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"So go get your knife now kiss me I can float here forever In this room we can't touch" - “Knife Party”, on the CD White Pony, by the Deftones My body hung from the rope in that limp-limb, head-lolling, dead-weight yet seems like it should blow side to side in a stiff breeze, pose. But, of course, in my apartment there was no breeze. I hadn’t opened any windows. Therefore, there was no breeze at all to take away the stench of my last deed. In that thing, I mean. And yes, I suppose, yes, yes, yes, I regretted it, looking at the result now. I mean we all have regrets over some big moment. At the time, though, well, it seemed like the thing to do. You know, not on the same level as “it seemed like the thing to do, to buy imported beer rather than some cheap American brand.” However, it seemed like the best thing to do. I walked up to myself and pushed my body out away from me…it swung away and then quickly returned towards me and I jumped back a bit startled. It seems we are always startled by a dead body, even when it’s your own. I watched it swing back and forth with an odd attachment, swing-swing-swing like the pendulum on a grandfather clock, until it stopped, and then I looked at my body some more. I made a funny little lip curl and frowned. It had served me well. What the fuck did I do this for? I sighed. Buyer’s remorse. At the time, of course, it seemed logical. When people are dying of some disease, and that disease is a lingering, slowly progressing disease, and it makes you old, you begin to lose your body. You lose control, and some of us get frustrated and tired of…well, tired of it all. An enveloping sadness settles on you, in you, and begins to control you. Eventually you have little decision authority on most of your life. One thing is left to you. Whether or not to eat or drink. You CAN control that. But then you realize…no…no you can’t control that forever. You have limited control, even, on that. At some point they will take that control from you. But the thing is…you realize one night that your control now begins to come down to stopping them from taking your control away. It will be, you realize, your last decision, the last thing you control, but it is under your control.
So you take it. That is what I did. Not from some terrible wasting disease. No no no. I should be clear. Nothing so noble or brave as that. Nope. Have no pity on me for that. No. I was not wasting away from a disease. It was something far more evil and, looking back, avoidable. I pushed my body hanging from the rope one more time and walked away, letting it swing by itself without an audience. If only my last act had been alone. I was the kind of guy who had a cheaper (but not the cheapest) camera but had great ideas for pictures, knew a thing or two about how to compose a picture, and went to interesting places that deserved to have a few pictures composed of them. So I took a lot of pictures, ascribing to the theory that the best picture is no more than an accident of timing. So since it was a matter of odds, I took a lot of pictures. I wanted to capture the accident. And one night, in a lot of pictures I had taken, I discovered something. Or someone. Quite by accident. Since it was a wonderful evening, from a weather point of view, and I had been caged all day inside a corporate building, I had taken an evening walk in a small forest preserve along the river. I had taken along my digital camera, thinking I might get some odd lighting or sight of the natural world turning itself inside out for night’s descent. That time when the forest seemed to pull back the covers and let its secrets out of their day bed. I walked a familiar path, taking a shot here or there, but otherwise enjoying the sounds of night birds calling, frogs groping for their mates, and the whisper of the evening breeze through leaves turning dark as the daylight faded. So it was that night did descend and I took my requisite series of pictures. The evening sank into a cool breath of air, as the light became golden and then grey. Not fearing the dark, but respectful of what it could hide, even on the outskirts of an urban area, or perhaps because of that outskirts – well, it was 30 minutes away, but close enough – I hesitated to be out in the real night. I walked the forest path back to my car without incident and drove home. The last remaining woods passed by my car window as I drove out of the back, silent ghosts closing in unison behind me as they merged into a dark mass. In the dark my car headlights lit the rows and rows of shoulder high corn stalks, mute in the strobe light of my car’s passing. Eventually I passed back into the jarring lights and activity of the city, getting to my home as quickly as I could. I got out some chips, salsa, and beer, and took a look at the pictures I had taken, in the comfort of a couch, in my home. The pictures were as I suspected…some out of focus due to the light, some out of focus due to me, some in the “what did I take THAT for?” category, and one or two in the “hey…I almost have something HERE” grouping.
Probably I would have had a great shot, one that could be published, if I would invest in a better camera…one that gave more options than zoom in or out and auto or manual focus. But, whatever. I was doing this for me. And I enjoyed the freedom of not worrying about the shot…just being able to stop, point, compose (and let half my breath out to allow my body to steady itself…then…), snap. Picture 31 looked really interesting to me: a tree root, graying and exposed and catching the last sun just right. Picture 32 was out of focus. I couldn’t even tell what I had hoped to capture. I moved the review button forward to see the next picture. Picture 33 was of a clearing, and nothing remarkable was there. I moved to picture 34. Here, I stopped, and stopped cold. On the 34th picture. Because there, in the background of the clearing in the shot was a wisp of a woman. Wisp because she wasn’t fully there. Nonetheless, enough of her was there to be captured by the camera. And enough of that was captured to make me sit up straight. What was this? I checked picture 33 again. The clearing I was photographing was shades of dark green against green-black, shadows encroaching from the forest around. But no woman, wisp or otherwise. It was clear and clean and totally what I would expect. An uninteresting picture of an uninteresting clearing in the woods where nothing ever happened. But now interesting for what WASN’T there given what I …was I remembering and seeing this all corrently? Forwarding back to picture 34, and there she is. Stealing out of the forest ever so slightly, and staring at me or the camera. It wasn’t possible to get a clear look at her here due to the light available in the almost descended night at that moment. Nonetheless, she was a taller woman, thin but strong-looking, with straighter dark hair. She was wearing what one could properly call some sort of forest garb, some leather jerkin covered by a cape of some sort. Her dark eyes were oddly and plainly visible and almost magnetic, peering out from under slightly lidded-on-the-top eyes. I used the camera viewer zoom to close in on her face, but the loss of detail due to the dark didn’t help. In getting back to normal zoom on the picture I somehow flipped to picture 35. There she was again! Turning back into the forest, and looking over her shoulder, but – and I am sure of this, sure of it – she is smiling. Ever so slightly, one side of her mouth just slightly above the other, in what was a sensuous curve of the lip, in what was a detail that shouldn’t have been visible in that light and from that distance. I went ahead to picture 36 but she was no longer in the picture. Not much was. The light had faded considerably between pictures 35 and 36. WAIT…there she was, or rather, it appeared to be her eyes I was seeing, just over a leaf. How that was showing up, I had no idea. No idea. There was no picture 37. I went back to picture 35. I would not think anybody would be off the trail and in the forest at night. It wasn’t a large forest, but there were a few ravines and fallen logs down. Not to mention coyotes and raccoons and whatever else moved in the forest at night. She did not, however, appear to be worried or concerned in the least. Still, as I sat back
in my chair, I knew that tomorrow I would be out on that trail again, or rather off the trail at this very spot where the woman had been. I thought then about my walk back to my car, in the deepening dark, and got chills. Suddenly I wondered if she had followed me. Did she watch me? Was she able to move silently through the brush without me hearing or suspecting? I shook my head. I didn’t want to make her out to be some sort of specter, or elf, or whatever. No…she was a mystery, but she was a real woman and tomorrow I would go back and look for her. And if I didn’t find her, I knew I better have a supper packed and available to eat, because I would be waiting for her in the evening.
"I watched a change in you It's like you never had wings And you feel so alive I've watched you change" - “Change (In the House of Flies)”, White Pony, Deftones I thought of that first night while I stared vacantly at the window. It was night outside, and since there was a light on inside the house here next to where I sat, the window became like a mirror. In that dark mirror, I saw me sitting here, at a table, in a hard wooden chair. Behind me was the other me. Swinging back and forth still, the rope around my neck, the head tilted at that idiot angle. I wondered idly why I was still swinging, wondered if I had become a perpetual motion machine! Wouldn’t that be grand? The camera was on the table. I picked it up, and turned it on. I swiveled in my chair and aimed the camera at my swinging body, practiced taking the picture a couple times to get the timing right, and then hit the button. The flash was brilliant in the room, like lightning on a dark night, lighting up corners. I turned back to the table, and hit the review pictures button. There I was, caught at the end of one of my swings. My toes were pointed like a ballerina’s, and perhaps I danced in my death. Certainly I held my pose flawlessly. No 5
one could fault me for that. The picture was well composed. I was not “smack dab in the middle of the picture”. I was off to one side a bit. I had divided the frame into nine squares, and my body was in the middle and off to the right, and this gave my still body a wonderful sense of motion, swinging. The picture was actually pretty good. It captured the action! I tilted my head and smiled a small self-congratulatory smile on not losing my composition skills. What I was interested in, however, was what was in the background. I searched carefully. I enlarged the picture so I could see details better. I scrutinized the background, looking, searching, examining. She was not, however, there. Nowhere to be found. I wasn’t surprised. I was getting able to sense her. Still, the camera was my best bet, the bottom line, so to speak, on whether or not she was around. I took a couple more pictures of the corners of the room, tilting the camera at an odd angle, to give the result more interest. These newest pictures I also examined, and these also proved to be empty of her. I turned off the camera and put my head in my hand, turning it while resting, and watched my body swing. Very odd. I watched this for about a minute although it seemed like an hour. This was beginning to bore me. I got up and decided to go outside. At the door I paused, and considered turning off the light. But then I decided what the hell do I care anymore about energy conservation? And anyhow, I thought it would give me grim pleasure thinking some neighbor would eventually see my body swinging back and forth in the light, through the window. It would be no mirror to them. Instead it would literally be a window to the soul! I chuckled at my pun. Dead on, eh? This would be a bit more interaction than the casual wave my neighbors and I usually gave each other on the way in or out. Well, I was on my way out. No arguing that. Better give me a slap on the back before it is too late, neighbor!!! Would they notice my toes pointed so perfectly? Bastards! I bet such effort on my part would be wasted. I realized then I forgot my camera and retrieved it. I also went to my desk and got the extra memory cards. One was full, one was completely empty, and the one in the camera was mostly empty. It would do. I left the house and considered leaving the door open. I was afraid, however, of vermin coming in and chewing on my body. Again I thought “Bastards!” Then I told myself I better come up with a new tag line. “Bastards” would wear thin soon. Still, vermin chewing on my foot – even though I didn’t use that one anymore – well, somehow that didn’t sit right with me. Made me a bit queasy. I squinted, thinking, after all, that the swinging body, motionless, was an odd sort of cocoon for me. I had changed and emerged. The cocoon should not be disturbed. I closed the door behind me and walked down the path.
It reminded me of another path, on another day. The day I went back to the woods to search for her. Before it all “went wrong.”
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