There is a man sprawled in front of me with a dent in his skull. Sirens wail nearby but I’m motionless. I can feel his blood. First it courses into my arteries. Then it comes through my pores. It doesn’t gush forth in currents. Instead, it trickles cleanly in red cursive across my knuckles: “albatross”, it writes. It scribbles up my arms and down my abdomen, spelling words I’ve never used. Enough time passes for it to write an entire doctrine on my body. I realize that this is no time to recite a dream but I do it anyway. I do it because it’s an unusual dream. It’s the kind of dream that should be left unsaid, full of hideous allegory and nonsense. I announce the truth of my sleeping moments and, soon enough, the police take hold of me. As they take me away, the dent in the skull begins to fill.
The books I’ve completed this semester/winter break, ranked in order by personal preference. I’ll update it as I go along…
Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville (1851) Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934) Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (1959) Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller (1938) The Love of the Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1941) Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997) Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962) On Writing by Stephen King (2000) Song of the Silent Snow by Hubert Selby Jr. (1986) Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway (1927) The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller (1941) As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930) In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway (1925) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (1962) Hollywood by Charles Bukowski (1989) Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life by Herman Melville (1846) Junky by William S. Burroughs (1953) The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952) Surfacing by Margaret Atwood (1972) The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987) Different Seasons by Stephen King (1982) The Covenant by Irving Layton (1977) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) The Willow Tree by Hubert Selby Jr. (1998) Fierce Departures by Dionne Brand (2009) 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King (1975) The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway (1988) Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim (1996)
It happened when my skeleton was a stencil for injections, when my words came out in virile spurts, serving the typography I built from boyhood. That was the form I took when two prowlers flagged me in the nucleus of an alleyway. I was limp-minded when they faced me. They moved serpentine, sliding between parked cars; they had holes for hands, but still I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t stop them when they lunged for my windpipe, when they stung, filling me with venom until I was paste on gravel. My skin swelled with poison… I was converted. They dictated my transformation: the ground became anatomy while I gradually lost shape and awareness. My cells reformed for the duration of a sermon; I found sanctuary in the midst of organ music, dying in a church pew, tainted blood leaking out of my irises. I saw the nebula of something grim in those clamorous pianos, a reptilian presence rearing its head through the cacophony. I shrunk from the resonance of schizophrenia exploding through stained glass. Scales ruptured through muscle, clattered across my skin; I felt fangs tearing through my gums. I was lost in malformed catechism, hissing desperation in a vacated cathedral.
1. Sofia As a teenager, she lost her vodka-varnished name in his home. Her nail polish gushed from fissures in his flesh when he first fucked the serotonin out of her. She fantasized with him inside an inky boarding house, eclipsed by grey wind and silent commotion. Then he broke free into inner city fervour, sped past splintered institutions, surveyed cracked-out crowds and left her to soften in the afterglow. Morning encroached on her bed frame while she festered in withdrawal, imprinting dopamine into his nightmares. Sofia – she’s the one reserved for his high-rise flashbacks, when jewellery infomercials trigger sad memories.
2. Isabel She is the silence when infomercials have run their course. She was his oracle constructed from static; her lustre clouded out in the wash of late nights. He always forgot her name minutes after she left; he couldn’t describe her aroma, her sex, her purpose. She was a spectral illusion in his TV screen, a wisp of shadowed skin reduced to yearning. He allotted time to forget her aspirations (which she summarized in a scrapbook of construction paper clichés). He affiliated her with desolation in any given room, ensuring she would never be classified. Isabel was an afterthought before she existed.
3. Avalyn She arrives by coincidence; but even from a distance, when she’s half-exposed under traffic lights, he recognizes her shape. Snow whirls through her words when she urges him to immolate whatever scars his smile. Sometimes she sees his expiry inside clothes on the bathroom floor, and in stacks of slander-filled journals. She submerges herself in his doubt – Avalyn, who arrives by coincidence.
When you first see him he surveys you through eyelids made of ennui and slops words through holes chewed into cuticles. He has poetic license (so say the chemicals bubbling between chafed lips). He drools apocalyptic between cautionary tirades, clutching at strands of consciousness that sprout haywire from his scalp. He tugs them free; they drift to your feet in bleeding clumps. He sucks down the dregs of a mouthwash daydream, offers you the plastic bottle then sizzles out into iced wind and violent prophecy.