On my way back from meeting with my attorney (with whom I’d just finalized my will) I took a different route home. Being in a pensive mood, I decided to walk instead of riding in a taxi. I dont know how wise that was. Before long I got lost on account of the medicine I’m taking, which tends to disorient. The unhappy prognosis I received a few weeks earlier, still ringing in my ears, surely contributed to my distraction as well.
I soon found myself on an unfamiliar street that bordered a forest. It was a mild, sunny day. I was feeling the need to get my mind off my condition. So lost or not, I crossed the street and entered the woods.
Since my diagnosis I’ve been much less cautious about taking risks. I was filled that day with a reckless inclination to satisfy my curiosity. As I walked the forest trail, enjoying the stillness, I observed fungi adhering sculpturally to the bark of trees too dilapidated to be called mighty, too near their inevitable collapse (like myself) to provoke sympathy, and altogether too somber to sit under.
I concluded this was a regular forest like any other. That is, until a peculiarity I soon came upon forced me to change my opinion. Several young folk of both sexes were climbing trees naked and standing on their heads or doing other acrobatics in the clearings. Two of the boys looked hardly old enough to be street trade. One of the females, fully developed in body, reminded me of my one and only visit years ago to the Pussycat Theater. What were they up to, I wondered? It was clear they were not felling trees.
My gaze lingered on the two lads; they were digging a hole. Then on the gal with the face of a mermaid and body of a voluptuous fairy who gathered acorns nearby. On a limb of the pine tree above the boys hung a ghoulish wooden mask. Great was my consternation when I saw how closely it resembled myself, though the equanimity of those beneath it tended to lessen the horror on its curmudgeon face.
The young lady brought her yield of the wood’s nuts and laid them in the hole. Next she stretched her arms to the mask as if asking it to bless her offering. Sun played shadows on her torso. One about two inches wide cut from her right shoulder, across that breast (close to her narrow cleavage), diagonally across her tummy, obliterating her navel and just grazing the left border of her pubic bush. She stood, legs spread, bare feet firmly planted on a brocade of pine needles. An even lusher carpet of sphagnum moss on a dead horizontal redwood trunk about three feet away seemed to beckon her squarish pink buttocks.
It was the boys who sat on the trunk. One was stocky with the face of a tyrant. The other, whom though taller I took to be younger, perhaps barely in his teens, was extremely slender, pallid, his handsome face with its delicate features wearing an expression of wonder as if he could not believe he existed.
When I looked back at the first tree I knew for certain this was no ordinary forest. The mask had become animated, youthful, transformed to that of the ravishing female who stood before it. Her face, in turn, took on the blank look common to catatonic schizophrenics. She intoned words that sounded like a chant. I could not make out what she said.
My attention was then drawn to the stout lad; he’d stolen the pretty one’s face. He sat there, legs crossed, hands outstretched as if sleepwalking. And the boy I had subliminally put in my own childhood shoes wore what I anticipated, for which reason I’d been reluctant to look at him again; it was the expression of a bitter old man who dares the carrion birds hovering above him to come and pierce his wrinkles with their beaks. I retched at sight of this boy. All the more so as the charm of his torso and sinuous arms and legs only further mocked the despoliation of that once sweet face.
Then I watched him rise, walk toward the maiden. Were she slut or virgin, I knew not. It was not horror, revulsion or nausea with which I saw what came next. It was the determination of a sleeper who knows his dream has gotten to a point where he will not even ask himself if he has a choice, he will force himself awake. But only in a moment since he finds his revulsion fascinating . . .
The boy knelt before the young lady in the hole filled with the forest’s fruit and put his senescent head all the way inside her. It would not have been so bad if I’d happened on the scene just then for the tableau of those two young bodies had a certain grace to it, reminding me of Rodin’s Eternal Idol. But I was all too aware of what was inside that female sex. Jesus who bled in vain, forgive me for seeing it! It was my own old age burrowing back inside my young mother’s womb. My mother who, in a photograph of her trousseau, resembles the Virgin Mary.
Each pine needle pierced the air as if it were the odalisque’s clitoris trapanning the skull inside her body. Suddenly it came to me, I heard the words she had chanted: requiescat pudendum. I’ve no idea why that skull did not explode with joy. I wanted to roll in those words like a dog in something it has just smelled . . . requiescat pudendum! Such beautiful phonemes . . . req . . . scat . . . pud . . .
I could not pull myself away. The fat kid with the now beatific face who’d remained on the log shoved a twig like a shard of the true cross in his ear. With his other hand he beat off his fourteen inch cock. The girl no longer chanted. She moaned, pressing her fingers of ivory into the beast’s shoulders. Indeed, the kneeling lad had grown fur on his legs, and his feet had become hoofs.
To top things off, the mask of anarchy on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had changed again. It now smiled like a whoring cherub. I heard the stocky boy intone pater nosters. I knew by a seventh sense that the limb of the tree on which the mask was set was about to break. It would land in the hole and crush the satyr squirming there like a giant embedded tick. And I knew that all over the world this same mask would fall on pagan children, nubile witches, queer priests, shamanic drag queens . . .
I’d had more than enough. My moment of entranced revulsion was up. I did not care what the other beings, human or not, in that forest were up to. Not even if Beatrice herself came back to pin me to a mossy fallen trunk and set twenty naked athletes to crawl over my flesh, catapulting me instantly to the paradise I longed for.
I fled the forest. Back to the street I crossed to enter it. All but threw myself in front of the first taxi that appeared. I was soon safely home in my bathroom, luxuriating in a steaming tub. In one hand I held a whiskey sour; the other rested on the tub’s edge, inches from a razor blade.