Monday, January 5, 2009

Death and Politics at the End of the World

“Don’t people go crazy? Trapped on that island? Water on all sides?”“No! It’s great. When you stand on the rocks at Taylor beach… it’s not very glamorous. It’s not a groomed beach, not for tourists … well, it wasn’t anyway. Could’ve changed. But when you stand there … There’s nothing but different hues of blue. Then you go out on a boat … you’re on the horizon. You look down and you could get out and walk … You’ll just love- I can’t wait until you see it.” I twist around to rub at the shades of auburn in his morning stubble. “You’ve got a white hair… right here.”He flinches away from plucking fingers. “I have several. . . cunningly hidden below the surface of my generally clean shaven face. I should get moving. Do you miss it? Want to move back?”
“I’d love to live there again,” too much vulnerability, a high wire act of unanswered questions about the future. “It’s expensive. I would need a good job.”
“You want to paint. Seems like the perfect backdrop.”
“I’m a cop…”
“They don’t have cars? No pickpocketers or jaywalkers in Key West, aye? A true paradise.” His catnip nibble on my breast had the same effect as his tone.
“You can’t just transfer. I don’t want-- Anyway,” don’t say it. Don’t ask. Don’t set yourself u--- “would you go with me????” A guillotined response, neck-out, blade-suspended-over-my-head silence . . . waiting . . . Escape hatch? “someday? You know, maybe on vacation or something?”
Head on an elbow, a raised eyebrow lowers, turns $25,000 Pyramid thoughtful, considering the “Things you can say to hurt your lover…” list, a handsome smile on the made-for-television face “Maybe.”
“Yes.” Ding! ding! ding! “Nicely done.” The host smiles charmingly into the camera and claps the shoulder of his contestant congenially as the co-hostess pop-tart pantomimes a Miss America clap in the background.
“You could meet my aunt and uncle” Ex-laxed mouth . . . Pe—pto—bi--smo. “But-- right. If you wanted to- it’d be a nice trip. Free tropical vacation . . . just our flights. Something to think about.”
“Alright, thirty seconds: Name as many possibilities as you can.” The forever young game show host flips the card in his hand and positions it professionally up and out at a 45 degree angle.

“Things that you say to let your lover know it’s over . . .”

“Yeah. Well, we’ll see. I’ve got a pretty heavy work schedule for the next couple of months…“

I turn away from the sparkling solar reflection and stare into turbid shadows of memory, the arpeggioing song of a mockingbird modifying key and mood, an incidental introduction to Ravel’s Miroirs. My fingers flutter over the surface of the water, “I have to work late tonight. See you tomorrow…” Pianissimo—hint of the melody “the boys and I are going to the game. Guy’s night. You’d just be bored…” hands cross “I’m going out of town this weekend…” a sensual bass is plucked while the right hand trills “One of the girls at the office is always hanging around. Smells like she wears a whole bottle. . . It’s probably her perfume” chords hover and glissade down the keyboard, mimicking a chorus of birds “You are just… driving me crazy… Stop smothering! Why don’t you get out and see some of your friends. . . “ delicate allemande in the upper register “Hi, this is John. Sorry I missed your call. Leave a message…” leit motif taken up in the bass “She’s just a friend. If you don’t like it, then do something about it…” cascading chords fade into solitude “I need some time, some space…” The codetta crystallizes. . .
I squinch into roiled liquids. The reflection of a child’s face lingers just below the waters visage, blinking blandly up, the brown orbs deeper than oceanic depths. Heartbreak as palpable as the water’s warmth spills over the child’s eye’s edge. The gaze that holds mine tenders narration
loss. . .
loneliness . . .
a subterranean ache. . .

Still there: just under the surface,

the little girl worn with sadness and myopic sorrow.

Pain upon pain covering a coffin of tears.

And more tears. . .

The quaking boat catapults me out of oblivion as the scant crew and day trippers plop onto the deck, gawky gannets preparing for takeoff. Words bubble, a carbonated conversation: “She bent right over” “with the open water” “between her legs” “You could see it gushing for miles” “in Key West” “So I told her” “watch your step” “You might fall into” “the dolphin research center” “He could just not get over all the boobs and naked women” “in the lovely public bath” “We turned the corner and” “Two men were having sex with” “a woman pushing a customer’s hand up her skirt” “ and watching the dolphins” “trying on swimsuits. I can never have too many” "I love a good" “snout in my crotch” “We had them over for drinks” “until he had his way with me” “Such a lovely night” “In and out, real slow” “I got totally screwed by that deal”

A headless Gumby's backside blocks my panorama of derrières, then swoops down, a hapless wrecking ball directed at my skull. I scuttle up and out of the way and into the periphery of the plague of pests.

"Where did you materialize from Dorothy? You're not trying to get to Kansas are you? Because if you are, you are REALLY on the wrong boat!" Oak bark trunk and limbs clad in too white tight shorts, a turned up collar and smooth-as-ice Italian leather clad peds nestle onto the bench next to me, clearly oblivious to the concept of personal space. "Well, aren't you delish, Sleeping Beauty? Did you come here for the nap or the ride?"

"Nap... I mean, I'm on my wa—yeah, Key West. I didn't intend..."


"That's terrif! We'll have a ball. Just wait 'til you see me with a little too much champagne. I'm a hoot then, honey! Speaking of... where is the booze, Mr. Boatman?" He yoyoes back onto his feet with a flair that would have made Liberace proud. "Oooo, look at your big strong arms! Doing anything later?" He blends back into the crowd, my "delish"ousness apparently as fleeting as cotton candy. I blink into the milling bodies, willing a novocained companionship committed to scientific observation.

The boat rock-a-byes away from the shore. My head oscillates on my neck- each ending point producing a tiny jolt in the back of my skull. I lean back onto the bench and close my eyes, hoping to ease the ache that is settling in behind my eyes. My interiors bob, out of sync with the boat. The echo of an invisible flashbulb interferes with the faces of the chorus before me. Lunging into my bag I seek relief before I’m overwhelmed with misery, swallowing like it’s my final gulp of water, then adjust back and neck closer to alignment. Eyelids close out of self-preservation rather than lingering weariness. If I caught it in time…

Time… metronomic and precise, calculated and mathematical yet interminable and endless, suddenly seems suspended, only slogging on to the next fraction of a moment with the reluctance of a child returning home for punishment. Tick, the nerve throbbing behind my eye, tock, veins pulse behind my left nostril, tick, ache at the top of the left eyeball, tock, light ray penetrating cornea, tick, head seems to expand- hostile takeover of the senses, tock, ti—i-ck…

“Are you alright, sugar? You don’t look so well.” Darkly highlighted eyes hang above me, adrift in a sky of blue.

“Mig--” igrainemigrainemigrainemigrainemi “graine.”

“Oh now, that’s miserable. I’m so sorry. And hours on a boat! Anything I can do?” The dark orbs flutter over me, UFO’s cometting back and forth between the extremities of my equilibrium. “I’ll just sit right here and take care of you -keep your mind off the pain. Johnny, this poor girl has a migraine; do you think you could keep it down just a bit?” She colonizes the end of the bench, a pilgrimage of mutuality.

Her sugar sweet artificial aura assaults my sinuses nearly resulting in a watery cliffhanger over the deep blue. “No, really, you don’t have to---. Please.”

“No problem at all. Just come over here to Savannah and I’ll just rub that headache right away.”

The surreal surroundings confound my normal coyote-esque instinct to shrink from human contact. I comply hypnotically, my head settling onto her lap of its own volition. I watch the movement of my limbs with the bafflement of a mastered puppet. Alien fingers graze my forehead, leaving a cool, dry trail of unfamiliarity up the arch of my forehead, down the bridge of my nose, across my cheekbones, sliding around my temple. Her calves rustle slightly in restlessness, unmercifully jiggling the throbbing mass upon it. Her tinkly call for a glass of wine shimmies down- a circuit that flows down her spine, through thigh and arm to ring in my head. The gentle pressure of her palm briefly alleviates the nauseating nosedive into a sick sprawl on the deck that is one swell away. I grip her hand, pressing it onto my warm flesh and pray for a lengthier stay of execution. Six strands of hair flip into my face, wedging into my cheek.

Sounds, colors and dimensions rotate, echo, and slide off one another into a kaleidoscopic reality that defies attempts to focus. White sails and angling bodies lose focus, an antagonizing back-drop to my universe of frayed nerves, tumbling intestines and pulsing eyeballs. Elizabeth Kenny quickly forgets her consideration and pledge of healing, her replies to shouted queries pinging at my skull like a woodpecker in spring.


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