Alexander V Bach
And against the hushed bark of a palm tree, where the orbs of coconuts dangled like stellar satellites overhead, where a creek ran shallow through a labyrinth of pebbles and grapefruit-sized stones, cutting through an occasional boulder, winding through the soft heather where banana trees arched their scoliosis trunks and the Birds Of Paradise fluttered blue then red, black and dotted with nacre spots like so many peacock eyes, where the jagged mountains like moss-covered broken vertebrae dipped in vanilla impaled the terrarium of sky, where pink sand beaches and shallow bays nestled against the breathing of the tide and two naked bodies, sun-bleached hair and a gentle trickle of sweat gravitating from their navel-less bellies to the wooly crevices of untrimmed pubis, mouths crunching on fruits and figs while the beasts meandering through the brush and jungle and plains kept an amenable distance and the sounds of howler and spider monkeys clanging through the python-laden canopies had a rhythm and syncopated melody that the man mimicked in a whistle through his teeth is where her hand rose and made shadows on his chest. When she stopped and the sun slipped its edge into the pocket of the mountains, he mounted her and slid himself inside her and they cooed while rocking, dangling their bodies together like so many vines twisting and turning and stumbling through the jungle in search of light, ebbing their bodies into the insulating sand, coming quickly and insignificantly. Finished, they lay down and peeled rinds from oranges and suckled on the seeds of pomegranate; and unsated, they rose—he to hunt animals of four-legged genus and she to pick ripe blackberries on the beach next to the delta where the sea opened behind the womb of the bay and where they had a fire and spit and roasted boar while floating and drifting against the salinity of the sea, heads bobbing, diving and picking starfish from the coral, puffer fish inflating without terminal recourse, where the wayward nurse sharks trolled only for mackerel and should they tire of boar and deer they needed only to extend the end of a spear for the sacrifice of a squid; and when the sun fell into the periphery of the jungle they’d only to pull away from the beach and return to the matted heather where the nights were forever warm and they could count the stars and comets amid the residual death of ephemeral planets and join in the ensemble of the moon.
Around the fire that night they opened their mouths and tried different sounds, mocking sounds, inflections of their larynx and lips forming the call of panther and macaw and baboon, they moderated their inflection to imitate the late crackling of the burning timber, dying down and growing neglected as they explored the mystery of their mouths cooing and making a mess of their tongues. When the fire, finally depleted of oxygen, was reduced to an invalid seeping a littered breath from the asphyxiating pile of ash, the night still burning a vacuum around their concept of home, they kept exercising the flow of air from their mouths until the amber light turned a rough shade of purple and their lips no longer flashed a crimson line with which to measure the movements of the other’s mouth, to imitate, to equate cause and action and participate in their emulation, when their mouths waned dreadfully into the night and were swallowed into the mouth of God, they reduced to silence, terrified to continue dabbling in the sonorous mystery of animal and man sans light; and rather than face an incommunicable void they fell back into the physical realm of their bodies, the supple familiarity in which they had all knowable information, when there were no logical barriers between what could be felt by the hand and seen by the eye in day.
He rose early the following morning, when the blue filter of the pre-dawn light allowed only enough visibility to make out shapes and high-contrast colors, while she lay sleeping, and moved into the forest to relieve himself. The morning dampness trickling from rubbery leaves fell onto his shoulders and torso as he pushed through the thicket and pulled vines from his face, Old Man’s Beard scratching at his forearms as he climbed around a wayward mangrove tree, jumping back to the wet earth before catching a flash of red in the near distance, a heavy push of leaves trailing after. He watched the leaves return to rest and relieved himself in a hole of dirt he would remember to bury and not trample.
She wasn’t awake when he returned and he slid next to her in the matted heather still warm from his body and got reacquainted with the warmth of hers. They slept dreamlessly until the morning sun coerced their eyes from the dark ocular caves behind the lids. Somnolence left her first, and she stared at his closed eyelids, no thought of reading the delta waves that twittered the convex lenses of his eyes, moving the soft skin left, right… finding her fingers and playing with the malleable cartilage of his ears, her fingernails sliding under and tracing the folds before pulling back and twisting a vagrant lock of hair. She pulled sharply and ignorantly. His eyes popped open and he gave a reciprocal tug, then her hand slapped his stomach and she scrambled upright as he reached out to inflict some adolescent injury to her thigh, missed and gave chase, her footfalls softly padding along the trodden path to the beach, her mouth barking the uvular explosions she’d taken favor to.
The sea washed the sweat away and provided them with an immediate comfort against the sun that never blistered or burned but merely warmed their skin and demanded the water from their bodies, discomfort returning only when they surfaced and the sharp overhead sun bounced off the skin of the water and into their unobstructed eyes, forcing them to squint and dive and cool themselves in the underlying current where they met and watched the turtles swim past, jointly holding hands while stroking the hard shell, feeling the geodesic compartments of the tortoise until the burning filled their lungs and necessitated a return to the surface. Below was an iridescent cavalcade of fish, an ambulating chromatography of reds, blues, greens, yellows and the various permutations of each. They tried grabbing them, inserting hands into the schools as if the thousands of fish were a solitary, corporeal entity, laughing bubbles as their hands returned empty and the school dispersed and reformed outside of their purchase; and the barracuda slipped silently and amiably underneath their feet.
In the afternoon they cooled under an eastward facing cove, sharp bluffs overhead, sloping shores to the sides that met in the crest of inlet and created a soft beach and waist high water where they could sit, heads poking above the surface. He moved himself towards her, their buoyant arms finding each other and pulling themselves together in a knot, moving aquatically, undulating according to the movement of the tide, their pubic hair breathing like the coral. The salinity kept them afloat while her head, dangling on his shoulder, turned upward toward the outlying bluffs, vines falling from the trees into the pool, white roots dying and trying to cling to the rock walls, snapped off here and there; she followed them along towards their trunks and into the splotchy canopy where her eyes, glazed with the revel of noon sun, closed against the heat and saw only the nickelodeon playing on her eyelids.
There was a patch of tall grass on a bluff overlooking the sea, and she sat, running her fingers through the blades, feeling the tiny hairs prickling her fingers, a not unpleasant friction, soft and playful, and she moved her hand in a sweeping motion watching the grass lightly fall under, springing upright in swathes of white, the sun reflecting off the bristles. She used both hands and drew herself in the middle of a figure-eight, positioning herself at the crux of infinity. A strand of grass got plucked and placed against her nose, a perfume of chlorophyll at the severed edge, the taste of green on her lips and tongue, a tickle at her nose. Another strand plucked, held against the first, and brought to her lips. She blew and sent a squeaking rippling through the air, making her laugh and repeat the action again, blowing harder and feeling the sound amplify, a funny buzzing at her lips, cheeks puffed out and vibrating from the strain. She played with the varying levels of amplification and duration, two short soft bursts, a drawn out loud note held to echo off the sun. She grabbed several handfuls of grass to bring back to the shore where he was napping.
At dusk they sat against a boulder in the meridian of sand and jungle, taking turns at the grass noise and together assembling a fugue of cacophony, reverberating off the rock and sent outwards to the sea.
While he played with the grass, she put her instrument in her lap and tested the sounds she’d created yesterday with her mouth, a clucking against the buzzing grass followed by a soft ooh and hiccuping moan, a toccata of the larynx. And when the fire died they slept as soundlessly as the oak trees breathing lightly in the subtle wind.
There is another branch, twenty-three feet, reticulated, softly coiling upwards toward the brittle, sun-bleached tips of an apple tree. The rough corrugated bark scraped against the tessellation of scales, the inducted friction warming a supple white belly full-up on deer, and then a face breaking through the canopy, forked tongue tasting atmosphere, eyes shut until a distant snap of a twig far below, a synaptic message underneath the glial sheath of bark, tapped Morse messages into its belly. Its face left the openness of the sun and returned to the shade of leaves, retracing its path until the fleshy face and sun-soaked hair were close enough to taste.
It spoke mimetically. Telling her eat, bite, drink.
She folded the stem, twisted it apart and plucked the ball from its tether, bringing the fruit to her nose, smelling the dry skin, then to her ear, trying to hear the language of taste underneath. Circumnavigating the red globe with the enamel galleons of her teeth, feeling for inconsistencies, blisters, bruises before letting her lower teeth catch inside the crust, prying a chunk free, feeling the sour cool, the taste of new air, the muffled crunch against her tongue, and she took another bite, and another, as if she had the world in her mouth; she ran chirping and laughing to the beach where he was skinning an antelope and thrust the fruit to his lips, the apple bitten, and they took turns devouring it to the core.
They saw pictures embroidered into the black sari of night. Tiny beads of light, sometimes orange, sometimes yellow, sometimes staying in the sky, sometimes dancing outside the jurisdiction of the mountains and trees. She pointed at him and spoke “eaaauuu,” he mimicked. They repeated this over and over. She pointed at herself and pushed from her lungs a “mmmnnneeaa.” He tried to follow, “mmmmnnnaaayyy,” “mneeaay,” “mmnee” and “mnai.”
“Me,” she said.
“Me,” he repeated.
“Me,” she said again, touching her hand to her chest. “You,” touching his knee across the dirt.
“Hāght… Hāad… Hāadtāmn… Hādām… ha-Ādam… Ādām.” He worked round his tongue and said once more, with hand patting his chest. “Adam.”
“Ichch… Isch… Ish… Ishaugh… Ishah…” She shook her head and proceeded on a new name for herself. “Haaamma… Haamw ā… Haawwā… Ḥawwā… Eewwah… Eewah… Eauwa…Eauvha… Eauva… Ea-va…” She clapped and patted her sternum. “Eva.”
They took turns repeating their sobriquets, saying the name and pointing to themselves, him pointing at her solar plexus, “Eve,” she to him, “Adam”; and then they settled into a queasy silence, unsure where this moment put them: how they got here, what this meant and where to go.
Names like rocks and sand and beach came easily with a gentle stroking of the tongue against the palate. There were names like snake and serpent that recoiled inside of their mouths. Water and coral cascaded easily from their larynx, cool and relaxed. Their feet carried them through trees and over rocks, cooled at the edges of rivers, scorched on the sand hot in the mid day. They caught a “fish” and named it after the bite sized sustenance it offered. They pushed through leaves and bushes with topographical, semantic fervor and kept their findings mapped out on their tongues and archived in their heads, giving no thought to the nouns that would fall eventually by the wayside for verbs or the tragedy of adjectives.
There was a non-vocalized nomenclature for the world around them each had come to accept before the burden of naming overtook and brought about the contention of image and labels. When he could simply look upon a plum and know it from taste and color, when she could pick up a firm piece of earth and not feel the stress of calling it a rock, a stone, a pebble; the pressure of defining the life of the stone: igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic.
There was a dispute over legs and arms, one naturally opposing the other per the allocation, and they screamed in preterit tones from their former lives. There was the problem of hips, pelvis and waist. There was the reluctant courting of knees and elbows, feet and hands, the discrepancy of shins and ankles.
Screaming “Ears, ears,” she beat him about the face with closed palms while he retaliated obdurately with “Eyes, eyes.”
They slept apart, opposite sides of the matted hearth, breathing deliberately and stubbornly, unwilling to concede even in sleep.
When Eve woke, Adam was already gone, swimming in the dawn water, still dark, with the faint iridescence of the sun rising in epochs over the water; the flashes of pink and orange unbearably differentiated against the dark blue of the waves still trying to mimic the night. He floated stilly; large, slow strokes of his wing-span keeping his head in the air; eyes trained to the shore to offer a chastising stare should she chance to enter the beach. And when he saw the rustle of the bushes in the eastern side of the bay, he set his glare and waited for what he thought would be her open pink face, dilating and pushing through the layers of green.
What came through wasn’t pink with brownish-yellowish hair, blue irises and red lips.
Whatever came through was an object of indefinite color, a black effigy eclipsing the inchoate sun above, a half-risen halo of fire surrounding the inset coal slaloming between conches and rocks in the sand, coming closer to the shore and always veering away from a position of clarity. Adam treaded water and watched the animal, transforming from an amorphous blob of motion to a quadrupedal shadow, at times quintrupedal until Adam realized the fifth limb to be a tail. A jungle cat, of some nature, he could at least make out, though of different size and stride from the jaguars and pumas, lions, cheetahs or the various branding of tiger. Corpulent with slow death, pushing along adjacent to the bramble, walking to the water’s edge, hind legs collapsing to the sand, the animal pointed its face towards the bobbing torso in the sea. Adam turned and paddled backward in case the creature grew an amphibious disposition; and when he turned back around he found the beast gone, the beaches empty, and the blue sand a body of taupe.
Eve had made her way to the beach in the late morning, and both had apologized in a manner of proffered food, physical affection, and a retreat to earlier noises devoid of semantic meaning. They swam and in the afternoon lazed under the sun as a cumulus rode slowly into the sky.
“Sheep,” she said.
“Mountain,” he objected.
The sand was monochromatic: purple in the morning, khaki in the afternoon, gray in the evening; Adam made drawings of the beast in a gray swath before him as a full belly kept him too lethargic to make his way into the jungle and bury the uneaten carrion of their meal. Judging the image to be insufficient, Adam picked up a burnt piece of coal and submitted the carbon to a flat figure on the surrounding limestone, the verisimilitude remained lost and he went about ventilating his breaths bitterly and peeling translucent, dermatological wafers from the dorsal region of his deltoids, punishment from the sun.
There was a river to the south, one of four in the region, which curved and jackknifed and opened up to the sea, but in the jungle wove smooth and soundless. Eve came here because there was still aquatic cool, the canopy acted as sentinel for the light so she could sit at the edge, dip her toes in the water and feel the suckling of the minnows. There was grass on the floor of the river and she twirled the weightless threads with her big toe, winding a slimy, slippery, and rubbery spool around her digit.
While he was sulking from the dispute they’d had over hair and hare, she’d bide her time here and twist the stems of flowers together to make a one-stem bouquet; fanning the perfume to her nose and throwing the potpourri into the river to watch the colors float away. Morning Glory, Lilac and Daisy navigated the slow current, spinning and submerging until disappearing around the bend. She lifted her head to find a new medium of entertainment and saw a pair of eyes across the bank. Squinting and cupping her hands to focus her pupils, she saw the flat, reflective corneas eschewing a fixed iridescence through the breaks in the thorn bush, the apertures opening as the face pushed further into the light. There was a nose she could see, ears, and a chin of coarse red hair. Lines spread from the snout and split the gap between the eyes. She waited for the owner to come further when a bit of pollen tickled her sinuses, and when she looked up after the sneeze, whatever it had been was gone.
Inquisitive, she placed both her feet into the water and stood ankle-deep until she found her balance, testing her hold with another step forward, then another, letting the water come up to her knees, feeling a rush of cold when her waist dropped in. The water pushed numbly against her and she raised her elbows to keep her righted and pushed through the mud and rocks, feeling the gradual incline and wayward string of weed slide intimately up her calf.
On the bank she used her hands to fling water and sediment from her body, muscles sharpened on the cold, left foot stinging from the vertex of an upturned rock. There was some moss that she used to remove what her hands couldn’t. When she was dry she stepped towards the thorn-bush, tentatively searching the bracken for eyes. She found the hole where the creature had watched her and found a wispy red cloud stuck to a thorn. As she pulled the bit of dander into the light, rubbing the strands of fur in her fingers, working the follicles into a red ball, a thorn scraped a line into the back of her hand. She took the ball in her other hand and used the swab to dab away the blood percolating through her skin. The red intermingling: similar; different. She left the clump of fur on the dirt and crossed the river the way she came.
Eve returned and sat beside a hungry Adam who had fallen asleep under the heat and forgotten the boar roasting over the spit, him waking to a smoking blackness and fumes of a carbon reduction. She had a bounty of pears and mangos and raspberries and plums which she divided with equanimity; they set to eating. Three cores lay before Adam to Eve’s one, preferring to eat slowly and to savor. Adam finished the last of his share, dropped the mango pit, with bits of viable sustenance still available, into his cemetery of fruit and reached into Eve’s pile. She slapped his hand away.
“Mine,” she said; pointing to his discarded supper, “yours.”
He shook his head, “Hungry. More. You Share.”
Eve slid her fruit away from him. Adam reached again and she slapped her hand on a reddened patch of skin on his back. He gasped, then whimpered and made his defense. “Adam bigger, stronger. Need more.”
“Food there.” She pointed out the mango he hadn’t finished.
Adam guffawed, “Not enough. Sandy. More.”
“Waste.” Eve continued eating in front of the sullen Adam.
“Not share?” he demanded.
“Why not more?”
She put her hands in front of her as if balancing two separate objects and stopped them at an equivocal point. He still didn’t accept her notion of fair and asked her why she wanted to fight.
“No fight,” she said.
“No fight. Squabble.”
“No squabble,” he objected again.
She shrugged, “Tiff.”
Looking at Adam’s lithograph with the few remaining raspberries she had, Eve took two of them and mashed them into the black and tan figure. Unsure of what they were looking at, feeling the disparity of nomenclature coupled with the aggravation of familiarity, of an intimate nameless conception, no word was proffered by either in the quiet and dissonance between image and word, memory and name, remanding them rhetorically and lexically isolated. Then he huffed at the waste of food and marched off to bury the remains of the boar and slept with his back to her upon his return.
On the beach, after a morning swim had driven them to an unbearable thirst, and they had to retreat from the salt water inland towards the river and a make-shift gourd, they found a dove with both wings broken and blood coming from its breast, the result of some predator who for whatever reasons hadn’t deigned to finish the kill or eat its reward. They stopped in front of the bird, Eve bent to pick it up and Adam arrested her shoulder.
She gave him a pleading look. “Help it,” she insisted.
“Can’t,” he frowned, telling her it was too far gone.
“What to do?”
He scanned the beach and found a large black stone, plucked it from the sand and carried it over his head toward the bird. Eve yelled as he was halfway through swinging the rock upon the helpless avian.
“No,” s he said. “Help.”
He tried to demonstrate, with words and actions, how death was a form of help, of mercy against the drawn-out and inevitable. She couldn’t understand his performance and repeatedly shook her head as if the more violent her oscillations became, the clearer her point for life would become. Dissatisfied with her explanation and obdurate in his motives, he crushed the dove quickly and thoroughly, and she refused to speak with him—in any form—for the rest of the day.
There were words he tried for reconciliation. He didn’t have the patience for commas and spoke in abridged sentences, fragmented expositions punctuated with hyperbolic hand gestures to coordinate purpose and name.
When their words failed he hit her and she hit him back.
He said, “Leave.”
She said, “Go.”
Adam left and lit a fire by the beach. She found papaya and berries and ate them on the flattened grass.
They had dreams of things circling them, low growls and the admonishing rumble of an empty belly. They dreamt of teeth and fangs and claws that could retract. They dreamt of words and phrases that tumbled over each other, gaining speed and altitude. There were words with fangs, sentences with tails. They dreamt of an open mouth like a cave they could put their head into, reaching past the stalagmites and stalactites of teeth, looking down the throat where a vapor of corroded flesh sat like a fog and they waited for the right words to come that they couldn’t find on their own; when the throat refused to answer they screamed the words they had on hand until their throats were cracked and brittle. When they still didn’t come, those words, they surrendered their neck to the lower teeth and waited for the cave to close. And then they woke, alone and sweating.
She went to the beach because Why shouldn’t she. There was water for both. There were fish for her to eat. There were places to lie down when it got hot, coconut oil to stave off the burns. She walked into the water, dunked her head. A jellyfish swam by; she kicked her legs, moving to deeper water.
He dug a hole in the sand with his feet, carved the bottom out with a stick when he hit the wet sand underneath. He saw her swimming offshore, close enough to see her face. She brushed her hair from her forehead to look back at him. He put his feet in the sand to cool, his eyes stayed with hers. A seagull flew overhead, dipped to the water, catching a fish in its beak.
The sun moved slowly, up then down. The wind went north then west. When the tide came in it covered his feet in his pit. He moved back to the rocks.
She stepped into the waist-high water. Her belly looked full. Engorged, bursting with life, with new words that would fill the earth. There were still words unsolved, though. Didn’t she know this?
Adam left the beach to move to the hills, shade, fields, fresh vegetables, grass for grazing. A bull snake struck at his heels. Adam yelled, recoiled, put his foot down to crush the snake’s head. In the way he took fig leafs to cover his genitals from the elements, Adam wrapped his feet in the hide of a gazelle, using the rest to adorn his shoulders.
Rain came. Adam took cover under a tree with exposed roots cutting into the side of a hill. Eve left the water, hid in a cove beneath a bluff. Thunder rolled. Lighting struck a dead tree in the middle of the field. Smoke, then fire, came, engulfing the tree, spreading to the grass below. A flaming line cut a swath through their garden, separating them. Eve on the coast; Adam in the prairie.
On his own, Adam had to make shelter. Eve still had the heather to return to, the canopy of the jungle. Adam found limbs, long dead branches of trees to stack up against the hillside; leaves to thatch, to make a roof.
At night: separate fires, separate loneliness. The fire kept burning, severed all paths, kept Adam to Adam, Eve to Eve. Threatening their communion with a flaming sword that would forever rage, feasting off dry grass, oxygen rent vegetation, living flora killed by the increase of heat.
Smoke seeped into the night sky. Eve watched from the patches of sugar canes, rubbing her protruding belly. Adam stared on from his island of prairie, able eyes trained to the gray tide snubbing out the light, the moon, the stars in patterns yet to name.
Adam looked to his own fire, enfeebled. The coals were going out, tiny embers disappearing into the plains. He set off to collect more wood.
But for the Company of Me-rrors: An Infinitum
In a bathroom that smells like steam, I am before a mirror: in my hands: a mirror. A matryoshka mirror of infinity and self. There is a smaller me in my chest, and a smaller me in his and a smaller me in his; pregnant with self. In the mirror: An arm moving, an arm moving, an arm moving…. A hand that waves, a hand that waves, a hand that waves…. In the company of Me-s I speak to give voice to the multitudes; I speak: to synecdoche, to pundit.
‘It was a dark, dark night in Patagonia, and the captain said to his mate, ‘‘Mate, mate, tell us a story so we may pass the time.’’ And the mate began: ‘‘‘It was a dark, dark night in Patagonia, and the captain said to his mate, ‘‘‘‘Mate, mate, tell us a story so we may pass the time.’’’’ And the mate began: ‘‘‘‘‘It was a dark, dark night…’’’’’
A chest breathing, a chest breathing, a chest breathing. Eyes blinking, eyes blinking, eyes blinked. An arm moving abreast, an arm moving abreast, an arm standing still. I stop, I stopped, I stare.
‘It was a dark, dark night in Patagonia…’
‘‘It was a bark, bark night in Perrogonia…’’
‘‘‘It was a stark, stark night in Purgatoria…’’’
A mouth agape, a mouth in shock, a mouth in mirth. A self agape, a son agapêton, a pet agapazomenoi? Right hand waved, right hand still, right hand fingering the eardrum. In an echo betwixt the mirrors:
Three voices heard. (Maybe some higher pitched, out of reach.) I stand, standing, stood. I will stand, once standing, once stood. And there are six eyes to be certain, more if we count the rings. Mirror tucked in belt to free the hands. Hands touching hands touching hands.
My hands on a glassine, smaller my-face. A polyseme? I says to myself (us (we.)) A metonym? I/me/mine. Meanwhile, a hand scratching head, a head scratched hand, a soon scratched head. The royal We, standing perplexed amongst linoleum and sweaty walls.
‘To whom do I address?’
‘‘To whom did I redress?’’
‘‘‘To whom will I undress?’’’
Laughter inside laughter inside stoicism. There are answers I demand. Is it masturbatory to reprimand the self, though thy self be smaller and analogous? To punish thy self?
A ghost in the machine and other things obscene.
A soon scratched hand did scratch will scratch.
An anger for certain, for starters: for jocularity, for recalcitrance. Raised blood pressure reddened face. A face red, a face white, a face pink.
More laughter, more games from the me inside the me, et. all. There is a hammer in the bathroom drawer. Don’t ask why. To hope for the safety of infinitives. Now to raise hammer: to threaten with kinesis, to threaten with kenosis, to threaten with epiklesis. Three brandishings for Walhalla? Must to coordinate the tenses. Must to threaten. I to sing, sang, sung:
‘Who are you?’
‘‘Who were you?’’
‘‘‘Who will you?’’’
‘What have you to say?’
‘‘What have you said?’’
‘‘‘What will you have said?’’’
To produce a self-serving Kristallnacht? To destroy the has been and the will have been? No. To reign in. Control, the word of the moment.
I to raise hammer. I to tap lightly on the glass. To smirk: shape up or ship out.
In the mirror a man with fear, a man feared, a man had feared. A name to call myself. Right. A name to call they-self? To revoke/re-nomenclate/repute/un-recalcitrate the voi; or is it the noi?
‘Speak. Tell me a story so I know you to be me.’
‘‘It was a metonymical sunrise like any other, a palatable blend of colors that one invariably comes to expect, an overlapping crispness of air that dangles itself in front of your tongue. A cyclical, teleological event that forces figurative words upon itself. To paint with preset algorithms how the corona refracts through air and water vapor, to reiterate with an olfactory lexicon how the pine and musk and sweet dew adumbrate your chemoreceptors, I took notes. It was a morning replete with ornithological aural accompaniment: a songbird singing songs, a mourning-dove in mourning (crying over spilt eggs), a meadowlark larking across the meadow. Brewed coffee that tasted like burnt toast, baked toast that tasted like stale coffee, poached eggs that tasted like gelatinous nascent chicken: I ate my breakfast by the window. And with an implied sense of its proprietary optimism and a sluggish affinity towards the zenith, the sun began to rise as a lothario for the opposing horizon, a horizon complicit with relativity whose sunset would only serve as another’s metonymical sunrise.’’
‘‘‘Penelope (short: Penny) sat in wait at the kitchen table with the bowl of lathered cream holding a milk-frothed requiem for his platonic, burnt-kidney brother that slipped from the table in the late morning. As a cloud passed over the sun, as a yacht left harbor and coasted up the lake-shore, Penny had gotten distracted, had knocked the plate over. And all the tongue burning coffee and all the chocolate covered biscottis couldn’t make her remember why. Why she married him, why she allowed his philandering, why even with her infidelity they held any idea of why they should remain together. Tilly, their amalgam daughter, who had been the consecration of their union after the failures of their first marriages, a girl who went about life with the luxury of strong social interactions that limited the amount of time spent at home, had forgotten to change the “Word of the Day” calendar on the fridge; Penny pulled off the last date to the new one, June 16th, “metempsychosis.” A woman who’d left the working place for the working house, a mother who’d lost and found and lost again the pleasure of domesticity, Penny was left to spend the day wondering what was left in the collective “their” of life, coaxing cream into her coffee as Don Giovanni played on the kitchen stereo, fearing what was next in the navigations of her life like a ship passing through wandering rocks. We ourselves. Sinn fein.’’’
Lies, all: recited and rehearsed in voices not our own. To raise the hammer once more. To truth.
‘Have you a person? Have you a self, damnit? I want the truth. Tell me something about me [us]. Something only I [we] would know.’
‘‘I have an enormous head. Okay? Like, for my body height and shape, I ought to have a smaller head. It’s just off-putting, you know? And it’s really humiliating. I mean, I would look so much better if, say, my head were about two-point-four inches less in circumference. Then I would look fine. My body would look better because, you know, I’d look more proportional. As it is, it just looks like a smaller body’s propping up this great big head. And when you realize your head is bigger than you think, you forget that when you make certain gestures you’ve got to compensate for the bigger head. Like, in some situations, the face I’m making isn’t the face I feel, or the face I want to be making. Like, I’ll be thinking I’m making this face that’s like I’m Thinking About Something and Trying to Tell Whether It’s Funny or Not, But It’s Not Really Too Important And I Want You To Understand That. Only the face I’m actually making, because my head is so big, is something closer to I Just Stepped In A Puddle On My Way To A Second Round Interview And It’s Bad Enough I’m Not Even Wearing Fresh Socks But To Have Them Wet As Well… You know? Like, I want to apologize to whomever I’m making the face to, right? That I should say to them ‘‘‘Hey, this isn’t the face I meant to make. I’m very sorry; I meant no harm. Have a pleasant rest of the day.’’’ I’ve become very self conscious. Like, if I’m trying to pick up a woman at a bar or bookstore or something, I’ll be too overwhelmed by whether or not I’m making an appropriate face. You know? Like Am I making a face like I’m A Very Serious And Smart Individual, With A Little Bit Of Mystery To Make Up For The Fact That I’m Not Better Looking, But I Also Have This Very Funny Side To Me And Don’t You Want To Find Out? Aren’t You Curious? But I could really be making a face like Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity Is All Wrong, And Where Is the Nearest Restroom So I Can Pop This Cyst On My Upper Thigh? I mean, how do I account for this? Usually I’ll just go up to her after I’ve realized what I’ve done and apologize profusely, but I don’t think she gets me. Most times she just looks disturbed, like I’m not well—mentally—and she doesn’t know if she should call security or wait it out. I either get that one, or the sympathetic one, like she thinks I’m autistic, which I feel is worse because she’ll make more of a pitying face. Do you get me? I think you get me? You get me. Yeah, I don’t think you get me.”
‘‘‘So I have… this thing… I do. Like a safe-word… kind of. Let me back up. Okay, right, so when I was like sixteen I had gotten into the local rave scene—hold your judgments. I’d been taking a lot of E, eating some acid, which would come on these little blotted pieces of note-card paper (Very camouflaged, right? ’Cause if a cop happened to pull us over he’d find the note-cards and just think us studious amidst the pacifiers and glow-sticks and neon clothing and science-fiction haircuts), then there was the ketamine and some other kinds of pills that we would just take without any prior research. So one day this guy just up and gave me this pill, said it was called a Peanut. ‘‘‘‘Why?’’’’’ ‘‘‘‘Like what they give the elephants at the circus, it’s just like taking a trip to the circus, man.’’’’ Something happened, I don’t remember what, but I didn’t take the pill that night, just put it in my pocket and forgot about it until I was doing the laundry some weeks later. It was… what was it?… a Wednesday, I think. I was bored so I took it… two hours later I’m lying on the floor in a pool of sweat and vomit, my skin all blotchy and swollen. My parents came home and found me collapsed on the kitchen floor. They took me to the emergency room where the doctors said if I had gotten there just one half-hour later I would have died. So I tell this to girls when we’re intimate. I tell them the story and say ‘‘‘‘Now, every time I hear the word peanut, I get cold chills and a small spasm of nausea.’’’’ I tell them, ‘‘‘‘But this is a good thing. It only lasts about fifteen seconds, then it passes. So, if I look like I’m about to come, or you just want me to slow down, just say… peanut.’’’’ It’s weird, she admits, but sure enough she does it and every time peanut gets said I stop, shiver, take a couple breaths, and jump back into it fresh as a cucumber. When she sees the effect work, she has a little fun with it and starts shouting peanut peanut peanut until I almost throw up. Then she feels bad and uses it sparingly. Except, and here’s the thing: I was never into the rave scene; I never did E, or X, or whatever it goes by; I never took ketamine; and I’ve never even heard of a drug called Peanut. I know what you’re thinking: ‘‘‘‘Oh, so it was just a peanut allergy that you tried to cover up with a story about drug use in order to impress the girls.’’’’ And I’d say: ‘‘‘‘Yes! That makes sense doesn’t it? That’s what you would think, right?’’’’ Except, I’m not allergic to peanuts.’’’
I, to lower the hammer from the mirror, but to keep in reach. Now to settle the One. A brow raised, a brow raised, a brow rising. Hammer to raise in admonition once again. A hammer raised, a hammer raised, a hammer raised.
Once collated, now collate:
‘Let us begin.’
‘It was a dark, dark night in Patagonia…’
‘‘It was a dark, dark night in Patagonia…’’
‘‘‘It was a dark, dark night in Patagonia…’’’
Alexander V. Bach
is a writer and musician living in Chicago, IL. He holds an MA in Fiction Writing from Johns Hopkins University. He received a 2012 Pushcart Prize nomination. His current musical project, Red Tigers, is wrapping up demos for a full-length release. Samples and demos can be found at their soundcloud here: Red Tigers