The Shepherdess

Acts--

Hooshang Danesh

Copyrights 2011, Hooshang Danesh
The copyrights to all my works: songs, words, music, paintings, photographs and letters are protected by Thr3e--my will lies doubly therein. All earnings must go to the homeless, and the poor—

One Tree Press To: Pamela Jean Dexter

1-The Shepherdess
First Chapter: Bye People

I drove. She would push her head out of the passenger sides' window and shout: "Bye People.' Then recollect herself inside the car, giggle to herself, and say: "shit" wearily, slightly as though she had been up to no good, and punishment might have been fore coming. The people she shouted at were mostly the bus riders at bus stations. Hispanics who would look at her puzzled, and in wonderment, for her flashing head of red hair and her unrehearsed language: cause almost no one spoke English on these streets. From time to time, she would shout: "Hi people," in a different tone, this one more friendly, conciliatory, and still leave the look of confusion on the foreheads of the bus riders who saw the big sweeping -1-

Cadillac, and the shouting head as just another strange break in their daily ennui. I would drive the big ship-like Cadillac, grayish-colored and with good measures of dust and dirt on it, looking neglected as an untamed horse, shooting straight on the road, for my apartment, ripping through the air like a minor storm, leaving behind a constant vacuum, that sucked the dirty, smoggy air in, pushing the car onward. And I would laugh uncontrollably, and consider her shouting: bye people a funny departure from every days routines: a distinct feature of her Autism. Or a sign of enthusiasm for me. Apart from this and a few more eccentricities -she had no other signs of "developmental disability" or "retardation"- —“schizophrenia”-or half other labels she could have been called by. The group home she lived at was a two-story stucco building in the middle of practically no where, in an industrial suburb of -2-

Los Angeles. There were semi-trucks parked parallel and neat, around dusty old hotels with signs that must have been inviting to truck drivers. Signs like: Adult Cable, Jacuzzi, privacy. These tall signs littered the view of the mountains in the north of the city. Where you could still see some white caps of snow, thumbing their dirtied noses at the rag city spread below. There was a large shopping mall hidden from the main road like a bruise, minutes away from the group home, where the 100 or so residents of the home could go for walks or windowshopping. There was a Payless shoes, a Walmart, a Ross and a few more generic stores. There wasn't much real shopping done by those residents , cause they were all on Social Security Disability, and almost all of their benefits were directly deposited in the pockets of the group -3-

home owners. An amount around 900 dollars or so, each, for a bed in a two-beds to a room hotel-like room, and three meals a day; meals which tasted like hospital food, dry, stale, and as though produced in some cardboard kitchen – tastes each and everyone knew. For almost every one of them had been in a mental hospital at some point in their lives. They were Bipolars, Schizophrenics, or on rare occasions, high-functioning Autistics like my girl, Pamela. Her housemates were all restless, shrill, and by turns idle or hyper-active, and they argued over cigarettes and money for soda, and candy, in colorful dispensing machines which occupied shrine-like postures in the dinningroom area. According to Pamela, there were all sorts of drama going on all the time; dramas, she claimed being far above of, in a diva-like posture. Something that wasn’t exactly true. But -4-

at the time, she really looked forwards to the times when I picked her up. She longed to get away from the group home, she was the only Autistic there, she said, which was true, and noone really understood her, which was true enough then as now. But there weren't much else she could have had in terms of living arrangements. Apartments are too expensive, for people on disability, unless you have been homeless like myself for very years, and qualify for section eight, which is subsidized housing. This scarcity of affordable housing-- made the group-homes the only real, viable form of shelter--and these are usually (not always) run by shady characters who make money out of the disabled--and out of the general, national disregard, over how to best take care of the needy. Government seems to pay the disabled no heed, but give us a meager check every month, -5-

which barely paid for shelter and food, and washed its hands off them, like we were lepers, or FDR had tricked the entire country into taking care of us by some sorcery! Perhaps that explains Pam’s fits of: "Bye People" out of the cars' windows. May be I was right to think of them as a sort of exuberance for a temporary release from some mental prison or injury. She had been introduced by a friend of mine, who liked to fix me up with her friends for no good reason, but to arrange or control things. She liked to project a sort of normalcy around her, as though this portrayal of normalcy could save her from this generalized panic everyone seemed to feel. And my aloneness was a thorn in her world that spelled normalcy with a curious must, yearning: for pairing and -6-

matching of all sort of things: silk blouses to the color of one’s car, and her friends and acquaintances fit together, assorted in a vase. It was as though I couldn't convince her of my adequacy, unless I hooked up with one of her friends. And so she bullied me, as though aloneness bred sedition and rowdiness. She'd tried to introduce some of her suspect young yuppies, but I had found flaws from just her reports on any one of them. These were women I’d heard about from stories and films, women said to live lives dedicated to greed or cruelty, women: “who stole love from you, when all you had was love.” But when she called me from her cell phone, I detected a sense of triumph in her voice, like she’d been to a spa or just walked out of spring sales at Macy’s. “You can never say no to this one.” “No.” I snapped jokingly. It was as good an idea to take her not too-seriously. It also encouraged, and pleased her to no ends: just the thought of having to re-assert herself over and over again. -7-

"But she is a high functioning Autistic." With clear emphasis on the word Autistic. She’d probably just looked it up, and was delighted with her mental notes on it. " Do you even know what Autism is?" I wanted to irritate her. "Listen: she has finished high school, and some college, but has been raised in group homes most her life." And then she added, remembering her mental prowess.. “Isn’t that like completely unique for Autistics?” " Since when you're an authority on Autism?" I asked a bit nervously. "Don't get prissy on me, you know what I mean." She snapped back. "She is a loner like you, doesn't that whet your appetite." “A high-functioning Autistic?” I thought to myself. That would be a rare bird. “High-functioning enough to date?” -8-

“Yes, she has had long-term relationships—very attractive. She is really one of the prettiest, bestdressed girls I’ve come across.” “Really!” I said in disbelief. “Yes really—you don’t believe me?” “Its just that I don’t know?-look: how do you know she wants to go out with me?” I showed her the pictures you’ve posted- she liked them, she thinks perhaps you’d be able to understand her!” Pause. “You see?” With soft encouragement. “So, this all, makes sense to her, on some level? “Yes.” “How do you know her?” “I know her brother-their entire family are computer nerds, she is very good with computers too-in fact she is the one who looked you up.” “Vow-that’s impressive!” -9-

“And in the profile says you used to work with Autistic children.” “The kids I worked with weren’t even verbal!!” “Well Pam is very verbal.” “Anyways I just took her shopping, –she loves clothes, but never has any money —we just got back, and she wants to meet you.” “When?” “Wait, let me ask her.” There’s a faint murmur of voices. “Today.” I looked at the clock –it’s already 1 in the afternoon and on a Saturday. “She doesn’t drive, and I can drive her to a meeting place today-that’s the thing , she doesn’t drive at all.” “That’s not unusual-you have to be mad to drive in this city.” -10-

“See, you do understand her already.” By the time we hang up-we have a date to meet at a restaurant called Spires, about 20 minutes drive from my apartment. I had a few hours to waste. This wasn’t at all disagreeable turn of events. I’d been sitting around trying to think of something to do, something clever and personal, like writing a song or a story. But there hadn’t been anything deep to be sounded. It seemed that something always went missing in between feelings and lips. The heat had been pressing its wings across the city. It’s been this way for long. Each year seems warmer than the previous, and the suffering makes you ineffectual. The afternoons are worst. The heat rises up from the ground as if the very earth is tired, and burnt out.. I live on the second floor of a Spanish style -11-

building. The apartment is surrounded by windows. From the east windows I have a view of downtowns’ spirals. And the southern windows look on the house next door. Outside that window, the neighbor was busy pouring cement, over the back yard. He had dug the brownish, starved lawn out, and hauled it out in violent bursts of activity. Now standing over this scene, and with DIY gadgets in both hands, he looked like he was contemplating a crime. He was a cable- technician by the look of the large van parked inside the garage. Two ladders of different stature sat on top of the van, with authority, and various wires and what not were stuffed in the back. I used to snoop on their activities with a yearning for social things, and watch their happiness. And he had a flock of kids, all ages, at least five of them. The grassy back yard used to look lush and the kids would run all over it, yelling in both Spanish and English. Confidence in two languages, brought something more assured out of them. -12-

But the draught had made water more and more expensive- and he was making the best of it. With the swiftness of a big western city dweller, an immigrant- he’d dug the lawn out within hours, and was standing over the scarred ground, with a look of inspired determination. I knew before sunset—the concrete would cover the old landscape like a new shell. And nothing will matter to anyone. The draught-inflamed grass had become like a picture no one notices on the wall anymore. But it made me want to grief-for each day of reduced existence. I thought, I could wither, if I stood there silent and still. That something funereal would take over my dreams that nightand he passing of greenery everywhere had a secret cost. And that you can’t really fill emptiness with emptiness. Void with void. It was nice then, I thought, I had somewhere to go--an escape was made available like a shade. A new tone almost -13-

I wore whatever I wore. Clothes have become uniforms- indifferent things to me, I have 4, 5 cheap copies of same. I buy them according to this general formula: they ought to fit in any neighborhood anywhere, anytime, inconspicuous, safe, confessing: I’m neither a prey nor a predator. Not stand-offish, but distanced, clean, observant-always a witness. I ran downstairs, locked the door three times ritualistically, checked it again compulsively, and stepped out into the great wide open. The air outside was warmer than in. The heat felt stifling, man-made. It sucked you dry, quick and sharp with its dormancy. The car was parked just across the street. I ran to it, the air-condition still worked back then. The engine started with the first turn—and I steered the old Cadillac down the street-heavy, -14-

more like a ship setting sail. Its ancient velocity passing wired fences, a tobacco shop on the left, a taco stand, two police cars, the fast foods. And the Spanish music blasting out of every other car on any stop-signs, -onto the freeway—and the instant hum of friction on the freeway-its constant hum. Something leaves you, in its depth--something mixed with consciousness. And these lanes drive you in their stream-absent, removed- and can -even awaken you, when you are “there”. Its like the phone-ring in the middle of a dream. Who and what force been driving the car here? Its almost like the freeway has a collective consciousness, things become autocratic, empty of willfulness. “Look.” Its me calling back to me. And its my exit. I find the address right away by a fluke, I usually -15-

can’t find my way anywhere- even if my life depended on it. The restaurant is really not one. It’s a shortorder-cook round space. Surrounded by a halfmoon-shaped parking lot. Its large windows are tainted dark, ominous and everything about the parking space directs you to the entrance walk. The parked cars are mostly trucks, and olddinosaurs like mine—I feel everything inside too will murmur of nostalgia: the universal flavor of: ”awful-things-ahead.” They “girls” can’t possibly be here yet-I’m an hour early- spinning the day on its head— lengthening time. Inside, the place looks like a polished pit. Smooth shiny surfaces smile with readiness and expectation. The air is packed with scents of saturated fats. And the atmosphere has a nakedness to it. -16-

like you can fill it with your own substance. There are framed posters of someone’s art-work. I don’t remember his name. But he is the chief of nostalgia. Everyone is supple and blue in the pictures. Standing erect by barnyards, and Ice cream parlors that don’t exist anymore. I drop myself on a booth that looks out on the parking lot. The heat outside the window bends the light- elongated and oblique, like its been hammered. Still, there is a geometric beauty to all this unfolded movement. Though there are no shades to be seen-- the light gives the impression It can move forever in its frozen threads. The waitress comes by almost instantly—she is very agile for all her weight. “I’ll just have coffee-I’m expecting friends.” I’m fond of saying: “I’m expecting friends,”- like I belong. -17--

She squeezes a tiny smile out of her eyes-I know that’s why I like heavy-set people. Their weight reminds me of spaces that crave light--inner caves- and immense inner sadness-with a yearning, a desire to turn it around—spin the light in its axis. She pours the coffee with the steadiest hands. They are soft and chubby, like a child’s. Full of restrained mischief. “Well, holler at me if you need something!” Helpful, jubilant. “Will do!” Returning the same pitched favoritism!. The hour flies-and mainly through: my examining everything over and over again—I’m like an archeologist-digging in the dirt. The formica walls, the invariable patrons, the posters on the walls, the flat-bed trucks in the distance. And then I see them coming. -18-

.

Chapter Two: Invisible Wealth.

I see my friend first--the way she struts-waves in and out of her own fragmented shadows. She is in a floral dress, summery and light--its reflection is like a ray of water at a distance. Her shoes are strappy white, with three inches heelsshe moves in them well though. And she must have seen my car in the parking lot-because her face moves in the thin silence of that consciousness. She knows she is being watched. She draws the attention to her left-like she’s sensed approval of her own look, and wants the same for her friend. Pam: is in a pair of black flat shoes, and skinny jeans. And a simple pretty top that matches everything at once. Her head is bowed in abstracted attention, a short mop of reddish hair. Beautiful. And she looks -19-

younger than I’d imagined, lively, sunnyexpectant. When they enter, I turn around so they can find me, and instantly Pam’s eyes fall on me, and mine search for something definitive in hers. And we smile, unhesitant, and I’m content! They walk to the booth and sit down. “I knew we find you, I saw your dinosaur parked outside!” Our friend is excited. “Now, I can tell from both your smiles that you are happy, right!” Pam takes something out of her skinny jeans’ pockets and lays them on the table. It’s a pack of cigarettes, Menthol, and a red lighter. She is bashful about them, and protective- like sharing a deep secret about herself right away. “How long you’ve been here.” “About an hour.” “Vow, you hear that Pam, he’s been waiting for us for an hour, what do you think of that?” Pam flips the plastic menu, but she clearly thinks it a complement. Her nose wrinkles! Her eyes brighten. -20-

Everything is transparent on her face, like its been polished by a secret gentle wind. I look at her hands, they are small, and pale. Quick and sharp. They crimp the warm airand stay close to the pack of cigarettes, caressing their space. She is tanned. A light brown, layered on freckles and paleness. The space around her is goldbrown. And up close her hair is more auburn than red, it’s really a color I haven’t seen on anyone, I know they sell colors like it in drugstores, but never seen them occur naturally. There is something unique about her looks: like something from an entirely different river. Still, she is clearly beautiful-and unaware of it. Down to the inward stare of her round brown eyes. And the far-away look in them-detachable, as if she can absent herself at will— with a subtle rebellion in the corners, like waving flame, or a flag, warning you. “What are you thinking about?” -21-

Its Pam who asks me that. “What?” I’m caught off-guard. “You’ve been looking out the window, like you are staring at something!” She is right-I’d started staring out the window. “Yeah, you have that far away look!” Our friend says. “What do you like to do Pam?” I ignore their remarks. I’m too cautious now. I want to record everything, everything, like a suitor, a teaser- a new scientist, a student. “Yes, what do you like to do for a date?” My friend asks punctual, obedient. Pam smiles a heart shape smile--attentive. “I like to go to the beach?” Is she asking me to take her to the waters! “You have a nice tan!” “I walk a lot, I walk to Wal-mart, Payless!” She utters their names like they are holy places, and seems reflected, absent again. “One day I walked all the way downtown-I just -22-

couldn’t stop!” She drifts out like an echo. And stares at a mysterious point above us. I like to say: “Why?” But ask: “Where do you live?” I really mean: “How far did you have to walk?!” “I live in Pico -in a group home!” There is nothing sad about the way she utters this. Its flat. “I’m only half-an-hour away from Pico!” What I really mean is: “ I’ll come far for you, in a boat with no sail.” I only say: “ I have a car that’s like a boat.” “She showed it to me, its nice, so can we go to the beach tomorrow?” She asks me indirectly. She is impressed by an old Cadillac? “Yes, of course-which beach do you want to go to?” -23-

“Manhattan beach, or Newport!” I’m not sure where they are. But my head is filled with acquiescence. “Pick you up at 11?” “No, at 10!” her legs shakes the table with excitement. I write her address down as she methodically orders: pancakes, with butter on top, side order of sausages, and cheese- omelet. And vaguely explains apologetic: ”Its my ‘food’!” “Its my food.” I repeat it silently to myself. I want to know what it means! When the food arrives, she pushes the large pancake plate in front of our friend-it’s a gesture they both understand, because she begins to cut the pancakes for her in tiny little slices. It doesn’t seem unusual. My friend offers as an explanation: “Its really hard for her to cut these into little pieces!” -24-

“Yeah-I can’t cut them myself.” Pam explains, and watches our friend as if observing a surgeon. Why I’m not surprised? I’d sensed her coordination was off by seconds and millimeters. I’m not sure how I know this. Its how her eyes follow every little movement—velocity has a certain mystery for her. Singular, maidenly events. She follows them, with little bursts of surprise--they tilt her head to the rightlike she is made both curious, and awed by them. I know, I have seen this look of surprise before-its the silent language of the kids I worked with years ago. Back then, it’d felt like being made to sit under a tree whose leaves fell like small presents around you--carrying secret oaths of humanity, from a distance of unavoidable beauty. She eats only a third of what she’s ordered, its nearly as if she is quickly bored with them. The uneaten food look buried in their dishes. They -25-

are like broken plastic things, something rubbery and flexible about them all: Pink, yellow, red colors, food that resembles toys. They can’t be what we (were) but (are)-serious confusions of splendor. I think, only children can be amused by these plates, but I’m wrong, there are adults sitting around us, looking not ravenous, but accustomed, tutored, and ready for them. I don’t know why I don’t lament all the waste— perhaps its because I wouldn’t eat them myself? I used to call them: ”heart-attack-specials”suddenly it doesn’t seem funny anymore. Pam begins to stare out the window. She grabs her cigarettes, they’ve become more intimate objects now. “I’m going outside fore a smoke! But I’ll be right back.” Though, there’s no re-assurance in that. You feel -26-

as though she might disappear into the heat like a drop of water! “Ok, darling.” Says my friend and gets out of the booth , Pam slides out. Within seconds she is outside, we can both watch her--she looks like a distracted statue, staring still at something mobile. “Well, what do you think!” “I think she is lovely!” “Well? What else” “Her colors! Do the rest of the family come in colors like that?” “No- -she’s the only one with those colors in her family. you know, most women would die to have a hair-color like hers! And she is brightnot in the conventional ways, but very sensitive!” “I know, I get that too!” “What else?” She wants to pick my brain. Its not just curiosity. She wants something more! -27-

Insight, insight. I annoys me. “Everyone wants instant insight—it really ought to be the most expensive currency in the world.” “Fine!” “She is lovely though!” “You already said that-what’s wrong with you?” “I don’t know what to tell you-It feels like there’s something exotic about her, something both remote, and very familiar.” “What does that mean?” I’ve exasperated her. “I mean she is like something rare, and undiscovered!” “Oh, shut-up, here she comes back- she is adorable!” She really likes her. “I agree!!” We hush our voices. “I saw two bikes!” “Pam loves bikes!” My friend explains, with -28-

fondness. I think she understands there is something amazing and, infrequent about Pam, she just can’t put her head around it. And neither can I. “What kind of bikes?” I ask, not sure what they are talking about. “Street bikes, not off road. I saw a Honda 1000-it took off down the street, like crazywhoosh.” She makes the sound, and laughs. It’s clearly made her happy. Our waitress comes by, she is shocked by all the uneaten food on the table: “You don’t want anymore? You want me to box it for you?” She is being helpful- but like a soldier, she should have stayed and guarded the food! None of us wants to say anything. We all feel guilty, in a distracted way. -29-

Pam seems annoyed. “I can’t eat anymore!” Guiltily. The waitress is nonplussed: “Oh, don’t worry about it honey.” She doesn’t mean it-and begins to clear the table-it probably looks like a shipwreck to her. She wants it all restored to some God-given order. Outside the heat is immobile--as if it can resist all change. I pay the bill --Its an enormous amount of money to me. We walk out together. I put my sunglasses on, they make me feel different. It’s a lot like putting a curtain up. The opposite of opening your arms. Pam walks side by my side, she walks quick and, self-assured. I think: she means to say: -30-

“We’re together.” We walk over dead brown grass and onto the Concrete. The ocean surges in the distance-I can smell its scents. We are only half-an-hour away from the Pacific. I can clearly hear its wind. It reminds me of a landlord’s knock on the door— something alarming and ominous too. Later on I think: there is something keener in Pam --something subterranean as a root, something that sends my books to their shelves— and senses the world with an invisible wealth. She tilts her head up in the air as we walk. It reminds me of my long-gone Terrier, some -31-

perfume or substance in the air has shaken her. Something unjustly forgotten? Because I’m unmoved. I have a deaf science of currents- and verves—for now. I wait for them to get in the car-and watch them drive away. Pam waves her hand, and smiles while looking ahead, I know she is thinking of tomorrow, and of waters, waters.

-32-

Chapter Three: In The Box.

It wasn’t easy to fall sleep that night. And once sleep the dreams were intractable, impossible to budge. I seem to go in –and- out of doors, through pure territories that are joined by links within links of crosses—links loosened here, fastened there. There are events that have formed, forming events that never existed in the folklore. I can see the source of my destiny I think! But it’s a feeling more than reason. -33-

And its almost as if it’s too painful to know so much, so I don’t. I wake up not remembering anything except a vague unhappiness, in a faint place inside my chest I know it’s all made of a wellspring-- of a fountain: of light- like spindles that stir things, move in infinite directions—that they form many river. But I’m being driven now—and not the driver yet. Its nearly 5:00 AM. The edges of light will swing its pins and needles across the skies in quantum moves. I have to stare out patiently through the curtains, until everything is orange with atmosphere, only then I can go out for a run. To jog any earlier than 6:30 in the morning is to leave oneself vulnerable to many forces who see the light as a breach, as a finger down their throats. They range from stray dogs, to mad men and women, who think knives can be wielded against anyone in the absence of light, though they naturally can’t run -34-

fast. And then the occasional crack-head on a bicycle, who is too high to distinguish value from worthlessness. Who grabs anything that fits in his hooded sweats. Keys, crumbled napkins, old cell-phones:, even a remote control: “ yeah give me that too.” With unimaginable brief thirst. I think its the general idea of taking things-in,that amuses them. Like objects come with an occasional affinity, shelter in them. Even garbage earns something around here. The garbage collectors are blacks, Hispanics, older Chinese couples, and mostly the homeless, they tow their packed shopping carts across uneven pavements with such vigorsometimes I think they’ll live to be in their hundreds. Until I see one or two, sleep under a scarce tree, or a wall--an empty malt liquor bottle lying flat like a corpse of a shiny rodent. The first time I was mugged.. I was leaving for a swim at 5:30. There is a free indoor pool that opens at 4:30 AM. on Crenshaw boulevard. The thief was a hooded young man, riding a dirt bike. The -31-

hand-gun he pulled out was a terrifying looking object, it looked to weigh as much as a frozen turkey. He ordered me to go back up the apartment. I’d just stepped out, carefree, with that stoic happiness of mornings. I naturally nodded my head. Careful. Obedient. He was a thinly smallish fellow--wasting away from existing, from its side-effects, the exclusion, the abandon, the crack commerce, of the whites, and blacks, and everyone in between. The object he held, was no pistol--it was a terrifying molten thing, someone had designed it to stir sharp irreversible fear. It had a crocodile face, a shiny man-made reptile. And had the mugger man really polished its surface? In the pre-dawn’s dusk, the silver object -32-

shone its own man-made light. Like it’d been dipped into candle wax, and now was lit on fire-- it had its own phosphorescent tail as the man/boy waved it seamless around the air. Once we were upstairs, he quickly went about picking up anything small enough to fit in his pockets. Pens, wallet, keys, lighter, old cell-phone--in an undistracted way, almost like he’d forgotten I was there in the room. On his way out, at the bottom of the stairs, I wrestled with him over my gym backpack, my ID’s were in it, I really didn’t want to lose all that, but he hit me hard with the butt of his gun. And that quickly ended that pulling match. They never found him ofcourse. -33-

Who would look? Why would anyone look? Even if I’d been wounded, there are thousands like him-- like me. The discarded are imperceptible-- indistinct. Almost everyone’s a victim. The second time I was mugged I was walking to a grocery story on a Sunday, almost 6:30 in the morning. I’d waited patiently for this safe hour. A tall man in a new car stopped, just ahead of me, like an afterthought-walked out, pulled a semi-automatic out of his jacket, ordered me against the fence, and went through my pockets, having found my fat wallet, which was packed with private notes-he grabbed it-told me not to turn around, and got in his new car and took off. Naturally there was no money in the wallet. Standing there bewildered, I thought: why would he assume anyone in this poor neighborhood would carry cash on him? -34-

And the day was on, the light in full force. It occurred to me that the start of any day, is a start of possibilities, and infinite possibilities hold lesser number of nots. It all made me want to mourn for the charging wild dogs, the knife-wielding mad men, and the disoriented bandits. I thought I ought to understand the underbelly of light better. Its red grip. And the mad glow of all things, broken and steady. The yellowing pigeons. The shine of fat on tired faces. The new or outworn clothes. The submissive heads- in the pale resistance of exhausted shoulders. It took me 5 minutes to take a shower on that Sunday- for my date with Pam. Five minutes to put my uniforms clothes on. 4 minutes to find -35-

the address on the computer. And half-an-hour to drive through the deadest-looking Los Angeles neighborhoods on a Sunday. Industrial little town after town on Slauson Avenue, only seconds away from one another, all with different fancy Spanish names, though all looking exactly alike-like someone’s bad joke and mockery of diversity. A 200 traffic lights along railroad tracks, crossing in odd strange spaces. A large bread factory, machine shops, more than dozens fast foods, pharmacies, outlet retails clothes, a spice factory, diners, and Mexican young girls in skinny jeans and bare shoulders, searching out of the corner of their keenest eyes for supped up cars, who should really stop to take a look at any of them, on any Sunday. -36-

Chapter 4-

The group home was exactly where it was suppose to be. On Rosemead Boulevard, a fast four-lane dusty road. Where cars and bikes were made to feel reckless. When I parked in front of the entrance walk. Three men and two women approached the car and eyed me carefully. Once I was out of the car, all five of them asked if I had any smoke. One of them wanted to know who was I there to pick up. I had no cigarettes, I don’t smoke-otherwise I would have given them a few each. It would have made their Sunday, -37-

The space in front of the sliding front door was littered with smoked-to-the-end cigarette butts. “Someone ought to sweep this once in a while.” Waving my hand covering the spaces-as I complained to one of them. Inhabiting authority roles too, is apparently natural for me. “They do, every once in a while, but you can’t smoke in the lobby, everyone has to come out here.” The tallest of them said. And just to confirm himself, he muddled. “Yes sir, they do sweep this spot, yes sir.” Once inside the building-- the lobby looked empty, and large. It looks like a large empty box of untroubled unmoving air. The usual art-class calendars hung on one beige wall: “Week’s Activities.” panted in large orange cardboard letters over—and there was nothing written underneath it in its small -38-

squares of calendar days. Nothing. Except the birthdays of that month. Here and there a few names splattered in unhappy figures. There was a pay phone to the right, and doors of 4 offices, shut on both sides. Only one door was half-open. I walked to it, there was a Hispanic woman, heavy-set, sitting behind a desk, looking official. “Can I help you?” “I am here to pick-up Pamela.” I paused. “Is she expecting you?” With feigned authorityand trying to appear cautious. “Yes.’ I decided not to give her anything more to help her make up her mind about me. She probably divided things into good and bad, black or brown. Sugar or no sugar. Carne or not. She picked up the phone, dialed the intercom and shouted: “Pamela, you have a visitor in the lobby.” She repeated that twice. -39-

It really sounded more like: “Pam, you have a problem here.” She lets the loud echo of her voice soothe her like a plate. And I felt like I was invading her space by just standing there. “She’ll be right down.” She said- dismissing me. I start circling the lobby, and within seconds of the call, numbers of women appeared, like buzzing flies, looking around curiously, sizing me up and down! It looked as though they’d been summoned by the announcement for Pamela--and like a prudent rooster, I looked them up and down too. A very young black girl asks for a cigarette. She is dressed in the most outrageously sexual way. She has to unloosen two strings and she’d be entirely naked. She can’t be much older than 18. -40-

And there is this other woman, she is pretty , looking like, just out of showers, suburban looking. She looks at me to see if I find her attractive. The sort of stare that is never evaluating you, but wants to read your reaction to herself. And the cautiousness in that starehalf-fearful to find anything unlovely reflected back. But not really expecting it. I smile back approvingly. The look-back must always say: confirm. Or it stretches into a “problem” sometime, somewhere. Pam takes a good 5 minutes to appear. She is out of the elevator’s door, with what looks like an entourage. She nods her head to me without so much as an eye contact or hello, and she is talking to these other men with her. They are carrying her purse, cell-phone, and a beach towel. Now I see why the lobby got crowded with residents after she was summoned. She is -41-

clearly their queen. Their feminine point of reference. She calls the heavy-set woman in the office: Bertha. Introduces me, mispronouncing my name badly, and asks me shyly: “ Are you ready?” I look at the other men standing at attention around her, they’re like sleepy old lamps. shabby, but quick gentle things. She introduces them like they are both her best friends and subjects. The one holding her cell-phone, has his hair parted in the middle with the most current hair gel. He looks like a scrubbed bear. Pam looks at him and says: “Can I have tinker bell?” “ Tinker bell?” I say curiously. “See, there’s a tinker bell on it.” She says this with affection and pride. It feels like being introduced to a real personIt’s a black all-purpose purse/bag with smallish colorful stitching of tinker bell on both sides. She holds the bag tightly, it makes her happy. -42-

The bear wants to know where we’re going. “We are going to Manhattan beach.” Pam looks back at me for confirmation. “Right,” I reflect back. I feel like being tutored into a new string of things. And its more than that, I’m loving every glance, exchange and gesture. Its also like being allowed inside a building, you’ve always looked at from the street. Pam turns and walks toward the door, in quick sharp steps. The entourage follows her . They have circled her like a wagon. One of the girls calls from the back of the hall:: “Where you’re going Pam?” Its not envy, you feel like they’ll be with her vicariously. -43-

Pam doesn’t pause to answer her. She clearly expects this: ”Just out and about.” She says it with vigor, delight. She turns to me with a pretty smile, as I follow her out: “They are always asking where I’m going, and I always say: “Out and about’” She chuckles and looks forward. I like being around her for some reason I can’t figure out. Its like no one I’ve ever been with. Everything is quick and sharp, and absent too. Once we’re in the car. She lights a cigarette and looks straight ahead, and turns off the radio and says: “Too much noise.” And we head out. -44-

The way to the Manhattan beach from Pico is a spatial conundrum, and I have to figure it all by myself. I am accustomed to women who have perfect senses of direction: “Just turn here honey.” “Here?” “Yes, right there.” With authority. “Then what?” “I’ll tell you when we get there dear.” -45-

“How do you get anywhere without me?” “I would be lost without you.” “Where do you get your perfect sense of direction from?” “Mind the road honey. Not from men.” Out of the force of habit, I say: “Pam, do you know the best way to get to the beach?” “No, I don’t. Didn’t you look it up?” “I did, but I can’t understand my own directions!” “You should have printed it out, you do have a printer?” “Yes, I do. I just don’t go out to the beach that often.” -46-

I sound as though I’m nagging already. “We’ll be fine. We’ll ask someone, at a gas station.” She says cheerfully. With quick optimism. “Fine.” I like the sounds of agreeableness. It’s a community of thoughts. It means we are together on this. Its almost as good as providing good directions. We make it there, by following the largest river of cars. And by the scents of ocean. By how cloudier it gets as we near the beach. And by a certain feeling I neither can recall nor explain now. Sometimes It felt as though she really know the way there, but can’t explain it. I neither know my senses, nor can I explain. I am out of two faculties, while I bet she could walk there all by herself following the scents and the currents in the air.-and everything else that vibrates alive, out of that mass of water. -47-

Once the clouds thicken, the car caravan’s direction is clear. They are a self-possessed crowd. The road is thick with shiny, sporty new things that all look as though they are adored by their occupants, and are all being mysteriously pulled by the force of their common will. Everyone looks confident, wealthy, young, tanned--brownish like Pamela, and every other one is a dyed blonde. I seem to remember hearing: Manhattan beach is the most expensive Beach in in Los Angeles. Or am I imagining this because how poor my dusty old car looks in their midst? “They’re all rich people.” Thinking out-loud. “What?” “I said everyone looks, well-off .” She looks confused. “But you are rich too?” “Nooo.” Emphatically. “That would not be a good thing.” “Oh.” It makes her think. -48-

She looks away, not disappointed. But indifferent: “You have more money than me.” “How is that?” “All my money goes to the group home, I barely have enough for cigarettes.” “But you wear all these nice things?” “They’re presents. My mom buys them for me. And Kevin does.” “Who is Kevin?” “ He is my best friend. “ pause. “And he is like my older brother, you know?” She becomes animated. Her attention is shifted back inside the car. I close the windows, cut the outside noise out, though my senses are about to get accustomed to the ocean once again. -49-

“What do you mean he is like your brother, I thought you already had a brother?” “I do, Scott. But we never got along, he never understood my condition, growing up. Sometimes I thought he was ashamed of me!” She looks unsure, puzzled. “So, you invented a brother for yourself?” “Kind of.” She glances out of her left eye-she really isn’t sure. “That’s clever. I never wanted a sister.” “Why not?” “I don’t know -its hard to explain.” “My brother was very popular-you know what they called me at school?” “What?” “Here comes: Dex’s little sister.” She grins--the memory enjoys itself, -a light within a page. “But he’d never let me hang out with his friends!” She looks at me, as though I might have an explanation. -50-

“Well, that’s understandable, you’re very attractive!” “Oh.” She says like it, like she’s surprised by it. “He wouldn’t let his friends near me.” “Boys.” “Yea!” “Well I told you , it makes sense—my friends weren’t allowed anywhere near my sister either.” “Oh.” “How did you and Kevin meet?” “He was over to the group home to visit my housemate. She doesn’t live there anymore. I walked into her room. And they were talking-I was introduced. We hit it off. And I took him.” She says with authority, inner-sense, and fondness. “What do you mean?” “I picked him to be my best friend.” Final. “I left with him, for their house, and spent the weekend with them.” “Who is them?” -51-

I know I like her sense of innocence, but this complicates things. “Kevin lives with his mom, in their house in Long Beach. They have an extra bedroom, so I stayed with them, for the weekend” She counts every other word, like my curiosity is a sign of mental slowness. “You guys meet, then you’re off to his house?’?” “Yeah, why?” “Nothing I was just curious.” And drop the subject. I’m probably not as curious as most people. Facts are what they are, after all, collection of insensibilities (acts) pressed into reason. We follow a bunch of cars that are very touristy, they have out-of-state plates, and carry mostly non-blondes. Their stream leads us into a big parking lot-with a big sign at the entrances: “8 $. Park All Day.” I can buy food for two days with eight dollars. But money doesn’t seem to matters anymore. The Pacific ocean is right there, to our right. Beyond other cars, beyond sand mounds. Beyond groups of people in flip-flop. Beyond reason. And it breathes with its familiar scent. -52-

Chapter Five: Objects.

It was a perfect sunny day—the breeze from the ocean was a whisper. A Breathing living giant cluster of beings—purring, shedding their spirit, in strokes. The gills breathing their scents out, the lungs taking their rapture in. Everything gentle, playful. Synchronous. Green. Once we locked the car and moved away-Pam went into a different sphere. She walked like this had been home to her, more than any other place. -54-

If she was aware of my ”being” there with her, it must have been a silent knowledge. Her head was tilted in that abstraction that holds the curiosity of new born-ins. Everything at once splendid, and puzzling-- or rescued from its suspension in deep memories. I had to walk faster than ever, just to keep up with her pace, and that still meant, walking behind her by few paces . Almost as though she needed everything but herself and the ocean-- to stay out of her absorption. Almost as though this had been her play pin. Heaven. And I was content. I wanted to vicariously see things as they occurred to her. I’ve never really known myself to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. It was as though by walking faster than I, she made me see the things that usually linger and persist in things, as I quickly brush by. And I followed her eyes, her gestures, how she fell in and out of the crowd’s-streams. I wanted to see things in her mirror. -55-

She clearly liked men-the handsome tanned ones, the ones brown as herself would make her wave her shoulders, and breasts shyly. In timid bursts of acquaintance. She’d taken off her t-shirt now. She’d done it so quick and carelessly. Really, what beautiful breasts she had. She was voluptuous, light. Men’s eyes wandered on her-and stayed, with the same quiet approval. She clearly looked dreamy-alongside the ocean, un-remote and familiar. We must have walked for an hour before we reached the food court-she looked at the little stores, and without looking at me said: “Can we have ice cream?” Her head bowed, her right leg rocking back-andforth. Quick-tempered. “Of course.” -56-

I hadn’t started counting pennies yet. I’d saved a thousand dollars in the bank out of my checks, and felt safe, even well-off. And how much can an ice cream costs? I don’t like sweet things. So, it’ll be just for her. She ordered quickly--she knew exactly what she wanted. We then started down the boardwalk of tiny beach stores and tables strewn with colorful hand- made jewels or sunglasses, and t-shirts, and all things that glitter with invitations, in the sun. And something, different occurred from here on. She became immersed in all-objects at once. Like this too, was a sort of ocean—as though the creature had jumped out of the ocean--and laid out there for her –in surprise. “Do you like these?” We are in front of a long table, over which dozens of earing, necklaces and rings are spread in clusters--hand-made tiny things—with signs like:” 3 earrings for 5 dollars.” -57-

“They’re shaped like dolphins-, see they have a little dolphin , I collect dolphins, here my necklace has a dolphin too. She is shaking her right leg again, in excitement. “See, I have a dolphin tattoo too.” “Where?” “Right here. see.” There is a pretty colorful dolphin, tattooed above her right ankle-- outside. I’m missing that ankle—Achilles heel-I lost it— when we fell apart. “What’s on the other side?” I can’t make out this one. “Its Tigre!” “Tigre?” This one is full of colors too—the cartoon character. She examins the earrings carefully. “They’re 3 for five dollars.” Its me suggesting this. -58-

Whatever makes her happy. I don’t question happiness. “That’s not bad at all.” The right leg is rocking back and forth again-and methodically goes through almost every pair of earrings spread on the table till she finds the three she likes. We pay for it, and leave. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” She swings her bag. We’re lost in the traffic again. We have hamburgers later on. And pick up a tie-dyed wrap she likes—and wraps it around her legs like a skirt. She really has great style. “You really have good taste!” Its just that I’m truly surprised. “Its my mother-she taught me everything.” She says happily and final. Mom gets all the credit. We leave he beach late in the afternoon. I drop her off back at the group home, we’ve driven silently, for an hour-she looks selfabsorbed. Elsewhere. But happy. Its been a good day for me too. Me can’t be dragged out at all. Me, who’s been in and out of hospitals.

In front of the group home: She asks with sureness: “Call me when you get home?” “I will.” I’m really flattered--and can’t wait to get through the traffic—home--to call her. Just to be made happy by her voice, as well.

-61-

Chapter Six: She’s been coming home

We talk that night. Next day the phone rings in the middle of the day. Its Pam. “Do you wanna come and see me?” “Sure.” “When?” “I have to stop by and get gas.” “Ok, so how long will that be?” -62-

“We aren’t far, may be half-an-hour.”

I am under-estimating --we are about an hour apart. “Ok, what time is it now?” “Its 11:00.” “I’ll see you like at 11:30?” Pause. “Lets make it 12, I have to get gas.” “Ok. Bye.” Within minutes I’m out and back on Slauson avenue-except this isn’t a Sunday traffic. Its mid-day Monday. And every other truck, and little car in the world seem to stop-and-go in horizontal rivers, between hundred lights and stop signs. Not only I’m a poor driver by lack of practice, I’m impatient. “What do they know” It’s common-sense for me to ask this all the time. You have to look at it from my world. “Do they know I’m meeting the Shepherdess to day?” -63-

And then I see an “accidentally” large number of police cars—standing at attention in obscure corners of the side streets-too many to account for anything but that: their rivers know--I’m meeting their then father-now mother—the Hunter-the bigger and lesser Bear’s body, we are right around from the big Dipper—and most other constellation. They aren’t forlorn anymore--I’m meeting their heiress--my right ankle, my back-the one they called Cain is back. When I get near 6525 Rosemead boulevard, I can see her pacing in front excited, smoking a cigarette. She is dressed lovely—any fool can see she knows how to put things together—it’s a simple pretty 50’s style dress, plaid—white flat shoes. She sees the car, and waves enthusiastically—there, and then: I know the beast in us is gone--I know our spirits have raised her well. I can see my white-shadow in her again—after nearly billions of relative- years-I know she’s been coming home—and we’re here to seal the deal.

We hang out at the mall—she walks with her head held in an abstracted state of attention— somewhere she grips my right hand firm, and I feel like we belong. People stare at her with concentration- her walk s very unique to her, the red hair collected around her head neat, the glow off her skin-red—reminds them of the sun.

7- All strings are attached

Two months later, after day after day of courtship: We’d left for San Pedro shores, in Long Beach. I let Kevin, Pam’s substitute brother/friend drive the Cadillac. Cause First, I barely know my way around South-Central Los Angeles, much less Long Beach, which is tiny town south of here. And second, I don’t enjoy driving at all, and Kevin does--most of his time is spent in chauffeuring Pam around here-and-there. They have their own close relationship (he is one of Amen-he’ll be looking after her in the beginning of the world—and these are its movements-its Acts)—and Kevin is agreeable, they like each other (amen are my ghosts, on the 10th floor)---

Still their driving rituals seem endless—he is ready at all times to drive her anywhere, and she’s restless, chasing objects endlessly everywhere. “Kev are you sure, you don’t mind driving Pam around?” Its me asking—I have to make sure. “No, I don’t mind-I like driving.” He says final. It’s a relief. We drop Kevin off at his mom/s house in Long Beach. I have to do the driving now. Pam doesn’t drive. “”Where do you want to go—Pico?” “No. its too early—its only five—can we go to your apartment?” “Sure, we can wait there for the traffic to subside.” She has been to my tiny apartment a dozen times —and she knows computers well—has an instinct for them--and like a hound can sniff all the shopping sites out—and she surfs in there— elated—even though we can’t afford much anything at all.” We have never kissed or anything. I don’t expect to. Its nice hanging around her, she is like a colorful pretty puzzle. I’m content with us just being friends..

Except a few weeks ago, on a boardwalk of some beach-all three of us were buying ice cream— and I don’t know why, but to encourage her, and perhaps to assert something—I touched her on her left arm very gently—ad felt her jump in her skin-like a bolt had been run through her. She looked as puzzled as I. She is very sexy—but the jump on her skin, was something else—we were both shocked. From then on—sometimes driving, she would turn and look at me--coming out of some abstraction and—say: “Hot passionate kisses.” And would go inside that abstraction quick— and I never really knew what she meant. Was it an image from somewhere, someone else? I couldn’t tell. On this particular Sunday—she repeated it a few times, reddening each time with some internal knowledge or secret explanation. Sure enough—that Sunday, after two months of knowing one another—we kissed, and she started to coil and uncoil with passion—or was it something else? But we made love—and through it all, she pulsated like every tiny foursquare of her living was attached to bundles of strings, and the strings were in and out of heavens. And that this (Act) high and low, strung the world together, and that without us, nothing would come, nothing would-and that it was love.

Afterwards. She sat above me, while I’m still bewildered about what had happened. With some foreknowledge, And said something I don’t recall, but it seemed as though she knew more about it than I. And she called Kevin and said: “We made love.” With excitement—like he’d been expecting it all along—and she’d fulfilled, some unknown mystery.

8-Back in time

Two years later—I nickname her the “happy feet”—on account of her constantly-attractive feet, happiness. And go back 80 years in time—

to see her—and welcome her home. To let her know she’s managing fine—and amazingly perfect, resourceful. Back then, she lives in a mansion—she has dark hair to her shoulders, tanned skin--she is beautiful—but the doors to her mansion are men’s—otherwise they won’t follow her orders. And their call is “war.”

When I drop into her surroundings--she smiles —-she holds my hands—is happy for my thoughts- and says smiling: “We will C—we will C.” With an accent. We’re surrounded by guards. “You’re finally coming home.” I want to say. She already knows.

2-Ellie

I don’t why I was staring at her photos. I was being amused. She’d just requested to be a friend on yet another nameless social networking site. Sure, I got requests from time to time. But hers was quite different. First, the address read: Salt Late City, Utah. I thought :”holy batman.” Who knows me all the way out there. And you have to know where in the world I am sitting: in the middle of south-central Los Angeles. One of the most urban catastrophic places on earth. South Late City, from these harsh landscapes looks like something entirely different, un-earthy. -65-

What goes on there? We have receding shorelines, drives-by, earthquakes, and wild fires. Disasters, make everything else, seem irrelevant to you. So, with a certain numbness-I looked through her pictures: there is this photograph of hers: she is wearing some oversized expensive designer sun-glasses. She looks wealthy in them, proud—and in a brownish floral dress—she looks comfortable in it. Suburban. Midwestern. The next few photographs are taken elsewhere, at an allwomen -party; and though everyone to big city standards is dressed carelessly. Ellie is dressed in a simple, pretty black dress. She looks like a wave , in their midst. You want to wrest her away. The simple dress, makes her stand out like something alien, foreign. And the way she stares at the heart of the camera-- like she expects to be discovered in its piths of darkness. -66-

Still I think: she and those others in the party must miss the heart of reality not-by-inches but by miles and miles. I figured its only us in major cities who have reality nailed down with our eyes. We have that market cornered-its most secrets scents unmasked. Everyone else must be an unconscious, clumsy fraud! I read on. The profile doesn’t mention if Ellie is married. But I suspect she’s married, there is this air about her-the look of having settled inand she is much too pretty not to have been pursued, persuaded-- perfect skin, and full lips. Still, there’s something familiar about the way she stands, and looks--something I can’t make out. And then- I’m perennially alone—any act of nearing-- is a tiny miracle to me. A text dialogue started in between us instantly. Soon she wanted my phone number, and I gave it away, against all the rules of 21st-century conviviality. She rang right away. It began like a restless wave: “So, how long you’ve been married?” “How did you know I was married?” “Oh, how does one know anything?’ “What’s his name?” Start with something easy —its almost like selling something. -68-

“I’ll tell you his name in a second.” She wants control Is this their problem-control? “Do you want to be white-knighted?” Blunt. “What does that mean?” “Do you feel you need to be saved from him, or anyone-anything.” Silence. I’m unused to silence, its so ambiguous. “How long you’ve been married?” I sound as though I couldn’t care-less. She hesitates again, it has a dull worn-out, sound. “I want to read you a poem.” Its not a questionit’s a command, its something vital. “Who is the poem by?” I’m buying time. “Oh, what does it matter-its my favorite poem.” Her voice is calm with certainty now. “OK, read it dear!” Silence. She doesn’t like being called “dear”. Its like: Its too early to feign affection here. She got me there. She deliberately, slowly, reads a Cummings poem-it’s the most famous one-the one with the -69-

spring and “perhaps hand”. She clearly enjoys reading it. She has a soft, warm voice. It reminds me of people who announce a song, or a play well on radio, T.V. It’s warm— alluring -with a curious ring. “You have a real nice voice-and with your facedo you know you can be on T. V.?” She clearly enjoys doing this. “Did you like the poem?” “I loved the poem-where did you find it?” I know I’ve read it before—though never under such spell of a voice-she makes the poem stand out, unhesitant. “Its my favorite poem-my father likes it too. When we were kids, he would have us sit in a circle, and read the most beautiful poems to us.” “Where is your family?” “They are thousands of miles away-but I speak to them every day.” “Every day?” I want to say in disbelief, but I don’t. I want to be effectual. Helpful. “Then who reads you poems here?” -70-

“No one, my husband works all day-I have to say this about him: he is a very hard-worker!” It occurs to me that its almost 8 PM, on the west coast, where is this husband: “Is he not home yet?” “No he works late everyday—I told you he’s a very hard-worker!” She is fond of repeating this. You feel it’s the only thing that keeps her suspended. “What line of work is he in?” “Their family own a couple of beauty-salons.” Somehow it seems like it was hard for her to come up with this. “He runs a beauty salon?” I am not bantering her, I might have heard her wrong. “What’s wrong with that?” “Nothing- sounds like he earns a good living!” I’m sincere. “How old is he?” “Why?” “Look, you don’t have to be defensive about everything I ask!” “He is two years older than me--32.” -71-

“Are you saying you expect a guy who works 12 hours a day, to read you poems every night?” I regret it soon as its out of my mouth. “No, I didn’t say that!” She sounds startled. “Good!” I think, but don’t say—someone ought to shake her out of wherever she is at. “I’m going to school, a junior college!” “Now why do you do that?” “I don’t want to be stuck with him forever.” “Why did you marry him?” “Because!” “Were you in love?” “I don’t think I’d call it love!” “Lord --what do you call it then?” I’m losing patience with her. It feels as though being dragged into something. “You ever heard of the bored-housewives-club?” “No, what’s that? Are you being funny?” “I’m being sarcastic.” “Well don’t be-- its not attractive.” She is right. “Do you expect me to have a phone-affair with a married woman?” “I don’t think of what I have, as marriage anymore!” Pause. -72-

“He is always hanging around a bunch of cute hair-dressers.” “So?” “He is their boss-don’t you see. All he’s got to do is ask any of them into his office, and get a blowjob.” She is a notch below a shout. “You’re being ridiculous. I’m pretty sure it isn’t anything like that at all.-- I mean you’re a very attractive woman.” “You like the way I look?” “That doesn’t matter!” “You said I should be on TV.” “Yes, I meant it—look: how is the old love-life?” “We make love, longer than anyone else.” “I’m glad you have something to brag dear.” “I’m not bragging.” “You should be.” “You don’t understand me at all!” “Well, I don’t know you!” “But you sure sound like you’ve made up your mind!” She’s right. I have no answer. “ I have to go now-he may to walk through the door anytime--can I call you again tomorrow?” “You have another poem for me?” -73-

“In fact I do.” “Why don’t you read him a poem tonight--give it a shot.” “He’s too tired.” “Alright call me the same time.” “Good night dear.” We hang up. I go back to her photos. There is a seriousness to her, like an invisible fragrance. Not the type you expect in counseling for adultery. I look at her phone-number, I have caller ID on my computer, the number is clearly long-distance. I erase the number from its memory. There is a draw to her-a tempestuous string -and the warm timbre of her voice. The night is hard that night. And there are a thousand dreams, and her face emerges in one, with a “perhaps hand”--it’s in a form that picks itself from the sand- in a desert without a leaf. And her face submerges into the sand, and everything instantly turns green. And I don’t see that face again—for 200 years— until north Africa.

4-Lea

The depression began after the girls had a falling out. I mean they went at each other for months, with the willfulness, and conviction only teen-age girls possess. For night after night they would talk to one another into the wee hours of night, gossiping, imploring, and exciting one another to no end. A condition which got every parent annoyed. And then they, one by one put an end to it. This was after all a Persian Gulf Emirate. Where a girl is no longer just a girl at 16, but a

possible bride, and if gossip dominates her life then what else, well they just weren’t allowed to run wild on their cell phones. The parents had to exercise some control, perhaps they felt guilty too, for the luxury of camera phones, -92-

ipods, etc. Though the western-educated parents totally snubbed and killed the idea of the girls having boys, men on their mind, the condition went on furtive, and out of their control. So, everything had an edge of secrecy, which excited the girls to no end. And of course, the girls went on attracting the same light any young women sought and found. Though the friends wouldn’t admit to the part of seeking it, they basked in the luminous aura that surrounded them. All Arab girls are full of tales when young, tales of brides having had endured hardships and existing despite. Like most mysterious flowers in some brazen garden, they looked out this way to the world, like dark waters, trapped in its deeper feelings, in its juries and channels. So, it wasn’t quite a surprise when Lea got depression. She had to run some way, and the only safe way was solitude, like some undeserved condition-- and this grabbed a hold

of her, and parked her in a space called to her amazement: severe depression. She researched it on the web, the sleeplessness, the absence of that feeling that just had moved out of -93-

her body, like a child. She felt the way her mother must have felt after giving her birth. The solemnity of parting. The absence of accumulated fetal joy. She felt like an absent mother. Her friends had long abandoned her and moved on. She couldn’t quite tolerate their constant talk of boys anyways, she was secretly more ambitious than just boys. Although she didn’t think herself above them, to her boys were these half-human, half-fish things. Beings she couldn’t quite figure out. So she ran this way, that way and finally sought the solitude of every secret being, and the daily hatefulness that came with it, the exclusion. She knew in this way, she thrived by drowning, in some foreign sea- and in the hugeness of this vast existence- she met with the thoughts of death. This scared her more than anything else. The death opening doors and paths, death secretly becoming her. She felt as though she must choose this distant rest. Over the thoughts of demolished purity. Over her

thoughts of more than just boys. Her friends were content with this shadowy existence while -94-

she labored for something more intense and vital. The womanhood she sought was not her friend’s type of womanhood. She wanted to be at risk of losing everything, everything. While to her friends boys were ornaments, like new toys almost, what she wanted was someone with whom she could rise above the silence, someone with whose light she could love, love, until the night collapse. ‘But that’s only a dream, isn’t it’! And so the depression wrapped itself around her like a tired new skin, she felt at a certain loss, no sleep, no appetite, and her parents began to notice it. Both parents were dentists. And the shadow of their little girl, desperately rising to some mysterious womanhood, scared them both. They had had so little time with her . And now suddenly the detached brazen of this adulthood approaching! They felt it. They knew it, And they saw her solitude as a symptom, like a

toothache, or an infection almost. They wondered aloud: where all her friends had gone? -95-

And Lea was beautiful, in this other-worldly way, she had green eyes, which looked hazy, inordinate like it’d been covered in something perfect like kisses all her life, and long dazzling hair, that fell around her like waterfall. Her eyes made large pools of light, made everything about her look green, green as a village square. Green flesh, green boughs. Men, when she was out of home, at Sharjah’s Al Asra market, or any of the Sous, the traditional markets- stared at her in this appraising quizzical way, no one could tell she was only 16. It often made her uncomfortable. Removed from her pack of fiends she looked both vulnerable and out of reach. And depression made her look wistful, desirable in that unconnected fashionable way. Looking as though she couldn’t care less, and that was a sought after feature. After all, that’s how models

looked like, on large laconic black and white posters. Detached. Thin. Unapproachable. She began to write extensively in her diary. The pages of which stayed removed, unopened to others. Her mother was Spanish, her father Syrian, they had been -96-

married for 18 years. And they didn’t quite know much about depression. The were trained for more concrete signs of trouble: A toothache. The fire. Accidents. Earthquakes. But Lea thought of death deliciously, of an end to her unwonted space. She was both beautiful and intelligent beyond her years. Her early blooming rather promised as though it would stay bloomed, and unopened . But there was toosomething hurried about her. Something hurried and alien, almost as though burning with a terminable spark, and over the territory, in between explosion and sunset, between light and dark, and that this haste, would finish her somehow. She was hard to get close to for her peers. Even the boys around her all-girl school, kept their eyes on her, but averted soon, weary of the

onward waves in her un-assuring eyes. She was desirable, but out of reach. Men felt a fear around her, a felt fear fallen, like flocking birds, something unpredictable. Their eyes roamed around her, but evaded her, when their gaze was retuned with a certain impression that said: -97-

‘what do you want of me? Do you think you deserve me’? And the answer for the man was always :’no’. They really couldn’t hold a promise open for her. Not quite yet. Shajrah, was a modern city of 800,000 souls overlooking the Persian gulf. It was a city famous for its many museums and, universities. Its malls, and traditional Sous, and it’s crystal plaza, its modern architecture, the vast Al Jazireh park. The many ambitions of its keepers. Everything was designed tall and out of reach, it looked as though it too wanted a quick end to the

nomadic seclusion that had seen it through ages and ages before, but now suddenly the oil had given its tribes a strong berth. Like suddenly being thrown onto a stage --andthe suddenness of everything. There Was something awkward about all the construction cranes. And the madcap height and shape of everything built. But everything created, was new and -98-

amazing too, and she liked hanging around everything at once, the old and new. ‘Everything ought to take her out of herself’. She’d think! After school each day, she’d usually take the bus downtown and walk for an hour at least, to put her best face on before going home. She wore the universal schoolgirl’s clothes of the upward mobile city, the stainless blouse and checkered socks and skirt, without having to wear a scarf to cover her hair. Though the Emirate was an Islamic state, they pretty much

left it to the families to decide if the hair of the women should be covered or not. She hated covering her hair, most of her ex-friends were the same way. They all attended this all-English school called Wesgreen. It was on the west side and close to their upper -class neighborhoods. She had had the -99-

advantage of having had learned both Arabic, and Spanish, early on. So English was really both a dance and a breeze, and her diary was all in English. It really didn’t matter one language over the other. But she clearly liked the ease she had with English, it was such a pliant language, no feminine or masculine verbs to subjugate oneself to, just that disinterest in gender made the language more available to her. She wrote very well in it, almost artistic. Her teachers had been proud of her. Her essays were superior. But since the depression had hit, her voice had honked and stammered. There was too much in her that was not words, too many confusions and untidy things. She barely smiled or laughed and when she’d laugh

at her younger brothers antics-she’d startle herself by the sound of her laughter-the enormous sound of it exploding so close, like a flock of birds running off a field. She no longer even liked the way she looked. It was as if mirrors everywhere had turned on her, her large green eyes -100-

Lifeless, in shadows-and the colors of her olive skin which she shared with her Cuban -born mother, something unrecognizable, like an alien skin had been superimposed on it. Something dull and not quite so fresh as before. She almost always day- dreamed, her head was filled with them, the sort that combines pop songs from the net and blends them with some fresh faced actors’ face, and made it run wild in her, in some tidy story that would always leave her stranger than before, less complete, more worn. She announced to her parents that she were to become a writer. They took no notice, she were to become a doctor and that was that. The writer bit would disappear by itself. They were certain. Drs. Vazir was a practical woman, but when she looked at her daughter, she saw the kind of

beauty that ran off with itself. She saw no need for more ornaments, and writing to her was a form of ornament. But she had noticed the partial decline of her daughters’ good looks and decorum. What mother wouldn’t notice it? The girl clearly -101-

could live off her wits and good looks, but she wasn’t. What, with being fluent in 3 languages, and all her other gifts, her straight A’s, things that really mattered. They clearly had produced a super girl. She understood that much. And Leila had had a good disposition, for whatever that was worth, and all the sturdy housekeeping and cooking skills Drs.Vazir could part with. Leila knew how to cook several important dishes, knew how to pick up broken glass from the floor with a wet paper towel. Now she was to have another accomplishment , something to act perhaps as a catalyst, to give her more outside interest. Writing, well, couldn’t hurt--that was

one way the mother put it to herself, the girl had always been exceptional, they had brought her that way, it couldn’t be helped. It was better than lying on her bed, messing her head with bobby pins. She first thought of ballet, but that was ridiculous, she didn’t even suggest it. But Leila, stooped over her computer, typing endlessly, winning more trophies, that engaged them. Writing was -102-

something everyone understood. She was almost good enough to be published. But she had to climb out of her “state”-her moodiness-that’s the way her mother put it to herself. Lea’s resources on the internet had been exhausted on depression. She needed more information. She needed insight. So here’s how she winds up on the downtown bus, one sullen November afternoon, after school, on her way to the American University of Shajreh, to do some research on her own condition, and perhaps writing project: A sort of novel set in some obscure, unmentioned city, but

rife with depression, suicidal ideations, drugs, and everything else. But first she had to do more research on what prevented her from acceptance of her existence. Her condition was really like a bitter taste she couldn’t quite make-out! She had been taught that upon learning the roots of anything, she could rise above it -103-

all. An invisible thought that now drove her onward. Learned from the her optimistic teachers-and taught by her concrete and ordered parents. The warm air made her nose itch. Her books kept sliding off her knees. Mashed bits of paper protruded from somewhere else, and these absently frayed and crumpled as she looked out the window. The bus jolted and wheezed and stank a bit. She liked the bus. She liked going downtown, liked some of the forbidden neighborhoods that swam alongside the windows. The modern spires, the used car lots, the emigration road, the view of the Persian gulf.

All this suggested some fiercer , more important world. For different reasons she liked the tidy small shops further down the line, their lights blooming warmly in the blue air. She would have liked to live everywhere at once. It hardly felt fair that you had to be yourself for the entirety of your life. As it was she almost missed her stop. Once she was several blocks away from the university, she began to feel a quiet dread. To walk to a crowded place like their -104-

library, where she was unknown! Depression had made her even more uncertain, and less of a blooming adult. Once she was at the library seated, she started to read her journal. It was just to see herself as she was then, to understand why she had come so far:
21st november, 2009... "Normality" is not an appropriate word to describe me. "Normal" is what i aspire to be... i am having theses unbeatable, relentless thoughts which are driving me to the verge of insanity. Thoughts of blood and death haunt me everyday...pain, weakness, broken sleep... I can't do this anymore, waterfalls that don't stop. Life is unbearable. I want this to end no matter what it takes!! but... I'm scared, i will be

judged... no one will even consider taking me seriously. i just know it... in fact i almost feel guilty.... wondering if exposing this state of mine will burden the people around me... my hallucinations WILL Burden everyone around me!! i dont want to be the cause of worry & pain... i have great trouble sleeping & i feel that... THIS ISN'T ME!!! THIS IS NOT ME!!! i am hurt.. * the most torturing part of all this is... I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY!!! -105-

I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW!! Anger takes a hold of me, sadness possesses me.. but never, never does a genuine happy thought cross this pathetic brain of mine.. LIFE IS UN BEARABLE... solitude is strange.. i like it.. i don't... i put on fake faces for teachers, friends & everyone around me.. i need to tell someone.. but no one needs to worry about me... so.. i I've decided to just keep my mouth shut...

She closed the diary shut. As if the passers by could read it out loud. She went to look for books on depression. There were aplenty. She grabbed half-a-dozen, and sat down to read. Within minutes she was lost in their content. Her symptoms stood out like a bruise, and turned

yellow. They became tangible as her parents world, something she was more adapt at. They were no longer just dire question marks, now they had names and definitions, Her sleeplessness stood out, her lack of energy now had a name. The absence of joy had a new name, and the time frame: yes she had -106-

been depressed for more than six months. This was all too startling for her. Something menacing and evil had gotten a hold of her, she was sure. A student came and sat across her, all the tables seemed filled. She knew without looking up that he was male. Something about his scents and movements, the sharp quick movements of a male. She wouldn’t look up from her deep involvement in the books. She didn’t even belong here in this library. But she felt his stare, like some kind of dare, and cautiously looked up and he was a short-haired young man, and their eyes fell on each other, they both had green eyes, and this startled them both. And for one receding second

there was a mysterious exchange of something in between them. Something stirred within her, something unknown, and not recognizable. Like he had carried a black basket, and it had fallen on her chest, and it literary hurt her shoulders, she could feel -107-

his breaths-they seemed to come with the paces of something measured and controlled. She wouldn’t know. But she continued to keep her head down, though she no longer understood what she read. His shadow grew larger every moment, breathing, even inhaling her scents with his quick sharp senses. She never had found herself pretty, the depression had made it worst, and she had been able to tell he was handsome- and his secret attention-almost had a sound and it frightened her. He was amazed by how controlled she was, she had been startled at first but had gotten over it quickly. He was amazed at how consciously,

vigorously she tried to ignore his existence though he sat directly across from her. He thought she could be one of those disciplined, sturdy students, the ones who can feign disinterest at will. Those who puzzled him most. She seemed almost like a derelict fugitive vessel far away from him. This alien coldness had become familiar to -108-

him. He was a foreigner here. But how was it that he’d never seen her on campus, he surely would have noticed the shape of her drooping head, the way it weighed her down, the mane of hair, her heavy pumping chest, and the way she averted all glares-like light injured her so. He found it all too indifferent and cruel. He wanted to sit elsewhere but he couldn’t, something about her being still and unmoving, prevented him. If only he could break through some way. But faithful as a pronounced sentence she stayed pale, removed, her lips moving as though she read each line in the book to herself. Her chest heaving back and forth, he knew his breaths reached her. What was she reading anyways? He took a look, there

was no use pretending, she’d stolen his attention like a bandit. So, she was a psychology student from what he could see. He raised his voice just slightly not to frighten her, but determined to break through the falseness, the façade of things: -109-

“Are you in psychology , because I’m taking an elective there and never seen you?” He really sounded disappointed, confused. A cold smile submerged in her. “No, I’m not a student here. I’m just doing research-I guess.” She said shakily, unsure of herself. And she couldn’t possibly keep her eyes averted. Something deeper moves them for you. Their eyes met again, with all the hesitation in the world. “I’m Ali.” He extended his hand for her to shake. His Arabic wasn’t quite that good yet. Academic but not quite conversational. So, he relied on gestures and pure impressions. She understood and said in English: “You aren’t from here?”

“No, I’m an exchange student- from Iran-from across the Persian gulf.” “You know we don’t call it Persian gulf here- we are taught to call it The Arabic gulf, or just the Gulf.” “It wouldn’t matter-its been called the -110-

Persian gulf forever.” He was slightly hurt-why would she bring that up? She sensed his disapproval-he was a Persian-she felt guilty. “I didn’t mean me—I still call it the Persian gulf.” She meant it. He was raised to feeling bashful, grateful. A reluctant smile twisted his lips, and sloped his eyes in an awkward way. He knew she’d acted in pure kindness. She was Arab. He’d never known an Arab woman. He was puzzled by them. By women as a whole. The way the story had always played in his head: The woman of his dreams would be very special. How special, he wasn’t certain. She’d be swift in accepting him. Without prejudice. Without pre-

conditions. Without the usual hesitations, and tensions. He secretly detested any form of ritual. It all reminded him of the mating dances of cats, and bees and what not. They were base, crude. -111-

He felt he knew enough about love. That he’d learned it in books. And that was somehow enough. It was vast. That sort of knowledge was. The literatures’ effects on him- had been remarkable. It made him greet almost everything with the same ease with which, one turns the pages of a book. It made it believable that experiences were reachable- accessible as a book, a novel. Love was no mystery to him this way. And he’d sensed the sadness in her. With the keenness of an outsider, an alien. The way her brows tightened themselves in one line above her eyes. The impressions of concentration which seemed so difficult for her. It was nearly impossible not to feel a kinship with her.

It all made him bolder than he’d ever been. “So where do you go to school?” “I am at Wesgreen-its n all girl school!” She secretly meant this as an apology, for her clothes, and her awkwardness. Though she wasn’t quite aware of it: she’d hate it if his attention disappeared-went away like a fleeting glimpse. She felt a need for this inquisitiveness in him, it’d become -112-

something tangible to her, more so than all the books in front of her. What if this strange man, a foreigner could save her from herself? Distract her enough, to bring her out of herself. What if? It was al a matter of survival now, wasn’t it? “You really look too old to be in high school.” He meant that as an observation. Something contemplated, slightly apologetic : Was she only in high-school? “Oh, thank you!” She burst out. That meant the whole world to her. As though she had become transparent. Something dainty, innate had escaped her, like a fist opened. It both delighted and confused her. “How old are you then?” He asked quickly.

“I am 16.” “But I’ll be in college in a year!” She felt diffident about it. But she didn’t mind showing off a bit. If It meant they weren’t too far apart in intellect. She hoped. He seemed so much older than just boys her age. In her day-dreams, when alone in her room, -113-

while riding the bus- he could become a complete story in her head, complete with breaths, scents and existence. Something she could feed her thoughts with. The library, the silence of all objects around them. Why so many books made so little sound? And oh, curtain of, such mysterious feelings! “ I just turned 22.” He paused. She wished he was older. He wished her alone. “There’s a coffee shop by the science buildingnot too far-do you want to have tea or coffee with me?” “yes.” That’s all she could say. She would repeat it over and over again. If she thought he hadn’t heard him. Over and over like a bird.

On the way to student coffee shop-the embedded silence still enclosed them like a bubble-and made the traffic, and the noise of people around them, estranged, impermeable. They couldn’t hold hands, but the possibility excited them both. -114-

They wander off the path-onto the grassy fields. The sun dances on every blade, you can almost smell the roots of everything. “Do you want to sit here?” He’s stopped under a tree. The fragments of shadow fall on her, as if from a hand. “Its irresistible here!” She agrees almost as if he’d asked her that. She sits down on the grass. “Its really fortunate that someone’s thought of putting tees here-isn’t it?” He looks out towards the Gulf. Everything reminds him of water. “You study architecture!? She says apprehensive. “How did you know?” “I soon have to take the bus back home-my parents!”

She says without any meaning. “I’ll walk you to the bus stop.” He pauses. “It will be fun.” Explaining for both of them She agrees, wordless. Her profile, on the edges of everything, summons all his forces. The male, and the female in him. And everything talks to the currents of the -115

earth. The cosmic bloom. They remain there, immobile, silent. Then its time to go. “You’ll be back again?” “Yes, tomorrow!” “Library, same time?” “No here, under this same tree.”

-116-

5-Sunrise at South Central

“He seemed very rehearsed-I thought he is reading the lines off a script-or some movie he’d seen over and over again.” I stop, hesitant. Not certain if they really understand. Then the taller officer says: “He’s probably robbed a lot of people, you know, lots of practice!” That catches me off-guard. I didn’t expect insight from them. It makes me think, but I still want to go with my own assessment: that the

thug must have watched too much T.V. Why is it almost seditious to say anything negative about TV/movies? “And the way he held the gun to my head-I’d only seen that in movies!” I really mean: how do you explain that officer! They ignore me, they want to know what I do for -117-

a living. And what direction he took off. The make and model of the car. “That’s the thing, it was a brand new Hondablack. And he was very well-dressed, just his ski jacket must have been worth 300 dollars!” I say in a kind of disbelief. They have no answers for that. “Its really good you didn’t get shot.” “Did you get a look at his license plate?” “Yes, California plate, but by the time I looked around, it was too far away to make out the plate.” “And there is so much going through your mind, you can hardly notice anything.” One of them says consolingly.

The officers had arrived only five minutes after I was mugged. I’d expected them to arrive much later. I’d stood by the door outside, holding the only ID left on me, waving it like a flag- like it meant: I exist, I’m alone, I belong. And I’d seen the black-and-white squad car, soon as it turned into my street-like it had emerged out of parched prairie, and not the crowded South Central Los Angeles: sunny, thick, gray. -118-

The car approached and like shadow in black, It dissolved into the background. The officers both climbed out of the car, giving it humanity. Cordial, succinct. officious. I know I surprised them by calling the mugger: brazen. What had they expected? “Was he wearing a tattoo?” “Any gang signs?” “His hair?” “The color of his eyes?” They were relentless. “He was a well-dressed, handsome black man!” As soon as I said this-I was shocked. Not by my statement-but by its reality.

He’d stopped the almost new Honda Accord, just few feet ahead of me. And had walked out of it looking well-groomed, and fashionable. He really looked like he should be pacing some suburban mall, up and down. And with a few pretty girls in tow. When he pulled the silver semi-automatic out. I’d been truly surprised. He’d seen the surprise in my face. He’d nearly enjoyed it. There was something theatrical about him. The way he held the gun, the feigned cinematic virulence. He’d let me look at him deeply, and having found him handsome, he’d been pleased. “How else would you describe him, beyond the eye color, physical things?” -119-

They never asked me that. I was disappointed. I would have answered that he was a narcissist. The way he held the gun-like it was a miracle. A divine Rolex. Like he’d seen his reflection in it, and fallen in love. And that he probably wasn’t from this neighborhood. But that he was rooted in something close, and deep though-the gun had been one of its stems. That he probably had a date that day-and was short of cash. His girl must be expensive, a sexy, relentless fuck. Sex at 20 shouldn’t cost at all though. “Sir, you are lucky, you didn’t get shot.”

He’s repeated that a few times. Both of them nod their heads with enthusiasm. It seems genuine. They really mean: “this is nothing, we’ve seen so much worse.” They’re both tall, thin and pale. They could be cousins. Their camaraderie is invisible, they don’t even need to draw your attention to it.. Clearly, one of them is the leader-he has better memory, because he listens to my description of events while the other searches in the trunk for dusty yellow forms. “Did you say the suspect was..?” He pauses. He hadn’t been listening. -119-

“No, he said..” The leader says and repeats everything I’ve told him, concretely, methodically, so the other can write them down. The formed yellow sheets looks binding, eminent. The leader has a habit of standing at a distance. It looks like learned caution at first-but it really is the leadership thing: its like wearing feathers on your head. Or a mask on your face. It stands out, feigns anonymous, and is grand. Its already 7 in the morning-the robbery took place exactly at 6:50-its taken them 10 minutes to get here and finish a report.

“Do you have any other questions for us.” The leader asks, while breaking the distance rule, showing velocity. “No, I hope you find him.” We are all reluctant to leave. I think it’s the story-telling part that excites us all. Everyone wants to repeat a good story until it exhausts itself. They get in the squad car with machismo, I remain leaning on a parked car. I like to show momentum too, move toward my house, or continue on the road. -120-

But what I really do is remain, and stare after them: the cops- and- robbers world, their prolific undergrowth-- American islands. Everything waves and falls on the ground as the car moves down the street--and I’m only a witness.

-121-

6-Johnny Black Ray-Or Diana’s Temples

There was a picture of her, in a black military camouflage jacket tied together only, around her belly button. Her breasts showing enough, but wearing such an inviting smile, that the decision would have been made by any thinking man, by any cool dude, that she was the one to pick out. -122-

And she was really pretty, her hair done in this fantastic style, saying: “I’m kinda ready for anything.” And I had no choice but to comply, her smile there and then had reminded me of something that was either behind me or in front of me, in time- please. Meaning that I may have known her before. But not in the form that she was presenting—but that form, reminded both of us of somewhere, where we grow old together as husband and wife-and that news was welcomed by her smileand the smile was really sitting on the cover of a porno film!

In the beginning of the year 1999-I hadn’t suddenly developed an urge for these films, I had been celibate for seven years or more. The urge had started building up in the preceding years. And I suspected as much that I was lighting the Roads that were darker than the most, but that the lightening was too for the passing? I fortunately had no conscious knowledge of the passing-it wouldn’t have been wise then. But my ghost led me and there was fun for once in our heading. -123-

When I took her home, her nakedness showed itself best. She had a beautiful worked-out body, the look of a woman who doesn’t abuse much anything perhaps but sex. and though she meant to please herself and her men-her gaze was on me who had loved her more than anyone else in the past-the men and women around her seemed like footnotes almost, to a love a love poem, she was writing for herself, except that it had to be written to me, before it could reach her hands. I gradually read what was in that love note-she had been our mother in creation—and her form in this time and space was someone I had loved and known, a younger

woman on television—I was just surfing for faces when hers came up and I was attached. The girl on the cover-Johnny Black is one of that girl’s soles not-from-the-past, but from 3000 years away-and her mission here is the protection of lord himself-and to be known as one of the empresses of his rays-which is something both in the future and in the past. -124-

Johnny Black appeared more and on video filmsand with her we have closed and opened doors and have had sex—and Johnny Black’s name ! I’m puzzled as why that name she chose—but I think its because of our planets out there are all blacks and her job includes protection of the sectors that are hers. And she wants to be Diana somehow-Diana was a figment of imagination-not. She herself is what they then and then called: Diana—and her being in those films is to remind all of her roles: they are lord’s protection first and foremost-then protection of those who live under her sectors-

and to the rest of us who love being loved-she is still Diana-but you can call her ray’s.

-125-

7-Reese (9)

I don’t know what her name was-it may have been something about spoons-but she was very pretty in face, her toes were French red, and she stood slanted like a dog. I was walking uphill, a little out of breath, even a little old. But I told her man, how pretty she felt from afar. He said thank you and please or something—I wasn’t really listening. I was just remembering her face when I mentioned my thoughts-and how she waved from head to toes and let me by. -126-

Further up the hill I thought I could imagine what it be like if she and I were married instead (she must have been married there.) We would be not in hotel rooms-but in cottages all over. She would be practicing her lines (I was sure she was an actress) and I would be writing mines and laughing at the ones she had to sing. We would have three children between us cause we look always for lots of things to do—and that’s a lot. And the kids would spin around our heads like moons and we pretend they’re our stars.

Only we would absent ourselves from them once in a while, and make love for hours and hours just to rediscover our bodies parts. When we get old! What would we be doing? That question got me tangled up—when we get old! Of course, we’d be hanging low and drinking cold-the game rises its wings graduallyand we be born again-but not apart. -127-

I went on and on daydreaming about us-it was only miles and miles later I figured out: had she and I gotten married, I would have become a larger stream in her than she—and she would still have to hold me on ! Which why she let me out then and there—she had no choice but to let me go. On.

-128

8-She who had been a love beforeafter

This one looked more forlorn and angry than the rest—than the rest of the women who look more masculine, And she wasn’t quite the man that her face showed it wears-so I had to look harder to find her. She is tall and blond- and has beautiful soft feet, though I’ve never been too near them. But the way they sit in her leather strapless sandals and the way she walks them speaks of volumes. She comes and visits a man who lives across the street from myself-and every time she’s been by -129-

I have seen something different in her. One day I was walking home with all my groceries in one basket, and here they come, she and the boyfriend who is slightly shorter than her- but looser in movements and strides- and looks like the one who is driving their relationship forward. When they walked out to their car as I was searching for my keys, she admitted my stares at her for the first time, and then suddenly looked taller and superior to me—her face said that’s

what she feels in there- and that would be my warning too if I find her face ever masculine! I moved my groceries and poured over how she had thought herself superior! Instantly I felt as though taken in and also left rejected. Later on at home I remembered her soft grey turtleneck, over her dark pants and the boots that covered her toes and only showed some heels. The covered heels had said that her toes were indeed perfect, and that their heels were only on her face-and the care she had taken in her -130-

clothes was meant for he whose thoughts through windows she had heard-and masculinity? She said it was something that came in her soul- how she dealt with it was how she had dealt with it before- it’s the want of men that drives her—and that drive is coming home someday in future. She was meant to become my wife in the year 2200 and some later. This lovenote is to us two there. Love was begun somewhere else.

-131-

9-Neighborhood

After killing the devils-which was like a million deaths—and after crossing the animals, the rocks and the humans (and they are not all that way) and crossing them over, for into-somethingelse. I found myself living amongst the sinnest-most of my children. I found myself amongst the pedophiles which I knew and felt as the worst of crimes. It all began rather quietly and peacefully, the neighborhood was clean I thought, and there were good bakeries. -132-

Everyone looked disaffected, that I admit was the first thing I noticed—older men in dark suits walked the streets alone—and the kids, the older ones were really noisy. But none of that I contributed to child abuse, my own head and back been protected by forces far and above. I knew-not what homosexuality felt

like- though I didn’t think of them as rapists and Klansmen-but they are. The war with the devils should have really opened my eyes more- but who admits amidst a war, that all is not well afterwards. The devils were rapists, child killers and moreand encouraged and sang to those souls nearest them. And to be near them, your soul had to be red as blood and dark as the night, which is a verve that exists no more—except in some of those who still live near and far from us. The neighborhood reminded me after a certain time in same space—that I was nearest them than I had ever been-they are called senators, cab drivers and wives—but under my law, the only law, they are still called the same. -133-

And the TV brought the senators and presidents and their wives in, who had been guilty of the same sins. In the neighborhood still there was a buzz of unhealthy. Sometimes when I sat down to write, I could feel huge blocks—like million heads unheard and sinful and dissatisfied were suddenly given some room. But all one heard was one block of: no-thank-you’s. And what had

been asked, been with please, and while bending for respect to do their duties. So their lights were reduced not every other day, but if I thought their juice was getting up and the result: not-myway. I would take what they had worked for and replace it with hatred they felt—the result remained in-submission and disrespect and a refusal to acknowledge the debts that were dued! So I live my way and from day to day until they deliver what I asked everywhere, because I named this tale neighborhood, to tell you I’m Everywhere—and I live until that submission is delivered, and if its not—because there is no other way-if its not delivered every remaining living day-of my life is dedicated to getting rid of those who in-submit and those who rape. -134-

10-Havva

Later on after this story is told, her voice will be the only one that quickly comes close. But I saw her on TV first and most—she was so pretty but in such n unfashionable way—that I didn’t look at her and run-away. She had some femininity on her soul- and she promises she still holds it in there. But lets get to the story first: I kept forgetting her name because it was a strange one and so unlike my own- but her name kept coming up like a storm that doesn’t know which way to blow. And because she was on one of my ghosts shows. I didn’t watch much television then or now—and never stayed up as late as the show was on. But my ghost kept calling me in -135-

Thoughts and his name kept coming up with a star—that I stayed up one night to see what I could gather from it. And there she was in that short dress like a ballerina expecting her orders. And her orders, her face said would take away all her concealments-and her concealments were

made, she said by he who had made her so desirable. She looked like she both loved the words my ghost had written, and hated what it meant to someone who had once loved her? See, she wasn’t even sure of a love she may have had- she was so lost in dealing the hand she had been dealt. She was the Sirius girl, woman-she was their queen and weren’t they always destined for hooshang? See, she was someone we had known before— someone who had been much important in our lives-and the more revelations were made on their show, the closer she and I felt. She had been Eve and we had ben in love then— and she had been our mother when we sang so well—and the last time she had been our love, and her name then had been Azita. -136-

11-The Castle

The building across the street from us is a Germanic gothic castle- probably designed and replicated after something famous. It looks ostentatious, sitting here in the middle of east Hollywood, which is mostly immigrant-poor. But the building has some elegant dimensions— it sits very quietly where noise is sometimes busily made. And it stands as though impenetrable-or that penetration must be something that one receives or sends. Its entrance door is discreet but there’s a fountain in the garden at which one can only glance through that same iron gate. -137-

And a discreet placard invites all inquiries to become applicants in their waiting list! The place is rented out—its an apartment complex-it has seven floors and the top floors look like suites— and that’s where by the way the architect has gone too ostentatious—ornaments must have

been copied exactly from their German site and exaggerated a bit. The people who live in the building are all more interesting than the building itself. In the three years that I’ve lived across it, I must have seen a dozen stories in them. They are mostly couples, well-off, the rents there are three or four times what the rest of us can afford. They have expensive cars and hardly ever blow their horns-and I would have gone and on in their praise or defense-except that in just one couple I saw what was ailing them most. They are a handsome couple- they moved in less than a year ago-he is a thin healthy man in his twenties—he drives an older model jeep, in these surroundings what the man drives is something that defines him. He is low key, an engineer or a draftsman. He has the appearance of the men -138-

Who pay a lot of attention to their own important matters-that’s how he appears at first-on Sundays and Saturdays, he is more colorful than an exotic bird-he has all the latest gears of a serious biker-but a serious biker who wants to have an announcement made about

him. On other times, he dresses just like a chronic engineer, jeans and ironed plaid shirtsand walks sometimes behind his wife, who between the two of them, is the one who steals all the attention. She has beautiful reddish hair, waved to her shoulders which stay squared within her frame- and her frame points always to her legs which are beautiful. She wears very short skirts sometimes and shoes with no hoses or laces, unnoticeable except for the showing of her legs which stand pale and soft under all that’s meant to be unnoticed. She shows her legs well—and they stand organized under imperfections-she has a slightly larger belly than her legs would have approved of—and she always holds an expensive coffee and cream drink that one can only buy from these expensive coffee houses. She holds it like a horse-man holds a standing horses’ braids-indicating a movement, an -139-

intention for a ride-but the riders’ always looking for some other order. Can the rider

stop? That’s how she holds her cup alwaysasking if she should stop. They must be good in bed- her legs, even the slightly inflated belly of hers—and the coffee cups point to a lustfulness that he qualifies—he is hairy, thin-testosterone filled, and she is soft and expecting always. From outside they look as though they are good in their bed. The other very important thing about her is the car she drives—her hair even matches its shades —it’s a brand new car, something very up and coming, sleek and roaring looking, when she sits behind it, she’s almost lost, the windows are tainted and the car must have really been designed by a man whom women approve for his show of protection and muscle. The car roars by and she is lost in it, only the head shows, smiling, not gleaming? The head shows and you only imagine the coffee-and-cream cup, the car is more like her slightly inflated belly than anything else- the man who designed the car would never have approved of her legs. -140-

One day, the underground parking lot must have been full or being repaired or something- but she parked the very expensive thing in front of my apartments window. The thing had gold-like rims holding its tires and was waxed or washed

or bathed in some unholy thing-because it reflected light off everything, and stood there an incongruity. Another car came and parked in front of it somehow—this cars’ parking behavior must have worried the owners of the first one-and they must have been holding a watch through one of their windows, or a secret alarm must have gone off inside their heads-when the couple, she without her coffee cup, rushed out their building rags in hands, and both began to clean and polish cars’ either ends and sides, and treated it like it had been insulted by the less expensive car- or like it was a shrine to something they both cognitively had been sold on. I mean that the care for the car, was something both urgent and marital. It didn’t hold them together, but it was hers, and his was led by her legs whims-or they were both consciously fallen into that space that also brought them pleasure together—and the car was one of those pleasures. -141-

(It made me doubt that they were good in bed.) And I laughed at both of them standing in the middle of the day, polishing an object that was

made by someone else- and protecting it like it was something that was more human than themselves. The car grew no belly and it had all she had except a roar of an engine she had trouble inspiring. And he, his, was the exotic bird on wheels-he looked to care less about the car than her keeps. Like she had to be kept and this toy was one of her expensive things. I thought in hundreds years before, the toy would have been a being (and not necessarily a child)—and in three or four hundred years I hope its same.

-142-

12-Two girls and two dogs (or the crossing)

Bright short red hair, thinly and with clothes that were put together quite nicely enough- but oddly enough too, some days she would wear herself into things that were hands-off like, but not so well-meant: like she had released herself from some prison and had come back looking like this? -143-

She would be into these really mean, weird clothes- things that didn’t fit- and she would

walk their dogs in them like she had been a passenger somewhere and her shipmates never called in, she would look deserted, duteous with the dogs but with no affection for them-and the dogs were these two large unsure things, and would bark and jump at anyone that got too close to them. And she would pull at their leashes like she really meant them to stop terrifying the passersby--but the dogs never listened in. they smelt her fears and felt unprotected, so they barked and jumped at everyone- something at home wasn’t quite right-they felt it. When they first moved into the building across I was standing in my kitchen looking dazed. They were so conspicuous out there, the two alone girls in a pick-up truck with two dogs too in the cabin-they looked like a kind of family. Sometimes the girls sat so shy and snuggled together you wondered if their biggest taboo Ever was kissing in public. I liked the red-haired one from the start, her -144-

softness showed itself more and she seemed full of attention when I looked, and if I stared too long-always a softer persuasion would wing itself off her and follow. It all made you feel like looking for some more, and I did-until something more broke. The other girl-is a lot prettier than the redhaired one, but the way she carries herself says be aware, or don’t come close. She has much larger breasts and shows them off quite a bit, but carries them so much like muscles or like they’re not hers at all. I walked by her once and I was surprised how pretty and delicate she looked, but she hides all that delicateness like their vase was somehow broke. She would have really been one of those princess type girls: pretty, well-breasted and confidence aplenty—except that though she is not quite the opposite, she would probably rather fuck those chicks than be one of them. That’s the way she goes around too- wrapped in baggy pants and boots, and dark glasses and hats-and all the while looking as though she doesn’t care if she is ignored. -145-

And I ignored her a lot and paid a lot of

attention to the red-haired one, and how she dressed herself some days just not-to-be-ignoredat-all. She knew it was someone inside my windows, because sometimes when she walked and I not at my post—she would raise her voice just to make sure her passing wasn’t left un-noticed. But it was her softness, the one I mentioned before that rose above, and bloomed all over our little road, she dressed herself some days with a kind of perfection that was almost homegrown, by that I mean it was all her own. Together-the girls kept taking a lot of outings, two of them in that small truck—and dressed in their loosest darkest clothes-and with the two dogs confusedly vying for spaces in between them. They always looked like they were going to the beach or all the other things normal people do. That felt like separation for me, that was them there-not us two. The other thing that got me crossed about their --and besides the fact that the red-haired one didn’t seem to fit in-was that they looked like they borrowed so much from their parents, It didn’t quite fit the nasty chick image either-they looked like they were fighting for something that had no meaning, I mean if it was true what

Was true for them, what were their parents doing in the middle of it. Where was their own meaning-they hadn’t. so I switched my thoughts from the red-haired one, and didn’t look for her

until one late afternoon—I had just opened up the curtains to let more light on my plants, when I heard her voice come in from the other side of the road. I got up from the floor to look, and there she was in one of her prettiest looks, a dark warm blue skirt, and a loose soft green blouse over it—holding their dogs like leashesand while admonishing two older Mexicans for leaving their shopping cart emptied and idled by the side of the road. She was quick with her words but not furiousand with such a deep mournful look, that I felt it was meant for her and I. See- she had watched me watch her, and the softness I had not-discovered in her, but had felt such longing for, had been taking her out of the places she’d called home, And the separation had made her sad and mournful- she wanted me to hear and know this too- and see it while standing in her softest, saddest form. I wanted instantly to attach myself to her sadness-but I heard her rebuke and the pledge, so I turned away from my window like I should leave her, for she desires it—and while she is standing in something that I admire- and so pleases her. The other shoe dropped sooner than later, and while making no other noises- I am not sure when and where, but the next I saw her she’d dyed her hair a darker brown than her soul had been, and from then on she dressed just like her mate—dark, careless broodingly indifferent —like the way people dress when they’re asking to be left.

I felt like a gardener who had seen a plant bloom and flower-and too seen it withered unrepressed. It would have made me almost cry— but every time I see them, their world says: No. Go by.

13-Ms. Alice (One of Mary’s)

Sometimes I just sit on my bed and wish for the hours and days to pass quickly by—I think I can make them go faster occasionally. This happens around the 23rd day or so-of each month—it’s a shame--not every month is as short as February —because from almost 23rd to the next month, is nine reluctant days of little freedom--and much worry. See, I need at least 5 dollars a day for food—that includes a 1.09$ for coffee and: peanut butter, cucumbers, greens. But as it so often happens -- I’m penniless before the third Week of most months. We get paid on the third of each month. And It always seems a long way off. A long haul.

And here’s where Ms. Alice comes in. She is a 78 –year- old pretty black lady who owns this bigassed house in the corner of 52nd. And Budlong. It all happened “accidentally” again. I jogged twice a day. Early in the morning-- and afternoons. Every once in a while, I see this neat old lady, on the sidewalk, sweeping the grounds

around her property with, concentration and vigor. I says one day: “Working hard Ma’am? Its been a hot day. Ha?” Just being neighborly. I says it flatteringly too-I’m impressed by the spring in her movements, shaking a broom nowa rake then- around the trees and bushes of green, purple, and lavender, stretching the shadows, making things gleamingly happy “Yeah, its been a hot one, today.” She says, shaking her head with secret attentionand pride. She has a southern accent. I went to school in the south and can talk the drawl perfectly back to her. “Well your property sure looks nice and clean—

I reckon you get a good exercise of it too, ha?” “yeah-yeah, I like to keep things clean. I think folks should be taking good care of their property. The city not gonna do it for them.”

She drawls, confirming the familiarity in our tones. And we chat. From then on, she seemed to be around a lotalways glad to chat up a storm about the weather, her daughter, her grandson, and the poor in the neighborhood. On occasions, homeless men would walk up to us, and offer her-- junk they’d picked up raiding familiar trash cans—things no reasonable person ever would have any use for—but Ms. Alice would pretend like they’ve come up with dust speckled with gold, and give them a five dollars here and there. So, one afternoon around the 24th of the month, I was really worried about where I was going to get my food for the next 7 days or so on. I thought of Ms. Alice and how useful she was to

the poor at times. And hunger makes a man bolder—so I walked up to the back door of her house and knocked with certainty.

She must have been in her kitchen because she opened the door right away. Her cat was sitting by the door, and yawned. I says: “Ms. Alice, its almost the end of the month—and I’m short of cash—I was wondering if I could borrow a twenty from you—and give you 25 back, when I get paid!” “Oh, a 20 you say?” “Yes, Ms. Alice-I can give you 25 back on Thursday when my check comes in-a five extra for your troubles.” “You sure? And 25 back you said?” “Yes, Ma’am.” “Well that sounds alright—let me go inside the house, see if I have a 20 in my purse.” “Thank you Ms. Alice. And that’s kind of you.” She walked back in—and came back in a minute: “Yeah, I had this 10 dollars- sitting in my purse. May be when my daughter comes home I give you another ten.”

From then on-we had this financial arrangement —whereupon being broke at the end of most

months--I come by the back door, ring the bell, and say: “Ms. Alice are you home.” And nine out of ten-she was home, and had a ten, or a twenty dollars handy to lend-- I’d then divide the money into small 2,3 dollars portions and make it to the next Check. Once- by Christmas she surprised me—and knocked on my door—and gave me some food. After that, we exchanged phone numbers. And just last month—she called out of blue— and asked if she could borrow a twenty. I says: “Sure Ms. Alice—I’ll bring it by.” See, she hadn’t heard from me for some time— on account of my having had learned to stretch the dollar more, and more. And I suspect, she knew that generosity makes people feel good— and didn’t want me to go on without that feeling.

14-Ame Tendre

He was lying in bed dreaming of what it was like to rest on soft moist grass. The computer hummed by his bed, and produced the sounds of some unknown band. The smell around him was of uneaten doughnuts, the hard smell of sugar. He had nothing to do but lie there and fantasize about what it was like to be surrounded by anything but wiry fences and graffiti maps. The smell of constant gasoline filled the air, mixed with the smell of wild fires, which turned the full moon a crimson red. -1-

He had spent eight dreary hours writing in tiny spaces, building words that ran and fell unfolded and incongruent across cheap notebooks as if a wild bull was chasing them. And was drenched in the summer sweat- the heat that wrapped itself around him like an old skin. Outside there were the noises of beefed up cars and beefed up bass sounds of the strange cars-- an ambulance was spreading panic and dust in some distancebut the sound of siren receded from him like a stone thrown down a well. He was staring at his computer monitor as though a miracle might pop through, The heat and aloneness orbited around him in single movements—and the city and his neighborhood were but cautionary tales he didn't quite want to believe in, like a story that takes on the form of a nightmare, he wanted to throw the closed book, away. Suddenly a pop-up screen lurched on his monitor, like a token, like something new and with a certain promise. It showed someone was looking at his profile. He clicked on the arrow to see who was sizing him up- in the loneliness of his work and being, any contact from ‘out-there’ was like a welcome mat-almost like a letter that is arriving too-soon, or too-late?

It turned out that his gazer was a woman, in her thirties named: Ame Tendre-‘what kind of name was this?’- reading him, from Australia, a Brazilian woman- her picture and profile was in front of him instantly. It really meant: she wanted to be seen, he was no snoop. The gazer could have controlled that. “What does Ame Tendre mean?” “Its Brazilian for: Soft, breezy spirit.” She answered back. “Vow.” “A soft breezy spirit?” He repeated it to himselfhe really had no idea what that meant either! She had had her picture taken from afar, not a close up, not a vanity shot, but a warm cozy photograph. In the picture she'd knelt by some ivy plant that climbed above her head on the wall, in multiple streams, looking rooted, suspended- looking as though she too looked forward to things moving up, ahead, forward. And as though she was content with life. With whatever she had.

And he hair fell around her, abundant, like waterfall, and her stare through the lenz burned its path-- like something rare and exotic. He instantly felt a certain escape; felt attracted, and wondered why. She messaged that she would like to be friends, they were both on a socialization site. Did he want to chat? He wanted to chat, like the end of the world was coming. He replied yes, before any of them was aware , a type of conversation began, that only develops in between two yearning, and alone things, the miles and miles in between them didn't matter much, they spoke as though it hadn't even been, she wrote with a quality that only the happy and contented deeply possess, and he replied with the forlornness of his being. She replied as though somewhat aware of his surroundings, the smell of burned brushes, the rarity of even a tree, the aloneness filled dark spaces of his apartment living. It wasn't long before she broke intro describing her surroundings, though he hadn't said much about his, only the scarcity and punctuation of his words carried the weight, the burden of his felt world. And almost as if she could sense the concrete metal spires that rose out of his windows view. Their tired bulging in the skies. She began to talk about her apartment, out of some wish for consolation, For the pure wish of soothing another. She spoke of the long, long moist grass , she named each fruit tree that lived in her yard, branching above the grass, and was almost poetic in her details, calling each fruit tree by florid names, as though they were her

siblings or cousins, all objects were humanified in her almost serene, soft language, voice. Outside his apartment, the wild fires went on, the wind carried the smell of burned grass and brushes directly to him. The wild fires occurred every year with a precision that only nature harbors. They would burn through two-cargarage houses in between hills, it seemed to him, that they came against this brutal invasion of man into the sloping mountains and hills, they would burn garages packed with yesterdays papers and an onslaught of plastic toys, and kerosene lamps, and what not. In a city where one of the biggest trades was renting out storage spaces, the wild fires came untouchable as to fight this general obsession to hoard things. Almost everyone was a pack rat, old men walked around busy neighborhoods cursing the congestion of things. No one wondered why everyone hoarded, the storage places business were in every corner like starbucks’ and Mcdonalds’, the wild fires came and burned things, as though, the pack rats had a disease that went beyond occupying spaces, it offended a factor that slept in the nature, now aroused, now wept-and wild fires would come to restore some wonted peace, but never could for their return every year was a sure thing, and a sign of their almost defeat. Their conversation took him out of the congestion of his surrounding for mere moments, and then doubt came, like when innocence has left a being and the being is a felt swan, and he was stilled, dumbfounded for words, outside it was still, dark and clouded, a dead sky that reflected no light. He longed to tell her of his

grief. Perhaps to awaken in her a sense of notempathy, but surprise, a harsh sense of knowing. So, he started to tell her back of his surroundings, just to be not buried in her little paradise, he was afraid of losing himself, to a life that didn't occupy or led him. She, as if aware of his fear asked if he would like to see her apartment for himself, the forlornness in his words had frightened her. They made her conscious of discontent, unlike her aloneness which was a tangible, treatable thing. But more like unhappiness hadn't visited her for a long time, but its bits of pieces were recalled by his words, and she wanted him to see, with his eyes, so her happiness would be immaculate like words, her name. She repeated the question: 'Do you ant to see where I live.' He answered how? How could he see her flat, she said she had a camcorder, and instantly she connected it, and he saw this beautiful woman dressed in a turtleneck and a plaid short skirt sitting in front of the camera, slooped, pale, and draped in a soft natural light, like a felt madonna. The floor around her, he could see, was dark polished wood, it reflected a soothing light into the camera, and he could tell behind her sat much unoccupied space, spaces he would have killed for, then without notice, she took the camera, and placed it on a window that looked onto her garden, plush grass, looking as green as the sun could illuminate, and the small camera could exhibit, small humble trees, which shook in the wind and were bent as though pregnant with their weights of figs and tangerines. She turned the camera, slowly around, so he could see that

she was truthful, and her happiness despite aloneness real, and unmoving, stilled. They lost the words to communicate then. The passing of the words in between them stopped like a clogged highway that's been suddenly reopened. Not a word was exchanged, in this silence, she brought the camera back to the place in front of her. She waited for seconds or were they hours, but staring at the camera mesmerized, she began to take off the turtleneck first, then her skirt, and in the orange and blue light of he camera, she proceeded to take off her bra and underwear, then she sat like a windless tree, still and unmoving, bent, staring at the camera with the innocence of the first woman, looking like something out of this world but belonging strangely and fantastic. And he was struck by her body, by its resemblance to her garden, and didn't utter a word, and stared, like a man in the eyes of a hurricane, calm and in some strange forgotten peace, neither of them knew for how long she sat there naked, but the darkness had descended on his side of he world, the lights unturned on, he sat in that darkness, and at one moment in their stilled time, neither of them knew when and why, she gently bent forward and turned off the camera, and the connection went dead, and it never were turned on again. Never did. He never knew what to make of this experience in words, or even in his thoughts alone. But he knew he hadn't smelled the wild fires or the gasoline, hadn't heard the sirens and car alarms for the duration of their almost touch, but soon, and almost instantly, he knew a way out of there.

15-Airborne

“We don’t have to get a dog.” “But I like to. I like to please you.”” “Oh.” She’s surprised. “Get a dog then. We have to name it airborne.” She seems awfully sure about the name. “Airborne?” I say with uncertainty. It doesn’t rhyme with any words I know.

“Yes airborne,” and walks away, as though certainty might leave her side. -1-

Still, I want to suggest other names for the theoretical dog we haven’t gotten yet. But as if she can read my mind somewhere else, she insists. “Airborne.” And looks up to the sky. Like sureness is only sitting there. Up and up. I don’t want to fight her on this. “She has keener senses about dogs and cats.” I complain to myself silently. “She watches cartoons a lot too. “ Like that’s a final completion of her credentials. “Alright it is.” She doesn’t smile or grin, like she expects acquiescence in a lot of places--and this is her domain. Few days earlier, and while jogging up the street to the park and the library, back-- I’d stopped to watch the fenced cocker spaniels, in a yard.

I ran by the dogs everyday—and liked to tease all four Spaniels into a frenzy just to watch them climb over each other for attention, they liked to jump and bark back at me like I was a sort of neighbor. -2-

I felt like running with them everywhere, in circles, and waves of mutual contend. But it was just a feeling. We communicated well enough for all five of us across the fence. And it sparked something movable, equally in all of our senses. There and then-- I’d thought, I can hold on to Pam seriously, and bring some change into our weekend routines. She got bored so often, so quickly—I was feeling a bit helpless.

The owner of the dogs, happened to be in the yard that day-- cleaning up after them, while the

dogs walked around smelling what was being taken, replaced. The owners are two lesbians living in the same luxurious surroundings as everyone else. The one I had spoken to before, was really very attractive, but not in a style, one can be comfortable with . I know I found her both attractive and strange. Her arms and legs are covered in tattoos—her hair is cut shortwith a clever architecture, that reminds one of a marine. Or a boxer, I’m not sure. The girls are both black,, and there is this air about this one, like she can escalate into a war quickly—if a male approaches her. Or for no reason at all. Not distasteful, not-distanced, she just lives in her own little shell—and looks out to the world in apprehension of its comprehension of her-self. -4-

I stopped running. She is easy talk to, and her attractiveness moves ahead of her in like a curve, something you get only to watch passively-an observer. “You ought to give one of the dogs away.” I say not really thinking of myself.

Its just a wish. A dream even. “yeah!” She says as though she’d expected this. I look strained at the four Cocker Spaniels. They are across the fence, staring at us. And I’m not thinking of Pam anymore-and whether or not she’ll stay with me-or may be I’m thinking I have to replace Pam’s affection, for its so fleeting -- and these Spaniels are equally as good with giving affection! There’s a pause. “I love to have one of them.” There, I said it. Its out of me, not like a dare. But a wish-born. “You’re sure?” She says good-naturedly. There’s almost no contemplation in her-she’s quick to receive my thought. She welcomes it. It makes me bolder. -5-

“Yeah, I’ll take one of them.” She can barely hide a smile, a know-it-all grin. “OK, wait.”

I’m looking at the youngest one. She’ll probably give me that one. It’s the naughtiest. Full of unrestrained energy. The others are more solemn. The owner goes inside the house and comes back with a collar and a leash, like everything is laid out in a plan. “I want to give you this one.” She points to a different one, and says: “ He’s a male-- the second youngest.” I watch her as she puts a collar on this blonde and reddish dog, with a proud stand. Almost like a show dog he is--something intractable and settled about him. Like he’s the most royal one. He stretches his body. Ready. “He’s had all his shots, and veterinary visits.” She says proudly, assuringly. And puts the leash on him, and walks him across the a door in the fence, hands the leash to me, the dog walks straight out and looks down the road -6-

towards my apartment like he can detect where my scents are coming from— curious and adventurous.

I am not sure if I’m following a strange scheme of things here, or am I driving this event all by myself? My will must drive it. Or I’ll become resentful, wanting to remove an alreadyoccurred movement. The regal dog starts toward my apartment. I follow its footsteps. We reach the building. He waits for me to unlock the metal security door. He only looks up at me. Patient. We jump into the apartment. He climbs the steps and stops once to wait for me to catch up to him. He’s keen. I call Pam: “We got a dog.” “What kind?” “A beautiful cocker spaniel.” “Boy or girl?” “It’s a boy.” “Great.” “He smells.” -7-

“Well, all dogs smell, you have to wash him.”

She sounds impatient. Like she wants to fly the distance in between us, and do everything by herself. “Wait for me.” “I’ll wash him.” “Be very careful, and dry him real good, we have to go to the store and buy dog shampoo, and a leash, and stuff.” “He’s got a leash.” “Fine, I still want to get him a special shampoo.” She says “special shampoo” like I’m dim—lack advanced animal sensibilities. “But we really can’t afford to buy anything.” I think but don’t say—I like her to think we have enough money—but we don’t. “And food, you have to get dog food, and a dog dish--go to the market.” “And wait for me.” She emphasizes this. She doesn’t want to be left out of this. Its her domain again. -8-

“I’ll see you on Friday, pick me up early, ok?” “OK.” “Call me after you wash him.” “I will.” We hang up. I decide to use my baby shampoo. Its non-irritating. Airborne follows me everywhere, with a detached curiosity. “Airborne, Airborne, come on boy.” Let him get used to his name. I turn on the water, warm-- and pick him up, and put him in the tub—I know how to do this— I’ve had dogs before. Airborne is full of braveness. Perhaps he realizes he must shed the old scents-to fit in the new milieu. Perhaps I humanize everything. My apartment is small but not-crowded, clean. Washing Airborne takes only five minutes and I dry him with one of my towels. Like he deserves my own. After ward he climbs on the bed and waits to be cuddled, it’s the easiest thing. He naps. Pam keeps calling, its like the thought of us having a dog, has set her scents on fire too. She probably thinks like I do: we are a family now. -9-

“Where is he?” “Right here on the bed.” “Good. He should be on the bed.” “Did you get dog food? And a dish for water too.” “No.” “You need to do that now. ” She is bossy this way. But we enjoy this. Its like we’ve built a community. And her bossiness is innocent-complete. Meaning its like a break in the midst of life’s cruelties. We’ve both suffered a great deal , she gets to break this ennui, by asserting herself. Airborne doesn’t seem to mind my leaving the apartment at first. He stands at the top of stairs, looking down—still regal. But soon as I am out of the apartment—I can hear him howling. The store is right around the corner. -10-

I hadn’t realized dog food can cost so mush. And with a tray of two shiny bowls for water and food. I leave the store minus 20 dollars. Its ok, I think. \i can save elsewhere. When I return Airborne is still howling. He doesn’t like to be left alone. He greets the food and water with approval, his nose confirms their sureness, their detention for him. He parades by them regal, with gratitude-and jumps back on the bed. Naps again. Pam calls every 10 minutes to check on things. She knows I’ve got the dog for her. She keeps telling me to pick her up early, and earlier on Friday. When she arrives on Friday, they meet like old mates. They approve of one another. She sleeps the entire night with her arms wrapped around airborne. And airborne keeps as though he was born to fit the hollow of her arms. Her breasts. The fresh smells of her living. -11-

16-The killing of the fig tree

It was a year before I noticed the fig tree- that it was a tree I knew well enough. It always stood so green and quiet by the front entrance door. But that it made those objects that were so love-like in their scents and souls. Well, that just blew opened my eyes’ doors. How come I had never noticed the tree before? I shamed myself asking and asking why? But then how I came about to notice the figs on the tree-was really another one of those accidents that come to happen from so many doors.

One day, I was standing by the window which is accidentally so very big and covers the entire wall north- I was standing, staring onto the street and it was so quiet and still. And then I see this little man, well-formed and handsome cross the street in his careful clothes and go straight for the tree in our apartment yard- and begin to look and pick amongst its leaves, and his hands coming back each time filled with these golden ripe things that I knew were our figs. I mean that they were the figs of the owners, who live not too far, but far from the tree which stood so alone and unnoticed. He filled his hands and pockets and left- only when he was on the other side of the street did he turn and look at the tree like a man who has just left a lover. I was surprised by the brazenness of the manhardly minding that the tree is on another man’s land. But then our apartment building has no walls or fences around it—and the figs looked so golden and ripe as they left their stems- glittering even as though happy to go elsewhere now and roam.

I didn’t mind him taking the figs at all- he looked healthy enough for them, but I kept an eye on the street to see if anyone else was aware of its fruition. The owners are a nice Japanese couple, Mr. and Mrs. Yeponake (which is a name I invented for them) their own name being much harder at first to say- but with much better sound. Mr. Yeponake (not his real name remember) is a healthy looking man, in his forties or more-and he comes ever so often to fix the problems us tenants have—and he comes every so often or so all on his own to sweep and water the sidewalks of both his buildings. The own this one and the one across the road. On these days, I like to stand by the window and watch him water the sidewalks so patiently and alone—that I stare at him wondering if he has stolen time from some other world—just to see it grown into something more. (They may be from some other time and space.) Mrs. Yeponake is a fast-car woman, or that’s what the apartment manageress calls her, Because Suzie (that’s her first name) has a fast car, a convertible, and on certain days she comes and takes the manageress to the bank, and on these days the manageress who is a woman, healthy nut much old gets scared a bit.

She whispers to me sometimes, not complaining at all: “Oh, Suzie, Suzie, she drives so fast.” And she says it like she is both burdened and exhilarated by their rides. Mrs. Yeponake is not a very pretty woman-she is thinly and sometimes awkwardly dressed- but young and healthy looking as her husband. When you mention anything about the rentmoney to Mr. Yeponake, he always nervously says: “Oh, that’s my wife’s are” like he is either scared of money or his wife-or both. He says it too like its not a gulf in between them, just that their duties are well-divided, and his are the maintenance work—and that division comforts him! I’m not sure. One day very near noon-on not a prettier day than tomorrow-I was sitting by the window practicing my trade when I heard a scream come in from the fig tree’s direction. I got up to look closer and there was a group of older women surrounding the tree and taking its figs and putting them inside pots and pans they had brought for that occasion. Suddenly it seemed Mrs. Yeponake had arrived in her hot car- and stepped out on the scene and was yelling at the women to stop their little invasion.

She was livid with fear and rage and she sounded also like she had been offended inside somewhere. But she ordered them to stop-and they did while sighing their: “Oh, how our pride’s been injured. But the pots left as they were, half-empty. Next time I see Mr. Yeponake-it happened that I was stealing one of their figs myself. I had been waiting for someone to sell me some gear, and all the ruckus over the tree and my own admiring of its figs and the promise of their scents—well, while I was waiting for this person—I picked one of the figs just to see if their promise was all realand while attending to its juiciest part, and agreeing with all who stole from it—Mr. Yeponake walks in on the scene so quiet and in his usual way- and looks at me like I’m a thief. I smiled, I knew I wasn’t there and then. But I told him about his wife’s screaming at the people stealing their figs. I meant to humor him about her, I thought I had picked up a scent of division with his: my wife dos this and I do that’s- and I had a smile ready on my face because his lines can sometimes sound like: “My wife is in Australia and I’m in Japan tonight.”

When he looked me straight-not in the eyes or face, but away towards where the tree was still standing and said: “Oh, the fig tree, we’re gonna cut it dowm. I’ve already called the gardener to come next Tuesday.” And I guess I looked at him so confused and stunned that he added: “Its for safety- someone can hide behind it at nights and break-in, and our insurance will go up, we have to cut it>” And walked away. Sure enough next Tuesday—up and early in the morning- I heard the sounds of chainsaws, and I was too lazy to get out of the bed or too sad—but the next I looked the fig tree was gone. Later on, the manageress tells me, the tree was planted by Mrs. Yaponake’s grandmother. (And remember Yaponake is not their name.) I invented it all.

17-Doctor Kadoyan

“How is it going?” “Fine.” Still, I feel as though I must say more. “ I still hear a lot of voices. And I think I’m Jesus.’ I like to say the last part-because its true, and because it’s a sure sign of madness. He smiles quizzically--and then looks stern.

“Let’s see what are you taking.”

He means medicine-and leafs through pages and pages of prescription copies, and his neatly arranged notes, across pages that look skewed, and stapled on the back of the an orange looking folder. “Are you taking all your meds?” He says accusingly. “Yeah, I’m taking everything.” I’m almost honest. I take them all-- except the Abilify which costs 300 dollars a month—and Medicare doesn’t cover it anymore—300 dollars is more than one month’s cost of food.

His room is very well-lit, its unusual. The northern windows look on the parking lot, and at

the Glendale Memorial Hospital, just 200 feet away. Some days I think I can hear the vibrations of their giant cooling systems. Hospitals are always cold that way. “I had a bad reaction to Seroquel—to make it brief Doc: I was panicking again, and took 600 milligrams of Seroquel--and started to faint-and was afraid I’d fall and break my neck----my roommate had to call the paramedics. They took me to California hospital—they gave charcoal.” That’s the end of that episode. It doesn’t pique him at all.

Its almost 11:30-- it occurs to me he goes for his rounds across the parking lot, at Glendale memorial-in about half-an-hour. Patients be standing by the nurses station---nervously waiting for him. “Well, you aren’t supposed to take so much Seroquel.” He finally says dis-interested. “I think it effects the cerebellum!” I say-meaning the Seroquel probably messes up the cerebellum. “Why?” He sounds irritated. “I felt like losing my balance and falling off the edge of the world again.”

“No-- Seroquel reduces the blood pressure— that’s why, you felt like fainting.” “Whatever.” I don’t say--unconvinced. “How is the hospital Doc?” He’s my inpatient doctor there—it feels nostalgic-- sometimes I miss the people there. He mumbles: “Fine” “Is the unit full?” “Its always full around the holidays.” That’s right, its near Christmas again—I’ve lost time somewhere. Suzanne his wife comes in the office, and picks up something from a book shelf. His office is roomy. Larger than his reception room.

“His Suzanne, nice to see you again.” I mean to be convivial—as in: he has a family— something to belong to. “Oh, hi Hooshang. Didn’t see you here. I’m sorry.” She apologizes for coming into the session unannounced. I don’t mind. She has much more affect than him. Once I asked him how his wife was doing, and he stirred his head and said: “She is the nervous one—I’m always calm.” I don’t know if he’s fond of her nervousness—or his own calm. Some things I can’t tell.

18-Dust by re-unions

I was trying to put pieces of my life together. But it wasn’t so simple—the pieces to this jigsaw puzzle aren’t in a flat two-dimensional form. No, some pieces hang from skies as if stretched out to some unseen strings—others laid out low to subterranean grounds. The overall result was that as soon as I put some pieces together—I come across what seems as unchangeable and flawed. What am I to do? They all literally mirror creation and today’s-existence. I live not too far, from the busiest street in Los Angeles. The amount of dust kicked out by the

automobile tires over this pot-holed street, and the dust of tired shoes over concrete and littered Sidewalks, find their way invariably into my small apartment. It feels like having fallen into a busy Sahara— busy with bus stops, shoe repair shops, and ancient banks, with their unchanging facades. An undying pace of up rootedness, to the very core of things. Sometimes It feels like, if I don’t move constantly, I’d be covered by its grimness —by its death. So I walk for hours often, until my feet are burning with fatigue. And there’s little greenery as if by some agreed upon pledge, the colors of life have been left out. And even if you vacuum every other day—the dust rushes in absence of the greening life elsewhere—it feels as though only indoors the dust can find the solace of light. Still, it all felt like some huge grave at times—I come home, and the dust is climbing the very walls—covering the surfaces like buzzing clever flies—it seems so useless at times—the very act of cleaning. And just then, I thought of old classmates—I had no connection to classmates from the unfinished med-school, some had died in the war. Others were still in Iran. There were a few names from the Mississippi era. I’m uncertain as how their names had suddenly appeared in my brain. Perhaps I thought of times when dust hadn’t seemed possible or existed. Did I want the picturesqueness of past? I went on-line looking for few names-two. One apparently lived in a snow white city of the north. A successful economics professor. Living

in a small town where soothe usually comes down slowly inundating.

Where the day begins its snow-topped might— where dust is a fable of the west—recited in hushed evenings—over pot-roast and coffee— Over sounds of TV’s—dustless. For all the snow and the colors of green drive it gently away— don’t they? I really wouldn’t know anymore— nor do I wish or resent it. I like happiness—so long as its not burdened by greed—so long as all the neighbors feel same. Another had been my best-man. And lived only two hours away in San Diego. He wanted to meet and was willing to drive up to LA. From details of his life though-I could tell he was dust-free, meaning he had a current recognition of verdant things. It was an income thing-his neighborhood was probably surrounded by green—green grass, and Azaleas. Pansies in permanent bloomShrubs that need timed sprinkle systems—and immigrant gardeners who arrive precisely at the same hour every week—who break the silence— their inherent paces—dusting the nature with their breaths. He had always been a solid man—affable—but critical-anal, in a distracting way. He was a traffic engineer, working for the city—a good job which absorbed him, comfortable—but like an old phrase, slightly out of focus—very slightly defeated.

When I asked him on the phone what he was up to, he quickly answered: “I’ve become spiritual.” He made it all sound like he’d suffered from a vitamin deficiency before. I wondered if he was being ironic—his spirituality seemed like a note he’d written to himself. Something to pick up after work-in between the laundry and the market. He went on to talk about it more—and the more he said—the more it sounded like it was someone the was dating. “How is Suzanne.” I asked about his wife. “She is gone—she had major depression-I was a workaholic, I guess… And we divorced.” He said unsure. His wife had been in literature— an editor—I’d really liked her. “Oh, boy that must have been really difficult for you.” Divorce is a major loss in life—it’d been for me —a catastrophe. “No, I didn’t mind it—I was happy she left.” Pause. I don’t believe him-but let it go. Perhaps he suffered from dust too—I thought. Perhaps all that greenery around him made little inroads against that invasion. Perhaps the ruins run amongst all of us, still---in one bank.

19- The Partial

I have to be in the corner of Olympic and Vermont by 7:30 Am, to be picked up by the van for partial. But I’m always there 20 minutes early—on account of taking the bus earlier, and earlier. I kind of enjoy musing along Vermont, staring at people, reading their minds—listening to their voices. They can be loud. And I get the feeling they all “know” who I am, but it’s the kind of “knowingness” that leaves them puzzled, curious, never-scared or anything, certainly notalarmed. Surprised. They’re mostly students, colorful—and workers in suits, uniforms-occasionally someone in a wheelchair---everyone social in a non-verbal

way. Everyone in the stream of things and perhaps surprised that I’m also in. Juan the van driver, told me to stand in the parking lot of El Pollo Loco—so he can pull in there and pick me up easiest—and I can always see him coming from Olympic—the van is purple, unmistakable.

He’s in his late sixties—and has a laptop by the front seat, he works at it while driving too. And there is a stack of DVD’s sitting there —he is into satellites and records movies for some of the other passengers. I’m the first passenger—Vermont and Olympic is as south as they travel for pick-up. After I get on we drive in mazes of tiny L-shaped streets, up hills, down to one group home or convalescence home after another—he picks up 6-7 passengers every morning, and delivers them back to their places late afternoon. I heard about the Partial at the hospital. Patients would turn to someone newly admitted and say: “I remember you-you used to come to partial— right?” “Yeah, how long were you there.” Etc..etc. “What’s a Partial?” I ask. “It’s a day program--there are groups all day— and lunch and coffee—and they pick you up in a van—its the alternative to being hospitalized.” “I know—the hospital feels like a prison.”

I mean it—I’m restless after the second day— and want to get out and run-run.” “How do I sign up for it?” “Who’s your doctor?” “Kadoyan.” “He is nice—he has to refer you—just ask him— the therapists are really good. The food better than here.” He is a black man. In his 20’s. Almost every time I’ve been hospitalized—he’s been here too—he knows all the rules—and bends them. And argues with all the nurses. Dr. Kadoyan agrees to refer me to Partial. On my last day—just before discharge this guy comes in for my admission interview. I’m accepted in.

The program starts at 9—there’s good coffee as soon as you sign in—and this lady in her 40’s or 50’s everyone calls mom—is more than agreeable. She is like an entire greeting committee. “So how are you dear, and what happened on Tuesday. You didn’t show up?” She greets and has good memory. You have to participate regularly. A lot are suffering from

depression—severe forms of it-and staying in bed—not an option. Juan the driver said one day: “You know, the one they all call mama.” “Yes.” “One of the Lakers players is her son or son-inlaw—she’s the real boss—she had the vans painted purple because that’s the Lakers colors.” “Nice.” These sources of information are always useful— but distracting too--I can’t paint a complete picture with or without them. Albeit. Juan likes to treat his favorite passengers to breakfast. Twice he’s taken me and two others to breakfast at a nice Mexican place. Huevosrancheros, the tortillas are homemade.

20-Hell

He jumped into the futon bed, and spread the towel across his forehead and scalp to absorb all the sweat. But the sweat ran down his forehead, jaws, right down to his chin over his sternum,

and absorbed only partially by his t-shirt which was already soaking wet.

So the sweat ran on tiny little streams around His stomach and chest tingling him—and giving impressions of tactile hallucinations—like insects were crawling over his skin. The weather lady on the set of his non-highdefinition TV, in a beige suit that was already too hot for the southland, waved her hand across the high-definition shot of the map, and showed the arm of the Doppler mega radar sweeping its radius—showing no traces of colors green and blue—which would have indicated rain. But no, there weren’t any rain in the 200 miles radiusand only a fool would have expected rain around here. Neither drizzle nor hurricanes visited here —no whirlwinds, no wheat fields—no streams, no golden valleys--nothing but same, same, same. Everything felt as unbearable as the mini-malls, cul-de-sacs, the many, many pale apartment buildings. Even the heat felt man-made—like there was a huge furnace somewhere— underneath the concrete and asphalt. Someone’s mistake for having built and left it there. There was something hurried and inhuman about it all. Instead the non-high-definition box showed all shades of orange and ruby-red, the colors of sizzle dominated the screen—and even if his eyes

Were closed, he could still sense the colors flaring up the room with their intensity and verve—like wild fires were exploding and consuming the spaces non-stop. And so the rooms everywhere in the city must have been lit by this fiery angry red, which why the weather lady was dressed too hot—the air conditioners had to compensate for the heat outside instead, and it must have been chilly around the station. And so he thought he could hear the airconditioners hum, through the microphone which sat like a jewel on the weather lady’s lapel. He opened his eyes to her 7-day forecast and it was all the same—temperatures in the same 3digits across the southland, like a continuous bad temperament, or the climate turned to a rabid dog: “The high temperatures pressures the region…” She said firm, as an explanation everyone should and ought to understand. He thought of calling his girlfriend asking her to Come and nurse him back to health. He somewhat unconsciously—regarded her

responsible for what so ailed him, withdrawn. Had she not left a half-smoked cigarette in an old coffee mug pretending to be an ash-tray—he wouldn’t have lit it just to inhale its menthol wake of a smoke—which had struck his left lung like a serpent, and wounded him so badly now, that it hurt each time he raised his head above the sea level of his thin mattress—he would cry in pain, grinding his teeth—that’s how badly his lung tissues had been burned. So, yes—he thought she ought to come over and nurse him back to health. But she in her slighting, abstracted way of being—the way she relegated unwonted ideas to the back of her mind, and then away—and with a flatness of affect which treated everything both a selfinterested and absent way—had said: “But you know if I come over-I catch whatever you have and be in bed for 6 months!” But it’d sounded so callous, so indifferent to him there and then. And she’d said it so plainly as though reading it from the obituary section of Times that he’d struggled to forgive himself for having asked her in the first place. “She is so innocent though.” He thought to himself, as if there are features that would ultimately justify-- even this neglect of hers. He went over how they’d met. The Halloween party. The constant shopping. Their quarrels. Her love of all objects outside. The ring. The careful dresses. The shoes. Her grief. It didn’t matter now. He was alone—draped unmoving across a thinly futon, so near the ground--and the sweat which

stood one inch thick on his skin. He seemed to remember nothing else from their courtship.

There was little memory of all things in general. His head felt cramped with noises that must have escaped from dreams! One moment. Nightmares next. Was he really in hell- or hell had come out of him—alive, already—and was this a movement? An act. He wouldn’t survive this—that was certain. While outside of him—everything tangible in existence passed—inside, everything remained fevered, dreary as a plague. The temperatures refused to inch downward for 90-days of hell. The high pressures remain in the cloudless skies—like the mouth of a beast had been held open –and it would swallow the world with it. Something –other-ly-was wrong with the heat—there were times when you expected 3digit degrees—but it was almost the end of October! The autumn was officially 20 days old. The TV had remained on the same station-night and day. He couldn’t have had the strength to change it anyway. Later: I see that everything which occurs=out of time-must be felt through by us. That our timew in hell was like a snapshot—but its toime, is the illness and had to be felt through.

And that there are others in hell with us-backthen-but the doors open quickly—but the end is so very very late-here.

21-Asra

“I come from a religious family in Iran.” “Religious family in Iran! What does that mean?” I’m thinking— she can read my mind. “Khounevadeh maz-habee—khodet midounee dige.” She means I should already know what she means. I don’t know-but let it go. I only know that “insight” is a river permeated by patience.

She’d texted me to say she wants to learn French —and if I know the best way around it. Her Farsi is great—her English is getting better every day, it seems. I spy on her blog from time to time, stare at her photos. She is stunning-to be perfectly honest, large pools of light in her eyes.

She reminds me of Azita, who has a smile for everyone. And is a river. I looked around the internet, and sent her a lot of links to free French lessons. Latin languages seem easiest to me. Somewhere in my soul, -every language is mine. Later on--I feel like I should paint her someday. The pool of brown eyes—intense, and glittering. The stare-undivided, passionate can. Next we’re talking on internet- voice thing. “Are you married?” She asks me. “No. Are you?” “I’m divorced.” She says quick--There’s an elevation in her voice. No regrets. Contended. Divorce has always been a very tragic thing to me.. I wrote the law for myself—that I can never be married—unless its health, and continuity in each life is certain in time. “How long were you married for?” “I got married early—javoon-boudam-hasht sal —taghreeban.” Divorced after eight years. “I’m sorry you were divorced.” I mean it –I can’t have her for myself, anyways. “What did you study in Iran.” “I studied Arts-design. I’m in London to learn English well.” “Do you date a lot.” “I started dating others, once our divorce was final—we had drifted apart from one another.”

“He was seeing others—while we were married —why aren’t you married?” “I was married once for five years—and never had the means to marry again.” Much later—I read her photographs, and logs— sometimes, it’s the only way I can nudge or watch people. ”And it slowly becomes clearer, what she means by “religious family” in Iran. It means what it has always meant: the use our religions—to closet themselves—to molest— formalize incest—and theft. For if you have a lot of dirty secrets, where else but a religion to hide it. In my names. And hers (Asra is one Pamela’s spirits—and to

22-Samar (9)

We are video-chatting, my friend and I. He is married and lives in Amsterdam. He is not Dutch, but we’re both rootless, and restless. He is amazed by the on-line availability of medical texts in States. He is picking my brains, like he’s suddenly been dropped into a virtual toy-store, and there’s no way out of there. “What else you got?” “Nothing, that would interest you!” “Just tell me what you got, will you?” “Look: I have Atlas of Endometriosis, 3rd Edition!” -1-

“Send the file, I’ll take it.” “You’ll take it? You are a Psychiatrist for Gods sake!” “I’m married though, you never know!” “Send her to a gynecologist, are you mad ?” “Look , I like to collect text-books, they are free, aren’t they?” “They’ll sit on your hard disk forever!” “Let me worry about that.” “Ok, its sent.”

He looks exasperated, sitting in front of the webcam. His hair standing upright on his head, been slept on . It’s a Sunday, he looks disheveled. I can hear his kids in the background. “You should see the way you look--like a frenzied mad dog!” “Just because I like to keep up with information?” He just likes to hoard things. A genuine packrat. “What else you got?” He is relentless. Its getting comical. “This one couldn’t possibly interest you at all-so don’t bother me about it.” “Let me be the judge of that-you act like you own these files.” I should let him have it, its like a Greek tragedy. -2-

Back in med-school (I’d never finished), he’d started collecting antiques. He would, in the middle of term drive to some far-out county for the thin promise of finding a 14th-century table lamp. “You want to know what its called?” “Go-ahead, try to humiliate me!” Chuckles. He is incensed, I can hear it in his tone.

“Its: Oxford dictionary of clinical dentistry, 430 pages.” I can’t stop laughing now, its hilarious. “I’ll take it.” He can’t back down. His forehead is stuck in the shadows of the camera, pale and immobile. I can’t make-out his face anymore. He is dissolving in the shadows, unrecognizable, “I’ll send the file!” Compliant. “I like to be able to talk sensibly with my dentist!” He offers as an explanation. He wants to rationalize things: but hoarding is absurd. “ The whole planet is afflicted with what you got.” I want to say, but I don’t. Instead I say: “It took you too long to come up with that explanation, it -3-

doesn’t count--remember: your mothers house?” Once he took me home to meet his mother, the house stank of cats, and defeated carpeting. Card-board boxes of all sizes, were piled from floor to the ceiling, and there was this thin narrow passage, right in through them, you had to tip-toe your way through, or fall flat on your ass. And where there were no boxes, there were piles of yellowing old news papers, some of them

dating back to 1960’s. He’d looked curiously at me and asked: “It looks pretty bad, ha?” Like he wasn’t quite sure. And I’d mumbled: “Yes.” Not sure, what’s expected of me, and also in a shock. “I’ve seen worse!” He’d said flatly, dismissingly, but with a tinge of anger. And we’d left it at that. Few years later, he casually told me his uncle and wife were being evicted from their Long Beach home by the department of Health services. “But why?” “A neighbor reported them-they had collected so -4-

much junk, all the windows were shut up, there was no light coming in through the house, and the house stank the neighborhood.” “How could they live like that, I mean what do they do for a living, how do they support themselves?” “They both work for the post office.” Pause.

“They’ve been working for the post office for twenty-five years!” “Oh.” I am not sure what--but something is thinly logical about that explanation. I mean: post office, order, sorting things out, and its malignancy: never letting go of anything. The picture from Amsterdam breaks. He moves out of its field chasing one of his kids out of the room. He apparently closes the door to his study. Because they’re just faint obscure noises now , like they were thrown down a well. “How is life there?” “We like it here, there’s so much going on, and then there’s a peacefulness here too, living isn’t -5-

So diluted. I don’t think we could live in States anymore, we would probably need a house three times this.” “Remember my uncle and his wife?” “The pack-rats?” “Yeah.”

“I think I finally know why they hoparded so much?” “Why?” “ It’s all the Wal-marts, and the Chinese, trying to see cheap everythin.” “No, its deeper than that.” I think, but let it go. The door to his study must have been opened, tiny voices rise like birds in thorn-they want attention-and I see two of them behind him, on the ground directionless, running in small rapid circles. Like toys on fresh battery. “You better go.” He is reluctant. “ Ring again, if you have something for me.” It occurs to me that he uses hoarding to make contact, human contact. I want to say: ‘object relations’ have become torn apart, like stars, planets nudged out of motion. -6-

But I must dash-off. I’m chasing survival here.

We both wave goodbye, and just as I’m about to cut the video off, I have another video-chat invitation. I don’t recognize the signature. Its vague. But my memory is inefficient these days. There is just so much I can store in my cells: so to cache anything new, something else must always be reduced in significance-I’m not sure what I can afford to condense anymore. Everything seems vital. I type: “Hi, do we know each other?” “Yes.” Response is in English. “Where?” Pause. She is typing a response. “nous nous sommes rencontrés à Londres!” I have to think. Translate. “London?” She is typing. “12 years ago.” -7-

I connect the video, and there she is: Samar Ben Mahmoud..

Just as pretty as when we met in London. Only older, something vague building around her eyes--no hijab (head cover), smiling wide with that familiar innocence, same pearly white teeth, and cracks in her eyes like pools of light. Back in London she’d stood out like something wild and uncommon. With a full-length black skirt that didn’t quite match anything else she wore, or match London for that matter. And her briefcase, like something unexpected, thrown in the mix, and she’d looked worn by its weight-and its unfamiliar language of close-fisted masculinity. I remember I noticed her feet first. She was wearing a strappy open-toed pair. I was struck by how pretty, and milky they were. And then the hands she stretched out to meet mine, soft, long, exquisite. Why was she there? “What are you here for.” She must know some English. Everyone pretends to, a bit. “Etes-vous un medicin? “No.” She isn’t a doctor. Doctors don’t carry briefcases. “Je suis un avocet.” “Qu’est-ce avocet?” No English at all? I probably look disappointed. “Lawyer, lawyer, d’anglais.” She repeats in a happy tone, like she’s just discovered it in a giddy corner of her brain. She has very bright expressive eyes. I want to tell her she looks like Juliette Binoche-but I’ve forgotten what she looks like-its just a beautiful name. And only an excuse for a complement. We exchange eye contact again. Her eyes are dipped in jars of honey.

I want to take her away. To a tourist spot next door. She stands out here, conspicuous, splintered. The Finnish woods might have her scents. Scents of roots and leaves. We walk to the pavilion de Finland, its almost next door-it’s a modern piece. I am exhausted with French architecture. They all have the -9-

same autocracy, everything repeats itself like a knock-knock joke. She walks along me. She has a funny child-like walk. She swings to the left and right, it reminds me of a windshield wiper. And she smiles uncontrollably. She is either playful naturally, or my curiosity has made her coquettish. I seem to stare after her, with fondness, and with a look like I’m making an arrangement of her in mind. “ Like I plan to put her in a vase. We have a great deal of fun that day, she likes to try French pastries and chocolate. And likes to beg me to share some with her. There is something matronly, willowy about that. But I have strict rule against sugars and cholesterol. She doesn’t mind showing she disapproves of my rules.

We come to have these forays into Paris every day, for the next seven days of conference. We are attracted to each others’ company. Nothing around us exists directly during these dates, but -10-

as extensions of some vague filament of happiness. When I finally have her alone in my hotel room, in a clear day you can see across miles of rooftops. She refuses to make love. Though she is very aroused. She trembles at every touch. Her face reposes with discovered new feelings ? I can’t tell. She says she is a virgin! “I have to be married first.” She says coyly, reserved, while panting with sexual excitement. “Or my father will kill me.” There is a look of terror in her eyes. Is it real? I take heed though. Had I not taken notice of this expression, we might have gone all the way-but the severity of that thought! She is a Muslim. She would have been killed? In retrospect, I think the thought

must have both excited and trapped me there and then in a way I am yet, unable to explain. We exchanged e-mails next day. It was the last day of conference, and it seemed the appropriate, modern thing to do. Though I couldn’t have imagined the thought of wanting to murder her someday then, as now. -11-

She said she lives in Tamanrasset. A town on the borders of Sahara-- 2000 kilometers south of Algiers. “You should come, and talk to my father.” Her English had improved a lot in seven days. I think she meant I should marry her-that is if I want: her love (or does she mean sex?) I meant to tell her we don’t do things that way. That there are many realities in love. That things aren’t quite as common or concrete as the father -approval -racket. But all the while thinking: does their ways turn “father”-“abstinence”, -- “marriage” into complicated mysterious, and pleasure-finding

things ? I Know her temperature is higher pitched than most girls I’d met. Perhaps “hijab” was invented by women after all? I know women who would pay dearly to have their libido pitched this heavenly sharp. And now, after two months, here she is on skype. Without a “hijab”-her hair is dyed a brownish color. Its short and looks attractive around the perfect symmetry of her face. She is wearing a summer dress, something with straps over her shoulders and her breasts are large winged objects inside. I know how they feel. How they can tremble like sea in desert, I know the rotund shape of her nipples. Something had to be chased out of my brain to preserve the memory of their geometry. -12-

“What?” “Do you like my dress?” She repeats it as though I can be hard of hearing. She stands in front of camera now., showing off the dress. Its what happy careless women would wear if they were strolling down a beach somewhere. Its ornamented with tiny flowers. Its stylish. She has good taste. I say its pretty. I mean it. She says: “I have good taste.”

I say approvingly like a husband: “I know azizam.” Azizam is an affectionate Persian term, it means honey, dear. Its like habibi in their language. Is the dress a glimpse of what she is like inside? Carelessness of summer-unguarded, indifferent. There and then I begin to think of her as a wife. There is something very unexpected, and calm about her. I see her fit anywhere in the world. Our world. I feel happy, privileged by her existence? “You look great.” “Thank you honey. I like that word ‘honey.” It occurs to me that words of affection like: azizam or honey must have certain sounds, and lyricism in them. Binding. Movements away -13-

from the remote- into smoother hoards of life. It feel as though with “honey” her pretty dress will come off her body the way it never did in Paris. Though I was allowed to touch, and tease her- I’ve never seen her naked. But here, 10,000 miles or more away--She looks ready to throw them down like feathers in the wind. Is it the rebelliousness of internet? Or is this the reunion of a river that began in

Paris? Or million years ago? I don’t know quite want to say: “ Can I see your breasts?” I’m sure I can’t say that. Even distance doesn’t reduce how unusual that sounds to me. I know I’d really have to want her first. And I know I’ll be saying it for her sake. To me seeing them from here is like conducting a mantle of music far away in an attic. Their scents are out of reach, their shifting weight. The orchestra would be missing major footsteps. But she must know I desire them. That I am speechless. I’d felt them-- made them sway, and felt their nipples harden in between my fingers, like frozen things. -14-

But that “terror” in her eyes: ”My father will kill me.” I want to ask: “is it easier here. Is a simple webcam enough to shake away the foundation of family/religion? Has this religion existed for the cold indefinite solitude of appearances only?

I notice her room. Its small. The webcam is slanted to her right to show her thinly profile. Behind her is a dresser, painted white like the rest of the room, it absorbs light in goblets and drops them around her in fits of grey. She wears a headphone with a microphone, she whispers carefully, everyone in the house must be sleep. She lives with her parents of course. And the door to her room is closed. And her clothes are piled orderly and neat on the dresser. I know I don’t wish to see her naked. Touching her in Paris had almost meant love, this here could drive me into insanity. (And it does.) I say I’ll see her again tomorrow? She nods her head. She blows kisses, as we sign off. -15-

A taste remains just under my skin. Something subterranean, something from some other world. Later on I dream of her breasts stirred. Of their terrifying wind. In the morning, I try to forget her, it feels like being infected by the pure essence of objects. I know I want her scattered warmth. But I know seeing them without touch is a soliloquy, touching them without love is object-less, empty.

It will be like the thick fruit that breaks and falls. And no one’s to pick it. But I’d underestimated her. Underestimated myself. And underestimated the threat of being submerged in the sterile sorrow of aloneness. Objectless.

-16-

Chapter Two: The Eyes Have it.
-17-

She calls back the next day. Its almost midnight there in Tamanrasset. And it’s the beginning of evening here in Los Angeles. The day will settle

in dark mountain hollows soon. We will almost share the night together. I hear the rapid Spanish dialect of the neighbors in my headphone. The world is hushed on her side of the world-except the occasional barking of a lonely dog , and the sounds of roosters, or are they chickens? No one would know around here. I like to ask her personal things like does she have a boyfriend. And why a pretty woman like her is yet unmarried. In fact I do ask that. “Comment etes-vous pas marie?” She looks shocked by the question. They are unused to directness, or is it reality? “Vous n’etes pas marie ni.” She means I am not married either. I want to say: but I’m not an Algerian Muslim woman aged thirty. But its all too obvious. “Il ya quelqu’un?” “Speak English please.” “did you have someone?” “Yes, but he married a girl with money. I loved him.” And just as she says this, tears come out of her eyes. She is quick to dry them by a lonely finger. Its so solitary, I think. -18-

I want to be empathic.

“I am sorry, who was he?” “No, it’s the past-why go to the past, why?” I like to say: but its you who is crying about it! But then I’m neither a woman, nor a romantic. “There are gender and cultural issues here.” I murmur mutant to myself. She wants to change the subject again: “How about you, you aren’t married yet, why? You haven’t found anyone?” She asks almost accusingly. “I don’t have anyone?” I think sadly to myself: But I want to say we have something called: fuckbuddies. People who like each other, go for casual sex. But I know this fuckbuddy thing is neither in the zeitgeist nor in the collective consciousness. And never been practiced by me. I’ve just heard of it. It can’t really talk about something I’ve only heard of! “You look beautiful tonight.” I want to say you look like a silent territory-like your Sahara-like pure water has slept in you. -19-

But I can neither translate it, nor her English can pick it up. We have to fall on something

terrestrial, something not words but with their potency and tenderness. And I think this is where her pale, pale skin comes in, like a trick of waving silt by a magician and doves will fly out. “It’s inevitable that her clothes will come off. “ I think. If we sit her and there, night after night for weeks, in wrathful peace, nothing would stir us as much as her pale flesh seen. Nothing in her world can forbid it yet, religion always play catch up to the majesty of thirst. “We should sit in our own blue bonfires, and watch the passing of blood over our extended wings.” I want to express. Should I tell her I’m a poet too? A clear wind from near my Pacific ocean to her silent, solitary Sahara, How quickly my mind has turned on itself. I’m changing my thoughts, inhibitions, restraints. -20-

The thing really needs my perusal, her daring, and the rightness of our reflection. “Its all there.” I think. So I begin to softly seduce, the most willing object. Her readiness is in every dress she puts on for the next few days. The florid flows of tiny colors in the distance. They all want to be dropped in her 30-year-old hands and slap the moon in the face. In how she texts: “I am going to take a shower, and be with you in ten minutes.” In the way she turns the camera to show the whiteness of her bare legs. The slope of her eyebrows in the view. The silent agreement of the universe. . One night I ask : “Aren’t you sleepy?” “No.” “You sure!” “Yes, I’m sure, I want to talk to you more, everyone in the house is sleep?” “Are they?” “The door to your room closed?” “Yes, see.” She walks to the single door and turns the lock clock-wise. “See?” We are co-conspirators now.. -21-

.“Can I see more of you-I think we’re ready.” “No, we can’t-we have to be married first.”

She repeats it like a mantra. “But how can we know if we can be married?” “I don’t understand?” “Tomorrow night?” “May be!” “But you have felt me in Paris-you know me already!” “But we are 10000 miles or more away- we almost have to become closer or die apart?” “Die?” “Alright I’m exaggerating a bit but only the spirit can move this distance alone, and only the spirit makes the call!” I seem more vague to myself. “Yes, I know.” “Tomorrow night.” “What do you want to see?” “Everything at once, “ “I think we’re just desiring to be close.” I say convinced. “We have talked so much—and we will run out -22-

of words someday, and then what?”.” “I want to fall into some dream of silence, and take root.” I want to say, but can’t, even if she knows English well? Though it isn’t vague to me anymore. She is silent. I know she repeats the words to herself for understanding. But listens more to the music, so it reaches her. She moves the microphone closer to her mouth. I think her hands are so pretty. “Yes?” Pause. “And yours, your skin?” “Sure in the rightness of your reflection.” The poet in me. pause “Are you falling in love with me?” “I think I’m falling into all possible, that’s something.” I repeat, hoping she catches their scents. -23-

“Your voice is so nice.” Pause. “Votre voix.” “I understand.” I say, and see the swaying towers, like spiders, they will turn the moon into a star. Then her bare skin begins to cover the camera, the whole of the solitude. They look like roots of water. Everything remains still, and persists at another limit. Her breasts look the way they’d felt. But its like they are covered by more mystery, and made even more voluptuous.. She rubs her nipples round and round, like I’d done. Her fingers are slimmer than mine. And for a time, she looks absorbed in some memory. “It can’t be mine?.” I think a voice might have been brave enough to say that in my head. And she sways under my skin this way, a subterranean river. And its not like I get goosebumps, erection, or rapid heart beat. Whatever this is, its more stealth. It’s as much a mystery -24-

to me, as movement, stillness, or the geometry of things are. But I think and dream of nothing else but her for hours after we sign off, until she connects on again. And we barely talk except: I ask her to marry me. She agrees.

-25-

Chapter Three: The Shape of my Heart.

Moments after we wave goodnight, and only an hour after our engagement is set final. I go looking through drawers , and old boxes, for my grandmother’s diamond ring. I know I’ve always had it. Always assure of its existence, though not looking for it at all. Its always sat there, somewhere, like a rare unguarded treasure. Oh, not because of its price, its only a half-carat diamond ring, princess cut, on aged white gold.. Its an antique . She’d said before she passed away: “You only give this to a woman you are going to marry.” -26-

Like she’d suspected I might be careless with its allegiance, and then looked at me as though, the thought of my marriage had suddenly invigorated her. It must have meant continuity,

endlessness to her. She must have known that it exists, then and there. I often wonder if she was the one who poisoned me with these thin innocent thoughts of love, marriage? Never mind that now. She’d died two days later in sleep at the old people’s home in north of Tehran. Not really a nursing home. She’d never been ill. But where she’d been surrounded by people her own few generations. Women and men she talked to often. People who had lived lives similar to hers. Old doctors, college professors, inventors, nurses. I know their society had been rich and confirming. Their own generations must have thought of erecting these places themselves. Orderly, clean, spacious rooms with views of Persian gardens, rituals: tea every hour, word puzzles, and talk of poetry and of classics. -27-

I’d been there many times. She’d liked to show me off. I liked to do the same. She looked healthy vibrant, and sometimes energetic as a little girl. No one had ever seemed depressed, or ill there. Just aging well, and social in the Persian way: like everyday is Nourooz (new yesr): presents, eloquence, the perfect symmetry of things, like in Persian rugs, like the universe somehow makes sense and geometry is its testament. And their earned luxuries: their satellite dishes like little deflated things arranged conspicuously asymmetric on balconies. (they weren’t allowed by the illegal government who frightened, would naturally jump at the sounds of birds chirping.) The Voice of America in one room, BBC in the other. They trusted the state run TV and radio, even less than the young people did. Silent agreement over the outside distant world of rape and mayhem. Silent prayers for the extinction of “akhunds” as they called the clerics (the enemy).. And always poetry at the beginning, and in the end. Like destiny is like geometry too, and somehow it must always repeat and rhyme in one form or shape. Only then they weaved and sang like young boys and girls the truth about the world, and everyone trembled then before this swirling mystery. -28-

And the saddest thing for me then as now: the remembrance of things past. That inevitable sense of nostalgia. The nostalgia had always wanted me to run out, elsewhere, elsewhere. But one by one they had picked up this revulsion in me, they seemed to have the keenest senses, and left the nostalgia out of our conversations. Like it was an uneven number in the grace of our meetings. But where did I pick up these thoughts of love and murder? It couldn’t have been the religion in them. None was a devout Muslim . They may all have been born into it, but with all the hardships of present Iran. These people were sick of this new-oldreligion-racket. My grandfather, God bless his soul, had upon moving into the big city, ages ago, been persuaded by a friend into Bahaism, a -29-

perfect peaceful naïve branch off Islam, I don’t know much more about them. But their ritualistic “meetings” and “socializations” been too autocratic and ceremonial to be comprehensible to me as young boy. I was reading Crime and Punishment then, and was content with that sort of meaning. Everyone else seemed to take things too seriously, or do I mean superficially”? My dear grandfather, after taking me to a Bahai meeting (which had lasted a ghastly 3 hours) looked me in the eyes, and there and then abandoned thoughts of converting me, I think in my 14 –year- old eyes , he must have clearly seen the nature’s beast in me. He must have seen that no amount of talk about “love and peace” could drive the beast out. And with the same rebelliousness, I assume, my grandmother had defected from Bahaism after his death. No, she’d remained respectful to him, all through his “love and peace” phase of life, she must have been a beautiful pretender. But shortly after his death, she went to India and became a devotee of a 70-year-old Indian guru named startlingly: Sri Sri Baba. And she remained a devoted follower, until hoards of grown young -30-

men, his eminences’ former followers, came out of closets in numbers and accused him of having had raped them in their childhood. Their stories entirely believable. She left this guru feeling indignant and confused. And she never mentioned this period of her life to anyone. And if I were slightly playful, joking about this pedophile. She would stare at me hurt,, with her round black eyes, pleading me silently to stop. And I would. But for different reasons, everyone in the fashionable old people’s home was a silent objector to the religion scam. Though none ever really warned me about the deception, the conceit, or I wouldn’t have become the perfect murderer I slowly am. -31-

Chapter Four: Surprise.

I said I have a surprise for you. I think I was more excited than I’d ever been. More excited than the time I got my first bike-more so than anytime I’ve bought roses or presents for anyone. The ring laid perfectly still on the Persian rug in its velvety box, I thought the world of it-strident, thin and lugubrious, it whistled “hurry” at me. “What surprise.?” She sounded tired like always. She said she worked 8 hours at her job, and came home to wash and cook, and help her mother with chores. She never was free before 10:30 at night. “It’s a wonderful surprise.” I said. “What’s a surprise?” I think the eagerness in my voice, and the mysterious word: surprise, frightened her. “A surprise is a good thing.” “Oh.” She exclaims, a tired timid smile lights her eyes for seconds, like she is ready to put up with -32-

this surprise business. It occurs to me that the “surprise” notion may be an entirely alien thing to her. That nothing suddenly thrust upon you can be that welcome in her world. And that perhaps somewhere inside her she is expecting bad news? “No, I assure you, you’ll really like this!” I feel I have to really convince her with this. “Ok, what is it?” She clasps her hands in that childish way she has. It reminds me of her walk, the playfulness; she’s taking her time to mature. “It’s a ring, an engagement ring, for you!” “You have it already?” “Yes its right here, look!” I take it out of its velvet bed. It sparkles with blueness. Like I’ve lit a lantern in the room. She stares at it, asks me to hold it close to the camera. She is awake, restful, measuring things. “For me?” “Who else , why, we are engaged now.” “But you said you can’t come to Tamanrasset for another 2 months?” “I know I’ll mail it to you.” “How? They’ll steal it!” “No, I know a courier service, they’ll deliver it to your door.” “Make sure I have to sign for it.” -33-

she says with legal authority. “Ok.” “Its beautiful. How did you get it?” “It’s a long story.” Perhaps I don’t want to remember my Grandmother at this point. Perhaps she ought to have warned me with not just her eyes,. But words, even tears, about recklessness, treachery, love. And perhaps she ought not have left me with a jewel to plan a future, but a strapping dagger, something ominous and intimidating. Samira is over the moon that night. Every few moments she asks me to put the ring right back in front of the camera and turn it like its on fire, and the ring’s reflection looks condensed, in her attentiveness, like it’s become the union of nights elements, and you feel as though an assumption is posted behind every object in the universe, and this ones’ clearly sustained by a minor star. And her clothes don’t just come off her body that night, they vanish like a spell and everything becomes a curve that circles us into the closest distance. And I, an intelligent being myself, survive a night of worship?

-34-

She doesn’t ask me to make any promises, she doesn’t even ask whether or not I will post the ring later or sooner. By the dawn there in Tamanrasset, she falls into sleep. With the lights and the camera left on. Her legs far apart, like she’d been interrupted in the middle of a dance. I jump into bed myself, assured that love or a religion has taken over me entirely. And I dream of a great forest surrounding us. Of objects incomprehensibly inseparable and lost. And of their union, and collective echo, somewhere, where I’m not allowed. As soon as I wake up, I instantly recall past conversations at the old people’s home in Tehran. Someone or other had on more occasions tried to explain the “foreign” religion of Islam. They liked to do that. To blame it all on Arabs. The history apparently went something like this: Arabs spiritual impulses before Muhammad were entirely absent or lukewarm. That they worshipped idols, their objects of devotion had to be seen by eye, and touched by hands or it couldn’t exist at all!!

“They couldn’t imagine God , can you believe that?” -35-

“Well what does that mean?” “It means they can’t abstract at all—eventually they’ll need 72 virgins just to understand the abstraction of heaven? Why don’t you read some?” I read. The different nomads had different idols, And they performed ceremonies in “nude” around these idols. A famous object was known as AlLat, she was a cubic rock!! “But the current object of worship in Mecca is a huge cubic rock!” “Old Muhammad, may he rest in peace, really tried.” She (Al-Lat) was venerated by Qurayshies. “Muhammad changed a great of that, I tell you son, but that a meteor hitting the desert venerated as a “larger” holy object? The old folks raised their eyebrows in a tight circle of empathy! As in: “The mysteries you don’t know boy!” “Do you know as we speak the Islamic republic not too far from these walls is arresting women

for not dressing constrictively enough. I mean they want the scarf tight enough to literally strangulate us?” -36-

“And all the time, while they worship another cubic rock-a she phallus.” That was the voice of my own grandmother. “What does have to do with the price of rice?” “My grandson is not an idiot, he just pretends to be.” “Look, old Muhammad had his hands full. I mean some nomadic Arabs worshipped stones made in the shape of phallus, and do you know the most frequent appeal to their object-gods?” “What?” “Guess.” “I can’t.” “Their most frequent appeal to stone idols was to settle the legitimacy of their children.” “You mean they slept with one another a lot?” “Call it what you like, but it sure sounds like they fucked each other’s wife or concubines and frequently.” “Frequently?”

“They come home, after a long trip, and the wife or whatever is pregnant, they would go to the stone god temple, and draw arrows.” -37-

At the time I had pointed out that if they performed their ceremonies in nude, around object gods, and children’s legitimacy were frequently questioned, then Freud, would call “Hijab”: Reaction-Formation: constructing the opposite of their reality. I had exclaimed this with great enthusiasm. But the old folks cared less for Freud than for Islam or Arabs. I read on. In: Kitab al-Asnam (the book of idols) everything the old Persians murmured is supported: the old Arabs worshiped objects created, rather than the creator. They clearly had problems with abstraction. This by sidelines reminded me of my friend’s exile to Amsterdam and his family of pack-rats, his mom’s house, the postal workers being evicted for hoarding objects etc. “Arabs called these object-worship temples: Ka’bah. And they circumbutated the Ka’bah in a state of nudity? “You must tell them.”

“Tell who?” -38-

“Whoever you run into.” “The current Arabs still worship a stone in a temple called Ka’bah, and the act of worship consists of circumbulating the stone-- not nudemind you, but in white uniforms.” “Who would I tell these to?” “To those who worship objects-- that they might have to become Muslims, and this is what one Islamic empire looks like.” The most quiet of them says: “Imagine ten more, and you see the problem?” “No, I don’t.” Their olive-colored voices whine down in my head. I don’t praise their halting history lessons. Their love of what might be made clear. Or the fears of what awaits their grandchildren on the Tehran streets. But above all I sing a common thought that joins us in the dark.

And of murder and love, always in the air. -39-

Chapter Five: 72 Virgins in Heaven, 1 on Earth.

I had to call my mother and tell her the good news. She and my sister have been waiting for the day I announce my engagement and wedding plans. My sister is unable to have children. I have come to be their sole common thought of fertility. Through me they hope to leave the frantic rain of their veins, and naked forms. I suspect they daydream of caressing these offspring, of admonishing them with their clear gestures. A naked boy will be taught to curl his

fingers into a fist (like me), the girl will measure solitude with silence. -40-

After my grandmothers death, they’ve both moved to India, They’ve bought apartments in Bangalore, fancy little places with airconditioners, silk Indian rugs, and old family pictures framed luxuriously, like restless longings. The have cell-phones, and broadband, and no morality police like Tehran. And everyday is some God’s birthday in India, and this abundance of Gods, I assume they feel, can not pierce your flesh and thoughts like one God in Tehran can. I clearly approve of India, but refuse to visit them. One anchored God, this is the way I want it. Breath of flesh and matter exactly joined, for the love of one “entire”-- that doesn’t even know your name. “Hello!” “Its me.” Its my mother who always picks up the phone. My sister is afraid of phones just as I am. I’m happy phones are dying out. The boomers thing. “How is it going?” I ask in my American colloquialism. “Great, we just came back from a women’s meeting. We want to collect enough money for a new orphanage, in a village near Bangalore.”

“People keep reproducing, ha?” Pause. She doesn’t quite know how to answer me. She believes as Hindus do that we are on different planes of consciousness. She suffers silently for my lack of altitude. -41-

“Hey mom, I have a new joke for you.” “Ok.” “An Iranian, An Indian and an Arab were shipwrecked and were holding on to a piece of wood for their lives, in the middle of an ocean? I rest for timing, as jokes go this one is a bit complicated,. “Ok?” She is enthusiastic. “A shark swims by and eats the Arab and the Iranian. Right?” “The Indian holds one hand up to the sky, and thanks God for having saved him from the shark. The shark turns around right then, and says: “Hey I ate one of you last year, and my ass still burns.” Mother is laughing and for some old, odd reason, always wants to explain my own jokes to me.

“You see its because Indian food is real hot and spicy. “ Ha ha ha. She laughs with renewed energy. It reminds her of Iran where everyone is cracking jokes all the time, Persian mockery of all that’s officious, mean: -42-

and all in the name of “this-too-will pass” of Hafez and Rumi, In the parlor of: “dust-in-thewind.” Where the soul filters concreteness from the essence of most joyful- is “I have news for you.” I almost never start a conversation like that. She is already alarmed. “I am officially engaged to an Algerian lawyer, she is beautiful.” “ What’s her name?” “Samar, short for Samira, its quite a pretty name.” Silence. “You sure you aren’t hurrying things, how long you have known her, any pictures?” “Yeah, I’ll send it right away. Check your emails.” Silence. You’d think the pursuit of continuity, genetic, etc. would speak, sparkle, but it’s the perennial fear of changes? Or: Love-objects have become

unfathomable to her. My father passed on six years ago, she does “meditate” few hours a day. When in Tehran, she’d walk out of her “meditation” hours, wet with tears, and claim to have reached ecstasy over and over. Entirely believable to her. But not to me. -43-

The knot never seemed broken. At the river’s bend, she’d continue with same chains of thoughts. And the presence of God in just a few hours of the day, made her God look truant. They were thoughtful fits of solitude, solitude with attitude. Style. But why her God was only present in her own architecture of time? She never explained I never asked. I was content her God was flagless. Her God didn’t rest by tables waiting impatiently to razor necks. I loved her for this generosity, and was patient with her. “How long you have known each other?” “A few months? Its like time has been split in two--time in her absence, and time in her presence. Mom I think time has a lot of unknown features.” “You talk to her like this too?” “Not really, she is all the way in Tamanrasset, somewhere in the south of Algeria.”

“All the way out there?” “Funny her mother said the same thing: “all the way in America.” -44-

“What’s with you mothers and distance? Is it the length we have to travel in the womb?” “Her parents know you talk like this?” “They only speak Arabic, she said her father understands French.” “Well good, you haven’t been to Algeria, have you?” “No, how can I, I’m booked for 3 months solid, we talk and see each other on Skype every day.” “I see!” She sounds puzzled. She needs help. “Let me get your sister.” “Oh, no.”- I think, that’s always a threat. My sister is older than I, round and grayish-a changeless bully. And its like her mind has boroughs, and one can devour priests, one can devour neighbors, but they all can devour poets.

She cuffs the phone. I know they are discussing something frantically. The bully picks up the phone after a minute or two. “We got your fiancé’s picture, is this her in a “hijab” ?” She sounds threatening. -45-

She doesn’t wait for an answer. Talking to her is like holding a sword against a dragon. There is fire and there is smoke, and you can wave your sword aimlessly, uselessly. But like the dragon in “Shrek” you hope she’ll fall in love with the donkey. “After all the crap we’ve been through with Islam, you want to marry a woman in ‘hijab’ ? I mean that’s so two-faced.” I don’t know what to say. Her vocabulary hasn’t grown since she was eight. “Look here, Samar, my beloved, lives in Algeria, its like living in Iran, except Iran is quite a bit worse, but when taking pictures, they have to wear hijab. In Los Angeles, she won’t be wearing a hijab, do you mind?” I secretly wish for the donkey to appear now. The dragon will whisk (the donkey) away, in

rapture, finally captive to love, discipline, even good vocabulary. I want to whistle a tune while her boroughs are working up cynicism, mixed with rejection. But everything is a bit absent in her. The murmurings of tunes, wood, bird, man -46-

“This isn’t another one of your madness things, is it? Remember in 2004 you fell in love with that Hollywood actress. I don’t remember her name. But you sent her flowers, even wrote scripts for her. And where did you end up?” She damn sure knows where I ended up. In a private mental institution, for only two weeks though, just the place for a tune-up. “Look here, we’re in love, and getting married.” Waving the sword in the air. “How old is she?” She is thirty, a very attractive thirty-and she is a virgin.” “She is what?” She really hasn’t heard me. “She is virgin, never been touched, etc..etc..”

“You must be joking me, a thirty-year-old virgin. How do you know she is a virgin?” “She told me if she is touched by anyone before marriage, her father would kill her. It’s the Islamic law there!” I say obstinate, with conviction. -47-

“You’ve gone bunkers.” Bunkers is one of her favorite words, she has other favorite words I don’t understand. Like “shagging” -“chakra” or “prissy”—for a time she had everyone calling her: “padma.” “The foot of mother” in Hindu. “What?” I was never bold enough to ask why. We didn’t grow up together, she was such a bully, and a precocious little girl, she had to be shipped out of Islamic Iran to a boarding school in England, where the nuns collectively pronounced her unsalvageable, “irredeemable”, or something like it, as it turns out, nuns too, have their own vocabulary. Of course, they couldn’t have been more “right” the big pretty bully went on to college, studied arts, and is a self-made millionaire.

Ask me why? And I tell you God has a soft spot for bullies. They fasten themselves to his sad beauty, and avoid innocence altogether. So I assumed she can’t understand the beauty of virginity, having left hers perhaps, behind the mossy walls of some old English building. -48-

See, on the roads of becoming a murderer, I become the magician of creating mysteries of reason and intellect. As I go along, almost every rose’s visible beauty can be turned upside down. As a favorite football coach of mine used to say: “ Any team can win on any Sunday.” And so I believe, same with reason. My mother gets back on the phone. She understand my petition better. And she wants grandchildren. “So, when are you going to Algeria?” “In three months. We haven’t talked about the details yet.” “Tell her, I have a lot of family jewels for her. They are all meant to be given to your bride.”

She wants to bribe her already! She means ‘affection’ though. Very Expensive these days.. Pause. She is searching in her memories. But it always takes but a few seconds: the woman is sharp. “Tell her when I was in College, we were taught about the life of a great brave Algerian woman. She fought against the French.” -49-

“Her name is on the tip of my tongue.” “Mother, do you think it’s the right time to mention their history of colonialism.” I am somewhat ashamed of having suggested that. Because later on, as you’ll see I take every chance to mention and humiliate my object of love. “Alright, you are right, better not to mention it, they are sensitive about that. But what language do you guys use to speak, you don’t know Arabic, she can’t know Farsi?”

“We equally butcher English and French, though her English is improving a lot faster than my French.” I liked to boast of her mental acuities back then. “She is like a sharp little butterfly, she jumps from French to English, back to French and I’m learning Arabic, though to be honest with you mom, I will murder a woman who makes love to me in that language, its so ..well..unromantic..so I plan to teach her a lot of sexy-dirty words in Farsi, do you mind?” -50-

“Ha ha ha..this is a little more than I need to know.” “I know but it will amuse you all day, sex is like a tiny infinite burn. Every footstep will throb.” “I have to go, your sister is calling me, she’s met a Tibetan holy man, he’s teaching her about the power of crystals.” “She is surrounded by monks-someone must always lick the wounds of millionaires.” “Stop it, you two didn’t grow up together, you never really liked her.” “No, I can’t say: I did.”

“All wounds can heal, remember!” “You think miracles can happen mom!” “ Miracles happened to you!!” “No they didn’t. I am a tornado through the south, slanting through the back mire, I like to spit on the broken boats, and drive them into shoulders mom.” I could have said that then, but didn’t know it yet. -51

Chapter Six: She Drives Me Crazy

After talking to the folks I sit through a meditating silence. The sister’s anger, the mothers’ shy approval, And I think I hear my father, the dead are more powerful, and his sad handsome face is here. He always jumped, jumped rather than wait. He’d jump for the brutal pleasures of everyday. He was like a boy with his own bear. He’d been an orphan, so the abandoned boy never left him.

He once asked me to go for a ride with him, and took me to the most southern streets of Tehran; places I’d never been to. In the busiest district. So crowded, the very light seemed buried under feet and noises. He parked the car, like he knew his way around,, walked to an old cinema which showed three Chinese Karate movies for the price of one. He bought two thickets, we found two seats in pitch darkness in the middle of some dreary thing. The theatre was packed with men only. They talked throughout the cheapest action flicks, and broke -52-

and chewed sesame seeds and spat the tiny shelves at anyone seating below them. I remember sinking into the wooden seat, thinking this odd odor, these cold men, the flying shells, this existing is the most horrid experience I’ve ever had. And why is he doing this to me ? After a few hours he got up and we left in the middle of the third incomprehensible thing. Once outside and in the car, he calmly said: “I just want you to know how the others live.” Pause. I didn’t speak to him for two weeks, until anger receded in the distance. “Once I had a father who was a giant.”

Silent repeats. Because something tells me there are crocodiles who lie in ambush. And deep down I want nothing to distract me from this knowing. Deep down, I want nothing of this love. -53-

I really prefer that everyone knows we’re all in buildings with no fire escapes, and that light gets buried in places here, and the faint murmur of grass is gone and that mountains may have stopped breathing and that isn’t good news and that: “I had a father who was a giant.” There. We’ll be mired by numbers, and stop-signs by civic centers, by rootless thoughts, by un-read newspapers- cashmere sweaters--sitting up in bed. By re-assuring cell-text calls every hour ! Reassuring what? “I had a father who was a giant.” Repeat this till you’re dead. I wait all day aimless until its 11:00 PM in Tamanrasset. I know she’ll be tired from her-12-

hour day, and that she is saving for me the most special part of herself. I feel gratified. I almost want a tiny madness in me to sprout, something suggestive, something that probes the things of the other side, something spirited. Blinded. Something that howls in this special gathering of us, pushing through our throats. Tearing out roots, shaping new sounds. Repairing wounds. -54-

She is late, and I complain to the computer, I know its slowly acquiring, creature mists, its future determines its now like a projection. Blushing light from its far ahead makers come in. It will be soulful someday, it says: “humans create objects, and can give it soul. Rest assured.” I know I want it that way. When she clicks alive, I click right back. She appears briefly: “I’ve been learning new English for you.” “What?” “Things to amuse you.” “What?” “I don’t know how to say it, but I’ll write it for you.”

“Ok.” “I go to take shower.” “Then you can see my poussy, I want you to think you can fuck my poussy.” And she clicks off. The picture’s gone. I have the sentence in front of my, she must have looked up the words, and hurried through, with excitement of their meanings. And isn’t this a strange place for a dance. Oh, savage Algeria. -54-

I type: “Les femmes Algériennes Je t'aime.” “Algerian women I love you.” So, it’d be the first thing she sees when she gets back. and wait and tremble like a man out of its shell. Like a man with grinding teeth, a knotted self. “How long does a shower take?” “Oh, mine are 10 minutes each.” Silent conversations are statues, there are no battles in them. I want to hear the tiny sounds of water, where in her body resist. The pink sponge, the green soap’s slide.. She is back. “How did it go?”

“Like this.” And the towel is on he floor. “Really, like that?” “Yes.” “How will it happen.” “Its like an itch, here, it never sleeps.” “Now whip him, whip him.” “Here’s where you be, where my finger is, here, where the itch is.” -55“My poussy, your love.” “Your poussy, my love.” “If you just look at it, it feels so good when I know you stare.” “Do you like me?’ “Yes and you?’ “Yes, yes.” “Let me see, I have to see.” “Its so hard.” Then I dream of being on a roof’s edge. “One more blow.” “I want to see that nothing is left.”

Out on the sky no one must sleep. Her deep blinding forms crackle the matter. And out of the corners of night a leak. A long enduring moment of tenderness escape. In both of us, simultaneous. And I become addicted to her, and she’s addicted to me. And this will come to matter. -56-

“I feel so relaxed.” “I want you harder tomorrow.” “How?’ “Just harder, and talk to me in Arabic. It will help me come.” And then she teaches me the words in Algerian Arabic. The words that can make her come harder. I won’t repeat them to you. They sound like greetings along battlements. No fisherman’s poles. They have the musical scales of wounds and short boundaries. Words that never reach the sea. Then out of nowhere, she exclaims:

“I want sex, all night. And I like it rough, real rough.” He looks at me knowingly. And there and then it doesn’t occur to me, how does a virgin girl know she likes it rough? -57-

Out of two pages of Arabic words, I only remember: Ahaboka Ya Samar. It means I love Samar. I paste her words in front of me so I can say them on demand. I want to please her. I log-into the travel agency and reserve my tickets. In two months we’ll be together. She says she’ll rent a house for me, it’ll only cost 120 Euros a month, with broadband, and a satellite dish. A fancy TV set. She watches Iranian-made religious movies about prophets. She posts the name of her favorite actors. They are all Iranians, I’ve never heard of. They’re all actors we ban, on account of complicity with an illegal government. She doesn’t know any of this. Why bother? She leaves little love notes on the actors’ site. It annoys me. The act of not-knowing.

But I’m a horse trying to become a dog. And she just wants to be. And everything recedes slowly into daggers. -58-

Perhaps because when love is in the flesh, it’ll be shredded piece by piece. And when its not in the flesh, its where the dead drift. And we know this. And so if you want it to exist eternally. You have to meet the dead, in their fields.

-59-

Chapter 7 The Ring

The ring gets posted. She’s emailed me the address of a post office box in Tamanrasset. The address is all in French, not Arabic. I post it without its black velvet box- its finery-- it would

give its content away- stand out like a black pony. And fill out the postal forms in English, and French, claiming the package contains university documents (she’s instructed me to write this.) When the Postal lady asks me if I like to insure it? I go ahead and insure it for 5000 dollars. -60-

I post the ring, with one of my books. It has a picture of my on its back cover. I look like a graduate student in it. Looking directly at the camera, with eyes half-closed. No turtle-neck. I look like I mean to move mountains with melancholy. She asked me to post the book too. “It will make the package look like real documents.” “No real interest in my book?” I complain silently. I nag though: “What, you can’t talk to the post office people about expecting an important package from States?” “Don’t be ridiculous. That will make them steal it for sure.” She is hesitant about her town. Like things can go astray- as though there are waves in it that can sweep away your job, your camel, house, your tea kettle.

“But I’ve never ever wanted to live anywhere else.” She insists drowsy, alone. “That’s funny, because I’ve always wanted to go elsewhere, elsewhere.” “What?” “Never mind.” -61-

“I have my ‘home’ in me-like a cluster of cherries-and their unending shade. I go out in the world, to change the bell of their sound. I have no fear of feelings that await me on the streets.” Silently. Always. “When you come here and people ask if you have money, never, never say: yes—always say: alham-dolelah. You understand?” “I understand it means I am fine-ok.” “Yes, don’t ever say you’re rich.” “I am not particularly rich dear.” “Well, you’re considered rich here.” She opens a smile. It’s a lot like when she opens her legs. Always a rose in sleepless folds. “ Alham-dolelah.” “Your Arabic is getting better.”

“I want to leave my mouth between your legs.” “You want to learn how to say it in Arabic?” “No.” She says her father speaks French too, he is a border guard there. There’s the border with Niger. “What do they guard?” -62-

As things go, in the spheres of belongingness, colonialism must be a total loss for both sides. “It’s a tear in our scope of dreams.” They’d say if their lament could carry itself into words. It must be like succeeding to maim and blind oneself-- while trying to win a game –or: like a friend trying to eat your lunch, and in it, there’s a growing smell of acid. “What will they dream of?” “To be cats in the dreams or snakes?” Because being Man is startled by tonight’s jungle of blood. Humanity is a loss by dawn! I consult an Algerian cab-driver on the way home from post office. He always parks in the corner of Hollywood and Sunset. Waiting like a branch off some exotic tree. California sun is in its constant habit—but there is little greenery left—like something sucks the water out of the very air.

“It’s the greenhouse effect.” “No, they don’t believe in that yet.” Silently. I explain away things, my engagement to a woman from his country. How beautiful she is. The ring. Her beauty again. “Did you mail the ring already?” “Yes, I’m just coming from the post office?” -63-

“So, why do you ask me now? The package with the ring in it is gone? You can’t get it back?” “Of course not, its gone, we are engaged.” He’s taken on this feigned, exaggerated air of wisdom. And wisdom is always wounded by fear. The sky exaggerates things too, its like someone’s pushed a button, and everything’s in Technicolor . He looks away. He now reminds me of the men you see in casinos. Its like he’s contemplating to risk his last dollar. And all the while he wants to look more sober, more alert than he really is. A pale pulse. “The whole dream may shut down soon.” He knows?

“You should have waited, until you’re there, or she’s here.” He has a sad solitary look on his face. I only wanted to make him happy. My engagement, upcoming marriage with a woman from his country! But he is here, more than anywhere else. -64-

“But they don’t expect you to forget your past, just because you’re in America.” I want to say but can’t. We don’t have a blind relationship. “Look, I hope you see her and that ring again, I hope.” He stops. Like I should be alarmed by his punctuations. His dark footsteps. There are beggars by his cab. And an old mentally ill woman is sitting where she always sits. She’s slept there a thousand nights without a bed. I’ve never seen her walk, and she has that look like everything itches.

“Do you wanna go anywhere today? You still don’t drive a car, right” He is my favorite cab driver. He knows this. “I told you I have panic attacks when I drive. And I sold the car long time ago-- I don’t want to go anywhere today.” “But you’re Ok, when I drive?” He needs this some days. It’s emotional tipping. I’m very good. -65-

“But you’re a great driver. I suck as a driver. My sister was here one week, she said: I was the worst drive she’d ever seen.” True story. “Did you tell the girl you don’t drive?” “No.” Why? He probably thinks not having a car is a lot like not having a penis. “America’s fault , this one?” Silently. His forehead is stuck in the sun, there is no silence in it. He unconsciously moves his car keys. He has this moment of exceeding me. I lower my shoulders , I don’t want to appear taller than him.

“She must be really pretty, ha?” “She is gorgeous.” He can’t hide his grin-a liquid smile stares out, behind the smile a memory of : salt, seas? “If there is any problem, come talk to me, ok?” “Fine, ok.” -66-

I am dismissed. Being dismissed is far better than leaving. Everyone is like a lover. I cross the street. The walk home, is pleasant. “I need no wheels. They forgot about walking.” I murmur to myself. Obstinate. True. I ask her that night, if they have a car? She says no one has a car. They don’t even own their home. “We aren’t poor, but not rich.” She insists. She makes me real hard that night. And then says: “You did real good. Big. Nice.”

She looks pleased, she even gives me the thumbs up. And shows me how wet she is- it drips along her thighs. Looks like a silver river from here. “See, its all around my poussy.” She is come to prefer their English to Arabic— and its like: she says them with her eyes. Her poussy has drawn all the blood from its surrounding. Like burst of flame in snow. -67-

I try to imagine her watching porn on the internet. How else would she know about men’s size? Nothing matters. “I will drink every drop, the day you arrive.” She slides her lips together, quick, sharp, like striking a match- I hear the sound. The sound of female blood. Whoosh. Later, much later on-it occurs to me: women are more sexual than men. I don’t know why no one utters that. Not Masters and Johnson, not Jung. Not Freud. May be the Greeks!

Its also later, much later-that it falls on me: men’s arousal is concrete, graphic. Its even difficult to hide. And what eyes can see, has been: belief. Sans the prophets. Sans every Persian poet. Sans the whole of the moon. “God is not an object, but is in every object you see, and don’t see.” Muhammad. “ And he’s already paid for our sins.” Earlier. -68-

“I have to almost not-exist- in the shadow of the obvious? Grab the apples boy. Or that’s too obvious for you?” First woman. “Then if obvious exists, what’s not obvious grows in silence, grows in silence.” Second Woman’s thought. That should turn God’s spirit, I mean if the unseen grows in impotance! But what fools we’ve all been, asking chastity and virginity, exactly where it’s impossible to give!

I should have laughed myself out of entire worlds. But didn’t. Laughing at oneself is only retrospective. Like the deflation of a balloon over time. But my kiss is a lamp, -and its shadow a fat penis in the sky you can see. But under her mat, there’s a country of light. Fantastic lights. -68-

The old Persian poets should have become the prophets. With their empires of the senses. “Their sadness gone by. Sadness to come.” Oh, poor fathers. Or the Saxon Newton, should have been called a prophet. The large apple could have been named a meteor- accidents never happen. But something not-mysterious inspired a prophet to ask for swords -in -men to climb in the air. Perhaps he thought the fat penis in the sky would sink ? Or something less obvious? More mystical? I’m searching. “To understand the immortal, you strike the most mortal poses, and you are humble. And you

shall be kind. But cut the barbaric strings of beech trees, cut the barbaric lace.” . And then Rumi wept. Hafiz wept silent. Newton wept. And I remembered nothing. On account of everything else going on. Perhaps on account of being told Islam is forbidden. Or it being simply too mad, on its own? Oh, but let not forbid anything. -69And perhaps because what moves a man into prophecy, has concentric waves. Setting blind men forth as sailors. And because comparing to these waves: I am like a bird who collides with the wind? And because Satan doesn’t exist. But like everything else. It can be made. Invented. Re-invented. And perhaps I was meant to re-invent the old man, if for a while.

END OF CHAPTER SEVEN.

NO PORTIONS OF THIS BOOK MAY BE USED WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S WRITTEN PERMISSION. -70-

We’d left for San Pedro., in Long Beach. I let Kevin, Pam’s substitute brother/friend drive the Cadillac. First, I don’t know my way around Long Beach. And second, I don’t enjoy driving

at all, and Kevin does. Mostof his time is spent chauffeuring Pam around the city. They have their own agendas and priorities. But

23. All strings are attached

“You sure you don’t mind driving Pam around?” I’m a non-believer. “No, I don’t mind-I like driving.” Well, that settles it for me—in a way. I just don’t like to see anyone used. And Pam has such an

extraordinary way of getting all sorts of people to pitch in for here. Pm

24-Broken Spears

The man walks up to Mary, and says: “I want to hire someone—someone really ‘perverse’.” He is in his sixties and is bald, except for a thinly patch around his head. Next Mary is in front of a mirror—she says:

“Look I’m really very white here.” And she is –she draws a shawl around her shoulders. We are then at a meeting. The bald old man has no shirt on, he is grinding his teeth, and flexing a lot of muscles on a platform, —showing his body and angry postures to a crowd around them— the “perverse” young man he hired, is in the middle of crowd-watching.

There are other men and women on the platform, not all of them in uniforms—and the women sitting on chairs are seriously looking at Mary--like they want her. I say to Mary: “And all the women are looking at you with lust in their eyes!” “The men ‘rear’ their boys—and the women are the same-with their little girls.” I know I don’t want any of them around anymore—Mary feels the same. We want them out. Tainted-tables, Jew-or-gentile I’ll pay. “I will turn-back the hearts of the fathers to their sons--and the hearts of the sons to their fathers, or I will come and strike the lands with utter destruction.” Put this on.

25-L-Shaped Rooms

“The freeway has buckled major time-and-space here. We oughta get around it—in L-shaped rooms, here and there.” They are pointing to where’s. “You have to get Ph.D’s in this and that—then you oughta fly starships and find detours—here and there.” Emphatic. After-versed. “First the shepherdess can find a way around the seams—like connecting dots in the black—only she can seem--then its our turn,” They are very specific. Pointing to maps that don’t exist yet.

I cry, I want to do it all by myself—I really don’t need anyone’s help. Though-my tears remind me

of Pam’s—is she still within me—are these her tears as well? They can’t tell either-- I may still be mad. They have to protect the earth too. They’re cloaked everywhere, I saw two ships in the middle of day, on 5th street, in front of the library high up in the sky—blue and red, colors of the sun. It don’t matter. The L-shaped rooms will themselves invent acts to weave in through the buckled shape of things here. Every nemesis too-- has to veer in and out of here. Everyone wants to exist even then. “Here’s where creation takes place—here’s Allah.” They say to tourists from other timesand-spaces. They ride their own bicycles in groups-watching their ancestors bewildered. It’s a lot like hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree, except the tree is the life-force, made of the light—and the ornaments must be heavy-clever, and unburdening--—and the light-force, the tree, only responds to his own soul--the holder of the key—is the pen.

26-Somewhere in tomorrow

She leans forward, behind the counter and before I ask for coffee: “Are you buying more bananas?” She is not curious, she has a playful smile on—she means she’s noticed my daily pilgrimage to the grocery store. At the opening time, 7:00 AM., exact. Everyday. I look at her—sizing her up. She is pretty, young —Hispanic, neat and compact, quick with high notes in her voice. “Yes.” I’m not sure what to add, no one talks to me—or around this neighborhood, if they do-its in Spanish. “Large coffee, right.” She rings me up. I forget her.

Next morning: “Back for coffee and bananas?” “Yes, large coffee first.”

We smile—different radiations. Hers is unfamiliar to me. “How are you this morning?” “Fine and you?” “Good.” She rings me up, its 1:39 $ for a large cup of fresh coffee. I smells better than most coffee sold around. And then I can pick up the bananas, or whatever after. They sell the coffee at the bakery. The bakery is inside the grocery store, it’s the first thing you see when you enter—on the right, one large section of muffins, and Mexican sweet breads-and then cakes. “They made me a manager around here.” She volunteers. “Good.” I use the ATM card, you can’t carry cash around here—you can be mugged. “Have a nice day.” “Same to you.” Some days she looks prettier than others-her hair is always gathered up on top, in a net. Now, that she’s made me curious, I secretly observe her. Some days, she looks distanced. Most days she wears thick false nails—they’re very unattractive on her. But I don’t wish her mine anyways. She’s a friendly vibrant face in the mornings.

There are days when I don’t remember what I want to buy—on those days, I can hear her voice whisper behind me—in her high quiver: “Five.” I’d just been thinking how many pieces of bread I should get! So, she can read my mind—that’s not unusual. “How is your family—your daughter?” “She is good—I have to pick her up after school.” “Good sweetie.” I call her sweetie now and then—affectionate. Sometimes I want to buy a present for her little daughter. But she has more means than I. And sometimes I wish to be with her alone. That’s when she comes looking serene, and kind. “Here’s my phone number, do you want it, maybe we can have coffee or something?” Putting contemplation into action. Bold. “Sure, I’ll take it.” We’re by the check stand. I’d already written my name and phone number on a piece of paper. She takes it and smiles. She never calls though. And then she is hardly ever around anymore.

When she returns, it’s on a Saturday.

“”You never called me.” I’m not really surprised. I just mean that I did try—and it didn’t work. Its not vital. “Oh, I’m working all the time.” I nod my head agreeing—besides I’ve never dated anyone with a child. Soon as I reach the produce section—I hear her usual whisper: “May be tomorrow.” She has been wearing glasses lately—and the false nails are gone-she has attractive fingers— without the fake—her hands look approachable, even desirable now. Just as I leave the produce section—I hear my own thoughts out loud: “Yeah, may be somewhere in tomorrow.” I have to pick more water, and other cheap things to eat—I go there every morning. She comes and goes.

27-Dreams

From the second I fall sleep—to that very moment I wake up—it seems silhouettes, people and times are waiting to dissolve through. Everything is nailed to my forehead—things of color-of the black-and-white planes—from the beginning of time, until a million years ahead. The times before, depend on the fountain here— the times ahead, need the spinning of their fountain in our new names-there. The world is built on symmetries, and angles while their dust cross each other’s times at certain inclines and intersections. There are infinite number of shapes, the geometry even perplexes myself. The dark, green sculptures within the pyramidal points, within.

I’ve been lately going through time-as Pam. I am her when she is locked up after the burn (its hot

and very uncomfortable there). I am there as I myself arrive after her. I am there as my own shadow, feeds of the Suns insides—that coolness after, the hell—it’s a hunger (she has). And then some nights—I’m with people. People of all creeds and colors. They talk-they listen. Last night I was telling the new-Pam out there what “Jack” meant: “You know like JFK, Nicholson, Pollack, Dostoevsky, the countless number of doors--the rest of them. They are my ghosts. They have the encryption—to get into the ten. There, they wait for us when, you and I arrive. I mean someone has to look over the big bang. Right.” She nods, understands. “What’s it like?” “Well, they are configured from below the waters. They have to be hooshang. The waters over my feet. Meaning they are configured by my soul. Their prism. They’re there to greet—to draw the new shape of things -of old.” “Did you ever see it from there?” “Yes.” “What?”

I think she wants assurance—to make sure, I’m there for her.

“Yes, I saw it—its like lying face down—and below you, everything is black—except for few lights. The world waiting to begin-- like looking at the mouth of the world. Its like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” “Who will feed me?” “Mother.” “Whose mother?” “No one—its just me—I have to exist a few billion years—and she’s created out of me too. But she will be nine. Ten are all men, thinly men (Amen)—and 9-is mother nature—she will spread a table for you—while I’m still a boy. Not really grown up much yet. A table of light. You’ll be hungry by then.” “You’ve seen her—what she looks like?” “She is beautiful—and generous—and kind.” “Did I ever meet her?” “Yes, you had to—the acts—she was Kevin’s mother—remember her?” “Yes. I stayed there on weekends—I used to call her mom.” “That was one of the acts.” “Acts?”

“I call them “movements”—everything that occurs out of time-and-space, and in the beginhas acts in time-and-space, here—sad!” “Why sad?” “Because some of the acts are cruel—and heartless. They’re like payments!” “Who pays.” “ I pay—but that’s who I’m—I pay for their sins first, and last—but they made you pay too here —and it all made me real sad—because I loved you.” “Oh.” She’s thinking to herself—though she knows she’s already come back—she too must go. Before I wear her skin-- the Sun’s skin—before I’m her again—spewing cool—for all of us.

28-Foursquares

We’re flying together. The span of our wings is huge. “What large wings-and what a weightless flight.” She flies just a bit lower than I—she’s backheavy, when she flies into a white foursquare—I stand behind on the edges. Observant. Worried! Its a fear fallen. Because I can see far- ahead of me—and soon as two men approach her nest, I know what they’ll do—and fly away. They throw something into her nest. And set it on fire.

One square is on fire. She’ll wake=up in a dream. And she’s I. And I’m she. “The sobbing fields are ahead—and behind us. The rainfall, will shed its tears. Hell too will come out of heaven alive. She has. We’ve already been through.” She didn’t fall out of heaven by choice—she was dropped. And she went Knowingly. In stillness. “I pay for that again, and again” I like to say: still there’s no comfort in the grief —that she left. Later, I am still her and it’s a lot easier for her than for myself. I really miss my parents. I miss everything. And the waiting. The waiting is the hardest thing.. The holy ghost says: “It was a lot worse for you than for her.” He should know that there is no solace in that thought. Only love will redeem this—and we’ve already given onto the past as onto the future. Without that there’s no end—let she remembers that. And she does.

And she follows me everywhere I go. She represents “chaos”—and chaos in humans until now has been evil—and therefore they called her

the devil—for she had “lived”—and she is the pyramid backward. Men keep running into her as though they’re on skates—I enter the room and tell them to leave her alone—they veer away from her—and she looks at me and she looks like she’s having fun too, that surprises me –the look on her face reminds me of: “Sheytoon.” But just as I’m thinking this through-another man hits me from behind and I’m ass-assinated again. Later, I cross the road (to tall Andromeda--the African planets—Africa is their footprints on Earth)--thinking she’s still behind me—I wait for her to catch up, but two -men come along the road and say: “Pam is not behind you.” So, I quicken my feet, to turn the clocks backward—it’s a run—and arrive at where a group of men are walking together, I shout: “Pamela, are you there!”

“I’m here.” “Why weren’t you behind me? I waited for you.” “I couldn’t find you.” She says earnestly. And we’re off again. Later-I see this woman, she has two children. We’re friends. She’s married. She comes by often to say hello.. Once I’m sitting by a table. “I like Beethoven.” She says earnestly. “Yes, I know their lot.” “How about Tchaikovsky or Brahms.” But she’s staring at the skies—looking for something. She’s wearing a blue dress, short-sleeved, in the 50’s style, with a curious matching green collar. There are two other women sitting around our table. I tell one: “How about her dress, isn’t it beautiful?” But they too- are looking at the skies—looking for something.—us. Later: The miracle road: I don’t know where I begin—and where she ends.

29-Maah-in

We’re at Oasis house—it’s a homeless and mentally ill morning group. Its my turn to talk. To brag. To present my plans. “I’ve been sending applications for a PhD program in psychology. I figure I should get that squared away-and join the working forces.” Its very optimistic of me. “Where have you sent your applications?’ The Clinical Psychologist who runs our group asks good-naturedly. She’s a petite woman in her early sixties—full of energy and movements. She wears pants and Birkenstock sandals. And boldly drives her brand-new jeep into this neighborhood. Much later they steal her car. But on Fridays-she distributes free food to the people in her group (us) food she collects from different pantries by all sort of swaying and bullying. But all they really give her is canned food, and cookies. I’m not sure why everyone thinks the poor need so much sugar. I pretend I need the food—but give them away, soon as her

head is tuned away. Still, her energy is contagious. I ask for her advice. “I’ve been accepted to this prestigious doctorate school in San Francisco. But I don’t have the money to move. I mean its very expensive to move. “ “Well, there is CGI, they’re in Westwood—they have a good reputation. You wouldn’t have to move. you can probably call them and find out more.” “OK.” I mean I’ll think about it. But Westwood is only 40- minutes drive away. I have this old truck. San Francisco seems an old odd world out. Expensive. Two months later—I’m enrolled. Its exciting. My career as doctor was broken by the wars of: Qom-o-rah. May be this can go through unimpeded. (Secretly, I have my doubts.)

When the school begins in September-I’m excited. We meet for the first class, in a small room down the hall, on third floor. The school looks group dynamics class—the class is about learning group therapy dynamics. Its run by this

mild-mannered Freudian shrink. He runs it very loosely. And if he exercise control, its through absence. I know Freud is one of Pam’s spirits (like Tolstoy, Neruda, St. Paul, Joseph.) They’re dropped along time-and-spaces to quell the chaos-tensions. To value humanity. To encourage the movements toward perfection. The creation.

And they’re easy to spot—the lines are heavy, books voluminous. Leaden. Insightful, and meaningful too in that way. The class fills slowly on the first day. I’m almost the first. The arriving rest are all women. “That’s nice.” I must have thought—I always think in that way. Seven women—I’m the only man in the class. The quietest of these women, sits almost furthest from me. To the right. In plain, shapeless dresses, class after class. And tinted glasses. And sandals on her feet, but her feet are pretty. She barely talks in class—but when she finally does, she is meaningful, timid, bright. The rest are more lively—they don’t like my straightness though. It feels as though they’re threatened by

it. And want to frighten me. Some of them band against me, in tiny groups. Aggressive. The teacher never intervenes, or defends me—I expect him too. But this passes too. Its like riding waves again and again.

30-Chris and Melissa

She’s sitting in the waiting room of the same Psychiatrist—dressed entirely in black. Thinly. Neat. Detached, and still attractive. “She must have lost her way.” This is South los Angeles mental health clinic for the homeless. This woman is pale. Fashionable. She is white. “Hi.!” She turns her head encouragingly, though cold, flat. “What time is your appointment?” I say—after all, people do talk to one another down here—black-folks are verbal, communicative. I’ve learned their ways.

“I don’t know—I’m coming from another clinic —never been here. They didn’t have anything

open—so they send me down here, I have to wait a while.” And she shifts inside her chair. That keeps me silent for a while. Still, she can be no more than 30, and is attractive, and well-dressed. “I’m not used to this neighborhood, do you live around here?” She asks condemningly. “Yes, I live 5 -minutes -walk from here.” I mean that its nice, convenient. I’m Ok. “You must have a car.” Its me asking. I can’t think of much chit-chat. “Yes.” She’s flat like dry wall. Like an escape. But very pale. With long black hair. “I’m out of my meds, I need a new prescription.” She says hopelessly. Vulnerable. Exited. “’m bi-polar.” She volunteers. Like a warning, or an encouragement. I can’t tell. “I’m schizophrenic.” I want to be important-and sound just as important. We talk a while—she’s sociable—like bi-polars. And is alone.

“Why don’t we exchange phone numbers. We can talk sometimes. I want to have a lot of support system. Lot of friends.” I’m sincere—its

my latest strategy to get over these crests. Waves of nay. “Sure.” She writes her phone number. I give her mine. After a week—she hasn’t called. So I call her. She sounds disjointed when she answers. She remembers me. She invites me to go over and see her.

31-Mohammad

We’re pacing the spiral, stairways of time. And I’m Pam. The feeling seizes sudden, up the hill-darklands, the back steppes, the shepherdess of their dead. The feeling is so strong—that it lifts my body in protest: “Why do I always have to be the bad guy.” I cry—its my voice, but the feeling is hers.

“And they bury their infants, if they’re girls— erect temples for statues-- asks them for favors— and won’t follow the Christ, I’m too light for them!” Later I write for Samar in Algeria, she’s is nine —she carries the words to holy spirit (Gabriel)— I see Pam inside an aging man’s doors. Muhammad is graying then, and his eyes are fierce. “And you shall be hear the words on the mountain. And you shall remember them. And you shall befit them, to that “mardom” there.” For they must follow you—out of those chasms, they’re in--by any means necessary—and let them know I have infinite names.” Muhammad and I exchange gander.

Somewhere after year 2200, I awaken in northern Africa. Ellie (Pam’s spirit) is back from the market—she says: “Some of her tribes are still stuck in their sodden ways.” She points to the statue of liberty—its 200years after the second coming. From behind I see that I walk like the shepherdess, so I know I’m born to her—I say: “Don’t worry honey. I’ll settle this now forever.”

Later, I’m taking an exam for school. I point to the test, and ask the teacher: “Are these poems Hafiz?” By then, they fully know, Hafiz is one of Allah’s names. The Arab looks compliant but answers: “No, they’re not Hafiz.” I leave the test on their chair—and walk out of the room. Samar is sitting by the door: “Will you not be going to university here.” “No, Have they learned nothing?” “They shall need new words—the words are light—most have learned, but some of the men haven’t changed their ways.”

They need light—so I’ll be born to their mother (the shepherdess) and be married for that life to her spirit. Those acts are done here. It’s a donedeal.

32-Dinausaurs (The Cats)

Before Eden—before I can come out of the waters. So much of the dark matter (back) has to be consumed. Or Eve can never meet herself again (plus one)—Pam can’t come out of the

foursquare, nor can able be born. We need voracious eaters. Be-ings that roam and consume the dark matter, until Eden is on.

And the dinosaurs are off Pam’s back—the Amen, and the Nine will drive those trucks until, the various shapes and forms of light have occupied the finite broken phrases. There are gaps in the wall—and we need their fuels to weigh the begin, nail it down later. The acts have to occur here in the begin. “The lord shall himself feed them, and wash them down.” “His spirits, must come to home in animal form —these spirits must be recognized by him, as his own—and he must feed upon recognition—the lord must know, must see—or it can’t occur.” And so I’ve been given all sorts of animals—I’m fondest of the dogs of course. But the cats too. The mammals. Even the snakes, I watched and crossed through. Every animal must move from one world into another—I must create without the knowledge of those being created—for their burden becomes horrendous for their worries

become, oh so much more frightening. Though, their souls know—the spirits direct the passing —they were sitting in houses of four directing, directing. Still the fears were enormous, extremely debilitating.

But I fed the,. I crossed them. And when you read this. Your fears have already passed through me. And you relish the eternal life, the mysteries of the creation, being—and ever after, which is As real as you and me. And you trust us.

33-Cyrus + Alexander

“I can’t really walk around in shorts.” It reminds me of my father. “Someone give a shawl, a robe,”

It takes a while to get what I want. I meant just a large piece of cloth that I can wrap around my bare legs. In 21-st-century, we don’t walk around half-naked. And every where, in all our names—there’s me to reckon with first.

The piece of cloth, is more than adequate. I like the way it looks. There are other signs I’m Cyrus again. Everyone listens to me. I’m shorter in stature than myself. Someone whispers: “You have to move fast against them. This has to be conquered very fast—to the symmetry of creation. Its an act. Movement., And these nations suffer—for their lack of order. Chaos is around the corner. Pam is ready to me, when my time has come. She has no choice, but she does it her way. Which means: She’ll be in a door of a woman. I, unknowingly, try to make peace with—to make those tribes: submit. But she rejects and watches me die in battle then. Abe is my son—he is pale and dark. And he stands besides me-back—because these tribes are also his. Still, it smells everywhere—the smell of feces— the pungent smell makes me run like a Cheetah —I’ve never seen anyone run faster than myself.

Pam is in men’s clothes. I complain: “You’re a born-woman, remember!” But I already know the answer—they’d never follow a woman—they’re all back-to-back. “You have to jump across this land, leap to avoid the smell of waste.” Still, it takes 30 years.

“Establishing the first bill of rights—and letting the Jews back in—are you satisfied?” Deep down, the Jews knew my other name: Moses. Still, the pungent smell—the cheetah run. And the food always has meat in it. Sad.

My wife warns me first: “You must conquer these lands-you must leave us behind-for this doing.” She’s short and her eyes are violet.

She says, they say: ”Why should you be married to me? They object to that.” The objectors are the people. The biggest surprise at the crossroads of each life is--that “People” have so much to say-so often—and so much of it so awful. Its like people so very often—complain that a group of bears are leading them stray—but billion herds, have hearts of stone—veiled, shrouded. Because as the world is—the bears or the tigers can only lead—if their spires are supported by the darkly-herd, who can’t see— the world has an innate not-democracy, but: “You get what you want innately (but not what you deserve?)” These war- leaders everywhere today and back then—were active instruments of silence?? No. The bears hear the “whooshing” sound and must obey. What you carry inside—is what surfaces. Not what you “claim”—on your dress. The drum-beats begin in the villages thus, little towns—neighborhoods--and make their way up to the Bears(Pam’s) dens—spires—they have to follow the lead (of no’s) and —and what follows is wars-and-peace (by repair). I lived by the sword—in this life—and fell by it. Its not the only one—there are more, and after here.

After Kourosh--Pam follow the same drums—in the opposite direction. Her name is Alexander then. Long before she is the chosen one—to mend her tribes—as Muhammad. For they even bury their women—children. And to separate them from men, women-children are raped. For what woman can desire a man—if her boundaries are violated. Thousands of year from today, and now—she and I, will be back—to protect the earth from its far apart renegades of future-under one flags. And the creation needs protection here. For unbeknownst to them. Everyone is here. Trust us then, as you do nowFor everything is born of love—and must yield to it-in one form or another.

34-Winona

She was tall and thin—but all in a beautiful wayand some days she dressed perfectly. We met at night school, we shared a class together. The class was run by this handsome Psychologist who made us all sit around in circles. One evening during the discussions—the class was a graduate course in Psychology—but one evening through one of those topics. I must have seemed to her, cruel or something.

I think someone expressed an opinion, and (her) thoughts were so unlike my own—that I perhaps was rude or too confrontive in my approach-and that’s a guess I’m making to my own disadvantage-- because liked this girl—my

classmate-and she ran passionately in the defense of the other. She even insisted on it later. I remember her saying something like: “The other student was not fairly challenged by the force of your thoughts there.” We were sitting together at the cafeteria—and she expressed her thoughts sadly, so forlorn, I thought. That’s when I began to like her—actually I began to like her when she wore something both dark, organized and perfect. That day, the day she wore that outfit- we walked together to the class like we could almost belong together. She walked to my right- and turned to me from time to time as if to say: look, look how we can come together—both of us so standing, walking so close together.

35-The second eviction

I was living in one room, in a houseon a hill— looking at downtown Los Angeles on one side— and the squalor in the backyard of my room. I had a bathroom that worked and was only for me—and I was on welfare which paid 212 dollars and my rent was 250.

I sold my food stamps as long as I could, to get extra cash for the rent, but I started falling short one month and then next. But the landlord, an aging, but healthy couple—were patient with me —the most patient landlords I’ve ever had, short of my own parents. The room was in this vast old house—there were other tenants in other rooms in the place. There was a black man next door—who was disabled, talked to himself—which was by the way—what I was waiting for myself. The disability. I was barely paying the landlord 200 dollars and I worked at grocery store next door, washing floors and toilets—sometimes they fed me, but the work was never more than 5 or 6 dollars worth. In the very front room, a Hispanic single mother lived with her two children. They were quiet and avoided me like ghosts. She never smiled or said hello—but the kids were treated well by her— their rooms clean, and the rest didn’t matter anyway.

I walked everyday to the central library on 5th street. The library is very well-designed, and its full of meanings. And I checked out books on myself—on astronomy, and on drawing. Sometimes I has so many rooms, I’d get a shopping cart to return them. And then there was nothing to eat. I’d walk by eateries wishing someone would give me a few dollars for a bowl of Chinese rice-or anything. And then the rain suddenly began. The first time I was sleep during the day—and I woke up and my head ached like hell—and my clothes and the sheets felt heavy like we’d all been irradiated by metals—very heavy particles. As soon I took a shower it washed off my body— and I felt relieved. But then the clothes were still heavy and soon as I put them on, felt heavy. And sleep impossible. I’d saved a bit of money for food—but what’s food-- when everything around has radiation in it.

I packed all clothes and sheets, walked to a laundry mat—and washed them in hot water— watched my food money slowly disappear. And as soon as I get back—And close my eyes—I wake up in the middle of the night—with enormous headaches and irradiated. I knew the ghosts were doing this. It went on for two weeks. And it went away. And then one afternoon—I fell sleep, and woke up—and my head had fallen into billion little squares—shapeless, but it formed back on.

Later I was mad again. For not only no one would believe any of this—I couldn’t even convince myself that something good could lay there in wait. The landlords evicted me two weeks later. And I walked downtown to homeless shelters. But oddly enough I was content that the radiation bombings were over.

The tail

Homeless shelters are all on skid row. But mostly everyone is jobless, mentally ill, or undocumented immigrants. Mostly black and brown folks. I fit right in. the missions door open at 2:30 AM, for signing in. at 6:00 PM, you have to go through an unfortunate hour of listening to bullshit sermons. Their interpretations of the holy books are ridiculous. No where have I ever said you must shout at people. But the shouting would go on for an obligatory hour or so. Then we all line up and check our bags in and slowly be led into this auditorium, with bunker beds. After the first night, you appreciate why some folks sleep outside instead. The lines are long, and the auditorium is noisy even after they turn the lights out—some folks never tire of talking and 6 o’clock quickly arrives. Its then to the showers, and breakfast. And the food is scarce.

36-Anatomy of madness

It’s a three-hour bus ride each way. I take the first bus 181 on Hollywood boulevard—to the second one, which travels south on La Brea—to Wilshire-West Slauson to Culver City, where I’m getting a masters in Psychology.

The return rides are slightly different—I get back to the Hollywood boulevard and north

Kingsley avenue—past midnight. I have to write all this down accurately, and true—and still, manage not-to-seem to be complaining. I’m done with that. Once I knew the living Gods are here too. I was done with complaining—for when the ghost couldn’t defend—I was shocked, and made furious—but that my own living names are here! Well, complaining isn’t even possible.

37. Lift-off

Three: The intense light-Sustained— I’m in that someone’s eyes-I can almost feel the tremble-It’s a foursquare-in the lift-off, we both awed by this enormous flash of light-neither is scared. My eyes never been so flooded with the whiteness of light—its never happened will never happen again.

Two: the wall is spread, made of horizontal, in vertical white squares, its just that though I’ve moved away-I still feel their experience. “Put your verves into ten. Cross—oh-it hurts. And

everyone is gay here.”—Sit on top of heaven. “The drop was ten.”--“And though it’s a horizontal wall. You get hurt stepping out.” Budlong. One: it’s the roof of heaven—we fly together, and I never suspected—we will fall apart. Thus everything continues—cause up here, nothing ever changes. Everything’s very cool. Zero: I lie still in “Ma”—after “aM”-I’ve promised if she dies in me—everything resurrects back like it was, under one heart-- one mind—we will be heroes again—like always— apart-- in togetherness. All: Everyone walks up the hill-to the peak— strangely I’m walking faster, more exhausted than (my cells)-—but by every step I take-I’ll reorientate everyone—“cross the stones—and revive them.”

One: The crucifix—the walk across Via Dolorosa —They’re heavy to bear-and so painful to C.

Still. I agree to drop myself-into-hell—“I can’t believe, I did that, to myself”—for they want to rape me. But the strings prevail. Its an act, that raises hell-back-alive-into-heaven. The crucifix occurs due to the spires of “nay’ in 2. Its payment, for the safety of all infants and children. (You.)

39. Akhunda

The woman sits across from me –they’re serving Iranian dishes, the rice dish, has sliced golden potatoes on the bottom—I eat some of those. She looks excitedly at me and begins: “I’m going back to Iran. The snow is real nice— and they have a lot of nice slopes on those mountains of Tehran.” It’s the snow I really like—the white frozen threads--at one’s doors—but I don’t know how to ski —and it’d be too expensive anyhow.

But somewhere along the conversation I have to disclose: “But all the Akhunda are gay—they rape their boys and their daughters too—it’s a mess trying to change their ways—it’s the people not the regimes—at fault. They ask for this--and want something else.” And then I say apologetically, begging everyone’s pardon: “Please forgive me, and I know it may not be polite: but I used to call them: back-lands.” I mean back when I was Kourosh—and ran like a cheetah—to conquer the tribes, and set them free—and unite them. Then I take the cap off my head –she sees all the light around my head. And smiles before I say: “I’m Christ.” I repeat in our language: “Khoda.” Later she is amongst her own. The word gets out. And the Persian constellations (Aranj, Persus’ cap) have grown—and are sitting by the rest --above-waiting for things to change.

41. The guardians

I first read about them at the small Hollywood library—it was a tiny unnoticeable book. No one knows why I opened it, why I read it, and why its true. But it was a large tale-about the future people-who, have time in capsules-- that and goodwill--must allow them here, into our times. The story goes that each, sits on a hill-silent watching the creation play. And others are at grocery stores—in police cars, being: “marddom.” (People.)

And I believed it. And then it is. Because I saw them capturing those hills. They sit on their own spires. Their ancestors-remote.

And I think if you ask them, why they’re here? They probably say its because they care for them as well. Meaning it’s a journey—for them—as it is for us. Except that they understand, how the journey begins and why it never ends at all. Its what which makes them strong—to know that the rivers come close to god’s. And so they spoke of the creation—they explained Pamela, they said the news shall be good—and it will have their names. And that I can paint now. They were aware that painting good—was something that I haven’t excelled in yet. “And their spirits were good—and humble— some of them were gay. They encouraged humility in myself—and never waved goodbye.” Later—I notice that I’ve seen (be-been) them everywhere—from the corner of streets to my neighbors—dressed in all colors of flesh: black, brown, white, and indeterminable—dressed as housewives, beggars, women and men of cloth— the three sisters with bowed heads –three is trinity-the father-the son, and the holy spirit are one. They’re not just only surprised for their futures—but tying yellow ribbons, across the weightless of now—spirits, in the window—are your great, great, great… grandchildren.

“You have ascended—and you have comeback— to protect yourself –and-ours. For to see wellness through—you must be at the beginning—which is the end.” The acts.

42. The Drop

“You can come out now. See that every dead has been out. See that you’re doing fine here.” After all its Hollywood—there’re all here. “Drop yourself down then—drop yourself down into hell then.” Its just a whisper. But I know he means I, as Jesus—not as hooshang. I want them out though—it seems at any price. I agree instantly. The hushed silence. But its one of rthe acts—by virtue of dropping myself. I raise them. It will be the end of that chapter for sure. But there’s major catastrophe. They are “koon”—and want to rape me there. But the strings hold on. The Pam’s-ghosts stand behind me for the three days-of-hell. Guarding. The well. For if the living body/soul of god ever raped —the world closes—instantly. And here—Pam (their feigned leader)—will send them into the lake—one by one—for us. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Mark 5:12-14

So, let it be. And they shall comeback—thwarted—in between the stars. “Before Pam and Hooshang –there--are with children.” Acts.

43. Think for 2

Pam’s immense, finite—I can’t get my head around hers. Things fall by the wayside, observable, but not-collected in the basin. We got lost collecting simple papers and data— there’s so much this bucket can carry at one movement. Still, she reads a lot better than 2 years ago, and can figure out cell phone and electronics faster than I can rail them. And I’m beginning to draw with more details than I’m used to. I’m hoping the paintings later reflect that. Still, we move together on pages—that require simple decision-makings, shared. And I’m a much better accountant! And she’s hopeful, she encourages “us” from time to time, to chase things together. It’s a surprise.

But most of all—its just a dialogue between two people, that the rest of the world listens to as well. And in the stillness of everything, you have nothing to do but remember it well. First I made sure—there’s no one like her—the acts became easier for sure.

44. Ass-waves

I can’t work more than an hour or two a day. Work being: writing or drawing these days. They can all hear me now. And their minds are lazy and gay. And the coffee is out—the little coffee-maker from k-mart is sitting useless. And instead of getting up at 4 in the morning like forever—I try to stay in bed on at least 5:30 AM. I wouldn’t be so agreeable—if it weren’t for Pamela. Though their waves can’t bother me much—Pam’s hands have started shaking. She thinks she has Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes at night, or during class, her head starts bopping around. They had to walk her to John’s car just last week, and she can’t go to partial anymore on account of her limbs movements.

It was hard to believe her trembling hands had something to do with me!! But after a lot of inquiries and examination, I’ve had to limit work—quite a bit. She is my back. And that’s the entire world—and when they (you) are clamoring, the waves come into her unadorned. Which why wars happen. Which why you have

only yourselves to blame, and by you I mean the men, and their hunger for each other. Still, my duty is to take care of those I love most —and she’s at the top of that pyramid. And you’re-all- always the second—which why I wrote this letter.

45. Metamorphosis

Some of my features aren’t mine anymore—by which I mean, they’re hers, I recognize them. They’re likable, I can’t use adorable, because they’re becoming my features. So, I explain them, one by one. Just as I find them in myself. I smile at people differently—its as though I can now lit a 1000 candles at them. I’ve always smiled—but am I not beaming, with the delightfulness of something unknown before.

46- The Bully

There’s a dog across the street, behind a tight visible gate. He is furious. Muscular, black and a mix of bulldog, and something taller. For he is of medium weight, and the large magic of a head. Round, connected directly to all that is movement and scents. If you were a farmer. You’d call him a tractor, not just a truck. Every time a soul passes that side of the street, for some unknown reason, for he must smell their bodies coming near—but like the devil’s in him, he waits just as they’re about to pass and jumps the gate like he’s been waiting to tear them down. I’ve seen grown men and women walk by, in the comfort of their own heads, and the silence of the streets—to suddenly jump in themselves, turning red, like they’ve had a minor stroke.

It takes everyone moments to realize he’s behind an iron gate, and isn’t about bite into their ribs. I naturally avoid parking in front of their house —for I’ve watched his tyranny, from the window of my room, and don’t want to let him raise his usual ruckus. Oh, I’ve tried my usual: “That’s a good boy, dlee, dlee, dlee!” But he remains aloof to my peacemaking by all means possible. And looks his famous:

“I’ll kill you all” One Friday evening, Pam was looking out the window watching the street from the window as usual. The dog had moved in weeks before and this was the first time she was seeing him. The dog had just scared the living shit out of bunch of kids again, and I was about to complain about the bastards’ mischiefs on account of Pam being a kind of experts on dogs. And before I had a chance, Pam exclaims: “I wish we had a dog just like that.” I thought she’s pulling my leg—but she looks so sincere. “You’re kidding me! He’s a bully--scares the daylight out of people.” “No, he’s a pussycat, just no body loves him. I’ll show you.” And sticks her head out of our window upstairs, and starts to call the dog, in her highest pitched tone. And the dog just stares at us, puzzled.

Next time, I park the car. She gets out of the car, walks right up to the gate, and starts conversing with the bully like they’ve been house mates, or share genes. And the bully stares right back at her if not looking docile—but certainly acquiescent, warmed. Then she walks back to me, and repeats with the same sincerity: “I wish we could have him for a pet!”

And looks back at the dog, like she already misses him. I unlock the door, and lead her into our apartment—bewildered, nice.

47. Random

There are hundreds of books, music, songs— perhaps thousands, I can pick up any day of the week, anytime. Run my finger through any page, any song--and found a poem, story-or thoughts. To write down. Why? How? They’re the holy ghost’s, and that’s us. And, everything anyone writes, is in light-ofshades. And its largely referenced around the beginning and the end. And that’s us here.

And my father was Shakespeare, and my mother: Jane Austen’s. And when you’re strung across the world, an embryo--sleep. They can sing their rhythm, and rhyme to you. And you shall never forget. If its good. And if its for the good of them. Trust is a miracle. Told.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful