AND AND ALL THE REST DIVINE
Doctor’s waiting room, Vanity Fair on the coffee table, classy photography, literary pretensions, gossip journalism, tragic glamour, Maria Callas, those days, matching M.C. t-shirts, Andy Warhol multiple portrait ripoffs, Saturday mornings Si, Mi Chiamano Mimi on top of our lungs, windows wide open. Who was there? Not sure whether we were one and the same or one different from the other. Those horrid t-shirts, we hated Warhol. Did each hate because the other did, or both sincerely hate, or was there no difference?
That summer of arches, crumbling columns, flat blue skies. Left you sleeping on the steps of a white temple and found a path to the top of a rocky ledge. There was a sturdy marble seat, like a throne, that faced the sea. Took off the grey sweater and laid it on the marble throne. Leaning on the rampart of broken stones, looking at the sea, there was a crack and then the heavy chair began to roll, faster, faster, down the dry slope, helplessly watching it thud thud toward the tiny beach below, the grip of fear that it might kill an innocent walker-by, but truth be told, worried more about losing the old beloved sweater. It finally came to rest, landing softly on its side in the sand. The sweater remained in the seat far below, an impossibly steep descent. Standing, staring, thinking how to get back down. Noticed an old couple sitting on another marble seat further down the slope to the west. More fear that they would fall too. Frozen, contemplating how the legs would suffer. How many times thought of jumping into death and now only wanted the sweater back without smashing on the rocks. Besides, what if you woke and found yourself alone? A group of people approached, their commiserative laughter suggesting they were friends. They came nearer, suddenly silenced on seeing this man dressed in white linen and red silk scarf, leaning like a brittle tree over the ledge, obviously in distress, pressured speech about needing to get to the bottom of the hill as quickly as possible. They asked if they could help, offered solutions, none of which were helpful. One of the men spoke in an authoritative tone, saying it was a poor part of the country and there was little staff to assure the safety of the ruins. It suddenly became apparent that he was wearing a uniform as he waxed officious, saying there could be a fine for causing the ancient throne to fall from its place on the promontory where it had been for millennia.
“Haha, let them”— trying to make light of it. But he didn’t laugh, which could have meant he was thinking about delivering an incriminating report, could easily give a description to the authorities about the unusual manner of dress and the shock of red hair peeking out from the brim of the straw hat. “Would you do that—make a formal accusation?” He said he most certainly would. Panic, in the form of the afternoon’s spicy meal, regurgitated and burnt the throat. Tried to think of something to say: “It’s getting dark.” Then, to elevate oneself in his eyes, explained about important work at the library. Erudition usually commands respect.
“There is no library around here,” he said.
Thinking fast, explained that some books were brought for work and, taking a break, came here to look at the sea. Sat on the chair then lay the sweater on it before going over to the rampart to look at the sea. How could such a heavy object roll down a hill on its own when even pushing with great effort couldn’t possibly move it even an inch, let alone send it down the slope? Couldn’t he see the impossibility of such senseless mischief? Entertained the feeble hope he’d buy it, but could see by his perplexed expression that none of this made sense. His confusion was most likely a consequence of his limited understanding of English which would, hopefully, make him give up and walk away.
But it was clear that he was going to make his report. There was nothing to do but leave the scene. Desperately running down the slope, slipping and sliding, knees squeaking and cracking, muscles threatening to snap, now at the bottom, grabbed the sweater from the overturned throne and called to you to wake up. The sea was too loud, voice absorbed in the wind. Rushing over, shook your shoulder to rouse you.
Unsure who had been dreaming, maybe dreaming even now sitting here under a cold fluorescence that seems to have no source, flipping through magazines splayed on a glass coffee table, the air conditioning makes the body shiver, aware of this room, a container, a cube, the colors barely colors at all, chosen for their comforting neutrality, but only those of sound mind and body could be comforted by these non-colors lit by cold. The doctor inside an even colder room gives pills, changes his mind and gives other pills. Some make it worse and some do nothing at all. He gives answers to forgotten questions, looks into eyes that give answers which are then lost.
The nurse calls a taxi to take the body back to the chair.
Bonny Finberg’s novel, Kali’s Day, was published in 2014. Her fiction, poetry, art and book reviews have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including five Unbearables anthologies (Autonomedia, NY) and Best American Erotica (Simon & Schuster, NY). A collection of short stories, How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era (Sisyphus Press) was documented in the feature-length video 5 Guys Read Finberg. Her chapbook, Déjà Vu (Corrupt Press, Paris) features her poetry and photo-collages. Her work has been translated into French, Hungarian and Japanese. And All the Rest Divine is an excerpt from a novel in progress.