The tomb scene, act 5, scene 2, artist and date unknown, from
Decommissioned Dietrich and Bernhardt are nazi astronauts who just got back to earth for the inverted surprise party. Imagine having to explain it to them from the beginning or teaching them about love, it being Valentine’s Day and all, even in that sub-basement under Area 51.
I would tell them about the man bitten in half by a shark, who married Siamese twins. His two halves walked down the aisle in the top and bottom of the same tuxedo flanking the bride crabwise, her single torso in the medically-tailored wedding gown. The violently disjointed and the arbitrarily compounded together at last.
How gauche to pique their fascination with conjoined relations, I know, but I would need something jarring to tickle their dehydrated nazi hearts in the sub-basement under Area 51 by way of the Geneva Convention: a prisoner of war has the right to celebrate Valentine’s Day and, in the case of cultural blank spots, to have it explained to them by the first person they find.
I would tell them that when the nine hundred pound man and the three foot tall woman had a baby, I was in the minority of those unconcerned with the logistical trajectories of undercarriage fixed and implied and the ensuing clown car ratios of the birth, but empathized with those disparate pieces fixed jigsaw-like because that is how I have often made things work and I wished them well in their improbability.
But the nazi astronauts wouldn’t buy it. They would say that Valentine’s Day is just commercialized pap for the masses. They would have a point.
I would mention the lumberjacks who fell in love with Bigfoot and found unlikely happiness in the thickets of a half-man on a full moon because I’ve been half-man myself and are half-men not deserving of love?
After the shock of re-entry subsides on the afternoon of Valentine’s, I would tell the nazi astronauts about the secret ceremony when Batboy married Dogface, how the bride’s canines were glowing, how the dashing groom dashed to and fro on all fours, about beauty standards, how a lover’s cheek will eventually turn to an elephant’s ear and how our dry and gray eventuality should not preclude our long-term affection and self-worth. Pinhead and Babyface made it work, so did the Chupacabra and his human bride.
But the nazi astronauts still wouldn’t buy it.
“How could you live on the moon for 80 years and not be sentimental,” I would yell into their cold German faces. Then I would ask aloud, to no one in particular, in exasperation, “Why am I trying to teach nazi astronauts about love?” Because they did not age a day in those 80 years on the moon, due to lack of gravity, and everyone they know is dead and part of me felt sorry for them after reading about it in the paper on the thirteenth, the day when their spacecraft crash-landed outside of Phoenix. The same way I read about the woman with the tumor that weighed as much as she did and then some, the tumor her bridesmaid, giving her companionship and making her look better by comparison as bridesmaids do, but could I comprehend her loss of alien tissue in miasmic constellations. Could I know her relief looking into the obsidian storefront of her life, bags of medical waste lining the curb. I too have woken up bewildered and I find myself on Valentine’s Day looking at the moon where the nazi astronauts lived for eighty years, feeling like the woman and her tumor post-op, a heft to the empty place beside me.
A couple of last ditch efforts would be made before our hypothetical tête-à-tête came to an end: I would tell them about the skeletons of Adam and Ed—recently discovered—the first two humans were gay.
“Could you believe it,” I would ask the nazis. I bet they’d be surprised. Slumped into each other’s collar bones in the bygone Eden of the prehistoric wedding photo, Adam and Ed’s jack-o-lantern toothy smiles are maniacal and the invisible hearts implied in each rib cage make me teary-eyed and senseless with irrational devotion to the woman who lives across the street. I would tell the nazi astronauts how the woman across the street does not date any man because of her religion, and some time ago I chose to interpret this as a question rather than an answer.
I would tell the nazi astronauts to read Milton Acorn, the poet who called the heart “a furred sharp-toothed thing,” like the five days’ frozen hamster in Wyoming that re-animated and spun its wheel to the bewilderment of onlookers, fueled by an inability to comprehend its second chance.
Then I would give up; I would admit to the CIA and FBI personnel present and the two nazi astronauts held at Area 51 that I’ve spent my life pretending to know what people mean when they say the word love and that I’ve masked my lack of knowing with a sampling of the grotesque, having given up on being respectable a long time ago. I’d tell them that the business of relationships is a mixed bag even on a good day but there, more clichés, and then I’d give up and then I would wish them a happy Valentine’s Day.
At this point, I would steal a gun from one of the government agents and, taking one of the agents hostage, get the nazi astronauts out of the sub-basement of Area 51 and above ground and, with my gun still pressed to the FBI agent’s head, I would demand a vehicle and I would take them to a secret location in Colorado and get them stoned and adorn them with headphones playing the music of the islands of Hawaii and shower them with warm laundry and get a kitten to lick their faces to demonstrate what I mean when I say “warm and fuzzy,” like when I say the woman across the street makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
But the Germans still wouldn’t buy it and I’d end up leaving them in a McDonald’s parking lot in Denver with enough money for a single milkshake and two straws and say, “Valentine’s Day is over, I am relieved of my duty,” and I would call the cops from a payphone and tell them where they were, then go home and to the woman across the street, to ask her the question I’ve been meaning to ask.♥
Funari Okonoro is a writer from Montreal.