III - The Empress


"People look to me and say, 'It's me and you when it's the final day.

What's the future of mankind? How do I know I got left behind?' . . .

How am I supposed to know hidden meanings that will never show? . . .

Who's the prophet from the past, lights the stage and we're all in the cast?"

Ozzy Osbourne * I Don't Know


September 6th

Little children cherish fantasies, adults obsess. Maybe cinema corrupted, where Dorothy exclaimed,

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"

Maybe Barbie, the Beatles, or Bewitched re-runs set the pace. For April, part of it was definitely those prophesies from the Bible. Not the stories that they tell you about during Sunday worship, but the unspoken Truth.

It became impossible to determine when the fabric of the Eternal Now shifted. While April's world became routine, the other world changed.

"So when it's all figured out (which it never is), it should all add up (which it never does). Like a giant puzzle, it should all fit together. So why am I still puzzled? (Which I am)."

Over twenty years ago, the dream first came.

Six year old April glowed, fresh with all the life and wonder during those carefree days of summer. She and her secret twin, a girl named Sarah whose dark complexion otherwise contrasted April's fair skin, plotted the completion of World Peace, which consisted of lots of money and grand fairy tale balls to attend. Vietnam was still fresh in their young minds.

Mostly, though, perfection consisted of one theme. The boy got the girl, the girl had a baby, and the baby got a puppy. And no matter what time of day it was, when April's mother called out that was time to come home, the story would always end . . .

" . . . and they lived happily ever after."

Once, the twins found the world's first tree house / spaceship. It really consisted of one piece of rotting plywood nailed to the lowest three branches of an oak tree. Behind a neat row of suburban houses, the field was strictly forbidden. April's mother knew that older kids hung out there, smoking and sneaking beers. Her daughter, golden haired and bright eyed, might have been influenced.

The thrill of the taboo intoxicated young April. Sarah had, of course, been a regular. Red crayon scrawled her name everywhere as proof.

"Come on, sis, I've got something to show you."

Through the towering weeds, Sarah pulled her to the edge of a clearing. Two of the teenagers there were boys, smoking and drinking, laughing at the girl. Mimicking her with crocodile tears, they slowly, painfully ripped away her self-esteem. Like a poison, is effect was deadly. She tried to hug the handsome one ("the mean-looking one," April would later say), putting her arms around him. He pushed her away.

She wanted, no, needed some attention from him. Oh, he had given her his attention, just the night before last. Late night Monday, long after dark, not twenty feet from where they now stood, he had given her some attention. Her first attention. It had hurt some, but when she got home, all she could think about was him. Oh, how she loved him! All that day in school, she had written his name in different styles, her name 'plus' his name, and the ultimate: her first/his last name name. But at home that night, she waited for him to call. The phone rested silent in its cradle. It was the first night he hadn't called since they had been going steady, for six months.

Later, she reasoned that, perhaps, he had been too busy to call, all the while it never dawning on her that he might not call at all. Ever again.

As the evening wore on, she decided to go out anyway. At the local hang-out (Big T's, of course, even May knew that!), the girl saw him with his friends and felt only the slightest chill at she latched onto him, just as it had always been. His strong, leather clad arm belonged around her tiny shoulders. She was his little sweetheart. They were a couple everyone knew was perfect together, forever.

But now something was wrong.

Just as she stepped up to him, he turned as if on cue, and walked away with his friends in tow. What had she done? And when he left, not a word.

Today, she had seen him after school walking toward the field. Now it became clear. She had given him part of her. It was sacred. He tossed it aside afterwards. Although April might not have known all the concerns (the compromise of health, possible pregnancy, its news broadcast on the devil's radio), but she did know one thing.

This was not ". . . happily ever after."

And from the look on the girl's face as she felt the hand of his best buddy creep up under the front of her sweater from behind, it might not ever be again.

She heard the word slut for the first time that day. She heard the whole conversation. But then they heard April,

"Why are they doing that?"

Her whisper startled the guys, who turned and spotted two little girls hiding in the grass. The buddy, scruffy brown headed meanness, turned toward them.

"What have we got here?" He sneered, "A little freak, with her little nigga' friend!"

He grabbed the other boy's arm, "I think it's time for a little lynchin'."

He lunged at them, "Boo!."

Sarah ran. And ran. April tried to keep up with her but couldn't. She called out for her, but to no avail. She knew that they weren't being chased. Sarah didn't even hear her. April gave up and walked home alone.

Later that night, she thought about the day. It was the first day she heard the word nigga' but obviously not Sarah's. April wondered what these words meant. She would have to ask Sarah. Or maybe Mom and Dad.

Years later when April did give it up (her virginity), she did so with precision, and a calculated coldness. It was a rite of passage, nothing more. It didn't surprise her when he didn't call. It was fairly painless getting over him. As the years went by, it got even easier.

Love 'em and leave 'em became "Love 'em? Leave 'em!"

"Marry 'em and bury 'em!" Sarah always said, even after the death of her first husband. This, of course, raised many suspicious eyebrows. But April knew Sarah, her motives and dreams. She had been her first lover, in child's play.

Even now, though nothing was ever said, April wondered what it might have been like now that they were adults. Deep inside, she was afraid that sex would ruin their friendship. Neither believed in the perfect love. It didn't exist. But still she wondered.

As autumn blew in, she felt the chill in the air. April Leigh decided it was time to talk to Chance Lee.

But how?

It made her feel like before, when they first met. But that was so long ago, Twelve years ago, she figured.

Back then, it felt good to send him little notes, messages of inspiration. Year after year, she rocked OM silently as she sealed each envelope. Music penetrated her soul. His music spoke to her. She knew his songs weren't written to her or about her, but . . . then again. His words fit her calculations. His story is history. On paper, he is the one! So she just decided to let him be more than anything possible, on paper. And it kept her out of trouble, mostly. It kept her at home, at least.

That was then. One day it became unbearable. The redundancy of her poems drove her to realize how much time she wasted on this, on him. Why was he so important anyway? No one else noticed him, or her.

What once was the life line of her mind, now became the anchor dragging her under. She wanted to impress him, but not a word. It wasn't as if they hadn't met. He knows me.

But did he?