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Audience

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You feel like they are watching you, impassive as an audience. Who they are is unclear, but by the road at night, with nothing at your back but buildings and old trees, they’re watching. They might be stars. Maybe a virgin frowns down at you, a crab – can crabs frown? – or you have eyes in the back of your head.

The lights, how they shine likes the bones of a cathedral over the back of a road. Like layering, the ghosts of houses, the shimmering of ghosts, how the mists and the trees and the old human-things all combine into one. The barn, between wild and tame, between human and animal. The shrubs that poke greedily through the cracks in the wood.

You don’t know words like ‘gestalt’ and ‘transitive’ because you never paid attention in class and why would they teach you that, teach you things that would make you anything but a worker down here in the South?

You know how to read maps. Tie a rope. Take a cheque. Keep your head down, your shoulders down, your tall and ungainly body down, maybe they tried to teach you how to keep a job down. The road is singing with its promise. Its vastness, like space. How out in the stars there might be aliens or another you, maybe, in the dust and the sand and the green-green grass of a town, a lake, an upside-down blue sky there is ‘home’.

In the infinite there is possibility, drowning out the damp of the dew through your jeans and the smell of whiskey. It smells, even, like poison, how it makes your head swim, how under the rarefied post-natural smell of ethanol there is the smell of earth; freshly turned graves. Moonshine reflecting a moon’s shine.
It’s cold. You don’t trust yourself with a dog, or other people, or company, and don’t trust company, and the stars or the people who watch impassively like an audience, and the judgement that rains down to soak you like tar, and how your box of wood and angles with a bed in it, and an unplugged TV, how it smells of whiskey and a cabin, and aphids, you know, an old garden, the reason why home and familiarity cling like nausea, an old field, and how you’ll never tell them that ‘inside’ makes your bones itch, and how you’ll never tell them that outside feels like an inside these days like the inside of a big blue eye watching or a crystal ball and

You don’t have words for some things. Because they didn’t teach you, and because some things don’t have words. You wake up in a barn, where human voices and sunlight chase your lucid thoughts into malaise. Turn back into a leather marionette, stuffed with straw.