The Man With Six Brains
Who are you again?
I wake up early Christmas morning. My world is enveloped in a thin layer of frost. The cars are covered in crystalline stars. The road is coated with a thin black sheet. At mother’s house a small child swims in a shimmering sea of emerald wrapping paper, burgundy bows, and silver foil.
I sit on the floor sipping coffee and staring at the decorative branches that were once apartment complexes. Plastic apples hang from metal wires where a family of birds nested, or a squirrel paused. Pictures of my kids still sit in a box. Next to the dresser. I'm afraid of them.
I think that if I write these things down I will keep moments from disappearing but I have typed, deleted, typed again. Something I'm dying to say but afraid I can't say correctly. I am thinking of saying nothing. I'm afraid I will say too much.
I think that if I write these things down, I can trap people on the page like butterflies preserved under glass. It will stop them from floating away. Anyway, I am sorry for this. Even before it really begins I am sorry. I am sorry there is too much.
Last year I went away for two months.
A girl, some oblivious hippie twirling on the beach, long straightish hair more a part of her than her feet. The song 'there's something going on' is playing. She picks up a sand crab and I think of a close up of the crab with his claws flailing but the crab is not upset. The song fades and a new song begins. She sets the crab next to a fence and walks to the music. There is a fence with slats to see through. I wish her face death.
That's what I do when I don't feel like talking to someone. I usually don't like to commingle my feelings and yet I felt dislike and respect for her at the same time, like that budling that once grew outside my door and that I subsequently contaminated with yellow spirits.
I suppose give me a Dos Equis then if that's the best you can muster. I can stand about one of these but if you throw in a shot of tequila I can get along. People grow from utility vehicles like the mold on fast food. Ford stupid. Chevrolet dense. Do you have a piano bar? Okay fine. Thank you. I accept your stare.
Hello, girl. Mine eyes have scared your glory beneath veils of well practised ignoring. Do you want to look at me or not? I don't often act this bold. I am really very shy and my eyes lie this lie, this adaptation to my Cracker world. Forgive my crossed eyes. Fine. Okay, yeah. I'm a loser.
Who are you again?
I'm not a butterfly hunter, of course. I wait until after the moments have flown beyond my fingers. Not all people do. They catch you while you are still in the room, drinking wine or laughing at a page in a book or eating sandwiches.
I don't think of her anymore. Maybe because I force myself not to. Maybe because I have nothing left to think about. It is stale. Like the air in my bedroom. Like the feeling of my sheets.
Sitting on my porch in my rickety rocker with my windpipe and dreams of buying a new way of moving I can't make it real. The refrigerator's too loud. The lights too bright. I don't hear laughter. My TV isn't on. I try to make out my face in the black screen. Maybe years went by. Does her hand feel like I imagine? Would she release a small smile if I bit her ear?
I put a chair on my balcony. I can't see any stars. I pretend the planes are aliens coming to take me away. I might have toy guns aimed at my mailbox reading fire to wild cactus cooked from a Joshua tree and I still can't tell you about my 3 fastest-fading loves. Aahh the guilt grows in my enemy's trees. But you aren't in the loop, are you?
Mother walks back and forth between the kitchen and the living room in a new white bathrobe. She brings us platefuls of strong-smelling breakfast sweets strung with white icing. I take a bite of cinnamon, cake, apple, raisin, and then the little toddler tackles me and hands me a fistful of ribbon. His father laughs from his chair while mother, exhausted, curls up on the floor in a plush new sleeping bag.
Hell yes, she needs one more velvet dress. Red, the color of leaves in October. It laces over her left hip with red ribbons, and it has petticoats of tattered looking silk that hang beneath the hem. When she moves, the silk whispers like leaves.
My life could be falling apart. I could be unemployed with a wife and two kids. I could be dying of sunshine stroking a laugh catheter that tingles my prostate.
Her new husband says what the fuck. He asks where is she going to wear something like that.
"Here," she says, because there she is. Sits outside with an ice cream and listens. Hears beer, cigarettes, and the aura of the stoned. Beer smells sweet but not on the downside. Doesn’t want to make anything with a downside.
Cruising. Just past the big statue of the hand and all the fine brown honeypumps turning to give primetime catatonia. Soon adjusted to the pasture in the distance and the cold, long, dark nights of being human. What grows there?
At father’s house two children wrestle for supremacy of butterfly nets. The older is learnedly poised and the other is a kicking maniac. Their mother runs interference while father feigns deep breaths and rolls his eyes. He’s sitting at the piano disconnected from his body, the bookshelf to his left, and the large synthetic tree decorated in plastic picture frames and tangles of silver to his right. His fingers wander the keys like blind serpents. They hear something some accident and run backwards looking for it.
"Good morning Mr. Johnson".
I grumble but not loud enough for her to hear so accustomgrown have I to smilethis way.
Mm good morning.
"Looks like it's gonna be a cold, long, hard winter".
I wanted reparations. Reparations for a life of unclear choices. Where was my fate? I would have embraced my fate, good or bad, if only it had presented itself to me earlier and in ways that I could understand. I might be fabulously gay on Sundays to spite my Bushite neighbors. I might perform small clitoral favors for drive-thru lesbian muff dives.
I wonder who wrote the rule that we put on our best for the benefit of strangers. At home, amongst the people we love, we subject them to our ugly moments. Women wear sweatpants which is a cruel thing to do to your ass. Sweatpants. What an awful idea. Even the name is ugly.
The reading of Twirl by Candy McKenzie at the local library? I remember it, and yet she didn't write it. They never stop to beam me up. I start laundry. It finishes. I put it away. I am older now. I check my answering machine. I record new greetings. I stop at sunrise. The thought of somebody calling and hearing my new hilarious greeting fills me with joy. I laugh. And laugh. Until I cry. Nobody calls.
Sayonara to the little maiden that I would have liked to describe by using the word opprobrium as a symbol for my secret affection for her. But pigtail pippigirls never gave me dayslashnight time. Not that I know of.
But you're not in the loop, are you?
Just then the sky opened up and a beam of light hit the valley in the distance. I reached out to it and grabbed a piece of it between my fingers and placed it in my windpipe. My youngest son is small and his eyes are pure because he hasnt been taught the rules the Jones family follows. He gathers a handful of red velvet skirt in his hand, and shakes the petticoats to watch the silk flutter.
A cold, long, hard winter indeed Mrs. O'Reilly.
"Would you like to come over for some tea?" she asked me.
"I know what tea is", I said.
At grandmother’s apartment we are refined and jovial on comfortable furniture.
Years ago all this, the rugs, couches, cookware, cabinets, coasters, chairs, tables, trays, televisions, photographs, and paintings, were strewn about in a massive house on the river. Now everything is condensed and cozy. The fake fireplace is gone. The Christmas tree is streamlined, and where once a lengthy table stretched just inside the front door, is a narrow hallway and small coffee table for coats and keys.
This place. A place of wood remaining things that people would like to hear windchimes to. A place of trinkets and baubles and everything that is not the essence of a thing.
"I like the Gauguin". "It reminds me of painting and art."
Maybe I volunteer free legal services to welfare mothers and gimp poets who bitch and moan about people. Who don't know the difference between the former and the latter and your attention span doesn't matter. I drink Glitterhouse wine to project my progression of neglected vanity projects I subjectively object to.
When you’re young, the world is infinite and expanding. You want your legs to stretch, and your eyes to conceive and wander. You need all the room possible. As you grow older, you begin take those relics out of experience and condense them in an ever-smaller setting.
Now all those memories are stacked neatly in a large oak cabinet in the living room. Grandmother feeds everyone nicely spiked eggnog while grandfather flips through football games and reminds his youngest grandson of a nearby plate of frosted sugar cookies.
I'd leave now but I think that would be me having to leave now. And me stumbling over this chair has nothing to do with drunken compensation. Tell your friend she's even stupider than you. And ugly too. And all your friends are stupid and ugly and the bartender too. Everyone here is stupid and ugly and I slipped into this hole hoping to find some kind of Bukowski moment. Those who know what I mean are not like those who don't and, baby, you don't.
Will she smile and hobnobgenuflect along my orbit now that I have revealed my brainhand? Sasha is 10 million light years away. Perhaps her light will reach my grave.
"I had a daughter", she said. "Missy was her name. She liked westerns."
The part of yourself you left behind your eyelids as you read this is brewing over an Asian tea bag synapse dub relapse spit in the soul hole, dropped in the fishbowl.
This tea. This invite. This unveiling of her nondescript livingthings. Missy liked westerns. How did I end up living near this tea Mrs. O'Reilly?
Then the sky opened up and rain fell like Judah. I reached out to it and grabbed a piece of it between my fingers and placed it in my windpipe. Things went undissolved and remained for no other reason or purpose than to remain.
"Missy", I said.
"Eyeblink", I said.
"Oigen oigen", I said.
At dinner we indulge in tender beef, crisp biscuits, soggy salads, sliced potatoes, and slick green beans. And it’s so quiet you can almost hear the candles flickering.
Capture me a moment in time when without permission I reigned in this loci. Perhaps this has been called tea in some places but where I come from they call it surrender.
"Thank you for the tea", I said.
"Mrs. O'Reilly", I said.
"Tea", I said.
"Thank you", I said.
Back home I unravel on the floor amid a sea of emerald wrapping paper, burgundy bows, and silver foil.
It was like and disrespect that were commingled. And when I spoke the valley grew ripe (say it) melons. It's been said that music can kill a lion. I understand now that this cannot be true. Communicating information is out of service. Please use the handrail to your left to guide you back to your piecemeal bit by bit torrent forming an orange doorhinge on the cornerstone’s edge. I hedge on in eight-fifths precisely - give or take a cinched inch of my eyebrow.
I lay down on the kitchen floor listening for footsteps. Are you barefoot? My finger traces the outline of your imagined footprint. I think we are happy.
It’s Monday. Or Tuesday. Maybe Wednesdaythursdayfriday. Weekend. Week begin. 10 years go by. My floor needs cleaning. I return to my room. My bed. My sheets.
The air is stale. But I’m used to it.
My children understand things. Kate thinks that being too pretty to work would be a fine thing. She finds a costume she wore in a play, and emerges from her room, Juliet in wine silk and gold. She could not find the under blouse, so her monkey print pajamas show beneath her slash and puff sleeves. Her hair hangs to her waist like a length of dark silk.
My principessa. I have made you dresses of red and gold, and sewn tapestry ribbons to your sleeves. You will not do dishes. You will sit in front of fires and read new books that I give you so that you will love the same words that I do. If you have a new book, you are rich, even if you have overdrawn your bank account.
Sid, Isaac, Eve, Able, Henry and Jude are strewn about the living room like so much wrapping paper. Henry and Jude talk about a band they were in during high school. Sid and Tim talk about a band they were in during high school. Eve and Able talk about a band Sid and Tim were in during high school.
Why does Kate have a crown her brother asks, and she says ssshhhh.
"How many times have I told you not to make noise when mommys casting spells? Connor wants a crown too, so he puts a bucket on his head."
Everyone is reciting names.
"Have you seen Watson lately?" "Remember Rose?" "God. I ran into Casey on Tuesday."
"Fell? Fell, are you alright? Fell?"
"Hey. what seems to be your problem?", says the leaning tower of piss who's been staring at me for minutes.
Nothing's my problem that you didn't set straight. The only problem I have is how quickly to swallow this last shot. No thank you. I'll keep my face unbusted up. I'll direct my anger toward solving that which is bothering me. That which is bothering me. Yeah, you're a good guy. Thank you.
I’m mopping up the floor of liquor stores with underscores of you fuckers. My life could be a morality play at an old folks home in shiny shiny when the Mormons come home. I could be born from a long line of hygiene products and you'd never know it.
As I hit the parking lot at full speed a few of them aren't far behind. Sitting Bullshit is in the car snoring while Sheridan's bullets whiz around us. He has a grin on his sleeping face.
Yeah it's me. We're leaving this cesspool.
"Wake me when we reach the next cesspool."
The next cesspool swirled out of the lights forever. 'Nowhere' is a place like this highway. Like this radio dial. Just like that desert star beckoning nothing but dust and us.
I catch you, I commit your soul to paper, because I dont know what else to do. It is a prayer. It is a song of goodbye sung by mourners in a desert outside a Bedouin tent. It is a useless stupid moment that will mean nothing to anybody but me. My children will rise up and call me blessed, or maybe rise up and call me a fucking wackadoo.
There’s no shape in this ceiling. There’s no body. There are no legs. It’s all just blank. I stand up and walk out. I walk out the door and run down the stairs. I run through the front door and down the street. I turn left and then right. It’s cold outside. And yet, it’s oddly peaceful.
I run across the highway and down one of those endlessly stretching streets unique to the small town lower class. I run by the chain link fence of the middle school where I used to run the mile in 6:04. The gate is open, but no one is there. My lungs hurt a little. Images of everyone I’ve ever known are dancing on my unborn grave. I hit the front yard. The grass is covered in cobwebs of frost. My streetlight is burnt out.
I am in the street now looking down the open length of road that runs through the horizon. They are butterfly hunters. They think that they must catch you while you are flying, and press down on you until you are still. Impale you on a pin and tape a label beneath you and keep you under glass so that you never fly away.
I think the label would say this: genus wackadoo. morte. Hell yes, but dont my wings look pretty? Impale me. I am dying here. I am dying. The words float into the space.
I throw my wineglass into the fireplace to see it shatter in the flames. It makes a beautiful sound. "Make a wish," I wish for the moments passing. Here they are, in a circle of firelight. December with dark garnets crowning us and buckets on our heads and velvet russet and rustling and wine and spells cast in sparkling shards of gold etched glass.
Listen. I might be a smother of invention who dabbles in ballet bullets shot from gut rot funk macramé but I can't say enough about it and I certainly won't tell you about it. I could have vitamins pumped into my limousine and you wouldn't smell the vitamin C.
Nobody else can ever drink from that glass or take that wish from my mouth.
spliced and edited by chi chi from