Crystalline Heights


When the flow of anything - a line, a river, blood - is interrupted, the cease of motion wreaks havoc. Thus the blur of speed becomes necessary; the streets of the city have become winding neon smears of light from which they hope to flush out the guilt and drown the stars.

The door closed with a whine, a click. Routine made life faster, if only to count the minutes. Relationships are cathexes of maximum erotic intensity played out within a minimum amount of invested time - why not pay to have it faster? I clutched the coins in my palm; the most rampant symptom of unbridled consumerism is the consumption of objects that cannot be consumed and whose consumption does not exceed the moment of expenditure.

There was a time when I could hear a single slow moan from a high window where curtains fluttered into empty alleys. The outlines of the murdered sprawled untouched on the walls like the dead of Pompeii. Perhaps I was nostalgic, for on that night, as the endless crowd screamed and laughed below on the streets, I felt the need to single out one face, to make one person, one voice, stand out amidst the white noise. I watched as the chosen face was smothered behind opaque doors.

From behind J. wrapped an arm around me and began sounding out bad rhymes. I looked into the darkened vacancy of the night and thought of the sound penetrating my ear then vanishing, like the frosted air that left J.'s mouth like an unchained bird whose idiotically flapping wings doom it to dissolution.

The city was belly-up in the river. From the horizon of the balcony, only the brim of the corpse was visible: the spires of the churches, the rusted dome of the courthouse, the puffing mouths of the smokestacks, the limits of formal structures, of questions and answers.

J. let go and took a step back, maintaining the chorus of clichés. I leaned over the railing; I had made a habit of dangling when J. came. I hoped J. would push me into the anonymities beneath us. J. said nothing, did nothing - "nothing" had become necessary.

At the bottom of a deep maze of cliff-like buildings, reflective mirrors were used to expand spaces, doubling them, quadrupling them, multiplying them into vertiginous infinity. In the mirror across the street I saw J. behind me, smiling. J. was satisfied to be everywhere, each manifestation pretending to be unique. I stirred the coins in my palm, looking for a hidden message, and tossed them into the street below, one by one. They sparked in all colors.

J. watched greedily, with an open mouth. I reached for my drink.

A penny dropped out of my hand, spun and rolled the wrong way, an accident that could not be avoided but would not be believed. I stood in the doorway as the walls crinkled and snapped like a photograph in fire, then became a searing white, darkness in negative.

We went inside together, just like a couple of mannequins in the arc of a shop window might, if given the doubtlessly coveted opportunity.
Brandon Chan-Yung & Louise Norlie