There was no consensus.
Stackwell Schmidt didn't commission the project in the Nevada desert, whether you believe it or not. The "Climate Savior," a name from the early days, from way before his tech was implemented, was, believe it or not, a humble guy. Once the construction on Excidium began, the articles circulated immediately. "I'm no tech lord,"he said to Caroline Connors on the most-watched ever episode of Nightline. "I have nothing in common with those self-important, god-complex-having half-wits."
Once construction began, he was no longer "Climate Savior." he was "Earth Savior." The technology had existed before him, theoretically. All he did was figure how to make this whole thing down to earth. Reality. "If we are going to bankrupt the entire planet just to attempt to save it from a fate we don't even know for certain is coming, wouldn't you call that self-defeating?" Nobel-Prize winning economist Spencer Wilks had once said. This became the logic once the technology was no longer considered theory. Savior Schmidt didn't really change anything - he simply found the most efficient way to implement it. His research figured out how to reduce the cost by so many times as to make it doable. Wilks, ironically enough, did not live long enough to see the first machine's completion - he died of smoke inhalation when wildfires ate all of Northern California, including his summer home, while he was in it.
When Schmidt was first asked about the statue, or whatever it is, his first question was "what are you talking about?" None of us were naive enough to believe that he hadn't heard about the gargantuan project Excidium, reclusive as he was. News was simply no longer avoidable to someone of his stature. He had had an InfoChip since the age of twenty, it was widely known. Had to be playing dumb. He hated talking about himself, even when it became impossible.
The projections were such that the structure would be just over twice the height of the Burj Khalifa, and the width of Uluru. It would be ChromeGold, so bright in the sun it's reflection could blind, like a weapon. "What do you think they should call it," Caroline Connors asked him. "Obelisk? Monolith? Homage? It's for you, after all." He kept his sunglasses on the entire interview. "I really, truly couldn't care less," he said. There had been rumors about his eyes, what they really looked like.
"You people all focus on the wrong things," he told Connors. "This.. this statue. It has nothing to do with it. Any of it. It! You know what I'm saying? It. The thing we all search for. Meaning or whatever you want to call it. Survival. We have that now. That's it. Your grandchildren won't be boiled alive by heat death in their homes. The refugee crisis, the emptying of the middle east, it won't come. The floods, averted. Miami gets to exist. New York. It. My technology gave birth to It. It's not meaning, it's Survival. And you want to talk about statues?"
I remember watching the interview, and at that moment Garry Sinus calling me on the phone and saying "Are you watching this? Jesus."
Yes, Jesus, I thought.
"So," Caroline Connors responded, "you would call it a statue, then?"
I stripped the second I got home from work and put on the brand spanking new black bra and panties that I'd been so super exquisitely excited for all day long. I waited almost two hours for the light to be juuuust right, and then I took le selfie, but I knew even before I looked at it that it was wrong wrong wrong. Just too close in. All you could see were my rosie rose cheeks, and not those cheeks! Not yet at least. Did. Not. Work. Non non non. Couldn't even catch my nipple sticking out through the lace. I used la mirroir; Took three mirror shots, the third with my legs spread. Oh my! My mouth was open in that one. In the first one I was biting my lip. I debated which was best; I liked my hair best in the first, all whimsy and floofed but not too floofed, and in the second I was biting my lip in a way that looked au naturel. The third was the raunchiest. I sent him all three. That was at 7 PM. By 8 he still hadn't responded and I started to pace around like my parents' anxious Pomeranian Edouard. I poured a glass of Cremant (I was out of Champagne, sue me) and looked at the photos. Maybe they were wrong. Quel maybe? There was no maybe about it. I took another one, same shot basically, with the legs spread, except my hand was in my panties. Gauche? He'd love it. He'd never be able to resist. My mouth was open but less so. I looked stoned. I looked... European! I sent it to him without thinking twice. By 9 he still hadn't responded. What suffering! I kept our text screen open for I don't know how many minutes, just staring, waiting for the beautiful three dots. Something. Anything. But I got rien. Nothing. I wanted to smear my phone and its pretty case with my lipstick and then smash it against the foutu wall. I poured myself another Cremant and took my lovely bra off. Pic. Sent. NOTHING. Oh pauvre moi! At 10 I took my panties off and took several photos of myself masturbating and sent them all, one after another, after another, two minutes between each send. Such a barrage! It would work. I had tricks up my sleeve, monsieur black robe serious face. Three of them had my thumb in the way and you couldn't see anything except the top of my head. Several of them got weird purple light flares. They all looked unnatural cause, well, I'm holding a damn phone. But one of them was just right. You could see my face, my middle finger on my clit, dun dun dun, my nipples hard. I sent it to a girlfriend. Irresistible, you nasty whore! she wrote back. Parfait. I waited and waited. Nada. Okay. First of all, fuck you, asshole. Who do you think you are? Second of all I needed another glass of Cremant but the bottle was empty, and the stores were all closed. I tried reading my book but was too agitated. Calm down, cherie, calm down. We do not let him agitate us! I watched part of a movie. I drank diet Sprite. I made a deal with myself not to check my phone for two hours. I lasted about forty minutes. Tant pis pour moi. Still nothing. I decided I could either mope around like an old nun or I could take action. It was time to bust out the big guns. I went into the closet and retrieved the old pink butt-plug my ex never bothered to take with him, lubed it up, took a deep breath, and worked it up there. Ah! Tellement...agréable? Je ne m'attendais pas à ça. Had I not been tipsy I don't think it would have come to this, but, when in Rome! Things became less enjoyable quickly though. I spent fifteen minutes trying to get into a position where I could be bent over and actually take a viable photo. My arms and legs were exhausted from the effort and my ass was getting... tired. I took one shot. Good enough. Sent. I stared at my phone. No three dots. No nothing. I waited five minutes, then I threw my foutu phone at the mirror.
I woke up somewhere around 6 AM to the sound of a text. I groaned and rubbed my eyes. A Text! A glorious text! I looked at my now cracked phone, coeur racing, ready to forgive, accept, correspond. I'd be late for work. I did not care. A whole day of sexts and lewd pics! Celebration!
"Nice Pics," the text said. That was it. Nice pics.
"That's it?" I wrote. "Nice pics?"
"Yes. They are nice."
I lay there, too exhausted to be mad. I pondered what to do. I could not just give up. "How about you send me one," I wrote.
"Okay," he wrote back. Thirty seconds later I got a most basic mirror pic of him, standing, oversized black robe and hood, with the six-foot tall scythe propped up by an invisible hand, his face completely obscured by shadow, as per usual. It's my lot in life. Sometimes I think I was meant to suffer. Who said that? Somebody famous?
"You like?" he wrote. Quelle bêtise. Il a la tête dans le cul.
"It's always the same," I wrote. "Can you, please, just once, take off the robe?"
"But I'm the Harvester Of - "
"The Harvester Of Souls. I know. Believe me. I know. You've told me, many, many times."
He went quiet. No three dots. No texts.
"Can you make an exception? Once?" I wrote.
For a while, it was three dots. He must have been typing a lot. Then the dots went away. Then came back. Then went away again. Finally, a text came through. My lucky day.
"We made a deal, remember?"Are you saying you would like to renege on that deal? You are aware what will happen to you, right?" he wrote.
I almost wrote yes. I sighed and sighed and sighed. "No no. I don't want to go back on the deal."
I felt like crying. But I couldn't. I couldn't let him win.
"What if you just lose the scythe? For one pic? Just one pic, no scythe? Good compromise?" I wrote. For about 20 minutes, there was textual silence again. I put the phone down. I was up. Figured I'd start the shower and start another day in the endless immortal cycle of things. What a bon vivant I had become. Sigh.
He wrote back, "K."
Before he had a chance to send the pic I threw my phone against the wall. I ran over to it and stepped on it. That hurt my heel incredibly badly and I wanted to scream, so then I went to the closet and put on my oh so wonderful Louboutin's that butt-plug boyfriend got me, click-clacked my way back to the phone, and crushed it with my heel about four or five times till there were screen bits partout. It was finished. All fuzzy and crazy in the screen. I pressed the home button but couldn't even see anything properly. The whole thing was destroyed. I went out onto the balcony, in the freezing wind, and threw the busted piece of crap off into the sky, down 25 stories below. I knew this was not a good thing. I knew it was a violation of our deal. I knew this would not end well for me. I would probably see him very soon. Sans Scythe? I doubted that very much. But, goddamn it, it felt oh so good. C'était tellement bon!
We knew we were up shit's creek when the little brat Jenny McGee quit the writing team. That ten year old saboteur fucked us real good. She told Bennington and Wing , on the day she handed in her papers, "The quality of this program has declined too much for me to sustain it myself. The writers you have given me as support, while well-meaning, are simply not skilled enough to write for a creative project as complex as Mayo Nation. Your three billion global viewers will suffer because of it, but what will suffer more is my integrity if I continue to work for a sub-par version of this television program. I'm sorry, but my decision is final. My advice: end the show abruptly. Offer no explanation. Allow the public to wallow in the mystery of it. It will yield better results than if we continue to write the show as is. I assure you, we will fail. We will produce something so poor compared to expectations that the public will revolt and there will be unavoidable bloodshed. Good luck." The crazy goddamndest part of it all is that no one knew the goddamn show was created by a little kid. My god, they would shit. Anyways, the kid handed in her papers so we're all royally fucked. Sanders downloaded this computer program that can predict the outcome of any sequence of events, so we plugged our little pickle into it. The results were not good. Total mass chaos and public revolt. Bennington and Wing were killed almost immediately, and quite brutally too. Torture was involved. But Wing, before they lit his ass on fire, gave up the goods and told the public, "Little Jenny McGee! She's the one you want! She's the show's real runner! Get her!" So there'd be mass hysteria and violence and calls for heads, and it would be directed at a ten-year-old girl. But the kid being a genius and all would have gotten the fuck outta dodge before shit hit the fan and she'd wind up in the jungle in Guatemala, protected by the Kaibiles or some shit. Don't forget, she's rich. Big fucking deal. Okay, Okay. So what, I guess we can't allow any of that to happen. So we had the meeting: Me, Bennington and Wing, Sanders, Charlemagne, Aroyo, Sanchez, and Bobson. We sat down and discussed it. The two honchos said we have no choice here, we simply must write a final season as good as how McGee would have written it. I asked if we could hire more writers but Wing said there's no budget, we blew it all on special effects. Aroyo asked if we could just hand the whole thing over to Disney, but they shot that down even harder, saying the public wouldn't understand it. I said what if we went the nostalgia route, make the last season really similar to the first, like, thematically. Have lots of scenes of people naked rubbing themselves in mayo, just like in the first season. The public would eat it up, right? They love that nostalgia shit, right? They thought about it. The gears were turning. We'd pull this off. No mass murders and tortures. The days of the public controlling how we write our shit would not come to pass just yet. But, and I did say this out loud, before we write a damn word, we should hunt down that Jenny McGee scab and hang her from the Hollywood sign. Bennington and Wing shot it down, said we had to be the bigger people on this one, that we would never get away with going after a kid. Morons. Whatever. I'll show her, that little snob. We'll write a better season than she was ever capable of. Just you watch, Jenny. The meeting ended and we all did cocaine, and then we sat down to write. Sanchez sat on my desk bouncing his ball, spitballing ideas. I typed 700 words a minute. This was all gonna work out just fine. I got this shit, fuck. Mayo Nation my ass.
100 years to the day after Stackwell Schmidt's death, the law passed that banned journalists from covering the pilgrimage . "For our own safety," Teresa Zampano of United Nation Journal said, when asked about the ban. "Allegedly," she told Sal Walls in their interview.
"You must admit the danger," Walls said. Every year since Schmidt's death, the number of pilgrims to the great statue Excidium had increased, along with the global temperature. And the deaths.
"They're saying 3.5 million this year," Zampano told Walls. "Twice as much as the Hajj." The interview was broadcast across all digital networks; it received unprecedented hits. Zampano, beacon of light in a era of journalistic darkness, Deliverer of Untainted Truths, The Truth Warrior, sometimes simply The Warrior, bore the marks of a burn victim on the left side of her head. She had learned to style her hair to suit the missing chunk, a half-shave, a style they say was once popular for a brief moment.
"You don't regret that?" Walls asked, pointing at her scar, where the hair now refused to grow. Two years ago, a pilgrim recognized her among them, and swung at her with a burning torch, the symbol of the pilgrims, carrying heat in the heat. "Die, lying news scum!" he had wailed. It was captured on her hidden camera. Now it was printed on t-shirts.
"Why do the Believers hate us so much?" Sal Walls asked.
"The news media."
Zampano snorted out a monosyllabic laugh. "I admire that you think we're the same," she said. "They don't hate us. They hate truth."
"Seems counter-productive, doesn't it?" Walls said.
"It's been over 30 years, Sal," she said. "They proved he was wrong. Imagine you believed it your whole life. Then suddenly it's all a lie. A lie that has framed your whole life. All of our lives. The great savior was a fraud, his formula didn't work. Would you want to believe it?"
"But how can you deny it? New York, Miami, virtually all of the Middle East - gone. Off the map, or unliveable. These people, what, they deny that that's even true? They still believe in New York? They believe they could see the Statue of Liberty tomorrow if they wanted?"
"You would be shocked at what people are willing to believe. Some of us already know that, Sal," she said.
He shifted in his chair. Zampano was perfectly still the whole time. Every now and then she'd touch the purple blotches on her face, the effect of Schmidt's failed chemical that his machines pumped int the sky all those decades ago to save the Earth.
"How many deaths this year? From the pilgrimage, I mean. From the pilgrimage. How many didn't survive?" he asked,
"They're saying it's a third," she said.
"A third... of 3.5 million?"
"Dead? just like that?"
"You're not paying attention," she said. He just nodded with that smug look. "Dehydration mostly. Heat stroke. Heat death. Some of them, it's like their organs are shut down by the heat. They boil alive, in a sense."
"Jesus," he said. "It's that hot there." It wasn't posed as a question.
An awkward moment passed, live, on the air, where both journalists sat in silence, waiting for the other to speak. It was Walls leading the interview, but at this point it felt open, like it didn't belong to him anymore.
"I will tell you something," Zampano said, speaking to the air, to the audience. "There is something about it. Being there. Among all these... believers. None of them were even born when Stackwell lived. None of us. Yet they worship. There were years, decades, where we believed we were saved. My mother talked about it all the time. She was a very happy woman. I sometimes wish I knew someone like that now. There, in the desert, so close to the statue. It, wasn't exactly happiness. Something...,"
Walls didn't want to say hope on the air. He sat in silence, and let the audience observe an equally silent Zampano.
"My mother talked about the pilgrimage. She always wanted to do it one day. She never got to," Zampano said. Walls made a throat-slitting gesture and they cut to a sequence of personalized ads.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Walls said.
"Can't handle the heat, Sal?" she said.
"You literally sound like a Believer. On live DigiBroadcast. The Truth Warrior. You're gonna fuck everything up!" Walls said.
Makeup came and adjusted her face. They moved the lights around. Walls got up to get water. Zampano pulled out her wallet while having her face prodded. She pulled out her mother's old picture, the little photo she kept of Stackwell Schmidt. She smiled at it and whispered something.
"What was that?" Walls said, returning to his seat.
"Nothing at all," Zampano said.
"Ready?" Walls said.
"Always," she said.
I don't remember what age she started, is what i tell the class even though i know it's not true and i know lying is a week of-full on doghouse. She's really shy, Billy Crane says, and lets face it i know little sis is a shy bird but that's just the way it is with 13-year old girls. Mrs. Beechum tried to tell my folks that you can't bring people for show and tell but then my folks filled her in on the whole multi platinum album thing and Mrs. Beechum i guess used google for the first time and found little sis all over the innernet. Mantle, she's called, in the music world. Noise musician? Rebecca Rowenstein asks, and of course little sis just sits there quiet, shrugging her shoulders, cause that's what she does unless she's on stage. I guess this is kind of a stage in a way but it doesn't count, i know i know. She's got no music to play here. It's just a name, i say, even though i know she got the name from when she was five and tripped and wanged her head real hard on the fireplace mantle and was concussed and brain-fogged and in hospital and all that. After that was when she started making the sounds. The noise. Now they just call it noise. Didn't take long for ma and pop to buy her the equipments. They know talent when they see it. Shit, this is boringer than church, Bern Pope yells from the back, and half the class laughs, probably cause they're morons and they laugh at anything that dull meatloaf says. Mrs. Beechum is just looking the whole time, looking like she just doesn't get it. I say hang on, and go to my bag cause i snagged dad's laptop when i left from home, and yes i know he's gonna half kill me when it's home time, but i had a feeling it'd go this way, so i made sure to come prepared. I google little sis' live performance of "Death March" from that concert she did in the big New York Madison place earlier this year, and boy when that video starts it is something to see in here. The vid is on for maybe twenty seconds before everyone, and i do mean everyone, is screaming. Mackenzy Millis is crying so hard that her makeup is running and Olaf Principe is shaking his head so hard he looks like he's got wasps stuck in there, and the meatloaf himself, yes good old Bern, is puking the entirety of his McRib lunch out right on his desk. Just from hearing the music. The noise music they call it. Quadruple platinum, so, i guess some people out there must love it. Mrs. Beechum is screaming Turn that off! Turn that off now! but she can't physically turn it off herself cause her hands are glued to her ears and god help her if she takes them off. Me, i'm just sitting. Ears as free as a bird. Nothing i haven't heard before. Gonna be big-time doghouse for me for a while. Maybe even a little suspension action. Little sis, shy girl, the quadruple platinum Mantle herself, she's smiling. She's looking up at me. She's a happy camper. I know the look. Shes sayin' Thanks, brother
Hard wood, not the most inviting, still a viable bench, she's deciding. Trench coat. Gucci Aviators, always. Concords, she calls them. Pitch black. That's her name for them as if they were her children. Concords.
"Bench. Bench. Bench. Bench. Bench." A woman with a small child turns and looks at her at her fifth utterance of this mantra. The woman can't see it, because of the Concords, but she's staring right back. Woman and child abandon ship, walk on into the Beringen museum across the little parkette.
"Beringen, Beringen, Beringen, Beringen, Beringen," she says for the first time in her life. She runs her finger down the extreme tautness of the lace tights. Also Gucci, but by mistake. Meant to wear the APs. Damn. Below them, down the leg, the prize. Encased in black, red-lacquered sole.
"Souls. Souls. Souls. Souls. Souls." She extracts a Galoise, and has the flame already lit when she sees him, across the parkette, meek, dwarfed by the wooden doors of the museum in his background. Takes her finger off the trigger. Lets the Galoise fall out of her mouth into her hand. Puts it in her pocket. He doesn't like the smell of smoke. Why does she care? Oh, well she wouldn't want to ruin her Tom Ford Fucking Fabulous lips. Anymore than she already has, that is.
He marches over, slowly. A song plays in her head that she's never heard before, but it makes her feel the power. He stands in front of her, smiling. People walk past the exchange, without caring. He looks around. Left. Then right. Then left.
"Why the new spot?" he says.
"At what point did we establish that you could ask questions?" she says. She wants that Galoise in her pocket.
"I'm sorry, PK." He looks right at the prize. He had already been looking, of course. But he hadn't noticed, like noticed.
"You didn't..." he can't finish. She smirks. He stares at himself in the Concords. A whimper is trying its hardest to furrow his lips.
She waits, almost a full minute, then she nods, and he drops to his knees. He touches the shoes and he can't hold back from shaking all over. She waited the minute because what funboy couldn't see was the middle-aged couple behind him, tourists, cameras around necks, bucket hats, both stopped dead at the sudden sight of the groveling man. She watches them watch him as he caresses the black red pumps. She stares at the tourist couple through the Concords, as they stare at all of it.
He places fingertips to the heel, and she says Now, Now. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. He takes out his phone. The app is bugging him to confirm the notification of her location, but he already saw that. He presses confirm. Then he waits, on his knees, for the godforsaken internet to hurry up and take him to the page where he can press confirm again, letting whatever pervert IT lackey on the other end know that the rendezvous is taking place. If that's how it even works.
She watches him gaze at the screen like always. At her name. PrincessKillface69. She get's no joy looking at his boring app-name, Lloyd, probably his real name; it sounds like a pervert name. He puts his phone on the bench. She takes hers out of her pocket. No notification yet.
"Is there a problem?" she says.
"No. Of course not."
The tourist couple is transfixed. They can't wait to see what happens next. A plump, overgrown child with an ice cream cone is also watching, though he, impressively, is more discreet.
"Tell me your name," he says.
"You mean, you want to hear me say the words?" she says, as he continues to hold and caress her foot in its pristine Louboutin casing.
"Tell me your real name, I mean."
She lifts her sunglasses above her head.
"Excuse me?" she says. He's staring at her. He's smirking in a way she's never seen before. "I'm cancelling," she says, ripping her foot out of his hand. She grabs her phone, about to tell the app it's all over.
"No, no, no, no, no! I'll be good! I'll be good! I swear. I was kidding. I swear!"
She looks down at this pile of human. She puts the heel of her shoe on his forehead and pushes him back just a little. He almost falls. The couple is watching so intently they might as well film it. She puts the Concords back on.
"Continue," she says. In no time her shoe is removed and her laced foot is being caressed in the most sensual of ways. He takes less time than usual, and her foot is in his mouth. He does his thing, working his tongue. She doesn't care for the feeling much. She's fixated on something else. She watches the couple watching her. They can't see that she's watching them watch her. Now they are staring straight at her, unabashed. It doesn't take her long. Not long at all.
Later, he sits on the bench next to her as she lights her Galoise, voyeur couple long gone into the museum across the parkette. He plays with his phone, something with the app.
"Do you remember our first time?" he says.
"Can't help it. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever known."
"If you don't cut that out I'm cancelling us for good. I'll delete the app. No more feet for you. It will be goodnight nurse. Forever," she says.
"But then how will you get your public fix?" he says.
He continues to futz around on the app and she likes the way his hair blows. She has the suddenest, rarest pang of sentimentality. Something about the cute little hair tuft.
"Okay. I'll give you a hint," she says.
"About my name."
He stops to look at her, puts his phone in his lap. "Okay," he says.
"A streetcar named desire."
He thinks for five seconds, then smiles, nods. He nods so deep he shows her the top of his head.
She looks down at his phone. It's on his profile page. She sees the word FEET, and then below it, the word UROPHILIA.
"Wait a goddamn minute,"she says.
He almost responds but sees her staring and he snatches his phone and fastballs it into his pocket.
"What the fuck, Lloyd. What the fuck. You made it very clear I was your only -"
"I gotta go," he says. And like that he's up, gone. With the wind. Like he was never there.
"You'll scream my name for the rest of your life," she says to no one, shaking her head, French-inhaling smoke up her nose.
"Bench. Bench. Bench. Bench. Bench."
I started a cult when i was 6. To get in wasn't free. You had to prove yourself. You had to eat a whole colony of fire ants. I showed them i could handle it. Ten. Twenty. Fifty fire ants at a time. My mouth would be swollen for days. They felt inspired, the children. They forced themselves to digest it. Force of will. It was the only way.
Nobody really knew the point of it all. I didn't either. I just liked the idea of having followers who held on to my every word and occasionally wiped my ass for me. I made something up, at six years old. About the coming fire. They didn't make the connection that i was channeling the energy of the fire ants. What did they know, a bunch of dingbat kids? Well somebody had to start a cult right? If it wasn't me, another guy.
41 years later, 8 years after the first floods, and five years since i became the unofficial king of the tunnels and the markets, and I'm still eating fire ants. It's a thing. Has been for decades. Millions strong. They believe in the purity. Sure the bite is painful, you know. But you get used to it. You can get em chocolate covered now. Well, depending on availability. Everything in the markets is kinda wonky these days. People getting more desperate. Eating insects is the least of peoples' concerns.
Some of the rumors about the meat are true, but not all of them. Contrary to popular belief, neither cat nor dog are the most abundant source down here. I'll give you a hint. It's way smaller, has a long tail, and is a legend of our New York streets. Try not to think too hard about these things. Done as little skewers, like satay style? They're actually pretty damn scrumptious. Maybe not enlightening like a fire ant, but hey, survival involves compromises just like everything else.
I don't manage a meat cart. I don't manage a moisture-retention-device "kiosk" (people use that k-word, but really it's just a guy standing there with some tarps stacked on the floor). I don't own a knife or gun hut. Never been a businessman. The thing is, when you're a charismath, as i like to call people like me, even though i've never met anyone like me, people bring you things. Money is one of those things, but it's not the only thing. Not even the most important thing. People bring you things because they believe in you. Because they believe you'll know how to make things right, sooner or later.
The chair i sit in, on a daily basis, is it bigger than most peoples' chairs down here? Yes, probably. Well, i'd venture a guess most don't have chairs. When i visited Dan and Carol Hutchings' hole, they didn't have any chairs. A nice sleeping space on the floor though. the right kind of hardness is actually good for the back. probably not forever though. They've been loyal to me since before we went underground. Good on them. They get a gold star in my book. Yes it's a literal book. Gotta keep track of the followers of course.
Stinging. Floating. Buzzing. Killing. Ending life. I wrap my hands in cloth, and leather, and bones, and broken glass. Thirteen and 0, fourteen is minutes away. I eat peanut butter out of the jar in the dressing room cause it makes no difference now. Was a time, 8 and 0, when i thought about jumping off a building. At three and 0 i thought it was just bad luck, for three suckers in a row. Coach says destiny, i said what about their mothers. Destiny has no care for mothers. I said what about my own. He said, what about her? she ain't proud her son's gonna be champ? I said, that her son's a killer. Killing needs intention behind it to be killing. This is thirteen accidents. Thirteen unlucky encounters with god. Thirteen sentencings to the afterlife from the ring. The squared circle of salvation and damnation. Thirteen visits from that hooded motherfucker who you thought carried a scythe, but instead he got 10 ounce gloves that say Lonsdale on 'em, and big ol' pyjama looking shorts. Boots. At ten and 0 i won a belt, a real one, but at that point everyone was running scared. They all heard the impossible, the kid from Florida with the nice smile and the lanky body and the arm one inch longer than the other had put every opponent he ever faced to sleep. Permanently. Max Kellerman asked how do i do it? I said i don't know. He asked why i do it? i said i don't know. Wasn't trying. Nothing personal. Yes i've been depressed. Yes i've wanted to quit. Yes i've tried to quit. No, i did not quit. There was light. Coach led me to it. also, about a forty million dollar net worth ain't the fuck bad either. No, i do not like killing. No, i do not want them to die. No i don't understand it. My hands aren't lethal. Life itself is lethal, kills us all inevitably. No one gets out alive. My hands is just the messengers for thirteen souls that's had the bad luck of choosing to lace up the gloves against me, and counting. About to be fourteen. That's what i tell myself. So i can sleep at night. That's what i tell Clarissa, 5 years old and perfect, pure, so she can sleep at night. I'm the champion. Of the world. I send em to the afterlife, just like all the other elements. Famine. Plague. War. War. Mostly like war. What i do in there is war. That's no metaphor. We here are made for war. But the difference, is i am made of it, not for it. I encapsulate it. The Roman Legion at Carthage. A force of terror. The salted earth. The end of civilizations. I am made of war. That's what coach tells me. That it's destiny. And that one day, maybe it won't end this way for one of em. I pray that's the truth. I am no killer. That's what i tell my sweet Clarissa. That's what i tell myself. And i try not to think of their mothers. Time to walk, champ.
I knew we were all frigged when Mikko showed up to school with the look in his eyes, iconic crazy-shitnuts look, and started trying to bite everyone in the fricken neck. Mr. Swan yelled Ervrywon shit dern! like without even looking at what the piss was taking place. Like it wasn't a stand-up party, it was just Mikko being a frigging fuckstick mega insano guy. When Cherry ran over to him and went He's gonna drink himself to def, just like Leaving Las Vegas!! he turned to her, made this ape-like face of curio-what'supness and yelled, at the top of his dick, I AM NOT NICOLAS CAGE! and like clockwork, Angus said Then why are you doing Vampire's Kiss right now, stupid? Literally the same day Mikko has a Nic Cage freakout and the feds are called and guys in white scrubs carted him off to the nut house in the paddy wagon (he really does look like him for gosh's sake) Maryanna did something double-crazy in chemistry-physics class, which was like she proved that the actual entire universe revolves around our little podunk town of Jenkins, Indiana. Mrs. Taragon came into our class with the little keener in tow and said She did it! She did it! she proved the ultimate theory of the universe! We all looked up like huh? just as Mr. Swan had finally gained back friggin control over our galactic rambunks which had been dialed up to 99.9 since Mikko went apeshit. So like, what now? So the actual universe revolves around this podunk town? Well big deal i guess, cause i'm 99.9 percent sure that when i get home ma is still gonna have to flip on over from the Lucky Charms factory to Junky's Diner, and dad's still gonna be MIA and grandma is still gonna pluck out her beard hairs and fling them at us till ma gets home at 2 AM and tells us to get our asses to bed and why didn't grandma put us to bed ages ago? and sure she could get a babysitter who knows some responsibility or something but like that costs money she doesn't have so looks like grandma it is, fuck. Grandma is raising bees in the backyard, believe it or not. Said she wants her own honey for once in her life. I wish Mikko had had his freakout at my crazy house and not at school. I coulda flung bees at him all day and maybe just maybe he'd scream Not the bees! Not the bees! Ah!!! but probably not cause literally the only Cage movies he likes are Vampire's Kiss and Con Air. Ugh. I'll probably never see that pied piper again will i?
The bullet must have gone rip-daddy on my brain on literally the same day that I got my seven millionth follower. I bet it happened right at the very same minute that that very smart, very cool, very in-touch user pressed the follow button. Click. Follow. Boom - brains eerrrrywhere. Poetic. Shakespeare styles. He'd have liked that. Mr. Tragedy himself. He'd have Loved it! Well, it's all a big black empty nothing now. Serious unmellowing of the Vibes. Oh The Vibes. Bye bye Vibes. I named my first boat The Vibes. Asshole boat-salesman laughed, NOT with me. Too bad for him, Mr. poor boat man. Vibes is life. I don't care if boats are supposed to have chick names. My world, my rules, bro. @T8Honey's rules, bro.
It looks like my body landed in this twisted position, so my legs kinda doubled over myself in a way that I defo could not pull off if I was alive. Rad. Major traffic driver. Most obviously it looks like I just partied wayyy too hard. I hope Rafta takes a pic and like maybe crops out the blood and brains, or just like angles it so I appear only drunk and not dead? Fuck, Rafta is gonna be pissssssed. She's been grinding like the hardest of all time for three weeks to get SunStrip Festival off the ground. Our slogan is literally 'Eat your own ass, Coachella!' And we don't even any have bands. Whatever works, bro. They threatened to sue us and she sent them an old selfie of her and I giving the double whammy-middle finger. She snapped that pic at one of our first major parties we promoted, and to be honest I don't even remember which one it was cause we were all certified blackout. Best manager a dude could ask for.
Some people call me a quote unquote influencer? Ugh. Worst. Job title. Ever. Almost as bad as Promoter. But Rafta, she says it best. She calls me a storyteller. And that's the hardcore truth. Always been a storyteller. Sometimes the content tells the stories, sometimes the party itself is the story.
I'm kinda spitballing with the whole bullet part. I'm guessing I got shot? I mean one second I'm alive, healthy as fuck, virile as pre-2016 Harambe, and then the next minute I'm lying in a heap? I didn't hear a damn thing. A silent killer behind me? Who would want me dead? Do I have enemies? Well, shit yeah I have enemies, who the fuck makes my kinda cash without pissing off some people? But let's retrace our steps a minute here bro, cause something's not adding up. I get to mom's house. No one's here except mom and Maria, who are upstairs. I take a phone call from Rafta, then I take a bite of mom's oatmeal and sip of coffee from her tray in the living room. And then bam! It happens. lights out. Now help me out – did we hear anyone come in the house after me? No? Mom's still upstairs with Maria, probably getting helped into her chair, getting ready to come down in the 'vator, and she doesn't even know that I'm in the house. I should've yelled "Hey!" or "Vibes!" or something. Dang. Next time, bro.
Yeah that's right, I bought my mom a mansion with a fucking elevator in it. Tate the Great, baby. Tate the generous. Tate the benevolent. Does she even recognize you anymore? Can she even spell your name? That asshole Norris opened his mouth in exactly this most uncouth manner when I handed the real estate agent a briefcase filled with green stacks as a down payment. You know what Norris? Not everybody is a selfish, unfeeling asshole like you. Poor mom. No one should outlive their kid, even if they won't remember it. What a bummer. Maria, caregiver extraordinaire that she is, will have to explain it. I don't have a goddamn clue where in the world Michela is. Morocco maybe? Algeria? She won't be the one explaining anything to mom. She probably won't even find out for a month. Shit, she probably won't even be at my funeral. Holy shit the funeral! I gotta start planning that! It will be the most ignorant, ignited, ignominious party of the year, hands down! Wait. I can't plan it. I'm fucking dead. Rafta, this one's on you, baby! You know what? Fuck it! @T8Honey never dies! My content is immortal! My style is immaculate! Mike Tyson himself'll be a pallbearer! Get readddddyyyyyyy. Eight million followers within a month. Watch. Beyond the grave Vibes, baby. Beyond the grave Vibes.
Taylor says to me, "Did you know there's this cocktail you can make with like 12 different liquors and if you make it right it can kill you instantly?" I'm literally entangled in my own bikini strap, trying to un-fuck the galaxy of a knot that I've woven myself into, and Taylor just refuses to shut his yap. "I wanna see if they'll make it for me. One of the ingredients is some crazy Tibetan liquor that the monks make in the mountains. Or something." Like I'm so sure that the SunBeach Inn will have your crazy killer monk liquor, stupid. The knucklehead keeps talking, and I go on repeating my favourite sentence in the English language, "Uh huh." I have to keep talking because if I go too silent he'll ask me for the fourth time if I need help. "Do you you need help?" he says, right on cue, so I roll my eyes as far back as they'll go, then I take my business to the bathroom with the dull kitchen knife, and I cut the damn bikini off, even though I just bought it and love it. I change into my mauve sports bra, which I hate wearing at the beach, but it's the only other thing in here.
When we finally head down, stupid Taylor is still talking about his magic cocktail, and for some reason the beach is slightly less busy than usual right outside our hotel, like I'm seeing hundreds instead of thousands of college boys and girls going wild, which actually makes me supremely happy, cause maybe I can have some peace and quiet and just listen to the waves. Yesterday I walked for thirty minutes down the beach to find a quiet spot, only for some badminton-playing bimbo with way blonder hair than me to take a shuttle-cock right in the eye and start crying and whining at the top of her lungs. It's my lot in life. I was meant to suffer at the beach. We're walking towards the water and it only takes a minute for us to realize that everyone has clustered further down the strip, and Taylor says "Oh shit, check that out," and he's dragging me down there before I can even say "ugh," and in no time we're in the swarm zone. The distant bass-drops that I had heard earlier from our room are now thudding in my ears and my whole body is shaking with every beat. The last place I want to be is here, engulfed in a mass of bulges, of muscle, sweat, sun, soaking, dying of thirst and annoyance. Taylor is behind me, pointing at the stage, his arm glancing across my shoulder. "Look! That's that guy!" he says, and on the stage, there's a huge guy with the throat tattoo holding the mic, I think he's called Frostbyte, but that's not who Taylor's pointing at. I see the other guy, and he's right, it's him, @T8Honey. I've been following him for years. Like from before he was even famous. His content is the funniest, and dude knows how to throw a party. I literally had no idea he would be here. Okay Paulette, shake off the cobwebs. It's party time.
I keep trying to jump to get a better look at the stage, and suddenly I'm being lifted up in the air, my legs on a neck, and then I'm taller than everyone. Ugh, Taylor. Always first to be that guy. His sweaty back is already covered in sand and its getting in my crotch. Whatever. Let's make the most of this. I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and I'm the loudest, baddest bitch in this pathetic loser crowd, and every time I yell, the whole crowd roars with me. My heart skips like 17 beats when @T8Honey points at me and says "Get up here!" That stage is the last place I want to be, so I shake my head and @T8Honey puts up his hands, lets it go, looks for someone else to call up. But then Frostbyte jumps in the crowd, causing a Red Sea situation, and he wades through the college coeds and hauls me off Taylor's shoulders.
Everyone is screaming like crazy, and I can barely feel my legs every time the bass pounds, and it's way more sunny from the stage cause now the sun is directly in my eyes, and Frostbyte's hand is on my back, when @T8Honey says, "I don't know if she wants to be up here bro!" in his raspiest party voice, and I can only pray that he is serious. "Don't worry about that. Why don't you let loose and show the crowd those titties!" Frostbyte says, still touching me. The crowd is cheering; security is doing nothing; Taylor is standing there lokking annoyed. My own friend, while fuming with a kind of jealousy that translates to "I want to see her naked but I don't want any of you people to", can't do anything. I'm literally shaking. @T8Honey says, "Who here likes motherfucking champagne!" The crowd goes nuts and @T8Honey pulls a champagne bottle out of nowhere and shakes it up real good. Just as Frostbyte's giant hand is about to reach into my bra, @T8Honey aims the bottle right at him and pops the cork. Time slows down, because I watch that little cork sail through the air and strike Frostbyte right in his scrunched up forehead, just before it ricochets and nails me in my left eye. The last thing I see before security and medics are all around me, other than that big fucker Frostbyte falling off the stage headfirst, is @T8Honey rushing over to me. I'm holding my eye, blind as a bat, not really feeling anything, and I barely hear @T8Honey say in my ear "are you okay?" I reach out for him, and totally by accident grab the champagne bottle that's still in his hands. I take the biggest swig of my life, until my mouth is full, an all-you-can-drink bubbles buffet, and champagne flies out of my nose. "Haha! You'll be okay. You'll be okay!" T8Honey says. Then, into the mic, he says, "She'll be fucking okay!"
In the medical tent, I have an ice pack glued to my eye, and I'm using my good eye to Google images for fashionable eyepatches. It hurts like absolute hell, but for some reason I'm smiling. I don't know what happened to that big son of a bitch Frostbyte. Or @T8Honey for that matter. Or Taylor. I don't really care about any of them right now. I'm excited about the prospect of this new fashion item. Maybe I'll get Joan, my water-color artist pseudo-friend, to design it. Maybe I'll have a forever Halloween costume. Maybe I'll have an excuse not to go to the beach.
I'm going to tell you a story you might not believe. It's about my brother, Tate, and it's about when he and his friends were young, when he was known as Honey Badger, when I was the little vulnerable sister, when they would call me names like Mitch and Michael, which they knew drove me nuts, and one of them, Moscow, was particularly mean and would pinch and flick me when Honey Badger wasn't looking, and once he even put a cigarette out on me. My memory of this time is only so clear. Honey Badger wanted to be a writer. It was something he said all the time. He always got kicked out of class, sent to detention, suspended, grounded, you name it. He was a shit-disturber of the highest magnitude. Plus, he didn't know how to string a proper sentence together. But he had imagination. He understood narrative. The lot of them, always in detention or suspended, all had this knack for storytelling, so they formed a crew, simply called The Writers. Their leader, Bazarov, was much older. He was Moscow's uncle. He'd host them in his cramped basement where it smelled of mold and sour, homemade liquor, and he'd teach them lessons on writing. His most important lesson, the one he reinforced every class, was that writers had to be tough. He told them they had to fearless, even violent if need be. He went on about how Dostoyevsky spent years in the Gulag. He taught them that because they were still just kids, they had much to learn about life before their writing would become worth reading, so they had to learn the hard way. The boys would wander the streets at night, looking for trouble. My brother was the toughest hand-to-hand, which was how he earned his nickname, Honey Badger. He'd pick fights with adults twice his size, and often came home with black eyes and split lips. When I'd ask him what happened, he'd say he had been out learning how to write. One day Bazarov was arrested for selling counterfeit money, and just like that the boys were on their own. They became even more reckless without an adult influence. They'd hunt down local graffiti artists and beat them up for being phonies. They'd write their incoherent stories in their own filth on the walls of government buildings late at night. They'd rough up local thugs, tie them up, and make them listen to their insane narratives. Sour Patch, who was the least socially adjusted of the six boys in the group, cut the head off a local cat, and brought it back to the basement, which they had been using as their hangout even with Bazarov in jail. He said they could use it as a prop if they ever decided to perform Hamlet. Honey Badger was furious; he was repulsed at the notion that the group would ever tell someone else's story, and told Sour Patch that he would be banished from the group unless he cut his own ear off like Van Gogh. Sour Patch tried but only cut about an inch of the way in before he gave up, and so he was banished. Moscow was still receiving messages from uncle Bazarov, and he told the group that his uncle wanted them to commit a murder, so that they could carve a story on the victim's body for the cops to find. Any old fool would do, Moscow reiterated. Bazarov told him that the act would be meaningful in time, that at first people would reject it as pure, gratuitous evil, but that eventually they would understand and believe in the power of the gesture. Moscow told the group that he had been planning to write a whole novel, and that he would write it on a dead man's body to satisfy Bazarov. He even said that he knew where his uncle hid the Kalishnikov in the house, a weapon that would get the job done. Honey Badger said no, he said that the group did not kill people, and that Bazarov could go fuck himself because he was in jail and wasn't the boss anymore. He and Moscow fought. It was a brutal affair, with bruised ribs and broken noses and much blood, and though Moscow was considerably bigger, my brother won. Honey Badger assumed leadership of the group in that very moment, and told Moscow that he was banished. Later that night, Moscow got deep into his uncle's homemade vodka, and then wandered the streets with the rifle, looking for a victim. He came to a homeless man sleeping against a red-brick building, aimed the rifle, and pulled the trigger. Moscow missed, and the bullet ricocheted and hit him in the face, removing a part of his jaw. He wandered home, still drunk, semi-coherent, bleeding terribly from his face. He sat down at his desk and wrote out his novel by hand. Honey Badger and the rest of the gang went to his house, because he decided he had been too harsh, and that Moscow could rejoin the group if he stopped consulting Bazarov. They snuck up to his room, only to find him at his desk, dead, slumped over a stack of paper where he had completed his novel by hand with part of his face missing. My brother kept the novel, but never told anyone what it was about or if it was good. The group asked himif they could at least know the title, but Honey Badger said that it had become obscured by Moscow's blood.
My brother told me the story that night. I didn't believe him, but he was covered in blood, so clearly something had happened. This was a long time ago, before he became what he became. He never wrote anything after that. He never told me what became of the novel. He never spoke to the crew again. He ignored them at school and hung up when they called. Honey Badger, as they knew him, was dead.
Lisbon to Malpensa. Acquire the loot. Three pair of Dolce and Gabbana Black-White Smokes. Half day in Milan, stay shuttered in hotel with migraine. Malpensa to Charles de Gaulle. Neighbor is woman, mid-fifties, short hair. In town for chocolate conference. "What do you do?" "Personal Sunglasses purchaser for Norris Wips." "What?"
Charles de Gaulle to Schiphol, for some reason. Neighbor is boy, 12 or 13, striking. Disengaged. When landing, "What do you do?" "Personal Sunglasses purchaser for Norris Wips." No response.
Schiphol to LAX. Neighbor is woman, early twenties, too pale and bright-eyed for LA. Too naive. We chat. Pleasantries. Headache. Brevity helps. "What do you do?" "Personal Sunglasses purchaser for Norris Wips." "OMG that's sick! Can you introduce us?" "He's very busy." Scorn for remainder of flight.
Cab to Beverly Hills. "What do you do?" Pretend not to hear. Arrive at house. Hope to deliver bag fast, go home. Norris and brother, Kevin I think, in foyer. Looming argument. Ambiguous tension. Outside, by pool, unknown man on phone, pacing. Norris yelling now. Kevin looking away, head shaking. Man outside agitated, seemingly unrelated to argument inside. Kevin saying, "Name the last time you came to one of my openings." Norris scoffing. "Pretend to care. Just keep his name out of your mouth." Must exit. Must deliver bag and exit. Attempt to speak. Deaf ears. Attempt to place bag slowly on counter, looking at Norris. "Wait there, I want to inspect them with you. Want to make sure Mr. Dolce didn't fuck me this time." I wait. "You haven't seen what I've seen." Kevin not in same universe as us. Face drips with ineffable dread; eyes carry weight of a hundred atrocities. Unspeakable truths. Things seen, terrible knowledge acquired. Norris says he needs new therapist. Repeats. Repeats again. Kevin's face red.
Man outside more agitated. Yelling at phone. Looks familiar now. Throws phone in pool. Unzips pants and urinates in pool. Mostly misses phone. Seems drunk. Looks very familiar. Tate Hendron, I think. Man has presence. Something… special. Slightly overweight but handsome. Realize I'm staring. Realize he hasn't zipped up yet. Catches me staring. Norris yells something at brother, turns, sees Tate Hendron finish pissing. Whole scene confusing. Tate enters.
"What the hell man!" "Ah fuck 'em. That agency is as useful as a box of expired, rotting condoms. You two kiss and make up yet or what?" "He'd never kiss another man. Too afraid of being perceived as queer." "Kev, shut up for a minute, let the adults talk." "Hey man, you should be nice to your bro." "I'm going back to Johannesburg." "Jesus, enough with that shit." "Live your dreams, bro." "Don't talk to him. He's talking bullshit. Duloxetine. How many times I've heard that stupid word. You need to grow some balls. That's it. Our grandfather didn't have PTSD. Know how many Nazis he killed? Know how many dead bodies he saw?" "You're unbelievable." "The one minute he complains about his problems, the next minute he loves his camera more than any real person and needs to go back." "You refuse to even try to understand." "And you still want to go back… You're a whining little shit and you don't know what you're saying." "Hey, be nice to your bro, bro." "Tate, stay out of this." "Don't tell me to stay out of anything! It's all about family, man. All about family. I never see my sister cause she hates us. Our dad disowned her when she decided she preferred pussy, and my mom never said anything. Our dad blew all his money on whores. Flushed it down the fucking drain, all of it. Then one night he drank a fifth of Bushmills and drove his truck straight into a telephone pole. Lights out. My mom, she can't walk or shit on her own. She doesn't recognize anyone. Listen to me; you got gold right here, man. More than that. What you have is priceless. Family is priceless, bro. Cherish it." "With all due respect, fuck off. He's my brother. I'll talk to him how I want."
Hendron walks away. Takes beer bottle from fridge while all is silent. Takes two sips. Tosses it to Norris. Clumsy catch. Spilt beer. Norris soaked. Tate punches him in the stomach, hoists him on shoulder. Norris is bigger than Tate. Doesn't seem to matter. Carries thrashing, insensitive man, my employer, outside, throws him in his own pool. "Be fucking nice to your brother, asshole!" Norris is flailing, gasping. "You pissed in here! Jesus!" Hendron reenters house. "Let's get the hell outta here." Kevin shrugs, stands. "What's in the bag curly Sue?" Takes full minute before realize speaking to me. "Sunglasses." "Nice ones?" I nod. He lights cigar. Norris tries to climb out of pool, falls back in. Tate Takes sunglasses out of bag. Wears pair. Throws pair to Kevin. Exit. Just me. Lone pair in hand. Could steal. Could steal and quit. Stealing effectively quitting. Letting belligerent but heroic pool pisser steal loot effectively quitting. Not sure of next steps. Norris out of people, walking toward house. Not happy. Understatement. Could quit. Could avoid question "What do you do?" from now on. Could just say nothing.
There flows, from an aperture on the second floor, perpetual light. It shines irrespective of the sun's position in the sky or the time of day. I convalesce under it regularly. It is reminiscent of the light that would come from the port hole above the upper dais at St. Bonaventura, with the great bust of Jesus on the cross, always looking over us. That was the light, the holy Light. The spectral window in St. Bonaventura and the presence of a spectral window here cannot be a coincidence. The light marks the path. I feel him, on my face, in the sun, in me.
Poor Mrs. Hendron's condition continues to worsen. At the time of my hiring, she could still speak. I would ask her about the skylight, a question to which her response was always the same; "It is the window to heaven." I took joy in the repetition. Now her voice is a distant, though pleasant, memory. When I replaced her soiled linens this morning, I found myself shaken to tears. I was shocked at my own reaction, and forced a quick recovery of composure. Where had it come from? It was my duty as her caregiver to perform these tasks while helping her maintain her dignity to the best of my abilities. In that regard, I came to believe this morning that I had failed, not because of any missed obligation in my care for her, but because of a once forgotten promise that I found myself suddenly revisiting.
A beige tray is prepared, every morning, by me, with her breakfast of oats, her amalgam of pills, and her coffee. Yesterday I dropped the tray, spilling oats and coffee on the stairs, breaking the mug. I stared at the mess for some time, hypnotized by the brown stain seeping into the carpet, until I eventually cleaned it and preparing everything again. In another time, Mrs. Hendron amy have been furious about such a coffee stain. Not anymore. After she ate, I went to the light. It was where I went for solitary reflection, where I could have counsel with god. The light shined down on my face. The heat was glorious. I asked a question to which I already knew the answer. How was I failing Mrs. Hendron? Her son had purchased for her this magnificent house with every possible appointment, but that did not maintain her dignity. I recalled, in the presence of the glorious light, the moment three years previous, removed from her element because of a particularly high dose of Amaxaleprone, Mrs. Hendron said to me, "My life is worth something as long as I can still piss on my own." I recall being shocked at her use of a pejorative, an enormous leap in character. Then she said, "Don’t let me live like that. If that part goes, I go." She took my hand and said, "Promise me." I nodded, unsure of what the appropriate response was, but I saw in her glassy eyes that she had taken my nod as affirmation. A moment, forgotten in time. Until now.
My duty becomes abundantly clear. Promises kept in the eyes of god. I have secured an item of precious rarity. A bottle, unmarked, its contents liquid and clear. It has no name, no aroma, no flavor. It comes from very, very far away. I had to stretch the reach of all my connections within the network of those who studied the divinities to acquire it. The narrative, as I remember it, was that upon consumption it worked painlessly and immediately. I also knew that this was not some product of pure mythology. I had seen it used, once, at St. Boneventura, on sister Frances, who had been wracked from head to toe with the final stages of a cancer in her spine, the pain so great she could not speak. I watched through the curtains as Father McShine held her hand and poured but an ounce into her open mouth. In an instant her hand had gone limp.
A beige tray. A bowl of oats. Pills. A mug of coffee, black. I stare at the bottle of the substance with no name as I hold it in my chamber. I close my eyes, and I think of the light, and the answer it gives. Water, giver of life. Infused with the giving surge of caffeine. A simple cup of coffee. My guiding light. A promise kept.
We settled on Acapulco. The official reason – it was the site of our first major party together, the one that made Tate famous. But there was another reason for me; it was where he gave me my name. Rafta. Rafaella, he always said, was too long to pronounce when drunk or on drugs. It was DreamScape Acapulco, a decade ago, when the party had all but cleared, and the beach was littered with bodies of semi-alive partygoers, Tate and I shared that moment in front of the rising sun. He said, "Change your name to Rafta. Rafaella's too freaking long. Make my life easy," and this torched little blondie crawled up to us and puked on my shoes. He jumped up and screamed," There it is! A sign from god!"
I'm positive that this was the most complicated funeral ever planned, but hey, that's showbiz. It's my job to make things work. Just getting the body back from the police took forever. They did two autopsies, even after his mom's caregiver confessed to the poisoning. "Accidental" poisoning. The way they found him, it looked like someone blew his brains out. He'd just fallen right onto the coffee table in the worst possible way. What a sad end for our beautiful Tate. Had to go out with a closed casket. Once they finally released him to us, getting his corpse to Acapulco was a whole other mess. Have you ever tried to get a body through customs? Beyond that, I had Angie in my ear the whole time about how we can't pick Acapulco because it's "too dangerous." The highest murder rate in Mexico, blah blah blah. She put a news story on my desk about a severed head that washed up on the exact beach that we picked for the funeral. I told her Tate would have loved that. He'd have said that it would add cache. If another head washed up, somebody could drink a margarita out of it. But what I also told her was that you couldn't live in fear, of news reports or murder rates or anything else. Tate believed in living unafraid. He may not have looked it, but he was as tough as they come. This was our party, mine and his. Mostly his. Mostly somewhat his. I'd be goddamned if crime rates were going derail it.
Then the worst happened. The day of my flight I couldn't stop shitting. Salmonella, the doctor said. No way I could fly for a few days. I nodded my head, the whole time, with my hand behind my back giving a middle finger. One thousand grieving degenerate animals were about to arrive at a private beach for my party of the year, and I wouldn't be there to greet them? Yeah, I'm fucking sure. I went to the airport. Strategized bathroom trips. Probably maybe didn't quite understand how dehydrated I was. Collapsed in the luggage line. Ended up in the hospital when I was supposed to be landing in Acapulco. Angie showed up and said, "What do you need??" as the doctors were trying to kick her out of the room, but she caught must have caught me mouthing the words, "My MacBook."
What's this business if not the business of figuring out a plan B? Angie caught the next flight, and with the technical team they reoriented the cameras. I would Skype in, direct traffic, and watch the whole thing from my bed on the fourth floor of Mount Sinai.
Tate always said he was gonna go out on his own terms. Well, you could say that he still did that. Right as the pastor gave the closing remarks of his service, while it still appeared to be a hot, clear, beautiful twilight, as the ecstasy was being swallowed and phials of cocaine loosed from necklaces and purses, it hailed. They were like white tennis balls made of ice. One girl, Sandy Fluke, got knocked out cold. Several injuries. Half the windows of the hotel destroyed. Cars destroyed. Some people ran for cover, some said fuck it and began to dance, before the music had even started.
Tate's body lay in the coffin atop a ten-foot pile of wood. The bonfire was to be lit at midnight. Well, amid the hail-storm, as people screamed or danced or made out, lightening struck the pyre. Tate's cremation started prematurely. I screamed as it happened, and a nurse raced in to see if I was okay. The same nurse that tried to bar Angie from the room. I told her to fuck off.
The bonfire raged within minutes. My initial horror subsided when I saw that the fraidy-cats stopped hiding from the hail-storm when they saw the fire. Nobody knew what was going on, but everyone just went with it. Suddenly it was a party. The party. Tate was lit. Someone took the microphone and announced at the top of his lungs, "TATE IS LIT! TATE HONEY IS FIRE!" What ensued was the most obscene spectacle I've ever seen. Dozens of his friends, acquaintances, people he hated, people that loved him that he'd never met, women he'd fucked and forgotten about, guys he'd fucked and kept in touch with (nobody knew about that part but me), his cherished ex Suzie who once asked me if Tate and I ever hooked up and I avoided the question, and even his sister, Michela, they all surrounded the fire, suddenly unafraid of the plague raining down from the sky, and they partied. They. Fucking. Partied. It was biblical. It was revelatory. More drugs were consumed per capita than anything in the history of life. Tears were shed. So were clothes. One couple fucked so good right on the beach I got myself off under the covers watching them. That sounds like a success to me. That sounds like a fucking party. That was when I finally cried. right after I came. The nurse checked on me and I couldn't stop balling and she just hugged me and watched Sodom and Gomorrah play out on the screen in front of us. My poor @T8Honey. I will miss you.
Two urinals, side by side. One covered, taped with charcoal garbage bag. Relief - no neighbours. Unzip. Five second delay only. No shiver of proximity. No prehistoric turning off of the water. No defence mechanism hesitation. Door opens. A man, more in the bag than me, inspects the tape job on the out-of-order slab. Gets in there close, like forensics. Doesn't believe the warning. Rights himself, tears away the prohibitive bag, unzips. Let's her rip. I'm dried up, still not finished, realize i'm watching, staring at a pissing dick. His eyes are closed, he's swaying. Pipe below the urinal's leaking. Piss River finding his feet. The Mississippi now, at the opposite wall. Eyes open, Oh Shit! Guess the thing is really fucked up! Haha! Finishes. Zips up. Leaves, minus a sink visit. Wait ten seconds in silence, let her flow again. Mississippi changes course, heads my way. Faster, i say to the wall. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Door opens. Eyes close
He looked out at the city; no movement yet. No sounds. He unspooled three cycles of grey tape and wrapped the handlebars. He jangled the bottle -holder. Still too loose. He made a decision; he took the screwdriver and loosened it completely, tossed it aside. He looked outside; the towers touched the sky, the clouds steady. The husks of giant buildings loomed. Former glass cases. Now skeletons, glass paneling eroded, empty, haunted. He sniffed the window. Still nothing. He strapped his feet into the Garneaus. Light as a feather, he said. Light as the wind. He walked to the door, each step producing a knock, a knuckle wrapping wood. I had been sitting at the little kitchen table, shirt off, watching, sipping coffee, looming through the steam of it. There's some left in the Bodum, i said. Kinda cold now. All good bro, he said. What time you get up? i said. Sun wasn't up, he said. I looked at the bike, then i put my face to the window. Anything yet? i said. He sat, looping more tape. I hear 'em, he said. I put my ear to the window. Distant rumblings, deep; crucibles of the earth, moving. You're good, i said. He righted the bike against the wall, slid on his gloves. How confident are you? I said. He looked at me, through the purple tints of his goggles, the WindRazors that Haverman had crafted for him before he died. I could feel the look. It was an answer. We heard a tilting, a shifting in the landscape, like an ancient creak breaking the tectonic plates. He rolled the bike to the door, and i opened it. The highway stretched from outside our door for miles, flanked by the towers on both sides. The ground rumbled, or so it seemed. He strapped the left Garneau into the pedal. Let me pour you some coffee first, i said. He shook his head. I looked at the wrapping around his knee, from last time. What if your speed is compromised? i said. He shook his head and squeezed my shoulder. What if, what if, what if. That's all you say bro. That's tired. You won't be coming back, eh? i said. Places to go, he said. Lots of 'em. He took off. He was a cheetah. A bullet. Sound and light. If only he'd been born in the time of the Tour de France. I held my breath, and watched the first tower. The sound rose from the depths, enormous, earth shattering. The tower teetered, and glass panels plummeted. The first missed him by what must have been inches, smashing against the concrete. I could hear him shooting, even that far in the wind, Woooooooooo! Woooooooohooo! The next building shook, and pieces of it tumbled down, crushing the highway, toppling parts of the pillars that upheld it. But he was already past it. He had the speed. He had the wind on his side