Juanita's gaze moves through the window of their dusty gray apartment, sprawls out in wide adventurous arcs across the dreamless desolation of Clinton Hill. The anonymous Brooklyn neighborhood that she never has quite convinced herself to call
"I've got to get out of this place," she whispers meditatively, flashing a secret smile at the way her voice weaves ever graceful through the tune of her favorite song. "If it's the
last thing I ever do. I've got to get out of this place ... doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo ... It's my life and I'll do
what I want. It's my mind and I'll think what I want. Yeah yeah yeah yeah. Blah blah blah blah. Uh huh."
"Stop babbling to yourself and come help me fold the laundry," laughs her mother. "Listen to you! Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah! Is that what they teach you in school these days?"
"There was a certain period," her mother continues as she shakes dirt off a shirt, "when your father walked around the house singing nonsense all day. He wanted to be a musician then, but he couldn't play any instrument -- and God knows he couldn't sing! So he'd hum his songs all day long ... hmmm ha hmmm hmmm, ha de doom hoom, hmmm de do ho ho ho haddlie hoodly woho -- on and on and on!" They lean their heads together over the laundry as they laugh.
"He never made it as a musician though?" Juanita ventures meekly. From experience she's aware of the sensitivity
of the topic....
An empty pause ... "I suppose not, no. You know, he was so
damn uncoordinated ... maybe he could have composed, you know,
but that man would have had trouble playing the kazoo!"
"Whaddyou think he's doing now, then?"
"Sweetheart, I have no idea. For about a year after I left him he came and visited every week -- and then he disappeared. That was it."
"You think he could have died or something?"
"Someone would have notified me in that case ... I mean, unless he was pulverized in a meat grinder and they couldn't tell who he was ... God, doll, I don't think I want to talk about this! I mean, like they say, let bygones be bygones, right?"
"What was he like?"
"You know I don't like to talk about it."
But I think you want to now, persists Juanita. "Come on, you've got to entertain me while I help you fold ... it's so boring!"
Her mother grins: "Honey, I ain't got to do anything! Anyway, that's not such an easy question. Usually he was off by himself thinking or listening to music in his head or making up crazy stories ... you know, science fiction, or about the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt ... once, I remember, he kept me up all night with this story about the man named Zar who invented the number zero or some crazy thing ... whatever struck his fancy. I could leave and come back two hours later and he wouldn't even notice I was gone. That's what got me fed up with him eventually, I guess. I always felt ignored, totally unimportant. I mean, he said he cared about me, he told me he loved me all the time, but it always seemed like he hardly noticed I was alive. And then when he felt like talking, he'd go on and on and on and on for hours sometimes, and always asking do you understand, and you never do, not really, because it's a hundred brand new concepts every minute and none of them make any sense until you think about them real hard, know what I mean? It wasn't like he was talking to you, more like he just wanted to get this stuff out of his head, you know, and if you happened to be there fine but just as well if you happened to be a dog or a doorknob."
"But you must have seen something more in him than just a thinking machine, at least at first, right? Otherwise you couldn't have stayed married for three years. I mean ... oh, I don't know -- what made you fall in love with him in the first place?"
"Oh!" she chortles -- "that's easy ... that first night when I met him ... I came to his apartment to ask one his roommates who was taking a class with me for help with a paper. He came down and ... well, while we were waiting for his roommate to come back he not only wrote the paper for me ... a spectacular paper, better than the professor himself could have written ... but he got me stoned off my ass as well. By the time we were done taking bong hits, darling, I couldn't tell him from his roommate! But no ... I mean, when he wanted to, he could just be so charming. Not a woman in the world could say no to him. When he wanted to come down from his own little never-never-land, you know... it was like an angel down from heaven! All right, the clothes're done. Now don't you have some homework to do, doll? How 'bout that English paper?"
"Oh, that ... I'll do it next week. I do have some math,
though, yeah." She strolls back to her room brimming over with a strange viscous glow, not for a moment pondering its origin,
just basking, basking, basking in it.
GROTESQUE AND ARABESQUE
"Not yet," croaks Marcella, nervously ashamed of the crackly air of vulnerability in her voice, afraid it might be taken for
passion rather than the crescendo of frustration that's overtaking her. She tries to stop herself from thinking: Joe would never do this, never! Never just plow right in. Right on in, just like a battering ram. My Joe would never do that... Forget about Joe; this doesn't feel good. "Let's snuggle a
"Get those juices flowing, eh?" Art chuckles. "You're dry as sandpaper down there!"
"Why do you have to talk like that?"
"Sorry," he replies, and though it sounds like genuine apology she's not assuaged.
"That's no way to seduce a woman!" As the words escape her mouth she silently mocks them, rephrases them in proportions grotesque and Arabesque, expands and contracts them like huge
rubberbands and shoots them at her brain, her soul, her cunt, her
mouth. You pompous bitch, she scowls at herself, fiercely but
wearily. You lousy snob.
"Honest, I'm sorry. C'mon, beautiful, let's not fight." She remains silent as his lips brush over the nooks behind her knees,so trembling tender, as his big hairy hands knead her buttocks, as finally his tongue flits across the sandpaper, reconnoitering like the leader of a trek into a canyon, circumspectly seeking the most promising route for extended exploration.
"Up further," she says -- a little curtly, or so they both sheepishly think. Two seconds later: "Down further."
"Mmmmmmmm. Up further." A second later: "Down further." It just isn't going right. Not right at all. He isn't going to find the spot. That damn spot. Joe knows where it is -- Joe fucking found it for me. Goddamn it, if he can fuck other people, so can I! Is it my fault I don't enjoy it? Ooh, you sound crazy, crazy, crazy crazy crazy! Learn to enjoy it! -- Or learn to enjoy a unilaterally monogamous relationship -- now fuck the bastard and get it over with!
"You said up further then down further but I didn't move."
"Yes you did."
"No I didn't."
"Look, I know you did, I felt it. Let's just forget about it."
"Fine, but I really didn't move. This G-spot stuff, I guess it's all in your mind anyway...."
"Everything is all in my mind, that's what Joe's always telling me. But sometimes I think it's all in my cunt. But then, if my cunt's just a figment of my imagination, it comes down to the same thing doesn't it."
"Look, do you want to talk philosophy or fuck?"
Or both simultaneously, thinks Marcella, as is Joe's habit: unable to fit his passions in the appropriate compartments.
"Likewise," she continues, "if my mind's just a figment of my cunt."
"You're a sick woman," he chuckles.
"I'm a dick woman? What?"
"I said sick, not dick. Sick. You're a sick woman."
"You said dick."
"Fine, if I did it was a slip of the tongue. Forget it."
"A Freudian slip, perhaps?" she giggles, fondling her larger and firmer than average breasts. She coos: "Do I look that masculine to you?"
He laughs sincerely. "You? You look like the Playboy Bunny of the Year for 1990! You're the most ravishing creature ever to lie in this bed -- look, I've got an erection like a piece of steel! The depressing thing is that what should be a perfect moment is getting ruined by all this silliness!"
She giggles: "Maybe I will be, you just wait and see. I suppose I would look cute in those long floppy ears and that bushy little tail." She laughs loud,suddenly humored, not
annoyed, bythe stark absurdity of their bickering. "Oh, by the
way, you did move," she ventures jestingly. "No I didn't," hereplies, so deadly serious that the grin disappearslike lightening from her lips. "Maybe you moved and you thought it was me."
"Don't be an asshole, I was only joking."
"This is working out real well."
"Isn't it? Look, let's start again." She moves her hand onto her crotch. "Right here with your tongue -- not round and
round, just up and down a little. And move your hand around
my asshole while you do it. Yeah. Like that. Mmmmmm. I'm
getting wet already. Oooh, yeah. Listen, move yourself around here, I want to feel your cock with my tongue. Yeah. Ooh, God!" She slithers smoothly away from his tongue and swiftly swings
herself atop him, sliding her cunt around his cock with a
graceful wet twist that amazes him.
After perhaps a few hundred sopping squirms, wild slaps of meeting sweaty bellies, she's lost her energy. "Touch my body,"
she whispers thickly, searching for soft rejuvenation. Touch seems so powerful during sex, she ponders blearily.
"I'm touching it where it counts," he chuckles hopefully.
She mutters something incomprehensible even to her, then
moans out: "Squeeze me."
He reluctantly clenches her buttocks as she writhes upon
him, panting, sweating -- if nothing else, as she habitually reminds herself in the midst of boring sex, getting her daily dose of exercise. Just like a worm on a hook, Joe says, she thinks.
And she thinks of that first day she met him, of that dismissing
stare she so haughtily threw at his face. I thought he was so
ugly then! Such a shriveled professorial-looking shrew! And then later he looked so beautiful -- I wonder why that happens. Love, I guess. That oh so drab and empty day when he first
grabbed me by the shoulder as I rushed from that damn studio to the limo in my cocaine haze; he asked me to dinner, I didn't even
bother to refuse him with words, just walked on by. So many
dumb-ass fans -- fanatics -- always screaming at me and pawing
me since that album slithered out of me somehow. And now they want a second one! How do I tell them that I sold a million records but am very far from musically inclined -- "Marcella" was
an accident! And I really can act. So many talented musicians out of work. And then I found him on my couch that night, mysteriously. How he got through the apartment door he never
would say. Smelling of beer and fish and holding battered roses.
The way he talked to me! My God, that first kiss lasted over
twenty minutes! Half of which I spent in a struggle not to burp...
... "I want to get inside you," whispered Joe.
"Unfortunately," her voice replied, "it works the other way around."
But he ignored her wit, though noting it with warm satisfaction: "I mean I want to see the universe through your eyes. I'm a writer; I portray people. But you're an actress, you have to capture their subtlest feelings, the nuances of their gestures and their sidelong looks. I want to know how to grasp
the system of signs that is a person -- not formulaically, through intuition. Through the intuition which I know you have.
You're virtually the only real actress around today."
She smiled strangely: "Thanks."
"Oh, by the way, yes, I'm crazy," he said...
and kisses me, and kisses me, and squeezes me with such warmth that I feel I'm coursing through his veins, that I feel I'm a corpuscule of redness throbbing tumbling through...
She realizes she's melting into a minor sort of orgasm. It
grabs her with its herky-jerky pell mell frothy flow, turns her
body inside out a dozen times -- then not too gently lets her down. I guess that's what you'd call an anticlimactic climax, she thinks wryly. And just why the hell am I lying here fucking
this guy. Oh, he's all right. He's intelligent, humorous, good- looking. Better-looking than Joe, if you forget about
personalities (but how can you forget his?) He's all right.
Actually, he's less than half right -- for me. I know who's
right for me. "Hey," Art protests dazedly as she rises,forgets
her clothing on the floor, whips on her coat and scurries down the
hall and out the door. "Damn crazy bitch," he mutters, grimacing at the ooze that gets all over his hands as he begins to masturbate, filled with a strange serenity, languidly and methodically.
"I've been thinking," says Juanita to Carl over the lunch table, "about going to college next year. Applying early admission. I read about it in the paper." She wonders why Mary and Pearl seem to be leaving her out of the conversation, leaving her alone facing this Carl guy whom she's never really spoken to before.
"Where would you go?" he asks reflexively, mesmerized not by her words but by the lilt of her voice, by the sway of her wavy brown hair as her head tilts a little, by the jut of her breasts, by the sadness that lurks in her eyes. He wonders, for the thousandth time, how he should ask her out. And why she hasn't had a boyfriend since Shaun broke up with her last April. Say, Juanita, would you like to go to a movie with me sometime? No, no... too square-sounding. Doing anything Saturday night?
Better. Are you free Saturday ... no. Hey, darlin', can I buy
ya a chocolate milk?! No, seriously ... Hey, uh, I was wondering if, uh, you'd like to go to a movie with me sometime. I mean, like, maybe this weekend sometime, maybe Saturday or something....
"There's Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, University of Washington -- that's in Seattle, Washington, not D.C. Then there's this place called Simon's Rock College up in upstate New York somewhere."
"What kind of college would name itself after a rock?" he jests distractedly, aware that he's staring at her breasts, at the mysterious crannies beneath them carved out with such
exquisite softness and grace, at the miniscule nipples that poke through her bra, at the way her shirt clings to them but sways out away from her belly. He has an urge to reach across the table and squeeze them. I know I wouldn't actually do that, he
furiously tells himself, but he still feels the need to pour his last ounce of energy into the task of restraint. Butt, stay
glued to the seat. Butt, stay glued to the seat. Butt, stay
glued to the seat. Hands, remain on tabletop. Remain on table,
hands. Remain. Oh God, is she beautiful! God! Butt, stay
glued to the seat....
"It's a college for students of high school age," she explains. "In a way that would make it easier ... but I think I might rather be at a regular college around older people. I mean, there're only three hundred students there; that would be kind of weird."
"Yeah, we've got what? eight hundred here."
"Hopkins would be the best choice if I want to do pre-med, but I'm not really sure if that's what I want."
"That's an expensive school, though ... I guess I'll probably wind up here in good old Brooklyn."
"Brooklyn College isn't that bad."
"Nope, and it's nearly free too. My dad's a trash man and my mom don't work, so.... Your mom's a teacher, right? What's your dad do?"
"Yeah, my mom's a professor at Pratt. That why we live in this god-forsaken slum!"
"What's she teach? Art?"
"The finest of arts, as she calls it. Mathematics. Mathema tics ... she'll never let me say just math. Even though she speaks in horrible slang all the time. As for good old
Daddyo,anyway, no one knows where he is...."
"I hope at least he knows where he is!"
"Well, he might know, but I don't, and neither does Mom."
"Parents divorced?" Sensing a certain reticence ... "I don't mean to pry...."
"But you'll pry anyway," she retorts good-naturedly. "It's
all right. As a matter of fact I was just discussing him with
Mom last night. She divorced him when I was two, and lost
track of him about a year later. Not a word from him since."
"Well jeez. Aren't you curious?"
"How often have you heard me talk about him?"
"Never before today, but then I've never really talked...."
"Well, that's because I never think about it. He simply isn't on my mind." She notices her words are coming out faster.
"Okay, okay ... sorry if I'm getting too personal. I'm just nosy I guess."
"No you're not; it's okay. I guess I am a little sensitive about it, aren't I. That's kind of funny now that I think about it, I mean since my mom is really, really sensitive about it. Once every couple years, maybe, will she mention him. No, maybe
more than that, I don't know.... Anyway, the way she was talking about him last night made him sound like some kind of genius ... composing music, coming up with science fiction stories ... I mean, she sounded like she really admired him, you know."
"You should try to find him." "How?"
"I don't know ... look in the phone book. Kipple ishis last name too, right?"
"Yeah. Armand Kipple. Short for Kipplestein. Great-grandpa
abbreviated it when he immigrated so he wouldn't sound like a Jew.
No one was fooled, I'm sure -- from the pictures I've seen he
sure looked like a Jew!"
"So you've seen pictures of your Dad too?"
"Well, yeah ... pictures of what he looked like fifteen years ago or more. What's that tell ya?"
"Something, anyway. In the library they've got phone books from all major cities on microfilm -- we've both got study hall next period; let's go look."
She shrugs, tries to look nonchalant, and wonders if she is or not. "Oh, why not? How's it going with your paper for Miss
"Ick! What'd you have to bring up that old hag for...."
BROWSING THROUGH THE COSMIC CONTRADICTIONARY
Is it a flock of trembling arrows of pure light that pierce my nothingness, send skyward tumbling bloodlaughs of delight fountain decay? Or is it a swarm of dancing tumblebees, delightward circling warm in shadows azure, crimson, violet, yellow, meting out sweet pain with tiny red-lump trembling kisses on my soul's eager membrane? Ravenous diaphonous swirligiggles, erotic tornados of life? Or a swoon of damp vaginas, rife with contradiction and contraction, lapping up like infinite spiral tongues wild rainbows, wiggling on the flames that flicker delicate harsh ambrosia-lashing hurricanous abandon-screams in shades of deep vermillion and variable-frequency hearbeat-womb delight-wild contradiction, paradox lost but always found again, the Outside on the Inside, ineffably sensitive shiver of life. O, what is it that sings, I ask, what is it that sings to me, this, O I ask you sunrise, as you tickle and trickle your ephemeral way, gleaming footsteps of light still alive in me after the day's passed away -- what is the emerald glow of streaming shards of flesh ripped towards the wind, that jutting incandescent penis of the boldness of the sun declaring morning, showering soft sementic vagary across the web of pulsing veins that is reality, and irreality, the vehement veins through which course ambrosia and the essence of all gods, the taste so tickly tendersweet provocative of cosmicunts and dusky dawns and sunrises that melt away the indescribable mourning of the soul into a fountaining of the penis of the dawn into the cuntlips of wild night, into the bittersweet spiraling breathlessly juices of whispering whistling-undreamable-tunes spark of liveliness, spark, love of life. Get inside my love! Love! Get inside it! Make me too free! Send my boundaries into expansion! Lick my laughter with flames of sheer agony-ecstasy-love; undivide me! Make me blossom, scream flowers of dissolve and randomness creeping inside. Let your whispers of light-naught seduce me! I am undercurrent; you are the ocean, the slapping-wild seas in a phantasm of fury cornucopiating life like ten thousand whorled- rainbow-flayed suns. You are the only wave that flashes through my armor to the trickling of my soul along the multicolored
mountains of my n-dimensional dreams. You're sending sparks into my underworlds, and hence revealing darknesses like spiral swarms of eyes and infinite diaphonous arrow-parties bloodlaugh summer tumbling beasting-writhe inside, and vaginature-stirring eyes, inswarms that hear your nature calling, that feel you singing, O my sunrise, like the stirring of the trees' tips in the slightest whethering willowy whether-whispering of the wind. I can feel you swirling, so far Out somewhere, free-flightily flinging these songs of abandon. Don't you want to come In? O, Whatever you are, strangely stirring-wild swirling girl-thigh-softling one, don't you want to bring chancing-wild dancing your infinite fountains of glorious colorous cacaphonous trans-orderly luminous vivaciousness spiraling in?
Which whigmaleerious whirliwings of whorled excessiveness. But it's injection and adjection I seek, which tendrils tense me, sense me, recompense me, lashly-lightening fence and unfence me inly out and outly in, O set my whirligears in spin -- You, sending sparks into my underworlds, where flyfrom? Are you the Outside flickering in, or is your vibrousflexing mellowcradling neverhollow depth-of-dancing-tender fling of song truly an effervescent echo off the canyons of my incubating mind. Each slightly so surroundly scintillating: Sex or Core? War or spunconsciousness? Who's sending sparks into my underworlds, shortcircuits in the brains of all the demoniac dreams of my unspokenness? Tame sharks untamed so eversoftly, trained to meekest nether-regions and the shadow-shimmering realms of bold inviscid winterwarmth and butterflown heat-splashing velvetlove, alike with featherflies and seams drawn harshly on the seamless, alive with gleely shattering boundaries of memories and circumscribed-as-entities and love. There is no sine of life around me -- where is the everpresent beat of neverconsciousness, the stiff aspersion of the real? The thundering drumscreams of the infinite unloved. Is it a flock of trembling arrows of pure light that pierced my nothingness, exploding into atmpospheral fuzz, blearing the all of mind, the all of none, all of all, the every memory of wings of multifariously gulls of trembling mercy about to fall from parched exhaustion toward the tantruming of flows. Who is it hailing on these frequencies of everliquid life and dancing emptiness like fireflies and cuntlips contradicting and contracting on such protoplasmic spasmings that randomness alerts the National Guard? A bold beginningsoft enchantment of the brightly-dreamed forbearance of the leopard-skin explosion- scream gratuitousness that lines the insides of my ever-waiting mind. Waiting for you, my love, for yours: O for your sparks into my underworlds to richly alien laugh and form a sun.
The soaring Is my intoxicated
of pouring Not your song as well,
that alights upon my motions my dearest?
like a knife Is the unique morning
and a wet hungry tongue glowing
whenever your sparks accost my of your eyes
netherworlds -- Not the precise resonance
O yes, wavelength
the flaring of the walls which jail
sense the subterranean
of sharing arcs
that engulfs my knowns of my untamed essential
and never-never-worlds lies
as your lovelaugh shine FREED BY THE EYESHAFT
encompasses me CRUMBLING ROAR OF RESONANCE
in the slithery wild-grass shadowy THEY MATE AND FORM CIRCLES
of night -- AND THEY ROLL OFF -- CARRY
O I love you so -- ME WITH THEM INTO VELVET
You who can spark that DAWNS -- or is this yet
Which is not me another bold imagination-
Which is in me -- dizzy dream? how can it
| | |
| IN | |
|luence inf|luence inf|
|--< of <--|--< of <--|
|ogy envir|onment psych|
|ception on psy|chology on per|
| | OUT |
| | |
Vibrating, gyrating, sky-sating whorled essences of tremulousness, and a deep marine silence. Auspicious declarings of fatedness tickle the locks of my head with grey tweedy intent and the underneath soarings of anyway purport to fathom oh so severely so clearly, so fully with smilings and subtlety- silhouette strife. It is the injection of adjection that circles me. Adjection of injection makes me weak. Do my muscles creak as flowly stalk I through the grusty alleyways of skidrow trash- menageries of fusty crows with cracking beaks. Awash in images. So many words, so multitextured-fountain rainbow-gasm many inflections of unbridledness delight. Such bright infinities that widen me and ride on me, that lash me on to futures yet too gelatinous to speak. There is no other world around me, is there? Grease of slithery mucoid hamburgers, a creaking stare of mouldy wood, a lilting lovers' laugh (a real one), a nicely rounded stone. There is no anywhere of anything around me. I am at least I think am a graph of the unknown. It's hard to see what once absorbed me in that hard hard world. A few dim palpable delights -- a good meal, sweaty crash of sex, a book (but what's that but escape, really another world). A crime. A clash of conversation. No, my netherworlds were never fully filled by this -- not even infinitesimally entered by the most of it: the churning faster-turning ever-energy-wild-burning never noticed it, thevastness underneath, not a hell but a waiting whirl of symbols all in strife and skinfinite swirlying around and through and never a separate stiffly iconic existence but a melding O a mind a cavalcade tremolo of conceptness that flies, that sizzling orbits me and periodically crashes me and dissolution comes and O like now it is -- my underworlds, so static would they be, if not the sparks you somehow sent to them, the glimmerings, the lies wrapped up in truths wrapped up in lies wrapped up in truths wrapped up in lies.... But sent from In to Out, from Out to In? Which way the circle sent to spin? Which side the brain, which side the peerless pouring peering of the everforward leering of the eyes? The symphonies of soft suffused surprise surround me, heartbeat-pound me -- never, resolutely never, never, never, let me go back to that other world, that game of things and keys that snug in doors and bring forth logically. Only the flaming flashfest flutterflurry, dazing crazy geyserfuries, shameless supernovasmiles of sharing hold me now.
"Yes, Grandma, but I'm not going out with Dave anymore. Things just didn't work out, you know, that happens sometimes. Yess, I'm applying to several colleges. I've already applied to MIT, that's my first choice."
"Wonderful, darling. Just wonderful. Is anything new at school?"
"Well, uh, they finally put a new roll of toilet paper in the bathroom!"
"Melissa!" cuts in dear mother sharply. "That's not funny!"
"Sorry," smiles Melissa, in a tone that makes it quite clear that she's not. "No, nothing's new at school, not really. It's getting kind of boring this year, actually. My classes seem easier than usual. Maybe I'm getting smarter! It's the weirdest thing, you know, my mind seems so much clearer since I broke up with Dave."
"That's how it usually is," smiles her grandfather quietly. "After a divorce, the man's the one who's upset. The woman blossoms!"
"Oh, Harold," chides her grandmother, "that's not always true."
"Statistically speaking," my grandfather reiterates, but as he begins to expound on his theory he's -- to everyone else's relief -- abruptly cut off by a knock at the door. Melissa's father answers it...
"It's someone for you, doll."
Steve, Lucy, Lynn, Lisa, Cheri...?
It's Vladimir. "Hi," she says shyly, strangely awkwardly.
Something in his stance unnerves me.
Is it just that he's so still...
"Hi. Sorry to interrupt your dinner ... I just thought I should tell you that the data you gave me for physics this time don't make any sense. I don't know what you did wrong, because I wasn't paying attention, but ... it must have been something."
"What do you mean?" she says haltingly. "Um... I guess, you, uh ... just come on in, why don't you? We're really finishedeating; we're just listening to Grandpa tell stories now really."
"Milk was a nickel, slaves were a dollar, right?" he chuckles awkwardly as he steps through the door, painfully aware that his words sound ridiculous but unable, even in retrospect, to come up with a witty, appropriate response...
Why, he wonders winsomely, does my mind always block around
They walk toward the dinnertable and she stops to explain, "This is Vlad, my lab partner for physics. We've, uh, got some
homework to do, so is it okay if we go up to my room now?"
"Don't worry, we won't tell Steve," chortles grandma...
"Now," Vlad begins as he sits at her desk looking down at her perched on her bed, "you set up one mirror with a pin in front of it. Then you located the image by parallax and placed a pin in back of the mirror even with the pin seen in the image. Then you lined six pins up with the first pin's image, right? So this should have made three lines ... then you removed the mirror and drew out the three lines to their point of intersection. This point is where the outside pin should have been placed. Then you've got the angles between the mirror surface and the light paths and all that ... put a normal to the mirror inside this angle and measure the two angles ... but your angles don't check out. They don't give what the formula says. "
"How did you know I was doing all this -- you weren't even looking!"
"Well, I've, uh, seen this stuff before, you know, a while ago. I used to play with science kits when I was a kid. Usually I just write down whatever you tell me for the data and put a bunch of bullshit for the other sections -- procedure and all
that. But the past couple times, for some reason, I decided to
check it all out ... I don't know...."
"Do you think you could draw what you just said?"
"I already did," he grins, and pulls a crumpled pad from his back pocket.
She peruses it for thirty seconds or so and finds she can't concentrate, so she makes something up: "Oh yeah, I see what I did wrong. I just bisected the angle, instead of drawing the perpendicular to the mirror through it. But that won't tell you how the light reflects off the mirror!"
"Wait, no, that's not it," he says carefully... "I think the
thing is you just wrote down the wrong angles. The answers you
gave could be read off of this picture...."
"Oh yeah!" she laughs giddily, uneasy but honestly giddy nonetheless. "Just a stupid mistake. Thanks for pointing it
out." As she laughs she leans back and forth rhythmically --
and hears the sound of denim ripping... "Uh-- I think I just
lost the ass of my pants," she smiles nervously, surprised she's not even more embarrassed. "Could you step outside for a second?"
"I guess I should go now anyway," he says, after an uncomfortable delay during which she's absolutely certain he's
laughing at her (and he's absolutely certain she's absolutely certain he's laughing at her, which almost makes him laugh aloud, although he was otherwise too nervous to be amused...)
"No, no," I insist, not knowing why. "I have some physicsquestions for you! It'll just be a second ... that's what I get for wearing such tight pants, you know... heh heh."
He steps outside and waits. At the top of her drawer is a rumpled pink skirt; she slips it on and as he just begins to seat himself on the stairs she calls "You can come in now!" When he sees her he chuckles despite himself. "What?" she giggles dizzily ... the same peculiar combination of comfort and
tension sweeping over her, almost absorbing her, making her itch and making the colors of her floor stand out from eachother
like the violent shades of a Matisse.
"Interesting color combination, that's all. Day-glo pink and, uh vomit-green plaid...."
She observes herself cautiously. "Yeah, I guess I do look kind of funny! Oh, well...."
A viscous silence.
"So, shoot. I'll tell you everything you never wanted to know about physics but were afraid someone might ask you!"
"If you know everything about physics, how come you aren't getting an A in the class, huh?"
He shrugs dispassionately, as if she's asked him why he doesn't believe red is a nicer color than aqua. "I thought you were going to ask me about physics."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. Ummm... I guess I, uh, can't remember...." But surely you can make something up, stupid! Why didn't you just let him leave when he wanted to? Physics, physics, physics -- come on! What a time for a fucking
"No, no, I'm sorry ... I'm just not used to talking about myself, that's all. I don't talk to anyone much since I moved here; I guess I'm out of practice. About physics ... um, I guess I just lost interest in school a long time ago."
"What are you interested in?" she asks immediately,
wondering why she's so interested.
"I couldn't tell you," he replies smoothly, amiably -- summoning courage. "Say, I was wondering ... would you like to
go out with me sometime? Say to a movie or some...."
"Oh..." she blushes -- so that's why he made the effort to come over here! "I'm sorry ... I'm ... I'm kind of going steady with someone."
"Oh. Okay. Don't say you're sorry about it, at least I hope you're not. I know, I'm supposed to keep up on these things, but I'm a reject so no one tells me all the gossip...
ah ... Are you in love with him?"
Peculiar question, she ponders -- but it came out of him so naturally, as if ... well, I guess, why wouldn't it be the next thing on his mind. Maybe that's what's so weird about him -- maybe he only says what ... what ... exactly what he thinks -- no, no, he doesn't do that, I can tell -- I don't know --
"I don't know. I think ... I think maybe I am. I know I'm happy when I'm around him. Is that love?" She shrugs whimsically.
"I was in love once."
He spits the phrase out all in one quantum, as coherent as
a punctuation mark, and it appears before her mind -- an image which shocks her with its strength -- bathed in the molten oils
She doesn't know what to say. But he says nothing further, so she has to say something. "What ... wh ... was it a long time ago?"
"Four years," he says quietly, firmly. "My family moved away. We exchanged three letters and I haven't heard from her since. No explanation, it just stopped, just like that. I suppose I've never gotten over it." He looks up at her, his body stiff, almost frozen in place. "But why am I telling you this?"
"Why not?" she answers warmly, immediately, and with absolute honesty. "It sometimes helps to talk to someone."
"Nothing can help this," he replies slowly: softly, but this time with words of iron. "When you give yourself to someone entirely, when you convince yourself the two of you are actually one entity, one mind sharing two bodies -- and then you find out you were wrong, it was all an illusion... Nothing can help you then."
"I ... I guess I've never felt anything like that, not even with Steve. No, definitely not. And I'm not sure I want to ...
it sounds kind of frightening."
He continues, almost oblivious to her. "You know it was true, that the union was real -- but then how could it end? I feel like ... I feel like -- I've never thought about it this way before -- I feel like half of a split personality, isolated. It's like in the book I was reading yesterday, A Scanner Darkly -- title's a bad pun on Shakespeare, right -- through a glass darkly -- anyway, this guy, in the future, has a job as a policeman where when he's at work he wears a scramble suit so no one can hear his voice or see his face. So not even his coworkers know who he is. So they assign him an undercover position posing as a drug dealer. And they also assign him another duty, back at the police station -- observing drug dealers. It turns out one of the people he's assigned to monitor -- via hidden camera recordings made at all times of day -- is, by coincidence, himself. He watches himself, reports on his own behavior. But while dealing the drug, he becomes addicted to it. One consequence of addiction to this hypothetical drug, called Substance D, is that the left and right brain become functionally severed. So one half of his brain is a drug dealer, and the other half watches tapes, as a cop. The two forget they're connected, for most of the time."
She forces a smile ... "You have a weird taste in novels."
"That's what I feel like. Only, I guess you could say that
love was the drug. And in this case there's no rehab center ...
actually, that was the funniest part of the book! Finally, he
turns himself in for detox, and as therapy they have him tending
a farm. But what are they growing? Substance D!"
"Love is a drug ... I've heard that somewhere before."
"I'm sorry for unloading this on you ... Iguess I've never really talked about it before. How about those physics problems."
"I can't even remember what they were," she smiles, embarrassed and a little enchanted too. "Say, you want to go out
for ice cream or something?"
"Sure, why not," he says, brightening considerably, his frown twisting quirkily up to a smile. "It was all so long ago,something should have happened since then to take my mind off it. But there's been nothing. Nothing happens, you know. It's all just the same nonsense. School is boring, the people around me are boring -- it's like I want to go somewhere, away, but I don't know where -- nothing I see is really dramatically preferable, you know... God, I really talk too much, don't I?"
"Nothing anywhere," Carl sighs thoughtfully. "But that
only proves he doesn't live in a major city. In this country."
"He could have changed his name, or he could have an unlisted number."
"Oh well. I don't know why I went through this much effort. I caught Mom in a particularly good mood and she started reminiscing ... it was just such a precious moment, you know ... I mean, I guess it sounds stupid and sentimental, but the way she talked about him really made him sound interesting. More than that, it made her sound interesting too ... I mean, you don't usually think of your parents as actual people, you know."
"I usually think of mine as heartless ogres, yeah."
"No, you know what I mean. You see them as filling a certain role. But ... oh, I don't know what I'm trying to say."
"No, really, I think I see what you mean. Things like that are always hard to talk about because ... I don't know ... the only words that come to mind are stupid and sentimental even when, you know, when the thoughts aren't like that at all. Maybe
some other language would be better ...I guess our language is
just better suited for talking about things than feelings."
"That's just right," she grins, radiating agreement, so it seems to him, through her every pore. Now is the time, he hears his voice say to his mind -- now is the time to ask her out. To ask her out out out. Now is the time time time. Now is the time. "That's exactly right. Someday one of us'll write a
new language and then we'll be able to understand eachother."
"Don't you think people can understand eachother anyway? I mean, even if the words aren't right the way you arrange the words can be anything you dream up, right?"
"Also," she thinks aloud, marveling that she feels comfortable enough to do so, "there's communication besides words. Body language. Maybe gestures are better than words at communicating feelings."
"Yeah, right, because animals have gestures too, and they only have feelings, not thoughts. So gesture may have evolved to communicate emotion before language ever existed."
"Do you really think animals have emotions like we do?" She thinks: this is wonderful. A genuine conversation, like they have in books. Not just the same ridiculous babbling about crapass actresses and rock stars and dates and classes and dumb
He gestures toward the clock: "Period's almost over. Listen, if you really want to find your dad, why don't you hire a detective?"
"I don't want to find him that badly ... it was just a whim. Besides, I couldn't afford it."
"I could lend you the money." Now! Now! Now! Now is so perfect! I was wondering if you'd like to go to a movie ... I was wondering if you'd like to go to a movie ... I was wondering if you'd like to ... Too perfect; now is too perfect -- she'd think it was just an act to get a date, but it was real. A real communion. A genuine something. Genuine, that's all that really matters. Genuine, that's all. Now. Now. Too perfect. Now. Shit, you're sweating. Shit. Shit. Now.
"It's not that ... I mean, what would I do once I found him?"
"Go talk to him. Ask him if he believes animals have emotions like we do. I mean ... it would be weird ... you were saying how we think of our parents as roles, really, not people, but him you'd have to think of as a person 'cause he's played no role in your life, right?"
"Mmmmmmm... Say, what'd you say you were writing your English paper on?"
"I didn't say." She was not amused by that particular witticism, he tells himself scathingly. Now you've ruined it all. He checks his watch. "Bell's about to ring." As it does: "What are you doing after school?"
She shrugs slightly.
"Want to work on our papers together?"
"Sure! Great. Here?"
After school they meet in the library and to their great surprise actually sit there and work. Each one wondering why
the other doesn't break out of the trance and start some stupid
babble, something. And each one far too apprehensive to begin a conversation. After a long time Carl succeeds in getting out: "Uh, how's it going?"
"All right," she says before he's half done talking, and wonders if her smile's too broad. "Not that boring, even. I never thought I could find anything interesting to say about Shakespeare, you know, but it's not really that bad."
"Eck. I can't stand Shakespeare."
She laughs. "I'm not exactly in love with it. But what else was there? Lord Byron? Or that horrible Milton? Let's face it, I'm just not a big fan of classical English lit!"
"Well, I suppose there must be something wrong with me -- I chose that horrible Milton."
She giggles embarrassedly.
"The style is kind of hard to penetrate. But it really sums up everything that's stupid about our culture, I think. The myth of the original, natural man. I mean, there's absolutely no reason to believe things were ever perfect like that -- there were theanimals, and then savage animalistic human beings, and then neurotic civilized us. But the myth is persistent as hell. I mean, you even have someone like Rousseau, not a religious nut like Milton by any means, rhapsodizing about the natural man, the noble savage and so on. Frankly, I think it's a lump of shit! Worse than that, it's inverted. If utopia is to grace the earth it'll be in the future, you see what I mean? Technology means we won't have to fight like animals for food. We don't have to now, but we do anyway, by inertia I guess. When our minds catch up with our scientific know-how, this will be utopia I suppose. The thing is that we spend our time thinking about utopias in the distant past, like Eden, or worse yet about totally imaginary utopias like heaven. I mean... I'm really not expressing myself right. I'm sorry for babbling on like this...."
"Oh no, no ... do go on! I've never heard anybody talk like this before. It's ... it's enchanting, that's the word. Even if it is a little frightening." A frenzy sweeps her momentarily,
from whence she cannot say.
"I've always dreamed that when I grew up I'd start a political party of some sort. For the intelligent use of technology. The use of it for everyone. Now it's only used sparingly, in whatever ways serve the prurient interests...." She looks at the clock. "Oh shit, I'm late for dinner. See ya tomorrow I guess."
He blushes: "You're not just saying that 'cause I started talking politics, are you? I know it's a bad habit, but it's always on my mind."
"No, I've really got to go -- I was supposed to be there ten minutes ago!"
"I'll walk you home."
She smiles appreciatively, but says "I've got to run!"
"Well I'll run you home then!"
"All right. Let's go!"
He grins, and impulsively she leans over the table and kisses him lingeringly on the lips. At a dramatic loss for response, he gathers his books and they run side by side, lost in adelicate silence marred only by the pat of their shoes on the
pavement and the gentle harsh crack of the fragmented glass strewn maybe every ten feet or so and the thrum of the occasional car passing by ... a silence unmarred, to their minds, but for
occasionally glancing at eachother and trying to smile through
theirgasps of excited exhaustion. Such smiles! When they reach
her building's door she turns to run right in; surprising himself,
he grabs her by the shoulders and finally returns her kiss. He imagines an ocean of infinite softness coursing out through his lips -- everything inside him pouring out to her. She smiles.
"See ya tomorrow," she trills as she disappears, neatly arcing
her foot behind her skipping frame to shut the door.
As he leaves her a dizzy bright strangeness envelops him.
Stone drunk on what he imagines to be the sweet taste of her lips, a faintly Spanish tingly tang that a more rational whisper within him informs him is probably imaginary -- he has to see her again, has to taste her again, has to touch those silky breasts, to watch them tremble with her breath ... all those goddamned cliches, hethinks harshly to himself, but the harshness fails to pierce through the dancing, silly, jolly madness that surrounds the every blinking of his eye, the every melancholy sigh, the every flash of the concept "I" through his dazed consciousness.
"I can't go home now," he sings, way off key from the tune he intended, free and oblivious to the world. And then he knows where he is going: if not to be with her, to watch her, taste her, be her -- then at least to help her, do her a special favor -- do something, yes, to keep her at the forefront of his mind. To ACUMEN Detective Agency, that dilapidated hole between the grocery and the hardware store down south on Myrtle Avenue...
"What can we do for you son?" says the slothlike man at the front desk. The office is remarkably unremarkable, containing absolutely nothing of note besides a slightly oversized collection of little metal swingy-toys on one of the desks toward the back. Carl stares at one for a second, spontaneously hypnotized.
When he returns to awareness his mouth wants to bellow:
"don't insult me by calling me your son, you fat ugly dildo-
breathed monstrosity!" But he says, instead, "I'd like to find
someone." Confused by the man's expression....
"Anyone in particular?" The man sounds neither serious nor sarcastic, but rather inexplicably morbid.
"Yes," Carl says stiffly.
"What do you know about him?"
"His name is Armand Kipple. He disappeared about .... well, what'll it cost?"
The tattered green armchair squawks out like a two-century-
old rotting mansion in the wind as the man leans his gelatinous
bulk back on it, guffawing with an odd hollowness. "Armand
Kipple, huh? Arrrrmand Kipple. Heh heh heh."
Taken aback, Carl retorts curtly: "What's so funny?"
"How much are you willing to pay to find him," the man replies, his tone opaque.
"Well, I have five hundred in the bank, but I'd rather not go above two."
"Two dollars? Two cents? What?"
"Two hundred dollars," Carl replies reluctantly, not so much embarrassed at his apparent misestimation of the cost as at the
loss of his kiss-inspired high. "I take it that's the wrong order
"You sound like a good kid," the man says solemnly, "and I haven't done my good deed for the year yet. Listen, son, the funny thing is this: we just spent ninety thousand bucks locating the very same man you're looking for." Carl wonders if the man
is drunk. "And I'm in a good mood right now -- so you know what
I'm gonna do? I'm gonna give you the info for free."
"I'd really appreciate it," Carl replies uncomfortably, not really believing him but seeing no benefit in revealing that fact.
"Armand's new name is Josef Savage; friends call him Joe. He
lives in Manhattan, believe it or not, after a period in the Caribbean. Now get out of here, thank your lucky stars and your lucky moons while you're at it and use your two hundred bucks to
buy yourself a piece of ass or something!" Carl stands still. "Get lost, kid! Now! Pronto!"
"Thank you sir," grimaces Carl as he backs out the door, harriedly mulling: Now what?! Can't tell her you found him
'cause the chances are you didn't. But she didn't ask you to try so you can't tell her that you tried and probably failed. As he ponders his alternatives, he hears a distant sudden thud; he
looks behind him and the man in the detective agency has a bullet hole in his head. Right between the eyes. No, maybe a
little to the left ... he squints to see it better -- and then
yells "Shit!" and breaks into the fastest sprint of his life,
around about ten random corners till his breath is almost gone.
When he recovers his breath he darts his head around nervously, consciously paranoid, and then he notices he's about two blocks from Juanita's place. Still slightly dazed from exhaustion and shock, he rings her bell.
There is no intercom system, so he sits and prepares to wait. He wakes up feeling her finger tap him, tap tap tap him, on the nose. "I didn't keep you waiting that long," she giggles, obviously overjoyed to see him. "What brings you to this neck
of the woods?"
"Well, it's a pretty bizarre story," he begins, eagerly but reluctantly. "I went by that detective agency on Myrtle Ave...."
"Yeah, right ... the place that looks like it's run by a bunch of rats and cockroaches. Anyway, just out of general curiosity I asked them how much it would cost to find someone. And it was the strangest thing -- this guy was acting so damn weird, I couldn't figure him. He said, well who are you trying to find, maybe we've found him already. So then I told him, Armand Kipple. And he said yes, well you look like a nice boy sonny -- he liked to call me sonny -- so let me tell you, we just spent ninety thousand locating him but I'll give you his new name for free. So he does, and I leave, and as I'm walking out the door I hear this dull thud and I turn around and the man's dead -- a bullet between the eyes. I mean, it didn't sound like an ordinary gunshot, I guess it was silenced."
He wonders if she believes him; she certainly appears to, jaw hanging uncontrolled in shock. "That's bizarre. Oh my God, that's terrible. I...."
"Joe Savage," he says. "Of Manhattan. I don't know if we should believe this guy or not. It's a crazy situation."
She considers: "I guess I have to look him up. Probably make a total idiot of myself, you know, but what the hell. That's
what life's all about."
"You don't have to do anything."
"No, but now that I know...."
"You don't know anything." She stares at him chidingly; he ventures: "I could come with you if you want, but I imagine if
it is him you wouldn't want me around."
"Yeah," she smiles warmly. "It's sweet of you to offer though. If I wanted anyone there, it'd be you. Why don't you
come up and meet my mother? She'll be wondering what kept me
down here so long. Don't mention a thing about my father, though
-- I'm serious, she would not be happy. She'd take it as a personal insult or something -- she's weird about it. I mean,
where he's concerned"
"Hey, I'd probably be weird about it too -- how old are you, fifteen?"
"Thirteen years of silence from him?"
"Come on up!"
"Sorry if I'm harping on the matter -- maybe I shouldn't meet your mother now, I'm still a little shaken up."
She grabs him by the shoulders and shakes him. "Let me shake you back down again," she giggles. "Look, I don't mean to make light of it. It's a horrible thing, of course. But there's nothing to do about it. I learned that a long time ago. That's the tragedy of being a precocious kid -- you see everything, but you have no power. The world makes so much sense to me right now -- but I'm powerless to change it. And by the time I have that power, if ever, I'll probably be jaded with age, you know. My vision blurred."
"I'm not sure what you're talking about but it sure sounds good! I think maybe the two of us should start a political party!"
"Or at least a party of some kind or another."
"Hopefully a wild one."
"Come on up!"
"Oh, all right." He takes her hand and smiles, a red hot
pang of the joy of encompassment in love spearing all through
him. But even the glory of her touch can barely obscure the image
glowing with an undead iridescence all around him, fountaining
rivulets of wet gray brain and blood into his mind. He thinks back to their earnest, vainly striving conversation in the library: the noble savage of Rousseau. Joe Savage -- i.e. the average
savage; the perfect savage, perhaps. And what is savagery but
flowing guts, but grunts and groans and blood. A deep connection
lies here somewhere; he feels it viscerally, a link on some dark
fundamental plane. It mystifies him, but more than that it frightens him. He feels the feeling is ridiculous, but that reduces its intensity not one bit. He feels his future self, his netherself eons deceased, stir deep inside him. An omen, in
which he believes although he doesn't believe in omens -- but of
Marcella appears at their bedroom door with an eerie glowing grin, wearing her long black coat open in front and nothing else, her nipples barely peeking toward him as she breathes. "I'm
surprised you weren't hauled down to the hoosegow for prancing
around like that," drawls Joe distantly. "Or did you just offer
the officers a little bribe ... of the nonfinancial sort,
"I was in the middle of fucking someone," she explains quietly. "When I came I got up and left. I didn't have time to get my stuff together. It was a funny scene; you would have appreciated it."
"Came and went, eh?" he laughs, increasingly able to concentrate on her; trying to file what he was thinking in proper compartments for subsequent reference.
"I realized the stupidity of it...."
"Yes, 'it' is a fairly moronic morpheme, isn't it?"
Converted by Andrew Scriven