Nebulous

Jason Buchholz

I’m not sure how I have come to be here, beneath the white emptiness of this northern sky, on the fringe of this drab city. I’m not sure how I have come to be here, in front of this rosette window, whose colors are lost in this dimness like the songs of extinct birds. But somehow this room has assembled itself around me, and now I am here, sitting on your bed, hiding my nervousness in a show of concentration as I contort the fingers of my left hand into unfamiliar shapes, and drag the thumb of my right hand across the strings of your guitar. You are fluttering around the room. The black roots of your hair are pushing out against blonde remnants the length of rice grains. You are speaking in foreign languages, making up words, pronouncing things in the back of your throat, in the depths of your organs. You are talking to your clothes, joking with the furniture. The lights are on. The air smells like paint.

Now we are standing in the doorway. You are turning to me, and asking me if I would like to kiss you.

This autumn rotates steadily, farther and farther north until it collapses among its own folds like an eyelid. Winter suns rise and stay aloft for a minute or two before descending. The city takes on the graininess of an underexposed photograph. The grains wash the texture out of snow drifts, infect the phone lines, render illegible the lettering on signs, and poison our food.

Now we are walking into the heart of the city. You are wearing orange. Gray or black cars with strange names drift by us, their exhausts floating up to join the sky. In a small shop you ask the clerk where you can find dissonance: has anybody here discovered the joy of it, you ask. His eyes widen and his arms stiffen. Soon after that you emigrate to a point just beyond the periphery. I am left to create the news through a process of extrapolation: you are arranging yourself in awkward configurations on couches, crafting obscure and perplexing sentences, staying up and then sleeping for days at a time, distributing sex as a reward for proper grooming. Then you evaporate completely, vanishing into the interstices of time and miles.

You appear once, years later, as a smile on a dog in a sun-filled square in Eastern Europe, then again in the American West, not much later, as a trail of incense smoke that twists through a screen door and comes apart. I take these as signs that you are attempting to build momentum, to align the disparate waveforms whose interactions result in your periodic existence. I am proven right when one night you manage to materialize, almost completely, next to me, in the back seat of a car. Through the windows the outlines of buildings waver and vibrate. The spokes of a bridge cycle past, out of focus.

Your words fill the car like a swarm of moths. None of them land. I am probably not saying anything. We probably aren’t looking at each other. But maybe our knees are pressing against each other. Maybe we are holding hands.

The car is stopping now. Passing headlights illuminate your face, just for a second. You open the door and climb out, and disappear back into the ether of your private universe, back into the imprecise logic that governs your migrations. I stare for a moment into the spot where you used to be, and then the symmetry of the accustomed world re-emerges.