Dylan Taylor is a university drop-out who slings cheap coffee to cottagers and builds dry stone walls in Canada. When he is not working he is spending his wages on tickets to Virginia to see his girlfriend and Emerson, the best duo on the continent. He has work published in Blotterature, the Kentucky Review, and The Lost Country.
We were drinking wine and eating mollusks, raw and salted, gritty from the silt of the sea when I first felt it, it was a small thing, like the mustard seed he keeps talking about, and like that seed’s tree my thoughts are bearing fruit.
Now he is getting his feet washed. She kneels beside his sandals and weaves her fingers between his long toes. A small unselfconscious smile holds the corners of her mouth like clothespins, lips full and blooming with the task at hand, as if the act means something, as if it matters at all. Perfumed feet in the desert being about as essential as myrrh. To this day, I don’t really understand myrrh. Or those wizened magi following a star north and stopping to watch a birth. Calling it a miracle. A small miracle maybe, a life begotten in hay. A baying ass. A little blue boy calls out to the livestock. No trumpets necessary. Certainly no fucking magi. What I’m trying to say is that my friend was doomed from the start.
When I met him we were experimenting. Peaceful demonstrations to beget peace. Light hallucinogenic drug use. Plants cooked and chewed, horizons gained and shared. A closeness that indigo brings to brothers. Reappropriating bread off the backs of carts, putting loaves in the decaying hands of a people unwelcome to market. Lighting a fire in the desert. Our own beacon star. Feeling the warm heartbeat of the multitudes in song, in release, in love and joy.
Her name is not Yoko Ono, but it was Mary...his mother’s... That sameness unsettles me, even now, four cups of wine to the good. Her presence did not crack our foundation or tarnish our gold. It opened up a vein in me that spewed a jealousy dark and fecund unlike any I’ve known. The pool of blood a lamb spills upon the baking desert floor. This jealousy has a scent. A scent that he can catch. Staring at her serpent hair, devoid of colour save in its shine, and at her skin, that drinks the sun and beams it back in dark and mystic hues, a lust burst from me. Where it shoves me, I can never predict. He turns his nose and looks me in the eye. My secrets dry under his gaze.
“Come over and talk about the eternity we share,” he says.
“Let’s talk about tomorrow.”
“The dawn and setting of a suncycle is but a backdrop for our lidded eyes; I wish to see without blinking.”
His eyes, clear and detached, radiate a focus I’m not sure he’s involved in. His words glide like a trade wind felt deep inland. He was obviously pretty stoned. Her teeth, flecks of bone cooing whispers and incantations in secret near his ear. I was obviously quite drunk. “Love is a stream flowing over the feet of many. Few can leap in and drown.” She says this in that childlike sage voice that makes me want to pull out every single tooth in my head and force them into my ears. He blinks. He did blink. The real world continues. I feel like a prisoner in my own heart, watching joy but distrusting the vision, or my place inside that vision.
“Love is feeding the hungry first,” I said.
“Love is never knowing hunger,” his reply.
I stand up to leave. The wine rushes down and gets on top of me. I trip over Paul’s lazy leg and land at His feet. My lips pressing upon His freshly cleaned toes. Sand and alcohol on my tongue. His perfumed lassitude grainy between my winestained teeth. She giggles. He takes my hand and places four dried mushroom caps in my palm. “For tonight, dear brother.”
“You take them. I’d hate for you to blink.”
Anger and embarrassment compete to paint my face in colour. I walk up the cliffside in search of the sunset. A purse full of coins that are inconsequential now chafes at my thigh. I cast them off. Guilt pierces my throat like a Hoplite’s spear. I heave up the wine and bread, staring into the pattern of my sin, retching until my eyes spill into the sick and beads of sweat pearl down the small of my back. How did we wind up here? Hazy dreamers lost in their isolated ideals, a hungry limping cat gnawing off its least useful limb. I see the sunset. I see the gnarled and vicious hanging tree. Below, the desert valley is an ocean of red and orange and gold. The horizon, a lidless eye. I point myself towards her swollen iris, the fiery center of time. I wait for a moment knowing how this will play out. Knowing my time is as small as it is infinite. I stand bewildered before the leap.