They had weed, and I had a history of indignity. Three of them pulled up, the car screeching and lurching, then parked crookedly by the swing-bell glass door to the brick-front store where I was buying a sixer and smokes. I knew them from the club where we’d waste our weekend nights spending money we didn’t have. The two girls would hold the walls up in the same corner where I’d dance, sometimes with them.
I left my car at the store, parked in the side shadows, and climbed into the back of the dented, green Chevy, lodging myself between the girls. Jerry drove, and he didn’t seem to mind playing chauffeur. He watched the mirror, smiling occasionally, knowingly, eyes squinted.
We filled the green car with our white smoke and a voice came through the fragrant haze, whispering sweetly, “I always liked the way you move when you dance.”
It was Mary, her softness pressed against my shoulder and my thigh. Turning into the smoke to politely acknowledge, my lips were taken into hers.
“Go slow. The night is still young,” I told her.
I don’t know where the night went. It went to the place where all memories go, I suppose. It walked off into its own darkness.
The house where she stayed was tall and white, and it leaned to the left, or maybe we were leaning to the right. Jerry and the other girl disappeared somewhere into its chipped wood and shadows. Mary led me up some narrow stairs to a pale-blue room. It was large, and kept neatly. A streetlight shone in through the side window.
The house was cold, but she was warm, and deep, and slippery, and I kept thinking I’d fall into her and never find the bottom of the chasm that is woman. I kept thinking– and that was the trouble of it all; it was a pity fuck, and a pitiful fuck because of it. Some part of me was left there to die in the wrinkled cotton-sheet valleys. Some part of me never left her, nor the others with soft eyes who came after, yet she was still alone when I did leave; they all were.
Creaking, the door to the tipsy, white house closed behind me. The black sky spread its endless legs before the tall-fog glow of the streetlights, and I walked into its waiting darkness. I kept walking, hearing my footsteps splash into the emptiness. I kept walking until the lights were gone, until I’d, again, become shadow.
The soil, moist and soft, recalled safe memories; its cool touch embraced my underside as I lay, drifting. It is in these times that we are free– loose the chains of gods and governments, loose the hold of hunger and strife; it is in the surrealism, the weightless space-drift of dreams that we are what we have always been. I nestled in the tall grass, shaded on all sides. Sunshine came only in saffron moments, a reflection from elsewhere that never touched me directly. I slumbered.
Great men are a rarity, and possibly only existing the fables of perception, but in my dream I’d been a tall man, bearded and seasoned, with slick gray which fell in a dark frosting of curls. Any man who’d seen me, or any woman, would think to themselves, “There is a great man. There is a man of distinction, a man of wisdom.”
The woods stirred with quiet life, the creatures which live their lives in hiding, daring sound only when unseen. I wondered what they must think of me, a giant, unafraid, knowing fear as only something seen in the eyes of others, only in the fallen shoulders of defeat. My footsteps fell heavy, crushing branches and twigs. Things scurried into the dark emerald shadows as I neared.
Small voices rode the still air, sounding like the cackles of children. I waited at a fork in the path, not knowing which from which side they would emerge but knowing our paths would cross at this place.
Both paths bent around and outward, preventing me from seeing, so I ate wild strawberries I’d found earlier as I waited. The red juice stained my beard as the berries chilled my teeth and tongue, exploding onto my gums.
There were hundreds of them walking behind a man, taller than the rest. The front man was flanked by four horsemen dressed in black tunics, two on each side. None of them were any taller than my ankles. Some carried small books, worn at the bindings. I wondered how I’d even be able to read such a small thing. Some carried crosses made of twigs spun with twine at the joints. The crosses never touched ground.
One of them said, “Bow before God.” and the rest began to chant, the number of voices swelling into the air, then raping the silence in waves. “Bow before God.” they chanted.
Strawberry juice ran down my chin as I chewed, and I said, spitting red, “Is this your God?”
I pushed another handful of strawberries into my mouth. They were small, half bitter, half sweet.
The one in front wore a tall and pointed white hat, and then it changed, becoming a tightly wound turban. His skin grew darker and then his head became a yellow ball of flame, like the sun.
“Is this your God?” I asked again, knowing gods exist to give meaning to the meaninglessness, an echo from the abyss.
Strawberry skin coated my teeth as I spoke and the small men trembled for a moment before chanting again.
“Bow before God. Bow before God.”
The cool shadow of my foot fell over him before the weight of my boot crushed him into the soil. The horses fled, horsemen still mounted.
“Is this your God?”
I twisted my boot into the ground like putting out a cigarette. Lifting my foot, parts of him still burned, embers smoldering into the rubber sole.
The chanting silenced, and still there was no reply to my question. None of them moved. Crickets, cicadas, and furry and winged wild things which had stirred in the deep green became silent as well.
“You are free of him then. You are free. Go now.”
But they stayed, silent.
I awoke remembering– there is a pain which is beyond pain, where nothing is even felt, except nothingness, an eternity of it, endless dead-wheat fields of futility. Turning my body, I could see that the lower part of me had been crushed by a boot, my brown and yellow innards now fallen outside of my skin, coated in soil. The ground trembled with their determined approach; the ants were coming, thousands of them, and I, born as a earthworm, crushed-pink, wrinkled, and half-paralyzed, could do nothing but writhe, waiting for the end.