It is just the two of us now on my island. Sooner or later thirst will overcome you. You will recall the story I told years ago at a cocktail party. It was New York City 1999, I sat beside you, leaned close and spoke of my island, my dogs, my castle and the little well adjacent to my castle. I spoke at length about the water in my well, of its clarity, purity and coolness. You thought I spoke idly, for you were idle, but I did not speak idly. I waited for this day, when I would have you on my island. Now you are hungry, delirious, afraid, and in need of water. I on the other hand am rested, alert, calm, and waiting in my tiger cage adjacent to my well. My tiger cage is really more of an elaborate bluff.
I will get you.
I killed a fox with a sling and ate its body raw. The fur stuck in my teeth and coated my tongue. I drew on my arms with soft coal, and wove fabrics out of the brush. I dyed these fabrics various hues, using dyes made of vegetables and twigs.
The fox meat sat heavy on my stomach. I fell asleep and dreamed of our commencement, yours and mine, when we stood together on the lawn in our caps and gowns. I was looking at the flag on its pole, watching it flap in the wind. I told you I thought the way it flapped was majestic, and you agreed. I reached into my pocket and removed a pack of gum. I offered you a stick. You accepted the stick. I put the other stick, my stick, into my mouth, and I chewed it.
The two of us chewed our gum. When the flavor of my stick wore off, I removed it from my mouth, using my fingers, and I wrapped it in its original paper. Then I let it be known that I would get you.
Today I made my own soap out of potash and oil. I bathed myself in a tub lined with rocks, with water drawn from my well. You will recall the freshness of my well water. I imagine you are so thirsty now you would slice off your left pinky toe for a mere sip of my dirty bath water, water which I warmed with stones heated in my fire. I bathed beneath the stars. I washed my body with soap. I picked out the constellation Orion, for that is the only constellation I can pick out, and I gazed at it as I soaped myself. Next I dried myself on a towel that I brought from home.
Fresh from my bath, I sat before the fire with a reed in my teeth and let free my thoughts. I thought for a while about the sort of haircut I would like, and then my thoughts turned to the two of us, and I imagined things.
We took a helicopter, you and I, to a musty motel room at the top of a tall, official building. Our beds were side by side, divided by a Formica chest with a lamp on it. I made your bed, and then I made my bed. We fell asleep, and, in the morning we awoke. I told you I didn’t like our new apartment and you agreed, you said you didn’t like it at all.
These thoughts I had are neither here nor there. Later, sitting at the edge of the well, waiting, I wrote a joke for my amusement. I believe you will enjoy it.
A man is driving through the long stretches of the West Texas highway. He sees a billboard for a place called “Grandma’s Whorehouse.” He has no interest in the whorehouse, at least not initially. But time passes, and he passes several more signs. By the time the man sees the twelfth sign, he is overcome by curiosity and, of course, self-deception. He tells himself maybe grandma has a lot of hot granddaughters. He pulls over. He pays his money and walks down a curving hallway. The lighting is harsh. There are no tapestries on the wall. He is frightened. He comes to the end of the hallway, to a door outside. He opens the door and reads a sign. I haven’t figured out what the sign will say yet.
Need I add that I will get you in complicated ways?
I will get you in complicated ways.
I have schemes all planned out up here. And when I say “up here” I mean up in my head, which is very complicated and very advanced, more so than your own, which moves slowly. You are dim-witted. We know this. At times, you have admitted as much, when you have felt comfortable with me, and at home.
I will get you. I will get you in ways you don’t expect, by seducing you, charming you, bringing you to my side where I can hold you, and keep you, and store you away in my cupboard, which has brass handles and is adorned with delicate paintings of beautiful ladies, and is where I keep some of my enemies.
I chased an antelope for hours. Ultimately, I was dogged by it. I fell to the ground and into the deepest sleep I have ever slept. I still intend to get you in all the complicated ways I have spoken of above, but I would like to take a little break and confide in you right now.
As I fell asleep last night, I imagined you and I were together in our new apartment.
I found a room set above our room. It was small and bathed in light. I climbed into it. It was a kitchen with all the accoutrements: a thick wooden table made of different planks; copper pots; wines in a rack for wines. The floor was gorgeous. I told you it was perfect. You agreed it was perfect, but you pointed out it was not ours. Then I noticed all the Latino children running around.
I cursed at length. I cursed the children, and then I cursed you. I compared your snaggle teeth to a fence and your skin to the pavement. I compared your mother’s hands to paws, and I recited the names of all your unrequited loves – people whom you loved, people who felt only disgust for you. Hearing their names made you feel weak, sad and alone. I spoke ill of your ancestors. What happened next is still a blur, even to myself. I was speaking of your mental defects, your dim wits. The children were running between our legs. I began to unfold my history. I did it in a way that was sympathetic, but also honest. I was careful neither to lacerate nor to coddle myself. I spoke the simple truth, about myself, my exploits and my errors, and you were very moved.
I began to chuckle softly.
You asked me why I was chuckling, and I explained that, as I was speaking the simple truth about myself, I was also, in the back of my mind, working out an ending for grandma’s whorehouse.
“What will the sign say?” you said.
I said, “The sign will say, ‘You have just been screwed, by Grandma.’”
You and I laughed. We laughed and laughed. We laughed for so long, I’d never laughed that long. I slapped you on the back, and you slapped me on the back. We laughed more. I wondered when the laughter would end. I bent over and gripped my knees, to try to contain the laughter. You did the same – you copied – I didn’t mind. We stood hunched over shoulder-to-shoulder, hands on knees, laughing. We laughed so long we forgot ourselves, and then we remembered, and still, we continued with the laughter, until we stopped, at which point I let you know I still had every intention of getting you.
Let me say it a final time, friend, just so we make sure we understand one another:
I will get you.