I awoke at dawn and decided not to masturbate for the millionth time. Self-imposed sex is like the sun burning in my hand. Instead of that, I became a moving van driver hauling words made out of furniture fated for empty houses in distant cities: new adventures for everyone. So I rolled out of bed and took a walk down my street of infinite possibilities. Well, maybe not infinite, but really a very large number. My head was unclear and I was slightly dizzy. The birds were still sleeping and there was mountain mist running along the ridge line like a sad piano solo that only I could hear. The glass window panes were just beginning to stream with condensation. Perhaps they were weeping for something not quite gone like a worm-eaten stray or a hopeless little boy with a face framed by the glow of electronic lights and the hum of a ventilator. That would make me cry and for a moment I did cry. In that sense, I am partly related to glass. Of course, everyone is related to glass, it is just that maybe they don’t value it as much as I do.
One footstep after the other: the house of Don Charley was shuttered on my right. It had an impressive iron gate and high walls with spikes to keep the killers out, but if anyone really wanted to get inside, they could. Several decades ago, Don Charley had been a major player in a failed coup down in Honduras. He had taken shelter in Mexico. He was a life-long refugee, a communist, a utopian, and believed in the inherent good of all people. Of course, politics often trump our good hearts, and sometime in the 1980s his old enemies tried to assassinate him. They shot him in the leg and chest, but he didn’t die. Eventually, he won the protection of the Mexican government and moved in with his sister. After she died, Don Charley inherited her fine home and extensive property. He was a rich communist and played the part with the irony one might expect.
Don Charley died two months ago. They cremated his body in one of the industrial parts of town. I went and watched the black smoke disappear into the haze. Mexicans are not used to cremation. It reminds them too much of barbecuing pig or goat. He was 95 when he stopped breathing. I had known him when he was a young man of 88 living in Monterrey. His eyes were a watery blue and his wrinkles told hellish stories in a soothing, bedside voice. After Franco came to power in Spain he grew up as a refugee along the Pyrenees Mountains in France. He and his surviving brother were partisans, crossing the border every now and then to blow something up in Spain. He had met Lorca and knew all about the Lincoln Brigade and counted many members as friends. One of the shocking things about life is how terrible events can be described with common words that one might find in a flower garden or game of badminton. Yes, the flowers die and turn black and the game is lost, but also the body dies and blackens and the city is lost and all the people are lost and the babies cry, but not from just waking up, but rather because they have been burned by explosions. Words wear masks and we never really know what they mean until the masks fall away and the truth is revealed.
I carry Don Charley’s death around with me like a bottle of mezcal and every time I pass his house I take a drink and think about things that matter. A few days ago Edward Albee and W.P. Kinsella died. I have conflated all three deaths together in my mind: the rich communist, the gay esthetic, and the difficult curmudgeon. I was the lifeguard in the Sandbox and little did I know how the role would follow me through life. Shoeless Joe is like the soul I never had. I was always awed by Kinsella’s ability to be as good as Borges and Marquez. Somehow he morphed baseballs into tiger eyes and the old crones casting spells upon young men became stadium scoreboards directing the disintegration of people made from sand. When an Albee or Kinsella character walks, wisps of smoke rise up out of their footprints and there is always a mix of light and dark as people transcend death.
But I digress before I even begin the point of my plea. Let’s talk about you and me, which has always been my intention. I am begging you for something I do not know.
Our days are similar and our lives, in the way of chemistry, are the same. Maybe a bit more or less of something, but on the whole the same. If we are lucky, there is the choosing that alters the next choice. We breathe and move through our own little infinities that color our emotions and cloak the way we treat each other. On and on it goes in a trillion unseen collisions stamped with our names and jumping with the sound of our voices. Everything is ordered with secrets that we will never know. There are no easy answers; no listening at the bedroom door or turning the pages of someone else’s diary while holding a flashlight in our mouths. We are left with an ever-changing puzzle minus half the pieces and when we pick up a piece that looks like Greece, it feels sticky and the image seems old and frayed as if someone has tried to fit it into the wrong space. There is nothing that makes much sense and then we begin to doubt our senses. For consolation we are content with the first time we really saw the man in the moon and got the ping-pong ball into the shot glass and when we kissed a new lover who became old. These are the sort of things that we embrace as our personal universe turns around us and we will carry them to some final resting place that we are touching right now. Look around. Everyone has a last drink; a burned out bulb; a wave from China that hits the collapsing shore of California.
Don Charley, Albee, and Kinsella understood and they spoke to me while I wrote these masked words, here on top of the Mexican mountain. Everything is holy. I am laughing in the face of these shadows and the candle light. Nothing else to do and it’s not like this is a talent show with an old piano and a bunch of dusty costumes. Wait a minute, the janitor is hooked on Mexican brown, but nobody seems to notice; nobody seems to care.
Later that night the janitor looked into his brother, the glass mirror, and it spoke to him. The reflective glass told a story about English archers attacking a French fort and the arrows were infinite in the sky as they rained down upon everything, including the flower garden of the queen and the badminton court of the king.