O ______ ____ _____, this afternoon I give to you! Bask in the searing heat of the sauna! Rejoice as I stand as high as I can, wavering near the ceiling, until I feel my brain baking in my skull! Drink my sweat! Eat my hot breaths!
[written in Latin]
Today I passed out in the sauna, or, perhaps, I simply fell asleep. I woke up to Letitia pulling me out and shouting at me. She threatened to pour a bucket of frigid water on me, and try as I might, I couldn’t form the words to discourage her. My vision was grey and my throat dried shut. So irked was ______ ____ _____ as she stormed off to carry out her threat that he muttered to the others, and ___ assented, sapping her resolve. She stood there, shoulders lumped, mouth parted, gazing at me as I lay like a half-opened jackknife on the floor, still steaming and slick as the bed of a swamp. I hurt her with my groggy laughing, but not deeply, because she could feel nothing deeply at that moment.
Dear Letitia, my loyal steward. Truthfully, I was touched by her concern. In between managing all my affairs, juggling Lord knows how many disparate tasks, flying back and forth between the US and France, and somehow finding the time to arrange transportation for my various house guests who find themselves stranded on Staten Island, she finds the reserve with which to pity me. And I laugh at her! But it is the laughter of love. How many things can you do at once, fair Letitia? I can’t wait to find out. I love you.
Sometimes I watch her when she’s on the phone, and I tune out what is being said, just waiting for the moment when she knows she has accomplished something important. I can see the moment her glands dump their stores of reward hormones, flooding her bloodstream with accomplishment, with congratulations. I can see her getting high right before my eyes, in the pauses between her speech. Her drug is a job well done. I am her supplier. As many hits as you want, Letitia, I can provide. But sooner or later you have to come down and clean up. I promise there will be tangles to untangle and hitches to unhitch and kinks to iron by dawn, and your next hit will be only a jet ride away.
When she was convinced I had not given myself a stroke, and she went off to get her next fix, I sealed myself back in the sauna and stoke the flames, and I let ______ ____ _____’s mutterings meander through me. I thought about the people I have met recently. I considered how fascinating it is to say practically nothing, yet to provoke so many colorful and passionate reactions in others. I wonder sometimes as I converse with someone, “Who are you talking to? Who is your conversation partner?” Because, often, it is not me. They are engaged with someone else. Themselves, maybe. Or someone they think they see. Someone wearing my suit, my watch, my smile. Someone who uses my vocabulary or has my mannerisms.
Sometimes, especially in noisy environments, I sit back and let them talk, and I nod and smile, and I utter a loop of two or three encouraging comments to keep them talking while I think about something else, or listen to ______ ____ _____’s burbling, or to the wet velvet whispers of ______, and I feel like I’m floating on my back in a pond the temperature of piss, but smelling like sweet clay, and when I float back to the surface, the person talking to me is in the middle of some diatribe against one thing or another, or has reached a bold conclusion that sounds very exciting, or is defending against an attack on their philosophy which they believe I have launched, or is congratulating me for something, though I am not quite sure what it may be.
Sometimes I find that we are still talking small talk, and usually it is about how cold it is, or how it is not really that cold for someone who is used to the cold, and I agree that it is quite cold, or perhaps not so cold for someone who is used to the cold, while with the greater part of my mind I am reenacting, in full sensory detail, a night in Malawi just before the break of day, when I had walked to the point of exhaustion, to the front patio of death, and lay supine on the still-warm earth, on pincushions of dry savanna grass, watching heat lightning in the heavens above like the sparks from a great shard of flint that soon would light a lazy, smoldering fire between my gasping lungs.
God, I want a cigarette.