Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Brea, Ca (from 'Laramidia or The Last Soliloquy Of Hoarse Angeles')

Jesse S. Mitchell

And when our storming waves came crashing down on the cement shores of Brea, everything was lemon-yellow jaundice.  Overflowing with poison, backed up in the streets, toxin, the sky was a froth of clouds, nothing stirred, no release.  There were no bodies.  There were no people.  The well-to-do had left.  Gone.  Rats had flung themselves off the ships and into the painfully dusty desert harbors that surround.  Trying to avoid.  Trying to outrun and escape the inevitable.  But maybe not so inevitable, lord knows what money can buy, with all the excitement beside, the world is not so different.  Money can surely still buy sainthood somewhere.  Some place, these gilded souls probably still exist, still swagger, still live and breathe.
But not here.  Here, trees rustle over our heads as we climb out of the stopped truck, not even parked, just stopped, frozen, halted in the middle of a well-defined, well-financed streets.  Stores and strip malls with big watery eyes staring blankly back.  Traffic lights a wan, weak blinking.  Cyclopic glare, automated flickering.  
Paloma staring. Slowly craning her neck to take in every possible angle as she exited the truck. Her eyes red, raw, as red and raw as suspicion, as red and raw as hesitation.  Like the dawn beginning to come up, as calm as a haunt and as still as daybreak.
I opened my eyes big as well and took in everything.  Two tall swaying palm trees,  a fancy little three-tiered fountain, a short plaza, dark sliding-glass automatic doors.  Cold iron.  Hot sand.  Busted glass.
It is hard not to have memories.  Memories of human life, existence, the Crystal Palace, World’s Fairs, World Wars, immunizations, newspapers, space races.  It is hard to not get caught deep in the midst of that deluge, the way it consumes your mind.  Everything everywhere you look, ruins, headless statues, noseless Sphinxes, no secrets, Acropolises, just ugly old broken spines, just ugly old musty Doric columns stretched to heaven and now…and now threatening to fall.          
I look over the tops of the decapitated buildings, limestone, jimson dust waste funneling in the brisk busy air, I let my eyes go blurry and scan the high above clouds.  Armbone skinny thin, the horizon, naked, like the back of a knife.  The back edge of a very sharp and quick knife cutting, slicing into the sky.  And whatever light there is, and there is and it is diffused and obscure, is bleeding out of that very cut.  The wound purple, the blood light shine arterial.  Gold and grey and ultraviolet. Gleaming, streaming, silent, and strangely cold.
Strangely cold.  Cold. Cold.   And a wash comes over me, buckles me over inside, a deep sick sadness, a cocoon that surrounds.  The longer I think the deeper and thicker it gets.  It is hard to see through, a viscous liquid, a heavy fog.  I just want to stand still.  I just don’t want to move at all, or let a random thought invade my mind, nothing but complete silence and peace.  But that isn’t real.  It isn’t even really me.  It is getting stronger and stronger, harder and harder to shake.  It is disease.  Pure disease.  And I know eventually, I will die from it.   No matter how far I get.  No matter how hard I try.  The tide keeps rushing up on me.
But mostly, I am not sad.
This world…
This world is no enviable place to remain.
It is a web.  A great big spider web, easier and easier to get caught and tangled in, easier and easier to ignore and disregard.  More and more deadly and carnivorous with every passing thought, second, glance.
There is nearly nothing to do.
Brother slaps his hands against thighs, knocks the dust off, big swirling clouds plume up around him.  Makes him cough.  He squints his eyes.  His face a touch twisted, confused, holding hard to something, steely.  His arms dangle ashamed next to his body.  We are all three so skinny, so threadlike.
And then there was sunlight.
And it was radiant.
Up, the great gash in the air had opened, and you could see directly into heaven.  Deep inside the wound, visible, de sol, the sun had come out.
All of our existentialist appendages, exhausted, our senses, wasted, all philosophical inquiry was delayed.
Only living.
But nothing about life can make you live.  You just do or you just don’t.  That is truer now than ever.
But that is just that, no fire for speculation, no fuel for contemplation.
But the sun was out and it was bright and it was warm.  And it cast long black shadows in front of us.  Long, serpentine things, waving before us and slowly ivy-climbing the Santa Fe style façade of the shipping center.  They flickered like flame on the sandy concrete as we moved, grew as we walked, likely turning everything to ash behind us, as it felt very much, we were the ember.
You have to imagine things differently.  You have to see the whole world differently when everything begins to crumble down.  And first you must see it all new in your mind, and then your eyes.  Spirit first.  Blood and tissues later.  Get it right, where it all starts anyway.  Suss it out.  Construct it.
And we are talking whole galaxies, whole histories.  A lot of energy.
Like, you have to see your whole life as a bubble.  A thin gauzy film wrapped around you almost as tight as it can be, a shroud, an embryonic sack, a skin.  A single fragile random thing, a boiling bubble raising up off the effervescent foam of all the motion churning. A thing that happens but only happens because all these other things are happening but none of that sea of energy could be happening if your thing hadn’t happened.  It is electrics. Fanatics.  Gesticulation.  Theatrics.
You have to notice the boil you are in, the fizz, but you have to also perceive the raising up, the drifting off.  Float away.
And now here we are, the fiery forward edge of blazing heat, so much seething, a delight to just simmer, whatever hell it is to always be burning.  Here we are, all wrapped up in this bubble heaving up through the air, like dryness, like dryness is death, lack of moisture, of fluidity is torture, so much movement, evaporation towards the sun.
Our shadows walking up the front of the deserted shopping mall.  Dark glass doors, mostly shattered, broken through, you could clearly see the blood.  Some still stood.  The ones that still stood could be moved and we opened them.  Stood at the opening for a few minutes.  The breeze coming out was cool.  The yawning open door was a chasm, an awful degenerate perforation, a pit, a spear-wound into the side of all the world.  We were reculant to go inside.  
But we went, we went like a seeping, as infection enters an open wound.  Slowly.  Stealing around the red edges, creeping in, burn-rushing around the corners, down the empty corridors.  Our eyes big.  Everywhere demon-sounds fluttered in the vast broad spaces, electricity-dead and echo-chambered, a soft breeze tunnel.  Bone-crunch hard rubbish under foot, all kinds of cast off, papers, cups, glass, viscera.  Banners still hung in the high rafters.  Trees in indoor containers still grew, unruly.  Birds nested in every nook and cranny, long desert snakes slither, dangerous, everywhere dangerous.  Mislaid steps and topple down, come crashing hard on the floor, your body bruised, or cut, watching our every move.
Never enough light.  Never enough room.  Labyrinthine.  Dungeon-faced terror, confusion, breathless, time- rending, flesh-scalding, eye-blackening.
Brother put his hands over his face.  He stopped in his tracks.  I stopped behind him, put my arm out to stop Paloma safely after me.  I watched him carefully.  He lowered his head.  I could tell he was getting very sick.  He shook his head and rubbed his hands over his face, roughly.  Stood back up, straight, began walking again.
“Anybody got a flashlight?” over his shoulder as we walked.
I shook my head, “Nothing, I got nothing.”
“Be a lot cooler if ya did.”
I nodded.  Looked over both shoulders warily.  So morbid.  In every angle, in every corner, something dead or dying, or a plastic symbol of something dead or dying, something from a bit before, something that should still be living, something alive and well,  but all gone now.  Morbid.  Morbid.  Moribund.   The wind coming through the cracked and broken windows sounded deep, low bass brass, some symphonic gutteral grumble.
And we never dared to look down.  Not too much.  What the fire hadn’t burnt and what the feral creatures hadn’t gnawed or taken away still remained.  Remains, still remained.  And to keep the spirit up is essential.   Can’t let anything get inside of you, tear away at you, can’t let anything slow you down, weaken.  If…
In a big ‘t’ intersection, the corridors all met, a center point, a lingering nexus.  We stopped.  And to our left was the vivid storefront of an abandoned arcade, we inched our way toward it, shuffling our feet.  We dared not go into the cave of it but stayed along the doorway, sat down whatever we had in our hands.  I took off the grey flannel jacket I was wearing and folded it neatly, sat it on the floor.
“There, sit on that,”  I said to Paloma and she slowly lowered herself down onto it.  I cleared a space with my feet and sat down next to her.  Brother scanned around and walked to the right of us, to a small boutique shop, jewelry or something.  It was elaborately decorated.  Without a word he reached up over the store doors, jumped up a bit and grabbed a strand of rope lights and pulled them down in a loud and frustrated yank.  They hit the floor in a loud crashing pool.  He ripped a certain intact section off the rest of the length, he struggled.
Paloma and I watched him.  No idea what he was up to.  He handed me the string he had wrenched free,
“Clear out the lights.”
I shook the rope and little LED bulbs came falling out, broken and otherwise, tiny filaments and wires, dust.  Brother looked around, hands on his sides.  He was looking for a maintenance closet, a door, anything.  He saw something up the way and started off toward it to check it out.  Satisfied, he returned and took the long plastic tube out of my hands,
“Stay here.”
I nodded.
Paloma looked over at me.  Her face was tired.  Crimson.  Saggy.      
“I think he is looking for a generator, a gas generator.  You know, to siphon from,”  I say to her.
She just looks at me.  Intent on the side of my face.  Scanning me all over.  Uncomfortable.
“It is weird for it to be so quiet here, huh?” casually
She continues to stare over my face, trying to read me, looking for signs of disease or abuse most likely.
Suddenly she speaks, “Have you always lived in Los Angeles?”
“Yep.” I nod, “born here, both of my parents are native too.  My Mother was from Tehrangeles.”
“So, you are Persian?”
“Yep, half,” nodding again.
“And your dad?”
“Hm, oh, yeah, native born too.  He lived all over though, all kinds of working class neighborhoods. His family, my family, came here after World War Two. From the south, the deep south, they had been sharecroppers before they moved. Slaves even before that, and before that, West Africans of some sort, I suppose, Yorubas or Fons or Ashantis… I don’t know.”
“Quite the combination.”
“Yep, only in America.  That’s what’s good about America, odd combinations, like barbecue chicken pizza and cool ranch chipotle anything.”
She seemed more at ease.  She stopped studying my face for danger.
A little left-hand tilt, a bit of the fuzz that hits the eye around the periphery, like a blurry photogaph.  Because that is what it all is anyway, an out-of-focus snapshot of a moment unfolding.
“You should try to rest.  You should try to get some sleep.”
Paloma agrees, she nods at me, and begins to stretch herself out on my jacket and puts her head against the faux stucco plaster wall. She closes her eyes, slowly, the lids close up tight and shut out all the light.
Brother came back, swaying, so cavalier.  Careless gait, a grin on his face, he had a red container in his left hand, you could smell the gasoline wafting up off of it.  In his right hand he had grungy bottle, he was drinking from it, probably whiskey, probably some kind of hard liquor he had found, pick up, along the way. He put the gas down at my feet, walked across the corridor, looking over his shoulder the whole time.  He sat down in the hallway across from me, under a tall tropical flowering tree in a fake plastic terra cotta container.  He took out a cigarette and lit it, took a swill from his bottle.  Pointed to Paloma with the cigarette smoldering in his fingers and said, “We can leave as soon as she is up.  I got some more gas.  We are gonna have to find some other place.”
I nodded.  There was no way we could stay here.  No way we could stay in Brea for long.
I watched as Hermano closed his eyes and began to sleep as well.  I took the still burning cigarette out of his hand and took a quick drag and stomped it out.
There was no way to stay put in Brea.

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