“Let’s tell each other everything we’ve never told each other.”
He’d called her on the phone, long distance, from a tiny island off the coast of a far-off continent.
He said, “I think I hit something or someone with your car.”
“A few months before you left. It was one of those nights in the end when you said you were sick of chauffeuring Charles and I around while we were all fucked-up, and started telling me I could just take the car and going to bed early. I was on my way back from his house, and I hit something big with your car. I didn’t see it, but I felt it go all the way under. I felt a big bump go all under the whole body of the car. I was so out of it, I just wanted to make it home without passing out. But the next morning, before we got in the car, you touched the mirror and said, ‘Ooh, what’s this goo?’ and then I knew you knew.”
She didn’t remember saying the words, but if she closed her eyes very tight and held her breath very hard, she could conjure up a single image of the driver’s side view mirror of her extinct gray Ford with a small amount of a mysterious yellow substance slowly dripping down the side like sap. After she’d left, she still couldn’t keep away from him, so she’d driven across the country to put a physical barrier in between. When she’d made it to the other side, she took the car in for maintenance, and the mechanic had scolded her for driving so long and far with such a huge, gaping hole in the underbody of her vehicle. When she’d told him she’d been completely unaware of it, he’d insisted she kneel on the asphalt, poke her head under the carriage, and take in the size and severity of the damage. The mechanic had said, “Lady, whoever made this hole would’ve felt it. You loan your car to anybody else?”
“I said, ‘Ooh, what’s this goo,’ and then you knew I knew what?”
“I couldn’t look you in the eye after that day. I kept waiting for you to call me on it, so I could confess.”
“What do you mean you hit someone or something? An animal? A person?!”
“I don’t know. It was a big thud. Then the goo the next morning, dripping off the side-view mirror. I hoped maybe it was a storage container, filled with some kind of viscous chemical that might’ve fallen from the back of a truck and onto the road. I followed the news for months and never read anything about any homeless men or dogs found dead on that corner.”
She’d come home from work those last months to find him in his blue bathrobe, scanning the news online.
“Homeless people and dogs?! What would give you that idea?”
“I thought I saw a dark shape moving in the distance, trying to escape out of the corner of my eye.”
He’d seen and felt things that weren’t real before. Their first night together, she’d waded through a year’s worth of newspapers into his dark room. In the morning, she saw all the lines he’d drawn, uniting stories with no logical reason to be stitched together, the trails of highlighter and red pen paying no heed to where one flap began and the next ended. He said he was getting to the bottom of things, that the messages he saw were the less fortunate peoples of the world featured in the pages pleas for help. He felt implicated in their suffering, believed it was up to him, once he made himself ready, to help them rise-up. She suspected this was probably just a phase, more California hippie shit, too much pot. She had enough trouble getting herself to rise-up each morning, and believed the impulse to save the world was a luxury reserved for those not forever stuck trying to save themselves.
She said, “People don’t bleed yellow, they bleed red. Animals too. The yellow on the car wasn’t blood. Maybe it was yellow paint, from a roadblock?”
“It didn’t look like paint. It looked more viscous, like, I don’t know, plasma or something.”
“I remember. It was thick like maple syrup, sticky liquid amber. Are you sure you didn’t hit a tree?”
“I thought I saw something move, limp away even.”
They’d gone together to see the first exhibit of plasticized dead, “Bodies,” at the Masonic Center. There was a complete network of arteries, divorced from any solid mass, dense red loops and twists hanging in a tangle the shape of a man from hanger like a thin spring jacket. This was how she thought of him now.