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Section of a short story I wrote a few years ago #oldjournals #ResponsiveGrowth

At this point, I will share his name: Michael. And I swear he has not moved off the couch. The exact spot. Back facing an open window. Stared at that empty box closed off by a reflective screen, not to filter out anything, more intended to retain. A secret. The fact that reality is at your back with a breathy breeze. And this box contains only facsimile. Michael is by himself. He has a cat he calls Emjay, named after Marijuana. He is alone, has been for a short while, with an eroding engagement accounting for most of the weight anchoring him to his divot in the couch.

Her name is not particularly vital to this story, but not inaccessible. It is a name shared by thousands of women, girls available to boys like Michael. Less like an authentic individual female, more like Venus. He had glimpsed her planetary shape reflecting shimmers of sunlight from far away, a closer figure to his orbit than others, with thick and impenetrable clouds, which Michael painted paradise beneath, hidden below pink-tinged tufts a terra of jagged mountains and rolling green, full colonies of alien trees and plant life, imaginary fauna in colors never before seen. It seemed plausible, after all, Venus was three quarters his size, had an atmosphere about her, and similar conditions very likely could be contained within.

So after two years here sits a man, burnt, lonely. Learned in short time that the glow of Venus, like the moon, is altogether a reflection. Her clouds are acid, bursting in lightning-cut storms. Concealed from probing eyes is a landscape of active volcanoes, yellow-traced vents spouting poison, valleys cut by vast rivers of lava. His ex was far off again. A recent yet distant mistake. And he thought it had broken his heart. Michael thought because he could not know, and intent on never learning why he was hurting, he refused to turn off the television show.

Jesus describes a nearby city excerpt from The Branch
I do not mind walking last.
The mule no longer nips the fine grass clung to my clothes.
We have arrived. At etched pillars impersonating a gate.
This city is called Sepphoris. It has no walls.

Arms opened to tyrants and conquerors alike.
This city’s protection, insurance of vitality and life
for local people, is her market.

Any foreign merchant come to take, destroy,
fly one flag while burning all others,
will slowly grow hunger,
drying up shallow waters so thirst can grow deep.
And in the loneliest hours, sex is served up,
never far from costly black tar
that burns throats and purses bare.

Ultimately, the lowest, the roaches and rats, win out.
Not as in least, but stooped lowest in a realm
of flying swords and falling axes, heads
kicked to the ground under a crown’s
tremendous foot are seldom severed.

The people who survive it are using their tongues
to clean the heel, tickle grit out from between toes,
swallowing shit like dogs hungry to impress.

These are the people of Sepphoris.
They will outlive the rest of us.