Across The Wire Vol. 2


By Jesse Hilson

I was at a library and talking with a middle-aged woman and made a pass at her. I was telling her movies to watch and books to read. I touched her throat, then said I’m sorry, and are you married? She seemed alarmed but not like she was going to call the cops or anything. I think she gave serious thought to being unfaithful to her husband with me, like she wasn’t hostile to the idea but it made her feel very sad because she felt trapped. Only one other person lingered in the library with us, the librarian, another even older woman who sort of represented the middle-aged woman’s life and sense of propriety. She was pretending to read a book and waiting for us to be done with our conversation and leave.

I’m very attracted to you, I said, as if this fact should knock over everybody else’s needs and upend lives. Vronsky and Anna didn’t wait for the world to cohere around their wants. I didn’t say that at the time but I’m saying that now. This really happened and it’s still happening.

Then I drove her somewhere. It was a cross between LA and the town where I grew up. She ended up disappearing.

I’m the Son of Sam but instead of a dog, it’s a black mold pattern glyph on the wall at the head of my bed, behind the headboard that gets onto my pillows and seeps into my mind while I sleep, gives me hyperdreams. Grand Theft Auto Sadness. Antisocial fantasies in isometric pixel animations. And I don’t even like games.

I couldn’t give my wife a back massage because her back was covered with ink. Less a tattoo than a glossy book cover, like a catalog. For Xmas shopping. I said she had a lot of knots and tried to remember the parallel runways of muscles up both sides of her spine but the printed back ink was confusing me. I felt her big breasts. She kicked me out of the house. I tried to talk her out of it. A baby was walking around the room. It was such a bitter argument. It was forever. A typical theatrical event was happening elsewhere and I drove there listening to delusion-reinforcing music with cryptic lyrics as I used to do in that part of the city. At the theatre thing, which was full of kids because a lot of schools went there, an adult pulled a gun. They talked him into leaving and he was tackled by a tank of a security guard on the front lawn. I went to a concession stand inside which seemed familiar: and I bought three cannabis-infused bananas from the rip-off artist. Right away they got jumbled with normal bananas so I lost track of which ones had the drugs in them. So I ate three and went outside and there was a rock concert with people dancing and the band was playing the hit single from that year “(I Was) Standing In Heaven.” 

The interview they give to welcome new schizophrenics is called the IRIS (Ideas of Reference Interview Scale), and a high score on item 14 indicates that some message of significance has been sent to the interviewee through the media. In the Before Time, usually while driving, awake and not dreaming this time, I did perceive that — Kurt Cobain singing “Yeah” on the car radio meaning whatever random thought I was thinking at the moment I heard that verse of the song was true, song lyrics teased information about hidden Cotard arrangements, death marbled into life — but now it’s as if TV shows and movies and pop radio were daily rushes slipped quietly over the transom of my heavy-lidded eyes in REM aquarium depths. Dreams are safe psychoses (sike-oh-sees), rehearsals of virtual unreality. Wandering around fairgrounds honeycombed with tents and corrals no one wanted you to be in, populated with crooked firefighters, rapists, angry ghosts, disabled childhood friends, all in constant frenetic video game motion.

I am led by spectacle through dream-malls. Stage massive dynamic group-races that absorb me and take me along. Blood trips, voyages that always have some dramatic turning or betrayal among passengers, often family members. Shopping spaces, markets both indoors and outdoors, carve up group attention. An audience waits and peers into my dream-world. Mass media pilgrimages staged for someone, not me, not the dreamer displaced by the spectator’s passive ego. Everything is given a new portentousness, a signal within the dream transmission.

Setting up social media accounts, dating apps, work emails at my house, I had to come up with wifi superstitions to combat the ghosts that prevented multi-factor authentication from getting through. Everything’s combat. And the authentication code only arrives when it’s too late and you are no longer near the device. This is the shield of the poltergeist.

Frustration happened impacting the mood, paralyzed the mood-feeler beyond the actual obstruction causing the frustration. Can’t eat can’t sleep can’t perform simple tasks. The crazy man is a robot with one square task-peg stuck in his round queue-hole blocking a whole string of other later tasks, of all more amenable shapes. I don’t appreciate you setting the extroverted tempo. I have not intersected enough with all of you. Very well. I will take my chances. A noon whistle blotted out all repetitions of your name.

Jesse Hilson lives in the Catskills in New York State. His work has appeared in Maudlin House, Rejection Letters, Expat Press, Hobart, Exacting Clam, Don’t Submit!, Bruiser, Apocalypse Confidential, and elsewhere. He has published two novels, Blood Trip and The Tattletales, and a poetry collection Handcuffing the Venus De Milo. He is the founding editor of Prism Thread Books. He can be found on X and Instagram at @platelet60.