Photo credit: Niqui Carter
The Line Hotel in Austin is new. It’s in previews. The restaurant is operated by my favorite winner of Top Chef. The entire city is drinking bottled water. I used bottled water to brush my teeth this morning. I have a craving for a Slurpee. I haven’t had a Slurpee in like seven hundred years. The streets are lousy with Bird scooters and Lime scooters and another kind I don’t remember. I’m texting with Tommy about meeting up on Halloween. I’m texting with Anastacia about meeting up tonight for karaoke. My dad has been meditating. He sends me an email with his fondest memory of us. It’s us camping. Us “camping” was putting a mattress in the front yard and eating candy and looking at the stars. Mom texts me a pic of the acorn harvest this year. The trees were rotting last year but she’s hopeful. I emailed my producer a completely rewritten first act of a screenplay. Lauren texts me an emoji of a rocket ship. She says it’s “much stronger than the first draft you produced. It’s also more ‘you.’” I tell everyone Austin feels like Shaun of the Dead
right now, how oblivious he is to the zombie apocalypse happening all around him. In my “hailpaimon” group chat with Jenna and Fran, Jenna sends a pic of a 11-week-old baby who grew a fang tooth overnight. I send it to my other “hailpaimon” group chat with Willie and he replies, “hail.” On Instagram, everyone is cutting a rug in their Halloween costumes. I wonder if I’ll ever have sex again. Seems unlikely. This is what I always think when I’m not having sex. Ditto writing. I lie and tell people I’m nervous. I lie and tell other people I’m not nervous. “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston comes on in my head and everything becomes a subject of that melody and subject to that melody. When I get to the 7/11, the Slurpee machine says, “Due to Austin’s Boil Water notice, we won’t be serving Slurpees until further notice.” Oh right. The ice thing. I hate it when a word is used only twice in a sentence. Feels like hot taffy. In our panel yesterday, Brontez said when people from marginalized groups write, it’s always assumed to be memoir. Rickey said it obscures the craft in our work. The top story in my newsfeed reads, “72 hours in America: Three hate-filled crimes. Three hate-filled suspects.” Kristen texts me “are we singing 'Endless Love' at karaoke.” In my “I’ll be ur alibi” group chat with Fatimah and Morgan, Fati says “something’s up with the energy today.” One bartender says the water will be back Monday. Another bartender says 10 days. The slip of paper on the bed when I checked in said “This is a first in Austin history.” Another person on Twitter says what I do isn’t
poetry. I tweet “that’s okay. My bank account thinks what I do is poetry hashtag on my way to deposit checks.” I cackle. I delete the Tweet. I’m not actually on my way to deposit checks. I’m in a hotel lobby, writing. Colin is accepting an award on my behalf in Oakland as we speak. I wrote a speech for it which included the phrase, “American Horror Story: Climate Change.” My Lyft driver is wearing cat ears. She loves Cardi B. She says she’s going to LA to see Morrissey. I don’t say anything about Morrissey being a turd. I talk about Cardi B. I talk about her verse in “Taki Taki.” We both say we’re obsessed with “Backin It Up.” My mom texts another photo of acorns, saying “Ready to grind!” I don’t think being on her grind is what she meant, but it’s not, not
what she meant. I think, what a deliciously insular meme “on my grind” would be over a picture of acorns to like four of my cousins. I have a crush on a boy who unfollowed me, existentially. I have another crush on a boy who I now hate. I have a crush on the memory of me eating Rainblow gum balls and Funyuns after a day of swimming at the RV park where my mom used to work. The water in the bottles wobbles as I type. Tomorrow I leave for Los Angeles. Then I leave for Atlanta. Then I leave for New York. It’s not that I don’t like being complimented, I just wonder what you’re trying to get out of it. I alienate another guy who was talking to me. He complimented me too much and I told him, hey hey hey let’s not go nuts.
I tell Morgan NDN people know I’m NDN because every single one of them has a light skinned cousin who looks just like me. Or are the light-skinned cousin. Typically, it’s non-NDN people who look at me like they need a receipt. I don’t want to take a shower in the water because I don’t want it near my mucus membranes or maybe I have a cut or a scrape I can’t see and I’m only here a few days so I don’t shower. I know what Joe would say. He’d say skin’s job is to keep things out
and it’s very good at its job. Jess says when you can internalize the voice of your therapist and talk to yourself that way, it’s one of the pinnacles of talk therapy. I internalize people’s voices in my head all the time because I am obsessed with the sounds of people’s voices because I think vocal articulation is the world’s most magical thing. Once I told Dr. John I could hear voices and he looked up from his notepad and suggested medication. I said, “it’s not like that,” but it’s not, not
like that. My head is a crystal ball
, I think, walking down Cesar Chavez way in the membrane I occupy before I’ve had my first full body sweat of the day. Somebody on a Bird scooter clips me and I yell, “Hey! That thing got breaks?!” and the person uses the breaks, waits a beat, and then speeds away. I think about deleting that but I don’t. I’m not on Cesar Chavez way. A Bird scooter didn’t clip me. I’m in a hotel lobby. I’m doing my job. I’m here. When I breathe, the sun cracks open. I don’t wanna go nowhere.
Editor's note: For more featured work by Indigenous authors, visit our dedicated page for Native American Heritage Month 2018
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Tommy "Teebs" Pico
is author of the books IRL
, Nature Poem
, and Junk
. He was a Queer/Art/Mentors inaugural Fellow, Lambda Literary Fellow in poetry, and NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and he's the winner of a Whiting Award and the Brooklyn Public Library's Literature Prize. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn where he cocurates the reading series Poets With Attitude (PWA) with Morgan Parker, cohosts the podcast Food 4 Thot
, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub.