Dew, Steam and Drizzle
Dew, Steam and Drizzle
Dew, Steam and Drizzle
Inhale the atmosphere of the room;
let it bubble through your brain.
and your presence floods the air.
Drip, drip, drip – moisture seeps portentously through the plaster. Slouching a stool, I squeeze a soggy cloth, as my eyes trace the ceiling's insistent trickle. Upon each drop, I wipe dry the tabletop. Drip, drip, drip – the ceiling weeps.
Drip, drip... click.
The door. It's her. I start up, creep to the hallway.
Like a bleak blanket of cloud, she rolls in, and I feel the atmosphere change on my skin. My mouth's parched, and words wilt in my throat. In wordless withering, while she's untying her boots and shedding her winter gear, I rush back to the kitchen. I place my face under the faucet.
Her dampness saturates the air, but I avoid her face, which I know indifferent. Having loomed awhile in the doorframe, she tears open into a drizzle of indictment. My fingers clench the faucet and the draining table, my clothes cling, dank, to my back.
Absorbed in the air,
always there, everywhere.
in endless circulation
It pervades every inspiration,
saturates every communication.
The very tissue of our being
is soggy with the mind.
We used to sweat compassion, let it mingle in salty streamlets down the folds of our relationship. Her eyes were showerheads, gleaming, gushing their warm care over my skin. It would be a feat of ascetic determination to turn the knob and slip out through the plastic curtain.
The usual route home was a barefoot tiptoe on heated tiles, the city a spa after indulgent bathing, its atmosphere carrying in its receptive warmth her tropical memory.
My vision a blurred mirror, I'd stumble steaming through the streets, squares and parks. On the train, my vacant interest in the by-reeling scenery never passed through the glass, for the thousand moist beads condensed on the pane, reflecting her image, captured it in their glimmer.
Yet, the bathroom's steam isn't eternal. At my apartment door, the cool draft attacked the moisture on me, leaving frigid what a moment before was alive and tropical. In silent shiver, my longing dripped cold down my bare back.
From our brains,
through our veins,
the moisture circulates,
through all life forms,
a silent storm,
through beastly food chains
and wooden membranes
down sides of mountains
back into our strained
Her drizzle rises into rain, into merciless, heavy projectiles. To avoid precipitation, I touch her shoulder as though to turn a knob – to no avail. I slink past her and grab my bag.
Drenched in dank spite, I find myself in her back yard. The stars shine, harsh. I shiver the same solitary shiver I did when she was unavailable, either watering people behind the bar tap or washing her friends' windows.
My shoes slosh as I traipse to the street, and take to the left, soaked in my grief. In a shadowy nook just outside the nearest nightspot, a couple is showering each other. A drop of my mind condenses in the corner of my eye, and another emotion careers down my dry cheek.
Though always there
as minute particles in the air,
only the sensitive feel it on their
unless it condenses
into a visible thing.
This city is a metallic plate. During the day, consciousness is contained in the assiduous air, but nightfall summons it in the extreme.
My lips are chapped, and the ruthless air stings my throat as I pant, ascending the hill. Yet, I won't halt. Streets, squares, parks – in an aimless pilgrimage through a familiar spot after another, I drag my sloshing shoes through the city.
The market squares dew under the cold firmament. Large watery beads roll around pushing their shopping carts, gleaming their rippling exasperation in the moonlight. I leave a wet stain on the billboard I leaned against and realize: I'm a dew drop myself.
Then, finally, the impending dawn illuminates the horizon.
It flows, it freezes, it rains, it thaws,
in all its forms.
It is clouds, it is fog, it is dew:
I stop and wait. The morning is partial. The sun sifts through the lattice of high-rises, and the day dovetails into the dark. Long shadows of untouched night take turns with the bright. There, in the heat that inches on, the new day swipes the dew away.
Though a thin layer of mist yet lingers on the bay, the day continues its soothing caress, loving though coarse. Like a weary lot of friends, I seat my shoes and my soppy socks on the bench beside me, and bask.
I breathe in and let the sun stroke me dry.
You brought me a lump of hair. There it lay, a cumbersome pile. My ears cringed, for a brutish racket sounded through the tangles.
There it lay, on the sheets of paper I’d unfolded to protect my furniture. My eyes narrowed into slits, tracing the thick ink trickling down the hair, blotching the pristine paper.
Upon my attempt at approaching it, the beast spun with an even louder bark, sprinkling its ink on my
floral wallpapers. Perhaps it sensed the mania in my eyes, the shears between my teeth, or the brush in my hands.
I was spellbound. Just as a pustulent scab commands your fingers to tear open the healing seal, so my hands couldn’t help but find a way through that inky thicket. Would there emerge a bleeding wound, our a fresh layer of vibrant skin, I asked myself.
Possessed, I lunged with my shears at the tangles and managed to lop off one lump, which thumped down on the floor like a shot fowl. The beast spun around, panting and coughing.
I thrust my shears in again, my elbow covering my eyes from the flying ink. Like a fencer, I kept dismantling undefined pieces of the thick, rug-like folds. Parry, thrust, parry, parry, thrust, I whittled the beast down.
A form begun to trace out. Legs, a tail and a bigger, moving lump on one side, which I assumed a head. Pressure wash. I was so absorbed by the battle I simply brought the garden hose in the house, and let the cold cleanliness gush out at the beast.
The surplus ink soaked into my walls, the beast’s fur was gleaming black like freshly printed typeface, its uneven fur taking the form of letters. Its howl had grown harmonious, too.
Wielding my brush, I combed the unruly letters into flowing sentences, running along the creatures muscular back. I trimmed its legs to accentuate its power, its tail to incur curious views, and its face to bring out the subtleties of its emotions.
Hours must have passed in the frenzy, for through the cracked curtains, a new day dawned, meeting the wild wisdom of the beast’s dark eyes.
Finally, I felt I could read the beast, so I released it from its shackles. Its typeface fur flowing, it leaped straight into my eyes and made me understand its noble howl.
They crowd up, the twitchy-eyed junkies and the oddball elderly the usual populace on mass transit in this country. In the middle, there’s Peter, his behind laid in concrete while his hands gesture with increasingly extravagant flourishes. The mob is agog.
At the rearmost corner of the bus, I clench my bags. Through the swaths of clouds that time-lapse over my face, my eyes leap back and forth between Peter and the crowd’s enthusiasm.
I’ve never been like him. I sit quietly through my no-frills day, and kiss my wife goodnight in a no-frills way, and sleep quietly though my faintly smiling no-frills dreams.
The crowd around Peter keeps growing. I’ve observed him for years by now. To whomever walks into him, he spits out a brochure enlisting all he’s about. And people are engrossed. They reserve a whole Sunday for that, hang their jackets at Peter’s wardrobe and leave their valuables in the lockers and scurry in with a wide smile.
He’s a museum. And not just any old dust pile of a folk museum either. He’s the goddamn museum of natural history, complete with everything worthy of knowing. The visitor is snared at the door, pulled to the most fascinating dimensions, as though a hundred ropes were tearing their mind apart.
There he sits, in a local bus, bursting with his three-story, wheelchair-accessible indoor rainforest; a crystal collection teeming with hexagonal prisms; discovery tidepool, whatever that may be; real living coral reefs; amazon flooded forest; a virtual-reality model of the solar system. Peter is well cataloged and his exhibits impeccably captioned.
I’ve never been a museum. That’s why it’s so giddying to observe him.
My eyes lack Peter’s seriousness that projects the universe on the dome of your skull after lining it with silver screen. My vocal chords and facial muscles lack his calculated outbursts of expressivity that inundate you in interest. Nor does my mind have the gaudy levers and knobs you can tug and turn to request additional information. Damn, he is a sight.
I’m still hugging my bag. A lady from the housing project across the street follows Peter’s lead. There’s an aquarium looming over their heads as they stroll through the deep shark-filled blue in a glass tunnel. The woman’s mouth is ajar.
But no, I’m that residential street out there where buses like this are the night’s only attraction. Sedate. Parked cars. Closed curtains. The sole thing I harbor, behind my closed doors, is the inexpressible happiness of domestic life. Work and family, family and work, work and family. Nothing to offer to a casual visitor . . . What would any traveler do out here?
Peter is human creation through and through, a concentrate distilled from life and synthesized and re-synthesized into eternity. He’s a jungle documentary that only shows how the predator catches its prey, only how the mother fawns a glistening young.
I stand up. Why? It’s still five stops to my house … I jolt down the aisle towards Peter, still thinking about museums as well as the moments of happiness I’ve experienced. Peter’s deep, variegated voice is doing its work in my ears as I glance away from my musings. On my right, my reflection shimmers yellow in the bus window.
As though hypnotized, I halt. My muscles tense up and my eyes freeze. I jump over a junkie passed-out on the bench beside me, and yank the bell cord. The bus reacts like a reflex, and stops as though crashing into a wall. With trembling hands I gather my bags and scramble out without goodbyeing Peter. The driver hurls a complaint at me but misses my ears.
Eyes glazed, I’m born from the bus into the cool night of myself. I look around. It is the same sedate street that my mind always was. Yet, the stars in this night sky of mine light up like never before, and I feel my vastness, and the breeze on my temples unconstrained by VR equipment. My mind speeds into spin, and the clouds on my face part. Rain forests full of life; ocean depths, dark and hostile; the vast drought of the desert; and the mysterious tracery of streets and alleys all unfold on the surface of my consciousness.
I’m life itself. As dull and residential I may at times be, when you direct your gaze up to the night sky of my eyes, you’ll realize the street you’re on is only a part of a great planet. You are free. You’re not confined within a museum. You can roam through me, although farawayplanets might be beyond reach.
It’s five bus stops home. I could walk. On the other side of the road, there’s an open gate, festooned with colorful bulbs, seemingly leading to a garden. I smile and walk in.
- Vinski Valos -
- an account
- an account
Drawing nutrition from the night’s black soil, sky-blue blossoms shied open at the horizon. A haggard man, his back turned on their pallid beauty, scurried into a dark doorway. The clunky gate he nudged open with his foot slammed shut in his wake, just letting both of his weighty bags snake in.
The doorway, old and ornamented, was fostered with due diligence; no paint flaked off the ceiling, and no youthful messages were tagged on the pastel-colored walls. Neglecting the flaring-orange eye of the light switch, he loped past a sumptuous carpet-clad stairwell. Had a sleepless tenant happened to turn on the light, Kalervo – that was the man’s name – would have discorded with the setting. In his wilted wardrobe, he rather seemed wrested from a droopy hut in the wild.
Having bounced through the corridor into the shadows of the garden, he took, without a sideways glance, an immediate turn. His legs swung him and his unsettled baggage down another flight of steps. Now of rough, unplastered bricks.
At the very bottom, the man palpated his way forwardin the windowless murk. Proceeding in a narrow tunnel, he halted a few paces before the rear wall. A cloud of incomprehensible murmur enshrouded him, while he rummaged through the nine pockets of his sagging, melancholic duffle coat, strenuously dangling the bags at his elbow joints. Albeit not earnestly vexed, he rumbled a perfunctory curse – just for the joy of it. A hint of a smirk raised the corners of his mouth.
The blockage was hasped by a padlock. Rather than a proper door, it was a mere wooden lattice: a wicket nailed together out of sturdy planks, uncouth and riddled with holes.
The man’s hands, scrutinizing the lining of the coat, were gnarly and jointed. They had a strange air, reminiscent of the alienating effect of looking at one’s own heels. “Do those really belong to my own body”, one thinks on observing one’s own feet from an unusual angle. The bony, round globs we call heels remind of our natural prehistory – our embodiment among other living beings. Nevertheless, one is generally so accustomed to one’s own parts, that their uncanniness remains inconspicuous.
However lathy and extended Kalervo’s fingers were, they evoked this same effect. Yet, instead of evoking mammalian or, for that matter, even reptilian organs, the knobbed appendages of his seemed rather to belong to botany. They were like roots of a greedy tree: elongated, hairy, tapering toward the tips.
– Typical, the minuscule inner pocket within the breast pocket. I may have to stitch up some of these all-swallowing molochs, Kalervo thought upon finally fingering a tiny key from the recesses of his jacket.
He drew breath, fondled the shiny, fobless key, and unlocked the latch.
Welcomed by the screeching hinge and a familiar fug, the home-comer lowered his loot beside a lean mattress on the ground.
He hatched out of his well-worn sneakers on the cleanish sheets. The feet – as though having fled onto two lifeboats from a shipwreck in a polluted vortex – rescued themselves onto an isle slightly less filthy than the surrounding garbage-filled ocean. Kalervo placed himself contentedly on the bunk, and like into night-cool sand he buried himself under his bulky blanket. After a moment’s prostrate repose, he raised his upper body on his elbows and sprawled toward his luggage.
The first one of the two pieces, a drab, tattered tube bag he had salvaged from the doorway recently, emanated a sugary odor punctuated by the occasional fruit-fly. It bulged with smaller plastic bags smeared with raspberry juice. The staunch arm was just long enough to reach from its blanket-wrap to the hanging straps and Kalervo could wrench the booty to himself.
Still on his stomach, leaned on his arms, Kalervo managed to fumble out a dingy, wrinkled grapefruit from one of the sachets. He sniffed at it absent-mindedly and tossed it aside, his eyes still locked upon their actual target. Another attempt. With the other arm, the searcher got hold of a smooth mango. He fiddled it in his fist and scraped off some soil from the surface. The peel was like limp skin and made the fruit seem a leather purse. It was full of stiff nectar with a firm bollock of a seed in the middle.
Hoggishly, Kalervo sunk the overgrown nail of his forefinger into the tacky skin of the fruit and begun ripping strips off it. The slimy mush of the flesh continued to cling to every shred, and the glutton’s upper teeth grated it into his throat. Devoutly, strip at a time, he suckled at the mellow-sweet pulp. The flesh on the stem-side was already bleary and starting to ferment – to Kalervo’s great delight. It prickled sensually on the compliant tongue and reminded him of sweet champagne. Around the large oblong pit, the front incisors tore with equal ease the already softened but still stringy tissue. The remaining fluids Kalervo sucked out of the skin, and finally smooched his gooey fingers, one by one. His whole, scraggy form sighed, lying in its wrappings, and re-reached to the bag straight away. He set out to knife open the second mango, and spooned it into his expectant maw.
Moneyless and starving, Kalervo had once snatched a microwave pizza that peeked out from a trash can. His imagination, nourished by the pineapple-blue-cheese topping, dove into the cornucopia of throwaway food.
Initially merely restricting himself to plastic-wrapped produce, he had gradually expanded to fresh goods: fruit, vegetables, cheese and meat. Culling the rotting or otherwise unsightly parts, he prepared his findings into decent dinners. Thus, Kalervo had attained a culinary independence.
Slowly, however, lacking a kitchen, his taste buds shifted their preference. He had begun treasuring the putrefied, fermenting mangoes in their own right. No longer did he pine after the unripe biddings of his green-grocer.
Brimming with the residual energy from his nightly excursion, the maverick’s thoughts scampered at the vigorous pace of his pounding heart, while his jaws processed their favorite fruit and his fingers fumbled in the raspberry-stained bags.
His increasingly decaying fruity pleasures were not the only transformation Kalervo’s life underwent. Since mid August, he had been overnighting underground, interred like a hibernating seed awaiting the spring. The basement’s stale and chilly flea-market aroma was his new habitat.
Before letting a subtenant in his former, oh-so-consonant apartment, he’d had his keys reproduced, granting himself perpetual access to the building block’s common underground storage.
The basement was lightless and antiquated. Therefore, none of the other tenants actively availed themselves of their storerooms. Every corner, every nook and every up- and underside teemed with excited dust. Although Kalervo’s subterranean chamber was not exactly airtight, the mold and reek had managed to nestle in the eternal junk that loitered about as though an integral part of the foundation. The belligerent niff seized all clothing entering the room – a process only reversible through vigorous ventilative retroaction.
In spite of the already month-long stay, everything looked unruly. The troglodyte had ceased to worry. Midst his general chattel, Kalervo had dragged a jettisoned single mattress from the parallel street.
Squeezing him in its clammy, limp handshake, the entering autumn had forced him to equip, lest he froze in the increasing dampness. Covering the mattress, there was a hulking, languid blanket, flower-patterned in 60s style. It blanket had been the reconciliatory attempt of an esthete to furnish the dirty hole. The vitality of thepsychedelia-pursuing lilies appeared to have struck its roots into the harsh habitat of the surrounding debris and dust. As if in the hope of eventually tickling the by-buzzing bumblebees with their reproductive parts, they stretched up the enticing, creamy-white blossoms towards the narrow light shaft that emanated a shy glimmer from the awakening outside world.
It wasn’t long until the woven flowerbed felt the claws of the first ground frost. Thereupon, Kalervo had first donned a fluffy winter cloak under it, then added one more in between. Floating on it all, the warm light-duvet of a candle flame flickered restlessly in the faint air-draft.
The thermal husk pulled over his ears, Kalervo nearly invariably slumbered well before daybreak. He was a seed rooted deep in the ground. However, on sunrise, at the moment of perforating the husk and sprouting, he faltered. He escaped into the sleepy confines of himself, wrapping himself in the husk of mock-flowers.
Now, however, he was still frolicking in wide-eyed consciousness, despite the sleek hand of his watch sneaking past nine. The reassurance of the prickling night excited him into digging deeper.
From the yet untouched bag, he yanked a staggering pile of marble-cover tomes and black, untitled journals. He moved the candle closer and sunk with a complacent suspire into the yellowed paper.
Earlier the same day – in an afternoon peculiarly muggy, given the handclasp-ready November knocking at the door – Kalervo felt his armpits moist within his overcoat. Panting, he rumbled up alongside the familiar bench rows. His upward-tilted eyes aimed, without swaying, at the rearmost of them while his hands clasped the wood smoothed by centuries of eager students. He perched himself on a bench, slightly apart from everyone. It was a steeply ascending hall with a pompous podium jutting out bandleader-like in the front, chattering people scattered around the lower half of the seating.
Once again, he had climbed up here.
Apprehensive of what was to come, he knuckled a clunky rhythm on the backrest before him.
Some autumns before, Kalervo had been waiting on these same pews. Equally, he had tapped about with his fingers, though that time, out of enthusiasm. He had just embarked on the academia to quench his thirst for the “mysteries of life,” as he insipidly used to call his occupation. In his mid-twenties, he was but slightly older than his fellow thinkers at the philosophy institute, although his beardedly intense guise underlined the contrast.
At lectures, Kalervo constantly launched himself onto his own musings. Whenever a fascinating cerebration doodled itself into his booklet – at every rustle he picked up in the brambles – he darted off the main road and blustered into the darkness like an untrained hound. He set off on a private path ignorant of its destination, merely following his eager nose and heedful ears. Nervously, with his bony behind, this semi-feral beast squeaked the scratched and scrawled wooden pews of the lecture halls, hishands whizzing about on the paper.
He melded together themes he obscurely considered related. Ranging from self-torture of third-century desert hermits, via organ transplantation and sodomy, to virtual-reality helmets and cyborgs: the thematic cavalcade of his scribblings leapt about boisterously. The reams of notebooks, which now surrounded his mattress in the cellar, were a record of his fancy. The stray dog enjoyed his voyages. Yet, all he had seen vanished in an opaque mist when he attempted to recall or account it.
Initially, he had still believed in everyone combining their own specialized bit to a mutual conceptual clarity. He cooperated with the others, anxious to organize events, discussions and reading groups. In small steps –with great reverence to everything he absorbed– he had aspired to logical rigor.
Despite the complete lack of any literary merits to date, apart from the unpublished, fervently helter-skelter annotations, Kalervo still boasted a potent self-confidence as an unprejudiced talent. Crouching at the back of the auditorium among his journals, he realized that the collective toil wasn’t where he could flourish.
Now that he had tasted the fresh soil of intellect on his own, the image of being a fluttering leaf in the tall-grown oak of the university made him delve deeper into the ground. Like the sere foliage of the autumn, the rebel had gradually fallen out of his seminars. He failed to finish his papers. His mission always lurking in the background, a panic hit him: pounding heart, shaky hands and a shattered mind. He always rather returned to his sketchbooks. The secret garden lured him more than the petty assignments at which his co-students were toiling. He didn’t despise what the others were doing, though. In fact, he quite admired them for their couth. Yet, his roots had already found earth.
He merely needed to find the facility to unite everything, he thought, an independence from external distractions. Before processing his unruly mind into an opus, he could not return and be content. He was to grow in his own humus; start as a tiny seed; grope around in the ground with the first tender radicle, rebelliously peering up towards the sun with the fresh, light-green sprout. He wanted to his own compost, to convert it into a radiating, peculiar, staggering inflorescence, an unprecedented versicolor blossom with lush petals; stamens waving in the air, covered with a sugary layer of pollen; with a pistil unparalleledly plump and alluring; all surrounded by clouds of stupefying, syrupy odor and dazzling fumes.
If he just found the peace.
However, here he was again. On the branches of the same old giant oak that testified his perpetual self-harrowing. Soaking up new information.
The reason he had wanted to surface once more from his earthly womb, was that in the day’s topic, globalization and the modern division of labor, paralleled his own life. Should there be a global network of trade, art and science where each individual specializes in a tiny fraction of expertise, or is self-sufficiency the ideal?
This was exactly the question of his own writing work. Should he ramble ahead on his personal quest, meaningful perhaps only for himself?
On the lecture, he was observing from the back row the discursive unfolding of thoughts. The train of thought swept his own person too closely. He felt he was standing in the median strip between two by-thundering freight trains. Neither did he dare to run and jump onto one of the trains nor did he get away. He was trapped in the heights of a railway bridge. A queasiness overtook him.
Glimmering through the discussion, he saw his own urge to isolation along with his aspiration for recognition take form like a sharpening mirror image. The tentative ideas of the savvy course mates were like poking fingers materializing from the reflection, reaching towards him, picking him to the verge of frenzy.
He wanted to reveal to the others his identity, finally sprout from his slumbering seed. He longed their recognition. Longed for understanding and embrace.
Staring into vertigo, Kalervo grew nauseous in the back row of the auditorium. He had to leave.
He gleaned together his belongings dispersed over four seats, bagged it all and lurked towards the exit. He sought tranquility, space where he wouldn’t have to share his murky thoughts with the shrewd and the knowledgeable. He would finally start.
Having sidled silently through the rear door of the lecture hall and tiptoed towards the library, the fugitive bumped into a group of six healthy lads. He vaguely recognized a few as co-students. They were lingering on the lawn, slurping coffee from cardboard mugs. Among them, reclining against a tree, pensive, Kalervo discerned the gorgeous boy after whom he had once lusted so voluptuously; the complexion as pristine as a petal; the wave of hair radiatingly clean; the young face pythagorically symmetric. In fact, his bland beauty bordered on mediocrity. Yet, his tranquil stability had fixated the troubled beholder.
In his dark, rose-patterned jacket, the lad would have perfectly matched his own lily-spangled blanket in the cellar, Kalervo thought. He imagined the lad, lying serenely in the flower bed among the blossoms, eyelids pressed shut, a smile on his face.
Suddenly, the boy’s well-proportioned head rose from the roses and eyed Kalervo inquisitively. He couldn’t enjoy the mental vision any further. The group grinned and beckoned Kalervo to join. Kalervo felt an agitation build in his upper chest, expand its way up his throat, through the nape into the cranium, extruding everything the skull contained.
– No, not now, not yet! a hoarse shout reverberated in the panic-voided head.
Anxious, he couldn’t conjure but a contrived smile and an askance look, and jerked his sinewy hand in the direction of the students. He had to write. Feeling self-conscious, he continued steadfastly with the same pre-encounter bearing, but cursed his timidness at the same time. Why couldn’t he be easygoingly receptive, approach them and acquaint himself with the boy?
Marching onwards, Kalervo tried to concentrate. He scraped together his filthy brain-leakage that was now all over his jacket. He refilled his empty skull, stuffed everything back in. He had to complete his thought-process. In this mind-state, he was unreachable. Kalervo’s slushy brain matter was in a muddle, everything was unwashed, filthy and musty, just like his bunk in the basement, just like his garbage-can diet. Possibly, everything was severely moldy.
He considered his subsistence as a hermit a mere momentary excursion – a brief earthly respite. Kalervo dreamt of a time when he could sprout. Having sorted out his nutrients, he imagined himself growing out of the shadowy must, unfolding his leaves and returning to the airy altitudes where he had previously soughed.
A return, brandishing his magnum opus, where he’d at last celebrate his adventurous detour in quest of unprecedented thought. Conscious, secure and self-made, he would then keep a healthy distance to intruding impulses.
First in his mind, though, was the ability to face the boy. Letting the boy intertwine with himself, like a vine creeping around a tree, pressing its tendrils against the rough bark of his trunk.
The worn-out university main library was replete with silent halls and echoing galleries, themselves replete with dusty tomes from past centuries. There were minor medieval thinkers no longer scrutinized with the erstwhile fervor; a corpus of renaissance work acquired to the collection, but utterly neglected afterwards.
In his sneakers, the bibliophile trembled mutely along the desolate corridors. He shivered on, from shelf to shelf, and petted the leather-covered spines of the untold volumes. Upon recognizing an engaging title, he fetched it down and fingered open the index, scanning some passages and filling his journal with hasty diagrams of arrows and bubbles.
His nostrils sucked in the wistful library must and an unknown, voracious species of mold germinated in his mind, thrusting its hyphae through the cerebral jumble.
Outside, the tense stickiness discharged into a tempest. Pedestrians flitted aside towards the nearest shelter, still drenched by the abrupt, asphalt-battering downpour. Yet, the thunder failed to perforate the stout walls around Kalervo’s fortress of fantasy.
He tensed up his botanic hands before his hairy countenance. He stretched his fingers and stared insistently at the pulsating veins creeping around his arms. He imagined them as vibrant roots, growing in a thin fissure in the asphalt of contemporary literature. The thin root-tips slithering around pebbles and pages, insistently pushing through the tight crevices until they found the freedom of the soil underneath the constructed pavement, all the way into the rotten sediments inhumed under the mass of modern cleanliness.
He rejoiced in burying himself into abandoned books, delving into outdated content discredited by others.
Around midnight, the somnolent janitor shooed Kalervo away from his reading nook. Startled, he stumbled out through the revolving door, carrying a plump load of reading matter. Eyes awry from manically perusing everything within fingers’ reach, he glanced around, as if awakened from a dream, and shuddered under the unveiled, cold firmament.
Before returning to his below-ground refuge for a shut-eye, he was to find some fruits to munch on during the night.
Thus, he rolled to a shadowy backyard of a supermarket near the library. From the vast containers he angled a bagful of dumped delicacies and once again, he had secured for his growth a couple of days’ worth of fertilizer.
Satisfied, he straddled his shaky, crackle-pop bicycle, and perched the bags on the rack, set to treadle off. Then, at a hint of familiarity, he halted.
He could just make out a tail of a flower jacket vanish around the corner. Kalervo peered into the now desolate street. Albeit curious, he was determined merely to tug his culinary-literary lading home, without further deviations. In need of rest for tomorrow’s travail, he made an effort to focus.
The rationalization was to no avail, however: he found himself wheeling like bewitched to the opposite direction. The pedals rattled a few gyrations and the bike glided him round the corner. After the turn, Kalervo descended from the saddle and walked the bike, careful not to alert the lad with the poltering contraption.
The clean, symmetric boy with the flower jacket – whose name Kalervo had never bothered to ascertain – was delicate, and progressed peacefully on the pavement, as though floating above the uneven ground. Meanwhile, he had tied his refulgent-dark mane into a neat topknot.
Apart from the pair, Kalervo marching at a fair distance from the boy, only an intermittent cab dinned the rain-glazed cobblestones of the nocturnal streets. Otherwise, the city was a corpse in winter. A brisk, lucid breeze pushed back into the clear sky the remnants of the pre-storm warmth the shy sun had but hours earlier cast down. The frigid gusts insisted on a waltz with the fiery-glimmering fallen leaves.
Kalervo trailed the boy for a considerable stretch. They threaded through the tracery of the city, and half of Kalervo wished the followed one to turn around. Even so, he lacked the courage to shout to the boy.
– If only he were like the innumerable tomes in the library, Kalervo thought – If only I could simply go and caress his back and trace the ridge of his spine; lay him on the palm of my hand, open the cover and blow away the dust. Kiss him, blabber to him, ultimately returning him into the shelf.
Desperate for oil, the bike gave a sudden shriek, shattering the trance of the follower. He sensed the boy startle up, as though via an immediate connection. The boy was descending a steep staircase to an alley meandering below the two; he glanced over his shoulder. In the shade, he caught Kalervo’s frightened, gleaming eyes and his foot slipped on the slimy autumn leaves.
His hand jerked for balance, but couldn’t restore it. The sleek body plunged down the rocky steps. The adamant pavement welcomed the skull with a sonorous crack. The boy rolled limply down to the next landing and remained inert.
Blood trickled from the back of his head, down his neck. The face looked earthwards.
Kalervo heaved his bicycle aside and galloped down.
He halted near the fallen one. There it lay, his daydream, wrapped in the blood-smeared flower cloak, glowing under the bleak, yellowish shimmer of the streetlights. Kalervo stared, a peculiar flutter in his eyes. Time passed.
He found himself knelt, fondling the shiny but dirtied raven hair, and fiddling with the folds of the coat. With care, he turned the lean figure on his back; assumed him lifeless without inspecting the heartbeat nor breathing.
He contemplated about the lost life – all that the pristine boy could have achieved with his pristine fellows. With a single screech, Kalervo had razed the beauty to the ground. Down to compost, into his own realm.
The lad’s face was bruised and lacerated, smudged by the earthy foliage, yet tranquil. Kalervo’s fingers traced unswervingly the contours of the body, stroking the skin, not straying before the wounds, caressing the blood-trickling graze, petting his soft cheeks. Kalervo simpered. He gripped the boy on the shoulder and combed the hair with his root-like fingers. Ajar like an awakening bud, the boy’s mouth received a languorous kiss. In the dry creases of the flaccid lips, Kalervo tasted the fresh blood and the rich, autumnal decomposing soil. Eyes firmly shut, he savored the liaison of the tastes. He remained on the ground, beside the still warm body, consuming it with every one of his senses; firmly, he embraced the limp protagonist of his reverie.
He recognized he wasn’t to brag with a gaudy blossom. The soil satisfied him.
Swallowed by the dark earth along with his decaying love, his mold- and dirt-loving mind had achieved it all.
- Vinski Valos -