March 2005 / Volume VI / Issue II
Andrew Aulino
An Interruption

It follows a standard trajectory, I assume. First there are the years
of struggle, living in squalor and scribbling brilliant stuff on
scraps by the light of one brownish bulb. Nights, you take drugs in a
studio apartment with you bohemian friends. Next comes the time in
Europe, with more squalor and brilliance, interrupted by gulps of
Great Art and brief affairs with girls who donít speak your language.
Then there is the first squeak of respectability, the short pieces in
respectable magazines. Finally, there is Eminence, with lecture tours
and professorial appointments. Then, you live in some lush place, like
the Pacific Northwest or California Wine Country, writing serene
eclogues about buddhism and sushi and kissing and other refined, old-
man pleasures. The long view. Iíve got it down.
But first there comes the phone call. I stand in socks in the
apartment at ten o clock in the morning with the heat not on yet. The
receiver is chill, my brows are furrowed and she is telling me that
something is bad, very bad. And I say, well what, what did you did,
tell me. But she wonít tell me. I say, look, it canít be so terrible.
Whatís the problem. But she wonít tell me, she just whimpers into the
phone, and itís like weíre in a dark room, I can see her but not hear
her. I say what is it, is it money? Is it legal? Are you having and
affair. But she just squeals and whimpers and after ten minutes of
going back and forth like this, she tells me I have to come over. So I
look out the window, and see laundry-steam coming out of metal chutes,
and the flat caps of ice on the roofs, and the tinkling light on the
trees. I canít see much past the first two rows of roofs and trees.
The sky is still a little pink, even. Itís still really early. This
isnít going to be good. Sheís somewhere in a dark room. Maybe sheís
bleeding. Maybe itís theóthatóthe guy with the funny facial hair.
Theyíre probably all sticky and laying on a pool table. Yes sir, no
So I run around the house throwing clothes on everywhere, just like I
know youíre supposed to at times like these, and I find the funny
furry flap-hat and the long johns with holes in them and then the
hiking books and everything else. And I take a drink of coffee from
the night before and light a cigarette grab my keys and run out the
door without locking it. And I run down the steps. Then I forget that
the steps are not only wood, and theyíre not only concrete at the
bottom they are also icy. So I slip. When Iím trying to catch myself,
I stab myself in the neck with the hot end of my cigarette. It feels
good for a second, just a second, but I screech and in pain, I stab it
further in until I know that Iím going to be meeting Ellen with a hole
in my neck. You can burn through skin as easily as notebook paper. It
may have gone into my flesh. I keep slipping because of the pain. I
roll down the outside staircase, legs bending. My kneecap seems to
have floated off into the muscle of my lower thigh. The ice hurts
because itís hard. Then I hit the concrete and roll sideways, its been
a hard fall but in pieces, like my whole body is just laundry someone
tossed down there. At the bottom of the steps thereís a big pad of
snow encrusted in ice. I hit it and smash it. A nice soft landing. I
canít feel my elbow or my shoulder or my wrist. What I feel instead is
a diffuse pain that moves around all those places, shivery resonances
of pain, like striking a thin wire on a table. Thatís bearable for the
moment. Itíll have to be. I groan and say lots of swears. Night has
basically totally dissolved at this point; there is blue, clearly,
between every cloud floe. The birds, which have been momentarily
terrified by the clatter and shouting have returned to their branches
and are staring at me. They look hungry. And I think, fuck, I havenít
even gotten to the squalor yet. Now everything is different.