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Authors: Steve Erickson

Our Ecstatic Days

BOOK: Our Ecstatic Days
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A
LSO BY
S
TEVE
E
RICKSON

The Sea Came In At Midnight

American Nomad

Amnesiascope

Arc d’X

Leap Year

Tours of the Black Clock

Rubicon Beach

Days Between Stations

SIMON & SCHUSTER
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2005 by Steve Erickson

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-800-456-6798 or [email protected]

Manufactured in the United States of America

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

ISBN 13: 978-0-7432-6472-3
ISBN 0-7432-6472-X
eISBN 13: 978-1-439-14229-5

“Space Monkey,” text by Patti Smith, © 1978 Patti Smith. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The lines from “Opal Moon,” copyright 1999 Merrie Amsterburg, are from the album
Little Steps,
released on Zoë/Rounder Records.
www.merrieamsterburg.com

Parts of this novel originally appeared in different form in
Conjuctions.
I wish to also thank the MacDowell Colony for their generous hospitality and support.

for Lori and Miles

If there’s a higher light
let it shine on me
let it shine on me
through the trees …

’cause I know this sea wants to carry me
it’s a sweet, sweet sound she sings
for my release …

under the opal moon
the world seems right to me

and all that I can say I feel is peace

and oh, the dark night wind
is calling out for me

an obscure pop song of the early Twenty-First Century

… for beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror
we can just barely endure

Rilke

2004
 

Sometimes I’m paralyzed
by my love for him. He calls me from his bed in the middle of the night and, you know, I can’t resist. It’s the way he calls, not sleepy or frightened or crying, but determined and aware and awake….

Mama? and I can hear the question mark so insistent it isn’t a question … it would break my heart not to answer.

In my heart he opens the door to this vast terrain of fear. It’s a fear stretching out beyond these young years of mine when mortality is supposed to be so inconceivable. How have mothers down through the ages survived their love for their kids? The thought of his mortality is abysmal to me….

One afternoon we were at the fair down by the lakeside, and a vendor had in captivity one of the owls that have invaded the city ever since the lake first appeared three years ago. She was explaining to some other mom’s kid how, far up in the sky, the owl can hear a human heartbeat, and even at that very minute I thought to myself this owl could hear Kirk’s little heart as I stood there holding him in my arms. Could it hear his heart when he
was still inside me three years ago? Was that my first betrayal of my boy—his birth, exposing him to the peril of owls that hear heartbeats? Every night I wait for the sun to set before writing this, there it goes now, slipping down

behind the San Vicente Bridge that crosses the lake to the northwest, I see it from my window … sun goes down, sky goes dark, lake goes black, and owls swoop across the rising moon like leaves blown loose from some phantasmagoric tree twisting up out of the ground

and my voice rises from the crypt of my consciousness shaking words off like topsoil. Kirk and I are bonded by a cord of blood that runs from his heart to my thighs. Menstrual waves crash against the inner beach of my belly.

There was this song from
before he was born, I heard it on a bus riding Pacific Coast Highway south, blacksea glittering in the sun like gun metal, he was tumbling around and around inside me like he did, thrashing in the cradle of me … and it came out of a small radio across the aisle a row behind me, an older man, college professor-type in a brown corduroy coat gazing out my side of the bus at the sea. It was hot through the window but I liked it after all those cold pregnant months in Tokyo…. I heard it just once, a strange little song with distant Moorish drums and a dreamy Middle Eastern melody and soft spanish horns in the back, and a woman singing in a turn-of-the-century voice … but not this century. Last century. Maybe all turn-of-the-century voices are the same, pure, floating, lost. Like it could as easily have been the voice of either 1920s Paris or bright shimmery twenty-first-century Reykjavik. Spanish horns hypnotized me, the singer’s voice transported me

if there’s a higher light let it shine on me … through the trees

 

and hearing it just that once, I never forgot it

’cause I know this sea wants to carry me it’s a sweet, sweet sound she sings for my release …

 

Later after the college professor got off the bus with his radio and the bus continued onward, I went on singing it to myself
if there’s a higher light
sang it to myself just as much not to forget it as anything, and inside me
let it shine on me
inside Kirk stopped thrashing, listening. I knew he was listening. Later, after he was born, I would ask if he remembered me singing it to him, and he said he did. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But I would sing it to him before going to sleep, by the window of our apartment, while the nightwind came in off the lake.

Started this journal in Tokyo, stopped when I thought I miscarried him, then started again after I got back to L.A. … that was around the time the lake first appeared, that mid-September three years ago after Kirk was born. Of course it was already there before that, before anyone realized it was ever going to turn into an actual lake, the center near where Hollywood Boulevard used to meet Laurel Canyon Boulevard, nothing more than a puddle the morning it first bubbled up, no one thinking anything about it until however long it was before it cut the canyon off from the rest of the city….

Since the city was in the middle of one of its usual droughts, a lake that appeared from nowhere and kept getting bigger ought to have been a little suspicious—but I guess that’s easy to say in retrospect. “What’s that old machinery out there in the water?” the writer down the hall asked me not that long ago, staring in the distance out his window, and I said, “Pumps from when they tried to drain it …”

As usual Kirk was busy demolishing the guy’s apartment, sitting over in the corner pulling the tape out of a video. “Hey!” I yelled. He stopped long enough to gauge whether this admonition
was to be taken any more seriously than any of the others, before returning to the task at hand. “Hey!” I said again, “stop!”

Over by the window, the writer glanced at Kirk unfazed. “When did they try to drain it?”

“I guess when it didn’t, you know, just go away on its own … evaporate or whatever….” As I snatched Kirk up in my arms, he lunged for the video he had just disemboweled, squalling Mine! “No one had figured out yet it was filling up from a hole in the bottom…. Knock it off!”

“They ever figure out whether the water was coming from the sea?”

… no it wasn’t coming from the sea … by then, the edge of the lake had just reached south of Sunset Boulevard. A few weeks later it was almost all the way to Fountain Avenue, which meant it was only a couple of blocks from our old hotel here at the top of what’s now called the St Jim Peninsula, named after a very fancy hotel up on the Strip I can still see from my window. Kirk and I used to sit watching it during feeding right after he was born, lavender and magenta kliegs on the walls and the Ether Bar where young glam Hollywood drank tequila martinis. But as the lake overtook Sunset, you could see the kliegs go out and darkness move up floor by floor until it was all dead.

Doc says it would have gone anyway of its own volition. Rotted by decadence from the bottom up … as close as I’ve ever heard her come to sounding judgmental about anything, and the only time I’ve ever heard her sound almost glad to see a building die. In the old rundown hotel here where Kirk and I live, some on the first floor have already started moving out. Sometime in that first year, when the city would send boats out to the center of the lake, sending divers down to figure out where the lake was coming from, they referred to it in the newspaper and on the radio as “lake zero”—as in, you know, ground zero. And then at some point it got shortened to Lake Z or, sometimes, Lake Zed.

You’ll spend your whole
life,” Doc said when I told her this dream I had, “making peace with your own true nature …”

… whatever that means. In the dream I was on the banks of what was once Laurel Avenue, near the old 1930s apartment where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived when he was writing movies … I was lying there hypnotically fixed on the center of the lake….

Lying there in my dream I was suddenly aware of my own womb predating me. Aware of my womb being older than I … down inside I could hear historical rumors little spasms of collective memory rippling outward up to my lungs and down to my thighs … it infuriated me. It seemed so typical … after all, do men’s dicks predate them? In my dream I rejected it, this part of me that was my son’s first home … and then in a surge of guilt I rejected him. And then realized, in the dream, he wasn’t there. I sprang up from where I was, looking around frantically, from the water in front of me to the trees on the banks behind me
… and opened my eyes to find myself sitting up in my bed, in the grip of this maternal dread I can’t ignore….

I never dreamed at all the first seventeen/eighteen years of my life … slipping into the womb of the night every time I slept … dark, still, swaddled in the unseen, the unlistened. Waking every morning knowing I had tumbled down this wormhole of the unconscious into some void, feeling a little more nuts every morning I woke like I spent the night drifting in the black, farther and farther from the mothership of who I am, barely twinkling stars of all my impulses all around me. Feeling even when I was awake that I was really still out there, floating…. Crazy, when I was young, just to have any dream at all, and doing some crazy crazy things in the night to find one. But I never dreamed until that night in Tokyo that I lost him, electric icicle of him melting out of me between my legs onto my fingertips. Then he was back later that morning, I felt his return, my little unborn man who himself had been cut loose in space the night before, drifting far away until somehow, in a burst of embryonic will, he swam back through the tide of Nada in a cosmic breaststroke….

BOOK: Our Ecstatic Days
13.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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