Friday, December 17, 2010



A young woman with a round face and loose, brown hair approached him. She wore a serape with shorts and her makeup was artlessly applied to her eyes and lips. She sat next to him and looked quizzically at his face. He thought: perhaps she can give me an indication.

“Can I ask you a question?” he asked.

“Sure. Fire away.” She answered.

“What’s my name?” She laughed. She took his hand roughly.

“Are you being an asshole?” She licked his knuckles with her tongue, which was as rough and dry as a cat’s.

“No,” he answered, sensing that he had an intimacy with this young woman, who looked like a girl, round faced and incompletely formed. “I just want to hear you say my name.”

“I won’t play your games,” she shook her head. “Shall we go over the last few days? Paul saw you peering through my window three nights ago. What was that about? I went to the concert with the  English PhD student, and you had to be led out of the hall and put to bed. You think I owe you something because of what happened?”

“And what did happen?” he asked, and she looked at him crossly. She dropped his hand and stood up, her arms akimbo, her face stern and fixed.

“What happened is you need help,” she said, and then added: “And don’t ask rhetorical questions. You know I hate that. You need help, desperately.”

He sulked on the dark beach. The lights from the nearby houses cast long, spindly shadows on the gray sand. He pressed over dunes and around the little cove until he reached the jetty. An old man was standing by the rocks, urinating. The young man who did not know his own name stood beside him.

“Can’t you piss somewhere else,” the old man scolded. “It’s a fucking big beach!”

“Sorry,” and he backed away. But the old man hailed him back.

“Hold on a second,” the man waved his hand. “Sorry for cursing. I though you was gonna rob me or try an’ fuck me up the ass.”

“No,” he answered, wishing he could back away. “None of that.”

“You want to know who you are, don’t you?” the old man said in a stage whisper.

“How do you know that?”

“Oldest question there ever wuz. After us people had to stop worrying about feeding ourselves and finding a roof over our heads or someone to fuck that was the first question we asked. Who am I? Well, I’ll save you time son. You’ll never find out.”

“But for me,” he said slowly. “It is really a pressing issue.”

“Yeah, you think so. You’re so special. You’re gonna find out why you is here. You’re gonna know what this life is about. Let me tell ya, unless someone comes and convinces you that what some douche bag wrote in a book is the word of God, and you don’t have no single doubt about it, you ain’t never gonna find out.”

The old man sized the young man up, gazing at him critically.

“And by the look of ya, you’ll never figure it out.”

“Why,” the young man asked, “How can you be so sure?”

“The look a’ya. Even the smell a’ya. Ya have enough intelligence to suffer. But not enough to make a good God damn thing of yourself in this world.”

“How can you say such things? You don’t even know who I am.”

“Neither do you!” the old man gestured wildly and laughed. “Neither do you!”

“Who the hell are you anyway?”

“I’m not telling you that . No way,” the old man backed away slowly, as if suddenly afraid. “You have to figure that out for yourself. Why should you know my name? You haven’t the right.”

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