I CAN FEEL OUR HEARTS AS ONE
We have come to yet another watershed in our tale, dear reader, and as I endeavor to impart to you a true story of suspense, intrigue, pathos and sensitivity, I am challenged at times such as this to maintain the narrative as it has unraveled before, for events are about to transpire simultaneously from a multitude, and each is as imperative as the next to the core of our meaning. Thus, this day I am about to describe to you, a day of such momentous weight that it amazes to feel Earth still firm beneath collective feet, and air still swirling from ears to ear — this galloping day, a culmination of events heretofore, an impetus for days subsequent as to render them inevitable — indeed, I am describing a seam in the time continuum where Fate slipped through, stopped to sew its entry, then swooped upon the slumbering masses, asserting them helpless to the Days to come, for they would tumble upon each other to foretell the Last just as true as the Next, such is our providence, amoral, destitute of will, foreign to ambitions, bestowing grace upon courage to awaken and go forth, and find love amongst the ruins, all our invisible meaningless Yesterdays. We cherish hollow victory, and perhaps rightly so, but my tale holds no such thing, instead it unfurls a horror most astute, impossibly keen, and intimately savage. I can speak only for myself, and hope that you may share in it, for what is my tale if not cautionary, what are our lives if not exemplars, what is the Universe if not a paradigm, or at least it gives us comfort to vainly assign it so. Hence, in this Day, I employ assistance in the telling, with voices you have heard before, but now of greatly different tones, for no one in the History of Everything has ever experienced a day such as what is to be described in the words to follow. Carry on if you must, my reader, but be forewarned, keep at your behest a soft space upon which to rest, for you may require to cast these words aside, briefly or otherwise, and seek precious respite, where you can assign the following events to an especially exacerbated imagination, a fancy of the damned, a trifle of the lost, an amusement of the doomed. This may all be well and true, but consider, Fate hovers, and watches, and seizes to strike, impartial, anarchic, poised, nigh.
My new morning customary with Chloe went agreeably enough without hindrance. We had a light breakfast, and I reminded her that she was Anna, not Chloe. I went upstairs to don my disguise, then I drove us to our departure point near the school, and all this occurred with only heartfelt pleasantries exchanged between us. We didn’t dwell on the fatalities and Dark Magick of the previous night, for to us they were solved, and even then we mustn’t appear to others as if we had any knowledge of them, this I conveyed to Chloe in terms most stringent but also full of care. I believed that Chloe knew that I had her best interests at heart, that we were a team, bound by blood, and now, clandestine felony. My own fear of getting caught was surprisingly profound, so much so that I suspected Chloe could undeniably sense it, much as she had sensed my hatred of Coach and Paolo. This put me at some ease, but not so much that I could leave my fear unmentioned. So I told Chloe again to simply “be right,” and that this meant concealing the truth of what had happened with us the night before. Chloe for her part simply nodded, and repeated, “be right.” As I watched her walk off on her own toward the school, I took a calming breath, and assured myself that her day would be uneventful, that more attention would be paid to the oddities of Coach and Paolo. God only knew how they would behave (and I intend this phrase to be literal). But instead of worry about this, I amused myself with it, and found courage in that. (Bracing myself with laughter — what a strange new sensation!) As I left the school, I looked forward to carrying this epiphany into the daily routine of my new solitary domestic life. I could finally build my own Dickinsonian fortress. I could have words and poetry, thought and a muse, and have it all to myself, no intrusions, no others. I could once again retreat into the civility of having no name, of being nobody, except alive, alone in my transparent whole.
It is at this point in our story that we will veer, as previously foretold. I will visit you again later in this chapter, but for now, Mr. Spellman will take rein of the narrative, and tell of events taking place in my absence, at school.
Thank you Anna. I will do my best, and report the facts as they occurred. It’s very tempting to want to jump ahead in the story, particularly because I was so personally involved. I appreciate you allowing me to mention that, and I hope your readers keep that in mind, and keep turning the page! It’s certainly an incredible story, and I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me.
The morning began as usual. It wasn’t until second period that I heard the students gossiping about both Coach Holden and Paolo Martinez. I tend to usually not listen to students’ gossip, but what I heard was hard to ignore. I heard someone say that Paolo was drunk, because he couldn’t walk straight and was slurring his words. I immediately wondered if his parents knew about this. I assumed that Stan Nodder would be told and that Paolo’s parents would be called. I also remember thinking at how unusual this supposed behavior was. Paolo had just been promoted to starting quarterback for the big game coming up in a couple days. So why would he jeopardize this coveted position on the team? Didn’t he realize that not only was he letting himself down, but letting down his fellow teammates? It was all very weird.
During my morning break in the teachers’ lounge, I spoke with my colleagues about this. It was then that I learned that Paolo wasn’t the only one acting this way. Bob Holden, the football coach, was walking around drunk too, or stumbling, as the case may be. One of the other gym teachers, I’m not sure who, was sitting with him in his office, trying to calm him down. Some of my colleagues in the teacher’s lounge joked about Holden and Martinez possibly getting loaded together before school. I suppose that was an easy joke to make. But it still made no real sense.
Then another of my colleagues came into the lounge with even more strange details. Apparently both Coach Holden and Paolo Martinez were stumbling around the halls repeating the same strange phrase over and over again. They would slur, and quite loudly apparently, “be right!” or “I’m being right!” or variations of this. They were supposedly shouting these words at everyone. Then another teacher told me she had heard the same words being said by another student in the hallways. The teacher said that this student was yelling the same phrase at random. I asked who the student was, and, sadly, was told it was Anna Appleby. Was she drunk as well? I voiced this concern, but the teacher said no, that Anna seemed otherwise in control of herself, and not having difficulty walking and talking like the other two. Beatrice Tuxford confirmed this. She said that Anna behaved as her usual quiet self in art class. But once class was over and Anna was in the crowded hall, Bea said she could hear Anna repeat the words “be right!” quite loudly. Of course I was sympathetic to Anna. She was still mourning her sister Chloe and would be for a long time. I’m not sure if she would, or should, ever get over that. But Coach and Paolo? What was going on? Why were they all shouting “be right?” What the hell did it all mean?
Thank you Mr. Spellman, and we’ll return to that parallel narrative soon, but allow me to interject as to what ensued in my experience during those same morning hours, me being the real Anna Appleby, and your own Anna being, of course, my Chloe.
Upon returning home from dropping Chloe at school I immediately ventured again to the basement to tend to my mother. Doris’ state had improved only but a little, if one could call feeble acquiescence an improvement. At least by then she had grown more accustomed to her imprisonment, and didn’t rally against the ropes and the gag with the force she had displayed initially. I fed her canned beans in an aluminum foil pie tin. She slopped the goo voraciously into her gob as if she had never eaten before, but she had done this every time I fed her. I replenished her water bowl, then left her mid-meal, as that was the easiest time to leave, when she was absorbed in food. I was a little concerned that she had yet to either urinate or defecate, and as much as the forthcoming task disgusted me, I resolved to show her later how to use a large bucket as a lavatory. I needed her to maintain at least an acceptable standard of health, until the day came when she started to heal, and maybe even approximate her former level of behavior. But that day seemed remote. Unlike Chloe (whom I’m sure had figured out how to use the bathroom), Doris was still feral, still stuck solid in the grip of madness, with no indication that she would ever pull out. Death was still too close to her. Perhaps one day I could veer her from her Death and onto the path of sociable conduct (perhaps Death in another form?). But I was in no haste to begin her education. Firstly, I needed to tend to mine.
I went back into the house and took off my Doris disguise (I’m sure it mattered not that Doris saw me that way). Though my camouflage was so stupidly prosaic (my mother!), removing it was akin to removing any trace of identity I ever had, even if that identity was Nobody. I longed for the comfort of being Nobody, but alas it did not come. What came was emptiness, a void with no meaning, and where I thought there would be charm, a numbness so divine, there was instead a crookedness, a failing dance between myself and my nothing. I eased into the thought that these things take time, and so I lay down, in my bed, and realized how the previous night had interfered with my sleep, and indeed all I must be feeling was exhaustion. How could I expect to achieve my detachment for the day if my essential constitution was so unbalanced? So I slept, reaching unconsciousness rather quickly, as I recall. I also remember that for once I did not dream. This was a relief.
I cannot reminisce how long I was away. I bore myself sluggishly, and tore at my fix, but my legs were no succor, my brow no retreat, I sunk into my gut, and my fever begun.
I have come to resemble a wound, as if I was healed and whole in the womb, suspended in sublime equilibrium with my self/other until the universal dust fills all the vacuums and sores, then decompose into smegma and lace, and soon the other will be so far away from me as to no longer be called a self and all that will remain is my wound disembodied. I should never be called so lucky.
I rose myself above the floor of my bed and floated to the bathroom where I could call upon her through the mist and my pall. The water ran hot and vapors humidified my lungs. I disrobed and found myself in sadness. I looked down upon my body in shame.
It was a fine day especially for autumn, not unpleasant like you get in summer. Sometimes both the students and the teachers like to take their lunch outdoors, and that’s what I was doing this day. There was a large contingent of students milling about the central quad, eating their lunches as well. The students tend to keep to themselves and not interact with the teachers, and who can blame them. Not every teacher, mind you, dares to infiltrate the students’ domain. I for one like to keep to one side. Being a science teacher, sometimes I amused myself with thoughts of the students as a different species.
During that particular lunch hour, I remember a strange wind starting to blow about, almost too warm for the still air, which was colder. I also remember seeing James Callifano and his crew, sitting off to one side not too far from me. I could only just hear them gossip. Normally I didn’t interest myself in the students’ affairs, but this was a strange time at the school, and I couldn’t help but listen in. I’ll try and be as accurate as I can in my recount.
I heard James talking about Coach Holden. He said that the coach had approached him in the hallway, had sought him out. He said that the coach had told him to “be right.” This of course confirmed the stories I had heard earlier in the teachers’ lounge. Then James went on to say that Coach Holden had reinstated him as the starting quarterback for the big game this weekend. James said that while he thought this was “cool,” he still thought the coach was a “douche.” This brought laughter from his friends, and then I remember Tyler Begley bringing up the Paolo Martinez situation. They thought that Paolo was acting strangely because he had lost the starting quarterback position, so to them it was all cause and effect. I remember feeling surprised at how easily they both accepted and moved on from the odd behavior of both Bob Holden and Paolo Martinez. They just kind of shrugged it off and worried about themselves. It occurred to me that this level of narcissism was rampant with this crowd, and I remember shaking my head, chastising myself for forgetting this rather obvious fact. Kids will be kids, after all.
I sat on the porcelain and its cold severity pleased me against the ever-growing steam. I slid up and down it a little and tried to temper my humiliation, noticing the back of my thighs, just below my buttocks, and, arching some, finding the stone upon my back, tethering the ethers to my middle, and finally taking my hands on their journey, over my shoulders and down my torso side, elongating their fullest extent before lifting my shoulders to my ears, and digging wherever I could to discover a sharpness, leaving marks on my skin. Soon I would rise.
I heard Clarissa Morgan ask James who he would be taking to the homecoming dance this Saturday. I remember James preening like the peacock that he is, stiffening himself and saying something like he was “flying solo” and that there would be a “feeding frenzy.” And this sort of behavior was accepted. James held a kind of court in that quad, and he was surely the most powerful figure there. Others about him were merely his vassals, servants to his needs. There’s no doubt he was a handsome boy, and skilled athletically, and so very confident. For some reason I remember wondering then if any of the female teachers had ever fantasized about him. We’re only human after all.
I ceased to float, I was rooted in the physical, but this was the way I could feel sensation in my toes, electrical charges creeping in, I may as well been floating, for the chargers crisscrossed the blood falling from my rising and their comingling left a scar of pleasure as a prelude to a storm.
James seemed on a roll that day. The prototypical young alpha male. I remember thinking that it was inappropriate. I mean, we were just a few days removed from the terrible death of his girlfriend Chloe, and even if their tryst was short-lived, it deserved more respect than he was showing in the quad that day. There he was, laughing quite wildly, carrying on as if Chloe had never existed. Where was that same boy who had showed such grief at Chloe’s funeral? Where had his sensitivity gone? Again, I could put this all down to the quirks of youth, but maybe that would be letting him off too easily. We need to teach these kids, right? I need to teach these kids. I became determined to say something to James, to remind him that as an example to other students at the school, he needed to start behaving better. I could appeal to his influence, and maybe the flattery would help me get my point across. I put my sandwich back into my bag and took a gradual step toward him and his group. They were still in mid-gossip, so I would have to pick my moment. I remember James saying something like, “what’s done is done,” or was that just my memory playing tricks on me? I do have a better memory of James saying the following: “I can’t help it if chicks dig the shit out of me.” That, he said.
I burrowed myself amongst the life-giving fumes and felt their warmth accentuate my touch. There, standing ever closer to the clear liquor threatening, the salt from my pores could all seep away. Awash in my guilt, adrift in my rub, I succumbed to the intermingling of it all, and knew that my desire was twofold. The beholdence of my James, and the absence of him, of how I missed him, of how I had to forget he wasn’t there, to both forget and bring it all together, no matter how far I had fallen from grace.
My eyes closed, I could see him there, James, in the school quad. It was lunch. The teachers hovered in sad corners, beaten by youth, and the students held sway, with James helming the ship. At his side would be Tyler, and Clarissa, all superfluous, for James rose above them, like an ancient dream, he removes his shirt in Michelangelo glory, and I quiver at the knees, standing full under that stream, and he sees me, he sees all of me, and we alone in the gold of the lea reach for each other and meld and join and enfold and too soon the water betrays my rapture and I scream.
But right then, before I could get close to James, everyone in the quad all turned to see Anna, who was very close to James by now, and had screamed, though it wasn’t a scream exactly. It was more of a loud moan, and everyone in the quad saw her quivering uncontrollably. She looked scared, but she also looked, how shall I put this, like she was having an orgasm. To James, there was no doubt. She had indeed just climaxed. He laughed at her. The bastard! That was my cue to intervene, I thought. But before I could, something remarkable happened.
I turned the shower off, dried and got dressed as quickly as I could. I wanted to get back to reading my Emily. None of what came before had happened, or at least it wasn’t worth a thought.
You know when you are a child and then you grow up and you try and remember things from your childhood and you can’t until one day something happens to you and sometimes all these memories come flooding back? That’s what happened to me when for no reason at all I came, I mean like, mind-fucking orgasm came, in public, at school, just standing there, looking at James. It was like, holy fuck. I had awakened from a sleep, but who was I? What was I doing there? Why the fuck was I coming?
Then James looks at me like I’m some sort of freak, and I can’t fucking blame him really, but I have this strange feeling, like I’m not myself, or at least I’m not in control of myself, and I don’t feel like me, my skin is all different and my hair is different and even my voice feels different even though I hadn’t said anything but lord knows I was about to. For some reason I can’t stop staring at James, I mean I’m standing like three feet from him and I must have looked so shit, and James is like standing there too staring right at me except he starts to laugh at me, because I must have looked so shit, and I just fucking came for no reason. And then James says this shit to me and I know things are really fucked up —
— Hey, nobody! —
And if that isn’t fucked up enough I open my big stupid gob and I have no control over what I’m saying at all words just come spilling out of me like diarrhea and I’ll put them in all caps so you get the idea —
— I LOVE YOU, JAMES CALLIFANO —
And James is all like, what the fuck, right? But I don’t stop there, I hardly miss a beat and just keep right on going —
— I LOVE YOU, JAMES CALLIFANO. I LOVE YOUR MIND, YOUR BODY AND YOUR SOUL, I LOVE THE WAY YOU HAVE SEX WITH ME AND I LOVE YOUR ATHLETIC SKILLS —
Now remember, I am practically yelling this into James’ face and he’s only three feet away but trust me everyone in the quad is watching and they can hear every word and then some. Even some teachers are there, I recognize Mr. Spellman, he’s like the closest to me, but I even see that little runt Nodder walking toward us, but the funny thing is that I don’t remember caring at all about what anybody thought, I mean, I don’t really remember having any thoughts at all, other than what the fuck was I screaming to everyone. Fuck, I must really love James, I actually remember having this pretty weird thought to myself.
Well about this time I think James wants me to cut the shit, because that’s literally what he says to me, and he gets even closer like he wants to whisper something to me, probably wanting to tell me to shut the fuck up or something, and that’s when things start to get really weird, because I grab him, I grab big strong manly James, and he tries to get away from me, but he can’t because I’m too strong for him! Me! Chloe! Ha! And what do I do? I grab him and kiss him and he can’t stop me! I mean he tries to, but he can’t! I’m too strong! Oh sure, he turns his head away from me even as I try and slobber all over his face, but maybe even weirder than all this is that I don’t remember feeling too pissed off about James not kissing me back, though really, wasn’t I supposed to be his girlfriend? Honestly at the time I wasn’t sure.
Well needless to say what Anna was doing with James was pretty shocking. First she masturbates herself to a climax near him, and a very loud climax at that. Then she yells out her love for him in quite explicit terms. Then she kisses him against his will. Now everyone knows that I have the utmost sympathy for Anna given the effect the loss of her twin sister must have had upon her. So to me, what I was witnessing, was her ultimate cry for help. I wanted to intercede, to help Anna, but before I could, Stan Nodder raced between myself and Anna. I suppose that as the principal, he felt he should be the first to assist. But knowing Stan as I do, I knew that he wasn’t the man for the job. Anna needed sympathy, not the antagonism that she was sure to get from Stan Nodder. So I did something I thought I might regret later. I grabbed Stan by the arm and pushed him aside. I must admit, he looked pretty shocked by this.
So finally I finish kissing James, I mean it was a long kiss, long enough for everyone in the quad to see and start cheering, and what does James say to me when his lips are finally free?
— Jesus fuck! —
Classy! But I didn’t pay any mind to that. I had more to say, though I had no idea where these words were coming from, it felt like someone had their hand up my ass and was making me talk, no, scream, weird shit really loud —
— I LOVE YOU, JAMES CALLIFANO. I... —
Here was where James interrupted me, he had to scream really loud as well —
— Shut up you sick fucking bitch! —
I must have comprehended what James had said, because I responded to him, even though I still didn’t feel in control of what I was saying —
— BUT I KILLED FOR YOU. IT WASN’T RIGHT. I KILLED HIM. —
And that was when for some unknown damn reason I pointed at Coach Holden who was across the quad watching like everyone else. What the hell did I mean? I killed Coach? He was alive and standing right there! But, of course, I wasn’t finished so I yelled some more —
— I KILLED HIM. IT WASN’T RIGHT, BUT I KILLED HIM FOR YOU. —
And this time I was pointing at Paolo, who was standing and gawking nearby too. How did any of this make any sense at all? Well by this time James had enough, so he basically took off, and Tyler and Clarissa followed, and yes, I did think it was damn weird that these were my friends and they were treating me like I was some sort of freak. But I guess the main point was, how the hell did I get there, in the middle of the quad coming and screaming and being so weird? I tried to remember where I was before, but I was drawing a blank. It was like I was having weird memory loss or something. What do they call that? Amnesia. Yeah. Fuck.
James left poor Anna standing there very awkward and alone, so if he wasn’t going to be man enough to comfort her, I sure as hell was. I quickly told Stan Nodder to stay put, and frankly I think he was still suffering the shock of someone challenging his authority. (Stan, get over yourself!) I went to Anna and put my arm around her in a gentle, non-sexual way. I remember what I said to her. I whispered it softly so no one else could hear. There were still a lot of students and teachers alike watching this spectacle. I told her, “Sssh, Anna, it’s okay, you have every right to go a little crazy. It’s okay, since Chloe’s death, we’ve all felt...” And I swear, when she heard me utter the words “Chloe’s death,” that’s when things got strange again.
I remember Mr. Spellman trying to talk to me, but I don’t remember exactly what he said, except for one part, something about Chloe being dead. Then something hit me. It wasn’t just Coach or Paolo that were dead. I was dead too. But how could this be? I was alive and standing there too, just like them! I didn’t know what was going on exactly, but I did know that something was wrong with me, something was very, very wrong. I shoved Mr. Spellman away from me and he nearly fell over cuz I guess I shoved him pretty hard. Then I looked around and saw like the whole school just staring at me because by then I was totally the queen of all the meta-freaks, and then I felt one more scream welling up in me, one more of those screams I couldn’t control, though I did have the strange feeling that this would be the last of them, that from then on I would only scream when I wanted to scream, so I may as well get this last crazy scream out of my system, so I did, I screamed —
— BUT I MUST BE RIGHT! I MUST BE RIGHT! —
Yeah, like who knew where the fuck that came from. But that was it, that shit was over, that was my swan song for weird shit that I had to say but never wanted to say, but the even weirder thing was, the feeling of letting that go made my entire body twitch like I was some total epileptic spaz or something, I didn’t know what it was, but maybe just the shock of it, so my legs twitched and my arms twitched and my neck jerked around and I heard a few people react like they were really grossed out or something, and nobody dared come to help me, I guess it must have looked really violent and scary though I really had no idea myself, it didn’t hurt or nothin’, it was just like my joints were all snapping and unsnapping then snapping back into place. This only went on for a few seconds I think though I’m sure to the people watching it must have seemed longer. Then suddenly I felt in control of myself, and I wanted to do like James and get the hell out of there, though I didn’t want to find him either. I just wanted out, so like I trusted my legs and I started running away from the school. I ran really fast. I didn’t know where I was running to at first, but after a few seconds, I did.