The Eye followed the rusty-skin fall leaves collapse on their damp-green bed. Razors cut plum clouds, opening a show of sepia sky. To Clove smoke ashes eyes danced, lips dry, exhales of industrial amounts of smoke.
Outside, on the faded deck behind his family’s house, is where the Eye spent most of his time, smoking and reading. The mind was coated with increasing Agoraphobia. The mind? No, he was not a Dualist. His vision of Dualism is that it is tantamount to an ignorance of walking. Hitting a baseball with an invisible bat is impossible, as it goes against the laws of physics, which the Eye was very familiar with from his readings. He concluded in a Philosophy 101 manner at a young age that immaterial couldn’t causally interact with the physical, which is what the Eye is.
Vapid days at home, in a jail cell of a room, both in size and familiarity, had insidiously skated into the Eye’s view. A simple interaction to buy fast food was out of the question. When the Eye walked, not drove, to get smokes, alcoholic-like shakes multiplied by the hundreds paralyzed him—he had no control over the consternation and quaver his body drugged him with at any given time.
The worst scene was the classroom. For the Eye it was a divan of portentous figures and military eyes. Befriending anyone was out of the question. On occasion, the Eye was lucky enough to have competent and genius teachers who were congenial. However, University was both an asylum and frightening. It was where, for the large part, the ‘normal’ person went with the occasional pretentious photography student or a mother in her forties who just discovered literature—or discovered enough cash to attend classes.
The parking price at his University alone is a quarter of the average man’s paycheck. The Eye couldn’t grasp the parking logic, and wrote letters to the transit company as to why students had to pay for parking when they, the transit company, did not provide security and were a corporation of their own, separate from the University. He received no replies and in his last semester skipped the payment and had a nice piece of paper slipped under his windshield wiper after one class, a paper that accidentally was cast into a puddle. A notice was sent to him by mail and was, too, accidentally lost in the trash. Disregard: the ultimate sacrifice and solace.
Widely said, yet deeply unknown, is that University—especially in a small Canadian town—is not a place for sex. The mass of the Eye’s University were engaged or attached to the same vapid-men they knew from high school.
The Eye had not had sex. Once, for six months at the age of fifteen, he dated a beautiful post-punk lover who denounced coffeehouses, scene kids, and treacherously winy music. She shared a love for his favorite bands and films. However, what she denounced, she folded perfectly into—the downtown coffeehouse scene, changed her t-shirts to shirts of bands she once hated, dyed her brown hair different dark shades and colors, wore fifties-style glasses she did not need and, worse, she complained about subtitles when he put an Ingmar Bergman film on. It ended with the slow metamorphosis of Kelly, who now goes by ‘Kel’.
The death of the relationship was a near death in many ways to a young Eye. While his depression was diagnosed early, he was now a sleeping spider in a web of pother. His effectuation never came and his home was his bed. No awakenings for lunch or dinner, just for tea that he awoke either from sleep or a frozen state, a peculiar feeling, like when an average person is piqued by pestilence, and instead of acting to save themselves they freeze and listen in chilly anticipation. There was no movie-story epiphany, and if there was, it was that the Eye found life meaningless, replacing his bed sheets with existential literature and philosophy books.
When the Eye left University, his father gave him one last chance, and the Eye, as his father would say, missed the goal—it was time to get a job. Yet, the Eye left University for a reason, and to keep his father jovial he dropped off resumes to workplaces he knew he was not qualified for. He was eight-credits from his B.A. in English with a minor in Sociology.
The long fall days, persistent leaves falling. Klonopin, Restoril, Halcyon, Prozac days spent in the backroom. He was taking the cure but there he lay on stained sheets and pillows with the wrong key.
Unknowingly twitching under his sheets in deep rapid-eye-movement he once dreamt of one of his Professors after exploring the inside of a small Rubik’s-cube like room. The Eye questioned something he would remember when he woke.
‘If we are all the same, all without freedom, why breathe? Humans die, an ant explodes silently every second, and the rich cheer. If we are all the same then why wait for the moon to enter the sky when the second you die another person is born to live your exact life? Destruction is free it is peace that is costly.’
Somehow this noxious thought was not what imbued his nerves. It was that of the Professor. She appeared in the dream haphazardly, creating a bright entrance as she walked into the surreal-cube room, allowing an exit.
This Professor, with her brains, erratic, spontaneous, unpretentious, and bewildering knowledge intrigued the Eye but he saw more in her reserved beauty. Of Spanish and Italian descent, her incandesce never got in the way of her brilliance, but when she was quiet she was most gorgeous, laughing a glorious laugh, nodding her head to classical compositions, though the superlative was her walking into the classroom late with a library of books and a tea, looking unorganized, yet the image scarred the Eye with a remembrance of something beauty had yet to surpass in his maudlin existence.
It was this Professor that the Eye bumped into at his favorite spot, a local bookstore and coffeehouse, free of Macintosh-attached teens and women with meaningless, often asinine, tattoos painted on every area of their body excluding the face—the Eye had no problems with tattoos, or those who wore them proudly, as long as they meant something to the person; however, his anxiety was a wall from exploring queries.
It was a brave move for him to walk down the street to the bookstore. The Eye developed different mental armor for each place he regularly attended—the bookstore, the record store, and Salvation Army for clothes—that consisted of no eye-contact, which left him often looking downward, giving off an unintentional calamitous and tortured look.
‘Hey! What book are you looking for?’ Professor Fields shouted with dizzying excitement.
‘I-I am just browsing. Looking for a Russian novel I have not read.’
‘Have you read A Hero of Our Time?’
‘Absolutely. Outstanding novel,’ the Eye said with trembling confidence.
‘How about this: I pick a book for you and you pick one for me?’
‘I will try my best.’
Browsing what would be his personal library if he had the money, with sliding stairs and walls of books, he questioned her knowledge in post-modern fiction—she was more fascinated with European writers. He picked one of his favorites, Don Delillo’s Underworld. His standing as an Amazon-tribe member who has no touch with the outside was eroded when he glanced at the cover of the novel, with thoughts of Professor Fields clouding his head. This meeting to the Eye was paradisiacal and made him question fate. He had yet to feel the warmth of perfection, a natural drug with opiate-like warmth, which billowed through his veins and coated his brain with a triumphant feeling.
The Eye insisted she show hers first so he could locate what little courage was left in his shell. Professor Fields chose two novels. The first was The Metamorphosis, a novel he had read several times, the first time being when he was thirteen—yet he knew she was aware that he had read it. The second novel was larger than Underworld. Professor Fields handed him Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, a novel he did not own but was meaning to. Miss Fields’ face looked better than ever with her warm smile and a slight nod of gratification. Her nose was skinny and her cheekbones high. She weighed a hundred and ten pounds and stood only five-feet-tall. Her fingers were slightly wrinkled for someone in their mid-thirties but they were short and dainty.
‘What are you hiding behind your back? Is it the novel you chose for me?’ Professor Fields enquired with ardent inquisitiveness.
‘You’ve probably read it.’
‘Just let me see,’ Professor Fields asked and for the Eye it was hard to refuse, especially with her glossy-lips ascending to reveal what fashion magazines sell. He knew she wasn’t about the surface. Her hair was short, parted bangs to the side with natural curls and teased hair that refused to move. She was dressed in a chic vanilla black-striped sweater, an elegant beige skirt with bizarre creases running long, and red high-heels. Her legs were lovely, effulgent when light hit her pale legs—pallor for a Spanish and Italian immigrant left him stupefied. She did not shave her armpits—something he should have known after watching The House With the Windows that Laughed a few days earlier.
‘Not for you? Have you read it?’ he said, feeling the shakes come on. He wished to go back home, insentient in his bed.
‘No, no, no. I am very interested in reading it, it’s just that, when you asked me in class if there would be a post-modern literature class, I didn’t have an answer as I do not read much post-modern fiction.’
‘Well, to the checkout?’
Surprisingly, Miss Fields offered the Eye a drink. The woman at the coffee counter was the popular girl in high school, now working at a coffeehouse, and the pain of all that was lost had manifested. When the Eye and Miss Fields ordered the same drink—peppermint tea—their eyes met, briefly, as he looked away, feared and hoped she was still staring. It felt like their heads had impinged. The clerk rang in the books and teas separately and Miss Fields found a table next to a window. The window’s frost formed a circular-border around the window allowing rusty light to fall onto the table. Miss Fields flipped through Underworld and gingerly sipped her tea.
‘Quite the orate and sardonic woman at the counter,’ she said, took a swig from her tea, gesticulated to him that it was hot.
‘I had school with her. Thank you for Proust, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect novel for winter,’ he said, lifted the magnum opus up and skimmed through it. ‘Looks as though it will take at least three readings.’
‘I know you can finish it several more times than that during break,’ Miss Fields expressed, smiled and violently cracked her neck to the right, her hair remained undisturbed.
‘What else is there to do? Still hoping some book will snap me out of these twenty-five-years,’ he said, regrettably.
‘That is why there is the Bible,’ Miss Fields cackled in a soft laughter, knowing he was not religious.
‘I have read it several times. It has taught me a lot. For instance, genocide, Moses’ contradiction to not kill despite massacring myriads of people, and to sacrifice myself over a story.’
‘You just love to stab the Bible, I see nothing has changed.’
‘Well, it is a source of great discomfort for me, to be honest. What am I to take from it? I should kill myself over sins created in a story? Take for instance the death of John Lennon. The Bible preaches, despite pious arguments to the contrary, murder. The Bible is the Bible, and to Chapman so was The Catcher in the Rye, and now we are without thousands of lives from the Crusades and the life of John Lennon,’ the Eye took a large drink from his tea.
‘I could argue with that but you know I agree. But if we cannot find solace and love in novels, if we cannot find it in human form, is that necessarily a bad thing?’
‘That is what I have been questioning since I first read Hemingway when I was twelve. I found love, but lost it, and now every night when I put down a book I dream of what love is like, but I know I am incapable of approaching women and—‘
‘You approached me; I am a woman.’
‘You are my ex-professor. I had you for at least four courses. I find it easier to talk to professors or older males or females. How many times did I have to leave your class due to anxiety?’
‘A lot, but you still received a perfect attendance rating,’ she said, raised her thin eyebrows, her eyes wide enough to see the snow that surrounds her auburn eyes.
‘Why is that, exactly, considering I missed half the classes?’
‘Because I knew you were adroit and were in tune while the majority of others made class languid.’
‘Are you saying my mere presence in class sparked something in your teaching?’ the Eye could not believe he just said that, his nerves became firecrackers, he feared that his neck shaking would start then lead to complete body paralysis.
‘Yes. When you have been teaching for so long you have to look for something to stay interested. You become bored with your students and as a result your teaching suffers. It is when people like you enter the class, reserved, nervous, perhaps slightly neurotic, taciturn the entire class until it is time to discuss the course material and you open up, whatever anxieties you held were replaced, and rather than a class discourse it was a discussion between two people who love literature. So yes, you made my job something to look forward to, a feeling I wish I had now.’
‘Maybe I should enroll again,’ he chuckled.
‘So now what?’ Miss Fields questioned, her libidinous eyes met with the Eye for a brief second.
The sunlight ascended from the table. The fulvous clouds cemented the sky. Capricious wind threw leaves from trees across the small-town street into the window, the hardened-frangible leaves cracking, breaking, until there was only miniscule pieces of leaves left.
The Eye excused himself and traveled to the claustrophobic washroom. Thirty minutes passed and the bilious clerk assiduously knocked on the door. There was no response. She offered Miss Fields a refill, but Miss Fields refused and asked for the staff key. The woman came back with the key and opened the door and screamed, Miss Fields put her hands over her mouth, and the trembling clerk asked, ‘So, now what?’