from "The Violent Beauty of Urda Louise"
THE VIOLENT BEAUTY OF URDA LOUISE
(What Happened to Charlie Christ?)
“Listen to those cats in heat, Urda, they sound like they’re in mourning.” Charlie had said this to me three times already. When I reminded him of this, he flinched and called the repetition calculated, then wondered aloud if my dumb ass ever read poetry. Charlie was a poet, alright.
We were smoking weed on his mattress celebrating his return. I was happy to see him but I didn’t want him to know. I got up, stretched in a way I almost never did, then sat on the floor. Charlie liked my stretch so much that he loosened up, sat beside me, and put his hand on my knee.
“I am changing,” he said. “I threw my computer away. All I need and want, now, is you.” Charlie had been trying to hit it since we both met in the sixth grade at a school in the Bronx, a school with good- natured nuns and a broken window in the girl’s bathroom that the boys all knew about. I didn’t remind Charlie that he had hit it already – and on more than one occasion – and that before we parted ways that night, I’d let him hit it again.
His weed was bad quality. He told me that he grew it in containers inside his bathroom. He said that the light was good in there. Exceptional. Although every time I visited him, instead of finding containers filled with cannabis, I found white candles burning on the floor of his tub. He told me he had placed them there because the light fixture didn’t work. He insisted that candlelight was the best way to grow marijuana. He didn’t mention, however, that his Grandmother had fallen and hit her head on the faucet and died there while he was away. She hadn’t wanted him to go. Bad marijuana had nothing to do with the deterioration of Charlie’s memory.
The sound of the cats outside built to a crescendo. We couldn’t even hear the traffic. Their cat-blues – a mix of horn, jaguar, and tenor sax. We both stood up and ran to the window to see if a band was playing in the streets. It was too dark to see anything and by the time we got to the window, Charlie had forgotten why. For a moment, I too had forgotten when I saw his grandmother’s face floating in his eyes like a cataract.