I go nowhere. But I do it fast. In my house, the ears have walls. Do I sound like a commercial? Fair enough. I’ll sell you short-term pleasure for long-term disease. Wait, you’re already paying for this and there’s no way in hell I can manufacture it faster or cheaper (without killing more children). Everybody dies so take that bird in your hand and blackmail it into luring out those two in the bush. The way to a man’s heart is indeed through his stomach, but straight through the ribs is more direct. A little college is a dangerous thing (as is a little yearning). A penny saved is a devalued piece of metal like a new car driven off the lot. A rising tide may lift all boats, but it’ll sure fuck up a city. Same thing happened in Noah’s time. Classic case of the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-shamed. A woman’s place is now everywhere. Simultaneously. Good luck with that. If the best offense is a good defense are the most defensive people the most offensive? Have some more caffeine. Take a pill. Let somebody else worry about it.
The story is applauded. It was meaningless, teaching us nothing. Except to laugh at ourselves. Which is to say, it has taught us everything.
– Robert Coover, “Playing House”, A Child Again
You are falling. Wait. It’s me that’s falling. You’re along for the ride. (Damn freeloader!) A finite falling distance. From birth to death. Toward the light. Always toward the light. Above me is the past. I want to see back to the womb, to remember the first time I saw my mother’s face or whatever blurry image served this initial visual connection. But I’ve fallen too far and can only see back partially. I have trouble deciphering between actual vision and remembered sight. The longer I fall the further away these early visions recede. They fade. Memories made of sights and sounds and feelings spiral around me like pixie stick paper forming a tube of my past, one day to be a completed wormhole of my existence. And tonight, as I look neither up to my past nor down to my future, it’s as if my free fall has slowed, possibly even frozen in time. A thousand spokes of the present’s possibilities jut out perpendicular to my past. Any one spoke or many might spiral around into my future. I’m floating in midlife, parallel to the present as if hovering face first over a hole. I look down. The future is a dark, tubular latticework of what is to come. Waiting to be filled in. I can’t yet see the light but looking into the future doesn’t follow the same ocular laws as gazing into the past. I could be seconds from the end of my fall or years. But now you are part of my fall, and I, a small part of yours. We are falling together. We are all falling.
Jaqo liked waiting at the bus stop. A pocket of unstructured time forced into a packed day. A chance to breathe. Meditate. Think. He liked to invent things in his head. Today he was thinking of starting some sort of avant garde publication. An artsy rag. As brake dust gathered at the curb, he began curating this imaginary periodical. A section for literature–damn good writing to be exact. A section for fine art. A local focus or national? Or international? Why not all three?!!! Quarterly or monthly? Where would he want to see this culture-defining work distributed? Obviously, in his favorite local bookstores and coffee shops… Maybe in art supply stores and galleries… Would it be possible to have a publication survive but be located differently with each issue? Like a scavenger hunt for its readers. But its readers would have to be highly motivated to seek out each issue. To want to hunt for it. A limited print run and the exclusiveness of it would help. What if it not only changed distribution points, but the title also changed? Would it even be the same periodical? Editorially and visually, could it be tied together in such a way as to make the separate issues feel connected. Ah, the internal gears of a natural born editor were at work. Grinding and spinning this idea about. It could work. This was one of those ideas that needed to see the light of day. Jaqo knew just who he would call when he got to the office. Why wait for the bus? He decided to walk the 14 blocks. He stepped off the curb and into the pedestrian walkway just as a light blue compact car ran the light. He never saw it coming.
Early Termination is an experimental series based upon abrupt endings where pieces of characters, stories, conversations, or whathaveyous are cut short. Sometimes tragically. Sometimes comically.
On my way home early yesterday, I found my tick-tock mental state interrupted by the sight of a man on the ground. A normal day’s endless visual stream includes people on the ground–the woman who sleeps on the step outside the convenience store at 6th and H (often covered in a large black garbage bag or tarp), the bearded man who sits with his legs almost across the entire sidewalk in what seems like the hottest spot in the city around 4pm (is it wrong to have less sympathy for white, male homeless individuals who panhandle next to shaded spots?)–but this was a break from the norm, a glitch in the system.
I came running down the escalator stairs, watching the blinking lights along the platform that meant the train was either just arriving or just leaving. As soon as I realized it was just leaving, I slowed my pace and noticed 20 yards ahead a tall, 30- or 40-yr. old black man lying on his back on the platform, his head raised a few inches off the ground, and his own hand kind of holding it. It looked as if he’d either just woken up or just fallen down. He seemed disoriented. Another man approached him and told him “Just stay down. Stay still. Are you okay?” The other man was just getting off the phone. He had a shocked expression his face like he had seen what happened. A small pool of blood had settled on the patch of stippled platform closest to the rails. When the man took his hand away from his head, I could see streaks of blood coming from just above his right temple (the muted color of blood against his dark skin tone only seemed to increase the slow-motion-surrealness of the moment). “Can I help?” I said, or maybe I said, “You already called 9-1-1?” I can’t remember. “Someone needs to stay with him,” said the good samaritan. “I’ll get the station manager,” I offered and ran back up the escalator. “Does anyone have any paper towels or anything?” asked the man who had adopted this anomaly as his responsibility (or, rather, accepted it as it had been thrust upon him; it was obvious he did not know the injured man whose wound seemed serious, but not life threatening).
The station manager was on the phone. I waited. He was off in less than 15 seconds. “There’s a man down on the green line platform bleeding from the head.” His gruff response: “I know. I’m coming.” He seemed inconvenienced. Nine out of ten Metro station managers do.
I ran back down and let them know the manager was on his way (and, hopefully, some actual medical personnel) and then I hopped on the next train. I couldn’t help wonder what had happened. Had the man fallen and banged his head? Had he been in a fight? Was he pushed? Attacked? None of it made sense and the air had about it the energy of something gone wrong. Something beyond that of a mere accident.
And there I was. Back on the train. As if nothing had happened. The flow of time picking up right where it had left off…