Zenith/Nadir

by dschapman

My ankles bled. I could feel them bleeding. It felt terrible. I minded, even then, there in the thick of it. I had known it would happen, but somehow the bleeding still hurt me. I would not be walking in the morning, I knew that then. I would lay, eating pills, drinking warm morning liquor. I would hardly make it through night…. But I had made my choice and I lived with it. I had chosen to look nice – to have a ball. They were beautiful shoes that I wore on my feet – beautiful reasons for bleeding. I welcomed the chance to be beautiful. I was standing up straight with a drink in my hand, pretending to drink from it, to be drunk, and no one could even tell I was bleeding. I looked like the rest of the people so effortlessly looked – I looked healthy. I was committed to wearing my shoes; I would not be wearing slippers now, not in this crowd full of fine polished leather. There would be plenty of time to wear slippers later… Now was for wearing my shoes. Shoes whose stiff perfect leather carved paths in my ankle, splitting my grafts into rivers of tissue and blood. If it wasn’t my ankle, there was blood in my toes. But none of it bothered me. I was faced with a choice, you see. I could choose between plainness and pain. A choice between the painful life and the nondescript life, between memorable moments and nondescript comforts. You do not remember the pain… you only remember the moments, wholesome and descript. The way that you looked in the mirrors, to others, to yourself. The very few people you managed to impress, the ease with which you impressed them. The way that you stood by the banister, leaning on one arm, eyeing the women around you. The glass in your hand as you sip at your splash of bellini… You do not remember the pounding headache, the crippling self-doubt and the uncensored, unyielding awareness. You do not remember the puddle of blood in your shoes. You remember… nothing, but that something real was happening, that something happened around you. And something is good… it is better to live with the pain and the misery than to live in the dullness of comfortable poverty. Pain is the state of the world, after all – what is a life for, but feeling it? But the sensations of the outside world, the inside world, brushing up against your bodies, electrifying your nerves. I do not like pain… I am afraid of the pain. Of what it is doing, will do to me. Of what it has already done. I am afraid I will not be able to stand it for much longer – that it will get the best of me. But I am not given up for it – if all one has to live is live with it, then live with it I will.

The night I arrived with a beautiful woman was the end of me. I had my arm in hers and my heart was beating hotly. “She is beautiful,” someone said to me. “Yes,” I said, “She is… she is very beautiful.” And I meant it, and it destroyed me, and I cried by myself in the courtyard.

I remember opening a book and watching a piece of paper fall out of the pages. Someone had written a poem on it – someone had written in cursive. It was about a doctor, a sympathizer, a hopeless and luckless romantic, full of some terror but still glassy-eyed. It talked about Christ and the wings of the angels, of locks of hair and of eternal redemption. Crucifixions, benedictions, false dichotomies. It read, “Your sisters await, all mine, while the city burns – for martyred hearts – for advances best unanswered,” and then the number seven. At the bottom there was face of a man that had been scribbled over in ink. It was signed but the signature too was rubbed out. Someone had written across the bottom – “Drink from the strands of duplicitous light!”

What does it mean… what does anything mean?

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