I sit, I eat, I run; I’ve never cried a real tear.
All of the riches I’ve ever known are being held far from here.
But still I search by day; I hunt by night.
There’s an empty chair and a teakettle blowing its fool lid off.
I am slicing a hole in my side, pushing up and under the skin with my Dad’s bone-handled hunting knife. After I pour a bottle of hydrogen peroxide into the pocket I’ve fashioned in my trunk, swab it with iodine and pat the area dry, I insert a pack of matches that I got from some brothel in Houston, I sit back on the toilet. I insert another… then another, etc. I swiped stacks of them. After making another cut, I insert another handful. I moan my way through carving the sixth ‘pocket,’ because that’s when I truly start to feel my incisions. There is no blood because it’s all been sucked away… by the world. Does it surprise you?
For the past several years, as I’ve walked through park, ridden the train, or gone about my daily business, I’ve carried my straight razor at the ready. It is well oiled and unnervingly sharp. But, I’ve developed a curious need to rend a piece of fabric from each beautiful stranger’s clothing that I have occasion to skim. These I hoard. These I touch with love, pressing them to my face, dragging them across my skin. I have great heaps of the swatches that I keep in my cellar. I feel the pulse of phantom bodies in the fabrics and I tremble as I assemble a new you out of them. I can barely stand; I am overcome as the fabric passes through my hands. I’ve fashioned a legion of beautiful new strangers who are always there for me… who never play me for a fool. They’re there for me through thick and thin. And in the end, you’ll be my greatest achievement.
I saw a beautiful woman standing in line at a bank. She barely noticed as I stood behind her with my razor, breathing her citrus scent and the odor of her body oil. I was fixated on the long, brunette hair that deluged her shoulders in tight spirals. Nearly swooning with excitement, I sliced through her cape, gathering a rather large piece of material. She was obviously lost in watching a group of young men who were standing in line before her. She was listening to their conversation… caught up in the moment, watching them laugh, their beautiful white teeth, and their clear Aryan faces. Smelling the rivers of youthful chemicals flowing under their scrubbed and sprayed skins. Feeling alone, wishing for one of them- perhaps. That’s when I’m there with my razor. It’s my belief that I capture a little bit of her essence in her dislocated swatch- our radiation rubs off on our clothes, after all. She wouldn’t even notice until later, when she changed out of her day things… in the privacy of her boudoir… perhaps. It’s harmless. This one marked another success.
I haven’t been caught. I have been detected. I have been chased… but never caught.
The fabric pieces that I’ve amassed are sorted then carefully stitched together. There are whole articles of clothing that have been obtained, without the handsome owners’ permission, but have fallen into my hands, nonetheless. I have had my pleasures with all of these for weeks now. Disparate pieces, broken in and down, form a whole in my nimble hands. A casing. The casing of you. I will fill it with natural elements… the by-products of my other hobbies.
I’ve placed your very special straw and sawdust dummy in the chair. I carve it full of holes with my holy hunting knife, the same one that I used to vivisect myself. All my tools have specialized purpose. I picture myself melting into the holes I’ve torn through the quilt work flesh, and I think about all our wasted time.
You’ve never whispered my name softly in my ear, and I’ve never let you be you, and our bond has been an insult, a regrettable dirty fear. Nothing works the way it used to, for the grease has broken down. The metal scrapes on metal as the wheels fall off.
The tea is hot; but, I decide I don’t want tea after all. I need something a lot stronger Because, here we are, dummy face to dummy face… and sadly, it is not enough, as the real you still echoes dusty through this place. ‘But,’ I argue, ‘this is more you than you are…’ with its limp-necked straw-head and its vaguely supportive posture. I am comforted as I plug your holes with sweet things and slowly drink the strongest proof alcohol I have been able to obtain. I drink until bloated, gagging; I am become a walking bomb- bombed out of my mind.
I have two big silver buttons; anchors etched on them. I am compelled to sew these on the blank cloth face. They will give the head the same wide-eyed expression that you often wear. They’ll symbolize how I am anchored by the thought of you… of all the yous that I’ve met just like you. As I stalk from room to room, I also search a cobwebbed corner of my mind to remember how to do a lock stitch, even though I’d done hundreds of them just this week. But, as I soon learn, my mind/body is treacherous, my fingers skilled and barbaric. I prick myself with the needle. I am breaking the thread. I am not keeping the tension just so. I cannot see to rethread the needle. You look worse than before and the one eye keeps falling off.
Then, as if awakening from a fitful night of sleep, I notice that there are many empty places to sit in these dusk sodden rooms.
The soot has settled and night is circling.
I remember your lips and how they looked, plump and dark, forming words in front of your chipped teeth. I wish I could preserve them under glass in a room of permanent nightfall. I light a circle of many candles and say your name. I repeat it many times, as the candles burn, thinking about a game that we foolishly played not caring of the outcome. I take a singular votive, one specially blessed with my tears and blood and runoff, and drip the hot wax over the dark face, where the mouth would be. No more words, just sweet smelling wax, a whiff of ferment.
I cut more holes in the stomach, in the precious areas that make you what you are. In the areas that make you and I greedy. I fill these with old letters… the insults, blame, and misperceptions shoved into straw and sawdust.
I put an old, slow song on the music box. I sing to you as sweet as I can, peeling the clothes from my body. Tears brimming in my eyes. The army of candles casts wild shadows across the walls, my skin; I drift to the kitchen, throw open the cabinets until I find the stickiest jar in the house. As I hold it under the hot water, I notice my heart racing and my blood rushing. My mouth is dry; the very head on my shoulders is floating away on the buoyant gas of the moment. After I pry the lid open, I spread honey on my mouth, in my body hair, pretending that it’s your essence. Then I return to the you dummy. Pressing my lips to the cool, hard wax, I crush your lifeless form into my flesh. As I squeeze, your straw pokes and pinches me. As the spasms take hold of me, your body is rumpled and contorted. A queasiness swirls.
I need to fill the body up. I need to add to its substance, to fatten it. To make it perfect… the way I’ve idealized you for so long. I have lived in the howling hole of your sick confusion for so long that the draining vortex has integrated itself into the lurid tapestry of my being. I am spinning headlong into your oozing chamber of horrors. As my field of vision dissipates, I perceive myself in a field of red, spilling darker and darker. I cannot speak, cannot moan… I tell myself that I’m stroking out. I fall onto the top of you; my skin is covered with hives from the chaff and stems. The floor meets my face- you’re flattened. Twitching and breathless, I revisit a scene from long ago: it’s you pushing my face into the dirt and reducing me centimeter by centimeter. I was left bruised and sore. You laughed, because in your mind you had me. I was your eunuch, your lame step-and-fetch-it. You were the boss of me. There were others who have taught me as much as you have.
Suddenly, the inspirational urge hits… I think I’ll fill up all the chairs, this entire depressing space, with these straw dummies… each one a testament to betrayal… to each time I was made low. Your expertise as a teacher among teachers is not unparalleled: you were just sweeter to the taste, somehow, a sugary confection laced in savory poisons, positioned by the unseen. I couldn’t pass you by.
We consumed each other out of existence.
I lay there feeling you helpless under me and feeling the nauseous swelling in my core.
When I come to, the light has dwindled, the dogs are barking. By whisky bloat has abated, but a new thirst has almost closed my throat. I crawl like an infant over to the garage door. I’m looking for something that will quench this. I am dry. I’m abraded. The smell of rubber and motor oil hits me in my sex; I am filled with a renewed, angry lustenergy.
I run my hand along the cool aluminum of the kerosene container, recently filled for this operation. I unscrew the lid, not bothering to affix the hose-nozzle, throw my head back, and, with my mouth spread wide, down as much of the kerosene as possible, eyes scorched from the run-off. Violent burning pierces through my inert, personal loneliness. It’s a fatuous hope that it erases the consuming, gluttonous selfishness that dictates my life.
I am the bomb.
Each of these straw dummies that I’ve made is mocking me by their calm, by their vacuity. They represent you, my backstabbing BFFS, all the useless trysts and hopeful skulldaggery. And when I’ve filled them, as I’ve filled the body in my arms countless times over the past hours, I will exhale the fire that has swelled from my belly, enveloping you. For within the confines of this degraded body, I possess a pack of matches, a pint of grain alcohol and a container of kerosene.
I am going blind, flaming butterflies smack into my face. Crawling naked over the floor, back into the house, back to the circle, the pocket in my side is burning, my throat is numb. As I gather strength enough to stand, I mutter a prayer to all the brown and dying things… all the things that begin to wither as soon as they are born… like our love. And with a great reverence, a feline finesse, I hold my body over the candles. They lap at the kerosene slick skin and the fuel I have swallowed comes back up into the world giving in to the explosion that released me from the grasp of these hollow strangers. Oh the sweet release… sweet feckless release.