The first five days of my east coast romp have burned with the queer fuel of a fever dream. Queer days which have made it not so much of a romp as a dazed transport to another, half-forgotten, half-unknown world.
Terra Incognita, Terra Oblitus. I’m speaking, of course, of the Tri-State Area.
In the last few days, I fed goats and sheep food pellets from cake ice cream cones at a micro-zoo called Elmwood Park. I learned the unholy screeches of howler monkeys can carry a good 5 kilometers through the jungle, (which is handy to know if you’re writing a one-act expressionistic play in which two bedraggled, shipwrecked, verging-on-psychotic protagonists should be haunted by monkey cries deep, perhaps three-miles deep, into the forest–which I’m not…writing that play…but I will be soon.)
I watched gargoylish leaf-nosed bats scale terrarium glass upside down and devour a cantaloupe like garden-party ladies at luncheon.
And the “fun” facts I learned about prairie dogs and their underground megacities (pop. 4 million) of yore…I don’t think that’s a scene anyone wants to file away.
I resolved to take up the ukulele. I attended my cousin’s high school graduation where one of the speakers dared to use the phrase “reach for the stars.” A phrase that is only funny or inspiring at Space Camp, and even then it must be used ironically.
I narrowly escaped a really rockin’ jam session in West Philly with my friends Marla and Jill.
How close we came to burning memories in our brain that we could never ever expunge! Instead we gazed upon the collection of exotic instruments hanging on Marla’s dining room wall, belonging to Marla’s husband, thought better of it, and continued eating our chips and sandwiches.
Then I developed an actual fever and things got even queerer. Victorian beach houses, florid wallpaper, tear drop chandeliers, plagues of hydrangeas, children sleeping with half-open eyes, oceanic waters advancing and retreating, advancing and retreating. Bi-planes streamers imploring me to eat more crab legs.
Cape May, New Jersey. The whole town is a shimmering fever dream that I’ve been having every other summer for the last fourteen years.
I’m here with my peeps, my clan, four generations of people with whom I share enough genetic material to allow its junior members to gallop stuffed ponies across my face and allow other junior members to guide me to her bedroom where I am supposed to sit and wait while she searches for beads with which she will fashion me a bracelet…except five minutes later she doesn’t come back…and ten minutes later she doesn’t come back…and I’m getting really anxious and I’m wondering where the tarnation are her bloody beads and I really want a bracelet, and her bedroom is eerie–she stationed me in a chair opposite a cat lamp, so I get up and look out the window and yes, I think I just saw her riding piggy-back on my cousin, and yes, she forgot about me sitting alone in her darkened creepy cat-lamp bedroom waiting to be presented with my choice of beads.
Forgotten. Oblitus. Like the sand carvings near the water’s edge, like the salt-water taffy we bring home and toss in the back of the cupboard, because it turns out taffy sucks when eaten inland, like the thousands of ghosts of dead vacationers slipping through the wicker furniture.
Madeleine is my niece’s name, who lured me here and then forgot me. She’s seven.
But the week is young. My flu bug has passed. There is plenty of time for comeuppance.