The woman in the window sighed and took a deep breath of winter. Thick shadows molded her body, burnished the harsh edges of her into softness- the starkness of the reality of her into something more pleasingly mysterious. That was what I wanted right then. That was what I was playing for- something mysterious to rub the hard edges down to something more comfortable.
When I saw her on the street she looked as mysterious as a razors edge, as she peeped out from under big hair that went out of style 10 years ago. How was I to know that she was into retro- and to her it was just about style? That substance didn't matter any more was not something I was unfamiliar with but still, hope crawls out of the strangest bottles. Not that I believe in miracles- not any more. When she asked me for directions to heaven I laughed, even though it was a little too loud, too forced. Part of me believed she could have been serious. Stranger things have happened.
So I said, "You have to come with me- it's too hard to explain- it's easier to show you".
She laughed .
"I've heard that one before. Do you believe in miracles?"
What could I say?
I said "Sure"
Life throws some curve-balls, that's a sure thing. After I said it I was surprised that I really sounded like I meant it so I suspended my judgment and kept on walking down that road.
"What's on your mind?" I asked.
She laughed and pushed her hair back with that retro femme fatale gesture that was just a trick but that always conjured Fitzgerald memories of evening gowns and hot silk nights.
The big round moon stared in at me.
"What's on anybodies mind?" She volleyed.
"Sex, drugs, money, success?"
"Boring." She dropped the word like it was covered with sores.
"Is that what's on your mind?" She asked, after a long, pensive moment, as, with another retro move, her fingers combed through her hair.
She stood up and posed.
"No, not really. Mystery is on my mind."
"Ohhh- kinky." She replied as if it didn't matter.
The room took on a strange, haunted quality as lights from some passing something licked the ice frosted window. I could feel the breath of something wicked pass between us like a hot breeze on my arm.
"Where things come from doesn't make any more sense to me now than where they go." I bantered.
She just stood there in the shadow haunted room and stared out the window.
I tried not to let on that anything had changed between us. It would have been too easy to blame her- to claim that she somehow had busted the mood and turned what could have been simple into something too complex to just do without thinking- as if it was natural.
"No, not kinky. You aren't the kinky type." I said.
"And you are?"
"It takes one to know one." I replied.
I glanced down at the drugs on the bed. Spread out like they were the reason for us being there when, really, they were nothing. I wasn't even interested in drugs any more. They were just part of the mood I was trying to create. In case I died it amused me to have it appear, on the surface, as if it was from a drug overdose. It was all about surface.
"You don't know me any more than I know you. We're just strangers in a room sharing a moment of boredom. It's a veneer."
"Maybe." I replied and sat down on the bed.
The bed was hard. Muffled by the floral bedspread, it sounded like plastic crinkling in a fire. The room was made for plastic people with correct clothes. Nothing about either of us was correct. Everything was all wrong. That was what was so right about being here. Mr. and Mrs. Wrong in the right place. That was us.
She pushed the drugs aside and sat down next to me. With a slow smile she placed her hand on my knee. I just stared at it- at the fingernails with their chewed off corners and the graffiti map of polish glittering in the light from the dim bulb on the night stand.
"What are you looking at?" she asked.
I turned away.
She turned away. Her lips, in profile, were swollen like she had fallen prey to the collagen needle. Vanity takes all forms. I thought about the porn queen Lolo Ferrari, dead at 33. Her lips and breasts so bloated by implants and shots that she looked like she had mutilation on her mind when she had it done. I thought about the desperate need for control and to be noticed- to be somebody- evident in body mod. I thought about melting ice caps, and dead wastelands where nothing grew, and oil spills, and whatever happened to the Dodo, and about T. S. Elliot's version of the wasteland compared to mine and, for a moment, forgot all about her and where I was. I felt like starting to scream and never stopping- just screaming for everything that needed screaming about, like a suicide bomber blowing himself up for everything that needed blowing yourself up for.
I'm looking at you.” I replied.
"Clown." she said and stood up.
"You're all clowns."
"All is a big word."
"Yeah, right. It's easy to talk. Talk talk talk. Everybody has something to say. Me, what turns me on is when people shut up. When they don't feel like they need to fill up my head with their version of wisdom."
"The strong silent type?"
"They don't need to be strong. Strong is just another pose. They just need not to feel the need to enlighten me. I don't need their enlightenment. I get bored enough sorting through my own crap."
She picked up her coat.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Come on. I want to show you something."
"That's my line."
I put on my coat and followed her down the hallway to the stairs. The red glow of the exit sign made me nervous.
The night street was dead calm and icy. As we clacked down the sidewalk the sound of nothing echoed off the buildings and bounced off the clouds. The moon hung over the city like a frozen picture.
"Where are we going?"
"Who cares. I just wanted to get out of that room. I've been in too many rooms."
The buildings were dark and the streets were empty. It's strange how sometimes it can get so empty .
I remembered how full nights used to be. Everybody going someplace. Big ideas stuck up like signboards, or sidewalk barkers advertising God knows what behind the curtain. I remember coffeehouses and serious faces pondering the eternal, and what is art? I remember poetry readings and all the words that were supposed to mean something- that worked so hard to capture their little moment and then when they got it didn't have a clue what to do with it and self destructed mercilessly.
“Life is cruel.” I commented to no one in particular.
"Tell me about it." She mumbled and jammed her hands in her pockets.
Hunched over from the cold we continued down the sidewalk. The sound of sudden laughter echoed out of a single point in space.
"Happiness." She said.
"How do you know?"
"Don't get philosophical."
In a doorway down the street something moved. When we got closer it wasn't there.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"Do we have to be going someplace?"
"It depends. You said you wanted to show me something."
"Well, this is something."
I didn't say anything. there wasn't any point. Sooner or later all would be revealed.
"When I was a kid I wanted to be a dancer." She said.
"I was a dancer." She replied.
"Oh... I knew a dancer." I said.
"So? Am I supposed to be impressed?"
"Well, I'm not. It's just something you do. I did it, then I didn't. that was probably her story too."
"No. Her story was different."
"What did she do?"
"She did something else."
"Ha Ha. Very funny." she sneered.
"Yeah, lots of laughs."
We were, somehow, very far from where we started. I didn't recognize anything about where we were but it didn't matter. I didn't recognize anything where we were before. Sometimes it was better not to try to find meaning in every little thing. Sometimes things don't mean anything. I suppose that's what she meant. You do things because you do them and when you don't any more it isn't necessarily because or for anything. It's just something else.
"Yeah, right." She said, as if she heard my thoughts.
"How do you know? Maybe it's better to believe in something." I said, giving her he benefit of not asking her what she meant. I knew what she meant.
"Better, worse, more words. Sometimes it's more exciting not to give the baby a name. A name isn't that important. Things don't always need names. Sometimes you just pass through without touching. Why do people always think they need to touch everything? Me I try to keep my hands in my pockets as much as I can. That way my hands don't get dirty. I like to be clean."
"You can be too clean- like a blank slate." I said.
"So?" She replied.
We stopped under a street light.
"What's wrong with that? Am I supposed to believe that making a big deal out of the way people wait for the end of the world is really that important?"
"Hasn't anything ever changed your life?"
"Yeah, being born. Isn't that enough for one lifetime. Why do people always want more? Why not less?"
"Less than what."
"Less than what they think they need- less than zero. I figure, take what you think you need and cut it by 50% and you're a little closer to the bone.
"Isn't that what Thoreau said? 'Live life closer to the bone?'"
"Who cares." She replied.
I shrugged my shoulders.
We pressed on. I could hear her breathe as we climbed the hill. The sidewalk was pitted. Its surface was scarred with chalk marks from some strange graffiti game. I imagined twisted children lurking close behind the sightless windows in the buildings huddled over the sidewalk- scavengers that came out like trolls at night to scribble runes on the street. What were they like in their secret troll bedrooms? What did they dream? Why did I care? Or more to the point, why did I imagine they were trolls instead of just children, sugar plum sweet beneath their cozy sheets whose parents loved them and who didn't dream.
"You're too preoccupied with yourself. She said, gasping out the words as she sucked air."
"Yeah." I said. "You're not the first person who's told me that."
She stopped and turned to me. With the sky behind her starting to turn to dawn she looked light, like she was ready to rise into the air at any moment like some nameless monster ascending into heaven.
"So? Do you think there's something you should do about it?"
"Why" She parroted. "Why not?" Do you plan to just go down without a fight?"
"I don't make plans."
"Well, maybe you should." She said and turned away from me to stare at the dawn.
I stared with her.
Together we watched the sun rise.