right or wrong or good or bad

The subject matter of pictures that hang in museums is always random.

It’s not the predictability of life that makes it beautiful.

It’s more about the things that don’t make sense.

Thing’s that you can’t articulate.

It’s the moments when your brain tries to find an explanation for something that is incomprehensible.

That’s art.

The lines of motion and the dissonance between reality and representation.

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but it’s not

A girl that I fucked told me that I have a lot of moles and I should get them checked out.  It’s true, I have a few moles but I never thought about skin cancer and I have never had a skin exam.  So, I set an appointment to see a dermatologist, one who was accepting new patients and one who was covered under my insurance.

Naked under a gown, in a coldly lit room,I realized I made a mistake.  It took two minutes and $135 for the pretty middle aged doctor to tell me:

 

“you have a very high co-pay but everything is fine.”

It felt kind of like a strip club in that I was ashamed of how much money I spent when I was walking out.  $135 dollars! Fuck that’s a lot of money for two minutes, and for what? Peace of mind?  I wasn’t even thinking about skin cancer until last week.  $135 dollars?!  I could have taken that girl out to a nice dinner and probably fucked her again.  $135 dollars?!  That’s a new pair of shoes!  Oh well,  I guess I’m healthy, all my bills are paid.  I would’ve spent the money frivolously on something, anything.  What made me more upset was that the dermatologist’s office is on the top floor and when I left the elevator stopped at every floor on the way down to let someone on.  I guess we are all going down anyway.

things you hear sitting at a restaurant

‘I was constantly feeling drowsy in the daytime and I had to keep taking cat naps just to survive.  Ultimately I ended up going to the doctor and she prescribed me two crepes.  One sweet crepe was supposed to cure my drowsiness and help me focus.  That one cost me $30 out of pocket.  The second crepe was savory and covered under my insurance.  It was more to counteract the side effects of the first crepe.  The savory crepe was mainly so I could fall asleep at night.  The doctor told me to put it on my foot and definitely not to put it in my mouth.  Don’t tell my doctor this but every now and then I take a little cube of ham out of my savory crepe and eat it before applying it to my foot.’

anxiety

The train wasn’t at the platform at 7:57 AM like it should have been but I heard it lurking around the corner, lurching it’s head forward, looking for me.  I tapped my left foot, contained in a brown Italian leather shoe from Ermenegildo Zegna.  I clutched at my black Tumi attache which held a book written by Franz Kafka.  Today, I felt exceptionally handsome in a navy blue Valentino wool-blend suit with a two button closure and center vent.  The bottom part of the sleeve on my Giorgio Armani shirt was held together by Tiffany cuff links.  The only thing that bothered me was my haircut which was rather expensive considering the fact that I had to keep checking it every time I caught my own reflection in a passing window.  The cordless Apple headphones in my ears weren’t playing any music.  I stepped from the platform onto the train at 8:03 AM-six minutes late.

I sat down and reached into the Tumi attache for my book.  I thought about the dry cleaning I had to pick up later.  I thought about if I should work out chest or back at the gym that night.  I thought about my receptionist’s ass.  I thought about French existentialism and how French writers always have to bitch about how they aren’t feeling good.  I thought about my girlfriend’s parents.  I thought about if writing could ever stand on it’s own or if it was only good if it was tied to some socio-historical context.  I thought about homework I have to do later.  I thought about how I want a better job.  I thought about the new Adidas that just came out and how I would go about getting a pair.  I thought about how I should take myself more seriously.  I compared myself to others.  I opened my book.

The train stopped abruptly and the lights began to flash.  The train was empty.  I couldn’t remember if their were people in it when I got on.  I looked up and saw a big juicy rat sitting on the bench across from me.  It just sat there, aloof, kind of staring at me.  The lights flashed and the train began to creep forward again.  The Latino man standing next to me dropped his grocery bag-an apple rolled out of it and hit a woman’s foot.  She looked down and picked it up as if she wanted to take a bite.  I looked down at my book and saw the words:

‘Give it up! Give it up!’

 

My obsession with her is so intense that when my mind tries to recreate an image of her, it is blurry and unfocused.  I am able to recall minor mannerisms of hers, like the way she rubs her face when she has an itch, or how her eyes roll back when I kiss her neck or how she emphasizes the ‘O’ at the end of my name.  Moments with her are so perfect, that recollections of her are desultory representations.  I experience her lucidly so that memories of her are comparatively inadequate to her physical presence.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s black pumps left depressions in the Persian rug when she walked.  She wore a black cocktail dress.  Elizabeth’s hair fell messy down her bare back.  Her young skin spread taut over her shoulder blades.  The soft light accentuated her young skin.  Her male suitor sat with anticipation in a black tuxedo.   Elizabeth thought that he looked handsome tonight.   Elizabeth moved her hips back and forth and raised her arms with a make believe difficulty, like she was under water reaching for the surface.  Her suitor was a recurring client but he still enjoyed the anticipation of the moment.  He wanted to be teased by a woman whom he already owned.  Elizabeth didn’t have a problem dancing; her hourly rate had already been established.

She grabbed onto his knees and pushed his legs apart before she slid her hands up his thighs.  Elizabeth looked into his wrinkled face.  He didn’t catch her gaze as he was pre-occupied with her supple young figure.  Elizabeth noticed every crevice that had engulfed his aging face; the crows feet, the hard horizontal lines across his forehead, the wrinkles that formed around his wry smirk.  Elizabeth turned around to sit on his lap.

“Are you ready?” Elizabeth said

He nodded without a word.  Elizabeth stood up and walked him into the bedroom slightly gripping his fragile hand.  She crawled on the bed as he stood over her.

“Give me a few moments to prepare baby.” He said

He took a seat next to her on the bed.  The sheets of the bed were Egyptian cotton.  Elizabeth didn’t know why it mattered that the sheets were Egyptian cotton or that the painting hanging over them was a Caravaggio.  She didn’t care that the Eames arm chair that faced out onto the skyline of the city was one of a kind.   Elizabeth didn’t gain a particular felicity in the opulent interior or the haute aesthetic of the penthouse.   Her client opened the drawer of the bedside table and grabbed a capsule containing a little blue pill.  One side of the small container was foil; the other side was clear plastic in a diamond shape.  Through the plastic you could see the little pressed pill with a capital V imprinted on the front of it.  Elizabeth’s client groped the small pill wrapper.  He pushed hard at the plastic part, trying to get the blue pill to breach the shiny foil.  Elizabeth sat on the bed watching him, her heels still on, puncturing the high thread count sheets.  She reached into her purse and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.  Three remained; she lit one and inhaled deep before releasing a satiable cloud of smoke.  Her client’s liver spotted hands were still trying to open the plastic container.  He changed his technique and now he was trying to peel the wrapping by sticking his long yellow fingernails into the space between the foil and the plastic.

“Do you want me to help you?” Elizabeth asked.

“No I can do this myself” He replied

Yet again his hands turned over the plastic container pleading with it to come loose.  The skin of his hands was loose like a turkey’s gobble yet you could see the bones of his hands protruding sharply as they worked over the small container.  Now he pushed with both thumbs on the plastic to get the pill to puncture the foil but to no avail.  Sweat began to collect on his brow.  The anticipation of romance began to be replaced by embarrassment.  Elizabeth put out her cigarette and reached into her clutch yet again, this time producing a small glass vial with a black lid.  It contained a white powder.  Elizabeth took the key to her apartment and used it to scoop a small amount which she lifted to her nose and sniffed with fervor. She repeated the motion to her other nostril.

“It’s ok baby just let me open it for you.” Said Elizabeth

No reply from the old man as he fumbled the plastic container and it fell to the floor.  Elizabeth watched him slowly bend over and reach his lanky arm down to pick up the pill.  The plastic of the wrapper was now mutilated with white spots but there was still no access to the medicine inside.  Elizabeth’s client breathed heavily, his thin white hair went about in all directions like he had stuck his head out the window of a speeding car.  She touched his back and his spine felt bony and abnormally curved like the wood of a bow.  He didn’t notice her touch; he just went on trying to separate the foil from the plastic.  Elizabeth reached for another cigarette, now she only had one left.


 

The problem with my stories is that they are short parts of longer stories I haven’t written yet.  I’ve never written from the point of view of a woman before.  Which is troublesome when trying to portray emotional depth in a character.  I think the deeper issue is I don’t understand women.

untitled

I followed a man leaving the movie theater the other day.

He was blind, at least that is what I gathered from the previous few times I had seen him.  For many nights during work he passed by and I caught every glimpse I possibly could.  He wore dark thick glasses and always swung a long white stick in front of him when he walked.  When the store was slow I would stare out and watch the people walking by on the sidewalk.  Occasionally the blind man would be one of them.  The first time I saw him; I was following him unconsciously.  As I was walking to work on the red bricks of the plaza I lifted my head and saw him in front of me.  The swaying of the white stick caught my gaze. It briskly grazed the ground ahead of him searching for an obstacle.  He always wore the same outfit; a green blazer made of tweed, black dress slacks and black non-slip shoes that made a ‘click clack’ noise as he passed.  He wore a black fedora pulled down to his thick black glasses that shaded out any discernible features.

 

A blind man with repose isn’t something that comes across you so often.  The acute accentuation of the other senses due to blindness could either drive one mad or make one more in tune with other frequencies.  What it could be like to see things with your ears.  To feel the vibrations of the fountain as it sprays in the air and falls back into the pool from which it came.  The miasma of a crowded room like thick fog you could feel brushing past you.  The remaining senses becoming so visceral.  For some, imposing like the doorman at the gates of heaven.

 

I decided to catch a movie after work.  I enjoyed watching movies by myself.  Conveniently the theater is located right next to my workplace.  I sat in the frigid theater and noticed a white stick coming out of the entrance ramp.  The blind man followed in the green tweed jacket.  He swung his white stuck down the handicap aisle and took a seat almost directly in front of mine.  He folded up the white stick and inserted it into his left jacket pocket.  

 

I couldn’t concentrate on the film.  I could only stare at the screen and the shadow of a fedora and wide shoulders against it.  He was so still, he couldn’t have been breathing.  I don’t remember the film.  I remember moving pictures supplemented with sounds.  I closed my eyes for a few moments and listened.   I thought about how we heard the same things but must have been listening to them differently.  The cold air of the theater sent chills down my spine and created goosebumps on the nape of my neck.

 

I sat through the credits, waiting for him to rise up from his seat.  When he did, I let him unfold his white walking stick and begin to swing it.  When he turned the corner of the partition out of my line of sight, I rose with haste and hurried to catch up to him.  I caught sight of him again just as he was leaving the darkness of the theater.  

 

I followed him.  The thick carpet that lined the theater muffled the sound of his black shoes.  We walked together silently, until we reached the elevator to take us down to the first floor.  He must have been a regular at this cinema, how did he know where the elevator was?  He swung his stick against the aluminum threshold of the elevator which made a small twang consistent with plastic meeting metal.  He reached with his right hand down towards the panel to hit the small silver button.  He had to search with his hands for a few moments to find the right spot.  I stood behind watching him, the button surrounded by a red ring of light.  We waited for the elevator together.  The aluminum doors separated and he entered first holding his white stick in both hands.  By now he must have known I was with him.  The elevator doors closed and we stood there together, hung in the moment.  I heard my heart beating in the steel cage.  He certainly heard the same thing.  Still, I watched him.  I felt sorry for him but in a way I knew he was content; like the burden of being blind was his alone to carry, like it was something he had to do.  His hands gripped the white stick as if it were to disappear randomly.  The skin of his hands was taut around his bones.  His knuckles reflected the fluorescent lighting of the elevator and they looked like they had white spots.  He smelled like my chess teacher in 6th grade.  Like oak and cherry.  It was an older man’s smell.  I knew my chess teacher must be dead by now.  
When the doors clanked open, he stepped forward one black shoe at a time.  Perpetually swinging the white stick he walked towards the double doors of the exit, towards the darkness.  I walked a few steps behind him as he thrust himself out into the darkness and turned left down the boulevard.  I crept out after him and watched him walk away swinging the white stick.  I pictured him with a thick, rich voice like a river of melted gold.  He had the air of a man who was born with vision but adopted darkness like an unwanted son.


 

I wrote the first draft of this story before I read The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.  I thought it was interesting how the plot lines were so similar.  Stalking or following someone without their knowledge, especially someone who is disabled, is one of the more sinister things you can do.  The way Poe writes, with such lucidity yet focus, is something that I tried to emulate in the final draft of this peace.  Obviously his talent far surpasses mine.  I found myself referencing him unconsciously when writing the rest of the story.

Self perception

All the physical things and the way I act in front of other people is almost entirely for them.  I do seek affirmation and self-gratification in things but it isn’t my top priority.  I could never see myself how others see me and although I agree with a lot of the words that people use to describe me; I would almost feel narcissistic using them myself.  Even as I type this I feel like I’m lying but I truly wish I could remain oblivious in perceiving myself sometimes.  Vanity is something that I would like to be devoid of.  Unfortunately it seems like an impossible undertaking.  I think individuality is found in moments of purity when you don’t care about others perceptions or even your own perceptions.  In moments when you are remaining true to your core values.  In thinking about how I perceive myself I have two main views.  One of which is that I am not doing enough.  What I mean by that is that I look at what I am doing in terms of work, school, and personal health and I always think about how I could be doing better.  The times of negativity for me are when I know I should be doing something but instead I am off drinking or partying.  These are times when I judge myself the most.    The second way I perceive myself is actually through my own self awareness of these interconnecting perceptions of me.  How I view myself vs. how my family views me vs. how my friends view me.  It all seems to be this eternal, malleable, interconnecting relationship that is always changing.  Depending on who you meet and that kind of person you want to be.  I think I can honestly say that I don’t know who I am yet.  I have an idea of the person I want to be.  I am mostly aware of these ideas that I perpetuate about myself.  I guess I want people to see in me what I see deep down in myself.  It seems to be a never ending cycle of self gratification.  Circles can be brutal.  I just hope one day I can find myself.


 

This may be reaching but I liked the last part about the circle and as I was reviewing the post I noticed it was 365 words.

Snake Pit

 

Lying on that couch with my leg elevated in a cast, my mind had felt like a dull knife.

Friday afternoon and my ankle had just started working again.  Business professionals were just beginning to vacate their desks; people who define themselves on the hours between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.  I sauntered to the closest bar I could find.

My beer began to sweat as soon as it hit the table, I drank it quickly.  The man at the table next to me was drinking a whiskey on the rocks.  He was playing with his daughter; she was drinking an orange juice.  Two big open windows let fading sunlight into the dive bar.  The smell of beer and spicy mustard was circulated by the cool summer air.  3rd grade level paintings of snakes looked like they were tossed up on the wall.  Two bartenders alternated between disdain and cordiality under a sign that read “Snake Pit”.  I slithered through another beer.  Derek walked in and asked “Where is your whiskey?”  Before I had a chance to decline he walked over to the table with two glasses of Jameson and his own perspiring beer.

The darkness that overtook the elongating shadows of the snake pit crept inside my head.  I said goodbye to Derek.  I stomped back home.  I sat on my couch.  Through the clustered black holes of my front gate I could hear the rats that infested the bamboo shoots in my neighbors yard.  I listened to them as they climbed and made the leaves rub against each other.  My mind tumbled in a wave of breaking anticipation.  I undulated between contentment and grief.


 

For some context this story is about an injury that I sustained recently.  It forced me to go on leave from work for a few weeks.  It left me with a decision when to go back.  I also had a prompt for my writing class that was to write a story about a character going somewhere and coming back.

Wednesday 

I just started a writing class. The first assignment was to write a short story that has a person in a room with a plant. This is what I turned in. 

———————————-

“We should rob a bank.”
For those in the lower-middle class the idea of robbing a bank is a kind of fantasy; a way to make a lump sum of untaxed cash. The overwhelming nature of living paycheck to paycheck pushes this ambiguous fantasy to its precipice at times. With only one small barrier called risk preventing these ideas of coming to fruition. Some people go over the barrier. This was one of those times.

When Benjamin posed this question to his best friend, Vincent, he said it half jokingly. The surprise came when Vincent replied,
“Let’s do it” in a declarative tone.
“Just like that? you don’t want any details? You aren’t worried about getting caught?” asked Benjamin.
“Look B, I work full time at McDonalds. I don’t think prison would be much worse.” replied Vincent.
They sat there for a few moments mulling over a game of FIFA and a large bag of hot cheetos. A diaphanous cloud of dust and haze floated across the living room with the light that entered through the window. The sun created a spot on the carpet. When they would walk across the room they would step in that spot and it would be warmer than the rest of the carpet. The carpet was thick and tan and very wooly. It absorbed dust in such a way that when someone walked it would release a small cloud. Eventually the dust would re-deposit in the carpet awaiting the next foot fall. They could hear small children riding their bikes on the sidewalks outside but they seemed to be miles away.  
Benjamin felt that his life didn’t have much purpose either. He didn’t have a wife or kids. His favorite hobby was playing FIFA and eating hot cheetos. He worked in janitorial services at a nearby convalescent home. The job description wasn’t fulfilling in a metaphysical sense. He would do things to help patients intrinsically. Things that he wasn’t supposed to, the actions were supplementary to his necessary tasks. He would put pictures of patients loved ones in a position where they could see them better or leave the blinds open and the lights on or fill the rooms with colorful plants. Benjamin wasn’t permitted to talk to the patients but he would lend a listening ear or a word of advice if need be. Most of these gestures went unnoticed but it brought him a karmic return. He did it because if his mother was in a similar home then he would want her treated the same way. Unfortunately compassion isn’t a measure of the social hierarchy.  
“I have a pretty good plan” stated Benjamin.
“Haha you’re still on that huh? Alright let’s hear it” replied Vincent.
“Every Wednesday I go to my safety deposit box. The past few times I’ve gone there has been this big Ficus in the safe deposit room.”
“Ok first of all, what does a Ficus have to do with us robbing a bank? Secondly, why do you go to your safe box every Wednesday?”
“Check this out, I’m going to go next time and I’ll stash a gun in the soil of the plant. Then you go in under the pretense of opening a box yourself. Once they let you into the room you grab the gun. You’re already behind the teller line so they will be forced to comply with your demands.”
“You’re fucking crazy you know that.”
“Hahaha why?”
“So you mean you want me to rob the bank while you just watch?”
“Well, no I’ll be parked on the side street, I’ll be your get away ride.”
“Haha,so let’s say everything goes as planned and I grab the gun. What then?” Vincent asked
“Don’t go for the safe, go straight for the cash drawers and you will be out in under two minutes.” replied Benjamin.
“All of a sudden you’re a modern day Butch Cassidy.”
“Who?”
“Nevermind”
The TV hummed emitting the music of a paused FIFA game while the cheetos got stale.
“So they’re just going to let me into the safe area, behind the teller line where all the cash is?” asked Vincent.
Benjamin looked at Vincent with a blank stare.
“No, you’re going to walk in with a bag with some fake jewelry and a fake ID. You’re going to ask them to open up a safety deposit box.” replied Benjamin.
“Mmmmhmmm.” mumbled Vincent.
“Once they let you back to fill your box you just grab the gun. We don’t even have to go the same day I plant the gun. No one is going to check that fucking Ficus.”
“But what if I lose my job at McDonalds? asked Vincent.
They both looked at each other. Laughing Vincent says.
“Fuck it bro, I’m in. But you never did tell me why you go to your safety deposit box every Wednesday.”

Wednesday was such a ritualistic day for Benjamin that he had forgot about the gun tucked into his pants until he had got up to see the teller.
“Good morning Ben, let me guess, safety deposit box?” asked the teller.
“You got it.” replied Benjamin.
The teller grabbed his ID and gave Benjamin the sign in sheet. Benjamin followed the teller into the long corridor lined with small steel doors each containing two key holes. The carpet was reminiscent of a hotel with a 1970’s motif  and contained a stale smell. Benjamin and the teller each inserted their respective keys into a steel door marked 517. The door clicked and swung open. Out slid a 3”x5”x12” metal mahogany box that reflected the fluorescent lights overhead. Benjamin followed the teller into the safe deposit box room. He immediately looked over and saw the Ficus standing there in the corner. The teller set the box down on the desk.
“Thank you I will be right out” stated Benjamin.
The teller left and shut the door behind him. The room was a cube. It had a ceiling with fluorescent light, four walls, a door and a floor with the same shitty old carpet. There was a desktop on which the mahogany box sat. Although the ficus didn’t appeal to the utilitarian aesthetic of the room it was still a nice place to stash a gun. It sat in a large white clay pot and the wood of the main stem writhed all they way up to the sphere of bushy leaves.
Benjamin unlatched the box and pulled out a photograph of him and his mother. They were sitting at a bench at some park. Behind them was a pond where they would feed the ducks bread. The spray from the fountain would blow in their faces. Both of them smiled in the picture. It was taken when Benjamin had just started to develop the same  individualistic features as his mother. Their radiant smiles made Benjamin look like a small clone of his mother rather than her son. He had come to the safety deposit box every Wednesday for two years since his mother was killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting. When she was alive, Wednesdays were the day they would meet for dinner or even just to talk and catch up. They promised each other to never miss a meeting no matter what. Benjamin kept that promise even after she had passed. The picture meant so much to him that he felt the only safe place to keep it was the safety deposit box. The box which he now stood over. He stared at the picture of his mother and him, with a gun tucked into his pants. The tall green Ficus stood in the corner of the room gawking at him as if it was asking.
“So what are you going to do?”