by Mia DeBono
Weeping, I saw the gold, ---and could not drink.
Meta was addicted to maps. All the lines stretched over the planet like veins transporting people from one tiny corner to another. This gave Meta goosebumps. It made her hairs rise and skin tingle to imagine all the different smells and sensations of the winds and waters swirling around the world.
She collected all sorts of maps. From regional to topographic maps to maps of languages and religions. She had grain trade, mineral, and water resource maps. She had a collector's replica of an ancient T and O map. There were atlases, road maps, and state routes. From Zanzibar to Zealand to Texas to New Caledonia, to Adelaide to Acadia to a boat ride from Malta to Tunisia. She had satellite photomaps of the continents and the deserts and aerial photomaps of all the homes of the people she knew. Some of the scales ranged from 1:60,000,000 to 1:24,000.
Her favourites were the ocean floor maps. She was so obsessed with all the hues of blues that she'd spend a Tuesday afternoon wrapping her naked body up in the maps, rubbing the Austral Seamounts, the Lofoten Basin, and the Alpha Cordillera all over her face and belly.
In her dreams, Meta leapt off the highest desert peaks hang gliding over canyons and rivers. She coasted along the seaboard of the Côte d'Ivoire in an ultra-light. Meta flew over trees and hills, desert playas, oceans, horses, dogs, chickens, and run down rusted out cars on the run down forgotten about first nations land rations. She spun around the orb from humid forests to bone bitter cold, through torrential rains and dry dusty air.
In dreams, Meta was swallowed up by the atmosphere, the stratosphere, and the hydrosphere. In these nocturnal apparitions she was sucked up into the ionosphere where electrons zinged off into the ghostly green billowing of the aurora borealis. When she landed, her skin was covered in rust.
Each dream left in her a smoldering burn, like a deep inconsolable desire. Each dream was a reflection to Meta of all the lives being lived; of all the possible worlds she could have been born into and could maybe even explore. Instead of here, she could be out there. She could've been a boy who sells citrus by boat in a water market in Thailand or a small girl from a Southwestern Russian village who buries who cuckoo doll in the forest on Ascension Day. She could've been a Haitian woman making a pilgrimage with her two small daughters to the mud baths at Bassin-Saint-Jacques in the Plaine du Nord; to light candles and smother their skins in orgeat and jasmine flowers and bathe in the luck baths where the Lwa live. Or she could've been a man born to a wealthy family, academicated and studying dusky dolphins along the Kaikoura Peninsula.
In reality, Meta lived alone; a solitary life confined to obsessive compulsions. She lived in a place where people left five day old garbage or home appliances on their porches and plastered the national flag all over their clothing and cars as if there were a fear of forgetting who or where they were.
She normally only left her home to drive two blocks to her job or to the grocery store. On rare occasions, she took road-trips cross-country, through the Badlands to the Ozarks, never getting out of the car except to pump gas or use the bathroom. She slept in the car and ate from drive-thrus. The climax of these trips came as a result of her parking at a lookout at sunset and when no one was around, she'd stand up through the open moon roof of the car to expose her breasts to the air.
Meta had other addictions. She was addicted to attending lectures at schools she did not attend. She sat at the back of the room listening to all the sordid stories of professors who traveled to the furthest reaches of the world to study the Dead Sea scrolls or attend the Rio earth summit. Some of the lectures ranged from "Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell" to "Plate Tectonics and Crustal Evolution". Her favourites were the lectures given by a 5 foot 8, twenty-two year old blonde South African woman with dreads and tight clothes who joined the Rainbow Brigade to travel into the deepest parts of Columbia and Peru. She listened as the young woman talked about traveling by bike, pedaling for days staying a step ahead of the fears of the warlords and paratroopers placed between every town and village; all to bring back a documentary on Inca descendants.
Meta was also addicted to staring and crying. When she wasn't having dreams, she took to long bouts of staring out the window. She'd stare for hours at a time. At the hills and smokestacks, the trees, and at the blinking lights on the single engine planes that flew above her home daily in the same pattern. When she stared off into the shadows, new obsessions would flood her mind.
She began to obsess over how the small planes flying in circles never went anywhere. She would daydream about how the commercial jets flew in a straight line at altitudes high above the prop planes, while large predatory birds coasted beneath them all…always soaring back and forth between large clusters of trees. She'd then repeat to herself over and over strange names for plants and flowers she had read about in a gardening book: Firewitches and Blue Medusa Corkscrew Rush.
She'd eventually drift back to the tormenting image of the crease between the eyes of a young man she had taken to following along Ste Catherine one winter in Québec. Meta felt a desperate need to smell him, to rub the seriousness of the crease away and to kiss the sound of the broken English that came out of his throat. How do you say in English? She followed him for two blocks, then four blocks, five, seven, ten blocks until she slipped on the ice-covered sidewalk and lost sight of him as he entered the métro station.
Following him wasn't the intention at first. She had only meant to catch up to him at the end of the first block after their mutual college class let out, to make small talk. The walks were too slippery, so she didn't want him to see her running to catch up, only to fall hard onto the frozen ground. Once the course was over, she returned home and spent a summer cutting out pictures from film and art magazines that resembled him to stare at and if drunk enough, to talk to. She was desperate at not seeing him again. If she were with him, her life would be beautiful and peaceful. Purity. Clear water and purity.
When she could no longer bear the pain of what her life was not, she'd walk outside barefoot and grind her feet into the bark dust to fill them with tiny sharp splinters she'd have to tearfully spend hours prying out with a thin needle. She'd then fall asleep, only to have the nightly visions return where she'd be trapped in the magnetosphere-where her eardrums were shattered by the shrill whistles, hisses, and pops of all the earth's electrically charged spheres bouncing off each other. Her dreams would take her to him walking in an army green winter coat with hands in pockets bustling through the fast city crunching over ice and snow hurried to a destination of great importance. She dreamt she spoke with him only for a moment at the revolving doors of de Maisonneuve, never learning his name. In all her dreams she saw him walking, always walking somewhere with head either slightly up or slightly down but never looking at her instead always walking by like bullet train that could not stop for anyone.
When she awoke she remembered the novena card she kept under the pillow. The short indulgenced prayers her great-aunt sent her via mail every two months from the Gold Coast. Meta had set about to repeat one of the prayers once per day for 100 days in a desperate hope to have a wish fulfilled. She pulled the card out to stare at the burning sacred heart, glowing with promises.
O sweetest Heart of Jesus, I implore that I may love Thee more and more.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus I place all my trust in Thee
Jesus, my God, I love Thee above all things.
"May the Sacred Heart of Jesus pulse and burst into flames and smother me with its bloody heat and fill my open sores."
Meta loved parties. So much so that she threw several for herself. She loved dressing up and wearing lipsticks and mascaras. So on a special Saturday night she put on her favourite rust coloured slip dress and strung lights up around the house, lit candles, and burned piñon. For the occasion she pulled out her grandfather's old collection of records he'd gathered on trips from Greece to Brazil. Her favourites were the Latin music albums. She never quite understood the words, but it didn't matter. For a few hours her daydreaming mind would transform her into an animated version of herself who could no longer resist the Latin beats, barefoot and dancing slowly down those sizzling dusty broken streets- fingers snapping, heals tapping, neck sweating and hips grinding. "Rumba, Samba, Afro-Cuba take me home." She then turned up some of the flamenco, bought a bottle of wine, and made her entrance into the bathroom where she had many conversations with a woman in the mirror who was drinking the same wine. She watched herself smoke rose scented cigarettes and wondered why no one else liked her laugh. After the conversations dulled, she fell asleep on the bathroom floor.
Once again Meta returned to her dreams. This time she sat in a dark room by a window looking out into dusk and down at a golden mustard field that housed an old grain silo. She had her hands and face pressed up so hard against the pane that it slowly began to crack. Scratching at the pane, she started to scrape off flecks of glass with her fingernails. In the dreams the window that separated her from the open field shattered from the pressure of the air on the opposite side and her pushing back on it. She soon had splinters of glass imbedded under her finger and toenails. The bits of window soon started to burrow into her skin like flakes of fiberglass. It penetrated her face, her skull, and her eyes. She bit into the remaining pane, biting down and crunching with vengeance inflicting slivers of pane into her tongue, cheeks, and deep into her gums. She swallowed the shards until she could no longer make sound. In this dream, she stood up on the ledge of where the glass had been. Standing thirty feet above the yellow field, she faced the raw air with winds blowing past her. She stood barefoot on the edge of where all the remaining fragments of glass jutted out like blades piercing and grating her feet and legs. She picked up the broken debris and began to lick the wine off the sharp edges until the hint of oak barreled tannins blended with the spice of blood. She then noticed a star hovering alone in the sky, it made her cry.
This time when she awoke, she felt the lingering hazel squint of the nameless man's eyes burning into her. She then remembered the blonde woman from South Africa who alone gained permission to film the private ritualistic ceremony of the Inca elders undergoing a hallucinogenic experience. She remembered her standing in front of a room full of ethnic jewelry and linen shirt wearing women, all going back to school for a degree in cultural awareness. These women hated her. Meta hated her too.
Meta then began to imagine a fire. She imagined setting ablaze her home starting with the bark dust. She imagined watching from the hill the sirens, the water being sprayed and people running confused. She imagined how the remaining smell of charred flesh would tinge the air and how national flags and hems of dresses would become singed with black smoke. She thought maybe instead of watching from the hill, she could stay inside her room inhaling the smoke and the sound of the ear splitting fire alarm. She could then throw herself wrapped in her maps into the glowing inferno, screaming as she and each blueprint for a destination frittered away into floating pieces of blackened ash. Then her life would become pure, clear water and purity.