Stripped and Sold for Parts will be done soon. In the meantime, enjoy the sections below:
. . .
Icy morning air had frozen Revy’s nose and cheeks, leaving them numb. He hugged shivering knees to his chest as winds now took turns nipping at his wrists, ears, and neck. His own warmth inside his coat made him sweat, slowly drenching innermost layers of the filthy clothes he had worn for days.
He sat alone and huddled on the stiff bench of a downtown bus stop. There were no signs of any others on the streets, though he knew they would come later with the sun.
An odd twinge in his throat felt like a stubborn thorn, and he swallowed, hard, again and again, trying to catch whatever it was on soft, fleshy tissues to send down.
His eyes were squelchy pools, his pupils probably dilated to alien proportions.
Voices like scheming old ladies seemed to cross each other everywhere in his mind. He had been asking the voices questions before being overwhelmed by advancing waves of cold, though the voices only ever seemed to laugh and splinter out in response, disappearing to fractal machine sounds and echoes of things Revy felt he could almost recognize.
Did they not like being paid attention to?
His head ached in jolts. Certain spots felt as though they were being run through continuously with swords. These wounds became old men who grasped at bearded uh-oh faces as they slipped off edges of cliffs. Revy could have sworn he almost saw a bed of tiny yellow flowers, pretty amongst the cliffs’ jagged rocks.
But glimpses came only in moments just too late, and never to last. He watched it all blast to splintered colors . . . then nothing.
There was a funny feeling, like seeing through the eyes of something else that wished to live.
Could it be an unborn song?
A familiar conversation emerged from the noise: “Need more pills. Only ten left. Four today, and four tomorrow, then two, and there needs to be more by then, or else…”
The old men now took turns gnashing themselves against variously sized daggers in pitiful display.
Within and amongst each fleeting outline remainder of Revy’s hard night alone on the bench, he heard hints and traces of the mysterious woman’s voice from the day before, now lifetimes ago. She had sung to him, off and on, throughout the night, and her voice was also his own; he was sure of it, though he knew also that wasn’t why she sounded so familiar.
Whenever she sang, he would sit up straight to listen, but then immediately curve his spine, wrists, and ankles, knowing without knowing why this would allow him hear her all the more.
Like him, she only seemed to sing in songs unfinished.
He tossed back another pill, regretting the loss right away. He hoped it would force down whatever still felt lodged.
The blades through his skull withdrew at once from their torture, and every wound was stuffed with pads of fuzzy cloth. The pain grew soft and distant, like an underwater scream.
And Revy was submerged in crystal liquid then as well, floating completely still in vast emptiness and silence. Turning in the deep, his eyes were closed, yet he watched as summer sunlight began to paint its dazzling arrays across his eyelids. The light came through to meet him in swirls like endless cosmoses, flashing with no distance between each unique beginning and end.
He smiled the smile of a grandmother then, one left with few if any teeth. Feeling full of years and slow-spun kindnesses, he knew only fondness for a happy, bright, and well-lived life of smiling faces and special places shared.
He was hardly aware as the cold worked its way through to penetrate his coat at last, quickly permeating the drenched fabric of his undershirt. He didn’t mind the icy monster that wouldn’t seem to rest until it squeezed him to his core. Sleepily, he felt the shivering advance. Fast, then slow, it led him quietly and curiously toward what might be smiling Death.
And Death could only ever smile.
And what was she singing about now?
But there she went, shying playfully away as he coiled his back and couldn’t help but lean in close to hear.
Perhaps she really was the voice of all his would-be words, like children crying out to their father from within, telling him things he wanted to say and loved more than life but could never quite hear.
His eyes felt sketchy and loose, like spinning, pulpy water balloons dangling far outside his skull.
His throat clenched, raw and mechanical against its own matter, threatened never to open again. Had he simply filled his quota for swallowing and then promptly forgotten how?
His Iun came to mind. He hoped it was still charged, at least enough to last until the sun fought back the cold and all its friends.
He rose on unsteady ankles and slid pods into both ears. The quaint and jolly sound of his oldest guitar, his first friend, was like being greeted by a panting, wooden golden retriever that couldn’t help but leap to lick his face at his return. The crisp voice of familiar strings, and he could smell them fresh on his fingers.
The woman’s voice grew louder, trembling within and upon his sound. She swept up to rest above. High, proud, glorious, and simple. And all, and all at once…
He knew then he probably never would make out her precious words. Yet he let himself listen without leaning in at all, happy just to hear the way she lit his friendly shambles with her warmth.
As he walked, the combined sound didn’t remind him of even the chance at better days gone by.
. . .
“But I never said anything to anyone. It just wasn’t the way most people…
“I’m not sure how you’ll write this part down, but we honestly just forgot to go back. That’s all. We were looking at the stars and the waves. We were singing. We were talking about . . . I forget. Silly things. People.
“She was the only one that knew what had happened with me before. She was the only one I could ever tell.
“We really didn’t know how long we were gone, or what was happening with the news and everything.
“That probably doesn’t make any sense.
“But I think we were down under that bridge near The City for about four days. We didn’t eat.
“We had a camping canteen with us. Some water. But I don’t remember ever drinking.
“It really just felt like we’d left the world or something . . . like, so far away that we forgot all about everything else.
“When we got back, everything was different. Caylee’s parents took her from school, and I never saw her again. There was nothing like Iun’s back then to keep in touch. She was gone.
“You probably think I sound so stupid or crazy, but it was just a . . . a different kind of situation. I mean, I hope you don’t get the wrong idea.
“Like, I don’t remember missing her at all. I wasn’t sad. It was more like Caylee was always with me. And she still is.
“I didn’t cry. I…
“What are you writing now?”
. . .
Ray seems to respond to prolonged eye-contact as if being sighted by a pistol.
As he spoke, I found I could only meet his unsteady gaze for brief stints, and only whenever he raised it to hover in my general direction.
I listened to his whole story without interrupting, endeavoring even to move as little as possible so as not to disrupt his flow.
When finished, he asked again about what I had been writing.
I told him I had made a note to ask if he thought Caylee would describe herself as being the same as him or different.
Something about Caylee was not making sense. She sounded like a Normal. Details of young, Normal, female clients had connected in my mind as he spoke, all gelling together as usual.
Yet adolescent Normal females do not form close bonds with male Outlier peers. The social hierarchies of high school seem almost perfectly designed to impede such ties.
Ray never did speak to my implied question about how he thought Caylee would describe herself.
Do I suspect he was lying at all, or withholding information?
What he shared about their time under the bridge obviously contained elements that cannot be true in reality. People do not forget their lives. They do not forget to eat and drink.
Ray mentioned having never had any thoughts of romance with Caylee, though he also mentioned loving her.
Yet what set of teens would write off sex as unimportant?
If not for the fact that Caylee’s disappearance with Ray had been voluntary, my guess would be he had just grossly overestimated their connection.
Such self-deceptive embellishments are not uncommon, especially for Outliers when they wish to fit in but find they cannot.
Yet the purpose of such embellishments is usually denial; and, again, Ray shows no signs of denial. Rather, he seems to be quite grimly aware of his particular peculiarities.
We will certainly be returning to the “bad thing that happened” before his time with Caylee.
At present, I am more concerned with measuring the exact weight and essence of his apparent fabrications or misrememberings:
Me: “So you never talked about sex with Caylee?”
After a long pause:
Ray: “I think the love we felt was…
“But no, I don’t think we ever talked about it.”
In all honesty, I was momentarily translated back to the time my own youth, though I should endeavor to keep my experience from determining my judgment a priori.
There simply must be more to Ray’s story for me to uncover.
My current conclusion is that his reported relationship with Caylee defies both Biology and my extensive knowledge of Normal/Outlier dynamics.
We arranged another appointment. I have plenty to roll over as I consider how to best dig further next time.
In a way, Ray comes across as unbelievably genuine. I do not buy his innocent-at-all-costs routine; however, I would not call it an “act.”
His embellishments certainly seem unintentional.