Right There in Kansas City –Casey Hannan

from by 90s Meg Ryan

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"Right There in Kansas City"


My friend enters my apartment, takes off his shirt, and accuses me of being a brown recluse spider. He senses my desire to devour him in the dark of my living room. He'll shake out his clothes from now on to make sure I'm not lurking inside.

"It's a hot den of iniquity in here," he says.

I call it a nest. I don't believe in air conditioning. I've torn the stuffing from the couch cushions and made a bed in the corner. The light fixtures don't have bulbs. I smile to survey it, which is a mistake because of my teeth.

My friend has it in his head I have fangs. My canines are long. All parts of me are long. My face has been the real joke. I went as a happy crescent moon for Halloween for many years. That was during my social phase. My medicine phase.

Now I never go outside. I buy cereal on the Internet. I have a full-length mirror I pretend is a window into the neighbor's place.

"Do something," I say to my reflection in the mirror.
"Do me," my friend says.

He's part blind from where his pet tarantula flicked irritating hairs into his eyes. They are grey and opaque as raw almond milk. He can discern shapes and make do with the fuzzed aura of a new outfit, but he never knows if his hair is saying what he wants it to say.

"I want to silence my hair," he says. "Get it shorn completely. Will you do that for me?"

I say I consider shearing hair an erotic act, and I won't have any involvement in it.

"You used to be so horny and homosexual," he says.

I tell him I found sword fighting to be a violent pursuit, and I have abhorred violence since my terrifying birth. I'm only now starting to grow into my mangled parts. My head could be the bullet God used to kill the dinosaurs. All the better for my friend. He favors unique shapes. He tries to kiss me, and I recoil out of habit, not disgust.

"You don't deserve my gay rights," he says.

We move to the front door frame of my apartment. My friend steps outside. He puts his shirt back on.

"Let's go get wasted," he says.

He has dressed to lure me. His shorts are small as they come. A scant nod to decorum in that they cover his penis but not his thighs. I'm good to stand back and admire in the shadows.

My friend pulls my arms.

I push my friend. He bends back at the knees. He's been standing with his legs crossed, posing as a tall vase. As he falls, the skin of his legs separates on clean and invisible perforations. The sound is a thumb sliding into an envelope and tearing.

My friend's calf skin sinks down to his ankles. The colors of undergore are the same as a slice of pizza without cheese. I don't cross the threshold. I've memorized the number to Domino's. It's the only place I can think to call. I don't even pull out my phone.

My friend screams. I scream. I hear the neighbor's door open, and I hear the neighbor scream.

I close my door and press my eye to the peephole. I flatten my body into the pretend wood. I wish to merge with the industrial fiber. I wish it on my friend's exposed kneecaps.

The neighbor calls 911 and uses gator clips to secure my friend's skin for the short term. My friend is experiencing shock. I was once shocked to learn he loved me.

"If you ever tease me," he said, "about my love for you, I'll kill myself with the worst tool. Something with glitter suspended in its clear plastic handle."

The skeleton out there won't say anything like that again. He'll have only two words for me.

"Fuck you," he'll say from his recovery bed.
"Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you," he'll repeat until all he can do is slowly mouth the letter F.

Sometime later, when my friend is back in one piece and all is forgiven, he calls to say that the spontaneous appearance of cuts on his arms, legs, and trunk was not, as he once believed, the work of ghosts haunting his duplex.

"It's a skin condition," he says, adding that he doesn't believe in ghosts anymore.

He asks if I still cling to macabre fantasies. I close my eyes, and there they are--his two pale legs rolled down like socks.

I say it's hard to cling to anything but.

_

credits

from The Ethics of American Kickboxing, released September 13, 2013

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90s Meg Ryan Muncie, Indiana

In 1989 Meg Ryan immortalized herself as Sally Albright.
Throughout the next decade, she mesmerized us all.

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