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During the winter of ’98, I think I was in love or obsessed with Mother Teresa. This version had pierced nipples and a coke problem and an oversized Cramps T-shirt she wore on Fridays. I bought a motorcycle to impress her. I crashed that motorcycle into someone’s BMW. And by Christmas, Mother Teresa was Cleopatra and I had no shot.
The last time I saw Lita, who is the actress in mention, we were at a party on the Lower East Side. Connor Feinstein’s apartment was two floors and had a grand piano. That night there were producers and artists and lesbians and wall-street guys who supplied the drugs and not much else. I did my best to not nod out from all the Percocet I’d taken, but the open bar wasn’t helping.
“Hey,” Texas said swirling her glass of wine, “did you hear what happened to CC?”
“Yea, she got thrown in the psych ward.” And there she was, Lita had appeared beside me. She pushed her long brown hair behind her ears. “It’s fucked up. They aren’t gonna do anything but pump her full of downers.”
“Can I talk to you?” I whispered to Lita.
She glanced at me for a moment, but pretended not to hear.
“I’m gonna get another drink,” she announced. “Anybody want one?”
She left and I followed. I peeked around corners and watched for a moment I could speak with her alone. The blankoids did a jig above my head, making fun of me for being so pathetic. I swatted them away.
“I told you we are done,” Lita said when she noticed I was staring from behind a bowl of plastic fruit.
“I think I miss you,” I said.
Her face slacked. “We went on two dates. You barely know me. And I don’t even have time to be one person right now.”
How she spoke was confusing. This whole world of acting – what was real and what was not – really gave the blankoids a lot of leverage. One was on her shoulder now. It was pointing down, telling me to grab the knife from the kitchen table to cut out her lungs. Here, it pointed.I closed my eyes tight.
A clinking came through the air. I opened my eyes and everything was normal and I could breathe normal again.
“Everyone! I have a toast!” Connor was far away, standing on top of his pool table. Out the windows below us cars honked and people mugged and bums masturbated in dumpsters.
“Hope it’s not gonna be another long one,” Lita whispered to me.
We stood there in the kitchen watching everyone watching Connor. He rattled on like a pleasant dictator getting his army ready for mass suicide. It was still a week away from actual Christmas, and everyone who hadn’t gone back yet for break was here.
“And remember,” Connor said, “it can all vaporize in an instant.”
Vaporize? Is that what people did at Christmas? I worried about when everyone was gone and I was in my apartment alone with nothing but books on Cioran and functional neurosurgery. Things I hated to read, much less be alone with. I knew between the pages, and between the words – and in between that – were where the blankoids lived. I had gone deep one night and they looked up and saw that I could see them. They had crawled out onto me.
“Please,” I said to Lita once Connor was done and everyone had resumed vibrating again. “Can we just go upstairs and talk at least?”
She looked me up and down. “OK.”
People were doing coke in the small room upstairs, so Lita did a few lines and then we kicked them out. I think I might have screamed at them, but I can’t remember.
Up on the wall there was a framed Cy Twombly print. The one with the big “Apollo” in blue. It glared down at me and I could see violent things in its blue strokes. Jagged thoughts and lust and pits of shame. My whole life felt like shame right then and I couldn’t seem to just get the words out from my throat. I needed to tell Lita.
“You’ve been acting crazy ever since you crashed the motorcycle,” she said putting her hand on mine. “I told you not to drive. You were so drunk. I really liked you.”
“I know. I think it’s true, though.” I could feel my eyes welling up, but I sucked the ultra-clear humiliation safely back inside. Maybe they helped me do it. “I think I have a problem. Like CC, but worse.”
“What? You think you’re actually crazy?” She was almost laughing and the cruel waves cut into the flesh of my mind.
“I’m serious. I—”
And then I saw it. In the corner above the Twombly, the blankoids were going to work. They were eating and screwing. Eating up all my courage and focus. Some were messing with the plants on the shelf.
A group of them lifted up a cactus and threw it across the room. It smashed against the wall. Dirt.
“What are you doing!” Lita screamed. She looked at me as if it were all my fault.
“You don’t see? They’re right there.” I pointed to a group of them singing. Words came out of their mouths like smoke and the smoke was blue.
Then a ficus went flying and destroyed a large mirror. A million worlds looked up at me from the ground.
“Fucking psycho! I was trying to be nice!” She ran out of the room crying.
It was December 15. All the things in the city were still clean and nice and were trying their best to stay that way.
The next week the city was empty. People had gone home for Christmas to their families and I was nothing but sinew. The streets were flat and cold and a sort of grease was left behind to slick over in the ice-cold.
A puddle below my feet was hard. I stood on it for five minutes waiting for the little electric man to let me know it was safe to cross before I realized no cars were on the roads here Chinatown. I needed to buy leeks. The blankoids told me I needed to make leek omelets or I’d die.
By Doyers Street most of my thoughts were strained to the point of collapse. I didn’t care. I only had to last for two more weeks and then people would come back and their hooting and spitting would again drown everything out. They would itch their bleached heads and snort up drugs and I wouldn’t have to think so much then. I could get rid of the dripping red pulp of my thoughts. Fate would melt and release a perfume. Like ammonia.
I got back to my apartment and decided to do some cleaning. The air conditioner was furry with mold and dust. I put on some Elvis Presley record but it made me feel sick so I turned it off. I got out my pills and crushed them up and snorted them. This made me feel a bit better. Though it was a annoying that I could now hear the man upstairs beating his wife more clearly. I thought about things to get rid of the image in my head. Hernias. Black peaches. Junk DNA. Junkies. Rotting. I wanted them to shut up.
I went to look out my window to remind myself that this apartment building had not been lopped of from the rest of reality. Down on the street a few people darted back and forth like cockroach automatons. I had been drunk for days and it worked to speed up this lonely stretch but I was running out of money.
On Thursday I felt a pang in my stomach. I’d forgotten to eat. The blankoids were in the other room singing along with one of my Elvis records and every time they did they added little extras to the words. They snuck in things like “they all know” and “cut it off” and “don’t you dare fall asleep”.
I went to the kitchen and tried to make an omelet but the eggs smelled bad. I saw the blankoids had taken it upon themselves to carve crosses into all the window jambs. They must have known something I didn’t.
After a glass of water I arranged all my clothes by color. I had a lot of clothes and was proud of that. Someone kept ringing my doorbell but I was afraid to answer so I just turned the music up louder. I had a plan. I would see Lita again. It was a risky idea but I saw no other way at that point. Pushing myself past the brink was the only assured way I’d get to be com-for-table again. Lita liked when I was com-for-table.
Cracking open the Temptation to Exist I got to my dog-eared page. I got very close until my nose was touching the paper. If I squinted I could see behind the letters. Mostly O’s and V’s were where the blankoids liked to peek out from. I plucked them up and threw them down my throat. I had a plan. They would be safe in my stomach until I could get someone to look at them. I’d just need to be convincing enough to get someone qualified to look.
In the bathroom I looked in the mirror at my face. My skin was gray. I practiced my insanity. The look of it. When I admitted myself later today I wanted to make sure I got a good bed. I needed a long good rest.
Garth Miró is a writer from Brooklyn. His work focuses on surrealism and dark humor.