CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
They were bored, highly irritated by the goings-on of the world, not to mention sick and tired of one another, so they decided to make Texarkana again. They had been making impossible amounts of it lately: whipping it up at every turnstile so that it filled the house, slid over the furniture, carpeted the floors, spilled out the windows and over the lawn. They had made so much of it, in fact, that it seemed there was no space untouched by Texarkana now. The cheeses on the counter were bathed in it; being tickled by it; they giggled with all their teeth.
It had only recently become their life goal to keep making Texarkana for all eternity, to make more of it than anyone had ever made; to evolve to the point that all they did all day long was make it. To make Texarkana endlessly—to release it into the atmosphere—to immerse everything in its glassy, frothy, sparkling sheen—was to save the world.
And they could have.
If it were not for the fact that every night on the news they were re-reminded that it had again been scientifically substantiated that it is impossible to make Texarkana without ceasing, even with feeding tubes and extrasensory medications. That an excess of Texarkana, while it had been proven to induce unrestrainable happiness, the spontaneous regeneration of lost limbs, and the appearance of God in Cincinnati—while in laboratories across the country it had flaunted its ability to annihilate (among other things): the necessity of spoken language, the capricious nature of self-esteem, ninety-three percent of bad bobbed haircuts, every last one of the meteors hurtling toward earth at that very moment, and grief, it could also cause irritation of the hair follicles of the knuckle, severe microwave failure, the explosion of all the Atlantic’s deserted islands in unison, and a deadly migration of rabid koala bears into Greenland.
Welp, we can’t have it all, said the newspeople. We’ve got to eat, sleep, and breathe after all, they said, and laughed their wicked newspeople laughs.
He did need to breathe. And more importantly, she was hungry. The two of them surfaced: exhausted, whalelike on the living room floor. They got up to make sandwiches. They began to speak to one another again.
See, inside the universe there are all sorts of littler universes.
He pointed directly into the peanut butter jar.
See: There’s one, and there—there’s another, inside that blob of jam.
The way you see the world overwhelms me, she said. There’s no sense of reverence. And anyway you should use a different knife for the jam, asshole.
He/coffeepot. She; I. Deskdrawers aflutter with letters; old letters written elsewhere to others. Outside of Texarkana, the world split into too many dimensions to swallow.
Now their speaking will cause the telephone to ring. This will provoke countless other disappointments, which will in turn make them to want to murder one another; the parade of monstrosities will nearly rebegin. But first, they will retreat to cold basement floor, middle-of-nowhere, broom closet, or bathtub to resurrect the lost oblivion.
Recipe for a Happy Family
What happens is: This Other One comes back. At sunset, we lie down close to one another on the cliff-edge. We begin to make waves—it is stupendous, and yet.
“Remember that night in the orchard, with the zombies frolicking sweetly about?” says This Other One, afterwards. “How they called us inside for misbehavior and wheat germ macaroons, and lifted us up in their bloody arms, so we could see all the way across the country to smoggy San Fellatio?”
I sigh and spark up a cigarette.
“Of course not,” I say. “For decades it’s been only me and that eyesore of a moon, glowering like a nuclear carnival.”
Again, he suggests an extended furlough to some faroff galaxy; desperate for a remedy, I consent.
We’re just rounding up our things when he comes striding over the plain: That One! Who went away so lamentably and so long ago! Decked out in ruined apple-flesh, hefting a bouquet of my favorite stainless steel skyscrapers, whistling what used to be our bawdiest tune. He’s got this long leather leash, at the end of it the spiffiest little spider.
“Horatio!” he says. “Some acrobatics for this naughty kitten!”
I clap and cheer fanatically for Horatio’s handsprings.
“I thought I was your loquacious lothario; your sparkling Spartan spring; your most happening horizontal hors d’oeuvre!” This Other One says.
The Whole Dastardly Truth of the Situation pokes its head out of the trees, nabs my satchel of excuses, snickers, and scurries off.
“What can I say?” says That One, raising an arm. “I can’t help it: Here, take a whiff of me.”
“His scent is rather … stupefying,” I say, swooning in its wake.
“Perhaps it is true,” says This Other One to That One. “Perhaps you are the most phenomenal and philanthropic philanderer.”
And for the first time ever, he carries me screaming in ecstasy over the cliff’s threshold. Head over heels, hair aknot, we tumble gasping to the bottom of the sea.
As it turns out, this place has its own nifty charms. Down here there are just the two of us, and we live a not unsatisfactory life. We marry, make friends within our reef, collect rare pearls as a hobby, and hold halfhearted but exquisite galas. After some time, our bodies grow gills. In a few years, we begin to spawn attractive and intelligent offspring. Still, something is missing.
One morning by surprise, That One comes to the cliff-edge and extends Horatio’s leash deep into the belly of the sea. Down, down Horatio speeds: 53,000 leagues straight down my laundry chute where all day long he climbs over and over and over me with his thousand velvet arms.
That was the most inspirational ever, I say.
I pat him on the head until he falls asleep.
Then I raise my fist, squash him, drop him in my soup pot, invent a superb oyster chowder, and wait at the window for This Other One’s happy return.
Our table is quiet as usual, and then he takes a bite.
“This is some seductive supper,” says he, and gives me a wink.
He makes me a steady chair of his lap, and I fall gladly into it.
The Cyclops and His Eyeball, Starring Myself
It was one of those days when you feel like the whole Kingdom’s gone ping-pong and you’re the lone chanteuse on a frazzled stage.
I was lost in the forest again in my new velvet frock, skipping halfheartedly about in search of a lime gimlet when—lo and behold—this tree-trunk opens up into a staircase!
At the bottom was this joint called The Rectory. It was a little gimmicky—packed with those expedient, rough-around-the-gills types I always go for.
—Whaddaya say we hole up in one of those cozy confessionals for a few hours, I said to one I had my eye on, but he was too busy buying bubble gum brainwashers for the flock of underaged wood nymphs who’d invaded. The bartender came to my rescue; fed me gimlets until every oaf in the place was drowning in bedazzling good looks.
I woke up the next afternoon with my frock in a ball on the floor and the Cyclops next to me in bed, nibbling away at my basket of cupcakes, licking frosting off his fingers.
—Jesus, not again, I said. —What despicable locale have I arrived at this time?
—Hey, The Garden of Unearthly Delights may not be the swankest subdivision in the forest, but it’s my home sweet home, said he.
He had a tenderheartedness that was to die for. He had the biggest eyeball I’d ever seen.
—Doesn’t it get godawfully lonely at night? I said.
—Horribly, said he. —I can hardly snooze in this silence; my bed is forever lukewarm; I just stare at the clock and watch time devour itself.
—Tell me about it, babe, I said, nestling under the covers, my head sinking deep into his handsome chest. —It’s just like what’s-his-face said: Separate we come, and separate we go …
We had a good cry, then spent the next three days eating the rest of my cupcakes together. He was a truly thoughtful and genuine eater; at moments, mindblowing.
Afterwards, he wiped his mouth-corners on the bedsheet and read me a sonnet he’d written about his mother’s unconquerable superiority complex. Then he told me he was in love.
Joy bloomed in me; I picked it and gave it to him and threw my arms around his thick neck.
—Finally! I cried. —Someday, we’ll build macramé baby buggies together!
—And acquire countless unsavory fetishes! he exclaimed.
—And spend summers paddleboating around Lake Nebulous!
—And forever, just as now, stare silently into each other across tables because we have merged in ways so spiritual they cannot possibly be confined to the claustrophobic cage that is language!
For three days, we held each other in a crushing embrace, terrified of what would happen once we let go.
On my way out, I said: Toodles, lovebug, and blew him a smooch. I said I’d call, and take him out for a nice thirty-course meal at Aphrodisia that weekend.
I waited in the hallway until he was half-asleep, then completely asleep. I ripped back his eyelid like a sheet. I may be small, but I’m tough; I yanked that eyeball right out of his head.
Outside, alone, the morning was glorious, full as a parasite. I rolled the eyeball across town and exchanged it for eight more bushels of Self-Respect. I scrubbed under my fingernails and—beginning to feel a bit drab—purchased one of those Felicity Frappes they’d been advertising for in the Village, and downed it while I waited for the bus. I felt shiny; overjoyed. For a little while.
What—was my bus en route from Atlantis? Had it taken a wrong turn, as so many do, and wound up deep in the Labyrinth Mountains?
I pictured him bumbling around his room: all bloodied up, searching for his shoes. My blind, lonely twin. I had a little money left—I could buy bandages, I thought; I could learn to bandage. I could get a waitressing job and make payments on that eyeball. Or at least lead him around and help him not bump into things or accidentally squash people. I could do it—I could become tough enough to stay!
But when my bus arrived, the faces in the window were beautiful, alive with promise, impossible to resist. I got on like always, chose a seat in back, and waited to be carried off to the next place, whose charms I could only imagine.