Meet Me Here(MMH)

by Michael Hastings


He wasn’t so much made as appeared.

Just appeared.

No dark lit moonshine nights or gray storm skies.

A regular afternoon.

More like dawn.

He didn’t blink awake. He didn’t want to miss anything. A tenth of a second is that much less to see in a life.

Everything in its entirety.


In a bathroom on the fourteenth floor, a faucet ran cold into trembling hands cupped as a temporary reservoir, a midway point between the sink and splashes to the face. It was a basic hotel commode. Nice looking but cheap marble easily sanitized. Tooth brush holders and complimentary packets of brandless shampoo. A blow dryer.

The mirrors caught his attention. Three of them rectangular that reflected everywhere he looked. They were the walls, and where the mirrors joined, his image multiplied. Like looking down a hallway decorated in self-portraits. No end in sight. Infinite versions.

He splashed some more water on his face.

Someone spoke in his voice.

He wasn’t saying a word.

He looked hard into the mirror.

He turned his head. He saw himself split to infinity. The mouth on the closest reflection twitched. His jaw was set. The second reflection removed, the lips parted. His were sealed. The third mouth away mouthed a word.


He stopped looking at where the mirrors met. He faced forward. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched a light speed collapse. All of selves contracted into to him. He splashed his face.

What’s my name…


His finger traced three letters on steamed mirror. A hot shower fog had settled.


Lines. Peaks. Two V’s upside down connected then two more upside down connected. Triangular. H. A blueprint for railroad tracks. I Bridge in the middle I. I hyphen I. Melded hot. He.

MMH. No punctuation this time, no fingerprint dots. The steam dissipated. The pace quickened. Repeated. Moving down the mirror, finding the foggy space like damsel finds solid ice flows on an ice broken lake. Initials. Initialed zed. Realized.

Second Part
By Michael Hastings

Time for a haircut. The salon is dark and the sound of scissors snipping and electric razors buzzing competes with hacking coughs from an emaciated graduate of beauty school. She asks what he needs on his face to blend in.

Old New York. New Amsterdam. Natural trees and dirt paths connect puddles of horse manure to avenues of cow dung. No subs no way. Wood and gas lamps. Wharves still bustling. A natural stench of seaweed and labor. Rats running up riggings.

He’s in silk shirt, buttons to the neck for decency, pantaloons and knee high riding boots.

Detective, this is the scene. First and foremost, there are four bodies, faceless and face down floating upriver.

One he recognizes from a history book two hundred years later. Chapter V: Colonial History of New York. In bold: Popular Governor Murdered. Caption of newspaper clipping: Family Kidnapped and Executed.

The camera’s not invented. An artist’s rendition on a rough paper sketches top hat spectators. The surface of the water is black ink. A man holding a lantern.

Detective, who did this?

His memory is graphic: think hard. See the text in history. Paragraph blocks in fourteen point type. Glossy binding to a page in state civics. Not the state bird or motto or capitol. Bluejay Excelsior Albany. Think culprit. Think second paragraph. Think trivia. Multiple choice for advanced placement.

He draws a blank.

The hairdresser pats baby powder. A puff of white.

He whispers in the hairdressers ear.

A disguise? Something out of a bestseller, a real barn burning suspense thriller of epic events covering important dates. Spies versus spies.

Nameless agencies, heroic agents, fabulous dialogue. Secret government experiments.
The dial of the radio is tuned specific. The children lean closer. The hairdresser’s assistant dims the salon’s track lighting to twilight. Static clears its voice.

New Amsterdam, 1723. A gentleman in red gloves stepped onto Stuart Street, briskly moving northwards, heavy overcoat swishing across the urban thoroughfare’s rough road, a fine mist dampening his wool scarf, the soles of his black shoes splashing trickled rain in red and gray cobblestone cracks. The gentleman was alone, save for a professional handbag in his hand, carrying it with posture much like a physician from another era. A soft leather bag much heavier than it appeared, filled with instruments.

As the gentleman made his way towards an apartment of an undisclosed relation, a relation named only on a note left for his maid to find on the morrow, the black night, a daily superstitious omen, was overrun by fog made gray through the contraction of the gentleman’s bloodshot pupils, visible water particles joining on subatomic levels in rhythmic coherence with the drop of his feet, heel to toe, toe to heel, repeated, until he came to a dead stop and the air stood still in dramatic foreshadowing of a silent terror, invisible yet visceral to the point of rib snapping apprehension.

The gentleman twisted his head, eyes coming to rest on the number 3 painted onto a shingle hanging from an iron nail in the color red that the gaslight made orange or even a morbid tangerine.

Would this be the house number where the mystery unfolded?

Would our yet to named hero find a yet to named villain or victim within the termite infested planks of this dilapidated abode?

Would this hairdresser want a ten dollar tip?

Stay right here and listen to the words of a sponsor.

End of Second Part

Third Part: A Race to Space
by Michael Hastings

The light afternoon sprinkle invoked a rainbow of red umbrellas across the open air bleachers, abandoned seats once reserved now spots of green, a cloud incubated sun drying the fine gravel silt on the three quarter mile track, hoof prints from an early morning sprint now lost.

Wagered on that one, TW Kram said, pointing to an animal that spoke sleek and fast.

Best for after a shower.

The showers?

That’s the word.

The word?

A little rain.

Slightly wet?

Just enough mist.


A deeply excited voice drowned the conversation, a monologue from the public address system, the microphone hidden in a press box overlooking the start/finish line, the source of the on track action transcription. The voice’s first sentiments were contained in incomprehensible static:

"ans=therelsplsshhh! Free Meal jumps a length on favorite Mustbuy, Passerbye moves past Mustbuy up the inside, Free Meal drops back, Passerbye takes a two head lead going into turn one but Yahoo carries more momentum heading down the back straight-away breaking away–but wait Breakaway Daisy comes from nowhere inside the lead pack and steps in front of Yahoo to nose across the finish line by a nose. Breakaway Daisy wins!"

TW Kram removed his eyes from the viewfinder, circular red marks at the bridge of his nose to his outer eyelash testifying to the intensity of the experience. The simulator was simple, rustic, modeled after 20th century boardwalk telescopes where one dropped a coin into a slot for a few minutes of magnified scenery. This was a play on that idea–press your fingerprint onto the simulator and currency is deducted from your personal net-worth, creating a real random ambiance from another century, possibly simulating an atmosphere inside the as real as the simulated atmosphere of the Space Carnival, with ballyhoo and freaks, three darts for a dollar bulls eye, skeet ball, fried dough, onion rings, and fabulous realism. No, TW Kram had never been to a horse race in any era, but, after seeing the sort of weather spectators were subjected to, he did not feel an opportunity for personal growth was missed.

The Space Carnival, on the other hand, was a different story. Personal growth abounded from this ultra metallic platform orbiting the far side of the Seventh Regulated Solar Sun. Reserve a space, reserve transportation, reserve some life, and come enjoy the Space Carnival. It even had simulations of old simulators–Use this simulator that lets you simulate an ancient person using a low-tech simulator that gives one the primitive skills of touch and walk and shoot ducks!

Kram was pleased–he’d wanted to know what confusing conversations were like back in history, and now, with his interaction about showers and sprinkles and bets, he knew that confusion had remained untouched for seven hundred years.

Not Arid Skies
Michael Hastings

It was an irritating temperature, a low barometer day, an atmosphere of damp annoyance only found on shower curtains in lukewarm trickles, droplets condensed on nozzles labeled H for hot and C for cold. Water logged fingertips search in shampoo blindness for the comfortable imbalance of warm and not cold while steam whistles through pipes as the rushing echo builds as water nears the showerhead and onto acne cratered backs.

It was a trapped in skin temperature, where the subdued mind is conscious only of the face and of the clipping of an electric fan in hopes to dry undergarments stuck to pants, where sweat defines physical flaws to accentuate slothly imperfection.

"Quite the weather this is."

"It is that."

Sweltering Time
By Michael Hastings

It was a sickening heat, a dry heat, a heat from a poisonous sun that stopped traffic and struck hot air off pavement, energy particles dispersed over a million miles to land on Earth’s highways as shots of colorless yellow across opal hoods of passenger sedans; a sleek heat carrying temperatures that melted lane divisions, that invaded black t-shirts, jammed air-vents, rolled down power windows; a hotness that made feet touch brakes and tap gas pedals, that hung boiled elbows outside car doors, bent elbows with impatient hands clinching dollar bills, money that filled driver-side-view mirrors, some bills crisp, some bills crumpled, each equivalent to the toll price of 1.00 dollar.

"I remember when it used to be fifty cents."

"That was last month."

"Yeah, my memory’s good."

The open windows permitted free flow of radio advertisements, sub woofed bass, curses, and comments from car to truck to towering tractor-trailers. There was nothing for the driver of license plate number 327 XUL to do except not listen and sit and look at his cradled cell phone for reassurance that no one called.

His car had a sunroof and the sun came through.

His car had a rearview mirror where his eyes were contained in an elongated rectangle, brown irises closer than they appeared, bloodshot pupils larger than ovals.

His car had a horn that made no noise, no annoyance or yip of danger, a helpless horn, inaudible like in a nightmare where mouths move to warn victims but no screams sound.

His car had a digital clock with bright green numbers made invisible by brighter sunlight.

The question was put to the passenger who sat like a mirage, seat unbuckled, sipping clear bottled water from a two liter container that veiled his face when he drank, the structural characteristics of his nose, jaw line, cheeks, forehead, and chin, warped by the pure liquid held in recycled plastic, the passenger’s appearance distorted like a reflection of a duckling peering into pond, a duck horrified by its own beak and darkened feathers.

"How much longer does this last?"

"Vaguely speaking, I could guesstimate some, but that wouldn’t show much in the interim, so I will only say one thing, about something else, unrelated to period in minutes, more closer to hours, accordingly."

"The next exit right?"


"Yes, A or B, to get on West 80, that’ll bring us north to go on 13 east to enter southern-like."

"Six more signs, the green ones that mark kilometers."

"We’ll take that."

"Did you check the map?"

"I looked at an atlas before we left, so I have a general knowledge of our geographic vicinity."

"State and country."

"Hemisphere, not anything as political as such as you mentioned just then."

"Not then huh."

"Vaguely telling, no."

"No telling."


"Usage well of adverbs."

Finally, it was his turn to pay for his car, reluctantly passing the single greenback slowly into the fabulously dirty hands of the above minimum wage, smartly dressed, probably governmental, employee.


"Thank you."

Time was wasting and he was passing through it.

A Want for Obsession: A Conclusion
By Michael Hastings

I wish for an obsession with a face besides the one I’m stuck with. It has its days in the sun as it burns to a pinkly white, lips dried palm tree roots, fissures of chapped skin. A contrast to the Blue of my eyes, a translucent blue of pupils that I see through to imagine my obsession on another face.

Capital O, Obsession.

The perfect shapes in magazines, the thin looking faces in stylish designer footgear, the visages with a color coordinated seasonal fit–those faces on pull-out perfume advertisements that dot newsstands in mainstream middle class marketed monthly magazines. Not for me.

Or the faces with the legs spread in adult positions, gashes and holes shaven to desires hidden and projected. The faces beneath heads of beach blond hair atop pornographic backsides; those are faces that obsession does not stick, only spurts for a couple seconds.

The oddities on the silver screen do not last either for purposes of an obessesion, even if bedrooms and living rooms become a shrine of life size posters and serial clip-outs. The stars are far out of reach, beyond the best fantasies that have gritty potential for consummation.
The faces in movies and on TV and in dirty mags aren’t worth the price of obsession; of dreaming; of wanting; of hating; of hurting.

I wish for a face standing two persons in front of me in the line at a grocery store check-out counter, a face with a random chance of a casual encounter on a biweekly basis. A face belonging to a body in regular clothes, tight in the right places, loose on days when the wind blows. A face that becomes golden when it leaves my view. A face of beautiful imperfections not so golden until a smile moves her mouth that counts change. The face that steps onto the street with an arm raised in concentration for hailing a taxi-cab.

A face that has a three dimensional chin and a voice slightly accented from a tropical tongue.

A face that has eyes that would look back into my mine if I could only have the courage to look hard, to look while she turns her neck towards my head. To make eye contact.

The obsession I want begins when my eyes go to the concrete and hers, I imagine, stare straight ahead as she passes on the sidewalk. And from there the scenarios build; the ways to ask for a rendezvous, a phone number, an address, the coincidence of living in rooms so nearby, the dinners, the movies, the putting my hand on her ass, of her leaning against me on humid nights, of her pleasure, of my possession. I wish for obsession with a face that has a body that I could tap, grab, touch.

The End



Artificial Intelligence: A Commentary and Slight Review
By Michael Hastings

A mixture of fuzzy warmth and silicon sterility, a touch of magic and a tad of nightmare, the movie AI is, if nothing else, a testament to Stanley Kubrick’s foresight and Steven Spielberg talent. It is part fairytale, a romance–this is the outer layer, the fake skin of the robotic boy, the flush of artificially intelligent cheeks. This is Spielberg, the imaginative tale woven with a camera, where actions are heroic, emotions are astronomical, and special effects are plentiful. Then there is the reality of the film, the probing questions that will confront humanity. This is underneath the adventure, the inner workings of the robot, the cold micro chip, the technician’s lens, the diagram of cinema–that is Kubrick, a filmmaker who in his films delineated fantasy from reality by making the line precisely clear, cutting with celluloid scissors so acutely that the space of real and the imaginary disappears into the screen.

The acting in AI is anything but artificial. Jude Law gives an idiosyncratic performance as a robot gigolo Joe, his looks capturing the sleek spirit of perfection. Haley Joel Osmet is nothing to scorn at either–the interplay between Osmet and Law, a relationship of guardian and guard, mentor and child, where the roles of who is being protected and who is doing the protection shifts regularly, is central to the adventure mood of the film.

Some of the more interesting moments came during the Flesh Fair, Spielberg’s take on the warped carnival atmosphere of American culture, the "reality TV" so to speak, the form of entertainment that fills the appetites for the need to see things destroyed, things crushed. It is the return of the freak show, a habit, that along with sexual vice, does not leave as the future arrives and the world assumable progresses.
The problem with the story is that in the end they’re appears to be too much to tell–a voice-over lays into the audience repeatedly causing an unwanted comic effect. I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again–there should be legislation passed to prevent good movies from using voiceovers as a means to cut corners in the storytelling process. The wise voice from off screen as ruined many a near masterpiece, just ask Blade Runner. But, there is enough brilliance flashed and emotion shown for this me to overlook the end–the rest of the movie is just that good, and for those who wish for a more insightful and analytic critique, well, I suggest reading the New York Times.