to 5

    on the 5ives




I'm out in the park on sufferance, she's in the car drinking a glass of Merlot and trying, I suppose, to accommodate the situation. That she's herself an irregular sort and despises mere normality makes my sitting on this bench possible. It's a beautiful bench, really—old municipal wood, splintered, gouged, and signed many times over, the texture of its violent history glossed over with a thick, cream-orange enamel. The surface is so smooth that, with the lycra mini on my ass slicked under by taupe stockings and black panties, I'm slightly sliding. I correct for this movement by crossing my legs tightly along the thigh and planting one boot heel firmly on the border of the walk in front of me.
      Up there in the passenger seat she's perhaps raising her glass as she inspects the leaves flickering across the streetlamp. The wine makes a shape like a half moon brimming into her mouth. Her small watch glints in the bronzish light and she looks at it, but without marking the time. Somewhat idly she knocks a fingernail against the wineglass, ringing it. Traffic brushes past alongside her, and across the street, headlights forecast the bumps in the road, the little twist of the yellow line past the bridge. They sweep white along the row of closely-parked cars, flashing out wheels, chrome, doors, windows.
      She and I can't see each other since the drive is above the level of the park. I feel hidden down here at the same time that I'm quite exposed. It's near eleven-thirty on a Saturday night and, though you'd expect different, the paths are deserted. I'm just up the street from the Zoo and across from the Conservatory, where two paths converge and pass through a pedestrian subway. Along with mine, three more benches line the paths that curve down to the tunnel. I can see the subway entrance to my right and to my left those paths approaching the curve.
      I'm sliding again and I cross my legs on the other side. It's a June night and the air is warm and fragrant with grass and the flowers—azaleas, roses, lilies—blossoming in long strips of park garden behind me. I feel absolutely relaxed and exhilarated, truly delighted. In theory, I can be seen by any and all, but in fact there's nobody around. I have no idea, however, what I'll do if someone approaches along the paths or through the subway. I imagine I'm ready to move quickly, if need be, to make straight for the car which after all is very close. On the other hand, it's possible I can bluff it through. Not many walkers in this nice, sophisticated part of the park would be very concerned, anyway.
      I wonder if she'll have a change of heart and come down to sit with me, and then I contemplate my nylon-glossed thighs, my little black suede boots with side zippers, the white piping along the hem of the miniskirt. I must admit that my legs look rather good, long and sleek and shining. A nice choke on the ankle, there, at the top of the boot, and a pleasing line along the knee, smooth plane of the thigh and slight, squarish narrowing of the cap. There's just enough dark here and just enough light from the globed lamps along the paths to make me feel I'm collecting a sort of glow. The heavy scent of the flowers is mixing with the fresh air and, along with the glass of our wine I had before leaving the car, lulls me into a luminescence, a buzzing hovering all around the body that might be what a bee feels inside the honeycomb. Something like that.
      The long hair is unbound tonight. It too has a kind of shine, falling over my shoulders and farther down. I lift its weight and then draw it out. I feel it whisk behind me, across the wood of the bench, and then ravel it through the fingers of one hand, with the glossed tips of my nails (that's Coral) wound into it. I'm considering the word, pelt, as I lay the hair along the sleeve of my jacket, but that's not quite what I want—with the differences in the way the hair strands, its tendency to draw together at some points, to divide at others, it's more like: hair...falls. Here on the bench with the cars passing not far away on Stockton Drive, I let the words drift...a highway in mountains, a trail to a lake, a climb that brings you to the turn of some stream. You're standing among the rocks where the flow breaks, drops—there's a haze of spray, the wall where the current braids itself together, a gap between what you're seeing—smooth twist of the water—and what you're hearing—parting, spill.
      It might be that she's emptied the glass, even the bottle. Her boredom up there, contemplating this lull in the action, pause going bad as it continues too long, could spur her to any number of things. A rap on the horn dissolving this mist I'm inhabiting, the light and float. Or she slams the door—do I hear it now?—in a condition fairly pissed, deciding she has to come down here to get me moving. Or—as per my request—might she be coming without a sound through the little subway with its banked lights, a stalk through the bushes up there on the slope of the road, collecting herself around the eye of the lens? Or decides tonight is enough. Finally carrying through on one of several threats, she starts her car, loops once past me, flash of her lights on Stockton, a good-humored shout (I wonder which name?), a last friendly toot of the horn. Does the strand.
     Sliding again, I adjust myself—knees together now, stilling of angles as I fumble in my bag, bring out the mirror-compact, zero in on my face and then swing to the trees around it, sky, the headlights running along the grass, jumped windows of the highrise building the next street over, a second catch of my eyes (I stop over the word for this— Objectified? Transfixed? No.). I pull my hair forward, over the face, my vision threading into it, the mirror intermittent, blanked but occasionally catching a lip's edge (that's Really Red), the smooth of cheek (Cover Girl: Brunette), the buried coin of an earring. I'm looking into something like a water. I listen to my body for sounds—some heart thudding, organ's wake—but there's nothing in particular....
      Well, say a trembling. It's so slight and becoming so familiar I'm correcting for it as though I'm in a suit, pressurized, timing to the last second when what— The water runs out? The air?
      Or what could be like music there, coming in or passing out—something rustling with the visual frottage of the compact-mirror which in the hand seems no longer under my control but moving on its own, as though in an attempt to signal to itself. I'm just its operator; a little dizzy.


—You'd be some bloody supernal being, wouldn't you?
      She writes this in the letter that comes some months later.
      —Wouldn't we all like to escape history (she writes), though it's a dirty word these days or too easy and meaningless and talking about constructs and so on doesn't alter the matter of your own— Narcissus recidivus, you'd deny it and go ahead and have it all as in the standard fantasy, imperial ego that would appropriate everything to itself and the lost thing you mourn that nobody can have you'd bring back to some monstrous life out of yourself, me and my mummy, and what are you wrapping yourself in? silks and veils concealing it from yourself or maybe you would pretend that you control what appears and what doesn't, you believe with all the rest that woman is truth and I call it death, death, that's all it is, woman is truth is death because the mirror is always death and she's holding the mirror you're holding looking for the stain of your breath with the scent of a precious flower crypted inside your sarcophagus, all lovely and enamelled on the outside, gold and turquoise and the hopeful wings that shine with their promise of some sun beyond the sun of this world, sun of woman, and inside the sarcophagus you're bundled in wrappings the way you wrap yourself in your commodity package, crossed up back and forth in the X you would make of yourself, and in the mirror the breath does not appear and what appears on the mirror is just the venting of your rot, your dissolution inside that mummy, your being stilled and slightly rocked in lubricious jellies, but at the same time enclosed, unable to move....
      I can be faulted whether I answer or not—not answering means mystifying with my silence; answering, as she'd say, means imposing a discourse. I love her words, though, unruly garden of eloquence where things grow by a contagion or random cataloguing, love them as much as her other garden, her secret flesh—yes, always secret, its silence wanton and unassailable so I can discourse as I please, it won't make any difference—and for which I yearn even more when I'm sitting like this in a garden of the night, waiting on the one more item that will make things perfect, which is...
      Wasn't the story of Narcissus, after all, a real love story? His desire was pure. He didn't know the reflection was an image of himself, didn't dream he could be so beautiful a being, and so made an honest mistake. And Echo, she was the same, at first, desiring the same beautiful being. Later she became jealous and vindictive, served a lesson, but for me they both tremble and wreathe together like those other stories of lovers blossoming into sudden flowers or fast-forward trees, and who can tell after all which is which? With a mirror and an echo there's the same effect: nothing is as beautiful as when it's fading, becoming secondary to itself—in love, the eye and the ear tire of inspecting the world, and wish to be inspected in turn—and to stumble, maybe fall, keep falling, somewhere along where they're doing it.
      Of course it is true that before he turns flower he's sucked into his death, a fading or a drowning. Is Echo warning him? So my dear, to be bloody, to be wounded some way, to become the mummy of myself, encased in these nylons, these sheaths and veils, to have what I can never have, to be truly supernal (beyond creature of a day, this thing of a night), I should only write, I'm giving it up, right here to my period?
      —And a wonderful time (she writes) on a Saturday night, sitting in a car alone and wondering what's up next, will it be some more driving around, searching for the ideal site, the spot where you can be seen and not touched, where you can be a whore and I'm a sort of pimp putting out trade that doesn't even reach a real point of exchange or encounter—a prostitute at least does that much—and just languishing here in the classical sense, like a foolish creature waiting for a hero— And what a hero this is: lurking around the bushes, his dick tucked up into his pink panties and just throbbing there like a second heart, my own true love, or for all I know gone limp, retracting into a fold of your cockage as though waiting for the event, and what is that event, what impossible thing?
      —How many grand circles have we traced on these outings, looking for the spot, the parking place, just the right one, and why can't you be satisfied to stay inside, or at least stay inside the car, why is it you have to be out, out, since you know as well as I that the minute you see someone you'll be terrified, come scurrying back, losing any semblance of a proper walk, slumping instead of keeping your posture straight, erect, like I taught you, and all the while I'm waiting for something worse. What if the police come along, checking for prostitutes? This is a prime area, regular and gay ones too, and the way you dress, so typical, so sleazy, obvious, exactly like the hookers. Or some gang types come rolling through here, no reason they shouldn't, they do, they do anywhere, and there you are, just wonderful, a darling thing with the miniskirt up to your arse and most likely playing with your purse and lipstick, prime victim, just waiting for the hunters.
      When Actaeon was turned into a stag, what was the last image he saw but the supernal bodies of Diana and the nymphs? I see that wood like the garden here, bathed in the sodium streetlamps and the extra lights for park security, an overbright unearthly light in which shadows are exposed to something like their underside, losing their normal thickness and throwing a metallic shiver across the walks and lawns as though rattling together with the leaves. Imagine the moment, then: Actaeon's first turning in the wood, the blast of Diana's power still dazzling across his black liquid eyes, the rack of the antlers feeling like a concomitant power branching from his head, fingers or some ceremonial headdress suddenly reaching into the wind, shadowing the ground under the light of a moon that must be called naked. It's a sort of paralysis at first, the stag staggering, unable to mount himself properly on his own feet. Perhaps at this point he first assays his voice, the one which will do nothing for him, that speaks no human tongue. I guess something choked, inarticulate, a deep-down moan trapped in the majestic body—but perhaps less: only a silence.


—I remember wearing something like those antlers once (he writes). My father had a little bar in the basement of our house, a men's room sort of thing for parties, with beer signs on the wall and a selection of various gadgets and jokes that were called novelties (save that word). Among these were the horns, Mexican-style, the big steer horns with the velveteen band around the middle attached with silver rivets. What was I doing with those horns? The realm of novelties led me along several paths—the magnetic Adam and Eve figurines in a translucent plastic casket, the pink-rubber thing that I guess was a sort of play penis, and The only man in Cleveland, Ohio or wherever who knows what he's doing ceramic fetish, the fellow with his trousers down to his ankles grimacing an abstracted wisdom between the leather dice-cup and a stack of joke napkins. The purpose of the horns was obvious, as at my parents' parties they were used in the same way: to make a spectacle of yourself (as the saying went), like some uncle come pawing and prancing up among the unsuspecting others as they danced a foxtrot or a polka, then bellowing or mooing with the rack up on his head, getting a whack or two for his trouble, driven off by the women, dismasted by one of the men, maybe the only man...who knows what he's doing....
      So I was dancing, I was eight years old probably, it was a summer night, I was running back and forth across the basement in my underwear, starting a little breeze, and had the idea that I too could grow to know or maybe forget what I was doing, making a spectacle of myself. I took down the horns from their mount over the bar—heavy things, not exactly forbidden but not explicitly allowed, either. Take the bull by the horns, I'd heard it said, and (not informed of the distinction of steer and bull) imagined I did just that, getting a bucking feeling first, and then, keeping the horns raised on top of my head, a sensation of something being attached to me, outside of me, but still somehow involved with what I was and in a different way than, say, a cowboy hat or an army helmet. With their shiny, sharp little tips, with a striated, intricate sort of smoothness where my fingers gripped, with their weight and yet their lightness too as though they took part in things of the air, the horns floated out from my head in bony antennae, looking to quiver with some unknown signal.
      I steered myself for the mirror in the basement bathroom—not forgetting to lower my horns on the way in—and looked at my face there for a moment, at the same time hearing the floorboards creak meaningfully upstairs, sign of the possible descent of one of my parents, coming to check the laundry or get the proper tool. Despite the prospect of being caught, I got the underwear off fast—I kicked it aside with one of my hooves and started the pawing and snorting motions I'd seen in cartoons, the one I especially liked being the bull who transforms into an express-locomotive, chest bulging, beringed nostrils shooting smoke and flames, hooves spinning into high-velocity cams and wheels.

Out on the basement dance-floor, scene of adult spectacles, I performed alone, swaying down the horns and rearing up again (not easy to do, while still keeping one's balance). In my throat a strange humming was commencing, some confusion of a mooing and a bellowing, both pathetic and truculent, the sound gathering a life of its own, gaining volume as though to sort out complaint from defiance. I heard myself suddenly (but who was I?) erupting in a howling sort of moan, a thing it seemed I couldn't stop until there was an answering call—but that wasn't quite it either, since I seemed to be answering myself, and so spurring it on.
      The question, of course, was what to charge, what to take as a target. The wall? The bar? Or how about my dad: innocently in search of a wrench or a hammer, he was a bull-like apparition at the bottom of the stairs who terrified me, sent a thrill up my back and, I swear, through the horns, as if I'd never seen him before in my life, and he equally or more terrified by me, his own son, preparing to charge across the basement floor, a nude spectacle, head racked with horns.
      "What in the hell are you doing?" he said.
      What came from my mouth wasn't anything like speech—what could I tell, after all?—was just a garble from which I struggled to extricate words: Uuuuhh.... Although I wanted to say something, offer an apology which was the first route to lead me out of trouble, I gave it up and stood there silent, gazing mostly at the floor like one of those animals in stories who can't meet the eyes of man, the hunter and master.
      The silence didn't last long, since I finally made a proper charge, into the bathroom and quickly back into the clothes I'd left on the floor. Inside it, so to speak—that is, arrested there with my father looking at me stone-faced (and forgiving too, I could see, kind enough not to look too much, kind enough not to jump right away to legalities), I heard a sort of music—or an echo of music, say. I knew it was inappropriate, wrong, to be hearing such a thing when I had just been caught in the act—this little jig, ditty, childish and joyous, like humming over your toys as though nothing can hurt you, you're not really afraid of anything, all creatures are your friends and your enemies are only those who don't know it yet.
      Out to face him, I readied myself for the law, the admonition or punishment though my intuition suggested it would be one of those matters just between us, not something my mother needed to hear or that we wanted her to hear.
      Standing there with his blue work-shirt puffed around his waist a little bit, wearing his evening slippers and just getting a second wind for his usual pottering around with something in the house, some problem or improvement he'd nag us to understand and later show us finished, perfect, delighted with it—something connecting to something else, something dull made to shine, some space suddenly usable, inviting, with a door or a top on it, look at this, did you ever imagine...?—he seemed on the verge of laughing, his eyes shining, a grimace of admonition pulling toward a grin, but of course it was possible he was angry or at least determined that he should be, and so said to me, "You put those on your head again, they won't come off. Ever."
      "What?" I managed to say, though already holes were coming open in my scalp, my head was swaying with sudden weight, I was swinging under lintels and being pursued by hornless hunters through alleys, woods, rolling suburban hills.
      "They'll stick."
      He didn't laugh after that but just shook his head silently, as though I should get the message, and went back upstairs having found what he was originally looking for—a red-handled hacksaw that someday might be just the thing to take off horns, making a fine powder and a stink as of burning skin.
      So I would have to wear my hair long, to cover the bumps, the phrenology of my skull involving some extra sites: say, the organ of music, or the organ of silence, slight excrescences doctors would say needed to be watched for cancer or that a lover would touch, surprised, and saying nothing, start humming with another pleasure, as though having found some knobs on an old radio, tuning in to a distant station where amid the static nothing but a roaring noise could be heard but within that roar there was the trace of a song, wavering in and out. Or maybe start humming to mask an aversion, an urge to flee things too mixed up together, too difficult and incomplete.
      I later stumbled across a picture in one of my dad's books, secreted for no particular reason I could determine among the select and I believed cunningly disposed issues of Adam and Luscious I never dared touch. A volume from the Bibliophile Library of Literature, Art, and Rare Manuscripts, late-Victorian with silken green covers, gilt pages, tissue-papered engravings.
      I laid it open with a sense that I was safe, since nothing indicated it as forbidden. It was full of poetry, Tennyson especially, and demanded delicacy of handling, along the lines of a prayer-book. The Latinate word bibliophile, which I had never heard of, fed my speculation that this was a book of arcane knowledge, perhaps on the order of The Secret Facts of Life advertised by the Rosicrucians on the inside covers of comic books.
      The print was "The Death of a Stag"—I doubt you know it. The lord of the forest in trouble, on the rocks in the turbulent river, losing his footing with the water rushing all around him and in a sort of frozen motion, the desperate splaying purchase of his hooves forming treacherous yet beautiful cushions or flowers of spray as he stilly convulses, verging upon his special disaster. The expression on the face is regal, transfixed, he has already looked everywhere possible for a way out and now inhabits a moment compounded of resignation to his fate and fury at its dumb exigency, and, all the while, the rack of his magnificent antlers, preternaturally extended, a kind of tree growing from his solemn head, a kind of candelabrum or grand tuning-fork or mimicry of the lissome tangling branches and limbs of the wood, holds him in place, traps him there, while his powerful body immaculately wallows among the blossoming waters, hoisted by its own glory.
      I sat there a while, listening with a sudden fear for my father's tread on the stairs again, hearing inside my head what kind of sound the stag would have made—but was it even a sound? What cry or roar would make his death-song?
      I soon realized that I was hearing the blood pounding in my head.
      In that listening I'd forgotten the difference between sound and silence, with something murmuring out of me not quite music and not quite words, as though I was waking abruptly from one of those dreams where you say or sing some phrase precisely because you don't want to know or perhaps you can't know what the dream was. You're just telling yourself it's gone.


It startles me, the splash of the headlights across the lawn, the sound of an engine close by, and I'm pretty sure, I know already, it's the police, making their rounds as they should to keep the park safe, it is, after all, past the official closing time though people are walking dogs and strolling, no problem. I shift my position on the bench, adjust the exposure a bit, but there's nothing outrageous, almost completely unlikely that the police would see any reason to come over here. Ultimately, I'm a taxpayer, a professional person too, and, well, involved in public service but only a worker bee so there isn't any little scandal I'm worried about. I'm on television, in hit films, on Rickie and Oprah and Jerry Springer, really old hat and surely not any problem sitting in the park minding my own business with a friend waiting in the car.
      Here they come, anyway; and I'm afraid, I'm afraid. I know what to say, my driver's license is in my bag (some smoke as well, maybe not so wise), I've just come from a party in the neighborhood, yes, officer, dressed up, you know, for the party, and just about to go home, enjoying the beautiful night for a moment, my car's parked right over there....

—What a lovely embarrassment it will be (she writes farther on) some night when we get stopped, too many drinks, building up your nerve, mine too, really a serious matter of risk, indiscretion, foolishness, certainly we're too old for this, some things just don't need doing, just because they're possible doesn't mean they have to happen, and don't say again that the same thing applies to the police, the police have a way of picking up a scent, something's not quite right, there's a wildness in the air, a going out of control, and I'll feel an absolute idiot, oh, here's my friend in the car, you see, yes, yes, my wife, and I'll be inspected in the same light with you, I'll be hauled to some awful police station where I'll have to bail you out or both of us will be in the station, in the police car perhaps together on the way to the station, we'll have to leave the car parked overnight to get vandalized or ticketed or towed, or they'll seize the car, impound it, they do such things, driving under the influence and whatever else is involved—impersonation, disguise, indecent exposure, those things are against the law, and there's suspicion of prostitution, you'll be sweet in the station among all the cops, pulling up your skirt and peeling down your stockings so they can search you, maybe you hope they'll be surprised when they find you have a dick in there....
      I get moving thinking that they might as well get me on the run as on the bench and that I at least have a chance of making it to the car....
      —This city is full of gangs, too, don't you understand? There are people with guns in the cars, these are macho guys who would take one look at you and either want to rape you or beat the living shit out of you, and no doubt I would be a prize either way, though I know that you're getting to believe you look so good, everything I've taught you, all these practice runs, you're competing with me, cultivating yourself though you would never be a woman, too much trouble for you really, nor would I want you that way, loving you as you are, with something between your legs that you so enjoy hiding from me, making it harder to get it, as though a woman now has to seduce and pursue a man even though we know that women are the ones who have always had to hide because they were considered property, baby-machines, producers of heirs, to conceal and lie even as men demanded they show themselves on the marketplace, slabs of meat, and why you want to reproduce that sort of passivity and crazy teasing I don't understand, but—talk to me, damn it, I didn't think anything would happen when I left you that night—I remember that lipstick trace, just there, where something is and something isn't, and how it feels taking in my mouth what doesn't offer itself, wangling there, but hides, and your frenzy convulsing not like a whale with a big stick in its belly but like a glimmering shining dolphin in a sea of silks and rustles where we're swimming in broken circles....
      And I feel the wind I'm making, or that's suddenly stirred, the coolness of it on my legs, wisping of the hair across my shoulders, and the imprint of the lipstick on my mouth (that's still Really Red, freshened a bit since), the way I seem to be shining yet in the night, humming a little as I walk faster, the stack heels of the boots sinking a bit in the damp grass and the bag swinging just right, I'm giving it my best, knowing the police are right behind, I'm a regular girl, heading back to her car, even a little tired, yawn, and I'm safe, over the slope...
      —But such delights, are they meant for mortals like us, I can't help thinking, knowing there's nothing wrong but what you can you do with it, what does it give to the world, anybody else, pure narcissism into which you've inveigled me, and now I want it too but how pure can it be if I still want you, you want me? I've caught the disease from you, this infectious thing that makes me think of you even when I'm only thinking of me, everything turns into sex or there's no sex anymore....
      But there they are, the guys, the machos, a gang or at least a group hanging out near a van, wearing their baseball caps, their shorts and their hairy legs. I make an abrupt turn, now I'm looking for the car: where is she? And I'm stumbling back down the slope, toward the bushes, the police with their spotlight rolling off to one side, the van guys looking maybe interested or curious on the other, the breeze carrying along the smell of the Conservatory gardens, wet earth and the sweet of the crowded blossoms and what I inhale as the scent of each flower solitary in the night.
      The boots have gotten slippery on the dewy lawn and as I head for another path I'm sliding, my hands going out to save myself grabbing the branches of the shrubberies, and the strange thing is I'm seeing all of it happening even as it does, as though my compact-mirror has its equivalent somewhere up in the air, floating there angling and spinning over my fall—the legs flying out from under me, the hair thrown, my bag swinging out in its own arc, some kind of cartoon Ohh caged up out of the lipsticked mouth and the slicked ass (where sleeps the double sex) that goes whumping down on the ground.
      Yet where I'm breathing there, lying in the dirt, waiting for whatever is coming, it's real, so real I can scarcely describe it to you, not because it's great—what's great about falling, there among the sharp little stones and the soaked litter and the hunters on either side (and no sign of you)—but I can't stop myself even though I have probably one second to crawl and hide or run or to raise myself up to some action or accounting for myself, and I lie there under the wash of the branches, their shadows, and I can't get rid of the word languor, stretching myself out, delight of everything in place, no injury I can detect, and I rearrange the miniskirt, fluff out the hair again, drag the purse back into my orbit, dispose the slightly muddied legs (that's Sheer Energy, Taupe, size B) into a proper V—double tombstones, a flower-cipher for the night to read though there are no more words or nothing but words for whatever is being observant, lacing across the blank of me whatever it might choose to write there....
      Or the rustling along my flank, hissing ride of the nylons under the skirt, music of the traffic skating on the Drive and the voices closing in or moving off, the lights following their different tracks—let's just say, before I'm found out in spectacle among the leaves, let's just say it's unutterable—this luster in the dark, Ohhh of my strip figure trying to speak my fate to the friends who are turning into enemies or the enemies into friends as swiftly as Actaeon's voice is metamorphosed from its orders and its commands to a ghostly ululation, the last word that is not quite a word as his body shimmers and twists out of its shape in explosion of the mooning white, word that is cut off or that slides out of its skin as a power the same time a weakness slides across him....


And the hunters (he writes), the irony seems to be that they didn't know their own lord, that, as in a dream, the stag Actaeon tried to speak but no words would issue forth and so he could not save himself. Yet it was beauty that killed him, and the irony was not so much being transformed from man to beast, but the circling or repetition involved. His gaze upon beauty is seconded by the hunters gazing upon the beautiful stag he had become. In both cases, death follows from beauty and all of it is speechless, silent, as though beauty doesn't give itself to any word but must be suffered, and not only suffered but suffered in distraction—losing your footing, your way, your thread and your voice, every word seeming to promise it to you even as it, you, are turning away, helplessly mouthing....


—So please write me (she writes), anything you want, I know it takes time, tell me what happened that night, and I'll tell you a story as well...
      She spills some of the Merlot, then, her hand trembling from holding the pen and the notebook in an awkward position, attempting to expose the page while avoiding the interfering shadows of the streetlamp. She slides a little on the smooth vinyl of the seat, lets her knees drift apart, getting comfortable, slightly sleepy. She looks at her face in the rearview mirror, the lipstick crooked but she doesn't care, strange mask in the night, almost like another person, then decides to tilt back, lets the clinging shadows spot across her body and some further shadow of something having its way with her as she starts to drift, thinking about what she's written, excited though exhausted by the ideas, the words, how from a certain perspective her treatment—she thinks of it as her treatise, enjoys the sound, treat and tease—and how it's suggestive of....
      She's going off now, words turning into images bound up with her half-awareness of the shadows dragging across, slide of their indifferent motion.


I'm not sure I heard it, but I must have, pulling myself together, rising from my bed of newspapers and leaves—the sounding of the horn on her Altima, a sort of klaxon tweeting I probably could have distinguished from all the others along the Drive and the Park, and probably her voice, too, along with it, a good-natured shout, sending me a huzzah and angry as she might be still joking a bit as though she might be coming right back, she's only going around the block to give me a scare, a thrill.
      My name had to be somewhere in there, too—but I didn't quite hear it, or couldn't separate it from all of the other sounds, or from the abrupt quiet that seemed to surround me, the branches barely moving, the other horns sounding, the voices far away.
      And even the voice that finally came out of my own mouth, as though to respond or remember—I was not so much hearing it as carrying it, like an echo.