Joyland

Los Angeles |

Lungs

by Gerard Olson

Five miles away, we dream about going out to the swamps beyond the city, taking out our lungs and inflating them so they’ll lift us off the ground. I point my mouth up towards the night sky, in the midst of thousands of trees. My hand snakes down into my mouth. I feel my fingers, then my palm, then my wrist, then my forearm slide softly over my tongue, notching down my trachea. I grasp my bronchi and yank everything up through my mouth, inverting myself so that my lungs look like bleeding and breathing foliage on a steady trunk. We stand with our lungs up in the air, pointed upwards towards the stars. Little drops of red fall into my eyes. We ascend through the trees, the branches leaving tiny scratches on our faces. The way they brush over our abdomen, our arms, our hips, our legs makes us feel a little bit horny or mystical or horny. Above the trees, we see the domed shape of the earth. The horizon is made of bright light. It’s not quite as colorful up here as we wanted it to be. In the clouds, we see jellyfish. You wake me up and suck on my ear. You coo. I touch the border on your thighs where your underwear becomes your skin. I get excited. I lick your cheek. I touch your stomach. Accidentally, I call the police and tell them that we are going to bomb the city with fire. “Shit,” I say, “They’re on to us! They’ll be sending a hulk-of-a-man to get us any second.” There’s absolutely no time for you to change out of your robe into something warmer. There’s absolutely no time to stop cooing. There’s absolutely no time to hide the bombs. Outside, we can hear hovering and electricity. Wearing hats, we run out through the city, to the swamps. We go across the bridge that crosses over the river that comes from the mountains and leads to the sea. We decide that we’ll use the river to navigate, that we’ll go upstream to the farms up in the mountains. We’ll rent out a barn and play in the hay and experiment with new types of fire to bomb the city with. We’ll draw pictures with crayons and lay in front of the fireplace, under a blanket, on foggy, desolate days. We go to the swamps beyond the city and take out our lungs. We inflate them and float into the sky, into the clouds and we see all the jellyfish living inside and flashing light at each other. I float closer to you and touch your spine. Things will be alright. Five miles away, we’re a divorced man with strong metal arms. We work for the city. We want to break things. We have boots that let us fly through the air. We feel electric and strong. We’re better than robots ever would be, because we don’t have to live under the raven-shit-stained cloud of idealization Or, perhaps, five miles away, we just feel broken. And, also, we get told to fly over to this one address and find the people inside and shatter them. We get excited, maybe, and our arms overreact and rip your desk into shreds. You look at me. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s happening. I must have over-reacted. Without wanting to, I take a long, jagged piece of shattered wood and shove it down your throat. “I’m sorry.” I say. “I don’t know what’s happening. I have to go. I’ll be back as soon as I can and we can talk about this whole wood thing.” You mumble something to me through lumber. Your eyes are watering. Blood is starting to spurt between your teeth and the wood. I leave through the window. With you gone, as I float through the streets, I feel so alone and empty. I smash through the wall halfheartedly, but when I get inside, the people that I was sent to shatter aren’t even there. They’ve left us a note on the refrigerator. “Dear Bailey Hulk-of-a-man,” the note says, “I wish you a steady funeral and don’t get hurt by the one you love.” I realize that we’ve been sent to shatter my ex-wife and her other man. Or: my ex-wife and my brother. I need you even more now than I ever have. When I get back to you, you’re lying on your side. You’ve stopped breathing. The blood pooling out from your mouth is moving slow because it is starting to dry. Your hands are poised to scratch at your throat; there are finger scratches all up and down your neck. Your eyes are positioned open, bugging out towards the back wall. I can see your swirl of blue, like a whirlpool maybe. I try to pick you up softly, but my arms revolt again and I tear you in half. You are left connected by nothing but the snaking mess of your intestines. I start sobbing. This is not supposed to be happening. My arms are not part of my body. They are taking advantage of me because they don’t like being a part of me. I remember meeting you. Or you meeting me. I remember laughing at pictures of three-legged dogs with you. I remember being inside of you in the cave when we were spelunking up north. And I keep tearing you into smaller and smaller pieces. Fluids are staining the walls. And I am sobbing and shouting violent words to my arms. You end up being small sections all over the room, dripping. I collect you and put all of you in a basket. And as I wander through the city, small drops of you leak through the wicker of the basket. I’m sorry. We never thought it would end this way. I carry you over the bridge that covers the river that flows to the sea and comes from the mountains where all the farms are. I think about my ex-wife and our winter house in the mountains where we would go to ski whenever it snowed. I get to the swamps beyond the city and dig through the gory mess of you until I find your lungs. Miraculously, they are intact. I tie one end of a string to your trachea and the other end to the handle of the basket. I breath into your lungs and inflate them. They start to float up towards the clouds, to the stars. Through the trees, with their grasping branches. As they pull at the basket and slide through the wicker in the basket and brush against the wet pieces of you, I start to feel horny and lonely and horny. Maybe I go home and try to jack off. Things are getting too hard. Or, perhaps, five miles away, maybe we’re up in our barn by the fireplace and I’m dreaming and you’re rubbing my back and we are warm and decadent despite the cold. We are eating popcorn and little pieces of the kernels are getting stuck in our teeth. As I wake up, I feel like I’m being delectably put back together. I mention a plan that involves five thousand crocodiles rampaging through the town square. I mention a plan that involves fifteen dogs melting into the sidewalk. We are getting too hot. We move to open the window. Remember the time when we were divorcees and I tore you to pieces and put you in a basket and flew you into the clouds? You saw jellyfish, flashing light at each other. I’m sorry you died today. And I went home to try to jack off. And you just floated in your basket, up, over into the mountains. Up towards the farms. And we’re down there in a barn opening a window, so, as the window opens, you float in, in your basket and your lungs deflate and you settle near the fire place. I’m sorry anybody dies. We become frantic with the smell of the meat. The pieces warming aromatically by the fire. Climbing up into our noses and making us remember the days when our bodies were the only things to deal with. We feel so incredibly hungry. So incredibly hungry. We salivate in our mouths. We bicker over what has just happened. We edge closer to the basket. When it’s over, neither of us can remember who made the first move or how we proposed to do it. But, the pieces are gone and we are both stained around the mouth. The wicker basket has been ripped to shreds by our frenzy. We feel slightly ashamed. We cry and hold each other. It’s always horrible when this sort of stuff happens. And it always happens. It just never stops. “Goddamit,” you whisper in the dark, as the last of the fire’s embers orangely exhausts itself. Later that night I move my hands up your sides and I put my face close to yours, we both shiver. We’ve never had so much anticipation. Or we’ve never been so compelled to address our needs. Also, maybe, we’ve never felt this warm. Or this steady and proud to be back in the hills. And when everything ends and I stop rubbing you, I mention a plan that involves more baskets floating through our windows. I mention a plan that involves raising things on our barn that are not typical things to raise. Five miles away, we’re a boy sleeping in the night and we cannot wait to swim in the lake tomorrow morning. We’re dreaming that we were born a dog. We race through the night with our pack, through the forest, to the swamps beyond the city. We look up towards the stars and our lungs grow out of our mouth, inflate, and lift us through the trees. The way the branches rub at our skin through our fur makes us fall asleep and dream that we were born lizards. We rest atop a rock in the swamps beyond the city. We bask in the warmth of the night. Our lungs grow out through our mouth and inflate, lifting us up through the trees. The way the branches rub at our scales makes us fall asleep and we dream that we were born jellyfish. We float through the forests in the swamps beyond the city. Sometimes people mistake us for ghosts; we communicate with one another by flashing light. People associate these swamps with ancient and dark things. We sting at animals and eat them and never really mind the death. We float in the gaping fog. We see the stars above us. They are made of light. They communicate to us. We do not have lungs; our skin is thin, oxygen can easily diffuse in and out of us. We float up towards the clouds, flashing light the whole way. And the way the stars shine back and the way the clouds smell make us fall asleep and dream that we’ve snuck back into town to kidnap children who are sleeping in the night and cannot wait to swim in the lake tomorrow. We’re outside a window and look inside to see a child. We open the window, wearing hats, and sneak in. The boy stirs in his sleep. We wake up from our dream about dogs. We see us sneaking through the window, wearing hats. We see us with a bottle of chloroform. We smell vapors. The night multiplies around us. It’s always horrible to hear about things like this. It just breaks our heart. On our way out of the room, you touch my body. I nibble at your ear. I reach down your pants. Accidentally, I call the police and tell them that we’re stealing the city’s children to eat them. “Shit,” I say, “They’re on to us! Hurry!” We carry the body through the night, over the bridge that covers the river that flows from the mountains into the sea, into the woods. We open mouths, we pull out lungs, we inflate, we float home. On our way up through the trees, the branches leave red scratches on our face. They brush over our abdomen, our breasts, our genitalia, our rectums. We have never felt so hungry or horny or horny or horny. Or hungry. Five miles away, I’m trying to reassemble my desk. I miss you so much. I remember watching you drift softly through the trees in your basket, in pieces. I miss you so much. My metal arms will not allow my desk to be reassembled. I’ve smashed most of the pieces into splinters. I’ve stabbed myself twelve times. I am bleeding. And, also, we get told to fly over to this one address and shatter a kidnapper. Maybe I miss you as I fly through the sky. Again, I smash through the wall and there’s no one inside. No one to shatter. My arms reach over to the imprinted, empty bed and tear the mattress to pieces. And, hearing my racket, parents come down the hall and see me, sobbing. The father approaches me and my arms reach out and shatter his skull. There is a note on the bed, but I tear it to shreds before I can read it. Or, maybe, I’m dreaming. We are bloated with meat. Sticky with liquids. We are so incredibly satisfied. We’re up in the mountains. In a barn and we’re so warm. We’re both sleeping and dreaming that our ex-husband and our brother is ripping a child’s father to pieces, maybe. Or maybe we dream about koalas, pilgrims and vampires. “I love you like forever, you make me think of a bird.” we whisper into the dank, red dark. And we think of a bird. It is red. It is black. The bird is in a tree. It’s feathers are ruffled. It is raining. The bird is shivering. I’m so sorry that things can be unpleasant. The bird is diseased, maybe. Water collects on the bird’s feathers. We imagine the bird on television. The bird is made of sand. The bird has no skin and is spraying blood across the room. We’re sorry that this type of stuff happens. No one wants this sort of thing to happen. The bird flies out the open window, screeching as it goes. It is in so much pain. It sprays blood everywhere. Though it has no skin or feathers, it can still fly. And it flies downstream, down the mountain, towards the city. It flies downtown, past the lake, to a building, where I am sitting in my room missing you. I am missing my ex-wife. I am missing you. To prevent damage, I have detached my arms and locked them in the closet where they writhe and pound at the floor. The bird, bleeding horribly, lands on the windowsill and squeals at me. It is made of dried membrane. Black and red. Even without its feathers, it is black and red. I think of you and the way you looked as I tore you to shreds. I am pathetic. I start sobbing. The bird reminds me of driving out to a turkey farm with my ex-wife and watching the birds get beheaded and plucked. We were up in the hills. It was thanksgiving time. I imagine my ex-wife eating children instead of turkey. I imagine her with my brother. This is really all so ridiculous. What garbage. What horrendous trash. I need to clear my mind. I miss you so much. My lungs are too full of unclean air. I feel so limp and useless. So incredibly limp and useless. I need mountain air. Or I need to be able to reconnect with my past. I put on my boots and my arms and fly out towards the swamps, towards the mountains where I need to kill dead things. In the clouds, I see jellyfish flashing light at each other to communicate. They move as if in a thick liquid. They look like ghosts. They touch me deep down. It’s a sadness for beginnings. I remember meeting you. Or you meeting me. I remember the first time I touched you and you pulled yourself closer. Or: I remember meeting my ex-wife. I remember laughing with her about birds in the zoo. I remember kissing her, drunk, at a party. I remember how sweet beginnings are. And how they don’t ever change. And how good they should feel. The jellyfish gather in a line and bounce around me in a circle. They flash so much light. It’s as if the Jellyfish are gone. The only thing is the light. We look up at the clouds through our window in our barn. “Look at the lightning,” you say. Outside, in the cold, strapped to a pole, is a boy from the city. We are about to run out there and butcher him. I smell your neck and your hair. You smell like a void, like a cave. We are such gentle people. It’s a shame about what’s happened to us. As we began to gut the boy below, I’m above floating in the clouds. And I feel so calm. I feel so incredibly calm. The light around me keeps me occupied. It is so beautiful. I think about opening my eyes in the mornings and how that is one of the best beginnings. We open our eyes in the morning and that first glance is just so bright. It hurts, but it gives us such a feeling of potential. Our stomachs are still full from the night before. My hand is on your inner thigh. We’re both naked, which makes us feel horny and optimistic. Also, hungry again. Outside, there are no clouds in the sky, so I don’t know where the jellyfish went. But I’m floating up here above a barn. My arms, sensing confusion, smash at my legs and feet and destroy my boots. I fall through blue. I think about the way we swam in the river and came out covered in algae. I think about the way we would find clams up near the shore and we would bring them home and smash them with a hammer, just to demonstrate our power. I miss you so much. I think about getting caught in the rain without an umbrella and laughing because it was funny, presumably. Above us, I crash through the ceiling and fall onto the bed next to us. I am dazed. Almost unconscious. My ex-wife is naked in bed next to me. She is framed by the light coming in through the window. Her mouth is stained red. She is bloated with sex and food. She looks so hideous and shocked. My arms reach over and crush her head. This time, I’m not sure which side is controlling what or if my arms are even broken still. But, I rip her into small, dripping pieces which scatter across the bed and stain the white sheets. I used to be a good person. No one likes hearing about stuff like this. Even though it happens every day. Afterwards, my arms are flailing, grasping at other things to destroy. They rip the sheets. They punch holes in the wall. They grab my leg and tear it from my body. They toss my leg through the window. I am screaming in pain and anguish. I do not like the current situation and I need to find a way to amend it. My arms grasp my stomach and tear it open and I spill everywhere. They position themselves on my upper and lower jaw and pry in opposite directions until they crush my skull. They rip themselves from my torso and run into the woods to reproduce. Afterwards, I’m the only one left. My brother has destroyed everything. All that is left is scraps. I don’t like to see people die. This is such a shame. This is such a waste. I think about wanting to bury you in the woods or by the swamps. I think about the branches that rub against our bodies when we ascend and I feel horny and hungry and the way the sun is evaporating the liquids into vapors off of your dripping pieces makes me feel even more so. I eat until I am so bloated that I can hardly move. Every dripping piece is gone, except for your lungs and my brother’s lungs. I do not want to be like this. I cry until the entire barn floods and I’m washed outside. It is night, now. Why am I so hungry? Why do I feel so insatiable? Why do I want to touch you right now? I hate stories like this. This is just all so ridiculous. This hurts me so bad. I inflate your lungs. I inflate my brother’s lungs. You both rise into the sky. In the night. As you rise through the dark, the light from the stars shines down and makes you translucent. It makes you shimmer. It makes you flash light at one another to communicate. You could be mistaken for ghosts. You both ascend into the clouds and I lay down on the grass to try to jack off. Things are just getting too hard. And now I just feel so incredibly alone.