Saturday, June 02, 2007

running out of it

The first punch comes as a surprise. Not because I don’t deserve it but because I didn’t think he would do it. I had, in fact, fooled myself into thinking that he simply couldn’t do it, so when he actually does, and I feel his knuckles strike fast and wildly against my cheek, not fully connecting like I'm sure he wanted, but more just roughly sliding against the skin beneath my ear, I whirl my head around every which way, looking to see if anyone else saw.

There is nobody else though, just me and two cops. One plain clothes and one in uniform. Then there are trees, small and in cages, and some abandon shopping carts, leaned against the wall.

When the second punch hits, my face is pushed to the side and I can see the walls of the alley and how much graffiti is on them; there is a lot. Most of it is gang names written in old English lettering but I don’t have time to read them because a third punch is delivered, an uppercut to my nose, and my face is pushed back up so that it’s in front of his, facing him.

His hand squeezes my arm, his fingernails pinch into my bicep. For the first time I realize he is Asian and although pretty stocky, a bit shorter than me. His eye is bruised and swelling from when Michael hit him and looking into it, seeing past the darkness of the wound into his half closed eye, the memories of what has been done rush through me in a shiver like a foul scent or a sour taste.

Michael hit him and then he ran. Michael is the fastest person I know. They tried to give chase, the plainclothes cops, while the guy in uniform quickly put the handcuffs on me, but I watched as Michaels legs leapt forward like a gazelles, in long even strides, and before they even knew it a canyon of city street was the distance between them. They’d all disappeared into the night for a minute but then he had come back, the short, stocky Asian cop, and his eye was black and he was out of breath. It looked like Michael had gotten away.

The idea of this releases a brief exhale of releif in me but then I am hit again, this time in the temple, and a flash of white burst in my head and a high pitched ring screeches through my skull. The smell of piss and old alcohol wafts up to my nose and when I open my eyes I can see shards of glass and cigarette butts on the ground. I'm shoved against the car and the handcuffs are bent further into themselves, tightening on my wrist so much that I can barely feel my fingertips. I try wiggling my fingers while keeping my eyes towards the ground, focusing on the uniformed cops oddly shiny shoes and the flickering shine of a streetlamp reflecting in their tips. I feel like spitting but don’t, I swallow instead and it taste metallic and thin. I see from the tops of my eyes, all the way on the other side of the alley, a cat licking his paws, ignoring us. I’m wondering who that cat belongs too when I see a drop of blood and for a moment I regret it all.

I regret the whole night. I regret coming to a city I’ve never been to and having someone buy us alcohol. I regret drinking the alcohol behind a dumpster in an alley. I regret not running when the cops came and I regret being bold and obnoxious and rebellious when they searched us. I regret smiling and gasping when I saw Michael run, even though it was probably just my nerves that did it, because those cops were surely going to break his arm and his back was against the wall. There was nothing else he could have done. I regret not telling my mother where I was going, and I'm reminded of her look of indifference when I left the house. Then I’m done with regret.

Another blow falls heavily and crushes my jaw and I fall to one knee, not saying a word. The handcuffs I'm wearing squeeze against my wrist and it occurs to me that I’m in the worst situation I could possibly be in. In a dark alley in a foreign city, with the only person who knows where I am off and running, being chased by the police.

When the last blow hits I just absorb it, saying nothing, and wonder if any of this will be on the news. The door to the cop car is opened and they lift me by my arms and toss me onto the back seat, closing the door behind me. There are no door handles on the insides of cop cars, so I just push up to the window and look outside as they begin driving away. When we turn from the alley blue and red cop lights paint the intersection, they have the whole street blocked off. I wipe blood from my nose onto my shirt collar and I hope and will Michael, with everything I have, to run fast, as fast and as far as he possibly can.


That story is true, it happened when i was fifteen. the reason i wrote it is because some strange sensations of dread have been overwhelming me lately. I'm think I'm running out of optimism. It started with a dull emptiness in my stomach. There was no pain, no pangs of worry, just a slow deflation inside my core. It was a whisper, not a roar, and I hardly felt it. then it pushed up and out through my shoulders then down my arm in small, patient movements, towards my palms and then fingertips; like a cold anesthesia spreading through my veins. it was soft and unnoticeable and suddenly I was drained of it. well, most of it. I'm right here in my office type type type and I'm on a bar stool throwing back another shot and I'm on a subway platform and there is train on its way and a sliver in all that is meant just for me. it must be. it has to be. It is. So I keep telling myself, over and over again, I know I haven’t hit rock bottom yet, because I can still find some reason and poetry inside the glass.


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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at