The Student Literary Journal of Vermont State University

When the time comes to be happy, you will be happy.
You will show all your teeth to the door
and it will open like the hole in your mother
through which you disgraced the air
for the first time. Everything’s going to be
just fine. Your fingerprints on file
nowhere, the cases against you
thin as cheap sheets, the kind that scratch
and then shred in the dryer. It’s not your
fault. But if you think the song is about
you, then it is. Lying to someone you pay
to believe you is worse than lying
to your mother. I know a man who
after his mother died, the loss
sending him into a crack abyss,
paid hookers to come to his ravaged
hotel rooms and listen to him cry.
I know. I too thought it only happened
in movies. This is an example
of how weird things can get
when we try to be happy
through other people’s bodies.
In movies, whenever someone
slams the door on an alien, managing
to shut it just in time to sever
the tentacle that had reached inside,
the close-up shot on the sheared-off
member twitching on the floor means
the battle isn’t over. The battle isn’t over
until everybody knows who the bad guy
is. Everybody’s got a role to play here.
Somebody’s got to go down singing.
Laura tells me this is her year for disco
and I believe her. The soundtrack to the movie
where the man is trapped on Mars
with only disco to listen to
somehow includes no Donna Summer. Laura
listens to Donna Summer on the CTA
and sometimes cries, she tells me.
Not because of Donna Summer but because
she remembers things, and if you’re going
to cry why not cry among strangers. I tell her
she should live in New York City. Not really,
because no one should live in New York City,
but there you can cry and cry on the subway
or the sidewalk and no one so much as blinks
in your direction. Somehow
it’s a blessing, one of the best things
about that city. The anonymity. The mashed-
practiced-at-public-solitude thing. Disco
was dead before Laura was born but she
gets it. In the movie where Matt Damon is stranded
on Mars, he doesn’t cry until finally coming
back into contact with another human being.
Two hours of near death and no crying.
The love of disco is a love of the synthesizer
and grind, and Matt Damon doesn’t get it
but Laura does. My friend Ross says that joy,
as he understands it, is the knowledge
that we are all going to die. Laura and I
get that. Disco gets that. Its spasming
rhythms, brilliant spinning balls
of noise, awash in dying. Alive
and crying. Donna Summer and us.
This pitiful Chicago winter. Mercy,
mercy all around us, falling.