SD Short Story Contest Finalist: All Caps, No Spaces – Wes Trexler

All Caps No spaces
You’re completely disoriented as you run down the steps of the courthouse in Downtown Manhattan. This isn’t exactly your neighborhood, and it’s hard to get your bearings straight at first, but you know you have to move fast and catch a train soon, any train headed Uptown, so you move as quick as you can in dress shoes minus the laces.
Within a couple blocks you spot the green globes of a Metro tunnel, and head for the station at Foley Square.
On the platform you grow anxious. You were just sprung from Central Booking about fifteen minutes ago, and you’re humming with pent-up energy. You repeat some details in your head, memorizing acronym-encrypted chunks of vital intel.
“ROR…released on recognizance…three misdemeanors. Franklin Seigel from the NLG…you were sprung by Frank Seigel, CUNY Law professor…no, respected CUNY Law professor.”
You didn’t sleep at all in holding, so now, in a quasi-hypnogogic state, your head spins, leaning back on the plastic seat of the subway. You’re worried about things at home, but you can’t call ahead because they confiscated your phone. To stay grounded, you keep at it with the details, cataloguing facts and codifying the official scene for future recall.
Things you know: It’s Saturday. You’ve been released after about twenty hours in various kinds of NYPD lockup. You were arrested on your birthday. Yesterday was 11-11-11. You turned 33 years old on 11-11-11, and you got arrested for organizing a prayer circle in Central Park.
Old enough to know better, you think.
Now it’s nine PM, and you’ve gotta make it back to Brooklyn to host a loft party—a little punk benefit show you put together to buy socks and gloves for the people at Zuccotti.
On the L train you daydream about the last few hours, try to remember your own words so you can repeat them verbatim later.
You see yourself in the cell, jumping up when your name is finally called, stepping through the sliding barred-door into the narrow hall between cages where they shackle you to a chain with about a dozen other dudes. This is your last chance.
Loud and steady, for everyone up and down the hall to hear, you say, “The global class struggle has begun. Don’t be on the wrong side of revolution, people. I urge each and every one of you, when you get back on the outside, do whatever you can to resist, resist, resist.”
You’re not being at all ironic, and no one thinks you are, so you get some positive grumbling, a lot of head nods, one power-fist and one heckler.
Good enough, you think.
The Corrections Officer leads you through the maze of bare tunnels toward arraignment. When you get to a spiral stairway he hollers to the other guards, “Got ten bodies comin’ up the stairs.” He yells it dull and sterile like someone working the mic at Burger King.
“You got ten human beings,” you yell, to no one, and to everyone.
The officer pretends to ignore you. You are officially someone else’s problem now.
Again, you run. As soon as the L train lets off at the Montrose stop you book it to the loft. It feels good to run in the night, to stretch your legs as you move down the street past the Projects. You’re worried about the loft party, hoping GI Dave or one of the Yankou brothers took charge when they heard you got locked up. Hopefully someone found a good PA to use. Hopefully you’ll have no problem getting in the front door with no keys and no phone.
After three blocks you turn the corner onto McKibbin, and you can see from here a small gaggle of Westchester White-guilt punks hovering by the front entrance.
You’re right on time.
Once you’re home, things move fast. There’s a mild hero’s welcome from everyone at hand, but you just wanna know if Gloria’s there. She’s not. Nobody can tell you where she is. This infuriates you to no end, but you don’t let it show. You try not to, at least.
Gloria. The real one. The one Van Morrison’s always croaking about. The girl everyone thinks of as your ex-wife. The firecracker everyone thinks of as your ex-wife.
She’s the singer in your band. Her flight leaves in the morning. She’s giving up on New York, or running away, or taking a break or something. Everything she owns is piled up unpacked under your plywood loft bed, and scattered all around on the dirty floor.
People start showing up—teenage musicians with gear, listless scenesters and unfamiliar kids in skinny-jeans—then, Gloria’s all-time favorite NYC noise/art band TURBO-SLEAZE—all caps, no spaces—load in a trailer-worth of speaker cabs and amps, sprawling a pile of mic-stands and XLR cables across the stage in the living-room. Competent people are doing necessary things so you retreat to your bedroom and try to prepare for the show.
There’s acid. There’s cocaine. No, there’s no cocaine, but you call Ghetto-J down the street and he delivers. You share with no one and brood, make up malicious scenarios about where she might be, what she’s doing and why she’s late while you tattoo your little mirror with a razor blade.
The loft fills up with commotion and body-heat ‘til you can’t hardly stand it.
Out of frustration you start cramming her suitcases and bags with stripper clothes, bras and homemade dresses, clearing a path from the door to your desk.
You are about to vacate, to run sweating down the stairs for some fresh filthy air, when Gloria suddenly rolls in smiling, overstuffed bags bulging in each hand. She plops them down in the middle of the floor and gives you a soul hug. Tells you how proud she is.
The doom evaporates with the sound of her bags touching down, and you are right back to fighting-weight in an instant.
You share some with her. Tell her things about the arrest and about the prayer circle. You both laugh and get excited.
The drummer shows up. Bands play.
Soon, too soon, you’re on stage, strapped into the Flying V. All the pedals and cables give you some trouble at first, but you pull it together just in time. And by the first hook of the first song it’s perfect. Even with the untested virgin replacement drummer the sound is huge in the tiny loft. Gloria’s singing her guts out, and you know it’s right.
A bold smile crawls across your face as you tilt your head way back, trying to keep the snot and blow from dripping onto your lips. You start laughing, but try hard not to lose it in the afterglow of pure comedy. Two weeks ago you were still employed, working nine-to-five, running a fashion blog and writing PR in Midtown. That wasn’t possibly real.
All around you are friends and friendly strangers. Your producer and his wife are here. The other two dudes you were arrested with walk in and get high-fives from your roommates. “The Central Park Three,” you think, mythologizing in real-time. Half of the SLEAZE stand gyrating front and center. Random suburban high-schoolers get drunk or stoned at their first ever Brooklyn loft party. Even Ghetto-J comes back to check out the show for a minute.
When you and Gloria sing together on the chorus, you feel it for sure. This is what you’re after, what you’ve always been after: Freedom—or something very much like it. There’s no going back. From now on, until you end, you’ll live in breathless pursuit of this sensation, stalking these proximations of unfettered liberty at whatever cost, bound by nothing—ever again—but the audacity of your own will.

Wes Trexler is an American writer and filmmaker based out of New York City. Recent stories have appeared in the Wisconsin Review, Willow Springs, Story|Houston and elsewhere. Several others have appeared in the Rag Literary Review, including one which was awarded their fiction prize in 2015. Mr. Trexler was born in West Virginia. He studied at Eastern Washington University and attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers workshop in 2005. He plays clarinet.