In the early Nineties, several friends of mine were fascinated by angels, and that piqued my interest. I began listening for mentions of angels in music or noticing images of angels in art. When I worked in a cubicle that had windows, I created privacy by papering those over with angel postcards, most of which were gifts. It was during that same time that Lynne and I were painting a lot of ceramics, and one day I admired the two pieces in the picture above among the greenware where we shopped for supplies. Lynne later bought and cleaned them, had them fired, and painted them as gifts for me. I know they are meant to celebrate Native Americans and totem spirits, but to me, they look like Native American angels–and sexy angels, at that.
There’s something enticingly forbidden about the idea of a sexy angel, and I think that’s why we often find references to them in stories, including Trebor Healey‘s contribution to Foolish Hearts, “Three Things I Pray.” The narrator has fled from the erotic circus (literally!) of his life in Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, where he’s ensconced himself in a tenth floor room with a balcony and a view of the teeming streets beneath him. Pigeons share his balcony, and one morning he’s awakened by the sound of one crashing into his window. Though he tries to get back to sleep, the noise ten stories below finally drives him out of bed.
I stumbled into the bathroom and flipped on the light, looking at my grizzled face in the mirror. Growing old, dear,
I muttered before twisting the knob and climbing into the shower. I heard the flapping again when I emerged from the bathroom. I’d need to pull up the persianas
(I didn’t know what they were when I got here either, but they’d proved quite handy: wood blinds that you pull up and down over your windows to keep out the sun, the cold, and the ladrones
—thieves—that Buenos Aires was rife with these days). I grabbed the rope next to the persianas
and pulled hand over hand because they weren’t easy. But I stopped when they were halfway up because, to my surprise, what I saw instead of an injured or roosting pigeon was a very, very big bird. Huge white wings folded over each another in the corner of the deck against the railing. An eagle? A condor? I’d heard they had those in Patagonia. The animals were all strange and different here: capybaras
, buck-toothed little rat-like deer-ish things called maras
; and nandus
, ostrich-like birds that ran around the pampas. I hesitated. Not one of those birds I’d considered had white wings. Perhaps a swan had escaped from one of the many turn-of-the-century parks reminiscent of the imperial cities of Europe. Even the birds were lost in time here.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t moving. I pulled on the cord slowly to bring the persianas up farther without startling it. There was still a window between us, so I felt safe.
My eyes bugged out when I noticed that under those wings was a human head—with curly hair to boot, like some overgrown cherub. Ladron! I concluded with a start, pulling the opposing rope to get the persianas back down before the cat burglar tried to get in…. I’d have to go down and tell the guard in the lobby….
I heard the moan again. His ruse? It made sense if he thought I was a tourist—a moan is understandable even to a foreigner (no need for Spanish to comprehend that). Still, my curiosity was insatiable and I tiptoed back to the window and stuck my finger between two slats of the persianas to see if I could spy him. He’d gotten up and turned around and was now looking down off the deck, his naked back covered in blood where the left wing attached—and indeed it attached: blood and cartilage and tissue were showing….
He turned then, like he’d sensed me watching, and when our eyes met, I stumbled backward, letting go of the slats.
A friggin’ angel? I didn’t believe in such things. But those eyes: intense, fiery, penetrating. Maybe I was dead, and he’d come to remind me or carry me off to my hellish reward? I sat on the floor on my butt, considering the situation. Anything was possible.
Buenos Aires means “fair winds”; you can find out whether they deliver an angel when Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction goes on sale January 14, 2014.
Excerpt reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. All rights reserved.