excerpt from 'male, black' by buttercup mcgillicuddy.

Part One

It’s nighttime. Clara sits alone outside in the stairwell on the top floor of her dorm. She looks at Los Angeles’s profile in the distance and pinches herself hard. Am I alive, she asks, then feels acute embarrassment regarding her use of existential cliché. She takes a drag of her cigarette. A hard drag. She blows swiftly and with elegant puffs, into the day-lit night. The smoke erupts into rings that wobble timidly in the air before they suddenly rip into worms, panicked by their own approaching doom, until they fade into the light of the faraway skyscrapers. The buildings, stiff against the vaporous mountains, shoot beams in all directions, illuminating something. Not the air. Not the sky; there isn’t a cloud or bank of mist for miles. Maybe the lights attack Clara’s retinas directly, severing her connection to the stars. Clara looks up, longingly, searches for them and sees nothing. Nothing except a blue-orange abyss.

Clara inhales another stream of toxicity and her mind excites. She blushes. Not twenty minutes ago she almost lost her virginity to Jimmy. Clara had been so close. At the time she was unsure of what was happening, what could happen, and what was going to happen. Her thighs closed. She said the wrong things. Clara wanted Jimmy to make her do it, but she let him give up, and by proxy, gave in to abstinence, again. Again, Clara thinks. I might change my major again. Economics maybe. English? I don’t know. Clara shudders. The night is cool. Her thoughts are streaming clearly, but are interrupted by sprinting bursts of the desert’s winter wind. It attacks her stream of insecurity, and simultaneously fuels it. Again, she thinks.

A door downstairs opens. Clara looks down and sees Jimmy’s head ascending the stairs. He looks up and smiles. Clara smiles warily back. Why does he like me, she thinks. What the fuck is this? Jimmy reaches the top floor and walks to Clara slowly, taking long, awkward strides. Clara watches him. She smiles over her shoulder and takes a nervous drag of her cigarette. “Can I bum one,” asks Jimmy. “Sure,” says Clara. He sits next to her. She fumbles for her pack of American Spirit cigarettes, pinches at the nearly full pack, shivering, but can’t get a grip. Jimmy places his hand on her hand. She looks in his eyes. She feels her face look worried. I look worried, she thinks. She tries to look neutral. Jimmy smiles. He takes the pack from her and pulls out a cigarette with little trouble, sets the pack down between them and lights his with a slight flick, a quick drag, and a sudden breath that leaves his lungs empty and with nothing to say. Jimmy puts his arm around Clara’s shuddering shoulders. Clara curls up as small as she can, her legs, knee-high above her head. Jimmy looks out at the city, notices it for the first time in his life and thinks, what the fuck is this?

At about the same time, there are people all over the place taking advantage of Earth’s vast resources. Substantial people, the important kind, success-driven. There are people everywhere who acknowledge that they won’t live forever, that they need to feel that they accomplish things and are “somebody” to not kill themselves. They think in clichés and feel fine with their choices. They look at their partners and children and pets and think, yes, this is it, this is okay, and move forward. No. Just kidding. They think, no, never mind, and murder small insects out of extreme and out-of-control fits of minor frustration. They binge eat and binge drink and binge cheat on each other with no regard for consequence. Just kidding. There is serious regard for consequence. They lie, and feel shitty for lying. They wear condoms and feel shitty for wearing condoms, and use diaphragms. Who uses diaphragms, some of them think. Some of them cheat out of addiction and perceived necessity. There are wives without sturdy, muscular arms wrapped around their naked bodies. There are soldiers lying awake in the freezing dead of night asking themselves why they enlisted, why they were drafted, why they allowed themselves to be brainwashed. Warriors converting, ready to dissert. There are fights; explosions; masturbators and advocates for extreme types of celibacy. There are pregnant women selling themselves and babies losing their virginity. There are animals that people have never seen. So many animals that people have never and will never see. And so many people that have never seen any other type of animal. There is extinction, maybe. There is decomposition, also maybe. There is flight and submersion and contact with “God’s green earth.” There is death, and destruction, and maybe an alien: the first alien. The first of many aliens, traveling from the place within which the people with vast sums of money claim that alien belongs to, but which the alien must travel away from, travel to somewhere that is not that place. But what is a place, but a point in time-space, that will never, ever be there again, due to the unidirectional, ever-kinetic, non sequitur that is “the now?” There are children, with endorphins in their brains, yelling, running, loving each other and not thinking, even remotely about what will happen on the comedown. So engrossed by the joy that is “the now” that speculation and fear are non-concepts. There are children who are breathing for the very last time. There are people writing novels, for no other reason but that they can.

to get a digital copy of the current manuscript of 'male, black' email a paragraph about 'sonic the hedgehog' to buttercup mcgillicuddy at the.absterged.one[at]gmail.com before january first, 2010

No comments: