fiction excerpt

I have a short story coming out through Holum Press pretty soon. Here’s a bit from another one I’m working on — I guess at this  point it’s more of a character sketch. A real plot’s about to happen …

***

When Rose was a little girl, she’d lock the door to her bedroom whenever she was inside it, even though nobody ever bothered her in there. It was the first thing she did when she came home from school. Tiny feet pounding the stairs, backpack swinging from one thin arm, breathless by the time she reached the end of the hall. As soon as she slammed the door behind her, she’d click the knob upright. Then onto watching TV or drawing with colored pencils. Dinner was always at six.

A few times she forgot to change the lock back. After-dinner-tired, she might slouch upstairs around nine o’clock to encounter the obstacle. This is the story of how Rose Kennedy learned to pick locks. She even slept outside the door once, rising before her grandmother woke up to spring it open with a bobby pin. The next step was to carry bobby pins all the time, which she remembered most days. She figured that would be easier than getting into the habit of double-checking. After a few months she knew exactly what to do when she locked herself out. Eventually she moved onto picking combination locks and car doors, just for the hell of it. She never discussed this with anyone.

Rose at the bar, age eighteen, didn’t move as nimbly as you might expect of a seasoned lock-picker. Sometimes clumsy, sometimes so self-conscious it would break your heart. She would only chat to men if they started first, controlling her soft voice to be even meeker. Rose ordered red wine and scotch when they were around, and when she danced people watched her.

At twenty-three she drank vodka and club soda with lemon. She danced less and slept past eleven most days. Her ennui was underwritten by a keen awareness of cultural impoverishment she picked up in college. Rose thought she hated everything.

Tonight she visits an abandoned warehouse adorned ostentatiously with fluorescent paint, psychedelic patterns and bloated cartoons stretching themselves across its corners. Here she comes, picking delicately toward the place where a few early drinkers hang in a flock. Not a real bar — it’s a folding table façade wrapped in white green gingham, tended by a woman with no clue how to mix a drink.

Rose orders a vodka-soda and realizes she knows the bartender from somewhere, maybe a friend of a friend. She introduces herself as Laurie and takes a shot as Rose crosses the halfway mark on hers. Laurie leans delicately against the table; it might collapse even against the weight of her slight body. Though they’re both of legal age, the women exchange the smiles of partners in crime. Their drinks taste like a dividing line.

All-grown-up-Rose still knows how to pick locks. This will come in handy soon, but she doesn’t know it yet.

At sixteen, she prayed for the end of her boredom. “Please, God, let something interesting happen.” A friend asked her if she could enjoy life without looking for significance in everything. “You can’t just tie everything up in a metaphysical bow of meaning,” he’d said.

Nearly-2AM-Rose stumbles out of the warehouse, almost falls on her knees. She picks herself up with the scrappy dignity of the drunk, gripping a faux fur shawl to her chest. Pink and silver bangles nearly slide off her right wrist. She thinks she lost her shoes but they’re in a velveteen backpack slung halfway down her spine, and anyway it doesn’t matter, since she’s getting a taxi to her apartment.

She waits in a parking lot, observes the fall’s first chill. Rose used to hate this moment of the year, back-to-school time, the early nightfall stoking grim feelings that would flower into suffocating sadness by November. Now she doesn’t mind so much. It’s early September, time to fold up the summer and stow it in a forgettable place, admire the leaves before they lose their gloss.

The taxi will arrive soon. As Rose edges toward the curb, she hears a muffled banging noise from across the lot. She scans her surroundings, sees nothing. The sound is coming from the northeast corner. Still very much under the influence, she correctly identifies it: someone’s trapped in the trunk of a car, slamming their extremities against its ceiling to get the attention of a bystander. “Oh fuck” she says to nobody.

She ducks behind a parking meter as the taxi moves in, watches it cycle twice around the perimeter before exiting. Now the lot is empty. It almost feels serene. Rose keeps her gaze fixed on the sedan. Black glowing under a halogen lamp, it’s strangely well-lit for an abduction, she thinks. Her fingers locate three pins tucked inside a velveteen pocket. Clutching them in a tight fist, she rises from her stooped position to begin a rescue mission.

 

Mrzyk & Moriceau made a music video and it looks really good.

you’re living all over me again

Richard Doyle says the drugged narrator writes in the “Nth person plural” — a psychic transfer that starts in a level-up from first person to third, then beyond, full exit from singular personal enclosure, ego immolation. It starts when you notice how often you use I in your writing, how references to you and your problems punctuate everything you say and do, the hell of the self, the effusive suffocating I, me, I, I, the crime some people charge social media with: crowding oneself in with oneself, filter bubbles, “the daily me,” bodies made out of their own information.

In this moment depression, our current pandemic, is not as an infection, a malignant actor from the outside like bacteria or rape, but an infarction, endogenous — it’s cancer. Too much self growing inside the self. I’m living all over me.

Recently I read that masochism as a kink is deep down more purely evil than sadism. That masochists are more self-interested, less compassionate. That their libidinal energies well up and attract predators like mosquitoes circling to stagnant water.

Now I think about what it would be like to dominate someone else, to conjure blood to virgin cheekbones, train my fingers to pinch and beat and hypnotize, read my eros into its translucent surfaces. To bring a blush to the back of a neck, so pretty like the stem of a young plant, just to find out if it’s as easy to snap in half. I imagine this complete alien who exists in time but not space, who takes up no weight in the world, the fairy thing-body of time but not even time because you can only seduce it in quantum lightshows that flicker somewhere between your fantasy and the fantasy that it sees you, too.

And I think about a strain of continental philosophy that categorically rejects psychology as a science. That remakes heart medicine in the image of a collective awareness, a translatable jargon, a realpolitik. According to which the question what does pain mean? makes sense.

I’m a childless pacifist, I’ve never brought life or death into this world. At times I’ve felt pretty inhumanly exterior to these normal cycles of genesis. But pure life and death, I mean total pleasure and pain, unnumbness, I know them too. Buddhism says life is suffering, but doesn’t pain push us back into the blindness of the ego? Doesn’t it remind us of that basic separation we’re always grieving? I think I’m right and the Buddhists are wrong.

Last week I was in Dallas, Texas, where I found this great book:

The inscription says Listen! Magick is afoot. Which is better than a hand!

Now I am in New York City to talk about bots, phenomenology, and maybe the entire Internet at Theorizing The Web. I am preparing by watching this:

Which I recorded in Woodstock last summer. If I had one wish I’d be heading there after the conference. But I’ve got some important stuff going on in Virginia next week, see. This is only a three day trip. I’ll be back in New York soon.

4/9

Today is my birthday. It’s also my brother’s birthday (we’re twins) and my cat’s. She’s 2.

I am 29. I thought a little about getting older today. All I have to say is that I’m happier at age 29 than I was at 19, but probably not happier than when I was 9. When I turn 30 perhaps I’ll have richer thoughts re: aging to share.

In more important news, last week I scheduled a defense for the proposal of my doctoral dissertation. The working title is “Psychedelic Science and the Epistemic Regime of Data.”

I would like to say more about it. I will soon.

The defense will happen (or not) the morning of May 1st. Then I’ll go celebrate International Workers’ Day, or something.

If all goes according to plan, I will defend the actual PhD around May 2020.

I made up a list of sources I’m drawing from. This is not the entirety of my citations/inspirations, but it does represent a great deal — years— of research…. an exponent of 3 decades of commitment to strangeness.

Just remembered this great joke from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy:

PREFECT: You should prepare yourself for the jump into hyperspace; it’s unpleasantly like being drunk.

ARTHUR: What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?

PREFECT: Just ask a glass of water.

At one point I was in the habit of making music on an almost-daily basis. I miss it.

The lyrics of the second song are taken from an epigraph to this graphic novel.

 

“I knew two things to be true of your world

here and there, there and here
there and here, here and there

And that I stood Here at all times —
I knew it.

When I realized the two were whole
I lost sight of the boundaries of my home.”

incoming

Yesterday: five hours driving through hella ice storms, listening to Tom Zé and Bill Hicks comedy, around 8PM landed in Baltimore for the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Conference.

Coming up:

The 22nd-25th of March: Doing Interdisciplinarity, the 2018 ASPECT Conference at Virginia Tech. I will be giving a talk titled “Psychedelic Research and Data Positivism.”

10 April I will be at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers in New Orleans, giving a presentation on a similar subject. The title is titled “The Electric Kool-Aid Turing Test: How Psychedelic Research Challenges Data Positivism.” The abstract is here.

13 April I am hosting this event at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech. (And I’m still looking for participants, hint hint…)

27-28 April is Theorizing the Web 2018, I am an invited participant on a panel called “Bot Phenomenology: What it means to exist with technology, and what it means to exist as technology.”

Somewhere in there I’ll be traveling to Dallas for a wedding and turning one year older. And hopefully by the semester’s end, defending a dissertation proposal (!)(!)(!)