Faces Down

“I think this song is about Jesus.”

“I wish it wasn’t.”

“Maybe it doesn’t have to be.”

She turns up the music and pretends the words mean more.

 

A spiky-haired woman stands at the bus stop. A teenage boy and girl walk next to her. The girl smokes a cigarette and walks up to the bench. She looks down the street to see if the bus is approaching.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She apologizes to the two women sitting on the bench.

“I didn’t see the ‘No Smoking’ sign.”

“Sorry y’all,” the teenage boy says with a wave of his arm dismissing the smoke and the incident.

“It’s a surprise anyone can see it,” says the woman holding two bags of groceries.

“Next time, just tell us to walk away and get that shit away from you,” Spiky Hair offers. She discusses plans with the teenage girl who is going to work on finishing her schooling and getting her cosmetology degree at the same time.

“I can do both,” she asks. Spiky Hair affirms with a simple “yep.”

They all ride the bus for fifteen blocks. Spiky Hair finds a woman she knows from her days at a halfway house.

“Is Shelly still there?”

“Shelly Padalecki? She sure is.”

“I always liked her. Tell her I say hi if you see her.”

“I will.”

Spiky Hair and the teenagers arrive at their bus stop. The teenagers walk out first. As Spiky Hair walks out, she says goodbye to her bus seat confrere.

“Good to see you again. Don’t forget to tell Shelly.”

“I won’t. Ellen, right?”

“Elena.”

“Right!”

“And you keep going hon. You are worth it. You can do it. Do it for yourself.”

Spiky Hair disembarks and joins the teenagers in the public transit sprint to her connecting bus.

 

Jon Foreman exclaims, “There’s gotta be something more than what I’m living for.”

“You’re sure that’s about Jesus?”

“Yup.”

“Can’t it be about something more?”

“Than what he’s singing for?”

“Exactly.”

“I suppose.”

“Are we in the say anything safe space?”

“Go for it.”

“What if I don’t really want a TV or smart phone or laptop or car or nice clothes? What if that doesn’t make me happy? How can I be happy when other people barely get by? Should I spend my life grabbing and grabbing with no thought to anybody else? Who really gives a fuck if I only have two outfits? Who cares? And why don’t we care instead that some people have one or none or a minimal amount of food? Why should I buy new furniture for my apartment when people die every winter due to exposure? What the fuck?”

She sucks in the nicotine and makes a mental calculation of her possessions. Her mind drifts in the silence between songs just before The Mr. T Experience shout their love for Paula Pierce.

 

Earsplit

25 August 2014

She was at work. She was trying to read an article about Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank and quantitative easing. She had already eaten a sandwich at a local and (as usual) overpriced sandwich shop. She was in the employee lounge for perhaps 20 minutes. Another employee came down and turned on the television. TV judges, criminals, cops, chefs, commercials all at an inhumanely loud volume. A din of thieves stealing her peace and quiet.

 

In The Pursuit of Leisure

24 August 2014

She drinks coffee. She pours liquid from the French press into a small coffee cup. She has an entire cupboard full of coffee mugs of all sizes. She has four coffee mugs on which various portions of the images disappear or transform when hot liquid flows into them.

Earlier in the day she took a drive. She rolled down the windows. She could feel fall sliding in to replace summer. Her hair was dry and would surely be in disarray when she arrived at her destination. Sunday was the day she used no additional products on her body. No deodorant. No conditioner. No hair gel. Toothpaste, soap and shampoo were the maximum allowable, although she would opt for sunscreen if she ventured into the sun for too long. (This was a rare occasion.)

She listened to Dead Kennedys at a loud volume as she zoomed down one of the city’s major arteries. (Would it be a vein now as it was pumping her toward the heart of the town?) Her heart was beating fast. She had no coffee so the pure adrenaline of pointed punk sonics left her shaking in a way in which she wasn’t often familiar. How much of her life was spent in the thick of caffeine rushes? She wasn’t convinced she ever had true feelings, feelings she could actually cleave from other substances (caffeine, tea, music, people). Did she need a holiday in Cambodia?

She bought the Sunday edition of a major newspaper from a corporate bookstore. She considered buying a coffee to go, but wanted the experience of making coffee at home, drinking several cups while listening to music and trying to get through the nearly insurmountable stack of news she now had in a bag. The woman ahead of her in line had a hand basket full of items. The clerk finished ringing in the woman’s items, completed the transaction and handed her the loot in a single bag. “All of it fit in one bag,” the woman asked with noticeable disbelief and reproof. “It all fit in one basket,” she thought as she stood in line empty-handed going over and over the precise words she would use to ask for the Sunday paper. (She wondered if Joe Jackson was reading the news at that very moment. She actually wondered if Joe Jackson was alive. An Internet search later would reveal he is alive and has moved on to “eclectic, though less commercially successful, pop/jazz/classical hybrids.” When she first heard Sugar Ray’s version of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” on the radio, she wanted to shout to everyone within earshot that Joe Jackson did it first and best and everyone should probably get on with the business of letting Sugar Ray fade into oblivion. She knew, however, that a lack of quality current taste for pop music and an atavistic longing for even the worst music of the 1990s would keep Sugar Ray in indefatigable and inevitable infinite rotation.)

She never finished the Sunday edition of the newspaper. She only cared to supplement her constant magazine reading with more in-depth analysis of recent events. She made her way through the voluminous text, ink staining her fingers and Deadmau5 ringing in her ears. At work she once made a joke upon hearing an upbeat electronica song that it reminded her of her clubbing days. She never had such days and probably never would, although in the interstices of her being lay secret notions that she could one day spend a week in Ibiza following the sweaty throng from club to club, dancing jumping gyrating to Oakenfold and taking club drugs and wearing very little.

The adrenaline had worn off. The coffee had kicked in. Her friends were at the pool. She was learning about the separate declared caliphates of the Islamic State and Boko Haram. The world is always and existence is constant until it isn’t. Inertia is an enemy; not so great as evil or even evil-disguised-as-good (religion), but certainly her biggest enemy. Television. Smart phone. Gaming apps. She partook in more opiates than Coleridge, but had none of the Khan-do attitude he had.

Paper Moon

Last night, The Falcon and I went to the Paper Moon, Salt Lake’s preeminent lesbian bar. The bar holds open mic nights every Thursday starting around 9:30 or 10:00 pm (“Lesbian Standard Time” as they noted last night). I have a fear of not knowing what to do in new environments, so I convinced The Falcon to arrive at the bar at 8:15 pm (Mountain Standard Time). Few persons were there. Four women were playing pool. Two persons were at the bar, speaking to one another. Four men were wearing all black attire and were adorned in a way that I thought they would burst into spontaneous renditions of Dropkick Murphys songs with a side order of brawling. They requested “Vacation” by The Go-Gos. Go figure.

I ordered a Guinness in a bottle (which I believe is an early Christina O’Aguilera song) for myself and water with ice for The Falcon. We sat and talked until a comedian I recognized came in and joined us at the table. We all talked for a while until the next group of comics walked in and the open mic hosts arrived.

The open mic started with three lesbians playing a mix of original and cover songs (I recognized a song from Tegan & Sara’s The Con). The voices were smooth and beautiful. I flashed back to grad school when I spent much of my time at open mic nights performing originals, covers and improvised songs. The first comic went up and presented a stark contrast to the soothing beauty of the music. Four other comics went up and then it was time for me to move to the microphone.

I read a piece I created the day before entitled “The Mayor Apologizes.” The piece is a press conference involving a pit of King Cobras, some finger-pointing at an ex-con giraffe, deformed elementary school pole vaulters, disfigured babies and the invasion and near-immediate demise of a malevolent warlord.

It went as well as can be expected. In fact, I was pleased with the feedback from the audience.

I hope to make it back to the Paper Moon for open mic in the future as I find the friendliness highly appealing and conducive to trying new pieces and bits. Sadly, the late-night nature of the event could conflict with my professional life. I can barely stay awake today and I’m not even working.

If I find the will, perhaps I shall record the bit as a radio broadcast.

-J

New day

Our hero woke this morning with an odd sensation. The dragon was gone. He would not have to fight it today. In fact, he would no longer fight this particular dragon. He would move on to other lands and other vanquishable creatures.

This morn, he instead fought with an otherworldly machine forcing ones legs into an oval, elliptical pattern. Halfway through he realized he was becoming part of the machine, a cyborg. He was not fighting with the machine. He was fighting with himself. Could he really last 20 minutes per day three times per week?