Cricket Online Review Table of Contents

 
..:: CONTENTS ::..
   Volume VI, Issue I

..:: POETRY ::..


..:: PROSE ::..
..:: OTHER ::..

..:: ETC ::..
   Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
   Volume I, Issue I
   Volume I, Issue II
   Volume II, Issue I
   Volume II, Issue II
   Volume III, Issue I
   Volume III, Issue II
   Volume IV, Issue I
  
Volume IV, Issue II
   Volume V, Issue I


 


We See In the Day and In the Night
Reed Kellman

     

It began as a ripple. A waver in the image projected into my brain like the ebb of the tide, or a slight wind on the surface of a lake, soft and barely perceptible, momentary and then gone leaving the surface again flat and tranquil. It didn't happen often but this is how it starts: just a waver.
          And then it evolves. A rip, a tear, a gash that floats across my eyes like chasing the swimming detritus and amoebae. I worry that I'm going blind; I consult a doctor. He tells me that he can't find a thing. Let's wait and see, he says, if it comes back maybe we'll do some tests.
          Jeez, I say, what is it with you people and the waiting? Can't you do anything else?
          He shrugs, let's just see.

          On Fridays I work at the Emporium. Massage-O-Rama they might as well call it. Low-end. Pastoral colors and potted plants and candles for fifteen dollars in the front, incense to mask the otherwise pervasive mold. In the back white linens and fabric covered walls so as to pretend a semblance of cleanliness. More candles. Flutes on the portable CD player. Fridays is ladies half-off night. At eight they line up, drunk and squirming, and needing some love.
          Your hands are amazing, they tell me.
          And that's just your back, I say.
          I've never been attractive, not ugly either, just sort of brutish, like a character actor, not beautiful enough to be the leading man. But once you've been around enough naked bodies to realize that we've all go some hideousness, you really stop caring.
          It's her birthday. Her friends come back once I've done their massages and they've left and come back and ask if I've got a girl. No. Birthday girl is pushed forward and asks if she can kiss me, her face red with liquor. Okay. We kiss, brief, tongue. Okay.

          I ride the train out, all the way out to the last stop. Ocean Beach. Because I've never done it, I get on and ride out. Down along onto Irving, out the Avenues. Numbered streets, I start counting at Ninth. Passengers get on, get off. Old Chinese ladies, pink grocery bags. Med students in green pajamas carrying coffees. Cars roll by, red tail lights flagging brakes as they pass. That little bell dings before we start and the driver throws it in gear or whatever he does, presses his button. A little man in a windbreaker, faded neon, his thin hair pushed up over his scalp, wafting up when the doors open, rides all the way out too. The whole time the little man's staring at a spot on the ground. Old oil stain or blackened chewing gum. Doesn't even look up when the doors open and the pretty, young college girls get on all giggly and inebriated with youth, with their eggplant purple nails, or when the driver whips us all around a turn coming out of the tunnel before Cole, that bell ding-dinging before we fly off again. We pass forty-eight. A moment later is the last stop. After that it's just street and then beyond that, over a little wall and lot, is the sand, rock, and the ocean. You can't go any further. We get off together, the two of us, the last riders, him right before me, hesitant like that spot on the floor is a hole in a dike he's been plugging. Got his finger pushed up there good. You can smell the salt in the air.
          We stand there for a while. Can't see or hear the ocean but it's out there, just over there. Leap of Faith. He shoves his hands in his pockets and I mine. The train comes back round. Like a worm, two heads or two assess, the doors open and we get on. The doors close and then open and then close again. He's found a spot. That bell and then we're off. Last stop Embarcadero. Because it's something to do.

          Again my eyes get the waves, white water foam at the edges, rolling toward the center, blurring my vision. It feels like someone ripping off the film of my eye, Doc. Like someone's pulling the lid off my eye if my eye were a pudding. Cold plastic chair. A bright light. He looks disconcerted and leaves the room and is gone for awhile and then comes back in. Here's the name of a specialist, he says and hands me a card. Not the usual chicken scratch, good doc. Is it contagious, I say. I have a date tonight.
          Just don't rub them, call if it gets worse. We'll see.
          Are you being ironic?
          No. Doctors don't have that sort of humor.

          Pull up a ledge, the girl says. It's a long way down isn't it? A long way up too. There's stars out there, up there behind that fog and city light. Way up. It keeps going, the universe does.
          She jumps up on the ledge, lithe like a cat. A cat wearing overalls and pigtails like on those calendars in office cubes and on the walls of lonely middle-aged women. Dressed like that. What she eight? She's not eight at all, big tits in there somewhere under those overalls. She walks along the ledge.
          I sit up here usually, I say.
          Well sit then. Pull up a ledge.
          Alone.
          Brooding type, huh? I like brooders sometimes, sometimes not. You know people say that those quiet types they don't say much but what they say is real important, real smart. Must be a bit of pressure. Though I don't think it's so true, maybe you don't say anything for a reason….
          The eye starts to peel, I feel a little woozy like if I go too close to the edge I might fall over it, six stories. Just high enough. In the corner where my eyes feel funny and wrong, peeled back, I see her and me, together, we're in bed. Just lying there, staring straight ahead. Not saying anything, not touching at all though we're naked as the day. I blink and it goes away, just her and the foggy night now.
          …up here by yourself.
          You were here by yourself before I came up.
          I'm different.
          You're different?
          Yes.

          The woman's back is horribly burned. Fire, she tells me before we begin, before she goes into the room and takes all her clothing off except her underwear. Today isn't the special; she pays full price. I'd charge her more. Not the scars. I don't mind them, I've seen plenty worse. It's that I keep picturing the girl from the roof lying there, all scar tissue red. Her back like something from a horror movie where bugs crowd under the surface ready to pop. I wish that my eyes would roll back now. I keep blinking and nothing. The things I keep seeing each time keep coming clearer and clearer as though someone's fucking with the cable, screwing it in tight and getting me closer to all access. The picture of the girl here on the table that. Not what I want to see. She has red hair, the girl does and this woman brown. Fire, she tells me again all tense. First time? I manage. She is insecure with the marks, could use love. These hands. These hands like gods. If you could name them. Zeus. Aphrodite. One with a woman's touch. A man with a woman's touch in his left hand: the best masseurs. I move to her legs, scar on scar on cellulite. Roll, eyes. Goddamnnit.

          I was wondering if you'd show. I thought I had scared you off. I didn't did I? I hope not because there's plenty of ledge to sit on up here. I don't mind sharing if you don't. She is wearing those same overalls again. Her red hair pigtailed again. Bare-feet. Country girl in the city.
          I was working.
          Oh, what do you do.
          Massage.
          That's funny.
          Maybe. True though.
          Oh.
          No fog tonight.
          No, none but still can't see all the stars. Light pollution. I miss the stars. They make the ground feel closer. Do you know what I mean?
          I sit. The ground still feels far away. My eyes roll. I see us holding hands, falling from the ledge toward the ground. The ground coming up quick. The panels of sidewalk, passing the fire hydrant, the sidewalk yellow-orange in the street lamp rays which don't slat like the suns but encompass all at once. Let's move back, I say.
          Okay.
          We lay on the roof using my sweater as a pillow so the tar and gravel don't eat into our heads and look up. I can see the stars, all of them. The ground doesn't feel so far away.

          I ride around the city on my bicycle. Hard going, the hills there's a lot. I ride up Bush. Fillmore, from the Marina south where I can barely see the top. I push up 17th after Market. Sometimes I ride the whole thing in one gear. I get home and just flop on the ground, breathless, light-headed, legs shaking, staring at the ceiling, close to death. This isn't so bad, I say. I go up on the roof where it's cool and the fog is like the mist off a waterfall. The roof's empty. She isn't there I sit on the ledge and look down. This isn't so bad, I say. In time I go back inside. She hasn't shown. I start on floor six putting my ear to each door. Televisions, radios, voices. None of them hers. I move down a floor and keep going until I've gone through them all. On floor one a guy I've never seen before steps into the hall after I've eared his door. Can I help you? No, I say. Can I help you fucker? I step at him and he don't know what to do. He goes back inside his apartment and shuts the door and I put my ear to his door again, I hear his voice. He's on the phone. He'll wait awhile until they come. Response time in this city is shit. I continue on down the hall. She's nowhere. I go back up to the roof. This isn't so bad I'm saying when I hear the door open. She's there silhouetted in the doorway. I don't say nothing. Been waiting? I've gotta work too you know. I've gotta work too. She comes and sits and puts my hand on her jean leg.

          That other came back. Friday night women half off. This time she's alone, no squabble of sorority sisters anywhere. I do my thing. Your hands…Thank you. She's got big green eyes which I can't see with them shut, she keeps 'em closed the whole while. Not like most, all the others too nervous with me standing over them, a big man, unshorn, wild black eyes that haven't seen sleep. Each time I shut them they roll back. On the way home I'll buy some pills and some sort of chaser. Your hands… The girl works with children, teacher of all those imps like I used to be. Those with special strengths or whatever mumbo jumbo. Honest work. Not like touching the germed skin of a thousand people that each in turn now suddenly make me wish to never see at all again. My eyes roll to a different place, but it's no go. Only when I wish it wasn't do they do it at all. I meet with the specialist tomorrow but it's no surprise what he'll say. And the other is waiting for me outside when I'm done with the rest of them, standing on the street by the door with a cigarette for company. I knew you were a smoker, I say. Yeah. I could feel it. Her desiccated skin, like parchment paper dried with lemon juice and burnt on the edges. She looks at me with those green eyes. We start walking in time, her heels and my sneakers clicking on the city grimed sidewalk. The neon light of the Emporium fizzles out. Friday night special is over. It's uphill to her place, we make good time.

          The building is art deco, lots of curves and a big thick rock it was cut from. These days they don't put time into it at all, the buildings look like overturned shoe boxes with holes punched in 'em. The guard behind his granite desk and marble floor. I go up to the fifteenth floor. Usual magazines and eyeglasses in cases like slide rules in a museum of antiquities. Zran is a short, paunch man with a gray beard trimmed tight and a white lab coat and twitchy features. What seems to be the problem, he drawls.
          I tell him and look out his office window, the city falling downward on both sides toward the bay. Fat city buses on wires crawling up Market. We move to the dark room. All the Es you'd ever care to look at on a board. A machine like an aluminum brontosaurus swivels its head into my chin and glares down my retina.

          Because she wears a thick sweater, wooly and not at all comfortable looking with a big turtle neck like a beer cozzie around her with her head popping out and her red hair caught in the back of it and trailing over her shoulders and her overalls with the hair going down her back and some of it hid under the part of the overalls that crawl up to her shoulder blades. She doesn't ask me where I was or wasn't last night. I don't offer. We stare up at the stars with her yammering along and then I stand up and go over to the edge and put my arms out straight across like jeezus and stand there outstretched until she comes over and from behind pushes my arms down like shutting the blades of a scissor and guides me off the ledge. A bus comes trundling by, shaking the building as if an earth hiccup. She was there for the big one, she says, when the ball game was called on account of it. She was in her car driving to class and didn't feel a damn thing, she couldn't believe that, how she could have lived for a moment always believing it to be around the corner for her, a moment that might let her know what there was to know and know that it was no longer something to fear, everything after - the abyss - would be collapsed into an unparalyzing future. You know, to put your toe into a tub you just drew, feeling hesitant that it'll burn and then you touch it and it's not too hot so you might get in and no longer afraid….and I missed that moment in my car so now it's still out there, waiting. You know?
          I do and I put my mouth to hers just to shut her up.

          The other has me over for dinner. Pasta and vegetables and red. When I come out of the bathroom, she's in the bedroom where there's candles and that shit new age music they play at the spa. I know where this is going. I'll give you a discount, I say. My family and friends rate.
          She giggles, her green eyes opaline in the flame flicker like shards of glass reflecting up from a penny wishing well, bright among all that rusty copper. She giggles some more and rolls onto her chest.
          I'm serious, I say. That's my job. I get paid for my job.
          She turns her head up and scowls over her shoulder but gets up anyway and comes back with some bills and slaps those lovely greenbacks onto the nightstand by the candles. I blow a few of 'em out. The room is smelling of sulfur. I get to work. Those hands…

          The tests come back negative. Negative is not good, negative means they don't have a clue, those doctors.
          I'm going blind, I tell Vras.
          Sometimes the body does things that science can not yet explain, he says. He gives me a card too, cause he thinks I'm a loon. I see a flame between us, a campfire with smoke trailing languidly to the sky. The other girl is dancing around us. All of us, all four, naked down to the waist. Me, the other, the girl, Vras. I shake it off and look out his windows and try to pretend he didn't just call me crazy and that I didn't just call him a quack. He picks up the phone in a strange sense of déjà vu, even more jittery now and behind me I can hear him telling the guard which floor. I can see the guard behind his granite shield getting perspiring and lifting his walkie talkie and taking the elevator up. I take the quick way down and somewhere we pass, him rocketing up in his elevator like a casket being flung from the depths and me calmly descending, looking down over the rail and seeing straight down fifteen stories. It doesn't look so far.

          It'd be so more easy if the one wasn't beautiful and the other was ugly. Scratch that, it'd be so easy if the one wasn't a trail of hope that needed following like bread crumbs. Or it'd be so easy if neither existed. Then it'd just be me and the ledge and the ground that didn't look so far especially when my eyes waver and cloud with illusion.
          And then I start to wonder if she isn't just chimaera also, like the flame in the doctor's office, both primal visions summoned by my mind. How right is he? I take the card out which I stuck in my pocket because I wasn't man enough to throw it back at him calling me crazy. Then the door squeaks open and I feel suddenly hungry since I haven't eaten all day since I rode my bike hard again from the doctor's to here on the roof where I lay until my heart, my lungs stopped ballooning against my ribs. I put the card in my pocket and reach for her, afraid I'll pass my hand right through her, but it don't. She pushes back. She combs the hair from my forehead, plastered with sweat. First time in a long time, since I known her, that she doesn't start yapping right off. I look at her close and see she's got green eyes too. Dark though, like the bottoms of moss covered rocks. It's early, no stars for a long time, she says, let's say we get some dinner. Grub is good, I say and let her lead me back inside.

          My hands are like love letters.

          A blade of grass, almost transparent green in the sunlight piercing through, so that the blade appears to have a backbone and a lucid body. Gnats in dogfights spread out in military disarray, dodging and chasing and hovering low on the blade which is one of many. Cut. Uniform. A lawn and on its even surface you are kneeled in trousers and a purple blouse, a beige hat that droops over your head like those fishermen wear adorned with hooks. You are bent over, a trowel in your hand, a pile of pulled weeds by your knees.
          What if you see the future? What if you see a different, parallel world?
          What if I'm just plain crazy.
          You wouldn't be the only one. She smiles, her teeth like tombstones in the dark. I set my head on her lap and she puts her hands to my temples. Now?
          Just the stars.
          It's too foggy to see them tonight.
          I see them.

          Rain streaks and tears through the city on vicious winds caught in the hollows between buildings. Umbrellas are inverted, their metal appendages twisted and visible as limbs in the wings of bats. We walk on, still moving under cover when possible, though our clothing is soaked through long ago. I carry a pink plastic bag coated wet, rectangular boxes of Chinese food. All the way from the Avenues because she'd never rode out that way and I wanted her too. She holds my free hand, warm and dry inside our palms. We are full and happy even in the rain. We look up the sides of buildings, the tops of which, gray and erudite, seem so very far off. As if that is where the rain falls from and beyond the sky might be cloudless and blue, she says. Do you see it? I let them foam, mixing with the wetness of the rain. I do, I say. I see it, just like you said.

  

//   Advance   //