Copy Queen Papers, part 2

THIS IS PART 2

• THE COPY QUEEN PAPERS

part 2, Italia conitnuato

[9/27 Editor’s note: though edited and mailed from the ROK this was written in ITALY some five months past; I think only one or two persons have seen this so…]


This is the new communal letter. I have always tried to live by the ethics of communism, and in that spirit you all get the same letter. Isn’t that enlightened of me?


May 1996

DEAR Y’ALL,

What can I tell you?

Where I am is the Duomo in Milan,
and I started the day on psilocybin.
What I am is drunker than Pan,
relaxing face down on the porcelain.

It’s May. What’s the news? New(s). You learn a lot about your own language when you hear it from non-natives. You appreciate it a lot better too. Believe me. But that was the mistake, assuming that the obvious nature of the boy was eclectic or somehow high. It was just so simple, so simple. I was going to avow that I would stop waving the literary knife around like a fool. I was going to. That was last night. There’s been a change.

I’m working on a new ad jingle for myself. How does this sound? “Ashley does more before being kicked out of a country than most persons do after naturalization.”

I had no idea you could eat so much raw pork and survive. Although I suppose raw and cured are not quite synonymous, some of this stuff is barely even cured. This place is a kosher nightmare. The meat companies here are proudly declaring that they only buy Brazilian beef. No muche pazze (crazy cow virus) in Sud America. So though they are helping scuttle England (Yippee!) and keep Italians safe from viral brain infections, they are also sponsoring the burning down of the rain forests. A young lady was damning the USA a couple nights back for their treatment of Guatemala. She’s nice… but so stupid. I thought Italians were more worldly because they get less biased news that Americans. But information and thinking have no causality link at all. There are no degrees of evil, Mr. Senator. What’s wrong is wrong. The lesser of two evils is a trap. Why choose evil at all? Because that’s what your kind offers, as the only alternative. That’s the trap. Take my evil because, though evil, it’s better than the alternatives. There is always a clean choice…

So, I met Stefi Graf the other day. I was in the mood for a prank so I pulled out a steak knife and started dancing around like Vanilla Ice. The security guys jumped me and beat me silly and nobody even smiled, let alone laughed. I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t think it was funny, but then I remembered it was Monica Selas that got stabbed on the court… no wonder nobody laughed. Boy is my face red.

I learned some German on my trip to Bologna. Here goes: Keine gegenstaende aus dem fenster werfen.

Now I’m going to write what amounts to a tourist letter. But it has a nasty ending so it’s okay.

I was in San Remo, Monte Carlo, and such, a couple weeks ago. I caught a gecko. Handsome little animal. Grey skin and granite eyes. Italians, like all city people, are afraid of animals. I picked it up and a friend of mine was quite alarmed. Telling me to put it down before it bit me. Well, it didn’t bite. There is another girl I met who is terrified, no joke, of cats. She won’t get within fifty feet of one. I asked if it was because when she was a little girl she wanted a cat and her mother would hit her every time she asked to have one. Well, of course, my sarcastic guess was just black enough to be the truth.

I got work for which I am being overpaid. This family needs an English tutor for their boys. But since it’s unofficial work it doesn’t change my extracommunitario status. I still get booted out of here (the Boot) in exactly thirty days. Since the State Department has declined to answer my love letter it looks like I’m not going into the foreign service just now. Unless I can get the Japanese to kick down with a visa.

I was on a movie set a couple days ago. They’re filming in a business warehouse/office that the family I’m working for owns. A cop show. The star is a handsome Israeli boy. Long hair and silver hoops. When he turned and saw me he stared intently for about ten seconds. I think he was afraid I was there to replace him. We looked more than a little alike. Though he’s much prettier. I worked on my script there.

I’ve become proficient with the mass transit system here. Trollies, busses, trains, and subways. I was accosted by a beggar on the train back from Bologna. He told me he needed money for medicine. For proof he produced his forearms and the horrible reddish swelling thereon. Well, I may be from a small town but I knew what kind of medicine he was looking to buy. I didn’t have that much money… If I did, perhaps our positions would have been reversed. I mean life is only affected by circumstances. If one or two things had been different I’m sure I’d be a junkie begging dimes for skag on inter-city trains on the eastern seaboard. Thanks be to God for allowing me to have a different fate.

I had no idea I was in this mood. You will forgive me won’t you? Please say someone will forgive me.

It rains a lot right now. I love it. The Italians hate it. It’s pouring now. Every time I’m ready to relocate to Seattle it rains. Maybe the world is telling me something. Maybe Kurt Cobain is.

Italians all throw like girls. No offence, girls, but you throw that way, what can I say? (Except Pat, who did javelin, she throws like a boy; way to go, Pat!) They never play baseball or catch or basket(ball) or anything like that. They can all kick like mules though. From soccer, which is calcio in Italian. Calcio literally means kick. I feel a little inadequate playing soccer with them. But when I saw a bunch of them playing frisbee… well, I didn’t feel so bad.

I talked with Orion Cervio on the phone for a half an hour. He called from Zimbabwe (I think?) on his way to Mozambique. He had it fixed so he could call for free. It was great to talk to him. Africa…

I saw something on the news yesterday (which is probably why I’m in this mood) that changed me. They don’t edit the news here. You see what you see. They also don’t warn you to send your children into the other room (the barbarians). They are having some civil wars in Africa as you may be aware. In fact they still carry on a grand slave trade in a lot of the central NE; not good PR for black America’s case for moral superiority–after all, the west coast black Africans taught the Portuguese the slave trade, cashing in big on the first sales; more irony would surely take me straight to my grave. I saw some footage from Monrovia… I don’t know if I should describe it but I think I need to. So as a pal for a change, I’m telling you, you may not want to read this.

There was a small group of men, all black Africans, with machine guns; AK-47s I think. They were on a city street, not wearing uniforms or anything. There was no shouting or noise. There was one man with his hands tied in heavy rope. He was naked. They unbound his hands and yelled at him. He started running. He got five barefoot steps and one of the men with a machine gun casually shot him. Pop-pop-pop. He didn’t even aim, he just extended one arm and fired a short burst. The naked man fell onto the street and didn’t move for about five seconds, then he started to try to raise himself up; one elbow pointing to the sky, both palms flat on the tarmac. Another man with a machine gun walked over and shot him once in the back of the head. Pieces of the skull went flying into the street. The naked body collapsed flat. No one cheered or clapped or yelled or acted like anything had happened at all.

This was the first thing I saw in my mind when I woke up this morning. I don’t know how to shake it exactly. I feel much less safe with the world. Men like the four or five on that street corner in Monrovia inhabit every corner of the world. Men like them occasionally gain entrance to the Congress and White House. To see the bottom line of all the arguments solidified into twenty seconds of human action. That was… I’m not sure. I only know I don’t like living in a world with it.

There was a girl on the swim team at UNM. Her name was Jennifer, if memory serves. She was gorgeous in a very Kinsky kind of way. Voluptuous lips, bleach blonde, tall and Teutonic. I knew her from around; flirted with her sometimes. One night I was coming out of a friend’s room in the girls’ dorms and Jennifer was there on the stairway crying her eyes out. I held her hand for a couple hours and answered all her questions about the occasional cruelty of the universe. She held me and I held her back but that was all. Somewhere there came a point where she was shocked I wasn’t trying to… manipulate her into having sex. Her body language and vulnerability were a clear offer, really. She asked me, “Why are you so nice…?” I don’t remember what I answered. Some weak denial I’m sure; parts of me saying to myself, “Yeah, what’s up with that?”

You know, I don’t know what I’m trying to say right now. I can only tell you they’re connected. Every action, and re-action, in a single person’s life is integral; integrated. We all have one theme that everything is stacked upon; in wax or wane. Sometimes I just wish I had someone to answer my questions. In a tone I could believe. In a way that shocked me by its humanity and not its bestiality. Sometimes.

Giovanna, my friend in Bologna, has a few bisexual guy friends. They all like me. I kissed one of them the other day. Rather he kissed me and I went along with it. Just on the cheeks (that’s above board, thank you!). The gay men here are the only persons who can clearly communicate feelings. The girls are impossible (usually) to read. Though Paola last night liked me I think. She was cute. But what are you gonna do?

This seems to be a shorter letter. There are lots of things going on. I’m seeing a bunch of Italy and doing things but I can’t summon enthusiasm to discuss it. I just want more caffé macchinata. Machine coffee. Restricted coffee. Narrow coffee. Espresso.

If I asked you, would you? Would you really?

Remember? The question I asked the youngest member of the ANC was this: “Forget about what you’re willing to die for—what are you willing to kill for?” That’s what I said. I was tired of the trite questions that the children were wasting his precious conversation on. And this is my failing of course. If I could go back and do everything over again. The only thing I might change is that I’d never say a word. Except to men like him.

Well, as usual, I have nothing to say. So adieu-dieu.


OH MY GOD—I am watching Land of the Lost in Italian right now. This is so surreal. My childhood clay dinosaurs and sleestaks… they are searching for la Città Perduta now. And they have found it (not so perduta as we were led to believe). This was the episode that practically made me cry. When Enik first learns (realizes) that the sleestak are not his dim un-evolved ancestors, but his distant descendants. Ah, but no one cares do you? You don’t see the metaphor I do, do you? You don’t feel it, or do you? Let me know when you can.

[Ed: the writer simply trails off at this point, in what seems a sincere effort to never mail the letter by never finishing it. His gambit—like all those of his early career—failed in childlike obviousness.]

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