A mural on an abandoned street in Cairo. A beautiful drawing that folks say is called Tiye, The Birth Of An Egyptian Princess. Abayomi walks by every day and leaves flowers underneath this imaginary art and whispers brief prayers of solitude. Folks say be careful, you might get arrested in these dangerous times. Abayomi says if getting arrested for paying homage to an ancient princess is a crime, let me get arrested. Eventually he does get arrested and no one ever hears from him again. Folks swear if you look long enough you can begin to see a teardrop emerge beneath the princess’s eye.
Flying across Toronto, we were hitch-hiking, thumbs out, headed for the West coast, NY to Montreal, now approaching Toronto, some highway, yet to land in the city.
He pulled over, suddenly, shoulder, smile, cigarette side of his mouth, Mercedes, I think.
We jumped in!
Jack was in the front seat, me rear. Off we went. To the races. Literally.
He shot out like a rocket, no I am serious, that was ok, we all laughed, cigarette from his mouth.
A German fellow in Toronto, with a Mercedes. Is this how they drive in Germany? We looked at each other, sure, both thinking Autobahn, no speed limits.
I was peering over his shoulder, 60, 70, 80.
He was chatting, merrily, laughing, as if on a chaise lounge at a pool. Dressed carefully, dapper I would say.
He kept chatting, turning towards Jack, looking back at me, 85, 90, 95.
I think Jack and I were getting a little uptight, but he just kept it up.
I must admit he was a smooth driver. No he is not just going down an open road, on the straightaway, no it was not like that. He was weaving in and out, gliding almost, like a hang glider (I thought of those WW I planes), never stopped chatting turning, smiling, cigarette, looking at the road.
95, 100, 110.
Jack and I were definitely getting uptight but what could we do? We stayed cool, and laughed along. The ride ended as quickly as it began. Wow! That was fast.
We got out and thanked the gentleman, this crazy man, and he sped away as if taking off in an airplane. We just looked at each other, and then… burst out laughing. After all we were young and invincible, life was beautiful, this German guy was insane, but pure and innocent, like a bungee jumper.
She is looking out over the bridge, away into the sky, her hair mostly uncombed, disheveled, but beautiful. She is wearing night clothers, for summer; it is summer, it is hot, the water is blue and sparkling. But somehow she is between two places, an open, dreary sky and a bright bridge under moonlight, intense moonlight.
Things have been difficult; her marriage has fallen apart; she is facing drug possession charges, a small amount, but in this state that could mean time, hard time.
Her captor has offered her escape, for benefits, a love with benefits, maybe three months, maybe six, it would be worse behind bars. She whispers it will drive the final stake into her marriage.
But her ex is far away, in New York, he left when she started to tailspin, lose control. Now he calls, but he is helpless, no matter what he claims, he cannot effect the legal outcome.
And she is in California, on a bridge, between nowhere and somewhere, deciding whether to jump or walk her only plank to safety.
She was slightly dizzy, buxom, innocent. He was not sure how he wound up with her, it didn’t make sense.
She was much more Hollywood than New York, he thought, though her bubbly personality made it easier for her to fit in.
At that time he was running a chess parlour on 42nd street. A somewhat odd business, but it paid the bills and for her. She had expensive tastes, not intentionally, it just was the way she lived. Especially perfumes, and bracelets; she adored beautiful bracelets and expensive perfumes.
He was thinking of her summer habit of walking out on the balcony in the early morning, tossing her hair back, hands on the rail, sipping a coffee, touching the dew, pale neck, no makeup. He wanted to take a photo, or a hundred photos but she wouldn’t let him.
It started quite some time ago, back in high school, he joined the chess club, something to do, a way to belong. He picked it up from his uncle, father’s side, who was a VP and lived in the city, Brooklyn. He belonged to the prestigious Manhattan Chess Club. And his friend Albert, a great player from high school.
That was awhile ago, time passed, in the early 70s he took to riding down to the city, and wandering the streets, an urban explorer. His family had lived in Manhattan for quite some time, then his dad took them to the suburbs. His aunt still lived in the village, though he hardly ever saw her.
He chanced upon a chess club on 42nd street, up the stairs, smoke, coffee filled. All the guys (overwhelmingly) who never made it to the Manhattan or fancy clubs, for one reason or another. You paid a few dollars, and got so much time. Street chess. Sometimes even near fights broke out, unheard of for chess players. Arguments yes, but not fights.
And then one day, she walked up the stairs, into his chess club and into his life.
He is looking out of the window of his co-op, and dreaming, sipping his coffee, thinking, wondering.
The note she left is on the table, by the cigarettes. Her flight is probably in the air, to LA. He wishes her safety.
She is gone now, her perfume still lingers in the hallways, the dining room, the stairs, his senses.
He calls his real estate agent the next morning and puts his place on the market.
Another chapter, this one would not be forgotten anytime soon.
The Queen has left the chess board, an unscheduled, unofficial move.
This game is over.
They were caught in a time warp, a celluloid zone of contradiction and gothic, macabre and colorful, sinister and patriotic, forever repeating themselves, over and over, vote after vote after vote, the sound, loud and insistent, hard to distinguish whole words, or sentences, while others, more distillate, viewed the tape with alarm, and sneering and jeering and shock, feinted or otherwise. Children were stabbed and shot, people were left to starve, women were cast aside in alleyways and highways to be plundered, the unemployed found no solace, the homeless no roof, while they toasted, and contributed and met, and read from gilt edged bibles, and randian tomes, and drank consecrated wines, imported, at that.
It was strange, something very surreal, distorted, an unintended painting.
Only the director here was not Rod Serling.
It was not even David Lynch.
It was Ted Cruz.
When I met him he was a bit strung out, a bit me, myself and I, and hard to understand. I hardly recognized my friend and what he was saying but still, there was someone there, inside, I thought I still knew. At one time, in the distant past, we were very attached.
He always was a magnetic type, he could attract people without really trying, which sometimes bothered me. But that was ok because now he needed people more than anything else, though I doubt he realized it.
His girlfriend had gone South, literally, and so he was just hanging out. Heavy on the drug scene, heavy on the alcohol scene, mostly light stuff, but almost incessantly. It gets to the point where nothing else exists, driving through the world, high as a kite, the world in a blur, not really hurting anyone, but time is passing by.
I had known his family for quite some time, but now that his parents were gone, I knew he did not have too many people to turn to. I felt somewhat of a responsibility for this dude, though I didn’t really like the feeling. That was my libertarian phase, a common phase for my time and crowd and I thought every path had to be self discovered. I did not want to interfere with anyone, not even close.
That was my philosophy anyway, but what do you do when someone you are connected to somewhere in the past needs something you may have? It was not something I really wanted to do, my irritation showed. I am not sure I really helped. The money was the easy part in a way, even though it frustrated me because I knew deep down that someday I would need that money myself, and that he would probably piss it away.
He rarely appreciated it that is for sure. So what do you do in that case?
It just finally stopped when we got to the point where we almost killed one another.
It almost destroyed me, it was like Cain and Abel, we were caught up in this ancient myth, as if time never stops its circles, its webs of deception.
Maybe that is what had to happen. Maybe it was already ordained somewhere, in some faraway place, from some faraway time. Yet still it hurt, deeply, very deeply.
You see this friend, this man, this human being, was my very own twin brother.