:: Article

City Lunch

Annie didn’t understand the way I loved her, why I demolished her Widescreen Plasma TV with that creepy T2 titanium mannequin, how I used its oval head, moving limbs and webbed fingers as tools of armed revolution, the same mannequin we found one Saturday afternoon, abandoned, standing beside a recycling bin, surrounded by a platoon of Trader Joe’s grocery bags, bags crammed with plastic juice bottles, syrupy glass and caked aluminum cans, pieces of tuna and seedless tomato squatting empty space, the mannequin she used to dress up in jogging pants and a windbreaker, the mannequin we found with a purple boa around its neck, haloing insects that formed Saturn rings around it, the mannequin we’d kidnapped and renamed the god of fruitflies, a robot from the waist down, frozen like an 80’s breakdancer, abandoned by some store in West Hollywood, a stunned human shell, standing in a graveyard of cheeky boutiques, their storefronts, filled with flimsy, ready-to-tear runway costumes, a stage production without price tags, a space station for over-accessorized Cosmonauts who strive to look like they struggle, purchasing torn, stained, shredded, oddly stitched jeans, one grand a pop, that mannequin was a hostage in this district of novacaine wealth where everyone has a slouching chiropractor, a Shambala shrink, a Benz with Sprewells, a hundred outfits to simulate poverty, a wealth that imitates deprivation without bad teeth, obliterating the lesson plan of human loss, that sums up the four things that drove me away from LA: unrefined materialism, that spooky-ass mannequin, her flat screen television, her nosebleeds that reminded me of spilled grenadine, the four things I weaned off when I decided that love was basically a traffic jam in a polluted city, an 8th grade dance with twiggy girls, who become models and have branches for arms, like Annie, like every woman it was impossible to love or get to on time, I despised her because she’s like this city, she’s just a resurrection gimmick, and so one day I finally bailed, I left our bedroom, haunted by the sleepwalkers of famine, I didn’t look back, couldn’t, I simply wanted to punish her weakness for twenty-minute utopias, for the time I lost wandering the rotting streets of Pasadena’s back alleys, scavenging for her foot prints, looking for clues of my own dissolution, scattering my chi between lunch and dinner shifts to badger operators at private clinics and elite rehab centers with pristine-sounding names like Mount Galilee Hospital, Green Pastures Healthcare, Lichee Health Clinic and Elysian Fields Detox, I wanted to know that Annie would feel, actually feel her loss, actually understand the nausea of empty beds, dark kitchens and cell phones that never ring, when I packed my bags and drove away, I wanted her pain to have reverb and hypertext, I wanted her to know that her drug addiction was blind rage against the ghost in the machine, it was a coup d’état against the autocrats of longevity, it was adolescent, microwavable presumption, it assumed this life would absolve her self-loathing, forgive her blurry death wish for zero gravity, it assumed that oblivion came with AA batteries, and the truth is, she didn’t deserve the sun’s hand-me-downs, she deserved her agony, her intestines filled with lava, her mind, compulsive like a vanity mirror, her flaking mouth, blistered and mutinous, padlocked around the base of her dealer’s shaft, her nose, a perfectly trained ninja, she deserved everything she felt, and for that reason, for all those reasons, I wanted to inflict my verdict on Annie, to force the smallest eternity on her fleeting life, to prove I understood her defiance, that I know she’s in exile, expelled from her own body, a strip mall of escapism, a condemned spirit flirting with limbo, a billboard celebrity checking into abandoned houses with blown-out windows and barrel fires raging, Annie’s become the patron saint of IV drips, a collapsed witness to her own trial, a snoring prodigy, clasping my forearms as cloudy liquid crawls through her constricted veins, if she were here, she’d know her life was abandoning her, she’d discover that the four objects she loved the most in her life, after blow and freshly minted checks from the Michael Rogers Modeling Company, her four favorite things, were all broken up inside now, dismembered, siphoned by stages of revolt, forsaken by the grim laws of functionality, we were fragments, shards, objects of self-diversion, objects of compulsive vanity, objects of mutilated desire, we were nothing but scraps of chipped metal, broken limbs, knotted wires, we were victims of simmering despair, civilians split apart by the low-riding movements of unlit cars that pierce the air with explosions of titanium body parts and fiber optic cables, we were simply drugs in non-powder form, plebeian eight-balls, drab household objects (a TV, a mannequin, a boyfriend), a highway of pedestrians commuting between hope and brain fever, but we can’t travel through her mucus membranes, we can’t fill her expired, overdue body with pick-me-up vitality, to her we’re insipid but vital like filtered air, we were domesticated objects she abandoned with fugitive regret, we were touch-play chess pieces, dismembered doll hands, broken down friendships worn away by moments of binging silence, we were a reunion of accidents, in-between pay check counselors, a slow motion suicide, we were ancient love slaves forsaken in her exodus, fleeing from the Pharaoh of Consolation Prizes, we were alley waifs, dumpster-diving in the bins of human memory, we were potted plants, waiting by the door, our minds, sickened by a hunger for human words, our pulsating bodies that once beeped and flashed like an Atari video game, and still we waited to be turned on, waited for you by the door, idle and disempowered, hoping you’d whisper the things you’ve never needed from us, because we loved you like a barnacle, watched you with such fiendish admiration, admiring how you straddled your negligent desire, your perishable nirvana, but now you’re nothing to us anymore because we’re broken inside, a pocketful of granulated glass, to me you’re simply a bundle of incestuous adjectives, a skeleton of soul, an orphan stuck in taro leaves, you’re a climax junkie Annie and I am the footsteps of intemperate distance, I am the only man who ever knew your skin’s innate glow, the only man who saw your brain through your nostrils, the only man who felt your lusty jabs of maternal shame, a shame burrowed inside burning temples, your nose throbbing like a brushfire of C-fibers, but I will remember you, I’ll remember the way you were always misplacing your scruples like car keys, always forgetting to walk through the door when I was alone, always leaving your dirty underwear in the hamper like a flower merchant who throws day-old bouquets into the trash, you were always shameless like that, like a wealthy courtesan spurning the aristocracy, like a laughing gull that mocks the deep blue sea, now your wings are dripping with motor oil and coal smog, you’re sinking, spiraling downward into a palace of concrete, like a clumsy soul, falling from the sky’s beams, crashing into destiny’s windows like a hemorrhaging Icarus, and it’s there, in the glassy teeth of these carnivorous streets that you will be swallowed whole by a city of dirty neon, snipered by a city of blinding hubcaps, a city of false cheek bones and invisible mountains, a city of unfaithful and impossible sun light.

Jackson Bliss calls Chicago and SoCal home, though he’s spent a great deal of time traveling through Europe and Africa, going global. Right now he’s working on his MFA thesis at Notre Dame—a novel that explores double lives, the parameters of public/private art, personal voids, biculturalism and Hip-Hop. Jackson has work published or forthcoming in Cadence, The Bend, The Oberlin Review, BlazeVox, Right Hand Pointing, Syntax, The Voice, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Ink Collective, Writer Advice and SoMa Literary Journal. In his rare moments of free time, Jackson likes to practice writing kanji, kicking it with his crew, playing piano in the dark, working on his blog and taking field trips to Mitsuwa to buy Japanese mayonnaise and bizarre manga.


First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, January 26th, 2007.