The Soft Hearted Girl
Momoko has turned into a giant crab balancing the world on her back. The world, in turn, has shrunk to an ellipse the size of a fish bowl. Behind the glass are people as islands who once pretended they were important as continents. “Don’t drop us,” screams a girl, scrunched-face and toothy, nose pressed to glass, “it’s a shitty deal, but the only world I have.” The Harajuku Girls, the Goth Lolitas, the Hung Diffidents, and the wind-up drummer clowns sing slow-burning love songs or make faces at me. I imagine that Momoko means nothing to them even though its their weight on her back. Some don’t even bother to shrug.
“Jimihen,” Momoko says, (her way of nicknaming me Jimi Hendrix), “my back is breaking. Never again will I lie face up for the Salarymen, the muff-dealers in rocking-horse Mary Janes. In my dreams, I am stripped by their invisible webs. I always wake with a taste of metal. I want to spit out my blue heart.”
For a moment, Momoko looks away, distracted by a jumping spider. The world rolls off her, crashes. Everything is the color of post-earthquake, of falling between. With eyes open and her darkness within me, I cry her name. Night sleeping next to night, history turning to nitrogen and inorganic trace, screams swirl between my ears then fade. But I can still hear her voice. So tiny, like a firefly.
City of Love #2
In a locked ward, an old nurse with grainy voice, feeds her warm oatmeal cookies, weans her from IV liquid dreams. In her hazy malaise, she thinks her breath is fetid, the inside of a dead woman. She tells the psychiatrist with Chevron mustache and stripe taupe tie that five Chinese stock brokers will commit suicide by choking on junk bonds. She’s misdiagnosed and returned to her apartment on 10th street with a generic brand of Yellow Forgetfulness, 300 mg. B.I.D. At the new club in Noho, a man with Alice and looking glass obsession speaks in over-inflated balloons. Later, he pins her against the mattress. She pops and becomes another liquid dream. After he leaves, taking his hollow needles with him, she discovers her bloodstones and white sapphires are gone. Her spine is missing too. The cell phone sings an old Depeche Mode. A man in garbled voice keeps saying something about the safest investment is in herself. She shuts him off. On the long and crowded city blocks, she thinks about the man last night, about shrinking him to a plug in her throat, about swallowing hard.
Manga Girls Need Love: Demons and Girls
In a room three flights up from dense summer she shows the boy she names Baby-Face her mother’s collection of antique lamps & lanterns. Some have pictures of fat Buddhas or cats with wide sloppy smiles. Her nickname is Misfit Girl, given spotty love by the mother who sometimes melts away, who is herself a child of parents whose faces she cannot see. Misfit Girl says to Baby-Face, Do you want to see how we can make a god? He says that there are only demons. She makes strange shadow plays across the wall. The same shadow stays with each after they have left. One night, following another of her mother’s breakdowns, Misfit Girl imagines being sucked in by a gigantic vacuum cleaner, of living in a dust bag forever, breathing in her own exhaust. She calls Baby-Face & tells him that she is suffocating along with the mother who can’t love her own shape & that he must be strong for her, that he is her god. He says he has purged his demons, released them into a hand-drawn darkness, that he can see her shadow everywhere he goes. He says the shadow expands, has strange ways of working. No one will die of suffocation, he says. The shadow agrees. The night they sneak out & sleep together, Tokyo has a black-out.
For weeks I carried the contorted whines, the amplified soarings into space, the machine-gun like feedback, the image of Jimi Hendrix yanking a whammy bar. In the Saigon hospital, the nurse gave me instructions with pursed lips and a set of vacant eyes, “Take these blues twice a day, and the white ones only after breakfast, but the doctor is quite certain that the humming in your head will remain.” In New York, I was greeted by Her Royal Modal Majesty-Queen Cacophony herself–the sirens and the blat of fire trucks, the screeching of black and yellow cabs, the wails of food vendors near the park where pigeons could get a free meal and some crumbs of camouflaged love. I was to take the next bus to Dover, New Jersey. There, I would meet my sister, whom I surmised had grown into a flower of poisonous beauty over the last year. I had not written her, or anyone for that matter, often. On the street, crickets chirped underfoot, helicopters fell from rooftops, crashed in mid-air, women offered tinsel smiles with one or two missing teeth, and I made the mistake of stepping into a yellow puddle. Someone threw the egg at the stripes of my uniform. Perhaps it was because everyone had longer hair than I. That old feeling of being ambushed returned and I ran for blocks, into the doors of Port Authority, past the cops and the needle-eyed beggars, into the stall of a public bathroom upstairs. I crouched low, must have been there for hours, meditating on the scrawled code written diagonally on the inside of the door–Call Sami for a good hand job. I knew that in her hands I would explode.
Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry/prose: Avenue C, Cat People, Tokyo Girls in Science Fiction (NAP), and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest ebook is You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press. He is a big fan of 60s garage bands. He lives and writes in New Jersey.