me, Avo Babian, and Michaela From Safeway are all on our way to the set of the music video for System of a Down's song "Protect the Land". we're all wearing our rusted red blue and yellow battle helmets.
me: this is CRAZY. does this giant hollowed-out cargo plane have a pilot? we've been bumping in turbulence the whole way, our heads have hit the ceiling in unison.
Michaela From Safeway's helmet has SAFEWAY sprawled across it.
Michaela From Safeway: these giant bolts all around us over our heads and below us, one caught on my vagina and yes it still hurts if you're a girl!!! can a girl get a decent place to sit?!!!
Avo: hey guys i REALLY appreciate you coming out all this way to Armenia. fighting in this war is gonna be costly and will cost us psychological damage, but it just needs to be done, you know? there's no other choice. don't worry, each of you will receive a gun, ESPECIALLY you, Michaela, as we must employ a woman's natural crazy latent frenzied energy in the fight effort.
me: wait WHAT?!!! say WHA?!!! you said we'd be extras in the music video. safe set.
Avo with a chagrined face sticking out his wide-grin big-teeth trademark bit tongue: i know but.........
me: .........okay i'll still do it. that's how much we're friends. i would only do this for you. and if Michaela ever needs help with the future baby. i would kinda be the baby's guncle or something, at least in spirit.
Michaela From Safeway: yeah same. i fight for food security. and i can't resist your Rolling Stones look. you boys are my forever puckers.
at the set.
me: okay okay i get it. i look all around this land, i see the faces of the innocent children taking up arms when they'd rather be taking up DJ turntables. i see the Washed Out cat Western piano in the middle of the battlefield. the Old West but never as old as Armenia. i see it in the Olmec statue in the forest and the woods.
Serj Tankian: you like Legends of the Hidden Temple, too? i am mad in the middle of my Nickelodeon fugue right now, i'm binging everything. i feel Doug.
Daron Malakian: focus, brother. and I'M supposed to be the kid brother. not all Armenians are related, but we all kinda are, cos we all are -ians.
John Dolmayan: not so fast. not quite. i agree the Olmec statue looks like a Mayan stone god.
Daron: this is serious, Serj, no time for playtime, we're fighting for freedom, we're freeing our people from repression and oppression, we're emancipating our homeland.
Michaela from Safeway: this war NEVER ENDS!!! i mean how long has this war been going on?
Shavo Odadjian: ever since our gods breathed their first breaths. it's ironic cos i'm Shavo but i would never shave my signature braided chinbeard that's one pelted pole DOWNWARD.
Lucio as an '80s computer programmer: not a neckbeard. i look like Mr. Diamond...
there, i can't believe i'm saying this but, there, there in the battlefield clearing, on top of the gloaming, like a rushed hazy VISION of redemptive spirit and light, is...
me: OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S NASIRA!!! how the FUCK are you, girl?!!! how long has it been?!!! i thought i'd never see you again!!! you are my PERFECT CRUSH!!! well you were.........but now still are again.
Nasira is toting a rifle that is ONE LONG MAGAZINE. she ferociously wears TWO BELTS, one on her shapely hip and one across her lumpy chest.
me: how long has it been? 20 years? you haven't aged a bit!!! you're even MORE BEAUTIFUL now!!! i would say you've grown into your beauty. you are fully-formed and seasoned before me.
Nasira: back then you knew me as a girl. i'm a woman now. i was a dumb 18yo college student studying stupid Disney films. i had to grow up in the land of milk and honey that's not America.
me: i know i know. meanwhile i never grew up. PLEASE DON'T TELL ME you're a divorced single mother fighting this war for your kid, i don't wanna know, i want to keep the fantasy up.
Nasira: you want to keep me alive only in your mind. not how i really am. suffice to say i'm a dumpy housewife with a headband now.
me: damn. it's one of those weird things, i forgot all about you but i can never forget you, you know?
Nasira: yeah. the fog of war and the fog of love make the fog of time. what's bothering you? i can tell even now. after all this time i read your sour soul not your sullen face. your high heart art.
me: oh it's just.........oh it's just.........well i just thought i'd be meeting a friend over here finally. i thought he cared...
me with the deepest of sighs: you know i never stopped loving you. you were my first, my first taste of it, you know? i could never forget you even if i wanted to. it's all coming back. now that you're here. your smile. the smile AND smarts of a siren. the raven hair of OLD. you need to teach me the ways of the world again, cos this world is crazy.
Nasira: you'll be okay alone. it's not that bad on your own. you'll make it by yourself. what do i know? the world has FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING IT LEARNED.
me: teachers are the best.
Nasira hands me a tiny mushroom from the barrel of her rifle.
Nasira and i hug in the center of a circle the middle of which is being pelted and plastered with a hail of bullets. the war couldn't be hotter but the two of us are oblivious to the world, we just look at ourselves, at our faces trying not to reflect. it's just us. the two of us are our world, in silence. two friends, two long-ago friends who stare at each other with that pained plaintive eternally unrequited longing that only time can carve in stone.
Gladyce: when i do my jumping jacks in the morning now on the cobblestone, my toes are FEELIN' IT. they are HURTIN', HONEY. i feel my toes point inward and grow curved claws, my toes grip the cobble to scratch the itch. i have the morning feet of a pterodactyl.
Gladyce: it's easier to massage the spaghetti when you use extra butter on your fingers.
Doryce: preach, sister.
Elizabeth Taylor: i'm not Joan Collins...
Joan Collins: no. you're a better equestrian but i'm a better swimmer.
Uncle Sigh: steeplechase...
Dirg: i just hope if i die in a nondescript car accident, Caitlin Conrad announces it quickly on KSBW.
Mardith: Lauren Seaver for me.
Boc: this whole time i had no idea there was a cannon under the Arsenal Football logo. the only gunner i know is that naked WWII gunner with the JUICY JUICY BIG-ASS BUTT...
Dawson Leery: we can't say masturbate, we have to say walking the dog.
Scooby-Doo: um, no.
Katie Holmes: i've done worse with Tom Cruise.
Michelle Williams: what if we say "master of your dog domain."
Pacey: nobody knows that my last name was Witter, everyone was transfixed on my unusual-as-fuck first name.
Pam Oliver: i'm so good-looking i always look like i'm stepping out of a Madison Avenue department store highrise with my 1920s coat on as drawn by the cartoonist who drew Blondie...
Mark Borchardt: splood? splatter blood.
William Shakespeare: 'sblood? a kinder way to say God's Blood which is a bit stressful as a concept. it's another way to say wine.
Tom Cruise: i sent one of my famous Tom Cruise Cakes out to Rosie O'Donnell.........i didn't mean it as an insult, i didn't mean anything by it i swear, it's not mean, i was trying to be nice.
Sam Smith: Justin Timberlake WISHES he looked like me.
Michael Weiss: if you don't share a post on Instagram---a piece of art, a quote, a selfie---it never existed, YOU NEVER EXISTED.
Cotard: hey brother where were you wearing your monk hood at the Sam Smith SNL performance of "Gloria"? i was in the choir waiting for you to join me.
George Clooney: sorry i was late.
Night Court (2023): it's weird to say this but working at night at a big urban-sprawl criminal court must be fun.
Forspeak Falls: the new detective agency run by crones Doryce and Gladyce.
the war drags on for ages. i have fought fiercely about this with my comrades. fierce fighting all around with friends. and then at the very edge of the battlefield i hear the clarion ring of a phone in the offing. i recognize that ring, it's the green phone Lucio Rossi uses. the green phone with the faded lime. the plastic rotary dial. the coil. with tears running down my face i run across the battlefield, i run over the fleet of Leopard tanks and over the field daisies. i run and run and run. i outrun all the bullets, all the fires, and all the smoke. till i get to that phone, my life depends on answering that phone call...
that signature green phone warmly housed inside the outer bullethole-ridden casing of a public payphone. as i lift the receiver the rotary dial turns to glass.
me: Lucio? is that you?
i'm crying now wiping away tears and shell casings whizzing past my cheeks.
Lucio Rossi: yeah it's me, best friend. your best friend. how are you doing, sport? how's it going, champ?
me: missed you. oh you know, i'm messy. i'm in the middle of a war here but all i care about is your voice.
Lucio: hey remember man, i'm always only a phone call away. no matter what. no matter where. no matter when. through the dark decades of time, through marriages to Michaela and the resultant divorces, through strange newly-formed families, through awkward re-meetings. through threeways and betrayals. through bad jobs and dream jobs. until we meet again as '80s kids. we were together, that will never be taken away from us. we'll always have the stories to keep us up.
Lucio Rossi: a friend is one soul with two bodies.