Meetings, Departures, Rebirths by Brent Powers

She came out of nowhere, as a blank, no, a white light coming at me: a face, snowblind eyes … That’s not right. I hear myself saying, “The moment we were in the dark, I very naturally …” Was I reading from something? That’s not my customary way, which is the way of twisting syntax, warping it to perversions of speech, killing speech itself. Well, not really. Look. I made her. See?

I woke up in the infirmary. She was there. A nurse this time. She almost smiled. I could tell it was not her habit to smile often. She wanted to be cool. It was some social constraint here.

The doctor appeared again.

“The only thing I can grant you is to put you under arrest,” he said.

Then he went away.

“He’s baiting you,” she told me.

I realize that I’ve been dreaming again. I keep passing out and dreaming. I go in and out of the dreams and think it’s my life. Well, isn’t it? Last time I looked I had no life, as they say: you don’t have a life, get a life, do something humorous or grand. At least kiss some lonely woman. I’m too old to care now. “Who lives?” I say, quoting from some film. I can do better, I suppose, but I don’t care about that, either.

Even so, she is there now. She hangs close to the ceiling. Then she explodes into splinters of rainbow light.

“It’s the medication,” the nurse tells me. “You should walk around when you can.”

“Do you go to school here?” I ask her. I suppose I’m making conversation, as they say. Who?

“No, I’m … You know. In the Temporary Service.”

“For the King?”

“Yes.” She looks sad.

That’s not true, either. The last time there was a King was 1987. After that chaos. A period of hateful chaos. It was an unsayable. Chaos, followed by the undeclared police state, also unsayable, a rule of silence. Shut up. This is beyond ordinary logic. Years of it. And the days of uproarious, undeclared war. Gangs thrilling through the streets, shooting everyone they could see, for they were half blind from the treatments. Finally I left and came here. This city, I mean, not the infirmary. How did I get to the infirmary? I was writing in my diary, falling into another voice: “Her reception fairly overwhelmed me with happiness.” What kind of guy is that? Some powdered wig fool with a walking stick. Yes, and it has a Medusa’s head on it. How would I know that? Something from the TV here. It’s stuck in my face. You swing it to you on a whatchacallit, a sort of extendable bellows, no, not that, a bar attached to another bar, only I can’t move it away, it’s stuck, and the nurse won’t shut the fucker off. Day and night I must look at these fools, they’re either speaking in the low tones of love, that’s how they think it sounds, low, sultry, stupefied, and badly written. Well then news heads yapping, scaring you to death or hoping so: then you will buy this thing here, this truck thing.

The nurse is nothing like her. A wan blonde, not very interesting. The woman I keep seeing has darker hair, large eyes, a small, delicate mouth. She could be a flapper with a giant ant chasing her. It is an older style face. I was in some bar or club, quite a respectable place, really, for it was quiet. Gents sat on couches in little alcoves. There was a fireplace, a couch there, too, that’s where I was, resting against a million plush cushions and trying to figure out how I should hold the snifter in my hand, trying out various things with my fingers, pinky held away, etc., anyway discovering in myself various how-to-be’s in this place, when she came. She stood a little apart and looked at the fire. She had no drink. She seemed comfortable, though; she knew where to put her hands, knew how to let her arms dangle at her sides in a comfortable way. I imagined knowing her long ago, sitting beside her and watching her mouth open, about to say something, and the spittle formed little strings between her lips, which appeared larger now, softer and larger. I kissed her and broke through the strings of spittle with my tongue, and she groaned and her breath flooded over me through her nostrils; it had a warm, brown smell, a food smell, and I saw the down on her cheek, saw her closed eyes like moth wings, stroked her soft dark hair … Only now she was just standing there, looking at the fire. When she turned to me she smiled, then glided slowly away. The light seemed to change. It changed. I had to get up and go after her.

Is she a dream, too?

Yet I have these memories. Long exchanges in unknown places. Sometimes just cat and mouse, sometimes hypnotic and fevered, verging on love. What? Verging. Just moving on something rather closer, a closing in on each other that might appear to be love, mistaken for it, or something else. She used the word “transcendent”. What? How? Here we are in bodies, at a distance, yet in bodies, two, we must come together it is assumed.

The accidents of war have wrecked my concentration. Also they give me drugs. I can’t read. The words just sit there, looking stupid. How do such words follow one another toward sense? They used to, it seems.

Only the woman makes sense. Yet she is not with me, can’t be. I can imagine her voice, yet I can’t quite hear it. We’ve talked so many times, come so close to kissing, our faces so close, close enough for a kiss, just one, please. Which is impossible. She is my life now; or what preoccupies me. Already I seem to be in love. I was born in love, now reborn recently. The metempsychotic, that’s me, eternally reborn to love for a certain term this certain woman named, Oh, you name it, a nameless cunt, a bawd, a goddess. I’m fond of goddesses. They come and go, dime a dozen. One must reach for her, possess, momentarily, some transcendent thing, a quality of being in which one dwells for awhile all lit up, blazing so you must perish of it and yet it doesn’t matter, merging suns, Oh but dahling, we mustn’t! There seems to be a movie on again. B/W, blurry, soapy faces merge in an osculant wave of rolling blobs. It was nineteen hundred and forty-two, dear, in Paris, yes, Paris. We met is some American bar off the Champs, very much in love then, you see. You were a nurse and I was a sailor, now some invalided out type executroid in dinner things, black tie in a Windsor knot no less, and you are of course that woman … the one looking at the fire.

“Luce?” you ask, assuming I am an Italian for some reason, and you’ve got it wrong, of course. I point at the chandelier, then the streetlights outside the open front, quizzically raising my brows. I know what you mean, of course, and take out my lighter.

You lean down slightly to take the flame. “What did I say?”

“Light,” I explain. “As in … Oh, illumination. Sun, torch, lantern, electrical …”

“You’re an American.”

“I was.”

“Well … doesn’t that sort of stick with you? I mean …?”

“It comes and goes,” I explain. “Right now it’s not convenient for me to be an American.”

“Are you a spy?”

“Not so you’d notice.”

“What a funny thing to say.”

“Drink?” I asked her.

“Yes. A … what is it … the one with the …”

“I can’t bring you a Manhattan here!” the nurse laughed.

“Was I dreaming again?”

“I don’t know. You’re asking me?”

She actually smiled. She had a dimple. I liked it. It gave her a look of trashy sex, cars on blocks, trailers; in the distance a cowboy singin bout his Maaaaah-maaaaah. I fucked her in the glider swing, I fucked her in my rig. She’s my honey and she loved me but she died.

“What’s broken?” I asked, hoping she wouldn’t answer, just shake her head and look portentous.

“You’re OK,” she said, adjusting my IV. “Looks like a fall.” She gave me one of those nurse’s looks. “It’s just a fall.”

“Okeedokee,” I said, wondering what that meant.

Then the doctor came in, smiling like an idiot. “Hey, man,” he said, picking up my hand and shaking it. “Wanna go home?”

“I guess so. Should I?”

He looked stricken. Then he actually cleared his throat, assumed that doctor look; it was like a movie doctor, only he wasn’t pale and autistic. “We didn’t find anything,” he said. “Make an appointment.”

Then he left.

The nurse gave me a wink. She left, too.

On TV the heads had come apart and become separate faces, in profile, looking at each other with longing. You could tell it was longing from the music. And you knew that the end was near. The music said that, too. They seemed to want to say something, one last parting word, but there was a splice and the end titles shot up.

One Response

  1. “Meetings, Departures, Rebirths” is a rather engaging piece that pulls in suggestions of several decades. The protagonist/narrator remains obscure as to identity, status and prognosis. A worthwhile effort with good result. Thanks.

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