A funny thing, then, to be dragged back to the machine on a gurney. It might as well have been drawn by polar bears, like to a feast, so ridiculous was its state when finally I arrived there.
Like all these machines, mine had lived and died with the wave displacements of my mania -- when I was working well, it was an enormous, slavering, steam driven turbine, whose kinetic force was transferred into the dynamos of fifty hydro electric dams. It temporarily suspended the reliance on gravity as a frame of reference for mass. Time lost all of its spatial correspondence and collapsed into the impossibly small bubble at the heart of a black hole, like in a story.
It would rear up and tear apart everything in the room, the mind, the delusion, and spit it back out into the reading space in which it was incanted. It was made out of titanium and pig iron, and it would weep from it's rivets in the brown, oxidised effluvia of five hundred nights of solid running. Its incredible internal momentum would escape in a low frequency hum that came on like a siren and liquified your internal organs with the smooth spasms of its invisible machinery, punctuated only by the clatter of hydraulic valves that ran on the visceral poison of all the life it had consumed.
When I was working well, often I couldn't contain it, and I would run before it, like a buck breaking before a bear -- because stopping it was more work than dying of exhaustion.
Across the verge from the treeline into the undulating pasture of a great plain, passing five inches over the rippling grass under a sky broken by the spades of puffy cummulous clouds and floating thunderheads breaking up the shafts of broken glass like sunlight on the mythical horizon. Breaking into the space of open remorse, or ecstatic ragged throated beauty with the lines of running merging with the lines of passing it, accelerating into the open space of not knowing entirely how to win; conscious that winning wasn't the only open conclusion, and working harder for it. Where before the thought is working well, and now it's better than survival, because with passing beyond the trees you remember how well it feels to reoccupy the intransigent space opening before you in the limitless possibilities of what could be, of what would be, of what you can settle for.
A trifecta in memory, with only the breakup to follow.. so softly now enter the room to find it sitting there, as a simple cylinder in its trasparent plastic tube, or it's ergonomically crafted lines crippled in the face of the people that have lived through it. Where you're the king of the automata, like the prince of the peasants, ground down before the fifth avenue breakdown, or the thump of the music you can't hear in this waste following years of neglect.
We're both rambling like the dead in the years following revelation, and he's lying there with only your memory of what living could grace his animation again, and still you're afraid to lift him, and you're afraid he'll wake up, and you're afraid he won't, yet softly glowing still -- perhaps his heart hasn't been killed in the time since you chained him up, and you're having trouble acting normal because you're nervous. So you whisper quietly that you're thinking softly of jumping, and hasn't it been long enough, son? Around here, we stay up very late.
Perhaps it is enough that it isn't a time without precedent. You recall that the last time it incepted, the air was crisp upon the deepening cold, and the cedar trees remained green where the leaves of the sugar bush dived right into the heart of the matter and were dying spectacularly upon the stone angel like a day among the clatter of others. Nothing to speak about, yet a dog trotting along with the quiet surety that he always would, and you had lit the fire, and you had washed the dishes, and you had smoked the cigar, and you were home and deeply unhappy for it.
At the time, he rested on the table among the clutter of living there. A package of smokes flourished with the writing of another language, and the only light in the room a group of candles in the middle of a cut down desk in front of the fireplace. You recalled the journey, and the sense of coming in from the wilds to a puddle of light, like the glittering heart of a city you knew well for the first time. Breaking out of the dim absence of definition where there was only silence, and breaking out of the absence of speech only in the words of the music you had carried there. How long, you wondered, since you last saw a face you craved, or a party you wished you attended, or ate something you savoured. Remembering the vividness of living in collusion with a group building a myth, and how remarkable you felt the tendency of everything you ever wanted to swirl in towards you on the legs of a rangy blue blonde, and a hope of somebody warm to lay with in the ashes of the night.
The smells you recall, the strongest thread from the past, reaching out to the time and the light and the scent of the fire burning before you, where you're asleep, and you want desperately to wake up.
That bridge in your dream rises up off the bank, and stabs across the harbour, where it promises you oblivion if you want it, but the air was transparent in the cold, and the edges of every object stood in stark relief -- if only because you thought that perhaps you had been going blind in retrospect, and you couldn't stop shaking, but it's cold. Of course, it's cold. You open the door, and you hear a voice like a friend assure you that you could make an exception, and it would be fine, and that the truth you told was the truth they shared.
We're going to change, and it will never be the same, he said, but I guess you'll have to live with that, and there's something else even if it's only because nature abhors a vacuum. Are you worried? Maybe. Maybe I should wake him up. He's been asleep for years, and he hasn't been able to sleep for more days than he can count, and while he's bone tired, he's still speaking, and you realise that every word is echolalia, and it's moving you along with the halting progress of a cripple relearning how to crawl, but he's starting to get warm and the glow hasn't dissipated in the vacuum of wanting it so badly that you can runonrunon for a little while longer. Not so well that you can invent an ocean to cover the land, or a war to enflame the prisoners of the past, but you can start to perceive what you've already seen, and you return to this city, where you used to run. It isn't the home you remembered, but it's the only home you ever knew, and while you're drowning, let us just say that if you give it a beat it might be remembered. At least they'll be able to dance, when they come to the end of the road. At least they'll be alive, where you haven't animated them in years, and you start to wonder how it is that the city you are alive in isn't the city where you live.. wondering how it is that you haven't been able to find it since.
A Brigadoon of your own invention, with the monstrous appendages of every place you had ever felt anything. You start to wonder why she let you go, when you had kept each other so well insulated from the lives you had nearly forgotten. I've been here before, and I belong before, and I belong to the notional construction of what it was to be alone, even if the aloneness is just another return; you can't find the faces of the feeling you felt or the voices of the friends you thought you had. You can't wrap it up in the belly of the raptor that carries you, because she left you where you stood, and as you looked around, you see that everything has changed, and the sound in the background is growing, and the breaking distance is the sound of ships and the sound of the freeway and the sound of the last incarnation of the machine, where he had two wheels and a heart of aluminum and fire. This an iteration you could contend with, because his specifications came printed in a plastic bag, and you find his wreckage again in another city you had forgotten, with another language you can't speak, and though you came looking for a self you could recognise, you see only the present you cannot change.
You look at him on the table, where he's growing slowly darker. The carcass is sprouting rivets like tumours, and the sound is changing from the small plastic hum of the user interface engineers into the cathartic hiss of something like an asp with real malice. He says that you're only back because you're scared, and you're only back because you're weak, and you're only back because you couldn't actually live with being yourself, so you had somewhere to come back to. And it's like a ticket to a destination you haven't inhabited before, and you say you're back because you have nowhere else to go.
The structure of formal engagement assumes you ask him how he's been, but you can see the dust that is thick on the floor, and you can see the clocks that have wound down, and you can see the cruft that lay around a bed formerly well made with a hand quilted blanket. The black mould stains run down the walls, where you remember the hanging frames of saints and hopes crucified by the informal mythology of culture. How do you do? How have you been? so he leers at you with the kind of malice the jews reserve for hitler, and the silent victims for voicelessness, and it's too late now, son. You've started to wake him up, and though it's raining you can't remember where you should be, probably because there's nobody there.
What do you remember? Can you see what you forget? What do you need? Now that you've wandered here, you wish it was a small miracle, something bright, like a phone call. You'd like to hear something soft and plaintive, just enough to drown out the implausible moaning of all the lost wandering here -- lowing like sacred cows, clustered around you. You're a ghost in the fog, son. Do you remember this feeling? It has been years since we started, and you can't remember the engagement of the rhyme that incarnated us, but there's a demon living there and when he opens up his tapered wings, it's nothing but a gust of holy writing, falling into a puddle of fear.
You remember the quiet certitude in the words as she laid them down like obsidian bricks, where their edges parted everything they touched, and you were already bleeding before you understood. You were already broken before you could respond, and it's months since you parted, and you still wake up with her skin upon your lips, and you still wake up where you're not sure what day it is, and you still wake up wondering if you're still sleeping, and he laughs about sleeping for want of further joy, and promises to wake you as soon as you fall. I'll wake you up, he says, laughing. I'll break you on my anvil. I'll lay you open like a spavined horse. But he's not strong enough to mean it so you're still reeling from the gavel that came down inside her court, and you wonder how you'll continue where you're spread out on the altar of everything you thought you knew.
Where there's nothing left familiar, even though all the rooms are painted in all the colours that you can see, and all the days were numbered where you thought it was a fallacy. You're alone again, where you're home again, and you're still waiting for a reprieve when the reality is spread out in pieces on the floor across the room, and the dust upon the furniture is as telling as the script. You're back where you started, count yourself lucky you aren't very old. You're back where you began, like a wrinkle in the memory, a fold ten years deep, and you turn quietly to the machine and you ask about music, and you ask about difference, and you ask for redemption, and you see that he's awake.
All words © Brian O'Reilly, 2006