They let me go. Four years of my life. Gone.
I didn't get to say goodbye, and no reason was given.
It's half past midnight now and I wander the maze of streets, ignoring the cars slowing down and the whispered propositions "How much for the night?" A dancer's craft is never respected.
'What's the difference?' you ask. The real-life pretty woman clad in 8-inch platform heels clanking the pavement and eyes seemingly longing for some solitary company.
I wanted to be in the ballet. Dreams of Giselle haunt my sleep, a tease of what could have been. Becoming the tease was the only resolve to cure what's deep inside.
When you can't dance, the only option is to fly by the wings of a needle, and I sought sweet salvation. Along the way, I was stopped by an old man "It's waiting there for you." He wrapped two bone-chilled wrinkled hands around one of mine and chuckled.
"No, I'm waiting for it," I sigh.
His face turned to stone. "What if you are it?"
Abruptly frightened of this thing that I've become, I yanked my hand away from his. I was falling, shot from the sky, bracing for an impact that I couldn't find, the abyss had no end.
I know that I must do what's right, but how could I do that when I was numb to what was wrong?
Upon landing, the rising sun brought rain, cleansing the sins of the night. I lay prone on the grass, free of all troubles. A new day. I pick up the needle again "It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you," I said aloud and sunk deeper, ready to fly once more.
I hear the dust devils echoing tonight. The moons, Deimos and Phobos, hide the stars that sent me here to desolation. Mars is nothing where even a hundred men would ever go. There are no rains down in the plains of the Shield. Some wild xenobeasts cry out in the night as they grow cold, longing for sunrise. And hopefully, not for me.
I know that I must do what's right, as sure as Kilimanjaro on Earth rises like Olympus above the Tharsis Shield. I seek to cure the fright that's deep inside, the fright of what I am, that took me away from you — something a thousand men would never do.
I curse the arid ironscape, the new, improved WD-41. I miss the rains that never come. Olympus Mons calls to me, so I'm gonna take some time to do a thing I've never done. Something a million men would never do.
Mars taunts me: Hurry boy, Olympus is waiting there for you.
The Kilimanjaro in the Savanah
"It's not what you are called, it's what you answer to," African proverb.
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you, There's nothing a million men or more could ever do, I bless the rains down...
-- Sexy ambiguous song.
-- But what does it mean?
I seek to cure what's deep inside, Frightened of this thing that I've become...
"It was written in ten minutes," it didn't matter who broke the silence... it was our conversation already underway. Us, watching TV, like when the song was written.
We were reclining on the loveseat. White skin over black, twist of arms. Our hands locked. Hair upon shoulders, in repose, for a moment. Our moment.
"White man's guilt. Kilimanjaro is the peak of greatness, nearly unsurpassable. The Serengeti the vast formable seeming empty, a plain with a miracle of life, in otherwise arid desert. We brought a Spiritual people down, to our level. The cradle of Civilization, and we've IMF'd them into sick orphan beggars. "
"Like maybe it's apology from artistic souls to... the continent? Heartache for bringing Religion, and contaminated Polio vaccine... Africa as a meter of our own social and cultural immunodeficiency. Faithlessness. A beautiful people nearly wasted in the outbreak of AIDS, stigmatized by color, by that black 'gay plague.' And this tumult was weighing on the conscience, emerging in the love lyrics..."
"The song came out in 1982. First thing that pops to mind in correlation is the Live Aid Concert."
"Did Toto play?"
"Dunno. That was 1985. The continent was drought stricken. A starving people, and they brought them music..."
"That's almost a beautiful thing... except could Africans hear it?"
"A show. Do you want a hit?"
"No, Is that it then? Africa ...waiting there... for a release? for a drug, a pharmaceutic? or the kindness of Lady death?"
"No sense waiting for the ladies, ha."
"Haha. Dave take your clothes."
"In a hurry to get out of here man?"
"Naw only... She's coming in, 12:30 flight... "
"Oh. yeah forgot."
Gonna take some time...
"Sure, I get it, I get it, no prob. Til next time."
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you...
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
Hurry boy, she's waiting there for you...
2023 NOV 19
there’s nothing that 100 men or more could ever do
My head is pounding, everything seems so amplified. I tell myself on the way to the pharmacy this is going to be different, I am in pain- tomorrow I will be able to think better. When I see the glow of the store's sign lighting up the night, I can feel I am already lying to myself, like whispers of some quiet conversation in my own head. The pain is so loud is drowns out who I really am, who I want to be again. I know walking into that store, that sign will make me feel better before it makes me feel worse all over.
In line I try and speak to the woman in front of me, I want to answer her question but before I tried to remember what she even asked me- the man behind us loudly spoke, "you're next" and nodded her forward with his head. I'm never going to get away from this whole process. I'm always going to live in pain and there's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do to make it stop, I'm done cycling through them anyway if there even was anyone left to understand this.
I feel thankful for the thing I hate. I walk away from the store swallowing two pills so I can go home and clean and work, and as I think of all the things I need to catch up on... I see normal people and hear them being happy as they come and go through the parking lot as I get in my truck. I sit there watching strangers for a moment and as much as I want the pain to stop I want that side effect, too... numb. Knowing it will be even 20 more minutes of this agony, I allow the wild dogs in my head to cry out in the night- screaming in my vehicle as the world moves around outside of my restless, longing for some solitary company.
This is where I used to want to do anything to make a cross fade, but I am different now and I know that I must do what's right and go home while the window of numb is open.
I turn off the world with my earbuds, the music goes up and the noise canceling pushes the voice in my ear above the one in my head.
Walking in the house is like being on a mission. Being productive cures the hurt
deep inside of this 'thing' that I've become that feels so different from 'alive'. I'm never going to get used to life like this- it's gonna take death to make me get over this hurting. No one can do this but me, and that is just how it is now.
A few hours go by and even with less now to do, I know I am 'allowed' to go numb again. Since the physical pain is still at a level where I can think, I need to take time and be still without more of those pills that steal me in one way as they allow me to exist in another. This is where I have to be careful not to keep pushing myself, and take at least some time to open the door to think about you, quickly and not for too long. You are always right there, behind my eyes... like waiting ... even when you were here, I loved to be still and think about you when we were apart.
The physical pain makes it easier to excuse being so isolated, even more this late at night. This is when I have to chose sleep over those pills. This is when I know I have to accept sleep instead of time in my head with you. This is when I am closest to God, you, and my real self- when I chose to be still over numb, even in pain. Dying of thirst to feel normal-with a bottle of water right there on my desk- but accepting to wait to be thankful for the thing I hate even less tomorrow. On my way to sleep I know I have 29 days to figure out how I will feel in that parking lot again.
There were eleven of us in the ship's boat: all that were left of the crew of thirty-two who had sailed with the whaler "Carrickfergus" out of Albany on the third day of August - 1891. I was the youngest and ship's boy; Dan Wellness by name, an orphan and bastard born. The others were Meldrew, Anders, Gray, Piers, Fircombe, Crabbe, Morris, Fitzwilliam, O'Rourke, and the Chinese cook, (who I knew only as) "Biscuit".
We had a barrel of drinking water, salvaged from the flotsam, and another of salted pork. The boat's mast, sail, and oars had all been lost so we drifted, sometimes paddling with our hands, but stopped when Fircombe drew our attention to a monstrous fin of Great White slicing through the water toward us.
'Sharks can sense such things,' said Morris, belatedly.
Four days we drifted until, on the fifth day, the boat washed aground on the empty beach of a shallow bay. The land rose afore us in steep embankments of sparse vegetation and tumbled stone, and all of us staggered ashore; wondering at how strangely unsteady the sand was under our feet.
'Marooned,' despaired Meldrew (Master's Mate), 'and nowt the better for it.'
Not all of us were so disheartened. Indeed, there were some who thought our surviving the storm and the sinking of our ship a miracle, and thanked God for it. And we still had the boat, which we could row with oars made of driftwood.
We soon set about exploring. There was wood enough for a fire, and there was a freshwater stream with its own waterfall. We ate wild yams, crabs, mussels, turtle eggs, and the eggs of nesting seabirds. Of inhabitants, native or otherwise, there was no sign.
Out there was the Indian Ocean, its powerful currents had swept as back to the rugged west coast of Terra Australis, where we stood or sat as a group on the coarse, red-gold sand; discussing the likelihood of being rescued. We had not drifted so far that we were beyond the reach of civilised men. There would be other whaling ships, Malay pearlers, or (perhaps) a trader en-route to the Dutch East Indies.
'Should we light a signal fire and keep it burning?' asked Piers.
'If you want to be speared by the Blacks,' said Fitzwilliam. 'They'll be able to see the smoke 's well 's any passing ship.'
'Build your damn fire,' said Meldrew, 'and if the Blacks come near us, we'll give them the Chinaman.'
The others found this amusing; though I could see no humour in it.
It was Anders and Crabbe who discovered O'Rourke's body the next morning. The Irishman was floating face down in the pool below the waterfall. The back of his head had been brutally bashed in.
'By a rock looks like,' said Crabbe.
'Or a wooden club,' ventured Fitzwilliam. 'Possibly a stone-headed axe.'
'Do you think the Blacks killed him?' asked Morris.
There was no real evidence to support such speculation one way or the other. No murder weapon that we could find, and only one set of footprints in the damp sand at the edge of the pool (presumably O'Rourke's).
That we had not seen any Aboriginals was no reason to believe they were not camped somewhere close by.
'How do we know it weren't one of us?' said Fircombe.
There were shrugs and the shaking of heads. Had one of us hated the man enough to murder him? Knowing O'Rourke, I thought it more than likely.
'However it happened,' said Meldrew, 'we've got to drink that water, so somebody drag the bugger out 'fore he spoils it.'
Two days after the killing of O'Rourke, Morris went off by himself to forage for edible berries or such, and never returned.
Piers later stumbled across his lifeless body of Gray at the bottom of the cliffs, at the north'ard end of the beach, from the heights of which he appeared to have fallen. By accident? No one thought so.
We sharpened sticks to make spears, and those and the knives all sailors carry were our only weapons. Another day passed with no sighting of any ship of any kind. Each of us began to suspect at least one of the others. Tempers flared. Accusations were made and vehemently denied. Threats were made. Punches thrown. Knives were drawn, though not blooded.
Fircombe's neck was broken some time in the night as he lay sleeping.
Piers drowned in a tidal rock pool no deeper than the length of a man's arm from wrist to elbow.
Anders also drowned, seemingly while bathing in the ocean, his corpse washed ashore some hours later. The fish had begun to eat away his face.
Fitzwilliam. like Morris, was another who simply vanished off the face of the earth. Certain of his logical conclusion that we were being targeted by one (or several) Aborigines, he set out with the intention of making some kind of peace offering.
"To parlay a truce," was how he put it.
We sat around the unlit fire. Wild dogs cried out in the night.
'It's this place,' said Crabbe, picking lice out of his beard and cracking them with his thumbnail. 'It's cursed. I say we take the boat and look for a river. Where there's a river there are people.'
'Aye,' said Meldrew, 'but what kind of people?'
'Farmers,' said Crabbe. 'Loggers. Fisherfolk.'
Meldrew took a coin from his pocket. 'Heads we stay. Tails we go. Agreed?'
Biscuit wasn't asked, and his vote would not have counted any way: him being Chinese and not White. I could see some merit in Crabbe's reasoning and, faced with choosing the Devil or the deep blue sea, I chose the sea; frightened of what I had become.
Meldrew flipped the coin.
I hear the drums echoing tonight... The night life of the village flickers, with the scent of sweat and meat and debris. There are so many of us circling the streets, mostly mongrels in a world purporting to hold the reins of the pure bred.
I lie close, in partial shadow, light catching the white of my collar. The night is holy.
I've flashed my teeth at the cautiously advancing stranger. We are not unfriendly. The beads and skirts make a tzsik-tzsik, swsss, but she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation: Aidi, Aidi...? I don't understand ...Coming in 12:30 flight...?
...and she is drawn back inside, the door open, like an invitation, but I press on.
Dark bats pierce the night sky with a sound unmistakable for any other. Moonlit wings... and sonar. I can hear it. I begin my round again, another path. Feet, and faces. There is lament, recognized, in searching eyes.
I stopped an old man along the way, hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies... he saw that I am lost; I am "owned."
Raising a ragged finger, he turned to me as if to say, "Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you." But he is mistaken. He has pointed to an empty hut, miles down the road. He cannot know the hunger, implanted by instinct in the heart, to keep account of the familiar and unfamiliar. He does not know the smell of life, of illness, of encroaching death. He does not know her scent. He does not know the trail.
He has identified only the rumbling in the stomach, the chill in the evening, the rustle of paper before the fire. He is kind, but modern.
Existence is different in so many ways, I can see it in the changing artifacts that overwhelm perception. How quickly things change. Metal birds fly overhead. Men are talking and making no sense: Gonna take some time to do the things we never had. Things bonded to people, taking them.
They had hopped into a beast they called Jeep; its red eyes disappeared into the night.
But I have this one distance, like a leash, in my all my lifetime it has not changed. The grounds out beyond, and then to the yard, I have walked. The home is shuttered. She may be back. She may be not. I will cross, her motherland, back, to our garden. I will watch. I will listen for her weathered voice.
Her tired tongue garrulously singing I bless the rains down in Africa, I bless the rain...
And I can feel it pensive in the atmosphere, hanging with me, and sure enough oversized drops dot the dust of the road. I've made it back to her dry wind-swept stoop and settle, nose on paws, watching the silhouette of our Serengeti.
I wait for God over Kilimanjaro. I wait with hope for tomorrow.
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus over the Serengeti @Ferryman