I was awake, lying on the floor beside Glory, blinking, adjusting my green eyes. Grun. The night light kept the fire going, but it didn’t keep us warm. Pangur Ban snored at our feet. Each snore was reassurance that she was still alive. Those little barely audible indications of actual life. Rotten lungs moving air in and out. Those mechanizations don’t always prove anything to me. Some of us are still alive but inside we are already dead. I rolled over and Glory was as beautiful as ever and wide awake, looking at me with worried eyes.
“Hi,” she said, with her hands in prayer under her ears. It sounded like the sweetest thing anyone ever said to me. How could she be this enchanting? I was in trouble. I mean all she had to say was hi. Not good. Not good at all.
“Hi.” I wiped my mouth, and scratched my face. “What time is it?”
“It’s early still. Are you ok? Your dream seemed a little intense. You were shaking.” Glory brushed my hair aside with her fingers.
I almost said yes without thinking. force of habit. The truth was something you weren’t supposed to tell to people. The truth and your true feelings can and will be used against you. Under no circumstance are you to trust any human being, believe me. Don’t confide in people, shut it, shut your fucking fat dumb mouth. It was part of my conditioning, to just say yes, to say I’m fine. Let’s leave it at that. The truth is I’m never really fine. Hattie was never fine. Who wants to hear how I really feel? Who could possibly understand how I am feeling? They are not me. I am not them. They are not Morrissey. They are not Eastwood. They are not Hattie, Catherine, or Glory. What is it about Glory that makes me want to open up. Don’t front, you know she got you open. Why do I live in terms of cultural associations? I’ve coveted the ideal woman since their shapes stole my attention and kept me awake at night in sixth grade. Do you know how scary they have always been to me? Very.
“No. I don’t think I’m alright. I don’t like admitting something like that.”
“Is it me? Should I go?”
“No, its not you. You probably should run far away for your own well being but I don’t want you to leave. No. I really want you to stay.”
“What is it? What’s troubling you.”
“I want to be able to talk to you. I mean it. I want to and I’m not just saying that. Vulnerability is not a good look. For anyone. It’s just I don’t think I want to talk yet. I want you to be the one I can talk to. I want you to be one who knows me better than anyone, who knows what upsets me, who knows what makes me happy. I just want you to know me, really know me.”
Could I ever be entirely candid and genuine with anyone? doubtful. Could she really be the person I needed or was I fooling myself again? highly likely. Is it that I am the one who’s wrong and distrustful? I languished over everything, each detail, each unthoughtful blurt. And for others it’s not even a big deal, people let it go without any regard or they speak freely without a care in this putrid world. How can you share your feelings when those thoughts can be deceptive? Lamenting reactions. Fleeting happiness. Nothings lasts and what is real? I have so many unanswered questions. How do you say to a woman you barely know that you see yourself falling in love with her but there will always be a part of you that can’t be happy, or that you will always secretly want to leave it all behind? Do you tell her that you will look for reasons to fuck it all up? Is that misleading? Is that escapist disposition inherent? Does anybody else secretly yearn to leave or question the existence of true love? Or to simply question existence at all? They have to, some people do, some leave everything behind in order to secure a better life, to prove certain things they can’t explain to themselves. I am no different. Were the woman in my bloodline all dreamers? Were the men all evaders? Did they romanticize everything as well, as I do? Was failure as corporeal for them as it had always been for me. How do I tell someone I don’t know that after a few hours spent together that I love you is lingering on the tip of my tongue. This could not be the cognition of a stable person. I am the twenty eight year adolescent with hearts for eyes. Am I pathetic? I am.
Do I tell her I am frightened. My feelings are untrustworthy and transposing constantly. I feel the tingling onset of love or what I thought the perception of love might feel like. I have been in love before or felt what I thought was love only to feel mistaken and short changed. How can you be certain? What if it was never true love at all, what if it was all just some gross infatuation. I’m scared I have never truly loved anyone. If that is correct, I am even more aghast that I will probably never truly love anyone. I feel it’s impossible for anyone to love me. You can call me a piece of shit once and I’ll believe it, but tell me you love me a hundred times and I will never believe it. I wouldn’t even entertain it as gospel. No one will ever love me and I don’t belong anywhere, at least not anywhere on this planet. Except maybe at the end of a long tacky bar with old men as lonely and bitter as I.
“I want to be that for you. Your phone is vibrating.” My friends stood by me, because although I have hurt them, I have never hurt them in the ways I’ve been hurt. They could still look at me.
“That’s fine. Leave it. I thought it was on silent. I have gotten used to zoning it out.”
“Your friends miss you. They are not giving up.”
“I miss them too. They don’t deserve this kind of behavior. Really. I don’t know what I’m doing. Ever.” I had some pictures and myself and of my friends on my desk.
“You look so happy in these pictures. All smiles and hugs. I like it. I like the ones in the hall with the hair on them.” Glory flipped through picture book she took from the messy desk.
“Thanks. I was always happy. What is happiness though? My friends and select family members make me extremely happy but there is a constant urge for me to leave everyone behind or an urge for something more, which has nothing to do with them. It’s me. I am unhappy and happy in life, simultaneously. I am not getting everything I’d like out of life.”
“You’re happy and sad. That’s everyone. Your not content and that’s good. We all have these feelings. We all want more from life. It will make you driven. That is why you will make it through.”
“I don’t dispute that. I’m not saying my life is the worst. I’m not participating in the who has it worse competition, I can only speak on how I feel about my life. It’s all so self-centered. And I feel like I should be somewhere else. I feel like I should be doing something else, something different. I often feel like its all a waste of time. Everything. Does New York have a heart to break? Rounded off, I’m 30, the daylight is burning quicker and quicker, before you know it I will be 40, 50 and I don’t have anything working out for me, so what the fuck. I took a time out, an emotional sabbatical, from everyone to try and focus on what is it I need to do with my life. Maybe it was a teaser for them so they can adapt for when I really leave.” I laughed. “Maybe it was for me since everyone is moving on in their own lives, their careers and families, we are seeing less and less of each other anyway. I don’t know. I just want to be more in control of my feelings, if I deprived myself of the people who make my life worthwhile, then I could condition myself to be stronger emotionally. Catherine is so much stronger. I don’t know how she does it.”
“I left everyone and for what? To live in a major city. Pay outrageous rent. Deal with assholes. Maybe I did it to say I did it. Maybe I did it to chase my own dreams. Maybe I did it to meet you. Who knows? Live for right now. My best friend here is my therapist. Tanya is nice and all. but come on. Wilhelm, you have to do what makes you happy right now.”
“For right now?”
“Take off your shirt.”
“I’m being serious.”
“I am dead serious. I’ll rip it off you.” I joked making a tearing sound with my mouth and tore apart an invisible shirt.
Glory took off the red sweat shirt with my initials on it. I asked, “Are you happy to be sleeping on the floor.”
“I am happy to be sleeping on the floor.”
“I am not unhappy about it. I would just envisioned everything differently.” I wanted it all to be different.
“You’re perfect but I am not good enough for you.” I meant the last bit.
“Don’t project your shit onto me. You don’t know that and I don’t think that. Why are you even thinking about that.” I couldn’t believe how this was possible? She looked amazing.
“I don’t know. I don’t know why I think half the things I do. Subject change! Will you share milk with me, like drink out of my glass?”
“I will drink milk out of your mouth.” She laughed.
“Like Alicia Silverstone?” I couldn’t contain my joy.
“I want you to Alicia Silverstone me everyday. Feed me like a fucking bird.” She erupted with the sweetest laughter.
“I need you.” I meant the last bit.
“I like your face. Can you do me a favor?” Glory rolled over and propped up onto her elbows, bring her wonderful face closer to mine.
“I could.” I said.
“Can we always try to tell the truth.”
“I don’t know if I can. I mean I won’t lie to you. I just don’t know how to talk sometimes. Talk. I will try. Do you see the picture on the wall behind me?”
“The couple with their faces covered?”
“Yeah, that one. What do you think it means?”
“Hmm.” She furrowed her brows and I wanted to kiss her. “I’m not sure. I like it. Who painted it? Duchamp?”
“Magritte. Rene Magritte. It’s called The Lovers. What do you think?”
“Are they dead? Is it the death of love. Maybe they don’t want to reveal their identities. Or they are ashamed of affection. What do you think? Catholic guilt.”
“He did a series of these. Different people embracing with their faces obscured with shrouds. This is my favorite painting of all time. He never really said but from what I’ve read as far as the meaning goes. Some presume it had to do with his mothers suicide, he found her in the river where she drown herself with her night gown or dress or whatever, up and over, wrapped around her face.”
“That’s terrible. So sad. Poor boy.”
“She didn’t want to do it anymore. It’s her choice. I look at this a lot and I think, and this is only my opinion, that it is a representation of a relationship, it shows the truth about them, that we are covered and guarded and never really reveal everything to the ones we love. We never fully open ourselves to others despite still being intimate.”
“It could be that. It also could not be that. Why are you so uneasy? I can feel it. Out of nowhere you seem so uncomfortable.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. Sometimes I feel the uneasiness, like I’m aware of it and sometimes I have no idea why I come across like that, granted without any shock or surprise of it being so.”
“I like your suit.”
“This is mine. My first real suit. I bought it a few days ago and the only reason I bought it is to wear it at my mother’s funeral. I’m incapable of having contact with her and she is sick, and I know the next time we meet I will need that suit. That is me being unguarded and telling you something no one knows, not even Catherine. But I don’t want to talk about it. Not yet anyway.”
“I’m sorry about your mom. Are you sure you wouldn’t want to let it out?” Glory asked. I used to be so angry at Hattie for telling people who didn’t care about our matters. Who was I to judge? What was I doing now.
“Yes, I’m sure.” I nodded and felt like a child.
“Alright. Can we take a picture?”
“We can do whatever you want?”
“Grab your camera from the desk. There are some more sheets in the coffin. I’ll get them. Set the timer.” I obeyed and she jumped up and got the sheets. Pangur Ban showed no interest.
“How do you set the timer?”
“It’s your camera. Give it to me, I’ll do it. Take off your glasses.” Glory placed her hand out and I carefully planted it. Glory set it, angled it on the desk, and the picture took. “Fuck. We have to set up quick. I’ll put so it takes a few in one shot.” I said okay. We kneeled before each other and wrapped the sheets around our faces, leaving our bodies naked, beautifully glowing in front of the imagined fire. We embraced and there was a little visibility through the sheets. We were in each other’s arms and saw the flashes and spoke while the light captured us. Our mouths released heat and we dampened the cloth between our faces.
“What would the people in the painting say to each other.” She half mumbled, keeping her mouth on mine, though I never understood anything clearer.
“I suppose Les Amores would say I love you to each other.”
“Would they mean it?”
“Does anyone ever?” I said.
“I love you.” Glory said.
“I love you.” I repeated her but I think I meant the last bit.
She pulled the shroud off, “Whenever we are together can you always keep your mouth near mine?”
I kept my shroud on, “I can’t tell if this is right or if your fucking crazy. I just hope we are always together.” Glory uncovered my face which was beaming red, rot, and kissed me, pulling me down to the makeshift bed.
Glory found sleep without difficulty next to me. As did Pangur Ban. We slept on the floor, in the confined quarters of a tiny apartment in Whitestone, Queens. A place just like any other I’m sure. A place where people talk more than they should. What did it matter what people thought? Tedious morality. I can’t shake the feeling I’m shit and Glory deserves more than I could ever offer her. She shouldn’t bother, and I should know better than to waste her time. It was awful how attached I already was to her. But I knew that about myself. So easily the weak sink their fangs in. I felt strongly about disconnecting, about becoming the living dead. Forget about me, is what I never said but implied. Do you know what Balzac said? He said Glory is the sunshine of the dead. Have you ever read Balzac? Me either, maybe we could together. What if that face, that endearing, resting face I can’t help but watch sleep is the sunshine I need to pierce the black cloud hovering over my heart? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. How long before I sabotage this, whatever this is, courting I suppose.
It was morning. My eye would heal. I had always been physical in my youth. Split knuckles and broken noses got better in time. The heart was eager to turn away. It doesn’t ameliorate, it does not feel any better. I wanted to saddle up and leave, it would be best for everyone. I’ve heard their songs and I knew that cowboys cried. I affirmed that we, my nuclear family destroyed the ones we loved the most. I wanted nights without foul mouths and shattered glass. I wanted nights of conversation and love making. No restrictions of oneself. I wanted nights without apology or insecurity, no second guesses.
I could walk out of this house that was owned by someone else, wearing out the soles of my Nikes and my mind would remain clouded and dismal, no matter where I ended up. I knew life was supposed to be more than this. I needed to start smiling. Show your jagged teeth. If all you ever wanted was to say something meaningful, anything at all, say it now, even if no one is listening. I am beyond the perils of my upbringing, or the adversity the world delivers daily. I needed a change from this stagnation. I would worship no false idols only Glory. I needed my inspiring little sister. Ronald. Mr. Ceraso. Emma. I needed all of those people I let down, all those that I’ve mistreated. It was cathartic on the floor of that room. I was sick of being alone, sick of hurting, sick of the shame I couldn’t release. I heard all of those conversations we had, the muddling of my family name, all of the advice I waved off, all of the kinds words I never believed. I had to be myself. Whatever that entailed. Heartache. Anxiety. And all. I had to just be myself. I had to learn to be alright with who I am despite all the experiences that broke my heart and made me strange. Moving on.
I couldn’t sleep so I got up carefully not to disturb Glory. What did you want to be when you grow up? A seemingly easy question. Catherine jokingly choose to be an insect. Glory choose to be an actress. Hattie, well I couldn’t answer that. I just wanted to grow as a person. I wanted to make art in some capacity, art would always be present in my life, and that was my choice.
I went to my desk, opened my lap top. I created a document. I was going to let it rip. Eastwood, was the title and a word that I would get tattooed across my fingers. I had a lot of calls to return that day. In that chair, I thought of Hattie, how I loved her and how I knew I would never see her again, we were even. My whole life I hadn’t done anything, it was as if I had not lived up until that morning, this was it. I knew there was no such thing as a happy ending but what about the possibility of reincarnation. I had to start over. I spent so much time worrying, the thoughts were unmerciful. What was I to write? What did you think about me? I didn’t think much of myself so how could you ever regard me highly. I knew I didn’t know much. I knew how to say the colors in German. Life was full of colors and she was a heroine, I just could not see them or her for a about twenty eight years, until I cleaned off my glasses. Apologies were in order. I knew I loved Glory Mayberry. I knew I wanted more from this world for Catherine. I knew this was not going to be easy. I dedicated so much of my time trying to disappear, to drop out of sight, and fade away. I knew all I ever wanted was to write but my voice was muted. I was going to write to Glory, to tell her all the things I couldn’t say, the explanations, the piece I started at Anne Bonny’s, the thing Mr. Ceraso was proofreading, the billet-doux, all of those crumpled and embarrassing love letters. I was going to tell the truth. Confide in the stranger. I would obey Mcloughlin, but I was going to do far worse than burn the house down, I wanted to put Nero to shame, I was going to set fire to this whole fucking world. Today I, W. Flood, would reappear, and all of you fucks were going to know about it whether you liked it or not.