I was reading this on the train platform, waiting for the F, when a ginger with dreads and a two nose hoops sat down on the bench next to me. Gingers with dreads are always that weird urban sighting like a baby pigeon, something that you’ve heard legend of but never believed really existed. He asked me what I was reading. I tried to describe the book but I wasn’t doing a good job, “It’s a book of these weird instructions, like how to cut yourself open, how to take the skin off your head…” He was wincing. I was having a hard time conveying the heart of the book, how the bizarre instructions and images of self mutilation where elaborate metaphors for the painful transition into manhood, fatherhood, adulthood.
I got sent an extra copy so I reached into my bag and gave it to the ginger. He said thank you. I said no sweat. We got on the same train car, through separate doors. Rode a couple of stops and got out at the same place, trying to ignore the weird coincidence. We walked out of the stairway and emerged on the street. The ginger plonked down on a skateboard and slowly coasted past me saying “Dude, thank you, so, so much,” emphasizing his syllables with the book in his hand. I told him of course and that I hope he enjoyed it.
It felt good. I had fantasies of Aaron Burch’s prose poetry turning on a light in some strangers brain, starting them on a journey into the world of chapbook culture. Then I went into the grocery store. The kid was in there. We did the cringe and head-knod thing to each other, acknowledging the weird coincidence and moving on. Staying away from each other in order to keep the previous interaction positive, to not smother this ember that I’d imagined was glowing in this kid’s mind.
I want to get the “How to (grow antlers)” piece tattooed on my body somewhere:
Grow antlers. Focus, visualize. Apply balm or lotion to the base. Prepare for the added weight but be ready to adjust. It never happens or feels quite as you’d expect, nor all at once. Balancing can be tricky, like learning to walk all over again for the first time. Be proud. Stand straight, or as straight as possible. Knock them around a little, rough them up. Rub them on trees, the walls of your bedroom. Be proud. Exude pride. Feel at home, finally, as yourself.