The resident barricaded himself in his studio a second time.
As was his unpardonable practice, he had been uncommunicative when it mattered most, and indiscriminatingly confessional when it mattered least. Yet he did not know how to truly characterize his end of the acid conversation. He attempted in his small way (and without success) to wheedle and cajole Erica, and it left a bad taste in his mouth. Words polluted everything, he thought, even lust; and in view of the drudgery he now attached to his indistinguishable hours and days, they made anything short of an overt sexual proposition sound like an unnecessary expenditure of verbiage.
In truth he entertained no romantic aspirations for Erica. Her vivisection and vituperation counted for little, and at least dispensed with any pretense on his part to be anything other than the pathetic person she knew him to be. What he wanted most from the girl was brutal realism—one way or another. He wanted her to be both judge and executioner: to either excoriate an older man’s temptation, or to fulfill it.
Perhaps he was too old to be groomed for pair bonding at this stage of life, but not too old to seduce the odd, susceptible woman of childbearing years. It was not an alignment of stars Erica’s path and his crossed in any case, but an inevitable shackling together of fates in small town oblivion. He was on the last fumes of his desire at forty-nine, while Erica was in the last act of her allurements at twenty-seven. Women, biologically, have a smaller window in which to act than men, and he already saw how pretty youth was abandoning her, and how gravity was undermining her body. Yet he fantasized about her, and precisely because of these fading attributes. Erica was the one crumbled corner of his heavenly edifice that, in its remainder, never quite made it to earth.
Flesh, he told himself, was his excuse for craving her incessantly. Flesh, he told himself, would become his excuse for keeping her at arm’s length. This, as always, left him suspended between Heaven and Earth with atrophied purpose, and wishing for what he could not admit to himself—for what he could not create for himself. It might look suspiciously like a baited trap, but it would only be a man, by a crook of self-deception, getting out of his own way…
Aloysius opened the studio door and gazed down the two flights of stairs. The candles lining the path danced in the draft kicked up by a closing door. He doused each flame as he made his way down to the second floor landing.
Because the door to the guest room was cracked, he saw where the lamp on its night table had been switched on. Several drawers in the chest were pulled out, and the suitcase under the bed was unlatched. (Nothing appeared to have been taken.) The closet door was also open, and so it was through the secret passageway that his dormouse gained access to this room.
He resumed his task, continuing on to the living room before turning to extinguish the candles on the trip back up. This placed him at his bedroom door with all the lights in the house (save the candle by his bed) snuffed out.
Erica’s clothes were gone, although the envelope of money was still on the nightstand. When the wooden chair blocked the bedroom door, the last candle was blown out.
Chapter Thirty, Section Four/ Back/ Contents Page
Copyright © 2007 Michael Teague. All rights reserved.