My cell phone rang. It was Hamid.
The fact that it was Hamid made me realise Clark Kent was being uptight, I was just playing the diva, my need all waned. It’s easy to get things out of proportion. Love is not really this bad, I realised, and turned from my bachelor as glorious Hamid said
“Doll. I was thinking about you in your leather mini-skirt today, your legs, and a sparrow came and lighted on my knee – this was outdoors – and I realised the day was under your sign so I made tracks for the executive florist, where they fax volcano flowers to rich homosexuals, but they wouldn’t take my credit card because it made the thing put out a piece of paper saying I was Declined and they were morbidly observant. So I’m cast into the darkness where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth and went next door to the pet shop where I bought a lizard.”
“No.” I looked at Clark. “You mean a salamander.”
“What’s the difference? Do they have paws?”
“I don't know.”
“This had paws. It was the size of an iguana, but frillier, and pawed. They wanted to sell me a cat-carrier for it, but I, I do not want to create the appearance of owning cats, or bearing cats from place to place. So I put my lizard in a fish food carton with a starter pack of flies and I went out, and bang, there was the Museum of Natural History.”
“There it was.”
“Well, it’s there. So I went in to see the dinosaurs: you know I am the slave of motif. And two security guards asked to look inside the box. What happened next?
“The lizard ran away.”
“Like lightning. Pow! Pow! I took to my heels. And fleeing made them think that the lizard was a terrorist act and every man jack screamed and stared death in the face. I was quite to blame. And I... by this time it’s night. I think I’ve got the time scheme out.”
“You have... maybe.”
“I rounded a corner, running running and I stopped and then I saw a child pouring red paint into a mudpuddle. And I realised it was you.”
Then he stopped dead and I was hearing his sombre breath.
We went on a long time quiet. I groped for the sheet behind me, getting my bearings. Soon we were breathing in step.
I could hear New York City in his background. Hamid would be sitting in the open window of his Lower East Side apartment, holding the cordless phone in both hands, hunched over it solicitously as if it were wounded – as if listening for the heartbeat of a beloved phone. I imagined the night skyline behind him altered post-Sept 11; the traffic hushed, an intrusive smell of carrion. Ghosts phosphorescent in the upper air.
“Are you all right, there? Are you –?”
“Oh! the usual,” Hamid sniffed. “Homelessness, dispossession, and death.”
“Meaning that you need money?”
“No, I have fucking bags of money. Cartons.”
“Oh, well. So what’s going on?”
There was a long long pause. Clark turned and squinted at me suspiciously. I said, “I’ll have to go soon – Clark’s –”
“No! You’re with a man?” Hamid said, indignant.
Then Hamid and I laughed, laughed and laughed. I couldn’t say... why I couldn’t say, no, no one will ever know what we felt, because we didn’t know, weren’t paying any attention to our feelings, just laughing energetically without normal mirth.
So, we finally stopped.
I said, “But tell me. Whatever, just tell me.”
“I’m coming to see you. I’m wanted by the FBI.”
“Oh, good. Come and see me.”
“Pick me up in Las Vegas,” he said wistfully, as if he wasn’t really leaving New York.
I felt desperate at once. “If only you were wanted by the FBI,” I said.
“Oh, but I am,” he said encouragingly. “You’ll see, it will be a marvellous surprise. I’ll be there in Vegas, they’ll corner us and there will be a bloody mini-war, we’ll die in a fireball.”
“There you go,” I said.
“There you go,” said Hamid. “And I will go, doll. No good-byes.”
I hung up the phone: Clark was lying with his back to me. I lay down with my back to him, very sad.
I fell asleep and dreamed of a pleasant apocalypse.