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xix.

He’d been staying there a couple nights already, but today it was official. He was a full-fledged resident of the Porch House. Beginning of the month. December. It’s beginning to / look a lot / like christmas, dum da dee da dum—whistling beneath the sun, basking in the bright haven of the southern california climate. Chuckling. Though there were clouds coming in from over the ocean; he knew this. But for now the halfbleached wood held the sun’s heat well, he was shirtless, and the onset of a rare tranquility granted him a momentary calm—keeping his eyeyes open to gaze at the blu holding cotton circus tents, even though it stung from the luster of early afternoon. The temperature was mild, and there was a faint fragrance of sage that passt through in a breeze from the north, off the mountainsides. Thought to himself of old pagan ways, whatever they were, burning sage to ward off evil spirits; what then were the spirits that flowed in now, unburnt, into his nostrils and pushing up on his chest. Spirits from desert lands. Warm, bitter, dusty. Chuckled again. Sage runs in the wntr. Nick came in from the front door, munching on a granny smith. What’re you laughing at? Don’t talk with yr mouth full, Mick scolded him, it’s bad manners. Nicholas sat down beside. Dyou think there’s rain gonna come in soon? Mick looked over, to the west: maybe tomorrow night, morning after. It’ll be the first of the season. Is it wntr just yet, Nick asked him. I think so, I think it comes in with those clouds there, those seem like wntr clouds to me. He sat up and took the apple, bit into it.

thinking about trouble. mischief.

It’s a little arrogant, isn’t it? What is, Nick asks, tossing the core. This kind of laziness. Nick laughs, stands and pulls his friend to his feet. Yeh, I think so, buddy. What’s worse is if we lift a couple bottles of wine, then drink them at the park. Even worse is if we tap out the last of this little washington dub. We’re lingering around today, then, huh? Ray’s probably nearby slanging, we’ll catch him on a lunchbreak. // They picked up near-rusted bicycles from the garage, set off to dodge traffic, slapping the hood of Nando’s wrecked car on their way out.

sunrolling off their backs as they glide zipp i n g

through. day blossoming in vibrophone rings, hung on the turn of wheels and feet against pavement, lures of lullabies graduating into fantastic epics in orchestral waves.

Some sycamore standing across fields of mowed grass, crushdrock trails winding through, a small rosegarden planted in a court of brown/red brick, oaks scattering acorns for children and squirrels to collect.The playground equipment was old, but still supported throngs of kids roaming its calcified joints, their parents watching from the benches—people walking or jogging the path—lovers lying on blankets—loners tossing rocks or carving into trees or reading books or sitting crosslegged by the small pond, watching the turtles poke their heads up; the ducks had mostly flown off. Pulled their bikes in a backtrail that ran along ivycovered boulders and piled rocks, to a treefort they knew of. Nick had called up Ray, told him where to go. He was already waiting, rolling the joint when they let their bikes onto the ground and climbed inside, shaded in the confines of a juniper sprouting on a hill overlooking all. Seasons greetings, he said to them. He did not look up, but continued until the joint was finished&lit, and his two friends had caught their breath.

joking together, recounting the days recent, the days distant:

sharing hints of the burdens they carried on their backs, pretending to be celebrities and cartoons, sitting in silence and watching the lovers&loners, the clouds moving over them in an azure blush pierced in lighght. laughed&muttered;

tumbling conversation; Mick telling them about the binges that had depleted his stores of all resource; I’ll probably have to be selling the trailer soon, he says, but I wanna get back out once more, treasure it. Nick and Ray nodded in agreement. They rested without words, for each time they tried speaking out came only jumbles; chewed the butts of cigarettes and ylo-green straw. And thinking then thinking what was I just thinking then thinking what was I thinking about thinking just then thinking and then thinking about what I was just thinking about—dyou understand?

laughing laughing

crying laughing

laughing laughing

laughing crying

laughing! laughing!

laughing! laughing!!

beginning to lose the sense of tangible, of perceptible and real. Touching isn’t the same as it used to be—it’s this covering, a thin translucent membrane, some residue—of what world?—I dknow anymore. But it’s everywhere, on everything. Dyou ever feel it, too? Neither Ray nor Nicholas says a word, but each one nods in the affirmitave as they share a cigarette between them. Mick knocks knuckles on the floorboards. I hesitate, he continues, to touch my own skin lately, to fold my hands together, for fear that there I will discover this film, too, that it’s only a matter of time. Then what, am I not real? And (i) am not real. When children first see themselves in a mirror; what I’ve been thinking lately. Shit, man, I thought we were gonna find some kind of adventure. Is that what this is, Ray asks. Nick tells him it’s supposed to be. Then let’s do it, brothers, kill the bottle and ditch the evidence. They climb down, lazily swagger across park fields, toward deeper runs of the city, where trouble and liberation are one in the same, where criminals are victimized and outlaws delve in for shits&giggles. Playing makebelieve pirates like little boys do, stepping in exaggerated struts to their favorite haunts, the loitering places. Store fronts of smokeshops and liquor stores, underneath bridges, empty lots, construction sites, avenue benches. Dumpster diving behind the bakery for sweets. As they stroll by a diner wndow Ray tells them: look here boys, if yr hungry we can eat food fast rather than push dimes for fast food. That thinks-he’s-sillier-than-hell look in his eyeyes, moving before they had time to think, thrust into the sound of clanging dishes&cutlery, bubble of gristle, the smell of grease, sliding in to devour unfinished food on prematurely abandoned tables; sneaking in, wait til a round of people has passt through, play the part pick off remains. Mick watches the bussers make their pass, table to table—the place was cheap eats, frequented by careless eaters, or at least those whom relented to careless eating for the sake of going out—though Mick loves going out. Spectacle and sparkle. Drinks overflow. Flashes of fogged whisky nighghts stretch out of focus inside his head, an old projection film of bright lights and playing cards being dealt over raw grit money, the devil’s coal itself. But at least this place has big portions with plenty leftovers to waste, even if there is only the last slurps of cola still in the glass mixed with halfmelted ice, and the cheese has cooled to a solidified rubber splatter. A waiter comes toward them, staring. They scoop the last bits of their hit&run snack, take off rejoicing and howling their victories. The high teases them; maybe dine&dash for dinner. But that’s later; for now they stroll along grabbing lightposts, kicking dead flowr beds into dirtclouds: plume out then fall over the approach of dusk. The sun crashes like a spilled egg over the telephone wires and flatroofed tradeshops; they walk nearer the warehouse district, where the light is trapped by the surface of buildings like canyon ridges, so that shadows fill the alleys, roads, and canals. In Ray’s backpack are a few cans of spraypaint, which he takes out as they step undercover—are silent except for the marble rolling as they shake—they are in a dark gallery, eyeyes adjusting as the sun sets to moonglow revealing twisted distortions of colord languange and murals emblazoned almost shining vibrant audacity, surrounded by a harmonious backdrop of scribbled tags of those who have passt through, who have been drunk here and drowned here.

They set their slogans to the wall, their happy tidings of insolence: blu sunday for all, kno moneybags kno, brew cantos and meltingpot freeloaders. Mick laughs at himself, writes again and again: freeloader brass. freeloader brass. Continued walking as they painted the walls, save for when Nick begins something elaborate:

Ray packs a bowl to last til he’s done, when they admire stoned and scramble at the sound of a car coming around the corner, finding themselves lost in the maze; the distant sound of traffic guides them, lures them over with an engine- rattling hum, coaxes them in their isolated anxiety with promises of anonymity. Panic subsides, lets the rush catch up and inflate their minds lightheaded panting excited for the chase, the risk. Once on a main road they follow it to the downtown croaks&clubs, to maybe catch some living music, sum up the crowds. There’s a jazz spot on cahuenga boulevard, a fusion hop, that caters to winos and peasants. When they show up there’s a tenor blaring overblown distortions of pitch while synthetic bop pours from the electronic contraption in front of one of the players, adjusting knobs and twisting ribbons of sound that form from his algorithmic improvisations, to which the saxophonist reacts with eccentric ire. While they watch Mick taps his fingers against the table, swollen from spilt alcohol, lit by a small candle at the center. Remembrs scales, can imagine strings or keys beneath his fingers, the steps of a trumpet, crawling into that familiar trance— was being somewhere else entirely—loss absolute: of the self completely; there is some distinction here, something that must be drawn, because an immense weight pushing him against the ground makes it impossible to calculate his gains&losses. Or know which is which. Has he been winning or losing. Struggles to contain his own laughter, as to not disrupt the whole concert, and as he chokes it down mutters to himself, what are the fucking odds. Nick pats him on the back while Ray hands him a flask under the table, which he swigs in stealth—bourbon. Mick puts his arms around their shoulders, pulls them close: gravity, dyou get it, it’s all this force—pressure building inside&out—you have to feel it, too.The weight of it all, the tight bind of everything in a spherical crunch. I think I might crack soon. Ray tells him it sounds like yr crackd already. And what spills out, then—what spills out? Catch a bus back toward home. Nick and Ray beside, across from Mick, who sits alone. There are a few others onboard, a couple bums, old crusted men old dusted wymn, young thugs and young parents.Their tired children, leaning against their arms. Mick closes his eyeyes to listn to the sounds they make, mumblings and secret conversations about deals, appointments, if there’s any ketchup still in the fridge—weezing, coughing, sneezing, sniffling—bags&packs rattling, feet tapping against the brooding hum of the engine beneath them, flourescent lights clicking as they flicker over potholes. His two friends are talking about wandring to the quarry before calling it a night, the moon is full, afterall. A fire in the dry creekbed if they can find the wood, or old garbage left for rot—busted furniture is in good supply. Mick only listns, tries to imagine rhythms in the melded assimilation of noises—piecing a flow semblance calm as the desert, a music of vast silence, what spills off of it, lands in puddles musaics—giggles to himself, but says nothing to the two of them giving him odd looks then resuming their own conversation.

Thinks in invisible harmonies, a choir haunting in its dispassionate exposure of beauty—stings, can feel it, but remembrs just the desert, seeing nothing else. Where everything grows and lives close to the earth, bellies against it. // They exit and begin the walk uphill toward the fences on the edge of town.

there is something left—in my core; center—as yet unfulfilled, and so much now—it seems like a waste. terrifies me. (i) have gone—where have (i) gone? lately my eyeyes wandr, if they aren’t already closed: ; and for the rest—as if the sky breathes, though is empty—and those clouds so lonesome shine across the sea—(i) heard it sung, so it must be wntr rolls shining like that; and (i) been led down the river. my body, too, floats in the waters—and this core, like a hunger insatiable, eternal, ravenous—still it remains. (i) do not eat, though my mouth tastes of dirt, and when (i) drink water the mud fills my throat—food all tastes the same. (i) do not taste. and nothing feels, (i) told you this, and nothing feels. nothing.

thinking about stars lately, where (i) can see them, in the desert—here, maybe, if the clouds hadn’t come in so quick—but out there, yknow, it’s open. can see the stars. dirt in my mouth. maybe (i) am the dirt.

looking up

at the heavens, understand. to find composure, or to compose:

spatial

balance.

We lived there. Though many came through, in and out, they slept in corners and closets. On the porch if the weather was nice. But us, we had rooms, ysee, private quarters. We lived there. Our rooms were cells in which we were the nuclei, while the rest roamed freely, into and out of these walls. We were anchored. Downstairs they maybe rolld dice and broke furniture for the fireplace, drank, smoked, yelled out over each other’s cries—fought, ate, and most importantly, slept. In the wntr we mostly turned inward, became confined upstairs, sometimes meeting in the hall, Nick&Nando sharing a cigarette, waiting for the bathroom. We rarely went downstairs, nonetheless outside, subsisting mostly on what others had left, and were often completely alone. Silent. Just to reassure ourselves we’d sometimes speak through the walls, just yeh and yeh back. Each of us knew. Alone together. It was Nando’s place technically, the only one on the lease agreement, which he managed alongside their eighty-year-old landlady, whom he and Nick had met through the mamacita, and was a hair’s width from being completely senile. But the three of us scraped rent together, subsidized by donations from passers-by and taking a small sum from Ray’s medicine sales; we were, after all, the primary investors, and moved a little ourselves on occasion. But the wntr, beginning just as (i) moved in, we mostly just ly there—inactive. Thinking to ourselves of what maybe we’d like to do.

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