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Horse Rider

“The writing is clunky. He tries to say too much in each sentence,” I deduced he’d said to S, his college friend and acquaintance of mine, when S commented, on a blog post I’d posted about my walk: “Love this! His writing isn’t clunky! He doesn’t try to say too much in every sentence!”

It was too symmetrical, how we were sitting

Jake Longstreth, Gas Station Pizza. 2021, oil on paper. 22 x 18".

The following is an excerpt from Sean Thor Conroe’s Fuccboi, out this week from Little, Brown.

Got a ziplock of shrooms from V in the mail.

For my birthday.

Bday shrooms.

With a melted stick of fair-trade chocolate to chase em with.

Received the package two days before my birthday, but opened it anyhow.

On my way back inside from my 1 PM morning smoke.

Partway through my morning coffee.

I was on a tight schedule for my day’s first shift, but I took a sec to read the card.

It was a quote.

Just a quote.

Characteristically cryptic stuff from V.

When art, become independent, depicts its world in dazzling colors, a moment of life has grown old and it cannot be rejuvenated with dazzling colors. It can only be evoked as a memory.

The greatness of art begins to appear only at the dusk of life.

By some guy Guy.

‘Guy Debord.’

Hm.

Nice.


Espresso from coffees numbers two through four started spewing steam, so set down the shroomies and attended to it.

Turned off the stove, dumped the espresso into the mason jar with the dented lid from that once it went flying off my bike on Market. Added equal parts half-and-half and ice. Sealed the lid shut and stuck it into my bike’s bottle holder.

Same espresso pot V and I kept on deck in Humboldt, dangling off the backpack strap. To spark up with the singleburner camp stove for that trim-break quickie.

Handle melted and misshapen from that once we got too stoned and forgot about it.

1:17.

Lunch rush waning.

Grabbed the messenger bag ex bae gave me two birthdays ago, that was now my designated Postmates bag, but that I’d never used when ex bae was still main. Checked that there was still Saran wrap in the Saran wrap roll.

That there were backup drink carriers.

That there was my emergency poncho. On the bottom, beneath my interior, Postmates Hot/Cold Bag™.

There were.

Would any liquids be spilled on this day?

Fuck no they wouldn’t.

Filled my empty smartwater bottle with water from the Brita and stashed it aside my Postmates Hot/Cold Bag™, inside the messenger bag.

Grabbed Ferrante’s The Story of a New Name: My Brilliant Friend Book 2 (2013), and stuck her, my notebook, a pencil, and a uni-ball in their designated ziplock.

Which I then positioned beneath my Postmates bag, above my folded poncho, to create a flat surface for the drink tray. And to furnish me with between-delivery entertainment.


Between-delivery Work.

The Work I’d do during ‘work’-breaks.

Wallet and phone inside a ziplock, inside my fanny pack; above them, Bluetooth speaker, also in a ziplock.

Ziplock in case it rained, which it looked like it was gonna.

Synthetic neon-yellow snapback on my head. Bike chain around my neck.

Good to go.

“Well—almost.”

Nabbed the shrooms, stuck em in the fanny pack, and hit it.


If one wanted consistent work, this job was trash.

Some hours one got up to five deliveries; others, none.

If one waited around, hunting for deliveries, one lost patience real quick.

One had to choose to be available, strategically stationed, on one’s own terms.

Find the most popping area. Sit. And wait.

Commit to already happening to want to be in the area that was most popping.

The area that was most popping, I’d assessed, was Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse Square.

Benches, pillars, and grass upon which to sit, read, and write.

Reading and writing, sitting on benches or pillars or grass, then, was my job.

With occasional, reading-and-writing-encouraging bike excursions to break up the reading and writing.

Not too shabby! I reminded myself as I skrt-ed down Lancaster, picked up Market, crossed the Schuylkill, cut south at 22nd, and posted up on my designated pillar in the square.


Had I gotten a delivery immediately, I mighta been able to help myself.

But I was ten pages into Ferrante, and it was already 2 damn near.

Still no dings.

So I did what I’d been trying not to. What I knew I was inevitably gonna.

Made a melted fair-trade choco-bar sammie, shroomies in the middle, swiveling one time to ensure no one saw, and railed that shit.


Was at the part where things were getting spicy between Lenu and Nino.

Had me wet.

Artist bae, who’d read all four books, when I mentioned how lit Nino was, had said “Nino’s a fuccboi. Fuck Nino.”

“What?!” I’d said, not understanding.

But now I was curious.

Reading quickly.

I wanted to know how/why.

They were flirting on the beach.

Lenu getting tanner and sexier every day.

Feeling herself.

I was feeling myself, basking in the muted midday sunlight on the Rittenhouse lawn, waiting on the shroomies to start hitting. Poncho-wrapped backpack beneath my butt, to prevent body-heat loss to the ground.

“Just like me and V!” I thought after reading the part about Lenu getting the letter from Lila.

About how all the writing Lenu, the protagonist/writer, had ever written was, ultimately, mimicry of her bestie Lila’s writing.

How unbridled and unaware of being art, and the best kind, Lila’s writing felt.


V was whom I sent my first book, on Bolaño and the Juárez femicides, the minute I finished it.

Not published, but completed ‘book.’

Semblance of.

The one to tackle all the Qs.

About why men were men, women women, and fathers rapists.

Thought he’d be impressed.

If by nothing else, by its ambition.

Ninety K words, 12 monthly chapters, set and written over a year.

But no.

He’d evaded me when I’d harassed him about it.

Had said he was still thinking on it. Still digesting.

But after X times of harassing him, he’d caved and admitted he only got 11 pages in before bowing out.

This right after I’d finished trying to walk across country.

Failing to.

Back home barista-ing.

Renting a room out of my high school home.

V living out of his Vanagon.

One-upping me.

Showing me how it was done.

How to live outdoors successfully.

Sustainably.

Ex bae, after saving my broken ass on day 100 of walking, at the base of the Rockies, was living over the hill in Redwood City.

V’s (now ex) bae living in Santa Cruz.

V leaning on her somewhat to sustain the façade of outhere-ness. For showers, etc.

Not admitting it.

Me flexing like I’d walked across, even though I hadn’t.

Basking in others’ convincings that Still! 100 days! To the Rockies!

Even though. Still. I hadn’t.

I’d gotten saved.

Both of us flexing, leaning on our baes, jerking each other off for how woke we were.

How Out Here.


Except not, somehow, when it came to my Bolaño book.

“The writing is clunky. He tries to say too much in each sentence,” I deduced he’d said to S, his college friend and acquaintance of mine, when S commented, on a blog post I’d posted about my walk: “Love this! His writing isn’t clunky! He doesn’t try to say too much in every sentence!”


Got a ding right when I’d forgotten I was waiting on a ding.

After I’d stopped tasting the shroomies’ aftertaste.

Chipotle on 15th, five blocks over.

Mounted the steed and started peddling, wobbling initially.

Weaving through picnickers on the grass, in the square.

Insinuated myself into eastbound Locust traffic, behind a 21 bus.

Sustained-exhaling out of my nose so as to not inhale its fumes.

You didn’t need to wait in line for Chipotle pickups.

You could just go to the front.

To the reg’.

How it felt, pulling up, was bank robber-y.

Especially on colder days when I was balaclava’d up.

Like Fuck it mask on.


I got there so quickly the order wasn’t ready yet.

So rolled a cig and posted out front, on a cement pillar.

Took in my surroundings.

There was a girl about my age, sitting across from me, also on an elevated cement thing.

Also smoking.

As I remember it, I started feeling tingles/heightened selfawareness at this point.

I remember bc I couldn’t handle how close to me she felt.

How defined her features.

Mesmerizingly so. Like once I looked, I couldn’t look away.

How I was convinced she thought it weird I’d sat across from her, on such a similar perch.

Like it was too symmetrical, how we were sitting.

Dishonestly symmetrical.

Disrespectfully ordered.

Disrespectful to the Chaos.

Of the city; of the World.

Everything quiet of a sudden.

Pin-drop-y.

Which seemed strange.

Bc cities are loud.


A year after my walk I moved to North Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville—on the intersecting intersection—with ex bae.

With ex bae’s cat, even though I was allergic.

Working on my Walk Book. About my failed walk.

V went to Senegal.

To join his mom on a cob-house-building mission that was Christian missionary–like even though it wasn’t.

To bike across, from site to site, eventually to Cabo Verde, on Africa’s western coast.

It was the Walk Book 2.0.

One-thousand-point-O.

Actual otherworldly exploration/investigation.

No septic.

Poop fields/shores.

No lights at night.

Muhfuckers out here slanging kerosene.

Real world shit every self-hating woke American would do well by acquainting themselves with. That self-hating woke Americans didn’t have a clue about.

Which fact made his record—blog posts, unlike mine with pictures and less pretentious, if written/inspired by my initial 165K-word Walk Book draft, which he was reading and would read in its entirety while writing/biking—infinitely more important.

Which cast my project as an inefficiently paced view of what any road-tripper could get driving to Bonnaroo: rest areas, highways, trash-strewn shoulders.

And all this to say nothing of the writing.

Reading his posts as posted, sitting in my NOBE studio, railing Benadryls, getting progressively less attractive to ex bae due to domestic overexposure, I was rapt.

Heart beating.

Palms sweating.

His syntax was different.

Sentences shorter.

Pacing effortless.

No theories of writing grafted onto the recounted events.

Flowing in a way in spite of, or maybe even more so due to, typos.

The sense of it being a living record of someone genuinely trying to share about totally new and novel events so apparent in the writing.

Not obstructed by anything technical.

Like mine, I was forced to admit, just like V had said, had been.


Cruising down Ridge after picking up at a burger spot on Girard in Fairmount I’d never been to.

Neither the burger spot, nor the neighborhood.

Ridge ran SSE from Philly’s NW corner to its SE.

Cut diagonally across the grid.

Hypotenuse-d the grid.

Went against the one-way flow discouraging folks from outer hoods from entering.

Allowed someone out of the game, off in the northwest corner, near Strawberry Mansion and other wastelands up there, to get back in with relative ease.

Like, say, a bike courier blown off course, out into the outer reaches of Fairmount.

He could get back in the game.

What I’m saying is I fuck with Ridge.


The burgers were for someone in a hotel/convention center–type place on Broad.

Some event going on, in the lobby.

Folks dressed fancy but also some with name tags.

Seemed lit but possibly professional.

On my way up, two girls about my age followed me into the elevator.

Both falling over themselves/catching each other.

I stood in front of them so they wouldn’t be weirded out by me standing behind them.

Kept my earbuds in and eyes forward.

On floor three of five, removed the burger bag from the Postmates bag inside my messenger bag.

Lil greased but not too bad.

Seen worse.

On floor five, as I was exiting, one girl yelled “Where you going? Come party!”

I turned back and caught a glimpse of what looked to be one of the girls undressing the other, untying her dress’s neck strap, behind the closing elevator doors.


Six months ago, last August, V had been living out here. In Philly. With me and roomie bro.

He’d pulled up for the three-month, seasonal stint.

Working as a compost pickup driver.

Working on our follow-up mixtape to the previous summer’s.

Roomie bro even hopped on a track.

Then we got into a fight about dishes and tidiness.

We’d been splitting a room with a makeshift divider down the middle, tryna stretch out the weed bands we’d saved the previous fall.

The money I’d chosen to spend cohabitating with V rather than with ex bae, whom I’d followed out to Philly, and who had just started grad school.

Shit got too close.

He tried to tell me how to live, to mom me, I told him fuck off, then he dropped a diss track clearly taking shots at me, that I heard on SoundCloud even though he was upstairs when he posted it. I sneered at him next I saw him, leaving for his 4 AM composting shift, and told him Bro you got it twisted. I don’t know what you think this is. But it ain’t that. We ain’t in a relationship bruh, stay in your fkng lane.

He copped a plane ticket back to Cali the next day.


When I got back to the elevator, I pressed the down button. The door dinged.

It hadn’t moved.

The girls were still in there.

One was in her underwear, tryna pull on a dress that was snagged on her heel. The other, seeing me, tried to human-shield her from my sight.

“What in the actual—” I started to say, before the human-shield girl, giggling up a storm, jabbed at the door-close button.

The door closed.

“Just a sec!” I heard her yell. Like this was a goddamn bathroom I was waiting for.

After more rustling and laughing from inside, one asked the other if they should let me in, the other agreed, and they yelled You can come in now!

I hit the button and entered.


Two Augusts ago, same shit:

V and I were up in Humboldt doing freelance weed work, and the first break we got after a big payout, about a month in, he was tryna throw down five hundo-plus on a music festival and drugs. I was like I’m not tryna do that, I’m tryna save, I’m done with that life, he was like Whatever bro and copped the ticket anyway. But he was living with me. In my van. Shit blew up the next day, at a campground north of Arcata. I told him What are you gonna do about getting there. You’re totally relying on me. You’re pulling audibles that aren’t in sync with the gang. You’re wilding.

He was like What do you mean how am I gonna get there?

I mean all your shit’s in my van. I’m your ride rn.

He was like How you mean? I got legs.

I was like Oh so you gon’ walk outta here?

I’ll walk outta here. I’ll walk outta here tomorrow morning.

OK bro. We’ll see about that.

The next morning, he packed it up and hit it.

This like a 30-minute drive north of Arcata. Directly off the 101. On the ocean.

This fool actually walked his ass to Arcata, crashed out in the woods by Humboldt State there. Then caught a rideshare down to Santa Cruz.

I went north, to an isolated campground on the border of Oregon, and read Don Quixote (1620) for a fortnight.

Right before the festival weekend, before we had to go back in for the next work stint, I caved. Copped a ticket and hit him up, breaking the silence.

We linked up and were good again.


The one girl had changed into a different-colored dress.

Musta spilled something on the first.

Half expected them to re-invite me to whatever party they were hitting.

But, once dressed, they were calmer.

Asked me some questions about Postmates.

“So you’re saying I can order McDonald’s and have a dude on a bike bring it to me?!”

“Bro pretty much,” I said, grinning.


The intersection out front was where Broad hit Ridge hit Fairmount, plus a couple side alleys there.

Lil isosceles island in the middle.

More a jacked-up asterisk, or tree, than an intersecting T, from bird’s eye.

Sat on the steps facing out onto Broad and this side street Potts, for a smoke.

Sun descending ahead.

Nippy, still.

I considered how best to get home from here.

Fairmount, if driving.

But there were all these mellow one-ways to hit, to avoid this sort of congestion, on Broad.

Melon, Mount Vernon, Green.

One-ways only those living on drove down.

Highly coast-able one-ways.

Employing the full lane.

Guide hand barely touching.

Posture erect.

Slaloming slightly, as potholes dictated.

But otherwise.

Cruising.

Fanny-pack Bluetooth slapping, still.

But something mellow.

Something scenic.

I thought about how this mode was prehistoric, to the first horse riders of the north, who’d figured this out. How to harness Nature without disconnecting from it completely. In contact with the unmediated, unscreened Outdoors.

The evolutionary discovery of Out Hereness one step above walking.

Out Hereness in technological motion.

“I’m a muhfucking horse rider bruh!” I yelled at a passing F-150, observing a light drizzle coming on but not caring.


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