Brief Non-writing update to my like, five followers and those Nazis that were watching my shit for a while.

This has been one of the best weeks of my life, holy shit.

I am so close to finishing my Bachelor Of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, after so much hard work.

So many cool projects on the horizon.
Swimming in sweetness and support.
Sometimes I wake up to texts from my sweetheart, and can’t believe how I lucked out, except I know how hard we both worked to become the people we are and deserve one another too.

Tonight I will read a piece of writing on a stage where the mighty BLACK SABBATH once played when they were at the apex of their sonic power.

Does this mean I’ve made it?

Doing everything in my power to keep my body and brain healthy.

 

 

Brief Non-writing update to my like, five followers and those Nazis that were watching my shit for a while.

Dating during this whole mass extinction thing is wild.

We sit
Next to one
Another in bed
Skin pressed to skin
You smile while you knit
And I’m drunk
On the delight of it

With a baseball game
On the radio
The window open
To the last strains
Of summer drifting in
From a skyline I never thought
I would come to love
Looming concrete and steel above
Not indestructible
But close enough
For now

I scribble in my journal
Trying to give my words
The bloodsoaked weight
Of a Lydia Lunch or
Any other horror adjacent

I Let the pen rest
With a breath
And your head
On my chest

Try as I might
I don’t got the heart
For wringing the wrath
Out of my body tonight
I wore that shit out
Of me last year
And the year before that
And the year before that one too.

Talking about being born
Like a burn ward
Skin always too thin
Too sensitive to exist
Over and over and over
How your bones can ache
And age, slamming small hands
Against a lifetime’s weight
Of storm clouds begging to break

Drive home
Across down
Real late at night
Sailing across an
Asphalt sea and blinking lights
The windows down
Fingers curl around the wheel
Freshly dipped in the afterglow

All the cold songs
Written for cold hearts
I used to love
About never falling in love
And tears flowing
To help the flowers grow
Play real loud on the stereo
Singing me all the way home

Those songs seem so silly now
Or at least like the sounds
Ears would be grateful to outgrow
Waiting
Not in love, but kind of in love, or
Making our way to that graceful falling
Or close enough
Waiting
for the curtain to fall
And the war to come home.

Dating during this whole mass extinction thing is wild.

HIDE – 8/15/19

It’s nice to go to shows and see gray hair, and crow’s feet and smile lines.  It’s a relief to see aging punk rockers still rocking the double studded belt look coupled with their receding hairlines.  I don’t know if I was totally aware of what a toll it took on me to go to shows in a city where I would often be fifteen years older than many of the punks in attendance.  This especially in a subculture that discards and writes off its elders every generation or so. 

Speaking of the new destroying the old, each time I see HIDE perform, Heather Gabel and Seth Sher outdo themselves completely, both sonically and in stage presence and intensity. So much so, that I think back to the first time I saw them in a near empty bar in Seattle with one of my very dearest friends, and how that gig almost seems like a tame folk punk show played in a community garden in comparison to the aural horror and menace they unleashed on Brilloboxtonight.  I go to shows in my new city alone a lot, which doesn’t bother me at all.  I just hang in the back and read in between bands.  I find that the sense of being alone in a crowd helps me concentrate more than I might at home.  Tonight, I biked to the show late, with a copy of Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado in my backpack.  At the show, I read “Inventory” from that collection of short stories while I waited for HIDE to set up.  If you haven’t read the story, I’m not going to give you spoilers, if you have, you might have an idea why that particular story felt fitting to read while waiting for HIDE to set up.  

Better writers than me have argued that the best music and art holds a mirror up to the culture at large, reflecting its ugliness back to us.  In doing so, it forces us to face our failings both subculture wise and as a species.  I know this is what drew me to the worlds of punk and goth in the first place and I know this is the argument so many of us used on our parents when they wanted to know why we insisted on listening to Dead Kennedys (or really whatever offensive band you loved as an adolescent) loud in our rooms decades ago.  “Fuck you, dad!  They’re just telling it like it really is!”.  I feel like I once saw Marilyn Manson, a far lesser artist than HIDE, and one with a much more contrived presentation and aesthetic make the same argument on Donahue or some similar television show in the 90’s, that he wasn’t telling kids what to do or think, but was just a vessel with which to expose them to the hypocrisy and contradictions of the dominant culture.  

Somewhere though, that message became compromised and watered down, and this writer felt like Marilyn Manson gave suburban kids permission to be shocking and edgy at the mall before going off to college and getting a job. HIDE is holding up a very different mirror to our culture and our collective participation in the both quiet and loud atrocities that take place across the world and at home.  When Heather Gabel opened tonight’s show repeating instances of verbal harassment experienced while simply being a woman walking through the world in the coldest and most guttural screams imaginable, you get the feeling she is not only railing against the outside world, but demanding the audience examine what parts of that world they have internalized and brought to this small, smoky room with them.  One song blended into the next and the venue fell into brief silence punctuated by the sample of a voice saying “When you depersonalize another person… it seems to make it easier to do things you shouldn’t do.” while Gabel writhed on the floor in front of the audience in mock submission.  I couldn’t help but think back to being a child in South Florida in the late 80’s, coming in from playing outside to my mother watching Ted Bundy’s final interview on the night of his execution.  I watched a few minutes of the interview with my mother, long enough to watch Ted Bundy blame place the blame for his hatred of women on pornography all while the jackass from Focus On The Family ate it up because it fit his agenda, more than examining our collective hatred of women did.  

I can think of few bands I’ve seen in recent memory that take the stage with a more driven intensity than HIDE in the past few years.  I don’t really know how to write about the mechanics of creating music, so I don’t really know how to write about it in a lot of ways. I could scarcely begin to understand how Seth Sher creates the noise onstage that he does, but he does so to astonishing effect.  I’m going to admit here, that even scarcely an hour after getting home the details of the show are a bit fuzzed out.  I spent the entire set standing up front stage left, not even dancing, just standing transfixed, aware that I was witnessing something truly powerful and cathartic, and occasionally pulling out my phone to snap a photo or take a video, more to document how the show made me feel for self-reference, than to take any sort of fancy photos.  I’m not a good photographer anyway.  

 I remember when Trump first got elected, some were moved to comment along the lines of “Well at least we will get powerful at and music out of these dark times.”.  While acknowledging the privileged nature of that statement (as in, there are a lot of people experiencing these dark times from cages, and a lot of people who might not live to see the end of them), I don’t disagree with that sentiment.  The Punk and Industrial scenes were borne of the turbulence and tension of the 70’s and 80’s.  While I feel like HIDE’s art stands powerfully on its own, regardless of whether it is being created within the confines of an ascendant fascist state or not, I cannot help but find the synchronicity HIDE’s momentum as artists coupled with the particular cultureal moment we are in to be both terrifying and comforting at once.  I just looked at my journals and photographic records and found that my aforementioned dear friend and I first saw HIDE on March 13th, 2017, just two months after Trump’s inauguration, and just a year and a half after thinking we were going to get beaten to death by Nazis together.  I distinctly remember returning home to Olympia late that night and sitting beneath a cold winter moon on the shore of the Budd Inlet, promising one another that we would continue our shared resistance to the powers that shape our world, be it through art or activism.  We had just witnessed something that powerful.  Tonight, at the conclusion of HIDE’s set, the stranger who had been standing next to me snapping photos (no doubt, better than my own!) and I simply turned and acknowledged one another with an exhausted warmth as if to say “Did you fucking see what just happened, and are you okay now?”  

I rode my bike home, exhilarated, feeling hopeful for our collective subcultural future, if nothing else.  These are vicious times, and HIDE creates art to not to provide comfort in those times, but to encourage the listener to rise up in the face of them.  On my ride home, I couldn’t help but think of two very different Industrial and Post-Industrial acts of a bygone era – Death In June, and Boyd Rice’s NON.  Both bands have created searing industrial soundscapes and both bands have been dogged by accusations (that this writer happens to agree with, and an immense amount of evidence easily found via google seemingly supports) of fascist and far-right sympathies, if not outright agendsas for much of their careers.  In defending themselves, both individuals (I cannot bring myself to refer to Douglas P as a musician) often use the same argument – that they are just utilizing fascist imagery, referencing it in song, and lastly dressing up in its trappings to hold a mirror up to the culture at large, to make the listener uncomfortable, to think.  

After watching HIDE perform tonight, I couldn’t help but think that the music of DI6 and NON could more accurately be described as the artists holding a mirror up to the culture as they wish it to be, one where the might makes right and the strong tread upon the weak, a world where white men get to speak and act with impunity – The very same world HIDE seeks to obliterate.  Where Death In June, so many of the bands they inspired provide the listener space to fantasize they are the perpetrators of atrocities (If you can make a convincing argument here that the song “Of Runes and Men” is anything other than Douglas P jerking off to the thought of being born 30 years earlier so he could have joined the SS, I will eat that “Sometimes Antisocial, Always Antifascist shirt I wear 8 days a week.*).  I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of relief at a changing of the guard of sorts within the Industrial and dark cultures.  In the crowd tonight there was none of the fascist dog whistling sometimes present at Industrial shows of yesteryear.  No boys with dumb fashy haircuts.  No fucking pseudo SS uniforms.  No Totenkampf or Sonnerad patches..  Just a bunch of outcasts gathered together in a small room, and two uncompromising musicians, asking, no, demanding that the audience confront their collective demons and their complicity in the horrors of rape culture and misogyny.  

What are we going to do?  What are we going to create in the face of such horror?  What are we going to do to bring it all crashing down?  What are we going to build in the ruins? 

*Just kidding.  I won’t.  Douglas P is a fascist.  Period. Point blank.  Fuck that guy.  

Mediocre photographic evidence:

HIDE – 8/15/19

3.14.4.18

One.

The first time I saw you:
You were magnetic
With your cracked tooth grin
Tattoos gracing your skin
Your steel toe boot
Stomp across a scuffed
Hardwood floor painted
The color of one hundred
Midnight hours passed
In delicious summer stillness
Your eyes
Catch mine
You smile
And I smiled back
The humidity hanging
Thick in the air
Turned electric, sending
My skin tinging
For a moment
Like an alien
Sensing a kindred spirit

Two.

Two hours later
Dancing at the show
Sweaty and smiling
On the precipice
Of “punk for life”
I wonder
Just when we get
Too old for this
Fifteen years after
I screamed the words
“Young until I die!”
For the first time
The band
Right on the cusp
Of stardom, or what passes
For it down here
On this dirty living room floor
Is giving it their
Absolute all
You introduce yourself
In the sweaty afterglow
Wild hair stuffed
In a knit black beanie
Despite the summer heat.

Three.

Two years on
All fucked up
On sleeplessness and loss
And expensive liquor
Twenty-one days since
A single shotgun shell
Shattered the world
Of almost every person I know
Back home

So I came out here alone
Breaking in steel toe boots of my own
Praying to stomp my way down
Enough strange streets
Turn down enough blind curves
Walk up enough steep hills
To outrun this
Sadness swallowing sadness

We share a drink
And a fierce affinity
For one another
Intelligent eyes
Growing harder
And harder
I look at you
And see a mirror.

Four.

You are my friend
And one of the
Best and brightest
I know
Sitting in your parking spot
Making the most
Of our small hours
Before the dawn

I wouldn’t go back now
To visit those hours
Inhabit those shed skins
But I wish
I could visit
To hear the grace
Of your laugh
And the light
Behind your eyes
One more time

Five.

The sharpness in
Your words matches
The razor glint
In your eyes
I’ve seen that malevolent
Glow pouring out of my
Own skull, tasted that venom
Dripping out of my mouth
So many times before

Blessed as we are
With this curse
Brilliant minds, that move too fast
And suspicion to match it
Paranoid thoughts pushing
A soul past the red line
Like the time
Our friend kissed
That boy who
Wasn’t your boyfriend
But you wanted him to be
Even though you claimed
It was all no big deal
Later.

You sent a text
To our other friend
Telling her you hoped
Her clit shriveled
And fell off

“Goddamn, girl.
I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“What?
She fucked me over
And now she doesn’t
Deserve to ever
Feel pleasure again
I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Like it was the most rational thought in the world

I shuffled my feet nervously
Beneath the table
Reminding myself
To never get on your bad side
After all
We are so much alike
And I been on my own shit list
For most of my life.

Six.

I have been in bed
For four days now
The diagnosis came Monday
And with it a shattering
A feeling of never being
Able to trust myself again
I could stay here
In this room
Forever
Let heart starve out
Go to oblivion
Nobody calls on the phone
And I feel a loneliness
Like I’ve never known

And then you are at the door
Pulling me up into your arms
And into the world outside my window

“Come on, let’s get something to eat
Your brain may be trying to get the best of you
But this shit doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”

Seven.

Christmas comes.
And you, Josef
And I, are all alone.
Running from the worst
Goddamn heartbreak
I ever known
And the kind of cold
That cuts to the soul.
I made the three
Of us dinner
And we ate together
Thankful for the sanctuary
Found here in one another
From the heartless
Rain of this wretched city

I didn’t take any pictures
Of that night
But now I wish I had
You were too on edge
Looking out the windows
Over your shoulder
As if some unknown enemy
Would cross Eastside Street
And knock on the door

I mostly remember trying to play off the tension
And Josef hating the movie I pirated
And with good reason
That shit was way too violent
To watch on Christmas

And I see now
All the little red flags
I should have seen back then
The Storm getting ready to rage
Suspicion bordering on madness brewing
In the world behind your eyes

Eight.

New Year’s Eve
And We’re fighting
In earnest now
Outside a bar
That I didn’t even want
To be at anyway
Feeling like a thousand
Eyes are staring at me
In judgement
And condemnation
The beginning of
A long and painful
Process of separation
From this city

The same city
We both arrived in
With such cautious hope
Once upon a time
Like shaking hands
With something waiting
To gnaw at your insides

Struggle to comprehend
The reason and rationale
Behind your wrath
But the silence
And the evasive glances
Drive the final nail
In my new year.

Call it good
And leave the party
Before the countdown
To midnight even begins
Walk the tracks
Alone all the way home
In the bitter cold
Which I like
More than rain soaking to the bone
Ring in the new year
On the phone
Sitting at my desk
Staring out the window
Whispering nervously over
The phone to my best friend in this world
Because I got a feeling
That all hell
Might be coming home
For both of us
In the year to come

Nine.

I see you crossing the street
Through the fog
Walking home alone
The rumors been swirling
Around this lonely
Little town for weeks now

We all know
But don’t know
How to hold
Or how to even sit
In proximity to your pain
And the paranoia that follows
Praying to all the gods
Above and below
For your freedom
The best lover not a one
Of us ever got to know
From sorrow
Thirst
Hunger
Want
And loneliness
To wrap you in its arms
And bring you safely home.

Ten.

You are my friend
And still one of
The best I’ve known
Pacing around in the back yard
Pointing the finger of suspicion
In every direction
We’ve all known loss before
But goddamn,
It never came to me
Quite like this
There’s a first time
For everything, I guess.

Watching the mask of sanity
Slip away not with a whimper
But with a plaintive wail
And every accusation imagined

I drive home
And want to cry
I want a flood
To fall from my eyes
To wash this city clean
From all the bitterness
And all the fights
And all the plots contrived
That drove us to this point
That we may finally sleep
Through the night

Twelve.

We sit in the sun
In the bed of my truck
Outside the storage building
Where we both rent units now
You smoke a cigarette
And we soak
In that familiar
Feeling of defeat
Staring down the barrel
Of uncertainty and instability
For the hundredth
Time in this life

When you sold
Most of your stuff
I never told you
How I raced down to Rainy Day
And begged them to sell
Your records back to me
“Look, my friend is just
In a very dark place
I’ll pay double whatever
You gave her for all this stuff
So I can keep it safe for her
Until she’s well again.”

I threw my hands up
In exasperation when the
Guy behind the counter
Offered to sell me the
One of your records I
Could even identify
For seventy dollars.

You give me your bookshelf
Saying you might come back
For it someday
Even though I know you wouldn’t
And we carry it into my unit
And I padlock the door behind us
I see the resignation
Like set deep in your eyes
And feel a morbid sense
Of relief at what
That resignation replaced.

Thirteen.

You send a text message
To my phone right before
You get in your car and drive south
Straight out of my life

“I’m sorry.
I know you did your best
And you’ve been such a good friend
I just don’t know what’s real anymore
And I have to go.”

Fourteen.

Everyone hates what happens next
All the worry
And the wishing
Praying to the gray
Sky above us
Even though we
Are no longer certain
It even listens
For you
To just
Make it out
Of this.

Fifteen.

The last time I saw you
You were scared
And all alone
Smoking a cigarette
Flying a sign at a rest stop
Outside your busted car
Somewhere along the I-5.
When I stopped to piss
I had a feeling I would
See you standing there

I said hello
Gave you fifteen dollars
Told you I loved you
I didn’t try and argue
Or even address the demons
Taken up residence
In your head

I got back in my car
Drove and drove and drove
Away from Washington
Through Oregon
Straight to California
Luna and I didn’t stop
Until Los Angeles
Where the sun finally shone above us

Standing at the observatory
above the glittering ocean
Of electric starlight
I wished for a way
For the light
To wash away
The resignation
That comes with
The knowledge
That you can love
Your friends
As hard
And as true
And as purely
As anything you have
Ever loved in your life

But sometimes that love
Is not enough
To keep a flame alive.

3.14.4.18

Brief notes on the politics of desirability

I remember the last queer dance party I went to. It was towards the end of my final summer in Asheville, stunted in the shadow of a terrible relationship.  All summer long, I felt like a ghost haunting myself. I remember standing there in the bar just thinking I hate this. I hate the meat market, and I hate the desirability politics and the plastic performativeness and predictability of it all. I hate feeling like I have to pretend I give a shit who you think is hot to keep up. I hate feeling like I have to scramble to fuck whoever will have me just to feel as desirable as the rest of my friends, because that’s the commodity we trade in.

I said as much to the people I was with, and tore out of there to go pick Josh up so we could drive my loud ass truck up and down Riverside Drive blasting the Military Affairs Neurotic LP and look for shit to break. When I replay the scene in my memory, I have a drink in my hand and I throw it on the floor, shattering the glass to as if punctuate my valedictory statement. That’s wrong though, because I wasn’t drinking that summer. I think the image just makes for a better story.

Roaring past the city limits with the engine opened up and the windows down to the late night, I laughed a lot and breathed easier. That entire summer was bereft of laughter in a big way. I remember a sense of coming home, like punk has always been the one thing that holds true for me, long after everything else cheapens and falls away.

I came back to back to Asheville with a sweetheart a few years later when I was well again. I took them to meet some friends, sitting on the front porch in the sun.  As soon as the sweetheart got up to piss, someone made sure to comment “and they’re so hot too” and I just remember feeling like fuck you. You’re talking about this person who I’m sharing the most intimate parts of myself with, but apparently how fuckable you think they are has the final say. I think that’s when I realized how much the culture I had been surrounding myself with had contributed to my sickness.

Shit just mirrors commodification and capitalism and I feel gross.

Riding my bike home from a friend’s house tonight after working a long and hot day on the same bike, I think about how deep my alienation and exhaustion with queer social dynamics runs, like to the point where I wonder how I even identify. The ways I experience desire and safety in intimacy are often in flux, save for a few constants which would probably be described as boring and heteronormative for a lot of people. I don’t think I’ve had a single queer relationship that I didn’t end up feeling disposable on the other side of. Maybe that’s me. Maybe it’s BPD. Maybe it’s having such a hard time existing in this body. I don’t know. I just know I feel too tender and too smart and too vicious for it all. I wonder a lot what will happen to some of my friendships if I find my soul no longer aligning with the identity of mine they are most comfortable with because it fits into their worldview.

Shit mirrors capitalism and I feel gross.

Brief notes on the politics of desirability

The Only Hope I Never Abandoned

To the old man
Limping up the Lareda Street
Hill with the young dog
Spirited and playful
Barking, pulling at his leash
Champing with vigor
While you tried to keep up
I do not know either one of you
I don’t know your story.

But I love you
I love you
Like I know
The purity of love that accompanies
My very best friend
Friend curled up asleep
In the crease
Of my creaking knees
Every single night
For the past 14 years.

I wonder if you worry
Too, about how the cars speed
Up these narrow streets
If you pull too hard like I do
On my girl’s leash
Holding her nervously next to me
Until the taillights recede
Into the distance.
“I’m sorry”, you say
“She just wants to play”
“I’m the only other living thing
She sees all day”
And there is a pain
Languishing in the space
Between us on this street
In this city
That I wish more
Than anything
I had an answer for
In a moment, I remember the sinking sorrow
Of walking through the world alone
Certain every other inhabitant
Crashing across the surface of
This lonely planet
Has long left you behind.
I’ll see you out here
Sometime this summer
Making my way down the hill
With my girl as her graying year
Slow her down so that I worry
Which walk will be the last one

Walking in the same old circles
In a different city
And a different year
Haunted by the same
Burning questions
Maybe I’ll tell you a story
Of how one day fourteen years back
When I threw my journal off
The Burnside Bridge
Into the Willamette rushing below

Friend, I was tired
Just so tired
Of pouring the same poison
Out of my pens
Always reaching the same goddamn conclusions.

It was just one of those days
Where giving in to desolation and a darkness
Of soul seemed as good a choice to make
As any other with the shadow of the
Void breathing hell into my heart.

Do you know?
I think you know.
Maybe my story
Isn’t your own
But I’d bet you bottom dollar
It’s goddamn close enough

Just like I know
How a chance encounter
Maybe not so chance at all
Has a way of calling
A heart home back to a body
Running across the yard
With four paws
And a tail wagging
A hundred miles an hour

My girl, we basically grew up together
I was a kid
Living out of a backpack
Curled up in a sleeping bag
In an abandoned building
Walking with misanthropy for company
When she licked my face for the first time.

It was like a door opening
And the warmth
Of the purest love I ever did know
Rushing into a bitter heart
To drive out the cold.

When I count off all the strokes of good luck
That this life has offered
On my calloused fingers
This dog here
Is always the first.

 

IMG_2333

The Only Hope I Never Abandoned

A rose for every enemy, save two.

294×109

He lies in a bed with his best friend.  The two of them drew the curtains closed tight against the South Florida Sun.  The air conditioning keeps the sweltering heat from encroaching into the room too much.  The dark adds a layer of cool blanketing their young skin.  He stares at the fan spinning on the ceiling and sighs.  His friend stole the Lita Ford/Ozzy Osbourne Close My Eyes forever cassette single from his older sister, and the two of them listen to it obsessively, flipping the cassette over almost as soon dead air fills the speakers and the sound of the spindles grinding away fills the room.  They talk about the mysteries of death in the language of children.

As trite and cliché as the lyrics might end up sounding thirty years later, they are transfixed in this moment.  Death is a door.  Death is a shock sometimes.  Death is a choice sometimes.  Death is not the end.  He hears Lita singing to them from the perspective of someone who has taken their life and come to regret it, a moldering corpse, singing from the grave:

“If I could have just one more wish, I’d wipe the cobwebs from my eyes.”

“What the hell are you two doing?  Give me my tape back!”

The sister is onto them.  The gig is up.  The boys race out of the house, onto their bikes, and they take flight, soaring through the steam rising from South Florida blacktop, out in the sun; full of life.  Out on their bikes in the park, they make the figure eight on the path over and over, watching the wild parrots jump from transmission tower to transmission tower, the static hum of civilization ever present, but enough to drown out their songs.  They halfheartedly look for ghosts.  They never see any, for the sun is still shining down on South Florida and whoever heard of a ghost appearing during the day anyway?

378×109

The ocean is warm and gentle.  The day is already hot, and the early morning breeze feels perfect on his tanned skin.  His mother sets up her umbrella, and puts her day bag down in the sand. He is already racing for the surf with his friend when his mother warns them not to go out too far.  Those riptides can come up out of nowhere and drag you out to sea forever before you even know it, she says.

Out in the swell, he is elated and alive.  He knows he should be afraid, but he is not.  His friend tells him that his older brother told him there is a sandbar roughly a hundred yards out.  The ocean feels like a warm and loving embrace.  They reach the sandbar and sit there letting the waves lap at their bodies.  Their knees sink into the soft sand, allowing their bodies to rest.  The horizon stretching out to infinity, and the distance from the shore gives the boys an illusion of being in the middle of the sea.  His mother looks like a small dot in the expanse of alabaster.  He wants to taste the precise feeling of forever that must exist out where the sky and the sea meet in a brilliant expanse of blue.

His friend looks nervous, glancing back to the shore.  He asks if he thinks they should swim back in, just a little closer to the shore.  What about the riptides?  What about sharks?  Just a little bit longer, he implores.  They hold onto one another’s arms, bracing one another against the timeless roll of the waves, resting on the soft precipice of forever.

 504×109

He stands on a small dirt hill in a neighborhood where the all the kids all ride bikes and play flashlight tag during the summer.  He isn’t it, but he wants to hide anyway.  He feels safer in the dark, away from his friends, even though they are his friends.  He looks up at the stars flickering in the sky and has a feeling he will always be alone.  He stretches his arms to the sky and inhales, breathing the late summer in.  Something in the night makes him feel at home.

Last week, he watched unflinchingly as his friend got unceremoniously  dumped by his girlfriend at the carnival.  They were standing just in front of the tilt-a-whirl when it happened.  His friend cried all night and he feels only a little embarrassed for him when they get home and he breaks down into his tears in front of his parents.  He is genuinely confused when the parents inquire on his emotional well-being and tell him they knew he loved the girl and that there are other fish out there in the sea.  They sleep in his friend’s room later, and he can hear him stifling sobs from his makeshift bed on the floor.  Sometimes his friend starts late night wrestling matches that go on for too long and his friend inevitably ends up on his stomach, pushing himself against his crotch.

Tonight, the girlfriend has since taken his friend back, and he spent the night following her around the labyrinth of well-manicured lawns like a happy puppy.  At 8 PM, The Simpsons comes on and all the kids want to make sure to catch it, even though it’s a summer rerun.  One of the neighbors has brought a television out onto his patio.  The neighbor invites all the sweaty youth to watch with him.  There’s plenty of patio chairs, after all.  He sits away from the crowd and broods.  His friend and his girlfriend share a wicker chair with a cheap cushion beneath them.  They are all smiles and sneaking desperate kisses, holding hands in the cathode glow.

He tilts his head, and catches the two when they think no one is looking.  Something about the way their forms molding into one another makes sense to him, while feeling alien all at once.  Like he is catching a glimpse of a world he will never truly feel part of.  He can almost taste the longing at the back of his throat.

546×109

He met her in the spring of 7th grade, and they become fast friends.  They pass notes in class during the day.  They stay on the phone late into the night.  She sneaks the calls, because she isn’t allowed on the phone after 7 PM.  He picks up on the first ring so as to not wake up his mother, who sleeps fitfully, if at all these days.  His father has been dead for six months.  His mother still sleeps in the room where his father’s heart stopped beating in the middle of the night.  She can only sleep through the night if the television is on, turned up so loudly that he can hear it through his bedroom wall.

She is the realest person he has ever known, despite her sheltered upbringing and the fact that they are children.  They flip through channels on late night television together.  “Do you like this song?”  “Do you like this show?”.  They make small talk about the details of their slow as molasses summer days.  He finds himself looking forward to the small instances during the long weeks with no school where they can see one another.  He feels himself softening into more than the couch of his mother’s living room.  Staring out the window into the waves of grain and sea of cornstalks that cover the darkened countryside, he asks if he can tell her a secret.

The words fall from his mouth before he can even stop them and all the shame and rage he held for so long is laid out there it’s like a dam breaking.  His tears fall until they stop, and they talk of other things.  That was the night he learned that there are some secrets that a soul doesn’t have to bear alone.

588×109

All the small town freaks dance in the back of a rented church hall with one set of fluorescent lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling illuminating the room.  The band is all clumsy chords ripped jeans and waving hair.  He falls in love with the feeling of dancing the Doc Marten stomp in a circle so hard with his friends that he’s sure it might burn holes in the dirty brown carpet below them.  The words ring in his ears with the echo of feedback, and he feels like everything he knew before tonight is a lie, he’s locked into some truth that the dull-eyed masses around him will never know.

After the gig, some rednecks wait for him outside in the parking lot.  They wandered into the show.  Nobody knows why, or what they think is here for them.  They taunt him from their pickup truck, swearing they’re going to beat his ass for the unforgivable transgression of “being a faggot”.  As always, he is the smallest of his friends.  The rednecks move in, and his friends surround him.

“Sorry boys, y’all gonna have to go through the rest of us first.”

He hears the flicking of a butterfly knife unfolding behind him and he smiles.

630×109

They were young, loyal, violent, and most all, they were in love.  They made their plans one Sunday night in spring.  Wait for Monday morning, stick the blade into the back of  the boy who did their friend wrong and fuck the consequences.  They’d go out in a blaze of outlaw teenage glory before they let this sin slip under the rug unpunished.

They see him in the morning, and he hands her his knife without a second thought, like he was passing her a cigarette, or a bottle of wine.  They follow the boy in the hall for a while, and they lose their nerve.  The rest of the day comes and goes.  All without a single small town burnout bleeding to out on a lunchroom floor.  The summer follows the same way.  He never even knew.

714×109

They make out clumsily and say their goodbyes, too young to know how to make the other one cum.  After she leaves, he locks his door and takes off all of his clothes.  He jerks off into the empty corner of his room, right where his stereo speakers used to be.  Two nights ago, almost every single one of his friends came over and they laid waste to the house downstairs, kicking holes in the walls and spraypainting pentagrams all over the basement.  His mom cried.  What if we got a miracle, she said.  He doesn’t believe in miracles anymore.

He figures he will leave just one more parting gift encrusting the carpet for the bank when the come to take the house.

756×109

The two of them sit on mountain overlooking the city.  He’s read about spots like this in books and seen them on movies, but has never actually been to a place like this before.  They spent the night together for the first time a few weeks ago.  Two nights in a row.  The first night they stayed up all night talking about their lives, waking up two hours later to go to school.  The second night they shared an illicit kiss.  Infatuated, he broke up with the girl he was dating the next day and never looked back.

Now it is love with wild abandon, the kind that only comes when you are young.  Before you accrue scar upon scar on your heart.  She straddles him on a rock and they kiss, while the lights of the Coors brewery twinkle below them.  His fingers trace the scar on her leg, given to her by her last boyfriend the night he got drunk and pulled a knife on her and her friend.

The secrets they share run deep and shine bright, like black wells with stars burning in the depths.  She tells him that with all the quiet atrocities endured in her short life, even with a genetic time bomb ticking in her DNA.  The one waiting to wage war on her body and brain before she turns 40, that she loves her life.

The certainty in her voice shakes him to his core.

924×109

An older woman kisses the two of them on the cheek as they march down a pink brick South Florida Street.  They hitchhiked two thousand something miles to across five days to reach this exact point.  He can see the armored phalanx of riot police in the distance; already beginning to smash their clubs against their shields, clamoring for an asymmetrical war.   The sound terrifies him.  On the way downtown, they drove past one of the police staging points and he heard a commanding officer rallying the officers under him:

“Alright.  Everyone get ready.  Strike fast, and kick ass!  This is what we’ve been training for!  Let’s make these pussies regret ever coming to the city of Miami!”

The bark and bite in the officer’s voice reminds him of portrayals of Nazis war criminals in films and it terrifies him.

“That’s for luck.” The old woman says.  I know what you and your friends are here to do, and I know what you’re up against once we get to that wall.”

1.008×109

He hears the woman standing behind him scream.  He feels the car collide with his body.  He is surprised when it doesn’t feel like anything.  It just feels like something kind of bumped into him.  He feels his body hurtling forward.  “Oh shit.  I just got hit by a car” is his last cognizant thought before blacking out.  He comes to on the street, with a woman holding a napkin to his bloody mouth and nose.  “I’m on the street.” He thinks “How did I get here?” The recollection of the car hitting his body creeps in.  He wiggles his toes inside of his boots, realizing with relief that his back is not broken.  An awareness of pain in his mouth creeps in, and he presses his tongue to the front of his mouth, where his teeth should be.

The doctors tell him later, colliding with the street face first saved his life, or at least saved him from a traumatic brain injury.

He thinks there is a victory to be found here, in not being able to win them all.

1.05×109

She helps him sew together his first skirt.  They buy underwear at the store that will flatter his ass, and hide the harder parts of him.  He clumsily applies lipstick, eyeliner, mascara.  Before they go out, they share a kiss.  He has never been kissed like this before.  He asks her to please put her hands on his new body.  She spits on a finger, reaches down and slips it inside him.  He moans softly into her mouth.

Out in the sun, they nervously think about what to do with their day, and her in her fresh skin.  They settle on the bookstore and reading comic books.  She reads The Punisher Volume 5: The Slavers.  She reads Marvel Zombies, and doesn’t care for it much.  She only worries a little bit about being noticed when she goes to take a piss in the woman’s bathroom.

1.134×109

The river was low that fall, right after their friend died, stabbed to death and set on fire thousands of miles away.  The sick horror of it sticks with her at night.  She wakes from restless sleep to pull swigs from a bottle of whiskey next to her bed.  She stares through the dark at the ceiling until the alcohol warms her body and numbs her spirit enough that she can fall into dreamless sleep.  Everyone around her is heartbroken, and with good reason.

The day after Halloween, three of them clamor over the rocks usually submerged beneath the rushing right and light candles.  Someone pulls tarot cards for each one of them.  She burns an effigy not of their friend’s murderer, but of the forces that motivated him.  They drink one beer each, and watch the candles lit for their dead friend burn low.  Before walk over the rocks and to the shore, she spraypaints “PATRIARCHY KILLS” in angry red letters on the pillar.  One of her friends paints “Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living” in beautiful flowing script.  They walk up the hill in the gloom, hearts held fast against the gathering dark.

1.134×109.2

She meets him at a party and is standoffish immediately.  “Who is this old man asking me who I am and what my story is?”, she thinks. Unaccustomed as she is to genuine interest from her elders.  Guarded by nature, she responds to his inquiries tersely.  She feels herself warming up to him despite herself.  At the end of the night when it’s time to leave the party, he simply says “I hate that y’all are leaving” in a drawl more affected by a life well-lived and filled with the deepest love for everyone around him than anything else.

The next time she sees him, it’s because the grease trap at the restaurant she works at is broken.  A struggling business, run on lofty anarchist principles, they can’t afford to fix it.  He comes in and spends hours installing the piece.  When they ask him what they owe him his response is “Not a damn thing.  I’ve had one hell of a good life, and I try and spread it around.”

She starts to get an inkling somewhere that this man is going to affect the trajectory of the rest of her life.

1.218×109

She got married in an April Fool’s Day prank that got out of hand, but the story really isn’t that interesting.

1.344×109 (give or take)

Her heart pounds in her chest thunderously, for months now.  She sees demons dance behind her eyes.  She hears the voices of the restless and angry dead when she is in a room by herself.  She sees an emaciated stranger staring back at her when she looks in the mirror.  She walks like a ghost haunting herself, eyes grown bitter by the sight of almost every single thing she thought she could rely on ripped away.

Zie is there, standing tall like a pillar made of glass, beautiful and fragile.  They don’t mean to fall in love, it just happens.  A few months ago, her horoscope told her she was going to re-learn everything she thought she knew about love.  She had hoped the lesson wouldn’t be quite this fucking hard and leave so many bruised hearts in its wake.

1.428×109

She tells hir she sees hir the darkness zie walked in for much of their life, and that she is not afraid.  The words hang there between them, brave in the dark.  The moon is rising outside the window, old and red.  Zie takes the words to heart because nobody has ever said them to hir before.  A week later, zie’s lost in the crowd with everyone else.  The Nazi skins put the word out that they were roll downtown and stomp every faggot commie and Black Lives Matter motherfucker they can find.  The punks wait, all brave with their baseball bats and blades on 4th and Adams to see if the fash will actually show up.  She told hir later how she drove by the crowd on the way home to get her kid to bed, craning her neck nervously out the window to see if she could spot hir shape in the sea of black masks.  Her child asked a question:

“Momma what’s that?”

“Uh.  It’s a crowd of people who are trying to defend our city from these bad people called Nazis.”

“Momma, is hir out there?”

“Yeah baby, but zie is really smart and really strong and will be safe.  I promise.”

“Momma, does zie have hir dog with them?”

“No, baby.  I promise the dog is at home safe and asleep.”

The fash get beat back, straight out of downtown and zie goes home close to four AM when zie is sure that every one of their friends is home safe, and the streets are empty.  Zie calls her to let her know zie is finally home and will be surrendering to well earned sleep shortly.  Zie loves the sound of her voice, and won’t lie that zie wishes that zie was curling up next to her for the night.  Being so near to danger and death makes their exhausted sex the next day all the more sweet.

Hearts open, and hearts break.  Tender trespasses and broken promises.  Neither one of them will ever forgive the other.  Zie thinks what a shame to watch hard earned intimacy die and rot into nothing at all.

1.428×109.2

They have been out hunting all night and, just became the hunted.  The van screeches to a halt in front of them.  Zie is sure at least six Nazi skinheads are going to jump out.  “This is it” Zie thinks.  “I am going to die with my friend right here on this street in a city I can’t even bring myself to love.  Or we are at least going to the hospital.”  Everything moves in slow motion, just like they say it does in moments like this.  Zie puts one hand on hir friend’s shoulder, and feels every muscle within it tense, poising to strike.  The feeling sends a shockwave through hir hand.  Zie puts hir other hand in hir pocket, and feels hir fist curl around a cold metal cylinder and waits for the moment to come crashing in, and for the world to spin right again.

1.47×109

She wrote him a letter twenty years later after their youthful plot to stab to death a boy who had long since died in a car wreck over a friend who had long since moved on.  He received the letter in the small town he moved to on the other side of the country from the small town where they grew up.  It said:

“Sometimes I think that everything I ever needed to know about loyalty and being a good friend, I learned from being friends with you when we were fifteen.”

He was sitting alone at the kitchen table in his house on a dead end street, in the dry, rainless depths of a nowhere summer with the constant hum of heartache and regret ringing in his ears.  She had no idea how much he needed to hear those words at that exact moment in time.   He didn’t believe in coincidences.

1.512×109

Aging lovers in a small room, they were tired.  Tired, from the past few months, the past few years.  Maybe it hit them all at once tonight.  The road that led them to one another had been at once both winding and strange, and fraught with fear.  All the same, he could see where the path will diverge in the very near future.  They weren’t the last great love of his life, but was as close as it was going to get with his giving up on love and all the headlines screaming hate and war.

Their wild Friday night date consisted of watching hurricane footage down south that filled his heart with ice and made it ache for home all the same.  On their laptop, they looked up survival gear and talked about what to order their family he’d never be a part of for the apocalypse everyone can feel building. They watched a movie and cried together at the ending, knowing the tragic hope in fiction and the improbability of happy endings for people like them.   With heavy eyelids, they slipped into one another for what ended up being the last time.  They grind, and moan, and giving into one another and then to rest.  In the morning they leave.  He smiles alone in his room, his eyes already gazing towards some other horizon, knowing this one will never burn any brighter than than this, hoping for the best, planning for the worst.

“If they take you down, I wanna mourn you.”

1.554×102

He pulls the car over on the highway in the desert beneath a sprawling sea of stars.  He needs to stretch, and they want to look at the sky.  The kid has never been to the desert before.  So they sit on the hood pulled to the side of an empty country road and listen to the engine cool in the darkness and look up.  The majesty of the night sky goes on forever, and he feels safe out there, in their solitude.  The kid still winces at far off headlights, as if even the visibility their glow brings could stain their skin.   He subconsciously touches the knife on his belt as if to remind them of the safety it brings, that he made a promise, and he’d be cold in the goddamn ground before he let any harm come to them.

“What is that glow in the distance?”

“Oh shit.  Baby, that’s the moon rising.”

“Oh!  What the fuck?  I’ve never seen anything like that!”

A coyote howls and he makes a note to tell his dad who isn’t his dad how if he can be just half the elder to this kid that his dad who isn’t his dad has been to him, he will have done one thing right with his fucked up mess of a life.

A week later, he does just that.  He is sitting on the porch in the cicada swell of summer with his dad who isn’t his dad but goddamn close enough.  They are holding hands and crying when he tells him.

“Well goddamn, son.  Thanks for picking me.”

1.554×109.2

He takes a photograph of the moment the kid’s feet meet the warm waves of the Atlantic for the very first time.  He thinks about the thousand tiny victories that surmounted to this precise moment on a spinning earth.  The sun burns down on both of them, and it is delicious.  They wade into the water and feel the waves roll.  The dog swims back and forth between the two of them, happily bobbing with the waves, making sure both of her humans are safe.  He tastes the salt crossing his lips, and remember the ocean’s worth of tears both of them cried before this immortal moment presented itself to them.  How every one of those tears, worth their weight in salt dried eventually.  Tears fall.  Tears dry, and more tears follow.  We keep living and we remember how that counts for everything.

All you can do is keep living.

Until the last beat of your heart, and even then maybe death is not the end.

A rose for every enemy, save two.