But first, you cut your hair because they say you must, and you do it because you figure it’s only hair, a superficial thing, you know; and there’s more to you than that. Plus it’s the only way to get the damn job, and you need money. But years later, you start acting like the clean cut man that you now look like. It’s pathetic, I know. And when I step back, I think: “Poor me for not yet dropping the issue.”
Poor, poor me. A mangled umbrella against a pole. I think of the frustration that put it there. All is dark throughout the land. As far as the eye can see, stores and trees in greasy gray. I hear a voice saying, “Let’s go now man! Why do we have to wait till this lets up? This thick, drab shit ain’t ever going to be over.” We, the mob of commuters, nudge each other inside. And the interior is dripping with the sum of something subsiding. A sudden flash! You see it on their faces as they enter the train. The doors close, and the train continues its passage. A regulated landscape, like tire treads we texture with countless lights.
“We?” you ask. “What do you mean ‘We’?”— the memory of you just before the historic argument. I play it back as if it were a pleasure. Bright lights through the fog of windows tell us we’re almost there, but last night’s argument is still alive and waiting for me, like a viper in the rose bush. It’s like when the dying, desperate lover pleaded for her life in the most recent blockbuster. “Everything will be all right, won’t it?” And they told her “Yeah,” even though she was dying. It was terrible, but it taught me that when it really matters, you lie. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since, because everything seems to matter. So I keep going. And I said, “Yes. That’s right. ‘We.’”
Poor me for not dropping the issue. So, so much, you lose everything. You forget who you are when lost in all this. All the figures moping around a night landscape, and there’s no you, befuddled with all the other figures, until the odor of fear rises from the plop of single steps, and you find yourself about to enter the soaked darkness. No one’s around. Never gave it a thought until it’s on top of you. You get out the whistling, the nice thoughts, but to no avail! Oh no. “Oh, my pastoral is the bright color of a toy before the paint scratches.” You say this over and over. You think of anything. Someone told me about the tragedy on TV, the latest development. The girl — you know. The one everyone was talking about for weeks: her and her big catastrophe. It was good news, and it made the ratings. But when I walk inside, I turn on the set, and then I see pictures as they were given to the court officials minding her case, the ones with her in them, that last motion before everything became irreversible, the paint scratching, the bright colors. [speechless]
Rey Armenteros is a Los Angeles-based painter and writer who has had his essays and poetry appear in numerous literary journals and art magazines, including The Nasiona, Lunch Ticket, Umbrella Factory Magazine, and Still Point Arts Quarterly.