A Haircut Will Change Your Life But Then Again So Will Death: Some Observations On Historical Events In Brooklyn, New York
by Sasha Fletcher
There are places in New York City that do not exist is a thing certain people have said about certain places in New York City once upon a time and here are some of them:
Putnam and Grand, Kings County: It is 1894. There is a man walking down the street with his buckles undone on purpose to startle and to warn. He is a walking alert walking alertly until he isn’t anymore because instead he is falling into a hole in the ground. Underneath that hole is another hole built like a slide full of water and then there he is, in the water, washing up on a shore. “Where am I?” he asks the topless women that are everywhere. “This is the New York River,” they say. “What?” he asks. “This is the river that runs through New York.” “No, No, I got that part. I meant just, what?” “This is New York. A river runs through it.” “You don’t make any sense.” “Neither do you,” they say, and hang him up to dry or die.
Franklin and Putnam, Kings County: It is 1800. A man builds a castle. “What is that castle for?” ask the people around him. “It is for the ghosts,” he tells them. “Well that’s crazy,” respond the people, who call for an immediate vote on whether or not to hang him for building a castle for ghosts using public resources. “These are not public resources,” he tells them. “Anything in view of the public is in the public sphere,” responds the public. The man is uncertain how to continue the argument and is subsequently hung by the neck until dead. His ghost moves into the castle. “I told you” he tells them, but they can’t hear him because they are deaf to wonder.
Grand and Lorimer, Kings County: It is 1962. A local grocery store has been depressed and decides to kill itself. The grocery store hasn’t spoken to its parents back in Cleveland in years. Business is shit. The grocery store hasn’t been on a date in since 1952. In 1952 the grocery store met a nice projectionist at a bar on a boat full of drinks and the grocery store had a really nice time and came around to call a few times and tried to really express the depth of its feelings but the projectionist was a little weirded out. She told the grocery store that it was a very nice grocery store, and had seemed incredibly interesting, and fun to talk to, but that the grocery store kept coming around, and started to get weirdly persistent, and seemed to be interested less in the projectionist than on forcing some sort of real and person connection, and the projectionist felt a bit dehumanized by that. And anyway the grocery store said it understood and was sorry, and now mostly talks to the cats in the alley who more or less ignore it. The grocery store goes out in a blaze of sadness that meant to dress up as a blaze of glory but completely forgot. In the morning a Key Foods gets built up around it. The grocery story grows to the size of a small room. It moves around the Key Foods, waiting for someone to enter the small room it keeps getting dressed up as. 35 people have. What has happened to them afterwards is either a national secret or none of your business, and anyway, what is wrong with mysteries?
Franklin and Putnam, Kings County: It is 1802. Everyone is dead and so their ghosts move into the castle like that was the plan all along. “This was the plan all along,” they tell each other. “Bullshit,” mutters the king of the castle. The ghosts pretend not to hear him. They settle into their rooms just fine. “All they needed was me,” thinks the king of the castle that is a home for ghosts. “Me and death.” Outside people were flaunting their lives by the wagonfull and inside ghosts were mostly sleeping, which is another word for what happens when you float over a bed while all of life’s disappointments merge into a painting of ice cream or chicken fried steak or some other kind of food blanket because nobody cares about sadness when they’re dead. “What about our loneliness?” ask the ghosts. “Nobody cares about your loneliness,” says the king of the castle of ghosts, “when you’re dead, because you don’t need it anymore.” The ghosts were furious and staged a coup. After the coup they learned that he was right, and that their pain was never all that special anyway, it was just another bullet they kept inside them because of stubbornness and also an inability to really change much anyway. “YOUR SADNESS IS A PASSING FAD” shouted the ghosts from the battlements. They stitched themselves together to spell out YOUR SADNESS IS A PASSING FAD and wave forever and ever and ever but who among us can claim to have spoken with ghosts? And so nobody ever learned this lesson until it was too late, but this didn’t stop them from eating chicken fried steaks, and going on dates, on those weird events in which we decide if the person across from us is cool enough for us to take our clothes off in front of them, sweating through the summer and the sheets, just waiting for the water to rise up and take us all on a vacation, which everyone agrees they are in dire need of, but will not receive.
SASHA FLETCHER is the author of it is going to be a good year (Big Lucks Books, 2015), one novella, and several chapbooks of poetry.