Angelic by Yvette Managan

Remembering his body makes me think of Egyptian cotton sheets dried in the sun. He smelled crisp and clean, even after sweating hard. His hair fell in golden spirals down his cheeks, his back, over his forehead, capturing the light just like the gilded halos on fourteenth century Madonna and child paintings. His blue eyes were those of a small boy at the beach, watching the waves curl around the sand dunes for the first time. His skin, taut, slender, hairless with youth, glowed cool and white when I painted him. He seemed to collect the moonlight and hold it certain under his flesh, until I needed to see it and then it would explode out of him, nearly blinding me. I could not put it on the canvas although I tried. Lord how I tried.

I met him in High School. He was my best friend's older brother and should have been off limits. He was fashionable and soft spoken. He held the world in his hand, running his delicately formed fingers over its mountains and dampening his palm with the oceans. His artwork was lively yet not inspired. He passed with average grades, having put forth no effort. His name was Carl and he left me breathless. When we met, secreted behind the band shell in Central Park, behind his sister's back, we touched tenderly and then without control. He'd whisper, "Come ride your chariot. I will take you to the heavens ... " and off we would go.

I was tall and geeky, unpopular, a veiled treasure. Hidden under overly large paint smocks a beast roared in silence. When he sculpted my form, he said I glowed. I know he saw the fire within, and it spread, and we met in secret, under cover of the shrubs that skirt the lake in Central Park, to quell that burn. It only burned more brightly. We met and burned and singed our hair for years. We met through marriage and divorce, through heartbreak and death. We met through the seasons, and we met in the woods behind the carousel. Wrapped up in our lives, we'd take vacations in each other. I'd wrap my legs around his thighs, and he'd wrap his arms around my back. "Come ride your Chariot. I will take you to the heavens ... " he'd whisper, and off we would go.

On New Years Day, years ago, we met at Times Square, with John, the man who'd just broken my heart, and Carl's sister. Carl was older and his spiral curls had darkened and were shorter. Small hairs fought to release themselves from the tight white skin on his cheeks. He fidgeted under the sodium lights, stepping side to side, over the fallen streamers and confetti from the night before. I searched his face, tried to meet his eyes but they floated around me, a buoy in rough seas. My friend, Carl's sister, moved closer to John and caught me in the afterglow of their betrayal. We'd met to see a movie, but suddenly I wasn't in the mood. "I'd rather walk through the Park," I said, turning my head towards the stone fence and the dry tree branches beyond. A cold wind picked up strands of my long hair, taking them with it, pulling me away from the bright lights and broken promises. Pulling me toward the darkening Park, with its leafless branches and blazing memories. "I'll walk with you," Carl said. "I don't want to see it either." John and Carl's sister joined hands and turned away, walking steadily into the theater. Carl and I watched them until the doors slammed shut. Then we wandered towards the Park. To the band shell, I thought, as I laced my hot fingers through his

He looked at me and said, "Tonight I am a bad god." And he slapped his cheek, leaving a brazen mark that stayed for minutes.

He said it again. "Tonight, I am a bad god." He raised his hand to strike.

I stopped his movement with my palm. "No Carl. What are you doing?"

I dropped my jaw and held his hands. Carl looked to the sky. The birds were silent.

Clouds hid the newly rising stars. Carl dropped his gaze to our joined hands, sighed, and wiggled his fingers. He pulled them from me and walked away. The wind in the park chilled me and I shivered. All traces of the day were gone. In darkness, I walked over the small hills, round bends, to the subway station and went home.

Today, standing on the comer of 72nd and Broadway, right in front of the Papaya King, I see a homeless man picking through the steel mesh garbage can. He opens a Burger King bag and removes a half eaten sandwich. As the bum bites into it, I see his face, bright white, almost alabaster. I find this disconcerting, because the flesh should be grey, but it's not. He drops his sandwich and rushes towards me, his hands outstretched. Fingers peek through holes in his gloves. His body is slender under an old army coat, many sizes too big. Ringlets bounce on his head, under a black watch cap. "You!" he shouts. "You! I know you! You are also a bad god!" and I know it's Carl. His eyes are still those of a small boy in wonder at the beach, struggling now in the roiling surf.
I tum and walk swiftly away, my face hot and red.

"Your Chariot is here!" he calls after me. "Come ride your Chariot!"

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