portion of the artwork for Kevin Spaide's fiction

Kevin Spaide’s Comments

I went to a Jeffrey Lewis concert the other night in Madrid. I really like Jeffrey Lewis, but I was feeling lazy about the whole thing because I was tired—I mean, even more tired than usual. We got there early and sat around. I was tired and lazy and in pain, but I didn’t want to miss anything. Jeffrey Lewis and his brother Jack were selling CDs and t-shirts and comic books at a little table in the entranceway. They were surrounded by a group of people who were all trying to talk to them at once. It had been a long time since I’d seen anyone sitting at a little table like that selling their CDs and t-shirts before a show. And I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone selling their own comic books in a bar. I was thinking, Yes, yes! The first band went on. It was all right, but I could have done without it. Then Jeffrey Lewis + The Junkyard went on, and from the moment they started playing I felt like everything made sense. The music, something I recognized as coming from the world that created me, destroyed my usual sense of being two or three steps removed from what was going on around me. It was odd. I’m so used to that feeling. I’m so used to it, I don’t even notice it anymore. Suddenly I didn’t feel like a secret alien. Was this normality? Was this how I used to feel all the time? It was a great concert, I had a great time, but I was painfully homesick the next day—which does not happen often, I tell you.

Iíve just read “Cobarde” for the first time in months. It’s obviously the product of a semi-deranged mind—a good thing for a story, right? (You need a clear, strong head to write well and regularly, but a little semi-derangement does take you places.) I think the story comes out of that feeling of dislocation you learn to live with when you’re making your life (fighting for your life?) in a place you don’t understand or belong to. Even a place as harmless as Madrid. Everything is always slightly (or sometimes drastically) out of whack when you live in a place that didn’t make you. Is for me, anyway. (I’m not complaining.) Everyday signals are broadcast on a frequency that can be hard or even impossible to tune into. New fears arise. You find yourself confused, possibly even terrified, about little things, stupid things, things that don’t even exist—maybe the terror only lasts a microsecond, but it’s there, in your head. There is nothing you can do about it. You feel embarrassed and naked. You’re also getting older. Your body is starting to hurt in ridiculous places. You know you should exercise more and stop drinking so much beer. You are falling apart—or preparing to fall apart. Or your body is preparing to fall apart. Not that Iím complaining. Not at all. (I’m reading Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales about life in the Siberian labor camps. I know I’m not suffering.) Most of the time living in a country that isn’t yours is fantastic, exhilarating, pleasantly weird, and you gain a real edge, a freedom unknown to natives, by not knowing what all the rules are, but often it’s exhausting. Throw a toddler into the equation, and you’re going to wonder what the fuck you were thinking.

“Cobarde” is one of those rare stories that could have been taken straight out of my life. Sure, I could have passed a day like that. There are no time machines, no one’s secretly able to fly. No one’s trying to kill anyone in the supermarket. It’s about three people going for a walk in the city. That’s half my life. Except I’m not married to that woman. And I don’t say fuck when I’m talking to my son. Or I try not to. Not that he’d care, I guess, since he only speaks Spanish. I have, however, chased him around that filthy, long-gone fountain at Callao. And I’ve probably dragged him by the arm down Calle Santiago once or twice. I seem to recall an afternoon like that—or maybe it’s just a memory from this story. Which I’m especially happy is published in FRiGG, because it’s kind of a continuation of a story I published here three years ago called “Playground Story.” I didn’t write it that way, I doubt I was thinking about “Playground Story” when I wrote “Cobarde,” but they seem to have come from the same place. They go together. They’re dealing with the same shit. So that’s good. Maybe I’ll write one of these every three years and won’t know I’m doing it until it’s done. That would be perfect.

So I went to a concert, loved it, felt normal for a second, got homesick. Then I read this story, because I wanted to write some comments, and it explained how something so good could make me feel so awful. And how it’s probably just going to be that way from now on. And how there’s nothing I can do about it. And how that’s something I can work with because I’m an optimist. I don’t have enough energy to be pessimistic. Hope you like it. And, wow, what a blabbermouth!

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 34 | Fall 2011