Do You Remember?

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

Do you remember when I bought that old theater, sold my house and lived in the basement with the rats and the roaches and the scuttling things that I couldn’t identify? Do you remember before I got too bitter to kill those things, when I let them chew at the woodwork, when I ate one meal a day, always dinner always at someone’s house, some part time actor with a real job that paid for me to eat, or when I lived, lover to lover, each of them paychecks for me to breathe and eat and work on with, me and one of those computers you held on your lap, not in your hand, on your lap and worked and worked, when an internet connection was something I’d pay more for than food, when it was something you could steal?

I scrubbed that old theater. I scrubbed it with old t-shirts down on my hands and knees between every aisle, scrubbed the bottom of those cherry seats, all two hundred of them, till each one of them, dented or cracking, shined for me, my indoor orchard.

Remember my signature suit, the one I stole from the donation box of the goodwill so I wouldn’t have to pay the five dollars for it inside? Remember cash money and the way it felt like cloth and paper all at once? Cartoons never got paper right in those days, like being drawn on paper meant somehow that you couldn’t draw paper.

Do you remember the men who smelled like patchouli and wore sandals and laughed and cried all in the same night, both of us laughing and crying with them riding their emotions like a drug? Do you remember the boys who looked like girls who loved boys who looked like men? Do you remember Ronald, after he went off to the global war, and the way he looked when he came back, the metal and plastic in his chest blowing and humming its war tune though his body? Do you remember staying up till those cold blue dawns, Ronald still shirtless, playing drinking games, playing truth or dare moving past screwing and drugs and deviation till we asked, hey, has anyone here ever killed, and Ronald raising his hand and bringing that silence to the theater, that big, full, quiet, strong and loud as any applause. All those giant emotions swirled around in my drinks back then, oceans of drink.

Do you remember the greasepaint and the girls who smelled so sweet that I thought they would stick to my hands, that they would rub off on me, into me? I remember loving every single one of them, falling in love every night of a show, each show a fever. I was the starving delirious kind of all that magic. Remember how the cops threw me out of my own theater because it wasn’t residential, or how pest control shut us down for a week before a show? Do you remember the way that I begged and pleaded with everyone I knew who had part time jobs, who had money, who knew money, to give me some so that I could spend it on that old breaking theater?

Do you remember when they came with their little boxes, those cheap squares that could make the little machines that would scrub floors, repair chairs, fix and mend? Do you remember how we cracked them open to see how they worked, had them make us all food out of the rats and the show bills that was barely food, but we knew we wouldn’t have to worry about eating anymore? Do you remember when the girls started to freeze-dry, to turn into plastic at sixteen, so that no breast ever sagged, no wrinkle ever folded? Do you remember feeling like a pedophile the first time you slept with one? Do you remember when the men stopped running off to war and played at it from home like a game? Do you remember how the new people, that new guard said that we were missing all the art because it wasn’t here anymore, it wasn’t wrapped up in the tangible?

Am I old that I don’t want to move my body to a tank? Am I old that I want to scrub my cherry seats and smell my greasepaint? Have I missed the train to the next world, an old guard, and a relic of past time, a giant on whose shoulders a castle is standing? I do not understand the intangible world of numbers and glow in the world made of those bright young minds. But I am not lost. I do remember, children, I remember before, and I will learn to share with you, so that you can carry my memories with you.

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