…Synthy psychedelic music that wavers and bubbles like a lava lamp. We fade in from black, up close on two eyes, blinking, thickly lashed, and shifting enormously in the frame, like two restless animals, then zoom out gradually to take in:
KENDALL, wearing a pink silk robe, sitting in a swivel-chair, music in her perfect white AIRPODS. Death-white, she muses: delicate bones. She skims the curving cartilage of her ears with her fingertips, and then the lily-like stems of the earbuds. How the two fit together perfectly is like…Hm…a pearl in a shell, or water in a cup. This is the best modeling advice Kendall’s older sisters ever gave her: “Empty your mind; be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup…Be like water, Kenny.” WATER is a MIRROR. In the tradition of ancient Chinese poets, she has been told, pools of water, creating a reflection, represent the Earth’s consciousness of itself, and are also synonymous with the concept of mind emptied of content. Kendall absolutely 100% relates; when she looks at herself, her mind becomes still, filled with AirPod music, like a lily pond. People like to look at themselves, and lots of people like to look at Kendall. She, personally, being Kendall, finds her own reflection singularly relaxing, and, in fact, addicting, similar to, hmmmm… Two minutes ago she took a XANAX. Now she stretches her graceful neck in small and swanlike movements, careful not to disturb the hair and makeup artists. Nevertheless, uh oh, she can feel a familiar tingling, under her skin…And ok, up until now she’s avoided thinking about her ex, but here she goes now, fading into a
Ugh, KENDALL thinks. Geometry…
The classroom lights are off; the SMARTBOARD, a digitalized touchscreen whiteboard, is on; the teacher is drawing on it. In the bright doorway, backlit, appears a figure making the silhouette of a BLADE.
It’s GUS, late…
As usual, everyone stares. He walks in front of the smartboard and three geometries, pentagrams, cross over his blindingly WHITE T-SHIRT.
And he slides into the elegant and universal slouch of the delinquent. His long legs extend from under the desk, not caring that he could trip someone! The tendons in his forearm clench and unclench as he spins a yellow pencil in one deft arc…
…Kendall, *sigh*ing, bites her lip.
And as if he already knew, he turns his head. Their *eyes meet* and, under the dim blue of the projector, Kendall’s pupils glow bubblegum pink, a cotton-candy flush blooms over the icy apples of her cheeks…He smirks calmly, his eyes—Kendall imagining sort of green lasers or X-ray vision, headlights emanating from the bruised depths of his eye-sockets that sweep out a full 60 degree angle—his eyes flick down and up, once, slowly…Her, Bambi…etc.
Kendall swoons; Gus is given a leaf of paper by the teacher notifying him of some fresh offense committed, today or yesterday, that requires his presence, as usual, to be elsewhere, and the entire drama of his entrance is repeated in reverse, boomerang-like, as he slides from his chair and out the thin frame of the door into the hallway in order to saunter to, probably, the vice principal’s office, but not before, himself, dropping a NOTE of his own on Kendall’s open and fully blank NOTEBOOK—
This, at least, having been one of a rotating set of scenarios of Kendall’s.
* * *
Later that night…
The smoky, dark room with the yellow rectangle of light of
The WICKED WHALER’S BAR (2)
Silently, a silhouette in the shape of a question mark appears in the doorway, and then becomes KENDALL walking in and sitting down.
“I’m back,” she says, to no one in particular.
Although it could have been, really, to any one of these surfers. And, was it? Kendall can’t tell, herself. They’re here as usual, halfway non-visible, playing pool and throwing darts, activities they busy themselves with when certain circumstances of the… tides, or alcoholism, or whatever…pull them back to land.
She orders a drink: 818 REPOSADO TEQUILA mixed with a seltzer flavored “Limoncello,” low-cal, the strange synthetic tastes of lemon and cream combining, improbably, in this sparkly see-through stuff, fizzing and colliding in the cylindrical glass. Kendall understands the molecules as having kinetic energy. This particular drink always makes her feel a kind of high, sort of reckless and giddy, like the bubbles rise into her brain and replace the brain cells…Fizzing around randomly, bumping into each other, creating sparks of light in the—Kendall suspects, glumly—increasingly dark and empty cavity of her skull, briefly illuminating the…hieroglyphs, or graffiti or whatever, that are scrawled there, not that she can read it. But, hmm…what else is there, tbh, Kendall muses…? A somber and business-like rain of atoms into a void—say, identically suited pedestrians streaming over the sidewalk with their black umbrellas—until, for no reason, a twist, a declination, two combine….!!!!
Umm, ok, yes, the ~Limoncello~ — the room is becoming more angular and high-contrast, energies concentrated in specific points: Kendall swirls around in her stool and leans against the counter to survey the surfers. Energy, condensing, like, in her hipbones, which seem to be so razor-sharp right now that she’s surprised they’re not cutting through her green leather miniskirt?—and in the warm ball of light that hangs above the pool game, rosily illuminating the action at the table: multi-colored balls merrily colliding…What a coincidence! Kendall giggles. The boys are playing pool. Some of them—Gus’s friends, she knows vaguely—are looking at her; though their eyes are set in shadow, she can visualize a sort of diagram overlaid upon the scene in which their lines of sight, dotted lines ending in arrows, shoot towards and then entwine, in a pretty wreath, around her:
a ~girl with kaleidoscope eyes~…
Kendall laughs, remembering, for the second time that day, how cool and awesome it is to be a… model!!!
Being beautiful is very crucial…Surfers are cool…The air seems to wink and hum with secrets. ;) At least it seems to…doesn’t it? She flutters her dark eyelashes, down once, and then up, and—but then the angularity of everything is suddenly melting, points of light liquifying into something more tangible and viscous—hmmm, there’s something about the dual nature of light? Particle and wave? Kendall like…can’t remember, but…whether you’re observing it or not: this is somehow relevant. And now she’s like a lava lamp. What were previously tiny sparkle bubbles glom together and gain color and consistency; if, before, she felt organ-less, now her insides seem to slide around under her skin, rising and sinking slowly…If, before, her mind felt nicely clean and blank, now memories begin to fade in, swirling together and branching out in ever-more distinct detail, like a psychedelically fractalline paisley:
…And Kendall is lucky that she remembers to grab her HANDBAG as she slides out the door….
She glides past houses, under streetlights, neither visible nor particularly reflective anymore; rather, the scenery slips in to fill the outline of her body: hyperreceptive, hyperpassive, perceptible only as a silhouette rippling over rosebushes, fences, etc.
It’s turning from summer to fall on the island; the air is crisp.
Kendall is sad.
And in the thickly silver and salty medium of her tears, a series of images flower over her pupils, and, one by one, one per droplet, star-like, dilate—until they begin to lose shape, colors and outlines wobbling and swirling together, and they overflow the film of her eye and slide, drop by droplet, down her cheek:
GUS, dimly, on her balcony, against the cloudy white skies of Sunset Edge into which a palm tree reaches, leaning into the foreground and smiling for real…The haze of the mountain behind him…
~ Shawty I remember that ~
~ I know you remember that ~
And zooming in now, unsteadily, on Gus’s laughing and hollowed-out face, his lips moving without sound, a dead twinkle in his dark brown eyes,
~ Playboy bunny tho, shawty look like a porn star ~
Dead familiar that is—but also from elsewhere—eyes that seem often—or is it only in retrospect?—somehow uncertain, both there and not there, not quite registering what’s in front of them, shifting their focus onto the background, into the distance…
~ I know she love me ‘cause she fuck me in her sportscar ~
His fingers fiddling with a chain of flowers, what he used to always be doing back then,
~ I pull up on her, tell her that we finna go far… ~
But no—the tattoo on his arm—did he have that, back then?
~ Now I’m faded on my own in my bedroom ~
And Kendall has a feeling of something intensifying, like when the ambient island humidity condenses all of a sudden into storm clouds,
~ Now I’m looking at my phone should I text you ~
And now kaleidoscopic reorganizations blooming, radially symmetric, across her vision, then spinning off in shard-like fragments, the clouds behind him taking, scarily, the form of what look like…dogs?, divine and monstrous, every shade of gray swirling together in a strongly three-dimensional and intentional way, deep and fake, and a flock of birds hardening into the dogs’ black marble eyes, only everything multiplying into more and more images, like cancer, the Cerberic dogs now having way too many eyes, and their cloud-fur molting into necrotic spirals, like a bad bad dream Kendall knows she could never have on her own:
~ Baby I’m a priest in the underworld, guess who? ~
As he reaches out his hand straight into the camera, fingers brushing—one, two, three times—through the half-watery, half-smoky medium of this memory, dispersing it, like clearing away these images that are mere apparitions, with a magician-like wave of the hand, only more casual, erasing himself.
~ If you wanna live a dream, I ain’t coming bitch I told you… ~
The last tear splashes onto the sand-colored and -textured sidewalk, which is now spangled all over with dark cartoonish splats, and Kendall, coming to, realizes she’s cold, and goes inside.
Olivia Kan-Sperling is a writer and editor living in New York. Her novella Island Time was published this summer by Expat Press.