Firstly, I feel that I must admit that I finished this book in one sitting. At a positively wrist-breaking and cumbrous 196 pages, each story is profoundly brief but enlightening, with little trinkets of dark humor and self-deprecation folded into every tale. Continue reading
I heard your voice over the phone and I thought I knew where you were and how to tell you.
In the story of other people we aren’t so different. The look you gave me under the boughs was no different from the look other people share under street signs, in the glow of the bar lights, in front of closed windows, in their doorways, their spaces, their own orbitals; we are onlygreener. Only greener.
Looking at the moon in without anything to compare it to, you wouldn’t notice any difference in size. If you want to be involved in this discussion here are the available times: one day past all the others where we don’t talk to anyone else, that time of morning when I do the rounds and water my plants while you make your third coffee, that point of perigee when all we can comprehend is the fact that we are together. Add on that time late at night when I can only stay up and stare at the clock as it ticks away during jazz hour because you are there and not here. I look at the pillow from every angle and wonder if that’s how you really see it or if I just want you to see it like I do.
Last night you weren’t here and I thought the wind was running through the trees so loud that they would fall over and ruin someone else’s life, right there in the middle of dinner, right when they were sleeping, laughing, crying. When they weren’t expecting it. I can sympathize; that’s very much what you did to me, but I was the one who let you in. The wind couldn’t care what I think. The wind never knocks and asks.
The streets were black and wet like crushed velvet. I couldn’t sleep, so I went to the dance hall.
All the girls have single lines on bare legs, dividing the bone. Their teeth are so white and always out. I was held in a necklace of twisting and complicated knots for years and like a finger trap the more you pull away, the more you are pulled back. I left the screen out of my window to make the whole thing easier; it was taking too long to get the damn thing out quietly. No one noticed anyways; who even looks anymore?
I held onto the shirtsleeves at the wrist. Round and round like the water in a washing machine, bubbled with soapy remnants of booze and powder from the bathroom sink. My eyes in the light were big and red, full of the stuff of love if you squint at it. Big and red like the lights, everything glowing and smiling down on me, on us, on all of it. Punch drunk. Drunk drunk. Heart so big it’s gonna burst right of you, darling. Drop like a stone while you dance around it.
Lots of brass and bells. The long dark windows are lined with ferns; it’s a real hothouse in here. My shirt clings and my hair’s fallen out of order, but you don’t seem to mind and I certainly don’t. I didn’t come here to care.
Don’t worry. My pockets are good enough for your hands. My coat is big enough to walk home in. Don’t worry: I’ll be tired in the morning, but I’ll be thinking of you. The water you gave me, the way we were together there under the valentine lights. Those girls, their teeth always out, always so white. Always in the way that nothing ever changes, tomorrow never comes.
Don’t worry, tonight I’ll be dancing with him. Round and round. Always.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but what could you know about voodoo? That’s not yours to know. Try some other things first: take the train, go out to eat. Grow something good. That’s how you do it. That’s how you stay apposite. My apologies for the rude awakening. Someone needed to tell you.
They say that magic is dead once you hit the city. That’s not true; it just goes to the wires. It’s not voodoo; it’s vodou. Rose magic; dark devil. Your own people are cutting you up, selling parts of you in the window next to other southern cuts. But they’re not red, and that’s what matters, that’s what gets the flag of the righteous flying, anointing the butchering of other racks of lamb.
The magic is there in the wires; look: the fuzzy television, the sound between stations, the shock when you touch an outlet. Others can call it what they like: empty frequency or an abundance of the thing, life, electricity. It’s all the same—it’s all that thing which makes plants grow, the phosphorous in the soil you came from.
You polish the silver while your neighbors go missing. First the children, then their parents, then the rest. It’s not about you, it’s nothing to do with you. The asphalt’s hot, but you’ve got to go barefoot to get anywhere at all. Your feet bleed in the evenings, so you wrap old cloth around them until the red shows through—straight through—like holding your hand up to the bare light. The stronger plants are starting to sag under their colossal potential, exceeding their natural limits, so you have to start snapping some matches to prop them up again. When they, too, break, you have to start all over. More matches. More weight. More of the familiar rotation of your thumb in the dip of the spoon. It’s not you. It’s nothing to do with you.
You used to wake to the incessant birds, but now you wake to nothing, really; their throats were slit, their song bled out. With them gone, what are we left with? The noiseless wind, the waves breaking on another shore. The taste of dirt in your mouth, always stuck under calcified scales.
Then there’s the theory on broken windows: if a neighborhood has one, the residents will break the rest. When you open your curtains, the room doesn’t get any brighter. When you’re down there, you stay down there. The dirt is your bed, your bread, your butter. When the white god calls, you have no choice but to answer because at least it’s help, even if the birds are gone and the water has all run black. Rose magic; dark devil.
You sit in a white plastic chair with your feet propped up on the flipped garbage can, watching empty streets and listening for the faraway sound of the car that never comes. The trashmen stopped weeks ago, and now your lawn is litter. The matches have snapped and there’s no one left to ask for more. Your feet are red, the light shining through.
Your neighbors; children first, adults later, then the rest. We put them in a different dirt, a different bed, gave them different bread, different butter. They live with us, so we tell them there’s no magic anymore, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
It’s all the same—it’s all that thing which makes plants grow, rich in that inexplicable phosphoric life, with the smell of boiling urine because that’s what you’re down to now. Look: the litter lawn, the hot street, the light shining through. Look: in the iron rails, in the sound on the streets, in the overgrowth of the green around you. The gum tarred to the sidewalk, the noise of birds, the blue above and the metal below. Look and weep: your bones, your hands, it’s nothing, were nothing, are only eggshells. Keep your feet up. The magic is there.
“Not ALL men…” will inevitably be said by some man, somewhere, in response to the recent news that various multi-national pro-rape rallies will be held on February 6th. And this is invariably correct, not ALL men want to, think about, or will rape someone in their lifetime. But the bigger issue that men need to understand is that this argument—much like “All Lives Matter”—it’s not about you. It’s not about the fact that you in particular wouldn’t rape a woman, it’s about the fact that there are men out there who can, will, and have raped women in their lifetime. So if you will, listen to me. Listen to the women around you. More importantly: listen to what the men around you are saying, and what you can do about it.
The Return of Kings, an all-but-in-name Men’s Rights Activist group, announced the rally with a fetchingly repugnant picture of warriors rendered in Sim-like quality, referring to themselves as ‘tribesmen’, which no doubt appeals to their supporters’ primal sense of patriarchal allegiance. Their leader, Roosh Valizadeh, advocates that feminism has left a legacy of “androgynous men” and engages in what’s colloquially called the ‘manosphere’– a collective of online male writers who show inclinations towards anti-feminist rhetoric and that adopting an uber-masculine attitude will effectively seduce women, putting them, to use that time-worn phrase, ‘in their place’. It all boils down to, as the warrior picture suggests, that real men take what they want. Real men belong on top, where they’ve always been. Real men don’t let women dominate them, or surpass them in areas they typically control. Rape, the utter violation of another person, is how you stay on top. It doesn’t matter what women want, and it doesn’t matter that society condemns them; they’re renegades, and they are righteous because of it.
Again, I can hear the protests: “not all men are like that”. This should be disturbing enough that there ARE men like this, verbally asserting themselves that they ARE like this, that they do exist, and while you may not think the same way, as a man it is your responsibility to challenge this mentality. It’s not exactly feasible to say that if women counteract this behavior, if we make the right arguments, say the right things, we could change their minds. As frustrating as the fact is, men will listen to other men when it comes to topics like this. It is not enough to protest that “not all men” believe in this hate speech and the ideology that women are and should be inferior to men. All this does when men say this is to propagate the myth that what women are saying is unimportant because what you, the man, has to say is more valuable; that the man takes exception to be included with other men who do not share his viewpoint. This is not addressing the issue; this is addressing the man’s need to be seen as superior. While women welcome helpful male allies, this is not the way to be one.
Here’s how you, if you are a man and you believe in helping women, can be a good ally: call out the men who do think like Roosh Valizadeh, and call them out to the extent that they understand that this is not the way that real men act. Respect the women around you, hear what they are saying and try and understand why they are saying it. Stop saying “not all men are like that”, because that is just avoiding the issue, and it’s indicative that even if you aren’t like that, you’re doing nothing to stop the men who are, and that’s part of the problem.
If you’re reading this and harbor similar viewpoints to the Return of Kings, then nothing I can say will change your mind, much as I’d like to. As the physicist Max Planck once said, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Ultimately, what you think concerning the true place of a woman won’t matter, because you’re going to die, and so will your outdated attitudes. Times are changing, and they’re going to leave you behind where you belong.