Thanks to my beta, Nancy FF, who worked on a deadline. Never make your beta work on a deadline. Bad loa. Bad.
A sodium pentothal landscape,
a bud about to break open --
I want to be there, ambassador
to the visiting blossoms, first
to breathe their smothered, secret
odors. Today I am falling, falling,
falling in love, and desire
to leave this place forever.
The wind blows very cold air into the room. At three am, what can you expect? It's fall. Alex left the windows open when he went away. The blinds rattle; they don't work, they don't actually go up or down, but they rattle like maracas. Alex left the windows open when he went away.
Sometimes I think I'm a room with all the windows blown out. Sometimes I think I'm haunted. Sometimes I think, hello, Jeffrey, why don't you just leave?
I hang my legs over the side of an overstuffed armchair. I spread my knees wide and stare at the space between my legs. I snap my fingers monotonously or tap them on the chair arm or twine them together. I don't know what to do with my hands.
This last week, I have ironed and cleaned and washed and mopped and scrubbed. I quietly pressed all the creases out of Alex's shirts. I scrubbed every dish in the house and dried each piece of stoneware with a washcloth. I cleaned the bathroom, with Alex laughing at me. He thought it was a waste of time. I couldn't even go in there anymore, it was so nasty. He just laid his hand on the edge of the sink and leaned over me, looking in the mirror. "I'm so pretty," he said irrelevantly. He grinned at his own image. Then he put his boot into my side. I don't think I cried that time. I haven't cried for awhile.
Hello, Jeffrey, why don't you leave? He has left. He has left and he has left the windows open.
Here, on the chair, I wiggle a little, trying to get a loose chair-spring out of my back. The shimmy causes friction to slide up my spine. I'm horny. I'm horny and I could cry and still, still, I don't know what to do.
I lay my head against the overstuffed back of the chair. I could go visit my mother's grave. But that gives me nothing but guilt. When I look at her tombstone it superimposes her face onto the shined surface and all I can see is how she looked in a hospital bed, months ago. How she said my name like, please save me. And I didn't.
Damn. Now I'm just cold and guilty. The pleasurable feeling is gone and only a freaked-out remnant of arousal remains. I can't think about my mom and be horny. Maybe if I were a bird, I'd perch on the windowsill and I'd look down at the two stories to the street and I'd say to myself, "Open your wings." And then they'd open and before I knew it, there'd be this updraft and it would carry me upward, it would carry me outward. Out.
"Till you got hit by a passing jet," I say out loud, shocked by the reality of a voice, any voice. This is an old voice. It doesn't seem to belong to me. I imagine that it has taken up residence in my vocal cords because there wasn't anyplace else that was warm. I put my hand to my throat and feel the velvet pulse underneath. I wish there were a woman in front of me, a woman who wore seven veils, a woman who was one down and six to go.
In front of me she is Scully, then Johnny, then Scully again. Johnny puts up her hands and turns for me. Scully extends one perfect leg and rests her foot on my knee. Johnny winds her veil around my neck and she pulls me in for a kiss and Scully pouts her perfect mouth and brushes her blood-red lips against mine and suddenly I know that my own fingertips are brushing my mouth.
So this is what you've come to, Jeffrey. This. I shift again, trading one loose spring for another. I suppose there's nothing wrong with a healthy fantasy life, but these are women who use me only when they need entertainment or information. I'm an object to them. Might as well dream about Alex. So, Jeffrey, what the fuck is wrong with you then?
This morning. I finished the last of Alex's shirts. He had several. This one was green, dark green like a forest. He had spilled champagne on it. I got the stain out. It took me two hours. Then I hand washed the shirt and put it in the dryer and then I pressed it. And he stuffed it into his suitcase without even folding it. For a sociopath, he's not exactly neat.
I turn my head and survey the room, the empty room with no one in it, the room with the windows blown out. My hands stretch out thinly, searching for something, and hit the little coffee table next to the chair. Do I want to hear another voice? The telephone is right next to me. I could call someone. If only, if only he were home. I know the number. I know both numbers. My thin hands slip the phone out of its nest.
I dial. I expect the first number to click over to an answering machine, but instead of my brother's voice saying I'm Not Home Leave A Message (which I wasn't going to do,) I hear her. Her. Saying hello, a little huskily, like I might have awakened her.
My hand is frozen to the phone. She is sitting on his couch I know she is and she is wearing his shirt that one that says Quantico and oh her bare thighs are peeling out of his boxer shorts and she's wearing sweat socks his sweat socks oh I can't oh I can't *think* I thought she was in Africa I thought
"Is anyone there? Are you there?"
My tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth. Here she is pushing her hair back behind her ears because she is irritated because that idiot still won't answer, because he won't say
"My windows are open."
"Who is this? What did you say?" She doesn't recognize my new old voice. She doesn't understand what I'm saying because I barely understand myself. I feel unbearable pressure pushing me down toward the earth and into space simultaneously.
"Who is this? Are you in trouble? Do you need Mulder? He isn't here."
"He said not to talk to you," I stutter. I mean Alex, but she doesn't understand. Oh, I feel thick.
"I'm sorry, but he isn't here. Can I help you with anything?" And her knees dimple just a little bit on the sides of her ice cream skin and her breasts sway just a bit because she has put his shirt as close to her skin as she can, she has put his shorts as close to her skin as she can,
and I dig my head back into the chair support and I let the telephone slide back into its cradle. I wanted to tell her that Alex was gone and I feel like a bird and I want her to come get me, because she is the only one that can protect me. I could help you, Scully, if I could just get the words past my tongue. If I could just think around you with my brain.
"'It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.' Someone said that in a picture book a long time ago." My rusty voice scratches into the room. It's almost a moan. The second call. I pick up the phone.
He answers, as I knew he would. Gravity takes his voice to smoke-pitched depths. He says merely "Hello" and it's enough to let me know who's the emperor and who's the half-wit around here and I let it go, I disconnect the phone cord neatly and then I pitch the telephone out the window. My last sight of it is the two halves of it separating, receiver floating up like wings. Perhaps it caught an updraft.
Distantly, I hear it smash. Guess not.
"Do you know who this is, you bastard?" I say, continuing a conversation I will never have. "It's me. Jeffrey Spender, and nothing to do with his hands but itch for your throat. Do you know that it's me?"
And I get up to shut the window as he says, distantly wreathed, "Yes son, I do."
Dedication: To Jenna, who lets me cuss in her mom's car. That's Cold Stone ice cream skin to you, baby. Smash that block.
Notes: The Tate poem is called "Today I Am Falling." Johnny belongs to Jennifer Stoy. And the quote is from Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Kindly Ones, part four issue one. Which is, technically, a picture book.
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