I stand before you, naked.
With but an unspoken line, the entire city is in a hush. Gone are the rumblings of the cabs dropping off the latest batch of hook-ups. Gone are the sickening sirens of the cops relentlessly chasing after the latest criminals. Gone even are the throbbing vibrations of the downstairs people’s pathetic excuse for a band.
Gone is the whole city. Tonight, we are the city.
Want some champagne, love, I ask. Your reply becomes a mere twitter in the hallowing silence. I go over to the counter and take out two champagne glasses. As I pour out the wine, I could feel your eyes on my back – deep and penetrating. Your hawk-eyes can see every detail on my body, from the unwanted accidents to the intentional pains. You notice everything, don’t you, boy?
The sparkling wine shimmer like diamonds as I bring them to us. All the while, your eyes trail over my body. That look on your eyes would always be imprinted on my memory, raw and kinky, yet sweet and loving all rolled into one.
A toast to the future, I purr seductively handing you your glass.
A sly tiger’s grin appears on your dashing face.
A toast to tonight, you reply in a voice that only one of God’s great angels could dream of. An angel or a demonic tempter.
We clink glasses, smiling suggestively at each other, all the while knowing what is to come.
For a while we sit in gratuitous silence, watching the dark city. It is fulfilling to detach oneself from reality once in a while. And as I snuggle into you, we could almost see the great hand of dark, silent absence envelop the entire horizon.
How was your day, you sweetly murmur into my ear. I absorb each word you articulate and muse about how wonderful it sounds against the oblivious surroundings.
I hold your arm roughly and lean towards you. I never noticed how dark your eyes actually were. Nor how arousing your musky scent is. Boiling with happiness within, I growl and bite your ear.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – –
Eddie Mitchell was sitting in the doctor’s lounge. He shifted nervously on the plaid comforter, eyes steadily fixed on the wooden grandfather clock. Across the room, he spotted a couple of pretty lasses, most probably sisters in deeply hushed conversations. One was a freckled redhead in a polka-dotted bonnet, while the other had long blonde curls wearing a trendy “sock hop” garment.
Eddie restrained himself from talking to the girls. If anyone here could recognize him, he would be paying the price deeply with Betty. He sighed, focusing his attention towards the letters he had brought.
That was another reason why he couldn’t talk to the girls. He wasn’t a hero. At least, not in his eyes. For the millionth time, he skimmed through the letters he was holding. Plenty as they may have been, they really weren’t varied. It was all the same, the war, the killing, the bloodshed. And it wasn’t just from the enemy. These days, you were more likely to take a friendly bullet, than to be hit by the enemy
He was holding back his tears as he felt his hand slowly crumpling the letters. He cursed under his breath, wondering, pondering, how such a misfortune could occur to him. He remembered pleading with him, offering to bribe the conscription officers. He even went on his knees in vain.
But even as he did these, Eddie knew that it was all futile. If anyone in the entire world knows Jack Summer better than his parents and better than his girl Jan, it has got to be his own best mate. And Eddie knew that once Jack set his mind on something, he just got to do it. He was a real James Dean, fighting the cause. He marched against racial segregation. He rallied against censorship. And, right now, he’s off, fighting the good old fight for good old Uncle Sam. Right smack in the heart of Vietnam.
Yup, Jack was one of those troopers. Eddie fidgeted in his seat, his fist curled up, willing someone to annoy him so that he could take a swing at them.
His breathing becoming less heavy, Eddie unclenched. For what it’s worth, he didn’t want to create a scene in front of the beautiful damsels. He sighed in exasperation, not even looking forward to this, his next counseling session. If only his parents didn’t particularly insist on seeing this shrink, he would have hopped the next train, leading the hippie life.
The hippie life, Eddie smile ruefully. That’s what separated him and Jack. For if Jack were the rebel with a cause, Eddie was the rebel without one. He’d cut school, lying around the meadows or playing truant with the other Caulfields in town. While Jack would stay in school, acing both schoolwork and sports, Eddie would rather read about the latest adventures of the caped crusaders or even sneak a guilty peak at a Playboy magazine.
Strangely, it is through these differences that both boys bonded even as children. They had had mudfights when they were toddlers, constant sleepovers as children and the occasional shared joint as teenagers. Jack and Eddie had always been there for each other. In fact, it was Jack who led to Eddie meeting his current girlfriend Betty.
That is what bothers Eddie the most. If Jack had truly cared about their friendship, how could he just leave knowing that he just left behind a town shattered by the loss of its son and a man destroyed by the very emotions he possesses. What a selfish cowardly thing for a person who professes courage in the face of fire, to shun away from the true emotion and the true fight!
Eddie’s surge of emotions were slowly starting to get out of control. He tried to marshal every single ounce of self-control he had in his body. Yet even that could not stop his body from rocking to and fro uncontrollably on the chair. He could feel the eyes of the young ladies in front of him eyeing him suspiciously, yet he couldn’t stop the rocking. If it were the only way of controlling the tears in his eyes, he’d be willing to risk looking like a fool rather than looking like a wimp.
With all the nurses scampering around, all the babies crying and especially all the depressing ideas pressing into his brain, Eddie just wished he could just shut it all out. He put his hands to his face, still trying to control the tears.
Just in time, as the receptionist called his name.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – –
I just love the thrill of the anticipation.
Everything is right were it belongs, love. You are with me. I am with you. The city is a silent witness to our little soiree. Nothing can stop us now.
I can feel your hand on my cheek. Your hand may not be as soft as a baby’s or as perfectly cared for as a model’s, but it’s still the hand on my face right now. I jump inside as I feel your fingers traversing the features of my common face. You are going through my eyes, softly brushing my nose and caressing my lips. It is as if you were a blind man memorizing faces of people by holding them.
But in your case, I know you can see me, can’t you? Yet, strangely, although appreciatively, you still want me. You crave me. Say that you can’t live without me.
I can’t live without you.
Then, as before, everything is in its proper place, isn’t it? I brush against you, feeling you. I’ve never wanted a man this much before. And I could honestly never imagine myself wanting another man more than I want you.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“How long does that examination of his take?” Revan mumbled to himself, angrily, as he furtively glanced at the nearby clocktower.
Sitting on the sidewalk outside the Social Science building at Standford, he took out his cigarette case and got the last butt out of it, making a mental note to actually buy more cigarettes this time. Only the occasional Chevy, a passerby solving a Rubik’s Cube, a pair of girls discussing the latest movie of the Brat Pack kept him company
Grunting in resignation and frustration for smoking his last bum, Revan kicked back on the side and started puffing smoke everywhere, not giving a shit to either the passing students giving him him the evil eye or the ‘no-smoking-in-campus’ sign planted no less than two feet away.
The blare of Madonna’s so-called sexy/sultry voice over the nearby hotdog vendor’s radio didn’t at all improving Revan’s mood. In fact, it made him cuss a little louder and a little more pronounced. After savoring the last taste of his cigarettere, Revan flipped the used cigarette butt towards the nearby trash bin. Luck of lucks, it managed to hit center.
“Nice throw, dude,” rang out a voice behind Revan.
“Yeah, well, lucky me,” Revan sardonically replied, not even bothering to turn around.
“Hey, mind if I sit down?” the person suddenly inquired. Perhaps a little too eagerly.
“Free country,” Revan robotically replied.
The guy sat down beside Revan. For a few seconds that seemed to drag into years, no one said a word – which actually wasn’t really a problem for Revan. The nearby hotdog vendor switched his radio to a more punk rock stations. Revan smiled, digging the tunes of Prince. It did made him think, though. Where the hell is Damien and how long is that fucking exam of his?
“Do you have another smoke?” asked the guy who sat down next to him. Apparently they were now on speaking terms.
“Nope, last one,” Revan answered in his bored monotonous voice.
“Hey, don’t I recognize you from somewhere? You’re the guy, the guy, uh, the genius guy the profs are raving about, aren’t you? I see your face in posters around campus always looking busy and stuff,” he enthusiastically droned on.
“Not me,” Revan replied. “Twin brother.”
“Ahh,” the guy chuckled. “Good one. Keeps the fanatics away, right?”
“Not joking,” Revan swiftly retorted. Once upon a time, Revan absolutely hated being compared to his brother. Now, apparently, it wasn’t much of a choice for him.
“Oh, I see,” the guy said sheepishly. “I’m sorry.”
Feeling a bit sorry for the guy, Revan turned to him and said, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
A tad relieved, the guy, who Revan realized wasn’t that bad looking at all, chortled on. “My name’s Nick, by the way.”
“Uh-huh,” Revan responded after a short while, reverting back to his usual self.
“What’s your name?” Nick asked.
“Hi, Revan,” Nick cheerfully began.
“Hullo,” Revan shrugged. Just great, another person to be nice to.
“So, how are you?” Nick continued, beginning a new chain of conversation.
“Fine, I suppose.” Revan was nonchalant.
“So, what’s up?” Nick was dead-set on opening a conversation pattern.
“Nothing much,” Revan replied, noticing that Prince had stopped singing. The radio was now playing a song by a guy named Michael Jackson. Thirty seconds into the song, Revan realized that although he may not exceptionally like it, it was music worth tolerating.
“Would you like to grab something to eat later tonight?” Nick offered.
“Got plans,” Revan briefly retorted.
“Oh,” Nick was initially taken aback. “Well, if you do change your mind, here’s my telephone number.”
For politeness sake, Revan accepted the card and graciously thanked Nick for spending a few moments with him. A couple of minutes later (and a few more unsuccessful conversation attempts) Nick declared that he was late for a meeting and had to go.
As Nick disappeared into the horizon, all that Revan was left was a nagging doubt in his gut. His hand started trembling and he felt the world go in swirls. However a few deep breaths solved that. Also, so did the other fact that he could spot Damien’s silhouette emerging from the building. A smile formed on Revan’s face.
Yet deep down, a thought still lingered.
“God, do I want a cigarette.”
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
We will rule the world, won’t we, love?
As the fire crackles in the furnace, so does the passion ignite within our bodies. I lie prostate beside you and together our bodies are eternal. Soulful. Meant-to-be.
I caress your chest with my fingers, feeling your body move. And as my hand moves up your torso, I could feel the heavy breathing working inside. I could imagine a heart pounding, tormented by the constant pullings of love, of hate, of fear, of despair, of hope, of joy, of angst, of love.
Did I say love already? Well, I think it’s worth mentioning twice, don’t you.
I lay my head on your body, closing my eyes. You are best thing that has or will happen to me. And, contrary to what everyone thinks, I ain’t no fool. I am not letting you go.
You hear me. I won’t let you go.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“Why, Eddie, I must say I’m surprised to see you.”
These words came out of Dr. Cooper, a prominent psychologist who used to treat Eddie back in the hype of the Vietnam War. That was more than ten years ago.
“Yes, it has been a long time, doctor,” Eddie replied. The years did not look good on Eddie. The dashing young teenager was gone – perhaps, long outgrown. For sitting right in front of Dr. Cooper was a man in his early thirties who appeared to have aged beyond his years.
“It indeed has,” Dr. Cooper emphatically agreed, scanning through his old patient file of Eddie. “We’ve began having regular weekly sessions when you just disappeared.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Eddie chipped in slowly.
“I’ve been reading about you a lot on the business journals, Eddie,” the doctor volunteered. “Your paper factory is really reeling in the money.”
“Yeah, well, you know the business world,” Eddie said. “One day you’re at the top. The next, it might as well be another depression.”
“So, Eddie,” the good doctor pressed on. “Let’s get right to why you’re here. What brings you back here after all those years?”
Eddie just sat there for a while, gazing deeply into empty space. His hand, which normally would have been shaking uncontrollably, was strangely still, Dr. Cooper noticed. Had he perhaps mastered a higher degree of control? Or had pain been so persistent in his life that it all just got numbed down?
Eddie looked the psychologist straight in the eye. “Betty died yesterday.”
Dr. Cooper blinked. Loss of family was never a strange topic in his clinic. What he found fascinating, however, was how unnaturally calm Eddie seemed for a grieving widower.
“I’m really very sorry, Eddie,” the doctor said. “I do remember, she was your girlfriend wasn’t she?”
“I married her, doc,” Eddie corrected. “She is, or rather, was, my wife.”
“Well, then, I’m still sorry for your loss,” the doctor offered. “How did she pass?”
“Childbirth,” Eddie answered in a bland tone. “It was the one thing she was really looking forward to. Raising children. Living in that suburban house, with kids running all around. I got twins, by the way.”
“Twins?” Dr. Cooper mused.
“Yup,” Eddie replied. “Twin boys.”
“So, how are they?”
“I really don’t know,” Eddie said. “I left them at their grandparents right after the, uhm, tragedy.”
“Oh, I see,” the doctor said, noting the details into his little pad.
“Why do these things happen, doc?” Eddie suddenly asked.
“Well, Eddie,” the doctor began. “The human life is a cycle of – “
“ – Birth and death, I know,” Eddie finished. “What I mean is, why do they happen to me all the time? With those that I love most of all. Betty and then there was,” Eddie paused for a while, almost choking. “Jack.”
“Jack,” Dr. Cooper was remembering. “Wasn’t he your best friend who went to the war? I never heard what happened to him.”
“He died,” Eddie curtly said. “It was shortly after our last session. The Army sent an official representative to his parents to break the news to them. They called me as soon as the news hit them.”
“Eddie, I’m really sorry to hear that.”
“It’s okay,” Eddie said. “It just needs getting used to.”
“Why did you stop coming here after that?”
“You remember our last conversations doctor?” Eddie inquired.
“Yes, yes,” Cooper replied. “I have a copy of it in my file right here.”
“Jack was talking about a raid they were going to have on some uncharted Vietnamese town. His commanding officer believed that that village housed lots of the rebels’ firearms. Sadly, according to reports, it also housed lots of rebels.”
“Well, that’s war,” the doctor rationalized. “Your friend died a hero.”
“He died an idiot,” Eddie muttered bitterly.
“Oh, come on, Eddie, it wasn’t like that.”
“It was, doc,” Eddie argued.
“What are you saying?” Dr. Cooper was curious.
“As if the war weren’t bad enough,” Eddie began. “The little idiot volunteered to join a special task platoon. The dispensable idiots platoon, where the conscripts are those with a death wish. A real suicide squad.”
“Your friend joined a Special Task Force Unit?” Dr. Cooper asked, himself shocked. He thought that the fact that their Army would commission a unit on suicidal missions to be nothing more than an urban legend.
“Yes, he did,” Eddie replied, spite slowly building inside him.
“Maybe he thought he was being patriotic?” Dr. Cooper tried to reason out.
“No, that wasn’t his reason,” Eddie said, feeling the tears coming.
“Eddie, what is it you’re not telling me?” Dr. Cooper was concerned.
“In his letter, Jack knew that that would be his last. He himself said so. He feared that the Vietnamese town tip was a set-up, yet one they couldn’t afford to neglect. It all began one dark dismal night.”
“Did he say anything else?”
Eddie was choked up. “He also told me there the real reason why he joined the freaking war.”
“He wanted to get away from me.”
“Get away from you?” Of all the answers Dr. Cooper expected, this was the most unexpected. “Why would he even want to do that?”
Tears were now forming on Eddies eyes.
“It was too dark here,” Eddie tearfully said, finally allowing himself to cry.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Is the night almost over, love?
I cringe at the thought of moments without you. All these time, I feel like I know everything about you. The way you touch me, the way you reassure me, the way you love me. Yet, a nagging doubt within me tells me I know nothing about you.
Is that true love?
No, it’s not. You know I’m yours.
We kiss and once more I feel you and I. It is a vast force of entropy that envelops us. And as I succumb once more to you, I can feel myself falling deeply into the living the deep dark life my family lived.
For the first time, you and I are part of the city. Part of the night. Part of life.
Together in ecstacy.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Revan woke up late again. He hurriedly tidied himself upon, silently cursing the fact that his alarm clock just doesn’t want to wake him when necessary. As he hurriedly passed by the mirror, he snuck a glance at his disheveled state.
Today, he felt weak again. It was always a passing feeling. The fatigue and late nights chewing away at his mortality. Working late at his father’s paper factory didn’t necessarily help his disposition. The doctors always tell him that everything would probably turn out all okay. Revan just couldn’t feel their optimism.
As he was fixing himself in front of the mirror, he noticed something. A pale blackening from his left eye. He nervously raised his hand to feel it. While his fingers ran over the dark spot, his memory started returning. And it wasn’t a gradual return – it streamed on like a lava lake – his father, neighborhood kids, random guys. Damien.
He shrugged the feeling off, as he had for his whole life. He got the concealer from his bedside table and started applying it to hide the black spot. Breathing feverishly, he made a mental note to see the doctor again, as he grabbed an aspirin from his regular supply. These headaches, these fevers, these shivers, they keep getting worse everyday. But it’s the blackouts that are the worst. Whole periods where everything is in peripheral darkness, with no concept of where he is.
He stared at his ribs, how they protruded from his body! His eyes, how bloodshot and dead they seemed. How ironic that this boy staring in front of him was once the poster boy. An ironic smile formed on his lips as he remembered the bitter taste of life.
His phone rang.
“Hey, babe. Yeah, no, I just woke up. Yeah, I’m going to grab lunch in a while with Nick. No, no, he’s just a friend. I met him yesterday while waiting for you. Come on, Dee, don’t be like that. Right. Hey, where’d you hear that? Imagine my brother getting laid with a girl! I’ll be sure to pass the word. Wait, tonight? I dunno, Dee. I mean, I am tired and I’m really not feeling well. Another rave? I dunno, I know I promised, but. Wait, your needle? No, I don’t think it’s here. Alright, fine, I’ll come, but I can’t, I won’t drink or shoot anymore. I don’t think I can.” Pause. “Hey, Damien. You think you can come with me to the clinic this afternoon? Nah, it’s okay. See you tonight then. Wait, what? How am I? Jeez, Dee, how’d you think I am? I’m perfect, just fucking perfect.” Click.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I lie spread-eagle on my bed.
Come back to bed, babe, I murmur.
You walk around the room. This is a very nice place you have. Cool furniture. That’s a mighty big TV over there. Oh, hey, what’s this?
Careful, that’s my college pin.
You went to Standford?
Yup, I’m a legacy. My father and uncle, god rest his soul, went there.
I pause. Yeah. He died of AIDS before he finished Standford. Good old grandfather never recovered from that and he himself died a few months later. That’s kinda why MitchellCo. is solely now owned by my dad.
Isn’t that a paper company?
I scoff. It’s the paper company. I stretch my arms and beckon at you. Anyway, babe, come on. Come back. Back to bed.
The hour’s up. You slowly slide your pants back on. I have to be somewhere, you say.
I pout. Oh, okay. I look away.
I hope you understand. You gesture towards the door. It’s in the same place?
White envelope on the endtable by the door as always. I don’t look at you.
Bye, love. I say to myself.
I lie in silence, breathing deeply, eyes closed. I open my eyes taking in the gloom of my room. I gaze at the dark horizon outside, wondering where and when it will all end. For I have just but begun. Tonight is my night and, tonight, I am the night.
And around me, I hear the city slowly coming back to life.