i did a poster for this band Speedy Ortiz, and now i listen to their music a lot
Patrick is fourteen, this is earth, it’s dark, it’s cold out, he’s American, he’s white, straight, not everyone has cell phones, he’s sitting on the carpet of the TV room on the third floor holding the remote in both hands in his lap. He’s sitting with one leg tucked under the other on the deep shag oval rug, his back against an enormous ottoman. Other elements of the modular sofa orbit him. It’s a solid, stable position. On the second floor and on the other side of the house, behind a door off the hall that overlooks the living room, his parents sleep in a high walnut bed, under a moss green comforter. A tabby cat curls into his mother’s hair. Patrick has seen his mother asleep with the cat like that, practically suctioned. Against his will, it grosses him out a little.
In the video, the Smog Monster, a wad of wet-looking gray cotton with static red eyes, has not yet met Godzilla. It hardly matters that it eventually meets Godzilla because in the end all that Patrick will remember about the movie is a scene that’s not actually in the movie. It’s something he figured must be happening offscreen based on the girls in their gym outfits collapsing and four men playing cards, incinerated. He remembers how the toxic, billowing Smog Monster sweeps through the sky and, as it passes between the white-gray sun and the gray-gray earth, its shadow passes over millions of people whose faces are like beads. Flesh blows from the people like sand, leaving millions of skeletons coating the hills, dead faces like the pattern in a printed fabric, a city-sized, TV-sized sheet stretched flat. He’s not Jewish but he’s seen old films on cable of mass holocaust graves, and the shot he imagines could be lifted from one as a sick, low-budget solution; he pictures the Japanese filmmakers scurrying like the scientists in the movie, but with armfuls of unspooling film instead of fists of sloshing beakers. If he’d been born just a few years later, he might not even know about film. This Holocaust landscape, the bodies making a pattern you could turn into wallpaper, is what he imagines whenever there are reports of genocide coming from the kitchen radio or one of the televisions that dot the house. But later it’s all blended up with this dumb video that moved him in the night.
He’s wearing light blue cotton pajama bottoms and a thin sweatshirt his father wore playing hockey in college. His clavicle is incredibly delicate, poking out of the ring of the sweatshirt. Soon a professor, in subtitles, suggests that the Smog Monster rode in on a comet, a space pollution scientific freak organism. No one in Patrick’s generation uses the word “ozone” to worry about the planet. Soon there’s the scene where the girl’s dancing on a stage in front of a multicolored projection of magnified pond scum. Patrick finds he’s thinking of ice. He’s picturing his father moving alone with his hockey stick across their neighbor’s vast lawn that fills and freezes over every year. That afternoon he’d gone into his father’s dresser for a sweatshirt and found the tape there, at the bottom of the drawer where porn ought to be. He then, in fact, set his watch for three a.m. and chose the third floor TV room instead of the living room for that very reason. Imagine, porn rising past the hallway balcony like steam, curling under the doorway and creeping under the covers to where his father lay, a man, a man with a wife and a son, with a fine, high bed, with snow-covered land, borderless and unobstructed all the way to the deep pine woods.
<3 her voice