Evergrey (Kirk Marshall)
There is a tree; the squirrels know this. You could professionally train a red-kneed bird-eating spider to locate it by scent, but still the bulbous globe of the huntress would emerge the other side of the wood, scattered and baffled. It’s a blue tree, with a congregation of foliage that sounds like the world’s loneliest letters-to-the-editor when the wind swifts by.
I call it Evergrey. There are real facts, like love and summer and Warren Beatty and crimson. These are some things; there are others, too. What I like about Evergrey is that it only attracts real facts. It is the opposite of a person in this way: it possesses no need for the inhalation of fiction.
I remember a girl; she was something. A real fact, a beatific crimson, a summer love. My feet have never been extremities to profess to the transubstantiating prowess of my intellect: I can walk no better nor more impressively than I can remember scents. This girl had a perfume about her, but all I remember from my instances with her is the deliberate story of my feet, which is a terrible vacancy, and I have to wonder what has engineered us all to be so talented at loss? When I was young I would amuse myself by harbouring a belief that each blade of grass was like a blind man aching to caress something real, touch a sole or shoe the way a hand plunges through water to ensnare a fish. I have seen this on television; I know how it is done. This girl was like the grass, which is to say I refused capture or navigated my feet all over her geography.
Bodies retreat beneath spontaneous intimacy: a kiss is a knife, after all, and it severs resentment from a smiting fist. She looked gentle; she wore a red jersey, mine, over naked shoulders. I have always hated algebra, and she threatened to thwart this, my eyes finally recognising the hidden constant. A mathematical smile: I say this because it was incalculable. She claimed to know a tree-herder, someone who reared larch and beechwood, and he was apparently an old man with damp eyes with a riverboat not far from the left bank of Everygrey Lake. There was no such man, and the body of water to which I refer remains anonymous.
An unnamed mirror, black like a comet’s underbelly. She was my Evergrey Lake. I chased her to the tree once. That is to say, I begged her for a kiss and she ran away. Her laughter was a thing to summon. It was a convertible through winter rain. When I transferred my tongue for hers, I came away indebted. Allow me to explain: she seized ownership of my private life, by reaching through the summit of me, beneath the sediment, where the worms trembled and convulsed. She found something approximate to fertile, at least I thought so, because a shoot began budding and coiling within my chest, my own little simulation of the Evergrey tree. There was nothing quite so exact as her hair; now I am equipped the foresight to discern that my observation was only romantic folly. Her hair was no different from decayed coral, but I did not realise this for a long time because my eyes are sensitive to the sun. For all it’s worth, I thought there was no material so lustrous.
When I joined her beneath the pollen-shaggy canopy, my hands would congregate around her jeans: these were blue; her Levis, and not my hands.
I can’t tell you how kinetic a sensation it was to fan my palm over these jeans: it wasn’t that these skin-intimate tubular accessories alluded to the indefatigable plunder of her legs, which shone like the surfaces of night dolphins emerging through surf, but because of what they physically manifested. I wasn’t so intent on the sublime arrangement of the female form which these jeans denied me, but the brazen-blazered blue fabric hugging her pelvis, itself, the same way an ice-cream flavour arouses the ache of hunger because of the tongue navigating its sweet, frozen dome. You want that ice-cream almost as much as you crave that tongue; this is what it was for me to witness the girl gyrating about in her Levis. There is a narratological reference offered by a structuralist theoretician regarding signification, which argues that a pipe and the illustration of the same pipe are different things. When I think of her jeans, and later draw these, I cannot pursue the theoretician’s point: they are exactly the same thing, and this thing is all about sex and not the territory of language. I mean the visceral act, the practice, and not the sociolinguistic theory that assesses it: sex is something that occurs off the page, for words cannot seek to supplement the pleasure with their feeble phonetic preoccupations. I will only say that the girl made my testicles ache. But isn’t this a fact of uneducated love?
Her body was something to draw clichés from the soil like a mouth sucking poison. It was black like a terrible victory, marbled black like the aperture of a gun.
My red jersey collapsed around her shoulders, and she looked significant, glamorous. Vanity provoked me to scale the Evergrey to demonstrate my prowess as both a lover and an athlete. I clambered up the peril-brindled trunk, accelerating over the conifer’s spiny flesh with the brutalised pads of my feet. Some days I recall looking down at the girl and capturing a smile of warm chastisement, and an upwelling of magnificent brown breasts; other days I know this is a mythology which I have grafted onto the memory to retain some retrospective grace.
What I know is that as I ascended the thicket of branches, inhaling purple thistle and vaulting between the Evergrey’s violent intersection of limbs I looked out from my post and viewed the viscid, bright contour of green sky and saw a distant figure escorting ripples in their turbid thousands through the surface of Evergrey Lake. I climbed higher to secure a better post, and squinted through the microcosm of aspidistra-spores describing their lazy ballet around my warring eyes. I visored my brow with a palm, and struggled higher so that my view was unimpeded, installed with a new capacity for geometry, so that I could spy on the silhouette of the swimmer far beyond the base of the Evergrey.
I chewed the inside of my cheek, and hissed to the girl: “There’s someone naked in the lake, away from the other side of the wood. There’s someone fucking naked, I swear.” She rewarded me no response, so I scaled to the tree’s apex, where the branches were so few that the lack of traction seized me in a vertiginous fear. The swimmer looked up at me then, and I knew who it was.
I fell from the Evergrey and sailed into the afternoon, raging through branches that cut me like adultery. I woke to find myself covered in blood, and with a damp-eyed tree-herder angled over me, his mouth tiny with horror, whispering: “I remember you. You were at the lake when that girl died all those years ago?”