a short story

For my next illusion, I will use gravity. Watch! The knees will buckle, the eyes water. Limbs once held upright by tightened muscles will collapse as if atrophy was a momentary process. The storylines of each of my bones will pause and groan in the extension of a moment. Wait! The oracles say each of my freckles will drip off my skin like a crayon held to fire. Is it not impressive to behold the mechanics of a rotating soul? There is something curious in my settling of scores. Do you not revel in the yellowing of my teeth, in the softening of my belly, the loss of each singular hair?

There is a much simpler explanation, and it has something to do with the absolute rekindling of seasonal affectations: You and I dozed more soundly in the echoes of the fall. I am but sleeping, though. I am but dreaming. I always order my eggs hard-boiled, but I only like the yolks. Where are all the good folks? Let us get to the good questions. When did stealing milk crates become a crime? When did loving you become a crime? When did I? Since when may I not open the mail of the bodies that I have loved? Since when is a Tom Collins served without ice? When I order bourbon it comes to me in no uncertain qualms that alcohol is a poison. Here are all the things in my body that are poison: acetic acid, every memory I have between the ages of fifteen and sixteen-point-six, trace amounts of formaldehyde, the smells of yeast, blackberries, Old Spice, nicotine—but only from tomatoes—and my disintegrating belief in the one true God. In my basement there is a cat. In my attic there is a woman in white. Beneath my floorboards there is the truth. In my bedroom there is nothing or there is a bed.

Listen! I have come back from the dead to turn off my alarm. I have come back from the afterlife to tell you all about the seductive powers of my neighbors’ trash cans. I fell in love with the sinews of the curtain in the window. I fell out of the trees and didn’t even feel it, much less stick the landing. I fell in love using tarot cards. I do not believe in fate. I fell in love at first sight, and I do not even have eyes. One of these things is a lie.

I will admit something if you will. It has been lifetimes since I have done anything that humans do, so please forgive me if I do not believe in God, if I do not remember how peaches taste, if I cannot recall each periodic element and the orbicular shape of my name. I wash every piece of laundry as a ritual act. I wring each towel with two hands.

There is something curious in my settling of scores. I have never shown a predilection for guinea pigs. Let Jesus eat them in Cusco. Let me bare my lies in peace. Sometimes there is a man. Sometimes there is a man in the shadows. Sometimes there is a man who cannot love. Sometimes there are jellyfish in the ocean; sometimes jellyfish glow in the moonlight. Sometimes there is no man at all. Someone please tell me that the things that rattle inside of me are imaginary; someone please inform me that the things that I recall never happened; someone please affirm my faith in the everlasting deity by consoling me with the reality that I am still pure of heart and body.

Someone make my knees buckle, my eyes water. I don’t do drugs; I just see faces in my cereal. I don’t do romance; I just dissect automata. Here is the sandman, come to take my eyes away. Here is the spoon, the knife, the sack. Promise me one thing: Bring me no dreams back. Here is the priest, come to bury me. Here is the spoon, here is the thistle, here is a bit of my blood and the remainders of my freckles. I promise that I never put a tattoo on the back of my ear or I did and have since lost it. I promise I can hear you through the ink of it anyway. I can feel the grit on my tongue; I can taste the fog in my head; I can slip between the walls of your imagination, and you won’t even feel it. Watch! For my next illusion, you will see my teeth. I will disappear. Then I will be here, or there is nothing.