Saturday, December 30, 2006

Part Twenty-Four

To the Editors of NONzine, Mike: I wanted to thank you again for putting up with my preposterous toilet paper story for this better part of a year, for suffering my poor writing, and for putting your own business at such risk for having published it.
I am out of toilet paper now. The ink of my pen has dried in its tube. I don’t know when they will let me out of here, if ever. I am unbecome a man. I am still unbecoming. Perhaps when I become a man…
That sirenic voice and seductive silence were my undoing. Otherwise I believe I would still be free to mark the people of the world with their appropriate labels, to flitter about a butterfly lightly pressing each and every label to the shoulders of the human race. But they have locked your hero away, and I suspect there will be no “Free Labelman” chants outside of my institution, no movie stars pleading my case on Leno or Letterman or Oprah. No books, no movies, no New York Times. But one day I will make it to the roof and let loose the tendrils of my tale rippling through the wind on an overcast day. I will teepee the sky and the treetops with the story of Labelman.
This is the end of the roll. The end of the line. The last two-ply sheet. This is the point where I find that I have nothing else to say and must make a dramatic pause, take a dramatic sigh looking over the length of my work and realize that that is all there is. This is dumb. This was a bad idea. This is not worth the paper it’s printed on. This is my story. This is me. This is meaningless, pointless, fruitless. This is your poor pilgrim’s apparent lack of progress.


Part Twenty-Three

With Melanie arching high above me, I gazed up the arc of her body, transfixed by her motion and her form. She held the spray paint can above her head as if a sacrifice to God. She brought the can down, slowly, ritualistically, and shook it again. She laid her body over mine, her hair spilling around her face. My body was thrumming again, the miserable rhythms of all my pains in time to my quickened pulse, and in my head again, Yes, Yes, Again Yes.
I closed my eyes and let myself go, trying to become one with the moment. I embraced her, pulling at the skin of her back. Breathing heavily, she made an odd movement then, getting her arm and elbow up between us, interrupting the sensuality of the moment. With my eyes held shut, I imagined that she was positioning herself for something new and interesting when I felt the nozzle of the spray paint can pressed up against my nose.
“Suck on this, Lableman,” she said.
I could not tell you precisely how much paint she injected into my nasal cavity, but it seemed she held the can there a very long time as I writhed in pain beneath her. She had me pinned, and I could do nothing but thrash my head about and gurgle as the paint began to run down my throat. The propulsion of paint into my nose caused such a roar in my head that it overwhelmed every thought except this: I remember thinking that you’re only supposed to use short bursts with spray paint and that I should tell her that. I finally succeeded in throwing her off, or she leapt off of me. The paint can clattered on the cold tile, and Melanie’s feet pattered off across the church under the knelling of the paint can.
My mind burst open. It was like I fell into a fire head-first and the fumes from the paint exploded my head from the inside out into a billion embers erupting into the high dark ceiling of the church. The embers rained down, day-glow butterflies scattering nectar, rushing up into trade winds that moved in a stream from the altar to the door and were gone. The tiles stood up on an angle and began to twirl in place, a sharp pirouette to the grinding sound of marble on sand. Candles dormant around the room sprang to life with momentous flames, melted away and set the flames dancing among the tiles. Snapping their bolts from the floor, the pews rose up and tiptoed through the tiles, arranging for a session of bottle-caps the next morning. Mary and Joseph freed themselves of their bases and brought Jesus down from the wall, cross and all, then took turns dancing the polka with his outstretched arms. On my shoulders, the scabs around my postit tattoos began to itch terribly, but the itches soon released themselves from the wound and crawled across the skin of my shoulders, chest and neck until they found a home in the moist, cavernous space of my nose. Each station of the cross now joined into the dance, crushing tiles under their gilded feet rather than tiptoeing around them. And the church building began to buckle at the walls, and spin, and topple about. I was thrown from the altar, and all the dancers thrown together with me like a gigantic load of clothes in the dryer until we came to a stop, a mountain of thrumming junk in the middle of a burning church.
The can of spray paint landed in my limp, outstretched hand where I lay prostrate atop the mountain of junk. I looked at it and felt suddenly inspired. Forget the sharpie and the postits. Spray paint was the way to go. This was more permanent and more effective, and more traditional. And I knew just where I’d start this time. With the intangibles.
I brought the can close to my chest and shook it vigorously, the muted clang of the ball within the can a comfort to me now. I reached out and began to paint the air in a massive non-serif font that spanned my view of the ceiling. I spelled it out carefully, wanting to make sure I started off on the right foot. I wrote G-O-D on thin air and collapsed into an oblivious stupor.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Part Twenty-Two

“You’re a clean slate,” I said, wrapping my arms around her.
She laughed and pushed me away. In the dim-glow saturating light of her flashlight I could not make out any details, but I could see that she still had something in her hand, some sort of canister. She brought it up when I noticed it and began to shake it vigorously. A loud but muted and rhythmic rattling filled the church with echoes. She shook the can with a quick jerking motion, but with a harder stroke down than up, such that the noise going down was louder than the one going up, making an impressive machine-gun iamb staccato about the walls. She stopped after a moment, watching my eyes.
“What is that?”
“It’s spray paint,” she shrugged. “I’m a tagger.”
I cocked my head to one side, curious. “A tagger?”
She moved out into the church, shaking her can out of habit, getting ready. “You’re probably wondering what a tagger is.”
“I am, I guess. I thought taggers were with gangs and all that.”
“Who said I’m not with a gang?” she asked, turning back toward me for a moment.
I shrugged. “No one, I suppose. You just don’t look the part to me, especially standing there naked and scrubbed pink.”
She pointed her finger at me, grinning. “That’s your fault.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be wearing gang colors or something?”
“You’re so old school.” She strolled to the back of the church, rattling her can of spray paint again but more slowly, pensively. On the doors that led from the foyer to the main body of the church she went suddenly and quickly to work. I could barely make out her figure from where I stood, but in that beautiful dimmed light she looked like a Jackson Pollock spider frenetically hovering before the doors with paint and spume flying about her as she worked. I moved toward her, more wanton now than I had ever been before.
As I approached her, she finished what she was doing and stood back, hands on hips, an artist admiring her work.
“A flower?” I asked.
She nodded. “Not just any flower. A black flower. My name is Melanie. It means ‘dark flower’.”
I scanned over her work with an admiring eye. The head of the flower looked much like a cartoon character’s head with wild, stringy lines coming off of it, but with no face within the circle. The body of the flower was more elegantly made, and seemed both like the stem of a flower with a bend in the middle and the classic two leaves on each side, and like the body of a woman standing with her hands on her hips. I glanced from the flower to Melanie and back – they held the same pose.
I had to stand there dumbfounded for the moment without a thing to say. Here was my counterpart, my universal parallel -- a woman who labeled as I did, but in symbols only. And I thought I was the only one. I wanted to take her, right there, right then, to couple with her this ideology we lived by. I moved closer to her, edging through the darkness to her side. She was breathing slowly and deeply, recovering from her frenetic burst.
“You’re thinking that you want me now more than you considered before,” she said between breaths. “You know there’s nothing to stop you, that my resistance would mean nothing to you. You wonder if I would resist at all.”
I put my arm around her waist and we stood gazing at her work like an old married couple at the museum, our skins cold and pressed together for warmth. She leaned her head over onto my shoulder as she had done on the bus, as if she sought comfort and soothing all of the sudden. “I wouldn’t resist,” she said.
I moved to embrace her fully, but she put her hand up to stop me, holding her spray paint can between us. “Wait. I want to do this right.” She nodded her head toward the altar and pushed me in that direction. I smiled down at her, and she smiled up at me, and we moved together toward the front of the church.
In each of my movements she guided me with a touch of her hand, situating me atop the altar until I lay flat on my back like an Old Testament sacrifice. She had that smug smile on her lips again. “You’ll forever be wondering what I’m up to. You’ll never be able to decide for sure.” She pulled herself up onto the altar now. “You’re probably feeling more open and exposed than you have ever felt in your life by now.” She leaned over me and kissed me with a deep pulling tug of her lips over mine. “Breathe. Stop shaking. You feel wonderful.” She traced her fingers over the letters on my chest, all the places she’d marked there before, her fingernail scratching into my skin. “You and I are one, we will be one,” she said, straddling me. “Close your eyes.”
I closed my eyes and felt her moving, situating her body on mine. Her skin had grown intensely warm. She stiffened and I opened my eyes. Above her head she held her spray paint can as if to strike me down now, and I winced in fear.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Part Twenty-One

I jumped down from the altar and stood facing the floating candle, trembling, holding my breath, scared to death.
“Take a deep breath. Your mind is racing, trying to figure out where you’ve heard this voice before. It’s an itch in the back of your mind, but you can’t quite reach it.”
The candle floated toward me in a painstakingly slow sway from left to right and back. I could see the glint in her eyes now, but still it did not come to me who she might be. The trembling in my hands began to subside as I realized it was most likely not God descending the heavens to smite me. I took a deep breath. So, if not God, then who?
“You’ve decided that you’re safe from God for now, but you still don’t understand what’s going on.”
The candle moved ever closer to me, down the long aisle of the church, a midnight wedding procession for which the choir had forgotten to show. I could see now the ends of her hair wrapped neatly around her shoulders framing the candle that she held before her. The smoke curled up into the darkness of the church like a long spirit.
“You can’t stop staring. Your instinct tells you to run, but you just can’t stop staring. Every moment the candle moves closer, another clue is revealed to you, and you know that in just a few more moments you’ll have your answers. Keep staring.”
And I did. How could I not? Closer and closer the candle came, and more and more of her face and torso were revealed to me. Her chin, her nose, the full shape of her eyes around the glint of the candle, her shoulders, her coat, until finally she stood before me smiling, holding the candle up closer to her face.
“I’ve been following you, Labelman.” She blew out her candle. In that utter and unredeemable darkness, I could feel her standing beside me now, leaning against the altar as I was, and staring out into the void. “You’re probably thinking that you recognize me now.”
And suddenly, without the distraction of the candle and the possibility of being smote by the hand of God, I did. The girl from the bus. “My God,” I said, stepping away from her, not evening thinking about the phrase. “You’ve been following me?”
“Yep,” she said, loud enough that her higher-pitched voice echoed across the church. “Ever since you woke up on my curb.”
“That’s impossible.”
“You’d like to think it’s impossible, but let’s face it, it was quite easy really. You weren’t paying attention to the people around you, at least not as people.”
I huffed and stood silent. I had no idea what she might do next. I moved a few more inches away, thinking I might just slink off into the darkness and leave her there. The truth was, she scared me, and I wanted nothing more to do with her.
“You’d like to think you could get away from me,” she echoed again in the darkness. “You’d like to think I couldn’t keep following you. But that curious boy inside you won’t let you get away.” I heard the click of a button as she turned on her own flashlight and swept its beam across the church until she found me standing under the feet of the Blessed Virgin. “I suppose it won’t do me any good to scream for help in here either. Whatever you’re thinking about doing to me, I’m completely helpless to defend myself.”
“I was thinking of doing nothing more than leaving you alone,” I said. She shined the light directly into my eyes. I could see nothing but the light glaring.
“I suppose you think you’re being coy with your little lies. I know what you’re up to. You’re planning on coming up behind me, wrapping your arms around me and having your way with me right here in the church.”
I stared into the light and found that I could do nothing more. Hypnotized again by her evocative speech, I knew that I would probably do whatever it was she was going to tell me I would probably do next.
“You’re wondering what to do. You’re in limbo, stuck between the instinct to run and the call of the wild. You’re probably going to move toward the light, that being the only choice left for a poor rabbit caught in the oncoming beams.”
I moved toward her, toward the light that she kept pointed at my eyes.
“You have the urge to remove your coat, I bet.”
I did, and I did. And I stepped closer to her.
“You’ll probably ask me to take my coat off too.”
I did, and she did. And I stepped closer to her.
“You’re thinking now, ‘What the hell’, and deciding to take off all of your clothes. At least, I’d imagine that’s what you were thinking.”
I was, and I did. And stepped up to her, the light glaring into my eyes from under my chin. I could barley make out her face through the glaring light, but I could see that she had that smug grin on her face again.
“I suppose I’ll have to take off my clothes too, since you’re bound to make me anyway.”
I was, and she did. She set her flashlight butt-down on the altar, and the light saturated the air around us causing an uncanny glow in the room. My eyes adjusted as she disrobed, and when she stood before me, tossing her underwear over her shoulder, I could see now that all of her labels, my beautiful work, had been scrubbed away, and her skin was raw and pink like a baby mouse.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Part Twenty

I had long ago lost any regard I’d had for the sanctity of the church or the holiness of holy objects, and so, to me, writing on such subjects within the church didn’t bother me much, though I have to admit that when I first began I could feel the pull of hesitancy in my hands. And yet, continuing in my mind, the relentless thrumming of Yes, Yes, Again Yes.
Chair, carpet, wall, crucifix, icon of Mary, confessional door, green tile, white tile, green tile, white tile (you get the picture, the entire foyer, I only have so much toilet paper). Large candle, small candle, hymnal, hymnal, hymnal, flyer, flashlight. I grabbed up the flashlight, blew out my candle, and kept on going. Bathroom door, john, sink, faucet, mirror, wall, another tile, another tile, another tile. Pew, pew, pew, pew, and so on until I realized my remission. I’d only come here to confess. Seeing the beautiful grain of the ninth or tenth pew’s wooden seat back that I was about to mark, I remembered how I’d changed my mission from objects to people. I guess I’d gotten carried away. So many objects, so many objects of distinction, that I’d gone after it immediately without thinking about it.
What was I going to do now? Obviously, there was no one in the church, and there were very few people on the street at this time of night. I knew that I should lay down and rest for the next day’s labeling, but I felt drawn now to do something within the church, a place that was well known itself for tossing around a few labels. The dilemma persisted. Knowing the futility of labeling all of the things around me and having no person around to label, I stood in the main aisle of the church turning on my heels and seeking an answer.
I stepped into the pew next to me, pocketed my sharpie, and let down the kneeler so that I could kneel down to pray. With a sudden religious whim that I was unaccustomed to, I knelt down in all earnestness, folded my hands in front of my face, and bowed my head to pray, believing for the moment that it might actually work. With my eyes shut tight, I furrowed my brow in concentration and begged God for an answer or a sign of some sort. I winced my eyes tighter shut and studied the darkness within. To my very small surprise, I could report no reply and no sign. I opened my eyes and crossed myself anyway, and, as I looked up while moving to rise from the kneeler, the beam from my flashlight landed directly on the massive crucifix above the altar. I had my sign.
Of course! I had at least three people here or at least the representations of people in marble. In moving my flashlight across the altar area I found that a statue of Joseph was to the left of the area, and statue of Mary was to the right, and Jesus was right in the middle, hung up on his crucifix. I immediately stumbled out of the pew and over to the statue of Joseph. This was interesting and unique. Had anyone ever labeled a statue like this before, I wondered. The statue was up in a recess in the wall several feet from the ground, the base of it about level with my forehead. I could label it right there on its feet, but I wanted something that was going to stand out as soon as that priest returned to the church. I wanted to get something across Joseph’s forehead.
I started snooping around the back of the church in the rooms where the choir dressed and the room where the priest prepared himself, looking for a ladder or anything I could use as such, but could find nothing. I went back to the statue of Joseph and scanned the image of him there in stone from top to bottom – and stopped quite suddenly when I came to the base of the statue. There was Joseph’s name engraved across the base in a plane, stone-cutter’s font. Damn it if it hadn’t already been done. I hurried across the altar area to Mary and found the same results there. Damn. Rather dejectedly, I shined my light up toward Jesus, expecting to find his name there as well. That’s when I came across that “INRI” above his head. Damn it again. I couldn’t remember any more what that meant, but I knew it basically stood for him or his name and was as good a label as any I could come up with. I was out of luck.
I turned off my flashlight and felt my way over to the altar, hoisting myself up onto it the way a person might sit on his kitchen counter. I sat there dejected in the dark, knowing I needed to find a place to sleep, but at that point not feeling like doing anything but sitting there irreverently on the altar. I swung my legs and thought about nothing in particular.
“You’re realizing now just how silly you’ve been tonight.” A voice. A woman’s voice, vaguely familiar came echoing out of the dark. I snapped my head up and peered toward the back of the church. I could see a small, dimly lit candle apparently hovering in the doorway. “You can’t decide if you’re even hearing a voice, or whether it might be the voice of God talking down to you. You’re probably getting a little worried now.” The candle started to move toward me and I was frozen, transfixed in my place on the altar. I didn’t even remember to turn on my flashlight. I just sat there, watching the candle move toward me, and certain for the moment that I had found God. “You’re probably going to slide off of that altar now, worried that God might be a little pissed.”

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Part Nineteen

The church didn’t have much of a lock on its front door – perhaps because it faced the street, or because the church hadn’t enough faith to leave it altogether unlocked, but enough to put up only a small impediment to the would-be desecrator. I was in with just a credit card, and I didn’t even worry if someone on the street might see me. The door banged shut, the sound echoing through the vacuous space within, and I stood staring into the darkness, listening to my slow breathing.
What was it that had driven me to get in here in the first place, I wondered in the darkness. I’d had a whim to confess my sins and receive my penance though I in no way thought that I’d done anything wrong. It was as if the bells of the clock had called out to me, and I had followed without question. When I was turned away at the door, it simply made me angry and I decided that I would go into the church anyway, and that I would confess my sins anyway. Who needed a priest?
As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, the exit sign and the street light humming a minimal amount of light from above the door and through the window, I fumbled around the foyer looking for a candle. Catholic churches were full of candles, right? And sure enough, right there next to the balcony stairs, a rather large, decorative candle on a rather large decorative candle holder. I was hoping for something smaller, more easily carried from room to room, but it would do for now. I lit it and went in to look around the place, the soles of my shoes making minute, listless echoes in my wake.
After strolling around for a bit, fiddling with little things like crosses and bibles, and taking in the whole of the place with a smug grin on my face, I decided to go ahead and make my confession. I had noticed the confessional when I first came in – a single room in the foyer of the church, unlike many of the churches I had been to that had them lined up along the wall. Maybe there weren’t that many sinners around here, so they only needed the one confessional. I found a few smaller candles on my way back to the confessional and switched them for the larger one before I went in.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” I said as I sat in the chair in front of the screen. The room was close, cramped, and suffocating. I disliked it immediately. But I was determined to go through with my confession, to follow my whim to its end. I think the priest was supposed to say something like, “What are your sins, my child,” so I imagined him saying as much to me. “Well, let me think,” I said, my voice snuffed out and muffled in this cramped room. And I thought about it. I thought hard through my last few days, then my last few weeks, then my last few years. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to church, any church, and I don’t think I’d been to confession since I was a child. I started there. “I haven’t been to confession in a long time, father.” And I had no idea what the priest would say at this point. He probably would try to disguise his yawn and his boredom and simply nod his head. “I haven’t been to church in a long time either,” I said. Again, a nod or two, a suppressed stretch of the arms and legs. I tried again to think back through my days and years, but I could think of nothing besides the occasionally cursing. “I have cursed a few times,” I said, realizing now that I should have been kneeling all this time on the kneeler right under the screen. I knelt hurriedly, bumping my head on the screen. “Sorry,” I said, imagining the priest now not only yawning furiously, but rolling his eyes too. I was such a lame sinner. Thinking back again, I could imagine nothing else important to confess, so I said, “That’s about it, I think.” Since I again didn’t know what the priest would say at that point, I imagined he moved straight into penance and gave me three Our Father’s and two Hail Mary’s. I crossed myself and stood up, moving around to the priest’s side of the screen.
I looked at the empty seat on the priest’s side that in my imagination had been filled by the terribly bored priest. I sat in the empty chair and yawned and stretched too. It was late. I was thankful that I would not be spending another night face down in the street, that I could stretch out and go to sleep right where I was and be quite safe and warm. It was a relaxing feeling. I crossed my arms over my chest and nodded my head down to my chest, closing my eyes. My jaw ached a little, and the stiffness was returning to my neck and knee. I sighed and made every attempt to completely clear my mind and just relax for awhile. Thoughts and memories dropped away. Feelings and notions faded into the darkness. In that uncanny silence I could hear the blood pulsing in my veins and this sound comforted me. But it grew.
At first it was only the comforting sound of my blood pulsing in my veins. Then it was a rhythm, an unchanging, steady thrumming. A whisper crept in, Yes. And the thrumming intensified with a pounding beneath it. Another whisper, Yes, Yes. My temples throbbed, my heart raced, and the thrumming played out through my body like an electrified band. Yes, Yes. Again, yes. I sighed again. A hero’s work was never done. I pulled out my sharpie and got to work.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Part Eighteen

To the editors at NONzine, Mike: There seems to be a forever-stream of toilet paper, does there not? I’m certain that, by now, you must be entirely exhausted with my story, at least as tired as I am with telling it. And yet, still, it pours forth. The roll never seems to run out, the pen wobbling back to the two-ply sheet, and you continuing to printit as far as I can tell. A force beyond my control compels me to continue, even though I am today at another of those junctures where, despite the compulsion, when my pen comes to point, my body defends my honor and the shaking and thrumming prevent any legible word from being printed. But I always come back. The pen always finds its way back to try again. When will it end? Soon – though probably not soon enough for you. I want to thank you again for your dutiful reticence of my story. If I can make it through this last part of my story, of my becoming, then perhaps the compulsion will end, and I will never again pick up a pen for any reason, and can be a man again.
I left that bum behind and moved back out to the sidewalk, refreshed, inspired, ready for action. Would you believe I got away with it? Apparently, the behemoth of a man was not only among the few in the world with the power to heal with a punch to the jaw, but also among the few whose temper flared over something so innocuous as one man placing a postit on the shoulder of another. And so I went, a superhero among the common, freely stamping with my calling card as many people as I could. And everyone just kept right on moving on in drone-like fashion, barely conscious of my presence or my acts. What a glorious day! Calooh! Callay! I danced among the people, between them and around them in waltz time, a butterfly with postit wings among a swarm of ants. I must have run back to the office supply store up the street at least three or four times to replenish my supply of postits, whereas I’d only been once the entire time before that. I was on fire. I was intense. I sweated out my efforts and strained to do better, to do more.
Toward evening, I took notice again of the church bells chiming out the hour, and they sounded quite near. I stopped and turned around, looking back down the way I’d come. Swaying and shifting up and down the sidewalk on the shoulders of hundreds of pedestrians my postits now moved with the rhythm of the crowd, and I was pleased. On the fifth chime of the church bells, it occurred to me that I should visit the church, perhaps go to confession. As the chime faded, I turned toward the sound and began to make my way toward it.
It did not take me long to find the church – just a few blocks south and there it stood in the long shadows of a city in evening. I stood across from the church and scanned it from steeple to cornerstone, assessing the elegance of its architecture and suppressing the immediate sense of guilt I had when I looked at the cross at the top of the steeple. What would I have to feel guilty about? I was doing nothing wrong, had done nothing wrong, and yet the sight of the cross wrought that feeling first within me. As the people on the sidewalk passed me (and I let them go, for the moment, unlabeled), I struggled with little success to suppress those feelings of guilt. Standing there, hands in my pockets, thumbing the top of my sharpie in one hand and the side of my depleted pad of postits in the other, I swallowed the guilt down only to have it well up again a moment later. It wouldn’t go away. I had only one choice. I would just have to go in and confess it.
With sudden and decisive movement, I started up the steps to the front doors. As I approached the final steps a man wearing a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes and carrying a black suit on a hanger over his shoulder came out of the front door. After locking the front door, he rushed down the steps, briefly smiling at me as he passed. For a moment I was unsure if he was a priest or not. I had not, in my experience, ever seen a priest not dressed in either his black suit or his vestments, and it took me a moment to realize that that was the suit he carried over his shoulder.
As he reached the bottom of the steps and was about to turn up the sidewalk, I called out to him, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”
He stopped mid-step, hanging his head a moment. Turning back and smiling briefly again, he said, “I’m sorry, my son, confession ended at five. Please come back tomorrow morning and I’ll be glad to take your confession then.” He waved and started walking away.
It felt strange to me to be called “my son” by someone who was clearly several years younger than me, and yet I cannot explain why it did not seem unusual to me to refer to the young man as “Father”. I was determined now though to get into that church, so I called out to him a second time. “But, Father,” I said, putting my hand to my cheek since he was getting further from me. “You locked the church. Can’t people just go in and sit anymore?”
“Not in this day and age, my son,” he called over his shoulder without slowing his pace at all.
“Father,” I called out to him a third time, to ask why, to ask about trusting God and turning my life over to him and all of that, to do anything to extinguish this guilt the church had now imbibed in me – but there was no answer. He couldn’t hear me, or he was done with me.
I went to dinner up the street and relaxed for a few hours at a coffee shop, comforted and pleased to know that I would soon have my way, that I would be in that church before the night was through.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Part Seventeen

Picture this: somewhere there is a city in the dawn’s light, bathed in that heart-rending golden yellow that has inspired so many to sit, to take up a pen and paper, to say something descriptive. I remember the city. The city bathed in the awe-inspiring glow of dawn and reflecting back to the giving horizon the city’s own golden light, generated by a trillion yellow postits, dimmed only a little by the black marks of a trillion fonts on each postit. This is sublime.
Picture this: a body tattooed from the scalp to the heels in nothing but blue-tinted letters that, depending on which way you turn the body, spell chaos or order, poetry or gibberish. Every letter is a font unique unto itself, a few dingbats thrown in for good measure, some letters as large as an organ, some as small as the head of a pen.
Picture this: a world with no written language. All memory, all knowledge, all sharing is oral. Everyone would be silent most of the time. Sharing information would be a sanctified event preceded and followed by prayers and incantations. Orators would be shaman. And I would lumber through the world with a scowl on my face.
Picture this: a man waking, for the second morning in a row, to the flatulent cacophony of a Harley passing near the man’s head as he lays face down in the gutter. He lifts his head from the ground, his face lined by the texture of the pavement and damp with the morning dew. With a grimace in his demeanor, he lifts himself from where he lays half on the sidewalk and half in the street and begins to feel his ribs and his neck and his knee. He appears puzzled. He looks around. He goes to the storefront glass behind him and reaches out to the image of himself he sees reflected there. He feels distant, apart from the body before him, and his hand lingers on the image where the hand and the image of the hand meet at the glass.
This was me. These were my dreams and my waking reality. At that point I was starved and half-crazed with thirst, but found that I had to stand confounded before the storefront glass because, upon waking, I could no longer believe that I was the same person that I was when I was put so aggressively to sleep by the large, bitter man. The skin around the left side of my jaw was purpled and tender, but, as far as I could tell, the joint was intact and the bone unbroken. However, this was not what confounded me. My first thought after recalling how I had ended up on the curb again, was that my neck would be immobile and my knee and ribs redoubling in their pain and throbbing. But, when I rose from the pavement, I felt nothing save the tenderness in my jaw. My knee felt fine, my ribs normal, my neck as loose as the day I’d left work (before I stepped off of the curb). I had to look at my reflection somewhere – I simply couldn’t believe that my body could feel so well again. Somehow, the large and bitter man had the power to concuss and to heal packed into the same wallop. It was a miracle.
As I reached out to the image in the glass, that was when a new pain pinged sharply into focus – the pain of hunger and thirst. My lips were dry and the saliva on my tongue thick and difficult. I spun around on the walk, the miracle all but forgotten now, and went to find the nearest café, stopping only once to place a postit over my image in another storefront window – a postit that read, “not me” in an erratic and shaky eighteen point font.
After an exceptional breakfast at a pleasant, out-of-the-way greasy spoon (four glasses of water, an OJ, four breakfast burritos, and a slice of lemon meringue pie – I labeled the flatware, plates, glass, napkins, table, seat etc. while I waited), I walked out onto the sidewalk into the full light of morning filled with renewed vigor. I strode up the street, decisive and sure-of-step, making certain my postits and sharpie were still in my coat pocket and glancing about for my first opportunity.
A lump of clothes caught my attention down in the back of an alley I passed. Normally I wouldn’t have concerned myself much with a pile of clothes in an alley, but this pile moved and it stirred my curiosity.
It turns out it was a bum – I should have guessed. Coming up the alleyway, I was actually fearful of what sort of creature I might find there. I slowed my pace upon approach, and hesitated as I reached out to remove the pile of clothing. I took a deep breath and went for it, convincing myself that there was little to fear. And there he was – a full-dollar bum complete with an empty flask of Mad Dog gripped in his brittle fingers. When I moved the pile of clothes he looked up at me without surprise or irritation. He gazed up at me, over his shoulder from where he lay on his chest, as if I were an expected friend arriving at his front door. By virtue of his welcoming gaze, I liked him immediately, and I sat down with him to learn more about him before I labeled him.
I asked the bum several questions – where was he from and the like – to which he responded with a mere grunt and a shake of the few drops left in his flask. I prodded him with a few inflammatory remarks just to get him to say something, and again was met with no more than a grunt for each answer. What could I do? I whipped out my sharpie, grabbed his emaciated and brittle hand, the one with the empty flask, and scribbled “meaningless” across the back of it before his inebriated reflexes could react to the move. I left him in the alley and went back out onto the street.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Part Sixteen

I slapped the old man on the back as I passed him on the sidewalk – the old high-school-jerk-off-quarterback move with the ‘kick me’ sign. It still works. He didn’t even notice. Just grumbled and kept hobbling down the road. As I hobbled past him, I eyed a sad middle-aged woman who had clearly a few hours earlier dressed up the best she could manage on her budget and put on a little too much make-up, trying with devilish fervor to impress some guy, and now, having left his place, having been dismissed and disheveled, had that left-over look of self-loathing. Trying to write in a larger, bolder font than I had with the old man and to maintain my pace, I wrote ‘dejected woman’ on a postit. Pulling the postit from the pad, I let it stick to the end of my index finger. As the woman and I approached each other, she, in her state of dejection, took no notice of me or my arm raised slightly as if I were about to wave. I placed the postit on her shoulder with a dexterous flick of my wrist as she passed by, and I kept walking. I heard her stop for a moment, give a brief desperate gasp. I may have heard her say something along the lines of “asshole”, but I was already moving on and no longer paying attention to her – another sad installment in the serial story of her life.
Too many people were passing me too quickly and I could not keep up with them all. Even when I finally stopped moving and tried to work ahead by gazing up the sidewalk, pick several people, and prepare postits for them, there was no way I could keep up, no way to tag everyone. But I was satisfied with the work I completed, and as night crept into late night, the pace of the street finally slowed to a point that I could keep up with it. Sadly, at that point I was too exhausted to pursue my mission much further. I decided to make one last postit for the day before I found some food and a place to sleep.
A lone man moved up the sidewalk toward me. I watch him and tried to come up with a good label for him. He was a hulking man, the size of a former football player, wearing a thick wool sailor’s coat, and hunkered down, curling into himself in an attempt to escape the cold that wasn’t present, or to escape his past, or a future he could not attain. His head was shaved and the street lights gleamed across the top of it. He strode with a dismal certitude and I doubted that he would even notice the falling-leaf-like touch of my postit on his massive shoulder. I wrote ‘bitter’ in a diminutive, rather feminine, curly-cue font and readied the postit on the end of my index finger. His heavy footsteps reminded me of the thrumming pain in my body that I’d been ignoring since the culvert and that now came roaring back to keep time with his footfall. Yes, Yes, Again, Yes. In the brief second of his passing, I reached out and swiped the postit onto his shoulder.
Editors at NONzine: I am a slight man of slight build, superhero or no. My powers are of the mind not of the body. My neck, though wrapped in a brace continued to have muscle spasms, my ribs were fractured, and my knee throbbed with swelling and ache. I was hungry, thirsty, and utterly exhausted. I was in no condition for my mission, to be sure, but I was driven. You may be wondering at this point why anyone would have done anything to disturb a man like the one above-described, but I was not thinking in those terms. Heroes forsake themselves. It’s all about the sacrifice – personal time, personal well-being, all of it out the window. We’re there for the people. We’ll throw ourselves in front of cars if we have to. So, if you are so inclined to ask, “What was he thinking?” I will be so inclined to answer, “I wasn’t.”
The man stopped. He raised his head. He straightened his back. He uncurled from a lone, stooping man into a man the size and breadth I’d not encountered before. He’d been a linebacker or a guard. He had never been considered for quarterback. I could see him forming fists in the pockets of his coat, even before he turned around. He gave me a hard look over his shoulder, glanced down at his shoulder and reached over to peel the postit from his coat. His hands and fingers were so thick he could hardly manage to pinch the small square of paper between his thumb and finger. He read the postit, and I stared up at him, my back against the glass of a shop. Fear did not register with me. I had nothing to hide. What I suspected least though was that he would become so violent.
He sighed. He turned to face me. I kept thinking he was going to say something, maybe ask me what it was all about or something. He didn’t. His arm, his fist, came suddenly and furiously from the left, right out of his pocket. I was still simply staring up at him, waiting for him to say something, when his knuckles connected with the side of my face.
I spent another unconscious night on the curb – yet another entry in the serial story of my life too.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Part Fifteen

Editors at NONzine, Mike: You may or may not be wondering what this thing was that so infuriated me that I felt the sudden blinding urge to smash it. I have no idea. I have no idea if you are yet interested in my little toilet-paper story or what vague meanings it might have for your exquisite arts and entertainment publication. I do know that it continues to pour out of me despite what consequences it may bring if ever I am discovered in the act of writing it, my secret pen stolen away and my cache of toilet paper whisked off for someone else's ass of a story. I do not know if you care, and I do not know what the thing was -- which is what led me to destroy it. Nothing that cannot be labeled, in my world, can continue to exist.
I stood there in the thicket of grass and weed, the buzz of the locusts thrumming to the rhythm of my pain which in turn kept time with the still-present Yes, Yes, Again Yes echoing in my mind. I stared with wide, unblinking eyes at this thing that spanned the culvert. I moved to walk across it but stopped again when I recognized the peephole and the socket for the doorknob. It was a bridge. It was a bridge that had been a door. It was a bridge that had been a door that had been a piece of lumber. It was a bridge that had been a door that had been a piece of lumber that had been a tree -- and the green grass grows all around all around, and, my God, where would it all end? At that moment I had no idea. I was scared. I moved closer to the bridge / door / lumber / tree / thing, and my shaking intensified again, and the thrumming and the pounding and the Yes's all in time now to my uncontrollable, quivering body.
I had never in my life flown into a rage, nor have I since, but at that moment I really did snap, if snapping is indeed what it was and had not already been before. I leapt from the sloped ground of the culvert, no longer mindful of the pain I had nor the pain I would be causing -- a great leap of a kind and power I'd not known I possessed the ability to muster, and I came crashing down on the bridge / door / lumber / tree / thing, breaking it in two, and falling to the culvert floor on top of the two pieces of wood. Again, without losing a beat in my symphony of rhythms, I sprang to my feet heroically and fought these pieces of whatever-they-were as if I were in the midst of a battle to save mankind. I smashed them against the sides of the culvert, and stomped them, and threw them, and scattered them among the blades of weeds and grass above the edge.
Somehow, for the moment, this single outburst of rage finally silenced the rhythms in me as I came to a breathless collapse on the culvert floor. Now, as I sat atop the scattered mess of splinters and chunks of what had been this bridge / door / lumber / tree / thing, my labored breathing was the only drum. I sat hunched over my extended legs, enveloping myself in the miniscule up and down movements of my abdomen as I inhaled and exhaled. Time passed and I was unconscious of it. People or other creatures may have passed, but I was unaware of them. At some point, my actions disembodied from my thoughts, I reached down and picked up a splinter of wood and turned it over and back between my thumb and finger, and I stared at it. I pulled out my sharpie and wrote “splinter” on it. I tossed it aside and grabbed another and labeled it too. Then another and another and another with the same copious diligence with which I’d begun my mission that morning and until I could no longer find an unlabelled shard of what I’d smashed.
Night had long since fallen. It occurred to me now what had to be done. The labeling of objects was senseless and futile. It was people at whom I should have been pointing my sharpie and my postit. Though people often changed, they never changed in their use as a bridge / door / lumber / tree / thing might. People were users instead of used and I knew I could work with this.
In far greater pain now, I hobbled up the opposite bank of the culvert and back onto the city street. Things were much quieter than they’d been this morning but there were plenty of people around for me to get started.
I saw a man, a great, hulking, elderly fellow in a fedora and a t-shirt strolling down the other side of the street. I jotted “old man” on my postit and jogged across the street to catch up with him.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Part Fourteen

So, I essentially got in the phone booth, stripped down to my super-outfit and made my powers known to the world. I became the least likely of heroes with the power to see things the way they really were and to categorize them accordingly. Figuratively stripped down, of course. I didn’t want reports of a madman running about in his drawers marking up the city. I assumed, and I was right as it turned out, that, as long as I wasn’t naked, it would matter very little to people what I was doing.
I started out at the stroke of ten, a church conveniently located nearby sang out this fact from her bells, in no way physically prepared to take on my mission, hobbling on my bad knee, careful and guarded of my ribs, my neck so stiff now that I could not turn my head at all. But mentally, I was as ready as the day I’d stepped out of my office, the anthem of Yes’s on my mind, drumming the rhythm of my approach and follow-through.
Door, office center, car hood, window, letter, another door, sidewalk, stop sign, mailbox, brick, post, postit, elevator, button, floor, piss stain, light, light bulb, coat hook, water fountain, book, table, chair, softer chair, carpet, molding, jamb, secretary’s hand, glasses, curb, line of tar, cigarette butt, shell, casing, bench, relentless advertising, chip of paint, more sidewalk, more street, line of division, crosswalk, another door, tile, picture, frame, glass, symbol for woman, symbol for man, stall door, stall wall, graffiti, proposal, untruth, tank, lid, rim, handle, drain, pipe, sink, counter, mirror, trash bag, receptacle, paper towel, toilet paper, handle, line on the wall, photograph, child, dog, blurry grass, footpath, mortar, paint, ceiling, fixture, texture, stool, cast, leg, jacket, bus, tire, hub, bumper, window, windshield wiper, another handle, ticket stub, rearview mirror, stray dog, collar, tag, belligerent old bum, baseball cap, post, line, booth, another bench, another bench, lost and found poster, missing person’s poster, missing persons, cork board, wall stain, front door, front of building, side of building, back of building…
And on, and on, and on went I, envisioning as I went my copious work coating the city in a beautiful blanket of yellow squares and quasi-permanent black marks. And all the while the Yes, Yes, Again Yes in my head, and the pain thrumming through my body. I had given up right away with the idea of classifying anything according to the Dewey Decimal System. No one knew what the hell any of that meant anyway, especially if it wasn’t on the spine of a book. Besides, ol’ Dewey, despite his efforts at making the categorization of books as scientific as possible, was inherently ethnocentric, giving far more room numerically to Christianity and the history, literature and science of Anglos than he allotted to anyone else. I wanted to be more blunt and objective, calling things exactly as they were without regard to political correctness or Dewey’s prejudices.
When I went behind the bus station I found that the leveled ground fell away from the back side of the building down into an open trench, a tributary of run-off from the city’s gutters. I slide-stepped down to the concrete edge to get a good look at the run-off water, curious if it was as nasty in reality as I had always imagined. I’d forgotten though about the recent dry spell we’d been enduring and the culvert was, of course, dry.
I glanced up and down the length of the waterway, turning my shoulders with my head to avoid the severe pain in my neck, looking for any remnant sign of the water or waste I’d imagined would be there, but it was clean and dry as far as I could see. Up the way something lay across the culvert, spanning the banks from concrete edge to concrete edge, and I moved in that direction to see what it was.
Hobbling along the edge of the trench was precarious since I was unsteady already, walking across a slope and trying not to fall in, and paying too much attention to the thing that lay across the culvert. But I made it. I slowed my last few steps as I realized what the thing was. This thing – this nearly rotten, sun bleached and warped thing that lay across the culvert changed everything. It changed everything about my mission and it changed everything about my perspective. And, before I was finished there, such a rage would well up in me that I would smash this thing to pieces, screaming and scattering its constituent parts as far as I could fling them.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Part Thirteen

She took another drink of her vodka and undressed, furiously tearing her t-shirt and shorts off, revealing again to me my wonderful work all over her body. She grabbed up her bottle, leaned over me and placed the tip of the bottle to my lips as I raised my head to drink from it. Looking into her eyes as she watched me drink, I scanned her demeanor for some sign of her intent. The baling wire cut into my wrists and ankles – my comfort was clearly not her concern, nor did she seem interested in continuing to control me with her uncanny suggestions. But in her eyes she was calm – as calm as the two of us sitting on a sofa, two friends having a congenial conversation over tea, and yet I was a slave to her will.
Drink after drink she took, and drink after drink she fed me until the vodka was gone. Shaky and unsure of her footing, she stood and balanced herself across the room, retrieved my sharpie and came stumbling back. Her body was a blur now, all black lines and hazy flesh, and I feared for a moment that she would realize my dream and start coming apart before me. But she didn’t. She fell over me, her elbow digging full-weight into my ribs, and I cried out in agony.
Through the drunken morning and into the afternoon she marked my body, slowly and painstakingly through her inebriation, and there was nothing I could do but lie back and let her. She said nothing and went about her work, humming occasionally as the tattooist before her had done. I closed my eyes, listening to her humming and concentrating on the feel of that felt tip pressing into my skin in constant lines and circles. I could think only Yes, Yes, again Yes, until I faded off to sleep.
The tell-tale street-side sound of a Harley-Davidson roar brought me ricocheting out of my slumber. The motorcycle thundered past very near my head, where my face pressed into the stinking moist street gutter and my ribs thrummed in pain against the the curb. In this startled awakening I rolled off the curb and into the street on my back. I stared up into the dawning light, oblivious to my position squarely in the northbound lane of traffic. My body thrummed and my head throbbed. I didn’t care. Then came the rhythmic voice again, a muffled timpani, Yes, Yes, again Yes.
I stood up, careful of my aches and wincing through the stiffness in my joints. I noticed that I was clothed again, and my postits and sharpie had been returned to my pocket. Yes. I limped up the sidewalk to the first dismal building on the block, Yes, a run-down old bar, the parking lot empty now and the neon without its luster. Again Yes. I walked right up to the front door and wrote in large fat letters, Fraternity, and moved on to the next building. Yes.
Examining the backs of my hands as I walked, I remembered the felt-tip pen, the marks, the labels. On the back of my left hand she’d written Yes, Yes and the right, Again Yes.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Part Twelve

To the editors at Nonzine, Mike: You’re probably beginning to think that this entire episode – my entire life as relayed to you, really – is pointless. You’re probably right. And yet, I have this urge to get it all down onto paper, no matter what kind of paper it is, toilet or otherwise, and send it out there into the void, no matter what will happen to it. I envision a day, a windy, overcast day when I might rewrite this story on a single roll of toilet paper, roll it back up, sneak up to the top of this miserable dormitory, and let it unfurl across the august sky, a tendril of exquisite corpse come feathery in the wind. The aide who used to report back to me the status of my story in Nonzine is no longer here. Truly, every time I send out another section to you, I have no idea what happens to it. And I don’t care. I’m just getting it all out.
When I worked for the library what I did for nearly fifteen years was label books. Every day, hour by hour, I would type up hundreds of labels and tape them to the books. At the insistence of the catalogers, every single book had a unique call number. No two books were labeled exactly the same.
Do you see where I come from? Do you see what I am? How could a person not snap in such conditions, if snapping was what happened to me?
Perhaps I wasn’t made to work in such a place. There were many before me who never took on the heroic mission that I have. And yet, I never met a cataloger who didn’t tend to classify everything she laid her hands on. They just weren’t as proactive as me. But that was never all. Every librarian at every branch library had her specific feelings about which books needed to be specifically marked for certain customer groups. So, in addition to each unique classification, we had genre labels – mystery, sci-fi, romance, christian fiction and on and on and on. This way most customers didn’t have to look a book up. They could judge a book by its cover with as little work as possible, which is what they always wanted anyway. They didn’t have time to pick up and look in every book. I think this was how they looked at people too, and it bled over into the library.
So, I had my job, my mission. To help these people out. To take on the job that no one else wanted, that no one else would or could do. To label everything.
And I would have begun sooner, if not for being tied to an aluminum cot with baling wire by a young lady. I called out to her for hours, but without a response. She came in near nightfall with a bottle of vodka and a new box of sharpies.
“By now, you may be wondering why I’ve tied you down, what I might be up to,” she said, setting her new purchases on the table beside me. “I promise my intentions are pure.” She began to disrobe again and I could do nothing but lay there and watch or close my eyes and pretend nothing was happening. But I was a little worried, having been tied to the bed the way I was, so I watched her every move. I was happy to see my scrawlings over her body had neither faded nor been washed away.
“You could untie me now,” I said when she finished.
She grabbed her bottle of vodka and opened it, taking a drink straight from the bottle. “I’ve got plans for you, honey.” She winked at me and took another drink. “At this point, you’re feeling pretty anxious. You think about asking me questions, trying to find out what I’m planning on doing, but you realize how useless that would be.”

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Part Eleven

I could hear her now preparing something in the kitchen – the clang of a couple of pots, some water running. “So, what is it with you anyway?” she called over the sound of a bag of chips being torn open. I furrowed my brow and caught a look at myself in her aluminum-framed mirror on the opposing wall. What was with me? She asked it as if I were the only person in the room behaving in a strange way.
“What do you mean?” I kept staring at myself in the mirror, watching my mouth form the words, watching the glint in my eyes.
“What’s this with the writing all over a person? Is that some kind of new thing I haven’t heard of yet?”
My stare cast deeper into the image in the mirror and it became all at once like the face of another person – someone I had never seen before, and I was watching his mouth move and hearing the words come, but I felt no connection to the image or the words. “I don’t know,” the image said. “It seemed like it might be an interesting experiment. Today we shall have a naming of parts and all that.”
She didn’t answer but continued with whatever noises she was making in the kitchen. I studied the face in the mirror. I watched the thoughts scrolling over its eyes. She came to the doorway, two plates in hand held up to her black-inked breasts. “Hungry?” She had prepared hotdogs and chips for us on little aluminum camping plates. We sat in her creaking lawn chairs and ate without speaking.
Toward the end of our meal, I glanced through a slit in the blinds of her window and noticed the light of a new day eking across the horizon. It felt like the same old day though, and I was exhausted. The girl watched me while I ate, paying distinct attention to every bite. She eventually brought us some tea to wash the food down. She gulped hers down and then watched me sip at mine. It was unnerving to be watched that way by a naked woman covered in my labels, but I was too tired to protest or question her about it.
She took my plate and cup back to the kitchen. “You’re getting very sleepy,” she said when she returned. My eyes were already getting droopy and tending to blur my vision of the room. This was no trick of hers, simply a statement of fact. “You’ll want to lie down on my cot. You won’t ask. You’ll move over to the cot, get undressed and go straight to sleep.” And, of course, I did. I was too tired to question the act, or to care about its consequences. My mind and body called out to me for sleep and the merest suggestion made it irresistible to me.
Lying down never felt this good -- my battered body aching for the bearable state of sleep. I closed my eyes and was aware of nothing but my dreams for quite some time.
To the editors at NONzine, Mike: What follows now is the nearest approximation I can make of the content of my dreams. This was my first dream since I’d stood up so suddenly at work and walked out into my new life. Every dream I’ve had since the one I’m about to describe has been the same – a relentless recurring nightmare that has forced me to forego sleep as often as I can manage, though my body to this day aches and yearns for that rehabilitative state. But I fear it. In my time as a superhero, this has been my only fear. Sleep is my Lex Luthor, my Joker, my Green Goblin, a cruel thing to my mind, an abuser of my body.
Only two objects filled my dreams: the body of Carmen Electra and a long series of random words. Carmen Electra’s body would come apart piece by piece and reassemble according to an odd rhythm but with nothing ever coming back into place where it should be. A mannequin-ized Carmen Electra, dissembled and reassembled according to the designs of a very sick god. And all the time, words, or some approximation of them, floated around and over and between her parts, each in its own font and size, like an assemblage of kidnapper or hostage-taker ransom notes. The words went something like this: pickles, fir, hair, congregation, mayday, driver, boar, Lithuania, sleaze, intake, Valvoline, irascible, eye, tinker-toy, pledge, egregious, finger, Whitman. Dog, confetti, New Jersey, phantom, disregard, asinine, port, filters, bacterium, negligence, scour, deploy, sanguine, lash. Flatulence, penny, order, breast, concave, perturb, nascent, under-belly, rich, can, entropy, forge, gallop… and on and on and on with everything from parts of letters to whole and wholly random words. On and on it went until everything was dissembled to the point that it could no longer be reassembled – just cells and letter-parts as black and grey snow over a stark-white field.
When I snapped awake from this first dream, my hypnotic friend had tied me to her cot with baling wire. My breathing was up already from my dream, and now only increased until sweat started dripping from my brow. What little effort I could give against the wire biting into my wrists and ankles was very little use. It seemed I was alone in the room, the entire apartment, but I called out to her anyway.

Part Ten

Editors at Nonzine: Let me just say in my own defense that this was not entirely my idea – she had some part in this too. She was stringing me along with whatever that was that she was doing by telling me what I probably would or would not do, as when she stood in the middle of her apartment waiting for me to do something, and I asked her her name.
She said, “You’ll think about asking my name, but you’ll think better of it. Instead, you’ll most likely cross over to me and unzip my coat.”
I almost couldn’t help myself. It was like she had put a spell on me, hypnotized me somehow. I crossed over to her, my eyes downcast, a little ashamed of myself. I paused with my hands in mid-air on their way to her coat zipper, wondering if I shouldn’t just run away as fast as I could manage.
“You’re thinking about running,” she said. “Don’t.” And that last word came out of her with such a shudder that her body fell forward a little, right into my hands.
I undressed her – coat, blouse, jeans, bra and undies – and left her standing there, an exposed and shuddering statue in the middle of the room. While I slowly, neatly folded her clothes and put them aside, little squares on one of the lawn chairs, she stood there. As I bent over to toss her last bit of clothing onto the chair with the rest, my sharpie fell out of my pocket, calling to me with its erratic thud on the carpet. I looked from the pen to the girl who stood there now in her thrall of nudity, shuddering and waiting with her eyes closed. I looked back to my pen, and back to the girl. “You’ll do terrible, wonderful things to me,” she had said. Yes, I would.
I grabbed up my pen and went to her. I laid her down and began to have my way with her when she said, “I know now that it won’t do any good to scream or resist. I’ll just close my eyes and let you have your way with me.” She lay curled up on her army-issue cot. I gently pressed her body and helped maneuver her into lying face down on it, stretched out the length of it with her arms over her head.
“You won’t bother to ask me if I’m comfortable or not,” she said, and I didn’t. I pulled the cap off my sharpie and went right to work. She questioned me for a moment after the first few letters, but otherwise kept silent and still with her eyes closed. I’d decided to not just label her, but to label every part of her, from her neck to her sole, shoulder to thigh. She said nothing to instruct me further, nor to further question what I was doing. I pressed her to turn over. I began to label her from forehead to ankle, arm to shin and still she made no question about what I was doing, as if this had somehow been in her plan all along, or she had just finished instructing me.
As I completed my work with a 72 point block letter “306.742” across her midriff, my original fear, that she had been following me and secretly watching me, reared up again and I pulled away from her , capping my sharpie and looking down at her in horror. It was like I had been under her complete control, mindlessly heeding her every odd suggestion, and now with fear came the realization of what I was doing. “My god,” I said. “How old are you?”
She yawned and stretched and said tiredly, “You all of the sudden realize that you may be doing something illegal with an under-aged girl. And you will begin to tremble, wondering if you’re not caught up in some ugly version of Lolita without ever realizing it was happening to you.”
I pulled further away from her, staring wide-eyed at her face.
“You’ll desperately search my face and my body for signs of age. I will feel your eyes on me and I will relish your desperation.”
We sat there, me on the floor and she still lying back on her cot with her arms stretched out over her head, doing exactly as she said. She had the most pleasant smile on her face, and still a shudder or two coursing through her body, as I indeed searched her with my eyes for any sign that she was not as young as she seemed to be. I had thought before that she couldn’t be over fourteen, and I concluded the same now. On the bus, somehow, it hadn’t even bothered me, but now I began to shake, and I fumbled my way to my feet ready to flee this situation, ready to get back to my mission. I hadn’t meant for this to happen. I hadn’t intended for any of this to happen. She wasn’t supposed to be on the bus. She wasn’t supposed to control me like that.
She stood up now, and pressed her body against me, grabbing my hand. “You will begin to feel calm. Though everything seems to be titling entirely out of your control, an unbelievable calm will come over you.” She continued to hold my hand and to lean into my body, but I couldn’t feel calm.
She sighed and dropped my hand, realizing, I think, that she had lost her control of me. “Fine,” she said. “Will you calm down if I show you my license?” She brought her license to me, and stood there watching me as I looked it over. She was nineteen. “See? There’s nothing wrong. Will you calm down now?” She snatched the license from my fingers and walked into the kitchen. I read her labels as she went, finally able to admire my work.

Part Nine

She did not turn around when she reached her stoop. She paused at the doorway with her head bowed and her arms hanging loosely at her side. “I don’t suppose it would do any good to tell you to go away and leave me alone.”
I stood at the curb, but not too close to the curb, and could barely make out what she said. “If you’re saying you want me to leave you alone, I will,” I said, my voice echoing in the empty street of the early morning.
“You’ll no doubt force your way in as soon as I open the door.” She unlocked the door and pressed it open, then stood there in the open doorway making no move to go inside.
Utterly dismayed by her actions, I looked up and down the street – back down the way we’d come, where the walk was littered with my “stupid” postits, and up the way I wanted to go, where I’d decided it would be best to begin my mission. I’d not counted on being thus distracted. I had to search deep to try and understand why I was torn. The obvious thing to do was to walk away and yell at her if she followed me, but something held me there waiting for her to tell me what I would probably do next.
“You’ll think about walking away,” she said, turning to face me. “But you’ll find that you can’t. You’re torn between what’s right and what you want. You know you shouldn’t force you’re way in, but you know it would be easy. Doing the wrong thing here is so easy.”
I remember her words with such crystal clarity. Somehow, she was in my head, reading my thoughts like a cheesy B-movie script. She moved closer to me and stared at me and spoke in such a low voice that I shuddered to hear it. “There’s nothing I can do to stop you. Screaming in this neighborhood would be totally useless. You know that. I can see in your eyes that you know. You know you could kill me for screaming here, and no one would pay any attention. You’ll force your way in the door and follow me up to my room. You’ll do terrible, wonderful things to me.”
Turning again to her open door, she went in without closing the door. And I did follow her.
To the editors of Nonzine: I hope you can now begin to see my hesitancy in relating this story. I know how this looks. As I’ve said, every superhero has his secrets, and I am no exception—and some secrets are better left untold. What can I do? I’m trapped. I must tell it to go on with the rest. I don’t want to tell it. Even under the guise of all words are lies do I despair at this telling.
Yes, I followed her, though I took several minutes standing paralyzed by the tension I felt and becoming suddenly conscious again of the thrumming pain in my knee, ribs and neck – punctuated now by this tension as I tried to decide between going in and walking away. I looked down the street again, and again took notice of my “stupid” postits. I am stupid, I thought. Why not behave stupidly? I tugged at my left leg, the gimpy leg, to get moving and limped up the stoop and into the stairwell. I took the steps to her apartment slowly, one step at a time.
Her apartment was furnished with the widest assortment of aluminum-framed furniture that I had ever seen. She had aluminum lawn chairs, an aluminum love-seat, fold-out aluminum camping tables and aluminum lanterns. “Moving’s a breeze,” she said, watching me scan over the variety of her recyclable furnishings. “I assume you’ll be making yourself right at home, even if I ask you again to leave,” she said. “So you might as well take a seat.”
“Can we stop it with that?”
“Stop it with what?”
“This whatever-it-is you’re doing, telling me what I’ll probably be doing.”
“I just like to keep things out in the open. Keep everyone honest about what’s going on.” She was standing in the middle of the room, unabashed. She put her hands on her hips, impatient with me to do something or say something.

Part Eight

I have struggled with telling the part of my story concerning the young lady. Though I have up to this point decided not to disclose what happened between her and me, I find that I cannot continue with my story until I first relay that transition because it was in her arms that I finished my becoming. Still, my pen shakes at every word. But I find comfort in thinking of my friend the tattooist and his book. If words are indeed lies, then, of course, mine are no exception.
After the third exchange of busses and the girl continuing to follow me or, by a truly odd coincidence, following the exact same route as me all the way across the city, I found I could not stop staring at her, looking for some clue as to her intentions. I decided that, if she were to get off at the same final destination that I did at the northwest corner of the city, then I would wait for her to go in her direction before I would take mine. I could have no one following me on my mission. That wouldn’t do at all.
At every bus exchange, I kept going to the back seat of the bus, and she kept sitting in the middle with her head against the glass. In some ways, I think I continued to stare at the back of her head trying to see some sign that she was older than her demeanor made her seem.
As the bus took off with a jolt on our final leg to the northwestern part of the city, she whipped her head around with a sudden surge of energy and bore me a hard look. “I can tell you’re staring at me,” she said. I could see instantly that I would find no evidence that she was older than she seemed. She was young – maybe fourteen at most. Her voice was immature and her face unscathed by time and fate as yet. Her hair was unkempt, disheveled and she did not brush it back from her face, bearing me her hard glare through the tattered strands of hair.
“I’m not staring at you,” I said, returning her gaze.
“Yes, you are.” She stood and walked toward me with a tired gait steadied only by her hands brushing over the tops of the seats. She plopped down beside me and jammed her hands into her jacket pockets. “Are you some kind of pervert?” she asked, staring down the length of the bus aisle. “Why are you following me around?”
I found I couldn’t look at her without turning awkwardly. She sat nearly shoulder to shoulder with me as if we were brother and sister. Since I could not look at her, I too stared down the length of the aisle. “I was certain that you were following me.”
She didn’t answer. The bus hummed along the highway and we both stared down the length of its aisle. I watched the shadows pass across the floor. Were anyone to look at us at this point, they would assume that we were together. I was terribly uncomfortable, worried that someone would think the worst about me. I knew I should do something to get away from her, but when I thought about moving toward the front of the bus, she leaned her head over onto my shoulder and relaxed there. I couldn’t imagine what to do other than jump up and shove her aside, but I felt sorry for her, and decided to let her relax. If she needed a comfortable shoulder to drowse on for a little while, why not mine? “I’m not a pervert,” I said. She still didn’t answer.
When we finally reached the northwestern corner of the city, my final destination for the night, she was sound asleep. I hoped to let her down from my shoulder and let her lay across the seat without waking her, giving myself an opportunity to get away without rejecting her outright, but she woke as soon as I moved, and got up to exit the bus.
The bus pulled away moments after the girl and I stepped off, leaving us in a fog of exhaust. I was still determined to let her go her own way first before I started out on my mission, but she just sort of stood there beside me, eyeing the bushes along the row of brownstones before us.
“I guess you’ll probably follow me no matter where I go, won’t you?” she said, sighing with her hands still crammed tightly into her jacket pockets.
“No,” I said. “I was just waiting for you to go your way before I took mine.” I shrugged, looking her over for a sign that she was going to leave me alone.
“My way’s your way, since you’re bound to follow me anyway. I kind of figured that, since you’re here, I can use you for protection.” She pointed up the street. “I just live about two blocks from here.”
I followed her up the street. She kept about ten paces ahead of me. I followed her knowing that neither her nor my intentions were pure. I pulled my pad of postits from my pocket and scribbled “stupid” on the top sheet. I ripped that sheet from the pad and let it flutter to the ground behind me as I wrote another and let it fly too. I left these breadcrumbs to my stupidity for others to follow, though it seems no one picked up the trail.

Part Seven

Off into the night went I, wandering through the city with my gimpy stroll, the skin of my shoulders tingling, the muscles throbbing. To be perfectly honest, I’d had no plan formulated, no vision of my quest until I was staring above myself at the ceiling tiles of the angelic tattoo parlor. I had known I was going to do something drastic, something to get people’s attention, but that was it -- just a few random postits so far because I’d had no plan of action, no vision.
Then, it was there, in the ceiling tiles of the angelic tattoo shop as I waited for the young Nietzsche fan to finish up and I stared into that little infinity and tried to come up with an idea for what should go on the postits on my shoulders, I envisioned a map of the city and my course across it. I would start at the northwest corner of the city. I would cut a swath across the northern end of the city, labeling and categorizing everything I came across. Then I would move south one block and start over, cutting another swath back across the country. I dreamed a little dream there in the tattooist’s chair, making faces of the patterns of texture in the tile, of a city blanketed in postits, warmed and lighted by the volume and voracity of its color, a gunmetal sky overhead and the postits fluttering in the wind.
I made it to the bus stop and stood waiting for the bus, keeping my distance from the curb. I finally stood still long enough without anything on my mind that I was able to relax. In that relaxation my body began to throb and ache, every thrum of my pulse a reminder of the injuries to my neck, ribs and knee. Once I became conscious of the pain, it seemed never to fully go away again. I closed my eyes and made an attempt to visualize something pleasant.
The night was cool, and a gentle breeze swirled about between the buildings. I imagined myself lying in the middle of a wide open field somewhere in the middle of Wyoming with the same breeze as this night swirling through the grass, and me staring up at the clear night sky fairly brimming with stars. And in that idyllic picture, I concentrated on the vastness of space and the indigo haze of a trillion stars coupled into this galaxy. Until I noticed that each star, every one of the trillion in its glimmering beauty, thrummed to the rhythm of my pulsing pain.
The squeal of the bus brakes brought me back to the city, and the thrumming as it was within my body. I boarded the bus and made my way directly to the back where I might relax comfortably on the long bench seat there. I closed my eyes as the bus started going, and I tried to bring back the star-thrumming blissful picture that I’d been enjoying at the stop. I was alone on the late run of the bus with the exception of a young girl who sat slumped against the glass in the middle seat. I could not ascertain from behind that she was indeed very young, but something in her demeanor led me to believe it was true. My curiosity only slightly aroused that someone so young should be riding a bus so late at night, I disregarded her presence and concentrated on relaxing.
There were several change-overs required to get me from the eastern edge of the city to the northwest corner. At the first change-over, the young lady also changed buses and we both sat in the same respective seats on the new bus, affording me and continued view of the back of her head. I passed this off as well, assuming she was headed to the central station to make her way out of town – probably a runaway. But my curiosity was piqued when she again followed the same change-over as me at the central station, as if she were also heading to the northwest corner of town. This was not an unreasonable assumption, but it began to make me suspicious that she was following me for some reason.
Editors of Nonzine: Though I have some time yet left to me this afternoon, I feel I must stop at this juncture. I cannot write another word on that subject. Every attempt I make at continuing this aspect of my story results in an uncontrollable shaking in my hand that tears the toilet paper to shreds. Though I have promised to reveal my entire story to you, in this case I feel that it may be appropriate to censor myself and leave the rest of this night out. Every superhero has his secrets, and I am no exception. It turned out she was following me, and I do not want to admit to you what became of her.

Part Six

To the editors of Nonzine: I thank you for your continued interest in my little toilet paper superhero story, and for continuing to print it, if indeed you are. One of the techs here informed me that, although he cannot provide me a copy of your illustrious rag, he reads it faithfully and is happy to report that you do print each installment of my story and have even contracted an artist to provide some excellent illustrations. I would like to believe he is being honest with me. It’s when he winks and puts his finger vertically over his lips saying, “Your secrets are safe with me,” that I find I can no longer trust anything he says. Perhaps he never sees the magazine. Perhaps he does, but my story is not there. I would not venture to guess his motives in honesty or dishonesty.
In coming to the part of my story that describes the moment I tried to decide what should go on my postit tattoo, I am reminded of another blank space that I have yet to fill: my background. I sit here now, secret pen in hand, staring at the blank square of toilet paper – what to say about myself?
Nothing. Do not forget that I am become a superhero, and the identity of my former self, my hidden self, my day-to-day citizen self shall remain safely anonymous. I will tell you this only: I was a librarian, a cataloger and a book labeler in my past. And it was there, of course, that all this began. Every book had to be niched into a category, into a system, every book labeled according to its given code to identify its category. After thousands upon thousands of books, I could come to but one conclusion – that the world should be organized thus. And that is when I stood from my desk.

It took the young Nietzsche fan about thirty minutes to complete the first postit on my left shoulder, and about twenty for my right, etching my skin deftly with his bruise-black ink. He hummed a music that I did not recognize while he worked, the hum resonating from deep within his chest.
In that time I thought of a thousand labels for myself, none of which I liked enough to keep forever or believed would be applicable within a year or two, it being in my nature, as in most people’s, to change significantly over a short period of time.
The young Nietzsche fan put down his needle, dabbed at the fresh tattoo with a square of gauze and snapped the wrists of his rubber gloves impatiently. “Any ideas?” he said.
“None that I like,” I said, staring at the ceiling.
“Well, I’m done with the postits, so now’s a good time.”
I started to turn my head, crane my neck where I could see my left shoulder, and instantly cried out, having forgotten for the moment the spasmodic nature of my neck injury.
“Oh, sorry,” he said, looking around behind his stool. He grabbed a mirror and angled it for me to see my left shoulder.
“Very nice.” He had added a clever little detail to the basic design, a corner of the postit turning up as if someone were about to peel it off. This added a level of realism that I hadn’t even considered in my haste to draw this design out for him.
He pointed to the turned-up corner. “Otherwise it would look just like a square.”
“You know, I think they’re perfect just like this.”
“So what do you want to write in them?” he asked, misunderstanding me.

Part Five

The first tattoo place I came to on the dark corner of 132nd and Jefferson, with the streetlight burned out probably three years now (I left a small postit on the light post, “Fix me, I need light” in a catchy Arial Bold fourteen), I hobbled back out of as soon as I had stepped in because of the stench – something between cat piss and compost. I left my mark, “stinkhole” written in a broad twenty-two point bold gothic across the glass of the front door. Normally I wouldn’t have minded a stench like that, but I thought it better to avoid the germs associated with such a smell. I needed a nice, clean tattoo place.
By midnight or one, I had passed up several tattoo places without bothering to go in, being able to see the offensive odor before I neared a door enough to smell it, each shop near another burned out streetlight on which I wrote every time: Fix Me, I need light. I eventually came across a curious little shop that had ceramic angels on display by the thousands in the window, each with a tattoo on its slender shoulder or cherubic cheek. And each of the angel’s tattoos was different -- miniaturized flash it seemed.
I studied many of the angels through the glass, searching for a tattoo that would suit my needs, but scanning over the angels for something to catch my eye proved difficult, and I felt a deep tortuous spasm in my neck every time I tried to lean forward to peer more closely through the glass. I focused on the interior of the shop, past the array of angels that obscured my view, and noticed for the first time a clean, well-lighted and sterile-looking place within. I was sold, and I went around the corner to the front door.
I was equally surprised by entering this hospital-like and idyllic atmosphere where the lights were so concentrated and bright that I felt I must have walked through the wrong door and stepped instead through the gates of heaven, to find a young man sitting behind the counter reading Nietzsche. He looked every bit the part of the typical college kid – essentially clean-cut, nearly clean-shaven, stout and dressed in khakis and a button down shirt. Not even his sleeves were rolled up.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” I replied, my voice croaking from lack of use.
“Been in an accident?”
“I think I accidentally stepped through the wrong door.”
“It’s possible. Did you want a tattoo? You seemed to be eyeing the angels pretty closely.”
“They’re interesting whether a guy is getting a tattoo or not,” I said.
The young man did not lay down his book, but instead kept it propped up as if he were about to go right back to reading it. “It’s possible,” he said. He went back to reading his book.
I limped up closer to the counter. “Good book?”
“I haven’t decided yet.” He kept reading. I stared at him. “Let me know when you see one you want,” he said without looking up.
“I don’t think you have the flash for what I want,” I said after a few more minutes of looking at the angels from the rear.
Now he looked up from his book, On Truth and Lies from the look of it, with a tired, dispassionate gaze. I gathered in that singular moment when I locked eyes with him -- my eyes filled with a crazy, wanton desperation to get on with my new performance in this life and his glazed over, almost jaundiced -- that he had too often looked up expecting some kind of fantastic new idea in tattooing, only to be disappointed by yet another request for some lover’s name or some variation on a heart. He no longer believed in love, having tattooed it so often on the arms and chests and asses of those destined to have their hearts torn in two. “What are you thinking?” he asked after a moment had passed between us.
“I need one of these,” I indicated my postit pad, “on each shoulder.”
He neatly dog-eared his book and laid it on the counter. “Interesting,” he said, rubbing his chin. “You want a note on the postit?”
I started limping toward the chair behind the curtain to my left. “I’ll tell you what. You get started on the postits, and I’ll see if I can’t come up with something to put on them.”
He moved over to the curtain and held it back for me.

Part Four

The hospital, the doctors and nurses, they patched me, wrapped a brace around my fractured knee, tape around my fractured ribs, and a neck brace collared around my neck. I asked for my personal belongings. The doctor, a suave, tan, peppered man with the condescending bedside manner down pat, made it official that they wished I would stay the night, for my own good, to make certain that I was all right, though it was unofficially clear that he would be doing little to convince me to stay. It may have had something to do with the postit I put on his back when he was assessing me. I think I wrote, “Doctor Cosmopolitan Condescending” or something along those lines. I placed it delicately on his back when he turned to speak with the nurse – my beautiful yellow square set perfectly between his broad shoulders on that white field of his coat, and the label written in a sweeping and curly italic twenty-six point font. He had to have known it was me because he had just handed me my postits and sharpie.
Now he left the room after his official and unofficial messages were relayed. I waited for my clothes and wallet and such. I wrote on my braces and my tape things like, “brace” and “tape”. I wrote “sheets” on the sheets, and “pillow” on the pillow, and I wrote on the bed, and floor and wall. It was so much more satisfying to write on these things directly instead of via the postit. It was so much more permanent. I decided there that if I could get away with direct I would, keeping the postits more for emergencies.
The nurse came into the room as I was writing something sarcastic but true like, “expensive cylindrical plastic” on the IV tube, and she looked at me quizzically with her head tilted to one side like a dog, or maybe she was trying to read what I wrote. She was young, but burgeoning to fill the unflattering floral print uniform that she wore. I smiled at her and held out my hand as if I needed help getting up from the bed. She reached out for my hand. I suddenly grabbed her plump wrist and jerked her arm toward me. As I hugged her arm tight to my chest and tried desperately to write “formerly-hot nurse” on her soft forearm like a hospital i.d. bracelet, the nurse yelped and pulled so violently and gave me such a knock on the head with her clipboard that I only got “former” in a jerky and jagged eighteen point font before she pulled her arm away. She smacked me on the head one more time with the clipboard, for good measure, and dropped my bag of personal belongings on the bed beside me. Turning on her heels, she stomped out of the room with a huff.
I got dressed slowly, deliberately. I grabbed my wallet and keys out of the bag. As an afterthought I flipped open my wallet to make sure that my cash was still there. My license caught my eye, my visage staring back at me from the black folds it was encased in. Everyone has one of these, I thought. This is the state version of my postits and my sharpie. All of the pertinent labels were there: height, weight, hair color, eye color, assigned number and name. And a photo to verify it by.
I pulled the license from its protective sleeve and rubbed my thumb over the picture. This wasn’t me anymore. I wrote 363.75 across the face of it with my sharpie, crammed it into the hazardous waste disposal box and walked out of the hospital.
Stepping into the darkness, away from the discoloration and hum of the fluorescent lights, I looked to the clock on the sign at the bank next to the hospital. Only 10:15. Too late for a haircut, but I could probably still find an open tattoo parlor. I hobbled carefully to the stop light and pressed the button to cross the street, and waited for the sign to tell me to walk.

Part Three

These are the ingredients for war: damage, guilt and suffering. At the time I didn’t know I was beginning a war; I thought I had made a simple decision to do something different with my life. I should have known that my war had begun since my new life, my path to being a superhero began with a car slamming into me at thirty miles an hour.
I stepped off the curb looking behind me at my little postit flapping in the breeze on the door of my former employer. I’m not the kind of guy who generally steps into the street without looking, but everyone does it at least once in his life, and it’s blind luck when he does it as a car is coming. The driver also was not paying attention. He later said that he was tuning his radio when he heard the loud thump against the side of his car. I stepped off the curb and turned my attention toward the street just as the car was veering too close to the sidewalk. The sun glinted on the windshield. A flock of starlings sprang suddenly from the bushes. In that split second of suddenly realizing what was happening, every detail crystallized. My body flexed and spun, but not enough, and the bumper of the car caught me under the left knee and forced the spinning of my body into a whirling, sending me into an inverted, backward twisting arch over the passenger window and down over the trunk. I landed face down, my palms slapping the pavement with a singular clap, the two hands separately making known the mysterious sounds of one hand clapping.
The driver who hit me slammed on his brakes. The woman behind him who almost hit me slammed on her brakes. I passed out in the midst of the fumes from the exhaust of the car before, and the warm breath of the engine from the car behind.
I felt no pain. I remember being surprised that I could feel no pain. I woke quite suddenly in the back of the ambulance, realized where I was, and immediately began wondering why I was in an ambulance. I wasn’t sure that anything permanently damaging had happened. The long siren wail was a piercing noise, but I was comforted by it. I glanced at the paramedic’s face as he sat looking forward, away from me, and was comforted by the trepidation in his brow. I was going to say something like “Are you sure I’m hurt” but the interior of the ambulance started spinning, twisting and turning like one of those crazy training things they put astronauts through, and I could not think of what I wanted to say. But I felt warm and comfortable. I clutched my pad of postits to my chest and watched the whirling lights and the spinning cavalcade and the twisting carnival of night flying by and holding on to this thought: spinning, spinning, turning, turning, at an end of a day a turn becomes a revolution.

Part Two

Note to Mike: Please don’t print this next submission. I promise to pick up where I left off next time, where I was stepping in front of the oncoming car, but for now I needed to get this off my chest. It is a little personal, I have to say, so I’d rather you didn’t print it.

This is the perfect place for me. Everyone here is nicely categorized, well labeled, pigeonholed into his proper place. My favorite category is “borderline personality”, as if these people somehow are only on the cusp of having a real personality, but for whatever reason, have yet to cross the line. I suppose if they ever do cross the line, they’ll all have winning smiles then, and benevolent pats on the back for all. They tried to pigeonhole me with “borderline personality” when I first came here, but I guess I was a little too sardonic to not have a personality. I think they’re heading for “delusional psychotic” now, but personally I’ve got other directions I think they should go, other symptoms they should be aiming their microscopic glances towards.
It occurred to me recently to continue in here my practices from the outside world. If they could do it, then why couldn’t I?
I started small the other day, just to see what I could get away with, and wrote “sheet” on my sheet in a four point block font on the inside lower corner of the fitted sheet. It comforted me that night, knowing it was there, but I began to panic secretly the next day for the safety of my secret pen. What if the washwoman found the mark? Could they trace the sheet back to me? If they did, could they find my pen? Would they shock me ‘til I told them where it was?
I waited a week before trying again, trying not to push my luck. I know – you’re probably thinking “paranoid schizophrenic” now, but you should see the way these guys operate. Anyway, so I needed something more permanent, closer to home, that I wouldn’t lose after a week and risk them tracing back to me. I looked around my room – the bed, the toilet, my clothes. Not much inspired me. I finally settled for my shoe and wrote “sole” on the bottom of it in a more daring ten point italic type, though this didn’t turn out too well for all the bumps and lines in the tread.
I walked around for a day or two with that on my sole, worried sick about raising my foot too high when I walked or crossing my leg over my knee during sessions. I was disappointed that night when I released my feet from those shoes and couched them in the cool, tightly tucked ends of my sheets to not have the word as near to me as “sheet” had been.
I thought about it long into the night – and I realize that now you’re thinking “obsessive-compulsive” but don’t worry because I never wash my hands – and I finally came to a conclusion in the quiet hours of the first of the morning.
This morning I played sick so they’d leave me in my room and only check on me hourly. This gave me plenty of time for my piece de resistance: the labeling of self.
In the most carefully scripted and elegant forty-eight point (or so) serif font, I etched with my pen a label for each part of my body – well, for each part not visible to the outside world anyway. I started with the obvious: belly, thigh, shoulder, shin. I made pains to reach and still write legibly: back, knee-pit, shoulder blade. I got bored and started getting creative: asset, kneed, areola (this hurt a little), x2, ear this way ], and football. And, for the coup de grâce: dick (by day), Washington Monument (by night). You wouldn’t believe the pains I went through to accomplish that.
P.S. Sorry about this, Mike, but I felt I had to confess it – I did promise to tell you everything. I haven’t anytime left now, and each label pulses and stings, though it’s nothing compared to the pain I felt when that car hit me.