When the Gods looked down on Oakland, they saw ornate engravings on skyscrapers bursting out of lush mountains. But from the view of tiny humans, Oakland's face appeared to be covered in asphalt overpasses and pigeon shit. The humans who traversed its 55 miles didn't spend much time looking up lest they got glass in their shoes. There was the glass of broken bottles, the remnants of auto wrecks and the shimmering pebbles of last night's car stereo theft. There was so much shiny and sharp in Oakland that people only raised up their hands and their heads in church, robbery, or arrest.
The uncomfortably middle class lived on the outskirts of the skyline. The debris from the freeway still found its way to their yards but they had gardens and sturdy Victorian walls to absorb it. On Sunday mornings these outliers walked to the Farmer's market. On Monday mornings they were awakened in the night to the clanging of the Latero men going through their trash. And somewhere in this neighborhood, Lyn’s boyfriend was on the run in lady’s leggings and argyle socks.
Lyn went home. She ate a bowl of ramen. Cleaned up the vomit. Then, with brittle nerves, she went to sleep.
Eesha writhes in a sea of snakes. Picture her: on her back, skin glowing in the moonlight, black coils all around, endless, moving among each other and coiling about her limbs. They whisper to her, their tongues flicking in and out tasting. Tasting everything.
Then she is next to a tree that’s gnarled roots grasp at the river like fingers, I am picking a thorn out of my foot. Her toes are dirty; the bottoms of her feet are hard and rough.
A print made in the sand unlike the hoof of any animal. The wind erases it.
Now she tussles with the tiger. The tiger scratches her; she only laughs. There is blood on her legs. Not from the tiger, but she smells it, has a taste. It tickles. The tiger's head is huge. She drools a little.
Flashes of her body in pieces, the red of her spilled on the river rocks and matted grass. She blinks. She blinks and that single moment that is over in a blink seems to last for the passage of many moons. The grasses rot away, the river dries, the land beneath turns to dust, hardens and crackles and becomes cold. And still she counts the moons.
The weary eyes watch. They are so far, yet they dominate the landscape. In this placid moment I realize I am dreaming. I try to wake Eesha, but she refuses to move. Though I can’t move her, I can direct my attention elsewhere. The eyes. I race toward them as fast as my will can carry me.
Lynn threw aside the sheets.
The bottom shelf of the bookcase by the bed held a motley assortment of journals. She blew the thick layer of dust from the last one she’d touched; it was cloth-bound and defaced by paint pens. From where sat at the foot of the bed she had a view of both doors.
The first thing she drew was the symbol. Like a “u” with half serifs. Or a test tube. Then she drew the body in the cracked landscape.
When she stopped to ponder composition, she stared at the cheap decorative sheet that hung over the bed. The style of it suited neither of them, but Alex kept it because of something he’d seen in it during an acid trip.
The body she drew disappeared in the desert she drew behind it. Both were cracked into pieces. She didn’t need color, the body and the desert were the same color. She drew the tiger too. Page after page, each sketch grew bigger, more elaborate, and they all seemed connected. There were patterns, if she had the space she could sketch some kind of geography. There was a nervousness to Lyn, like there was some giant painting in her waiting to burst forth, floating like nausea.
She drew the eyes over and over. At first in her sketchbook and then on a piece of posterboard. There was something she wanted to capture, a possible constant. She’d never had this exact dream before, but the world of it was intimately familiar. Deja vu in a dream. It made the dream feel real.
While she thought, Lyn tapped the band-aid on her arm with her pencil. Bigger canvas. But where? She looked at the paisley design hanging on the wall. The paisleys formed a radial design around a simple elephant head. She stood up and walked across the bed. The sheet was tacked to the wall. She removed the lower tack and pinned the fabric out of the way.
Both of the dreams had been ominous, but the girl with the wild hair was never afraid. Even when she lay in slices and couldn’t move, she stared with wonder at the changing sky.
But those eyes. The eyes were afraid.
Lyn put her pen on the wall. She drew the weary, wrinkled lids first. Then the iris, brown with complex flecks of black. At this size she was able to draw the veins.
She stared back at her watcher. “I’m coming for you,” she said.
There was a sound outside, near the door. Lyn jumped up, knocking over an empty cup. She ran to the entry door.
“Alex,” she said. But it was only the mail man. She returned to her handiwork. She hadn’t realized she’d drawn them so big. What had she been thinking? Tyree was going to kill her. But even as she thought this, she could feel the itch to go back to the drawing.
She had to get out of the house before she filled it in with paint. Lyn repinned the picture over the eyes, but a corner peeked out a bit on the left side.
The dark corner behind the kitchen passed for a closet. Tyree had put up a pole, and Lyn had meant to hang a curtain but never got around to it. It was a tiny but constant source of guilt. Not that it mattered, they never had people over. There was a basket of laundry overflowing there. As she sorted the pile, she felt the eyes burning into her back. She knew they couldn’t see her, but they called to her still. One thing was sure; she wouldn’t leave the house without her sketchbook again.