Joyland

Montreal |

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

by Lynn Crosbie

When I played Nirvana records, I saw Jesus handing him

his voice on a purple velvet pillow.

Then I heard the same voice gasp, and crackle.

Burned to nothing: something in the way.

I will hear it: he will sing for me one day.

I fell to the pillows and dreamed of girls being painted

by Van Gogh, nude against green pillows.

La tristesse durera toujours,” he said.

I dreamed of Christ, the little mother, making golden

pies that are too sweet and never enough.

Page Marlowe was represented in my room by a flowering

cactus, potted in earth from the back of the school

where he liked to get high.

His girlfriend was Sophie Birkin, a tiny brunette with

one-inch bangs, whose arms were illustrated with monstrous

flowers.

They were part of a popular group I sat near, but

never with.

Britney and I usually got high at lunch and drew the

tattoos that we wanted to get.

Her full name was Britney Abdel-Fattah-el-Sissi; she wore

a fishnet veil and a burka she modified into a Dracula cape.

She was in love with Jim Carroll, and was certain that

he would appear to her, imminently.

“Life and death: it’s just a series of circles,” she said,

underlining the illustrations she liked the most. “And he

and I are going to intersect.

“It’s basic math,” she said, drawing a Venn diagram of

her name, his name, and his Biddy League number, 69.

I continued making KCs, believing and not believing her.

“Do you think Page is okay?” I asked her, nervously. She

despised almost everyone.

She looked over.

“He probably looks pretty good in the torture videos he

shoots in his panel van,” she said, eating a kale and mayo

sandwich.

It’s true that Page wasn’t very nice. But I loved to look

at him. At his salmon-coloured hair falling to his shoulders;

his dark, shrewd eyes, and wide mouth that was usually

turned down at the corners.

He drew cities made of metal hives, and also sat, near

me, in the back of the class, but he never noticed me until

that terrible night.

The night that would lead, like an army of ants filing

towards a sugar cube, to a single, delectable question.

What is the easiest way to die?

I would have asked Britney, but she had just spent the

night in her father’s car, parked in the garage with the windows

shut.

I got her email the next day: “I’m with him now. P.S. He

says to tell you there is a threshold back to beauty’s arms.”

Her parents wrote as well, asking that I not try to contact

the family, and adding a postscript, in Farsi: “Hey, glad

girls!” it said. “I only want to get you high.”

Without her, I was an easier target.

Sophie had always hated me, since we were kids and I

kissed her when we were playing house.

She kissed me back, and was pulling down my jeans

when her mother caught us, slapped my face, and sent

me home.

She and her friends started to close in.

I never cried. Not about Britney or the infected cuts, or

the girl who had started to scream in my face while windmill-

smacking me.

“You busted cunts don’t get it,” I said, spitting blood in

their faces. “I’m going to be a fucking rock star, and you’ll

tell your ugly kids that you used to know me.”

They thought this was hilarious, who cares.

“Flip,” I said, “I’m getting out of here. I’d bring you with

me, but I’d have to kill you.”

His fur stood on end: white mice floated through the

room on a harp cadenza:

My mother started seeing a longshoreman named Wing,

who liked her old stories.

She told him about hanging out with Pearl Jam after

they played at the Off -Ramp, and shopping with Courtney

Love for tattered tea gowns, with bustles and satin bows.

“Did you ever meet Nirvana?” he said.

I couldn’t hear what she said: the wind blew in cold and

ruffled the poster.

I lay in bed, watching Flip batting a shank of moonlight.

Wing left her, soon enough.

A few days later, she yelled at me about it.

“Do you think I wanted to look like this, to be nothing?

That I wanted a huge parasite to lap the life out of me!?”

Her hair in snakes, her eyes swollen.

“Well?”

I was the parasite.

“No,” I said. I held my breath: she looked like Calypso,

her hands filled with small dolphins, not jagged pieces

of glass.

Her moods passed quickly. Soon enough she was laughing

with her f riends about “el Chilito,” her new name

for Wing.

The night she screamed at me, the poster flew off the

wall, scaring her into dropping the glass.

I slept beside it and, as I slept, I fell deeper in love.

“I’m waiting for you,” he says in my dream.

He passes his hand over his head, erasing the shattered

bone and gore, and I kiss him, tasting blood, then berries.

This excerpt is taken from Where Did You Sleep Last Night, copyright ⓒ 2015 by Lynn Crosbie. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press, Toronto. www.houseofanansi.com