Chairman of His Own Black Suit
The Man in the Black Suit claimed to be an IMPORTANT MAN, chairman
of the board of DataCo Inc. Research the credit of the people;
research backgrounds of license applicants; research lives of
potentially dangerous "citizens." Database, database, government
The Man in the Black Suit said I'd been recommended highly. Who
had he spoken to?
"The Client to whom you send your copy," he smiled.
But I don't send my work to clients, I send it to the Agency.
The Man in the Black Suit is a liar. He's chairman of nothing
but his own black suit. Damn his black suit. Bizarre, a suit in
this part of town. Tenements. Rats. Chickens. Dirty children.
Ubiquitous workers in and out of work night and day thank god for
all-night groceries and diners.
"If you're so important, why do you live here?" I asked.
"Who said I lived here?" he said.
"That's your apartment, directly above mine, is it not?"
"Yes," said The Man in the Black Suit. "What's your point?"
Parable of the Dream Angel Gymnast
The Man in the Black Suit haunted my doorway. I let him
in. Where could he sit but on my futon, laid directly on the floor?
The folding chair on which I work? But that is for me. I filled two
smallish glasses with bourbon. What are you doing here in my
apartment, drinking my cheap booze? I had a dream, he said, and told
me the following:
"My flying gymnast visits from abroad. She's beautiful. She
loves me. Straps, harnesses, pulleys, cables. I fear for her
safety. Bloodthirsty audience below, but she flies masterfully. She
changes to furs and denim, and goes off to explore -- I'd rather
she didn't, but I'm confident of her love. She's out for the night.
She'll be back. I'm certain. I'm anxious.
"I hang with 'the boys,' old high school friends, though I
don't know them. Up in Elvis's hotel suite, I take conference calls.
Big deal brewing; they want to screw us but we hang tough - I want
to make this sale and take my flying gymnast someplace warm.
"Phone calls and counter-phone calls last for hours. Anxious
drinking, smoking, nothing done - I'm mortified. I want to kill
"I return to the party of old friends who are strangers: I've
"My gymnast returns. Hasn't she heard the news? Has she not
looked up at the stars and read for herself the script of my
descent? Of course! Out in the street my utter failure and defeat
are common knowledge, but she could care less about the power
prattle of the City - I'm not an insect, I'm a person.
"Her bronze hand leads me, step by step, to heaven..."
So what is one to make of such a tale? A dream he actually had? I
A parable belched from his sad, lonely heart.
A flesh and blood woman visited his apartment
occasionally. A student at the University, not much younger than
myself. The Man in the Black Suit must have been fifty. You can
hear everything in these tenements. Of course I'd heard them. Then
afterward, music, the Dancer's bare feet sweeping his hard wood
floor. Above my head. While I was trying to work. I didn't mind.
On my way out for beer and cigarettes he buzzed her in I
watched her float ghostly through the corridor, passed me on the
stairs, she was thin, as a dancer should be, and smelled of, oh, I
don't know, flowers or some kind of perfume. You know.
Music and Cigars
I got a buzz on up there. Scotch, cigars, an old LP of Grandpa
Jones: "They call it that good ol' mountain dew/and them that refuse
it are few..."
We were both up late in his apartment. The Man in the Black
Suit had the greatest selection of country music in the world, all
on LP, and some decent Dominican Churchills. Long, relaxing smokes.
Me, I had nothing in my apartment but my futon, a folding table,
books, and my machine.
The Man in the Black Suit said profound stuff, or stuff that
sounded profound, like:
"Those who can't do, leach." and
"Do not hate, but rather use THEIR bad energy against THEM."
"If goodness can be chewy and chocolaty, who would aspire
to such sticky virtue?"
"Where are the people going with their heads down? They are
going to work."
"In my youth I sowed wild words."
Shit like that.
In the Playground
The Man in the Black Suit entered the playground,
women's eyes upon him. Necks stiffened. He was not supposed to be
there, for he had no child of his own. But he had heard a boy on the
swings chant, "I'm going to live to be a hundred and seven
yeeeaaaars old!" repeatedly. He approached the child. "Do you love
life that much, little boy?" Before the child could answer, the
mothers surrounded The Man in the Black Suit. What kind of question
was that to ask a child? Who is this weird man? Someone call the
police. The Man in the Black Suit left to avoid further commotion.
The Man in the Black Suit ate a sandwich. The Man in the
Black Suit was naked, even in his black suit.
You Won't Have The Man in the Black Suit to Kick Around
He tried to speak; they wouldn't listen. "They" being the
half-ghosts of erstwhile children whose shells inhabited the office
buildings and ranch-style houses of the Nation. So, The Man in
the Black Suit left public office. Never to return?
Get an ID. A license. Gray Gap-Wendy's-Starbucks-Duane-Reade-
Barnes-and-Noble- afternoon. The bank. This bank and that one.
Department of Self and Others, where The Man in the Black Suit
bought an identity for six dollars. He took a decent photograph. Did
not smile. Drank Coca-cola. Waited. The woman behind the counter
called his name. His laminated card was ready. The Man in the
Black Suit sheathed his likeness, like a dagger, in his wallet.
Into The Family Head
I visited my Sister and her husband, a man of many whiskers
and hard work. Within the cubes of a modern home clear boundaries
exist. Violence and Power are partitioned, usually, according to
state or local custom. Morals delineated.
The children are feted and fed. Pizza, pasta, crunchy-sweet
cereal. The appliances are breaking. The year is One. The family is
one. Dad gets a blowjob every night. His due. Mother acquiesces,
though sometimes she is tired. Where is the God that was promised?
Where is the money? Work hard. Study hard. They promised us candy.
They promised us feathers.
The Man in the Black Suit did not concatenate his lineage. He did
not extend. Whatever began in past times ended with him.
The Man in the Black Suit shot a man (not in a Black Suit)
outside our building. The guy got up and ran with three bullets in
him from the tiny pistol The Man in the Black Suit carried against
his backside, a gun not meant to kill, merely to mortify.
The guy had tried to mug us. "Gimme tion. The would-be
mugger pointed his gun at me and in that instant The Man in the
Black Suit plugged the bastard thrice in the chest. He collapsed.
"Lose the weapon," said The Man in the Black Suit. The mugger
tossed away his gun.
Bleeding, gasping, he got up and ran to the hospital five blocks
away. We read in the paper the next morning that a man, who was
wanted on other charges, admitted himself into the hospital, and
eventual police custody, with gunshot wounds, but he would not say
how he got the wounds or at whose hands. The man was in critical but
stable condition. Of course the bullets could be traced to The Man
in the Black Suit's registered gun. So the two of us went down to
the police station the next day and told our story. We brought
the assailant's gun in a paper bag. It was the gun he'd used in
several other crimes. The Man in the Black Suit was hailed as a hero
in the papers, though he refused to be interviewed, or to press
charges against the failed mugger. "He has problems enough," said
The Man in the Black Suit.
The Man in the Black Suit studied Zen.
The Man in the Black Suit studied Yoga.
The Man in Black Suit meditated.
The Man in the Black Suit danced.
I Want, I Need, I Crave
This apartment. This Studio. Six-fifty a month. Rent
stabilized. I can be alone in this apartment and get my work done,
thanks to the network, the machine. No longer do I have to rise
early to sit in some office cubicle, some cube. I can get my work
done here at home. Home being here. Such as it is. The neighborhood
is changing. So I read in the newspapers. I don't notice much.
They're up-scaling. Shoveling out the lower-income folks and
building condominiums. Maybe they'll target my building. I don't
make much money, just enough to get by. But I won't worry for now. I
have my work, and my books. There's a grocery on the corner. I don't
go out much. Once I went out often. I'm twenty-five years old. No
spring chicken. Beyond the going out stage. Once I had women. But
none of them stuck. Now I am here alone. I have my work. I watch the
people leave in the morning. The ones who go to offices and what
not. The Man in the Black Suit goes to an office, I assume, for he
leaves the building every morning at eight and returns sometime
after six. I suppose I'll be like that when I'm fifty. Living alone,
as he does. As I do. But I won't go to an office, for now there are
machines to connect me. I work at home. Sometimes, despite the
machine, the connection, I have to go into an office to meet with a
client. We meet, we talk. Then I go home to do the real work.
I read the newspapers, usually on the machine. The world
does not impress me. Once...I don't know. I was young. Would I mind
terribly if the world disintegrated this instant? Rather than this
prolonged dissolution? Terminal case. Nothing to be done, on my
part anyway, but work. Books on my shelf are full of dreams. I'm a
dreamer, that's my problem. The teachers said so, centuries ago,
when I was a student. You're a dreamer, they said. I read the sports
pages. For the records. The numbers. The conversion of deeds into
minutia. I never watch the games. They bore me. Anyway, I don't own
a television. I used to speak to my mother on the phone. But she's
dead now. She died disappointed. In me, as well as in herself. She
was not much older than The Man in the Black Suit. I speak to my
father, occasionally. He doesn't work much now that he's remarried.
He chose wisely. A rich woman. They dine out every evening.
I've joined them a few times. I won't go into that now. The
competition, the deep antagonism between father and son. It's only
natural. I need a drink. I need a cigarette. I need. I need. What
time is it?
I keep strange hours. I go to sleep when the workers are
leaving for their day, and I'm showered and ready for work,
coffee brewing, just as they, poor tired masses, are returning to
their homes. All of this outside my window. It's good to have a
window. Better than television. I watched a lot of shows when I was
young. My passive mind was open. Perhaps that's why I always want.
Something. I'm not sure what. I'm never sure. I want, I need, I
To Each His Boswell and the Nevermore
This is the moment of vanishing. The momentary moment which is
constant. All moments passing. Man in the Black Suit will never
leave me. Say the moment, save the moment. Perilous. Unforgiving.
Forge the moment, carry the moment. Let me look back at the
accumulation. Of moments. Soon we will be going. Let's leave this
place. Forever. Forever is forever is a long time is oblivion. A
concept that clings. Watching The Man in the Black Suit, and me, his
Boswell. Boswell alone in his apartment clinging to moments. Boswell
attached to his earning machine his connection. His living machine.
The Man in the Black Suit is not his friend, merely his
avocation. His subject. Not everyone can be an artist, you know.
There are starving children in the world their mouths open like baby
birds. Boswell in his nest in the City. The Man in the Black Suit
about town. Time. Passing. Time is passing. Don't think we're
unaware of this. The disappearance. No pills to take. No bills. No
clinging to the nevermore.
Tap, Tap, Tapping
The Man in the Black Suit said,
"And after we're gone and new life again as long as the
earth spins, until it stops, and the sun grows dark or big bloated
red as a toe with gout, then where will your stories be, your
poems, your wordy opinions? You're a fool."
I said, "It is pleasurable to walk the streets of the City
with a buzz on, or dead drunk, for that matter. My checks from the
Agency come in the mail. I must go to the bank to deposit them. I
drink before going to the bank. Sometimes I linger about the shops.
Stop into a deli for a beer. Sip it through a straw."
Nothing is growing. Antagonism, anomie. Peanut butter stuff.
Opinions of the wretched. Exercise these thoughts. See deep. The
Man in the Black Suit stepped on a cupcake. The Man in the Black
Suit polished his gun. Breathing is better than knowing. Take a long
run through the park and breathe.
I refuse to speak of Man in the Black Suit. I will speak
(or write) only of myself.
How many men in black suits are there? How many can there be? I
remember the old black-and-white films. Men in black suits
abounded. Were they good or were they evil? Are they tailored
suits, or do they buy them off the rack?
What do the poets say of men in black suits? Who cares what the
I was a reporter. Now I write advertisements, marketing
proposals, copy. Pays better and a lot less yakking on the phone.
The Dancer danced a million years.
Loose and alone on my excer-cycle in the corner of the room,
I'm touched by genius.
There is no Omniscient Author
They marry, so as not to be alone. They work, and they are
entertained. They die, one at a time, and are alone. Fear of life,
fear of death, fear of time. What happens, happens.
Wouldn't know a poem from a shot of Novocain.
And the poets with their lightening inspiration Muse. That is no
country for us flat-liners on excer-cycles! Peddling nowhere to
receive stationary visions.
Mistuh Black Suit, He Dead
Black in the box. Color of morning and night.
A crowd gathered in the park to mourn The Man in the Black Suit.
Me, I might have another forty, fifty years to go.
If I grow cold before the machine has gleaned my teaming
brain... I want a black suit; I want heaven.
has suffered business suits, lawsuits, hirsutes and hot pursuits,
but never a Black Suit. One day he hopes to write the Great American
Novelini. Anyone interested in purchasing one medium-sized black
suit please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Will accept best offer.
Articles by Adam Engel
Revolution and Reform: An Interview with Lenni Brenner
& Sons, LLP
Enough is Too Much
Crumblecake and Fish
Black is Indeed Beautiful: An Interview with Ernest Crichlow
Pretty Damned Evil: An Interview with Edward S. Herman
Hall of Hoaxes
Black and White is Read All Over: An Interview with Tim Wise
Born Again Republican
Jew and Me
The System Works
A Washington Lefty in King George's Court: A Conversation with Sam
Raising JonBenet: A Review of Cowboy's
Sweetheart by Walter Davis Plus an Interview
What It Is
I Hope My Corpse Gives You The Plague
U.S. Troops Outta Times Square
Parable of the Lobbyist
The Fat MAN in Little Boy
Talk Dirty Scary Monsters
Gravity’s End Zone
Towers of Babel, Woodstock and the Word
Uncle Sam is YOU
Flag in the Rain
American Bulk (SPAM and Ideal)
Video Judas Video
Wal-Mart & Peace