(This story is dedicated to Dave Creech.)
I need to soak my penis in a bowl of anti-jelly politics; the kind distributed during the blackouts of Sarajevo and Warsaw, where the trains used to run by the revolution and too quickly burned all types of bodies into smoke. Throughout the ages, people have bowed down to the undiscriminating nature of fire. They associate it with universal warmth. A gift from the stars.
“Will you please shut the fuck up,” she said through the funeral cloth covering her loud, megaphone eyes. Our relationship was graveside.
Yet, I can remember everything. The home guard came along in smudges, tripping over the ties, telling mothers with children and men under blankets to buck up, no more limpness out of you old friend, no we need to prepare for the holidays. They were down there in the tunnels, swinging lamps, shining light on the tracks where the ghosts echoed. You could almost see, hear the trains as they carried the briefcases filled with maps and plans and the long legs of high heels. Everything was in place and back and forth between family and horseshit the cars went; always moving for the good of the country and the home guard parroted the same old phrases: “Don’t worry; everything will materialize in the open faces of the wounded. Prices will be cheap and all of this will be worth the sacrifice.”
I met her in a tunnel and we came out into the morning light, golden, holding hands.
We might have changed, our love most likely over, but not the dark tunnels. No, they live on like black snakes with yellow platform times fluttering and flashing in their eyes.
I still go down there, when the rockets start to fall, and there’s the predictable home guard. Jesus, they need to compose a new slogan. The propaganda is becoming stale, and I often mutter under my breath. Someone will accuse me of defeatism, since there is virtually no difference between my tongue and my doubts, but I don’t care. I have decided to be an open book. I will let go, in a land without libraries and too many hidden digital recorders. The ubiquitous spies will read what I write upon the air. As Dave, my realistic friend, says: “You’re too transparent, by next year you’ll be read, and there you’ll be, lying face down in a cellar with your zipper ripped out and they’ll drag torn arms, a foot or two, distended bowels, everything in a basket, down to the river. Yeah, you’ll cause them to breathe hard as they watch you float for a bit and then sink.”
Nobody is going to miss me. My consolation is that only other people die. Isn’t that the truth? Haven’t you noticed that? I’m surrounded by other people dying, never me.
I keep telling her we need an army of mechanical birds to stop the dog shit on my fingers. Maybe she needs to wash it away before it does real damage in my stomach. My acid is high. I am unwell. I don’t want a gutter to cradle my food, but she doesn’t understand behind her old magazines and black market nail polish.
Last night the house moved several feet to the left and the neighbors began pounding on the gate. Our decayed love screamed. The old woman at the fruit stand laughed while she gave away a cup of fruit pulp to the toothless figures staggering along the street. Why do they have all the luck? Why not me? I actually like old, fermented fruit pulp. It’s a probiotic and makes my stomach feel better.
Somewhere out there is a kidnap victim. Somewhere out there is a pair of eyes rolling around with no answers, with nothing to be done except turn along the slope, forever downward, into the dark tunnels.
She never goes with me anymore to the tunnels. They remind her of the old days, but I don’t feel the same way. I miss those nights below ground, absorbing each other’s warmth, listening to the blasts above, as the city of the dictator burned. Those were special moments as we shared our breath and hearts and waited for the black trains to roar.