I want to exist for you, even if only as confusion and fiction, she said.
Really, I said.
No, un-really, she corrected, then caught my nose between her knuckles and gave it a playful toggle.
I didn’t know what to say. I often had lots of words, an embarrassment of them in which to idle and luxuriate, in fact, that’s where I found her, or she me, among my words. Like some prettywhiskered stray cat that wanders in through the opened back window, and you find her sidling up against the words you left out in the kitchen, let’s say abrasive, wisteria, adagio, grave, penumbra, and there she was, nuzzling against them and purring contentedly.
But now, I was wordless, and it felt good, freeing, spacious, and she filled the empty by saying—I was a ghost long before you came around. Haunting the hell out of myself.
There she laughed, a laugh that was cooled by traces of void.
I wanted to hear her other laugh, the full, warm, lusty, vital one. I tried to think of something funny to say. Couldn’t. Apparently words and me were at a stubbly impasse. So I reached for the objects that were closest to me: a glass ashtray and a banana. I started humming circus music while juggling the ashtray and the banana. She smiled and applauded. Then, in a sports commentator meets soap operatic baritone, I announced—Oh no, what’s happening, it can’t be, but it is, good lord and great almighty above, an earthquake, right in the middle of his juggling act, ladies and gentleman, say a prayer, turn off your sets, kiss your children, God knows how this will end—
I allowed my body to register the seismic waves and went into electric spasms, yet continued juggling. By time I was in full-blown seizure, while still keeping the ashtray and banana in the air, she was laughing stomach and lung deep, big, warm, lusty, vital. I stopped juggling. Took a bow. Then a curtsy. And said—See, you’re not a ghost? Ghosts don’t laugh so full of life.
No, maybe I’m not a ghost, but I’m not exactly real, am I?
She cocked an eyebrow, curdled a smirk, squinted insinuatively.
I knew what she was getting, or rather who she was getting at.
Listen, I know I called you a fiction—
Ah-ah-ah-ah, she pinned her index against my lips. No need to explain, defend or justify, I’m not into any of those things. Where we are not, is what we are to each other. How’s that for a baffler?
Wow, I now see the importance of a college education.
Or a philosophy degree, she smiled.
I’m now going to kiss you. Once soft, once hard. Okay?
Okay, I said.
She gentled a feathery kiss on the ridge of my lips, a goodbye whisper of a kiss, or the wispy outline of a kiss. Then she did it again, this time an insistent pressing, followed by a lancepiercing of my sealed lips whereupon her tongue snaketangoed mine. The parry and thrust of two moist erogenous slugs mating.
When she was done—How was that?
Nice, I said.
Hmmm, you seem faraway right now.
But you’re also somewhere else.
I’m often here and somewhere else. My double has frequent flyer miles.
You, she said, and repeated the tweak-and-toggle nose thing.
If I were to ask you right now what you were thinking, what would you say?
I would say I had suspected that you might ask me that and so had planted a second, or substitute thought over what I had been thinking, so I could sincerely respond—I’m thinking about IKEA.
No, not really—
No, I mean, that’s what you came up with as your subterfuge? IKEA? My god, you’re so fucking weird.
She smiled big and squeezed my shoulder, just in case I took that as an affront, which I didn’t, but rather as a term of endearment.
I don’t know. It seemed like something that people think about. Like, there are lots of people who buy their furniture at IKEA, aren’t there, which means a lot of people are often thinking about IKEA, IKEA as a name and place crosses their minds, and it’s never crossed my mind, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about, so maybe I wanted to see what it was like to be an IKEA-thinking-person.
What did it feel like?
It didn’t feel like anything. It felt like-All thoughts are created equal.
Ohmigod, I’d love to spend one day in your mind, even just one afternoon.
As a thought?
No, as myself, watching the thoughts come and go.
Wow, you’d be like a Buddhist at a bullfight.
She laughed, then asked—And what were you really thinking? What was the primary thought beneath the substitute thought?
I was thinking—I wonder what her char tastes like? Her meaning you. And that thought was followed by—I wonder what the sea tastes like when it’s on fire?
Mmmm, she intoned softly, bringing her cat’s purr back to the surface. I like the way you think.
Even when I’m thinking about IKEA?
Especially when you’re thinking about IKEA, she smiled and allowed her hand to lightly graze my waist.
I didn’t tell her my other thoughts.
How I wondered what it was we were doing. How I found myself, like a scarecrow with a hard-on, staked at a parched crossroads, sunfire turning my straw into kindling and demonbait. How the two of us, were revolving at a razor’s distance, pinwheeling through fierce throb and friction, in a realm of fantasy and soulplay, and yes, I knew she didn’t want me to apply the brakes of logic, or to name things, because naming would diminish or minimize or destroy, but I couldn’t help it, I named things, I was a namer, and preferred my naming of things to having them named for me.
I’m burning inside, she said, and I understood what she meant.
Good thing you’re a ghost, I cracked.
Burning isn’t any easier for ghosts than it is for humans. I thought you knew that?
No, I lied, I had no idea.
You lie so innocently, she said and pecked me on the cheek.
It wasn’t long ago that she came to me, carrying a battered, heart-shaped valise containing all of her words, and their secrets. She opened her valise and let her words out to consort and to play among my words. Among my words, she performed an existential strip-tease, and unburdening of locks.
I found her there. A stray cat, a ghost, a fiction, and at the heart it all, a slow-burning human dreaming through scars.