Get Up, Go Home
by VICTORIA HETHERINGTON
11:43: 43: www.google.com — lora villanueva Image Search
11:43: 57: define: corpa reality
11:44: 11: define: corporeality
11:44: 11: define: post structural ism
11:44: 11: meaning messy house
11:44: 11: 24 yr old girl qualities traits
11:47: 12: 24 yr old woman
11:50: 11: masters degree intelligence
11:50: 15: kinds of intelligence
11:51: 06: kinds of love
11:52: 17: love and age difference
11:52: 17: “in love” “age difference”
11:53: 17: young women how many partners by 24
11:53: 17: young women how many connections usually
11:53: 14: girls women “loneliness unattractive”
11:53: 14: hiding loneliness
Toothpaste burns through his mouth and he spits strings of blood and saliva into the sink. He avoids his own eyes, testing his stubble with his fingertips, breathing deeply between splashes of water. Despite weeks of mounting symptoms, he’s told himself that his body could be – he’d hoped, but had long delayed knowing – functioning normally again. Today he’ll know. He turns the tap harder so it’s gushing and the blood, caught within the clear snarl of thicker saliva, quivers.
His phone buzzes against his thigh: Lora. Im coming. Coke and treats. He dries his hands and texts back: Later? I have got appt now. He steps out into his bedroom/kitchen area, the depressing smudge of his bed in the furthest corner, the clouded, empty wine bottles, the KFC bin, still vibrantly orange, now stuffed halfway down with a sour-smelling tangle of bones, all exactly as he left them.
Lora: What? please? He feels himself vibrate and submit to her: he can’t tell her she can’t come over, and he’s already readjusted his day around missing his appointment: the tight pain-faces of the waiting room people, the secretaries speaking from behind glass, the intricate work of laboratories and bored technicians assessing his illness and those of five hundred others, his trip back through the dazzling white waiting room worlds different, shattered and claimed by the final certainty derived from the two-pronged potentiality wiring his days. He’ll call the clinic later saying he sat white-knuckled in his car, immobilized by anxiety; they’ll understand, he knows, as he wicks into thoughts of her, oozing into a deeper room in his mind, a warm, dark place. He hears the muffled thud of her car door, he hears her coming up the stairs, that light easy stair-jog he never mastered without seeming ridiculous, even when he looked normal. He darts back into the bathroom, texting her: Just showering come in when you get here, [pause, pause, stomach-drop heart-skip] love you.
He turns on the shower and it hisses to life, comforting, and as he closes the bathroom door and leans against it – cool on his back – she, almost simultaneously, opens his front door. She’s silent as she surveys his mess, and he can’t stop himself from pressing his ear to the door, just as he couldn’t stop her from coming over. He closes his eyes. He imagines her chest rising as she inhales sharply: ‘David? Hello? Did a fucking animal die in here? Honestly.’
It’s like a fucking animal died in here, honestly. She stands, her eyes adjusting to the dark (just moments ago she was singing along to the radio as the noon sun blazed and the trees flashed past) and feels nauseous. You sucked his dick on that bed.
His dirty sick dick. Probably you’ll get a throat infection.
She hears the shower but there’s a breathless feeling, like he can’t hear her, and she listens harder: it doesn’t sound quite right, and she realizes this is because the water stream isn’t hitting anything but the shower wall. She looks back at the kitchen again. He oozes from all his stuff, all his garbage, his dented couch, his framed posters of Robert DeNiro as the taxi driver peering coolly from his window and the other of Marlon Brando as the cotton-cheeked Godfather, still beautiful, frozen in a grainy cloud of smoke. The first time she came over, she got him high and he explained the posters to her with touching urgency. She grew up watching those films, but she listened anyway, to hear how he’d put it. This guy, right, he loves the little girl, but it’s complicated, he’s been quiet the whole time. Or, his daughter’s wedding you know, all these lavish gifts and the horse head, it’s so huge in the bed, so huge and dead in the silk sheets like that, and you just feel this dread, like oh my fucking god. She knows it’s kind of her to listen, because she’s young and life has inscribed itself over his face already, and he needs to talk about it, to tell himself to her. He won’t change except begin to fade, now. He’s all he will be, and less than he was.
She goes to the bathroom door and knocks, and hears a muffled fumbling noise – he was pressed against it. ‘I don’t have much time, David,’ she says through the crack, feeling the steam, waiting a moment, and the water creaks off.
‘Like what kind of treats,’ he asks through the door.
11:43: 43: www.google.com — lora villanueva montreal
11:43: 57: www.google.com — lora villanueva literature university guelph
11:45: 02: define: me’s on-sen
11:45: 11: define: mis en scene
11:46: 23: marlon brando last tango in paris
11:47: 07: marlon brando age
11:48: 42: dead celebrities
11:50: 12: www.google.com — lora villanueva Image Search
11:51: 09: bleeding during sex
11:51: 12: man bleeding during sex
11:51: 32: man bleeding during sex not from penis
11:51: 55: bleeding penis Image Search
11:57: 06: coke death
11:52: 17: cocaine death
11:52: 23: cocaine death young woman
It’s dark, but they can see the outline of one another’s faces. They talk. It’s nice this way. Not quite seeing.
‘How would you describe me to your friends?’ he pauses. ‘Have you?’
‘Are you hoping I haven’t?’
‘No, I’m hoping you have. And I’m hoping that you will continue to.’
‘It’s like you don’t exist without other people,’ she says. ‘Are you sure you’re an introvert?’
‘Lora. You’re the only person I see. My absence needs to have some kind of impact on someone. Or else I’m dead already.’
‘Dead already? But remember the taste of our dinner. And the feel of the cool bed, and how your body warms it, wrapped in the sheets right here.’
‘You’re so full of shit sometimes, Lora.’
He feels the pain a second before he registers her movement – she’s hit his face, hard.
‘Fuck you. I don’t have to be here!’
‘But you are. You’re here because you’re from somewhere else and you’re lonely and your dad did a number on you and you can’t pay for your own coke. And if I were a woman I’d be dying alone.’
He can feel that she’s staring at him. ‘You think you’re the only person I see? I see men my age. I see women. You don’t have me fucking figured out at all, but it’s just like a man like you to think that you do, and to explain me to myself –’
She picks up her phone. The screen is so bright before it presses to her cheek that he can’t make out the caller’s name – but he tries. She speaks in Spanish, barely pausing, and he curls over towards the window, its outer – or inner? – edges lined in white moonlight, watching the wasp husks and curled-up paint in its corners, feeling the pathetic heat of being talked about.
Over the next couple of days he does all of the coke she’s left. He finds little nubs and bumps and trails of it, beside pizza boxes and in the wood grain of his kitchen table. He thinks of her credit card crushing it, her bright painted nails. He turns the baggie inside out and licks its corners. In the late afternoon he’ll walk through the copse of trees in his backyard. He’ll remember the trees, the very specific deep green of their leaves in the afternoon light. He’ll imagine her walking just ahead of him until he’s not high anymore. He won’t remember anything else, except that she doesn’t visit. Did she say she would? – he won’t remember that either. Another day that week he’ll make it to the store alone, teetering and high, watching the terrifying products lining the bottom shelves and people’s feet lurching and flapping down the aisles and the bored woman’s hands and unpainted nails folded at the counter and the dusty countable window-corners along the way out and home. The chocolate bar he bought whitish around its edges, devoured with his back against the front door. Sticky frightening fingers of a panic attack or pain. Staring into the dark kitchen/living/bedroom, Marlon Brando just barely detectable in the light coming in through the crooked blinds. The trip home – any coke left? The trip home – yes – he presses it into bumpless powder – the trip home – roll the bill, keep it rolled, unbelievable chemical rush – ah – the trip home reminded him of the time before cigarettes and bleeding, and lying to people he loved, the time he and his mind and his body all felt seamless and painless and one, a time spent navigating the boundaries of food addiction, the pleasure of more and the vertiginous moment before it toppled into too much. The glamorous babysitter with her boyfriend who worked just up the hill at McDonald’s – a calculable distance, the first here-to-there he understood, three blocks long with two turns, a hill, an always-empty baseball diamond (if it had ever been populated his social anxiety blotted it out) and the dry wading pool with PUNK NOT DEAD graffitied in the centre and I’ll tell you Lora, fully knowable even now, every metre accounted for, and therefore endless – and the fistfuls of sugar packets, white-hot sweet, the paper he’d dampen and swallow – snorting back the burning now-wet chemical stuff like to keep it in his head but it’s already there, shooting and climbing and throbbing and pulsing around. The day with the store and the old chocolate – he’ll remember it. He won’t remember which day it was. It’s either order or details, Lora. Nothing coheres –
Re: Re: He venido a decirte que…
to me September 13 (2 days ago)
…by his eyes seem ‘haunted’ – I mean, this is a silly word usually – it’s not just that he’s dying, because I think he’s always been this way. It’s more like he can’t help but transmit the effects of 40 years of being shy, being cowed a little by people, taking pictures, feeling himself become good, then better, fitting his social removal into his life-narrative as a necessary sacrifice for art – then realizing he won’t get any better. Realizing the extent of his talent, how he’ll fall short. Populating, further diluting, the vast, thin orbit of lesser-than, also-ran photographers in their particular realm of talent, through flickr and tumblr blogs, through unending posts and comments and support, through interviewing one another for their blogs, providing acknowledgment, gasps of air. He seems quiet. He doesn’t have very many friends because he’s shy, he says. He doesn’t talk much during meetings in the office, he says. He mowed the lawn yesterday. I helped him. He used to have a dog. His wife is hidden – I know they’re living apart. She is probably his only friend. This is what he’s told me and what he hasn’t told me. I like him very much. I don’t know him at all.
I told you I’d be careful. I am. I’m feeling better, too, and I wish you wouldn’t worry. I think he helps me. Will you write about him? I’ll tell you more. He swears too much – it dates him. I think I’ll hurt him terribly, this feeling will pass and I’ll hurt him terribly, it will go cold for me. But right now, I don’t want it to. I want to go over to his place and fuck him there, it’s neutral ground for me, fuck him as many times as he can handle. Feel his loosening chest skin, feel the hair on it, feel his skin against mine all over, as we start to sweat, as he seeks out my clit in a knowing way – he’s had 20 years to get it right – as he licks my pussy, as he buries his face in it, licking beyond the hair, feeling my wetness on his face (Updike must have taught men his age to love the briny wet need of women, their wet clinging hair – have you read ‘Rabbit is Rich’ yet?) Grateful for, hungry for my youth, lapping it up. Wanting to bask in it, bathe in it, have it for himself. I think I’ve told you about this already…his room, the walls, those fucking posters (no, they’re not even framed, he must have got them after she left), the lumpy bed, the view outside his window. I went out with him last night and even though we passed lots of people on the street, I kept looking at him instead, because he nervous, he was so nervous. I think he was nervous that he’d run into someone he knows – I guess his wife? – but he was also so proud, so swollen up with pride, at walking alongside a sexy young woman, and me, I was freed from my context as I usually am out here, loose and free as it would be impossible, even if we’d walk the crowds for hours, for anyone’s face to become recognizable – anyone’s face, that is, other than his. I miss you all, but I love it, this freedom…
Oh this coming down is worse than anything, so sudden and dreadful, and she feels angry and bored. He asks her if they can take a little break maybe until the evening, his nose has been bleeding all day and they need to eat, then maybe then they can go to the beach or something and party some more, and she yells at him, even though she knows it’s probably the right idea. He takes her to a Greek restaurant. The cheese grated on her olives has this dry white look, like it’s been left out for too long – they think she can’t tell? He didn’t know what to wear, which makes her embarrassed for him, for herself, and for the people sitting nearby or walking past the patio, seeing them sharing this table together. Horribly sober like this she can’t even look at some parts of him, like his skinny fuzzy wrists up so close like that, and she hates that everyone will see the two of them; their table feels terribly large, terribly public.
She escapes to the bathroom, escapes the wet pauses, the bite-taking and chewing and talking around mouthfuls. She stands looking in the mirror and tries to imagine what David looked like when he was little, and remembers she might have dreamed about it – and then realizes that she likes David. She likes David, and she might even love him. She puts her hands over her face and breathes into them. And then she has to come back to their table and slide her ass across the chair, slide right across from him, pretending like nothing has changed, but maybe he can tell.
“So that’s all you’re going to do, work at a bookstore back at home and do drugs?” he says, then leans back in his chair and watches her. “You’re just going to put it all off, forever?”
She has this image of herself treading water in a pool, putting off life like life is a floating chair and she’s pushing it away whenever it bumps up against her arm. But she knows that life is right now, and this is what it is. It makes her so tired.
‘This is so awful,’ she says, putting down her fork, and he sighs.
‘Yeah, I know.’
‘It’s so beautiful outside, but it feels like a nightmare.’
‘Just try to focus on the moment,’ he says, ‘On right now. If you keep thinking about the past or the future, you’ll never have the moment. And you’ll be afraid. That’s what the councillors say.’ She can’t say anything disparaging about this technique because it’s a tactic to help him deal with dying, so she tries for him. She tries to savor the slick taste of that glass of white wine in the evening air, the clinging sauces and the look of that cheese on their lettuce, olives, and rice. She smells their cigarette smoke in the heat, in the wet, the August-eaten leaves, and the entire street reeks of soil as it begins to rain. And as it rains harder, the mechanical roof comes whining down, and she feels like she’s at a fair, and misses her parents so much her chest tightens up. ‘I don’t like the moment, but I don’t like the future either,’ she says. ‘I don’t have anyone to rely on. I don’t like myself. I can’t be high all the time and when I’m sober it’s like…’
He asks for the bill and passes her the bag in a napkin.
On the wet beach she talks brightly and quickly about what it’s like being nearly 25, and he says, I dread what’s coming for me, honey and they thrum with desire. What is this desire? Does he, chewing on her ears and throat, worship her, dizzy with gratitude? Or does he – careening as he is towards overwhelming ruin – want her ruined first? Encouraging the addiction buried in her body, distinct and real enough to have its own hidden weight and colors, producing and reproducing its need for itself. The sand, while hot and dry up near the dunes clings spongy and cold down here by the water, dotted with pebbles and sticks and translucent sun-drying seaweed, and she makes herself as small as she can up inside herself, transferring herself to him: the terror that snaps him awake at night, the terror that flicks on every morning like a light, the terror steering everything he does, obscuring like a wall the ridiculous humping mass they are, his bright-white ass and her clinging hands, her chin hooked over his shoulder. His need for her to discard her young-woman armor, her careful composed out-in-the-world ease reaffirmed by every reflective window she passes. At first she was shining and whole, then a composite of known parts and smells, and now his creature, those parts and smells as close to him as his.
They sit wrapped in towels as the gray evening spreads behind them, and she plays music on her phone, resting it in the sand. They do a line off one of her books. She feels excitement, tilting toward the cool fall nights teeming with coke and cigarettes and bars wafting music and dancing and the men that she feels deep inside her skin that she’ll know – and he has her, only her. ‘This song,’ she says, ‘has such amazing, building flow, like a love manifesto or something, and I’m listening to it now with gratitude because one day I won’t be alive to listen to it.’
‘And sooner than that, and soon from now too, you won’t care to listen to it as much because it’ll make you miss being young.’ Young and full of hope for living what is promised in the song, what was trapped and preserved within it decades ago like a photograph of sunlight.
‘Tell me how you describe me. To them, to your friends.’ A shifting dazzling circle thrumming towards them and eager to reabsorb her, and him, soon to be as distant as an aging satellite, a long-gone species, dismissible as the creeping memory of frost at the height of sticky summertime –
‘You’ve never told them, have you.’
‘No, never,’ she says, looking over at him, her long collarbone and the muscles flicking over it as she turns her head. ‘But you know me. I would talk about you in relation to myself.’
She grips his forearms with her strong, bony fingers and he realizes she’s pulling him toward the water.
‘I would tell them you worship my youth. I would tell them how I love it when you say I’m young enough to be your daughter. I would tell them that the way you fuck me stays with me for days. I would tell them I cry over you. I would tell them I love you so much it makes me sick.’
‘How much of that is true?’
‘To who? To you? All of it.’
She breaks away and goes toward the water. The cold screams up through her feet and her knees nearly give out, and she wants to pause, to yell her ear-splitting wordless pain, but she follows the moon out into the Lake. She lurches forward, gasping with each step, the water lapping upward viciously, and suddenly her feet slip on the rocks and – was that a yell? – she goes under. She can barely bend her limbs but dives down and down, then struggles and worms and flails forward as far as she can go. His pale face last night, his amazement at being hit, flashes in her mind, and she tastes again how she has ruptured his life and made it unliveable. She feels his eyes where she disappeared, scanning desperately, the cold water in his chest too as he recreates what has happened, as he runs in after her. As her hand strikes woodenly against a clump of rocks, his presence intensifies, like they’re standing beside one another, like they’re everywhere at once, and suddenly – and a few seconds too late – she wants to live, and begins to thrash and struggle toward the surface. All of her life’s experience, her memories of warmth, wrap around her tight. She will be able to run, she will start a new life in a new place, away from him the others and coke and oh please just a little bit longer – her head will break the surface, and the wind, the open air, will whistle in. She will dig up edible roots three inches below the frosted dirt, dig with numbed and caked-up hands, and huddle in a dune, warming thick masses of tall grass around her, and then she will know where to run. Her nose will run uncontrollably and she will sob like an abandoned child, burying her face in the slick fallen leaves, wretched and shaking but alive alive alive. Alive alive alive. She’s almost there, she’s –
02:53: 17: suicidal signs young woman
02:54: 05: suicidal 24 year old girl woman
02:54: 55: in love suicidal person
02:55: 14: how possible “helping suicidal person”
02:57: 13: heartbreak advice
03:03: 27: guelph lake how cold october
03:04:11: surviving hypochondria in water
03:05:25: surviving hypothermia in water
03:07:21: www.google.com — lora villanueva Image Search
03:16:34: how do u know who’s fault in relationship
03:17:23: codependency damage
03:19:27: flashbacks but lucid
03:22:04: skizophrenia signs & symptoms
03:23:03: sharing flashbacks memories
03:24:33: speaking to ghost how possible
03:25:07: how to cope
03:25:11: dying & life
When he’s high he imagines it was him instead, or he imagines she’s gone back to Montreal. He imagines her there: she never talks about him with her friends because she doesn’t have to – she never talked about him in the first place – and fuck it’s good to be in Montreal, to be young, to drink every night, to pretend she was never gone. One night very late he’s back at the convenience store staring at the chocolate bars, and then the overwhelming panic-pain seizes him and he dashes into the public washroom and locks himself in a stall, and then leans against the side of the bathroom stall for just a moment, just to catch his breath, just to think, and the graffiti on the other wall of the stall is too much, so he closes his eyes.
D: Did you begin to hate me?
L: Oh God, listen to yourself.
D: We loved each other, didn’t we? In my mind you came back to my home, looking for me. You slept off your high in my bed. You used my bathroom. You washed your face in my sink. You used my toothbrush, my toothpaste, my toilet paper, you ate a slice from the last loaf of bread you’d ever touch. How could you die when there’s kinds of bread you’ve never had? You picked up the phone. The line was dead – did you know that, did I tell you? That they cut off my phone line? But it doesn’t really matter for me. For you, though – you had so many people, so many guys and friends.
L: Oh fuck that. Most of them didn’t even like me when I was sober.
D: Don’t leave. I’m mean and selfish without you.
L: You choose to be.
D: Oh honey. Oh honey. Did it hurt?
L: Have you ever fainted? Your sight peels up, the black following it like the way flames happen when you start fire with paper. You can fight it back for a while but you can’t help it, that black non-being. You fold into it.
D: I’m going to get more and more alone. Everyone just goes, don’t they?
S: You’re alone all the time. The hours go faster. They are all yours and you don’t have waste them fretting about how or when to share them.
D: Could I hold you? Can you bring me along? Before I knew about the coke you'd visit the bathroom like six times an hour – I would watch you walk.
L: Of course you did. And when you were in the bathroom, I’d listen to you. I’d hear your belt buckle clicking in the bathroom, I’d hear you sigh.
D: Oh Lora.
L: You don’t want to sit close to me, do you? You're all the way over there. You don’t even want to kiss me, and you might never see me again.
D: Oh Lora. Don’t tease me. You were too young to understand how old people love. I don’t mean to make you feel bad; I’m too old to understand the way you do. My kind of sex, for example: finishing is no longer the point. I’m turning into a tree, and I’m in love with a girl – I move, but not as quickly as you did. And if you were alive, Lora – what then? Would you have let me move to the city? Can you imagine me waiting for you at the bar, ignored by your friends, as you touch yourself up in the bathroom mirror, humiliated? Maybe you’d hope I’d quietly go home in your absence. I’d make myself ridiculous for you.
L: And I haven’t been, for you?
D: Never, and it isn’t the same thing: loving me was, in a way, a sort of excuse for you. You handicapped yourself with me. Like a little girl staying home from school in bed, having soft meals, nursing yourself, wracked with ghost ailments. You needed to be in the sun.
L: It’s 4 a.m. – we almost are. Get up. Go home.
D: You made me feeling like I was making mistakes all the time, all these little fuckups making like crunches in my brain, I’d be biting my cheeks the whole time I was with you –
L: David. Listen to me. You need to wake up, you need to leave the store –
D: Lora –
D: I will wake up, won’t I? You’re telling the truth?
L: You’ll wake up.
D: When will I die, Lora? And where?
L: I don't know. ohsoon—it’ll come swerving this impossibly hard thing this world of a thing it’ll slam it’ll slam him against the side of the streetcar—
D: Can you answer another question?
L: I guess so. — he'll hear the hinge-noises of his ankles and wrists breaking as his head slams against the window he'll have stared from for half an hour the three four five feet of car just yanking the air the life right out of him— ohgod
D: What was I to you?
L: Part of my time.
D: No more than that?
L: What’s more than that? And I remember everything. When you were still working you'd get your shirt on first every morning, and you'd be looking for your boxers and you’d get a call and drop back onto the bed, your genitals shriveling down, button-like. You’d bark something like “Ryan, what’s that wife saying?”, scratching your thigh or something, and I'd think, This man has clung to my back in a washroom stall like a sweater-clad beetle. This man skips meals for work and takes the bus sometimes and holds the door open for women because we’re all equal but has on occasion sobbed to me like I am his mother, rocking on my scanty chest. You did many things the right way every time I saw you. I needed that so much.
—and for maybe thirty seconds, the car being basically OK and the streetcar having barely a dent in it but the mess on one side, no one will do anything but watch— the people in the streetcar will rush tidal at the windows and the nearby walking people, the the girl girl girl man man traffic will aggressively register the mechanical swerve and slam that’ll make them turn their heads and open their mouths and stop—five seconds, ten seconds, a minute ago an anxious hungry rushing man that’s now nothing but a thing, a horrible tangle of things—
And listen to me: you’ll feel better for a while. For a while, you’ll be OK.
D: For a while?
L: We’re perishable creatures, David. You’re rotting in your mouth already, you’re staving off all sorts of infection. Like the rest of us you haven’t, and will not, know how much time you have left until right up at the end of it. But David, at the end of it, it will make sense. Just as childhood is compressed as we age and cram more years into our memory, recognizing patterns and getting accustomed to sameness you’ll experience a violent decompression, a near explosion; it’ll all diffuse as you have minutes and then seconds left, and they will turn into ages, a vast few scattered globes of time-units. You haven’t grown up and never will, despite having reached all the goals you made for age 26 and age 31 and –
—just this sunlit dent you can’t even really see—
—age 37. And you will have time, plenty of time –
D: Lora –
L: – And remember that we don’t grow up but rather hope and pretend the whole time. We keep it going the whole time – I kept it up as long as I could, David, and so will you—
D: Lora –
—and uncomprehending babies will open their mouths as if in awe—
Victoria Hetherington is a writer living in Toronto. She last wrote in these pages about her least dirty dress. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.
Images by Shimo Okshteyn.