Now he tended to cry. He did not cry much as a child. From an early age, he was taught to suck it up. Boys don’t do that, his grandmother told him. So he swallowed the hot knots of emotion when he skinned his knee, when both index fingers were cut by the metal spool of streamers whilst decorating for the anniversary party, when his grade school crush did not give him a creased cardstock valentine.
He cried in his late twenties, but not in his tweens or teens. In his tweens or teens he felt the emotion, a fracas of rage and despair, eat away at his throat. He laid in bed for hours in the dark. He asked for death.
He cried he cried he cried. In adulthood, or at least when he felt that he had reached adulthood, when his responsible decisions outnumbered the irresponsible, he began to cry. He cried when he received the new wallet, he cried when he did not get accepted into the grad school of his choice, he cried when he thought of his wife.
He cried when he thought of his childhood, his grandmother, his father; he cried when he couldn’t explain why he resented his mother, teachers, friends; he cried when he felt alone, miserable, empty; he cried.
It’s so beautiful, he said one afternoon, watching a groundhog run its awkward back-heavy run through the empty lot across the street from the porch, tear tracks across his high cheeks.
He could not remember if he already took his pills. So, for fear of overdosing, he abstained. This process repeated itself until he never took a pill because he was afraid that he had already taken it and this is how his life ended, confused and fearful of both over- and under-indulging.
Carrick is a native Chicagoan, and he studied under Bill Knott and John Skoyles during M.A. work at Emerson College in Boston. Currently a senior editor at the University of Chicago Press, artist and new dad, Carrick also digs “trying to cook foods that are delicious,” he says. Check out some of his artwork here.
It was a Mission Hill mid-rise, tired and white, with bad natural light—the artificial light inside was worse. The kitchen was the size of a minute, and cars wheezed down the Riverway all day. Good thing Boston beds down early: There were few night cars, and it is within the deep night when the most important decisions have to be made.
My preliminary sketches were in order. Our apartment building had a wooden roofdeck, and this is where I had spread out graph paper during mid-March afternoons, when the starlings returned, and made the initial calculations. I used blue pencils and black pens, for the sky and for the skeleton. It could be no other way. On a late-April evening I began to build my martyr machine.
I lost a finger during the construction, but it was a very small price to pay for the salvation of your soul. The ropes would be of nylon and arachnid, and woven in the chill just before dawn, when the web slept; they would, of course, be five in number, and each would have to be secured, on one end, to an iron kettle. The space needed for the kettles initially caused me much anguish, because you always need a good and free pendulum, but I made a remarkable discovery on the day that green (spring) was reborn. The starlings had ascended from the arms of the oaks, revealing the gap. I would build upward from the deck into the twittering black that will always, if we wait too long, turn back into blue.
You received a religion from the chocolate racecars, a Valentine’s Day gift from a boyhood boyfriend who died. I thought that was sweet. I also thought you mascara-stamped the epitome of cool on my collar when you cried for the Bactrian camels, who survive on dry grass and salt water. But you were not sincere, as it turns out, and there would of course be consequences.
There was a system of pulleys and a seat cushion that needed to be measured and installed, but I am unable to communicate the explanation without using numbers, so I am going to have to ask you to trust me. You deserve nothing but mathematics, but today is an unusual day — I am in a verbal mood and unable at the moment, in this fury of release, to jeopardize the whole affair by fussing with the numbers. It did not involve a composite number. That is all I can say.
Finally that day came, in late July, when you took me by the hand and led me to the roof, the source of the heat. The sky was the color of liquid silver as you settled into your seat. I began to attach the ropes to your waist and limbs, and a single starling alit on the steel shore of your slander. You reached for the wrong ropes, fed up, and completed the movements that the machine was going to make anyway, despite you. You couldn’t find a word. You may smile, but you are now tied in golden knots behind my back.
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