A Moral Adoption



The route took you all over. You look at your reflection, mesmerised by the glittering nerves of activism in your eyes, stinking of lighter fluid and spray paint. It sits in your brain like temple incense.


You used white spray paint. It contrasted against the rich, dark wood they used. All the history of your enemies enshrined in materials which should have been your people’s by right.


You look around you, all the crumpled, exhausted people going about their lives. All their mundane concerns about the money they’re not making and the sex they’re not having.


You’ve been busy tonight, and they will continue to lose themselves in duties and distractions whilst you will go onto start the great conversation about power and its place of residence.


Its chosen people.


Not everyone will understand but in time, your actions will force dialogue and action.


As you walk out of the subway, a flash of alabaster cheekbone and a flip of a limp tangerine fringe makes your heart ache. He smiles at you with the arrogance of someone who collected broken hearts like lint in their coat pockets. This melancholic observation sinks fish hooks into your stomach and tugs hard enough to make you lean forward.


The dull rattle of the empty cans in your backpack is a musical cue. You stand up, push your shoulders back and raise your head.


One perfect, lubricated fuck would complicate things.


You recall a firm, callused hand on the small of your back. He smelled of liniment and cough drops. His breath was so sweet it bought tears to your eyes. There was an awful gravity to it if you could describe it. You do not. There are better battles, better ideas and they are your ideas and battles now.


He turns away and your nerves prickle with the reward of your denial.


Your building is quiet.

The Leins are asleep. Alex has gone to Vermont to visit her ex. The walk to your apartment has a dark, quiet quality to it which feels like fate.


Once you are inside, you empty everything into a garbage bag.


The spray paints.

The charcoal briquettes soaked in paraffin

Waterproof matches

Claw hammer

Roll of tape.


Your gloves go in last of all. Whilst you take the bag to the disposal, your phone rings.


‘Hi Justin.’


A twist of disdain starts in the back of your throat.


‘I don’t go by that name anymore, Rebecca.’


You tell her name like it is a splinter you’re trying to extract from the roof of your mouth.


‘David said. It’s Saul now, isn’t it?’


You correct her.


Saul Avishai Ali.


A name is a statement. A performance which requires immersion to be convincing. You must, as a prophet of your ideas, be complete in thought and deed.


You wrote out variations of different names until you found one which looked pleasing in print.


She sighs and you hear the polite weariness in her voice. Tolerance is a playful practice in the abstract but you relieved Rebecca   of trying to understand you.


These poisonous lessons were plentiful during the five years you lived with them.


‘Well, Saul, I hadn’t heard from you. I don’t want you to disappear.’


You bare your teeth, fight the urge to spit about your erasure.


Instead you toss the bag down the chute and go back to your apartment.


‘I won’t.’


‘Good, good. Are you still taking your medication?’


Your knowledge and purpose have eliminated the need for medication. Without shaking hands and sleep paralysis, there is a jangling, bold purpose to you which means the medicine slows you down. There is a shining, harsh purity to your world which needs nothing to mute its chorus of truth and primal, tribal wisdom.


There is liberation in knowing your enemies.


You tell her you are fine but go. It satisfies her but you tell her someone is at the door so she can end the conversation without straying from the clipped script you both read from when you speak.


It is important she believes people gravitate to you. You are the bright sun in someone’s sky, when you struggle with accepting love from people. It feels rehearsed and spoiled at the same time.


The callused hand, smelling of liniment, it burned out something inside you.


Your purpose is a way to assuage your loss.


Life has been a rehearsal for having a secret identity. Someone without a name but with actions to carry out.


When you lived with David and Rebecca, there was always the promise, vague and inconstant, of arranging something formal. Legal.


The novelty of you sounded like the seconds on a clock, growing louder as the time slipped away.


David found you somewhere to live.


A few blocks away, but it might as well have been the moon.


It was whilst in exile, you had time to process the personal through the filter of the political.


Rebecca does not know she spoke to a man who struck a blow against his enemies.


You heat a bowl of sprouts and rice noodles. Online, the photos appear faster than the television news can cover them.


No one mentions the fires.


Your handiwork is incidental. What matters is the reaction to it. There are statements from the synagogue officials and the actress who organised the event. Her flamboyant ugliness and arrogance offend you, and you put your opinions out there.


They label you many things and some of them are true, but like so many things, context matters. The opinions bloom like fireworks as your synapses sing with recognition and affirmation.


You cruise until three a.m. The conversation tapers off and despite a last round of statements, there is nothing left to say.


It is whilst you are asleep they release the surveillance footage.


Sleep has a fullness like you’ve been fucked well and held afterwards. This idea which has possessed you, it is old and has the craft of lovers and prophets. Its kiss of purpose on your forehead has married you to action and it croons lullabies enough to keep memories at bay long enough to allow you some peace.


They knock on the door with enough force to make the door rattle in its frame.


You stand up, zip up the hooded sweatshirt you wore last night. Fire engine red.


You hope they captured your good side as you go to answer the door.



3 thoughts on “A Moral Adoption

  1. Another quality example where your strength shines through in not what happens but why things happen. Not the main themes of your works but the almost incidental smaller concerns. It’s the hows and the whys people behave as they do that hold an ever increasing interest for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m the same. I try not to adopt a particular theme, more certain things happen. A news story and it makes me wonder why and how it drives them. We’re all human and the outliers are fascinating to write about.


  2. Another quality example where your strength shines through in not what happens but why things happen. Not the main themes of your works but the almost incidental smaller concerns. It’s the hows and the whys people behave as they do that hold an ever increasing interest for me.


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