Proof of Life
November 1, 2016
“The worn voice began to acquire a certain disregarding impetus. Soon it would fall into monologue, an inner speech that did not need a context or listener.”
—Don DeLillo, The Names
We were dealing in different shades of lunar darkness, now. The grisaille side of the moon. We drank from the same firehose of facts becoming facts of life in front of us, performing some variation of higher typing on boxes, in boxes; whole tides of enthusiasm, of sustaining gratitude, dissolving into white foam before our eyes, in what?—Minutes? Microns? Our landscape was green felt. Fate a wheel. And so we spun the product to the threshold of overwhelm, plumbed pressure points we, ourselves, had already put in place, applied magnets to various orbits controlling their rotation, kept the telemarketers at bay. Naturally this all occurred in New York City, for the same prescient reason Dillinger had robbed banks: because that’s where the money is. Of which, not gonna lie, we were, by habit and native circumstance, excessively, ruinously fond.
Our subject matter hadn’t changed in what seemed like forever, perhaps never changed, indeed was changeless, was right this minute manifesting the flexible logic and potent negative glamour of the true changeling—anything to get an edge. We trafficked in templates of stark revelation, infinitely elastic, appropriately administered. Choreographed their manner and ceremony within an inch of their lives. We made a fetish of formal procedure, positively Japanese in its evident ardor for rhythmic discipline, for the processional formation of words & names and signs & wonders expanding outward into three dimensions with purpose and restraint.
We were busy being brewers, man, bottling the scent of the winner’s circle, sharpening our fangs with a toothbrush, blinding you. We were raining jumpers with the kind of precious dissonance and technocratic amaze you hardly ever heard about at Nike camp, crossovers and stutter-stepping for days. Rings and jewels were not gifts, as Emerson had pointed out, but apologies for gifts. We were the gift. Us. You’d put the phone to your ear like a conch expecting to hear the whisper of the ocean, and lo!—there was the ocean, gently braying: Better pray, Sugar Ray.
In every dojo there are many things to do
City girls slip & slide, redneck girls grip & ride. Well, duh—we knew this weren’t no metrosexual square-dance. But sho’ nuff, you wouldn’t just have become a molten puddle of wax, having extinguished yourself for nothing, if you had strapped yourself into one of our spacious, luxurious cockpits for learning. How many wonders could one cavern truly hold? Did I mention that our bottle service came with its own genie? (“On loan from the Make-A-Wish Foundation—is there anything you wanted?”) His specialty was turning the implausible into the plausible and back again with algorithmic certainty and not a little silken pizzazz. People vs. patterns. Difference within sameness. Distinctions without a difference. Dramatizing known unknowns. Finessing the photo-finish. The sportswriter’s cruel lament.
Were you looking to rid yourself of tenement beginnings? The stench of hay and manger? Perhaps you just purchased your fifth Porsche? Well, friendo—SHAZAAM!—today was going to be your lucky day, because that sounded like our kind of slot machine, exactly. We were nothing if not the Beefsteak Charlie’s of striking at the conundrum pulsing in the center of all things—over three, maybe four happy billionaires served. McArticulate as a motherfucker. Whether slick core lick or a puppet getting jiggy on a stick, those motley dongles & sockets we called our clients always got first pick. Did we pretty much single-handedly uncork the demiurge in urgency? How fierce were we really? When we rubbed our chins furiously in a burlesque of prayerful detachment—I mean, really mimed it in—was it still wasted on the woodchucks?
Would it surprise you if I told you our clients sported names like, BD2DBN, BVRPLZR, and CLRUNIN? Were, perforce, the walking, talking, flesh & blood correlatives of their own charmingly whimsical, nominative largesse? That they boldly wore fascicles of cords and wires coiled around their necks as statement jewelry, forcing us to show NOMURCI, forcing us into the occasional mercy killing? Well, would it? Not since Lady Macbeth had middle management goaded the legislative branch into such woeful decision-making.
True, many a prospect for Pygmalion make-over seemed satisfied with their placid exteriors and never bothered to wish for animation. But still ... Desdemona, Asmodeus—the Sybil-like fusion of the two?. Their Janus-faced progeny? We hardly cared if you were a cross-dressing Elizabethan lapsed Major-Demon in the penalty box, or Dracula’s Daughter herself—in our ongoing criminal enterprise, our guilded order of the ghostwritten, we were never not warmly accommodating, the ground zero of welcome.
Sol, sol, sol ... acqui illego.
The world was booby-trapped with subtle provocations, this much we knew. Scattered like marbles in random fusillades and gridded-out to look like a mine. This was called life. Or simply, just life. When they ask you how you are and you have to say fine, when, no, you’re not really fine. Like, if you know how I feel, then why would you even say that?
Fine, was shaping up to be this thoughts & prayers kind of morning right here, weary with the riddle of violence, the crosstalk charged with empathic signatures, not our own. Less than trumpets, more than clarinets—an impertinence on the Richter of suffering, but there could be no other way. Against the rocking of sundry Casbahs, their signal and their noise, fine was that rarest of cardiac events—glimpsed & gone with a flick of the torero’s wrist, a figment in the fold. A loose burka of hallucinatory shimmer come to gently mummify your hurt, to blanket your inadequacies within its soft cashmere shoals.