3A – The Islan of Anja

Back in the apartment, disturbed by the altercation on the roof, Eric thrusts open the window, grabs the rat which Anja threw on the floor and flings it to the street.  Anja washes her hands in the bathroom for a full half hour while Eric chain smokes watching the sidewalk to see if anyone notices it.  He feels exasperated after covering for Anja and expects a rude knock on the door from the management.  On the other hand, Anja now has nowhere to go and this spells both an erotic windfall and perhaps a prelude to disaster.  Anja lost her tower and feels humiliated by the roof and street episode and particularly disgusted by the notion of sleeping on top of a rat for weeks.  How did it get there?  Did it scurry up the inflow pipe to die beneath her mattress?  Under what part of her body did it hide?  It must have been alive beneath her, wriggling at least for a day, perhaps two, perhaps for her whole stay in the tower!  Wouldn’t she have smelt it?  Or did she grow used to the smell by stages and now reeks of dead rat?  Did she roll over and crush it?  Might her very head have asphyxiated the horrible creature?  Did it invade her dreams?  She rummages her memory for an exceptional rat-dream.  And now she’s at Eric’s mercy and surrounded by walls.  Eric lets her drift in the obscure cellars of her obsession but slowly it dawns on him that Anja’s pathology of heights is exactly what oppresses her, and he wishes to examine and refute it.  Why be scared of Anja?  Why not bring her fear to light?  What an illusion, to identify herself as only rising above strangers through literal height.  Maybe he could talk her out it?  Perhaps it could distract her from the loss of her tower?  He would do it now, and see if her courage is real, or mere projected inferiority.

“Anja?  Sit and talk to me.”

“You going to brag about saving my bacon again?”

“Save your bacon?  Where did you find that phrase?  And with your accent.   No, I want to talk, maybe challenge you.  Come.”

“You think I am not challenged?”

“Wasn’t it miserable living in a tower?”

“It was the only place I ever liked living.”

“Anja, since we met, I’ve wondered just why you act as you do.  Don’t take offense.  May I go on?”

“If you must.”  Anja waves him on slightly, twirling a few stray strands of her hair.

“You enjoy living in a watertower, as I understand it, because you feel above the world.  Why need a tower to feel superior?  And why the need to feel superior — if you didn’t really feel, inferior?”

“Oh no.” Anja sighs.

“And how high must one go to feel superior?  Just above?  To Mars?  Aren’t you dependent on mere position and so need to be noticed by those below you, by the liars, spies or moles, whatever.  It’s just like a king, a star or a billionaire — who needs to lord over underlings because they never find true independence.  Doesn’t it make those below one’s judge?  Doesn’t a king need subjects: surfs, artisans, a whole country of inferiors, to be king?  A star is no one without an audience.  A rich executive needs employees to impress and money to flash because he’s nothing without authority or wealth.  And, as to actual heights, let’s say, if one is very high, in the stratosphere, in space, one’s reduced to a vanishing point.  There’s no above or below in space.  Mere distance makes one seem smaller.  Perhaps every emotion is like that.  Has so-in-so put me down?  Made me look stupid, weak, foolish?  Then I will put them down.  Revenge.  We end up loathing others because we aren’t convinced of ourselves.  You know, I could ask myself, am I above my competitors?  My enemies?  Above the famous dead — who are buried and senseless? Are those below, really below? What’s the basis of comparison anyway?  Could all emotions be just lowerings or elevations?  Melancholy, a sag in esteem?  Depression, a slide?  Joy, happiness, ecstasy — hovering, uh, rising, soaring?  Aren’t we dependent on others and slaves to their judgment if we need to feel superior?  Suppose there’s no way to compare?  Maybe no true fate can be compared?  Then this, vertical mania, you have — is mad.  No one is superior, if there’s no way to compare.  Without comparison — jealousy, envy, war, religion, guilt, gossip — might disappear.  We can ease into a valley, climb a mountain, dive to an ocean floor, travel to another galaxy, but if one strictly compares one’s fate, one’s independence is compromised.”

“Fly me to another galaxy, I tire of this one.”

“That’s all you’re going to say?  Anja, perhaps each moment, each grain of time erodes us, and we’re driving ourselves mad with snobbery.  To be above, doesn’t lessen the ravages of time.  We still die.  It only stretches, like taffy, the illusion out.  There, I’ve said my piece.  There.”

“Oh yes, and we both died a little while you said it.  Why not quote Lao Tzu: ‘The high and low depend on one another’?”

“It came off the top of my head.”

“Or dropped from your ass …”  Anja sighs, then props herself, “Alright, junior wants to play games.”  She winks. “You are more handsome when you talk stupid.”

“I object!”

“You should.”  Actually, it has been years since anyone reasoned with her and she really wants to hug Eric for caring.  But she has been challenged and must rise to the occasion. “O.K.!  All you say is so naive.  Jejune. Yes, jejune! Easy to disprove.   We measure temperature, right?  Hot, cold, they are relative, right?  We create barometers, same with calendars, speedometers — yes?”

“Yes, of course.”

“If I push your head into boiling metal instead of a tank of cool water — it would matter.  Your eyes could pop out.   It could mean everything to you.”

“True.”  Eric admits.

“Now, if you go asleep and wake twenty years from now, it could matter, right?  Ripped Von Vinkle, what?”

“What?  Oh.  It would be surprising.”

“It matters!”

“Sure.”

“And if I race a pickup with ‘hammer down’, as American truckers say, through a schoolyard full of children, instead of riding three miles an hour, it makes all the difference in the world to the children and their parents.”

“True.”

“Now, if an athlete breaks a world record in the pole vault or five thousand meters at the Olympics, comparing herself to past heroes and not a horse or bird or, in the future, genetically cultivated super-legged, high stepping clones, is that silly?”

“Well, your example is.”

“No, all is relative!  On a different planet, or after we destroy our earth with genetic Frankensteins, what would the meaning of the record be, except between or relative to other humans?  Would you like being a midget in an NBA basketball game?”

“I’ve felt like one socially.  You’re making fun of me.”

“How is that possible?  Am I putting your down?  If your theory is true you would feel nothing!  Did I depress or patronize you, stop your solo flight to the distant planet of you? If you could not feel down when I disrespect you, you would not be human.  You might feel like an atom in a pile of donkey dung.  If I am crazy,  everyone is!  Everyone measures pleasure, pain, their age, how good they look, love, fuck, because everything is relative and yet that is our life.  It is childish to only now discover that all we value is relative.  Really, Eric, grow up.

“O.K.  But the real gist of my challenge could still shock you.”

“Oh really, I have seen and heard everything.”

“I bet you have.”

“Now you insult me because you lost.”

“No, then I’d be proving your point.”

“Exactly.”

“You like living above everyone because you feel inferior.  But it doesn’t work.  You are literalizing a textbook compensation of clinical depression.”

“Oh, a pop psychology put-down!  I read Freud in German, you know.  I know I compensate as you jejeunely call it!  What harm am I doing anyone?  I feel — or felt — great!”

“You could fall.  Commit suicide.  And you choose to exteriorize, act out, indulge a fantasy.”

“It is no fantasy.  I know exactly what I  do and why.”

“What happened to your natural fear of heights?  You walk around like you could never fall.  Or provoke a fall.”

“Does anybody consider mountain climbers, handgliders, rope walkers, balloonists, bungee jumpers, pole vaulters, washer windows on tall buildings — the fucking repairmen fixing my tower — crazy?  That’s what the psycho-babble word ‘pathological’ means, NO?”

“Yes.  I mean, no.”

“There is your vanishing point.”  Anja extracts one of Eric’s cigarettes, lights it to draw a breathy drag, “You chase illusion and end up screwing one.”

“You?”

Ha!” Anja laughs mirthlessly, “I do the same as someone who lives on top of a mountain, but I live inside a city.   I cannot afford a penthouse!  I am not a rich bourgeoise chained to a desk.  You fear I commit suicide?  Hey, baby, just check out the pride of the living dead!”

“Suicide is cowardice.”

“Conforming is cowardice!” Anja shouts with savage vehemence, “You think people live the same?  Who have a half million bucks in the bank and say they cannot spare one quarter to a beggar?  One cigarette to a friend?  Who say, ‘Sorry, broke’ to a penniless, homeless, old woman, then go to the golf course, or church, or spend fifty bucks on drinks and cannot spare one quarter — have courage?  You think gossips who drool about another person’s sex life, then crucify them for having one, who spy, slobber, moralistically wag their fingers, are good? When they say they are chosen by God for heaven and worship Jesus as the god of love, then expect everyone else will go to Hell?  Are racist warmongers, normal?  O yes, I know and see the normal!  Normal is a lie!  The Normal Lie!  I revolt!  I revolt against the Big Lie!”

“Why don’t you live on top of an abandoned building?”  Eric shifts nervously, trying to calm her.

I have before and I might have to now.  But it is not high enough.  Consider my watertower, how beautifully it combines hut, wood, stone, steel and air, how round and lofty against the sky!”  Anja says all this with a strange accent, as if reading from a poetry book she already wrote in her own mind,  “But let me ask you something.  My time to challenge!  Have you felt degraded, put down, betrayed, lied about, shat on, by those inferior to you, envied, spied on, humiliated, cheated, sold out, fucked over?”

“I thought you’d never stop!  Yes, all my life.”

“Well?”

“Yes.  Do you want to hear about it?”

Anja nods, “In a minute.  It does not matter if you discuss freedom when you live in an alley, when you are attacked, beaten or raped.  We may be slaves because we compare our fate to others.  But I am human and live in this world.  Ever see those big birds, what are their names, gooses?”

“Geese.”

“Yes, getting ready in a parking lot to fly south?  Ever see how geese fly, like so,”  Anja jumps up and saws out a triangle in the air, “You have a phrase I love in English, pecking order.  Pecking order.  I want, you know, to live as a lone goose, but I cannot follow the pecking order, because I am just a lone goose.”

Eric laughs. “You said it, I didn’t.”

“Said what? I prefer to be a goose, rather than a creepy snake, or worm.  Anyway, we live together as humans but I live alone against the inhumanity which would pour oil on, smoke, burn my wings.  Everything is relative to human measure.  I have to take it.  So do you, softie!

“You don’t seem to want to hear it.”

“What?”

“My story.”

“Every floor is a story, in English.”

“Yes, every moment is if we were precise enough to tell it.”

“Proust.”

“I guess.”

“I read him in French.”

“I can’t read French.”

“Of course, you are American.”

“Yes, I’m American!”

“Oh, so now you feel pride?  You feel nationalistic but it will not free you! You are lucky.  That is all.  You can feel superior — to the world.  Is that not relatively democratic?”

“You lay a good trap, you’re shrewd, sarcastic but you don’t care about my life.”

“I think I know Eric-the-story.”

“Really?”

“You were a teacher and a girl or maybe girls fell in love with you because you have a nice voice and you care about people and you did it with one and she told!”

“What?

“I knew the moment I saw your eyes!”

“My eyes?”

“You have sex in your eyes.  If I were your student I would want you.  So I could hold you, here, in my hands.  Or between my legs!”  Anja laughs, slapping her knees.

“You disgust me!”

“Do I?  Ugly people make better teachers.  Why do you think so many homely people, boring people, teach?  Boring people live longer.  Inherit the world.  I imagine the ugly teachers, real dogs, ate you up alive, like a doggy biscuit.  The revenge of the ugly!”

“Wow.  You’re amazingly close.  I sing and write songs.  Write, mostly.  Students came to hear me when I played in public.  One student who liked my lectures came and admired my mind and, I guess, me …    I said ‘no’ to her but we got drunk and kissed good-bye, then, another student, jealous of the first, claimed I came on to her, and told my boss.  I don’t know what she said.  Poured poison into his ear, I guess, while his judgment was sleeping.  My boss believed her and I was expelled from teaching.  Perhaps she was pretty and had never been rejected before.  She got her revenge, though.  I became a public monster.  Everything I worked for was destroyed in a single afternoon.  All the tenured professors who earned maybe eight times what I did for a single lecture, loved it.  They nodded their heads, tutted, and signed not only a repulsion letter but argued, publicly, I was a pervert, and had their revenge.  Even though ‘the child’ was twenty years old and I was twenty-six.  Not one colleague stood by me.”

“A real melodrama!”

“Public humiliation.”

“Sex is the new witch hunt, the new Red Scare. Boo! Sex is the new Communism.  You bought into the normal life, or lie, and it sold you out.  You are lucky you were not castrated.  Soon, men will be standing in line for it.  I’m all for it.  Like the French Revolution, only with … smaller, you know, customized guillotines.”

“Yes, but … I’m not living in a watertower.”

“No, but wallowing in spilt milk.”

“Why are my humiliations pathetic and yours heroic?”

“She suck your dick?”

“Anja!  How dare you!  You have an ugly mouth!”

“Oh really?”

“Answer my question!”

“No.  Why the watertower?”

“I’m working, no, acting my problem out.”

“Oh yes I forgot: living in a watertower is perfectly sane.”

“I never say that.”

“What is your thing about moles?  Or spies? You keep on saying that, as if people who live in abandoned sections of the subway system are inherently bad because they live under the ground.”

“That, I do not discuss.”

“Oh.”

“I was attacked by a vicious bastard with a knife and since then I climb above evil.  I live on a perch.  I watch the sun pass through the sky, the colors of the horizon change, watch clouds, fog, rain, snow, try to obscure the light.  And I see those I loathe for their hypocrisy, their evil, scurry about, from above.  I cannot stand walking among them ’cause they are dirty — and evil!”

“You have a phobia.”

“No, I mean evil. You never looked evil in the eye.  Fools claim ignorance makes evil, but evil knows and evil lives, especially through the mediocre, even if they say they love God or democracy.  Evil does not deserve contempt but death.  I know.   I rarely experience good.  Good is not a constant state — it is weak with self-congratulation, vanity, and, it is unstable.  Evil is pure hatred.  It is a drain, a sewer, which pollutes everything it sucks down.  Consciousness is weak.  Instinct is stronger but craves the Big Sleep.  Death.  It tires of knowing, of opening its eyes and hides while drawing darkness from others.  Evil must drop dead!  It glares from corner of the curious eye.  It hates heights!  A good person laughs and the evil reach for a revolver.  It wants to rape, kill beauty, shit on delicacy and knowledge.  The envy-rats will bite through the face of an innocent child!  Poison athletes.  Drive artists nuts or into poverty or onto drugs, betray dreams for money.  Evil loves repetition.  Everything that goes up, must come down.  And how they applaud when the good fall, all mucked in sludge and shit.   All this you cannot know.  Your eye betrays a soft humanism — vain, safe inexperience.  I feel a thousand years older than you.  Twenty centuries of evil escapes your notice.  You are like a child amazed to discover water goes down the drain, ‘backward’, in the Southern Hemisphere!”

“Peculiar ending!  Does it?”

“Yes.  But consider the world as water, our ancestors rising from oceans, how we lost most of our hair and learned to swim by escaping predators, jumping back into waves while ape babies drown — and the gravity of any question can be dragged in reverse — and drag us down, while drowning!”

“You changed the subject.  Why talk of ape babies drowning?”

“You never saw evil, as I have, and there is no use in you trying to understand it.  You never been truly down.  You lost a job, got smeared, but you need to really know the chains and slavery of evil to lose that nice boy look and that soft trust.”

“Yet, your face looks softer than mine!  I saw you when you fainted. Your neck is smooth, like a gazelle’s.  And since you are mostly hairless, you are, then, human.  Does that make you evil?  You insult in non sequitur but your eyes are shy and  your eyelids curl under, like this, casting a young, European face with a half-Asiatic, velvety, splendor.  I accuse you of looking nice!

“How dare you!  I cannot buy it.”

“It’s not for sale!  It’s free.”

“Come!”  Anja draws Eric to her.  She prefers to joust and to gently insult Eric but his transformation from the intrusive stranger invading her tower to the handsome, hurt man before her now, his gentle masculinity with no need for flexed muscles nor sexual greed, melts her resistance.  She never experienced adult love and fears drying up emotionally.  After her rape, the invasion of conventional love revolts and frightens her.  Now, the struggle to accept Eric inside her and to overcome the knife-wielding bastard who wrecked her life, relaxes its grip.  Her arms, which usually tense to repulse everyone, unfold, like dawn lighting her tower, and she eases back.  Eric’s humility does seem naive, even lame, yet, watching Eric glance down to clarify his point, as if too shy to succeed or win, sends a rush of warmth through her cells.  He too can be a sun.  She will nurture his rising.  They will live like Pueblo Indians who must greet the sun or the world will go dark. She knows why he failed as a teacher, why he was fired.  Could the condemnation of ugly mediocrities equal the severity of his self-reproach?  And how he carries it like a cross!  I’ll lift his burden, as he lifts me.  Maybe he’s right.  Why do I live in a tower?  Maybe he is too good for me?  How dare he!  No, forget it, Anja.  Feel these smooth, round, warm shoulders.  Yes, Eric is her sun, and she, his prism, who will reflect the full spectrum, back, as love.

Then something about his story strikes her.

“Eric, you said you wrote songs.  Where is your guitar?”

“I gave it away.”

“What?”

“I played since I was a kid, but now, well, what’s the use?”

“Who did you give it to?”

“My friend, Danny Duck.”

“What?”

“His name is Donald.  He has a funny face.  His lips are pressed up, like this, and his nose down, so even his family and friends call him The Duck, you know, fuck-a-duck, lucky fuck and all that childish stuff.  Alliteration.”

“Can he play?”

“Oh, he can play. That’s all he does.”

“He has no job?”

“He can’t keep one.  He’s not lazy.  He’s often ashamed to speak.  Smokes pot incessantly.  Just hard to look at.  He has a harelip which was half-corrected by surgery when a child.  He speaks through his guitar and, of course, he’s tired of looking strange, but never feel sorry for him.  He’ll wildly resent it.  And, there’s really no reason to pity him, especially when he plays.  He plays every which way, finger plucking, pick, slide, open chords, cascading leads, every style.  He copied Hendrix for awhile — every guitar player does, I suppose — but he’s found his own voice.”

“Why did you give him your guitar?”

“I trust him with my past.”

“Call him up!”

“Why?”

“Does he sing?”

“Are you kidding?”

“Who would I kid?”

“Didn’t I just say he had a harelip?”

“Why should that stop him?”

“I don’t know, ask him.  No, don’t ask him.”

“Call him.”

“Why?”

“I want to sing to his guitar.”

“All right.”

“Is he home?”

“Always.  During the day.  His amp might be on eleven. But he’s taken to miking his phone when he’s playing loud.”

“So?”

“I’ll call him.”  Eric lifts the phone, dials and Anja, listening, yanks the receiver from his ear to hear it automatically answered by a rainbow of guitar chromatics and spooky electronics and, cowering in the far background, as in a cave, a diminutive voice concedes that Danny may or may not be home.  As Eric begins to leave his message his words too begin echoing, mounting, as each word-end interweaves with the last, until it builds into a haunted house of bizarre noise, “He feeds his machine through a harmonizer, each note adds an octave — eventually we can’t hear the top or bottom notes.  Drives dogs crazy,” Eric explains, covering the receiver.

“Let me try!” Anja croons, “Ooo Daniel, c’est moi the siren you so loooooove!”  For the first time Eric sees Anja happy, whispering, “I hope he never picks up!”  Her whispering swirls off into an electronic funnel.  Anja, more excited, chants, “Narcissus, this is Echoooooooo!, calling, tear yourself from your beloved image!” But the whole of the message falls flat and she finds herself speaking directly to Danny,

“Is this a girl? ‘Beloved image’?  Think so?”  His snort of doubt harbors within it a glimmer of hope.

“No, Danny, this is Eric.”  Eric grabs the receiver.

“Oh.”

“That was Anja.”

“Yeah?”

“Could you come over in an hour? Anja wants to sing to your guitar.”

“Well, yeah, I guess.”

“What are you doing?”

“Choking my lil’ fretboard chicken.”

“Playing guitar.”

“That’s what I said.  The open mike is tonight, you know.”

“Well, I’ll have to put that to Anja.”

“Sure.”

“You coming over?”

“What else do I have go’n?”

“Bye.”  Eric surveys Anja, bemused.  She looks brighter prankish and lovelier than ever. “What’s gotten into you?  You look like a different person.”

“You give me light.”

“Then let’s up the wattage!”  Eric kisses Anja, a gentle riposte on the lips and for the first time Anja truly hugs Eric.

“You cannot understand, I know how to sing.”

“Don’t we all, deep down?”

“No, the dead are deep down. Are they not legion?  Do they not talk over drum machines bought from Japanese corporations?  What about karaoke?  People who never even sing in the shower, never whistle, who like elevator music and never read, become singers!  They are soul-less!  But just wait to hear them speak about duty, immigrants or guns!  Man!”

“Why worry about them?”

“I hate them!”

“So?  Do you see them here?  Where are they?  Under the couch?  Under your mattress?”

“Please, Eric, the rat!”

“Do you think they wring their hands worrying about you?  If you conjure up those you detest before your mind’s eye all the time, they win.  If they did care about you enough to feel jealous or outraged by your morals or whatever, wouldn’t they want you to think about them constantly?  Don’t let your persecutors win! Don’t double-time your enemies! Leave them in your wake.  Sail with me to a Greek isle. Chew the lotus!  Hold palavers in code with friendly dolphins, write odes across the stars erasing the crude animals reproduced by astrologers.  Reclaim the universe!”

“Yes!  You’re right!  Wooooo!”

“Reclaim the universe?”

“No ‘double-timing the enemy’.  That is what I do!”

“Indeed.  Or as the Brits say, quite.”

“I incarnate, reproduce, avoid, loath,”  Anja smiles, mocking her own powers of invention and English verbosity, “resent, defy, shun, fear, hide, no, cower — from people who care nothing for me!  Nothing about music, poetry or philosophy!  Who have no energy, no imagination, who care nothing for life but to run from its challenge, and save dollars!”

Eric watches Anja slide into a frenzy and sees both the studious East German English student showing off her vocabulary and the manic depressive revealing the obverse side of her anxiety.  Her face flushes, her voice antes up to ecstasy, and her hands nearly flap with excitement as she jumps up to strike an eerie, unearthly pose.   He fears she may faint before finishing.

“Yes!  Double timing my enemy!  You said it, baby! I see his face in the dark: knife shining, yellow.  Yellow, shining cowardice!  And dark red, vampire blood.  Every day it follows me.  His voice.  Voice of cruelty.  Dark, corrupt, parasitic.  Magnetic.  Evil.  Oh yes. And the face, voice and enemy of my life, doubles, chases me into the air!  All lonely.  False lights dissolve me.  Other towers, empty.  Oily gulls like black vultures.  You!  You drag me inside walls and I, go naked in shower!  You kill the rat under my pillow, which nibbles my flesh and whistles inside my ear.  He carries a knife in his sock, in his vest pocket, many eyes, tongue forked like a rattlesnake’s, swaying, comme ça, from his lying mouth!  I double-time, work, for him!  I, his messenger pigeon!  High priest!  And I live alone, to sing to myself without a voice, choking like Easter egg chicks who open small beaks and strain their tiny pink throats but make no sound … who cannot breathe nor sing, yet …  they … “

Anja, breathing irregularly, hoarse, alarms Eric, who jumps up, “Come, Anja, You’re with me!  Anja, take me in your arms!  Here, my hurt girl.

Eric, watching Anja slide from delight to fear, accepts the eerie overlay of poetry with paranoia, beauty and poise, suspicion with imbalance.  Yet as he sees the door open to her pain-riddled essence, to her Pandora’s box of illusion, he wonders: what if Anja is right to live as she does?  She’s probably right about elective poverty — and evil.  If money and self-interest rule, why not climb a tower and let the world punch it out below, and live alone?  Why not choose isolation?  He knows rich people, and they are still miserable.  Though they think they’re winning.  And doesn’t he feel repulsed by filth, his sleep wrecked by sirens, his peace threatened by crime and lies?  Yes, the bottom is like a drain.  And all the sympathy in the world will never stop it up.  So who is he to say, given that her perspective makes sense, that one should not resist a conformity which jams millions into herds?  Eric lets her sob tearlessly against his chest while a pigeon taps a wing against his window.  He feels her warm head, and how valueable seems its contents.  He too hates the monster who invaded her body and pledges to forgo facile passivism.  Do monsters consider the result of their violence?  Not even normal people do.  Vicious, parasitic predators are evil.  He feels her muscles hanging like rags over her defeated, lovely frame.  How could he anticipate his care for her?  How much better this than his first curiosity.  How much more inside her does he feel, now, without making love.  A frightening sense of identity invades him, stripped of subjective distance.  He shudders, then, accepts it.

Feeling like this, they tenderly, abruptly, make love.  Not like a “beast with two backs” but as frightened humans do when they kiss away their mutual distance.  Neither need an image of others: no slide-show of past conquests to screen through the mind.  Nor do they watch each other so as to file their new found beauty for future reference.  Neither hears each other’s moans nor breaths, nor remember the taste of each other’s ear nor salty flesh.  Neither self-consciously consider the condom they use, nor Aids politics.  Neither monitors their performance.  They see, hear, sense, without knowing it.  Like water in which life germinates, either cool like fog or hot as steam, now in flood, now in air, neither need remember, to love.  Like a caw of a bird in a primeval forest, or like a moth dancing fearlessly before a flame, they cannot hear nor see their presence, nor know what it all means, nor when it might end.

Finally, they let dusk send a light breeze across their bodies, drying sweat on their stomachs and entwined legs, drifting, but inert.  Anja peeks beneath her half-mast eyelids at a deflated beach ball with a mattress in the closet and drags it to the bed.  Eric, immobile, watching his mirage dissolve like some wistful caravan, strokes the small of Anja’s back, and feels Anja half-falling from bed to yank out the mattress, then listens to her begin to inflate it with loud, exaggerated breaths.  Eric pretends not to hear, drawing a line down Anja’s back with his finger, and recites a children’s joke.  “He says: ‘That’s not my finger’. She: ‘That’s not my bellybutton.’”  Anja doesn’t answer.  “Anja, what you doing?”  No answer. “Christ! Can’t you ever relax?”  The white curtains glow violet as the sun falls.  Eric feels himself shrink as Anja inflates the mattress, then she jumps up, rattles glasses, runs water, disjars the fridge door, then skips in and spreads two slices of ham over Eric’s eyes.

“What?”

“Wait!”  Anja laughs, “O.K. ready!”  Then removes the ham slices.

“Welcome to the Isle of Anja!”

“Is that where we are?”

“Yes, to leave your bed for shore you must use this mattress.”

“What happens when I get there?”

“You eat the food and drink of gods.”

“And when I do this, then may I relax?”

“No need to, you will be immortal.  Why rest, why die?”

“Because I’d get bored.”

“Not on the Isle of Anja!”

“And why should I bother with the Isle of Anja?”

“There is the real Anja!  Only there a boy can see with Anja-eyes.  The same blue as the first ancient ocean.  You can swim with dolphins who have human, not big fat sea-tongues, and great powers of speech. They tell the truth about human history.  They saw Christ walking on water, right over their happy faces, and with my talking dolphins — you lunch on sacred lotus — they make you see him.  They tell me he is handsome but short and surprisingly Oriental!  And when Buddha secretly rode on my dolphin’s backs to my island we laughed but respected his noble truths.  My girls gave him his first and only shave.  On the Isle of Anja, magic kaleidoscopes reveal the future of the human race!  The Magic Lantern!  I took a peek and it’s not pretty: too many people and economic violence.  I saw Diogenes — the man with dogs who lives in a vase — become a prophet!  I saw a second French Revolution!  You’ll not want to leave the Isle of Anja, after seeing any of that, I tell you!  On the isle of Anja the ooo’s and ahhh’s of fireworks are matchsticks compared to the stars.  We have bamboo straw super strings which, if you put two eyes up to them, you see to other end of the universe — in stereo — doubling back to see yourself also from behind, filtered through nebulae and exploding red giants! Strawberry planets overrun by giraffe-necked intellectuals, if you wish, will wear coke bottle glasses and genitalia the size of sea cattle!  No, wait a minute!  We have peacocks whose fans protect my naked island girls and boys who pole vault all day and strum electric lyres!  On the Isle of Anja, on a golden beach, which no tourist will ever invade, I invite you — if only you agree to board this mattress, here, and cast away from this ugly New York City sublet … “

“If I’m immortal do I still have to go to the bathroom?”

“Immortals do not … shit!”  Anja laughs.

“Well if you do have naked island girls …. “

“You will not!” Anja lifts the mattress, in mock outrage, “need them!  You have me!” She starts beating Eric with the mattress which flops wildly as it batters his head.  “It’s my island, filthy mortal!” Someone knocks on the door in the middle of Anja’s fifth “filthy mortal”, and Eric shouts, “C’mon in Danny!”  As it remained unlocked Danny steps in with his guitar and gawks at Anja who hurriedly shifts the mattress between her body and the wildly impressed Danny.  Eric tugs at it from his bed to tease Anja, who, laughing, and radiant in her expansive mood, finally stares back, then sticks her tongue out at Danny, before hiding.

“Danny, do you want to go to the Isle of Anja?”  Eric asks, stark naked.

“You bet!”

“Filthy mortal!”  Anja scolds them both. “Danny, are you going to close the hatch?”

“The door?  Sure!”

“There’s a beach ball in the closet.”  Eric suggests, and Danny sets down his guitar while Anja runs for the bathroom.

Danny looks up and just catches her ankle, “Did I miss something?”

“We were just visiting an island …”

“Can I come too?”

“If you bring your guitar.”