There you are, sitting in your room on the gaming chair you got for Christmas when you were a teenager. You're living with your mother and you've been playing Modern Warfare since you woke up four hours ago, around noon. Your friend texts you -wanna go to the vp get some 40s- and for a moment you think even drinking will not get you out of your chair.
You sigh and text your friend -ok- stand up and decide what you have on is good enough. What do you have on?
-be right over- your friend texts back and after you wait on the porch five minutes, in the sun, becoming more irritated by the second you are not playing Modern Warfare at this precise moment in your life, in your chair, in your room, at your mother's house, your friend finally arrives.
"Hey dude" he says. He drove here even though he lives just down the street. You wonder why it took him five minutes to get here. "Get in" he says and you think about how much time it will take you guys to drive to the VP instead of walking. You suggest walking, it just makes sense. You and your friend remain in entropy for a moment. He finally agrees to walk down the hill. You feel good about this for some reason, as if you have somehow made the world better in the only way you can, though you.
It is hot today, but you were not aware. You've been inside since you woke up, playing Modern Warfare in your air-conditioned room. Your friend mentions Xbox One. You are sweating and the sweat bothers you. It feels unnatural. You and your friend are both Xbox users. "It's bullshit" he says. "It's like they're saying 'fuck you' to their users."
"That's why I have a Playstation" you say. "Sony wouldn't do that to us." You know everyone needs options.
You and your friend reach the parking lot of the VP. You ask your friend if he is paying. He says he paid last time. You say you'll pay next week when you get your first paycheck from your first job since you graduated. You took a course in Erotic Mysticism. He shrugs and you both enter the market.
"But seriously, why would they do that?" You friend asks.
"Money dude. The money is in the corporate world." You are annoyed he is so naive. "We're clients, dude, not gang members."
When you say "gang member" a tall young black man walks into the store. He is wearing long denim shorts you thought were cool when you saw them in Klondike Middle School off of Sagamore Parkway, now slashed diagonally once more by the rerouting of U.S 231. He is wearing an A shirt, a wife beater, an inexpensive pack of clothing sold at Walmart, Target, Meijer, blah blah blah. You think about shopping at H&M. "Dude, don't say gang" your friend says. You fake a forced repression of a laugh that is also fake quietly. You and your friend are observers. Tourists.
"'Sup guys?" he says. The black man says "'Sup guys?" and you only stare at him.
You think this is it, all those racist jokes you indulged in with your white friends. You only have white friends, but that's really not your fault because you meet who you meet. There is Stevie, but you don't hang out very often, you just see him when you see him and he's cool, he doesn't care about the racists jokes, he knows they're just jokes, he knows. He's not a nigger you think and instantly believe the young black man in the Walmart shirt and jean shorts you wished you had in middle school, who just entered the VP you are in, knows you thought the word nigger. What are you wearing?
You think this is it, everything you screamed into your headset while playing the electric paintball match that is Modern Warfare. You said those things and he knows, this black man knows.
You think this is it, he's going to rob this place and you, but not your friend, who managed to slip out of the store and is currently lighting up a cigarette outside.
You could stop this and be a hero.
You could be a villain for the same reason.
You are not a hero. You are not a villain. You will comply and live another. "'Sup guys" he said.
You and him stand in entropy for a moment. The bored brown brown man behind the counter strums his finger by the cash register. "What can I get you?" the brown clerk asks the black man. The black man turns away from you and asks the clerk for a pack of Parliaments. Your mind sighs, but your mouth does not. You buy two bottles of expensive wine you have never heard of with the money your mom gave you earlier in the week. Only until you start getting paid. You forgot to get money from your friend.
"Wanna play Modern Warfare?" Your friend asks when you exit the VP, looking forward to drinking your new liquid experience.
Are you the next generation?
Why do I know you so well?
What are you going to do?
Do you have a girlfriend?
"Why not?" The old woman asked on your first day at your first job at a restaurant. She has worked there for thirty years, she says. It's a job between Modern Warfare.
The black man who bought the Parliaments at the VP is having a great day. He's visiting his baby's mother and his grandparents have baby Tyrone for the day. He has grandparents just like you. He has people he cares about and he knows he has his vices.
He is a man who thinks about the world he lives within and wonders where he fits in it. He once practiced rapping with some friends in high school, but he's decided that he was never meant to be a real rapper. It was mostly just for fun and to pass the time. Sometimes when he has drinks with his friends, his old friends, they listen to the music they loved so feverishly when they were younger. They have a friend Ron, who raps in clubs around town, mostly Jerilee's Pub. Ron's moniker is 'RONN. When Ron hangs out with him and his friends, they tell him how dope he is, but still make fun of him occasionally when he's with them and sometimes when he is not. "The rap game chose him" they say and bust out laughing. Sometimes, if it just makes sense, if they drink just the right amount of alcohol, or smoke just the right amount of marijuana, they'll rap together again. They'll reunite as brothers. They'll rap with Ron or 'RONN, attempting to remember the lyrics because they haven't listened to the burnt CD Ron gave them in several months.
You assume they call each other brothers.
"Do you have a brother?" The old lady asks on your first day of work at a restaurant.
"No" you said.
"Why do I know you so well?" the old lady asks. "Are you sure you don't have a brother?"
You do not have anyone you call brother. You call your friends dude or man or guy. You know girls that call men boys. You have a father your mother lost interest in when you were born. He eventually left her for a younger woman that you have thought about while jerking off. He takes care of her and mom takes care of you. The fare seems fair. You do not understand girlfriends. You have friends who are girls and are sometimes sexual partners, but the idea of labeling yourself bound to another person seems, frankly, insane and you took a course in Erotic Mysticism in college. You've loved a girl before, a girl you would love as a woman so long as you were there for her and prayed she'd be there for you too. You've felt that way more than once or twice. It only makes sense when it really makes sense. "Yeah" you think, "erotic mysticism."
As you and your friend walk back up the hill you think about writing an angry gender based poem instead of playing Modern Warfare and wish that you had in fact driven to the VP instead of walked.
I am mad.
I think you are dumb.
Most of the time I do not like to bring sex into the equation. but you are dumb because you are a woman.
I love you.
I love you in a way that no one has ever loved you.
You may have been fucked to the point of rapture, but it will not last.
It will not last the way my love will.
I will always love you, but I have given you enough chances.
I have given you more chances than you really deserve.
I have been here before.
I have been here with every woman,
every girl I have loved.
You don't know what it is and that is why you retreat from it.
Or maybe you do know and that is why you retreat from it.
I have done many things wrong,
but I have tried to do nothing wrong to you.
Yet knowing you has still hurt me.
What am I suppose to do with that?
Last night I sat on the stoop with a drunk girl who was telling me about my astrological sign.
She informed me on what a Cancer is because my birthday falls under Cancer.
She informed me, as she read from her smart phone, that because I was born on the day I was born, that I am also an Aquarius Rising. The adjectives she recited seemed eerily accurate to how I present myself in day to day life.
After that, she gave me a hand job.
I feel the need to prove something.
You wrote that once about someone you love, but barely see, after drinking one and half bottles of malt liquor bought from the same VP you saw the young black man buy Parliament cigarettes. The Village Pantry on Ninth and Columbia. Someone you force into your mind for comfort in your raft riding reality down the deluge that is western civilization. You know why zombies are all the rage these days. You know you're mostly full of shit, but you wrote it anyways.
"What do you do?" The old lady said on your first day at work. You play video games. You play Modern Warfare. You drink. You judge the people you call friends. You have no one you call brother.
He does contract work, mostly demolition. When his boss says to tear this down he always smiles a little bit. Demolition allows him to use his body in a useful way. His muscles stretch and turn as he smashes, destroys, dismantles spaces built in a way that have never made sense to him whenever he sees it. Open space inevitably boxed in. The work becomes repetitive, but he always seems to rediscover its satisfaction, for now.
His cousin was in a gang. The Gangster Disciples of Logansport. They believe they are on the south side of Chicago, but in reality they are in Logansport.
He thinks about the Crips in Alaska sometimes and it always makes him laugh. "Alaskan gangs? They should call them tribes." He says when he and his friends drink enough or smoke enough marijuana. He and his friends,occasionally his brothers, always laugh when it is time to laugh.
His cousin had his hand smashed with a sledge hammer by an opposing local Logansport gang. Locals Only they always say. It was a dispute over turf and minor drug deals. His cousin collects unemployment because of his crippled hand that resembles a dehydrated purple chicken wing. "For what?" he thought when he heard it happened. For Logansport? Everyone calls his cousin Baby Bird. His fuck up cousin, Baby Bird.
He loves his son, baby Tyrone. He loves Tyrone's mother, Sheena. He loves his friends he calls brother from time to time. He loves the various girls he has sex with, but not like he loves Sheena, when real love really matters. And Tyrone, The beautiful black american baby boy, who cries a lot, but also sleeps a lot. Beautiful little baby.
Sheena, beautiful black venus. Shiny brown hair and an ass that won't quit. Even after Tyrone that ass won't quit. He too, forgets sometimes.
"'Sup guys?" he said and your friend fled and you just stared at him instead of greeting him back. The bored brown man behind the counter did not understand the connection you had with the young black man in the VP had because he is not from here. Where is he from? Why is he here? You can always choose Modern Warfare instead.
Across the bridge a man sits outside the cafeteria where he works as a bus boy as he makes his way through college. He studies Communications and French Linguistics because he is from Ghana and everyone in Ghana speaks French. In Ghana, he realized he loves the language he knows. He learned eventually he could make a living from the knowledge he loves seeking out. He learned the knowledge of something he loves, the french language in a Ghanan dialect, could get him and his family out of Africa. He left Africa first, before the rest of his family, a trial run in order to see if he fits in this American reality.
He smokes a cigarette to take his mind of of the uphill battle he endures day after day without much profit on his side, other than a dream of a better day to come for his two children, his wife, and for him. He looks up and sees the sun break through the clouds on a balmy summer afternoon at this midwestern university and smiles. Today will be a good day.
From the sky, the sound of modern aerodynamics ripples through the air. The sound is felt on the ground and in the buildings. Cloudy blue sky is blighted by a gray whale of a plane, sagging in the air, agitating the air waves. Students, visitors, and campus employees stop and look up as the quiet sky presents a drab anomaly floating barely above them.
That plane is too big for our airport.
That plane is too big for our airport.
Standing in entropy.
That plane is too big for our airport.
The gray bomber circled round in the sky long enough to persuade most it was only a show.
The gray bomber circled round in the sky long enough to persuade some they too could fly.
Smoking his cigarette, his vice he knows he should quit, but simply cannot, not just yet, even though there are e-cigarettes, and he will quit anyway he can when his family, his children, his wife move here after 8 long years apart. His children have surpassed what is considered adulthood in most areas of Africa. He is nearly forty. He watches the sky and works and smokes and thinks about the ones he loves and wonders where they can be safe.
Aaron C. Molden