Now is always here, even in the past and far away. I’m like a Bolshevik pocketing Fabergé crystal while the palace burns. You need to be here.
There’s a long-haul truck driving into my eyes and careening inside my brain. I want to report this guy as his face slides by, but the 800 number on the dinosaur bumper is out of service and the pressures in my ears rise as a compression blast squeezes my brain into a tiny black box. The driver has red skin and the air conditioner is industrial with overtones of frozen bodies for sale. Medical schools have interest. He’s carrying a load to Albuquerque and is two days late. The border is a meat hook and he passes out near the bridge, but he blames the slightly used female floating above him.
The girl and I are hugging in the parking lot of a Mexican bar on the edge of Federal Highway 2. The after-draft of the 18-wheeler staggers us. Little bits of stinging gravel hit our hands and arms. She is an orphan and grew up along the border. I play pool with her and she loves to crack the balls and smile at me between slugs of beer. We meet when she can get away from her lead-infected boyfriend. She can’t tell him about her disease. He’s a scary person, but the sex is sort of good and he helps with the money.
Our relationship is a rocket ride in the backseat of my car. Her education is limited and when she sees plastic flowers in the shop window she says: “Be the flowers real Duke? Be they real?”
The neon checkers her tear-stained face and her light hair and blue eyes are like surface water on a nice day. She is dying at 26 just like all the rest of us, but she is dying quicker and wants to whisper into my ear about inoperable cancer. I can feel it growing deep inside her blood cells. Her breasts heave against my heart and I wonder if her blood can get into my body. We stand as overstuffed shapes in glowing lights that are failing the universe. Then she says, “Hold me tight and stop it.”
I have given up on the question, since it implies an accounting of fairness and I know for certain there is no fairness in this world. Asking “why me” is a bit like praying. Coincidence seems like a better bet. Sometimes it’s me at the center of some kind of shit and sometimes not. We are, in the vernacular of the bathroom wall scrawl, doomed and here’s a telephone number if you’d like more information. I want more, and so I dial the number, but the voice is too heavy and I hang up and walk home in the dark.
I can hardly keep my head up as I write. There is a faint ringing in my ears and my mind is insecure. I contemplate the cyclops. Most people don’t have a care about the rise of the cyclops, but I am different. What are we without moon arrows and the drift of shadows like fine cloth over our bodies? I would say not much.
Last night a bomb went off in front of the Berlin Bar. The blast was in the distance as if someone distasteful was screaming my name. Bombs have an unworldly sound and the compression can suck everything out of the air. I just returned from where a backpack had leaned against a wall. Men were putting up new plaster and replacing plate-glass windows. A few cops stood around. I don’t like bombs. They are not natural. They have been invented. I prefer lightning and thunder and the odds of getting killed in Lesotho. I remember the bombs going off in Peshawar. There were body parts hanging from the telephone wires a few blocks over. We didn’t know anything about it, other than the Arabs and the Afghans were squabbling. This was the first time I ever heard about the Arab NGO operating down the street. Osama bin Laden was one of the volunteers. Maybe he came to coordination meetings. He was apparently a stickler for detail as well as master of the big picture. Who knows?
My heart needs rest and I have been up since 1:30 a.m. with my dogs and Miles Davis: one is brave, one is deaf, and one left music behind. Good for them. Humans are walking away from the myths and saying farewell to the hand on the wall and the dance of ash and firelight that once drove us into ecstasy.
Whatever happened to the girl dying of blood cancer? Did the red-faced guy guiding the 18-wheeler like a 50,000 pound bomb end up crashing? Did anyone ever go over to the woman who answered the phone with a man’s voice and find out how the world ended? Why does the cyclops follow me? Did bin Laden have sane ideas on cross-border operations? Why didn’t they put nails in the backpack outside the Berlin Bar? These are the kinds of questions that I struggle with here in the present. Maybe I need to ride the escalator with human flesh stuck between the metal teeth. You see, it’s too late for me. The sun is coming up yet again. I need to go to bed with my dogs and wake up the woman waiting there. She has a windup key growing out of her back. She laughs like a child beneath the covers as the key twists round and round.
Depression arrives with a voiceless turn at the podium and then I sleep, but not before I upload my crowded now for your eyes only.