Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Art of Blindness: Part 5

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)

Blue held Idiot’s Idol in his giant blue hand and spit on it.  His saliva hung off the rice-encrusted face of the little statue, and seeped and darkened into the sugar.  More sugar rubbed off onto his hand.  He wanted to crush the life out of this little man, but he was afraid that would ruin his plans for his masterpiece.  The one he needed those eyes for.  But he felt the need to spit on the thing, and he felt he could do it safely, so he did.
He put Idiot’s Idol back on his desk, where it was surrounded by stack after stack of paper, then he brushed his hands off.  The eyes were there waiting for him, and his patience was at an end.  He hadn’t come up with any clear plan for his masterpiece, but he just couldn’t take it anymore.  He wanted to get moving.  So, without even glancing back at the little statue, Blue Baby left his home and began the short walk to the house where the guy was, with the eyes.
The most obvious plan of attack was to take the two pieces, the eyes and the statue, and melt them down together, boil them into whatever they would become.  A paste, he assumed, but who knew?  If he ended up with a paste, then he could maybe paint with it, but that was a terribly dull way to go.  It would be a waste of time and materials.  No painting could live up to the grand, ambitious work that still lay unformed inside him.  And, of course, that was the big problem.  He had the inspiration to work, and the absolute certainty that these two materials – one a horribly failed artwork, the other an aberration of nature – would join to create something of such undeniable and unbelievable glory that, very likely, no one would ever again put their own hands and minds to the act of creation because they would feel so disheartened, so miniscule in their visions.  What was the point of creating when the greatest artistic creation had already been created?  After all?  Artists, Blue Baby felt certain, always needed to surpass what had come before them, to wipe out the memory of all the ancient artistic failures that took up space in books and museums.  So when you broke it all down, these artists were content to be replacements for a bunch of dead people.  Oh, what a glorious ambition!  They couldn’t possibly believe their shit was good for anything.  There simply the next shift, the night shift.
Meanwhile, Blue wanted to not only surpass what had come before – for Christ’s sake, he’d been doing that since birth! – but also to surpass what would come after.  He wanted to ruin the artistic drive for all the white-skinned junkies who had yet to be born.  And he had what it took, he had the pieces, but that brought back the problem.  What the hell was he supposed to do with them?  The pieces themselves, the eyes and the statue, said everything there was to say in their current form, so how, and to what end, should he combine them?  What possible form could this work take that would match the millennia-spanning effects he envisioned?  These were the tough questions he had to ask himself.  If he couldn’t achieve that final goal, the destruction of creation, then there was no reason to even begin.  Though he had already begun, he told himself.  Swiping the sugar statue, and making the deal with Chim, had been his beginning.  But those weren’t part of the creation.  To claim otherwise would be to lower himself to the level of Lightbulb Annie.  It would be the equivalent of one of Meezik’s fuckhead artist buddies charging people to watch him buy paint.  But that sort of thing, that wasn’t the problem.  Blue wasn’t lacking for meaning in this.  The statue spoke of idiocy and clumsiness and cloddishness and weakness and lack of ambition and mediocrity and, above all, failure.  The eyes, the most important part, represented humanity’s blindness to all of the above, their acceptance of it all as somehow good and pleasant.  So what the hell more was there to say?  It seemed like some pasty, boney art school jerk-off with a sickeningly idealistic notion of artistic simplicity, and whatever, scabby, diseased, drug-whipped whore had squeezed out that bizarre gray cavefish that now lay on Chim’s floor had already done his job for him.  But you couldn’t just put the two things in a box and say, “Finished.”  The two had to merge.  And Blue felt that once joined they couldn’t resemble what each had once been separately.  It had to be something wholly new.  And how in the hell did you do that with so little to work with.
Clearly, this was the terrifying problem.  Well, almost terrifying.  It did indeed scare the shit out of Blue Baby that his most monumentally inspired invention, which would forever cement his name, albeit bitterly, in the up-to-now pitiful world history of art, and would, at the very least, help him find a publisher for his memoirs, might be destroyed before he had even begun just because he couldn’t figure out what the damn thing should look like.  But Blue was nothing if not confident, and it seemed to him that once he held the most valuable piece, finally, in his hands, the tumblers in his mind would spin and fall on the right combination, the door would swing smoothly open, and whatever was inside would be his for the taking.  It was comforting to think that way, but it hardly wiped away all doubt.  And doubt, that wasn’t something Blue was used to, so the very fact that he was feeling it only made things worse.  Still, the only way to test his theory was to go get them eyes, and as he got closer to Chim’s pathetic little shitmound of a house, Blue felt his heard and mind go wild.
He stood now before the door, and he raised his fist, knocked three times, lightly, politely.  Stood there.
“Blue?” Chim called.
“It’s me,” Blue called back.
“Come on in.”
Blue opened the door and stepped in.  His eyes slid past Chim’s drunk, shrunken body there in the chair, the reek of liquor rising from his body and the neck of the bottle like nerve gas.  His eyes landed on the floor, the bare, empty floor.  Naked wood that could just about hold a man of average size, taller than Chim, shorter than Blue Baby.  Funny, though, that such a man wasn’t there.
“Ahm…” Blue said.
He brought his eyes back around to Chim.  Chim was staring down into his bottle.  His mouth hung open.
“Where is he?” Blue asked.
Chim lifted his head, but didn’t look at Blue.
“He’s…what?” Chim said.
“Where the fuck is he?”
“He, who, the guy?”
Blue’s right arm swung out in a backhand arc, slapped the bottle from Chim’s limp fingers, sent it tumbling to the floor where it lay there, bleeding.  Then Blue brought his hand back around with a shot that should have taken Chim’s head off.  A crack, like fresh wood splintering under the axe, and Chim went sideways with his chair, spilling to the floor, and he, too, lay there bleeding.  He was still conscious, somehow.  He turned his eyes up to Blue Baby.
“I’m sorry, Chim,” Blue said, panting.  “I’m, you know, where is he?  Is he, do you have another room?  Are, are you keeping, are you keeping him in some other room or something?”
Chim started to work one elbow underneath his thin body, to up prop himself up.
“I’m sorry, Chim,” Blue repeated.  “But I’m, I panicked.  You don’t know what this means to me.  I just panicked.  Where is he?”
“He’s gone,” Chim said through broken teeth.
“He’s -- ?”
“He got up, and he walked right out the fuckin’ door, Blue.  How do you like that?  And I didn’t do a fucking thing to stop him.”
Chim sucked blood from his lips back into his mouth.  Blue Baby was all blurry.  Chim’s glasses were broken on the floor beside him.
“He – “ Blue stammered.
“He’s gone, Blue.  Fucking gone.”
Blue Baby couldn’t kick very well, so he stomped.  Took a step forward, brought his giant foot up and stomped down into Chim’s stomach.  Chim’s ribs gave like a hollow pumpkin, and he screamed.  Sweat shone on Blue’s massive head, his night-blue lips pulled back, and his rolling, tooth-white tongue shot out manically.  And Blue’s arms reached down and grabbed Chim by his elbows, hauling the little yellow man up like an infant, and when Blue squeezed his arms together, Chim’s own arms snapped.  Blood poured and amazing, brilliant, beautiful red from Chim’s mouth and lost itself in the blackness of his clothes.
Blue wrenched Chim forward, their faces together, Blue’s bulb nose pressed against Chim’s twisted beak.  Then closer, till their eyeballs were almost touching.  The sweat and wild murderous heat from Blue’s face warmed Chim.  Chim’s eyes were open and aware.  Blue’s face was filling with something, blood perhaps, and his skin was becoming black, the blackness of an enraged stone god.  The air around Blue boiled and shook . He opened his mouth wide, wide, till the flesh at the sides of his mouth threatened to rip, and he screamed into Chim, screamed everything at him, poured and belched and vomited everything, every scrap of rage and despair and fear and hatred, shot it all out in one wild, nerve-rending shriek, one banshee wail, and his hands, Blue’s hands, which had been straining to join together, now did so with a wet pop, clasping together inside Chim’s belly, as Chim’s blood, hot and wet and still fighting for life, gushed uselessly over Blue’s arms.
Afterwards, Blue, when he’d pulled his hands out of Chim and let the body fall, didn’t feel the least bit better.  His breath was heaving from him as it never had before, and he was suddenly frightened for his own heart.  So he stood there for a while, trying to make all his parts settle down.  His head felt like it wanted to float away.  The way he was sweating, there must be a pool beneath him.
Everything else was still there, everything he’d wanted to accomplish, every goddamn, it, it was all.  He’d.  There.  There was nothing.  But a dead piece of, of, a-and all this fucking blood.  Holy Jesus, where was a canvas when you needed one, right?  That, that fucking Chim.  Gone.  Fucking gone, like he’d said.  What, what could, where’d, where could he’ve gone?  That blind son of a bitch, where the hell’d he gone?  Oh, Jesus.  What now.
Blue brought his blood hands to his face, and he rubbed them up to the top of his head, leaving his face a wonderful, gleaming red.
 *  *  *  *
The Man spent an awful lot of time wondering how long it took for somebody to freeze to death.  It seemed to him that he should be thinking about other things, like how great it was to be out of there, away from him, and how strange it was to be walking again, through snow, and the extra chill of fear that ran through him, the new-found paranoia that made him suspect that little man was nearby, waiting to snatch him away from the blistering winter air, and back into some horrible little warm place.  But his mind, understandably, was transfixed on the idea that his sudden, unexpected released would offer only the briefest sense of freedom, because soon enough that damn freezing air would find him, crystallize around him, packing him in tight, cut off his wind until everything went black.  Then, when the sun came back, the Man would be finished.
Before Chim, he’d had a hotel room somewhere.  He hadn’t the faintest idea what part of the city he was in now.  He had no money, he had been walking around naked, but now he had some old clothes that he’d pulled from a garbage bin.  This had been pure luck.  He’d been hiding in what he now assumed was in alley, and had walked straight into the tall, ice cold metal box.  Guessing what it was, he opened the bin up and just started digging.  The clothes had been in a plastic bag.  There hadn’t been anything in the bag with them.  Just some sweatclothes, and some socks, and sneakers.  While his hands roamed curiously over them, he slowly realized what they were.  He couldn’t believe it.  Just a bag of clothes tossed out, as if someone knew he’d be by, or at least that someone would be by that needed them, and, well, here they were if you watned them.  After he’d dressed, the Man had put one hand against the rough brick surface of the building against which the garbage bin sat, and thanked it.
He knew that his hotel couldn’t be that far away.  Or maybe it was.  He seemed to have forgotten everything he’d learned about the city in his short time there, which wasn’t much.  Now he was just walking.  Seeing where he ended up.  There hadn’t been much in the hotel room:  some clothes, some money.  That was about it.  It seemed to him that there were other things there too, some things of a more personal nature, but whatever they were he couldn’t remember, and he found that he didn’t particularly care to.  He felt completely removed from whatever had gone before in his life.  And though he couldn’t remember what that life had consisted of, he felt sure that he wasn’t leaving much behind.
Or so he told himself.  He was at a stage now where it appeared to be very likely that he would freeze to death, snot and saliva hardened to icicles hanging from his face.  The clothes were soaked through, they no longer did him any good.  They covered him, maintained his dignity, but that was it.  So with death so close, perhaps his mind was trying to make things easier on him, telling him he wasn’t missing much by dying now.  Had what had gone on so far been such a joyride?  At times, he was certain that his mind was doing this to him, showing him mercy, because at one point he actually found himself thinking that, Well, at least I’ll be dying on my own terms, and not in that damn slaughterhouse back there, with that monster.  But what a load that was.  If he was to choose to die, to choose the circumstances of his own death, this sure as hell wouldn’t be what he’d pick.  He’d pick something else, something nice and quick, like decapitation.  Something like that.
So his mind was maybe taking pity on him, wanted him to die in a state of indifference, to die shrugging.  But, of course, that only worked if he wasn’t wise to the game, and so now not only was he going to die, but he was going to die feeling betrayed by his own brain.  It meant well, at least.
He walked along.  He didn’t know which direction he was heading, if he was on the street or the sidewalk, what time of day it was, who the people around him were.  And they were there.  He heard their boots crunching through the snow, and he heard voices faintly babbling past his ear.  Whenever a voice, or voices, sounded clear to him he would strain to catch pieces of what was being said.  Words, sometimes sentences could bring him briefly out of his blindness.  A word, any word – Tuesday, bread, wife, job, lake – or phrases – I’ve been there twice; No, I didn’t think it was too good; I’m bein’ robbed, man; She wouldn’t tell me how much; Well, that’s sweet – would spark images in his brain.  These were images of things he had never seen.  The people in his mind were strangely beautiful, and he knew they were strange.  He knew that what he had invented in his mind bore no resemblance to the world around him, but he didn’t know how he knew that.  Perhaps, he thought, it stood to reason.  He had never seen the world, or people, so there could be no accuracy in his imaginings.  Over the years, this had become less and less important to him.  He liked the people and the places as he saw them.  Snow, the snow against his face, fluttered in great sheets of wildly blazing color, a color that may exist or not, but it fell like sheets from a bed and broke apart before it landed, and drifted gently on the wind.  And light was everywhere for the Man.  What did light look like?  He sure didn’t know, but he knew what it did, and there wasn’t a single thing that he couldn’t see in his mind.  Trees, he’d felt their roughness, felt their smooth leaves.  He invented a color for them.  And for no particular reason, other than because he could, he gave the trees eyes.  These were the eyes of a girl who had once let the Man run his hands along her face.  These eyes had no color, just and amazing softness about them.  They looked like that same girl’s hair had felt.  The Man could remember walking through parks many times in his life, and he imagined these eyes following him with each step, and it was somehow a great comfort to him.  All girls, women and girls, had these same eyes.  They were all walking beauty.  Beauty was something that was utterly indefinable to the Man, but it was something he sensed in every bright voice, soft touch, and light footstep.  He didn’t try to pin it down.  Nothing he could imagine would match that wonderful purity that flowed like air around him whenever he sensed it.
Also, in the Man’s mind, all the men looked the same.  They all looked like him.  However that looked.
And so he walked like that, and he thought these things, and it was a pleasant way to think as he stumbled towards death.  Everything that had ever existed for him in life, every image he had ever created, every scrap of mysterious light and color, tumbled inside him.  It was all daylight inside his mind.  He wiped his nose.
He bumped into a brick wall.  He barely felt it.  He thought his skin must be concrete now, he was so cold.  But he brought his arms up, let his hands run along the surface of the wall.  He’d hit the building right at its corner, and now he walked along, keeping his body against the wall.  Instinctively he felt that he was walking along the side that faced out on the street.  His body sank more heavily against the wall with each step he took.  Soon he guessed he’d reach the end of the building and fall into an alley or something.  Or he’d bump into someone and get punched in the face.  He was at the point where he was expecting anything to happen.  But in his mind this building appeared to be extraordinarily inviting.
And now he began to fall, he’d reached the end, but his hand that shot out landed on smooth wood.  He caught his footing, and stopped falling.  Now he just stood there, confused.
“We’re closing,” said a voice.  Some woman, or a girl, standing very near him.  He now knew that he was in a doorway.
“Um,” he said.
“We’re closed.  You can get drunk tomorrow.”
“No’m, I’m, I’m not thirsty.  I’m – “
“You’re blocking me.  I have to lock this.”
“I’m cold.”
“Well – “
“Is it warm inside?”
“Mister, I said we’re closed.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Jesus, is that blood?”
“…Wh – “
“On your, Jesus!  Oh’, I’m sorry.  I’m just, I’m sorry.”
The Man just stood there.  He thought about shaking his head in confusion, but he seemed to have forgotten how to.
“Are you okay?” she said, and her voice sounded closer, like she was trying to get a good look at him.  “Did you know you’re bleeding?”
“I, I think so.”
“Oh God.  Come on inside.”
He heard a door open, and he felt her hand on his elbow.  She led him inside the building and it seemed incredibly warm.  His legs stopped working, and he fell.
“Oh, God, man!” the girl yelled in a panic.  She fell to her knees beside him.
“I’m okay,” he managed to say.  “I’m all right here.”
She was touching his face, tentaviely.
“God, your clothes, they’re all bloody,” she was saying.
They were? he thought.  Had he really been bleeding that much?  He thought about saying that a guy had tried to eat him, but he didn’t.
“It’s dried,” she said.  “What happened to you?”
“I didn’t know my clothes were so bad.”
“They are.  Did you get shot?”
“I gotta get you to a doctor.”
“No, I need to get warm, is all.”
“Sir, you’re bleeding!”
Now the Man shook his head.
“No I’m not,” he said.  “Not anymore.”
But now the girl pushed his shirt up to look at his chest and stomach, and he heard her gasp.
“Oh shit, what the hell happened to you?  What, Jesus!”
He felt her fingers run lightly over his scabs.
“Oh, Jesus.  What happened?”
“It’s…”  How did you tell someone something like this?  “I got attacked.”
“By what?”
“I don’t know.”
“These wounds are old.  How long’ve you been in these clothes?”
“I found them earlier today.  In a garbage bin.  They’re not mine.”
“But they’re all bloody.”
“Then it’s not my blood.”
“God, I gotta get you to a doctor.”
He heard her begin to stand up, and he reached out and took hold of her ankle.  He didn’t grab her, just reached out.
“Don’t, please,” he said.  “I’m okay lying like this.  Just sit here with me.”
She did kneel down again.  After a while, she said, “Could you eat something?  Or drink something?”
“In a while, yes.”
He lay there, breathing.  He could smell her.  His hand was against her knee.
“What’s your name?” she asked him.
“…I don’t know.  What’s yours?”
 *  *  *  *

In Blue Baby’s room, which had been destroyed, the big man sat in his chair, sugar spread over his hands and face.  Little crystals of it sparkled, caught in the blood on his cheeks, forehead, mouth.  His paintings lay in tatters, or wadded up, on his floor.  Bowls and jars had been smashed or upended.  Everything seemed amazingly bright to him right now, and the room also looked surprisingly empty.  He was feeling very bewildered, and he was hungry.  He sighed, and slowly tore up another page.


No comments: