In Your Pursuit in The Alex Era

  • Feb. 2, 2024, 5:34 a.m.
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  • Public

The day of the fight, I don’t know what possessed us. Any of us. Your father, you, me. You and I were supposed to be leaving, heading out to visit my friends in Fredonia where I went to school. You were living above your father still in that little whirl of an apartment. The floor plan was so small, all you had to do was spin to see it all corner to corner. But it was the apartment where I first fell in love with you…where I first discovered my desires, my belly full of flames. Once, early on in our relationship, after hours of making out, you pushed me off the couch onto the floor and you recited scrolls worth of grocery lists of non-sexual inanimate objects. I laid on the floor at your feet, laughing at your attempt to resist me, knowing you were already mine. That little apartment was where I first kissed you in the shadowy remnants of that October day. In comparing notes later, you insisted I tasted of cream, while I told you that you tasted medicinal, of chemicals. My memory was failing me on the good parts by then, though.

But on the day of the fight? We were still in love.

I just remember we went up the backstairs for some reason, deviating from our normal route of avoiding your father. The backstairs went right by his backdoor. You knocked to remind your father we were heading out for the weekend, maybe you were looking for money to score. I don’t know. I’ll never know now. Your father was angry with you—a symptom of his perpetual disappointment in his junkie son. I tried to hide a few steps up the stairwell, just trying to stay out of it—as you had required of me so many times. Fights with your father, drug deals, withdrawals…So much of your life I knew I should stay out of…but I couldn’t.

He yelled at you, called you a name in his gravelly, Greek accent. You pulled back your arrow and let go…called your still closeted father a fucking faggot—knowing the insult would land. I came back down the stairs to intervene. I saw his hand on your collar, he held you fast in his fist. I saw it before you did—the frying pan. It arced through the air in his stony fist. He bashed you in the face with the sharp edge. I heard you yelp. Or maybe it was me. Horrified, I watched you both tumble into his apartment. Like he was playing a strong man game at a carnival, he raised his arm up and smashed you again with the frying pan. Your scalp split open, a cracked egg. I jumped in between you two, trying to intervene. I begged you both to stop, please, just stop. You punched him in the mouth over my head, trying to free yourself around me. His teeth. Fuck. I felt his fucking front teeth fly out of his mouth, bounce off of my shoulder. They skittered and spun across the floor. Two little dice in a craps game. Spitty gobs of blood hit my face, my shirt as he croaked, “You murderers!” You fell back still entangled with him. The collar of his white shirt, stretched & ripped. You tried to get in a hit. Due to the fact I was between you, I partially absorbed it… the three of us locked together, a shuffling rat king.

Pushed between the two of you, I thought of that story my mom used to read me when I was young….the one about the little boy, Sambo. Dressed in finery his mother made him, he catches the attention of a group of vain, hungry tigers. He tricks them into chasing each other round and round tree till they turn into butter, which Sambo takes home for his mom to use to make pancakes. Little Brave Sambo. As an adult, I understood the story to be racist—but, as a child, my mom would entertain me when I was sick by singing the tigers’ song, “Little brave Sambo, little brave Sambo, I’m coming to eat you up, up, up.” Between the two of you, I feel little again. You are 2 vain, hungry tigers and the world is sliding to grease around me. I am dressed in bolts of beautiful cloth, woven in blood.

Finally, I put my hands on my ears & screamed for you to please stop. You both pulled away. You noticed me for the first time, standing between the two of you. “Bunny,” you said, dazed. That was it. Bunny. Your beautiful, torn face. I reached up to touch it, but you retreated to the stairs. I followed behind you, your face painting a violent Jackson Pollack on the steps. For some reason, I bent down & tried to wipe up the trail of droplets with my fingertips—but there was just too much. When we got in your apartment, I tried to tend to you, as you paced. Tissue after tissue bloomed vermillion. I knew it was bad. I picked up your phone to call 911. Downstairs, in his own wrecked and dizzied kitchen, your father made the same call.

The cops arrived. The ambulance arrived. You were put in the back of the ambulance. I was put in the back of the cop car. They cradled my head, firmly, as they folded me into the backseat. They wanted my statement. They thought we had started the fight with your dad, that you had become assaultive first. I told the truth, wrote it out for them on their forms with the black spit of a cheap Bic pen. They didn’t like it. “Miss Dixon, we know that Alex is your boyfriend. But you don’t have to defend him. Just be honest. Try it again.” “I told you the truth.” “Read your statement again. Are you sure?” Finally, I just said, “I want to be with Alex, please. PLEASE.” They realized they had no choice but to let me out, to deliver me into the world.

I sped to the hospital in my poor, old hoopty. I pounded on the desk with frantic fists full of fear till someone told me where you were. With no small amount of disgust, a nurse finally relayed, “They’re x-raying him to make sure he doesn’t have a skull fracture. They already stitched up his face.” I looked down to see constellations of red all over me. Freckles of blood on my arms, my face. They finally wheeled you out. A laurel of gauze round your head. Fence posts of black thread across your face. (The edge of the frying pan ended up scarring you permanently between your nose & mouth. Forever afterword you also had a crescent moon of baby pink skin at the edge of your hairline. Sometimes, I would trace the scars to remind myself of what “real” trouble was.) I reached out to grab your hand and the cops stepped up, “Miss, he’s going to jail tonight. They’re not going to set bail till tomorrow. He’s not coming home with you.”

As I stared at you being pulled away, the realization hit me that I didn’t even know how to post bail. Bail. Cops. Jail. This isn’t my world…Or wasn’t, till I met you…You introduced me to it, but I didn’t know how to live it without you. As if trying to prove my inability to exist in your realm, all I could think about in this critical moment was a quote from my favorite William Carlos Williams poem “Asphodel.” (I cannot say/that I have gone to hell/for your love/but often/found myself there/in your pursuit.) No formation of any kind of plan in my head to deal with this crisis, just the recall of a favorite poem.

As they wheeled you away on the gurney, I was still standing there, lost…unsure of what to do. As you rounded the corner, you yelled, “Bunny, just go to Fredonia. Go to Fredonia without me, ok?”

I did. Without you, there was nothing else for me to do.

When I returned, you were still in the jail. Then, you got so sick that you had to be transferred to the hospital. I visited you and tried to ignore the cop on the other side of the bed, the silver bracelets clamped to your bed rails. Because of your transfer to the hospital, your court date had to be postponed till you were returned to the jail. In your absence, I went to your apartment & stole your dark blue, paint-stained hoodie that smelled like you. I lived in it for the next month, becoming a wraith of you haunting my own life. Missing your voice, I stole binders of your writing. I found several beautiful poems you had written to that girl you loved…Some of the poems were after you had found out she was pregnant with your baby & then some of the poems were written after she miscarried due to the drug use…There were happier poems from a trip you both took to St. Lucius where she picked all the cashews out of the bowl of mixed nuts in your hotel room. I found only one poem you wrote about me, written after one of the many times I attempted to leave you. The poem was built on a scaffolding of your anger with me for abandoning you, lines draped like painter tarps over its form. Lines like, “Everything that isn’t you, I embrace,” and “Don’t ever let go of that brilliant fear. Oh, dear, please–It’s yours to keep, share with no one…block out the sun if need be!” It wasn’t even that good of a poem.

And still, after all that, I wanted to be with you…even if it meant drinking from the River Lethe and growing pale & bloodless in the shade. You were still my favorite flower in the Fields of Asphodel. You & I belonged nowhere else but there, and to each other.

Written in March 2020


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