ATTACK OF THE INFANT SUNS – Rita Taryan
October 5, 2022
After missing the Once-train Hester faints on the platform, comes to at the foot of stairs, clambers up, passes out on a landing, wakes up on an escalator, sees stars at the top, and blacks out collapsed over and while turning a stile. The rest of the way—divested of her umbrella, tripping in the gutter, crawling in and out of sewers, stripping for sewer workers, running and raving half-naked as though singing in the rain, just singing in the rain—she won’t remember. There’s not a cloud in the sky.
She makes it home alive. Nobody else who can help it is out at two in the afternoon without a long umbrella—let alone a short umbrella. The Sun’s bearing down, birthing more suns.
Hester has trouble unlocking the building door. The door has trouble understanding her stabs with the shiny key glazed by sweaty palms just grazing the region of her patient lock. Minutes glide one-to-another, as do the smallest many parts in music, dance, speech and flight.
Hester’s heart beats frantically. She tries the same key three times. It works the first and third time. The first time it works Hester’s brain doesn’t process it so she relocks the door. The first time it doesn’t work she lies down for a nap on the welcome mat. The door stands by. The door is on her side.
When she wakes up her face is pushed by the weight of its own exhaustion into the nylon pile. She blinks abstractedly at one of her neighbors’ rats biting the tip of her nose and sucking the pus out of one of her blisters. Warm green fluid leaks and is absorbed by the mat then quickly scrounged by a surrounding thirsty concentration of toxic atmospheric elements: mercury, chlorines, fluorine and sulfurs. Hester’s bare ass is swinging in the air, just swinging in the air. Her ass-cheeks—one-two—take in the freedom afforded by delirium and the empty street. The air can be heard sloppily lapping the moisture wherever it finds it the way a drunk at last call licks the wet oblivious lips of whoever’s slumped on the next stool.
Hester wakes up inside her apartment naked on her bed. Her tiara is balanced on the pelvic humps of a cat near her head. Her sash is draped over a cat at her feet. Her body is raw, sizzling, faceup, turned inside out and draped in cats. She stares at the ceiling fan. The blades are still, which is bad because it’s hot. The cats stir, which is excruciating because it burns. She thinks she feels flames, the tongues of cats. Is the apartment on fire?
Oh Hester, no—the apartment is fine. The apartment is composed. The apartment is yours. A cat purrs in Hester’s ear. Another cat sneezes in Hester’s eye. A third cat licks Hester’s big toe. Hester flinches as many times. How are there so many cats, Hester?
Cats get in from the fire escape through the kitchen window that shuts but inches from conviction. The landlord says the window shuts. Anybody looking at the window would conclude the window shuts. Hester has conceded that the window—when observed—appears shut. And yet cats get in through or under, or mysteriously, by way of the kitchen window. Gaunt young cats enter Hester’s apartment and stay. Hester does not encourage them to stay. The cats in Hester’s apartment used to catch and eat the rats and roaches in Hester’s apartment but those rats and roaches are “dead meat”—or they have picked up and moved to the neighbors’. Hester’s cats are hungry but they stay and breed though there’s no food for them and no explanation for how they survive. The landlord says Hester should be glad there are no rats and roaches in her apartment. The neighbors complain that Hester has sent her rats and roaches to the neighbors. It isn’t natural, they say. What will be the size of the cat population in Hester’s apartment in a year—or in ten years?
In Hester’s apartment there is an apparent randomness and more and more bifurcation points of breeds and families of cats unexplainably arriving and breeding, surviving, and not leaving. But Nature eventually corrects for chaos—doesn’t it? Even if that means adding back into the equation some roaches and rats.