Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My TVC15: Part I, chapter 10 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Leonard was not at all like me. Which, perhaps, was why he fascinated me so much. Because unlike me he was never able to lose his memory. No matter how far he traveled, his memory was with him. Lines from a popular song, a drop of liquid, a television program, a piece of furniture—the insignificant details and sentimental emotions always caught up with him in his universe.

To him the years he spent in the outside world were a blemish upon that universe. Every night he had gone to bed with Annalisa had darkened it. Every day when he hadn’t used his imagination had diminished it. But as his universe collapsed, his memory expanded.

As for me, I learned to put my memories behind me. To build something with them, a monument which will speak of my heritage. And this history which I’m now writing, and with which I will soon be finished, will serve as my monument. A monument I can carry with me. A monument I can slip into the right hand drawer of a desk, or leave at the bottom of a duffel bag. A monument which will never harm me like the gun with which my great grandfather—and later my grandfather—killed themselves. And although I will know at all times where the monument is, I will never again think of what it says.

When Leonard got back home everything was the way he remembered it—the television, the stereo, the furniture. The only difference being that although Lily and he were still married, it was Lemuel who was now, for lack of a better word, her lover. That and my four year old sister Marly.

Marly was a quiet child, and her eyes always seemed to follow you around the room like those of a suspicious cat. Still, Leonard saw that she was a beautiful little girl, looking exactly the way Lily did when she was that age. And though she would stare out into space when she wasn’t staring at you, there were moments when she would abruptly run in the direction she was staring. As if there were something out there only she could see. When she’d get across the room she’d look around frantically—she was, in her own way, a very active child. Then rush back to where she’d been and once again stare across the room.

I was now seven years old and had gotten into the habit of watching television. I’d set myself in the middle of the living room, on my hands and knees, and gaze at the television for hours. What was on television didn’t matter to me—Leonard could change channels in the middle of a program and I wouldn’t even blink or show the slightest change in the expression on my face. Because although I was now aware of what was going on around me, I had no desire to take part in any of it.

Since the television was in the living room, which was now Leonard’s room, he began watching it all the time. The show that interested him the most was The Cosby Show, because it presented what to him seemed the ideal situation for a young boy to grow up in.

Theo, the boy in the fictional Huxtable family, had parents who were both professionals. With his father being a doctor and his mother a lawyer, it was ensured that he would be well provided for. But what was more important was that Theo had not just one but four sisters. And so if things didn’t work out with one of them, Leonard thought, Theo still had three others from which to choose, one of whom was bound to make a suitable mate. Though naturally he should sample each of them before making any kind of decision.

Leonard always thought that the perfect match in the family would be Theo and Denise. Although their personalities were rather different, Theo had a way of connecting with Denise that seemed more profound than with any of the other sisters. And although Leonard saw him getting his dick sucked by young Rudy, doing the six-pack with Sondra, and fucking Vanessa up the ass while playing with her ample breasts, Denise was the one he saw Theo going back to time and time again. She, of all his sisters, was the one Theo wanted the most. She was to him what Lily was to Leonard, the only difference being that Theo had alternatives, while Leonard did not.

After a time Leonard came to believe that it was his own fault that he lost Lily to Lemuel. When things had gotten difficult, he had failed to put the proper effort into their marriage and went so far as to completely abandon Lily for nearly five years. As he had been gone for such a long time, he couldn’t blame either Lily or Lemuel for taking up with each other. Because, like Leonard, they had no alternatives. If only their parents had had more children, Leonard thought, things might have been different. And he wouldn’t have to spend the rest of his days without a wife.

Shortly after Leonard returned to town Lily got a job as a waitress at a nightclub on Fort Myers Beach. Lemuel, who was still at the greyhound track, had decided not to go back to school, having taken an interest in dogs. He wanted to breed them, which was something he could learn about from being there at the track.

For Leonard it was enough to stay home and take care of the kids. He stayed home all the time now—he never left the apartment. He had concluded that in the last five years, from the time he set out west hitch-hiking to the end of that long bus ride, he had seen enough of the world. At any rate, all that he needed to experience first hand.

He began living through Marly and me. He’d watch us all the time, hoping we’d begin to pay attention to each other. Which, to his disappointment we never did. The closest we’d get to interacting was when somehow the same toy attracted our attention. This was a rare occurrence, since all our toys—the teddy bear, the firetruck, the Barbie doll—usually just lay on the floor unused.

Sometimes Leonard would put the teddy bear in my hand, then point to Marly, pulling at my sleeve in an attempt to get me to bring it to her. I’d look in her direction, usually towards her feet, but would never approach her. Other times Leonard would try to get us to roll the firetruck back and forth to each other, but he’d always end up rolling it back and forth himself as we wouldn’t even look at the truck or at each other. And instead would merely gaze at the floor.

Leonard tried playing tapes or records. But music didn’t affect us any more than silence. He’d play the old Tommy James and The Shondells tape. And when “I Think We’re Alone Now” came on he’d look at my eyes, then at Marly’s, hoping that somehow this song would inspire us. All he saw were our blank stares which to him revealed not a trace of recognition or understanding.

Things went on this way for a long time and he resigned himself to the idea that Marly and I would never take an interest in one another. But one day the following spring Lily came home with the news that she was pregnant. Leonard was happy for her, and for himself as well, as he believed that the presence of another child would be the catalyst that would finally bring Marly and I together.

Lily and Lemuel immediately left the apartment. Leonard thought they were going out to celebrate down by the river, but that wasn’t the case at all.

As they shut the door behind them Leonard began to hear the sound of rain falling on the window, followed, in the distance, by the sound the thunder. He turned out the lights, lay back on the sofa and closed his eyes as the sounds grew louder. Despite all the flashing lights and noise, Marly and I, sitting by him on the floor, didn’t cry, didn’t even stir. This, he believed, was a good sign.

He clasped his hands together and dreamed of the day when Marly and I would make love for the first time just as Lily and he had some fourteen years ago.

He could see it all very clearly, and it wouldn’t be long, he thought, before Marly and I saw it too: Rudy, in the sixty-nine position with Theo, sucking on his dick as if it were a popsicle; Sondra, the most conservative of the girls, lying beneath him and moaning, “Oh God, oh my dear dear God”; Vanessa, rubbing his cum over her breasts, then licking her fingers clean; and Denise, after having sucked him off, washing her mouth out with a steady stream of his urine. With the images of these fictional lovers in mind, he believed that Marly and I would create our own world and make our own way within it. Creating new legends, building new shrines, new monuments, and devising new ideas.

He believed that one day we would walk out into the storm to be by the river. That rolling around naked in the shallow water, caressing, kissing, we would spill our love over one another. That the day would come when our screams, the first sounds ever to leave our mouths, blend in with the clamor of thunder. When our bodies, in a fearless act of discovery, flash with each burst of light.

He believed that the day would come when Marly declares “I want you” as I push my middle finger in her ass—“I love you” as I slide my thumb inside her pussy. When gasping for air, she rises, then settles her young head between my legs to suck as if sucking and breathing were the same. When finally, with her mouth full of my cum, she brings her face up to mine.

He believed that the day would come soon, when in our perfect world we’d feel nothing but the gentle gift of rain in all its forms. That and the touch of skin upon skin.

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