The snake you thought was dead uncoils

Hello, liquor store, it’s just me. Me in the parking lot, me and the homeless people who materialized from nowhere at the stroke of 10:00. I saw the first lady walk up in my rear view mirror just after I caught the flicker to life of the open sign. We all sauntered up inside, all trancelike. Like a dog whistle version of the church bells. It actually made me sort of proud. I felt real kinship. I can rationalize my own behavior by reminding you I am working the night shift, and have been awake today since 3 am. The night shift, I am discovering, justifies all sorts of strange behavior. Anyway, I’d only been waiting a couple of minutes.

I moved to an apartment they deal heroin out of. At least, I think it’s heroin. I haven’t tried to buy anything yet. But yeah, at least a few days a week, this place is Open for Business. This is good to me. The other people that live here keep dropping little portentous details, big provocative things. “Since I went bankrupt and lost my house, I’ve been living in motels and places like this.” “I moved in here six months ago—worst mistake of my life. I regret it. I’ll tell you later. *deep sigh*”

Not that I’m worried. Like I said, I like this. I’m living alone, and I prefer that a lot to living with the last guy. He had hella coke and ecstasy, but the thing was, he didn’t share. One of many problems I had with that guy. But I am beginning, after some three weeks, to feel very established at the new place. I have nails for the windows. Allies in the building. I’ve been invited to the dirtiest little parties that you ever did see. There’s also a community garden, for strawberries, and good kush. Tomatoes sprouting in abundance. An ice chest full of beer made out of golden wheat. My dad is worried; he asked me if any children lived here. I gave him the best answer that I could, based on what information that I had, and said, “Sometimes.” Hell if I know. I don’t give a shit. Rob me if you want some decent books.

I have made advances in the world of writerering, which is neat. I’m writing for Zergnet now, for a panoply of sites. It’s one of those organizations that’s responsible for the links you tend to get at the bottom of a lot of websites; lists and things you won’t believe. Good place to kill time. So if you happen to see my byline there, it’s me. We are the content creators, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

I’m also immensely excited to announce that a short story of mine, “The Killer and the Star”, will be appearing in the pages of the horror quarterly magazine Dark Moon Digest, on shelves wherever books are sold this July 1. This is a quality magazine, full of quality work, and also me. It’s available as well on Amazon. I don’t get any more money off it either way, but I encourage you to check it out. I think my story’s pretty good. It’s about this dude, who’s really fucked up? And he like, has done some shit. And he’s gonna do more. And there’s a movie involved. I don’t know, it’s among the better things I’ve written. Satisfying, not unlike a particularly bracing burp.

Thank you for reading. Til next time, I remain adrift at sea.

A Journey Through the Sandwiches—Club Sandwich

They unclip the velvet rope as you swagger in, entering a smoky anteroom beneath a purple awning that reads, in cursive, Herve’s. A song is playing with a beat that throbs, the melismatic voice of a female singer stretching out over an ethereal soundscape, like waves crashing on the shore of a cosmic beach. The bouncer looks past you, unsmiling, the knot of his tie at the height of your head, gold rings with diamond inlay on his fingers suggesting a sort of aristocratic menace. Those diamonds have had blood cleaned off of them before. So has the floor, come to think of it, invisible though it is in the dim light. You’re all but ignored on entry, but this just means that you’re welcome—the fact you haven’t already been tossed out to the curb means you are, indeed, a valued member of the club. The ease of entry is a perk. To a certain set of the elite, Herve’s is meant to feel like home.

The elevator has no buttons—it goes down if you’re allowed, a kind of second barrier to keep out the occasional fraud. Either the elevator is slow, or the club is unfathomably deep—nobody knows. Even in public records, Herve’s is an utter mystery—no blueprints, no paperwork. Officially, it doesn’t exist. Do you know the sort of price it takes to make a place like this so invisible?

At the bottom, security steps up again—three bouncers, this time, men with the stature of gorillas in custom Valentino suits. These gentlemen are more congenial—if you’ve gotten this far, the last checkpoint is a formality.

“Miss Szabo.”

You raise your Oscar de la Renta sunglasses—the ones that you found at a Florida bus stop. You tip up your chin to the trio. “What’s good?”

You are guided down a spiral staircase, ever deeper into the belly of the city, down beneath even the sewers, where the core of the earth is more deeply felt than the warmth of the sunny sky. Now the music is a flouncy thing, a throwback track, live from the main stage, now visible over the silver banister. You pause for a moment to take a pull off of your vaporizer, your prized Cloud EVO with the ruby inlay, and personalized embossing in gold ink—я не буду целовать тебя до утра; to my princess of the West.—TimurBelow, a youthful singer with a radiant glow is swinging his way across an opulent stage, bordered by a proscenium that would not look out of place in ancient Rome at its most decadent height. He is singing a brassy version of a classic tune, hypnotic to your ears, uplifting to your soul, as though it were all just for you.

Life’s a bitch, and then you die / That’s a-why we get high / ‘Cause you just never know / When you’re going to go…

She calls your name from the middle of the floor, your usual table, with an unusual crowd—save for her. It’s a typical weekday evening at Herve’s, not full, not raucous, but still with a sense of constrained menace, as though the club were really a ballroom on a supersized palatial ship, traversing dangerous seas. You recognize her by the glint of her emerald necklace, a twenty-stone antique rumored to be worth upwards of thirty million dollars—it’s Mana Hitomi, pride of Tokyo, dancer, billionaire, lover, poet.

Down on the club floor, you feel at home—through a trick of the lighting, the walls seem to stretch upwards endlessly into a starless sky. Every table is a legendary tale all to itself—some of these people are supposed to be dead. Where they go in the daytime, no one knows, or at least you don’t—there are avenues the rich may walk that most don’t know exist, even those who would like to think they’re of the flock. Many of these people have unfamiliar names—it’s been quite the challenge, they would tell you, to keep it that way. You pass by one table, recognizing a face, and simply can’t resist making a comment, starstruck and bashful. You lean in close to his ear, hoping that your intrusion will be forgiven. “I loved your last album,” you whisper, placing a delicate hand upon the artist’s shoulder. He touches his fingers to yours. “In case you haven’t heard,” you continue, “everybody else did too.”

“What did Pitchfork say?” he asks.

You wince a little, inflate the number. “You got a nine. Nine point zero. Best New Music.”

The artist winces, turns away. At least you had that fleeting exchange—even if you were to now be banished for a perceived indiscretion, that alone would have been worth it, to your beloved niece and nephew, Roya and Jim. “You’re the coolest aunt,” they tell you, in your dreams.

Mana greets you with two kisses on the cheeks, which you return, with compliments. “You smell fantastic.” She does.

Bashful, a little drunk, she lowers her head. “Aw, thanks.” She leans in close. “Sorry about last night.”

The sensuality of the moment is suddenly thick as the ocean is deep. “Don’t apologize to me,” you whisper. “Apologize to the state of Virginia.”

You both blush—Lord willing, you’re going to marry that girl someday. She introduces you around the table.

“This is Rocky Cabot, first astronaut to walk the moons of Saturn.”

You shake his hand. “I hadn’t realized we’d done that yet.”

He winks, and smiles with a set of perfect teeth. Truly, out of this world. To call him soap-star beautiful would be maybe getting at only half the truth of it. “I’ll have to take you sometime.”

Mana continues, clockwise. “Jennifer Mezzaluno—her family invented handwriting.”

You extend your arm across the table, but she only deeply nods. It’s not rude. “Is there a lot of money in that?” you ask. “Handwriting?”

The table laughs, as though the answer is obvious. You smile, proud of your accidental humor.

“And this is Malia Obama.”

“Hi.”

“Oh, I know you,” you say, shaking her hand. “You’re extremely tall.”

Music fills the awkward silence.

Pack a four-matic that / Crack your whole cabbage!

“Anyway.” You take a seat at Mana’s side. “What it do, boo?”

“We’re drinking whiskey recovered from the wreck of the Titanic,” she says. “It’s on special.”

“Cool, cool,” you remark, as she provides you a liberal pour from a crystal decanter. “But, c’mon. You know what I’m really talking about.”

She leans in again, her lips brushing against the very outer skin of your ear, tickling irresistibly. If you don’t get to do some fucked-up shit with her in the club bathroom tonight, you’ll just feel borderline betrayed.

“The waiter will bring it by shortly,” she whispers. It makes your body shiver—you’re embarrassed to be so obviously smitten in open company.

This was all you needed to hear. The stars have aligned for a perfect night. Whatever you did to deserve this is a mystery to you more than anyone else.

The singer finishes to applause, bowing deeply, and withdrawing backstage as the lights go up in deep blue tones on a silhouetted harpist, singing “Hallelujah”.

And then you catch it on the air. The smell, the synergy, the sizzle.

The sandwich.

A waiter drops it off like a silent specter, plated just so on flatware that costs more than a human life. The Herve’s Club Sandwich, described in song and story—and on the menu—as “the pinnacle of all creation.”

Nothing differentiates the Herve’s Club from the typical style, at least in regards to the ingredient selection—the simplicity is a part of its charm. Herve’s is a classy place—they know some things don’t need fixing.

Baby, I’ve been here, before / I’ve seen this room, and walked this floor / I used to live alone, before I / Knew you…

Toasted wheat, charred and blackened just to the moment before burning in the center, encasing the treasure within—chicken breast, juicy and tender, its texture contrasting with bacon just crisp enough to crunch, and break at a modest bite. Lettuce as green as Mana’s brilliant necklace, snapping between your teeth with a sound like twigs breaking underfoot in a tranquil forest. Tomatoes of the perfect thickness, uniform, sliced with atomic-level accuracy as though with a knife guided by laser beams.

“And this mayonnaise,” you say, an ecstatic, unmannered moan around a mouthful.

Mana puts a finger to your lips. “It’s vegenaise, love. With a little honey mustard in a squiggle on the top. For you.” She brushes a crumb from the edge of your mouth, where it is promptly swept up from the floor by a waiting attendant.

As fantastic as the sandwich is, you all but drop it on the plate in your haste to stand. This has become too much to bear. You take Mana by the hand. “If anyone wants this pickle,” you say as you retreat with her, “Tough shit, billionaires. Get your own.”

You sprint off to the restrooms with your paramour, and by the dictates of decorum, we politely exit here.

Youtube Rabbit Hole: Jeff Buckley—Lover, You Should’ve Come Over

Photo Credit: Delicious TV

 

all that’s missing is you

4:14 in the new apartment, morning hours with the fading sheen. Pulled a cabinet door right off its hinges, earlier—the wood that held the screws in is ancient by American standards, totally pulverized. Less wood than paper, at this point. It would’ve been old in my grandfather’s time, if he moved in here at my age.

The gas oven doesn’t have temperature indicators—I suppose in the old days, they just guessed. And it might not be conventionally possible to stop the bathtub here in order to, you know, take baths. That was one of the main reasons I moved out of a roommate situation! So I could boil myself blotto for hours in a steaming rosewater soup of me, liberally salted with Epsom, evaporating, like, nine pounds. So this in particular was a big, big oversight on my part. I’m starting to think that the lifestyle I like to describe for myself as “pragmatic and cavalier” could more accurately be described as “bleep blop bloop doop, booger eater, mouth fart.”

These aren’t complaints, I just find it funny. Smdh, as it were. I’m never gonna not be bad at the practical realities of living. I truly need some kinda keeper.

Writing from my phone for now, biding my time til I can size up the financial reality of this thing. That, at least, I’m okay at. I don’t need much. A stack of bricks, a hammock, the essentials. The rapper Jellyroll describes this type of Spartan living along the lines of whiskey, weed, and Waffle House. I can co-sign that.

One thing I am loving, though? This air conditioner is on point. Sure, it only cools one room, but you could borderline store elk meat in this room. I’m talking, like, a hotel air conditioner—you know what I mean? A human being refrigerator. It’s as loud as a dual-engine Cessna. I don’t even give a shit.

Also, if I ever want to develop a heroin addiction, I’m pretty sure I just have to go next door. It’s wonderfully convenient, man. Down on Quincy. Y’all come fuck with me in my house of pain.

Anyway, this night shift thing has made my relationship with sleep abusive. I still haven’t gotten a handle on it. There may be no routine possible. As someone who has always been on the eight-plus hour side of the sleep-I-need spectrum, I don’t think in the last month I’ve managed more than four in a single stretch, not typically. I’m still alive, still functioning, and some people have real problems, but this is definitely gonna shave a few years off of the end of things for me, at this rate. 

Again, not complaining! It’s just strange. It’s 4 am on my day off, and it’s like my body is forgetting how to fall asleep in a peaceful way. Lately I’m living the difference between shutting off your laptop and letting the battery run out—I’m running out my battery. I just go, and go, and go, getting ever more threadbare in function, power saving, until suddenly, just like that, gone. Could be in the middle of anything. Doesn’t matter. Gone instantly. For like, four hours.

I’ve got a grip of fun stories that I’m working on now that I’m looking forward for you to read—four different fiction things, never before seen. It’s gonna be a couple months, but I think you’ll like them. Some are sad, some are funny—at least, they try to be. If that’s your sort of thing, you’ll see. If that’s not your sort of thing, cool. Thanks for being here, regardless.

Hey, do you guys wanna know how much money I have? Because it’s nine dollars and twenty-three cents. I know. In one month I turn twenty-six. Some people in this world would freak the fuck out at that sort of thing, but me? I’m cool with it. I’m a REAL American—broke. 

This election makes me want to flay my skin off. I sort of feel like everyone feels that way. But please, let’s all be sure and continue to put our dumb opinions on this dark carnival in our mindless small talk every day. I’m sure it’s not horrid for our health to do that, disagreeing with each other all the time. It’s not making us want to violently murder each other at all.

You and I share an essential humanity. Our pains, our fears, are similar. The funny thing about people is, in all our infinite diversity, when it comes to the things that scare us, bring us joy, or keep us up at night, you and I are a lot closer than it sometimes feels. Stare in my eyes, connect with me. No matter what you may be feeling, you are never the first, and never alone. Be at peace. Selah.

Youtube Rabbit Hole: Eat to Live

Photo Credit: It was I—Sarah “Tooter” Szabo