Phase Changes

She spun slowly once as she fell. Stations of the movement flashed, each still, such that she flickered away. Then just the sea which had not been there as she fell threw out in all directions unmarked calm. I saw the pebbles on which she had slipped fall at the same rate which, although reasonable, struck me.

I am waiting now in the attic of the house. All beautiful phantoms of hair in the wind and hair rolled over in bed leaking out of pillow sandwiches tenacious and without background wave against the spongy contours of light that fight to draw back her face as it recedes.

In a small, warm bar netted with nautical trappings the seedy glass of lantern shades distorts a man’s face into a small, withered stain on his fleshy head. His chin thrust forward like a toe. As I drank very warm red wine a cup of ice melted next to me on the bar. I slid them toward him, out from behind the glass, to watch his face sink and migrate around his head in the mirror beneath the bottles. The lead cape of blood fighting for its own in the body slowly wound about him, boredom hung from him. Between us a polished brass deep sea helmet curved away so that he could presumably see my face inverted as I saw his.

On foot we checked into a motel with separate rooms. I stuffed my soft hat into a hole in the plaster. Police sirens grind the outskirts of town, far from the water.

Beyond the mirror image a vague bed, as if blooming rocks just beyond the shore of a lake. A room precisely like mine, though not mirrored geometrically, is silvered and swaying through the portal. The man’s small face is smaller still again where he stands against the far wall. Orange light fills the room. Before I notice he is gone from the mirror the soft hat disappears through the wall. Powdery plaster and bug excrement sift down the wall onto an existing pile I had not previously noticed. The click of his door shutting concusses air through the hole with more suspended crumbs. Footsteps infuse the orange light of the arcade growing audibly closer not by volume, by clarity.

A smaller face, about the size of a thumb, is weeping. It is on a head of somewhat exceptional size, with a thrust forward chin involuted above by and arc greased with sweat or tears.

Steam swirls through the hole. Shower noise cools the room. I notice that I am naked from the waist down. Thin Pacific thunder squeezes both rooms, rain slicked around them. I see in the mirror the vanity mirror in which I see two stocking feet on the rim of the bathtub.

The small faced man and I converse. I recognize that his face has grown smaller. In the manner that I read, especially intoxicated, where distant globs of words coalesce in streaks into one object independent of their meaning, simply a rote blot of connection to some other human, I realize that I have not retained a word the small faced man has said. Nor do I recall what I have let on to him.

We ate a long, slow breakfast, hummingbirds a cloud spun into an aurora of airiness against what were beginning to appear as dusty hills sparsely vegetated. I could see us thrown apart in the curve of my windshield. The red sugar water caught first direct rays into a fat gem on the wall. Toast with jam, blueberries, grapes, raw almonds, tofu cubes with crusty independence, spinach wilted with garlic, thick grits, bright red grapefruit juice from little tumblers, burnt, thin coffee. Her face washed away in the sun and without gesture or effort, a smile curled, or I noticed one in that innate form of her mouth. Back out on the horizon dust blew out of the relative calm from the sea and blended a warm haze along the haphazard ridge. The blank and smooth landscape draws forward like a blanket billowing with trapped air over the sleeper. The minute details of distant dust swirls loop up into solar flares that wrap the full inclination of consciousness. Perception and belief come miscible and undefined into a corporeal transit across the apron that always defers the horizon. The vinyl straps of the deck chair impress my thighs. Hummingbirds kiss fine cones of swirling air to my skin. The sun warms my clothes. Yet, my sensations all clearly register separate from their envelope in a diffused medium that expands across the sky vault. From all points equidistant a compound vision of myself prickles. Across the terrace another woman ambles like a tortoise toward our table. This coalesces onto an aerial view where, like reduced points the diagram of now three of us loses pleasure or nuanced expression.

When the points once again manifest as bodies I am in the motel room. He is in my room now and the woman’s legs remain lifeless jutting over the tub rim like the bow of a clipper trapped in ice.

Sickness as a simple perception, like a shade of smoke between each sense and the world insinuated within and about me. Nausea is gauzed from fever is gauzed from panic such that each specter of pain is made to flourish and expand without border. I felt perhaps the scale that had tenuously balanced in my mechanics always had borne her life’s momentum as if she were breathing in the weighing pan. The fog was given to seep from some sarcophagus rigged to punish the disequilibrium of her disappearance.

I had once let phase changes destroy me. At the coast we walked in mist for an entire afternoon from an indeterminate origin. The shore seemed to curve but never folded back upon itself enough to see one point from another. Perhaps it was a lake. We stayed on the trail of the water’s edge. The first night we simply slept in the sand. We walked through the next night. On the third morning we soon found a wooden staircase that led to a house on a bluff that we could see only when we came right upon it. Inside we found lonely dust. Whose skin was this powdered from, I mused, how many years has breeze siphoned this dead blanket through drafts into this smooth little landscape. We laughed hesitantly at our security as the mist blackened early and pattered onto the windows. We were ready with candles and we searched the downstairs in their impotent radius. We laid out cans and coffee for breakfast in new flannel outfits from a hall closet. Gray, milky darkness, dust swimming in the night through the house, rolled like a slow train above the stair. Thick glaciers stalled on the balustrades. We slept in the parlor on two divans engraved with toile weathered like lost names and sentiments on a monument. You left this house, you left me alone in it, but that we shared our lives together, I will endeavor to keep it clean for we both return to it for each night’s sleep. At sun up she made coffee and I puffed through the dust up the stair, silent, beyond silent, absorbed completely. The dawn struggled up the bluff. Each upstairs room was dim for it. Wrapped in a quilt in a cedar chest was a shrunken woman. Beneath her, in this pristine vessel threatened immediately by dust, the peaceful, withered daze of a man folded in half like trousers, his heels on either side of his grin. I smelled burning coffee and smelled thunder. She had found a broom that we set aside, had breakfast wrapped in morning’s gauze on the terrace; she at and drank as if behind a veil, as did I, I am certain.



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