Author Topic: 6 am  (Read 840 times)

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6 am
« on: May 13, 2004, 12:49:45 AM »
(this is a story I wrote for english class a couple months ago... let me know what you think. harsh honesty is ideal.)

I was awake at 6:27, lying on the couch and listening to my breath. The room was already filled with blue-gray light, sunrise residue refracting on glass and metal. Translucent shadows were wavering in the thinly veiled light, silhouettes of windblown objects, identities unknown. A static gray sky lingered above the city, showering down some intangible early-morning vapor that appeared in transient shadows across the wall. The central air turned on, a response to some robotic sensor in a distant corner of the house. Exhaling slowly, I shifted my weight on the couch’s pseudo-comfortable white polyester fiber. My forehead was vaguely sweaty, my muscles a little sore. The house was singing a white noise lullaby, trying to subdue me back into sleep. Green digits outlined by a faint glow flickered at the end of the minute, on a clock across the room.

I sat up and rubbed my face. When I took a cup of stagnant water off the coffee table it left behind a water ring that slowly dissipated onto the table’s glass surface. I had filled the cup from the kitchen sink three hours ago, only taking a sip before falling asleep. I zipped up my sweatshirt on my way to the kitchen and glanced at the wall of CDs to make sure none were missing. I poured the water down the sink and gathered a few other dishes to load into the dishwasher. The kitchen was remarkably clean for the morning after a party, so I guess Jean had cleaned up.

The kitchen pleased me. It was spacious and accessible, and contained a set of sleek black appliances that completed their respective functions in relative silence. I filled up another cup with ice and water from the refrigerator door, leaning against the counter and drinking it slowly with my arms folded. The house’s muffled stillness was a satisfying reprieve from the relentless motion of the night before, and I allowed my eyes to flutter shut for a moment, enjoying the knowledge that no one else would be awake for at least three hours.

There was scattered evidence of the party: Small white plastic cups, some with beer in them, others empty—two jackets and a scarf had been left behind. There was a stack of discarded business cards, the debris of a dozen failed conversations. In the upstairs bedrooms there would inevitably be anywhere between three to seven individuals who did not belong to this house, but, through the circumstances of a party, had been confined to stay the night. I considered going upstairs to find Chris, but the call of the morning’s dead hours was too strong to resist.

I slid the door closed behind me and stepped outside. The rain had become less of a drizzle and more of a mist and I walked out onto the patio, breathing in the penetrating morning air. I pulled off my socks and laid them upon the chaise lounge, stripping down to my underwear as the clouds thinned out to reveal a stark white sky. Condensation still hovered restlessly in the air, shifting in the detached April current. I looked back toward the home, catching my reflection in the wall of semi-reflective glass between the living room and the patio. I unabashedly admired the image of myself juxtapositioned against my home. The house and my body, these things were mine. Tiny drops of water were melting on the cotton/lycra of my black briefs (D&G) when I dove into the pool.

The pool had already warmed up. Water rushed around my head and I swam to the deep end. “Everything becomes obsolete and meaningless when you’re underwater,” I thought, briefly wondering if that was how the astronauts on the space station felt—or if that was only how we felt about them. The pool was deep, somehow blue (blue lights? blue tiles?), and I extended my limbs and relaxed my body, floating up to the surface. When my back broke through the surface, I jerked my body into an upright position and took a breath of cold air. I briefly opened my eyes, taking a quick look around. The water on the surface was rapidly swelling in and out of choppy waves with high inclines and I shot a glance at the sky before submerging myself again.

In the darkness, I could hear the hum of some mechanical device. I opened my eyes and mouth, tasting the chlorine and watching a repulsive band-aid float dreamily by. I shut my mouth after trying to expel the contaminated water. “And I miss you,” I thought, remembering the night before, “like the deserts miss the rain.”

* * *

“Got the bubbly,” the song was repeating as the sun began to set, “somethin’s comin’ over me.” I was sitting at the far end of the pool, on the last strip of concrete before the edge of the cliff. A black metal bar was the only thing preventing me from plunging into the depths of the San Fernando Valley. There were no more than a dozen people standing around on the substantial terrace that separated the house and pool, trying to forgive themselves for arriving at such an early hour. Jean was scuttling between the kitchen and the living room and the patio, making mock-nervous faces to the guests and pretending to speak to too loudly into a cell phone. The party had been her idea.

Chris was in the living room toying with the sound system, making playlists and making sure the songs wouldn’t clash. I was keeping my distance from him. I had noticed it for the first time in an airport bookstore. He had just returned from Milan and he was standing idly in front of a wall of magazines. He wasn’t spaced out, per se, and it wasn’t jetlag (I know jetlag), but something about him felt out of place. “Have you ever read Lacan or Erikson?” he wanted to know. Looking at him was exhausting. Now he was playing Peaches and I could not tell if he was being just generally abrasive or if he was genuinely confused.

I was smoking a cigarette. I was also wearing a Lacoste shirt and smartly stylish Diesel jeans, jacket by John Varvatos. Some people I rather would have forgotten from the Shinjuku ni-chome district found me in my corner and I smiled and they smiled back at me in broken English. Sporting vintage Levi’s and ironic fast food logos graphic tees, they told me something I didn’t need to hear about their Bryan Singer’s disgusting seasonal romp. Unwanted information. They were gone before too long and there were a good number of people standing around and Chris had disappeared but his playlist was good. The guests’ pension for lazy analysis was painfully evident in their smirking lips and folded arms and in the reflections of their black-rimmed glasses as they shot glances at the swimming pool’s surface, unsure if they would be permitted a swim. They discussed their surroundings relentlessly and I walked past the side of the pool into the crowd, participating briefly in unsurprising conversations.

“Bang bang,” Mike said, “his baby shot him down, right? It was this thing from New Jersey, I think, or New Mexico, where these post-graduate students that didn’t have any money—they lived in apartments on grants from the college and they could only keep living there if they continued their research—you know, support the education system with their valuable information and all that—so they went out to New Mexico (I think, I can never remember the names of American states), and they found this town with a population of like, 450, and over half the town’s population was under 18, because—I don’t know, it just ended out that way, but they decided to create an alternate hyperrealist culture out there, where they only had like two TV stations and no one could afford satellite, and they were so out of the fuckin’ way that they didn’t even get more than like 7 radio stations and no internet connection, so what these guys did—and this is ingenious—is they took all this grant money and used it (along with actual loans from bewildered small businesses out there) to establish three apparently different television stations and all these radio stations where they played only popular music from 1991 and 1992, and on the TV they created all these fake shows, which they infused with real early 90’s shit like Blossom and 90210, where they dressed up like the 90s and tried to actually convince these kids that this stuff was popular, okay, and they opened antihip boutiques that only sold clothes made in that time, and this was fucking ingenious, okay—it destroyed the entire culture of this one isolated town and got them thinking it was 1991. And uh, they even made shitloads of money by destroying the entire sign exchange value system and uprooting the town’s economy, rendering the previously marketable venues of entertainment null. I, uh, I think they were—there was litigation against them from the town, but no one could do anything because there’s no law against a destroying a system of economic values.”

No one was listening and it was all postpretensious bullshit anyway, but a few people were standing around and drinking out of plastic cups so they felt obligated to fill the dead air.

“No one’s going to buy such a highly conceptual script idea.”
“Maybe if there was a love triangle, or at least a sex scene. It would be easy, you could make it symbolic of the love between culture and the individual. You know, one of the students could hook up with a townie, and everyone could get fucked in the end. It could be breakthrough.”
“The story’s too self-involved for any form of cross-pollination between the subjects and the objects, and it’s obvious, too, that they’re really the same—so there really needs to be a ‘scene of self-gratification’,” she snickered, “as Jack Valenti would so delicately put it.”
“It’s irresponsible and lazy to use characters to represent ideas or ideologies. Unless they have defining characteristics no one’s going to care.”
“Dude, this isn’t a screenplay idea—there was an article about it in last month’s Res,” he said. He was wearing an obviously Urban shirt (“Gettin’ Lucky in Kentucky!”) under his Comme Des Garcons blazer.
“What is it even about?”
“Dan, how late is this thing going ‘till?”
“I think it’s supposed to be about, what do you call it—Baudrillardian theory. But you have to realize man, your characters have to transcend post-ironic self-reference.”
“One thirty,” I said.

Björk’s suggestive “Hidden Place” was blasting an unnervingly early chill into the crowd as I made my way across the crowded deck and reached the hastily arranged outdoor couches. These were white and red and brown and black couches someone had gotten for Jean so she could dump them in my backyard for the night, allowing disinterested guests a place to relax their apathetic feet. Sitting as far away as I could from a discussion about the inverse destructive tendencies of our generation, I ended up sitting on the end of a couch perpendicular to Elizabeth, who had spent the last week in Toronto channeling Zoë Cassavettes in her new short film, opposite Gaby Hoffman and Christina Ricci. It should have been refreshing that she was reluctant to discuss the shoot, but it soon became evident that her silence was only a tool to increase the project’s diminutive buzz with impromptu ambiguity. When she started telling me about her month in a New York apartment with Le Tigre I shifted my focus to the mesmerizing blue fluorescent light between our couches.

“We get high in back seat circles. We break into mobile homes. We go to sleep to shake appeal, never wake up on our own,” said the stereo. It was really alright, though, because it was an obscure remix. Chris was doing well. The party’s collective mood was gaining momentum, there was an attractive couple swimming in their underwear—probably a good sign for the other guests. I don’t know why I even cared, because the party was a joke anyway. I guess it’s just a natural tendency I have, to try and make everyone comfortable in awkward situations. There were some green and purple lights now, casting artificial colors on the dark shades of night and last season’s Armani.

I went inside, where the air was yellow and small fertile women spoke with conviction to scruffy male models and the bassist from Cake. I, myself, began to feel uncomfortable looking at the scene of a few dozen alien people in my home. I wanted to sneeze with my whole body. “Integrity is the new irony,” somebody laughed. There were three bottles of San Pellegrino left in the fridge, fortunately. The room had a median age of 22. I could see Chris walking up the stairs and I had to pee.

The front room was a mirror image of the back room and the couches on the patio. 10-12 guests were facing each other in uneasily laid back positions, guests discussing themes of globalization in Lord of the Rings. (Authorial intention is irrelevant! someone shouted). A man in tight pants and Converse sneakers was holding a tiny camcorder and laughing. Above them on the wall was a giant black and white poster—Chris’ image from the VMAN shoot. Looking at it, I paused suddenly, feeling an intense desire to wrap my arms around him, pulling taut the tight-fitting fabric of his jacket, placing my lips on his neck. “Your eyelashes tickled my neck with every nervous blink, and it was perfect, until the telephone started ringing off,” the fading stereo declared as I walked from the room.

The bathroom door faced outwards like a painting at the end of a narrow hallway. Three men were standing silently, waiting to get in, improvising a system of bathroom line etiquette. The hallway was dim and quiet like a sea-cliff’s condensated cave. I joined the line behind the men, becoming greater than them by becoming one of them. Man #1 pushed back the sleeve of his Prada blazer and looked at his Cartier watch and asked Man #2 if he knew when the Here Lounge would be open ‘till. “Get me away from here, I’m dying,” muttered Man #3.

A skeletal woman came out of the bathroom and walked with her back slightly bent forward, like she was trying to see something far away. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead as she reached into her bag and found a lighter. She muttered some scrambled lyrics about destroying the Hubble telescope.

“Hello,” said a man I hadn’t noticed. He was standing beside me and I liked his Hugo Boss blazer.

“Hi,” I said in a low, soft voice and I liked the thickness of his fingers. It was one of those times when you desperately needed a cigarette. In situations like those, smoking a cigarette means “I would lose all my hair if you promised to clean up my vomit.”

Neither of us said anything. We heard a woman in the kitchen screech in either delight or shock and there was the brief illumination of digital camera flashes going off around the corner. New Order’s “Temptation” played. I liked how he wasn’t embarrassed by anything. I was nervous. I heard two women discussing a blog entry that had gone horribly awry. It had been misinterpreted by everyone and there were splashes outside as guests jumped into the pool.

Man #1 came out of the bathroom and announced to no one in particular that the toilet had overflown. He walked away under blank stares.

“Hey,” said the man, “Do you want to go somewhere?”

I wasn’t exactly sure what he was asking. “Where else is there to go?” I thought. “Yes,” I said, and we left.

* * *

Later into the night, after the rooftops and abandoned buildings, we were sitting behind the bleachers of a darkened university’s field and, in the utmost consciousness and without any tinge of irony, he told that he liked me. I told him that he was handsome.

* * *

I walked with confident caution towards the back of the house. “Electricity” was playing, by The Avalanches. Eerie techno gospel voices rang sharply into the night, creating an invisible reaction of discomfort. The last car was heading down the driveway, just fast enough to imply an impassioned escape from a plague of frozen silence. I was glad to be home when I looked out across the pool and into the reflection of a disfigured moon. It was one of those insignificant ones, between a crescent and a circle.

I slid open the living room door with lucid apathy. The house was scattered with litter and the time was 2:19, and I thought it was sad that everyone was gone so early. I was sad in that aspect for Jean, who had had such high expectations. The music came to an abrupt end after “Electricity,” as if Chris had prophesized this hollow ending. Jean tapped on the window and I slid open a door for her. Disheveled and beautiful, I pictured her wearing a tutu for dramatic effect. She was carrying a load of garbage in her arms, which she allowed to fall noisily into an black garbage bag. Almost simultaneously she deflated like a punctured lung and collapsed on the couch.

“I don’t know why I put myself to so much trouble for these things.”
I took a sip of water. “It went well, though. Everyone had fun.”
“I hope so,” she said, wide-eyed at the ghost of something far-off, “but I have my… have these aching suspicions that they did’n—did not.” She shook her head. “I’m tired.”
“Should I help you clean up?” I asked, rotating the glass in my hand.
“No… Nah… that’s alright,” she slurred, “You’re sweet.” She made a valiant effort to stand up and then kissed me on the cheek. “Go see Chris or something, he’s probably been looking for you maybe. I’m going to finish up.”
“Alright, then.”
“Goodnight,” she cried as she left the room.

A slice of light poured into our bedroom as I pushed the door open just a crack with an inconsistent shove. I was being as silent as possible, trying to observe the situation without becoming part of it. I was hoping to find Chris lying shirtless under the covers, so I could slide in next to him and wrap my arms around him, but he had fallen asleep in an uncomfortable steel chair with black leather backing. I stood in the doorway, observing him. I broke my gaze with a deliberate subconscious cough. I threw my jacket and polo on the floor, grabbing a zip-up hoody from the closet and closing the door with marginally less tact than I had opened it.

* * *

I was floating underwater, slowly nodding my head back and forth, feeling methodical chaos in the motion of my hair. I mentally exhaled, listening to the wind above the water. Slowly turning my body, I heard an enormous crack as water scattered throughout the pool. It wasn’t very jarring. As the bubbles surfaced I watched Chris swimming towards me. I repositioned myself to receive him and he swam into my arms. Rotating our lovesick bodies underwater in a relentless loop, the water seemed to be running for cover no matter where we positioned ourselves. I looked at him for a moment before kissing him on the mouth. He pulled me in tighter with his hand on my spine and we closed our eyes.

Breaching the surface, he placed his hand on the back of my head, consolidating his fingers in my hair and smiling.

“Good morning,” he said, as a Depeche Mode song played in my head. We kissed again and I exhaled. “There’s nowhere to go but up,” he smiled. And despite his inverted naivety, I loved him.
your reality is at the end of your dream


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