Fiona, looking intently into Clay’s violet eyes (/ the one iris spilled amoebic across the lens), was thinking about his seizures.
It had been about six months since she had come and moved into Greyson’s third floor with Brutus the chameleon / had stared in wonder at the three rooms which amounted to an incredibly dense zoological garden. Fiona was an odd sparrowish girl with skin the color of espresso foam, a recovering bayou seer of sorts / direct descendent of the creole Voodoo Queens of New Orleans, the 1st and 2nd Marie Laveaus of the 19th century.
She had left some few years back quite literally following her dreams to New York which had not worked out so well. She had found a job at a flower shop that had opened up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which had turned into weekly or bi-weekly drives to Philadelphia, where the stock was imported to and where the orchids the African Violets the Staghorn Ferns the pots of acid loam with their fluttering lips of venus Fly Traps the vining Bornean pitchers of Nepenthes the emerald pillows of Selaginella were all grown in the owner’s basement and that of the main storefront. In those drives between the two cities on the amphetamine tract of the Jersey Turnpike Fiona began to depart the van, scented so heavily as it naturally was: she at first swam idly the radio barely on through her childhood, the broken cobbles in front of her apartment door growing up in New Orleans where she and the other children had played and recreated in miniature the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi, with bubble gum dust and toothpicks tiny figurines sequestered from little shops lit by barely more than what light issues from an open door, boxes of bird skulls tiny bottles sandwich bags of strange powders little wooden turtles with wiggling heads from Mexico and the pewter figurines that made up the denizens of that street, impassible by either bicycle or car, where at night she and some few other children heard thimble-scope scrapings the faintest high-pitch jingling of a tiny town bell and other sounds, the occasional onslaught of a gargantuan feline that reminded her of a childhood antiquity when men fought dinosaurs—until they had moved out of the city and into the swamplands and bayouscape of Louisiana.
And in some sense, she had transplanted those cliff dwellings from her early childhood and the Anasazi woke and hunted and gathered and whispered and poured forth carrying in parade beach balls and christmas lights, the dreams of presage of her mother and grandmother, cooking with her father, her mother’s dream and the subsequent death in icy northern waters of her father at such times as those drives back and forth between Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
Until she began to play the tapes Mr. Oftdingham left strewn across the floor of the passenger side…which was, frankly, a good thing for her / a reengaging of sorts. For Fiona, who could spend hours sifting through dreams alone, who had grown up listening to blues played on porches swamp pop concerts thrown together on the deck of the restaurant overlooking the black water of a bayou where her parents worked and where everyone showed up in their best (non-Sunday) dress sleeves rolled up hands red from the mountains of spiced crawfish dancing even the kids tipsy the turtles below snapping up the shells and corn cobs, these tapes opened up new rooms, music that was forever saturated with the smell of roses and orchids and hyacinths and gardenias and magnolias of freesias lilies of the valley quietly chrysanthemums and her favorite perfume of the peony.
The first tape was propitiously familiar but also set the haunting tone that driving listening to them all contained: R.L. Burnsides first field recordings over a bottle of whiskey at his house after he’d been heard singing in the cane brake. She would rewind and play over again “Going Down South”. The next tape was The Walkmen’s cover album of the John Lennon cover album, “Pussy Cats” written in sharpie on scotch tape. She loved that one; went through a swarm of moods listening to the Cure’s “Disintegration”; David Bowie’s “Heroes”, which she liked but lost among a thicket of lilies one afternoon; a mixtape of synthpop she was indifferent to except for the two Telex songs, “Sigmund Freud’s Party” and “Eurovision” which reminded her that she knew her Creole French; bounced up and down, glancing with a suspicious eye now and then at the flowers behind her, to a mix consisting solely of different bootlegs of The Fall’s “Totally Wired”; listened with penitent fervor to the first seven albums of Tom Waits; fell in love with a tape that had a set of blue fingerprints in acrylic and a taped on tiny slip of paper in typewriter letters “Havana Chimera Party” where a gravely chanteuse sung over a steady rhythm of drum and accordion and bass enameled bubbled and cut through with beautiful synthetic sounds that seemed to originate on mars or the dark side of the moon. She liked to listen to Havana Chimera Party back to back on the same tape with a recording of Brian Eno’s “Another Green World” with a single track partially recorded over, “Becalmed”, with a recording of Jim Jones preaching Utopia or Dystopia to his congregation in Guyana as they drank their Cyanide. When she got back to Brooklyn after listening to the edited “Becalmed” for the first time she took out her sketchbook and began to draw and in the weeks that followed bought supplies and began to paint and to draw again.
A few months later, in Philadelphia, Mr. Oftdingham, strained by the expenses of his breeding projects, informed her that he was closing his NY storefront and offered her full time work in Philadelphia and a room above the store. With nothing keeping her in New York she accepted and they opened a bottle of champagne and he showed her a strain he had been working on, Beautiful, he said, but trash nonetheless, of a rose a milky coffee color almost that of her skin edged in a near-blue violet, a color hard to register. she leaned over to smell the flower and felt, barely, his fingers sliding into her spongy hair, and pulled away at which point her nose smashed into his chin and she cried out in pain and looked at him, both of them stepping back, and his face was peeled back on itself in a pained awkward expression and she felt blood running down her lip and reflexively her tongue flicked out and she saw Mr. Oftdingham’s face twist into an erotic battleground between a keening desire and the contorting effort of restraint. Look up at the ceiling, Mr. Oftdingham said as he picked up the rose from the table, I assume you can be trusted to maintain the utmost secrecy? he asked. With her head tilted up at the ceiling, looking down her nose at the rose in his hand and wiping the blood from her lip she replied, Of course, and he crushed the rose in his hand, apologized in a wave of the fist and a muttering and filled her glass.
As the cherry trees blossomed throughout the city that Spring, she met clay, a regular, who had come in for some spike moss a Wandering Jew bought on an indifferent whim and a batch of rare Myrmecodia ant plants Mr. Oftdingham had ordered for him, whose first words were to tell her she looked remarkably like Bjork, who she had not yet listened to but would later relish while lying with Clay in bed. A week later they went on a date and a week after that she spent a Sunday on the roof with Laredo and Clay and Greyson and, much to her surprise, Mr. Oftdingham, whom they simply called Henry.
But back to their living room, 5 in the morning, Fiona looking intently into Clay’s eyes, how did I end up in New York? He already knew how she had come to find herself in Philadelphia and had garnered intimations of her maimed powers. And she went on to tell him about foreshadowing: