It was all an aberration—the fame, the house, the promo photos and royalties—and now it’s back to what it’s always been: a boy shoved under the house. “Because I was small,” you tell me, your chapped and tattooed hands on the steering wheel.
We drive through the old town, clapboard and train tracks. We grew up in this, years apart but the same story. We rode the same buses, avoided the same schools, slept on the same kind of floors. You lived in this shit town where I went to high school, the same years, and you couldn’t keep the lawn clean and I couldn’t keep my nose clean and we probably walked past each other a bunch, we say, without even knowing it.
They made you root around down there, you tell me, find the cracks that would wrench those houses apart when the earth shook hard enough, and seal them back together, bolts and metal. They made an industry of it, making those foundations stronger, tougher—but you were the one who did it, weren’t you? The one who learned to play drums in the crawl space, all the places where you couldn’t stand up, I think, a life like that, under there like that, until they fired you: “You’ve gotta pick which life you want, boy,” and you did.
That’s what it always was and what it’s come back to, you sliding beneath those cars, their metallic bellies dripping, your overalls and oil-stained hands, their whole bodies revealed to you. “Make this run for me,” they tell you, and you do.
We don’t say anything as we sat in the cabin, waiting for the girls to come out of the house, the sky of our whole past lives stretched out before us. We were always broken this way, I want to say, always crawling under someone else’s house, drilling the foundations of what wasn’t ours, putting our fingers in their cracks, feeling where they might split open and sealing them shut. And a big enough earthquake hasn’t come yet, I want to say, but the two of us are still waiting, not saying, not touching, in case we might break each other. Which we would.
“Aaron Cometbus used to live inbetween the boards of that sign,” you tell me. “Built a whole loft up there and lived there for a year, until they found him and kicked him out.”
The way in which the moment froze: three of us, wooden table with the metal grill in the middle, thick brown sauce and the quiet sizzle, back corner, a bathroom so small the sink was sideways, the paper towel dispenser was sideways, “Everything’s so small and efficient in this country!”
I sat facing them and they told me how they wanted to go back—back to California, to be nurses there where the sunsets are long and the hours are long but the life is better. I imagined them driving those highways, wide and apocalyptic, cement straight into that sunset, and the way they both had to leave: alone, with a luggage limit, back into the low skies and overpopulated quiet of what they already knew and didn’t want to live again: this city, this tiny table, this efficiency, this overwork and stifle of clean.
This is how the moment froze: us on either sides of table, inverses of each other. My last night on the continent and I’m wearing a skirt that no longer fits, shirt tucked in and bunching that shows. I’m eating too much and my hair is matted and my shoes are thin and old, and I’m going to the place they were removed from, kicked out of, and they are staying in the place I am leaving, the continent where I brought my youth to die. We’re speaking the language they want to practice, and the one with the slightest accent thinks her English is worse. There are three of us and we are all no longer young, all in our thirties; our skin is tired and our hips are widening on the wooden benches and we order a dessert we all share, and I think: there is a thing about being a woman in a place you don’t belong, or don’t want to belong. There is a thing about being in your thirties and longing for somewhere else, that moment in your youth when something other than efficiency was possible. There is something of me in them and them in me, something that is staying at that table, that restaurant, that waiter with the towel around his head, all the waiters with the towels around their heads, and toilets that don’t flush all that way, and the person I was then a sealed and contained thing—all of us, eating okonomiyaki.
"There’s one restaurant in Torrence that makes it," they tell me. "But only one."
Siem Reap Well Claims Seven Lives
“Seven people, including four children, died at the bottom of a well in Siem Reap province on Saturday evening in a tragic sequence of events that started with the father of a poor family dropping 3,000 riel and a cigarette lighter into the five-metre-deep shaft.”
It fluttering down
Without saying a word,
To be the one
To retrieve what was lost
Into that pit, following
The silent flutter
Until they too stood still,
Crumbled at the bottom.
Another climbed down
A procession like that,
What they were chasing anymore,
The lure of the darkness,
That final flutter
The sad dance
The real thing they sought.
Or maybe it was the money,
The way it’s always the money, not the money
But what the money stands for
What it can buy—
Escape from the dance
Which becomes its own dance
The airless still
Of the after
The last day of unknowing. So unknow this. Unlisten, unwait, uncheck the email, disconnect. Sit on the balcony and listen to the horns, the men shouting. Watch the lights of the restaurant across the water click off, the headlights spin, the elevator rise, the reflection of the flash of the high-rise neon, and know that this will all be gone. You will be gone from it, and the past is already another country inside you, a country you’re living in—it’s all already antiquated and yellowed, and this balcony is gone and these clothes have grown moldy and this body has wrinkled and weathered, and this is your last chance, your last night, to not know anything that’s coming. And you could live in it, as long as the bikes keep running and the cigarette burning and the morning never comes.