See You Later, Space Cowboy28 November 2019
“See you later, space cowboy,” says the girl with no name as shapes begin to lose form.
The words resonate as they pass through Annalise’s sunken mind but like a shooting star; disappearing into the void as quickly as they came. Entangled in light and distant imagery; glimpses of memory become her reality only to feel as though she’s woken up from a cloudy dream when her mind returns to the golden archways of the Grand Archive.
“See you later, space cowboy.”
Her mind withers to a stump; it sucks every drop of knowledge that it can like a dying tree clinging to water. But those five words take shape as a painting in a gallery, eternal and immortalised in her rotting mind. Rarely does she ever perceive more than passing colours and the inkling of a feeling or emotion, and she lacks the self-awareness to try. Like a character in a dream where someone else is the dreamer, Annalise fulfils their narrative purpose. But when the dreamer wakes up, her mind is left imprisoned in the gallery.
“See you later, space cowboy.” A tear runs down the girl with no name’s face.
Looking deep into the rough, hasty strokes that make up the painting Annalise is lifted into a dream of a marble staircase encased in a dark and narrow path upwards towards a worn mahogany door. Weathered wood splinters and protrudes like thorns on a rose; protecting its sophisticated, Victorian elegance from passing vagabonds. In darkness, everything behind the vagabonds disappears faster than stairs falling into place in front of them. The only thing that remains constant is the swinging pull light in the distance, illuminating the vague image of a door and a collection of misplaced antique furniture beside a turntable. A warm fuzz reverberates down the narrow path giving the further illusion of a homeward journey as The Caretaker’s ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ spins slowly around a worn-down needle.
Occasionally, the door creaks ajar and a black shadow like an oily stain rips itself from the doorway. Its limbs slender and frail and its shape irrational, it crawls towards the table using its arms like crutches. A black mist sprays from a limb and converges in the shape two fingers, which it swipes across a dusty surface of the polished, malachite table. An ear-piercing screech is emitted as the creature shakes its head at the absence of dust in his finger’s trail.
“My oh my, the caretaker—where has he gone off to this time?”, the creature sometimes says, “my beloved malachite table has been left to rot. I see through his absence this time; a doily placed atop the dust only masks what needs to be done. Albeit the doily compliments the room but that is beside the point. Yes, beside the point.”
The creature slithers its way to the red velvet armchair, slumps itself down and carefully listens to the mixture of dread and apathy evoked by the music as it massages its head methodically with its two fingers. As the record comes to a close, the creature lifts the needle and returns it back to the beginning before disappearing back into the world behind the door.
The door is left ajar by the creature and a glimpse of a quiet, sunny day seeps through: an empty green pasture beside a cobbled road. The wind gently blows a yellow sheet on an iron clothes line. A man in a straw hat and sweat-soaked wife-beater looks past the road into the patch of sunflowers which are dancing to a melancholic tune. As their golden limbs rub against each other he thinks about Maestro; the odd old man who ran the bar beneath the hill.
“Time has already been created and destroyed,” Maestro would say, “our brains are too small to take in all that information, so it’s doled it out in a way that we can process it.”
Strange old cook, the man in the straw hat would think, then his mind would turn to beer. This thought would often coincide with the clambering of horses in the sky above his cabin at 3:04:56pm every day. Sweat would drip through his hair and down his narrow face as he’d give a reserved wave to the crowned man in the chariot. Poor bastard, the man would think as his mind returned to Maestro.
“I take pity on Helios, I really do,” Maestro would always tell the man, “for what use is godhood if you’re condemned to a task that’s almost Sisyphean?”
The bar flies would look up at Maestro with furrowed brows before returning their gazes to the ripples in their gin. Maestro didn’t mind, he knew that the flies’ minds were as cloudy as the smoke-filled air, as he would watch them tap their feet in tandem to Sinatra’s ‘Summer Wind’. It was therapeutic and it was why Maestro fixed the jukebox to only play his favourite Sinatra tracks.
“Sinatra is an old fuck! When the fuck are you gonna fix this goddamn fuckin’ jukebox?” Frankie would scream out with a smoky glass of warm gin in his left hand and a service station cigar in his right. Maestro holds his hands up to his chin, thinking deeply about the nature of reality as the flies return their gaze to their gin; now rippling to the beat of ‘Fly Me To The Moon’.
“Fly Me To The Moon, let me play among the stars… Let me see what Spring is like on Jupiter and Mars,” Murukami quietly recites to himself: half singing, half humming. He sits on the far end of the counter in darkness, sipping a warm cider.
“Fill my heart with song, let me sing forever more,” he mouths as he observes the strange bar.
As he scans the room, he exchanges a look with Maestro.
“Say,” Murukami says, “this really is quite a bar Maestro, this really is quite a bar!”
Maestro adjusts the lapels on his white tuxedo seemingly out of habit.
“Thank you, Mr. Murukami. It reassures me that someone like you can find solace in such an obscure place.”
Murukami jolts his head up as he never remembers telling Maestro his name.
“In other words, please be true,” sings Frankie by the Jukebox. Like a light on a warm summer night, the flies are drawn towards him. He performs through the fog of smoke and vapour with his eyes wide and his legs shaking like a deer caught in headlights.
Murukami and Maestro click their fingers as Frankie pours his words through an upside-down, empty bottle of bourbon. His hips move like a turning cog as the flies delve into a deep trance.
“In other words, please be true,” Frankie sings as shapes begin to lose form.