people again are looking at (her) like (she’s) strange, that of course might just be (her). avoid all those senseless staring eyes, people will stare, people always stare. there’s two people in a seat near the front and (she) finds (herself) staring at them now too. they each have a black hair comb and with great careful thorough slowness, they comb each other’s hair. they gaze mindlessly and deeply into the glassy unseeing eyes of the other and their gaze is one gaze, one unseeing glassy mindless gaze. there’s a kind of slowed-down love there, sluggish and supine, a ponderous and passive passion. they have exactly the same hair, all greasy straight, thin and chestnut brown, they appear to be brain damaged or damaged in some other gradually visible and eventually disturbing way. there’s something both grotesque and loving in the whole scene, almost like it’s uncomfortably too intimate to be so public, it’s kind of gross even and yet also loving, so arrestingly careful, carefully slow...
the sun shines bare and bright and brutal through all the surrounding glass, the engines beneath grind and give and gear, everything moves heavily haltingly forward. a voice then, low and somehow mechanical, disembodied and removed, it sounds like someone talking through a hole in a neck, it’s not obvious where the voice is coming from. people begin to take notice, heads turn backward and forward, left and right to locate the strangeness of the source. the voice seems to come from an older man sitting slumped and still, gazing out of a window, he’s impassive, inscrutable and inert. it doesn’t look like he is talking at all and though he is, there’s no one specifically for him to speak to, talk to, address. he looks disheveled and uncared for, he’s aimless and apparently alone, possibly he’s arabic, indian or italian. he seems lifeless but he’s not. the voice meanwhile mechanically and methodically runs through what emerges to be a series of film opinions and reviews, like a commentator on a talk show or a radio program. the voice mentions films, describes and reviews them in a controlled and continual way. people look at the man and at each other, they pull faces to express that they think he’s weird or abnormal, like something is wrong with him, like he’s kind of funny or scary or crazy. some simple slender girls gaze back and forth between the disembodied voice, the man and each other, they suppress unthinking nervous giggles and everyone takes random turns glancing and gaping at the man. they show with their faces that they think he’s unnatural, strange, queer and weird.
then a black teenager hustles loudly through the crowd and all attention wordlessly shifts to him. he’s indecorous and unabashed and he raps. he raps with beat and rhythm and feeling, he rhymes about guns and women and music, he pushes through the crowd ignoring everyone while they move out of his way. some people pretend not to hear or notice him while a mother covers both the eyes and the ears of her stroller-strapped child. certain persons shake their heads after the black teenager passes loudly through and roughly by, they shake their heads to express private displeasure and public disapproval, the black teenager doesn’t let up. little children [whose eyes and ears have not been covered] gape at him, their round eyes full equally of a kind of innate continual wonder, a kind of vacant staring fear. the black teenager ignores it all, he doesn’t seem to take notice of anyone or anything, he doesn’t seem really to care or to not care, he simply moves through loudly and raps. he is interestingly very pertinacious and rudely kind of interesting. a man in a dark stiff suit stares sidelong at the black teenager and then also at (her) and quickly averts his gaze when (she) glances with sudden penetration back at him. when parenthetically (she) turns away, he cannot afterward resist his sidelong staring at first the black teenager moving loudly through the crowd and then back at (her) again. an indian couple across from (her) also gazes still after the black teenager and with open censure. she smiles very vaguely at them and their condemnation only deepens. (she) continues regardless to sort of smile and almost (she) want to laugh. everyone around her looks stiff and stern, an impatience all of judgment and silence.
a voice calls out at last a stop, (she) makes maneuvering motions toward getting off. the rapping black teenager is somewhere further ahead but he’s still near. and he’s still moving, still rapping, still pertinacious, still loud.
A Bitter Nest
It’s been years now and I’m still with this same slow heavy man. We’ve both grown a lot older and while I’m certainly not as young as I was I still look quite good, especially 'considering my age.' He looks quite old though—very old actually but then he’s always been old, I found him old. He gets on my nerves so much of the time but I can’t very well openly act like I hate him, he’s my husband after all and he’s apparently what I’ve got. All the kids are gone, everyone of them adults now and they’re no longer around. The house was awful with all of them stomping about everywhere, being so loud and demanding things, acting like they were so privileged and smart, like they were so important, like they were all that mattered. It was hard enough taking care of my own kids alone and then suddenly I had six more kids running around demanding things, acting like I owed them everything, like as their new mother I had to do and be whatever they felt they wanted or needed, what they felt they 'deserved.' The boys were okay but I never liked the girls (and I know they didn’t like me. At least not the first two and certainly not the second one of those two). That second girl was especially awful, such an obnoxious little know-it-all, I couldn’t stand her. She seemed sometimes almost scared of me even while she hated me, she always was very manipulative and deceptive, she was a sneaky little thing. I could tell right from the start, I could see even at her age she knew how to make people do things for her, how to get away with things, how to get her way. She thought she was all that, like she was so special and so smart, like she was some kind of dear little princess. She’ll learn soon enough that the world is not her oyster, that she’s not so special after all, that everything isn’t for her, everything isn’t hers [if she hasn’t already... She must be an adult woman now, I haven't seen her or even thought of her in years... I don't know what became of her and I can't honestly say I care. She's probably just as sneaky and manipulative now as she was then. I never liked her] I don’t care if she didn’t like me. Her sister too, they were both awful girls. I do wonder sometimes what happened to them but I can’t trouble about them. They aren’t worth my thoughts and I refuse to play the guilty role again and again. The older one was less troublesome (she at least didn’t act like such a princess) but I just couldn’t really take to them, I couldn’t take any of those kids on. I had my own kids to worry about.
It sounds bad to say but I could only really care about my own kids. They were my kids, all those others weren’t my responsibility. It was terrible when my first husband died, it was really awful dealing with that; I’ve never fully dealt with it. No one knows how awful that kind of loss really is unless they’ve been through it, everyone just glosses over the grief. (He was such a wonderful, wonderful man. The love of my life—he’s still the love of my life. He always will be, even now). I gave him three beautiful children, our life together was beautiful until the accident... I know it’s been so many long years now but I’ll never stop missing him. I’ll never stop thinking about how our lives might have been. He’ll never see how wonderfully his kids have turned out, how great they are, how good I managed to do despite everything. They’re all grown up now and doing so well, he’ll never know or see that and he’ll never meet his grandkids either. I know I shouldn’t dwell on these things but no one understands this kind of loss, this kind of 'what if.' Certainly he doesn’t. He’s so slow and dull and I know he never stopped loving his ex-wife... Even after how awful and disgusting she was. I know he still loves her despite all the damage she gave, despite how sick and selfish she was, that’s how stupid and thick he is. I don’t even like to think about her though, she was a witch of a woman. Really I don’t know how I got thrown into this mess of a family or how it ended up becoming mine. I know they all blame me, I know a lot of them never liked me, they were too caught up in their little privileged minds and their little privileged lives. What a whole bunch of self-important kids thinking they had it so tough, that they deserved so much. They never once learned to think about anyone else but themselves. I know some of them felt like I was the 'Evil Step-Mother,' I could see it in every one of them, I could see it in their eyes and in the way they behaved. I did my best—they could certainly have had worse and besides: they weren’t even my responsibility. They were his. And hers. Why should I have to have been the one to clean up their ridiculous mess.
I miss my husband so much. My real and first and only. This man I’m with now, all these years between us and still I know he never truly loved me. [To say nothing about actually understanding me or giving me what I needed or being the kind of man or husband I wanted and deserved]. He just needed a new mother for his children, another woman in the house, a slave housekeeper to take care of all his mess, his house and his kids. People have thought (and they probably still think) I just married him for his stupid money. Well he just married me to take care of him. Him and all his damned kids. I don’t know. Things have turned out as good as they could have I guess and I’m not going to feel bad or guilty. I’m not the guilty party here, I’m the one who lost what I had and really loved. I only did what I had to do. I just hate that I had no real fair or true second choice.
The sun streams scarlet and stark through her windows, blinding and burning her murderously awake. She opens her eyes and feels immediately the same intensity of violence, of pure and consuming hate. Fuck this shit, she says, feels, remembers, thinks. Fuck her, Fuck him and Fuck you.
Prende and Ezili arrive at last at a small unexpected clearing in the woods by a clear and running stream and look with formless uncertainty and undefined reverence around. They drop their parcels, equipment satchels and packs, unstrap each other and dust themselves a little. Ezili spreads a worn thick and faded blanket down. Both girls have small cuts and scratches on their fingers, forearms, thighs and shins, Prende’s left knee is slightly skinned. They sit close and quietly next to each other and let the placid pretty peace of the place fall upon and into them, upon and through their nearly still and susceptible forms. The separated secret space encircles them, isolates and surrounds, a silent serenity of stillness, a fixed and flowing frame of black earth, dark wood and leaves flooded with an eternal diminishing of light. Prende gazes down at her hands and absently holds her palms up, fingers partially cut against the light, into the secret small surrounding sounds, the steady soundless flowing of the water streaming by. Ezili gazes at Prende for a separated single moment, she feels herself slowly and fully become something she does not recognize and cannot describe, subsiding into an indistinct awareness, an intangible impression of consciousness, secrecy, separation and self. She erases into this strange self sense, equivocal and inconclusive, a distance of consequence and distress, a silence of unseen wind and diminishing light.
Neither girl thinks to worry about where the others are or how far and separated they might now be. Ezili feels a strange and quiet excitement, Prende appears quiet, excited and strange. The sun has nearly set and the air is already cool, the only sounds are the rustlings of unseen insects, the sweet sequestered songs of hidden birds, wan wind in lighted leaves. Light breaks through slender branches and dark bushes in tiny shapes, pieces, spaces, the great tall trees stand and surround, closing around the two contained, diuturnal, dense and dark. Let’s try to set the tent up, Prende says and Ezili tries unskillfully to assist. Neither of the girls have ever set up a tent before and after some minutes of struggle and effort, they decide simply to give it up. We can just sleep on this I guess, Ezili says. She begins to lay out a large tarp upon the ground and Prende by helping her agrees. The dirt is soft and black and cool and the girls both are self-conscious and uncertain as they sit down. Ezili and Prende have only met some hours ago and neither of them know how with each other to act. Let’s try to make a fire and cook some food, Ezili suggests. Prende again by slight action without words agrees.
Prende searches nearby for some sticks and twigs while Ezili searches for matches and opens the satchel of food meant for them both and enough for a single night. They boil water and cook something light and long and wrapped in cloth. Each girl eats. The light fades imperceptibly into an unbroken blackness of night and the fire flickers, brightens, wanes and never dies. I’m cold, Prende says and her voice is unfamiliar. Me too, Ezili says and they instinctively huddle closer together. They lie eventually down leaving their clothes and sweaters and shoes on, cold shivering skin and pale thin arm against pale thin arm, small thin backs thinly clothed against soft black earth, eyes upward into a continual black, cold air and night, distant and intricate stars, impenetrable sky. As the light faintly finally dies, the girls drift in and out of divergent voices and discrete consciousnesses, they look upward into the wide black darkness high and beautiful and eternal above them, complete and unbounded and surrounding. Ezili smiles without intent or meaning as Prende abstractedly takes her hand. The girls look at each other briefly and straight up again into the high and beautiful and eternal black. In the darkness the voice of a man calls their names and the girl lie closer and more secret still, an ambiguous pact unspoken and understood between them not to tell where they are, not to give up this sharing of secrecy, space and silence. Eventually the voice disappears, dies away, Ezili squeezes slightly the small strange hand in hers and can feel Prende’s obliterated smile. Inside Prende is the love of love and inside Ezili is the fear of fear, Ezili’s hands begin to darken and Prende begins to disappear.
[Blood brims brightly between their thighs dismantling tears in their unrecognized eyes the blackness advances darkens deepens the air falls and flows cutting and cold Prende hears only the rhythmical conviction of her extinguishing heart’s warm beating she embraces Ezili’s darkening hands with her constricting heart’s disguise Neither girl can feel anything now they become together a single unseen coldness a separate unfelt beauty a secret unconditional conclusion Ezili darkens and Prende disappears and all above them a thousand stars glitter continually obscure and bright consuming and cold eternally inextinguishable A thousand eternal inextinguishable stars plunge purely primordially perplexingly]