Dearest Mr. Adams,
This will be a rather short note, as I’ve included a long story I found today, while looking through the past, searching for my voice. As you know I’ve been working on a novel, and I’m stuck, and in some ways I’m stuck creatively all over the place. The world seems stuck my dear friend, everything seems stuck, do you know what I mean? Well sir, I know you would not judge me for being vulnerable with you. I cannot seem to find my voice, as a writer lately, and I decided out of desperation to read a story from my early days of writing when I was in my mid-twenties, and I was surprised by it. There is an honesty, a clarity, that conflicts with the ways I have chosen to view myself as a young man. Although many of my character flaws are obvious in this bit of writing, there is a rigor, a passion that I am hoping to recapture. The maintenance of one’s youthful vitality has proven a much harder challenge than I thought. Well Mr. Adams, I am inspired as always by your committed nature, by your passion and unwillingness to succumb to hopelessness; I depend on it sir. I hope you and our readers enjoy this story.
a story by a young Akbar Lightning
I Love You Porgy plays on my new C.D. player and I pray it doesn’t start skipping. Those goddamn CDs are so superior. My friend blows his nose in the distance and oh what a night. I want to write a song titled “I always cry in Georgia.” I do.
Holding hands and almost falling
Death Moon Indigo
Who’s that, calling
Naked in my sight
and I cannot find a way
I drive a lot and I always cry in Georgia
I drive a lot and I always cry in Georgia
Old Steve Martin
laughing at midnight
this song sucks
but I keep going
I keep driving
pale lights in my eye
I drive a lot and I always cry in Georgia
I drive a lot and I always cry in Georgia
They talk in the foyer and I talk in my head about them, writing hat hangs from my computer and it is not writing, I am. I get pissed off about low-quality compact discs, taxi drivers who pretend that they have no understanding of the fucking roadways. Hello, that’s your job, have some pride Ishmael. There is an accident in my head. The cacophony of sounds and the layering of imagery astound me. So many people. So many little boys with toys looking for meaning and here I sit writing this stuff on this box that capitalizes my I’s.
I think of money. The power of the period. The force of endings. They say that I am not smart enough but I will prove them wrong with my simple wisdom earned from my sin and trauma. Big black boys molesting my sense of safety. Grabbing me by the neck and screaming, “give me your chain, give me your chain” in drunken ebonics and you wonder why I take it so seriously when you grab me by the neck. I will not be subjugated. I will not allow my body to be my prison. Touch me and suffer the pain of exodus. I will cut all you mother fuckers loose if you are too simple to see that all I want to do is love. Do you know what it is to eat grapefruit without consent, to have eggshell forced into your teeth by the fists of angry inner city gorillas. I do. I drive a lot and I always cry in Georgia.
What bothers me more than manipulative taxi drivers and unchecked aggression by my brothers is my own lack of animal control. My cock crops up in my mind as I sit down to write something nice. I wish I had control enough to not stare like a beast at the beautiful creatures that smell like lilacs and stargazer lilies and when I eat pad thai all I can think of is their assholes. It is so animal that I excuse it for banana madness. I will use absolutely any means to absolve my personal fears from this script. Let me tell you about how I hate my skin. It reacts to everything. Pimples, scrapes, bumps and bruises. It hurts to have a covering so sensitive to such a dirty fuck wad of a tunnel tank.
I should read this to some group therapy session. I like the twelve-step method to survival. Humility to the point of wisdom. I am not a humble man, which is why I am a dumb son of a bitch. There are so many opportunities to feel good about the shit we’ve been through. I remember I had a toy gun as a kid. I was hangin out at some dive at an age too young to be around booze and boozers but I had this toy gun with me and I let some drunk borrow it. BAM, his friend did not like being reminded of Vietnam and neither did I. Pieces under a barstool. Plastic parts and my knees on a sticky floor while two buds shared buds and apologized to everyone in the room except for me and you expect me to give that kind of shit up to be a good guy.
My Grandmother stands on my desk in a frame. She is young, thirty in a swimsuit standing next to a six foot tarpon. She caught that magnificent fish years ago when she was alive and at her most beautiful. I miss her so much. How can someone able to stand in such victory be taken down? I am going to sleep.
The next day and my shopping for tomatoes has calmed me down. I half-cleaned the kitchen leaving the plastic bag with its beer puddle under it where it belongs. Lap tops and lap dances are both just a flirt with a façade. My poetic side hops in and I say, “Why not throw a book at them? Why not put question marks on my questions? Why not. Why not just fucking do it, like all the commercials say? Why not buy into my individual aspirations even though I understand the absolute ridiculousness of it all. What do I understand? What do I know? A year from now I will laugh at my naiveté. I will scoff at old pictures of my silly shoes and the books I read. I will remember the people I waged war with and smile in a way that says, “ how silly I was.”
As I walked today, in an out of the masses, I continuously dissolved into longing. Today I decided to write the names of the dead on my baseboards. I want Mam-maw and Pap-paw, Carl and Ed, all the ghosts of Christmas past with me. I still can’t let go of them. Their smiles gleamed at me and I felt so good and now they do not exist. They are lost except for my thoughts in solitude. They live in the dark, late at night when I lay down and wonder why. There they are smiling at me and I do not understand that kind of warpedness. I will write their names low next to the floor so I can feel them in my feet as I walk on this slightly rounded chessboard hoping for a good move.
Candles and beer bottles currently decorate my dresser. Willie Nelson CD’s and self-portraits done in aluminum foil and a postcard from Playboy magazine. I am still so much an adolescent. The dogs bark outside of my Brooklyn window and it is overcast the way a Saturday is supposed to be. My leg is propped up and I am staring at my writing hat again. I almost bought gold fish today but I got bogged down by the salesman and his ideas about filtration and chlorination and all the accessories. How much does a goddamn goldfish require? I just wanted a companion. Something constant with easy agendas and accidental beauty. I plan on getting them Wednesday when I get paid. I am going to buy all that bullshit so I do not have to worry about proving a point with the life of a gold fish. Ok, you were right the fucker’s dead, give me another one with a filter and all that stuff you told me about in the first place. I am going to just trust him, really try and trust him. I am paranoid. How can it be avoided in this sales economy. Sell, sell, sell. Who’s the best? I want the best, I want guarantees, I want #1 all the way, and a top ten list, suggested by experts. Come and get it, I only got three more, buy here, quick and easy. Writhing and reaching for the top of a hill of beans.
Why does this computer automatically indent my next paragraph. Does it not realize the oppressing nature of enforcing a system of rules. Language must remain fluid. It is the death of language that will spell the end of us all. This computer will win when it forces us to use older and older systems of thinking. Be careful with spellcheck and grammar software. Indenting on a paragraph should remain a choice for it to have meaning. Otherwise we run the risk of stripping the gears of culture. I know you are all feeling that way, daily reminders of that utter meaninglessness. It is scary but I will survive baby. I will overcome. The battle of the early twenties is starting to be won by my hope and faith.
The candles are lit for a late night aligning with self and I sit at my desk trying to achieve some centeredness. I have traveled way into the jungle looking to get lost and here I am, lost. A new journey to get found. Back and forth, up and down. Stasis is death and that final sleep must be such a relief. I watched him relax and blow out that final breath as though it was smoke from his pipe. I held his hand as it died. He kind of smiled. Kind of. I knew I was never so with someone as that moment. Part of me went with him. Part of me recorded his 70 something years of life as I put a period on his sentence. I carry the dead with me and they are heavy. They bungle around my head like poppers in the oven as I jingle jangle through the streets on my way toward the middle of my life. The peak of mountain chain. A fog has been resting in the valley that surrounds me and parables are the only privacy for an open sore.
I open the drawer and notice the condom wrappers. Billy helped me lug this heavy desk off the street and curse up three flights of steps. There are condoms in the drawer and paw prints on the side. I wonder if they are Bronson’s paw prints. Our silent partner who crashes in the staircase and lives her active life on the street. She is curiously aloof and when Billy passes her he claws at her. I wonder what they mean to each other and I wonder why I chose to pick the condom wrappers off the floor and put them in the drawer. Shame is a funny thing. It walks tenderly across my soul leaving the footprints of a pussycat.
She points out my faults with abandon and says things like I can’t wait until you are ready for me. And I think to myself, “ you are a sick bitch.” I cannot believe I have sunk this far. I realize I have been looking for a man named Kurtz but he is dead. He died a long time ago and the jungle has been replaced with strip malls. Heads stuck to towers of credit card bills. What a funny thought.
What I want is her gone. I want her to disappear. She makes me frightened like a child and she represents what is most evil in this world. My sickest desires and lack of strength come to a spike as she slides her hand casually across my cock as we sit at the bar. She is a temptress in the biblical sense and I wish I could turn her into a pile of salt or a loaf of bread but there she is with her lazy eye and her perfect breasts and where did she get those claw marks. Signs of the beast. I am haunted. I will tell her to go back to hell. I will say, “I do not want to see you anymore.” I will stand up against the wave of desire. The testosterone tsunami and under-toe that has kept water in my mouth since the age of fourteen.
This pitiful monologue is a plan, a reflection, a statement of how I feel but it lacks action. It wants for something dynamic and combustible. Action is power and power is power. That is what people want. Action packed adventure and so do I. I want to act out. I want to exert my will to honesty on a subversive world. I want to let everyone know how wonderful I am and I really believe there is nothing better than doing just that.
Today after frolicking in my comical malaise I was taken by a nap. Fell on my bed in the late afternoon and drifted off into one of those slumbers that can only be compared to the subconscious memories of the womb. These sleeps happen maybe twice a year and they are stolen moments of true rest in the absolute tumultuousness of adulthood. All battles have a moment of clarity.
I woke up and gathered my dirty clothes into a bag and heaved it over my shoulders. I made my way to the laundry mat to drop this bag for cleaning and I hoped that she was there. No one magical, just a really sweet Puerto Rican laundry attendant who is presently nameless. She is very nice and makes the ritual of the laundry drop so much more pleasant with her smiles and niceties. She calls me sweety when she says goodbye. She has two jobs in the neighborhood and is going to school. I mean, this girl is really trying to get her shit together and doing so with a smile. I respect that. Working on the improvement of her self while I tire myself with comparative analysis. Confessionals make for sorry reading; here’s your chance to stop because here comes the dirt.
I have slept with whores. I drank some, smoked some. Fantasized about young girls in basketball uniforms. I lied to people to get what or where I wanted. I keep people from knowing my expectations so I can hate them no matter what they do. These are my challenges. My dirty laundry and I would love to find a girl who would wash these soiled sheets with a smile and call me sweety as I threw my bag over my shoulder and headed home.
I clamored up the three flights of stairs and my leader was in his chair shlopping some cheap epicurean nightmare into his mumbling mouth. “Why don’t you talk to me after you eat man, Jesus Christ can you put any more in your mouth?” I walked into my room and tossed the load onto the bed and strolled back to the kitchen watching Him lap at his lips the way a dragon does after devouring Sir Strawberry.
“Hey man, guess what.”
“What? You broke up with that chinky chink?”
“On Valentine’s day, you’re crazy man. Did she ask you again about the heart shaped cake?”
“Yeah, I told her I ate it already.”
He laughed, “Well how did you do it?”
“The phone rang and I was on the computer and I sat there for a moment. You know, one of those moment of truth types of things where you have to make a statement about who you are. Well, I sat there and then it hit me. I stood up and I knew what I had to do. It was harder than I thought. I said, ‘hey Jen, this just is not going to work.’ She was all like, what do you mean, and you are only young once and if I knew you were uncomfortable. ‘Could you explain,’ she said. Man, how many ways can you avoid saying I don’t like you. Talk about a lesson is language.”
“What did you say?”
“I just said some shit about us being different people and la la la. Whatever. The best part was when she asked me if I had any doubts about not seeing her anymore. I sat there, honestly evaluating and I realized I had no doubts whatsoever. I said no. What a great feeling to be able to deliver something so honest to someone.”
“Well, that’s great man. Congrats. Here, this came for you today.” He handed me a letter. It had my mother’s address on it. I had not spoken to her since I left home. I left a letter on the bed and took off for New York City and I guess I knew that I would have to speak to her one day. I opened it up feeling the rush of my victory story waning as the envelope before me did its thing.
I love you! I have read and reread your letter and nothing has ever made me so sad or cry so much as a son who truly believes that in spite of any sacrifices, dances attended, rides given, schooling gotten, gifts received, events gone to, holidays shared, parties given and talks and support exchanged there was not one happy memory or thing to be thankful for. This makes you a self-made man that your “new family” loves and my mission in life as a mother a failure. It is hard to start a new relationship on ashes so I pray for both of us. I hope some day you will believe I have loved you from the time you were conceived and will until I die.
I closed the card and looked at the front. It was a detail of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt and I thought, “what the fuck does this painting have to do with this horrible letter?” I went to my room avoiding my roommate’s curious stare. I closed the door, tossed the letter on the bed and knelt down on the floor. I said the following prayer:
God, I offer myself to thee
To build with me and to do with me as thou will
Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will
Take away my difficulties that victory over them
Will bear witness to those I would help of thy power, thy love, and thy way of life
May I do Thy will always
I collapsed into my arms and fell asleep. In my sleep I dreamt of my Grandfather. We were on some dusty old road stuck in some small town waiting on a bus. We talked to some redhead, flirty, about the bus schedule and she told us to take a cab. My Grandfather smiled patiently as we got on to talking of marijuana and she sold me a bag, big bag, and for some reason the dream got complicated. I remember that in the end the police did not bother me because I was with my Grandfather.
Then I dreamt of a complex foreign princess I dated and had to kick out of my life in a graceless way. She was capable of such beauty and such ugliness. A real beast. We were in some bookstore, like a real antiquey type place with a grassy parking lot. North Florida and she stole something reading it on the store’s steps. “What the fuck are you doing?” I yelled. Glaring at her as an angry father would. I smacked her real hard up side the head and pushed her toward the car. I had never felt such power before. It was a dream and I was totally out of character but it felt good to push her around a bit. I must admit.
I awoke in the woods, a chameleon at my ankle licking a wound. “It’s deadly.” He said. Billy would not be home in time for me to say goodbye. We had a fight last night and I wanted to have the last word. “You are going to lose” the chameleon smiled. We shared the look that long time companions understand as, “There are no good-byes for some.” I watched the little yellow quadropod wriggle away. The trees were swaying, and the poppies were floating. The dew and sweat collecting on my face. The storm was coming. Billy would find me in the rain. Soaked and stiffly defying him. Once I told him I loved him and he slapped me across the face, I cried and he called me weak. In my death he would cry because the woods would not praise him. I was the better jack and my bucket was casually abundant. He picked berries the way a female gorilla preens her young. I will miss his antagonizing barbs. I will miss the crickets that sang the backdrop to our dreaming. The fire mimicking the crackling of unspoken desires. Angels came along so rarely and now as I let Billy drift out of my angle of concern I saw the wings of a dove breaking the canopy. I smiled as the light played on my face. I crossed my fingers and fell gently back to sleep.