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June 26, 2018 Nonfiction

ugly dusk

Logan February

ugly dusk photo

Jack Daniel screams his way down my throat & it’s a dry thrust. I chase the thirst with more thirst. Everyone laughs at this. A song is playing that has no name or voice. It’s just a song & it’s just a party & it’s just Halloween. Black paint running down my face. I obfuscate the body in what is not a dance. Kiss & contort. Tonight, I am a shaman. Runes line this body, half naked & half flame.

warrior / courage / serpent / spear / standstill

My mother always says Halloween is the devil’s night. I spit her voice out of my ears. Kiss & contort. I know this song. By that, I mean I smell of ash.

I put a spell on you / because you’re [     ]

Owl feathers light up in my hair, the nimble glow swirling wildly. Verily, I summoned the evil, & verily, it came, a blurred rage difficult to recall.

* * *

I get my histories confused, though it certainly started with a word. Not from my gaping mouth, no. It came from a warm gut. Everyone is drunk & the tongue itself ferments. The costumes stay on while we all shed sin & skin. First, the gypsy. First, the lunatic soldier. First, death herself. Youth gurgles in our throats simultaneously. A dare distilled in vodka invokes something malevolent. It’s my turn to kiss someone. So I choose a boy.

[the devil kissed me first / I was a little boy / it didn’t hurt]

Thunder claps, but under the ceiling. One person says the word. & then another. & then another.

faggot     faggot      faggot

A wound blooms on my lower lip, ragged & warm. My vision blurs, then my hair. I swallow the prism in my throat, refuse to wince. It shreds, it hurts, but better to go mad than to get mad.

* * *

Back at the hotel, with the witch doctor washed off my face. I uncork my body & become white again. A liquid scream bursts from my mouth, warmed by rushing blood – it cracks my jaw bruised & open. Betty takes me to the fifth floor so we can talk, & all I want to speak of is love, its sharp fragrance as it comes apart in soft hands. The night starts to move frame by frame. Suddenly I’m trying to die. & then black

My torso arched over the balustrade / the night starting to collect me / into its bosom / Betty pulls me back & / I crush my fist into her face / asking her to yield / yield / yield / & then black

Betty dials Philip for help / I smash her phone against the wall / I begin to fall / & then black

Here’s Philip / wrestling me / there’s a shove somewhere / & I’m screaming / & I’m screaming / & then black

Again / I run up the balustrade / offering myself up to gravity / & then black

I find my neck in the crook of Philip’s elbow / he pulls me back & / doesn’t let go / the darkness expands / I go unconscious / for a whole decade.

* * *

My eyes snap open. The choke-hold tastes bitter against my neurons. I’m still desperate for death, mind still out of body, body still out of control. I break free of pure muscle. Kick & scream & bite. I other myself. I escape. The catharsis is so dilute, wind shifting around my chin, wet & spittle-stained. I see my father’s face in feathered colors. Betty doesn’t stop crying. Legs still hanging off the balustrade, but they won’t let go. The psychosis slides around my skin. Dante runs up the stairs & calls my name. I hear his voice & I go disarmed. I think I might be saying something about love. The way I collapse into his arms, then dissolve. The tepid froth fades out of my mouth. I come apart in his soft hands & I’m sure I smell of something shadowy & powdered, like a soggy wound.

* * *

Morning crafts itself around me. I wake first, a grotesque thing with bloody knuckles & split lips. Ankle twisted brutally & my memory bleached clean. Betty is terrified of my small passioned fits, eyes bordered by a red wetness. Philip lies asleep in shredded clothes. Dante won’t tell me what happened last night. So I sit, haint & abridged, a browning boy with no biography. The story of me is littered around the trauma. & of course, the tattered body.

* * *

Verily, the evil came because I asked for it & it lingered, dancing with glutamate & dopamine – a trinity I cannot speak to my mother about. My warm gut sprouted a chill. I tried to tell the psychiatrist too, & I failed. I reached out my hands & started to say, but no words came out. Not from my gaping mouth, no. I’ve gone mad too often. All of my histories get smudged together, though some days I can remember the runes that marked my body. The symbol that stood on my forehead, a straight line named isa, signifying a blessed stasis. As though it were telling me to slow down my shifting. As though it were saying stand still, darling, stand still.

image: Tara Wray