The World

The man with the newspaper head he said "I've had enough of TV for one life" but didn't know what to do next. The doorbell didn't ring. So he picked himself up off the couch and looked out the window past the southern lights shining between skyscrapers in the sky. Outside people walking by could look up and read what the President should have said right there on his face. "There's got to be someone out there who is like me," he thought.

But all the way across town was a woman with heart on top of her neck and it led her around to all the worst men in New York. "I can't help I'm like this maybe its me maybe its my mother like my analyst said, lately I'm not too sure of anything anymore. If there's someone out there who knows how to hurt well that's the one I end up with, that's the one I deserve, I guess, I don't know, it's a crazy world." So she comforted herself with the TV screen which was just rays of light, red blue and green, and another parameter to control the transparency of things.

In other parts of the world things weren't so transparent: a car was wrecked, the driver didn't plan it, he was thinking of whether or not to go to the store. As for me I was having a difficult time telling the difference between what's waste and what's mine. I stayed up very late for six days straight. One morning right before 4am I took a walk and spotted our friend the man with the newspaper head staring at me down below. I gave him a friendly wave.

"I don't understand people" he said again for what was the fourth time that night and twelfth that weekend. It didn't make him feel any better, or for just a second anyway, before feeling a little worse than before. Somewhere inside his paper head was a worried little heart in which the connection was cut between himself and all the other living things he saw. Whereas for her it wasn't hard to see that there is no difference between "you" and "me", that's what got her into trouble most of all: the willingness to quickly take down her walls.

So what do we have? A man with a head full of headlines that read like a long strange poem and the woman in bed who dreams of a day she could properly cover her heart. And then there's me, taking long late night walks. The matches are out. The man has had enough. The woman is getting ready to do something she will regret. And the people on the screen -- just projections. When I turn them off, all that's left on the screen is the world and me: looking at myself, looking back at me.


In his gut

In his gut there was a house. We lived there for as long as I could remember; I was born there, and my sister too. I remember the night she was born. I came out of the bedroom and saw Mrs. Fritz at the kitchen table. She also lived in the gut, a few houses down. "Where's Mom and Dad?" I was scared, but she explained that it was time for the baby to come and so Mom and Dad went to the hospital. I had always wanted a brother. When they came back with Jennifer, I was disappointed at first, but she grew on me and anyway it is clear now that good company is hard to find down here in the gut. It must never be taken for granted.

Our house was small, but the yard was big. When we were older we played on the tonsils, slid down the ribs -- we were never allowed to go down too far. "It's dirty," Dad said. "Only peasants like to play down there."

Peasants, or common people, is what Dad called our neighbors, our friends, and pretty much everyone else. Except Mr. Joseph. "Now that is a good man," he would say as Mr. Joseph passed on his way to work. "Without him, none of us could be here."

Mr. Joseph took care of the brain. No one knew exactly what he did, but we could hear him leaving early in the morning for work, not coming back until someone after Jennifer and I were asleep. "I wonder what he does in there," Jennifer said while we lay in bed. "How do you take care of the brain?"

"Maybe give it water, and electricity."

"I never do that to my brain."

"You're brain isn't that big," I said, and laughed.


We were 10 and 14 when Jennifer and I decided to follow Mr. Joseph to work. We trailed him from a distance as he climbed the spine-ladder higher and higher, past where the ribcage ends, through slick tunnels that twisted and turned until suddenly we reached the threshold. Sticking close to the wall we watched Mr. Joseph as he slipped his hand through the membrane and passed out of sight. There was a faint humming in the air like a million mouths going like Ohmmmmmm. "I'm scared," Jennifer said.

"Don't be."

"What's it like in there?" I walked towards the membrane and looked back at her.

"Let's go find out."


Back at home Dad was pressing dried undigested foodstuff between the pages of heavy books. He had collected for years whatever solids came through that didn't quite get eaten up, and had made beautiful collages by pressing them flat and arranging them in ways that really caught the eye. There was a sudden, sharp pain in his chest, and then a distant rumbling. He caught his breath and looked outside.


"Run!" I screamed and grabbed Jennifer's hand. The scorpions were shiny and black and very, very fast. We took a turn as it started to rain. Lightning flashed and illuminated trees bent at odd angles like bodies in pray or in pain, and the sky above our head was vast and terrifying. We heard them click click clicking coming through the OhmmmmmmmOhmmmmmmm droning and for the first time in my life I thought to myself: I could die here. I felt the grass underneath my feet and the rain on my face and on Jennifer's hands, which were wet and starting to slip.

"Don't let me go!"

And then it was the strangest thing but I swear I felt something pass through my heart and when it was gone there was a new feeling in its place, which was not a word or words but the idea in living flesh that I was in fact for the first and last time alive here in this strange multicolored world, smelling this rain and not something else, feeling my sister's hands just like mine slipping out of my fingers and I turned back for only a second before the scorpions swarmed her and she was gone from me forever but for my memory of everything she was and did, which to do this day lives like lightning inside me, electric, white-hot, powering everything I am grateful for, and everything I regret.


When I made it back, the house was gone. Mom and Dad had made it out, and we found each other amongst the washed out furniture, kitchen utensils, bedsheets and toys. It took time, but we decided that the only thing to do was move on. Life speeded up, and the years which had taken so slowly seemed to shrink as my days became full of work and people coming and going. Dad passed away and I came by to visit Mom in her little apartment in his heart. We talked about the slower years and cried and I played her piano for a little while, a song Jennifer used to like that went

Here is how you kiss a boy
Here is how you love a girl
That is how you make the world

as the rhythms outside ba-bump ba-bump kept time for as long as we needed, no less, no more.


Some Things Are Like That

Hard to say but it felt like a direct hit. We were watching TV at the time. Tara said are those fireworks and when we turned to look I heard the sound come, delayed because sound is slower than light, anyone can tell you that but does anyone really know why? Anyway it rippled out and the strange thing was I first thought why didn't the TV go off? Though it was perfectly explainable.

We were all different after that. Tara and I tried to make it work, but I felt so faraway sometimes and she drank too much. Throwing her shoes into the street. Crying as we left the party. I was always running out to save them, one eye on incoming traffic. The other on her. It wasn't her fault; I didn't think of it that way. Every word we put to it changed it into something else.

Some things are like that. Light is has properties of a particle and a wave, but which is it? Both and neither, that's what I've read. It depends on how you look at it. Literally. How. You. Look. At. It.

I like to imagine there were other people there at the time. Maybe Geoff, and he said something that calmed me down, then picked up the phone but the circuits were all busy. Circuits? It sounds so believable, it must be true. He is doing well now, writing daily, not beating his head against the wall, not walking through walls. Balancing the balance.

I am cutting down on things. Less Internet, no porn. If I have to masturbate be very aware of my hands. Don't smoke, don't get unplugged, listen to what my body is saying. They are people's for God's sake. The story goes that John Cage went into a perfectly silent room and came out saying, I heard two noises, one low and one high. The engineer thought about it for a moment and said: the low one was your heart, the high one was your nervous system.

How did he know what a nervous system sounds like? If it is high then those tiny motions make rapidly oscillating waves, just like a tiny speaker. No it is the sound by energy climbing your spine to higher chakras. John says this and I nod. Chakras. First it sounds like a electricity through a radio. He continues. Then your ears adjust and it becomes more like the buzzing of bees. And then crickets, singing at night.


John was there that night, I think. He was the one who turned off the TV, and that in a sense made all the difference. He kept asking, What if we had gone left instead of right? It was all too much to process. Bees and crickets.

Once, when I was fourteen, I walked right instead of straight ahead and nothing has been the same since. It is not like the almost getting hit by a car. Had Tara put the same words together in a different way, I might have felt differently about chasing her shoes into the street. About picking up her scarf. The trick was not to disconnect from the ground floor of reality. To believe there is a ground floor. So I am making resolutions. It is a year of big changes. I have seen lots of sunrises. We watched the sky on New Year's in silence. It felt good to be together. Or maybe I was by myself?


Me at 28

There was a parasite inside of Jimmy's chest. "Hm," the doctor said and pulled down his mask. He was a specialist. "Have you ever travelled to South America?" Jimmy nodded. "I thought so. This is rare, not native to the developed Americas."

"Is it fatal?"

"Ha ha, ha ha, ha. Oh my. No." Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief. "Not exactly."


After a week the nausea was replaced by something like heartburn, just as the doctor predicted. Jimmy's wife Carla made the two of them lighter meals at dinner: steamed vegetables, white rice. "It won't help," he told her. The TV drew and re-drew Anderson Cooper's face.

"But it can't hurt," she said.

The next day at the gallery he felt a little better. Light-headed, but better. The crew was assembling Richard Pryce's latest piece, a series of abstractions build from discarded cardboard that resembled a city skyine, a row of human teeth, or the keys of a piano. It was entitled, "Me at 19." At 19 Jimmy was in Argentina, studying indigenous face masks as part of his year abroad. Funny thought, hthought. A tooth/key wobbled and hit the floor. "Watch it," Jimmy said.

"I'm sorry."

"What's your name?" he asked.

"I'm the intern," the intern said. Jimmy's head hurt.

"Just be more careful next time, okay?"

"Okay," she said.

It surprised him as much as it would anyone when several minutes later, Jimmy jerked off onto the bathroom floor. "Ugh, my head," he thought, and flushed the paper down the toilet.


The next opening was several months away. The theme they chose was "Empathy," and after much debate Jimmy managed to convince the director that Pryce's "Me at" series ought to be included.

"It has pathos," he said, "which permits us to empathize with our past selves, and really feel what we were feeling." The director nodded. Jimmy saw an aura around his head and heard an avalanche.


"Well what?"

"What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing," Jimmy said. "I'm fine."

"I've got some work to do," he said.

The crew was setting up the lighting for "Me at 14," a mixed media piece featuring in oil on canvas a boy watching TV, but Pyrce had mounted a small hand mirror over the TV set.

"What do you think of it?"


"Yes, you."

"I think it's beautiful," the intern said.



They went to dinner that night for Israeli by the park. Jerusalem platter and a bottle of wine; chicken meat and liver and tiny hearts. It turned out they had a lot in common. That night, after they had sex, he Jimmy realized she was having her period.

"I didn't want to turn you off," she said as he washed himself in her sink.

"Well," Jimmy said. "You did."


The night of the opening and everyone was excited. It was early, but there was already a crowd. The singer looked exotic, ... maybe Indonesian? Jimmycouldn't make out what she sang over the chatter, just long resonant notes that closed when her lips moved over them. Richard Pryce's pieces generated a lot of talk, asdid the medical photos of domestic abuse injuries, which the artist cropped and framed in a way everyone agreed was exactly right.

"I love 'Me at 8,'" the singer said, on break. Jimmy brought her a glass of wine.

"You do?"

"Oh yes. I think it's beautiful."

They stood in front of the small glass figure of a boy. Two woven arms of wire were reaching their hands through his body and on to his paper heart.

"I read his parents had a terrible divorce."

"So have I."

"It really is beautiful. Empathy."

"I've seen this somewhere before..."

"I feel for him."

"Why are you wearing that mask?"

"What mask?"

"Are you alright?"


Carla's Dream

I am walking down the hall in the house but it's not our house exactly. In the kitchen I see mom and I say, "mom, I missed you so much" and she says, "I know, dear, I've felt it all" and I ask, "why did you come back?" and she smiles. Then the room is crowded and I see all these men and boys and mom is laughing and jimmy with his father arm wrestling in the back I say "mom what is everyone doing here?" and she says "don't worry, dear, you've momentarily gone inside out" and it's starting to get too crowded when suddenly I'm struck by the strange patterns made by the shapes between their heads -- its a message! -- and mom disappears just as I think I can read it I wake up and the phone is ringing with words that make all the difference.



On the morning of March 4 all over the planet people were waking up without their carrots. There was no debate as to why. The best and brightest minds across the generations were disinteresed in the subject. "Ho hum," one said. "Ho hum."

In parts of the world it was a mostly sunny morning. A few clouds drifted lazily away and out of reach. "Ho hum, ho hum." Traffic was light. Most people decided to stay home -- not because they had something they wanted to do per se, but rather many didn't feel like the thousand little hassles were worth it: the soap, the shower, breakfast or not, orange juice or coffee, kiss the kids and go and forget about the gas the change the pants not pressed etc. Which way was the fastest. That morning in New York City it was particularly beautiful and clear as I stood by the steps leading down the train, paralyzed. The D to West 4th and then the A to the 1? Or the N/R and a walk in midtown to the 2? Usually I moved fast, tried to get a good read on the flow of things. But it was harder to decide that morning. I am the sort of person who can get up out of bed and walk fast into the world without knowing where I am going.

Other people are different. Caitlin stayed in bed until she was hungry. Michael made it to work, only to find himself alone on the 17th floor. He walked room to room, all locked, unlit, and wondered for a moment if it was the weekend.

It was a Tuesday when the last carrot lifted. Caitlin was supposed to go to happy hour but didn't. She noticed she was faintly wishing for her boyfriend to leave. The boyfriend woke up that morning while Caitlin slept and masturbated first thing. This was new. He wasn't sure why, and he didn't understand how come Caitlin was being so difficult when she woke nor was he phased. "Ho hum," he thought and looked out the window, where the streets were quiet and dappled with light between leaves angled up toward the sun. He was unphased.

I got on my knees and quietly wept. Work was out of the question. But what was in the question? I saw my father calling on the phone and thought about answering. Some time ago I stopped badgering him to shop around the photographs he had taken of the park over the years. Some were beautiful. Birds and pumpkins by the barn in October. The giant pine half-hidden in mist. "I do them for me, no one else," he lied, and I let it go. I knew of a shoebox somewhere with his old story drafts in it. And in the basement, dusty volumes of pressed flowers.

Caitlin looks at herself in the mirror. It is evening and the moon has its whole face exposed to us as she examines her thighs, her ass, pinches her stomach. Her boyfriend must have left sometime. I was home and digging through my room for something, "Something I can call mine," I decide. Michael had an unproductive day but there was always tomorrow. I surprise myself to find it is actually a question. Ho-hum as a cricket, or other people's dreams.



Draw a circle in the sand with a stick. You are here. And the sand -- what is that? Small stones and rocks, different particle structures, you have to admit: you have no real idea. And the sky? What's up there?

Honest honestly I tried to hang onto myself as long as I could. There were tides and I felt as if I might get swept away sometimes. The island I swam toward was not fixed; it did not have roots; it was not an idea; it moved in the water with me as I moved towards it. Whenever I got a lock on it something would happen. Driven off by sea spiders. Strange currents. Who is that woman? Sometimes the island flickered in and our of existence before my eyes, I felt like I was going crazy.

"It's a million dollar idea," she said, which made me happy and right then I knew I was fucked. Unless I made a serious change. The country is ready. Everyone wants to lift off the patch and see what's wrong with the eye. It's a little perverse, but then that's good: calling all Klansmen, all faggots, little Hitlers & hipsters and aliens near and far. Let's get this show on the road. Right there on the TV is a window and I want to go to sleep to the sounds of real racism, no subtext anymore we are tired of it. If someone believes the black folks (yes I mean folks) should drown let them say so. I am tired of reading the signs.

The crop circles, properly decoded, point to a global change in consciousness circa 2012, whatever that means. "Decoded." Is it your finger or the moon that's in your eye? I am waiting for the rebirth of something. The lovers on the Grecian urn will not catch each other. The urn is gone and the universe still carries radio waves broadcasting its existence out to numberless infinity. Past the stars. Honestly had I reached the island, what then? Because I lied, I did. I drew a circle in the sand with a stick. I built a sand castle over my father's body and prayed he wouldn't wake up soon. That hurt much later, but it was necessary and I have decoded that as beautiful. And the sand, and the sky, and the structure of things? Were they really there at all?

You are here. And now you're not.