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Authors: Sam Pink

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BOOK: Rontel
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I thought about walking up and putting my arms around them.

Then look back and forth between their faces, yelling, “Me too, I love pot-pies, haha!”—and continue looking back and forth between their faces.

I just wanted to be close to their faces.

Kiss the one-eyed lady once—a quick kiss on the lips.

Boom.

How do you feel.

I changed you.

You’ll remember me.

The thought of me will grow inside you until my head bursts out from the hole in your face and I kiss you again.

Boom.

Lovely faces.

Lovely, lovely faces.

Life is the equation for more and more faces.

Addition.

Everything getting added.

Where the sum doesn’t change.

A truly pointless equation where what happens happens and moves you towards the end where you supplement another section of the equation, faceless and weak and irrelevant.

Scary!

The “WALK” signal flashed and I continued down Western.

I put my fingers in my ears and softly said, “Scary,” and it sounded loud and bass-heavy in my head.

Then I said, “Uhhh” a few times, my fingers still in my ears.

It was fucking funny.

*

97 degrees out according to a bank LED sign.

Which meant with humidity it was like 110.

I walked on down Western Avenue and found myself changing thoughts rapidly, attempting to stop each one before it happened fully.

Saw thoughts coming at me like little birds on fire, and I dodged or parried each one.

Some I dodged by moving my head to the left or right, some I dodged by lifting my right or left shoulder up enough to deflect them.

Some came fast and some came lazy, undeveloped, and sideways.

Others I ducked under with ease, smiling.

Because few were ever helpful.

Most just recurred and made me feel terrible.

Episodes.

Recycled in my head at frequencies causing great pain and discomfort.

The terrible divide between trying and being ready to try.

The training.

Which never worked because it was never the thing actually happening.

Sweating.

Worried I could never be myself because of always having to account for so much else.

An airplane flew low overhead, heading toward O’Hare.

And I said “scary” again and the sound of the plane covered it.

And I vividly recalled a scene from a fur-hunting video I saw where a man stepped on the head of a fox/lemur/something and his boot crushed the animal’s head and blood came pouring out both nostrils in perfect streams.

*

A block before the Blue Line I passed a tree on the sidewalk.

In the square of dirt around the tree, a dead cat lay on its side.

The carcass was beat the fuck up.

Mouth open.

Eyes gone.

Tail stripped.

The rest of the hair on it looked harshly slicked down in one direction.

First thing I thought was that someone had “peeled out” on top of it—like in a car where you press the gas pedal down while idling, then put the car in gear to make the tires peel off on the ground.

That seemed funny to me—someone “peeling out” on a dead cat.

And for a few seconds, the thought of someone peeling out on a dead cat made me completely lose my mind.

Anybody in Chicago could’ve robbed me or murdered me or whatever and I wouldn’t have known what to do.

Insane!

I turned to watch a person behind me discover the cat carcass.

She looked at it and made a face and then looked back up.

We made eye contact.

I smiled and raised my eyebrows twice in quick succession.

Couldn’t stop thinking about someone “peeling out” over a cat carcass.

And how I’d have to watch, even if I closed my eyes to it.

How the mouth of the cat carcass would shake terribly at me as the tire spun.

And how, yeah, it’d be fucking awesome if a magic key came out of the cat’s shaking mouth—a magical key that took me on a magical journey and ended up, somehow, with me being born as a baby eagle but like, with the mind I have now (why not).

Nearing the subway entrance, I noticed myself raising my eyebrows twice in succession again, but not to anyone—to the ground, to my feet, to Chicago, Illinois.

My feet look weird—I thought, inhaling my first breath of piss smell from the subway entrance.

*

On the Blue Line towards the Loop, I sat down and took out a granola bar I’d stolen from my girlfriend’s roommate.

Her roommate had accused me—to my girlfriend—of eating her food.

Which was untrue.

But then because of how hurt I was by the accusation, I started eating her food.

Yes.

Haha fuck off.

I smiled to myself and stared forward, nodding.

For some reason I kept the granola bar close to me, like I didn’t want anyone to see it.

Felt stupid to eat in front of others maybe.

Not sure.

Or no, it was because I kept expecting someone to walk up and say, “You should’ve brought enough for EV’ryone”—punching me on the “EV” syllable, hard enough to cause a bad cut on my face, and then the granola bar would drop to the floor of the train wherefrom nothing returned—and I’d sit in the seat, one side of my head against the window, hand covering the side badly cut from the punch delivered by a person upset about me not sharing—cowering against the train window holding my battered, cut face, grinding my teeth with my eyes closed.

A few seats down, two kids and their mothers sang the alphabet song.

A lot of people in the car clapped at the end.

Minutes later the kids started singing it again and the moms only half sang and there was less clapping.

I didn’t clap either time.

*

I got off the Blue Line train and went down the stairs into the transfer.

In the long, tiled tunnel between the Blue Line and the Red Line, I imagined flames slowly building at each end of the tunnel, with no time or way for me to get out on either end.

So I just stand there screaming and flames fill the tunnel.

Quickly filling the entire tunnel.

You should’ve brought enough for EV’ryone.

*

People could perform on the platform area between Red Line trains.

Today there was a man singing.

I’d never seen him.

He was wearing a fisherman’s hat, two white gloves, and a denim vest with denim shorts.

He sang through a microphone plugged into a small PA speaker by his feet.

The PA speaker loudly amplified a slow drumbeat and bass guitar.

There was a tip jar on the ground.

The singer took a few steps forward.

In front of the speaker stood a little boy who was barely able to walk.

Singer said, “’At’s my son, eyr-one. Say hi.”

Nobody said hi.

I said hi in my head.

The kid looked two.

He was making unsteady single and double steps in front of the PA speaker, eating a small bag of chips.

The music was so loud but he didn’t seem scared.

He just danced, eating chips.

Then he started bouncing up and down, bending at the knees.

Classic baby style.

I felt like turning to the girl next to me and saying, “Ah,
class
ic baby style.”

The singer wearing the fisherman’s hat and denim vest finished the song.

He breathed hard into the microphone.

He said, “Woo, Chi-town. We g’in too hot. Ish shit too hot. My hands burnin’ up on this mic hurr. Damn it.”

And he continued to talk in a way that indicated he was delaying.

Then a phone-ringing sound played through the PA speaker.

The singer said, “Oh, ho-don, I’m
so
so sorry Chicago, I gossa take this.”

He reached down to the ground and picked up an old housephone receiver, cord dangling.

He had a conversation with his “woman” while his son stared off—not dancing anymore—just staring off with his finger in the side of his mouth.

I watched him.

If he drops the chips, the chips are mine—I thought.

Yeah, take the chips if they fall.

Act like you’re going to pick the bag up for him then scurry off like a little bitch, eating the chips in such a way that they fall from your mouth, disgusting.

The singer talked with more excitement.

He said, “Oh baby what was you doing b’fo? I almost hung up on you. Oh—oh you was, you was making a hot beef and uh, bologna sandwich? Oh ok, well, well haha you still coming over t’night? Oh ok good, then make sure you brang me, uh, summa that—” then he yelled, “HOT STUFF.”

Which then segued into a song where the lyrics were, “Looking for some hot stuff baby this evening/Looking for some hot stuff, baby, tonight.”

The singer thrust his crotch forward once to each syllable in “HOT STUFF.”

And for a second his kid looked like he was about to cry—finger in mouth, eyes pinching up.

But then this girl a few years older came and danced with him.

And he smiled and danced with her, taking his finger out of his mouth.

Accidentally dropped the chips.

A group of kids all wearing the same high school gym uniforms walked up, cheering.

Other people gathered too.

I moved forward to get a better view.

This kid is so awesome—I thought.

And will one day grow to be a man.

Will one day eat more chips.

The song ended with a lot of chime sounds and then the singer was wiping his head with a bandana, foot up on the PA speaker.

His son continued dancing even though there was no more music.

Just bending up and down at the knees.

People cheered.

One guy had his hand up to his mouth, yelling, “Ooh ooh.” He slapped his leg a little. “Shit,” he said. “Aw shit. Check out dude. Dude crazy.”

Someone else said, “Too cray. He bout ta fall out.”

Everyone was laughing and cheering.

I stood there smiling.

Down the platform a man in a fabric hotdog suit was handing out coupons.

No one talked to him.

Something about the man in the fabric hotdog suit bothered me.

But I didn’t know what.

I thought—Hotdog man, I’ma fucking get you, don’t worry.

“Uh oh,” someone said. “Little dude getting fierce nah.”

The kid’s pace had increased.

Someone turned to me and hit my arm and said, “You seeing this.

This motherfucker—he a mobsta.”

Someone next to him said, “
This
dude lethal.”

“Yeah this dude is lethal,” I said, not that loud.

Sometimes I would just repeat things to people as a way to allow the conversation to keep going.

By saying the same thing the person just said, I’d sustain the thought, rather than interrupt it with whatever I had to add, which probably wasn’t anything I wanted to add.


Lethal
,” the person said again. “Somebody arrest’zis lil nigga.”

His friends laughed.

The singer said, “You have the right to remain LEEEEEEETHAL.”

Someone from the crowd yelled, “Chi-town LETHal!”

Other people yelled.

The kid put his finger in his mouth again, still dancing.

Someone else said, “Oooh, he tryn some sexy shit now.”

“He’s lethal,” I said again, looking at the ground a little, searching for the chips.

Someone said, “Them little legs is all like jellyfish.”

The singer started another song and people watched his son dance a little longer before trains arrived and everyone boarded.

The guy in the hotdog suit, still there.

He was in a conversation now, holding out a coupon pamphlet.

The person hadn’t taken it.

Yes, hotdog man.

Yes.

Yes, do this.

Do this dirt, my man.

Make them take the pamphlet.

Make them realize they want it.

BOOK: Rontel
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ads

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