(Nathan Cyprys, Dog Barker, Air Kicker, on his Island Home, 2011)
We used to throw gang signs around until the day a bunch of gangsters chased after us in Pete's car, looked at us with eyes peering from bandanas and reversed ballcaps, looking real mean, even evil. Those were the most menacing look eyes I had ever seen, and when their leader spoke, his voice muffled by bandana, it pierced my spine with intoxicated fear, this shit was real.
Eventually we apologized enough and they called us pussies enough that they lost interest in having us had pissed our pants. Our night, which started off as fun and careless, full of shenans was over, filled with battery acid; a byproduct of adrenaline. We couldn't end this night like this, we needed to get these shakes from our fingers and toes out into the ground, we needed to turn this night from it's previous turn and form what is called the flipping a bitch.
When Rufus took off his sock and fed it down the remains of his bottle of JB I never thought he'd light it, yelling at Pete to catch up to those gangsters, and that when we finally reached them that he'd throw it at their car. I remember shitting myself, even before the moment of impact, I started yelling at him, worried that the bottle was going to ignite in his hand, shattering glass, fire, and burning whiskey on all of us. And when that bottle disappeared from his hand, and returned with a smile on his face, it took us closer to him as he whispered to our furry ears that we were gangsters now, some real gangsters that never sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death, and we'll sleep when we're dead. All while this was happening, there was fire all around us, the gangsters' car had ran off the road, busting into flames, and we could see them running with fiery haircuts. I searched myself for any emotion and there wasn't nothing, the field they crashed in was burning too, and smoke slowly filled the scene. The stars were out, the sky was clear, and the wind blew in from the coast. If it didn't feel surreal before all of this, we were in a dream now, seeing them dancing there, yelling a familiar tune, I swear to God they were singing, in perfect unison, and if I listened close enough I could hear Tha Crossroads*.
Eventually even they would fall, our days as kids were gone, and buried beneath the soil they smoldered on. Inside their car we found guns, spare bandanas, a large collection of Bone Thugs and Mack Daddy, and something deeply profound, we knew perfectly well what we were going to be from now on. If I look back to that moment, I never would've guessed I'd become a man like that, with some Aztec princess tying a bandana over my month, giving me a kiss on the cheek, and as she walked off my hand slapping her hind, just before we rolled off into the fog of the night. That would be the last this world we know of me, or at least the me I left behind in that smokey field.
On nights like this, if you listen close enough you can hear my crew and I, from far off and away, the sounds of hydraulic screaming and trunk door slamming, with gangster rap and deep bass, the ground rumbling and the howling men. Word to your mother.
I once. There was once. I remember. Back in the day. Everything, (silence)...
Everything was crowded, full of crazies, black & white stripes, flashing red bulbs, and clowns laughing, I remember running away, I remember the taste in my mouth, it was fear.
Since then I haven't been the same, the kid who saw all that, that kid is still in the room, looking at me in a mirror, I'm trying to tell him sorry, he can't hear, I'm trying to tell him he'll get over it, nothing.
His father flew planes until the day he flew one into another, mid air, there was an explosion.
That child would grow up, fatherless, his mother would grow dim, and his sister, well she would just look out through her window, pointing with her mind to every passing plane, there's father, there he goes, (she says goodbye, but the pilot can't hear, he's too far away).
Today I am twenty, I got my first car, it's a Buick, it needs some work, a new coat of paint too, but that doesn't matter when me and my sis are cruising down the coast. I'll have my Ray-Bans on, my sister in her summer dress, the music is on loud, and all we can hear is the sound of oceanwindandpassingcars.
Today they dropped the bomb. A man yells at me to turn down my music, I do, I'm shocked at his tone, but then I listen. His radio is telling me that there was a giant explosion, there are many dead, and that it will soon all be over. My sister asks me what will be over. I tell her, I. Don't. Know.
When mother remarried, I left the house, it was under mutual terms, I liked the guy, I didn't like leaving Sal, I knew she was going to be alone, with that new man, and that new look on mother's face. I had to get out of there.
I remember my first joint, I remember Ricky Trufeld's face when he was stoned, it was a face you naturally wanted to punch, I never did punch him that day, I just sat around his dorm, getting high and listening to Miles. I remember thinking that everything is good, things were really good, and I felt my cheeks tingle intensely like new born baby stars in a blanket of pure black.
Once upon a time long ago, I wanted to be a pilot, I wanted to look for my father's body, it was still floating out there, where he exploded, I cried to my mother the day he died, they never got his body, it's still there!
Sal grows up, she becomes a woman, goes to college, marries a nice quiet man who sells bonds, they buy an old church, and raise a family in there. I'll never see their house, nor their children. No, I'm afraid I won't be there for any of that.
Carol, my mother, she will live the rest of her life happy, with Thomas F., she took his name, and I wrote her a letter just before I left, I told her I was going and that I loved her, and inside that letter there was another one, this one having the words in all capital:
DON'T OPEN UNTIL A REALLY SAD DAY
(she never opened it)
(but my sister did after Carol died)
The words were,
if not for you, for me, if not for me, for him
[picture of an airplane with a small man standing on the top wing, strapped in, with his goggles there is a smile, his scarf blowing in the wind like a wild animal, and where his hand is is a wave, he is saying ADIOS, I love you.]