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FEEL.: A Westbrookian Myth

0

Intransitive Verb

1 : to crash, thunderously;

“0,” they proclaimed, “0 like the coming of a decades-long storm, like the cataclysm that will unwrite this story and usher in the next.”

2 : to detonate or explode, as in, the Big Bang;

The many stood in his way, but the many could not withstand the force of him 0ing.

3 : to negate and suspend, as in facilitating or creating a state of being negated or suspended;

To 0 is to drift and to empty, to release and give way to floating in meditative waters.

Transitive Verb

1 : to radically reconfigure; to derange, and rearrange;

They 0’d common sense ideas about “possible” and “logical,” redefining each, if not creating a paradigm singular to themselves.

2 : to defy unapologetically;

One wondered if they could 0 logic, reason, doubt, circumstance, structure, and the world; they did, and they would, and they will again, until it’s all undun.

3 : to burn, as in ether;

0 the world, 0 it all. Maybe when it’s been 0’d, otherwise will be possible.

PRESENT

Chinyere and I hop out of the 2006 blue Prius I named the TARDIS after a few more adventures in time-traveling, and telling tales about the work week set to the complex rhythms of Kung Fu DAMN. I aim a navy blue 0 emblazoned across my core at the friendly sun, free of scorch and singe on a chill LA Friday, an inadvertently multiplicative gesture—a 0ing of, a 0ing out, a 0ing at, a casual 0 declaration. Eyes closed, just a moment, thinking Kung Fu Kenny and DAMN. I stand and billow while refreshing the score on my phone before allowing myself to be blown toward the sidewalk where she waits to lead us to ice cream. We glow in the sunlight.

“Did you bring a regular shirt?”

“What? Yeah, I brought a few t-shirts…nerdy t-shirts, and a regular…black t-shirt—why?”

“You look crazy!”

A cool-ish breeze blows through my long, either vermilion or pantone orange official alternate Westbrook jersey, while billowing through the wispy leg-hair left uncovered by the short navy blue shorts, as my black leather flip-flops clip clop down the Larchmont sidewalk past countless hiply dressed white people, faddish restaurants, and two Black men on opposite sides of the street, one begging for a nine dollar fried chicken sandwich, and one playing some of the funkiest drums these folk would ever ignore to offset the smoothness of the wind. My omnidirectional curls are especially unruly, their tips defiantly interrupting the halo of sunshine struggling to flow through, shifting and dancing off and on beat on the ones, twos, threes and fours of the funky drummer’s beat, squiggle-wiggling to and fro.

“What do you mean?” genuinely, incredulously, my mind on whether Russell Westbrook’s misunderstood genius could warp the first round series against the Rockets into something unexpected, if not unimaginable, in game 3, on how many listens to DAMN. it would take for me to master the lyrics, intonations, and sentiments inflecting Kendrick’s spit, and on the impending cooler-than-being-cool-ice-cold ice cream toward which we trekked.

What she said is smeared across overlapping memories, blurred oranges caught in the glare of blinding California sunshine, the light of entangled and echoing times.

I am as he was: split/spilt.

FUTURE

The Witnesses will intimate that when the final crash and boom drowned in crimson pools of rocket fuel, 0, the Big Bang’s avatar, released a deluge from the tumultuous ocean he contains in his flesh as protective vestibule—a water ward. A small whirlpool unfurled and swirled beneath his plain and unadorned seat, soothed the worn soles of his swollen feet, and sloshed with enough liquid noise to drown the breathless words, questions, and worlds hurled from within and without in that screaming language of defeat comprised of jagged fricatives and plosive stops grossly shouted through gaping maws and gnashing teeth. Replete depletion, the rage, sorrow, shame, rewound and replaying regrets, raw and tired flesh, and the newly naked and vulnerable sound of his own name wholly flow out: he must empty of troubled water and become wind, empty of tidal force and become void, empty and submerge the whole living hole in the full flow of the Feel. There, the Witnesses say, 0, the weeping titan, the avatar of the Big Bang itself, sat silently in the still and spill of the Feel.

With the kind of uncertainty mortals have when attempting to grasp the mythical, they will timidly remark that he went somewhere else while being no place else—somewhere nowhere else—betwixt and between there and then and not, in the oceanic Feel. His face concealed by a white shroud, none will be able describe how 0 Feels, what 0 Feels like, the Feel of 0. The willful and willing submission of the overwhelming force of 0 to the Feel suggested that it contains an even more overwhelming force. To the solid potentiality of boom blasting in the always moving, buzzing, zooming flesh of 0, the liquidity of the Feel, the liquid Feel, touches, holds, is the hold, is to be beheld, is to be held, there, in the emptying and the spilling, and then, in the momentary creation of a moment, a lapse: all the cosmic bombast of crashing thunder, quaking earth, flashing flame, fold in the sink and the float of flesh in the pocket universe of the Feel. The haptical holding of the Feel that holds, the Feel that carries, the Feel that bears this, this loss of bearings, this suspension of soul and self somewhere, but/and nowhere, else.

“Both there and gone,” they will note. “In it.

FEEL TIME

Deep. There, 0, Feeling; the Feeling 0.
What is the geometry of the water?
What are the components and how are they arranged?
What strangeness holds space in the burgeoning wake?
What takes up residence time in the Feel?
What dark and glittering particles dissolve in the break?

I CAN FEEL IT, THE SCREAM THAT HAUNTS OUR LOGIC

The Feel of THE SCREAM, the Feel as SCREAM, the Felt SCREAM, its logic.

Breathing, booming, screaming thunder suspended between overlapping grammars, lurking there, behind the lyrical maneuvers: the four samples dissolve into the firmament that gives Kenny’s words their depth, that makes them conjure the dark waters of the Feel, that renders the full aural experiences both black and oceanic. The first sample of “FEEL.” refracts downward, a slowed and echoing imperative plundered from Fleurie’s “Don’t Let Me Down;” the force of the imperative, “Don’t Let Me Down,” elongated and distended into a sound that slowly flows as much as it downwardly drips. The second and third samples, drifting loops pilfered and pieced together from a collection of instrumental fragments plucked from the future by time traveling engineers, the Loopmasters, entitled, “Organic Future Hip Hop,” offer clues to the nature of “FEEL.” in both depth of sound and strangeness of name: one, “COF_134_B_Changed_Dopey” might well be the sound of distension, of “B(eing)_Changed,” itself, the sound, especially when played on a loop, stretching and spaghettifying into an almost unrecognizable, but darkly melodic hum; the other, “COF_125_Am_LaidOut_Underwater” wields fading, echoic synth to sink soul and self deeper into the distended imperative of the sound “FEEL.” All of these arranged beneath the overcast sky and drizzle of O.C. Smith’s “Stormy,” the rhythmic drumming of which, like the gentle beat of booted feet coolly walking streets in the rain, provide the deep waters of “FEEL.” with a sense of movement; the snare, bongo, and rattling tambourine add precipitating progression to pensiveness, and, repeated, render the progression and pensiveness of “FEEL.” as cyclical. The deep, moving, and looping imperative, “FEEL.”/the Feel—in “FEEL.”/the Feel’s shifting dark water, a long, slow, muffled scream refracts in the breaking wakes.

I CAN FEEL IT, THE SCREAM THAT HAUNTS OUR LOGIC

FEEL. The SCREAM. The Feel.

Being SCREAMED/Felt—what is being SCREAMED/FELT? Vexed confessions. Interlocking thoughts stitched and knotted into contradictions.

1. “The feeling is toxic,” the Feel is poison, “FEEL (the toxicity).”, pathogenic and degenerative, “the feeling of no hope / the feeling of bad dope” tearing through the flesh, psyche, and soul, stealing breath—“I feel like I can’t breathe, look,”—rest—“I feel like I can’t sleep, look”—the capacity for feeling—“I feel heartless”—spatiotemporal bearings—“Feelin’ of fallin’, of fallin’ apart with / darkest hours, lost it/in…fillin’/feelin’ the void”—and whole worlds—“the feelin’ of an apocalypse happenin’;” poisonous plunder sends the skin, self, soul, and everything under the sun asunder underneath the waves of the breaking wakes of being broken, dissolving into doubt, of reckoning with being spilt and split. To heed the SCREAM, to “FEEL.” it, to be held by and beheld by it, is to be submerged in and infiltrated by it, to bear it both on and within the scattered pieces of the self—to heed the imperative, “FEEL.”/the Feel/the SCREAM, or to be swept up and carried by it would be, in the first instance, at least at first, to succumb to a certain kind of catastrophe—flesh wounds, ego death, spiritual turmoil, and the momentary, but wholly disintegrating, end of everything. One way of 0ing out, being 0ed: the radical disassembly, dispersal, and disarray that follows every explosion.

0, the quieted titan, both there and gone, sits submerged and dispersed, still in the split and spill, screaming. Rememories cascading, swirling, forcing their way up his flared nostrils, down his throat, into his ears, behind his eyes:
the clang of every misfired and desperate shot tolling again and again through the commentary of the self-appointed Analysts;
the hidden exhaustion after every tornadic twist-turn between opposing titans for two, maybe three, more steps toward triumph;
I feel like I can’t breathe, look
the frustration seething behind smiling teeth and encouraging comments for the flawed, but relentless, beings he carries from end to end;
the belief, the faith, under siege by loss, by dismissal, by disrespect, by garish bombast, by lie, or, most powerfully of all, by truth;
I feel like I can’t sleep, look
the abandonment;
and the reminder that none of it was enough

FEEL. The SCREAM. 0. The Feel of 0. The loss of bearings bearing down like oceans. Ain’t nobody praying for me. The loss of bearings bearing down like oceans. Ain’t nobody prayin’…

2. “I feel like debatin’ on who the greatest can stop it: / I am legend / I feel like all of y’all is peasants,” I FEEL./the Feel like boom-bap thunderclap quintessence, domination in the flesh, whole body a weapon; I feel like, avatar, bending the foundations of earthbending, rewrite the essence of controlling rock and quake the old heads with their petty senescence; “I feel like I’ma learn you a lesson,” I feel like I got y’all stressin’, I feel like messin’ around 45 times, breaking history, remaking history, making shoelaces, statistics, beards, careers, cupcakes, hairlines, and timelines my possessions; I feel like, every possession a recrudescence of stank face blessin’s, contorted expressions expressin’ my message: I feel like, “fuck the world,” “this what God feel like,” “this is my heritage, all I’m inheritin’,” love, power, pain, destructive creation, creative destruction; FEEL./the Feel like percussive aggression of thunderous precipitation raining down, reigning drown, unstoppable, unblockable, all eight gates been unlocked—me and my we and our powers combined against everybody on and beyond your rosters—“I ain’t feelin’ your presence;” I feel like, “Why not?”—“I CAN FEEL IT, THE PHEONIX SURE TO WATCH US” and “I CAN FEEL IT, THE SCREAM THE HAUNTS OUR LOGIC,” I can feel it, heated hotter than plastic on Sampha’s Process; so, “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS,” fuck an interview, fuck consenting to be a single being, fuck words, structures, meanings, fuck what you mean, I mean, I’m screaming
I feel like
the boomburst, boom-baps in all caps,
embodiment of everything y’all never imagined riding some thunderclaps wearing a DOOM mask
signaling the rebirth of the universe, recast:
raging,
blazing and black
mixed with a little bit of Hawthorne, the “I do what I want” fearless, peerless fashion-sense of 3 Stacks,
the Compton crash of the sound of Serena Williams’ racket smacks,
the metal arms of Jax,
the juggernaut force of Shaq,
and the promise so believed on that Mos Def track—
0: FEEL./The Feel like that.

3. “I feel like…it’s real for you, right?” 0 the real. 0 real. 0 the clock. 0 the time. 0 time. 0 the lane. 0 the space. 0 space. 0 the they, the them, the structure, the under, the outside, the inner. 0, the hope, the joy, the fear, the pain, the rage, the shame, the loser, the winner. 0 the nots and knots between the you, the me, the us, the we. 0 the eyes, the I, the sole, 0 the soul, 0 the whole, 0 and nothing less. 0 like 0, 0, the whole, 0, the soul, 0, the real, 0, it all, and nothing less.

FEEL.

PAST

I feel three kinds of heated. With two gallons of gas, so no inclination to cut on the AC, I inch along in the TARDIS, which is no doubt insulted at the waste of the spatiotemporal diss to its time-travel capabilities, rage manifesting in a barely contained torrent of sweat trickling down my forehead. I grow saltier, more oceanic, at every arrhythmic cycle of lurch, halt, hatecelerate, lurch, halt. Stevonnie sits in meditative repose on my navy blue t-shirt beneath the words, “Flexibility, Love, and Trust,” the refrain to a song sung between Stevonnie and Garnet on my first or second favorite episode of Steven Universe, while my right hand clutches the words to shake some air around and cool the core of my flesh; both the clutch and the shake compulsive acts of futility.

I feel hot, sun magnified through the windshield and glaring off the too-clean, too-shiny Nissan Skyline needlessly revving its engine in front of me; feeling hot, depleted. In my car, in traffic, still seething from a 1 PM text message telling me that I should—that I must—come in to tutor from 3 PM – 9:30 PM because the students “really need me to come” and watch them sit on their cellphones playing King of Glory, on YouTube, or loudly watching episodes of Rush to the Dead Summer while I, on the spot, try to make English sound useful and interesting through several videogame allusions, basketball references, and semi-well-received jokes, and just cut off by someone young-looking in that suped-up too-loud, too-clean, too-shiny Skyline probably saying “nigga” when he shouldn’t be saying “nigga” in the public privacy of his car bumping trap music with the windows down, I take a deep breath and continue to stream a leaked version of DAMN. my friend Marcos sent me while pumping and releasing my brakes in the staccato rhythm that neatly matched the lyrical scatter-shatter of frustration and resignation, self-confidence and hopelessness, and irritation and rationalization racing through my mind. One sentence, right. Out of breath. Hot and drowning, submerging myself deeper in an ocean of rage, booming bass, and the slow distortion of a song called, “FEEL.”

Then K-DOT screamed, screamed, screamed, “I CAN FEEL IT THE SCREAM THAT HAUNTS OUR LOGIC,” and I shook.

I can feel “FEEL.”: punctuated, its own syntax, a dense singularity of a sentence.

I feel it, split and spilled and defeated. Some days, I’m screaming with the fury of a thousand Skyline sunshine glares in my mind at the lack of a job that matches the work I put in as a graduate student cum pariah, at the lack of any discernible challenge—I was so excited at the thought of line-by-line revisions for my currently 250-page book because the thought of the difficulty, the insurmountably daunting challenge, was invigorating—at the smallness of my life in this house with too many people, a baby, two dogs, and a cat named Tuna who’s more whale than fish, at the feeling of being exhausted the way Russell Westbrook, the titanic 0, feels exhausted but working and reading and thinking the way Russell works and reads and thinks at 1000-miles per hour all day every day, and at the foreboding sense that even all that work has me at barely above .500 behind all the teams of people—close friends that back each other up, make recommendations for each other, find each other opportunities, uplift and call each other when shit feels hopeless, and somehow materialize actual life chances for each other–or individuals–folk who just didn’t have these kinds of strange setbacks—who can travel whenever and wherever for important, career-affirming events, spend a little extra here and there, take time off not because there is no work but because they need a day off, or complain about the jobs they do have. Another sentence, another wordy singularity, another grammatical black hole: a syntax brutalized by the sense that the stakes are inner, and possible outer, life and death.

I can feel the spill and plunder of being overtaken, stirred, and shaken in the sweat and stank of my own kind of losing and screaming. I think this is what shook me and made me choke up when I tried, with the same intensity and ferocity, to rap back the line, “I CAN FEEL IT, THE SCREAM THAT HAUNTS OUR LOGIC” after I first heard “FEEL.” And I think this is why I felt so awed bearing witness to this new Big Bang embodied by Westbrook, number 0, that being, that kind of being that submerges themselves in the shifting waters at the boundary between infinity and nothingness, submitting to and absorbing the tidal forces of everything, everything, everything moving around, against, with, and through them. The kind of being that channels those forces. The kind of being that bodily and psychologically wills, against everything said about and done to them, a new world where they are as and what they believe themselves to be: a screaming thunder crashing through the small cosmos of a basketball court, making the unimaginable realer than eyes and I thought it could be. Screaming, pounding, dancing, raging, raging against the night that’s always already come pouring in in structure and in feeling.

I can FEEL it. 0. The scream, sweating and tearing through my flesh.

A thousand ghosts asking devastating questions about why I hadn’t made it to the point where I could afford to go to DC for that graduation, go to Nigeria for the first time, go to ASA in Chicago for the first time, why I hadn’t gotten a single interview for even an adjunct position anywhere in America, why I hadn’t had more than half a faculty supporter while I dashed and weaved and wrote and spun and exploded through graduate school, why my auntie was sick, why my mom wasn’t sleeping enough, why my brothers didn’t talk to me about the things that made them scream inside, why my dad beat his pillow six, then seven, then eight times a night, why these kids had to suffer through the things they suffered through outside of tutoring, and why I couldn’t make that layup, why I couldn’t do, be, feel, make, will, write, laugh, dance, and love more and better. I can FEEL. it. I. CAN. FEEL. IT.

I FEEL. Some days, the Feel feels like drowning,
muffled screams
volume less than 0.

I let go of my shirt to honk the nasally horn of my blue box, lurching and halting through time, the words wrinkled, the sound drowned in the blaring trap beats and the overseeing sunshine.

UNTIME

Bolting in an arc, arms flailing, 0 is an orange blur, phasing too quickly and too easily through the slipshod reality of a defensive scheme while time’s stopped and the clock and the crowd vibrate in anticipation wondering, and murmuring, and panting, and sweating, and holding their breaths so that, when the ball is caught, and then the ball goes up, and the ball goes in, and the clock and the rock and it all goes to 0, the full space cannot help but catch the explosive contagion carried and released by the new Big Bang—sometimes, to FEEL. like 0, feeling the Feel, feels like that.

Sometimes, to FEEL. like 0 feeling it, feels like destroying a much-larger baby-faced being’s career with a thunderclap slap of the rock against the backboard so hard the clock shakes, then careening into a whirlwind twirl and a reckless but effortless stutter-step behind-the-back dribble from left to right around a mustachioed New Zealand-bred screen, completing the ninety-four foot dance, an electric run, slide, and glide, with a smooth leap and lift, and a smoother lay-in off of flicked fingertips; like a snake silkily slinking through still water, only to strike; or like a body of water itself, crashing toward the shore.

FEEL. like the reckless blast of the rock, hurled from the fulcrum of a flexed shoulder connected to the catapult of a cocked arm, hurtling along the perfect vector to precisely strike the waxed pine between a lesser titan’s moving legs and carom into the ready-and-locked palms of number 5 so fast that the sacred geometry of the pass had to be slowed, rewound, and replayed to be seen by mortal eyes.

I know, too, the joy, force, and fury, the grammar of the booming scream and crashing flesh that 0 FEEL.

PRESENT

It’s the day before the final hour, when we’ll know if 0 means Most Valuable or if it doesn’t, and I’m split/spilt, lacing up some KD 4s while looking at the Westbrook jersey, glowing orange in the dimness of the bedroom, a swaying lantern beneath a fan’s artificial wind.

I am ready, I think, and all the pieces are in place. Black compression pants. Black compression socks. Black compression shirt. Black compressions sleeve. Black armor donned for real, but really imaginary battles on green courts and blacktops beneath the searing sight of the sun, and I don it because I am split/spilt.

Inadequately as I might, I would characterize every moment of subjection to the bifurcated or variegated FEEL. as a statelessness of being, a kind of being-between, a kind of being oscillating across an axis of wholeness and stability between the twin, countervailing extremes of bursting joy and debilitating terror, or of profound confidence and abyssal despair. The violent valleys and peaks of a thunderous sound wave, darting back and forth in my mind, and the measure indicates an outpouring of energy that strains against the logic of containment belying conventional metrics. An explosive internality, something felt, something I FEEL., I and/am FEEL., and it creates fissures in the flesh, mind, and spirit, as it attempts to escape. All of this compressive, Black armor compresses the uncontainable force of the Feel enough to make it somewhat more manageable in the flesh. In it, I am a better conduit for channeling what I FEEL.

Plainly, I put this on so I can FEEL. like 0 Feel. FEEL. Titanic. FEEL. Thunderous.

Some days it’s a win, some days it’s a loss.

Some days, that means 500 shots from set spots, complete with experimental jukes and spin moves, or with the staccato rhythm of a left-to-right cross, because each time I throw up the rock is a cathartic approximation of what it FEEL. like to become 0, to 0 out.

Some days, that means 300 or more go in, and in the one-on-one matchup, all the big-mouthed trash talk, the “you still don’t have an academic job,” and the “you don’t have enough money to make the question pop,” and the “you gon’ stay locked up in that spot where they don’t care about what you’re saying,” and the “you don’t got handles with the rock, your words, her or your fam,” lost. Some days, that means the rim sounds like the bass drums to FEEL., consistently thumping and bumping with every too short or too long brick, so that the screaming edifice housing every mistimed misfire, missed opportunity, and misfortune grows and grows, which, if you know me, is a problem because I can’t touch the rim—I don’t have those kind of hops.

So some days, it’s bang-booming on my chest. Some days, it’s a towel over my head because “good enough” was more than me at my best.

I am split/spilt between the daily victories and losses, and “the FEEL.” is the precariousness between the extremes. Some days, I lace them up because I am trying to win to keep from losing. Some days, I put pen to paper, fingers to keys, because I am trying to FEEL. what it FEEL. like to win to keep from losing.

And still other days, on the days the work of wearing Black armor or wielding Black ink are too much or not enuf, I put on that oversized either vermilion or pantone orange official alternate Westbrook jersey because I want, or really need to FEEL. like, win or lose, my value as abundant as 0 persists.

I wear it because I want to FEEL. like all the screaming, booming, crashing, crying force of 0 can be a logic that can contain my being rather then send it into contradiction and disarray. I put it on so I can FEEL. like I can do (and FEEL.) what I want.

Why else, and
Why not?!

58159_10151660780259225_1587132524_nDr. John Murillo III is a conjurer. Often, that he practices Black magic with words, rife with nerdy references and citations—to/of Mass Effect, Doctor Who, Yasiin Bey, Umbrella Academy, Pokémon, Hortense Spillers, Steven Universe, Theoretical Physics and Afropessimism—infuriates misguided, uninformed, and petty nonbelievers of all kinds. He channels their dismissive and baseless hateration into inky spells, deathly cast into wordy, cinematic, weird, loving, enraged, and sorrowful sentences on comic book, essay, poetry, and novel pages. Unlike them, he believes in the “promise” and the practice “of the infinite,” tries his best like “Umi Says,” and imagines the unimaginable through, for, and with Black life and death everywhere. His curls have been described as “a portal into the boundless absurdity and wonder of the cosmos.”[1] His favorite dish is mole negro. Find him on Facebook or Twitter.

[1] By himself and literally no one else.

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