“Peru, Illinois” – Elizeya Quate

We barely talk. It’s OK if we barely talk if we are happy. I know that’s what God wants – for us to be happy.

We eat Lucky Charms right from the box. No bowls. Pour the milk down the plastic liner and dig in. She eats first and then I eat. There’s only one spoon. And I think usually she’s hungrier than I am. So it makes sense that way, for her to eat and then for me to eat.

Afterwards I feel content but tired and something starts draining out of a tiny hole in the bottom of my skull and it’s carried out into a large river that runs underground. I clack the halves of my beak together—clack-a-lack.

Eeeeeeeep, says my girlfriend.

What, I say.

Don’t do that, she says. That clack-a-lack.

Ai doesn’t need to eat anymore, at least not since he died last week.

The Lucky Charms taste good and slurpy. They are ripe and heavily fortified with sucrose and natural flavorings.

She smokes a cigarette on the balcony.

Through the glass door her naked breasts take a bath in orange creamsicle. It is good, I think, that she has finally stopped scowling.

Soon the three of us will begin to have the sex but I do not know if I can summon up enough of my emptiness yet. This happens to all people with the wrong bones in their face, but mostly me. My beak always hurts when the skin gets tired. It gets hot from the smoke and cracks when I try to smile.

Then my girlfriend’s mouth makes a shhh sound with the smoke going out of it and I put the moustached mask back on. In order to wear this mask I had to cut a hole in the top of the head and wear it upside-down. This makes the smoke come out the eyeholes. With the mask this way the moustache is near my forehead and forms the shape of small horns. The eyeholes are near the bottom of my face which is where my eyes sit on either side of my beak.

I wear the mask for my girlfriend because my face is full of wrong bones.

So many bones in people, says Mother, some are bound to be wrong ones, aren’t they?

When my girlfriend kisses the mouth on the mask I get smoke in my beak from her breath and when I open my beak the smoke trickles out and stings my eyes with salty tears.

The tears are not sad. They are just from the smoke, which leaves a buzzing in my nostrils. It is the parting of electrical wires that must power the small things that live inside us.

She says, ‘Ai…,’ holding this sound in her throatstrings until it is too stretched-out of breath and falls silent.

***

For many moments afterwards on her concrete balcony we stand with our bodies nearly touching. Sunrise pulls the shadows of our creatureliness into confused shapes that resemble the spirits who live beneath waterfalls. My girlfriend has long US-American-style hair the color of dirty mustard, which is quite unusual to see in Perú.

The deep circles under her eyes resemble stains of chicken liver gravy. She wipes the gravy up with the crumpled paper towels of her cheeks. When I start to breathe a word my girlfriend says shhhhh again, full of smoke, and I think she is mouthing smoke the way she remembers from a popular film involving the US American Wild Westerns. This is something that I know she likes because it is what we watch using her laptop computer, and when Burt Reynolds comes on she knows already what words he will say.

This picture of my girlfriend’s mouth moving along to Burt Reynolds slides into my head like a paper towel down a Formica countertop speckled with savory liver juices. I adjust my mask and wonder if the moustache made of black string still looks like a moustache upside-down on my concave forehead. The mask is knitted alpaca wool and scratchy sometimes, but I am OK to wear such a mask for my girlfriend, who is so sexy. Really, I don’t mind. Every day I say ‘Thanks, God!’ for a girlfriend as sexy as this one.

***

When I first met my girlfriend she and Ai had only just moved to Perú. That in itself was remarkable. It is not every single day that people from the American US move their whole lives to Perú, especially in a not-so-big city far outside of Lima. She and Ai were the type of lovers who enjoyed yelling at one another when there is a third person who can see the yelling and feel ashamed on behalf of both of them. This was my job on a number of occasions. Mother says I have a special talent for shame.

It’s funny how clock-ticking time in Perú has a way of getting old faster than I am used to seeing. To look at a calendar you wouldn’t recognize how many days are lined up against the mountains and the skinny air and the orange creamsicle light on my girlfriend’s breasts.

Did I first meet her and Ai only one or two months ago?

Something like that. It already seems like the present time has peeled away from the past entirely and a new era has begun.

Ai told me that they were hiding from the US American government. They were pretending to be involved in some kind of fake business, when in fact they weren’t involved in anything except for crimes-using-a-computer. This crimes-using-a-computer Ai said is a pretty new branch of crime and is viewed by many as adventurous.

Mother says crimes-using-a-computer is a passing fad, but Ai did not agree with such a statement. He and my girlfriend had papers and photographs and lots of invisible “bits” that other people were willing to pay money to keep tightly inside of places I did not ask questions about. That was why they got an apartment in the top of a tall building full of old retirees who wouldn’t ask them anything, not even ‘How are you?’

I think the retirees were mostly Japanese. I have found that there are many Japanese in Perú, which at first surprised me. Ai is also Japanese but he also told me that Ai is not his real name. My girlfriend and Ai couldn’t do much going outside of the apartment on account of being worried about the US American government. That was why Ai got Zeebo to bring the groceries—so they didn’t have to go out into the stairwell and risk greeting the elderly Japanese.

***

The part of my girlfriend’s apartment I most dislike is the bathroom, which is too bad because I often have to pee. This has been the case for me my whole life – peeing often. Mother used to say things about it to the other mothers as if it were a joke. I never thought this joke was funny. There is something bad in the bathroom which is always smelling horrible. It is better to not think about it too hard, and not-thinking is another one of my special talents. But still, I always have to take a moment of bad remembering when I go pee.

Outside, above the balcony, I see one airplane cross the sky and it crosses out the crescent moon with a white line of airplane steam as if the moon were an error. Daytimes run together since last week and my mind is cloudy with happy not-sleeping.

I look off into the distance, into a place where the valley turns a corner, runny with chemical vapors from the silver mines. The clouds here look like a brand of ranch dressing I once enjoyed eating by itself. And the sun above us is the palace where God’s face lives, cutting the world into precious rings.

God’s face is filled up with a red shape that is looming now bigger and bigger, as if the red shape is approaching us with sudden intentions.

***

Zeebo was my friend before, even though he stole from me once. Because it was a not-much thing he had stolen, I forgave. Sometimes having a friend like Zeebo is more important than having a not-much thing that remains unstolen. When Zeebo asked me to help him carry the groceries up that first time I did it without asking questions. He huffed and puffed because his gut is like a sack of soggy fertilizer. Even though the groceries did not weigh so much Zeebo still lost all of his breath. My girlfriend, who was not my girlfriend yet, and Ai were very angry at Zeebo for bringing me up with him.

She tried not to look at me because of the wrong bones in my face. She said to Ai, ‘I don’t know if Zeebo can be trusted anymore!’ Because he had brought me, a stranger, into their hiding place. But my girlfriend didn’t say any of the things about me towards the direction where my body was standing.

I could tell that she didn’t want to look at my face, but that is only how many people act at first when they see me. It is hard for people to place their eyes upon my face and especially my beak unless they have become readied beforehand, and even then it can cause some distress.

This is because my face is filled with the wrong bones and I have been told that it looks inside-out, with the edges pushed up and the middle pushed down, eyes set low on either side of a rounded, coconut-colored beak.

But Mother says it is a face just like any other, a face that just so happens to belong to me.

Lots of people have faces, why shouldn’t God have taken a big creative risk with mine?

After some minutes my girlfriend and Ai had their yells back and forth, enough to make Zeebo blush and mumble.

Then things calmed down and we all took some black-colored herbal treat together. These herbal treats were full of relaxation and made Ai and my girlfriend become no longer suspicious of me.

This was all way before last week, which was when Ai died. Afterwards I accepted my girlfriend’s offer for her to be my girlfriend, which felt like Getting Saved by God all over again. Then I found out why my girlfriend made the offer, and how to let Ai’s ghost become hard inside of me. Which is still OK, because my girlfriend is so sexy.

Mother would not approve, I think, but she has not yet known about what is happening and anyway she lives far away back in La Salle, Illinois.

***

Down below, the Japanese retirees’ garden is dying.

The women have little white umbrellas when they garden, which makes me wonder—is it a superstition? Because it is never raining.

From my girlfriend’s balcony I can see what they are doing better than they can. The situation is hopeless. Every single flower has wilted, leaving only stalks. It is too bad that they do not understand that the garden will die no matter what they do.

One or two of the men have potbellies and red Japanese faces the color of a welt, the way skin turns bad after being hit with Mother’s belt.

Together the men stand around in their too-tall slacks and talk politely using their hands, or else they also try to feed the plants with cans of water.

It is no use.

The retired Japanese have already wasted so much time saving what cannot be saved. The plants have already decided to turn yellow and then gray and then be dead. When something decides to be dead like that you can’t just water it back to life.

***

I don’t have a lot of ideas but I like to keep a good mood for my girlfriend. So we do what she wants.

When she wants Lucky Charms, we eat Lucky Charms.

When she wants to smoke a cigarette, we smoke a cigarette.

She handles most of the smoking for the both of us. But if I follow her schedule closely I know that the time will come nearly every day when we will have the sex—my favorite part of the day, even considering the scratchy mask and the sting when smoke gets in my eyes.

Then there are the in-between holes of the afternoon where anything can happen, but also nothing at all.

For example, today we watched YouTube videos of animals pooping on the screen of her laptop computer. They were pooping to the rhythm of a techno beat.

I have never owned a laptop computer. Let alone one that can play videos of animals pooping. All kinds. Dachshunds. Llamas. Rhinoceri.

For techno beat pooping, llamas are for sure the best.

***

The smell in my girlfriend’s apartment where I live now is horrible. No one has taken the trash out since Ai died. I once said that it would be OK if I took out the trash and my girlfriend yelled at me and said that we couldn’t take the risk. Because of the US American government. But Zeebo won’t do it, so it just stays smelling badder and badder. Smells aren’t so important to me after I worked at the fertilizer factory in La Salle, Illinois, where my nose noticed many bags of fertilizer every day. But I still prefer that the trash is taken out, because what else is the proper thing to do with trash?

Our threesome of the sex wire-crosses my feelings of love for my girlfriend against my feelings of not-love for Ai. But it is part of the deal I accepted when she became my girlfriend. And she is so full of beauty, who could refuse that kind of offer?

No person, I think.

Not even God, if my girlfriend asked Him for the same sexual arrangement.

Her soul is clothed so well with light and color that nobody will ever understand how to put her beauty into words.

But what do I know? I have never had a threesome or a twosome or even a onesome. And this, this is the real thing! Sometimes God lets you see the silver in the clouds.

Especially in Perú, which is already so rich in silver minerals.

In our high-up distance blowing shhhh between us the smell this morning is wet in the air and the dawn is big and gold and my girlfriend’s breasts are orange and lit by the sun so much like orange creamsicles that it makes my tongue water.

And no one has to see us, just us three. Not even Mother. Only myself and my girlfriend and Ai’s hard ghost.

***

This morning at dawn I lean forward over the railing with my skinny arms hid behind my back and look down at the rows of flowers in the blossomless park and say ‘Thanks, God!’ for filling my life with beauty.

Even if my face is inside-out and full of wrong bones.

Even if my girlfriend will only screw me when it is Ai’s ghost who is making my penis hard.

God, I think. The Holy Trinity. Even God is a threesome.

***

None of us wash our hands. It seems impossible for us to leave the apartment. When we aren’t in bed we stand up on the wood floor, or on the concrete balcony. My girlfriend broke all the chairs after Ai died. The splinters are still everywhere.

I have learned piety, and also how to use Man’s special talent between my legs. Without both devotions, where would someone with such a wrong-boned face have ever gotten? Probably just another fertilizer factory.

My girlfriend drinks prescription codeine, but only a little bit at a time. She smokes Lucky Strike cigarettes and fills the apartment with smoke. Sometimes I smoke too, but I don’t like it.

It is only when the smoke gets heavy that Ai’s ghost can become potent and enter my form. When he possesses the emptiness inside me I get an erection.

The first time this happened it was quite surprising since I have not gotten an erection since I started my job 1.5 years ago as a Professional Subject. That job involves taking a lot of Special Pills.

Mother got me this job because she said there is no work for people like me in La Salle, Illinois. This is after I quit at the fertilizer factory and did not want to find work in that factory again. The company who I am a Professional Subject for made me move outside of the US because the Special Pills can sometimes be dangerous and I had to sign forms saying that I didn’t mind if they were dangerous because they were Special and eating them was going to be good for me, in the end.

When Ai died last week I quit being a Professional Subject and flushed all my Special Pills down the toilet, which felt great. Like a new leaf was being swizzled around me. I have never felt this alive.

Ai possesses my body in the thickness of cigarette smoke and I put on my upside-down mask. Then I get to have the sex with my girlfriend, an act which fills me with amazement each and every time. I can really feel Ai’s ghost inside my penis, but even so it feels good because my girlfriend is so sexy.

For this and many things I scream out ‘Thanks, God!’ And my girlfriend rolls her eyes and says shhhhh.

***

This goes on for hours. I never come.

It is dawn when my girlfriend goes for a cigarette on the balcony and I go outside and with two fingers hold my penis the way my girlfriend holds her cigarette. Which is also the way Burt Reynolds does it in the US American Wild Westerns.

I stare past her little belly at the crescent moon fading in the light of a mountain sun fresh out of its packaging. Here in Perú we are much closer to the sun, I can feel. Perhaps one day with the technology of space flight we will all visit the sun. I know that if I visit the sun there is a chance I will meet God in person. These are the things I think about at daybreak, before she again becomes saddened with Ai’s death and the bad laughter starts.

Hours turn to days.

There are weeks, suddenly.

I never come.

***

Sometimes in the evenings Zeebo comes by with groceries. We don’t see him, usually. He understands that it is never a good time for him to be around.

He brings a few shopping bags of Lucky Charms and milk and toilet paper and cigarettes. Zeebo is not a small man. I can hear the steps of his feet for a long time up the stairs, huffing and puffing. The building stairs are not young and I think about all the cracks in them that Zeebo must be stepping on and how much bad luck he has gotten from all his crooked steps. My girlfriend stands among the splinters from all the broken chairs and looks blank and I look blank too and then we hear Zeebo knock 9 times before he turns around and walks all the way back down the stairs. Then my girlfriend sends me out to get the groceries and I pick up the bags that say

THANKYOU

THANKYOU

THANKYOU on them. Even in Perú the bags say THANKYOU, just as God intended.

I drag the groceries inside and then my girlfriend goes out on the balcony and stands with her breasts naked as if she is trying to see an answer to a puzzle in the peaks of the mountains. Then she comes back in and smokes with the windows closed. I can tell she is just waiting for Ai to feel ready. But I don’t complain. What could I have to complain about, with a girlfriend who is always filled with so much beauty? This is why I say ‘Thanks, God!’ for all my erections, even though I took the Special Pills for 1.5 years.

I say ‘Thanks!’ even if it is true that Ai’s ghost makes my bones go as numb as frozen fish sticks.

Even if it is true that Ai’s ghost scrapes my soul out from behind my face, I am still saying ‘Thanks!’ to God.

The bathroom is such a scary place, especially at night. Sometimes I leave the mask on afterwards by accident and then get a terrible scare in the mirror that hangs above the sink in the bathroom.

***

This evening, as the sun sets onto the Andy Mountains, I can feel Ai’s ghost wisp around us with a great impatience. He is a horny ghost, as my girlfriend says.
I can tell he won’t come into my emptiness for another few hours. Not until the sun has left the sky dark and I have put on my scratchy mask.

I pinch at the bony corners of my face where the tips poke out and think about those kids at school who used to say that my face looked like it had a dead bird trapped underneath it.

If they could only see me now!

Ha!

How jealous their own faces would be.

***

Don’t get it twisted.

I understand that I am a winner of luck!

It is not every day that someone like my girlfriend moves from the US Americas to Perú, and especially to a not-so-big city far outside of Lima. And it is only on accident through Zeebo that I even got to meet them, and then even more of an accident that the US American government chose last week to kill Ai.

In my head I say ‘Thanks, God!’ nearly once per hour.

The biggest reason I don’t like going to the bathroom in my girlfriend’s apartment is that it contains something which is not good to think about. What it contains the dead body of Ai.

I must step over this body to use the toilet since it is lying across the floor. My girlfriend says we need to keep the body so Ai’s ghost has a home when it’s not possessing me and giving me an erection.

This makes good sense, I think.

But I do wish that my girlfriend will ask Zeebo to get rid of Ai’s body soon.

I am now pretty sure that there is a small animal or insect making its home in Ai’s head because I have begun to notice a big red shape gnawed into the skull. This hole is also making Ai’s face look very sad.

Sometimes I think about all the colors of God’s face on the distance above the horizon where I can sometimes rest my eyes at dawn.

Even God has the Holy Ghost, and I know that he wouldn’t feel as whole without it, which is how I feel when Ai has given me an erection. It makes every inch of my skin shiver. But it is good to see God’s face, and these dawn moments after I have put on the mask take me closer to my Creator.

I say a prayer hoping all of the sex is OK with God, who is just trying to make us fill with His happiness. I know that’s what God wants—for us to be happy.

And we are, I think.

 


 

Elizeya Quate (b. 1988) writes from the cornwilds of the US Americas’ Middle West. After graduating from the University of Michigan with degrees in mysticism and brand marketing, Quate became among the first (human) Americans to legally wed Earth’s Moon. This story is part of an unpublished collection The Book of Face.
Favorite color: iridescence.
Favorite word: amphigory.
Favorite episode of The Simpsons: Homerpalooza (1996).
Favorite facial feature: philtrum.
Favorite Jovian moon: Titan.
Favorite musical instrument: tympani.
Favorite Super Smash Bros. Melee character: Jigglypuff.
Favorite (human) organ: armpit.
Favorite Daniel Clowes book: Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron.
Favorite type of effigy: colored glue with coathanger skeleton.
Favorite dress material: organdy.
Favorite simile: like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall.
Favorite lunar sea: Mare Desiderii.
Favorite J.L. Borges story: The Circular Ruins.
Find their work and other bitsies + pixels online: http://elizeya.tumblr.com/