Dark Day

by dschapman

Miracles fill the buildings in this Mississippi river valley civilization as in ancient days the seven plagues came down. Many times these miracles are infestations or swarms, as strange as they are harmless. A miracle of bees infested the apartments over the grocery store. You can not see them living, they are never there, but they appear on the windowsills every morning, dead, already gathering a thin film of dust. Honey drips mysteriously down the walls, pouring out from holes in the mortar of the bricks or cracks in the ceiling. A mason jar set out on the window accumulates a warm store of honey, dripping from nowhere to glass in the glow of the sun. A miracle of ladybugs has infested the carriage depot at the top of the hill, where I live. I float here, lost in time, in this antebellum manor, and observe the red-backed beetles crawling over my walls. They appear alone, never together, but in all the places at once, at any given time of day. They sit on the window and bathe in the sun. They crawl down my television at night while I’m watching, reminding me of the miraculous power of God. They walk over my naked body at night and I reach for them like they are pimples to pop or scabs to pick, and I pinch them, and when I realize what they are I brush them away off the side of the bed. A lady bug is just another dirty people. Would I let a roach crawl slowly over the back of my hand at night? Would I watch the roaches warm themselves on my window? A miracle of roaches infested the manor I abandoned in my past life and followed me here, through the rain it seems and over the deep ravine, into the quiet, close walls of the carriage depot. They congregate in the shower in the mornings, unable to move; they must fall down a crack in the ceiling. I can see the very crack. A miracle of roaches in my walls. The entire structure is alive, as are all these structures. The illusion of loneness is an egotism of people. The walls are alive and the floors and the ceilings are too, as is the furniture, even the clothes. All the pieces harbor life. A miracle of earthworms appeared in the front yard and I dug up a square block of soil and boxed it up to make a worm farm. “You should see these earthworms,” I said to the dermatologist. “They are God’s own gift to man.” – It as if waking up, or coming to, although I was never for one instant out. I can tell something is wrong. Reality has set in. This is an ordeal. What is going on? Can I control myself? What am I supposed to do? I am sitting on a bed in a small flat surrounded by people. We are laughing together and then I wake up again. They are still there. An Albanian girl from Milan has just come in. I join her on the floor and hold her hand very, very close in mine. Ketamine, that’s what it is. It’s not so bad, but it’s an ordeal. I feel good and decide I am in love. We are listening to music I don’t recognize. They want to go dancing. I rub her hands very firmly; I can feel everything in her hands, and nothing else outside of them, and I am aware I am holding them too tightly. I do not want to let go of her. We did not have sex, although I told her I loved her. I did not have sex with anyone. I went years without sex. I became sexless, like a miracle, and dissolved, for a time, into the core of the earth, where the heavy metals meld together, solid gold, and gravity hugs you especially close. – When I came to I was facing East on the floor of a room overlooking a valley in the hills of North Mississippi. Nathan Bedford Forrest country. Blues country. My eyes did not open. I did not consider the possibility. Instead I was hearing Chet Baker and processing where it came from. What did it remind me of? I feel my dog beside me. He is curled up a few inches away. My eyes closed, I feel perfectly the entire space of the room, oriented as I am on the floor on the top of a hill in Chickasaw country. A dog barks from another room. A vacuum fills the space inches where I lay, as though a life has been sucked out of existence, and a doorway is built, and a hallway is laid, and the dog is now elsewhere, ten yards away. Time and space re-organize and re-settle, as if they had never been out of place, and the landscape of the valley changes, inch by inch, to accommodate the reaction. –

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