Ghost bike at 6th and Highland, Austin, TX.
Ghost bike at 6th and Highland, Austin, TX.
With wandering spirits and wailing ghosts, coyote moons and cacti, Enchanted Rock, magical, a portal to other worlds, tempted and intrigued. According to legend, anyone who sleeps on top of this granite monadnock becomes invisible.
Part dare, part dream camping in Texas on Halloween? aw what the hell, yes please. Money where my mouth is. Mouth where my mind won’t leave.
I see things in things, not deliberately, faces in rocks and animals in boulders, conversation observation recognition bias till I think I’m going bonkers and the universe is a tease. Laughing at and with me. Serendipity, synchronicity, I don’t seek patterns, they find me, and I still contend I don’t believe in anything, or maybe just that things—things in things—they don’t happen for a reason.
But I still like them. They’re still amazing.
We see lizards and coots and vultures, a heron and a snake and a tower of turtles. Long shadows leaping off our tanning shoulders, we talk to dead trees as we trace their bodies and don’t get me started on stars. Arthur has the app that does the stars for you, cartoon constellations and pithy descriptions as we hold his phone against the night.
We don’t use it for long. In the olden days, the things in things were gods, and you could only see them with shared imagination, faith—if not in them, then that a great story’s coming—and your finger for the moon, pointing in the sky.
Stars are in space, not plotted on a plane, so in any other place, perspective would shift and all of the pictures would change. I found this unsettling when I was a child. Not so much that perception is reality but that truth has no authority, no real stability, objective agreement or balance—or at least that was the pressing possibility. Premises built over rabbitholes attached to wormholes lashed to trust you’ll feel better about all of this eventually. See and seek the wisdom of quicksand and weak knees.
Seven billion fingers for the moon, now, kid and the crazy thing is, we could rearrange the firmament, add or subtract, expand or collapse, and we’d still come up with comparable narrative—warriors and creatures and witches, songs and feasts for birth and death, how to march and how to dance, fear and love and play.
We would see the same thing in the thing. The Hero with a Thousand Rock Star Faces, again and again.
We worried we wouldn’t have much to say. What kind of people are we, anyway?
In nearby tourist-town Fredericksburg we buy some walking-around beer and marvel. Someone makes their living making objects out of animal parts, antler-handle cheese knives and canes crammed in rattlesnake skins. The animatronic garlic head will lure you in. The gag shop huckster, drive you away. The busty Hip Dingo, what can I say? I love local off-color.
Halloween night we hunt teenage trick-or-treaters in the van, pulling up close like we’ll pull them in, and just before they mess their half-assed costumes, I announce we have candy. They cheer like it’s a movie.
Jolly Ranchers for everyone! Murder for none!
We are so much fun.
Arthur did improv with deer. I mapped the whole landscape till he saw the polar bear. We had plenty to say, and pleasant silence too. Though hard to tell, we’re easy to listen to, spinning old stories and making up more and speculating, animated, whether the grizzled guitarist singing Hurt on the quaint restaurant patio, channeling more Cash than Reznor, would say crown of thorns or crown of shit. The man said shit and totally owned it.
We might have been the only ones to notice it—to realize there was something to look for in a moment, hopeful for surprise but careful to be open to propriety, sanctity, disappointment just-in-case.
We probably missed other things.
When I fetched a pad from the corpse of a prickly pear to better examine decay, I got stung.
You’re not supposed to pick them up. Look but don’t touch. Imagine, be curious, but don’t really reach out, you can dodge the big needles well enough. All of that obvious, dangerous sharp. But the rest is laced with tiny invisible teeth you won’t feel bite, you won’t even bleed, but they’ll find their way in. They’ll burn.
I think we turned invisible,
but I can’t be sure. What kinda notion or emotion, grand mal abstraction I want to ask for meaning then insist I’ve no interest in any such thing in a thing I can’t help but see and not see what’s right not in front of me.
The night is full of sirens, distant ambuli and poleece at our beck if we wish, to bring down the sweatervests beating the yarns from another sweatervest, stories in hollers, last breath, “No, Officer, I didn’t get the gist,” even though we stopped for it, violence is loud. Deafens other sound.
Should we call the cops?
What if they kill him and we watch?
What if they beat their women.
But what if they’re just having a bad night. The drink and passion poison, Katy Perry at loud volume, any is enough to trigger aggression, hell, son’ll put a steak on his face in the morning. Right as rain. Officers of the peace will bring war to their future. What if Assault and Battery prevents their profession, these young, preppy men, students of law, of medicine?
What if it doesn’t.
The popped-collar gang backs away but the boy who got beat rushes the fray and it all starts again.
If it is your first visit to my apartment, it’s cool, go for it. Lie on the floor and roll around in my carpet, everybody does it. Hate to give way all my secrets, but it’s how I know you’re okay. You’re one of me.
Priming shouts to dance we check the time, our teeth, our Janus heads chewing forked tails with ales tales! mixed drinks and metaphors, a dense lush deep flush, the ouzo Ouroboros. Hurl the hurt that ain’t, dumb ache and tremor, the promise of fornever RUN FOR COVER! so terrible to trust but so wonderful to wonder how one hand will wash the other.
What’re you gonna be for Halloweeeeeeen? Hell if we know. I still want to be an equestrian in stark, slim riding clothes capped with my horsehead, cracking a crop, but the mask should probably be stowed a couple years or so. Let folk forget. Disabuse that I’m obsessed. I’ve long been intrigued by the athletic challenge of being the Dancing Banana Gif, and some year I’d like to try Carrie White, a costume and performance that would evolve over the night from mild, sweet thing to blood-sopped psycho, though probably minus starting fires with my mind.
We could be sirens, Anna says. Or was it furies. Gorgons. Some version of evil womens, alluring and destructive because I guess that’s what we’re good at, stomping spinning dancing danger and deception. True declination but false elevation. We put you in your place because you get in our way. No soft spots. No hard feelings.
Fleeing the crime scene when the authorities arrive, I must admit: I entertained the fantasy of daring a drunk to punch me in the face then whisking the ruffian victim away, feeding him eggrolls and mp3s to coax come out, wherever you are sobriety. We’d shame him like a brother, threaten to call his mother and tough-love his life away from the brink. Deranging his darkness. Rattling his deathwish. We probably aren’t so different. There’s more to life than this.
Before he remembers he’s sane, could tell us off or tell us his name, before the liniments soothe the pain, within minutes he’d think he’s testing limits, stripping to his ligaments to swim in the shag.
But who’m I kidding. Cut the shit and kill the light.
We ruined more lives than we saved tonight.