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.