About grass or neighbors August 5, 2013
He rode his bicycle down the street, on the prowl for raccoons. It was 5 AM in the morning.
There were more raccoons in this part of town than possums or armadillos. When he found a troupe of eight raccoons he approached the front yard of the house he was nearest and laid down in the grass and made a grass angel. He was allergic to grass and this was a very stupid thing to do, but he was very excited by the eight raccoons and nothing seemed more obvious than to lie down in the grass and squirm, squirm purposefully and in a pattern.
He stopped moving, still lying in the grass on his back, and reached as far out as he could and started ripping out blades of grass with his left hand. He started banging the heel of his foot on the ground–it made a dull thumping sound and it frustrated him how little the sound carried. He wanted the owners of the house to hear him, to get out of their beds at 5:06 AM and look out their window and see a kid wearing a bike helmet and no shirt ripping up their grass and banging on the ground with his feet. This became very important to him, all of a sudden, and he’d forgotten about the eight raccoons but he was insistent with himself, for some unknown reason, that he should not make any sort of vocalization to attain the effect he was after. It must be body noises only, not noises of the throat. Screaming and yelling and even talking was different than the loud thuds of his shirtless body would be. He started doing the worm on the grass, flopping his chest down as hard as he could, and unwittingly he made little groans and squeaks as he did so. At one point he surely broke a few ribs, with all his slamming around of his body, and at that he made a high-pitched squeal that faded slowly in tone and volume, and the chest thudding grew weaker and weaker until slowly he stopped.
He collapsed, face down in the grass, and relaxed his arms at his side. Still, no one had come to the window. His right hand started feeling slowly the ground around him soon it found a wetness, and in the wetness mud, and in the mud a great, cool satisfaction all around his fingertips. He lifted himself off the ground, noting the pain in his ribs but not reacting physically, and began digging in the mud with all of his fingers. His eyebrows were tensed, his face focused on the task at hand, and he was sweating with exhertion. The mud was thick and the grass roots insistent but soon he had made a little bowl of a howl in the front yard of a stranger’s house and he felt like that meant something.
As soon as he had that recognition, that what he did meant something, he stopped the digging and just stared at the hole. He took off his bike helmet and covered the hole with it. He collected as many already-ripped-off grass blades as he could find and sprinkled them over the helmet. He rubbed his hands dramatically over the helmet, knocking mud from his fingers onto the mound of mud helmet and grass. He sat cross-legged and closed his eyes, thinking about what he had just done, and he felt wonderful. A dog was barking from across the street, from behind a fence, and then a car drove by. The sun was rising and one of the streetlights flickered off. The fire hydrant needed repainted. All of these things the boy noted with his eyes closed. The swelling around his ribs was growing and his skin was turning purple. He was a fast bruiser.
He fell asleep sitting there, cross-legged, facing his mound of meaning, and didn’t awake until the paperboy drove by and tossed the Sunday paper on the porch of the frontyard he was sitting in. The boy opened his eyes and looked at the paperboy, and the paperboy was sitting in his idled car, still too sleepy to be thinking anything in particular but aware that what was passing between them was something very strange but perhaps unexplainable, and they sat there for maybe thirty seconds, the boy not wanting to squeal in delight and the paperboy not wanting to judge, until the paperboy’s foot slipped off the brake, slowly, as if by accident, and the paperboy went with the accident and drove slowly down to the next house. The boy, still crosslegged, turned his head to follow the paperboy down the street. It was now 6:08 AM.
The end of the story consists of the boy growing up to be a fireman.
Around 4 PM he went into his front yard and decided he wanted to learn to do a cartwheel. He’d never been able to do a handstand, or headstand, let alone a cartwheel, but he hadn’t tried to do these things probably since he was in 7th grade or something, anyway. It was time. He stood there staring at the grass, motionless, for quite a long time. He was visualizing what a cartwheel should look like. If he didn’t know what it should look like, why bother trying yet? He was there for about four minutes, staring straight at the grass, occasionally closing his eyes, opening them wide, letting out deep breaths.
A man and woman, neighbors, walked by with their dog.
“What kind of dog is that?” he asked, trying to be friendly. He’d never talked to his neighbors before. Most of them had never seen them before.
He had no idea what that meant. A species of dog, no doubt, but some hybrid form, he figured. He didn’t pursue the topic, decided to let them continue walking.
“And what are you doing?” the wife asked. She was wearing a jogging outfit, but looked made up and not sweaty at all. Like she’d put on the jogging outfit for the walk and nothing more.
“Oh…just, you know, getting some fresh air,” he replied, evasively.
The husband spoke up now. He was wearing a Milwaukee Bucks cap and chewing gum. “You’ve been there for a while now, looking at the grass. Do you have moles?”
“Digging holes in your yard. We’ve been having the same problem. Now, what I found was if I…”
The husband proceeded to explain the various methods he’d tried to rid his yard of moles, how he’d finally filled the holes with a mixture of mud and fox urine, but how fox urine was so expensive and so he was considering cheaper options for imitating urine. His wife chimed in occasionally, but he got the feeling it was because she felt awkward knowing that her husband was telling their neighbor about mole holes for no reason whatsoever.
“…and then finally, like a fool, I realized dog urine would work just as well! I mean, I have a dog. Hah!”
The man smiled weakly; he was not quite in the mood for anything more. The wife was looking at him strangely, or expectantly, wondering how he would react to her husband’s story about mole holes. He decided he didn’t want to entertain either of them, so he resumed staring at the grass again, trying to push the neighbors out of his mind and resume visualizing a cartwheel.
The wife, as if immediately recognizing the sudden disconnect, patched up the situation and ended it. “Well, it was nice talking to you. We’ll see you around.”
The man nodded, still staring at the grass, now intently.
The husband made a quiet huffing noise and nudged his wife along. The dog wasn’t paying attention at all and happily resumed his walk. The neighbors turned the first corner–not their usual path–and the man was alone again. But once alone, he found his cartwheel idea suddenly ridiculous. Why bother trying to do a cartwheel now? He’d probably just end up hurting his wrists, or landing on his back and having the wind knocked out of him. It wasn’t worth it.
He went back in his house, a small one bedroom house with wood siding painted a cream color that now looked more gray with its coating of years of dust. He went to the bathroom and started inspecting his face from afar. He squinted his eyes and lowered and raised his eyebrows and bared his teeth. He watched the creases form and disappear–or, not entirely disappear, but fade, then leave a slight trace. His face had memory now: He could make a face, relax it, and it’d still be there. Kind of. Or maybe the traces of faces were just wrinkles, and they’d been there before but he hadn’t noticed it. He wondered if older people still made faces in the mirror, if the enjoyment of faces was lessened once no new wrinkles were introduced as you moved it around. If so, he couldn’t expect to rely on making faces in the mirror as a way to induce happiness, as he did now. He’d have to find a new game. Maybe he’d do crossword puzzles. Maybe newspapers would drop crossword puzzles altogether by the time he got older, leaving only Sudoku in its place. A puzzle without words, a puzzle with only numbers.
He realized that all the while he’d been having these thoughts he was still making eye contact with himself. It was like he was in conversation with himself, silently. Or maybe he was simulating conversation but with slight variations (e.g. silence) that did away with the more obnoxious aspects of a real conversation. Like voices. Most people’s voices were awful. Maybe some people’s thoughts are awful as well. Maybe if we could communicate with thoughts he’d have the same problem he did now with hearing people’s voices. Maybe his thoughts were annoying. But how would he know? And if his thoughts were annoying, what could he do about it? Could he change his thoughts? Is that what meditation is for?
He was still staring at himself, but his eyebrows were now tense. He realized now that he was also slightly hunched over. His conversation with himself had begun stressing himself out. It was time to leave the mirror.
So many bubbles. When the bubbles popped they stuck to his skin and he found himself compelled to slide towards the floor, to act as if his spine had suddenly popped along with the bubbles on his skin, to act as if he were sliding like bubble fluid onto the unfinished wood floors, darkening the gray wood, covering it with spine bubble film, falling asleep like bubble liquid, waking up with saliva trailing out of his mouth and onto the floor like bubble liquid. Horny like bubble liquid.
When he did finally wake up the house was empty, both of bubbles and of people. The floor was soaking wet with bubble liquid and he still felt the attachment. The bubbles and he had shared something; it was undeniable now. He stood up and looked around. Windows closed but without blinds or curtains. Front door ajar but no neighbors living anywhere near enough to interfere. No electricity, oddly enough a violation of city coding. Who would necessitate that we use electricity? Madmen, he thought.
He walked over to the door and slammed it shut. Stood there, feet side by side, curiously leaned his head forward like a turkey and grabbed the doorknob again. Its gold metal cool to the touch. It reminded him of his grandparents’ bathroom, and the door did too. Flimsy wood door painted white. A flawless white, too. Who knew when it had been painted last, but that white was flawless. You could run into the bathroom and never slam that door because of the carpet. Maybe carpet was the answer to preserving the white. He would paint this door white and he would cover the gray wood with gray carpet, and he would run out of his house and slam that door and never have to worry about white paint flaking. But then, the bottom of the door would need some sort of protection. Because he was probably, in the end, too cheap to buy the nice air-padded carpet that his grandparents had had. He’d buy the thin, cheap kind. Less dirt and dust in there, too, which was necessary because not a single part of him wanted a vaccuum cleaner. Nor electricity. End of story.
He opened and slammed the door again. Head and eyes still locked on the doorknob. He turned the doorknob in his hand and watched his wrist. Not ball-and-socket–something else. He couldn’t remember. He turned the doorknob but kept pressure against the door to keep it from opening. His door opened out into the world, not into the house. A house for leaving and not for entering.
He was still horny. He longed to hump something. To put his dick in a sock and have someone else pull on it. He was tired of pulling on his own dick in a sock, as strange as it felt. The image to him had been more pleasurable than the sock itself: Him, lying in his dark bedroom, bubble machine on full blast, lying there with a bleached white sock on his dick that he imagined was such a bright white that neighbors, if he had had them, would’ve seen it from their kitchen window, as they washed their dishes and stared longingly out into the darkness and into his bedroom, hoping for a neighborly connection to the strange man who regularly filled his house with bubbles and, oh look, they’d say then, seeing the bright white sock, he also puts his dick in a sock and just lies there. Occasionally he humps the air.
Who would hold his dick in a sock? He or she would not have to do anything with the sock, or with the dick–the important thing was only that they hold it. He was not looking to finish, to orgasm, but simply to have his dick held in a sock while the purple bubble machine ran. And maybe they could sing him a song while they did it. A nursery rhyme, or anything he’d heard many times as a kid but not since then. It would be intimate, surely. Should he put an ad in Craigslist or in the paper? Should he put up posters around the nieghborhood? He’d do all three, and make an assessment. Which medium attracts the better holder? Who would hold his sock dick the best? He’d take an informal survey, at the end of the night, when his foreskin had grown raw and the sock no longer felt cool and like a cloth diaper. “Do you feel better or worse than when we first began?” That’d be the only question. The correct answer would be “Exactly the same.”