Yesterday I was caught in a fight in the courtyard, and we didn’t come out of lockdown till just now. Johnny Digits and his gang, they were making noises at Manolo’s group–which, there’s been tension between them ever since Zico was put in solitary for mouthing off to a guard. And suddenly it was like a tornado hit. I’m still not sure how that happened, but I’m hoping that today I might be allowed to breathe a little. You always go back to the basics, I say, especially just after I’ve taken my “medication” and the warden has us in lockdown. Always back to the basics.
It puts me in mind of my formative days though. Nothing has changed much, really. You’d think I grew up on the streets because of my explosive disposition and the mesh of scars I wear like a pink and white striped unitard. But I grew up in a palatial estate. Dad still worked for the UN then, and spent most of his time in Geneva where he had chain dalliances with the wives of foreign dignitaries. I never saw him much, even though I always beamed when people asked me who the man in the portraits was. Mom though, Mom and me were tight.
As I remember it, she’d throw cocktail parties almost every night. It was like a ritual. To me the whole ordeal was a bore, and I’d taken to menacing the guests when Mom wasn’t looking, just to keep myself entertained. But even then there was something underneath, something I brooded about when I was alone. And it wasn’t a feeling that I could keep bottled up. I think I must’ve been about ten when I first asked a guest, “You want a piece of this?” and really meant it. I didn’t have a lot of respect for the people Mom had over, it’s true, but I don’t think she did either. She was just keeping up appearances, which isn’t something that should be discounted. It’s part of the lifestyle. Oh, she could handle herself, I know, but I guess I felt protective of her just the same. Crowds of idiots would come by just to rub elbows with us. The way they would fawn over the topiary and my mother’s hairdo with equal praise, always laying it on real thick. They all wanted a piece. And Mom would shake their hands and smile. They were no better than the shit we used to fertilize the gardens, that’s what I read in her smile.
In the evening, just as the sun had dipped below the horizon, Mom would be overseeing cocktail production in the kitchen. Meantime, I’d be hiding in the hedgerows bordering the lit pool waiting for the guests to swill their mint julep, or to laugh their easy, open-mouthed laugh. I wanted their guards to be down. And then I’d creep up behind them and scream in their ears as loud as I possibly could. They’d trip over the patio chairs trying to get away from me sometimes, and the guy at the piano would jerk his hands away from the keys, and there would be this utter silence. That was a beautiful, transitional moment. I’d get all pouty then, and tell them I was emotionally sensitive, and I would start to cry. Those days I could cry as easy as you please, and it worked like poison. I was a towheaded kid with ruddy cheeks, and my trembling lip act was heart breaking. As the guests rubbed their ears, not sure whether to buy it or not, I’d flash my blade to let them know I meant business. That was my ritual.
I think Mom knew about what I was up to, deep down. The first time I was in juvie was for bludgeoning our next door neighbor with a wiffle bat. Oh, this cow had been nipping at a margarita all afternoon, and she’s going on about how nice the weather is like it’s the second fucking coming or something. I’m minding my own over by the pool–I think I was drowning a mouse, dunking its little head under as it tried to swim. But she just keeps talking: there’s not a cloud in the sky this, and isn’t it a lovely breeze that, and yadda yadda yadda. I remember I look over and her mouth is going, and she has this ‘rita foam in her downy moustache–and I just lose it. Next thing I remember there’s a circle of people over me and I got a wad of someone’s floral print blouse in my left hand. Mom’s combing my hair back with her long pink nails, telling me it’s gonna be okay.
And you know, I couldn’t help but notice how proud she looked. Like I’d graduated or something.
Well I never did graduate, but I learned about blackouts that day. And the funny thing was that whenever I had a blackout somebody would always wind up getting hurt. It was cool though because I got my name in the paper a few times, and when guests came over Mom would always pull out the scrapbook.
The way I think about it now, those were the good old days. That was before I had my big tantrum in 1982 and ended up running through the streets of Brooklyn in the buff swinging around this huge sack of severed hands like Thor’s hammer. I still don’t know how I got to Brooklyn.
Now Mom comes and visits me every Thursday if I’m on good behavior, and she always brings me pictures of clouds. Those are my favorites, cause to me they look like fists, balled up, in slow motion.
I get tired real easy.