Sordid sex. Hard drugs. Human connection? A new short story from Doug Weaver.
You know how sometimes you just randomly meet some guy and after a few hours of shooting meth, snorting ‘K’ and performing most of the essential big city homosexual mating protocols you’ve perfected over the decades – which always have a component of showing whoever you’re with that even though you’re completely twacked out and would be hard pressed to maybe drive a tractor or fly an airplane, you still have the wherewithal to rig, in a matter of seconds, a series of mirrors that are not only at dildo level because, for whatever reason, we really like to see ourselves putting stuff up our butts, but they’re also at TV level so you won’t have to spoil the mood by sitting up to watch the gay porn that’s always playing on the DVD. And you’d never admit it to anybody, but you’re completely bored with gay porn because it’s so fucking earnest – probably because if it weren’t earnest it would just be a bunch of queens fucking each other, and that’s not exactly sexy, so the porn actors are always growling at each other and being earnest cops or coaches or convicts. You realize this greasy routine has somehow moved past the meaningless ritual stage and you’re both actually having a pretty good time, probably because you become aware that this guy has quite a few qualities of the perfect man:
1) He can negotiate the ins and outs of drug-induced paralysis.
2) He can appreciate the indescribable weirdness of being stuck in a ‘K’-hole without turning it into something “significant.”
3) He’s okay with driving around with you in the morning to deliver dope, and he’s totally not weirded out by the word “felony.”
4) And most important: He knows – like you do – that sex is about as important in the scheme of things as filing your state income taxes – that sex is only something you do to fill the spaces of time between doses.
So the sun comes up the next morning, you’re still with this guy. And this is so uncommon that you feel like putting up a plaque commemorating the occasion: On such and such a date, you actually spent a complete 24-hour day with another human being without being locked up in a cell with him. And the second day starts with some casual cock sucking, or if you’re really energetic, maybe sharing a complicated enema with a mixture of various drugs and booze, which is a great way to get to know somebody really quick, or you might drag the leather out of the closet and get dressed like cops or whatever where you strike a few poses and issue a few commands. And spending this much time with somebody carries with it certain circadian responsibilities, like eating and bathing and changing clothes. So in a grand gesture of hospitality, you pour out two bowls of Fruit Loops and serve your new friend breakfast in bed. Then you shower, get dressed and head out in your truck to drop off various deliveries of meth to some of your straggling customers.
And during these little errands you both kind of realize you’re not in any big hurry, kind of like the andante section of a Schubert sonata, like you’re both walking at a comfortable pace down the halls of an art exhibit, where you’re not thirsty or hungry or bored or even particularly interested in looking at the pictures on the walls – or you’re just on a really nice, really easy drive – like you’re both just rolling down the road in a black Camaro and the windows are all open and the wind is hot and you know you look cool and you know where all the switches are and everything. And you can take time – take time – the words seem so weird like they’re from a third-world country or something, but it’s still got some nice scenery here and there with trees and clouds and shit, but the important thing is there’s no drama at all, and you realize that you’re usually comforted by emergencies – you’re addicted to them because you know how to act in an emergency, like when the cops are chasing you, or the Geisha went all psychotic in the check-out line at Home Depot, or what’s-his-name turned blue in the bathroom because the heroin he shot is a bit potent.
And being with this guy gives you a little hope that things might be different for a while. It reminds you of a scene in a movie where two people are in love or something, like – I can’t think of anybody right now though, but it’s like when two people like each other a lot like couples in movies or commercials, whatever, and there’s usually like a slow motion scene with just the two of them in a meadow with millions of flowers or something and that’s like all there needs to be. And you’re thinking that you and this guy might be – I can hardly breathe the word – compatible – that you’ve turned into a kind of unit; that you might actually have the potential to be like Dick and Tom, who’re actually the perfect couple; who could actually be in the Guinness Book of World Records for shooting more meth over a seven-day period than anybody in history. They just seemed to fit together somehow. Even when they were homeless, which was most of the time, somebody from another country or another planet would look at them and there would be no doubt that Dick and Tom were perfectly matched, but instead of like a normal couple, they were perfectly matched kamikaze pilots, or maybe like twin Cadillacs from that book Slaughterhouse 5, but with suicide doors, where they just keep going full speed until there’s no tires left and they don’t even use roads anymore, and body parts fall off faster and faster, but they don’t slow down until they just disintegrate into nothing. And they’re so connected that there seemed to be a kind of force field around them that the police can’t even penetrate, or maybe it just made the police blind to them, kind of like they were crystal meth Batman and Robin or something, which was pretty weird because, from the perspective of anybody who got loaded with them, they were anything but invisible. They were outrageous, which is really saying something from the point of view of another dope fiend, but it was true. Dick and Tom’d be up for a few days and they had this habit of taking their appetites for twisted sex with other men right out in the daylight, like during rush hour on Franklin Avenue, and the sun is blazing away at like 7:30 or 8 in the morning and they’d pour peanut oil all over their jeans so you could see the shapes of their cocks through their Levis really plainly, and they’d stand where there’s a stop light at the intersection of Beachwood Drive and rub their bulging crotches, like they were tweaked out fag fishermen in a boat out on Lake Homo trawling for nibbles from the schools of the elusive giant cockfish who are known to inhabit the area. This strategy probably worked eventually, but everybody who knew Dick and Tom thought it was really intensely outrageously stupid, like you’re just asking to be arrested because in all those millions of cars packed onto Franklin Avenue all the time, there’s usually a few black-and-whites. And even if any of those cops are homos, which I’m sure some were, what do you think’s going to happen? Even if fate or the powers that be decided to pair two fag cops together as partners on patrol, which is about as likely as the people finally rising up and seizing power, do you really think they’d be driving down Franklin Avenue and look over and see these two saucer-eyed oily clowns on the street corner and say, “Gee, Marvin, let’s take a few hours off so we can pick up these two studs and enjoy a few hours of crazy twacked out sex with them?” Anyway, that’s Dick and Tom. Maybe somebody’ll write a memoir about them some day.
So you and your new friend head back home and you get high together and smoke some really potent weed, which makes you stupider than you’d like, but it’s nothing you can’t handle, mostly because you’re a pro and have a kind of awareness of certain pitfalls, and, for the moment, you’re okay with this guy having become part of your routine. But then after a while you realize that a considerable length of time has passed since this guy has said one word — has made one sound or actually given you one signal that he’s still on the same planet as you, which gets your attention a little because in normal circumstances this silence is a little bit of a red flag, and you try to remember exactly how long it’s been since he’s said anything. You think back to the previous hours and you make concessions because of the compatibility thing and you tell yourself that he might just be a quiet sort of guy, but you need a little assurance that things are cool, and you maybe conduct a little experiment by fixing yourself a dose in a spoon – and when you do it, you make sure that you squirt the water into the drug inside the spoon and stir it up in a way that’s really obvious. And usually doing this around another dope fiend is like cutting up a pork chop in front of your napping dog. They’ll all of a sudden give you their undivided attention, as if you’re the center of the universe. But there’s no reaction from this guy — he’s just lying there on the bed like a raw piece of steak and you say to yourself: Fuck! but maybe it’s out loud or maybe you just thought it, but it doesn’t matter because you know he won’t hear anything anyway because you’ve been fooled: this guy is totally tripped out and his brain is busy busy busy constructing barricades and escape chutes and the most complicated contraptions that make perfect sense to the builder, but to anybody else who doesn’t literally live inside his own head, they’re completely fucking cuckoo.
And you maybe remember the first time you got fooled like this which was shortly after receiving your journeyman meth dealer’s merit badge, which was a couple of years ago. You’re living this ultra cool dealer’s life and you get a phone call from this guy – somebody you’ve seen around here and there, and he says he’s a dealer too; that he’s noticed what a nifty operation you’re running, which should have been a sign that something was weird, because calling your little business an “operation” is kind of a stretch. But being a pig for praise, you say something really bright like, “Oh, really? Golly thanks!” He says he wants to meet with you to discuss a business proposition, so you’re really honored at the moment. And you’re kind of amazed that he sounds so businesslike, like he has a briefcase with papers in it with graphs and stuff. He comes to visit, and sure enough, he’s dressed clean and neat and he’s actually carrying a fucking briefcase, so you start to think you’re going to have to concentrate on what this guy has to say. But you’re just playing it by ear, because you don’t really have a clue about what’s supposed to happen, and you both go into the bedroom but you don’t get high because, after all, this is strictly business. And he says he wants to join forces with you, to make a kind of alliance of meth dealers or something, and he begins to make his case to persuade you. And of course he doesn’t have a curriculum vitae or a business plan or anything for you to read, which is okay because you wouldn’t have understood it anyway, but what he does instead to prove to you that he’s a person of substance is tell you all the steps he’s recently had to take to trick the sheriffs department from focusing on him as a person of interest and a potential defendant. And then, as if he’s the founder of the Meth Dealers’ Peace Corps or something, he describes in the most self-aggrandizing and heroic terms how he’s perfected a method that will confound law enforcement one-hundred percent of the time, which consists of erecting a series of 50-foot mirrors in the back of his apartment building, which, according to him, rendered him and all his business dealings, completely invisible to all the hundreds of sheriff’s deputies and crime-fighting scientists who were out to get him. And before he gets five minutes into this pitch, you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of him, because it couldn’t be more obvious that he’s a guy who really needs to lay off his own product, or turn himself in for a few sessions of ultra high voltage Edison Medicine or maybe even submit to a little slicing and dicing of his amygdala.
It’s kind of like that with this silent guy. You get pissed off at yourself because you’ve seen this before more times than you like to admit and everything changes in a heartbeat from budding love affair to babysitting duty and your newfound ally has been transformed into just some potentially dangerous piece of luggage, and you try to remember the last time there was somebody tripped out like this who landed in quiet land, because ideally, after a silent stretch, they’ll start squawking about their impending death, like they’re one hundred percent sure their pulse is out of control and they can feel death beckoning and what’s going to become of them? You just wish this guy on the bed with you would start spewing words – any kind of bullshit craziness, because words give you kind of a foothold so you know where things stand – words make the situation more quantifiable. You begin to wonder how long it’s going to be before this guy starts his ascent into sanity and you can safely send him on his way – or maybe drive him to where he lives or something, because experience has taught you that this condition has certain pitfalls: you turn them out too soon and they have no more wits than a puppy, who finds himself out on the street in an unfamiliar part of town and is about as inconspicuous as naked Santa Claus roller skating in the middle of the street, carrying a surfboard under his arm and with a huge black dildo sticking out of his ass and maybe a propeller cap on his head and blood dripping from his arms where he’s just slammed some meth. And just like a real puppy, this guy starts to panic because he’s scared that he’s been abandoned and will think nothing of walking up to a cop or maybe even into a police station and describing the place where he’s been for the last day or so, and he wants to go back there, and this will create a real fucking nightmare, so you reconcile yourself to being stuck with this guy for as long as it takes as he lies on the bed for an hour, for two hours, and then three. And you start to wonder what’s really going on with this guy, but you don’t get drastic. You put your faith in your experience, believing that it’s just going to take a little longer. And finally, after almost five hours, he gets up and walks into the bathroom and pisses. And you feign good will and maybe say something innocuous like “How you doin’?” But after he flushes the toilet, he reclaims his spot on the bed and settles back into his silence, totally ignoring your query. You can just see the wheels inside his head spinning out unspeakable tapestries of paranoia. And you become a little more concerned because it’s almost nighttime again and something’s gotta give pretty quick, so you sit on the bed next to him and try to watch some television or something, and the phone starts ringing, and you know it’s people calling for dope, but you don’t answer because of this weirdo on the bed who started out being just a cool guy but is now a 100 percent liability and it’s become obvious that this little mini-romance will start to affect your income if something doesn’t happen soon. But with the patience of Job, you lie down next to him like there’s nothing wrong and you turn off the TV and you’re both just lying there. And for a few minutes it’s peaceful, like everything’s ok. You take a wistful look at him – you admire his body and his handsome face and muscular arms – and you feel a certain amount of frustration because in a perfect world he’d actually be a real catch, and you maybe feel a little twinge of loneliness and self pity because you’ve allowed your imagination to create something out of nothing…one more time, and in a panic you scramble to put these thoughts out of your head because acknowledgment of them creates a painful awareness that you’re alone and you’re not getting any younger; that your life is as arid as the moon; that you wish the last ten years of bad decisions and drug use and arrests and stretches in county jail and trying to avoid seeing your parents and brother and sister hasn’t been real, but you feel so far away from where you need to be because there’s usually a needle stuck in your arm and running amok has become normal. And you might say a tiny little prayer that will hopefully take the edge off these desperate thoughts, something maybe like please god…please give me a sign of what to do…I promise I’ll…but you stop yourself from adding any real substance to this prayer because you know it’s foolish to pray and you’re glad no one has seen you in this moment of weakness. So you push all the bad thoughts out of your head and, because you can’t think of anything else to do, you snuggle up close to this quiet guy, like spoons, and it feels good. You listen to his insides and it’s so quiet – kind of like the ocean at rest. There’s a kind of deep, confident rhythm resonating deep inside him. And after twenty minutes or so you sense a slight stirring. You hear his breathing change slightly, like there’s a tiny increase in frequency and a decrease in depth, but it’s so slight you listen harder. There’s a little catch in his lungs, and you can almost feel blood flooding into his dormant muscles. Then, in a kind of singular seamless slightly magnificent motion, like an out-of-breath diver breaking through the surface of the ocean, he powers through your easy embrace, he sits up at once, looks around frantically like a cornered animal, then wildly – desperately screams to the world: “I…!” but the thought dies with the utterance of the pronoun, seemingly smothered by the paranoid imperatives of his overactive brain.
And your hopes, at least for the moment, are dashed with the reality that this guy is completely lost. And you wonder what it was he was going to say. I what? “I want to go home?” “I like you?” “I like puppies?” “I miss my mom?” Is it a truncated version of an expression containing the contraction “I’m,” and he was going to say “I’m sick,” “I’m the rightful king of France,” or maybe even the plain, unadorned, “I’m horny.” You consider for a moment the possibility that he may have been conjugating the future tense “I will,” but stop before finishing your speculative thought. I will what? You know it could be anything, and you catch yourself before descending into your own puddle of paranoia by settling on the possibility that the only verb that makes sense in this context is kill: “I will kill you.” And no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop yourself from going there…from conjuring scenes of your awful, inevitable fate: murdered by an unbalanced trick who couldn’t handle his dope. And all you can think of is how vulgar your death will have been. “I wasn’t born to die this way,” you think. “I haven’t accomplished anything.” And you think about how your parents will be so disappointed, along with your aunts and uncles and their kids, as they shake their heads in support of your parents’ grief. “You’re not to blame. We are sooo sorry…” And you want to call them and tell them you love them, and you’ll come and visit soon, and you allow yourself to think about when you were a kid and you were happy and things were so much simpler, and your parents still trusted you. But you know that history has taught them not to put any weight at all in your promises anymore. And after you shake off these bullshit memories, you imagine yourself being resourceful, somebody with courage and a will, and you think that this could all be solved if you just killed this crazy motherfucker and deposited him in a dumpster somewhere.
This is crazy, you think. Maybe saying “I…” has nothing to do with the self-referential pronoun. It could be the truncated form of an expression of inner pain, like “Aiyyeeeeee!!” or any combination of vowels strung together to give voice to the tortured soul; utterances that are so common in Italian opera or Mexican love songs: “Aiyyeeeee!! – this is the only sound capable of conveying the profound pain I’m in” – a concept that is completely antithetical to the non words so common in British songs, which stay as far away from any acknowledgement of inner pain – or even acknowledgment of an existence outside of lovely decoration – as possible, and which are instead cluttered with measure after measure of silliness like “Fa la la la la, la la la la,” happy sounds which seem designed to deny the existence of any emotion at all: “Oh, let’s not talk about that messy stuff, old man…have a spoonful of sugar and a jar of plum pudding and we’ll all go a-caroling after the wind dies down.” And being a human American citizen, you try to ally yourself – along with the rest of the population – with the hot-blooded Italian/Latin side, because the British nonsense syllables seem so goddamned silly in comparison, so frivolous and superficial. “I have emotion,” you might say to reassure yourself that there is absolutely no connection between you and the United Kingdom. And you don’t know how long it takes – probably about 30 seconds or maybe just a fraction of a second – until you realize that no matter how fast you run or how many somersaults your brain does, no white guy from Southern California like you is going to be able to claim ownership of the authenticity so implicit in Italian opera. You’ve actually, over the years, mostly during Christmas season, sung all those British nonsense sounds, the fa la la la, la la la la more than once and it felt good, it felt right, like you were full of nothing but good will, and were a contributing member to the brotherhood of man, and you wish you could reclaim those feelings, like you’re just so fucking tired of being some low-life who’s always running into emergency rooms and away from the cops. You deserve to feel good, and you just want somebody to realize this fact too, kind of like Bloody Mary from that Rogers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, that sounds so much like the music of Brahms with all that mature lyricism growing from thick foundations of rich, complex harmonies that are sometimes more like superficially cracked dishes of brown gravy than music, and you can just see corpulent, blossom-encrusted Bloody Mary with her brown skin and bare feet, standing on a promontory of that tiny south seas island describing her plight in song through the gossamer fog partially obscuring all that rich mountain top verdure, pouring her heart out in her pidgin English to all those millions of eyeballs and ear drums in all those darkened theaters, not only in San Diego, but all over the fucking world: “Sweet and clear us can be too!” And her words embolden you until you’re able to claim your share of legitimacy in this tiny instant of creation. And you might even make a pledge to yourself to remember to go caroling next Christmas so you can again sing: Fa la la la la la, la la la la!, but the syllables still sound vapid and you begin to feel self-conscious about how mindless they are, so you try to ennoble them, to elevate this silliness to a higher plane so you can own them. And what comes to mind right away is The Messiah by Handel, especially The Hallelujah Chorus, that seems to offer some substantive provenance to these nonsense filler syllables. That’s it! George Frederick Handel and you to the fucking hubs! George and you, dude! You might be condemned for singing silly sounds, but they’re actually heroic – heroic and brilliant – forged on the crucible of faith – sung by superior people that don’t get bogged down in all that morass of self, the narcissism that invites injury and hurt feelings. Fucking self-absorbed Italians! Get on with it, man! Stiff upper lip and all that. Carry on!
And by now your new friend has closed his eyes. He’s just lying there – you can’t tell if he’s sleeping because you can see no evidence that he’s even breathing. And you realize you’re exhausted, so you close your eyes too, but your mind is still active and you’re thinking about what all this means. You want to go to sleep, but you wonder about what it might have meant if this guy had screamed another pronoun, like “You!…” or “She…!” or “They…!” instead of that self-limiting and overly mysterious “I…!” But you’ve been around a bit – you’ve read a few books – and you know a thing or two about human nature, and you know deep down that it doesn’t matter how far any pronoun drifts away from the first person, the big personal signifier “I” …it’s always going to ultimately return to some form of self-reflection. That’s god’s cosmic joke on all of us, you think, and you’re struck by the futility of it all, that in all of human endeavor throughout all of history, and even before anything was ever written down, no matter how selfless or altruistic you’ve told yourself your motives are – you can never ever ever move past yourself; that everything you experience and everyone you meet will ultimately be mediated through the filter of you. And in what can only be considered an uncharacteristic flash of humanity, you look at this guy with a little compassion, and when you do, you see yourself, but more than that, you see mankind, flawed and fucked up and struggling and wanting – needing more than anything else to be part of something, to be safe – to be loved. So you turn off your phone, you take off your clothes and lie down next to this guy because in this instant, you’ve realized that we’re all just clawing climbing clinging microbes, hungry and striving for primacy, so maybe we can finally catch a lucky break and somehow squirm over the walls of this Petri dish. No one gets over on anybody else and no one gets out of here with a gold star. You close your eyes and go to sleep.
Photo by Amarins Spandaw.