Among Friends 

Today is hot? Says the girl in leather. 

Today is cold! Says her friend in white. 

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Getting Somewhere 

A small lady carrying a bag talks on the phone in a foreign language while a man carrying an iPad pretends to listen to music. It’s early on Saturday morning and someone is regretting their brunch reservation. A woman stands up further down the train and starts a practiced rant. Your stop comes up and you leave, thinking about next year. There are more of them outside and you see the ones doing something interesting for a second and then they, too, fade.

The Time We Sat Together

There was a chair in the corner facing the wall and I figured there was some meaning to it. “Look at that chair,” I said to my friend, well, I call him my friend but only for convenience sake. I knew him too well to be an acquaintance and cared for him too little to be a true friend.

But we all have those.

And my friend, an old man with long whiskers and garish green sunglasses said to me a most curious thing.

“I will not look,” he said. “I never look upon the dead.”

Certainties

Jan’s tax returns had to be filed by seven o’clock because then she was leaving for Anchorage, Alaska and she wouldn’t be back before the fifteenth. This thought consumed her as she stared across the East River into Manhattan. A man behind her said something that she ignored and then she was falling. It had been a senseless world after all, she thought.

A street mural of a girl thinking.

Our Last Night, You and I

An unfinished building at night with glare from street lights.

Did you imagine you knew, did you think for any amount of time, did you, in all likelihood you did, at this point I’m being extra dramatic out of disbelief. You couldn’t have possibly known what the night meant, but you walked around with that dreadful camera taking low resolution pictures of everything like you were at some kind of a zoo.

An unfinished building at night with glare from street lights.Who does that? You do, you fucking psychopathic.

Asberger’s.

Poster child.

What.

Is wrong with you?

You know what? It doesn’t even matter what’s wrong with you, it really doesn’t…it so doesn’t matter because we’re done here. Just stay away, keep your weird shit out of my space so I can try to forget you exist.

And they were all like you that night. Because that’s what you do, infect people.

I don’t even know why I have to…

I don’t have to. Fuck it, fuck you, fuck your camera, you know what. Give me that fucking camera you sick…

Nevermind. Fuck it. What’s done is fucking done I don’t give a fuck I don’t take any of it back and at the same time I’m never going back and thanks, by the way, for ruining the night.

That Island In Your Former Life

It was a cold black morning in the northern hemisphere on an island created by a volcano. In those days it was always cold and black in the morning and there was a man who tended to the ashes of last night’s fire. He came around before you’d wake up, your feet were exposed near him and he would cover them with a thick scratchy blanket. His mother had given him the blanket before she died. She died a horrific death.

You wouldn’t want the blanket, you’d leave notes for the man, “Please, keep your blanket for yourself.”

But the man would never listen. He didn’t want you to die, for some reason, maybe because if you did, he’d be out of a job. And his mother had died from a case of cold feet, or that’s what he’d been told. He’d taken it literally, basically because he was a little slow in the head, and that’s why the only job he could get was tending the ashes of your old fire.

You’d wake up to a roaring fire and a scratchy death blanket.

You don’t remember that you watched TV for hours every night. That you squandered all those free nights on TV and arguments. That you came up with weird plans for writing that took everything into account but actually writing shit down. That you got hot with alcoholic headaches, that you ran after busses and stayed in bed and had sex in the afternoons.

A few people in those times went willy-nilly into the night like dragon faced gargoyles with no self respect. They came back later to confirm their dental appointments. One of the guys was experiencing the sensation of chewing on nails whenever he drank fruit smoothies.

But maybe that happened to everyone eventually. Maybe that was the point of it all, to realize your capacity for savagery, and to take steps to end your life before it all got too damn depressing and you found yourself sleeping on a pile of dead cats.

John Drives to Mississippi to Meet Hughes and Little Frankie

The air in lower Tennessee on Tuesday morning was bracing but getting warmer by the minute. John was driving south straight and fast in a white Camaro with no top. He could taste the Mississippi River in the criss-crossing currents of wind. He had both hands on the steering wheel, half a cigarette in his teeth, and Dylan’s new hit on the radio.

He thought of the coal miners. He thought about stopping in town and staying a while. He imagined getting to know the men who descended into the earth every day. Did they shower in the morning?

He slowed down and swung wide around a build up of trucks waiting in line at the first gas station he had seen all day. He glanced at the gages. A quarter tank left. He downshifted and slammed on the accelerator, spitting the last of his cigarette over his shoulder.

A half an hour later he crossed the border into Mississippi and pulled over behind a black sedan.

He grabbed the worn out duffel bag from the passenger’s seat and stepped out of the car.

He opened the back door of the sedan and got in, putting his bag on his lap and taking out a pack of cigarettes.

A fat man in the front passenger’s seat asked, “Did you drive the whole way with that top down? It’s not even forty degrees outside.”

The driver said, “What kept you?” He started the car and continued the south.

“Couldn’t be helped,” said John as he lit up.

The driver had a handlebar mustache and dead eyes. His name was Randall Hughes. His passenger was a man known only by his nickname, Little Frank, and as the son of the legendary bootlegger Frank the Fox.

“What’s the job?” asked John.

“Another convoy,” said Hughes. “Armed escort is bigger than the last one, but manageable. I heard you ran into trouble in New Jersey.”

“Ran into a lot of trouble since,” said John.

“Makes me wonder,” said Little Frank.

“Makes you wonder about what?” asked John.

“About you.”

“We can’t imagine how you avoided prison,” said Hughes.

“The United States justice system protects freedom of the press. You boys’d know that if you’d’ve went to school once in a while.”

Little Frank laughed and looked back at John. “I still wonder.”

“Wonder if you want,” said John, turning to the window. “United States justice system protects the freedom to do that, too.”

“What do you think, Hughes?” asked Little Frank.

“I think it’s a bad idea having a reporter around and I’ve thought so from the start, Frankie. It’s you and Perch the reason he’s here.”

“You’ve no sense of history,” said Little Frank.

“You’ve a fat ass,” said Hughes.

John stretched his legs and leaned his head against the window. The humming of the road and Little Frankie’s labored breathing lulled him into sleep.