Saturday, October 01, 2016

Annex #1: Additions to ARTIFACT PANEL

Here is the first of two sets of additions to the novella Artifact Panel.  If you’d like to see the original 10,000 word excerpt, click here or contact me directly.

It is important to note that these additions are NOT in any way a sequel or linear continuation of Artifact Panel.  These are all pieces that would be arranged among those existing in an order as yet to be determined.  The hope is that the finished, final version of Artifact Panel would be a small odd book or chapbook, full of white space.

Annex #1


3 martinis in, dirty, gin, combing my beard with a pretzel, trying to figure out just when it was that giving up became the cheerfulest thing in all the world.  Since turning 40 surely.  Before that I was striving, making brave, albeit always with a certain upbeat hopelessness which, like cilantro, is a condiment not universally adored.  An acquired taste.  Plenty of people in the well-to-do white world will tell you, Oh, that’s ETHNIC food.

Others make poor choices in love.  Me, I move from success to still greater success.  1st time: I chose someone I loved.  2nd time: I chose someone I loved who actually wanted to have sex with me.  3rd time: I chose someone I loved, who wanted to have sex with me, and who actually thought I was a good person, a good enough person, even this tremendously mixed-up, lopsided, besmudged person I actually currently am.  Is this not a stunning track record?!  I am going to teach seminars on my method.  Those who sign up now will receive a very significant discount. 

The angel is a dentist.  Despite Jalisco traffic he is very strictly punctual and always I receive notice -- a day in advance, 4 hours at least.  This morning, Saturday, for the very first time he asks, I come right now?  I agree and hurry to clean up.  He lives 20 minutes away.   20 minutes later he arrives.  When I open the door onto Madero he stands there looking sheepish, as though he has done something wrong.  Then I look at him again, abashed and unshaven in an old t-shirt and baggy pants, and see that he has so boner so large and so rigid that he has totally no place to stow it.  Hurriedly, I let him in. 

About the angel, and totally aside from fucking like a porn star: the fact that he does not seem all the time to be saying, with words and with deeds, “Frankly I can do MUCH better than you but you will do -- sigh -- for just now” the way most gay men do, like hotel guests who have been told they will get a free upgrade if they complain.  The angel is present, not just making do, just paying attention, attention which is like fresh water, which ought to be common and was once, or at least was rumored to be.

The angel is respectful, bless him.  He totally assumes I’ve got something going on in my life and just have not seen fit to tell him.  I enjoy this mistake, just as I do when people assume I must be very spiritual.  What a gentle and generous heart he has: he thinks I’ve got someplace to be.

When last I hazarded a visit to family (should the word be in quotes?) one elder brother intoned, “Bro, you need a plan.”  Part of being an adult, I am reminded, is financial planning, especially for a person such as myself, in life’s middle.  (But really it’s late, is it not?)  I must have a plan, like my esteemed siblings have, for which they use something called Spreadsheet, and will on occasion print out and display on the refrigerator.  As a responsible adult, I should do the same.  Therefore, here below, for public perusal, is my financial plan.  Let no one say that I am not responsible, in my own way. 

Continue as now until bank balance is reduced to $1500.  Then, purchase flight ticket to Cambodia.  Careful planning is needed because a ticket to PNH or REP can easily be 1000 bucks -- unless I happen to be next door in BKK and can just take the bus.  I will find a cheap room -- it must have a window -- and I will be a teacher of English conversation.  Cambodia is best because in Cambodia one is permitted to be simple and odd.  Even better, damage is understood, expected.  Unlike America, where everyone has to be somebody, all the goddamned time. Here are my qualifications, here are the ways I’ve been harmed, here are the sacred hyphens of my permanent and all-important identity, this is why I’m the best victim for the job!  This assumes that to matriculate in the visible world is still advisable, still tenable.  If not, the best answer’s still Cambodia, where barbiturates are cheap and widely available.

In regard to style: the thing is I like cranky, mixed, and uneven.  Crude and earnest are both welcome daily visitors.  Which is not to say that I fling open my doors to automatic or sloppy.  But the gun on the mantelpiece -- may do as it likes.  Mine is not the American pragmatism: so many advances, so many resources, so beautifully made, paid a lot for it, therefore someone must die, just so we know we got our money’s worth.

It is far more prestigious to be published in the literary journal of Bowling Green State University than it is to suck off a stranger in the shower at the baths.  However, at the baths you have a far better chance of being seen.

Friday at La Cueva with the angel and friends.  I am very careful with the friends of the angel.  Adjacent, they share in his radiance.  These are true and important friends, the angel spends less time with them because of me, and I am a non-rich, unhandsome gringo with very peculiar manners.  The chance of them actually liking me, methinks, is somewhere in the single digits.

The friend who is kindest to me is a sleek young bear, his hair and beard the blackest black, his eyes so large and dark he could serve as a comic book pirate.  To draw him you’d need a brush full of ink.  Like the angel, he invites the thought, I would like to be severely punished!  This appearance is a problem for him because, as he frequently announces, he’s totally a bottom.  Therefore he take care to wear shirts with sparklies, to sashay just enough, and to bat the abundant lashes of his adorable eyes.

The bear in ink explains, “In Mexico we don’t really have dating.  I keep explaining to Angie, Johnny is from the States.  In the States, you might go out with someone every Thursday for 3 years, even though you don’t really like him.  In Mexico, if you like someone, that’s who you’re with till it’s done.  But in the States you have dating.  Understand?”  “I do,” I say.  “I guess I should explain better.  I’m sorry.  This is so embarrassing.  You see, I have totally fallen in love.”  

I will now stand here in the stall for five minutes pretending to piss while the friends of the angel -- yes, they call him Angie -- explain to him that he has acquired a lovesick gringo.

Time is a disease I have.  Like any disease it gets worse the more that I think of it.  Actually time is really weird disease.  It’s not real, but it kills you.  And I am all the time counting, subtracting, dividing it: time is fake money.  Especially now I am that dizzy and precarious thing, whisper it: happy.

I slip back to the table.  A fresh cold Corona is waiting, with its cheery tilted lime.  The eyes of the angel are very bright.  Awwww, he says.  Mi amor.

Now in love, officially, and also shit-faced drunk, the angel’s about to shove in.  Condom!  The poppers are empty, the lubricant vanished, it plain fucking hurts.  And, no, as a matter of fact, we still have not had that conversation.  How could a man so good at fucking while drunk still be negative?  If he’s on meds, then fine -- the big fear is that he expects to be cured with temazcal and salt water.

A book which contains so many references to alcohol -- as well as to other intoxicants and to behaviors which lend themselves to elevated levels of excitement and the alteration of consciousness, which should, like pants, be sized to fit, as well as to show off everything to its best advantage -- ought to contain at least one original cocktail recipe.  Therefore, voila, the Hickey Bliss.
6 to 8 ounces agua de jamaica, lightly sweetened
1.5 shots* pisco
ice (rocks)
lime (optional)
Stir and serve. Garnish with lime, mostly because deep purple and bright green look divine together.  Enjoy!  (*A shot is a variable/indeterminate unit of measurement, which may range anywhere from a tablespoon to a tea cup.  But, however you measure it, you may not have one shot, no, you must have one and then you must have some more.)

The Paris Review asks, Why note cards?
A: Because the napkins you get in Mexican gay bars just disintegrate.  Ever write something down in a dream?  Very nearly as bad.  Of course I still try.  But it’s like making literature out of lint.

WHISK.  I need this verb to do a little more and so I do hereby declare it.  To whisk is to make negligible accomplishments appear substantial, if only to oneself, to take the spittle of the very thinnest triumph and give it body, make it froth.  What other option is there for ne’er-do-wells to secure their own self-regard?  How else to matter, if only to oneself?  Once I survived for a month on a single friendly nod from a Puerto Rican muscle daddy at the gym -- we shared bicep strategies!  Someone said I was promising once: I got maybe 15 years out of that, before it turned to poison.  The admiration of septuagenarians, the love of indiscriminate dogs, or publication in the very most obscure literary magazines, in which nuclear codes could be published, without anyone ever discovering them, or coming to harm.  Because it’s arduous to always be nobody, particularly on Sundays.  Occasionally one feels the need to count, add up, matter, and therefore you must concoct, confabulate, whisk.  In order that you might continue and persist, so that you might seem like someone, if only to yourself.  Therefore, whisk!  The key, as to successful resentment and grudge-bearing, is repetition

The abode of the angel is one long room, divided by curtains.  I go beer, says the angel and hands me the remote control.  When he comes back I’m still just sitting there, in a straight-backed chair beneath one dull bulb, no TV and no music.  Meditación? asks the angel and I try to explain, in mixed and broken language, how the upside of being pathologically hypersensitive, muy muy nervioso, is that I can sit and enjoy -- this an orange wall.  As well as the contrast of the grade-school blue wall beside it.  Was it done with sponges?  Also: the agreeable din of the old a/c unit, the breeze from the fan, the gleam of the pans in the sink, the lamp in the shape of a star.  If the angel had been gone another 20 minutes, I might have gotten as far as admiring the goldfish -- as it was I didn’t have time.  Such are the wonders that open to me, on those rare occasions when I do not feel afraid.

For your reference, a 20 count box of Valium, generic, 10mg., set me back 350 pesos, which I’m almost sure was a rip-off.  I also awarded myself ibuprofen, though I suspect it’s why my brothers have almost no innards.  Jaw hurt, guts hurt, nuts hurt.  For connective tissue I had Edgar Allan Poe.  Ever notice: it never matters that you didn’t for so long.  Only that you finally did.  Give in.  What a shame.  Both pills together with a tall glass of water.  30 minutes later I had become a human being.  The world, too, had acquired central air.  The streets -- such innovation! -- were engineered so that even I could walk around in them.

High on drugs, doing things I would never ever do -- like volunteer to watch fireworks.  “Let’s go see the fireworks,” I actually said.  What next!  Instead of the scheduled trembling, I went with the angel to watch the display and, for once, I enjoyed the fireworks, instead of pretending to enjoy them while having to remind myself every minute, like some skittish pet, you are not under attack.  Later I will no doubt suffer, but, in the meantime, I would like to note here that it was lovely to feel, for once, like a human whose dials have been set correctly, and also to understand, at last, why people go to see fireworks.  The way it feels as though you are walking across the sky at night, through a garden of enormous flowers.

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