Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I: Portrait of a Stupid Little Shit

I am born crying, unemployed and without friends. I am too dumb to speak. My accomplishments are slim. I have few discerning qualities except for a discolored mark just above my ass. This remains true for some time although I haven’t looked for the mark in years. My mother almost dies giving birth. She’s in the hospital for a month. I am at home, sick but not particularly tiny. What would her life amount to, dead on the table, for me? The doctorate in liberal arts she earned while pregnant with my brother: would that be nothing now? Her colleagues decry the loss of her gift and genius. The obituary reads ‘mother of two, loving wife, revered professor, dead at twenty-seven. Opening in the language studies department.’ Our family and the unattached come and weep, looking at me aggrieved of what I had stolen from them. They don’t look at me that way now, but they should. I still get sick, but now it’s because of low potassium levels and a lack of competitive spirit. What happens to dad? My widowed father raises me and my brother with love occasionally evading taxes. He moves to the Bronx for machinist work and remarries to a Puerto Rican policewoman and her more engaging family. He stays in a crumbling apartment in Odessa and drinks himself to death in front of and eventually with us.

The first thing I almost do entering this world is kill my mother and by extension, destroy the lives and futures of my father and brother. My brother is made a junkie by fourteen in a Ukraine without a proper secondary school system and largely decaying carnival rides. He, unlike our friends and relatives, looks at me inscrutably as though this has happened. He lacks the primary confusion of the others as it comes to who carries the blame. Beginning at three years old, I start dumping his cars into my oatmeal. At sixteen, I refuse to eat breakfast in the house he keeps with his new wife because they’ve hidden my big breakfast spoon. Afterwards, we never really understand each other.

I hate these sorts of books. My wife hates them. We read fantasy adventure stories now because they are more imaginative and playful. America is filled with writers of technical manuals for farm equipment posing as honest brokers for the dispossessed. They tie themselves to grief like they’ve taken insurance out. They are Bosnian, Jewish, Ukrainian. They remember the last earthquake and pogrom but forget birthdays. There are jokes, but it ends sadly. I spend literally minutes pretending I am different. 

I could die in a tank-top and striped red Adidas two-piece track-suit. I could make abstract paintings in tribute to Diaspora in my mother’s loft but she doesn’t have a loft. My life-long fantasy is to avoid sweating. I take train rides with other alcoholics trying to come home to the borough before it stops being dark. I drive across the country in a moving truck going to California to discover that there is in fact a country and one day when I am old and finished and it is as close to death as I am, I will come back to visit. There are protests across the water because some people believe policemen should not shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at students and the policemen disagree.

No comments:

Post a Comment