We had it together but we also had it when we were apart. We got it in that
comedor in Oaxaca, we both agreed. Or maybe it was that little town, just
a few palapas actually and a beach with a deceptive number of black dogs,
called San Angelino. But it’s also quite possible that we had gotten it on
the subway. Don’t forget about a head of lettuce! our naturopath said. They
caravan those heads in from anywhere imaginable. And water these days—
it’s no good washing with it.
We made a list of what was now ok and what wasn’t. Sugar, yeast, all the
essentials—out. Enter: lines and lines of herbaceous esophagus-jamming
pills we swallowed noon dinner and night.
It’s not so bad, you said. We weren’t into that kind of junk anyway.
But who could tell? What we were and weren’t into? For instance,
bloody marys at Giondo’s, what about that? And occupation politics—was
it possible our parasite was affecting those too? Before, we’d been heavily
committed: gotten arrested even, clubbed by the militia-era NYPD.
We should take the thing back to where it came from, you said.
Niagara Falls or the Jurassic period or what about that town you like, Boring,
Oregon? It really feels like it came from there.
The thing we shared had sticktuitiveness. You had to give it that.
When we looked it up online the definition said: “one who eats at the
table of another,” which seemed kind of cordial, so 1950’s, like a neighbor
plus misshapen apple pie dropping by.
But who had neighbors like that?
Ours were more like that guy we knew, Raif, who on his way home sloppily
inserted himself into our kitchen, slogging through our sole bottle of
scotch, probably shoveling coke up off the back of our toilet seat without
offering any, probably crying even—before wheeling away again into the
splashes of light and dark, the leafy trees and trash that made up our block.
We had it together, this relative of Giardia partying in our now shared
intestinal tract, but we reminded ourselves—we could have picked this thing
up anywhere. The lack of fault was comforting. Plus the parasite wasn’t all.
In our Greenpoint yard hard pink asparagus-like weeds were erupting everywhere,
pubing skyward with a level of tenacity I no longer recognized.
When I was young I knew that everything was sentient and I was capable of
doing great harm. Moreover, I knew that things should not be separated—
that pairs, no matter where you found them, should stay intact. Under
everyday pressure, that feeling had gone underground. Now, looking out at
our yard, a spray of turf between the parallel avenues of McGuinness and
Manhattan, it swam up again.
The stalks seemed so invincible, thrusting through the heavy metals
and constant turn over of Popov bottles that made up our soil. Should I
inject them with syringe-fuls of recently outlawed weed killer as RAT574,
my new buddy in the underground chatrooms, urged? The kind that gives
everything goopy eyes? I could do it at night beneath the pale gray dome
of light pollution we lived under.
Or what if I let the stalks showboat, have their time in the sun? Nothing
else was growing.
Make a choice, you sighed. I don’t care. You’d been saying that a lot lately.
Still I was locked in an intractable standoff. It distracted me no end. I often
stood on the pitched steps, dolefully. Then I would descend into the dirt
and snap off their waist-high heads, pinching the magenta frill between my
finger and thumb. That barely slowed them. Even pulling at them did no
good. It was Japanese Knotweed, and, as you liked explaining, their roots
flanged out at the base like butt-plugs.
Around that time, I got fired from The Baltic, a ramshackle tavern on a
drifty block of Ave C left smoldering from an older, more terrifying era. It
was huge, draped in once-regal green felt, with smoke stains that stippled
the floors and ceiling like Sherwood Forest fungus.
Too bad about that Big Fuck Up, said my boss Terry, a pleathery fag in
white Keds. He shook my hand in a friendly way.
I’d been there for years, dutifully slinging Yuenglings. But I didn’t have
the heart to fight for my job. I knew he was trying to get rid of us, his loyal
few, so he could bottom for the Pinnacle Corporation. In the last month
their goons had come around non-stop, checking the place out while Terry
twisted them a fortune of cold beer.
I faced the barroom for the last time. Ooooh I feel good I feel good I feel
good, said Donna Summer. Gerald sat on his stool with his long braid dangling
behind him, drinking E & J. I walked over to him.
Well, I said.
He grimaced. He’d been tall but now his body was cinched up.
I hate to go home, he said. Gerald was stuck in the 80’s. His nightmares
were endless hospitals. I wedged a twenty under his glass snifter.
Not tonight pal, I said. I wanted him to keep getting good and drunk.
Try to remember, I said, arranging his lapel. We’re safe now.
I stood on the Bowery platform and waited for the late night M train.
My gut yowled. Our parasite was a new and mysterious development. It
was gross, but it gave us something to talk about. I glared warily at the
track. Did everyone want to jump in front of the subway as much as I did?
Not necessarily to die, although that was, of course, likely. Help! I’d shout.
Someone would come. Still once the thought occurred, it felt impossible to
resist. Persuading myself that everyone was gripped by the same mania—a
mania so regular it was boring—made it less awful when I shrunk from
the inevitable approaching train, scrunching my eyes against the finishing
That night I sat for a long time in the dark of our kitchen, looking past
the window’s reflection, out into the yard. Then I went to bed as usual. Our
apartment was so narrow it seemed as if we together were Jonah, inhabiting
the “inner whale.” You’d disagree, scoffing into your hand: as early as
1520, Rondelet knew it wasn’t a whale but a Great White Shark, you’d say—but
for once, you were sleeping quietly. Your job at the new pot shop was wearing
Can anyone really live in a shark? I thought drowsily.
Then the Casio was flashing: 3:47 and a voice was peeping up from the
blankets, urging me awake.
I sat alert, staring at the tapered gloom. Pressing my hand to the wall
for balance, I tried not to wake you. But focusing in at your warm skin, I
found myself in a panic.
Earlier, we’d fought.
You’re so full of shit your eyes are brown, I heard myself saying, a perennial
favorite of my father’s. I’d followed it with something ridiculous, lightheaded,
unhinged even. You hadn’t responded. Was this why I’d stayed up so
long, staring out? There was a new edge to everything, wasn’t there?
Gabriel? I said.
Let’s begin, the voice insisted.
My bladder thickened. You continued to sleep, coma-like. I squirmed
around you, clicked on the sound machine standby: “Gurgling Brook” and
crept into the also sloping kitchen. The boards were old, shards of gone
forests. The Famous Grouse was capless on the table where I’d left it.
Leon, the voice said.
I stood there dimly and searched for its origin. In plain view was a giant
mason jar of kombucha plus dividing mother. A pair of gunk-smeared garden
gloves. An ancient Vogue with Tilda Swinton on the swany-white cover.
It’s me! the voice said.
The room smelled like snapped pine needles. In my chest, a river was
bludgeoning heavy stones.
Ms. Swinton? I stammered.
Her alien parts and cinnamon hair, I’d always loved her, the queasy look
she gave me!
But the voice came from somewhere closer, near my belly.
You have a problem, the voice said.
I digested this halfway.
I thought hard. I pointed, finally, to the garden.
But our parasite disagreed.
Do you know anything AT ALL, it said, about the history of Mexican
When I woke again, a belt of sun was cinching my eyes. Your bare torso
moved around the kitchen, pouring mate water, stretching. Outside silent
cars were starting up their phony, pre-recorded engines. Safety first! an
automated voice announced.
I raised my head from my cardboard arms. I’d finished the night at the
table with Tilda. Turning my cheek, I followed your movement. Your darker
areolas met the fawn of your chest with the casual kismet of belonging.
I suffered to join their easy glow.
So that’s it, I’m gone, blitzed, finally kaput, I said instead.
Your nostrils tightened.
Gay bars are out! I snapped my fingers to my thumb. I wanted to be back
in your good graces but I resented working for it.
Terry called, you said. Did you really do something as substantially
dumb as that?
I sighed. My relationship to right and wrong had always been murky. I
had a healthy, some said Catholic approach to guilt. But in recent years I’d
begun to wonder if my guilt was so all encompassing as to be irrelevant
to any motive or consequence. The realization stranded me without a barometer.
It was clear, I didn’t trust myself with much. But I was also sure
I could do no wrong. I toed every line almost religiously but was given
to taking wild risks without any forethought at all, then, overcome with
denial, hiding them.
Gabriel, I said, Giga, throwing my arms towards your waist.
I have to go, you said. Work.
A new relationship was being drawn. You worked. I didn’t.
I drifted around the apartment drinking expensive single source coffee
and clicking back and forth between Manhunt and my newest discovery,
YardHard. The homepage was full of popups about “green bums” and “top
tips for hoeing,” but RAT574 seemed to know something:
Him: Man knotweed is Axis of Evil numero uno. You got to be tenacious.
Know how to spell that?
Me: You just did.
Him: Ok first let those suckers get big and hard. Then when they’re dick
thick 😉 😉 😉 you machete off the tops RAMBO-style.
Sun was banking off the window showing all the grease on the thin
RAT574: Got me?????
I twisted on my stool, staring at the yard’s newest growths.
Me: Got you.
Him: Then you dump your kill juice down the stalk.
Kill juice? It seemed extreme.
Me: Can “kill juice” be organic?
Him: No way! Its got2be be poison!
Him: Great band by the way.
When I tried to remember why we’d fought, a gelatinous feeling descended.
I was growing increasingly more wired from the caffeine plus somehow
I was starving. The combo made me pharmaceutically woozy. Had our
parasite, a microorganism who was leeching my precious nutrients, all
those hard-earned dollars spent on kale and handpicked cashews, actually
talked to me last night? Given me a lecture on art? I mean, there was
Rivera of course, and Kahlo to be sure. But that was baby stuff. It was true,
I knew next to nothing about Mexican art!
I depended on you to teach me things. Your father was a writer from the
outskirts of Mexico City. Your mother was an engineer from Ottawa. You
were the New North American: impervious—perfectly sealed off. That was
why one night during our recent trip to Mexico, when we were refueling in
central D.F., I wanted to go out alone. You were so chulo, so natural in the
wide avenidas and plazas that nobody spoke to me and I was anxious to try
out my Spanish.
You stay here, I begged. We had taken over your friend’s newly emptied
Go talk to your abuela or something.
Your father was her baby, which made you in every way preferential.
On the telephone? you said, rolling your eyes. It’s a big city, maricon.
I don’t know, eat flan then.
I was suddenly desperate to be alone.
Grow up, you said. But instead of shoveling into your jacket you watched
At noon it was time to take a Paradex from the naturopath. I grimaced
and unscrewed the cap. Then I walked out into the yard. The season was
changing. It would be light for hours and hours and hours. Pink shoots
raved in the breeze, their heads glistening. They were much taller, already,
My feelings about objects had always been orphic—they penetrated my
deepest levels. It was painful to be alive, I knew. Worse, I was somehow responsible.
Undisturbed—books, stools, rocks etc could fend for themselves.
But my presence troubled the atmosphere. If, while walking, I kicked a rock
but not the rock next to it, I created an imbalance, pointed at a wound. It
then followed, it was the rule, that I turn around and similarly move the
other rock. But what if I touched that second rock (it was bigger and so my
toe needed more force to push it) longer than the first? Things were now
severely out of whack.
Sorry, I’d whisper, retracting my foot at hyper-speed.
Small crises like these followed me everywhere I went. Throwing out a
dirty chopstick if its mate was clean made me pause at the trashcan like an
awful, disloyal god. Other times, lone discarded shoes or cracked bathroom
tiles leered out to me. Don’t notice them! I’d mutter. But their suffering
Now my stomach gurgled but gave no further orders. Above me, a flight
of molting pigeons swooped low. I juggled the pill anxiously. It was sweaty
in my wintersoft palm. As if on autopilot, thinking about nothing, I used
my thumb against the soil to dig a small indent. Then I plopped the dark
gel cap in.
That night the clock dragged. You were late. I went to bed and kicked
around. Our mattress felt like it was filled with overturned traffic cones.
For half an hour, I read about Rufino Tamayo. What, I began to wonder,
did our parasite think of his 1978 work “La Gran Galaxia”? In it the figure
who wore something like a jailbird’s smock, was staring over a bowl of
sea. As if a mirage, the inner pink organelle of his body was reflected out,
shimmering over the blue expanse, while above the horizon line, a luminous
geometry of constellations flexed.
The figure appeared to be yawning.
In quick succession, I sent you some texts.
One said: our parasite’s kicking, is yours?
No response. I continued.
I think I’m having contractions.
Silence. I switched tacks.
What’s eating you? 😉
Tired of looking at an empty screen and the arrow that said slide to unlock,
I turned off my phone.
I dreamt but my sleep was disturbed, watery. In it, I repeated a scene
from my childhood. I had grown up near islands—rocky, fir-smothered
pods on the north-northwest coast. As a kid I often accompanied my father
in his boat.
One morning he woke me up early.
There’s been a wreck, he said.
We went down to Fidalgo Marina. Behind us, the sun simmered up over
the Cascade range. The consensus among the boat owners was: Drunk
Indians. There was a reef between the Lummi-owned Gooseberry Point
and a local casino. During the night, a small Bayliner had hit it going full
The men refilled their styrofoam cups of coffee. Someone handed me
one, topped to the brim. Drunk Indians. A no brainer, everyone agreed. I
was ten or eleven, newly effeminate. I liked to wear a solo rubber band in
the back bud of my hair. I felt a chill and clutched my cup.
As the day went on, more news came in. There’d been six passengers, all
still alive, but some were in pretty bad shape at Harborview and other trauma
hospitals nearby. They’d been ejected forwards from the boat, thrown
like sacks onto the sharp rocks.
Towards evening my father let go of his usual German clamped lip.
There weren’t any deliveries to make. He could be wily, even impish at
times. He closed the engine compartment where he’d been slowly tinkering
at the fuel lines.
Let’s go, he said.
We untied and cut out across the strait. I struggled to nice up the buoys.
I loved helping my father and did it with a silent pride. But I was brimming
with the idea of the wreck. Violent pictures filled my mind. I found myself
searching the waves for a sign of tragedy. In all directions, there was nothing.
The afternoon was calm and hot.
Then the small tan boat tilted into sight. It lay halfway across the reef,
which was, at low tide, a dwarf island.
My father cut the engine and brought in our bow.
Go on, he said. See what’s in it.
I jumped onto the wreckage with a thud. Suddenly alone. I snooped as
best I could. The category “Drunk Indians” dominated. I expected its presence
to look fundamentally different than what my father and his brother
did together with pails of Coors most nights. Fuck you, I muttered. Fuck
you, fuck you. But here was no mess, no beer cans or incriminating plastic
jug of booze. Just a small suitcase on the ripped up fiberglass floor and the
bracing zing of being this far away from land.
Open it, my father pressed, his voice still close to me.
I hesitated. Drugs, I thought. Big plastic bags of coke powder like I’d
seen on TV. My imagination was limited. Money, Uzis.
We were trespassing but my father had his own law.
Queasy, I unzipped the stiff fabric and looked down. A stack of clean
washcloths crouched in the web of the opening, starched and tightly folded.
I poked them. Towels, shirts. The bag was immaculately packed with someone’s
laundry, as if the person who owned it was going on a trip.
Leon! my father shouted.
The tide had flipped and the current was ripping sideways. Our bow
dragged closer to the reef. We were a team, now he needed me. Dutifully, I
What was it? he said, as he slammed us into reverse. Freezing green
water foamed over the transom.
Nothing, I reported, facing ahead.
But that night I was stricken.
I’m sorry, I said again and again to my lowering bedroom ceiling. I’d
done doubly wrong. I’d profited from someone else’s bad time. But worse,
what really concerned me, was that I’d left the bag abandoned with all that
dark water surrounding it—the cloth open, its contents exposed.
I tried to tell you this once but you just shook your head.
Your dad is nuts.
Now it was almost midnight and very hot. I thought about the small
graveyard, a day’s worth of pills, out in the yard. I fuddled with my phone’s
screen. A picture of your face flashed up when I touched your name. Your
hair was short and your jaw was feral.
Is this about Mexico? I jabbed down onto the keys.
In the D.F., having left you, I walked towards the park that I remembered
marking the center of Condesa. Earlier in the day kids had been playing
soccer on the concrete monument. Next to the fountain stood a series of
columns whose plinths were covered in vines that evoked a jungly snarl
without actually being unkempt. Together we’d sipped cans of Bohemia in
The entire trip, you’d been trying to show me something—at least, I
thought you had. In front of me Parque Mexico was blue and empty. I
pulled another can of beer out from under my sweatshirt and sat with my
back to a column’s shaft. I wanted to go to Tropezedo—a club I’d read about
in El Mercurio. Along the path that led out of the park, sodium lamps flashed
on, popping and buzzing into cold arcs. A figure moved between them with
his head down. He seemed to be walking towards me, but without actually
getting much closer or larger.
Watching him, I was furiously sad. We need separate, differentiated
points, I realized, to understand the concept of space. The figure was of
course you and the gap between us was only growing. No matter how hard
you walked, you couldn’t get to me. In between the lights, the shadows
completely overtook you.
My palm was damp, wrapped around the can. I looked down, adjusting
my grip. But when I raised my head again, the figure was suddenly directly
in front of me. He wore Levis and black hi-tops and his hair was long. How
could I have thought he was you?
He paused, shifting from foot to foot. His breath was heavy from the
You want something? he said in English.
These are Megaspores, he grinned, uncapping his palm.
His fingers were smooth and his hands were big. Steam drifted from his
No, I laughed, embarrassed.
Untroubled, he repeated himself and smiled again.
These are Megaspores.
He crouched over me and slipped his hand into mine, so now I was holding
the mushrooms too. We stayed like that under the monument, touching.
Now I was pacing, far from sleep. I pushed into my jeans and a windbreaker,
it was humid out and it seemed like it might rain. I descended into the
subway. There was a stilled train that felt like a mirage of the train I needed
to catch. Lucky. I loped on. Inside, the G was bright and yellow. It dragged
through its dark funicular caverns and at Lorimer, the L platform was for
It’s Friday night, I realized. I considered my options. The problem was
Terry was missing a case of top shelf. He thought I’d fenced it, used it at the
BALLZDEEP party I occasionally threw. The accusation was lazy—easy
to ignore. But the more I thought about the case I didn’t steal, the more I
realized how easy it would be to take.
To my left, the tunnel gaped sourly, waiting to spit out the next train.
Don’t you get it, I’d said to Gerald. We were adrift in the horizonless
midpoint of a happy hour east of A.
Between what I might do and what I did do—there’s no difference at all!
He stared at his brandy hand, planted thickly around his perpetual snifter.
Have you ever eaten Crepes Suzette? he said.
I knew by now that he’d cooked for Samuel, stubbornly brought him
dishes at St. Vincent’s even when Samuel was intubated, practically gone.
I spilled out for another round. Yeah, yeah.
But he described the crepes to me again in careful detail, so careful that
even half-listening, I was sure I could smell them and taste them—the liqueur-
y tangerine syrup, the brown crispness around the broken bubbles
where the batter met the scorching, heavily-buttered pan.
This train was taking forever.
Yo, interrupted a voice I recognized, sounding less like an art professor
and more like an east village court rat.
Yo B-boy. You sure about this Tamayo cat?
I grabbed my gut. Was I sure about Tamayo? I mean, of course I should
dig deeper, I had only just started to research.
Shh! I hissed into my windbreaker pouch.
But he was on stage now, looking for audience.
My cheeks baked. It was my fault, I reasoned. Only I had stopped tak-
ing the pills—you were racing towards health. The more I thought about
it the more it irked me. What was your rush? Let’s convalesce together
baby, I wanted to shout. Yoga retreats, long raw food dinners…once we had
planned to go to meditation on Tuesday nights.
I should get my own life!
I stared at the subway map of Manhattan. It had always looked like the
profile of a big west-facing cock. Now a single beam glared out from the
tunnel. I watched as it grew bigger and bigger to the point of engulfing
me—then suddenly sliced into two.
I emerged through the mechanized subway door at 1st Ave feeling l ike
Gumby. Under my windbreaker, my t-shirt was sweat-logged and I wrung
the left corner of it until my fingers made prints in the cotton. The rest of
me was wiry but no matter how many pullups I did my chest was soft. The
wet fabric pooled there expectantly.
I slid through the turnstile cage with my head down. The message I’d
sent you drifted in space without defense. I jammed my phone from my
pocket, waiting for the signal to show.
It had rained while I’d been underground and a damp tuberous smell
came up from the pavement. I wiped my face, finally street-level. In this
early summer heat and quickly hosed sky, thousands of safety bulbs speckled
the half-built condos: mutant-sized fireflies.
I no longer felt capable of being out. Shapes walked around in the dark
with their shoulders hunched. I checked my phone again: blank. Mindlessly
I logged onto YardHard as I moved. RAT574 ballooned up—he was perpetually
“in the garden.”
Me: nice night.
Him: want to score?
I’d followed Megaspores towards what I guessed was Avenida Michoacan,
trailing at a distance. Lebanese cypress lined the path, shooting upwards,
roughly rimmed by giant palm fronds. He walked briskly. I’d entered an
alternate universe and was meeting an unknown version of myself who
could have easily starred in Cruising.
Branches stretched over us like arms. Stuffed in my pocket, my left hand
prickled where he’d held me. He walked faster, taking a staircase two at a
time towards the corner of the park. His hips were narrow. Exposed, they’d
be sharp. Yours are like that too and when you let me, I grabbed them as if
you were a ViewScope and I was trying to stare inside. I imagined you back
at the apartment moving around with purpose, turning the pages of a book
or licking a joint.
At the top of the stairs, there was a small plaza. Megaspores stopped.
We stood there, again very near. His long hair was oiled, glimmering in the
light. Around us the atmosphere of the city buzzed and blared. I tipped the
rest of my beer down my throat.
Duck pond, he said, pointing to our left. Helpless, my eyes followed.
Where the concrete broke off, there was a dim patch of water and, I supposed,
a fountain. Then he grinned again and under the sodium lamp I
could see the shroom caps hiding between his gums and teeth—he’d been
chewing and chewing as we walked.
Duck pond, I repeated lamely.
Then I was mashing my lips against his open mouth, running my tongue
everywhere. Duck pond, I thought again. His saliva was casting a kind of
spell. Now my mouth was full of wet brown caps. Duck pond, my brain
insisted. The substance was leathery, crumbly, and underneath, fecal, soft.
I shoved him against the cement base of the lamppost. He was my same
height exactly. I felt his hips warm and springy on mine. But this had nothing
to do with him! I was only finishing an act of balancing that he’d started
when we asymmetrically touched. Meanwhile my cheeks had begun to fizz
and swell. I felt full of goop and light. I saw you at the balcony window
waving. You and I hated each other sometimes but together we’d be fine.
Tentigo, Megaspores pointed, laughing.
I shrugged off my hard on. So what? But I was becoming confused about
which parts of me had touched him and which hadn’t. That morning in the
shower you’d bent down wide for me to fuck you but I couldn’t relax and
you’d turned off the water with your hair full of soap.
Now my upper lip was coated in sweat but when I ran my tongue along
it the hairs were sour. He moved farther away. My brain was whirring. He
must know Tropezedo, I thought. Light pooled around him in bright beams.
My nipples pulsed where his chest had been. The distance was suddenly
constant: unbearable. I closed the space with my arms but as if disconnected
from my brain my hands crashed into his t-shirted ribs and crotch and
then whacked at his chest.
I’m hitting you, I heard my voice saying.
I sounded hysterical.
ESTOY fucking PERFORADO.
He sidestepped me easily, dropping to the ground in a kind of squat
thrust. Then he put his face down into the weeds. Beyond my panting I
heard cars and sirens parading the boulevards. Blandly, as if he was at the
clinic about to get a booster shot, he inched his jeans over his chonie-less
I’m Carlos, he said, turning his misty head to me.
I passed through the Friday night party tents and teepees of the East
Village in a hurry. This season everyone was tall and leafy. A girl with
flaming hair smoked under the spastic yellow of Gray’s Papaya. Tilda again.
She was like you. Safe from pain—emotionally no holes at all.
At the corner of C and 10th, I bent over. All those pills in the dirt, now
my bowels were involved. The leftover vegetarian gumbo I’d geniusly eaten
for dinner slushed back and forth. I concentrated on squeezing my ass
closed. Any port in a storm, I thought, whimpering my body through the
fudge-colored door of the Baltic.
I stared around the familiar scape. Behind the long run of oak laminate,
the cracked stools, the bartender’s skin emitted a neon sparkle. The new
guy was just Terry’s type, as twinky as they come.
Hey, I said.
He swished his towel over a chalky spot I’d scrubbed a thousand times
I need the staff bathroom, I said. I work for Terry. I run, you know…
Wincing, I paused, giving him the chance to make something up.
Give me the keys. I stretched out my palm. Right?
I should call Terry.
Casually I rejoined a stray straw to its holder.
You could, I said. In this shitty economy where no one trusts anyone, it’s
one of those things you could do.
I was yelling, The Baltic had become ear-splitting. Out near the dance
floor and the wall gallery of second-rate reindeer heads, a karaoke machine
blared. Someone was murdering Meatloaf. A guy with a bristly beard stood
up on a chair and waved his arms, I would do anything for love! he shouted.
The bartender shrugged. His eyebrows said: I’m hot?
Fields of Japanese Knotweed plowed through my brain. I caught myself
in the long barroom mirror. My eyes looked like meatballs. I thought suddenly
of RAT574. What a guy, he really cared . . . thick-chested, chest-hair
glistening, a warrior with Teutonic strength blasting our personal scourge
from the face of Brooklyn eternal.
Would it really be so bad so have a clean yard? I saw us sitting there in
it, drinking icy things. Weeds are like hair on the body of the earth, I said to
myself. Not personal.
My pocket buzzed. I took a deep breath. One message.
The text bubble popped. I squinted down.
Mexico??? You said.
I took the master key ring and made off into the annals of the bar with my
heart whacking. Past the urinals, the pool table, the broken-off pay phone
and its sharpie forest. I had no idea what I was doing, only that Terry owed
me $50. I stood in the small liquor-barricaded office. $100 scotches stared
I wanted to know. Had you taken Terry’s side? When it came down to
it? Or had you believed me?
It was dawn when I got to the Condesa apartment and the fruit vendors
where unlocking their carts. I slid under the crisp sheet.
How was Tropezedo? you said, petting my abdomen.
Same old pinochas?
But Tropezedo had been black and shiny, practically Scandanavian,
packed with Carlos’s friends and bowls of metallic condoms sitting everywhere
like grapes. Then there was Cockspot and a series of other bars with
similar names. Over the course of the night my body had become big and
dim and I floated in it like a visitor.
The next morning, we left for Oaxaca on a small seven-seater plane. I
sat next to the pilot, a gaucho in polished aviators. As we skidded over the
dark green hilltops, my hands crept under the backs of my heat-pancaked
thighs. My head was in a tequila-made vise. With the co-pilot’s controls
in front of me, I was sure I was about to wrench the plane down into the
Later, at the airport cafecita, you were ebullient.
Did you see it?
My face was gray. Giga, I confessed, staring at your beautifully remote
You grabbed my shoulders as if I was made of rocks.
Earth to Leon, you said, cradling my head, laughing. We landed, we’re
A sick feeling spooled inside me. My vision turned to pixels and points.
Our parasite rammed my sphincter. And my sphincter was just a weak
wall! I could crawl to the bathroom but for what? For once I was exactly
where I needed to be. Sweating, I unbuckled my belt and crouched down.
Hanging my ass back past my heels, I squatted wider, my ankles pitching
forward. This would disgust you. “Raunch factor 10,” you’d say. But what
about Hererra, Bustamente and NO GRUPO? Our parasite and I—we
were careening towards a more conceptual kind of art.
I palmed the cash shelf for balance, breathing with yogic purity. The
carpet smelled of large cat. Forget about order. I opened and a sheet of
water and rice poured out, then I was sure I felt something tug free from
my stomach lining and whoop down the chute. I stared between my legs—I
felt suddenly better than I had in months. Out out! I chanted. In this zen
state I could finally give as much as I wanted and more would come gushing
down to fill the void always.
My phone rang.
I wiped with a discarded bar rag and quickly stood up.
Hello? RAT574 said. He sounded different than I’d expected, breathless
and old, like he’d been sitting for too long with something in his hand.
I eased the office door closed and gave it a quick twist. The Baltic was
blurry, more crowded. Leon! Gerald called from his appointed stool, but
I barely recognized him. I threw the keys in the direction of the bar and
ducked out into the cooling night, shoving the curtain out of my way.
At 14th Street, a wad of guys with gym hats padded past plus all the
regular queens but this time they must have been joking, their makeup
caked thick and droopy.
I dropped down into the 1st Avenue subway.
Drunks plastered the lavender seats. A Poetry in Motion poem attacked
my eyes, then an ad for Botox. Halfway through the tunnel I slammed a
cartoon hand onto my forehead: you were in Chinatown at your brother’s,
a plan you’d made weeks ago, probably under a rollneck of Xbox and bong
It didn’t matter, I told myself. In Terry’s office I’d remembered my only
rule. This rule trumped all others, which perfectly explained the crumpled
shape of my life. As a kid I had another habit. Whenever something was
too ruined, too bereft, or sick—say a saucer with no matching cup, a napkin
mostly unused but with a splotchy stain, a baby mole tugged half-dead by
a dog—I crushed it. More than anything I couldn’t stand to see suffering.
Giga, I said into your voicemail, as I stood on our corner of McGuinness
and Nassau, waiting for who knows what.
I took a breath.
Then I confessed all kinds of things into the flat receiver—disgusting
attachments, lies blotting back as far as I could see, betrayal upon teetering
betrayal—anything and everything that ran into my mind.