And we mean well in going to this mask;
But ’tis no wit to go.
Why, may one ask?
I dream’d a dream to-night.
And so did I.
Well, what was yours?
That dreamers often lie.”– Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene IV
The wall was running paste clay; leather hats straight and 55 calibres blazing – It could go on forever, they could never hurt each other, never even touch.
Tap shoulder; turns to be going out; his head gestures to the swinging door; come on then: waves – a strange cigarette. In a saloon people don’t dance, you just sit around a table and drink, or play pool and most of all laugh like you mean it, shout like you mean it and love like you mean it. God just be merry!
‘Do you have to be like this, tonight, Jerry?’ ‘It’s just a feeling…’ ‘What feeling?’ ‘Jerry, you utter tin!’ ‘I don’ think insulting the man will make a difference.’
Neon light streaming bug collector, backsides of the Raucous – two men dressed in the height of fast fashion, a third wears a suit. ‘You want me to tell you?’ ‘We’re friends, aren’t we?’ ‘I had a dream.’ ‘Tell it!’
‘What, you hens believe in dreams now?’ The two cartoonish lumps looked at each other and grinned. ‘Yeah!’ ‘Sure!’
‘I dreamt we were somewhere, all of us, having fun and then I fell. It was a dark well I fell into and my teeth were raining over me like hail.’
‘You are certainly going to perish tonight.’
‘Cheers to another one!’
Jerry’s face straightened. The sharp wrinkle on his forehead retreated. He was calm but fuzzy. It seemed very plausible. Death by drowning… ugh… drinking.
Jerry sometimes got a stutter from smoking weed. It had to do with the first time he was caught by mom.
Anyway, it was then back to the corner where black mold had burst through the seam, gangrene dripping down the east tendon. This wasn’t a real saloon, those don’t exist; just a knock-off, like most things on these shores of darkness! Aye!
Look at me leaning against the wall in the half-light, far from the main-stream, one foot up, shuddering all over, with a slim cigarette and shirt collar out like a private eye Brooklyn-baby, noir, noir amidst trickling jazz of tangled voices.
‘O, he’s far gone. Far gone…’ ‘Jerry, get a grip, man.’ ‘I’ve been gripped!’ ‘What is he talking about?’ ‘I’ve been gripped by the lips that grip!’ ‘Reminds me of a Tumblr board.’ ‘Yeah, I know that one too.’ Badger laugh, drudge down dead. And Jerry chuckles knowing not why while his fingers crush the burning cigarette. ‘Agh!’ He shrieks as his palm receives the red end.
There’s a girl inside with marvelous lips sitting somewhat distant from her friends. Jerry looks rather strange in his suit, tottering in, well-supported. He’s been drinking to it for a while. She knows and doesn’t mind. Besides the boy had good eyes, a sort of painful face, an air of disparity that seemed so cordial.
Jerry coughed loudly in his sleeve.
He kept coughing. While she felt fizzy with laughter pop that suddenly burst out when Jerry whimpered: ‘What…name?’
‘I’m Amelia. And you are?’
Jerry was wriggling like a worm with a hiccup. ‘What does he want?’ Her friends chime in. She glares at them: it’s not funny anymore. The divide has grown, so fast it has grown from the days of first laughter to the days of 25.
And it all started from there. She offered me to sit by her side, but I had more to say, I turned and straightened my shirt All Politico, still ruddy, squealy from the cough. I began to declare the gibberish creed of all street cats and misers ever to have walked the earth. Then someone pushed me from the back – a band of kids rushing out. I remember throwing them an agitated look: there were a few girls among them – pretty as well. And then the customary stab. She was there smiling at me, but I was suddenly sinking. It was a benign smile: something about it said joy.
We could never be happy, of course, not with this gasping for breath, not with all that was missed and all that was longed for, not with all that was taken, hidden, drained. The cycle is always going to turn, the father is always going to come back such as you have never seen him: δυς εις τον αυτόν ποταμόν ουκ εμπαίνεις.
Door swung; muffled this part And when you said hello, I knew it was the end of it all…
‘D’you wanna go back inside?’ ‘No, it’s quiet here. I’d rather stay a while more.’ ‘Are you cold?’ ‘A little. No… What are you doing?’ ‘What?’ ‘It’s not allowed. You know that.’ ‘I wasn’t touching you.’ ‘You were too close.’ ‘Are you serious?’ ‘Deadly so.’ ‘Do you remember why they don’t allow us to touch?’ ‘Something to do with…. Hm.’
Jerry reminded her of someone. A spiritual man with slap-stick humor in his back pocket. O, he got her good that one. And there was another one who talked just nothing at all, and the rest he had it up his nose… All that pretty-little ditty stuff, the charming hurt, the walking dead. It was one summer… every summer.
But now December brought new hope. She felt old: it was cold, and this boy was so small. He was like a needle. If he would but slow down for a minute, she could wriggle herself into his ear, ladybug-like. In his voice was music of winter: howl, howl at the dying of the light. But he was profoundly lukewarm.
‘You say? A better lot will come, a lot better than this one, beyond some foreign see, in land of prosprty. But I know there will be no lot, better than this one. For there is only one, and it will follow you forever. Wherever you go, that lot will follow; black as tar, lit only by glimmering dead things bulging out over millions of years, it will never end, it’s the empty parking lot above, the one you see when you look up at night, that one you cannot escape.’
‘Was that the story?’
Secretly she was having fun. Only that it was not really a secret. Her cheeks were red, flushed like a pomegranate.
‘I don’t like to be compared to either animals, flowers or plants.’ She interjected.
‘I’m just saying.’
‘You are saying?’
‘Because you seem poetic. I don’t want to end up a goose.’
‘Has that happened before?’
…It had happened
When they turned to go back to the bar, they saw the dim façade by the side of the road. There was the stench of mold and old cigarette butts coming from the porch. The roof still stood but had a nasty dent in it. One wing of the door was swinging, the other had been dislocated from the top hinge and was lying half sunk in the mud. Windows were mirky with a million splattered bugs and the dust of ten generations blown by winds that never ceased in all the time they were gone.
‘I have to go in.’ Amelia told him. He was not afraid. He let her go. A moment later she came out, she didn’t speak at all, her eyes were fixed straight ahead. ‘What is it?’ She pinned her eyes on him. ‘They are all sleeping.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Everyone I ever knew. Everyone you ever knew. They are all in there – all sleeping.’ Jerry couldn’t understand. ‘Can I see?’ She stepped aside. A moment later he came out and led Amelia away in silence.
‘Pinch me.’ ‘No, we can’t touch, remember?’ ‘O! Right…’ ‘So, what now?’ ‘Now?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘We can walk a little more, I suppose.’ ‘Stay a while. Look at me.’
No eyes now, it was just two long trails of mud now, that led deeper into a wood now, where only beat the steps on damp dewy moss-green now, and above. We plodded on in choppy motions in near absolute darkness, while crickets beckoned time’s return. ‘Lift that boulder up for me, will you. Lift it, I want to see what’s under.’ And a myriad of glow bugs would fly up. Who knows why? Perhaps, she just liked glow bugs. There were moments then the whole earth seemed to exhale in gusts of red, green, orange, blue, yellow: the soil, the soil was radiant like the fins of a great white whale from where the light gushed out: the light of the resurrection. ‘They will find us here, one day, with hands like twigs and hair the color of vines in autumn. They will find us: two wrinkled things of the old earth. Do you know they will?’ For a while she knew, but then it terrified her.
The river-mastygon cracked again and I remembered dawn. Long and empty beach and you there not yet: too early. It was five, six hours in the year before we met. We made our way in wreathes, with sun in the crane, hoisted slowly by the props of our voices. The horizon stretched before us in full zoom shimmering on the waves. Someone could say a moment then was an eternity, and I will always think of that poem: How few! yet how they creep / Through my fingers to the deep…
I don’t remember what it felt like, but it must have been cold. The others watched from the shore. I could feel the sea wanted to smother me in its silk, manure me its hidden gardens. A couple of the boys jumped in and started swimming after me. Soon I heard the cataracts blasting the walls of the abyss. But it lost the taste – no poet this one: not worthy of the deep. And it spewed me back out like the first time. Back into the growing light.
Mary was there on the shore with the rest, gasping when I plunged and still more when I swam out. They scorned me then: I couldn’t stop laughing. ‘I heard the cataracts…I heard the cataracts…’ She lay a hand on my forehead. It was an earthy hand with worm-like fingers; I made to embrace her. In vain: the grain was always heavy. Years later I would meet her and still carry the chip of brine on my shoulder.
Golden chicken-eye-kernel sun come! For in fain glory were washed the shores of the desolace. Who knows what the secret wiring of this place is? Many a red ribbon gossamer shuttle spinning in the ether, and a family of sparrows has made a nest there in the command box. We’ll clean it out one day. Just let the sun come out.