Monday, December 10, 2007

Alice- Crossing the Chessboard

That horrible grin hangs foreboding in the sky tonight, as if mocking me and I feel that chill, that rush of need, and the pain that comes from its denial. I feel the restless thumping from the thing inside me, that part of me I must never again allow to escape. My shoes make a hollow sound that echoes off the alley walls, other than me, and the restless chronic coughing coming from inside the shelter, this night is perfectly still. The fog rolls in from everywhere, it’s December in the city, and fingers of ice try to grab me with every step. I reach the spigot and begin to clean the filthy buckets and brushes, used so often to clear the vomit and human waste from the floors inside. The freezing water turns my fingers an angry red as I work; the pain twists my lips into smile. The payment for today has begun. Once I ran from even the slightest pain, gratefully letting Alice take the wheel, now I make myself feel it, because not giving in means a small victory.

For years I thought that Alice was my better half. She was stronger than me, and quicker to know the answers, it took me a long time to realize that just because you have an answer quickly, doesn’t mean it’s the right one. I was weak, and needful, I thought that she knew how to make us strong; I didn’t listen when everything else inside me was screaming that we needed to be good as well. I let her drive for so long, and watched as she tore at the walls of our little world until they came crumbling down. I watched her destroy a transient in the park, because he tried to make a victim of us, I watched her tear apart one teen aged girl to help another feel a little more real, and then turn disloyal as a serpent, and betray her as well. She thought I couldn’t see from inside that place, she thought I had no idea what she was up to, but I found a window, and sometimes I peeked. I’ll never forget the look of panic and shame on my sweet Silvie’s face when she realized that Alice wasn’t human. I let her do these things because I thought I was not strong enough to stop her. These are my sins.

I have sought forgiveness the traditional ways; I begged a meeting with a priest. Unable to be completely honest with him, but wanting desperately to find hope in his words, I learned that as far as his God is concerned, I’m a lost cause. I guess it’s better anyway; you can’t pay penance something you’re sure is a lie. I’ve always kind of admired the type of people who can believe in things like Gods. It’s like getting to believe in magic forever. Even Alice had something to believe, her ‘Smiling Lord’, often guided her to things and acts that normal people would have no part of, but at least she has something to blame, something that will exonerate her.

I had to create my own means of salvation. First comes sacrifice, I must relieve myself of all pleasures; that means cold food, uncomfortable furniture, and I must never so much as make eye contact with a man. I must pay back the carnage she dealt with my hands, so I work at the shelters and at the high school, doing the most disgusting, most degrading, things I can find, and return my pay to these causes. Atonement means a lot of things. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for a visit with my darling Silvie, her doctors think it will be good for her, they gave her a pass. I think it’s a sweet irony that we’ll meet, nearly unsupervised, in a park. I must face her and accept all the things I’m sure she has to say.

“Just a reminder, gentlemen, it’s curfew in 15 minutes.” I say in a clear voice, without looking up, as I slip past the walking dead and through the back door, their cloud of nicotine swirling in my wake.

My thoughts unbroken I begin to strip the beds, the musty air from too often soiled mattresses creating a foul wind across my cheeks. I breathe deep, payment comes in many forms. After Silvie comes confession. I must find a way to be done with half truths and whole lies. I’m smarter than to go anywhere near a therapist. All those afternoons, bored with Dr. Ashton, trying to find something to say that sounded real and didn’t lead to Alice taught me therapists are either idiots, or not to be trusted. Alice had served her master twice before we met the good doctor and he never took his eyes off my tits long enough to see that we were lying.

There are guards around the palace; even as the commitment of speaking her most guarded truths sets its dark chill on my heart, I feel an absent twitch in my left hand, her hand. The movement is unnerving, it draws my suspicion that she will strengthen as she stews, but those horrible dreams filled with pain-ridden gore and moonlight celebration come less often now, something is working. That gives me hope that someday I will finally claim ownership of this body. Unbidden to the front of my mind come two images; the first is almost comforting in its familiarity, her face, not so different from mine with just subtle changes, she has green eyes and a more slender chin, high cheek bones and bright red hair, cut close to her head in the back and lengthening to points at her collar bones. She is a powerful beauty; one I am hoping very much to miss.

The second image cuts into my heart with the implication it brings, the thing I found in the nightstand drawer. So small I hoped it wasn’t real; I couldn’t even bring myself to touch it. The tiny white triangle not half the size of my pinky nail, the slender cone and point of the canine, a trophy from that opossum eighteen years ago in Grandma’s woods. A trophy I thought I had destroyed; she must have ripped this tooth out of its skull before I cleaned house.