SEXY STRANGER #1 (out of print)
It stuck in me from its distance, five feet, out of the museum wall (a painting of a cherry-apple red woman lost in soot) and into my pelvis, up my gut, through yards of vein and unwilling blood, to tickle and scrape along the length of my throat. Couldn’t move of course; was stuck, impaled; until found that the nail had elasticity, and could inch away with it, sucking up the ache, past the head-phoned patrons gawking idly into autographed abstractions (fruit baskets masquerading as splotch, blurry photography transfers, men with heads replaced), down an empty corridor, making the wall from out of which the nail had sprung begin to pucker, pull into itself, raining plaster from cracks.
I’d made it all the way into the restroom, a tidy cubicle with domed washbasins and triangular spittoons, when there I collapsed, as likewise did the fingernail’s anchor, bringing the wall down with it, crushing three schoolgirls in muddy smocks, one Chihuahua (snuck in in one of the girls’ pockets) and a sack lunch (peanut butter and jelly on rye, banana, Coke can). The agony was so much for all of us, would be fanfared nationwide through broadcast and tabloid — NEW WAVE ART EXHIBIT CLAIMS FOUR LIVES (they’d never count the dog, of course) — and all I could think was: I should’ve been born a cheetah.
The meteor, a grapefruit-sized thing, landed on the patio of The Tavern on the Green. It sounded like a muffled explosion, like maybe kids had set off fireworks in the subway. I paused to listen further, but nothing came. After a few minutes, I heard the fire engines but assumed that it was nothing serious.
An hour later, I walked down Central Park West and saw firemen mulling around the tavern parking lot. They had blocked off sidewalks and roads. Everyone seemed to be waiting for someone or something to arrive.
The news the next morning reported that it had been a meteor, and that NASA had come to collect the remaining space debris. Space, apparently, had too much trash floating around and decided to drop a little bit on us.
That was the end of the story. The fire-damaged parts of the building were mended and repainted, and the restaurant began serving bad food again. The leaves and tender branches of a few trees had been singed, but everything else looked as it had.
But then a busboy became convinced that the park’s famous topiary animals had, as he put it, "come to life." No one believed him. The young actor lost his job but was perhaps consoled by the publicity he eventually gained.
In a few days, no one could deny that the busboy was right, in a sense. By some strange reaction to an extraterrestrial element, the plants had developed the ability to move. They could pull their roots from the ground and walk. Nearly all of the smaller plants in the immediate vicinity of the crash site had developed this mobility. The trees, experts surmised, were simply too large.
Spectators flocked to the park. NASA returned and set up a perimeter. They measured for radioactivity and deemed the area safe, but kept everyone a few yards away so scientists could observe and perform tests and whatnot. The topiaries didn’t know that they were sculpted into animals. They walked sideways and backward and changed directions indiscriminately.
The dinosaur and the elephant bumped into each other and got tangled beyond escape, becoming one monstrous beast with eight legs and two heads. But the noble horse was the media darling. News crews shot footage of it almost exclusively.
I didn’t care for that horse. I got a picture of myself with the gorilla in the background.
Course of Treatment
At 4, I was written up for being socially maladjusted. I insisted on showing up every day at the proper time, while the other schoolchildren were always an hour early.
At 5, I was written up for autistic tendencies. I had to repeat kindergarten.
At 16, I was diagnosed with hyper-focusing strain of Attention Deficit Disorder. A straight-A student, I was barred from honors classes due to this diagnosis. I was pissed.
At 17, I had a full mental breakdown. It began on the night of junior prom. An anti-depressant course and stay at the mental ward were strongly encouraged.
At 19, my father confided in me in graphic detail about his father’s suicide. I had my second mental breakdown and ran away from college. My father was worried I would kill myself. He walked right past me coming off the commuter train that day. Dummy.
At 21, I was put on Adderol to placate my ADD. I took one dose and went to work. Driving to work, I nearly ran off the on-ramp. When I got home, I read on the bottle, DO NOT TAKE WHILE OPERATING A VEHICLE. I quit taking medication and started drinking tea.
At 22, I lived in England for a year. I had a great variety of tea to choose from. I lost 30 pounds. I met my soulmate. I felt alive and sane. I also become the Learning Disabled Student Chair at my university. I guess the British aren’t as adept as Americans at diagnosing and treating the learning impaired.
At 23, I came back to the States and was quickly diagnosed with an eating disorder and chronic depression. A 12-step program and an anti-depressant course were recommended. It seems an American condition to have something terminally wrong.
At 26, I still I haven’t been able to escape being American.
A leaf from a rose plays pickle between my handcuffed abdomen and your sultry lashes. A tower is in tumble in a country under cover. We count the bare riches; fire, narrow and complete. Your clothing is hanging above my feet.
New Future Salad Days
The Day is nearly upon us, friends, when the good people of Earth — our very brothers and sisters — shall rise up in cities and towns and begin the mighty celebration of the New Good Times!
Let those with ears hear. May those with eyes see!
Listen: Get your shit together and meet us down on the corner. A little after 10 o’clock in the morning, let’s say. You’ll hear us: We’ll be listening to the really good music. Yes!
Let it be written, now: All reasonable men will soon come to the conclusion that it has been profoundly unproductive to gather in groups and howl for the death of our enemies. It was unnecessary and rude.
We have pined for a better world, and now we take action!
On the specified date, we shall pitch a party called The Do-Over. We will forget everything, let it all drift, start anew.
We will wake up in the morning and put on nametags, wander around the streets shaking hands, drinking. And there will be much smiling.
Let’s pick a date and do it!