A Log A Leg
Last night, there was a party in the woods. A word-of-mouth kind of party. If you can find it, you’re welcome. People came in droves—populating the quiet darkness with shouts and song, someone lit a bonfire, someone brought a keg—up the north trail, just beyond the edge of the woods, on top of the ridge, where you can see the little dipper. None of us can find the big one, and we spend a long time walking in circles, heads thrown back in vain. These were people we didn’t know, Clara and I, but drunkenness is a great equalizer, a friend finder, sometimes. Sometimes not: I think I see Clara and the unknowns walking back into the trees, and I run after, calling for her…
Once I woke up in a car in pitch darkness, when I was young. My sister and I were tangled in the backseat—our legs some kind of sailors knot so that we could both sleep “comfortably” during a road-trip. When I woke, I did not know where I was and could not feel my legs. If you spend long enough in darkness, your eyes adjust. You stop seeing the imprinted colors on your eyelids—what light has left behind—and shapes that dissolve and reform themselves into to people or beasts. There are some things you only believe in the dark: I forgot my sister and our parents. I truly thought I was dead.
As I am running through the trees, someone puts a Beyoncé song on at the party and I trip over a log. A leg. I trip over, what is in fact, a leg. I found a body alone and inert. I couldn’t move for a long time—suddenly in the car again, the feeling gone from my legs, thinking, “this is it”. There is blood on my hands, but I can’t tell if it is mine Not the same clothes, not even the same hair, but undeniably, I was seeing my own face. My body. What am I doing out here? As I sit with myself, crouching over wondering, listening to the echo of Beyoncé, there is a noise close by, a cellphone ringing. Pacing, maybe I am just imagining it. Maybe, I thought, if I stay long enough, she will reanimate. Or become someone other than myself. The noise is getting closer, so I run.
“Just off the switchback”, I call down to Clara whose uneven breath marks our steps up the sun-speckled trail. “Just here, I swear.” I do not tell Clara that I found myself lying dead in the woods, I lie and say it was some other girl. How do you explain that? Today, I don’t see blood on the leaves.
Curious. I wonder how does one get rid of so much of it?
Zoe turns to me “I wanna see his dick…for research.” I’ve heard it all before. Before this bar, before she vomits on the floor, before we are kicked out. Everything is done for research, this is our excuse.
The bartender is high on cocaine and shifts anxiously from one foot to the other. He is telling me about his French girlfriend. “I moved. All the way from Barcelona. For a girl and a shitty job. The fucking French…” That’s a long way, I say. But I don’t really think so, not as far as I’ve come, and I don’t even have a shitty job.
“I just wanna see it “ Zoe whispers in my ear. The bartender shifting so quickly now it looks like he is dancing as he pours more purple, green and flaming poisons. Then a moment later, the lights are on and whatever Zoe just drank is all over the floor. She didn’t get to do any research, but life is full of second chances.
We meet Dylan. A strange kind of frat boy who has done everything—fencing, sailing, rapping, math club, poetry, cooking, French, model U.N. –but is interested in nothing. He tells us that he picks up girls by writing raps based on their names. He has a brand on his ass, smashes bottles, and dips us on the dance floor. Zoe slaps him in the face, I’m not sure why. She storms away and then falls. They start making out. Mercifully, neither remembers the vomit.
Later, two French boys walk us home. They tell us we are pretty. That we are very young to be here. That we speak so well. It is so surprising to meet a smart American, one says to me.
They always tell us these things. As if by force of repetition they would become true. We are their exceptions to the rule that all Americans are tasteless, foolish and materialistic.
I am always the smartest American you have met, the prettiest, the best at French. You tell me the best way to learn is to have a French boyfriend, this too I have heard already. You can’t have met many girls. Or maybe you’ve just met too many. I smile too much. I laugh too much too, and probably give you the wrong idea. But its all for research, I mean, that’s what I’m here for right?