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Tattoos Make Men Tough The Way Decals Make Cars Fast

Simon Moya-Smith
8/31/14

Rats on the platform. Tough guys with tattoos quiver, juke, shriek. Moments later, they're tough again. Dates guffaw. "You're a bitch," one says. "Screw you!" he shouts. "I just don't like them." .... The coward. He leans to vomit on the rails; friends hold his skull. 2:17 a.m., NEW YORK CITY.

Train is a no show, "but I'm still right here, giving blood, keeping faith, but I'm still right here." – Maynard James Keenan said that, and his lyrics are true tonight if they ever were. Earlier, I'd gotten into a scuffle with a drunkard in a van as I attempted to cross from one Brooklyn corner to another. He wouldn't let go of the horn. Things were yelled. Wild gesticulations flung into the air. And then it was back into the night for me, the ominous hollow. Where the hell is this train going to take me anyway? I thought. To Queens? Will the railcar be empty when it arrives? Or will a gang of crazy mad midnight revelers blitzed on drink corner me, take me hostage, nick my phone and wallet, leave me bloodied on the subway floor for others to happen upon? "I swear, officer, we found him just like this, reaching for his teeth under the seat. My first thought was that maybe this was a racially motivated attack, but I don’t know. … He looks Italian or something." … So this is how I'll die. I've always been melodramatic. Many years studying drama and then a sudden transition into a local rock band has rendered me this way. Yes. When I'm sad I'm inconsolable. When mad I rage like a prodded wolf caught in a net. There's no definition for my kind of happiness. From one extreme to the next. It's madness. I once confessed to Jeremiah Bitsui that I can't write unless I'm in character. Sitting before a blaring white screen, whiskey & Coke on the table and my seen-better-days grandfather pipe somewhere nearby, I invariably ask myself, "Who in God's name am I right now? Who's music shall I play? Poe's? Kerouac's? ..." Right. I play Thompson like Gould played Bach. ... And still no train.

Just more rats, shamed men vomiting and whimpering for mama. "Tattoos make a man tough like decals make a car fast," said Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker during his acceptance speech of his second Pulitzer Prize some years back. Has a Native American ever won a Pulitzer? Maybe Deloria Jr.? Alexie? I'm not sure, but I highly doubt it. The Pulitzer Board labors under the illusion that Native Americans still communicate through smoke signals and etchings in caves, and, well, these board heads are not literate that way anyway. Not like us. They're still far behind. If you can't read double plumes or an illustration of a fox with a doomed snake in its wily jaws, then, goddamnit, you're too ill equipped to judge our fine ancient wisdom. ... And still no train.

The wimp with muscles finally realized it was time to go to the hospital. His hurling had gone far beyond that of a common drunk. Projectile vomiting of that mass and magnitude is indicative of malicious poisoning. Rat poison? I thought. It doesn't seem to have affected these rodents at my ankles. Men the drunkard's size are heavy lifting to get up a flight of stairs, esp. when they go limp like a meathead corpse. A family of fat rats chased the group up the steps as a smaller stumbling sot dragged the poisoned body behind him. Rats can sense death and doom like discarded food or any dead dumped in an alley. Yes. These rats believed the drunkard was theirs now, and the group removing the beast from the platform was depriving them of fresh flesh. So they charged, hissed and squeaked until the group was out of sight, topside again, and then the rats retreated, back to their hole, defeated and hungry. Maybe I was feeling the same way. I was also hungry, and I had been, after all, cheering for the rats to take the muscled wimp for dinner. Did I relate with them? The rats? Was I losing it again? My mind will often wander and descend into abysmal places, and, oddly, when the hour strikes 3 a.m. I was once told that 3's the witching hour, and no night goes by where I don't rouse, suddenly, at 3 a.m. ... And still no train.

I'm beginning to think I'm in an abandoned station. The rats here have taken over. Rat Station. A massive rodent reportedly chased a man the other night at a stop on 42nd Street as he waited for the train. The man, a journalist, filmed the attack. He laughed later at the matter during a CNN interview, but I wouldn't have. A rat won't always chase you because the thing suffers from rabies or it's protecting its babies. No. Sometimes they sense your doom, an illness. If I were one of the MTA workers who first responded to the scene, I would've advised the railrider to immediately go see a physician. Something might be seriously wrong. A clot? Syphilis to rot the brain? Had he gone to the doctor following the incident with the bloodthirsty rodent, the Dr.’s would probably, today, be applauding the rats like they do dogs who chew off toes and fingers brimming with cancer. Humans test cosmetics on animals when we should be living amicably with them, our relatives. But humans are too low a species for that kind of respect for all living things. We pet puppies, call our ourselves animal lovers and then devour buckets of bacon. What a hypocrite. All of us. On so many levels. Everyday. But we ignore it. Pass the buck. Point the finger. Absolve our depraved behavior at every justifiable turn. Right. Before I am Native American I am human, and then, just above that, but not by much, I am guilty and so are you. ... And still, no train.

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