For our sins


This is a picture that a Vice person took of part of the inside of the art installation in which I am doing a reading this Sunday at 4:30.  In the email I sent out about this event I cautioned people against dosing themselves with psychedelics before entering this place (“The Temple of the Dying King”); I hadn’t yet seen these photos when I sent that email but it feels good to be right about a thing.

Also reading: John Wray (“Lowboy“), Sam Goldsmith, Michael Leviton and John Mathias.

We are supposed to be reading “Christmas” or “holiday” or “Christ”-themed work.  I was originally planning to write a new story for this event.  It was going to be about a time in my very early 20s when a friend of mine, whose Bushwick apartment I often stayed in, adopted a tiny black-and-white feral kitten and named him Jesus.  (At the vet my friend lied and said that his name was “Winston.”)

I loved Jesus but he was not, it was clear from day one, exactly cut out for domestication.  All kittens and puppies are crazy but Jesus was out of control.  He could be sweet and docile at rare sleepy moments but at all other times he was locked in a furious attack mode.  He attacked all moving objects, constantly.  This fatwa included limbs; he clawed my forearms so viciously that a supervisor at my internship took me aside and asked me if I was “a cutter.”  He would try to climb up your naked leg with his claws fully extended, as if your leg was a piece of furniture and not a hunk of flesh covered by a thin, easily puncturable layer of dermis.

We tried to calm Jesus down with catnip.  We may or may not have blown pot smoke in his ear.  But depressants, so effective at gluing us to the tattered plaid couch, only seemed to made Jesus crazier.  We tried to ignore the intractable nature of his craziness and, for a while, we succeeded.

Perhaps we were experiencing a lifetime peak in our aptitude for ignoring glaringly obvious things.  Almost the entire floorspace of the kitchen that Bushwick apartment was covered with empty 40 oz bottles that had once contained malt liquor.  In the middle of dinner with my parents, my friend had to leave suddenly because his pager went off  — a delivery order had been placed — and I didn’t feel shocked or angry, really.   This was just how things were; it seemed like this was how things had always been (even though of course it was the furthest thing from how things had always been.)  But we got used to all of it so easily.  When you’re that young it’s possible to acclimate yourself to just about anything, I guess.

Eventually, though, we gave up and sent Jesus to the country to live with my friend’s parents.  There, Jesus’s cooped-up energy could unspool over many acres, and this allowed him to become a decently nonviolent housecat.  My friend’s mother opted to use the Spanish pronunciation of his given name, and she said it, mostly, in a tone of fond exasperation.  But you could tell that she loved him.

Jesus prowled the woods and made friends with a dog and killed birds and small animals and generally thrived until, about a year later, he was hit by a car.

My friend delivered this news between the 6th Ave and 14th Street stops of the Brooklyn-bound L train.  We were on our way back to the Greenpoint apartment where we were living by then, in slightly less squalor, together.  He’d tried to wait til we got home to tell me, but hadn’t been able to.  “Jesus is dead,” I said, as tears poured down my face.  “I loved him!”  “I know,” said my friend. “I loved him too.”  And we sat there, weeping.

The people on the train thought we were real religious zealots, is the punchline.

Anyway, I didn’t write a new story; I decided that story was more of an anecdote.  So I am reading something else about pets and loss and filthy apartments that I wrote for my book; I’ll find a way to tie it into Christmas, I hope.

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