Dear Stephen,

A woman with generously fake hair, is that so bad to want? October polishes its cinematic knives, I miss you even in the ambience of tasteful death. My taste isn't recherché, not at all. Every night I watch another's murder scene with another's taste—the Criterion Collection yelps but it's my faint body wadded up like a can of mountain dew. Let my plaque read Turner, a shudder of the 'burbs. He had chilblains on his chilblains, perky nipples and no original thought. Stick it up in the garage where all your friends go wow and shit.

I'm twenty-one or twenty-two when I meet the Vampire Mortgage. He's tall and feudal, and wears a feudal wig. Weekends he plays in a Neil Young cover band. The Vampire Mortgage isn't evil, a fastidious respecter of property. He texts a full twenty-four hours before entering the apartment, but he always gets invited in.

I'd like to go the way that one chick does in Suspiria with a rafter precise like a draftsman's triangle gashing her from A to B and a hypotenuse the length of her sternum to her pubic mound. Even in death you can't get away from family or student loans—that's the movie version. We know better, but the thought loosens up a bowel.

Things to do in the land of the dead:

        • die, apparently

        • misplace your passport

        • appeal to a bureaucrat over same

        • get written up for noise complaints

        • dodge border guards, apparently

I feel like insisting on death's finality. The dead think otherwise, and they aren't affable pets about it, with gently removable jowels. Don't you wanna know all about me? I sure as hell would. Last week I opened the incision on my forehead and blinked through a bright red curtain, like my vision had installed an on-off blood switch. Old blood or new blood? a nurse asked over the phone. She sounded stressed but I didn't know how to answer the question; blood on, blood off, then it got in my mouth, a burst piñata of sensation. Old blood, past its sell-by date, in unseemly splotches on the bathroom tiles. I went in there to drip like scheduling my own execution and summary clean-up; I'd like it to be enthusiastically gross but also not to shit or piss myself, can one of you make that happen for me? The verb that comes to mind is "spurt."

I intend to maintain the dignity and spectacle of my own production, and still smell good. Some of these stains, come to think of it, are corn syrup from a blood capsule, the costume "sexy murder bunny boy." All night long I invited men to pull my tail, then one did. He climbed inside my warren to the warm rank fragrance of nibbled seeds and bunny shit.

The Vampire Mortgage wears a hat, which he sometimes touches with cool methodical movements. He's double-jointed and likes to prove it at parties. Although he can be photographed, if he notices a camera pointed his direction he'll billow out of the frame like soot. Then he'll break your neck, impersonally.

Everybody gets to be sexy, like everybody gets to die. Warhol said something like that only he's, admit it, a nihilist, we don't do the same drugs. Here's a fable: a girl grows a wolfish tail in the subdivisions. It's probably Brampton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, but why not Bergen County? Horny teens frot it up with pork swords, get periods and check out on screen like library books. The tail wiggles on its own, wired into a cultural nervous system from which it receives its tense and intermittent pulses. It wants to see the world, and grows and grows, wobbling under Target panties, taped to a hairy teenaged leg. Finally it develops its talents and dashes to the high school, dragging its snarling occupant along: bump, bump. Some bodies later she checks out too, an engine that designated itself for fuel and burns up part by oily part. Lights down on the hiddener abode, symmetrically boiled in its own slick.

Stephen I suspect that by day I'm a tower of glowing resentment and otherwise the process that keeps it alight. By origin or not I am "of" the city until I can't be—a choice, as choices go, made within constraints, one of which is surely beauty. Here's a fable about the mortal soul: Al Pacino takes an "Odyssey to the edges of city life"—Chelsea, where the camera finds that the differences between a cop and a leathery celebutante are null in a meat locker and pertinent everywhere else. In mascara and a yellow hankie he cuts a convincing figure, or is that his double? He enters the club on cop night, and finds himself persona non grata. Oh irony! The Hudson swells and shrinks with body parts, to nobody's satisfaction, not even the scriptwriters'. Pacino frames some schmuck and knifes him, twenty to life, they'll reduce the sentence if he fesses up. The cop's wife waits for him on a beautiful soundstage. "One day this whole city's gonna explode," and that's still true. Some say decadent, a coded gripe in moral flannel, looking down its moral nose.

I'm giving the Vampire Mortgage a ride over the Verrazanno when I learn he has neither a mother nor a father. I was created he admits, considering his bleached fingers but then I bought him out. When I express my jealousy he feigns surprise.

Here's a fable with the ring of truth. A jock lets a known queer slobber on his dick. Plugging into the hole at the bottom of his need he wonders if he'll catch something. When the sissy blabs the jock shows up at school to find his buds having flown the coop of his friendship. Dumped on the floor, the contents of his locker accuse him too. What can he do but point a meaty finger? These balls won't suck themselves, and you know how homos like to plug the hole at the bottom of their resentment. To prove it he roughs up his erstwhile cum dump. His misdirection takes effect, the spoiled contents of a different locker accuse him too, like a wife who knows where he's been. The little guy takes the burden off his conscience and leaves the school district, or something. He doesn't show up in the dark with a knife for his tormentor, but wouldn't that be nice?

Double nice for that, and every other petty vengeance, and every major one too. Here's one that isn't mine to tell. It isn't even the teller's, really, who got away to talk about it. Out for a night with her Judies a woman goes home with the one straight guy in the room, medium-cute and comfortable, he has his own place and says he'll tip. The cab takes them way, way off the subway, and the molly wrinkles the corners of her attention. They have a boring sort of sex until they don't, then he pokes around her pussy like a bad check. Did you have an operation, her trick demands. Then: Tell the truth, and, luridly, I'm not some kind of faggot. She lies, fakes indignation to pull the shades down on her fear, shouts and shouts till he relents and gets her a car. It's meanwhile started to rain, and she walks out with his umbrella. When she tells this story to friends the umbrella takes centre stage—how did I get this? funny you ask—till she takes a trip and it busts unsturdily in her suitcase.

The Vampire Mortgage lives in a large house up Victory Hill in Staten Island, plenty old, with a verandah that buckles away from the street. He invites me in although he doesn't have to. Naturally, he lives alone: no roommate, no child back from piano lessons, and nothing that clobbers his windows at night with stones or clumps of sod. He keeps rockin' in the free world, up the grand staircase and into his cabinet of boutique deaths.

What's the lesson? Stephen I sometimes get the sense that white queers crave distinction; the monster thing, like Jackie says, the drapery of a special coat without anything to invite the concerted attention of a cop. Then it gets real and you choke. As for distinction, there are real villains and we know them by their zip codes, their uniforms, or their fancy fucking backpacks.

I don't keep myself off this list except how anybody can. In the future we'll shed our rent like onion skins. I want to blow the roof off the world as much as anybody, with half the spite. I also want to get fucked. What do these have to do with each other? This my nasty, gentle gift.

Lights out,


Kay Gabriel is a poet and essayist. She’s the author of Elegy Department Spring / Candy Sonnets 1 (BOAAT Press, 2017) and a 2018-19 Emerge-Surface-Be Fellow at the Poetry Project (Twitter: @unit01barbie).