Joyland

The Midwest |

Amerikana Dreaming

by Nikita Nelin

edited by Anna Prushinskaya

One day we were gypsies, and the next we were kings. We were vagrants and lust-givers, catatonic, exuberant, strung out, unhurried, and even optimistic. We thought we would celebrate each other forever.

But Jakko made it to his mattress, just before dawn, and with his hands casually grasped behind his head, he went to sleep like a bohemian Jesus and never woke up.

Catherine, or Pixie as she was called then, because she could disappear, and because she gave a magical blow job and everybody knew it, she was the first to go away to one of those places -- soft white walls, poker-deck coffee cups, nothing caffeinated, by doctor's orders -- and when she was out, she had flush in her skin again, and her collarbones no longer protruded, but she sat in that corner, like the last note of a whisper, while we danced. And there was nothing magical about her anymore, and she thought this, and it was sad to watch her disappear like that...until one day there she was with us again and falling. And she was disappearing all over again, in that same way the rest of us were.

Eric was arrested and his dogs went hungry because there was no one to beat them, or love on them, because his girl Julie would not come around -- what with the threat of surveillance -- and nobody yet knew what she suspected. And so for those who came around, another had just disappeared, with only autographs left on the yellowed walls of the apartment below.

We were a duplex, a broken home, a new American convention, the product of others' wishes and dreams.

Timothy and Rory made plans to go back to college, and I would join them, lead them, but we were the youngest of them all, and so our plans vanished into the silence of the blue hour while we surfed into the storm...words adrift into the creases of this silence and locked away. We, the beads of an abacus. We, the high generation, the poets without letters and means.

Becca was pregnant for a while, and we hope the spirit never entered the womb, because it too would have been locked away into the crease of everything un-sensed, everything tilted just so, everything vanished, everything without a purpose but craving, when the mangled body was lost. And for a moment we were awake to the slope of things, the countdown and the loneliness of the clock.

Some died, some went to prison, some turned and spied on others. Red and blue lights crept up like a fever, but it was too late to keep the peace. All changed forever, but to what no one would tell.

It was 1999. The end was near. This was our Real World, our unlit stage.

Only I kept a record. I fell with the rest of them, but by some trick of stupidity, I remember everything in my ESL tongue. This was long ago now. Safe to look back. Time had come to change things, and things soon changed the times. I recorded it all, from the center and from the borders...because one day, we were gypsies, and next we were kings, and there was never enough time to celebrate each other forever.