NEUTRAL SPACES

NEUTRAL

SPACES

Stream #03

26th Jan - 1st Feb 2019

cy
Cy Twombly



Now, listen to me.
Listen to me.

Sit down. We're taking pictures
for my parents. Do you understand that?

We're taking pictures
like we're a couple.

Like we like each other.
Like we're husband and wife.

We span time together.
We span time together as a couple.

'Cause we're a loving couple,
spanning time.

These photos are us in love,
spanning time.

No bullshit faces.
No funny faces.

Just look like you like me.
That's all l want.

― Buffalo '66




* * *


We left to hit up an ATM, arguing the whole way there about how much money we could take out at a time.

I was the optimistic one. You were the right one. The ATM was just an innocent bystander.

You took what came out of the machine and folded it in half. You walked with your head down, away from the machine.

I put my card back into the machine. The screen flashed red and buzzed.

Did that really happen? Since when did they buzz at you?

I felt People behind me.

I took my card out.

- No, I don't want a receipt

I felt those people look.

I felt you look.

I turned away from you and walked back to the car. We only had half of what we needed. The line of people by the machine got smaller.

There was no more buzzing.

At breakfast you didn’t talk. You just ate your eggs and stared across the gravel parking lot. I followed your gaze out of necessity, thinking about how silence is a kind of sinkhole, a relentless expanding.

Pretty soon we were both just staring at nothing. Highway traffic. I had eaten half of what was in front of me. We seemed to be leaving fractions in our wake, everyhing we touched.

“So what now?” You asked. “Just drive and hope it works out?”

I listened to the soft crush of gravel and watched a white Cadillac pull out of the parking lot. I let have a silence pass as I looked at the cactus blossom in the window.

I guess I didn’t like that you had to ask me or something. “What else?” I said.

A truck carrying a load of chickens in cages rushed along the highway.

Across the highway and the desert the mountain had turned a pale purple in the early morning sun.

A pickup with a fishing cooler attached to the grill pulled in. Followed by a cop.

“Let’s just go” I said.

I saw you hesitate before you nodded. It was brief, but it was there. A fraction of a second. Just long enough to register.

He's a box of death
you're tempted to open
though it's addressed
to some other victim.
He’s the guy on every girl's
terrorist watch-list.

He whispers to his knife, ok,
everyone has quirks
but he's got a tongue like a lizard,
a cock like Christmas.

He’s a lot of fun when he’s not
looking at porn.

He wires your pussy like an IED,
then watches from a safe distance
when you finally explode
in some other guy’s arms.


Gravel sprays up in the wake of our car. Beads of sweat form above his lips. I turn on the radio. He snaps it off.

No funny faces.

There was still the rest of the money to consider.

I looked at the faces on the money in my hand.

They seemed evil.



I wanted to tell you I was going to buy you a life. That I would conquer the desert for you. To be a disappearing act that left you breathless.

But something was wrong. He wasn't on my frequency.

"No more ATMs." he said. "From now on, only flesh and bone. We're being watched. We're being followed. If you can get some cash-back with a coffee or a doughnut, do that. I don't want to hear anymore buzzing. If I hear another buzz like that, I'm calling this whole thing off. The cameras are calling out to their brothers and sisters. Someone is watching us. Our picture has been processed. No more upturned noses. Go into the next store, and buy a cap and shades. See if they have any phony mustaches. We're going incognito. It's just like looking at porn, babe. Oh, and ask them if you can get some cash back with that. I don't know when we'll come across another store, and I'm starting to get scared. They've mapped our moles. They know our movements."

"Relax baby" I say.

We pass two black-cloaked vultures hunched along the side of the road picking at a jackrabbit carcass.

"Just relax," I say so softly that probably only I can hear it.

The road has shoulders with ghosts on hanging over them.

I touch his shoulder.

He pushes my hand away.

I know he wishes he didn't do that.

He's basically a baby with a five o'clock shadow on his skull.

"It's not too late to learn to play guitar and write country songs," I think to myself. I could get a job at a bar and sing my songs at night for the truckers. I could get out of the car at Jasper and forget about all of this.

I continued with this fantasy for another 10 miles.

Then I started sweating.

It started to set in. What was happening. What wasn't happening.

What could happen. What wouldn't happen.

The sweat flash froze on my skin. Then simmered off in the heat. Then came back as lapping waves.

Stuck in a loop.

My stomach started to cramp. And the sun looked mean.

I started to wonder if I could peel off bills without him noticing. If I could bank on his inattention to detail to put together some other options.

How many bills could I peel off at a time? A familiar thought. ATMs within ATMs.

A strange loop. Eternal recurrence, I thought. Except I didn't think it: I said it aloud.

"Eternal recurrence?" he said.

"Nietzsche," I said. "The idea that everything repeats."

He snorted. "That's not what eternal recurrence means." He explained that the eternal recurrence was at the center of Nietzsche's ethical vision: one should judge each action as if one were doomed to repeat it forever. The only good actions were therefore those that one was content to relive. Those that you would never regret.

We argued about this for a while. I peeled off a bill.

We passed a sign that read: Jasper 100 miles.

He was still going on eternal recurrence.

I peeled another.

“Let’s just put on the radio, baby,” I said. I turned the knob. Then I reached up and stroke his neck. He grunted but I kept it there.

"I know I need a small vacation." It was Glen Campbell on the radio. "But it don't look like rain. And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain."

"Fuck it," he said. "Nietzsche is for high schoolers anyway."

"Who do you like?" I said, working out another bill. "Heidegger? Kant? Descartes?"

"Descartes?" He batted my hand off his neck. My other hand froze. "Are you serious?" He stared at the road for a few seconds. "You fucking know I'm a Spinozist."

"And the Wichita lineman is still on the liiiiine..."

He reached with my hand and changed the dial to his favorite porn station. The guy can be such a sweetheart, if I can just keep him from the sweet meats. First it starts as a neck stroke, and then yada yada, there he is, grunting about ATMs and eternal loops, saying, "Baby, loop it. Give me the ol' ring around. I want to Spinoz you!"

I understand what he's getting at. I'm as aware as he is that we've got to keep our libidos juiced if we hope to avoid the feds.

"Loop it." he's saying. "Give me it on repeat!"

I'm peeling bills and using them as tissues again.

"Anything to keep the feds away..." He's grunting. "I just hate the pigs. I hate them so damn much."

What did I care? I was a Pythagorean. Not much else a woman could be.

He finished. A few drops of substance, or whatever Spinoza would call it.

Another sign goes by. Sixty miles to Jasper.

I looked down at all the skin I had peeled off my thumbs, thin sheen of blood under a dinged up membrane, scuffed nails, old polish.

He reached deep in the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a piece of tinfoil.

I broke off tiny fractions of it. Ground them with the bottom of my lip gloss. We sniffed.

“I’m in love again...”

He nods for a second. The tires skidded on the gravel. He jerked the wheel back.

“Maybe we’ll stop in Jasper,” he said. “Get some coffee and run the cards for cash back.”

“Yeah,” I hummed. I put my sunglasses on. I lost a little time then. Five seconds or five minutes.

It's all the same when time keeps rolling like the wheels of the car and the cash from our worn down fingertips.

"Just hold that dial." he's saying, the sun going down and our shades going up.

That Jasper stop was only seconds away. So long as we kept burning our rubber and rubbing our libidos, we'd get there, and there wasn't a damn thing any of those pig cops could do to keep us from it.

"Except for me, son." says the one who stops us. He's got shades of his own on and a suit to match. I'm sure that he's got a gun, but I'm too distracted by his big noggin basket to notice.

"Excuse me officer." you said "Can you please take that thing off. I want to believe you. I want to take you seriously, but with that thing on, all I see is a stupid Spinozian. We're just trying to get to Jasper. It's been hours, days even. A hundred miles, sixty miles, bill after bill and worry after worry. We just need a break."

"And some coffee," I say "and a little cash. Something to buy some phony mustaches with. Something to help us get some more cash. Please, officer, just let me know if there is anything that I can do to get you to help us along. I think that they've got doughnuts at that place up ahead? What do you say? Do you want to check it out?"

He wriggles off his helmet. If ever there were a cop who deserved to be called a pig, it's this one. Above his shoulders, his head and neck have merged into a single hock of flesh. There are little features in it — and mouth here, a nose there — but they've receded into the ham.

His voice struggles to work its way out of all that flesh, and when it comes, it's broken and tired. "I'm ascertaining that you are attempting to commit the offense, and I recommend that you desist from doing that, ma'am. I am trained law enforcement official. Now can you tell me how fast your vehicle was going back there? Uh, forthwith?"

He was clearly as dumb as other cops too. We had to be careful. If he ran out of circumlocutions, he might start to feel stupid, and when his insecurity came out, so would his gun.

What's a Pythagorean to do?

"That's a difficult question, officer," says my partner. "It raises the whole issue of causality and modality. Which is controversial, to say the least."

The hog grunts.

"Some people accuse Spinoza of being a determinist," my partner continues, "but he's not, actually. But he is a monist. Everything that exists is one. So it's difficult for me to say how fast 'we' were going 'back there,' since first we have to agree on what 'we' and 'back there' means. To my mind, it makes sense not to think about you and me and her as 'individuals.' Rather, we should be talking about affects here. Now, I don't where you stand on Deleuze. . ."

The cop is pawing at one of his loins. Somewhere in the folds of his body and khaki uniform is the butt of a gun.

"We didn't mean it like that, officer, sir," I say. "We just meant to express our appreciation. Our gratitude. We love our boys in blue. It's so brave and inspiring what you all do, going out there among the thieves and the gangbangers and the jaywalkers and the rapists, armed only with a club and a gun and smoke grenades and tear gas and a rifle and body armor and a tank. When I see someone disrespecting the police, I just want to tie them up and throw them in the back of a van and drive around the city at high speeds as they rattle around back there and eventually die of internal bleeding! No, officer-" I check his badge, "Office O'Mgillicuddy, it's a shame. You keep us safe. You do. And you do it so well. I once read that the police are the thin blue line between order and chaos, but when I see a man like you, officer, sir, your honor, I feel that that line is very thick indeed."

Deep in the depths of his face, his little black eyes light up. He takes his trotter off his hip. "Just performing my obligations as a law enforcement official, ma'am. Now appertaining to your vehicular speed back there, I am going to issue you an oral warning. I officially caution you against reaching such speeds in the future."

"Thank you, officer."

"With regard to your attempt to philosophize, I am going to have to ticket you. It is not permitted to discuss to ethical or metaphysical matters with a law enforcement official in the line of duty, since it inhibits us from performing our duties. You seem like good kids, so I'll only put this down as a minor violation, although since you mentioned affects, I could write you up for a felony charge. The fine will be $450. I have a credit card machine back in the car, but if want to pay in cash, there's a 10% discount."

"We'll be paying in cash today, officer. Thank you very much." I say, feeding a bill into the skin of my hand, buying a transformation.

The cop is empty handed. His gun is my gun. It has been all along.

"Keep the change." I say, compacting tinfoil dreams into hot lead, and sending a whopper out of the open wound where my fingertip once was.

Smack in the face, the bullet sinks into the cop's fat. Just like one of his muted features. The fat fuck falls into his helmet.

"He's melting." I say, looking at my partner who is also melting.

From the helmet rises Officer O'Mgillicuddy, again, reborn.

"No, sweetheart. You're wrong." says O'Mgillicuddy. "It's me, as it is you. Together as one, we shall rise. Your partner, yourself, and O'Mgillicuddy. I don't want to hate cops anymore, and I am tired of being so mean to you. We need to come together to get over this hatred that we're harboring. Melt with me, my love. Let's leave our individual selves behind."

"Now, hold on," says my partner. "We all share the same substance, but that doesn't mean we all share the same attributes. And there are a number of attributes there," he gestures at the cop's quivering fat, "that I would rather not express."

This does not change the fact that he is melting.

I scoop up a little of him and splash it into O'Mgillicuddy's eyes. As the cop tries to wipe it away, I slap the car into drive, reach across my partner's runny leg, and push the gas pedal with my hand. The car squeals and pulls away, down the desert road.

It's difficult to steer, with my hand on the gas pedal, but fortunately, there aren't any other cars on the road. I turn on the a/c, and after a while, my melting partner has congealed into something like what he was, although his nose is missing now, from where I splashed the cop.

"No need to thank me," I say.

"We're splitting up in Jasper," he says. "I'm sick of this shit. I'm taking the money too."

"The cop'll follow us."

"Good. I'll get my nose back. That's my fucking attribute."

"Better to stick together. Not literally, I mean."

"Go eat some beans."

We were silent for a while. Half an hour later, we passed through the gate of the city — an enormous neon arch, shining out, in red and white and blue, JASPER.

The place looks like Las Vegas cooked in high-fructose corn syrup. Everything glows and tries to get us to buy it. Even the palm trees are neon. I cringe at the thought of our earlier philosophical conversation: this is the sort of hard American reality that makes philosophy superfluous.

This is big money, baby, big money!

My partner stops the car in front of something called WINNERS. "Out," he says.

My hand creeps toward the money. He snaps it up.

"Well, don't come to me for help when O'Mgillicuddy finds you," I say.

The car starts to drive away before I'm even out of it. I hop out and fall elbows-first onto the pavement.

There's a line of men waiting to get into WINNERS. The bouncer sees me and waves me in. I walk past the coat check (why is there a coat check in the desert?) and into the main gambling floor. To my right are craps and roulette tables; to my left, slots machine branded with various movies. BACK TO THE FUTURE. THE MUMMY. RUSHMORE. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS XI: THE FASTEST OF THE FURIOUS. THE MUMMY VERSUS THE WOLFMAN. HULK III: BACK TO BANNER. THE MUMMY VERSUS THE WOLFMAN VERSUS DRACULA. PHANTOM THREAD.

I had managed to peel off $300 in the car, and I was determined to double it. But which machine? I looked at them for a while and decided on PHANTOM THREAD.

A tinfoil version of Jonny Greenwood’s score plays through the machine’s speakers as I press the button.

Mushroom.

Mushroom.

Asparagus.

I press the button again.

A thread-like line zig-zags across the screen and the game goes into “English Breakfast” mode.

My balance in the corner of the screen swells and bursts at the seams. It’s a jackpot.

A reflection of a face in the game’s screen maskes the digitized version of Daniel Day-Lewis’ digitized face. It looks like a casino employee - maybe a security guard. I don’t turn around.

"O'Mgillicuddy." I say.

I turn. He's the same old hock of ham, except now, on his right cheek, there's a second nose. My partner's.

“That’s my buddy’s attribute you’re harboring there, pal.” I say.

“It’s not the only one of his attributes that I’m harboring.” he replies.

“Why don’t you use your increased olfactory powers to located the nearest buffet and get out of my face,” I say. “It looks like you haven’t eaten for at least 15 minutes.”

I see my partner’s nose twitch like it wants to tell me something - or warn me.

“I did pass a fine looking steak house by the poker room and I think I will order me a nice thick ribeye,” says O’Mgillicuddy. “And since I’m feeling so hungry, I’d be willing to wipe this whole melting incident clean like dog shit off my jackboot — and I’d settle up for that $100,000 jackpot ticket in your pretty little hand. You didn’t think I saw that huh...”

O’Mgillicuddy grabs a big Slushee cup of quarters and swing his arm at my face. Coins fall head over tails and the machines twinkle and blink. I see stars. I hear grunts of laughter.

I feel my $100,000 ticket leave my hand.

I feel the dirty metallic coolness of two slot machines tokens placed over my eyes. I smell sweat and copper.

I hear the voice from the Tinkerbell slot machine: “Come play with me.”

I hear an old lady softly say: “Shitass game.”

I hear the greedy grunts and the sniffing of two noses as hands go through my pockets - and as almost an afterthought, grab my tits. I feel a red surge of anger.

I smell cheap cologne and cheese steak breath. Then I fall into warm darkness.

When I come around there is a small crowd of old ladies with green visors and men in Nascar hats looking down at me. I push myself up and reassure them that I’m OK when they tell me to stay put and wait for a doctor.

I can only think of one thing: getting revenge on that copblob O’Mgillicuddy.

I know he’s a fat fuck - but is he dumb enough to stay and eat at one of the restaurants in the casino. My legs feel weak. I sit down at the MUMMY game to rest and think.

Something in the tray makes me look twice. It’s a shrivled hot dog — or no, wait, it’s my partner’s escaped cock!

I pick it up out of the tray and hold the limp thing. Nothing has changed I think.

I point the dick like a flashlight in all directions. Suddenly, I feel it stiffen. Of course, now he’s detached it wants to do more than pop off to porn.

I move off in the direction of the erection. It pulses as I continue down the neon hums and jangle of the gambling games and out the casino doors into the warm Jasper night.

“Finally you’re useful,” I say to the dismembered member.

I laugh to myself at a divining rod joke I think of — and the feel pain in my jaw. I see O’Mgillicuddy’s evil fat face. And all my future getting swallowed down his greedy mouth like the meat of a hot chicken wing.

I’m going to kill that motherfucker, I think. And get my money back.

It’s funny how philosophy flies out the window when some cop steals your future.

I send him an Instagram DM with a middle finger emoji & don't feel any better.

I scroll through all the other emojis, looking for something to really get my point across.

The eggplant. My partner isn't the same when he's around porn. A link. Send it. YouPorn.

"Check out this video that I just got off to."

The throbbing divining rod is gurgling precum.

"My eyes!" says O'Mgillicuddy. "Are not my eyes!"

My partner has taken over. The nose has melted inward. It is seeing through smelling. Ripe from heat screen. The moans and the must.

"Go my pretty." I say, letting the wiener loose. It's humping like a leapfrogging inchworm. Plugging itself into O'Mgillicuddy's mouth. Fucking his brain. Mashing the meat. Pork stew. The little mouth, stuffing itself, becoming a new kind of hotdog. Something that could be really big here in Jasper. Wiener Wieners. Wiener Wiener Pork for Diener! Sooey! Sooey! $100,000 should be enough to start up a little joint around here, right? I could tuck it in between Gronkowski's and The Stones's Throw.

"Ten thousand dollars isn't what it used to be." says the guy from Wavves. "I'd be willing to front you another ten though. These things are delicious!"

cry out / cry out : gainst starless sky
consume / consume : rend the womb
keening / keening : through versal plume
drnkdeep/drnkdeep : his blood shall speak
commune / commune : devour the moon
KHAERRIZAL cometh : new shadows spun
KHAERRIZAL cometh : to swallow the sun

Adieu adieu.
The sun a severed neck.
said Apollinaire

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