Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Butterflies Told Me to Do It

I downed the two tall cans of beer that I’d brought to work in my knapsack, soon as my shift ended, walking home, welcoming the distant sun that seemed to be back for good. I walked through the hydro field and every which way, all around me, birds were happy and that alone can plant a smile on anybody. And so, warm-beer-buzzed and smiling, I raised my face to the sun repeatedly, probably sighing each time, “Make love to me sun! Make love to me!” Without a doubt a glorious day.

On my way, I sent a text message to Don, asking what his plans were that night, but no response. I turned onto Warden avenue, but before fully leaving the hydro field I turned and looked back, remembering the loss of my beloved iPod, a couple of years back, on the same stretch of grass, among those same towers. For some reason, that night a few of us had decided to run as fast as we could down that field. I remember pretending to be a soldier, ducking fire, and we weren’t even high or anything, maybe just buzzed from a bottle, and one of us had ran and the others followed. My beloved iPod left me forever. Music means the world to me and I’ve never fully forgiven myself, but life goes on and very much so, I turned my back on the hydro field and continued walking home.

More often than not, when spring is talking, I try and join the birds, whistling with my head held high. More often than not, I wish to mimic their movements, I wish to have feathers of my own, when spring is talking. That’s the state I was in, whistling down Warden avenue, smiling at the birds, warm-beer-buzzed and fantasizing feathers. Still no response from Don, but I didn’t care. It was a glorious day and I planned to stretch it out; I had more beers at home, cold ones, and I’d crack one and roll a joint and play some tunes while I sat on my balcony, my feet stretched out, letting the sun reach in between my toes, caressing my soul. Yes, I love the damn sun! Sunlight means the world to me. I was approaching the back gate to my building when I noticed someone’s shadow behind me, the sound of hurried steps, trying to catch up. I turned back suddenly and saw Ming’s dumbfounded face with that hollow smile of his, permanently glued to his mouth, his eyes full of nothing. He lived in my building, Ming, and he was retarded. At least that seemed to be the case.

“Hallo, hallo,” he said, eyes full of nothing, his right hand reaching up to his neck, saying, “You have necklace?”

“Every time!” I laughed.

“Necklace…You have necklace?”

He was obsessed with necklaces. I’d seen him for years and I still can’t recall him saying anything else. He’d approach anyone and everyone, asking to see their necklaces. I’d showed him mine a long time ago, but he didn’t care. He’d ask every time; every time we crossed paths, he needed to see it. Once, in the elevator, some guy was threatening to kick his ass, but Ming couldn’t understand, or maybe he did, maybe it was all just part of his act. Maybe he was on a mission to see as many necklaces as he could around the necks of strangers. He never meant any harm though. Either way, he would’ve received one hell of an ass kicking if I hadn’t intervened. And so, once again I showed him the gold chain around my neck, the one my grandmother had given me for my birthday.

“Ah, necklace,” he sighed.

“Yes, Ming, necklace…Are you enjoying the weather?”

He didn’t answer and just kept walking passed me with the same hurried steps, turning back briefly with his hand still to his neck, signalling me to show him my necklace again, and I did. “Ah necklace…”

I stood at the back gate and watched him walking away for a few seconds. “Crazy bastard.” Most people in Scarborough wont take kindly to random ass crazy people asking them about their jewelry. It was a risky endeavor in Scarborough, Ming’s mission, and deep down inside I worried for him.

Still no response from Don. I checked my phone and scrolled through my messages, walking down the hallway to my corner apartment. Cold beers were waiting, and a joint, and inviting melodies all waiting to dance around me on the balcony with my beloved sun. I was about to put the key in the lock when I heard my sister’s voice inside the apartment, saying, “He’s a fucking asshole!” She wasn’t yelling or anything, but I could hear her so clearly. It was still pretty early in the afternoon and our building wasn’t buzzing yet with the arrival of kids from school. I stood there, listening in and wondering who she was talking to. “Stay here tonight,” she said.

“What about your brother?”

“Are you kidding? He doesn’t care.”

I shrugged my shoulders to her notion and placed my ear on the door. “Who the hell are you talking to?”

“We’ll make dinner, or order in, whatever you want.”

“I just want to forget.”

“I know Jade. It takes time.”

“Jade!” I exclaimed out loud behind the door and instantly closed my eyes and compressed my face in the famous “D’OH!” fashion of Homer Simpson. It was now time to open the door. I walked in and saw both of them staring at me. Jade had obviously been crying. “Hello,” I said, clearing my throat and added quickly, “I’m sorry, I was, um…”

“Eavesdropping?” said my sister.

“I heard you talking. I was wondering…” I replied, taking off my shoes and awkwardly avoiding eye contact from across the room. My palms were sweaty, my voice cracked. “Jesus Christ,” I thought and went on to say, in an attempt to change my tone completely, “How are you Jade? You’re looking good.” Right away there came a voice in my head, rhythmically repeating, “Idiot, idiot, idiot!”

My sister was shaking her head and Jade burst into tears, dropping her face into her tiny hands. My sister waved me away, furious, piercing me with those eyes of hers. I shrugged my shoulders and made a face, the type of face that a dog might make after shitting on the floor. I remember mouthing the words, “I’m sorry,” but she just waved me away and Jade was crying, her head trembling in the tiny cage of her hands.

Standing in my room, I dropped my knapsack on the floor, the tension seeping through the dry wall. I could almost even hear my sister’s hand moving up and down Jade’s back. I must’ve looked like Ming at that point, a stupider Ming, completely at a loss. I don’t remember how long I stood there, soaking in the tension, staring around my room, trying to remember who I was a moment ago and what I had planned for my spring smile. Shaking my head and snapping out of my daze, I thought, “Fuck it,” and I stripped out of my clothes and dashed to the shower.

My sister was waiting outside the bathroom, her arms crossed, her head hanging low with her eyes fixed to the ground, biting the corner of her bottom lip, when I came out of the shower. “Mary, I’m sorry,” I said, before she had a chance to say anything, “I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Jade’s gonna stay here tonight.”

“Yeah, of course. What’s going on with her?”

“Michael,” she sighed and walked away back to the living room.

A part of me wanted to whisper to her as she walked away, “Mary, I’ve had a long day. Just wanna relax in my room. Please tell her not to cry so loud!” Of course, I would never have said such a thing. These thoughts are all just Don’s influences. I walked back to my room, closed the door and checked my phone. Still no word from Don. I wrote him another text: “At home now. What’re you saying tonight?”

It was time to smoke. I rolled a joint and before bringing it to life, I tiptoed out of my room and into the kitchen, leaping to the fridge like an alcoholic ballerina, and grabbed a few tall cans to save myself from going back and forth.

Hendrix comes to me in waves, waves that ripple through me and my room. I feel Jimi, at any time of day, after any fall…And so, I left it up to him at that point to help empty me, to spread that sheet of impartiality, that fabric of not caring. Jade was still crying, I think, and regardless of how hard I tried, my ears focused in on the dry wall, and I thought of my sister’s hand, probably still moving up and down Jade’s back. Just like that, with these thoughts, my short-lived emptiness formed into anger, and I downed the first tall can and cracked the second, thinking, “Goddamn assholes ruin everything for everyone!” I met Michael once, but I knew Jade for years; practically a sister to me. The thought of him dragging her to this point made me clench my fist and shake my head, downing the second tall can, without a second thought. I burped violently afterwards and became more or less empty once again.

“Sam?”

“Yeah,” I said, turning from the window, the joint burning gracefully in between my fingers, the smoke rising up to dance with Jimi in the air. My sister walked in and right away I asked, “Is the music too loud?”

“No, it’s fine. Do you have any liquor?”

“I do.”

“Do you mind coming to the living room?”

In my gut, atop those Moosehead waves, rippling with hunger, a thousand butterflies suddenly soared. Why? Beats me. I put it on account of my angry drinking as I burped once more, reaching behind my bed and pulling out a mickey of brandy. “My emergency stash,” I chuckled, looking up at the door, but Mary was already gone. I looked at the bottle, then at the door, then back at the bottle, the butterflies whispering tales within my veins.

“Sam? Are you coming?”

I joined them in the living room after I had gotten a few glasses. “Thanks,” said Jade.

I dropped myself on the couch opposite them and said, “Don’t mention it.”

“Drink with me,” she said.

“I will.”

She reached for the bottle and poured two shots, running her right hand through her hair, while with her left she held out her glass, waiting for me to pick up mine and give her a ‘clink.’ The butterflies told me to hurry. Goddamn she was beautiful! I wasn’t ready for the brandy, or the silence between us, but I wasn’t going to break it. I’d probably just say something stupid again and so, we all just sat there, silently.

She poured two more shots and said, “I’m sorry, Sam. This is probably the last thing you need right now.”

“No need to apologize,” I said, reaching for my glass and smiling at her. She almost smiled too.

“I’ll be right back,” said Mary, rubbing Jade’s back one more time as she got up and left the living room.

Brandy always knows what it’s doing, and it travels inside with great ideas in it’s pockets, and revelations, bringing forth a gentle rain that soaks sense into everything. Hell, I was definitely an alcoholic. The taste alone on my tongue, unleashes words and simplifies my fears, breaking down barriers of shyness and embracing the flutter of butterflies in my gut. All of a sudden, I said, “It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. So much care we put into things and people, for what? I’m not going to ask you about it, because it doesn’t matter.” I leaned back smiling, but not sure what I had just said. She was staring at me attentively, so I figured I must’ve made some sense. “I have some pot,” I added, “If you want…”

“Let’s do it.”

We got up and she followed behind me as I walked to my room. My palms were sweaty again. I could hear Mary talking on the phone. Then a voice echoed in the living room, “Knock knock!” and both Jade and I stopped in the hallway, she looked baffled and smiled at me awkwardly.

“I think someone’s at the door.”

“Knock, knock, knooooock!” he said again, louder this time, and he laughed and he sighed. I went over and flung the door open to find Don standing there, six pack of beer in his hand, his face beet red with his pupils bulging out of his eyes. He burst out laughing soon as he saw me, and hunched over, laughing and gasping, he almost fell to the floor. I grabbed his arm and was instantly disgusted by how sweaty he was. His shirt was soaked completely. “Thank you, my friend!” he screamed.

“What the hell, dude?”

He came in and I took the six pack from him and he stretched out his arms and back, letting out a deep sigh. Then he turned to me suddenly, whispering, “Dude, I dropped some acid,” and again he burst out laughing, a couple of tears trembling out of his alien eyes and rolling down his face. I wanted to knock his teeth out, but instead I led him to my room, my fist clenched again, my gut calling for the remainder of the brandy. Jade was sitting on my bed and seeing her, Don exclaimed, “Hello!” with his arms stretched out to his sides like a bird about to take flight, or Jesus on the cross.

“Hi,” said Jade.

I shook my head at her apologetically and turning to Don, I said, “Sit the fuck down, will ya?”

He dropped himself on the bed, sighing repeatedly, his hands on his stomach, squirming around, while he took turns crossing his legs, first left over right, then right over left, and so on… “I’m done,” he said, smiling at Jade. “No! No! Don. I am Don,” he added firmly, his relentless flow of giggles flooding my room.

“I’m Jade,” she said. “It’s nice to see someone so happy.”

“He’s high.”

“Yes, yes,” he replied.

“On what?”

“Acid,” he said, and I could almost feel how damp my blanket was getting under his fat sweaty ass.

“Do you have any more?” she said. He didn’t answer, only jolted up as if shocked into an upright position, reaching into his pants pocket. He pulled out a tiny bag and threw it over at Jade. “I’ve never done this.”

There was a strange silence flowing through me, and I think my fist was still clenched and I still kind of wanted to knock Don’s teeth out, but my eyes fixed on Jade, who was staring into the bag, wondering perhaps if this was the forgetfulness that she yearned for so desperately, whether the contents of that bag would dry up her tears, inside and out. I said nothing. The thought of Jimi passed briefly through my head, his sheet of impartiality gliding in the spring air; he wouldn’t have thought twice about the acid. “Will you do it with me, Sam?”

I don’t remember saying anything, but next thing I knew, both of us were standing, the bag in my hand now, as I took out the two tiny tabs, separated them and gave her one. Don was spinning around and giggling still, then he dropped himself back on the bed. I gave in to the butterflies and put the tab on my tongue. She did the same. Goddamn, she was beautiful!

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The Blackness and I

“Are you gonna burn any more wood?”

I think I was staring into the wind. I could hear him talking, I knew his look all too well, bouncing back and gliding forth, from the fire and up to me; ever worried, gazing at me, as I gazed into the wind. I’m not sure why I didn’t answer. For the better part of that night I’d chosen silence, and now, swallowed up by the blackness all around, I truly sat empty. Why?

“It’s almost one,” he said, casting his light gracefully over our camp. From the corner of my eye, in the blackness, I saw him yawn, sitting hunched over, his flashlight pointed at the tent, waiting for me to say something, to acknowledge the fire, or his yawn, or the two sleepy tents in our camp…Waiting for me to say something, anything. At least that’s how it seemed, but what do I know? I was staring into the wind and said nothing.

Mehdi and Jon, both asleep, carried on their own conversation, in snores and sleepy sighs. Mehdi in his own two person tent, and Jon in the other, monstrous structure of a tent, curled and twisted into comfort in his sleeping bag, to his left, a half-eaten can of pringles spilling on the floor, by his head, a glowing red carton of Du Mauriers, so inviting. I had noticed it all when I’d poked in there earlier to fish out my bottle of tequila. I had already surveyed the inside of the tent briefly, drawing swift and precise lines with my flashlight, trying not to disturb Jon, and even though I was down to my last four cigarettes and Jon had put his full carton so close to his face that he was practically snoring into them, keeping them warm, and safe and sound, I was still very much relieved that he wasn’t clutching them in his sleep, caged in between his legs or to his chest, as he lay in a defensive fetal position, if there is such a thing, while snoring to mark his territory.

I was smiling by the time I snapped out of it and I turned over to Sam, but he’d already gotten up and was walking to the tent. It was almost one, and I was already zoning out and drifting off in a dangerous way. I dropped my head and fished once more for my bottle of tequila, down by my foot, and without a thought, I called out to Sam, in a failed attempt to whisper, “Not gonna burn any more wood.”

“Shut up,” he said as he laughed and disappeared into the tent.

I took a sip of tequila, held the open bottle, took another sip, held it in my mouth, letting it burn through my tongue, the blue agave becoming me. Next thing I knew, the bottle was closed and back on the cold earth, I was standing, hunched over the fire like a junky-fire junky-reaching into the bag of firewood in search of the thickest log. Once I’d found it and put it on the fire and had also gotten a few splinters to prick at in the dark, I sat back down and told myself that I wasn’t going to burn any more wood. “This baby will burn for a while.”

The wind was picking up, angering the treetops, or so it seemed, and it didn’t take long for my fears to surface. Wind can sound like anything; in the blackness all around, in the surrounding bush, there could’ve been anything, and this was frightening, but I was in a peculiar mood, I guess…Like a masochist who presses down on every bruise, who seeks asylum inside his aches, I faced the dark, staring into the wind, extracting the adrenaline out of my fears and getting high, trying to blow the rest of it up to the angry treetops. I was in a peculiar mood, and peculiar moods often demand sleeplessness and so, I lit a smoke and reached once more for my warm blue agave, resting on the cold earth.

It was supposed to be a two month trip, back in the august of 2009. My mother was crying, as was her routine in airports, with goodbyes. I remember shaking my father’s hand and now that four years have passed, I’m positive that he knew I wasn’t going to come back. He knew, but said nothing. Maybe he was in a peculiar mood. Maybe knowing things made him silent. In the end, a few tears and a heart whispering, “Good luck,” summed it all up and I ran away. Yes; I ran from Iran… And now, engulfed by the blackness in the bush, at the mercy of the angry treetops, I felt to have no choice but to retrace my steps. The blackness demanded it; the floodgates propped open and I might have even smiled excitedly, preparing to look back, to bring back times and remember laughs, but there was no beginning or end to these thoughts. Out in the blackness, they all fused together, melting into one, turning about and leaping in time. Hard to follow, but I may have been smiling, for this revolving chunk of moments gone, my memories of every corner where I’d laid my head, had no fear, and it made me less afraid, and this was good.

“You have to eat more fruit! You don’t understand how important it is!” I feel like she would repeat this sentence a few times and I’d look at her and see her cutting an apple and peeling an orange and filling a plate with every fruit out in the market, saying, “My son, I love you so SO much, now please, eat it all.” 

I was standing on a crowded bus, posing as an artist or amateur photographer perhaps, with my Canon Rebel camera hanging from my neck. I pointed the lens at the face of an Asian woman sitting in front of me, completely asleep, on the crowded  bus, and I clicked away, as discretely as possible of course, but I didn’t really care, never really have. She looked so peaceful and I distinctly remember thinking then, “She looks like a great mom.”

Seeing it in the blackness and hearing my thoughts once again, kind of gave me the creeps, and so I closed my eyes and disgusted, I reached for my smokes. I lit one with my eyes closed still and only slightly opened them as I exhaled my first drag and returned slowly back to the pitch. The treetops weren’t as angry any more and I only had two cigarettes left.

“So what’s your novel about?”

“My novel…”

“What’s it called?”

“Nazar Crossing,” I said. 

“What’s it about?”

“The name refers to a famous intersection near my home Isfahan,” I replied, clearing my throat and squirming into an upright position. “It’s changed,” I said suddenly. Suddenly nervous. I leaned forward. I thought I had a glass of water, but nothing there on the coffee table.

“So,” he said, his eyebrows forming into a horizontal question mark, “the intersection has changed.”

“No, my novel; the idea!”

Then, I lost myself apparently, wondering whether I’d lost Iran. Memory tends to grow dull if not used, much like a knife.I wish I could have just told him to fix his damn eyebrows and let us move on, but I couldn’t even look at him. Even in that vast blackness where I sat looking back, I knew with a jagged certainty that this conversation would go on forever. That voice…Some voice would always go on to ask me about that novel. Maybe it’s the characters that I once knew…

“I will surely lose my mind,” I said, taking in a few deep breaths, as deep as I could, while I reached to the ground, feeling around blindly for my blue agave, blue agave for my blackness. I decided to have a bigger shot this time, smoke a cigarette as slowly as I could and try not to think. That was actually my only decision. “Don’t think.”

 I got up and stretched my back and cracked my neck, all in an attempt to not think, but then poems came to mind, and the dark hadn’t changed one bit, and my fears were still very much alive, lurking in the bush, and so I thought, “Poetry, why not?” And I began reciting poems I’d written, some long ago, in different lands, with what seemed to be different blood flowing through my veins; poems of my scattered life, poems that remained, despite the drugs and my frantic flights.

“When he sits down, he knows. When he gets up, he forgets. ‘Got to keep moving,’ is what he thinks. In and out he strives and struggles back and forth. Never constant are his eyes, never seeking the stillness lost, he hovers into hallucinations. The day begs of him to read, the night takes the form of a bottle or a woman, and much later on he falls asleep inside his ashtray. Moving on, hand in hand with habit, weakened by the rivers on his window, faces drift along and smiles are thrown at him from time to time, and his country remains the place that he carries in his bag, and ‘Got to keep moving,’ is what he thinks.”

“You’ve reached a whole new level of garbage with that poem. Too sentimental.”

“I wrote it a long time ago.”

“I mean, ‘Weakened by the rivers on his window,’ come on, man!”

“What do you know?” I grunted. 

“This is hobo poetry, hobo thoughts. No worries; you have the heart of a hobo my friend.”

And so I recited another one, whispering circles around the fire. I recited poem after poem, but he didn’t say anything anymore. I even waited for him to say something, anything else, but I guess I was done talking to myself. Exhausted, I dropped myself back on the chair facing the fire and let out a sigh. I was surely losing my mind.

“Starting to get cold,” I said and added with confidence, “But I have faith my skin will handle it. I’ve made it here after all. I’m not gonna burn any more wood,” I sighed, and then a yawn and shiver passed, while some wings flapped overhead, too dark to see, but ever so rhythmic, my blackness and I. “I don’t have much,” I continued, “but I’ve made it here, you’ve seen. I have some papers, a few good stories, and more than that, I probably owe the world many apologies. I’m not sure who you are to me, but in this blackness I’ll believe in you. For the first time I’ll let someone know that I was never really a hateful person, mostly just sorrowful. It was all just some sort of sorrow that I turned to hate out of boredom, that’s all.”

I lit my final cigarette and threw the empty pack in the fire pit. That’s when I heard a “click”  and Mehdi’s tent suddenly lit up from the inside and he coughed and I watched his shadow as he bounced around and got out from inside his sleeping bag. I was suddenly summoned into a heavy silence, biting down on my tongue, wondering whether I’d been talking out loud this whole time. I couldn’t remember for the life of me. I looked away and tried to hold my breath. I couldn’t have looked away for more than five seconds, but when I turned back to his lit up tent, I distinctly made out the outline of a bear on the gravel road, a few meters behind Mehdi. “Jesus Christ!” I burst out, jolting upwards and dropping my flashlight and kicking the bottle over.

“YO!” Mehdi exclaimed, “Who the fuck is there, man!”

“Mehdi! Mehdi,” I said, my voice cracking every which way, as I grabbed my light and pointed it out at the gravel road. I managed to light up the bear’s ass, as it had walked diagonally off the gravel road and onto our campsite, and was passing on the front end of our van and disappearing from my sight.

“Who the fuck is there, yo!” he shouted again and was beginning to unzip the door to his tent.

“Mehdi, it’s me,” I whispered and yelled at the same time, “There’s a bear on our site! There’s a…”

“Fuck this shit,” he said, zipping the door closed once more. “I really have to piss, man!”

He turned off his light as if to give the bear no indication that someone was home, and I heard a few more whispers from inside his tent that I chose to ignore, mainly him telling me to get in the tent, to not be stupid. I walked instead with calculated steps over to the front of the van, casting the light and surveying the ground and my surroundings with care, my heartbeat filling the inside of my head, reverberating in my bones, pulsating out of my eyes. The bear had gone into the bush and toward the water. I tried repeatedly to penetrate through the trees with my flashlight, for any sign, any movement, listening for any sound. “You’re a silent stepper, aren’t ya black bear?” I said and added in a tone of complete innocence, as if calling forth a frightened kitten, “Come on bear, come on; pss psst pssst… How come you’re not as interested in me as I am in you?” I stood there for a long time, or so it seemed, thinking that maybe I should try and find another path to the water and catch him there. Then came the massive splash and the sound of rippling waves, and I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of that bear’s ass in the water. “Great time for a swim,” I chuckled and raising my hand to my mouth I noticed that I’d dropped my cigarette, my final cigarette. I retraced my steps, as calculated as before, my heartbeat still echoing through me. I found my smoke, still burning, and dawn wasn’t far. There was only a few drags left. Needless to say, I smoked it to the filter, no longer thinking about my conversations with myself, or with God.

 

 

 

 

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