Myles Zavelo ~ Broken, Clown, Smell

The dream starts, stops, picks itself up. Suppose I breathe some­times. So what! Not easy! Never was. To relax. Do noth­ing. And breathe. Well, it must be nice: all that noth­ing, all that breath. Anyway, here’s what mat­ters most: it’s the begin­ning of some­thing fresh, the start of sum­mer, 1997. And this is what I’m wear­ing today: blue jeans, a tee shirt, ten­nis shoes, and the widest smile I’ve ever done. Plus a thing I haven’t brought up yet: I wish I could wash Jack away…

She, on the oth­er hand, breathes often. She lives to relax, have fun. She went to clown col­lege. She nev­er stops mak­ing great art. She paints the rain­for­est and the solar sys­tem on her blue jeans. She says Syracuse has the best Salvation Army. She says pover­ty is total­ly rel­a­tive. She says David Letterman is the sex­i­est man alive. She says her best friend took a Klonopin and put away a six-pack and nev­er woke up. She says every­body at Marijuana Anonymous talks soooooo slow­ly. She says LSD totalled her broth­er. She says things were bad at Christmas. I went to a pret­ty nor­mal col­lege. I say things were bad at Christmas, too.

What? Jack? My brother’s looks? Last time I checked, my brother’s looks were nat­ur­al, sadis­tic, over the top. My brother’s looks were put behind bars. With my broth­er, I was par­a­lyzed; knew how to run, stopped dead reli­ably. It was actu­al­ly Barbara Allen and her daugh­ter Janet who heard me cry­ing for help, who called the police on my broth­er, who was just about to per­form open heart surgery on me. “This is how they do it in South America,” Jack mur­mured over my body. He was very cer­tain my heart was rot­ting. “You have to under­stand,” he whis­pered into my hair.

Her and me––we have dif­fer­ent broth­ers. Her and me––we just met. Her name is Cameroon Diaz, but she’s kid­ding. My name is Peter Paris, and it’s life and death. (And, to be per­fect­ly hon­est, I’m wor­ried God hates me. Like, I’m wor­ried He’s obsessed with me. God, it must be so hard to change His mind.)

I tell her my father works in sports and sales. I tell her The Silence of the Lambs is my favorite movie. We hold hands like there’s no more broth­ers. We make easy jokes about seri­ous mat­ters. We walk through a filthy gang-infest­ed neigh­bor­hood. We bump into a school of pira­nhas. We try mak­ing the biggest guy laugh. We say all the wrong things. We almost get our­selves killed. We almost learn a les­son. (Thank God!)

Then! Great sex! No joke sex! Jack would’ve been proud! Just say­ing! She has these green eyes that are always real­ly eager. She got the ditch­es of my arms real sweaty. She already knows I can’t stand lessons. I’m not sure how I got through col­lege. I nev­er could stand my broth­er’s lessons. Trauma, I said trau­ma, she said ear­ly child­hood, an uncle with no con­science named some­thing unwashable.

Dirty sheets. Middle part of the after­noon. Hard glare of an angry sun blinds us. Heats up the dead mouse in my wall. Need to get rid of the smell. Stuck here for­ev­er. Gotta cut my nose off. Before it’s too late. Sooner or lat­er I’ll have to get around to it, you know? Quit smelling for good, don’t you see? It’s the worst smell. It’s killing me. It’s Jack escap­ing prison. It’s a sun­ny day. It’s a hell hole. It’s always some­thing fun­ny with this apart­ment. It’s things get­ting bad and stay­ing bad––that night­mare scares me the most.

I turn to her. I pop the question.

Don’t you smell that?”

She shrugs. She kiss­es my forehead.

Some more big fears: let­ting my par­ents get old with­out me; hurt­ing this sexy clown girl (think I’m in love, think she’s thirsty for round two––it’s her eyes, it’s my ditch­es); self­ish­ness unchecked; shit­ting the bed; clowns that don’t go to col­lege; my brother’s vio­lence, his com­plete insanity––when attack­ing, his face was such an iron­ing board; brain can­cer; pira­nhas; the end.

And I’m glad my brother’s locked up. And I’m hap­py he can’t hurt me any­more. And I’m pos­i­tive he’s still laugh­ing. He was hurt­ing my love­ly par­ents, too. That hurt­ing, too, hap­pened severally.

Oh, Jack…

In bed, I tell Cameroon, “That prison makes me feel crazy safe.” She pass­es me the spliff we’ve been shar­ing and says, “Man, your safe­ty is far out.” Also my skin––I think it’s bro­ken, unfix­able. Also hold on––this should nev­er be an ending––when some­one like me refus­es to remem­ber the rest of it.

Myles Zavelo’s writ­ing has appeared or is forth­com­ing in the fol­low­ing pub­li­ca­tions: The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Southampton Review, New York Tyrant Magazine, Joyland Magazine, Muumuu House, Maudlin House, The Harvard Advocate, Berfrois, Hobart Pulp, and elsewhere.