Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Cake & the Square Plates, the Smudgy Glass with a Puddle of Wine

At the end of his birthday Johnny was breaking up with Val. Through the half-opened door we heard his murmurings in the dark. Conciliatory words of endearment and atonement, perhaps. Soft but ruthless half-truths, devised to extract himself from her with surgical precision.

Not damaging nearby tissue.

We figured we'd see him soon enough, within an hour or two, and he'd be returned to us with his freedom, relieved and hungry.

Then maybe we could watch TV.

But a more sinister process seemed to be at work. When you end a thing like this, the implications have no bounds. Must you punish yourself, scar yourself ritually, to measure up to them?

Will Johnny survive?

Day drew alarmingly into night with no developments. It was spooky to imagine them in there on his bed. What on earth were they saying? What was one saying to the other? And the other saying in turn? The proceedings had the solemn and semisecret air of eleventh-hour union negotiations or the drafting of a weapons treaty. But there was no intervention from civilization, nor even life; no breaks for food or drink or rest.

Interactions of any kind with others were clearly taboo.

But at around 1 am Johnny shuffled out to take a piss. As he walked back toward his door Sam called out, "How's it going in there?"

Trying for a little levity maybe.

Johnny shook his head almost imperceptibly, not looking our way. Conveying no of course, but most of all don't ask. He was embarked upon a journey that we ordinary mortals could not hope to understand.

Then there was a savage creaking of their bed accompanied by muffled groans and urgent whispers.

They were fucking, just like that. And we were left to wonder by what alchemy.

By what godless process this had occurred.

Human beings and what they do.

Except a funny thing happened the following day. Johnny came out alone, early in the afternoon. Where's Val, we asked; Val is gone. She left under cover of the raw, white morning.

"Are you back together?" I asked, quizzical.

"No," he said. "It's over."