by Aden Bell
The house on Calypso is three cigarettes away from my apartment. I’ve done the math. It takes eight minutes to smoke one Red Moon Cigarette (regular, with a smooth, natural, full bodied taste), and there’s about a one minute break in between each, to light up, to fight the wind, to hide in some corner and shake my golden lighter in frustration. My hands are cold. I can’t work a lighter to save my life. The monsoons are here.
The house is crusty white shudders and rusty pipes. The doors creak, the steps make little moans when you walk up to the front door; the tiny spirits underneath can feel the weight of your feet. I told the people who lived there that the place was infested with ghosts. They retorted: The whole city is infested. So we went around and shared our discovery with the world, or at least our small useless and unassuming corner of it.
We went out with our spray cans and we wrote. “We believe in ghosts.” Sprayed large, in big bold letters, in bright orange or blue or dead permanent black. But nothing is permanent. With effort and paint, anyone could cover it up. So we repeated our actions in an endless cycle of preach, erase, preach, erase.
We wrote small sermons. “You are no one.” “This means nothing.” “Fuck you.” We inspired. “We love you.” “This was meant to inspire.” “Seak beauty and destroy it.” We misspelled. We wrote on public property, private property, our property and their property and on objects that could scarcely be called property. We covered signs with our signs, ads with our ads, words with our words, pictures with our pictures. “This road goes nowhere.”
Ladders wobbling, we looked over our shoulders at the dim lights under the stary skies and laughed nervously. Well, I laughed nervously. They laughed like dogs. We weren’t clever or profound and rarely did anything we did get noticed by anyone besides those who erased; still, every night I went over there, three cigarettes away and so many uncounted drags. We went out for four cigarettes, for nine, for the whole night, for the whole pack. We went out until we couldn’t breath, until the sprayed fumes of paint were our only oxygen.
The sun came out on us some nights and the roads glistened in dryness, in wetness, in rain and dust and everything in between. Birds chirped and people drove by in cars off to their morning jobs, sipping a coffee and talking on a cell phone. We were calm after this; we could go back to the house and hide in the basement and talk about movies and politics and bore ourselves to sleep on the torn couch that everyone had vomited on at least once. This was now my home.
I barely lived in my apartment, with those roommates, Bob and Clyde, or Jones and Carter, or Billy and Frank. I could never remember their names; maybe they had none. I’d sit in the window for a few drags and wait for the right time to leave while they sat in the living room, living or rooming and barely moving.
I’m not sure I know all the names of the other people who live in the house. Of course, not all of them live here, but we all live here. We eat and we shit and we open the shudders and admire the tree and the cactus. I think Guy owns the house, and I wonder sometimes how he afford its. He has no job. I asked him one day if he had rich parents. He smiled at me and didn’t answer. I think he must. His rich parents are funding slow burn suicide and the defamation of character of our suburban niche.
And then we’d go down to the basement and listen to records that scratched and skipped, the sounds disappeared beneath our laughs and our yells and our “this is this and that is that.” If we got home before the sun came up we’d be sure not to fall asleep until little slivers of light crept in above our heads. If we were out when the sun came up, we’d stay up even longer. Sometimes we wouldn’t sleep, and go out the next night, fresh and dead tired, and that’s when we accomplished the most.
The more days without sleep, the more libations poured to our non-existent gods and our good for nothing ghosts and monsters, the more drags of time we hissed by, the more it all seemed to work. We made our own moonlight in those dazed nights of no sleep, booze, pills, and cigarettes. We’d sit in that basement filling the air with smoke, getting high and talking about the doors and the windows and the walls and the coyotes wandering around the neighborhood.
“Listen to the coyotes howl.” “The walls are muted souls.” “I use this corner for toilet paper.” “My mundane is your beautiful.” “My love is your skepticism.” “Believe this.” “Smoke wails and streaks and stinks up everything.” “Fuck you.” Yes, it always seemed to come back to fuck you.
“Time drags,” I wrote one night that was the same night as before and the same night as now. Darkness came and went, light came and went, and we were okay with that. We had little to do with it. We were building our own clocks. “This is our clock.”
I walked past restaurants and bars, past houses and lawns and gardens. I walked past people walking the other direction, people walking the same direction, cars driving in circles, bicyclists ringing bells, children coughing and wheezing. The clouds layer the sky. The dogs growl at nothing and a poor fat kid is sits in his empty room with the lights on, alone.
I walked past gutters and trees and little trickles of water. When it rained, I got wet. I walked on sidewalks and roads and through peoples de-weeded front-yards. I walked past little stores where tourists bought bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets. I walked by bright gas stations where I bought junk food and giant sodas. Everyday, day after day, I surveyed our kingdom.
Cigarette number one is finished, here I am at the intersection of Extension and Cherry. At the end of cigarette number two, I’m next to a strip mall housing a little place to learn karate. Next to that, a pet store. Next to that, a quaint little restaurant; inside, grandmothers eat breakfast with their grand-kids. I can smell the syrup some mornings if I’m in the area. I can smell the grease, the pancake batter, the coffee.
I walk past everything. There’s comfort in that house. I can sit there and have trouble with my lighter and make jokes about flatulence. All animals pass gas. “All animals pass gas.” “This is where you find meaning.” “The world is your broken toy from second grade.” “I like apples.”
“The sirens are in your ears.” “This is an Italian horror film.” “Bleed harder.” “Enter here.” “Conversations with white noise.” “I am masturbating.” “This will not be here forever.” “I count using made up numbers.” “We don’t know what time it is.”
And so on.
Sometimes I wished we could do better. “We wish we could do better.” “Are we impressing you?” “We're sorry.”
We told whole stories in our tired non-city. If someone walked where we walked that night, in the same order, at the same pace, moving with us in a different time, tracing our path, following our own personal ghosts, they’d get their own personal novel, a novel of where they were, where they were going, where they had been. Past this and that, the dumpsters and garages and empty streets and flickering lamps.
“Begin again.” “The second place you see is someplace special.” “Stay on your toes.” “For something important.” “Hidden under the lamp lights.” “Where monsters sing.” “About boring things.” “We listen.” “We mean to behave.” “We find the songs.” “So interesting.” “They move us.” “To do beautiful things.” “To do ugly things.” “Will you see it?” “Can you be there for it all?” “Can you comprehend?” “Something horrible is happening here.” “This place is haunted.” “This place is haunted too.” “There are cities buried here.” “There are ruins underneath this dumpster.” “Ancient burial grounds.” “Green eyed freaks.” “Lonely abused tyrants.” “All things sweet and fulfilling.” “Don’t you agree?” “Don’t you see?” “We are in heaven already.” “We are in hell already.” “You passed purgatory.” “Go to the next block.” “Now this is utopia.” “Follow our invisible maps.” “We are making a new city.” “This is already in ruins.” “Where is something new?” “Over there.” “Over here.” “Back behind you.” “Garage sale on 7th avenue.” “Don’t be afraid.” “We are here to protect you.” “The end is near.” “The end is here.” “Begin again.” It’s all one big circle.
We thought about doing other things and we ripped down flaming stars wasting words over glorious grand plans. We would, hypothetically, take cars, steal them, take them apart, weld them back together, and transport them back to their appropriate parking spots, disfigured, like some metal mutant. We’d take down all street signs, change the names, and put them back up. One brainstorming morning, while we ate donuts and drank milk, coffee, and beer, we came up with pages of new street names. Dead End Ave. Circle Cr. Drunk Dr. We’d name streets after ourselves or people we admired, but we admired no one. We’d name streets after made up plants and animals. Drivle Forest Way. Bark Mork St. Quag St. And so on. Smashed Bug Dr. Fetus Lane. Suicide Run. Dead Man’s Curve. There had to be a dead man’s curve, on a straight road that went all the way out of town and inched up over the horizon. All of the roads did that.
At the end of cigarette number three I’d take one last long puff and throw the butt at the curb. There was the house, my home. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it, like any place I’d ever lived. I went inside anyway. I was tired and wanted to sleep. I wanted it to be tomorrow. I wanted the night to never end. I went inside and dragged out more time. We all did.
“We drag time.” “Behind us with chains.” “We move forward.” “Looking backwards.” “Smile.” “We passed a department store.” “We passed you.” “We passed your friend.” “We passed a woman with a baby.” “We're past all dead ends.” “We're past churches.” “We passed eateries.” “We're past safety.” “We passed used car lots.” “We're past everything.” “We passed you...again.” “We walk past ghosts.” “We believe in ghosts.” “We drag you with us.” “We are past.” “You are in a time drag.” “Get out.” “Fuck you.”