On cold nights the steam rises from my veins through my skin and evaporates into a purple mist. When the moonlight hits it just right it sparkles into a flash and takes my picture. How do my eyes look to the eyes of another, I wonder? Are they red and bulging out of my skin covered bone ball?
Where is my skin? Shriveled and blowing down the street on a snow covered night. I chase it, but it’s quick, floating on a paper airplane. I catch it and it starts raining. My toes clutch mush as I try to land it. Grasping gooey gobs I fall through dark matter.
But isn’t everything dark matter? Do we really understand the universe around us or do we just pretend to. I do. I pretend to understand myself when I’m my own best stranger. Am I an army of angst or anger? Am I so self absorbed that I wouldn’t notice my own self-absorption? Can I absorb the earth? I am the earth.
My skin is the dirt that produces life. A glass rolls on the ground like an alarm going off in my head, glass scratching pavement in waves of Congo uranium ore. I can power my own Indian civilization with a single soy bean.
“Yo Kabel, it’s a full moon… don’t wolf out on us.”
They walk away and leave me pissing in my own alley. I thought we’d trip together. By the time I found out they were going clubbing in the city I was already peaking. Now they’re off and I need to get into my room before I try to lick the subway walls again.
“Is he gonna be alright, yo?”
“Who gives a fuck?”
Who gives a fuck he says, my friend, a whisper in the walkway. With my acute supersonic senses I can hear hell clanging against a metal tree. The last familiar voice I’ll hear as I hide from the danger my mind unleashes on reality. Who gives a fuck? A voice echoes as I fill a grand canyon with my drug infested urine. An eight minute piss that glistens golden glitter from my Midas stick saturates my sanctum.
My minerals make the flowers grow up to my knees, blooming steroid ridden hubcaps budding from basketball bats with aluminum roots seeping deep into the city’s shoes. I’m bugging out on this shit. Six was too many, how did Nar ever drop twelve in his forty and drink it? Where am I?
The claw marks on the wooden wall let me know the wolves were really here, but I haven’t been in my room all night. I’m too young to get into clubs, and I have no fake I.D. So I eat from the evil tree and gain insight as I lose sight and grin. My blind rhyme sees all. I am one with no one and seek friendship only with myself. My demons wear mangled masks and no one ever warned me about looking through the walls. The pipes steam in the stillness and the mist rises into my soul as I battle a basement that holds me captive with a Christmas wish.
A wish that I’ll be safe one day, but safety is a mirage, one I can’t afford to see. I know I’m never safe even here in the basement, in this cavern of contempt where I shield myself from the elements of humanity. Greed, insecurity, love, and fear all make up the foundation of every human emotion. I see that now.
Like I see the spots on the floor crawling on my pants up until my hairy arms have polka dots shifting shape beneath the forearms forests in patterns of poetry. Words consume me and confuse me all at once. My thoughts bleeding form the scratches in the wood dripping onto the floor until I become a puddle that slithers under the door like a rat with no bones.
I’m a poem. As free as the wind blowing up the street; I slow down for commas, but no stopping. No interruptions, no interjections, only verbs. The subject has been subjected to betrayal left alone to write itself a happy ending. Ending? When will I end? I feel the consonants crawling up and down curbs across crosswalks. Streetlights are upside down L’s and every intersection is a lower-case t. Adverbs inadvertently turn my directions and then a period, a dot, an orange dot on a tree that’s staring at me.
The tree asks me where I’m going.
“I’m going to the store.” I’m going to the store? I guess I’m always going to the store for one thing or another. The tree says he’ll drive me and walks around the corner to get his car. He comes back in a red hatchback. I’ve never seen him around here before but he seems nice enough, so I hop in.
His branches are short and stubby, but they reach far enough for him to change the stations on the radio. As his leaves change color and his roots work the pedals I realize we’ve arrived at our location — anonymous bodega. I’ve been caught staring at a hole in his chest where sap is dribbling out of. The tree hands me five bucks from a pocket etched into his bark. He says to get him a forty and get myself whatever I want with the change. As his mouth moves bark breaks into cookie crumbs and his leafy pink tongue expands to lick his bushy goatee.
I get out.
“Ahhh!” I gasp in pain.
The streetlight is fucking hot and the neon bodega sign is blinding my burning corneas. I walk to the store, but can’t find the door. I touch glass. It’s cold and smooth beneath my sweaty porous digits. My fingers slide across it and they dance as the lights dim and my sight is slowly coming back in a vacuous blur. Wise men are watching my movements from inside the glass pyramid. They stare with red eyes and brown skin, sacred bee hives on their heads like buzzing crowns, and bushy beards of waxy thread bury their mouths.
I feel a presence. A girl walks past me and enters the pyramid. I hear honking horns, blinding lights, and the tree still in his red car staring at me, branches tapping the dash as he waits for me to get a grip. Car. Red car. I’m not in Egypt I’m in front of a store. What am I doing? Something in my hand, I hold it up to the light, five dollars… enough for two forties. The girl exits the store. The door, she came out of the door! I need to go in the door.
I’m in the store. The silence rinses my trip away like a flood clears out the contents of a mobile home. I’m in the store. The men have been watching me read the glass outside like Braille hieroglyphics. I take in a breath of fresh liquor store. Ahhhhh. I head to the back cooler. I walk to the register with two forties in my hands. Where is the fiver? I look at my left hand… a forty. I look at my right hand… a forty. I put them down and hold up my index finger to the cashier; it’s the international signal to hold on a moment, even he has to understand that.
The moment turns into several as I pace the aisles in search of this green paper. Paper invented by the Chinese that somehow gets me to walk out of here with forties. They taught the Arabs how to make paper and… Arabs. They are still watching me; they haven?t given me a moment’s rest.
“Since you bastards can’t keep your damn eyes off of me you can tell me where the hell I put my five ducks, ya fucks.? I didn’t realize I was about to speak, but that’s fine.
They point to the cooler with the beers. I float over to it on a paper airplane. It’s really quite a nice way to travel. I just position my feet on the wings and it flies about two inches from the ground. Canned beans and bottled ketchup pass me and wave as I near the beers. I look and see that some dumb ass has left five dollars in the beer case. I grab it and two forties and quickly head to the register where I see that the guy has had two forties waiting for me all along. I hand him the five bucks and he bags the two forties for me. I smile and leave. I get in the car, but the tree looks different somehow, same orange dot though. I tell him the good news.
“I found five bucks in there by the forties.”
“Great where is it?”
“Right… here? Where is it? I can’t find it. Not in this pocket, or this pocket, or this pocket again.
“Shit I must have given both of them to the cashier by mistake.”
I bolt from the red car and I feel the trees branches reach out, telling me not to leave, but trees don’t know about Arabs. In Arabia there are only deserts. When the Chinese taught them about paper they became obsessed. That’s all they care about. I know they’ll take every penny if they can. They’ll suck you dry. They’ll cheat you for a nickel. They give little kids and old ladies the wrong change all the time and try to fool drunks the worst.
I pull the door off the hinges and it breaks into a thousand and seventeen pieces on the sweaty pavement outside. They’re not quiet now, fuckers. They speak in heebily-beebily with wild eyes; they know I know.
“You took ten dollars from me and gave me two forties. Where is my change?”
I know they won’t admit to it and they know I know it.
“You gave me five my friend. I swear it. I would not cheat you my friend.”
My friend? My friend?
“You don’t give a fuck about me, so don’t go saying we’re friends, yo!”
I grab the forties off the counter and go for the doorway. The guy sitting down tries to catch my left arm and makes me drop one. He jumps back as it shatters into a yellow lake of linoleum. I have one arm out like a blocker. I’m gonna run over anyone who stands in my-Fuck! The door, I thought I threw it into the street. I cracked the glass with my elbow running out. A young thug falls to the floor as I speed through his frame trying to exit the humble trading post. With a tree as my getaway driver they’ll never catch me. Driver? Car? Shit! He left me. Never trust a fucking tree.
I look right.
“Yo, what the fuck man, you high or somethin?” The juvenile delinquent shouts as I clutch the last forty on earth to my heart. I look at him and laugh, boldly.
I look left. In the window the Arabs are on the phone. I take off like a coyote on a blood hunt, running, running, floating through white men and red hands, down sidewalks, turning at random corners so my route can’t be traced by the infrared helicopter cameras.
Starlight from the sky pinpoints my right eye in the darkness as I find solace in a dying bush. The forty opens itself and finds a path home. Familiar, friendly foam soaks my face and chest as I sprint once more and try to devour the all knowing fluid during long silent leaps across gorges. I must stop wasting it. I stop. I guzzle.
Bubbles feel good, familiar, and friendly. They like me. Shit, who gives a fuck? No one but you, you’ll always be there when I need you, baby, no one else. In the pitch of night when I’m alone and filled to the brim with madness, desperate, you’ll always be there to wash over me with sobering sanity. Won’t you my darling crystal companion?
The clearness of it all, of my life, my destiny in this bottle, swirling around. I’ve been looking for a feeling of belonging, but I belong with my lips wrapped around a cold bottle. People can betray, even trees, but bottles can’t. A bottle won’t lie. A bottle won’t leave or call you crying.
The bottle, I can see a picture of a train if I stare deep enough into the tempered sand. That’s a reflection you moron. Oh shit, the J high above the houses and brick apartments. It’s never looked so glorious, vanglorious.
How long have I been tripping? I’m on a side street in Queens, near Jamaica somewhere, maybe Richmond Hill, or Flushing. The J runs along Jamaica Ave. It’s the only El in Queens as far as I know. That stupid tree didn’t drive me that far, I must have run a mile. I’ll finish this forty before the sun rises and I begin my trek back to Abuelita’s house.
Soothing. Calming. Cooling. The beer has awakened my mind from an active acid slumber. Still wired and warped the street signs change shape slightly, but I can still read them as they morph. If I follow the J tracks I’ll be home soon. Home. Not home but to Abuelita’s house. My home is three thousand miles away and I left because I didn’t want to kill. Home now as I bury myself in bad decisions, walking in a living grave. Walking on Jamaica Ave. until the J disappears and turns right. I cross the Van Wyck and spit into the traffic down below.
Then I see it. The sun’s natural fire breathing slowly as it warms me with a look, a passing glance. God’s gaseous grin smiles upon my tortured soul. The wind smells strange, clean. Everything changes as the heat of a laser beam of sunlight covers me with a red glow from the heavens. I’m still walking. I’m fully charged now. I’ve survived one more night, one more lifetime, one more trip into a demon’s hand escaping through the creases in his grip. The tighter he squeezed the more he pushed me out of his fist.
I’ve felt for a very long time that each night I began would be my last, but now I’m sure I’ll live an eternity. I don’t know how and would never try to explain it to anyone but I know. Some are born to die, but I was meant to live.
Just as the sun was meant to rise from the depths of midnight, I am meant to struggle, fall, and rise every damn time. I won’t be killed like Perro, but like him when I finally die no one will avenge me because even though I’m majestic, an undying wraith, a student of the universe, death is the eventual end to any life. It’s not in human nature to care, who will care when I’m ash? The family I’ve left behind as I commit necessary sins and try to grow into a man? I’m a burden to my family, a jester to my friends, and invisible to the rest. I reach into my pocket for my keys as I’ve finally reached home.
This night of answers and revelations has only led me to more questions and with every step it has begged the biggest question of them all, the question that whispers in the electrostatic background soundtrack of this metropolis, “Who gives a fuck?”
About the Author
Born in Queens, New York and raised all across our nation, David Bueno-Hill is no stranger to long trips. He teaches English in L.A. where he lives with his wife and son, Quazar. Melting Revelations is a chapter from his unpublished novel I Wasn’t Born a Teacher. Read the first four chapters at https://iwbat1.googlepages.com