Judith, again, turning her head over her shoulder just before she disappears around the corner. It is cold, but with a tepid wind in the canyons of the greater metropolis. I can feel the wind knife around that mysterious corner, that exit from stage center, and she has disappeared into it – extant but extorted by the emptiness of the open sidewalk.
I rush to close the difference between us. We have not crossed paths in many days, and the loss of that randomness is too much order in my life for me to take. I am missing these things that open holes in time, these portals to places I have been, and things I have traveled to. Judith is a column of fire and smoke in the desert, a green light across the harbor. I pursue her in an odyssey of intention, without meaning and without purpose, only to find that she will and has never existed in this reality.
I turn the corner, and, to my surprise, am met by a flock of canaries.
On Wednesday, I have an important meeting with dignitaries from a firm my business partners feel I should be jealous of. They have arranged a meeting at a small coffee shop a number of blocks east of the trendy uptown area so many people are mistaken to assume their custom is a sign of status therein. My business partners have done this in a blatant attempt to set a new standard of status – they want to be the sharp-shirted noticeables that those who have the eye for trendsetters automatically gawk at and reach for their smartphones to inform the masses of their passing. I anticipate that within five minutes of our arrival there, the old uptown area has turned from “trendy” to “last year’s mocha jazz poser party”. I mention all of this because upon my arrival, I am floored to discover that Judith herself is the leader of these dignitaries. Her right-hand man has a Tubeway Army sleeve, blown-out lines – what a waste, what a misuse of ink, what a terrible scene he must have felt himself a part of.
“It is nice to meet you,” she says with her canary voice. She shakes my offered hand, and I can feel the dampness of ages in that embrace. It is as if centuries of death in the company of one another still demands the clamminess remain between our bodies, only to be felt at close proximity.
“A pleasure shared, I’m sure,” I reply. But, I am not sure. The deep, rich wood paneling of the coffee shop is disorienting, offset to annoyance by the poorly selected steel accents. They make no sense, and, in a matter of moments, my lucidity awakens my dreaming mind from its poison passion play.
I wake up, and I weep for the loss of that canary voice, again.
I find myself entering doors I have left behind, intending never to cross those thresholds again. But, alas, I am present in those places in repetition over the next several weeks after my dream. I attempt to appear as if I am interested in purchasing pastries and hats, but the charade is lost when I continuously and desperately tear away the curtains from fitting rooms, or kick open toilet stalls, hoping to be attacked by canaries and birdsong.
To be the seeker of things beyond this reality, knowing deep within that the truth of my existence is bound up in the press of alternate universes from either side of my consciousness, is a privilege that I cannot fathom as a reward for my service, though by intense study it must be. It must be. My entry upon the mortal coil, as disastrous and melancholy as was intended given the trends of the era, did not go unnoticed. I have not completed the tasks that have been set out before me. I have wandered, lustfully, into dens of lassitude and liquor. I have pursued the inevitable needles of verisimilitude, wanting them to pierce me with suggestion in absence of substance. I have wanted to believe in the illogical, the mundane, and the idiotic.
It is my intention to find this woman, this caricature of Lovecraftian mystery, and be devoured by the hidden maw of her malevolent subsistence in this tangle of reality and unreality. Surreal though our romance may be, she is the black nail upon the flesh of my pessimistic hatred for myself – pure it is, and pale, when compared to her dark intentions.
The following month finds me wandering through a cemetery in the rain. With optimistic and wild windmilling movements of my arms, I attempt to obtain a rubbing of a gargoyle perched upon a lichen-black crypt. When I pull the rubbing paper away, I am shocked to witness the monstrous face transform into the face of Judith, her dimples wicked in Italian marble.
She says to me: “I don’t believe I’ve shared the pleasure. I am sure of it.”
I descend, without intent, from my own perch upon the crypt, backwards, my windmilling arms now seeking purchase against gravity. The battle lost, I am impaled upon the wrought-iron gate that inappropriately places a boundary around the old corpse shed.
Judith looks down at the violence and clucks her tongue disdainfully.
“Out with the old, in with nudes,” she chuckles.
I wait for canaries – but I am disappointed by ravens.