Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 6 No. 3 | Fall 1984 (Seattle) /// Issue of 24 /// Master# 57 of 73

Photo-painting by Marly Stone HELLEY AND SUZY ARE THE FINEST GIRLS YOU COULD EVER HOPE TO MEET. THEY ARE TWO OF THAT COMPANY OF SOULS WHOSE PURITYAND PERFECTION,ACCORDING TO AN ESOTERIC TRADITION OF HEBRAIC MYSTICISM, ARE THE ONLYJUSTIFICATION OF HUMANITYAND WITH OUT WHOM THE WORLD WOULD HAVE LONG SINCE PERISHED IN A BLAST OF CLEANSING FIAME. They live in a crumbling building in an old part of town where the streets are lined with red brick and green, glossy hedges. They share an apartment of large, dark rooms with high ceilings whose corners began to mildew years ago. The rooms are crowded with heavy old furniture, the walls cluttered with religious paintings and pictures of pop stars torn from magazines. The windows of the apartment face an old courtyard, long neglected and overgrown with wildly flowering ornamental shrubs of a variety popular forty years ago. A steamy summer rain is falling, and the windows left open to ease the heat have flooded the rooms with a smell of tropical vegetation. Shelley is sitting in the bathtub, reading Nietzsche over a bowl of opium while she waits for her hair to dry. The pop group Slime is appearing tonight at the Snake Pit and she has dyed her hair a lurid green for the occasion. In the process, she has splashed around carelessly in the sink so that the skin of her neck and shoulders has been stained and a web of delicate green tendrils flows over her breasts. She is quite pleased with the result. A passage in the book makes her ■smile: “We children of the future, how could we feel at home in this today? We feel disfavor for all ideals that might lead one to feel at home even in this fragile, broken time of transition; as for its ‘realities’, we do not believe that they will last. The ice that still supports people today has become very thin; the wind that brings the thaw is blowing; we ourselves who are homeless constitute a force that breaks open ice and all other too thin realities'.” Suzy is in her bedroom, idly teasing herself with an intricate device of chrome and onyx. Lost in a voluptuous reverie, she lies back with her unfocused eyes gazing out the window. From outside the damp heat rolls over her like waves, slow deep swells bearing a heavy scent which echoes the one rising from the lush folds of her dewy vulva. A rich, intoxicating odor which promises endless, abundant life, its strength and sweetness has rescued more than one soul from despair. Some time later Suzy comes to herself. Smiling, she drops her toy and stretches, cords of muscle twining and untwining along her elegant frame. She wraps herself in a gown of dark green silk and walks drowsily down the hall to the bathroom. She sits on the edge of the bathtub and takes the pipe from Shelley, filling her lungs' with the fragrant poppy smoke. Not speaking, the two women look in each others' eyes. Suzy gradually exhales, little sparks beginning to dance around the edges of her field of vision. A lazy grin creeps across her face. Suzy asks, Which is better, waking or dreaming? Shelley says, In dreams we know that we can attain anything we can imagine. Waking, we imagine that this is only true in dreams. Sometimes, Suzy says, I dream that I'm a butterfly who just awoke from a dream of being a girl. And one day, Shelley answers, you will wake and find that it was the butterfly who was dreaming. They exchange a languid smile. Suzy asks, Can I wear your red boots tonight? Of course, says Shelley. Lovely of you, Suzy says; why don't you get out of here and let me take a bath? She reaches Shelley a hand and helps her out of the tub. At the door, Shelley stops and shakes her head. Down the hallway where Suzy’s feet have passed, the carpet has blossomed into patches of tiny yellow flowers. Shelley looks at Suzy and says fondly, This has really got to stop. * • Suzy and Shelley are at the beach. There are a couple of hours still to go before noon and the heat, which will become a blistering horror later on. is a syrupy medium in which everything seems to float. The girls are lying on a broad strip of creamy-colored sand halfway between a dense green wall of vegetation and the blue of a sleeping lagoon. The pure immensity of the sky sweeps from horizon to horizon, empty except for the shreds of a few tentative clouds and the yellow disk of the sun floating over the rim of the sea. Shelley asks, Is there any more wine? Id love some more of the rose. Suzy fishes a bottle out of the cooler and fills her waiting glass: For the prettiest girl on the beach, on the loveliest day of the year. You're an angel, Shelley says. Isn't it beautiful? The light's so clear you'd think you could see the whole world. Suzy says, I imagine if we strained hard enough we could see a little island, miles from anywhere and nobody on it ELL, THERE CAN INEAER BE TOO MUCH MAGIC, SUZY SAYS. but two beautiful women with their backs to us, trying to see around the world; Lord, am I drunk, she says. And so early, too, Shelley replies. It s the heat What a marvelous morning. I feel so light, says Suzy. Like if I close my eyes arid concentrate I could walk straight into heaven and never look back. You always want to do things the easy way, says Shelley I m going for a swim, myself. She stands and drops her robe in the sand, her body gleaming like an ivory column in the brilliant sun. Walking to the water, the rolling of her hips is as flawlessly logical and elegant as a Bach chorale. As though at a signal, clouds of birds burst forth from the bush, the snap of their wings like gunshots as they stream out of the trees and into the sky. At the noise, Shelley turns to look Suzy is on her feet, watching them. Oh, they're lovely, Suzy calls. Look at the colors! The birds crowd together, a great flock of them beginning to circle over the beach, their radiant plumage an orgy of color, brilliant pinks and blues and yellows and greens splashing across the sky. They wheel slowly as though with a single mind, forming a vast dome which slowly begins to expand. Suzy throws off her robe and runs down the beach to Shelley. There are tears in her eyes. My God, they're beautiful, she says. She is fighting for breath. Catching Suzy's bewildered excitement, Shelley takes her hands. The women's eyes lock. Feeling as though their hearts will burst, they begin to leave the ground. Slowly at first, then faster, they rise into the air, their hands joined, their eyes running with tears, their hair rippling with the speed of their flight; the wheeling birds cluster around them like a glowing, living cloud; moving still faster, they are flying like a wind, like the speed of thought, flying through the clear endless sky to the heart of the sun. ★ At the end of a dull day, feeling brittle and sad, Suzy and Shelley have gone out walking. The night is hot and a bitter, metallic-smelling haze drifts through the streets; there seems to be broken glass everywhere. They go to the Snake Pit, a fashionable rock club. The dance floor is crawling with people trying to look impressive and other poeple trying not to look impressed. On the stage a group of people in shiny clothes are playing fashionable music but no one pays attention since anyone actually trying to dance is in danger of being stepped on by a photographer. In a drag bar, Shelley snorts some coke with a friend while a muscular transvestite makes a pass at Suzy. When he discovers that she is a girl, he turns to walk away. The heel breaks off one of his elaborate shoes and he starts to fall; a seam gives in his tight dress, which tears open down the front. The room is suddenly full of raised eyebrows. Oh, fuck, the man says. Back in the hot, harsh air of the street, the two stay close together. Shelley's face is increasingly tense; Suzy's is drawn with the sorrow and despair which are seeping out of the pavement and T HE SKIN OF HER NECK AND SHOULDERS HAS BEEN STAINED AND A OT3 OF DELICATE GREEN TENDRILS FLOWS O\TR HER BREASTS. SHE IS QUITE PLEASED WITH THE RESULTS. fouling the night like a nauseous secretion. Strange faces drift in and out of focus, their wracked expressions and shattered eyes suggesting a procession of the damned shambling through the broken streets of some forgotten suburb of Hell. There are fires on almost every corner, hot as the night is; knots of people stand around drinking from paper bags, shouting, fighting, some dancing erratically to distorted music blasting from cheap speakers. Suzy and Shelley draw closer together, hoping to salvage some fragment of peace from the wretchedness of the night. They are aging visibly, their hearts struggling to fight free of the chaos through which they slowly make their way. They descend to the dark cavern of a backstreet dance club. Momentarily blinded in the near-total darkness, they are aware only of the bass-heavy sound system and a powerful smell of cheap wine and disinfectant. Suzy stumbles into a chair while Shelley tries to find the bar, weaving across the dance floor which is only visible as a blurred mass of jostling bodies. Suzy waits in the reeking darkness, her eyes growing used to the dim light of the club; when Shelley fights her way back to their table the two start drinking seriously while the music batters them and the floor heaves with the rhythmic motion of the dapcers. The inhabitants of the club begin drift ing into view. Lurching across the floor and standing dazed around the edges of the room, never clearly visible, they seem more like ghosts than human beings, a congregation of wraiths on the edge of the void waiting apathetically to be consumed. The faces that come near enough to be seen are like scarred, beaten wrecks of human faces; marked by drugs, madness, blind stupid lust, these people are neither dead nor alive but simply lost. The waves of apathy and despair which emanate from them are the source of the ugliness which has marked the night from its beginning. It is as though this subterranean chamber were a crucible in which all the wretchedness and horror in the human heart were being condensed, to be broadcast through the streets like a contagion burning and twisting everything it touches. As they arrive at this insight, Shelley and Suzy turn to each other with a drunken nod and join hands across the table. They move shakily onto the dance floor; uncertain at first, missing the beat and staggering, they soon start moving smoothly. The rhythms stretch and loosen their muscles and they twist and grind, Suzy doing a nasty Georgia crawl as they feel their way into the filthy heart D O W fH E HALLWAY WHERE SUZY’S FEET HAVE PASSED, THE CARPET HAS BLOS SOMED INTO PATCHES OF TINY YELLOW FLOWERS. of the night. The music gets louder and more oppressive. As the intensity grows the two step up the pace of their dance. The room gets darker, its dwarfed perspectives opening out into a vast smoky Limbo; the crowd of muttering spectators dwindles to an attenuated mist, which blows away in dirty tatters as the women s dancing raises a growing wind. The club is disintegrating, unable to exist in the face of their fury. The walls thin out and blow away and in the ragged gaps a clean night sky is emerging, dusted with white stars. As the last scraps of the horror drift away the music recedes into the night, dwindling to a silence into which the singing of crickets finds it way. The metallic reek of the streets has given way to a cool breeze flavored with the scent of wet grass. Shelley opens her eyes then and she is holding Suzy's hands, standing in a green field open to the dome of the sky. Suzy smiles. The women embrace for a moment then, eyes closed, they choose a direction and start the long walk home. Suzy and Shelley are talking over Mexican beer and chili in a quiet restaurant. Shelley's eyes are bruised as though from crying. She keeps stirring restlessly in her chair and each time she shifts it, little demons run out from underneath and scuttle off into the shadows. I just can't take it. she says, it doesn’t make any sense. I was out with Billy all night. We must have been everywhere in town. We got home about four and I felt so sweet. Then when I woke up he was gone. There was a note in the kitchen, J K Studwin M 0MEM1LY BLINDED IN THE NEAR-TOTAL DARKNESS, THEY ARE AWARE ONLY OF THE BASS-HEAVY SOUND SYSTEM AND A POWERFUL SMELL OF CHEAP WINE AND DISINFEC TANT. she says, read it, and hands a piece of paper to Suzy. Suzy reads: You're the prettiest girl I know and I’ll miss you but this has all gotten too comfortable. Maybe we’ll meet again somewhere, some other time. All my love. Billy. Well, she says, it's rather flat, isn't it? I mean, how do you defend against an accusation like too comfortable? A tear falls from Shelley's eye, turns to gold and lands ringing on the table. I don’t know, she says, maybe he just got bored. I guess the magic ran out. Well, there can never be too much magic, Suzy says. She drains her beer and leans back in the chair. Oh I don’t care, Shelley says. I just want him back, he’s so pretty and nasty and sb sweet, how do I make him come back? You don’t, says Suzy, you roll with the blow and keep on dancing. You've always been a great dancer, you know. Shelley’s head drops and she begins crying furiously, a flood of golden teardrops threatening the life of the waiter who has to find a way through the shiny beads skittering across the floor. After a while Shelley stops sobbing and raises her head. Wiping her eyes she says to her friend, Tell me again what you said before. Suzy repeats, There can never be too much magic. And reaching across the table, takes hold of her hand with a gesture so pure and perfect that in that instant all the sorrow in the world is swept clean away. J.K. Studyvin is a Seattle writer whose work is first appearing in these pages. Marly Stone is an artist living in Portland. 16 Clinton St. Quarterly Clinton St. Quarterly 17