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from Studies in Apoplexy

The first thing to notice about Jesse is that he is handsome, the way trees are handsome, the way birds are handsome, the way the complex and often misunderstood rules of baseball are inordinately handsome. This was what I noticed, many years ago, when Tom Clancy was still alive. Then the years passed: Gabriel García Marquez died, Ray Bradbury died, Donna Summer struggled with lung cancer for a while before ultimately dying. Meanwhile, the hair fell down around Jesse’s ears like a marvelous race-car, it fell down like a wayward train, it fell down wet and full of vigor, it tickled his neck with sin, and there were many of us who wanted an end to it (the hair). This was before we knew its power

Of course, what we didn’t know is that power is relative, and the power of the hair, of which we knew nothing, was also in fact nothing compared to his other powers, more rare and spindly. One time, I saw Jesse work so hard he gave himself a delirious swine flu of his own making and nearly had to be hospitalized. One time, I saw him compose an eighteen-page email in order to more completely fall in love. One time, Jesse told me he’d “beat the shit” out of me if I ever drove that drunk, which I took as a sign of inordinate friendship. One time, Jesse and I were in his apartment, perusing his collection of rare and out-of-print Pat Benatar albums. We weren’t listening to them, per say–it was more like we were holding each record up to the light, which was dim, and letting them speak to us. Holding them up as if they were counterfeits. Outside, it was raining. We were listening to Yo La Tengo then.

Or we were listening to Animal Collective then.

We listened to the song “My Girls” by Animal Collective. We listened to the song “Candy Shoppe” by Emeralds. We listened to tracks 3, 6, and 8 off the new Portishead album and were astonished. We listened to every song we could think of by My Brightest Diamond on repeat. We listened to The Weeknd during a blizzard and felt marvelous and afraid. We listened to that Pusha-T song about cocaine where he says, “I nose better,” it was great. It was really, really excellent. Outside, it was raining, and I felt the cinch of the heavens take me under the fifth and sixth rib, and I felt my mother’s love dissolving into the luminiferous aether, and I felt the heavy weight of an unfunded NASA, and then I heard Jesse say, “Mike, are you with us?”

‘Yeah, I’m with you,’ I said.

But it was a lie, I was at the pyramids in Teotihuacan hawking jaguar noise boxes, I was getting “roughed up” by frat boys in Wisconsin for using their designated puke-alley, I was in a rough field fielding offers for the movie-version of my great and apostolic poem, “Ave Maria,” which had captured the hearts and minds but really the perineums of our beloved mid-level government employees. Meanwhile, Jesse was buried under a mountain of books, which came pouring out of his eyelids and out of his nose and out of the sockets of his Echo Park apartment, which was not up to code, and the books continued to pour until we had to evacuate him from his Echo Park apartment, which was not up to code, with the help of the paramedics. Thank god it wasn’t raining. It was definitely not raining. At which point he declared, “I will abate myself with drink!” but he was wrong, and all manner of spectrality commenced.

Posted 09/02/15
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