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David Alexander

Waiting for the Lisbon Plane

Staring into space. Just staring into space. The name nagged. The name nagged. It was a name I had long since forgotten. Lumen de lumine vero. I walk in the light. The light of the true light.

Let me explain. This was not then. This was before when. I was in the coffeeshop of the morning, one of many I'm afraid or I could tell you the name. This could have been the Chock Full O' Nuts. Probably. It is usually the Chock Full O' Nuts. Sometimes at Grand Central. Frequently at Times Square. But other places too. Occasionally.

Things had not been going right. Uranus must be around somewhere, I thought. I was beginning to realize there was cruelty in the world, and to protect myself from it. When Uranus rises, things go wrong.

Yes, this was after. Because I had thought of Uranus and because I had left the coffee cup in the bag on the table. It was leaking and it left a brown puddle. And also because dawn had come to drain the streetlights, to rob them of the fire.

Sleep gives man knowledge of a communication with God that is not available to him in the waking state. This, I knew was an important perception. As was the knowledge that the sun must come out on Wednesday, even for a second, for that was the day on which God created it.

The name nagged, but it was coming. As the fire died in the lights, inside me it was coming. Lumen de lumine vero. Upon the cusp of Uranus, it was coming.

And so I sat and went about my counting. The counting of the assholes, through the windows. I counted the assholes with ties over their shoulders, assholes wearing felt Fedoras and assholes who were Japanese businessmen. Fuck them all. Fuck all the assholes.

The sum of my counting was then three of one, two of the other and one of the last, with the addition of one asshole with driving gloves. Fuck them all, because they were the hirelings of the dawn, the robbers of the lights. Fuck them all for they stole the fire in the lights. Fuck them all for they shed not the true light, that of Osiris, but the black light of the liar Sebek.

You ever ride through Ozone Park at three in the morning? In this I went back as the counting of the assholes continued. Ride through it in a bus, I mean? This I did frequently in this time of the Uranian rising, for with his rising, I had begun to change and also to rise.

This I had done before the time of stolen fire. Throughout the night, I mean. There are many connections one can make on the New York City surface transit system. I know of this, for I had procured a map of many colors and of a wonderful complexity, which showed the various connections one could make.

Each day I studied this map and considered which routes to travel. I would have no destination, for the object would be the commute and not the arrival. The object would be the thing in itself. I had no fear of harm, for I walked in that shedding of the true light by which God is reflected in the eyes of man and those beloved of Osiris are rendered invisible to harm.

And now the flat, straight world rolled off the eyeball. I had come in on a transfer from the B-18 all the way from Canarsie in Brooklyn and up into Queens on the B-35. Rolled like a wheel of colored light over which hung my reflection in the glass, a face showing constant change, and within this reflection, the orange glow of my cigaret flaring, each renewed flash of light revealing a new permutation of being.

He who steered the B-35 and I were now the only occupants of the bus. As might be suspected, he had turned once and informed me that I was not to smoke my cigaret. But I recognized his voice and his face which were that of Sebek and I did not fear him.

"You are of Sebek," I spoke in answer to the one who steered. "I know of your master."

"What was that?"

"Don't be dissin' me, motherfucker," I replied in the voice of he who confronted me, that of Sebek, for I knew the words of the crocodile god and how to respond. "Fuckin' kick your nuts up your ass if you dis me, cocksucker."

In this voice I made response and in this light he of Sebek returned to the steering of the B-35 through Ozone Park and I resumed my contemplation of the light in my face. When it would be time to get off I would know it. But this time had not yet come. And so I finished my smoke and slid down, onto the floor of the bus.

Here I began doing push-ups, pressing down upon the floor of the B-35 and through it feeling contact with the tires which rolled upon the streets, and through these my hands went down like roots, touching the earth below and drawing strength from the body of Osiris who lay within. As this strength flowed into me, I cried in pain and my exertions brought sweat to my face. He who steered the B-35 turned again, but said nothing. For he was surely of Sebek, and had not the tongue to speak.

And then came the time of my departure from this bus for from Osiris came the knowledge that I had entered the precincts of Uranus. I reached up and touched the plastic strip and sounded the bell of stopping, and he of Sebek pulled over and I got out.

I did not know where I was. I had never been on this street before. All I know was that I was within the precincts of Uranus and that I must here come upon that which I had been sent to discover, and I would know its name when I found it in the lumine vero, the true light.

Here, walking these silent streets within the bowels of Uranus, I came to the entrance to the park and entered within. All within was dark, for it was the darkness of Sebek within the depths of the night itself. Yet in this darkness a path appeared which I followed into the silence of this park.

Here within, amid a copse of trees, in a grove sacred to Uranus, I became aware of the presences of the three, and in the soles of my feet I felt that electric shock one gets when one thinks of falling, and I knew that the three were to whom I had been summoned, for the memory of falling in that dream where I had received communion returned to me with great clarity.

On impulse I sniffed the tips of my fingers. They smelled sour. For a moment I was puzzled, until I remembered the sponge. The sponge of sour milk which had been part of the dream.

The sponge which had soaked up the milk which had contained the world. And then I knew with certainty that I had been brought here. For it was here, in this very place, that I was to have fallen in my dream had not communion come and with it the perception of the true light in which I walked.

Two behind me now, and one in front. I knew this formation well.

We had studied it long years before, studied it with Jace. And it was now as though there was no distance between the time of Jace and this moment, for this was the place where the roots of Uranus burned in the night and my dream came full circle.

Those in back circled, closed. He in front held the weapon, which I recognized from the time of Jace and after the time of Jace.

"You in the wrong fuckin' place tonight, motherfucker," spoke he who held the weapon, he in front, while his wolves circled behind. "Da money!"

"I am going to scalp you and hang your scalp over my bed," I said to this one who faced me, using a voice I have which can speak such words in flat tones, which have no cunning, and so hold the power of truth. "Every time I fuck my wife I'll laugh at you."

I have no idea from where these words, or the voice which spoke them, came. I only know that they were words of truth, whatever their meaning. I have no wife, no bed, and I do not laugh.

"Say, what?"

His hand extended and it was back in the time of Jace, and I was ready to transform him. We had studied with Jace, in this time, and had learned wing chun. In time the hands moved of themselves, penetrating within an opponent's zone of defense.

I had begun the transformation of he who had spoken before he realized he had begun to change. As I pressed the muzzle of the gun to his eye and squeezed the trigger, blood erupted. Even then I turned to transform the two behind.

One of these had a knife, but this knife was mine, not his, and could not harm me. This knife I took from him and used it to cut his throat and that of the second one who circled behind.

Now, alone in this grove sacred to Uranus, I began the ritual of empowerment. He who had spoken, I could not use, for his face was no longer free from blemish, and so I left him where he lay. The faces of the two who had circled behind were without blemish, for only their throats had been cut. These I could harvest to my purpose.

After the time of Jace, I lived in a shack in the Virginia woods. I had nothing except a weather balloon which I had found in the small shed out back. This weather balloon I filled with helium and painted with a face which had been given me in a dream. I tethered the balloon by a long cable to the chimney stack and floated it above my house. The face on this balloon became the face of God and, through it, the face passed into my own.

And so I used the knife that was mine from the beginning, and which had returned to my hand, to harvest the faces of the two who had circled behind. Beginning at one ear, and making deep incisions with the knife, I cut to the bone from forehead to the bottom of the jaw. Thereafter, the faces of the two who had circled behind peeled off.

These I would keep. The rest I did not take. For the faces held the power of their doubles. Because in that instant I perceived that with the faces would come the name for which I searched, though I did not then know the meaning of this, for it was in the before and not the when, in the time of the counting of the assholes.

In the before before dawn's sucking of fire from the lights, and the counting in the Chock Full O' Nuts. Then the name nagged, and I could not find it. The name nagged and I had not yet known it.

Still, I proceeded with the counting, that I had been given to perform. Two more assholes with ties flung over their shoulders. One more asshole in a felt Fedora. Three Japanese businessmen walking abreast, swinging briefcases of soft, brown kidskin. One more asshole wearing black driving gloves.

And it was then that I had found the name, for the asshole wearing the black driving gloves had a face like that of my weather balloon in Virginia. I knew the name then, yet I could not pronounce it. I saw the name then, but it was beyond my understanding. But I knew then at last what I must do.

I rose from my seat. I left the coffee cup in the bag on the table. It was leaking and it left a brown puddle. I walked toward the door and went out into the street, robbed of its fire by the dawn, a street where the walls went down like roots, down to the place where Osiris dwells.

As I rose I smelled the odor of oranges and saw that someone was eating an orange at a table nearby. On impulse I sniffed my fingertips, and they smelled of orange, and this was as it was intended to be.

I think I'll just head for the crosswalk, I thought. Since I am in no rush. I knew these words were not my own, for they were not spoken with the flat voice of no cunning, which was my voice. These words belonged to the asshole wearing the driving gloves, whose face was that of my weather balloon and whose name I would soon remember from the dream I dreamed before the time of when.

I think I'll just head for the crosswalk, I thought. Since I am in no rush. There is a light, and now it is green. These were not my words, I did not speak them as I approached the asshole wearing the driving gloves and tapped him on the shoulder to make him turn, and in that instant I knew his name and the face on the weather balloon became my own and he had been transformed.

"Spare a dollar, mister?" said the fuck who'd tapped my shoulder. "I'm a Vietnam Vet. I came back sick on drugs. My kid's gotta have a kidney transplant. I just had a stomach operation. I don't wanna rob or steal. At least I'm honest."

I reached into my pocket and produced a crisp new bill which I handed the fuck who had begged me for money. He thanked me and shuffled away. The light was already changing to red and pedestrians were rushing to cross.

But I am in no rush, I thought, in a voice that was now full of cunning, and watched the beggar walk away. On impulse I sniffed my fingers, but there was no odor. Leather covered my hand and my name was known to me, as it had been from the moment of my birth.

The light changed again and I crossed the intersection, so that I would face the uptown flow of traffic. There, raising my hand, I hailed a taxi and got inside.

"Kennedy Airport," I told the one who steered the taxi.

"What terminal, please?" he asked me.

"Casablanca," I replied, in a flat voice of no cunning, for the voice of the asshole in the driving gloves was no longer his and belonged to me, as the knife had been mine, as the face had been mine, as the thoughts had too been mine. I had finally learned that there was cruelty in the world, and I would now protect myself from it.

"You want the midnight plane to Lisbon, then?" said the driver.

"Yes, that's right," I agreed.

Now I reached inside the pocket of my trenchcoat and removed the packet of plane tickets I had known would be there in that instant when the name that had nagged had become my own again. The tickets were for a direct flight to Lisbon, which departed at the stroke of twelve.

In the pocket with the tickets was the passport of the asshole with the driving gloves. The face in the photo was not my own face. Nor was it the face on the weather balloon that had risen like Uranus above my shack in Virginia after the time of Jace. But this did not matter, for I had harvested the faces of those who circled behind and because I had learned the name that had nagged in the Chock Full 'O Nuts.

I placed these items back in the pocket of my trenchcoat and again saw the flat, straight world roll off the eyeball, and a smile crossed my face as I glanced skyward, for I recalled that it was Wednesday, and that this was of special omen.

"The sun must come out on Wednesday, even if it's only for a second," I said to the one who steered the taxi, "because that's the day God created it."

"Yes," replied the one who steered. "Such is it written in the holy book. Wednesday is a day of good omen."

I was glad of these words, because the one who steered spoke in the flat voice of no cunning and because his words were not his, but my own, spoken through his mouth. I could have no fear in speaking with the one who steered.

"You ever heard of the tooth fairy?" I asked.

"No, what is that?" asked the one who steered.

"That's the Tinkerbell who takes your tooth when you're a kid after it falls out of your mouth and leaves a quarter under your pillow."

"Ah, yes," said the one who steered. "We have this too. But we do not call it that."

"Okay," I said. "Here's something I figured out. If there's a tooth fairy, then there's gotta be a used scumbag fairy. Somebody who throws used scumbags in emergency stairways, on the sides of curbs, on subway platforms, places like that."

"Yes, the scumbag fairy," answered the one who steered. "I know of this too, yes. And of other things."

"Such as what?"

"Such as the hands of passengers in my cab. I have studied them carefully. Sometimes they are like leashed dogs, sitting panting in laps. Or they do not fit the faces above them. Strangler's hands on old ladies, surgeon's hands on killers. The hands, they do not always go with the faces. Do you see?"

"Yes," I told the one who steered. "I see."

"And do you know of the smell of oranges?" asked the one who steered.

"Yes," I replied. "The odor of citrus travels great distances in the tunnels of the subway. One can smell it from far off."

"Even on the fingers."

"Yes, I know."

"Smell your fingers now," said the one who steered, and I did. They smelled of oranges, even through the driving glove. "Do you understand?" he asked.

"Yes, I understand," I told the one who steered.

It did not matter what I had said because I had not been speaking at all, not to the one who steered in any case, but only to myself. Because the words were spoken in the flat voice of no cunning, and they belonged only to myself. As the knife had, as the faces had, as had the name of the asshole wearing the driving gloves.

We arrived at Casablanca shortly before the flight's departure. Here the light was purple and rain fell softly on the ground, leaving everything in a soft, cottony hush.

"Here, on the day of the Feralia, the Romans sacrificed to Tacita, the mute goddess, a fish with its mouth sewn shut," said the one who steered as I handed him his fare.

"And the purple light?"

"You know this," he replied.

I did and I nodded my assent.

"The Lisbon plane will be arriving soon," the driver told me. "Best that you hurry."

I got out and pulled up the collar of my trenchcoat, and I strode out onto the rainslick tarmac, walking toward the sound of the propellors, and while I walked I remembered back to that time in Virginia with the weather balloon overhead, and how life then was like a bell that gives off a pure sound, no matter how one strikes it, because it was sweet and it was good.

But of course this was pure bullshit. It was never like that, and it never would be. It was more like when they would come in to us, and there would be a pair of scissors inside them, or maybe a tube, or a pair of surgical gloves, and we would simply cut the tubes and leave everything, gloves and scissors inside them, and this would be the way we would send them forth again. That was how it really was. That was the true perception. That was reality.

And now I am waiting on the tarmac. I am waiting for the Lisbon plane. And once I am inside it, I will do many pleasant things. I will take my preassigned no smoking seat and began drinking double bourbons throughout the long journey by air while listening to the rock channel at full volume, repeating the selection list over and over, until the individual songs lose all meaning and become mere memories of falling, and I will watch the flat, straight world roll off the eyeball and I will feel my feet go down like roots, hanging naked in the air, which like the earth below, is the realm of Osiris.

And I will ignore the in-flight movie, for in the cabin with me will be the true light, the lumen de lumine vero. And in this light, I will study the hands of the passengers, and I will see if they are indeed mismatched with the faces above them, just as the one who steered the taxi had claimed, just as I had known they would be all along. And I will sniff my fingers once again to see if the odor of oranges still lingers upon them. And I will probably be mistaken.

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