Ghost bikes occupied most of his weekends. Creating skeletons scattered throughout the city as runes to remind us. It was the only means he could find, it seemed, to assuage the guilt. Everything had gone quiet then, like a Fellini film, the gnarl of traffic and bleating horns buried in that moment, burrowing into his body through every tight orifice and captured underneath his skin, mummified and bound. The bike’s spokes slowed as the momentum ceased. Blink and the world readjusts itself.
He’s spraying his fourth bike of the day. He’s wearing a mask and gloves. Grips and brakes are in a pile by his feet and it’s late afternoon and he hasn’t eaten lunch, working through hunger with a sincere ferocity others know to respect. With the glow of the sun behind her, she is unreal, stepping off the sidewalk into the makeshift workshop. Underneath her threadbare shirt, above her heart, rests a permanent eulogy.
This is another cinematic moment, but nothing decelerates. The whirr of a band saw catapults, the sunlight unnaturally incandescent, the white spray paint turns into blinding snow, reminding him of Maine blizzards, his childhood between snowdrifts and summer dandelions, the world growing alive again.
Eve knows that dour and droll are not synonymous.
She pulls at her pintuck sleeves and glances at her husband, Ron, his popped collar obfuscating his neck, flat-front trousers taut across his quads. He exercises forty minutes every morning, squats and stretching included. Eve doesn’t bother him during his workouts. She reads the obituaries and tries to discern whether the deceased was, in fact, a moral person while awaiting Ron’s showered arrival in the kitchen. His dark gleaming hair reminds her of chocolate frosting, something she privately consumes. Dressed in mint greens and apricot oranges and Palm Springs’ sky-blue, the couple resemble pleated and pressed sartorial imitations of Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings.
“Remember when Jesus ended up in the ER?”
She refers to Ed Raphael, the lead in the staged production of Jesus Christ Superstar the previous summer. She and Ron found him half-dead in his driveway, victimized by an electric gate gone haywire. Jesus’s understudy, a significantly less vibrant actor, Jeff Dodge, took over the role. Eve says, “We’re now at that age where we risk finding friends unconscious in their homes.” The effect of being droll was lost altogether on Ron, who found the conversation too macabre to continue.
Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.
Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change?
I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.
Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves.
However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It is more important to affirm the least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and even they continue to pass. Do they know what they’re missing? Uh huh.
My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time; they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them still. If only I had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I would stay at home and do something. It’s not that I am curious. On the contrary, I am bored but it’s my duty to be attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above the earth. And lately, so great has their anxiety become, I can spare myself little sleep.
Now there is only one man I love to kiss when he is unshaven. Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How discourage her?)
St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness which is like midnight in Dostoevsky. How am I to become a legend, my dear? I’ve tried love, but that hides you in the bosom of another and I am always springing forth from it like the lotus—the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must not be distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, “to keep the filth of life away,” yes, there, even in the heart, where the filth is pumped in and courses and slanders and pollutes and determines. I will my will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in that department, that greenhouse.
Destroy yourself, if you don’t know!
It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It’s like a final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.
“Fanny Brown is run away—scampered off with a Cornet of Horse; I do love that little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho’ She has vexed me by this Exploit a little too. —Poor silly Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her. —I wish She had a good Whipping and 10,000 pounds.” —Mrs. Thrale.
I’ve got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my dirtiest suntans. I’ll be back, I’ll re-emerge, defeated, from the valley; you don’t want me to go where you go, so I go where you don’t want me to. It’s only afternoon, there’s a lot ahead. There won’t be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in the lock and the knob turns,
It was their first vacation together and being accustomed to the city’s 99-cent stores and Thai massage parlors, the girl was overcome by the space afforded in Maine’s landscape. Moments of dizziness accompanied by numbness that came and went in her cheeks were held accountable to agoraphobia, which was the only logical conclusion, but she was not fearful in the grid of the city, its teeming din, onslaught of scents and sound. Here, red barns truly existed in verdant green hills. The girl and her young lover, a shoemaker with an ardor for O’Hara and Keats both, pulled off at one of the barns, a grey and ramshackled structure. As they entered, she told the boy a fable about the young couple who died here, buried behind the barn, underneath a willow tree.
In the barn’s surprising coolness, the boy snapped photographs of forgotten, rusted wheels and scythes. The girl hoped he would accidentally capture bright spots of unexpected light, the makings of phantoms. She called to him, removing her wrinkled linen shirt, and turned away from the lens at the imminent flash, quite sure the photograph would evince the budding wings emerging from her delicate, naked back.
— Little Birds, Simon Van Booy