Sometimes Is the New Never
Philip Kobylarz

Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence. And though admittedly such a thing never happened, it is still conceivable that someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never.

The Silence of Sirens —Franz Kafka

Even Ernest Hemingway lacked the balls to really write about it. Well, just one little story. One never-read, unremarkable tale. It is a place called Idaho and it doesn't mean anything. It is a name invented. And anyone who has been there knows why. Those who haven't lived, visited, driven through in a drowsy haze of bad coffee, energy drinks, and nicotine, have not truly seen the face of hell. Wake up, and like that even-to-this-day nerve-tingling Night Gallery episode in which a Nazi is trapped in a painting but instead it is you, find yourself trapped in a people-less calendar. Look around and scream. It is all you can do. For forever.

A calendar of nature photography. A calendar of God's grandeur. A calendar of view after view of the beautiful. A calendar of pure calendar art. No people. No people ever. The most beautiful fucking places on the earth to ever be seen, and screw Naples by the way, because this beauty is more rare. It's in the middle of nowhere. The mind explodes in visual ecstasy. The mind reels. And the worst part: there will be no one to share it with. For ever and ever.

People move to Idaho to be far from people. They move there to collect guns, to hunt, to escape that crazy thing called diversity, to enter into monasteries of terrible ranch houses with black iron eagles affixed over their garages, to be independent whatever that might mean, to shop at the most dismal grocery stores in the nation that dare make their own sushi, to have so much free time on their hands that murder must creep into their brains, to relish winter's uncleared streets because snow removal is a luxury, to gloriously inhabit day after endless day as their own worst selves. Idaho breeds the kind of introspection that one participates in while watching a campfire burn.

A place of similar similitude where everything will always be that one way—the way it is expected to be for always, negating mutability. The myth of stability. The antidote to chaos. Ideas of home. No one even knows about its nuclear tragedy. No one knows about its broken-glass-bottle fields of lava. Naturally etched tureens that might be and are inhabited by venomous snakes and furry lightning bolts of jackrabbits. Rugged broken knife blades of mountains that look up towards the sky they seek to dismember. Living anywhere there is an automatic form of survival.

That's Idaho.

But I had found a someone and took her to Massacre Rocks—a stretch of black rock mesa turned into crumbling purple and lichen-y green staircases. A place along a freeway outside of a town or two. A place the coyotes knew more intimately than the general public. This is where I made her undress. More natural beauty, unnaturally. Wine from the one store that had non-domestics. A fire snapping in the abandoned campsite. Reddish-orange stalagmite-like rock curtains providing all the privacy anyone needs from the vast unknown.

The occasional truck slowly moseying by trying to find a spot just like ours. A coyote skirting across a yellow grass swale. Evil men, the majority of us, like myself, need to be free. Mountain men who have no business being alive in the digital age looking for real things to do. Fucking in the sun as a river flows around, underneath, and through is about as real as real can be. The river is the Snake. It all makes sense. And if I am the devil, she is my willing minion.

There is a film called that. She. Nineteen thirty-five. She who must be obeyed is her full name. And that was who she was and who she will always be, although now she is gone. Lost even unto herself. And she left in the sleaziest way possible. The route involving stereotypes of cardboard lawyers with food stains on their ties. And it was because of what I did. And it was because of who I am not. And it was because of who I could never be.

The Beyond. It is the only place where I am meant to be. She's in it now but she is only renting. She stole it and everything else from me. One day she just disappeared. That's what humans who lack souls do. They just leave because they do not matter. They do not matter to us and they do not matter to themselves.

Without a word. To take French leave, as they say. The pussy's way out. But what she cannot destroy is the place. And what she cannot destroy is the vision. And what she cannot destroy are the words. All of it is indestructible. It is the lava-flow weirdness in that Peter Fonda science fiction movie that no one likes. It is immutable as memory itself.

Remnants of Oregon Trail wagon tracks barely visible and going nowhere. The lonely patches of snow contrasting madly on black volcanic rock, prehistoric landscape enshrouding the distance, suggesting the plated backs of stegosauruses. Pillars of riverbank made stone. A gap in a natural version of the Great Wall of China in earth pushed straight up and fissured with orange, white, bright light-green splotches of lichen. This place is a maximum security prison for city people.

Most likely, Hemingway came here to die. One worthless story ever came out of that forever-trapped-in-time living-room window. Most likely, Frankenstein's creation, condemned by man to wander about the Arctic, wandered into the territory of the Idaho and, confronted by the dismalness he encountered, ran away spooked. Even he couldn't take the isolation here. A place where people intentionally dress as Elmer Fudd. It is a place that cannot promise anyone the promise of escape.

She brought me here. She brought me here. She brought me here. She brought me here. Landscape of Mongolia. To a city one part trailer park, one part campground. The downtown has to this day a doll shop. A place where time's meaning is just a burden. Nothing there will ever happen worth knowing. It is only a place to leave the real worlds for. It is a place to hide from anything that even barely resembles the notion of that vagary called the truth. It is a place that can only destroy the human heart.

And the destruction began when the police, rather than banging loudly, one day tapped on the door. She figured out that there was only one way to win the argument. The argument that always centered on getting the fuck out of Idaho. The argument that could never end in the fantasy of her acknowledging that being eleven years older doesn't always make you right.

But there is an antidote to any bad case scenario. Was it because they dressed you up like a little girl, Ernest? Was it because you lost the art of manliness in words? Was it because your dick didn't work like it used to, something we all have to grasp? Is it because there are things that we are just never going to be able to know?

And now this vision pans to the Red Pony Bar in Inkom with its faux combination of art deco and Mexican villa pink-painted exterior sitting squat across from the gravel factory with the long, immobile caterpillar of the Portneuf Range nine thousand feet skyward of nada and nada-one human. An oasis of silence roaring in gravity. It even has a massive el nopal that has grown into a boarded-up window niche like some kind of pagan saint.

The interior smells of desolation and smoke and the cheap perfume of the big-titted tight-jean-wearing Latina goddess playing pool all by her lonesome. What a glaring contrast to the withered-up old whitefolk country people who all have some devious roots, nearly severed, in the Mormonism that pervades and ruins any possibility of progress or fun for hundreds and hundred of miles on this tilted landscape. She does not even now how her ass-length black mane of hair is cherished around these parts.

How she is mouthing the words of a Johnny Cash song played on a real juke box that really spins actual records. And without even looking at me, she knows I am here. Her body tells me so.

Maybe she'll be the next one. All it takes is the courage of a few or eleven beers. The next series of senseless arguments. The next series of utter frustrations. The next series of impossibilities. The next series of great sex initiated as always by me. The next series of lies and treacheries committed by both of us. Let us call her a pretty name.

Thamara. Alejandra. Carmelita. Anita. Renata. Pilar. Paloma. Isidora. Dinora. Miranada. María Guadalupe. María Juana. María del Carmen. Margarita. Adelmira. Verónica. Elizabetha. Adilene. Leticia. Lizeth. Alexus. María Elena. Gabriela. María de los Ángeles. Patricia. Yessenia. Josefina. Feliciana. María de Jesús. Rosa María. Rosa Alicia. Teresa. Francisca. Adriana. Yolanda. Nahiely. Alondra. Soledad. Demiana. Lisbet. Adilene. Gilberta. Ivete. Lisette. Jimena. Yessica. Candelaria. Deifilia. Edelmira.

Rafaela. Jewelana. Pascuala. Sence. Angelica. Herminia. Lupita. María Isabel. Silvia. Ana María. María del Rosario. Gloria. Araceli. Luisa. Adelita. Prudencia. Reina. Caridad. Lurdes. Nilda. Ramona. Tecla. Ercilia. Graciana. Cenobia. Dorotia. Tomasa. Raimunda. Marcela. Odalis. Sarita. Zarita. Lorita. Inmaculada. Abella. Ernesta. Idoya. Mercedes. Ricarda. Violeta. Beatriz. Cruzita. Genoviva. Emigdia. Nohemi. Sanchia. Magdelena. Desideria.

Let us just call her California.

Philip Kobylarz is an itinerant teacher of the language arts and writer of fiction, poetry, book reviews, and essays. He has worked as a journalist, a film critic, a veterinarian's assistant, a deliverer of furniture, and an ascetic. He currently teaches at Santa Clara University, Notre Dame de Namur, and Menlo College. His work appears in such publications as Paris Review, Poetry, The Best American Poetry series, Massachusetts Review, and Lalitamba. His first book, Zen-inspired poems concerning life in the south of France, is entitled rues. He lives ever so temporarily in the east bay of San Francisco. His second book, short stories and a novella, is titled Now Leaving Nowheresville.