By Jonas Lucafont
On a night in February, an icy chill runs through the air. Not a normal chill, but the type of chill that reverberates through the crust of the Earth and tingles upwards, through your spine, and sings its vibrato tone of cold into your head, at the base of your brain. The type of chill that sleepless nights are made of. The type of chill that is more heart and less fingers or toes.
An open window in my room, where the house cat stood, pondering escape, allows the snow to enter, whistling and whipping into the room on the coattails of the wind, to settle on the sill. The bed is made and the pillows are stacked in this room; picture-perfect, it seems, with its green carpet floor, and jungle-scene wallpaper. It seems as if one could simply step from the carpet, onto the floor of the magnificent jungle, alive and pulsating with the bright greens of broad leaves, and red or blue or purple flowers, growing in the crooks of age-old trees. And the room is empty. An investigative fellow could peer out the window, and in the moonlight that shone down upon its gossamer wings, notice the footsteps that lead from the base of the house, down the driveway, across the road and to the train tracks. The footsteps dance down the trail, sometimes next to it, sometimes upon it, a language of left and right.
Down a hill and up the other side, the forest bends overhead, tunnel-like, with fingers that previously grasped handfuls of green that whispered in the wind. Yet, now the branches were burdened only with snow, the white ashes of the autumn leaves. Drifts dance before passing eyes like the sands of the desert. As the track curves from the cloak of the deciduous, Lake Michigan comes into view, now a frozen wasteland, with water frozen in mid-wave, and itís hard to remember the last time it was as cold as this night.
And if they stepped onto the bridge that crosses the Lake's shallow inlet, the chill in the air would become more evident. The air is thick with its heartbeat, a slow ebbing and flowing of it.
Off to the side, nearly out of eyeshot, gazing over the unprotected edge of the old train bridge, as if fishing or gazing longingly into the water, is a boy with a white scarf around his neck, his eyes not agape, nor rolled back, white and fishlike, into his head, but closed and peaceful, the once rosy and perfect cheeks now pale and saddening. The boy has a knife thrust into his chest, Dorian Gray style, and the blood puddles in the snow, melting it with its warm embrace. It seeps into the masonry of the bridge, resting among dust and rock. The boy is dead, and if you listen, I will show you why all this happened, why all of this is the result of the mistakes I knew I was making, and why the loop came undone, after all the efforts of closing it proved successful and good.
Requiem For A Binary Star
At the top of a tree in a storybook grove in a town that resisted change, I sat. This was my favorite tree, the tree that had ĎDeadendí carved into its trunk, the tree that could seat a person perfectly, in the cradle of three branches that radiated from one point. The cradle was right at the top, where one could sit or lie, with some difficulty, and look up at the sky. Tonight, the sky was purple-black, and wet like caviar, with stars that shone as coins, hidden at the bottom of a well. The grove where the tree sat had, according to local legend, burned, years before I was born. But now, green was flourishing, and life was proliferating beneath the soil, where roots expanded and stretched outwards once again.
The stars were my favorite part of Summer, how clear and undiluted they seemed, just tossed across the heavens by the lazy gods, scattered into place to mingle and blink at one another, representing galaxies and quasars and reds or greens or blues. I didnít know anything about astronomy, or stars or really about anything until I met the boy that became the center of my life. His name was Chris and I called him Toph; he was the only other kid I knew, in my neighborhood of the town that always resisted change. He moved in and became my gravity, throwing me topsy-turvy, and from baseball to stars to painting he showed me everything he knew, and I sometimes felt like a part of him was inside of me, as if our hearts beat parallel to one another, like radios that were on the same channel.
Toph taught me about stars; he took my hand and pointed it toward the sky and showed me where Mars or Venus sat in certain months and told me about binary stars. He told me in certain words that binary stars were two stars who were trapped inside each otherís gravity, tied to the same orbit, and that their lights would flicker in the sky as they eclipsed each other, from time to time. Painted silver by the moonlight, he told me that we were binary stars, and our fates were bound by this celestial circumstance, for all time. I remembered, sitting in the tree, how much it scared me to hear those words, how much my hands shook as his mouth told that story. His eyes were dangerous and alive and sometimes I wished my eyes were like that too.
The end of the Summer was approaching fast, as I woke the next day and stepped out of bed, sweaty and hot in the early morning, the sun shining in the window fast and cooking the carpet, heating the room like a campfire would, and blinding me as I passed the window. The calendar on my wall spoke volumes; it was August 20th. I went to the bathroom and looked out, seeing what made me sad every morning, the expansive black dirt of our back garden, empty and raped of any life. Dad didnít care for gardening, just mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges. Flowers were beyond his realm of experience. Mom had existed to make the world more beautiful; she was all the flowers in all the gardens of this town, she was the rays of the rising sun, and her songs echoed in the songs of birds and riverbeds. And everyday I had to look at all that and see her there. The grief was so close, I could smell it on my body after I slept, seeping out of my pores. I flushed the toilet and hoped some of the remorse would disappear.
Later, Toph called, inviting me with him out to the movies, the noon showing. He had stolen the money from his parents, so I couldnít refuse. I got dressed and was out the door, a carefully constructed note stuck to the refrigerator door for my father.
Toph sat on the steps of the theater, sucking on a straw. He looked like a homeless kid, in this small town that reminded me of the fifties, his shaggy brown hair and effortless attitude. He stuck his tongue out at old ladies as they passed him in jogging suits. He paid for the tickets with a grin on his mouth, even bought me a soda. And the movie was terrible, some horror/action/sci-fi/romantic comedy, trying to cram everything into one package, but Toph liked it. He had been brought up by cultured people - his family was loaded - and so on a daily basis, rejected all that was cultured in the world around him. He embraced literature and music and knowledge at home, but away from there, he was a slob; a layman. But always rapturous and interesting. He was a lovely person. Toph said that since he was young, people regularly fell in love with his looks and intelligence. But he said it was different between us, because I knew the true Toph.
After the movie, we just walked around downtown (one block) for an hour, tripping and racing and balancing and finally headed back to the neighborhood. On my front porch, I basked in the glow of his philosophical tongue, as he spouted on about the end of Summer, the beginning of Autumn, but it was still hot and I couldnít feel any Autumn in the air, I was sweating, sitting there. Toph spoke of his theory of Sartreís Nausea and would put his finger in the air, as if on the brink of some golden epiphany, to hold the audience in rapture, to fill his silences not only with bated breath, but with drama and suspense. Being trapped in the meanings of life and time and being mattered to Toph, I was only interested in being trapped in his murk of talk and glance.
A white morning dove flew into the window of my house with a noise like a cork shooting from a bottle of champagne, and Toph fluttered on his clumsy feet to retrieve it. He held the injured bird in his hands like a nurturing master. He moved the wings up and down slowly, like the arms of a marionette, as the bird regained consciousness. He diagnosed it with a broken wing and began to walk down the sidewalk in front of my house, where I watched him, grinningly, throw the dove into the street, under the impending wheels of a blue sedan, with four doors and a sunroof. Its neck broke as inertia pushed it a few feet forward. I swallowed as he strutted back towards me, hands behind a head tilted toward the sky, gulping in sunshine with squinted eyes.