Sometimes Joseph cannot hold a pen for the notes he takes of the books he does not finish. People think he’s a bad guy; he thinks he is because of it. Many have seen Joseph’s pain in the layers of stressed and shadowed skin under his eyes. Sadness seems to leave so many creases. I don’t think he’s ever sober; I don’t think I am, ever. Joseph will get there first. Even if it’s just a couple dollars more. This week I think the book is McCarthy—Child of God. He’s made it to page 101. I’d cry if he finished.
Joseph could play the piano as if he packed concert halls: the convoluted and jumbled off key is in a nostalgic beauty like when you remember something that you can’t quite remember all the way. His fingers piece it out. The song’s already there. It’s cautious but deliberate. I just help him with the money. Which is bouncing around like juvenile, pursed lips. It’s harder to look us in the eye if we’re looking up to you. That’s when the pressure is revealed in the permanence of mapped dark circles and bags. Let’s talk business. That’s what it comes to, right? Joseph’s never dry. Ain’t nothin’ to worry about.
Twisted, weaved basketry and rainbow air is awash in my seasoned hands: I look at my palms, often, when distressed and binging. It helps me come to grips with their snitching & stitching. And then I look at my fingernails to decide they’re too long but not ready to be cut. My hair’s not ready to go either. Strings of hair lift above me, the marionette that I am, and gets tangled in the whir of the slow blades of the ceiling fan that came with the mold of the Apt. When I’m in pain—I notice the map on my bedroom wall is clear in my eyes and it reminds me of blood. I’ve hanged myself without death to make her jealous. Because she reminds me she’s somewhere in the rainbow air. She thinks I’m a filmmaker, but really I’m an actor; she thinks I’m a musician but really I’m a writer. My gaze is male and so is my walk. My penis is erect and seemingly circumcised. Sometimes I quiver when I cum indoors and all over my masculinity. I’ve run out of tissues & paper towels, so I clean up with the paper of my journals, which is that much easier to write on when I want the paper to rip. I leave the cum-stained papers out and on the carpet for three days, to let the sperm die—extinguished by the poetics of masturbation.
The rainbow air is found outdoors when death adjusts her bra strap and tells me I’ve got time. She unclips time to reveal her smallish breasts and puffy, pregnant nipples. Death instructs me to bite her a little, right under her right areola where the full flesh is best.
You first wore my sunglasses—ya know, the half-frame tortoise-shell wayfarers—not even a month after my 22nd birthday. They look better on you than they do me, especially when I handed them to you and the sun caught you mid-step, bleeding into your lazily brushed hair and handmade wind chime earrings. That’s the image in my mind I’ll have of you forever. Forever is a long time: it takes all day and into tomorrow to get there. And I’ve always wanted to go, but never had the time. But, never never lasts. I’ll be forever soon. I’ll find you there between the lavender bushes and black bees. Or, among the pebbles of the hot concrete, observing the synchronous repeated slaps of sneakers that are forever, too. A breath lifts the wind of this place with leaves and things; the sun is multiplied by metal and plastic. The door knobs to our houses are almost too hot to open. But, I manage one of them ajar and ask for my sunglasses back.
I used to be terrified of fireworks, well, not all of them—just the ones that’d screech like tires turning on a freshly rained road. And my fear didn’t necessarily come from this association—because I do, in fact, love to drive—but, rather from a peculiar fear, incarcerated within the confines of my body; it’s something even now I just cannot explain. And it’s funny because I love fireworks in all their explosive glory. Since childhood, my foolish unease of the screeching ones has subsided. My favorite part about fireworks is setting them off, ya know? Especially when they don’t explode. And plenty of us might feel a dud firework is quite disappointing, yet I weirdly feel satisfied when this occurs; I don’t find it disappointing at all. Perhaps I get this from my father, or my mother’s father for that matter; they always seemed to be the ones lighting them off. It’s our collective fascination with danger, I think: the chance of a little box of plastic and gunpowder exploding in our faces. It really gets the blood pumping. And, I believe it’s a similar fascination that allows me to love driving so. I drive fast and I drive well.
14 Janurary 2016
Eye of the Story
Close Viewing: Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee’s joint, Do the Right Thing is set in the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, New York on the hottest day of the year. Mookie (Spike Lee) delivers pizzas for Sal (Danny Aiello) of Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, a staple of the community as the local eatery—as Sal himself personally remarks on the fact that the community has “grown up on his food.” Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito), one of Sal’s regulars and a friend of Mookie’s, notices that the restaurant is in a Black neighborhood, but does not showcase any Black celebrities on Sal’s Wall of Fame. Sal argues that, since it is an Italian-American restaurant, is why there are only portraits of Italian-Americans hanging on the wall. When everything is already hot enough, the heat seems to rise in the tension that builds as Buggin’ Out begins to rally the community to boycott Sal’s, because of the symbolic racism the Wall of Fame represents. Lee’s characters are well-rounded and likable, suspended by a script that is equal by its brutal honesty and empathic poignancy. The film gives time to the audience to delve deep within its characters, so when the final conflict of the film arises, each character acts plausibly.
It is critical to mention that Spike Lee did not seem to write any of his characters as “the good guy” or “the bad guy” kind of roles, which allows viewers to see them as people, rather than preconceived notions of what past films and filmmakers have portrayed as good characters, and bad ones. In this sense, it permits audiences to question the racial tensions and representation as their own; a film of questioning one’s own community and its racism. And, as a viewer, one can feel the tension explode as it does, close to the end of the film, when Sal and Radio Raheem’s (Bill Nunn) argument over music turns violent. Both end outside on the street—fighting—and a mob gathers, including the patrons that were inside the establishment prior to this explosion. The local police are called to the scene and, circumstantially, try to apprehend Radio Raheem—believing that he is deliberately assaulting Sal. Radio Raheem is killed by one of the policemen. The mob bursts in a furor of bleating pain; the entire block is in frenzy. No one is in control—except Mookie. He grabs a trash can and proceeds to chuck it through one of the front windows of Sal’s, causing the mob out front to storm the pizzeria and completely ransack the place, resulting in a fire. The building nearly burns to the ground. Is this because of Mookie? Why would he do such a thing to his place of work, much less, to Sal himself?
Mookie, throughout the film, never comes off as a destructive character—yet, this final conflict seems to push him to violence. And, rather—instead of destruction—his action is one of preservation, and one that might actually save Sal’s business. Sal, earlier in the film, talked of renaming the place and even redecorating (perhaps to fit more Italian-Americans on the wall), right around the same time he tells Mookie that he’s always been like a son to him: Mookie’s one of the family. Their relationship, in particular, certainly exudes a necessary mutual respect, not only for business—but, one that seems to hold the community together, to remain wholesome. Mookie has a deep kind of love for Sal, and acknowledges that the pizzeria is, not only Sal’s pride, but his whole life. Life probably is not worth living for Sal without it. It is not incorrect to think that Mookie did deliberately throw the trash can through the window to, in a sense, get back at Sal for the racism that he experienced working there—yet, no matter what his intention was, he could actually be trying to save and preserve Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, more so for holding the community in place—in a place, literally—rather than it always being about “getting paid.”
But, I mean—it is all about gettin’ paid.
I had a dream about you last night, but I don’t remember it. At this point—I abuse marijuana. I, myself, have been abused in the past so it makes sense. In no such way is any of this sensible, but I appreciate the familiarity. I told my friend Alfonso he needs to read more. I think he took it as a compliment. I’m pretty sure he recycled the list of books I gave him: it was absolutely filled with ones I figured he’d like. We’ve all been there. I should’ve written it on some joint papers, or something, so we could’ve smoked it. Smoking words—I think it is necessary.
When I press him to read more, Alfonso scoffs, “I just don’t care to.” This is dramatically incomprehensible to me, practically horrifying. “I don’t like it; I have no interest.” I treat his words like the crisis they are. It actually stings me and makes me feel depressed—a peculiar state of mind and body I’ve come to find comfort in. It’s a dream of mind to die alone, to pass on without settling my burdens on someone else. Hopefully, all that would be left is my writing. Finally—I could be remembered and forgotten respectively.
“I literally just left twenty minutes ago.” And I can’t stop that; leave when you need to. Maybe I am crazier than I thought. I think you are aware. “If you need me, I’ll be upstairs in the library.” Alright. I can get down with that. I was there just the other day: I pulled out a chunk of my hair and left it in one of the books in the American Literature section. It felt like the humane thing to do. I’m keen with personal space—respectful—but you’ll just have to remind me. Two minutes and forty-four seconds: the concentric way to describe my day. I’ve been sitting in the library for an hour now and you’re not here. Let me just think for a second. I think that’s all it takes. “We’ll see,” you say. Nobody is safe from my writing. I need to cut my crude fingernails, they’re way too long. It’s the easy things I put off the longest.
I appreciate where this is going no matter how hungry I am. One meal a day is just fine. And ink on my hands: let’s not forget my love for that. I spell out words in between the joints of my fingers because it makes me smile, or, at least, has me thinking about smiling. Sometimes I wished I lived in prison; I have a fantasy about being detained and jailed for something I didn’t do. Think of all the time I’d have to read and write. It’s too hard to love someone like that; it’s too easy to fantasize. The only thing I love, really, is the pain in my chest that reminds me of an early death. I think I am fine with not being able to breathe. I’ll just sleep it off.
You ask if I slept well in Italian. And I tell you I did in Spanglish. I really didn’t—must be the language barrier. You tell me you’re learning French in Russian, but I need to English translation for that. Two hours are long deceased now and I’m still in the library, somewhere between the periodicals and B350s. I like the aesthetic of banana peels on wooden coffee tables. But, you know that. I haven’t told you that I cum easily.
“I’m almost certain I was made in Mexico.”
“Okay—I’m not sure why you’re telling me this.”
I laugh nervously, “I’m not sure why I’m telling you, either.”
“Are you saying your parents conceived you there?”
“You’re an odd one.”
“That’s why you love me.”
“I’m almost certain.”