Sometimes I think this: I’ve come so far that my life history isn’t mine anymore. My history is staged, an installation piece in a failing gallery in a sluggish midwestern town somewhere.

There it is, my history, on exhibit in the Amerikansas Museum exhibit, “80s Lowlifes of the Great Midwest”. In a box, three-sided, the fourth side down, like history and theatre are the same thing. Try to picture this:

A three-sided box. Inside are wax figurines, not lifelike. Dusty and dated. A teenager with big bushy hair, a bong in his hand, a vacant, primitive expression. That is me. Young me. Another, older, with bulging eyes, reeking of cigarettes and beer. A cluster of women in misshapen clothes, chainsaw voices.

There is music playing; hostile, head-banging music. A TV is on in the room, loud, competing with the screeching guitar. The room is filled with smoke. A baby is crying. The couch has burn marks on both arms; it is sagging and smells of animal piss. A cat walks through the room, pregnant belly swaying, yowling. Goes to the couch to sharpen her claws.

Every person in the box is suddenly activated, focused against the cat. That fucking cat, someone says, and lights a cigarette. I told you we don’t need a cat, says the man with the bong. Young me. He throws his lighter at the cat. Goddamn thing pisses on everything. Gets another lighter off the coffee table, lights the bong.

The lights in the box go down. In the window, framed by a dim light from outside the box, is a ladder.

A whirring sound, the sound of twenty years passing.  The lights come up on a new image: My son, making dioramas for his third grade class. His subject, “Karbala.” He takes a picture of the diorama to send to my mobile. I tell him how great it is, that I can’t wait to see him, as soon as I can.

© 2004 J. de Haas


2 Responses to “Sordid”

  1. 1 Lollyloo March 27, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    I recognize those guys, I went to that apartment, but I turned on my heel and walked right out again.

    Nice structure: a diorama of his early life, in his head, juxtaposed with a diorama of his current life, in his son’s classroom.

    The lowlifes of yesterday, now the cannon fodder of today. And, again to be the lowlifes of tomorrow, I assume.

    Since apparently what our veterans’ system now offers seems consists of “piss off”, at least for those who are physically or mentally wounded.

  2. 2 Teresa March 27, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks. Made it more coherent? I must say, though, that the narrator does not appear to be sordid, himself, in his current life. Just struggling.

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