I met the Wanderer soon after I first puked, into the dustbin in front of the dimly lit Bony a Klyd bar in one of Prague’s less generic residential neighbourhoods, Vinohrady, on a rather steep hill that I had to climb, unfortunately, so I ended up with a couple of bruises and a purple toenail, which took a month to peel off. The Wanderer offered to buy me a drink five minutes after I half-stumbled in, looked around and headed towards the bar where I sat down on a stool, elbows propped up, with a “Fuck y’all” look plastered on my face, as he later told me. He sat down left of me, cupped my chin – I didn’t budge or object – to turn my head to him, wiped a drop of vomit off my left cheek, without a tremble of his Semitic nose, and looked at me long enough for me to focus and notice his tired traveller’s eyes. Except for the invitation to join him, to which I nodded, dumbly, because I didn’t feel like looking at the bottom of my glass, or staring past the unfriendly waiter, all night, he didn’t speak. He ordered drinks by waving his hand, in a feminine, barely-there, beckoning gesture, like the queen of the hearts summoning one of her varlets; despite my drunkenness, I knew straight away that he was used to attention.
‘Are you alive?’ I asked him the next morning.
‘Are you?’ he retorted, lighting up and blowing the first smoke ring, blue-gray against the vanilla wallpaper and painfully beautiful in its fragility, towards the high ceiling of the honeymoon suite in the hotel Alchymist. I never found out who financed his travels; maybe he had a princess wife in Bahrain, and maybe he was a ghost, or maybe he was the diamond rattlesnake itself; he could have been; he had a diamond-shaped face with square cheeks and a triangular chin.
Then he offered to help me hunt down the Departed. I still don’t know how he got me talking about him; I don’t remember pouting my lips and exhaling the words, with a bit of carbon dioxide smelling of alcohol and pussy and his spunk, which tasted bitter, like broccoli and kefir, probably because we drank so much the night before, but somehow he did make me tell him about the Departed, and the snake, and the pursuit.
I think he was still in me when I did it. Now that I think of it, that is why I could: I was not me; I became him; I was his chest and his fingernails; I was his right ventricle and his left cornea; I was his cock and his voice-box, and I could talk through him like a ventriloquist, the belly prophet of the Egyptians and the ancient Greeks. So I closed my eyes, and he whispered the story in his soothing baritone, holding me close as he did.
I was drunk asleep when it happened. As I was waking up, I remember thinking, ‘how odd, I don’t recognize this type of pain’. Then I screamed, only once, because I felt it move, inside me, pushing my insides, the stomach, the diaphragm, the liver, up into my throat and onto my tongue. Then my voice left me, like I was Ariel, who made a pact with the sea-witch, to see her lover. I was anonymous.
I was told snakes aren’t viscid. But the diamond rattlesnake was slimy. Cold. I was choking on the tongue tip that I had bitten off, face pressed against the covers. My body shut down on me. So I panted like a tired steppenwolf, without shedding a tear, teeth dug into that damn feather pillow – stuffed personally by grandmother Villager who hated pigeons and shot at them every chance she got – and I let him fuck me, until I started seeing stars and walked up the Milky Way towards the laughing wide-open trap of the black hole that led to the purgatory. It swallowed me with a cough and then spat out stardust and a bit of that crappy, near-black blood that was snaking its way, silently, down my legs.
It was then that the Wanderer went flaccid in me. And cold. My pussy, still hot and wet, embraced him, squeezed him, to keep him in, but he wormed out; I couldn’t stop him. Before I started wondering why, it became clear: he wanted to ask questions, and he couldn’t do it if I kept talking through him. So he rolled over onto his belly, and he turned his head away from me to be able to speak; he had to clear his throat first because my bile became his mucus, too much of it; he was afraid it would suffocate him.
“Did you report it?”
“Yes. I shouldn’t have.”
It wasn’t true. But he believed me. Or pretended to. In the land of in-between, truth and un-truth, truth and de-truth and truth and half-truth – don’t ask me if I’m lying now because I don’t even know myself – are lesbian lovers that had not yet come out about their bisexuality. To each other. To the world. Which couldn’t care less. ‘Lesbian until the end of college’, I told a chick once, with thinly-veiled amusement. The blond sweetie-pie was obviously a dumb freshman, so she didn’t notice the undercurrent of sarcasm in my voice: ‘Men had fucked me over too many times, haven’t they done the same to you?’ She nodded, earnestly, and cooed while she was sipping the spiked drinks that I sent her through bartender Soother, who hailed from Utah, where all the bad boys have gone to screw whatever moved because that godforsaken shithole had outlawed monogamy as obsolete. Three hours later, Freshman Princess, I choose to call her, slipped her hot little hand in between my panty-less legs, and I sighed with relief, letting my head drop back, off the kitchen table in the back of the Pharmacy bar in DC’s Foggybottom, where bartender Soother made delicious bruschettas with magic mushrooms during the day – most guests could never fathom why they were leaving his eatery so happy, but they kept coming back, so he accumulated a large and versatile clientele: State Department square-faces, George Washington University students, folks from the hood, Brothers – and filmed movies of me and my prey past closing hour. I never let him capture my face. Just theirs.
In that land, my land, what matters is the story. The Wanderer knew the beginning, and he was hooked. He kissed me, tenderly; I was surprised because I was used to him sucking and biting my lips until they turned crimson, purple, black; his tongue – the organ with the poison – felt rogue, but familiar, a piece of meat that somehow belonged into my mouth; it was possessed. Yes, my dented tongue – too – was not mine, to speak hurtfully, anymore; it wiggled in the heat of his mouth, with ease, like a trained zumba dancer’s firmly muscled torso.
A good story is a cocktail of truths, half-truths and lies. Bartender Soother taught me that over whisky sour at the Pharmacy. I weaved it, for the Wanderer, for myself, as I continued talking through him, letting our tongues dance and burn. Through that fire, I told him, wordlessly, of the dilated, bloody anal orifice I saw in my hand-mirror. Truth. Of the black receiver from the 70s that I smashed after a dry voice rang to tell me that I had contracted Hep C. Half-truth. Of the humiliating interrogations at the police station that never happened. Of the women’s clinic I really did work at for a couple of months A.B. And of the sobbing of my pregnant mother, whom I told to get an abortion when it turned out that the blob on the sonogram had a tiny penis. Half-truth. I yelled that out at some other pregnant person. All pregnant women look the same to me, so I talk to them as I would to my mother. Of the self-pity that drove me to drink more than I could handle and of the punch I aimed at someone’s face and planted on a wall. Truth. Of the knuckles that broke and of the beloved piano sonatas I could never play again. Half-truth. I started playing at 9 months A.B.
He understood. But a part of him couldn’t take it. Maybe he remembered the last time he had anal sex with someone – pink cock disguised in the conveniently black Lifestyle Tuxedo, which hides the blood and the shit – in the dark. That is how I imagined it. He was too much of a wuss to see it all: the delicate human ass that his penis had turned into a baboon’s. Maybe he felt ashamed for wanting to do the same with me last night. I will never find out, and I don’t care to. I like my own version of the story.
After I’d told him, he still held me for a while, but against his will, his body tense, sweaty. The hand I damaged, the one with the tremor, lay uncomfortably on his chest, cupping his left breast and monitoring his irregular heartbeat. Dum, dum-du-di-dum. It was then that I found out he was older than me, probably above forty, but he could have been wearing another mask to fuck with me again. His eyes, the color of dark honey, like a cub’s, never betrayed his age. I didn’t think about his age much, but I always assumed he had had a life, or several, already. That’s the thing about wanderers; they learn how to deceive time. Perhaps they all have a time box, machine, capsule; I didn’t care what it was; I wanted one for myself. Running my fingers through his hair, I suddenly realized that it had turned silver. Or was it silver before? I couldn’t remember. Years. Passed. By. Overused. Wasted. Recycled. Too many pussies left behind wet, too wet, wetted up for the lingerers, the better ones, he said. We had that in common. Neither of us thought of oneself as a particularly good person but ignored the nagging Catholic guilt urging us to repent and change. He had suppressed his. And I, the child of the post-communist generation, was born almost entirely guiltless. That’s why I could leave now, and that’s why he could only seek me out every now and then, appearing unexpectedly in the Czech streets and the Mongolian steppe or a Chilean desert, without wondering when we would see each other again.
I knew he would return, and that thought gave me enough comfort; also, my over-fucked pussy had already started resenting him, resenting me for letting him do it to me; I could feel the defiant fungus mushrooming inside me and my inner and outer labia swelling and leeching onto each other, to help each another bear the pain of the metamorphosis, until my vagina became one big fly mushroom, or blusher, as they call it in some parts of the U.S., and I knew I couldn’t sleep with anybody for some time. Maybe that was the contraception he imposed on his women. I suppose I will never know that either.
“What’s your name?” he asked me as I was getting dressed. I took my time before I answered.
“I’m the Banished,” I said quietly, with a bit of annoyance with my melodramatic self, as I was closing the door behind me.
My upward-pointing, snobbish nose started smelling the damn yeast as I hopped down the steps beneath the Prague Castle, leather duffel bag swung over my left shoulder and digging uncomfortably into my left buttock. I was rushing to the restrooms of the city’s first Starbucks, on Malostransky Square, to change from the skinny jeans into my “period” skirt – I remember the Departed smirking that “flow must have come into town” every time I put it on – a shapeless piece of burgundy silk floating freely around my hips and ankles, letting my pussy air itself without every clinging onto any bit of irritated skin or tissue.
My train, the mid-day inter-city with a name that was supposed to advertise both the destination and the speed with which Czech Rails could deliver you there, the Slovak Shot, was due to leave at 4:20pm from the Main Station, which had not been renovated yet: I liked the arrogance that had Prague flaunt familiar communist ugliness next to incomprehensible medieval beauty; it was rogue, and it reeked of piss and un-showered homeless bodies, so I lit up, just outside the sausage bar with a grill and a capped caveman disguised as a waiter in a white apron, and breathed it all in, because I wouldn’t be back too soon, and I needed to remember it, the city where I told the Wanderer.
It was still only early A.B., but I was about to start working again. As I inter-laced my fingers and stretched out the arms behind my back, squeezing the shoulder-blades that I had tattooed to give myself angelic wings – cigarette still burning the skin off my scrapped lips – I told myself, without speaking, that I would do my damn fucking best to silence the spirits of the rest of my kind, in the vain hope that mine, too, would get tired of screaming.
The Wanderer Part I has been published on May 8, 2014 in our Weekly and can be read in our Short Stories section.
The Wanderer Part III will be published on May 22, 2014. To do not loose it, subscribe our free newsletter on this website or on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/slowwords
The picture is an artwork by Stefania Bonatelli, from her project Zumo de Flores, Italy