Andrew Knox 2304 N 172nd St Shoreline, WA, 98133 206.499.2435 fugiware@yahoo.

com I Now Understand Sunrises Part I: The Holman Valley In The Snow The Following is Based on a True Story. “Okay, bye, then.”

I hang up the phone and realize that I've been walking in circles for the last five minutes. The evidence of my circuit is clearly visible on the ground. Up until now, I had no purpose and I was foddling around and disturbing the smooth cold white, but now I had direction, motivation and wind in my sails. I got out of the middle of the road and onto the sidewalk. The troddings of those who had come before me, both east and westbound, were so numerous that I could walk in no one persons footsteps. In a sense only achieved through thrifty word play and a good ten seconds of thought, I was a trailblazer.

A boy shoveling snow out of the local burger drive-in driveway looks at me for a second as if I was of his kind. Sorry, man, I get that a lot, but I work at a car wash. Accessibility and customer service may be virtues, but being open three hundred sixty four days a year, rain, sleet and snow, that ought to be the definition of absurdity. He sprinkles de-icer rocks with a dixie cup, slowly and discreetly: to not waste, to not miss, to go both directions at once. I only have one direction and it calls itself East.

I realize that I am still holding my phone with both hands, all three items have become ice cubes. After putting my phone back into it's cave, I chance at a conclusion about life and the metaphors it is made of: “temperature is a pretty cool guy. He is the opposite of gravity, instead of holding a brother down, he constantly rises up and overcomes.” I pull my ten little icicles up into the arms of my coat and walk

into the beginning of the downhill posing like a scarecrow trying to fly. When in view of the source of street light, the snow fall reveals it's final, true, form: a million and one identical clones falling and forming in patterns that scientists call random and unique, but what a layman would call looped.

From one expert to another, a word of advice, don't drink cold soda when it is cold out. It just confuses your hands. Another protip, don't drink blue soda ever, unless you plan on getting cynical and paranoid and walking home from Panda Express making voice recordings of whatever pops into your head. I pour a bit of the soda out, it cuts a thin but deep canal where it lands. Around now-ish, I've reached the over pass and a truck slides southbound going half it's usual pace. I contemplate more intense spillage and perhaps, due to road conditions and over correction from skidding, premeditated manslaughter.

What, what day is it? My phone oughta know, and I sure as hell can't have him knowing everything. It's the twenty first. Why is that special? Did anything happen today? No, got called off of work at ten, played bass for a while, saw the end of a movie, and I didn't even get around to taking a shower. Would anything have happened if I didn't leave the house? Why did I leave again? The phone must know something about this. The bastard mocks me with his blank screen, I am a dragon when it is cold, smoke billows out of my snout. I suspiciously eye the veterinary clinic, the other end of the valley and the bank's LED array. It reminds me that the number is twenty-seven. My phone reminds me that twenty-seven minus today is equal to six therefore I have a devil of a time to wait till my birthday.

What am I talking about? Why am I being so opaque? Why am I couching the end of every paragraph in a metaphor or an in-joke that only the cream of the in-crowd should understand? Why am I... I spot a hot girl with my right peripherals. Around here is where I start to ask myself the most important question, why am I only giving her my peripherals. She was a skinny blond about my height, probably

about twenty-five and probably pretty pretty. If we were cars, I would have cut her off, and she would have been well within her rights to t-bone me; but as people, we were a good twenty feet apart. She turns the corner and joins me on the sidewalk. She slowly starts to catch up to me, she's only four or five feet behind when we reach the crosswalk.

I have time in my hands in my pockets, so I decide to look at her with both eyes. I instantly feel guilty for my assumptions and any scenarios that may have been produced inside my head. With a proper glance, she was revealed to be Filipina, about a foot shorter than me and about thirteen. To divert my mind from traveling down any uncomfortable paths, I look back at the bank's temperature sign. The fucker is certainly mocking me. The crossing light becomes an athletic green man and my first impulse is to run. I thank someone who may or may not be there that I pause, a truck slides into the crosswalk with its brakes locked into anti-mode. The girl notices and holds up as well. Half way across the street, I fancy that I saved her life; three-quarters of the way across, she disappears.

A Salvation Army soldier salivates with the notion that I may toss a quarter her way. The first foot finds its way to stable ground and the second is quick to catch up. A triplet of stomps instantly dries my feet and I proceed into the store without fear of slipping. Fire logs are three for seven dollars, three times seven is twenty-one. But why? Am I going anywhere with this? Yes, I have arrived.

At Panda Express, the woman who usually takes my order is named Lung. She's a Chinese woman that I believe is in her forties. She probably makes minimum wage. She probably works ten hour days, six days a week, since she is there more often than me. I wonder if... if she has children?

“Hello, what would you like today?”

Something is off. The worker before me is the spitting image of my overworked, underutilized Lung, but the name tag she bears tells a new truth. Her name is now Stephanie. Could this be Lung's sister? No, same creases built from stress, same voice built from smoke stacks, ten million cigarette-wielding businessmen and a lazy totalitarianism.

“A bowl.” I manage to say.

Go with what you know. I'm going to skip the rest of the order for two reasons. The first is that you probably don't care that I got fried rice and orange chicken, as usual and second, I don't want to spoil the ending. To sum it up, there is a bit more banter and money changes hands, much like a drug deal. No, wait, with the amount of MSG in my system, it essentially is a drug deal. My mind drifts to Lung as I walk away from her. Where did she go?

My brain finds her, she is being held captive in a jungle prison reeducation camp guarded by black and white bears with guns and adorable children. After a three-day siege that my mind abbreviates to four keyframes, I find her cell. I bust in the door, we look at each other with a combined look of wariness and some happiness. Somehow, we fall in love, swim back to Seattle and drive my jet-powered sports car at sixty-seven miles an hour up and down the interstate until we find a casino that can meet my need to throw away my hard earned tip money and her need to watch a bunch of idiots squander their futures. I have good luck this go around. I walk away up three dollars from the slots, I bet the farm on craps and I double it up, I just stay away from Baccarat. I finally reach the table where I can kill this metaphor and get around to my point: BlackJack.

“You shouldn't do this. Bad numbers.” She says in her usual, hurried, ESL manner. “Baby girl, how many times have you said that today?” Because that's how I talk in my

daydreams. “I'm serious, not good.” “Baby girl, it'll be great, you can't kill my luck today.”

The dealer closes bidding and I feel sort of like a parent on the first day of kindergarten. The yellow bus carrying my darling ten dollar chip sputters down the road, he puts his hand against the window, moving it a little in a melancholy wave, tears grow into a river down his face.

“Don't be too sad, Chip, we'll see each other again, just a few hours!” “Promise?” “Of course.”

There's a fifty-fifty chance that I'm lying to the boy. Wait, wait, wait, what am I doing, daydreaming inside of a daydream? I have a game to win here. I get dealt two cards and I realize that that bastard Kenny Rogers speaks in generalities as efficiently as a politician; at which point to walk away, at which point do I run? Lung whispers in my ear.

“I have to tell you something.” “What's up, baby?” “That's it, I have a baby.”

My neck snaps around so fast that I slap her in the face with my face.

“Sorry, what was that?” I can't have gotten her pregnant! She said we should take things slowly. I'm certain that this is all a conspiracy.

“I'm sorry.”

She doesn't actually say that, but thats what her aversion of eye contact and drooping lips say. I get up and head towards the door, but the dealer won't let me leave that easily.

“Hey, you got a blackjack here! You won, man!”

Great, Chip gets to come home to a brother. Blackjack is twenty-one. The twenty-first. This routine is getting old, it needs a conclusion. An ending to something is just the beginning to something else. Beginning. Oh, that's it.

It would've been a year today, the second notable landmark. But does anybody care? She doesn't, and I don't exactly feel like taking it to the shrine either. I have a lot of memories from that small amount of time, but I don't miss her too much anymore. I've found a new emotion, a sense of frustration with having a lack of frustration, I christen it “frusturbation”. I've got two busted cars, one dead end job and unending bills, that amounts to the crap I'm comfortable talking about with non-psychiatric professional humans. Good clean American fun abounds when seventeen-year olds, booze and bowling mix together. It was really awkward, but things are only as awkward as you make them. It started with hugging, then moved on to kissing, by the end of the night, I had an imperative need to steal her a pair of bowling shoes. After the bowling and after the pizza parlor, I ran twenty blocks smiling with salvia-esque force until the asthma slowed me down.

A Cadillac with peeling paint crawls up the hill, the stereo blazes.

“Creep with me as I crawl through the hood, maniac, lunatic, call 'em Snoop Eastwood. Kickin'

dust as I bust, fuck peace. And, the mothafuckin' drug police. You already know I gives a fuck about a cop, so why in the fuck would you think that it would stop? Plot, yeah, that's what we's about to do Take your ass on a mission with the boys in blue...”

The engine kicks the bucket and the car starts to roll down the hill from whence it came. I reach the summit, finally, a festive jig is in order. I can't see a whole lot of stars with the ice fog covering my universe, but I imagine they're still there. Stars were the last thing we looked at. We viewed them from a skate bowl in the middle of a day park. The fountain would shout out spurts every minute or so, passersby would startle us with their startlement. I'm sorry if I have nothing new to add to the vocabulary of astronomy. There were millions of them, and there were millions behind those. August has more than a few good nights.

This was an odd night: we already had eaten, danced to Bob Marley, maybe even watched a movie; things usually not connected with planned break up dates. I realized that there was little I could do to prevent her leaving. She had a plane ticket, packed bags, a dorm room, a class schedule and a powerful ambition. The stars over Seattle are strikingly similar to the ones over Oakland. To stick around and hold onto her that night would only make it worse. I wanted it to be understated. Yes, understated would be best.

“Well, see ya later.”

I got up and started walking. She was silent.

“Have a nice life.”

Still silent. I turned around to find her asleep. A squint, a snort and a decision:wake her up and walk her home, or take the easy way out and run? By running each scenario through my head over a hundred times since then, I've discovered that both choices dished out the same amount of stress and “drama”. When we got back to her house, I got that understated goodbye.

“Bye.” “Have a nice life.” I can't count how many times I've said that to her on one hand.

While walking back to my car, I shrunk by a foot and a half. I looked back several times to look at her watching my defeated stagger, it made me feel a little vindicated.

Part Two: Sunburns, Hallucinations and Cheap Doughnuts The Following is a Dramatization of Reality, Made from 65% Real Facts. Hot air rises and feelings begin to fade... three months pass. Near the dawn of April, the fools have passed by, but the joke is still on me. I bleed tears as the hell circle a million billion miles above my head drops a stone cold beat down upon my face. I'm locked in the cross hairs of his death ray, sending cars as fast as I can down some entirely underdeveloped and half-assed Japanese megamonster in the vain hope that there is an end to the line of morons. My face has been burnt so badly that my brother mistook me for a stop sign.

“This is madness.” Rony echoes my mantra. I only am able to nod and make aggressive eye gestures vaguely aimed at the customers.

The sun changes it's angle. Within a few hours, the line has shrunk to the point of invisibility. A car comes every minute or two. I am finally in the shade. Heavy steps transport me into the office where three souls reside, but only one is allowed to sit. Steel toes click and clack on the cement floor, in a better world we would be tap dancing in the rain. Peaceful silence is merely a stressful poison, the anxiety that a customer could come by at any moment is much more painful than actually having to interact with them.

“For god's sake, get this man a doctor!” Rony is obviously concerned about my wellbeing. “Wha...?” I can only get half a word out.

I am a beet. Finally, I am a fire truck. I am become apathy, destroyer of college grades. After my facial condition has been properly assessed and mocked, they ask me to roll up my sleeves. I believe that the worst has passed. I don't know what to believe in anymore.

“What the hell is wrong with you, man?” “What?” “Can't you see?”

My wrists are the no-man's-land between a spray on tan and the Swedish embassy.

“Haven't you ever heard of sunscreen?” One of the mouths asks. “I don't believe in it.” “You believe in global warming? Well I guess it doesn't matter, the fact is you'll get cancer if you keep getting too many sunburns, dude.” “For real?” I know it to be true, I humor them.

“How can you not have heard that before? Are you fucking with me?” Damn, they caught me.

I mumble and grumble.

“Well, you look like you need some food.” Kenny announces.

I realize that he is a genius.

“It's about time my talents are recognized around here.” He replies.

He musn't mention it, it's no big deal. Wait, no, he must mention it. It's his ticket out of this hellhole. Kenny's got a ticket to ride, he might as well ride it to the end of the line. And when he gets to the end, there'll be a guy selling week-old newspapers and vintage 8-tracks, and they'll be at a bargain price. We all have a life changing choice to make sometime, and that will be Kenny's choice.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Gilbert asks. “Dude, you haven't seen Andrew do this before? When he gets hella tired or hungry or something, he gets confused, and then he just starts spouting unfiltered thoughts from his head.” “It's like a fire hydrant... that shoots out crap.”

And gift shop key chains, and ibuprofen, and unprocessed thyme.

“Dude, just go get some food.”

Okay. The mind is a complex organ... even when I am not able to properly communicate with humans,

I can still drive like a race car... uh... guy. In the series of minutes that proceed, I get in my car, drive, turn left, turn right, turn right, go straight, turn right, turn left and park. I don't remember anything between that and when I awoke standing in the cleaning supplies section of Safeway with a half empty box of chocolate frosted donuts. My phone was ringing.

“Hello?” I answered as if I hadn't read the caller ID. “Hey, how's it going?” “Pretty shitty. I'm at work.”

Mr. Clean shakes his head shamefully at me, he is disappointed.

“Got a bit of time to talk?” “A little bit.”

A mop halfway down the aisle falls over by itself. I revise my statement.

“Yeah. Actually I'm on lunch, so I've got like twenty minutes I guess.”

Mr. Clean smiles approvingly. He can't suffer liars in his presence.

“That's good. I've got some crazy cool art projects coming up. There's one that's a six foot tall, three foot wide drawing of a tree.” “A tree?” I ask as if the noun is unknown. “Yeah, I have to make it a bit skinnier that I want to, but I guess it fits, the trees down here are pretty skinny. Not good old evergreens.”

“For those, you'd need to either scale it differently or get wider paper.” “Uh, right... exactly.” She is kindly pretending to understand.

A shiver jolts feeling into my entire body, reminding my nerves that my legs are strained and that my hands have inch-deep callouses.

“Oww.” “What's wrong?” “I try to be a man, like I got the master plan.” “Are you still smoking a lot of weed?”

I hate to be characterized as a pothead. I hate to be characterized as any kind of human.

“No, I haven't smoked for three days, actually.” “That's good.”

The bald marketing sex machine gives me the evil eye again. I do still care about his opinions, but as my blood sugar returns to normal, my semblance of sanity returns as well. I break the silence.

“I still miss you.” “Hmm... that's always good to hear.” “Oh... yeah, it is.”

There's another moment of tense silence before she gives out an offer she will come to regret.

“Actually, I still miss you, too, and I was thinking, it would cheer me up to have some of my old friends come down to visit.”

Friend? I'm just a friend.

“But, you know, you would do, too. As a friend. As friends.”

Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit. I attack my head with a nearby can of Lysol. Sadly the bludgeoning was too weak to make me forget the phone call ever occurred.

“So, what do you think?” She had outlined the rest of her plan while I was assaulting myself, while I wasn't listening. “Uhh, yeah, it sounds like a great idea. I think I could drive down there in under fifteen hours if I didn't make too many unnecessary stops, like sleeping.” I feign excitement. “Well, remember the part where I said it would be safer to fly down?” “Of course I do! Just playing devil's advocate. Flying, definitely. I could fly down there in under two hours and I wouldn't be able to make any unnecessary stops!” “Well, I'm glad you're so excited about it.” “Excited is an inferior emotion to how I feel, girl.” “Oh, okay.” “I'll buy the tickets when I get off work!”

My heart is starting to pump as fast as I usually drum. This is madness.

“Well, don't be too hasty” she says, trying to take back my dream and get a refund from the

dream store. I don't listen, I'm not a very good listener. I hastily end the phone call by telling her my lunch is almost over and I haven't even eaten anything yet. I drive back to work with a soda and a bag of chips and an empty box of chocolate frosted doughnuts. I break the news

“My ex wants me to fly down to Cali to visit her.” Rony leads the chorus of praise: “Why are you sounding so down, man? That sounds fucking awesome.” “Well, she said she just wants to be friends.” “Who's inviting who to go to where, again?” Kenny asks. “Well, I think she was serious, you guys don't know her. She's pretty strong willed.” “Fuck that, man. If you come back here without a smile on your face that says 'I got laid at least eight times' then I'm gonna slap the shit out of you.” Thus consists Rony's ultimatum. “I second that shit.” Gilbert nearly yells.

A chuckle, a nod and perhaps a slight wink from Kenny seals the group's unanimity. By popular vote, I was going to have plenty of sex, or else. The monster swallows two hundred more cars. Big Red falls asleep. It takes me an hour and a half of minesweeping before the interior of the machine is restored to mint condition. The drive home is sublime, is nirvana, but somehow filled with rage. This chaos breathes few breaths.

Approaching ten o' clock, I sit in front a plate of buttered garlic noodles that I have absolutely no intention of eating. How can I eat when I'm talking on the phone?

“Omigod, I'm supposed to meet Brian downstairs in like three minutes.” “Brian?”

“Yeah, one of my friends down here. He smokes weed, he's from the ghetto.” “The ghetto?” “Crenshaw.” “Of course.”

The long pauses in between topics give us time to reload. I try so hard to be funny. “Roxy?” “What?” “I feel like we should sort some stuff out before I come.” “Oh... yeah? Like what?”

Oh god, why did I say anything? At worst, this is going to end in tears; at best, I'm going to have a heart attack. I am a fool.

“What are we doing?” “Well, I'm in my dorm, talking on the phone, procrastinating, avoiding homework.” “I think you know what I meant.”

I had no idea that I was so bold. The way the conversation should have gone, I should have caved and gone along with avoidance of emotion. I've since found that it hurts equally to do either. We live in awkward silences.

“Yeah,” she finally replies. “Alright. I guess we should figure out where we stand with each other before we make any commitments, you know, like buying plane tickets.” “Oh, yeah.”

“Oh no, you didn't!” “They should have never given me a credit card and a phone with Internet access. They should know I'm not right in the head.” “Andrew.”

She has a special tone of voice where she pretends to be ashamed, but she's really excited. I hope that's what she is at least.

“It's fine, I planned it around the weather and, conveniently, your vacation.” “Hmm. I wish you'd asked if it was convenient before you bought them.” “Well, how do you feel about us?”

Some more of that boldness that I wish would become my trademark. My heart doubles it's beats per minute. I'm getting my aerobics in without moving a muscle.

“Well, as far as I can tell at the moment, there is no us.”

I've just been punched. I'm falling in motion so slow, my E.T.A. to the ground is about ten minutes away. The phone line buzzes to fill in the mute.

“But, I'm willing to see how things go. I mean, we never really ended things properly. I still care about you a lot. Let's reboot. Let's start fresh.” “Oh, okay.” “Oh, hey Brian.” “Brian?”

“Oh, yeah. I've gotta go now. I'll talk to you soon. Oh, when are you coming?” “Next weekend?” “Really? I guess I'll see you soon, too.” “Goodnight.” “Bye.”

I don't know if what she said is what she actually feels or if it's a shield against something or if she's just trying to be kind and let me down easy. This world is a terrible father. I remove the phone from my ear and it's light sensor functions and turns the screen on. My wallpaper is a motivator, albeit an odd one. The caption says “Barack Obama: One Badass Motherfucker.” The picture is of our commander-in-chief looking as unkempt as any image will find him. He's smoking a cigarette like it's so out of fashion that it's becoming retro. Hmm, cigarettes. Did I ever tell you how I think he's the guiding light of a whole generation?

Part Three: Bad Judgment and the BART Train The Following is Prophecy. The plane touches down, the usual process of docking and disembarking occurs, the sun is bright. She met me just outside of baggage claim. We each have an uncomfortable smile worming its way between our cheeks. I reach forward to embrace, for her part of the gesture, she inputs very little power. Is this what just friends means? Scratch that, I am determined to live inside of my very active fantasy life.

We end up in a cafe in an area she calls Telegraph. The coffee has a sharp dit-dah-dit buzz. A loud buzz from students recuperating from finals makes it hard to hear the little conversation we share.

Damn those hours of phone calls we shared, they have robbed us of our warehouse of accumulated gossip.

“So this is it?” I ask. “What's it?” “This is where the magic happens?” “Well, me and my friends hang out here some weekends when the homework load is low, you know. I wouldn't call it magic, but we have some good times. And they have the best clothing stores around here, the best vintage ones at least.” “I suppose so.” “And you know how you were saying Rasputin Records was special?” “Well, I wasn't saying that it was special, specifically, just that it had interesting logos and stuff.” “Anyway,” she continues. “the staff in there are complete dicks. There's this other one, farther down Telegraph, where the staff is a lot nicer, a lot more helpful.” “Hmm.”

A few minutes later, we are walking along the straight and narrow sidewalk past hot dog stands and scarf vendors with colors among their selection so exotic that I can barely name their primary components.

“That one's nice.” She says, pointing at a sky blue one screen printed with a tiger pattern. “It's interesting, I'll give you that.” “Thanks!” “Oh, no, I'm broke. Sorry, I just meant that it's interesting. I messed up the intonation.”

“I guess I'll just buy it later then.”

We walk and take several turns before we end up at the entrance of an extremely long pier. The sun was fading into the mouth of the bay. Her facial expressions indicate a narrative thought process with the moral of the story being to avoid being trapped into a romantic situation. An escape route is planned.

“Well, there's this party later tonight, over in 'Frisco...” “People actually call it 'Frisco?”

She gives me the “oh, just shut up” look. The one that she's perfected.

“Anyway, all of my friends are going to be there, and I've told them some stuff about you, so they kind of want to meet you.” “Oh, I see.” “So, I should probably go home and change.”

She's the true master wordsmith. “I” meant “me and not – I repeat – not you”. We were halfway up the steps to the BART train platform before she completely clarified that she intended for me to do something else in the meantime. I insisted on holding hands while we sat together on the crowded rush hour train. “Our” trip was short as she preferred riding the train the one stop from Telegraph to her dorm instead of walking an odd mile. We shared another half-hearted hug as she walked away backwards, telling me that it was imperative that I catch the 9:34 train from the Lafayette station westbound so that we meet up in an organized fashion. I ride the train up and down the route until the appointed time, desperately trying to maintain the illusion that I have somewhere to go home to and

have nice clothes to dress up in.

By the time I catch the 9:34 train, it's 9:37. The car I ride in has several homeless people sleeping under newspaper bedspreads. I wave wildly through the tinted glass when the train pulls up to her stop, she sees my outline getting in it's aerobics and boards the correct car. I manage to get her to hold my hand for the duration of the ride excluding one brief moment where we agreed to release on account of mutual sweatiness. Just three blocks south of the BART stop was our destination, a cookie cutter yellow row house with its sole distinguishing mark being a circle of twenty-year olds around a keg on the stoop.

Upon entering the house, I realized that this night was going to be a rough one. None of the eyes glancing in my direction look happy to see me. They alternate between mild amusement and a view into a Clint Eastwood western. The world is a madly oscillating “woo-ooh-ooo, wah wah waaaaah”. She wanders off into a crowd of talking heads with bodies attached with Chinese glue. The eyes stop glancing at me a few minutes after I've definitively proven that I'm much too timid a beast to bite.

The punch bowl is my only friend, neither of us are spiked yet. I spot Roxy's patent pending hair through the thickets of teenagers. It's bouncing back and forth. She must be laughing. I'm not making her laugh. I'm not over there. Why doesn't she love me anymore?

...

Cut the crap. This night is gonna just have to be what I make it. Where's the booze? All the indoorsmen drink a cocktail of half orange juice, half cranberry juice, half seltzer water... wait a minute... this doesn't add up. Where's the liquid courage? The boys on the stoop. The keg. This night

is just gonna have to be what I make it and I'm determined to make a fool of myself. Chicks can't resist a drunk, horny and desperate ex-boyfriend.

I'm going to go outside. I'm going to go outside and drink. I'm going to go out there, introduce myself by saying something like “what's up, motherfuckers?” They will be instantly impressed by my willingness to swear at complete strangers and they are going to pass me a cup. I'm going to turn around, and walk away from this punch bowl. Walk away from it forever. Right... now. Alright, I just need to take a deep breath. Hooooo, whoooo. I'm going, right... now. Now. Nnnn... now. Dammit.

An older man with dreadlocks and bulging, bloodshot eyes approaches me with an inflated brown paper bag. A greenish mist is escaping out of the top. His eyes scope out the room to find a more entertaining greenhorn to initiate. He eventually settles on me.

“Hey, man, you should try this.” he says, shivering out syllables. “What is it?” I innocently inquire. “No, Andrew, don't have any!” Roxy almost screams.

She was watching the scenario from a distance and figured it was in our mutual self-interests to intervene. I would later come to find out that although nobody knew this gentleman's real name, the concoction within the bag was universally referred to as “time killer”.

“What's the worst that can...”

I fail to finish my sentence as the thirty-year old lunatic puts the inhaling end of the bag to my mouth and gestures instructions along the line of...

“Just breathe deeply, man.” “Goddammit.”

Roxy's voice fades away slowly, as it seems it's taking her well over a minute to say this last word. Every syllable is multi-syllabic. Every sound has birds chirping and fish splashing in the background. Several peripheral partygoers crowd around me and begin to laugh. I expel the gases in a series of lung-bending coughs.

On my watch, minutes pass as if seconds, hours pass as if nothing at all. I don't recall drinking anything I shouldn't have, the bottles of Drano were as full the next morning as when I'd first met them. I don't believe any crimes were committed and if any were, I believe that the case would be dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Whatever happened, we both lived through it.

I came to with my head resting on her shoulder. Without moving it, I peered out into the haze. I was on a BART train, the car was empty and the atmosphere outside was infinite dark. I started to nuzzle up to her and she expressed no opposition. I grew bolder and bolder still with my movements. She started to react with prejudice when I started to make out with her ear.

“Andrew, stop it.”

“Stop it” sounds an awful lot like “please, continue” when you're coming down from whatever it was that I inhaled whenever it was. “Stop it” signifies it's true meaning once it is joined together with a sharp uppercut to the jaw.

“What was that for?” I mumble. “Don't act so familiar with me, we're just friends now.”

Something about my behavior in between my moments of consciousness has gravely offended her. More than a drunk with dreams of erotic grandeur has sparked this sudden and strong distaste.

“What's wrong?” I honestly have no memory of the last... I don't know how long it's been. “Well, it could be when you beat up that panhandler because you didn't like the font of his sign.” She says it like I wasn't there, which is appropriate, because I wasn't there. “When the hell did I do that?” “About an hour ago.”

What? I've never beaten up anybody in my life. I've never been in anything resembling a fight, well, at least not since third grade.

“You nearly killed him.” “What?” “Two guys coming out of a bar pulled you off of him. It took a fifth of rum and fifty bucks to stop him from running away and finding a cop.” “What a ripoff.” That gas was still acting it's nefarious magic on my vocabulary. “Are you serious? That's not funny at all. That's sick.” “Yes. Yes, it is.” “What also might be pissing me off is the part where you grabbed the karaoke mic out of Karen's hand and told that detailed story of how you got a stripper's number and then you asked for a show of hands as to whether you should have sex with her or not.”

“Damn it. If it makes you feel any better, I never meant for you to hear that.”

Her mouth made an o-shape. Her eyebrows caved in. Intoxicated or not, she had never been more disgusted by anything. She said nothing. I expected her to say something along the lines of “how would that make me feel better?” or in a perfect world: “Thank you for saying that, that heals all wounds between us.” But, she said nothing. She became a spectator to the trees, seas and occasional billboard. I looked the opposite direction and saw a poster with emergency evacuation sign in an alphabet too blurry to read. I was puzzled as to why the stick/man would want to jump from a burning train onto an electrified track. As in all other moments of crisis in my life thus far, I tried to break the ice and make nice with lyrics from the choruses of post-grunge songs.

“I will treat you well, my sweet angel, so help me Jesus.” “You never believed in god, why are you pretending to start now?”

She moves to the other side of the car and we make awkward eye contact every thirty seconds or so. An orange glow is growing in the east. Some monster is rising from the ocean floor.

“It was actually... a song lyric.” It's a labor to get more than three words out between burps.

She ignores me wholeheartedly. Eventually the Berkeley stop closest to her housing arrangement arrives and she hurries for the opening door.

“Bye.” I shout to her. “Have a nice life.” She says with a stinging intent. I now know how it feels to have your vindication forcibly repossessed.

The door closes and the movement of the train disembarking makes it feel as if she's running away twice as fast. The scenery slowly blends from suburban into urban, sights of Victorian bungalows give way to wannabe skyscrapers.

“Oakland Chinatown, next stop. Oakland Chinatown, next stop.”

I slowly get up. The lack of sleep, as well as the chaotic braking of the train gives me an unsteady gait. With a lurch, the train stops and the doors jet open like on old episodes of Star Trek. The platform floats above the developing metropolis, the cement is steady. I walk past benches and newly filled newspaper dispensers and towards the lengthy flight of stairs down to the curb. The next train will be filled with commuters, but I am the first traveler of the day upon these steps. Step, step, step. I realize half way down that I am going nowhere. I got off at this stop because it sounded fascinating, but the wonder has evaporated.

I sit down on the steps and cover my eyes in my hands. My cold hands. Blood is engorging my eyelids, they boil. When the coolness no longer helps, I drag my hands down to cup my knees. The windows of the skyscrapers in front of me are polished to a mirror finish. They reflect and amplify the first light of dawn. The meaning of life finally finds me, and depresses while it uplifts. I finally get it... sunrises are beautiful because nothing else is.

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