Rocked to sleep by some ambient noise, with a classic, indiscernible rhythm, his head sways and he falls back. He allows his body to bounce a few volatile times on the cushions behind him, he calls, “Princess…”
I would have done it, too. A tiny shot in the crook of the arm and it’s like the best sex you could ever imagine. If you are in real deep, I hear it’s even better than that. The fast life moves slower than you’d think, and here we are. Thinking- or waiting too passively to accomplish anything notable, but that’s all we want- maybe one day the writing scrawled in a hurried hand on the bathroom stall doors will make it to the main stage- scoring a spread in the New Yorker, or some Canadian anarchist rag. I’ve always heard, “my word is my bond,” but when will someone buy into that, or perhaps listen to me for once. A leap of faith for the pedestrian.
The pedestrian- because when you think about it, that’s all the little ants are that walk around carrying three times their own body weight to some mound of dirt, set in succinct, fairly unreasonable lines of intent. Walking to work, to the train, car or coffee shop. Staring at the screens and diverting gazes away from fellow pedestrians, their peers. With all respect paid, they are our peers and we ignore them. Bumping shoulders with a cringe.
On good days, we’re sitting on the stoop, with the people and the birds. They pick at the scraps, feeding indiscriminately without a thought in their minds but to consume enough to carry them through to the next day, the people and the birds. No one notices the six of us, melting into the steps of someone else’s abode, pretending our backs are flush against some primitive adobe structure, set in some far away primitive mountain slant.
It is a hot day and we wait, like everyone else. But, instead of passively moving through nothing as the flowing lousy public does, we wait and watch the masses move. Passive, perhaps in its own right, but with the crystalline beads of sweat moving in swift streams from our hairline to the crested drip at our chins, we productively conserve. Pretending we’re not suffering like everything else in the heat of the day and in the responsibility for moving to then next spot, to work, the car or the coffee shop. We don’t have enough money to buy a glass of water, let alone a five-dollar coffee. There is a tin can in front of my feet that I have been tapping without much vigilance for the past couple of hours, in a meager attempt to get some lukewarm coinage from a tepid passerby, for the tepid traveler I look like.
James and I had been walking for a couple of day before Cath, Kevin and Josh showed up in the city. My place was down South Huntington, if you turn by the gas station on route nine, but I haven’t paid the landlord bitch for a couple of months. The charm my mother taught me, in the guise of politeness, seems to only work when you don’t owe someone a couple thousand, so we split.
Rose, a friend, had asked the two of us to jump in on her business plan. Some art collective they were starting down in Southie. They gutted one of the warehouses and came across some blind funding to pump the meat into the socialist-cult-commune artists’ residence Rose has been fighting for since her underappreciated stint at Mass Art with my brother. I had been thinking about it.
We decided on the streets that buzz with buses, the hum of some motorized bike, or the rhythmic peddles of the hipsters’ horse. The paved carpets of the private turned public, a new gallery display with whitewashed walls. I would call the exhibit; “Fluxus of Post-Modern Shit in Concrete” with no subjects but the omnipotent subjective data concerning the “real” us with our “real” friends in “real” time. Little ants on little devices, all moving in the opposite direction, going to the same nowhere place. That was my proposal for Rose. She laughed at me, kindly I’m sure, and told me I was an idealist. James and I decided to cop out and just join in later during an opening for some free wine and cheese.
Someone dropped a Dunkin Donuts gift card near a bus stop sometime before we stumbled under the black metal overhang. That’s a paradox or something. We grabbed it and ran with a little more paranoia in our step them was probably necessary, given it was mid-afternoon and everyone looked sweaty and bored. It had been a couple of days since we had had a cup of coffee and when your mouth waters in anticipation for their corporate, slightly burned beans- you deserve a hot chalice or two. There was enough on the card to get us all something to put in our stomachs. Like every other day of our years, we sat and watched everyone else go about what needed to get done. Against the John Hancock building, his metal skeleton elegantly exposed with blackened, one-way mirror glass, making a smooth heated backrest. Forty-two stories of business meetings and phone calls to China.
The cats still living at my place were throwing a party. While the six of us sat in a sort of authorial daze, with our own narration of the system in front of us, sipping coffee in silence- I turned around and Pat, a cat, was sitting next to James who was next to me. Without my prompting him, he spilled what was sheltered in our monologues:
“I can’t imagine where we will end up.”
I kissed him in greeting on his painted cheek. Cath passed him her last sips of coffee and asked about the large cart parked beside us. Pat had just started his own “gallery” as he proudly looked at the collection of ceramics, t-shirt designs and weirdly cut canvases with his trademark, “The Forty and the Butt: a twist on the children’s story,” painted on them. If you asked him what children’s story, he would just wheel himself away because there was no children’s story- it was just a soon-to-be sensation, so he says. We laughed, he didn’t. He handed Cath a cup from the cart that she had gotten up to dote on, and invited us to the party. “It’s your going away digs, Shan.” Smiling at me while he unlocked his cart’s wheels.
I hadn’t intended on leaving. I loved our place, where the porch swung arbitrarily in the slight wind would wave our way, and the kitchen had the distinct stink of the compost by the back door. My cat was still there, and I had heard from Kevin who had been crashing there before Cath and Josh showed up, that Gerry the puss had somehow gotten a hold of Eliot’s favorite frog.
I first met Eliot in San Francisco, originally a friend of my brother’s from school. He was a film student, quiet and painfully awkward and even though we had spent a week together in one of the most exciting cities in America, whenever he looked at me or brought himself to speak it looked as though he was on the verge of puking. Sweat would bead on his temples in slow moving tension. His eyes would redden and beg for mercy. Usually all he would urk out was a formal, “Hello,” and he would regularly orbit around me, obeying the path of some anti-femme force field. I mean, I guess, but we had been living together for the past four years, having assumed my brothers room after he left for Alaska for a fellowship and he decided to never come back. I had been fucking Pat at the time, and it seemed appropriate.
We decided to go down South Huntington for the night and send ourselves off.
Pat greeted us at the front door when we rang. Naked. We were late for the party, but he had put enough beers aside for us, knowing we’d show up. He always knew I would come back. Four flights up and there were kids in a chaotic file, passively trying to get in the door, to the fridge or the couch. Something- they looked excited, enough. James leaned forward towards my ear, “Ants,” he whispered and laughed. He pushed a baggie into my hand and put one in his mouth. His was brown and mine was white. We’d been broke, together, for about a year and half now. Not the melodramatic, adolescent broke- the adult broke. Like if we had any assets, we would have filed for bankruptcy about nine months ago. And he had a problem. I wasn’t supposed to support it, but damn, he’s a big kid. He knew the reality of my situation, in the nineteen years I’ve been on in this city, the nineteen years of life I’ve breathed any amount of air- nineteen people I knew died of drug overdose, violence, or accidents- respectfully. We played when we could, but with the last name on the list- Hannah- I knew I couldn’t get back in that, too personal, too hard, too fast, to hurt. But, hey…
We were rocked to sleep by this ambient noise. Its classic, indiscernible rhythm taking James away from me- his head swaying and he falls back. He allows his body to bounce a few volatile times on the cushions behind him, he calls, “Princess…” There is a flame that dwindles, but remains lit.