Monday, April 13, 2009

The Streak - 25

Evan's tongue felt funny. He was sweating a bit, and he could feel himself breathe. He could feel his pulse throughout his body. With every breath he sensed the welling of a tremendous, glowing energy within his chest, a force that extended out his arms and down his legs and up his head. His scotch was melty now and it tasted of aluminum and maple syrup. He turned to Kyle, whose pupils were dilated nearly to the whites of his eyes. Wispy filigrees of cologne rose cartoonishly into the air between them.

"Jesus fucking Christ, dude. You look high as hell," said Kyle.

Evan peered at himself in the mirror, above the Bushmills and the Black Bush. It occurred to him that he could not remember a particular, very famous, beloved and prematurely deceased actor of American film, a stuntman-turned-star, a tough and a heartthrob. Actually, it was the name he could not remember, not the man. He remembered every line on his face; the perpetual, wry scowl; the acid gaze. He could play back scenes in his head from The Great Escape, The Towering Inferno, Papillon. In fact, he remembered him particularly well during this odd spell. Forgetting the name seemed to allow him momentary, accidental insight into the absolute identity of the person it designated. It was like forgetting how to read and suddenly seeing what letters really were: curly glyphs methodically arrayed on a contrasting surface. Names are mere totems, idols; they're the guardians at the gates of truth. This one was absent from its post. Evan crept in, fearful but exhilarated, a trespassing child. Beyond the threshold lay the universe as it really was, unfiltered and unmediated.

Evan willfully let go of his desire to know the man's name, opening his right fist to mark the fact. He gazed at his lightly trembling fingers and felt the world disappear beneath him. He then experienced a powerful identification with the man, an absolute empathic understanding of the strain and pathos and virtue that defined his life and death. It was ridiculous yet unassailably true. Evan realized that the man with no name was every man. His trials, his hopes, his fears, his ambitions both mundane and spiritual, his victories and his failures, these were everyone's.

Evan emitted a halting sigh.

"What's up, kid?" said Kyle.

"I... I... I..."

"Jesus, you're crying."

"Am I? I am."

"What's the word?"

"Whew, OK. It's alright."

"It's alright?"

"I just saw something. I just felt something."

Kyle scrutinized him with his huge, black eyes and a measure of dutiful concern.

"What did you see, one-seven?"

"I dunno. Something, nothing." Evan shook his neck and shoulders to cast away the coils of his reverie. "Whew. It's OK. It's good."

"Goooood."

"Kyle."

"Don't ask me to do anything queer."

"Kyle. Car chase."

"Steve McQueen.

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