They ran women, often girls, through the slipstream. Candida knew what she could get. She knew when assessing potential lovers that they would wind up victims. What could be done about her flare-ups? “I speak, I exist,” she’d remark, quoting Anna Karina in her favorite film, Vivre Sa Vie.
The grackles in this grove of Exurbia can be heard for miles pealing in ebbs and flows. Anthers extrorse to the pollen. A bridge over troubled water. A dense conurbation of tract and row houses smudged together into cookie cutter patina. A preponderance of systemic, ontic and epistemic substance abuse, a pandemic razing hospital infrastructures and taxing the pit, God’s teeth grinning. Faithful sentinels in glass houses.
This evening, they obscure the domestic tumult of one couple wiling their lives away on the meaty adrenaline of prescription amphetamine salts and the beveling fugues of suboxone; the Dawnes, Candida and Alexi, another pair of Memphis casualties. Writers, coders, rockers, junkies. Fucking junkies. Doors slamming, yelling, bawling, gnashing from somewhere. The silence of midtown. The inertia of static weather in late summer, a cool breeze lifting nothing. No egress for the desolated slummers, the bleak quarter tank economy. Everyone a husk, no place more indifferent to Kali Yuga shifting the earth, death drive on overdrive, noumena buckling under the pressure of utter statistical will, telluric eschars unpeeling the firmament. Candida paces around, lids stuttering; a pupil cooing, a phone off in the distance vibrating, soothing. The junkie mindset: reprogrammed for permanent abuse of oneself and others, teased by glimpses of paradise all the more disaffecting for their unreality to the junkie who’s already checked out to hell, promotion of nihilism so stifling as to reduce all to a meaningless tandem hustle, a minor racket. Something for anything. Eyes on the next fix. The disarmament is total; this wasteland enveloping to all hardwired to be humane. A Reaganomics hit job. Not a drug problem, an ontic one.
For almost a decade now, notwithstanding intermittent lapses into short-lived affairs and their attendant resentments, Candida and Alexi have been a lean strategic partnership…dishonesty of the unreliable narrator…decrypt the fucking thing. Ok, it’s blacker than that. But you know who keeps blowing up that phone well as I do, right? Look around. Every inch of this place a labor of love, aesthetically pure, conscientiously decorated as a promissory gesture to everlasting devotion, shared interests: a home and dismal gallery all the same. The undertow is palpable, the seams ripping stitches ripping blood from scabs. Things take time, take time…Candida mutters. There’s nothing here witnessed you’d want to know. Besides, we’re on fiction. Candida is a mosquito trapped in amber.
Soul and history. Woe betide industry, from Graceland peering out over the frontiers of systemic poverty and urban blight, to alleys named after bluebirds, to vacant storefronts and Confederate monuments, to Sun Studio preserved. Roy Orbison behind glass. I know what Memphis is. Do you? A museumed history, a soulful place. Match my sincerity with scuffle. Come for me and pluck my canines before I bite down like a tourist who can’t speak the language. I know black and white. I know twinges of gray. I know what the lines on your face signify. I know what that little blue vein on your temple means. I know why you’re always sniffling. I know why you have the tolerance of a large mammal, swallowing fistfuls of benzos like candy. I know why you enjoy pretty, simple pleasures like bon mots, why your jokes are so nuanced and packed with quizzical allusions. Why you say no one gets you. Get out of that sad, lonely place. That bleak hellhole. Quit stealing candybars and cigarettes. All I have is my words and I’m lonely too. You’re so skinny, Candida. You take gladly what you can out of life. You relish being a jailbird. A sick little puppy. This next level shit you said I’m on. This final cause of kindness. Negotiate Nothing, whispered once a Jim Shepard, and it stuck. Abstruse and miscalculated, all the jokes I laughed at like they were kernels of insured irreverence. Nothing is insured here. All is sad, sad, sad. A desert for the soul.
Alexi stomps and stammers gibberish. Airing grievances like afterthoughts. Candida buries leads beneath pith and charm. Of course, she never intended any harm. Who does? The phone vibrates.
Unpack this insuperable churn in your gut and let them go. Divert course from the sullen and helpless and help yourself. Negate this grievous crone you’re dripping for: her terrible, crooked beauty promised to another. Choler caught in her throat, a gunshot vanquishes the silence and she starts. Alexi settles down, benched at last. Candida hugs the wall and slumps into the sofa’s upholstery, tumbling over it and curling up. She reaches for her phone and mercy-kills the incessant vibrating, mother smothering cubs.
Memphis that night was like any other night, beaming with soul, Kentucky maids swishing ’round beer glasses, jukeboxes abuzz with five songs a pop. Scruples not in vogue this year, everybody losing their balance to someone else struggling to prop them up. The dull, muffled sound of aging. Upturned jowls and copper tones, I coulda sworn something snapped in me that night. But I forgot the feeling and you did soon after.
The feeling that hides in jihad.
Candida picks up the guitar, shuffles her bowleg, a pick tumbling by her wayside. She can’t play licks worth a fuck anymore, but she can vamp on E to a steady honky-tonk rhythm. Alexi picks up the groove and starts snapping his fingers, tapping his calf in a parochial key, and bouncing his toes like a muzzled master snapping a stripped leash, tears plastered to his face.
F#. Each day is a year, and each year a second. 2017 was a nodal year. The papery rattle of bugmen buzzing at saws stained with the crudescent bovine blood, the cobbled together conjecture and innuendo that laced the headlines cultivated insanity, everyone losing it from work and attendant lack of scratch. A fevered sopor taking us back. Bugs like birds. The humidity seeps into his pores causing scaly blemishes and crimson welts under the caked mud on his skin. The sun is toxic. It was a nodal year. Careening off the turnpike, he reaches for a lozenge in his pocket’s pocket. Gutter snipes and gangbusters. Gangbusters and gutter snipes. Gutted. We don’t need a political revolution, we need a final global solution. Pious. Don’t let it be lost on you. The history of Western Democracy and its breadth is grand. From incunabular to extant volumes. From anodyne to primer. Oversight from conservative anti-vaccine think tanks like the Cato Institute, whom I will gladly name. Nameless, incognate evil. Carousing denizens. Polymaths. Polyps. Peer reviewed medical journals kicking sand in an open wound. A raw deal. Payday loan industry corporate welfare. malignant narcissist. self love jail. lousy cheeky synapses. entheogen miffed. righteous indignation. Untrammeled. Put that shit on ice. Swank meek postscripts. overview why wow come. how do you mean?
I’ll make you weep and shake for my city, she said. Fallen into disuse, my member, my rube’s muscle was wilted at the sight and sigh of gods. Her armor was angelic; truly it was sparkling bronze above olive shades of flesh. Checked out yourself out of self-love jail. I was sincerely moved by your ramshackle dreams and petitions. The Doves kept you out. Held back by the checkered past trope, and unchecked arrogance. How can you pass on the raw deal? That was you, remember. Put up something to impress me again. The stakes are too high to be reading. So I do not endorse it. We’d ruin each other on four walls, trembling before the Hague white privilege tribunal. Add velocity and dimension; add fear. Love is the forsaking of duty. It is not tenable. It shirks and balks at time, which it collapses along with space, autonomy, individuality, lost in the mirror you look. Did I read too much into box elder? Into you saying that was what you wanted? Looking for a job. If it’s true love, you will not pass. You will not risk it to chance and the velleities of temporal erosion. We will make it work. A long term plan. Not a permanent vacation. A life with you. If I could come to Memphis, I would come. You know I would in a heartbeat. I don’t want you to think I’ve lost interest. Conversely, my interest has only intensified. Quell all doubt. I’m not here to motivate you despite my solicitations, your lack of desire to discuss anything serious, but what kept me going was you looking for a job in Miami, now I’ve got nothing to keep me going. How do we move back? This is a long distance relationship. It’s difficult to make work. In fact I would venture that it never seems to work. Love is a muscle, use it or lose it. Or suffer hypoxia.
I know you. Swollen. Then you know I’m not asking for your verbal answers. I’m asking to scan your reactions. Hooked on three words for a month. You’re not entitled. I told you to take refuge. Like Cassandra I told you winter was coming. Sectarian violence, martial law, nuclear war. I told you. A black plague of illness will scour the earth. I told you this. When I heard words, they moved me. I thought everything in earnest. I don’t give a fuck anymore. Hook line sinker. Words are actions. Weapons imbued with supernal clarity. You passed. Said they were labels, you’re still moving on from the past. Your wound will not close. You must be a vacuum, a bubble, your actions must not affect others. Carry a torch. Not recreationally fucking, you said. Our telepathy has run its course, these devices have run their course, time to graduate, time to levitate. These tweets are now accredited. They’re in a museum. Box Elder. Lord, send me faith for these lids are heavy. These arms ain’t ready. Discursive curlicues, detonating eschars over seas of bombast. State sanctioned, state sponsored controlled opposition. Cerebral shunt, er must reject these tropes. They feed us trash. Don’t feed the tropes. Shuffled unfettered lope about staggered tautology
What is the bailiwick of the Stasi? This question I detest. What is not? We pulled string metallic beads with spikes through a man’s asshole today. Twat screamed while his woman and his little brat looked on, sobbing and crying. Army of One is an anagram you see. That’s the sitch, so disabuse yourself, and perish the thought my lovebug. What? That would be an appalling conflict of interests. A sober purpose. A singular one. Army of One. Doves? We shit on them. They won’t be around for long. You know why? ‘Cause where they going to hide? In the mountains? Go ahead. I’ll wait them out.
I can’t believe they killed the socialist Jew again. I started a movement of the true sociopath. 666 is bulletproof, conceived subalpine clime, crystallized sibylline in that sylvan snowglobe. A rarefied narrative. The sociopath’s behavior is machine learned, machine tested. I’m pirouetting the camera to show you the shit in the weeds. Let them narc. Before I catch fire, let me let you in a little well-kept secret, introduce you to the heat source.
To categorize the sociopath, one must first examine its foil, the empath. The empath is a cornerstone of Western Democracy. A victim of only time, which preys upon them, feasts on their robust heart with attendant historical continuity inexorable.
The true sociopath is not merely prototyrant, but an elemental force of trauma. It is reductive to say the sociopath careas only for his own self-propelled enrichment. The true sociopath cares not even for himself, in fact considers himself the last casualty of his conditional violence, the final solution to the misery of existence. Murder-suicide 1 is what the sociopath wants. Even Hitler would attest to his downfall as such.
The sociopath wants to consume you and make you their partner in hell, for they view the world as hell. Those who view existence as utterly uncomplicated misery (Hell) value their own lives solely as a vehicle to inflict harm on others. Their self-advancement can only be gauged in these seemingly crude yet calculated terms. Harm for every howling wound they’ve suffered unconscionably in the incorrigible, profoundly sick society. Authorize remittances for drones, defense contracts. CNS Stimulants. My brain is whirring. Gutless prawn, polyp. How prawns became mollusks. Gentrifier slumlord crone. Chordata, Pliskin, Chordates, Vertebrates. My brain is whirring. I need to tune out. Checked out.
Hell is a movement on earth. 666 the number. I put out a beacon/distress signal. You sound/seem like trouble but I like it. Linchpin. Report to better business bureau. General assembly. Marshaled. Corporate Welfare. Payday Loan Industry. Little sapling. The malignant narcissist will press every advantage, exhaust every avenue, exploit his humility exuded in pretense, act the false prophet gladly, seek brutal recourse when available, groping for a sentiment, reaching to abolish the institutions, discredit them, erode the public’s trust in them, autocratic scaffolding for a coup to absolute totalitarian power, light the Reichstag fire. He will be uncowed in his vigor against the faithful opposition. He seeks to dismantle every check and balance against his iron fisted rule, usually engineered under pretext of public safety and health. Controlled eruptions. A monomania so perverse it wrenches one from the seat of his fathers. A forceful riposte, a delicate contrapasso. Miffed and given to rank, mercurial urges, he will otherize the establishment until they are tethered inextricably to their internal corruption and due for radicalization. A disdain for due process will follow, extrajudicially, murderously. A metempsychosis, chimera, chameleon. All that which you can’t unlearn. Wildly improbable creature comforts on borrowed time. He will categorically condemn the act of arson as unacceptable and an existential threat to safety. Citizens will feel patronized. Gun saturated, the first action will be to outlaw and confiscate all arms, before commutation of undesirables and ethic cleanses i.e. pogroms/ final solutions/ martial law. The orders will be rubber stamped by an elite member of cabinate, usually a deputy, and the order discharged in the foulest language and boldest typeface. It is a play for unalloyed power wearing the mask of Brechtian theater, the pinnacle of which will feel exaggerated, but by this milestone, it will be too late. The consent of the governed by which we operate will become threadbare. Failed state will emerge from the detritus of polarization. Cruelty unalloyed will follow. Blood will drain. Unseasonable hot rain will fill them with bite and gentle venom. All consent will dissolve in a lake of effulgence. Peace will seem a piecemeal prospect. Ad hoc venues for death squads will be the future classrooms. The rear guard will capitulate and collapse on pliable knees. Better to die on their feet than live on their knees, so die they will. Sectarian violence. Gravely wrong. Woe betide the abstraction of rear guard mutiny, tribal, when electorate is hypnotized, confidence in integrity of electoral process demolished, and the inferno simmers. Complicit in lighting the Reichstag fire. Cordiality gone. They who legislate death with impunity weren’t kidding around. The tragic breadth of this moment. Emboldening the lunatic fringe. Watering the tree of liberty. Envisaged the end of politics. A miscarriage of justice and taxes. The corrupt behest of the civilized socialist. The nerve, the audacity to escalate this to entropy. The gutless, spineless amoebas charged with protecting our civil liberties, enshrining them in a constitution they’re sworn to defend. Should a meridian form, should modernity relieve us of the burden of choice, it wouldn’t make our choices any less imperative or consequential. On the contrary, against the stark absence of that burden, choices will begin to seem hostile, reactionary, and eventually the instruments of a collective fringe instead of the civil liberties duly endowed. Gingrich calls today’s shooting indicative of a pattern of leftist hostility. Is the irony of seeking to legislate death with impunity lost on him? American idiocracy. Shibboleth. Wormed his way into politics. Peckerwood. Firing off. Federal oversight. The gutless, spineless amoeba known as Ryan, if he fails to motion impeachment after Trump fires Mueller, he may as well worm his way under the oval office desk because he’s totally fuckin’ useless. And all the pundits complicit in making of today’s shooting a Reichstag Fire, your Kremlin puppet would want nothing more. Shame on you, a shameful act, Big fuck you. Big ups. Firing off. Signing off. Won’t even save his party. Ok. Invoke it in the strongest, most potent fucking terms. If he has nothing to hide, why obstruct? Why not the political will to punish treason? To hold to account? Why stonewall? The government is more dysfunctional than ever, UK with a hung parliament a small victory over Brexit. Politics are failing and N Korea lobs more ICBMs. This is about Duty. Thomas Paine wrote that violence was inevitable if the consent of the governed could not be confirmed. Why the panic on the streets? Why the attempt to radicalize? Keen to lean into. This is what a kangaroo court indictment looks like: arraignment, prejudiced interrogations, impugn. Fucking useless. Fucking around with borrowed time. I care about good government. More worthless than a paperweight with no center of gravity. Overtures of jargon. Zippity doo dah. You’re the next oligarch on the guillotine. I’m reeling, I’m in a panicked state, acute stress disorder from the election. I lack the performative gusto and prowess. Painfully silent majority. Inherit the earth. Faintly faint.
How the democrats became a domestic terror organization, but failed to steal the thunder of the Peking Doves. How the year of the mollusk began. id-to-the-fore abandon.
Heat waves. This is a philosophy. An ungainly, unreviewable, damn near unprintable and certainly unreadable thing, unapproachable thing. But readers are no longer sensitive to good writing. A work of palpable, overwhelming anxiety. Difficult, deliberately confusing, not sobering. Frustrating, exhausting to read, contemptuous of its own readership. Calm, measured. Histrionic. Imparting amateur philosophies. Turgid slush pile of the obsessive. Slush fund. Exorcising on caffeine pills, uppers. Yikes is RIGHT. Chiari malformation circumferences. The word genius is a corrput semantic just like love and war corrupt all ideals, so does the anointed “genius” carefully tread leaden. Syllogistic, systemic thinking. Shaw- “All intellectual labor is inherently humorous.” Remain raveled, inquiry exercise in futility. Evola. Linkola. Spinoza. Ethicist, ethnographer. Sub Specie Aeternitatis. Ethnostate. Epithet. Absurdity of solipsism. Ingenuous. Ah the 4th viewing. An exercise in confirmation bias. Futility is funny. Diced the plum. Dicey sitch. Jubilation. Germinal, seminal, germane. Futility is the fuel and the source of casual disillusionment. Plodding. Luxuriate in your chair at Seton Hall. FINRA. Molecular excess. Cellular level. I want to go to Patagonia now. Last sentence. To bear witness to the fruits, bear down and slit bottle service bottlenecks. See. View. Hector me with cobbled together hang-ups, innuendo, conjecture. My chief mode of transportation is feelings. Kitchenette. Kitchen sink approach. Anticoagulant properties in statins. Apache, spartan wrists. Shadow potus Putin. Mosquitoes carried pandemics. A blind man’s bluff. Florida is one of seven states not to collect state income tax. While Miami Beach, a resort municipality where most of the wealth was concentrated, paid taxes, making a forced migration untenable anytime soon. They’d invested $600 million to pour concrete and raise the street level, install these hideous pumps. The air burned. Swaths of gentrification were displacing flotillas of shrimpers, the coast guard cutters ripping through their native homes, shrimp boat captains more likely to adapt to sea level rise than a gaudy waterfront strip mall for tourists, which the city had just passed a vote on. They built a highway over a thriving black community in overtown, such be their long, troubling history. Copays deductibles premiums were skyrocketing on group insurance, the state voting to default on subsidies for medicaid expansion. These are a major constituent, half the registered voters in the republic, half the electorate. The world wasn’t quite ending but Malthus was giving it a trim at a quotidian rate. I don’t look at anything blanketedly. Burnout rates on labor were high, a retail bubble just caused over 73,000 stores to shutter. Pollens, and therefore allergies were more distressing, and attendant suicide rates. Difference between a gentrifier and a slumlord? My ears burned. A complicity of moonshiners. Reformers fell. Carve your group insurance, cut it like a steak or chop of mutton. Consumed, avenging angels were on their way to scatter the eschars. Mollusks, grotesque, Canaanite gods, catamites. Consumed by laxity. Would Robbie Mueller be fired?
“Vamp on E” is an excerpt from Manuel Marrero’s new novel in progress, Not Yet.
Manuel Marrero is a writer, editor, and the founder of Expat Press. His works include the novel Thousands of Lies and the upcoming novel Not Yet. He can be found channeling spirits on Twitter here. Other excerpts from Not Yet can be found at Joyless House Publishing, Maudlin House, and Expat Press.