Sunday, August 5, 2012

Someone has left his Bible on a radiator in the hallway and a quick flip through reveals missing pages, half of entire books clipped away neatly with a knife or a pair of scissors. We knock on door after door, attempting to reunite it with its owner, discover a motive for this disfigurement if one is necessary, but the closest we come to accomplishing our task is when a little girl in pigtails and blue poncho looks at us for long seconds with bloodshot eyes before closing the door unceremoniously in our faces. A little while later, we stumble down the back stairs again and outside where the sun reflects off the building’s aluminum siding in a concentrated, murderous beam that seems to follow us down the street for a block and more and I think for a moment I might succumb, my head swimming, the sound of strangers’ voices drifting in and out of my ears in varying degrees of panic and foreboding. Fortunately, there is a plastic tree positioned at the end of the street that blocks all direct and indirect sources of sunlight if you sit under it a certain way (with, at the time of day I made use of it at any rate, your knees pulled up and your head turned sharply to the right and tilted up) and so saves my life. Eulalie disappears and returns again half an hour later with a bottle of something in her hand. Drink this, she says, and I resist at first because I think perhaps she is trying to poison me. I am slowing her down, and ever since that time in the canyon when she filled both our canteens with stagnant, larva-filled water and began absently to hum snippets of the aria from Gianni Schicchi, I haven’t really felt as if I could trust her. But I notice the bottle has a professionally printed label and Eulalie promises me that if I comply with her wishes this afternoon, she will comply with mine later. When the stars are out and we will be able to group them, as is our habit, into constellations of our own devising. Part of the problem is that, even in the shade, even indoors where the air conditioning is running, nothing anyone says to me anymore makes complete and total sense, the way it used to when I was younger and words seemed tangible and sharp and angular as a first basemen’s mitt. You could group them together in simple patterns and trust that those patterns would stay put, would represent something obvious to everyone in the room, even if some of those people present had arrived late with mud on their pants and excuses on their lips that no one, least of all their spouses, actually believed. Now, these entities hurry from one place to another like dragonflies on the wing, frequently breaking apart in mid-flight and recombining to form new conglomerations that don’t seem to serve any purpose whatsoever. Some of them fall to the floor when they become too heavy and you can pick them up and turn them over in your hand to get a closer look, but the end result is always the same – your hand begins to sting as if it has grasped something impure. And your eyes become strained and your mind fills up with a kind of unremitting darkness that threatens to solidify, to become the permanent mould and record of the thing within which it got its unremarkable start. 

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