Adam finds his way, in darkness and in light that comes from the fitful clinking light bulbs inside him. Walking through his rooms, the chains of them sweep my scalp, and his shoulders. They make a soft sound that gets dampened in the snow. Snow in fucking Vietnam, or in the wasteland of the old world that now makes up our shared dreams. Snow inside Adam, where it’s always been, where it was invented when the world began.
Shafts of light cut down and right, onto the floor of the warehouse. In the dust motes, the light becomes substantial, and his feet hit the cement floor the way it would a street; full of purpose, and full of embarrassment. The scrape of the heels of his boots warn me to be quiet and listen to every step. Shh thud, shh thud, shh thud.
His hair catches the light, curling up golden brown and shining with grease in the sun. His head is low enough to make him look like he’s walking into the orange and hot wind. Sand blows by the windows, and the light stutters an apology. The windows dim. Adam hugs his army jacket, and some part of me realizes that I’m seeing Adam in his uniform. Not Justin’s black suits of slim line and transparent intentions. Not East’s pragmatically rolled sleeves or Isaac’s expensive sunglasses. Saul’s boots. Benny’s jacket. Evelyn’s undershirts. Adam walks through all of time, in death and in dreams, dressed like Mark Hollis from Talk Talk.
While Adam walks along the walls, the cavern of the warehouse catches the hushing of his boots and tosses it back, tosses it back, tosses it back from the empty space to his right. The dim and ruddy shadows hold whispers and together, we look across the empty space to see people waiting, misshapen angels, things with no name. The warehouse is the last stop before heaven for all creatures made without the aid of God. Things like us. Dragons. Adam’s head turns and he looks back at me for a single glance, cementing me in the room with him for the rest of time, and in his eyes is the fury of all forgotten sins.
Don’t ask, don’t tell, right Fox?
With the fires that burn deep in Hinnom, and the lights that shine out as signals for every approaching army in the night, and the red sunsets of a dying world, Adam’s eyes lower from a blaze to bare-throated apology, and he turns forward, and keeps walking; a baldness now to his presence. A visible skeleton. He approaches the door of the office, and knocks. Gabriel answers.
The office of the warehouse is dark and lined with shelves of manuals for all the machinery once operated there. Lathes and sanders and saws. Tucked between them are novels of a stranger nature; Alice in Wonderland, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the King James Bible. The darkness throws Gabriel into relief, the sheen of sweat on his skin brighter, his brows darker, his eyes deeper in his face. His hands are filthy enough to make him look like a mechanic, and between his bony fingers, a cigarette burns orange as the sun, which is blackening just as fast, in the quick ignition of the cheap paper of the atmosphere.
Beauty I’ve always missed.
Adam’s mind flounders in the dust to find something he knows, with white-knuckled sincerity. Adam doesn’t believe facts with proof, only those with sincerity.
Sincerely, oh you know how I’ve always loved you.
He disappears into the room with Gabriel, who shuts the door and clicks a lock. My heart pounds and I clutch him tight in the ash and snow because for the first time, with his sincerity, I know what the truth is.
Purgatory. From the Latin purgare. To make clean.
At the Watchtower, we must make clean our sins. As Dragons, we must make clean all the sins of men; to be made redemptive and wholly purified by the long lineage of all the suffering of the earth. Adam was never guilty of war, but he would be purified for it, baptized by it, and bear witness to it, here in the Tower, until he was clean. War, loss of innocence, murder, and knowledge. All of those things for which each of the children of Eden stand are surely what we bear witness to, and surely how we see men suffer.
Adam whimpers, and his eyelids twitch, and he clutches my knees and buries his face in my lap. Hot breath and tears soak in to my jeans. I hold him, while I wait by a blank green door, and I follow him always as far as I can follow him, to the places I can get, inside him. I know he’s praying to Gabriel, Justice of the Lord, the reason hallways are so very long, in dreams.
Where Gabriel takes him, behind the door, he witnesses the war. Let me hold you, Adam, let me in and I can hold you.
Gabriel will light him a cigarette. Gabriel will turn on the news. Gabriel will hold his hand. Gabriel will take his confession. Gabriel will hold him tight while his cries lengthen and become the sounds all frightened children make. Gabriel will push his hair back from his eyes, and Gabriel will kiss his terrified mouth.
Adam’s letter to Gabriel is listless and desperate.
Each tiger that vanishes, among the snow and blown leaf, portends a fallen soldier, rare as such an animal to have it’s own stripes, and it’s own sky of stars. In the cool folds of the Siberian landscape, you’ll watch the beast walk slow, and vanish like a trick of light, his eyes seeing you a way yours will never see him. War, in a man’s heart, is the paranoia of being watched.
I feel the gaze of each cloud of smoke, greasing every sundown close to my arms, running up the length of them, coating me in my own stripes of paraffin, or regret, or the health of each iron thing I possess in spirit, but not in mind. As the bearer of sins, I can only possess in spirit, what I renounce in faith. Every house stands empty, Gabriel, but one.
We died, each by each, for the first time, and we went to your arms. Parts of my contrition and redemption are lost inside your lavender veins, and I follow them. What is heaven, brother? Is it what God has promised me, as a redemptive man, or is it what we found in one another, when Heaven had ceased to be defined?
Why does it break my heart, to speak your name, Gabriel? Are you, and have you ever been, the warden of all my sins? Why do you hold them so close? I scurry from my own questions, to find the ways inside them from beneath, from the places we wander together, always. Where I’m yours.
His fingers find their way into the palm of my hand, and he says in broken whispers that are raw from his tears something he thinks will make me understand.
I never knew what the trees were called that made the driftwood in Vietnam. It looks like something from another world. It washes up on the shore, in chunks of knotted brown bone and hair, like the skeletons of something that lives in the sea. But it smooths, to something that becomes light and round. It empties itself of some of it’s component proteins. It’s blood gone, it floats to the shore, where the motion of the waves against it forces it to confront, again and again, the punishment of sand.
I wonder if he means himself, and if we all become bloodless at some point in our confrontations. When the life inside us dries to something maroon and fine, and we’re filled instead with the brackish water of an older invention, and if we’re made bitter, we might...maybe that’s the only way to float. But as a dragon, part of me scoffs at that. Who the fuck got into this to float by it, anyway?
We died, and we were sent to the Watchtower, and we were made angels by a degree enough to remove us from the wrath or punishments of God. Some part of us, made into seawater, so we could stand the movements of the tide.
I’d never go back there, to his grand heaven of ultimate design. I made a promise I wouldn’t, and I made it to Eli, the only person with whom I’ve never broken one. There are things even God can’t make me into.
Eli in some life I can’t name was my brother, and my only one. The first lesson I had in dragon. The oldest memory of my lineage. All of the dragons but Clyde claimed to have been him. The mystery of who the real Eli was, was never solved or investigated with any intent. I liked to believe in various times it was all of them. Eli went to the tower, which in that time was a warehouse, and he painted on the wall along the eastern side a mural of a ruined city at night. The last city, maybe, of the old world. If I stand still I can sometimes almost think of it’s name.
But where were we Adam? Is the warehouse in the old world, or is it really in Brooklyn next to the house we burned down in ‘86?