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Headrushing by Rhys Leyshon Evans


Muireann always looks like she has a headache. So does her best friend, Uriel. Every night, Muireann spends fifteen minutes staring at the stars. She does not know the official constellations. However, in conversation with Uriel, and other friends, she lies and regales them with false constellations. Muireann’s fascination is akin to a prisoner obsessed with the sky because they cannot see much else through a restrictive cell window. Muireann owns cheekbones sharp as an anklebone. They are not natural. Her cheekbones are as far removed from nature as a four-lane highway.



Uriel always says: “People are overrated.” Muireann listens to this, and occasionally laughs. She is never sure whether Uriel is joking. Uriel does not consider that he might upset Muireann or his friends when he talks like this. Uriel is very pragmatic. He carries a small notebook in the pocket of his blazer. Uriel writes down sentences he can use in future conversations. Sentences like: ‘Realism is my enemy. I shield myself with a bloated maroon umbrella;’ or ‘I savor break-ups that are smooth as cheap liquor and sunburns.’ Uriel harbors aspirations to write literature. So far, he has produced one autobiographical novella. His poetry is written in free verse and usually runs out of ideas halfway through an overlong first stanza.


Uriel’s Apartment

“I’ve always wanted to be a muse to someone,” says Muireann. She sits on the couch, curled up like a particularly anti-social cat. “A muse for someone I don’t know.”

     Uriel nods, takes an overlong drag from his cigarette and nods some more, thinking about whether he is a healthy vegan.

     It is Saturday. Saturdays make Muireann and Uriel nervous because they don’t work full-time jobs. Sharing a day off with other people fills them with anxiety. Sometimes they go to art exhibitions of people they once knew in college and laugh at paintings and steal bottles of wine, even though neither drinks alcohol. But when there are no Saturday exhibitions to attend, Muireann and Uriel contend with anxiety. Saturday presents so much choice that the preferred choice is to just sit in an apartment. Or park. Or the Williamsburg Beach. Smoking. Not doing very much. Saturdays are overrated, thinks Uriel.

     “Can I check my email?” asks Muireann.

     “The Williamsburg Beach would be a far more interesting place if it was an industrial estate,” replies Uriel, handing over his expensive laptop.

     Muireann and Uriel often talk like this.

     Impersonal non-sequiturs.

     Muireann begins to tap on the keyboard. Uriel’s eyes drift around the room. They fall on the slightly curved, warped floor outside the kitchen. He has attained a satisfactory level of borderline poverty and this makes him feel, momentarily, authentic. Authenticity is something Uriel has strived for since teenage-hood.

     “I am confused,” begins Muireann, but then becomes transfixed by the laptop. “I want to look up obscure cubist photographers who have names beginning with the letter ‘S’.”

     “Cubist? Really?” sneers Uriel.

     He actually sneers.

     “Yes. And every time I type ‘S’ into the search engine, the first thing that comes up, every time, is shins. Shins, human, shins, animals.”

     “I don’t think animals have shins.”



Summer brings voices to the stoops of Sugar Hill. T-shirts hanging from belt buckles watch Muireann and Uriel walk briskly to the subway. The only thing either of them know about their neighborhood is which bodegas stay open late and the quickest route from apartment to subway.



Muireann and Uriel are good friends with their dealer, Race, and often visit him even when they don’t want to buy anything. Muireann and Uriel once went to dinner with Race. They ate steak and shared a number of silences. Later, Muireann told Uriel that she found the silences “spiritually enlightening, or, at least ethically enlightening.” Muireann’s interpretation of the evening could not even be dented by Race’s remark that other people in the restaurant probably thought Muireann and Uriel were a couple trying to solicit him for a threesome. Race is practical about his profession and keeps numerous trading, profit and loss books to track his expenditures and individual client accounts. Because Race does not pay tax and is unable to see a point in his life when he feasibly will, he donates large amounts to homeless charities and AIDS foundations.

     “Do you think I can use semi-colons in my children’s book?” asks Uriel, scowling at no one.

     “I think you can; do it anyway,” recommends Muireann.

     Muireann has just discovered the definition of the semi-colon and now uses them all the time. In emails. In text messages. Even when replying to Uriel, she imagines a semi-colon and draws an imaginary semi-colon in the air as if the air is actually a blackboard.

     “I really love the way a semi-colon looks,” declares Uriel.

     “So do I. Using semi-colons is fast becoming one of my favorite hobbies.”

     Until last week, Muireann thought a semi-colon was used for starting a new paragraph.

     There are many reasons why Uriel talks about writing a children’s book. Ultimately, it is because he is not a nice person. When Uriel wrote his autobiographical novella, he found this out. Maybe being a nasty person isn’t so bad? It makes good people feel better about themselves for one thing. The thought of writing a children’s book made Uriel feel better about who he is. Perhaps it will make him appear like a caring, kinder person.


Night-time, street lamps

Friday night simmers. Friday in the city is a child on a pogo stick. Friday is giggling so much it spits flecks of saliva into Saturday. Friday has no competition. Muireann and Uriel sit on a stoop on their favorite tree-lined street. Drinking fizzy soda. Muireann and Uriel watch revelers pass by.

     Alcohol hidden in perspiring brown bags. Laughter. Friends wear the same outfits. Boys: plaid shirts, plastic-looking jeans rolled up at the same length, polished winklepickers. Girls: fey dresses, pocket watches around their necks, brogues, tousled hair.

     Muireann and Uriel have sat on the stoop for hours. Muireann cannot see the stars tonight. It is a muggy, humid summer night. The heavy air reminds Uriel of how he felt the time he went to a gym. Uriel does not like the stars. His eyes are transfixed by the street-lamps.

     The sights they have seen on this small street in a big city.






     “I think I’m going to start speaking in rhyme again,” says Muireann. “My friend Madeline does. It could be fun.”

     Uriel nods.

     Months ago, Muireann spent her time rhyming. Sometimes they were clever rhymes that made boys find her attractive. When she rhymed shampoo with Camus, for instance. But Muireann was unable to rhyme like this all the time. Not even when she carried a notebook around like Uriel. No. Muireann’s bad rhymes became very bad. She once told a girl, named Kit, that she was shit. That was low. Uriel didn’t mind Muireann rhyming.

     “Okay,” Uriel says. “I don’t think this street is hip anymore. We need to find a new stoop.”

     A street lamp, which has been flickering since it was switched on, goes dead. It disrupts the even flow of the street lamps running down the hyper-rational grid system.

     “Let’s go to a bar and drink non-alcoholic cocktails.”

     Muireann and Uriel begin walking. Whatever sustenance Race provided them with earlier has ceased. Their respective bloodstreams groan out for sympathy.



     Muireann and Uriel feel groggy. On residential streets, the friends pass former locations of favorite clubs. Long gone. Muireann and Uriel will be thirty soon. The future seems confusing. A neo-expressionist spatter of paint. A pop record with too many grammatically incorrect lyrics. Muireann and Uriel continue walking, and walking, and say very little. On nights like this, Muireann and Uriel play a game they have devised.

     “I watched a film with my family,” begins Uriel, playing the game. “A very upsetting, sad film supposedly. And I refused to cry. My mother got so angry with me.” Uriel smiles. Muireann fakes a laugh. Uriel’s face appears to want to laugh at the memory. But laughter is classified as an emotion and not allowed in the game.

     Muireann thinks to herself, is emotion really that bad?



On Monday, Muireann and Uriel and their friends, Vertigo, Baldwin, and Sercee, sit in an apartment and talk about dreams. They call these discussions, headrushing, and all drink green tea together. The tea often burns Uriel’s tongue. He complains about the burns for ages after. Even when the burn has healed. The group usually gathers in a circle and sits on the carpeted floor, bruised with cigarette ash and drink stains.

     “Today this girl stared at me on the street,” says Muireann. “Like I was some prized treat. I didn’t find it at all sweet.”

     Muireann has been rhyming for nearly twenty-four hours. At first, Baldwin laughs. Then he realizes Muireann is not trying to be funny.

     “I had this beat dream,” declares Vertigo. “The other night. There were so many vibrant colors. I can see them now. Proper colors. Real colors. But I cannot describe them for you.”

     “My dreams are so eventful at the moment,” Sercee tells the group.

     Everyone nods sympathetically.

     “I really like a girl,” murmurs Baldwin.

     “And?” questions Uriel, underlining something in his notebook. “Was she in a dream?”


     “What happened?”

     “She has a boyfriend. In real life. But in the dream I was at a house-party full of strangers. Except she was there. And we only knew each other. And she starts kissing me. I knew she had a boyfriend in the dream and I pulled back from the kiss. I don’t know why. It was only a dream. I could have kissed her and it wouldn’t have mattered.’

     “I fell in love with someone in real-life,” says Sercee, “after they were in a dream of mine.”

     “That kind of sucks,” says Uriel.

     The group has sat on the floor for nearly two hours. Sercee and Uriel stretch out their legs and re-cross them. Muireann thinks about dreams. She thinks about the strange dreams her friends have. Muireann considers Baldwin’s dream and how her friends are much more controlled and disciplined and sort of half-moralistic in their dreams.



Summer finishes. Muireann and Uriel still look like they have constant headaches. Sullen eyes. Agitated movements. Clipped sentences that struggle for articulation. In early September, Muireann and Uriel wander through a reserved Wednesday evening. Playing the lack of emotion game, Muireann begins to cry. Uriel asks, meanly, if the tear is from love or something.

     “No,” sniffs Muireann. “The tear in my eye is not from love. It’s from this fucking cold.”

     The evening is not cold.



In October, Uriel realizes his dream of fronting a rock ‘n’ roll band.  The band is comprised of girls, ten years younger than him. The girls are students. Undergraduates in modernist design, middle-Australian literature, and classics. Muireann sits in on the band’s rehearsals and listens to them play dirgy noise. The band is called The Sound and the Fury. Uriel informs Muireann that it was the name of “a newspaper, in the fifties or something.” The Sound and the Fury have a song called “The End of a Film,” which Muireann quite likes because it does not mention anything about film. At one rehearsal, which Muireann does not attend, Uriel finds his first grey hair and the girls in the band laugh and make jokes.

     Because Uriel is often busy, hunched over his notebook writing lyrics, Muireann finds she has more time on her own. Once a week she visits Race.

     Conversations with Race:

            Pros and cons of travel insurance.

            Favorite season of the year.

            European cinema circa 1960.

            Second best restaurant in Bushwick.

     Muireann also catches up with friends that she was once better friends with.

     Ada, for instance.

     Ada is dating a doorman who writes short stories.

     “He only writes in the second person,” reveals Ada, ruffling her hair. Uriel thinks Ada has the best hair in the city. “He takes his art very seriously.”

     “I’d like to read,” says Muireann trailing off, trying to force a rhyme. “Perhaps with a glass of mead.”

     “Or he could read it you.”

     “Does he like to read stories aloud? He must be proud. Of the stories.”

     “All the time. Not just his own work. Like proper published short stories as well,” smiles Ada.

     This bemuses Muireann. Ada is Snowflake’s age and works in theater production. Muireann is jealous of her, that Ada is able to be young and mature all at the same time with her boyfriend and do embarrassing things without caring much what a person like Muireann thinks about it.

     “So what are you up to?” ask Ada. “You know, in life?”

     Muireann thinks for a moment.

     She is not sure how to answer.

     Eventually she speaks.

     “I guess I’ve been spending a lot of time recently trying to remember how to be young,” says Muireann.


Re-Lit Cigarette

Muireann meets Uriel at a dive bar. They drink cola with ice, and lime instead of lemon; it is cold outside and starts to snow while they talk; the ice in the glass doesn’t melt, even though Uriel clasps the glass with his meaty hands; Muireann zones out when Uriel discusses how he finds “death to be incredibly artistic” and Muireann finds herself standing outside with a cigarette that needs to be re-lit and re-lit over and over again in the wind; Uriel holds his own cigarette but does not smoke it for some reason that Muireann fails to ask about and Uriel  remains silent; Muireann hopes that it is the cold that has silenced him; Muireann needs Uriel to talk tonight, she needs to be told words and sentences and emotions; a tear falls down her cheek, stinging her dry skin and Uriel just watches; he ignores the tear and shifts from foot to foot, the snow melting on his shoes.

     “The tear in my eye is not from love,” whispers Muireann. She is not sure why. It seems better to say something than say nothing at all. “It’s from this, this fucking cold.” Uriel continues to watch. Unsure what to do. He pats the pocket of his overcoat. It is empty. “It’s just this fucking cold,” repeats Muireann. The “fucking” comes out fractured, childish almost. Muireann contemplates saying something more but thinks better of it.

     Let Uriel talk.

     Let him meet her halfway.

     Except Muireann is not sure where she is to begin with.

     She re-lights her cigarette.

     The snow kisses her skin.

     Like an embarrassing relative.

     Why can’t Uriel speak, thinks Muireann.

     “Say something, please,” she murmurs, her mouth barely opening.

     It hurts to move her lips too much.

     A memory of a boy, his warm body and sheets layered like a club sandwich.

     “Say something,” repeats Muireann. “Please, Uriel.”

     Uriel is not the boy.

     He looks back at Muireann, blankly.

     Uriel stops bouncing from foot to foot.

     Muireann doesn’t cry.

     She re-lights the stub of her hand-rolled cigarette.

     “I don’t know what to say, Muireann,” admits Uriel. He looks away. “I really don’t. I’ve left my notebook at home.”

Rhys Leyshon Evans is 24. His work has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 3am Magazine, Specter Literary Magazine, fwriction: review, and The Cadaverine. Currently working on a novella. More info can be found at rhysleyshonevans.tumblr.com.