Presented AS IS… and I don’t know what “is” is, but I’m sure it’s something close to botulism. I ripped the style off from Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’...
by Jotham Mills
It’s 3 AM on I-40, and the New Mexico mountains rush by, shrouded in darkness. The devil is less of a threat and more of a bother. I still have your collar in my hand, a warning or maybe a reminder to not hold on too tightly. Trying to keep my eyes on the road, I have to look back every now and then to make sure my guitar is still in the backseat, barely protected inside a soft case. In six days I will nearly run a woman off the road near Tampa. Behind horrified eyes she’ll shriek at me, with accusations of my intoxication squeezed through her tears. I ask if she’s OK, but she won’t stop shaking. Time snaps back and I’m awake now, tossing the crushed cigarette out the window and New Mexico still whistling around me. The constellations stare me down, a jury with a million unblinking eyes. Any presumptions of innocence cannot be assured. I hope my guitar is still there.
It’s December in New York, and we blame the icy wind for our clasped hands, leather and wool interlacing, your hand tiny in mine. In seven months we won’t be speaking, and in twenty months I will destroy you in my heart, a defamation which will slam your memory against the rocks of a plutonian shore. Your picture will fade, replaced with delusion and damning arguments propped up with little more than detritus and empty anger. It’s December and Greenwich Village is a vision of perfection, a night in which everything in the world is tangible and all I can see is your porcelain skin and doe-eyed enchantment. The lights are dimmed and I read your cards and all I can see is everything I never knew I always wanted. Your words circle our heads and plucking them from the air I feel the sap running down my fingers. There’s a bat in my ear, and we laugh about it over vodka and turtles. When we first kiss the passion is implied and longing, and I’m not even 19 yet but old enough to know this can only end in oblivion. She will be here in hours. I take you where you’ve never been and I can feel your body on top of mine, your lips hungry and loving, and we’re drowning in your sheets as we’ve thrown ourselves into a world that cannot breathe, a sealed underwater tomb to be opened only in another life. It’s December in New York and the Hudson River has nothing to say to me. It branches off somewhere upstate but I don’t have enough quarters for the toll. It starts to rain. My windshield wipers don’t work.
It’s October near Fort Lauderdale, and I put the convertible top back up in case it rains. The diner is warm and thick with the smell of country-fried refusal, and your eyes betray you as being singularly unimpressed. I return your volley with a solid backhand and sit across from you, your court protecting you, my nose small and upturned. Your emerald pinpoints are daring me and I don’t know what I’m doing here; my world is structured and you are nothing but compromise. By winter you’ll hold my crystal and our shared visions will be even more surprising. The length of my arm will slowly diminish, but your door will stay locked. Smooth skin over soft thighs will burn me and leave me torn for months. It is July and we sit by the water, and the scent is maddening. It is October and my delusion is the perfect illusion. I surrender to your passion as it devours me, your body plows through mine with animalistic intensity. Abandoning the universe I plunge myself deep inside you, waking up like the protagonist in some Cocteau film, lying face-down in sand, dazed and alone. It is January and the streets are empty and cold, rainwater over cobblestones, buildings reduced to rubble all around me, with a brown-eyed child peering from behind the remnants of a once-shared bedroom. He never sleeps too close to the wall. I put the top back down and grasp the gearshift a bit too tightly. I can barely see the road.
It’s August and Four Non Blondes haven’t been overplayed yet. Your car is a piece of shit and it’s the ride of a lifetime. It’s the type of summer day that was sculpted by Pygmalion and brought to life by the breath of the gods and meant to be held up and stared at and adored by the world. I can never love you; I lie for both of us. You don’t need my help. We reach the shore of Lake Michigan and you trace pictures in the sand with your finger and there has never been such a beautifully inaccurate reflection. You’ve saved yourself for me; I neither believe nor deserve it, but I accept it. Everything around us is perfectly crafted with Swiss craftsmanship and precision, and sensation overwhelms us. Flesh is a betrayal; you hide your world behind a litany of phone calls and emails, my hurt and anger filtering through to you in a veil of desire. Your evolution is a lie, the life inside your belly a test I will fail two times over. Eight years later the cotton swabs against my cheek and my name is scratched off, liberating nothing. Ten years later and my head turns to stare upstream. I fill up the tank and pop the hood. My car is a piece of shit.
The mountains in New Mexico are a blur now, and I light up another cigarette. The devil begs to be taken seriously, given human form and wants to sweat and shit and cry and screw. I’m far from impressed, he’s yet another asshole blaming God for his problems. Tori’s on the tapedeck and she seems to agree with me. I pass a fog bank and realize it’s actually a goddamn cloud. I have no idea what altitude I’m at, but my ears tighten and a blow a line of smoke out the window. The heater doesn’t help me stay awake so I turn it off, opening the windows more as the icy Rocky Mountain air grabs my hair and pulls my head back. Your words echo through me from when we last spoke, my entire universe compressed inside a rest-stop phone booth in Colorado. “I miss you,” you said, “but I can’t ask you to come back. It’s not fair of me.” I agree, but don’t talk to me about what’s fair. You never learned the meaning of the word “goodbye”, not until that August seven years later when you found out. I asked in song what farewell meant to you, and that Sunday morning I got my answer. The stars fail to reach a verdict. In six months I’ll break a finger punching the wall. A broken collar is warm and reassuring in my hand. Moonlight reflects off the road and I can see the Texas border. I think whenever I get to I-95 I’m going to head north instead. The devil asks for a lift but there’s no room in the backseat. My guitar is still there.