Sonata for a Corpse
Author's note: This piece is complex and wholly unbias. Its influence on you, if there is one at all, is decided by you.
Sonata for a CorpseThere is no sound that omits from private decay. Not even the Spanish prayers that often sing hope for the Sonoran Desert can reach his deaf ears, not at this stage. It is too late. He is crouching beside the flat of the chapped sand and his long, knotted digits itch the crook of his arm where track marks are shaped like fingerprints and add exquisite color to the eyes of purple and green tattooed monsters. He can feel his swollen and broken veins. They yearn to be touched by the prick of a spinning wheel. His lips tremble. Tears form in the pits of his almond shaped eyes and he encourages them, letting them drool over his sharp cheekbones and he carefully lifts a trembling finger to absorb the tear and kisses it with his tongue. Those goddamn narcotic fiends thought he might last a week here in the sewers of hell. He assured them that they were wrong. And they were still wrong, but not because he would survive to see the sun be pulled by gravity beyond the border of the world again, but because he was now molesting the trigger of a .45 caliber. One bullet is all that lingers in the barrel. It was given to him by the narcotics fiends and was meant to blow apart his brains and skull and face and paint the ground with reds and pinks of all sorts. He puts the gun down now. He will not let them win. He will f*ing waste away before he lets that happen. A Desert Blonde Tarantula stalks close to his weak form. It must have thirty-two legs, he thinks to himself. The legs and arms stretch to carry its center as though it does not possess weight and he is captivated by the miracle that it has not been blown away by some dying breeze, that gravity can really cradle something so small so close. The creature taps his gun with its right frontal arm, testing its danger and when it is confident, steps closer to God. The moment is calm. And then a switch is pulled to send a million watts of electricity into his guts and it’s like shock therapy, but no one is there to keep him from chewing off his own tongue. S*** is pushed out of his body and it runs like pure liquid down his thighs, down his legs and the jeans he is wearing soaks the color but does not soak the substance. A mute whisper omits from his dry lips. Never had an ounce of dignity been carried by him, but now it is crystallizing, and it feasts upon his epidermis like the parasite he used to inhale through his nostrils. It itches. When they finally carve beneath his skin, they break his muscles down, masterfully stretching his tendons, creating an ache in his anatomy like he had never experienced before. That small breeze that whispers Spanish prayers rumbles over the short mountain length and tickles his face and legs, teasing his skin because just one step below heroin is the necessity to find protection from this goddamn sun. He rubs his face, brushing the pad of his index finger over scar tissue residing just beneath his eyes in the shape of an oval. They should have been moist with perspiration, but his body was not hydrated. Water and heroin. Water and heroin and shade. In the shade is water which is where heroin is. Water turns heroin to liquid. Liquid is blood. Blood is dry. Blood is in his brain. His brain is turned to heroin. Heroin is his brain. He has no heroin. He has no brain. The prayers are not whispering to God. They mock him. A finger scrapes against the back of his throat. He can feel deep trenches of scars of horrible illnesses past. The dirt from the pad of his finger falls into those deep trenches and makes him gag, so he quickly withdraws the limb, attempts to catch himself, but collapses. His lungs have inhaled so many rocks. There should at least be blood to coat his throat, his tongue, oh Jesus please. Dilated pupils search the barren. There is nothing. There will never be anything. He ushers the creature away from his holy savior and pushes the barrel open to examine the bullet resting. It is silver and shining and pure: brand new. Good, he thinks. A few years ago he read in a newspaper about a man who put a bullet in his chest, survived the suicide, and putrefied months later because the bullet was infected. He restores the pistol back to its original place, on the floor, and bites at one of his fingers until a splinter of a nail is torn off. It hurts. But not as bad as anything else he is experiencing, so the pain is left ignored. With the splinter, he tears one last hole in his arm to aid the suppressing of his anxiety. He imagines himself at a dealer’s house. Yeah, he has the heroin now. His veins cease, like they forgive him, if only just for now. He drops the splinter in favor of the pistol, cocks it, puts it to his head, and lets the world go. * * * A few months before his desecration in the Mexican desert, Kilo was sitting in a booth of a small café in the outskirts of Los Angeles with Dani, his on-and-off-kicking-and-punching-and-sex partner. She was sitting across from him, her long, artificial hair tied behind her five-foot ninety-two pound body but uncombed and clusterf*ed. She always tried to hide her disease with clumps of make-up, but she always failed, and Kilo was too indifferent about her physical features to inform her. They both ordered Colas. They both turned them into Cokes, because Kilo packaged and carried his own special sweetener with him at all times. When the couple entered the café together, deep, tired lines etched their faces and they forged a broad space between their bodies. Now, they were holding hands over the table, sipping their drinks, and speaking optimistically about their future as though someday it might actually become a reality. The conversation was about children and careers and condos by the beach. She wanted to live in California. He wanted to live in Mexico, closer to his work. Then they decided extravagant beach houses in both locations would be wise, because Kilo could use that as an excuse as to why he was always crossing the border with three or four suspicious looking suitcases when, or if by chance he be stopped and questioned by airport security. Their food was served to them by a waitress with butterfly eyelashes. Dani ordered three different plates and scarfed them down while Kilo was much slower and dressed his cinnamon-nutella French toast with powdered sugar, whip cream, syrup, and a pinch of his own special sweetener. He didn’t eat much of his. Dani ate all of hers, and then excused herself for a thirty-two minute break to ‘fix her make-up’ or something like that. The excuse was really quite silly, though. He knew about her special disease of double tasting; he knew she stared at her stomach in the mirror for hours at a time often, and that she pinched her arms when she thought he was asleep and that she could not stop her disease from infecting her thoughts and caused them to evolve into obsessions with obesity. Kilo plays with his fingers and touches his face while he waits like a gentleman. He thinks about how the substance used to affect him so many years ago, when he was twelve and experimenting for the first time in his life, and about how it used to be an unstable cocktail of stimulation and macabre; he compares it to now, at the age of thirty-two. He feels how he felt when he was eleven years old: comfortable. He thinks about what a great substance this is and moistens his finger with his tongue, dips the appendage into the packet, and then butters it across his gums. “Young man,” comes a voice from the side. “Can ah speak with yuh?” Kilo’s bones rattle in his skin. He looks at the older man and tries to move his lips and though he can now breathe much better, they feel disconnected and out of touch from the rest of his being. He touches them gently and moves them, like doors, open and shut again and again until he meets the gaze of a two-hundred-and-thirty-two pound cowboy who then seats himself where his girl, a third of his size, is supposed to be. He misses her. “Now, Ah’ve been watching you two young ‘uns from right over thur,” he points at one of the three long tables adjacent to the booth. “An’ Ah’ve noticed that yuh ‘r actin’ kinda queer.” Kilo smiles a little. He recalls a conversation he had with his ex-roommate, Alex, about how junkies are treated the same way as homosexuals are treated by society. “Now, I ain’t gonna lecture yuh. I know you’d no listen to me no-how, but I just gotta know: what in God’s name makes yah wanna throw His most precious gift away?” The junkie curls his upper lip, scraping the flesh against a layer of plague. He is engrossed in the way he cannot feel his lips as they are being cut, but he can feel his teeth, and his lips are like bulldozers. Living bulldozers that he can control, like a tool instead of an organ. Because an organ you can feel; a tool you should be conscious of only if you do not have spares to color the void of its intended purpose. He was almost positive they sold layers of lip skin at Wal-Mart, in the cosmetology section beside the assorted brands of mascara. They adjusted to the size of your lips, and came in all different colors. Maybe… Kilo wiggled a little in place and cleared his throat, seizing every word the cowboy had spoken years ago and stretching it and replacing it to form new sentence structures, because language was fun like that. Then he considered punctuation. What would be the most appropriate form? A question mark. (Around the world in eighty days, x mark the spot…) All questions need answers. “I guess I could’ve chosen to live my life like you. I could have chosen life. Chosen a real job, gotten a real career as a legal businessman or some bulls***. I could’ve raised a f*ing family, gotten a really nice flat screen television. I could have chosen washing machines, cars, electric can openers. I could have chosen to sit on my ass every night at six o’clock when I got home. I could have chosen high cholesterol and low self-esteem. I could have chosen friends, mortgage payments, and church on Sunday mornings. I could have chosen to shoot fireworks instead of some real nice f*ing cocktail on the Fourth of July. I could have chosen to be a f*ing embarrassment to my carbon copies while I wasted away. I could have chosen life. But I chose somethin’ else, and you know what? I don’t have to give you a reason when I’ve got cocaine.” He tapped the booth with both of his hands, testing the different vibrations. The cowboy nodded and rose to his feet. “Ah’ll pray fer yuh,” he said, real polite. Kilo smiled a little. “Don’t waste your time. He doesn’t listen to what you have to say. He doesn’t give a s***.” * * * Forward seven weeks. Kilo’s special sweetener has disappeared. The connections he had with Columbia have dispersed due to an incident among a few ring leaders, leaving him with a bruised eye and another broken nose. He tries to view the pain with an optimistic perspective. After all, he could have died. Most people who are cut off from the ring are usually assassinated before they can cross over the border of red-and-white Confederacy trash. But that’s life. Dani doesn’t see it that way. She does not understand why Kilo will not share his backup stash, or why he is asking her to get some kind of a job or f*** some poor perverted lad for cash. She is better than that. She is dating Justin Beiber. Kilo rolls his dark brown orbs and snorts another line before pocketing the stash and leaving for the night, hoping to score some cheap s*** or borrow money from Alex, who lives on the opposing side of Los Angeles. They no longer have a vehicle, but he does not mind walking. It saves the environment. At eight o’clock in the morning, the junkie returns, quality cocaine in hand. He walks up the stairs of the apartment he and Dani share. He unlocks the door, walks inside. Everything is breathing. She is sleeping on the couch, as she always does because she mentally cannot handle sleeping on a mattress, and as Kilo slips his heavy leather jacket from his tattooed arms, his vision rests on a vase. A vase full of red roses. Red roses he never purchased; roses that were not there before he left. He approaches the object as though it is a subject of his demise and searches for a small card perched in the middle of the bouquet. For Dani, the most beautiful girl on Earth. Love, J. Kilo’s fingers wrap around the neck of the vase and they launch it at Dani’s skull with all of their strength and a loud thud rings in the air, followed by an airless scream. Her eyes are now truly the moons he had always compared them to, and she holds her head, feeling it swell under her touch. The roses scatter on the floor in a collage of red and green and it resembles the blood that is beginning to stream down the side of her face. She chokes, “You jealous bastard!” The jealous bastard rushes to her side and grabs her hair, pulling her from beneath the quilt that provided her security and moves her onto the floor, on top of stems, pricking the exposed skin of her thighs. “Yeah?” he growls. “I’ve done f*ing everything for you! You could be on the goddamn streets right now, f*ing someone to get a goddamn fix but I f*ing take care of you! And you f*ing f*** some little twelve-year-old prick!?” She has nothing to say, nothing verbal, anyway. Dani claws at his wrist and when he finally releases her, throws the closest thing at his head, which happens to be a remote, and misses. So he pulls her up and hits her. She lets out a scream and her nose is bleeding now, too, and she hits him back, leaving a cheek to swell. So he thrusts her body against a wall, letting her little head slam again, and she tries to hit him but their lips meet and clothes fall and the morning ends well. Justin coincidentally is never mentioned again. He was touring in the United Kingdom. * * * “H-how do you feel about the… f*ing… UN?” Kilo’s nine year old fists are grabbing at the edge of his mother’s beautiful purple and green mesh sleeves. He’s tugging so hard that she is beginning to tilt in his direction and around one-half of her neck is this very angry looking rash. “Mom!” he’s whining, trying to grasp even a glance from her smoky hazel eyes. “Mooooom!” “Bar’brah, make that kid f*ing shut up!” Her flavor of the month grunts. She pushes a thin strand of curled hair out of her face and tucks it behind her ear. Kilo wants to reach up and fix her hair for her, because it looks like she may have attempted to brush and curl it this morning, but then she walked though a San Francisco breeze and forgot to rummage it when she reached a safe place. He doesn’t, though, because he knows she wouldn’t like that, and he’s wincing, expecting her to yell at him or shove him back, but instead she lifts the arm he was clinging to, wraps it around her son, and brings him close. “Hey, R-rem, what do you need, sweetie?” Barbara exhales in a long breath. Kilo can smell ash from her cigarettes and rubs his face to brush it off. He shifts uncomfortably. Her lap is so small and though he is undersized for his age, he doesn’t quite fit how she thought he would, and she does not notice. He leans into her a little, glaring at the man judging him and touches the crook of her arm. “I learned about dinosaurs today, and how they all disappeared when a big meteor came down from Mexico and put all this dust in the air. But after they died, there were like, mammoths and stuff and they were hunted by people but there were these people in Anty-artica and they found a mammoth and ate it and it tasted just like really, really old steak and –” “Remy, should Mommy cut off all her hair?” Kilo blinks his large, Spanish eyes as he tries to forge a connection between mammoths and his mother’s hair. She’s scraping her fingers through the messy blonde curls and digging into her scalp deep enough that it could bleed, but she is enjoying it. In fact, she’s kind of purring and her eyes are glazed over and distant, like it must be some really, really nice massage. The nine-year-old sweeps his fingers over the crook of his mother’s elbow. He can feel her swollen track marks and her swollen veins and she winces a little. “Honey, stop that! You’re hurting Mommy…” Barbara laughs and laughs and laughs. She thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world. Her son gives her a small smile and laughs with her, but it’s not a real laugh; it’s one threaded together by confusion and the necessity to communicate and be loved. The flavor of the month seizes the small child by the arm and pulls him away from his mother and Kilo sort of fumbles onto the carpeted floor. “C’mon now, Barb’bruh. We gotta go, er, see your doctor, remember?” Her neck rolls. “Yes! Yes, I do! How I love my doctor!” Kilo’s eyes water. He tries to grab a hold of his mother again, but her body is everywhere as she tries to stand on her own two feet. “No! Don’t leave me!” “Oh, darling dear, I won’t be gone for long, it’s just a checkup…” she claws the flavor of the month’s thighs and buries her face into her own chest. “We won’t be long.” “That’s what you said last time! W-we don’t have anymore bananas!” Barbara runs her fingers through her son’s dark hair. “Maybe we’ll buy a few mangos, baby, okay? Be good…” She never brought home any mangos. She never brought home bananas, either. She simply never returned home. * * * His fingers tap a nervous rhythm on the surface of the table; his lips are closed, sealed shut by some disappointed force. A shade of skin covers his pupils except when there is a noise from a corner. Then they might fly open and allow the window to dash in that direction, only to fall shut again into a comatosed, defiant state of mind. “The program isn’t like the other ones at the hospital. They really care, you know. They really want to help. For the first few days, they give shots of morphine so the withdraw symptoms aren’t so terrible and then, they um… they talk through your problems. They find the root cause and draw a plan. Like, did you know that getting out of the area you used in is really helpful? You feel so much better when you get out and… that’s why I’m leaving. I’m going to Minnesota and, uhm, if you want, when you get clean, you can come and live with me. We could get our lives together and…” Kilo watched Dani’s lips move in a stoned trance. They were covered in a thick spread of chapstick except at the edges, where friction eroded the medicine. She rubbed them together in the middle of her sentences. The gloss was smooth and settled the anxiety bursting in her heart; it was addicting, like the drugs she used to take. The drugs she would never digest again. The drugs which would shadow her for the rest of her life until the age of seventy-two, when she fell to her knees in front of a Baptist church because a heart attack struck her. No one cries at the funeral. She suffered too long. Acid had almost eroded away her stomach from years of Bulimia and left her to bear the chronic agony as a consequence. He could see the conclusion of her story etched somewhere between the letters D and I of her name. “I have to piss,” the junkie mumbles, sliding out of the booth to stand. Dani inhales sharply. “I know it sounds like bullshit, but there’s more to life than –” “I have to piss,” Kilo repeats himself. He does not look into her brimming Nazi-blue eyes; instead, his fists curl deeper into his pocket and grips his new baby, Heroin, as he stomps around a very long table and into the men’s restroom to change its diaper. Why would he want to stop using? This was the best thing that had ever happened to him, right here, right now. He kneels beside the s***-stained toilet bowl and dips a stolen spoon inside of it, cupping enough water to liquefy his China White. He taps an unmeasured amount into the water, carefully fumbles his pocket and draws a lighter. It’s a fairly new process, one he used to practice but gave up years ago. Kilo places his fingers at a certain angle near the end of the spoon as the utensil becomes warmer and warmer. He still burns himself, a little, but the pain is not extreme enough to discourage him. So he draws out the needle when the substance is jugulated, dips the prick inside of it and draws back carefully, wishing he had been born with another hand to make the process a little easier. When the substance is inside of the syringe, really beautiful and golden, he puts the spoon down and pushes the length to release only a drop or two. Any real oxygen molecules in his veins could result in death, and that is not what he is aiming for; so then he finds a vein easily, in the crook of his arm, angles it, carefully shoves it into a pore, and when he feels like the needle has sunk down enough, pulls the length towards his face. Inside the clear container is now a mixed dye of gold and red, so he anticipates the climax and pushes down, releasing the beautiful high into his body. The memory is a blur. He trusts the needle out of his vein, causing it to tear but he can’t feel it and he can’t see the blood draining from his elbow because all of a sudden there’s vomit spurting from his lips and into the toilet and it’s so fuzzy and beautiful and lovely. When this stops, he wipes his mouth. He leans, back, onto the floor, and gazes at the wall’s texture. He was being asked to trade this for a life of mediocrity, a life of wondering and a life of craving. Avoiding. Paranoia. Maybe it wasn’t healthy; maybe society thought of him as scum on pavement, but he never spent a moment craving anything else. This was all. This was all. * * * * * They found his body two weeks later. Acid trippers had decided to camp out in the area and came across some bones and grey skin; a hair follicle or two was still attached, but there wasn’t much else left over, not even the barrel which stole his life. The police wrapped the leftovers in a thin sheet and sent it to the closest lab, assuming it was a murder; this would usually take a week, but someone mentioned the angle of the bullet hole and mentioned the possibility of a suicide. So three months later the name was received by Huntington Beach newspapers: Jeremy van Son, thirty-two. Anyone wanna claim him? He’s fresh… And so on. Alex happened to come across the name two weeks after the issue had retired. Stoned and apathetic to it, he founded Dani’s number and informed her. She laughed and laughed and laughed. “Nice shot.”