Content Warning: rape, graphic sex, violence, suicide, child abuse, mentions of historical tragedies/genocide
The Trickster God didn’t claw at my window. He didn’t require my invitation, nor my praise and neither my sex. He simply appeared before me, on a night where, as per usual, I was not asleep.
I had resigned myself to insomnia. I no longer bothered to keep my mind occupied during the hours of stolen wakefulness, I let it drift, knowing it would never fully abandon me, nor I it.
It was that night when I opened my eyes and beheld a giant ape that I knew I had been chosen. I had heard of the Monkey God: he signified among the Yoruba, he overlooked Hanuman House where Mr. Biswas was tormented, he carried Gautama Buddha’s blessings across a continent. In fact, among all the cultures of the world, my Nordic ancestors were in the minority who disavowed him. We crafted in his stead a deity of fire. Perhaps that was why the Trickster God floated above me, as I was a vestigial limb of the Loki-worshippers. And yet, the Monkey’s fur was as white as any Aryan’s — his Bavaria-pink face was the only respite from what was otherwise a snowy tundra. A shudder ran down my spine as I imagined freezing to death in his arms.
Where I was flat and spindly, a crowbar-woman, the Trickster was pear-shaped, brutally strong but gentle all the same. And yet, his tenderness, his grace, had a tinge of mockery to them, as though he never wished me to forget that he could rip me to pieces if he wanted to.
He spoke to me in Spanish and German, the languages of my childhood. It did not surprise me that God spoke like a colonizer, in my own tongues. It was jarring, however, to hear German from such a molten face, one so different from my grandfather’s SS jawline.
Furthermore, the God’s German was Hispanic, and his Spanish Germanic: “Fingeren” for him meant not only “fingers” but also “fingir,” to mimic (“fingir voces”) or to fake (“fingir enfermedades”). When he asked for my hand, he asked for my mimicry.
“Dearest white lady” — güerita queridissima — “my latest patient. I request your hand in marriage.” His voice did not roar or shriek but flowed like water from a tap, like oil from a ceramic jug. It stuck to the walls, it stuck to my skin, my hairs raised in cautious pleasure. He counted his assets like coins: “I would show you how to shape-shift, how to mimic every living and dead thing, how to fly by pressing your hands together; I would teach you how to spin tales without ever opening your mouth, how to become any man’s desire by twisting words, how to live forever with one stack of lies.”
I barely whispered — “Why me?” — perhaps I did not even whisper, merely thought it, but the Trickster God read me well.
“Aha,” he said, his fangs just barely visible as he split his face into a smile. “As you well know, humans are not insignificantly composed of viruses.”
“Quiet,” I said.
“Some eight percent of your DNA is viral in origin. You, however — you are endemic, a born metastasizer.”
“Your blood is uniquely voracious, surpassingly greedy. Not one square foot of land, not one spoon, not a strand of the human genome escapes your body’s attention. I want that power, I need it to survive.”
“Quiet!” I found myself shrieking. The ape bowed his head in apology.
“It is not your fault,” he sighed. “You maybe merely suspected as much to be true, but never actually admitted it to yourself.”
“You don’t understand human business. I am good. How could you possibly know what good means, when you live forever? When you’re a trickster god?”
The Trickster God laughed. “Nordic One,” he said, “you will have to see for yourself.” He put his thumb on my forehead, and within an instant, I went completely mad.
The God twisted a kink in my prefrontal cortex, or perhaps — he undid a knot in my occipital lobe, or, most likely, my brains were entirely rearranged, stirred and shifted. He allowed me to see the past and future superimposed onto the present, like two shots on a single frame of film. I saw the Warsaw Ghetto in a Walgreen’s aisle 10. I saw the priests of Teotihuacán in my shower. And I saw how I met X, and I saw how I would die.
I learned very quickly that neither the future nor the past were preconditioned. What I saw was not a single road stretched out before me in both directions, but an entanglement of threads, each split into countless fibers. They formed a tapestry, one that undulated, bellowed in and out, wove and unwove itself. Occasionally, one single string would part into millions of fragments, while otherwise, a seemingly endless number would converge onto a single line of history. Those overdetermined ropes fascinated me the most, because they were the most like fate.
The tapestry floated in the back of my mind. At any moment, I could call it forth to inspect its tortured oscillations.
I went to the grocery store around the corner, a giant, overturned tin can lined with milkcrates full of fruits and vegetables. One customer had been a general in some war in some country where America had turned its beady eyes; his interlocuters had whisked him away the moment of defeat. Another was a mobster who had just broken a man’s knees; another still was a shrimpy old lady who had once been a writer, and who would die in two weeks. I admit that I enjoyed fondling people’s memories with the same ease that I ran my hands around eggplants and avocados, seeking out the bruises.
Out of the corner of my eye, a passing reflection looked something like the face of an ape.
I am sure that the Trickster God wanted me to find my threads, wished me to pore over them. That is his way, to give with one hand and to take with the other. He made me insane by sharpening my vision; he tortured me with the gift of prophecy; he tantalized me with hideous threats. I saw my own life, threads that gathered at a single knot — the Monkey God — and were bound from that point onwards in a single shaft. A straight line that took me through X.
I saw a liar. I saw the first to tell me I was beautiful, the first to rape me; with a knife, with false pretenses, with other tricks of the trade.
I was not a barfly; I had never liked bars, and I did not like getting picked up at bars. No one had ever tried. But still, with the stupid insistence of reality, I saw a bar, and I saw myself drinking a lager. I saw X fish me out of the barstool, as though he were fingering me out of a lineup. I saw the hole-shot cloth of his lies. I saw where it all ended, and still I grew lonely at the thought that I would have to wait.
X’s tongue was stuffed full of history. His was the real “holy tongue,” a platter of English, a tool of mimicry par excellence. His cells teemed with expansion, with lust for stolen land and unwilling sex. I imagined his most colonial member, extended and giant like a cow’s. I wouldn’t say it didn’t excite me. It swept clean what I had thought about language, it dangled and split when he lied, one tongue for every falsehood, and another for every implication. In my mind’s eye, he struggled to clamp all his tongues behind his lips.
Like me, he was a glutton. He couldn’t resist. He had to spill more lies, more spittle of bravado and self-assurance.
I, too, was powerless; I needed more, although, or especially because, I saw how it would end. I helped myself to his ego, I painted my face in it, begged to see more and even more. Because of his history-tongue. Because he was a liar.
“This one’s a mimic,” I said to the Monkey God. “He looks like a person. He acts like one, he talks like one, but he isn’t. Not really. Not worthy of the name, which is, after all I have seen, a low bar.
“He deserves to die. If only he would stay put, if only he would feel sunken into a tiny room, with no one to dive into, no one to hide behind… if only the walls would shrink and squeeze his frame, collapse inwards…
“What I mean is: If only he would tear out his veins like faulty wiring. If he stood still for a second, he surely would. But he will keep on moving, forever.”
The Trickster God nodded and stroked the hairs on his chin. “That’s the problem with sight,” he said. “It makes you think you’re some kind of god, above the forces of history, the blood of human beings.”
“No,” I said, “I know I am one of us, a human, hurt, fallible, hurtling myself onwards even though there’s no point. There isn’t any point, is there. I’ve seen everything. I know everything about myself, I’ve lived my life vicariously, through your vision. So why am I still here?”
The ape sighed. “Because you want to see how the movie ends.”
But I had seen it.
At the bar, X would offer to finger me, and he would. He would start fumbling in my pussy until he found the right rhythm. I would make absolutely no noise. I would cum and resent it, be grateful, and then resent my gratitude. He would then take his seat on a throne of corpses and massage his cock, one foot pressed against my cheek.
And I knew as a fact that he would snake in and out of my life, and I would be the happier for it each time it made me miserable. I knew I would hang from a rope, and he would have no idea; fifteen days later, he would come by my door — FOR SALE — and he would think to himself, Have I really got the wrong address? and then forget all about it. That’s the law of replaceability, of re-procreation.
How much worse it would have been — it would be — if he knew! He would think to himself, A girl killed herself over me… That was in no way in the future, because I would never let him think that. Instead, I would let him prosper; I would let others leave him; I would let his whole depressing future unfold in front of him like a never-ending staircase. It would never lead to suicide, no, but to soul-death, to husk-wandering. I had already been there to see it.
“I’m not talking to you,” I told the Trickster God.
“I don’t see why,” he said. His droopy eyes scowled. “I gave you a gift.”
“No,” I said, “you brutalized my sight, you stuffed me full of visions I never asked for. You showed me how I’ll die.”
“Doesn’t every human want to know about their own death?”
“No. In fact, it’s torture. I now know that I will throw away my only death for someone who didn’t deserve a single one of my living days.”
That was when he tried to touch me. He reached out his paw, blazing white, and I could feel its deadness close in on my body. He wanted to embrace me.
“Humans,” he said, “are so frail. I thought you were different from the rest.”
“Get away from me,” I said. I grabbed my bedside lamp and ripped it from the wall.
“I love you, even though you are not what I thought, even though you lied. Humans lie, too, and I love you.”
He loved to tease me, to draw out my anger, and it worked. I swung the lamp and smashed the bulb against the God’s head. He wailed, the shrill wind that escaped from him crashed through the room, broke apart my furniture, tore me irreparably in half: in an instant, I no longer had the God’s vision. The Monkey had vanished, and taken his gift back with him. I had, I think, hurt his feelings.
My eyes had become broad, unspeakably vast and empty. No more tapestry of history, no more past and future clogging up my vision.
And yet, it had never occurred to me that the Trickster God had lied.
I did meet X at a bar, and he did pick me out. I wondered if he had had a similar foresight; I doubted he would have approached me otherwise. I had an anonymous character. Still, I followed him, assuming I had no other choice.
Untrue. He asked if the seat next to me was taken and I recognized him immediately, bright blond and decked out in brown leather. His nose was small and sharp, unbearably unbroken. He had the easy smile of someone who believes they have suffered, without having ever felt the real meathooks grip their flesh. The ones that pull you, they force you to scrape your heels if they have to, down a long hallway to that single point, that unyielding pavement that meets unyielding body.
I could easily have ignored him. It would even have been characteristic of me to ignore him. But simply because I knew how much I would hate him, I said, “No,” by which I meant, of course, “Yes, me.”
Then for the volta. In his apartment — its mess carefully maintained — he pulled out a little bag of tinfoil. He unwrapped it and showed me the gel acid tabs.
“You wanna try?”
He mistook my expression: “You don’t have to if you don’t want you,” which never means that, not when said like that, with his lopsided smile. But I wasn’t scandalized, not at all. I was simply understanding for the first time that the Monkey hadn’t shown me everything, or else had tailored what I would see. I could imagine his paws slinking back, uncovering my eyes, just so that I would see reality as it unfolded.
“I do want to,” I said.
X shrugged. He put three directly in his mouth, trying to chew them. I nearly laughed out loud. I placed two under my tongue, more than enough to enter my bloodstream.
On the couch, I pushed away his hands. I wanted to plummet into myself. I would not stand for any interference.
It took time. Thirty minutes, maybe an hour. And then the floor melted away. The couch expanded and I floated into it, above it, half in and half out of sinking sand. X was next to me, flailing like a dying insect: I could read his thoughts: not good.
“Shhh,” I said. “Ruhe, sei still…” He nodded and quieted, eyes large and childish; he must have been able to read my thoughts as well, or else he had intuited German. He began to breathe steadily.
The room undulated, shimmered like a snake, in tune with our breathing.
I could hear the furnace sing, an angelic choir, the sound of the universe barrelling through me. I left X in that room as I went deeper, as I peeled back and saw blood. And I could see myself as a child, pondering the portrait of my grandfather in uniform, pondering the desiccated survivors of the camps. I could see myself as a child, stuttering between languages, crying under the belt whip, the endless fuck ups enunciated with every slash. I could see myself trying to climb up our chimney to understand what it was like, to know what it meant to be a Jew. And I saw an enormous white ape seated in the middle of our living room, tears streaming down his fat face. How could you? he cried.