Ghost Town, 28

I walked through the room quickly, past the tangled bodies and overturned drinks, past the breathless midnight conversations between strangers. I walked onto the balcony with my drink for a refill, a pill, a smoke break. All the stars were gone and glassy lights shone on the tops of trees waving in wind. I was lost among the treetops.

Straightaway I was on the balcony. Vacuumsealed, closed off. With the slidingglass doors shut all their noise now lived afar, very far away. Behind me, voices tapped on a muffled wooden banister but I just stared. I gazed out under a dark sky. Finally I got the ball rolling, finally the drugs dissolved, fullmetal blazer ablaze finally melted, floating downstream washed clean in my blood, full sail. I had momentum eventually. I kept going, nevermind the late hour. Dim thunder echoed in a corridor, windless graveyard, the spacious great hall constructed where smoky rain falls like fine incessant needles in a soft black groove. Chalk in velvet gloves rubbed on a dull blackboard. Stringsection unmoved, gusty rain over the tombstones, the dreary park groans blotted out light, animals fornicating in the underbrush, powerlines stretched taut over hills, running tracks a swath of land built up along the way, bald and ragged ground, sheared of timber.

You never notice but only scavengers ever perch on telephonewires. Watch for scrawny mammals scramble through the brush. From a plane you see broad scars on the earth. There’s a wound in every founded city, laid around the foundations. Brick watchtower rubric.

I looked back on the house, wondering whether a ruined family could occupy such beautiful premises. It was no animal yard. What could destroy a household? A thug’s decent reputation. Thrive or perish. The human lives inside would not publish an editorial when the wheels came off. Things do not get out that don’t turn out okay: they don’t come out at all. Stay indoors and hear the sound of glass breaking through open windows. Drifting shapes: cheap wine, Camel cigarettes, nighttime shops and moonlit drapes, slopping livestock, threadbare thriftstore ethics, drawingrooms, a chalkline body, extinguished lamps, narrow nicotine bloodlines, old money, respectable countenance of whores snapping fingers, coins clicking, dressing wounds and setting brokenbones, children sued over libel eager to feather their own nest. Earwax, teenage jetset, tapered wicks, beading drops of sweat and dying flames. Maize and blue letterhead, my new jersey, leather tools, a letterman’s sprucedup jacket. Hollywood royalty in the tragedy of a corruption scandal printing one another’s worst tendencies. Without power, influence, prestige, headshots, affluence or presscoverage, picturebook storybook fairytale weddings — what is misfortune or disaster? Discarded manifold. Nothing but a line item for a spreadsheet, invoice automatically generated, supporting evidence, a veto walking dead, cancelled seasonpremier, loveless marriage and teenage sex scandal, junkyard material, background squalor for filling in blank gazes of bestpicture producers. Just local color. Nothing of note. Hire this man to be homeless, give that woman a scar and a pushup bra. You’re nothing at all except these few services in your contract.

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