I used to think the cigarette burns on my right arm were kind of cool. I remember what smoker-crammed patio I was on when I got each one, and when people asked me what I’ve been doing to myself with concerned expressions I would just tell them Oh No, I Got That At [some bar], [some band] Was Playing It Was Crazy. This Is My Smoking Hand. Then show them my left arm, sans burns. See?
I’m walking around Washington Square Park and trying to imagine it black and white, like that one photo of Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso that showed up on my news feed in between kale salad and engagements and for a split second I thought they were real. Something about desaturating images distills them down to their bare souls, or at least that’s what I like to think the point is. I squint my eyes and flutter them around strangely, trying to see in black and white.
The only time I see in black and white is when I’m about to pass out. I used to pass out a lot when I was younger for no reason. My vision would blacken at the edges and go grainy, then narrow into a shrinking static tunnel before the film cut and I hit the floor. Eventually I would wake up to someone panicking slapping me in the face, cold and sweaty with a head full of ants. I think about whether seeing Washington Square Park in black and white is worth a self-induced blackout.
(I know how to do this but I won’t tell you because I know someone will try.)
I quit smoking and now I have no idea what to do with myself in public. What have non-smokers done with themselves in public since the beginning of time? My pockets contain no distractions. I sit down on something and think about Jack Kerouac.
If Kerouac were alive today and stayed in school. If Kerouac came to class with plaid shirts and hipster glasses and his trademark rolls of unedited texts, drunk on whiskey and visions. I wonder what my fiction workshop would have to say about Jack Kerouac.
If Kerouac had been workshopped he probably would have given up on writing and started an emu farm.
I realize it’s getting harder and harder to talk about real things.
Someone is looking at me for longer than a second and I wonder what the hell is wrong with them. I try to read the trajectory of their glance and notice my sleeves are rolled up. I stand up and roll them down.
Walking away I remind myself to finally make a tattoo appointment.