Jul/Aug 2016 Spotlight

The Winter of Mixed Feelings

by Stuart Ross

Photographic Artwork by Victoria Mlady

Photographic Artwork by Victoria Mlady

January 1, 20—

Another Chicago winter. Lip blistering cruelty. Cuticles ripped up; lotion doesn't help. Dead geese in my new black jacket, dead cow in my soft brown boots. Lake effect gradients of snow on either side of the same street. My scarves and wool hats came back from the cleaners. Feet whiter than Gandalf. Once again, stories on the evening news about parking dibs, heating bills, the lakeshore viaducts where the homeless sleep. The mayor is a monster who hobnobs with other monsters. A man froze to death under the Edens.

Tomorrow I start the new job. I'll be making good money. I plan to throw it at problems. And I'll be sending some home to my parents. No, you don't "send" money anymore, you "transfer" it; all accounts are theoretically joined. Betsy and I just watched an okay episode of House Hunters. It's a Judd Apatow world. We just stream in it. When Betsy goes to sleep, I take out my books. My midnight reading is habitual. I'm doing very well, I think, for someone like me: wages stagnant, yet I swim in a fragrant pool. At Christmas I fell into a long conversation with an agitator. He wants the government to stay out of his health care. I pressed him on this issue, and he produced from his leather wallet his Medicare card. I asked him what he thought Medicare was, exactly, if not the government paying for his health care. He wasn't moved by my facts. People aren't swayed by reason. I need to buy the expensive Blistex. There's got to be the perfect lotion out there for my cuticles. Since I'm going to be making all this money, I'll be getting a Birchbox. There's a bonus opportunity next December, and come March the firm will match my 401K contributions.


January 8, 20—

My commute is roughly 40 minutes, door-to-door, give-or-take. It was freezing this morning, and I decided to walk around the block to waste a little more time before going into the office. Waiting for the light to change on the corner of Washington and Wells, it sunk in that I had to go to work today. Down and to my right, I saw the feet of ambitious men and women, shined black Oxfords, nude-colored heels. Down and to my left, I saw a dirty man holding a cardboard sign: "Father of Two. Hungry. Homeless."

I retrieved a dollar from my pocket and handed it to the man's closest child. She gave the dollar to her father and wiped snot from her nose with the back of her hand. The father thanked me. The light changed, and I crossed the street. One of my new co-workers, a well-bred Indian woman, I guess I mean British, caught up to me. She said, "I saw you give money to that kid." "Yeah," I said. "So charitable you are," she said. "I guess," I said, laughing, "really it's just for something to do." It was important for me to make light of it. Workplaces are conservative. So are workers, no matter the work being done. The woman said, "You know they rent those kids, don't you? They rent the kids so you feel bad for them." She didn't add, "people like" before "you," but that's how she meant to categorize me.


January 14, 20—

Betsy had off for MLK. She met me downtown for lunch. She met me in front of my office. I refused to invite her up. We started walking toward the Native Foods near The Federal Reserve of Chicago. Below a banner inviting tourists into the Museum of Money, we saw a woman with three children sitting on the ground and leaning against a box of week-old Hoys. I reached into my beggar pocket and handed a dollar to one of the children. Another asked me if I had any candy. Betsy and I walked on. She said, "I think it's sexy when you give away our money." In front of a parking garage, a car bigger than most bathrooms cut us off. I locked faces with the driver, an idle black woman with blown-out white-girl hair, I guess I mean a BAP, eyes behind large sunglasses, on, once again, the cloudiest day of the year. "Did you see that?" I said to Betsy. "Doesn't it bother you?" I asked. She said, "Not as much as it bothers you." My cuticles were in pain. I looked at my damaged hands, the scraped layer of post-racial skin———On the news just now, a cut away from MLK day celebrations. Riots in Vancouver? A mother of three children found dead in the tent city viaduct at Wilson and Lake Shore Drive. "Why is that news?" I said aloud. Betsy, dozing on the couch, said, "Do you think she's the one we saw today?" "No," I said. Probably not. Maybe. We'll never know.



Moneychangers of the Mainstream: The Parker Brothers Money Transfer Game

Rules of play:

• Go to a bank teller.
• Ask for 20 dollars in singles.
• Keep these bills in your pocket.
• When you pass a beggar, give the beggar one of the bills.
• Gameplay can last anywhere from five minutes to days and days, depending on where you find yourself, the weather, and how far you are walking.
• When all of your money is gone, repeat the above bullets until you are once again throwing money at the problem.

Possible Outcomes:

• Played correctly, it may be impossible to lose this game.

End of Play:

• The game is over when there are no more beggars on the street.


January 23, 20—

It was freezing today. Beggars come out at lunch, sit in their usual places, and then they go "somewhere else." I saw a new woman on the corner of Wells and Jackson, crouching against the stop sign pole, thin scarves wrapped around her head. She looked too stylish to be a beggar, perhaps only an addict or doing this for her pimp? But why would anyone trick us into thinking they need to beg, especially today, when the ground was too cold for snow? I dropped a fiver into her cup. She said to me, "You know it."———There's shit for brains on TV right now. Betsy is sleeping.———When it's coldest, the ALS people appear. They wear yellow vests with roomy front pockets. Together we can find a cure for ALS. They stood in front of the McDonalds that looks more like a bistro in a ski resort. Fast food never happens just once. As Mom always says, it repeats on me. Houses of the Holocaust removed from their parking lots. I noticed last week that Wendy's also got a new design. Quality is their recipe. And the Chik-fil-A doesn't look like a right-wing summer camp or lean-to Church of the Second Amendment; it's one of the most stylish buildings on Chicago Avenue. It's always packed with fragile chicken-eaters, one of the only racially integrated spots in the city. Today I joined The New York Review of Books subscription club, the Vinyl-Me Please club, and I also noticed a lot of snazzier Facebook friends like Trunk Club, which delivers custom-made outfits to your door step. Trunk Club seems to be the same thing as Bonobos, the outfitter selling $89 pants at Nordstrom. The CEO founded his company after cashing in his 401K.



The Hurstwood is white, black, or some other race, male, aggressive, angry, not likely to smell, standing up on the corner, leaning against an office tower or Walgreens for support, getting donations from office workers moving in all four directions. It's possible this man has been begging for 20 years, but he brings a freshness, an urgency to the activity that makes one think he only yesterday ran out of options. I take his name from Mr. George Hurstwood in Dreiser's Sister Carrie, a one-time moderately successful bar manager with tons of connections and friends, who fell in love with the wrong woman and lost absolutely everything. The Hurstwood chugs a cup for his daily pay. He chugs his cup, chants his change, change, change. There is one on Madison Street. I've been seeing him for ten years now, sitting on a milk crate while he chugs. Most beggars only lean their elbows on their milk crates, but this man actually sits on his. I will be happy the day he disappears. Sometimes he yawns between chugs. Change, change, change. But he will never change. He will never beg enough.


January 31, 20—

We've been experiencing a slight warm-up. I was late for a meeting this morning and decided to be even later. Walked to the other Starbucks down on LaSalle. Misericordia volunteers swarmed. They are Latin, for mercy. Each one had a donation canister with an open slot for bills or change. For the Misericordia folks, like the ALSers, people open their wallets. I don't understand it. Mercy is a word in steady decline, usage bottomed-out, according to the Google knowledge graph. I stood at the corner of Adams waiting for the light to change. A Misericordia volunteer approached me. I smiled, but I did not give her money. I heard baroque on Van Buren. The trumpeter, butchering his canon.———Betsy is asking me to rub her feet. She will go get the peppermint lotion.———My father called tonight, and I didn't pick up. What the hell do I say to him? He's calling to thank me for transferring the money. Today I won a $10 Dunkin' Donuts gift card in a team-building game of Jeopardy! I immediately went to dunkindonuts.com and registered the card.



The Docile Penitent can be male or female, white or black or some other race, and usually sits in a "lotus pose" or something as-if Eastern. They don't seem to know the difference between sleeping and praying, or perhaps they are tired during the day because they must spend the evenings awake on the look-out for rapists. Charming, the Docile Penitents, they bring to contemporary begging a classical sense of poverty and sacredness. Alms sounds like an old word because it is, originally from the Greek for compassion and mercy, its usage, according to the Google knowledge graph, in steady decline.


February 3, 20—

My Birchbox arrived in the mail today. There was a sample-size Jack Black Industrial Strength Hand Healer. I hope this will do something for my cuticles, which, like the potholes in the streets, only get worse as WINTER MARCHES ON. Today during a meeting, I wondered why good art is unsentimental. Cultural products are praised for their unsentimental modalities. Authors remain vigilant in the face of sentiment, wary of it, as though they are at war with it. Sentimentality is resorted to, the providence of unemployed grandmothers who don't know any better, not that they deserve any pity. Sentimentality is also played, as a card in a kid's poker game with too many jokers. Nothing fully realized will be sentimental, which means the non-sentimental must be based in reality, if not reality itself. Avoiding sentimentality is the sign not only of becoming an artist, but of growing into a mature one. A mature artist rejects a supportive mindset. Some young artists are "shockingly mature" for how unsentimental they already are. Old artists are castigated for their increasing tendency to slip into the maudlin, just like some normal old people are. If something is not sentimental, then it is true to real life. Sentimentality is a style. Reality is attitude. Things other than reality that are true to life include war (political conflict), carnism, gasoline (products), data, guns, and starvation. R.H. Blyth, a translator of haiku, says we are being sentimental when we give to a thing more tenderness than God gives to it. Then again, Bette Davis says sometimes I'm sparking all over and I want to go out and do something crazy and marvelous. Then the American parts of me speak up and spoil everything. I go back to work and figure out my dull accounts. So much coffee. Hamburgers. Sugar.


February 5, 20—

A sunny, frozen day. Today I noticed the sun moves from Adams to LaSalle Street, from America to France. On my morning walk the sun moves over the hotels on Adams, and by the lunch hour the streets fill up with beggars and hungry workers, and the cold, shy sun sits atop The Chicago Board of Trade, The Chicago Board of Options Exchange, and the Federal Reserve Money Museum. At lunch today I walked to the Au Bon Pain on Wells Street, hoping to ladle the last of their barley soup. An old bank clock read negative 2 degrees. I literally ran into Natalie Kearns because we were both running away from the cold. We're both with different firms now, so we decided to catch up at Au Bon Pain. At first we had everything to talk about, but after ten minutes we settled on silence. Gazing out the window at a begging mother of two, I ask Natalie what she thought of beggars. Chewing bits of multigrain bread and antibiotic-free turkey, she said, "I think they're annoying as shit. Although, I guess if it were simple to be poor, everyone would do it." "Yeah," I said. "I give them money to have something to do. It's a moment I feel alive. I think it's my own personal form of cutting. Instead of self-harming, I self-liquidate. My body is the place of money. Beggars are like stage props of what might happen to you if you don't follow the rules. Then you get to play the role of ashamed father of three, homeless. Or the veteran." Natalie said, "You've always been funny." Natalie said, "You've always had a unique perspective on things." She said, "I need my brands to stand out," which I misheard as, "I need to blow my brains out."———Don't forget to make an appointment with an in-network audiologist.———I couldn't help staring at Natalie's lips as she said, "Writing scribbles on a cardboard box with a magic marker? It doesn't really matter if you're giving me a free trip to Paris, I don't care. What differentiates your box from others?" "You're right," I said, "I agree with you, and there's no way to introduce us to this season's generation of beggars, the way there is for reality TV stars and young philanthropists." Natalie said, "I heard they rent those kids." I've heard that before, too, but what does that even mean? "Doesn't the idea that there are kids for rent almost seem worse? If anyone actually gets to the point where it's rumored they rent kids," Natalie said, finishing the last of her antibiotic-free turkey. "I mean, if anyone gets to that point, it's got to be their own fault, and I feel no pity for them." Natalie said she had to run, and I lied that I did, too. We stood up. Her coat cost $700, mine was only $250. Pulling my face mask down over my head, I told her that Peter Rollins writes of the controversial possibility that Christians are not called to believe in the Resurrection but rather are called to be the site where Resurrection takes place, that is, the site where Christ's presence is testified into action. So when you are giving alms, you are being resurrected. "Goodbye, Natalie," I said. She hugged me, I think because she had forgotten, because she never said it once throughout our entire engagement, my name.———I wonder if Natalie, or only her $700 coat, will pop into my head tonight when Betsy and I have sex.———On the way back to the office, I cried heavy tears because I realized I didn't tell Natalie Kearns that the material needs of my neighbor are my spiritual needs, as Salanter said, or that for me, charity is a kind of time machine, which is why Aquinas said it is a reunion with God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi dissident executed by obedient Nazis, thought faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience. I doubt I'll ever see Natalie again, even by chance, even at a charity event. Too bad because we had a good talk. Had I really given instructions on the Resurrection, or merely instructions to the double? Leaving the Au Bon Pain, which means "good bread" in French, or, as Gil Faizon once said, means, in French, "food from O'Hare airport," I gave a dollar to a woman who had replaced a hungry father of two. She had no sign, and her head was in her knees. The bank clock now read negative four degrees. She did not raise her head when I dropped the bill in her cup. She did not thank me. I wondered if she was dead. But the last stage of hypothermia is taking off your clothes, and she was well-bundled. The wind searches for the people who need it least. Today I felt cheated, miserable, a waste of a strong man, well-off, angry, lucky, empty, stupid, alone, in love with my life, in love with my wife. Today I had lunch with another human being.



"Chance" and "Community Chest":

• In more advanced stages of play, increase the dollar amount in the first bullet. For example, $40 of $2 bills, $100 of $5 bills, $500 of $10 bills, $1,000 of $20 bills, and so on.


The Man with Bloody Stumps holds a sign that says: I need shoes (smiley face). He lays on the ground outside The North Face store. He's friends with The Dirty Dogs, men and women with actual tattoos, clothes Nam-green, who look like extras from Easy Rider and should probably, like the men in that film, be murdered by some bored cops. The Dirty Dogs say they need money for beer. They are as culturally annoying as bike messengers, and they don't even deliver bruised packages. Today, one had a sign that said, "Bet you can't hit me with a dollar." A fat Asian tourist, or I guess a South Korean, removing a dollar from his Velcro wallet, asked him, "What do I get if I win?"


March 4, 20—

In high school I worked at the music store down by the Global Financial Centre, and one Friday night after work, I found a tourist wallet filled with eleven crisp $100 bills. It was the largest sum of money I'd ever held in my hands. Instead of turning the wallet in to my shift manager, I took the money out and threw the rest, including the passports, into the river. That night I took my girlfriend out to the jazz clubs uptown. I spent the entire $1,100 that night. My girlfriend asked if I had my father's credit card. When I told her what I had done, I said, "It wasn't so bad. Anyone with $1,100 in cash is bound to have a lot more where that came from." She said, "No, Stuart, probably that was the only $1,100 they had. And you ruined their vacation. You ruined some of their entire life." This is one of the personal stories I think of when I stare off into the middle-distance. As Walter Benjamin wrote, it is impossible to remain in a large city where hunger forces the most wretched to live on the banknotes with which passers-by seek to cover an exposure that wounds them.

The firm is now matching my 401K contributions, hooray. I spent all afternoon in the Café Baci across the street from The Board of Options observing a heavily-armed Federal Reserve police maneuver. They mobilized at the electrocuting gates in order to grant legal passage to armored trucks filled with global currency. These men are David Graeber's protectors of the free market. Whenever someone starts talking about the "free market," it's a good idea to look around for the man with the gun. He's never far away. Sipping my cold tomato soup that was never a gazpacho, I remembered The Board of Options owns every "option." When a Hurstwood is out of options, the place for him to find help is not at The Board of Options. Although it would seem like the most natural thing in the world for such a man to do, the Board of Options would be the last place he'd want to go, if he were really seeking an alternative. In front of the Ann Taylor on the ground floor of the Bank of America tower, elderly women held up signs protesting drones and inequality. They disappeared after 4:00 PM, along with the sun. It's getting later earlier. When I close my eyes, I hear the drums of war.———Should we eat at the table or in front of the TV? The problem with not eating in front of the TV will be that Betsy will then fall asleep before the movie is over.———I offered my Dunkin' Donuts gift card to the beggar who stands outside the Dunkin' Donuts closest to my office. I asked him, "Do you accept these?" He said, "God Bless You." Back at the office I considered logging onto my account to see if the card had been used, but I forgot the password I signed up with. When did they start selling burritos?





March 9, 20—

This morning I was just off the train late for a meeting, and I didn't feel good. I was rushing down Madison Street, and I wanted to stop rushing and rambling. I wanted to go back home and read commentary on Isaiah, and I wanted to give, throw, money at someone as quickly as possible. I was late for a meeting. I slowed down. I was never going to be early for the meeting. It could only get later. A meeting is a conversation about how a woman who makes $400,000 can most strategically grovel at the feet of a woman who makes $1,000,000 a year and ask for $150,000 of her company's business.

I decided to walk across the Washington Street bridge, near Boeing. During the successful NATO Summit in 2012, Boeing erected a ten foot fence that barricaded the public space outside its headquarters, claiming in a press release it had nothing to do with the radical call to Occupy Boeing. I believed Boeing's press release. What does Boeing care about protestors? Lions do not take precautions against fleas.

At the base of the bridge, I saw a man selling the newspaper out of his coat. I don't want to read the news. If I read the news, I am informed, and I'm less likely to be ignorant enough to put my money in the right places, which is directly into the hands of the people who are asking me for it. Like lions, Boeing. Like lions, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, and other corporations who advertise on Meet the Press, and like the press will eat human beings if human beings cage them on. Corporations are animals. There has been progress for the rights of non-humans. It is unknown if human rights will ever catch up. I wouldn't bet my hard-earned money on it.



The Vet is only one man, missing both legs. One day he will die, and the local news will do a short spot on him. He's a Chicago Institution. He doesn't hold a cup, he keeps it in his chair, where he also keeps a duck-billed umbrella. In my head, he chants at every woman, nice heels, sexy heels, I wanna suck on those legs, going out after work tonight? Women think they can record what men say about them on the street, but men's thoughts are unrecognizable. The Vet begs in front of the Paul Stewart store, across from the Brooks Brothers in the landmark Rookery building. The Vet is always smoking a cigarette. Smoking never looks unhealthier than it does when he smokes. Go Hawks, Go Bulls, Go Cubs, Go Sox. He has more energy, joie de vivre, than many of the office workers who avoid him every day. He's like Ignatius Reilly, only he's not a fully-realized comic creation. He's quite sentimental. I have caught him crying. But I never engage him. Most of the people who engage him have been doing so for years. I could be one of them, but I never give him money. I will be happy the day he disappears. I think I have "nothing in common with him," as Patrick Bateman says to a bum before stabbing the bum and his dog to death in a Wall Street alley. An advertisement in the Paul Stewart window said Dave Grohl thinks it's a beautiful thing to have children. Sure he does. Dave Grohl was born a son.


March 21, 20—

First day of spring. Lots of snow. Tempted by the sample that arrived in my Birchbox, and wanting to do something for my cutes, I went to Nordstrom after work and bought a full-size Jack Black Industrial Strength Hand Healer. I eyed the $89 Bonobos pants but was too shy to approach them. Today I also re-set the password at dunkindonuts.com so I could unsubscribe from its blizzard of promotional emails.———I have to go shovel the car out so Betsy can get out of the spot in the morning. Dancing with the Stars wasn't interrupted for breaking news on beggars.———On the train I read in a $6.99 political mag published out of Manhattan that the homeless have a life expectancy 30 years lower than those with homes. I just opened some old mail. The Children Fund in Africa, Native American schools in South Dakota, Catholic charities in New York, wetland conservatories in Florida... it seems the west coast never needs my help. My grandmother speaks of an Ecuadorian boy she "adopted," his photos on her cream-corn-colored fridge. One day the photos stopped coming because, as she understood it, the boy got married. The Children Fund of Texas. There are bad harelips on children all over the goddammed world. My dollar is explained to me, divided into days and cents, for 10 cents a day, for $3 a week, for as long as it takes to say the word alms, they can be given, how much I can do for another for so little, with a sum of money I would never even notice was gone. But I need to notice it's gone.



"Bloomberg Philanthropies plans to assist Atlanta by giving $1.4M annually, to fund an Innovation Delivery Team to generate innovative solutions, develop implementation plans, and manage progress towards defined targets." —The language of the informed.

"Being rich, my virtue shall be to say there is no vice but beggary." —The Bastard in King John

Donning a fake beard, Fox Business host John Stossel sat on a New York City sidewalk with a cardboard sign asking people for help. "I just begged for an hour, but I did well," he said. "If I did this for an eight-hour day, I would've made 90 bucks. Twenty-three thou for a year. Tax-free."

Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who recently purchased a $4,000,000 home in Greenwich, gasped in horror at the prospect of poor people earning $23,000 a year. Some people asking for money "are actually scammers," Hasselbeck warned, seemingly unaware of the irony that the only panhandling "scammer" Fox News identified was Stossel.


March 19, 20—

Margaret Atwood and/or William Gibson, lying through their teeth on Twitter, tweeted out to their thousands of follows that Twitter is now the street, or something like, "Twitter has replaced the street." I wonder if either of them has ever been on the street, or listened to Cage, who said everyone standing is part of the human pavement. Today I gave $20 to a man standing in front of the Garland, and I gave $40 to a man standing in front of the Monadnock, buildings more quintessentially Chicagoan than murder. Near the entrance to Northern Trust's semi-public gardens, I handed over a fiver to an elderly man in a wheelchair. His cup was a Big Gulp inside of a Super Big Gulp. I folded the fiver before I put it in. It turned out he was actually drinking soda from the Big Gulp. I apologized and asked him if he wanted another soda. He said it was fine, tweezed the fiver out, and kept on drinking his watered-down diabetes juice.


March 28, 20—

The season is finally changing. Spring will soon be in the air. Today I gave $100 to a Hurstwood with his foot against a drain pipe outside the Urban Outfitters. He was wearing cool white sneakers and a fitted tee-shirt tucked into a pair of sun-washed Bonobos. He rattled his cup hard, but also like he couldn't be bothered. This Hurstwood was also a Hipster Bum. I dropped my Benjamin in. He didn't say anything. It's like people give him hundreds every day.———Betsy wants to plan our summer trip. We're going to sit on the couch and use her laptop to look at hotels. We're thinking of maybe London this year. She keeps saying Thailand, and I always nod, but I never say Thailand back to her. Anyway, I am really excited for this vacation!———Back at work I went to Yahoo! Finance and fooled around with some historical data. Turns out that if I had put $100 into Urban Outfitters stock ten years ago, today I would be a person with a hefty sum of money. With the rental markets booming, occupancy rates are either high, or low; I can never remember which indicator is good for which side of the market. Same for bomb yields and the price of bonds; they move in different directions. There are four quarters to a year, each one is three months long. Oh wow, haha, I stand by that bomb. That bomb yield is a (sic).



crack down vi: to take punitive action: to enforce strict conformance with or increase the severity of regulations or restrictions – usu. used with on {the government cracked down on violators}.

When I picture a cop cracking down, I imagine that cop on its knees. The cracked-down upon even lower, on their backs.


April 1, 20—

My function and I went to lunch today. Today was the first nicer day of the year. The blogs and newsfeeds were racing to pour language down on it. There were more beggars out than usual. I wanted to pick them off with $100 and be awarded 100 points. But I couldn't have my function seeing me throwing money away. The 13 of us passed a man screaming I am hungry, I am hungry, pounding both fists down on an imaginary drum. I am hungry, I am hungry, that's his allegro, his scherzo, and his finale. We walked on by. I think the conversation was about data visualization. Workplaces are conservative environments. Willy-nilly charity is against everything an ethical business stands for. A progressive mindset is nothing but a hotbed of conservative beliefs. If my function observed me treating money that casually, throwing it at unclean men banging imaginary drums, it could harm my performance rating and therefore my inflationary compensation increase. Who knows what could happen. You hear stories from people who want to tell them. The real question is, what do I truly value?

At the end of the day, I decided to walk home on the Magnificent Mile. The spring is going to bring a new set of parameters. I stopped in front of a filthy woman sitting against a tulip planter. She was attempting to play the guitar. She had dead flowers in her hair, no shoes, black feet.

Pregnant and Hungry is a classic new type. My mom would release a low, sentimental Oh, honey if she saw that sign, not able to believe it was written in reality, if not exactly reality-based. Every once in a while you meet a natural object of charity. This was another one of those times. I bent down and flicked $20 in Pregnant and Hungry's guitar case. "It must be April Fools," she said and eyed me like I was going to force her to suck my dick. Behind us, a city worker manicured the tulips. Although tulips don't need much help. Her guitar had notes taped to it, inspirational quotes like those on the pillows of people with couches, the sheltered. Life is not measured in a series of breaths, but rather in what takes our breath away. I inhaled deeply and asked Pregnant and Hungry to play Nirvana's "Been a Son." She said, "Hum it." I said, "It's not easy to hum." She started playing "Come As You Are," and I said, "That's not exactly it." She said, "So hum it, and I'll just play my favorite chords." She played her chords while I hummed, and I pictured the lyrics on her sign:

She should've died when she was born.
She should've worn the crown of thorns.
She should've... been a son.

Pregnant and Honey said she liked it. I meant hungry, not honey.


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