The Avatar of Venus
I was lonely that year. Read 256 books though I can’t pretend I looked at every word of every one of them. Remembered almost nothing of them except a few titles. Went to 43 movies. Remembered even less. Smoked 2,987 cigarettes. Drank 212 litres of red wine, mostly while sitting out on the veranda looking at the stars blurring up in the night sky. Mornings, my kidneys ached. That might have been the painkillers. Coughed less than you might expect. Liver? Don’t ask. My health stayed surprisingly good, perhaps because my mind remained active. Active? Frantic might be a better word. Slept occasionally, never enough. Someone was in love with me, I didn’t love her. Was in love with someone else, she didn’t love me. Such is life. Got to know all the passers-by, not by name, just by their looks, their routine passes up and down the street. Invented histories for some of them, others didn’t seem as if they had histories, just days. And nights. People are mysterious when you don’t know them, less so when you do. Unless you’re in love of course. Entertained many other phantoms, none of whom ever became quite real or never for long enough. One night Venus, the planet I mean, came down so close it felt as if I could reach out and touch—her? It? Whatever. Though it was clearly another delusion, extended my hand anyway then closed it to a fist. The feeling was indescribable but I will try. Like clutching incandescent mist. Like wet fire. Like a viscous bounteous mucous. When I couldn’t stand the heat any more, I withdrew my fist and opened it. In the palm shivered one silvery drop, I’d say mercury but that’s a different planet. Anyway this liquid was clear as water. I touched it with the forefinger of my other hand, it burned. No whorls left now on that fingertip. The little drop of Venus was undiminished. In a moment of recklessness, I licked it up and swallowed. It went through me like white lightning and nothing’s been the same since. I'd become her avatar. I was a tiny part of her, wherever she went I went. Round and round the sun. Sometimes I saw Earth like a single blue tear in space. And I remembered everything, every sip, every gasp, every image, every word. Every touch … it wasn’t enough. After that I slept even less and often found myself singing the old song: It’s never enough/it’s never enough/until your heart stops beating/the deeper you get/the sweeter the pain/don’t give up the game/until you’re heart stops beating ... I think that’s how it goes.