The Third Way

For ten years, I dreamed only.  I saw in the shapes in the clouds a different world.  The only people who hid, hid for fun.  I saw in the patterns of the wood grain of floors a different reality.  The only ones who were chased wanted secretly to be caught.  I saw in the branches of trees mutual care and responsibility, and I saw in the mist off the grass in the morning the evaporation of the reasons to steal and harm, and I witnessed in the osprey carrying the trout the death of state and gender, the violent but calm overthrow of the racist and the class traitor.  All of this I saw as if before my eyes, knowing it was playing in my head.  This was the wrong kind of knowing.

For ten more years, I fought mostly.  If something seemed wrong, it probably was, because most things were wrong.  Action was always preferred, because if something needed correcting, the chances were better that it would be fixed with swift doing than delayed talk.  Where I was then meant fists and batons, it meant by any means necessary, and it meant force must not only be returned redoubled, but must be anticipated and extinguished.  There is less time for dreaming when wounds are healing, and even less than that when attempting to prevent wounds from opening at all.

For some years now, though, I have attempted a third way.  The lessons of dreaming can seem only to apply to the dreamworld, but this is not the case.  Good dreams, useful dreams, include coded instructions on how to realize the dreamworld.  I shall never want for imagination again.  The lessons of fighting can feel purely physical, tactile, and momentary, as all physical and tactile things are.  This is not quite right either, and the real lessons of fighting are not revealed until the fight has gone out of us.  That is when it becomes clear that whatever measure of resistance we can muster is often all that keeps the crush from compacting us from above.  So the third way is imagining a better world and refusing to rest until it is realized.  If that is unto death, then our last breaths will be drawn in refusal and released in acceptance.  I will bring the fight to my dreams and my dreams to the fight, remembering forward to a world I hope to bring into existence.  I choose this way for myself, my chosen family, and those who need and deserve this better world, which dances in my head and out through the tips of my fingers.  Until then. Until.

A Last Knock

Received via post, two weeks after the publication of the last entry, addressed to Dr. Beatrice Alighieri, as requested of any information pertaining to Cat.  Handwriting is deliberate and careful, which generally results in a more trembling, less natural script.  This seems to be written, in short, by someone who does not write freehand with any regularity.  It is undated and in no other way superficially remarkable:


I saw the entire thing, and I knew there would be nothing in your box about this.  Because it hadn’t happened yet.  When all the things in the box happened.  This was after all that.  I spend a lot of time on those stairs, I know it’s true.  I’m not really watching out, though.  It’s just where I prefer to be.  So when I left for a minute, it was really only a minute.  It was hot that day, I always remember the hot days because there are fewer people on the street.  So you remember faces because there are less of them.  Especially when they aren’t faces you’re used to seeing.  I had to shut the door because there have been people trying to sneak in, which I don’t mind.  That’s the way it has always been.  But some other people who live here ask me why anyone is getting in when they don’t belong there if I sit there all the time anyway.  They don’t like when I say it’s because I don’t care and no one is getting hurt so why should I care?  So I shut the door, because I had to.  When I came back downstairs to open the door, there was someone there.  She looked like she had already knocked, because her hands were at her sides and she was looking at me like she expected me to open it.  I said hello and asked her if she was looking for someone.  I’m not actually a doorperson, but I didn’t really know what else to do.  I’m not very good at describing people so I’m not going to try.  I would probably have better luck drawing her, but I don’t think I’m going to do that either.  The point is, I could tell by her accent and the fact that she was wearing gloves that she was looking for Cat.  It couldn’t be anybody else, even with all the strange people that pass through here.  She sounded like she knew he wouldn’t be here, but she looked relieved when he wasn’t.  I expected her to be sad, but that just wasn’t how it was, and I know how to read faces.  I see enough of them to learn their language.

So I offered her a drink, which was why I went inside in the first place, and she said she could use something and to get paper and write down what she had to say.  I told her I wasn’t much for taking notes, and she said that would probably be better.  I had a little gin, I don’t know why I thought that would be better.  She gave me some money and had me get some kind of wine from the corner, which I didn’t think they would have, but they did.  And then we started talking.  

She told me to figure out who would tell Kosh’s story, and if no one was, then I had to.  I said I wasn’t much for remembering stories, I always changed the details and got to the exciting parts too fast, but she said that’s why I had to write it down.  Kosh is what she called Cat.  Unless she really wasn’t talking about Cat at all, but I think she must have been.  It sounded like him.  I tried to get the details right as best I could.  She said to take a minute to describe where we were and tell her what I wrote.  So this is what I wrote:

It’s sunny, hotter than yesterday.  I’m sitting on a stone step and the sidewalk is mostly clean because it rained three days ago and there have not been that many people on it.  The trees in the park are green and are almost high enough to block the sun.  I am wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts, and I am barefoot because I’m not going anywhere.  The woman who came to visit is tall with black hair is wearing a blue collared shirt and a black skirt.  We are drinking gin and wine.  I am nervous because I don’t really like to write.

She said that was fine.  She told me that cities were often safer than the country because there were more places to hide.  She said running in the country was scarier because usually you were either in the woods, where you could hurt yourself running, or you were in the open and could be seen more easily.  I said that seemed like a problem if you were hiding, but if you weren’t running from anything then the country sounded all right.  I didn’t think you would get shot or mugged or hassled by cops in the country.  She said all those things happened, it just depended on the country.  She asked me if I could think of five hiding places nearby that not many people knew about.  Of course I could!  I could name 20 if thought about it for a minute.  She said that was plenty.  We sat there for awhile and didn’t say anything, which I always like.  Sitting with another person without feeling like you have to say something until there is something to say.  I think that is when you learn who a person is.  When they are not talking.  Or not talking much.

Eventually she told me that love is a kind of separation.  You have to separate a part of yourself to show it to someone else.  It was a big risk, but there wasn’t any other choice, so you just did it.  She said that she and Kosh separated their whole lives and it created a lot of trouble, but it was worth it, because there wasn’t anything else to do.  If you had the opportunity to do it, you just had to do it.  And then she said that everything works towards destruction anyway.  I didn’t really want to interrupt her, but I told her that sounded pretty negative to me, and that I didn’t want to work toward destruction.  I didn’t really want to work at all, unless it was for something good.  She laughed, I think it was the only time she laughed while she was here.  She said, that was fine, I could work towards the destruction of something bad.  That was fine.  She asked me if I ever destroyed something bad.  All I could think of was the time we saw those cops smash up a squat because they knew the people weren’t in the country legally, so we went door to door and got all the sugar we could to funnel into their gas tank.  We had to pry it open with a little crowbar.  It was really tough, but that seemed worth destroying.  She said that was a perfect example, and that she did not need to give me any more advice.  

We sat for awhile longer.  I think it was a long time.  This time I felt like I had to say something, just to show her that I was listening.  I asked her if it was important.  I just knew she would ask me what was important, and I wouldn’t know, so I was just come up with something and then she would say something else.  But she didn’t.  She didn’t need to ask what was important, it was like she was waiting for that question.  She said it was important, all of it, but he had left, and that was a choice, and she had come, and that was a choice, but that there weren’t really any other choices to make, so it may as well have not been a choice at all.  I wrote that down.  It May As Well Have Not Been A Choice At All.  She asked for the paper and smiled at that.  That was all she had to say.  I asked her if she would look for him, and she stared off towards the water, she didn’t say anything else.  That was it.  She just drank the rest of her glass and I tried to do the same but it was sharp, it was hard to drink fast.  She saw me coughing and laughed, and turned the glass upside down and set it on the step next to me.  She touched my face and I think she might have whispered goodbye, but it might just be that I wanted her to.  She started walking south, and I said that Cat went north for sure, so she stopped and turned around, but I think she was just doing it for me.

That’s all I know.  I doesn’t make sense to me, but maybe you know more about it than I do.  We probably talked about some other things, but I doubt I’ll remember.  People just drop into my life anyway, this wasn’t that different.  I don’t think I’ll drink gin for awhile.

Thanks.  I guess destroy something bad?


Cat’s Farewell, Stenographed

After hours of listening to recordings of Cat and his retinue singing, arguing, leaving answering machine messages, and speechifying, I think one more transcription is worthy of inclusion.  The rest of it may constitute a separate project down the road though it may be equally worthy to bury it all in a box near the water, or just send it out to sea.  The tape was marked “Mixed Ape,” which is either phenomenally clever or totally asinine.  In either case, the last of the contents, introduced by a whispered “farewell,” follow as faithfully as I could render them:

“My sisters, it is at an end.  I did not come here out of hope or promise, but I must have come to meet all of you, one way or the other.  We did important things together, things about which we may never speak again.  There will not be songs written about scaling the sides of mansions or spitting into the ocean, because it was all just a means to an end.  My heart has worked harder than any cat’s should have to.  It has been born and loved, been torn out and replaced, pumped one-eighth as much blood as it ought to have before being renewed.  And now it slumps in my chest, protected by my ribs from its desire to leap out onto the floor, because it wants to be closer to you.  If you could throw that bottle up in the air, yes that one, straight up into the air, then I will bat it into the wall.  That crash is the bond we will always share, in two-hundred-fifty tiny pieces of different sizes and description, but it is shattered, for I must go.

“And you, my brothers, you dragged the equipment and watched as the women threw the punches.  You were happy to watch them, it felt right and it was right, this was always their fight.  I left all the rest of the money in my room, you know where it is, and you must divide it up equally and then decide where the rest should go.  You know exactly what I mean.  We threw a party once, and I want you to sound the trumpet again now!  Roll the drum also, let the guitar and bass guitar do what they do, and the strings and the voices, it is time.

“I know what true dark is like.  You see it here, but it is a different sort of dark, it is the dark of oblivion.  Too many people needing too many things and missing too many of them.  The true dark I know is the kind where you cannot make out your five fingers in front of your face.  There could be water nearby, you might take a wrong step and plunge in up to your waist.  It is cold, but you are glad to know you can feel the wet.  It feels human.  You are not as sharp as you think you are, because if you were, you never would have stepped into the water.  It is chilling you and you will want to climb out as quickly as possible, but it is better to find the other side.  You are already wet, after all.

“You know about love and family.  It would be better if you just loved and worried less about family.  Things can change quickly, and I do not mean death.  If we meet in a few years, it will not be by accident, I will make sure of that.  Find the highest point in that city, look down from it to the next highest one which can be reached by skill alone.  That is where I will be, or else I will have left you a sign.  I only ask that you never use me as an example, for my case is not one which suggests any course of action or solution.  There are too many other cats for that.  Celebrate the ones you liberate later, always make sure to light something on fire, as I will again now.  These are all the documents I have from the old country, of my own, of Smart’s, who you met, of Cynical, who you did not, of…

“No, I do not have any other advice.  I tried to write everything down I could think of, but it is incomplete, because everything is incomplete.  It did not matter to you all that I came from far away.  You had no concept of who I was or what I might be capable of.  You let a dangerous tiger who had been stripped of his claws and teeth sleep on your floors, and for me you even had somewhere soft to lay my head.  And we danced and drank together, and you have burdened me with remembering all of your faces when I am far away.  The Support will join me at times, but I will not be surprised if I never see the rest of you again.  There is no need to hide your tears.

“Set a time limit.  If you have not reached our goal by then, blow it up.  Do not drag Polaris over the horizon into the sunset.  We are all going to burn brightly for as long as we possibly can, and we will not burn out, we will find the next wind to stoke our embers, and we are going to ascend, sisters and brothers, and we are going to make the jailers regret they were ever born, one by one!  It is going to be one kicked-in door for every prisoner and one smashed window for every divided soul, until every cat is intact again!”

The tape ends here, which is peculiar, because it certainly sounded to me as if Cat was about to continue the very rousing bit of his speech.  His voice was clearer here, especially towards the end, which leads me to speculate he may have been putting on all that gruffness before, or else he was putting on an oratorial guise at this farewell.  It is as fitting an end to his own words as I could possibly provide.  There is, as I have suggested, much more in the box, but from what I could discern, very little that connected to the events relayed here.  I have the creeping suspicion that I am not meant to possess these scraps any longer, that they themselves ought to be blown up, but obviously I lack the gumption to actually destroy them.  The fact that I cannot solve the puzzle hardly means that someone else should not be given the opportunity.  The one unabashed positive here is that Cat thinks something was accomplished and that no one seems to disagree.  How could you not want that for him?  The other element that sticks with me, which I personally find entirely affirming and hopeful, is that there is another goal which has yet to be surmounted.  In moments when I know there is a great deal to be done and am yet uncertain what exactly to do next, there is a pervasive, though admittedly vague, comfort in this mythological entity asserting the incompleteness of everything, but the desire to make it better anyway.  The order of the day: violent hope and ferocious care in the face of the vice-grip of ignorant hate.

A Vignette Concerning Socialists for Good Measure

I like Cat the storyteller.  It may be that the narrative bits are just infrequently enough represented that they seem somehow more vital.  But I think we live in stories to begin with, and it makes me feel better that Cat may think the same.  I’m no more wont now than previously to offer much further comment.  It seems like a corner of this box took on water at some point, leaving the lined stenographer’s paper wrinkled and the lines themselves blown out into thick pinstripes, though the handwritten ink itself is unmarred.  There is no title per se, but like a good executor (how else would you describe my work at this point?), I’ve offered one of my own above.

It could not have been here forever, this cell.  The building is too new, which makes it perfect for hiding old ideas about new problems which are just reborn versions of eternal anxieties and antagonisms.  They come out against HORIZONTAL HOSTILITIES, which must be very serious, but it just makes me think of dirty jokes.  All of my hostilities have been very much vertical.  Pressing down from above, or up from below.  But I understand the idea, I think.  You know where the enemy is if you look upward, and you know who is hurting when you look down.  But if the hostile party is beside you, that is real trouble.  They talk about INTERSECTIONS.  This revolution is to be built at an intersection.  People who do not understand can only think that at the intersection is where you are more likely to be run over.  Which in some cases is true.  But it is also where unstoppable forces might meet immovable objects.  And level them.  You can be immovable, like a bank or a government office or a jail, and still be leveled by an unstoppable force, like hunger.  The point is that the brick seems too clean, but that is a good thing.  They are less likely to break down the door of a nice brick building with a shady overhang.

The place itself could have held an airplane at one point, or many smaller vehicles.  They might call it a bookstore, though there is very little buying or selling going on.  People drink coffee, as you would expect, but they drink other things from jars as well, huddled in twos and threes around various corners and between shelves.  They really seem to have everything one could need, from bomb making to the theory of bomb making to the historical results of bomb making.  There is even a small section against bomb making under the label “JUST FOR BALANCE.”   The drinking people all look like they are doing something important but against the law, which is often the same thing.

After a few minutes inside, I see the first one.  He is a little shorter than me, very skinny, with a beard and a rolled up black working shirt.  It is the kind of shirt the paramilitaries would wear back home, which would have made me uneasy there.  Here it is just strange, and I am probably staring at him because I feel safe here.  He walks down the long aisle, which is wide enough for three men, and does not deviate from his path, which is straight through me.  I am generally ready for confrontation when it is likely, and here it did not seem likely, and so I was not ready and he pushed me aside with his shoulder, barely breaking stride.  I was a bit stunned, I did not have anything to say back to him, and I do not know anything about him, and I did not see where he went.  All of this is fine.  Not everyone needs to be aware of his surroundings, especially at home.  But I turned the opposite direction and the next one tried to do the same thing.  He was my height and could not grow as proper a beard as his friend, but he passed so close by me that I could feel his whiskers against my own.  This I did not care for.  If I am to touch whiskers, I must know why I am doing it.  For him, I had a word.  For me, he had none.  When I felt something brush against my legs around the corner, I was ready to pounce on someone’s child at the offense.  The socialists were unperturbed.  The child was also not bothered.  I know they were socialists, because they told me so when I asked.  But that does not explain the strange behavior of these black shirted men.

I thought it best to get into the center, where it was more open, but I could see another coming right for me.  He at least had an expression on his face, it was smug and certain, which is the way people who look like him, with Lenin cap, groomed mustache, groomed sideburns, pointed nose, act in places like this.  I figured I was swifter than he was and perhaps more imposing as well.  He had a small red star on his shirt, but I do not think it meant anything to him.  But he looked right through me as well!  I hopped out of the way at the last second, only to be blindsided by another!  These are absurd people, and even my desire to strike one of them was being dulled by the onslaught.  I did not want to be run into yet again, and so took the opposite approach, to head all the way to the corner, just past the sign “CLOSET TO COME OUT OF” and the toilet, which was full of travel books and statues of Tito.  Five statues to Tito, to be exact.  Unbelievable.

Around this corner I myself nearly fell upon a young woman in a white dress covered in large blue flower print.  She had a red star also, but this one was tattooed on her exposed shoulder, so I believe it did mean something to her.  She asked if I needed any help, and I told her I needed an escort so that I was not run aground!  She smiled at me, genuinely, it seemed, and said she could safely show me whatever I needed to see.  She was barefoot.  This was a big boast, to show me whatever I needed, but it is always at moments such as these that I am uncertain how best to take advantage.  I did not know what I wanted to see, so I simply said “cats,” and she immediately stood up, walked me through a back door and down cellar steps to an even more labyrinthine basement, this one with arrows painted on the floor to indicate directions of some kind, and will corridors so thin you had to turn sideways to let anyone past.  There were fewer people down here, but this was where the really detailed books were.  And of course, there were books on bomb making for cats, by cats, and with cats, or at least that is what they looked like to me.  The young woman pointed me to the back if I needed something to eat, and reminded me she would be back upstairs if I needed anything else.  I felt a bit out of place in the basement, and the food looked good, but I had no appetite.  I did noticed the person behind the counter moving around a variety of spices and boxes between high shelves in the tiny kitchen.  They told me they were “just organizing the garbage,” and that it was “part of the vegan lifestyle.”  This seemed complicated but neat, and I was satisfied I had seen about all this place had to offer and so walked up another flight of stairs to return to the surface.

Naturally, I was bumped into on the staircase, but this time I was ready, and the long haired socialist simply deflected off of me and continued on his path.  I considered as I reemerged upstairs how much I wanted to discover why these men could not or would not deviate from their paths.  I watched a pair of them shoulder past each other in the more open middle of the place, shake hands, and continue on.  I never stay in one place very long, and this would not be an exception.  I wanted the smug man because I figured he would be honest with me, and so I waited until his path could be discerned and I could get in front of it.  Something about the place, filled with what appeared to be dormant revolutionaries, did not suggest to my instincts that they should stay sharp and I was contacted from behind by the first man, who had gotten quicker and I could not swing around fast enough to make him my quarry.  When I turned back, I had lost sight of the smug man, but now the instincts were piqued, and I darted past two aisles and located him, recognizing his hat and long neck from behind.  But he was approaching a fork, and I guessed he would turn right with the handful of books he carried, which was correct.  He walked right at me down the last aisle, same smug smile painted on his mug, and I gripped both shoulders, thinking he would be awakened from a trance or simply attempt to push through me.  He did neither.  The socialist gripped my left arm with both of his hands, firmly but not aggressively, and told me: “We are having to move soon.”  I looked straight back into his eyes and the smugness seemed to fade away, this was just the way his face looked, and if anything, he seemed to be pleading with me.  He may not have wanted to move, soon or at all.  I myself had to leave so I released him and he me, and he fell forward into my chest, so I held him, like a child, and we walked away, in opposite directions.  The socialists raised their jars as I left, and I bowed to the girl in the white dress.  There was nothing personal in any of these encounters, and I am frustrated now that I did not learn more then.

Under Protest

Cat—and this time I am operating with near certainty that the man himself is doing the writing—had his hands on the dirty typewriter long enough to do some more substantial writing. I myself have sifted through and transcribed enough of his work to chart some kind of evolution, some progression, if only in the sense that his English at a certain point sharpened sufficiently so as to constitute a style. It is a style unlike any one author I can call to mind, though someone I interviewed who was interested in such things suggested to me that it read like it had been expertly translated into a foreign language and equally expertly translated back. This was sufficiently obfuscating for me at the time and, like much of what I leave for you here, elicits no further comment from me. Nevertheless, I would have a difficult time forensically proving that this was a later or earlier piece of Cat’s writing, but as we narrow in on a psychomythology of the feline man, it seemed as good a place as any to go next. Recall the few determined facts we know about our hero: he has loved and been separated, he has been born and been exiled, he has been party to a crime which very likely was staged and escaped the certainties of the law, he has raised untold sums in unlawful ways for unknown helps to combat unspeakable harms. When he speaks, certainly people listen. We now can count ourselves among those who have.

Typed with a dirty, vowel-filling typewriter on lined, quarter-sized yellow stenographers paper. Each page is headed with the word “PROTEST” and footed with a number:

There are people in every room of this place, which is how I know we are all safe. Even the people who bring in danger just by virtue of who they are bring it in to cleanse it and to convert it. They bring in danger to make it our own. Diesel Jesus is plotting right now. I cannot hear him, but I know it is the case. He wants to be absolutely brutal, it is always building up inside him. He is shaped like a kettle and when his face gets the right shade of red, he walks away with purpose, to prevent eruption. He knows better. He waited out the clock and now can operate legally, right out in the open. I watched him take apart the entire house Sparkles bought and put it back together. It was half the size from the outside but twice as big within. It looked like a garage with four walls, but inside it was completely round, with a false floor. I want to believe he could hide others in there who were not as lucky as he was, those who could not find freedom in the suggested way. Still, his protest was hiding in plain view. When every last act you undertake is legal, you can be stopped by prejudice alone. When they are all illegal, you must find and use the privilege of invisibility. So in a way, I am no one.

They are not kidding when they say I am a cat. No one who knows to call me that doubts why they should. I made it all the way to the top of the naval warehouse, which is something a few other cats have done. The Support helped, and we only had to smash three rusty locks to scale it. I think I could live there, in my invisibility, but that is not how this works. Smart is one thing, but this is bigger. When I look at the floor plan of a building, the doors are all open. They are gaps in the wall, and I can pass right through them with my finger as I trace a path to wherever I need to go. When I look at a map, it looks exactly the same to me. The gaps are smaller, almost invisible themselves, but those black lines are not scorched into the earth at the limit of each city or country, or each plot of land. I asked the Support to shout it with me, because I know it to be true: if one cat is imprisoned, then no cat is free. I put my arm around each of them and reminded them that many, many cats are behind bars. Bars of iron, bars of gold, bars of black lines on pieces of paper which tell bureaucrats that these cats are allowed to be or not.

So they say I prowl. I walk through walls of buildings with out of date plans and I bridge moats with my friends and their minds. If a door is locked from the outside and opens inward, it ought to be kicked in. If a door is locked from the inside and someone cannot exit through it who needs to, then windows need to be relieved of their bars and carefully cut away. The only other alternative is violence. Claws and teeth.

Who is a liberator in the land of liberty? Who wants to be member of a club that would not have them? I learned what they should call me: secessionist. Abolitionist. Escapee. Illegal. Illegitimate. It trips off their hateful tongues which have never known love or need: Illegal.

We make lists of enemies, but it is not the same as it was where I came from. Here it is a kind of game. The racist down the street. The abusive partner. The far right. The near right. The center left. Xenophobes. The police. The government. Too many enemies. Same most places. We can hide or fight, decide where our homes are or not. Or are not.

If I have nothing here, is it all equally mine? I prowl easily down the street, thinking it is all equally mine, which makes it easy to want to share with the others who also have nothing here. Many of them do not think as I do, because they are not allowed to. I will walk through walls for them too, and they will see me coming. But their captors will not. And a thousand other cats will tread on soft pads with sharp claws tensed and retracted, ready to tear up maps and pick every lock in their paths. Their black lines mean nothing to us, because we could not see them in the first place. There is still a crack in everything. It will be our paws that pull it wide open before the light gets in.

Finding Order in the Archive of Tails

I am perplexed, but that has become the norm in the course of this inquiry.  I do in fact feel closer to this man, but my head is foggy from drinking in the dark and staring at the back of an easel, lit in the soft pink glow of a sun-faded neon light outside the window.  If Cat was a painter, I see no evidence of any of his work.  The couch in his old room is not very comfortable for sitting, and I don’t feel much like laying down across it, either.  I’ll drink vodka on the rocks, thanks, as I understand it to be Cat’s drink and we share an appreciation for the honesty of an occasional clear spirit.  He’s complete scum, but Churchill did lend his name to this drink, at least by reputation.  6:1 vodka to vermouth is a dry martini.  6:a spray from an atomizer would be extra dry.  Drinking straight vodka while staring at a bottle of vermouth?  A Winston Churchill Martini.  Without all the racism for garnish, I trust.

There are more “Tails,” as you knew there must be.  I personally love them, perhaps because I feel like the author writes the same way I think, or because I am being fooled into thinking these entries are somehow more honest in their brevity and perfunctory presentation.  Or maybe they simply go better with olives.  Either way, a few more of these might add a little levity for contrast.  Take my mind off of the weight of Cat’s words prior.  I get nervous when I think I’m getting too close to the man beneath the man, as if I don’t really belong there at all.

Written in dark pencil on the back of a colored flyer:

We lost Sparkles again.  Hopefully not for too long, we need him around.  You never really have Sparkles anyway, but you know when you have lost him.  An eerie calm sets in, the edge gets dulled, and then you have to worry about missing something because you are not as sharp.  He will be fine, you never have to worry about that.

FIELD NOTES on the SUPPORT (2 of 2)

They call him the grim reaper, which is not exactly fair.  He is identified by the city from which he hails, but it holds nothing for him.  He is handsome, exudes a nervous calm.  Everything will work out when you are with him, but he is not a fixer.  He can communicate with the general populace, the civilians, but he would prefer not to.  He is safer when he is with us, and we are ultimately safer when he is with us also.

We do a job and he is in a Leonard Cohen t-shirt, making certain everything works out.  Cohen is young on the shirt, though he was never really all that young.  The only album of his that made it East, where I came up, was one at the moment when he was ready to stop being young at all and became instead timeless.  Never old.  I think of Ballad of the Absent Mare when I see him out there.  Grazing away.

He has little reason for fear.  That is important of the support.  There are different levels of what they call entitlement.  The feeling that you deserve something that has already been given.  Like it was simply destiny all along.  He does not have that, it simply seems not to occur to him.  He is generous in an offhand way.  Not showy.  This makes it much easier to trust him.  The civilians should not trust him, but we are forced to, and it is a good thing.  This may prove we are not civilians.

He pulled a rusty knife once, “just to test it.”  I wish I had been there to cheer him on.  I walked through the rooms of his place, one to the next, wondering if it would end.  It was just one after the next, a sitting room, then a library, then a dining room, then when they call a den, a few bathrooms, though never a bedroom, but I never reached the end.  I put my hand on each door frame as I walked through it.  None of it was opulent, but it never stopped.  This is a symbol of great wealth, where the rooms never seem to stop.  But he doesn’t seem to care, and neither do I.  I watched two women pass, and I thought they would kill each other, or else embrace.  They did neither, and the iciness still hangs in the air, watery daggers from the corner of our building in winter.  He did not draw his knife then, but he might have had his hand upon it.

I do not know how far we would get without the support, and I am glad I do not have to find out.

On lined paper, torn from a notebook, yellowed from sun:

I am sitting in a place called “All Saints,” waiting for the next job, which will be modest, but they are each important.  The walls are brick, but I would prefer to sit outside, for as long as I can stand the smell of American cigarette smoke.  It is not that the cigarettes come from here, but that those who smoke them are desperate.  The walls are covered in slogans and black silhouetted birds against a silver-sprayed wall.  “Fight War Not Wars.”  “He Who Fucks Nuns Will Later Join the Church.”  “If You’re Gonna Scream, Scream With Me.”  It all seems to make sense when it is written in the same place at the same time.  Still I wonder if these people would fight if they had to.  I think they might.  That could be enough.

They all talk at the bar.

“Which saint is your favorite?”

“Oh, I could take or leave any of   ‘em.”  

“Archie Manning or Chris Bailey?”

“I don’t think that’s really that clever.”  

“Listen man: I’m in love, you know what that means?”

“Love like L-U-V?”  

“Oh, I like that very much!  I think you know exactly what I mean!”

It will be kids like this who will make the difference.  It will not take that many, not at first.  It is too bad that it always has to fall to them, but they are willing to make decisions where the adults are not.  I will always be accused of being a kid for my decisions.

Cat In The Hat grows sharper in these later Tails.  His observations are more directed, and I read some frustration in what he has to say.  I want him to be all right, which is a silly thing to want for someone you have never met.  The pages in this box seem somehow brittler, as if they will fall apart in my fingers if I sift through them too much further.  I feel it is safe to say that there are no answers at this point, and I am truly uncertain what the questions even are.  The whole crime seems little more than a lark, quickly written out of Cat’s history, and if serving one of his friends is an explanation, that is the explanation I would prefer.  But it isn’t about my preferences, in the end.  It’s about representing faithfully the end of an arc which no one forced me to begin.  So let’s wind down this myth is the style best befitting its subject, that we might portray enough of this person to allow the reader his or her or their opportunity to decipher as they might.


If ever you are so lucky as to be captivated completely by another, take it as your responsibility to tell their stories. I practiced my entire life up until I laid eyes on this creature to even have a chance to summarize what I experienced during and afterwards. It was almost impossible, even with all that rehearsal. I will write these words and I will make certain they are correct, but then I will bury them and hope that I am never apart from their subject for any length of time or at any great distance such that I need to read them again.

Never to be left alone, not even for an instant, for fear that the entire enterprise burst free from its housing: not skin and bones but a mortal life which always feels like equal parts threat and promise. When everything is the least certain, when it all seems like it might crumble beneath us, I catch a glance which is impossible to misinterpret. It says: “We will find a way, together, that will guarantee we can survive even when apart. As long as we never pause but to pause as one, we can never be tracked save by those we allow on our tails.” I pretend not to understand, but I understand perfectly.

I read the twelve things aloud and I was instantly discovered, how I thought I could hide I have no idea. She could be a she if she so desired, and he is a he when he chooses not to be a she. It is an incredibly dangerous proposition, this mutability, wrapped in a package which would never let on. A giant faberge surface, decorated with lace and spikes, translucent to reveal an iron cage lovingly rusted and worn, around a gilded safe which I know holds an expansive heart. Inside that must be a time bomb, but I hope I never learn for certain.

We are best at sunset, as it means another day was eclipsed and we are granted the license to evening breaths, carefully drawn. The goal, liberation, is necessarily abstract, but the means are entirely clear, and I am reminded of them any time I should chance to ask. Let go of anger at the world in general, for it is empty without an object. Pay close attention to what is furthest and blurred on the horizon, for it admits of multiple interpretations, and you need not bend it to your own. Pay close attention to what is nearest, to judge if it matches your preferred vision of what was once so distant. Ignore everything in between.

Every next moment is defined by when we were last together and when we will next be. These are the intervals when life comes into sharp relief, otherwise it is necessarily complicated. I am told not to accept, I submit. I am told to undercut and subvert, so I shall. I am told I am beautiful and worthwhile by the only person from whom it has ever mattered, and so I must be. I am waiting, always, for when I may be again.

Repetition is to be mistrusted. When I am so lucky as to throw an arm around this being, it is never the same being two times, at least not two times in a row. There are instants when the entire enterprise opens before me, and I can make out the horizon, clear as my hand in front of me face, and I know every cause and each result as if I had written them in advance. Except perhaps the very last one. And whether it is wonderful or terrible, I either cannot or choose not to alter the course of events. I instead sit cross-legged on the grass and let the sun dip back behind whatever is lowest on the horizon, wherever I am, and I wonder if love makes me weaker or stronger, which is better, and if it matters either way.

The Fight Worth Fighting

I will tell everyone about it, early in the morning. I will walk across the street to the garden and I will mourn the missing tree. They said it would hurt people, but I never believed it. All it did was hold strings of lights and the artwork of children. It had no malicious intent whatsoever. If I was back across the sea or in the farmland in this country, I would wait for the cock to belt out his song. Everywhere there are warnings, and nowhere is there isolation, not outside, not here. It is a city. It may be The City. If I stand at an intersection while the cock is not crowing, I will see someone walking towards me, or away from me, or stationary along the way. And I will tell them if they ask about the war we are fighting.

Someone is going to get it. Probably multiple someones. Because people cannot live like I do anymore, like any of us do. They think we will consume ourselves and fade away. We can only prove them wrong by consuming them first. The pressure is to be original. Not to learn from history but to be certain not to repeat it. To surpass expectation. Or at least to confound it. If you deny art, then you are the enemy. There are many enemies.

She lived a couple of streets west, they both did. I only met him a couple of times, but they all just called her by her last name anyway. Morden. She lived on the top floor and rented the rest of it out for artists, a strange place. The rooms were all too small for bedrooms, but that was because people built walls out of bookcases between them, for a little privacy. A couple of famous artists overdosed on cheap pills there, just never woke up. But some of the ones who lived made some of the most important work. I know what art means to me. It means never being alone, communing with people you will probably never meet. Hopefully never meet, in most cases. She was surrounded by ghosts all the time, they outnumbered the living artists by many. He was away all the time and then just never came back, so she wore black and we called her the widow. She was incredibly beautiful in the old pictures. Somewhere between art and pornography. We should all be so lucky to find that space.

There was music all throughout that house. Loud, soft, aggressive, pastoral. If you could find the right place in the stairwell, you could hear a symphony. Someone said Ives was inspired by knowing her, but that did not make sense.

I think of you as a person who I have never met who will one day receive this art. I will be sorry that we did not have more conversations. I would have wanted to run with you along the water and then collapse in the big room on the top floor of the Widow’s apartments, where you could hear everything all at once. I would want us to fall asleep together, to have the best odds of sharing our dreams. Then you could learn what fear looks like in a faraway land and how it is the artists who will beat that fear back down. In a culture war, the revolutionaries are all artists and aficionados. They make taste because it makes them feel good. Or feel right, which is sometimes not very good at all.

We are friends, you know. We share a common kinship, and with each next word you read, we grow a bit closer. Together we are more handsome than we could have imagined alone. You will finish the war. If we are both lucky, I will be somewhere else, fighting on another front. The only people who do not belong are those who unduly harm. Never forget it. The rest will fall into place. The Widow would say: “Just keep practicing.” We will do that, but we will perform, too.