City of Lights
The sound of Musette coughing up blood spunks Adam from his funk.
“You’re alive!” He cries.
She tells him it takes more than saviors popping out of her vagina to take her out.
Together they stuff her umbilical innards back inside of her. She’s looking pretty nasty. More than usual. Half her blood has been drained. She has to suck two doses from her child’s crushed skull before she can stand. But she’s strong. Jigalettes were made for facing death. And she’s got a journey to continue. No time for crying.
“We’re only a few miles from the city.” She says. “I’ve had enough rest for one lifetime.”
The City rises to meet them as they walk. The buzz of its crackling luminescence hums an urbanized oasis song.
They are silent as they enter, their senses overloaded. Towering edifices of glitz and glam swing animatronically. Their vision is held. Speaker pumped coinage showers their ears in enticements. A liquid herd of people engulfs their bodies and controls their pace.
There are advertisements everywhere: face painted mimes, crack addled tatter beings, bards of various musical persuasions, and hordes of drained drunks holding out exposed penises primed for catching pity. Three-Six-Mafias, with baggy jeans and back pocket dew rags indicate on treasure maps the location of all the nearest head shops, strip clubs, bootie bars, and for an added price, a rated list regarding the city’s best and worst alleyways for purchasing illegal substances down. Carnies with shepard canes lull mothers into Tony award winning Broadway plays, grandmothers into four star retirement packages, tycoons into free falling roller coasters, idolaters into wax museums, and everybody else into a café wherein they can purchase a serendipitously gold flaked ice cream cone for the mere price of half a mortgage and some self-dignity.
Every sidewalk in the city turns into a tunnel of insect people whose jaws crack spinning mouthfulls of spoke attached playing cards around clicking tongues, slapping a city wide bulletin upon their thighs, informing tourists that an erotically good time is just a phone call away.
Adam and Musette are syphoned in. There is no escape, no breach, no choice in direction. One must pass through these tunnels to enter a casino.
“Welcome to Aphrodite’s Aeneas – the most succulent casino in the city. May I check any baggage for you?” says a balding man.
“I think we’ll be okay… but thank you.” responds Adam.
“You do not have any guilt you would like surfaced before entering our iniquitous den? It is sort of a tradition in the city. Call it a superstition if you like…”
“Oh… I see… It’s probably a good idea actually… Give me a moment. It’s not that I have nothing to confess… It’s just that I don’t know how comfortable I feel declaring anything out loud, here… in such a public place as this… in front of my girlfriend – my guilty thoughts; you understand…”
“Take your time…”
“If I have something to confess, do you really think that it will affect my luck?” Adam asks.
“I make no guarantees.” Responds the bagman.
“Well, it’s worth a shot I guess… Here it goes… But you have to understand, I’ve never told this to anybody … Only my journal knows what I’m about to say:
Once, when I was sixteen – a young buck sizzling in the most intense phase of puberty, back when I was what you might call a boner toting libido, back when my primary weapon was a slap action jack-off whack speed swift enough to whip the make-up off even the most celluloid entrenched of Cinemax nudes – my parents left me alone in their goodly house, the house wherein I was raised, the place that propagated upon every wall and down every hallway moral standards, the place that stitched into the underclothing of both sexes primary carols, and masonic symbology for protection against satanic temptation, the place which promoted a prohibition of all pleasures, the absence of alcohol in every cupboard, the abolition of cigarettes, the complete sanctification of curse words from mouths, where sixteen was the most dangerous age, home alone, free as a deer, I was able to express myself and my demons without the weight of intrusive eyes or intrusive regulations. I stripped myself nude as a savage and ran through the halls whooping barbarian cries, letting my pendulum flop this way and that against my thighs. But none of that was enough. I had the beast of puberty pumping hormones into my bloodstream and my testes were screaming for relief.
Oh! Lord have mercy! When I saw my sweet pets, t’was then I fell first deeply into sin! The household pets… Living creatures… Ones without human tongues capable of declaring my iniquities to my parents – those sweet pet tongues, so rough, so warm, so furious, so hungry… I knew what it was my body ached for.
I rushed to the kitchen, pulled a yogurt container from the fridge, and began shepherding my pets into my parents’ bedroom. I closed the door behind us. Sweet things… Sweet little innocents… Sweet hungry pets… Locked in the room with me… My parents’ room. I began dabbing my penis with the yogurt. The pets were watching curiously, my dog salivating, eyeing my penis as though it was a chew toy delicacy. It didn’t take much to coax her into tasting my treaty surprise… she was crazy about it… she couldn’t get enough once she’d started. It felt nice, that soft, warm, floppy tongue slapping against my tingling cock like ocean waves lapping against the side of a sensory stuffed lighthouse… Her eyes looked up into mine, confused as to whether or not she was doing the right thing, stupidly confessing to me that she was aware of a breach, telling me that she’d stop at my command if I told her to.
My cat though… Cats are different. There truly is a strangeness in the souls of cats. They’re classy. They have self-control. There’s a reason we use the term ‘cool cat’. Let’s just say my cat didn’t want to lick the yogurt from my penis… She ultimately hesitated. But she was small, you understand? I was much bigger than her. And the thing about it is that I knew her tongue would feel so much better than my dog’s. That rough, sandpaper scraping… It’s enough to give a sixteen year old wet dreams for a month… And cats are sexy, with those almond shaped eyes, all slit down the middle. The way they walk, slender. The epitome of slank as far as animals are concerned. Females in comparison to the dog’s male. The yin of domesticated house pets.
Needless to say, I grabbed the cat, my hormones negating any chance for proper foreplay. I was mad as a lunatic. Semen was pumping my penis into a lust seeking rocket. I was helpless but to follow its whims. She didn’t put up too much of a fight, thank goodness, the cat… She was declawed. Her only line of defense was her teeth. And even though she was trying to stay classy, she was a real tramp at heart. Once her tongue hit the tip, her eyes closed and she was consumed. There’s no such thing as rape, just a good fight… My dog kept trying to push her out of the way… She wanted more… But the cat was on fire. I had to lock the dog outside.”“Okay then!” says the bagmen. “Let’s move on to cash chipping. How many would you two like?”
“Give us everything you can for this.” Adam says, pulling the final bill from his wallet.
“Very good.” The bagman says, handing them both a red chip. “Enjoy your stay in the Aeneas!”
A statue of David greets them in the lobby, erect in the middle of the room. From its penis an information sign flashes, guiding visitors to the gambling floors, poker rooms, restaurants, bars, and theatre. Supersonic sports screens hanging from every archway swirl pink neon indications announcing topless triages while pointing the way to various bouncer blocked peep-shows.
Adam and Musette head towards the slot machines. Flash pops burst all around their inner ears. A collage of singular synthesizer noises mixed together with other singular synthesizer noises combine to make a chorus of random harmony grade distinction. A fire alarm screeches in synchronization with a barnyard cow mooing. A rooster call. Tinkling coin trills to the tune of a nine-line multiplier divided. A genie shouts, “Alakazam!” And a bar is pulled into a couple of cherries. It’s music, all of it together: harmony in luck and fortune.
Around the water cooler, black tie monks command security incantations to hidden camera comrades, telling them to watch out for this and that red lettered John Dillinger.
A musty cigarette haze glows slowly, glazing over the milky white eyes of slot runners. It dampens the siren spins and shoots laser streams through the air. Musette points out a certain machine, telling Adam that it is probably as good as any. It is shaped like an oil well. Its seat looks like an old whiskey barrel. An ash tray sits sizzling with a half smoked cigarette in it.
Adam takes the cigarette and sits down. He pulls the red chip from his pocket and kisses it, saying: “Oh slot machine… I offer thee this magic tater chip and pray that you may with your mysterious digestive system turn it into crispy dollar bills with which I can buy some regular tater chips for sweet Muesette and myself to chomp upon later tonight…”
He feeds the token to the machine and watches it light up like a hyperactive jukebox. It’s digital screen flashes colorfully. Pot-bellied cartoons come to life.
“Well, howwwwdy!” screeches a hillbilly tycoon. “Are ya ridy to bring the black rain pourin’!?”
Adam prays that he is.
With a heart beating loudly in his chest he pulls the lever.
The characters whirlwind, switching places, rolling around an imaginary, digitally programmed rotary wheel of chance and randomness. The machine squeals a loud clinking squelch through its speakers, mixing its spit-pig scream with the screams of the floor’s countless other machines, loudly announcing Adam’s anxious awaiting of fate’s deliberation.
“Ding! Ding! Ding!” It finally screams. “Rebel yell whoop! Way to go Bucko!”
Zig-zagging neon lines highlight the multipliers.
“I have no idea what just happened…” says Adam. “But I like the sound of it!”
“Do it again!” Musette prompts. “It says we now have five instead of one.”
Adam pulls the lever and the machine squeals again with exploding lights.
“Buh… Buh… Buh… BONUS ROUND!” it screams, swiping all the cartoons away in a tornado, dropping neon bubbles about the periphery of its twirl.
“Rescue the hidden characters from the Texas Twister for extra cash! But watch out, if you uncover the tax collector you’ll end the bonus round!”
“Do I just touch the screen?” Adam asks.
“Touch that one…” Musette commands.
Adam presses into a green bubble, which pops, revealing a horse portrait.
“Great job!” Says the machine.
“Now that one!” Musette cries.
Adam presses a blue bubble.
It’s the tax collector.
A loud whistle erupts.
“Ahh… TOO BAD…” says the machine.
The ominous voice clears away the bonus round, returning the familiar slot wheels to the screen.
“Keep it up cowboy!”
A prudish, fur hat wearing woman squirms her way into the seat next to Adam. She looks at his screen and says, “Well… How are you two doing?”
Musette tells her that they’re doing fine.
“Oh that’s great honey…” The woman says, smiling EZ cheese through her pores. “I personally believe that it’s virtually impossible to make any money from these machines, but if you two are doing well, then good for you!”
Musette expresses annoyance through her expressions.
“Don’t worry about her.” Adam says, trying not to focus upon this disruption. “She’s clearly a prude. A natural born loser. Don’t let her get to you. Look at her… She’s got liver bruises all over her arms. Her skin folds over itself… She probably has cancer. She’s got negativity written all over her body. She couldn’t win if the machine was rigged. Her advice is poisonous, just phase her out of your mind.”
“I don’t like her. Let’s go to another machine.”
“But we’re doing so well here… We just got a bonus round even. Can’t you just block her out of your mind for a bit? I’m sure she’ll leave soon. Give her a second to lose some of her chips, and I’m sure she’ll move on. Come over to this side of the machine if you have to.”
“Plllleeeaassseeee… We’re not even making any real money… What we need to do is get away from these video games and put our money into something that can actually pay out.”
“What do you mean? This machine’s great! It just takes a bit to build up a strong base…”
“Come on, please! I don’t want to stay here anymore!”
Adam gives in and cashes out and they move away from the slot machines.
“Now this is where the real money blooms…” Musette says, as they step onto the green, cigarette ash laced, paisley patterned carpet of the Aeneas’ cards, craps, and roulette section.
A sprawl of felted tables stretches, clinging with massive claws to Earth, harboring upon their flanks platoons of sport coat wearing men and women, all and each blooming their own Jew cap bald spots atop their freckled cranium cream-puff tops, puffing off the mushroom tips of salami shaped cigars.
The women, with their thin blonde buns, fan hands of peacock feathers, searching with their scanning eyes for flushed out clubs, straight spades, shimmering diamonds, and weak hearts. Their red lipstick stains the lips of martinis. They drink the smarts right out of themselves. Their voices call out raspily, raising and checking, rarely folding – too drunk to quit. Trying too hard to prove something to themselves. Playing to play, and loving the intoxication of addiction. Feeding their veins with the euphoria of giving in. Throwing the task planner to the dealer, saying, “Hit me” just for the sake of saying something besides “No.”
Having a short fund foundation Adam and Musette pass the fields of poker storminess, parting spouts of ante fountains, and tiptoeing over craps piles, making their way to the roulette tables.
It’s even crazier there! Loony tune mad house packs, like boiling clusters of roaring excitement and rage, hip thrust flirtations left and right, breathing whisky breath into grandma’s hair, proving that there’s much more time for silliness around this neck of the woods. The whole scene looks like a corporate potluck gone classless. Pinching fingers snatch a feel of everyone’s butt cheeks. Men with blush powdered faces giggle into their lavender gloves. Women with hairy knees burp vomit drips over their moles. Everybody’s sipping their drinks and letting the dealer do the hard work. Server girls are weaving through people clusters gracefully, refilling the glasses of bleary masochists endlessly. Hidden chips fly from secret fanny pack pockets flinging chortled life away upon river passage. Everyone’s arming the weapon of spinning death without even being able to see the chamber, and the carriage clicks all night long.
“One shot, up it or nothing. Grab your balls son and prove to me the value of thy seed.”
Musette clears Adam’s path towards courage and success, handing him her chip, saying, “We’re either right or we’re wrong. Red or black. Simple enough…”
A clutter of spinning wagon wheels slice the air around Adam’s hairdo as he approaches.
“What color are you, sir?” Asks the dealer.
“Red.” Adam responds.
“Okay. Please place your chips.”
Adam deposits them all on red. The dealer spins the wheel. A hypnosis swirl revolves around the vertex, churning all of the air’s floating flirtations and celebrations into one long pendulum beat, tickling Satan cackle into Adam’s mind frame.
The ball lands on black.
Cooked, filleted, fucked: rotten luck… Sorry champ, that’s all your cash. Looks like your little journey has come to a screeching halt. Adam and Musette walk away from the roulette table.
Defeated and deflated, they sit down in a bar lounge.
“We can’t even get a drink…” Adam says in one of those ultra-malicious tongue slithers which only the wounded can do so well.
“Don’t blame me.” Musette responds. “I only pushed you. You could have said ‘no’ whenever you wanted to. I never forced you into anything.”
Adam is enraged.
“You don’t think so?” he says. “What about when you forced me to leave the slot machine? And what about when you forced me to go to that stupid carnival of death!? Goddammit… You’re so stupid. I hate you sometimes…. This whole escape adventure that we’re on is stupid… The City of Lights is stupid… Let’s just go home. I don’t want to talk about it anymore…”
A man interrupts, poking his head into Adam and Musette’s personal space saying, “Hey, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. And I don’t mean to be a creep, but do you think I could buy you two a drink? It sounds like you’ve had a rough night.”
Adam and Musette exchange upset glances.
“Whatever…” Adam says.
The man hops up excitedly and rushes to the bar.
“One for a man, and one for a woman.” he says.
He returns to the table, placing a Tickle-Me-Tuesday-My-Dear-Aunt-Sally in front of Musette.
He hands Adam a rum and Coke.
Adam swaps the drinks.
“Oh…” the man says. “You know what happens when you assume: asses both here and there. I actually like the fruity ones too. Hey, do you guys mind if I take a seat? I’m bored as Hell and could use the conversation. Been sittin’ here watchin’ all the people pass and gettin all sorts of lonely.”
Musette tells him that would be fine. The man grabs his drink from the table behind theirs and starts chatting.
“I hate to sound pathetic, but this place can be so boring at times. My name’s Terry by the way. I live here.”
“I didn’t know people live here.” Musette says. “I thought they only visited.”
“There’s people like me hanging out all over, up above and around in these walls. These casinos are crammed full of tenants actually. Most of ‘em don’t gamble, at least not for a living. Ain’t nobody can afford that. Most ‘em power the casinos with their televisions. Some of ‘em work in the bars and stuff. It takes a lot of energy to keep a place like this running. I live on the thirty second floor. Try to come down and throw a couple coins around every now and then, just ta keep my legs from falling off. But what about you two? You clearly ain’t from around here? You married? On a honeymoon?”
“We’re from Salt City.” says Musette. “We’re on an escape adventure. Just trying to get away from the corporations and the tyranny. We’re tired of sucking on the man’s tit. We aren’t terrorists or nothing. Just kids… We ain’t married neither… Just lovers…”
“Ahhh… You guys are hip! I could tell it first I set eyes on ya. I could tell that you guys were cool. A bit of the rainbow rockin’ spirit in ya, eh? Hey, it’s cool… It’s all cool… In fact I was a hip bud myself – back in those days when the presidents still had flesh, and the people still had legs to walk on. And I’ll tell ya, it’s about the most damned difficult task imaginable trying to unearth a like-minded soul anywhere round here. Hot shit if you two aren’t the most alive lookin’ faces I’ve come across in I’d say about the last decade! It ain’t sayin’ much… But believe me, the sight of your two blood flushed forms is enough to give an old man like me enough hope to keep truckin for at least a few more days!”
Musette tosses back the last of her drink.
“Well shit, little sweetheart! You’re quite a drinker aren’t ya!? How about another round? My treat! Come on man… finish your fruity tooty. Let’s get serious… It’s not every day you run into a good Samaritan like myself ready to shower you in the Lord’s sweet mercy!”
The rounds pour, tumbling like sheets of rain, fronting from the folds in Terry’s wallet. Adam takes them one by one and sips them up his curly straw, drowning his misery in a torrent of pineapple liqueur and chopped up strawberry seeds. The conversation becomes smeared and oily. Swirling clouds constructed of the jiggling bass bump signs of increased and deeper drunkenness cause words, laughter, silence, and swaying bodies to merge together in a cocktail of cookiness. All the stripper dressed hussies, those girls who play resident to this fleshpot of a town, look so much sexier and so much less cellulite infected than they had only a few rounds back. Their blonde bleached heads shine so much more surreally, so much more platinum infused, emphasizing their skulls within an aureole of divine radioactivity. The clinking coinfall sounds of raining slot victories tumble through the alcohol touched air particles showering Adam with a pattering sensation of rainbow ended waterfalls. The men, making moves on women, show off in every scope of vision and are presented as something natural, beautiful, commanded, and evolutionary. Nature, the casino, man’s greatest and tallest towers, all interconnected, woven into the present moment, becoming the one true reality. Nothing more beautiful, nothing more pristine or sacrosanct, the face of God in the physical form. Tears well up in Adam’s tear ducts. He is so moved.
Slurring, he pushes his empty glass across the table, sending it spinning into Terry’s lap.
“Another one Terry… This one’s gone empty.” he says. And Terry, laughing, spins his finger through the air, signaling the deliverance of another round.
Terry leans forward and says, “Hey… You guys wouldn’t happen to want to go and see a show, would ya?”
“A show!?” Muestte is excited. “What fun! I would love to! What show is it!?”
“Don’t worry sweetheart,” Terry says. “I know just the one… You freaks are gonna love it!”
Before Adam can even realize an excursion is in the works, he is swooped out of his pleather booth and shepherded into a current of crowd, all bombarding itself upon a lone box office.
“Are we seeing another circus?” He asks Musette.
“No, Terry’s taking us to see a show! A real City of Lights show! Isn’t that fantastic!?”
“I told you… We don’t have enough money for another show… I love you, but we just don’t…”
“No, Terry’s paying for it! Don’t worry!”
“Terry… Oh, Terry’s paying for it… Why are you taking us to see a show Terry? What did we ever do to you? Why are you being so nice to us…”
“I just like you guys is all…” Terry says. “It ain’t every day, and it isn’t very often, that I get to spend my money on anything worth spending my money on. All the shows in the world, without someone beautiful to watch them with, are nothing but dreams and illusions. If you can’t talk about something with somebody once it has finished then how can you know that something ever even truly happened? That’s my question for you, man…”
“But what show is it?” Adam asks.
“It’s a magic show. Everybody raves about it. Special kind of magician, been on all the city’s billboards… Sexy man, they say this magician is… Some kind of an urban guru… A physics master maybe… I guess he can fly. That’s what I’ve been told.”
“But Terry, are we even inside or are we outside right now?”
“That’s a good question. You see… In this city, often you think you’re outside when really you’re inside. All of these miniature famous world wonders, this grass beneath our feet, and the star speckled sky above our heads – all of it’s backdrop scenery. It’s easy to forget that, brother, but just remember that I live inside these walls. Well, not these ones in particular… But I haven’t even been outside for at least two years now. Can’t remember where the exit is anymore. It’s possible I might ignorantly be outside without knowing it, but I know that we’re inside right now because one of my old squeezes lives in an apartment over there, in that pyramid painting thing.”
“But I thought we were in Rome… This isn’t Rome… it’s… Egypst…”
“Yeah… These casinos are all connected to each other through tunnels and walkways. You’re in Rome one second and then suddenly you’re in Egypt. This place is the world miniaturized into walking distance and plasticized beyond touchability. The show that we’re going to see is in the Executive Horus, an Egypt themed casino. That’s why it looks like Egypt in here.”
Terry leans his arm against the box office counter lazily.
“Two men and one woman… Just how I like it.” He says.
“Excuse me?” Responds the box office operator.
“For Pete’s sake! Just give me three tickets!”
“Oh… Yes sir. That will be three hundred and sixty dollars.”
“Three sixty?! Fuck this shit!” Terry says. “No magician in the world is worth three hundred and sixty dollars. I don’t care how sexy he is! Come on guys, let me show you a real City of Lights show – this is a scam! What bullshit… I’ll show you something better than this hunk of crap… Come on, let’s get out of here.”
They turn away from the ticket counter and head into the shadows of a dark alley. The shadows swallow the sounds of their footsteps and echo the giggles of young girls and tooth deprived perverts into their ears. They drunkenly patter down the passage, sweaty bricks and graffiti tagged hieroglyphs decorating their trail.
“Here it is… The Cuntry Club! This place is like the Costco of strip clubs…”
A neon sign flicks overpoweringly above.
“Whatever you’re in the mood for, be it lap dances, suck offs, firemen cum drops, a little squishy squashy three way bangy lick action – this place will have it.”
They pass through a pair of pink saloon style swinging doors.
“And it doesn’t cost a year’s salary either…” Terry says, handing the bouncer a thirty dollar bill.
“This is where the real spirit of the city breathes and dances. All that other bullshit – the styrofoam world wonders, the box office shows, the gift shops – that stuff’s all line and tackle. This is where I find myself when I’m in the mood to smile. This is why I moved to this God forsaken city in the first place.”
Both Adam and Musette grow hot in their pants as they take in their surroundings. All around them, swirling towards the ground like whistling missiles, drop strippers from sliding trap doors in the ceiling. They slide down their poles, screeching the flesh of their thighs against the polished, sweat sticky steel. They fall like rain drops, one after another, writhing to the music and dancing on stage. They collect the contents of exploding wallets in their g-strings and allow men to blow raspberries into their cleavage. They jiggle their pussy lips above cigarettes, give private dances, take drink orders, embark upon conversations, employ sales pitches, and make out with people’s girlfriends.
Terry leads Adam and Musette to a table and orders another round.
“For the right price and a little familiarity you can pop more rocks than you even thought you had in you. Look, take for instance that one… Her name’s Tania… she’s a fine girl… knows how to treat a man… A sensational chick… Gives hand jobs like a ceramicist… She likes me… Quite a bit in fact… always gives me top priority. Most guys pass her by because of that cripple limb of hers… They don’t understand that’s her talent tool. They take one look at her, deem her unsymmetrical, and give all their money to some plastic surgery clone who can’t give head ‘ny better than a blow up doll.”
He takes another drink.
“I bet I could git her to come over here and give us a private show… She likes me… She don’t care about any of these other no-bit cronies… She knows that I treat her right.”
He stands, wobbling off pivot, waving, whistling, and yelling, “Tania! Tania! Hey, come over here for a minute you little handicap! I want to show you off!”
She comes over.
“Hey Terry Bear…”
“How you doin’ tonight, sweetheart?” Terry says. “I’ve been thinkin’ a lot about you recently…”
“Ahhh… you’re too sweet…”
“I want to introduce you to my new friends: this here’s Adam, and this one’s named Music. I was just telling them about your arm, thinkin’ maybe you could show em’ what you can do with it? You don’t got any qualms about eatin pussy do ya? A little two on one might be nice for these two… You and Music would get along just fine – she’s a real firecracker… These guys have had a rough night… When I met em’ they were fightin’ like dogs, and they didn’t even have enough money for a drink… Maybe you could cheer em’ up for me? I’d even pay to watch you do it… That would be fun, don’t ya think? I personally couldn’t think of a better way to spend an evenin’ could you?”
He nudges Adam in the ribs.
“To tell the truth…” Adam interjects. “Musette and I are real private. We keep what we do in the bedroom between ourselves. It’s not you Tania… You’re really beautiful… And your arm looks amazing… It’s just that currently I’m the only one who’s seen Musette’s privates, and she’s the only one who’s seen mine, and I think we’re just going to have to pass on this one Terry…”
“Hot damn!” Terry exclaims. “You two truly are the sweetest kids I’ve ever met… I wouldn’t wedge no slice between you two, no matter how badly I wanted to see it… I guess it’s just you and me then Tania. The way that arms staring up at me, all quivery and frail, it’s pushing my load something fierce, and if I don’t pump it I think I’ll probably get an ulcer. You two will be aright if I just take a little five minute pit stop, won’t ya? Drinks are on me… I’ll be back before the next set’s even over.”
He throws a twenty on the table and slings his arm over Tania’s shoulder. Together they disappear into the haze.
“We’ve got to get out of here quick, babe…” Adam says as soon as Terry’s out of earshot. “This place is a trap. We’re sinking in quicksand. I can feel it. Terry’s taking us down a hole we don’t want to go down. This is a labyrynthian city, and Terry’s only pulling us further into the thick of it. If we stay here we’re bound to either be raped, mugged, or overdosed – believe me, I’ve dealt with these kind of creeps before. They’ll pay all of your receipts for a night, and then feel as though they’ve bought a servant. This man has us in his claws. He’s paid for it. I haven’t liked him from the moment he stuck his head in our business. Nobody’s that nice to anybody without a reason… This is our one chance Musette… It’s now or never… We either hop ship here, or we’re dead meat.”
“Don’t you think maybe you’re being paranoid?” Musette asks.
“I ain’t! Believe me… Terry’s still skimming the surface. He’s getting plastered. He’s getting deeper into the trough of his shit. Pretty soon we’re going to find ourselves in the depths of a rage filled melancholy. This is not a happy man we’re dealing with. Terry’s a psychopath waiting to pop. I can feel it. I have a sense for these kinds of things. I think he’s a murderer. He’s another victim of the system babe. This is worse than what we abandoned. This place has the disease of Salt City multiplied exponentially… It’s a global phenomenon, and this may be the nucleus. It’s definitely way worse than what we abandoned… Casinos shaped like skyscrapers, falseness blown up and overpowering. it’s the making of an explosion! We may have left a firecracker but this place is a stick of dynamite!”
“Fine.” she says. “Let’s just leave then. Let’s go home. What do I care?”
Adam takes her by the hand. They sneak away, padding through the swinging doors into the neon hazy darkness. The nausea of their sloshed stomachs swims in their eyes, making the world swirl like oversoaked water colors. Adam’s head hangs between his wobbly knees. The pale green of his face mirrors his gut. Tracers beam through his vision. He bobbles like a Weeble-Wobble over the entire sidewalk.
It is thus he bumps into a man who stops, turns around and growls. Adam knows this isn’t good. He tries to look brave and friendly as he turns to face his challenger. The vision he is presented with is that of a gigantic colored man – a bald goliath of the ebony line, with skin the baked breath of blacksmith forges.
His body is puffed up within a marshmallow coat. His bald scalp is scarred with wound remembrances. His face is cratered with purple pockmarks of a horrific childhood. His eyes are as yellow as watery ashtrays.
“You think you can bump into me without payin’ me the honor of a proper apology?” Says the black man.
“I’m real sorry about that…” says Adam. “I didn’t mean to… It was nothing but a little ‘oopsie shits’…”
“You didn’t think no deal about it?” The black man asks.
Fear turns Adam soberer.
“It was completely unintentional. Honestly, I have had way too much to drink…”
“I bet you think you can bump me around all you want, don’cha white boy?”
“Let’s not go there… Like I said, it was completely unintentional.”
“Yeah, I bet it was… Like how the slave trade was completely unintentional?”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know, or is it that you can’t understand my nigger speech? You probably wanting me to be all like fogive me, Suh, I shoudn’t a bin in yo way, Suh. It’s jus a dumb nigga thing a me ta do, Suh…”
“Come on… Don’t cause a scene. You know I didn’t mean any harm. Can’t you tell that?”
“Oh yeah? You didn’t mean any harm? Well, I think I might mean some. It’s about time we brought a little justice to the table. My black brothers, sisters, and I are hungry for some of that! For too long we’ve been sitting quietly, taking your bumps and bruises, your slurs and abuses, pretending as though nothing is happening… And we’ve let you shoot our Kings and splatter our Malcolms, and we’ve let you push us to the backs of buses, and whip us relentless in Thomas J. Jefferson basements with lashes of divine right! But today you aren’t getting’ off the hook so easily. I refuse to let you batter me without consequence. You ain’t gonna walk upon me no longer man!”
Adam quickly tries to refute, “Oh Jesus, sir, these things – the slave trade, Malcolm X, the civil war – They were bad things… But they were all done in the past. ‘Twas not I who committed these horrible atrocities. It was an ignorant time for us all… I’m sorry for the injustices your people have had to endure, but do you think it’s really proper blaming me for all that?”
“Come on man… Don’t think you can get out of this so easily. You’re always bein’ like: ‘nigger me this and nigger me that’, and I’m thinkin’ to myself that maybe it’s about time my people and I started niggering you! We can’t just sit back letting justice go unbalanced… The karma wheel’s gotta spin baby! Do you know what it feels like to be not only denied service from a restaurant but to be thrown into the triple knotted, whip abusing hands of that restaurant owner’s wife? And for what? For trying to buy a meal like any other decent person! That’s my life story! Raped nakedly and abused to standards unfit for a pig. Do you even think you know what that feels like? You can’t know… It’s impossible for you to know… It would be impossible for you to feel it like I feel it, in my blood – because your blood’s not level with mine! And until it is, we’ve got ourselves a problem! A problem that can’t be done away with through mere apology alone. Because I can’t come to your level man… I just can’t… It’s actually impossible for me to come to your level… These scars which stain my face, and drain my spirit, they keep me down here. We can’t take back the abuses you inflicted upon us. Once a punch is punched, that’s it. You’re just going to have to come to my level, brother!”
“What are you talking about?” Adam asks. “All this blood leveling nonsense… Don’t you know you’re not oppressed anymore? We have equal opportunity laws and nondiscrimination policies…”
“Those are all just things of paper and philosophy… The fleshy, god given minds still hold grudges, and your blood still holds memories too – like mine, but twisted, inverse memories. Look at all of the confederate flags waving above the porches of so many suburban households, and listen to the jokes ringing around the barbecues of so many backyards. Where do you think the funny youngsters get their demeaning and insensitive cruelties from? It’s in their blood… Yeah, their blood. That’s where all of the memories exist, boiling and bubbling like some kind of bad dream, which try as you might you can’t escape from. A record rolling around and around, never switched out… If you listen to that sad song long enough you will hear the story of a young kid cutting himself to pieces over guilt beneath his bed, the guilt of an unchangeable and beautiful skin color, the guilt of a bullying bleach wave raging forward in fear. The guilt on all fronts needs to be acknowledged and mowed down. And there’s only one way, one weapon, one means capable of delivering that leveling force to the world. The hard fist of justice! It’s hard to watch you smile that trickster grin of yours as you pretend to understand! Can you hear it? Because it drowns my thoughts… Even if you plugged your ears, you and I both know that the chorus is real – and neither of our consciences will be quiet until we do something about it, dammit! Someone has to stand up! And I’m not afraid to do it! With my ancestors watching I will kick in your teeth, I’ll rapingly persuade you to clean my house eternally, and I’ll force you, for unending years, to receive blunt beatings upon your white backside! I am ready to enact!”
Adam is tossed into a vat of self-reflection. He has become painfully aware of the number of subtle racist insults present in his dialogue. He remembers ridiculing the black television network, grape soda, fried chicken, and rap music. Coming face to face with the motivator behind the funny feeling felt while passing an afro on the street has brought him to accountability.
He says, “Punch me. I want you to do it. I want you to beat the discrimination out of me. No longer do I wish to feel the falsely embedded superiority of my race. I want to feel an equality between you and me that can lead my children to hug your children without any boundaries between them. I want to finally be free of this leftover evil. Clean me out sir, I authorize you with the privilege and responsibility – it would be an honor.”
He stands straight as a pine tree. His joints pop nitrogen in the stretch. He takes a heady inhale, preparing himself for the reception of an equalization.
“You know I’m going to do it… You know I have no choice. You see my motivations now. It is quite inescapable, isn’t it? Though you and your race thought you had made it out of the bank, we recognized your face – the slew of hostage corpses is still warm inside our basements, and your fingerprints are plastered all over the vaults. You see now that you have not been forgotten. You see that you cannot escape justice. You see that heroic action is called for on both our parts. You shall stand as one attorney out of and for the many, for the masses of your injustice, and I shall be the executioner. Together we shall root the elephant from the room by force.”
Adam nods in acknowledgment.
“White boy, today we offer you as sacrifice, petitioning the gods to set for us a level stage. We plead for the holy matrimony of two evolutionary paths. We seek a world wherein Mecca and Jerusalem can become one — a planet Earth with no red line. We wish for all the world’s people to be embraced by justice and released into an expanding world of possibilities. There shall be no race or class, just a pumping heart beating in diversity to make the body move in actual effectiveness towards higher goals.”
Adam says Amen.
“I wish it didn’t have to be this way my brother, but it’s just so goddamn unavoidable… I know it might seem more righteous to let brother pass brother peacefully, to turn the other cheek – but you see, my cheek’s been turned too far already… And if I don’t act now I may never be able again to set it straight.”
The black man cocks his fist and releases the momentum of a thousand underground railroads into Adam’s frail and virginal nose.
Musette shrieks. Adam’s cartilage shatters into a bag of shattered glass. His head bounces on the pavement. He passes out. A guzzling faucet of blood drains the story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin from his mind. The skyscrapers, the casinos, the businessmen, the robotic assembly lines of the industrial revolution, and the greenback pyramid’s all seeing eye laugh at the folly of their slaves, and in the clouds above, Jesus screams the shade of his blacksmith breath.