A Restless Mind


Written by Aaron French

Guy with a bionic arm points NN-West with his human arm, sinewy, with the faded tattoo of an unidentifiable animal. Withered woman’s gaze follows his finger, away from her crossword puzzle. They see the world not as is, but as they are. She shakes and rattles her roasted eyes until they settle astigmatically in the upper-left of her sockets; she looks as if she’s thinking. I look at the place of interest. I see nothing.

An old man shuffles-shuffles-shuffles…pauses, and then twists his body in an impossible musculoskeletal sequence. His spine is curved, lordotic, crooked as a scythe; he sees nothing but his own feet. I want to die young. I don’t want to become a shuffler. Should I live to be one-hundred let it be one-hundred in my prime.

‘..(unintelligible).. a little gay without being one or the other, like a spectrum’. Some animated conversation behind me. Horns honk incessantly. Girl wearing only mesh struts by like an anthropomorphized peacock. Chills sprout up like I’m an unseen ghost; her attitude says fuck off, and her nipples, exposed with disregard, say look at me in a non-sexual free-the-nipple kind of way.

A layer of pigeon shit covers the sidewalk.

I wear my urban armor. I’m a trendy, grime-colored knight, more said with what’s left unsaid in the silent gaping moments that antagonize the constant thrill of metropolitan delight.

I’m often asked where I’m from. People the world round have an obsession with categorization; e.g.’what-school-what-job-what-country-etc.-etc.-etc.’ and I tell them I’m from somewhere different every time.

I have many points of origin which are dependent on my given state of mind.

It’s annoying when people try to encapsulate their entire life’s narrative into one spin of the wheel. The way people display their layers says a lot about them. It’s usually to your own advantage to withhold each cutting piece of your puzzle until each of your solitary ‘isms amasses an independent value with greater weight in-and-of-itself than if all’d been collectively purged from the get-go. This is an instance where the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. People like to be surprised. And nothing is worse than ruining the tantalizing and outright arousing prospect of suppressed mystery by immediately putting all your cards on the table.

When I disclose that I’m from some varying central U.S. spot/speck/sliver, inquirers predictably reply, ‘I figured something Midwest U.S.A.’ and if I’m in some far off country and I say I hale from anywhere from Kansas to Ohio they’ll go, ‘Ah, Texas!’ and I’ll indulge them with a ‘Yea, that’s where I come from’ with a deferentially appended twang. I don’t expect foreigners to know all fifty U.S. states, but all of them do know NY, California and Texas.

Have you ever noticed anything unusual about the fifty? Nice square number. As if they rounded up. Look at a map. Eastwise we’re cut up by rivers and in general we have what appears to be very carefully negotiated borders. Now look west. The geometry simplifies. Here we have random coordinates drawn out and sliced up on office paper. Forty eight is not that great so throw in Alaska and Hawaii to round off to a satisfying fifty.

My only disclaimer in all of this is that no offense should be taken by any individual U.S. state. The offense is inflicted on the whole.

I only ask people where they’re from if I suspect they come from one of the seven ‘stans, since I (patronizingly) feel this gives a much needed acknowledgement to their civilization’s all-too-commonly forgotten yet exuberant existence, given that most of humanity’s conceptualization of this world-region is that it is a sweeping black hole they might have heard of but can’t say anything about.

I have an urge which needs explaining w/r/t telling new contacts where I’m from. I feel compelled to dress up in full disguises and make appearances in an assortment of constructed characters. This is self admittedly and rather obviously a psychopathic quirk.

I’ll have unique speech patterns/mannerisms/political identities/professions and/or heritage and I’ll co-opt friends to join me who are disguised as well. I’ll run into my old made up buddy, Earl Faulkner from Kalamazoo, and we’ll order a round of shots for anyone in the immediate vicinity to celebrate the chance encounter.

We’ll meet strangers who’ll be our dependent variables and tell them completely bullshit stories and have anecdotes that give acquainted subjects no reason to call us out but enough to fuck with their heads to the point where they have some inscrutable scratch within.

Each person you meet opens up another new world you never knew existed, so this social experiment should have a sort of schizophrenic effect on people.

Doing this at a small town bar vs. somewhere urban would yield interesting variations of results.

Compassion is hard to find in any great metropolis unless something catastrophic happens, and then there is a short-lived mega-solidarity. Cities beat and swell and have intense energy. I return on blue moons back to the true Midwest town I was born and bred where it feels like I must’ve slipped into a time machine. Gravity distorts and things slow down and makes everything heavy and monochromatic and it appears as if I’m caught in some old fashioned photograph but it’s real and these are my honest memories and these are the people I grew up with and it’s all a sort of a hard-to-escape cobweb that conserves all in original form unchanging and simultaneously beautiful and repulsive.

People gossip in small towns. Gossip in megacities is kind of pointless since you can be an asshole and not have to pay for it. In a small town, conformity serves the lucid centrifuging role of separating good from bad, and in small towns, bad things catch up with you fast.

Fights take place in spring weather, when it’s also mating, hunting and storm season for locales situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the 39th parallel north. Ethnocentric, am I right? This is a patent American tendency. Young girls get knocked up around this time of year (globally north of the equator), hence all the December/January birthdays. This has been true for all sizes of zip-codes in this world region since time immemorial.

These fights are spectacles where anyone in the know is on site serving witness to some anachronistically approved ritual. In small towns they take place in someone’s field or back yard or somewhere that cops are rarely seen; but in cities, which tend to have more of a feminine culture and less testosterone and therefore less fights per capita (yet substantially more by volume) fights are not as much pomp and circumstance and their location is futile because no matter where the fight breaks out, all parties on hand are ready to scurry like rats at moment’s notice.

It’s more likely someone will get stabbed in city fights (per capita and by volume) but city fights are less exciting in any sort of functional sense; i.e. small town fighters can potentially gain socially useful non-gang related respect and solidarity with their community, win or lose. The character of a fighter during a small town fight says more than the actual outcome. Nonetheless, both in swarming cities and in small-towns, it always seems to start raining when the bloods of fighters start boiling.

Good fights are the best gossip in small towns. They’re legendary. Talked about for generations. Everyone always roots for the underdog unless that underdog is a psychopath or a sociopath. In bigger cities, the excitement of a good fight gets lost quickly into the buzzing pulse of a place not concerned with yesterday. Urbanites think clenched fists are a cave-man like mentality and that all disputes must be uniformly settled on higher ground.

People slay with words and money in cosmopolitan areas, where intellectual firepower is more lethal than brute force. I concur half-heartedly since most physical altercations are provoked by vain and momentary emotional chaos, but I also think there’s a lot of people in the world who could use a good punch in the face.

This is a restless mind.

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