7 x overheated eeries
I was obsessed with him from the moment I saw him at the carwash; I lingered after my car was clean, and I followed his truck to the beach.
I started going back to the same beach every day after work, and he would always be there, always alone, standing up to his ribs in the celadon water, away from the other swimmers. His sea-bleached whiskers and freckled skin, his wiriness, his rusted skin and polished blue eyes. I wanted him, more than I was comfortable admitting. I lied to my boyfriend about it. He was my beautiful secret.
I always swam near him, but never looking directly at him, just holding him in my peripheral vision, trapped in my eye like a goldfish in a bowl. He looked at me too. I could feel it.
I became a swimmer then. It became the meaning of my days. The sea - him - it was the same meaning.
One afternoon, after an exhausting swim, I fell asleep on my towel, listening to the hooting and hollering of the surfers and the sunworshippers, and to the rolling of the waves. Each wave was the revolving cylinder of a music box made of water.
That afternoon, I dreamed.
I dreamed I was paralysed, and a curlew was pecking my eyes out of their sockets, gulletting them. I wanted to scream but my throat wouldn’t open. And nobody helped. Nobody even looked.
When my eye sockets were empty, red and gaping, the curlew reached down, picked up a stranded Portuguese Man-of-War, and delicately lowered it into my left eye socket, first the tentacle, then the blue jelly. The curlew was particular about arranging it correctly, a fine salty surgeon, as if it were setting a soft wet gem. And once that bluebottle was in my left eye socket, I could see out of it, and the world was … -
I woke up with what sounded like someone else’s voice in my mouth, and I panicked, thinking I had gone blind, but, no, it was just night. I was okay. Just a bad dream. How long had I been asleep? I checked my phone. 10pm. I looked inland, and saw the revolving headlights of late night cruisers. I looked out to sea, and saw the empty beach. No. Not empty. There was someone quite close to me.
It was him. He wasn’t watching the horizon. He was watching me.
I sat upright, slowly, folding my arms about my knees, to let him know I could see him seeing me. I was scaredexcited, hornypanicked. My heart was racing. My tongue felt thick, my penis felt thicker, I was so excited I could hardly swallow or breathe, and the world, even at its quietest, became loud.
Have you ever wanted something you shouldn’t want, and then it’s within reach, and it’s the giddiest feeling in the world?
It was him.
I was really going to do this. It was like I needed to piss or come immediately, he was walking towards me. So I reached into my backpack, pulled out the gun, and it just felt so right.
There was a paramedic who went mad one heatwave and replaced his ambulance siren with an ice-cream truck’s recording of “The Entertainer,” and, for a few nights, every time someone went into cardiac arrest, the streets would be lined with sticky teenagers counting coins and hoping for a cone full of maple pecan.
There was an ice cream lady who discovered during a heatwave that someone had replaced her ice cream chimes with an ambulance siren. She was furious, but she went out anyway, playing it as a protest. Fuck ice cream. Fuck this job. She drove recklessly around the town at 80 miles an hour, and people watched the van shoot past darkened porches.
Someone still waved her down, though, after hearing the siren and seeing the headlights, thinking she was a paramedic.
A little girl named Martine had grazed her knee after falling off her older sister’s mini segway. The ice cream lady, who knew some first aid, put a bandage on the wound, a smile on the face, and gave Martine and her father spearmint cones dipped in chocolate.
Then she drove quietly to the hospital, gave all the nurses free ice creams, and even while it was happening, she knew: this was the most important night of her life, but she would never understand why.
She cornered me in the bathroom. “You slept with him,” she said. And she was right. I had. The bathroom glowed with green neon, and was decorated with plastic palms and melamine tikis. She pulled out a pen knife. So I vaulted over the washbasins, into the mirror, while she freaked out because she was a human and humans are limited. And I didn’t lay a finger on her. But I did murder her reflection, and left it there on the reflection of the floor of the ladies bathroom.
Last I heard, she was an alcoholic spending every night in that bar, crying in the bathroom, leaning over the washbasin to see her rotting corpse in the mirror that nobody else could see.
She didn’t look her best.
On hot summer nights, all the cats in town actually leave the planet, shooting straight up into the sky, and they all meet on the moon.
Of course you can’t hear them leaving.
There was a woman without a freckle, without a wrinkle, who had lived her whole life on an island near Antarctica, and she moved up north to Bellingen. She had never experienced a day hotter than 30 degrees Celsius, but when that day came, a fine spray of condensation formed on her waterbottle, and on her skin, and even on her hair, until she looked like a spiderweb loaded with dew, and as it condensed, all the pigment flowed out of her until she looked like an ice sculpture of herself.
And when she went swimming in her cheap above ground pool, you couldn’t see her at all. The frangipanni blossoms fell on her invisible smile.
vii: another window
There were two neighbours who had never met but who fought regularly in the comments section of a news site where they both had pseudonyms. They were, in fact, obsessed with each other, but both presumed that their paths would never cross. Oh, one was communist and the other was capitalist, one was sporty and the other was bookish, one was vulgar and the other was wordy, one was harsh but fair and the other was soft but fair, but both were sure of their respective superior integrities.
They could even see each other’s windows from their desks at home, but never did, so often would they draw the blinds to masturbate or preach politics.
There was a power outage during the heatwave, and it lasted for hours and hours. It was too hot to sleep. And all the neighbours came out into the street, as people do during blackouts, and spoke to each other. You too? Yes, me too. And you? Yes, me too. And they had a street party, and made a little bonfire in a garbage can while the fruit bat shadows flickered past moonlit clouds, and while the children ran around with glowing bracelets, because it was too hot for sleep, and while they played radio through someone’s phone, and while they ate cold fruit salad because it would probably go off if they didn’t turn the power back on soon, why waste it? And the two bickerers sat side by side for the first time, and shared beers, and laughter, and they agreed on every single thing.
They were friends and enemies for years, and never figured that out.
And one typed to the other: “Idiots like you are the problem with this world,” even while posting a photograph on instagram of the two of them laughing together. And the other typed back, “I have no time for people like you, goodbye,” before typing in another window: “Let’s do this again soon!”
And I don’t know if it’s always good to have secrets, but perhaps this was good.