Honest Communications

I think the second rail pushes me over the edge. But the first one has me feeling nice. Energy pours out of my eyes, ears, mouth, and fingertips. I grab my camera and tell Amanda I need to photograph her.

Something stirs itself, like an animal awaking from sleep. Its back shaking and bristling, arching up with life, claws spreading out and digging in to flesh.

Like a gun. BANG!

Suddenly everything seems laid out in front of you, in black and white.

Time seems more fleeting. What if it’s running out? What if it’s already close to the end?

Maybe I’m crazy, or more crazy than normal. Maybe I’m sliding down that slope to whatever is at the bottom. It seems like a lot could be swept away – the bullshit, the conventions, the niceties. Just tell them what you want. Just dig your claws into flesh.

So to speak.

I think.

Maybe.

I wonder if I’ve been sleeping for a long time. Years and years. I can’t remember. I feel like I’m in a dream, or that I was, and now I’ve only recently woken up.

Everything feels like a distraction, or a waste. Everything. The little detours, the outings, the gatherings, the socializing, the small talk, even the relationships. Just delve down to the heart of the matter, what you want, someone to stand in front of a camera for fifteen minutes or five years.

That’s it, that’s all. They can have what they want, or take it in kind. Money, love, time, attention. It’s all currency. It’s all secondary. It’s all a write-off in the end.

When I think about what Alysia taught me, it was that I like women with loose morals. I have very few myself, and they seem more like a rough framework. Concrete rules or principles? Sure. But mostly non-religious. A slight bent towards Buddhism. An intellectual curiousity towards Judaism and Christianity. A mental resonance with Daoism.

But I’m still savage and animalistic and carnal underneath the skin. A photo just takes that to another level. It turns something sensual and blasphemous into a form of visual sculpture. More permanent than poetry. More ephemeral than prose.

Kick my brain down the stairs when I’m fed up with it. Who even am I? What gives me the balls to talk about anything to anyone?

Just a guy.

With a camera. With words. Loving art. Worshiping idols. Under a strange sun. Searching for a tribe of people like myself.

The older I get, the louder I want to scream. The more I seem to be pushing up against the limits of my skull. Burn money. Throw out possessions. Speak in tongues. Keeping doing it. Keep doing it with your whole body.

Until the end.

Nieces

It’s always good to hold them.  

Like you’re young again, being held too, being cared-for back.  

Like you aren’t alone, or doomed to live like that.  

Almost had a child once.  Almost became a father.  

Sometimes you stand back from something and watch it pass you by, and there’s another you there – a you that might have come to be.  

But it’s just a mirage, something that only might have been.  Something that never really was.  

“You would be good father,” Mira tells me over the phone.

I stop in my walk home to light a cigarette.  

“Trust me, I have feeling,” she says.  

She’s not the only one.  

They tell me I look like I have baby fever.  

But I just like being the uncle.  I like pretending to be a dinosaur and chasing my nieces around.  Or snuggling up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons.   

I like laying on the floor and drawing, or building with legos.  And I like showing them a trick or showing them how to do something.  

I think about the two people I ever saw myself marrying.  I think about the two people I Iever saw myself having children with.  

Then I think about where the train is headed.  Sometimes, it feels like you’ve already missed your stop.  

Sinking back into the feeling.  Into that gnawing anxiety.  

No one’s dumb enough or crazy enough to go along with that.  

I take photos.  

I remember Heather’s voice.  

I ask my little brother how she’s been.  She’s good. She’d love to hear from me sometime.  

But too much has happened.  Even if she’s family. She’s seen me in horrible ways.  

I like to wonder what it might have been like.  

How it might have been to grow up normal, or how it might have been to be a dad.

Sometimes, deep down, I feel like a monster.  

But there’s a hope or a desire that no matter how reprehensible or fucked up or hopeless you are, you could still create something beautiful.  

Under black end-of-October skies, I step out.  Fresh cuts in my head from the cutting-it-off-again.  Staring up at the branches moving in the night. Inhale and exhale.  

Inch a little closer to oblivion.  

Waiting for days to come and go.  Waiting for the clock to roll over, again.  

Waiting for the thing to come down.  For the world to stop. For a touch, a word, a sign.  

Already swallowed whole.  

Too Many Jokes

Too many jokes I tell myself.  

My brothers.  

A handful of friends.  

Over and over again, too many jokes.  

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck wandering.  From one place to another. No place feels quite right.  No place feels like home.  

Nose to the ground, searching for traces of something.  A memory,  

Reality feels like a dewdrop on a leaf that shakes and drips.  Blink for a moment and it’s gone. Disappeared. And you disappear with it. 

There’s a memory filed away of a cold night drinking somewhere.  The cold getting to me, and talking to friends until that feeling slipped away, forgotten.  

Sometimes it occurs to me a person could do that his or her entire life.  Just autopilot the whole fucking mess.  

Wake up one day and finish it off.  

You’d like to think you’re one soul in a brotherhood of man.  But no one wants to get his fingers dirty pulling things from the muck.  So it’s up to each of us to out-do the rest in all varieties of vanity.  

I shave my head and slowly trim the colorful clothes from my wardrobe.  Even when I splurge on a pair of colorful sneakers, I wind up rebuking myself.  

Like whatever you like, but do nothing which is of no use.  

The process is its own reward.  

After it calms down, the person looks away.  Tapping into that pure moment. It will always happen.  

First some small talk, small feats to break the ice.  Maybe too many jokes to make the person smile. And then a bit of conversation, only half-carried, trailing off into silence.  And on that threshold, a gentle lapse into that state of honesty.  

I will put some fives in my wallet.  

And walk through the city.  In solitude.  

But if I find someone like me, hanging out, with that nowhere-to-go look and nothing-to-do attitude, I’ll pay them for a portrait.  

Something carved away from the whole, floating out there in the periphery.  

Shorn from your origins, belonging nowhere, and to no one.  Like a bird taking wing.  

Climbing high above metal valleys.  Poured from molten sunshine.

On The Mend

I was probably always dumb.  

When they yanked me out of classes and stuck me in an empty room with puzzles.  

I was dumb then too.  

But people get really fucking proud of the things that make them different.  

Like the doctor who pointed out the birthmark on my back to my parents.  

Now I wonder about the moles there.  

I keep telling myself I’m on the mend.  

And every time I pass someone smoking a cigarette, I fall back into that part of me that is still an addict.  Doesn’t matter what it is – cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, opioids. Give me something dangerous to play with,  

Give me a way to numb my brain, and edge closer to death.  

Just waiting for you around the bend.  Still fucking dumb.  

When you realize you’re the reason you are the way you are.  

The kind of rebellious half-wit who couldn’t finish school.  And turning away, one by one, people who might have settled for you.  

I was probably always dumb.  Doesn’t matter what you create.  Matters what you make. 

Maybe.  

I never wanted to be like them, anyway.  Kids who could get it, laugh it away. I was always the one off by myself, alone.  Grew up alone, and still dumb.  

Deep out there on the periphery, in the hum and murmur of the day-to-day.  

I like to tell myself I am getting better.  

I’m not.  I still dream about people I used to love.  

And I think, maybe I should reach out.  Be a little human and communicate.  

But what kind of poison would I spit out?  What havoc would I wreak? I don’t want to be human.  

I want to be loved again, and in love again, because I’m weak and sick and an addict.  

Because I’m dumb.  Because I always have been.  

Just let it go and accept what comes next.  

What’s the fucking point?  Nothing to kill yourself with.  Just one day after another. Doing the same thing.  Making money. More than you need, more than you can spend.  

Come home and cook a meal.  Drink and fall asleep.  

Nothing.  Nothing. Nothing.  

Meaningless work.  Meaningless words. A life full of the emptiness you buy and sell.  To people who can’t wait to buy emptiness, and hold it over others’ heads.  Brand Name emptiness and Quality emptiness. Emptiness on sale or at a discount.  

Just as long as people buy and sell.  

The world continues to spin.  

Tell me what’s the point?  In hollow days and empty rooms, in the spaces between moments pouring by, it’s me thinking everything to death, and getting nowhere for it.  

Everyone needs a purpose.  

I feel like a dead end.  

I was probably always a dead end.  

Vacation

I keep thinking of extricating myself.  From a realm of thorns. Claustrophobic.  

I keep thinking of going out, by alleyways and streets, into roads that run on into highways.  Out into the country and far to the south, where not so many people live.  

And I think about finding the water at night, lapping at the shore and the inky blackness.  And no voices, no people talking. Just the quiet, and the waves’ gentle caress.  

I keep thinking that something is wrong.  As though a clock knew it wasn’t telling the correct time, or that someone had forgotten to wind it.  

And instead of moving itself to tell the correct time, going out into the country and staring into water, far from the sound of other clocks.  

I wonder how a photographer could take himself out of a picture.  It’s not so much myself there as it is traces of what I am.  

Less than a picture of a broken clock, it’s the footprint of a broken clock.  And the shadow it casts. That gloomy pall, jutting into and overcoming the frame.  

I want to say I never liked being photographed.  But as a kid I could handle it sometimes. The older I got, the less happy I became with the way I looked.  

And I always felt like it was something that someone would use against me.  Just a picture, but there’s this weight to it. 

Draped over your shoulders like a yoke, or around your neck like a penance.  Bowing your head like a source of guilt, or shame.  

I was never that person who really cared about his looks.  Or at least, not when I was younger.  

If I see them – people I could get to know, on the subway or in the street -they will pass by.  Like ghosts. Locked into paths their footsteps follow.  

If I’m programmed too, surely I wouldn’t know as much.  My footfalls are as much a mystery to me as them.  

Unless I’m the ghost.  Something lingering on.  A bit of dew clinging at a thread.

Utterly insignificant.  Breathe and I might turn to vapor.

I keep thinking about time.  And how I won’t own a watch or a clock.  

And time moves by like a leaden river, slow, powerful, and all-consuming.  

Wherever it goes, whatever happens.  

Broken and telling no time. 

Walking Alone In The Dark

I like walking alone in the dark.  I like being the thing that goes bump in the night.  

I like being that person who slipped away, who disappeared into thin air.  I like the thought of never being heard or seen again. I like slipping quietly, calmly, into the unknown.  

A coworker tells me he wants to quit smoking.  “Marijuana,” I tell him.  

“Just replace one thing with another?” he asks, dryly.  

Just replace one thing with another.  Places, people, memories, your job, answers to yes/no questions…

It’s really easy to replace one thing with another.  Just make sure they have the same weight.  

That’s all people ever really miss – the weight of something.  

My back hurts from carrying a camera all over the city.  And I’ve been getting uglier.  

Feeling something, I shave my head again.  And then I wash the hair away under cold water, and still feel the skin burn.  

I like walking alone in the dark. 

The same way I like coming home, and putting on music, and cooking and cleaning, or washing dishes.  

There’s a three foot version of myself curled up with his arms hugging his legs to his chest, sitting on the countertop, watching me.  Another version of me, but he wants to know why.  

It’s been six weeks since I quit smoking cigarettes.  I drink more water now and cook all but one meal per week.  In the mornings, I lift for 30 minutes before work. I don’t speak unless spoken to.  I’m reading again, voraciously, and trying to keep up with writing and photography, when I’m not working on little pet projects.

I stand more than I sit when taking the subway to and from Manhattan.  

And soon I can hopefully find a way to volunteer an extra day somewhere.  

I no longer think about suicide.  I no longer feel hopeless. 

And I’m sinking, down, into an abyss.  And I can feel it happening. And I know it’s actually happening.  

There’s nowhere left to hurry to.  No one left to go looking for. Nothing left to worry about.  

Like being swept out to sea, beyond sight of the shoreline.  No chance of ever being found.  

Every minute of every day, you’re becoming something better.  But it still feels like you’re waiting for something to arrive, something to come down like manna, or lightning.  

A caretaker for an empty chapter, waiting to begin, and become full.  

And looking out at night, at cold dark buildings congealed into masses of brick, metal, and gloom, with warm yellow eyes. Right before the walls of sleep close in.  

Hoping something is coming down.  

Every Breath

Every breath is a yawn.  

In my sleep I have dreams about sleeping.  

I’ll catch someone looking to see if I’m looking.  Fuck I hate games.  

I know I’m an adult because I’m worried about not having enough time left to take care of stuff before I buy the farm.  

I admit that I sometimes think about settling down and trying the wife-and-kids thing.  

 

I can’t even imagine that, Kit says breathlessly between pulls.  

But it’s strange to me too.  

 

I guess a part of me – a very small part – doesn’t want to miss out.  And I’m not convinced it’s all roses, but the way the light might hit from time to time seems pretty enough.  

Stretched too thin.  I get way too fucking high most nights.  Feeling like I’ve let myself go.  

Catching an unkempt reflection in the grimy window of a subway car.  That night I shave my head again, for the first time in many months.

Then I wake up early and lift weights.  

 

Lose a little more, I think to myself.  Carved and hacked to perfection. Sleeping away my days in a cloud of smoke.  

 

Calm up there.  

A guy I know who lives in the county and makes bank as a doctor complains about delays.  

If I delayed Very Specific Medicine to my patients, do you think they’d like it?  

It’s a great business model, I tell him.  When they finally get it, they’ll be more than happy to pay for it.  

They’d be dead!

So what do you care?  They’re not sick anymore.  

True, he admits.  

Underground beneath Lower Manhattan, I’ll trade glances with a stranger.  

Like tunnel scenery, something beautiful glimpsed in the window between the quickest two seconds.  An ephemeral twist of the neck, a body that twitches and contorts like smoke.  

Shouting body language.  

Gone forever.  No knowing. In a sea of 8,600,000 people.  

And others passing through, for a week or a day.  A few hours of overlap.

 

“So many walks of life,” she says.  

“There’s only one walk of life,” I want to shoot back.  But I stop talking to her after that. And let her sink into memory.  Blotted and burned.  

Michaela was always better than me.  The kind of person who seemed to be too beautiful for her surroundings.  You just knew she belonged with someone important, or rich, or, well, just better.  

Bitter and scathed when it wasn’t you.  And it hardened your heart against some things, after that.  

Her older sister probably thought more of me than she did.  I wonder where Rachel is now.  

new

Honest Communications

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Nieces

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Planet Rose

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Fake

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2 am phone calls

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Too Many Jokes

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In Berlin

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On The Mend

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Vacation

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Walking Alone In The Dark

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Every Breath

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What It Means To You

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Fractions

I’ll send you something steamy later, I tell her.   Then we go a few days without talking.   That’s just the…

Teeth Marks

    There isn’t enough time in the day anymore.   There isn’t enough room in the weeks or months or…

Things Left Behind

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Erykah

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Velvet Dark

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Four and Five Letter Words

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All the Fun in the World

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Somewhen

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Flat Earth

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Everything Sucks

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Holiday

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who I am

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No Contest

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Meditations on a Zippo

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Out of Night

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What It Means To You

In a town where nothing ever happens, and time is told by a calendar of deaths, I find myself, again.  

I come back to see family.  Every time. It’s the only reason to keep coming back.  The last handful of friends eek out a life that seems to revolve around work and alcohol.  

I tell everyone who will listen to follow me away.  

“Why do you hate it so much?”  My sister-in-law asks, as we drive through Jersey.  

I tell her.  

You remember that person – someone you knew, who was insanely good at something.  And you thought: that person is going to go far with that. Only they didn’t. Instead they started working some dead-end job and drinking themselves stupid.  And they did it in some two horse town in Pennsylvania. Because that is what Pennsylvania is.  

In the hot summer sun, the oppressive air thick and leaden, and the thought that you could live there if you could just find someone to photograph.  

But it’s beyond ken or reckoning for most folks, in places like that. Taking a photo?  What are you, crazy?  

I fled that place.  And once I tried going back, but there’s very little left for me there.  

People who can’t break free.  My little brother and his wife.  My little nieces. My mother.  

Dusty memories I dig up every now and then, just to monitor their slow decomposition.  Jumping into lakes with Tom. Driving down unknown roads with Kit. Kissing Autumn late at night at a gas station.  Laying in a cemetery, looking up at the moon.  

And the memories of summer, hot and oppressive.  

It was always hot and oppressive.  Even if I remember it now, it was like Hell had come to life.  And always the same.

Over hills and far away, in another life, I might have stayed there and become like other people.  Might have married. Might have settled down. Might have opened up my mind to the idea of a normal kind of life.  

But that’s for the suckers and idiots, I think.  For the people who couldn’t find a way out. For the people who couldn’t sacrifice anything.  

But that’s not true.  

Lurking there, a well of sadness.  And everyone’s drinking from it. A bitter struggle to live, to get by, an air of desperation, hot and oppressive.  

The liars and cheats were my friends.  The sinners and the law breakers. The drunkards and addicts.  The crazy people no one wanted.  

In the late afternoons when the sun finally began to sink.  Or at sunset, softening and dying the sky. Or in the night, still and alive with a symphony of insects.  

We’d go out and get drunk.  And raise Hell.  

 Up, up, up.  

‘Til one day, having seen my exit, I disappeared.  

Sometimes, I almost miss it. 

Fractions

I’ll send you something steamy later, I tell her.  

Then we go a few days without talking.  

That’s just the way it is.  The impetus to connect comes and goes, like the tides or phases of the moon.  Happy memories will pull me closer, and the sadder ones will push me away.  

In the summer heat, it oozes out my pores and runs down my face.  

I count the days.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What are you doing tonight?” A coworker asks.  

Cleaning my apartment.  

“You’ve been saying that for a while.”

But it’s a big apartment.  And there’s a lot to clean.  

There’s a lot to drag to the curb.  There’s a lot to throw away.  

You have new model?

No.  

Last time I look at your site, you have African American model.

Black.  No, she’s an old model.  I’ve known her for years.  

In my head, I wonder how Erykah is doing.  I take the C going home, just on the off chance I might run into her.  But nope.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a day I don’t remember as a kid.  Or, more accurately, there’s a block or time that occurred on that day that I don’t remember.  

But without a concrete memory everything becomes sheer speculation.  

Sitting on the G Train that I haven’t taken in six years.  Six fucking years. Since I was down on Carroll Street, or up at Bergen.  

But I remember things there.  Waiting for a train with Erykah and Chike.  

At the end of the longest day of the month, I remember it.  With the shake and rattle of the subway cars. The girl across the aisle, her chest heaving.  

I’m too stupid or basic or rotten to be decent.  My head is a ticker tape of every perverted, animalistic thought.  

I glance away from her tits and up at the ceiling.  I think about what I want. I catch my reflection in the warped wall of the subway car and I think about how I look.  

And I feel like this fucking twisted and stretched monster, bent over and around this concept of just ruining the things around me.  And I know that’s inside me, so the last good part of me is trying to kill me, too.  

And I just think about smoking my brains away and doing every dangerous thing and fucking my brains out and when there’s nothing left, just giving it a jump into the epilogue.  

 

 

Old like the mountains and rivers.  

I tried to think of other things to say, but the truth ends there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the bits and pieces that make sense.  

It’s all the shit and filth that gets left on the cutting floor.  

Not the adding up, but the gradual, inexorable, inescapable and unstymied taking away.

What remains will mark you for everyone else.  It’s the mirror reflections at your feet that you keep for yourself.  

Kind of sinking, kind of swimming.  

You’re driftwood swallowed up in the tide, going out to the periphery, forever slipping away. 

 

Bits and pieces make it whole again.  

Things stolen and reconditioned.  A library of plundered moments. Copies that have outlived their originals.  

And the feeling that it’s all so fake, and that’s what makes it real.  

Gonna smile real big.  And close my eyes.  

 

Things Left Behind

Time to write, I’ll tell myself.  

Because the first step is to state it.  Even where there’s nothing to write – or, at least, when it feels that way.  

Time to write, I’ll tell myself.  And then I’ll crack my knuckles and place my fingertips on Home Row.   

They feel natural there – the same way they feel natural when holding a camera.  

But your mind plays tricks on you.  

Even when you want to write. 

On the train, I fall asleep, and my sentences trail off, swallowed by sleep.  And the gentle, soothing rockabye of the A Train.

The apartment is empty, but for the things that have been left behind.  I clean the kitchen and vape some oil. Then cook a big dinner like my parents used to when I was a kid.  

After eating, I go outside and stand at the curb, where a stain – red paint or blood – looks like a mouth laughing.  I smoke a cigarette and think about it.  

Nails like question marks are driven into the wall.  

And the longer I go on staring, the more there seem to be.  

I think about leaving New York for a weekend.  Flying somewhere new. But I don’t want to see anyone.  

I don’t want to go anywhere, or do anything.  

I want to revel in it, feel it.  Like it used to feel, to feel something.  

More than a place, a time in your life.  To go back there for a month and maybe reset something.  Something hardening in your arteries. Something calcifying deep inside you.  Money and self destruction and a lack of art for the sake of doing something different.  

Somewhere in my older brother’s house, there is a photo of him with his wife, taken on a beach in North Carolina, as they walk away from the ocean.  Their backs are turned but their faces are turned in towards one another, talking.  

Their dogs, Bear and Diego, run between them.  

The photo looks grainy and pixelated up close, because it was downloaded as a low-res .jpeg file.  

Sometime after downloading it and printing it, they cut the photo to take out my ex-girlfriend Victoria, who was in the right-half of the frame.  

Something about that just seems fucked up and wrong.

Like, you wanted something so badly…this idyllic-looking kind of life.  So you LITERALLY cut someone else out of the picture so it could be more perfect for you.  

Thoreau said that the perception of beauty is a moral test.  

It’s depressing to watch people fail that test.  Or maybe not fail it. I don’t know if there’s a pass-fail system to a moral test.  I think you just end up realizing you have different morals than other people around you.  And that can be kind of depressing.  

“I don’t believe in Evil, Carroll.”  Rich tells me with a serious look on his face, standing at the counter while my coworkers wrap up a sale with a buster.  

“I really don’t.  Some people do shitty things to each other.  But I don’t think they’re Evil because of that.  People do what they have to do because of their current circumstances.  But what they’re doing right now? They’re doing that because there is something that is forcing them to do that, right now.”

I think about my circumstances, then.  I think about not being that kind of person.  

After work, I linger longer on the street outside, smoking a cigarette in the soft, summer night.  

“I’m in Chicago now,” Vicky tells me.  

I tell her I deleted her number so I wouldn’t bother her too much.  

“Don’t do that again,” she tells me.  

On the floor there’s a satin sleep mask.  And I wonder who it belonged to.  

And then I think about a pair of handcuffs I used to have.  

Probably with an ex-girlfriend now.  

Another thing that got left behind, or cut out of the picture.  

Late at night, I leave the door to my room open, and look out across the tiled floor, through an empty apartment.  

I think about the places I used to live.  The towns I used to belong to. The streets I used to walk.  

Late at night, when the world slept.  

Everything breaks down and falls apart in the end.  Everything gets assimilated. Everything transmutes into something else.  

People get cut out of photos.  And things get left behind, or nailed in deep, poisoning thoughts.  And you ain’t ever gonna stop being different from the people around you, because it’s in your brain at this point.  

No going back, no getting better or coming to your senses.  

Like this, always.

Velvet Dark

My head is fucking killing me.  Like a drill is beating and boring through my skull.  

Every time I look, I forget to breath.  I forget to taste or touch or smell. Even my ears hear the wrong things.  

Always the way it is.  I never really loved anything that didn’t scare me.  

 

“She’s like talent.  And you don’t talk to the talent,” Gabby reminds me.

But I used to.  When I thought I was hot shit.  Back in Hickville. But out here in the mix, it’s a different story.  

 

It’s a constant struggle to divine the real from the fake.  From the fake that looks increasingly like the real. And it’s all the same feeling now.  

It’s impossible to tell the difference.  

Murky like my head.   Only the pain is sharp.  

 

 

 

I think about Amanda and how much I still want to photograph her.  “I’m not happy with the way I look right now,” she confides.

But she looks like a real person.  Still beautiful, but real, too. Like a soul opened up and laid bare.  The kind of thing you wear on your sleeves in your youth. The kind of clarity you’re still seeking.

But maybe it’s just something left over from before.  Something that refuses to fade or disappear, and continues to live, despite every effort to snuff it out.   

Anyway, the weight of years keep adding up.  

 

If I forget to take the drugs for a day.  I’ll wall myself off and try to avoid talking to anyone.  

Even when I’m working.  Quick and to the point. Get them square and then get them out.  

 

Summer is come and beautiful women wear less.  

My roommates prepare to move out.  

“We have a friend who’s looking to find an apartment.”

I shut them down right away.  I’ll live with one of my friends instead.  Or a stranger I can stand.

 

It’s all the same thing.  

 

 

Day in and day out a left-of-center throbbing aching creeping pain.  Invading my thoughts. Cutting them off short, a train plunging headlong over a cliff and into a gorge below.  

 

 

 

 

 

When everyone is gone, when it’s completely empty – I like that.  There’s a kind of loneliness you only see in a reflection. A kind of peace that only inhabits an empty house.  A kind of beauty in the darkest black.

 

She looks like a dream.  Like a doll.

 

I can turn up the music and make the pain flow outward, into new corners and compartments.  Tingeing memories with a dark ink.

What is one pain compared to another?  

 

“Some people buy heroin,” a customer tells me.  “But buying gear has got to be a better choice, right?”  Then he lists every piece of gear he’s purchased for his camera.  

Like a fucking chimp at a typewriter.  Eventually mediocrity will overwhelm.

But you’ll never save the world with that attitude.  And it’s one little insignificant insect that proves the dissenter and changes the hive mind.  

But there’s nothing to compel.  

 

 

On a hot night in Brooklyn.  Another holiday spent working.  Another night spent waiting for tomorrow.  

And the pain leaves, like the last shades of velvet dark before a new dawn.

 

All the Fun in the World

“Fun?  What the fuck is that?”

It’s 9 pm on a Wednesday – my Friday night.  Standing at the counter of my local deli, buying a bottle of iced tea.  The guy ahead of me jokes with the clerk.

I crack up, laughing.  

Fun?  What the fuck is that?

 

My boss makes a comment about having someone else write his idea of a press release.  

I keep trying to tell him what a press release is.  But it gets lost like so many other ideas and words and phrases.  

I go outside and smoke a cigarette.  The sooner I die from lung cancer, the sooner I’ll be rid of this particular kind of Hell.  

“I’ll take a raincheck on the beer,” Gabby says.  

For a moment, I think that’s probably a good idea.  But then I think, it doesn’t really matter. I keep making more money.  And then I find new ways to save money.

Then I keep trying to find new ways to spend it.  

It doesn’t fucking matter.  

 

Fun?  What the fuck is that?

He’s just saying what everyone else is thinking.  When does it start getting fun?

A matter of years, probably.  The more you become desensitized to it.  On the train I speed through something I have to write, slipping deeper and deeper into the text I’m crafting.  

 

 

Someone stands in front of me trying to get my attention.

 

Money.  Food. Bullshit.  It’s always something.  I don’t care. I can’t care.  The part of me that cares, that could help, has been surgically removed.  I don’t give a flying fuck anymore. I’m trying not to be that myself. And I could probably spare something.  But I won’t. I’m tired of feeling like bits and pieces are being chewed and gnawed off the bone.

There’s nothing left after.  You help people and then they help themselves.  

 

But they ain’t coming back to pull you out of the fire.  

There’s a girl by the door, her head leaning on her arm.  Drifting off. With the buck and roll of a subway car deep beneath Brooklyn.  The very image of exhaustion.

 

I feel compelled to photograph it.  But it doesn’t matter. Just another image.  Just another person you’ll never see again, never know, a placid surface disturbed for a moment, rippling outward, soon returning to stillness.

 

Everything returning to stillness.  

Walking slowly through valleys in the night.  Descending to a slower pace. 

 

Above me, the moon through the trees seems like the last vestige of another day.  A period at the end of a sentence. A letter after the fact.

The longer I go on not talking to anyone, the better it feels.  The more familiar it becomes.

 

“I feel like we can spend some time together.  We can sit down like old friends and play a game of chess.  That’s how comfortable I am with it.”

He’s talking about loneliness.  

 

I can understand the sentiment.  

It’s just a way of looking at it.  

 

“You’re very positive-minded,” my boss says.  “You always have a positive spin for something.”

That’s me.  Mister Positivity.  

 

“What are you going to do tonight?” a coworker asks.

“Put my head through a wall?” I muse, sluggishly.

 

 

I think about the bible Josh Deal gave to me once as a gift.  And he wrote something inside the cover. One of my ex girlfriends and one of my friends used to laugh when I’d read it.  I guess it’s cooler to be an Atheist.

 

But it doesn’t matter.

There’s nothing true to what I say, anyway.  Everything’s just words strung along. Hoping, in the end, it all comes to a place that makes more sense.  

 

Hoping, in the end, it all comes to a place free of fear and want and greed and cruelty and pain and longing.  

Somewhen

“He’s ugly.”

Those are the two words I hear.  Maybe there are other words around them – before or after.  

Maybe there’s a context to them.  I don’t know.  

All I hear are those two words.  

She’s telling her friend in the other room.  They think I’m asleep. Because, up until a second ago, I was.  

 

But now I’m awake, and I’ve heard those words. 

–The guy behind the bulletproof window looks me over.  “What kind of work you do?”

He does a poor impression of a New Yorker sketching somebody.  Find out who they are, where they’re from. Maybe some idiot out-of-towner.  Maybe someone who is going to be a pain in the balls.  

“I’m in sales.”  

“Medical supplies?”

“No, audio.”  A pause. Too much alcohol, and my throat feels like an ashtray.  The weight of my camera in my bag is weighing on my shoulder. And I’m tired.  

The kind of tired you feel at 3 am.  Standing in a dingy lobby of the Rodeway Inn while some guy estimates how much he can squeeze you for.  

Everyone is just a mark, it seems.  Even somebody like me.  

“Why medical sales?”  I honestly want to know.  And for a minute, it’s not about who knows more about who, and the facade comes down.  

“Your shirt…” he says, pulling at his own collar.  I am wearing a henley. Apparently he thinks it is something like scrubs.  Really? Whatever. 

It’s 3 am in the dingy lobby of the Rodeway Inn.  

“One twenty nine for the night.”

I tell him that’s fine.  At this point, who the fuck cares.  Give me the room. I’ll close my eyes when I turn on the lights, so I don’t see the roaches scatter.  

Two nights in LA.  Then back to New York.  Back to civilization. 

 

Two nights.  And one is almost over.  

 

I can feel myself moving.  Even before I think it, it seems.  I am up. I turn the light on, and I go into the living room where she’s sitting, with her friend, talking about me.  

“You know what?”  I say it heatedly, breathlessly.  I’ve never needed to say something so badly in my life.  The words seem lighter than air. They come out faster than I can think them, just as my body moves faster than I can will it.  

“You know what?” I say.  “Both of you can go fuck yourselves.”

Sam has a look on her face.  A look like someone’s just told her it’s raining outside.  A mildly inconvenienced look.  

Back in the room.  Belt, wallet, cameras, into my bag.  Cigarettes and music in my pocket. Money in my wallet.  Good.  

 

I walk back through the living room where Matty says something.  And Sam starts spewing words. Like vomit. But I don’t know what she’s saying, because I know she has nothing to say to me.  Not anymore.  

The last words I heard out of her mouth were “He’s ugly.”

That’s it.  That’s all I need.  

Might as well have cut off my ears.  

 

Ashamed of my own stupidity, I walk outside, light up a cigarette and walk. 

When I open the door, the sunlight hits me like a bag of bricks.  My eyes slam shut but the pain is already inside my head. I stagger down the sidewalk to the street in front of the motel.  

At the curb two guys are smoking grass.  One of them, big and quiet, sizes me up. He’s bigger than me, and quieter too.  You can’t hear him breathe. You can hear me thinking.  

His associate, more gregarious, asks if I want to hit this, profering a joint.  I thank him out of genuine kindness. As much as I hate LA, there are still some great people out there.  Many of them smoking joints at curbs, offering it to the haggard out-of-towner who just slept on the world’s worst mattress at the Rodeway Inn.  

“I get too paranoid when I smoke,” I tell him.  “But I don’t judge people who partake.”  

We both smile.  Across the street, a young man and his girlfriend leave a dispensary clutching small white paper bags.  

He talks, about what he does, why he’s there.  Down from San Francisco, or something like that.  The big quiet guy watches me the way I might watch a bug.  Judging if it’s something living or if it’s too much trouble to reach out and squish it.  

Eventually the talkative one asks what I do.  

“Photography,” I say.  “I was out here photographing this girl.”  

“Daaaaamn bro, you got a ‘gram?”  

I tell him I don’t.  That I’m working on developing my own site.  “Why make material for someone else’s platform?” I ask, earnestly, sincerely.  

“Yeah but everyone got the ‘gram, man,” my hustler friend explains. He twists his torso and neck back as he says it, his chin ducking slightly, like he’s schooling a younger brother on some common sense shit.  Who gives a fuck about your shitty website?  

But he doesn’t say that.  This is a marijuana-smoking curbside-gentleman in LA.  He has more manners than that – especially for some out-of-towner loser from New York.  

Instead, he asks for a business card.  I don’t have one. Well, can I give him the URL.  I tell him not to worry about it.  

I know what he probably knows, but will pretend not to know, or accept – that we’re not ever going to see one another again, that none of this matters.  

 

We’re just two people standing at the curb in Santa Monica, smoking in the noon sun.  

I haven’t even gotten inside my room yet when Sam calls me.  More word vomit over the phone. Like a foreign language. Disengaged syllables that run into and out of one another.  But nothing makes sense. Nothing lines up. She might as well be speaking French. Or nothing. I don’t fucking know.  

In my head, I feel words I want to say.  I flew across the country to see you.  I flew across the country to photograph you.  Do you think I would do that for anyone else?

But it’s my own damn fault.  How could I be so fucking stupid?

At the end of her string of words, I catch the words “and that’s all I want to say.”  

Using the words “and that’s all I want to say” don’t make any sense.  They don’t even have a right or a need to exist. If you have a sentence that ends with the words “and that’s all I want to say” it would mean the SAME THING even if you had NEVER SAID THEM AT ALL.  

For example, if you’re trying to convince someone like me that you’re somehow not responsible for the shit that comes out of your mouth, and that really is all you want to say, JUST SAY THAT.  Then stop fucking talking. Don’t throw on a bunch of extra words that don’t serve any other purpose than to make it sound like the point you’re making is so complex that it needs to be somehow clarified.  

But I don’t say any of this.  

The tiredness comes rising up from the soles of my feet.  Washing up over my legs and waist, lapping at my neck and threatening to envelop me completely.  My brain, so fed up with LA’s unrelenting bullshit, begins to shut down in anticipation of needed rest.  

“Well, you said it.”  

“What do you mean?” she asks, incredulous.  

“You said what you wanted to say.”  

I think she tells me goodnight.  I tell her yeah. Hang up phone. Collapse onto bed.  

 

Fade to black.  

In the airport, I have a beer and some fries.  On the TV in front of me, there’s a hockey game on.  I watch it the way I might watch the surface of a lake or a harbor.  Just colors and shapes moving in front of you.  

A learning experience, I tell myself, finding the words almost too easily.  

Some money spent, some time wasted, but a lesson learned.  I keep checking my pockets, my wallet, my phone.  

I feel lighter than I should be, thinner than I should be, somehow less substantial or real.  Like a part of me doesn’t exist. Like something has gone away.  

I find my gate and sit in a chair looking at nothing.  The man next to me shovels peanuts into his mouth.  

You guess you’re getting older.  You’re learning your lessons, finally.  The part of you that felt so sure – that part of you seems to be gradually grinding away to nothing. 

It’s all turning to chaos.  Slowly, inexorably. With each passing second. 

For the first time in your life, you seriously re-evaluate the things you have always chased, always held up.  Whatever has been left unexplained, whatever retains even a veneer of mystery…even that feels like it’s slowly becoming rotten or co-opted. 

And you don’t know whether you’re unhinged or naive.  And in some ways, the outcome feels the same, regardless. 

In the end, you’re alone with those crazy ideas.  And those things you see. Shapes and colors, light and dark, contrast and grain.  

Despite the things that would break you down, inside you’re just getting crazier, and more obsessed with creating the image you already see.  

Deep, deep down inside my chest, there’s a hollow or cavity.  And there was a thing nestled there for a very long time. And now it means nothing, or so much less that it effectively feels like nothing.  

But I still want to find the truth.  I still carry a camera. 

Still see things in my head, lining up a certain way.  

 

And I know, I know now. 

Holiday

I can feel myself getting sick again.  

It’s been a solid eight months since I last had a cold.  Before Germany. Before Charlie’s wedding.

Read More

who I am

I ask for a Snakebite but the bartender pours me a Black Velvet instead.

The Guinness sits sluggishly on top of the hard cider. I hand Garrett his stout and raise my glass.

“Cheers.”

Read More

No Contest

It becomes easier to talk to people if I don’t sleep for days.  

Read More

Meditations on a Zippo

I’ll go out tomorrow night and buy a Zippo.  

I’m sick of the cheap Bic in my pocket.  

Black like everything else I own.  In black boots, black jeans, black polo.  Even my socks and boxers.

Everything black.  

Read More

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