Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Am He You Are He You Are Me

This was written for a friend, who prompted me with the words "boys in lipstick, a threesome, superstitions, albino crows, bootblacking" and with the most excellent pick-up line ever courtesy of e e cummings:

listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

I don't know how well I answered the prompt, but I ended up with something more than a little strange. I feel like it's teetering on the precipice of being something bigger and less disjointed, but I think it's best to let it sit. I didn't have a great deal of control over this narrator.

So here it is, as is: a chaotic fragment.

“Listen,” he said. “Listen.”

You weren’t listening.

“The fuck is an albino crow?” you persisted.

What a pair: the pea and the pomegranate seed. You’re so natural, so green behind the ears (if that is the saying I want), a little hint of overturned earth. You came right off the farm and you’d break a man’s nose for anything less than a full-hearted embrace of your lack of college education and your heathen temper. I like you. I’ve always liked you. You never learned but you’re always learning. I knew we were meant to be before you even threw your first punch.

The pomegranate, now; he’s something else. You’re old and young and he’s young and old, if you know what I mean. You’re a fixture, a reliable structure, been here since the dawn of time, where time is my willingness to talk about any of this. Who’s this guy? He comes in here with his tall leather boots and his pierced ears and piercing gaze, mouth full of bright red lipstick just itching to leave a bloody imprint on a napkin, or your cheek. He’s wild like the center of a storm, every muscle relaxed, coiled. He’s a predator. I had to have him. I’m not one for petty superstitions but this is twice in one lifetime, love at first sight, and doesn’t that have to mean something? I love you, aggressive, thoughtful, ignorant you, and I want him, I need him, I have to be his. He won me the moment he stepped into that place. Where were we again? Oh yeah.

“Listen,” he said.

“You listen,” you retort. “You said you worked for Albino Crow. And I’m asking, what the fuck’s an albino crow? I mean ain’t that just a dove? Cause it sounds like it’d just be a dove.”

And he smiled at you, a calm, tiger smile. “A crow is a crow, and not a dove at all,” he said. “That’d be like saying every white man is the same white man.”

“No it ain’t, it ain’t that at all.”

“In any case, the Albino Crow I’m talking about is just a record label.” He leaned forward over the table. “You like music?”

“I like music, everyone likes music,” you said, and you looked at me, maybe for help, though you’d be damned to hell and uncertain torment before you’d admit it. “You know who the fuck this is?”

I know I want to be a part of his narrative, if that’s what you mean (it isn’t).

“Listen,” he said again. “There’s a hell—”

“What kind of music?” you wanted to know.

“—of a good universe next door,” he continued. He smiled. I wanted those lips. I wanted those teeth. “Let’s go.”

The two of you are made for each other. You might not realize it yet (he, of course, realized it right away), but this is the start of a beautiful et cetera. There’s a part of you that knows, or senses, or at any rate won’t turn down an opportunity, and it’s the part of you that moves, gets up, and the rest of your body follows. You throw me a look that says “You’d better be coming.” You don’t want to be left alone with the Devil, the madman, the albino crow. You’ll want it soon enough. I just pray you’ll take me with you.

The hell of a good universe is exactly the paradox it sounds like. Everything is bright. Everything is faded. It doesn’t matter. It does.

It was an enclosure of open space. Speciously spacious. Spuriously so. If I’ve got to describe it, then that’s how. Bookshelves of buildings. Staircases leading nowhere, or maybe everywhere. Towers of stairs. Down we went, down and down, of course down. Mephisto and his pair of Fausts. Maybe one of us is Gretchen. I’ll be Gretchen. I don’t mind. Down to the valley. Into the street.

Losing grip on reality is something we’ve become very good at, you and I. It comes from the unholy marriage of your casual disregard for it all and the slow tick tick tick of the bomb of my brain. I don’t have time for it, I mean. It’s such a waste of energy, believing in the world, when there are beautiful boys in lipstick and tall, leather boots. We said so many things during that walk without speaking a single word. I felt you simmering, settling, felt him drawing you in. You know what I see in him now. I think you’re ready. What’s more, I think he waits until you’re ready.

And then, oh: a door.

“Here,” he said. And I saw the crow, I’m sure it was a crow even though it looked quite like a dove, white-feathered and red-eyed. There was this mad moment where I was certain it was him, the crow I mean. In the land of living metaphor the contradiction is king.

Look at us: what an odd contraption. He’s already done the impossible, made it through the patchwork of your defenses and the tangle of your clothes, and my attention’s elsewhere. There is something perversely beautiful, you know, about watching the two of you. It’s more than I can bear. I have to look away. I focus on the boots. I’ll be Gretchen, I’ll be the shoeshine boy. I don’t care. I don’t care.

Don’t forget me.

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