UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION - 01/2012
CHRISTIAN RILEY

THE RENDEZVOUS

         My rendezvous occurred below a windswept balcony overlooking the glimmering night lights of the city I called my home.

They came, exactly as they had promised. Exactly after I leapt for the shattering streets below. They came, just in time.

         It began as a dream, under halos of white smoke that encircled me as I floated, glided, like an eagle on the updraft, soaring high above the alleyways of my cruel life. In this dream, their faces were those of birds. White birds with blue eyes. Little yellow beaks telling me all will be well someday. Telling me to hang in there.

         On the streets below, the others beat you if you're different. On a good day, they just shred your skin with words, and save their mallets for when the rain meets the cold, the wind, and the darkness. And then on those nights, you always go home bruised and bloody. Because you're different. If you're mind entertains obscure thoughts, they'll know. They have the technology to perceive. If you can't take ownership over proper social cues, or obligations of etiquette, you'll pay the price. If your heart belongs to a creature who walks and talks like you do, and in so doing disregards suitable "procreative symmetry," you'll learn how to mend broken bones, and disfigured flesh as I have.

         I was awake the second time I saw them. They were leaves, not birds, as I took my lunch in a park two blocks from the office. Meatball sandwich raised to my mouth, I noticed the dancing greenery of the sycamore next to me on a windless day. I saw their eyes. Thousands of eyes, smiling in the shade. And then they spoke, and their words unraveled my mind, and my heart. Again, they told me to hold on tight, keep those knuckles faded white, and just wait.

         Wait for what? I had no idea. Leaves on a tree were speaking to me. I fell back into the grip of the city. I headed for the office. I crossed eyes with a passing stranger, the wrong stranger, and I gave this stranger a wrong look. I went home on that night like so many other nights--bruised and bloody.

         We have a support group. Secret meetings held in undisclosed apartments. Potlucks, with hot food and warm hugs. Layers of laughter always on the verge of descending into a vacuum of tears, with sound reason. We are the men with broken spirits.

         These friends gave me a queer look when I told them about the birds, and the leaves. They reminded me under an echo of gaiety, "Isn't it supposed to be the birds and the bees?" I reminded them under a soft voice about my recent beating. Javier then broke the awkward silence that ensued with a gentle embrace, which was so like him. Javier knew despair just as much as anyone in that apartment. Javier met with despair for the first time when he found his lover's battered corpse folded, and stuffed head first into the trash can outside their house.

         Seven steps past a grimy alcove that led away from that undisclosed apartment, on my way to the subway, I met them again. This time they were women. Tall, with long russet legs wrapped in thin leather bindings. Cascades of hair, red, black, and yellow, braided like rope. Eyes of fire, staring a hole into my face, searching, locating, directing. Sexy I suppose, to the man I'm supposed to be.

         But it was all a charade. They were not the prostitutes I originally took them for. They were not the demonic she-males spawned from sewers, as I'd imagined. They were them. The white birds with the blue eyes. The speaking leaves of the sycamore tree. The vixens of the alleyway, there to tell me once again, to stay alive. There to tell me to ride the wind, and brace myself for a rendezvous of the heart. A rendezvous, where all will be well.

         Shortly after that evening, I met with despair. I have the mind to paint this emotion as a creature with black wings, and long white fangs dripping blood through the seams of a curled smile. Nothing homely about this man. He was all spark, with a gaze that promised pleasure far beyond the bouncing lights of the dance floor. He was a beauty.

         They set me up with this flavor of love. Had me cornered in an alleyway moments later, all four of them, cooing at my descending smile. Defiled for the span of an hour, I was left broken in a heap of filthy rags. For three days, I knew not who I was.

         I met with despair. I eventually found my apartment, then took a hot shower. I cleansed myself of the greasy film that had clung to my flesh for those previous nights. I observed my eyes within my bathroom mirror. I looked at them. I noticed them. I hated them. All will be well, as they told me. All will be well, as I told myself. And then I walked for the stairwell that led to the rooftop. They were there, exactly as they had promised. On the invisible updraft that caught my final leap into a broken world, I was caught, twisted, spun, then hurled through the night air like a sheet of paper lost in a tornado. Everything changed for me then. My mind, my body. Even my vision. Magnified by the hundred, I have the eyes of an eagle now. I can see so much more than what my human eyes had given me. And as the evening sky slowly melts away to reveal the vast body of land before me, I can see a new world full of hope, and promise. A world full of greenery--sycamore, pine, alder, and willow--all laced by a halo of white cloud. And within the branches, and swaying leaves sit countless flocks of white birds with blue eyes and yellow beaks. Yellow beaks speaking words that I now believe.

Beginning at 5:00 a.m., Chris spends the only available lot of solitary time he gets in a day feeding his addiction to writing. If he's lucky, he'll get two hours in before "they" wake up, after which he lives a wonderful life as a family man. His stories have been accepted at a number of publishers including Midwest Literary Review, Short Story.Me, Bete Noire, Bards and Sages Quarterly, The Absent Willow Review, Residential Aliens, and Underground Voices. He can be reached at chakalives@gmail.com







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