American Poverty: 1

That the concert was terrible meant nothing to the lost grillers of cheese, vagabond jewelry makers, kids getting stoned... Mike said "Stay with your family" and we did. I trusted him. I was starting to love his wife, too, a little bit more when we left her in the apartment looking for a cartoon on demand. I can't help it; I love children. But here they were, dirty, kid-faced and un-innocent; a cop came up around one and cracked his head down to the dirt. But not before he flung a bag into the air with a whoop. Mike watching me watch him, saying "They don't care about us."

He said this, too, at work; at home; about our bosses, Isabelle, the sick men and women we cared for; and his college friends, his high school friends, the woman behind the counter at a gas station handing us a pack of cigarettes and gum...

We took the ecstasy first thing and by the time we reached the bathroom my pupils were shivering. I had never seen that before and didn't want to know. I felt good, though the words I wanted were falling a little further and further out of reach, and the gum was sweet against my teeth. Mike was flushed and smiling. We were happy. It was that easy.

The band played while it started to rain and I danced toward the stage and looked away, up the slope where men and women kept climbing the trail to disappear somewhere -- "They're doing heroin," Mike shook his head. "The scene is real dirty, no one to take care of us any more..." Needles in the mud, toddlers on shakedown street, they got your ice cold pharmies there and everyone is promising purity, "This shit is pure." The Dutch were here once. Before them the Indians. Now it is skiing in the winter, and in the summer the lot families arrive for shows. It's tent city, me and Mike and gauzy clouds drifting around like serotonin.

Mike convinces me to take another.

The girls around me are dancing in the mud, one has a watermelon, and in a second my eyes go white hot and I am sweating from all the heat the young bodies make, all their hearts pounding at once. Indian bones, marijuana and rolls, Isabelle's face from nowhere hits the soft spot on my brain: "We are in the world to love the world." I try to keep dancing but this girl is bumping into me, she is dancing no they are fighting, there's a muddy watermelon chunk that they are wrestling for down there, pulling dreadlocks and saying what, I can't hear, the drummer is still soloing but these girls are maybe 13 and 14 I can see where her shirt is torn where her breasts are coming in and my cock comes to in agony as I realize I've never loved anyone in my life and that's when Mike grabs me--

Back home. Isabelle brings new socks. The TV is on and mute. Mike brags to his wife about how he saved me from the mud pit. She is looking at me. It is an invitation. But I already fell in. I am still there.

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