Chairman of His Own Black Suit
Man in the Black Suit claimed to be an IMPORTANT MAN, chairman of the board of DataCo Inc. Research the credit of the people; research backgrounds of license applicants; research lives of potentially dangerous “citizens.” Database, database, government monkey work.
Man in the Black Suit said I’d been recommended highly. Who had he spoken to? The Client to whom I send my copy? But I don’t send my work to clients, I send it to the Agency.
Man in the Black Suit is a liar. He’s chairman of nothing but his own black suit. Damn his black suit. Bizarre, a suit in this part of town. Tenements. Rats. Chickens. Dirty children. Ubiquitous workers in and out of work night and day thank god for all-night groceries and diners.
“If you’re so important, why do you live here?” I asked.
“Who said I lived here?” he said.
“That’s your apartment, directly above mine, is it not?”
“Yes,” said Man in the Black Suit. “So, what’s your point?”
Parable of the Dream Angel Gymnast
Man in the Black Suit haunted my doorway. Where could he sit but on my futon, laid directly on the floor? The folding chair on which I work? But that is for me. I filled two smallish glasses with bourbon. What are you doing here in my apartment, drinking my cheap booze? I had a dream, he said, and told me the following:
“My flying gymnast visits from abroad. She’s beautiful. She loves me. Straps, harnesses, pulleys, cables. I fear for her safety. Bloodthirsty audience below, but she flies masterfully. She changes to furs and denim, and goes off to explore – I’d rather she didn’t, but I’m confident of her love. She’s out for the night. She’ll be back. I’m anxious.
“I hang with the boys, old high school friends, though I don’t know them. Up in Elvis’s hotel suite, I take conference calls; big deal brewing; they want to screw us but we hang tough – I want to make this sale and take my flying gymnast someplace warm…
“Phone calls and counter-phone calls last for hours. Anxious drinking, smoking, nothing done – I’m mortified. I want to kill myself.
“I return to the party of old friends who are strangers: I’ve failed egregiously.
“My gymnast returns. Hasn’t she heard the news? Has she not looked at the sky and read for herself the script of my descent? Of course! Out in the street my utter failure and defeat are common knowledge, but she could care less about the power prattle of the City – I’m not an insect, I’m a person.
“Her bronze hand leads me, step by step, to heaven…”
So what is one to make of such a tale? A dream he actually had? I think not. A parable belched from his sad, lonely heart.
A flesh and blood woman came up to his apartment occasionally. A student at the University, not much younger than myself. Man in the Black Suit must have been fifty. You can hear everything in these tenements. Of course I’d hear them. Then afterward, music, the Dancer’s bare feet sweeping his hard wood floor. Above my head. While I was trying to work. I didn’t mind.
On my way out for beer and cigarettes he buzzed her in I watched her float ghostly through the corridor, passed me on the stairs, she was thin, as a dancer should be, and smelled of, oh, I don’t know, flowers or some kind of perfume. You know.
Music and Cigars
I got a buzz on up there. Scotch, cigars, an old LP of Grandpa Jones: “They call it that good ol’ mountain dew/and them that refuse it are few…”
We were both up late in his apartment. Man in the Black Suit had the greatest selection of country music in the world, all on LP, and some decent Dominican Churchills. Long, relaxing smokes. Me, I had nothing in my apartment but my futon, a folding table, books, and my machine.
Man in the Black Suit said profound stuff, or stuff that sounded profound, like:
“Those who can’t do, leach.” and
“Do not hate, but rather use THEIR bad energy against THEM.”
“If goodness can be chewy and chocolaty, who would aspire to such sticky virtue?”
“Where are the people going with their heads down? They are going to work.”
“In my youth I sowed wild words.”
Shit like that.
In the Playground
Man in the Black Suit entered the playground, women’s eyes upon him. Necks stiffened. He was not supposed to be there, for he had no child of his own. But he had heard a boy on the swings chant, “I’m going to live to be a hundred and seven yeeeaaaars old!” repeatedly. He approached the child. “Do you love life that much, little boy?” Before the child could answer, the mothers surrounded Man in the Black Suit. What kind of question was that to ask a little boy? Who is this weird man? Someone call the police. Man in the Black Suit left to avoid further commotion.
Man in the Black Suit ate a sandwich. Man in the Black Suit was naked, even in his black suit.
You Won’t Have Man in the Black Suit to Kick Around Anymore
He tried to speak; they wouldn’t listen. “They” being the half-ghosts of erstwhile children whose shells inhabited the office buildings and ranch-style houses of the Nation. So, Man in the Black Suit left public office. Never to return?
Get an ID. A license. Gray Gap-Wendy’s-Starbucks- Duane-Reade- Barnes-and-Noble- afternoon. The bank. This bank and that one. Department of Self and Others, where Man in the Black Suit bought an identity for six dollars. He took a decent photograph. Did not smile. Drank Coca-cola. Waited. The woman behind the counter called his name. His laminated card was ready. Man in the Black Suit sheathed his likeness, like a dagger, in his wallet.
Into The Family Head.
I visited my Sister and her husband, a man of many whiskers and hard work. Within the cubes of a modern home clear boundaries exist. Violence and Power are partitioned, usually, according to state or local custom. Morals delineated.
The children are feted and fed. Pizza, pasta, crunchy-sweet cereal. The appliances are breaking. The year is One. The family is one. Dad gets a blowjob every night. His due. Mother acquiesces, though sometimes she is tired. Where is the God that was promised? Where is the money? Work hard. Study hard. They promised us candy. They promised us feathers.
The Man in the Black Suit did not concatenate his lineage. He did not extend. Whatever began in past times ended with him.
Man in the Black Suit shot a man (not in a Black Suit) outside our building. The guy got up and ran with three bullets in him from the tiny pistol Man in the Black Suit carried against his backside, a gun not meant to kill, merely to mortify.
The guy had tried to mug us. “Gimme yer money,” he’d said. Man in the Black Suit said, “He has it,” and looked in my direction. The would-be mugger pointed his gun at me and in that instant Man in the Black Suit plugged the bastard thrice in the chest. He collapsed. “Lose the weapon,” said Man in the Black Suit. The mugger tossed away his gun.
Bleeding, gasping, he got up and ran to the hospital, which was only five blocks away. We read in the paper the next morning that a man, who was wanted on other charges, admitted himself into the hospital, and eventual police custody, with gunshot wounds, but he would not say how he got the wounds or at whose hands. The man was in critical but stable condition. Of course the bullets could be traced to Man in the Black Suit’s registered gun. So the two of us went down to the police station the next day and told our story. We brought the assailant’s gun in a paper bag. It was the gun he’d used in several other crimes. Man in the Black Suit was hailed as a hero in the papers, though he refused to be interviewed, or to press charges against the failed mugger. “He has problems enough,” said Man in the Black Suit.
Man in the Black Suit studied Zen. Man in the Black Suit studied Yoga. Man in Black Suit meditated. Man in the Black Suit danced.
I Want, I Need, I Crave
This apartment. This Studio. Six-fifty a month. Rent stabilized. I can be alone in this apartment and get my work done, thanks to the network, the machine. No longer do I have to rise early to sit in some office cubicle, some cube. I can get my work done here at home. Home being here. Such as it is. The neighborhood is changing. So I read in the newspapers. I don’t notice much. They’re up-scaling. Shoveling out the lower-income folks and building condominiums. Maybe they’ll target my building. I don’t make much money, just enough to get by. But I won’t worry for now. I have my work, and my books. There’s a grocery on the corner. I don’t go out much. Once I went out often. I’m twenty-five years old. No spring chicken. Beyond the going out stage. Once I had women. But none of them stuck. Now I am here alone. I have my work. I watch the people leave in the morning. The ones who go to offices and what not. Man in the Black Suit goes to an office, I assume, for he leaves the building every morning at eight and returns sometime after six. I suppose I’ll be like that when I’m fifty. Living alone, as he does. As I do. But I won’t go to an office, for now there are machines to connect me. I work at home. Sometimes, despite the machine, the connection, I have to go into an office to meet with a client. We meet, we talk. Then I go home to do the real work. I read the newspapers, usually on the machine. The world does not impress me. Once…I don’t know. I was young. Would I mind terribly if the world disintegrated this instant? Rather than this prolonged dissolution? Terminal case. Nothing to be done, on my part anyway, but work. Books on my shelf are full of dreams. I’m a dreamer, that’s my problem. The teachers said so, centuries ago, when I was a student. You’re a dreamer, they said. I read the sports pages. For the records. The numbers. The conversion of deeds into minutia. I never watch the games. They bore me. Anyway, I don’t own a television. I used to speak to my mother on the phone. But she’s dead now. She died disappointed. In me, as well as in herself. She was not much older than Man in the Black Suit. I speak to my father, occasionally. He doesn’t work much now that he’s remarried. He chose wisely. A rich woman. They dine out every evening. I’ve joined them a few times. I won’t go into that now. The competition, the deep antagonism between father and son. It’s only natural. I need a drink. I need a cigarette. I need. I need. What time is it? I keep strange hours. I go to sleep when the workers are leaving for their day, and I’m showered and ready for work, coffee brewing, just as they, poor tired masses, are returning to their homes. All of this outside my window. It’s good to have a window. Better than television. I watched a lot of shows when I was young. My passive mind was open. Perhaps that’s why I always want. Something. I’m not sure what. I’m never sure. I want, I need, I crave.
To Each His Boswell and the Nevermore
This is the moment of vanishing. The momentary moment which is constant. All moments passing. Man in the Black Suit will never leave me. Say the moment, save the moment. Perilous. Unforgiving. Forge the moment, carry the moment. Let me look back at the accumulation. Of moments. Soon we will be going. Let’s leave this place. Forever. Forever is forever is a long time is oblivion. A concept that clings. Watching Man in the Black Suit, and me, his Boswell. Boswell alone in his apartment clinging to moments. Boswell attached to his earning machine his connection. His living machine. His friend. Man in the Black Suit is not his friend, merely his avocation. His subject. Not everyone can be an artist, you know. There are starving children in the world their mouths open like baby birds. Boswell in his nest in the City. Man in the Black Suit about town. Time. Passing. Time is passing. Don’t think we’re unaware of this. The disappearance. No pills to take. No bills. No clinging to the nevermore.
Tap, Tap, Tapping
Man in the Black Suit said,
“And after we’re gone and new life again as long as the earth spins, until it stops, and the sun grows dark or big bloated red as a toe with gout, then where will your stories be, your poems, your wordy opinions? You’re a fool.”
I said, “It is pleasurable to walk the streets of the City with a buzz on, or dead drunk, for that matter. My checks from the Agency come in the mail. I must go to the bank to deposit them. I drink before going to the bank. Sometimes I linger about the shops. Stop into a deli for a beer. Sip it through a straw.”
Nothing is growing. Antagonism, anomie. Peanutbutter stuff. Opinions of the wretched. Exercise these thoughts. See deep. Man in the Black suit stepped on a cupcake. Man in the Black suit polished his gun. Breathing is better than knowing. Take a long run through the park and breathe.
I refuse to speak of Man in the Black Suit. I will speak (or write) only of myself.
How many men in black suits are there? How many can there be? I remember the old black-and-white films. Men in black suits abounded. Were they good or were they evil? Are they tailored suits, or do they buy them off the rack?
What do the poets say of men in black suits? Who cares what the poets say?
I was a reporter. Now I write advertisements, marketing proposals, copy. Pays better and a lot less yakking on the phone.
The Dancer danced a million years.
Loose and alone on my excer-cycle in the corner of the room, I’m touched by genius.
There is no Omniscient Author
They marry, so as not to be alone. They work, and they are entertained. They die, one at a time, and are alone. Fear of life, fear of death, fear of time. What happens, happens.
Wouldn’t know a poem from a shot of Novocain.
And the poets with their lightening inspiration Muse. That is no country for us flat-liners on excer-cycles! Peddling nowhere to receive stationary visions.
Mistuh Black Suit, He Dead
Black in the box. Color of morning and night.
A crowd gathered in the park to mourn Man in the Black Suit.
Me, I might have another forty, fifty years to go.
If I grow cold before the machine has gleaned my teaming brain… I want a black suit; I want heaven.
ADAM ENGEL has suffered business suits, lawsuits, hirsutes and hot pursuits, but never a Black Suit. This is his first novelini. One day he hopes to write the Great American Novelini. Anyone interested in purchasing one medium-sized black suit please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Will accept best offer.