< how smooth goes the long slender orange feminine flame

So anyway, Laura’s in the bathroom puking her guts out because that’s what she does and I’m just breaking Kit-Kats down the middle, eating one and then the other, sucking on them, and waiting until either the sun comes rising up or someone else’s gotta use the bathroom so bad that they call the police, because if there’s one thing girls in nowhere-city So-Cal know how to do it is interface with local law enforcement, especially with those serve-and-protect buzz-cuts who have already done-and-had-it for the night because basically anyone who’s worth their shit past the seventh grade is testing their limits right now in any way that you could possibly name, you see. Someone gets hit by a car, someone chokes on their vomit, someone just lets their wrists out in the bathtub, you see. The night goes on. Catherine’s cakey white Bride-of-Frankenstein type of gettup doesn’t hide the hickeys all the way down her neck, and Jennifer is looking green around the gills, which is kind of funny or ironic or telling because Ashley is the one who came as a mermaid, and has let the fly of the slick green scaled shiny tarpaulin thing binding her legs together down and open so that she can breathe, poor girl, fanning herself with some of Lyssie’s dad’s newspapers, but not the ones from today, so it’s probably okay though who fucking knows with that guy, all while two clam-shells do god’s hard work, holding her up, poor girl. Laura comes out and Catherine calls her a skinny bitch—Laura smiles, and it is not pretty. Then Ashley goes in, doesn’t get the door closed, no sir, but does get her mouth somewhere near the bowl because the sound is really fucking on-the-mark, resonant, evocative and even Catherine, who has swallowed some nasty shit in her day, is looking a little out of it. Like the whole room is turning. Like it is a little bit of a bad place. But, see, the thing is that it isn’t; I know, you see. Ashley can’t hold things down anyway—she’s got basically no choice in the matter, like it was meant to happen that she spews every fucking time without wanting to or anything. I suck another Kit-Kat, sitting on a large futon-like thing picked up for cheap by Lyssie’s parents in their urge to buy out the Third World, which, by the way, wherever the fuck Lyssie is I don’t know, no one does, because Lyssie is fucking elusive, which is one of the only traits I can really get behind around here. She knows when to be flat out gone. Either reading a book or nursing a cigarette, both of which would get her fucking laid in college except that she’s not gonna go because she’s gonna off herself just before senior year, you see. I can see it. Jennifer’s sort of inflamed décolletage might be due to the heat, or maybe cause every year we figure out she’s slightly allergic to nuts but, god, does she fucking love them. It is like a show. It is like a costume ball met an obstacle course and did the dirty. Somehow Catherine’s white lead-based whatever probably carcinogenic face paint, shiny or anemic or just sort of wet under the tubed CFLs, has migrated to manual streaks on her pellucid midriff which, like, wasn’t she only gone for like five minutes, that boy must have really hustled, which means I of course start thinking about whether or not you can give yourself (i.e. orally) a reasonable hickey which, I guess works up until somewhere until the mid-boob or maybe the outer collarbone if you’re going wide instead of down, but beyond that seems really infeasible, which means that this boy was sucking like a fucking mosquito during those three to five lickety-split minutes during when we stopped at the local and well, there’s no better way to say it, ‘boy-girl’ thing. Not everyone’s parents are conservative around here but most of them are and that means pearls, tiny gold wristwatches, forcing young bodies into childhood beauty pageants, and tight curfews. It’s like all the cool parents OD’ed in the 80s. But somehow we found this place—like the world permitted just a few beach-blond knocked-up hippies to live to see the day, which it never ever does, you see. But then again. And their failure kids are loose and popular. And so you end up outside of where we were, trying maybe to push away some wayward toddler in clown-makeup who’s somehow showed up—him clutching what appears to be a broken beer bottle he found, like some sort of prison shiv—back towards wherever he (the masked kid, totally alone) came from. The smell of carmel apples and bong smoke. I can remember clearly Catherine lightly touching her hand to just above her ribby sternum when we were waiting just outside the door with a dream-catcher on it, as if she were fondling some dainty locket she did not own, saying, in some saccharine mock-southern-belle-ish way, big shitty grin, oh, that smells like alcohol. Which is ruined then cause she says it like it’s nail-polish remover, you see. Who am I to judge? You bet your ass you and I know both how she finally kicks it, you see, it’s that easy. Feels good. You turn it into a fucking joke. Ashley was of course during all this freezing from the waist up, despite her natural protection, all goosebumpy, Jennifer was I guess Marilyn Monroe or whatever maybe just after filming Something’s Got to Give, and Laura was shotgunning something from Culvers because that’s what she does. I think there is some sort of theme and so I am an Audrey Hepburn type of thing, sporting dark wraparounds as if there is something in front of me that I do not want to ever see, and a long cigarette holder made out of something we stole from Lyssie’s parents’ house from a shelf of maybe tribal relics or something, because it’s hard to say. Five minutes later we are out and Catherine is like a new woman and Laura’s finished the whole damn custard shake, and so now, bam, here I am licking chocolate off crunchy wafer twinned sticks and listening to Ashley go for a couple minutes strong, back arching like a cat and wet dribbly sounds punctuating the upheaval of rectilinear chunks, boluses, vomitus, kibble, and thinking maybe it’s indicative of the fact that we are a fucked up but somehow a karmically or zen balanced sort of group, maybe simply because we have vomiting down to a neat schedule, or maybe because of something more innate or starting at birth or starting at that fucking summer camp that Lyssie’s parents paid for back in the third grade during which two of the counselors did the four legged whatever against the backdrop of the Carlsbad desert which is flat and projects, during the terminal gasps of sunset, any protruding figures along with maybe their hopes and dreams or something in massive real-time silhouette so that every young big-eyed kid gets to see and sexually develop afterward with the memory of it burning bright and strong and true. It might be because I am a little bit superstitious. They all think I read Tarot, which isn’t exactly how it is but has made for some pretty damn good nights because, and I know these girls down cold, the only thing keeping most anybody afloat here is plausible deniability of the effects of their own actions. Nobody wants to be holding the last or short straw or the dirty needle or the bottle of pills that fucked the night up because, well (1), seems rude and feels in-the-moment bad, but that’s like second grade stuff, but also (2), there is not much you can do to keep yourself from feeling the earthly adult guilt—no amount of fresh fruit from the valley is going to fix that. No way José. Mascara can’t do it all honey. Laura eats it, Catherine fucks it, Jennifer is really good at repeating things she hears and learning to believe them as truth, Ashley maybe runs or something, and Lyssie just disappears. And I’m just a little superstitious, which, if you ask me, is the real trick for getting rid of just about anything, and the girls know this, i.e. for forgetting what is right in front of you because, to be honest, what we need is not a wall to stop us—walls invite themselves to be climbed or graffitied or turned into political statements, while the thing I am talking about—the thing which cannot be crossed or trespassed or even approached too closely—is something far less sexy and pretty much way more common or basic, appearing in dreams, and the places we buy our food, and in every little girl whose mom frowns in the mirror in the morning where she (the young big-eyed daughter) can see and get all sorts of impressions. The Kit-Kat breaking in my hands feels like I am killing a mouse, the way it snaps. I will allow myself this one indulgence. I do not like to look away from the hard truth, you see. But it is not what it immediately appears—just wait for it. It is not clear if living together successfully means being considerate of everyone around you, or controlling your particular flavor of bad habit long enough so that when you do indulge—when you do go down the mountain—odds are that no one is doing it along with you and so you can go in peace. That breath of relief when the elevator opens and there’s no one fucking there and you can like pick your teeth or scratch something with gusto during the ride, all the way down. That you are not in anyone else’s way, but totally yourself. So why has everyone got a fear of elevators, when hardly anyone ever dies in them? you see. That’s the thing. But then again this (the whole idea of guilt as a thing that is the worst thing) is probably also one of those things that, if you let it get to you—if you let the idea fully into your head or pants or whatever—can leave you feeling all used up and spent like, I don’t know, hooker money—like there was something valuable or pristine inside of you to begin with, which is pretty fucking clever and destroying on the part of this whole place called earth, if I get any say in it. Cause the thing that I am talking about which is so forbidding and blocking in a way that a wall or standard impediment can never be, is a combination of apathy and a tiny desire to be guilty, be responsible, be part of the team that brought it all tumbling down—to think that you saw something coming, and made the decision to keep going where that dirty river was taking you anyway—maybe something Christian in there—it means you’ve seen how it goes; it means your mother makes eyes, your dad divorces her, and you learn to love two Christmases, even though you see what’s gonna happen, oh how it’s gonna fuck you up, on that upcoming morning of, you see, even if it’s a big joke—Catherine knows it, because she’s already started ideating on her body as something with nigh monetary value that has now (re fucking) been irretrievably lost or soiled, and Lyssie knows it because she has already tried to get really really far away, and will one day succeed, and even Jennifer, who loves to lie and to tell lies, knows it because I guess if she is the Marilyn Monroe of the group, and is married to some Arthur Miller, she is also the one who in the end is going to get into that pool naked and show the world her totally bare skin, fake hair, and how many sleeping pills she can guzzle. It all makes sense. And the thing is that one way to see it is like all the bad shit was maybe designed or somehow intended to be this way by beings with no real faces who, while similar to your mother, or your camp counselor, or your priest, or your next door neighbor, exhibit the key fundamental difference of having just a little fucking control over how things are going to go, be, or end—retaining the ability to blow a little cold air down your neck, or flip over a bone-china teacup or something else just as ominous spooky and seemingly benign but still physical and the real shit, just to let you know they’re there. Like it arouses them. I think if ghosts exist then they are doing it for sexual pleasure. Cause what freaks people out isn’t the end, it’s the getting there and the afterwards. How certain things can tip the scale, like a shiver, or a room feeling like it just got a little smaller. Ghost shit. But here’s the secret—here’s why it’s actually a big fucking joke. So maybe I’ve got to make like a ghost, because otherwise I’m gonna be just like the rest of the girls here—worrying that what I do, what I see, what I know and am is actually gonna do something to someone else or even me—recoiling and clinging onto instead that something spooky, something cinematic, is actually gonna end this fucking campfire tale once and for all and that something out of their hands is gonna whisper the bell bongs of death instead. The truth is that everyone’s got that whisper power, they’re just shitty at it. Something ought to change, everyone can agree. Not them though. What I see every day is just every day average shittiness, like it simply has to be. Because at the end of the day the real ghosts just want to get off and then leave and go back to where they came from, like they’ve got lives, or little ghost jobs, or open ghost relationships where they keep asking their little ghost partner ‘what are we?’ or ‘I feel like you just look right through me,’ or ‘sometimes it feels like you’re not even there,’ or ‘you never satisfied me in bed, you bitch.’ Hard to change though. Lyssie is still gone, probably reading The Catcher in the Rye, for something like the ninth fucking time. She’s been gone so fucking long that all the vomiting is quieting down, which means that something has got to happen—things have to move forward and progress and change and come to a head or reach the breaking point, someone calling someone else a whore and a liar, but all I do is slip back on the sunglasses and go back to disrobing Kit-Kats like slutty red bananas the size of my two first fingers. I whisper myself up this pleasure, out of nothing, so it simply must be. It is like how it is when you see your mom put presents under the tree—immense power, almost erotic. The place is carpeted; it is a basement; everything is some shade of cream or dark grained wood or, I don’t know, stucco, adobe, kitschy shit, and weak light drips down from the high up tiny windows, throwing large slender shadows from trees or bushes onto the high-pile carpet like pervy fingers of the dead, all while Ashley eats a gummy-worm, which is appropriate and funny because of the half-fish thing and cause she doesn’t know how it’s all going to end for her, you see, and Jennifer then verbally slurs out that the fish-worm thing is funny, doesn’t everyone notice, she says, and then goes back to making up how she’s gonna describe the night to someone if they just happened to ask, you know, casually, even though they won’t, you see. Now it would be textbook sad except for all this affirmation I personally have of how it’s going to go and be and what really matters right now for everyone in the room. Who they aren’t gonna say goodbye to. It’d make you want to cry. It would make you ache. It would put you off of sex or drugs. So what. The sad thing is that some of them aren’t even that memorable, and I have a hard time putting together what is really them, and what is actually just what I think about them, paired with what I know about how it’s going to turn out because, when it comes down to it, it does not take much to be tragic, only to be so uniquely and mystifyingly. Everyone gets a candlelight vigil; everyone gets someone who wishes they could’ve done the dirty with them when they still could’ve. It takes a little more work or elbow grease to keep the mystery alive or the people thinking or the audience coming back for more. To become a ghost story with some punch or some glandular ache. There has got to be something in the story that the audience can’t see and which is more complex than you can imagine, events transpiring that you cannot imagine, but the whole thing still close enough to the everyday that you can imagine that it cannot be imagined, no matter how hard you might try, no matter what you might do, no matter where you take your mortal body. So the real question is how to live, when you see what I see, and the answer is pretty damn simple when you know what ghosts really are, you see. Catherine is rubbing one of her hickeys like the Buddha. Laura’s hands are resting on her stomach like it is a peach that will bruise oh so easy. Ashley and Jennifer are on the ground and curled up like the twin boys of Gemini. Their mouths look wet. They breathe. But the night has to go somewhere or else it is going to fall flat and no one is going to ever do anything, right? Nothing is coming. Nothing can come right now, to this place. And inside of the bag right in front of me, one shaped like a big orange pumpkin and made of soft cloth, leaves and stem and familiar orange skin and a triangular-eyed face smiling incredibly wide, are Sprees and Smarties and Skittles and M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces and Twix and Snickers and Milk Duds and Mike and Ikes and Carmel Apple Pops and Cow Tales and Fun Dip and Sourpatch Kids and Jujubes and Gobstoppers and Red Hots and Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Suckers and Oreos and Necco Wafers and Mounds and Almond Joys and Nut Goodies and Baby Ruths, Milky Ways, 100 Grands, Pay Days, Nestle Crunch and Mr. Goodbars and Butterfingers and Hersheys and even Sun-Maid Raisins and Pop Rocks and Trolli Crawlers and Gushers, Airheads, Nerds and Lifesavers and Jelly Belly Beans and Starbursts and Twizlers and Dots, Ring Pops, Red Vines and Candy Corn, and looking at it, the bounty, the mess of colors like a forest that wont stop growing, it feels like you cannot see anything through the colors, even though you know each and every one intimately and by name. As if you could easily miss what it is you really want. What’s really there. What is really making your mouth water and your mind go crazy. It feels like your head is going to pop off but also the very best thing in the world. The smell of wrappers, and chocolate with wax, and nylon fabric worn from years of use and saturated by the oils of confection. There is nothing scary about it—there is nothing scary inside the bag. And at about this time I start thinking, looking out at all the sleepers, how quiet it is. How I can hear the toilet leak. How there is a nightlight down the hall and in the corner, one which has been there for as long as I can remember, because of her fear, from back when we were kids, and how I am a guest in this house. How I feel when I open the fridge or use the hand soap. I’ve never been able to turn my eyes to myself, you see—to look in the mirror and see how it’s all going to end up for me—what’s finally gonna do me in. I want to know. It is not like it is in the movies, where they do not want to know. Where they regret that they do know, cause it’s a ghost or something. It’s never a ghost. Of course. Ghosts are like children, you see. In sleep, like death, you see, it is like all of the worst things got taken somewhere else—like all of those things had been pure structure, keeping the body from going soft and grey. What a fucking joke. I’m alone, the girls are breathing through their mouths, and Lyssie is off somewhere, like she always is, where exactly, I have no fucking clue. Does it matter? Straight answer: no. I whisper it and it is so and everyone just goes on sleeping. I see all of this shit about death and what a fucking joke. I am not afraid of ghosts. The Kit-Kats are making me feel sick. Soft disgusting chocolate all over my mouth as I go to sleep hard. Like a kid. A small nightlight in the corner down the hall that never goes out, out of principle. And really Lyssie is just outside on the front porch on her side, face pressed up close to the grin of a jack-o-lantern, smelling the edge of the smell of hot wax, crying, wondering and also paradoxically feeling proud and she doesn’t know maybe aroused over wondering whether she is really going to just fucking do it or not, watching how smooth goes the long slender orange feminine flame seemingly trying to get off its curling wick, showing to her the whole inside of the pumpkin which is like a ruined body and should never ever have been seen. She thinks and thinks. But all of this was hours ago, you see.

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