Fiction - Grey Area, Summer 2001

Braille of Narcissus
a short fiction by Michelle Rosetta

I don’t know where I am or how I got here. Unopened spaces are moving in and out of mirrors, the mirrors that are bent all over these circular walls. With all my senses I probe their surfaces again and again until the space breaks open. I see no colors; I feel the sun dropping over ice. Only pulses of strings pulled tight like ambient music, dragging a cold, heavy head into rushing heat, remind me that I am still breathing. Undulations of confusion are rising to clarity, only to be swallowed up again. Falling waves. A sudden fear dressed up with enchantment draws me nearer to a neck stretched from the floating head. A neck so exaggerated that for a moment I believe it is something I can rest my entire body upon. I am being fooled by a neck that rotates in space on a gossamer axis. I look again and it has disappeared. The floating head. Black sea hair, a crescendo growing from a single strand, endlessly. I reach out and dip my hands in and my skin vibrates like an electric bass submerged in a hot spring. But now I cannot tell if it is my skin or her skin.

I try to pretend that I don’t see the different versions of the reflection that I don’t recognize. Peeling away from each other faster than my energy being devoured. Energy that chases itself in circles, winds itself into impatient coils. Mirrors perfecting every angle into confusion. The figure of her body appears, drowns itself in mud and passes into another figure. A huge vibrating warmth at its center that I’m afraid to touch. Look, you’re over there. Your outline forming crystals that pierce the wave crests then dissolve again into the thick mud. Falling down, laughing, crying, across sudden deserts—which is you? Fragile echoes of a toy piano smashed apart against a voice scratched by absinthe. Words of her own language. She murmurs, “Katja,” and peels off the shape of her mouth, tossing it into the water. But is she calling herself this or me? Her hand is in mine. I close my hand over it. Tiny kisses between each of my fingers and I feel like discarded air sliding over the length of her body. I begin to run backwards to find my actual self. Are we not in here somewhere?

My feet have turned into fins. I lose all balance, I cannot run anymore. The floors have crawled up the walls, the ceilings chased all the doors closed and I have met impossible beauty.

Before me heavy veils hang with the weight of water. I must wade through, struggling for the tear that I can slip through where she waits for me. Each time I grow closer I fall further backward, stumbling though there is no ground. I pull myself up on dangling ice out of which she’s carving her kisses. I hear her whispering my memories. I can no longer breathe with my own lungs. Our voices cry out for each other in unison as I grow closer. Our voices resound in ten-double echoes. Each word bounces against these stretched elastic walls, encircles, always in suspension. Each word has a hard sound that slams against the other trying to open up the meanings. Hieroglyphs of sound it takes us days to complete. Each word mingles with the other making it impossible to tell who has spoken. Our voices rise into condensed screams pressed between two magnetic walls.

As she walks towards me, a cluster of shadows follow. Shadows mingling with their own dark edges, breaking into deeper colored shadows, stranger and more distorted forms. Expanded or contorted, shrunken or whole, they continue to grow around her in no fixed pattern, stalking her every movement like disturbed pantomimes. Disguised secret selves seemingly oblivious to each other, all fighting to dominate.

Layers of veils that we continue to peel away and then discard to continue the clawing through, deftly, until sudden images of delicate violence erupt shuddering waves throughout us. Like the outward continuance of a circle spreading in water, expanding in our secret language, we rock back and forth sustaining interdependent rhythms. But I want danger. I want to go deeper. I want to be led into her strange new world and like a curious child I want to yield to it completely.

I am skating on the veins of her hand, swimming against the hairs of her arm; hairs wavering like exposed cartilage on a sea animal’s bones. From her hands, cage wire dangles against beads of sandalwood. Feathers depart from her hair and warm the eggs being born beneath her feet. I am to create a mask for her. Over a surface of worm-eaten leaves, she is making a collage to sew into my pillow. I cannot decipher the language she weaves into it. Frantically, I continue her mask as she curls herself inside a musical sound that has abandoned space, with shifting vibrations that hypnotize her blood flow. She summons the sounds into the water, where they swim together. Each sound isolates itself from the other and begins to communicate with the surrounding fluid. The water answers in it’s own precise pitches. The water soon needs the sounds to guide it into rhythms; the sounds need the water to guide it into waves. She thrusts herself against it all, throwing her head back in delirious joy like a fish jumping upstream. She treats the water like a rope she must balance upon, and like the tightrope walker, she delights in the risk. She calls for me to join her. I can feel the freedom in her voice the way a deaf person may hear musical vibrations through the floor. She swallows all the sounds and then cups her hands before her face and blows it all away. A million wishes colliding. I place the mask upon her face. I do not feel skin.

Her mask is very simple. It is a cage with three openings. One to smell the first sparks of desire, another to steal glances from every lover at once, the last to speak through in the language of deceits.

Our feet sink into the giant orchids that have saturated the air. We are following a path lined with tiny boxes that unfold and collapse by themselves. One box may contain broken teeth, another sand and sugar, or broken eggshells, discarded threads, dots of blood on rare silk, pieces of tangled hair or thought refractions in bent glass. Interdependent structures that unravel themselves to pierce the sky, and then shrink back to fit inside the hand. The last box expands on all sides to reveal compartments lined by swollen berries with jewels sunk inside them. A tiny, bone-white figure of a woman is bending over glass. Her image is cast onto every side of the box, now fully expanded by fragile strings. Long and empty passageways lead to a room that passes into a room that passes into a room that passes into a room that she has flooded. Flooded with laughter, flooded with singing, flooded with light, flooded with shadows, flooded with colored shapes that spin in gentle revolutions of sound. Endless doors are opening and closing. We cannot stop running our hands over every surface, again and again, trying to penetrate the undergrowth of depths feeding on each other. Over and over, we feel the abstract patterns that push their swollen bodies through like clusters of sounds wounding silence. So brutally we need to discover all the secrets.

We are becoming all rhythm, a rhythm steadily rising to a dual explosion. With slowly increasing symbiotic limbs we reach over the mirrors, inhaling the broken fragments. Our legs and arms are ripening from control as we dance out the struggles of inner tensions. The tensions keep prolonging the space between us, blurring our movements into reverse, pushing our bodies into dizzying cracks of indecision; broken pieces of fantasy unable to see each other until all we exhale is blood. Our dance is becoming a dissension of fragmented movements trying to break apart our fantasy world. Our nerves have become excruciatingly unsettled tangles that coil around each other. Terror condenses inward. Her body now made of mercury injects itself into me in intra-spinal waves.

Music returns again and again to the source of its flow. Trying to ascend the staircase of rushing waves, it falls upon itself as it carves space through sound. All depths have now become ice covered, a hall of mirrors reflecting static images that will never touch each other.


© 2001 Michelle Rosetta

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