The motel door is heavy and slams at her wet calves as she thumps into the room. Her jeans are rolled to the bottom of her knees like a kid who’s just come back from a little fishin’ out near the creak. She holds her flip-flops strung together, hooked with one finger and she carries them this way, held from her body as if they really were two dead fish. “Did you see the pool?” She says. She clunks the fish to the other side of the bed. They’re shoes again. “It’s got a gorilla’s hair floating right near the bottom of it.”
I’ve had the TV on since she left this morning. Movie about a man who reunites with his eight-year-old son and together they trudge through the seedier waters of Houston looking for the man’s wife, the boy’s mother he’s never known. I click the TV off. I ask her how she’s so positive it was a gorilla that left the hair. “Could be a dog’s whisker”, I tell her, “…could be some grizzly old man’s declarative Longest-Pube-in-the-World. I scoot to the side of the bed, take her by the wrist and lead her through the saloon doors into the bathroom. Home or abroad, this is where I always keep my little leather bag, tucked between the cleaning supplies under the sink. I don’t normally keep things from her but this was my bag, secrets or not; this was the magic of me. I used to fear the unfortunate day when she finally found the strangely bulging bag beneath the sink, the zipper buckled, the synthetic fabric torn where the green stained teeth snag every time I struggle to close it. Her mouth would turn curious like it does; and with her eyes nipping at her brow, she’d say, “And this?” I would have explained that that bag there was accoutrement. You know, I’d say, underwear, razors, the hibiscus soap for my sensitive skin. But she would have seen the lies flaring with my nostrils, wouldn’t she, as I fumbled with the words…h-iii-bi-sc-uuuus s-oo-app. Undoubtedly she wouldn’t have let up, inquiring further with her hands feeling all round the bag wondering how many pups the bitch could be pregnant with this time, “but it feels like…how many razors do you need for only three days?”
So here we are in the middle of the bathroom, me in the middle of a thought that chokes me so that I giggle quietly into my hand. And here, maybe because she is uneasy with the silence, she coughs and sniffles into her sleeve. Looking at me, I see yellow dust spark from her mouth and float to glitter about her face until her whole face is veiled with a swarm like amber gnats. She can’t keep the giggle bottled either and chuckles. Her teeth rattle from behind the anxious mask. The intentions of this dream is cantilevered above us, between us and dangerously being tugged at by our laughter, tears in our eyes. Grabbing the bag, I notice the floor is yellow too with the tincture of the sun and our feet are stained with it restless splotches.
“Don’t look at the ground!” She bites her lip and touches my neck with the hollow of the spoon she took from the man at the front desk.
“Yep,” he told us. Tortoise Shelled rims, blue collared button-up and Joshua embroidered over his left pocket. “Coffee’s complimentary, sugar and milk’s in the cooler there. Cigarette’s there on the dash I can sell ya two packs for a dollar.” Just the spoon thanks. And she dashed off.
Now I close my eyes and feel the salty cool of the spoon’s metal purse the skin at my ankles and, blind, I angle a careful pinch into my purple sack. It was a belly full with pencils and pens, bullhorn paper clips, eighteen AAA batteries, two tea cups (Earl Grey, still warm and only half sipped from), and nearest the bottom was this very moment, worn and pressed as it is, scribbled in straight lines on stationary from this Thunderbird motel. My hand still reaching, I hold the crumpled papers of six discarded drawings. These are the sketched, scattered landscapes we had just previously passed through. They are the records of how I saw things—that is, how my hand could interpret what I say my eyes saw throughout the tin-can racket of the car’s vibrations, as if the volcanous roar that shook these hills a million years before still clamored (a pubescent anger) beneath the road.
“Ah ha!” I look at her, her eyes the same sinuous black of Highway 90. But what I have in my hand surprises me; this thing was in fact the artifact that started me almost thirty years ago. “This is the artifact,” I tell her. “That bears us both. When—“
She stops me. The end of that gorilla’s hair pokes through her putty lips and shivers. Her speech is clumsy as if that hair was really and obviously a turkey leg she shoved neatly to the back of her jaw and chews as she gestures something like claiming luggage at an airport. “Pet thit bght bik in yer big.” She says. She continues to tell me as best I can understand her that one can not be born of paper alone, created from nothing as nothing could ever be the white of an empty page, the blue lines as rungs of the ladder, the latter of which is where the wallow of man could never really be. She stresses that last bit with a satirical bite then pulls the mysterious hair into her mouth and swallows with a chirping smacking of her lips.
“Then how would you explain the belly of that pool?” I ask her, “Is it scripted and delineated with the sun or the pen?” She only looks past me, through the wall behind me as if she’s looking through the window in the other room. I set the bag back under the newspapers and wet towels. She takes my arm, still looking to the window on the other side of this wall, pulling me quietly to follow.
The bathroom had been cool and dark. Its only light had come from what warmth crept through a two foot fenestration between the ceiling and the top of the bathroom wall. So, once at the window in the other room I can see nothing through the glass; the world was peeled away and the undersurface was bleached and antiseptic, blank as the surface of a porcelain sink. This flagrant nakedness does the same to how I see things. My eyes cut through the blank whiteness of the outside; and soon, through that richness of oil and milk, the world begins to unfurl itself to me. I trace its outlines with my finger to the glass. Then with quick swashes of my hand these lines buckle and bleed intercepting interpretations of a world that should already exist out there. My eyes grow cooler and I watch as new formed brown shapes surface and shimmy over the glass. It bruises at the edges as it cools with each stroke. Mild yellows and pinks to an electrocuted cerulean. I see what should be the pool, but it rests shipwrecked on its side, muted and solid, finally past the glass. There is a procession of soft purple blotches like mountains that hang just above this cooling apparition and I laugh. I laugh because I think this could be Capulin’s Crater, filled with the gypsum of the White Sands by the same man in the black baseball cap I saw her talking with just before she came in starting about the hair. I think too that he could be the myth of the volcano that bore this place.
“Yes,” she says. We are both still, our eyes fixed on the crooked pool in the gravel parking lot. “the hair that I found in the pool…” Her voice dribbles to a whisper then she stops, clears her throat, presses the tips of her fingers into the corner her eyes. “Is there something…” She trails off again. “…in that bag of yours…that will let me always remember the light here, the crooked creaking the road makes as it sweeps over my eyes and through my head and I consider that all this could be more than just showing the way?” She’s sitting now on the foot of the bed and she says, “I want to know every interruption. As best as any sunset should be listened to by those rocks we left resting on the envelopes, I want to hear the sun scratch the stone as it plays over the edge.” Her eyes are bloodshot; the tips of her fingers are shaking. I peek at my hands. Thinking back to the relic I found earlier in my bag, I am embarrassed because I can only think to say that this dream of hers is only the fantasy that light could ever be anything else than what it is. Outside this motel window is Marfa, Texas and the sun and the crystal bottom of a pool where she found a gorilla’s hair, and beyond this place, before and after, are the rocks she lays to keep my letters from blowing away on the grass. And us? In here. Her and me in this bag?
She grabs my wrist again and with her eyes as loud as the eighteen-wheeler roaring outside our room she says, “Come outside with me and show me if you won’t get into that pool with me a second time.”