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I’m at one of those parties that’s just people sitting in a basement talking sort of at each other while also doing fidgety little things like rolling cigarettes or smushing Adderalls with the butt end of a no-nukes Bic or drinking Malbec out of a Solo cup and this one guy keeps trying to talk about the impoverished state of the arts which among other things is making me desperately want to do the drugs I brought, the drugs that are tucked away rolled up in a little coffee-shop tote bag underneath my chair and might seem super heavy to everyone if I mention what they are and how I got them because they’re my dead dad’s fent patches and I got them because he died last week, just kicked it in bed right in the middle of another JonBenet special, and even though I guess one of the cops had said it wasn’t really an overdose vibe as much as it was a heart attack vibe or a blood clot vibe my mom still wanted to go through that whole big sad ritual of emptying his prescriptions into a gallon Ziploc and driving them over to the safe-disposal box at the fire station, and so we did that whole thing, that thing of me walking her through what Klonopin does and what hydrocodone does and whether or not 25 mcg/hr seems like a lot, playing either half-honest or half-dumb depending on how you want to look at it, because like everyone I eat pills once or maybe twice or maybe three times a week but I’m also not like a Drug Guy, I’m not like a guy who is defined by looking for and talking about and doing drugs, but the whole time we were doing that whole thing I couldn’t keep myself from imagining what the bag that all told probably weighed at least a pound by the time we’d emptied every bottle into it might achieve for me personally if even just a little of it were to somehow not end up in the safe-disposal box outside the fire station, and I remember trying really hard to let that ugly or I guess even heinous thought just be a heinous thought, I remember trying really hard to stop thinking about that and to start thinking about the tragedy of it all, to hold what we had just done together close to my heart as a total tragedy, but then right before driving us over to the fire station my mom set the bag on the stairs and excused herself to the bathroom and I broke, I broke but only barely, bypassing everything easy and familiar for half his patches which I tucked into the inside pocket of my jacket without really thinking about how they take forever to enter the bloodstream and are riskier than pills at the airport, or maybe I’d been thinking about all of that and chose them anyway like a punishment, like they were the closest thing to nothing I could imagine, but at any rate I made it through security just fine, no problem, but am starting to think I’d be better off not mentioning what I’ve got here because it’s a room full of people who constantly shit out sparse little elegiac nothings about every friend-of-a-friend who ODs in McKibbin like it’s supposed to mean something, it’s a room full of people who would pretend to start texting someone while actually hammering away in the Notes app like 

Sad guy at party
Dead dad
Trauma exploration

if I came out with it, and also because the whole idea is so fucking stupid and if I’d just skimmed some of the other shit he’d been taking for his arthritis and headaches and anxiety and mellow fucking kidney tumor that was supposed to be in remission I’d probably be finding it much easier to deal with this whole scene, this whole scene of people not able to shut the fuck up even for a second, especially the guy now droning on about the impoverished state of the arts, the guy sitting in the middle of the couch which is sort of the centerpiece of the room, a big soft old floppy couch with him in the center, like the centerpiece of the centerpiece, leaning back with arms spread wide behind where the backs of these two women who are sort of independently famous for posting photos of covers of population studies from 1987 and themselves in prairie dresses in antique mirrors on the Internet would be if they weren’t both bent all the way forward, rapt, chins on fists basically, really fucking pondering everything he’s been saying like like remember like remember Abu Ghraib or this chick’s dad who works for Halliburton or look at these people’s limbs being torn off in service of capital-C Capital, haha, so grim, right, all of us always just sort of gesturing like it’s supposed to be some sort of not-deep-but-actually-deep comment on absurdity or numbness or I guess like Dada, the new Dada, I guess I’m just starting to think it’s all pretty trite, and not in a way where the artist is ultimately on the other end of the line like, haha, gotcha, there’s actually totally nothing to get, because I made this thing with the intention of it being another piece of space junk to clog Al Gore’s Internet tubes and actually my whole artistic endgame is to create a garbage economy of art equivalent to the garbage economy of knockoff Pink Pearl erasers for sale on Amazon, just words or pictures or sounds to clog the tubes for a while like until we die or the sun explodes, but more in the way of the current intellectual slash artistic water level being probably much lower than everyone seems to think, even now that it’s all about reading Cocteau or Lasch at the Oyster Bar, so we seem to have fallen into a situation where all of this still honestly pretty piss-poor stuff is being held up as great and urgent and transgressive and naughty, desperately naughty, because everyone is frozen in this mode of basically just saying over and over again that morality and wokeness is killing both capital-A Art and completely normal age-gap relationships, when really everyone has known all of that forever by now and so saying it out loud or writing about it on some little Substack is maybe the single most cringe thing a person could do, it is literally so cringe I literally physically cringe whenever I see another person writing a little ditty about how art should strive to generate feelings that transcend language or doing that whole tired routine of explaining how almost all contemporary popular literature is for children in the sense that the themes are transparent and the morals easily digestible, because no offense but I guess I really do have to insist that the difference between that stuff and the stuff that everyone is holding up as a much-needed antidote to that stuff is basically nil or null, and even if you disagree with that, like even if you think some of those things have a little juice or whatever, then at the very least you should agree that they are hardly worth celebrating, because honestly I’ve been looking around this room thinking about every piece of art any of you have generated and right now forgive me but I have to say none feel as immediately compelling as that painting in the corner over there, and everyone turns and looks at what is obviously terrible art, basically absolute dogshit art, this oil painting of a little girl and a dog I guess from the perspective of a night-vision rifle scope, like with the crosshairs dead-center on the girl’s green forehead, propped sideways against the wall across the threshold between the carpet and kitchen linoleum, and someone I know mostly from other parties that end up being just like this one says you aren’t being for real right now and the prairie-dress girl with darker hair laughs and then someone I don’t really know with one of those beanies perched across the crown of his head not even really gripping his head at all says well it’s his right isn’t it plus he’s in the other room so chill and then our host who’s been curled up in one of those deep-dish earth-mother chairs in the corner of the room all night and who I guess is fucking the artist who I guess is sleeping or avoiding everyone in the bedroom down the hall says I’m not offended I mean of course I think it’s bad, I’m in love with him but I’m not blind and then the guy in the center of the couch leans forward setting his cup on the dusty carpet and says no, none of you are seeing it, it’s true fucking tragedy without irony and also I think actually resists interpretation or gains complexity the more time you spend with it, the longer you look at it and then she uncurls a little and says dude and I’ve told him this to his face but it’s literally just like every dogshit Banksy thing ever and the guy with the perched beanie says but wasn’t he a sniper like actual and she nods all perked up suddenly all full of love and says yeah he did two tours actually and I wonder if I can bring my tote bag into the bathroom without everyone thinking it’s odd, if anyone would notice let alone notice and actually say something, something like why did you just bring your bag into the bathroom with you, and I guess in the bathroom I could always run my fingers through my hair like a comb, like there’s a comb in my bag and I brought the bag into the bathroom to comb my hair instead of to adhere one of my dead dad’s fent patches to some hairless strip of skin in order to eventually feel something or not feel something, I’m not really sure anymore, whatever, the whole idea is so stupid and I should just fucking drop it, I’m dropping it, I’m dropping it and drinking my skull out, I’m dropping it and taking another drink as the person I know maybe entirely from other parties like this one says dude that’s like what I’ve been saying about my new aesthetic, like no more fucking vintage NASCAR shirts and all that played-out bullshit, no more dressing like Harrison Ford in a 90s movie about medical malpractice, shit is so played out, all that shit like dressing like a South Korean pensioner or Robert Mueller or a coal miner or a smackhead or Neo sucks so much ass and she says yeah no shit and he presses a finger against his nostril and winces and says that shit is still burning then says but I know what’s next I know soon it’s gonna be about dressing like you’re about to go on a duck hunt for real, it’s gonna be all about straight-up tech gear like camo shit orange shit real gear none of that played-out hypebeast shit, just like fleece and liners, sort of like threatening comfort, like you see me on the street in a bunch of hunting gear and it’s like nobody knows if I’m about to whip out a gun or binoculars, and she gets up and walks into the kitchen and pours herself more wine and says or I don’t know maybe your dick and he says fuck off and I drink and time passes, and time has passed and the guy in the center of the couch leaves with the prairie girls and the guy with the beanie just sort of perched across the crown of his head leaves saying something about another party somewhere else, like he has this whole other world waiting for him, this whole other world full of other friends just sitting around waiting for him, and then the guy I know from other parties lingers and we talk shit about some of the people who just left and about things we saw on the Internet and about podcasts that only one of us has listened to and time passes and he says a few things to the woman fucking the guy down the hall, intermittent things like innocent enough but also like he’s trying to fuck, and she says a few things back like not completely uninterested but also not actually interested and time passes, and time has passed and I’ve had too much to drink and the artist all jacked ex-mil with a face like a roasted almond and canvas pants with splotches everywhere and some sort of intramilitary t-shirt with an eagle holding a rifle in its talons comes out and just sort of picks her up and sets her on his lap and drinks from her cup and then the guy I know from other parties leaves, scrams basically, and I finish another glass of wine and he picks her up again and sets her down again and walks into the kitchen and opens a cabinet and holds up a bottle of whiskey and I think I nod and he glugs us seven fingers each and walks back over like his bones are rebar, like he could cross a bunch of sand dunes without a drop of water no problem, and hands me my glass and sets his glass down and picks her up again and goes to set her back down again but she looks at him suddenly no longer full of love and I think says enough or maybe just huffs and walks down the hall and then into the bedroom and then out the front door, and I drink and he drinks and I realize that everyone else is gone and I tell him my name and that I know his girlfriend from college and he tells me his name and that on his second tour in ‘08 he was door-knocking in Parwan and came across a hut that smelled like shit and when he knocked no one answered and when he loudly announced himself as a messenger of peace no one answered and when he and his squad forced entry they were just sitting there, two little girls no older than seven, just sitting there in a pile of their own shit, and he looks at me with eyes like cut rocks and drinks and I drink and I think I say fuck or that’s fucked up or christ and he strokes his beard and I think I should probably come out with it, I think now is the time to come out with it, I am coming out with it, I am saying would you like to do the drugs I brought that were my dead dad’s until he died last week, and he is drinking and leaning forward and about to say something, he is saying something that he just said, he has now said what he had until just a moment ago not said which is I am always ready to face Death. I say I mean my mom said he was saying they don’t really work at all besides it takes like a day to even do anything, and he shrugs and looks at me with eyes empty or full depending and says I will face Death with you like Death is an avocado or a banana or a roll of paper towels, and time passes and I say it’s probably lame I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it, and time has either passed or not really and he’s still looking at me like we’ve made plans to go to the grocery store but I’m taking too long getting my shoes on, so I reach between my shoes and root around and find a patch and lean forward, I lean suddenly too far forward and brace my other hand against the floor, I brace with the hand not reaching out with the patch that he has leaned forward to snatch, that he has snatched, and I push myself back into my chair while he falls back into the depth of his deep-dish chair and holds the patch up to the too-white light leaking out from beneath the lampshade, so white it is almost green, and he reads the front then reads the back and says lowdoseslowrelease as he tears the perforation and pinches the patch between his fingers and lets the pouch fall into the gap between the cushion and his ribcage and peels the patch from the backing or the backing from the patch and holds it up to the light and eats it, he starts eating the patch, he is chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing and looking at me like I haven’t even been born and I say I was going to stick it and he chews and chews and chews and says another all marbly like his cheeks are packed with Camembert so I reach back down between my shoes while he snaps his palm closed all impatient and I reach up with a patch like here and he snatches it out of my hand before I can even get my eyes back up to his, before I can even see that he is looking at me like I better eat all my broccoli before even thinking about asking to be excused, and he claws at the perforation and unsticks the patch from the backing or the backing from the patch and the patch slips between his fingers and onto his shirt which beneath the eagle holding the rifle says some scrunched up word I can’t read and then Night Without and then some other scrunched up word I can’t read and he says uhghgh and he peels the patch off his shirt and he says pardonallthelintandshit and he stands up and the first word is Into and the last word is Fear and he steps toward me and he dangles the patch in front of my face and he opens his mouth wide like he’s telling me to open my mouth wide and I open my mouth, I open my mouth wide and he scrapes his trigger finger across my two front teeth and he settles the patch onto my tongue and I make a noise like gagging and I think I am about to gag and he holds my mouth closed and he says chew and I chew, I close my eyes and chew and chew and chew and chew and he releases his grip and I keep chewing, I keep chewing and keep chewing and keep chewing and keep chewing until I know that he’d be proud, until I’m absolutely certain that he’d be proud, and when I’m absolutely certain that he’d be proud and my jaw feels like it’s gone I open my eyes and he’s gone and a tiny knife of sun is slowly stabbing its way across the room like it’s fucking sorry.


image: Nathan Reinke