Paulus Kapteyn


I saw Y on fos­ter st.. He didn’t look the same. He had a shock of white hair. He looked like a famous dead artist. I walked along­side him and crossed over the Hawthorne bridge. I left him when I decid­ed he couldn’t pos­si­bly be Y. The old man had nico­tine stains on his fin­gers. Y didn’t smoke cig­a­rettes. He fon­dled a pipe. Y had no inter­est in the arts. He did like to bang on the piano keys with his large hands. He had a set of water­col­ors he nev­er used. He pun­ished me and with­held his guid­ance when I con­fessed I want­ed to be an actor. His frame was skin and bone. He had sur­vived cancer.

I spoke with Y on 54 Ave. He’s a rid­dle. He looked like how I remem­bered him. He con­fessed he had killed a woman. His lone­li­ness had led him to her.

She had called him sen­si­tive. They had walked and sep­a­rat­ed. He had left her lifeless.

Y had nev­er been seri­ous­ly vio­lent. He has a tem­per. The Y I remem­bered also has a larg­er nose and a thin­ner mouth than mur­der­er Y. You’re an impos­tor I said. I can be who­ev­er you want me to be Y said. I can even not be Y even though I am Y. I don’t think you are Y, I said. I can’t replace Y, he said. I felt misled.

I felt eager to feel eager. I was unem­ployed. I fre­quent­ed a lik­able young Southern psy­chi­a­trist whose sex­u­al­i­ty I can’t ascer­tain. I looked into the inte­ri­or of every house that had lights on and no one in sight. I knew that it would be unlike­ly I would see Y. I felt dizzy when I scru­ti­nized the dark. I didn’t want to crit­i­cize myself. I walked to the cen­ter of the park where there was a con­crete basin. Y  was there with a dog that was more wolf than dog. I had no idea that Y was a dog own­er. He had red hair and blues eyes. I want­ed to have the park to myself. I felt I had noth­ing for myself. I felt that Y had tak­en every­thing that I had and was taunt­ing me with it. I want­ed to fight Y’s wolf dog. What did I care if I was killed by Y’s wild dog. I would regret killing it. I felt that every­day I had to strug­gle to have some­thing for myself. The med­ica­tion abat­ed the anx­i­ety and depres­sion but not the empti­ness. I not­ed that the trees were stark and that they didn’t pen­e­trate my slowness.

I looked in the mir­ror and saw bland hand­some looks that could have been of use to anoth­er man not myself, an actor maybe.

I looked at a post­card Y sent me in his man­ic phase. It had an image of King Kong on the Empire State building.

Y has a long emp­ty face. He often has dirt under his fin­ger nails. He was man­ic. He posit­ed his dis­col­ored penis. It was as long as his face. I was very still.

I should be in the movies, I said. I should be in the movies, Y mocked. I should be in the movies. I should be in the movies. Don’t you think I would want to be in the movies?

Who doesn’t want to be in the movies? You have to be a homo­sex­u­al to be in the movies. They’re all homo­sex­u­als in Hollywood. And you’re not a homosexual.

I gave the wispy young lady mon­ey for the blouse. She has a senile mouth. I have ques­tions about Y. I ask her if she has seen him. She doesn’t know of him. I describe him.

I sec­ond guess myself. Maybe my descrip­tion is poor. Maybe I’m here for her and not Y. I would feel safer if I knew where he was. I ask her if she heard about the woman Y had killed. She said that she hadn’t. I feel I have to account for these large blocks of time when I’m not thinking.

She may not be the one to speak to about it. What is your name, she asked. It star­tled me. No one had asked for my name in years. I felt ashamed when I couldn’t remem­ber it. The image of Y sur­faced. Would you like anoth­er blouse, she asked.

I don’t see the coast guard, I said. Are you lost at sea, she asked. The guard is use­ful, I said. When they res­cue us they hug us in our mid sec­tion. I was speak­ing to her in Chinese. She didn’t ask me to leave.

The Chinese are on my mind, I said. They say that the Chinese are not play­ing by the rules.

I don’t know what the rules are. I’m not a brain. I don’t think the ones who devise the rules know what they are either. I’m very curi­ous about the Chinese. I don’t think they are curi­ous about me. I don’t ever see the Chinese get­ting to know me. I have to go to them. I have been to them in the west side of town where they live amidst one anoth­er. The white drunk and the sex­u­al addict loi­ter among them. I don’t have the capac­i­ty to know them. I have pur­chased goods from them. I did meet a very nice Chinese man who teaches

Chinese to west­ern chil­dren. He was forth­com­ing and gra­cious and pas­sion­ate about teach­ing Chinese to west­ern­ers. I have read Chinese poems. I like them. They have every­thing to teach me about beau­ty nature and cru­el­ty. There have been bru­tal wars and great cul­tures in the his­to­ry of China. The Chinese school teacher explained that each Chinese word has four tones which is to say that every word can have four mean­ings accord­ing to the tone adopt­ed. I thought this was an amaz­ing thing to have learned. I was hap­py to have learned it from the mod­est school teacher who was skin­ny and had a hand­some bad set of teeth. I asked him if it is the same for the Japanese lan­guage. He said it wasn’t. I think there is some­thing inscrutable about China. It is a place where I would meet many open minds.

I kept look­ing to see if she was lis­ten­ing behind her fixed gaze.

She had a promi­nent nose and long face.

A diminu­tive Japanese man with a large fore­head asked me for five dol­lars. He said that he was very hun­gry. I felt bad for the man. I didn’t have the five dol­lars to give.  Where did the Japanese beg­gar go to sleep? I want­ed to go look for him. I would give him the five dol­lars he needed.

I liked fuck­ing men in the woods. They appeared like deer. I fucked them against a tree. The beard­ed men were hunters, botanists, and hik­ers. The botanists were espe­cial­ly noble. They would ask me to smell plants and flow­ers. They would tell me the names of the plants and what use they had. They with­held their names. They had cold noses and small feet. They melt­ed snow with their breath. They had warm bod­ies. They hat­ed the idea of grants want­i­ng to be still long enough to become plants them­selves. They wiped their ass­es with leafs. The hik­ers were sui­cides. They removed bark from the trees. They washed their hands feet and mouth in the cold riv­er. They plumbed the moun­tain side erect and bruised. I felt I was doing some­thing wrong in the woods. I felt I was get­ting sharper.