I know what it's like to anoint my inner tides with synthetic sweetness. I know Valentines Day is a popular day to visit the graveyard. I know what it is like to sleep on my feet, while talking, or even while loving. I know how sleep abandons you after you abuse it, and I know I will never wake up the way I once did as a child, when I was on intimate terms with the sunlight and the natural good and slowly golden rhythms of desire. Instead now I drink my weepy strawberry wine, in the graveyard or the parking lot of a chain grocery store, with boys who rise with the sun and disappear with the dew.
They say write what you know, but they don’t mean it – they mean write what they know. What do I know, anyways? I know how to steal. I know how to slip down aisles in Walmarts, malls, and supermarkets, absorbing razorblades and Nicorette gum into my sleeves, I know how to line a bag in tinfoil so as not to set off alarms, I know the exits, I know not to run to the getaway car if I am chased. I know if I am chased, I'm on my own. I know if I'm caught when they chase me they will not be gentle, and they will mock me, and I will suffer all the myriad torments of withdrawal and incarceration. I know if I am thrown in the clink, I will lay there musing upon the beauty of the word “bail,” the bail no one will bother to post for me. I know where to bring the goods I risk my freedom for, the bodegas run by Domincans, Columbians, Mexicans, most of them have killed fiends who tried to rob them, and are very proud of it.
I know I will never again pass a prison without choking on my grief-bloated heart, and tasting the rusty water I sustained myself upon, feeling how I felt when there was nothing to see but suffering walls. I know how to sleep on a rubber mattress on a steel slab, I have known nights endless and bleak my God, nights that stuck in my stomach and lined my throat with bile and stuffed my veins with concrete I will never extricate.
I mean, Jesus, you see my point? Who the hell wants to know things like that? Such things stumble through my memory galleries, these crippled images, all night long, while the trains sob and the trees wave their arms, in ecstasy or horror, who can tell? My skull is filled to the brim with these orphaned images, so they get into my blood and circulate through my entire being and somehow escape in torrents from my fingertips. So here it is and I’m sorry that there’s so many battered and broken children in this story, but I’d rather you focus on the light that leaks from them instead of their bruises.
It’s scary and there’s a threatening scent, but I am acquainted with the land of Nod, the land of whirlwinds where criminals and maniacs dwell, the shadowland of beggars and thieves. I will take your hand, and show you where to step -- the boards are dry-rotten in places, you could break through the roach-eaten wood and plunge down into whatever depths dream beneath the foundations of this “city of endless night.” We don't want that. I have something to show you -- I want you to notice what they never did, and what I never did either. I want to show you how I became a ghost who haunted supermarkets and disreputable neighborhoods.
Once I thought I could just take off, but then the morning would be carried up with the birdsongs and hit me like broken glass and flat beer, I’d hear some voice from the previous night: “We can share blood like cigarettes, all shot out, those whom the gods love, die young, there’s nothing here but air to breathe,” etc, etc, etc, and I knew that change was just another delusion. I was spending my youth with the kind of cut-up kids who could find God in a dose of acid, and sustenance within the contents of a shorted Newport and an Olivia Tremor Control song. I’d changed a lot from when I was little but I still took the time to pick up the drowning worms out of the water when the sky got gray and gushed lukewarm holy water.
Only very recently has it occurred to me that these four years, which have passed in a chemical haze of brutes and bricks and blissless blankings, interrupted by the ugly snarl of sirens and the patient presence of institutional walls, must have had terrible beauty inlaid through it that I, the removed observer of this reality that existed just for me, failed to notice. Now that I've removed the silver layer of charmed sleep from it all, I sense faces rising up through the primordial muck of my mind, through the silt that lines my blood.