I chuckle aloud, vowing to preserve the flavour of Evelyn’s dream as long as I can today. I open my door and knock at Alaia’s, but no answer. No sign of her downstairs either; she must have gone out. I eat a buffet lunch, alone in the breakfast room. I can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding from me.
I go out and wander up and down the beach for an hour, restless. Then I lie supine in the wide triangle of grass between Cookman Avenue, Monroe Avenue and Saint James Place. Halfway down the length of this last, a small space is being remodelled, in readiness for opening soon as a bar called Anybody’s, it seems. Across Cookman is a second empty triangle of scratchy grass, across Monroe a third, and beyond this latter a fourth, all deserted except for me. The man doing the remodelling at Anybody’s stares oddly across the space at me. I’m too far away for him to know whether I am looking at him or not. He decides not to engage with me.
To check on Shigem’s and Kim’s wellbeing, I bend my sight to Kim, who is also lying on grass, in the orchard-like calm of a deserted Liberty Square, reading … and you look up as I tune in, Kim, half-sensing someone. You’re doing OK; but even now, on the eve of your departure for a new chapter with a beautiful new love, how little does your OK-ness affect your calm knowledge of how much easier things will be after death. What a sweetness there will be at the moment of dying—the cessation of a struggle whose design has such cruelties for many and such dangers for all. True to its all-purpose aliveness, your imagination obediently conjures up the picture of a perfect, soulless ecstasy of electronic music playing behind the smooth vanilla-scented silence of a Burne-Jones orchard, where figures from a love-song wilt and strum and swoon in glades; and you smile at this. But seriously, Kim, what relief and release it will be, from this demanding and uncomfortable situation we’re in while alive, when we’re always just a narrow squeak away from events that could plunge us into fear, pain, grief, horror or insanity. How very badly arranged that narrow squeak is: wouldn’t a wide squeak have been a rather more intelligent setting? What a vicious and unforgivable fuck-up, frankly, on the part of whatever process caused this to happen. How exhausting and contemptible that we’ve been dropped into such a fuck-up, and how very sweet will your assassin be. You’ll know him when you see him; you will smell his lovely perfume and you’ll bend to kiss his lethal, jewelled hand. On your lips, from this hand, you will drink your elixir: honey, water, Nembutal and peace at last… Still, as you said before, all this in no way changes the fact that in practice you’re genuinely OK—quite content, in fact!
You regain consciousness of Liberty Square for a moment, then return to your book. Curious, I read it too; and so we read together for a couple more hours, you and I, on this your last full day in Asbury Park. This strangest of books is bewitching you, I see, Kim, and making you resolve that you’ll answer it in writing yourself one day, across the decades and the languages: head to head, toe to toe and mouth to mouth, your own chants will meet these and dance with them, somewhere in an evil dawn of gold. What better use could there be for your hours?
The daylight is fading. Kim closes the book and sits in thought—blond boy seated in a pastoral setting, under trees in the dusk. I rise on my triangle of grass, head across to his square and approach him in person. “Hi,” I say. “Wasn’t expecting to bump into you. I thought you’d be packing.”
He checks the time. “I should get back now. Tonight’s our last night. Tomorrow evening, we leave. So come back and have a drink now, why not?”
My leave-taking of Shigem last night, though not expressed as our final one, was nonetheless conducted by us in such a way as to do duty as such, in case it should turn out to be so. This spontaneous delicacy occurred because of the bond between us, which has involved less verbal expression than any other deep bond I’ve enjoyed with anyone. I have no need, therefore, to visit now on account of him. That being said, a visit would do no harm. “OK, sure,” I say.
Halfway there, we notice Kev across the street. He gives us an evil look, without speaking, then does a clumsier and more troglodytic version of Lucan’s powerful self-decapitation gesture.
“We shan’t be telling Shigem about that,” states Kim.
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