Red will kill himself and win. He will outsmart me despite my greatest efforts, for in the end he was always so much more clever than I. Out of my reach, from the window of another’s room, the meager frame for his hidden portrait will have been chosen with care for the sapphire sheen of the other Chad’s curtains, beside a withered and yellow lacquered nightstand. Well then: Jump! And most certainly he will: and then he’s dead, gone from me, and as far from my grasp as he ever could have dreamed. And apart from his gleeful defiance and overtly tragic comedy (seen by no one), I find myself left rather bored in the aftermath. Only sporadic, flashing smirks for his last (practically Masonic) wit stop mold from growing on my face.
He had won the chance; the very chance to die without identity — a lucky him. Red had talked about his death for years with the first itch starting as a tingling curiosity that would eventually draw blood as he continued to scratch. The open wound bred black spores of his own, reforming productively into an opaque and totalizing obsession — the narrative bubbling out of him as an orgasm froths. With a golden ticket stuffed down the front of his pants, our endless lust and euphoric years would be sweetly parted with an erasure’s kiss and final fuck.
But that was later, before I came to see him through his thickly furrowed brow, where from behind I’d followed him closely. Back then, deep in the gym basement some years ago, there had been a stairwell. There used to be a hundred photographs of a dark red drawstring bag strewn on this blue metal fire-stair, for which I now only fuzzily remember. The photographs had sufficed then. It was dim and the heavily shadowed powder blue walls stiffened his red hair, which would be made all the more crimson soon by an accidental splatter. Descending the stairs seven seconds ahead of me he distractedly missed a step, falling the flight down to the landing to lay in a crumpled heap of bloody flesh and dirty laundry. And I had laughed aloud!, shattering my specter: for the misstep had been involuntary.
Blush or blood: sovereignty will have had nothing to do with it. A cruel obligation I’d lain in his lap would make him my Prince and captive to our dying-child of 10 years. Rather than a creature of independent thought, this arbitrary child was but an Shakespearean bargain. Who else would have loved him in the aftermath? Every day I told him so, so everyday he showed up at 9:00am to make the photographs asked of him. We had entered a routine with him on one side of the table and on the other sat I: day after day. Silently, the chemical process bubbled and simmered as our new memories developed in this little room of ours. How could I not help but be angered by the deliberate smudges he left with his hand on our delicate images. Pinks and blues scarred his pale hands and fingers in blushing smears, which he transferred to his nose by habit’s scratch to make him appear bruised and gaunt. “Trace the erase!,” he’d shouted at my reprieving claw, wrecking the next photograph with his clumsy fingers for he could hardly steady himself for laughing.
“Who controls the world?” Every so often he’d ask me this, as he was leaving the room, or as we were preparing for bed—a toothbrush hanging loosely on the left, his mouth full of bubbles, making him appear rabid. I found it funny, even with the charring undertones in his words. The first time he asked it (and this was a few true dates into our romance), I responded “God,” out of fear that I’d overlooked a latent Catholic supposition and feared I'd lose him forever just after I’d gotten hold. (Three would have been a loud crowd.) His belief in God was quite literally misplaced. “I do,” he whispered across the table, before cackling loudly as he rubbed the lit candle wick between his fingers to extinguish it as our dinner scene vanished. The same joke would be played out with light switches while I was working, or when we’d have sex. “Because I can turn the lights off,” he’d finish with a grin. And with not but thumb and fore, he’d sublimate the glass pyramid I’d worked so hard to construct for us, turning it to ghostly vapor, and plunging me back into an ungraspable mist, uncertain of what I possessed.
Life over at 23: life over at 32. If he could see me now I’m certain he’d be morose watching me make my own masks for his obituary rather than having them sent out for. Nothing is fitting my sharpening visage and the precedents fall short of portraying our parallel lives. AIDS would have seemed to be the act of a merciful god—killing flutter twitting fags before they do so from each other’s vanity and centrifuge. Now sitting safely in retrospect, I laugh openly at the Freudian ligaments tying his and my cadavre-exquis together. In my case, a scarlet fever had become malignant, and really I too have scratched at a rash of my own creation. This illness of ego was contracted by little more than a mystic light through a window some years ago, coloring in his outlines that were only just visible through condensating glass. At least that’s what I shall say. But even still, I don’t think I’m fully to blame in the matter. I’d foolishly entered a narrative with Red that begged to be dropped into like stepping onto a smooth elevator between disparate worlds: one where any actually physical adjacency to him was rendered stupid. Truthfully, I find it difficult to point at the site of origin when him and I first came upon one another (can we blame him for the origin?), and find myself unable now to discern certainty in the horizon for which to conclude (you again Red? My dear speak up if you have an opinion to voice). Never a “thank you,” never a “fuck you”: just a passive aversion of his gaze, just a perpetual suggestion of a ruthless violence done. He never seemed all too concerned with co-authoring the conclusion but I’d wrongly assumed there would come a time when the tethers fell away and he’d sit at the table with me freely.
Where did I myself trip to break our loop ad infinitum? Had I not measured and limited the activities we shared to each measure and note so as to check his dreams and aspirations?, which were bound to develop once the initial shock wore off. My voluntary contraction could only wear the garbs of sympathy for so long before Red would feel bound by his morals and come to resent me. When that time came my goal was reversed: to break the inevitable pattern and take on a more voluntary capacity for our relations and I can’t say it was not achieved, despite the form it took. The photographic stills once put into a film reel only added a cyclical metallic clicking sound, like a gun cocked in rhythmic succession. Click, click, click, click, click. The day-to-day had quickly become this; staring away from the screen and my daily work, I would find myself closing my eyes to accept an architectural scene of plasticly-deformed glass boxes, rested within larger ones, and so forth, wound up endlessly in a twisting corkscrew. In this waking nightmare the sameness of each passing clicking turn along the corkscrew existed only as a retinal aesthetic, and with each upward turn over the years the differences from our beginning would hide themselves in plain sight. Equality was a trill trick of perspective. And the shrill clicking! Eyes closed, the snare would be struck by dear Red with a mere whisper, and the reverberation between so much glass was all-consuming and a terror that never faded. There was something uneasy in the deception I’d forged, as the conflict of reflections jumped forward to reveal themselves in actuality before flickering away to the original crafted image of an ideal and happy state of things — warping and swelling a gentleman’s mirror.
The loom is broken now for the cog has run off, but a decade ago peace would have resumed once the lights were switched back on. Back then I had only prayed that Red too didn’t wear spectacles, for the extra glass layered in and superimposed as we faced each other would have made the heffalumps and woozles gorge darkly.
For his 29th birthday, I’d taken my man to Venice for the entirety of July. Acting like a spoiled child, and having wanted to go to Disneyland instead, he complained in a constant string of pearls for our sweaty stay. “A sunset ramble which was most enjoyable,” he failed to see for much merit. We got lost and were being dragged down the same spiral path, our compounding exhaustion with each turn ravaging our moods. An attempt to “further lose myself in his eyes” as the sun set was met by him putting on large-framed sunglasses and lighting another cigarette. For the remainder of the trip he’d break from dissinterest every so often to lightly exercise his displeasure, exhaling deeply from his nostrils. Most of his lasagna was spread across his plate by a dazed and bored fork (sarò finito). He doned the large sunglasses again as we passed under the shadow-heavy Bridge of Sighs by gondola, but as we left and moved towards San Marco, I saw the glasses slip and his face collapse in genuine delight for the first time since we’d arrived. He stopped to gleam back brightly at the perfume ad wallpapering every pixel of the exterior restoration for the Bridge we’d just crossed under.
To mend his discontent and my looming guilt, I promised him that for my own birthday we would go to Disneyland. I would pretend to endure the precise number of seconds he'd suffered for my pleasure in Venice. Therefore March was spent in a neon and paper-mache Arcadia — our days being frankly no different from those in Venice with the sole exception of his visible contentment. Mildly intoxicated, we’d walk around together, with my arm over his shoulder—or now his over mine. When we finally started our courtship, he had remarked how it was “grand” that we were the same height. “For without any awkwardness…” he began, contradicting his own phrase by placing his arm around the back of my neck such that his limp wrist cantilevered off my shoulder. An animated yawn and stretch, self-aware for the joke, he continued “when I have nothing to say, I’ll not have any need to.” He had spoken the last words so fast, his head jittering like a dog scratching his collar. Practically perfecting the image, he had scratched the back of his head, and scrunched his left eye and cheek with his free hand, blushing embarrassed by what he’d said. It was as if it had fallen from his open mouth while he chewed.
By this time his penchant for planning his death had become an obsessed-over, only-child to him — which he detailed with love and made perfect in his image. He re-wallpapered his demise incessantly, placing each sketch, paper scrap, or photograph in a used cardboard delivery package. He would carefully take down the small box from its place in the closet, un-tape the flaps at either side, and gingerly rest his newly found gold leafed talisman or sequin in the rapidly accumulating monumental pile of trash. It was at this point he no longer read the newspaper as one typically does: as a collected record of past events. “Inspiration” he regurgitated stupidly, “could be found anywhere.” At his desk he sat all day and well into the night clipping fragments, ‘feeding the box’, and occasionally standing before the small portrait mirror hung just above his desk to check his metaphoric mask. “Pastiching an end?” I called through the cracked door before sulking off when he gave no answer. Viewed from the crack, his steadily twitching nose became a sundial to read the passing of time off his careful smile — all the while cheerfully whistling doom.
Nine years later of our first-sight, we had still lived in Harlem — getting the privilege to watch it flood as Venice had before. Our photographs are dull now but something is there that I’d previously missed. I’m positive!, but I’m at a loss as to what possible meaning or content anyone could assign them in the event of my own death. The Roses of the first era are the Interiors of second to last one: and are the Untitled stills just beyond the veil. Most are wiped clean of significant blemishes, but by the choice of our favorite camera which now made the photos for us, the sponge-lens blurs the new scenes. Still, the camera and developing fluids do their part to make faint flaw scratches on the goopy soft surface.
As of late, my mind has fettered to my own end. Emerging first in slumber as static screen imitations of Crash (the old book and film (not with Sandra Bullock (dumbass))), these daily pauses have migrated to something base and separate. Red has transferred his muse where it too has festered, abet isolated in a petri dish rather than as something we could have done together. A violent car crash? Bonded and fused forever to a large piece of cold metal alter? No it would not be enough. But I will keep the general idea in my current fit of numbness. For these fetterings appear less to end a misery than to shatter a monotony. I no longer read Day. But to know there is an appetizing pinch to the nerve of it all does partially satisfy something in me. That has got to be what he saw, for what could be more libertine? The simplest of pleasures. To defy my individual, my pathological, and my medical body.
He’s disappeared and checked into a hotel to kill himself, not even asking me for my advice on this last venture as to what he use to term (with accent) as “the current styles and tastes,” or “the new Black” What was the point of all this! if you ask the question Madame Fashion or Death?! How could he have been so certain it was perfect?! If my Red had fully been granted his wish, the hotel interior was blue and lacquered in its entirety. The walls, the bedding, and the bathtub (I’m joking: the bathtub especially!) would be the glossy color of sapphire; so by the nature of light, all bloody inclusions and blemishes, splatters and drips, would appear black and transfigured. Only the nightstand could receive marks in clashing primaries. On the note he had left for me that day, he wrote some banal nonsense (“went to grocery store”), and scrawled his signature in the top-left corner. Several letters were missing from his signature—the ones that were excessive to the composition I suppose. Ugly letters, like U, are skipped. Both Rs are left in (grrrr). But supposedly it was perfect without half the S and an added O! Beside his centripetal and jagged signature, he’d drawn a smiling stick figure with a snaggle tooth, as a passive but final “fuck you.” He’d followed it with an energetic XOXO, the Xs and Os scratched so quickly they overlaid onto one another comically to resemble the eyes of dead cartoons peering to the right off of the page.
Pretending to read a book, you and I are once again at the table in the old library. It isn’t the origin but as close to the beginning as I can recall, the initiating bookend to a measured shelf of volumes, to an agreed upon length of time together ambitiously designed then by my own hand when your palm read no future. My breath slows to inhale your ghost again across the long table with the empty chair at the end, relishing in spirit the old seed that had been our creation to come. A large demon in my chest pushes on my lungs and catches itself at the back of my throat in imitation of how it had been in those first years. Rubbing it gently I fall backwards in time, when my mind had raced — tabulating phalanxed schemes but desperately hoping I’d only have nudged you into scratching this hopeless itch I held. When subtle drinking fountain visits would double the count of less subtle bathroom visit. Oh the time I pissed away in stalled prayer you would slip and fall under my spell. That was just before the ‘brother’ to this very story, that occured nine years ago, where you and I laid the first stone and drew up these obfuscated plans for the last days, myself taking a draft of the potion and the poison, removing accident or providence from the tragedy, so the final scene of star-crossed lovers could be played out over ten years — so long as neither of us took the antidote.
After he checked out of the hotel, I went to identify his body. He had explicitly told me a number of times not to do so. It was all part of the narrative he’d planned, down to my mandated absence. In the hotel he had left a final suicide letter, which he had written out thousands of times, from every angle, to make it perfect. Upon finally finding where he’d done it, I had rushed to the hotel to retrieve what was left of my love. Yet the fucking letter read simply “the suicide letter is I”! For full weeks one Spring, he had jumped out of bed and scuttled down the hall to his little office, flattening out the destructed old drafted letters and delicately drawing splotches that could be misconstrued as tear drops. Two years ago, the letter was the length of a pinched novella of Enlightened delight. I’d read several recent versions, pulling them from the waste bin to salvage each between my hands with the love for a soon-to-be absent friend, or parting child. A few contained brief apologies while a dozen or so were done in manic screams. The painted tears had been a fresh strike of genius—so avant-garde that it couldn’t have possibly been kept to himself — and so he told me. That was during the period when his letters took on the mask of a self-violent depressive—which could not have been further from his actual state. Grinning ear-to-ear, listening to music with headphones and humming along, he tapped his foot as he painted his scenery, pausing periodically to pin the letters to the wall and carefully consider the brush strokes, occasionally letting out a short bursting laugh like a suppressed exorcizing sneeze when he found the right one.
There is no name on the cardboard box of accumulated ideas he left behind, just as there will be no personal identification etched into the plywood casket — and just as there had been no real mark left for me in the hotel room. After waiting in the morgue for 50 or so minutes, I will tell the coroner that I have never known this man and turn to leave. After the refrigerator door is latched, I ask the woman what will happen to him—to my Red. “What are the protocols for a city burial?” I ask and she tells me thus; they spray-paint a number at the head of a plywood box; it is placed, with everyone else in the city unclaimed, on a boat to arrive at Harts Island the following week. The other day I came across a UPS pamphlet advertising its international and domestic carrier services for corpses. A funny thought, but maybe if he’d know he might have written things differently. Instead and as planned, he will be buried in the potter’s field rather than shipped to the Ganges, or whatever the fuck else he romanticized for himself. The American conception of this grave yard reminds me of that cemetery island in Venice, just visible across the water’s top. Isola di San Michele: a dead mass—visible, but out of reach. So maybe our trip hadn’t been a complete waste to him.
In his will (for as a dependant penniless shrew he thought to leave one), he left me the curation of his own death—like an heirloom recipe. The document for dealing with a legacy written as a past act: how witty of him. He willed me his last will, which was all he actual gave to me aside from that maddening nursery note on the predicted yellow night stand. The thing even read like a meal plan for his own arranged death, complete with glossy pictures and scaled drawings: a heavily saturated portrait of himself clownishly savoring something. Inside the envelope there is no second recipe written just for me and so now I have a choice to make. Just last week he asked me if I’d follow suit should the time come, but his good heart wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to take the grim privilege from my own hand. His assumption is quite smug. Now that I think of it, the gesture provokes little more than anger that he beat me to it. “As if now I can’t kill myself?” May he still rest in purgatory. “Wouldn’t it come across as a poor imitation?” He knew it would and relished in it for certain, thinking he’d castrate me. “It would be cliche to follow suit.” A ‘happy dagger’ can be subtracted from the retaliatory equation.
“Is living really so virtuous?” he’d said one recent night in response to my prolonged and rapidly escalating misery, as my attempts to lengthen our time together were taking no effect. “The Bitch begs endlessly for her life, over and over, and it becomes boring. Far from ending her misery, she refuses this powerful act of defiance, and bows out her sovereign power.” But she was my last sovereign, this coin, this puritan Mary immobilized by Hell’s thread. A light cycle of the necessary drugs and we could have another 10 years, but he’d found a different loophole to Plan A and removed the decision from myself or Providence. Frantically searching for what I could say to persuade him to embrace our arrangement and abandon his trajectory, I said in broken tones “but the forethought must be a happy time, no?” He paused for a moment before agreeing, “yes” he said calmly, “the forethought must be,” and putting his headphones back on to resume his work gave no further explanation, and now I’m curious if he’d coughed up this rancid must-y something that was merely the color of profundity.
Thread cut but god as my witness I’m determined to outsmart him, make right, and involuntarily baptize him in death. I will come to him. Telling no one, I’ll follow him to Hart’s Island, in the city where we met: where we had lived. A Romantic will kill his anonymity and end this twisted bard’s tale. I will win you stupid waif! But for now I must chose to allow the original plan to play out, to wither away, or accept his revisions. There is nothing for me to do until I choose to do so. Nothing left to me but to make sure his own well laid plans would not be interrupted—not that it mattered.
Walking from the morge, I had no doubt it would take time for the city to bury the body. Inmates from Riker’s Island arrive by boat weekly to Hart’s Island to bury the City’s unclaimed in a festival of living and dead debris, washing ashore an unremarkable plot in unison. Given the questionable temperment and idealistic goals of escape held by the workmen, high-security limits pedestrian access to the potter’s field to just the first Friday of every month. Mother’s reown their children, lover’s reclaim their escaped partners, or a simple clan of the clinically clumsy will disband forgetfulness and a path across Styx is opened for the sorry to grieve sorrow before a labelless damp swatch of dirt. Outside the coroner’s office I only partially watched the sun set on what was the first Friday of the month, purblind by the uncontrollable fury-sparked nictate suddenly and manically affecting my left eye. Wait a full month — the prospect seemed more impossible than avading capture in a rubber boat, or swimming the half-mile distance between City and Hart’s Island, where once ashore I’d fall to my knees and sob at the first sign of freshly tilled earth.
As I had began to frantically draw up contingency plans for the latter two options (a full month! ba! like hell!), an inordinately hairy bank officer arrived knocking at my door to serve me with the deed to a property I’d purportedly just purchased. “A wise investment sir,” the man quipped, as if I had asked or cared. Fresh interim plans began to form: to gruesome this furry shrub with the pencil I’d absent-mindedly brought to the door. As my left shoulder gave the right its blessing, and imminent became incipient, I was halted as he announced the property’s “scenic location on City Island.” The red draining from my eye sockets (and pocketing the pencil), he continued to verbally sell the already purchased property but now I only remember a ludicrous remark of “five minutes walk from the best froglegs you’ve ever had sir.” As it turns out, Red had (generously forging my signature with the same loving precision of his forged mental fugue in the days of yore) contracted a $247,239 morgage for a scenic lookout point on City Island, to build our once happy family a god-damned treefort. The deed was packaged with a small note saying he’d lost the deed, and giving additional conflicting instruction for regularly scheduled payments and the date and time of the next homeowners association meeting (”refreshments will be served”). His penmanship was dated to last Monday. The other pages revealed he’d gotten a remarkably low interest rate and the closing costs were waived.
This was to be my widow’s walk or, as Red had already cleverly dubbed it, my Widow’s Peak for its A-frame roof. He had additionally referred to the treefort in the note, in jest, as Red’s Narcissa and I recalled a short time ago when my book was found in the washer by a perplexed technician. I myself knew the dark joke then (and especially now) was two-fold. But the wash had been warm so I’d bleached the intent. Three feet under he lies in his plywood casket and he still manages to give me splinters. The pain is masochistic. I know fully that the joints are mitered flush and invisible based off a ridiculous bureaucratic internship he did for what I thought was a joke that went too far. But I love the perfectionist he came to be. Plan B was marred. There really is no point in going to Hart’s Island but he still amuses me in death. And I just don’t want to go alone.
No more memorials. No more obelisks. There are more than enough. In the arc of my short career I’ve designed but one—a cynical pile of slurry fill-dirt stubbornly occupying land for a period of time until it dies. Just until the tides of time wash it away into the Harlem river and out to sea. The adjacent building performed an action. The dirt stopped one — playing upon every shallow academic and shallower meaning that could give it gas-value for the sentimental citizens to keep it contained like a collander, like a slowly deflating balloon once in the shape of a conic pyramid, gone in ten years time.
Late in my years I’ve work actively to destroy monuments, quicken the coquelure, and bring forth a speedy death. Standing in the Guggenheim I reach forward calmly to touch the paintings, feeling the dulbed texture of Kandinsky, and the shifts that can be felt between colors, making sure that the oils in my hands are able to undo his work, before a security guard comes and asks me to leave. Every statue I see I’ve caressed the marble flesh for good luck. On the mantel rest fragments of Machu Picchu from two separate visits. How can one ‘damage’ ruins? What society chooses Time as the deciding god in the matter? Years ago I bought the Villa Savoye and it ‘accidentally’ burned down. In the early hour of the morning, the oven-door on the second floor ‘malfunctioned,’ asphyxiating her before a grand explosion scattered the ashened crumbs and no one could save her — such a shame. The tremendous blast was such that a bit of the diamond-shaped tile from the ramps was discovered down the hill in an adjacent village. It entered a museum shortly there after.
Appreciating that no scale is too small, I destroy books after I’ve finished with them. It was Red’s idea originally, who upon finishing with a book, took a final evening with it and his notes before casting them to the fire. Imagine him: lovingly he looks through them from a soft chair, caressing his favorite lines and characters, and often reciting them aloud under the bathroom door as I sat on the toilet. Following foreplay, giving them a last fleeting thrill, he poured acetone through the pages to wipe it clean. I pushed him down the stairs when I found the first of many books he’d performed this ritual on. Reaching into my bookshelf for The Garden of Eden, I found he’d read it last week in a fit of boredom from my absence and had dissolved every letter to dirty smears. Over the years it would become less of a surprise. No Exit—the fire. Huck Finn—actually physically missing (in the Hudson River I presume). Lolita—cleaned with sweet exception. After ritualistically bleaching the monument I held so dear, he ran out to purchase pink lipstick, applying it in the mirror I’d imagined, before planting a thick kiss (pressing his tongue through his teeth) onto the first blurry page.
There he had sat on the ledge of the window (“please don’t jump dear” I’d say in passing) tearing out the page from a book as he turned it, his face ecstatically bouncing from gleeful grins, to lecherous laughter, thick-eyed sober sombers, or choking up at calamity and climax. Nearing the last words of the back of a page, he would then either loosen grip to let a cross-draft take it out the window whimsically, or crush it into a ball in-fist and toss it carelessly down to the street to strike a bewildered biker who’s reprimanding screams, often paired with four-letter words, would fall upon deaf ears (or at least the muffed ears of my dear Red). The spine would be left on the sill like a skeletal remain displaying just how big the savaged body of the book had once been. Or humorously, I told him, “as an example to the remaining books on the shelf to make them quiver with fear”. More recently though now nearly a decade later, as a courtesy we’d have told each other before ceremoniously destroying our books. “I was just going to take this down to the laundromat,” he’d say. “Do you want a final flight with the thwing before it’s clipped?” “No, thank you though,” I’d remarked absentmindedly from my plot on the carpet where I worked, not initially looking away but slowly glancing up perplexed (the washer was fixed now). Catching his eye I would add “but I was going to go down the street to buy chips so I’ll come along.” A brief silent pause and I’d further add “(i)f you don’t mind of course?” An opportunity for tenderness I nearly overlooked. He didn’t seemed to mind, though he couldn’t say that I’d hadn’t given him the option out.
He use to ask me for advice in this matter: of writing one’s demise. He’d bounce ideas off of me storming up every conclusion imaginable: ennumerating each scheme to me over the table as we ate and explaining in breathless narratives what made it perfect. I’d run a fresh red pen across his first plans, reading through the first of his letters, offering suggestions, correcting or creatively destroying the grammar for the effect I knew would make him happy. No one else could ever read them with the same apple-eye. Then he turned 31 last year and stopped sharing them. Perfection became autonomy and anonymity. I walked into his little office and picked up an abandoned flier on a stool. The flier itself was capturing, marked with various shades of purple as if cast in a haunting neon light. The flier read the title of an art exhibition he’d visited the previous week, the graphic scrawled, as if by his very own hand, the words “is it much, too much to ask, not to hide behind the mask?”
I recall another trip, to Los Angeles long ago — this at the onslaught of our suicidal tourism. Returning from the Beverly Hills Hilton, he pulled me into the Roosevelt as we were walking back to the hostel we actually had keys to. Dragging me briskly passed the elevators into the dimly lit lobby, and dropping his neon bag at the side of a tufted ottoman, he fell backward upon the mock-alter. He pulled me down to sit beside him before sitting up himself. With my head in his hands, he cocked my neck to rest back and face the coffered ceiling. “Close your eyes,” he said, running a peace-sign of parted fingers down my eyelids as he stood up and positioned himself to face me before leaning over. Into my ear he put first a secret: second a tongue (to render the first sparkly clean). Then no more than a moment could have past before, with a startling jolt he grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet, tugging me to the elevator in a weaving fashion between the dense field of dark leather furnitures and glittering people. “Lets go to the roof for a drink” he said. “I heard the view was 150 feet. It could be perfect” As the doors closed and the elevator began to rise, I received a kiss on the cheek. I turned in surprise and looked into his gray eyes to find them, even more surprisingly, staring back. Between them were fresh freckles on his nose from the long day: formed under the pressure of two happy clouds.
My last sojourn will also end with “I.”. Coffee is placed before me by a young woman, and she backs away quietly for she does not speak English. Ethiopian coffee is fruity, but the wine is shit. The Sheraton in Addis Ababa, I’ve come to see, is a scene of lavished conflict between those who aren’t the mass of others. New people have arrived through the summer, constantly playing by themselves or with others in toe or before, the impressions lasting on the velvet carpet until run through with a vacuum and their trace is erased. Through the large foyer window, a trio-ed cluster of soot-covered pigeons stand still. Just beyond, the city below is veiled in smoke that only thickens, filling the outlines of the clouds — from outlines to contours, to shades, to a totalizing plush gray blankness.
He and the photographs are gone but I’ll keep his bag at my side: which is my favorite totem by far. The strap clicks at either side. Click, click! It had been a gym duffle repurposed to serve as a school satchel in the olden days. The bag was a patchwork of 1980s neons that still make me romantic for an era before my twinkle’s own. My own gym bag had been stolen from someone, and the green of that prodigious bag matched near-perfect my counterpart’s without the complexes of a failed father figure. Red’s though had this hypnotic lip-pink hue that couldn’t be compared, and therefore made it superior. A gym bag that I never saw at the gym, for there he’d used a dark red drawstring pouch and I wished I’d kept the photos of it for that bag is all but gone. In the neon duffle, during our youth, was his laptop (light-as-air), the meticulously organized and dated pages of notes on loose-leaf paper, a pencil, and our pocket knife: but they’re gone now and replaced. Click, click goes the chosen instrument of death and immortality, tucked safely within the bag. Where as the yoke was slain, the body will be left a Lord of Clay known to none but our own: to be soon little more than a nylon sculpture of only this Earth: to remain so by the half-life of synthetic plastics. “Why’d you do it on your own? I refuse to be left alone. You’re far but I can get there too.” I finish my coffee and stand to leave. “An obituary for you my dear, and one for me too.”