The Suburbs of Babylon Continued…

Happy Frowback Friday, reader. Below is the next excerpt in the continuing weekly publication of my self-published and universally panned semi-autobigraphical novel, “The Suburbs of Babylon.” The following is a tangential mini-chapter in between the regular storyline. It represents a moment in my young life when I “snapped” mentally, and briefly lost grip on reality. In the context of the narrative, it marks a turning point for the central character (mostly based on me) and his downward spiral.

Love is blindness.  I don’t want to see.—U2


            Low slow music runs in rivulets around cold pockets of air, invisible sentinels about the room.  There is one hanging on the wall; the tune curls around it like smoke.  They are perfectly still, not yet kinetic, but exerted just the same by the man sitting in the midst of them.  They are the convergings of his thoughts, dark entities on the verge of life.  They are there to comfort him, even as they torment him, for the sake of the one who is not there but who created them and drew them from him, as the melody is being drawn from the distance.

The music is multi-colored but mostly black, shading the emotions like a whispering shadow that breathes softly, “Die, lose, collapse, meld.”  The mixture, stewing slowly from the heat of the man, the nucleus, is becoming something.  More than the man, beyond his limitations, a form is taking shape that if palpable would taste like blood.  The music pulses like a heartbeat.

The man is weeping, though he doesn’t know it.  The act is as irrelevant as it is unconscious.  It ceased to be felt long ago, before the pain began to change, when there was love to speak of.  Now it simply makes his face wet.  But it never stops.

He kills a woman every night in his sleep.  He dreams he is sleeping and dreaming of an outstretched hand floating off into the sky above him.  And he dreams he wakes up to find her cutting his chest open with a pair of black-handled scissors.  He wants to stop her, but he is powerless.  She opens him up with ease, like a blade through a cotton shirt.  He thinks she is taking his heart, but instead she is putting something in.  Actually several things.

Near his navel she tucks in a necklace—a silver amulet in the shape of the Chinese symbol of the Year of the Horse on a black leather strand.  Above his stomach she places a silver wedding band with three diamonds in the setting.  It sinks evenly into the pink flesh, the middle filling up with blood—a tiny pool.  In his throat she lays the scissors.  The blades are cold against his trachea, and it is then, as she leans in to kiss him, that he grips the scissors and plunges them into her eyes.  The most beautiful eyes he has ever seen.

This is how the dream goes every night.  Occasionally he wakes up.

When he is awake, it is always at night.  He is up to something, and it has to do with darkness.   So he gathers himself up, skirting the invisible sentinels, wading through the music, leaves the room and is swept away by a black lava flow, its heat a refraction of his own.  The plan is in motion, the gods of the cosmos smiling on him, whispering a melody only he can hear.  They are in synchronicity and harmony, the gods and he.  He walks the route he’s walked a hundred times, into the alley, deeper into the darkness.  At the end of this are a bourbon oasis, a lipstick kiss, and something shining like a star.

*   *   *

There is a man standing in the shadows, just out of reach of the streetlight.  Tomorrow he will kill himself, but the time between now and then will change his life more than the last twenty-five years have, so for now we’ll forget about that.

This man, he is evil.  He has given up his soul to a hateful embrace, hate being the thing he loves, not by choice but by action of the pale hand of death, bone-gray in the light of life.  The hatred (for him) of love and the love (for him) of death has helped him understand things.  Helped him come to terms with his lot, with the delicate balance between the living and the dead.  So many people are dead, even though they seem on the outside to live.  This man has found life in the knowledge of his end.  Which was brought on in a gasp, a rush of the world into the senses, filling and imploding, leaving behind a smile like a blade and a hand like a sickle.

He waits in the darkness, next to a blue dumpster.  At his feet are the pink, corroded guts of a possum.  The carcass has been there for days, its fur a mere mat of bristle, its innards pounded and melted together in a pudding-like mass, defined only by the man’s boot print, freshly pressed.  The smell of urine barely registers, the din of sirens purely peripheral.  He is existing in a world of purpose, with boundaries barely large enough to fit a knife through.

Then in the distance, filling his world, is the click of heels, the sound of a dress rustling—it is a purple dress with irises on it.  Her hair is a tapestry.  She is singing softly.  “Can’t help, lovin’ that man of mine.”  She is getting closer.  “Tell me he’s lazy, tell me he’s slow—.”  She is carrying a purple suitcase.  “—Tell me I’m crazy, maybe I know.”  She passes him, her perfume light like a magic carpet.  He moves into the light.  He is non-descript.  A hat and a long coat.  A soundless footstep.  The woman turns a corner, looks back over her shoulder.  She has a momentary flash—a familiarity, like a cologne-kiss on a clear night and the sound of a lover’s voice.  But the street is empty, and her heart rests on a bed of memory.

The man is watching.  He searches her neck, the mole below her ear, the ear with the rose earring.  The woman steps out of the light, looks up at her street, at the dark trees covering the yellow streetlight the man reaches out from the shadows and embraces his lost love she does not resist only folds into his arms eyes wide at the moon he whispers something like a vow his lips brushing her neck he slips a blade between her ribs just below her left breast she makes no sound except an “ahhh” as if it were love and not the invincible song of death.  One moment she is in his arms.  The next there is a pile on the street crumpled around a purple suitcase.  Then with the scrape of a boot heel and a rustle of coat, he is gone, and the alley becomes a tableau.

*   *   *

The man has left the shadows.  He is in a bar, where he is known and left alone, save for one girl, a whore, who has been intimate with him and not for money.  She loves his sex; he loves her.  Wholly, completely, he loves her, his black heart devoted mercilessly to her, the heartless angel in pale skin and dark hair, the light of her smile a splinter of fire.  The love was birthed in darkness, against his will, but he has given in to the unseen guidance that led him to her:  she sitting alone in a corner, had drawn him in without words, only a look in her eyes that said, “You belong to me.  You will give yourself to me, a sacrifice at my hand.  It is not the love you know.  It is a new love, incarnated in the act, not the heart.  From this point on, your heart is dead.”

There is nothing more than death.  To die in her embrace, to breathe for the last time inside her, as soft as a dream-kiss, her eyes an abyss, the black ocean, the stars light nothing in this world, a cold fire, a lost touch, no faith, no happiness in a storm of laughter, whispers, “Please, God, let me die.”

He is making love to her, the man to the whore.  An alcoholic kiss on her lips, she is holding his arms, her cries like clouds in a blue blue sky, she loves him.  He is in love within her.  Real love for a moment moves between them, unacknowledged, as if it were sin.  Love emanates from him.  Her smooth stomach is everything.  Her breast is weeping.  Her body is the world, it turns on his axis, a Tropic of Cancer is their embrace.  He comes to her like an altar. His purpose is complete in her.  She takes it with a satisfaction that turns her heart colder.

*   *   *

The sun is rising on a blank slate.  Or it will be.  The man is in the alley.  He holds a black gun in his hand.  The gun loves him.  The bullet loves him.  It will give him what no woman has been able to.  The sun is chasing back the shadows.  The sun hates him.  It doesn’t want him to be here when it comes.  He puts the gun in his mouth.  It tastes like the whore.

One moment there is this dream there is light the next there will be a pile of dead love on the ground beside a mound of pink possum guts a boot print to mark the way.  But wait—the sun is coming. . .”

There’s still an element of the above-outlined “crazy” that has stuck with me all these years later. Sure, Thailand is an adult candyland, and Thai gogo dancers represent a soft, succulent balm for my crushed psyche. But that doesn’t mean the poor decisions of my youth didn’t leave a lasting scar. People often ask why I’m not married. I usually make a joke about not wanting the same flavor of ice cream every day for the rest of my life, but that’s only part of it. The truth is, I made mistakes in my 20s and 30s that have now made me not marriage material. For anyone. But that’s life, right? We live with the consequences of our actions. I have mental baggage that I can never be rid of. Thank God for Thailand, where a beaten-down heartless monger like me can still find happiness in the arms of a bikini-clad pole dancer.