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"If You're Bored Of the Planet Earth" [Bottled Whispers |Engage Time Machine |Channeled Spirits|Magick Mirror]
Jack Babalon

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The Monday Sermon [Sep. 4th, 2017|08:02 pm]
Jack Babalon

Jehovah's Prophets come in two flavors here in Terminus - Creflo Dollar flush or wino broke. The first knows that the Father is all about the hustle while the other has come to accept that his Son was bat shit insane to think there was another way but offered the only fight worth a damn. So it is that the prophets of the Father strive to change their world from a throne even as the prophets of the Son seek to change ours from the cross. As the Father wears a crown in the next world his prophets seek to wear one of their own in this one.
Yet it is only the prophets of the Son, who seek to emulate the madness of the divine last chance, that dare proselytize down here in Vampire Country.

I'm having a cigarette outside the bike shop waiting on a flat to get changed. Got that Bad, Bad Luck like Mike Ness. Street traffic's mainly Normie tourists and a smattering of locals cursing them. But then marching up Cold Quit Avenue comes a prophet of the Son ranting the Good Word. Check it. You wouldn't peg him for God's own Crazy. He's not disheveled, his hair is combed back, his khaki slacks are cheap but clean, his loafers look scuffed but presentable enough but the look in his eye is strictly Jack the Ripper.

From across the street you can hear him loud and clear. Fires ravage the edge of Los Angeles Caídos and Texas is drowning and Nuclear Armageddon is Imminent and a False Prophet sits in the Highest Office of New Rome and Behold! No One on these Streets or across the Land give a Flea's Fart that the End Times are Now and Hell is Just around the Corner.

"No it's not," I mutter the words from across the street but this being me means naturally the Human Pulpit hears me and turns around to deliver a glare cold as Circle 9 of where I'm going.

"You got something to say?," he shouts pointing his finger at my 12.

"Only that Hell is already here and it's not Dante concentric or Baptist prejudiced or even what the French call - 'other people'."

"You so smart why don'cha tell me what Hell it IS instead of what it ISN'T?"

"That's easy," I say drawing looks of bemusement or horror from passing foot traffic, "Hell is just Boot Camp for the Soul. It breaks down assumptions, pride, and eventually the ego until all that is unessential to its perseverance becomes no more. You will forget why you showed up for Basic in Hell. You will take shit from those unqualified to give the orders you cannot disobey if you want to ever survive. You will be put the grinder, day after seemingly endless day, and every night when you pass out you will say not another inch is in you and the next morning you will face yet again the grueling miles of Hell. But you stay in Hell long enough you'll learn you're not alone, you'll work together to get through it, and the impossible you buckled under will be no more than the mark of your strength. And then and only then... you'll realize Hell is the only road to Heaven and that Heaven was here on Earth all along as well."

The Human Pulpit doesn't say anything. He just nods and raises the accusatory finger to his lips.

"Sir," the bike shop clerk says looking at me confused, "your bike's ready."

I flick my cigarette in the direction where the Human Pulpit has disappeared and my Monday sermon completed prepare once again for the long ride home.


Current Mood [Aug. 24th, 2017|03:48 pm]
Jack Babalon

How I spent my Summer Vacation [Aug. 23rd, 2017|02:44 pm]
Jack Babalon
How I spent my Summer Vacation

Confessions of a Fuck Up Artist [Aug. 18th, 2017|01:02 am]
Jack Babalon

Ever actually punch a Nazi?

It's not as easy it looks in GIFs and memes.

I did and got my ass thoroughly kicked post haste.

No regrets now, no options then.

1989, and this being Miami it was summer no matter what month it was when I got jack booted. There was a show at Club Beirut, can't even remember who played now, you haunt a scene long enough and all the local bands that weren't the ones you loved melt into one band. The Platonic Ideal of Local Bands if you will that exists in the back of the khaki clad ex-anarchist's memories of a life now gone. Indistinct, you can see them right now but not really describe them beyond being pale, thin, angry, loud, everything a young punk wants to grow to be. Anyhoo, in the pit there was this Mohican who no one recognized as being in our Scene (because even without social media you somehow knew who the fuck every punk, skin, goth, metalhead, and skater was and who they were fucking and who they were feuding with even if you had only met them once). So Mohican here seemed pretty cool at first, bouncing with energy, when we were in the pit, he gave as good as he got but never failed to pick up those dropped in the mosh and yanked them away from getting trampled under the War Dance's ritual.

One of those being yours truly.

Dude hugged me, smiled, and then, good naturedly, pushed me back into the chaos with faith that I could take it.

Right on, right?

Not but, I don't know, two or three songs go by maybe and out of nowhere Mohican starts doing this pogo hop while shooting Sieg Heils towards the stage.

The Platonic Ideal of All Local Bands stops right there. The pit freezes. Murmurs. Disbelief. South Florida is a haven against the wave of Neo-Nazism sweeping the late 80s scene. Nazi Skinheads flex hard at shows. No Internet so we're getting dispatches through 'zines and word of mouth from nomadic gutter punks popping in through town. That shit don't fly everywhere of course. Word is New York City and South Callie don't play that shit. Add to that Miami whose skinhead scene is represented not just by insane white boys but by Cubans and Haitians alike who well gladly lecture you about the appropriation of the working class counter culture of Rude Boys by the ignorant and violent.

Point being, most of us while being vehemently Anti-Nazi had never actually laid eyes on one.

It's a young Spiky Mary that breaks the shock by stomping over to the Mohican, still pogo hopping, still doing the Hitler's In The Charts Again Salute, and shrieks in his face - "Fuck you, Nazi!"

Mohican stops pogo hopping and yoinks Spiky Mary's beer out of her hand before chugging it down all while giving her a single pointed finger upwards to indicate - 'One moment.'
Finally when he's finished he grins at her maniacally and you could hear this prick through the crowd - 'You were saying something.'

Spiky Mary, hobbit of physique but orc by attitude, smacks Mohican hard enough for it to reverb across the floor and snap the crowd out of the shock.

Mohican just rubs his face and gives that shit-eaten grin, endearing three songs ago now the flag of an enemy revealed. Everyone moves in on the dude and fuck if he's not ready for us to bring it on. Doorman diplomacy kicks in. Two brothers NFL of physique escort Mister Ziggy Hi out the door as we all follow close behind high on the mob rush.
Rule #1 Doorman Diplomacy ends in the parking lot.
Nazi Boy is ready to rumble. Bouncing on the balls of his feet. I know because my crew hustled through the crowd eager to see fresh blood and a real fight (be honest how many times have you endured three hours of shit talk in a bar just to watch two assholes role on the sidewalk trying to out squeeze the other). We're all howling and sneering threats at this dude. Mohican just eats it all up with this look like he's just discovered orgasms and angel dust simultaneous.

'You faggots gonna fight me one on one like men all at once like a bunch of...'

'Fuck you and your Master Race Bullshit,' I howl through cupped hands at both the right and wrong moment.

Right for it was by chance that everyone else in the crowd were between threats and condemnations.

Wrong because Mohican immediately focused on me.
The look in his eye made it clear he recognized me from the pit - 'Step up and do something about it then, bitch.'


Fear delivers a pimp's backhand and I freeze up.

Before I can say anything I'm pushed forward and stumbling towards him it all hits me at once. That it's on me to represent. To practice what we preach. To show this fucker that this Scene don't got piss in its blood. If I try to talk my way out he'll know who we are no matter who steps up next. He'll tell his Scene ours is easy pickings. The city's too diverse for them to occupy full time but they can make every show in the future a nightmare and get the rest of us lumped in with their 'master race bullshit'. If you don't stand up to Hate straight off the bat, Hate will make you its bitch, it will break you or recruit you but it will never just go away.

What also hits me is the fact that face to face I won't have the balls to do it, I'll back away, I'll try and talk my way out of it like I always do... and too late I come out of my stumble and swing.

I clock him straight in the side of the head. He reels back no longer feeling all hoppy. My fist feels like I punched a wall after getting blue balled at third base again. Hearing the cheers of my crew and the crowd as well is about the last thing I remember before something cracks into the back of a skull that's suddenly not as thick as it's been proclaimed to be. After that I'm wrapped in a tornado of punches until my boys pull him off me and proceed to administering a crowd beat down. It's Spiky Mary who helps me get back on my feet.

Now normally this is where I'd write about how she led me back to her apartment cooing at my bravery and administering to my wounds. We'd strip down just to our boots and she'd ride my face with a pussy that tastes like the cotton candy her spikes are the color of and I'd lap thirsty at nipples pierced with safety pins.

Instead she shakes her head and before walking away gives me this advice - 'Next time learn how to fight, okay?'
It's 28 years later now and I watch the Nazis marching down the streets with torches raised. I know they're different people but the look on their faces could be the same ones I've seen in the 80s or from the documentaries. The haircuts different. The fashion shifted. The look of Hate in their eyes the same. I scroll through social media and there's a call to arms from both sides. Punch a Nazi, is the zeitgeist once again, because the only other options available are getting your ass kicked now or getting rounded up for the camps later.

And I have to wonder if I have it in me to do it again.

I'm fat, forty five, and fueled by lungs ravaged by decades worth of nicotine and THC damage.

I have a gun to protect the house but bringing heat to a march is just an invitation to a blood bath.

So, what can I do then?, I wonder and there's Spiky Mary - eternally in her early 20s in my mind - and what she told me then is what she tells us now.

Next time learn to fight.

Because next time is right around the corner.
link1 Summoned|Invoke

(no subject) [Aug. 14th, 2017|12:02 am]
Jack Babalon
So this is America now, fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement and some 150 years after the Civil War. It never ended. We drove the ugliness to the fringe but it just festered there waiting until now when the monster's have the keys to the White House and the nation's destiny with it.

Don't know what to say or post or write to know I'm helping to fix this. I don't know if any of what we did was enough leading up to this moment in our country's history. I keep trying to numb myself with distractions and buzzes but it feels like some final and beautiful illusion has been shattered beyond repair, beyond apology, beyond thought and prayer. As if one found out an unfaithful spouse who you can't stop forgiving had been secretly poisoning you for years and only now that you're spitting up blood does it all become clear who s/he really was.

We all got a lot to think to about and more than asking questions we got to figure out how to answer the ones we got.

Tired, angry, scared.

Good night.


Hate is the Drug [Aug. 13th, 2017|12:45 am]
Jack Babalon
They say Hate's a disease and that Cain was Patient Zero.

Hate is as old as mankind, they reckon, and been a part of our story since page one of the history books.

Hate is contagious, an airborne pathogen incubating within thought's absence until it disperses itself through the voices of the cruel into the ears of the ignorant. There the pathogen works its way into the thoughts. Rewires the nervous system until it sees only blame in difference and threat from time's changes. The only inoculation we got against Hate is Love and Reason. It's just a matter of getting enough of the population emotionally vaccinated with Love and Reason until the last hosts carrying millennia old strains wither away into first obscurity and then oblivion.

What we see in the Charlottesville riots today then is the Hate Disease attacking the cultural immune system of an infant zeitgeist. A fever burning with a torch's violence against that dark which holds our greatest and most ancient fear - that we are not alone in it.

But Hate is not a disease.

It's a drug.

One that makes the demands of heroin, alcohol, and nicotine feel like a fast food hankering.

Hate is the sweetest narcotic because it doesn't numb the ache in Love's absence but rather fills it with an inexhaustible energy in its place. Hate tastes like if Love and Anger fucked and gave birth to a new you. A stronger you, filled with vast depths of energy and a passion that can make a weak man be willing to stand up and fight.

No one starts out as a Hate Junkie. It starts like all drugs with casual use. Now this is not to say a Hate Junkie will don their white hood on the weekends and then be shivering on the floor if they go longer than two hours without saying the N word. No, it's much more subtle than that. Like sugar you can get hooked on it young. Your fed it around the dinner table, you catch a contact high around the living room TV or get it mainlined during talks with a loved one who wants to set you straight on matters of birthright and superiority. Sometimes the habit flows much more subtle manifesting itself in what the junkie will insist are harmless off color jokes or semantic generalizations.

But never forget that a Hate Junkie can get their habit late in life, a bad day is all it takes to find fault in the many by the tragic deeds of an individual or individuals. Hate, like alcohol gives courage to the victim and coward alike.

I tell you this not from the pulpit of untested righteousness but as a recovering Hate Junkie.

I tell you this because I wanted to say what I've witnessed happening in my country was because of globalization, automation, a fundamental lack of access to education and opportunity. I wanted to say that Hate was the mask that Fear wears to defend itself against threats existent and nonexistent. I wanted to believe that Hate was an aberration, cancer unpredictable and just as lethal in need of an excision before it could spread.

I wanted to believe that Hate is Hate is Hate is Hate is Hate...
But watching the videos stream across my shock and I knew exactly what I had been subconsciously apologizing for. The Nazi rallies around Confederate monuments by torch light. The white supremacists marshaled in some sinister version of medieval cosplay complete with shields and helmets and clubs while the police stood there as if it was remotely possible that they would be just as stoic and respectful about First Amendment rights had this been a Black Lives Matter protest. I watched skirmishes and beat downs and arrests and on the verge of whatever German word there must be for when terror fuses with heartbreak I actually forget the very real possibility of a nuclear war that's all of a sudden something I have to be scared of again.

But the moment of clarity came when I watched the leader of the Free World, my President, inexplicably addressing the nation about how both sides were to blame for a white riot of the Non-Clash variety. Both sides were to blame even though only one side approached with torches lit chanting about ovens and white supremacy. Both sides were equally at fault even though only one side plowed a car into a crowd of pedestrians just like the very 'Radical Islamists' they claim the moral high ground over along with the liberals who apologize for them. Both sides were culpable for the bloodshed though one side showed up to a 'peaceful demonstration of First Amendment rights' in improvised body armor while packing bludgeons.

No these weren't the victims of socioeconomic conditions, these weren't 'hill-bred hicks' who don't know no better, these weren't unemployed coal miners looking for someone who feels their struggle, these weren't the gullible of mind or evil of spirit.

This wasn't about jobs, this wasn't about terrorism, this wasn't about Christian values coming under attack by a so called 'tolerant left'.

No let us be clear here and not mince words. This was about a statue, one honoring a general who fought for the belief that slavery was the rent the black man paid to the white man to live in his world, and its being removed from public view. Or as the white nationalist protesters call it - 'Political correctness run amok'. That was all the excuse these fucking Hate Junkies needed to run riot and celebrate that their drug of choice has now been for all intents and purposes legalized for Poor White Guys in khakis by the Rich White Guys in suits who now 'run' the White House.

And now is the time when the rest of us as a society have to ask just how far we're willing to enable Trump's Americans in their habit before they do what all junkies do - take by violence whatever they need in order to satisfy their urges.

Because the only way you get a Hate Junkie into the recovering stage is by forcing them to go cold turkey and what you also saw in Charlottesville wasn't a counter-protest but an intervention.

It's not going to be easy on the rest of us, the recovering junkie and sober minded alike. We're going to have to learn to fight, spiritually and literally, and that's not an easy thing to say. At some point Love has to close the open hand into a fist. At some point you can't allow yourself to be victimized by those who have surrendered dominion over themselves to the bottle or the needle or to the tribal thrill of hating thy neighbor.

But we don't have the option of the abused spouse, leaving, so instead we have to learn to protect ourselves and that may mean a self-defense class and that could mean learning to shoot the very firearms whose ease of obtainment we fought against.

Vanilla Isis is no longer a snarky remark to comment in a thread but getting ready to march down our streets while we all sit around watching Game of Thrones and posting memes.

So tell me America, what do we do when the Hate Junkies stop appearing on our phone screens and start showing up on our front doors looking for what Ginsberg would call "their angry fix"?

Terminus: Diurnal Vampire Country Reconnaissance & Other Dispatches [Jul. 23rd, 2017|05:41 pm]
Jack Babalon
[Tags|, ]

Where my Wild Things At?

Tagging Cosmic

The Imp of Hit This Shit

Wall Crawling Mech Drone

Rolling up with the Crew

Chasing after that Cheese

Ghost Fading through the Walls

Wedge Building

Neo Brutalism Grid


Educate Elevate

Arachnid Anatomy

Mother Box

Urban Tulpa at the Abandoned BBQ Shack

Confessions of a Fuck Up Artist [Jul. 22nd, 2017|11:29 pm]
Jack Babalon

Peepaw knew what was up back in the day when he'd just walk up and down the beach in his 'boob inspector' t-shirt grinning at the young ladies with the Farah Fawcett hair. Had he a few cold ones before embarking down Coney Island demanding random strangers - men and women alike - to lift up shirt or bikini top? Oh most fucking definitely. For this was Koch's Apple then, when an old man could down a six pack on the F-Train and needed no more to impersonate an actual Boob Inspector than a t-shirt.

The years saw times change hard and the City of Apple had to make some serious budgetary cut-backs in the Age of Reagan. Among them all 327 'Boob Inspectors' for the City. Peepaw still wore the shirt of course but now no one heeded his demands for all chests to be made open to his leering inspection.

Now he was just a drunk old man in a silly t-shirt and I guess that's why deep down inside I can never forgive President Reagan or Mayor Koch or all the forces of history that shut down the Office of Boob Inspector. For it was just not that noble institution that was shuttered but Peepaw's heart - which gave out at last after years of being reduced to chest inspecting VHS tapes and what he called 'girly magazines - the kind gentleman like'.

I think deep down he hoped that I would carry on the torch as it was certainly not anything the Old Man was into.

But I never entertained notions of being a Boob Inspector, not after a brief gig working as an Asshole Inspector with no rank in what I guess you could call the Navy. Asshole Inspector meant everyone was encouraged to show you how much of an asshole they could be given a modicum of rank and conditions set to levels of stir crazy known only by inmates and sailors. Think the Stanford Experiment on crack only with access to Tomahawk missiles and all sorts of shit I can't talk about.

After a few years of Asshole Inspecting I got out and knew there enough boobs out there that all I could do is just hope not to be one of them.

Anyway, such are the memories a humid summer's night brings.


Confessions of a Fuck Up Artist [Jul. 19th, 2017|01:09 am]
Jack Babalon

Twelve hours, not counting an hour lunch or the commute, is a rough day on anyone's clock and yet sitting at the end of it all I can do is laugh with exhausted gratitude. The money needed, the distraction welcome, the respect on both ends of the check mutual. That's the key to the best jobs, when the person handing you cash for the hours does so with a muted nod of fuck-yeah respect. The Big E gave it to me when I worked Spring or on freelance security gigs at art house happenings. Then there was Ollie, a Skunk (half skinhead, half punk according to him) from back when Vampire Country was the Wild Wild South who employed me as an inexperienced carpenter for rent and drug money when living with Violet Larue. Those were some of the best jobs I've ever had, but going much further back, I can recall those distant days of utter liberation that was being a dishwasher.

Fucking Bizzaro's Pizza in Jax was something else let me tell you. Worked at the Landing off Saint John's River scrubbing sauce pots, pie pans, and steam trays for eight hours solid. Worked in a space no bigger than a walk-in closet over a sink deep enough to drown a dozen baby changelings at once. Got paid minimum wage. Had to sneak illegal smoke breaks in the employees access hallway that allowed rear access into grease pit shacks from the food court. Even worked the dreaded Gator-Bulldog showdown during a hullaballoo the locals called - 'The World's Largest Cocktail Party'.

And the whole time I was the happiest asshole in all Nowhere-Nothing North Florida Jax.

For I just had all my dreams crushed when I failed a piss test and was discharged OTH after confessing to be a fuck-up artist first class as well as a fully fledged dope fiend at Captain's Mast. After that I packed up my duffel bag, got a boat ride through the canals of Venice, got an escort to a plane, got to Sigonella, did a few days and did busy work and drank beer and lifted weights in transit. Next stop Philly at a base just down the block from a major baseball stadium. While there got a tattoo, met the OTO at a book store on South Street, dropped X with some skinheads I met outside a comic shop, and went to raves blowing my savings in a mad rush of fear. Then I was kicked out legit with nothing but the duffel bag on my back. Took a plane down to Jax.

There my people were waiting.

Johnny Law, my brother beyond blood and partner in crime since back in Liqourdale along with Tommy Boatswain, a fellow pothead and bilge rat who had the balls to have my back down in A-Gang Hell before being busted for the midnight toking.

Johnny was the assistant manager at Bizarro's Pizza and scored Tommy and I jobs.

Tommy was a steam cook and I was a dish washer.

We lived along with a buddy of ours from the ship, Doug Gallant, in a two bedroom apartment. Tommy slept in a makeshift tent he erected in the kitchen out spare bed sheets and a mattress from Christ only knows where. Me? I had a water bed with a broken heater in a room with no other furniture. We spent our nights watching pirated cable, smoking weed, doing blow, going to clubs where we always spectacularly failed to get laid, slamdanced at bars whenever someone played Ministry, got chased by Nazis from Einstein's down in Mayport (well not Tommy, Tommy was a son of Them Thar Hills, West Virginia and would be running from no man thank you very much), and dropped as much acid as we could beg, borrow, bum, or in an absolute emergency actually pay for. Some of it was no better than Robitussin boiled in a frying pan over a picture of Timothy Leary wincing in disapproval. Some of it made 'things' especially when I mispronounced Hebrew in barked shouts trying to remember how to do a lesser banishing ritual while tripping my balls off. Then, when I hooked up with a shy baker girl with long curly hair and big Eyeore eyes, she turned Tommy and I onto speed and I am here to report that for all the damning side effects a man can in spite of them wash the fuck out of some dishes.

Which was fucking great.

I had a radio and I blasted Bauhaus and Greater Than One and Skinny Puppy off cassettes (all Wax Trax with the little factory label lined up adjacent for proper meth-head OCD aesthetic) that got blasted off a small boom box. I had on these old black Docs that I had worn holes into their orthopedically designed soles. I was soaking wet, singing along, getting stoned in the freezer with Tommy and Johnny, talking shit, eating free Italian food every day, looking forward to doing acid and having non-stop orgasm-less sex until dawn with the Little Baker Girl (cookies laid out along her thighs that I would eat blindfolded with hands tied behind back - correctly identifying each flavor as we wait for either the law or the Nazis to come kicking in our front door). At night I wrote bad poetry in my journal and shoplifted Little Debbies and used stolen phone cards to call the Parental Units for cash that I swore was for bills but which all went to our dealer Rashim - a 340 pound white guy in glasses with a Mohawk who made you sit in a human litter box of an apartment for two to three hours in order to throw off the cops.

There were friends invincible then and foes everywhere and I danced defiant between them after washing dishes or stay up all night watching each other's faces melt or go on a drug induced and inspired crime spree that saw us stealing several dozen plants, pots, and patio furniture from various blocks throughout the swanker parts of Jax. At one point our living room looked like a jungle hideaway and everyone came over to smoke with us - gutter punks and club kids and drug addicts and fuck ups and bar flies and we entertained them all. Talked shit, boasted the impossible under oaths sworn upon blood's grave, got into shouting arguments over Ministry or the Sisters, testified to scene drama unfolding outside the neutral zone of dance floors, vowed grudge's vengeance, and out of a dozen folks jammed in a single living room you'd be hard pressed to get five bucks between us all.

What you would get was a bit of shelter from both street austerity and numb comfort conformity, what you'd get is laughter warm, pot smoke pungent, and tales told taller with each telling. And there you'd find me inexplicably at the center of something larger than any of us together (even with the knowledge that my center was but one of twelve). Alive for the first time in my life and I mean that literally as before the Nav from which I was kicked out the years prior to that had been under the Parental Unit's roof and rule.

I was free, I was high, I was getting laid, I was hunted, I was an awful poet, I was amped up, I was free and I was a fuck dishwasher. Of course it all came crashing down in addiction and poverty and heartbreak.

Now sitting here with less than eight hours until I got back to the job I just got off three hours ago and I'm laughing. Seeing you there Johnny, Tommy, Little Baker Girl and her Wanna Be Model friend and Doug Gallant and even Jeremiah Sinn and it's alright.

It didn't have to last, it wasn't supposed to, it was there for us then and there for us now as a memory we maybe summon as we each sip a pipe at the end of a long responsible day. There, with obligations and duties temporarily set aside, we can see ourselves then. Odds invincible and temporarily immortal.

Alright, time for yours truly to fuck off to bed now.


Confessions of a Fuck Up Artist [Jul. 13th, 2017|11:38 pm]
Jack Babalon
Pumping Iron with Debbie Tomorrow down at the Y. One of the few human beings I still face-to-face with outside job and family these days. To imagine Debbie picture a round eared elf fresh from a holiday down in Parris Island. Flash tattoos along the arms offer a lexicon to the outside eye of those symbols that dominate the unknowable within - a snaked eyed dice on each wrist, a compass on each elbow (one pointed East, one pointed West), along sculpted triceps stars that resemble jumbo sized versions of the ones generals wear on the lapels, and on the right calf a blind monkey in a Napoleon Hat pointing nobly at nothing with a white cane. Of course the tattoos are like the second thing you notice when you first see her. The first thing is the camouflaged t-shirt with the words GIRL HOMO emblazoned in big sparkly bubbly letters. This shirt has granted her a sort of invisibility of averted gazes. It works like this. Say you're some total skeev out on the machine openly peeping the local talent. Then you read the words and see the belligerent elf with the shaved head and the combat boots worn in direct violation of the Y's dress code policy for working out and instantly you pretend to see nothing. From there the slightest spark of glitter on the words GIRL HOMO 'cause even the worse pervo or dude-bro will blot them out and their wearer with them.

Not me, though. All I could see when I first met Debbie Tomorrow was the blind monkey in the Napoleon hat on the right calf. The sight of it peeled off some psychic scab grown over the place where Dad was cut out of my life and when she asked me what the actual fuck I thought I was yokel-gaping at I pointed to the monkey with trembling fingers unaware that I was crying.

She took me to her car and let me sneak a few hits off her vape while I spilt on the whole woe is me fucked up damage bullshit that pops up around this time of year. It's weird when you lose someone you love their birthdays become sort of Anti-Holidays - days of grieving reflection with many nights of dread anticipating its arrival. A little nicotine settled the nerves and though I wouldn't quit apologizing the whole time it felt good to talk to someone about things, lift the lid off the pot before everything boils over and douses the flame. After a good minute of silence where I hissed hits off the vape, she ordered me to quit with the I'm Sorry routine and that what I needed right now was to burn off some aggro. Together we did a solid hour of weight training. To be honest I didn't think she'd be able to keep up with me but twenty minutes into the grind and I'm struggling to not go vanish into the sauna and pass out.

This was last December. We only run into each other at the Y, though I believe I saw her walking a pit bull down in Oak Junction a few months back. I honked at her from the Toy Yoda but she flipped me off without once looking my way. However since we're the only ones who can see each other when we're here we spot each other.

Currently we're at the bench. I've got two 45s and two 35s on the bar. I do ten even though she counts only 8 and a ½ between profanity laced barks of encouragement. When it's my turn to spot her I offer to drop the weight down. She slaps me with a look that says - "Don't you fuckin' dare" to which I back up behind the bench with palms up.

She pops a solid ten and pushes out with a jungle cat growl an 11th for good measure.

We swap spots. I'm determined to do twelve to show her up while my muscles politely point out that they'll be lucky if they can squeeze out three with an assist. After lollygagging a good minute to steel myself for the iron I begin reps and she begins questions.

One... and I pop 205 (160 + the bar's 45) like it ain't no thing.

"Hey we still friends online?" She asks.

I lower the bar and answer - "Of course."

Two... comes up machine steady but with a slight singe at the biceps.

"Are you blocking me then from the real posts then?"

"Nuh-uh," I sigh lowering the bar a little quicker than I should. "Wait? Real posts?"

"Yeah," she lays her fingers on the bar, "your adventures in Vampire Country. How come I can't see them no more?"

Three... comes with a huff but no assist rendered still and the muscles seem to have more in them than initially surveyed.

"Stopped going," I say steadying a slight wobble on the left wrist and drop the bar.

Four... and I can feel this one, I can feel the burn of the last 8... fuck that ten... reps now.

"How come?"

"The risk to reward ratio wasn't in my favor," I force a laugh as the bar bounces off the pecs.

Five... and the aches kicking all over as the 20 years of smoking and Little Debbies kicks in.

"In other words you got scared," she snorts a laugh and I join her.

"Fair enough," I huff and hoping she doesn't notice I only go halfway down with the bar before jutting up between her upside down gaze.

"Of what?," she says gently pushing the bar all the way down to my chest even as her fingers coil around the bar tighter.

Six... didn't think I'd get this far and I nod my head when she gives an inquisitive noise to see if I've got 'this'?

"Everything," I groan and I'm ready to holster the bar to call it quits but insistently she pushes the bar back down.

"Everything?" She repeats.

Seven... and the sweat stings my eyes and those 205 pounds feel like they're being pushed on some sort of high gravity planet but I persist.

"What I want," I growl at her, "I'm afraid of getting it even more than I am of not. I'm afraid of who I am is not who is seen even while being afraid everyone will see the real me. I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked or kicking someone's ass only to prove that I can. I'm afraid of having given my best and everyone quietly agrees it wasn't enough."

The bar plummets and the braking fluid in my elbows is just about drained because it hits my chest with the strength of a punch.

Eight... just cannot be done. Eight hovers inches over a burning chest. Eight is why am I afraid and I don't have it in me to answer her. Not the will but the answer. Eight is beyond me... but not beyond us. She lifts the bar effortlessly assuring me of those words that sing sweetest to the ear of any man: "You got this, baby. It's all you."

With a thunk we guide the bar together to the hooks on the bench's arms.

I lay there looking up at the glare of the fluorescent lights on the ceiling.

Debbie Tomorrow's gone now... her job here complete.

"Deactivate Emergency Imaginary Friend Protocols," I whisper to the blind white glare unable yet to will my body into motion. No one laughs. No one hears me. No one would get it if they did. It's alright. That's why I got Debbie and the rest of them. I feel bad for them though. They probably want to move somewhere else to but are stuck in Terminus with me.

How long? A minute. Three. I don't know how long I'm laid out there on the bench like it's nap time at Pre-K. I forgot to charge my headphones and normally I count time here by number of songs I've heard or off the stair climbing machines. There's an emptiness underneath the scorched earth muscles and it feels better than having it stuffed with what cannot be said.

Eventually some other white guy with a shave head and a gut approaches with his imaginary supermodel fluttering besides him as a glass outline.

"Hey buddy," he asks the last question and the only one that counts, "you done here or what?"
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