They sat at camp. The ritual had been prepared. In one corner, a basket of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Wild mountain peaches, berries, orange plums, and watermelon. A few carrot sticks, a cucumber, and an avocado, which would be eaten later, devoured, in a moment of gluttonous hunger. A bag of pistachios, salted, and peanuts, raw, still in their holding shell. A few bottles of water. A small flask of organic red wine. These would be the delicacies that would seem them through, guide them, through the journey. The silence of that first morning empowered the possibility he was there. The brief but guttural rumble that started at seven am, and continued until nightfall, an easy twelve hours, was entirely absent the first two days, his having arrived on the third and final day of Festival, the time of the year when people cross, and into the arms of the establishment, the saying goes, the kisses come in three blows. He had been so far reluctant, and in so being had made himself available to superstition and to the summoning’s of chance. Still, he benefitted from his holding some sense of accomplishment, having returned alive, with soul and mind intact. Being of normally hesitant tact, the onlookers as he prayed by the waterside with his hands to the air passed judgment they’d soon forget, judgment he no longer noticed. There was a different air to his walk, and so it was like he had paved the ground, walking upon the pavement with his sight set on a point somewhere in the umbrage, and the remaining few who had settled for the day were finally outside, smoking their cigarettes, ordering second and third coffees, taking the time, he was aware of them and in knowing was complacent enough to admit, their eyes holding barrels of ammunition with which they could destroy him, in time, featuring their focus on the habits of our friend, who was of so much the slightest, needing to always get off. He did not think of her but knew in his neglect she would arrive, extinguishing the flame that had become of his nights, a flickering glimmer amid darkness, could the same be said of our lives? In those early days he did not care. He had been swallowed whole by his surroundings, and in a sense was only just let off, unlike some of his friends, who had from too young an age already started the claims of debauchery that would become their course. And those same friends, who had fashioned themselves beside him at the height of his fortunes, abandoned him in just as he was being tossed aside from the workings of his life, disconsidered by the powers and the common lot. There are few moments of such ease as those moments of social emancipation. An omnipotent sensation, blown like a torch, informing her surrounding chapters, how to weave along the wretched course, snaking like an eel through the river Ro, and the river red of Al Hambra, where they would one day place his burning parts, dug by those he would not have known, working mostly in silence. The burial would commence at noon and the would be done by one, and the men would take off the remainder of the afternoon, passing along the grounds in alternate directions, they would have been granted at least four hours, to do the body’s job, descending like an ornament into a waiting box. Regarding his first novel, there are parts of it I like, he would often hear, as though they had accomplished anything themselves, proud to have gathered as many ornamental costs as could require a family to dismiss their savings, what have you done, he would once declare, but would not, actually, fro fear of imploring them to speak more. In his reluctance came that fundamental quality that emancipates a man when he is first and foremost divorced from the general proceedings of those within his grasp, often granted to watch proceedings from afar. They had a few hours to kill before they would have to meet at the hotel, to do the photo shoot. Daniel wasn’t sure what he felt like doing. He would have been fine sitting in a streetside cafe, reading, or having a lentil soup at one of the closest kitchens.
“Do you know anything around here,” he asked.
“I don’t,” Layal said.
“I’m sure we can find something,” Ramiz said, the eternal optimist. He had brought some books, a camera, and a voice recorder. The others had their own needs, and they brought their toys as well. But it wasn’t entertainment for him. He was going to analyze the difference in frequencies, from the first time he encountered the visions, up to the present day. They took two separate cars from Berlin. They had planned to leave from Friedrichshain at around six thirty in the morning, but as with most plans, it was delayed. They didn’t hit the road until a quarter past seven. They reached the camping grounds on the East Sea at around eleven, and after pitching their tents, preparing a fe small bites to enjoy on a long bench that overlooked the tranquil sea- bites of root beet spreads, mashed avocados and spelt bread- they took off for a site. The site would be their home, like their nest. From there, the world would emerge. The world that would see them through. For some, it would require of them to endure patches of darkness. For others, they would remain submerged in light. For all of them, they would return to the terrestrial moment changed. They sat in a circle. The woman with the gifts circled around them, holding a pot of incense to their heads, one by one, blowing the smoke into their faces, under their arms, onto the chest. She would blow the incense onto them, and murmur quietly as the smoke blew away, returning to the ethereal passage that climbs from the gaseous urn. After they had each taken in the smoke, including the healer, who had been inducted by another, they silently swallowed the tablets. And then they waited. Some of them smoked joints, others wandered into the woods, curious to find a potential path. At some point, nearly an hour later, as they counted the different breeds of insects, hornets and ticks and rollie pollie’s who climbed onto their blankets, one of them admitted to feeling wobbly, and then another, until finally, all of them admitted to being taken over by the drugs, the journey to the unseen now beginning. He wasn’t thinking about their finding something to eat. He didn’t care. What he wanted most was for them to enjoy themselves. He had taken up that role, of the eternal optimist, the ray of light. Daniel was always going to be the melancholic one. He was the poet out of the three. Yet to publish a word. It didn’t matter. He was going to do great things, they assumed. At least that was what they had hoped for. Researchers, usually of a technical criminologist past, citing the continuous influx of handwritten pages seized at several ports in the vicinity of local naval expeditions, suggest the likelihood that BARA is at any given moment in a state of becoming, and growing in the activity of its participants, who are hidden from the public eye, spared justice where it is thought to be deserved. They say BARA is projecting its contents as we speak, pervading our sleep when we lose attention. But as with most other legends, and especially those told in an era of conservative habitation, there are many myths attributing rare sightings of BARA, somewhere where others are not present, like the sultry corners of a forest, or the basement of an abandoned plot of land. It is difficult to follow any leads with discernible evidence. Most of what is seen is cited by those who have given themselves up to mystical or psychedelic enchantment. Common stories speak of a room that does not evolve, but reacts to the presence of subconscious psychological contents that encompass a physical form, reaching into the contents of a visitor’s soul, and projecting it. Like most other myths, legitimacy is shrouded in mystery. And most who lay claim to a performance of BARA do so at their own peril, for many of them vanish soon afterwards, without word, never to be seen again. It can be argued they have been freed, to an archive of subconscious imagery playing against a pendulum of archetypal norms. But it is also argued, vehemently by rejectionists of mystical beliefs and faith in metaphysical chance that the sightings of BARA are attributable to mad, possessed aggressors of violence and, completely void of social virtue, under the curse of a Paleolithic spell, causing its bearers to lose function of the mind, body and soul, wandering aimlessly into an invisible abyss, shielded by towering structures of vision that distance the individual from the natural world. Confidence in this theory is helped by the revealing testimonies of several citizens who have survived morning leaps over the edge of a bridge, who claim to have been led by indescribable forces into the confines of a monolith, only to leave some years later, with nothing but an inscription on their heads, and an encrypted number tattooed into their hands. Many report the strange hand of a trickster overcoming them in the preceding moments before actualization, described as an intense physical altercation with gravity, characterized by deep tremors of the inner joints, twitches of the muscular lining of the vertebrae, a yellow filament clouding of the retina, and increased tension in fingers and toes, followed by a series of hot flashes that drench the participant in sweat, usually lasting around seven minutes, at which point control over motor operations of the body are recovered. But the yellowing of the eyes continues to for another five or six minutes, until a thin crust has coated the outermost layer of the eye, a cut like the running image of mountain splitting two distinct ends from north to south, running the length of the eyeball. The participant experiences a hardening of the hands of feet. The mind, largely absent from the experience except for the sending and receiving of involuntary muscle signals, spirals back to life with a surge of imagery transforming the landscape and dimensionality potential of the participant, whose eyes are most likely closed, and whose hands and feet are cramped to such a degree that the body is lifted from the ground, two fists and two upright heels holding the participant upright, whose navel is positioned as the peak of the stretching figure. When the participant’s eyes are able to open, the space is transformed into a surrounding landscape of images portrayed intertextually so as to seem, in a methodical and metaphysical way, to be aligned, part of a single grid. The next few minutes is spent learning certain curvatures of the new world, discovering how to maneuver through space without adhering to former provisions of gravity, thereby allowing the participant to move about the imagery with unprecedented freedom, possessing the ability to move with full degrees of rotation. Certain participants experience increased brain activity, eliminating the absence of smell, illuminating all five senses into the experience. What then feels like a continuous presence of the immediate continues for the rest of the participant’s life, or what feels like the rest of their life, until they sullenly and without damage, save for their two marks, walk out of the theatre doors. Some of these testimonies have been given by individuals who were at one time functioning and trained members of the internal staff, responsible for perpetrating the menial jobs necessary to run the operation. But most people who are known to have enjoyed the experience are actually afraid of retelling it, for fear of retribution form an unnamable foes, who they remember to have met in their adventures within the monolith. And they are known. To posses a trembling symptom of phobophobia, such is the extent of their despair. To account for their losses, and to prevent their wasting at the mercy of living squalor, many of them choose to flee, as far away north as possible. But very little is known of the north, and those territories over the hills are recluse in the imagination of those who remain in the port. From this great ignorance, and the testimonies given recounting adventures experienced in the monolith theatre, stems the feeling among most ordinary citizens that the people who leave under this pretense are thought to have walked to their death. She felt the yellowing of her eyes, which continued thereafter upon the resumption of her motor functions. A thin coated crust embellished the outermost layer of her eye, like slicing an egg’s yoke over her eyeball. She felt a hardening of her hands and feet, like the water had been sucked dry from the pores, sucked from the root dry. She felt tiny cracks seep open in her skin, on her knuckles, her ankles, heels, and on her soles. The mind, absent from experience, but for the activity of involuntary muscle signal, spiraled back to life with a surge of images, transforming the landscape and dimensionality potential present. Her eyes were closed, and her hands and feet cramped to such a degree that the body, having fallen off the seat, sliding onto the ground, appeared somehow lifted, somehow levitating above ground. I read you my poems. You enjoy them. You fill my heart with gratitude. Together we share the ones I like, the ones I want to make better. Together we can our drifting love, and we make it by chance, surviving by a hairpin. I grew up across the street from you. You never noticed me. I was too young. Finally, years later, we’re in New York, and I walk around the house in my underwear to see if you notice. I bet you do. It’s summer, and its hot, and the heat makes me go crazy, and I lie in bed thinking of you in the next room, wondering if you want to fuck me. I have nice legs, dark, smooth. I shave for you, and I have to do it all the time. You follow my legs across the room, peeking out of the corner of your eye while playing the guitar, or drinking from a bottle of wine. So much wine, so so much wine. I never say no to wine, even in the heat, especially in the heat, especially at night. I never say no to wine when we’re lying on the floor, when I know my lips will turn red and chapped with grapes and you’ll smoke your hungry cigarettes and tickle my feet with the ends of your smoke. Malbec wine, Malbec wine. One bottle, two poems. Cigarettes, joints. Records from Nigeria in the 1960s, Jamaicans at Studio One, Afro-beat and Afro-jazz. Traveling the world with our records. You want to run, you want to get a pair of wings, trade in the soles of your feet and fly outward, over the paramount sea and into the darkness. I want to see you fly, I want to see you go. Take me with you. I find a job, you don’t. I work for a publisher during the day, and for a filmmaker at night, and I take my microphone out onto the street when its time for me to play and I record all the voices that want to be heard on their own, everyone who admits they have something to say, or who has nothing to say and doesn’t care. You don’t. You wake up and you feel lost. You wake up and run for some coffee, and then you spend the last of your money on records and weed. But you write. You write so much you forget to eat and when I find you all you want is a plate of steamed rice and you’ve forgotten the taste of meat. How much are you writing? Who are you writing for? He wasn’t the type to be afraid. He had initiated so many to so many drugs. But something over the last few years had changed.
What does it do, she asked.
It’s psychoactive, he said, but its also physical.
Is it scary, she asked.
Tanzim laughed, but he wanted to know the answer as well.
It can be, Abraham said. It depends on what’s inside of you.
What do you mean, Layal asked.
Repression, Ramiz said, it unleashes the void.
If we create a safe space we’ll be fine, Abraham said. We can take care of everything. The colors, the borders and walls.
Can we have like a trigger word, she asked.
To return to normality?
Yeah, she said.
I don’t think there’s any known way to sober up.
Rejectionists attributed the users as mad aggressors, wandering in an aimless deducible trance. They were shielding themselves from the natural world, escaping into a world of myth. They spoke of indiscernible as of yet forces, leading them into a monolith, only to resurface days, sometimes months later. She felt the yellowing of her eyes, which continued thereafter upon the resumption of her motor functions. A thin coated crust embellished the outermost layer of her eye, like slicing an egg’s yoke over her eyeball. She felt a hardening of her hands and feet, like the water had been sucked dry from the pores, sucked from the root dry. She felt tiny cracks seep open in her skin, on her knuckles, her ankles, heels, and on her soles. The mind, absent from experience, but for the activity of involuntary muscle signal, spiraled back to life with a surge of images, transforming the landscape and dimensionality potential present. Her eyes were closed, and her hands and feet cramped to such a degree that the body, having fallen off the seat, sliding onto the ground, appeared somehow lifted, somehow levitating above ground. He didn’t want to bad trip any of them or to be a bad sport but he didn’t feel like swimming and couldn’t decide whether or not it was a bad idea but it felt like it was, feeling like they were always being watched, no matter how far they conformed to complying, knowing they were hiding something in the vault. He sat quietly, staring into the outer limits of the sea, feeling the quick bolts of waves crashing against the bank, where he could feel, each time with each strike, a quiet rumble underneath him, rising and emerging from transience. He watched Abraham play with his guitar, singing a song he had already sung, or had he, had ever stopped or was he rolling, searching in a timeless warp for what’s next. He was the gatekeeper, the fortifier of signs. There was always a gatekeeper, at every journey. He was like the mentor, and he made of his friends pupils. He had done it so many times. He was so confident. He had dressed correctly. Knowing where to store his clothes before taking his dosage. How does one recover thirst, he thought. He felt nauseous, starving for food. But he had been told to take it on an empty stomach. If he was really going to be sick he could vomit into the pit of sand. It would dissolve immediately. He needn’t be embarrassed. His mood was changing from moment to moment, realigning to their plans. He looked at his hands, his fingers, turning them on their side and looking into his palm, the ripples of skin forming mandalas, rotating to the rippled wind. For a second, he almost had a bad trip, seeing he had lost a nail on one of his fingers, and the blood had run down the length of his arm, but it was only mud. To see the effect, to know the effect, to survive the weapons, he had to construct a new face. She would help him, he thought, searching for her. He had to construct his own face, but the face would remain nameless. To believe with his eyes but his eyes were fooling him. He drifted away from the camp. Untended grass, reaching the height of his chest, shouldered him from the outside world. He lay in the pit among the breathing wild. Slowly, the forms began to merge and morph into celestial forces. Quietly, the world of the unseen emerged from its hidden breath, descending into formal transformation. He walked with his hands buried in the earth, crawling on all fours like an animal searching desperately for its nest, he moved through the weeds, pushing forward with the force of his thighs. Meeting slug after slug, who had before seemed so endlessly aligned to the earth, now so visibly so, their bodies transforming from its own discolored green to a thick, moist black, with ridges that covered half of the body, and the slug breathing with the earth, the entire surface floor of his surroundings rising in syncopated breaths, rising like an orchestrated ocean wave, and descending into cathartic calm. Overhead, crickets and hoppers leaped above his glowing form. And still further into the impenetrable sky, he watched a hawk soar into his sight, every so often clipping the tail of the immense canopy, he watched the regal creature in her grace, manage the machinery of survival with her fierce talons pointed forward, grabbing at her prey with verifiable force. She who knows her powers, he thought. He weaved through the fields and turned his attention toward the sea. The crowd had gathered and one of them propositioned that they set their eyes on the horizon. A path that had not yet cleared suddenly opened before them. The giant weeds clipped their heads, and a dirt road opened that wasn’t seen before. They passed through the prairie. Behind them, an encumbered past, and forward, the embers of a personal revolution. The wind cut through the passage, earning her vibrations of a silent guitar. They cut right at the natural turn in the road, and passed onward onto a new beginning. Suddenly, carriers of several families, farmers mostly, passed beside them. Is this the way to the water, one of them asked. The water is on the other side, the humble locals replied. But what do you want with the water? They moved forward, each transposed from one vision to another, one elemental sight and her mirror whole. At the emergence of thicker trees, a swamp like scene overcame the land. The trees, that had until then stood so upright they appeared like an obedient army of ballet dancers awaiting their cue, suddenly morphed into one another so that one tree could not be told from another, the thick trunks bending and gripping the roots of another, emerging from a labyrinth of wooden patterns and holes, where between voids were filled with moss and the nests of unidentifiable creatures, and the floor shaped in the contradiction of giant ditches and rising mounds. Be careful, she had said to him. Only in this part are the snakes. He gripped her hand and moved through the passage, ducking underneath the sight of a towering waterside tree that collapsed on its side, the entire tree reformed so that it grew roots from either wall of the passage, and the branch itself formed like a bridge over their heads, from where a snake could drop her lascivious tongue onto the ignorant passer. But the snakes did not appear, and the earth spoke with unchallenged quiet. He felt the breathing of the entire forest shake under his steps, and rise from the sole of his foot, through his tired heels, up his calves and into his navel, from where the force dissolved into his hungry veins, emerging in unison at the eye of his crown, and returning like a bolt of lightning to the celestial earth through a sharp escape into the sky. As they passed through the swamp, the multitude insect song grew sharper, crisper, and as they eased away from the swamp like marsh, where his feet buried under a boot of flowery water, pushing onto a field of dry sand, he reached the first sighting of shore, and turned to look distinctly at the spirits he left behind, spirits of his own psychic pleasure, and spirits not of his design. Some figures moved sharply in the forest. He watched the sudden rise and sharp descent of several voices, finally, coming onto a peninsula of grazing cows, horned bulls, surrounded by the song of crying wasps and the early promise of a flight of bats, beyond which the peninsula fell sharply onto a marsh like shore, where mounds of hard sand gave way to pools of water and noticeable lumps of cattle shit. The shore surprised him. It was unlike any shore he had ever seen, except for the mangroves near his childhood home, where he spent several nights canoeing back and forth with some of his friends, meeting adventurous strangers on opposing islands. The shore was without waves, without any force, an impressive current that swayed like the calming breathing of the forest, moving from one length of the island to the other, cutting away from the shore, so that the shoreline itself had no physical altercation with the water, and he could step easily into the cold, feeling the strength of the current around his heels, his ankles, his knees. He dipped his knees and let his body rest in the water. He enjoyed the shock of the cold. He cupped his palms and brought the water to his face. He sat there for a moment, staring out into the horizon. The shore reminded him of the infamous port. The port that had strangled his spirit into her oppressive grip. It was inevitable, he thought to himself, that a shore should remind him of the port. He felt strongly the satisfaction of his urges. Somehow, desire was stripped from his needs. He felt at once a figure, a formal emanation, of his root spirit, and a mirror of his formal self, so that he felt in that moment a submissive calm, whereby he stared into the eyes of his spirit and returned his own stare with a mirror set of eyes. His eyes. The healing angel appeared beside him. They waded through the marsh and onto the grass. They feasted under the curious herd of cows, haunted by the oppression of their masters. Likewise, he thought to himself. Likewise we are all herded into the slaughterhouse and gorged, fed to the wolves unimpeded by functioning values of the soul. She played a harmonica. She played quarter notes, a rest, a series of half notes and interchanging dotted quarter notes, a rest, a whole note, and a beautifully improvised slide. She opened a book of Rumi’s poems, and she read to him “The Mouse and the Camel”.
Someone who makes a habit of eating clay
gets mad when you try to keep him from it.
He thought of his recent desires, his escapades into the interior. He wondered what it meant, what it said of him, that in this moment he felt no regret, no sadness. He accepted his behavior, but he knew he had been cruel. Cruel to himself, and to her. Cruel to his root, cruel to the mission. But he accepted the cruelty as his own. It was his own manifestation. He felt at once a presence of all his manifestations, like tentacles that arose from the root body, a housing nest of a million clawing vines, creeping away from their host body, forming alliances and subjecting the oncoming world to their cries. These manifestations he called the escaping wounds of the astral body, and he felt himself come into being, come into a dormant, astral form, from where all manifestation occurred and he watched, without sensory emanation, watching in the vacuum of light and sight. He saw, for the first time, in the absence of his senses, his real nature, his true calling self, a root that had been perverted to experience the world. But the presences were communicating. He felt the perversions and manifestations present, and he collected them into his palm, laid them to quiet peace on the damp soil before him, watched silently as they laid roots in the field, surviving temples of his becoming form. With no single thought but thought of all others, he quietly returned to camp, where the urgency of a dying afternoon was waning, the crowd gathered on a sheltered hilltop to meditate on the disappearing sun, the quiet guide of an inspired journey. He takes another look at the room, drawing in his breath to ensure hesitation. She stands in an adjacent window, underwatched. He senses her. Am I really there? I tell the best of them we are treasures. Haven’t we sold our lives? I conform to heart’s pace. He chose to be the one who could end things. His steps lengthen, emerging. Trust me if you do not already. We are a leap from my kiss. He is racing towards you. It wouldn’t surprise me. He has no guilt, but would he? If he’d ordained torture in some other life. A longshoreman carries molded heart and bent able spoon. The ascetics mastermind, passing briskly. Onwards, a hologram of this story, myriad soul mirroring his soul’s sought asylum. He evades war’s melody. I am made of war’s tantrum. He was certain to walk home. I visit my brother’s keeper. He lingers while the others leave. He wants to speak but can\t. I won’t have it. He knows why I am leaving, to deliver this to you. To stand at your doorstep and dream something beautiful. I wash your feet, accept me. Whip me with your bells! I will deny it. He hung from the waterbelt, from where he was allowed to sing. I offer what a creature affords. I know the penalty. Isn’t it enough to know? Implicate me, I serve the sentence, painting your wings during visits. Society will descend. He speaks through the haze of evening’s glow, shrouded in smoke. He wanted to remain incognito until the others arrived but they never would. Returning to the beginning, a testament in his hand. Have I got your attention? You will say when we ride in your car next this entire piece written for our generation is about sacrifice and nothing else, and I will agree, except to say it is a photographer’s lament and a poet’s lost child. Did I not tell you? While wrapping things up I decided I would return the third temple to our tribe. I think poorly of the settlers and those who empower them, and decided it would take time, knowing my steely eyes, and my language. I am a guest in their house but I am deceitful. I sell my soul. They buy it. I have come to know myself by knowing you. Even though times have changed me, I say this with clarity, because you are gone now and I am worse off than before. We are like sand, unitary. Let a thief be thankful. Using tablature in language I speak to the blind. The situation is ominous, at best. At best, the winter will be wet, and the summer will be dry. The room is a collection of memories. Withstanding the effects of aging the room only grows. An image of his ancestral birth, moving away. The paintings set in neat rows. He is preparing his escape. To move to safer sports. Drying the windshield in a rainstorm. For whose benefit! He tries his luck, pushing his heels to the side, pulling dust mites from his pockets, sheltering himself from the storm. What storm? He may not be able to move but has he tried to? He believes he is not worth the misery of survival in their hands. We deserve none of the applause. A faint door creaks open. I hold you in my palm. In the beginning, most visitors cannot comprehend the expulsion of time. It is not in their mandate. But very soon into the experience time’s essence dissolves into an essential archetype of anarchy. The structural rebuilding that follows is very much the building block of cognitive experience. Experiential time. From this very audience stems the unbridled loyalty visitors express to their oppressor. To these settlers, they carry the names brought with them. So it is not always involved as the port of ports, though one can assume it to be what one wishes. I move into a room. I’m writing a book for you. We’ve been to four ports so far. He piled us into a book. I can leave the manuscript in the closet. I can go where I belong. I changed everything. I changed nothing. There were a lot of things that weighed on him. The embellishment of home. The mystery of death. It was a very nostalgic piece to begin with. A representation of his entirety, if it could be collected, and maintaining a certain quality, illuminated. He heard the symphony as it was finally played, hearing an ensemble of voices for the very first time. I would disregard, for a firm reading of BARA, the implication it is not entirely and without exception about the seventh century dwarf of his upbringing. Of his mother’s tongue. I had to search very closely. I was in natural conflict. Who called out to you? You would imagine, the voice of a woman to be his first. Maybe it was. He may have known many. He may have known none. He should be forgiven for being shy. IT is always disconcerting for a newcomer, seeing the totality of a single image detach from the inscrutable whole and immerse itself in his presence. Swimming the capillaries of an explorer’s distance, he could see. But he was not cured. Promises had to be made, and he asked for them. He wanted safe passage into the vortex but it would not be given. He was at the hands of his own admission. At the mercy of an oppressor, bloodthirsty. He could only configure from the accumulation of personal imagery and this troubled him. Where could he go, if far? There was bound within every journey a woman and a home. The room that throws the trophy in the air because if it were really only those two they would be easily aligned into one. But a room is an endless image. An image is an endless room. I’ve watched closely myself grow over the years. I’ve seen my being change. Rooms that act like buttons. Buttons that act like brooms. I was in conflict, thinking of the port to reach into my throat and tear out my solar plexus, tie it to my mouth and silence me. Is it still there? Would he be surprised? Nothing spectacular happened. I was in love. I was a child. I saw the mystics rise and the harvests fall. I felt a moon grow full. You can say I’m still in love. She was his first love, and she was many of them. The idea is that he began the journey with her. Sometime during an autumn shower, they met. It was written that they would meet, somewhere in the numbers. He lived his life, but finding himself there years later he realized he had gone full circle. The spawn of an immaculate sunset would raise the charity of his name. It never happened. He met her first. Spending the following years moving steadily towards her. How long could that be? She put him in her care. You never went back. Why didn’t you? He left. Of course he did not realize he had begun the cycle until he came full circle, finding in his being there the juice of premonition. A circle follows a certain lead, and a lead a certain spell, and so it was that he was found there, but where were they, if they were just involved. It was one night, then another. The shading under her eyes naked in the bathroom, under a settled moon. A sign of things changing. The crooked out skirt of a tooth. She occupies her body. There are others, left in the dark, spurned from his vision. When I look at you, I see her face. The merging of two spirits. Disquiet, in his soul. He could not hold his gaze from the muse’s arms. Even the conduct of a mystic truth, dressing their women with giant garbs so as to hide them from sight for fear of their spiritual complexion, could dispel his eyes. Not even the faintest glance at his own impression, gave him the idea he would later regret that he was responsible for his movements, and not because of them, resulting in life. He transcribed a few images, moving forward. I stand by the wayside in a tomb of swans. He remembers the neighbor’s tragedy, little flutes migrating upstream, hanging laundry by a thread. Do you think he’s here? He watches us. He turns to look overboard. He wasn’t ready to live without me. I sit on a bench and read. He could sense, beyond the perception of reasonable doubt, the outlines of a keeper, realizing he could never claim sight under his total control. Living under the expense of an apparatus. He could not differentiate, no matter how cavalier he tried, between the keepers of his presence and the limits of his mind. But what were they really guarding? To answer the gestures of a trespasser? To establish a criminal price? As important as it is to know that the story waivers between psychotic dreamlike states, it is equally important to note, continuously throughout the reading without moment’s doubt, that the space under investigation, from where our eyes are driven by thought and gesticulation, is guarded by a keeper. He sits on a bench to read. The book is not empty. I am told, the book is disappearing, but the book is in my hands and in yours, so we are really determining that nothing disappears except by our own volition, and our volition is just. The custodian’s ensemble will reconcile our existence. I have no way to tell you but to persist, you are the keeper of these gates. He walked now along the deserted harbor lines. Between two bridges. Two ends of the same tribe. He thought of days past, greeting the merchants hosting coffee wagons and porridge corn. It heals a man to regret what he has forgotten. He had an urge to step out of the house that morning, urged towards the beach to meet the de facto breeze. And it feels good to be alone, for this reason he wandered, feeling his mind grow conscious. He has in his tendency to remain awake a preventative blanket of sleep. But where does his mind wander when deprived of sleep, but towards the sanctity of a boardwalk fountain, or a crumbling lighthouse beside a bridge. He would be waiting at that pier, and having clarity in surroundings that leave him deeply afflicted. The rise of morning showers aiding his inspiration, in such mornings he felt an indistinguishable part of the whole. What about you? I am old, and alone. Have you ever loved? I would be discounted. I tell her about you. The way you stand when you are dancing, dance when you aren’t sure. There are traces of your smell across the city’s arm, briefly independent. She recognizes you by the mark. It is a mater of insisting, she believes, and I will find you if I insist. It has begun. I withhold allegiance until the very last word, where one of us will be mistaken for a prophet and the other a fool. Beneath an inescapable sun, lightness that does not escape you. Here, together we are safe, joined in an emblem of love. Love that consoles our bondage. Love that purifies the air. Though no one would admit, the season he had only just encountered had hurt his ambitions, accusations to escape uninvited into the wilderness where he felt, in metaphysical bounds, he had begun. But when had he begun, and if so, where? Others spoke of it as well, past life regression experienced in the rooms, catacombs of an endangered class. What did they want to accomplish? Uncovering tombs they had themselves designed. But now, everywhere his eyes fell he found a spirit passing from territories he had already been, but when? He could remember a time where he cared deeply for the place. It had brought him to his knees. He had vowed never to abandon ship again, but he had proven himself wrong. And now, what, suffer? Drifting further into melancholy he stepped to the side, lying against a gate he took to be his own. Images of past still haunt the populace. Each rebellion passed with the fervor of youth swelling away. Where are you from? The port of ports. What is it like there? It is destroyed. Then, his voice would drop. He would suffer what all men suffer when caught in the rapture of regret. It is true what he says. It is no longer like that. His rose colored slippers, a pair of hotel giveaways, were so used, the cotton on the inside sole was all gone, torn away from overuse. He had so much more at his disposal but he had no interest in producing them. The area around his desk was a total mess. It gave off an irregular fume. The desk itself, a transparent Tarpin wood headramp on four synthetic ivory heels, sat beside a classic wrtier’s desk, with clean polished wood, creamy and freshly ironed, clearly the work of professionals, who knew how to do the job and took the work for what it was, who would have taken any work seriously, however elemental, so long as it fit in their respective duties, and so long as it afforded the primal cause of reward, however substantial, to carry on one’s stammering life.
For no reason whatsoever, he singled out an image to despise. He remembered, hating a boy in school simply for his holding a head of hair that lifted off his head in a very instinctive nature, curled like a beanstock crumbled over to its side. He was not one of them, he was another, and even to those he was close he was disliked for his hair. Like dogshit, when dried, its color embarrassed by sunlight. At a certain time, he started to imagine that he did not necessarily have to exist for the very ideas that emerged to exist upon themselves. In the way something not willed is not possible. To strengthen his resolve, he intended to make use of a portrait. But he could not recover the image long enough to steer her towards end. He spent hours in the midst of illumination, huddled in the corridor of his dreams, hoping to elicit an emancipating door. He tried to recover the image, to save from his untimely death the accusation that he did not succeed. But he was unable, and immediately upon losing the image he found himself at the parameters of another story, linked very much to the image I’ve just told you about, and the image that returns the next image to this one. A flood conceals a city under her grip. The port dissolves. The port rebuilds. As with each and every adventure into the arena of mythical disaster, a tribe rose from the ashes to announce themselves survived. Does anyone hear them? Does anyone listen? He stood at the image for some time and wondered why he was seeing into a portal of prior offenses if he could not physically march into his past. But he was incapable of wondering for too long, being capable of very few things, and so he continued to stare into the image. He heard, like the whirling dervish hears the flute whistle, the voice of a child scorned, advanced into his later years, speaking to him with firm and delicate choice of words. He tried to touch the image illuminated before his eyes but he was unable, and he was also unable to steer past the images he had of others watching him, of relatives crowded into a room, huddled around a screen, radiating in studying his moves, collecting their insults to hurl at his becoming ace. He could not dismiss the image of a woman, younger than he was now but older than he was then when he could possibly have loved her, contort her face with disgust at his arriving to her door with a single rose in his hands. It was all he had been given! He never carried any flowers, and not for someone else but the deceased, whom he briefly visited. Who was this girl? Finally, he had stopped. He turned backwards and nothing was there. Like he should have expected, but so entrenched in his movements he did not think to rationalize his flowing moves. He stood there, in an empty vacuum, wondering what to do next, when he heard again, the young voice grown, call to him from the façade of a distant room. Not a room like other rooms, braved with structural walls and beams, cornered in by adjoining rooms and forming a small part of the whole. The room was only a visible incarnation of wind, that he could not visually make out but could ascertain the placement of by movements of the arm. Drawing himself nearer to the room, arriving at a place he assumed to be the door, assuming by great feeling within his groins that he was being pulled further into the ground, a sharp striking pain chewing at his stomach, for no apparent reason!, he lifted himself forward, wondering, if rather than marching, channeling, navigating the subconscious stream, he was guilty of suicide, committing himself to death. Had that been the plan? He figured, he would likely live a long and desperate life, full of longing and need, struggling to cope with the reality of living with an immense crater in the place of his heart. He and many others! He entered the room, but he was not where he thought he be and so he slowed down, stopping altogether before moving again, until he heard footsteps and, suddenly, lifting his chin into the sky, he wailed. The first footsteps he heard since his journey began that he did not fear to be his own. He thought, I must be drawing close, but in his wailing he noticed, and this is likely where most lose their cool, that he could not hear the sound of his own voice, though he could still hear the echoes of the footsteps. His footsteps? The seeds of an ulterior vision, he heard a voice in the distance reach out to him, but it was not really a vision, and permit me for speaking as though I am informed, it was not even a voice. What he heard at that moment was, as mentioned before, the result of his hearing simultaneously the collision of two images, the one of the boy who raised a tribe after the flood, and the one of a girl who he had loved, who thought of him with disgust. He wondered, could it be that they were intact for the very purpose of closing their accounts, guided to an imaginary void that would serve as his arena? He did not think twice, turning like the coward of an occupying army. He ran with the intent of a lunatic. The next image he told me about was more sincere. He told me, he had been stranded after only just entering the landmark. He could not decipher any of the codes in his head, algorhythm’s of noted achievement and memorial voices that sprung together to enlist the propriety of an image. He was very humble in those days, and when he sprang to his feet with joy it was because he had realized where he had begun, and only from there could he continue further. Taking my first giant leap away from the shadows, I continued to where it was dark, thinking of things in a different way, for his own benefit, his survival. He still had the two images wrestling in his mind, but he could politely ask them to recede for the time being, which he did, by holding his fingers to his chin and moving on into the dark. Have you ever crossed the border? He had never, and he would not now. A mad trick. He was noticing the voices, sharpening themselves without the contrast of an image. But when he closed his eyes he was seeing with a different set of eyes, like he was holding a mystery to his face and becoming its contents instantaneously. At first, he was jolted. He tried to run, like the fool flees their shadow, like a spirit runs from its grave, only to return again in some other form, one or another lightbox. It had really only been a few minutes, the chapter in focus, but it felt like the span of an epoch. Have you ever searched inside your mind? I took my first steps reluctantly. They came easier. He was relieved. But he still could not see past interpretation. The tail end of a good session. Shooting dots like turbo. A makeshift football pitch. Threat! A decent story, funny for those to whom a laugh is permissible. He had seen her turning a corner. Driven forward in a trolley. A ghetto trick. Fool through the disabled. Diversion. A mule. A thick round ball made of newspaper, cut real fine to keep clear edges. It landed right in her basket, the quorum carnage. He walked over to them to have a closer look, to apologize. He hadn’t meant to tell the truth. It seemed outdated. Bending her head, distressed. An abusive sight, for anyone. He laughed. He admitted he was forced to feel sorry for the situation but it wasn’t in his hands. How many times he had said it! And the insults, streaming in. He looked at them, growing with confidence, with an air of disgust, so to say he was a little revolted by their voices and them being there, speaking outright, he was put off. He motioned ahead, explaining they had every right to keep going, a protest never ends, it quiets. Once the air has tasted revolt it cannot remain unchanged. The same goes for discrimination. He pointed to along fence, partly wired mostly concrete, separating two distinguishable halves of the same encampment. He directed their eyes to the gate, thinking they must have missed it, otherwise they would be found out, targeted by an array of flying saucers, kingpins. The most moral army in the world. Tears violently shed. An emboldened woman pushes through the crowd. He pointed again to the fence. There, for their protection. TO protect the few freckles on her face from being stolen. Worse, from learning how to harness one similar to her. He took her to the side, meaning to lift her discomfort, momentarily. It was all he could do. Do you want to be a target? Watching behind the fence, the others took their turns harassing her poor image, wilting in his very hands. He told me, the only thing sold to them at that moment was the quality of his behavior, he said it again. Cheap in the morning, quiet at night. Losing everything to the collectors. He looked her dead in the eyes, spat into her mouth, hoping she would prefer to recall his insult rather than the insult of her captivity. It caused great disappointment among the masses. Each with a turn to rile until calmed again by a few. A hand reaches out, to grab him, to practice the art of enslavement, nothing matters. But it quieted the crowd. He realized, she was one of theirs. A giving voice. I like you. Charitable. He was floored. Poetry. Finding a used condom on the beach. The painter was warned before they discovered he was involved. Caesura! A break in metrical verse. He sidestepped the original rhythm. Referring to his pages, another friend compared the poem to taking a good shit. He wanted it to be performed. To elect a sovereign for the sole purpose of reclusing fecal waste into the mouth. Perhaps, he would enlist a spit, rope the prisoner, and roast. Like the old days, without the soap. It was important, for the duration of torture, that the victim not choke on the oncoming rush of feces loaded into their mouths. To do this, he had to put a funnel fan at the back of the throat, whereby the gag reflex, already weakened and unstable, would slide the feces from the tip of his mouth to the walls of his gums, to the back of the throat, and cream into the esophagus. It may have been possible to load two mouthfuls but he was not an expert. A tight budget, of course. the experiment was tested on lesser victims, provisions enlisted from seaside caves, and a network of underground tunnels, whose architecture was quite impressive, by the way. Most do not speak the language, so it is easy to communicate punishment. Arbitrarily speaking, that is. I spent the next few nights at the pace of a snail, maneuvering along my days as though I were cast ashore accidentally, relieved of habit, pressured into thirst. If his days were filled with so much silence, it makes sense to wonder, how did he spend his nights? Without food or shelter, it seems. He wrote letters. He paid relatives a visit. At their hands, a rat would be fed. He wasn’t. He could not accept company for his food, he was above it. He intended to starve alone. He let the evening brighten his chords. Sharing them with the world. Someone passing without equal skin. He cooled, leaving in his path what rats leave at the door. But to say he abandoned his condition would be lying. He did what he thought was right, he shared in the circumstance of others. See, the fruit of an enlightened winter, he let himself be guided by superstition. The door was never opened. He camped outside the room. Everyone in town, hospitable to his arrival. Guided by earing’s pull, shifting manic floors. He wept quietly. The precipice is sparse. The next morning, a visitor spoke about what he saw. As though he were among them. He tried not to look worried, signing the score of a fairytale. What music! What fall! His number was called. He had no choice. What had he really achieved with his time? An opportunity shows, the wise must run for it on their knees. He took his decisions with a lot of thinking. Derail a bus, sure. Decimate a tower, why not. Assassinate a recognizable man, depends. It takes courage, expertise, things he wasn’t certain he possessed. Who could he rely on? What gives me the right! the first offer was outrageous. Incognito, the entire sting. Impossible. A pressure strainer, at least. A fluffer. He was the last coin, cherried on top, it didn’t matter how he felt, so long as the room expanded to his needs. And things were going well for him. He just revived the very reputation he was worried about losing. At the time, the idea took a momentous turn at the sighting of some dogs, trading their urine. He told me, the easiest way for us to reach our targets, is to deploy the explosives in the least suspected way. Living bodies. Nitroglycerine, something well in abundance, on account of losing touch with the outside world, a raucous waterfront keeping visitors away. How does one procure the plugs? He told me, I had the idea of packing inside a fever, but a fever has loose ends, the bacteria spreads too quickly. And to pull the wire, it was not certain he could manage to do it alone, and survive. Dogs are equipped with responsible timing, and loyalty. The orchestration was simple. He had heard a rumor, of wild packs of dogs so disturbed by their condition, they were lunging over the bridge, one by one, sometimes in pairs. Several dogs, surviving their fated leap, returned again to the precipice, and dove, clearing out into the sea without a trace. Dogs, falling from the sky. Painters, taking their canvases and setting themselves under the bridge, said it was best suited to see from underneath, given the circumstances under the monument, clouds of fog masking the outward sea, a dog’s leap conforming only a shadow, a brief illumination of life. How long does a dog sit in the air? He had an idea. Those tending towards reason concluded there had been nothing luring the dogs. He figured, nostalgia lures the depraved, for the outgrowth of history shared together. Why don’t dogs fly? He remembered, clear blue cirrus sky, a dog hungry is a dog starved. The wealthy cherish heir meals, the poor, count. As for the prey, well. The dogs were remembered differently. Mad stricken, fatigued with conviction. He was not ashamed to have used them. He had to hunt several bodies once the tests were confirmed. IT seemed, the further he drifted into the void, the clearer the picture became, but he was not yet sure he had the tools for killing at such an explosive speed. He had to get the readings right before taking it on the fly, loosening the guard, whatever. A cowboy sells his equipment used, stationed, where else, but the harbor. Is it clearing up? He spent his nights hauling in the dead. The first few nights he was not present. He lost some of his things, hassled by some drifters. A sad taste in his mouth. The dirtiest place in the world. A cunt, held up in the air, burnt ivory cold with brimstone fishing wire, wings fallen out, clitoris torn, nothing left with to feel. And how often he felt it! A pair of roughskins drinking cherry gold out of a flask. He didn’t want to send off the alarms, hiding in a peculiar gait. His hands were filled. Eyebrows would be raised. The quarter wears a loose mouth. Clean cut barrel, set for the drill. A pistol, hadn’t been held in years. He camped outside a fence, nesting in the cool. IT had been busy. He had more on his plate than anticipated. Dogs travel in herds. Sometimes, solitary, pick of the bunch. He had to find something that would be easy to find again. Specific breeds do the job better. A line of shrub. the hunt. The dog stops, sniffing a waft of sand near an unsteady manhole, roaches flee into her face. The dog freezes. Sneezing, she launches forward. A nose descends into the hole. He fired off a round. Easy, snap in the dewlap between shoulder and withers. Two stumbles, the price. Sobs over croaking breaths, sad story. The bitch fell to the ground. Different breeds have different troubles. the northern mutts were better trained. An eye for the exotic. Straight for the kill. Some could even tell the difference between a stray victim and a symbolic tool. He wondered, if so many of our steps are fed, how do we relinquish money. He thought, I found her in a pool of blood, soaked fur red. A deep stare, he wanted to light a cigarette, guarding against the wind. Remembering he had nothing to smoke, he relented to the image of a windowsill, aiming for his next victim. He kicks his heel into the sand, feeding her as he leaves. The last sobs of a dying mutt. He told me, I snipped off one of her feet and snuck it into my bag. To spread his tastes, he hinged on the collar of a steel fence. Caution. He pulled back the hammer, a term he learned in the wasteland. Does it belong to you? A wet breed stepped into his sight. Gravel road’s gallop, prancing onto a patch of grass. The dogs stuttered, abdomen, hit. See, how capable a sprawl of blood. He lay there a while, watching the image deteriorate until it glowed, finally, keeping close eye onto his catch. He remembered, the bodies were burned in the past to conceal their identities, set in flames over night before retreating. To the best of anyone’s memory, it can be said, the idea to boobytrap dogs was not borne of any genius, but a memory of those animals, burning their comrades in the presence of an enemy. Steel knives, sewing voices. The anatomy might make a moment cringe. He was beyond confident. An incision between the stifle and thigh. He cut a line of hair underneath the skin, carefully. He would have preferred to go straight through the rump but it might have shown. No timers. Randomness, luck. He snipped a bump of marrow at the hock, the size of a pin. He filled the vacuum with double tapered needles, laced with basic carcinogens. The general’s trick, a dose of the pox governed in the blankets. But it would occur, not in these conditions. He had to be careful not to infect his own tribe. Had he already infected them? He stopped, he wondered, what pain I sow, what business I counter. He wanted to incite shock onto the public. He knew, the first impulse would be very short, momentary shock, before rage and fear crept their tassels in. Finally, he was only really waiting for suspicion. With suspicion, he could expect reprisals. The desolation would spread. A port, already on her knees, sounding her last breath. Why did he want it? Settlers bottle their guilt in the nave. Sick, soiled skin. Lesions, the coat of arms dragging her weight over a turbulent line of bodies. It had all been a success. Markets. Funerals. Graduations. He told me, the best part was the growing rumors that some breeds were more likely to explode than others. Some went as far as to say the dogs were conspiring on their own. How uplifting! A difficult time for the innocent. Injuries, scrutinized. Blemishes, discovered with reprisal. Dogs, forced out of their homes. Herded into cages. Sheltering camps! Arbitrarily detained and executed. Indoctrinated shame. What had he done? Am I so capable? Dogs, learning of their statue. He remembered, the ones who knew they were feared lost all humility. Mythical distress. Total chaos. A clatter rose from the other end of the room. Things taken for granted, agriculture. The eligible fit into an atrium. Seats raised onto planks at equal height, so that the first row is equal to the last, the endless rows between equal in dimension and spectacle. High enough to be discouraged from jumping. Vegetation, sprouting the skulls. Horticulture, making use of the useless. Most of them jumped, knowing they were deprived. He told me, they jumped before their knees were tied down. He had an abscess in his heart. Sitting to his left, he wondered, how many thoughts can a being collect. How many lifetimes. the others, notably distinguished in form, were tending to sleep. The body adapts. Time heals all wounds. Was he in the presence of time? He remembered, laughing, the youngest there is always the newest. He was recovering form the medicine. Training his ears to hear. Paying attention. In that sleepless void, shaken between frames. He was not spoken to by the nurses. He wasn’t handed any notes. Daydreaming, painting hospitals in pastel colors. What had happened to the schools? There must have been an ambush. The mark, on his arm. He slept most of the time. He never had visitors. Flowers and biscuit, fresh fruit, gone. But he had no visitors, not once, not even for patrol. By his looks, he had been there longer than anyone else. Surviving on temptation. Curiosity is a mistress. Who cleaned his sheets? He had lost feeling in his legs. He hadn’t moved from his spot. He looked closely in the mirror. He wore the same shoes. He saw himself, and each time he looked in his direction his figure grew, just barely, long enough to remember he had already noticed. Bitterness. Lost somewhere on the page. DO you want to know why they tried? A fresh set of teeth had been delivered, accounted for, it had to be in the books. An ironed stack of nails chiseled into pins. Canines made of copper. Molars made of bone. His bottom teeth had to be screwed into his face at an angle to refrain from the upper line, holding his jaw permanently open. His eyes, preying in the back. He realized he would not be discharged soon. A rash, untreated, spreads. His waist, colored with blisters. An elder statesman in the room. The penultimate spring. Was he beautiful? He was old, it had yet to be said. Midsummer air felt pure. Heatwave passed. Wind rolled the leaves in the smog. Owls cooing. Hawks dipping for ration. The longest night of the year. He was the only one awake. The bent side of his legs. He pushed the covers over the bed, rolled up into a ball, taking his first steps onto the ground. Tin plates. Cans. He looked around, wondering if the others could tell he was adrift. Moving with disabled speed, he harnessed superstition. He was not disabled. Only, pulled from underneath, his appearance razed. Moonlight glow held his sight, tracking further into the room. It had been planned all along. He felt stung in his right thigh. Observing, everything seems fairly usual, only, slower speed. It can be said, he was visibly urged to proceed with twelve frames per second. The wolf cries in the distance. He hears the horns. He had not been preparing for the midsummer stream all season. He was surprised, to find that his breathing resumed without hesitation, having passed to the unknown. Taking the air into his navel, letting go. A clatter rose from the other end of the room. The sleepers seemed to rise. He felt a louse between his ears. He was mistaken. The dark. In the immediate distance, not so far from where he stood, he understood the outlines of a moving form. Had he moved? Teeth, in the absence of enamel, choose a distinct sound. A hand falls onto his face. From the darkness, it seeped into his sight. Fingers, damp, and lean, stretching the length of his skull. An absent thumb, a tidy curve where the nail was missed. A dark room. Empty. The steady rate of declining figures. He rose up from his place. He had watched him, for an entire season from where he had been lying. His naked eyes swallowing the room. He touched him. He put his hands against his chest. He sat there, feeling the hairs against his skin. He felt lifeless, as though the spirit had been shed. His hand, rose to his cheeks. He pulled his mouth open, his jaw dropping into his hands. He saw into the mouth. He put his thumb onto one of his lips. He remembered, the name of a face he had never been. He wasn’t worried. He kissed the mouth. He told me, he had only wanted to know if he had been afraid. His palms, shaken. He felt his hand reach from the shadows, climbing onto his face. The other hand followed. He held him at both ears. A breath. He moaned. Darkness gave way to light. The room, overrun. Strike, onto his back.
“Who made the desk,” he asked.
“I did,” he said.
The desk fell several inches shorter than the Tarpin ramp creating a plateau of two ends, and immediately he noticed the absence of a small wad of paper to level the heels, meaning even the floor were perfectly aligned.
“And the floor,” he asked. “Looks professional.”
“I did it myself when I moved in,” he said. The landlord was upset but he liked it in the end.
A large techsize computer screen sat next to another screen, smaller and rounder than the Generation ZX High Definition screen awning on the keyboard’s head. A few weeks worth of newspaper clipping blanketed hundreds of cut outs and pages, magazine fronts and spread cut outs from their roots, the famous polka dot wrappers from Burger Manoush, and the picnic red and white wrappers from Burger Ho, soggy yellow plastic plates from Pasta Express, with runny sauce frothing into a steep silicone mold, minced meat transformed into a scaly, white texture, among packages of refried egg rolls, ready to burn, and cinnamon beans and cherry sundaes, lucrative food for a luxury dump. Abraham pulled a phone from his pocket. Layal was tired and was sleeping on his shoulder. He called downstairs, to the reception, and ordered a bucket of ice and a bottle of vodka with three or four bottles of mixers.
“I’m not drinking,” Layal said.
“I am,” Abraham said. “Is there room service,” he asked into the phone?
The response was inaudible in the room.
“Then send two club sandwiches and one tagliatelle alfredo,” he said into the phone before hanging up. “I would order from outside but it’s too late now. Good thing they have food,” he said.
He stepped out of the bed, forcing Layal off his body, grabbing a cigarette from the nightstand and lighting one up. She sat on the edge of the bed, curled over the covers, trying on one of his slippers, carrying it with the tip of her feet, kicking at it to lift it fro the ground, controlling it, somehow, fateful slippers. After the food they sat quietly contemplating the empty night. Ramiz was asleep on the couch, the television remote on his bare naked hairless chest, a joint hanging languidly at the edge of his mouth, having obviously turned off with the hour. The bottle of vodka was basically untouched. Tanzim didn’t know where to focus his eyes, seated on the floor with his back against the wall, facing Abraham and Layal. She had her head on his chest, and he was playing with the curls of her hair. Beside her was a small wooden table, the height of the bed. The ice in the bucket had for the most part melted. She dipped a beige colored cloth in the small bucket, squeezing the cloth as she lifted it above the pool and over his body.
“Is it cool,” she asked.
“It’s cold,” he said.
“No it’s not,” she said. “It’s warm.”
She spoke without looking his way, soaking the cloth over his chest once, twice, to warm him. She stroked his chest with the studded fabric, opening his shirt and pulling away his vest, the sound of the cloth coursing against his hair. She dipped the cloth again in the bucket. She squeezed the cloth over the bowl once, twice, returning the steeping cloth to the nape of his neck, around his Adam’s apple, riding up to his chin, almost the way to his mouth. He was smoking a cigarette, breathing in the smoke and holding it in his lungs. With one hand she stroked his face, wiping hair from across his forehead. Tanzim wanted to leave but he couldn’t figure out how to make the move. If he left too abruptly it would be obvious he were making a fuss. If he waited too long they looked ready to fuck right then and there, and he wouldn’t be up for it. He didn’t know what she saw in him, either. His hair looked like it hadn’t been showered in a week. His nails were dirty and his fingers black with whatever he’d been working on. If he was a painter and he worked hard it would be different but he wasn’t, he was just living off whatever had come easily to him and was at some point going to run out, so he was waiting the way, biding his time, until that day came or until more somehow sprouted. She unwrapped the blanket from his lower body. Tanzim was beginning to sweat. He wanted so much to be in that position, to be the one lying next to her rather than watching from afar. And he wasn’t able to watch, it was rude of him. If he were at least given license to sit and direct the scene, studying each detail and asking them to repeat themselves when needed, then he could at least find some enjoyment in what was going on. But he couldn’t. They were about to make good on their wants and was the one left wanting. Ramiz couldn’t be counted nor counted upon to intervene. Even though it was his sister involved. He was a lightweight when it came to drinking and had fallen asleep. There was a time they were as close as she had gotten to Abraham now. He was partially naked, and they were high, on a road trip somehow, and they were super stoned, and he was beginning to shake and freeze because of his rising temperature, and the fever kept getting worse. He remembered how she had unwrapped the blanket form his body, differently than she did now. She was distant but stayed close, like a mother would do, or a sister. He was worried it would arouse him, hiding his flaccid cock worming in the humid underearth of the blankets. She brought a wet towel from the bathroom and placed it on his head, and another that she used to wipe his feet with cold, cold water, pumping straight from a spring. That night she scrubbed his entire body as he slowly fell asleep to the sight of face, serene and tranquil as always. She only stopped that night when the water was cut for an hour in the early, early morning. The bed was a mixture of water and sweat. The area around his body remaining cool in the warmth. She had even taken off his shirt to scrub his back and the area under his arms, his elbows, his wrists, and the area around his thighs, his calves, his stomach. They were whispering to each other as the sun was drawing closer to appearing. The smell of the leftover food was palpable in the room. She folded a blanket, adding to it a scarf she collected from the arm of the sofa, to wrap around their bodies while they spooned. He could hear Ramiz drawing in and out his steady breathing. She felt the yellowing of her eyes, which continued thereafter upon the resumption of her motor functions. A thin coated crust embellished the outermost layer of her eye, like slicing an egg’s yoke over her eyeball. She felt a hardening of her hands and feet, like the water had been sucked dry from the pores, sucked from the root dry. She felt tiny cracks seep open in her skin, on her knuckles, her ankles, heels, and on her soles. The mind, absent from experience, but for the activity of involuntary muscle signal, spiraled back to life with a surge of images, transforming the landscape and dimensionality potential present. Her eyes were closed, and her hands and feet cramped to such a degree that the body, having fallen off the seat, sliding onto the ground, appeared somehow lifted, somehow levitating above ground. The meditation was slowing her heart rate. She fell in and out of recognition of breathing. Beyond her breaths, she could feel, conceive, of nothing. She had up her guards, but they were still life sculptures, unable to move. They remained still, even when opposed, confrontational at a minimum. She felt a tremor in her liminal joints. Realizing a sudden entry into a room. The government was trying to suppress the supply. A government issued warning, delivered to all emails within the registered geographical location, read, in clear bold letters, of a possible tremor of the vertebrae, a yellow filament clouding of the retina, increased tension in fingers, toes and joints, followed by a series of percussive kidney pains and an extensive drying of the hands and mouth. She asked him to remove his clothes, but he wouldn’t. She removed her dress, so did their friend, throwing them to the side in a heap. He thought she was acting rather strange, like she had wanted to be found out. He fell to the ground, lying on a strong ebb of rocks. Fishermen were visible in the distance, but their voices could not be heard. When the mystics played their music, it circulated in the veins. Sobriety had the effect of waking the eyes, troubling the heart and consuming it. She was beyond surprised. She was stunned. She didn’t like to be shocked by something out of the blue. For the very same reason she refused to take calls when she wasn’t in the mood, even if she were available. She hated to be bothered when it wasn’t part of the plan. Somehow this was going to do something to her. Somehow it would stick. She didn’t know how exactly. What difference it would make. But she realized, what it would mean, if she invited him, having heard, out of the blue, that he was back. It was as though she had forgotten his name, it had been so long. She had thought, for so long, they were inseparable, that by virtue of time they would reunite, when one of them was willing to make a fool of themselves and make a move to the other. It hadn’t happened. Things happen that way, she thought. That was the moment he realized the woman had transformed, solidified, into a stone statue. As he realized the mutation her body made, glimpses of the astonishing movement raced into his mind. He remembered seeing her figure, captured under a muted ray of light, the sun’s rays scattered along the concrete floors by the diamond shaped holes along the steel fence, flow subtly into a sheet of white, like it had frozen over, glistening under a reflecting carpet. Slowly the color, as it polited in form, despaired into eroding greys, and the thick smut typical of stone emerged from the outgrowth. A while later he was in the open expanse of the park, sheltered in the overgrowth of the wet summer grass. when he heard the nearing footsteps of a stranger. He could tell by the sound of the steps that the man was barefoot, his feet burying into the mud as he walked forth, briskly, strength in his heels and calves. He imagined the man, before finding him, and when his face emerged from a thicket of sagebrush, long blond hair curled down to his knees, a smirk on his baby face that sung from the weight of his thick, beady eyes, and a long, emerging torso that disappeared into the grass, he welcomed the sight of him, quieting down the rapid beating of his heart, a fever he only just noticed as he asked for it to sustain. The man’s hands emerged alternately, between the waving of his arms, oscillating back and forth to the rhythm of his steps, and in one of his hands he noticed a small item, that seemed from afar to be a book, and in the other hand what seemed to be a pouch, for money, or tobacco, or both. The man held a knife against the side of his waist, a dagger that looked like it had been stolen from a ship off the coast of Aden. The knife, the man’s eyes, and the roof of his head, all shone under the midday sun. I know the time and the hour we make the walk, he thought to himself, some things I choose to know. As the man came forth he fell upon the ground, cowered before him. The two held eyes and with a wasteful minute said nothing, until finally a sound tore into their tension, birds cawing somewhere in the distance.
“Did you see anything today,” the stranger asked, plotting his face into his palms, held above the ground by his elbows.
“What I always see.”
The stranger crawled forward, speaking in a strange dialect, that told of his being raised in the woods.
“In the garden, the way is long.”
He dropped his face, pulling his arms from under him, letting his head bounce against the cushioned grass for some time, recoiling in the myth he had begun, laughing.
“Do you live around here?”
He spoke away from his sight, speaking in turn to the sky.
“I should be asking you. You’re here, all alone.”
He answered sharply, over the taunting chorus of the wind, streaking through punctures of the grass.
“I have everything. The silence here, the trees. All you have is a dream in some pages.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been watching you.”
Moments later the two were walking away from the expanse, the stranger guiding the passenger from several steps away, close enough so he could smell the stench of his breath as he followed in his steps. He held his eyes to the knife, but it seemed to emit no harm. His senses were tightening, he could feel himself growing deeper and deeper in the abyss. Before his mind entered a womb of silence, he heard the stranger’s friendly voice, a voice he had come to covet, question him on the songs.
“Are they still hazy to you,” he asked him. “Do you hear them? Horns.”
Coming to, he found himself beside a pond, his hand strangely outstretched so that the whole of his palm lay clutching a stone in the water, while the remainder of his body, though wet, was not submerged. Surrounded by the particular quiet he had expected. Still, it gave him a sense of unease. The song of migratory birds, the usual herd of insects, that’s all. He expected to be hunted by a bear, or turn a corner and find himself holding his eyes to a wolf. But so far, animals remained outside of his vision, save for the song of the birds flying overhead, the condors turning in their work, hawks who dropped in midair like airplanes hitting a wave of steam, rising again and pushing forth, something he hoped to acquire. Cranes, storks, sparrows, and hummingbirds, all setting sail on their adventure. He rose from his place and dusted off his knees, his pants soaked in water, he stared amiably at the mud smeared onto his hands, tiny sticks pulled from the ashes of flowering vegetation. Without thinking too much on the matter, he rose from his place, and stretched his body, arching backwards as far as he could, holding the position before performing a spiral with his waist. He cracked his neck, running his hands through his hair and rubbing his face with his palms. Staring into his reflection in the water, he heard a man’s voice, and turning to acknowledge him, recognized the voice as the man from the day before, the stranger in the woods. He was staring at him through a blanket of wet moss, that hung from two giant trees, like it had been piled there for protection, to be hidden from his sight.
“Do you hear them?”
The stranger stared at the man, curious, searching the outlines of the air trying to form his figure in his mind, he stared through him like he was invisible.
“I just woke up. I must have fallen asleep.”
At his words the stranger was gone, walking away with a machete flung over his shoulders. The garden sat in the center of a long, maze like expanse. Densely wooded forest surrounding a tall grass prairie, a landscape he would grow accustomed to. From the center of the garden can be viewed a circular series of sculptures, all classical, heads bowed, pertaining to a certain myth. In the very center of the garden the fountain raises its sprout to the canopy’s height. Underneath the immense showers, there are little faucets, rusted over time, for the orderly to wash, drink, and cleanse. He washed his hands beside the fountain. He looked over through the early evening glare, lights towering over the grassy plain, from where he dug his feet into the muddy earth. He’d taken off his shoes to clean his feet, and to feel the earth beneath him. To give them a rest, he would say to himself, but he rarely, if ever, wore them. A crumbling lighthouse pierces the azure. From where he stood he could look straight through the sculptures, into the forest, and expect that within two, three hundred meters he could see into the sea. He turned to address a few passers, young, well dressed, sober. They looked in his direction and turned away. They must have expected it would be empty, he thought. Moments later he wet his face in the water, pausing to let the coldness of the water ease into his skin. He rubbed his eyes, licked his lips, raising another handful of water to his face, bending low enough so as not to lose too much water. The hair on his forehead was wet, and he drew his head back to remove it from his face. He cleared the sides of his eyes, clearing with two fingers the wetness of his nostrils. He dried his hands off in the air, turned and walked away. He would be waiting at the pier, rising under an autumn shower, waiting, like he had promised. He had expected to see him first, before entering the city, to see his grieving mentor one last time, before they traded places. He thought of his mentor impressed on the image of the archetypal sea, the mother of all his dreaming. The sage sells perfume, he thought, once, twice to comfort himself, he sells perfume for the soul. As he walked through the grass, the ends of towering weeds grazing against his legs, tickling his elbows as he passed through them, focused on the sound his feet made running against the earth, on the sound the weeds made when they were stepped on, abused, pushed down to the earth in a scrambled mess, returned to the weary creator. He heard the evening symphony rise, the day ending like any other day, crickets delivering their sacred psalms, fireflies lighting up the sky. He felt a ladybug rest in between two fingers. Do they live at night, he thought to himself. Reaching the cover of darkness, the end of the prairie, he stopped. Turning around, he noticed the garden had emptied. the fountain rose like an upended stream. He counted, One, two, three…He continued counting until ten, breathing, slow, breathing. He turned back around, and with a slow, deliberate twist of the arm, he rested his palm on the first batch of branches in his way. He held the twig, the branch’s stem, biting it with his fingers. Slowly, calmly, he lifted the branch, one by one, passing through. For the remainder of the night he disappeared into the darkness. When he appeared at her house, the opening seemed vacant. He waited beside the long steel gate, adorned with the Baroque insignia of demonology. He grazed the gates with his fingers, gripping the gates and running his palm down the length of the spire. He held the steel rod in his grip as his hand reached his waist, and he pulled himself forward, so as to rest his nose to within the gate, as though he were smelling through another world. The entrance to the estate, a wide and stretching canvas, stacked with lemon trees and a surrounding tangerine grove, seemed dry and sad. The trees looked sharp, like they had been cared for, but the ground was not tended, as piles and rows of leaves lay scattered along the floor, and the fruit looked pale, like it had been planted well but not picked. At the far end of his vision was a fountain, that sprayed its water from the mouth of an towering angel child, who stood on the shoulders of a small, golem figure, himself lying awkwardly on the wings of a hawk. The sight of heroism expanded from the golem’s eyes, and the hawk seemed vengeful, resolute, determined to accomplish some sacred task, while the child, with his short, waves of curls, and a curl that ran down each side of his head, looked playful, and happy, his eyes beaming with joy and anticipation. But the water was not spraying from his mouth, nor was the fountain itself tended, evidenced by the brownish muck that accumulated in the moat, and the decay of the once polished marble and stone. His vision to the house itself was slightly obscured by the trees that separated the two prisms, but from where he stood he could see the broken callouses of the frames, the panels that had shuddered under the weight of winter, and the color of the building, once giant and engrossing in its pure white, now a stifled sheet of damp grey, with errant lines of black mold having carved into the outer surface, the only ( ) the emerging arms of vines, clamped against the eroding shell of the villa. He waited a while before deciding to climb the gate. As he reached the height of the spire, he pounded a pocket of soil over the thin and precise spikes, so as not to be caught by one of the arms as he lifted his trailing leg. Pulling himself over the tip, he made two slow leaps downwards, and jumped finally to the ground. Suddenly, as he landed, he caught the eyes of a stranger a few feet away from him, breathing heavily, loudly, staring at him in a state of terror. He jumped back, alarmed, frightened, but as he fell on his feet, holding one palm against the earth, sheltered from the soil by a layer of worn and dried leaves, he calmed down, finding the figure’s eyes for a moment, holding their stare together, one. The figure, a small creature, with a hunched back, was completely naked. He was so thin, so emaciated, that his skin seemed to collect in certain areas, like his belly and his elbows, where it was stretched so tightly on the rest of his body, that it hung in loose balls. He could not see his feet, but he imagined them to be large feet, that gripped through the layer of leaves onto the soil surface. The creature stood in his place, without moving, inching back and forth in a rocking motion, one palm turned towards his guest, the other, turned towards the ground. Something soothed the pilgrim in that moment. It might have been, that after traveling so far, he had finally stepped foot in the estate, and after staring in through the wired fence, had climbed over the protective wall. It might have been the air, the late afternoon breeze that swallowed the contents of the day and cleared the way for the evening. The smell of his surroundings reminded him of a cemetery he used to go to for silence, for meditation, at a time where silence had to be sought, when it wasn’t the constant of his life. He didn’t fear the creature, and this must have sent a signal to the creature to trust him, because within a few seconds of his taking a deep breath, and smiling, the creature too smiled, and walked steadily away, galloping on all fours like a horse. He seemed to be wounded in the leg, as he limped on his gallops, running forth. The pilgrim looked over at the house, a few hundred meters away. Between him and the fountain, the disappeared outline of a paved path. He let his head fall against the earth, and sighed. Opening his eyes, he found that evening had fallen, and he pulled himself together, walking between the two clouds of trees, a solitary figure among the open ashes of an unswept flame. He pushed through the crumbling door, two immense white panels of stone that wore dents to their makeup as though they had been bulldozed, pummeled through. The remains of a barricade withered to the floor as he slid the wilting structure open. He stepped over the beams lying in their sanctuary state, eroding in a pool of wet and soggy moss. The floor of the entire entrance was flooded, and in the uncomfortable distance he saw the tail end of a snake slither into the warmth. As he stepped down three steps into the wet grounds, the water stood up to his knees, so he had to push his way through the unchartered water, holding his nervous eyes to the place from where the snake had risen. Walking several feet forward, he came to a point in the large ballroom like entrance, where he could see, on either side of him, an immense tunnel of rooms, sheltered by high, nine meter ceilings, curved and painted in crusted hologram depictions of mythical rites. Further forward, two large staircases ascended from the ground and lost themselves somewhere in a thickening spiral of banisters that met squarely in the center of the hall, before diverging again in their usual directions. The centerpoint, which hung like the podium of an emperor, shielded on its front and rear sides by carved sculptures that rose above the standing height of any person, had lost the stone that held its center full, and from that hole he could see, straight through, to the impressive dome in the ceiling, twice higher than the ceiling of the tunnels and the hall itself, that opened like a door into the sky. He continued forward. Darkness enveloped the room, and he found himself drifting forward in the way a man moves desperately through a crowd, his arms pushing through from side to side, waving away the ghosts that compelled him. Eventually, he heard the sound of the crickets and the night owls, and before long could smell the effervescence of the jasmine, the pine trees that stood in the distance as a forest of their own, and the lavender that lay wilting in the passage leading into the garden. Stepping out into a field of wet moss, he embraced the surging coolness of the evening air, reforming his vision under the moonlight. That evening he slept soundly on a dry patch of mound earth swallowed by the drooping feathers of a tree. He dreamt that he had been walking through ruins of a city, a city that looked much like his home. He ran his hands along the shattered glass, bracing the emblems of marble and concrete chipped in his hands. He stood in the presence of an older woman, who had been braiding the hair of a younger boy, speaking to him without looking. Her eyes were caught on the horizon, and the boy’s focus was not on the woman, her voice, or her hands running through his hair, but on a beautiful, slim golden necklace that he wore around his neck. Later, he watched as he held the hands of two strangers and escorted them into a large suitcase, where he explained, again and again, “I don’t do these things,” saying, “I don’t do these things.” He saw a snake, and he imagined the snake biting him. He pictured the old woman, speaking to him again. Eventually, he woke up. Her chamber lay in the center of the garden. A mound of white sand, amid a circle of small elder flower trees, and on the opposite side of her, a quiet lake. When he found her body she was lying on the floor in white garbs. She had painted the area around her in ash, and smeared the garbs over the ashes. The smoke of incense burned from several corners. As he approached, she rose to her feet, collecting herself calmly, stretching her arms, cracking her lower back, pulling her knees up to her chest, and letting out an enveloping sigh. Her cheeks puffed outward, and with the release of her breath, relented. She looked calm, at some sort of ease. Before she noticed him arrive, she pulled herself to her feet and walked over to a small ottoman table, where she poured from a kettle of tea into a glass. She stirred the key with a tiny spoon. She raised the glass to her face, and swallowed the fumes. She remained like that for a moment, her eyes closed, breathing in the fires. He didn’t want to interrupt her, or to frighten her, so he remained cautiously still. He watched her, her eyes closed, her breathing slowing down. She looked older than he expected, yet so vibrant. She was older now, but more beautiful. Her skin was deeply tanned, and her complexion seemed luminescent. She had healthy, thick curls of hair stretching down her back, that swayed so subtly in the wind. Finally, she looked up from her place, and looked into his eyes. After serving him tea, she took a seat beside him on a seating area of handwoven pillows. He had pulled his pouch from his jacket pocket, crumbling some small pieces of hash in a tiny ceramic bowl, mixing it with dried tobacco, and rolling it into a joint. He aligned the hash so that it encircled the tobacco, so it would smoke more fruitly, easily. She spoke, a raspy voice, that told of a long and meaningful life of experience.
“It’s good to see you again,” she said.
She spoke calmly. They held one another’s gaze.
“It’s always so nice to be visited by some of you, from then.”
“You still mean a lot to us,” he said, speaking before she could continue, so as to ensure she believed his words.
She laughed slightly, smiling, drawing away her smile and looking away. She was embarrassed, and it surprised him, as he had never really seen her embarrassed, had never thought of her to be capable.
“It was different then,” she said. “Everything was different.”
He sipped quietly from his tea. The cup was a little small for his hands, even though he had always felt he had innocently fragile hands. He felt soft, like he could fall asleep at any moment, but he wasn’t tired, he could listen to her speak for the entire day.
“Do you think we’ll ever go back,” he asked, rather dumbly, knowing it was a question he asked in order to exchange a sober kiss of nostalgia, and not for any real point.
“Go back where,” she asked, sadly.
“To that time.”
“I don’t think it’s possible. Besides. What for?”
“Things were simpler then.”
“We were ignorant. It had already happened. A castle isn’t overrun overnight. It takes years of preparation. We were too stoned.”
“Still,” he said. “I prefer it.”
She went quiet, too. He thought for a moment he might have upset her, and he felt sorry for it. It was the last thing he wanted, to hurt her. She didn’t deserve the hurt. She had hurt enough.
“I’m leaving,” she said.
He nodded his head.
“I didn’t want to assume, but. Whereto?”
“Maybe back to the civilized world. London, maybe. All summer I thought I missed the cold, and I wanted to exchange this desert for a cloudy day. But everything is lying in water now. Maybe I can finally do it back in New York.”
“You were there a while.”
“Fifteen years. The biggest mistake I made was coming back. I won’t do it again.”
“It’s not easy to start over somewhere else. It’s easy for a couple months. But then the season changes and you start to wonder why you’re not at home.”
“It doesn’t feel like home anymore.”
She lifted the lid on a silver tray and served him some spelt pastries, topped with agave syrup and chestnuts she picked from her garden. She served him a savory pastry of bread with dried thyme, pine nuts, and sesame seeds. They ate quietly together. She walked over to a tall standing wooden cabinet, that sat perched perfectly on its hind legs, leaning against the ledge of an elder flower tree. He watched her as she threw some things together, pulling certain ingredients from little towels, rinsing them in the air and putting htem into a bowl. He realized she was making them a salad. She returned with the bowl, a large glass bowl that she cradled in her arms.
“Do you want to add the dressing.”
He rose to his feet.
She handed him the pitcher.
“I’m going inside to get some lemonade. I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything else to drink? We have some beer as well. Some wine.”
“Lemonade sounds good.”
They smiled at each other. She walked away. He walked over to the wooden cabinet hanging on the tree and searched inquisitively for some further dressing. He found what he was looking for, a tiny pot of sumac, and another with cinnamon. He brought them over to the table and added a lot of sumac and a tiny bit of cinnamon to the salad. He went back to the cabinet and found a lemon, cut it in half and brought over the half. He squeezed the lemon over the salad. He went back to the cabinet and found the salt and pepper. He brought them back and, adding the salt, he ground the pepper, watching as the little grains disappeared into the mix. He finally mixed the salad, white onions cut in long, tributary like slices, tomatoes and cucumber, rocca leaves and parsley. He mashed them all together, adding sumac and salt in little more bits. He drenched the salad in olive oil. She returned with two glasses and a pitcher of lemonade, with ice and a few strands of lemon floating inside. She pulled a tiny bottle of pastis from her pocket.
“A tiny shot goes really well with the lemonade.”
She garnished their drinks with rosemary. They each drank a sip. The flavors sat tirelessly on his palette, and he licked his lips in pleasure. She smiled at him. They returned to the table, pouring the salad into bowls. Finally, without saying a word, they ate. After the meal they washed the plates in unison, him drying the items while she washed them over with a small sponge and water and soap. He watched her mechanically lift the item under the water, then turn it over on its side and then dip the remainder of the piece under the water to remove the last bits of soap from its place. They were quiet. It was quiet. The afternoon had ended as quietly as it came. Somewhere in the woods he heard the rustling of a few wild dogs, taking their baths in the covered water.
“Should we move inside,” she asked.
He turned back toward her house. The pieces bunched together like a soap bar that’s been patched up with its own remains.
“I don’t live there anymore.”
He laughed, embarrassed at himself.
“I was wondering.”
She pointed to a small shed in the distance, just ahead of the opposite building that looked identical to her own.
“It was used as a night watchman’s house. At first it was a little room, with a window cut in to all sides. But then they built a ladder step and another floor, to see from a higher view. And after the war began they put it yet another floor, to see even further into the distance, at least to have a warning if something came our way. But then the watchman took a wife, one of the girls from the village. She was twelve at the time. They thought they would see out the war and go back to their village. But it lasted so long, they built themselves a little house. I’m staying in there now.”
“Have they gone?”
“A few years ago now.”
They walked together toward the house. As they approached, it appeared smaller and smaller, but at the final step into its little patio, a small roundabout that was surrounded by well behaved chestnut trees, the house suddenly seemed larger, like it was looming over him. As he took a few steps around, he realized the house was built on unequal ground, so the front was standing on a flat surface, while in the back, the wood had been carved into a thick mound of earth, and dug deeper under the ground, like the roots of a tree, but that the entire ground had shifted upwards, so that it kind of hung, leaning over itself, like a car slowly turned onto its side. Inside, the place was just a two rooms on each floor, so six rooms in total. One room that fit a couple chairs and some appliances, and another longer room that was wider and had space for more. She had a kitchenette area laid out in the bottom floor, and the sleeping area on the second. On the third floor, a room that operated as a prayer room, a drawing room, and a reading room. The three smaller rooms were all used to store certain items, giving the bigger rooms more empty space, and space to move around. In the highest of the smaller rooms, he found a rocking chair sitting facing the window, where he could see into the immeasurable distance. She noticed him gazing over the chair and taking pleasure in it.
“I like to read there in the morning.”
“My mornings are sacred too.”
He sat on the rocking chair for a while. He heard her coming and going, ordering some things. After a while, he realized he had dozed off, and when she returned, it was pitch black outside. She sat next to him, her legs curled to the side. She wore a white sleeping gown, a different one. He could see her breasts from where he was sitting, through the opening of her shirt, as he sat above her. He was embarrassed and tried to look away, but he held his eyes there as long as he could. He realized then how attracted to her he really was, and how much he missed the intimacy of love.
“I made a bed for you inside, on this floor,” she said.
He was grateful, but also a little sad, as he had begun to hope he could sleep next to her, if only to hold her through the night. If only to sleep next to her and to feel her warmth, her strength, flood into his body.
“Thank you,” he said, in a quiet voice. He hoped he didn’t sound sad or resentful.
Through the gaping window he could smell the gentle breeze gifted with jasmine, the fabled pines, the almond trees he could finally recognize, the lavender and in the distance, a surging scent of citrus that climbed into his muscles. He realized how luscious the land had become, how fertile it still managed to be, and yet how fluid the departures became, how empty the place now seemed.
“You seem tired,” she said. “Do you want to go to sleep.”
He looked longingly at her. For the first time that day he looked at her with a sense of wishing, and unease. A sense of panic gripped him as he realized his eyes were not telling her of waning strength or enthusiasm but of loneliness, of a quiet, subtle pain, of dread for crawling into bed alone. She understood his expression without his needing to say the words. She held his hands. She pulled herself to his level and kissed him on the side of the cheek, and on the neck. She held her face beside his cheek for the briefest moment. He could smell the perfume of her hair, and the oil she had applied to her skin, the few freckles on her tanned shoulders attracted him.
“I’ll make us breakfast in the morning,” she said. She kissed him again on the cheek, and moved away, pulling her body up with her knees, both legs simultaneously, and taking a few steps toward the ladder before descending downward to her room. That evening he dreamt of the garden. He dreamt of his movements through the expanse. His hands waving him forward. His bare feet sagging into the inviting earth, in her cool wetness, in her naked glance. He dreamt of the creature he encountered after jumping the gates. He dreamt of his host, the woman he so admired, the woman he had hoped endlessly to impress. He dreamt of her lips, the way her upper lip curled and the way her nostrils opened and tightened while she was lost in thought, addressing something in her head, curious. He dreamt of the raging forest, the empty plains, the quaint luminescence of her extraordinary garden. He had come so far. Faces and voices pulled him from his ethereal trance. He caught the image of the dung quarter whores he spent his first nights with on shore. He found himself masturbating in the presence of a court. He found himself tasting a whore’s feces, and tasting his own. He woke up drenched in his own sweat, and right above his hand, he saw the dangling figure of a furry spider. He pulled his hand quickly and the spider shot off into a run. He jumped from his place and looked around, careful as he leapt forward not to hit his head on the panel that held the leaning walls. He let his feet rest on the cold and hardened wood, strengthened by its reinforced steel. He sat there a moment, thinking. He hadn’t really observed the room before going to sleep. He had drifted so languidly, carrying his cumbersome body from the rocking chair to the bed. He wondered when he had managed to move, if he had remained in his seat for a while gazing up at the moon, or sleeping soundly to the rhythm of rocking back and forth. Or if he sprang from his place with arduous sight, using his palms to guide him safely under the ceiling panels, through the lowered entrance and onto the freshly made bed in the tranquil room. He remembered then that he had been sad at her departure. He wondered if she took notice. He felt a tinge of embarrassment at his behaviour. He remained still. He heard something scratch a wooden surface, a break in the noise, and then a fall. He felt the breeze gorging in through the panorama opening in the wall ahead of him. It was still dark outside, incredibly dark, but for the gazing luminescence of the moon. He awoke in the morning to the blazing rays of sun entering the corridor of the room, and the sound of dishes clanging somewhere downstairs. He dusted off his face, rubbing his eyes, pulling the thin blanket off his body and dropping his legs to the ground. He stared at his feet for a brief moment, staring at his toes, a little dirty from the long and tiresome walk. But they would get dirtier, he figured. He rose from his place. He put on his pants and a shirt he found lying beside the bed, and walked under the panel connecting the two rooms, giving the rocking chair at the window a little glance before taking the ladder down. As he reached the bottom floor, he caught the glimpse of his host cleaning dishes at the sink. She had her wet hair slung back in a knot, and she wore running shorts and a sports bra on top. For a woman her age, he was impressed. As she turned around to acknowledge his impending presence, he felt the urge to walk up to her and kiss her, calmly, letting the moment pass without giving it much significance. But he resisted the urge and kissed her on the cheek.
“Good morning,” she said, smiling wide, “Did you sleep well?”
“I did,” he said as he turned around, taking a seat at the dining table behind her. She returned her focus to the dishes on hand. He felt suddenly that he should help her, drying the dishes or doing the washing himself. Somehow finding her way into his thoughts, she spoke before he could move another inch.
“The water’s going to be out in about an hour, for the rest of the day. Do you want to take a shower?”
“Sure,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
“It might not be back tomorrow either. Sometimes it comes back for an hour or two in the morning.”
“Yeah. I’m not surprised.”
She rubbed forcefully the inside of a large pot, that looked like it had been stained with some sort of tomato sauce. It must have sat there for a while, he thought, as she had to dig her fingers into the pot and scrape each rusting crust singularly.
“After you shower we can go for a walk.”
“I’d like that.”
She turned around to him, letting the pot quietly down without turning off the running water.
“You’re leaving today, aren’t you,” she asked, the disappointment obvious in her voice.
“I think so,” he said, without much conviction.
She turned back around to the dishes. From where he sat it appeared as though she were wiping the edge of the pot with her own hands, having let the sponge fall into the sink. The water pressure was lower, and he could see her gently running her two fingers along the edge of the pot. A steady stream of sunlight seeped in through the lowered blinds that harboured her from the outside world. He watched as the light illuminated her arms and draped over her shoulders to extend his vision onto her lower back. He watched as her dimples tightened and released, alternating at the rhythm of her collecting forearms. He rose from his place. Standing a foot away from her he could feel her light breathing. He restricted his own so that he would not be heard. At times, he was embarrassed by what he perceived as heaviness in his breathing. It seemed to him as though his breathing intensified when it was most quiet.
He walked passed her body and stopped at the edge of the room.
“Is there a towel I can use?”
She turned toward him and smiled. He wasn’t able to hold her gaze, and he dropped his eyes immediately.
“Underneath the bed where you’re sleeping. Don’t take too long. The water will run out.”
He looked into her eyes again and they smiled. She turned off the faucet and shook her hands in the air, and then dried them with a towel hanging at her waist. As she walked toward him he turned outward and climbed the ladder up to his room. He heard the screen door close behind her as he pushed himself upward onto the third floor. She wasn’t sure if she wanted him there but his imminent leaving scared her. She would have been better off alone, she thought, alone without any guests or wanderers dropping by. When someone came they inevitably left, and when they left they rarely, if ever, returned. She had enough of that waiting. Waiting for someone else to arrive. He hadn’t mentioned her daughters, it troubled her. He hadn’t asked about her, if she recovered. He pretended like they were old friends, like they’d slept in the same bed before, drank from the same bottle. They weren’t friends. He had been in love with her daughter until she killed herself. He didn’t know the other daughters. He never did. Of course, they were linked by more than the child. They shared a similar interest as well as a similar loss. Her poems had been collected in magazines over the years, while his circulated through a series of otherwise meaningless publications. Still, they liked each other’s work. She understood that his work had yet to find its maturity while hers was slowly losing its wind. She had lost the fire. She didn’t want the fire anymore. The fire belonged to death and she had eaten death. The fire infested in wounds and she cleared her body of wounds. She didn’t write poetry anymore. She cooked, she ate, she cleaned, she slept. She tended to her garden, a magical forest of wonder. She put her heart into the soil and it returned the gift with life. But the garden would soon collapse, she knew it. This season or the next. The water was already running out. Even if she stole above her rations, which she already accepted she would do. Even if she bribed the local officials, which she had already mastered doing. Even if she dug her own well with her own two hands. The water was going to dry. It would not rain for more than six or seven days a year, when before it rained for fifty, sometimes sixty days. She accepted that she would lose the garden. But for now she had some time. Earlier in the day, before he had woken up to the sound of her cleaning, she had woken up at exactly dawn and gone outside for some fresh air. Standing in the midst of a galloping autumn breeze she rode the sensation of breathing in her lungs. Returning inside to take a shower, she had considered, momentarily, to walk up to his room and sleep beside him. The idea hadn’t occurred to her, ever, but she noticed the moment he had considered the kiss just the evening before, as she rose from her place on the ground and went off to sleep. She thought about sleeping next to him, but she couldn’t do it. She didn’t even know if she wanted to do it, but she knew for sure that she didn’t do it. She almost knew she wouldn’t do it, but she didn’t know if she would or she wouldn’t, she only thought she knew she wouldn’t, primarily because of their past, their unfortunate bond. But suddenly, after all these years, after the immeasurable descent, after the entire mess, he came to her. And she saw it in his eyes as she rose from her place, the look of longing she saw so many times in the lonely men that surrounded her enclave. Men who had lost their wives, their whole families, to some unfortunate brutality, or to abandonment, in response to their neglected curse. It was enough that he had come to her, she thought. She looked over the expanse that lay before her. She never had the chance to say goodbye, to those of her life who passed over, from one little vacuum into the next. At least with the garden she knew it well. She knew what would be coming and would be prepared. She probably wouldn’t wait for the seasons to cull all her children. She could do it herself. Poison the soil, poison every inch of ground. Or she could set fire to the entire mess, do it on the most beautiful day, on a day where the garden shone with such indescribable beauty that it deserved to die. A woman of uncommon ritual. She would perfect the act of the last rite. She counted slowly the days that had passed since she’d last spoken aloud. He was the first visitor in a long while. The workers who used to calm her company had all abandoned their posts, moved on to the raging mountains to take part in the conflict, or herded their families together and fled as far as possibly away. She had told him she would be leaving, too, and he hadn’t been surprised. Leaving had become the norm. Even those with land like hers, with possessions like hers, even they left. Leaving had once been for those in dire need. It had become the indiscriminate norm. In the distance she heard the firing of a rifle, followed by the crack of another. Hunters, devouring the last living remnants of migrating birds. She thought she heard a car pass somewhere nearby, the familiar wave that hollows in the wind before suppressing her echoing sound. Another rifle fired off. This time she was calm. She hadn’t seen the birds in a while. She knew there were no birds. Outside, she pulled an axe from beside the door and flung it over her shoulders. She walked over to a stump with some wood piled next to it. She grabbed a piece of wood and placed it on the stump. Without giving it much thought she slung the axe over her head and dropped it onto the wood, splitting the piece in half. She pushed the pieces to the side and pulled another. After three pieces of wood had turned into six, she piled them under her arm and put them next to the door, where she also dropped the axe. She opened the door slightly and grabbed a white shirt hanging by the door, then, without giving it much thought, she walked away from the house, into the orchards. She walked for some time. The orchard was designed so that at the very center of the grid was a an empty space with a tall fig tree standing in the middle. The fig tree was surrounded on all sides by a circle of other trees. From a distance the grid looked straight, but at the center she had put the eye, a place where she came for thought. She sat under the tree. She had wanted to read but she didn’t know what she felt like reading. It was always like that. You get into a rhythm and then someone shows up at your house and you lose it all. She had been doing well until he showed up. She hadn’t thought of her losses or her gains, she hadn’t compared those days to today. But somehow she had expected him. She had sat waiting for her guest like a sage expects a visitor climbing over the ridge, banging at the door. On the nights preceding his arrival she hadn’t slept, sitting outside with a shotgun at her side, a joint she puffed on from time to time, a bottle of red wine and a plate of her own black olives. But he hadn’t shown up at night, like she expected, expecting the figure to walk in through the dust and carry his naked footsteps into the light. He slept soundly on a dry patch of mound earth swallowed by the falling feathers of a tree, a crowd of chestnuts that were ripe for fall, the leaves grown yellow amid their stumps on the floor. They were quiet, listening to the sound of crickets and the scattering whawl of owls. There was the scent of jasmine in the air, the effect of fresh rain and the drying canvas of the hard forest floor. The pines stood as protection from the shallow rain, standing as a forest of their own. Away from them, a few hundred feet, the first rows of lavender introduced the garden, from where their trip was born. They had moved, changing positions, finding themselves once more. He couldn’t hear their voices but he knew they were there, embracing the surging coolness of the evening air, reforming their vision under moonlight. He lay there, immersed in the earth. Beside his body, a fire refused to light. It had been lit sometime before. Someone had been there, beside him, and now they were gone. Someone was here, he thought o himself, lying in the mud, his face digging into the ground, the mud soaking itno pores. Someone was here, he told himself, feeling the dirt in his fingers, someone was here and now they are gone, rowing the tips away from his spot, digging the soil into his nails. In a few hours he will wake, and it will be assumed, for all matters of investigation, he is alive. e will gather his thoughts and most likely will feel the sting of regret that is the norm, waiting for him every morning like the dawn waits for the moon to corn. He turned his eyes to his navel. Hearing a hawk’s passing premise, he sense a faint drizzle seam from the sky, bringing him to his senses once more. He had woken up while she was preparing to leave. He had taken a cigarette by the window, with his coffee. He watched her pass under the window, running with bare feet. He had to get up, he still had work for the day. But he couldn’t resist to watch her unfold before his eyes. Did she mean to look so stupid? Couldn’t she disguise it? Most of the women he slept with fit into two categories. There were the women who he wanted more than they wanted him, and the women who wanted him more than he wanted them. Of the latter, he had had his fair share, and always left with a feeling of disgust ruining his appetite. But lately he had caught himself enjoying the scenarios, where he felt, almost, empowered. He enjoyed growing in their eyes, watching them nod their heads in amazement as he explained his profession, the things that he does. Other than waste the remaining fragments of his youth on the prowl. This one was different. In the beginning it had seemed, at least to him, in the beginning, that she was entirely normal, and that the usual circumstance would offer itself and as quickly as it did it would disappear, and he would be freed from moral considerations within no time. That wasn’t how the events played out. The evening before, after finishing from work early, he decided to forgo the usual route home, where he would take a drink at one or two of the bars that sit on the street of his office. He thought it would be best to forgo that plan altogether, and to go as swiftly as he could to the nearest steakhouse, an elegant and dainty little establishment run by a Tunisian couple who he had gotten to know. Upon ordering his food, he met the waitress. After meeting the waitress, he was enthralled by, among other things, her gait, the way she seemed to lift off the ground momentarily with every step. He learned she had been a ballet dancer in Tunisia. Before the revolution, she reiterated, as though it mattered. Throughout the meal, she attended to his needs and he was grateful. Once, while returning with the little bowl of mustard he had politely demanded, he made a remark that her feet seemed too small for her long and slender figure, that she seemed to him a dancer, Not of this century, and that he wanted to know more.
“Know more about what?”
They walked into the bedroom. Each took off their clothes, methodically, as though it had been planned, studied, organized by another party and there were a room of onlookers on the other side of the mirror glass wall. He had set his sights on her and suddenly she lay in his wake, ready for his eagerness to pounce. He watched her, thinking of the stories she had told him, of her having to leave because of the violence. Not the violence outside but the violence inside her home, and the violence inside her heart, especially. He watched her remove her shoes, small leather ankle boots that wrapped around her little feet. She had her back turned to him, her body on the edge of the bed, one leg lifted and bent to allow her to pull her leggings off, first through one foot and then the other. He watched her, all the while unbuttoning his shirt, slowly, like a figment of the seventies mobsters who made a life, and lost it, pushing blow. Watching her, scrutinizing the way she fumbled with her dress, the way she fell atop the bed and lifted herself gently to remove the rest of her clothes. Watching her, the way she took no notice of him, as though it had all been planned and she were merely fulfilling a role, he noticed that he no longer cared to fuck her. He realized, while watching her, that she hadn’t given him the steady enthusiasm he required to pull one on a stranger. He realized that he was judging her. That he didn’t like her. That she was perfectly built and said every perfect word. That in the entire night she hadn’t made a single mistake, hadn’t let loose a single word or story or archive of memory or thought that she might later regret. Her make up was untouched, and she hadn’t worn that much. She spoke in clear sentences and expressed herself well. But most importantly of all, he couldn’t remember a thing she said. He could remember her nodding, at times, so worried he might think he’s overspoken, she would put her hand on his palm and breathe in, slowly, as if to say, It’s okay, I’m here, I’m listening, I’m interested, go on. What had he told her? What had he said? He told her he was married. He told her he hadn’t been home in two days, that his wife thought he was still in Paris. That he made a stop in Cologne just to meet an old friend. No, an acquaintance. Basically, a whore he liked to fuck. He told her he was ashamed to go into the sauna at the gym because he’d been caught masturbating once. He told her he hadn’t made nay money and was spending the reserves of his inheritance, a lofty amount that was slowly easing away from his grip. He told her he put his mother in a nursing home and never visited. He told her he hadn’t spoken to his brother in over a decade, even after he had written to him, asking for a loan. He told her the only thing he enjoyed doing, the only real enjoyment he had, came from fucking women like her, women who wanted to be discovered so they could disappear. Women who wanted a man, a hungry man, to annihilate them, to take away their memory, to return them to the wild and pit them against themselves. He told her all these things and she simply nodded, brushed her hand through her hair, looked into his lousy eyes, and nodded. She must have nodded five hundred times over the course of the night, staring into him and every so often, whenever he made eye contact or the story he was telling, a story he told a thousand times, required her nod, or the silence necessitated, a silence that seemed to be natural and innocent to the two of them but in the deepest crevice of his mind, of her mind, they both knew it was the sound of their desperation. Every time, she would nod, encouraging him, encouraging the pathetic man. He decided, that in her mind she had wanted, that very morning, or at some other point in the day, to be desecrated by another man, another human being. A woman could have done it, but it wasn’t the same. A man, see, a man can encroach on the figure of a woman and dismember her every joint. A woman’s touch, no matter how brutal, no matter how violent, can never be as strange and disturbing to the wanting female form as a man’s. A woman’s touch can never frighten the woman’s body from the inside. A man’s touch is forever foreign, arcane and afar. Here stands a lonely girl from a decent life and a decent family, he thought, whose worked twelve hour shifts every day for over a year, sleeping on a mattress that’s too thin for an adult, and all she wanted to do this morning was to get fucked, by me. She’s kept her eye on the prize, he thought, she’s wanted a good fuck all night. In bed, with the bedside light off and the hum of the central air conditioner steaming in the background, the tired and lonely footsteps every so often pressing against the rug of the hotel hallway, she fell into a light sleep. She slept soundly, resolutely, as though it had been her purpose to crawl into bed with another man for the sake of sleep. She slept as though her body were so fatigued, if she hadn’t slept she would have no doubt spoken endlessly of how tired she was. Her sleep, as it appeared to him, lying with his back to the headboard and his arm across her chest, watching her diffuse moments of exasperation with heavy sighs and intermittent breaths, did not stop him from having his way with her. He did as he pleased, with her body, her mouth. When she made like she was waking up, when she uttered a sound, jerked her knee away or raised her palm toward his face, he stopped, breathlessly, for a moment, warding his eyes toward hers, counting the seconds between each breath and waiting, panting over the noise of her silent, nasal snore, and his guttural excitement. The following morning, he woke up to find that she had left. He had thought he would be upset, but he wasn’t. Actually, he hadn’t thought he would be upset, because he had actually hoped for her to leave, but at some point in the evening, long after he had sought the remains of what was left by too early an ejaculation, he thought of her naked body walking briskly through the alleys of an archaic town, drenched in the dampness of a spring afternoon, and he thought, if only for a brief moment, that he might take a liking to her. But after a while, as his hands slipped over her quiet form, his feet nudged against hers and he felt the upright illusion of her toes, noticing that the big toe was shorter than the index, he found himself disgusted, revolted, at the sight of her, the thought of her in his home, her pussy in his mouth, his dick inside her thumbhole ass. He tried not to imagine her family. He tried not to imagine her two sorry children, waiting for her to come back, searching in the atmosphere of their imprisonment for clues. He tried to forget how beautiful she looked when she first walked up to him, to take his order and to bring him a set of cutlery that he would later use, the fork digging into the meat while the knife pierced into the prisoner of the fork. What had first attracted him to her? He had the courage, later in the day, buttoning his shirt in front of the mirror, soaking in the pride of a wild wolf, to picture her presence, her posture, walking over to him, the world at her feet, before she crumbled in his eyes, drowning in the judgment of his surveillance. What was it? Was it her smile? She had an unnerving quality, and it wasn’t in the smile, because she rarely, if ever, smiled, and only to encourage him to speak further. But she was always gleaming with happiness, he thought, and it must have bothered him. Happiness is irritating, he thought, happiness, in a woman so frail and fragile to the bone. It bothered him that she could be happy. That with all the weight bearing down on her, the life of expectation she abandoned and the life she was now destined to live, she still managed to exude some sort of happiness. He walked over to the bar and poured himself a shot, and then another. He thought about another, but the thought of falling asleep dissuaded him. The difference between a little buzz and a tired morning, he thought. The rain fell heavier now. Oh what the fuck, he thought. He had another shot. He walked over to the window again, this time to open the window and allow the room fresh air. Before the world gets oxidized, he thought. Carbonized? He watched people collect in front of the hall doors. He watched them stand for a minute, enamored. If they were alone, they stayed longer, standing off to the side so as not to disturb those just passing. If they were in couples, they discussed the performance, smiling and greeting and admiring the work. If they were in groups, they usually caught only a brief glance of the magic emanating inside. But none of them stepped foot into the hall. Maybe they were afraid. He was for sure afraid. Afraid to commit to the emotions. Afraid to discover why he had come. He sway to a Sahel masterpiece. The alcohol dried from my veins. Am He closer to freedom? Longing for the days that pass themselves. The Jew finds me searching, the producer will extract his latest hit. He talks like he knows exactly what’s going to happen, and when he asks me what He think of the stage, He nod and tell him I’m yet to meet it. He laughs. I’m not laughing. He pass Jewels on the street. Worn away in his own filth. Using, losing, abusing. His eyes catch mine glaring at him. He halt beside his feet, mangled in dirt, unprotected, diseased. He stand above him, towering. He lifts his neck to acknowledge me. He see death inching nearer in his eyes. Is it really you? the boy who taught me patience and adrenaline under the bridge. He says nothing, his lips thickened to a layer of crust. He tries to reach out to me, hoping to elude his desperation, my fear. He realize, He am ashamed, and He want him to feel shame as well. He remember the days we shared our lice, giving them names and attributes. The human experience! Have you surrendered old friend? Is this how you greet me near the end? He turn from him and walk away. In my unconscious He hear him call desperately to me. His voice eases off like the rattling panes of a highway expanse. He wonder if he cries. He imagine he has nothing left for tears, the habit is all that keeps him alive. When we were once soldiers and kings. Now he is dead. To the expanding universe, a joke. He hear the curious crowd sneering. Come see, they say, the death of the wasteful prophets. Before death we had wisdom. After, we retain nothing. Achieving what is only imagined. He have not seen those deserving more. Death is everywhere. For the willing, for the unaware. The cleansing of our age. He know Lorenzo is in the hospital, for good, resting there until the pass. It’s only a matter of time. Still, He am afraid to cry. Even those too grand to die. Even those too grand to die. He wonder about your death. If you and He will die as equals. Lorenzo clutches his stories, storing them away where he’ll find them in the afterlife. They think it’s absurd, but it’s there, waiting. All He can think about is the sad fact I’ll never see you again. To waste away without you noticing. He says he knows what’s on the other side, and if he’s wrong, well, he’s been homeless his whole life, he’ll find a good place to rest. When He leave, he is asleep. He didn’t ask about his son, about Panama and if she’s past the cure. He slept. Today, He say, is a day for mourning. Realizing we’ve lost everything and everyone. I’m unsure whether I’m the cause of my devastation. But there’s no real way to bypass the mood. Everything in our hearts is gone. It’s a day like today where the fallen leaves choreograph the rhythm of my emotion that He find myself wandering without end, expecting nothing but the calming silence of urban noise. He walk, holding my luxuries in two palms. Disciplining myself. To march undeterred. To waltz. The signature of freedom is an unobstructed stroll. He make my way towards the water. He hear a flute sing across the Atlantic. He rest my finger in my mouth to taste the scent of my origins. A large void filled with whispers and wails. Tribesmen gathering to undress their clothes. He rest, naked, in a valley nestled between two towering dunes. The camel herders race beside me. He lunge on a camel and ride, beating into an encampment not far from where we met, watching in the distance tribes settling near an oasis. The eldest of them watches me pass. He brushes his teeth. He engage the man in discussion, worried that he’ll ask me my name. He doesn’t dare to ask, knowing that He have none. At the height of a dune a wild woman washes herself in prayer. He rise to approach her, forced ahead by an unabating desire to ferment my seed under her fabric. But the sand gives beneath my feet. I’m unable to climb so He rest, enamored, knowing the angel will not notice the stranger. A mother herds her children below, hailing them in for supper. He smell the rising fumes of an evening fire. The sun delivering her last, consequential gifts. Particle air dissolves on my face. He wipe my eyes. The woman atop the dune is gone. He ease away from the camp. Dusk in the desert is fierce. The flight of a gazelle leads me to you, where He stand now, wishing. You come and go. When you vanish He wander, when you appear He sustain, collecting the decay of your absence. He knock on the Jew’s door. She answers wearing her mother’s robe. He look at her, hoping to exude my presence. I’ve been remembering things. Can I sleep next to you? She lets me in. He take off my clothes, placing them to the side. She holds me, resting her head on my shoulder, her arms strapped across my chest. The smell of her form lifts me. Have you written? He have, that’s why I’m here. He lie down. She slides on top of me. He hold her against my body. She escorts me inside her. Slowly, she rides. He let have control, she wants it. He watch her eyes, stuttering with pleasure. He feel the erratic tapping of her fingers, keeping time on my neck. When He close my eyes He find you. He want to scour the earth in pursuit of you. She kisses me with an expressive tongue. She bites my chin, holding her grasp in my hair. Tightens, loosens. The intensifying moans. The crescendo of enjoyment. Orgasm. He close my eyes, thinking of you. First He draw, then He imagine. Following, the world falls to pieces. When it chooses to rebuild it chisels a likeliness to —, a being not yet described. That is why find ourselves impatient in questioning, and He find myself in search of you. He will never know —. But He have known you. The Jew sleeps, tightly pressed against my chest, the waves of my breathing easing her to sleep. She’s light. Her shadow whistles in the autumn air, impressing the bells on the windowsill. Whenever He close my eyes, you’re there. The night passes dreadfully slow. He count sheep smoking cigarettes and joints, to no avail. He remember the times He watched you sleep, gracefully designed patterns of breathing and sighs. In my mind He kiss you. In my mind you are alive. He find the Emperor on the road. Beside him is the old man cane master and Black Adam. Black Adam sings one of his beautiful bird chimes in quarter beats. He wears a crucifix with a Native American Jesus. The Emperor tells me to go to Detroit. Get out of here, he says, you can even get a house there. What you do is professional, he says. He roll a smoke and take a backseat. Black Adam asks if He want to read something. He want to, but what, from where? The urging mire in my lungs. Sing us a song, the Black Adam says. He leap up a few steps to look down on them. Regard me kind gentlemen of the urban procedure! This will only take a moment of your precious time. He want to tell you the honest truth, my friend. This what we call life is not the result of some joke. Together we embark on the latest, fabled chapters. He won’t have you assume you know my circumstance, my past- the whole thing is a story. He can only tell you what He know, and what I know is what I’ve seen and experienced. I will relay this but you will not repeat a word. My heart is not a motive. I am ruled by the prospect of anarchy. Let me tell you, when I sense things are settling, I disrupt them. This is my nature. Are you surprised? Otherwise, how else would I be here? I am like a wandering form of persecution. I want to enlist but it will not happen. But I am free, you understand. I can have anything, instead I have as little as I do. In truth, it is because I fear possessing. I fear what I might lose. but you, my friend, do not. Perhaps, you will gift me, and share with me your secret. I may seem foreign to you, but I sleep in your basement, and in your bed. And when I speak your language you understand. Will I ever become you? We will see…A summer storm enrolls uninvited. The mood changes. Black Adam rushes off to find brotherhood under the decks. Old man cane master dawdles away in his steady stride, the contour of his upper lip standing ground, collecting wells of water under the rain. The Emperor takes his shorts off and asks me to go on. What more do I have to say, without the accompaniment of a band? But a scent draws me away to a memory. I fade from 4th street, finding that holy crevice in my mind. A monument I erected to my youth. I watch as cars pass along the highway. We sit by the sea, crossing our legs in the direction of the mountains. Didn’t we bury innocence on Mount Sannine? Or by the shallow rocks of Naqqoura? She finds me off Rue du Pasteur smoking spliffs in the parking lot. I jump into the car. We burn through the space with speed. I ask her to pull over, needing to piss. We decide to desecrate the monument symbolizing our independence. She asks me to go first. We urinate on a statue marking Alexander the Great’s passage through the country. We urinate on the plaque that suggests we are free. I kiss her. I tell her if she disappears I will scourge the earth in pursuit of her. She doesn’t take me seriously, drifting away form my sight, leaving me with the hope of an uplifted skirt. In the morning the street is overrun by militants, pre-pubescent slaves carrying Ak-47s and RPGs. I laugh from the window, counting the juice cartons they carry in their hands. She rolls a spliff, attaching a paper flag of our nation off the tip of the joint. We burn the spliff in silence, passing it around like an ill fated gift. To the sound of bats and crickets and intermittent shells. Candlelight and stale coffee. I stare across the room, plotting my eyes against hers. She has to leave to the border in the morning. We wait for dawn without saying a word. I walk her to the university grounds, where a bus waits to evacuate her kind. I walk back home, surrounded by militants drinking their juice, smoking their cigarettes, tanning under the sun. There isn’t a sound in the air, the fighting in the capital is over. The battle will move to the mountains. So will we. We pack our things and leave. I look back across the water, where I know my heart has already sailed in pursuit of love and home not damaged. We park outside the city lines. Smoke fills the air above my home. A black clouds settles over the city, hovering like a sacred shroud of Beirut. We pass the spliff along. I take a solitary walk to the end of the pier. I cry. I never see her again. The weeks pass in seclusion. I read The Plague and think of you. I imagine you’ve found another way home. The only thread of life is the marking on my arm. I stare over the hills of Kfardebian. Summer looks soon to arrive, dry winds coming in off the horizon. I wonder if my front door is locked, if it matters. The others play Frisbee on an open plain, counting their blessings and their wrongs. Where are the others? The perks of war, solitude. I miss the West Beirut grind, the cellar and open binge, telling stories of a forgotten past. Soon I return home. Everything is changed. I wash my hands beside a fountain. A man stands beside me grumbling and spitting tales under his breath. The myths permeate his mind. Voices in the distance and our immediate past. He knows this, better than you or I. I leave and watch him follow my footsteps, drawing himself towards the fountain. He washes his face and then his parts, applying the water tenderly against his ailing skin. He is diseased, that much is obvious. His body is losing, his mind, squandered, and if he admits he has no soul left he will find himself dead in the alone. Tell me you never want this for me. Tell me I deserve dignity, home. Take me with you when you go, to the slaughterhouse rooftops, the pier off the lighthouse, the steps at my grandmother’s home. I will feed you honey and dates I collect from a camel’s womb. Are you listening? Let’s circle the tribes with the whirling dervish who caught our souls dancing! The wise man says, “I am superior and alive in thinking of you,” while the sage says, “Home is in my hands.” I clench my hands together to hold you in my palms. To keep you there, where you are safe, and a stranger’s harm won’t near you. Night falls. The floor of rats pray by my fingers tracing the jungle of our disguise. The streets bare naked in anarchy. Sniffing fume proposals from an authoritarian nightmare. Will we meet again? If you sense desperation in my voice it is only because today I remember the woman who burnt herself alive before us all and we did nothing but scold ourselves in her memory. The bums fall over begging for change, and a second chance, for legacy. I point to the fountain two levels away on the ground. The eyes tell me they want mine, from my hands. I give them my hands, to feel them. The youngest tells me to go on home, the time is almost over. “I’m waiting for permission.” “From what,” he asks, “…to have a home is to really have one.” Warnings from the Hassidic tides- the full moon is arriving. Waxing and waning of an inner turmoil. Archetypes and comforting signs. The chance to exhibition a monologue is given to me. What will I read? Has it been commissioned? I hear the bells ring the city’s charm. I remember the instruments off my uncle’s good arm. The cigarette plastered to my grandmother’s lips, reading a kind joke. I trace figures of the prophet and my sister in an embrace. My father’s moustache, my lover’s hands. I wander the vacuum of memory, sit on the edge of the park grass. A resting place. To die without form. To incarnate into energy. As I leave an old man asks to take a photograph of his face and hands, ruined in the biting twilight. He points at a stack of cameras on the ground. “Is one of them yours?” He shrugs. I step over the punk with his head in the gutter. His wounds fit firmly in his skin. I hide the urge to laugh. A hooker turns without her shoes. She counts riches with the wetness of her cunt. “How much longer do I have?” She orgasms. The bells ring universal alms. The sick bastard is gone, off somewhere, losing his fight to the disease, offering his tongue to the minors who walk in. The fools eat my nails when I lunge them at their eyes. I yearn for the taste of melancholy. The summer sheds her precious filament skies. Spring won’t set in next year I can feel it. I am the poet I never dreamed. I sleep with the little mystics in the courtyard, overlooking the water from the hospital garden. I wonder if the image of death is blatantly bound to the image of a garden, hounded by scriptures that pervade the chimes. The word sits in a figurehead’s drawer. Installations lit on fire by the river. The contents of mind disinfecting. “The part that hurts the most was sorting who to pay for burial.” I sleep with my neighbor because he’s gone blind. I drown in your aimless reaches. The flood restores my agency. He gave me flowers that night, flowers he had picked. I guess it felt special. Made me feel special. Feeling special makes it easier for me when he arrives. I know how to respond with the formalities. Like, hey, where the fuck have you been? Sometimes I can be too formal. People find it annoying. Even in bed, when we’re fucking, his arms around my neck, I find the nerve. He didn’t seem different. But I’d heard he’d just some back, so I was curious. I was curious to see if he still had his mouth running, and if he still had a fire about him, which he did. I sensed it immediately, because he caught my eyes and there we were. Sharing a moment. I was standing on the dance floor. I don’t know how long he’d been there. Why hadn’t he said hi to me? What made him wait? Maybe we were near the bathrooms, not on the dance floor. It’s blurry, I was drunk. He was always lingering, somewhere in the shadows, so it was somewhere dark, and I went up to him. That’s where he fit. It’s where I liked him. I like the shadows. I don’t do well in the light. I like the sun, I spend my days outside when its sunny but I prefer the autumn where its cold, I have to hide under some layers, and I can feel the wind against my cheeks and feel my skin aching. We live on the sea, and I’m never at the beach, and when we go, I wear my boots, and my jeans, and a leather jacket or a jumper or something to keep me warm, and it’s fifty degrees outside and still. He looks good in the light. We’re different. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was interested in him or not. You know when you have to focus on something to know if its real. He would catch me staring at him. He’d look at me and I would flinch, realizing I’d fallen into a trance, staring at his face, thinking about something. usually something related. Something to do with something he said, or something to do with something I did, something I wanted to share, or something I was ashamed of. Sometimes I thought about his teeth. He had beautiful teeth. That night he was carrying a small book of poems, something he put together, something he printed himself, not of his own poems but a bunch of Americans he liked. I read a lot of the work he put out, printing little booklets and spreading them around our friends. I was probably one of four people who read poetry and he knew that. We spoke about poetry most of the time. I was reading a lot of French. He introduced me to Pierre Reverdy. I introduced him to Gregory Corso. Not the Corso you find in Beat reader anthologies. The real Corso. That night he was reading the Americans and he spent most of his time with John Hoffman. Journey to the End. He felt like he wrote it. Maybe he did. Maybe Hoffman’s spirit died somewhere in Mexico and a few decades later after brief encounters with triangles of the dead his soul resurfaced in the charming middle class household of Tanzim Arbid. Maybe not. He had a certain sadness in his eyes when he spoke of Manhattan, when he spoke of America, and everything that happened there, all the disasters that came to the place, but always with an urgency of life, as though he never left, as though maybe none of it ever happened and we dreamt it all. I remember walking across Manhattan with him and we were discussing poetry at the time and it was before he was introduced to Rumi and Rilke and most of the ecstatic poets that inevitably changed his course in life. He was still reading Bonsai and Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra and he wanted to live deliberately in the past and make something beautiful out of a past he never left. We were in Manhattan and he spoke of Beirut and all he could do was wonder when he’d ever be back and if the war would ever end and if the only reason he left is to stay away and hurt and hurt until the poems start flooding. He made everything about his work, about his writing but he never showed anyone anything so it was really just for himself. I lived two blocks around the corner from him and I only ever heard from him once every two weeks when he’d leave his place to get drunk finally in public. But all he wanted to do was go to the KGB and drink like we were sad sailors singing our leaving songs and poor old men off the country war trail who’ll never know peace and love again. I felt bad for him so I joined him. And actually it was fun and I spent my birthday that year with him. Seeing him was like seeing a ghost. At the time, I think it was only the second or third time we ever met in Beirut. Everyone else had left. I felt like the last real one of us standing, like everything else had died and I was the only living thing on the planet. I was surprised to see him there. It’s funny, the first thing I thought was, well, after, why the fuck didn’t he say hi to me first, because he obviously saw me, I was the one dancing and he wasn’t, he was just standing there, so obviously he saw me, but I thought, after that, does he want to bring the plane down, is he here to make it worse? We always said he’d end up dead or in prison, or vanish off into a commune and I’d follow him there once I got the chance. He ran away but he always came back. I never ran but if I ever did I feel like I wouldn’t come back. I don’t hold it against him but why would you do it? Why run and then show up again and ask how everything’s been? I think he wanted to see how much of it was lost, but really, I think what he really wanted was to see how happy people could be to see him back. Well, the last time I saw him nobody cared who was around. But it was good to see him. I went up to him. He had his moustache groomed. He looked friendly. Even in the shadows, he looked alright. He’d never bite but sometimes it was like a wall stood between us and I couldn’t see through. I think he read me a poem. He pulled the book from his pocket. He said something like, it’s so good to see you again, and I said something like, it’s better for me that you’re here. I felt like he was craving something. Craving madness, craving comfort. Craving love. Neither of us, you could say, were ever cavalier. So when I took his hand it was a gesture one of us had to make. Nobody around to notice. I remember asking, what are you doing here, and I don’t know why but I asked, do you have a plan? Maybe because he never had a plan and nobody had a plan and I felt like if someone had one thing planned we could’ve made it. All he said was, I think there’s something to be done, and I looked him in the eyes, and I was drunk, and I think I felt his fingers curl into mine and clench them, and I let my forehead rest against his chin, and then I looked back up at him and I feel like I was all of a sudden searching for something, like I was angry but I was also hurt, and I was annoyed and I felt like kicking him for being such a child. I shook my head, like a little dog drying himself off, I shook my head and couldn’t stop shaking like I couldn’t believe it and I was just trying to erase the moment from my head. He stared at me blank, like he was staring into something he couldn’t recognize, some sort of history he came to forget. I wanted to say something else but I didn’t. And then he let go of my hands. I called him. He was staying with some friends from home. Home? I never thought of him as someone with a home, let alone someone who stayed with friends from home. I wanted to say, isn’t this your home? But I didn’t say anything. He hadn’t read the Sufis yet. He wasn’t ready. America made him a bum. He smoked too much weed and he couldn’t get a job. He didn’t try very hard. He spent most of his time on the sidewalk talking to the elderly, always asking about what it used to be like. Hipsters are fucking nostalgic. Overly nostalgic. It’s because he didn’t have work and because he felt far away from everything. All he could do was what bums do, find a nice place in the sun and claim it. Kind of like what sunflowers do, and what poets do. He was dying to be a poet. He didn’t try hard at all and I liked that about him. He didn’t try to make it seem like he was a poet. But he always thought he was on the verge of death and needed to die having done something, and for him the only idea he had of anything he could was to have written something, and every time he found a new book or a new collection or a new name he’d see his own name printed on the front and wonder why his own book didn’t look like that. I noticed him by his hat, somewhere across the park. I was standing at the corner of an abandoned sandwich shop, rundown, everything looted, except for a tiny chair in the middle that still had all of its legs, but the seat was gone, just the seat, and the rest of it sitting there like it could still be used, if you provided your own seat. He had something going, he kept saying, but I didn’t feel like asking or hearing about it. I had to take my roommates dog out for a walk. I just looked into his eyes, big, puffy, allergenic eyes, and smiled. He got the hint and we just started walking. Sometimes I have to keep people away. I don’t want to be someone’s muse. The muse gets ditched. We understood each other. He gave everything to everyone in the moment and then he disappears wanting people to wonder where he’s going to pop up next, or when he’ll be back. The mystery is everything to some people. They want to be the mystery. Others want the mystery for themselves, they want to own it, find it in someone else and claim it as theirs. I never gave him the joy, the satisfaction that comes with being the one to leave. Whenever he seemed like he was ready to go, disappear into the woods, I always left first, just before him. When we got off the phone I wondered why he’d come back, if everything had gone alright over there. Over the Bosphorus, over the hills of Anatolia, right into the port of ports, where he always said he belongs. I noticed after we started walking he’d lost a lot of weight. Maybe I’d just forgotten for once how skinny he really was but he looked sick from up close and even sicker from a distance. But he wasn’t sick, he seemed alright. I was alright. We could both be alright. We grew up well, sheltered and alone. Maybe we had been prepping for a godless winter. We walked. He told me he had plans to finally see the country, finally go further into America than New York, like he had always planned but never panned out. He told me he’d been writing, and it was okay. I told him I was depressed for a while, that I was bored at work, that everyone I loved was going away from me, not like they were physically there, but that they felt further and further away, every time we spoke, like it would be the last time, and the next time we speak I wouldn’t recognize them. I told him it scared me, and he told me he was scared. I asked him why, he didn’t answer, just kept walking at our pace. I started to feel like something was wrong, and I started to feel like I didn’t feel up for babysitting or taking care of him, if he was going to be a drag, or if he was going to play quiet and sad and expected me to lift him. It was wrong of me. He started blabbering about nonsense, trying to paint an image that would tell me something he couldn’t say himself. I wanted to tell him I was going to leave, that I was offered a job in Paris, and that I was going. We ended up near the water, because that’s where he likes to go, and I forget to plan where I’m going, but he always wants to see the water, so we ended up there. We found a bench. I had half a joint on me from before. He rolled a small one as well. We smoked. I said very little. It was silent. It was nice. I noticed the sunlight for the first time that day. It was strong. Everything was glowing with a veneer of life. Like we were given birth, renewed. Runners passed by us, some couples with their strollers. There was a nice enough breeze in the air to keep our bodies cool. I had my sunglasses on. It felt nice. I felt like we were transported somewhere else, staring off into the water, like we were on some rocks in the Mediterranean, smoking a joint. I was seething to tell him about Paris, talk about what I really wanted to be happening, what I would do there, who I already know. I brought up Paris and dropped it, and then he brought it up again, and before I could get on the subject of why I brought it up, to tell him I was going, he started on about writing, and poetry, and the stage, and about how everything in Europe is dead, and how the Europeans colonized the world but most of all they colonized their own hearts, and excavated their souls dry, and now there’s nothing left, just a sad picture of what was once the most industrious place on Earth, and now it’s empty, and people live well until they die, and they wonder why during the whole motion they don’t blow themselves up before it happens. We spoke about the resistance, the renaissance, the decay. The boredom at the turn of the century. The century that lifted the lid on all our misconceptions. I told him I had been in love, twice, since the last time we spoke. He asked me about them, who they are, what they do, I didn’t answer. I don’t know if he felt he deserved to know. Because he had that in him, to feel like he deserved something. He liked his joints thin, slick, like slim cigarettes on a model filter. I like mine fat, like baseball bats, so they burn slow and smooth and I can taste the whole package in my lungs. His joints would crumble at the tips. He never bothered to pack the weed or roll the smoke around. Mine are airtight. I like the weight of the smoke in my hand. He lifted the paper with his thumb, dipping in the spliff in the underbelly of the roll, leaving little pockets of air and pockets of light. Maybe I liked mine fat because I was never alone, I liked to smoke with company, I had roommates, I didn’t like to be alone. Always surrounded, always social. Even at work, social. Even at home. But he smoked most of his joints alone, most of the time, on a backstreet, at the water, between the dumpsters, in the park. Unless he had a mood and something encouraged him to go outside. An idea, or a nostalgic fit, missing the sound of someone’s voice. Wondering if they’re still around. I rolled a new joint and we walked. I sparked it and we continued down the water to the end of the boardwalk, the whole avenue rail disappearing in my palm. We crossed over some roadwork, sand bags and excavation. Something with the light, the sparkle in the day, it was daunting. He looked comfortable in his skin, comfortable in the city’s jungle, stepping over the obstacles, into the sand, like when he was growing up, he said, spending his days in construction sites. I’m not sure how it happened, but we kissed. Then we fell onto the sand. Then we laughed. Finally he gave me his hand, and I felt shivers in my knees, like I was twelve. It was probably the weed, and the strong sun, and I hadn’t had any water. We stood against the railway, overlooking the sea. It felt good, peaceful. A word I don’t use there often. For a while we stood there, neither of us saying a word, just resting at the moment between two different times, two paradigms that never collide. That’s how I felt. I wanted to tell him I was leaving. He was going to leave anyway and we’d never make it out alive if we chose for once to leave together. I didn’t bother saying anything. We found an installation, a large mass of land, poured over concrete, with little cubbyholes and swings and places to sit or lie down. A sandbox in the corner, jungle gym, a barricaded wall so nobody could jump. Everything, I realize now, is fenced off, gated, to keep us from leaping onto the other side. Without the fence you see what’s there. With the wall you have to climb and then you just go, gun. Whatever comes will come. Walls make me want to jump. I found us a spot, a mass of finely shaved wood, poured lightly to look like felt. We lay down. Then he got up, wandered off to the side, climbing over the barricade and fixing his eyes to the horizon. I closed my eyes. In the beginning I looked up from time to time but then I settled and kept my eyes closed and enjoyed lying down with the sun in my face and my eyes hiding behind the glasses. I felt his distance. Then I heard him coming, nearing our little shelter in the late September air. He eased onto the woodwork, finding his way to my shoulder, resting there, barely grazing my arms. I felt him nearing, but once he was close enough to stop moving I felt his mind sort of slip away, like he wasn’t really there, and then it felt like a large lump of mass bearing down on me. And then he slipped away. We must have stayed there hours. The sun went down, the night sky ascended. I lost the sound of his breathing somewhere in the midst. We were there hours, neither of us saying a word. I don’t remember if I slept, if I was awake, if we danced, two warring minds entangled. We were there hours, and the whole day must have passed, and the entire time it was quiet, and if I slept or if I was awake, it didn’t really make a difference, I just remember the feeling of the light, and the feeling of the light when it was gone. I felt him touch me and I woke up from a dream. Where do we go, he asked. His voice was soft, like he was a little boy again, waking up from a nap, ready to go outside and play. I’m leaving, I said. He walked me home. I left him at the entrance, waving goodbye. He wanted to come inside, I could smell it in his breath. Thirst. Hunger. Nobody needs me, nobody needs you. He turned away and disappeared. Sometime before I left I called around to his house, nobody answered. My guess is he ended it at home. He visited me and my sister. He took the morning ferry to get in. I met him at the port, the station. He was wearing a hat, I remember, and he had a guitar, sitar, some instrument. I was sick the minute he arrived. I was fine before and I was excited but when I saw him too feet in the door I was sick. First my stomach, and then I was coughing, phlegm, holding onto myself, and then sweating. They went out for lunch. They went climbing in the forest. They had a joint at sunset, in the forest. I was asleep most of the day. At some point I woke up. I opened my eyes, I remember, really slowly, I could feel myself lifting my eyelids. He was sitting on the floor, in my room, in the room I was staying in, the guest room. I let him stay in my room. He smiled, he was reading. He looked calm. I always envied how he could sit, for hours, reading. I smoked too much weed. I could never sit still. I watched him. It was sweet, because he let me. Sometimes you just have to watch someone, you have to stare at them. To feel something. Your feelings. He said something in Arabic. I asked him to read. I asked him to read something in Arabic. He told me he was embarrassed, he couldn’t do it well. I told him it wouldn’t make a difference, I wouldn’t understand anything, even though in Turkish some of the words are stolen. Then he said something about his grandmother. Like there was a moment, and he flipped. Like something made sense, felt right, at that moment. Then he sang something, in Arabic, and it was rough at first, I could tell, he was focusing on the words, and then on the pitch, and when he focused on one he lost track of the other. His voice was vibrating in its place, held together, giving. He laughed at himself, at his accent. I laughed with him. It was sweet. Then he left, and I slept. The next day he left. He told me he was trying to finish the novel. But he needed to clear his mind. He was wired, hadn’t slept. Was he awake? Just not sleeping. Rambling. Then he was gone, on the ferry, disappointed into the distance. He spent his last night with me. I wanted him to stay but, he didn’t know, something, or he didn’t want to tell, or he felt he didn’t have the right, I don’t know, I wanted him to stay, he didn’t, but he spent the night with, almost, before we separated on the corner of A and he walked one way and I walked another. He told me to enjoy the city alone. I was spending too much time by myself but having trouble with it. I couldn’t be around other people for long, but I couldn’t handle myself. He said most things in the city come in details too small for the passing eye to notice, and that these things carry the secrets of our universe. I taught him how to use his cameras and develop his films in my darkroom. I taught him how to clean up after himself, because he never did, not in the room. But he was tidy. It helps to be neat. For the mind. Generosity means a lot to me. It comes back, it’s a circle. I like to give with the people I love, and with strangers. I don’t like it when people hold on to what they have. Even if they have a lot of it, even if they have little, they should share, and give. He was always giving, and I liked that. He brought coffee, and drinks, and paint for the house, for the other members. Always sharing with the wine, with the weed. Some of the men like to put things around for everyone to have. We didn’t have to worry. If people wanted their drugs it was there. Someone ended up paying for it. A lot of the times it was him. I remember reading Nazim Hikmet. He was carrying him around. We were on the stairwell, and then we moved to the bathroom, sitting in the bath, without the water on, with our legs draped over the side, shoulder to shoulder. He had a bottle of southern comfort. I had half an eight ball. One morning he came over while I was still asleep. I used to leave a key under the doormat for some of our friends. He must have opened the door quietly, taken care, noticed I was asleep. I did wake up, I remember hearing shuffling around in the other room. By the time I noticed the door to my bedroom was open and he was standing there, standing in the glare of the corridor light. I can’t remember if he was drunk, if he had this stupid look on his face because he was happy to see me or because he was stoned or something. He crawled into bed with me. It was the only time we ever made love. He took his time, made sure I could come. I slept against his body. It mattered, he didn’t turn away when we were done. I needed that. I had just dropped out, it was a rough time, it was winter, it was cold. I was beginning to realize I hadn’t made any plans for myself. In the morning I woke up and found him in the other room sitting naked on a chair. He was wrapped in a blanket. I looked at him, we smiled at each other, I felt like were children again. I brought out some lights, just a three point set up, with a stool under the spotlight, in the center of the room. Under the lights, when he smiled, I felt like I could see incision marks on his neck, when his cheeks would draw back, I could see his molars, scarred somehow. His eyes were lit up under the draping beam. They were thick brown, like the eyes of a deer. I asked him to remove the blanket. He walked over to the stool and sat down. He had a coffee mug in his hands, and he drank from it, taking his sips, smiling. I asked him if he wanted to leave me something. He asked me how I knew he was leaving. He said he didn’t want that. He hadn’t wanted me to know. I started crying. I don’t know why, I can’t say. Especially now, when he’s not sitting in front of me, crouching, aligning his bones, snapping his jaw in place. He watched me cry for a while, without consoling me. I wiped my face. It was fine. Some are seasonal. It’s no way to live your life. I took the first photograph. The second. The third. The third is haunting. His eyes are looking away from the camera. After he left I had a hard time looking at two and three. Four and five are beautiful. They’re warm. He looks warm. He’s looking right at you. You see the person he wants you to see. We don’t always get that chance. The next six photographs are sad. He’s up, moving around. He had an itch on his stomach, and when he turned his arm it looked like he was dancing. Passion keeps me in place. I don’t have to move, or run away, or make things happen to feel alive. I’m happy where I am. We ate breakfast. He didn’t mention the book. I’m sure it was stored there, safe and sound, looping in his head. We boiled fava beans, crushed with olive oil, diced tomatoes and onions and garlic. A pinch of parsley, and coriander. Thyme, oil and bread. I told him to be safe, and he left. The photographs were my goodbye. He believes the photograph possesses unfathomable magic. In its properties it is alive, and chemical. In its death it withers, survives by figments and clear pigmentation. He watches photographs suffer, watches them digress with time. It is a specialty, to posses the photograph that withers with eloquence. While it is reserved for photographs of spiritual measure, he is also entertained. He pulls another photograph from his pocket. Smeared on the edges, peeled on the borders. The photograph depicts an area, deserted. There is a thin railway, for freight. There is a dimension of mystery to the area, because it is surrounded by military, in the service of quarantine. The area does not house anything in particular, but is rumored to house everything. The most relevant rumor is what attracted the photographer, who captures the area with a tainted canvas of thin, fragile contrast, black and white. It is said, out of the area, the world exists in black and white, unless one carries the benefit on an experimental tooth. Inside, the advent of color, and so it is the zone. But it is also said, and this designs the mystery, that inside the zone there is a room. Anyone who enters the room is granted a wish. He has a habit of nurturing decaying photographs. He believes it is his understanding of poetry, and the existential essence of a moment. The photograph resembles time, but is not confined to it. He settles his emotions with a photograph present. The two styles Arbid tended towards in the months following the publication of Eldorado, being poetic landscaping and dream montage. Caudwell says of dreams, in their difference from poetry, that, “Poetry is creative because it is directed feeling. In dream the associations are ‘free’- reality’s images are manipulated according to the genotype’s desires, just as iron filings over a magnet ‘freely’ arrange themselves along the lines of force.” In this way, the subconscious writing credited to surrealism and the automatic writing that followed with the Beats, with the focus on free, rich and flowing writing drawing the writer away from a monochronistic, totalitarian, censored form of conscious production, aids the writer’s growing relationship to words, to have use for them, to see beyond their complexity and, “…couple together words which have no rational connection…no nexus through the world of external reality.” Arbid’s deployment of dream language and dreams sequences, creating a montage of implicit characterization in order to portray the impression of the time, the hour of the emotion, the signifier to the signified being that is the creator, cause and cause-at, of his work, is enhanced by his metaphorical and otherly figurative use of the dream space in his work. As Caudwell distinguishes between the novel and poetry, that, “In novel-writing the words are arranged so that all other pieces of reality are excluded except the piece required,” and why, “…’jeweled’ style is a disadvantage to the no el because it distracts the eye from the things and people to the words.” The very words, incidentally, that a poetic novelist, using the abstract interior of poetry to dispel the space that governs a novel into a familiar, concrete form, uses to their advantage. Arbid uses dreams and dream sequences to migrate the reader form a world of rational forms to an abstract space of ideals- equalities that find their basic construct in the placement of their chores one after the other. While this theory maintains that the function and efficiency of his attempts is the result of his employing the technique to its intended value, it fails to account for his evolutionary output as a writer- his ability to see beyond the strivings of self to a space that he has yet to govern. A poet reigns their kingdom of words, as the painter oversees the multitude of spaces that have found their incarnations onto the canvas or not. Arbid’s abilities as a writer multiplied with time, and over the course of his journey we can see that dream language transposed itself onto his regular train of thought, so that his novelistic style infused with dreamlike waves, illuminating a structural dependency on melody, and not, rhythm, and releasing the speaker’s voice to the throes of endless chances, without the constraints of form. As the narrator says in the opening of Marker’s novel, The Forthright Spirit, “An accident is like a hypnotist: it puts you to sleep in order to do its tricks.” So too with poetry. The words cast a spell in order to seduce the unconscious into attaining the same extraordinary state that poet has at one time experienced, in the flesh of language, the rhythm and metric form holding the sculpture together like the bones of a skeleton, the voice luring the guest in with the tricks of a siren, the singing of angels in a deep night of yearning soul. Arbid writes, I dreamt the lion was in our bedroom. Can you imagine it? He has the nerve to entrench his podium but he’s never stepped foot into my room. Nobody seemed to care. I’m used to it, collective nonchalance to the absurd. We emphasize normality. But I was hurt to find the lion in my bedroom, and my mother petting his mane. My father was acting with less interest, but I know him well, it was a ploy, a technique he learned through my reading. What I want to do next time if I remember is introvert his part, parallel his acting with an expression of his introverted material. If he appears composed, I want to find where it is stationed. The apathy will destroy us. He covets the memory, meditating on its role. While the prose gathers here into one collected whole, the image does not necessarily constitute much further than a dream had but not buried. The character’s disenchantment with the image is the image. The lion in the bedroom is the ordeal. Does BARA, in its final form, read like a dream? One might add to the reading of BARA the reading of absent space, the narrative that is not there compiling together the narrative that is. Nonetheless, the novel reads like a dream, moving without definitive beginning or end, guided simply by a force resembling forces of the psyche that deliver dreams, without beginning or end, to definitive images. The following passage is taken from the drafts of BARA that were composed after Manhattan had already lost its form. It may not have the same trajectory of a dream, the same chaotic essence that unveils in dreamlike character, but as was Arbid’s intention at the time, to portray the impressions he had of space with the voices of the space, the passage illuminates a criteria of his writing that would be lost altogether form the final work, a strict, nonelusive prose style void of poetic license and abstraction, telling of a novel that is there and not the novel without. I step out of the house sometime near dawn. The sun still making her way over the horizon. I her the caged hog singing in the distance. I pour fresh milk out for the pups, feed the older dogs their breakfast. One of the younger pups wipes his wet nose against my jeans. I walk back over to the kitchen, to carry the waste out to the hogs. The basket smells the rotting apricots, the rotting leeches I take the dogs to the basin, past the apple orchards, the lemon trees, the fig trees. They smooth themselves into the water, I watch from up ahead. The morning now in full bloom. I cut a line of sunflower heads, tossing the infested out. The head cuts with a snap of the wrist. With my sorry aim, I pick it up from the ground, bomb it down to the collecting box. I carry the box towards the house, leaving it in the kitchen. I wash off my arms and back, applying rosewater to a few bites on my body. No sign of the others yet, I carry on. A car pulls up near the gate. I can’t see from where I’m standing but I hear him come to a stop. Footsteps lead around the corner, past the outdoor mess, up the steps and down again, past the wooded seating and around the bend to where I am, piling firewood for the coming days. He walks in without speaking, walking directly to the coffee on the fire, pouring himself a cup, filling the top with a shot of whiskey. He spends some time reading from the paper, probably from the day before. After a while, he finishes his coffee, pouring himself more whiskey. He fills a plate with mashed eggs, every so often dipping a torn piece of bread into the mixture, before adding an olive to pit in his mouth. The morning sun settles that the day is high. He chews away at his food, filing his mouth with bites out of the eggs and sips out of the whiskey. Maybe he needs it, to keep his mouth full, to keep him from squaring up to the moment, meeting the face of his anger. Finally, when he looks over at me, I sense the resentment in his eyes.
“You planning on leaving soon,” he asks me.
She nod my head. He has his final bite, leaving the kitchen, drawing away into the woods. She hear him pull out of the driveway, turn his tires on the gravel, shoot off onto the road. She take a shot myself, and walk out into the sun. The story explains in a preface, “Our sleeping was pretty irregular, day and night, working when the weather fit but sleeping a lot of the time, so in that context, strange things come to pass…you see things moving the darkness. You hear voices in the woods, coming out of sleep, or drifting further away.” Such strange occurrences as, mentioned in his another story, She would imagine myself in a frenzy chasing a figure between tightly knit alleys under the cover of moonlight, only to wake all of a sudden and find myself in the thick of forest chasing only a shadow. In such moments he would often think of far off places of magic and wonder, places he’d never experienced yet always imagined in his own special way he would. The time capsule off the coast of Cuba. The golden pyramid of rum. The contrasting contour of shade and body tresses. Fruit seller songs and the rhythmic cry of temptation. Recalling Kalatozov’s great film , and the way the fruit seller sang through the chaos, even in the midst of his woman’s betrayal. If there is still song in your heart then you are still safe, he thought, it is the only way to survive. He thought of St. Petersburg, marches outside the great museum, the days he felt warm and alive, kissing the imperfect muse under the palace monument. There was snow, falling all around so that he felt himself in that moment the star of his own film, accompanied by his companion who ahd stolen his heart and run away with it to the Americas, the touchstone of a new world, some months later, before he had the chance to dwell in her eyes. He had always returned to that day, hidden in the trenches of his memory, running his hands through her golden hair, as the only day he ever felt truly alone. She had stepped into the chambers of his heart, stared deep into his soul. What had he sold in order to be amused? He had the habit of writing her poems. In return for her gifts- the charms of an amulet, the taste of her naked form- he had to ascend to the house of her lord and beg forgiveness, to accept the savior as his own, which he did. She was not the first, being the one who came after the first, who allowed him to sleep inside her gowns. After she had left, he intended never to deceive himself again into mystical belief, to withdraw from the immaculate world and devour, in his wasteful might, his piety and soul. To meet piety with disdain, to greet the pious with suspicion. He had offered what he felt all women would have tortured the heavens to have. The devotion of a mystic poet! Returning to the early muses he felt nothing short of despair. The magic failed. He lost the focus of his arms and legs, unable to dance in the muse’s presence. The plutonic forces were less and away. The maternal words rang heavy in his heart- “Never open the window to your soul.” When the doors of the soul are open, she would say, the mystery dies, and the muses lose their fateful interest. There the hero stands, stranded in the primordial theatre, abandoned. He had many such places which he romanticized. Some places only existed in the scriptures of myth or the vortex of a film. He would go there sometimes in his mind, retreat to himself in the sacred spaces. Rome of Rossellini, Fellini, Sorrentino! Kubrick’s outer space. Tarkovsky’s Zone.
Stamina, prolongs my fate
I stumble to your monument, trespassing.
There are no guards, keepers of these gates
We suffer to wither alone.
Listen, I slow my voice, mumbling,
Seated carelessly on your steps
Berate me- Implicate me- so what?
I will say I stood at the precipice of inspiration, and dove
Did she string two stones for my saving?
The future soaks out of my hands
I was a sage to the jester, a dancing heart
Oscillating waking dreams, exploring the elixir of life.
Apothecary wisdom washes the night
I wander into the woods, nesting by a fire
To settle is to accept, with a smile it is luck
Some calling stutters, ushering sleep
A road to salvation disappears this spring
Poetry, at my fingertips…
The road is empty
the sight of towns dying
cruising by me
I am a mule, strung along
…the invisible [of my] conscious self
But I think of you, biding time.
I expect the weather to turn and with it my language
I try everything, nothing works
The mirror into the Self.
The open door.
I write a poem for the diaspora, consumed
From the turn of the diaspora century!
To the melancholy of Anatolia
I salute you, [you] serve your peasants well
And feed your martyrs cherry gold.
But he affirms the piety of the ruler! He prays, and it is obvious, by the concussion ravaging his body, [that] he holds some authority greater than himself. Even in the midst of evil doing! The prayer space as tainted by low and base human qualities. Suffering, sacrifice, vanquishing of the sacred. He refuses to pray for…safe passage for his ancestral drifters, praying instead for their destruction. Having recently written to her, To you I lie only gently, But I would never tell a lie not worth its weight in gold He opened his letter to the editors office. I start conversations with a monologue… Writing to her from the front, I am already bored, Not by you my sweetheart, But the boundaries of [human] imagination, Limited to the universe. When I meet the will to life, I am only performing- A ritual, to you. With verses like,
I am a prisoner to you
But my prophets are pure-
They know only the wager of war
To surrender to the self Is to know one’s violence. And this it also is to be alive. At least…I thought so…who am I to know……I offer your condolences…you will find me at the bottom of my best…consider this the eulogy I promise…If I survive your judgment, it is yours I will read.…It burdens me…somewhere, her heart races, when she thinks of me…I would be a fool not to hear her sing…Everything had been ruined, everything…The totality of phrases like, My belief in everything having slowly died, I plead forgiveness to the earth and all her spirits. Maybe it had been hard for her to believe, he told her in the letter, but he was “…an unequal function of two wholes,” more or less, alluding to the possession of his soul into two – at times, conflicting- spirits. So it was, in her presence I felt a certain feeling, which there is no point discussing, except to say I was revolted. I propelled her to the pedestal, too…she diminished in my eyes. And to the ending they had in mind, This is where you’ve found me, once before, and where we are today…further on into the journey…there is no ending, only destiny, and you know, already, what the scriptures say of destiny. But how can he take back, the disgust he mentioned earlier. I didn’t know what tot make of her face, seeing her the first time after having abandoned my equation of her as something beautiful. She seemed old…tired…in the way a woman looks…cursed by her sister. The novel speaks of, The ruler of an entirety…beneficiary to the curse. The head of an empire, without a turban to defy him. He tells the story of a ruler, who, On Sunday evenings , when the people of his city are well rested, joins them for a walk across the urban plains of the old port town. The story goes on to speak of the ruler’s fortunes, of what he has “controlled by means,” and what he has, “obtained through wit.” Conflicting stories- much like the historical myth of BARA- paint the port in conflicting ways. But, the reality is of a town, nonetheless, abandoned by cultural output and artistic production. No plays, and theatre last seen in the province some generations ago. In an earlier draft, he had numbered the time elapsed, but opted out of it in the final draft. Continuing, a port town where, “It is impossible to differentiate between the living and the dead.” Where, “it is unknown whether any living being exists at all.” The ceremonial relevance is clear. It is this very town, where, Festival takes place, every year, to mark the passing of another year without the illumination of the dreaded diaspora. Eliade writes,  We can assimilate two instances of just such ceremonial rites in BARA. In the first instance, the myth continues to tell of a people who, “…settled their debts and fled…far away North (living now in a land swallowed recently by a volcano.” “In many ways,” the story continues, “the people who left under this pretense are thought to have walked to their death.” The story continues, The nature of the walk has always been contested. Many report the odd feeling of foreign meddling, the hand of a trickster overcoming them. He continues, noting the physical aspects, Tremors of the joints. The sensation of sudden pricks in the vertebrae. Yellow filament clouding of the retina. Tension in the hands and feet. Restricted breathing. Motor functions recover after the initial seven minutes. The story speaks of a, “giant tomb that stands in the center of the city…in their [the Diaspora’s] memory.” To ward them off, speaking of a, “special day in the calendar year,” where, “the tomb is lit on fire, and scores of newborn babies, offered as sacrifices from local parents, are raised to the mantel.” The children are dropped from the head of the tomb, as a sacrifice to rhe diaspora. The people sacrifice their progeny to prevent the diaspora from ever returning. The event marks a fictitious day in the future of the colony, where the diaspora has returned to lay claim to the land. As a compromise, the citizens sacrifice their children, hoping to evade the diaspora’s intervention for another year. Thus this extreme, and by modern standards, primitive act of violence, caused in the collective consciousness of the people, is seen as the marker of a beginning and an end, what Eliade calls “… a repetition of the cosmogonic act,” or, “a new Creation.” He asserts, “the New Year is equivalent to the raising of the taboo on the new harvest,” meaning, “…the divisions of time are determined by the rituals that govern the renewal of alimentary reserves; that is, the rituals that guarantee the continuity of the life of the community in its entirety.” Can we discipline a reading of BARA without the event that takes place on Festival? The horror of the diaspora’s potential return is reflected merely in its association to the result of which it causes: being, the hurling of the town’s newborns from the giant mantel. The coinciding event in BARA that returns the reader to the experience of a ceremonial rite, a passage through time within the enacting of a ritual, is during the yearly storm that blows through the city limits. Miles away, beyond the distant harbor of a southern peninsula, stretching calmly away from the shore, a sea of dust approaches. These storms come two or three times a year, usually in stages of the summer. At times, if a winter is late in arriving, the storm bulldozes through the city, evacuating the citizenry of the port to more elevated villages in the mountains. There is no real danger. The storm does not threaten the town’s survival, or put so much as a dent into the infrastructural credibility of the port. Though, of course, electrical lines go haywire from time to time. But a superstitious panic arises, resulting from endless superstitions of all kinds that send the citizens into frenzy. The first of these winds falls a full moon after Walpurgis Night. Beginning with short bursts of dry winds, a mass of sand and dust, commonly referred to as the Shadow, floods over the peninsula into the city square, and down beneath onto the port. Respiratory distress is a common complaint, and hospitals and pharmacies and mystical apothecaries make a fortune. The sky swells in pastel yellows and beige, a herd of waves crash against homes, with enough force shattering mudhouse doors, displacing ornaments and plants, devouring every item and crevice with a layer of sand. This storm is no different. It forms over the peninsula, rising over into the city, and by the time it reaches the streets of the old town, only an hour or so away, the wave will consume the skies, a thick cloud of sand mask immediate view. The harshest wave, some distance away still, forming in the remnants of the initial wave’s blow, strikes just after lunch, towering twenty meters in the air. This is the wave that compels superstition, considered the herald of the arriving guests.
Traced to the origins of an enlightened empire, early chroniclers note that the desert storms brought with them the decay of old spirits, returning on a pilgrimage across their ancestral lands. With them, it was believed they carried the secrets to fertility and love. Wild dances were choreographed to ward the spirits in the right direction, in the fear the would linger too long within the territory, and remain after the passing of the storm. Children would be clothed in their finest attire, sent out with roses in behind the ears and string necklaces of figs and dates as offerings to the passing spirits. When the harshest winds would pass, carrying with them sickly children not fit enough to hold strong against the gushing winds, women not yet married would rush out of their homes, clothed in a long silk sheet, bowing under the mask of dust, to pray. Those already married would sing from their windows, pinching rice in their fingers to spread in the passing wind. When a handful of rice would disappear, they would return inside, to their husbands, naked behind a veiled curtain, massaging his erect penis in waiting. For the wealthier of the port, a guest, usually a younger male, would keep him occupied during this time, waiting on his wife to return inside. Upon her return, believing herself blessed by the spirits of fertility and love, she descends upon her husband. A third and rather unusual incidence of ceremonial rites but without the passage of time dictating the ceremony can be found in the circumcision of younger women, who are brought into a eunuch’s hall, whereby he is able to string each of them up by their ankles, adjoined onto a long rail that stretches the entirety of the corridor, in a room that can never be fully described, and mutate their vaginas into string instruments, whereby the eunuch – as Arbid does not specify whether it is one single, honorary eunuch or a community of eunuchs who play simultaneously- is able to play off their vaginas the solos of a violin- and for women of a larger stature, the cello. These symphonies do not appear anywhere else in the text. Arbid does appear to favor the role of the eunuch as a champion of the post-mortem world, or at least, a figment of retaliation to the abyss of patriarchal rule, however masochistic and patriarchal the playing of the vaginas may seem. The mutation of the female clitoris, an act of extreme sexual prejudice, differs from the mutilation of young children throughout the text, and mutant beings, from its insistence on returning to an aesthetic beauty, a state of mutilation thereby manifesting an aesthetic revelation- namely, the playing of a eunuch’s symphony. He spoke of strange occurrences, recurring, When I would wake, only to find the necklace on my chest cut, the Ganesh sculpture in my pocket having fallen through a hole. After searching for the key to my necklace, it would touch my shoulder as I brushed by, dangling from a window. He spoke of his approaching the figure. I approach her…in her inconsolable appetite. Might this yet be the muse, or is it one of the few witches he encounters on his extended passage through the port. Returning to his playful ways, he mocks her feminine delusion. She observes me…in the act of some domestic behavior, creasing the sheets, drying the dishes. Before ending with a show of anger, proof of his nonconcieved maturity, still failing to arrive at some stage of peace. When I return, I hope her dead. If not, I will defile her. There are many alternating views on the role of women in BARA, but one thing is clear to all- the objective experience of women is in opposition to the two central conflicts in the narrative: the character’s conflict of opportunity and desire, and the narrative’s seamless bias towards me with a desire to dominate in the public yet be dominated in private. In one story, a theme that continues through much of his work, domination plays a role in his being willed into sex by a woman of a ‘lesser class’. She would lead me to her by means of association, like a dog learning lessons in obedience. Again, returning to the image of the window, She…left me a cigarette by the windowsill, with a shot of scotch, to have while watching her undress in the other room. The importance of dreams; dream language- a study of dream communication and consciousness/transmigration prevalent in the text of BARA He closed his eyes and fell into dream, dreaming of boxes, hundreds, thousands, all kinds and colors and shapes, stretching as far as his eyes could reach, amassing the landscape of desert dunes, one by one, remaining unchanged, a performance he admired. He could not see himself amongst the boxes but after a while began to see others, first only a few, but then many, many others, trekking up and down the dunes, opening and closing boxes repetitively, obsessively, gazing into them as though they were hidden inside some desirable clues, so that no box was left unopened, the boxes having at once changed their composition, permanence once admirable now completely destroyed. he noticed one little box which remained unopened, and, as though he were directing the interests of the crowd, began to draw the curiosity of the many present. The mass watched in awe as the box, unmoved, stood completely still, and as the crowd drew closer, inch by inch, tentatively making their way toward the box, a select group of brav,e elderly men withdrew from the crowd, forming a barricade with their arms, marching with great character right onto the very spot where the box lay. The masses they had left behind, at the sight of the men forming a circle around the box and inspecting it with their eyes, fell into great cheer, begging them to return to safety, pleading to value their lives. None of the men, ignoring the ushering calls of the crowd, dared look directly into the box, standing more or less still themselves, lamenting a finer age, where men of their statue might have found the courage, or indeed, the tenacity, to peek into the box, kick it over, force it open with their hands. The crowd maintained their position for as long as he lay witness. His body jerked as he felt himself nearing the box himself, and suddenly he was awake, and everything around him felt coarse and brittle and dull of life. In this passage, the character, having just returned home, has fallen asleep, confronting an abstract sequence of images in his dreams. Arbid may have intended for ambiguity, but the relationship between the dream- the character’s migration into a dream world- and the system of objects that govern his surroundings are commonly obvious. In the passage preceding the dream, the character stands in reverence- not as the dream evokes, with “everything around him…dull of life.” He walked into the room- his room- flopped onto his bed. He stared at the ceiling in awe. How mindless it is to be a ceiling, he thought, thinking nothing but observing, being by having been put there…Like, a plant in the corner, dying when it does, probably of thirst, or loss of light. People are strangely sad, for a brief moment, before throwing the plant away. The soil is wasted, and the pot becomes something else, like a helmet or a box. Having arrive at the image of a box. Boxes are unique in the system of things…like spaces that do not dream…or think of the past in nostalgic reverence. Dream language and dream transmigration is where Arbid finds most suitable the space to illuminate transcendental messages and reflection of the interior self, either by gazing upon the world as by an observant, voyeuristic eye, which in real time cannot be done without subjective immersion in an envious Ego-whole, a pull away from the true totality of being, to just be, in the time and place that one is. The next morning sang the wail of a new beginning it rang ashes in the rain. The dust of their lives had come to formation concluding the hands of Time. The road ended in embrace of something beautiful and it surprised them all. You would have wept at the sight, he would say. The jester must have been watching, lurking as he does. So are given the first few words of the infamous novel BARA. That evening he slept soundly on a dry patch of mound earth swallowed by the drooping feathers of a tree. He dreamt that he had been walking through ruins of a city, a city that looked much like his home. He ran his hands along the shattered glass, bracing the emblems of marble and concrete chipped in his hands. He stood in the presence of an older woman, who had been braiding the hair of a younger boy, speaking to him without looking. Her eyes were caught on the horizon, and the boy’s focus was not on the woman, her voice, or her hands running through his hair, but on a beautiful, slim golden necklace that he wore around his neck. Later, he watched as he held the hands of two strangers and escorted them into a large suitcase, where he explained, again and again, “I don’t do these things,” saying, “I don’t do these things.” He saw a snake, and he imagined the snake biting him. He pictured the old woman, speaking to him again. Eventually, he woke up. He digs his face into the ground. The mud soaks into his skin. He feels the dirt in his fingers, rowing the tips away from his spot, digging the soil into his nails. In a few hours he will wake, and it will be assumed, for all matters of investigation, he is alive. He will gather his thoughts and regret. That is the norm. He turns his eyes to his navel. Hearing a hawk’s passing premise he sensed a faint drizzle seam from the sky. He wanted to remain incognito, at least until the others arrived. To damage his pulse. To light his depression. He noted, the importance of her doorstep for the entire frame, he felt the whipping of her sanctuary bells, hanging from the lilac crest from where he was permitted to sing, offering the mute fragments a wasting creature can afford. I know the penalty, he told himself, isn’t it enough to know? He watched her, standing at the widow walk of a nearby farmhouse. Commotion in the quarters. He whispered, soon, when the willows commence in weeping, I will kneel and wash your feet. Will you accept me? Society will descend. The horror is already written. We are like sand, weightless. Thieves, ungrateful. Waiting on the moisture we were promised. Is the story subject to change? He takes a moment. I have nowhere left to go. He had always thought of himself as fearless, until he finally found something to fear, and his entire life changed. He hadn’t thought he feared anything, ever, until that night. When, standing before the commanding force, they threatened him with execution, he realized something about himself he had never known. Not only did he fear death, he feared losing his life. He had always thought of himself as a wayward soul skipping time until judgment came. But he realized then that he had a deep commitment to life inside of him. He would not accept death so readily, even when it stared him in the eyes. And it had. And he rejected it. He didn’t remember how he survived the incident. He woke up in the desert with a bag of keys in his hand. He had no papers, and no name. He had no past, and no presumable future. He had nowhere really to go, so he walked. Before long he found himself at the foot of a towering cascade of dunes, that ran the length of his sight and further. Atop the dunes he found Bedouins resting for the afternoon. He asked them the way to the nearest town, they laughed at him. He spent the afternoon resting, too, drinking tea and smoking whatever they smoked. Sooner or later he arrived at the following morning, hungover, with a dry taste in his mouth. He had caught the flu, and he was now in their care. Some months passed. He learned the language. He refused the call North or South. He stayed put. Months later a force arrived, of the nearest State, calling for the Bedouins to take up arms in their defense. The Bedouins refused, but he didn’t. He was spared his life a second time, but the Bedouins were not. Did all of that really happen? Did it matter? He had forgotten the pictures of his former life. He had forgotten the various dimensions that make a man a living animal, the dimension of past, present and predominate future. The presence of an eating force, the presence of memory, the containment of desire into social norms. What else was he made of? He had become the force of presence. He had one step and one thinking mind. Always forward, pushing through from abyss to abyss. Lighting wind to the void. Igniting the passage. He would approach her, when the time was right, and he would complete the task. That was the extent of his knowledge. He had only to approach her, and to wait for her response. Who was he working for, it didn’t matter. It never had. He had work. He had a job to do. It would be done. Would he hurt her? Could he even? With what hands? With what mind? The choir outside would not stop. The song was crying through the roof. He thought he was being called to react. In what way? He stared back at the morning bottle. Sooner or later it will be gone, he thought. He found himself near the shore. Without noticing, he had walked the entirety of the peninsula, had landed near sandbars that extended from the mouth, like particles of spit that sat in the air. He thought he heard the sound, the radio digesting the waves. He thought there might be a sound in one of the cabins, noticing the cabins he noticed he had come upon a private beach, that had been claimed off the public shoreline, receded so that the waves fell upon the sand like the overbearing armory of a tsunami. In the receding distance he saw the tower of the central square, the rising minaret of the fireplace. Where the illusions go to die, he whispered. He felt at his hands, at his face. The feeling of a man searching the quiet. He reached into his mouth, gripping his tongue between his fingers, searching at the flesh. He felt the cuticles of his fingers scratching at his throat. He reached into his throat with his tongue, contorting its figure to slide off the roof of his mouth and tickle his tonsils. He pulled at his tonsils with his hands, only to find his voice, a bolt of breath, his fat, peasant lips, reverberating. The papillae of his tongue stood, like the hairs on his back, the strands of hair on his neck, behind his ears, and his ears were also standing. He reached into the pool of mud, his hands disappearing into a sweat of floating sand, aquatic debris of presence. His presence, but where was she? He had lost track of time. Was it part of his plan? Was he only now forgetting what it was that had been planned? How could he figure that out? Who could he ask? Who? Another surprise. He knew very well that he worked alone. He had never sought help from another. Who might that other be? He had to get back. To return to the scene. She would have stepped out of the doctor’s by now, would have met her friend for an extended coffee, and then an extended walk to her favorite bookstore, where she would pretend to read the books, hoping to be noticed. Then she would actually find a book she liked, and she would be glued, and she would have forgotten all about her urges to be found out by someone else in public. At which point, of course, engrossed in her reading, she would attract the attention of someone else, someone also there with ulterior motives, and he would brush up against her, navigate his way through the introduction, and invite her out for a drink. Where would she be now? He had to flank through the caves under the shoreline cliffs, and walk the length of the coastline until he found a suitable place to climb back onto the boulevard, or some other part of the shore. He had gone so far, he couldn’t turn back now, the way he came. It was too dark. He would get lost. He was already lost. He couldn’t risk being found here, on his own. They would recognize his credentials, and before cutting him loose they would humiliate him. Then they would only let him loose to be found again at night, driven to some corner of the earth where the vultures were too smart to fly. Could he fly? If he could fly he could cut through the canopy of the tired skyline, composed mainly of cranes and skeleton architectural shells. No, he couldn’t fly. His clothes were too heavy, soaked in water and stale smut. Where was he going, if really he had to go? In the earliest years of the port, the cemetery graves were dug with handheld tin shovels. During times of enduring conflict, certain supplies ran dry, and merchants who could afford to stall the trading of goods built a fortress with their supplies. Particularly withheld were the simple metals people most required. But there were those who donated their goods with charity. Medicine men, apothecaries, doctors, students of healing. They irrigated their concoctions through the city wells. A people who believe that the remnant human forms lying in their graves deserve the pleasure of seduction, healing, soothed with the irrigated streams of potent mixtures. To smell the crescent of sage in the graveyard quarters, for the grieving, was a pleasant omen. Poets were known to camp in the cemetery grounds, hoping to hear voices of the dead. In truth, what those who remained long enough really heard, able to withstand the terrors of imagination, were the softest whispers of their own souls, urging them to believe in magic. Most who heard these whispers fled the grounds, never to be seen again. But every generation produces a flock that is different from the rest. He lay there, immersed in the earth. Beside his body, a fire refused to light. It had been lit sometime before. Someone had been there. Something. He departed his body, viewing it as an extraordinary vessel distant from his arms. The surrounding wilderness, and the fire. As he departed his solitary form, rising in alternate conception, he enjoyed hovering over the vessel, seeing from above the matter he had consumed. He remembered, She drifted further and further away from the subject. He continued to rise, seeing with great precision, an expansion manifest around his departed form. His figment on the expanding zenith. A call echoes for the stranger. He turned to her on his way, and then he was gone. The clouds are gathering. Unmoved, gathering his footprints. The feeling had passed. He did not turn towards the pier, well and away at sea. She told him he would get over it. And then, he would move on. Wrap it up, he would wrap the whole thing up. Maybe he was too scared to admit She still had his heart when he fell from that branch, suffering for my own admission to his will, not to love him, to scorn the little boy, because the prince never meets the princess, not in these novels. She wish we had more time. Yeah, more time would have been good. It would have been really good man. Time for watching, for moving, for listening to the seagulls and the crows from my step-father’s terrace. Time for selling rum punch on the street, taking walks with our cameras and getting lost in a gypsy quarter, finding our way back with blood on our wrists. She was there when he met the first batch of characters, and it was like they took control of him. In so many ways, it was like She lost him, and he knew it, and he was apologizing, by falling in love or something. Like She held him back. She remember when he visited the witch in midtown, on the Westside, he told her about it. He had just left her in Chicago. We’d gone to New Orleans, and we rented a car and drove to Biloxi, Mississippi, to see Jamey Johnson play. The look on his face. A look of surprise. In New York, his first two nights there, he met James Murphy, my idol, my king. For the next week, he was backstage at three Cut Copy shows. In one of them he was the only guy with any cocaine and he had a key around his neck, so he was the one everyone wanted to meet. In the south, he was nobody. They found it funny. When we told the security we came all the way from Beirut to hear Jamey Johson play, if we could just see him backstage, the guy just turned and walked away. In New York, he bowed. She was there when the jester sprung from his chest, like he was hearing his own voice for the first time, like he was looking into the mirror and seeing himself, finally, after searching for his reflection for years. To remind myself, She don’t know, of the good things, She think of the ukulele he played her by the fountain, the one in all his films. Or was it my brother? She have the images mixed up. So much lost in so little time. She remember asking him for a secret. He wrote it down for me, and when She let go of all his things, She put it in there, with a lock of his hair, his rattail, the one She kept in a jar for four or five years, She put them in a straw basket, with all of his letters, and sent them out to sea. It’s not fair. He has this book, he has his words, his pages, to get over it, to get past us. She don’t. She have pictures. Albums. My obsession. It’s not fair. Before he left, he gave her all his pages, the first few hundred of the manuscript. But since he edited the book in Beirut, it’s really a little more than half of everything he wrote until that day. The first moments with the jester, stories of the one boy, of suicide, of bringing down the parliament, the republic. Pictures, self portraits, negatives, written like poems. She put them in a huge wooden chest, an antique She kept near my bed. He left her his books, the fairytales of Anatolia, She watched him put it down, wondering if he even cared, if he even remembered, but She didn’t say anything. His Eliot, his Gide, his Bataille. She have his letters. The important ones, the soft ones, the tragic ones. He left her his poems, and She kept his letters. She never wanted to hurt his feelings. Even when it was hard for me, and it was, it wasn’t fair on me, none of it was fair. It’s not just his story and then his way of dealing with it. She lost my best friend for a long time. She lost him for a long time. They took a trip together. They took a few, but we took a trip together near the end. She always accepted them. Actually he turned her onto the idea. She was confused as well. A trip, we took a trip together. They took a few. They took one in the end. It was good, lasting. She felt fresh. He wasn’t acting strange. He was very normal. She guess around her he was normal. But he looked a little nervous near the end. They spent just a week on the road. They wanted to cross the border but my papers were not set. She didn’t know so it caused a short problem. On the road we just listening to music and played some games. She gave him all my money so he could join ours together. Things would be easier that way. And then we got lost. Actually we got lost every night for the first few nights. They had a friend working intelligence in the city for us. He found them places to stay for cheap. She think we stayed in the back of a convenient store one night. And another night we slept in the backroom of a waterpark. He was fine with it. So was I. She know he liked the idea of spending the night in obscure places. But I’m sure if we found a decent place we would’ve stayed there. They stayed at a fancy hotel one night. He drank a bottle of gin at the pool and read to her Anatolian folktales. Folktales are all the same. She just liked his reading, didn’t matter what. They were cool though. But they’re all the same. The use birds a lot. Birds in love, with powers, lost love. His kind of stories. He was romantic. She guess it was my fault, She never let him get in too far, even though he was the closest person to me, outside of the family, he knew her better than anyone, but never too close, never close enough, and for someone like him, he lived all his life in his head, he kept dancing in his head, he was practically never there unless he had some interest. She was an interest. She told him once. She told him he would wrap the whole thing up. That we would be finished. That he would regret loving me. She didn’t say love. She was ashamed of it. Ashamed he loved her like that because She was pretending that he didn’t. It was easier to pretend he was just that good. He was that good, he was. But She made him want more. She regret it but it’s hard to regret it as well, because it was so good for both of us, She know he grew a lot in that time, and part of her would not be the same without having been there with him. Not on the road, in general, those few years we were inseparable. When we got lost one of the nights we found out a friend was staying closer to the city that we were at. She called him and he told them to meet in the morning so we drove towards him. When we got there he broke the news that we’d been going the entirely wrong way and we’d take four days to get to the border if we kept going like we going. He said he could get there in less than seven hours. He would drive. They continued on the trip and that’s when the borders got confusing and She had some trouble with my papers. They ended up crossing for half a day just to try some olives and shitty wine. She don’t know what went wrong but as soon as we got back to the city it was like a blanket had been lifted, like nothing could be as smooth ever again. She know I’m the type, She sweep everything under the rug, She let everything sit, and then She wait for it to solve itself. She know this about myself but still, She tried. He got back to his place and noticed there were baby flies everywhere, like all over the place, just sitting, flying around, or just resting on any wet surface, like the kitchen sink, the bath, the bathroom sink, the windows, they were pretty moist, still the end of summer, summer just ending. He spent the next couple nights working on something and She barely saw him except when we developed our films and saw some of the work. He had his films still on him and he couldn’t develop them, it would take a while, so he left them in a cool container box and She think they’re probably still there where he left them. But the nights just sort of passed and it sucked going back to work but She had to and She was figuring out my way out, trying to snap out of the blues. And then She went over to his place to watch something. She think to see how everything would look projected onto a big white wall and with some music we could get a feel for what we’d done. After we played the photographs on the wall he sat her down and everything became really strange. First he was going to say something and he decided not to, and then he started looking for flies to kill and then he decided he should tell me, and then She asked if She should really hear what I’m about to hear and he said he had to say it because it had been so long, and then She asked if he was really sure and then She just went quiet and then everything was quiet, and then there was a loud sound but it wasn’t anything, it was just her noticing the sound of someone flushing a toilet upstairs, and then it was quiet again, and She don’t think he had heard the sound, She don’t think he heard any sounds because he was very quiet, and he was standing against the windowsill like in the movies and She was sitting crosslegged on the floor, and She was wearing a tank top, and She started playing with the seam, and She don’t know how long it was, it was probably very short, but it felt forever, and he was really quiet, and then he got really nervous, because I’ve never really seen him nervous, except that time, and he was smoking his cigarettes really heavily, and like he was planning something, or he knew he would regret something, or he just had to say what he had come out to say that day, and then She noticed that everything around her felt strange, and She wasn’t really there, even though of course She was, She was there more than anywhere else, and there’s nowhere else She could have been, but at that moment She felt alien, and he felt like a serious stranger, because She could feel him breaking some sort of deal we made, and everything looked a shade of grey and blue, and the colors of that summer were gone and She felt nothing at that moment, She felt like he was staring at her really seriously and so She turned to look at him and he was sitting there staring at her with big fawn eyes.
And then he put out his cigarette and he gave her a few strange looks like in the movies they would make when something serious was about to happen or be said and She know he spent so much tåime in his head so he probably felt like he was living out a story and it wasn’t just a story and She told him that, once, before all of it happened She told him not to make her a story, and then She realized he started walking over to her and She realized for the first time we were sitting in the dark and my eyes were making plans to see better and She saw him coming over to her and he sat right in front of my face and he held my hands and then he dropped them. She don’t think anything serious happened on my part like shaking or being nervous or looking scared or away from his stare but he was more afraid than She was and She can understand it must have been heavy on his heart, he let everything be heavy as long as it felt like something so I’m sure he enjoyed it a little, in some way, everything being heavy on his heart. And then he held my hands again and then he dropped them and then She realized that he was finally going to say it and She didn’t want to be the girl who breaks his heart or breaks his dreams and tells him not to say it before saying it but it would have been so much better if She did, or if he never said it, and then he finally said it and She felt like we were cursed and She bit my lips and She didn’t know what to say, so She said nothing, and for saying nothing She must have looked sad or hurt because he started saying sorry, and She believe him he was sorry, and then She think he walked away and it wasn’t like he had wanted because you say these things and then they sit in the air and its not a movie where the scenes change or the shot cuts and suddenly we’re somewhere else and I’m telling it to someone and we’re thinking what it means, because we were there and he was at the window again and smoking another cigarette and breathing really loudly and suddenly She got mad, She think She said some things, and She was hurt, and upset, because why would he? How could I? What did he think would happen?
“This isn’t a movie.”
“What did you think would happen?”
He wanted her to run into his arms and say everything would be perfect and finally it would work and we would try it and that I’d been waiting for him to say it for half a decade but it wasn’t true because it wasn’t like that, he was closer than everyone but he wasn’t that, he wasn’t just a friend but he was, he was just a friend, but a friend that was like family and so She didn’t want to hurt him but She was upset. And then She grabbed my things and She left. She was in a state of shock even though She was expecting it but when the time comes and things are finally said everything changes and its not always easy to understand why but it changes and She didn’t know how to feel or what to say so She had to leave, and She left. The strangest things were coming to my mind and She realized that the entire time we were sitting there after he said it and before and immediately after all She could think of was how quiet everything felt and She could hear my own breathing and his and She felt like we were in a kind of dance together, but it was quiet, so it was like a forest, but without the wind, without the night owls or the moon light and nothing romantic because it was all dead, it wasn’t bland it was lifeless, and heavy being lifeless and everything felt struggling and limp, and She felt that and then when he said it She realized all She could hear was quiet and the quiet was so loud She almost could smell the feeling and that’s what She feel when She remember it, She remember smelling my hearing his words and his walking and hearing each footstep on the greywood floor and the passing wind once or twice and then quiet, dead quiet, never ending quiet and then it was all just there sitting in the sky and it felt like She feel after She realize I’ve smoked too much or we’ve had a night and the dust is settled and She poured some in my drink and then everything goes quiet and the trip is over and the sun is out and its quiet everywhere you look, and everyone is quiet in their hearts and in their head and the feeling of walking back in the morning after the night was kicking every decibel in the face and then quiet, and She can hear people’s dreaming and their thoughts and their worries and being afraid or being happy or just content. And then when She left She felt like She did something wrong but it was him who did something wrong even though it was beautiful what he tried to do but he didn’t do it right because he did it with expectation and with expectation you’re always acting selfish. So She was the one who wrote a letter that night and it was strange for her to do it, She wasn’t used to it, She wasn’t used to putting my thoughts about him or to him or anything down on paper and treating our exchange like something or like we were an item and we had this secret place to talk about things but suddenly She felt good about it, so She wrote it and She sent him a message saying that She left a letter for him in the plant in front of my house where She usually leave my keys for my friends. She guess he came looking for it but never found it because She left to work the next morning and it was still there under some mud. But then he got in touch and he said he found it and read it and that he wanted to see her so She told him to come by the office and we decided to go for a walk. They went across the boardwalk and walked for a while until we found some trucks to sit behind and somewhere not so quiet but quiet enough and it was a beautiful day, She remember, the sun was really out, and the wind was nice, and She felt beautiful too because She guess She hadn’t felt good in a while, and then we sat down.
“Do you think She don’t love you?”
“Not like that.”
She had to tell him that it wasn’t right but when the sun was hitting my face and he was sitting next to her She felt safe again and so She didn’t know what to say even though She planned on saying everything. It happens, so She waited, and he spoke and said things like he wished he could be better and he just started pitying himself so She wanted to get him to stop and he did, without her saying anything, She think he noticed that She wasn’t interested in his self pity or his feeling like shit about it because it happened and he went and said it and now we live the consequences. And then, you know when everything is getting really heavy, and dark, and then suddenly out of nowhere you start laughing, and that’s what She did, for no reason, and he started laughing, and then She realized that even though everything changed it didn’t really change, and we were still the same and only we were going through something different we hadn’t done before, and She realized that he was doing it to himself, working himself up because he did that sort of thing, and She realized it must have been something to do with his pills, and his taking so many of them, and his using them for inspiration but they just made his head chaotic, and his thoughts swerving all over the place, and so instead of saying anything She listened, and he had nothing to say, so we sat there, and then my lunch break was over and She went back to work, and he continued walking under the sun, and probably felt better about things but She didn’t end up seeing him for a couple of days. For her it was very normal but She was thinking about him. She was worried and She was just wondering what he would do but he didn’t seem upset or so strange it was just a feeling She had that he was going to begin losing it a little, and She was right, because the next time She saw him he wasn’t so good.
So yeah, where were we? Right, seeing him next.
“You can break if you want to.”
“No, I’m alright.”
She know that, she looks outside the window and finds nothing there. She know that she does this often. She know she has a hand in my remembering things. She want her to remember what it was like for her but I’m against forcing the issue. The next time She saw him.
“Was it after dark?”
No, it was early. It was about the time She expected him to call. It had been a few days, and we hadn’t spoken. It wasn’t like us. She knew he was afraid but She also know he has pride, and if he’s still around he has a lot of it and it’s probably got him to where he is, if he wants to be a part of anything, he can find a way to make it, if he wants to, and anyway, he didn’t lose you know, She hadn’t given him a hard time, She hadn’t said anything except why do it, why now? And he never answered her he just shrugged, or pitied himself. But She don’t think he had so much pity on himself when he was alone. Alone he could think about things and be curious. He could imagine himself winning over a princess and so it would make him feel better. She was too confusing to be around, so it took a couple days. But he came to me. It was early morning. She skipped work that day. Someone told him She hadn’t gone out to work. Someone told him She was sick or something. He was probably worried. She heard a knock at the door. You know how it is. You come to know everyone’s knock. His was rapid but also casual, also shy. Even if he was expected. He wouldn’t barge in with his knock. Not like a forceful knock. But not a stranger’s knock either. His knock would say a lot about him that day. She heard his knock and She opened. He looked good. When She see him She smile. When She see him everything goes away. How can She not love him? She want to, it’s harder than he thinks, it’s harder than a boy can imagine. I’m overpriced, for his heart. He can’t make use of this. She let him in. It’s always beautiful to see him after a few days because he always looks so excited to see me. She need that too. She need the affirmation. She don’t mind being loved. Nobody minds it. She just wish She didn’t have to hurt him. And anyway She don’t think he was hurt yet. She think he was still convinced of something. Like all he had to do was prove something to me. But he was crazy at this point, She could see it, just then when She let him in She noticed it, because he wasn’t like before, something new had happened, a door had been cracked.
“What’s going on with you?”
And then he said something about voices. She realize we’re all a little bit crazy, but he isn’t at all. He was too grounded for it at the time but he was also too lost, he had taken flight, somewhere majestic but nobody else could join. She saw it in his face, staring with an emptiness She suddenly wanted to discover, but She couldn’t, unless She let him in to my world, and She couldn’t lie, She wouldn’t. The morning before a breadmaker in our neighborhood committed suicide. It reminded her of mortality. It didn’t scare me. She wanted it to be the way it was. People leave, people disappear, people die. She told him, it made him wonder. He said he heard these voices and he wanted them to leave him alone. She told him to stop what he was doing and to look at her straight. He was clean for the morning, She could tell. He hadn’t taken anything that day. But his eyes weren’t easy, he was restless, but he could be at calm. She told him he was lucky. Because he has the voices in his head to hear him. Nobody knew why the breadmaker took his life. But yeah, he had the voices to hear him. He didn’t listen. He sat down.
“She made this for you.”
He handed her a disc.
“What is it?”
“It’s everything, explained.”
She wanted to open it and listen but he told her not to. Then he said he was hungry. He looked around in the kitchen. It was like She was there but She wasn’t, She was hovering over him and watching. He was awake but he was not there, he was dancing in the clouds somewhere, like a ball of dust.
“Are you okay?”
He shrugs and pouts his lips when he knows someone is watching. He does this because he knows a moment carries the enormity of a memory. He had this idea, that if we were to be loved then we had to be remembered, and to be remembered was to be remembered in the way that someone acted in very specific moments. He saw the world through a film reel. The moments we notice with intensity, or the ones we pass over but think of again, those form the crux of what we feel towards someone, or something, or somewhere. So he savored those moments when he could look a certain way, defiant or vulnerable or mysterious, anything he could do to keep himself etched in someone else’s memory. He left without saying much. She didn’t want him to go so quickly but She had no food and She think eh didn’t really want to stay, he wanted to drop off the reading and he would leave after that and sit somewhere and have a few sips and maybe take something else and think of her reading it and if She was laughing or crying. She did him one better. She filmed myself listening to the reading. It took over an hour, or just about that, right at the hour mark the reading cut. She couldn’t find my senses right away. She was lost. She had recorded myself listening to the entire thing. It was magical. She didn’t deserve the beauty, but She did, because if someone does it for you then they mean it, and then it was made for you and with honesty and so yeah, She deserved it. She wanted it to stay with me. She could tell it wasn’t going to be normal and that things would forever change. She didn’t anticipate how they would at all but She knew, so yeah, She wanted to keep it with me, and She wanted the memory to be mine, and so he wrote that for me, and She think that was the first thing he wrote and read, and heard himself reading, and probably it took a lot out of him, because it gave so much to me, it was cool, She still remember it, but there was something else. He ended it with the Jester. He said something familiar in it like speaking of the one boy, and the stories he had told but wasn’t able to finish, and trying to imagine an occult of laughter, and trying for freedom in our rides, past the stone of independence, past everything we left behind only because we wanted to, and let’s face it, we had everything we wanted. When it ended it felt ominous. There wasn’t the cool air it began with and it wasn’t the longing or nostalgia that he pushed through with near the middle. It ended with the Jester and it made her wonder things, made her wonder if we lost him because he would never say it he was too good an actor so if it felt like it then that meant something was wrong. And that was the beginning of the Jester. And that was when he left the nest, She think. He made claims to his misfortune, to hearing voices he could never share, and those that he shared he could never finish. What does a voice want? An ending, and he never knew endings. She didn’t know what to say. Did She tell you? She dreamt of the Acrobat myself. And She was crying the entire time. She cried throughout the entire reading and She was being filmed the entire time. It would be for him to have and to savor and She wanted him to know what it meant. Look I’m not good at saying what it is I’m thinking. He knew it. So She recorded it. And then She sent it to him. She guess he watched it. He didn’t say anything. But that night we went to a party on the other side of town. They could see the bridge from his roof deck. They spent the night up there and another friend joined. The party was pretty shit. But the host was kind. She think he was also in love with me. He wanted a job and he thought She could help him. He got drunk fast. They left. Before we went to the party She gave him a letter. Before that we watched a film. They drank a pint of bourbon during the movie. He drank most of it. He read the letter She gave him while She was in the shower. She told him everything She felt while he was reading to me. She told him She didn’t feel She deserved it, that She heard the voice of a poet for the first time, and when She knew for certain that it was her he was speaking about and it couldn’t have been anyone else, She told him it was too beautiful, and that She could never again be so loved. She felt superstitious, She felt relieved. She told him all these things because he wanted to know and She wanted to say them. And he had to know how She felt, even though he had the video of her crying, he had to know it meant something and it wasn’t just my face, or my tears, it was real somewhere else. And then She heard the horns. I’m not sure exactly. He had a dream. She think that was it. They were staying where the cold fish fry, you know, by warmer waters. There’s been a trouble with salmon in low lying waters so we help them catch adrift. It hasn’t been the same. The past few days, since you got in touch, asking about him, I’ve been out of sync. She don’t know what you’re looking for. He didn’t leave much behind in the form of anything understandable. Do you know why you’re doing this? He said he served in the seventh fleet. His records proved him wrong. They wanted to ensure we had an isolated scenario on our hands, so we begged him to stop, to come ashore and talk about what needed to be discussed. But you know how is it with revolutionary mania, it knocks them off their feet. She don’t think it was his idea. And not to be presumptuous, but if She had to say, and testify this in court, the assassination was not his doing, it was a result, a reaction to his doing something else, namely, springboarding a production.
“Were they armed?”
That wasn’t the last time She saw him. The night after we last spoke, and after the part, and after She gave him the letter and everything like that, things got a bit strange. She wasn’t supposed to say anything to anyone and She didn’t, but it burdened me. He was looking at her differently. She couldn’t look at him the same way. Every time She looked at him he had this defeated look in his eyes. It was kind of cruel of him to do it to me. She didn’t ask for it. She couldn’t tell what he wanted, or expected. It was like he was pouting, like he was suffering. She was making him suffer. And he took every chance just to touch me, or be near my body. She hated those days. It was too much. And there was this other guy, and She know he didn’t like him. She guess you could say his family were pretty Zionist in their ways. He had a thing for me. They all went out one night. It was supposed to be a good night. And it was in the beginning. They were drunk, fooling around. They went to a club near my house. He bought her some drinks. She thanked him. Then he disappeared, and the other guy was around me. He lived far away so sometimes he crashed around our part of town. He asked if he could stay with her but She figured it wasn’t something that was just staying because he said it in that way and looked at me, but he wasn’t the most confident and She don’t think he had too much to say about himself when it came down to it because what he really wanted was to fuck me, but he could never come out and say it, he didn’t know anything about me, She was different than the others and he just wanted to fuck me. She went looking for him. Where’s my friend, She kept thinking, where’s my fucking friend. He wouldn’t be acting this way. Companions don’t do this to each other, is what She was thinking, and She think She said it to him once, that day after he told me, and we were sitting behind some trucks, talking. Finally She found him. He was around the corner, eating mussels. Actually he wasn’t eating anything. He was just staring at them and smoking. She approached him. She went up to him and he saw her coming. He sat down before She got near him and then She sat down next to him. IT was loud and there were kids around so we turned the corner and sat down again. Then he said he was hungry so we crossed the street and split a sandwich. He was always stressing what to eat because he hated eating off the street, so we went across the street and got a chicken sandwich. They ate the sandwich and then we went back and sat where we were sitting. It wasn’t very late. A friend of ours was leaving town for good. Actually he didn’t live in our city he lived over the waters. He had been there for the summer. It was that kind of summer. And it was that kind of night. The end of summer. They were leading up to it from the day he told her to just now.
“He wants to stay over.”
He ashes his cigarette.
He ashes it again, without looking at me.
They sat there in the quiet.
“If you want to go with him, then go, I’m not holding you back.”
He said it in a way that means he is lying but it also cries for pity. She didn’t accept it. She told him She didn’t want to go. He started saying things like, I’m not a kid, and, you don’t have to worry about me, She knew what She was doing, She knew what She could expect. She suddenly realized we were at the complete other end of the spectrum, him and I, we weren’t seeing it for what it was in the same way. He saw everything differently and it was partially my fault but it was partially his as well. And then the others turned the corner and saw them and knew what was going on by the looks of things because we both had this dead look in our eyes and this feeling of dread and so they understood something strange was going on, but nobody would have expected it, or that’s just what She thought, thinking it was normal for them to see them all summer long like that real close, but maybe it wasn’t, and She was stringing my feelings along, hoping the day would never come when we’d have to talk about things like we had a reason to. And so then the boy interested in her said bye and he left. Our friend left and said goodbye. He said it was a beautiful summer and he’s overjoyed to have met us, and to keep in touch, and we said the same. But then things felt a little lighter, that the others had left and we could go home and the drinking could ease and we could just talk about things, and She know that’s what he wanted. She should say that he had jut finished something he had been working on for a while and it broke him to pieces because he’d never done it before, and also because he took too many pills to get it done. And She think he was on the edge and She wasn’t helping, and probably all he wanted was someone to hold, but She didn’t budge because She couldn’t. She wouldn’t let him on like that. They made our way to my house. She went inside to change, he sat outside on the steps, looking down the hill. She brought him out a beer. He rolled a soft joint, but we didn’t smoke it, or we did, She can’t remember, it’s not the point, none of that was the point. She came back outside and we talked. Mostly we talked about how strange its been and how much we miss each other. Only a few days gone but it felt like a tidal wave and it was too much. Too much for her and too much for him. She told him to go easier on himself, that he always put himself under too much pressure and he understood what She meant. He was putting her under too much pressure. But he was wondering why She wrote him those two letters if nothing came of it and It old him nothing comes of it anytime, and then Is aid something She probably shouldn’t have said, She told him that he knows her well enough to know She need to be pushed, and that he never once touched her like that or came up from behind her and gave her that feeling, or looked at her in that way until suddenly very recently, and so how could She know or suddenly turn it on. But of course She knew. She always knew. And then he did something pretty romantic and he got a few feet below her because we were on a hill, and he sort of jumped up like a clown and suddenly She saw life spring back into him. And then he read something he had memorized or he came up with something on the spot, but it was funny and cute, and not overdone, and he said something like grant this jester one last kiss, and She understood, but She fought him on it, because why should we kiss, what good would it do, but he said he needed to know, and She told him he wouldn’t know anything and he was living in the movies, and he said he always lived there and it’s safer, and She told him he couldn’t live there if he wanted to live here with the rest of us, and he said something about the jester again, and then he asked her to stand against the wall, or She stood against the wall myself, lay my back against the wall to rest, and She was wearing a red hoodie that She had changed into, a thin one, that he ended up borrowing a few months later for a while, until he left the place for good. And so She put the hoodie over my head, like this, and She looked down at the ground, and She was staring at the ground and She told him he was making her feel good, that he was making her feel special and She appreciated it. And then he said be quiet and we laughed. And She asked what will happen if you kiss me. And he said he couldn’t ever no, he couldn’t anticipate what would happen, expect nothing he said, because he’d been waiting so long but he also tempered the feeling so long, so he didn’t know, and She shouldn’t. And then She asked what would happen to them if he knew he felt something, and he said, and probably just so She wouldn’t change my mind, he said he would leave and walk down the hill and turn away from her and continue walking and sprint if he had to and he would take a couple days off and come back to her like nothing happened, like it was all normal, it was all good again. She didn’t believe it would be like that, so easy, but whatever. He made her feel special in a way. She had my back against the wall and my head down, covered under my hood. He put his right hand on my chin. She felt him come closer. She could hear him breathing and stopping and thinking. And then when he got closer he put his right hand on my chin and lifted my face to his. She don’t remember if my eyes were closed. She would be surprised if he closed his eyes. She told him he had one kiss to make it worth it. Then he kissed me. She don’t know if it was worth it. It was an alright kiss but She wasn’t in it. She could have been more in it. She wasn’t involved in the kiss, She let him have it. She could have done more for it. He turned away from her and stumbled a few steps. She ran into the house and closed the door. She don’t know if She was dreaming or if it really happened, but a few minutes later when everything quieted down and She couldn’t hear my heart beat anymore She thought She heard something rattle outside, and then She realized, She heard him wail. Like a coyote in the wild. And maybe he was really saying something.
“They spent that summer in a haze.”
He puts out his cigarette.
“She detained me.”
She thought She wouldn’t see him for a few days but without further ado he showed up at my door in the morning. It wasn’t exactly morning it was early afternoon, like around one or something. But he looked like real shit. She wasn’t surprised, and She thought he must have been up drinking. He walked inside without saying anything, the n he turned around and he had a smirk on his face, and he started laughing hysterically, and She realized he was still high off something. And then She looked into his face and realized he might not actually be high he might actually have gone crazy.
“My house is infested with leeches and flies.”
And I guess that’s when we discovered what all those flies buzzing around were about, and he said he was drinking and up real late and it was after dawn and he went to put a cork on his second or third bottle of wine and when he did he noticed some flies jumping around and then he looked under the cabinet and it was dark and then it was darker underneath the cabinet next to it, and then he realized it was thick and muggy darkness all over the wall and he opened a cabinet and it was like staring into a museum of larvae. He almost puked saying it and I wasn’t surprised because it sounded disgusting. He said he vomited on the spot and fell backwards and almost fainted, so he grabbed his things and left, but he didn’t take his money so he had nothing to eat or go to sleep anywhere because he forgot his passport and he didn’t want to come see me but he’d been sleeping on a bench outside a mosque and he couldn’t get the picture out of his eyes and it was such a terrible scene so he figured he’d come here. He took a small pillow and put it on the floor and said he needed a place to sleep for an hour or just a few minutes before going back to the place to clean the mess up. And he said he was moving his things out. When he left my place I told him not to go on drinking, and to take a couple days for himself. He’d put a lot of darkness into the air. It was beginning to hurt me and take a toll. I didn’t feel right and he made me feel cruel as well. He said alright and wished me well. Then he left. He couldn’t recognize the body beside his, naked, and calm.
the journalist’s/writer’s agent called to tell him the plan had changed.
“You’re no longer meeting at six in the morning but at seven. The driver was late to hear. They felt bad.”
“Do they have to push it an hour? I heard traffic gets bad seven on the dot.”
“It gets worse my man but you’re out of luck.”
He came back to the hotel. He stopped the concierge at the front desk.
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“I’d like to take that trip out. Something’s come up and, I have some more time.”
“That’s great! I’ll reserve it for you. I can send you the details when it is done. Log in with your pass, here,” he said, pointing downward, the crotch of his key holding the locking globe, the palm of his hand left open, accepting the pins of his guest’s pass, chalking him forward.
“Great. That’s 14.95. You can have an added insurance for 4.25 over that, if you’re interested.”
“No thanks. That’s fine.”
“And about the trip tomorrow morning?”
“The shuttle will be here at six to pick you up from the doors.”
The rest of the group went off for lunch, white plastic plates topped with refried beans and baby parakeets, and for those who didn’t eat meat, a vegetable cream cheese soup, served cold, with or without fried egg on a plain white toast, and a dash of orange soya to salt it faster. I sit at a café on the second floor of a washed out building. The bottom floor used to be a farmer’s trading spot of some sort, but it’s just a washbasin for street cats now. A balcony overlooks the town, dreading the end of fall. Olive picking is passed, and the kids sent out to climb the trees are gone. A quiet descends on this lonely patch of life. I order an espresso, my first in years, and watch the old town taxis share cigarettes with tall tales of the past. The only thing still running is the bread maker and the bank, one on each side of the road, for simplicity. When the noon sun dwells away, I hitch a ride forty kilometers across the lake, to see the American. I climb the east side of the mountain to his peak, trail a track of olive trees to his nest at the pit of a valley. In his wagon, he can go the other way, straight through the mountain, right onto Chemical Lake. On foot, a climb is necessary. The novelty of beginning a new novel, I feel…I pay the man two lira and walk away. Something about today is different. The sound of American leaves rustling, suburban festival lights, fireworks on Independence Day, I feel myself carrying the flag of another time. I feel inclined to talk about fireflies, fishing lines, trout and salmon, bayou practice, the Blue Ridge Mountains. An expedition is underway. The bus arrived early. He sat at the bus stop in Edirne staring across the station overlooking an expanse of nothingness and grass. The others in his presence all had somewhere they belonged and that was perhaps where they were going- or it was so he imagined it to be, for others unlike him, who could not see into his mind, and know why he had come. He ordered a cup of tea to pass the time, mainly in waiting, for the tea to cool down before consuming it. He thought of the night before and the longing in his heart. He had left in a stream of guilt, a whirlwind of violence. His face felt sore, his lips burned, his eyes were bruised and blue. He did not have the urge to cry, or feel anything. He had passed those days, where life could force upon him an emotion. He could not imagine the end this way, an affirmation of the inevitable. He did not expect to find virtue on his road, but to find devastation only hurt him, deeper inside than he could feel, where he felt an emptiness take over, resounding sighs expelling the potential for hurt in his character. He had never said goodbye. Such things could leave aheart weary in regret, set to live out life’s dismal episodes in nostalgic ruminations on what could have been. Could they have survived, a life at last, without running? He remembered, facing her for the last time, seated across the lawn in the immediate foreground of her home. They had not spoken. He watched her through the eyes of another. It felt stranger that he had not said goodbye. He finished his tea, and with the mechanics of a moving robot, he left a coin on the table, held his bag on his arm, and walked towards the bathroom. He found a stall empty near the back. He lay on the ground and vomited. His heart sank leagues below, an abyss from which he would never recover. He dried his mouth, washed his face, and walked towards the courtyard where the others, patient in waiting, little anticipation drawn upon their faces, shared cigarettes and laughs. Seated at the station, resting on the shallow neck of a chair, curious eyes cast towards the stream of content souls passing by, he wondered if he had still the means to break a heart, or if he had now only the means to destroy his own. He didn’t quite understand what was going on. They had all started to act strange, ever since the night before. What had happened? He knew he had passed out. They had taken a basket of food into a quiet spot and dropped something psychoactive, a developmental drug. After that, he had completely forgotten. But they had also gotten a job done. He didn’t want to ask if the photo-shoot had gone well. He could remember holding the camera, taking commands. They forced him to be the cameraman. It was the only way they could both take the lead without having to submit. It was tiring but he felt obliged to do it, out of respect for his sister and his oldest friend. As the bus launches towards Greece a trio of musicians take up the offer of a free ride, setting their instruments by the door. A vigorous sound erupts from the piper’s vehicle, bringing the somber crowd to life. The passengers respond with claps and cheers. It is not a festive occasion nor any cause for celebration. Bayram has passed. The folks of Northern Anatolia being quite mournful and quiet as they are, he persuades himself it is a sign of respect for the traveling musicians that the townsmen and women oblige them in cheers. Otherwise, as is later the case, the road to Greece passes without even a whisper…The last road to get here was full of life. Turning the peninsula, up a long slope at Yezikoy, the Aegean hung off a cliff at every turn. I could see far into the madness, seafaring dreams, a voyager lost at sea, the humbled Odysseus with bronze spear and army, holed up in a cave. I drove down the coastline towards the tip of the peninsula, trekking the edges of tangerine groves. In a bright and early morning, handful of eye cracks before dawn, a driver from Izmir honked his horn to rouse me. I pulled my bags together, leapt onto his truck. By noon, I sat at this same café, overlooking the old town, finding my way to the American. With a man like that, the road is never moving in one direction, every journey carries two sides, and you burn your way to either end with fire. A fire of vengeance, blood duels, and booze. Some nights I worry he’ll never make it back to town alive, streaming along his merry way, hunting hogs for the sake of their dying, shooting birds from the widow walk of his farmhouse. The man sleeps five hours, every night. He sets planks of wood at the geometry of a curve to tell the time with creases of sunlight. When he has no smoke, he doubles on his whiskey or anise. You know, for the sake of conversation, I visit the man. An argument erupted two volunteers. They discovered the absence of certain cutlery, most notably sporks, serving the meals with spoons and knives, which did well to cut through the items, and to scoop as well, but to prepare the perfect bite it was difficult, and one of the guests complained. One of the guests complained to Sarah, who was leading the charge.
“But it says specifically on the brochure we’ll have a seated lunch, and so I thought that meant having our own specially designed areas for lunch, but there’s nowhere to sit.”
“I know,” Sarah said. “We’re trying to take care of the situation. Everyone’s doing the best they can.”
“My husband says we ought to complain to the administration.”
“That’s your call,” Sarah said, “That’s totally your decision. I can’t help you on that.”
The woman walked away.
“Have you ever seen anything like that?”
“I volunteered at the shelter on St. Marks, one summer. That was bad.”
“Have you never travelled,” she asked.
“Would you like to?”
“Of course. Who wouldn’t?”
“Some of the elderly, I guess.”
“That’s true. Have you travelled a lot.”
“My parents were diplomats.”
“I can show you. Give me your hand.”
Sarah and Hamza speaking up front.
“Where shall we eat?”
“At the entrance?”
A client calls out from the window seat, down the aisle.
“I saw a small park for the museum on the map. Can we go there?”
“It’s nice over there. Cliffs overlook the ruins.”
“So we can go?”
“Because I really want to see it.”
Her boyfriend chimed in.
“She’d really like to see it. She’d like to see the ruins, if we can.”
“Of course. We will.”
“It’s amazing up here, isn’t it?”
“The tenth dynasty, right here.”
Sarah calls out.
“Those are the few remaining columns, over there. Duro calls them the harpoons, owing to their elegiac aisles. And behind the fine walls are recently uncovered baths, probably used by the public. The irrigating ladder runs under the streets, dripping like a vine. That’s why they call this alley up ahead Snake’s Eye, the way it moves through the cliffs.”
A woman asks.
“Can we keep going, or do we have to stop?”
“We’re going to stop, but just for about fifteen minutes. Why, are you in a rush?”
“No, but we’re excited to keep going. It’s all so exciting.”
“It is. Is it your first time,” she asked, owing her guests politeness.
“It is. Well, my husband’s been here before but I haven’t. It’s my first time traveling, actually. It’s really so nice.”
“So nice,” her husband said. He was leaning his head against the pillow head of his seat. His eyes were just barely open. He was awake, but he enjoyed his haze.
At the first sight of dawn we come upon a valley. I’ve heard of it in dreams, in waking lectures, in the poetry of our ancestors, haven’t you? I hear winter rains flood the periphery of the settlement, leaving the centerpiece dry, for students of artistry and theology, locals native to the area, to cleanse themselves in a surrounding body of water, a lake that circles their homes. I hear the shamanic guides of the Americas and Germania send their honorary disciples to erect temples beneath the ground, within the soil, to protect them against siege, or seizure by an aggressive state, republican apparatus, void of soul. Have I used the word before? I mean it differently, having left the inner city, immersing myself in the gifts of the natural world. My heart still wanders in search of a home, but my feet are firmly planted against the offered grains. I hope it can still be true, your heart races when you hear me, my mind waivers in the cold. We park the caravan on the edge of a cliff. I sit on the cusp of the highland, pooled in overlying grass, layering my feet in the mud. The gypsy sits beside me, playing with her hair with one hand, whispering to herself from a book of passages. She looks over at me, noticing my curious mind. She draws closer, taking a seat by my legs, resting at my feet, where she bites me, and I lean in closer for a kiss. She returns to her poetry, and I wander, watching children in the distance freeing in the empty fields, picking sunflowers and lilies, dancing gaily under the assailing sun. The scene continues, entering a state of dreamlike traveling, an expedition into the usual diffused state of memory and sensory perception. I think of our southern passages in the summer, the accident we had near birth, the old capital of your father’s resting place, thyme and sesame in my eyes. Counting time with my fingers against the earth, against the gypsy’s hair, earlobes, hands. I trace figures of our prophet, betrayed near the peninsula dwelling, embracing you in love, touching my father’s moustache, kissing my sister’s hands, yours. Do you ask precaution, as I wander the vacuum of memory, hoping to find a resting place. Look how sweet the songbird sings, soaring our trespassing with delight. Rejoice in the forms, death without transformation but incarnation into energy. I know that, going elsewhere, and this is where we’ve come, finding ourselves entrenched into the desert, tempted between a valley and the stone held temples of our youth. The gypsy holds my hand, lifts herself to within my hold, resting against my body, her weight soothing onto mine. I am alive, pleased, astonished. The wind clears against my face, we kiss, I laugh, she digs deep into my eyes, forming a vision with the subtle clenching of her teeth, licking of her lips. Are we at the intention? I know better than to ask. She wraps her arms around my neck. As the moment of ritual arrives the protagonist is gripped with a sense of hesitation, falling victim to the conduits of memory. The midsummer sun only rising, the smell of pine trees breathing my lungs, the wetness of the morning grass cleaving into stains, I have nothing to ask or answer, fresh off the boat, riding into spring, a winter I’ve never seen never becomes me, or does it, do we whistle away the summer with jasmine in our hair? I return her stare with my own, return her touch with a gentle nudge of my forehead against her. I am the sum of all these parts. I have something to confess. The confession never arrives, the moment interrupted by the others of the caravan. But they disappear, in a moment’s flash, taking with them the hesitation of his words, and his movement. I take off her outer blouse, a thin scarving wool. She holds me, rests her head on my shoulder. I feel the outlines of her back, the feeling of her body easing into mine. She rests her head on my chest, we fall against the grass, her eyes glow beneath the sunlight, a sacred dance of pity wolves, I smell her, it lifts the surrounding acres. I lie down, she slides on top of me. I hold her against my body, letting our breathing synchronize to one. She escorts me inside of her, slowly, and she rides. I let her have control. Have it, I say. I let her, watching her eyes stuttering with pleasure, her moans growing with erratic force, she pounds a fist onto the grass, lightly, clenching both of her hands. The bus came up to the checkpoint. Before them were four other cars. The checkpoint coming the other way was closed. In her dissertation, she resorted to imagery of marble mortared onto concrete, explaining that she could not explain except by sheer force of dialectical stammering the music that lifts from the balconies and terraces of colonial buildings by the masonic dancing of laundry put out to dry. An image she equates with lost romances of a forgotten world. It occurred to her that she had left her own station of solitude, converging upon a bilingual conception of history she had never before encountered. She told him, as she kept her eyes glued to the architecture of the city she began to lose her own denominational size. She found herself walking amongst the natives as though they were reborn, day after day, or as though she were herself reborn. Near the water, where they had spent the early hours of most of their days, him interviewing recent converts to the mercenary force, and her studying the conduits that guide the day’s fishing, trained men hauling expired fish with long metallic poles, attaching fireworms from the mountains as bait. But the creatures they fished were dead, and so they attached nets to their poles to carry in the swathes of fish swallowed up at shore. On that cloudy afternoon, where they had chosen to travel by bus outside the city lines, she observed the extravagant intermingling of electrical lines varnished in symbols distinct to certain faiths, certain neighborhoods, certain schools. Homes, relying on the weight of the homes closet to them, built atop one another in contrasting shades of harmony and diffusion. They shared no apparent structure to their design, except for their unifying character of protruding the exterior façade as outwardly as possible. When it was their turn, the officer directed the driver straight away to pull off to the right. She knew right away they were being stopped. She was a little concerned. She found herself concerned for the man up front, who she watched closely to study his reaction. He hadn’t moved. He didn’t seem phased. Still, she knew there was always the chance he was hiding something. They all were, in some way. She hoped they didn’t make a big deal out of it, coming onto the bus, checking all their bags, studying their equipment. They would find her cameras, her hard drives, and they would act like they were stupid and didn’t know what they were, and would take them in for inspection. It hadn’t happened to her but it happened once, to Mirna from The Daily. She never got her hard drives back. She was still writing to them and calling every Monday morning. Her whole life was on there. The original two soldiers had evolved into three, and within minutes there were five. They circled around the bus, two on one side, two on the other, and one in the front, talking to the driver. She couldn’t hear what he was saying. Maybe he was explaining himself. She wondered if he had driven up to the checkpoint too quickly. If there was such a thing as pace for a bus like that, or if he simply had to drive it the way he did, otherwise it would fuck up. It didn’t seem to phase anyone else. She trusted their behavior. The man in the seat next to her played with his phone. He was writing someone on Narcis, and was looking through his pictures. The couple in front of her as well. The lights on the bus went on. She realized they were going to be asked to leave the bus. She wasn’t sure what she should do. They wouldn’t allow her to take her bag off the bus, but to keep it on her was to cause herself problems, because they would inevitably take it off her, yet to Leave it on the bus was dangerous as well, as they were likely to take whatever they wanted. She observed the two men standing on her side, pointing their flashlights at the underbelly of the bus, at the wheels. The man beside her, one seat back across the aisle, spoke into her ear.
“You think we’re going to have to exit the bus?”
“I don’t know, she said. “It looks like it. Do we take our bags,” she asked, recognizing in his being a foreigner that he was a friend.
A mother drew closer to her child, comforting them as they woke from sleep. They are asked to leave the bus and the guards go through every single one of their bags. Two men in plainclothes, carrying automatic machine guns and ammunition belts, stepped onto the bus, remaining at the front of the herd, one of them at the front, by the driver, the other stepping forward, the sound of his boots striking dull the worn rubber surface of the vehicle floor, taking his place beside the middle row of seats. They exchanged looks, and with their tenants, glares.
“This here is Ali,” the man in the front said, pointing to his friend. “Today is a special day for him. It is his first day on the special unit force. To show him our thanks, for joining the program, something all of you have the option of doing, by the way, I have given him the choice to decide who is taken into custody today, and who is let go. If you are let go, the driver, who we know very well, as you can see he’s not frightened, he will take you all back home, and you will tell everyone what you have seen, members of the Civil Guard taking control. We are your friends, we are your neighbors, and most of all we are your sons and daughters as well. I want to stress that we are thankful and grateful for your continued support in these difficult times, and we hope you cooperate with our mission. Ali, go ahead and choose.”
Ali took a moment to inspect the passengers, one by one, drawing his eyes over them, some alone and some in threes, others in their unit pairs. They escorted everyone.
 …periodic ceremonies…can group under two main headings: (1) annual expulsion of demons, diseases, and sins; (2) rituals of the days preceding and following the New Year…the ceremony of expelling demons, diseases, and sins can be reduced to the following elements: fasting, ablutions, and purifications; extinguishing the fire and ritually rekindling it in a second part of the ceremonial; expulsion of demons by means of noises, cries, blows (indoors), followed by their pursuit through the village with uproar and hullabaloo; this expulsion can be practiced under the form of the ritual sending away of an animal (type “scapegoat”) or of a man (type Mamurius Veteruius), regarded as the material vehicle through which the faults of the entire community are transported beyond the limits of the territory it inhabits (the scapegoat was driven “into the desert” by the Hebrews and the Babylonians). There are often ceremonial combats between two groups of actors, or collective orgies, or processions of masked men (representing the souls of the ancestors, the gods, and so forth). In many places the belief still survives that, at the time of those manifestations, the souls of the dead approach the houses of the living, who respectfully go out to meet them and lavish honors upon them for several days, after which they are led to the boundary of the village in procession or are driven from it.
- 53, The Myth of the Eternal Return
 …the essential thing is that there is everywhere a conception of the end and the beginning of a temporal period, based on the observation of biocosmic rhythms and forming part of a larger system- the system of periodic purifications (cf. purges, fasting, confession of sins, etc.) and of the periodic regeneration of life…a periodic regeneration of time presupposes….a new Creation…a repetition of the cosmogonic act. And this conception of a periodic creation, i.e. of the cyclical regeneration of time, poses the problem of the abolition of “history”.