Spencer Dew


Tender shoots. Spring scores on the assist. Marla plays with her bra strap, probably worried about tan lines, though she's dark as a penny already, a constant bronze across her shoulder blades.
       She's interested in anthropology, she tells me, over a failed attempt at a picnic. The Brie has turned to soup, the cake melted, the wine gone sweaty and foul.
       That's one thing she doesn't do—sweat. Not even in that ravine between her massive breasts. She stays dry as a chalkboard, smooth as oven-fresh bread.
       I mix my metaphors. I spill wine on my pants. I find myself thinking asinine Penthouse Forum phrases like, "She's got teeth made for blowjobs," whatever the hell that means.
       She says the Nuer people stimulate the ovaries of their cattle by blowing into their vaginas, and that their word for God is an onomatopoeia for that blowing sound.
       I tell her one of my great-uncles was a cannibal, during the war. "Resorted to it," I correct myself.
       She seems vaguely interested and I find myself imagining her on her knees, being fucked with some degree of brutality by my ex-girlfriend, a police baton, and the purple-haired counter guy at the place I go for coffee.
       "This weather," she says, licking some cheese off her wrist, "Is really something."

Later, I want to invite her back to my place, but they're replacing the stack pipes. I've been pissing in old soda bottles. Nothing weird, just necessity. Resorted to it. But I don't want to have to explain.
       She says she lives with a roommate, a guy she used to date, and that he doesn't take well to guests. I tell her that I understand, which is only half a lie.
       We make a second date to see the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries exhibit touring at the museum. I try and kiss her on the cheek, but her bus comes and I spend the rest of the night drinking wine coolers, pissing in the empties, and watching a zombie film festival on one of the Spanish channels.

Which is maybe all I have to say about Marla. We made out a bit in a reconstructed tomb, and were heading toward something hotter, I think, till she tried to prop her legs up on a glass case of amulets and afterlife picnic baskets, which set off some kind of sensor and got us banned from the museum.
       The construction crew had removed my front hall, then, and I didn't mind telling her that. She laughed, sipping an overpriced downtown cocktail, as I explained that it wasn't just the flooring, it was the whole floor. "I can see down into the laundry room," I told her, "And I'm four stories up."

So another night alone, and this time it's that movie with the two races of cavemen—cave people—Neanderthals and whatever the other one is called. One's real stupid, protruding foreheads, loincloths, clubs. The other is clever, with narrow faces, neat little bark outfits, spears.
       Anyway, the plot involves gang rape and dinosaur attacks, and I think, how can you go wrong with that, cracking open another Corona and screwing the top back on the last, which I've pissed in, a habit that's getting hard to break.
       There's a giant bear stalking around the rocks of the cave mountain. Tigers roam the valley of forest caves. The dinosaurs—a cheap special effects trick—seem only to exist in a sort of no man's land, barren as a sound stage, which for some reason the cave people keep stumbling into, down from their bear mountain, up from their tiger valley...
       When I wake up, I can't tell what's in my beer bottle and the sun is coming through the windows and the hole by my front door.
       Spring is like this, feverish and dreamy. I sit on the fire escape and smoke a cigarette, watching the construction crew unload their trucks. Today they are using sandblasters and circular saws. They warn me that there will be some noise, some dust.

There is no third date with Marla. There is never a third date. The walls come down on the west side of the building, and then they come back up again, looking the same. The wiring is removed, the hot water tank. There is an installation of ceiling fans, a new model of storm window.
       Spring does not turn to summer. It keeps its back to it, eyes shut, fists clinched.
       Green things sprout for a few inches and get stuck in the mud. Neighborhood kids hunt plastic eggs every morning. The newspaper advertises the same sales on the same colors of shoes and slip dresses.
       I begin to think that Marla never existed, which isn't quite true, because surely these figments come from somewhere, a bus passenger, perhaps, a waitress at some café.
       The dreams from television are markedly different, a sense of transparency, as when the pterodactyls descend on me, a whole flock, or murder, or whatever the word is, big beige wings, like drop cloth canvas, speckled with caulk or primer, smelling of dry wall, vinyl paint...



Some methods of composition are much like dreaming, a sort of unconscious collage, memories bubbling up like gases through hot tar, so that in the end there is not so much a cut-up of lecture notes, channel surfing, or fantasies, but a walkthrough diorama—a full installation piece—with audio from answering machine tapes, plastic wrapped firewood bundles, the aroma of appetizers served on first dates, pages torn from field guides, the glossy covers of trade journals for taxidermists, a blue wig, devotional candles, and aerosol cans of deer musk, all swirling together into a soup so thick it grows hands that ball in your collar and drag you down for a taste.