Friday, May 26, 2006

things that are real

I don’t remember them at night, or when I wake up. Still, pretty sure they’re dreams.
They come in flashes in the daytime. Bits of stories, faded images like old photos, sparked by a random face or song or smell.
Lately there’s a new one. It’s like the others only worse.
It comes and goes. Lately it’s been bad.
Shouldn’t last long though. Maybe a few more days. I can hold out.
* * *
I’m walking home in the city at the end of a work day. Tie loose, jacket off, briefcase. I’m thinking about something I’m writing. Past row houses, leafy trees, rush-hour gridlock.
I stop at the corner and look up at traffic. Horns are honking. There’s a flower cart next to me.
Then something sparks. A shot of terror hits me.
I’m remembering a robbery gone haywire, somebody hurt bad. Somebody knows about it. We fucked up and left a loose end… People are getting nervous. Police are tracking down names. Somebody knows I’m in this city. That motherfucker. Who the fuck is he?
It’s so real I’m ready to run. And then just like that, it’s gone. I’m back on the city street.
The light turns green and traffic starts moving. I step into the crosswalk.
What the fuck was that? Why can’t I remember these?
Shit, I think. This is never going away.
I keep walking. I’m sweating now. I mop my brow. It’s hot, I think, no big deal. Everybody sweats on a hot day.
* * *
It’s early Saturday. I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the city with a low baseball hat. Hot black coffee. I don’t look at anybody. I watch the steam and try to clear my head. Didn’t sleep last night, again.
I slip a rubber band off a notepad and flip to a blank page. I push the paper flat on the table, sharpen a pencil and scratch down notes. I write in all caps, thick pencil marks like math problems. Time reels past in my head. I write what I see. I leave out things I didn’t know then.
I do this a lot. The writing helps me keep it together.
I take a break and sip coffee for a while. I look at the scribbles on the page. Straight, satisfying lines.
I try to remember the dream again.
In my mind it’s indistinguishable from a thousand other stories. Lines between memory and dream are long gone. Getting worse lately. No details anymore, just smells and emotions. Anything is possible. Everything is real.
Why can’t I fucking remember?
I finish my coffee and wipe my mouth with a napkin. My hand hurts. I’m tired. I stuff the notebook in my back pocket and walk home, thinking about nothing.
I shut the blinds and fall asleep in my clothes.
* * *
I’m in my kitchen having a drink, smoking. It’s late. There’s a warm nighttime breeze through the kitchen window. I hear neighbors laughing below, car stereos driving past. It’s a good night.
I’m thinking about the Montana story. In my head, it makes no sense.
I take a drag, squinting at the city lights out the window. I try to remember the Montana guy’s face, the cold pistol in my fist, the softness of his head, the shouting.
I’ve got nothing. Just blurred images. A swirl of words and dreams and vague recollections of others.
“Feels like a fucking dream,” I say out loud. This makes me smile. Because this one can’t be. It’s fucking real alright. I’ve heard the story too many times, from too many people.
I think about writing, how it distorts the original. Turning memories into stories fucks everything up. So invasive. What’s left in my head is a tangle of words and dates and impossible people I barely remember. Reality used to have this sharpness. That shit is long gone now.
I stub out a smoke and reach for another. My eyes stop on my hand.
Look at those scars. What are you thinking? Of course that shit is real. My fucking nose. My arm. Tell me this mutherfucker isn’t real.
I light the smoke and take a long drag. I’m pretty drunk now.
Fucking Montana, I think. They’re all like that now. All real and all fake. Who gives a fuck anyway, you crazy motherfucker.
I lean against the open window and look out over the city. My head’s blurry now. The breeze feels good on my face.
I take a long drag and let smoke curl up my face. The city lights dissapear behind the fog.
I try to remember the dream again.
Got to get that motherfucker on paper, I think. Only way I’ll ever get to sleep.

* * *

Thursday, January 12, 2006

hitting the bag today

Runnin’ wild, I never smiled as a juvenile
even now I keep a frown when I come around
don’t ask me about the past, it was all bad
shots blasted, will I last in the wrong path
in the dark is where my heart saw the most grief
mothafuckers are gettin’ shanked over gold teeth
am I sick, cause I’m addicted to gettin’ splifted
watch the stupid ass tricks get lifted
nothin’s changed, cause in the game it’s a steady aim
fuck friends, cause when in danger those niggas change
puff weed and stuff G’s in my sock G
call Ki’s and Hennessy where the glock be
times passin’ will I last here another day
I put my gun away, and grab my A-K
it’s getten hectic
I can’t call it
house full of alcoholics
now a nigga’s under pressure.
2Pac, “Under Pressure,” Thug Life

Saturday, December 24, 2005

why i'm here

It’s cold in the morning in the city. I’m off the bus walking to the office. Headphones on, wool coat, rushing through downtown in the morning.
Suits everywhere, and I’m one of them. Beautiful women and groomed men. Made up and bundled up—lawyers, lobbyists, kids of money and privilege, rushing to K Streetjobs. Never get used to this place.
It’s the last block before the office. I feel the cold wind on my face, my eyes. Shoes clicking on the icy sidewalk, music in my ears.
Here comes the best part of the day. I approach and get ready. I take a deep breath.
Off to the right the wall of buildings opens up for a second. There’s an undergound parking garage and a driveway opens a slice through the buildings to the sky. I see it open further and further. I slow down and look.
There it is. The sky opens up a bright blue triangle. Multi-colored buildings border it. There it is, I think. Electric blue, the color of ice tossed in a furnace. I think of flight, of freedom.
For three seconds, I’m free. No suits, no phony people. I’m home.
I keep walking, looking up. The opening closes up.
I snap back to reality. Fuck that shit, I think. Time for fucking damage, for work. I pull off the headphones and keep walking.
In a few seconds I’m in a marble lobby, waiting for the elevator. It’s quiet.
I relax a fist. Here we go. The writing is why I’m here.

* * *

Friday, November 18, 2005

when it changed

“So what happened?”
“What do you mean?”
I’m in a bar in the city with a date. It’s crowded and late. Lots of professional types. Black slacks and shiny shoes and spaghetti-straps. We’re dressed up.
I tap a smoke on the table. I’m bored. I know what she’s about to say.
“Well, I read your stories.”
“Yeah. I can’t believe that’s you.”
I smile and look away. I’ve had this fucking conversation too many times. Let me guess. You can’t believe it’s me, I’ve changed so much, I should write a book. Know what? You don’t know shit about my head, and lucky you don’t. You’d have a nervous breakdown.
I peel off a match and light the smoke. I take a drag and shake out the match.
“So they’re not real right?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “What do you think?”
“Well, there’s just no way that’s you. I mean, right?”
I toss the match into an ashtray.
“You know, maybe that’s the point,” I say. “It’s not me anymore. That’s why they’re stories.”
There’s a long pause. She sips her drink and sets it down carefully on the coaster.
“So they’re fake,” she says.
Fuck. I slam down my pint glass and heads turn. “What am I, your fucking entertainment? Why don’t you talk about your own fucked-up life for once?”
Damn, I did it again. Her face goes red, she swears, gets up and leaves. The couple at the next table stares at me.
Whatever. Glasses clink behind me. I lean back and smoke, looking at her empty glass of ice, looking around the room. These people are beautiful. Fucking mannequins. I think, trading a shitty life for a boring one ain’t all roses.
So what happened, I think. I take a long drink. “Tell you what happened,” I say to nobody. “I met a girl.”
* * *
“Hello is D there?”
“This is him.”
“D, it’s me.”
I’m just out of high school. It’s early and I’m waking up. I think for a second, and then remember the voice.
“Holy shit. How are you?”
“It’s been a while. How are things?”
“Same shit, you know. How’s Cali?”
“I’m back now,” she says. “Start college next week.”
“No shit?” I say. “Fucking college. That’s crazy.”
She was the girl from high school. Spent a summer together, out at night, the boat launch, sneaking out. She was the first. Then she moved.
“So there’s this dinner,” she says. “Sorority thing. You should come. We’ll catch up. I’ll show you around.”
I think for a second. What the fuck is a sorority? It’s too early for this.
“Yeah, sure.”
“Okay, I’ll call with an address Friday.”
“Stay out of trouble, okay? No fights. See you then.”
* * *
I leave the construction site early to clean up. I borrow a tie and slick down the curls. Shirt’s too tight and shoes feel weird, but whatever.
I head across town. Past the low-slung houses on the block, across the bridge to the city, onto the freeway, past the nighttime skyscrapers, past the posh hilltop part of town, down into the sprawling tree-lined streets of the university.
It’s nice. Never seen a campus. So this is where rich kids go.
I park in front. It’s cool and dark. I smell the fall leaves. I look up at the house. Brick mansion, ivy walls, oaks line the curb.
I knock. There’s voices from inside. I feel weird, like a phony about to be discovered.
The door opens. It’s a tan blond with a tight shirt. I tell her I’m here for A. She yells behind her, and turns back and smiles.
I think, What the fuck am I doing here? I stuff my hands in my pockets and look at the street. I think about running for a second.
I turn and see her. The green eyes, the tan skin, that smile. She’s gorgeous.
“Hey lady.” She hugs me, and I feel her against my hand. I remember the smell from before.
She takes my hand and we go inside.
* * *
I’m driving on the freeway home from the campus. Dark and cold, windows down, stereo all the way up.
Should’ve stayed in school
But the streets say why bother
So I’m on the corner shooting dice into the late night
Trying to make money
Hoping soon to live a normal life
But things are looking bad
Rollers sweat me every day
My mother tried to warn me
What comes around goes around
Deep down I know she’s right
But maybe soon I’ll make her proud
But now I’ve got to struggle
Day by night and night by day
Stuck with all these problems and these games people play.
Elbow out the window, I’m staring at the city. The blending of the lit cityscape, cloudy sky, music, the rush of wind.
Shit. I can’t believe how fucking jealous I am.
Those kids at dinner. So rich, so optimistic, so well mannered. That beautiful big house. That campus, the fountains, lawns, books, amazing people.
Why can’t I have that? Why don’t I get that life? So unfair.
I think about the future, and there’s nothing. Roofing houses, getting fucked up, same homies. More tattoos. More fights. More fucking bullshit living in that slum.
But her. She has everything.
Fuck. I’ve got to get out of here.
* * *
“Hey lady.”
There’s a pause.
“Excuse me?”
“Hello A, it’s D. From high school?”
A long pause.
“Wow. My god, it’s been years.”
“Yeah. How are you?” I say.
“Um, good. I heard you moved east?”
“Yeah, been out here a couple years. Just writing and stuff.”
“Wow, so the bad boy’s an intellectual now huh? Wow, that’s a change.”
Seems right hearing it from her. She understands it. Hell, she caused it.
“Hey I won’t keep you long,” I say. “Was just thinking about old stuff. I just wanted to say thanks.”
“Thanks? For what?”
“You know, for changing things. I still think about that a lot.”
“Changing things? D, I don’t know what you mean…”
That’s when I realize we haven’t really spoken for nine years. Since that dinner. Guess I was too upset. She has no idea that she’s the reason I went to college. No idea that she changed my life forever in a single night.
“Hey I’m sorry, I guess I shouldn’t have called.”
“No no, it’s fine,” she says. “D, are you okay?”
“Yeah I’m okay. I should go though, really.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Hey, I hope things are good. You take care babe.”
“Okay D. You too. Stay out of trouble.”
* * *

Friday, November 11, 2005

in the deck today

That sickness,
I killed fifty people and they’re haunting me
I sit in the middle of a star
with some candles lit thinking
maybe I should do that
It’s killin’ me softly
my brain is gone and it ain’t coming back
I could’ve swore I saw my nigga Psycho
standing over me
I know it wasn’t him
cause he’s been buried for a week
The silence of the black sheep
deep in the middle of the night
I start to sweat
window wide open
with two holes in my neck
and can’t nobody tell me shit loc
cause everytime I close my eyes
I hear Psycho say
“Yo cuz, I thought we had a deal”
Mouth wrapped around the barrel and I taste steel.
X-Raided, “That Sickness” Psyco-Active

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

lucky guy

It’s summer and we’re at a house party in wife beaters and t-shirts. Capone and I are in the backyard smoking with Tony and Big Man. Capone’s telling stories and the local girls are listening.
” then D says ‘you better give me some fucking room to move!’ So I’m laughing my ass off…”
Big Man elbows me in the arm. “I’m taking a piss,” he says to me, “keep an eye on my shit.” He sits down his beer and gets up and walks to the house. Capone keeps telling his story. I watch Big Man walk to the house.
”...So I say to this guy, ‘How about I take yours instead?’” Capone tells a punchline and the girls laugh.
Big Man steps inside the house. Through the glass patio door I see him walk down a hallway to the bathroom. As he reaches the door I see a guy walk up behind him. Big Man stops and turns.
Capone continues his story, and I’m half-listening. I lean on an elbow and take a drag off my smoke. I’m watching Big Man in the house. I can see something’s wrong.
* * *
Big Man and the guy are standing face to face now. I hear a muffled shout through the glass and then Big Man’s face changes. He reaches for his waist and pushes a pistol into the neck of the guy in the hallway. The guy takes a big step back.
“Oh fuck!” I say and stand up, scooting my chair out. I drop my smoke and head for the house. Capone stops mid-sentence and looks, and everybody turns. He and Tony get up also and head for the house.
I push open the sliding glass door and the guy from the hallway rushes out past me into the backyard. He’s fucking pissed. Tony, Capone and I step inside. Big Man is drunk, really drunk, and trying to stuff the pistol back in his pants.
“Fucking asshole” he says. “Who says I can’ t smoke in this motherfucker?” He’s got a big drunk grin on his face.
I look behind us and see the guy out back shouting at his friends. They look at the house, then at him, then back at the house.
“You fucking idiot,” says Capone, “that’s the fucking owner of the house. The fucking Mexican everybody’s here with.”
Suddenly the voices outside get louder. Fuck, here we go, I think. I take off my watch and stuff it in my pocket and screw the cap on my beer bottle. I can feel my hands tingling.
There’s a big noise off to the right, and then a rush of guys comes through the door. Tony, Capone and I step back down the hallway and Big Man reaches for his pistol. They’re on top of us as he draws.
* * *
Next thing I know I’m wrestling with some fucking kid, being pushed into the kitchen. Somebody’s trying to kick me and I’m holding the neck of his shirt and pounding his ear with the bottom of my bottle. WHAM. WHAM. WHAM. We fall and I feel a kick in my back.
Shit, there’s a lot of guys hitting me. I’ve got somebody in a headlock. There are feet kicking my arm, my head. I try to kick back and hide my nose. I’m struggling now.
I hear a loud metallic “clack” sound. Big Man’s pistol drops to the linoluim kitchen floor. Oh fuck, I think. We’re fucked now.
I’m trying to cover my face. Gotta get up. Gotta get out of here. There are guys in every direction swinging and kicking, and I’m punching back into it. I feel the hits, the push of their blows, my wrists hitting people at weird angles.
I get pushed down again and pull somebody’s shirt on my way down. I kick something. It’s getting hard to breathe, these fucking assholes. Fuck, I think, I’m going to die tonight.
I have no idea where Capone and Tony are. They must be getting beat too. We’re outnumbered 10 to one at this party. Should’ve had a knife, I’m so fucking stupid…
Suddenly there’s a huge clapping sound of a pistol shooting in the house, and shells pinging off the walls. The crowd of guys moves off me. I can see the kitchen ceiling light as they run.
I roll over and try to stand up. Fuck, my knee is killing me. I see blood on my pants and my face is wet. People are running everywhere.
Capone comes running in the kitchen and grabs my back. His hand is hot.
“C’mon mutherfucker let’s go!” he yells. He’s got a pistol in his hand.
We run down the hall and out the front door of the house and down the porch steps to the street. My ears are ringing and I feel weightless. I’m hurt, but can’t really tell. My teeth feel weird.
I see Tony and Big Man jump in our car down the street. I look over and see Capone is bleeding from his mouth.
We’re halfway to the car, walking in the middle of the street. I look up to see how dark it is, how the streetlights shine off the cars lining both curbs, how grey everything looks in the city at night.
I hear shouts coming from behind us, getting louder now. Capone lets go of my shoulder and turns around.
Here they come. I see a dozen guys heading toward us running.
Capone, arms hanging at his sides, steps away from me looking back at them. I see a white flash down the street. It’s the Mexican shooting back at us.
I drop and feel the pavement hot on my hands. Capone doesn’t duck. He’s standing strait up, walking backward. He raises his pistol back at them. “You fucking die mutherfucker!”
I see the Mexican fall. Another one falls. A half-dozen others scramble for cover.
Capone runs for the car. I get up and run close behind him, running for my goddamn life. We pile in the back seat.
I think, we’re pretty much fucked now. It might be over for good this time.
* * *
Tony slams the car in gear and swerves onto the street, engine roaring. The wind is cold from the window.
My face is sort of wet and I feel my cheeks swelling, thick and numb.
“Yo, take the backroad route,” says Capone. “Pretty sure that shit woke up the neighbors.”
Tony turns off and heads toward the neighborhood. Big Man is still drunk in the front seat, leaning with his arm out the window. I look around the car. Everybody’s looking out the windows, quiet. I sit up and check my pocket for the watch. Still there, thank god. Thank god I didn’t lose that fucking watch.
I punch Capone in the arm, “Thanks bitch.”
“Fuck you,” he says, laughing. “How about you give me a smoke before I fuck up your other lip?”
We laugh at that. I feel the breeze on my face and watch the streetlights go past.
Shit, I think, everybody stayed to the end. These are good guys. I’m a lucky guy.

* * *

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

in the headphones today

Perhaps I was blind to the facts, stabbed in the back
Couldn’t trust my own homies just a bunch a dirty rats
Will I, succeed? Paranoid from the weed
And hocus pocus try to focus but I can’t see
And in my mind I’m a blind man doin’ time
Look to my future cause my past is all behind me
Is it a crime, to fight, for what is mine?
Everybody’s dyin tell me what’s the use of tryin’
I’ve been trapped since birth, cautious cause I’m cursed
And fantasies of my family, in a hearse
And they say it’s the white man I should fear
But, it’s my own kind doin’ all the killin’ here
I can’t lie, ain’t no love for the other side
Jealousy inside, make ‘em wish I died
Oh my lord, tell me what I’m livin for
Everybody’s droppin got me knockin’ on heaven’s door
And all my memories, of seein brothers bleed
And everybody grieves, but still nobody sees
Recollect your thoughts, don’t get caught up in the mix
Cause the media is full of dirty tricks
Only god can judge me.

I hear the doctor standing over me
screamin I can make it
Got a body full of bullet holes layin’ here naked
Still I, can’t breathe, something’s evil in my IV
Cause every time I breathe, I think they’re killin’ me
I’m having nightmares, homicidal fantansies
I wake up stranglin’, danglin’ my bed sheets
I call the nurse cause it hurts, to reminisce
How did it come to this? I wish they didn’t miss
Somebody help me, tell me where to go from here
Cause even thugs cry, but does the lord care?
Try to remember but it hurts
I’m walkin’ through the cemetary talkin’ to the dirt
I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward
There’s a ghetto up in heaven and it’s ours, black power
is what we scream as we dream in a paranoid state
And our fate, is a lifetime of hate
Dear mama can you save me? And fuck peace
Cause the streets got our babies, we gotta eat
No more hesitation each and every black male trapped
And they wonder why we’re suicidal runnin’ ‘round strapped
Mister police, please try to see that it’s
a million motherfuckas stressin’ just like me
Only god can judge me.

2pac, “Only God Can Judge Me” All Eyez On Me.