Disparity’s Cohort (a short story)

I suppose I should begin rightly, and tell you that my name is Mason and I am the one writing this. If nothing else from here on out is to be known, it is that I and no one else is writing these words. These words are mine and no one else’s.

That’s important.

From the outset, I have chosen words. And it is with words I seek to describe what life is made of, and what it is not. To begin with, it is my belief that it’s mostly about who you wake up next to, if anyone or no one at all. That first waking breath really shouldn’t be wasted on the mediocre, and it is quite banal, anyway, to dwell on the casual, though as well loneliness.

This morning I awake quite early and walk to my kitchen in none but a pair of army green boxer-briefs. I stop at the sink, turning toward the cupboard, which is hanging above and to my right, and retrieve a one-pound bag of coffee beans. I pour some into the grinder, press down the lid, and try to ignore the awful noise coming from the machine as it pierces my eardrums and echoes through my skull; my brain sings songs of electric pulses: bloops and bleeps on the proverbial modem. I remove my hand from the thing, and suddenly the noise stops and my screaming mind goes blank again, greeting me in return of the first few minutes of the day.

I pour the ground beans into the basket of my percolator, and plug it into the wall. It begins to brew, so I set about doing yesterday’s dishes, which are few and mostly rinsed, save the knife with the remnants of a schmear of cream cheese, and the pan which will need to be soaked, thereby continuing its rest in the sink. I complete the cleaning with an air of importance, such is that of the Routine. This is, of course, how I begin all of my days.

***

Lester Bangs would’ve loved my first few records. He’d have been the one to champion me. I was, and am still not beholden to anyone or anything in my music making. He would’ve liked that. I was born in the wrong era, is what it is.

But that’s really nonsense. I like the age I live in. I think it’s kind of a cop out to claim otherwise. I mean, it’s never gonna Be Like It Used To Be, but what ever is? Times change, and it’s just that we Old Souls sometimes have a hard time adjusting to the bitter hell that is this life in our world on fire.

It is on fire, of course. It always has been, at least since the aliens implanted their germs into our brains, to make us some weird and wild version of animal society, groping and pawing at versions of ourselves worth killing a hundred thousand times over. Fucked, really. Really we’re fucked. We were automized to be so.

Can a species hell-bent on destroying itself really be called successful? I’m not sure. What were the Aliens’ goals here?

For clarity of vision, “Aliens” will from here be referred to as “God” whether or not capitalized.

And if God really did do the things that must have, at some point, been done for humanity to reach this position of self-destruction, should we really be praying to Him in the first place?

Hell, shit, piss.

What do I need to do here to suddenly burst into flames? Must I be implicit in my sacrilege?

Look, all I’m saying is that God is a horned lizard ape and I am the product of eons of inbreeding; of pseudo-electric impulses and small balls of lightness or condensed energy. Such a thing must happen in perpetuation.

It’s all in the ritual. And that screaming machine we use to grind coffee is suddenly analogized to our very being: our very purpose to sit around, and none but in routine, come to life; fulfill our purpose in sheer and steadfast violence, until the hand of God is released and our senses fall to only the supposed; the emblem reading our Name and Rank, or the Brand and the Model Number. Such is all but what is sure and true.

Ah, but no. No, we know that it is everything our mind becomes when it is simply sitting around. And here, of course, is where the metaphor slides into itself.

Good lord, what am I on about?

Is it the violence that sickens me? Or is it the way we can’t do but be seen doing it?

Maybe it’s both. But I have to say, if I’m nothing but a ball of energy, that’s fine. If I’m nothing but the electrical pulses that strike forth the violence, then okay. But I can’t be the violence itself. Nor the finely ground coffee produced.

Lester Bangs would’ve loved my first few records.

Whatever. We soldier on, dear boys and girls.

And so what now? It is but 8:15am. I have done everything on my checklist for the day: do yesterday’s dishes; make and drink coffee. I suppose I should eat, but I really can’t for at least another hour. Perhaps just a banana…

***

“What’s the story for today?” she asks me as I light another cigarette, now three in a row.

I contemplate for a moment before answering. “I feel like being in nature,” I say.

“What nature?” she replies.

I take a drag of my cigarette and put it down on the ashtray. The smoke from the cherry swirls around us and takes me back to someplace in my mind; someplace far and away from Cleveland, Ohio; someplace only I know where it is.

I pick up my cigarette and take another drag before replying, “Anywhere nature is, that’s where I wanna be.”

I stamp out my cigarette and light another one. Inhale, exhale, repeat. The noise from the coffee grinder enters my mind, deafening me once more. I plug my ears, and glance over at her to see if she hears what I’m hearing, but she isn’t there and I wonder where she went. The noise grows louder and louder, and I can’t even hear the traffic moving, and my fingers plug my ears a little harder before everything stops and all I can hear is rain beginning to fall around me, but I’m not getting wet.

“Where’d you go?” I cry out, and my voice echoes against the walls. “Where’d you go?” I repeat, and my mind suddenly clears and everything is normal again. It’s raining outside and I go out to the porch where she’s sitting. “I didn’t see you get up,” I say and she looks at me, but not at me, but through me. And I wonder if I’m even standing there at all. I escape back into the kitchen and put the coffee grinder away, and I stack a few things in front of it so its noise doesn’t come down on me again.

I can’t find the bananas.

***

I wake up the next morning and reach out and no one is there and I’m wondering where she went.

I go into the kitchen and look at the coffee grinder, already with coffee beans ground, and I don’t remember doing it but thank god that I don’t have to hear that noise again. I set the coffee to brew. I go outside and she’s sitting there.

“Morning, darling,” she says as I sit down next to her. “Good morning,” I say and we go about sitting in silence and I’m not sure what to say because I’m remembering one of my dreams and wondering if it was a dream at all, or if it was something that happened years ago and I just can’t put my finger on when. I light a cigarette and it starts to rain again.

“Lotta rain we’ve been having,” I say and she looks at me but doesn’t say anything. Suddenly she gets up and begins to undress and she’s finally naked and goes sprinting down the street and I wonder if I should follow her, but I don’t, I just sit and smoke my cigarette. The noise from the coffee grinder enters my mind for a moment but I push it out of my brain and I don’t plug my ears. I’m hungry but I don’t want to eat breakfast without her and I wonder where she’s gone.

I go back inside and she’s sitting on the couch, fully clothed, and I do a double take but I don’t say anything except “Good morning” and I go back to the kitchen and the coffee is done brewing, so I pour a cup and I take a sip and I go back outside to smoke another cigarette and she’s sitting there with a cup of tea, and I can see the steam rising across her face and I wonder how long she was gone running, but I don’t ask her because I’m sure I imagined the whole thing. So I light a cigarette and I sit down and I look over at her but she’s gone and I don’t know where she is and I can’t hear the traffic.

I go back inside, my cigarette in hand, and she’s sitting on the couch again, completely naked, and I sit down next to her and my hand reaches out to touch her but it doesn’t, just lands on the pillow beneath her. I wonder if she’s even there but she gets up and walks slowly to the kitchen. She stops in front of the sink and her arm goes up high to the cupboard and I see her get the coffee grinder down, and I see her fill it with coffee beans, and a feeling of panic washes over me and I scream, “No!” and she grinds the coffee and I can’t hear anything but that awful noise. She looks over at me, and smiles. I get up and go outside to escape that terrible sound and she’s sitting there, still naked. “Good morning, darling,” she says and I just stare at her and don’t say anything.

I go back inside and she’s sitting on the couch, fully clothed. I go back outside and she isn’t there, but her clothes are lying in a heap on the chair. I go back inside and the coffee grinder is in the middle of the floor, and there’s coffee beans everywhere. I go back outside and she’s naked again and goes running away again down the street.

I go back inside and I pour a cup of coffee.

I eat a banana.

***

“Lester Bangs would’ve loved my first few records,” I say into the microphone. It’s midday and the reporters are firing questions about my latest album and I’m trying to act cool.

“Do you believe in what you write?” one of them asks and I don’t know what to say.

“I believe in nothing,” I say and a few people laugh.

“If you believe in nothing, why do anything at all?” the same reporter retorts.

I sit for a moment in contemplation. “I’m a song and dance man,” I say and wonder if anyone will notice I’m quoting Bob Dylan verbatim.

“You’re more a poet than a songwriter. Isn’t that right?”

“I’m both. I’m neither. I’m nothing. I’m everything. What difference does it make when all you can hear is the coffee grinder in the morning?” And a few people in the room laugh before I continue. “I mean, really. Just the other day I had a wild experience in the morning. I hallucinated an ex-lover still with me.” And I wonder if I should tell the whole story but I don’t.

“What do you mean by hallucinate?” someone asks.

“I mean seeing something that used to be there. Like the cold crotch of death,” I say and everyone laughs. “It’s more a wish for more music to play instead of the sound of traffic outside. I write like a madman and I never know what it means when I write it. Doesn’t that make any sense?”

“Is there some doubt in your abilities?” someone asks.

“I have no doubt in my abilities. I have doubt in your abilities,” I say and a few people laugh. “Journalism is easier than art. It’s a recount of obscenities, and you know it. You all know it. Journalism is a dead language at this point. Nothing is news if everything is news.”

“Can you go on tour in your state?” someone asks.

“I’m always on tour,” I reply. “I’m on tour right now. My whole life is one long tour. That’s all life is to anyone. We’re all tourists on this plane. That isn’t fresh news. Report on that, maybe.”

“What do you mean when you say everyone is on tour?” someone asks.

“I mean we’re tourists. This life isn’t anything but a kick in the groin,” I say and a few people laugh. “God knows nothing about our existence. He is a perpetual motion machine. Music is just my way of dealing with this existence. I could stop tomorrow and no one would know the difference. And I’d still be on tour. Don’t you get it? Questions and answers are nothing more than bloops and bleeps to me. And it’s life to you. I know less about myself than even you all fine people. What difference?”

***

“Mason, you gotta be better about how you handle the press.” My manager is sitting with me in the green room of the House of Blues in Cleveland and I’ve just lit a cigarette and she looks at me like she’s worried.

“It’s ok. They know I’m nothing. I know I’m nothing. I just want to go home.”

“You are home. The stage is your home.”

“Maybe,” I reply. “How much time do I have? What time is it?”

“You have a half hour before you go on. Three hours until you’re back in your apartment. Just chill, man. You got this.”

“Yeah, I got this,” I say to myself and I look back to where she was sitting, and she’s gone. I close my eyes and all I can hear is the coffee maker. I pick up my guitar and start practicing scales, “Do re me fa so la te do te la so fa me re do…” and I’m suddenly worried about the house music and I’m wondering if there are enough people out waiting to hear me play, and also if they would rather just listen to the house music all evening instead of to me playing my songs.

I put down my guitar and there’s nothing playing in my mind and I pour a cup of coffee and I wonder if I’m even allowed to be smoking in the green room, but I light one regardless. Inhale, exhale, repeat.

***

“You were brilliant tonight. Just brilliant!” says some guy to me as I’m standing outside after the show, smoking a cigarette in back of the club, because it turns out I wasn’t allowed to be smoking in the green room, and I’m cursing that rule as I’m caught in conversation with a few fans.

“Thanks. Thanks,” I say. “What kind of music do you put on when you’re just bored?” I ask someone, and they look at me with wide eyes and they say, “Mason Cramely.” And I wonder if it’s the truth or if they just want to flatter me because I’m the one standing there whose show they’ve just paid to see.

“I bet,” I reply, and light another cigarette.

***

It’s morning and I reach out and there’s no one there, so I just get up and set about to doing yesterday’s dishes, but I don’t make coffee because I can’t stand the thought of hearing the grinder today.

I go outside to smoke a cigarette.
And I’m alone. And I’m cold.

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