h e x e s

That's life for you. All the happiness you gather to yourself, it will sweep away like it's nothing. If you ask me I don't think there are any such things as curses. I think there is only life. That's enough.

Junot Diaz, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I have a fantasy where I shrink until I disappear.

"I've already fallen for you," he said.

"I more than like you," he said, "I worship you."

If only he knew how many other men have claimed I was perfect.

"There she is," she said, "the hottest girl in the universe."

He asks why I'm still single. I smile, awkward. There are a million things I could tell him; but instead, I say, "Because I'm not charming," after a long, hissing pause.

Adrian had woken at an ungodly hour, the waves rumbling beyond the fluttering curtains. Alois had been snoring softly next to him. Adrian had pinned a lock of Alois’ hair behind his ear. Alois had groaned and turned; and Adrian had promptly pounced on Alois’ exposed back, grabbing his waist and kissing the side of his face.

“Come on,” Adrian had laughed, “just let me blow you already. You can’t stay mad at me forever.” They’d been coming down from an argument; and they hadn’t fucked in—what, twenty-four? forty-eight? seventy-two hours? “You know, some Americans don’t even consider blowjobs as sex.”

It was funny. Adrian had always thought that memory would’ve stuck around the longest; but he’d found himself thinking of the following memory nonstop ever since he’d left New York City:

Adrian had spent the entire morning watching Alois fix a window. The younger man had been hanging off the fourth floor like a monkey, fitting the glass into the frame. The sun had been hard that morning—bright, unyielding. The plaster must’ve been unbearably hot. Adrian had watched as Alois had grappled with the new window. The glass must’ve been the wrong size or something; because he’d finally slipped back into the apartment, frustrated and irate, for a glass of water.

Adrian, rough with coffee and cigarettes, had slipped into the street to holler at Alois from the street. He’d been dressed in his suit; and he’d told Alois some stupid story about the computers at work.

Alois had been smiling, bright. And the two of them had gone for lunch at some shitty restaurant around the corner. The conversation had been unremarkable; Adrian couldn’t even remember what they’d talked about. They’d stayed for maybe half an hour before they’d started back towards their apartments.

The weather had been good until it hadn’t; and the air soon become heavy with rainwater. And Adrian had laughed as Alois had turned to walk backwards against the cool, heavy wind. Big, fat raindrops would start to fall soon and Adrian would have to pretend to go back to work soon and Alois would have to go back to pretending to be a handyman and—

I discovered at once that he had foreseen my investigations and had planted insulting pseudonyms for my special benefit. At the very first motel office I visited, Ponderosa Lodge, his entry, among a dozen obviously human ones, read: Dr. Gatiano Forbeson, Mirandola, NY. Its Italian Comedy connotations could not fail to strike me, of course. The landlady deigned to inform me that the gentleman had been laid up for five days with a bad cold, that he had left his car for repairs in some garage or other and that he had checked out on the 4th of July. Yes, a girl called Ann Lore had worked formerly at the Lodge, but was now married to a grocer in Cedar City. One moonlit night I waylaid white-shoed Mary on a solitary street; an automaton, she was about to shriek, but I managed to humanize her by the simple act of falling on my knees and with pious yelps imploring her to help. She did not know a thing, she swore. Who was this Gratiano Forbeson? She seemed to waver. I whipped out a hundred-dollar bill. She lifted it to the light of the moon. "He is your brother," she whispered at last. I plucked the bill out of her moon-cold hand, and spitting out a French curse turned and ran away. This taught me to rely on myself alone. No detective could discover the clues Trapp had tuned to my mind and manner. I could not hope, of course, he would ever leave his correct name and address; but I did hope he might slip on the glaze of his own subtlety, by daring, say, to introduce a richer and more personal shot of color than was strictly necessary, or by revealing too much through a qualitative sum of quantitative parts which revealed too little. In one thing he succeeded: he succeeded in thoroughly enmeshing me and my thrashing anguish in his demoniacal game. With infinite skill, he swayed and staggered, and regained an impossible balance, always leaving me with the sportive hope—if I may use such a term in speaking of betrayal, fury, desolation, horror and hate—that he might give himself away next time. He never did—though coming damn close to it. We all admire the spangled acrobat with classical grace meticulously walking his tight rope in the talcum light; but how much rarer art there is in the sagging rope expert wearing scarecrow clothes and impersonating a grotesque drunk! I should know.

The clues he left did not establish his identity but they reflected his personality; his genre, his type of humor—at its best at least—the tone of his brain, had affinities with my own. He gamed and mocked me. His allusions were definitely highbrow. He was well-read. He knew French. He was versed in logodaedaly and logomancy. He was an amateur of sex lore. He had a feminine handwriting. He would change his name but he could not disguise no matter how he slanted them, his very peculiar t's, w's and l's. Quelquepart Island was one of his favorite residences. He did not use a fountain pen which fact, as any psychoanalyst will tell you, meant that the patient was a repressed undinist. One mercifully hopes there are water nymphs in the Styx.

His main trait was his passion for tantalization. Goodness, what a tease the poor fellow was! He challenged my scholarship. I am sufficiently proud of my knowing something to be modest about my not knowing all; and I daresay I missed some elements in that cryptogrammic paper chase. What a shiver of triumph and loathing shook my frail frame when, among the plain innocent names in the hotel recorder, his fiendish conundrum would ejaculate in my face! I noticed that whenever he felt his enigmas were becoming too recondite, even for such a solver such as I, he would lure me back with an easy one. "Arsène Lupin" was obvious to a Frenchman who remembered the detective stories of his youth; and one hardly had to be a Coleridgian to appreciate the trite poke of "A. Person, Porlock, England." In horrible taste but basically suggestive of a cultured man—not a policeman, not a common goon, not a lewd salesman—were such assumed names as "Arthur Rainbow"—plainly the travestied author of Le Bateau Bleu—let me laugh a little too, gentlemen—and "Morris Schmetterling," of L’Oiseau Ivre fame (touché, reader!). The silly but funny "D. Orgon, Elmira, NY," was from Molière, of course, and because I had quite recently tried to interest Lolita in a famous 18th-century play, I was welcomed as an old friend "Harry Bumper, Sheridan, Wyo." An ordinary encyclopedia informed me who the peculiar looking "Phineas Quimby, Lebanon, NH" was; and any good Freudian, with a German name and some interest in religious prostitution, should recognize at a glance the implication of "Dr. Kitzler, Eryx, Miss." So far so good. That sort of fun was shoddy but on the whole impersonal and thus innocuous. Among entries that arrested my attention as undoubtable clues per se but baffled me in respect to their finer points I do not care to mention many since I feel I am groping in a border-land mist with verbal phantoms turning, perhaps, into living vacationists. Who was "Johnny Randall, Ramble, Ohio"? Or was he a real person who just happened to write a hand similar to "N.S. Aristoff, Catagela, NY"? What was the sting in “Catagela"? And what about "James Mavor Morell, Hoaxton, England"? "Aristophanes," "hoax"—fine, but what was I missing?

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

It used to be hard to see his cover. He used to stand in front of mirrors, only seeing A: two steps beyond Vegas trailor trash, one step below CIA saboteur. He’d get so green, thinking everyone would see bookish B on his face, written in 116pt Century Gothic.

The cover was a corpse in his mind, only animated by his sick machinations. His meat puppet, his skin suit. It was bad company; but a good roommate: quiet, easy going, generally undemanding.

But now, he wasn’t always so sure who was wearing was wearing who.

A held B in his brain until he bobbed out of the darkness, like a bottle floating in an ocean. B was the type of guy who was too pretty for his own good. He was the sort of asshole who made people drop shit just by walking down the street. He was smart and successful too; and unlike the other kids who only talked about getting out, the fucker was actually going to get out of dodge.

But there wasn’t anybody that looked at B so sweet that hearts broke. Everybody either looked at him like they wanted him or wanted him dead; and the pressing impersonality of it all was nothing if not comical.

When was the last time anybody had touched him, not the corpse but him--A, B, whoever, whatever? When was the last time anybody had seen him, not the beautiful dead thing, but the ugly, dusty, living thing inside?

I was drinking whiskey with a client, when my boss goes to his closet, pulls out a shotgun, and says, "For when things go wrong."

The practice of law is so isolating.

...the on and on
of meals and moons and bills
and burning days of pretending
they don't exist.

A Private Public Space, Bob Hicok

I am terribly lonely; yet, I can't bear to share myself with other people. I tried to approach to an old lover today; but I stopped as soon as he wanted to talk. I don't want to talk. I just want to know a person without giving myself away.

I have a hard time figuring out what to write here, because most of my work is confidential. The words seem to slip through my fingers.

I spent the day elbow deep in land records, the nineteen-year-old intern jogging after, asking, "When did you learn to walk in heels?"

I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis