L E S    K A Y

​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

Les Kay is the author of the The Bureau (Sundress Publications, 2015) and Badass (Lucky Bastard Press, 2015). He is also a co-author of the collaborative poetry chapbook Heart Radicals (ELJ Publications, forthcoming 2016). His poems have been published widely in journals such as Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The McNeese Review, PANK, Redactions, Santa Clara Review, South Dakota Review, Whiskey Island, and The White Review. Follow him here: www.leskay.com.

                                                              O U R   S E C R E T   I D E N T I T Y

When we couldn’t take the news from the flooded Gulf any longer—the families huddled on what had been rooftops waving, desperately, at helicopters, the rowboats slicing through ochre water, the reporters pushing back another breakdown just to interview one more old soul who, like us, couldn’t understand what the hell was happening—we met for drinks at a piano bar on Grand Avenue as if we could simply turn off the television and become ourselves once again. After we’d drank enough that standing up from the booth seemed risky, Alan asked us to talk about our dreams. “The stupid ones,” he said, “so I can blackmail you when you’re famous.”

It turned out none of us were very interesting. A house with a yard. A job in Cupertino. A career that made you feel slightly less ashamed. World peace. A Cadillac with wood trim. Maybe none of us, other than Molly, even understood the question. She sipped her mojito, leaned in over the table, and whispered, “I always wanted to be Bruce Wayne.”

“You mean Batman?” I asked.

“No. Bruce Wayne—I want to live in a hilltop mansion with a view of the city, invest in new technologies to save lives, and fly wherever they need help at a moment’s notice—sort of like Sean Penn.”

“I just want to get laid!” someone shouted from an adjacent booth.

The piano player started a Billie Holiday song, and a man in his 50s, face hidden by a checked derby, crooned along, half-through his nose.
None of us said another word until the song resolved. And even then, we let the silence linger a beat or two too long. 

“Cigarette?” Alan asked. 

Words caught in my throat. I nodded my head, stumbled up, and swayed toward the door. Halfway there, I felt the week’s familiar ache under my eyes. I knew I’d fall asleep alone that night.  

Not wanting to weep anymore and too drunk not to, I had to do something. Anything. So I threw a punch in the direction of the door, caught the back of someone’s head. 

I hate to say this, but as I felt a fist moving through my face, I knew I’d helped.