By Frances Gill
One night in January, after weeks of psychedelia and miles deep into his psyche, the dark blue clouds roll up into themselves, and one man is alone on the street – left with an empty sky and the tunneling echoes of this world’s previous inhabitants. And so, high as fuck and untethered from reality, he treks downward, following the past.
Nathaniel’s footsteps are melting into the evening and this petrifies him. He will walk until the dark wilts into dawn, until he can find his feet again.
Silhouettes of snippets from long dead conversations pull tight on his exhausted brain.
* * *
I am standing by a tray of niblets, when Random Bro schmaltzes up with a grin and glass. He opens with an entry-level critique of Recent Artistic Endeavor and I retort with the obvious, smothered in pleasant. A brief foray into mutual listening pleasures, followed by a necessary segue into And how do you know the lovely couple?
I look too good. I am swathed in deep purple; my nails have been attended to by the tiny, agile fingers of Asian women. My shoes could buy you. I haven’t got a single hair from the eyebrows down. I am oozing sex and money that I don’t have. I should not have to be here.
I turn to Monica, who has appeared miraculously at my side. I offer her a damning criticism of The Groom. Monica adores the money of men who adore her, but she cannot resist my invitation to bitch.
Later, high heels on the pavement, Monica and I reminisce about the spectacular scene: Random Bro’s abrupt transformation into the Bride’s ex-husband, our unintentional implicit acceptance of his jealous rage, a terrific, tumbling brawl, and the wedding that did not meet my stylistic expectations becoming something disgusting and honest and livid.
I turn to Monica: “Well, you don’t see that very often.”
A deep sigh, a crimson hiss: “Especially not there.”
* * *
Two well dressed women careen through Nathaniel’s peripheral vision, but he sidles up stream, loping against the current, swimming through the dirtiest, loudest sea imaginable. Edges are accentuated; shadow and depth and angularity are breathtakingly strange.
The lurid grime sifts into something unmistakably pristine, dotted with glisten and lingering life. Nathaniel navigates a pile of human consciousness. This is a dirty, scary, amazing walk.
His fellow pedestrians are imaginary obstacles awash in language, but a few choice words emerge from the soupy mess.
* * *
That same night in January, after weeks of these semi-clandestine dinners, everything changes, and a married man presses in, my eyes a vessel for his own frustrations. It scares me to be wanted with such clinical fervor, and I am waiting for my moment to escape. But I am constantly undermined by some angelic lust, a softening, a widening, a melting. I give in to that familiar loosening of my knotted soul. Some men warn you but all men surprise you.
Six months ago, my love life was weed and cheese and sex and whole April, May, June afternoons swallowed up by rapturous love and startling highs, new eats. Facts about one another I now take for granted: his six asymmetrical freckles, my thigh birthmark, patches of hair I know so unbearably well, belly hair, beard hair, arm hair, carpets of hair my fingers nestle in, a bird in its soft skin nest.
Those were afternoons filled with light, turning to face you or him, turning away, my very self slick with need. Addicted to the disappointment, my hands in your hands, I want to be naked with you, you say. Smoke out the window, a soft blue off my top bunk and into the outdoors.
Now we are a little less perfect for each other, on account of the distance, and that is what brings me to this dimly lit eatery, for adultery and scandal and nights unhinged. But what new scent will propel me out the door, in the arms of someone bigger than me? Nights past have found me clutching to an element of questionability, a lingering uncertainty, but now the air was clear, devoid of regret. You still send whispers of nostalgia whistling across my spine, tiny little memories shimmying across my psyche. I am phenomenally and also not at all in love with you, but none of that matters, and I give in to Mister’s advances because, giggling… “I think I’ve had too much to drink.”
* * *
After a long period of introspection, Nathaniel finds himself up to his ankles in swollen concrete. A giggling sentence fragment burrows into his brain and synapses fire at it with unprecedented rapidity.
The world is starting to organize itself, but in defiance, he trudges on. Too soon, shimmering, wriggling buildings will settle into ninety degree angles and architectural formulas. Where before he was plagued by a beating, stimulant induced tension, a perky off-centeredness, now he is beset by an unbearably complex and euphoric fatigue.
Centuries later, the lone man in a crumpled up, shook out, deranged universe finds himself looking out on the Hudson. He has never seen anything more beautiful. A perfect slapping stillness. A lark.
It’s hard to live in a place so crippled by life but it’s easy to stand by the water and think about things that never happened, lives un-led, loves never consummated. Leaning and grinning off the edge of the weirdest, densest metropolis in the world and into this dark and unfathomable liquid, Nathaniel feels some important distinction blurring, some uplifting of a previously earthbound paradigm. He imagines relinquishing an inch and burying himself in wet silence. But Nathaniel’s thrusting need for gleaming, teeming beauty has not been quenched, and, turning, he crawls back into the jungle.
Frances Gill is about to graduate from New York University and Jai Yoga Arts’ Teacher Training. She lives in Bushwick. Find her on Twitter @francesloretta.
Jeremy Nguyen illustrates comics, tells jokes into microphones, and high-fives interracial couples. View more at http://www.jeremywinslife.com
Sunday Read is a weekly literary feature curated and edited by Wesley Salazar. We are accepting submissions of short stories, poetry, essays, script excerpts, etc. (max: 1000 words) on a rolling basis. We are also looking for artists who would like to illustrate for Sunday Read. Please submit to wesleyATbushwickdaily.com.