White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
Louis Gallo
Louis Gallo was born and raised in New Orleans and now teaches at Radford University in Virginia. A recent volume of poems, The True Changes, was nominated for a Library of Virginia Poetry Prize. His books include The Private Confessions of Diablo Amoricus Wishbone, Halloween (poems), Dead by Tuesday (fiction) and Breakneck (a novel). Selections from his poems can be found on Facebook under the name Lou Gallo. His fiction has appeared in issues 1.2 and 1.3 of White Whale Review.

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Louis Gallo

I badly need to impress Irene of the Cinnamon Hair and Cobalt Eyes, what I called her when we first met, what I still call her during our ever infrequent moments of endearment. Our romance, or "relationship" as she prefers, is on the wane because of an article she'd read in New Woman entitled "How to be More Man Savvy." With Irene it was always talent that counted, giving me the edge, and kept her crawling back after bouts of my low blows and nights on the town. My talent has never impressed me, of course, but for some reason Irene cozied up to it from the start.

She was a voluntary administrative aide for the Arts Commission when I stumbled upon her—I, broke, shaggy, ill-natured, ugly, depressed and drunk at the time—during one of my frequent treks to see if I'd received a grant, or, more to the point, demand money. She exuded the usual soiree set, honey-coated art-fart attitude that soul, not money, matters; she gushed with admiration for my stale offhand remark that, true, money can't buy happiness, but it can rent some. That's nothing, I

encored, how about this: things don't change, they thicken. Another oldie, from my poor old dad, who died young, broke and pickled. I've used the line so often it crackles with dry rot. Irene merely cooed, blinked like Daisy Duck and—did I hear right?—started to purr. Anyway, the rental bit convinced her I was some Wit Agonistes, a "deep" person who suffered the agonies of Laocoon, her favorite victim.

New Woman told Irene to get smart by asking questions, listening, discussing issues, watching Oprah and Dr. Phil, and—get this—assembling a toy. I've pondered long and hard this toy thing. It obsesses me. What kind of toy does one assemble in order to acquire savvy? A true toy like pogo sticks or mail-order tricycles or some morose adult excuse like the missile deployment outfit I stared at in Kid Heaven the other night? I guess Mrs. Magnitsky didn't give me an F in attitude for nothing, though in those creamy grade-school days I was an absolute flunky-ass Toby Candide next to the anarchistic gargoyle I've become.

Irene dropped the bombshell on me as I studied the ad for a new dual toothpick in Let's Live. We've

been reduced to magazine readers, I'm afraid. I threw the current issue into the air and hooted like a fakir singeing his feet on hot coals. An incisor crumbled, my immunological system failed just long enough, I suspect, to allow trillions of hostile microbes and free radicals to commence their internal assault. Irene saw none of this. She prefers to think of me as the inhibited type who holds everything in, the Type-B anal reservoir of festering volcanic gas and seismic pressures. Garbage, pestilence, puss, ferment of the spirit—I reek with disorders of mind and body, measure the index of my downswing by the amount of Ban needed to offset outright stench. No doubt I will have cancer of everything within the next year because I am failing to handle the stress generated by Irene's latest project. Well, such are the wages. She=sold family money, assured a future of luxury and ritz, and she=s young, young, with the waistline of a violin. I'm in love. Therefore I hate her. I don't deserve any of the gravy, much less her, and it's just a matter of time before everything rips apart as they now say the universe itself will rip apart. What you fear most is what will happen. Who said that? Somebody said that. I’ll tell Irene I said it.

So life has taken quite a dervish-like spin. Irene is deftly connected to the right social machinery, and I can sort of bask in the glow by merely playing her barnacle. In turn, I transfer to her a status that she, art fart, could never achieve on her own. The commingling of high and low, I sleazy outcast poet with infected paper cuts and grotesque Quasimodo features, wild tortured beard, bad breath and enormous debt, she the spoiled, rich uptown debutante turned Marxist bleeding heart, savior of us all, disgrace to her civil, high-nosed family of now effete, otiose, degenerate, exhausted shipping magnates. (The original magnate, what's his name who built their first boat back in 1901, an unsinkable pirogue, now there’s a guy I’d like to meet, not his pale, sterling descendants.) Most gloriously, Irene’s hair swarms with bluebirds; her breasts yield honey; her sultry voice ignites as ordinary words ooze from her lips (it's true—she could say "crockery" and I'd see flames); her fair taut skin is as of, uh, doves, fauns, kitten ears, the entire frigging cute animal kingdom.

So how could I take her seriously, or, more to the point, convince myself it would last and I was anything more than her charity doodad of the

moment? Even my bulging myopic eyeballs saw heads turn as she wafted through a room in scandalously tight retro t-shirts with slumming Pink Floyd logos. For a while I had Nosferatu's grisly advantage, but who could say when the otherwise docile villagers would gather with pitchforks and torches to storm our love nest, not so much to rescue her as to drive a stake through my heart? Actually, nothing could have suited me finer. The story can end no other way. It's getting there that is torturous, which explains why I made every effort to hasten my own ruin: to suffer less. Oh, I belched in public, farted, pissed in the street, wore smelly clothes that would offend the dead, demanded unspeakable sex only to find myself unable to function (my potency dwindled on its own reptilian accord), growled in response to Irene's sweet, throaty whispers. I made her life hell, guffawed as she wept; I refused her abject apologies and balms and succor, recoiled from her seductive entreaties as if she were a speck of plutonium. It was retaliation in advance—brutal, cruel and monstrous.

And all because I knew that I could never

measure up. One should never feed sugar to the doomed. I have this on good authority. The doomed are very pissed off and do not lie. The doomed yearn to loot paradise.

Much of Irene's new project involved nothing less than my own vast renovation. Ponce de Irene, I would joke. She wanted me younger, spiffier, more civilized, handsome (I recall Athena so transforming crusty, seaweed-entangled Odysseus), taller, thinner, tanned, aloed, crème de menthe'd rather than Gallo Thunderbirded.

Irene, I jibbed at the onset, wouldn't it be saner and more merciful to find someone like that to begin with rather than rework used clay? What rose blooms on a withered stalk?

Oh no, she gushed, it's like old brass with a splendid patina next to the new stuff that looks fake.

Splendid—she used words like that. I would become her splendid, mended patsy hanger-on, her coiffured poodle.

Well, think about it (as I have long and hard): crotchety satyr finally meets the woman he

imagines he has pined for all his life, she who haunted his earliest dreams, and he knows it’ a fluke, a mistake . . . should he not make some trivial effort at reform? Should he not share the joy of developing savvy, mutual savvy if you will, hold her hand while listening to Dr. Phil gasp as the homosexual-albino-warlock guest confesses to the practice of human sacrifice and cannibalism, help her construct a toy to end all toys: himself! But I simply could not bear the goodness of it all, the dilettantish, yuppie flavor, the chic aroma.

Here's a toy! I grunted, rubbing my crotch obscenely—a maneuver which, by the way, would have worked at the beginning. Now, though, Irene sulks and withdraws to the bathroom, locking herself in. I hear her sobbing gently and my heart breaks, but whenever I feel guilty for exploiting her youth and innocence, however jaded, I remind myself that I too have been exploited, worn like a piece of barbarous jewelry by the genteel set venturing into the Badlands. I'm the curio that Irene, fascinated with abomination, cinched to her wrist.

This is my artist, she'd say whenever we mixed

with the lisping, tipsy crowds at exhibits. She would put her hands all over me, nuzzle up like a kitten, advertise me.

I knew all along if I didn't armor myself I would not survive, not that I care much about survival per se, but I would rather be taken out by a really terrible idea or vision or deed than a magnolia petal. And she had such power. To look at Irene is to tremble internally, the way I feel it will be with God. So I resisted my own renovation with furious passion. I refused savvy and anything that smelled or tasted vaguely of it. I remained, in other words, the same. Take it or leave it. I could hear her whispering with friends on the phone . . . "he's so awful" . . . "I really can't stand this" . . . "I'm so miserable." Actually, she had said those things right off, when we first met, to those telephone friends, whom, I imagined, wore pink protoplasmic eyeglass frames an occasional earring dangling from nostril or nipple. But agony was part of the deal and we both respected it back then. It was my duty to be absolutely revolting. So she could suffer. Suffering was vogue in her set.

My own view on suffering is that you can shove

it up some other ass and spare mine. Irene once read a story to me about how poor, now very dead Princess Di flew in her marital distress to Bali to recuperate in a grand resort full of other distressed celebrities who shared the same Jacuzzi. Isn't he despicable? Irene declared more than asked. She meant Prince Charles, whom I have no fondness for either, but Bali . . . come on. It is reported that Prince Charles has three personal servants to assist him in brushing his teeth. One of them actually rinses off the befouled toothpaste into a no doubt marble sink. May the Prince be sentenced to scrubbing latrines in Somalia.

Reading magazines has turned me into a regular Jeremiah of the dispossessed. Irene's latest Cosmo features an article with the headline displayed prominently on its cover, "Ten Ways of Make Your Lover More Sensitive to Your Intimate Needs." Barf. Give me a magazine that tells me how to get through an hour without dread and remorse and the prospect of imminent demise, then maybe I'll subscribe and at the same time become eligible for the trillion dollar sweepstakes. And six-pack abs. One ad claims you can acquire them by lying backwards on a giant rubber ball. Irene ordered

such a ball, and I promptly slid off of it and knocked my elbow out of place. Abs this week, low-carb diets the next. It goes on.

Thus we have come to this impasse. Irene will burst through the door any moment now, fresh from work, radiant, even beatific, full of gladness and niceness and happy, positive vibrations. It's her way, whatever her condition. Perhaps it's the niceness I resent most; I detest niceness. Which doesn't mean I detest genuinely nice people. It's programmed niceness, obligatory niceness, righteous niceness that drives me though the roof. When Irene comes in nicely I wish I could tear my head from my neck and toss it, bloody and goon-eyed, at her feet. Wound me, wound me, I wish my detached head could scream, with your nice high heels. I'll tell you what's nice: sitting on a bench in the park after you haven't shaved for a week and sharing a smoke with some bum at the other end. His last smoke and he lets you have a puff or two. Nothing has to be said. You just sit there, the two of you, knowing how good that smoke tastes even as it kills you.

So I suppose what I mistook for love was really

abhorrence all the while. We despised each other so thoroughly at first glance that it overwhelmed us and we had to explore each other to exorcize the very demons that lay dormant in our souls. Know thy enemy, thy other self, thy shadow. Which means that somewhere in my own soul bobs a silent, savvy and splendidly nice Irene, my gorgeous doppelganger. And somewhere deep down inside Irene, voila . . . yin yang! dialectical identities! Nancy and Sluggo. I am going to suggest that rather than tinker with toys we switch roles for a while, I to groom myself into a sweet yet acerbic cultivated art patron and belle lettrist while she devolves into pure bestial primal mother, vagina dentata, the whole bit, sour, seaweedy hair dangling from her armpits. Tonight is, after all, the night Irene and I have set aside to "talk." We all know what that means. Somebody with an upper hatchet hand versus palsied loser waiting for the blow. Yet perhaps Irene will go for it, who knows? Her bourgeois guilt knows no bounds. How have I lasted this long?


Wonder of wonders . . . there were no cruel

words, no ranting and raving (by me), no dolorous gazes, no pristine tears. We merely occupied the settee that night and commenced. Her salient point was that I had become, and perhaps had always been, a detestable boor. I concurred but suggested that my detestability originated in poverty and squalor, my lack of privilege, the wretched class system which she too claimed to oppose. I dared her to step into my loafers for a while to see how she would fare. She snorted with disdain, asserted that misfortune had nothing to do with character, which, like virtue, exists or doesn't. I dared her again, even pleaded for one last chance.

If you remain your splendid little self, I said, I'll disappear meekly, like an old dog. If you just kick me out, I'll burn down your house—and the Arts Commission as well. I'll defecate in the cathedral. I'll—

I don't think my threats had anything to do with Irene agreeing to our sociological experiment. She was genuinely interested in proving her point. She believes in principle, a category of ethical maneuvering I abandoned long ago. But far from me to pooh-pooh any principle at all when it

bestows bounty or at the very least, reprieve. The deal was this: Irene had to spend her days and most of the night in the streets, as I claimed I had, which was not exactly true (remember, I abandoned principle a long time ago). Along with principle go honesty and integrity and moral filigree. Irene could sort of "squat" in our abode from midnight to dawn for safety, I added. We needn't even talk at all during the ordeal, which she opted for instantly. Oh, she despised me, wanted me dead and buried . . . but not until she'd proved herself. I, of course, merely wanted her and would settle for a few last glimpses. In turn, the deal required that I would become Mr. Suave, a manqué Cary Grant of poets. Poetry, my métier, since poems are short and take no time and anything passes these days. Down and out? Go for the haiku.

On her first day out she wore a ragged pair of blue jeans and tattered Ralph Lauren sweat shirt. She was about to pick up her purse when I intervened.

No no, I waved, nothing. You go with nothing. Those are the rules of wretchedness.

She slammed the door in my face and I believe

hissed. I watched her from the window, swollen with ardor and longing. She looks terrific in blue jeans, the sexiest garment ever invented, and when she was gone I collapsed into a chair and sobbed. It was the worst day of my life except for the other worst days.

When she finally returned around one or two in the morning she refused to acknowledge me as I still sat slouched in the same chair. I tried to ask how it went, but she cut me off with the old index finger across her lips. Her lips. They looked wonderfully meaty and succulent. How I wanted to kiss them. Only days before I had kissed them, always fearful that it might be the last time ever. The last is a category we can never quite imagine, which is why the old saw "the last shall be the first" seems such ultimate hogwash to me.

Irene marched zombie-like toward the spare bedroom, closed the door and that was it. The next morning—I did not sleep at all, waiting for her capitulation, her teary apology and defeat— she came out exactly at dawn, in the same clothes (a rule), unshowered (another rule), without makeup (still another), headed for the door and opened it.

Irene—, I called, but she shuffled past me like an apparition. I felt ravenous and exhausted. My hands quivered. I developed an excruciating migraine. I plunged into an herbal bath and commenced keeping my end of the bargain, that is, to become urbane, genteel, beautiful—and, naturally, sweetly aromatic. It would take some doing but what the hell? I had everything to lose. Or maybe I had nothing to lose. I was too worried about Irene to think straight. Surely she had met someone, another man no doubt, who would provide succor and haven and whatever else she needed. Or maybe she had trekked back to the magnates. Bastards! Leprous sons of bitches! Choose your weapon! To envision her in another's arms or cuddled in the bower of her esteemed family was so torturous I had to expel it from my mind. I swallowed two of her Valiums, undressed and sank into a misty, deep tub full of hot water and Dead Sea salts. I must admit there was something to this business of upward mobility.

By midnight I was still in the tub, my skin so wilted and white it seemed afflicted with a ghastly disorder. I heard the front door click but resisted leaping out of the tub to greet or confront Irene. I

hadn't even trimmed the hairs out of my ears yet. Irene hated those hairs. So did I but they were potent weapons. And besides, the Valium felt so good I could have remained afloat forever. The reason I have always avoided drugs is that they are too wonderful to be true. I assume I'm already an addict, even after only two pills. The door to the spare bedroom squeaked open, so Irene must have retired for the night. I had all night to pamper my coiffure, trim my fingernails, pull out hairs, rub lanolin into my shaggy skin. I resolved to go out and buy myself a spiffy Italian suit with shoulder pads.

Next day I overslept and Irene was gone before I got out of bed. Fucking Valium—I felt ghastly, as if being dragged across a rough asphalt road. No more pills! I managed to dress in my style and get outside. I must say my clothes no longer seemed appropriate given my otherwise groomed appearance. I felt awkward and embarrassed. I could not stop looking at myself in the rear view mirror. It's amazing what a little maintenance can do. I was at least ten years younger—and not bad looking, not bad at all. I had always assumed I was the ugliest human being on earth, a regular

Elephant Man, but this new guy, well, I sort of liked him, the way he looked anyway. Actually, I did not like him at all; he had that leering, ironic, impertinent manner of the up and coming eunuch hot shot, the guy who can and even likes to tell you, we're sorry, the council did not approve your application. May a meteorite strike and burn me to a crisp before I would tell that to anyone. May the same meteorite incinerate the council.

I strutted out of Bernstein's Clothiers a new man. I'd scraped off dead skin cells with Irene's stiff sponge, rubbed some of her avocado oil onto my face and plucked a few unruly eyebrow hairs. The ear fuzz was long gone. My hair was combed and held in check Ramone Navarro-like but with the latest non-aerosol, non-greasy, non-toxic mousse (again, Irene's—she's into all that deep ecology stuff, pays fifteen bucks for a small box of detergent without phosphates, that sort of thing). I had caught a glimpse of myself in one of the Bernstein's mirrors and nearly gasped. Who wants my autograph? I looked downright distinguished, silvered at the temples, robust and virile, no longer the mangy beast amid Chardonnay-swilling sophisticates. My rank old clothes were stuffed in a

bundle, and I had planned to take them home just in case, but instead threw them, and the sack, into a dumpster next to my car. Irene and I would make a beautiful couple, two human toys.

I stayed out deliberately until about eight o'clock, then moseyed confidently into the house, hoping Irene would be cooking something or watching television or anything, as long as she could get a whiff of me—oh, yeah, I bought some of that sexy perfume with pheromones. Midnight Musk, I think it was called. I smelled like a concupiscent plant. Even if Irene hated me, she would take notice. But no such luck. The door to the guest bedroom was closed and no light was on, a swatch of which you can usually see at the bottom.

I poured myself a glass of red wine and sat on the sofa with one of the magazines, started an article on male attributes women love best. It turns out to be, in some charts, sense of humor, ho ho ho; in others, shapely buttocks. Sense of humor and buttocks run neck in neck. What do they mean by shapely though? Tight and rounded like two coconuts or barely visible or protuberantly red like an ape's? I'd noticed my own in the mirror last

night, and it (they?) seemed shrunken and pale, undernourished albino globs at best. I'd have to work on it. Surely the magazines provide advice. It occurred to me after fidgeting on the sofa a while that my stylish new clothes were gruesomely uncomfortable. I was tempted to tear them off in a spasm of pure violence but checked the impulse. I'd give it a try, after all, for Irene, maybe even for myself. At least two women on the street had given me the old eye, which never happened with my former self; I haven't been given the old eye in decades it seems. Not a bad feeling. I could use more eye.

So I fiddled around a bit, dusted the glass shelves of our bookcase, set about brewing some Earl Gray tea (we never use bags, which Irene claims are gauche; we pour dried leaves into a chrome tea ball and sink it into a vintage Belleek teapot steaming with natural spring water. I initiated a regular Martha Stewart-Betty Crocker-Miss Manners momentum into the abode. So what if Martha went to jail? Property and good manners is theft. My plan was to take Irene by storm, break down her bedroom door if necessary, drag her out

by the oily, dirty hair if necessary and resume our talk. A week had passed already. That’s enough . . . hell, one day of it was enough, one hour.

Besides, Irene had not yet beheld the new, immaculate, metamorphosed me. I especially liked the touch of bow tie and suspenders. The asshole young lawyer touch. Anyone who wears a bow tie deserves to be shot, naked and cringing against the wall. But voila! My raiment glittered, I glowed with avocado oil, I had acquired several more inches of stature, I no longer pissed on the floor. I was a paragon of deportment, breeding and physical allure. Of course, I hadn’t written a word, had lost not only the taste for it but the inspiration as well. Freud was right. Art originates in the womb of disease and depravity.

At eight I knocked on Irene’ door. No answer, no acknowledgment. I commenced with soft, tender entreaties, pleadings. No response. We have tea! I exclaimed deliriously, though I despise tea, a ninny-eunuch drink if there ever was one. And condensed milk! Not a peep from Irene. The soft touch had failed. Plan two: adamant, firm demands yet with some degree of compassion. Irene, this has

gone on long enough. I’m worried about you. Suppose you lie in there perishing of liver malfunction? I insist that you unlatch the door. We’re rational, civilized human beings, after all, who can negotiate our differences. I wondered if Irene was even in the room. Could she have taken a liking to the streets, sneaked out the window for another fix, jilted me for even lower specimens in the hunter-gatherer chain? Plan three:

Irene, I’m breaking through this fucking door with a crow bar. Either you come out this instant or face mayhem. Irene? On the count of three, Irene . . . one, two . . . three. Ok, she called my bluff, except it wasn’t a bluff. I have destroyed many a door in my life. Easiest thing in the world. Just work up a little mania and swim with the violence. I didn’t have a crow bar, so I ripped the antique brass fire extinguisher from the wall and rushed it. Ah, the pristine joy of pure destruction. I smashed the extinguisher into the door a second time, figuring this might be more difficult than it seemed. Eventually, though, I would splinter the wood into toothpicks and maybe send over a batch to Prince Charles’s valet.

No please, she suddenly, meekly, cried. I’m coming out. Don’t hurt me. And that feeble little whimper touched me. Hurt her? I adored the woman even as I despised her. I would hurt Irene on only one condition—that she begged me to on threat of imminent suicide. Soon she lifted the inner latch, turned the key, and out stepped the august, practically moribund Lady Madeleine Usher, hair entangled and oily Gucci shirt soiled and fetid, no blue jeans at all, just a pair of my shredded, yellowed boxer shorts, bruises on her shins and thighs, a blackened eye, blemishes disfiguring her face.

What the hell happened to you? I cried. Did somebody beat you up? Do you have diabetes? Look at you! We’re going to the hospital.

In the heat of it all I’d forgotten that I now resembled spiffy, savory Jehovah Splatt, Director of the Arts Commission, Irene’s superior.

She took one look and shrieked, stumbled to get away from me. I caught her by the hair before she could run out of the house. Oh, no, no, no, you’re not going anywhere except to the hospital.

She curled up into a pitiful, slack bundle and wept. Please, please . . . no hospital . . . I’m ok, I just look bad. You were right, I understand now. And at once she farted and belched. God, she smelled like a sewer. I carried her to the sofa and dropped her onto the cushions. She had, strangely, gained not lost weight. Tea? I enquired. No response. Fucking tea! I roared. I’m going to pour it down your throat.

Where’s the vodka. I know you’re hiding some cheap vodka around here.

And then she looked at me good for the first time. Stunned, I suppose, is the word. She could not control herself and began to guffaw, the most coarse, lowly laugh I’ve ever heard from a woman. An animal, a hyena, something rising from a primeval bog to wail. When she calmed down: Oh, I just love the bow tie. Did you pick it out? It clashes with your eyes, you know. Raw umber irises, turquoise fabric. A no-no. But, all in all, you’re quite dashing. And look at me. The former YOU look, raunchy, repulsive. But easy, so easy. I sort of like it. How about a little roll in the hay? Up for it? I mean if you don’t mind the smell and God knows what germs. I think I have lice. Parasites. Athlete’s

Foot. Yeast. Lots of paper cuts too. The street is no bathtub or first aid kit. As you know.

I was taken aback, of course. Paper cuts? Had my plan backfired? I didn’t have to worry about Irene rejecting me, especially since she wasn’t Irene, but I was tempted to bolt and jump a freighter to just about anywhere.

We need to straighten you up, was all I can muster. This isn’t good. The desecration of beauty before my very eyes saddens me.

What? Do I offend the enfant terrible? Former enfant, that is. Look at you, a regular GQ model, though maybe a bit old. Geriatric issue. But age suits a man, eh? Not us women, though, right? Look at you. I repulse you.

This is not funny, Irene. I’m worried about you.

No more little sparrow chirping in its gilded cage?

The old crusty me was rearing up inside. Cut the sarcasm, bitch. Sarcasm is for barbarians like me, not belles of the ball.

Oh, I think you’ve stepped onto the wrong stage,

sir. The previous mise en scene has dissolved. And I’m glad, glad, you hear? Take me like I am or get out.

I, cowardly, dejected, brutal, lurched toward the closet for the battered suitcase that contained my few possessions. She had defeated me even if I was hoisted by my own petard. She sat erectly on the sofa, smiling; she looked demented, triumphant. I stood in the doorway, ready to split.

Can I request one favor before you leave? she asked reasonably enough. You do owe me, whether you admit it or not.

Sure, sure, I said, whatever. .

I’ve been working on this manuscript. It’s on my bedside table. Can you take a look at it and tell me what you think? I mean, I do trust your judgment.

She had trumped me still again. A manuscript? She knows I can’t resist a manuscript. Irene? Writing? Nothing in this world could stand between me and that manuscript. I marched into the bedroom, plopped my spiffy ass onto the mattress and took up the sixty or so pages. Regular printer paper but scrawled by hand. A fuzzy, leaky

ballpoint, sometimes pencil, whatever she could scrounge out there. The sheets were crumpled and gritty, soiled. I even spotted specks of dried blood. I began to read. The sun blazes like a molten, sizzling onion as I too make my descent. I’m in a tunnel swarming with shadows. I have no choice because love always leads to grief . . . .

I thought hard about each sentence, each word. Irene wrote this? My little confection, Irene, darling of the poseurs, uptown wren, rainbow of debutantes, offspring of shipping magnates? I was more determined than ever to leave, but I could not because her words paralyzed me. I read them again and again; they encircled me, bound me in ancient mummy cloth. I was done in, period. Thus Caliban thrives. As long as I could dive into Irene’s mind, I would bathe and feed her, tend to her wounds, get a job with the Arts Commission, support her new habits, whatever they are, hold her frail, now filthy hand. It was the mystic Chinee, not dear old dad, who warned us about getting what we wish for. The bad new days are upon us again, but aren’t they always? How could we grope on without them?

Copyright© Louis Gallo. White Whale Review, issue 3.1

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