Inspector vs. Evader Paul Killebrew
UDP Brooklyn, NY
for Corina Copp
Nobody leaves this apartment! Not while things are so awkward. We should at least try something. We could open the window, and who knows. The conversation could billow. Affection could follow. We could even play scrabble. It’s not so easy with some people. Watch how a good time will wither in their presence. Like some people at work. It actually sounds like a pretty good job. They pay me for it, so I hate it. I have to be there every day. Every weekday. It’s still five out of seven, not counting holidays. Relentless. I feel totally desperate. You could quit. Then I’d just have to find some other stupid job. I’d really like to be an editor. I’d make such a great editor. But it’s not really what you do that makes it so bad. They pay you for handing over big chunks of your day. A third of each day.
Not counting holidays. I don’t see how so many people put up with it. For a good half of the time you’re awake, you sit there and watch shadows cross the filing cabinets. They move like premonitions. One side to the other. People move through them. They hardly notice they’re moving. Slow, sad checks split holes between weekends. You have to strain in the chorus of small talk without crumbling. You have to stretch from the cryptic entanglement of sensations. Sometimes it’s easier just to accept it. Your natural reflex is to cough it all up. It has this way of not doing what you’d expect. It’s not unpainful, I know. But you just kind of have to let it happen. It finds some hole and works its way into the larger part of you. And then you hold this totally other thing inside you. It’s like when I was pregnant with that flower. Seems basically worthwhile. So here it all goes. You won’t hear a thing. Shadows are crossing the kitchen cabinets. They don’t look right, not with the colors we insisted upon. You mean upon which we insisted. Oh, let’s not. You look tired. Don’t move. Something’s crawling on your face. I promise this time.
No, it’s not like an arrogance, it’s just this quality you float through. That’s not how it feels at all. You don’t seem sure. Well I am sure. I’m sorry if it comes off like a weird single-mindedness. I’m at work. I’m surprised it feels that way. Long day. Something important, I guess. Forget it. Have some coffee if you want. I don’t mean that as a threat. Let’s do this some other time. I watched shadows cross the phone bill. Look outside. There’s a man running down the street. I wonder what the problem is. I tore my shirt on the way in. I think I might be bleeding. I’m making more coffee now if anyone’s interested. I should explain what happened. I don’t know if you could hear the choking noises. Sometimes the worst things happen. I really believed that I wasn’t going to be able to breathe. They brought me up the steps and laid me out in the shade. I wasn’t sure if I would make it. Looks like I made it. At some point I realized that God could really surprise you. He can light up the connections. If there are connections.
It’s all right there, like cars in traffic. A sort of waving movement in stipulated clumps. More like a landscape. Like a falling and swelling. I’ve never thought of it that way. I guess that’s reassuring. I think it’s trying to say something to you. I wasn’t sure what he’d say. I saw him again years later at the airport. I tried to avoid him. I didn’t want anything weird to happen. Sometimes it’s best just to shut up and hide. It feels less like a certain thing than maybe a depiction of that thing. Passive sunlight. Aggressive revelations. Something that tears off your body from its entanglements and squeezes you through bewildering color. Ashes on the table. Winged thing. The trees tonight. The body holding the soul in its husk. I was totally late for work. It’s not a big deal. It’s a slip, not a fight. Take it however you want. When you meet someone new, you have no idea. Sweat gathers under the sweaters. Circumstances flood the scene with assholes. It’s a place where things are bought and sold.
That dog needs something. Feed him your wallet. You’re making trouble, but I kind of like it, actually, a little edge on the evening. Funny how that happens, going in and out of it together. I wish we could just go into it. One long, forward thrust. Otherwise it’s almost like nothing’s happening at all. Like walking through an office building, except you wouldn’t even notice that you were walking. The whole building would pattern itself after your whims, as if its floorplan anticipated every time you felt the need to turn down a different hallway. Instead of the opposite, what you normally do, how you walk wherever the hallways lead. Or outward from principles into their defining circumstances. To go the other way, you have to pull the threads loose. And with you I like that, but I get scared with some people. Let’s face it, sometimes I want the security of hallways. I want the limitations. Sometimes doorways let in rain. Even though they make a certain kind of sense. And sense has a certain kind of power. One that isn’t totally lost on itself. I don’t think I follow. I don’t know that I could explain it. It’s just a way that things happen sometimes, a certain obviousness, an immediate clarity. Like a doorway. Or actually a window.
But a window is always open, I mean in a sense. Well anyway that’s what I’m getting at. That you have to rescue haircuts from attitudes. You have to rescue the soul from conversation. You don’t have to buy a car and be engaged. You’d be surprised how easy it gets. I know at the front end you think, Jesus, what’ll we do with this one. But even the assholes will surprise you. It’s just bad weather. You keep plugging away. Conversation develops down a hallway at work. And even if an impermeable awkwardness rises in the reply, one day precedes the next like a mood. The waitress left our table to get stoned. Laughter desecrated another vacuum. She’s busy right now. Concentration divides between you and that. Deliver yourself unto 2 p.m. Give me your wallet. Crank up that credit and destabilize the roadmap. Loosen your rhetoric. The conversation touches my arm just above the elbow, eliciting mute anxieties. Hello, sunken eyes, how’s things in the distance. As we pass the water fountain, a minor conference disbands. I wedge myself into the phone booth to change clothes. Hi, everybody, I hope we can be friends. I promise I can hold my own in the shadows of the porch light. I think we just passed the exit.
But it’s not really a loss. More like a conversation at work. You just sort of get all wadded up. An intractable nature tangles up with irritation. Then I got me a perm. Waxed my scales. Later it’s fine. No one can explain it. No one can explain. Hardly anyone remembers. The accountant hiding in the tree doesn’t know. There’s only so much the head fits around. I didn’t give you the tickets because I could “feel it.” The fantasy of meaning isn’t always there. The phone could never work that way. Conscientiousness takes so many push-ups. You’d ask the same questions. You’d ask to keep your body. Nobody does. There was density in brightness. There was affection in flowers. Apprehend and then comprehend. Apprehend and then comprehend. There was affection and brightness in density. I don’t care what you say. My haircut is not condescending. I didn’t disrupt your pioneer spirit on purpose. So what if you woke up in Ohio. So what if you were born into the wrong brand of politics. I was born with a football helmet on.
Fascination pulled passion into the maw. We walk together like this for kicks. We wear blue jeans because we feel good. Meeting made time drop out of the weather. Similar parts grew out and got confused. The shapes came out and ate their dinner. They wanted no part of her. She was late for work. She still hasn’t gone. She left everything in Nashville. It all collected behind her face. It made a hollow-ish sound when it landed. She stooped to pick it up. They came through layers of hands. Vision came creeping out of its cave. Color came sweeping out of its eyes. You get used to your version of things. Maybe it’s a matter of isolation. Sustained seeing takes the faces out of faces. It was natural to think about being a window. Passive display case for the circumstantially interesting. Then you thought about a frame that could move. There would be this tension. Things moving within a moving border. Things requiring such absurd conscientiousness. Teeth have such absurd social filigree. Look at Bob Barker. Look at Oprah. They’re like siblings. They’re metaphysical.
One spins a wheel. The other changes shape. They’re only trying to heal. I’m only trying to heal. Look at me dangling my moral agenda. Kids dismiss disappointments as they happen. Nobody loses or gets lost. Constant victories, no matter how small. The world moving through its collected facts. Weather receding from culture. Culture receding from fast food. The forms are in the people. The people are in the forms. Scotch tape and the vast moral hygiene. Slacks and toothpaste, slacks and toothpaste. The subject of my novel is essentially my haircut. Flowers, grass, grass, the light. Exhaust and then mountains again. Mailman with an officious smirk. He calls me a shepherd. It’s totally natural. I punched him in the face. That made him coagulate. His language spilled from my mouth. He pushed me hard. The lives almost complete themselves. Then they don’t. They need the string of Christmas lights to slip their hitch in the socket. They need to fall like beer cans stretching over the romantic
hilltop silhouetted against the fleshy haze of safety lights rising over the interstate. The lights don’t go out so much as become irrelevant in the sunlight’s inherent expansionism hoisting itself over the high school. It’s pointless to hate it, even if it’s evil and should die, or if it’s merely more successful than you, or was an acquaintance who lost faith in you and so pretended to forget your name. Or even if it’s just something you feel when you wake up that isn’t much of anything at all, just a principle that limits breakfast and whatever follows to a frosting of vague impressiveness coating the vibrating sphere of anxiety at the core of the afternoon. Let there not be a baby shower for estrangement. Let them not bash their skulls into awkwardness. Let them go swimming. But then meaning claws its way into the pool. Bosses must wear their underwear backwards. Look at them ask for things. See how awkward they feel. You can’t even “feel” awkward. You’re always pretty damn close to the floor. I drank the water you dissolved in. It holds out in the freezing of consent. I’m calling you a window. I would like to take your picture, feed children, and shave. I am only trying to heal. I don’t know how to in the presence of commerce. This is all very personal. The personal is such a futile parade. Parades always make me glad I’m not in them.
In the middle of dinner he asked me where I kept. I kept flipping the switch and still no lights. Lightly the cancer blew out into clouds. Clouds move like grandparents. Grandparents persist. Persistence is one aspect of television. Television arrives on a wave of shared images. Imagine the personal as refutable facts. Facts frenzy to a visible sleep on the news. It’s hard to sleep with all that gurgling. The missing men grew up with a joystick in hand. The internet has been our fifth widow. Don’t blame the house for domestic boredom. Blame the house for its hallways and floors. The first thing you have to do is figure out where it happened. And then you have to get the hell out. The floating intention hides under the bed. It must have flown in through the window. It always managed to be open. It seemed healthy to have the air coming in and out. Not an airless reduction of trees. Not mythological nudity. It’s divorced from whatever concept unifies the assholes. They are always looking to “get together.” Laughter in the hallway, musty reliability, and gray weather clawing through the window. Through the window, daytime. Behind the window, explanations. Meaning headbutts the front door. Meaning makes plans for an invisible vacation.
Those restive punishments, they’re fine. Souls retract into the body and push things around. When you meet someone new, everybody loses. Some disputable blending happens below everything. Fists make meaty sounds off our faces. There’s always history. This isn’t any different. History, history, serious intentions. Argumentative tendencies clawing through an easy conversational style. I guess you could call this a problem. That’s how you win. Winning’s for buttface. Not everybody’s so chromed in prose. Fake yawns inspire real yawns. Coffee makes the self coagulate. People push their faces together. You can keep the snowstorm. I’ve got an office to worry about. Bosses grow up and kill you. They don’t think about the train sending a shopping bag into tacky listlessness. Listless, no list. Some days have all the dancers. Some have all the sore throats. Then there’s the ideologue whispering his fantasia of general kindness into the ear of a stuffed president. I think we can all agree on this. If you’d be nicer to me, I might let you help me out of the frying pan.
We didn’t talk through the awkward moments. I woke up and kissed a girl-painting. Her friend gave me “the eye.” I’ve seen the drunk uncles call home, so I didn’t flinch. I don’t cheat on the paperwork to get my head into all the right gymnastics classes. I like to hold hands. I really do. But sometimes I’m married and need a lead to follow. Other times I’m a general buoyancy that can make the eyes live up to their generations of moldy promises. It’s good to be alone. It’s profound to be alone on a boat. I don’t think you get me. Nobody is. Some of these bumps come with the whole package, so you know I won’t mind making intimate contact with the decorative metal bolted to your face. Everybody’s got their pluses and minuses. Everybody’s got a phone to live with, to learn to live with. I’m just getting the hang of this. I don’t understand how it is that the pigeons always seem to know when I’m jumping. I remember one of the distinct advantages of childhood. You’re always pretty damn close to the floor. I’m going up to the roof so I can figure out how to get home. You can see all the streets from there. Telephone wires, windows, ditches, and flowers. The median divides a dangerous familiarity from itself. I strain in the chorus of smells without crumbling.
Exhaust, flowers, grass, the light. Wind stirring pebbles on the shoulder. I’m going to fix the weather, feed children, and shave. It wasn’t me who dropped the mute explosions over the caves. I was sitting at my desk writing notes to a dead girl. The whole house sat on top of me in a cozy mental state that balances like an accountant on our ambitious hope to love and not change. I don’t see any need. What I love hammers through me and never drifts above my voice like the muted fantasy of an almost entirely faked existence. For example, there’s you living under your hair with a hope that I miss like the present flying humorously into itself. And there’s me hollowing out a suit of pants and tumbling over the bedposts and threading myself through leaves in wind. And then there’s a dog in Minnesota chasing a squirrel through the woods off the ever-diminishing returns of a backyard in Minnesota. And there’s everything in Minnesota as unaware of us as we are of Minnesota and all of it loving itself the way a hammer loves the splash it makes in a pond when a defendant of love starts building his store out of whatever seemed natural, like water and air. Larry, your voice hits the ceiling tiles and falls. All of this stays right here in this room. You left and I’m not looking for you anymore. The wind is blowing and it’s cold. You looked yellow and sad on the piece of paper. But I would love to go to the bombing.
There’s your accountability headache. I’m doing far too much. I wrote it down in my head. It might be the best thing. We have all this potential. It’s interesting to take it out of context. It hasn’t worked the way it was set out to. The structures are still there, but the constraints are weakening. The right to the city is not the same. There’s no claim of belonging. We have to deal with failure. I see systems, white love. Toyota, the center. The self within the artifice of daylight. The strongest gel, the grizzlies. Sunglasses resting on a phone bill. I was reading when you said that in the cold afternoon rain. I was working for the proverbial space. I’m just a young student with a soda. My dad licked paint at my age. He stooped to pick us up. His family is filled with stooping carpenters and the sons of stooping carpenters. I won’t stoop. I saw his arms in the window. They were bloody. His keys were bloody. I thought he would die of an angry heart attack. He could tear off his body from its entanglements and leave. The shirt made him look like a shepherd.
Nobody knocked on the door, but the door knocked. Some kid went by on a bike. The soul moved out and found its own apartment. I cut all the grass that grew. Time passed as an expression of its being. The window closed as an expression of closing. Some people blend into you. Some people you never get a bite of. But you’re never told. It comes as a surprise to everybody. I don’t know what they say. We should have lunch together one of these sunny-as-shit days. Chairs sit around the table and bitch. Blue in their arms, green in their faces. Beauty takes another step. It’s a place where things are bought and sold. Have it right there, ready to go. Cats make you wait, and some people love them. The window may open. The morning tore my brother into anger. The anger threaded my brother into light. He exploded. It was pretty. He calls me a shepherd. I call him a window. We live in a yellow apartment. Our water is dusty. We often go out. Satisfaction has roommates. Cars mumble their gripes into the curb.
We live in occasional sweetness and get beat up. Later he’ll be fine. He’ll think about beauty. The impulse outgrows its patrician lineage. Elvis has a little party for that. Infatuate the misunderstanding of animal exclusion. Green and yellow in natural shapes. They surround each other like anxieties and circumstances. Outside the window is outside. There’s all kinds of crazies out there. Some of them come with laughs, some without. You meet so many people. You embody a point of view. Sometimes it’s a little tight. It’s really interesting. As soon as you crest, you know it’s a mistake. Probably some asshole. You tell them, “I’m leaving.” You lie about having to. You never have to, but it’s okay. Potential connections go unelectrified. It’s acceptable to confuse having and wanting. Call me on the telephone, the telephone. Falsify the learning experience. Relive the principles. Nothing weaves into you and pulls. You leave without feeling particularly anything. I’m always running into you. Sooner or later we’ll hang out and get tired. But this is nice.
I would like to take your picture. You meet new people and fight. You get a cup of coffee and fuss. I don’t think we’ve met. These new haircuts are unstoppable. Imagine a flaming ring around your job. Dive through it and feel quietly heroic. Feelings never have much to talk about. It was all big feelings. It was awful quiet for a barbeque. Shadows all up in the way they looked around. Nobody sat for the whole performance. It was a “human” lens. A fine set of physical attributes, and they took note. He drove up to the grocery store to get chips. I’d get mad if I took it seriously. It’s awkward when you start growing a mustache. I once saw a man die on the interstate. I once punched this guy in the face. He couldn’t believe it. Someone said something angrily. But he was dead. No one could explain it. They left it to larger forces. My friend said he believed in the same God that I believed in. I think he meant it as a compliment. His apartment is nice. He lives with a window. They often go out. They loosen their rhetoric.
They sound pretty great. Parental attitudes had to go. A little girl sits down on a staircase and waits. It leads to a hole you can feel if you imagine being calm. The telephone was feeling insecure. Her mother was at a restaurant. Her mother is fancy, a real funny lady. She runs out the front door and yells, “Who the hell are you to be so catastrophic!” Julie, I’m not asking you to authorize comprehensive violence. I’d die if you even knew my name. But as the French say, I am boring myself. There’s nothing on TV. It’s so dark. You could imagine there’s nothing out there. Whatever happened between us was small and quiet. Branches tangle themselves into the sky. Birds flit around in their general flakiness. You extend some part of yourself out into it. It drifts around. It’s somehow still tethered to you. Its retraction brings things back into you. Sometimes this happens while you’re asleep. But then one day you figure out that you’re a fundamentally bad person. It’s kind of a letdown. There’s not much you can do about it. You wake up tired. Your charm is a quaint bitchiness. Sunlight delivers itself into your head.
A bold maneuver brings the doorknob into your fist. The soul is contained. Unrestrained savagery floats around the tips of breakfast. And yet God is happy. He lacks discretion. He’s too polite. He hides in passive sunlight and aggressive revelations. My head is inside of his. I feel holiness. It’s brains. Nobody gets upset at the car or the toilet. Sometimes it’s all so worrisome. He left everything in Nashville. Nobody comes from Nashville. You can’t even give birth there. My mom will tell you everything by the way her face weaves into her. They never tried to make her happy. She asked about things. Things were fine. They wanted no part of her. They pushed right through her. The other side was simpler. It was beautiful. They were in love. They were often at odds. It’s okay now. They get along. They fight about everything. The parts are interchangeable.
Sounds are shared and absorbed. Vision leaves and returns. Even touching someone involves this cryptic entanglement of sensations. It happens in my face. One time everything about me did this. Muddling gave way to edges. The public trafficked through an inner hickey. It wasn’t a mystical experience. It didn’t even feel symbolic. The commotion carried me through disappointment. I tried to push it into something else. Then I tried to receive it. The possible combinations are endless. It was like when we didn’t talk for so long. I was actually pretty worried, but there wasn’t anything to do. The fadeout persisted like clouds or grandparents. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there. At the same time there wasn’t anything to say. When I saw what your wife wrote about me in that e-mail, I almost cried. Instead I walked off on a pretext of coffee. I was so surprised when you apologized. I knew I’d done something. I mean I brought something to it. I don’t think anything “happens.” A year after the first time, I realized that I was still upset. It wasn’t worth it to keep thinking about it, trying to figure out what I could do. I couldn’t open it with my head.
And I have plenty of other relational anachronisms to worry about. I keep them fed and fat and calling out for whatever. Even if it turns out to be horrible and generous, I’ll call out to it and wonder why not. Vanity wrought on desperate trails of logic but thrilled at the sense of texture and difference and knowing it’s around and breathing out there. By putting it out in words it might die in words, whereas now it’s got this funny little life in impulse, some sleight of a valueladen hand that undermines the authority of what’s named simply by naming it while propping up all that is left unsaid to an invisible position of invisible authority. I’m not much else besides this reliably vague something of my race which is absence or my sex which is absence, though maybe the problem is that I was meant to be more of a drinker and I’m not drinking enough, and so not bringing the proper level of drama to these shores which are all the way over in Alabama and desperate the way everything in Alabama is desperate. People who are their most comfortable around family do well in rural areas. Maybe I’m not asking enough of whomever calls out when the windows are open and spilling air in and out. I’m sitting next to a window smoking vaguely and thinking when I should be weaving myself back into context, letting on what’s at stake if there’s anything at stake. There’s always so much. I can’t even eat a bowl of spaghetti without giving it a name and imagining our future together. It’s fine to be lonely so long as you’re alone.
Otherwise it’s American—molded concrete, green glass, and violent claims of respectability. Blocked out by its own awkwardness, it wasn’t even worth the time just waiting there for release, unlike much else that waits somewhat lower to be held in and down and diffusing through my legs to carry me to the museum for Velasquez, the greatest Spaniard ever. Not that the field had much to offer. I mean was there ever a culture so violently misdirected. Okay, the white American, of which Columbus would be the first. Murderous, inaccurate, and wildly successful. Mountains again. A blue car rounds the corner of a glass of water. Five fingers, a hand, a blue eye bobbing in a glass of milk. There’s dust between the curtain and the window unadulterated by the construction of a blue car in milk. Mailman with habit descending. Eyes seared in wind and then closed like a diner. A dog steps through the swamp. Boys rub their hands over the bottom of a desk. A broken half of brick in an arc over an aisle. So much can’t happen. One’s days are casual. One’s friends talk of submission to hope. Affection pushes everything into boats. Everything writes to everything else. Letters make headaches. My friend crawled over the carpet. The train barely missed him. His family didn’t notice.
They called him a shepherd. He called them a window. They lived in a church. Light spilled into their stomachs. It was noisy. They knew people who tried to leave. They never left. The church was hollow. The mornings were quiet. The church felt like it was traveling. It would send letters from its face. Souls felt faces nuzzling. The church punched everyone. It was beautiful. They pushed through it. They came out wet. There was light behind their faces. They tore them open. It was totally natural. They took turns kissing the ceiling. It didnâ€™t even feel symbolic. They had all melted into something else. I was there. I sincerely thought of us, all of us, as occupying one space. The soul seemed to drift off and coalesce. It seemed to mix around with other things. These connections occupied us, and we occupied them. There was this discrete mutuality to it. We couldnâ€™t talk about it. The church emptied piece by piece.
It drained out slowly, with quiet resistance. It was Sunday. It was solemn. In the window was the window. Mythological explanations were out of reach. Degrees of sameness and difference weren’t even relevant. It felt more like a place where the air comes and goes. He’s a person who kicks his animals around. Windows are “about” light. The hallway kept going and going and going. Feel the bottoms of your teeth. They’re gigantic. With his eyes closed, Thomas grew into an expanse. He became a landscape. He felt his whole body swell. Words settle into the skull of the believer. They push out of his chest. The stomach feels heavy in the national backwater. The builder waits for letters. Light moves to his hand. The neighbors look blankly through him. It isn’t a matter of desperation. He’s only twelve. The cigarettes help him sleep. Steeples crest our thoughts of the city. Insurance agents neglect their introspections. Daylight responds with a strong handshake. Conversations link qualities to issues. Vocabularies should lose weight. Values should lose the assured feeling of the ground.
The experience of discrete solidarity. The experience of being alone. The salesman gets fired for nothing. The bottle spins around and falls. They go on eating their sandwiches and try not to notice. I laughed at his cat. He named her Blanche DuBois. He thought she exuded fallen grace. I thought she just smelled bad. The movies were awful. Soon thatâ€™s all there were. Movies, gross cats, and unemployed salesmen. The window opened. Forms were implied. Silence spilled everywhere. He tried to be polite. He showed himself out. The change in lighting dimmed what had earlier seemed pretty awkward. Then balloons flooded the bedroom. Lunch was a churlish indignity. It was a lullaby of awkwardness. I wanted to dive through the wall of hands. I also wanted him to go first. Anticipation tackled response and spit in its face. We structure our surprises on careful planning. We structure our cheeseburgers on opposition to austerity. There are all kinds of assumptions. Like movement is assumed to be like watching TV. Like you could dance without getting up.
Of course none of it works. Iâ€™ve believed things and made them work for awhile. But at some point they had to move out and just be true. The clouds move like grandparents. They see patterns in the lines of their hands. I ask my boss for a promotion. I get a promotion. I ask for another promotion. Tumbleweeds roll across the vocal horizon. Then the snow finds him. He holds open the curtains. He lets it melt on the radiator. A friend sends him something in a tube. It lights up. God lights up. God has never said the word â€œNashville.â€? He is a shepherd. He is a window. Sometimes I would see him outside. Sometimes I would sit for a solid hour and look only straight ahead. Sometimes I would stand in a dark closet and wait to see what would happen if I just stood there. Sometimes I would set up mirrors in such a way that I could look at my face from an angle other than straight on, like I was everybody else. But none of it was all that interesting. What interested me was the way people looked. Then later I told them I had to leave. It was only 5 p.m.
It was time. I’m sorry. I hate to do this. Outside I saw the trash cans next to the driveway next to the next house over next to nothing. Across the yard I saw a cloud lunging for me. It was the backyard. I ran. My mom would have been so proud, but I had to go. I couldn’t believe the way they all talked. As if Jesus was standing there in his bathing suit. Their skin turned to glass. You could see right in. Everybody acted delirious. Some people got pissed. So much paper spread over the floor. It has to go. The next day everyone meets up. They go to this bar. They drink too much. Some guy tells some girl about Jim Jarmusch. That’s a mistake. He can’t pretend to have been to Peru. He can’t say he slept under his desk. He leaves. He doesn’t explain. The streets are closer. People push their faces together. People share spit. It doesn’t even feel symbolic.
It’s sort of pretty. It’s sort of awkward. It’s still daylight. Little kids were reaching their arms out of bus windows, reaching and throwing their fingers out in fives. There was a meeting going on in the mall. Someone was telling a story about how she was at the bank. A teller quit on the spot. The teller said, “I’m leaving this disgusting empire!” She got hit in the head with a cordless phone. It was an accident. It was for her. Conscientiousness, so many push-ups. More on this later. Right now I’m hungry. This happens every few hours. Like slipping along a wave. Up and down. It’s a pleasant kind of movement. There’s a sort of rhythm to it. After awhile, the rhythm replaces the movement. Then you have the sensation of being still. Then you realize that stillness is a sensation. Then you start looking around. You can see all the way around yourself at breakfast. Then it’s good to read the paper. Condoleezza Rice, I am disappointed in you. People who have been traveling a lot sometimes seem scattered. They’re pulling pieces from all over. Reeling it in, you see how far it had gotten.
Maybe some of it you forget about and lose. But it’s not really a loss, more like a tacit donation. The silos always manage to burst. There’s this constant repair going on. And a constant withdrawal. But there’s not a consistent feeling to any of it. It’s good, bad, neutral, ha. It’d be great if you could choose. There’s always the unexpected disappointment, but so what. You try to be inviting. Limit the clusterfuck. Sometimes it’s a matter of what’s open and where you work. What you’re listening to and what you’re looking at. And how they match up. There’s talking everywhere. A short man raises his voice. A little girl is twirling. No, a little girl is twirl. But I’ll be a window. I’ll be a shepherd. We were on an airplane. I was the broken-off handle of a charming impulse. You were all messy. I was in love. You were in the bathroom. Brains froze. Breaths interchanged. Eyes interchanged. Millions of breaths fill an airplane. Later we went swimming.
You dissolved. I drank the water you dissolved in. You mixed with the blood that ran all through me. You were infused with oxygen. You rushed through the ends of my arms and legs. You were infused with all manner of needless particles. My body was austere in its removal of wastes. And where you were it was different. You weren’t inside me. I was the atmosphere you stepped through. We receded from the boundaries of our heads. We smiled through the stinging fog of chlorine. I heard the phone ring. Then you slipped out of the pool and went for some terrible lemonade. We could just as easily have been swallowing small pieces of space and you were off charting the course to estrangement. How these little pieces of metal made it inside me I don’t know. They exist. The world comes through them clearly enough. We didn’t talk through the awkward moments. It wasn’t a mystical experience. I didn’t flinch. It was a “human” lens. It’s good, bad, neutral, ha. Look at Oprah. Got her a perm and left everything in Nashville. Her haircut is not public. But it persists in shared images. Mythological nudity never leaves her apartment.
We were always talking it back and forth. You felt secure there, on the couch, breezes lifting your necktie. Don’t worry about making tracks through the blizzard. The trails seem to go in every direction. This is enough for almost everything. It holds out in the freezing of consent. The ideas never resolve into anything. Step through the rooms floating on obscured awareness. Sometimes the high moments of doubt reach into my jacket. You come sliding right off the vague flow of moments passing. There are these constant walls and turns. It’s not that they exist anymore or don’t. Just that everything has this bewildering color. I get caught up in constant changes, surfaces shifting. If I could reach back and pull, that might do it. Tackle the movement of one thing into another. Do something else. The grip loses integrity and becomes airy. If you’re not dragging in the stream, you’re not in the stream. It’s a balance you gain and lose. When it’s there, the talk is easy and comes sliding right off my face. I stand around and have ideas. It’s really a wonderful experience. The teetering is interesting. The fantasy of definition isn’t always available. The windows open. There’s only so much the head fits around. The rest of it sometimes feels overwhelming. So much between the head and the hand.
It’s bursting into tongues swimming toward the place their bodies had been. Swelling and falling on sidewalks. Laughing about how the bodies split open. Chewing on the heads of engagement. Be digested by heads. Turn to chemicals. Spill from the mouth. Horrible and messy. The gracious crowd slept under desks. They fed each other paperclips and drank color. They need to be better. Some guy tears off his arms and puts them in his wife’s headache. His wife tears off her face and puts it in his headache. It’s a painful combination all around. Next to either of them is horrible. Next to all of them is loud. Old newspapers blow down the street. You kiss until you feel your father receding. You kiss until you feel eyes in your mouth. You kiss until your body drips into a bowl. You fall asleep kissing. You wake up. It seems early, but it’s not. You walk out of the bedroom. You open the front door. You step outside. Everything’s gotten realistic. Realism is horrible. Sunlight falls into the body.
It sinks for miles, deeper and deeper. The body looks at windows. Outside reflects off of them. It doesn’t even feel symbolic. If the body goes, nothing replaces it. It would be a window. Outside would reflect off of it. Headstones should be mirrors. My dance into God’s face will be instantaneous. They say you don’t get to keep your body. But I will keep my body. I will also find yours. I will pull you through God’s face. I don’t care if he doesn’t want you there. He won’t say anything. He’s too polite. Bodies bash together. They want to stop. It was so pointless, the bashing. People pretend to give it credit, as if they ever met their bodies. All they have are these ideas of commerce. It’s all paid out from this one pile. You don’t even know how big the pile is. Accept some substitute for the shouting lights. Make adjustments to the empire. Engage in the commerce of deceptive hands. I delivered myself unto 2 p.m. I woke up and kissed a buttface. Maybe it’s some fundamental cynicism you have to accept. Lunch was a churlish indignity.
I tore into anger. The world comes through me clearly enough. My soul left my body. I laughed and felt heavy. Got upset and felt pointless. I felt secure on the couch, light painted across my face. This new haircut is unstoppable. My soul drifts off. It punches everyone. It’s austere and glorious. Suddenly the phone rang. I had no idea. I didn’t even think they were slippery. There wasn’t any sound. I couldn’t really tell where my hand was. The empty body pushed us into a bunker of an immediately irrevocable past. I was a little horrified. I’d been waiting for this. But it was unbelievable. I should have exploded. I mean, time cut straight through us. The combination was relentless. As was the division. The atmosphere absorbed the inside of him. His body crumpled around him in an aggressive revelation. His body tore off its entanglements like a bride. The car, the street, the wires, the light. We made a hollow sound as we landed. The connections drained out slowly with discrete mutuality.
The telephone wires sought unification. The souls retracted. Light played over metal in bewildering color. The world came through its indignities clearly enough. I didn’t understand why I was so calm. But I sat there smoking like a fucking empire. Later everyone had to leave. They walked home from the office. They knew where they were walking. They didn’t know where they were going. Maybe there were parents up ahead. Dinner dropped off the horizon. Everything got distracted. Some level of permissiveness probably would have helped. But I guess I was too busy closing up shop. I didn’t want to talk our discrete histories. I changed the subject. I guess it worked. I was a shepherd. You were a window. Later we switched. Later it was different. I wanted to fix you. Believe what I tell you. Your sister is eating you. You act like a mirror. But you’re not a mirror. Some kind of recession took place. Even the colors drew back towards my eyes. It all collected behind my face.
It piled there and washed over itself. Unclear motives made a home for fungus. The day took hostages. The light stuck its thumb into my brain. My face did doughnuts on the table’s stomach. Later all the skin turned to glass. It was going to be such a brilliant renovation. Rain fell. You could hear it all the way down the hall. The man in blue pants doesn’t care about rain. With anger he held his bouquet of reasons. Tired were the faces under the umbrellas. The blue night heard grief in the black-eyed streets. These are meant to go through you. Those are meant to stay inside. The car spun around like a toy. You occupy space. You displace air. You cut a little trail into time. Circumstance and myth fill up the margins. It happens all at once. Attention surrounds you and eats. The center isn’t noticed and disappears. It remains unadulterated. You can’t even see it passing through your chest. Once it passed through my chest. Once it made me move into a little bag. Therefore it was dark. Therefore it was quiet. And the day made no pretense of meaningful contribution.
But I didn’t need to drive off into a work-filled tomorrow. I could see veins popping out of my distractions. I had become delirious with caring so little. But don’t be so dispassionate. Don’t be so vague. Don’t be scattered or willfully uninvolved. I’m sure we can complete more than the occasional sentence. We have to feature more than a depiction of ourselves. The day isn’t just a symptom of being awake. We have to entertain, combine, and be present. When you meet new people, they say all kinds of things. So what if they want to leave the window open. We don’t owe them anything. Any of us could be a joyful revision. You don’t have to believe the menu of underwater deliveries. Things arrive in a constellation of futures. So blitz estrangement. Delete awkwardness. I have rules about this. No one ever escapes.
ÂŠ2006, 2010 Paul Killebrew Online edition Text ITC Veljovic Titles & Cover Futura Design SoA This is an Ugly Duckling Presse chapbook. www.uglyducklingpresse.org Originally published in an edition of 326 copies, with 26 lettered copies signed by the author. Online edition produced in July 2010 and made possible in part by a grant from the New York State Literary Presenters Technical Assistance Program.