Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Angel Leah by Jesse S. Mitchell. (from the novel "Mythic Creatures")

excerpt from "Mythic Creatures" by Jesse S. Mitchell

Paris, 1962.


The Angel Leah is a demon and a cannibal, or at least she has her tendencies. The same evil that lies in all souls, slippery and black shiny, it lies in her soul. Our diet is much the same, paint and words and amphetamines and analgesics. The search for sustenance is toil. I watch her as she brushes her long brown hair. She sits perfectly stick straight in front of the mirror and brushes down flat the wayward strands. Her eyes are weak but mine are weaker. I can barely see anything unless it is put right in front of my terrible eyes. I look out of our cracked glass window though and today because it is uncommonly clear I can see for miles. I can see the Place De La Concorde, where the giant men have stepped, and I can see down to the Pantheon where the giant men have slept. I dare not walk down that way; I am still much too slight a man, but on this fact I am working on a remedy. A remedy or a protest, a brilliant thing to take me to unforgettable lands, to place me into some not so indifferent hands. A good time may be all I ever find.
I watch out the window and I block out the sounds. I only watch and wait for the clear sky to crack open and let down the golden drizzle. And I will not leave this apartment until it comes.
“Jack? Are you listening to me?”
I do not blink my eyes. I take in all the light that the sun can send. I can take the heat. I can take the energy. I can focus. I can focus through the pain in silence.
“Hey, can you hear me?”
“I have been speaking.”
“Sorry, I was watching the street. I was a thousand miles away.”
“Take me downtown.”
“I am hungry, and I need a few things.”
“Yes, no. Not yet.”
“Are you still worried about being deported? No one is looking for you.”
“No, I am not going until it rains.”
“It doesn’t even look like rain. Why do we have to wait on the rain?”
“Because I am watching the sun and I am waiting for the rain.”
“Well, I suppose I will just sit here and starve.”
“You are too young to starve.”
“No one is too young to starve.”
“Maybe you are too beautiful then.”
“No one is. Now come on.”
“No! I will not go until it rains! I said that.”
“Did it never rain in Poland?”
“No, it just snowed.”
“Never rained?”
“Well, maybe it rained a little for the Germans but they brought it with them. For the rest of us it just snowed and snowed and snowed all year long.”
“I can call Raquel to take me downtown.”
“Yes, do that. I will come along later.”
I watch the cars line up around the block and bounce back and forth along the road. Like a child’s toy, the cars just keep going around and around the streets. They all look the same and as far as I know they are all the same ones, all day long. Man and woman and child and beast and bird swirling around down there in automobile and bus and on foot. A catastrophe always circling with them, a bloody disaster always awaiting man’s steps and I would pray for them if I knew how…if I knew how to pray for them. I can save myself, that much I know for sure. Buried beneath the mud in silence mouthing any supplications I knew, the small body of a boy slept in tears long enough to escape the fire and boot…I know how to save myself.
As I let my eyes wander over the landscape below, I listen to the blurred sounds start to come through the north-facing wall of our apartment. It is the longest wall in the whole place and it is covered in glittery golden paint that one night, in a daze of swilled and smoked creativity, I coated nearly everything we own with. Behind the wall the chants and bellows from our neighbor, Ali, start to murmur through and then grow louder and louder still. He is making his sounds again. He is a wild Algerian wizard. He claims to have died a thousand times and always returns from the grave to further honor the name of the Prophet. His voice is as deep and gravelly as a stone quarry and he moves like hell, throwing himself around without a pause for gravity to catch up. He is a madman and very thin with black, tired eyes. He never sleeps or eats, just bellows out stories and legends to himself all day and night of Rifs and Berbers and Djinn. He is usually polite and harmless enough. I can detect no major moral inadequacies in his character.
I listen as Leah dresses herself in a white papery dress and tall boots and steps hard around on our bare wooden floor. The tinkle of jewelry. The swoosh of femininity. She is off to meet her friend Raquel down the street at the corner. She pauses by the window and looks and lets me know she is leaving and to meet up with them later. I think I shall go out and find Hashhead Millicent, Millicent the Magnificent, and buy some pot. I tell Leah this as she leaves floating out the door. She agrees. Millicent, the West German émigré heiress, so tall and solid. Millicent the robot, she is a metal red eyed machine, with mechanical arms and legs and breasts and lips so bright, and she has the best tea in Paris. No one ever leaves any room for me. I make my own room. I find a tiny little crack in a life or place and I squeeze right in and make myself comfortable. It is the nature of all my relationships. Follow along with me long enough and you will see, you will understand. I grab my notebook and pull out my chewed up pen. A few lines written before a leave makes me feel more successful with my day in general. A few lines of verse or prose, blend the two and no one can help it, they will hate it. I scratch down my words, in scribble, some letters far too big and some too small to see, the meaning lost between the lines and affects. I close the notebook. I know I am done when the sides of my hand get covered in gray charcoal dust. Black suit, I always wear a black suit. I put the jacket on and the shoes next. Walk to the mirror and straighten the tie. Oh my, starlight in my eyes, red, red and moist. I pull my sunglasses off the table and press them hard on my face. I hide my eyes. Bend down and dust off my shoes and grab the keys and creep out the door. Crack it open, pull it open in a rush, bang, shut, closed and down the hall I go.

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