You certainly do have a strange effect on me
I never thought that I could feel the way I feel
There's something in your eyes gives me a wild idea
I never want to be apart from you my dear
I guess it must be true
My Lucky Number's two ~ Lene Lovich
The living room smells of grease paint and sweat. It reminds me of the carnival. Something about the mixture of living electricity and the decay of things has always made me smile. I’ve never actually been to a carnival, but I like to imagine that if I had it would smell the way this room does tonight. ‘Carnival’ translates to something like ‘farewell to the flesh’. I’ve read that somewhere, and that’s just a comforting thought. Maybe I am grimacing more than smiling, but the headache I’ve had all night forces me to clench my teeth, constantly worried I’ve smeared red lipstick all over them.
Costumed bodies rub past and against one another like atoms; hips touching with silent and empty promises. I observe because it’s what I do. Just a fringe-dweller, who chronicles the lives of everyone else, always removed, because it fills the hours. The hours when I am not sleeping because the pain presses down on my brain so hard I see fireworks. I burn their images into my mind, so that behind closed eyes, my world isn’t empty.
I’ve struggled with the sleeves of my costume all night; trying to keep them out of the loading trays of the CD decks where I’m playing DJ. In a costume panic, I’d dropped a hefty sum on having a Lily Munster dress made by a local seamstress. I’d sold some of my antique furniture to cover the bill. Someone else now owned a lovely post-modern piece of history, and I looked fabulous for the night. In my book it seemed a perfect trade off; a pinch of history for a pound of high glamour. I read a book when I was a kid about how looking good would make all the pain in the world go away, and I am still trying. Tonight though, my head is pounding despite the fact that I’m dressed full out in an attempt to appear neatly airbrushed into the scene.
“Hey, play the Monster Mash,” some girl I don’t know whose dressed as Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction dances past me. A fake syringe – fake needle taped to her breasts- sticks out from her chest. A costume so completely fucking overdone, and so nearly ten years ago, that I wonder how many Halloweens she has worked it. I smile and flip her off as she turns her back to me.
It’s my party, and I’ll play what I want to.
Besides, it hasn’t stopped them all from dancing. Give the spooky kids some spooky tunes and they will dance spookily until the sun chases them home to spooky rooms. Predictable little twats. My guess is half of them don’t even know whose house this is. Whose little Halloween shindig. Just talented party hounds with well-developed senses for free booze.
The other DJ, my friend Daniel, is due to come relieve me any minute now, so I’ll be able to pick through what’s left of the alcohol and get a solid buzz going before the night is over. Maybe I’ll manage to drink the pain away though it’s something I’ve often tried but never succeeded at.
“You’re going to play Lene Lovich next.” A voice near my ear says, even as I loosen the disc from the plastic sleeve in my CD case. This voice is the only sound I’ve heard all night that hasn’t made my brain hurt from behind my eyes.
“Yeah, I am. Got a favourite track?” I ask, pressing the button that opens the CD tray not currently playing. I fish David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs out of the tray and pop Lene Lovich in.
“Hmmm, how about Lucky Number?”
“That’s my favourite, too.” I cue it up, stick Bowie lovingly back into my CD case, and only then glance up to see who shares such excellent taste in music with me.
He doesn’t look familiar, but he’s dressed as the Nomad or Zone Tripper from the movie Hardware, which scores points with me immediately. Dusty desert goggles, a gas mask dangling around his neck so that he can talk, long dirty, nearly dreaded hair snaking out of a weathered, brimmed hat that’s some bizarre hybrid of top hat and Stetson. His attention to details blows my mind. Really, he looks as though he’s just stepped out of the poster of the very character that hangs over my headboard, and wandered into the living room. He’s a post-apocalyptical angel of death, the beginning of the end.
“Nearly cocktail o’clock, is it, love?” He asks, as I catch a glimpse of Daniel weaving his way through the crowd towards me.
“Sorry I’m late, “Daniel starts, “Got caught up in a conversation with Marilyn Monroe about a previous conversation, only to discover it was a different Marilyn. I’ve plans to go shopping with both next week.” He steps behind the decks and starts flipping through his CDs. “How’s your head?”
“It’s okay,” I forgive him his tardiness, but he probably assumes that I’ve answered his question about my head. The answer to that question is never good. “I’ve got one more track ready to go. And then we’re off to the booze trough for drinkies a go-go.”
Daniel turns and gives me a funny look, raising his darkened eyebrows and squishing his lips together, as though maybe he doesn’t approve. It’s a perfect expression for the mime makeup he’s wearing. I turn back to the decks, where there is fifteen seconds left on the last track. I hit the play button, slide the cross fader over, and The Lord’s of the New Church’s Dance With Me bleeds nicely into Lucky Number. I pull the headphones off my head and hand them to Daniel who takes them in his hand. “You look a little pale, are you sure you’re alright?”
“I’m supposed to look pale,” I laugh, then sing, “Takes hours of preparation, to get that wasted look …” quoting a Fad Gadget song. Again, Daniel gives me an odd look. Frankly, I am rather sick of them. I figure this one is because I’m being a bit obvious about trying to impress the guy standing next to me, and probably looking the fool. But the truth is, I’ve always been obsessed with music, applying it to nearly everything in my life and the lives of those around me. And so what, if occasionally I burst into song? At least I’m not tone deaf.
“Tah,” I say as, I step from behind the decks and follow the Nomad to the bevy of bottles lining a table on the far wall. A banner hangs above with the word ‘Apothecary’ written – silver on black construction paper- in my own best cursive handwriting. I must have redone it twenty or more times and it still looks like shit. I doubt that anyone’s even noticed it, or that if they have they even know what it means. For all they know, it’s just the thing that could almost read a few hours ago, and most certainly cannot read now.
“My own little glass menagerie.” I joke, and begin to mix myself a strong vodka and cranberry concoction. “For you?”
“The same as you,” he answers, strumming his fingers on the table with a leather-gloved hand.
A man after my own heart. Why mess with fancy beverages when you can have a down and dirty tasty treat with minimal effort?
“I’m going to call you Nomad, seeing as I have no idea who you are and tonight is a night of mystery and intrigue. I’m okay with that, are you?”
He smiles and nods, “But I know your name. No mystery there.”
“Do you?” I giggle, and then make a not-so-faux face of shock. “You’re probably the only person here who does. I don’t know hardly any of these people. Just Daniel and now you, Nomad. And myself, though sometimes I don’t know how well I know me.” I hand him his drink and he takes it all down in one long pull, setting the empty cup on the table.
He shakes his head, “I think we’re set.”
I hold up one finger, top my drink off with a little more vodka, and nod in agreement.
I follow him. He’s heading for the backyard, which I’ve marked off limits with some “Caution: Do No Enter” tape, because I don’t want drunken idiots tromping through my garden like they did last year. The Nomad and I can tromp wherever we like, though, I’ve decided.
He raises the tape up, opens the sliding glass door, and I duck under and out onto the back steps and into the yard. He grabs a candle from the window ceil and joins me. Some kitschy drugstore thing enclosed in a glass with a bright and beaming sticker of Jesus stuck on the outside. Jesus makes for a rather flashy beacon out here in the dark.
I set my drink on the patio table and drop into a chair. He leans against a post and sets Jesus down at his booted feet. My eyes adjust, shapes gain details, and the pain in my skull wanes a bit. The dark is less sharp-pointed, and welcome.
A girl dressed as a pirate, who I think is named Sharon or possibly Misty slides the door open and pops her head out. “Can we smoke out here?”
“No,” I say, “Can’t you see it’s off limits and that we’re having a private conversation?”
She pulls a face, “Right then. Don’t have to be rude about it. Didn’t realize that sitting out here by yourself was so important.” She pushes the door shut, a little too hard, and the glass vibrates.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. So sick of them all, the people, the pain, the bullshit.
“Why throw parties when you don’t even like the lot of them?” He asks. “Hmmm?” I raise my head; find him again in the dark, “Oh, well, it’s what’s expected, isn’t it? Throw one good Halloween party one year, and you’re stuck with it for a while. Someone else will have it next year. I’m done.” I’d actually considered, however briefly, dumping all my pain medication onto a pretty bowl and setting it out like candy to liven things up a bit. Trick or treat?
“Sounds like a solid plan.” He digs a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of his trench coat pockets.
For a few seconds, I think he’s read my mind and has encouraged me to dope them all up with pain pills, but then I remember he’s not in my head.
He offers me one of the cigarettes, places it between my lips and flicks the lighter. The flame nearly catches the front of my hair on fire. “These things will kill you, you know.” He lights his own cigarette and we take a drag simultaneously.
“A girl without vices is a girl without crisis.” I hold up my drink, toast style, before taking a long sip of it.
“And you’ve got plenty of both. Obsessions, addictions, bad habits …”
“Well I’ve suffered these headaches my entire life. They can’t figure out why, can’t seem to treat them, so I’ve taken to a little self-medicating. Nothing wrong with a little self-help is there?”
“I’m not judging. I understand completely. I respect that you’re aware at least of the whys and wherefores. They’re my whys and wherefores, as well.” He lifts nicotine stained fingers to his mouth and takes another hit off his cigarette.
“Really? What’s your obsession?”
“Same as yours, love.“ He loosely wags his finger at my drink and cigarette.
I raise a perfectly penciled and arched eyebrow at him. What are the chances that this cocky bastard could even begin to understand what I spend most of my time thinking about? “Dead poets and German Expressionist Film?”
“Something a bit like that. Maybe a little more applicable to real life. You’re obsessed with aesthetics because they give order to your life. You live with constant physical pain; I imagine you have dark thoughts.”
“Do I really have to? We could break it all down, if you really wanted to, but I think you know exactly what I am talking about, “he pauses, looks at me, then says, “You wonder if you’re going to kill yourself before whatever causes those headaches does.”
I was sort of expecting him to take it there, but then he took it there, and I don’t want to be there. “I can’t believe that bitch didn’t even acknowledge you standing there.” I change the subject.
“You’re changing the subject, and I am standing in the shadows. I’m hardly noticeable here.”
“Not to me,” I flirt, and it feels weird. I’ve not flirted in ages. No one wants a cranky bitch around for more than a few goes. I can only imagine it’s an obvious and awkward attempt, but it’s better than returning to the subject.
“Don’t worry. I’ll kiss you before this night is through.” He drops the cigarette at his feet and twists it out with the toe of his boot.
“Oh will you?” Pompous ass. I flick my cigarette at his legs and laugh.
He nods, “Yeah, I have a feeling.”
Truth is, I have a feeling too. Like knowing what something will taste like before you put it in your mouth, just from the smell. He smells tasty to me. And it’s been a very long time since anyone has smelled good to me.
“Listen.” He points out toward the little spot in the yard where the pumpkins grow, and a wind kicks up. Brown and orange leaves scuttle in crisp voices over the dirt.
It’s exactly the sort of thing I would notice but be afraid to say because how can you explain a moment like that without sounding mad? How can you press against a second when everything is perfectly aligned like that and share it with someone? But he’s pointed it out to me, and doesn’t seem to have anything else to say about it.
“Fuck you, that’s not fair!” I stand up and shove him with the palms of my hands. Not too hard. More flirting, really. I am not sure what I want him to do, but I want him to do something as long as it involves touching me.
“Don’t.” He says, taking my hands into his and crushing my fingers almost painfully tight. I can’t help but to smile. He smiles in return, and gives a deep, short snort.
We study one another. I can see my own face in the windows of his goggles. White face, deep red lips, big green eyes smudged with black. I wonder what he sees. Can he see right through my eyes inside, into the stem of my brain? My cheeks flush hot despite the cold air, and I turn my head to one side, cooling my face against my hair.
“We should go in,” I say, twisting towards the patio door.
“Not exactly,” he counters, squeezing my hands tighter.
He pulls me from the porch by my wrists, backing up, across the lawn and closer to the trees. Leaves and twigs stick to the hem of my dress, but I don’t care. It hurts, slightly, as though I’ve been struggling against his grasp, but I don’t think I have been.
He pulls my face close to his, hot breath on my lips, nearly touching. “Tell me about what’s here.” He hisses, and I giggle as I imagine we look like the cover of some silly romance novel. Brutish rogue and pale damsel.
“I’ve buried my animals here,” I say, pointing to the earth beneath our feet. Only a few weathered markers remain. Sticks fashioned together with upholstery thread and painted with red nail polish, faded from the sun and wind. “One, two, three,” I count off plots with my finger. I stop myself from finishing with a sing-song rhyme, but can’t help humming a little, softly, turning my chin down.
He crouches down, fills his hands with loose dirt and lets it slide slowly between his fingers. “Do you ever wish you could be with them?” He shifts his head up to look at me, two full moons in the dark circles of his goggles.
“Sometimes, I miss them, yeah.” I answer, sliding down the tree until I sit on the ground.
“I figured as much.” He trickles the remaining dirt from his hands onto my legs. “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
I laugh until it starts to hurt, and still laugh, but I can’t stop. He likes to sing songs as much as I do, it seems.
I can hardly breathe. He reaches up and grasps me by the throat. I gasp. He exhales, pulls me, by my neck to him. His lips taste like mint cigarettes and vodka, his tongue like copper at first, then like fire. It’s his kiss that forces my lungs to expand, even as his grip on my throat squeezes and constricts my breathing.
I feel my body convulse, slightly, and the warm burn between my legs that usually takes a forever of foreplay to feel.
“Grab on or let go,” he whispers, almost angrily against my mouth.
I snatch at the back of his hair and pull, dragging myself over the dirt and closer to him. His free arm wraps around me and pulls me onto his lap, forcing my legs open. I’m dizzy now, trying to suck as much air from him as I can as he kisses me. The music from inside fades in and out, as the world spins. And he’s inside me. I don’t know how, but I feel him inside me, pulling me apart. Air explodes into my lungs as he releases my throat, manages to stand up with me still attached, and slams me against the tree. I laugh as dead leaves rain down around us, turning my head to watch the crowd inside.
“None of that is for you. This is for you.” He says, reading my thoughts. Clouds of swirling hot air erupt from my mouth in the chilly night as he pushes further into me. I suck them back in, release them again, rhythmically. My head fills with pain, but I am splitting off and away from it as breaks me open.
The trunk of the tree digs into my back, ripping the fabric of my costume, but what does it matter? I squeeze my legs more tightly around his waist, welcome him deeper, laughing again. Maddening laughter, I am surprised that no one has come to investigate. Full moon fuck, like some goddamn dream or fantasy from my own head. What luck! The sky dims and for seconds I am blind, but when the world clicks back into shapes, the moon is more clear than I ever remember seeing it, and it doesn’t hurt the inside of my mind to open my eyes wide and take everything in.
“Could you be more perfect?” I look at him, touching the rims of his goggles with my fingertips, wondering what colour his eyes are. He shakes his head and smirks. It’s almost a cruel, teasing twist of lips, and I know he can’t be anything less..
His force smashes my head against the tree. Perfect stars leak out from the back of my head, as my mouth and cunt erupt simultaneously. Birds scatter from the branches above me. He holds me, pinned for minutes, our breath synced.
Finally he steps back, smiling. “Have you ever climbed a tree?”
“No,” I answer. “I’m afraid of falling.”
“You’re afraid of heights. There’s a difference”
“I never thought of it that way before,” I lie. Of course I have.
“Go on, “he says, still smiling, and nods toward the tree.
The release of pressure on my brain has left me giddy and feeling adventurous. I turn away and look for some kind of foothold near the base of the tree, my legs still wobbly from the sex. I reach up for limbs and pull myself into the lowest branches. Not so difficult after all. I climb, and inside the party continues. I climb and wonder if tomorrow they will say, “Is that just another Lily sleeping among the trees?” or will they know my name?
From my perch in the branches, I watch him pick up one of the faded red grave markers from the ground. He dusts off his hands and looks up at me, beatific. “Go on, I’ll catch you.” He says, and I taste his mouth again, and I hear what sounds like faint circus music.
And I fall, twigs snapping away from the tree in my clenched fist.