“I remember what they said, but not who they were
A dusty, blurry figment sitting in mud
In a puddle
With a white dress”
She was obviously high.
I was over poetry; I don’t think everyone got past that phase in English class. It could change a person really, give them strange emotions. It happened to me once, but it was worse because I was not high. Angela kept reciting poems that I assumed were hers, but I was unsure. She looked too natural in that basement where sunlight could creep through the half windows from above. She looked so perfect, almost like sun itself.
That basement felt like home. The essence was trapped in the dust molecules of the blue rugs, and Angela dropping poetry with heavy eyelids. So many songs told me that Angels smoked cigarettes, she could be the one to convince me that these claims were true. From where I sat, on a beanbag that was a quilt stuffed with rags, not a bean bag at all really, I always seemed to fall in a trance. From there, I could begin to see a ring of light encircle her. It lingered in the smoke from her Marlboro and framed each individual stitch of yarn on her knitted hat whose threads moved just a little bit with the electric fan humming from the wooden fold up table. She didn’t hold any pieces of paper. Her round fingers with uneven nails floated like light wings above her knees. Except, there was a pencil laced over her middle finger and under her pointer and ring fingers. I wondered back then if she would ever write anything down.
When she no longer had anything to say, Angela would lay on the floor and the records would be playing. “This time tomorrow, where will we be?” I remember knowing where I would be, but not particularly who.
I had my first rum and coke inside that basement, the basement where the walls were always sort of inhaling and exhaling with its inhabitants, which it did not necessarily trap, but rather contain. I could feel my stomach and thoughts synchronize as they both grew warmer. We would listen to “Tiny Dancer”, because we heard it in the coffee shop, the time I got cake and it started to rain. We never knew the song was longer than 6 minutes until perhaps the nineteenth time it was played through her electric blue earbuds. One was in my ear, one was in hers, her left, my right. The basement at that time was an escape from the raging highschoolers upstairs. It was my first party. It was also my last. We just lay there on those rugs with the very thick, bright threads. The dust that was trapped in the fibers did not bother us. I knew that while we were lying still, we were dancing when I closed my eyes.
I wondered what happened when other people closed their eyes. Was it so drastically different? I pitied everyone who wasn’t me.
I remember the way that summer stretched out. It wasn’t because of boredom, discomfort, or dread. It was rather a magical occurrence of moments that seemed to be put in slow motion, as if God watched us on a flatscreen TV. We were a montage of color and light and a permanent sunset.
One day I sat in the basement, in late August. Angela held a peach in her hand. She loved peaches but did not always eat them. She would sometimes just scrape the fuzz off as we watched Julia Roberts on a boxy screen. I couldn’t stop shaking my knee that day. I couldn’t settle the insects in my digestive track. I would stare at my knee in hopes of winning some mind control over it, that jittery knee clothed by such an ugly color of gray denim. I was growing sick of those overalls. They had too many paint stains on them. They were not put there intentionally. I kept wearing them, and Angela noticed every new stain that appeared. It was things like that which unsettled me in the best way. I couldn’t stop playing the music she contained through her smile in my mind. It was deceitfully mesmerizing. It was things like that which made me want to stay far from that basement and be forever trapped in its breathing walls. Sometimes the ceilings were more enchanting than the sky even.
That summer my cat died. The last I saw of her was when she coughed up a wad of white and brown fur. Her name was important enough for me not to mention.
I couldn't bury her because she wasn’t home. I learned that sometimes animals disappear to die alone, in order to save their loved ones pain. I learned people did the same, but in instances it could feel so extremely opposite. I wondered then, if that death was not provable, if it truly was real.
Was I sixteen? Yes probably. I was sixteen when I went to that basement for the last time. If anything were more abrupt, I couldn’t name it. It was routine as ever, not mundane, but normal. However, I remember her eyes specifically that evening. They told me a truth which I couldn’t quite pin to any meaning. They told me the truth about her knitted hats, and why I had never seen her hair or why we did not always talk. In moments like those, when she spoke to me through her green irises, I just knew. I just knew that there were some things that could happen, and some things I could not do. A few days later though, Angela wouldn’t open the door. After knocking three times, I gave up, because I didn’t want to know. That day I turned around and walked home. It was the first time I felt cold in 90-degree heat.
I couldn’t exert the energy to conclude whether I had answers to my questions, whether I even had questions at all. The moths that filled my guts on that walk home, told me I understood perfectly.
What I could do was try to read books under trees, on damp grass. I could take my shoes off and forget to put them on just as I failed to forget that I wished to be in that basement. I could stop contemplating how I always knew that Angela was not just an Angel in my mind. I could try to read ‘Pet Cemetery’ and get only 20 pages in. I could listen to too much Carole King and Jimmy Hendrix, from headphones that looked more like earmuffs and wish that they were instead the right side of a pair of blue earbuds. The headphones however, ended up being ideal when September Shifted to October and November. I never had cold ears that autumn, but my insides could never be heated. I tried to think about times where I could emulate a feeling of warm from when she existed. I came up short. It was similar to when I held only three quarters in my palm at a farmer’s market.
I pulled my mind through that year as if it were heavier than my body. But it somehow ended. It was abrupt and did not ask permission, but rather showed up like a harsh knock on the door. I knew I couldn’t keep living as a main character, the one afraid to visit their haunted place. I knew I couldn’t escape the August evenings and their permanent sunsets.
So, I walked through the trails and approached the basement door. To my surprise, one of the windows was open, as if I had been expected. So, I pried my way through it and entered that place which once filled me with so much heat and ease. I was neither pleased or disappointed to see this room was dusty and unused. My emotions could be compared to a stale piece of bread. The walls were no longer breathing. There was a pack of Marlboros near the record player. So, I lit one. I blew the smoke out before inhaling; I never was good at smoking cigarettes. It was a skill that only someone half-departed from earth could master. I kept smoking though, and thought, it was as natural as exhaling, the way that she flew away.