In the Twilight, in the Twilight Corrupted by Indifferent Lumens
We took all the wrong turns but found our way. If you want to call it parking, we parked. The upended trash can, the right front tire twenty-four inches from the curb. One of us was saying, “It is what it is,” but I’m not saying who. And that was the nicest thing twirling between us, in the twilight, in the twilight corrupted by indifferent lumens. Just then a minor earthquake traveled through our bodies, warm and electric. “Licorice-tickly!” one of us said, while the other kicked a shoe into the air. It landed near a stupendous dog, who regarded the skies with suspicion. The car, haphazard. The shoe, loitering behind a fence. O, the soils and clays slipping beneath us with tectonic helplessness. Improbably, the quake had kindled a distant car alarm.
LT stared at me until I made the scales of justice with my hands. “Fine,” she said. She rolled up her jacket sleeves.
“I’ll go,” I said.
“I’ll go,” I repeated, and I went. I slipped once, catching myself on the slope of the hill with both palms in the grass, the dewy grass. Could’ve been needles, there, or a pile of crap.
The dog regarded me with enviable calm. Perhaps he was elderly. Perhaps when you’re the largest of your species, it’s just too much trouble to get worked-up.
“Come on,” said LT.
“Woof,” said the animal, at last, or maybe it was the echo of “Woof.”
“And how are you?” I said, resting my arm atop the chain links. He was a slobber-dog but didn’t slobber. Yet he had positioned himself, crucially, atop the shoe. LT’s shoe.
“Hey,” she said, appearing beside me.
“I’m getting it,” I said.
“If getting it is hanging out and talking to this—shaggy fellow—then the shoe will become some kind of chew toy. No?”
The dog had clambered up the fence to enable LT’s affection: ear-scritchies. As for me, I had become some kind of device, with the fence acting as some kind of fulcrum, waddling me back and forth until I grasped the heel and liberated the shoe. (My breath almost knocked over.) LT repatriated it by holding the fence and hiking herself down to her bare foot. She had tattoos, but none visible in the angles of clothing, the lukewarm twilight. In heels, she was taller than me. I’d never been able to resist her, in fact, I’d never even thought of that. LT was physical and may have said, “I’m a crap person,” more than once. When we had sex (which was never twice in a row) I felt like I was losing control, and then it expired. The shower would go on. The steam would hiss. It was either 7:15 at night or a few minutes earlier.
We helped each other down the slippery hill. “The slippery hill!” one of us proclaimed, but I’m not saying who. I regarded the dog one final time when he sneezed, and in sneezing, shook himself wrinkle-free. If a stranger gives you the “Hey, how’s it going face,” that’s a good thing, but it has to be a stranger. Nobody had come outside to investigate the quake. To continue meant that we’d reenter a world that excelled at division, so we stopped on the sidewalk, LT with her back to the streetlamp. We stood there, one of us wearing a worthless smile and the other wearing a malevolent smile, but I’m not saying who wore which smile, only that we stood there, impossibly rooted to the sidewalk, knowing that we could not take another step.
Dan Gutstein‘s most recent book is Buildings Without Murders (novel, 2020). He is author of three other books, including non/fiction (stories, 2010), Bloodcoal & Honey (poems, 2011), and Metacarpalism (poems, forthcoming 2022). In addition to writing, he is vocalist for punk band Joy on Fire and co-director of a forthcoming documentary film, Li’l Liza Jane: A Movie About A Song.