I pull my attention quickly back to my room. Angel is hardly the only one with a weapon in Lucan’s gang, and I’m concerned for Shigem’s safety. I check the clock: Kim and Shigem are set to leave town some time during this very hour, but getting shot can be a quick process. I close my eyes again and tune in to Shigem … and I find you still in Asbury Park, but sitting in the passenger’s seat of a rental car whose back seat is loaded high with bags. “Any thoughts, now that we’re driving out of here?” Kim asks as the car waits on Cookman Avenue to turn right onto Main Street. The traffic-light glow upon your face flicks from red to green, filling up a hundred acne craters with colour as you smile at him. He sets the car in motion, as I peer through your eyes and through the open windows, scanning for assassins.
You look, along with me, at the station on your left. “Years ago I sometimes fantasised about lying across those railroad tracks,” you answer. “But I never did, because I always knew it would traumatise the train driver and maybe derail the train and give Asbury a bad name—you know, ‘the Asbury Park Train Massacre’ or something. We didn’t need that here, on top of everything else. Still, I think now I might have the courage of my convictions: how about we stop the car, stay here after all, and both lie down across the tracks after midnight? It would be so poetic … except that they’d find our bodies limp and sickly and sneezing tomorrow morning, because there are no trains after midnight. Oh, life is cruel. Hey—let’s go to a fabulous party tonight.”
“I remember giving a party in a motel room, somewhere in my mid-teens,” says Shigem. “The ‘mid-teens’ bit was the mistake there, I think, because it turned out messy. All these pairs of people kept going off together into corners and bathrooms and even airing-cupboards, and closing the doors for heavy emotional conversations about their ‘issues’ and all that stuff. Of course there were high emotions and tears, and worst of all, terrible karaoke performances using this karaoke channel on the TV in the room. Everyone got hammered and threw up, and the room was completely trashed and destroyed in the course of so much hormonal adolescent angst … looking back on it, it was hysterically wonderful.”
You gaze through the windows at the shuttered shops and traffic-lights of Main Street. Up ahead a few more blocks, you’ll leave here, your home-town, for good. And of all possible times, it’s now that I attain a clear perception of a particular little fruitcake of thought in you, which I might easily have missed. For in reality it’s perhaps less of a fruitcake and more of a hum. Like the quiet but unique background hum or room-tone of every individual room located on a film-set, a few moments of which must be recorded by itself for later sound-editing, there’s a room-tone humming in your head at all times—very subtle, quite specific and unique to you. It’s your wish that you were a male who felt entirely female but had to live in the wrong sex: in other words you wish you were fully transgender, but not that you were female by birth or by sex-change. Unusual of course, as hums and wishes go, but there it is. The rest of you, aside from this specific part, is quite OK with being not fully transgender but rather just a feminine male without desire to be female. Yet always and forever there remains that delicious background hum, containing three sounds: a rich chord of pleasure in a major key; a single note of simple fact that colours your perceptions; and subtlest and deepest, a chord of regret, with the bitter-sweet flavour of unreachable perfection.
“Are we really moving to London?” you ask, as Kim accelerates past Sixth Avenue.
“Sure,” he says. “Why not?”
Seventh Avenue comes level with you, then rolls away behind. “Yeah, it’s time I lived somewhere other than this little dump—love it though I do. Bye-bye!” you tell your home-town, waving through the window.
And out of Asbury Park you drive, forever.
I land back in my bedroom here in the Metropolitan. I’m not going to follow them to Newark, then around the planet and onwards into the future: I’ll let them go alone and be together. Shigem knows what he’ll always be to me, and I know what I’ll always be to him.
There’s nothing more to say, then, except goodbye Shigem and goodbye Kim—together for life, I believe. Goodbye, you beautiful, beautiful pair. I’ll never see your eyes again.
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