Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Benign Perversity

Pull back the curtain the way they do in the movies, See that guy across the street holding up a lamp post. He’s been trailing me for a long time. Sometimes he sits on my shoulder nodding or shaking his head. Other times he is hidden behind a newspaper on the subway and he has my number. He knows all my heresies and lame alibis.

I can hear him coming up the stairs. Now his dragging foot has stopped. His knuckles against my door, there’s a familiar knock and a face I’ve seen in mirrors more than once.

What's with the limp?, I ask. What’s with the mouth?, he replies.
We go off together without a word to face the hung jury; not quite guilty but innocent no more.

In a season of benign perversity when I was twelve, plus or minus, my friend and I started following people for no good reason. We picked odd men maybe because we wished to be more odd ourselves. We were hunting for our edge, that margin where danger lurked. Anyplace but here. Anywhere but the too safe and familiar, hoping the strange man might lead us down the subway to some underworld.

That promised land would become an interior place, a country to conjure and a necessary one. It keeps me in this world and out of it, at one time. I slip across the border like a paratrooper met by the partisans. It’s very useful in MRIs or dentist chairs.

After looking at teeth all day I imagine my dentist must dream of fangs at night or stalagmites growing out of cave walls. I wonder if I remind him of his father who never let him get in a word without interrupting. Now he is in my face yakking about money or movies or money. Maybe my mouth looks like his Dad’s and he has finally silenced him. Open wide he says and tells me about his past life orphaned in the tenth century and then in a palace intrigue to kill the king. He’s regressed me. I can only answer in pre-historic grunts. I consider a clever remark when he lets me rinse and spit but it’s no use. If his hand slipped I’d be doomed. No, I’ll be here for him to fill his cavity.

Everyone follows their piper.

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