Stories

Gloxinia Enlightenment – Curtis Eggleston

        Morning. The taxi rolled to my new apartment. I wasn’t too keen on getting out, not necessarily because of the kid going through the crack smoking motions, or the man beside him going through the unmotions of looking dead — stiffly supine with his head extended past the umbrella of the ledge, huddled beneath which his buddy or happenstancely near stranger similarly positioned classwise exhaled a cloud dryly while the lying man took pelts of cold rain to his unflinching countenance — but because I didn’t really want to get wet either, nor share the dry space below cement block partitioning rain with questionably trustworthy crack smokers or a questionably trustworthy crack smoker and a questionably dead and unquestionably partially wet man. The conscious one, in the subsidence of his paradisiacally reverberating vision, noted those unequipped for defense and drenchedly near, yanked the lying man beside him, squeezed out his long soaking ponytail with towel wrench gusto, and took another hit, held it deep, tenderly kissed the man, blowing luck deep into his lungs and as the generous savior reared back into refined posture, and as if conjured by the motion of the rise, the lying man’s chest fluttered him into a newly life-found seat, and, I, seeing the hearty demeanor now of both these now dry men, no longer hesitated in grabbing my backpack and standing beside them until I could figure which of these gray, graffiti’d, skyscrapers’ darkened windows was mine. 
        I hopped out, thanked the cabbie for slightly up-charging me, and stood next to the two of them. Both asked for money. I didn’t know if these men were honest or kind, or liable to attack me and steal my backpack, whether they deserved change or a bill, whether I should let them up to a room I hadn’t even seen yet and offer each a shower, help them trim their beards, remind them to scrub their nails, get all the grit so we’d have the best chance as a team of finding employment. I didn’t know if I could “take one” in a fight, their arms looking brittle as pencils but their skin rough as uncobbled stone. I had heard of crackhead invincibility but remained hesitant to test the theory. Even then, I hated violence. I was much too skilled in the ways of the verbal joust to prove to myself I sucked at fighting, not that supplication merits a rouse, just that planned denial of humble request by brains ringing frayed by the pedra could rile a stir.
        I struggled to decide whether I should offer the two men any coin. If God was watching, there would be consequences. Like any intelligent seeker of faith, I decided to use the scientific method to explore His potential existence. After paying my first month’s rent, I’d be down to the last couple hundred reais in pocket. If God was real then karma was real or vice versa, and I thought I knew how to test for karma. Me, broke and in need of a job, I blink-prayed and gave both of them one hundred reais. They couldn’t believe it, but I wanted to reap the maximum possible karmic reward, which would also have to include not lingering to hear the extent of their respective gratitudes, so I ran before I could feel good about myself so something even better might happen, into the pouring rain, without checking first through the sheets of misted gray for motorcycles, nearly died and I guess murdered kind of since I doubt the collision would have been too kind to the motoboy either, freaked out in my millimetric dodge-spin, adrenaline-shot and wide-eyed in that instant I saw the number on the building I was looking for –  karma had already started dishing the goods.  
        The porteiro buzzed me in, pointed to one of four elevators. Together, the two of us, the ´80s constructed lift and I shuddered up seventeen floors. Wagner was waiting outside the apartment door with his back to me, dull keys clinging to the ring around two fingers. He looked me up and down, pursed his lips, asked me if I was sure I wasn´t gay, and demanded one thousand two hundred reais now and every fourth day of the month, no exceptions, or the obvious consequential else. I handed him the cash and fingered the remaining twenty reais in my pocket. 
        He passed me into the elevator and left me the keys. He didn´t teach me how to jimmy the lock, I stood there grumbling for like fifteen fucking minutes. 
        At once I had my own space. A couch, a hallway to a room with a bed and pillow and sheets, a shower I hadn´t learned yet rarely got hot for reasons never explained, discovered latterly to depend on astrological season, but still, a tiled bathroom floor on which I could stand barefoot to feel varied textured and temperatured water that lets you picture or forget or wash thought clear of hunger or the burdensome reality that only exists when you´re out of there, subject to dry. 
        With the right mindset, no job, no money sums to zero obligation. I dressed, aired my window, climb-scooted onto the ledge, dangled socked feet over sixty-five meters of fall. The Minhocão, the giant worm, an elevated two-lane highway cut through old Centro. Most views through any window in the city of twenty million end ten or fewer meters later, upon collision with a neighboring wall. O Minhocão, footing my apartment, claimed two kilometers of space that would otherwise potentiate construction. Seventeen stories down, a horizontal alley ran parallel, notched with door after door to smaller apartments. One latitudinal road-line farther, two stories risen, the Minhocão, where traffic sauntered past second and third story resident floors, between skyscraper walls, arms´ reaches of passing car windows. High on my skyscraper crest of concreted hill, with the directional advantage across the mythic road, I saw tower roofs descending to the cement valley floor, and tower faces rising to the opposing high ridge of São Paulo, Avenida Paulista, space I might call sky if not for the residents´ lives at level elevation. I contemplated out over homes of a million to, a young wind´s candled wish away, a tower same height as my own, a mile across the valley, its windows small as passing strangers´ pupils, but time-paused stare caused mutual dilation, behind each window lived inside there someone. You can rely on the sporadic to quest for worthwhile futures, but inconsistence drains, contentment may lay hidden in congruence. Behind every glass pane, potential of a boss, a job, a paycheck promise for completion of a docket, maybe I would find in routine, God´s imparted beauty, in tossing a pizza, eight hours a day, five days a week, or in a choking suit and tie, understanding that resource diversion to a bank optimizes world efficiency, or perhaps if I sat on the ledge long enough, a piece of gold-stamped parchment would glide into my lap, grandiloquently fonted, signatures in barbwire under my name, certified and true since though I´d skipped university, the source of my knowledge was not matter, dean of mine breath of the breath, as the Holy One anointed my new title as certified psychiatrist to fellow lost-soul gringos who hopeless-roamed Brasil for an English fluent listener to whom they´d spill their woes. Once you start searching for God, or your custom iteration of meaning, the trees´ leaves sift with meaning, the sky´s tones grade with meaning, I would soon find my own I was sure, or, I mean, anything could happen, I could wake up tomorrow, groundhog-day-doomed, the car-horn alarm at the same time blaring me awake, check the date, same as yesterday´s Wednesday, stuck in a loop with opportunity to cycle through the shames, the inconsequential crimes and suicides to which I´d been magic-cursedly enabled to escape via born-again never-tomorrow, until I centralized my focus, to harbor my talents for worth, searching São Paulo for the perfect occupation as to offer this earth best of self, who knows, one day in República park I´d stumble past a man bawling sax, he´d lend me a taste of his reeds, I´d discover my true purpose and spend my paused planetary non-spin racking up ten thousand hours of jazz improvisational mastery, awake to finally Thursday, weep-exclaim thanks, God, sure I had succeeded, and take my rightful crown as sultan of smooth mellow tune of the conical bore, whatever would happen, it would, I was sure, but first I´d have to lure opportunity –  if you want a float in the parade you better know carpentry –  so with twenty reais in pocket, and avant-garde soul in my ear, I left my building for the walk, knowing that whatever I deserved, needed for ascension, would with perfect timing, call.
        Blond on repeat, beginning as a consort but entwining me with its gravity like a tourbillon, I miswandered São Paulo as a ghost misinformed of his state, for eight hours, dead-born as elation of faded-way music, soundwave propagation bound to distribution, employment aims lost until I turned tune-sick like an addict awoken from dope dream when I noticed a very simple structure Frank Ocean makes the most of: minimalist introduction, impressionistic phrases provide imagery, and poetic associations to immerse the listener in abstract personal storytelling precedes a major switch or addition of beat aspects, to knock the listener off their assumptive ear-feet, and finally a crescendo, a combination of both the first and second sections in terms of impression, not sound, a climax that feels new though it clearly is a necessary constitution of all prior elements. After I had adequately explained this to myself, the holy portal of the album, as I fell from grace to distasteful analysis, became an impetus instead to create my own youtube account. 
        I stood alone evening by metro stair, felled from self-consecration, shoegazed down an escalator, headphones wasting. I was unlike Iracema. Music was no answer. But I knew that if the album could help me to transcend, even if only briefly, somewhere within it, hidden or sung blatantly, Frank had left a crumb-trail that might keep me from going God-emaciated. I found hope, especially, from the last line I heard before the demise of my sublimity, in an allusion Frank made on track seventeen, when he maudlinly sings “menage on my birthday.” Decidedly, I would start dating a lesbian. 
        Don´t know why I hadn´t thought of it earlier. I had a little time before my birthday, and I couldn´t discount Christmas, or potentially, Easter. Maybe either solstice would do. Forget the date, significance lay in the triplicate. For my plan to work, the two girls would not only have to seek betrothment with purity, but remain, as I had, vulnerable to the lure of infidelities. I liked my time in Nazaré, but there was something too supple in their aboriginality, the tribe´s achieved equilibrium, the way they seemed to me, to be, already even with God and nature, all of them, less like bipeds, more similar to ripples of a stream. In that case I´d be the odd one out, westernized, alone in my fulfilment unacquaintance, resulting in misbalanced, scalene sex. Everyone versed in menage à trois knows a threesome is exactly like a triangle, but successful trigon ventures must be sculpted equilaterally, with two members forming the bottom two corners, propping the third as the peak. The aborigines, at peace with their life paths, equaled Mother Earth, and therefore manifested spherical auras resembling nothing triangular, so here in São Paulo, I couldn´t settle for Nostalgia Ultra, aboriginal religion type girls – for sustained and holy fulfilment via threesome, I´d need rigidity, a top tier Blond-Catholic dyad to exalt or dehumanize me, either way, reintroduce me to Heavenly fusion, and this time, elevate to stay. 
        The rationale was simple: for those of us with relatively inexplosive childhoods, to be young, now as an adult looking back, was basically like to be living in Heaven, and was as if to be mammalian meanwhile possessing an exoskeleton of naivety, since for a child with the privilege to trust, any problem they worry of as theirs is actually an adult´s, and though as children grow unable to conceptualize this – a facet fundamental to their happiness – through clichéd ignorant bliss they buzz like little bumblebees of joy, where slowness of time and infinite news render honeyed skies, not monotone, square, and grime-flecked bulb-lit rooms, and the comparisons are endless, whether spoonfuls of sucrose-dusted cereal bring thrill to risen mornings like a deadbeat´s dose of heroin carrot-sticks his wake, or whether a double sleepover, consecutive nights of video-gamed friendship seemed to last eternally, as if the friends were undeservingly granted some inverse Myth of Sisyphus, for kids, time does not pass, it urges, and depression is a second, a toy you wanted and didn´t get yet, not a term, and now I won´t speak for everyone, because everyone means adults, not children, who is One, and so once through adolescence, I molted that exoskeleton, my not only deflective but retentive skin of innocence that held in the feeling that, no matter how bad things got, perpetually, life had meaning and was worth it, slipped away, returned less often and with every passing day, month, year, where the youthful certainty of why-ask-why checked out, an imprecise, darkened, cloud of doubt inspissated itself into the vacancy, inside which with age, realizations, questions, added globules to wet anxieties, like what about the wastefulness of my pursuits, my potential occupation, was it selfish, or a pipe-dream, or what about a spouse, would commitment be to love, or just to fear of loneliness, and what about the way I used to look up to my parents, and tell them how I felt, did they ever really, truly understand, or was all the older wisdom a curtain, bullshit, convincing me forward until maybe I could figure out the something that they hadn´t, the proof of why the printless and empowered Hands for whatever reason when we were children molded our experience with gentleness, allowed our soft, blanketed lives to harden, I write this not knowing the basis for jaded adulthood, but recognize that hope of some truth in life returns in fleeting moments, even if not flowing like the river of our youth, hope emerges in instants, like glitters off the scales of a fish rising hungry to its surface, and as I´ve aged, though these golden instances shine more rarely, I´ve begun to draw parallels between their reveals, like how after fourteen dedicated years of ski racing, I finally won my first one, and the glow of Oh my God I fucking did it didn´t come when I saw my time on the scoreboard, or later when I popped a cork on the podium, but on the run between the bottom of the course and the base of the mountain, skiing alone, when I hadn´t gotten one congratulations, no medal, as far I knew nobody had known, I just got to ski down, carve meaningless turns into snow, no pressure, because for that minute until the line at the chairlift there was nothing I could do to do better, or how about the time when, after four years of military service my friend Max returned alive, and we climbed a fourteener on a blue sky Colorado day and I hadn´t asked him a single question about his time in Afghanistan and he hadn´t inquired about my life hardly either, we just tried not to kick large rocks down the steeps at any trailing hikers and when we summited we chewed on sandwiches we´d made, mouth-fulled smiling at each other as if we were omniscient due to the taste of peppered turkey and mustard, or what about that call from an older friend Ray, forty-four years old and divorced and as far as I could tell just counting down the daylights he´d have to remain himself through, crying on the phone, not depressed as I´d assumed but rolling down his face tears of happiness, after decades of writing for nothing but to pass through spare gaps in his cough of a life, he´d sold his first screenplay, to a major LA studio, he could quit his job working IT service and his name had meaning now, but Ray is dead now, he killed himself after his movie flopped and he´d spent all his money and never sold another script, and as for Max, he´s back in Afghanistan, on his second tour, and we haven´t spoken, and regarding ski racing, I did win again, but it never felt the same as the first time, and much, much worse each time I didn´t and while life admits into its worth in moments like those, I search for the gift of collision of contentment and fulfilment, the permanent, euphoric, loyal life worthiness, and those memories I mentioned arose with power: athletic domination, altitudes beaten, or in an instant seven figures of script money made, but ask yourself, who holds the power in this world, who besides that one true Creator if this isn´t all random, and the answer, as I´d referenced before, could have been represented triangularly, so I thought maybe, the closest you can get in human form to receiving God´s blessings would be by joining the Illuminati, but since I had no idea how to apply, the closest I could get is through a threesome, because think about it, through perfect sexual performance I´d be deified, double-trebuchet launched to the top of the menage à trois triangle, which, in the 3D world of real people and not just 2D symbol representatives, would equal the top of a pyramid, and I´d take the same position as the all-seeing eye that no matter its relation to currencies, never leaves its place peak-perched on the dollar, meaningless in its element as paper but pivotal in its reifying symbol of value, and inversely, if the two girls used me as nothing more than a tool of human meat, to pleasure themselves solely and objectify me, then I would still separate my soul from my body, in the same way one might with the high of a drug, but unlike the heroin floating, after the sex, I would be that guy who had actually had a threesome. That´s a story that never needs to be told. You simply carry the truth of it with you forever. And maybe, just maybe, afterward, dressed, in public and alone again, no matter in relation to the girls of our future, I would finally, continuously, and holy live content.