Finally my heart stopped beating, somewhere in the North

by dschapman

I turned off the engine and exited the vehicle. The scene was orange and gold and everyone wore black glasses. “Let’s get hot,” they said, as he climbed into his camper and drove to the river to wash up.

Miraculous infestation of the cats in the streets. The black families dump their rotten leftovers in the alleys and the cats smorgasbord every night, retreating into their forests or under their porches to relax and have sex and go back out to eat. Mice find safety in the cabinets, snacking on the cracker tower, hewing it out piece by piece.

When the ants came, I waged war. The skirmishes in the kitchens were pointless. They had roads and methodologies. I tried to block them off with poisons but they found new ways. I called in a mercenary pesticide job as a final solution, but after the smoke cleared, and the food re-appeared. The ants returned.

I I raised my tactics – Total War. I laid ant killer in long concentric lines around the key part of the house, and then travelled beyond pursuing indvidiual nests. Any given hill discovered was left undisturbed for the time, merely sprinkled with something delicious, until all of the traps were well set, and every last nest in the countryside poisoned. And then the sky darkened, and the rain came, and it washed the poison into the ground in a rage, into the mud, and sending acid through the tunnels of the chtonic structures.

Randall came and handed me a signed blank check.

“I appreciate that but I buy my own way,” but I took it.

And the little one, with little fingers like monkeys in trees, and I appreciated that, I said: “I can appreciate that.” In the halls of the marble mansion, burned during the war but rebuilt by the industrious citizens, once slaves, now freemen. The courier brought us this last dispatch; it read, “Misery, misery at last; here is misery,” and we burned in the sun together, hot as all hell, while the hail came down hard at our doors, and on our porches, pounding the roofs of our cars and denting the old tin roof. The tin came from railroad cars and it shines like all hell with the sun on it. Monkeys in the trees in the swelter don’t sweat, but they swing and they sit and watch over us, winged or not. I flapped my broad wings like a gull on the edge of the cliff and the wind came up meet me, ruffle my feathers and remind me of who I have been, what I am going to be.

I did not make money. I had no desire for making money. I didn’t have the will. I slept under a roof and I missed the stars. I dragged my mattress under the stars and the mosquitoes bit me and I threw up a tent. The snow came down hard on the tent and I threw it in the ravine and retreated into the house. The windows banged shut at the cold winter storm and I felt like a boy again, there in the killing fields of southern Maine, along the river, where the ships float in; barges, submarines, pleasure yachts; we rode them, made of fiberglass, and skipped the waves on rubber tires like smooth polished circular stones.

The theater in those days was a small one, two screens nestled between two colonial buildings in downtown Dover called The Strand. It is gone now, closed, and no one will ever sit in that velvet balcony eating popcorn again. The curtains are gone and the light is gone with it. In the semen stains the song lives on, forever calling, like a soldier in the field at night, abandoned, as the blankets for the dead are pulled over him, laid to rest, and wailing; calling, “Mother, mother, mother, please,” or maybe, simply, “God.”

I vowed then that night to do better by God than I’d been doing. By my own true self, by the self I aspired to be, to my mother and my father and my sister and friends, to the woman I think of in the back of my mind – why am I thinking of her? why am I thinking of her? has she come for me? have I won her? am I not alone again?

On the broad white canvas I spilled my heart out, word for word, and mapped the relationships of the heart as they appeared before me, deceptions, mirages, coming and going and falling apart; I burst the broken image apart, it dissolved into red mist and the fiddles began their Scottish lament again; one after another, gone, visions marching into dust.

I swore by my heart, “I will do better, I must be better than this, I must try,” and I put up my books and my movies and stuck my fingers down my throat until I threw up the cake and the milkshakes. I got down on my hands and feet and did exercises against the floor until my muscles burned and my back threatened to break again, and then I laid there on the rug and I burned, unhappy, drowning in pain.

The phone has shattered and now I can’t use it. I do not buy myself a new one because I do not really have the money for it, and I don’t need one, anyway, nor do I deserve it. I don’t deserve a working phone. I wouldn’t appreciate it if I had it.

So I took a book with me to the market and tried to sell it. “Please,” I plead, “oh please, take this damn thing off my hands – I need the money, I need to get out of this town, won’t you help me?” So they paid me half of what I paid not six months ago, and I took off, desperate, for the North.

But my girl – she would not see me. “I just don’t see it happening,” she said. I took the road to Nashville, then, to see my old friend in his hotel, but he had already left town, gone with the sun again heading West towards the desert again.

Unwilling to go home, I made my own way North again, all the way up along the Atlantic seaboard at night, on the old I-95, burning gasoline, drinking sweet, black coffee and eating at Dunkin’ Donuts as the sun turns up again.

When I made it to the Piscataqua I bought a room in Portsmouth like I were a tourist and wandered around the old town, breathing the colonial air like I were Paul Revere. I sat at Gilley’s and I ate a hot dog, and then I ate four hot dogs more. When an old bird came in and asked for a hot dog, I bought her one, too, and then I wandered out into the winter rain of the city for the safety of my room.

In my room I tried to call my friends from my childhood but I could not get in touch with any of them. I had dreamt a dream wherein I spoke to each and every one, but that was just a dream, and this one was different. When I got on the internet and tracked them down one by one they were all out of town or simply too busy to see me.

I drove by the houses of my childhood, over the roads that I’d walked, and they chilled me, and I could barely make it. A heavy wave of something deep and central took over me and I could not move. The car drifted at 5 miles per hour through the colonial, cold, familiar atmosphere. I felt magnetically aligned, and it was like being sucked out of a portal of time into a real universe again, and not that phony universe of words.

When I passed those snowy fields again, and saw those two tall silos, snow-capped, standing there – my heart stopped beating and I died.

 

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