I couldn’t see the water. The waves crashed on the shore in a slow intention melody. I could hear them crashing as they tried to seduce the coastline. The waves always seemed to me to be a good metaphor for hard work, for grinding it out. A slow, almost unnoticeable effort to wear down the land they lapped at. Years of agonising Sisyphean toil that appears for all intents to amount to nothing through the lens of daily life. Yet when you step back and really look, when you see how the land was before and how the land is now, you see that the waves have managed to move the land entirely, to shape it and change its appearance. The waves have always reminded me that with enough work and persistence, you could move anything or anyone.
Biological reproduction was passé.
Elma, a wide-eyed brunette, and June, a knockout blonde, waited for their little package. Their surroundings were white and clinical, conveying a sense of purity. Beyond the glass was a sea of cots, each with a blue or pink pupa tucked inside. It was the age of human synthesis, but the imitation of cultural conventions — the gendered colours of the blankets and the hospital aesthetic — were designed to provide comfort for visitors.
“I miss my mother,” I admit aloud, nearly in tears.
I am in jail again.
In NA, they say you have three possible futures on heroin: Jails, institutions, or death. But I quit going to NA after ninety days, once my court-ordered ninety meetings were up. I quit after I was free to go, but before I learned how to avoid those three possibilities.
I was wondering how you’d address a Christmas card to Jeffrey Dahmer.
Addressing envelopes always required more thought than you’d imagine. Older people preferred “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith,” like my mama had taught me when I was little. But folks my age favored “John and Lizzie Smith.” Or maybe just “The Smith Family.” So how about “Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Dahmer”? Wait, he never got married. Plus he was a serial killer. Oh, and he was gay, so if he’d been married, I’d have to figure out the correct form of “Mr. and Mr.”
Their destinies crossed in the Dreams and Mysteries section of the public library when Mia realized that Jimmy was a fellow traveler through space and time. She had captured and decoded an errant brainwave; his mind was a coil of feuding inner-psychic processes. Jimmy, a cute sophomore at Brooklyn’s FDR High School, was an unmoored extraterrestrial either unwilling or incapable of embracing his distant roots. He also harbored a latent desire to bond with an unpretentious, approachable, and reasonably attractive alien. An extraterrestrial who didn’t know he was an extraterrestrial was definitely (despite his existential uncertainty) excellent boyfriend material
On a moist autumn day, long before the nicotine dressed his lungs in black for his funeral, my father severed the line with his pocketknife, set down his rod, and lit another cigarette. Mayfair from the newsagent: he had always been a man of quantity over quality. I traced the castoff line, limp in the water, back to the tree that had claimed it. Neither of us could fish, but fishing, maybe for reasons of primal origin, was seen to be one of those father-son bonding experiences. Well done, kid, you killed something. High five.
April 8th, 1974. I’m setting this down on paper and placing it in a tin that I’ll be burying under one of the gooseberry bushes. If things don’t work out, I’d like there to be a proper record of what happened…
Strangely, the root cause of the fatality can be traced back to the fact that, back in the 1950s, there were two Rodger Ackroyds in Chapel Street Primary School. There was me, generally known as ‘Rodge.’ And there was him, generally known as ‘Big Ackie,’ a nasty piece of work, even when he was an eight year-old. Ackroyd isn’t an uncommon a name in the town – I remember another Rodger Ackroyd used to be the Clydesdale Bank manager in Sadlergate. But the teachers used to make lame, irritating jokes about us, and I expect that’s why Big Ackie took a particular dislike to me. All kids hate being singled (doubled in this case) out for attention, and Ackie mysteriously decided it was all my fault.
Music teaches us that love can be a lot of things. Love is a battlefield. Love is all around. Love is what I got. Love is my religion. Love is hard—but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 2007, Rob Sheffield published a book called Love Is A Mixtape and it was the worst. It’s not that the writing was bad or the story was tough to understand, but he appropriated a concept we all knew to be true and used it in the most dismal way imaginable. Love is a mixtape, all careful ordering and appropriating other people’s words and dissonant chords to make your own Frankenstein monster of kissing-in-thunderstorms and racing-through-airports and sex-in-dimly-lit-rooms. Even truer, a mixtape is love. It’s assembling the most personal collage of sound in the world, distilling the feelings from your head into some semblance of order so they can communicate a coherent idea, and maybe even a conception of love.
When the police call, you know it failed. You were the one to call, the one to cry, to scream, beg them to come. You’ve rehearsed the shock in the tone of your voice, exercised face muscles to sculpt a perfect panic expression. She told you the words you should use, what not to say; she told you what the police would be asking about. Instead, the detective tells you to rush.
Fingers curled around the steering wheel tremble when you navigate through the evening streets of New York. You should be rushing but you drive slow. Tonight you’re grateful for jammed intersections, streets packed with pedestrians, red traffic lights. They impose on you the time you need to think and you’ll use them as an excuse that it took you so long. Tonight, they work in your favour.