Updated: The Fence

I wrote this story a few years ago and recently edited it for submission. It isn’t hard to see why it isn’t a winner, but I like it all the same. Here it is for your enjoyment.

The Fence

To explain how I came to be in this bleak institute, wrapped in a Posey jacket and carted from padded room to padded room by waspish old women, might demonstrate that I, in fact, belong here. Surely, some form of punishment was justified, however I question whether this was the correct course of action. No matter, I have no qualms with spending the rest of my days here. I’m rather content with this room and I’m sure this is a more comfortable stay than near those petty criminals in the penitentiary. The doctors, overworked as they may be, seem genuinely interested in my wellbeing. After the initial cocktail of anti-depressants failed to cure me of what the psychologists labeled dysthymia, the good doctor decided to put me on what I can only assume to be a powerful opiate. It was a good change. This magic morning pill has given me an effective means by which to rummage through my mind, content in my isolation, while the man in the cell next to me screams apoplexy for days on end. If he is, in fact, stricken with such impairment, I don’t suppose he’ll find relief before death. Our home has no support for things of that nature. Our home has no support for much of anything. Not that I’ve ever craved it, even in those quiet moments when I begin to question the validity of my actions, even when my mind leads me to that dark time before I killed my brother.

I have no regrets, but I must make it known that I loved my brother. He was my companion, one who many never be replaced. It is unfortunate that this will be the only record of what was truly a wonderful life.

He was the smartest man I’d ever known. I have no doubt in my mind that, had he put in the necessary effort and written even a sliver of his curiosities on a napkin, he may have been considered a necessary intellectual of our generation. It was a shame, then, that in all of his forty years he received little more than a snide glance from the academic community. In our youth he was recognized for his brilliance, but as he shed tutors and professors like old matted fur, he developed a reputation as a cynical misanthrope. What brilliance appeared on paper seemed a far cry from the strange shut-in of a boy they had brought to their campus. By the time he’d reached his early twenties, he’d grown disenchanted with academia altogether. He had become his label, and seemed happy to do it. Physically, he was always fit to play the part. His face was always locked in a scowl, even in our youngest years; it was the only thing our father ever gave him. His fists hung like heavy clubs on the ends of his wrists and, if one had not known him well, his speech could easily have been mistaken for indistinct grunts. I, however, often found myself in awe of his abilities. He had married when we were younger but that was, at best, a failed experiment. They slept in different beds, were never intimate, and entertained only the lightest of conversations. Still, she never left him and he never asked her to leave. For what reason I do not know, but it appeared as if women were the only worldly things of which he was never very curious. In all other pursuits he was relentless. Whenever he encountered a subject of which he had no knowledge, he would spare no time gathering and reading all prior investigations into the topic. If unsatisfied with his findings, he would conduct his own research into the matter (as was within his means, of course. We were never very wealthy.). Write a paper, I would tell him, submit something to someone of importance! Contribute something to the world! You have so much to give! But in stubbornness he etched his findings on the inside of his skull and shuttered the windows from anyone but his only brother.

His murder, and the trial that followed, were never concerned with my innocence in the matter. I was the one, who alerted the authorities, who confessed without any external incentive, who handed them the knife stained with his blood and my fingerprints, who stood alone above his coffin on the day of his burial. What spared me a lifetime in the penitentiary and brought me instead to this life of chemically induced aloofness, was my explanation. This I will recount for you, not as any form of justification, I have already been judged, but as a way of memorializing a discovery that should not be forgotten once I have also passed on.

My defense, in the simplest terms:

We found a gateway to death. It drove my brother mad.

I understand the reasons for my punishment. For most people, death is simple: people die and are dead. It is for this reason that no soul prior had accessed the gate; those craving death have proven content with tucking themselves under the cuff of her wing and melting into her feathers. We, too, had considered it, but my brother, ever rational, questioned if we would like it. I felt foolish, for I would never drive my car down a one-way street with a dead-end. I thought it a simple jest when, one night, after a few glasses of wine, he suggested we find a way to experiment with the infinite sleep. I have always enjoyed his intoxicated symphonies; it was not irregular for him to ramble in A Minor. By the next week I had gone back to work without giving it a second thought, and a month later I had forgotten that we had ever even spoken on the topic. What a surprise it was when he appeared at the door of my room, hair disheveled, eyes frenzied, muttering slightly as he let himself in. I thought him mad for a moment, but once I peered into those brilliant pomegranate irises I could see that he had scrawled something new around the windows to his skull. No, not scrawled, carved; carved into his cornea so that no matter which direction he looked, or whatever he looked at, all he could see was the vision he had so meticulously drawn out for us. For, as I should have expected, in the time since we’d last spoken he had researched, mapped, and used whatever magic lay within that graffiti-slashed skull of his to pinpoint what he came to call the fence. By the next year, I found myself clambering through an imperforate dungeon, hoping with all hope that I had not misplaced my trust.

The oxygen was thin in the caves, each breath more debilitating than it’s worth. Had my brother not been there, determinately, slowly, but confidently pushing on, I might have been content with drifting into the infinite opaque. What a relief it was when, after sliding naked through ancient formations of igneous rock, we came upon the fence; relief, because my brother’s work was not wasted; relief because we were finally at our destination; relief because, if I so desired, I could drift off and rest for the rest of time.

I am not a fool to think that anyone, much less a jury, would believe these claims. I was never the gifted one, and like most other people, I’d always regarded supernatural claims with healthy skepticism. Even as we stood at the foot of the picketed gate, I found myself doubting the legitimacy of my brother’s claims. Perhaps we had merely happened upon the site of an old hobble. Perhaps, after years of erosion, some formerly habitable land had been buried in the flatness of the Canadian Shield. This, of course, was a ridiculous idea, and it is for this reason that I do not fault anyone for thinking me mad, but once they themselves pass on they will see that I was not lying. They will see that I had no need to. Wooden and dead-bolted, we unlatched the fence and entered death together. As we entered, I left one foot in the world of the living, like the string of a yo-yo wrapped around a child’s finger waiting for a return.

There was no tangible transition as we crossed: no twisting of reality as we slid into the nether. One moment I was I was grasping my brother’s wrist as we stepped into the dark, the next we were a horse dancing across the ethereal plane, one consciousness uncontrolled. We were wisps, pulsating across eternity, absorbing, being absorbed by dark matter, by all matter. We could not see, nor feel in any physical sense, but we were there, always a part of something. We were nowhere, everywhere. We were devoid of the familiar senses and better off for of it.

As we flew, new memories trickled into our consciousness; conversations in voices I’d never heard with people I’d never met; they became clearer for every moment we lingered in the house of death. I was a young woman on a platform leaning over the edge in search of a train that was thirty minutes past due. I was a man on that train, contemplating the work of Miklos Jancso, his preference towards long takes and minimal editing, watching as the Hungarian puszta whipped passed by. I was Tchaikovsky on the premier of his sixth symphony, crying at the final morendo, bittersweet with the knowledge that this was my final performance. I was a boy, asking his mother about God in a language I never learned but understood entirely, and then crying when she answered because I couldn’t, or he couldn’t, rationalize death as anything other than infinite black. Do not fear, boy, I wanted to say to him, for now we are together and it is safe. I was my brother, watching myself weep as my mother’s coffin lowered into the ground all those years ago. I felt what he felt. He felt what I felt. It was exhilarating. We, who were always so isolated, always kept apart in some way from our peers, now joined infinitely with those of whom we so craved to be a part. What euphoria to be a part of everything, to be one with everything, to know and be known without posture. I wanted to stay forever. Soon, however, I felt my brother rearing, resisting what we’d found in that world. I would lurch forward, he would pull back. I would jut left and he would spin me around, tug me back. Soon, I could no longer feel my brother. I could only feel myself. Without warning, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. My head came back to me, my hands and feet, my lungs, which felt stiff as a I gasped. Gravity slammed me back into the cave and my body seemed ill prepared. I buckled under my own weight, encumbered again with life.

We woke up side by side in the cave, chilly from the sweat that had accumulated on our wrinkled skin. My brother was gaunt, motionless but for the rise and fall of his chest as his body remembered how to breathe. We lay on that floor for some time, heartbeats syncopated. I did not resist when he rose, and moved quickly when he motioned to leave. We crawled out of the cave, and returned to escarpment from which we entered, dressed in the waning sunlight, and then marched back to the car we’d left in a ditch on the side of the road. I wanted to return but it was clear my brother had no intention to, so just as he had led me there, I led him out.

We did not speak on the experience on our return trip; we did not mention it to his wife, nor to each other in the days that followed. We were there together. I didn’t need to speak on what I felt, for he felt it to. My brother, however, barely spoke at all. When he did, his words were hollow, fragmented. He soon found himself out of work. Within the month he’d confined himself to his room.  Moira was the only one allowed to see him, only to deliver food, which he seldom ate, and cigarettes, which he smoked voraciously. He locked the door from inside, and despite my attempts at persuasion he refused to let me in. I could not understand why, after all we had been through, he would choose to return a recluse. After all, it was he, not I, who forced his way back into the light. For the short time, we were united, consciousness combined in its purest form, I thought we were happy. Now, he refused to see me.

As time passed, he grew even further into himself. He carved a 1 x 1/2 ft rectangle in the base of the door, one meter off the ground, and installed a latch to allow him control over the access point. He boarded up the windows, his only light borne of a collection of wax candles placed haphazardly around the room. At night I could hear him pacing the perimeter, stopping to scribble on the walls, then start again; if I was lucky, the night would grow quiet enough to hear his utterances, to listen to the scratches and picture the letters he’d carve into the wood.

One night, once my fingers had grown tired of punching thoughts through ribbon, I found myself shaking rather uncontrollably. I’d gone to the cabinet to fetch a bottle of scotch but found it much too difficult to pour it into a glass. I had been worried for my brother. Moira had informed me the previous evening that he had, of late, been returning his meals. The tray would enter and, after a few minutes, return on the ledge untouched, not a mint leaf out of place. In the early morning she’d heard a commotion in the room, but frustrated as she must have been by his behaviour, she left for her shopping soon after. It occurred to me that I had heard nothing from him for the entire day. Odd as he had been acting, I did not know him to remain motionless for more than a few hours at a time.  I worried, as most would, for the health of my kin, so I climbed the stairs to check on him. Ten raps on the door rewarded no response. My concern grew with each one. I called to him but, again, received no reply. It was not unusual for my brother to shutter himself from the world at a time of crisis, but his heightened desire for solitude and refusal of even the most basic sustenance had me concerned for his life. I returned to my office, retrieved a hammer, and cracked my way through the latch. The door landed flat with a thud. I could not see him at first, but as I stepped through the porthole he spoke to me.

“We are nothing, brother,” he said. The light from the hallway lit only a small part of the room, and he’d disabled the light-switch long before. Still, from his voice I could tell he was on the far side of the room, near the bed. “We die, and then we are dead.”

“What nonsense.” I said, at once relieved by his wakefulness but irritated by his having ignored my calls. “Could you not feel it? Were you numb to the euphoria? We die and we are one, as we must have been before!”

“Euphoria, brother? No. Too many voices, too much of everything.”

“Were you not the one who told me that everything is the universe and in death we merely return home? At mother’s funeral, no less!”

“Nonsense,” he said. “We die and we are dead. This life is but a ride. When it ends we will depart. We resolve to nothing.”

“For all of your genius, you are truly a fool to believe that, especially after such a union as we were permitted to join. There is beauty in homogeny-”

“But for how long, brother? I know the unity of which you speak, but how long were we there? A few minutes? An hour? A day? Even within such a short time we began to lose ourselves. I tried to call to you brother, to make you hear me, to make you understand what I wanted to stop. It was nearly pointless, like yelling over the roars of a crowded stadium in hopes that the one person who needs to hear it will. How long until we disappear? How long until the only thing left of what we once were is a memory upon which we stumble only once in an eternity?”

“Does this not excite you? Each person has but one life, much as a mosquito, a dog, a cell or its gametes have one life, but in death we are united. We have thousands, millions of lives, each life a vast well of memory.”

“A gamete dies and another one forms a zygote and it turns into a boy who lives and dies just the same. Regardless of the gamete, life continues without it. We were them, both the boy and the zygote, and we did not know them. They did not know us. Soon, we would not know ourselves. What kind of life is that? There is only one life: the one that we are living right now. When it is gone, there is nothing.”

“Then why must you waste it, hobbled up in this dark room? Do you desire to waste that life which you cling to so dearly?”

“It is not a measure of life experience, brother. How many men and women did you see who had wasted their time in search for experience? No, I care only to experience life in its most basic form; to feel the blood as it pumps through my veins; to feel my heart as it slows to a murmur; my breath as it dries in my throat and disappears in my lungs; my body clamp shut upon itself; this is the only thing left. The pain of life is life itself.”

“Your misanthropy I have endured for decades, and I’ve loved you in spite of it. Your nihilism, however, I cannot accept until you convince me otherwise.”

“Allow me some exposition, then.

“If our town were to die spontaneously, if you and I, our neighbours and c0-workers, Moira and the man who delivers our mail, were to die simultaneously, the world may never notice. If others do implore into our deaths, it would only be with regard to their own self-preservation. In time they will forget about us and live their lives and die. Life will continue. Man and woman will continue under assumption that their lives have intrinsic value.”

“And what will you suppose to do, wrapped up in this attic? Your life may have no value to you, but it has value to me.”

“And with selfishness you will force me to endure the world in all of the meaningless ways we were already averse to before we took our trip?”

“No, brother, I cannot force that. But with selfishness, I will help you reach your conclusion. If it is pain that you seek, I can help you with that. What difference would it make, to suffer and allow your body to whither away, or to experience the pain whole, sharp? I can help you with the latter, brother, and you can rest well. I’m sure whatever small pockets of the world hear of your death, they will be disgusted, though only for a few moments. When I am locked up, or even killed, they will feel safe from me and forget you, and when they think about how little such mutilation actually affects their life, they will understand your message. This can be your opus, brother.”

“Then let it be.”

My brother lay still and did not so much as flinch as I brought the knife to his skin. With each incision I felt his muscles tighten and release. He nearly let out a wail as I pushed my knife into his femur, but quickly swallowed it down. He never once asked me to stop. I didn’t stop until I heard that quiet, high pitched wheezing of the throat as he released his final breath.

In its own way, the slow, meticulous journey by which I shepherded him to death was even greater than our sojourn beyond the fence. We were together in life, in the most dolorous circumstance that may never be executed once we’ve passed on. What thoughts he had as I brought the final stroke to his aorta I do not know, but in time I will.

When I reached the stand, the prosecuting attorney asked me to recant the story of my brother’s death. I told him as I have told you, death drove my brother mad. Neither he, nor the jury, would accept my story as fact. For them, one dies and they are dead.

Now, despite my unfortunate confinement to this white room, built of metal-studded gypsum board and cotton-stuffed insulation, my opiate-induced euphoria provides an acceptable, albeit sterile, simulation of death. This is the life I will bring with me past the fence; the flirting, entrance into, and return from death, and the peace I’ve found in such a dire circumstance. It is with this understanding that I continue the rest of my life. I have no remorse for my actions, for one day I too will die and my brother will know well the life I’ve lived.

 

Poetry: Prophetic programming

Waiting for Jesus on staircases of chipped concrete we hear the horns and think he’s coming.
The prophet passes a bottle of turpentine but drinks first and dismantles the ruse on his own.
Death is a sad thing, says His Right-Hand, pouring the bottle into the toilet, flushing.
No need to rush to meet The Father, you’ll have eternity in his studio after dinner.

The prophet dies and ceases to be a prophet,
just a stiff mass of muscle who never recovers.

We bury him unceremoniously near the rice paddies behind the soju factory refectory near the side of the road.

Decades pass and someone writes a book about it and the adaptation wins a Golden Globe and His Right Hand opens a non-profit support group for survivors, and Jesus never comes although the bible tells us he will, so we wait.

Decades pass and Samantha asks why we’re still waiting then dies before she gets an answer and some of us give up and others envy her for getting a head-start. One of us chooses to be a prophet and drinks turpentine because it’s the only way we know how; This time, though, nobody cares to write.

Cold.

Oak tables, lit candles atop,
twenty-degrees Celsius, air moist,
dirty laundry in the hamper overflowing,
sink overflowing, refrigerator buzzing,
pot overflowing onto the faux hardwood floors
littered with old pajamas
of children overgrown.

October through January are the coldest months
so we carry whisky in flasks to spike coffee
and pretend that we’re Irish.

The pot grew protein filth like yellow moss
climbing towards the blinking halogen lightbulb,
also yellow, near expiry.

The world dies in the cold, white, relentless chill
that ices breath and quiets the streets.

The mother tells the daughter to get out the shovels,
they dig through six feet, miserable, searching for solid ground
until the next blizzard.

Ice pummels the ivory sarcophagus until his son seeks shelter behind him.

Such is the winter,
deleterious, bitter, entropic until the lull.

An open letter to a dead hero about nothing significant.

I.

I believe in you.

I believe in you more than I was meant to believe in the prophet of the Judeo-Christian clusterfuck; traditions confused and strewn random across the mesa of religious elitism where the priest and the pastor argue over what part of the palms the nails went in.

You, who talked to and fornicated with and wrote about prostitutes and made them angelic.

You, who seems holier and more prophetic and honest and unpretentious and feeling and music into the amphitheater that drifts and we die and it keeps drifting, catching ears unprepared, and teaches.

I made you my saviour after one poem.

I tattooed your words on my body in a show of dedication but mixed up the wording so now it sounds less eloquent, not on purpose but because I was still drunk from the night before and in my early twenties.

I spent five thousand dollars annually at the farm in hopes of understanding your work, only to discover that your work wasn’t offered so I went to the bookstore and spent fifty and graduated with a C.

I tried but could never understand you.

Your words spread across the page unabashed and it felt different, it was different, for back in those years shame was in vogue.

I played the drunk in the corner, ordering drinks, getting wrecked and bothering no one intentionally, with a novel in my mind and the contrived disposition of a Dickensian pauper.

I was just learning how to brood when you broke in and made me feel silly.

I don’t know if you meant it, or if your odes to Eternity, to your country, to your friends, were just windows of the skull, but to me it made a world.

 Profound, not because of any special insight or personal philosophy , which was wholly catalystic in a separate sense, but because you were honest and unedited and pure, unaltered by the perversions of literary expectation or trope or scheme or construct that by its very nature undermines truth. I wanted to be like you; to drink and do drugs and fuck to epiphany. I wanted to bask in the unbridled hedonism of the human condition.

I wanted to be serious.

I wanted a connection.

I also wanted to be angelic.

II.

I re-read Howl the other day, and America, and that one about the babies in the tomatoes, and Iron Horse, and the one about Denver, and ones about Denver again.

I read you aloud in my office.

I read you to to friends, co-workers, and felt disconnected.

I never wanted to be this.

I never wanted to cross my left leg over my right like a good christian girl.

I’m afraid I’ve stunted myself.

I can stand my mind too much.

I can only write about I.

I, the chaser of profound visions and hallucinations.

I, the writer stopped writing, the speaker of cliche in my apartment.

I, the lost.

I, the wasted.

I, the only thing I know.

I, with nothing important to say.

Checking in: A visit from home. 2015/06/06

Dragos’ mother is here. She made us dinner and it was delicious. I’ve rarely spent time with his mother without his father present. His father is particularly abrasive, and I am uncomfortable around him. Overall, I’m uncomfortable hanging out with my friends’ parents, my girlfriends’ parents, my students’ parents, and unsurprisingly, my own parents. She drinks a whisky and tells us not to mix our alcohols. I take her advice.

“In any relationship, you will always feel like you’re giving more than you’re receiving. That is true for them, also.”

She’s full of wisdom, and I remember what it’s like to have a mom present. She’s just defrosted his freezer, cleaned out his fridge, and made Romanian-style devilled eggs. I love this woman as if she were my own mother, but I don’t really know her as such. After dinner she skypes her husband. When I say it’s nice to see him, he says “It’s nice to see you, too.” Those are the most words I’ve ever heard him say.

The liquor starts flowing and Dragos and I retire from the video game we’ve indulged in so wholeheartedly over the past few months. Mama’s here, and there’s no downplaying the significance of it.

Immigration is a very difficult thing, I’ve come to realize. I know it was hard for my mother to move from the Philippines to Hong Kong back in the seventies. I know it was hard for my father to follow her in ’87, especially given the fact that he couldn’t speak English, nor did he possess a post-secondary degree of any value. He became a mail-room clerk and worked nights for the first 18 years of my life, and I never thought about it too bad. I never considered the enormous sacrifice it must have taken for him to learn a new language, a new culture, and a new sleep-schedule, simply for the purpose of living what is a considerably better life than back in the Philippines. My parents always told me about the sacrifices they’d made to move to Canada, and to raise us well. They simply told us that was the case, and expected us to understand. Unfortunately, that’s like somebody saying they’re funny and telling you about a time they told a joke. I never felt as if I could imagine being in their shoes, and I don’t think they ever really wanted me to.

Dragos’ mom chooses to drink whiskey. We opt for rum. We plan the next day, and eventually find our way to what seems a normal conversation. She’s a lot like him when she’s drunk; or, should I say, he is a lot like her. They both become animated, telling stories and reflecting on things past. She tells me a story.

When Dragos was two or three, there was a famous children’s celebrity called The Magician. Dragos was obsessed with him. He would watch him on television everyday. When he wasn’t watching The Magician, he was reading joke books and telling jokes to his family. One day, The Magician came to their city to perform. The show was in a big amphitheatre and there were hundreds of people in attendance. Dragos was wearing a green jacket that day. He loved that green jacket. She’ll never forget that green jacket. The Magician asked for any child volunteers to do an act on stage for everybody to see. Being the 3-year-old version of the extroverted person he is today, Dragos raised his hand and began to walk down the stairs to take his rightful place in front of the microphone. Half-way down, she says with a laugh, Dragos turns around  with a look of panic on his face and yells up the stairs “Mom, what do I do. I want to tell a joke, but I can only remember the dirty sex jokes.” The crowd erupts in laughter. Dragos’ mom starts to laugh and tear up simultaneously. “That’s the first big laugh I’d ever gotten. Still remember it.” Says Dragos. “Of course it was, you pervert,” I want to say, but his mom is there and I don’t know if we’re on that level yet so I say the joke to a silent amphitheatre in my head.

Dragos’ mother loves Romania. When she moved to Canada, she said, it was one of the hardest days of her life. For Dragos, too. It was, from what he says, the saddest he’s ever been in his life. When I was twelve years old, my main priority was being better than my friends at whatever video-game was in vogue at the time. For him, in June of 2001, his concern was leaving the place he calls home, leaving the grandparents and great-grandmother who raised him, and moving to Canada where he knows no-one and nothing about life there. His mother speaks English, Romanian, and from what I learn, French, and Russian. When they moved to Canada, neither she nor her husband could speak English. Dragos and Andra (his sister) learned from both school and television, but his parents had never needed to. As a result, they applied to move to Montreal, where a fluency in French could replace the need for English fluency. Within two days of landing, however, her sister and brother in law moved them to Toronto. They lived in Scarborough for a while, and it was a large shift in lifestyle.

She was, as she tells me, spoiled growing up. So while it was a blessing to move to Canada, the lifestyle change was jarring. When Dragos was young, she says, they would go to the Riviera every year. They would travel to Paris, to Bucharest, and around Europe. When she was young, she would do the same. When Andra was born, her elder sister’s husband carried standing in The Party. She had everything, and didn’t have to work until 1989. The revolution was afoot. Students and workers revolted against the ruling communist party. In Romania, she and her husband were a part of one movement when, as was common during the revolution, the military powers policing the region began to open fire. The crowd scattered in a panic, and in the commotion she’d lost her husband in the mix.

When everything calmed down, Dragos’ father went to look for her. Outside of the ‘arcade’ Mama Nica had left her shoes, and it was all he was able to find. I was fairly drunk at the time and don’t remember where she was (likely at her parents house) he found her. Dragos was born a few months later: the first in the family born after the fall.

“I can’t imagine that at all.” I say, sincerely. Since high school, I’ve been particularly obsessed with the works of Milan Kundera. In The Joke, Ludvik Jahn is placed into a workers’ camp after off-handedly writing a joke that sarcastically praised Trotsky. The story weaves through the world of Czechoslovakian Communism, picking apart the effect of that ideology in a time when it was the governing influence in the region. This is the closest thing I can relate to her experience. The Romanian Revolution is history to me: the stuff of textbooks and a time long past. For her, however, it’s still clear. The world was how it was, and it is how it is, and she knew both. Aside from the fiction I’ve read, the G12 summit in Toronto is the next best thing, but I spent most of my time snarkily addressing the situation to my mother on the couch; and here was Cora Nica, slightly tipsy off a few glasses of whiskey, and enraptured by both moments simultaneously.

John arrives and takes a seat at the table. Cora starts telling a story about Dragos getting lost in Paris. Dragos sits back, and I can tell he’s enjoying this. Usually he’s the one with the stories.

Vignette: Xao

Kicking rocks around the gravel path behind his body farm, Xao put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The Perrier was delicious. A pebble skipped twice and landed on John Dolan, the former aristocrat, turned science in death. When John Dolan was alive, Xao imagined, he spent his time frequenting CEO board meetings with a panel of directors he didn’t know for a company he hadn’t influenced in years. Then, after a long day of pretending to work, Dolan would return home to his third wife and fourth daughter, fix himself a white Russian at the bar, and  scan the newspaper. News is best stale, he would think, then curl-up half drunk against his wife. Xao momentarily envied the corpse, then drank again and moved on.

Quick Poetry: Yonge Street Boogie

Pornographied lens tapes hedonism for drunken Chinaskiites
hugging the bottle, drama searching, finding the bottom meaningless
and the bottom more meaningless.
They told the priest they weren’t looking for friends then left and left the confession booth less holy,
smoked flavoured chewing tobacco on front porch ghetto stoops discovering new stars on their iPhones,
ink blots on screens smudged with dreams of profundity and a calling of some higher divinity.
Did I ever tell you about the time I took a scalpel to the heart of the earth, one says,
snorting lines of coke off a coffee table covered in grenadine in a flat with a painting of Liberia on the wall,
the air doing pirouettes under ceiling fans in the dark corner near the kitchen and a sink full of crusty pots.
The dogs run in circles.
The cats run in circles.
The Canadian beats his wife and votes right for lower taxes.
Samantha needs her melatonin, stat.
They eat peaches from the backyard and dry peppers on rooftops before crushing them into a fine powder.
Moss grows on ivory untouched by fingers long since agile, inspiring tremendous symphonies if only in their potential.
Eloise is trapped in the grenadine splashed cover of The Trembling of the Veil,
Savas ruminates on the painting of Liberia and imagines Liberia and it’s nothing like Liberia,
Cillian is on the sybian singing the tune of “holy shit,” and “oh, fuck.”

The pimp sings a harmony to the Pakistani prostitute
and nobody feels bohemian.

-April 13, 2014

Short Fiction: Chalk on the Pavement.

The only memorable thing my father ever told me was to “stay away from hookers, drugs, and booze. You’ll be healthy. You’ll have a good life; boring as a virgin, but it’ll be good.” They whisked him away shortly after. That was the last thing he ever said to me. In retrospect, I wish he had said something more positive to a boy still learning how to colour in between the lines, I wish there hadn’t been bulletproof glass between the two of us, and I wish we hadn’t had to speak through a phone; everybody’s got some tough times.

To say I loved my father would be a lie. Love is a fickle, easily broken sentiment that will, in most cases, end in destruction. I suppose he loved me, and that was his own.

I grew up with my mother, in a small flat on the corner of Carlton and Parliament. Every day I passed by fiends and their suppliers gooning on the steps of my building, and it was difficult for me to understand why anybody would want to live like that. It wasn’t the drugs, the alcohol, or the shadiness of the whole practice. It was the cycle, one which they seemed intent on maintaining. I, too, was in a cycle; the monotony of cultural incubation, of sliding out the front door, hiking my way through a foot of snow to the subway and taking the rocket up to the whitest high school in the city. Every day was the same grey routine, I was a starving impala chained to repetition while buzzards circled overhead. I could not understand why any man would willingly subjugate himself to such a cycle, but there they were, shooting and selling like tomorrow was yesterday and the day after.

My mother worked at the grocery store a block away. She started as a cashier in 1991, a part-time job to keep the locksmith at bay. Then my pops got locked up, and by the time I hit high school she was making slightly more than minimum wage. She got me a job there when I was 14, and after that I could buy a pair or Jordans once every year. I kept those things polished. They were my oasis. I used to sit under the leaves of that Jumpman logo and think about what was important. I liked the smell of new rubber, new laces, new threading. Outside of that was the same old refrain. The boogeyman lived at my doorstep. We were neighborly.

There was something about going to school with rich white folk that made me feel like rich white folk. It created a fourth identity; outside of being a descendant of a country I’d never been to; outside of eating whatever was on sale; outside of giving dap to the boys who simultaneously kept the block afloat and in the gutter. Those boys made it feel like Jordans could be a bimonthly purchase, like there was nothing standing between me and lucre. Isn’t it odd how close that word is to Lucifer? They’re like brothers.

I had a monopoly at my feet. There were rich boys all around me, throwing money at the homeless to tap-dance in sole-less Reeboks. What an opportunity for business, for that lucre, for those Jordan Sky Highs in the white, red, and grey, for 1000 dollar bets on shoe-in odds. I took one of those, not so eagerly as the hairs on my arms stood like the CN tower on the edge of my skin, and won four grand. That was a few months after I started moving.

Rich white folk have too much to lose. Sure, in the long run they may be the ones that rule the world, but I never expected to be around that long. For me, the money was on the table. Who cared if the principle caught me chopping ounces behind the building at lunch time? The worst he could do was call the cops who would put me through the juvie system for a year with a record that would be erased when I turned 18. He could suspend me, too, which would do nothing but make it easier for chop. Those rich boys, though, they were another breed. These kids were herbs, destined to a life of masonry. Bricklayers, provided with an identity by The OC, and 90210. They were douche-bags. They were knock-offs of a knock off. They played their role and I played mine, though I don’t think they knew they were in the play.

It’s easy to spot the dirt on a white shirt. Imagine if the local MP’s kid got caught with a pound of kush, half in dime bags, peddling to the kids of other MPs and MPPs. Those parents would be fucked. Those kids would be fucked. But that was nothing for me. Take nothing away from nothing, and at the end of the day I’d both have nothing. Money comes and goes, and it ain’t hard to keep it coming.

There was only one other kid dealing, Fischer, and he was easy cake. His dad was a CEO of some corporate packaging company. Wealth holds a certain brand of power, one that allowed him to buy and sell at a much higher clip than myself. But there’s a difference between quantity and quality that boys like that never understood. He had more customers, less to lose than the politicians’ kids, and a thirst for money. I didn’t care about that. I wanted something real. He just wanted money. It was just a matter of butter-knives, a  busted streetlight, and a few black kids to make him back off. He knew business, and he knew there was little left for him after that. If you don’t need the cake, you don’t fight for it. I was starving so I took his.

For a high-schooler, you don’t need smaller guys. The middle-men are the problem, they cut from the profit and prove a liability. You can’t bring justice to the pawns if you have to ask them for their notes at the end of the semester. You can’t control if they dilute the quality of your product, if they lie about their sales, or if they end up smoking their supply. In high-school you can’t kill or threaten kids. I didn’t waste time with that. Besides, I preferred to have more customers and less distribution costs. For me, everything was hand to hand. Three years of it, I didn’t realize the bank sitting at my locker until after my first year, and that was it. I sold shoes, webcams, movie vouchers, and whatever the kids wants. I sold custom print t-shirts to the Latin Club to make my hustle seem legit to the teachers. I needed a cover. Teachers blow whistles when it’s shirts and skins, but I was balling in The League. You don’t see guys like that going big time without causation, and by the time I graduated, most of the school was on my shit. I wish it were that simple again.

I moved out my mom’s place after I graduated. I couldn’t live in that dump anymore. My mom was cool about it. She didn’t want to move with me. We stopped going to church after the shit with my dad, so she had no friends outside of Sobeys and the building. I sent her cash for a couple years, but after that it seemed pointless. It was around that time that I started messing around with this Portuguese girl named Ashley. She was a friend of a friend from my astronomy class. The girl was a born apple-bottom. On the weekends she would strip down at Brassy. I was the only one in our study-group who knew about it. I kept it a secret. Two weeks before first-year finals she was giving me a lap-dance, and while my boys were getting their dicks hard listening to the other strippers’ fabricated desires, Ashley whispered her terrible poetry in my ear. She was a good girl and I respected her for it. My boy Elfrid asked to switch and I told him to shut the fuck up. Ashley was mine for the night. I took her home after her shift. We had a few beers and talked about rocks in space, her childhood, my father, and the light spectrum. “How can we know anything when we can’t even see every colour?” She asked. I haven’t seen her since graduation.

I stopped selling weed a few years ago. Friends tend to evaporate when you’ve got nothing for them. My mom moved in with me last year, but still works the night shift and makes less than I did in high-school. Money is tight, but we make due. She deserves that much, at least.