Roxy in the acid jacket wants to bang David Lynch more than she wants to bang me. She admits this to me freely as we cross the overpass right before she points out how funny it would be to kick a dummy over the edge and watch the ensuing panic. I tell her it wouldn’t be that funny. She can’t hear me over her own laughter.
This girl that I call mine, who wears razorblade scarves and shriveled blue lipstick and high heels with wolf fur that clack incessantly down the boulevard, really belongs to no one. We met three weeks ago at a rare books convention, if you can believe that. I had obtained a pristine first edition of Ask the Dust. She cleaved to a battered copy of The Beautiful and Damned. I said hello. She asked me to hold her stolen book. A minute later I watched her being patted down and escorted into the foyer while she drunkenly sang out Happiness is a warm cunt, oh yes it is! her blue hair bobbing over the crowd like a buoy in full sway.
My pal Jeremy tells me I have a thing for damaged women. He feels I try to save them all, calls it Shining Knight Syndrome. “You can’t save nobody that doesn’t care enough to save themselves, brother,” he tells me. Jeremy was best man at my wedding. He spoke at my wife and kids’ funeral.
Right now Roxy and I are walking to the rundown theater that plays older movies on the edge of town. Each month they play a classic. This month it’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Roxy says she walks everywhere because she loves the sound of traffic and she really loves the sound of a good car crash, and this city is great because they happen all the time here. I know this to be true from experience. The thing about Roxy is that whenever it gets too quiet, she gets weird and starts talking nonsense. Anytime a casual lull threatens to choke the noise, she says she feels suffocated, like an invisible blanket is smothering her. She begins to ramble. Slowly but surely I’m growing accustomed to these little storms before the silence.
At the theater, we sit waiting for the film to start. It’s the middle of the day so it’s only us. Roxy spears the silence by saying something about wanting to be baptized in the filth and tears of her ex-lovers. “That’s nice,” I tell her. She wants to get lit and fuck on a carousel revolving counterclockwise. “You don’t say?” She wants to smash butterflies with a ball-peen hammer and hold a revival in the desert to crucify all the believers of Yesterday, whatever the hell this means. “Knock yourself out,” I say until the conversation peters out. She throws popcorn until the surround sound kicks in and the trailers roll. She can’t stay still for very long. Always has to have something to do with her hands. Motion puts her at ease.
During the dog shooting scene Roxy roots for the dog. She becomes enraged when Atticus puts it down. In the dark I see her spit, her tarantula eye lashes furrow and her tomahawk gaze burn holes into the screen. While Atticus cradles Scout on the bench, I feel Roxy’s hand grope inside my pants. This is not the first hand job she has initiated in a public place. She has a fetish for this sort of thing—making love in public, though she hates when I refer to it as “making love.” Making love. No, it’s fucking, alright? Get it right.
If this wasn’t bad enough, she has this clown nose she carries around in her pocket. If you object to her sexual advances, she stuffs it in your mouth. Shhhhh. There’s a good boy.
In the few weeks we’ve been together, we’ve had sex in every room of her apartment except the bedroom. The bedroom is strictly off limits for sex. The rest of the place is a mess but her bedroom is always spick-and-span, pastel baby blue like a new nursery and littered with stuffed animals, dolls, and snow globes that look like they haven’t seen a decent snow for forty winters. I’ve never asked why the bedroom is off limits. There are other questions I’ve never asked, too, like how every hanger in the closet came to be twisted, why there are more than twenty phone books strewn throughout the living room, why all her family pictures are hung upside-down on the walls. Our relationship is such that we don’t ask these kinds of questions. This arrangement benefits us both.
She is wielding a hot glue gun when I come home from work one afternoon. I watch over her shoulder while she attaches a doll’s plucked out limbs back upon the body in grotesque ways: a leg in an arm socket here, an arm sprouting from a torso there. I ask her what she’s doing. “Making it beautiful,” she says, then something I don’t understand about how easily pretty things break, whether their being pretty makes them easy to break or their being easy to break makes them pretty.
That night I am awoken by a timpani clank. I find her in the living room extinguishing a pile of burning dolls. “Call me Ravager,” she says. “Ok, Ravager,” I say, “you probably shouldn’t play with fire in an apartment complex.” After she tells me I can suck her dick, she tells me she’s going for a ride. I invite myself along for fear of what she’ll do in this emotional state.
After careening nowhere in particular through cul-de-sacs and parking lots, we end up in the suburbs and she points out the house in which she grew up. “Doesn’t it look like a big dollhouse?” she asks me. It actually does. I can see people through the window and I wonder for a moment if they’re dolls pretending to be real people.
“I don’t know, man. People are weird when they’re in pain,” Jeremy tells me over the phone after I’ve told him of the doll inferno incident. “Sounds like a hot mess to me.” I’ve always confided in Jeremy because he’s always been right, but today I resent his wisdom. The resentment burns deep like acid in my stomach. “You can’t save people like that.” I know he’s hinting I should drop Roxy because I’ll never be able to save her from herself. What he doesn’t understand is that I’m not the knight, I’m the dragon. I have been for some time now. At this point, I’ve devoured too many princesses to keep count, and I don’t care to remember most of their names. I only remember Roxy because she’s got my wife’s eyes. I don’t know what to call that syndrome. All I know is that nobody ever talks about who will save the dragon. In the end, who cares enough to save the dragon?
For weeks now I’ve been taking Roxy to the dollhouse she grew up in. Sometimes we just watch the people inside from a safe distance, but sometimes we hop the gate and make love in the backyard. Excuse me, we don’t “make love,” we fuck. In fact, I’m not allowed to say make love anymore. It’s a small price to pay for being happy. In between the murderous shrieks and squeals, I hear Roxy mutter the only three words that matter concealed under heaving pigbreath. Louder, I command her. “I said I love you, punkbitch!” she snarls with gnashing teeth, then wallops me twice over the head with balled fists, digs those wolverine nails of hers into my back, orders me to go deeper. I look around, check to make sure the dolls aren’t watching as we sink down behind the swing set in their backyard.
I can hear loose bolts, happy years of play having stressed the parts into a sad state of disrepair. The sun seared leather seat sags low, flirting with the dirt. Paint peels, metal rankles, earth loosens round the anchoring legs. A few warped chinks in the chain are little more than interlocked pinkies. Someday soon it’ll all come apart. Someday it’ll fold in on itself like a collapsible caravan in the dry mouth of the desert. Someday, but not today. It taunts me, sings a song of rust lurching slow like an apocalypse machine.
Love you too, I tell Roxy before she jams the big red clown nose in my mouth. There are tears becoming lost between us, swallowed and smashed between layers of unholy contour and frantic flapping skin. We do not mention from where they come. We do not speak of these things.
I go deep.
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