This was originally a poem, but after being gently told it was a bit on the long side, I decided to see how it read as a story. Hope you like it this way.
The night fell in soft opalescent waves outside, a symphony of quiet shimmering dances in empty magenta skies. The telephone and power lines cut across it in razor thin strokes of deep black ink as I watched the fingers of daylight folding on themselves in dusk prayer. The flocks of tagged pigeons would soon return to their barracks, their work well done.
My eyes birthed open to the flotsam of my rented room. Laying under cracked egg ceilings, I rubbed out the dreamless sand from the mouths of my eyes and took in the single bed, wood paneled television, and tactless art of the room, with the light fighting weakly through yellowed windows. Wrestling myself through the grip of last night's bacchanals, I dressed myself under ceiling mirrors, straining my neck to observe my sorry state. I collected bits of my life from the dead lawn floor, lurched out the door, down the stairs, and into the street.
All the roads bleeding out from 180th and Tremont lead nowhere you want to go. Don't bother trying to remember the maps that brought you here, because all the directions leaving here are all wrong. If you want proof, ask the Magdalenes on the corner, who found their way to these corners and soon lost their way. As I walked, I could feel the buildings groan under the weight of their histories. They, like so many who found themselves marooned here, were scarred and tattooed, monuments of personal calamities.
Billowing steam rose from the grates on the street, adding their two cents to the hustle and chatter of the avenues, full of slang and rythym, and breathed life into the otherwise stale, hungry Bronx air.
The last time I saw her, she held Kerouac near her belly like the Gospels, her faith in the art of words strong. With the red Kool Aid streaks that danced in her hair, I always thought that autumn could be shaken from her head. She walked like Paris, so cool and golden and out of reach. I think I understood seasons then, and why they changed.
When I met her, my love for words had already begun to pave new paths of illumination in my mind, which at the time, was soaked with hormones and ghetto fantasies. Alleys and boulevards of virgin soil were being tilled, and the seeds of something new to me had begun to germinate, grow, and burst forth from the piles of manure that layered my psyche. And she, being one for fresh fruit and wildflowers, broke ground on her own street there, planting two lips in a garden I'd set aside for the two of us.
It seemed that my life before had been a long, abysmal winter, not the kind filled with chestnuts, snow angels and Central Park carriage rides; it was the gray slush, wet socks, and salt stained cars kind. The soft, warm glow from the light of emotional and mental discoveries had begun to creep over my mental horizons. Fingers dancing across the tables at all night diners, secretive sweating in the backrow seats of the Palace Theater, record stores in the East Village, the comfort and dust in aisles of Strand's bookstore, and Sunday afternoons in Washington Square Park had begun the thaw in my head, coaxing me into a new season.
The #2 train roared over me, covering the street with tightened, dull thunder. Smiling, I thought of Zeus coming home late, trying to explain to Hera, "Honey, I was just out with the boys, you know how it is," while she, in a bathrobe of fire, holding a rolling pin, tapped her foot on the floors of Olympus.
Onward now, as I rode the last car of the train, to stops I remembered well. I quaked along iron pathways, staring out the window, at everything and nothing, my subway eyes well rehearsed. I became a figment of everyone else's imagination, and they were mine, because in the subway, everything seen is unseen, between the hushed and murderous hours between midnight and dawn.
It seemed that we were immortal that year, dancing bold and naive switchblades dances on the backs of what we thought were worn out notions of what art and life were supposed to be. It was
the habit between us to run to each other when some piece of literature had found its way to us, something new or old, that made us very nearly faint with the disbelief that words could be put together in such a way.
The expressions were varied but constant: "Have you ever read this!"
"Can you believe how he said that!"
"Where did she get the inspiration from?"
"You could do something like this!"
"One day, you'll write a play, and I'm going to star in it!"
We ran like wolves on fire, looking for the marrow of the world. Everything seemed new and alive in a new way to me. Everything except the weed, of course. I'd already seen that garden, and found great comfort that she was quite the nimble gardener herself. Buying rolls of sticky green tokens, we took a ride of the mind together.
We fell in giggling at the gates of reason quite often, and with tiny fists, punched holes in it, carved our names in it, posted bills on it, and eventually, climbed through the wreck we made of it. It was good times all the time, but as I chose to ground my feet on a greener path, she swayed like opinions, and started down the white road of spoon cooked heavens and episodic nirvanas.
"I don't see the big deal."
"It's only a weekend thing."
"What is your problem? It's not like I'm an addict. You need to fucking relax."
"Do you have any money? I left mine at my brother's."
"Damn, I feel like shit today. Can we do this tomorrow?"
"If I need to be preached to, I'll go to fucking church. What the fuck is your problem, anyway? It's not like I'm addicted!"
I could see her slipping from me, in quiet fragments of hostility and lies, leaving me to my own paths, and forging new roads for herself. The roads became borders, and the borders become oceans, all fed from the River Styx. All I could do was watch her from cold shores as she sailed away, my voice cracked dry, and lips numb from the horror of watching. With no coins for the ferry, all I could do was watch, as she faded past the twilight, yellow hands raised, shedding herself of who she was, and wrapping herself in the glamour of who she thought she should be. In the end, all she turned out to be was lost.
Sometimes when I rode the train, I would lean my head against the window, just to hear the tracks in my teeth. Outside, the lights flew by like flocks of phoenix tails, racing past my forehead, burning their memory there, to mark the place I'd seen. The signs sailed by me: 174th Street, Freeman Street, Simpson Street, Intervale Avenue, Prospect Avenue, until finally, I rumbled into Jackson Avenue.
I had hoped that the city had not done its duty, for once, and cleaned up the graffiti on the trains and stations. I walked to the end of the platform, where I etched our names in fat blue marker the night we smoked sensimilla for the first time, and threw lightbulbs from the roof of her building.
On the bench covered in ten years of vomit colored paint, I sat, and closing my eyes, I moved my hand left of my lap, shifting it to the spot where I had committed my juvenile crime. I was saddened to see our name was gone, as gone as you were.
I hated you then, for fading like that, for letting your head swim with an illusion of glamour, for leaving me to discover things alone, for making me like french movies, and for the stupidity of what you had done. And I hated myself then, too, for letting you fade like that, for not being able to swim with you, for being greedy for your attention, and mostly for hating you.
I'll never take that train again. I've found it goes nowhere but backwards, to a faded mirror picture of a smile I knew and reflected on saturday nights in St. James Park, where you still might be. Your hands still waving, like tattered flags on ancient dreamships, as you glide under, and into the black.
I would know it was a lie, because you're dancing with roots now, springing into life like you used to, that year we were immortal.
for Julianna Morales (1970 - 1989)
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|Reviewed by Gwen Dickerson
|Splendid write! I love your stories! You have such command of expression! You weave earthy and vibrant phrases that make me shudder, grin, marvel, or sometimes rock to and fro in my seat--like a Jew engaged in devout prayer!|
|Reviewed by Sandra Mushi
|What a write, Alexandre! Very descriptive! Well penned!
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|excellent story, alexandre; very well done! bravo!!
(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in tx., karen lynn. :D
|Reviewed by Ed Matlack
|Now who do you suppose said anything to you about being "long-winded?"(LOL) Either way, as long as works for you, Alex, is all that matters...as it works for me this way as well as a poem...Ed|