San Domingo

 

by Erik Rangno

An island of warring appetites, or else two rogue states grounded

at the hip—it all depends on how you read the parking lot, the

spidery eyes of the dispossessed tracing the trails of jets through

orange skies the Wednesday after Easter. The motel pool has

been emptied of water and still the green gate cautions: DO NOT

SWIM ALONE. A ragged couple reclines at the bottom, insulated

by the endless commotion of cars coming off the freeway to loop

the drive-thru to the window. Palms overhead draw from the

breeze a false nostalgia: comforts of a home they’ve always

wanted but never had. They pass a bottle between them while

conjuring spells against their suicide. And I remember thinking,

any camouflaged soul could find asylum here, if not for vice

across the boulevard. When it was finally our time, you chose a

room on the second floor directly in line with the In-N-Out

arrow—a missive to break our better selves against. I spoke

playfully of handcuffs and you rehearsed your life in flakes: the

pointlessness of cheerleading, a cesspit father who’d gone to the

Kennedy School, phobias concerning the pouch-life of marsupials

and the exhilaration to be found in certain types of jeans, all the

dead-end footprints left in arid lakebeds. It wasn’t Easter, I

remember now—but Halloween. “The devil take the hindmost,”

you said, and I went to the minimart for protection. Afterwards I

noted how the vending machines beneath the stairwell stacked

up like three bears, and you said, “A fairy tale’s the opposite of

fantasy—are you trying to burst the bubble?” “Yes,” I said. “We’re

finally getting somewhere, getting at something real, about you

and me and whatever’s got us in its teeth, a Pac-Man or a serpent,

a maze or a garden, ghosts or God . . . I measure your worth by

what I’ve given up to be here, and it’s so much more than

happiness.” In the silence that followed, I’d wanted there to be

creatures bold enough to warrant an exit strategy; their

beastliness a remedy for future memoirs set to silvery suns in

foreign plazas, outposts along the shipping lanes where location

never matters beyond the introduction. But what I felt,

unmistakably, was border patrol, the too big and too small of our

being. Already within the palace walls, whispers of another coup.

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Erik Rangno teaches creative writing and literature at Orange Coast College, in Costa Mesa, CA. His fiction has appeared in The Santa Monica Review and nonfiction in The Atlantic. “San Domingo” is one of a series of prose poems set in Southern California.