A FUGITIVE IN HIDING
Yes, itís true, I am a fugitive in hiding. Iíve changed my name, and my look; I never live more than one year in any place before I move on, without a forwarding address, usually after having told the landlady some carefully-constructed lie about my future that will set my pursuers off track. For instance, if I am moving to San Francisco, I will tell her that I am headed to Chicago. My doors canít ever have enough locks on them, yet no matter how many they have, I always prop up a chair underneath the handle, or drag a piece of heavy furniture in front of it before I go to sleep. Even so, I only sleep in snatches, awaking sweat-filled, with heart pounding, in the middle of the night, reaching to the night table for the bottle of wine which I plan to use as a weapon when they finally come barging through the door. There is always an open window or a fire escape behind me, a back way out, and a light shoulder bag in reach, in which I keep my money and my most valuable possessions so that I may seize them at a momentís notice. I remember something I read long ago in The Journals of Lewis and Clark: how a Native American chieftain told the two intrepid explorers, before he felt sure of peace, that he always used to sleep with his moccasins on. I know exactly what he meant. I am ready to bolt in an instant, to sever the friendships I have apparently made, to abandon the lovers and the jobs which have seemed to become a part of me, but have not, and to start all over again. I am like a cataclysm, like a volcano which periodically destroys the earth. After a while, in the shadow of the destruction, new villages take root in the rich soil of a past generationís calamity, peaceful towns spring up beneath the sinister shape of the mountain which they do not understand; while it sleeps, they do not recognize it as the beast it is. The tell-tale exhalations of smoke from the volcano rim are rendered innocuous by the sunny skies above the new inhabitants of the fertile slopes, by the birds singing in the trees, by the life the people carry inside of them which has no relation to the giant mass of stone that looms above them with its molten insides. They want to love, they want to laugh, and so they pacify the dangerous shape that is trying to warn them. Until, once the vines of grapes have extended everywhere and are full of fruit, the monster rises again, the earth shakes as it did before they learned to trust it, the wisps of smoke become a hemorrhage of fire, and the destruction occurs all over again. I leave behind me baffled neighbors, women in tears, stunned friends, who are amazed to discover who I truly am, that I, gentle as a lamb, have done such things to others, have been capable of doing such things to others. They feel humiliated, betrayed, duped, only later becoming grateful that I merely misled them and abandoned them.
I am a fugitive in hiding, yes, itís true. It is not an easy life, it is brutal and intense; I feel, every day, as though I were driving in a tank made of paper across a furious battlefield, I hear the sound of bullets whizzing around my head, passing within inches of my frail armor, yet I must pretend Iím happy when Iím offered a glass of wine, or a kiss, I must avoid suspicion by having the normal reactions; anyone I meet could be the end, could recognize me, or see through me. I must not give off the scent of fear, I am constantly applying the deodorant of hypocrisy to my sins.
What a hateful, miserable life I live! I cannot truly fall in love, because to be in love you must reveal yourself, you must show who you are, you must give up appearances, and I cannot risk that. I cannot let my guard down, ever, I cannot be ingenuous for even a single second. Any woman who comes to me with tenderness in her eyes might be Delilah. Any man who would be my friend, and hit his beer glass into mine, might be Judas. I smile and work my way into the human networks I need to survive without exposing my weakness. I am the most well-liked of mysteries.
I am a fugitive. Time to pack the suitcase again. She is on the verge of finding out: the latest of the women who make my heart beat faster. She touched me with gentle hands the other night and tried to coax my secrets from me. She seemed as forgiving as an angel. I said too much. How long till she puts 2 and 2 together? I must get away from here, while I can! She must never know how I disappointed my parents, how I broke the hearts of the ones who brought me into the world, who wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, to be someone they could be proud of, whose life-trajectory they could discuss with neighbors. She must never see the corrupt pages of poems with which I have stabbed them over and over again, though they took the care to raise me and brought me presents on my birthday, beautiful presents which gave me hours and hours of happiness; she must never see the wretched pages, like bloody bandages taken from the body of a leper, with which I have flaunted the wishes of my parents with disobedient, ungrateful streams of words that have not helped a single soul Ėthese injections of inflated visions of grandeur which I have shot into my veins at their expense, imagining I would be the next Hemingway. I must never let her find, behind the faÁade of the good man I pretend to be, the disreputable, seedy life of the artist with which I have poisoned the good name of my family. I could never bear the shame of being stripped of my defenses by her eyes that expect more of me, of being so exposed, and watching her try to mask her disappointment!
And so, once more, it is time to go, time to move on. To break all ties and to disappear once again into the sea of cities and faceless strangers that shelters me from what I have done; that hides me from those who I have harmed, and likewise conceals them from me. No one who I have let down must ever find me! Nor could I ever bear to see a single one of them again, to be reminded of my selfishness, and my failure to turn it into something useful!
It is a terrible life I live, but perhaps it is the life I deserve. I am a fugitive in hiding. I can never again live as the rest of you.
Short Fiction Contents
Creative Safehouse Contents