There are long blank roads

There are long blank roads inside of his body enough, that before full dayswell, he coasted into a motel parking lot in Amarillo. A long, low, alone affair again, or for the first time, for in this ink he existed only in the secondary orbit of Jack, drawn by a blue fascia against the cloudless Texas sky, compressed the bank of motel rooms into a trace of cells that transient rogues could only sit or lay down in, or begin disappearing from their crown down.

He bought a room. The sheet at the top of the bed was folded over the rayon blanket like a tourniquet bound across a sleeping child. All the turned down sheets of every morning stopped here in meaningless indexes of passing life, stopping to be shown all at once like a wall of crown coffee filters, dated and behind glass. These are the places a new man runs to because they are furthest from the immaculate deed physically, and closest to the evaporation of loss. They are undoubtedly stages or scenes where some former version of him has left something for him to find, but only its shadow or its code, composed of the memory of the room and how to use it, through color or style, a memory that he has never formed, or the teichoscopic scent of a recent meeting in this room that heaves his chest. All the rooms are still. This one is dying a laminated death. The door was turquoise and when he looked just away from it the color flickered like burning salt.

John recognizes his intermediacy. As quickly as his role swelled he could easily augur with his fully armored wisdom that the preserved quality of smooth furniture and its symmetry were his pinnacle, his hinge point, and that if he stayed here in its embrace that his middle act was endless, but endless without change, with only the life cycles of the flies eating his dust, was not endless, but instantaneous and it made him freeze.

A cold cascade ran down from within his chest, behind his lungs, of the breaths he hadn’t breathed, from days before we recognized him turning liquid, and like liquid can never find in nature, somewhere for unmixed repose was unrealistic, or the feeling that his body is too full with cold blood that makes his fingers swell and his skin taut and dappled like black pudding. There are no stock ballpoint pens at the long desk in the room but he knows the only way to sleep or move, although he doesn’t want to move or dislodge himself, is to bleed out the cold dead blood settling in his feet, legs, and groin. He went into the bathroom to break a glass ashtray on the tile floor but found a small thicket of rusted pins and slender nails on the rough grout below the window sash like brown dark writing to be deciphered. It meant nothing. He sat on the toilet and saw through the obscuring rhythm of his routineless last days, pushing the most slender pins into is perineum and raphe, and the small nails into the undersides of his thighs and left them all there as clarity like fire lit his flesh. He had no drive to escape from himself but to sustain a raging stillness, like the mindfulness of death in dreams of immolation can welcome the being early to eternity as it lives on with the cold peace of its secrets. He closed his eyes, or noticed they were closed and traced his finger around the entered flesh where clotted blood found the powder of rust kin and when he pulled the lances one by one but quickly, the collars of blood remained bound to them and dripped them reddening into the toilet bowl, at first marbled with the immiscible blood clots but quickly a solid opaque form in the bowl that he let grow long as it could from the rush beneath him, not overflowing but rising high enough as the apertures scabbed to radiate a coolness on the undersides of his thighs and testicles.

He looked down between his gray legs. There was a black sky, the blood in the toilet not reflecting back out the ceiling and the room but singular opacity, like a wall before another room or half of a red egg-shaped stone cleft to a flat surface. John breathes shallow half breaths and looses his eyes for his breath to come easily and without context. Instead of the throb of blood against his tight skin, the waves were geographic, from his groin in empty rolling concussions between his skin and organs, giving him a center through which shadows could be cast.

John pulls the chair to the built-in desk. It is very long and unadorned. He sits with his chest pulled hard against its flat front and elbows and forearms on the desk with palms flat. A space manifests itself around him, around the John of blood and bile and black wax mucus that is the shadow of the skin, by the sagging in of the skin, a contraction whose spectrum runs from preening to starvation, but across John registers the immediacy of an historical object, something carved from a rock hill thousands of years before but not real or empathic until I finally set my eyes on it like a brown skull in a vitrine. Only in that hollowness are fear and panic actualized.

He would sit at the desk for untethered echoes of time fluttering slowly lost in a vast trance of a cloud, in the dullness of the textures under his fingers or the luminous plate glass mirror that was wide like a sky reflecting asphalt. Beneath the sky he occupied the space that was not sky and not earth. Every line running new from the nacreous downturn of his aged eye, before the luminance of the surfaces of the desk or the paneled wall, was out of focus, and looked far away as if he were wandering a high plain of skin colored grasses that smelled like sweet youthful breath, and gazing into the brown chafe of a shadow back behind him would emerge, as a clear window onto his heart framed stillness, the terror that in his short life he had already made some enormous irrevocable mistake that was even now escalating towards the forfeiture of his freedom and past. He couldn’t admit in silence what it was, although part of the terror was knowing that it was an act that was finite, elective, and fresh, and forgotten.

l’ll take it to the grave. A quotient of the guilt was paralysis. He liked the throb of healing, it was a beautiful product of pain, where the hallucinations of trauma taper into the living so gradually that the senses communicate in the narcotic language of hypnagogy. Then suddenly it is cold. There is a breeze in the room. Not a draft, a full body of a breeze, like someone in the room. End with something. See the motel room through someone else’s eyes, the mirror’s. Start over as a worm or a plant or as the breeze. Something short enough to hold onto for the whole of its breath, with one name, with one unchanging conflict. It starts at the tips of his fingers. What was a superficial burning becomes a full transmittance of his pulse, the merest quiver, unflinching, unslowed, and then a ring of coldness circles the knuckles where the fingers meet the hand, and the feeling in his fingers, the presence of the fingers, stops registering. He sees across his arm that they are there, but slowly they are something else, an indescribable difference, both from the table they rest upon and the hands that they fan out from. They aren’t gone, they just don’t belong to anything. The coldness then cuffs his ankles below the calf. It is slower. It isn’t visible beneath the table. He recognized in the elasticity of the cold sheathing him that he was not plunging into its grip, but sliding out of bloody warmth through the sphincter of afternoon’s meridians across his body into an empty room of which he became part. The dark plastic of the desk against his forearms became familiar to his skin. Is this birth finally. He is not first born into air and arms, as a man is, and perceiving the fullness of life as drowning in humors and the wash of space like ooze when the eyes are constantly released from parallel, that brings warmth outward to the skin and across the senses in a womb of age, he believes true birth, onto plastic and into hot shade with its cold blood, to be Death quickly. When feeling stops short memories stop. The lack of sensation washes over him, not in a wave of numbness that is recognizable in each region of his body dislodging, but in the cancellation of that relationship in the tissue of mind. Can the body be burned. Can the mind believe that the body is being burned. Can the mind believe that there is an end without there being one. As every moment ends, people, their detritus, and weather and time sneak into them.

A muffled voice makes plans through the wall. In each room equal to each showers run with the thick beaten water. A fan in a box below the curtain lays embalmed behind aluminum foil and celophane tape. A shadow running beneath the bed is a solid baseboard below the mattress where hangs dust in the nylon thread quilting of the relentless fabric flowers. No light falls on the bedside table or bible. Two swing-arm lamps share one switch to operate both bulbs presumed beneath the semiconical ribs of the shades, then a pad of paper and a package of paper matches across which the name of the motel or the name of the city appears to move with the tectonics of age’s magnetism. His arms peel away from the vinyl arms of the chair. The funereal pleats of a drawn curtain behind the desk drool beige light from their inverted hoods. Don’t bother to look at the sky out the window. What would it situate. He flowed down into those days as they happened. Before and after are guesses. They happen outside of him, in other people. A phone, tan with square gray buttons, looses its cord coiled with a soft skin of dirt twirled about previous fingers, below one red light.

He slid out of the smooth and dry sheath of a tomb into the moonless night like soil. There was a murderousness to setting the door shut, the sound killing a week-old dream, in which each name and face was still young. He couldn’t be young and old together. One always watched the other from some point in time. He was old in the dark. He looked old if he couldn’t be seen. He couldn’t breath while he talked low. His voice struggled to ride little bits of air that leaked out and fell uselessly into his new beard. He had nothing to say luckily. When he thought about an ending, was it quiet, did he find peace in the violence of chance, did he want it to announce itself like a business meeting, or did he want, from one second to the next, to begin the exhale, and be left at its beginning. The car was gone and the pavement and a gravel and dust yard vast and upswirling like steam even in the black fell away from the overhanging blue roof above the closed door into the earth’s shade and then to a glowing cloud island beneath an old pole light like a radioactive dye spilled beneath a table. He couldn’t gauge the distance in the dark as he walked, but immersed in the dark just halfway between the motel room door and the pole light, each out of the darkness seemed safe enough to run back to. He ran for the light and stood within its volume. The motel and even the darkness beyond it disappeared and around the frontiers of the light’s space a living wicker was described in the warp and weft of bats in ambling flight, their mousy sheen shown green like a waterspout of phosphorescent diatoms lifting you above the sea in their escape. A bat would intermittently loose itself from the edge of the light and dart like a sword through a basket into the cloud to catch a wilting bug. A bat came tottering unstoppably toward John’s face until its sonar read him and it stopped to turn in midair, its snout lolling before him and its leather wings air-braking and he called out, the first noise, the only shout I hear, from the edge, just in the darkness where he can’t see me and I wait a moment before pressing my face into the light, while he regains composure, breath, and decides if he should run back to the motel, which he can’t see through the light.

I said: Are you OK out here? It didn’t come easily. Words don’t, off my tongue, sometimes lately I feel like they take my last dry breath when I whisper in bed, and I choke. I heard you cry out. I’m not used to hearing voices like that out here, just night or sand washing from one side of the valley to the other. This is where I ended up from the final millions of contracting gyres. My room is right out beyond there. I can’t see it either, but I know the drab green eave line and the row of beige doors appears when I step back out of the light. The fan and air don’t work. I have a bottle of wine. Death Valley, empty but for me, seems to have gotten closer to everything, where I saw the edges of it rise up to chew the moon began the edges of another final tract where the decaying orbit of the deserts and plains and nations and highways around it tightened us in with distant rumbles and fogs of brown light slinking below the horizon but not moving. The other side of the light might be the whole rest of the world tonight, all equidistant from my motel room.

Look at the ravens. Those two swollen ones wheeling around the eave of the motel. They are each other’s shadows. For them, anywhere they set their talons during the day, that is their spot, across the whole world, they know exactly where they are at that moment, there is no relative, only points in a sequence and each point is the whole story, before and after drop away. It has to be constant stress right? No safe place, no destination, nothing to aim at except night when it can crawl into the crook of a tree branch and put its beak beneath its wing, and even then it is just where it stopped, where the night caught it, until its inevitably unkind fellows pound the night air to his branch to claim the spot from him.

We drink the bottle of wine from glass tumblers with thick odd bases that divert glimmers that run lost and diminishing on dry surfaces. The light in here is black with another person. I can see the ceiling in white shade like a thunderstorm on the highway arises endless from mountain to mountain of the valley and beneath it, not on the earth, but in the purely luminous darkness of day, fixed only to the relative passage of time and not the senses, light that reveals every follicle on my hand and arm and here every windsmoothed line on John’s face and neck but with no color or depth beyond the shade of the perimeter of the room and John was a black chiaroscuro that in my silent moments sometimes is taking the form of a black mountain. I look at him, to try to wrap myself around him.

I have a floating feeling with you, talking always gives me that distance from myself, except instead of floating between a dreamlike offset of the real world and my everyday real world, I am thrown off of myself on a sort of elastic tether into a strange made-up place, trying to grab things to hold me in place, trying to reconstruct something familiar, where time is independent of home and my clocks and routines, it is the symmetrical pull of the elastic, slowing to its limit and then yanking me back toward the rest of the world, racing by beneath me, I get to a tipping point where I stop being in the place and its time, its rhythms, and start projecting myself back into my habitual existence. It is at that point that the traveler says to their company, it “feels like the trip is over already,” fellow traveler. If I would have a kid out here, I would want it to be ugly so it knew that only I loved it. At night in the room when it was home it would feel secure like this was the only place on earth that it really existed and I would hold it in my arms as it was able to sleep and not want to wake up, when I would leave it to the world again. I would have to, so that home meant something.

As John is drinking, as he fills with wine his features become soft, recognizable by liquid, with the flat shimmer of quivering exposed fat, as he is slipping into the consciousness that belongs to the body. In the corners, those aren’t shadows, they just aren’t anything. John is becoming incapacitated, almost not able to lift the tumbler to his mouth and wine runs down his neck. It happens quickly, like a river becomes the horizon, and he breathes, slowly, all he can do. I listen to the ravens clicking in the bark of the pinyon as their beaks draw in distant sleep through the immense bowl of early morning. John whimpers, and looking into the brown darkness blindly calls out with the offkey moan of a downed cow that sees your shadow, Death, the center. To say that animals aren’t conscious of mortality is to ignore the primary fiber of instinct, of perpetuation, the urge of extension and the panic of yielding. How close is he to animal? He hadn’t yet become human enough to recognize that the panic in the cells of his body was the fixed struggle of the animal in the isolation of the human spirit.

It is hard to slap yourself back into this kind of consciousness. I think I had stopped being completely human. Human was an interaction, a structure, a logic that I relied on to create lineages, even the lineage of a look from one to another through the day, like a yawn, was dependent on some human structure, a distance between me and him that allowed us to see the whole context of the look. Now there are less of us, now we are in the dark, and with less space, and less time; I haven’t seen anyone in years, or acres of desert, and all in one breath I need to be human again.

Did you notice that everything has spiraled into this singularity, where you and I and the few others in a Brownian quiver try to occupy the same space, that we have shed more of the paranoia that drove us to withdraw into our own chambers of geography, maybe enough to let you flicker into mine, have you lost those feelings, have you come here that way? I only started writing when people started disappearing, as if each new emptiness was a word, I didn’t want to fill them with the words, because I didn’t want the people back, I didn’t want to bring them back, or invite them, or effigize them, I wanted to press them away. When I wrote it helped me recognize how I changed. Not like an index, but like an evacuation. There was something human in me that I didn’t want. A structure that had meaning only through its relationships, and as the words became unctuous, and slid past each other, or drooped, and lost their friction, or attraction, they weren’t words, or the echoes of conversations, but the passing of time alone, the unblinking afternoon sky, when the sand in the wind falls away and the empty air so inscrutably erases my recognition of my self as some thing apart from it, some thing eternally in motion that appears indivisibly still, like sunlight, so that I can just quietly pass into the paper white sand in a prolapsed breath, and completely animal, only alive, not dead, and only recognizing that. It was a struggle to recognize what I saw under the lamplight out there, you apart from a cloud, apart from light, sharing my footsteps for the desert’s pure sake. I could only reason that we were on a collision course, or asymptotic intertwinement, because we were the last in the contracting of space , by choice, or by ignorance, or silence.



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