squeaky wheel on a shopping cart, they want me out.  My landlord is trying to bother me over rent a few days late so I hate him in the same vein and with as much emphasis and gusto as I hate those bathroom attendants they have staged in fancy American restaurants and all throughout Europe, the ones that look at me with those sad eyes when all I really wanted is to wash my freaking hands in peace and without the necessity of offering up a tip, state-sanctioned, voluntary or otherwise.  It never made much sense to me. I’ve always been competent enough to squeeze out my own soap and turn on the faucet. I don’t like to give out money or tips for something that I can do myself with little hassle.  Landlords are somewhat different, admittedly, but they come to rely on a similar need, the need for shelter, some measure of safety, thinking they can capitalize while others tremble paralyzed, unable to provide them the small satisfaction they desire, tired of being taken, not sure I could ever be a good taker.

I return my focus to the landlord, my landlord standing right in front of me, looking up at me (from down the stairway) trapping me, wanting to hear the utmost worst out of me. Sighing, I know there's not much of an excuse, choose the tempered lying truth, being all honorable and promising, kick the stone down the road and see if that time ever comes, where it all comes to fruition and I have to make the inevitable choice to come clean or lie, unconvincingly, that underlying immorality, thinking I'll do right after all the oats are sewn (godforsaken time) and all the young pride dissipates into old regret, then, I'll do the right thing.  These are the things I think staring into the eyes of the Zax right in front of me, blocking my exit, making me face the coming confrontation.

I know it’s getting late in the month but I’ll have the rent for you tomorrow morning, I promise him with a careful smile, trying to sound self-assured and not delinquent. He pulls his face away and twists his features into this look of pure incredulousness that I would find actually quite insulting if it weren’t apropos for the moment.  He's gotten tired of the shit I'm selling.

I’ve heard this story before LuX, he replies exhaustedly, pointing out sullenly, this has become a pattern for me. I know but seriously, I have the money now I just don’t want to go back upstairs and retrieve it right this second, I’m on my way out for the night, I inform him as I gesture down the stairs. Tomorrow is the tenth, he tells me condescendingly.

No but today is the eighth, tomorrow is actually the ninth, I correct him, feeling somewhat gratified for knowing such trivialities as dates.  The smug arrogance I like to present doesn't last long.  Consult your calendar, tomorrow is the tenth, he breathes back right on cue, looking sanctimonious in his response. I narrow my eyes and then pull my phone from my pocket to check his accuracy.

Sonofabitch, I mutter as I note the big, bold NINE (9) on my calendar icon, mocking me with its explicit, undeniable, inarguable certainty. Okay fine, I’ll have it for you tomorrow nevertheless, I claim, trying to recover a modicum of honorability in my defeat as I re-pocket my phone and shrug smugly looking around, trying to pretend none of that just happened.  He nods. I will personally come deliver it to your door, I entice him, knowing he doesn’t like this business of going around and collecting rent from deadbeats. He nods once more, still acting like he doesn’t believe a word that I say. I will, I add emphatically. He moves his mouth around in thought, his disgustingly, thick mustache swirling around in a demented circle as he ponders my latest assertion. Finally he speaks. Tomorrow is it, that’s the last day, he says strictly as he points his finger dangerously close to my face.

I blink once. I think about punching him in the face but I refrain. That’s your last chance LuX, he confirms seriously, contemptuously, as if he is almost ready to evict me.  I understand his frustration but I don’t like him threatening me.  Of course it is not a wise move getting into it with a landlord that has keys and the ability to change your locks on whim. That almost never ends well for the tenant. And while this place is not awesome by any stretch of the imagination, it is also not terrible for its rental value and location. You can only hope for two of the three factors when it comes to New York housing. I wanted location and rent; I didn’t care as much about the quality of the space inside. So I kind of feel like I shouldn’t push my luck with the landlord, no matter how much I want to rearrange the features of his face. It’s too hard to find a good place to live in this city.

So I merely smile at him and once more promise that he will get the rent money by tomorrow. Then I make him step out of my way, as any good Zax would, and I carry on down the stairs as he walks up, probably retreating back to his apartment after his nightly visit with the woman on the first floor, they're having a secret affair.

I don’t really feel too bad about making him wait for my rent because my landlord has the funds to live very comfortably in this city. He owns and manages a bunch of buildings in and around the East Village, possessing them from way back in the day when this part of town was much less desirable than it is today. He is doing more than okay here and should not be complaining unnecessarily about me holding him up on one unit's rent.

I push through the lobby door, scale down the steps and out onto the street. The semi-cold air greets me like a light smack to the face. I welcome the cool rush like I do most of the rushes in my life. It’s exhilarating and it makes me feel alive, sensations that can be few and far between these days. But this works like a drug, the cold air of barely there summer, and I revel in it accordingly.

The wind does not lose its vigor or its sexiness as I walk down St. Marks toward the subway at Astor Place. It whips my hair into a frenzy, the wind, but I hardly mind.  I would walk the whole way to the bar if it weren’t so far. Maybe I will reserve the long walk for the way back because I might be bumming around by that time, loaded up with nothing else to do.

It doesn’t take long before I reach the subway entrance. I descend the steps and make my way toward the uptown platform, slipping through the turnstile as quickly as possible, hitting extended waste bones, ow!  I immediately break out into a full-blown sprint as I hear the train whooshing into Astor Place, calling out microphone lady "Astor Place" and everyone rushing to the exit East Village home.

The subway can be unpredictable at this time of night so I take the steps two, three, even four at a time, managing to sneak onto the train just as the doors are slamming shut, after all the people disembark, hurrying mad run, rushing past me, jetting just like me, but up the stairs, to get away from the dingy dark damp down place and into the darkness of night New York. Missing this train would have been a huge derailment for me because I would have had to wait around in the hot, hot, hot underground mess of stink and grime and nowhere ghosts of all time.

Nobody notices my struggle to zoom in at the last second as I quietly grab a seat near the door, point my eyes at the floor and wait for train to get moving uptown. I settle in for a long ride and then carefully peer around, look around, quick inventory of all the people going uptown like me for undescribed, secret reasons in New York City.

I like New Yorkers for the most part because they seem as self-absorbed and utterly selfish as I am. The idea of human suffering has no place in their general concerns and I cannot entirely relate how important that is in a community of people that surround me on a daily basis. My absolute nightmare would be living in a small town, so small that everyone knew everyone and everyone was in everyone else’s business all the time just talking about you, or what you've done when you're drunk or not all quite there, dare to smoke some pot on 11th Street overlooking town lights and later your parents hear about it from next door neighbor whose eldest daughter is dating a cop, friend of the one who pulled us over and took us all home, delinquents, trying to scare us, hard plastic seat of cruiser Crown Victoria, saying all the while big mistake, slurring out words that we think are so funny, glad to get rid of us in the end. I think I would kill myself if I ever landed in a situation of small town again (that is if I weren’t able to move to a better city) and that would not be an over-exaggeration. I absolutely abhor the idea of being on other people’s radar, cop radar, able to do nothing without getting caught, handcuffed, told on.

I leap off the train at the 51st Street stop and then proceed the last few blocks on foot. This city has a lot of pitfalls, namely the terribly humid summer weather and the bitterly cold, snowy winters. The only time that it is really nice out is early fall and late spring. But none of that really matters because I absolutely love how mobile I can be in this great terrific city. I can go almost anywhere either by walking or taking public transit. Back in California, even though I had an awesome red Jeep Wrangler that was so quintessential California, I really hated driving around because I was either stuck in freeway traffic or risking arrest for driving while intoxicated. I smoked a lot of marijuana back then and it made me a lazy but not altogether dangerous driver, in fact I was very careful, but it still made me feel scared every time I took to the roads. But this city allows me to get high and just walk around or take the intricate subway system to my destination without the fear of stalling, crashing, or being detained for illegal behavior with a motor vehicle. It is utterly freeing the amount of possibilities that this city holds for someone like me. If the weather was a little better, I imagine the entire population of youth in America would migrate here.


I meet up with Damien and Skyler, old high school friends from California, at a bar on 55th near 8th.  Skyler is in town with his new girlfriend interviewing for residencies in Jersey, the kind of thing you don't do bleary-eyed, hungover on too many liquor drinks, and yet here he is looking to spend hours with old high school buddies from nine years ago, show off to girlfriend while she sits bored, not drinking just thinking 'hey is this what I signed up for?'  Skyler likes Damien and I, usually, because we do not make sorrowful cries about being something more than we are, embraced our absent faced, endearing sense of charm years ago, crying 'this is who we are!' and meaning it too.  I never fool or try to hide my loserish pride, big badge of honor being some nowhere kid doing nowhere things lost in intellectualness, the kind of useless thing you gain from too much education, mascots of our generation, I'm indignation personified, the kind of kid who sits back and waits for aggressors to start trouble, then finishing it, all the while justifying it with rash, don't care attitude, black eyes and busted lips and beautiful compassionate heroin safe in desk drawer when I need it to lick my wounds and feel like all this strife is going to equivocate, someday, into something sensational that I can be proud of, someday, that hateful, malignant word that has come to mean a future I can no longer count on.

All these nowhere kids are like me in a way, hopeful and tragic, knowing and not knowing their fateful destinies, too much cyclical repeats, generations upon generations, nothing changes, we ritualize everything, sympathize with nothing but our own lost, tragic ends.  Damien, working for a business degree at Columbia, thinks he's better than Skyler and always tries to challenge him, not seeing, knowing they are the same in all the ways that matter, working so hard for things that will lead them nowhere, like the rest of us, just wandering around dark, bleak, blackened ground where success is not earned, it's nepotistic.

I arrive in polite, raised voice shouting middle of one of their classic arguments, one-upmanship, them each trying to impress, and this time it is about the stock market, saying one thing and meaning another, trick words about when to buy and sell, great big discussions of nothing matters and I come up with my don't care attitude, and say 'Hi' to old high school friends from back in the day, San Diego, Escondido-ay!  So far away from big city east coast and it makes me wonder how we all got here being the same way that we are, but I say nothing at all.  They welcome me with big hugs, I haven't seen Skyler in at least a few years and I see girlfriend Shea gets displeased, almost snort of displeasure but she looks away when I hug Skyler, not liking Skyler acting so nonchalant with girl he used to know when seventeen, and really though she just kind of hates everyone, and hates being here, stuff we have to go through when we get boyfriends.

I will admit that I had a crush on Skyler back in high school but that was years, years, years ago, almost exactly a decade now and not feeling it anymore, she can reign in her claws, I mean no harm, no threat to what she has built new with boyfriend here, medical student, soon to be resident.  She sees something futuristic in him I suppose, planning to build a life with him, and if she knew just how much her dream would depress me, she wouldn't fear me, hate me, get jealous because of me, because I want none of all the great big ordinary things that Skyler wants with Shea, Shea wants with Skyler, the two of them just agreeing on marriage and kiddies, please, pedestrian, I could never bear it at twenty-seven. Shea doesn't know about all that, has yet to size me up, so feels rightly threatened by my presence, another girl here and knowing Skyler is the only guy worth sexual pursuit at our table, no offense to Damien, but he's not exactly loaded up in the looks department, and we as girls kind of silently agree about that right here on first meeting, first eye contact, but I'll let her worry over it for the rest of the evening.

We all sit down to talk, nervous anxious discussions of reminiscent high school years, things we are semi-comfortable saying to each other, rehashing old incidences, incidents, all happened years ago, funny memories of things we used to do, so I play the part of kid reunited with happy high school buddies, laughing accordingly, talking about back in the day, perhaps our last great time of happiness, I don't know, and all this while Shea looks on exhaustedly, wallflowerly, she hates the absurdity of being distinctly counted out of conversation relaying intricate knowledge of people from long ago, in a world she didn't know, only left with bobbing her head reluctantly as we drone on ignorantly about all things that don't matter now presently, I guess I can kind of feel her pain, having gone out with boyfriends and their friends lots of times to hear similar fits of laughter over names and faces all strangers to me, having to smile politely, no one wants to be suckered into a conversation about something they know nothing about.  Skyler feels her narrowed eye ambivalence and wonders if they should go, salvage any hope he has to get laid in new city, vacation sex, hotel room sex, not wanting to jeopardize this just for rehash of good old days with crazy high school buddies in New York City.  I feel his reticence and poised stand-upedness, just about to make something of this, utter the sad sorrow of sympathy and good-byedness, and then, Damien, cuts in like the protagonist stand-in, hated repeat guest star that always breaks the bad news at the worst possible juncture, Skyler feeling trapped now when Damien suddenly stands, high up in his chair, startling us all in magnanimity, watching him curiously as he waves over some guy in backwards hat, tats on forearm and looking severely out of place in Manhattan.  Ugh, ah me.

I feel like punching myself in the face when I see him, the guy Damien has invited over to sit with us, drink with us, make lame conversation with us, while we patient endearingly waiting for liquor to overtake us, or cannabis, rash decision, I feel like I've just accepted a lengthy prison sentence on false pretenses, innocent of the charge and still blasted, corralled into faking humorous stances, I walked into this, ah sadness.

Honestly, this guy Damien waves over looks like the kind of guy you would find in Riverside, California, one that goes to the river every weekend to fuck around with dirt bikes, quads, get towed behind boats on a snowboard-type contraption, enamored, one that drinks ridiculously cheap canned beer, bud light, and starts fights by doing dumbass shit that only those similarly-inclined would find hilarious in the worst possible light, the kind of guy who plays with jet skis, has a tan on only the upper half of his body, and says ‘bro’ after every proclamation he utters, basically the California equivalent of a New Jersey Guido. I’m pretty confident that this guy Damien is calling over, this specimen that is about to sit down with us, have a drink or ten with us, is a desert rat from the left coast.

Hey Jason, Damien greets him excitedly, I roll my eyes exasperatedly, mostly because I'm dickish and kind of an asshole and I want him to feel it, know it, see it. This is Lux, Skyler and Shea, Damien introduces us around the table with the awkwardness of a strawberry blonde home schooled child who got all too lucky on brilliance alone and never had to dig any deeper past all of the bullshit that is just beyond the surface of anybody.  He faces life like it's a big intellectual puzzle, four answer choices, black and white, Damien, the good boy turned bad, hopeless, trying to be remorseless, big posturing atheist stance he's just a little too afraid to commit to entirely, poisoned by punishments of blasphemy young, a true nowhere kid, nowhere more than me, nowhere indeed, finding his place nowhere between atheist and laughing about it and Christian and sanctimonious about it, a perfect blend of a kid belonging nowhere, Damien, I feel sorry for him, he's constantly posturing about something.

What’s up bro, Jason questions Skyler in a shouting manner, stopping just short of demanding a palm slap from his corner seat next to Shea, Shea who is about just as unimpressed as me, but probably for different reasons entirely, hating this whole scene and hopelessly roping us all into one category, bigotry from the upper class worst class. Saying nothing I smile lightly as Skyler issues a small polite return greeting to Jason, trying to remain mostly stoic, passive guy, just trying to make it and not create a lot of ripples in the process, lost in this just like us but wanting to maintain some kind of tired charade as the rest of us wonder how to be cool and not say what we mean.

'This guy is definitely a desert rat, a bro in bro’s clothing,' I think ghastly to myself as I make eyes at Skyler, not just to challenge Shea but also to forge some kind of quick, unscrupulous, utterly ridiculous little alliance in case things go bad in the night, as in a fight, between us and him, the kind of thing that alcohol brings, out all your inner thoughts, table front, saying all the things that in your right mind would be kept silent, to yourself, knowing better, but thinking clever, drunken thoughts will make great remarks, funny stuff that on later recollection admit probably shouldn't have mentioned in the first place, though well-intentioned and yet misrepresented, the trouble with meeting and drinking is not everyone has the sick, sad same sense of humor.

Jason hasn’t even sat down yet and he’s already used the word ‘bro’ at least once, making me think I'm right about everything I've internally commented about him, even the dumbass shit I barely think about before I speak, the worst of my dark, dreary personality, the one that thinks the worst of everything and everybody, only modifying views on occasion, if they give me something worthy of admiration, sensation I hardly know, experience, feel, relate, I'd be the worst kind of all the compassionate rationist in the world.  I'm an admitted asshole.  So it goes.

Jason is from Cali too, Damien reveals proudly as he gestures for Jason to sit down with us. I figured as much, I remark somewhat bitingly and under my breath. Jason smirks at that before grabbing a chair, turning it around backwards, and sitting down at the end of our booth to make casual chitchat, sticking out and blocking the path to the bathroom, being that guy who just likes to have big personality even though he sees we all kind of hate how he is, the big, big, big guy who likes to communicate pride like it's some big kind of fantastic accomplishment, I'd like to offer resentment, but I'm trapped, it's entrapment, Damien has entrapped me and now I must be friendly.

This guy named Jason is a walking, sitting stereotype, ripe for all my pretentious assaults, faults I cat point out, mostly because it would piss off Damien and he's a big supplier to me, so I try to be, more mature than I ought to be, the perfect epitome of a nice chick without guile, guileless, sit patient and ignore my every instinct to put him in his place.  This is going to be painful.

As if that wasn't insightful, present knowing everything, Damien feels it necessary to say "be nice," warning quietly, elbowing me in the ribs subtly, but with a hateful maneuver jarring hard as he reclaims his seat. I wince, sensitive ribs, not wholly recovered from fight two weeks ago where hard blunt head to the ribs followed by another elbow left lasting impression, bruises still felt, black, blue, green, brown, now I roll my eyes with super-imposed, self-important, and almost haughty cynical wince, followed by glee, me, why should he assume I won't be nice?  I stare at Damien shortly, the assault not sitting well initially, but hen I smile with purposeful and intentional derangement, making him think I have intentions unstated, or like maybe I can't help it, just want him to not know what to expect, he hit me in the ribs and caused displacement, harm, bright, shining pain straight to my brain, I felt it and cared.  Damien doesn’t want me to be an asshole but now I'm fixated on why he felt it necessary to hurt me.

The eyes now narrowed, really low to the center, trying to show I don't care for his stupid tactics, elbowing me in the ribs, making me wince, whine, tears to my eyes, no one knows how bad that hurts until suffered broken ribs, the worst of the best I have to offer, now I'm really in a bad mood and looking to be a jerk, except I know dealer won't want to deal pleasantly, inside strategy of trying humbly to get something for free, so I smile dejectedly, downward eyes, trying to hide what I really feel to protect later drug deal.

Jason starts to tell us about his vacation to New York City almost like this is a different planet; I roll my eyes, flex my jaw and look around the bar, distracting myself from comments I could say. Damien will get pissed off at me if I belittle his friend and I need to connect for some pot and get some financial advice later so I have to be nice and it's hard because Jason acts just so dumb, I think maybe I need a drink to alter my state of mind.

As I’m watching Jason talk, talk, talk about drinking with his bros and recounting some un-carefully orchestrated debauchery that he and his companion on this trip have perpetrated thus far in great great city New York, I start thinking about how he reminds me vaguely of this guy I used to casually date four years ago back in Cali, right after I graduated from USC and was despondent about my future, looking for pure distracting omnipresent asshole types, you know the guys, it was before I decided to go to law school, before demise, the circumstantially and financially freer times of my life when I was looking for some direction that could guide me, unbind me, anything to unsubscribe me from the stuff that I was supposed to do, the role I was meant to play and portray, I didn't want to betray the morality I had fixed for myself but I also didn't want to do just boring old stuff I was told to do, I thought me, I should do something better, cause it's me, and I am mine, and it was all just stupid thinking at twenty-two.

I can hardly remember my motives for humoring the relationship with Josh that I am about to recount, but it lasted for about a year and it was dramatic to say the least. I think I was unfamiliar with the Riverside bro at the time and I found Josh somewhat intriguing, bringing excitement to my boring life at the time. It wasn’t for his intelligence though; it was for his novelty. I had never dated a desert rat before, and because they can be superficially cute, I decided to try out the new experience.

It happened sort of like this. I showed up at Josh’s place thinking of making some amends for something about an incident that had occurred a couple nights before, something with his best friend who was hotter than he was and really coming onto me hard as I recall. So I come by looking to make amends for things unsaid but we start fighting instead about various stupid things that were all basically rehashings of things that had happened earlier in the relationship. There were slurs and other offensive insults hurled back and forth between us and it eventually devolved into a fiery monologue that would end up being the most poetically tragic thing that he had ever uttered as an inflated, quote end-quote artist in his own right -- Josh, if he wasn't such a lost cause might have been a great poet, greatest of our time if poets still mattered in this time -- because his monologue threw me personally into a fit of absolute fury, hitting all the right connections -- Josh who was actually cute but not all that smart, calling me out, Josh who might have have made it if he had nurtured his talent, instead of delving deeper into methamphetamines, the kind of drug that could easily help you lose your mind, devastate you in the wrongest of ways, made me rethink my life with his fiery, passionate monologue directed at me.  But then I remembered Josh's priorities, making it all about tending to East Cali, Riverside County, nowhere kid of a different kind, trying to rebel against the grind of parents who say, ah be the tired nowhere guy who loads carts in Wal-Mart, then spend your weekends blowing up in a fiery dirt bike crash after being unable to stick a life or death landing, a twelve pack of beer water frenzy in the tummy.  Poor Josh.

Ah, the monologue, written it out now as I remember it, not owning it, just recreating and perhaps restructuring it, as my prerogative, Josh saying to me all these years ago, this night that I came over to make amends for all things said and unsaid, and I remember this particularly although I’m not really sure why because I was most likely half in the bag at the time, prancing around, saying nice little endearing words to everyone who chose to talk to me, he said to me, all mad, narrowed hazel eyes, all low deep voice and serious mannered, he says something to the extent of: “You’re a loser! You’re only twenty-three and you’re already a loser, making loser decisions, being a loser, not caring that others look at you like a loser, stoned terrible loser not understanding anything I tell you, I fucking hate you!”

Of course insults from bros almost always slide right off you like lube to the genitals, sentinels, I like being general, the stupid kid who pretends not to understand anything they tell you (I cherish my obliviousness with the right sort of passionateness, radicalness, I like playing the super stoner idiot they have to wonder is really there with us).  So ultimately I end up responding with something like the following: “Yes, I am a loser, you figured me out, shout it from the rooftops, loser, it's actually my biggest badge of honor, the only real thing I can proffer, black eye and busted lip honor, endearing sense of charm, relate to me or let me escape, I'm me and you can't change that."

Afterward of course, Josh, stupid bro feels the need to snort derisively, turning his head away from me, thinking all the imaginable things for guys of twenty-three, still get the feeling he is trying to impress me, not probably realizing my self-deprecating charm, disarms, frantically maddening to him, all trying to be serious, seriously?  At the time I didn’t even bother to point out that I was actually only twenty-two, and a writer, though not a very accomplished writer, but a writer nonetheless, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because it was 2am at the time of this tirade and he was hopelessly, irrecoverably pissed off at me, mostly because I slept with his best friend the night before, and never apologized directly for that deceit, or showed remorse, of course, I'm not apologizing for having a good time.  So Josh ended up not being able to forgive and he kicked me out of his trailer for good, making me spend the night somewhere between Culver City and downtown, which as I recall was not a very safe neighborhood at the time, and probably still isn’t today.

Then later, years later by my recollection, when I was recounting this story to a friend of mine in law school for some unknown and inexplicable reason, a reason that was probably inarguably silly at the time, a reason like trying to make some extraneous point through colorful illustration, and probably also because I was high on account of having just smoked a bowl or two of weed in the car, an unfortunate thing occurred, something that I would have taken back if it were possible. I can be cavalier about this now because it hardly matters to my current life; coincidentally, unsurprisingly, fatefully, when I was retelling this story to my friend, one of our law professors was lurking nearby, kind of around the corner, and walked up to where we were standing waiting for the elevator and caught wind of the gist of this unimportant story, the sordid parts that involved methamphetamine and infidelity, and she became convinced of the illness of my character, right there and then. And there was no persuading her otherwise. Snap judgments that I could never fix were made in that moment, and even through semesters of being an honorable and attentive student, like volunteering to answer questions and participating in applicable demonstrations, her low opinion of me could not be undone. For the rest of my tenure at law school, which was unfortunately like two and a half years, this particular professor would look at me semi-crookedly, suspiciously and with deftly squinting eyes, sneering distrustfully as she called on me in class or when we passed in the halls, knowing that I was capable of wanton things. It was the most unfortunate turn of events.

Jason suddenly smacks down on the table with his huge fist and my attention is now ripped from memory tangent lane back to the present suddenly, back to this desert rat waxing poetic and self-important to the rest of us here, midtown travesty I'll call it, Jason this guy trying to impress people who are so supremely unimpressed by his adventures and personal narratives that we willingly zone out instead of embrace him with even the subtlest socially polite nod of our heads, we are just that much so horridly enraged by our forced in, entrapped social contract, that rage in us, changed in us the societal calm we were taught to portray, abandon all training of social graces in the face of this guy named Jason.

His story (as I've caught most of it despite my narrative daydreaming insolent eyed too good for Riverside persona) is something about dirt bikes and big, chesty women with huge giggly, jiggly bellies, pot-marked and prominent, I guess it's called cellulite, you know the type of girls with low self-esteem who wear too small shirts and really short shorts, don't have a mirror, and like guys with sideways hats under buzz cuts who treat them badly, the badass thinking boys with fiendish speed habits thinking they are Adonises in disguise, scratching acne covered necks and cratered faces, open sores, bloodsores, and imminent prominent scars, taking everything way too far, especially drunk in desert by the river on Tuesday morning, scorning those who wear suits and work for a living, damn them all, they think they are too good for us!  I digress, maybe need backstory, wishful glory, Riverside California is Meth county, hardcore abuse, what's the use of saying they like busted, iron dented trailers in middle of nowhere, drinking beer at high noon, floating on inner tube, Ah Riverside, everyone knows where their pride lies, no need to rationalize or hyperbolize cause it's Riverside.

As he's telling his story, Jason slams down beer after beer, hits the table with his fists for emphasis, and incessantly requests high fives from Damien after everything he shouts at us all, apparently pure gold the whole lot of it. Even though Damien complies, I can tell that even he is a little bit uncomfortable with the forced social convention, and feeling the tension that surrounds this table since he's brought in this guy to mingle, the embodiment of the type of guy we all try to look out for and then avoid.

So then this chick just went flying off the inner tube and smacked into the side of the boat, broke her nose and started screaming wildly, she was wailing, blood was gushing, it was a total scene man, Jason concludes his endless story with a chuckle in his deep bro voice. Wild, Damien responds with a large smile. I blink a few times and look around the bar, then at Skyler and Shea, they share my disinterest, eyes glazed over and senseless, not pretentious, just suspended in the type of animation that is still trying kind of for politeness.

Was she okay, Damien finally questions with evident interest. Jason nods his head. She busted her nose up and wanted us to take her to the hospital but we just gave her some beer and she was fine after that, he informs us. Broken noses can actually be pretty serious because they can obstruct breathing or cause life-threatening clots to form in other places of the body, Skyler jumps in with his medical knowledge, blowing Jason out of the water. He looks dumbfounded. I’m pretty sure that Jason could care less about life or death, he is one of those guys who just takes it all for granted, living and dying, I suppose there is something to be said for that.

Sick, you’re really like some kind of doctor huh, Jason finally responds to Skyler's thoughtful response, looking wholly amazed in the process. Skyler just stares back at him incredulously, almost seemingly ready to get up and leave but instead he just nods a slow confirmation.  Oh so dude, have you ever seen anyone die right in front of you, Jason suddenly inquires of him, eagerly and without an ounce of self-awareness. Skyler flexes his jaw and turns away, obviously uncomfortable with the line of questioning. I don’t blame him; glorifying death is extremely crass. But Jason doesn’t even notice his own overstep because he’s like a hyperactive, attention-deficit disordered gnat, immediately distracted from the question by the waitress walking by, flagging her down for another beer in anticipation of his finishing of his current beer which is still three-quarters of the way full. I shake my head and can't really believe how captivated Damien is with this moron Jason. Damien is way too smart to be intrigued; their bond must go back to childhood, a vulnerable and rare time and place that Damien aches to still feel connected to in some way.

What else have you seen here in New York, Damien asks Jason after taking a sip of his own drink. Why is he keeping this guy talking to us? Hasn’t he had enough of his pointless rhetoric? Damien seems concerned with impressing him for some reason. Jason merely laughs at the question, a hilarious joke the rest of us don’t care to understand. No offense man, I mean New York is okay, but Jersey is actually much better, Jason responds boisterously. I am not even surprised by that comment but Damien is sure to take offense; he loves New York and considers it his adoptive city. Dude, there is no way Jersey is better than New York, Damien states assuredly, right on cue and grotesquely twisting the word ‘Jersey’ into an ugly distortion of its generally accepted pronunciation. I laugh inwardly. Maybe now Damien will get rid of this guy. Jersey is way better, Jason bites back. People take themselves way too seriously here dude, look at these guys right next to us, Jason exclaims as he gestures at Skyler and Shea. I chuckle quietly as they are put on the spot. Shea just stares at Jason coldly and with narrowed eyes. Skyler does nothing as his character is assailed. Skyler has never been the type to welcome trouble.

I smirk and suggest that maybe it is because no one here wants to inner tube the East River. Even though Jason didn’t call me out particularly with his exclamation, I take the opportunity to belittle him because no one else seems willing and able to. Well they should, Jason quips back immediately, looking at me with wild, drunk eyes for only a second. I nod condescendingly. If people had more fun here, this would be a better place to visit, Jason rationalizes with his slurred wisdom as his eyes flit back and forth and all around. Okay, you don’t believe me, I get it, but have you ever stopped to consider that New Yorkers take themselves too seriously, that they think too many things are important when really nothing they think is important, Jason goes onto question me, piercing my eyes with his shaking, vibrating, totally unnerving corneas. I look at him and wonder if he’s right. I’ve never been a fan of New York pretentiousness myself, but I would also hate to side with a desert rat from Riverside on any argument, important or trivial.  So I shrug with a half smile to answer his direct question in an ambiguous manner, trying to stay in the middle of the controversy, the middle of the road, unhated by everyone, like Bush or Obama. That pretty much ends the inquiry and Jason rushes off for another drink to the bar.  He never comes back.  He sees some girl he either knew or hoped to know, so he leaves with her down the stairs, stumbling out the bar.

We gaped to watch him go, sloppy outwardly tripping, and when finally he is out of sight, we all turn back to stare at Damien, in unison, wordlessly demanding an explanation for the last two hours of our wasted time. Damien smiles sheepishly at us, having no explanation to offer. Big talker that guy, he eventually remarks with a small, nervous laugh. Yeah, he certainly had a lot of energy and opinions, Skyler observes. I smile and nod thoughtfully.


At 2:00 am or close to it, Shea becomes louder and more persistent about her desire to go back to the hotel. Skyler agrees at last, not wanting to make their argument any more confrontational. Shea looks like she’s going to talk shit to him the moment they get some privacy. At this time and much to Shea’s general chagrin, Damien mentions heading back to his place near campus to smoke a bowl. Skyler’s eyes light up and he seems very interested in the idea but Shea quickly dismisses it for the both of them. She is obviously not pleased being here and the idea of extending this little outing is more than she can handle. Skyler seems super bummed about not being able to partake because he likes to do it when he can. He clings tight to vacations and other times where he is allowed a certain reward for being good on a regular basis. He understands fairly well his limitations and wants to avoid the stuff most of the time.

Skyler eventually succumbs to his girlfriend’s whims and they head back to their hotel, which is only a couple of blocks away near Columbus Circle. Damien and I bid them farewell, speaking about how nice it was to see Skyler after all this time has passed, and how we should get together again after he moves to Jersey. We make vague plans and then they take off in one direction and Damien and I head the other way down the street toward his car.

I was kind of hoping to pick up from you tonight, I relate casually as we stroll down the semi-­‐deserted sidewalk. Yeah I know, got some bud for you in my car, he answers back. He hands me an eighth in a half‐sized plastic baggie. I accept it and open it up to take a large whiff of the contents. It smells quite good. He begins to rattle off about all of its unique qualities but I only care if it will get me high. This stuff is really hard to get, I had to ferret out some good contacts here, he assures me as I take another sniff of the bag before closing it up. I nod in order to vindicate him. I trust his judgment even if I don’t possess the nose to tell distinctly whether it is good or bad or somewhere in between.

We part ways and I begin the long trek back down to the East Village, beginning on 8th Avenue.  I like going the wrong way down one‐way streets. It makes me feel against the grain, like a tired anarchist suffering from a serious case of denial, a case I think I can win with perseverance and a positive attitude. Of course I admit the truth to myself, and whoever else may be listening at three in the morning when I wake up with a start from another nightmare featuring lizards and junctions and white noise in terrifying visual form. I guess in some kind of way I like being the delusional loser asphyxiating under generational devastation, the inherited indifference of the privilege and wasted pride of parents who dream the best for their kids, kids like me, sending them off to college and maybe even graduate school and feeling as though they are really going to make something of themselves, all the while me knowing personally I am doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents, my grandparents or great grandparents even, the ones who pitifully drank and drugged themselves to death because the disillusion of a perfect world where they actually belonged was way too much to live with. The ex-­‐patriot writers of the past, my situational and aspirational ancestors, had it right from the beginning because they accepted that they would never be accepted in traditional society but they made something of themselves anyway, a feat that deserves its own kind of praise.


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