In 1988, when I was 12 and viewed the world through rose-colored, grass-is-always-greener glasses, I finally got permission to move from our going nowhere slowly southern New Mexico town to Las Vegas, where my dad lived. My older sister Kim and I had been making the trek from Artesia to Vegas for three months each summer since I was in kindergarten and she was in first grade, and I couldn’t wait for one, long, luxurious vacation. I couldn’t wait to get out of my life, where my stepdad regularly beat the crap out of my mom, and where I got spankings so bad that I spent most of elementary school covered in bruises from the backs of my knees to my tailbone. I couldn’t wait to be away from my sister, who was mean and strange and always in my space.

The plan was for Kim and I to go to Vegas, where Kim would spend the summer, like usual. At the end of the summer, Kim would return to New Mexico and I would stay in Vegas, my perpetual Disneyland, forever and ever, la la la.

This is a Bag

By Tom Hansen

Writing

This is a bag.

This is a bag on drugs.

It’s that time of the month again. No, I haven’t had a sex change. It’s time for me to write something. Every month, they said. I don’t know what to write. Ever since I gave up poetry, and chose to pursue longer writing projects, my mind has gone blank when it comes to shorter writing projects. I suppose I could list my smartass facebook updates. In between the other stuff.

Tom Hansen is in line at Wal-Mart. With my little tent, drooling over tomorrow morning’s bargains. The parking lot is filled with Scummers. I have a couple PB&J sammies to tide me over. I hope I don’t get trampled.

I live in a cramped attic. It has a very low ceiling, just a few inches over my head. Very little headspace causes a kind of claustrophobia, I think. A kind of pressure. There’s about six feet of horizontal ceiling and then it begins to angle downward on both sides. I think it affects me. It confuses me. Is it a collapsing wall, or a pushed down ceiling? I can’t decide. I do know this; I don’t want to bang my head because it reminds me of a kind of music I hate. I live in fear.

Tom Hansen likes the ones that are a little dirty.

I know one more thing. I have a messy desk. On it right now are five hats, two empty coffee cups, a large bottle of hydrogen peroxide, three pairs of sunglasses, a screwdriver, a large regular candle, a big black skull-shaped candle, eight books (Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Television by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Chourmo and Solea by Jean-Claude Izzo, Paper Shadows by Wayson Choy, Whatever by Michel Houellebecq, Doctor Glas by Hjalmar Soderberg, and Lila Says by Chimo), a lamp, a flashlight (the power goes out here a lot), two ashtrays, four empty cigarette packs, one half empty cigarette pack, two light bulbs, three rags, a flash drive, a Zippo lighter, a Bic lighter, a bottle of Ronson Lighter Fuel, a bunch of blank cd’s, adidas deodorant, a pack of Bic Metal shavers, dozens of scraps of paper and countless letters I am terrified to open.

I write in an uncomfortable chair. I heard some writers spend thousands of dollars on their chairs. Henry Miller said he couldn’t write if he was comfortable. So maybe that’s good. I use an IBM X31 laptop to write on. My trusty little weapon. Most of the letters are worn off. There are bread crumbs and dust and dirt and shit in between the keys. Sometimes a key gets stuck and I have to push down hard and you can hear a crunching sound. I’ve been waiting for the laptop to die for two years now but it doesn’t want to apparently.

The next guy who has to use ten thousand words to order his coffee is gonna get it. Why do people have to regale their baristas with epic tales of their cute dog and his flourescent orange poop when there are a hundred desperate coffee junkies in line on the verge of collapse?

Here’s another thing I know. Nonfiction is tricky especially when you’re writing about yourself. You need to put your perceptions under the electron microscope. You are that frog you had to dissect in high school. Cut yourself open. Hold your nose.

Hey Joggers! Thanks for fucking my afternoon.

I know one more thing. But I forgot what it was.