The Alien, The Cowboy and The Witch (PART FOUR) / by grace mcgrade


Parts 1, 2 and 3 in previous posts

They hit the whisky highway with more questions than they had started with, the yellow mercedes leaving sand tempests at it's heels, projecting them towards Las Vegas. In potent silences, they eyed each other like movies, or deja vu, Adam in his hospital gown and Elle in leather and periwinkle blue. There was a silent unease growing in the spaces between them. Elle assigned this to the fact that they hadn’t made love in two days, which always made her cerebral and hostile. He was so difficult for her to read, this strange boy, insomniac scorpio thing. If he didn’t give her enough compliments or attention, she would curse him with oppressive silence. She was growing increasingly unsettled by his inability to hold a philosophical or intelligent conversation. She felt like this gave her license for withdrawal, to reduce him in her mind.

Simultaneously, they could feel each other growing more and more fond of the other. Elle was afraid her power would be weakened by the emotional energy that seeped out, spent on someone who wasn’t sober enough to appreciate her rarity. Sometimes she felt like he couldn’t fully see her, like her soul had gotten lost or mistranslated in his eyes , like she was an inhuman frequency, or a color few could perceive. But still, deep within her was a need to know him, in every hue and every scent, to experience all of his emotions and know his aversions and appetites. She wanted to wake up to him every morning, all swollen and new, even when he maniacally checked his phone for the first waking hour. She didn’t feel safe enough to divulge these emotions, so instead, she remained distant. Her thoughts bloomed like flowers in her lungs, and she prayed that they didn’t fly out, like whispered fireflies.

Vegas was Elles nightmare; a Disneyland for sad, drunk adults. She noticed all the occult symbols used to advertise hedonism and excessive spending, and she felt like she was in a twisted simulation. A video game set in hell.  If she ever needed any more reason to hate america, she would always think of Vegas.

Adam had a different experience of the place, as it had been a playground for him in the past five years that his dad had lived there. He wanted to lighten the mood that hung heavily from Maureen’s impending death, and suggested that he and Elle spend a night on the town.

They jolted from casino to casino, each in a varying shade of neon and excess, her palm clinging on to his cast. It was like traveling from reality to reality, a perverse version of Greece to Venice in miniture.

They couldn’t gamble or go to nightclubs, as they were both under 21, so they loitered around a bar at the Venetian.  Elle had been too flirtatious with a man who claimed to have worked for the FBI, and she half wanted to know all his secrets and half wanted to provoke Adam’s jealousy, so suggested they both go upstairs to his room. Adam sat in silence while they talked for what seemed like hours, in some kind of conspiratal code, about elections and shadow governments. He felt neglected, the only reason they were in Vegas in the first place was so they could support his Dad, and here she was, blatantly ignoring him. It was a night he wanted to be special and she had ruined it, in her never ending quest for answers and attention. They abused their luck by drinking too much, and ended the evening in an explosive argument.  

Elle couldn’t remember all the details, but she knew something was wrong when they woke up, barely speaking a word. Rather than take accountability for her actions, she silently blamed the sequence of the night before as “Vegas Energy” and attempted to pretend like nothing happened. Adam was withdrawn and distant.

The solemn and melancholic atmosphere in Adam’s Dads house was a jarring reality check.

Elle was to return to Los Angeles while Adam consoled his father. Before she left, they both went to say goodbye to Maureen. Even in her last moments, she was beautiful. She looked at both of them, her eyes almost beckoning from a place beyond the veil. “ I like you two together.” She whispered, in the last sentence she would ever say to the both of them.

They both couldn’t contain their emotions, and sat together, arm in arm, crying. Their sweat mingled with tears in the humidity. Elle felt stupid, having fought over things that seemed so meaningless, and there was a guilt in her belly that made her feel sick. For the first time in what seemed like eons, she returned to Los Angeles, her heart more heavy and simultaneously more full, twisted into strange contortions, like a clenched first.

It took him a week to come back and meet her. He returned to her apartment, bearing a gift of two tiny voodoo dolls. One for each of them. She misplaced his in her room, an omen she recognized before the night it all unravelled. They went out, and Adam got drunker than Elle had ever seen him. He sat on other girls laps, haphazardly falling over people with his casts. She waited til they were in the car to shame and scold him, now almost as inebriated as he was. He could barely drive, and she repeatedly asked him to pull over so she could call a car. He didn’t.

By some miracle, they managed to park a few blocks away from her apartment. He said he would sleep in the car. He wanted her gone, out of his space.  She demanded that she be at least dropped off where she lived, so she didn’t have to walk home alone in the dark at four a.m. She resolved that she would pull up to her own house.

“If you put the keys in the ignition, I’ll kick you.” He said, his words slurred. Elle was never one to turn down a challenge, and looked him up and down, with his feeble boyish legs and arm casts, and turned the keys into the car. Just to see what would happen.

It was a sharp moment of exhaustion, appeasement and annihilation. He thumped her in the back with his foot, slammed his casts against her arms and legs, pulled her out of the car- and her heart shattered into a million fragments against the concrete, where her body lay, shocked, motionless.

She did what she learned time and time again: Get up. They cannot have what you have.

She began storming to her apartment and he swiftly followed, begging for forgiveness.
It wasn’t until they returned to her bedroom, adorned with magical items, that the gravity of what he had done hit her. She lay in bed with him and started to violently jab him in the chest with her elbow. She cried. “I trusted you, I looked after you.” He shot up out of the door to leave, screaming and clamoring. It was half an hour before they had both calmed down, and to equate for the amount of violence, they had sex. The deranged, carnal intensity was their aphrodisiac.

There is no normal way to respond to violence, and both of them came from a lineage of it, where rage was misplaced often. The grief, the potency of everything they had experienced, combined with Adam’s painkillers and alcohol- was a fatal concoction. When Elle woke up, he left. It was the day of Steve’s memorial. She put a sweater over her bruises. Her flesh ached, but she knew she would heal. It was tolerable agony compared the the layer of ashes and embers that left imprints on her heart. She felt a part of herself decay before her very eyes. She felt as though her cells were being torn in half.

She called her friend, Laz, who was the only person with whom she didn’t feel unprotected and unheard. He listened, with kindness and love in his clear blue eyes. They resolved the only way to treat such horrible heart ache was to go and reconvene with the earth. He accompanied her to the memorial and they embarked on a trip to Joshua Tree. They camped on what looked like the surface of the moon, and he consoled her with music and a rare kind of compassion, the kind she hadn’t seen in months.

On the drive back, she poked, jokingly at her bruises, thinking they looked like Jupiter.

It was a few weeks before her sadness alchemized to fury, upon hearing of Adam’s behavior with other girls. Memories circulated around her head like a library she couldn't escape from. The flashes of possibilities of where their love could go expiried around her, like the debris of crumbling walls. He had ruined all of the miracles, tainted them with his indulgent rage. She didn’t love him anymore but she wanted to take him into hell. She wanted to keenly memorise the architecture of his fears and watch him crumble. She decided dating him was like dating a human escape room, or like quickly, drunkenly, gorging on a giant burrito and feeling it inside her for days...Or playing an indie playlist on Spotify, and deciding actually, no, she wanted  to skip through most of these songs and why the fuck did she ever assume there were any good ones?

She realized she had invited hell into her own bed, and had mingled and meshed with a mirage of a person. She had internalized and vitalized this demon, slept with it, nurtured it, fed it and wept with it, worst of all- shared the luminous material inside of her. In a moment of hysteria, the betrayal pulsed through her blood and the currents in her body, like cancerous lightning. She grabbed her darkest candle and headed straight outside for the moon.

Usually in moments like this, on the lip of oblivion or unwise action, Elle’s ethics would pull her back from mixing magic with madness. But in the pit of desperation, her rage infused with her priestess spirit, like poison.  She very deliberately cursed Adam for the pain he had caused her. She wanted to hurt him just to make sure he had insides.