badbadbad is the debut novel by Bay Area transmedia artist Jesús Ángel García, who will read at the Antenna Gallery on Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m., along with poet and essayist Hannah Miet.
badbadbad follows fictional protagonist Jesús Ángel García in the wake of his wife’s leaving him, as he straddles the Southern cultural divide by living a double life. By day, he works as the humble, God-fearing webmaster for First Church of the Church Before Church. At night, he plays the part of sexual messiah on fallenangels, an online social network for extreme desires. Blinded by righteousness, obsession and identity confusion, Jesús refuses to change his path even as it leads to the greatest of sins.
It started with a hamburger. Whopper, large fries, Diet Coke. No, something with more meat. A political exchange, at the bus stop outside Piggly Wiggly.
“You’re a fan,” I said, pointing at her badge, The President Is the Commander-in-Chief. It was pinned at quarter-thigh where the denim fringe of her Daisy Dukes peeked out like tendrils. This girl was live.
“The president know what good for us,” she said and I believed her. I gazed at her belly ring, a simple hoop, fake gold, then down to the button fly, unbuttoned, her candy cane triangle below. “We should trust every decision he make. He know right from wrong.”
“I’ll take your word,” I said. “Me, I’m not much into politics.”
“Me neither,” she whispered. “This for work.”
I zoomed in on the red-white stripes of her two-piece. “You’re a lifeguard.”
She poked me in the chest. “Yeah right.”
“Life’s a beach,” I said.
She had never been to the beach, if we’re to believe what she told me, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t. I talked big on my full tank of gas, tried to persuade her to get her feet wet. She insisted she was on the clock.
“You could call it training,” I said. She stared at me with anime eyes. “I’ll drown and you save me.”
“Shut up,” she said, taking my hand in hers.
I was fortune’s son.
Now there’s French fries in her teeth, between her lips, glossed with orange, outlined black like her eyes, and her hair, streaked with fire strands, midnight at the oasis. She glanced up at me, switched the radio to Nelly, rocked her blouse off her shoulder, mocha cream, silk with sweat, pink glitter. Her top too big for her size, I expected she’d tumble out at the next speed bump. I punched the pedal, stopped short at a crosswalk, apologized for the rock ‘n’ roll.
She grinned, digging her fingers into the bag, peeling wax paper from the meat. Her nails were long, slick with swirls. Sparkly letters spelled R-O-Y-A-L on each hand. She bit into the burger with a girlish eyeroll. Her appetite was man-size, her cheeks chipmunked. I’d never before seen such freckles. She was a saint who didn’t know it, hadn’t yet answered the call. A superhero at nineteen, she tagged herself a whore. “I’m just a hoe,” she said.
So naïve, out of practice, I didn’t realize, didn’t let myself know. I pegged her for a bop, that’s all. She was at the bus stop, had never been to the beach. She said she was hungry. At least I could feed her.