From within the Solarium

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Max Deeb

I look around myself for evidence of a good life every day. Sometimes it’s easy to find, sometimes I only find evidence to the contrary. On days where the latter predominates the former, I see all of my co-workers and their smooth ability to communicate and socialize with each other. I see their connections and their bonds build thick. I hear them laughing and having something to say next, without it infringing on their ability to listen. I hear them say things to me, only to be deflected by ineffable walls that restrain me from affable responses. My bonds don’t build and my connections don’t thicken. I rarely honestly laugh and it affects my ability to listen.

I leave work and I forget all about it. Until I get home.

As I’m greeted with open arms at home, what I lack stares me in the face. My emotions hang low, like ripe fruit on a tree ready to be picked—or, perhaps more appropriately, like the fruit laying rotten on the ground below the ripe fruit, dissolving into its environment. Right on the other side of the door, on the couch, my roommate and his current emotional and physical romance lie on the couch holding each other. I make small talk. I see their bond growing tighter by the second. I see their fears of what could be fading away into pure hopefulness and excitement for their future. Down the hall I hear the thumping of an emotionless, yet emphatic fuck-session taking place in my other roommate’s room. I hear the moaning of desire and pleasure. I see the walls vibrate from passion. I make dinner for myself. I jerk off. I go to sleep.

I’ve never truly felt connected to the social network manifested by the human spirit. It’s like everybody’s playing this game called sociability and I’m just standing on the sideline, scaling the field with the players, but never participating. Everybody jumps in and out as they please, so fluidly, so without thought. I consistently want to jump into the game, but every time I see a play, the game becomes so clearly ridiculous to me. Like, the rules are arbitrary and the plays unoriginal; the players self-indulgent and the laws of motion predictable; the winners always celebrating the losers always sulking; stats reflect each players’ unattainable status and unveil those who aspire to attain the same; and I turn around to find the bleachers empty and that I am often the only spectator while everyone else has joined this clusterfuck of a game at some point or another. 

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Friday nights I like to take my guitar and ripped up clothes to the curb of the city. Give the impression that I’m poor and fashionably hungry. Play songs of guilt and misery to the stumbling suits and dresses.

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Sometimes I run into Scuzball and Cookie, and we kick it at their squat, which is under a bridge, but above the underpass. They shoot up while I sing songs to them and drink my forty ounce of malt liquor. They often doze off into oblivion together while I enter the lonely, self-loathing stage of my inebriation. Like clockwork I dangle my feet over the architecture, 100 feet above the underpass. I sing songs to the cars whizzing by below and consider the easy way out. And like clockwork I look up. Ten feet above my head, spray painted on the concrete of the underside of the bridge is my saving literature. It reads:

So, here’s to saying all the wrong things at the right times and, for that matter, saying all the right things at the wrong times;

To those who demand absolute perfection, but emanate imperfection;

To having the choice to perceive the world as we please, but only growing to learn one way to perceive it;

To living interpersonally unified, yet intrapersonally disconnected;

To the words that tie everything together except the absolutes that provide a foundation for a society limited by the refusal of the possibilities beyond those absolutes, by which is dismantled;

To the heart of art that is, apparently, not worth much more than a glance over and a few bucks;

To the deceased that had so much more to say and to the living, that they may stop thinking they have the fucking right to say it for them;

To the emotionally distraught, that one day your highs be low and your lows be high;

To whoever thought that anything, good or bad, wasn’t transient. Your gullible hope is what keeps the rest of us going;

To my coworkers who only ever see smiles and handshakes and will never read this, because personal disclosure is inappropriate in the workplace;

To whoever the fuck found a profession that they enjoy and is also self-sustaining;

To those whose lives are not oversaturated with social endeavors and where loneliness is their prevailing emotion;

To when tomorrow becomes today and today becomes yesterday, that we can just say:

Here’s to living just one more day.

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And like clockwork I stumble home along the sidelines, singing songs to empty bleachers and a vibrantly lit up scoreboard. I don’t care who’s winning, I don’t want to participate.

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A Blooming Jasmine

by Galvin Chapman

photos by Max Deeb

For obvious reasons, you’ll only find night-blooming jasmine in the southwest division of the city. The reasons are obvious because the affluent line their gardens with the aroma. Within the walls of the night-blooming scent lies daily groomed grass, well kempt by endless amounts of water and money that’s not so endless for the rest of the city. Nobody’s ever witnessed the faces that enter those homes because they’re rarely ever there, while the rest of the city claims the rarity of personal space as their home.

I know the scent of Jasmine because it’s the only part of the city I’ve been to that evokes memories of losing my virginity with John. They say that the human sense of smell conjures up memories stronger than any other sense. It’s like the experience of deja vu for an event that actually happened. It’s like when you listen to a song you haven’t heard in years and it slams you right back into that car seat at age 15…

“So…how was your day?”

…looking out the window at nothing…

“It was fine. I guess.”

…and being emotionally blown away by the sound traveling from the CD…

“Well, anything fun happen? Did you learn anything new?”

…to your brand-new portable CD player…

“Nope.”

…through the auxiliary cord to your brand-new headphones…

“Hm, well the weather’s nice at least, right?”

…through your ears and into your fucked up adolescent brain.

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Just like that, the scent of night-blooming jasmine slams me back onto the streets of the southwest division, the portion of the city cultivated by yuppies visibly concerned about the two wasted skinny jeaned teenagers skating around their neighborhood at night. That was always our plan: skate and bus around getting fucked up on whatever drugs or alcohol we could get our hands on to stumble upon the next adventure the city had to offer. Driven by our desire for pseudo-independence at the age of 15, we had claimed several public locations all over the city where we would duck out to drink and smoke free of parents or cops. “Headquarters” was our primary meet-up spot. Perfectly nestled in the middle of a block, it was an alley camouflaged by overgrown weeds splitting the backyards of several homes. That’s where we took Tim when we first met him.

Tim was an avid horse lover. He was also a 40-year-old skinny, white redneck with schizophrenia living in his brother’s backhouse. He once told us that when he had episodes, he would sometimes walk around the neighborhood at night with an axe ready to chop the head off anything that moved. So, that was Tim. We met him when we were loitering outside of the local smoke shop trying to cop cigarettes. Tim agreed to buy us cigarettes on the condition that we smoked him out. So, it was settled.

After he bought us cigarettes, we took Tim to Headquarters where we whipped out our bottles of Jack Daniel’s, new pack of cigarettes, and large sum of bud. We smoked and drank while Tim told us all about his mental illness. He was so tranquil and halcyon about it. This naturally led to a discussion about the medications he took and which medications he had on him at that moment.

“…some Arpripazole, Clozapine, and some muscle relaxers.”

“Oh shit, man. That’s a lot.” I said, not really paying attention.

“Wait,” said John, “you have muscle relaxers? Which ones?” John had clearly done his research.

“I have some Somas. Why? Y’all want a couple? I’ll warn ye though, them shits will make yer dick soft all night.” He said as he dug around his backpack for his medication.

“Ah, nah, fuck that man. I’m good on the Somas,” John responded, disengaged once more.

“Fuck it, I’ll take ‘em,” I said, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Tim handed me four small pills and began to warn me, “But don’t take all those at once, you’ll wake up in the emergency roo…”

Before he could finish his sentence, I had swallowed all four pills and washed them down with some whiskey.

“Oh fuck, kid. Well, I gotta get outta here. Thanks for the bud n’ booze! Y’all probably see me walking around here with my horse, so I’ll see yuhs around.”

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After that, my night was a little fuzzy. We hopped the bus, southwest division bound. I was so fucked up that I walked up and down the bus asking all the passengers if they wanted to smoke weed. Poor old ladies with their groceries didn’t know what to make of this scrawny 15-year-old with skin-tight jeans pacing up and down the bus asking the same ridiculous question repeatedly. The next thing I knew, the bus came to a stop somewhere near the southwest division and I was sitting at the back of the bus. I looked up as a cocky cop walked up the steps of the bus. All I could think was, Why the fuck is a cop taking the bus? Doesn’t he have his own car? Sure enough, the cop was not hopping on for purposes of public transit.

Once he laid eyes on me, he knew exactly who he was there to see. He walked slowly and confidently up the aisle all the way to the back of the bus where John and I were sitting.

“What the fuck is this?” He asked, looking down at the bus floor in front of me.

I looked down to find spit all over the ground. Loogies covered the bus floor as the cop—cognizant of my sputum—stepped closer to me.

“I dunno. Wasn’t me.” I said.

“Sir, it’s right in front of you. Are you telling me you didn’t do this?” He said and then looked over at John, who was clearly not as fucked up as I was.

“Did he do this?” the cop asked John.

“Man, I don’t even know what you’re talking about, alright?” I interrupted.

“Alright sir, come with me.”

He grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out of my seat.

“What the hell, man! I didn’t even do anything, okay? I’m just riding the bus home with my friend, what the fuck, man?!” I began yelling.

He pulled me off the bus and sat me down on the curb as the bus took off. I sat there cussing him out and calling him a fascist pig while he just stared and smiled at me.

“Jesus, kid. You’re fucked up.”

He then stood me up, handcuffed me, and gently seated me in the back of his cop car as I wildly protested the nature of my detainment

This is where I blacked out. I don’t remember anything inside that cop car. All I know is that somehow I got out of that jail on wheels and immediately called John to meet up again in the southwest division. We weren’t, and didn’t claim to be, good at skating. In fact, we often wore scabs as badges of honor from eating shit, fucked up on whatever. Skating was simply a form of transport from one of our claimed public locations to the next. So, we skated around that night stopping at our various locations, earning our right to more badges and face planting in the middle of the street in front of dismayed yuppies. That’s when we met Jasmine.

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I was a whole block ahead of John, probably because he had eaten shit a ways back, so I met her first. I came to a red crosswalk light as she was standing there waiting for the crosswalk to turn green.

“Hey, whoa…you’re hot.” She said.

“Uh, what’s up?” I responded, still brought down by the Somas, bud, and booze.

“What’s up to you, cutie?”

Finally, John showed up stumbling to a stop on his skateboard next to me.

“Holy shit—you’re sexy as fuck too!” She exclaimed, with a suspiciousness to her expression.

“Uh, well hello there…” John muttered with an odd sensuality to his voice.

Jasmine was nineteen and had just gotten out of rehab. Somehow, the reason why she was in rehab was never discussed.

“Wanna smoke some herb?” John asked her in an almost too ridiculous Southern Californian accent.

She didn’t even hesitate, “Fuck yeah, I do. What d’ya got?”

We felt she was worthy enough to introduce her to one of our secret spots, “The Bat Cave,” which was just an oily underground public parking garage that was often vacant. After we finished the last of the Jack Daniel’s and smoked her out, my night got a little fuzzy again.

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I remember arguing with John…

“Because it was my fucking weed, man!”

…in a park, right in the middle of the southwest division…

“Well, she wouldn’t have been down if I hadn’t suggested it to her!”

…yuppies walking by with their purebred dogs and pure minded children…

“That’s because she asked me if I was down to fuck first, man.”

…the fire station just across the street…

“But she saw me first!”

…night-blooming jasmine infiltrating our nostrils…

“…maybe this isn’t a good idea, guys…”

…and into our fucked up adolescent brains.

“Fine, fine, whatever man,” John relented, “you can go first.”

I’m not sure where she got the blanket from, but she laid it over us after laying me up against a tree. I didn’t know what to do, where to put my hands.

“Okay, fuck this. You’re never gonna cum. Go get your friend over here.”

I don’t want to remember, but night-blooming jasmine won’t let me forget.

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Tomorrow I’ll Wear Different Shoes and We Can Eat Chicken

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Kira Altman

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If I had a dollar for every dime
You spent on clothing
I would be wasted
And we’d never quit smoking here

But if I had a dollar for every time
I complained about your expenditures
I’d probably die
Of heart, liver, kidney failure combined

And you’d stand at my wake
With your leather boots and designer Dior sunglasses
Your subconscious whispering, “I told you so,”
But your conscious lips mouthing, “At least you died happy.”

All the while you know you died long ago
The day perfection meant more than reality
And reality had no relation to perception
And perception bled into insecurities of self
And self became the inner-vocal-point of all thoughts
Yet all thoughts were separate from body
And body and mind no longer had any activity.

And I stood at your wake
Mississippi mud in one hand, cigarette in the other
My subconscious whispering, “At least I’ll die happy,”
But my chapped lips mouthing, “So did you.”

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Birds Perched

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Max Deeb

This morning I woke up an extra hour early to hear the beautiful dialect of birds perched on trees and telephone wires. They’re screaming at each other. There’s nothing quite like sipping a cup of coffee on the front porch listening to nature in the sky run its course while nature on the ground ignores it, all the while slowly destroying it. I emphatically slap whole conversations over the birds’ tunes

“Move over! This is my fuckin’ branch!”

“Wanna bang? Come on, let’s fuck, you know you want to.”

“Out of my way y’all! I’m the big dog around here. Any bird food left out for us is mine. You may proceed eating when I say I’m done.” That one actually happened.

“Alright, so here’s the plan: Through that tree, under the light post, between the telephone wires, switch-back around the telephone pole, scale the asphalt, back up over this house and then back onto this branch that we’re on. Ready? Go!”

They go on like this in my head for what seems like hours but could only have been ten minutes judging from the length of my cigarette. I put my cigarette out and continue to enjoy the madness in the sky.

At my house, there is a perpetual hum coming from any and all nearby cities. It’s one of those things you don’t notice all of the time and you’re probably better off that way. Every once in awhile I like to focus in on it—try to think of all of the individual machines and humans accumulating to create that wall of sound: a truck whizzing by on the freeway; a man screaming at his wife for cheating on him; a little league Cubs player hitting a homerun; the alarm of a shop sounding after its front window gets smashed in with a rock; the choir at St. Anthony’s church harmonizing; the coughing cacophony of three fourteen-year-old boys smoking weed for the first time; and of course the man walking down the street, soon to be walking past my house, screaming at the top of his lungs about everything and nothing at all.

“Oh! Dad! Is a good day at work tomorrow night and I am having a good time to do that, hmmmm…I need to get a chance to…GET A JOB! I tell ya, that is the best thing I can do Sunday for guitar on the phone with me and had me check in with my baby, but I told him. I said, ‘You have the negligence of a teenage boy and that’s quite alright with your mother.’ That’s what I said and today is no different. Nope. I tell ya, if I had any self-respect—any at all—I’d put down the remote TODAY!”

His rambling sort of fades after he passes my house and as his distance grows relative to me. I go back inside to make myself some more coffee.

When I have a task to focus on, I forget all about the screaming birds or the hum of surrounding cities. I forget all about Sunday for guitar and, instead begin thinking about the difference between the definitions of normalcy and insanity. It’s like monotonous activities are the incandescent filaments to my ingenuity. Even a task as simple as making a cup of coffee sends me into a subconscious oblivion of creativity. Unless, of course, a loud thump divides that attention, as it does on this particular morning. I initially assume my brother had slammed the door in frustration or by accident as he comes out of his room in reaction to the noise. 

It was only after he asked me, “What the fuck was that noise? Did you drop something?” did I realize that this was not a noise either of us had made.

I genuinely respond to him, “Naw man. I thought that was you slamming the door for some reason.”

Inconclusive, we decide to investigate. We begin by walking to the front of the house, where we suspect the noise to have come from. On the giant paned window that makes up most of the front wall of our house, we find a large, imperfect, circular smudge.

“Did somebody throw some shit at our house?” I rhetorically inquire.

My brother walks to the front door and opens it. He looks around our front porch for a second when he finally seems to have discovered the culprit.

“Aw, dude. This is fucked up.”

Our front porch is almost entirely made up of bricks. On top of those bricks, a bird lays twitching every couple of seconds. Its head and neck are completely displaced. It seems to be trying to move but is just slowly moving in circles without successfully getting anywhere. As it continues to struggle for whatever possibility of life it has left, my brother and I watch with hurting eyes. I have no idea what to do. Pick it up and put it in the bushes somewhere? Leave it be? We soon find ourselves sitting down as we continue to watch this bird cling to life. After a few minutes, my brother finally makes up his mind.

“I’m just gonna do it. I’m gonna put it out of its misery. It doesn’t deserve to suffer like this. And if I have the opportunity to end this suffering, then I’d say I have a moral obligation to do so. I mean, it just wouldn’t be humane to let it suffer like this, right? Like, you see where I’m coming from, right?”

How the fuck would we know what this bird deserves or doesn’t deserve? What if this bird has raped other birds and committed acts of discrimination? What if this particular bird killed other birds, would it still deserve saving? And even if this bird did deserve to be put out of its misery, is that our decision to make? Who are we to decide whether a bird deserves saving or not? Do we determine the rules of moral conduct? Isn’t killing—no matter what—morally impermissible? And if so, why wouldn’t it be in a situation such as this? I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions and too many thoughts are running through my head for me to respond effectively.

“I don’t know man. I—I really don’t know.”

Confused, yet driven by his desire to take a shitty situation into his own hands, my brother finally makes a decision.

“I’m gonna do it. I’m just gonna put it out of its misery. It’ll be quick and hopefully a better way for this poor little dude.”

I don’t respond. I don’t know how to respond. So, I sit there and watch my brother carry out the task at hand. Nothing else matters to him. With a shovel, he picks up the bird and brings it over to the grass.

He cancels out the hum from the surrounding cities. 

He walks around the yard until he decides on a rock large enough to get the job done.

He cancels out the sound of birds screaming at each other. 

He stands over the bird holding the rock above his head. His breath becomes heavier. His lips pucker. His eyes are red and filled with fear, anxiety, and sadness. 

He cancels out the sound of moral subjectivity. 

He makes a motion as if he’s about to do it but can’t follow through with it. 

He cancels out the judgments of others. 

Then, with one downwards thrust of his arms, the bird is gone, yet remains. He stands there for a couple of minutes, head buried in his arms.

Finally, without heart he says, “I’m gonna bury it. Over here I guess. I guess that’s what I’ll do.”


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Stoic Posed Crickets are the Storm

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Max Deeb

The crickets have moved into my room. Or maybe I’ve moved into theirs. Either way, we typically live in peace, until nightfall. Throughout the day I make music with them as they stick to their predictable rhythms and me, my predictable musical dependence. Either that, or we just live side by side, disconnected. Aware of each other’s presence, yet independent in action. Like a relationship that’s gone on far too long, we aren’t delighted to see each other anymore, but tolerant of each other’s presence.

My behavior is far from tolerant, though. I come home at 4 a.m., shitfaced and shifty eyed. When she hears me come in, she cowers because she knows what comes next.

“Where is the bitch!?!” I yell to myself as I search for her.

I drunkenly check every nook and cranny of my room; check every corner where the walls meet the ceiling; check underneath every piece of furniture that is lifted just high enough for a bitch to fit; lift every piece of clothing lazily left in an unorganized fashion.

“I know you’re here somewhere, motherfucker!”

Finally, I lift a shirt of mine from off the ground, and there, stoic posed, stands a cricket, fearless. She knows I will never catch her and, so, she stands in peaceful cognizance. We make eye contact and stand still for a moment. Then. I swipe, using my shirt as a weapon and she dodges in confusion of our coexisting relationship. Somehow, she finds refuge out of site and resides in safety somewhere new. I soon forget of my failure and pass out, only to wake up in moments to a new day. If my bed is the ocean, then the crickets are the storm. Zeno would be ashamed.

I wake up alone and surrounded by silent crickets. I check my phone and find that Finn has texted me. He wants to meet for coffee. So, Finn and I meet up for coffee that afternoon. We haven’t seen each other in months, although we proclaim to be best friends. After ordering our coffees, we head straight for the patio seats out front, where we proceed to chain smoke for hours over conversation.

“…and then she called me, at like 5 in the morning, crying. I had to console her for like 2 hours.” He complains.

“Well, what did she expect?” I ask rhetorically, “She hit up her ex-boyfriend, who had clearly treated her like shit in the past, and then he treated her like shit again. Like, did she think this time would be different? Did she think he had changed or did she just forget in the moment what had happened to her in the past?”

“I don’t know, man. I think she just wanted to be close to somebody.” He responds.

“Look, I’m not saying that what this dude did to her was okay, but it was clearly stupid of her to think that if she fucked him, he wouldn’t treat her like shit. I mean, people’s romantic lives are so full of shit. Like, it seems like it’s pretty clear to me: if you don’t want something bad to happen to you, then don’t fuck, or hang out with someone who has done something bad to you in the past. So, if someone treats you well, and they meet your other standards of a romantic partner, then great and stay. If someone treats you like shit, then dip. Being single isn’t a fucking death wish, it’s a blessing, if you should be so lucky. And most people would probably be much better off emotionally if they were single rather than pissing away their lives in the shitty relationships that they refuse to end. Like, how the fuck are there so many romantically masochistic people out there? Like you, for example.”

“What do you mean me? I’m not romantically masochistic!”

“Dude, just last weekend you called me crying that your girlfriend was trying to beat the shit out of you and that as you were trying to run away from her, she tore off your shirt. You told me that as you were running down the street in tears, you could hear her screaming at you that she was going to call the cops on you. All because you wanted to grab a beer with some friends.”

“Well, yeah, but that was more of a miscommunication, really.”

“What are you so scared of? What about being alone is so terrifying to you?”

“What do you mean? I’m not scared of being alone”

“Yeah? When was the last time you were single for longer than 3 months? Huh?”

“I don’t know, maybe…”

“Since before you even had sex, man. That’s how long. You haven’t even been an adult and single at the same time yet. You have no idea what life is like without a romantic partner. Don’t you wonder? Isn’t there some part of you that fantasizes about being alone and free?”

“I mean, I don’t know what to tell you, man. I happened to be lucky and run into amazing women immediately after ending relationships. It’s not a personality pattern, it’s just what happened coincidentally. No need to look into it any further.”

“Coincidence? No. When someone beats the shit out of you and you continue to stand by their side, that’s called commitment. Commitment is a decision, not a coincidence. You’re committed to being with this person romantically, despite all of the shitty things she has done to you. And the list is long, my friend.”

“Ah, the list isn’t that long, man. Look, I’m not interested in leaving her, she means the world to me and I’d do–”

“Well, you’re clearly extraordinarily terrified of being alone. Why else would you endure endless crappy television shows and shitty predictable sex (or lack thereof)? Why else would you stick around after she attempts to beat the shit out of you, simply because you wanted to go hang out with your friends? Why else wouldn’t you leave after being cut-off emotionally and verbally from your friends and family? Why wouldn’t you walk away when she started shit with every one of your best friends, after which, every one of your best friends independently warned you that she has a warped sense of reality? What about the time she threatened to call the cops on you, after she beat the shit out of herself, only to claim you were the abusive perpetrator? Like, she was actually willing to send you to jail, because you didn’t want to stay in that night. And still, you sit here in front me, asking for my ear, to hear you—more importantly—listen to you complain about the next example of how shitty she treats you and as a result, how fearful you are of being alone. And, without hesitation, I will sit here and listen to you all day about your problems with this chick—no hesitation, because I fucking love you and want you to have somebody to lean on and depend on and shit. But sometimes, man, I need to return the favor and express my true feelings on the matter, and that’s what I’m doing right now. I mean, why? Just give me one good reason why—”

“Because of love! I love her dude. I’m sorry you can’t understand that, because you have never felt the same way about somebody, but one day, when you do feel the same way about somebody, then maybe you’ll understand. And I’ll sit here and listen to your bulshit problems that you’re going through with your love. And I’ll offer suggestions that aren’t just ‘you’re scared of being alone dude,’ because I care about you and I want your love to succeed. But love is hard. And love has problems. And love is annoying and restraining. And love comes in different shapes and sizes and not all shapes and sizes are going to fit you, man. You understand?”

“Love? You call all the examples I just laid out for you: Love? That’s the shape and size of your fucking love? Wake the fuck up dude! This isn’t a fucking philosophy debate, this is your life. This is how you treat yourself and this is your happiness. This is how you live and this is ‘love’ as a result of that. If any of the basic human emotional needs were met by your unusual definition of love, then I’d buy it, but that’s simply not the case, man. This is fear. You’re scared of being alone and it’s okay to admit that. Admitting it isn’t going to be the end of your relationship. And I’m not asking you to fucking break up with your girlfriend. I’m just laying out a different perspective for you to absorb, one that I also happen to agree with. Take what you want from that perspective, but please don’t just flat out deny it.”

“Okay, fine, yeah. I’m scared of being alone, but who isn’t? Isn’t it only human nature to seek and maintain romantic and sexual relationships? I don’t want to be alone—without sex and companionship—for the rest of my life. Do you?”

“This is exactly what I’m telling you: I can be happy either way, and so can you. You don’t need to ‘be with someone’ to be happy. It just isn’t a requirement for happiness. I’ve spent many years in relationships and many years alone, and I am telling you that both have their benefits. They are simply just two different ways of living and it’s not black and white. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, I’m just offering you another way and perspective out of a shitty situation. And your situation is shitty, at least from where I see it and what you’ve been telling me.” I finally add.

He sits there, in his chair, anger brewing in his head for a moment. Then, he stands up, still looking at the ground, red eyes and puckered lips. I don’t say anything as regret builds up in my mind. I know that what I had said wouldn’t turn out well, but I just couldn’t help myself. He stands there looking at the ground for a few moments while he clenches his fists and then walks away calmly. I watch him as he walks down the street and then disappears around the corner. I continue sipping my coffee, not knowing what else to do. After a few minutes of pondering, I stand up and walk home, back to my room alone. No one joins me except the stoic crickets hiding in their respective residences. Zeno would be ashamed.

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The Spot

by Galvin Chapman

photography by Max Deeb

I saw your doppelganger yesterday. Between the smoldering asphalt and fifty feet of stacked bricks that provided both shade and a back rest to your evening pity-party. As I was stuck in downtown traffic, I was struck by whether you had any self-reflection left or if you had given up on that long ago. Maybe, introspection is a novelty, reserved for those who don’t need to worry about eating to stay alive or sleeping in comfort. Your sunken eyes fixated on a spot on the sidewalk. It seemed you hadn’t had enough energy to look anywhere else and that it didn’t bother you or phase you whatsoever that hundreds of feet shuffled past and trampled on the very spot you fixated upon. No eye movement, no reaction. Ever so prevalent was the aroma of apathy, mutually shared by every passerby and you alike.

“The Spot” though grown to mean much more than an arbitrary point in time, space and circumstance, had sparked your daydream. It was the conductor aboard your train of thought and he was hauling ass at top speed through your past. He turned back to you and offered you his half-empty 40oz of malt liguor, an offer you have never refused. He handed you the bottle, wiped his lips with his forearm and turned back to tend to the noisy tracks. Amid all the noise, the conductor screamed (because one must scream under such circumstances), “LOOK, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO TELL YOU! YOUR PROSPECTIVE TRUTH IS QUITE SIMPLY A FUTURE PERSPECTIVE! YOU UNDERSTAND?” I’m not sure if you understood what he meant or if you even heard what he said. Nonetheless, you responded at a normal volume, “That’s fine, sure. I’ll just watch from back here. You just watch the road—or tracks—or whatever it is your job is.” He didn’t hear you. You sat back and watched from back there. You leaned your head up against the headrest in seat A-23 and your head rolled until you were facing out the window of the train. You watched with apathy as your major life events, stories, friends, family, enemies and acquaintances passed by:

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Mimosa Webworm

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Max Deeb

“Don’t touch that!” She yells.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. It’s just really pretty,” I reply. As I pull my hand away from the plant, it begins to slowly contract, as if to weakly clench whatever foreign object may be invading its grasp. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It’s a mimosa,” she explains, “it feels your presence. It’s its own being and has its own energy. You wouldn’t like to be poked in the face, would you?”

“Uh, no. I suppose your right, I just didn’t know, I guess,” I squeamishly reply.

“C’mon, the records are back here. I’m really excited to show you my stepdad’s collection,” she says, as she leads me to the garage, which is separate from the rest of the house.

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Inside the garage, boxes line the walls filled with family history and inherited belongings of the deceased. Items that once held significance in people’s lives now occupy untouched boxes on dusty shelves, kept as relics for their own, unused sanctity. In the corner of the garage a cheap record player sits on two Bankers boxes, wires exposed and connected to two speakers sitting on the concrete ground on either side of the makeshift stand. Above the record player is a one-foot-long shelf holding the weight of a couple dozen, stood up records. The rest of the garage remains empty and unused.

“As I was I saying earlier, the Dirty Projectors are this super eclectic folk band that I found in Steven’s collection of records,” she explains, as she thumbs through the foot-long shelf of records, “and I’ve been listening to this one record ‘Bitte Orca’ non-stop. I think they’re from the ‘70s or somethin’.”

She finds what she’s looking for and pulls out a record with a cover that looks like a portrait of two women: one woman has a blue tint over her face and the other has a red tint over her face. In the corner of the album cover is a quote by Rolling Stone praising the artistic value of the Dirty Projectors. Still looking at me with ecstatic eyes, she feels her way around the edge of the cover to find the opening and pulls out a red vinyl with streaks of white. She lifts the record player’s lid and gently places Bitte Orca onto the rubber plate of a revamped vintage machine.

“But I really want to show you this one song. It’s called ‘Two Doves.’ Fuckin’ brilliant.”

With a shaky hand, she lifts the tone arm and attempts to place it on the groove of “Two Doves.” Due to her slight inaccuracy, we hear the end of the previous track.

“This isn’t it, but just wait for this track to end. It’s really amazing.”

I take a seat on the cold concrete floor as the previous track comes to an end. She continues to stand with her eyes closed in peaceful anticipation of the upcoming song. I decide to lay back on the concrete and close my eyes in solidarity. The track begins with light finger picking on an acoustic guitar but is quickly interrupted by the harmonies of a string quartet. An interloping voice begins the first verse as I drift into a daydream reel of my day . . . 

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I woke up this morning to my mother shaking me awake at 6 AM. 

“Jared, wake up.”

I hazily woke up, prominent boner, confused as to what was going on.

“Your grandfather…he’s in a hospice.” She said.

“A what?” I asked.

“It may be the last time you can speak to him. I think you should get up and come down with me to his house. Your sister’s coming too. I think it’d be a good idea that you get up now.”

“Okay,” I grunted as I sat up in confusion. I sat there for a second, not grasping the reality of the situation and then poorly dressed myself.

I drove myself down to his house and walked through the back door where I was greeted by my uncle’s two labrador-mix puppies in suspicion. I ankled my way through the living room towards the kitchen where my aunt and mother were sitting at the dinner table. It didn’t seem like much was being said. It didn’t seem like there was much to be said. My aunt got up to greet me with a hug.

“Hi, bud. Dad’s in his room. His doctor set up a hospice for him, free of charge. There’s also a hospice aid in there monitoring him,” my aunt explained.

“Okay. Is he awake or responsive?” I asked, as I also greeted my mother with a hug and a kiss on the head.

“He hasn’t been awake, really, but I think he can sense our presence. He’s still there,” my mother explained. “Go on in.”

“Okay.” I took a deep breath and started walking towards my grandfather’s master bedroom.

In his room, my grandfather laid peacefully in a temporary hospital bed with his mouth wide open, because he no longer possessed the strength to hold it closed. A stranger in the corner, who appeared to be the hospice aid, was enveloped in the enthralling world of Instagram on her phone. Everything else in his room remained the same: his pictures, my late grandmother’s antiques, and my grandfather’s watches. I walked over to my sister who stood bedside, hanging her head. I stood next to her and gazed at my grandfather’s state. The stranger in the corner chuckled at some diversion of reality on her phone.

“Hey Mary. Has he woken up at all since you’ve been here?” I asked her quietly.

“No, but he’s still responsive. Like he still feels our energy.” She responded. “Like when I hold his hand, it slowly clenches back, see?”

She grabbed his hand and it slowly clasped her hand back.

“Like those plants. What are they called again?” She asked.

“I’m not sure what you’re referring to.”

I patted his leg and began to ask him questions in a soft voice, as if he were a little child again.

“Hey Gramps, how are ya? You want some liquids or anything? How’s the medication treating ya?” He didn’t respond, but something told me he could hear me.

Mary and I stood there for a few minutes, not saying much. Something about the silence in moments like those bodes more value than any brilliantly crafted combination of words we could ever speak. Every so often, the hospice aid would chuckle at something on her phone. After a few minutes of standing there, my grandfather slightly opened his eyes.

“Hey Gramps, how are ya feelin’? Want some Gatorade?” I asked as I gently laid my hand on his leg. With all his might, he slowly nodded his head in agreement when the stranger in the corner interrupted.

“He can’t have any liquids. He’ll just choke it up.” She said.

“But, he looks so thirsty. He can’t have one small sip of water or Gatorade?” I asked annoyed.

“No, we are administering sufficient fluids to him through an IV.” She said as she went back to her captivating world of Instagram.

Mary and I fell back into silence as my grandfather slowly faded away once again. 

As I stood there in silence, I couldn’t help but question how I should be feeling. I had no idea how to react or behave. I couldn’t tell him that it was all going to be alright and that he’d be on the roof in no time, fixing the house. I couldn’t tell Mary that he’d soon be playing jokes on her again, making us all laugh. I couldn’t tell myself that he’d soon be playing harmonica with me on guitar, jamming to some basic, yet lively tune. I couldn’t turn to the stranger in the corner and yell at her apathy and total myopathy. And I certainly couldn’t stand there in silence, thinking about how I should be feeling, because this wasn’t about me. It was about him and his life and his family that he built and this home that he built and the years of mutual tireless love between him and my grandmother and all the people that fucked him over and all the people that he fucked over and all the people that think about him still and all the people that he still thinks about and the simple joys that consumed his life and his daily routines that only ceased a few days ago and will never come to fruition again—and then I took a pause in thought. I remembered that every Sunday morning, without fail, he would drive his banged-up truck over to the Ralph’s near his house to select a bouquet of flowers. He’d drive all the way down to Queen of Heaven Cemetery where my grandmother is buried. He’d pull out his beach chair and sit in the beating sun to pray, think, remember, love, cherish, grasp. And I began to weep. Mary didn’t say anything, but hung her head and rubbed my back.

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“Hey Gramps,” I heard my sister say quietly. I lifted my head and wiped my tears. My vision was blurred, but I saw his eyes, if not but a little slit of life. He reached out his hand to Mary and she greeted it with her touch.

“Ah…Mary, Jared. How are ya?” He barely said.

“Great, Gramps. How are ya feelin’?” She replied.

“Hey Gramps.” I replied.

“What are you…young people doing here? Huh? You should be out having fun. Now go home.” He said, as he normally does. Mary and I slightly chuckled as he drifted away again.

“We’re here for you Gramps, we love you.” She said. He responded with lip movement, but no sound.

“I think I have to get to class. Are you going to stay?” I asked Mary.

“No, I have to get to work.” She responded.

I turned to him and told him that we were leaving, but would be back soon and put my hand on his. His hand slowly clenched as his eyes opened one more time. The last time.

“Jared, Mary.” He said. Eyes of glass and throat of soil. He clung to life for his last words.

“Yes Gramps?” We asked.

“I love you.” He said as his eyes watered and his hand tightened around mine. Something about his eyes told me that he knew this would be the last time he’d see us. He knew these’d be the last words he spoke to us.

“We love you too Gramps.” I said.

“Love you Gramps.” Mary said.

We each gave him a hug, careful not to hurt him and left to attend to our responsibilities with broken hearts. Perhaps, that’s what she saw in me and that’s why she spoke to me when I arbitrarily chose a seat next to her in class later that day.

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“Hey,” she said. I didn’t think she was talking to me, so I pretended not to hear her.

“Hey,” she said a little louder as she tapped me on the shoulder.

To my right sat a woman, roughly my age, leaning in towards me with a half-smile and raised eyebrows.

“Hey,” I said, without much enthusiasm.

Her appearance represented that of your stereotypical punk girl. She was wearing steel toe Doc Martens to ensure her advantage in the event she had to kick in the teeth of Nazi scum. Her skin-tight, red, yellow, and blue plaid pants were covered in zippers, which are apparently designed for aesthetic purposes rather than practical, as they led nowhere. Her wide leather belt was lined with large metal hoops that disrupted the peace upon the slightest of movements. A tight-fitted leather choker was fastened around her neck, with sharp, pointed metal studs protruding. Her ripped up, off-white tank top exposed most of her torso and expressed her deep hatred for the police in her own handwriting. A tattoo accentuating her neck veins that I couldn’t quite make out started somewhere below her neck, continued up under the choker, and ended just at her jawline.

We spoke of nothing important, typical of most college classroom interactions. Despite this, she somehow seemed rather infatuated with me and invited me over to her house after class to listen to some of her step dad’s records. I was hesitant at first, because part of me didn’t want to interact with anyone. I wanted to be alone with my self-pity and memorial thoughts. But part of me thought that interpersonal interaction would be good for me, that it might take my mind off my day.

“Come on! It’ll be fun. I’ve been listening to this one record by this band called the Dirty Projectors, fucking amazing musicians. My mom and my step dad, Steven aren’t home, so no need to worry about that,” she said, attempting to convince me.

She stood there, hands wrapped around her backpack straps exposing her right knuckle tattoo that read “FUCK” and left knuckle tattoo “YALL” waiting for me to relent, as she knew I would.

I relented.

We walked for about a half mile from campus, during which she did most of the talking and I most of the affirmational responses. Plants and flowers of many varieties had claimed her front yard as their home, aiding the inoffensive blue and white house in blending in with its neighbors. We walked up the walkway splitting their garden in half and up the stoop to her front door, where she fumbled with a massive wad of keys. Excited to have company, she gave me a rather extensive tour of the house, stopping in the kitchen for a snack.

“But anyway, Steven’s records are in the garage in the back. Wanna check them out? He has a really cool collection that I’ve been really into lately,” she said ecstatically as she began to lead the way to the back door . . .

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I open my eyes and sit back up at the conclusion of the song. Maybe I’ve been daydreaming for more than one song? I’m not sure. She’s in the middle of a rant again about the Dirty Projectors. I wonder how long and whether I’ve responded to anything she’s said. I look down at my phone to see two missed calls and a pending message from my mother. I don’t want to open it. I know what it’s going to say.

I relent.

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IN LOVING MEMORY OF

THOMAS PATRICK ALOYSIUS GREEN AND

NORAH FRANCES GREEN

Downtown Dichotomies

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Max Deeb

They say that all great urban cities are the same. That no matter where you are, tunnels of wind burst between skyscrapers, brushing the roofs of cars that represent the frustrated and anxious beings that operate them. That big business booms and the shattered remains are the only items some have to claim as their own. That faces are just faces and yours is just another face to the faces who see your face. And perhaps it’s true. I certainly wouldn’t know, what—with my eight hour, Monday through Friday job, cooped up in an office too high to even see—much less experience—the depth of the people and culture that makes Los Angeles what it uniquely is. Fifteen floors of walls, businesses, and people protect me from the streets where business people and the homeless walk side by side, but not in solidarity. This is default scenery for them, because as much as they despise one another, one can’t exist without the other. 

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Across the street from the building in which I perform mindless duties is another skyscraper (much like the one next to it) with the large, capital letters, “TCW,” at the top (whatever the fuck that stands for). At the foot of this skyscraper a large, beautifully designed fountain poses for all those who don’t notice it, including myself had I not noticed this particular situation on this particular morning. It was an extraordinarily hot summer day in the city, the type of day where men insist on wearing suits that they drench in sweat as they walk earnestly through the streets as if they have somewhere more important to be all the time. I was out on my ten minute break (defined in great detail set forth in my employment agreement) having my fourth cigarette of the day. As I was fantasizing about the day I quit cigarettes, I noticed the water in the fountain across the street splashing and spilling out onto the sidewalk. I immediately concluded that birds were bathing beneath the beautiful architecture when a fully clothed woman nonchalantly stepped out of the fountain. I watched her as she wrung her hair and took a seat on the edge of the fountain, bathing in the sun as if she had just gotten out of the pool in her own backyard. Now, in downtown Los Angeles there is never no one around, particularly on a main street like Figueroa. I hardly feel comfortable adjusting my belt in the back alleys for fear of being seen and possibly perceived as masturbating in public. Yet, with the lack of acknowledgement from everyone around you, it almost feels as though no one really is there. Never alone, yet undeniably lonely. This being said, I imagined two scenarios taking place as a result of this woman’s act of liberation. 

I initially adopted the fantasy (in sanguine thought) that others would happily join this woman. That the floods of people who were clearly experiencing the detriment of heat and stress would throw everything in the air and realize that none of it matters. People ripped off every piece of clothing realizing how ridiculous it was to ever start wearing clothes in the first place. They all rejoiced in the fact that to be free means to live in the now, while concurrently splashing each other in acts of facetiousness. They clinged to their childhoods; a time when they anxiously awaited their future and had no past to regret. Orgies broke out, not only in the fountain, but on the streets and people realized that one of the main reasons why they’ve endured it all for so long was for the sex. Each individual began singing their very own favorite song in unity with other people’s very own favorite songs and the mismatch resulted in pragmatically terrible sounding harmonies and polyrhythms, yet harmonious nonetheless. Normal, sane individuals began talking to themselves and everybody at that moment finally admitted that they all talk to themselves in their own heads (in public) and out loud (in private). At some point, someone brought out a piñata with an outline of a human face and the words, “Paste your bosses face here!” and hung it from the tallest building in downtown while every employee had the opportunity to take a swing. People began pissing and shitting in the streets and were no longer embarrassed about their own excrement, because they realized that everybody excretes. Individuals opened bottles of tequila and finally admitted that they like the drink because it gets them drunk, not because they actually like the taste and that, if they were being perfectly honest, they hate the fucking taste. And, of course, people watched from their offices at the top of the skyscrapers, but in a matter of seconds no one was watching anymore, only joining the madness.

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But, unfortunately, this did not happen. More realistically, I imagined a sort of social and legal shunning. As the fully clothed woman stepped out of the fountain and began to wring her hair, people attempted to tear her down with disgruntled faces. Some, in fact, laughed in discomfort and enjoyment at the same time. In no time at all, she was approached by two security guards from the TCW building asking her to leave, using the little authority they had. They realized that they couldn’t physically do anything about the situation when she started screaming, “GOD IS A FUCKING TERRORIST!” at the top of her lungs. The guards then proceeded to call the police, but by her own volition, she walked away cursing the birds and bees underneath her breath. As she disappeared from my line of vision, she continued running into people on the sidewalk who did not acknowledge that she was running into them.

Of course, though, that didn’t happen either. Instead, nothing happened. Nothing. Nobody even cared to glance over at the situation. No security guards, no acts of liberation (besides her own). No laughing or pointing. Nothing. Once again I felt alone in a sea of faces to be the only face that witnessed such an amazing occurrence. Never alone, yet undeniably lonely.

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