The hedges are coming down. I see the hedges, coming down. This is what I’ve wanted, what I’ve been working for all this time. I know things will be better with the hedges down.
Thick, prickly, and thoroughly concealing, the hedges have protected me. They keep people out and keep me safe. They also keep me in, and I can’t see other people very well through the hedges. Of course, most people I don’t want to see anyway. So what’s the loss?
As the hedges are coming down, I realize I could pull them up entirely. They’ll grow back up, you know. I guess I need them to grow back, just slowly so I’ll have time to learn the skill to manage them well. So that I can keep them at the right height and distance such that others can see me and I them, but I will still be safe. Right?
It seems like not so long ago when I was trying to cut these hedges and just could not make any gains, any way for me to see through the other side or around the sides or over the top. I guess it’s been over ten years now. I guess it’s been almost fifteen. The hedges have remained. Somehow, I have managed to see and to reach through at times. I have found voices and hands that will help. I still don’t like touching them, though.
As the sky opens up larger and larger where the hedges were, and I see the aspects of my space more clearly and into the spaces beyond mine, I see that there is no limit. Anything I can plant, I can grow. Anything I can cut, I can destroy. Anything I am patient with, I can shape.
The hedges are coming down. Why am I afraid?
Grace. There is grace living in the footnotes of life. But there is loneliness too. It seems in order to be recognized is to stumble into the light and be mocked. There in that crucible I find my strength to be alive, to be something more. And for what?
For what it seems is just to be known and seen, to survive the jaws of wolves and now be free to walk about among the people of my time, here in what is now the future of my childhood.
My childhood, I say, but also the dreams of all others before me of this time, oceans of whom did not live to see it. But I did, simply and apparently by virtue of timing and having been born in the right place at the right time. That’s how other people say it, yeah, and that I take this for granted and don’t know what I have. I say it sure doesn’t feel like the right place or the right time.
My whole life—or most of it anyway, if I’m honest and steering clear of some drama—has been spent not caring much for reality, for believing another time and place would have been more appropriate to my personality. Of course, had that been, would I still be me? Or would I be like so many others of my time, walking around like contented cattle? It’s a trap.
I still feel this trap with respect to place, finding myself wanting to brave the wilds and travel somewhere exotic or huge. But I don’t.
I don’t. Instead, I remain in the footnotes, on the margins of my own life, afraid to enter the text, or sometimes brave enough but ignorant of how.
I have not had such an easy time of introducing myself to this world that’s the right place and the right time, this world of tomorrow today, this metropolis of dreams for those aspirants that came before me. And many of them felt this way too, I’m sure, as that was what cast their eyes so far forward in the first place. But now they’re dead. And we never met. I can’t ask them what to do now.
Even if I could, the elders don’t know. They have the ways of their times and those ancient ways they have been unable to uncover and apply to this dying earth. But there exist those inexhaustible queries that make life, well, life and not the perfection of death—a completed life, that is.
So when I see the gods and goddesses of today in this place incarnate and the powers they wield and the cities they live in, I see it for what it is: illusion woven from the largess of those who built it and whose descendants keep it all running, the prayers and wishes of the mortal world sent to them and adding to their power. I cannot help but want to walk among them. That, and to be here as I am with my son in this town on the edge of civilization in this war-torn remnant of a dead culture trying to be something new and alive but frozen. Frozen, or at best thawing and logy from the warming.
There is a framework, a structure I posit, that will open a portal and give me passage to anyplace I would like to go. I’ve devoted my recent years to the study and construction of this gate, much as in my earlier adulthood I constructed a raft to escape an island; and, after between then and now, building and outfitting a seaworthy boat.
I have some of the tools needed for the job but am missing others. I need a larger crew, as well, and am not sure of who’ll fit the job. I also have no blueprint other than my own imagination, intuition, and ingenuity. But I do have a star, an anchor, a small core crew, and a boat. I can work from here to develop the plans and build this portal along the footnotes into the world of dreams, or rather into those spaces that exist between the margins, on the inside.
When the first wave hit me, I didn’t understand. Then the second wave hit, then the third, then I understood. I understood but couldn’t explain. I still can’t. So I picked up the pace.
Down by the Second Baptist Church, just off the interstate, I saw my friend, Jill.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” said Jill. “You feel it too, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“But what is it?” asked Jill.
I didn’t say anything after that. We walked to her car, I think. Somehow, we were in her car. I think it was hers, and I think that we walked to it.
Driving along—riding along, actually. Jill was driving, I realized—no remembered, green. Green fields and succulent growth within. My heart sank, and my eyes teared up. I wanted to say something. To Jill, I think, but I couldn’t. It was so tragic. And beautiful. But I can’t seem to remember—or describe, I guess, in what way. My head’s fuzzy.
“Are we dead?” asked Jill.
I smiled, warming inside. “No,” I responded. “At least, I don’t think so.” My smile widened and my warmth increased. “What do you think?”
Jill was crying, I think, when she said, “I don’t know.”
I was warm and fuzzy.
“Pass the cream, please,” I said.
Jill passed me the cream.
Jill and Darren and I were sitting in a Waffle House. I think.
Jill’s eyes seemed red. I’m sorry. I can’t remember.
“What’s the matter, Jill?” I asked.
“The purple came in ... the purple came in …” She whined and sobbed.
Darren’s dark brown eyes shifted wildly from side to side in their sockets.
“Darren?” I asked.
“I don’t want the soft glove, or the daisy plow, or the Duck God Monsaco! Please! Please! God help me!”
I was puzzled and then the fourth wave hit. I saw the verdant field again. Or was this the first time and the other the memory? How had I gotten to the Second Baptist Church? Had I been there yet?
“Purple, purple, purple ... all over me ... feeling me ... caressing me, filling me up ...” Jill mumbled.
I could hear her.
“Nice to meet you, Monsaco. That’s quite a nice daisy plow you have there. And my! That soft glove sure does make handshaking fun!” Darren’s enthusiasm’s intense to sit next to.
I could hear him.
I was in the lush, jade field wandering among many fruits and thriving flora. So much beauty. Then I was sad. Or maybe I was already sad. Can’t be sure. I wanted to stay. Forever. Maybe I did. No. No, I definitely did not. But I wouldn’t have minded. Fields are so beautiful. Beautiful and green. It reminded me of something. Something old. Something forgotten and blue. Something that smelled like hazelnuts. Something? No. It was someplace. No! Someone. But who? A love? No. Then who? Someone distant. The fifth wave brought them close. They arrived on a moonbeam.
Scotty, Merly, and I. And Darren, I think. Fucking? A cock? Oh, gosh, excuse my language! Blood and blistering heat. Lipstick on a cock. My cock? Merly’s lipstick. Merly’s lips stick to my cock. Stuck. I stuck my cock in her lips. Fuck. What’s happening? Scotty? Can I kiss you? Stubble on my neck feels good. Where’s Darren? Did I ask that aloud? Purple. Purple and hot. Scathing cold nipples on my back. Purple nipples. No, purple in between. In between nipples. Less leg. More charm. Arms and asses and tits. Language! Sorry Ms. Murphy. Zits. It’s lost. Cost more than I know. Oh no, the field is gone.
Jill led the way. Then Merly, then me. The others were dead. Or were they alive? Were we dead? And where was Monsaco and what’s his game? God, Jill has a great ass. Tight, full, and yummy. Wait, that’s mine. I’m behind myself again. Yet?
We’re in a video rental store. A chain. I can’t see the name. I can’t look at the logo. It won’t let me. Me. I’m charming. No, I’m charmed. Harmed?
“What do you want to see?” Jill asked.
“The Color Purple,” I said.
Jill’s bottom lip began to twitch, and she crumpled to the floor.
Merly glared at me over horn-rimmed glasses. “You’re with Monsaco!”
“No!” I objected vehemently. I still do, in fact. I think. No adverbs, so I just object. Wait … shit that’s one too …
Merly and I rolled around on the floor, wrestling. She had her glasses on, but nothing else. Her hair was wavy and artificially red. Red like the soft glove. She’s hot and wet, and I’m crawling around inside. She’s on top. My arms’re pinned by her hands. I shouldn’t be saying this … Help me …
I watched us from outside the video store window. Inside, it was all red. Dark red on the floor that faded up to a nebulous ceiling. I think my head’s starting to clear. In the center of the store we fucked, Merly and I. I said it, crap. I wasn’t supposed to say it.
She began to scream and pull my hair.
She screamed, “There isn’t one light but two! I see my mother’s face as a child, and her eyes are green!”
I could hear her.
Somewhere Jill was crying.
I could not see her. Red had eclipsed purple and Monsaco’s nowhere to be seen. I didn’t trust him anyhow.
One last … thing? Time? One last ... here it is! The second light—or maybe the first—but I know there are two. The sixth wave hits. Then the seventh. The seventh wave and then the first light and then the second. And I’m at the intersection. Intersection 712. Where the stoplight changes from green to purple to red. No yellow. No yellow ‘cause there’s no sun at Intersection 712. I’m gonna miss you all. I love you.