Botar la bandera arcoíris

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Botar la bandera arcoíris

Una bandera representando el cadáver ahorcado de un muchacho de trece años explica la experiencia de ser gay mejor que un arco iris; esa imagen nítidamente personifica el oido, las bromas, y la vergüenza de ser un persona indeseada y sin valor. En la actualidad los ejemplos falaces de familias aceptadoras se multiplican en los artículos más cliqueados en los medios del internet, pero estimo que mi historia, y las muchísimas otras similares, son más típicas. Mis padres me criaron con la trinidad de Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hanity, y Laura Schlessinger – anfitriones radiales derechistas con audiencias de millones en los estadios unidos. Me contaron todo acerca del “error biológico[1]” que es el homosexual – la perversidad de él, la aberración de ella, y sus enfermedades repugnantes – y la necesidad de un tratamiento eficaz. Años después, cuando mi tío nos condujo a una fiesta familiar, se me sugirió el tratamiento indirectamente por comentar acerca de “los pedazos de maricón que encontraron en el basurero.” No capturaron al asesino, pero “a nadie le importa,” pues “ya están limpiando la ciudad.” Desde luego, hay muchas otras historias, por ejemplo el doctor que me preguntó si había tenido sexo “heterosexual u homosexual,” y repitió la pregunta dos veces más después de mi contestación, y al encontrarse exasperado, definió sus términos sencillamente. Una vez que se dio cuenta que entendí – salió instantáneamente del cuarto. Largo rato después, volvió el médico y se me dio una examinación fría y breve, antes de echarme del consultorio. Tal vez tenía miedo del SIDA, o mi presencia le dio asco y nada más. El arco iris no encarna estos tipos de experiencias, pero un cadáver ahorcado si. El suicido va al fondo de la causa de los gays y la razón por la existencia del grupo en sí: porque nadie nos quiere.

La bandera arcoíris originalmente simbolizó las varias sexualidades indeseables, pero hoy en día su aplicación se ha profundizado hasta la mera vanidad. Hasta el “aliado hétero,” un ser angélico de mente abierta que se diga a darse la mano y tocar la carne infestada y enferma de nosotros, ya puede ocuparla. Pero esto no debe ser. El club de los gays tal vez será uno de los raros, los pervertidos, y los aún más peores – pero es un club en donde la membresía se compre con el sufrimiento. Y al menos para mí, una vez que uno compre algo a costo de sangre y lagrimas, uno no estará dispuesto a venderlo de nuevo por la sonrisa, la lástima, o la vista gorda de un desconocido – y mucho menos por convertirse en una muestra de su bondad. Como todos los animales, los humanos obran por su propio beneficio, y el fenómeno del aliado hetero no es nada diferente; la tendencia es aparentarse tolerante, pero en realidad no hay ningún hetero cuerdo que vea a los mariconcitos y las lesbianas como iguales. Tomemos Jonah Hill, Barak Obama, o El Papa por ejemplo – para ellos somos blancos para mostrar su liberalidad, pero por debajo de la superficie, son la misma gente que nos ríen, quiénes no convierten en sus bromas y chistes, quiénes tienen vergüenza de sus maricones enclositados; la misma gente tan segura de su superioridad y valía. La gente no cambian.

Si la bandera arcoíris se transformó en un regalito de fiestas, la fiesta será bastante irónica y mórbida. El alcoholismo[2], la indigencia[3], la transmisión creciente de VIH[4], la adicción[5], la pobreza[6], y el suicidio[7] son los resultados más comunes de ser gay que convertirse en el ayudante de shopping de alguna mujer hetera. Inconmensurable en estas descripciones cuantitativas de la vida LGBT son las miradas avergonzadas de la gente que alguna vez te amaron y ya te desprecian, los sentimientos de vacío a entenderse como marginal, y la futilidad de una vida que ya es de nada. Se me recuerda de un conocido, en sus años treinta y soltero, el cual se encontraron apuñalado hasta la muerte en el pozo de escalera en un edificio en Chile dónde vivimos como vecinos – una víctima más del infierno anárquico producido cuando en la vida gay los marginados cazan a los otros marginados. Teniendo esto en cuenta, la bandera arcoíris y la palabra “gay” (que significaba “feliz” originalmente en inglés) son, por lo tanto, parodias.

Muchos homosexuales no estarán de acuerdo con mi punto de vista. Algunos ofrecerán las sonrisas trémulas de familiares como talismanes débiles de su respeto. Perdónenme sí lo dudo. Otros procuran descartar su ropa de mendigo y mezclarse con heteros, imaginándose que ya son algo mas que un chiste humano. Perdónenme sí yo me río. En esta vida nos definimos y somos definidos por otros – y aunque tal vez será posible escaparse de sus propios etiquetas – uno nunca podrá escapar las etiquetas de los demás. Para el homosexual hay solamente dos etapas en la vida: el tiempo antes de que todo el mundo sabe que eres, y después – esto es inalterable y no puede ser cambiando por rogar el amor o la aprobación. Uno es lo que es, y eso es algo menos. Un símbolo como para presidir tal gente, un grupo que se destruyen y son destruidos por otros en tantos modos diversos, es difícil de escoger, pero si lo tuviese que elegir – ese símbolo no será la bandera arcoíris.

Referencias

Centers for Disease Control [CDC]. (2014a). LGBT youth. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm

CDC. (2014b). HIV among gay and bisexual men. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/gender/msm/

Dermody, S. S., Marshal, M. P., Cheong, J-W., Burton, C., Hughes, T., Aranda, F., & Friedman, M. S. (2013). Longitudinal disparities of hazardous drinking between sexual minority and heterosexual individuals from adolescence to young adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(30), 30-39. doi:10.1007/s10964-013-9905-9

Marikar, S. (2010). Critics: Dr. Laura’s rant reiterates n-word is never OK. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/dr-laura-schlessinger-slammed-word-laced-rant/story?id=11394378

Paul, J. P., Catania, J., Pollack, L., Moskowitz, J., Canchola, J., Mills, T., … Stall, R. (2002). Suicide attempts among gay and bisexual men: Lifetime prevalence and antecedents. American Journal of Public Health, 92(8), 1338-1345.

Sears, B., & Badgett, L. (2012). Beyond Stereotypes: Poverty in the LGBT Community. The Williams Institute. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/headlines/beyond-stereotypes-poverty-in-the-lgbt-community/

[1] (Marikar, 2010)

[2] (Dermody et al., 2014)

[3] (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2014a)

[4] (CDC, 2014b)

[5] (CDC, 2014a)

[6] (Sears & Badgett, 2012)

[7] (CDC 2014a; Paul et al., 2002)

Panegyric: Chapter 4

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Wherein we learn of facts both veridical and fantastical.

The city conceals many hiding-places hidden by angles, submerged in shadows, perched above sightless clouds, and lurking behind walled-up windows. These cryptic places smile through their broken teeth, mumbling secrets and obscenities, while quietly beckoning for new guests to come and stay. Down the long years they go unseen and inside them insides objects gather and crumble. Only small glimpses of their likenesses, snatched from life’s outskirts at chosen hours, are ever really possible. But folk who wander the ways in the deep night – vagabonds and dreamers – are the ones most likely to know them when they appear.

Lucky once saw one of these hiding-places. Though he was neither wandering nor dreaming when he saw it – he was working. At the time, Lucky was a very young man given a young man’s internship at a bustling bank on Wall Street. All around him people ran one way and the other, carrying important papers, speaking important words, performing important tasks. People talked in millions and billions – discussing Africa, Oil, investments, bank transfers, and lucrative opportunities. Lucky’s job was to distribute office supplies to the different floors while being rarely seen and never heard. He did this from a tiny office where an electrical box jutted out of one side of the wall, with occasional visits to a supply closet in the back that had the smallest and most curious window.

From the window, high up on the wall in the closet, he saw a ramshackle house with faded yellow shutters and a pitched roof located on the shadow-shrouded roof of some tall tower. He strained to see more, but the window was miserly, revealing only the house, and nothing else around it. Determined to find out more, one time he tried to climb up to the portrait-sized window to get a better look, but he ended up falling from the three big boxes of documents he stacked to get up there. He told himself he was lucky he didn’t break anything from his fall, and decided against the idea in the future. Besides, if they caught him at this stupid errand, they would probably fire him anyway (in fact, six months later, they did fire him). In the end, he decided the window was a taunt – just a suggestion of a house hidden on the top of some unidentified building.

Occasionally at lunchtime Lucky wandered the streets outside of the bank, trying to locate the building and the house – but to no avail. The tall buildings all looked the same from the street, and Lucky could not even say for sure which window he had been looking out of himself when he saw the impossible yellow ruin of a house. The bank building itself had no logical layout, so really any of the tiny windows poking out around the 30th floor could have been his. Just around this time, the thought struck him: New York City is full of little mazes made of brick, complex shapes, tiny rooms suspended on rooftops, and half-oblitterated garrets and gardens closed in by walls – I wonder what they look like, and who lives there.

In the years to come Lucky fantasized often about the house. During the uncomfortable moments of consciousness after laying down on his bed and wrapping himself in sheets, he would think wildly about strange things like the residents of the isolated house, or being an deep sea squid, or where he would go in the universe if he could travel faster than light, or what the end of time would really look like after all the Earth was destroyed and the people gone.

Lucky’s very first phantasy of the house was constructed over many days and nights in the moments before real dreams. He imagined a rich family living in the house before the great depression; the father a front-row banker and the mother a hostess to politicians and famous actors. They gave elegant parties, made millions, and occasionally glanced at their two small children from their unusual chateau atop the father’s bank. They lived very close to the sun.

The crystalized moment for these dramatis personae was just such an elegant midnight soiree. At the party, society ladies and gentlemen wore suits and silks, balancing martini glasses in manicured hands, while they discussed the Panama Canal and the Annexation of Cuba. The servants, of course, were decked out in spotless white uniforms as they glided with silent grace, ready to freshen drinks or deliver guests’ private notes with discretion. The veranda of the newly painted yellow house was open and big French doors let in breezes channelled by the canyons of Manhattan, bathing the house with sweet coolness. Music issued from a small jazz band wearing kid gloves as dapper singletons danced with flappers to a new tune from New Orleans. Just at this moment, the lady of the house, lazy as a Siamese cat, descended the stair arrayed in a red gown and diamond necklace. Her skin shone whiter than the moonlight with a flawless beauty possible only in a dreamscape tableaux.

With the indefinable certainty of dreams, Lucky knew that doom was lurking in this shadow of this greatness. Years later in the timeline of this same phantasy, he could seem a woman, or a child, no – just a figure – a darkened ashen figure clad in rags ringed with wild hair, uncontrolled. The thing crouched in the corner, gnawing on a dead pigeon, red blood flowing from its fresh wounds. All around the prey and the feeder the house rotted into a dystopia of peeling yellow wallpaper, shattered furniture, and broken glass. The music was long gone, and the breezes from the canyons of Manhattan now wailed like the winds of a lost and hopeless desert.

Maybe the feeder dreams for the past. Thought Lucky.

One morning after fantasising this particular phantasy and no other, Lucky ended up at the post office, checking his mail. Clients of the most confidential variety often sent him books, communications, and payment through this most primitive and anonymous of means. For many individuals, nameless people who hold positions of social standing, the employment of a ghostwriter may be seen as a shameful thing, a scandal, an act of dishonesty not in keeping with the journalistic community, the scientific community, the legal community – the whatever community. However the truth is hiring ghostwriters has always been and most likely will always be the standard everywhere- simply because writing of books, articles, memoranda, letters, and translations has never been an easy-to-do job accomplishable in one’s spare time. The craft of writing, in at least its technical aspects of creative imagination, organization, and final editing – is a process often consuming hours upon hours and days upon days of substantial work and effort. For many people, who have busy lives, prospering practices, booming businesses, or personal difficulties – the production of quality prose for specific purposes often becomes an insoluble dilemma, an issue needing urgent solution.

Lucky, by means of falling through the cracks of life, somehow had arrived at the strange life-place where he had become the solver of those problems. The strangely-dressed Lucky, silent and unknown in the teeming city of millions, took it upon himself to resolve difficulties for doctors and lawyers, professors and artists, businessmen and lovers. He wrote for them, listened to them, read their ideas, and occasionally talked with them in person, all with the goal of transmogrifying vague sentiment, a general direction, a shadow of a structure – into a written work capable of charming, convincing, or explaining some kind of material to some kind of audience. Usually he was capable, and as a result his business grew.

The gamut of clients spanned a rainbow of temperaments, interests, and hang-ups. There was the young doctor with two new babies inherited after the death of her sister; how was she to take care of two children and yet publish her research? There was the useless Saudi playboy, more about alcohol and pretty girls than ROI and SWOT analysis, who still needed business presentations done quickly and quietly. Last but not least was the wealthy old New York man of letters, a contributor to a well-known publication who grew tired of both living life and writing literature. These clients – to whom Lucky was genuinely and deeply grateful – all outsourced their difficulties to him and paid in cash.

Therefore Lucky always made it a point to regularly check his mailbox. One could never tell what new packages might arrive, and what requests might be made. The key clinked in the lock and a black bubble mailer eagerly few out.

Ooh, and what is this?

            The mailer contained a paper box. Inside: a postcard picturing a black lotus and ten crisp hundred-dollar bills, unfolded. The message on the back of the card was brief:

Go to the Deep Sea and meet me in the dark room at 11.30 on Thursday. I have heard good things about you and your work.

            For a second the note seemed needlessly ambiguous, but then he understood it completely and gave a tiny chuckle heard by no one at all.

Panegyric: Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

Wherein a menace gathers.

Always, Lucky seemed to have a headache. Coming out of the big New York Public library on 42nd street, exiting the through the revolving doors, he wondered – through the pain of his pounding head – what it would be like to be caught in those big bronze doors and torn to pieces.

Rended.

No.

“Rent.” He said out loud.

Rent is the correct word.

That morning he had woken up with a headache, as usual, and something new: a pain in his elbow, unwilling to go away. His uncle once had such a pain many years ago, back when his mother owned a bookstore, when he was a child. The pain meant you were going to have a heart attack, or were having one at that very moment. Lucky was too young to be having heart problems, wasn’t he?

That got him thinking about illnesses.

AIDS. There was AIDS to worry about. Lucky hadn’t had sex for some time, perhaps six months, but the possibility of having HIV seemed to be ever present in his mind. Obsession over HIV infection wasn’t that amazing really – because half, or what seemed like half – of New York City public advertising space was occupied by AIDS testing ads.

Get tested today! Read an ad he saw that very morning. The big red words were written over a happy Latino (?) gay couple were wearing V-necked sky-blue tee shirts. Why were they smiling? Were they smiling because both of them had it, and after years of wondering how they would die – now they finally knew? Or were they smiling because they gave it to each other, and now sealed with this wager of death, they were going to go down together in flames, shame, secrecy, death – oblivion? In their final hours before death, their bodies would be so diseased, so wasted; it would be unsafe to touch them – perhaps even to draw near. Just a drop of their blood would be infested with incurable virus – crawling spawning multiplying death, waiting to copy itself and come to some kind of strange and terrible life. Lucky fantasized about the horror of their deaths, the slow wasting away, the million tiny ways in which their family members would discard them slowly, atom by atom.

Two years ago, Lucky authored a medical project for a faceless and nameless client who paid in cash. The central question of the project was simple yet endlessly fascinating: are viruses alive?

An organism must conform to a number of behaviours to be considered alive. It must have an organized structure, reproduce, grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, move, respire, and adapt to an environment. Another criteria, although not one agreed on by all members of the scientific community, is that it must also die. Viruses confound this definition by radical otherness. They grow and reproduce, but only by hijack of a truly living cell; they cannot metabolize independently. Further: viruses don’t die in nature. They just wait. Their whole lives, if that word means anything in this context, consist of taking living things, using them on the margins, then returning to the margins themselves, always waiting for the next opportunity to come into some kind of brief life, some kind of interaction, once more.

Early scientific consensus tacked the tricky existence of viruses by calling them poisons. In fact the very name “virus” is derived from the Latin for poison. Later theorists termed them “biological chemicals.” Currently the pendulum of debate swings towards defining them as something else entirely, some puzzling lurker on the threshold between the definitely biological and the definitely non-biological, an almost-life.

Lucky briefly considered if he was a virus. After all he had no meaningful interactions with anyone and had no plans of dying. The door of the New York Public Library was swinging loudly behind him, making the strange whooshing sound that big rotating doors do. Out of the door came a mother and a child. The mother was approximately forty, white, well-dressed, and had no idea what an EBT card was. She walked with wealthy pride. Her child was a central park privlidge kid, probably 10 years old. As they passed by, the mother said to the boy with a strange serenity: “You know, Ronald, you are a disappointment to me.” Lucky wondered about the mother and child for a second, then realized his headache was gone.

Later that night, walking in the Bronx, Lucky passed the pizza store by his house. It was dark by then, and the store’s broken neon sign was making pointless rainbow sculptures in stagnant oily puddles. There was a father and a boy, standing before the lights, painted as shadows before the raucous seedy porno colours of the crazy sign.

“Extra ingredients?” The father tugged the tiny boy savagely. Maybe he was six. “Extra ingredients!” He tugged his thin arm again, his fist enveloping it. Both of them were black. He could not see the father’s face, because he was bent over, his mouth only inches from the child’s skin. The boy had one arm folded, defensively. He had his head down, and was trying not to cry.

“Why’d you do that!” The father was both screaming and whispering at once. Something was embarrassingly awful for everyone present at the time.

Lucky thought: The child will always remember this.

Panegyric: Chapter Two.

2~Bear~Diorama~AMNH~11-29-08

Panegyric: Chapter Two

Wherein a wandering individual is gifted a summons.

A few days later, Lucky decided to mosey on down to “the office” dressed in high-top sneakers, skinny jeans, and a bright green tank top with a golden lightning-bolt embossed on the front. His fashionable accessory backpack was stuffed with slim-line Pineapple™ laptop, scholarly books, and other educative/auctorial paraphernalia. He looked like a high school student 15 years too late for class. This being New York City, people on the subway did not notice, did not care, or secretly wished to look the same way. After all, Lucky had a good little body.

Lucky’s office, if it could be called such, was in fact just another fair-trade carbon-neutral coffeehouse recently converted into a “productivity pod,” which was later renamed a “productivity hive,” and then lastly marketed as a “work theme park.” What this actually meant in practice was that cubicles were rented out to the interested in a library-like study space, minus the books. Amenities included free coffee, comfortable heating and cooling, handsome oak desks, reasonable bathrooms, and cheery social spaces populated with tasteful art objects.

The whole scheme was concocted as a way to get free-lancers together in a building so that the doors could be firmly locked, and then the building would be burnt down. Just kidding. Rather the ideal concept was to gather them all together in an office-like setting to foster collaboration, or so claimed the marketing materials. The real result was some forward-thinking freelancers, who even at their very best are not much better than rich bums, could fork over some of their monthly earnings to rent a space so they wouldn’t be so fucking lonely. At least while working they could be guaranteed a few familiar faces – rather than dare the uncertainties of Manhattan where the only certainty is sudden appearance and sudden disappearance. All the people, wandering the canyon streets, are survivors and pilgrims of their secret stories, winking in and out of provable existence like rudimentary stars at the core of the universe.

The life of a freelancer is a strange and wonderful thing full of black and sweet bitter-chocolate moments of realization. One wakes up when one wants, calmly observes the slanting rays of the noontide sun, and sets off to work in a deserted, depopulated, anonymous world. Usually there is office to attend, nothing particularly required in a given day, and no one person one is required to physically speak to – so a person wanders. He can work in bed today, the coffee house tomorrow, and maybe go haunt the New York public library’s big desks the week after. On some days, none of these options will entice – and the freelancer will simply donate a dollar to the Museum of Natural History to wander its palatial marble arcades, looking at dioramas of bears.

How fierce they seem! Thought Lucky one time, eying the big grizzly standing on its forelegs, rearing up. Bulbous tourists and little school kids were present as well, everyone looking at the bears. Well, almost everyone.

Whenever Lucky is called “Sir” he knows he has done something wrong, overstepped a line painted on the ground, entered a door that was for service personnel only, or accidently left his gloves on the counter of a diner’s table. The bears really were something though, eight feet tall, all tooth and claw, gigantic, menacing, standing straight up or flopped down like monsters. They were strangely wonderful monsters.

“Sir, do not approach the bears!” Said a guard.

At that exact point Lucky realised the first time in human history it was possible to not speak for days on end and be gainfully employed, wanted by someone, validated, in terms of money. Lucky stepped back from the bear diorama, wordlessly, and floated on to the next sensory experience.

Lucky, the ghost-like, is a presence that sits on deserted stools in empty rooms, staring out windows into large streets empty of cars. When it gets really bad he goes to the fake office, the work theme park, he can ride the rides: the water-cooler ride, the coffee machine ride, the desk ride, it is a simulacrum of normalcy.

Humans, like bears or other large predators, are territorial beasts. The work theme park is not an exception. People have their places, and Lucky’s is at the big workroom table, where he is one of an enfeoffed six who never vary. Sometimes they do something, like laugh, slam their papers, or get in a telephone argument – then he looks up, the earphones on his ears blurring his comprehension, and notices them, takes them in, staring while deaf. Those same faces. The faces we pay to see again. But then they stop doing what they are doing. The show ends. The veil of concentration comes down again over Lucky. The work, the work, the work of others – it is endless, inexhaustible, mysterious in its source, almost mystic.

Pending work today: aetiology of cognitive dissonance, effects of warfarin on arterial fibrillation patients comorbid with T2 diabetes, Lesbian Domestic Violence literature review, and of course some work on my own book.

The documents came out of his case, one by one, and formed a neat little stack in front of him. Three or four hours into reading and taking notes, a woman in black hair nudged by his chair, slightly touching him.

He half turned his head, and said “sorry,” but she did not reply.

Before long he forgot all about it and went back to reading, and jotted a note to himself: Interestingly enough it seems performance of gender roles by lesbian couples who feature domestic violence is not a significant predictor of who is the abuser and who is the abused. In other words, somewhere in the world, right now, a butch lesbian being slapped around by some elegant woman who is powerful, feminine, manipulative.

He noted the literature’s indication in his research manual: Abusive lesbian often uses performance of gender to throw off authorities, acting as the “female victim” even though she is the perpetrator of said violence. Note case alluded to in Withersfeld (2009) of stabbed victim being arrested while the perpetrator, with feminine performance of gender, is treated by police officers as a victim, while the actual attacked party was questioned then arrested.

A few hours later, after Lucky ploughed through some more literature, took notes, and began to form in his mind an organization for how he was going to write his own literature review, and then decided to pack up. He was tired, and had enough of lesbian brawls for the moment. He started with the books, then the papers, then pens, and finally his power cable. Last came the laptop, which contained all his work. As he lifted the laptop off the base of the desk, a card flew out, a purple card with black writing.

Picking up the card, he saw that it contained a message, written with penmanship unseen in this day and age:

“The Black Lotus will see you now.”

Panegyric: Chapter One.

Panegyric

Chapter One: Wherein, at lunchtime, an adventure begins.  

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A 14-dollar lunch salad is one of the small insults of life, thought Lucky Pack as he slid his tray over to a middle-aged woman of indeterminate ethnicity with a scowl on her face. The woman extended a hand towards him across the counter, almost rolling her eyes, bored already.

Lucky fumbled in his skinny jeans for his Liquiform™ Mowlskine™ men’s wallet. It was a little slip of a thing good for holding ID, a credit card or two, some artfully arraigned bills, and not much else. Lucky went through the circumlocutions necessary to get his money out and hand it over.

Next to him a big woman carrying a small dog shuffled her feet.

Lucky dropped some of the change in the tip jar and headed over to one of the few empty tables ringing the narrow sides of the Ok Ok Cafe, one of the few places he felt comfortable working during the daytime.

During the work week of normal people, that is people who are not freelancers, lunch joints with expensive salads around Manhattan bulge and empty around 12-2 pm like overfull colostomy bags. The rest of the time though, the mid-range lunch shops and cafés are practically empty until dinner, and even then they just stagger on to a feeble, secondary life of 30-something-single-Manhattanite diners sitting alone on 2-person tables on folding chairs, eating their lonely meals in utterly terrifying silence.

For all these reasons, plus the very important addition of free WiFi, cafes are great places to watch people, to get little jobs done, and be invisible. Lucky, unholstering his fashionable Phearana™ backpack, got to work in a tiny corner of the café, divulging a bright red editing pen and turning his attention to a fat stack of manuscript pages needing stern rectification and editing.

It was serious stuff, smart stuff, high falutin’ science stuff not permitting opinions, biases, judgements, unsupported assertions, or authorial crying jags. Down flew the red editing marker, like the sword of a mighty angel, smiting errata disobliging to the mind of science.

In forty-five minutes of silent editing, Lucky eliminated no less than 10 uses of the words “Think, seem, believe,” and one use of the phrase “afraid that.” Jesus wept.

Normative, he mumbled under his breath, excising all the while.

He didn’t even notice his salad – sold to him as a Bistrot-Made Arrangement of French Red Dressing, garlic croutons, and Belgian lettuce served with sweet Chilean Sea-bass and Avocado – was slowly turning into compost.

Three tables away, islands away, a woman coughed. He noticed. Looking up he saw a group, probably tourists. They were speaking in some kind of Germanic language. The interesting thing about them was they gesticulated not with their hands but with their heads, bobbing them, swaying them, making lines on their forehead, sucking and fumbling with their mouths.

Interesting.

            Lucky started eating his salad, his mind slipped from them. He started to look at small parts of the room, to memorize those parts, in an emphatic and desperate way, a habit of boredom. The table had strange whorls of wood, dark whorls. Did they dye the tables? How do people dye tables? The sides of the room were made of brick. Long ago, there was probably wood or wallpaper or something over the bricks, but now they were exposed, naked, jagged, primitive. He liked how it looked, how all those rocks and mortar looked out in the open. There was something dark yet organised about all of them. The reason they did it of course was because brick was fashionable, it had a rustic energy to it, which Lucky supposed was good for enervated office techs floating through their day, supported by unlimited data and Cloud computing, working on bi-weekly negotiable contracts.

Then there was the floor. It lacked all of the grace and subtlety of the tables and the wall. It was a cheap press-board thing laminated to look like wood or stone or something unidentifiable, dark, and hard.

It made him think of Upstate New York, strange, new, cheap gas-stations. They popped up overnight like legoform mushrooms, geometrical, bright, full of right triangles, and square tables, cheapish matte surfaces, and gleamy drowsy overhead lights inducing stupor and 5 hour energy purchases.

It was then, almost lost to idiotic reverie, he saw a woman, a dark haired, thin woman dressed in some slips of red and green cloth with a black velveteen Spring Jacket, casually walk over to the table where the Germans had been sitting. People had come and gone since the Germans, and normally Lucky was no person to notice the precise lives of others, but in this case there was something interesting, glossy, about the woman that excited his notice.

As she sat down, he noticed that someone had left a phone on the table, the German table. As she slid her tray, with a little bowl of meatballs and spaghetti in the middle of it, he saw her pick up a cell phone that had been left there. Then, as if nothing in the world were wrong, she walked over to a trashcan half-way between them and looking at Lucky directly she gave a little smile of triumph. Her teeth were small and white, eyes a live green.  Taking a few napkins from the canister near the bin, she wrapped the phone in brown, cheap paper, and dropped it in soundlessly.

Without a second thought, she walked on past the now-discarded Italian lunch, and out the door onto the busy Manhattan Street.