One of Four Gentlemen Phosphenes

Derick Dupré

I did a cursory search on my downstairs neighbor, a retired man who was controlling and liked to create problems where none previously existed, like trying to enact a noise ordinance on a beloved local who honked his truck’s horn on blind curves for safety’s sake, or arguing about parking spots, or complaining about my cat’s behavior towards the nectar-crazed butterflies, and other meddling bullshit. I was on a bogus site with a name like, and gathered some spurious details. Evidently he filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy a year ago, and from what I estimated to be sixteen years ago, he was the owner of the email addresses named and To me the domain was funnier than the handles, even for accounts created almost a generation ago, perhaps due to its proximity to lol, I can’t be sure. He had also lived in San Diego, Albuquerque, Key West, Port Angeles, and many other places that suggested he bounced around quite often, perhaps for legal reasons. The Albuquerque detail lined up with the New Mexico license plate he hung on his screen door. The website said he was in the realty business, but that didn’t line up with his story about his past as a candy salesman. I imagined him driving around southern Florida in a gray Yaris with nondescript CANDY stickers on the driver and passenger doors, while shouting things like “ALL YOU WANT IS CANDY!” from a bullhorn. In reality I think he worked in a sales office somewhere for Mars, he never said where, but he did say he was once salesman of the year, although what that truly entailed remained, and still remains, completely lost on me. I was surprised to find out the Marses were still one of richest families in America, just behind the Waltons and the Kochs. It seemed absurd, even for our era, that a group of candy heirs would be obscenely wealthy. Even worse was finding out that one of the heiresses once crashed her Porsche into a family of six in a minivan, killing one person, and causing a pregnant woman to miscarry. Still worse was finding out about a younger heiress who regularly attended debutante balls, even as late as the end of our era, which seemed laughably backwards and corny, to be in the society of royal teens named Dmitri at a time when other teens were radicalizing and becoming involved in revolutionary politics. But this was all useless trivia compared to the escalating conflict with my downstairs neighbor. It started bizarrely when he yelled at me for smoking near his flowers. At the time I was probably twelve feet above his arrangement, on my balcony, well out of flowershot. And yet he growled something about extinguishing my cigarette, which I did, and then he went on to whisper sweet nothings to his supermarket mums. It was a bizarre experience in line with his frequent exhibits of bizarre behavior, including knocking on his own door each morning at five, nine rapid DEA-style knocks that woke and mystified me. After a while, he stopped being so kind to his flowers. They were prettier a month ago, they’re getting old, I should kill them, he told me, as though it was one of the great sadnesses of his life, that of having to euthanize his beloved mums, forcing him to turn to other diversions like being a shitty neighbor. The next day it looked like he’d made good on his promise, not culling but killing his flowers, indiscriminate snipping with garden shears, but from my view I couldn’t see for sure, because I could no longer see healthily, owing to a thing I used to do to my eyes in childhood, I'm sure it's ruined my vision, but I would make two fists and press either index knuckle into either eye, and then blackness, and then small dots would appear, dark blue and blinking, like an airfield at night, and slowly yellow and red dots would start to blink, and then the blue dots got bigger, more supple, about to make a statement, and the yellow and red spread in turn, but then all the colors would fade immediately, as though unplugged from the source, and strange polygonal shapes would start to form, but strictly in grayscale, forming and fading like a game of tetris that moved in all directions, and I would try to play, and then I would lose, and I would release myself, I would remove knuckle from eye, and try to make sense of my actual field of vision, and each time it was a disappointment, the disappointment of returning to real life, I must’ve done this at least several dozen times, it seemed like some kind of desire for the end, but not on a total existential scale, just the light punishment of blinding myself, that was the kind of self-hatred I could deal with, and in any case it served no purpose, none at all, except to ruin my vision, which I’ve yet to correct, but then I saw the massacre of supermarket mums on the grass by my neighbor’s porch and thought, Wow, shit, he was in fact very serious about herbicide, just as serious as I’d been about destroying my field of vision. I later learned this kind of autopoietic torture is entirely common, and was used by artists and filmmakers for inspiration. My eyes were prettier a month ago, they’re getting old, I should kill them. The unfortunate cadence of something proxy to a locket, some kind of swift inscription that the gifter hopes the giftee will later confuse for profundity. It’s so magnificent. But is it, we don’t know, we can’t be sure. And it’s much more different, or is it, when the grifter hopes the griftee will later confuse their con for profundity.

Derick Dupré is writing from southern Arizona.