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A Twin Tower Piñata and Its Gummi Bear Rain
June 1, 2009 - Lexington, Kentucky

            This morning I was with my neighbor Cassie stapling 'Lost' signs to trees with one of those staplers you swing like a hammer and taping them to anything they would stick to with invisible tape in and around Central Park hoping that somehow this would help reunite Cassie with her AKC-registered Pug Sammy who had gone missing a dozen  hours before.  Cassie was obviously upset that her dog was missing but she was more angry now than sad because talking with the Italian men at the copy shop who made the fliers was super annoying and finding that kind of stapler was a chore itself.  But she was mostly pissed-off at her housekeeper Consuela who Cassie had taken to calling Connie as it sounded better and was easier to say in forced introductions because it was Connie's fault that Sammy wasn't where he was supposed to be in the first place.  The night before Connie took Sammy out one last time before she went to whatever Hispanic or Puerto Rican ghetto she calls home and came back with no leash in hand and with cheap mascara trickling down her fat cheeks babbled in some foreignish tongue that she tied Sammy to some post while she used some public rest room and when she came out Sammy was gone.  Cassie gave her a good lashing and Connie said that she was sorry but she had some digestive problem that had to be dealt with immediately probably having to do with all the herbal supplements Cassie recently insisted she (Connie) take and that was definitely part of the present problem.  And I wasn't too thrilled to be in the Park this early myself since I had a pedicure scheduled shortly and then Pilates and then a late lunch with my sister-in-law all of which necessitated considerable mental and physical preparation and I was only doing this for Cassie because she was the Director of our Co-op committee and I didn't want to suffer repercussions for being rude. 
            And it was at the Park where we heard what sounded like an invisible plane flying too low and it quieted a tad before there was some distant end to the lessening roar that made me think of a bomb going off underwater.  Everything stopped and the birds lingered mid-flight and the wind paused and my ears popped a little and when everything resumed and life came back to itself it was as if all the energy that had been briefly stagnated with a pinch like that of a gardening hose was released with a fury.
            On the TV in Cassie's apartment which is a floor above my apartment and a little bit bigger I watched what happened again in real time but it was like a real replay of what happened while we were outside and Cassie missed it because she was busy making espressos with her new espresso machine that takes little capsules exactly the size of half/half containers at diners and she had to watch the actual replay(s) over and over again from so many angles that had been compiled so fast.  The espresso machine spit and gurgled and made purrs that synched with the dense plumes of smoke that were pouring from the tops of the buildings against the bright blue backdrop of the sky.  Cassie who thinks she's so damn smart and sophisticated handed me a miniscule cup of espresso topped with shaved Ethipopian truffles and said something about a 'flesh refinery' and how she was so surprised it took so long for our literal capitalistic erections to get molested  and of course we (Americans) couldn't have just built one but insisted on two and then she touched my arm in way she probably thought I would think was sympathetic and said how sorry she was because I had much more at stake here than her.  I tried counting the floors from the ground up of the building I cared about but there were smaller buildings in my way and the cameramen were frantic and their lenses were following falling debris and bodies with swimming arms and it was just too hard but when there was a shot from what I guessed was a helicopter I counted the floors from the top down to the jagged hole  and then I subtracted that number from the number of the floors totaled and it wasn't until later I realized I just could have counted backwards from the totaled number of floors and gotten the same result with half the effort.  Where the hole was I had been less than a week before and that time when I had pressed my forehead against the pane of glass it wasn't as cold as I thought it should be and I got dizzy looking down.  I stand there now in the void and wonder where the screams are coming from and if they belong to people I know and I wonder why there aren't more screams and is it really wind coming through the hole or is it a draft from the push and pull of disrupted pressures (?).  It's so dark and the light is right there trying so hard to come in but it can't and there is a man's face wavy with heat down below in another building staring up with a hand over his mouth and the other hand is holding spreadsheets.  And then they came down and gray clouds morphed into nothingness and we (Cassie and me) realized that this was now normal and  it was always going to be this way.  The TV and everything on it was too real and I had to leave even though there was no place I really wanted to be and when I abruptly got up and headed to the door Cassie said sorry again and muttered something about how all this really sucks because now people will be too preoccupied to care too much about getting 'you-know-who' (Sammy) back home.
            Never before today do I remember walking out the doors of my building on CPE without out an itinerary and these weren't necessary trips of urgency to get toilet paper or trash bags but outings for the sake of some unspecified calling to celebrate something or to buy some high-ended necessity or to have some ritualistic purification done to my body and there is an emptiness that normal people don't understand that accompanies not needing.  
            I turned and walked with no destination in mind and the few cars on the streets seemed slow and the sidewalks were barren and it was as if this part of the city and me were both numb and sluggish with helplessness and boredom. 
            After two blocks I saw the black bum who I have seen dozens or maybe hundreds of times in the same spot and in the past I've averted my eyes and bowed my stride to avoid any unwanted interaction and have had only random urges to point out his bad grammar on his cardboard placards but today I slowed and stopped right in front of him and lowered myself.  His eyes were glossy and cloudy with maybe glaucoma and he had a matted afro and a tri-colored beard and an unlit cigarette dangled from his cracked bulbous lips and the shape of his head and the distant look on his face reminded me of those sepia pictures of slaves in textbooks.  The black bum had T-shirts and oxford-cloth shirts and track jackets stacked on his torso that were finally covered by an oversized tweed jacket with suede elbow patches that looked like one from Brooks Brothers.  On his waist were bunched fabrics of several pair of pants and he wore leather wingtips with no socks and his exposed ankles were ashy white and hairless.  Between his puffy legs that were spread like frog's legs were crumpled papers and empty beer cans and a mangy medium-sized mutt who wasn't tethered to the black bum at all which made me wonder why he wouldn't flee to find better living conditions.  My presence evoked no reaction from either of them so I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a five dollar bill and the black bum squinted at the bill and it inspired a glimmer of recognition then gratitude and he leaned with some difficulty from the wall and with his long fingers with their brittle and ridged fingernails he reached for it.  The black bum couldn't quite make it and he sort of slid to the right in this comical kind of way and he had to stop himself with his reaching hand and prop himself back up and with his other hand he lurched pathetically and when he was almost to my hand which had been stationary this whole time I clenched the bill in my fist and pulled it back.  The black bum gave me a look like what I did was in a new ballpark of cruelty.  I moved my fist with the bill inside near my mouth and extended two fingers and placed them on my lips and then removed them and dramatically blew out like I was exhaling smoke.  The black bum looked confused but surprisingly got the gist and removed the cigarette from his lips with some difficulty as if their was some adhesive involved and handed it to me which I took and then tossed the five dollar bill on the dog's head and winked and walked away.  The stiffness of the filter between my fingers gave me a comforting sensation I haven't felt since my senior year at Sarah Lawrence when I quit smoking.  But even today being a day worthy of reckless behavior and digression I just couldn't bring myself to bring it  to my mouth knowing where it had been so I threw it in a puddle when I turned the corner and knew the black bum couldn't see me and therefore wouldn't  have his feelings hurt.
            Maybe it's because the streets I wandered today I had only seen from cab and limo windows that I never noticed how sensually oppressive they really are or maybe it's something else.  But the buildings regardless how short or tall create a sense of claustrophobia and at intersections I tried to look downtown and see where everything happened but I realized there is no way to identify an absence.  From block to block it was like each one had some ethnic theme bordering on parody.  The Asians in the streets with their window shops with perversely splayed carcasses of uneatable animals and their phonetic chiming pointing up at nothing in the sky and the Indians with their smells that are impossible to dissect and catalogue as food or garbage or body tonics clucking in a fast-paced somewhat fearful way and  the chubby wailing Mommaseetas wearing Mexican kimonos with their rosaries held over their head asking someone for something and the black men with their hanging pants with unnecessary embroidery and neck-breaking heavy accessories and their bleached white night shirts or the older ones with bright pastel suits with matching bowler hats and matching shoes that look like they're made of linoleum and they've been crying and their faces look bloated which contradicts their tough guy costumes.  And this fucking event has so affected everyone so it seems and it has permeated everything and they all have the obnoxious shared trait of desperation but it all seems so disingenuous because I can't imagine any of these pseudo-mourners knew a single person in those buildings except maybe a busser at that culinary atrocity at the top.  It made me so angry and nauseous and people were simply fishing for sympathy they didn't deserve and I just wanted to go home.
            I unplugged the TV and the phone and walked around the apartment and looked up at the high ceilings and the framed original numbered prints hanging on the walls and wondered when anyone would be here to admire the decor and wear a sincere smile.  I started a warm bath then went to the bedroom and stared at the picture of me from our wedding day in its silver Tiffany's frame.  It was the summer before last in the Hamptons on a day as pretty as this one and everyone I wanted there came and Annie Leibovitz's cousin was the photographer and my Vera Wang dress rendered everyone speechless and rack of lamb was served on a bed of seared lobster meat and everything was really just perfect.  I realized that I would never have a day like that again and the upcoming funeral will be one of diluted grief and gourmet casseroles will be replaced by cheese on plastic trays and bouquets will now be store bought daisies in cheap vases.  I walked into my closet and sat on the floor and looked up at my dresses and cried for the first time all day because I had nothing in black dazzling enough  to make this experience mine. 

Alex Klehfoth

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