I know what the world is, he says. The world is a hospice disguised as a discotheque. Under mirrored ceilings, we drink electric-blue cocktails. Blobs of reflected glitter-ball light swoop and fly like phosphorous moths, like phantoms, about our ears. Our bodies are glazed with fever-sweat. Our knees are weak and we are out on the dance floor. We are out on the dance floor, pretending abandon. We are abandoned. We long for redemption. We long for pleasure between our legs. We shake our asses, clap our hands, wave our puny arms in the air. The bass throb is the mating call of a billion death rattles searching each other out across a moonless night.
No, she says, I think you are mistaken in that. The world is really a carnival, perceived as an abattoir. Ferris-wheel cars rise above our heads, laughter of passengers falling on our shoulders, silver coins shaken loose from pockets. But because our eyes are bad and are not accustomed to half-light, carnival light, we tend to mistake those bright aerial gondolas for the skinless bodies of slaughtered cattle suspended from conveyor-belt hooks. Because we have lost our senses, we can no longer tell the difference between the smell of cotton candy and the smell of blood.
You don’t understand, he says. You don’t live in the same city I live in. My city is on fire. There are burning bodies falling out of burning buildings. My city is bathed in wicked yellow light. There is black oily smoke pouring from chimneys. There are police with truncheons and bayonets. My city is no carnival. It is carnal. Those are severed heads, not coconuts. My city is a funhouse filled with mirrors filled with reflections of evil intent.
No, she says, a half-smile playing across her bright red lips. It’s you who doesn’t understand. The song You’re whistling is all wrong. I need you to sit beside me on this gravestone and rest your head on my shoulder. I need you to waltz with me around the perimeter of this reservoir. I need you to lick spider webs from my naked belly. I need you to swim with me to the bottom of this dark cooling tower, and feel the tiny golden fish nibbling at the back of your knees. I need you to sleep with me in this haunted house tonight, and we can wink at all the cold eyes in the portraits of the dead that follow us around.