A Thousand Happy Lives

A Thousand Happy Lives

Youth. His father lived a thousand lives before he died at the age of 53. He worked as a security guard at the casino, watching 12 screens linked to cameras placed high above the throngs of people moving about below. Playing cards, pulling levers, drinking, laughing, shouting, generally unaware. Always drawn to the most interesting and dynamic outfits, hairstyles, physical peculiarities and mannerisms of the people who passed beneath his gaze, he gave each of them their own story and invented personalities, fleshing out pieces of his own being – his wishes, dreams, regrets, fantasies and inspirations – for them to live in his stead. At night he would share these stories with his son. The boy would stay awake long past what his mother told him was bedtime, waiting beneath the dinosaur bedspread for his father to come home, the bedside lamp still on and books on paleontology and planes scattered across the floor. His father sat at the foot of the bed, his face half-lit in the light of the lamp, and told him of the woman who was once a star goaltender for the German soccer team; she blew out her knee making a spectacular save at the World Cup. The man who had written poetry in his younger years, published three books in French, but never reached his full potential; he now spends his time at the blackjack tables. And there was a family of four today, their first vacation together, their first time leaving their hometown of Blooming Prairie in fact, and the experience will surely change them forever. And so on. But while...
A Restaurant from the Perspective of a Dishwasher

A Restaurant from the Perspective of a Dishwasher

It is nearly Christmas. The year is drawing to a close and I realize I will again be late on rent at the start of month. There is work available in my old friend Boron’s restaurant. He calls and asks, with a certain note of desperation, if I might be able to fill a dishwashing position recently vacated to, as he terms it, get him through the holidays. This is a notoriously busy time of year for restaurants, hotels, and other fixtures of the hospitality industry, when families come together, travelers arrive in town, and large companies plan large parties to spend excessive amounts of money on food and drink. A lot has changed – Boron tells me over the phone – I’ve had to make a few adjustments. All for the better, of course. The service industry is a volatile thing. Hospitality. What people expect. We must adapt or fall behind. I am to meet with him today to talk and take a tour of the restaurant. I wait for him at the bar, sitting on a stool and staring ahead at the colored bottles of cognac, chartreuse, fernet, gin and whiskey arranged neatly on back-lit shelves. My toes barely touching the hexagonal penny tile of the floor. When I finally see him I almost do not recognize him – he is no longer the young teenager I once knew, bright-eyed, unwashed and underfed. He is now a hardened man of twenty-four, with multiple employees under his direction, and the state of a stylish restaurant in one of the city’s most refined districts to manage, the success of...
Now India (7 Minutes to Sunrise)

Now India (7 Minutes to Sunrise)

The first sounds of the morning are of tuk-tuk and taxi engines as they come to life, their honking horns alongside the footsteps of the city’s informal working class taking to the streets. And, even earlier than that, the song and chant of Hindu morning prayer, and the feral dogs that slink to the shadows to sleep, no longer dominant as the sun begins its climb from behind Agra, India’s low hills.

The Depths of Finer Things

The Depths of Finer Things

The first time I died, Ima tells me, the sun flared its great, fiery disc and swallowed the whole world in a moment. And everything that had been was then no more. The second time I died, it was at the hands of a grand, dark army, their bayonets through my stomach and heart. And when I fell their boots marched over my corpse as though a body that falls was never standing to begin with.

Duality: On Conscience and Guilt

Duality: On Conscience and Guilt

The morning. Baby and I arrive in Berlin just after eight. It’s raining. A cold mist cleaves the streets. We left early and our eyes are half-open from half-sleep on the train. We lost our tickets crossing Karstädt and had to search our bags, our pockets, the floor when the conductor asked us where they were. We finally found them at the bottom of the valise, tucked away for safe keeping.