If I had only thought ahead, I wouldn't have missed the bus and had to walk a mile over barren sidewalks, leaning my weight against the cold wind to force some kind of momentum. If I had only been paying attention to my life, I wouldn't have opened the refrigerator door to a sticky tea-colored stain where food had once been.
...there often being a less-than-airtight boundary between one's wishes and the world-at-large, particularly when the stars were aligned. At any rate, she accepted the situation as the proper culmination of her love for this man who had been turned into a stump while she was out shopping, and she wondered what it was that he had gotten tangled up in, that this should occur, as she tiptoed back into the kitchen and found the phone.
There was an octopus in the field. It was as real and alive as Ricardo's snake. I could smell it. It was hope given body.
–We must go, Grandpa said, waking me.
–You're too young to understand.
These things happen so quickly; before I knew it, I once again found myself in the back of a truck, holding on for dear life as it traversed deep chasms in the road.
I thought about Ricardo and cried. –Why must we go?
Grandpa looked toward me. He didn't want to have to explain, but I left him with no other choice.
–It's the gringo. Left to his own devices he always chooses sterility; when you learn to speak his tongue, you will understand what I mean. The words rub against your soul like latex. There is nothing left in his denuded language that can express a living thought. Understand? He cannot see life, he cannot make life, he cannot express life; therefore all of his acts are euthanasia of the living beings in this world. Unless he destroys himself, you will always be fleeing from him. Such is your fate.
The blind man sees the world for the first time. The world is suburbia: a big white shopping mall, some cars, asphalt, a general sense of desiccation. Even the clouds, visible from far away, part before reaching the sky above our heads. The blind man's heart gives way and he immediately dies...
–Without having seen the world? you ask. –Is that the point of the story?
–Yes, but also that he saw more of it than we ever will.
Offering sacrifices to my 401k, knowing I won't get any of it back; for even the future has become as non-existent as the gods.
She let go of the balloon and watched it buffet toward the clouds.
–We will miss you she said, speaking to the ghost of her dead mother.
Her two children, twelve and thirteen, were standing by; they looked to one another to gain a consensus on how such an expression of emotion should be approached, even though it had been their own grandmother who had died, and they had on numerous occasions professed love to her. There was a moment of uncertainty before the daughter snickered and the son immediately followed her lead...
The mother pretended to not see this; and they themselves would soon forget their cruelty, but later on, in times of need, they would find themselves mute in the face of anything significant, unable to express themselves... to their own mother, or anyone else.
She had a careworn face that others regarded as deeply illegitimate. Dreaming. Hand of warmth. Being touched. The darkness at night. Vague fears like those in childhood, as if her life had consisted only of this: an uninterrupted chain of night terrors. I, seeing her from within in this way yet regrettably going along with the crowd and withholding my true self in shame.
Conscious of no guilt, I walked the neighborhood in peace until the vigilantes confronted me.
One of them, a man in glasses that turned his eyes into mirrors said: –you are to leave. Understand? We can't have your kind among us.
–But what did I do?
–What about him?
–That monster killed him.
–Yes, but that was in the past. I forgive him now.
–That's why we must banish you.
Open your mouth... say what you think... and feel the hand enter your mind and crush the rose.
Written on a rock: Putnam is he who embodies. Which leads us, at the park, to ask the man walking by: –are you Putnam? Are we?
We pinch ourselves. We smile. We almost believe, because we have always known... The gravity of the words on the rock. Louder than any words ever spoken, radiating through the eyes like the bright heat of a furnace.
And yet something is off: why Putnam and not Jesus? Why Putnam and not the Antichrist? Why Putnam and not Santa Muerte?
Turning to another man we ask: –sir, are you Putnam?
To which he responds: –do I look like Jesus? I'm not even an Olympic God.
The door opened, and there he was, lying on his deathbed, his eyes closed. Eagerly, full of ambition and curiosity and a desire to know the secret, we asked the half-dead artist how to do what he does.
He opened his eyes: they weren't there. In their place were two gaping chasms.
–Open your eyes and let the world pour itself into you, he said.
...waiting for her to tell him the thing she had been promising to tell him, and not noticing the deadness in her eyes, or the disappointment: the things he can easily pretend not to see.
–Here, she said, –here it is, I said it.
–What? he said, confused.
She holds her bloody arm before him.
–Here. See? I wrote it down for you.
At the bingo game, unable to hide the truth: that she was happy again, free to live out the rest of her years as the life of the party, now that her son - whom she had immediately forgotten - had killed himself.
I walked past you as you were pulling still-warm bread in a plastic sack from a dumpster. Your movements were quick and alert, like a cockroach on my kitchen floor.
You looked at me.
Go ahead, I thought. Say something ominous you weirdo...
The rustle of clothing, the clearing of the throat. Breathing. A sigh? Should I say something to you?..
I tried to clear my mind. Just focus on myself. In the end, that's who I'm responsible for in this world...
Yet I couldn't help thinking about you...
The first time I had seen you, the first striking glance, so long ago now, months; long months, not ordinary months, the kind of months that encompass decades, what? You laugh at this? Haven't you ever experienced months that had the quality of being like a week and a year all at once?
People say hi to him. He thinks they're being friendly but they're only trying to get a better view of him for the police.
The brightness of the days back then: the light is not now as it was when it was warm without rotting you, without doing what the present does to one's feeble husk, the headaches, you don't believe, (they never believe), your loss, you will never experience healthy light, light isn't that way anymore, the light we now have is in its way a darkness, even when it is white and clean, the summers then did not steal your soul from you, we could still swim in the lake, still climb the trees, the lake was still there, it had fish (they were brought in from outside for the sake of tourism) and the light: matched by a breeze that smelled like the sun itself, not this red ponderous ball we have now, adulterated by the gas in the atmosphere, the fevers that come off of the ground and hover at the edge of the eyeballs, inducing those optical effects that keep the young from even being able to know what they've lost, the vaporous haze of the present, not swampy but febrile, out here in the woods not so bad almost but still, not like it was then, pure and healthy, there was noise then too, but it didn't cause toothaches, like the noise today: pulsing, the way it does, up above from any number of indistinct vectors, even out in the woods the pulsing of the blades slicing through the hazy sky like a heavy hand against the skull, jarring looser the cracks in one's cranium, aggravating the body, the copters, yes, they're supposed to be putting out the fires, if only they were anesthetizing it might be okay; I'm still strong and hale, youngish in a way, still able to walk these lifeless trails past the charred dagger trees, but here it is, the pulsing up above exciting the nerve endings in the body's fissures and wounds, the cavities and eroded cartilage, awakening the pains that keep one from thinking, the noises that steal one's thoughts (the cruelest theft), back then we had them, these noises, yes, but they were not even half what they are today, and then there were still crickets and frogs, grasshoppers, animals that fluttered, jumping onto your face, stinging your nose, causing you to sneeze, gnats everywhere getting in your nostrils, like dust that danced around in the air, a static energy, so there was more to it, understand (I can see you don't understand) this thing you call life, it's not life, it's something else, and it's going to disappear from you.
How we knew he was evil: even at high noon, when there were no shadows, there were shadows on his face.
There was that time at lunch when a kid who went by the name 'Buzz' recounted what it had been like to kill someone. James believed him primarily because his eyes twitched: a pair of overburdened tools of perception being forced by their master to see behind every mask, like wheels on a cheaply-built car that were ready to fall off and go rolling down the sidewalk at the abuse of being driven so hard.
...these were not realistic options. They may have seemed that way, but they weren't. Sitting in the dining room before his mother, as she asked herself what she had done wrong in raising him, speaking aloud as she paced back and forth and not so much talking to him as at him, –Is it depression?
And he telling her: –no, the rock of the mundane was crumbling couldn't she see? And he waited for his clearly formed words to transmit to her, in the manner of all good and effective communication, but it was clear she couldn't see or hear them, the words disappeared in transit and reached her as something else, something almost poisonous. Why was it that his own mother, looking into his eyes, couldn't see that he deserved to be listened to? That this was real? The rock had broken long before he had ever had his fatal run-ins, it had broken before he had been born, before he had set foot on the frail hallucination, before the doctor had taken him from her and swaddled him while he was breathing his first frail drafts of air outside the womb. What was it that stood between them, undermining the faith he needed from her at this moment, as he felt the earth sinking away and the blood lingering somewhere about the throat as the falling began, the descent began getting underway, the voice nearby telling him of the beauty of what lay in store if he just gave way? Of course he knew what it was: it was the magnitude of recognition itself, so vast that it blinds by denying everything else to one's field of vision. Mother turned her head from him. –Drugs don't do this to you, she said. –There's something more...