by Athena Washburn

published February 6, 2015

Tom Wants the Violence of the Crowd in Himself

The press of bodies is immense; Tom’s ears are stuffed with noise and skin and Frederick swarms towards him. “YOU’RE HERE—COME ON, LET’S GO!” he yells, soft as a whisper within the cram of noise. “I CAN’T—” Tom yells back but Frederick does not hear. His body tilts away and when Tom focuses his eyes he is watching streaks turn to two boys throwing slow punches towards each other. A circle forms around them, Tom pushes forward, feels his head jerk back with each familiar hit, hears the new-formed crowd howl with each impact. Electricity runs through the press; Tom can feel his fingers like he never has before; Tom has forgotten about his legs and his thoughts and his family; Tom can feel every body in the room and they are all his; Tom feels his bodies against his, he sees beautiful sweat on the shoulder in front of his face. It moves with each stomp of the crowd’s timeless faceless feet the colors glitter Tom is mesmerized. He reaches out his finger and strokes the green he finds shimmering on the bronze skin in front of him, the man turns around, it is Frederick and he is dark and glazed-eyed. “COME ON” he says under the roar of the crowd. He grabs Tom’s wrist and pulls him to the center of the ring. Tom flies after him craving the wild pulse.

Frederick and Tom’s bodies collide, pushed by the crowd from all sides. “COME ON” Frederick says but Tom stands there, staring up at the ceiling feeling the blood stampede through his veins the room is electric the violence sublime he feels heat on his throat and his eyes are so warm. “HIT ME,” he says, and Tom is thrown back by the force of Frederick’s fist. He flies back hard into the wall of men. A flash of suspension and Tom sees Frederick’s face teeth bared body there light black hair wet with sweat and heat eyes of beads—The crowd pushes back and Tom is grabbing Frederick he is pounding his head with his hands, he is kicking with his disconnected legs, he is crying and sweating and he hears Frederick laughing and swearing. The nerves of the mob are on fire Tom cannot see anyone anything anymore everything is shades of hot red he cannot hear everything is roaring he cannot speak so he spits instead and feels Frederick’s fist on his cheek. 


Tom Sees Himself

Tom opens his eyes. He is on the floor of the living room, he sees legs standing around. He sees Frederick across the room sprawled against the wall with a woman lying next to him. Tom’s ear is pounding and his eyes are heavy and dry. Tom watches a girl in a tight black dress tap something into her phone. She is wearing pink lipstick and Tom can see part way up her dress.

Tom feels the girl watching him, he feels his little man face flit to hers. He has gecko eyeballs, bald eyes that swivel in the night room. “I heard you were an angel,” he says and she stops tapping to look down at his sweaty head. He scrambles up to his knees. “I heard you were a machine,” he says too loud. He flies up to grab her arms and she backs away towards the kitchen where the bored girls mix drinks with their fathers’ liquors.

Green walls drip with boredom and angst, there is a pool of wanting forming under Tom’s left lung as his blood pounds under gently turning fans. “We never finish anything, we just start and start and start,” he says and his eyeball eyes start to droop down towards the ground. “Who knows, we could be alive” he murmurs and drops to the floor too drunk and beat to stand. The drink spills next to him. The pink lipped girl’s legs retreat farther into the apartment.

Tom has heard his voice before, it came to him in a dream last night and he heard it on the TV—He’s seen his rolled up sleeves and gravel head and slight hands inside of his thoughts before and in the faces of the girls who stare and in the sweat of the lovely violent men. Tom gets up again, slowly, and walks over to the old wood mirror by the big.

His face is big and warped in the reflection, his two eyes mirror themselves four times over. “Am I that I am that I am, I am that I am,” he murmurs to himself and touches a long thin finger to the cold glass. He stares at his mouth moving in ams, he stares at his crooked teeth, he stares at his tongue wetting his lips. He stares at his normal nose and his big weird eyes. They expand and expand, his pupils collapse and open again, they are huge, they are the sky and the roof and the butt of his cigarette! They are glass and noise and they are the mirror itself! They are all Tom can see and he wonders amazed at the blackness of black, he stares and he stares and they stare right back until he starts with a shock his forehead is cold his eyes have flown shut his head throbs into the cracked wood mirror and all the fancy girls with their drinks rush around him gasping for air while Frederick laughs from the floor.