The Sick Dark Heart of Things by Adam Morris

Najibullah Zazi. A soothing name. Preparative, though I don’t yet know what for. Or what it means. To say it makes my tongue roll, my lips plump. The name reverberates in the high corner of the bare space I call my studio. Dances through my head, like they say. Who am I to say. I saw a photo of Najibullah Zazi in The New York Times the day he pled guilty to charges. They said throughout the proceedings he “seemed unaffected” and at times “smiled through his beard.” I like his beard. It is beautiful, and short and trim because he is young. A rich brown color, like chocolate. I am drawn to it despite my fear of them. Beards. Without his, he’d look a lot like me. Doubtless, that beard was what tripped him up. The reason someone began reading his email and tapping his phone and fishing his receipts out of the trash. Pogonophobia. It is rampant.

I used to like to cradle my own smooth chin in the crook of my hand and watch the newspaper clippings proliferate on the wall. Once, I thought I’d get my camera and take a picture of all of it hanging there. It was so gorgeous. But when the shutter had snapped I felt a flush creep up my neck. It burned in my cheeks. I ripped the camera from the strap around my throat. I heaved it over my head and dashed it to bits on the floor. I swept up the pieces quickly. Hid them in a drawer under some papers. But there’re still shards of glass and plastic in the cracks between the boards. The acrid smell of burnt film: I banished it with incense. With cabbage soup.

Before that: I also used get distracted standing at the sink where I would rinse my paintbrushes and my few dishes and also sometimes my underwear. I would watch the black blanch into feeble grey under the faucet and think of things. Sometimes it took the harsh hiss and squeal of the hot water pipe to remind me the spigot was open and that I was standing there wasting water. After that I’d pour loads of soap into the drain and watch the suds make mountains, then disappear. Wasting more water. I should’ve cared. I remember from French class that the imperfect tense is reserved for repeated habitual actions that may or may not continue to the present, in contrast to the finite actions of the preterit. I am still deciding just what this all means. Present continuous. Near the George Washington Bridge, Najibullah Zazi’s car was pronounced “clean” by the police. The New York Times refers to him, in its fashion, as “Mr Zazi.”

What mother said, in the hospital, after answering what plans I had for myself: you can’t make a living on that. Final futile maternal worries. It must’ve conjured memories of pennies jingling in her pocket as she fumbled to pay for cigarettes with change. I used to see her do it. Used to. Not long after it was finished. It was, she was. I’ve done all right. I loved her.Mr Zazi was a shuttle bus driver at the Denver airport. Sixteen hour shifts means the pay was bad. Four hours longer than the shifts his father worked as a Queensboro taxicab driver in the nineties. And before that: selling coffee on a corner of Wall Street. For ten years. You do the math. The FBI monitored his trips to Pakistan to visit his wife. God Bless America. Mr Zazi did not demure requests for interviews. He did a lot of talking. But the Times neglects the human-interest angle: are we not to know who drove Mr Zazi to the airport? It is my understanding he had been subject to “aggressive searches.” Also to training in bomb- making. Had been subject. The documents filed before the Bridge incident, before the scoured car, had been “hastily assembled.” Unlike mine.

I myself have taken a vow of poverty. A religious one. My vow is austere. I used to write poems and plays to get close to the heart of things I believed extravagant. Evil. The sick dark heart of things. The plaque- clogged heaving lurching cardiac arrest of things. What did I want? Be advised: may or may not continue into the present. I wanted my own to be the sickest and darkest heart of them all, knowing full well it never could be. When someone would literally die for you it is impossible to be the blackest soul. Or is it the other way around? I thought art would change things. It does, of course. When someone goes mad with pleasure or ambition or envy, things change, the world is a little bit more off-center, eccentric, but penetrated by one more thread of photons.

And I too. I knock upon myself as on a door.



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