Delight/Equal Dread

Jared Daniel Fagen


Here, over here. There was something here, before any of this, but now it is gone, erased entirely, and in its place, makes no difference, but it will stay, I suppose instead, I'm not sure for how long, looks like for good, maybe just for now, I will have to make it permanent, if I wish to continue, somehow, in any case. Go on with it, so be it. What would it have been like had I not denied who I was, had I let my hair grow long, wore loose-fitting clothes, didn't take up drink or smoke, never spoke, kept to myself and not the gossip, the coteries, the shame, slept and never hastened? There would still be the calm, on spare occasion, alone, the coldly being, not wishing it otherwise, warmth, that is, and the eyes, yes, always the eyes, the outlines they survey, give expression to, pervade, and, of course, the mind, which does not follow the same shapes the eyes frame, only other, distant contours, in a fog or haze, leading to somewhere elsewhere, perhaps sleep, or death, we'll know soon enough, that I follow in the silence, the shadows again, from a greater summit, that is the cavern of my dread and ecstasy, difficult to tell the two apart, keeping me still, or numb, or neutral, nothing, really. Now what else do I say? Sometimes I startle myself, but swiftly find torment again, because, in total sum, I loathe to be, really. Yes, denial, it could be loss, too, of hope, I suppose, despair, I don't know, these are just words, an instinct, don't quote me. Alas, something of me stays, here. I am an instant, drawn and quartered, there are the signs that I am aging poorly, the rashes on my feet, reaching upward on my body, the growth of excess skin in the crevices of it, the perspiration in my palms, the armpits, behind the bend of my knees, perpetually. But then the before, making its way back, it always does, no? returns a mauled form, an auspice, under the rain or in a crowded space, not as I remembered, a devastation in the face, yes, always a face returning, featureless, not belonging in the throngs or torrent, but the throes, that much is certain, or familiar, to an extent, the vision, that is, if that is what it can be called, obscurant, once an instant in itself, which I have forgotten the feeling of, keenly felt, but no longer the lack, except there were no eruptions of rashes then, I don't recall the slightest flare-up, not on the surface, at least, I was plumper, more red, better dressed and stylish, for the time, always a servant to time, and then to fashion, wearing scarves and buying women drinks I could not afford, but leaving it at that, only a gesture, really, nothing more intended, though I knew the gesture well, practiced it often on myself, in the mirror, but never exceeded it, I prayed for different outcomes, never having the courage to ask if I might walk them home, stay the night, I suppose, with the drunk women. Some things have not changed, at least, there is still the persistent terror, always being afraid, now of different things, which probably don't exist, not in time, anyway. Those were instants now erstwhile, I know a few others, but I am unsure if they'd really happened, the way the vision projects it. Had I only been witness? Sure enough there were other beds, audacities even, disgraced mornings I fled, but wanted to stay, it's too late, either way recreated, as the voyeur or the object, the resolute chagrin. In another time and another place, maybe. The places, yes, I can revisit them, though they are no longer intact. I arrive there again, from the well where my frenzies stir, mostly by accident, by way of different routes, longer journeys, from other entrances once closed-off or unknown to me, my recrudescence more peculiar than the ruin, how it looks to me now, or is it the sensation that is odd, the sorrow, that is, of being again at a destination that once held meaning, the meaning now a memory for which there is no respite, these places that can only be described by absence. Now then, the time, I tell it by thresholds, how long to stay the image, surfaced from the instant already withered, having been the encounter, stumbled upon again, with the iron gate, rusted, opening onto the field, the park bench, immediately on the left, a memorial to a name I've repeated often, every time I sat there, and the shade, all fiendishly the same as they were, as they once appeared, back then, scarcely changed, maybe the leaves have fallen the color of fall, or the sidewalk has been repaved, but otherwise the ache, yes, freshly dressed, of the before that is no longer, the face that fades under my faculties, the face that my eyes betray, the eyes looking at something else, or past something else, really, till the mind wanders elsewhere, too, that is, goes away from here, or begins to wonder, how much time has passed? The shade stretches farther now, blending with the crepuscule without interruption, at least from me, anyway, how could I stop it? I mustn't, if I could, see clearly the way things used to be, they never were, and now the night descends on me, the way a thing always is, or ought to be, dire, desperate, too dark to see, with the eyes and the mind, yes, both unwilling, but they oblige me, so that I can continue, in one way or another. I tend to an itch, before I can go on, walking, at least there is that, in addition to cowardice, always walking, my favored mode of travel, to the next place, farther away from, farthest out. The psoriasis has spread to the outside of my right leg, a few inches below the kneecap. If it had been on the inside of my left leg, I could, still standing, use my right foot, more accurately the innermost toe, to lessen the irritation, I imagine like a flamingo would. Instead, I bend down, in a bowed position, and relieve myself with the right hand, making marks incessantly, flakes of skin falling below the cuff of my trousers, like dust, and onto my shoe and the concrete. I walk straight, still itchy but less so now, sometimes straight becomes a circle, scarcely do I walk where I have not been, but, again, accidents do happen, I am ready for them, then they aren't really accidents, then, no? I suppose not, I suppose it's not anything, maybe misfortune, or chance, or fate, probably peril, I don't believe it, though, I am discouraged, there is still so far to go, from north to south, the south is where I've dwelled, since being far away from here, after the donation of my wardrobe, on which I've spent too much, on pleasing and my guise, but walking is free, at least, I still have some savings, even after the drinks, a small sum for which I have no use. One can't stay straight forever, there are too many walls, dead-ends, et al. and so on. Under these circumstances one can choose to turn or turn back, to recover the direction of a line, but I get ahead of myself. I continue straight, sweating now profusely. In my sights are horizons, the patterns of buildings, people walk past me, I've already forgotten their expressions, whether they paid me attention, what they were wearing, if it was flattering. I turn my eyes from them, the scene, that is, to there, somewhere over there, or in here? I don't know, another place missing something, barren, that I'd tried, intensely, to elude. I walked wide-awake here once, there was no one on the streets, they were empty, soon to be daylight, I was not alone, there was a group of us, but that's it, no one said a word, we let the words race inside our heads, I can't speak for them, but I am almost sure of it, there were Sequoia firs and spruces on the sidewalk, our heels fell on pines, in the rain, there were Christmas lights, yes, the only ones on in the city. Sometimes the places come to me, stay just briefly, when I am moving, nowhere, steadily straight and back the same way I'd tread, the dead-ends already toured. That was before, the formerly, resembled an instant, with the eyes, if only momentarily recognized, that I can't properly distinguish, with the mind. What next? Such a damning question. There is nothing else but to turn around now, I suppose, there is still time, time enough to get lost, to try down a different road that I can cast my doubts, not find meaning later on, yes, why deny myself, now, when I have so little? let it be strange, poorly lit and uninhabited, with fewer people, I'll ignore it anyway, the street, that is, and of course the people, most roads rarely traveled look the same in the dark, no? choose to count my steps instead, lose count, really, keep pace, fascinate more on the ground rushing past me, and when I look up I see a pub, so that's where this was, all this time, unless it has moved from somewhere else, or there was an expansion, no matter, never been, only heard of, in neon above me, B   S T R O, from the window I make out men inside, in trench coats, wearing scarves, and women, leaning their elbows on the bar, their faces moving into glares, blurs on the window, no, I knew how to get there, but I have approached from the other side, another angle, and I know how to leave, through the side entrance, early in the evening, when the drunk women get up to powder their noses, there is something itching me, my nerves, maybe, an urge always absent, I walk away, let the neon sign fade out of sight, keep straight.