Monthly Archives: September 2012


Jason, age 20, 1995


Jason had found the cat, Harriet.  It was something he’d always wanted and with a new apartment, why not?  Playful at first the cat had swelled to laziness.  Ben referred to it as Gato Fato.

One day Jason pulled a double shift.  Too tired to sleep he sat in a chair in the living room.  Harriet came out and flopped just outside the swinging distance of the front door.  Dave could only stare.  .

He saw a mound form on Harriet’s stomach and slowly work its way up towards the spine.

“I’m crazy, I have to quit this job” Jason thought.

There was more movement inside the cat.  He covered one eye, then the other to make sure it was not retinal damage from the over-bright kitchen he’d been working in all day and night.

Jason leaned forward.  He grabbed the arms of the chair and pushed until he fell on all fours.  He moved towards Harriet who looked at him with a desperate, fatigued love.

Jason kissed the cat on the head.  A purr rose and fell for that was all she could give.  He wiped his hand on the carpet, which wasn’t very clean, and placed it on Harriet’s stomach.  He felt movement, solids and sudden pockets of air.  He imagined kittens writhing in red heaven with gurgled mews of thanks.  He imagined gigantic worms eating the inside of Harriet like corn on a cob.

The two extremes merged in his mind and he imagined a struggle-the worms constricting and consuming the hairy and prostrate balls of flesh and innocence.  The kittens didn’t stand a chance.

Several friends came over and convinced him that kittens were the parasites, not worms.

A week later Harriet’s eyes were filled with panic.  Did she know of birth or did she believe she was going to explode?  Jason had made a nest for her but she paid as much attention to it as any cardboard box.  She would not leave him alone.  He spent the morning with her.  It was only a three hour shift, he explained before he left.  Her eyes and needs broke his heart as he shut the door.

He washed dishes at a halfway house.  He wanted to be close to those over the edge and maybe back again.  He wanted to see them fall again.  He wanted to be a part of it.

He tried to talk to the residents but they only told him to stay clean.  Sometimes they would grab his arm in desperation and pierce his eyes with theirs.  They spoke in dogma.  They talked of a book with more reverence than Jason had heard anyone talk about the Bible.  The book was full of simple rules twisted and phrased with contrived wisdom.  Everybody there needed to follow the rules of the book or there was death or worse.  Not even a joke could be shared with them but most people didn’t understand Jason’s sense of humor anyway.

He had stopped trying to talk to them at this point and he only thought of Harriet and the birth.  He wanted to be there for the sacredness and also to keep her from spilling birth mess on his bed.

Jason came home to a static meow.  Harriet looked at him and ran right to her nest.  He was proud, she had waited for him.  Five minutes after he arrived she began to writhe.

People had promised to help him or watch or be there for the birth.  He called around while watching Harriet tight and shudder.  Everything about her stretched.  Her desires had caused a possession and now the exorcism had begun.

After all the calls nobody was home but his girlfriend’s little sister, who he also had briefly and obsessively dated.  He wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear it but he narrated the action to her.  There were silences and groans.  His throat was tight.

“Here’s one.”

After an hour there were five.  Eyes shut, struggling for breath; their mother’s diligent tongue no substitute for the womb.

“All right, I’m going to go now,” he told the sister on the phone.  She hung up without a word.

He looked at the nest.  It was a box in his closet with a towel and newspaper shreds at the bottom.  The light was terrible, he could hardly see.  There was movement and the sound of licking.  It could still be worms.  He sat in the chair next to it.  Soon he began to cry slow tears like heavy condensation.  His stomach contracted, all his pride had left him.

Amy, his girlfriend, came by fifteen minutes later.  They admired the kittens.  She shone a flashlight in the box.  Jason had thought of this before but was scared that the light would somehow be damaging.  Harriet looked up with fatigued pride.  Her eyes shot the flashlight glow back.  Her eyes looked like those of a god.  The kittens were sleeping, they could wait for their life to begin.

After a few drinks and hours admiring the mother and children Jason kissed her.  Soon their clothes were off.

Making out with her was strange.  She had a few tricks that she never strayed far from.  She licked his ear and he licked hers.  She reached in his pants and rubbed her finger up and down the crack of his ass.  He always worried about too much hair, underwear lint, an oasis of sweat.  But she had never commented or hesitated or stopped in disgust or surprise.

She touched everything lightly.  She drove with her fingertips.  It drove him crazy.  She took of his clothes and touched him with the same delicacy.  It felt good but it reminded him that he would never know her and possibly there was nothing to know.  Sometimes he grabbed her hard in hopes that she would respond similarly but she never did.

They stood naked.  They got in the bed and rolled around.  They paused.  They lay on their backs side by side.  They had run out of condoms a few nights before.

“Do you want to go to the store?”, Jason asked.

“No” she answered with a slightly abrasive tone.  She turned away from him and got in a sleeping position.  Jason gently rubbed her back for a minute or so.  He thought this wouldn’t bug her and he felt he should do something.  But mostly he was saying “I don’t care.”

Their breathing slowed and there was a silence in the room.  He heard a quiet, damp rustling coming from Harriet’s nest.

Normally Jason would have been angry or caught up in an analysis of what he might have done wrong.  But tonight he was glad and almost relieved.  The sound of the kittens made him realize he was a daddy, better than a daddy, they were just kittens that would be given away.  He loved Harriet and was glad to show her to anybody that came by.  And now they had shared an experience together, only Harriet and him.  Amy’s sister didn’t matter.  Jason could not think of a single more intense experience that he had shared with someone.  This scared him.  It was only a cat and millions, billions of people had done the same thing.

While he was thinking Amy had rolled over and was working her way from his ear down with her fingertips.  Soon she was on him.  She hesitated and then put him inside her.  Jason was confused but he didn’t care.  They had talked about AIDS and half convinced each other that they were safe like everybody does.

But there was no birth control and with all this new life around it was dangerous.  A baby with Amy, with anybody right now, seemed worse than death.  It ended quickly and neither of them said a word.  Jason slept as far away from Amy as he could in his tiny bed.

The next morning Amy went to go have lunch with her sister.  Jason spent an hour with the kittens and then made himself a tuna sandwich.  He thought and chewed.  He wanted to write a poem about the night before.

He thought so much.  He couldn’t stop.  He was enslaved with words.  He wrote every now and then, short, little poems.  He thought hard about what he was feeling and described it in his best words.  They were like pills for moments of life; during crisis or joy or whatever.  If he felt something bad he would go back to his poems.  Either they would tell him how he had felt ot that things could be better or things could be worse.

A week later Amy said “I think I’m falling in love with you” as they were both falling asleep.  Nobody said anything more.  Jason thought of Kim and laid there motionless thinking about Kim for hours.  He felt broken, what a jerk.

The nest week he was wakened by rustling and mewing.  In the curtained moonlight Jason saw Harriet carrying a kitten in her mouth from the nest in the closet across the room to underneath the table that the stereo was on.  He quietly woke Amy up and pointed it out to her.  He handed her her glasses as Harriet carried the rest from spot A to spot B.

Jason had read about it.  There was no reason for the move, it was only an instinct.

That weekend Jason broke up with Amy.  She took it okay.  He felt much better with only himself to worry about.

He gave her a kitten after they were ready.  He gave the four others to acquaintances.  He was worried.  He had grown to like them all.  He bought five Mexican prayer candles for hope and good luck.  He burned each one till they were empty.

He filled the empty candles with newspaper and took them to the river.  It was night and he was drunk.  One by one he used a stick of incense to light the paper and throw the candles, flaming, into the river.  The first one he held too long and the glass snapped leaving his hand black and burned but not cut.

He thought of all the kittens throughout the ages that had been put in burlap sacks and thrown in the river.  He wondered if he was doing enough.

As far as Jason knew all the kittens were fine.

He walked home and Dave was out.  Harriet came to him.  She had adjusted quickly to the loss of her children, only a few inquisitive meows into their usual corners.  After a few days she didn’t seem to think of them at all.  Thinking of Amy, Jason wondered if he would always be like this.

He felt all alone.  He had friends but they weren’t enough.  Amy seemed like nothing but two months a little less bored and some sex.  He felt he could lose everyone he knew and quickly adjust to normalcy.

He felt so alone.  And then Brian and Kim broke up and she moved in with Jason and Dave.  Life seemed fruitful again.


Joan Didion

In the New York Winter I went Uptown alone.  I had seen that Joan Didion was reading at Barnard.  I had called two California girls to go with me but I couldn’t get a hold of either one of them.  I was early for the reading in order to navigate Barnard’s campus.  I walked slowly on the snowy paths.  Two short people were looking at a sign.  I was going to ask them if they knew where to go but they beat me to it.

“Excuse me, do you know where Barnard Hall is?” the man asked.
Holy shit, it’s Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne.

“I don’t know, let’s find it together.”  They walked up and each grabbed one of my arms and we started on our search.  They were so little.  We were only a couple of buildings away.  On the way she saw a flyer for her talk.  It had a picture of her from the Sixties on it, not the one with the sunglasses.

“Jesus Christ, why’d they put that picture on there?  When I get on stage everyone’s going to say ‘who is this old cunt?’”

I took them to their undergrad handler and they both thanked me and I wished them a good night.

Inside a vending machine displayed the rolling message “Sometimes I have problems”.



Night at the Rendezvous

            I was kissing a girl in Dolores Park before I met back up with my friend Malcolm, so I was already in a pretty good mood.  We headed to the Tenderloin.  All Malcolm’s favorite places were closed so we went to Club Rendezvous, the last hustler bar left on Polk Street, once the gay center of the city.

            It was karaoke night, that’s why we were there.  It was pretty dead.  The ringer KJ, an older, well-dressed black man, was giving some newish soul ballad his brilliant treatment.  Malcolm ordered us drinks while I went over the song book.  They didn’t have the Hall and Oates song I’d had in my head so I went with “Hello” by Lionel Richie, an old stand-by of mine.

            I smelled beautiful chili dogs on the mezzanine and by the time the bartender told me they’re free my name is called to sing.  Malcolm went up to make us chili dogs.  I climbed the tiny stage and I was at my perfect height of awareness-I’m ready to sing the shit out of this song.

            And I did.  I amazed myself with how perfect my voice sounded and how my body moved to this ballad that has always meant a lot to me.  It was my first karaoke song years ago and the crowd filled me in when I struck momentary ignorance of the verses’ melody.   I was watching the amazing video for this song in the sixth grade when my older sister started crying and ran to her bedroom.  I never found out why.  I just guessed it was her crush at the time-Cimarron Grubb.  I felt the tiny crowd, earlier not even paying attention, start to give me a chance.

            Not even through the first verse all this yelling started at the front of the bar.  I saw a man step out of the meager crowd agro with a hatchet in his hand.  The situation didn’t really hit me.  I felt as if I was watching a movie.  I kept singing.  Not every line but choice ones like “Is it me you’re looking for” felt especially poignant.  Everyone scattered and the guy was alone, yelling and chopping at a table then more quick chops at the bar.  The hatchet man circled around screaming stuff at the bartender that I couldn’t hear because I was singing.  He wildly threw the hatchet at the bartender and missed.  The whole bar’s palpable sighs of relief were shattered when the guy pulled out a scalpel type knife from his jacket ready to throw.

            The bartender shrilly yelled “Please stop singing, he’s got a knife.”  I jumped off the stage and join Malcolm on the balcony where we shared delicious chili dogs while watching the guy throw his knife, hesitate and pull out another one.  The cops came in with guns drawn.  After a brief stand off the guy dropped his knife and was handcuffed.  Everyone upstairs relaxed and went down to solidify their story before they go off and tell it to others.  “Go easy on him, he just had surgery” someone said to the cops as they dragged him out. 

            “Great job, very Fassbinder,” Malcolm said to me.  Everybody comes by me and comments.  The KJ says “Good job, very professional” and shakes my hand.  A girl said, “Bye, awesome Lionel Richie guy.”  I went out to flirt with her but she rides off on bikes with her obvious boyfriend. 

            Meanwhile, the hatchet man was sitting cuffed against the wall outside of the bar.  He was talking freely in an Irish accent to the cops.  He fully intended to kill the bartender who had been giving him shit nonstop for over a year.  He had five knives with him.  His hunting knife got taken away the week before when he threatened to kill his neighbor.  Malcolm later found out that he had been banned from the bar after he tried to kill himself there.  He hasn’t done drugs in ten days. “That’s his problem right there”, Malcolm said as we left the closing bar to find somewhere else to tell our story.  Maybe we can get free drinks.

            Something about this fight made everybody feel so alive.  That so many terrible things could happen, but they were distant and we could conquer them with our well planned phrases. We went to other bars dripping our tale everywhere.  We met a gay sailor who hated the Navy.  We met some great lesbians who gave us a ride home.  I couldn’t wait to tell it to my roommate Curt.  He has the greatest laugh.