Stan De Loach, Ph.D.
The world had been getting darker for a long time. Now even the headlights of the automobiles had difficulty in illuminating the paths of the highways through the filth of the cities. Not many people lived in the country, because of the dark and for other reasons.
I couldn't sleep for the noise, the horrible noise of hateful people: a father screaming at his young, terrified son not to put his hands into his pants. "Do it again and Ill break all your fingers at the second joint." The father chased the child; the boy ran through streets heavy with evening traffic, going fast in spite of the darkness, in spite of all the trash that now, because of the darkness, was no longer called garbage and just was not seen. Several times the child was almost hit, but though I did go out into the streets, down all those rotten wooden stairs covered with oil and dirt, I couldn't help him, couldn't but watch and run with him.
Not that I wasn't frustrated. I had been all afternoon, in the early winter afternoon, trying to make the machine work, trying to get my stop codes right so the machine would play back the words I wanted. But I couldn't. Each sentence I wrote to practice on became shorter, and finally I could only type, "Leslie Lasser is trying to succeed." Stop code, memory code, number 1 for where the sentence was stored on the disk. But the machine wouldn't store it, and Lilvia was humming Christmas carols. I had been, too, but I was getting sicker each minute, not at her, not because of her. Mainly because it was getting darker and raining.
The child wasn't properly dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and no shoes and real tears. And cars were whizzing by and could only see him at the last minute. It was his father, I thought, who caused all this pain. And I always ran from pain--to some machine, some incredible new invention that had a memory and typed letters without anyone's touching it.
The way I was running now was new, and I ran from places bad to worse. I was useless, of no purpose, of no assistance. I was running away from, for a long time. I passed the child in the street and couldn't protect him forever. I ran on sidewalks like those in Turkey in the spring: wet, muddy, narrow, rough, pagan. Here it was no spring and there was no romance of distance, exotic under my feet. I cannot remember that part, the part where I was running from, mainly because it merged with the nightmare in which I was running to.
To some doors that were made of glass and covered from the inside with mirrored plastic so I could not see in from the outside. All-glass doors, maybe ten, with bars to use to open them right at eye level. Inside I went, desperate to be inside with the light. I saw women with garter belts and cigarettes, like in the porn magazines, like New York, sitting on empty cartons with one or maybe two men there.
As I shut the door, they rose to get me, not in greeting or relief, but in unwelcome, in unsharing. I left and ran past more streets and the wooden, rickety backs of many apartment buildings. I came to a street, opposite a theater, like Bellas Artes in México. In front were two huge German tourist buses, beautiful red with lights over each seat. Each seat became a bed by night. Inside on the Velcro seats everyone was sitting, looking out. Inside they were cleaner and luckier than those rowdies outside who were, amidst their disbelief, becoming angry.
Outside were only men, or boys as they had been called in earlier years. They were angry, as I said, and they were strong, with muscles like Puerto Ricans, and with faces from whose textures you knew that they had never seen or tasted pleasure. All the stimulants, yes, they had sampled from early on. But pleasures, none at all. I was not one of them, neither an intimate of those inside the buses nor of those in the streets. There were being made denunciations. These were German buses and they had undimmed headlights and, after all, these were ugly, dark times.
The men in the streets were doing dances, modern dances filled with agility and messages, better than the movies or television. They made me join them, not as an equal but as a jester, a buffoon. I was too afraid to dance, though of course I knew the steps, the ideas, the movements, and even had sometimes written the messages on bathroom walls, when there was still light to see.
The buses started to rock back and forth; I thought, "Oh, God, let me be a part of this. Let me help and taste destruction." But the buses were being shaken by two or three fleshy men from within the buses. Nothing from the outside.
I escaped in the rush, in the confusion and obvious delight of the street people. Why would those inside rock themselves to their own deaths? Why would those outside be guiltless of the chaos, except perhaps for their messages, which were strong and evocative and partly true?
I ran some distance and into a part of the city where there were apartment hallways made of plaster, dirty and multi-colored from all the previous paint jobs. The plaster was flaking because of all the moisture, which almost never dried up. I ran up and up and up, even up to the top floors where, because of the weight, the back landings were made of wood and had wash tubs of drinking water--mostly melted snow and dirty rainwater--propped near the door of the back porch with the cats and old tablecloths.
I saw a huge man with his back to me, standing at the other end of the landing. He was dressed darkly in a leather suit like those I had seen in the German Alps. All brown and dark green. With a big head. Not attractive. As he turned toward me--he had not been aware of my presence--I noticed that he was crying much. I moved toward him, in comfort, and asked if I could help him. Really, I asked if he were sleepy, but that is the indirect mood of speech used nowadays. "No!" he said. "This gun will do that. You just get the hell out of here!" I saw the outline of the revolver, small but ominous and seemingly uncomfortable, placed under his t-shirt sleeve, right on the top of his shoulder, like a pack of cigarettes that, thank God, you couldnt find anymore.
I did get the hell out of there, but not completely. I saw him enter his kitchen and use the sink for something. I, too, was dressed in dark clothes, so I felt secure that he would not be able to see me when I hid outside his kitchen window.
I peered in at him, and for a long time he didnt see me. He only was washing his hands and face. Ugly, big, mean facehe was washing it. I felt a thrill in watching so closely, but the fear returned when, as he was lifting his face and I was lifting mine to look at him some more, our eyes met.
I ran and ran and ran.
1998, 2004 by Stan De Loach, Ph.D. Copyright and all other
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