On Friday night at the Stop n’ Go, I came across this guy named Steve (didn’t get his last name) just talking out into the air. Apparently he believed the world was about to end. I recorded his speech, if you could call it that. (Spaces are for pauses, which were at times lengthy.) He said:
The distillate of panegyric palls before the “drawing down of blinds.” This time is double-jointed, and angels lie scattered among the rocks silent as the dogwood flowering.
Shhhhh. In the massed ranks, the “armless, the legless, the blind, and insane” are counted the way fish workers counted offal in the plant out near Ryback on the coast where I worked that summer and made such fishy love in the mornings with Alice “Cormorant” Murphy when we came home from the midnight to eight. Oh god, come back Alice, is there some way for us to recover that lost boiling hour of our rain and sunshine?
But what if thought is merely the machine for justifying its own medium? What if there is no other love than the coarse love of money? There’s a banker here who was obviously created out of crude anti-Western agitprop. A woman whose skin has been scraped to the bone is advertising birds that market utopia. A headless man is running heedless down the street and holding the head out to whomever will take heed, and the head says, “Honi soit qui bon y pense” when he pulls its nose.
The time is dull, dark, and dangerous as a slippery boat ramp where the moss is so thick you sink in to the toes. Wiggle them if you love me still, oh Alice, far away in that refugee camp I forget the name of. Your former husband Larry, perhaps you heard, was in that dustup in Equatorial Guinea. Who were you kidding, anyway, an NGO worker and a mercenary? But then again, we were just kids canning fish. But there’s nothing here for you; and there’s so nothing here for me.
As you were, corporal, the major said. Sir, permission to change my radiation girdle, the corporal said. Permission denied, the major said. Then the dream vanished.
Yesterday I came upon a group of MBAs giving each other the secret handshake. When they saw me I really thought they were going to kill me. But then I said, “It looks like any other handshake.” That calmed them down.
I wrote a post card to Alice that said, “Give up. Come home, darling. You’ll never make a difference.” I should have suggested Teach for America. At the end Alice and I hitchhiked down to Portland. Maybe we thought we would save it there. I fear for my country, my people. But I am also afraid of zombies.
We decided to remain friends, though my heart was gashed open. Everyone can say what they want. There is an emptiness all around, and all through the land the secret handshakes are squeezing droplets of grease into the golden sand. The angels mock us, but they are dead.
My patriotism is caught in the bunting. The wind dies down.