I've asked all the instruments to be removed from my home, except for my own Casio keyboard with the missing plug. When he comes by to pick up the bass, ukulele, guitar stand, various amps, drum whisks, mics, and knots of cables, to name only what I know, he does not gather everything until the end of the night, before he leaves, before midnight. I sit on the bed in the large geodesic room and watch him, fighting the urge to lie down. I am exhausted; he is alive and telling stories, theorizing gender and sex and the delicacy of a relationship, pausing to know what exactly he will say out loud before he concludes each thought inside. I am an audience of one watching his towering frame gingerly leap around the instruments and cables and amps, like a soliloquy staged by the crew man who is aware he is acting as the actor.
The concentric perimeter of my home convinces me we are in a tent preparing to perform our daily comedy for tomorrow. First act: tragedy, second act: isolation. His body is at least twice as large as mine, broader and denser and leaner and longer as he extends himself on the floor. His hair is grown long to his shoulders, his denim exposing large panels of pale skin where his construction job has deconstructed him. His face is angular and convex, sharp, jutting, carved into a protean boulder. My own face is a chipped and tea-stained saucer in comparison. We have the same rippling wave for a nose, the low brow shelf to easily hide under and think. I sit on a stool to keep my back straight, my hands placed in front of my center, my legs wrapped around the front like a bow. Together like this, I think of how we are both tigers acting as humans inside a backwards circus, inside this wooden tent. I am the feline upon the pedestal awaiting the ringmaster's directions, except he hasn't got his show together, he is still figuring it out, he tells me to just sit, relax, and listen. We are the freak show dressed as people trying to deliver to the waiting world what we can do. Neither of us question how we found ourselves in this place, but instead discuss how to collaborate on the program. How do we give them a show that they'll never forget? How can we please them without risking they will ask for their money back, or regret coming at all?
He smokes a cigarette out the screen door, the smoke wafting carelessly upwards, so I light candles to combat the carcinogens. At least let me smell vanilla and caramel apples if I shall die. He chains a string of American Spirits and kills each butt in a glass etched with the world. In a matching cup he drinks vodka with cranberry bitters, a sip of which I have tasted akin to isopropyl alcohol or ethyl acetate. I think of how I like the smoothness of the name Ethyl, its blasé sigh and too-tired-to-care syllables slightly agitated: a woman on a fainting couch with the curtains drawn at mid-day. He prefers Alice and I say it is anonymous, which is starting to feel more like who he is, fluid and effluent, a rogue fugue. His energy is syrupy but frenetic and quick to pounce, to speak, to ask, "Can I show you--" and up he bounds to grab his journal, his film camera, an audio clip he recorded to mimic the tinnitus that echoes frequencies in his head.
He reads to me how neurosis differentiates from psychosis and I parrot back what I am understanding: the unconscious conflict versus the inability to discern the real from the unreal. "I am like that," I say when I hear the latter. "Me too," he says. I wonder if between us this will become an unconscious conflict neither of us will recognize without trouble. I grab a notepad and pen while he continues to read to me, uninterrupted by my own agenda. Should I know the moral before writing the story, or perhaps the talking animals have left me a voicemail with their line edits. This is the Mad Hatter writing a fable about Aesop.
He asks, "What does your brain do when it takes a suggestion?"
I wonder if history still repeats itself when the subject is isolated out of context. Or can context never be eliminated but only cleared out, like a corner of memories or an inbox or a wrapper. Is memory the solid of evaporated ethyl or more like compressed pixels or used latex?