Jacky never had hair

Jacky never had hair on his chest but for in the late afternoon sun, the last time you saw him in daylight, standing by the car in the gas station parking lot, the sun painting his edges white and the down on his chest shimmering like its own worried breeze. The two of your broken magnets turning aimlessly around the asphalt and wind burned plastic, one hundred miles from Los Angeles. Jacky’s car had coasted into the gas station in disgrace. There were two more jokes in Barstow amidst the drift of folks who looked like they had been thrown into a window looking over Los Angeles. Teenage hitchhikers and runaways, lot lizards, and men with fossilized comb marks in their hair stood against walls in the shade with a waxy hopefulness that came from greasy night sweats flash drying on their skin at sunrise.

You and Jacky checked into Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel and Jacky went back to the road and evaporated in the sun. You looked into the grasses erect in the cracks of the dry swimming pool and pulled tight the oil cloth curtains. Two curtains never block out the light like one can, and through the glow in the joint you knew the white sun fading to brown and waited for Jacky to deliver you from Barstow. A real painting hung over the shared nightstand showed a monastic seashore, green light shown through a wave lapped high and thin by an offshore breeze and in a second hand a crude swimmer was drawn out of scale with a marker. A shark fin and face bobbed inscribed with ink pen beyond the breakers. In motel after motel, days after nights, something has always happened before you arrive.

You wanted to be a maestro, with all threads of your future in some mosaic outline, perfected before the sun fell on you together again, but all you could do in the sun was sleep. In a vision of the divine proportion of your relationship with Jacky, and without him, a matrix of possibilities and associations, people who knew people who had known the roads that you had drawn in pen between the highways in the roadmap books from Jacky’s glovebox, each point in the map had the same weight, found or created, real and remembered or falsified, but you couldn’t conjure anything solid, or anything outside of what you saw in your narrow path, each void had the same weight, and each void had a name, the housekeepers would never come, the air conditioner would never hum, Los Angeles sank into the ocean of the in between. You knew what was missing and where to find it, just not where to put it, or when.

Barstow was unfathomable from the view in the day. It was all dust and the wind of cars passing on the road. The aspirations of its sky were only to exist in the way that a house at the edge of a brushfire silently watches, into and across the edge of nothing and holding back a sea of life. Barstow held it westward and faced the desert. It must have seen you coming.

When you awoke, laying between the two beds like a crime scene, Jacky sat in the vinyl chair under the window with his hair in his fingers and his thumbs in his ears. His shoulders, ringed by the stretched out neck of his tee shirt, were purple from the sun, in the dimness.

In the morning you sat waiting. The way the sunlight through the insect screen clotted the hair of the desert’s dead cause Jacky to shimmer out of the day sent you deep into the spiral of the room, into the shadowless conscience of the fluorescent light and you lay down in the shower compartment to wait for him to find you.

You sat in the bathroom paneled with mirrored tiles meeting at plastic rosettes. Pink marbled plastic surfaces like a tongue across the roof of your mouth reproduced to swim with you. Through a play of reflections the glow of the day filled the room in name only. Sleep is narcotic. Night and Day as a cadence slipped away, became Jacky and alone. Each time he returned to the room he wore the day as a sediment on his skin. The sun had blown ripples of flesh and thick horny swaths the color of sausage casing over his body. You would spent the first times together in Barstow prodding his shell and running your fingers together over it in the fluorescent light, believing it wasn’t real, confused with reflections of the peeling ceiling in the panoply of mirrors.

You spent all of the time in some form of sleep. There are several, but each is a pact to limit the intake of the senses. Some sleep is told through dreams, other told by those who watch you sleep, but by its very nature you tell none of it. You sample consciousness like an infant.

If you can’t even remember how you felt when you were hurting, when you were afraid, how could you create him in fear, how could you enter into that pain and see out from it.

If you weren’t awake you didn’t age, if Jacky wasn’t there you weren’t awake, if Jacky was there he was holding off your departure from Barstow, if you left Barstow you would stay awake.

You didn’t know what Jacky did when you shut your eyes. Did he even exist then. Did he then exist only for others. What did they do with him. Did the sun ever set.

You pulled with all your muscles to open your eyelids and felt their fleshy edges bound.

The motel room was like a space capsule hurtling beneath the days, with Jacky flickering in and out of dreams in parallel universes. When you returned from the milky way of mirrors, Jacky would be an old man filled and covered with a long life in the Barstow sun, shoes and jeans worn to cloth air, and you a child lent his youth forgotten.

The way your eyes turned to gum, a pliable youth contained in the all over yielding flesh of a rump, the softness of inaction and apathy, made Jacky’s intermittent but repeated returns to the motel room and to you in the bathroom seem like a single unbroken action, the grout imprints on your flesh changed and rotated in the mirrors and overlapped into a spiraling grid of cities forgotten in which all times happened at once with every move laying hands upon ghosts. Jacky’s skin undulated and flaked and fissured and scalloped as you continuously picked at the growths and peeled away sheets of wrinkles and wads of scar tissue that replaced themselves like the layers of paint in an old house, each more grotesque and less becoming of the Jacky you knew. You felt responsible for him in those inward spurts of time, and he in turn was burdened with responsibilities and unspeakable acts that constructed both your sleep and your deliverance from Barstow. Those precious obsidian imprints that you saw in his eyes when he lost himself in the mirror endless as you flayed him, but didn’t dare stir up or covet. The two of you were separate people falling at different rates.

You shaved your chest, awake for a moment while he was out. The way the smooth skin pricked beneath the gauzy tee shirt made you feel the character of sick and weak, like Jacky should be taking care of you.

He smelled like different things or scenarios when you faced him in the bathroom. Him sitting in the sink, you leaning against the wall, the back of his head in the mirror behind him, and your face over his shoulder, then his face in the mirrored wall behind you, and on and on, the scent of pomade, leather, wet denim, a discussion beneath a street light, the desert dust on the elbows of a chino shirt, engine grease money and sweat. But he didn’t speak. No words and no sounds hung in the stretch of days in Barstow in a motel room. There were sounds from before, a conversation outside of Amarillo in the car about Los Angeles that hung across your skin as a vibration yet to reverberate back to the ear, a memory in waiting, and the sounds of the air sucking through the car windows. There were sounds and voices still hanging in the air of the room from arguments, love, and tedium that you were late to, you couldn’t hear those either, only feel them when you touched the glass of the window in the dark.

What kind of catalyst would you need to initiate the wash of life back over you. You blamed the stillness on Jacky, he was here completely in Barstow, he was living and it was layering itself onto him as he took from you the hours and days that you lay drying, he took them and he wore them like a taunt. When he was gone he was taking things that were not his before and making them his, he was establishing the story that would get you out of there, he was bearing the burden of limbo, not an absence of feeling, but a maniacal focus on the feelings that lurk in future moments, chronostationary each that he stands by the road with his hip out. People dried up in front of him, blew away into the desert, and he would wake you up with slight hope in his salty breath.

He drew you out of the room, lighter than a recollection, and he hobbled with his tight skin, a paper man, and you both got in the car. There was a low green cloud of light that wended its way around the motel buildings and the gas station from the dark. In his silhouette you could see his lips pulled over his teeth and the smoothness where his nose had been, and as the night air painted the car out of the city light you rolled down the window and felt the coldness that focused your eyes in crystal. The mountains black against the luminous black sky barely distinguished themselves. The glow from the console just dipped Jacky’s fingertips on the steering wheel in its green meniscus. You sat back out of the light. Everything stayed still as you moved north along the valley. When you got out of the car you realized you were shoeless in the gravel and the wind gently blew your loose clothes away from your body, the costume and setting of a child’s night trauma.

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