Noisy Water Review

Elegy

Cheyenne Black

“Yeah, hi everyone. Thanks for coming. Ha! Like it's a party, or I have a right to thank you for coming. Jack would hate that. Did you all taste the cheese sandwiches? I brought them for Jack. Stop glaring at me, Stella. Hang on, hang on, let me get out a smoke. Okay, so yeah, Jack huh. Gone. How do we go on? Oh I know how I go on, just like before because it's not like he came 'round for more than a month at a time anyway, taking my time and smoking up my cigarettes and leaving me with no booze and a sore cunt. Not like we walked in the park and held hands and told tales to the old geezers playing chess how we'd be looking to settle down and make babies, did we? Not Jack, no way. But cheese sandwiches and sex and booze and words, that we had. Always the words. 'How do you expect to ever get better if you don't try harder fellaheen? You gotta try harder to give it up and out and use it all and have nothing left when it's done so you're empty but everyone else is full and then you've done it.'  And I never did know what he was saying, why he had to talk like he was a saint and live like the devil.”

The cigarette drag was full and deep, the ash stretching, quivering as she spoke, her eyes red rimmed and caustic with heat, “But oh, it was good. Yeah, it was really good when it was good. Wasn't it, Stella? Yeah, you know. Hell, I think half us here know the truth that when he was on he was good and when he was down it was a ride into the deep hanging on to the back of a shark mad with need for salvation and no way to find more than the inside hurt. The way he'd go inside and take you with him just to make sure you knew he was in pain but never let you in enough to help him find the way back. The damned critics saw to that, didn't they? Made him puke his guts out on a page. Give away all the best of himself till there was no finding Jack anymore just the cartoon drawing they thought he was and that still wasn't good enough, not for them, no way. Give us more so we can tear you up inside, Jack, and send you screaming back into the oblivion you created in your damned mind when we weren't able to understand your kind of genius. Let us make you into something you never were and show us just how to live so we can help you die. Damned critics. You loved them though, always defending their right to sing your praises and lash at your soul with the same pen, always saying they might be onto something, then crawling inside where I couldn't get to you anymore. Have another bottle, Jack! Who needs two fingers when you can pour four and have to leave the desk half as often?”

Her hand raked through her wiry hair, unraveling curls into a frizz while her free hand tipped a flask to her lips before she replaced the cap and dropped it into the pocket of her blonde fur coat.

“Spending the night in that putrid alleyway was the worst night of my life, Jack. Listening to you talk for hours with the bum covered in his own mess and waiting. Just waiting. Always waiting for you! Why did you need to hear his entire story? Couldn't you make some of this shit up? What is the use of hanging around in grotesque places and gathering wool to spin into tales you could have woven from the threads of your own imagination, Jack? Why? And why won't you fucking answer me, you damnable bastard! Can't we just start over? Go back to the day we met and you were so damned charming. Always smiling, leaning on that bar and offering to take me on the road with you. What is the use of you if it was just to torment me all my life? Hey yeah, anyone have a refill?”

Fishing out the flask, she held it aloft toward the crowd and shook it lightly, her eyebrows raising in question. Shrugging, she gave the cap a twist and brazenly emptied the last of the contents down her throat before dropping the leather covered flask on the podium with a jarring thump.

“So yeah uh, that night was incredible. All silk stockings and cigarettes, and you never stopped talking, filling my ear with tales and words I can't remember now but I wonder if it was to keep me from thinking, so I wouldn't say no to you and you could have your way, not that I'd have said no given any thought to my own way anyway but you know, I was a lady once, Jack, damn you, I was a lady once.  Till you poured through my life like the whiskey you used to warm and sip off of my belly. You poured along filling every damned nook and cranny, every sense of me was consumed in you, your cologne never stopped at my pillow but clung to my hair and no washing would get it out until I thought I'd burn it off to be rid of you when you wouldn't come for months at a time and I couldn't stand it anymore. The way the clippings you were always cutting littered my desk but I was afraid to move them for fear you'd need just that one and I wouldn't be able to find it again. Never wanted to displease you did I, Jack? Oh no, who wants to become a caustic story fed to your buddies over booze on a Friday and told to a mic by Allan? Not me for sure. How do walk with that damned swagger anyway? The way you move made me want to climb onto you even in that forsaken alleyway and let the damned bum watch for all I cared, just to be on you, with you, in me, over me, consuming me, making me alive again because I died when we met and you remade me into this thing I am now that I don't even like and can't ever go back to being what I was so I stay here in this body thinking only that you're gone and I'm a wasted version of me, alone and lost and without the spark that brought me life because I gave myself away, didn't I Jack, but you took it in, you accepted it and asked for more then gave me nothing back so I was empty and told me to give them more, them, always them that you never really told me who they were, the people you'd say, but who the hells is that, Jack? Is it me, you? Stella? Oh don't glare, Stella, you got it all didn't you? And I got nothing really, just his hat on the back of my door and his sleepy mumblings that I saved him. For something? From something? Why, when and what? How? Did he ever tell me so I could do it again or more? No of course not, and he always went back on the road and back to you, didn't he Stella? Damn you, Jack.”

She took another drag, surveying the audience in front of her, the way several were shifting uncomfortably in their seats, others looked bemused, and Stella glared through slits so narrowed, it seemed they might close the last distance and she would implode from the rage lining her face, or her teeth may shatter under the pressure with which her jaw was clenched.

“When we had it, we really had it though, didn't we Jack? We could talk for hours about the way the sun came up, the reflection on the glass being a clue to our own existence. How we loved to dream. We'd plot and plan the ways we could escape it all and then come back later with all of the truths and treasures of the world. How we'd sleep on the roof and rename the stars and give them each a story, rife with our own ideas for life. You'd bring me a bottle cap and tell me the way it had rolled through life was the plan for you and now I can't see one and not see you, bumping your way along, finding all of the low spots suffering some for the kicks of the passers by and cutting the feet of the unsuspecting. Why did you bring me to this, Jack? Why couldn't you have left me alone? I'd be married to some banker by now and happy, with a couple of brats and more booze than I could drink. But instead I can't unsee you. I can't undream nights spent under the stars and I can't feel hands other than yours without thinking that you did it better, truer, and with more fire than any man before or since. That you would lay claim to me and absorb me before putting me back changed with every encounter.”

“I'm like that damned coffee you taught me to add whiskey to and now I can't drink it any other way because it just feels like it's missing something and I'm the coffee or maybe the whiskey because the heat of the coffee brings out my best qualities. But you didn't did you? Oh, we'd fight! Love to fight with you but the neighbors hated it the way we'd scream and let it all hang out, but then we'd be free wouldn't we, no more holding back only the heat and the way cleared out. All words and breath and hate and heat and who needs sheets? You tore mine up to make a rope so you could hang upside down from the window and explore the street from a new vantage point but I had the last laugh when I wore your tie to your engagement party; the one she gave you and you left in my apartment. We were always sparring weren't we, Jack? Eloquently turning to one another and building to some crescendo that only we could hear, some peak in the tension that would kill us or make us into something new and now here you are, and I'm alone but useless to anyone but you. Any one of you writer boys in the market for a used up muse? Not you William, put your hand down, I don't play those kinds of games.”

She snatched up another cigarette and lit it, taking a long drag and exhaling toward the ceiling, considering the crowd through the smoke.

“But I wasn't Joan, was I Jack? No, none of us were. However much we tried, whenever we opened our mouths to speak we just didn't have the same delicate but biting way did we? Delicate but biting is what you always called her, how is that even possible for a real woman, Jack? We, all of us, even Stella, tried to live up to the image of her you all built in your minds and we just never could. But you had no end of letting us try, did you Jack? No, you would prod and pull and ask and beg me to give you my ideas on the bourgeoisie, to beat with you the ways and means of our very survival in this place and then catapult us both into the arms of dreaming. Who the hell's got benny? Anyone? Shit.”

The drag was long, steady, the scaly ash growing before falling onto the lectern without a glance, she lit another from the butt and stubbed the end on the wood leaving a scar in the finish. “Damn you to hell, Jack Kerouac, I'll love you to the day I die.”

 

> Return to Top