Light-Emitting Diode

You ever sleep in a Jeep, man? They don’t give you blankets, they don’t want you walking out the front door, huddled in blankets, and the blankets have the name stamped on them, so if you’re out wandering the grounds they know where you belong, color-coded, maybe everything’s blue, and they don’t give you shoes, either, just these cheap plastic things, which I forgot—I wouldn’t be caught dead in, no style—or these little sock booties, the bottoms ridged, they don’t squeak, and they’re not good for sliding on the court, you’d trip over if you tried to slide in them, they’re actually nice for creeping, but I forgot them too, I just needed to get out for a bit, see the sunlight, I passed a nurses station and beyond the hall, beyond the fish tank, what visitors would see as normal, before you push through the doors, only you, leaving your wife and your beautiful children behind, and those doors are solid for a reason, you’re not supposed to see, and most people don’t realize they’ve been institutionalized from day one, tagged and bagged at the hospital, given a name, and a date, and everything begins there, like these names and dates define you, make you who you are, and it wasn’t always this way, people dress really nice in this town, which surprises me, it’s a total surprise, because I’m in the middle of nowhere, and there are a lot of trees here, too, and I didn’t expect that, but then I never know what to expect, I been around the world so many times and I still don’t know what to expect, things are always around the corner, just waiting for you, you know?


I don’t know what you call these things—tire bumpers things. If I could form the word, if I could hold it in my mouth, define it. Without words there’s nothing, the world around you, formless. On the wall near the door, there’s a sliver of glass in the door, it’s fire-proof glass, glass with wire in it, it reminds me of school, when the doors were unlocked but you know you couldn’t escape, like they were waiting for you, but if you got up in the middle of class and left, they deemed you crazy, crazy and disrespectful, crazy because you wouldn’t stay and listen to their nonsense, and they’re trying to get you, from day one, filling your head with their ideas, why should I have to go to school, man, what am I learning that’s of any use to me, what are they teaching me about my past, and my present, they brought me here against my will, I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t want this world, this white man’s world, filled with lies about cherry trees and wooden teeth and all that bullshit, it’s all lies man, they brought us here to work, these fragile imports dying on the ship, and I mixed with their kind but that wasn’t my doing, I didn’t ask for this, you can have ten million in the bank and shit still happens to you, you can have a wife and two beautiful children, my two beauties back home, waiting for me somewhere, and it’s like the door in my room, back at the place, the place I just walked away from, I didn’t have any privacy there, and my brother trying to help me, I love him, my brother and I, we’re tight, really tight, and I’m asking him, on the phone in the hall, where everyone can hear, you know they’re all listening, when are you going to get me out of here, man, I’m ready to come home, I’m trying brother, I’m trying, but when I hear him talking, I realize he’s not trying hard enough, and he knows I realize it, and then we’re just talking, saying nothing, I’m bumping my head at him, on this hallway phone, Nurse Ratshit just a few stalls down, listening to me wearing no shoes, I walked into the lobby, the waiting area like I was looking at the fish, or wanted to look at the books against the wall, books no one reads, the patients don’t read here and neither do the staff, it’s all decoration, man, no one reads here, only medical charts, to keep tabs on you, they keep tabs on you, I took Seroquel this morning and it wasn’t like before, I’m not on a silly motorcycle riding like I didn’t know I just swallowed death, death in pill form, I’m not about that life anymore, I don’t want material things attached to me, these barnacles suck the blood out of you, cheap plastic toys don’t get you anything, except maybe arrested, and even the new cars man, the luxury cars, they’re cheap too, and plastic, like rosewood isn’t real rosewood, it’s plastic, I even called them out on it, the salesman, I said this isn’t real wood man, it’s plastic, No sir, it’s real wood, and I replied, more forcefully this time, I was polite but I wanted to get my point across, No sir, it’s plastic, I’ll take two of them, like I just popped a couple twenty-fives, the peach-colored ones, my peaches, and I like joking with the girls in the cafeteria, they have these funny accents, like hey how y’all doin’, they’re young and they’re round and their words are round, their words rounded as their bottoms, I’m strolling down the halls, mopping the door with these booties, I’ve got booties on my feet, it’s funny when you think about it, like you got little asses on your feet and they’re bumpered, these little plastic rubbery nubby blue bumpered things that push in when you squeeze them, the blue things, they’re like ten of them in a row, they’re good for creeping down hallways, what the fuck are those things called, they’re plasticated, and when I passed the nurses station I knew I was golden because the afternoon nurse was intently looking at something in her hand, which was her mobile phone, obviously, she was scrolling her contacts, or texting her boyfriend, or who knows, and I didn’t even need to pretend I was reaching for a book or looking at the fish, I just approached the front door, pushed it open with my right hand, like I could see my hand in front of me, like it was my hand pushing the door, like magic—no, not Magic—no, like wonder, the door just opens, and there’s the outside world, waiting for me, I just wanted to see the sunlight for a minute, and I don’t know how it got to be so late.


It’s cold and I didn’t have any money on me, you start wandering around in flannels and people looking at you, like they see 911, there’s this crazy man out here, but that’s not it at all, the facility has me like this, I took two peaches this morning and I still haven’t shaken it off, I saw this empty Jeep in the parking lot with those orange tow stickers on it, it was toward the back of the lot, parked in the corner, like the owner was hiding something, like he meant to leave it, and never come back, maybe skipping on the payments, or maybe he died, or something, you don’t know other people’s pain, maybe he just said I don’t want this anymore, this car, this house, this life, it was parked in the lot, near some shrubbery, kind of hidden by the plants, hidden by this green wall of leaves, and the orange stickers on it, and I tried the door and it opened, it was one of those two-seaters with the cargo hold in the back, and it had a plastic cover on it, not a real headliner, just a plastic shell, the cab was a vinyl and plastic shell, and the wind was blowing and it was coming through the plastic, where the plastic and vinyl had separated, and the owner had taped the plastic where it had torn away from the vinyl but the wind cut right through it, I was scrunched up in the cargo hold with a floor jack and there wasn’t a blanket, only some newspapers and a box with papers in it, garbage, and I tried covering my body with the box, I flattened it down, tried to make a blanket of it but the cardboard was strong, it tore my skin and made my fingertips dry, I curled into a ball in the cargo hold, my back against the cold ungiving floor jack, wishing I had a blanket, the only thing I wanted in the world at that moment was a blanket, and it was so cold in the back of that Jeep, with my head down, in the darkness, so no one could see me, and this light was shining through, this really strong light in the parking lot, I’ve never seen a light this strong before, this bright, it kept shining down on me, in the Jeep, like it wanted to out me, like it wanted me to be found, and when I looked up at it to curse it, to raise my middle finger at it, fuck you, man! It just kept staring at me, it wouldn’t let up, and I couldn’t sleep, like being in jail, the lights on all the time, to mess with you, to psychologize you, you know you start hallucinating from lack of sleep, wandering around out here, huddled between parking lot bumpers, and people are cruel, heartless—they see you and immediately look away, like they don’t see you at all, like they’re sweeping the sidewalk with their eyes. There’s this weird path that leads out to the dumpster, around the side door, maybe it’s a restroom, one of those outdoor restrooms, where you have to approach the counter and ask for a key, they make you beg for it, like I ever had to ask for anything in this world, and I’m there, huddled between the bumpers, about a foot apart, maybe they don’t want people accidentally driving into the rear of the building, and the noise from the drive-thru, people ordering stupid shit at two in the morning, and I get scrunched up behind the lights, pushing myself behind shrubbery, between the leaves and a smooth white wall, walls that remind me of school, so long ago, when a classroom was tempera and sunlight, before boys and girls understood color, I can’t shake the color dancing in front of my eyes, I look through the sliver, the fire-proof glass, it’s maybe five inches wide and thirty-six inches from top to bottom, just a sliver of glass between them and the outside world, and the door is light black, or dark brown, what’s the difference, and there’s movement in the kitchen, black shapes edging toward the door, and I briefly peek inside but then I don’t, I don’t want them seeing me and calling the police, there’s a transient out here, looking at us through the door, trying to get in, he’s near the dumpster, it’s a secure area, and it smells terrible out here, like someone pissed on the wall near the door, but the shrubbery, the shrubbery doesn’t smell so bad, at least it’s green, and if someone pissed on it, I can’t smell it, my mind’s better when my head’s not quel’d, you know, being able to not see things that are really there, and if that’s not crazy, then why is the reverse crazy, it doesn’t make sense, man, it’s just more rules they put on you to try to bend you to their will, it starts off at the hospital, on day one, then your first day of class, and that slivered window, some twelve years later, and here I am, still bending to their rules, and I’m tired of it, sometimes a man just wants to lay down, in the street, on the sidewalk, behind these shrubs, and I’m so tired right now, I can’t even tell you, I don’t know if it’s the peaches but I’m tired man, and I could really use a drink, not alcohol because I’m not about that anymore, just a drink man, a Coke or a Dr Pepper or a water, my mouth is so dry, but I don’t have any money on me, these hospital gowns, they look like flannels, like some lumberjack shit, they don’t have pockets, well not pockets in the normal places, there’s a rounded pocket, way high up, everything’s rounded, like they don’t want you cutting yourself, not where you’d normally keep money, hands level match pockets because that’s where you keep money, and anyway I don’t have any money on me, not even a dollar to buy a Coke, I’m out here and I forgot to put my nubbies on, what the fuck are those things called, man, without words the world is undefined, and I’m not stupid, I know this, but goddamnit I can’t remember the words, dizziness or lightheadedness, risk of falling, lying position, man I’ve never lied in my life, not even to my mama, people will make out what they will, create a life for you you’ve never even lived, rumors are tumors, man, they get you, and I like joking with the cafeteria girls, hey girl may I have some Karo with my Sero, I love pancakes and pills, you know it, Oh how y’all doin’ today, like there’s two of me, I look around, in my flannel, my nubbies back in my room, I’m out here in my bare feet, wondering why the floor is so cold, but I’ve got that Sero dizziness, and I thought, I must have thought maybe if I don’t put my nubbies on I won’t fall, because falling’s embarrassing, like you’ve got no control, I look around like there’s two of me and she starts laughing, the little white nametag on her shirt says YVETTE and she’s laughing, a cute little white girl with Texas drawers, we don’t have Karo but we got maple, alright girl, I say, I like trees, lay it on me.


The door doesn’t have a knob, or if it had it, it’s missing, knocked off by a drunk, or a vagrant, how do they get in there from the outside? They must prop a block between the door and the jamb when they take the garbage out. I see a keyhole but no knob, and if I were small enough and had focus, if I could just focus for one uninterrupted moment, without all these colors glazing my eyes, I could crawl through the keyhole and enter the kitchen, and I could talk with the kitchen staff, the people behind the scenes, the people you never see, it’s like the courts, you see ten players on the polish, and for every person on the court there are a hundred people behind them, people you don’t see, the people that make things happen, the people who sign contracts and carry money and tell you how to eat and tell you what to watch, who to buy, how to say the proper things at the proper times, locker room finesse, remember you’re a black man and there are white people watching, and I look at my hands, palms up, maybe eight inches from my face, and I still can’t see anything, like I’m not here, like I’m fading, and I’m so tired, these peaches got me tired, man, if I could just lay down for a moment, somewhere dark, but there are too many lights here, the whole parking lot is lit up, and the space between the door and the dumpster it lit up, and the whole world is lit up, like they know if it’s dark there’ll be people here, hiding in the shrubbery, like in my room, when I lying on my bed and thinking of my children, my beautiful children, and the closet door is open, this little closet they give you to put your clothes in, though all my street clothes were taken at intake, I stripped down to nothing, like they want you to, and sometimes at night, when I’m in my room and I’ve got that fuzz in my head, all that noise I can’t shake, it’s in my ears all the time, I know it’s not there, but I can still hear it, it’s this buzzing, like crickets or a refrigerator or something, I put my fingers in my ears and I can still hear it, it doesn’t go away, like I’m not even there, and at night in my room these forms will take shape, in the closet, I see them gathering there, I’m five years old again, and the world is big, and nothing makes sense, and if I could get up long enough to kick the closet door closed, but that would mean crossing floors, crossing boundaries, and I’m afraid right now. These hands that moved so many nights, on the court, in different cities, different venues, gladhanding afterward, having to smile all the time, it’s exhausting, and my two babies at home, when such a word meant something, some place I could look to on a map, point to and say there’s home, my home, with meaning behind it, like I could see it on my phone, the map of the world, where I lived, right now, or where I used to live, I could pinpoint it, shrink the world, the world getting smaller with my fingertips, my rooftop coming up on gorilla glass, satellites above the earth help us find home, somewhere outside the door, the front door, the door with the slivered glass.

Top Hat Jimmy

There’s a cat out here wandering around wearing a top hat, he’s got an old green Army coat on, some kind of old Army trench, and he’s wearing a top hat, walking around and he’s got a jingle in his step, like he used to be somebody, like he was a car salesman or a lawyer or a doctor or something, like he used to hold court, like people would look to him for answers. He came up to me and I couldn’t click two nickels together, I’m wearing this robe thing and it’s cold out here, I was sleeping in a Jeep earlier, it looked like it was abandoned, but you ever sleep in a Jeep, man? Even when it’s sixty out here you know it’s not really sixty, google and iPhone always lying about the weather, they always try to make things more favorable than they are, I think they need to be on meds, always lying man, saying it’s sixty when it’s fifty-five, maybe even fifty. You ever sleep in a Jeep, man? It’s cold and it’s got this plastic cover but the cold goes right through it, like it’s got nothing on at all, like a hospital robe, opened in the back, but my flannels ok for wandering, they’re fully closed, for seeing the world, or world seeing, you know when they greet you, except no one comes to visit, and it looked abandoned, there were these orange stickers on the plastic windows, like a warning, you gotta get this car out of here by such and such, and I didn’t want any trouble, you know? I didn’t want someone coming up on me, saying that’s my property man, and I can respect that, I’ve had enough trouble, I don’t need any more trouble, man, you make a misstep and people keep expecting you to make a misstep, and make another, waiting for it, waiting for you to fall. Top hat coming up on me, he’s got this old Army coat on, and there’s layers under it, like maybe he’s wearing something else, I hope he’s not the Unabomber, gonna pull a string and blow us both up, but maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, something violent, quick and then it’s gone, all that pain gone in an instant, I’m out here killing myself slowly, people don’t know man, they don’t know what it’s like to lose that much love, they don’t understand man, how you can have twenty thousand people cheering for you, six months later no one knows your name, they won’t say it, Nah man, he done _______ up. Nobody calling, reps repping you like they’re calling from a trailer park in Nowheresville, a big nothing trying to push me up, like getting a boost from a paper tiger. Wash your name, man, wash your name? Top hat acting a bit sketchy, but he sidles up to me and he has a drink in his hand, a cup from Jack in the Box, one of the big ones, like a large or something, Man I could sure use a drink right now, and top hat looks at me like maybe he remembers tempera but he don’t remember it this way. What you doing man, you doing alright? I could sure use a drink right now, I say, repeating it, in case he didn’t hear, it’s been about six hours off the meds and I’ve got cottonmouth, I took two peaches six hours ago and walked out the door, man, I try to speak but it comes out garbled, no my friend, you need a lot more than a drink, and it’s like putting a thousand needles into my heart, no one ever listens to you when you say something, even if what you’re saying is the simplest thing in the world, like you have to shout it, man, and they still don’t hear you. I just need a drink man, not a drink but a drink, just some water or a Coke or something, man. You have a gown on, my friend, where’d you come from? I don’t know, St. Joseph’s, St. Andrews, I can’t remember, I’m so tired, I could just stand up falling asleep, you ever been that tired before? So tired it takes all your strength just to keep your head up? Top hat’s laughing at me, touches my shoulder, and I see he isn’t evil, no bad intentions, We all have, my friend. I saw you coming out of that Jeep, is that your vehicle? Looks like you’ve got a few bills to pay—No man, that’s not mine. My driving days are over. I used to have all these beautiful cars in the garage but those days are over, they’ve been over, I don’t have anything to my name now, just my two beautiful children and my wife at home—You have a home, my friend? I used to man, I used to have all the trappings, everything a man could want, I had my baby boy at my side, he’s so beautiful man, and my little shorty, just us in the kitchen, like a real couple, we love each other man, making breakfast in the morning, she knows I love them shortcakes, and I’m trying to make my way back to her, I want to be the best that I can, but goddamnit man, sometimes it’s hard, sometimes love ain’t enough. Wash your name, man? My friends call me Jimmy—you can call me Jimmy. Hey Jimmy man, good to make your acquaintance, you know I’ve been all over the world, I’ve seen everything a man could possibly see, but it’s nothing if you don’t have a good woman, or a good friend who’s got you, you know what I’m saying? When life cuts you down, all your friends disappear, nobody knows your name anymore, you could be young and have it all, be on top, your name everywhere, but then people start labeling you, they start shunning you, Oh he’s crazy, he’ll do something crazy if we take him on, sign a contract, and next thing you know, you’re believing it, you start believing the lies they’re saying about you. What are you doing out here Jimmy man, who are you looking for? I’m just taking a stroll my friend, not looking for anyone, looking for you, that’s what I’m doing. And when he said You I believed it, like we were supposed to be together, right now, in this place, at this moment, helping each other—but I didn’t have anything to offer him. I could really use a drink man, and Jimmy took my hand and led me to the door, and I did not drop away from him, I let him lead me on, around the building to the front door, what’s your name, my friend? And I’ve been in this trap before, like a spider waiting to get at you, That’s not about me now, Jimmy, I don’t have a name, and Jimmy pushed the glass door open and we walked into the light, like being baptized, an explosion of light, and a girl was at the counter, smiling at us, May I help you, and Top Hat Jimmy said my friend would like a large Coke, Nah man I’m good, I don’t need a large, not a large, My friend will have a medium Coke, Jimmy said, really smooth, the words coming from his mouth like he said them a thousand times, and his voice, it was calm, steady, like he didn’t have a care in the world, like he wanted to be nowhere else but here, with me, now, standing before this girl, and I didn’t have a thing to offer him, not even my name, and my legs, my legs are so skinny, like bones, I’ve been losing weight man, I could never get signed now, and my head ain’t right, I know that, I can’t get these colors out of my head, it’s that light, it did something to me, I think they put it there to monitor people, make sure they were making the right choices, like those thoughts they can beam into your head, thoughts that aren’t yours, but they make them yours, they do it in your voice, somehow, the voice you recognize as being your own, the voice that’s always in your head, narrating! I read about it on google, I read it to my baby, over breakfast, they got this thing, microwave auditory effect, I pulled it up on google and read it to her, they can beam a signal into your head, baby, put thoughts into your head that aren’t yours.—Oh yeah, she asked. Is that what they do at car dealerships, and I laughed at her, because maybe she was right, all those beautiful cars I bought, back in the day, when it made sense, when everything made sense, when that kind of thing was important to me. It’s funny, all those things we think meant something, they don’t mean anything, they’re just in the moment, happening when they’re happening, and it’s only later when we look back and place this import on it, but no man, buying a different Bentley for each day of the week, that ain’t me man, not anymore, the only thing I want right now is a good blanket, it’s cold out here man.


Top Hat Jimmy removed his Army trench coat, carefully and with great showmanship, folded it and laid it on one of the plastic tables with the small cheap metal chairs, the tables cemented in place, like they’re herding elephants in here, and removed a Harley-Davidson vest from his person, like they say in law, and it was still warm, just from his body, and he was the literal shirt off my back man, I’ve never had a friend like that before, never man, I’ve had hangers-on and a posse, basement rats, but never a friend like this, man, The jacket and the money, keep it my friend, handing me the H-D vest and a few dollar bills, balled, dirty, blackish-green, black tar bills, bills you’d steal from a corpse, and then Jimmy put his trench back on, took his Coke from the table, and walked me out the door of the restaurant, the Jack in the Box, he held my hand and guided me as we walked out the door together, and now it was truly night, and dark, and the one light was still shining on me, in the cold, exploding the dark, and it was so cold, I put the vest on, I put the vest on over my hospital gown, my flannel, I want to give you something, but I don’t have anything, Jimmy, that’s alright my friend, just be you, maybe someday someone you meet will be in a pinch, just return the favor, How old are you Jimmy—61, a very old 61, Jimmy said, laughing, why old man, because I’ve lived too long, my friend, a man gets bored after a time, you see too much, too much pain in the world, and it overwhelms you. Some days I don’t even want to open the front door. But don’t worry about any of that, my friend—you’re much too young to worry about that. What do you do, man, I’m retired, my friend, Yeah but what did you do, man, back when you wanted to open the front door? I was an art dealer, one of the biggest art dealers in Houston, that was my fortune, and I lost it all. I’ve still got style though, a man doesn’t lose his sense of style. If he had it, he keeps it, like a bicycle. You sold art to people, Jimmy—I sold beauty, my friend, people will pay a lot for beauty, but the sad thing is, the racket is, my young friend, the artist puts his life, his vision into the work, and he receives little in return, it’s the dealer who gets everything, who reaps the rewards, and it has always been like this. It’s a terrible system, my friend. You give to the world and all it does is take, take, take. But the world is filled with beauty, sometimes too much beauty, that’s why I got out. And now my friend, goodbye, and good luck to you. Keep that vest, take care of it, it belonged to a very good friend of mine. I will man!


They say they’re with you but then when they get behind you they’re talking, they’re whispering with your name in their mouth all the while smiling at you and saying you’re this, you’re that, yeah bro but then if I don’t have a smile for everyone they think I’m off my meds, look he didn’t take his medicine, he’s wandering around crazy like he doesn’t know who is, but I’ve always known who I am, where I’m coming from, like I can see my hands here, right in front of my face, I’ve got two hands, I know where they are, how can they be talking about me like I don’t know where I am, I know who I am, man, I’m living for three, you know it’s not about you, you’re not the center of the universe, you know what I mean? When you got two babies to take care of, when you got the weight of the world on your shoulders, it’s not about you anymore, but sometimes I get turned around, like when I was a kid, when everything was so simple, I’d be in my room, spinning, my brother and I together, I’d be in my room spinning, round and round man, just to get away from things, to exit this world, and I don’t know, maybe I was six or seven, and you stop spinning but the world keeps moving, your body stops but your brain doesn’t, and the world doesn’t, and when you’re seven it’s ok for the world to keep spinning, it’s fun man, but not when you want it to stop, not at this age, and the peaches are supposed to make it stop, but instead they just make it worse, and there’s always a low grade humming in my head, the lights turned down but still there’s a low grade humming in my head, a machine I can’t see, just out of reach.

The Youngin’

The problem of suicide is the eyelash in the eye, man. Like you’re at home, you’re at the kitchen table with your woman or your babies, or you’re with your woman on the sofa, you’re there watching something on the Samsung, and you get this eyelash in your eye, it’s really bothering you, it’s just this tiny thing but it’s your whole world at the moment, and the only thing you can think is I need this out of my eye, and you don’t want to dig into your eye with your fingers because maybe your fingers aren’t clean, and you got this thing in your eye, I’ll be right back, baby, and it gets to a point, especially if maybe you’re in the shower and you can’t get to it just yet, and you have soap or shampoo in your eyes, and the eyelash is bothering you, it’s just this tiny minuscule thing but it has you on edge, it gets so bad you want nothing more than to remove your eye from its socket, to stop the pain, the irritation, jab five fingers into your eye and remove it from the socket, ease the pain man, and I’ve tried suicide man, I’ve cut myself, I’ve hurt myself, I’ve swallowed pills, I did it all, man, but I was just a kid, I didn’t know any better, I was just crying out for attention, you know, I want someone to love me the way I love them, my love is intense, when I really love someone I really love them, it’s like I’d give the world to them, but you got this thing in your eye, the bad head, the fingers just there, they’re demanding jab this thing out of my head, take this pain away, get rid of it, man, but what if it’s your own eye, and so you cinch the belt around your neck and hang yourself in the closet, hanging between all those beautiful suits you tried on once, wore only once, your face blue with telangiectasia, that spider web death, Oh you didn’t think I’d know that word, I been taunted about my skin my entire life, man, who are you thinking, thinking you got a grip on me, you drive your car one hundred and twenty miles per hour into an embankment, your body accordioned, man, your thoughts exploded onto the headliner, you put the gun in your mouth and suckle the barrel like you always knew you’d do, and the sites, those Triji’s knocking against your teeth, and you vaporize your head but there’s pieces of you all around the room, and the problem is still there, only you’re not in it, now it’s someone else’s problem, and that ain’t love, man, I was just a spoiled brat, but those feelings, they never go away, like I’m doing this for the Lord, but the Lord doesn’t want it, and I’m here man, and my feet are cold, when your feet are cold you can never get warm, and Jimmy man—he gave me this vest! No one has ever done anything like that for me before, a total stranger giving me that kind of love man, twenty thousand faces in the darkness isn’t the same, the crowd goes wile, who cares man, this black sugar is so wonderful man, I think sugar is the ultimate addict, this kid coming up to me, he’s got his cell in his hand like everyone else in the world right now and his partner with him, hey man, are you Delonte West, like they tagged and bagged you, like they think they know you, looking like Nas in a tight crimp and wanting a pic with you but you know they’re clowning, like a second later they’ll tweet something and no one understands respect anymore, no one knows what love is, man, I’m just trying to survive out here, survive this night, I’ve been afraid all night, I forgot my damn shoes man, my nubbies, and that girl Yvette back at the facility, that cafeteria girl, she’s real nice, she knows what love is, not this fake man, if this kid really loved me he’d offer a blanket, or a couch or something man, I got these LED’s in my brain and they won’t turn off, I pull the plug but they won’t turn off, these peaches in my brain got my mind mush, they trying to keep me serrated, so I don’t know myself, but I’ve always known myself, when everyone defines you you get to know yourself, I used to be but I’m not about that life anymore, and the kid, little baby Nas snaps his pic and leaves, he and his partner disappear into the night, and I wish Jimmy was still here, he was a smooth gentleman, man, he had shit figured out. Sixty-one man, an old sixty-one, and 61 is a good age to die, because six plus one is seven, and seven is one of them magic numbers, not Magic but magic, you know, and I’ve got a few bills now thanks to Jimmy and that Chevron’s looking good, I wonder whatever happened to Cam’ron man, you see how you can be the ringleader and they forget you, like your name was in everyone’s mouth and now it’s not, now I’m nothing, just a blip on some kid’s phone, clowning on me with that devil grin of his, like he got something up on me, but no one knows me man, how much love I have, how much love I have to give, no one’s gonna take that from me, that love for my wife and my babies, we was newlyweds, man, and I still got that newlywed love for her—how many out there can say that, where’s Jimmy man!

Lucite Dreams

I found this piece of plastic on the sidewalk. You can be beautiful, man, but it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean shit, you’ve still got death hovering over you, those shoes make you look dead, and there was a time when my face was clear and unlined with guilt, back in the Celtics days, when the future was spread before me like a buffet, and I could have anything I wanted, and I did, I did have everything I could ever want, but I gave it away, if a friend needed something, if my family was wanting, what good was it, chasing all this paper, it doesn’t add up to a friendship, it doesn’t add up to family, and people will lose you when you’re down, they’ll conveniently forget your name, drop you just like that, how quickly fans turn on you, and sometimes I picture myself dead, in a casket, everyone’s crying, now that I’m gone, dabbing false tears from their eyes, pan down and I’m wearing a pair of Crocs, like a white boy on vacation, ain’t that shit funny? If life can be funny I don’t know why death can’t be, people placing too much emphasis on it, we’re all trapped in the eternal now but how many of us know it?


The plastic is rectangular shaped, it has waves in it, about two by six, it’s thick, maybe it’s glass, and it has grit on it, or burn marks, the surface of the skin marred by flaws, the surface of the skin, reddened, and you know they called Malcolm Red, Detroit Red, I hold it up to my eyes, I look through it, and it’s like my early days, when I was a boy, when my brother and I shared everything, ganging up on our parents, protecting ourselves, a two-man unit, a man needs friends, and there are none out here, just vultures looking to pick the last chunk of flesh from your bones, until you’re nothing, a skeleton in the street wrapped in hospital robes, kick the robes off the sidewalk and I fold and disappear into the gutter, and when I was a boy my brother and I would build these fort blankets in our bedroom, I’d turn and make like I was going to take a right, then I’d dodge him and go left, and attack from the side, it’s all about surprise man, and keeping them on their toes, the same skills I used on the court, all those years later, I honed them in the bedroom, as a child, and my brother was there with me, If I could convert Jimmy’s bills to coins I’d call him now, there’s no pay phones left, where’s that punk with his celly when I need him, hey you want timzy pic you better let me borrow that cell first, I’m in trouble man, I could use some help here


, and it’s impossible to get warm when you’re feet are cold. I can’t believe I did this, I wasn’t thinking when I left the, the thing, left it without my nubbies on, walked right out the front door, I saw my hand in front of my face, my right hand, I just wanted a little sunlight but I’d eaten those peaches, those 25 meggers, they force that stuff on you, I just want to be alone man, for one night, with my thoughts, and a clear head, and now it’s getting to me, I regret it, and the shards of glass, and the rocks, the pebbles break the surface of your skin, and all the cigarettes, and the dirt, and the garbage, it’s so dirty out here, and one of these shrubs scratched me, went right through my flannel, I’d once read you could die, die from a simple cut, or a scratch, the infection sets in, you let it go and next thing you’re in a casket, wearing your Crocs, I’m out here trying to get a little help, I’ve got to cross that street, there’s an expressway out here with cars going so fast, like liquid death, and the colors, they’re so beautiful, the peaches really crank up the colors, I just need enough change for Chevron, get something to eat, I don’t know what I want, nothing, really—and where’s Jimmy? I’m looking for top hat but he’s gone, and sometimes in my room I’ll _______ but it’s not the same, not how it used to be, you come to a point when you pass over everything and everything looks different, like visiting the school you attended when you were a child, walking through the door, saying hello to your favorite teacher, she’s still there, only older, much older, maybe she’s sixty-one, and the desks and the chairs look so small—were they always this small? Welcome back, you’ve done so well for yourself, I’m really proud of you, you were always such a nice boy, I always knew you were special, how have you been getting on, asking me, and she’s bent a little, standing to one side, taking me in, and I can tell she really cares, it’s not a put-on, I see you have a lovely wife and two beautiful children, yes ma’am, It’s beautiful, man, you’ve gotta be able to see the beauty in every day, I just want to do something beautiful, man, I want to be the beauty in the world, you know? The world is too ugly. I just want to do something beautiful, do something that matters, just for once, if you could do one beautiful thing, man, would you, if you could only believe in me, for this one moment, and I want to be surrounded by it, enveloped in it, I want to disappear in it, all this useless beauty


“Delonte Lost” is an excerpt from James Nulick’s new short story collection, Haunted Girlfriend.