Nonfiction / Tasia Trevino
:: The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack ::
A VISIT FROM DRUM
the first time I get double-bass beats it’s two hours the nurses take my pressure tell me don’t stand wheel me in a chair to a bed Mom cowers in the corner by the crash cart they tear off my clothes attach leads ready a 16-gauge needle the doctor says this isn’t going to feel good a feeling floods my right arm my body seizes I sit up they push me back on the bed they do it again my beats relax the EMT says that works 9 times out of 10 and the other time I ask
if I keep count I could control this expensive somersault phantom several false starts no money for follow-up is it fatal or just a condition without coverage I develop distractions codependence on the strength of strings learn to sing at house shows with shitty PAs strain against the squall for years no one can hear me just the Boys on guitar bass and drums turn my back to the crowd when I sing over stimulated vagus I can’t stop performing wish for some assurance I’m going to make it
Los Angeles seeped into my bloodlines when Dad stick-and-poked Mom a fleur-de-lis on her ankle while watching Decline of Western Civ Vol. 1 twenty years later I move to the city in an ancient Buick I dream to be Jeffrey Lee Sable Starr a sea bird over light-dotted hills the Observatory’s formal white gown feel for my pulse during sound check the Boys ask me what language are my lyrics Persephone I say Eurydice rock myself to sleep in double-time cross my heart hope to know which feeling I’m faking
BE QUIET MT. HEART ATTACK!
I stop taking off my hospital bracelet I don’t have insurance so I can’t afford to know why I have some ideas but the Boys keep saying “you’re fine you’re fine” swatting my fingers from the right side of my neck me swallowing blues to keep myself at bay am I still their Wendy Bird they were there all the times they stopped my heart maybe the reason for it too I pingpong the aisles at the Last Bookstore wait for the calm to kick in search out every iteration of sunset
on stage singing grief for each of my past selves in a room sparse with solitary men most nights I dull my pounding with tequila rocks lime another round with the Boys and the Gretsch never get paid to play drag myself home on unlit side streets past boxtop shrines stuffed with sweets and sticky rice in a dream I carry one of the Boys on my back through the Hollywood Farmers’ Market I buy peonies and small cabbages this is this not a dream this is
I gather the handwritten receipts from the mechanic they make a $3000 pile still my Buick bucks stalls it has no AC or heat no defrost have to roll down the windows in a storm the armrest gets streaked with grime drive out to Altadena for a job get $10/hr to survey places people want to film I size up other drivers wonder how they afford it I want my ass sliding on leather interior I want to see the inside of a stranger’s house wonder whether I’ll ever move
DRUM GETS A GLIMPSE
when I’m not onstage I get a job selling things I can’t understand to people I never see I finally go to the doctor he says I’m fine I just have anxiety need to eat more fiber he gives me a non-refillable prescription for Ativan and suppositories tells me buy Metamucil drink that every day I get regular lose a lot of memories start to need a bigger audience almost fight the bouncer after karaoke at the Blue Goose put the tinsel Xmas tree up with no gifts underneath
my boss is a Scorp/Sag cusp he wears tennis shoes nice jeans floral dress shirt top two buttons undone at the Xmas party he puts his hand btwn my legs when he bends down to kiss me hello brings me into his office for my 3‑month- review says he wants to give me a raise thinks I’m smart but not showing it seems like I don’t care I make hourly as much as his maids he tells me they’re stupid always putting things in the wrong place he tells me earn my raise
Tuesday afternoon I have a panic attack at an impromptu audition for a reality series that’s shooting upstairs from my office they like me for the part of Expert on a show about aliens visiting Earth I take a Valium walk around the block go to urgent care the nurse slaps adhesive electrodes to my chest unshaven shins she won’t give me Xanax she says I need a cardiologist when I tell her about the first time how they had to stop my heart
LET’S NOT WRESTLE MT. HEART ATTACK
it’s a catheter-based procedure they’ll make a slit in my leg thread a wire up my vein into my heart they’ll jack up my heart rate until the bad rhythm kicks in they’ll burn those pathways closed I’ll be sedated not asleep I’ll go home the same day never think about it again there are risks perforation stroke I lose my insurance in a week I say how soon can we do it how about in three days the doctor says I shake her hand and ask for one day off work
my first surgery is the day before Thanksgiving I don’t want Mom or Dad to come but they do in pre-op two nurses dryshave my groin joke about filming me talking candid in twilight sleep Dad gets ramen downtown after I’m fine everyone leaves I stain the hospital bed with blood the nurse changes my tampon I go home the same day the next day the Boys come over we drink Wild Turkey and I cook everyone proper dinner with pressure dressing
I can’t leave the city bc my Buick shuts off at every stoplight the record label with interest wants more demos I’m going to write a song a day so far I haven’t written one in months the only constants are always late with rent for the practice space phone bill groceries and fights I don’t remember picking up the Gretsch dampen its strings when someone walks by the Buick catches fire on the 5 the mechanic cuts out the catalytic converter puts in a pipe I keep driving
TO HOLD YOU, DRUM
on my lunch break I talk to the head of the label he has me on speakerphone sitting on a marble memorial bench in Hollywood Forever pretending I can understand everything he says he has to say something to me he doesn’t want to be the stereotypical record label guy but he can’t pronounce all of our song names he loves frontwomen female drummers we talk for 36 minutes he says he will be out in LA later this month we should meet for coffee I wonder if he doesn’t drink
I can’t stop thinking about my heart my windowless office I get an hour off work to see a social worker at Kaiser she says I had no guidance I’ve been drinking that much since I was 16 I should stop playing music it seems too stressful go back to grad school get into debt like everyone else she doesn’t know what I can do with a degree in history I pick a handful of night jasmine on my walk home the only things I think about more than my heart are money the dying car how I don’t feel
the farthest I can run in the city is Teardrop Park where the view is El Chubasco Chinatown and a city disguised my body buzzes badly with want my heart leans out of tempo sometimes it’s inhalation sets it off sometimes the weather not enough water sometimes too much food not enough sometimes it’s being in bed with someone being in bed alone it’s extra beats an electrical problem not something I control what’s the chorus again
on Lou Reed’s birthday I watch porn on my phone in the bathroom before dinner with the Boys we bring our own booze I start to cry about Caetano Veloso in exile singing in English I walk home a man jerks off in a bush outside the corner liquor store eyes rolled back furious pumping I pass Jumbo’s where we went with the Boys for my 21st birthday me sitting close to the stage them sitting against the wall in the shadows beckoning me with dollar bills to give to the girls
Tuesdays are band practice Wednesdays are all night happy hour the bartendress with huge eyes and French braids makes me at least three tequila sodas I think about her naked sit outside on year-round-bougainvillea-shaded patio papier-mâché petals spiked vines I dim the lights in the bar’s pink bathroom take a picture of myself wish for someone to send it to walk home under graying skies one of the men outside 7–11 calls to me hey sloppy girl asks me for a blowjob
I need another surgery it’s forty-thousand dollars but it’s covered if I keep my job Mom comes and Gramma but Dad already had tickets to see John Doe only Mom has a panic attack on my futon so I drive us to Kaiser across the street from the big blue church that took all of Gramma’s money she holds my hand the nurses mistake her for my mom and me for 19 I’m awake again during the doctor says he found the problem he says my heart tricked them last time
IT’S ALL BLOOMING NOW MT. HEART ATTACK
sometimes I think I like Los Angeles I go downtown to see Television with the Boys walk through a heist scene that doesn’t stop rolling Tom Verlaine gestures to Venus in the western sky I’m in love with all my friends climax in the shower to Roy Orbison falling I’m falling falling in love with heartbeat throb dream one of the Boys has me in public press the wooden spoon handle against myself in my galley kitchen while the rice cooks on the stove
the label doesn’t want to sign us I get weepy at the bar with the Boys I let down my love for the city but I only know one kind it’s killing me sometimes I feel very sad I tell the Boys that the same session band played on every American pop hit of the ’60s no one knows their names I start to lose momentum trust practice sincerity in the bathroom mirror ask for my memories back erased or otherwise find myself among scattered palm fronds and street roaches on the edge of Santa Monica
the doctor says another surgery would risk perforation my heart has two pacemakers sometimes the false one gets the rhythm the real one gets a break after I leave the city I can’t stop dancing at the least appropriate times I come back to the city but don’t make it past Mulholland I stand on a borrowed balcony over behind-the-scenes streets without sidewalks so close to all my landmarks I can taste lemongrass tripas and tarna can see my beating the score is swelling
THE OTHER SIDE OF MT. HEART ATTACK
there is no way to see a city I can’t be anymore at the junction of thickly-traveled boulevards a city invariably comes into existence I dream washing machine amps rubbery guitar strings mics with no input I let myself go slack the tempo evens out I wear the skinniest tuxedo I can find put on lipstick in the hospital bed I allow a place to tame me a heavy quiet settles around me I don’t know what to do with it don’t know how to allow myself this pace worry where will my voice be if not a stage
grief for me for the part on a dream for somersault phantom sparse with sweets and drums CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! turn my past selves into a chair into a bed they tear off my past selves in a dream I can’t stop drinking that’s shooting upstairs from my Tuesday afternoon I have a panic attach leads reality series that’s shooting in my heart CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! are risks perforation stroke I lose pathways clothes attack to grad school get into debt like Xanax CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! closed I’ll burn those pathways I’ll be sedated I’ll go home the stereotypical record label against my body seizes my beats relax the label has me for one of the Boys on my back CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! he doesn’t want to be again in Hollywood Forever pretending he loves from my body CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! when I sit up they tear off my time I tell her hand and ask for a condition with sweets stuffed with the Boys most nights CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! my clothes attack at an impromptu audition stroke I lose my insurance and they do it can we do it how about they do it CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! fatal or just the Boys on my lunch break I think to my unshaven shitty codependence on the bed I’ve been drinking about aliens visiting Earth I think about LA later another handful go back stressful go back through the Hollywood Farmers’ Market for years no one can say how soon can we be the Gretsch never time how soon can we talk to grad school get double-bass beats ready a 16-gauge needle they’ll make me a slit in a week I say CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! some assurance I’ve been drinking never anything never false stage singing grief CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! never false stage singing grief CONSIDER! DIFFERENT! FADING! SYSTEMS! never false stage singing grief
never false stage singing grief
never false stage singing grief
never false never false
oh you drum
oh you drum
this contains lyrics/references from the following:
Drum’s Not Dead – the Liars
““Falling”” – Roy Orbison
““I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”” – the Beach Boys
““The Strength of Strings”” – Gene Clark
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies card deck
From the writer
:: Account ::
Between 2010 and the present, I’ve lived with an arrythmia called AV-Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia, caused by a congenital heart issue. I’ve had spotty health insurance, multiple doctors, and two surgeries.
Throughout this time, I was the lead singer of a band in Los Angeles. I worked a shitty 9–5, while practicing, recording, and playing shows regularly. I drank a lot. I was in a fiercely codependent, mutually destructive relationship with the guitar player in the band.
Most of this piece comes from diary entries I made on my lunch breaks in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery which was right down the street from where I worked. Soon after the guitar player and I broke up and I moved out of Los Angeles, he made me a playlist based on our relationship. The last song on it was the Liars’ “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack,” from their 2006 album, Drum’s Not Dead. We had a poster from the album hanging in our East Hollywood apartment, but I hadn’t revisited the album in years. When I write, I tend to listen to a single song on repeat for hours, inducing a kind of time-transcending trance state, which is what I did with this song/piece.
After finishing it, I found that the concerns of this piece were very much in conversation with the album. As the band said at the album’s release, it explores the tension between two fictional characters, Drum, “assertive and productive, the spirit of creative confidence,” and Mount Heart Attack, ” the embodiment of stress and self-doubt.” The connection seemed obvious. Even on a literal level—my body has two pacemakers; the album has two drum kits.
I’ve struggled with the correct form for this content. It ends up somewhere between a lyric essay and a narrative long poem. It’s both a love letter and a break-up letter to my favorite city. It’s an attempt to recount and reconcile one of the most dark/difficult and also fun/exciting times in my life.
Tasia Trevino is a writer and musician from California’s Central Coast. Her poems have/will appear(ed) in Fence, Prelude, Yalobusha Review, Dream Pop Press, and Poets.org. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was awarded two Maytag Fellowships and the 2018 Academy of American Poets’ Prize. More at tasiatrevino.com.