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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Neil Lowe The Return of Blake Madison (47) RE: The Return of Blake Madison 10 Feb 00

I lay enveloped in predawn darkness, writing "Serita" in orange tracers with the burning ember of my cigarette. Serita's silhouette was barely discernible next to me, but the way the contours of her body interrupted the blank pattern of blackness indicated that her back was to me. She breathed deeply and rhythmically as she slept the sleep of one who had surrendered unconditionally to blissful exhaustion. I listened contentedly, and matched my breathing rhythm to hers. Overnight she had woven herself inextricably into the fabric of my world, to the extent that I observed her mirroring some of my mannerisms and subtle nuances, even as I mirrored some of hers, like a couple who had come to resemble each other after having grown old together.

I lit another cigarette and staggered out of bed and onto the balcony. In the street below, the unwashed masses began their ritualistic slouch towards Gomorrah. A junkie wiped his sniffles with the back of his hand as he shuffled off, inexhorably drawn in answer to what Burroughs termed "the algebra of need." Underneath me in an unseen doorway, a wino stirred from his inebriated slumber to laugh at a joke in his dream, then descended into an interminable bout of phlegmatic coughing. I watched as daylight made a gradual ascent up the wrought iron latticework. It spilled over my bare feet and into the suite. The darkness dissolved into a grainy film noir grey, and the contents of the room slowly assumed their familiar names and shapes.

I stumbled back through the open French doors, exhaling a languid cloud of smoke toward the ceiling fan. The wobbly blades sliced it up into ephemeral whorls. I looked around me. The remnants of our shattered libidinal energies lay strewn about the room: a stray sock in a corner by the door; an elegantly tasteful pump tangential to an overturned chair; one of Serita's trashed stockings draped carelessly over a skewed lampshade. Last night, we began and we ended; in between it was as if everything but us had frozen in time. Like Robert Johnson predicted at the crossroads, I could no longer tell where I left off and she began. I turned toward her. The sheet had fallen away, and I admired the graceful, swan-like way her neck blended effortlessly into her bare shoulder. I extended my hand to stroke her hair, to sift her strands of fine Persian silk through my fingers, but not wanting to disturb her, I thought better of it and withdrew.

"You're all the woman I ever wanted to be," I had whispered in her ear, and she laughed- because that line would not be all that absurd in this lascivious section of the city? Or because it was in direct contradiction to my hard-boiled image? Either way, I vowed to elicit from her a symphony in laughter, in any way and as often as I could, because, in fact, she was all the woman I ever wanted. A word from her was the introduction to a sonnet; a touch the prelude to a divine sculpture. When I was moody and withdrawn, I found her in me in places I could not go, and when her hands fluttered over me, I came out from behind my walls, emboldened to suffer gladly with the rest of humanity. A wisp of her breath on my cheek was the harbinger of change from winter to spring.

I tried to decide coffee or Four Roses to best ease the pounding in my head. What the hell, I thought. If one cure is good, two must be better. I dialed room service and ordered a coffee. When it came, I dosed it with an eye-opening dram from my flask and carried it to the wash basin. The reflection in the mirror recoiled from me in horror. The eyes, once blue, were now washed out the color of cigarette ash, and irretrievably sunk back in their sockets. Sallow flesh hung like melted candle wax off my emaciated frame. What she saw in me God only knew. I was a half step away from a twelve-step program. Dripping jewels and hanging off the arm of some oil sheik like an expensive accessory seemed more her speed. I sat down on the bed and watched her sleep.

Expect nothing and never be disappointed, that's my philosophy. And scrutinize happiness with a cynical and distrusting eye, for my personal history told me that riding on its coattails was an inevitable sorrow. Even as we were beginning our relationship, so I was sketching the denouement in my mind, fleshing out the scenario as I thought it would unfold: a Sunday in mid December perhaps, before the holidays. Cold and damp by Los Angeles' standards. Tailor made for nuzzling up to a roaring fire with a snifter of brandy. But instead I would be waiting for her in a vacant lot on the banks of the Los Angeles River. I would've been walking a while before that, if walking could accurately describe it. More like drifting with the current in this huge ocean of a town, ever since her phone call earlier this morning. I would be nursing a bastard of a hangover, as usual. Suddenly that little sports car of hers would come out of nowhere, ricocheting like a stray bullet across the lot, but I wouldn't notice. I would be lost watching a whirlpool of wind-driven rubbish do its mad little dance on the dry riverbed. She would pull up behind me and get out of the car, pausing. Her features would be set hard against me. No introductory remarks, no how are yous, no inquiries; she would launch, opening the floodgates and unleashing a torrent of frustration and resentment that had been welling up inside: about how loving me was killing her, how she couldn't take it anymore, how she loved me once but she couldn't continue to love me and survive. How she thought it would be different this time around, and how disappointed she was when it turned out to be just a variant on the same old theme. She'd be right. And I would listen quietly while the rubbish swirled around crazily. Not that I'd be so much in shock. It would be nothing I hadn't heard before, only this time I would actually give a damn - enough to eventually turn to face her and say something like, don't do this baby, please, not just now, at least give me a little time to get used to the idea. Why don't we go have a coffee and talk about it? Let's talk about the good times. Surely there were some in there somewhere. Like that night in the car with the soft rain on the roof, remember? Just us alone all night at the entrance to the park with that rain. Or the stairwell outside your office where you'd take your breaks, and we'd hold each other, not saying any words, just swaying to music in our heads. Things like that, remember? Forget that I'm a jerk. Forget all the stupid things I've done. Don't give up on us so hastily, I love you. Give me a chance to tear down some walls.

The tears would be brimming in her eyes, but she wouldn't blink them back. That would mean the words were ineffectual, were breaking up into shards of irrelevant syllables and left to drift away on the wind. She would just shake her head, turn and walk back to her car. Maybe she would glance once more at me before she drove away, but probably not. And I'd watch her take the better part of me with her, until she was no more than a mote in the undulating flow of traffic. By then the little whirlpool of trash would've played itself out, and without the willful energy to hold them together, the bits of dust and paper would lose their bonds and revert back to meaningless elements of matter. I would reassuringly pat the revolver tucked in my belt. Happiness, as the song goes, is a warm gun (bang bang shoot shoot), and the barren riverbed stretched out before me would typify the character of the days ahead.

My hands were shaking. I had to remember to breathe, and when I did, the air entering my lungs felt thin. Serita rolled over on her other side to face me. My back was to her.

"Good morning," she yawned.

"Good morning," I managed weakly. "Want me to ring for coffee?"

"What time is it?"

"I don't know." I looked at my watch but I couldn't make out the numbers. "Ten...or eleven, maybe." My voice broke. The sheets rustled behind me as she stretched out her arm. Her fingertips traced random patterns on the small of my back.

"What's wrong?" she asked. "Are you okay?"

My throat tightened and I swallowed hard. "I can't swim," I confessed.

"That's okay," she laughed, confused. "I can't either." She waited for an explanation.

I wheeled on her. "And every damn brick," I shouted, shaking my finger, "every damn brick of these walls I laid with my own two hands!"

She was horrified. She gathered the sheets closer to her. The idea that I was not the man she thought she knew took root in her mind and began to grow, vying with previous impressions for space and consideration. The telephone rang.

"Heartbreak hotel," I answered. "Elvis...just checked out. For good."

And there was evening, and there was morning, one day....

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