Taylor is the author of Idiogest and the chapbook Rubaiyat of Hazmat (both BlazeVox Books). His writing has most recently appeared in North American Review, Anemone Sidecar, Elimae, Mississippi Review Online and Pif, among others. He lives and writes in Buffalo, N.Y.
Samuel was trying silence, like a submarine slicing into sea, the ocean closing over: or down in the Grand Canyon, sky a blue cut in the brown, at the bottom walking with a rasping sound like choking. The sand burned under feet.
Mei Mei flapped her hand. "Could you make sure sink is fix before you become holy man? I'm not dealing with that super, he talk to me like I'm a child and then he stare at my chest. I swear, if I could figure way to live without men I'd make a fortune. You know who buy it? Your mother. Swear to god if I was marry to your father I'd kill him dead." On TV something about a California date shake, two blondes laughing, male and female.
Restringing the guitar, he looked at her from a spray of silver and gold. Simon was crying.
Mei Mei frowned. "You hear him? I go out of my mind. This time you go." She frowned. "Such bad mother."
He smiled. She looked away. His teeth hurt a lot now.
"You not look like your picture."
He rose through the smell of his breath to go to the boy. On TV a married mother of three in glasses, manacled and crying. Passion Puts Teacher in Prison: Sentenced to 4 Years for Sex with Student. The chain to which the cuffs attached rested in the hollow of her waist, circling just above the curve of her hips.
He had told her he owned a house, but he didn't. She had told him she was 24 but she wasn't.
"You need more job. Economy getting worser. But you play with guitar, that's more important. For sure, you got a big future as singer. Just don't open your mouth, OK honey?"
Back in the cloud of wires, he smiled at Mei Mei. She turned to chop, head bent over the blade catching light, muttering in Chinese, then speaking loudly. "Why I didn't wait. I must be crazy."
He heard his watch ticking, his wrist near his head: why -- he was scratching.
"You need bath. You smell lots, honey."
Through her jersey sleeve he saw the hair under her arm, like long silky black grass. She was pigeon toed and walked toward the TV holding her hands as if drip-drying them. Miss Universe Visits Guantanamo Bay, Finds it "Relaxing, Calm and Beautiful."
Samuel rose up holding the guitar by its neck, and moved through the kitchen and out to the small porch and cool air; the plain building, he thought, like furniture and the porches like open drawers holding tables, clothes, dead plants, boxes, a dog, junk. He sat in the small metal chair and wrapped his arms around the guitar's waist.
Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, on TV earlier, now harvested together. His forehead rested against the cool neck.
When Samuel pushed back into the apartment with the guitar Mei Mei talked Mandarin to her cell, waving the knife. He had planned to learn it: their first anniversary was coming up. But the silence. Couldn't do it.
Samuel squinted out a window at the porch's iron bars, the black scaling off and leaving bright orange. He needed glasses, but couldn't get around to it, like brushing teeth had gotten impossible.
Mei Mei stood with the knife. She came at him and he smiled to himself as she put it in the enameled sink. When he didn't slouch he could see the top of her head.
"We need more money. Need more room for Simon. Oh my god, this like jail."
Samuel loped slowly to the bite-size-Snickers bag he'd ripped open earlier. Eating hurt, but he did it. Mei Mei shook her head. Samuel watched her hair as she said something for a while. The words were rain or snow filling the air.
He froze. What was he doing? Of course: play time over. He go work now.
Samuel set down the guitar so slowly it met the floor without a sound and walked carefully toward the corner of the living room where his computer was, concentrating on his feet, the soles, touching the floor, feeling the ground under the building, the air on his face, the wind. His hands he held at waist level, right hand a fist covered by the left like a shrouded heart. Kill the self, stab it, the Zen book said.
He stopped at a window and saw flowers of gasoline on the wet street near the curb, two stories down. Samuel, breathing deeply, could smell them through the glass, their tang; and the garbage and window boxes, the FedEx guy's sweat, the bitterness of coffee.
Earth moves through space at thousands of miles an hour. Things are finished, used, fall behind and get left. We move. Goodbye rusty bike lock, small rocking chair with broken runner, goodbye hat, goodbye t-shirt with holes, goodbye things, goodbye things, goodbye things, goodbye friend and enemy, goodbye love, goodbye roaches, fruitflies, ants, goodbye meal, goodbye book, goodbye string, goodbye plastic bag, bags hanging from the fingers of trees, goodbye. Dive.
Samuel turned from the window into the dream he had awoken in the middle of earlier. Back in The Stan he sprinted away from something, running across rooftops, laundry drying in air, burkas and shirts and pants twitching and jerking. He reached a wider gap between the low buildings and jumped as before but not far enough. He sank in a blur and then was on the ground without pain in a street or alley but he couldn't move; and when he tried to speak, he couldn't. Someone in a uniform ran to him and knelt, speaking words he didn't understand but their tone was soothing, as if comforting a child. He couldn't see the face with the sun behind it. The person had a sidearm holstered, and Samuel reached out and snatched it and aimed. The other wrestled, they struggled, and then it fired. Samuel felt pressure released, a deflation and spreading coolness, and he said, thank you. Shokran.a He had woken in the dark still seeing the person's long hair spill from the knocked helmet.
On TV Haitians Call the Pain of Hunger "Asid Batri" -- Like Battery Acid.
Now again he found his left hand tight around the neck, and held his right hand flat over the mouth where sound came out and waited for silence to bloom in rainbows against the black, so he could hear the windhorse parting air, coming as the book said, bringing peace. This. Here. Now.
Then he stabbed the remote at the TV, turning it off only after a couple of thrusts. "Batteries," he guessed, his voice startling in the new quiet.
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