She said she was dreaming of a coconut grove. “A coconut grove?” I said. “Where?” On some island somewhere, she said. “Don’t you ever think of traveling, John?” I told her it was mean to say that. She chuffed.
The light in the cafe was expertly manufactured; wherever it fell through the window, banks of mirrors tossed it to the center. “You’ve done a great job with this place,” I said.
She smiled. “I don’t feel the need to be afraid of experimentation anymore.” My heartbeat was a drum and I imagined she could hear it. She gave no sign. “I guess that means I’m getting old.”
By the churning failing terraform, residents of New Lake Fens walk the chert rock paths beside a lime-coloured light. Like fire the terraform flickers against their faces and heavy clothes, their feet slap the flint. The terraform eats more than the echoes of their footsteps; it consumes daily the oxygen they breathe, encroaching ceaselessly on the city. Who was it that said, “Every passing day represents more and more relentlessly subtracted from less and less?” Indeed, how could it be otherwise?
The dark look on the lighted with salted eyes, hungry. The river recedes and Cowboy Pizza serves scones on the sidewalk under a canted tree. Bar 169 works off a small generator and can offer a small amount of warm beer to each. “Pour out the whiskey,” says one, pointing to his glass. “Come on, right here!” Uptown, people lock themselves in their apartments and stay warm under the TV glow, the blue glow of news updates, the pink glow of DVDs. Coffee brews in the machine. No work. Later, a group meets at Jacob’s Dilemma to drink and flirt. “Crazy about the storm,” one says, throwing a tip on the bar. & the light look on the darkened with heavy eyes, drunk.
Robust, yet fragile. Systems sturdy, prepared, until some small porcelain figurine from the first house floats up out of a box in the basement. She was playing chess and listening to Michael Jackson. The figurine Mary on the mantle because she thought it had a pretty face. Mother wasn’t happy about it, but what could you do? When Carly liked something that was it. I stared at it one evening, the soft round shiny cheeks, the petite perfect nose, the white pupil-less eyes, seeing how close I could get to it and still keep the face in focus. Memory proves all RYF systems.
Sunlight burns across apartment buildings & is scattered by fire escapes. It’s quite a cloudy day; the patterns on the walls alternate sharp and diffuse. Blue sky, when it moves overhead, feels like a surprise. And dead birch-wood trees, barkless, raise up stiff fingers to ask a pointless question. A gale could snap them off easily. Inside, a mind full of worry has dissolved like sugar in coffee. I wonder if Kincaid would see me.
A caravan of clouds rolls over The Ludlow. Streetlights and taillights and shop lights spin themselves into a pale yellow ambience and alight its underside. Night never dark, never full of stars. I’m watching from bed, through the window. And I’m thinking of when, if ever, The Ludlow wasn’t under construction. Sally is still out there, one imagines, pawning some corner of her skin to a stranger for the laugh of it. She made such a deal about her hair earlier. ”Don’t you notice?” she asked. ”It’s shorter?” I said. ”Oh I love you dearly,” she said, “but you’re never going to get laid.” I kissed her on the temple: “We’ll just see about that.” The moon reveals itself through a crack in the clouds, a bruised eye. The temperature drop shows on the windowpane: crystalline frost patterns grow at the edges and corners. Sally will have to walk home in it: a skirt and a light hatched sweater, stockings. Not to worry, the cocaine will keep her warm. The city will see to it she makes it home, across well-lit avenues.
A collection of streets transmuted. Kincaid and her army of hipsters declare the Rue Serpolet under construction. “They will do all the work,” she says. “Let them alone.” I say that I’m moving West but she doesn’t believe me. “It’s humid,” she says. I can come back tomorrow and see their progress. “But you’re making me sweat now; so leave.” On the way back to my place I play scene after scene in my head of things that will never happen. Me and Kincaid. A house on a cliff out West. Lots of money and never thinking of anyone. In the shower the water burns. The season is on the edge and at the end of eight weeks I’ll be begging for hot water. I let it burn my skin as if to store it there for later use. I try to take a nap but it’s doesn’t work. It’s nice to feel clean. For the rest of the weekend I didn’t make it out of the apartment.