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Slippered in chrome, the nail clipper sits on the shelf. Facing the wall, his expression is one of desperation. He has been here three weeks, and all he can see is the wall. He hears movement behind him and can see the shifts of light, but no one moves to pick him up. He has no purpose, no life that he can sing of but that of a shining irregularity on a shelf in a bathroom. He is hungry. He feels lean and hard and his eyes plead with the wall for meaning, for some echo of his own voice.
I look at the clipper on the shelf. How can I make him smile? I pick him up. The metal is cold in my hand. I turn him to face out into the room. He still wears a look of desperation. I open the wing, turning it into the lock position. He could be skating. Finding another clipper, I open it and set it, also open, at an angle to the first. They are suddenly in motion and talking. The chrome wings are paired, and the tension in the short space between their heads is electric. Dragonfly, they are ascending.
The car was paused at the curb. I remember it was dark. The signal light was on. Well it was on, and off, and on again. That was the thing you see, the thing that captured me. Because this is the essence of the cycle. It was suddenly on, astonishing even itself, brilliant, illuminating the street for fifty feet in each direction, visible easily for a quarter mile. It was hot with brilliance and flash.
It was all that, right up until it was not. It was ash. It was brown death and self-horror.
And again, it was torn awake.
The guitar hangs on the wall, untouched now for two weeks. This is not some stuffed toy you can buy at caprice and then toss aside. The breeze whispers through strings beginning to lose their tune as the moisture rises in the apartment. She watches me from the wall, wondering what has happened, whether I will take her down again, if I have given her up for an electric in another room. Where are the strums? Where are the notes pulled from imagination? Where is the laughter? The kisses? I know what is happening. I donít know how to explain.
The nap is waiting for me, sitting in one of those uncomfortable chairs in a nap waiting room. He folds his arms and crosses his legs. He picks up a magazine and sighs. Leafing through the magazine, he stops momentarily at an article, and then tosses the magazine aside, uncrossing his legs. I must be busy. He checks his watch. I should have taken him up a half hour ago. He watches the man playing with the four children on the rug on the other side of the room. The man is over his head. He is playing for show.
In the pond, at night, the reflections of two lighted windows float, and they watch me. I have decided they must be watching me, because the act of their watching, their very consciousness requires an awareness. I suspect I am the only one within their sight who is aware they are watching. So they are stuck watching me. They have this life, this awareness reduced to one thing which is to watch me in the evening. They are not allowed anything else, and yet they do it. They do it anyway because even this limited engagement is better than nothing.
The eye rolls started life on a white bakery shelf beneath glass, wearing a perfect Sunday glaze. They were purchased after church by a Presbyterian, still in his suit carrying a church bulletin in his pocket. Bagged with a loaf of bread, and half dozen cookies, they began the journey home with him. But the bottom of the bag was damp, and they made their escape, lurking for a few days beneath the passenger seat of the car, hardening, getting smaller, and talking about what they would do at this point. They saw their opportunity. They were not ordinary rolls.
I noticed your toothbrushes havenít been speaking lately. It may not mean any thing, but they seem to lean away from one another in the jar in the bathroom, hanging over opposite edges, almost sullen.
They used to lean up against the same side of the jar, nestled against one another, almost snuggling. It wasnít unusual to catch them, if you turned the lights on suddenly, bristles intertwined, and handle rubbed up against handle in what seemed to be an impossible angle to maintain, for tooth brushes. None of that for a while now though.
Well, I was just wondering.
I was thinking
(and it is true what they say--
that I think too much).
Thinking about the things
things we become;
things we would never have dreamt
when we were
back in the beginning,
so bent on moving
into those complicated dreams.
You get to a point where,
familiar with the turn of this wheel,
you dance with habit,
and begin to rely
more what will happen
than on what you do.
And I wonder if you will someday
stop rattling the walls of your life
to find in the quiet
who just didnít come.
The pledge drive is cruising across the radio, gripping the wheel firmly at three and nine oíclock. The big tires bounce over quarter notes, and down into valleys of song, as guitars move like connecting rods hidden beneath grease and steel. Itís a day for being out side and the announcer is torn between encouraging the audience to go out and to ride the bus, to at least drop their wallet or a credit card when they stand up to get off. Itís a travelling tent revival, and the pledge drive grinds a low gear, downshifts and climbs another radio.
The sun is sleeping on my balcony today. It is feeling lazy. Charring the floor boards as it turns, it can barely hear the chimes or the howl of the train passing through town. Steamy, like the rest of us it is tired from the long winter and at a time when it is expected to get up and celebrate it just wants to lie down and sleep. Why it has picked my balcony for this I am not sure. Maybe it knows I wonít bother it there and that I wonít complain about the singed screen or melted furniture.
The long breeze is a hunter. It has been that way for so long that it has forgotten what it hunts. Still the instinct is strong and it moves in strides, along the sides of buildings, down into the city canyons, and over the tops of forests. It moves quietly, feeling its way, watching for its prey, always alert and ready. It has become over the eons a thing ready, a potential with no trigger, and it feels this loss without understanding the point of reference. Something it knows is missing, but still the movement continues; the stalk goes on.
The fly on the wall doesnít understand. He thinks it is because it is because his brain is so small, but he hears talk. He hears people, real human beings wishing they were a fly on the wall, wishing they were him. Why would such a creature want to be him? Why would they want to live in constant terror of being squashed by one of them? Do their large brains weigh them down so much with worries he cannot grasp? Do they think it is a thrill to live the way he does? Oh, to be one of them!
The squawk was released abruptly by the cardinal. It bounced off the wall of a business and landed on a sunny sidewalk, dazed, and still damp. It was flooded with awareness, the wind tearing at it, and the sun stiffening it. Things were moving around and through it, and the beak which had released it, was already gone. It struggled to move, finding that its movements were that of the air around it and the reflections of nearby surfaces. It was aware it was growing quickly, immense, thinning at an incredible rate. Where was it going? What was it becoming?
Today is April 15 in Brighton, a special day here and nowhere else, the day the diamonds surface on the pond in the glen. They bubble up when the breeze comes and quickly harden in the sun. They must be gathered before touching the shore. The pond is lined with hopeful young men, and conditions allowing, the tridge is lowered at 10:30 exactly. In earlier years, the gathering was a more haphazard affair, with boards shoved out from the bank. With the first man in, all the diamonds would disappear. And the 200-year rule still holds: one man, one stone.
Some years the conditions are not right for the diamonds to form on the pond. Either there is no breeze or the sun is not bright enough. This happens about once in every seven years and during those years there used to be no marriages unless heritage diamonds were produced. Marriages with commercial diamonds in Brighton were viewed as unlucky, and they did seem to produce bad-tempered if any children at all and high rates of adultery and bankruptcy. Things have changed over the years, and some of the newer residents tend to ignore these traditions at their own peril.
Sleep touches the back of my neck, and I freeze the way people often do when you touch them there. My eyes close, and my body relaxes. I can feel her breath on my ear, coaxing me back to bed, arms suggestively circling my chest. But I have things to do. The sun is shining, and I know I have things to do. I can feel her now, sinking deep into my brain, but I get up, gently disengaging. Iím torn. Nothing is that important. Now sleep is wearing a pout. But of course, I have these things to do.
The footsteps plough by on the road down below. The jogger passes by, jogging shorts flipping, lungs bellowing, legs shining in the spring sun, but the footsteps have taken a detour. They have turned abruptly, leapt the landscape wall below, crossed the delicate spring grass, and have jog, jog, jogged straight up the wooden wall, and over my balcony rail. Through the screen they come now, fifty yards of footsteps, circling the room and pounding the ceiling before slipping back out the screen and dancing on the balcony, before leaping off and flashing up the road to rejoin the jogger.
In the gully, the grass is long, brown, and pressed flat against the earth. The snow and ice have melted, but the grass does not yet trust this possibly temporary state of things. It remains flat, face down, sucking a religion of fear from the mud below. The wind whips through the gully untested and cold. It comes in gusts, finding no resistance from the grass, no hint of life below. But in the sunlight, in the warm between the blades, there is a glisten. Maybe it is only mud. It could even be sweat. But it might be green.
The Police hauled away the neighbor late last night. He was drunk and his woman had locked him out. He is a big strong guy who has a bad way with doors and locks, but several neighbors called the police before he had his way with the door. It seemed when I first met him that he was a little too nice, but had a contradictory aura of mean. I feel a little sorry for him, because I think inside is a person who sometimes wakes up a little confused by the storms of chemicals that whirl through his body.
I look out my wall of glass and all I see is juicy green life. Yet in my imagination is a dead place of sand and rock. I donít know why I keep returning to this desert place in my imagination because I have never lived in such a place to my knowledge, not even for a short time. Yet I can feel the waves of heat baking me, can see the air twisting into strange shapes, and can sense even the sand trying to crawl deeper into the earth to get away from the searing eyes of the sun.
This is someone elseís dream that I am picking up from the brain waves flooding the space around us. Some one else whose brain is leaking badly, and they do not know that I am seeing what they are seeing. Alternatively it is a vision, but if so, it is one I am rejecting because I donít want to go to this place. Am I supposed to go to this place? I would know it if I were there, would recognize it immediately. I almost think I could get in my car and drive there. But why would I go?
I think I will wait for a vision that is more comfortable, something closer to home, perhaps something within walking distance, and certainly something safer. This desert place does not feel to me to be a particularly safe place, and I have to question what kind of spirit would want to call me there and for what purpose. It would be much better to be called to Lu and Carlís on the corner for a Chicago dog with all the fixinís and a cold beer. I would even have time for a nap before meeting my destiny in this way.
Still, I am not ignorant in the ways of these demons and divinities. I know that if they have a purpose in mind for me that I will be struck down blind and in pain in the road every time I take a step in the wrong direction. I know that they donít care whether I understand their purposes, and that they are peculiarly single-minded about these things. I know I have been ignoring some calling for some time now. I can tell by the frequency with which I have been struck down blind and in pain in mid-step lately.
The bugs are gathered in the cold, circling, busy, but bugged with anxiety about the cold. Something is wrong. They had to start work before they were fully dried out. This is not supposed to be a cold thing. Their wings are supposed to be shining. They are supposed to have more energy. The nest is to be going up faster. They are pushing, but the cold is slowing them down, confusing them sometimes. Shipments show up at the wrong places. At one point a section collapses and must be re-started. This has to be done. They die at sunset.
I dreamt the elevator dream last night. A bank of six, three facing three, shoulder to shoulder, flanked with rocks. They are in open meadow. A concrete pad spreads between them, and above them is empty sky. People in business suits carrying notebook computers and papers mill about, some of them talking. An elevator chimes, and opens. It is empty, and they queue up to get on, as many as will fit. The doors close. Those left behind donít seem to be in a hurry. More are coming across the meadow, stepping through the tall grass, wind blowing their hair.
Junior comes through the door as I am working. ďHello, howís it going?Ē I greet him.
ďIím just here for a minute. Iíve got to get some money mom left me to get some bark chips.Ē Heís been working over at her house. Sheís paying him ten bucks an hour to do things around the house like mowing and raking. He goes into his bedroom. I continue working until he comes back out. ďIím just here for a minute,Ē he says again. ďI had to get some money mom left me to buy bark chips.Ē He slips out the door.
I had an idea of something I was going to do, but I forgot what it was. Maybe I didnít forget. Maybe I just didnít really want to do it. To be sure, I realized that I didnít have as much time left before I had to leave for work as I had thought I had. Also, another thing captured my imagination. It was a piece of toast with butter. The heel of the break, toasted lightly, and then folded in the middle. My lunch and breakfast combined. There are just too many things to do to pick just one.
The house buying wasnít an entirely new idea for me. I had toyed with it before. I just wasnít sure. I have been living in the land of uncertainty for several years now with respect to things like life direction. And in truth, I like my apartment. I like the fact that I have windows on four sides. I like the twelve-foot door wall that opens onto the glen and the pond with its geese, cranes, and other wildlife. But things have happened lately. Some things, possibly random events, are conspiring, and I have been thrown into the house-buying machine.
I actually contacted a few realtors a couple months ago, expressing interest in a few homes. I was surprised at the prices and what was available. I was also surprised at how much energy and time it sucked away from me and how quickly it happened. It wasnít long before I was e-Mailing the realtors and telling them I wanted to put the thing on hold, that it was just too overwhelming and I wasnít ready for it. I wasnít either. There were still basic life issues I was struggling with left over from the life change five years ago.
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