UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
ELLIOT KROP

Dirge For A Moment's Loss

          These words I write in the worst of times, when we sit brokenboned, shattered, stymied by our blood everlasting.

Auguste Rodin, The Kiss
In special times for special things. Sweet tonguesmeared bandage words – skin-prickling, brain-pickling. To laugh at unlaughable things, to unlaugh our murderous thoughts. Rocking as I write them, they come out wobbly, smelling of left-handed politics, tasting of brine-flavored madness.

          Did we walk together through the gilded hallway, because it all swirls and twirls until I cannot discern who is who, tell you from me. But we must have because how else could I have found these thoughts? They don’t come from nothing, thoughts, found on the ground by the plentiful pound, you can’t pick them up and put them in your brain-pocket, to store for the worst of times when you bring them out and say, “Hey, I can use this now for lamentations!”

          Lamentations, grief greef, thoughts. No, it is not done this way at all. There is a little more order to things, a littlemoreorder. So unfair it all is that picking up thoughts is such heavy work but losing them is no work at all, losing is done by accident and inattention. So, I will pay close attention to the inattention so as not to lose it, I will begin the story before I first lost my mind.

          It all broke on a sunny day turned evening-dark, in the prairie calm of our Midwestern metropolis, with a church across the street tolling its bell a dirty jig. By the window was the place where I sat many hours looking at the curvy carvy marbly churchy church, writing rhymy words. Words like “Harry the Lamb had wiggly wool and when he went outside, all of the other wiggly ones would seek when he wanted to hide.” Children’s book words. Picture book words. I did it every single day; I did it never to delay. We wrote books then you and I, that’s how I remember us most clearly, sitting by the window, laughing at our rhymes, you drawing them, the rhymes, and me sounding them, the words. At out little kitchen table, still uncleared from all its dishes, of morning toasts and teacup clutter. Waiting to be stripped of its china clothes, skin polished, bloodsoaked. Ground crawling bloodsoaked, dead pressure splattered, cold black tickety tack. Burningsome Gaspingsome, a pleasure to make your acquaintance, and you are? My rocking chair is tired, its wheels loose. My chariot, which took me out of battle and into war.

          “But please,” you said, you said please once. That part comes later. Later is always here. Sometimes we would draw together but that was only for fun, not the real book pictures, just for us, the Us the Bible uses, the Us that withstood time and withstands still, here in my mind, withstanding all over my thoughts and trampling them. I saw thoughts come out that shade-drawn day, that red-cloudied thought smeared day. They don’t come out pretty like we’d think them to; no, they exit ugly and ineffectual like rotten sausages spat up by a hyperactive child. But that is later still coming for us now. Sometimes it’s so exciting to take twelve steps that I take them all at once. One big twelve-step leap that brings me here, and now I have to crab-scurry back, knocking over the things that stand beside me, sideways-back, the erring marksman. And here we come to how we were sitting again, at that table, the brilliant sun darkened by its bedtime nightshade; tumbling down the glorious crown, visiting under the earth, coming back up with a fresh steaming cup of dew for his daily rebirth.

          We had a lifetime until that moment when we sat there at our table. So how is it that the lifetime is just something that was and the moment was something that is? How is it that we so quickly left the lifetime that was our home for so long? We didn’t even pack, we didn’t prepare for the journey, call our relatives, leave the keys to our lives with the neighbor, no packing of bags or checking of plane schedules. No, just a knock on the door is all we got, an all-aboard call, a train-whistle bullet-thistle, prickly numbing spiny missile. But now the moment is gone – as far away as you are though I hold it close in my arms like I held you once, and stroke it for all its kitty-cat pleasure, because then it may nuzzle its little muzzle, rub its back against me, and explain itself.

          At the table with its untidy life mess, we watched the sky. You through the window, me through your eyes. The sky was always more real there. How brown transparent beautiful it was that evening, how almond smiling sweet. How it chokes me now with its oily sadness, I break my pencils on its sunburst rough sorrow. I break my mind on its unctuous crags. Be with me now, be with me here. ‘Please,’ I say like you did once, I say in your own words, ‘Please,’ share this burden of what happened to us because it was us not just me and now I have these feelings alone here without your sharing eyes. Without the sky. It all broke with the rippedy-rap of knuckles on wood, knuckles on bone.

          But smile smirkedysmirk, that bitterest of humors, look at me laughing at it, watch me write the words of mockery. Do I desecrate? Do I defile the memory? Oh grant me your benedictions Propriety; Oh tell me the proper way to honor the ghosts of oneself. What are the feelings that are right for this thing? Where do you find them, in what hole, in what spit-bucket? Should I crawl under the city, under the sewer, under the heel of all who walk on your grave? Is it in the earth? Is it in the sky that has left me with your eyes? Excuse me if my laughter corrupts, I do not mean to burden you all with my out of place mirth, with my tasteless sorrow, with my ill reactions. Here we sat, us two happy kittens, drawing and laughing and rhyming and peaceful. And here we were many times before, before and again, making our children up out of pencil and paper, drawing the bright colored innocence of wishful thinking. All that we were we gave them, genetic parents if not by blood and flesh. Here are your words little book, you will speak our sweet humor, yours will be a long life, touched by so many other children, bringing joy in your hard-covered hands, light in your dazzling heart. We give you our wisdom, we give you the total of our lives, the bond of each other’s passion. We place into you our shared hopes of a gleaming future, auspicious vicariousness. We do not begrudge you your evolution, transformation, change with the times. We keep from you our soil deep sadnesses, our sterile melancholies, our under-eye shadows that we carry around in each other’s hands. No no, it is not there, never was! How my anger rises at the disregard of that fact. I scream at that brief inattention, at the overlooking that we did, irritating our clam likenesses! And what a pearl we made, oh what a fancy jewel.

          The books were our children; we could have no others, so we made so many that we could scarcely support them, no, they had to support us. What good children they were to us. How happy our family. How they filled that space that we spent our lives ignoring, the look-away space, the avoiding words, the granted satisfaction. Nothing could be wrong; this is our fate place. The unacceptance of acceptance that quietly scratched inside, at the door of discontent, at the precipice of resentment. Will you have acrimony with your pie? The sweetness will hide the bitter taste – it is more complex that way, more mature bittersweet. Our weakness became our strength, gave us complexity and depth, solidarity in its shared debility. We Were happy, or was I mad all along, but I know that we were, that you were, so what was that, what the fuck was that thing that you did? Silly little mistake. One. One mistake that we could not afford, left us destitute, garnishing our life wages, putting ourselves up for auction to the highest bidder. How much for a leg? How much for you?

          So back again to that table, to that little moment of ours or just before when the music still played, the call to prayer, the reminder of our finite measures, when you smelled so chocolate sweet, dark chocolate bittersweet. When you reached out your arm and touched my wrist laughing, when the sky in your eyes was not red but golden, when our imperfect life was perfect enough, when the wood grains did not drip.

          So then, just like that I was there with you and then I was with you again and then you were gone so how could that be? Do things just happen one after the next, disordered? Is there no pause, no comma in the sentence of events? If it is liquid then it flows, but it is not liquid, it is a storm of rocks thrown angrily at us. So then, the first rock hit, but only grazing, and we turned around asking, “Well what could that be? Who could that be?” opening our faces.

          “Rap rap” went the door. That was all it did and we turned around uncertain and I’ve wondered many times if we really were uncertain or if maybe you were not as uncertain as me but I do not remember because I wasn’t paying attention. Mistakes mistakes that negligence makes, that we hid in our layered togetherness cakes, which showed their footprints in our tiny lip quakes, we should not have ignored them for both of our sakes.

          And as you went to the door, I wonder now what you thought, how you kept it from me, who you really were because I thought that I knew you so very well, that every thought was ours not yours or mine. But that could not have been true because, as it turned out, I didn’t know all your thoughts. That my faith in us, with all its worship, was the undulating prayer of the misguided, the false idol reverence of the innocent young. It was a better world when impossible things could still be, like Santa and monsters and love. But these things were just metaphors it turns out, for more complex human feelings. Yearnings for a fantastic world, being feelings that convince the naïve of a fantastic world, which are just feelings, nevertheless. And I was an agent of their dispersal, a party member of the propaganda campaign, convincing the youth with my colorful slogans, “Whenever you’re mad and you think angry words, that jumble together like cross dizzy birds, remember the ones who have given you love, then each angry bird will turn into a dove.” Now I see the saccharine folly of my trust in that golden icon, but who was it that came down from that mountain to remind me? Was it you or did I become my own prophet, another metaphor for a metaphor?

          Or maybe it was just one mistake, just one and I knew you still except for that one mistake because it all makes sense to me, the itching unease, the hidden frustrations. This was not your future, you had not agreed to this from the start, didn’t know what was under the wrapping paper of this expensive gift. This barren present. And neither did I when I gave it, so I know your heartbreaking surprise. My heartbreaking surprise. So when you went to the door, I understand, and before when you were the one who had knocked on another door, I understand, and when you escaped us, I understand.

          And so you opened that door and I heard the intimacy of your voices even though his was angry and loud. I still heard the closeness the “I know you”-togetherness and in his first angry shout of “Where the fuck is he?!” I heard those ignored feelings determined to be noticed, those overlooked thoughts diffused into the minds of others, coming out of your togetherness with him. That our togetherness was in some ways overshadowed now by the plural “yours”. That there was a warm “yours” and I did not share it, that the warmth that you felt was either hot or cold to me but not warm. That our blood everlasting was infected. But it was still everlasting and it was still our blood and I pardon the indiscretion one thousand and one times if only I could have you here with me now, if only the shade drawn dripping wood grains somehow rejected the story that they told and made it all come out differently. If I still had my life-eraser to redo the homework of several years, because one mistake in reasoning can perpetuate itself in every future problem. So if I could only go back and fix it in the beginning, have that talk with you about the children, about the no children, then we would probably be still sitting at the window and the shade would not be drawn.

          And I heard your pleading voice begging, “Please” once “Please don’t do this.” How well you knew him. But he was not soft, would not be stopped by a “please” from you as I would be. And the sun was still beautiful then, that moment before the moment, but you were trembling already, scared-sick trembling, and how well I knew you. Looking at you, I knew this was not a spilled-milk crisis, not a gentle bump on our road together, not an oops at all. We had never been trapped in a burning room, we had never fallen off a cliff together, we had never died in each other’s arms, so it was new and bewildering. We did not know to call the police, to run, to get away, to make noise, to jump out the window, to scream and scream, not yet at least.

          Walking to me decisively he looked like I owed him an explanation, something involved, something that the two of us needed to work out and understand, but because you pulled on his arm and he jerked it away, because there was violent force in that motion, it was not an explanation I could provide. I did not know about things grotesque. I did not know about blood splattering cold, I did not know loss. If he came to me now oh would I have more to say, to explain; I could spend the rest of his life describing it, details upon relentless summaries, summaries upon discursive minutiae. But that is so much nonsense, to hope that explanations could help, that logic and rational thinking make any difference, that one could replay and change anything, that a moment could be remembered, analyzed and reworked. That there is learning in the process, that anything could make sense.

          And when he came to me, standing in front of me I still did not expect it, the blow of his knuckles against my cheek, the hard contact of bone against bone, the dizzying disorientating, the one after another bloodying pressure of hail on my face and I was caught unaware, though I don’t know how. It was always there, our hidden discontent and your secret pain, and now this rippedyrap at the door showing me the intimacy, coming for me after years of disregard, maturing from restlessness to rage, and I was still overlooking it, snubbing it, until I was out of that chair by the window, on the floor unable to see or breath, or disregard it. There it showed itself as I choked on my teeth and the caved-in crackedyckrack of my cheekbone bled me black, cold and hot. And I heard you screaming and screaming as loud as I had ever heard you but I could not get up because I could not breath and the blows came to my chest piercing through me so that I could never breath again, the snappedysnap inside me, in the curled up mess of pain on that hard-wood floor. But still, in the near blackness, in the twilight of my consciousness, I heard you screaming and tried so hard, as hard as I could, to catch my breath, to come to you and it is because I tried that I heard that tickety tack of the shade being drawn, in all that screaming I still heard it. And your screaming changed and there were new sounds, pushing wailing sounds, still shrieking cries, but with a wounded desperation. I had never heard you that way and it hurt worse than my shattered face, or my bleeding lungs, or my broken ribs.

          And I lifted my head enough to see from one eye that you were on your back, on the table crying, bleeding from your mouth, your clothes torn off you with him on top. Him pounding you with his body, his angry face grimacing, beating you within the way he beat me without but somehow so much worse, using the language that we had always spoken with pleasure, with gentle affection for pain, for violence, to wound you, use it to damage, break you. Taking our togetherness for himself and breaking you with it, the same act in which was the source of our secret problem, that came back to destroy us. But this was not the same language at all because ours could never have incited you to scream that way, to wail with that pain and rage and hopelessness.

          And on the ground beside him, where he threw the clothes, your clothes, his clothes, his coat was open and from the inside pocket stuck out a handle like a doorknob to a different reality room, the handle, and I knew what it meant. So I crawled to it, blood soaked, with the dead pressure in my chest, without breathing, and put it in my hands, its cold black tickety tack of trigger cocking metal and pointed it up but with weak shaking hands and pulled without thinking because there were no more thoughts left over. We had run out of thinking. And the pressure added to more pressure but I held that handle through the blast, through the ear shattering crash and the window breaking.

          My eye that could see opened after that and saw him move from you and pull you off the table by your arm and I saw that it had done nothing. That I had done nothing, that there was no change, that the window breaking was all that I had done. And as he moved towards me from around I pulled again two times, the first to the side, the erring marksman, crab scurrying that bullet to the side, and then the next one into his face above me. The thoughts coming out then, the thoughts that we had run out off, dripping from his head like rotten meat, and he fell away. But you, standing still to the side, why to that side, standing, holding your chest with blood in your hands, falling beside me my darling, my wounded angel, falling to me sick, gasping sick. And on the ground beside me whispering with all the little air that we shared, “I’m sorry.” And don’t you know, can’t you hear, that I forgave you and forgive you now forever so please hear me, and know that there is nothing, nothing that you do that I will not forgive, that all I need is for you to come back with me, to sit at that table, and for me to look into your eyes at the sky, and to smile just one more time. But I don’t know if you heard me then, and I could not be left here without you so I tried to go with you, I tried because what is left here without you, and still now there is nothing left.

          And so I crawled with my last weakness to the window that I broke in my erring marksman tries, and pulled myself out until I hit the ground below and landed here now in this chair with the broken back tickety tack.

          And they ask me “How do you feel?” and “Onedayatatime.” and how do you feel? Do you feel, can you feel? What can you say? I say to you, “Castrate you with a pen knife, fuck you in your eye socket.” And how does that feel? Do you feel it? Are these words because I have no more. All that is left now is that moment and the moment before.

Elliot Krop lives in Chicago where he teaches mathematics. He is in the last stages of writing his first novel.







© 2008 Underground Voices