The Haunting of an Angel by Khang Pham

THE HAUNTING OF AN ANGEL (first chapter) by Khang Pham

      Khoi who had just moved to Brooklyn from the other side of the country for not even a month, furnished the place sparsely with a bed and table and meant to keep it that way, come with only a suitcase of some simple clothing, a couple books and a small collection of memorabilia and bric-a-brac which lined the windowsill superstitiously, who was still not fully unpacked —since, with nowhere else to place things other than his suitcase or the floor— who although still jet-lagged and scraped of sleep had just returned from one of those half-meandering half-purposeful city walks that recent movers take believing the environment would somehow grant its blessing if only one was earnest enough, and while doing so had visited a slew of miscellaneous shops buying different items of desire and half-need, the universe giving their signs apparently, really it was because he’d gazed at a certain thing for too long with head too vacant which perhaps allowed too much room for all sorts of formulations and ecstatic correlations to house themselves in his brain, who since just having moved to an unfamiliar place felt everything to be new and precious, which for him felt even more-so with his habit of attaching meaning to every minute moment, thing or person he came into contact with, letting these things take residence in him until they themselves had furnished a whole network of sentimentality, letting them fill up so much space like his bathroom which was filled with so many products that he never finished or that made his skin worse, which completely contradicted his intentions for the room he was renting, whose interior decorating plans were to stay minimal, perhaps an unconscious effort at balancing the scales a bit, he was a Libra after all, though perhaps not so level-headed all the time since being an Aries ascendant and Scorpio Mars made him fixate on things in a way that- ah, that’s where it comes from, everything tunnel vision, no, everything like a bullet train bolting though underwater and going every which way which made his experience more like a riptide, who was also a Cancer Moon which of course explains the sentimentality, and ah maybe that’s why after getting mugged that one time while on vacation in Barcelona instead of counting his losses had run after the desperate young man to get his gold chain necklace back, something he was gifted at birth from an aunt and had worn all his life and rarely ever took off and was wearing even now, these little heirlooms maintaining a preciousness in him despite the fact that he had just left home in an upset refusing to acknowledge his family on the way out, who with so much trauma was buried and had finally come up after all these years, because of course, don’t things of that nature seem to always come back up, really why is he still wearing the necklace, who —wait, who didn’t want to think of any of this right now, this being the reason why he left in the first place, who in this comma of time was not unlike an inexperienced bodybuilder that injures themself after pulling too much weight before being ready, his Scorpio Mars enticing him to be mystified under familial wounds with their couplings of saturated nostalgia, vignettes of violence and with them the phantom pulsations of actual wounds, whose father was a belligerent drunk, whose mother was his fathers’ wife, who put off so much of all this for too long, since remember the Aries ascendant wanting to charge ahead making it difficult for him to sit still long enough to contemplate such heaviness —which, there you have it, explains the desire to half-meander half-purpose walk through the city which even in this moment continues to tug— who like an orca bred in captivity had no way of knowing any different, its pain stranded and petrified apart from itself, who was Libra Sun, who was Cancer Moon, who was also Scorpio Mars, whose mind’s eye was fixated on all these signs and every other as they slideshowed and rolodexed through him with a debilitating acuteness and volume of meaning, who didn’t want to think but couldn’t stop thinking, who didn’t know what to think, who didn’t know what was to come, who wasn’t ready to become, who left home wanting to become, who in choosing to become was being faced with everything,  who was becoming even because of everything, whose very essence was always going to become, who is currently becoming, who because of what’s sure to come will become, who wants to come, who like every other boy when met with frustration defers everything to try to come, who is trying to be- no, who is trying to come, who is trying to come, just to come, who is coming, who is coming, who is coming, who, who, who, who will come, who will come to help if any one, who, because of such heaviness who would ever want to come, who in so doing would commence their own becoming, who was still just now truly becoming, who was right now painfully becoming one was now being summoned to return back home again. 

       It was a late summer day ripe with beauty. The sunlight crept its twilight limbs past the skin of a white bed sheet that hung in the role of a curtain and brushed an ashy streak across the top of Khoi’s ink-black hair before meeting a mirror that reflected back a monstrous luminescence onto his still trembling body. It had been moments since receiving the call from his father, his mother too inconsolable to speak. The man’s voice seemed to blister from a since-forlorned reserve of care causing his son to freeze up with hope before breaking to inform of his grandmother’s passing. 

       Khoi lived with her his entire life. Her presence punctuated every memory tied with the word home and yet for some reason and with great pain was he only now beginning to understand the full severity of what her life meant to him. He could see  his exposed figure cracked open by the reflected light in the mirror and felt as though his grandmother was present ready to burst forth from the sorry thing he saw gazing back with a cruel sense of foreboding. 

       Within moments after his unattended episode a terrible wind began to blow ferociously through the room, his bed sheet curtain sent violently thrashing off the window, the light unobstructed and ablaze with an olympic opacity now pierced him directly.

       … (gust)

       She was here. In this room. No. this body.  She was fiercely present. And she was angry in him. Angry that he left home. Angry for leaving so indignantly with no word but a faintly uttered goodbye that no sooner clipped her ear before locking the door behind him forever. No room for response. No chance to bestow any precious wares or farewell gifts. No time for any warm wishes to return home for better or worse. And soon it would be for the worse. Soon he’d enter the historic room where she last exclaimed her final curse at life. Breathe the ghastly aroma containing the still beating heart of her anguish, her dreams, her failures, her hatred, her disappointment. Her disappointment in him. He’d be left to consider every boyish outburst of anger thrown against the gentle wall that was his grandmother’s voice. A resolute gentleness that seemed almost inhuman and therefore disrupted the stream of his anger. A gentleness that bled the damp weight of every empathic proposal that any human could ever hope to collect and contain. And now this dark gentleness was threatening to suffocate every cellular utterance, every particle vibration of being, any atom that dared shudder out of place.

       I killed her, he thought. 


       Guilt sputtered in his chest. The four walls of his naked apartment closed in on the horrible light that shot through to expose him. Somewhere inside an ancient fountain that was long since dried of use and containing but a suggestion of water demanded to be pumped of its parched beats of air. His veins like catatonic valves contracted thick ropes of useless hot blood binding a merciless depth of mortality against the open wound of his soul. And at the core of it all his virile heart so alive and desperate to stop, futilely prospering against him. Ceaseless pulses of aching.

       And he could tell no one of its happening. To tell was to damn the severity of what he felt, to cover softly with a feathery blanket over decomposing flesh, the spirit still alert and vengeful. He was not so foolish to trust just anyone with the task of anesthetizing, not to even consider the possibility of finding an Other with the level of skill required to conduct such a surgery of the soul. And what if he was led to believe that someone could? The sages of the city would no doubt push to empower him with the evil kind of lies that would only drive his soul agreeably toward a more cushioned landing in hell. The marring and abasement of his own prophecy was something he felt keenly aware of while in the presence of others. Khoi had committed the sin of compulsion after meditation and knew. He knew the only path was through solitude and with excessive care. For his trouble was never because of a desire to sin upon others, but of some timeworn instinct to sin against the very essence of his own soul.  The cannibalistic nature of a conquering character he felt and believed to have infected this earth, the water, its animals, the sky. And having been reared at its helm like every Other, and knowing what he couldn’t cease to know, he could only watch and abide silently at the cruelty of the matter or else risk banishing what was left of himself even further. How to ask for help from others who’ve yet to learn how to help themselves. How to strive toward consolation without knowing true rest. How to recognize either when you’ve yet to convince yourself on what they mean. 

       In the mirror, Khoi sat coiled into himself like a serpent. He was suddenly reminded of an image shown to him by an older cousin during a family trip to Vietnam many years ago. A snake devouring its own tail. They were playing on symbols and ideas they’d like to get tattooed when they got older. He remembered the cousin talking at length about its meaning. How unsettling it was. How quickly he wanted to forget it all. How he tried to but couldn’t fully. The image itself devoid of thought, of theory. A certain leftover timorous feeling. Lingering. Khoi’s fixations were always a bit like this. An image carried too far beyond comfort. Faces and bodies he dreamed on or made love to once but could never detach. Drugs taken at three quarters dose. Catholicism. All songs made of rapturous chords played never to completion but locked in encumbrance like a monk on fire. 

       The specter started to flood Khoi’s throat. He felt as though the very room he was sitting in was Grandmother herself. That she was swallowing him, consuming the heroic essence of his Yang, dragging it deeper into some nameless pit, aging it backward. Back. back. back. Closer toward the nondual oblivion of womblife. 

       And stop. 

       At the start of the poisoning. To the young boy staring blankly up at his grandmother again. 


       Darkness.      .       .       .       * No, faintly lit. 

       { ; }

       … Anguish.

       { . }

       Ow. Pain. 

       A memory?

       { . }

       Oh. Ran off to park after a beating.

                                                                      …Curled on the curb of a sidewalk.

       Right. And Grandma found me.


       … (gust)

       She held him close, palm softly bracing his swollen cheek. The right one. Her gaze locked with the boy’s. Her head slightly tilted suggesting something in-between pity and hope.  Her brows furrowed over silvery eyes. Streetlamp halos fading under two swollen clouds ready to burst. 

       They did. 

       And slowly a kind of lake began to form inside him. A feeling of sweetness mixed with sorrow. So much sorrow. So much of both that it soured his guts. Hers mixing with his. Both of them, bursting. 



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       The light outside dimmed. The sun, having been fixed for what felt like a lifetime on Khoi’s body, was beginning to shift its gaze behind the skyline leaving an alignment of questions that remained still where the beam had entered him. He booked his flight back home in a stupor before laying down. Arms caressed wretchedly around the unfamiliar creature he was currently inhabiting. The masculine edges of his body burning against the penumbra of his Grandmother’s spirit, which was now his. Now. Now. Now. Tsk. Tsk. Now whatever will become of this boy? 


Khang Pham is a multidisciplinary artist, musician, writer living in Bushwick.

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