He drags himself across the intersection shirtless, ass-exposed.
By the looks of things, he’s either 30 or 80 years old. All you can say for sure is it’s hard to say for sure. One reason for this is that hair protrudes from and grows with the skin on his skull like untended shrubs outside an abandoned house, obscuring any good look at his face. And the hair from the top of the skin of his skull, once dreadlocked but now unshackled and wild with dirt, grows over and with his shrubs of beard to form a single menacing haircowl. There is more hair than face on his face.
His legs, too, are hairy, and loosely covered in what look like they might’ve been black cargo pants a very, very long time ago. They girdle his waist like normal pants, his pants, but then on the backside drape into a thong from which scraps of pant hang and expose his hirsute skin. The fact that the dangling thong of pant is not stitched to its kin on the frontside by way of some tween-leg-gooch connection is uncomfortably obvious. Oblong ovoid shapes have been torn, or somehow otherwise been removed, from the back of each leg. A man before you with a thong of pant between cheeks and no shirt and it’s what, 8:30?
You think to yourself it’s almost like his pants and normal pants differ in teleologies.
His back is at a 40-degree angle relative to the street; he looks more like a four-legged creature trying to walk on two legs than a two-legged creature trying to walk on four. A black hefty Hefty trash bag filled with godknowswhat is slung over his shoulder as if it were a bindle. He might wish he had a bindle except for the fact that it’s been a long time since he wished anything. The bag rests behind his unlocked locks on his barren back and hangs just above his waist so as to not obstruct your view of the cheeks.
Things are tense now. Although your first thought is something like where did he come from this man just came out of nowhere, eventually you reason he must’ve been coming south on Brazos from up where the shelter is. He had to come from somewhere, right? Unless he actually did come out of nowhere, that is, get dropped here through some black hole worm hole time manipulation 5th-dimension shit. The idea is worth taking seriously given the fact that this man does not belong here in front of you at this moment. But here he is.
Because the thing is it’s clear this is not just another panhandler or bum–he’s not like the rest of them that sometimes you see on the streets looking dejected and resigned and pathetic. He is not asking anything from anyone and he is not pathetic. He is ravenous and horrible and wild and kinetic and naked, mostly naked, with anger so palpable it radiates from him like light from lightning. His gravity does not feel good. He drags himself across the crosswalk and, looking at him, you quiver.
And you didn’t notice it before but now, scanning his body again, you realize it’s not just his hair that’s dirty but every square inch of skin and clothes. Dirt so enmeshed in his skin that dirt has become skin; so much dirt that you can’t distinguish between what is dirt and what is hair and what is skin and what is he doing here this creature what is his story and what is happening? What has happened?
His ass and its cheeks are especially dirty.
And so but here he is, a human male covered in crud and not-so-covered in scraps of black pants and holding a trash bag close to his body, who has now made it across the street and who, strangely, is now standing still with his eyes closed, like a monastic about to light himself on fire, outside of some of the most expensive condominium apartments in the entire state.
The vectors of venture capitalists and project managers and techies walking to work turn parabolic in the early morning air. These people cannot get farther away. The lengths at which they go out of their way to avoid the creature are almost comical, and you might even laugh if before you weren’t this hyena prowling mostly naked in the cool sunrise air of central texas downtown texas austin texas the liberal oasis of all of texas and a paragon of progress for all the world to see.
No one says anything.
And suddenly without opening his eyes he drops the Hefty and puts his face way down close to the ground. The thong of black pant rises on his back as he bends over and you think Jesus Christ as if this could’ve gotten more indecent. But you keep staring anyway. And once he feels sufficiently close to the ground, once his face is like violently near the sidewalk, he forms two sickles with his two middle fingers and puts them right down on the ground right next to his disheveled skull and he cries out like some ungodly apparition, loud enough for the entire continent to hear, “FUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUUU.”
And then he picks up his sickles and his trash bag and turns the corner of Brazos and 2nd, ass still to air, and goes out of sight. And a couple seconds later you put one foot on a pedal and kickstart off the ground with the other and ride out on 3rd to work and all you can think is this man will probably in all honesty be dead by this time next week and no one will ever see him again and he will never scream fuck you again at the sidewalk on 3rd and it will probably not be a graceful death
and all I really want to do is give you a hug and a bath and tell you I am so, so, so sorry.
I might be misremembering things. But rightly (writely?) or not I recall in On Writing this great metaphor Stephen King gives which equates writing to archaeology. Writer-as-archaeologist, is the point. You don’t create the story, you uncover it. Like the story is already there and you don’t have to fuck with it too much–in fact if you do fuck with it too much, it’s ruined–but you do have to uncover it. Remove the surrounding dirt. Dig. You really gotta dig. But the point is you don’t create it, you find it, you excavate, and you uncover.
I like King’s metaphor because I’m fond of the notion that the story already exists. One could say it jives with my platonic (neoplatonic?) ontology or at my sympathies for such an ontology (always been a sucker for plato’s metaphysics and also right now if you’re thinking to yourself Christ, listen to yourself kirk, you sound like a complete twat: yes, I know, and also, suck my balls and hail Satan). But no–the Form of Story, the Form of This-Particular-Story, out there somewhere not necessarily in spacetime but out there, somehow supraspacetime, out there nonetheless–how majestic. How mesmerizing.
It turns the act of writing on its head, the metaphor. A change in ontology necessitates a change in perspective of that ontology. I am no longer the creator. The story was created before I arrived and it will be here long after I am gone. It is eternal (or in the archaeology metaphor, just very slowly decaying). So it’s like, humbling, or something. To view things this way. To adopt the ontology implicit in King’s metaphor. I should be so honored to have the opportunity to uncover the story.
This is all to say that for the past couple days I’ve been feeling the call of the story, its gravity and its pull. A feeling like I was walking along and came across a fossil protruding from the ground and now the image keeps coming back. I didn’t explore and I could’ve. The feeling that there might be something more there. A fantastic discovery for the world to see. I need to go back. I’m writing this so I remember to try to write that. You don’t have to understand.
Of course, I might be misremembering things.