The Sacred Garden

The novel opens with a drifter come onto shore. We want to know who he is, what he wants. We want to know if he’s been here before.

We know most of these things because we relate it to ourselves. We were born somewhere, and either we left or we stayed. Those of us who stayed, we have what we always wanted, what we envied in our parents and their friends, or we don’t, and we are miserable. Those of us who left, we opened ourselves to chance, to infinite possibility. We may have chosen one place but we could be now in another.

Who is the drifter and why do we care? Why do we need to know what he wants?

I have an idea. A thought. It begins with an old joke I used to tell my friends. When we grew older, they realized it was not a joke, it was a promise.

 

The Sacred Garden

 

They said he was older than the one they expected. Wandering the vacuum of memory. When he was found, hanging by a single thread, the doctors standing at the door, sighing in disbelief, I saw from under the shadows of his long, extended arms, his breathless figure, his little hands, angel hands, tapping against grains of the earth.

Children played through the fever. I spent the summer sitting on the edge of the park grass, counting down the moments until they no longer lasted. Counting time with my fingers, like he did.

He was wearing the suit of a jester, walking through the quarter like he owned the place, like he belonged, and like he didn’t have to pay attention to the morals, to the offended eyes, the offended witnesses. He was swearing in his mother tongue. By the end of his walk, the portion of his life that passed right before my eyes, I heard him yell, Now and once and for all, he yelled, freedom is imminent.

Hangovers still get the best of me. I woke up with my head in the dirt. I had a new tattoo on my arm. And some ink drawn all over the forearm. I remember sitting on the wings of a chariot, a six seater cab we crowned. I looked into her eyes, the delicate stranger’s eyes, glazed by the ruins in my heart. Where have you brought me, I asked. Turning around I swore I remembered, seeing her disappear, floating through the windshield and over the hood of the car. I looked out of the window and she was gone, and the rest of them turned into insects, and the car veered into a deep, dark valley, and I could feel the cracking of some bones.

Where have you brought me, I asked, and no one made like they heard, and the insects turned into violins, and I swore onto the image before me, the hour of my birth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He washes his hands beside a fountain. The garden sits in the center of a long, maze like expanse, wooded forest surrounding a tall grass prairie. 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, cleanse.

He looks over through the early evening glare, lights towering over the grassy plain, from where he digs his feet into the muddy earth. He’s taken off his shoes to clean his feet, and to feel the earth beneath him. To give them a rest, he always says, but he rarely, if ever, wears them.

A crumbling lighthouse pierces the azure. From where he stands he can look through the sculptures, into the forest, and expect that within two, three hundred meters, he can see into the sea. He turns to address a few passers, young, well dressed, sober. They look in his direction and turn away. They must have expected it would be empty, he thinks.

Moments later he wets his face in the water, pausing to let the coldness of the water ease into his skin. He rubs his eyes, he licks his lips, raising another handful of water to his face. The hair on his forehead is wet, and he draws his head back to remove it from his face. He clears the sides of his eyes, clearing with tow fingers the wetness of his nostrils. He dries his hands off in the air, turns and walks away.

He would be waiting at that 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 mentor one last time, before they traded places.

The sage sells perfume, he thought, but for the soul.

As he walked through the grass, the ends of towering weeds grazing against his legs, tickling his elbows as he past through them, focused on the sound his feet made running against the earth, on the sound the weeds made when they were stepped on, pushed down to the earth, returned to their 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 stem of the branch, biting it with his fingers. Slowly, calmly, he lifted the branch, one by one, passing through.

For the remainder of the night, he remains disappeared in the darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two men sat huddled together on the far end of the pier, laughing at something one of them had just said. The tallest of them, a local with a beard that covers his face, big, black eyebrows that hide the impression of his eyes, receding into his skull, arched his back as he laughed, coughing over smoke he blew from his lungs. He sighed, the sort of gesture that told the other of them he was happy with his company.

“Do you think he’ll show?”

“He’ll show.”

The other man, the oldest of the two, sat with his back against the woodwork of a small rowing boat, his feet pressed into a small bank of sand that rose from inside the harbor. He had his pants rolled up to his knees, his legs reflecting the overcast sky, varicose veins running from his ankles and disappearing into the seam of his pants. In his crouched position, his stomach protruded from his vest, a white undershirt that bore the blooded stains of an accident. Over his shoulders he wrapped a thick, woolen blanket, that looked like it was made from sailor’s rope.

The quiet of the morning had felt, for both of them, a good omen. How else would they explain the sighting of migratory birds overhead, the earliest sighting of many years. How else could the older oft hem explain the feeling he had when, making his way to the water, he realized upon reaching the final checkpoint that he had forgotten his papers, but due to the timing of the day and the look on his face that suggested he could no harm, the likeable officers let him pass, detaining him briefly for routine questioning, which he passed skillfully.

He felt thirsty, his throat drying over the hours, waiting, a taste of forgotten salt left ruminating in his mouth. He felt his forehead to accept that he was sweating. Looking over at the other man, he questioned him with his eyes, wondering what he would really do if he knew why they were waiting. The man, gazing off to a distant figment on the horizon, took it upon himself to speak, to break the evolving silence. But the older man, listening as he was to the migratory birds pacing overhead, the cry of seagulls and crows claiming their territory, the announcing horns of ships impeding their way to shore, didn’t hear the man’s words, thinking to himself all along, repeating to himself the same, exhausting sentence.

In the garden the way is long.

“I never came out to the water as a kid. You’d be surprised, seeing as how I do this now, spend most of my time here. I never made it over. We spent most of our time on the streets, playing football on the concrete, forming roadblocks and goals with our oldest pair of shoes. The shoes we didn’t need to play. Or we took off our shoes and played barefoot, if it wasn’t too hot out. It gets so hot in this country, and it surprises me, because it always feels hotter than they say it is. In some places if it reaches a certain temperature they just send you home, tell you its not worth it to work that day. but, I’m happy with my job, happy with my work. A lot of the kids I grew up with are bored out of their minds.”

Noticing the old man’s drifting gaze, he slowed is words down, dropping to his knees with another cigarette in his mouth, looking directly in the older man’s eyes.

“What are you thinking about? You look like an interesting man.”

The old man simply nodded his head, showing the top of his teeth with his halfhearted smile.

“Do you think this friend of yours is going to show?”

The man rises with the cigarette finally lit, looking out in the distance, hoping to catch sight of the older man’s interest.

“I have a lot to do today. Don’t want to spend all day out here, waiting for him.”

“He’ll show.”

The younger man watches over the movement of his hands, in and out of his mouth with the cigarette, in and out, taking long drags of the cigarette to feel the crispy burn at the back of his throat, and the weight of the smoke carry down through his shoulders and into his stomach, his hands, his thighs, drowning him in a sense of exhaustion and relief, following, elation that comes with his sighs. He studies the older man, who seems uninterested in his being observed. He’s probably used to it, the younger man thinks. He probably does this all the time.

After a long silence, where the two men, withdrawn into their thoughts, settled into a lasting peace, the younger of them took his leave, silently, without drawing his friend’s attention, walking slowly away with his head drawn back so as to walk with the feeling he owned the pier, and the actions of the morning, what had passed and what was to come, was only possible under his watch, his authority. He felt a deep sense of pride, in his little cabin of authority.

The old man sat quietly, staring into the outer limits of the sea, feeling the quick, bolts of waves crashing against the bank, where he could feel, every time they struck, a quiet rumble underneath him. He thought of the years that had passed, between his insignificant arrival, a port town he thought would not be his last, a transient place for him to continue with his writing, help reform a suffering literary program, and maybe, just maybe, fall in love. He had not thought of what else would be possible, and when the seasons turned their attention towards more political matters, in the beginning, he thought, why not?

He thought of the young girl, a student of his, whose eyes he would never see again, gazing up at him in the front of the class, her long eyelashes compelled by neat, black ink, her hair trimmed to below the ears, her chin always lowered so as to appear, more so than was physically true, that she was teasing him from below, calling out to him from her subsidiary position.

But in truth, though he thought of these things, he didn’t think of them for long. He knew what was awaiting him, and what had come. He had decided long before it had been told to him, before it had been described as necessary. All the while, seated with his feet drenched in wet, soggy sand, his palms pushing down on the side of the boat, his eyes cast off toward the endless sea, he held the tranquility of the moment, the passing, all the while, repeating to himself, In the garden the way is long, repeating, In the garden the way is long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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She knew when she woke up that day that the dreams she was having were real. Her first instinct was to look outside, through the dreamcatcher whistling over the windowsill, the white silk drapes hanging form the wall, o the point in the sky she always turned to, for guidance, for reflection.

Full moon, she thought. She understood.

She had been dreaming of him for some time, waiting on his call, expecting him to visit. Like she had been warned, she thought. Like I have been told.

She follows her eyes to the bedside table. Stacks of books, poets- Reverdy, Hoffman, William Pitt Root. A collection of Silvina Ocampo’s short stories. Books on the cosmos and the human psyche, The Myth of the Eternal Return, The Myth of Meaning. Beside the books, a stack of freshly sharpened pencils, and beneath the pencils, a large yellow notepad. Free bookmarks sat next to the books, and in each of the books, a different bookmark from a different bookstore. Not, as she would prefer, the bookstores she bought the books from, not always, not specifically. But more or less, for every book in her collection, she had at least one and a half bookmarks. One day she hoped to carry a bookmark from the same bookstore for every book, but for now, it wasn’t possible.

These items had always been there, as long she remembered. Not the same books, and not the same pencils, but more or less the same amount. The only difference in the collection on her bedside table, apart from the different lightbulb she would use to view the contents, is the appearance of a thin, paperback book she writes in from time to time, more recently, every night, waking between dreams to note everything down.

She noted everything down, exactly as it came. She was careful to paint as honest a portrait of the images, her memory, the symbolic presence in every scene, the possible relation to her own psyche, to the possible relation to her life. Once she had achieved the capacity to note down to perfection the contents of her basic dreams, she then took it upon herself to note down the different elements of others in her life who may have made it into her dream, as an order to escape their own, or maybe, to ask for help. This change in direction, from a subjective experience of her dreams, to an objective experience of another’s, made her feel very special. It inspired her to dig deeper into the symbols. Different spaces gave her a different feeling, every time. Recurring spaces, spaces that she could name, spaces she knew she would never see. Cityscapes beyond the architecture of man. Towering urban systems conniving so they intertwined. She would walk between the buildings, stretching into the sky, beyond her visibility, waiting to be directed, guided to the next light. She noticed patterns, and from the patterns she noticed airwaves and soundwaves she could employ, to empower her decisions, in where she might go. Dreams being the content of her psychic self, meshing with the random introduction of collective unconscious material, she discovered certain elements to herself she had not been aware. After the rapid introduction of cockroaches, for example, into the dreams, she remembered entire chapters of her childhood she had completely forgotten. The months between spring and autumn, where the moisture in the air and the heat on the ground made it perfect weather for the reemergence of the cockroach onto every day life. She remembered her home, the third or fourth her family lived in, where she would wake up for school and between her walk from her bedroom to the bathroom, would find one, two, sometimes three cockroaches dead on their backs, the remaining sight of their oppressive battle. She remembered finding mothers, liynig on their backs with two, three of their young lying next to them, and the entire house would rise with a wail, and the feeling she had of being home, of being in her place of safety, was gone, discovering a new place she had entered, the feeling that is there when a child finds themselves in the face of danger, and the eyes of her mother, the voice erupting from her giant mouth, tell her she should be afraid. It became so the very sight of a cockroach made her scream a terrible scream, and if the proximity between her and the disgusting insect was too close for her to believe she was not in danger, she wouldn’t scream but freeze, her face would pale, ghost white, her hands would stretch to their most extension, her knees would tremble, her toes would kneel.

Even this, she had forgotten.

 

Over the course of several months the images became more steady, still, the pace of her dreams was disorderly, like everything was moving in slow motion, but the introduction of different space, foreign elements, disjointed, she stepped from one world to another.

The mountainous she spent summers with her best friend, hiding their prettier underwear and their makeup from her parents, their evolving interest in the village boys, young immigrants from poor households, who had no papers, no names, just arms and legs and a set of eyes they could use to put in the work, and their mouths were kept closed, and they never spoke a word, for fear, she never realized at the time, but on thinking on it now, of being reprimanded, fired, deported. Executed, if they were ugly and couldn’t put in much work. As long as they had no family. Executed, she thought. She noted it down.

In the beginning, she doubted that the dreams held any meaning, any purpose, but being a student of psychology and a believer in the persona of a cosmic order, she decided to investigate her interest, and treat the dreams as a sort of subject, a patient, and a place where she was free to experiment with things she had learned, techniques, like a hypnosis method, or a method of meditating, to see how she might alter the sequences, the spaces.

She was surprised to find that in the first several months there were no real faces. When she focused on a face, it disappeared. When she focused on a feeling, faces appeared out of nowhere, in great amount. More and more, she tried to study the faces, but they disappeared. She tried to trick her unconscious, turning her eyes away to the faces, but searching somehow, from the corner of her eye, or, if she was lucky enough to notice she was standing in the bathroom of her high school, or, say, the bathroom at her best friend’s, she could find one of the faces staring back at her in the mirror. In the mirror, the faces appeared. Many of them seemed as though she were waiting for her to see them, standing there with their arms crossed, or their backs against the wall, like they were studying her as she studied them, noting down her movements, regularities and irregularities, patterns and symbols. The color of her nails, the scratches on her back. The dirt under her eyes. The scars on both her knees.

Music. The element that was missing from the start. She heard humming, light humming, rising from the shadows of every image, and she followed the shadows, following the sound of a deep bass chorus, humming in perfect fifths the same four chords.

There were also lighter dreams, of fast, wormhole pacing, like she was running through the tunnel of a vacuum, the longer she ran, the deeper, the more it would expand.

It took her some time to make the connection. To believe in the messages. The connections she later made weren’t visible at first. The parallel faces in her dreams and the subjects in her life.

Voices came to her in the dark. She always had trouble sleeping, and those hours she spent waiting in bed for the sudden ignition of sleep, she grew accustomed to a spur of images, moments in her life she never connected, moments that were insignificant at the time and together seemed even more irrelevant. The corridor of her kindergarten, for example. She would even swear that she could smell  the corridor, like she was there.

Months passed before she recognized the face haunting her in the dreams. She knew that face. She had known him. What was he doing there?

The night she recognized his face, she saw him everywhere. In the corner of every frame, in the center of every picture, the depictions seemed to rotate around his figure, like he possessed a magnetic field and her images, her pictures, were drawn into his orbit.

Then she heard his voice. He was whispering to someone else, an extra in her scene, someone who comes into the dream to take up space, and leave you with the memory of their shoes, or their patterns of walking, or their eyelids. A tiny detail, expressing itself more for the whole.

She wrote down all of his words. Gibberish, of course, the content of dreams is fleeting, intangible, repressive. What she came to realize is the messages.

What is my name? She didn’t know.

Will we ever go back? Could they?

She was sleeping alone, had been alone for a long time. She accepted she could have done more for a relationship, for something meaningful, more than the occasional fuck, but if she gave it too much thought it just depressed her, so she left the idea as it came, always, on the brink of every silence.

In some way, his voice comforted her, keeping her company while she managed her day. That was why she decided to write down what she remembered, everything he said that she could recall.

But she still didn’t know his name, and she never knew where to look for his face, it appeared out of nowhere and she moved fast enough to notice, like the sudden interruption of a cockroach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cockroaches are my only friends. Singles, pairs, whole armies. When it rains, they disappear, like I do. When the sun is shining, they rise, ascend to their little kingdom beneath our feet.

He steps out of the house at dawn. The dreams, they’re like mannequins, passing by. The sun, making her way over the horizon. He walks the length of the sunflower fields, the length of passage beside the long wall of the abandoned farm. In the dream, he was walking through the ruins of a city, touching his hands against shattered glass, stones and wild concrete, running his hands along the cold brick walls. He finds himself standing in the presence of an older woman, braiding the hair of a younger girl, speaking to him without looking. The eye of envy written on her face. He watches his reflection force two other men into a suitcase, climbing over the bag to force it shut, reminding himself, I don’t do these things. He sees a snake, imagining the bite her tail holds. He pictured the old woman, speaking to him again, her voice in his ear. He wakes up.

The borders are open. Night buses carry over the mountains. Anyone who goes doesn’t think about coming back.

He enjoys his final bite, leaving the kitchen, drawing away into the woods. The dogs follow him to the basin. Past the apple orchards, the lemon trees and fig trees his uncle harvested. He finds the farmer’s son sitting atop a stone stoop structure, near the underpass of the first row of hills. The man is smoking his pipe, smelling the grass in his smoke, smiling. He sips from a lamb woven flask.

“It’s quieter, away from the house.”

“The border is open. I’m going.”

They walk together back to the eating house. The man carries a small pile of firewood, walking with a limp on his left leg, drawing a sound from the friction of his boots against the wooden floor. Dreaming into the passage.

“I fed the dogs.”

“They’ll miss you.”

“They will.”

The man pours himself a cold cup of coffee. He reads from a scattered set of papers lying on the counter, shuffling through them, lightly, without any real intention, touching them with his fingers, gentle. After a while, he fills a plate from a dish on the side of the counter, mashed eggs and vegetables, and every so often dips a torn piece of bread into the mixture, before adding an olive to pit in his mouth. The morning rays of a rising sun scatter along the dimly tiled floor. A red hue cloud sits under the one or two tungsten bulbs still running, presumably from the night before. The man chews away at his food, filling his mouth with bites out of the eggs and sips out of the coffee.

In the morning he climbs a wagon into town, riding on one of the wheels. After an hour or so wait at the crossroads, he thought of the face he would encounter one last time.

Two women sit on a pile of wheat and straw, a cheerful old man driving the wagon. The road is empty, the sight of an endless field. The crowd sit prisoner’s to the sun’s growing aggression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a feeling she had, that everything would begin in spring. Similar faces. Different set of eyes. She was seeing them simultaneously. Seeing the two faces conjoin and then part, speak with unconditional likeness, disembody one figure for a whole.

That morning, she heard a man coughing in the distance. The night before, they had told her the disease had become airborne, and over the water, when the ice would melt, it would flood in through the banks, through the walls. She knew none of them were prepared, but she couldn’t do anything.

One of the guards had confronted her, asking why she let up before the fight began. She said only the weak refuse to surrender, the courageous resist but ultimately accept their fate.

In the morning she was called for by the voice, the man coughing in the distance. Finding him hiding under the shade of a line of pine trees, she sat beside him and wept. The flight of migratory birds passed overhead, coloring the overcast sky. She was hoping to flee, hoping to pass while the ice had frozen over. She imagined the fate of a stranded swan, versed to have woven into an icy blanket. Afterwards, the swan’s corpse would have melted, returning the abandoned vessel to the water.

I wasn’t there to see it, but she was. She says the flight of birds is still a mystery. We were watching from the shrub while the few boats drowned. Don’t you remember, the voice said to her. I reached out and you were gone.

Considering that the lake was formed by two distinct sides, accessible from either shore, from which the parallel side remains visible. On the one side, a deliberate glamorization has steadily evolved the nature of the shore, though somewhat slowed by an economic downturn in recent years, nonetheless sweetening the landscape, rescuing it from its tired form. Any success owes much to the rehabilitation, and regular nursing, of lakeside chestnut trees, whose seedlings fall angrily against the canvas floor, withering beside an array of weeping willows and elder flower nesting below similar other variant tress stretching further away from the water.

She had told me, recently, before the divorce, investigating the sudden intrusion of Varroa mites into the forest, she was surprised to discover a wild strawberry patch had grown in the absence of natural vegetation. In her opinion, standing perfectly still within the frame of the strawberry patch, it was possible to dismiss the summer chorus of laughter playing feverishly across the bank, focusing her attention to the spot where she stood, feet pressed firmly against the earth, her hand holding the bark of a towering tree.

When the memory comes to you, he asked, are you nervous?

His eyes pierced moonlight’s hollow glow. The image, sutured into her thoughts. The memory of the day unsettled.

In an August entry the summer she disappeared, she recounted to him the story of two children swept ashore, theirs legs bound together with fishermen’s rope. Standing at a waterlog trench of the bank, she listened carefully, closing her eyes so as to meditate on the sound, a murder of crows passing overhead, embracing their dissonant cries. A flight of swallows dipping underneath the lowlying bush to veer into his sight. Had she pictured the image herself, hoping to entomb the living vessel of their shared past, she would not have noticed his face, watching her from across the shore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His first night on shore, having passed calmly through the border, he read from a book of his favorite poems, passages he noted down when noticing them. While wiping his feet in the water, he notices the figure of a woman racing up the hill. He follows her, finding her having receded the passage, standing in a great field of waste. Waste, having amassed over the years, drying what was once a great lake.

She transforms in his eyes, from the affection of the earlier image, to one of death. He decides that night not to enter the city, returning over the hill to the earlier passage, remaining there for the evening, lighting a small fire, reading with a sense of piety, thinking. He listens for what wildlife remains to be heard. He sleeps.

In the morning, waking to the rising sun brushing against his face, he sits in the water for a moment, lying with his hands and knees in the sand, digging his face into the breaking waves.

He sees in the distance a great, impressive bridge. He remembers the bridge at the entrance to the city. An impassable bridge for some.

Ending at a cliff, locals are permitted to walk onto the bridge and dive if they please, the only sanctioned means to end one’s life. It could hae connected two parts of the same nation, separated by a waterway, but they refused, and built a wall instead. The southerners live under the bridge, while the northerners live over it. where odes it go, from which way does he ascend? Bridges of polarity. Nowhere, somewhere. Wilderness, civilization. Conscious, unconscious.

While he was away, everything reminded him of the place. Every song, every lasting scent, every bird, every harlequin. Every time he felt something close to him, closing in on his derelict heart, forcing him to feel safe, free, he felt like he felt here. It remained a mystery to everyone else.

The polite thing to do is to acknowledge the descent of the old woman from the upraised balcony, calling out to the man who has yet to power her generator. The woman, convulsing with yells, interests no one. It would seem it is a common custom. She is so accustomed to screaming, the town is not accustomed to hearing.

An ascetic breaches the front gates, storming out of the building. Quaint, tainted with time, eroded by sand storms, a steady stream of fumes, a layer of musk masking the walls. The ascetic looks precisely as you would imagine him. His tone, an eastern blend of honey and gold. He gallops, levitating through the city, veiled in an accessible violet cloak, and a shroud of incense smoke. Most impressive is his physique, fit like an auxiliary.

A conversation draws his attention. A resident and a man responsible to tend to tenant needs. The housing is pueblo like, confined to shades of pale lime and green, embellished with the romance of a spiral staircase, a wide courtyard door. The man carries oil, kerosene, lighting two lamps for the lady arguing her rights.

“I have waited all day for you to answer my call.”

“I was out, time off.”

“And me? How am I to cope in your time off?”

“The inconvenience is my embarrassment. I’m sorry.”

“So you will concede?”

“I will power the generator in less than an hour. This way, you will be within your right, and I will have saved what I am able. It is a difficult time. Please try to understand.”

“Always to the last drop with you.”

He shies away. The figure on the stairs curls into a shapeless shadow, while a group of young boys smoke, hanging out near a mural painted on the building wall. They smoke hash compressed in the valley, near columns of the resistance. Earlier, it had been debated, and one of the boys said that he thought the resistance had finished their supply, overharvesting the fields. One of the other boys assured him, whenever there is a demand for drugs, the drugs arrive in their hands. The border is opened, he said. They are quiet now.

The youngest of them, a gypsy without a home, isn’t wearing any shoes, but has inked the contour of a sandal onto his feet. One of the feet is done in color, while the other is black and white. The colors are well faded, and the black and white looks like muddy chalk. Simply for the effect of shading, the sandals are beautiful.

He sips from a friend’s beer. It is indigestible, burning a hole through his throat. This is fierce, he says. His friend holds him in a chokehold. You think I want to poison you, little guy?

The herd of boys drift away. He rests under the umbrella of a garden, peering over a flat concrete plain, hundreds of meters wide. Later, as he walks, his steps echoing in the darkness, he stands in the middle of the courtyard. He takes the stairs at the end of the plain, painted in a series of warring emblems. A townhouse door winces on the fringe, a steel gate pushed wide open. He sees dimly into the basement, covered in large masses of marble and stone. Through the door he emerges into an alleyway. A voice calls from behind him.

“Who are you?”

He turns around, to speak, but the voice speaks first, noting his hesitation.

“What is your business here?”

“Walking.”

“Where from?”

“The other end of town.”

The voice steps out from the darkness.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m trying to pass.”

“I’m not so sure.”

He comes nearer, removing his veil. He smiles, speaking kindly, bowing his chin. He doesn’t hold his breath, standing so close, the smell of cinnamon rising through his teeth.

“There’s nothing past here.”

Running back up the stairs he follows the memory of the empty plain. He runs across the concrete, steps heavy, breathing through dampened lungs. He tries running on his toes, running on his heels. He reaches the end of the plain, climbing another set of stairs back to where he began. The young crowd is out of sight. The women and tenants have disappeared. He turns a corner, finding an immigrant selling fruits and nuts off a cart. e approaches him. The fruit seller is listening to the radio and singing. He chews a certain leaf every now and again.

“Is there somewhere to eat?”

The man ignores him, continuing with his song, but not before offering a smile. He continues walking, turning onto a busier street, and then onto another. Finally, he turns onto a street that looks quieter, broken, the people sitting outside questioning his sudden appearance. He finds a few people standing outside a storefront. He pushes open the door.

He walks through the corridor until he finds another door, that leads him directly outside, onto the parallel road. Dust rises in a purple fume. While he walks, articulating dust into the air with the touch of his boots, he finds a little shop, an owner sitting beside the window smoking a cigarette, listening to the whining of his wife, or, to his imagination, an elderly customer taking her comfort too literally. The show owner nudges toward him, indicating he is safe. He follows him into the back. The older woman keeps her eyes on him as he passes her.

He nudges past a velvet curtain, shying away into the dark, enjoying the creases of fabric on his fingers. The smell of feces grapples the air. He walks into a room, where men have paid to lie naked in single sized aquariums, each the size of an adult coffin. The feeling intended is that of a womb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The noise settled. The room silenced. The closing of midday, when the afternoon sun takes her siesta. The seagulls can be heard once again. The afternoon songs of a gift coming to close.

He walks by other cubes, looking in, dazed by the scent of his own smoke. He fumbles into his pockets for a lighter, pushing out into the street. Nearly daybreak. High, raving in the senses. Impressing himself in the religious monotony of prayer. He retreats back towards a flight of stairs, walking along the stretch of seaside pavement he knows leads him south, towards his home. At the stairs, he takes a moment to breathe, sitting along the edge of the second step, looking out over the brightening horizon.

The port is emptying, men take leave from work, visitors absorb the loss of their first night.

A careful figure approaches him. They exchange the ordinary glance, taking wonder in the other man’s eyes. The figure stops, his form elusive under the light of a hovering lamp. Carried in thick, industrial boots, a layer of blankets. He holds his stare gravely until he finally tires, choosing to sit to the side.

He would have continued past him but for the man speaking again.

“Where are you going?”

He speaks his words but doesn’t wait for a response.

“You look like the type to try and cross the bridge.”

The man twists his neck, stepping forward into a grain of light.

“It takes the most celebrated pilots a lifetime to pass.”

He reaches into his jacket pocket, his hand resting there a moment, hesitant to move. At the shrill cry of seagulls passing he looks up into the sky, opening his palms in the posture of holding a book. Nearby, a local wrestles with a heap of garbage, several officers looking on, amused, near the opening of a barricade. Some of the poorest workers live in caves near the water, at the underbelly of the town. The road there begins at the lowest step of the stairs.

The man inspects a cigarette from his pocket, lighting it a lighter’s flare. His other hand remains in his jacket, and he is more focused now on the matter at hand. The unsightly racing of cockroaches at the two men’s feet, visible in the rapid succession of thick, dark clouds dancing between light and shadow.

The man blows out his smoke with careful ease.

“Are you with someone,” he faintly asks.

“I’m alone.”

Some time passes before he speaks again, his lower left arm still resting in his jacket pocket.

He thought it had been his time to leave, continuing on his way, but for the sudden feeling he had the man before him would serve as some significance. Was it by design that he had met him? These things took on a life of their own. He accepted that anything was possible.

The figure, now slightly crouching on one of his better legs, pulls a book from his jacket, revealing what had been hidden so long. He handed it over as though it were a gift and he had been waiting to show it. The sudden enthusiasm was confusing. Accepting the book, he found it to be empty.

Looking back towards the giver, the man had disappeared, the winding road to the stairwell now emptied, the morning sun praying ascension to dawn.

He napped for a while, lowering his head on a slab of concrete.

Later in the day the feeling of exhaustion had passed. He descended the lengths of stairs that lead to the water.

He climbs a few rocks to oversee the caves, dug in beneath the façade of an overlying boardwalk, the beginning chapters of a city expanse. A towering statue. A lighthouse in the distance. The city, once enormous, panders to insignificance. What is this world without the port of ports?

Some whistlers arrive his way, urging to sip from the applauding fountain. A well in the midst of desert.

 

We trail the water surface

            towards the canyon of your upbringing

            where you settled your debts with mushroom hands

            smoking the healer’s stare

            passing through

            the eradication

            of the natives

 

You see me as a vanguard of youth

            loneliness in the equation

            but when I speak

            whole legions of crows

            bow their heads

            the titans emerge from their distinction

 

            I am here

            for the settler’s

            eradication

           

            He rose for the occasion before him. How long had he sat there? Had it been his will? He walked with stunted steps toward the magnificent bridge, a confinement of human imagination. Where does it lead? Does the end ever appear?

Of the indifferent souls passing by him, only one man took notice to his sweltering stare, the aggression in his eyes obvious, the aggression in his gait discreet. The two meet several feet from the water, one of them breaking his fast with a pool of sunflower seeds in his hands, a harsh shot of coffee gone into his mouth. The man stoops several levels, pausing on his knees, holding himself upright with his hind legs, squinting under the sweltering morning sky, curious. As he speaks, a certain bark emanates from his voice, he spits his letters, biting his T’s.

“What do you want?”

His breathing is increasingly louder.

“Do you have any water?”

He walked away, confused. But there was something of interest to this man. Something of an inane curiosity, a celebration in the vapid air. But the man, so close to becoming himself significant, fell flat on his face, missing the wanderer by only a few feet, his jaw smacking firmly against the stone, an obvious jam of several teeth in the upper structure of his mouth. The blood ran to his feet. He was alright, the injury would pass, but he lay there for a while, a long, long while, even after he had been deserted, left to bleed out from his mouth alone. He lay there, wondering about the day he might have had, about the calls he had been given to return to the resistance, to return his duty to where it belonged. He had been lazy. Smoking, staying up late, drinking at some bars. A life, he believed, to be worthless.

I am a bastard, he told himself, a bastard.

Removing an overcoat from his shoulders, a man watches the scenes develop below, folding his arms over the boardwalk rails. He’s always wanted to be the sort of man who appears, out of the blue, strolling onto the waterside with a sense of purpose, as though he knows his way around, as though he comes here often but never at the same time, always in search of something, perhaps, A man of inspiration, a man of thought. He’s wanted to have the patience to stand at one of the rails overlooking the great and troubled horizon and empty his mind of thoughts, of brooding, of displeasure. But he knows, deep down inside his own psyche, he has too many barriers to posses such empty thought. He does not posses the patience, the tranquility, of a silent master. So he remains in his position, thinking on his condition, on his dependence, on his generous goodwill but his noteworthy impatience, wondering what it takes to possess such silence, what it means to be really free of thought.

The man whose jaw hinges for life grabs hold of himself and walks into a cloud of intertwining stones so as to fashion a bed. He walks atop the terrain knowingly. Knowingly, he walks atop the terrain.

Over the years the bridge has lost one of its obvious ends, disappearing behind an imposing shroud of mist. Symbolic of the townspeople’s superstition, it is only passed by those who have chosen not to return.

He sits at the foot of the bridge, letting his legs hang off the rails, his feet drenched in the open air. He listens to the absence of commotion, to the sound of waves climbing onto seaside trees. Sounds he remembers. He remembers his first trip in an estranged past. The smell of freshly baked bread, of molten stew, garlic spread and friend in a pan, overcomes him. He removes himself from his thoughts, playing a song in dedication.