In a sinking submarine, sinking, sinking, sinking to the void like das boot, slow and indefinite, with quiet desperate visions of surface trying to push their way in front of day-plain fateful circumstance so we held our breath in a shared act of instinct of the sort that only later gets inflated to solidarity if you make it through.
The reef up there, we thought, sweating, panting, wishing, a consentient mass of unseen presence known, a freedom firm and clear and out of sight, but clenched in mind. And down where we were? Only some deep underwater landside, the underneath and below into which the world couldn’t peer, rocky and oblique in the sloshing, living murk, only that and the hull’s creak for survival, so we closed our eyes wide and held on.
Late had turned to early and I couldn’t find my car. I’d just peeled myself off of the sinking situation with a girl in it, but I knew back home she’d know, knew everyone did, and knew I’d run out of stories, looking for clues for where I’d go in the secrets of how I’d gotten myself there in the first place.
In truth, the submarine had been a room of a rectangle apartment on the fourth floor of a brickstone, up by branches and leaves sprouting from the grand old dark trunks lining the quiet street below and she’d been taken by my self-conscious pedantry and moody banter. Oh, the feeling type, the wayward soul, the unseen seer with his eyes aflame, troubled and boyish.
Morning drew in around us without a sound and steadily turned up the dimmer, up and up and up, slow and even, and when those branches and leaves began to take on their day-color I felt the adrenaline shining bright on what we’d done, on who we were, on the nature to which I’d submitted, etcetera, etcetera, and so on, so gone and afraid of what that made me and sensing what she’d been all along—just a person, like me, fighting and fleeing.
I’d dawdled there against my better judgment, though, sinking, pretending the darkness would only get deeper and soon nothing would show, not a trace of us, not even a bubble to rise and break, looking at that moon-faced clock on her sad wall and thinking of Vonnegut’s Russian POWs instead of what the continued, unaddressed passage of time meant in the simple scheme of the moment, forming inarticulable excuses in a stupor of lazy mental mumbles as the hull’s creaks turned to groans under beautiful, terrible inevitability and the last shards of daydreams of glorious-meadowed authenticity, as if those daydreams had never been daydreamed before, only by we.
I could still feel her eyes on me in the preceding hours’ dimness as I footed it down the sidewalk heading what felt like west, could still see my Gerda Taro, angel of the small death, sitting there in that bed at one end of the rectangle in the deep dark night depths with white sheets pulled up to her chin and only hints of shoulders exposed, eyes like two eels peering out and a mouth aching to speak comforts in which she could not bring herself to believe. And so down and down, deeper and deeper, darker and darker we’d gone, merging two into a secret oneness with a warm blanket pseudonym of a mystifying ideal in which to wrap ourselves till I finally blew the hatch and lurched back out into the open with a remarkable lack of ceremony.
My feet were heavy on the implacable concrete, eyes scanning and glancing, head on a swivel spinning with the waking day and still-fresh scenes of night, not a soul for miles, it seemed, and a solid line of cars down my side of the street, a street that ran perpendicular to hers with the brickstone forming an upside down T on any map I might’ve had and I knew that wasn’t the proper word for it—brickstone—and lingered some more, slowing, overlooking the blatancy, losing track, stalling for answers I could only taste as questions, anything to distract, anything abstract.
What if I were less gentle? Do you want me to be gentle, less? Tell me to be less gentle. Tell me to be anything, more or less, anything you desire. Tell me to be
and I will.