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LAB RATS IN BOSTON
Chris Dellapenta


Empty, cheap beer cans, kicked, rattle in their place, divorce an inanimate existence. Inside the stomachs, livers, throats, mouths, of burning out students of Literature, Philosophy, Jazz, foaming incitement of looming ecstasy brings the bedroom, filthy, cluttered, ash-ridden, to a climactic vibe. Discussions, arguments, incoherencies, sail across the room as attention digresses, intercepted by competing projection. Clouds, unthinkable chemicals, from the tobacco plant meant not to be produced by machines, expand and encompass the room, leaving an unceasing stench, never interrupted long enough to realize its full consequences; until, of course, one departs and objectively inhales and assesses the stale stain upon one’s attire.
"I knew a guy that was in for two and a half years. I can’t even describe to you how much fun he was when he got out!"
"I guess I’m just going to have to get used to not being his boyfriend. I will still do him though. I have to have my fun!"
"Damn right you do."
Criminals, drug dealers, thieves, abusers, intoxicators, sex-fiends, sex-friends, cram into the room and laugh and indulge themselves in chemicals, and justify indulgence by indulging in communal self-pity. Grandmothers aware of their habits, mothers, sisters, brothers, at home, studying, reading, cleaning, worrying about where their kids go, and what they do. They taint themselves, and laugh about it, and sleep just enough to do it the next night. They play guitar, and sing loudly, off-key, but together. They argue about passivity. They breathe disillusionment.

Anarchists, the political fringe, fixate their attention. Nobody knows how to be a conscious anarchist; nihilism suffices, justifies the nothingness. They need jobs. They don’t need jobs. They rip each other off, but enjoy themselves, consequently. They forget everything in this haze.
"I love anarchists. They’re so cute."

Disenfranchisement. Why study? Where will it take them? They don’t know. An outlet presents itself, the mysterious black-clad time bomb, wandering from Eugene to Prague, and back to Boston. Romantic visions of freedom and love: one in the same. Anarchism: the savior, the purveyor of love. The union of spontaneity and dissociation. The dark, dirty, pavement reality sits idly outside. They will litter. They cannot escape.
"I have decided. I’m going to be a lab rat."

Commitment compresses their souls: employment implausible. Lab rats! Electric machines chasing neurons, impulses, at that synaptic moment when everything possible is possible, when the infinity of what might happen really rests, unprovoked, untouched, unknown.
"One research program paid me forty dollars each time I visited to watch the color, purple, pop onto a computer screen among other colors. Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Purple! There it is, purple!"
Sleepless, restless, they will become lab rats, desperate for money, desperate for a pulse, opposed to dedication. Empty! They sell themselves to science. They take refuge, distort patterns, and become the toys science desperately needs to understand itself. With reimbursement, they return to the ashes, the piney aromas, and the saliva-saturated remainders of aluminum cans. They laugh.

They claim they won’t be here long. They’re going to Germany, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Oregon. They will write a novel together. They will be free. They will return for a degree. They will wander more, lost, trying to find life in an age that just can’t set them free. Where will they go? Who will they be?
Who are they now?


© Chris Dellapenta 2001

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