Saturday, January 30, 2010

I, Vampire: Part III


Angoisse / Anxiety: One can define these terms in many ways. One awkward, but revealing way is to say it’s the tension one feels when one realizes they’re always running the risk of being abandoned or existing in a state of revulsion – just after they’ve felt the glorious moment of engulfment or, well, the myth of total unity. Absolute unity is a condition reserved for the afterlife. No one really wants it in the here and now, no matter how they profess a desire for it.

The road to Wal-Mart was barricaded by police cars cordoning off the rural hospital so a med-evac helicopter could land on the two-laned asphalt street leading to the emergency room. Tinguely turned the corner as a deputy sheriff waved angrily at her, and a man with a headset spoke and looked at his watch.

Tinguely’s stomach clenched. She averted her eyes. Her pulse raced. She did not want to think about what might happen next. She felt anxious.

As the automatic doors slid open, Tinguely felt herself calm. The smell of grilling hotdogs mixed with disinfectant.

The Wal-Mart greeter said hello to Tinguely. Another offered her a glistening hunk of sausage on the end of a toothpick. When Tinguely shook her head “no” she moved on to the next guest. Tinguely did have a chance to ask the greeter if they carried Roberto Bolano's final book, 2666, in Spanish. She half-expected to find it in the original Spanish, since at least 60 percent of the population spoke Spanish. It used to be more, but Burmese and Somalian refugees had been brought in to fill the slaughterhouse jobs that had once been filled by illegal Mexican immigrants.

At the very least, she'd be able to find the English version. She felt sure of that.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. There were no books in Spanish. There were a few Spanish language tabloids, and a few DVDs featuring black and white "clasicos" of "el cine mexicano." She recognized Cantinflas, a populist everyman who rivaled Charlie Chaplin in popularity. Cantinflas had a bit more "chispa" or spark. At least, that was Tinguely's opinion. She had only seen one Charlie Chaplin movie, and she disagreed with its politics.

There were a few shiny best-sellers and a wall of Harlequin romances. A middle-aged woman looked up, startled, as Tinguely walked by.

Tinguely experimented with telepathy. She directed thoughts directly to the woman: "I know what you're after. You're hooked on the raunchy hot scenes! We all know what's in those books!!"

If the woman could hear Tinguely's thoughts, she gave no indication of it. Tinguely peered into her shopping cart. A twelve-pack of Fanta Grape. An eight-pack of Charmin toilet paper. Cheerios. Doritos. Salsa. Needle-nosed pliers. Cat litter. Bunion pads.


The Wal-Mart book section was next to the in-store McDonald’s. A young Hispanic woman sat with her two children. They were eating French fries and drinking a Coke. The woman was examining a bottle of nail polish. Tinguely thought she would enjoy 2666. But, perhaps she would not.

Je t’aime! It had the same sound as a meadowlark’s song, or a crow or a raven. It is the sound one makes when one is flying in one’s dreams, or simply with eyes closed, gripped in a fatal embrace. (For the lonely spirit, that fatal embrace is also known as “life.” For the vampire, that fatal embrace is also known as “blood”).

Back to the books. The latest vampire series was next to the section marked Inspirational. Nowhere was there the award-winning masterwork of a thoughtful Spanish-speaking writer (translated to English), whose noir Touch of Evil for the 21st century explored what, exactly, lived in the border between states of being. This time the work of art would focus on Ciudad Juarez and not Tijuana. In both cases, the emphasis was on appetite. At least that's what Tinguely wagered. She had no idea, but wanted to know.

If Wal-Mart could sell vampire fantasies to middle-schoolers, why couldn't they sell a novel that confronted the way people prefer to go subterranean when they feel their core identity is at risk? Why is it they go underground when what they really are could make them vulnerable?

Go subterranean when your core identity is compromised.

Go underground. Invest in a human trafficker. Move north, south, east, or west. Believe in reinvention.

Reinvent & wrap your their fingers around the throat of hope. Touch it. Then run from it. It is the only logical way to live.

The woman seated at a bench table at McDonald’s with her two children took out the nail polish, shook it, then deftly applied the tip of the tiny brush to her younger daughter’s index finger. The girl was wearing a pink hoodie and wore a pink bow in her dark, wavy brown hair. Her ears were pierced. She wore pearls.

It was easier to keep the vampires in lightweight fiction written by a conservative Mormon virgin, whose creatures of the night were innocuous prom-goers and paragons of faux-Goth fashion.


I love you! Je’taime! Te amo! It makes no difference how one says it. The words simply reflect the inadequacy of language to express something that probably should stay ineffable. After all, if you stripped love of its ineffability, you’d probably strip it of its power.

Disappointed to not be able to buy the book, Tinguely roamed through office supplies. She decided to buy a pack of multicolored file folders and index cards. For reading material, she grabbed "The Worst Celeb Diets" issue of the National Enquirer. Cellulite and shots of celebrities who had packed on 50 or 60 pounds reassured her that yes, we're all ordinary mortals.

The sound of an ambulance distracted her as she walked through the Wal-Mart parking lot. Love and death had been united since the time of Dionysus, perhaps even longer.

Death, life, and the sacred.

A north wind brought the smell of the stockyards to her. The acrid smell burned her eyes. A Burmese man wearing a long fold of cloth like a skirt walked pushed a bicycle. A Catholic nun stood in the corner of the parking lot. A small, sand-blasted, sun-faded van looked to be filled with folded lawn chairs. Tinguely saw a small box filled with small plastic rosaries -- the ones you'd receive as gifts at a first communion.

Tinguely thought of the Tibetan prayer flags she had purchased in a small store near Lark Street in downtown Albany, NY. Would a refugee set up a small Buddhist shop here in the Texas Panhandle? Would the Somalis set up shop, start small enterprises here on the prairie?

Unlike the seething dynamism of the Mexican-American border, the Somalis and the Burmese were clumped together. Islands? Dollops of humanity plopped onto cracked caliche? Immiscible cultures, at least for a generation or so. That was the impression that was given.

It was a kind of protection.

At least, that is what it seemed in comparison to the cultures that did knot, twist, stream, and flow together (and apart). Helicopter rotors. A man shouting. Blood on a gurney. A man taking notes, writing. A woman searching for a book to explain it all.

And that same woman walking back to her car forced to satisfy herself with a tabloid and the realization that the only one who had any solutions at all in the entire 10,000 square mile expanse was the lone nun with a van full of lawn furniture and rosaries.

Pray if you can.

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