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who wants the night to belong to them?

by

Luke Buckham

i spent some time as a vagrant, able to bathe only every week or two, and those showers became an oasis of uncommon intensity, so that even now i consider my daily shower the only break from existence that i get during the waking part of my day. but today something has invaded my sanctuary. we have been keeping the windows of the apartment open due to the warming weather of approaching spring, and apparently one of the windows let in a visitor, because as i am shaving, the water steaming as it shoots from the showerhead, i see in the background of the mirror a shape that is startling and beautiful, a spot of black fur and soft leather against the peeling hermetic white of the bathroom paint, hanging from the top of the window frame. it is a bat, and it's mouth is opening and closing softly. i already feel affectionate toward it -- i've always enjoyed the more mysterious and unapproachable animals. one time as i walked on a desolate backroad, toward my car, which was all i had to sleep in that night, i saw two porcupines fucking vigorously on the roadside, their quills quivering, and then the female began to walk, taking the still-humping male with her on her back. then she did something incredible--she clamped her little paws onto a telephone pole and began to ascend it, the clasping scratch of her claws audible, the male still thrusting her from behind, clinging to her back. i watched them finish, then descend, still clinging to each other, and depart from my vision into the dark woods. i have seen many wonderful things in my periods of vagrancy, having lots of time to wander the backroads. something hilarious, inspiring, or ironic always happens in time to pull me away from depression. during this same period of homelessness i was walking down that same road and there in the road was a book, laying face-down in the beam of the only streetlight. even before i picked it up i had a feeling that it was something that would restore my spirits. i turned it over and sure enough the cover read "animals who build their own homes" i brought it with me to my car and studied it for clues to how to become such an animal.

i finished shaving, cutting myself a few times because i was watching the bat in the steamed background of the mirror. it's mouth continued to open and close softly every now and then, its little rodent teeth exposed. it looked almost synthetic, in the way that animals you don't often see up close look synthetic. i wanted to cradle it, to pat it's strange black leather ears, but i could smell it's strange forbidding musk and knew that it didn't belong indoors. i wiped some of the blood off my neck and tasted it, thinking suddenly that it might attract the bat, then remembering that it wasn't a vampire, just a common city bat. i went into the kitchen and grabbed a sweater to grab it with, so that i could pin it without hurting it and then release it outside. my room mates asked me what i was doing as i paced around in my towel, putting on my shoes and taking the sweater, and i told them about the bat. they thought it was funny but seemed disturbed by it's presence in our house, while i was simply thrilled to have it as a houseguest. i tried to catch the bat but only succeeded in chasing him higher on the windows frame, where he crouched and made a hissing noise. i remembered that bat are blind and use the soundwaves of their own screams to judge the size and proximity of any object, and imagined myself as that flashing white-then-black dot that we see after we close our eyes against the sun, blinking thoughtless in the beautiful creature's radar. one of my roommates comes and smokes a joint in the bathroom, blowing smoke in the bat's face. it seems to work, the bat stops breathing o heavily and is apparently mellowed. so i make another attempt, and this time catch it. i walk, still in my towel, down the steps and through the lobby. the lights in the lobby are off tonight, and they are usually on, so i feel strange. i near the exit and feel the bat struggle with surprising strength, nearly escaping my grasp. i look down and see his face peering out of the sweater-fabric, his eyes like dead stars, their dark mechanism sightless and seeming to rest upon me, giving me chills as the open like incisions in the porch-light, the shadows of moths fluttering over us, my hands tightening on him. his hiss rises again and i feel his brittle but strong body shudder in my grasp. i walk out to the lawn and lay the sweater down, unfolding it to let his wings unfold. he crawls for only long enough to remind me of a terrible memory, then flies off low over the ground. i'm cheering him, waving my arms, and just as he takes off my towel falls, leaving me naked in my sneakers on the front lawn, but i can't stop watching his flight, which is wobbly at first and then strengthens. my stoned roommate is watching from the window and he laughs hysterically, his cackling seeming to join the motion of the bat in the night. as i grab my towel, giggling in a stifled way, i hear the bat hiss above me in the pine branches.

as the bat crawled another vagrant night came on me, the memory of an ex-girlfriend who had been raped came to me, as i watched him crawl away in his dark beauty, his dark beauty that makes most people nervous. she had leaned against me for comfort, telling me how she had been attacked at a college campus and her ankles were wobbly and sore because he had pinned them with his own feet as he took her, took her in the grass unwillingly. i had once made love to her willingness outdoors in that same grass, and my head throbbed with pain as she told me what had happened. that night, sleeping in my car on a logging road, i sobbed, screaming into the echolessness of the windshield, and my cry was selfish, whimpering that i needed her back, needed her to comfort me, even in her fractured state. i had held her with all the strength i could muster, but she couldn't cry on my shoulder anymore, the ability to weep having been numbed in her. i lamented bitterly that i was unable to have a place for her to stay, that i was unable to keep an apartment with an extra room or even a couch because i couldn't stand the jobs that were available to me. i wasn't guilty, just enraged that i could do nothing immediate to protect her. i had never been so disappointed before with the function of the world, that the tenderest people i knew usually became bitter and unhappy as they grew older because their best qualities were considered useless or at least secondary in the constant drone of the working world. but she had said that she felt comforted as i held her, and i considered this a miracle, a miracle that one in as much turmoil as myself could give anyone comfort. yet i did. a miracle.

i flicked the overhead light on and looked at the wet pits beneath my eyes, and then this day rushed on me, the bat flying off and me naked on the front lawn, snow still on the grass, able to laugh again at life despite the dark memory that had just assaulted me.






ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Luke Buckham writes: "i live in a very hot un-airconditioned attic, with my girlfriend and her pitbull, lucy, in the middle of a dying (dead, actually) industrial city called schenectady (NY), which does not live up to its delicious name. we do not pay rent, so technically we are squatters, but so far the eviction police have not come to take us away. hopefully they will, soon, and force me to move back to the country. here, when i walk out my door, all i walk on is tar, and all i smell is filtered through a screen of smoke. not that i hate the modern world--but most of its manifestations make me nauseous.

i would like to have an artistic life like that of miles davis, always shifting styles, always experimenting, staying 10 steps ahead of the curve, if there is such a curve anymore. not for my ego but for my unsatisfiable hunger. the only kind of art i like is that which is so volatile and lovely that it promotes a deep dissatisfaction with daily life. because of the temperature in my aforementioned attic, i usually write naked, and hopefully the spirit of my comfortable, guiltless nudity comes through in my words."








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