During the height of summer, aided by gin martinis and Indonesian cigarettes, Believer contributor Caia Hagel arranged this fictional interview with Leonard Cohen. Even when imaginary, Cohen is a slippery subject, and what follows is entirely untrue. Catch up with Part I, Part II.
Courtney and Love. I felt my heart thrash. So I turned my phone off and readjusted my weight on the couch. People say that our generation is some kind of an extension of social media, and vice versa, I started to think; that the toys we use to communicate with are extensions of us. They say we are a hybrid ecosystem, lost but connected in a vast wave that always makes me think of an ocean and how one little piece of that large connected body, which has traveled miles across the surface of our world, crashes heavily against the shore in a brief instant of selfness only to be re-absorbed into selflessness again.
Maybe it’s our age and interdependence, maybe it’s our class and our place in history, but for a moment I was aware of the fact that in the storm of incoming messages, I was disappearing and somehow at the same time also being exalted within the flow of their meaning. I felt this suddenly, maybe because I was sitting on a red couch in the Chelsea Hotel all by myself, hungry and flickering with electricity, it seemed, like I was a kind of light, actually alive with these phone voices I was carrying inside me as I waited for Leonard, whose absence too was making him larger, and this largeness was also a voice inside me.
I looked up at the man sitting in a blue chair along the opposite lobby wall. The humid grey air from the street had traveled through the windows and landed like a blanket over us, dulling the shadows we cast on the floor. He had pressed pants and loafers on and a pink shirt with a small stain near the collar and a slogan that read Cats Rule the Night. His hair was shoulder length and slicked back in that advertising executive way, which made only the palest outline in the blue arm of the chair where on a brighter day his shadow would have been. I wondered if he had heard Courtney’s confessional, her portrait of her famous dead husband, which felt so right hanging in the air of the Chelsea Hotel with the ghosts of so many other dead famous people. I met the man’s eyes and the way he gazed over me, mildly intrigued, irritatingly bewildered, it was as if he saw me as a circus, a flickering phenomenon that even he, in a pink shirt at the Chelsea Hotel, would never understand.
I wiped the eye shadow off my cheekbones that had run there while I listened to Courtney, and I turned my phone back on and texted her a pink heart with a lightning bolt and a happy face.
Then Simeon texted me and my phone music started up again. I’ve written a war poem, he texted, Will you show it to Leonard? Simeon sent the lines through one at a time so I was a rave party again in the lounge.
our darkened lips
kiss a soldier in
a Dresden café
our nipples leak
filling the walls with dream
we are deep sea diving
do we dare disturb the Universe?
Simeon again: I’ve added these lines but I don’t know where they go, maybe Leonard will know –
the war has closed us, she whispers
descending the stairs, he wonders
what is it I’m supposed to know?
Now Vania came through: I miss Jeff, he wore sequins.
Now more from James II:
Be With Me Religious Medals of All Kinds
I Do Not Understand the Mystery, After All
Something Forgets Us Perfectly
Then it was Henry: I’m in love with Kurt, who loved Leonard, who loves Virgins and Hot Dogs and Gods.
Then Courtney: Thank you Leonard for trying, Kurt is probably sighing in your afterlife.
Then James II: I think I love and worship you Leonard, you are so totally Post Henry and June Evangelical Pimp of All Centuries and you even wear a cravat sometimes.
Then Simeon: Leonard, my Virgin-Pilgrim War Hero, I pledge allegiance to you.
I turned my phone off again and I left the red couch. I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my forehead, vigorously, until it kind of hurt. I straightened out my blue raincoat and checked my reflection for mutations, it can happen, can’t it, that waves in an ecosystem, voices in a body, mingle to the point of mutually changing one another to give way to something of superior quality? Like harmony in a song?
This was my question for Leonard, I realized, which I also realized I had already answered.
I hit the lounge with a firm step and I went up to the boy and I said to him, Please tell Leonard that we love him, and that we will always strive to obey him, and that it’s pretty cool that deepness pays off over time, but that I’ve got to go, I’ve got a life, I can’t wait here any longer. People have changed, you can tell him, which he probably already knows. We are not waiters for Leonard and gods, we are not like that anymore.
Caia Hagel interviews artists, celebrities, demi-gods and monsters, in search of the sublime. Her personality profiles, travelogues, art talks and fictions appear here and there in magazines, on social media and TV networks internationally. She’ll be reading her story, Pilgrims in Nirvana, this Sunday (9/29) as a part of Red Light Lit at Viracocha in San Francisco.
Illustration by Olivia M. Judge