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ASSASSIN’S ANGEL

By Kenneth James Wolverton

November 2014 

ASSASSIN’S ANGEL

By Kenneth James Wolverton

November 2014 

September 1994

It was Santiago McBoil’s 50th birthday when he arrived on a late evening in a mountain valley of Corsica. He rendezvoused with Neil Rowan, a Scottish friend who had been a war correspondent in Vietnam where by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, saved Santiago’s life more than twenty-five years before. They walked through the night while Santiago told his old friend the story of the Gypsy Moon, the chapters of his life after Vietnam. In the morning near the top of a hiking trail, they set in the sun drinking strong black coffee prepared by a Corsican shepherd. Santiago had just told Neil he had only a few months left to live. As the sun burned the dew off the alpine meadows and the heat began to raise, Martina, the 30 year-old granddaughter of the shepherd brought a herd of goats down from the high country. She talked with the two men. Twenty-four hours later, the three were seen boarding a plane bound for Paris.

September 2004

Santiago set at the table looking at the pistol. “Fuck it,” he mumbled and picked up the pen and scrawled  in large letters, ONE-EYED SNAKE then continued writing  the story that started it all.

 

1963 Bend, Oregon

I was in love.  I was 18.  She was 17. I called her Teen Baby. She was a small fat girl—the  first girl ran her hot little hands inside my shirt and into my pants—the  first girl who ever caressed my one-eyed-snake.  I was in love at first touch. 

She told me she loved me.  Perfect.  We were in love.  We were serious in high school and our future was right in front of us.  We were going to get married.  I was going to get a job in the local lumber mill.  We were going to buy a Corvair and then we were going to start having children.  Maybe two, maybe three.  Yes, real true love.  Life was going to be perfect. 

I should have known better, but what all do you know when you are eighteen and the one-eyed-snake is in charge?  Nothing.  Zero. Ziltch.  Mountains of  bullshit, that is what you know. 

She suddenly got very interested in strange beliefs.  She asked me if I really believed in God.  I said maybe I did and maybe I didn’t.  That wasn’t the right answer.  Then she found other things that I couldn’t give the right answer.  Funny because for nearly a year I had all the answers and then I didn’t.  Then one day she told me an old friend was coming to town and she was going to go out with him --just because she wanted to know how he was doing, being that he was in the Marines.

“You understand don’t you?”  She asked.

“Uh, yeah," I said.

I guess that was finally a right answer because it seemed to make her happy. It made me feel very unhappy and very weird.  In fact what it made me feel was strange.  A peculiar sensation came over me that I had never felt before.  The sensation grew until it was a monster.  The monster was called jealousy, but being I had never encountered it before I didn’t know what it was, so I just regarded the sensation as some sort of insecurity.  She would not lie to me, would she?  I mean she loved me.  She said she loved me.  I loved her.  In a perfect world we had all that really mattered.  But somehow, some way, my perfect world didn’t seem perfect anymore. 

The night she was supposed to meet the Marine, I was completely miserable.  I picked up an old buddy and we drove around town.  We did what was called Dragging the Gut. My buddy and I used to do that before I had a serious girlfriend.  We would drive to the Tom Tom Drive Inn, which was on the north side of town, take a circle around it, check out who was in the cars or who we could see through the big plate glass windows. 

If there were any of our friends we would stop and go through the ritual of what’s going on and then head for the south side of the town where we would circle Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and go through the same process with friends there. 

That’s what we did in my small town in eastern Oregon.  By the end of the night we had usually driven over a 100 miles.  It was five miles between the two hangouts. 

So on this particular night, I am not really interested in seeing any of my old friends.  What I am really doing is checking out all the possibilities of where my true-love could be and having a snoop on her.  But I don’t see her anywhere.  All right?  All night I don’t see her anywhere.  Strange?  If she is just talking to the guy why isn’t she in one of our favorite places, like The Tom Tom or Shakey’s?  She’s not even at the Superior Cafe downtown.  Nowhere in hell she is.  Just at that point a horrible suspicion came over me.  Her parents were gone. I had to find out.  My buddy and I had been talking about her all night.

“Why don’t you just drive over to her house and see?”  My friend insisted

I said that I had more trust in her than that.  By 1 AM my trust ran out.  I drove my 51 Chevy along the backstreets to Maple Street that came into the street my girl lived on—about a half a block away.  I didn’t want to pass in front of her house just in case she should see me—then she would know I didn’t trust her.  When I got to the corner I could see her house clearly and into the driveway and the garage behind.  At the very back of the driveway was a strange car. I could make out from the color of the license plate it was from out-of-state. 

My heart jumped into my throat and the feeling of icy hands ran down my spine.  I could swear I heard the sound of ripping clothes—like sails being blown apart by high wind—I stopped the Chevy and backed up 30 feet from the intersection of street. I could see the side of her house and the strange car.

“What are you going to do?” my buddy asked.

“Wait,” I said.

So we both set there smoking Marlboros in silence.  An hour went by.  It seemed like a year.  No lights in the house.  No one came to the car.  No movement anywhere.  The streets had grown empty. Black morning was dead quiet.

“Let’s go home,” my buddy said.

“No,” I said.  “We’ll wait another 30 minutes then I’ll go and see if anyone is at the house.”      

“What do you mean,” he said.

“I’ll go fucking knock on the door,” I hollered.

“Oh man,” my buddy said.

The Marlboros began to taste like shit and my throat felt like it was on fire.  The minutes dragged by as I continued to smoke and cough.  My buddy set there pissed off because he had to witness me driving myself crazy.

“Come on man, it’s been an hour and 35 minutes—either go and see or let’s go home.  I’m fucking tired man.”  My buddy complained.

I was aware that the time limit was over but I couldn’t bring myself to facing what I might find.  I was terrified.

“Come on man," my buddy insisted.

“Fuck you,” I screamed then jumped out of the car and trotted to the front of her house.  As I came to the porch I slowed to a very slow walk dropping my feet like I was deer hunting in the forest.  When I came to the front door I actually heard the sound of a moaning female voice accompanied by something that sounded like a grunting pig. 

My stomach turned to a burnt hole.  I hesitated.  My finger hovered at the door bell. I could still hear high moaning and oinking grunts.  Her voice became more and more rapid like tapping a tight drum—the sound of a uh uh uh uh uh  growing louder and louder in my ears.  Suddenly the pig began to make a loud bellowing squeal.  Then I heard his voice say, “ oh God, Oh God, Oh God…” 

Somehow I knew they were not in there praying.  My mind went very white, like the spark from a welding torch. 

My finger  came down onto the door bell.  I heard her voice shriek and then there was a very low mumbling. After 30 seconds I heard the squeaking of floor boards as she came to the door.

“Who is it? “she asked.

“Me, Santiago,” I yelled.

She opened the door. Her blouse was buttoned but crooked. Her hair looked like it was brushed with an eggbeater.

Santiago, I…,” she began.

“Thanks.  Thanks a lot.”   I turned away before she could see the tears in my eyes.  I walked back to the Chevy like I had just got off a roller coaster.  The streets wobbled under my feet. 

When I got to the Chevy, I don’t know what snapped, but it did and I hauled off with my right hand and smashed my fist into the door window.  Lucky for me it was safety class.  The window cracked into 500 sections radiating out from the impact of my fist.

“What the fuck are you doing?” my buddy screamed at me as I got into the driver’s seat, started the engine and peeled out turning the corner. I wound the old six cylinder up so many RPM’s  that it nearly exploded before I jammed it into second gear.  Then third gear.  I drove the old car 80 miles an hour through town and back to my buddy’s house.  I screeched to a stop at his driveway and yelled, ”get out.”  My buddy was completely white.

Santiago, come on man, stop this shit. You’re going to kill yourself,”  he pleaded.

“Get the fuck out of my life.”  I tried to smash him in the face, but he jumped out and slammed the door before I could deliver the punch.  I was yelling something, and he was yelling something at me as I peeled out nearly blowing the engine again.  I was going back to her house. I was going to do something.  I didn’t know what, but it was something terrible.

As I approached her house, I saw that strange car back out of her driveway.  I decided to ram the car, but before I could get to it, the car was going too fast to catch.  I could see a female figure sitting in the passenger seat. 

I followed the car as best I could as he went through the middle of downtown.  I was just getting up on the rear end of the car when I decided I would kill them both.

 I drove alongside of them and was just about to crash their car and force it into a shop window.

Suddenly he slammed on the brakes and I shot past. 

My eyes flicked down at the speedometer and I saw the needle was at 85.  I jammed on my brakes and looked into the rear view mirror. I saw his car turn onto the street that ran to the east of town. 

By the time I turned onto their trail the taillights of his car were way up in front of me and getting smaller. He had a bigger engine than my old rattletrap and he was scared shitless and was breaking more traffic laws than me.  I could barely see the red lights when the car turned onto another street heading north.  It was the street of my girlfriend’s best friend, and I knew where she lived. 

By the time I got to the house I saw my girl running to the front door of her friend’s house and the guy in the car was burning rubber as he sped away.  I roared up on his rear end as he slowly pulled away. 

There was no way I could keep up with his car until I saw that he was headed back into town on the Burns Highway.  I knew a shortcut that knocked off several blocks so I cut onto it and just as I came to the Burns Highway the guy was coming into my trap. 

As he crossed the intersection ignoring the red light I swung into his side and was planning on battering him into a concrete underpass he was rapidly approaching.

Suddenly he veered off into the lot of a used car agency. 

Without thinking I wheeled my car in behind him, nearly rolling the old Chevy as I slammed into the curb and bounced into the parking space right behind this fucker. 

He had driven into a dead-end. Cars were blocking all of the exits except for the way he had come in.  He screeched to a stop nearly slamming into one of the used cars. I stomped on the brakes and slide right in behind him. 

We jumped out of our cars at the same time.

He had on a Marine dress-green suit and jumped to face me as I ran up to him.  He had a beer bottle in his right hand holding it by the neck.  He smashed it into the edge of his open door that left a jagged broken neck in his hand. 

I stopped in my tracks and looked at it for a couple of seconds. 

Then I said, “okay so you’ve got a fucking weapon man – well fuck you—I’m going to kill you anyway.” 

I was totally insane and I knew even if he cut my eyes out I would smash his head to pulp into the asphalt.  I looked into his eyes and all I could see or feel was hatred and bloodlust.  He was going to die even if I was going to die.  I didn’t care and nothing would stop me.  What was in mind communicated to the Marine.

As I took a step toward him to bring about our mutual destiny, he said, “Wait, this isn’t a good place to fight…”

Of all the things he could have said, he somehow managed to say the right combination of words to slip past the confusion of my insane mind.

“Oh yeah, it’s not a good place to fight…,” I said. I was blocked in my own steps.  “…yeah, this is not a good place to fight.”

He said, “I know a better place to fight.”

“Oh yeah, let’s fight there,” I said.  I was in a trance, a place to fight,  a place to fight, ran through my mind like a Buddhist mantra. “OK—where is it?”

“Just follow me and we’ll go there,” he said.

So we both got into our cars. I had to back up first so he could get out.  It didn’t occur to me that he could run away again, but he backed up and then he drove very slowly down the street as I followed.  All I could think of was that he was going to die very soon.  There was nothing else in my mind. 

When we came to the center of town there was an all-night gas station and he swung into it and stopped.  I leapt out of my car and before he could move I reached through his window and had him by his neck.

“Wait, wait,”  The guy screamed as I started dragging him out the window.

“Wait for what, you motherfucker?”  I screamed back

“I need gas to get where we’re going to fight,” he croaked.

Once again he had the words in exactly the right order.

My mind flashed a signal that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to wait for, so I dropped my hands from his throat and got back in my car with smoke coming out of my ears. I watched the service station attendant pump two bucks worth of gas into the guy’s car.  The guy handed the dollar bills out the window and started his engine and then screeched out of the gas station. 

The bastard was trying to escape again.  I laid rubber as I wheeled out of the station never taking my foot off the floorboard. I speed-shifted through the gears and was right on his ass within three blocks.

All at once the son-of-a-bitch slammed on his brakes and turned a sharp left and began to broad-slide. He came to a dead stop right in front of the police station.  I jammed on my brakes and was out of the car even before the smoke of burning rubber had lifted from the street. 

This time I was prepared. I  picked up at 12 inch crescent wrench that was always under my seat. I ran to the guy as he was getting out of his car and caught him by the left arm. He jerked loose and turned to face me

“Look man, I didn’t even know that she had a boyfriend—man I just came home on leave from the Marines—and I didn’t mean to cause any problems man.  I’m sorry—I didn’t know…”

I looked at him with hatred and heard his words. Somehow I understood I was about to kill the wrong person, I couldn’t stop myself. He was going to die.  Someone had to die.  I didn’t care who died, including me. 

I was just about to swing the wrench when there was a loud thunder boom and a cloudburst crashed down like I had never seen in my life. 

I dropped the wrench as if I had come out of a nightmare.  I looked down on the ground at the crescent wrench.  Enormous pellets of water were exploding on the pavement.  My eyes drifted to his feet.  I slowly raised my eyes until I was looking directly in his eyes. 

I couldn’t say a thing.  I just started crying, feeling the tears mixed with the rain that run down my cheeks.  The guy just stood there looking back at me.

Then the police station door opened and two cops walked out looking at us suspiciously.  “Is everything okay here?”  One of them asked.

I didn’t know what the cop meant. 

The guy, not taking his eyes from my eyes said, “Yeah sure, everything is okay.”

I could feel the clear cold wind and the rain on my face as I stood in front of the Marine.

The rain washed away the madness, but not the pain—the awful pain that  I thought would never stop.

I heard the Marine’s voice, “Look, man, I’m sorry. I didn’t know she had a boyfriend. I mean I wouldn’t have screwed her if I knew that ...”

Corsica 2004

It was an old story, one that Santiago had never told to his closest friends. Now in his sixtieth year he began unfolding the riddles of love and death.

Hell, someone had to show me how fickle life is—why be pissed off at anybody and why be disappointed that I am no different than anyone else? That’s what I get for living long enough to find out what it means to be human. Fuck the sentiment. Life is infinitely layered and the observable universe  doesn’t give a shit about anybody or anything. Stars are born and stars die. It’s all just mechanical.  My mind is spinning. The voices I keep hearing bug me. What is there to say?

I am going through a male menopausal depression. For years, I have felt the psycho-drama like a clown jumping out of a burning circus car. What the hell does it matter? Everything is funny if you wait long enough, depending on what you see in a predicament. A burning car filled with clowns is always funny. Maybe at one point in My Lai, Vietnam, March 16, 1968 it was funny too, but I didn’t feel it. Still there might have been a few among the mass madness of that day who walked away laughing.

It all comes back to who you are and what has happened to you if you stayed alive. For me it is not the war that keeps circling my mind, it is the women. I keep wondering why all the women I have loved left me for one reason or the other.

The other night, one of those damn broken sleepless nights, I counted my heartbreaks over the last forty years. Jesus, six. Six fucking broken hearts is just too damn much. As much as it appears I am feeling sorry for myself, I am just a man who sees what is obvious. I am a disaster.

But why feel sorry for myself? No reason.  I was innocently walking down the street and  the world blew up around me, tearing off my clothes and  covered me in gore. Once the dust and doom settled, I discovered even though I was naked and stained; I didn’t have a scratch on me. Am I not blessed? Fuck knows. My luck is just the random unthinking election of the universe. Bullets, bad lovers and other errant death messengers have missed me every time.

If I had only known what she was going to do.  Who am I talking about this time?  It is Martina. I tried to fall in love with Dark Eyes only to get Martina out of my mind. It didn’t work. I was too much in love with Martina, or maybe just obsessed for over 20 years.  She was the most powerful drug in my life. Yeah, a drug.  Oh yeah, the way she would whisper in my ear early in the morning.  The way she would look at me with her sleep-heavy eyes.  They were perfect almond shaped hypnotizers and her lips with that beautiful double curl like two little waves that ran across her mouth.  I could hardly stay away, wanting my tongue caressing them.

The way she would get out of bed in the morning, not looking at me, her naked and the sway of her hips, easy and feminine as she walked to run a bath. There always was a long hashish joint hanging in her fingers, the smell of its spicy aroma drifting into my nostrils.  I was drugged, hypnotized, infatuated and crazy in love with her.  She said I was only the one in life, told me I was the only one who had ever known her, had ever pleased her.  All of that was so long ago, in another world, when I was really alive.

Other people’s spirits are alive and their flesh is gone, yet my body breathes and my soul has vanished. Life is a depressing emptiness. Even so, on this morning, it is not just the vacuum of depression; there is something else. The best label I can give it is haunted. 

I know what haunts me. What kind of person I am after all of the years since Vietnam? All of the self-help and soul-work I have gone through has not taken off the tarnished and corrupted person I have become over the course of a murderous life. I wonder if in the first breath I ever took, it loosened a pebble on top of a mountain that once it began to roll, sent down that entire avalanche of human betrayal on top of me.

I feel betrayed yet the betrayal is something I perpetrated on the ones I have loved. I have the emotional complexity of a child. That is absurd. I am racing towards my 60th year, the same way a brakeless car doing 90 runs into a 5 o’clock L.A. traffic jam on a Friday afternoon. The crash is inevitable.

Still alive, kicking and complaining. Oh yeah, I have survived war, love, disease and alcohol. All I have to survive now is the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and the holocaust of a bitter mind.

 

December 1994,  Paris

She put me in the Lovers Hall of Fame with her words.  I heard what I wanted to hear. I was deluded by every movement.  I conditioned myself to live a lie as the truth and nothing could stop me—nothing that is, until I felt the crash of a car that had no brakes and I saw her for the first time as backed up traffic. The moment of the crash, it was the sound of crunched metal and splintering glass—at that precise point of time, I saw the truth.  It was so obvious.  Truth always is.  I was a fool and for split-second I could see perfectly.  I was fascinated with my ability to be duplicitous—to ignore all of the road signs of danger and drive on like a maniac towards blocked freeways.  I drove on faster, faster.  I had to get to the end.  Reality is the best fantasy. Even so I panicked and jumped around in my head but I thought I could bluff her out.  It was a fool’s game of jumping and what better place to be a fool than Paris.

 

“OK so you don’t want me in your life—I get it—I’ll leave in the morning.” 

I expected her immediately to deny what I had just said, but she just looked at me.  Her eyes had all the love of a dead fish yet it was me who felt the hook in my heart. I thought about my wife and child and how I had just lost everything. 

Martina just stood there and looked at me with those cold eyes.  I looked like the fool I was.  I looked at her with desperate eyes.  She just looked at me and watched as I died in the crash I designed.  I turned from that look, opened a fresh pack Marlboros and smoked at the desk in the corner of the hotel room.

Martina went to bed and it wasn’t even 10 p.m.  She hardly ever went to sleep before three in the morning.  I set at the desk smoking trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do.  I kept hoping she would open her eyes and come to me with that hungry look again and say, I love you.  Her eyes never opened.  There was no sound from the bed, not even her opening the squeaky lid of the dope box, or turning in the bed as she drifted to sleep.  Only silence.

I sat at the desk, living a death sentence.  I sentenced myself.  My mind screamed.  I couldn’t stand the pain.  I had to find refuge. 

My art was the only sanctuary I had ever known.  I got up and dug out paintbrushes from the luggage.  I had a small canvass and a few tubes of acrylic.  I put the canvass on the desk propped up with a book.  In a matter of seconds I was away on a journey. 

The  line, the power of a line, the magic of a line took me away from my mind.  I was watching my hand and brush as color was pushed and molded around a two-dimensional world.  At first there was no image, just shapes and then slowly they began to come together into a human form.  Then a woman with one hand falling gently into her sex and the other hand raised with the index finger pointing to the side—then the face emerged  and the eyes came alive, hypnotizing. I saw Martina’s eyes.  Then her mouth, that delicious mouth, and on I went until she was there looking at me in paint.  Pain submerged my soul.

I couldn’t stand looking at the painting and took a kitchen knife and held it half-inch away from the surface, then stopped.  No.  I couldn’t murder my own creation.  I would change it.  Her hair was jet black. I took the knife and scraped it away. I laid down yellow and ochre and within minutes she was a blonde.  Her eyes turned to sky blue.  The mouth, the turn of her mouth had to change and in three strokes the crescent smile changed to a sardonic dip rising at the opposite side.  The cheeks were too healthy but with a dark pool the cheeks turned into concentration camp depression. The eyes went from a look of enchantment to being haunted, cursed. 

The hands.  Something had to be done with the hands and fingers.  Five minutes later, blood was flowing from long scratches that crossed over the faint scar I remembered on her neck—blood dripping off the index finger that was now pointing to a dark shape in the background—a shape that had horns and a tail shaped like a penis.  It was Lucifer coming.  I stopped.

My eyes turned.  I looked at the clock.  It was 6:45 in the morning.  I had been painting since midnight.  It seemed like minutes—like years.  I looked at the painting as though someone else had painted it.  I could see faint reminders of the lover who was gone, yet there she was, sleeping in our rented bed, only a few feet away. 

Martina was the painting—even with a different color of hair and eyes.  Even with cadaver looking skin.  She was still in the painting.  It was mysterious and I began to think, perhaps I had painted the true portrait of Martina—the Goddess of Destruction.  “Kali,” I said out loud, again and again.

I didn’t realize I was shouting at the top of my voice.  I kept screaming, “Kali.”  I had no idea what I was doing.  I picked up the painting, raised it over my head and was about to smash it down over the chair when a hand fell on my shoulder. There she was in flesh, Kali, Martina herself.

“What are you screaming at?  Have you gone mad?  What do you think you’re doing?”

I stood there with the painting over my head.  My mouth open, my voice arrested.

Martina said with that hungry look in her eyes, “You know if you really would like to make me happy there is something you can do for me today.”

I just stood there. Suddenly a glimmer of hope came into my mind.

“You know, I have never had a Christmas tree, not ever.  I would really love to have a Christmas tree.  Do you think he could find one for me?”

She took me with those hungry eyes.  “Sure no problem,” I said.  Was she mine again?

A desperate man will walk off into a mirage.  I didn’t think about the odd request. Why shouldn’t I buy her Christmas tree? Christmas was only a few days away.  The season to be jolly—not an unusual request. 

I went out into the streets of Paris like I was newly born.  Rain glistened on the sidewalks like satin ribbons.  The sky wasn’t gray—it was periwinkle. I disregarded the fashion-shop  snobs and only saw laughing children.  The world was beautiful again.  I was pardoned from execution.  My Martina had a request and that was all that was important—all that I could think about.  I was as crazy as I had ever been –as crazy as I was in My Lai.

I saw myself bringing her the most fantastic Christmas tree in Paris.  It was decorated like a queen’s crown– perfect, symmetrical and glimmering.  The electric lights were gleaming as I was greeted by my lover.  She swept the tree out of my arms as our clothes fell off and she hungrily bit into my neck and knocked me down—her beautiful pussy sucking in my cock as we lay on the floor fucking and sweating.  “I love you,” she said.

There was only one problem.  I was nearly broke.  Three days in Paris.  $3,000 spent in ecstasy.  I had a hundred dollar bill in my pocket—my entire estate—my total life savings.  It was four in the afternoon and it was already beginning to get dark before I found trees under a hundred bucks.  They were crippled bushes. If I had waited until Christmas I could have got a better deal.  But my Goddess of Destruction had a request.  It had to be answered not tomorrow or next week but today. I thought about finding Neil, my friend, who had come to Paris with Martina and me. But I did not want him around her again.

I had to get her back.  I was fucked-up – I saw shapes green and bushy.  I thought about stealing a tree. How do you shoplift a fucking tree?  Right, steal a tree, walk down the street. I have nothing in my coat pocket but a hundred  dollar bill.

The best tree was ninety-five bucks equivalent in Francs.  No chance of hiring a taxi with five bucks.  I picked one for fifty bucks and gave the man money. The dollar works everywhere. I walked away rationalizing Martina never had a Christmas tree. How would she know a perfect tree if she saw one?  It was her first Christmas tree. It would be the best. 

By the time I got to the hotel I was panting from the strain of carrying the tree and imagining the lust to come.  I keyed open the door, put the tree down next to the umbrella basket and walked into my rainbow future. 

“Martina,” I called out. 

I heard a moan in the bathroom. I thought she was ready, waiting for me as I walked towards her sound.  I swung open the bathroom door. She lay deep, in bath bubbles, exploding over the side of the tub.  Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t get the picture together.  All I could think was, Christmas tree, equals prize – I get laid by the Goddess. 

“What is it?”  The Goddess shrieked at me.

“I’ve got it,” I said, knowing it wasn’t the way, I wanted. 

“What is it?” she screamed again.

“A tree—a Christmas tree.”   

She looked at me like I was a cockroach.  Where was that hungry look, she gave me in the morning? 

I retrieved the trophy at the hallway door. I came back, the bush in my arms.

Martina was  out of the bath and had  put a strange T-shirt over her naked body.  Her hair was a mess. I smelled musky familiar odors. It didn’t click. I stood like the village idiot with a denuded skeleton of a Christmas tree. 

“What exactly is that?”  She said.  Her eyes, wide open, staring at the tree.

“It’s a Christmas tree,” I began. 

“I don’t want  a thing like that. I want a white Christmas tree! A white Christmas tree made out of plastic.  I don’t want this ugly thing!”  She screamed.

I stood there stunned.  Anger burnt over me. 

“I want that thing out of here!  I’m allergic to trees.”  Her eyes were demented. 

“You’re allergic to trees?  How did you live in the mountains?” 

“Oh don’t act like a fool.  You know I was above timberline, all the time I was there. But that’s not a tree. Get it out of here, it’s ugly.  Couldn’t you have found one that had needles on it?”  She slammed the bathroom door.

I stood there angry, getting more angry.  I considered her neck, strangling it as I fucked her for the last time.  I felt rape and murder—but suddenly the consequences came to me—to give up one more thing—for this woman—this fucking woman I had never understood—this woman who could turn love on and off—this woman who never once concerned herself with the results of her actions, the pain she inflicted on people, without the slightest care.  To give up my life, to go to jail, to face shame of being a monster, was unbearable.  But revenge is sometimes too sweet to stop.

There was a small axe by the ceramic fireplace– just for decoration, but it was there.  I picked it up with one hand and ran my fingers across the edge.  It was dull.  I went back to the bathroom door, swung it open, and saw a strange thing.

There, in the bubbly bath, with Martina, was Neil.  Him naked,  leaning against the faucets. His back must have hurt.  He looked at me, the axe in my hand.  I saw the whites of his eyes as they opened into big white saucers.

“Don’t do anything foolish, Santiago,” Neil whispered. 

“Foolish.” I repeated.  “Foolish, foolish…”  I began to laugh and repeat the word like a small child‘s sing-song.  Martina said nothing. The color of her skin grew very white, as white as the whites of Neil’s saucer eyes.  My laughter grew hysterical, until, without a word, I raised the axe over my head, both hands on the end of the handle, looking at their eyes. They began screaming, “No, No, No,” which only made my laughter more crazy. 

I took one step forward, they scooted their bodies under the water as if swimming to another world.  The sensation of making them terrified was completely delicious. I could feel the satisfaction of chopping them into small pieces.  I could see blood dripping off the walls.  I took one more step.

“I have only one thing to say to you,” I said, bending towards Martina, “and that is, you are too much of a bitch, to kill– you have already killed what human, you ever had.” 

I turned and chopped the Christmas tree into a hundred pieces. I threw the beaten shreds over the dirty lovers squirming in the bath.  I walked out of Martina’s life and back into my own death sentence.

Six years later. Tucson, Arizona, September 2000

Santiago sat in the only home he had; a 1977 Dodge van. He put down the pen and looked at his feet. The dog that had showed up out of nowhere had his head on his foot using it for a pillow.  Santiago named him Shadow because no matter where he went the dog was always there. Shadow was a Blue Heeler breed—just a little over a year old judging from his teeth.

“I had an idea Shadow and was just about to write down that amazing insight when you lay on my foot. Damned if you didn’t break my whole train of thought.” Santiago reached down and rubbed the dog’s ears.

Shadow groaned in ecstasy and said in dog talk, “Hey, sometimes this is as good as it gets, huh?”  

Santiago returned to his journal and was thinking of how to continue the next sentence when suddenly gale winds began blowing and a cloudburst beat down on his tin home. Rain began blowing into all of the open windows and water poured  through an open roof vent. Santiago leaped up and ran outside to cover his belongings that were packed in cardboard boxes stacked around the van. By the time he pulled a large plastic sheet over his belonging, he was soaking wet. He jumped back in the van to discover Shadow snuggled in his bed.

Santiago felt better with the crash of the monsoon rain. Life wasn’t so bad after all, and from the contents of water that had been dumped on the desert in less than five minutes, it looked like a brand new batch of life was going to start.

“Here we go again, Shadow. All life needs is water.”  He smiled believing maybe that was all it meant—water in a dry land, and scratching a dog’s itchy ears. What else could bring such instant results?

In 30 minutes the storm had passed. The dog jumped out of Santiago’s bed and went outside to survey the new wet world that had altered his turf. “Hmmm, brand new places to pee on. I should go tell the man.”

 

Santiago slept through the night in restless washing machine agitation. He was almost asleep when the sky exploded above his Dodge.

Shadow came to the side of his bed, licked his hand and said,” Is that big man moving furniture around up there in that fuzzy stuff?”

In a minute the rain began to fall and a cool wind blew in through the open window. Santiago reached down and pulled a phony fur blanket up around his shoulders. He petted Shadow said, “Go to sleep. The old man has been eating beans again—you know what that means.”

Shadow went to the front seat of the van grumbling, “Yeah, beans…”

Later in the morning after coffee and burning a breakfast of French toast, Santiago went to the University where he was finishing his last semester as an undergraduate. He was the oldest student in most of his classes. He was 30 years older than most instructors. He was an honor student, about to graduate Summa Cum Laude. He went about the business of taking notes. In many classes there was no textbook but lots of reading online. The 21st Century had arrived while Santiago barely understood the 20th.

He walked from one building on campus to another wondering why he was still in school as an old man when he hated school so much as a kid.  He had to remind himself he had no idea of what to do out in the real world. The Veterans Administration had accepted his application and had reinstated his war time compensation as a wounded-in-the-head-vet. They were sending him back to school, the University of Arizona, famous for astronomy, parties and beautiful young bodies. “By the time you get out you will have another 10 years to make an honest living,” his counselor said.

Santiago tried to keep his mind centered on being prepared for the next intensive months but every time he turned around, there was another gorgeous young thing with short shorts and a braless top that in certain parts of big cities would suggest they were open for business.

He tried to ignore the fanfare of flesh but each time he dispelled the miasma of one budding temptress, another one would appear that looked better. He was a horny old goat. It was going to be damn tough to focus on words of blithering professors.

At the end of the day Santiago drove back to his vehicle home on his 1100 cc Yamaha. As usual Shadow welcomed him. At least he had someone to come home to even if it was just a dog.  Santiago thought about the young beauties of the day and compared them to the women he had known. He knew he would put each and every one of those old loves back into his life a thousand times faster than any of those young things. “Yeah, give me a woman who has some content and a lot of ferocity anytime over a blossoming nymphet who thinks only about hairdos and manicures. I want heat—not hot stuff,” he said to Shadow just before he went to sleep.

Shadow woke up at 2:45 a.m. thinking the words: HOT STUFF.  “Hot stuff?” he said out loud. When morning came he had to talk to the man.

 ******************************************

“So what is wrong with hot stuff?” Shadow asked at breakfast.

“What the hell are you talking about Shadow? You haven’t even got laid yet. What do you know about females?” 

Santiago was annoyed the dog could bring up a consideration that he had tried his best the night before to forget.

“Well… I mean you like steak don’t you? Steak is hot stuff,” Shadow persisted.

“I used to, but I’m not that wild about it these days.”

“Okay, you like ice cream, yeah?” Shadow gave the man a sneaky eye.

“Yeah, I like ice cream. So what?”

“Right! Ice cream is hot stuff – see what I mean?”  Shadow said sensing some kind of dog-logic victory.

Santiago looked at Shadow. “Why do I talk to such a stupid son-of-a-bitch?’

Santiago went to his first class at noon. It was a lecture seminar in astronomy that had over 300 students. He was the only old man there, still outranking the professor by years. He had two more classes and the same pattern continued.

The disappointing aspect of the day was not the age factor, but the reason he returned to the University was to take Creative Writing and Journalism. The professors were well-meaning fools with principles of concrete description and inverted pyramids. Right, just like life. It made Santiago laugh.

The University experience was a ritual of futility. For Three of the four years he had to take prerequisite courses that had no meaning other than trivial knowledge in a large bucket of useless information. He was surrounded by children with party-mode consciousness. The whole idea of being a scholar was just another version of a confused old man having his head firmly jammed up his ass. 

Santiago’s cell phone kept ringing all day. He did not bother to answer the calls.  All of them were Credit Card people demanding that he call them immediately. What was the point? He had $10.47 in his checking account and $40,000 owed to plastic corporate bandits.  It looked like bankruptcy was his only escape. Santiago managed to surround himself with economic and psychic vampires. In that, he had been incredibly successful.

At the end of the day Santiago discovered outside the climate controlled walls of the university another monsoon downpour. The desert was flooding and somehow the metaphor with his condition seemed synonymous. He had 25 miles to ride home on the motorcycle. The streets flowed with water running a foot deep. He waited around for an hour and finally there was a hole in the sky. He made a dash for it but a hundred yards down the street a young coed passed him in a car, washing him with gutter water.  Santiago could only laugh. All he was worried about was keeping the rubber under him.  

When he got home, he found in the mail, the 37th rejection from a publisher. He began to wonder if he had the slightest notion of what he was supposed to be.

“Okay,” Shadow the dog asked, “Is there anything out there you can say is positive or at least hopeful?”

Santiago looked at the dog. “Sure. I am alive, kicking, have a roof over my head and family and friends who believe I am worth the time. For a lot of people in the world all of that would be a blessing and you wouldn’t hear a grumble out of them. The problem is I still have high-flying aspirations. Unfortunately, I have to face the fact each day, not one of my dreams has materialized. I have only gone deeper into delusion…”

Shadow bent around and licked his butt, then after a good scratch he said thoughtfully, “You seem to be caught with the perplexity of standing in a dissolving conviction but hey, that it is no more desperate than what most you people think is real... It’s kind of like trying to remember where I bury my bones…”

“Oh God,” Santiago moaned, “I got to get out of here. Now I’m talking to dogs and they’re talking back. One more semester of this bullshit and then I’m gone”

 

Corsica, September 1, 2004

The sun had just come up and Santiago was drinking strong black coffee and smoking cheap tobacco roll-ups.  Ten years had passed since Santiago had been with that woman and Neil in Paris. Twenty years had slid by since he first met her in Germany. Her name was Martina. She was half French but had been raised in Corsica by her grandfather, an illiterate Corsican shepherd.

When Martina disappeared in ’94 with Neil, Santiago stayed in Paris waiting for money he had hustled from old connections. While in Paris he met a whore he called Dark Eyes on Rue St. Denis. She helped him forget about being made a fool by Martina and betrayed by Neil. He departed for Scotland with the Dark Eyes in mid January and stayed until the end of a tourist visa in March.  Santiago returned alone to America.

In America, Santiago went deeper down in alcohol. He returned to the university trying to get Martina out of his soul. In the summers he returned to Corsica looking for her, but none of his old friends ever knew where she was.  During his last semester at the University of Arizona, Oscar wrote he had seen Martina and she looked older. After a summer graduation, Santiago returned in the fall to the island.

Murder or suicide. It didn’t really matter either way. If he killed himself it would replace the terminal disease that was supposed to have killed him ten years before. If he murdered Martina, he would be no doubt be dead long before he spent any time in a jail. He played with the possibilities but everything seemed absurd—but most of all, love. The thought kept running in his head, I am going crazy with these fucking voices…dogs, rivers, fucking everything talks to me…

Daily on the farm, Santiago wore a red sleeveless T shirt emblazoned with Che Guevara’s famous portrait, baggy olive drab shorts and cheap rainbow colored rubber flip-flops. He smoked while sitting at a green metal table under the shade of an avocado tree. The sun cut through the Mediterranean summer haze that had only been up an hour but it was already hot on his shoulders.

Santiago reached under his T shirt and pulled out the revolver he had tucked into his shorts. He was not ready yet. He looked at the 38 caliber pistol his father had given him when he was a boy. He put it back down on the table. He was not afraid to die, but an angry sadness stopped him from putting the gun in his mouth. Maybe once again, he was killing the wrong person.

How ironic it was the way things had worked out. Martina had pegged him right from the very beginning. He remembered what she said. You have an assassin’s face. He should have killed her the first time she betrayed him in Frankfurt or for sure in Paris. What the hell did it matter? Everybody was going to die anyway and as it looked; his own natural death sentence was just around the corner.

The number six kept circling his life. Six Vietnamese villagers dying for nothing.  His pistol was a six-shooter. The doctors said six months six years ago. That had been without the complication Lady Luck had just dealt. The only luck he ever had was dodging bullets and now he was even dodging his own. Luck with women and love never had been good cards. Six loves gone to hellI’m a damned weird six-card stud, he thought. Six years since he last heard of Martina. Six years since his death sentence.

Santiago thought about the cards that war and love had dealt. He could forget the six he murdered in the war. They would have probably been dead from poverty by now anyway. He didn’t give the command. He just followed orders. He was young and stupid. But six others he could not forget. He got older and the faces of love’s betrayal would not disappear.

One. His first love was Teen Baby. She was his steady all through High School, they were going to get married, have kids. She ran off with a Marine before he even had a chance to stick his dick in her.

Two. The Stripper showed him how to fuck in two dozen different kinky ways, but she had trouble leaving old men alone who had lots of money and bought her mouth a suck at a time.

Three. After Vietnam, he met a little hippy chick in the mountains of Colorado who he called Gypsy. She was as good of a woman as he would ever find, but the problem was he was still too pissed off from the first two love wounds, and it was the time of Free Love. There was just too much good pussy around for him to ignore. Gypsy left with the endearing shout, “You’re a dirty son-of-a-bitch!”

Four. He went to Europe and there met a woman that followed him no matter how unfaithful and uncaring he was. It seemed to work. The more he did not love her the closer she stuck to him. He married her because she would not go away. She became the Wife and they had a daughter. After 20 years she could not take another day of his depression or disloyalty. “Get out of my life,” she screamed. He put his tail between his legs and slinked away. He knew that she had been the winning hand worth holding onto but she had been bluffed out by Martina.

Five. Martina like the Beatle’s song came in through the bathroom window, that is, in 1982 she was a ten day love affair in Germany. In 1986 she magically reappeared in Corsica as the lover of a Corsican friend. Shortly after he and Martina disappeared together for another ten days. Santiago returned to the Wife and she forgave him. But Santiago could not forget Martina. He found her the last time on a mountain. He lost her again when she jumped into the bed of his best friend. He lost the Wife too.

Six. Then entered Dark Eyes who was the wild card. She gave him shelter but also gave him a second death sentence after he outlived the first. Dark Eyes who appeared at the loneliest moment of his life had disappeared back into the mean streets of Paris. For all he knew she was already dead from the gift she had passed to him.

But of them all, it was Martina who was the hand he wished he still could hold.  Santiago thought, this ain’t no card game, it’s a fuck’n comedy…who ever heard of six-card poker.

**************************************

The frogs in the pond were making their morning song of Whee-Whee and Rhug-Ghup. On one of the vegetable fields beyond the trees following the Gravone River was the low drone of Oscar’s big red Russian farm tractor. Birds tapped sharp notes chipping away at the silent spaces. There was the large cup of coffee, strong, thick and black as Africa in front of Santiago. Its aroma mixed into the acrid smell of the manure Oscar was spreading over the newly plowed field.

He took a pencil out of the rusty tin can that also served as an ashtray and scribbled his thoughts into a cheap notebook he had brought from the guest house. He was thinking of what to do next. It was a ritual in the morning that he had done since he was a young soldier in Vietnam—sitting and pondering the maze of existence, one day at a time. No matter what event surrounded his life; each day’s content was loneliness – a faithful companion during comfort and torture.

He stubbed out the roll-up and thought about making another one but decided against it. The pistol that lay near his hand reflected a dull blue sun off the barrel. The second cup of coffee was growing cold. He slurped the black sludge then threw the remainder into the fallen dead leaves of the avocado tree. The coffee was doing its trick. He could feel the caffeine beginning to agitate his sleepy body. His nervous system was bump started again.

Dogs were barking up on the side of the mountain and their echoes were bouncing down the Bastellica Valley. Cars shushed by on the village road. The sun was growing hot.

Santiago had been on the farm for two weeks. It was a place he often returned trying to escape the catastrophe of his life, but more than any other reason it was because Corsica was the only place where the melodrama of life seemed just fine.

He had no idea really how much time he had left. The doctors said he should have been dead by now, but his condition was no worse. Physically, he felt as good as he ever did. It was his mind that was crumbling.  He had to do something vital with what was left of his life and he had to be in a place that had meaning.

He returned to the farm because his friend Oscar had written that Martina and Neil were back on the island. Santiago felt like the elephant that walks itself to the graveyard.

He had known Oscar since his early days in Corsica when he lived with his wife Leila and daughter Tara. After Leila had kicked him out of her life, Oscar’s farm had become his private paradise. It was only there, loneliness became sympathetic with the earth around him. Reality was just beyond the perimeter of the farm.

The river was the natural guardian at the backside of the farm. It kept intruders from arriving by the rear door. The river was an Angel spirit who chaperoned his exile.

The table under the avocado tree was only 100 steps away from his River Angel. Santiago would move from one sacred spot to the other avoiding the minor distractions of the farm, like Oscar starting a two-cycle motorized water pump that sounded like Chinese firecrackers. The sanctuary under the avocado tree would be shot full of holes so he would have to move to his River Angel and let her voice wash away the noise. It was paradise with shifting parameters.

The voice of the River Angel spoke to him. “It is all right Santiago

He would often sit in the course granite sand of the river banks leaning against one of the rounded boulders letting his eyes take his mind up through the gold and emerald leaves of the oak forests that covered the shoulders of the river.

“It is all right Santiago everything is okay,” River Angel said.

“Thank you sweetheart I knew you would be here,” he said.

Santiago became accustomed to this short intimate greeting with the river. It never occurred to him that these words were anything more than his own crazed condition until on this day when Oscar started the noisy machine earlier than normal.  Santiago gulped the dregs of his second cup of coffee, picked up his notebook and tobacco bag and walked to the sandbanks of the river.

It had rained heavily the night before so he had to find a place where the sun dried the sand. A shaft of light cutting through the tree limbs indicated a perfect golden circle. It was only a few feet away from the rapids where the voice of River Angel spoke most often. Santiago set down, rolled a cigarette, lit it and leaned into a granite rock armchair that was snuggled into the shore. He looked up through the frayed holes of leaves and saw that most of the sky was a hazy summer blue with only a few shredded clouds hanging on after the storm.

In the distant sky came the rumble of a motored aircraft, something big like a World War II bomber. Santiago thought about that sound and how it had thrilled him as a child when he lived only a few miles from the Army Air Corps training field.  The sound triggered a mechanical reaction in him like Pavlov’s dog and bell.  When he heard the throb of the bombers he would stop what every was doing, then go to his mother‘s old upright piano, gently raise the keyboard cover and place both his hands flat-palmed down on the base notes. If he stretched his short legs he could depress the string damper pedal. Then he would push down as many keys as his small hands could cover and create his own earthly rumble that would lace up into the air and join and the sound in the sky. At that moment he would have the clear sensation that he was flying and he would see beautiful billowing white clouds all around him. When the bomber passed and the sound in the sky stopped, it would disconnect him from the experience. Suddenly he would just be sitting at the piano that was making a bell like ringing.  He would look up at the portrait of a dead brother that had been shot down in the Pacific, and he felt as though they were connected. The sensation would remain within him and only leave when his mother asked, Santiago what are you doing? Nothing, he would say, then get up from the piano and go outside and play.

The sound of the plane on this day faded and Santiago watched the clear water of the river roll past him. Sometimes he sat at the river for hours, as if it was his job, his place to be until the cool shade indicated the sun was down and his duty was over.

On this particular day River Angel said something new.

Santiago it is okay - but you are not all right, are you?”

“What?” Santiago was completely surprised. He turned around to see if someone had come down the path to the river behind him.  There was nobody.

“Did you hear me Santiago?” River Angel spoke softly but with a slight urgency.

Santiago looked at the rapids and only saw the usual black and silver world passing over the rocks.

Santiago what is wrong this morning?” River Angel asked in a concerned voice.

Santiago waited a moment before he began to speak going along with a joke he thought his mind was playing on him.

“Uh, yeah, there is something wrong - you’re right.”

“What is that Santiago?”

“I...I guess…I’m really lonely...no, not lonely. No. I want a woman. I want the woman who has never stayed...I want the love I lost...I want what’s gone...”

“A woman.  When do you want her Santiago?”

“What do you mean when do I want her? I want her now, God damn it!” Santiago said angrily.

Santiago nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt at hand on his shoulder and a delicate voice said, “Bon jour, ça va?”

Santiago scrambled to his feet and saw the most beautiful woman he had seen in years, that is, the kind of beauty that especially appealed to him. She had dark walnut hair, skin almost mulatto, large brown cat-like eyes, a long graceful nose slightly upturned, full sensual lips, a gorgeous neck that flowed into squared boyish shoulders. She had on a low cut pale yellow blouse that revealed firm breasts—just short enough to show a sliver of muscled belly.  She wore faded Levi’s that fit her like a rodeo queen. The top button was undone and the belt was rolled over making her waistline very feminine and very sexy. On her feet were small but very macho looking brown hiking boots,

Shocked to be discovered talking to himself and embarrassed to be found in his private crazy space, Santiago stumbled over his words.

“Uh, yeah, ...uh, I… oui, oui, ça va,  ça va...”

“It’s okay Santiago, you can speak English,” the young woman said to him.

Santiago looked at her, wary that perhaps his mind was really slipping and he was beginning to hallucinate. “How do you know me...I’m sorry, I mean, do I know you?” Santiago said.

The young woman smiled at him for just a bit longer than a moment teasing him with her eyes that seemed to invite anything. “Your friend the farmer, Oscar, said you were down here, and I have wanted to meet you for such a long, long time.”

“Oscar? Oh yes! Oscar...of course...” Santiago was so stunned by this sudden appearance of the young woman that Oscar might as well have been on another planet.  “Oh yes, I didn’t think he knew I was down here...”

“Yes I know. He said you may not want to be disturbed, but I couldn’t wait to see you.” She smiled almost like a little girl, but she looked in her mid 20s.

“I guess you know me, but I’m sorry I can’t seem to place...have we met to before? Forgive me what is your name?”

She laughed a delicious laugh. The sound of her voice was almost like a song that was in harmony with the rapids of the river. “You don’t remember then do you?”

“No...I’m sorry, I don’t know how I could forget you - but I don’t seem to remember you, uh...”

“I am Angel,” she said.  “You knew my sister when I was little—but I have never forgotten you.”

Santiago felt like he had been punched in the brain. “Angel…your name it is Angel?” His legs seemed to quake and he could feel the spasm of nervous muscles collapse underneath him. He set down quickly on the nearest boulder.

The young woman laughed again, taking delight in her taunt. She smiled and looked toward the river before she said, “What do you call it? Oh yes, my nickname. My real name is Angelica. I think it means almost the same - a little angel, yes?” She played her eyes over Santiago’s bewildered face.

“Sounds right to me,” Santiago said.  “Who’s your sister? I’m really sorry—I still can’t place you...”

The young woman just smiled at him, then reached the small space between them and put her index finger on Santiago’s open mouth. She let it slowly drop, tracing down his chin to his neck. She opened her hand and let it slide naturally until she held it over his heart. “Hello,” Angel said. She looked at him in a way that said only one thing.

Santiago put his hand on Angel’s hand as she slowly kneeled down and set beside him. She put her other hand around his neck and gently pulled his face to hers until their eyes were only inches away. He looked into her eyes so brown and golden all at once and he could hear the voice in the river whisper yes, yes, yes. Without a word he let his lips come to hers as each fell into the others arms like a slow motion dance they had rehearsed for years.

Angel’s lips were full, electric and soft as her tongue lightly brushed at the edge of Santiago’s mouth until their tongues spiraled together. Santiago felt as though he was floating off into a vast dark celestial room that was filled with thousands of candles flickering light across objects of gold encrusted with glittering jewels. He was gone.

The bank of the river was suddenly the softest of satin sheets but the sheets were not cloth, but like clouds that had no form, no firmness, yet held their bodies as they sifted into each other, their separate entities becoming one living breathing being. He was her, she was him. There was nothing left of a person that had been sitting talking to himself only minutes before. She was the river. He was the bank of the shore. They rolled together. He was the land and she was the liquid current pulling them both to the mother ocean.

It was not love-making; it was the creation of the earth and everything living and moving on it. There was no time. It was Infinity. The waters were pulled by the stars and balanced by the counter pull of gravity deep down in the folds of land. They were lost in each other—there was no other, no self, no being alone—they were together in one. They were all things mineral, organic, liquid and stone, fire and air. There were no arms, no legs, no cunt and no cock.

There was only the back and forth ebb of time and space, where it was light and only light that created material and sound.  The light was music; the rumble that came from their center also came from every point outside of a sphere. They were inside and outside, and all of it was moving with the sound of a celestial chorus—a symphonic orchestra of musicians that were sparkling planets that hung in the velvet black – and their world turned and rolled and burned and moaned in unending joyful falling - falling and floating in, over and around the inside center, around the sphere, in the middle of being, and being nothing and nowhere at the same moment.

There was no self, no other being. There was no world, no river, no breathing. It was a freedom beyond dreaming, beyond fantasy or thinking. There was only the sense of a sway—a dance going without hesitation changing direction—the movement was as easy as the water slipping around the boulders in the river bed.

It was the ring and the roar—the rolling of water and air. Their love-making was the mixing and billowing of cumulous clouds raising miles high, sunbeam’s breaking and penetrating long shafts of gold through a purple horizon. No time and all of time, as though it was the first moment a creature  pulled itself from the primordial waters and by miracle of evolution, a wedge of light like a slice of pie, revealed the shores of the long white beach glittering with a diamond facet reflection from the eye of God—the sun shining down inventing the shoreline of a brand-new world, to be explored, to be colonized, to bury the eggs of one’s own re-creation along those sands, deep down in the solar heat granules—eggs in the earth at the edge of an infinite ocean—an ocean that was a sea of sperm that washed those eggs with the water of life inventing the birth of the new day—back and forth—flowing over and around.

They moved together into the roaring music that rose like flames, flicking dream sparks that became points of light in the infinite darkness at the edge of the minds horizon. They rolled and moaned and came into each other and coming together, coming as one.

There was a sound. It was the river, or was it just the rumble that came from the world slowly turning. The sound was music but not from any instrument of man. It was a long note that became longer, then rattling; raking at a deep sleep, like a buzzer that shakes one out of a dream.

It was a blue colored bird, high up on the top branch of tree that suddenly sprouted into a world that a moment before, or was it a century, or a millennium before that had no shape, no form.  The blue bird screeched again in the tree and then it was answered by the voice of another bird from an opposite point.

There were now two poles of distance in the mind of being, and light came floating over all that separation of distance - was it feet, miles or light seconds between those two points. Then another sound came.

First it was a soft low moan so completely released—a sigh of ecstasy—the sound of letting go—the moan of a soul as it relaxes into death. The sounds disappeared, then returned and began to build into a low throb and then like rippling liquid whispers of water kissing stones.

The river was singing and rolling past the banks through the deep forest. The blue bird called its mate across the river, then dropped down from the top branch and skimmed across the rapids and landed on a rock at the shore.

Santiago was startled by the bird. It was only an arms length away from him. The bird suddenly looked up as though it was equally surprised. It made a loud shrill call, then beat it‘s wings into the air and disappeared down the tunnel of the canopied river. 

Santiago’s eye quivered in a rapid blinking as though salt had been blown into them. He shook his head and immediately looked to the right and to the left of his shoulders as he put his hand out to touch the beautiful body that only a moment before had been in his arms. There was nobody, no one.

Panic seized Santiago’s mind and at the same instant a blinding flash of light, like lightning that illuminates the blackest of nights for a millisecond, he saw the organic liquid chaos of the river framed by a tangle of botanical banks and what appeared to be several hundred people clearly nude but intertwined together as the warp and waft over forest.

He closed his eyes involuntarily and screamed a terrified sound that a man would make if he fell a thousand feet. He swirled inside the horrid sound of his own voice waiting to hit the reality of the earth that was at the bottom of his fall.  The scream began to form a word in his mind. NOOOOOOO...

A sorrow more painful than anything he had ever known came into the center of his being. He could feel the wetness of tears flowing out of his eyes and stream down his cheeks. NO! NO! NO! 

Santiago cried, and then was choked into sobbing and grief. It was like the Vietnam medic-evacuation, when his body was in pieces. Grief that was both terrible and joyful. A point of consciousness, or was it a mechanical release of pressure as though a logjam on river suddenly gave into the reservoir of weight it held back. The river burst tearing and shredding the driftwood away and crashed down the corridor of its natural channel.

Santiago felt arms around him. They were warm, comforting, kind and gentle. He felt his back being rubbed the way his buddy Neil had massaged him when he carried his broken body to the chopper as the mortar rounds came down hard and close. Joy of life came over his fear that just a split second before had been terrifying. He could hear a voice almost as if it were music. 

“It’s okay Santiago. Everything is all right,” Neil said.

He opened his eyes and saw that he was sitting underneath the avocado tree—at a green table with his notepad and a very cold cup of coffee, as black as Africa.

 

It was another perfect beautiful summer day in Corsica. The only reminder that another reality existed was the sound of the water-bombing fire planes somewhere off in the distance. The pyromaniacs of Corsica were still trying to burn the forests to the ground. Santiago got up from the green table under the avocado tree and walked back to the guesthouse.

He walked into his bedroom and reached up on the shelf where he had placed the three journals he brought with him from America. He picked up the one that had 1992 on the binding. He sat down at the desk in front of the large picture window and flipped the cover open to a worn familiar page. He began to read his nervous slanted hand writing.

Paris, October 28, 1994

I walked into the bar and there was Neil and Martina. They were talking to some old American dude they had met.  They looked up at me, like they were embarrassed but asked me to sit down.

The old man didn’t interrupt the story he had been telling them. He was talking about his French ex-wife that he had met again for the first time in 10 years.

Neil across the table said, “Did you get some closure on that?” 

My ears perked up and I listened for his response. The old dude went on, “0h, I wasn’t afraid because I had all my armor—knives, guns and brass knuckles—the whole caboodle. She wasn’t going to get me this time.  Yeah, so I guess it was okay and we managed to get through it without any damage. Yeah, I got closure.”

“That’s what I need, some closure,’ I said. “I have to close the file on some old stuff.”

“Either close it or delete it,” the old dude said.

“I thought I had deleted it,” I said, “but it keeps coming back up.” I looked at Martina and Neil. She looked out the window. Neil seemed to be even more uncomfortable.

“That’s what you call a Ghost File,” The old dude said. “Yeah, you think you got rid of it, but a good computer guy can dig them up again.”

I looked at the old dude and felt very weird. “A Ghost File, huh? I guess that’s what I got. I see the face. I can almost reach out and touch it—my Ghost File lover. I’ve had her inside me for years…” I stared at Martina. She turned her face from the window and gave me an angry burning look.

******************

Santiago put the journal down for a moment. He thought about the plane journey from Corsica to the Paris eight years before. He could see and smell Martina next to him. Neil sat in the seat across the passageway. They all got pleasantly smashed during the layover at Nice and two hours later they were in a five star hotel in Paris. Santiago could not even remember Neil being around for the first week. He buried himself in Martina.

“Martina, you bitch,” Santiago whispered to himself. He picked up the journal and flipped through pages and continued reading entries.

Paris, November 10, 1994

It is another morning waking up with emptiness—feeling adrift and no hope. Martina has been gone for three days. So has Neil.  I got up at sunrise and made coffee in this flea bitten room I’m renting. I had coffee in bed, waiting for the nervous jolt of caffeine to hit me. This morning, I thought all I needed was a woman with money who can support me while I do my art. Fuck that shit.

If Martina can be such a whore, maybe I should be one too.  There is one woman I know who has money and an enormous sexual appetite—but she doesn’t do of thing to fill up this empty hole in me…

Paris, November 15, 1994

I have not received the upfront money from the job I hustled in Scotland—another fucking mural. I no longer have heart for painting, but I need the money. Two thousand British Pounds are supposed to be in the mail.

Right!  The check is in the mail.  How many God damn times have I heard that?  What does it mean? 

1.   The mail is really slow. 

2.   My old Scottish patron doesn’t have two thousand pounds worth of trust in me. 

3.   What the fuck will I do now? 

4.   The Art World sucks.

Last night I was at the birthday party of Parisian artist who knew about the Count de Pascal mural.

He came up to me and said in a totally condescending tone, “Hello Monsieur Billboard.” 

I reacted, I didn’t think.  I stepped in front of him and placed my hands on his shoulders and said, “Please don’t call me Monsieur Billboard again—I really, and let me emphasize really, don’t like that name.” 

He laughed and said, “How will I remember you when I always give little names to...”

“Just call me Santiago.  Monsieur Billboard is demeaning,” I said. 

He protested, “I never meant to...”

“Look, I just don’t like the name.” 

He suddenly became very flustered and said, “I will certainly do my best to...”

I cut him off and said, “Thank you.” I walked away. BASTARD, I heard muttered behind my back.

Right, who is the bastard? I am through dealing with bastards and bitches. I can’t believe what Martina did to me, again…and Neil. I want to kill them…

 

Paris, November 20, 1994

I never knew Paris could be so depressing. I moved from the rat-trap I was in, to a dungeon that is worse on Rue St. Denis. The whores fuck their johns in the rooms on both sides of mine. All night long, I hear water running in the sinks; beds banging the walls and the assholes always piss in the stairwells on their way out.

 

Paris, November 21, 1994

I’m worried about the check in the mail.  If it doesn’t come soon, I am fucked. 

What is new?  Two more mail days before I really panic.

I guess that is one reason Martina split. Once she saw I had no more money, Neil became very attractive. Neil is a bigger sucker than I was.

Yet…I don’t know how I’ve been so completely obsessed with Martina all these years and not ever seen how crazy she is… no, I am the crazy one.

In the meantime, the little side venues of this self imposed prison of poverty are curious…

 

Paris, November 22, 1994

A new kind of fantasy has jumped in front of me, although I would say there have been reasons for me to fantasize.

A woman is on the horizon again. 

I am sure of my motives (horny and lonely) but she is interesting even if she is a whore.

She has a very peculiar presence and the more I look at her the more I like her.

I know she is only convenient. Bury My Heart at Wounded Assholes and forget Martina. But nothing what so ever has begun and judging the way I’m going nothing will. 

It seems I still have that same nervous ineptness before my whiskey courage years…

Sobriety has its downside. I have not had a drink since Martina and Neil disappeared two weeks ago.

 **************************************************************

The journal was beginning to make Santiago feel numb. How would he ever know what a woman was about? All of the women in his life had been disasters created by his own foolish steps of pride – that is except for Leila who had been his wife, given birth to their daughter and had stuck with him when he had shit up to his nose.

But irony, always irony. He was never really in love—not passionate consuming burning love like he had for Martina. Had love stabbed him in the heart or had he murdered love by arrogance? He had loved his wife Leila as a comrade, but passion was something that never happened. Yet, Leila had always stood at his side, until he destroyed his chance to find love with haunted memories.

Santiago was still sitting at the table in front of the big window in the guest house that looked out on the turquoise pool. He looked at his father’s pistol that he had smuggled through customs by hiding it deep in the checked luggage. He had changed his mind already three times and he was back to his original plan. He would kill Martina and then kill himself. He wavered again.

Martina, the more he thought about her the more he began to realize she was her own worst enemy. Martina would find her own hell soon enough. Santiago picked up his journal and continued to read.

 

Paris, November 23, 1994

I saw the face of a man today that reminded me of something I saw long ago.  I had gone to the French Army fortress town of Bonifaccio, Corsica.  At the time it was one of the few places the Foreign Legion had a post within the provinces of France.  I was walking up the winding road that goes from the harbor up into the walled city of the old town.  I was just at the sharp corner which hangs on the side of the hill when suddenly a smog belching Renault army truck came lugging up the road. It seemed to be in its slowest gear, barely moving faster than a fat man can walk.

I couldn’t help but stop and look as it approached—it brought back all those old times of riding in the back of army transport trucks—me and a bunch of other grunts groaning at the injustice and absurdity of jumping through circles for the illusion of American patriotism. 

So I’m standing there with a thousand flashes running through my brain when the truck slowly passed me.  I looked up into the bed of the truck, which was at my shoulder level and at first I only see the boots of 30 men.  They shine like diamonds.  Then my eyes went up the creases of their starched fatigues, then to their hands holding automatic weapons at upright rest.  My eyes continued to rise until I stopped at the faces of the men. Shivers ran down my back.

I have never had seen 30 uglier, meaner, lonelier faces. 

They all had it. They all had that fucking look.

The guy I saw today gave me the same shivers. But he looked meaner than all thirty of the Legionnaires. His face was fluid, like a river which has ripple patterns that are always the same but are constantly different. Damn! I want to get that face down in words. Maybe it is what Martina meant when she said, “You have an assassin’s face…”

The whole damn thing of his face took me back to the fucking army. That was the other time, my  other life.  It was the time of a war that wasn’t supposed to be a war.  It was a CONFLICT. Politicians back then loved that equivocation.  It was their best attempt at getting around the impressive number of body-bags that were coming home daily.

I was lucky for awhile. For the first year in the army, I was stationed in the most combat ready infantry regiment in all of nice safe Germany.

Our regiment was what the Marines call Gung Ho, but it was only the Army.  Get serious!  We weren’t Marines and it wasn’t Vietnam. The worst thing we had to do was get out of bed at two in the morning, go load up trucks and chase around in the fucking freezing woods for a day or so.  It’s spoiled everyone’s beer drinking schedule which of course was our real mission in Germany

My unit was fanatic about being Gung Ho.  The Sergeants tucked us into bed before midnight. We had physical training every day. Even worse, we had to march in close order drill.  We suffered.

Because my unit was so military minded we had a special privilege.  We got to be hosts for the L. R. R. P. S. (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Service) returning from Vietnam

These guys had to chill out for a few weeks before the Army would allow them to go back to the states.  The Army called it Debriefing. The Brass wanted to be sure these programmed-homicidal-psychopaths had come down off their killing mode before they were allowed to walk on the streets of America.  Anything could set them off. 

These weird and strange men who went out into the CONFLICT would be parachuted alone deep inside enemy territory. They would be supplied camouflage clothes, a canteen, and a pistol with a silencer, a razor sharp knife, a garroting cord, and a suicide pill.

No food was necessary.  It was rumored they ate the men they murdered in the middle of the night who lay sleeping in underground bunkers. If there was a shortage of fresh human flesh, they could always pull off one of the bloated bloodsuckers that were attached to some part of their body, thus not only consuming bug meat, but their own mortal juices.

The rumor was that a real LURP (as we fondly called them) never bothered chewing flesh. He just popped off his victim’s head, sucked the juices out, and threw the skin away.

That was a LURP—a killing machine that lived on blood.  But there was something more.  You could see it.  We all could see it when these LURP’S would come back to be guided into reality.  It was that look. We called it the Thousand Yard Stare.  It was just that, like they were looking at something way over your shoulder.  What they were seeing was death.

The guy I saw today had it. When he looked at me, his eyes reflected death. Yeah, he gave me the shivers.

 *******************************************

Santiago read the words thinking about what they meant. He closed the book and looked at a mirror on the table that reflected his image. “Yeah, it’s still there,” he said.

The morning had turned into the heat of noon. Santiago heard the familiar sound of someone diving into the swimming pool. Oscar always had a quick dip to refresh himself before the midday lunch. Sometimes Santiago would join him in the pool. But today, he just set at the table looking through the big window and watched Oscar swim laps in the pool.

He was too numb to move, that haunting numbness he had felt after the second firefight in Vietnam. It was a numbness where everything happens on the outside but nothing is felt on the inside – it is as if life has become a wrap-around movie and the spectator is inside a darkened theater.

The one way to get a phantom out of his head was to replace it with another. He thought of Martina again. She had rarely left his mind since the first day he had met her in Germany 20 years before. He thought she was in her mid twenties on that occasion, but it was only years later he discovered she had only been eighteen. There was a hardness about her that made him think she was older.

Now he wished he would have believed her when she said then, “I am really a bitch.”

No, he did not want to believe her. She felt too good.

He also tried to convince himself he would not fall in love with her.

Looking back, he knew that he was in love with her the very first morning he woke up and saw her bare shoulder of tan skin silhouetted by the warm yellow color of the bedroom wall. He remembered the indigo bed spread that lay loosely over her hip. The shape of her body was perfect and it took his breath away.

Yes, he fell in love that very moment and in the next ten days she completely seduced his mind without once making love to him.

Oscar jumped out of the pool and came to the door of the guest house. He stood like a black hole, his enormous frame blocking nearly all of the light that came through the door. Santiago looked up at him and once again thought how similar Oscar’s face was to the busts of Alexander the Great, with his curly dark hair and thick grayed beard, muscled neck and broad shoulders.

But there was a peculiar contrast in his voice which was deep and  manly, yet when he spoke it was always almost a whisper, as though he was afraid something wrong would be said.

“I am going to prepare lunch now – are you coming up to join me?”

Santiago flicked his eyes down at the pistol on the table, because when Oscar spoke, his eyes were also on the pistol. “Uh, yes…I’ll come up in a minute. I was just cleaning my father’s pistol…”

“Did you actually bring that with you? I thought it was illegal…” Oscar had a frown on his face.

“Yes of course it’s illegal. But I got it through customs, so I presume no one knows about it, but you and me now,” Santiago said.

“You are not going to do anything terrible are you?”

“No, not at all…it’s the only thing my father left me. I just didn’t want to leave it behind. I am not sure if I am going to go back this time.”

“Do you think you will stay in Corsica?”

“I don’t know, Oscar. I just don’t know what I will do or where I will go next.”

“Why don’t you come to the house for lunch, and that will solve the problem for the time being. It will be ready in a half hour.” Oscar smiled and walked towards his large house that was on the other side of the pool and garden.

Now there was another reason to postpone the decision. Lunch. Santiago put the pistol back in its black leather holster and stuffed it down under his clothes in the open suitcase, still not unpacked after two weeks. He was lost. Lunch, suicide and murder all seemed to have the same importance.

Thirty minutes until lunch. He could stop the whole universe in a split second. He could make a telephone call to old friends and find out where Martina was. He could book a ticket and fly away. He could sit at the table and remember what it was like to make love to Martina. He could sit and just not think. He could feel dead. Thirty minutes. So much could happen in thirty minutes. Hundreds of people can die and you took six of them. Santiago only felt numb.

It was that old feeling, that thing he could not shake even in his happiest times. What was it?

Vietnam still echoed in him. It was so long ago. Why could he not forget it ever happened? No one was to blame. But who did it? Did he see what he remembered or was it just a bad dream. It wasn’t his fault six innocent people died. Or was it? Did he put the M-16 on full automatic? Did he see them all fall like metal ducks in a carnival side show? Was he an assassin?

Santiago looked at the clock. Twenty-nine minutes until lunch. He did not want to think about Vietnam. He picked up the journal and turned the page.

 

Paris, November 24, 1994

I’m in a rush, a kind of agitated state.  I’m trying to pretend it’s not happening but it is. It’s the game, the eternal game of man and woman that’s got me this way.

I find I’m getting interested in the whore who lives across the hall. Her English is good, and she is friendly, but probably I am curios about her because she looks like Martina – ebony hair and her dark brown eyes and the accent. Damn Martina. But maybe I should just go with it. There is no better way to forget a woman, than by finding another woman. So I jump from a lying bitch to a whore. What difference does it make? 

I had breakfast in the café across the street.  The whore was there with a few of the other professional women every morning, just finishing their nights work. 

I keep looking at her, I don’t know why, but it is obvious she is responding.  I think she is too old and too damaged to be trapped in this ridiculous game of commercial romance.  It is funny, her being a whore. I could just go up and request her service, or she could come and hustle me, but both of us pretend we are not interested—both of us  circling around each other sniffing, tip-toeing, not coming too close to each other, and yet I could lose myself in her arms, in her eyes  too quickly. 

But what about her mind? She is revealing herself slowly.  Her history comes in tiny packets.  There are visual clues like her shoes, her hair, her hands, her tattoos—things that intrigue me about her because she is rough, but glitzy.

I keep reminding myself I don’t actually need a woman, especially a whore, to complicate my life. But then I think about the whore I have been in my life. Maybe she is my perfect match. Maybe she can make me forget Martina. In fact, I am trying not to fall back into the old war games of love, but it is a habit.

 

Paris, November 25, 1994

She is there again, at the corner of my eye, on the edge of my mind, near the fringe of the old lust land that hangs below the belt.  I don’t know why but she is there.  There waiting. There acting like she doesn’t know, I’m acting like I’m not interested in her, or women, or sex or intimacy.

In truth I am not interested, that is, my mind is not, but my dick keeps standing up by itself. I suppose that was the same problem Neil had—Martina is impossible to ignore when she puts her energy to seduction. Neil went for it, like I am going for this whore now. The difference is at least a whore is honest about what she is doing. Martina lies to herself as much as she deceives the men who fall into her web.

Another difference from Martina is that the whore is not good-looking. Martina wasn’t beautiful, but her face had something magical about it. The whore hasn’t even got a figure. Not Martina again. There doesn’t seem to be anything that resembles breasts under her very flat gaudy blouse.  From what I can make out under her baggy skirt, she doesn’t have much of an ass either.  She doesn’t bother with make up. I don’t know how she attracts men. I guess men will fuck anything. And here I am, interested in her.

Her hair is long, stringy, and straight.  Her hands are as big as a man’s. Her feet look like teenage boys inside her broken down red high-heels. She smokes unfiltered Gitanes and wears very black hip Italian sunglasses.  When she takes them off, she flicks her eyes from side to side like she is expecting the vice squad any moment.

I saw her having coffee the first morning after I moved to this rat-trap hotel. I didn’t know she lived across the hall.  I hardly noticed her except for a small notation in my mind, that her very long, very stringy dark hair was not brushed.  The next morning at the coffee shop, I still only noticed her hair, but this time it was brushed.  It was the next day, I realized there was a face under the hair, when I bumped into her in the hallway and she spoke to me in English. She laughed when I said she had dark eyes. She said that was an original line.

A couple of mornings later I saw her in the café again. I said, “Good morning, Dark Eyes,” and she laughed again.  She was speaking obviously for my benefit to one of her colleagues, another whore, in English very fast, very efficient.  She had the accent of a New Yorker. Dark Eyes had on big dangling gypsy ear rings. Her stringy black hair was pulled neatly up off her neck into a pony tale.  Her neck was lovely, just the right length, and the right arc. Her eyes were glittering and alive, like Martina’s.  She looked across the tables at me and smiled.

This morning we finally started a conversation. She talked about New York, Berlin, and Monte Carlo. Places she has lived.  She was married but had no children.  Her husband is in some distant land.  She hates him.  These are the only things I know about her. Dark Eyes. I don’t know why I am interested in her but she is there. I don’t know how old she is – maybe thirty-five or she just looks older from her occupation.

Dark Eyes is not the kind of woman who knocks you out with beauty but then she is not homely or even close to ugly.  No, there is something.  At the café this morning, I looked closer and secretly inspected her face and saw that she has a big nose, bad skin, uneven teeth with spaces between them.  Her ears are bigger than normal.  I asked myself why do I keep looking at her?  Is it because she reminds me of Martina? Their eyes are the same. Maybe it’s just because I would fuck anything, like all the rest of men…

 

Paris, November 26, 1994

Two thousand British pounds came in the mail yesterday—the upfront money. I should have been happy but all it did was make me feel weird. So here I go again into the world of murals.  I wonder what number it is? I’ve lost track of how many I’ve painted in the last 30 years, let alone the square footage.  The Sistine Chapel is no contender. Still, it is only for money.

Money. It seemed a good idea yesterday, that I should celebrate and hire Dark Eyes. I wanted to think it over – but me and my fucking mouth—I ran into her later in the café and immediately babbled I might want to book her for the weekend. Dark Eyes laughed. She said it wasn’t necessary to pay her. She said she liked me. She seemed really excited and said she was going to have a real beauty treatment. I told her she didn’t have to do anything special, but she said she wanted to do it for herself.  She said she was going to look beautiful. Dark Eyes left with some of her colleagues saying she was going shopping for a weekend outfit, No matter what, she will probably still look like a whore.

I sat in the café wondering what I was getting myself into again. I decided to call the states and talk to Leila. I kept thinking about our daughter Tara, and what a rotten father I have been to her. I called and got into a big discussion with Leila about what is going on with Tara and that unnerved me—I had to go through things with Leila sorting out the wreckage of our marriage. We talked mostly about Tara and her schooling.  I told Leila some of my experience in Corsica and meeting up with Neil, but said nothing at all about Martina. Leila was too tortured and angry to ask me anything about her.

I didn’t bring up the old war—nothing in any way about Leila’s sexual follies or my romantic disaster with Martina.  We avoided the subject of our treason to each other.  I only said that marriage and monogamy was a form of insanity the most us buy into—of which she murmured agreement, but I don’t believe her heart took that vote. Both of us didn’t want to talk about the property or what we were going to do with the nuts and bolts of our marriage. Leila went silent on the telephone.  When I hung up I decided I would get with Dark Eyes—just to forget my marriage and to try to get Martina out of my head. I felt lonely and cursed and completely crazy.

I hadn’t drunk a drop of booze for a month, so I bought a bottle of Courvoisier, went back to my hole and drank three big glasses. I went to bed not wanting to think about anything. I was jittery. I woke up and looked out the dirty window and saw a dirty moon. It must have been a full moon.  It is a convenient villain to blame my craziness on but for the last few days I’ve had the distinct feeling I was going through a kind of madness, moon or no moon. I got out of bed, still in my clothes.

I went out for a long walk through the Luxemburg gardens and worked myself into a sweat.  It was good therapy.  After a while I didn’t feel quite so psychotic.  I went back to my flea trap room and took a cold shower, put on some clean clothes and went to the local bistro on the corner where the whores and pimps have their evening Pastis. There was a band playing.  Dark Eyes was there and immediately acknowledged my presence.  She looked like she had her hair done.

I sat at a table across the room from her like a wart on a nose; unable to respond when I could see in her eyes she wanted a signal from me. I sat there speechless and yet I wanted to have her. To be more exact I wanted to fuck her brains out, but I just couldn’t think of what to say. Stupid. She’s a whore. What is there to say except, “How much?” Even though she said she would give it to me free. I was pretending to be spiritual so it put a complete twist on my tongue. I wanted my tongue inside her cunt swallowing her juices, not talking crap.  She would find out I am a liar anyway. The odd thing is that she is interested in me. Even whores have dreams. Maybe I am the right one. Probably not. Two losers can’t make a winner.

Dark Eyes was leaning on the bar counter acting like she was a waitress in New York City. Stress was written all over her face. She was innocently beautiful one moment and a dirty bitch the next. A band was playing some kind of Euro jazz.  They were crap—very loud crap. Even if I knew what to say to her I would have never heard any response. 

I had been at the bistro for about twenty minutes. Dark Eyes kept appearing on my side vision. I wondered whether it was accidental on her part or my preoccupation, or were we being magnetized to each other—black Scotty dog meets white Scotty dog.

I was thinking about this when I suddenly looked up and there she was looking at me. Her eyes were so black I couldn’t see the pupils. She looked like an Egyptian. I said something incredibly stupid like, “Looks like the place is jump’n,” and she said something back. I knew because I could see her lips move.  I couldn’t hear a thing except the crap band.

I felt paranoid, embarrassed and crazy. It was her black eyes and long elegant neck. I wanted her. Suddenly Dark Eyes was gorgeous. Martina completely disappeared from my thoughts. In that split second of Dark Eyes looking at me, I mentally placed her on her hands and knees on top of the bar, right there in front of the band and the customers and I tore off her clothes. I jumped on the bar and threw my own clothes into the middle of the room until I only had my cowboy boots and I rode her from behind as she howled with lust and tossed drinks and ice cubes like poker chips across the room.

I was confused. The last time a woman had such an affect on me, it was Martina and then my whole life came apart at the seams.  I didn’t think I could ever have that rush of gonad steam come up through my crotch again, but there it was.

I decided to go back to my room, or I should say I put my tail between my legs and ran.  I had to get away from this movie. I hated the music. The band bored me to death.  They played every musical cliché in the bag but not one note of originality.  It was a heavy massage into numbness that only echoed the vacuous halls of my mind.

I wanted Dark Eyes and I blew it. I didn’t even know how to fuck a whore who wanted to give it to me free. The idea of having her for the whole weekend seemed pathetic. All I am doing is trying to blur Martina out of my mind. At the first opportunity when Dark Eyes wasn’t looking I ran out of the bistro.  I hid out on the street for a few minutes trying to regain my cool, and figure out what to do.  I felt like a grunt trapped in a minefield. I couldn’t go ahead. I couldn’t step back, and both sides looked pretty weird. I was caught in my own mind-feel.

I listened to the shitty band for awhile out on the street.  I knew I was just standing there and no revelation was going to come.  I went back to the flea-trap room and felt even crazier. I tried not to think about Dark Eyes and her black eyes and strange face. I drank until I couldn’t see straight then crashed.

I slept badly and woke up early in the morning and thought of Dark Eyes, not Martina. I had a hard-on and I wished she was with me to take the pressure off. 

 ******************************************

Santiago looked at the words he had scrawled in history.  There was a blank expression on his face, one that showed no emotion or even a hint that he was deep in thought.  It was like his face was cast in cold cement. He had stopped reading and was thinking about what had taken place when suddenly Oscar appeared at the guest house door again.

“Lunch is ready,” said Oscar.  “If you don’t come now there will not be anything left—you know how hungry Jamaal gets after working in the field all morning.”

“Oh yeah, I am sorry—I got involved in looking at some old notes of mine—I will be right there.”

“Come on—stop procrastinating and come with me right now,” Oscar insisted.

Santiago grudgingly closed the book, got up from the table and walked to the big house with Oscar. The lunch table had been laid out underneath the avocado tree. Jamaal, his young Algerian worker was walking from the kitchen bringing plates of pasta and fresh salads.  He looked up and smiled at Santiago.  He had the innocent look of a child and his teeth showed snow-white against his dark brown skin.

Jamaal laughed and said to Santiago, “I told Oscar you would not come unless he brings you by hand. We made bet and now I am ten francs richer than half hour ago…”

“If you keep this up Jamaal you are going to be very rich by the time you return to Algeria,” Santiago said.

“You are quite right. That makes fifty francs he has won from me this week,” Oscar said.  “Jamaal you better be careful or you will be working until midnight just for me to be able to pay these confounded bets…”

“Ho,ho,ho,” Jamahl chuckled.

Oscar went back into the kitchen with Jamaal and took the bread that was baking out of the large oven.  Jamaal busied himself going into the pantry and selecting a liter of Corsican red wine.  Santiago went into the living room and found a cassette of old rock’n'roll music and put it into the stereo.

Jamaal had been coming to the farm for three years.  Oscar had met Jamaal and his mother on one of his winter tours to North Africa when Jamaal was only 14. He convinced them to come and work on the farm. Santiago often wondered about Oscar’s obvious interests towards the woman, who stayed in the house working as a maid and cook, but he never saw anything more than patronly directives coming from Oscar. Still he did ponder over the possibilities.  Jamaal’s mother was a very beautiful woman, but Santiago had noticed she seemed indifferent to Oscar, and she had never once allowed Santiago’s eyes to touch her eyes. He knew nothing of Jamaal’s father and Oscar was silent on the subject.

 

In 1982, six months after Santiago had left Martina in Germany; he went looking for her after receiving an unaddressed letter, but post-marked from Corsica. He met Oscar on the Corsican ferry. They had struck up an immediate friendship, as they crossed from Marseilles to Ajaccio, when they discovered they had both been in Germany in 1968. Santiago had been recuperating in an American Army hospital, and Oscar was completing his university studies in philosophy and played in a rock’n’roll band.

Oscar was returning to Corsica from his teaching post at Heidelberg.  His English mother had telephoned and told him that his Corsican father had a stroke. Oscar left the university thinking that he would return within a week.  He had only been on the farm for two days when his father suddenly passed away. Oscar’s mother was quite elderly. He saw no other possibility than staying on the farm and provide for her.  His career as a university professor would have to be put aside. 

He was devoted to his mother and so he willingly changed the course of his life. But in the back of his thoughts Oscar felt his mother would not live very long without the man who had been the center of her life. Oscar told himself that when his mother passed away he would return to teaching.  It never occurred to him that his mother would actually get healthier than ever. Her husband’s death had in fact been her liberation.

“He was always much more of a bastard, than he wanted to believe,” she would often say when his name was brought up. At the age of 76 she took on a 60 year old lover. It was embarrassing for Oscar, but he never reproached his mother. He did not dare. She was stronger than Oscar would ever be although she was only half his size.

Her name was Eloise. She was five foot two, shaped like a matronly Jean Harlow and had the eyes of a bedroom vampire. She always kept her hair died a trendy ash blonde and was proud that her eyes were her alluring feature. Indeed, when one looked into her pale blue eyes, their crescent shape became overwhelming, emphasized by naturally beautiful arched eyebrows. Her nose was straight and strong as a wooden plank and delicate oval shaped nostrils seemed streamlined for the benefit of aerodynamics. Her mouth was wide, but thin as a blade. When she laughed or smiled, there was a barely detectable upward movement of her mouth. She had the ability to say the most humorous statements without so much a glint of a grin. She was a brilliant stand-up comedian with her deadpan face.

Eloise lived in her own house at the other end of the farm. She had that British upper class trait of strong willed determination, dry wit and the proverbial stiff upper lip. One just suffered and did not make a fuss about it. Still, certain aspects of the human condition revolted her, namely male-female relationships. It was her rather cynical view of romance that profoundly influenced Oscar’s prolonged bachelorhood.

Eloise usually preferred to have meals on her own but today she joined the men at the table under the avocado tree. “Tell me Santiago, do you find love complicated,” she said without a hint of humor.

Santiago gave a nervous laugh. “Eloise, I thought I was over that pattern when I was eighteen, but I swear it only got worse over the years. Complicated? I have to agree with the classic Roman view that love is a mental illness if not a complete delusion of spirit.”

“What on earth did Romans have to do with love? I thought all they did was eat until they exploded, or set around the coliseum watching lions devour the Christians…”

“Oh yeah, they did that too, but there was a philosophic view that love was something like a virus.” Santiago said.

“A virus? I would say it is more like the creeping crud! What on earth gave them that idea?” Eloise picked up her wine glass and emptied half of its contents.

Jamaal looked from Eloise to Santiago with his big child’s smile wrapped across his face and said, “Love is only for rich people. Then you can buy all the love you want.”

“I think you are right Jamaal, it is a much more sensible approach to romance than all the lies people do go through. Anyway what is this virus and the Romans?” Eloise said flashing a mischievous look at Santiago.

Santiago smiled and tried to remember the context of Plutarch. “It seems that the Roman’s believed when a man looked at a woman and became besotted with her, it was because he had opened up a kind of eye-tunnel between him and her. So this evil little bug that was deep down inside her, would jump out and into that cosmic passage, and dive into the man’s exposed soul through his enraptured open eyes…and then after that of course he would lose all common sense and would become insane, hypnotized and thoroughly under the spell of the evil eye of Eve…”

“Really? What a lot of rubbish. It is exactly the opposite. It is because young women are so naturally honest and trusting, they can’t possibly believe that another human being could be such an unmitigated liar—as of course most men are – excluding present company naturally.”

“Mother, there are some decent chaps in this world besides us. I would venture to say the men are liars only to protect themselves from the nasty little deceits that women embezzle them with.” Oscar said in an indignant tone.

“Oscar, don’t be daft. Women don’t know how to lie. We only create diversions.”

“Virgins in my village, very good women,” said Jamaal trying to add to a discussion that he had no idea of what it was about. To him, all western women were whores.

“Eloise, you are probably right. But men may not be so much liars as we are just complete fools. I know, because I should get an Olympic medal  for being the fool of the century.” Santiago said this flatly and his eyes instantly fell to the table.

“Oh Santiago, don’t be so full of self pity. That slut of a woman Martina was a killer of men from the time she was twelve. But really the poor girl never had a chance. She was just taking revenge on every man that happened to be seduced by her beautiful little round bottom. It was entirely the Duke’s fault…”

“Mother would you please pass the green beans, and can we talk about something a little more pleasant?” Oscar could see the pain washing across Santiago’s eyes.

The meal was carried on and the topic was changed to the idiosyncratic rules of Corsican bureaucracy concerning farm taxes. As usual when lunch was over, everyone excused their selves to have the afternoon siesta.

 *****************************************

Santiago returned to the guest house and lay down on the bed, closing his eyes. He was tired, but his mind would not stop haunting him. No matter how hard he tried to keep her out, the face of Martina kept coming back into his mind. He could see her large dark brown eyes. He traced the strong perfect arch of her eyebrows which were wide at the beginning, swept up and then tapered down to a thin pencil shaped line. He let his eyes drift over the smooth oval shape of her forehead, then slide down the curve of her cheek bones. He looked on down her elegant neck to that dark shaped V at the base, and then he raised his eyes until they were caressing the pale rose of her full sensual soft lips. Suddenly he heard his own voice as though it came from another room. It was the sound of a wounded animal. He snapped his eyes open and immediately set up in bed. “Fuck it,” he said.

He got up and went back over to the table in front of the large window and set down in the straight backed Corsican peasant chair. He picked up the journal he had been reading and carried on where he had left off.

 

Paris, November 27, 1994

My mind is flying everywhere, feeling unquiet. This dissatisfaction, this yearning that is the habit of having a woman – that, contrasted with this bullshit of redirecting my energies toward a solo path. So far the results have been negligible. As soon as a woman comes in front of me it seems I am back into the hunger pains of lust, desire, just the simple want of a woman.

I am a man. I have lived with a woman all my life and now to be without a woman leaves me in state of confusion - yet for the first time in my life I am considering not pursuing the cunt of a female, nor the sex of any other warm blooded creature, shaggy beast or smelly man. For the first time I am wondering what it would be like, not to be a slave to my own prick. Absolute drivel. Who am I kidding? It is impossible unless I stop desiring women or whatever it is they represent to me. The question is: what is that?

 

Paris, November 28, 1994

I saw Dark Eyes this morning at coffee. She didn’t mention the weekend. She sat next to me and told me her birth sign. She’s a Capricorn. At least she’s not a Taurus like Martina.  We talked for a while, and then she excused herself. She said she was beat from a heavy night of work. I thought I could smell come on her breath. What’s the difference? I come in the mouth of the world. The whole day sucked.

I started to call Leila tonight, feeling very lonely and the need for company - the company of an ex-wife is better than talking to myself. I had run out of answers to the questions I had put to myself.  I thought about it for a bit, and then decided not to call her. Loneliness is something one just has to learn to live with - not get used to, but accept. That thought didn’t make the loneliness go away. I sat there feeling like shit for twenty minutes, and then I changed my mind and called her.

We talked about loneliness and came to the agreement that it was better to be alone, feeling lonely than being together still feeling lonelier. We talked about her artwork and the strange compulsive natures we both have. She said it is something she has to go with now - she feels an urgency to create. I said I was relieved to no longer be driven by artistic turmoil. She said, “It is your destiny—you didn’t choose to be an artist – the soul of an artist chose to be you.” Leila laughed at her observation and mentioned some of the old stories of Corsica and the battles we had won and lost together. We said goodbye laughing. It was a good sign, but it didn’t take the loneliness away.

I went down to the café and got even lonelier. Dark Eyes was not there. I started talking to a man and a woman who said they were artists trying to survive. They showed photo’s of their work. It was mediocre. They live in a cocaine paradise. It is easy to pretend you are an artist when you are on drugs. I listened to their story until I got to the bottom of my espresso, and then said I had a job to finish. I was lying.

On the way out of the café I ran into Dark Eyes. She looked and sounded harassed. She said her father was coming to Paris from Monte Carlo. She said we would still get together sometime. I said I’d be around and went home.

Fuck her and her black eyes. Her carrot-dangling trick is bugging me. I lay in bed and beat my meat and thought about her anyway.

Paris, November 30, 1992

Dark Eyes keeps coming back into view. She stopped by my room in the morning and said she was free in the evening. I nearly let it go by but I didn’t. I said I would take her to a part of the city familiar to me. She’s trouble but I wanted to get laid. Why not? She’s a whore, what else do they do?

Dark Eyes came to my room in the early evening. We went to a little restaurant I knew in the Montmartre. She didn’t seem to mind tourists gawking at us. I hung back and didn’t make any moves. Afterwards we took the Metro and came back to my dump. Once she was in the room, I wondered why I bothered getting hot. Half of me was saying abandon ship. The other half kept looking at her black eyes and her red whore lips. She was skinny as a broom, but her ass had more shape to it than I noticed before.

We talked for three hours sitting at the table.  She got up and went to the toilet, then came back in and sat on the bed. I looked at her. She looked back at me and said, “What?” It was so much easier to take her into my arms than say anything. She responded with no embarrassment – like a professional, but I didn’t go with it.

We held each for another hour. We talked. We touched like children new to the game. It is hard to act like you don’t care when your cock wants to be Attila the Hun. She kept leaving the border open. I got close enough only to take a view then I turned my shock troop nuts around and sent them back to the barracks.  We had a long and sexy kiss. Then she went back to her room. I wondered what the hell I had just put myself through.

 

Paris, December 1, 1992

Dark Eyes—I hardly know anything about her. She is a very individual kind of whore—a bit rough, but under all of her baggy clothes and ripped sweaters there is a very soft, very feminine person.  Her language at times is exaggerated like trashy women who hang out with obscene men. At moments she sounds vulgar with the curses she uses.  She likes to mimic truck drivers, construction jockeys and army sergeants.

I guess it is the prude in me that makes me uncomfortable when a woman’s mouth runs that way. I have never got used to hearing a women use profanity. It is my generation. It doesn’t mean a woman is ignorant just because her tongue sounds that way. My number two love affair, The Stripper taught me that lesson a long time ago.

I found out she comes from very a privileged background. Her father is a millionaire. Maybe it is all lies. She said her mother was Corsican and her father is French. I thought it odd, the coincidence with Martina. Dark Eyes was born in Monte Carlo. She went to a private girl’s school in Geneva.  All the kids she grew up with were rich brats.  Her mother went insane when she was five, and ran off to New York City. Her father tried to hire a hit man, but the mother beat him to the punch by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. She washed up on Staten Island a week later. The father was hospitalized by the grief of not being able to murder her first.

Another coincidence. Dark Eyes was sent to live with her Corsican Grandfather and Grandmother.  The Grandfather slipped into Dark Eyes little pussy at regular intervals telling her that it was the traditional thing to do in his village. Between the age of 6 and 12 she lost count of the number of bedtime stories her grandfather administered.

Dark Eyes father would arrive every few months bringing gifts and telling her to watch out for the village boys and their dirty little tricks. Dark Eyes didn’t know how to tell him the Grandfather was the only one with tricks. Dark Eyes hated the Grandfather, but she hated her own father worse for abandoning her.

Is it any surprise that she is a bit strange and turned into a whore? I found out she had been married but her husband became a drug addict and she left him. So she speaks rough, Maybe it is her survival technique.

Dark Eyes loves pistols and motorcycles. That completes the image she is trying to project of being a heavy duty biker-bitch.   She also loves dogs—big ugly dogs. She has a pit-bull and a rotweiler she keeps in her tiny room. She loves these mutts so much she lets them sleep with her. Maybe it reminds her of the cuddliness of her Grandfather.

When her father comes to Paris to visit her, he has no idea what she does for money. He doesn’t ask, or maybe he just doesn’t care. He can’t stand the smell of her. He said she smells like a bagwoman’s underwear. Maybe he has a point. I love dogs too, but they smell like dogs and I don’t let them sleep with me on a regular basis. Dog shit and tom cat piss is the smell of squalor. But I have been very close to Dark Eyes and her odor is musky, maybe it’s the professional love making—but it is female and pleases me.

Her face is delicate and even with the acne scars it is velvety to the touch. She has the eyes of a Corsican, slightly Arabic. I have become fascinated by her high cheek bones and V shaped face.  Her body that I first thought was shapeless and without benefit of the female curve, is almost boyish but the woman is there. She says she is twenty-five years old. Her life has made her look ten years older.

I know nothing about her except what she has told me, which I am not really sure if it is the truth or a convenient story.  She is hiding from life and so am I. When I am with her I forget about Martina. I forget about Neil.

 *****************************************

There was a splash in the swimming pool. Jamaal had awakened from his siesta and came to have a dip before he returned to the fields where he had been weeding all day. Santiago looked up from the table and saw Jamaal doing laps and swimming like a crashed helicopter. Somehow he stayed afloat and went slowly back and forth in the pool but, but it was obvious no one had ever shown him the art of swimming.

Santiago smiled at the trail of froth following Jamaal. He got up and walked to the edge of the pool. “Hey, who taught you to swim?”

“Nobody. I teach myself.”

“Yeah, I can believe that. Listen, I have an idea—when you finish for the day, lets take the Citröen and go down to the beach.”

“Okay, sure. I like beach. Maybe we get Oscar to come, yes?”

“Sure. We will drag him away from the vegetables and make him enjoy some free time.” Santiago saw Oscar come out of the house, yawning and scratching his beard.

“So did you hear that Oscar?”

Oscar looked in the direction of the pool and turned both of his palms skyward. “Hear what,” he yelled.

“We should go to the beach when you finish for the day.”

“I don’t know, I have so much to get ready for the market tomorrow…”

“Come on Oscar – we will just go for an hour – oh pretty, pretty please,” Santiago whined like a little boy.

“Oh alright then, but just for an hour.”

Just then Oscar’s mother came around the corner of the house carrying a basket of laundry to hang on the clothes lines by the utility room. “I say, is this a boys only event or are us ladies allowed too?”

“But of course Eloise, it will be an absolute delight for you to come,” Santiago said.

“I think I shall wear a shocking mini bikini so I shall drive the chaps mad at the beach,” Eloise said in a serious voice.

“Eloise, please be an Angel and don’t do it. You would drive me wild with desire.”

Eloise just looked at Santiago, snorted through her nose and continued with her task.  Oscar and Jamaal returned to the fields and Santiago went back to guest house laughing, but the word Angel stuck in his mind and he thought of Dark Eyes and what happened after she went to Scotland with him.

Santiago set once again at the table where the open journal lay. “Yes, saved from the Devil by an Angel,” he said out loud to himself. He flipped the pages and continued reading the random notes he had written.

 

Paris, December 2, 1994

I went to the corner bistro last night. Dark Eyes was down at the other end of the bar and she gave me the high sign. I went to the café to see her, but as soon as I saw her I froze up again. What happened to me? I was so sure of myself last night. She came up to me and I sputtered something unintelligible. Everything I tried to say came out in a complete self-conscious jumble.

There’s nothing to talk about anyway. I’m too old for her even if she is a whore—twenty-five years her senior. I have already got that lesson load and clear from Martina.

My history is too long and too complicated and so is hers. My life is a confusion of needs and fears and hers is worse.  I am panicked and I realize I am not being natural in any sense.  Man versus women chemistry is tumbling down on my head making me want to run. I don’t want to understand one bit of body language or eye message or word she says.

The fact is she is just a whore who wants to fuck extracurricular and the other night my penis was projecting.  Maybe even if she is a whore, she was only looking for a friend—a man she could talk to and only that. 

Okay so I am having a major attack of insecurity. After Martina, every woman, even a whore seems like the enemy. Just because every ship I have been on has sunk, why should I fear the water? I’ll answer that with a question: Do you see the shark fins?

I am a lot better off simply to jerk off my desire and forget considering the possibility of being with someone, even a whore, especially when I become paralytic. In short all of this shit I am putting myself through makes me feel nuts. All I am trying to do is forget Martina by replacing her. I am only torturing myself.

 

Paris, December 20, 1994

It is two more days until I fly to Scotland for Christmas and then do the mural job at the Whiskey Museum after New Years.

I should spend more time in Paris doing sketches. I have to concentrate and take my thoughts somewhere other than this place I am.

Martina and Neil have completely disappeared. Martina the bitch. She has good enough reason to hide her face from me, and I suppose Neil just doesn’t know what to say. Perhaps he has gone back to Scotland and I shall find him there. Maybe Martina is still with him. I don’t know. I told Dark Eyes about the job and she said she would like to come to Scotland with me. Great, two whores on tour, her and me.

 

Oban, Scotland, January 11, 1995

I abandoned all sensible reason. I have traveled with Dark Eyes to the small fishing and whiskey town of Oban. We are staying in the flat of an old Scottish friend, Alistair, for a couple weeks until the job is done.

It is because of Martina that I am here with the worst heartbreak I have ever known. How many times do I have to go through the insanity of romance? The irony of it all busts my balls, but it is odd, that at the very darkest hour how a tiny crack will become so amazingly brilliant.

Last night it seemed like suicide was a noble way to exit the disasters I have left behind. It has been a fucked time and I am at the end of choices. I sat in the kitchen of my friend’s apartment looking at the mural sketches I had just finished.

My mind was burnt to the ground during the black hours of the night. My eyes were dry. I looked at the drawings and ached. Dark Eyes slept in the extra bedroom. I heard her voice moan as though she was fending off her Grandfather in a bad dream.

The telephone rang.  It was three-thirty in the morning. It was Alistair, who had also had got the mural job for me at the Whiskey Museum in Oban. He was drunk and on his way back from Glasgow after seeing his wife. His voice was excited as he told me he had good news. He would need me to complete another mural in the Whiskey Museum. It would mean double the money.

“You’re joking,” I say to Alistair.

“No dead serious,” says he.

The next thing I know he is telling me all about his wife’s female problems. She’s got to have operations and he ain’t getting any. I’m sitting listening politely shaking my head in sympathy murmuring sounds of agreement to his plight.

Meanwhile, the real me is dying Not only am I a step away from dead, I am crushed in the mud of despair...not about Alistair’s condition but my own tragedy.  Martina betrayed me after leading me into the land of lust, and a promise that her love was only for me. Me, almost an old man, and I became a teenager in love, while her love was for revenge and my money. When the money was gone so was she. I am left with my death sentence. Why can’t I die now?

Her love for one month cost ten thousand dollars. I would have spent a million if I had it. I was a fool.  Yes it is true, no fool like an old fool.  She is thirty.  I am an ancient fifty.  She fucked my brains out, emptied the cash register then threw my heart to the dogs.  She wasn’t the liberator I thought she was. She was a Corsican pirate.

I was in this state of self-pity, and Alistair was completely unaware he was just speaking to death.

A week ago when I first started the job at the Whiskey Museum, Alistair (is the architect for the job) and I were standing under a spot light looking at the blue prints. We were discussing which mural project I should do next. There was a scribble the owner of the museum had put in one corner of the blueprint indicating some kind of mural. His hand writing was atrocious, neither Alistair nor I could make out what the note said.

“Is that STARE?” I ask.

“I disney kin,” Alistair says.

Neither of us could figure out any of the words except, MURAL HERE!   We kept putting the mystery off until we are nearly finished with the whole job. 

I said to, Alistair “One of the words I think says something about an angle...do you think they ...ah shit, I give up. What will we do?”

Alistair says, “Go ask the distillery manager Mr. McKay.”

So off I go to the museum office. “Hi, Mr. McKay,” I said as he opened the office door.

“Oh hello, I was just doing some paper work.”

I get the feeling I had aroused him from an afternoon nap from the dimples I see pressed into the old worn couch.

“Me and Alistair are on the last mural and neither of us can make out what the owner has written here,” I said waving the blue prints in my hand. “We were wondering if you might have some idea...”

“Oh that will be no bother,” he said as he cleared away coffee cups and magazines off his desk. It appeared his work load is not over taxing his leisure moments.  “Lay them here and let’s have a look.”

I spread the blueprint out on the desk and put my finger on the puzzling scribble. “I thought it says Angle something...like angle stair, but that doesn’t make much sense...”

“Oh. Och, aye,” says Mr. McKay shaking his head as though he understands the problem immediately.  In fact he does.  “Aye, aye, that would be the Angel’s Share.”  He looks at me as though I should know this is perfectly obvious.

“Angel’s Share,” I repeat, now more confused than ever. I look back at him with all of the intelligence of a milk cow.

“Aye,” he says again, and seems to have that expression on his face that says, Thank heavens that work is done, now I can get back to the couch.

“Uh, umm,” I stammered, “Angel’s Share? Uh, what does that mean?” I ask this as meekly as I can, not wanting to demonstrate the total depth of my ignorance.

Mr. McKay frowned, and I can see he is thinking, “Oh. Och aye, I knew it...”

He looks wistfully towards the couch.  “Aye, that would be the Tax and Excise man,” he said, and looked at me like, now there you have it - will you go away?

I look back with the same dumb cow look as before. “Tax and Excise man?”

Mr. McKay puckered his lips and whistles in a tone of quiet but utter exasperation. The frown got slightly deeper. “Aye, the Tax and Excise people, you kin...”

“Oh, yeah, sure, uh wait a minute, no Mr. McKay, I guess I don’t.” I blundered along not having any idea why I’m even in the office.

Mr. McKay leaned back in a chair he had collapsed in having come to the conclusion that the couch was obviously not in the near future. He crossed his arms indicating he is getting fed up with me.

“But the Angel’s Share? What does it mean?” I asked suddenly remembering why I was there—the mission to untangle the uncypherable scribble.

“Oh. Och aye, the Angel’s Share,” and Mr. McKay looked worriedly at the scribbled writing as he tapped his finger on it.  He looked up at me with a kind of strange look like he’s calculating the probability of the chaos theory.  I see in his eye a decision has been made, and instead of being told I have to ask someone else, he says, “Well you kin it’s the evaporation of the kegs!”

“Evaporation.”  I repeat like a priest in an orthodox ritual.

“Och aye, you see we have tae calculate certain percentages of the volume that evaporates from the kegs. It is so we can report an accurate volume of  production to the Tax and Excise people, that is tae say so that we will be taxed accordingly...Och aye, you kin for our annual gross.” He seemed to be satisfied that nothing was betrayed.

“Percentage?” I questioned. “What percentage?” meaning what the hell did that have to do with the scribble on the blueprints.

Mr. McKay had that frown again, but he had already let the cat out of the bag. “Oh. Och aye, that would be about twenty percent - so you kin if we produce one hundred thousand gallon’s per tax period, we have about twenty-thousand that evaporate...and och, ye see we don’t pay tax on that of course...”

“Twenty thousand gallons! That seems like a lot of ...evaporation,” I tried to visualize that much whiskey disappearing. It was the size of a big gasoline truck.

“Oh Och,” Mr. McKay wiggled nervously in his chair and flicked his eyes towards the door suggesting the question time was over. “Aye that would be more or less normal.” He coughed, “Eh, evaporation ye kin...”

Suddenly it all hit me. The evaporation covered all kinds of disappearance of the golden nectar from those heavy oak casks, including undoubtedly quite a few drams lost in the night watch, and a few flasks filled for the wee ride home. But that was not the most revealing thing. It was the name of the disappearance that sparked an idea in my mind.

“So that’s what you call the Angel’s Share,” I shout with excitement into Mr. McKay’s  face. Images were beginning to unfold behind my eyes.

“Och aye, that would be it, the Angel’s Share,” Mr. McKay said flatly.

“Oh wow! I get it. I know what we can paint,” I yelled with enthusiasm. My mind jumped to the wall and I could see the picture in it’s entirety as it fell across my inner vision like a Walt Disney Cartoon.

Mr. McKay blinked at me looking dumbfounded. Now it was his turn to be confused. “Oh,” he said suspiciously, and what would that be?” as though I was about to reveal the scandal of the century.

“Don’t you see it?”  I am in rapture and the vision is so strong I almost think Mr. McKay can see it projecting out of my head.  I said to him, “You see there is this keg turned upright and rising out of cracked corked hole, there is a small vapor trail—almost like smoke coming up out of the hole, and it rises and turns into one unbelievable gorgeous Angel, but there is something slightly strange about her and when you look closer you notice that her hair is all messed up, like she just got out of bed...”

Mr. McKay’s eye’s grew large, and he looked at the space in front of my waving hands as though he too can see something.  “Och aye,” he says.

“And then you look a little closer and you notice that her beautiful Angel’s gown is actually kind of shredded down around the hem,” I said.  Now I got really excited, “but best of all is when you look really close, you see that in the vapor swirling around her, are long slender arms with hands that are slimy and bony with hooked fingernails—then you see a Devil’s eye peeking out the cork hole—these arms are trying to pull the Angel back down into the dark spirits inside the keg—and well, the Angel looks like she has had a pretty interesting time.”  I smile at Mr. McKay.

“Oh. Och aye, I see,” Mr. McKay says in astonishment.  “I never quite thought of it in that way. Och aye that would be something.”

“Thank you, Mr. McKay for explaining this to me—it will make creating the mural much easier.”  I shook his hand, rolled up the blueprint and moved towards the door.

“Och aye,” Mr. McKay said, in an almost stunned voice as he seems to be looking at something that lay in the air in front of him.

I went back and told Alistair Mr. McKay’s revelation.  “Great, get on with it,” he said. I painted in a frenzy until around midnight, when I the finished Angel’s Share. She looked like a ragged cloud, floating up out of the evil keg and the Devils arms were tugging at her beautiful suspended feet.  Alistair came in and stood for a moment looking at it.  “Aye that’s bonnie,” he said as he viewed the finished mural.

The next day Alistair went back to his wife with female problems in Glasgow and I left with Dark Eyes to Edinburgh where I had lived many years before. Dark Eyes just hung out and watched me like I was some kind clown in the circus. She didn’t talk much, and that suited me fine.

Edinburgh was cold, gray, hostile and full of pain from one street to the next.  A song seemed to blow in the wind, singing over and over, betrayal, betrayal, betrayal... All I could see were Martina’s eyes.  I couldn’t think of anything but her lips on mine.  I could feel her legs wrapped around my back and my cock deep inside her as we made love like animals. I could hear her whispering in my ear, fuck me, fuck me

My heart was as dark as the Scottish winter. I lay in bed every night and cried without a sound until the light would come in the morning.  Dark Eyes  didn’t seem to notice or maybe she just didn’t give a damn. She already had enough pain in her for ten people.

One month after I had finished the Angel’s Share at the distillery, Alistair telephoned and told me they had painted out the mural.  “It was a bit too much,” he explained.

 

Edinburgh, Scotland, February 26, 1995

I thought of her eyes again—not the Angel coming out of the keg, but the Mediterranean Devil that had ripped the heart out of my body.  Those wonderful eyes of hers.  What color were they?  Kind of a green-gold– kind of an almond brown. They were those amazing eyes the Bedouins brought to Corsica.  A color so beautiful—indefinable. I could see her eyes, the way she looked at me on the flight from Ajaccio to Paris. Then they followed me from Paris to Scotland.

Why did I come back to Scotland after being away so many years?  I am completely confused about who I am.

In America an old friend said to me one night in a drunken rage, “Why don’t you go back to where you came from?”   I had to remind him of a fact. “You fucking idiot, I’m an American.”  He looked at me like I was a liar. That’s why I came back to Europe.

Maybe that’s why I thought Martina and I could start a new world in a country that neither of us belonged. I don’t know shit. I am running from death.

Martina hated the political corruption of Corsica. She was running from her past. I was trying to forget that Leila had ever been part of my life. I was trying to forget I was almost dead.

I have no idea why I returned to Scotland, and now it seems the Gods decided I need a personal icon to remind me of my abstract blundering through time and space. They sent me the metaphor of the Angel’s Share.

Dark Eyes is part of the metaphor.  We still haven’t fucked. She loves to suck me off, but won’t even let my hand near her cunt. Weird, but she does the thing like a pro—she is a pro. She is my last point of life to meditate on—to perceive what a vast world is still in front of me. But at this moment I hardly care.  I am almost out of life.

 

Edinburgh, February 27, 1995

I took Dark Eyes to see a movie.  She said earlier in the afternoon she was bored.  She seemed to be happy when I suggested we go have something to eat and catch a movie. She took me with her smile. We had a good talk on the way in the taxi.  I stayed away from love talk or anything personal.

When we got there we discovered the movie was an hour later than I thought. Dark Eyes screamed an expletive and became very angry.  Her lack of knowing things don’t always work the way you want seemed weird, I mean being a whore can’t be too predictable. But after a couple of minutes the anger diffused and whatever the frustration was about disappeared just as quickly. She told me she had been in a bad mood all day and blamed it on PMS.

We went to a shopping mall at Waverly Train Station looking for things to buy for her rich father.  We looked around at things like rugs, tables, gadgets for the kitchens and all kinds of other Scottish paraphernalia.  I was reminded of other times, and it seemed like Dark Eyes and I were acting like a man and woman setting up house. I thought of times with Leila and how we had done the same.  I became melancholy and told Dark Eyes about it—a form of confession. She said nothing. The feeling hung on for a few more minutes and then just drifted away.

Later we went to the movie and set talking about motorbikes while waiting for the film to start.  The talk was friendly, natural, easy—kind of funny.  It was strange for me to be talking about motorbikes with a whore from Paris.

After the movie Dark Eyes  made excuses about needing to go to sleep.  I got the message, meaning she wouldn’t be sucking me. I was trying to accept the conclusion, trying to not think about Martina as I sat at in the big chair in the living room listening to Dark Eyes  pretending to be asleep. I kept a repeating mantra to myself, LET GO, LET GO, LET GO...

 

Edinburgh, February 28,   1995.

I forgot about Valentine’s Day two weeks ago. I should give some woman flowers or chocolate today, but what sense would it make? I want write more about the Angel’s Share, that moment of revelation I had in Oban, and yet to I know I may never be able to get there the way I know, the way I feel inside, that place where there are no words, even though words are the only vehicle I have in this white space. Words are ridiculous. 

The closest thing I can say about the Angel’s Share is it is Beautiful Suffering. But of course there is a bigger story behind this—part of it is the journey I went on with Martina. She took me to the long drop to the bottom. Yet with her, I was on top of the mountain. The irony is that is where I saw her again after loosing her for all those years—on the top of a mountain.

After 20 years of holding her image, now her face shifts like clouds.  I can still taste the juice of her mouth.  I can hear her voice in my ear—the sheer lustful passion. I can feel deep inside her body as she pulled me into her— pulled me down.

Martina gave me the Angel’s Share.  Yes, Beautiful Suffering.  But at the time, I didn’t know there was a name to it.  What she gave me was everything followed by the experience of nothing.  God, I felt the victim, and it now, all of these years later I can see how I walked there myself.

It seems funny that there was a mythology, a story that was the perfect metaphor of what happened to me, accompanied with people who were in that movie for the ride.  It was as though they were there just to witness the stupid look on my face.

The Grand Illusion, Maya, the Dream of Our Tarot Card Life.  It is hallucination, surreal beyond our sleep. Yes, I walked there all by myself. I walked to the Theater of the Absurd and I was the Main Actor. I starred in Major Insanity, and that, my friend is closer to you than you can possibly imagine. You don’t want to go there. Not even for a minute, because a minute can be infinity. 

But look what I’ve done.  I have walked right back into another story of the Angel’s Share.  I’m once again experiencing Beautiful Suffering.  I have a dark feeling I’m not going to be happy.

 

Edinburgh,  March 1, 1995

Dark Eyes made breakfast, cappuccino and croissant.  Some American friends of friends who had been passing through Edinburgh were also there for breakfast. I’d only met them briefly before and thought they were Hicks.  I could hardly understand their accents. 

The Americans were from Mississippi and swallowed all of their consonants.  Dark Eyes  seemed to be very free and easy with them and acted like she understood every word.  Maybe she did.  It turned out to be an okay breakfast until the visitors left and I was alone with Dark Eyes. Suddenly I had that weird sense of nervousness again—and this time it seemed to come from her as well.

Dark Eyes  helped me wash the dishes, then she went to the table and  set down,  lit a  cigarette and said, ”I want to tell you something... I was a junkie for 10 years... but I’m clean now, and have been clean for nearly a year...”

She stopped talking and looked at the table.  Silence filled the room.  I figured she had probably messed around with drugs but it never occurred to me it was heroin.  I didn’t know what to say.  Heroin is the worst drug in the world. I know very few people who managed to kick the habit successfully. Now I knew why she was so skinny. 

I stumbled over my words as I said, “I guess we all have bad things to get through...”  The words rang stupidly inside my head.

“It is scary,” she said and looked up at me almost child like, “but that’s not what I need to tell you…I have to tell you something else…”

“What else can you tell me—life is shit, so what?” I knew she was asking me to accept her.  I didn’t bother to ask her what was scary, it was obvious.  We were both scared of getting involved with each other for different reasons.  I began to relax now that she had told me what I thought was the worst about herself.  I could be a hero saving a distressed whore tied to railway tracks.

“We have time—what’s the hurry?”

“But you don’t understand…”

“Why am I with you?”

“I…I don’t know, why”

“Because you have black hair, lovely eyes, and a big nose.” 

She laughed, and then made excuses that she had to go do some shopping– a birthday gift for one of her whore colleagues in Paris.  I walked her to the apartment door and couldn’t stop myself from taking her into my arms and kissing her gently.  My mind was saying SHE IS TROUBLE as I said, “When will you come back?”

She hedged and said she would be back in an hour or two. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was going out so she could hook a john or two. I knew she didn’t have much money and my stash was running out again.

 

Edinburgh, March 2, 1995

I had a dream in the middle of the night.  I woke up sweating, feeling twisted about something I couldn’t quite touch.  The dream sifted across my consciousness.  I was on an Island in the Mediterranean.  I was at some kind of harbor that was filling up with boats. Docks were loaded with trailers and people, and I knew it was only a matter of months before it would look like Disneyland.  I was saddened that this beautiful place was going to hell.

It was at that point I woke up. I lay there in the dark listening to the sounds of the night.  I could hear British Rail at Waverly Station rolling down the iron lines.  I could feel a faint vibration. I began to think of Dark Eyes  and about what she had told me... about her history. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was, her saying that for 10 years heroin had been the central meaning of her life.  If being a whore wasn’t bad enough she had also been a God damn junkie.  It can’t get any worse than that.  Dark Eyes is bad news.

I knew I was just using her to bury the heartbreak of Martina. I also knew I should drop any thought of Dark Eyes but I was already affected.  I didn’t want to know any more about her. I lay at her side making a firm decision I wouldn’t feel a thing for her again—or if I hung out with her, it would just be as a friend.  After all, I was older, and perhaps I could help her get through the addiction – if I could kick alcohol, then maybe she could kick junk.

But what was I thinking about? If I wanted a woman, she should be the last one in the world to desire.  I should go to Algeria—go to the village of the peasant woman I had seen in a photograph taken by my friend Oscar. I could take her away from the poverty of that village and run to an exotic place. Maybe I would have to kill her father.  Maybe the peasant woman would hate me and I would have to rape her just to get what I wanted.  My God, I lay in bed and my mind jumped from one ridiculous thought to another.  Which would it be, Dark Eyes  or the Peasant woman? Both considerations were equally nuts.

I continued thinking about heroin, what it does, and how it is complete LIVING DEATH. Heroin puts its claws into the soul of a person.  Very few escape its ultimate devastation. I thought of a young woman I had met once and who was a good person desperately trying to come back to life.  She was a junkie who was going to commit herself to a Rehab Center.  A few months later I ran into her on the street.  She had fallen back into the pit and was doing tricks for five dollars a turn in a flea bitten hotel on Skid Row.  She didn’t recognize me.  But I saw Death written on her face.

That Death image had always stayed in my mind and the idea this still could happen to Dark Eyes  made me afraid for her. I remembered John Lennon’s episode with heroin and realized where there is strength, one can come back.  But the hand of Death followed him anyway on his way up and out of the grave.

 

Edinburgh, March 23, 1995

I keep thinking about Dark Eyes and the anger she throws on everyone around her.  The other day she had an argument with an English actor who came in to the apartment looking for someone who used to live here.  She refused to be civil because of his bad manners.  The actor went to my friend who owns the apartment and complained and of course my friend asked if we would be leaving soon, hinting the sooner the better.

Dark Eyes has talked a lot about her father’s bad temper and hostile attitude.  It seems it has been passed on to her.  She talks about how he is someone who sticks to the rule and is unrealistic and inflexible when dealing with other people.  She talks about that quite often. Most things get her very angry, screaming and torn—so this is the story of her life—that is as bad or maybe worse than heroin, and certainly the reason of her pursuit into that sick world where she is still cursed with her history—her God damn pathetic history – the same history which destroys everybody’s ability to live in the present.  It is all so melodramatic and stupidly repetitive.

I got up in the middle of the night again thinking about Dark Eyes—thinking about who I am.  Exactly, who the fuck do I think I am?  Am I Perfect?  The obvious answer is; not even close. What are my curses, compared to hers, and would anyone in their right mind want to be with me, if they actually knew what I have done during this life?

Who wants to love a murderer? I have been involved in ugliness that tarnishes the honorable medals I have won in war. Certainly a young woman of 25 has to be very strange to want to be with a 50 year old volatile ex-drunk who seldom turns off his obsessive mind and has an impossible ability to remain faithful.  It would scare most women, but Dark Eyes is not most women. Nothing is established, and at the worst level of this I am right back to where it all begun—me being fixated with a woman simply because she looked at me, and has the face of exotic myth I seek.  But we are miles apart, in years, in history, in nature—yet I’m becoming new and maybe she is too. Still, why do I want to go through all of this?  This thing with her compared to remaining alone – alone with my misery and memories of Martina.

 

Edinburgh, March  28, 1995

Dark Eyes and I went for a walk yesterday.  We set in the Princess Street Gardens discussing new plans.  For the first time in weeks the sun was shining down the first sign of spring but neither of us seemed to take any notice of it. 

I kept looking at her face, slowly, becoming more fascinated by the color of her eyes, almost black.  My eyes followed the fullness and arch of her brows and down the line of her nose, to her lips which are not Hollywood, or Max factor but just so suggestive to be kissed. I wanted to put my lips on them. 

When she talked my eyes followed her teeth, white, and natural, slightly spaced, slightly uneven.  I searched along her neck, graceful yet muscular following the line of her open blouse to her flat boyish breasts.  I looked at her hands, tanned more than her face. Her fingers are long and elegant, yet almost male because of the largeness of her hands.

I looked at her legs exposed up to mid-thigh. She was wearing a whore’s miniskirt. It was the first time I had actually noticed the shape of them.  They are almost skinny, almost shapeless but just enough form, the right curved line to make them feminine—just that kind of mannequin architecture, that probably in the right skirt, the right shoes would be incredibly sexy. 

The skin on her legs was tanned but slightly broken out with little goose dimples—the same I had noticed on her arms and also begins to surface to a lesser extent on her face—almost the complexion of a teenager.

She told me went into a detoxification rehabilitation center only nine months before.  Ten years of heroin, and nine months clean.  The last of the evil substance is working its way out through her skin.

Sitting in the Gardens with her made me feel like a father confessor.  She unraveled her story of soiled years. Her stories scared me, for I am beginning to find more than just the sexual interest in her that so far has made Martina become distant. In fact now I am having difficult time remembering Martina’s face – the first time that has happened in more than ten years…

 

Edinburgh, April  7, 1995

This strange affair carries on into another point of being with Dark Eyes.  I told her that since I’ve been around her, a creative urge has been building in me—not the one I already have, but a new one.  I told her that I want to paint her, and write about her. All of that sounds like so much bullshit but I am not lying. 

Last night we kept coming together without fucking. She will not let me inside. Afterwards we talked over cigarettes, and then we went on a walk down Leith Walk, us looking into shop windows.  The evening was cool, and she had only a light jacket on. I put my arm around her and she nestled in and put hers around me.  It was natural.  For a moment I thought of Leila, and a thousand walks we had done the same.

 

Edinburgh, April 8, 1995

Yesterday I bounced off the walls.  I panicked.  I jumped to conclusions, and projected too much into a future that hasn’t even begun, and for that matter may never be.  Part of it was fear of Dark Eyes history.  Part of it was me – my freedom, my solo spiritual quest that once again seems to be tempted back to an alignment with another traveler, a companion of compromise, a pattern of two instead of my singular walk towards the unknown.  But the biggest part of my consternation was neither of us, but Leila jumping back into the middle of my world.

She called from New York.  We talked about how things were going for our own separate lives.  We talked about the property, about the house, and of years of mutual history.  We were talking, just words, words that fell like dead birds.  I told her about conclusions I had come to since I left Corsica. I told her that our life together, in marriage, in bed, in romance was over...

I told I didn’t know all of what it meant.  Then I mentioned the name, Martina.  That was bad enough, but I had some kind of crazy idea that telling Leila that Martina was out of the picture would make up for some of my blunders, but there was no way I wanted to say anything about Dark Eyes – yet it was stupid on my part to bring up the catastrophe of hearts. Leila broke into tears.  I had created pain again.

God damn it.  I never wanted to do that again. I felt like a bastard, worse, another kind of fool—different from the fool I have felt in succumbing to the attraction of this young black eyed whore—the sense of seduction—the slow game—so what if she had been a junkie and a whore, she is still a woman, and there is still romance—the mating bird dance—that kind of ritualistic act a man does because it is the ceremony.

It seems honest, so real when the cycle flows on two sides, but leaves a stale old taste in the mouth when you discover you are pretending by yourself—that kind of fool is different from the blundering fool I felt in bringing tears to the mother of my child—that kind of fool making me just feel clumsy, insensitive, and arrogant.  That fool is something I thought I had left behind but discovered in the beat of a heart I am still him.

 

Edinburgh, April 9, 1995

I was thinking of Corsica today. I wanted to run away, to go back to my sanctuary under the avocado tree.  I wanted to hear the song of the river. Escape was on my mind. I was crazy to begin thinking anything about my dark eyed junkie.  I reasoned she was just a momentary lust illusion. She kept Martina out of my head, out of my heart…

I worked on drawings for a mural that is coming up in America during the day in our squalid little flat we have rented. Water drips off the walls continuously. I kept saying to myself a mantra, no no no no no no no no. I am beginning to not want to die. The hours of the day dragged by and each hour I felt crazier.

In the evening Dark Eyes said she was going for a walk – right, a professional walk no doubt, down by the docked ships. She knows where horny men and money come together. I made supper.  I turned on the television and watched BBC for awhile but it bored me beyond belief. The flat depressed me.  I went back out into my drawings and looked at the work that was in front of me.  I didn’t even know why I wanted to do it except it kept me from thinking about Martina, about Leila, about my whole fucked up life and how much I still want to kill Neil and Martina.

I walked back into the tiny living room just as Dark Eyes arrived from her night out. My first thought was to disappear but she saw me. My mind was wavering, jumping between yes, no, yes, no, and then I gave in.  Fuck it! I mumbled to myself. I looked at her and was glad to see her.  She looked at me and I took her into my arms.  I wanted her, simple as that...

We went into the bedroom and set on the bed and talked. We smoked cigarettes and talked on late into the night about her crazy father and her family history.  I touched my history, bits and shreds.  She put her legs across my lap.  I put my hand on her flat stomach. Once again I was father confessor and fellow lost pigeon.

I got up to go to the toilet.  I had to drain two or three hours of piss.  I stood at the toilet not only feeling the relief but also thinking to hell with it. Yes.  Fuck it!  I went back into the bedroom lay down next her. 

We rolled into each other holding nothing back.  Our lips came together hard, our mouths and tongues danced in hot circles of the small territory of sound and breathe between us. Her tongue was like liquid velvet, softer and more delicate than any I had ever known.  It was delicious but shy, and then it became more curious, more courageous.  She explored; her lips brushed my face, the tongue tasting my skin. I traced my lips around her face letting them linger on her eyes and the bridge of her nose. It seemed only natural that playing at the shores of stimulation we would make love. I felt her stop and her body went tight.

“What is it?” I said and looked at her.  She said it wasn’t right.  She was afraid. So am I crazy or is she? Jesus, when does a street whore say no? If it was good enough for the sailors, why wasn’t it good enough for me? But what came out of my mouth was something else. “That’s all right,” I said, “we have time.” She said she had to go to sleep.  I set up on the bed and watched her eyes drop silently.

 

Edinburgh, April 10, 1995

I hardly know what I can say of this day.  It is the incident of two opposite experiences coming together.  Last night I made love to Dark Eyes for the first time. I mean, it wasn’t just a fuck. It was sweeter then I imagined and the act went on for a while, but she didn’t come. I have never experienced such a strange but magical pussy. I fell out of the sky. In fact it was beautiful beginning.  Only an hour before she had told me she had AIDS. What does it matter, I am dying anyway…

So what next can she put on me.  An ex-junkie who I am beginning to love and now I find out she may die on me or kill me if I don’t die first. Irony again. Some of us will die before others.

I find myself on the path with Dark Eyes and she keeps telling me, YOU WILL BE SORRY YOU EVER KNEW ME. I AM NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM.

I begin to wonder about it all today. Was she planning a massacre? Is it her knowledge of her own bad luck and what she has brought to others?  Her collective history is a model of imperfection.  Is she so damaged she can’t protect what may be good or does she see her own death so clearly and know she will only began life with someone to end prematurely.  We were making life yesterday and it is death today.  When will it touch me, this death?

 

Leith Walk, April 12, 1995

I had to work on drawings all day for the mural commission in America, in the most God forsaken place I could imagine – North Dakota. But money is money and being a muralist is one step above being a beggar. 

My head was aching and my body was shot. I had only four hours sleep last night, rolling and tossing and being teased by Dark Eyes and AIDS. How could I be so stupid and then I knew it was the same old penis driving…I realized I was suffering from an incredible case of a hard-on.  Dark Eyes had gone strange on me again and wouldn’t let me in. My balls were tight with sperm.  I went to the toilet and masturbated. I felt like my spine was coming out when I ejaculated.  It took the pressure off but I kept feeling her lips, her body next to mine, and that incredible euphoria of romance kept sweeping away whatever reservation of intelligence and survival lingered. So she has AIDS, so maybe now I have AIDS along with cancer.

I took a shower and washed my guilt and body stink off.  I put on some comfortable old clothes and went into the living room where Dark Eyes was reading a French novel.

“Where you going?” she asked.

“Hell, I don’t know.”  I made her dinner and we set at the table for an hour before we were drawn back to the bed. Dark Eyes went weird. It was a rerun of her going frigid again.

I got up and went back into the kitchen and made tea.  I came back in and sat down on the other end of the bed looking at her trying not to be angry.  She talked about her childhood, her grandmother and grandfather, about being a juvenile delinquent and a dozen other stories from slightly new angles.

I only partially listened to them, thinking that she was an ex-junkie whore with AIDS – not just a common street-whore but another woman confused about sex. The talk went around in charade-like circles, as though we were both avoiding actually talking at all.  “I love the way you kiss me,” I said. I asked if all the other men told her that, not really wanting to know, but just trying to remind her of her own sexuality.

Her eyes went very cold and she said, “Sure, a few I guess...”

I felt awkward.  She looked at me like she didn’t know where the question was leading.  I sat quiet, feeling a heavy gate inside myself coming down. Then as if she saw my defensive repositioning she slid across the bed and placed her arms around my neck and we started again. 

Her lips came to mine. At first both of our mouths were a little dry, a little bit sticky from cigarettes and talk and tea.  Slowly our tongues became liquid, warm, luscious, rolling and eager—more eager than the night before, and she started to drift into the circle of desire with me, her voice involuntarily jumping out in the ancient language of passion.  We were in a dance of the primitive as we fell into each other, my hands running over her breasts, her back, down onto her ass, slowly into the garden of her female body that was so different from any woman I had touched before. All of this was inside the heat of lust…and then for some fucking crazy reason, I decided to pay her back and not go any further.  I went to sleep.

 

 

 

Edinburgh, April 13, 1995

I remembered the ridiculous fantasy I had once about meeting a woman called Angel and then while Dark Eyes was talking last night, it occurred to me, for the first couple of weeks, I never knew her real name. I never asked her and she didn’t mind when I called her Dark Eyes. Then one day I asked.

We were in that sleazy café the whores all hung out at Rue St. Denis. Dark Eyes had been babbling away at me. She stopped talking because I was looking at her.

“What?”  She said in an almost angry voice as though I was about to accuse her of something.

“Oh, I was just wondering if you had a name?”

She looked at me and said simply, “Eve, why?”

“Nothing really, I just used to have a fantasy which is not worth mentioning now. What is your last name?” I asked.

She just set there and looked at me and then said, “My name is a curse.”

I dropped the question and didn’t bring it up again for awhile. She was happier just being “Dark Eyes,” so I left it at that. But what had been on my mind was the fantasy about finding an Angel years before at the farm in Corsica.

When I thought of the idea of finding of my Angel, at first it was a joke, a little comedy I was telling myself.  You know, something to do in the interim of time and space, when there are hours, then days, and then weeks where nothing really happens—what I mean by nothing is that Romance and Adventure just doesn’t happen. True Romance and Adventure is that two-sided phenomena of a man meeting a woman that is not only physically attractive, but there is an element of danger. It is that horrible insecurity of dancing on the ridgeline where there is a thousand foot drop on one side and a comfortable path three feet below on the other... but I digress.

I was thinking about all the women I have loved, or better said, fucked. Fat ones, skinny ones, tall ones, short ones, stupid women, smart  women, black, brown, yellow, red, white, and speckled. You name it and I have been there.  I can’t say I gave them all a long-lasting experience, as most of the women I have known were like sampling. They have rolled across the sheets of my bed one by one.  I was thinking about the journey of flesh I had plowed through while I was sitting down by the river at my friend Oscar’s farm in Corsica. I was thinking about all of them, trying to understand what it had been for—what was this dedication to Pussy?

What kind of woman had I not been with? What kind of woman had I not tried to acquire?  Acquisition seemed to be the only motive.  It occurred to me the only pattern which I had not chosen a woman was by her name.

Then one night I felt so God damn lonely I could cry. I went out under the stars standing in Oscar’s orchard and called up into heaven and asked God to send me an Angel.  It just came out of me.  It happened like that but it was a joke, or at least it seemed that way the next day on the river when I thought, why not look for a woman called Angel? Then there would be an Angel in my life.

I laughed at the idea, but behind the craziness of such a plan there might be a little grain of truth and as truth is so often illogical, why not?

Perhaps the history of men and woman is resolved by such obscure architecture of the future. It would solve the problem of looking for the RIGHT LOOK—or even someone having the RIGHT ATTITUDE—none of that would matter.  How many times had I been fooled before just because a woman looked good? Yes, like Martina...

No, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like, or what her brain did.  It was a marvelous formula for weeding out the wrong candidates. I laughed at the ridiculousness of such a theory. I heard my own laughter as though I was someone else.  So who is the joke on?

I came up from the river to have lunch with Oscar.  It was a ritual we both looked forward to share conversation as well as to eat the delicious organic crops he grew.  We would discuss the events of sex, the strangeness of some of our exploits, and occasionally our strategy for the future.  I thought of my new plan finding a woman was worth a laugh, because I knew Oscar would see the irony and sarcasm of such a notion. I told my friend the reasoning and the sheer genius of it, in that its main benefit would be THE PROCESS OF ELIMINATION. I would no longer have to waste one moment or spend even one dollar on a woman because the wrong name could be discovered at the very outset.  Yes genius!

Oscar listened to me and then as I expected I saw a broad smile come to his lips and a beam of mischievous light fill his eyes and he laughed. We both knew it was a ridiculous idea.  But then he did something I did not anticipate.

He suddenly became very serious and said, “But wait a minute, what if she has a name that isn’t Angel, but means some kind of Angel—will that do?”

I stopped laughing as well.  Damn it! I hadn’t thought of that.  It was a slight complication in what otherwise had been the perfect plan to find the love of my life.  I considered the question in one of those millisecond thought processes where the mind flips through files of stacked academic knowledge and all of those old philosophy courses and Theory of Religion lectures.

“Yeah, life works in funny ways... so, yeah if her name meant some kind of Angel, I guess that would do,” I said.  Suddenly my simple plan wasn’t so simple.  How many variations on the name of Angel could there be?  My prayer SEND ME AN ANGEL now could be just about anybody.  I was back in the same old boat of rowing through masses a female flesh.

One should know better than to pray because of two reasons.  The first is that it is stupid.  When is a prayer ever answered?  The second point is that they are answered but not in the way you expect, you may get more than asked for and watch out because you may wish you had not asked.

Hindsight is shit even if it is 20/20.  So I asked.  I made the prayer.  And worse I formulated it into a modified intellectual rationale—in other words I begin to ask women their names even when there was no reason to know what it was—you know like a casual encounter at a supermarket, or a clerk in the Post Office, or just someone I would see on the street.  I would come up to some woman and say I’m sorry I thought you were... and usually they would spit out the wrong name before I could say Angel.  So it became a game that was originally a joke.  It was still kind of a joke.  I mean really, who could believe in such a dumb plan?

I had run the name search patterns so many times I was finally bored with the prospect that an Angel could come. Something changed in the nature of the joke because women were beginning to give me a funny kind of look when I asked their names—like I was a cop—so I begin to call off the search.

I had almost forgotten I had ever started it when just like it always happens when you least expect what you’re expecting to come, it comes. There she was. I think of her black eyes, her black hair, her low voice, and now the irony of knowing her full name.  My skinny little whore with AIDS. Dark Eyes real name is Eve Lucifer, yes Eve and the Devil. She is my own fallen Angel. Everything is funny if you wait long enough.

 *************************************************

Santiago and Oscar had gone through another week of being two grumpy old men.  Only young Jamaal was a gentle pressure valve between their two separate but equal depressions. Jamaal continued to joke and talk about the women in the world he had met on his travels.  He had come to a formula that he said was the perfect combination for the best possible life.

”What is it?” Oscar said with a sour look on his face.

Jamaal smiled his gleaming white teeth across his cocoa brown face and said, “American life, Japanese wife, French wine, everything fine.”

“I think you might be right Jamaal, but how do you meet Japanese women in Corsica?” Santiago saw some possibility to Jamaal’s theory.

“Right time, right Japanese woman arrive like magic,” Jamaal said and laughed.

“Yes, any day now, a Japanese woman will arrive here and ask to pick strawberry’s with you out in the field Jamaal,” Oscar said.

“It is possible,” Jamaal said.

“Yes, and it is possible that Sophia Loren will have a dream I am making love to her tonight and…” Oscar began.

“Who is Sophia Loren?” Jamaal interrupted innocently.

Oscar stopped his train of thought and just looked at Jamaal.

Santiago laughed and then said, “Yes, Oscar old man, who is Sophia Loren exactly? Is she worth dreaming about?”

“Oh bugger off the both of you. I was only making a point.”

The three of them carried on the talk of a good life until siesta time. Oscar went to his abode, Jamaal to the shack behind the sorting shed, and Santiago returned to his table in the guest house and picked up the journal he had been reading and randomly flipped to another page.

 

Back in the USA, May  7, 1995

I got to New Mexico feeling like the proverbial chicken without a head.  I decided to drive up into the mountains of Colorado

That was almost a week ago. I returned to a ski town called Telluride. I lived in this rich mans playground thirty years ago when it was still just an old mining town.  At that point in history it was returning to its boom days, but this time instead of gold, it was white powder meaning snow, cocaine and Hollywood one-upsmanship that collects in jet-set arenas.

I left Santa Fe at 9 p.m. and got as far as a campground near the Colorado border before I was too tired to drive on.  It was a snap decision made after I had called Dark Eyes who had gone to Paris, back to her room on Rue St. Denis.  I felt like my balls were crushed. She told me that we shouldn’t see each other again.  She made the lame excuse that it was interfering with her work and she needed the money. Fucking whore.

Yeah right, and she called me a fucking whore because I was running back to America just to make money. She was pissed off I didn’t want to bring her with me. We are both whores and we are both dying in our own miserable ways.

She says she is in a money predicament (even if her father is a millionaire). She said we are grown-ups, not teenagers in love, and bills have to be paid. But it was bullshit!  I don’t know if she needs the money so much as she needs to wrap her pussy around men’s brains and fuck with their minds. She fucked with mine good enough, but maybe if I was honest I would realize I just fucked myself. It seems to be my never ending history.

God, what is wrong with me? I left a perfectly good wife to find a cut throat nymphomaniac, and then I fall for a common street whore. I must be mentally ill...but hey, life is not so simple and everything can be seen from the rear-view miiror.  There was a reason to take each step I walked towards Martina, and then God the Joker, placed Dark Eyes in my path. I could not avoid her. When one reads life like a book, the only way you will ever get to the end is page by page…

Dark Eyes…I said to her in the heat of love making that she could come with me to America – but she did not want to—I don’t know, maybe she panicked about being with just one man, or maybe it would put us together in a permanent role that would interfere with her old junkie lifestyle—that is, doing only what she wanted to do when she wanted without regard to others.

But it was me, who was doing what I wanted to do without regard to what was an obvious catastrophe.  I knew what Dark Eyes was. It doesn’t take a genius to know you might get more than you want playing Russian roulette. She was the one bullet in the spinning chamber. My confusion and madness with Martina buried my mind. I was trying to put separate parts together without consulting the mechanics of reality. I thought about that, but anger is another disease.

The end result was I got mad at myself for falling for the same old  bag of tricks I have gone for some many times.  So what was I to do at this point but to throw the idea of her out of my life and out of my consideration?

When I got back to the states I was still confused, so I decided to take up the invitation of a poet friend in Colorado who invited me to a Poet’s Reading in Telluride.  It seemed like any insane idea, but I thought maybe the way to escape insanity was to go deeper into it. Telluride is a lunatic asylum for the rich, the famous, and all of us confused hearts…

I should have gone without looking back over my shoulder, and then there would have been no pillars of salt.  But I was a fool again, keeping to my ingrained patterns I decided to call Dark Eyes. I drove into town and found a pay telephone at a connivance store. Cars getting gas were so noisy I could barely hear her voce when she answered. 

She seemed spaced out and didn’t recognize my voice.  I begin to burn.  I said something about I had thought of her all the time and she said, she would write to me.  There was an awkward pause of silence.  Then she said “I’m going to stop working the streets.” Then she began crying and said she was scared as hell.  That’s all it took. A few tears from her and I was saying, “Hey baby, everything’s okay,” and feeling guilty she was suffering...

Suddenly I was no longer mad.  She kept saying she was sorry, and then she said, “I hate apologizing. They’re only words,” I told her she had to go towards light not darkness.  She sighed and said, I know, I know, I know. Her words were soft and I wanted to hold her in my arms—but it was the mixed calculus puzzle of man and woman, all of it like a broken porcelain vase lying on the floor of desolation.  She drifted into me and then away from me.

Thirty minutes later we said good night. I stood at the pay telephone for a few minutes before I drove off into the New Mexico night feeling that battlefield fatigue of crazy and numb.

In three hours I was at the Colorado border and found a place to camp for the night.  I went out and set on the tail gate of my truck and said to myself, “SUFFER BABY SUFFER...”  I set there under the stars being alone, except not alone because I brought two of my dogs that I had dumped on a friend before all of this mad adventure began. Now they were with me and the stars.

Cigarette after cigarette I wandered into the puzzle that was surrounding my soul.  I had a sleeping bag in the back of the truck.  I climbed into it and picked up a book I had brought and begin reading by flashlight. The book was by a Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chödron.  The book’s title was, The Wisdom of No Escape.  There was no answer, no immediate revelation. I read for awhile then turned off the flashlight and tried to imagine Dark Eyes next to me, her lips on mine, her sweet beautiful tongue caressing my mouth. I had been sleeping only a few hours every night for over week. I was on the edge of reason.

In the afternoon I arrived at Telluride, thinking the Poets Reading would be somewhere near.  After two hours of searching I met a couple of born-again hippies who said they were going to the site. I followed them in my truck but after 40 miles I was beginning to get rattled and the next 20 miles I was just plain pissed off because of either swallowing clouds of dust or being sprayed with balls of mud.  The road was a cross between the Sahara Desert and a monster truck mud drag.  I had no idea it was going to be 60 miles otherwise I would have just stayed in Telluride and looked up some old friends.  So there I was behind the wheel muttering, WHERE THE FUCK AM I? I was thinking, this better be an amazing event…It wasn’t.  

When I got there my friend, Pete the Poet hardly seemed to notice me.  In fact he seemed completely stoned out of his mind, and kept saying, “Have some really groovy mushroom soup man!”

I had just driven over 300 miles to come to some hippie festival in the woods, and he acted like I just popped in from next door—but that was the least of my growing anger, because instead of there being lots of other poets, musicians and artists as I had been led to believe, there was only eight other people.  There was no music, there was no art happening, there wasn’t even a big bond fire.  There was only a pathetic little pile of embers struggling to produce flames as big as a candle.

Pete the Poet kept yelling ALL RIGHT SOUPS ON!  He bounced around acting like a cosmic guru being the host to this small collection of lost-in-the-woods-hippies.  I was beginning to dread everything I might hear at this so called Poetry Reading but I was trying to be there in a meditative frame of mind, trying my best to remember the words of the Buddhist nun.

Pete the Poet picked up a hollow gourd and said IT IS TIME FOR THE GOURD CIRCLE, and then read a piece of poetry about Mount Tamalpius in San Francisco.  It was full of cosmic observations and not so bad.  He then passed the poetry gourd to me so I could recite some favorite piece of poetry.  I coughed and said, “I call that piece clearing the throat,” and passed the gourd on. The next reader, a woman, read the poetry I expected, something bland, white, and middle class. She passed in on to a young freak. He spoke like he had memorized Kerouac’s On the Road by heart but somehow he had turned it into a William Burroughs cut-up.  He passed the gourd on.  The next person read something of the great nobility and wisdom of Native Americans.

At that point I wanted to throw up.  I was beyond being pissed off and irritated, I was revolted.  What the hell was I doing with these middle-class privileged pseudo-intellectuals pretending great universal sensitivity?  I began to fizz like a bad sky-rocket but the ideas of the Buddhist book kept coming back into my mind—back off—let it be—experience this. The gourd came around again and again.  Each time I passed it on without a word.

Some of Pete the Poet’s stuff was good. Some of the others was almost conscious, but all of it was without truth, anger or penetration.  No insight—bland and boring, and all of it so predictable I couldn’t stand it. The Wisdom of No Escape circled around in my thoughts—let forces go in their natural way.  For once I had no right to stop a human action with my criticism.  I could just observe it without judgment if I tried. Thank God, I had stopped drinking, because if I was drunk I would have shit in my hands and flung it at their absurdity.  Of course they would have only seen a drunken ugly man yelling at them.  They would have hated me more than I hated their tedium.

I sat and listened, and then I thought of wanting to kill Neil and Martina – I thought of falling in love with a whore who had probably given me her incurable disease which might kill me before I died my own death. When the gourd came the next time I talked for a few minutes, hearing in the background, “ALL RIGHT” mumbled from Pete the Poet.  I talked about revenge and release from revenge. Somehow I brought the whole thought around to praying for an Angel and the Angel comes, but the Angel is called Lucifer. 

I passed the talking gourd to next person and he carried on in the style that I had started.  He linked his story to mine and slowly the others began to tell stories—none were worth a damn but the mundaness was over.  Each time the gourd came to me I added on another little idea to the one I had begun.  I became more relaxed with words but somehow I still was still irate. When the poetry session came to an end, Pete the Poet pulled out a bongo and started chanting Allen Ginsberg. I wanted to kill him.  I knew it was time to go to bed.

I went back to truck where the dogs were and talked to them like equals.  I was slightly hysterical and asking myself again what in the fuck was I doing there?  I opened a can of beans I had brought along and ate them cold rather than go back and look at the fucking psychedelic soup again.  I smoked a cigarette and picked up my Buddhist meditation book. I had been reading about Dharma—something that seemed to be exactly what I was in the middle of—an experience bigger than I could accept. I turned off the flashlight and lay down on my sleeping bag. I listened to the crazy poet and his hippies beat their drums.

I thought about Dark Eyes laying next to me, feeling her lips on mine, wanting her but worrying.  She was not going to make it. I thought about Martina and Leila, and Gypsy and the Stripper and The Teen Queen. I lay there in my puzzle of anxiety. I watched the stars for a long time after the howling had stopped.  I remember just before I went to sleep, I threw a thought up into the stars, what am I supposed to learn here? 

 ************************************************

Santiago had gone in and out of Ajaccio several times. He had been looking for some of the old friends he had known on the island before Martina had returned to his life. They were all still there, Charlotte, Pedro and Sophie, Charles and Rhonda, and the pillar of Corsican Society Duke De Pascal. They were still there and like Santiago the years had lined their faces.  Age was kinder to some than others.

Charlotte was sexy and vital as ten years before when Santiago had first known her, but there were a few pounds added, a few lines and now she complained of being tired and not remembering. And as usual, it was Charlotte whom gave Santiago the intrigues and gossip of the island. The only thing that was different was the location of the information. The old Café Ajaccio had closed years before and now they set in one of the new bistros that were opposite the boat docks.

“Mais oui mon cher, it is always the same here. Everybody makes love to the wrong one and no one is ever happy with the results. Only last week it has been reported that after fifty years of marriage, Duke De Pascal is leaving his wife to be with his mistress – the funny part is that it is the same mistress he has had for the last forty-five years so it is no news to anybody.”

“Who is the mistress?” Santiago asked.

“But you already know her—Madam Francionni of course.”

“Of course…” Santiago remembered the day he first met the Duke, and the body and eye language that was exchanged between the two old lovers. The Duchess who was present chose to look the other direction.

“I know that it is not the news of the Duke that you want to know…” Charlotte began and then hesitated looking coyly at Santiago.

“Oh? And what do you think I want to know?”

Charlotte smiled.  “I know you did not come back to Corsica just to look at me, although I would have been very happy if that were so. No, you came back for only one reason.”

“But Charlotte, you know I have always desired you…”

“Don’t be such a liar Santiago. You only lusted after me when there was no one else available.”

Charlotte, you don’t know what you are saying. If you would have given me half a chance you could have spared both of us a lot of nonsense…”

“I do not think so. The nonsense would have come to us just the same. But I know you would have left me when a particular woman appeared in your life. Yes?”

Santiago looked at Charlotte, and then a small frown creased his forehead. “Yeah, you are probably right. I guess there was nothing I could do to stop the wheel that began to roll once I saw Martina again. It is crazy. After all these years, she still seems to control my life. Where is she Charlotte?”

Santiago, you should just forget her. She will do nothing but bring catastrophe into your life.”

“She has already done that. Where is she?”

“I do not have any idea. She was only around Ajaccio for a day or two, and then she just disappeared.”

“Is she back with her Grandfather and the goats?”

“You do not know?”

“Know what?” Santiago asked.

“He was murdered eight years ago, after you left the island with Martina.”

“What happened?”

“No one knows for sure except for one thing – he was murdered by some one who hated him very much… they carved the word bastard all over his body.” Charlotte’s eyes dropped to the table, and she shifted in her chair. She looked around the café as if to see if anyone was eavesdropping.

“But what the hell for? He was just an old shepherd and what on earth could he have done to anybody?”

“Even old men can be bad men and have enemies Santiago. And he had been many things before he was a shepherd…some debts take a long time to be paid in Corsica—but really, no one knows.”

“So you must have some idea of where she is – you know something, don’t lie to me. Where is she?”

Charlotte made no reply. She just looked at Santiago with eyes that said no.

“I’ll find her, Charlotte, you know this island is too small. Come on, save everybody some trouble and tell me.”

“What will you do if you do find her? You should know by now Martina loves nobody but herself. Life is too short Santiago…”

“Yes, life is too short, and might be shorter than some people think.”  Santiago instinctively put his hand in his jacket and felt the familiar bulge that had become part of his body in the last few weeks. “I might have been a fool but I’ll be damned if I will stay a fool…”

“Leave her alone Santiago. You will only make things worse.”

“It’s not her that I want to see – it’s her company.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean my friend Neil who stabbed me in the back – Neil my best friend who should have died a long time ago in a far away country.”

Charlotte suddenly looked very worried, and the age lines seemed to deepen on her face. She looked more fifty than forty. “Are you crazy? You are mad enough to kill somebody just because of love? What are you Santiago, a teenager? And of all people to feel betrayed by, it should not be Martina – she would sell out her own mother. Really, you are a grown man Santiago. Do you think this world cares who sleeps with who?  Love, Santiago is a joke for fools, so if you feel like a fool, then you have swallowed the oldest lie in this life.”

Charlotte, you once said I was cynical. It would appear I have company.”

“Being cynical and believing in fairy tales are two different things. You Santiago, are like the frog who turned into an uglier frog after you were kissed by a witch. If you think Martina ever cared anything for you then you disserve the title of the ugliest frog who is also a fool.”

“Thanks Charlotte. I can always count on you for your understanding kindness. Remind me to ask for another friend like you in my next life.” Santiago stood up and leaned over the table and kissed Charlotte on the cheek. “Thanks for the help,” he said then turned abruptly and walked down the street. Charlotte picked up her pack of Gauloise and lit the 20th cigarette of the morning.

Santiago went back to the farm and immediately opened the journal.

 

New Mexico, May 10, 1995

I worked on the North Dakota project in the studio until the mid-afternoon.  I finished what I was doing and went back to my house.  Dark Eyes called from Paris. She was somber and went cold when I tried to get her feelings about me.  I just came out with it—the question, should I back off?  There wasn’t an answer to that, but just the tone of voice in the way she said NO that actually meant YES.

I told her about my strange journey up into the mountains and the ridiculous poetry reading. I said I bought her a mystic stone at a New Age jewelry shop in Telluride.  The lady in the shop had assured me it would put the wings back on a fallen Angel.  I knew it was stupid what I was saying to her, but it seemed like the thing to do.  Dark Eyes said she loved me then hung up.

 

New Mexico, May 11, 1995

I had to go back into Santa Fe today to buy paint supplies. I met Leila. We had coffee and talked about things coming to an end—meaning our marriage and the life we had known.  Leila had a defeated look in her eyes but I was feeling the fortunes of love. I was a cock on a walk and crowing inwardly of my hen-house chicken fucking—Dark Eyes filled my thoughts.  I have almost forgotten Martina, almost…

I came home and worked. I kept my ears tuned to the sound of the telephone ringing. The evening came and Dark Eyes had not called. It was 10:00 p.m., with eight hours difference it would be dawn in Paris, and no telephone. If Dark Eyes was working the streets, the work night would be over. I was nuts to let myself get involved with whores – The Stripper who did it for fun, and then Martina as a way of finding power and Dark Eyes as a means to survival. And now it seems her business trade brought the disease that will probably kill us both. I try to keep pushing the reality of death out of my life…which will it be AIDS, cancer, the bullet or will I trip over a pebble and break my neck?

I began to wonder if I had broken something fragile when I have taken women to bed. Did I break belief in all of them?  When we made love for hours and gave in to sounds of coming passion-lust, me coming and knowing they didn’t. I keep thinking, What have I broken? Why do I keep walking out onto the bridge of trust when I know it is so thin?  I knew from the beginning and yet I had to stick my dick into all of them. I just had to fuck women. I had to fuck myself…

 

New Mexico, May 12, 1995

Another day has gone by and I have not heard from her.  I gave myself a speech of Better off Without Her but the method left me feeling lousy. I was doing fine with Dark Eyes until we had sex—making love had negative affects.  I guess I suddenly became no different than all the other Johns.

I thought of all the things about her that were ridiculous—the negative side of her life—she isn’t a very entertaining lover, so how does she make money at it? -- she has nothing to talk about except the condition of her condition—she is a  ex-junkie but it’s all the same, being she is likely to fall again—she is a spoiled rich kid, and her Daddy is a son-of-a-bitch  and her Grandfather was a monster—she doesn’t think in philosophical or creative plains—she is a common street whore and  she sleeps with her dogs.

So am I crazy? What is it about her that I cannot get out of my mind?  Have I deluded myself so completely that I see someone else?  Is she only a projection of my fantasy, or a lifebelt for the shipwreck of Martina memories?  Why do I look for sinking ships? I ask myself a thousand questions and the only thing I can answer is that I am pathetic. Martina and Dark Eyes are tied together inside of me in some kind of fucked up Celtic love knot.

Dark Eyes is not stupid.  I have never thought she was or for that matter cluttered with pseudo-intellectual bullshit.  She has a clever mind but she has had some bad rolls of dice, and she made careless choices that pulled her deeply into the drug game.  It is a miracle she’s still alive.

Why is it after traveling halfway around the earth, and more than half of my life, I ask God to send me an Angel, and I receive a woman named Lucifer?  A woman I hardly know at all except things I don’t want to know.

 

New Mexico, May 13, 1995

She never called last night so to distract myself I went to hear a band playing up at the local bar. I sat down at table with a lesbian pal and we began talking about how bad the band sounded. Bad as in Rotten. 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Fat Albert swing off a bar stool and hang a hard left as he wobbled like a spinning top in the direction of the dance floor.  He was in his usual dress of an overlarge shirt of faded Hawaiian flowers, a grease stained floppy miners hat and pants hanging just below the hairy crack in his ass which would wink at you occasionally through the large hole in the back of the shirt. Altogether Fat Albert’s body had the grace of a life-size potato bag covered in the rejects of a thrift store fire sale.

Just as Fat Albert staggered on to the dance floor he turned suddenly and reached back in the direction of the bar and pulled a gal named Slinky Gina to her feet.

“Oh!” My lesbian pal said. She had been following Fat Albert’s meandering wallow as well.

I looked at her and said, “What’s up?”

She said, “Fat Albert better watch it.”

I looked back and saw that Slinky Gina who looked gorgeous and lithe in a clinging black body sock had actually followed Fat Albert out onto the dance floor preceding him by about eight feet, and a she was moving like a belly dancer with an electric wire up her butt. Fat Albert had raised his arms up as though he was lifting an enormous refrigerator, and was sliding his feet along the floor that appeared to be covered with invisible fly paper.  I thought perhaps he was on the verge of passing out as his arms went up in the Irish salute for receiving the Kiss of the Earth.

I was wrong.  He actually lifted  one foot off the ground two inches and then smacked  it  back down as he wiggled his enormous ass in some kind idea to a distant rhythm.  I realized he thought he was dancing.  My eyes went back to Slinky Gina with the raw electric asshole circuitry increased so much she looked like a bag of cats someone had set on fire.   Fat Albert meanwhile was moving his dramatic dancing technique towards Slinky Gina like a Russian tank towards the Brandenburg Gates. Every time Fat Albert got within a foot of Slinky Gina she would jump out of the way and on the other side of him as quickly as a mongoose would move from the poison path of a cobra.

I had been feeling really blue, but the dance between the ogre and the nymphet was so funny I thought it was something they had copied from a traveling circus. Perhaps the humor of it was only intensified because I had been talking to Fat Albert earlier in the week during the morning coffee hour about the concept that GOD IS DEAD.  It appeared God was inside of Fat Albert impersonating a petrified tree stump trying to move back to life. 

Slinky Gina continued jumping out of the way of Fat Albert’s relentless attempt to put his body in crushing space next to hers. She was laughing and saying something to Fat Albert because you could see her lips move.  The band had moved into a screaming punk rap piece that had driven three-quarters of clientele from the bar.  Fat Albert was saying something as well because you could see his jowls almost a flop down on his shoulders.

“Oh!” my lesbian pal said again, “Someone better stop this before it’s too late.”

“It looks to me like she can take care herself,” I said.

“This is getting out of hand,” my lesbian pal, worried.

I set there and wasn’t concerned because it looked like Slinky Gina was ahead at least 100 points and could disappear like wind.

Without knowing or caring I just began to laugh.  I felt like a little kid watching the clown show that Fat Albert and Slinky Gina had trained for decades before tonight’s debut performance—The Dance Therapy of a Drunk in Primal Quest, while The Jezebel Waltzed Circles Around an Inferior Stud.  Fat Albert was no benefactor for the continuation of the species. I was laughing, but I was laughing too hard, because I knew deep down the dance I was performing with women was no less clumsy than Fat Albert’s.

My lesbian pal looked at me and said, “I hope she doesn’t do what she usually does.”  I had no idea what she meant by that.

The band screamed on for while until apparently they noticed they had driven most of the customers away.  It was either the band and their noise or perhaps it was my bellowing laughter.  No one else seemed to think that Fat Albert and Slinky Gina were funny except for Helen and Finney, two of the town drunks, who knew the sadness of my laughing.  My lesbian pal touched my shoulder and was about to say something to me when I saw her eyes divert to the dance floor and she dropped her hand to the table.

The town brute who everybody calls Mad Moose, moved like a ballerina onto the dance floor, elegantly stepping between Fat Albert and Slinky Gina.  Fat Albert might as well have tried to stop a real moose.  Mad Moose was a foot taller than a Fat Albert and at least 100 pounds heavier.  Fat Albert shrugged, his greasy hat appearing to sink on his faded Hawaiian shoulders and he turned around and went back to his seat at the bar.  The performance was over, and I stopped laughing.

“Thank God,” said my lesbian pal.  I didn’t know if she meant me laughing, or Fat Albert’s hopelessness.

 ******************************************

Always the same bit of stinking, dripping, jungle. Fuck this God damn jungle. I hate this rotting piece of earth. It is not even this earth. It is a sick spoiled sore on the asshole of existence. It is full of puss and maggots. Damn it, damn it all! And always the same distance away from the helicopter drop. How do I know it is exactly 1,000 feet? It doesn’t matter it might as well be a thousand miles from nowhere. The chance of us getting out of My Lai are zilch. In this sector of the village it is  ten of us. The radio man De Sully, the two Scottish correspondents, me and the six wounded village gooks. Nobody has aged, but it is somehow twenty years later. Two Scottish war correspondents? What the hell are they doing in Vietnam? French, maybe I could understand, but Scottish, no. Still, here they are, Neil and Alistair. God they look so damned scared. Well, they’re not alone... Look at De Sully. Shit he’s white and he’s the one with experience – maybe that’s it – he has been through this too many times before. What the hell do I look like? It is the first time we have got separated from Charlie company. Fuck Captain Medina who sent us out. Fuck the S.O.B. He knew we were surrounded by Ho Chi Min’s best. That stupid bastard sent us anyway. Wait a minute. Who is stupid?  My squad is the one that volunteered. Never volunteer for anything – not even a free ticket home…

What are the correspondents doing here? Shit, they look as terrified as I feel. I forgot about the hundreds of village gooks lying around, blood everywhere. Fuck the bastards. They’re going to die. Look at the blood coming out. Look at the bubbles. Why are these women and old men looking at me? I can hear words come out of their eyes. It is not possible. Neil heard them too. So did Alistair. So did De Sully. Damn it De Sully, you are the sergeant. It is your responsibility, not mine. I’m just a medic. I’m not even supposed to be carrying a M-16. Damn. They’re going to die anyway man. We should just run for it and leave the poor motherfuckers.  They don’t have more than five minutes. Fuck you guys. No! No I’m not going to do it! Fuck you. Fuck you.

I pulled up the M-16. Their eyes said, yes do it. I pull the trigger and there is that weird fucking spasm bodies get when the life jumps out. I can see life run away. Fuck, look at the son-of-a-bitches. They are laughing.

There is something wrong with these people’s faces. Shit. They wear masks. I put my fingers at the edge of one. It doesn’t feel like rubber. It feels like skin. But it is a mask. I pull it up. Christ. There is another face. Shit there it is. It is covered in blood. My fingers start wiping away the blood. My hands are covered in blood. Blood is gushing out of my finger tips. The face is being washed by the blood coming out of my hands. It is turning into black liquid and as it flows the face becomes white. I can’t tell if it is a man or woman. The lips on the face are beginning to move. Come closer they whisper. They whisper in my ear, Assassin. I jump back and see the face clearly. It’s not a gook—it’s my face – fuck, I killed myself!

3:00 A.M.

Santiago woke up sweating. It was always a variation of the same nightmare. He always woke up soaked in sweat, even in the cold of winter. Now it was not winter. It was the beginning of summer. He got up and went the table and picked up the journal he had kept since he had last seen Martina in Paris.

Santiago looked at the words that were scribbled on the front cover.  He understood them perfectly. It was a cryptic self-portrait. “He rides on crooked rails yet that is only his body, for his soul is walking on a crystal tightrope and his mind is in another country.” He flicked open the book in the random habit he had taken in reviewing his past. Santiago began reading.

 

New Mexico July 14, 1995

In a week the doctor will tell me the details of the Lab report.  According to a news broadcast I heard the other night 86 percent of drug addicts are afflicted with AIDS – in other words almost everybody who sticks a needle in their arm illegally.  That is how my Dark Angel got her portion of the devil.  The night she told me she had been a junkie for 10 years of her life; I should have walked away from her and never looked back.

If I had done that, there would only be a sense of unsatisfied curiosity and a heart that was still crazy but not shot full of holes.  I would not have this appointment to find out if a virus got into my body. What does it matter when I am supposed to be dead soon with cancer? This is a fucking comedy. But if I had walked away I would not wake up in the morning missing Dark Angels black eyes, feeling her velvet lips—I would not be hurting the way I hurt. I would have the certainty of death—knowing what direction it was coming from – knowing that cancer was taking me down – but now with this virus, where death comes from and when is uncertain again – just like a firefight at night – will I be alive in the morning?

I will ask the doctor, was it in the saliva or the juices from her vagina?  Is it the air she breathed out?  Did something come out of her sweat, the sweat that I drink from the shallow cups of her slender belly?  Did it come out of the sad tears I kissed away from her eyes?  Did it stick on my prick as it found the deep inner circle?  Did it only take being close just once—just one fucking time?  Did I kill myself by touching Dark Eyes just once or twice or three times?  Oh doctor, don’t tell me I escaped the death sentence from so many battlefields of brutality and then finally fall from such a soft touch. Dark Eyes who kissed me with death even though I was already dead? My mind is reeling in bad memories…and still at bottom of it all is Martina…now the torment of double demons.

 

New Mexico July 15, 1995

Where am I?  Am I in New Mexico at the conclusion of the 20th-century or am I still in that hotel in Paris?  My mind is still on the seventh floor of the Hotel La Universitie.  I think it was somewhere in the middle of the third night I heard a huge clunk, like something fell heavy from the sky. I turned and looked at Martina.  The glow was gone. That light, that low buzzing glow of lust and infatuation—it was gone from her.  I clutched for it desperately but only felt my own terrified heart. That special thing was gone, even though her body was still there. Martina looked like my ex-wife Leila in our last desperate days. Unhappiness aged her beautiful face.

It was in Paris everything came together then fell apart.  One night of romance is worth the price, is what an old man once said.  It may be the truth. So what is three nights of romance in Paris worth?  I can tell you.  It is worth $3,000.  That is what it costs me. A thousand bucks a day until I cut back. $10,000 for a month. Maybe I got off cheap. Was it worth it?  Oh yes, it was worth it.  I would have spent a million a day if I had it.  I was crazy about her. She was sex and romance and adventure.  Yes she was crazy too. I guess Neil was as crazy as me. We were three crazy people that were just too close to the dangerous edge for too long. Some one had to fall.

We found the hotel La Universitie through a taxi driver—I barely understand his Parisian accent but could communicate with my rough Corsican French. Martina let me bumble through French and smiled. Neil’s ability was no better than mine. The cabdriver must have been used to bad French, as he actually understood most of what I said, but after my few clichés I gave up trying.  Whatever the driver said through the second half of the journey, I answered “Oui.”  He figured out I didn’t have a clue of what he was saying so he went silent. 

I felt relieved and watched the inner city of Paris roll outside the windows.  We drove into the middle of the famous artist neighborhood Montmartre and I looked at the big chestnut and plane trees along the avenue.  Everyone on the streets looked like they must have talked to Picasso. They looked so Parisian.  The moment with Martina and Neil seemed like a portrait in fractured cubism. I was in another time.

The mind is a funny thing and time is even a funnier. I could almost laugh, thinking that I am actually in this time now, this time in New Mexico that is only a thought away from those days in Paris with Martina and Neil. What is the truth of what happened? I must be very careful what I tell myself what is truth, even if I only want to believe it for a moment. The imagination is real, more real than words can ever define, more real than time, because time is the biggest lie.

One is trained to believe there is time, time that is ticked off second by nanosecond in our counting mind, and yet it is only a trick of numbers that make us think we are moving someplace, when in fact we are only where we are. It is s true what the grunts used to say, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

We fall for the old game that we are traveling through the doors of time, but we are only moving from perception to perception. Sometimes we believe the one experience that surrounds us is the complete and final reality, but even when it is death itself, that too is only a temporary phenomenon that becomes something else. Yes, one’s  imagination is more real than you sitting in a chair reading this little page of words. Soon even these words will become something more or something less into the next point of tricking you into a hall of mirrors. We are only thoughts, nothing more. We are what we think.

Martina seems like yesterday, not the months since Paris, or years ago when I first touched her face in Germany. Is there any separation in time?  Not really.  Not in absolute truth.  There is no separation—only the wrinkles on my aged face prove a distance in time—but the mind?  There’s no separation.  It is all now.  It is all together.  The mind is now.  It is yesterday.  It is the future.

I should have known in Paris something was completely wrong with the picture but that is hindsight again.  In truth I did know something was askew but I just didn’t want to look at it.  I wanted to be in bed with her, smoke hashish and tobacco joints she rolled and let her whisper in that beautiful sexy voice, fuck me fuck me baby... I loved the way she put her knees by my head and swallow every bit of me.  It would go on and on and at last when we would come it would be like the world was exploding.  The total lust of pleasure and pain was so delicious.  She would dig her fingernails into my back so deep the blood would trickle down my rib cage. We would both scream in absolute ecstasy—then she would lie there panting, yes, yes, yes…

It was like the benediction of Godhood.  She was my Goddess.  I was her God.  All of it was so delightfully stoned and insane.  The pleasure was beyond any drug or joy ride I had ever taken.  It was easy to fall into her sexual mantra.  It was easy just to forget everything about the wind and crashing waves on the ragged rocks of the coast.  I was floating in a dream.  I was Ulysses.  She was the Siren.

It was insane and I didn’t care—not one damn bit.  I just wanted her to say into my ears, fuck me fuck me.  I wanted to hear those magic words again and again.  I wanted her to sharpen her fingernails and let them grow as long as knives so she cut into the center of me.  I wanted that fantastic pain when I comed into her sucking wound.  I wanted to stay crazy with her forever.  We were stoned souls.

The last thing in the night was her voice in my ear.  I loved that sound.  Yes, yes, baby, baby.  We would fall asleep wrapped in each other.  Neither of us would move until the noises of the hotel began to rattle out in the hall and the light of the late morning sun would come beaming into the small alcove window.  She would make that perfect sound and pull my cock into her vagina and we would start the cosmic dance all over.  It would always go on longer in the morning – softer, not so crashing and tearing – slow, gentle, like a quiet river running over smooth rocks.  We were in a sleep love. Our bodies would slowly awaken and build tempo by tempo—our consciousness would become a sexual celebration.  Slowly our lust would build like a symphony  until a hundred piece sexual orchestra was roaring and thundering and the old French bed’s headboard would be banging against the wall accompanied by the metal braces and springs squeaking to Kingdom Come.  The whole room would lift and turn like a spaceship.  Fuck me, fuck me, was my morning mantra.  Fluids spewed out of the end of my magic wand.  Her fingernails would tear at fresh uncut flesh and we would both scream and fall off the edge of the world.

Afterward she would lay there for a few minutes looking at me mysteriously with her almond eyes searching for something that she needed to discover—as if she was a hunter trying to find the creature she hadn’t been able to slay yet.  Her hand would drop down to the side of bed to the little golden box of hashish.  I would roll out of the way as she rolled the first of joint.  We would lay together smoking ourselves into the dream of another day.

About noon we would get out of bed and only move a few feet.  We would go to the beautiful bathtub which was nearly three feet deep and six feet long.  It was from the turn of the century—heavy white porcelain and big round shoulders.  The taps were old brass polished to gold.  The maids did their duty and for the price of the room they should have -- $400 a day—and the bathroom was only part of a luxury—the walls were pink rust with olive green lines and white lilies painted all around the forest green wooden doors and flashing. 

The dark oak wood floors were of a timeless old world rubbed by a million lovers to a barefoot polish.  The basin was one of those large oval jobs with 100 year old varicose veins cracks running under the glaze.  The same brass fittings as the tub were polished gold. 

There was a small panel window of old glass that made the Paris skyline look surreal.  There was a flower box out the window full of morning glories.  If you stood at the window you could hang over the flower box and look over picture book rooftops of Paris.  It was a cubist collection of tiled roofs, chimney pots and cracked yellowed plaster.  The room was on the 7th floor. The hotel was one of the highest buildings in the old part of the city, so you could look over the patterns of people and their lives and see the Eiffel Tower only a few city blocks away rising into the northern gray sky.

It was a ritual.  We would stand there looking at the details of Paris as the giant tub filled with lavender bubble bath water.  We would climb in the tub when it was full, not caring that the water would spill out over the tub and onto the wooden floor.  I would sit to the back and she settled into me.  We would lie there feeling the heat of the water—the softness of the lavender.  I would put my arms around her and lay one hand on her hard flat belly while the other nestled in her sweet nest.

My fingers delicately stroked the little creature that would rise between them. I would pick up the sponge, the very soft one the hotel maid replaced every day and with a bar of herbal oils I would begin to brush away the lovemaking sweat from my Goddess.  We would switch positions after I had gone over every part of her, finishing so slowly, so fascinated with her skin, her legs, kissing the skin between her toes, running my tongue tip along the soul of each foot—then she would repeat the sacrament of cleaning my body.

In an hour we would get out, dress each other as though we were voodoo priests who had to invent the day.  Sometimes we would only get halfway through the dressing before taking the holy vestments off and fall into frantic lovemaking again.  We would not bother to wash off. It was a new day and the odor of our love would follow us as we went down to the antique cage elevator where the old elevator man smiled and smelled our lust as we held each other for seven floors down.

We would walk out into the streets like Siamese twins our arms wrapped around each other, our legs and feet keeping perfect dancing patterns as we went in search of our first petite cafe and French cigarette.  It was a romantic march into the city of lovers and everything the devil would like.  I was in love.  I was crazy.  Martina was crazier.

 ***********************************************************

Santiago stopped again. He had been twirling the pistol around by the trigger guard, and every time it stopped, he brought it up to his mouth, thinking now was the moment. But now was too soon so he put the pistol down on the table and looked at the journal again.

Somewhere in his writing, he realized that he had stopped writing for himself and he had begun addressing an invisible listener. Just at this moment, he finally understood he was writing to his daughter, Tara. She was the only female that really had ever mattered in his life, and she was the only person that he had loved more than his own pathetic skin. He looked out the window. Morning was just beginning to break. The top of the mountains in the Bastellica valley were beginning to change color from mauve to amber gold. He picked up a pen and began writing in his journal. He wanted his daughter to know something so that it might not happen to her.

 

Corsica September 1 , 2004

Nearly twenty-five years ago in April of 1968, about a month after My Lai, I remember a young soldier who did not know thoughts were more real than flesh. At the time he was trying to save his flesh from the mad gears of war. I’ll call him Simpson and tell you what I know of those moments.

It was after I got holes blown in my mind and freaked out in Nam. They evacuated me to the hospital in Germany. I had been in the Army psychiatric maximum security ward for only a month. During that month I had been trained in the procedure of how to be a perfect inmate by two fellow lunatics. We were all in the same boat except for the fact that they were black. Like many black men of my generation they had the famous names of very white and dead American Presidents, but I’ll call them John and Dean.

We were sitting in the room we called the loony-lounge, talking about the other nuts as we did everyday. Suddenly the locked front doors of the Psychiatric Ward made a loud squeaking noise as they burst open and banged into the walls. Two very large white MP’s had a scrawny and wiggling little worm-like black man who was wrapped in a straight-jacket held between them.  His feet were a foot off the ground and his little black head rolled like an eight-ball on top of his tight white canvass prison. Simpson’s début was a dramatic as a movie stars cameo appearance in an epic film. The rest of us nuts wanted to see the show.

The first thing that caught our attention were the doors of the nuthouse banging open, but what made us gawk was the bazaar aberration that  came in with  that swinging crash. It was the grim ugliness that lay on the faces of those two over-sized MP’s. It was obvious they were both suffering from the experience of their shared cargo and could hardly wait until they were rid of the wiggling lump of black flesh they held in the grip.

I thought their anxiety was brought on by the lunatic screeching giggle that was coming up out of this little black man’s throat. It had the combined affect of squeaking metal brakes and a flock of crazed clucking chickens. The volume of his horrible laugh shot up and down like a roller coaster.

What I noticed next was the brown dripping stain in the crotch area of the little black man. The glistening texture of the blotch contrasted violently with the starched whiteness of the portable jail.  It was gruesome and just by the color of it I could detect something worse was going to follow. The stain—that horrible shit looking stain. It wasn’t just the color of shit in Simpson’s crotch that was causing the rush of the two MP’s. No, there was something else. It was the humongous stench of what lay in his underwear that attacked their sensitivity.

Precisely, it smelled like shit, but not natural shit. No, it was more like shit from Zombie Hell. I have been in some ugly crappers in my life, from Saigon to Tijuana, but I have never once smelled such a distinctive explosion of human terror. I was slapped in the nose more concretely than an Irishman greeting the pavement on Saturday night. I swear I could see brownish-green fumes floating in the hall as the cackle of Simpson’s laughter echoed off the white walls. In less than thirty seconds the two MPs were banging the doors open again to escape the mental institution.

“Wow man, you smell that shit?” John said.

“That ain’t shit. That some motherfucker dead animal that got in his pants,” Dean said.

“That motherfucker stinks - what you think that dude eat to smell like that?” John said.

“I don’t know” I said, “but the army ought to use it in Nam instead of napalm.”

“Right on!” John and Dean said at the same time.

No one saw Simpson for a week or so. The Shrinks tucked him away in the padded cell everyone called the Rubber Room. It was padded six inches thick from floor to ceiling so a nut couldn’t bash their brains out without real commitment. Then a day or two later   I was having a piss in the men’s room. I looked next to me and there was Simpson standing with his dick in his hand, just like a normal dude, having a piss too. I couldn’t believe they had let him out of the Rubber Room.

“Hey man, they let you out --  far fucking out!”  I was just trying to be normal and friendly but Simpson was still obviously having a case of the heebie-jeebies, because he stood there and started to do his weird giggle act again. I couldn’t take it so I said,” Oh come on man—cut that shit out. You ain’t no crazier than me so you might as well quit the act.”

Simpson, quit giggling, made a hiccup sound and turned looking at me out of the corner of his eyes. “I see spiders,” he suddenly said, and started his giggle machine.

“Fuck dude, that’s a bunch of shit. Don’t you know everyone in here is just playing a game to get out of the war?”

Simpson just shut up and jerked his head around, his black little irises jumping around in the white bathtubs of his eyes. His brown skin had turned grey, “What do you means?” he said and slapped his face back to looking at the wall in front of him.

“Come on Man—nobody wants to be in the war.” We’ve all just playing crazy here – so come on tell me—how  did you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Stop fucking with me man—the only crazy ones around here are the fucking shrinks – So come on—tell  me, how did you trick them?”

Simpson looked at me sneaky like, his little black beady eyes flicking from side to side, to see if  MP’s were hiding in the crapper-stalls.

“Hey Dude, if you can’t trust someone else who is crazy you might as well go back to the Rubber Room and giggle yourself helpless.”

Simpson looked around one more time then he said, “Hey man, like I done signup in the army to be a cook but the motherfuckers puts me in the tanks battalion.”

“Welcome to the army, man. You think you’re the only one that got lied to?”

“Fuck no, I  finds out they lies to every bodies like that. Shit man, they gonna send my little black ass to Nam to shoots at some po’ motherfuckers that Ho Chi fuck’n Min lied off his yellow ass, so to get thems to shoots at me. Hey man, it fuck’n crazy.”

“I am right with you on that account brother. So, tell me, what did you do to get out, that is, I mean to get in here?”

Simpson finally gave in and explained to me that he heard his unit was going to be transferred to Vietnam and so he came up with the idea to start giggling all the time. When someone asked what he was laughing at, he told them, “It’s to keep the spiders away,” and when of course they asked what spiders, he would turn up his giggle volume and point at the tanks and say, “Can’t you see them motha’fucking spiders there?”  He would then run and hide behind the nearest garbage cans. It was only a matter of days playing his act before he was hauled off to the Rubber Room.

Over the course of the next couple weeks, Simpson kept up his giggling act anytime a nurse or shrink came around, but when he was alone with John, Dean, and me he was no crazier than the average American. Finally he had the formal tribunal examination by the shrinks and passed with honors. He was on his way home and OUT of the army. Us fellow Nuts congratulated him on being accepted by our noble Legion of Desertion from Global Chaos. We all understood that the war in Vietnam was more insane than anything we could ever do.

Simpson had made it. He was on his way out, except for one funny little quirk of life. That is, if you play at acting long enough, the act might  become who you are.

One day, all of us nuts, plus the other patients of the hospital were taken to the auditorium to hear the units commanding general give a pep talk on army moral and the fighting spirit. His speech droned on and within a few minutes at least half of the audience was asleep with their eyes open, their faces stone or sagging like wilted lettuce.

It was at the point where the General began saying he believed some soldiers were actually trying to avoid their duty, in particular fighting the evil commies in Nam, that Simpson began to wail in a loud horrible giggle. We all turned and looked at him, knowing this was not a good time for him to be doing his act. Dean, sitting next to Simpson hissed out of the corner of his mouth, “Shut up motha’fucka, or they  gonna to take you away…”

In less than 30 seconds, the orderlies had Simpson between their arms as he continued to cackle madly and they dragged him with his feet trailing behind out the double doors of the auditorium. “Thank God for that,” the General said, and continued with his rally.

When us nuts got back to the psychiatric ward, we were told Simpson had been put away in the Rubber Room again.

I woke up early in the morning, hearing noises of giggling. I looked out into the hallway. Simpson was wrapped up in a straight jacket, tied on a stretcher as two orderlies carried him out the doors of the ward.

A month later I was shipped back to America and I ran into Simpson again at the Presidio closed psychiatric ward in San Francisco. I spoke to him, but he just looked at me and giggled. He did not recognize me. The next day, he was put back in a straight jacket, strapped to a stretcher and carried out again.

“Where they taking that guy,” I asked the head nurse.

“Oh he’s going to a long term institution where they will try to bring him back to earth with shock therapy, but I think the boy is going to be there for good,” the nurse said, smiling.

 

Writing the story of Simpson, made Santiago’s scalp itch. He began scratching his head, knowing the outcome of the story had more to do with him than he wanted to believe—the  old sense of panic beginning to rise at his center, and he knew if he was not careful, the voices he had been hearing would become real, and he would be caught inside his own madness. He picked up an older journal and flipped to a page.

 

August 17, 1995,  New Mexico  

Last night I went into Santa Fe to slum around in some of the galleries to see if there’s anything worth seeing.  At a parking meter I asked a store clerk who was standing outside a shop smoking a cigarette if she had change.  She was nice but said no, she just gave away the last of her change for someone else’s meter five minutes before. At that exact point another woman stopped in front of me and said it is 5:59 and the meter cops stop giving tickets at six.  “Hey I don’t even need change,” I say.  The second woman and I walked up the street 50 feet together than said bye-bye to each other as we walked in different directions.

Ten minutes later I ran into her at a gallery opening.  We talked for a few seconds, and then she saw a man she knew.  I walked away.

Fifteen minutes later I was in another gallery. It is one of those galleries that have pure unadulterated trash.  I mean the real cream of the garbage art world.  Curiosity pulled me into this cesspool.  I had to look at the price tags $7,000 to $14,000 that seemed to be the round numbers these guys had settled on.  I heard the gallery manager telling a couple of wealthy Texans how the artist created only half the picture so that the viewer could complete the other half in their imagination.  It sounded bullshit to me, but before I threw up I was caught for a moment by carved horses that were swirling inside what used to be a tree trunk.  It looked like a carving that might have been done in a maximum security prison.

I was looking at the sculpture wondering why it only cost $8000 when I heard a voice say, “Hello again.” I looked up to see the woman that I had already bumped into twice—the one who offered to give me change on the street.  “Oh hi,” I said, “really I’m not following you but this is funny how we keep coming together—maybe we should go the rest of the galleries together.”  She laughed.

Her name was Ruth. She said she was a substitute teacher and there wasn’t much to do in class, but look at the art section in the Friday paper and decide what to do or see on the weekend.  She sounded lonely and I could see in her eye that crazy look a woman gets when she wants to find something, but is afraid to look.  She had that damaged reflex humans have when they have been kicked several times by other humans who can’t feel their pain—something like Dark Eyes.  I looked at Ruth’s face. It wasn’t much—kind of like a nun’s face—no makeup and scrubbed skin.  Her eyes were almost pretty. 

We walked on from place to place. She didn’t have the jaded contempt of art I have come to in the last 20 years.  The crap looked good to her, so I blocked my opinions and decided to be simple-minded no matter what I saw.

Ruth said she wanted to find a gallery that was giving away free posters to the first 50 people who came to the opening.  We peeked in more art junk shops until we found the gallery with the promotional deal.  They were featuring a Chinese artist who did Hollywood poster-style art. The paintings were technically well done variations of the same young sensuous woman with puckered lips and Max Factor eyes.  Sometimes she was an Eskimo with a polar bear—next an African princess with a lion—then an Aztec goddess with parrots—on and on. They were movie publicity garbage.  Ruth thought they were marvelous.

I was beginning to think of an excuse of why I had to go, when suddenly the gallery people came and asked if we would like to meet the artist.  I wanted to run out screaming.  An old man was brought to us.  He didn’t speak much English.  It occurred to me his style came from one of those Chinese art factories, and these particular pieces were his attempt to capture the America Dream.  Father forgive him for he does not know what he do, he is just a humble man in Disneyland.

She got her poster. The manager of this gallery seemed to be bending over backwards to nun-looking Ruth, saying he hoped she was satisfied with the gift.  It left me in the state of shock, being I had never experienced anything from galleries except Cheshire cat smiles.  I complemented the director on his ability to act human.  He looked at me and gave me the Smile.

Ruth and I walked out the door and went up the street to the next gallery.  More junk.  At this point nun-looking Ruth told me it was time for her to go. “How do we see each other again?” I said.  “We don’t,” she said. She walked.  I watched.

At this point in my mind was beginning to think all this human interaction was pretty funny. I mean, I started to get in on the joke that God and the Devil play—this little place where they think they are the only audience.  I think about Dark Eyes and she becomes a laughable romance – her black eyes and velvet tongue seem humorous—she is a comedian with her sickness.

I walked down the street, deciding to stop in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame to see an Indian woman friend. Her name is “Maggie Nag from the Res”—kind of an in-joke amongst the drinkers at the Cowgirl.  Maggie can hold her beers with the boys. She is not a drunken Indian but is a very astute drunken human. Like me, I suspect she thinks this life is much funnier if you go along with the joke.

Maggie Nag waved at me and I went over and stood with her and a couple of men she was telling some long bullshit history of the Indian wars.  She told me that maybe she had one too many brewskis. Her friend on the right was an Indian called Wes – I think he is a movie star—it was his birthday the night before.

Maggie said, “You won’t believe this but Wes was sitting at a table and had a blonde women sitting with him on each arm and then he got in a fight with this jerk Billy here and we nearly all got kicked out—man this guy Billy is such an asshole—Wes tells me Billy here is always causing trouble, but it was a lot of fun.”

Billy looked at me stupidly and said, “Yeah, like I’m always in trouble man, but Wes here always gets the blondes.”

I started joking with Wes that he must be like a magnet that attracts blondes and that maybe I should hangout with him so I can take some of the overspill—he laughed.  The other guy Billy laughed.  Maggie Nag laughed.  I laughed. 

Now we’re all getting in on the joke.  So here we are laughing when suddenly this attractive blonde stops in front of Wes and said hello. I said, “Look it’s true, he’s a blonde magnet.”

The Blond looked at Wes and said, “Maybe it’s true, I’m always attracted to dark studs.  I can’t stand fair-haired-blue-eyed men.” She clicked her eyes on me to confirm the verdict.

Wes had black hair and he looked great.  He said something mutinous to the blonde.  They obviously knew each other.  I said to the blonde ignoring her snub, “Well thank God because I can’t stand being pressured by all these hungry women.” 

Dark Eyes and Martina ran through my mind like a split-second MTV clip.  I felt their tongues in my mouth. I felt the wound that was beginning to heal open up.  I ignored that nanosecond of torture as it flew past me like crows in the night.  The blonde was attractive.  I watched her as she talked to Maggie Nag and the two men.  She flicked her attention my way once or twice when I made some witty observation due to my new consciousness of the comedy palace. 

In a few minutes she was sitting at the bar next to me with Maggie Nag on the other side of her.  I bought her beers.  The conversation went on for awhile between the two women. As the blonde’s third beer got close to the bottom she redirected her attention my way.  Hey, I got to buy her beers as well as being in on the joke. 

Five beers later I gave the blonde and a blind guy she befriended a ride home.  I took the blind guy home first.  He was shit faced but he managed to guide the way back to his door even though I had to hold him up. I guess the darkness was no problem for him. I could hardly see my way back to the van and the drunk Blonde. 

I took the blond to her house and hesitated with the engine running. “Want to come in?”  She said. I went into her house and we talked for another hour.  I made no moves.  She made no moves.  I didn’t think about the other women of my life once.  We run out of chatter and the situation was either stay and get on with a move or leave.  I decided to play out the game. I left.

I got home feeling good about playing the little joke on the blonde by denying her my body. Right, like she cares.  I thought about sitting next to the blond in the bar.  I thought about her face being only a half inch from mine and her talking into my ear.  I thought it was good to have a blond woman who sat with me, letting me touch her legs casually, put my hand on her shoulder and let me buy her beer.  My heart wound was healing.  Love was going out of my thoughts.

Early the next day I called the blonde. “I’ve got a brilliant idea.  Let’s go dancing—let’s go to the Arts Fiesta in Albuquerque in the morning – let’s hang out—let’s do everything and see what happens.” 

The blonde is all agreement.  I hang up feeling lovers disappear into some ancient land of broken parts.  I can hardly remember their faces.

In the late evening I put two condoms in the van – getting laid takes getting laid off your mind. I called the blond.  I said, “Are you ready for clubbing tonight and the Arts Fiesta in the morning?”  I made no mention once of what we would do in-between. 

She said, “I was going to call you—I don’t want to go—no energy…” 

I wasn’t surprised.  This is part of the comedy palace.  I was supposed to laugh, but I said, “You want to meet for a drink?”  The magic word.  Drink.

At her house I noticed something different about her.  What could it be?  She had on a dress and last night she had on Levi’s.  No, that’s not it.  Oh yes, last night she had five pints of beer in her by the end of the evening.  I guessed she must be sober.  Yes, that was it.  On the way to town she tells me she had a cup of coffee and it fucked up her energy.  We went to the Cowgirl. She liked the beer there and both of us knew other people in case we had nothing to say to each other.

At the restaurant I ordered Cajun jambalaya, a Margarita for her and a glass of fizzy water for me. She was a whole lot different. Our conversation from the night before was liquid and funny but now it was frozen.  I was thinking, this whole thing is a very bad idea, and started to wonder how to escape. 

Then she said, “A guy came by who lives next door—we smoked a joint and it made me feel really weird—he kept stepping into my aura.” 

She smoked a joint after she agreed to go out on a date with me.  “Oh, I see.”  I have actually seen.  She is stoned, wired and paranoid.  Oh boy, I pick a Dark Angel who is an ex-junkie, and next I get a New Age Blonde who is freaked about auras.  We ate the jambalaya then stood at the bar.  She was very jittery and it was clumsy between us.  I leaned toward her and said something, because the bar band was so loud.

She jumped back and said, “You’re standing on my aura—you’re too close—you keep getting too close.”  This was getting very funny.  Who wrote her script?

I was dying of laughter. I made sure I didn’t stand on her aura again and kept a respectable three feet away. The band was so noisy I couldn’t hear most of what she said until finally she yelled, “Do you want to stay here?”  I say no, and then she walked out.  I followed.  I took her back to her house, still trying to think of some way to back out of going to the Arts Fiesta.

When we got to her house she asked once again if I wanted to come in.  So I went in and the talk was easier. I changed my mind and decided to keep to the plan.  I asked if she had an alarm clock and she said no, but she got up when she needed to. I went out to my old beat van and sleeping bag. I tumbled to sleep after an hour of turning loops.

I was restless all night but drifted off somewhere before morning.  I woke up and it was light. We had missed the fiesta.  I went back to sleep and woke up two hours later.  The sun was bright.  I said to myself, what an idiot.  I got in the driver’s seat and started the van.

I don’t know what I do with women.

 

August 19, 1995 Locorado, New Mexico

Do you remember Jimi Hendrix asking, “Are you experienced?” Yes, I am experienced.  Maybe that’s why I had to come back to America. Maybe that’s why I’m done all the crazy things I have done for the last 30 years—because I was one of the experienced.  When I discovered there was a place in the world where there was a whole community of people that were experienced, it seemed at least I had found my spot.  I had no idea; all I had found was a public insane asylum where all the inmates agreed with each other no matter what was said.

That is Locorado, a little town in New Mexico.  All of the inhabitants are proud of being known as Locorados.  There used to be a sign in the only bar that said “In Locorado there are no town drunks – we all take turns.” There has never been any truer statement made about any town.  I took my turn with dedicated persistence for 10 years.  We were all one big happy family about politics and heartaches.  Of course only one or two of us had ever come close to admitting we were alcoholics, but then we would be exposing things that were not to be looked at.  Yeah sure, denial is not a river in Egypt but it is a way of life in Locorado. After all, we were experienced and it is scary to remember.

There are 2000 rumors about Locorado.  I suspect most of them are true.  It is true that the hometown was deserted at one point in history and you could have bought any building for less than a broken down Chevy.  In fact you could have bought the whole God damn town for less than a used Ferrari.  A few original freaks came and bought what they could—some made their last big drug deal in some dirty city in America and now they were going to be respectable.  Some started small shops and quaint little boutiques.  It all began in an organic fashion. Freaks attracted other freaks.

Locorado was a mining town of over 3,000 people at its zenith but it was down to three families in 1967. The mine had run its course and the coal that the miners were pulling out of the guts of the mountains was no longer profitable.  Mining had destroyed the aquifer and the water was so black and so fierce smelling it bit your nose before you could put it in your throat.  Perhaps this is the legacy of why everyone prefers to drink beer or whiskey.  The water is still rotten 50 years after the mines have closed and no doubt it will remain stinking into the 22nd century.

Locorado is a town where tourists are ready for reaping instead of the mines. 

Now instead of minors plundering the earth, it is the trinket shop merchants drilling for tourist bus tours. 

Now instead of hard working rock busting immigrants, it is wrinkled refugees of the sixties scheming out how they can work the veins of wealth without the pain of sweat.

Now it is Trust-Funders writing screenplays, born-again hippies playing guru spiritual and congregations of bandits who grow the strongest marijuana in all of North America

Now it is a gaggle of heroin addicts and low-flying scum butts who sit in the shadows waiting to see what they can steal. 

Now it is artists and writers who have left the big cities and big ideas behind and pretend in the wilderness that art is still worth while. 

Now it is young people who smoke marijuana from early morning to the evening as they sit on a rock wall watching the turbulence of earth energy or play hacki-sack or skate-board in the middle of the street. 

Now it is the handful of us who are experienced, who have come to this insanity and try to travel in time. We all come-together in a ghost town in the hills of northern New Mexico.

I drove back from the hospital in Albuquerque looking at the land as I went along trying to see it for the first time – as though I have been locked away in the square gray box for years.  I wanted to see the land as though it was a living creature.  It is the color of the trees, the sky, but what really vibrates are the rocks.  They look like old souls, like born-again revelation.  Like Salvador Dali and God.  The contortions of the rocks look tantric, tormented and turned on.  The land is having a trip.

It is no wonder the town of Locorado looks like it is having a psychotic experience.  That is Locorado – like an old lady who in her youth was very beautiful and who had found a romancing gambler that swept her off her feet, bought her fine clothes and then dumped her in the wilderness. That left her with a cynical attitude towards men—but after her nineteenth nervous breakdown, she took to wearing the clothes the gambler had given her in her youth and now aged, toothless and arthritic, she tries to be seduce and embezzle the men she detested for so long—there is a disease under the gambler fabric and if you get to close to her, you can smell death on her breath.  She has amazingly young sparkling clients but they have no awareness of a joke in her head. The smoothness of the skin on her face is heavy make-up of theater and the pearly teeth sit in a glass of water by night.

After years of living with this old lady of Locorado, I’ve got used to her.  Yet I still see that there’s something ugly, twisted and contaminated in her every action.  The people who stay by her side have the same affliction—in fact the whole little town of Locorado is a collection of bruised and battered souls.  Some accept their wounds and pretend the world will go away while others sharpen revengeful swords, devising deep cuts for the next sucker who comes their way.  The population gets along the same way as a sick and battling codependent married couple.

Locorado is not really a town but a sanctuary of mad people who have come together in a fractal manner out of the chaos of the world.  It is a depot of sick people who have given up any attempt of cure and see their only choice is to live with their disease until they drop... but of course they will never admit such evidence to themselves.

In fact, they see the tourist-yuppie site-seer as the sick and perverted curse of life.  It is the outsiders who are demented.  It is those who live in capitalist America who are the crazies.  It is the fat consumer Republicans who toddle through the town in their rented cars and Winnebago’s, and born–again Easy Rider Harley’s who are the criminals, the negligent and the insane. Everyone in Locorado are the sane—it is the rest of the world who is crazy. It’s that America, the inhabitants of Locorado are avoiding—and just like the population of a psychiatric ward, the Locorado population cooperate by passive resistance with the facilitators of the American dream. 

Locorado is a tiny cosmic swirl of participants in the vast overwhelming machine of corporate America that is marching to hell.  The people of Locorado were once the children of the future, but now they are the burned froth on the stew of life.

Who knows for sure what my little valley looked like before the Spanish came?  The mountains that rise southeast at one time were completely covered in a large pine forest.  Now the mountain is left with cedar, juniper and pinion—pinion that mysteriously have all turned brown and died in the last 10 years. Some of the locals say it is the prophecy of the Book of Revelations. 

On the top of the mountain are a few tall pine trees standing like sentinels.  If you look carefully near the top there are also aspen which in the autumn create little gold patches.  But mostly there is a whole lot of earth to look at with sage brush and cholla cactus scattered sporadically.  The comment that comes most often from tourists is, “Gee, this is unusual country—golly, there sure is a lot of dirt here...” the only answer you can give is, “Yes that’s why they call it a desert.” 

There is usually not much more than 10 or 12 inches of moisture a year.  Most of that comes either from December to February when heavy snows fall, or the monsoon season from July to September when the rains are like huge gushing bombs in small two or three miles squares.  The rest of the year it is dry, very dry and the skies are cloudless.  That is a feature of New Mexico altogether, that even during the wet season, there is rarely more than one or two days of grayness.  The storms do their business for a few hours and then they split leaving the beautiful clear blue sky.

In the Locorado Valley, the mountains are a series of eroded foothills that circle around the south and east of the town.  The last humps of the Sangre de Christo chain of the Rockies.  Santa Fe is 25 miles north.  This country is the arch typical picture postcard of New Mexico.  The Galesteo River near Locorado trickles six inches deep and three feet wide most of the year but during the monsoon season runs eight feet deep and 60 feet across, traveling 30 miles an hour—this desolate land, full of stories of ancient travelers and modern maniacs  -- it is the place we continue to experiment with the experience. 

When you really look at the land, I mean really look at it, to see the layers—the folded burnt bleakness and deep shadows of junipers and cedar—then you begin to have something close to the experience.  It is as though the land is in hallucination.  Everything is just a bit too exaggerated, a bit too clear.  The mountains look like they are cardboard sets propped up against a startling sky.

All of this is in just the middle of the day, this surreal mirage but then the evening sky begins to pull up the night mystic.  In the East, magenta rises like a long low bank of colored tapestry. If you turn around and look to the West your mind will begin to bounce around like a ping-pong test because the colored extravaganza of too much.  No wonder all of the mental cases come here.  The sky is crazy.  They can relate. 

It is something they have never seen in the gray concrete of inner city projects without drugs they can stick in their arms or snort down their nose or pull up in smoke.  Here they can see the color spectacle just being naturally demented.  It’s free. 

It’s New Mexico, but better since it is Locorado, the capital of the best pot since Columbia gold.  One toke and you can be connected to the disconnection and you can forget you were ever experienced.

Straight America is out there, somewhere way distant, but we are all are here and they are there. We are the survivors from the firefight of Hell. We are the Walking Wounded.  Don’t think I separate myself from this morass—I am definitely part of it, even though my house is three miles away from the experienced. 

I am still crazy. I’m considered a certified member of the Locorado community—being most of the other member’s have witnessed me being a total right-off more than once—that is, a large dose of many depressions and angry episodes still after 30 years. How far have I come since then?  A couple of days ago I thought I was a universe away. Nothing is happening except now I am getting way past fifty.  Age is happening and I am still alive. Not killed by war, cancer or AIDS. I get to suffer lucky life. But then something happened yesterday.  I’m not sure what.  Maybe it was just the vacuum

I started thinking about Martina and Dark Eyes again. It feels like ten years since I saw them in Europe.  That is the vacuum.  I kept telling myself it was good they are both gone and that it is good that it is over and everything about their absence is a blessing.  But they have left me with the curse of memory

**************************************************************f 

Santiago’s scalp was itching worse…he worried about his sanity. It was ridiculous to worry about anything when he was convinced his eminent death would clean the slate. Why worry about madness if you no longer existed? 

Santiago, remembered sleepless nights  sweating and wondering if the hour of his departure had come. He would lay there terrified, wet and cold, waiting for his breath to stop, or believe the thumping in his chest would soon explode like a bomb. Usually somewhere before light he would slip off into fitful sleep, wake later groggy and slowly accept the miracle that he was still alive.

Santiago laughed, and thought about what the VA doctors had told him before he had left New Mexico. He wondered how such mistake of identity could occur…but he knew, it was just more of the same. The one thing that army bureaucracy had always been brilliant at was incompetence.

He laughed again, and turned to a page he had read over and over in the last year, because he still could not believe it was real.

 

April 1, 2004 New Mexico

I came back from Albuquerque with the results from the hospital.  I am clean and disease-free.  How have I escaped death?  Martina could have got me killed by one of her Mafia lovers. Dark Eyes could have given me AIDS at some point. All of it is a riddle and the whole damn thing was a joke yesterday when I found out I might live another thirty years…the doctors apologized profusely for causing me such a crisis in my life for the last eight years. It came down to one digit in someone’s medical records put on my file and vice versa. The doctors figured out the blunder when the other guy’s family sued the government over his untimely death, being he had my perfect health charts…

Yesterday it was crazy. Faces kept sweeping over my mind—the women I have been broken-hearted over.  I wanted them to be with me, kissing me, looking at me with their eyes. Forty years of old loves is a long time and I couldn’t separate their faces.  A kind of female blur was over me for a while then one face came to the surface. Martina, damn always Martina.

I needed that magic that romance gives life.  Like the lyrics of a country western song, I’m 10 feet tall and bulletproof—yes exactly, that is the magic of a really good full-blown fantasy romance—nothing can stop you when you’re so totally zonked in love with a woman—the most beautiful creature in the world and you are the luckiest man alive because she loves you. 

Of course somewhere down inside you know it is all bullshit but it is so good, it is so beautiful to believe that fantasy for those days, those few days... and then WHAMO,  its over and there you are—no matter where you go there you are—in the spot I found myself yesterday and then again today. 

It hurts.  There’s no physical evidence that anything is wrong.  But it hurts.  There’s no symptom of something wrong, unless you pay attention to body language.  You can see how the body moves slower, how the arms and legs look like they are in slow motion.  You can see the back slump, how the chest is sucked in and the gut is sagging.  You can see in the eye of the person that they are not really looking at anything on the outside but they are miles down inside.  They are deep in their own shit and their shit is the miserable color of blue, that aching blue that is so cold so hard it just hurts where a bullet can never penetrate, a knife can never slash.  It hurts in the invisible world.  You are not sick but you feel like you want to throw up.  You want to throw up and then cry, cry, cry, like a little baby.  Yes it hurts. I thought about the hurt of Martina.

After three days of Paris, the reality of the situation began to sink in.  It was over.  She had died on me, sitting right next to me in a perfectly healthy body.  She had died, or rather that myth I was carrying around, being so hypnotized by, that myth had died—but how could it be?  She was still breathing, still smoking cigarettes, and with her head purposely turned, she was studying the gray clouds of the Paris sky, and  I sat next to her, beginning to feel dead.

I had promised her a new life.  We would live in America.  We would forget Corsica.  We would be pilgrims together in the new Empire.  We would start life again from scratch—or that is, I would.  She had barely begun life.  She was young, only a few years older than my own daughter.  I was celebrating a half-century on earth.  Fifty years of bullshit, and I had finally had found paradise.  How wrong such a good idea?  The classic phrase, no fool like an old fool, and it was painfully obvious that I was very old and befuddled sitting silent next to Martina on the last day in Paris.

But in those first three days in Paris I was a young man.  Martina was old, wise and prophetic.  My love was a Goddess who touched me with her magic vulva and I   invented a dream as idealistic as a teenager. I reclaimed youth and climbed up the mountain path that led to the edge of oblivion.  It was a brand new day, brand new life.

A new life?  How many times have I tried to create a new life?  Perhaps, I have never stopped. There has always been a part of me demanding my legs to carry me off down a strange unmarked road in an unknown country—uncertain, undefined, a world of obstacles that must be renegotiated and resolved again.  How many times have I reinvented the fucking wheel?

And then there was Dark Eyes after Martina. Ah yes, Dark Eyes. We pulled into Waverly train station in Edinburgh.  The station was full of people arriving and leaving late Friday afternoon.  It was 4:00, but being so far north the sky it was already dark.  It was the last day of December and I was feeling like the last day of my life.  Dark Eyes kept her face turned towards the baggage while her eyes avoided mine as if snakes were crawling from my head.  I stopped trying to catch a glimpse of her mind and decided to concentrate on a taxi to the apartment of my friend. 

He was out of town for several weeks. He  telephoned from London, warm and generous as usual. “Just stay there don’t worry about finding place until you get back on your feet,” he said.

Dark Eyes and I took a taxi down to his flat in the port area of Edinburgh.  I didn’t want to think what I was feeling was real. The phantom of Martina was becoming Dark Eyes.  Part of me was begging to keep the myth of love alive. Dark Eyes looked like Martina on the last day. I could hear her voice and see she was just tired. She was in a new country and away from her familiar streets, and I was just overreacting.  Everything would come back to normal.  I wanted to believe that.  I wanted to run to bed and pull the covers over us and fuck all of the fear away.

We got to Alistair’s flat.  He was living in a new place since I had last seen him.  The new place was depressing.  No, it was suicidal.  It was a ground floor flat at the bottom of Leith Walk.  The walls were all yellow, painted that way obviously to try bring warmth  into the hell of the slimy cold walls.  Moisture turned the concrete floors black near the bottom of the walls.  The whole place was not as big as the interior of a  Greyhound bus—four abysmal rooms of the coldest square feet in Edinburgh.  There was a propane heater we pushed from room to room but finally we just left it in the room with the television.  I would run into the freezing kitchen, get food and wine for us then rush back to revive in front of the heater—but all that was a few days later. 

The first night we arrived everything in the house felt like a sponge that had been dropped in the slop bucket—everything was cold, went, slimy and repellent to touch.  The sheets on Alistair’s bed were not unusual being a bachelor as it had been sometime since they were clean but the questionable smear was still moist.  The walls glistened with water and a few scattered rugs on the concrete floor stuck to your feet if you stood on them for more than 10 seconds.  It was a miserable dump.

I had left my old life to escape a bitter world, only to jump right back into the bitter world – I followed young women that led me by my nose on a chain. I was a fool and I wanted to be.  I wanted to believe the unbelievable, that young beautiful women could fall in love with a ragged old fool.  When they gave me that story, it was too good to ignore. My ego couldn’t resist the flattery.

Now it is the past.  I look back at those days of my absolute delusion and try to find some portion that might have had a reasonable explanation—something solid, a tiny thread that was holding just a milligram of truth.  But all I can see was that I wanted to believe pleasure was mine to keep.  I wanted to believe I was ageless and pain  would go away—I wanted to believe that suffering was something that was meant for somebody else.  I wanted to believe I was on earth and it was my kingdom, that I had found the goddess, the fruit, the drug of youth and a love that would make all the storm clouds of my soul go away.  I wanted my dream women to erase the desperate loneliness, to give me peace. 

I was only human. Yesterday.  Today.  Tomorrow.  The swirl of time runs in my head like dirty clothes in a washing machine.  I find it impossible to think of what happened yesterday when suddenly today is even more confusing.  As a friend told me once, that when one is so used to being abused they look for situations to repeat the effect, but when we get older we forget that it is a repetition.  Am I doing it again?  Repeating without knowing?

I remember one of the mornings I went looking for Dark Eyes when I was in Paris, at an hour that I know she might be having her morning coffee.  She was.  I walked up to her and tried to look at her eyes behind her Italian sunglasses. 

“Hey you don’t come to see me anymore,” I said.  I was trying to be so casual, so cool.   

She gave me instant excuses and then finished one cliché of probable truth.  “I’ve been running around like a mad person.” I just looked at her. I looked at the cigarette stub between her fingers.  I looked at her black boots. She went on.  “I got a decent night’s sleep last night.  I took a Valium and slept 11 hours,” she said.

Yes, she can sleep—she can sleep with her pills.  She looked past me and started yelling at her pit-bull who was wandering around outside the cafe.  Several other dogs were causing a traffic jam on Rue St. Denis. Hookers were screaming at early morning truck drivers.  I looked at her again and at her long black hair that fell over her shoulder.  I could feel the dragon tattoos move on her back.  Emptiness was there.  She was gone.  She had never been there. There was nothing to be born that was already dead.  Once again it was my imagination, my longing for a dream, my belief in a mythology that was evaporating.  She was just the succession to a long line of women I had attempted to make the Queen of my condition.  But she was still too close in time.  Dark Eyes was in front of me.  I saw her person, her exposed soul.

I don’t know why, but suddenly she began to talk. Just talk, like it didn’t matter if it was me or a stranger. She was talking for herself, and somehow I knew that and listened, like a sneak overhearing a conversation.

“I don’t know how to do it,” she said, “I don’t know how to connect my heart to my brain – there is no bridge, there is no bridge! No matter what I do I can’t get across. I feel so torn apart. I have my mind in one world and my heart is in another world. I can’t put them together.  There is no bridge. I can’t put my life together. My heart, my mind…I can’t find the bridge that will let me cross over…” She was so damn sad and so damn old suddenly, and so very alone. I wanted to cry for her.

She was the person I was devoting my attention to—the person I woke up with every night with her in my mind, ever since I met her.  I woke up at two or three in the morning and she was there.  I had no pills.  There she was that morning after I did my best to avoid her.  I went and found her.  I saw her with my eyes.  She existed for me, but without me in her mind.  I was just a billboard on her highway.

Dark Eyes was the kind of woman on that day, my wife had been ten years before. They danced together in my head, loving  only themselves as I have loved only  myself—a game we repeat of selfishness --  each time it is played we make it more intricate, more diabolical, each time paying more of the Angels Share.

How did I ever start thinking of an Angel who would come into my life, when life is real substance and nothing more?  The idea of taking a mythology serious is a fool’s game. Why did I want to believe in dreams that only children, losers and the hopelessly insane believe. What was the Angel’s Share I got caught up paying? 

Maybe it was just the slang of whiskey finance or maybe it really was the vision of a heavenly-being tormented by demons of the underworld—or in my view, of finding a woman who had the power to give me the magic potion to enthusiasm—but that vision was controlled by earthly addictions—so the Angel was a Fallen Angel, who had no power to restrain the demons who pursued her, and no power to reach out and pull another pathetic soul to safety. 

That is the kind woman I have chosen over and over except for one time—and that one time, the woman who was my wife for over 20 years.  The irony was I never had exquisite passion for her.  No.  She was always there and supported me. Most of the time I wanted to get away from her, longing for my freedom.  Yeah, this is a story of irony—when the one woman who loved me and wanted to be my Angel, I could not see her.

Twenty years.  I can name nineteen houses and could describe every room, every piece of furniture, what color they were originally and what color they were after the decoration.  I can describe the smell of these houses—three countries and a thousand stories.  Twenty years with the same woman who I never thought was my Angel and yet she always tried to be. 

Yeah, the Angel’s Share.  I was my wife’s demon.  I was her addiction.  Now we are over.  She is on her own and I am alone.  We live apart, separated by miles and confounded by my indifference.  She is a good woman, in fact one of the best.  Sure she’s not perfect.  Are there any such beings?  But she is as good as they get.  But did that matter to me?  No.  In fact her goodness drove me to madness.  Yes, I didn’t want the responsibility of being good.  It was too hard. Too much denial of being the squealing pig—the excuse of looking for excuses—taking the away the good times of being a drunk, a dope head, and man who wanted every little pussy that passed.  The sampling had to end, to be with her.  She demanded single-minded devotion and would not tolerate the play of a man-child.  She wanted to be the Angel, who had not fallen from God’s grace.  But I wanted an Angel that was a loser.  I wanted a Fallen Angel.

 

April  6, 2004 Locorado, New Mexico

The sun comes up in New Mexico.  It is not like the north countries where weeks go by without a sunrise.  In New Mexico the sun spreads almost everyday with red gold.  It is the desert. There may be only ten days in the whole year that the sun is obscured, but even so, during those ten days the sun will pop up for a few moments and sail into the world.  The light is the desert light.  The light is bright, clear and sharp.  Every detail of the landscape looks as though it has been put under a microscope.  The shadows are black.  The earth is in shades of faded gold.  The greens are pastel, almost yellow from the dazzle of the sun. Green is never the green like Ohio or England.

People come here because of the stark beauty.  Many people arrive and love it for a while then leave because of the intensity.  The people who stay are desert people.  There is something in them that responds to the hard glare of the sun, the harshness of the land, the dry air that makes skin turn to leather.  Their faces began to reflect the quality of dried fruit.  The people who live here, stay here, are desert people.  People that are not terrified by the dead-look of the land, not fearful of the hallucinogenic sky, not intimidated by the ever present inspecting sun-eye of God, as it burns earth another day.  The people here are brothers and sisters to Lucifer, and they know they are not in paradise, but in the bone yard of mortality. 

The desert is the truth of existence, the very marginal edge of being alive.  The desert invites the derelicts, the dysfunctional, and the disillusioned, for here the soil reflects the discontent of the disturbed soul.  The land speaks of desolation and so the refugees of life arrive in the desert and find company not only with each other, but the earth itself, for surely misery loves company. The rocks, the dirt, the struggling vegetation, the dried crevices of old water patterns, all show existence that is broken and dried out by the bleakness of this tortuous life.  In the desert everyone is at the heart of suffering, just by walking out the door.  In the desert, everyone is reminded that every substance is temporary, even the stones.  In the desert, everything is in the state of meltdown.

One by one, the deadbeats, the lost and fallen Angels arrive in Locorado, New Mexico.  It has been a place that has seen many strangers.  For centuries, people walked from one end of North America to the other, even all the way from Tierra Del Fuego they came to this desert—this tiny dried patch of nothing in the middle of New Mexico—a bus station of travelers who came to find something that was precious and mysterious as romance, something as mystical as the burning sun that arrives every day.  These people were the first gypsies who walked into the hills of northern New Mexico and into slopes of the Ortiz Mountains. They looked for a stone that spoke of magic to them—a stone that was unique in color between blue and green. It is called Cerrillos turquoise.

“The Locorado Triangle,” said Brave Dave, “is where reality is nothing but an illusion—for instance in the Bermuda triangle, people disappear and you never see them again.  But in the Locorado Triangle, people disappear, but they’re still here…”

I had been talking with Brave Dave  about what I thought was a new vehicle in town—that is, a vehicle of a singular soulful look that belongs in Locorado, one of the few places where it could be driven with impunity from the law.  It was a beaten multicolored WWII Jeep, complete with roll bar a heart transplant of a V8 engine.  The character that was driving it looked much the same as a Jeep, except he was obviously born well after the Jeep was made.

Brave Dave said, “That’s been around here for years,” speaking of the Jeep. 

“Oh, I guess it just got running again recently,”  I said.

“Yup, it’s been laid up for a while—but the guy is new.  He comes down from Colorado—his woman was working at the store, but she got laid off. While she was there the FBI came looking for him—it seems he cashed some traveler’s checks that were stolen.” 

I laughed and said, “So another outlaw joins the band.” I watched the guy drive the Jeep down the street in the sunny day sitting in the wide-open driver’s seat acting as though he was clean as snow.

“Yup, the Locorado Triangle,” Brave Dave said, as he watched the Jeep casually roll down the street.

Locorado, is a town of mental refugees, ex-prostitutes, pushers, drunks, addicts, losers, finders and just a general contention of lost children that have tried to fit in somewhere else in the world, but were totally unsuccessful.  Locorado generously accepts all the rejects of other societies.  It is a town of at outcasts announced as plain-day outlaws.  The new guy with the Jeep is just one more to this vast heap of human trouble-babies.

I went down to the Big Bertha’s Coffee Shop that gives a 25 cent discount on a cup of coffee for locals. The 25 cents means a lot here. But the reason every inmate comes here is because it is only place you can get coffee in the morning—also there are quite a few chairs that are placed around convenient circles so the clientele can discuss such events as the resurrection of the old Jeep and the arrival of a new outlaw or vagrant with the complete security of looking at each other in the face knowing that any FBI agent would be recognized in a second. 

Big Bertha’s Coffee Shop is where the day begins for the inmates.  They come together mumbling the same thing people in Brooklyn or Topeka do at the first crack of day, like everybody else in ordinary America.  But after the first cup of favorite java, the inmates of Locorado  come to life and their separation from America begins. 

Maybe in all of American history, there was only one other place that was a forerunner to what occurs on a daily basis in Locorado, New Mexico and that place was Haight-Asbury district, San Francisco, circa 1964 to 1968.  In fact just about every one that lives in Locorado was a former inmate of Haight-Asbury.  The ones that were not in the Haight-Asbury more than likely graduated in Amsterdam

One thing for sure, everyone begins to change after their first cup of coffee. The day spirals slowly down a descending staircase, then drops like a bomb.  This is just the first moments of consciousness.  Within ten minutes you see the coffee drinkers drifting across the street to the high stone wall where they seem to take unusual interest in the cracks of that wall while passing something smoking from hand to mouth.  There are shifts of wall inspectors.  This goes on for at least eight months a year. Once the weather turns too cool to stand and look at the wall cracks, you will notice the cars parked by the walls have very fogged windows and the people inside appear to be trapped inside a meat smoker. 

Whatever time of year, by ten in the morning the Locorados begin complaining about the work that is in front of them, and it is another day suffering to pay the rent.  It usually takes another hour of talking about work before the last of the wall inspectors wanders off. That means they have gone to the post office to see if a welfare check is in the mail or at least have another chance to talk about suffering  -- that is,  if at the Post Office there are only Locorados and not the village nearby where the Spanish Mafia inhabit—for the two villages are separate not only miles but cosmic and cultural makeup.

It is true that there are a few of the “experienced” who actually live in the Tierra de Perros. The population of Tierra de Perros go to the Catholic Church or are out drinking beer in front of Maggie’s Bar.  All of the Spanish residents make sneering comments about the dope-smoking gringos seven miles down the road.  The main difference between Tierra de Perros and Locorado are the dogs and the doors.  In Tierra de Perros, dogs run in large packs and the doors of houses are never locked.  The dogs in Locorado are regularly rounded up by Animal Control and the doors are always locked. Things in Locorado disappear at phenomenal rates.

 

Locorado, June  5, 2004

The other night I couldn’t stand being in the house by myself—an every night condition in the price of freedom is having unlimited solitude.  So I decided to go up to Locorado only bar to spend a couple of hours talking with whoever, being talking with Locorados is better than talking to myself.  I have run out of new things to say to me. 

It was Friday night and I saw only a few cars parked there—not a good sign in that not only will there be limited company to find conversation, but that it will be impossible to walk in unnoticed.  It is better to slink in and out of the bar in an invisible manner. 

I was relieved to see an old lesbian pal as soon as I walked in the door.  She calls herself, Chihuahua Brown Sister but everyone calls her CBS.  She is more boy and more American than I am.  She was raised in the inner city of Detroit but claims that because of her Apache heritage and the color of her skin she is really a warrior princess.  She is a spoiled American city brat who doesn’t know shit about the country let alone ancestral roots.  She has spent most of her adult life fixated by the pussies of other women. All of her energy has been spent on being laid.  In other words, she is just the typical male and like me, wasted most of her creative juices pursuing cunt.

CBS is an innocent and has always been betrayed by the pussy she lusts after.  Our friendship is based on that we are two spoiled American brats who both lust for pussy. We came to an impasse a long time ago of desiring each other.  I always tell her that underneath my puny white body is really a voluptuous black lesbian trying to get out. She laughs, but being the pussy-mind she is, she never takes me serious. 

There have been times I almost convinced her. Once or twice I have even given her a smoldering ball rubbing on the exterior of her tight jeans.  She always says, “Not tonight—I’m not ready yet, maybe next week...”  And so there goes our little game.  We like to flirt but both know it is never going to go anywhere.  We are best at telling each other what latest sexual fiascoes we have been embezzled by.  So while I try to kid her I am a black lesbian she in turn likes to say she is really a great artist who is not yet unveiled her wealth of talents.  We spend most of the time just talking bullshit, but we know the game and forgive each other.

“I have money,” CBS says as I come up to her table.  “You want believe what happened tonight with the Black Bitch—you hear what I’m saying?  She goes on in her Detroit accent.  “Christ her and my girlfriend nearly got into big punching match.”

“No, I haven’t heard.”

“Man what a bitch she is—she comes in screaming really hard. Screaming she is. She was completely whacked out man; you hear what I’m saying?”  CBS looks around to see if she has an audience and then continues, “Man what a bitch.  She got kicked out of the bar. Number 86. What a bitch.  She grabbed my girlfriend by the collar and was just fucking saying all kinds of filthy fucking shit man.  What a fucking dirty mouth she’s got.  You hear what I’m saying?”

So I get the story. The woman she had lusted after the month before was coming unwound and had created a scandal in the Bar.  Now that is something to actually create a scandal in this town of scoundrels and maniacs. It is something, being every day at least a dozen events happen here that could make a front page headline. But in Locorado you have to really be colossal to get kicked out of the bar. 

The last person that was weird here was a young woman who had excavated the body of  her baby who had died the year before and carried it around in the streets asking people if there was a doctor in town—before that, was a guy who committed suicide on the front porch of the Bar during a tourist Sunday afternoon.  One hundred people watched him do it.  To make a scandal in Locorado you have to really be exceptional in blundering. 

CBS kept repeating, “You hear what I’m saying?” and I would shake my head in the affirmative as she rattled on about the details of her pussy chase, but my mind was not there. The story of the Black Bitch somehow reminded me about Dark Eyes.

Dark Eyes had not only dropped me out of the picture but she destroyed any connection with me.  I wondered if she was back to junkie life.  I wondered if the demons were getting in control of the Angel’s Share.  I wondered if they had their long fingernails embedded in her flesh. I wondered if she was still alive.

 

June 10, 2004, New Mexico

Dark Eyes. Where did I go wrong with her? I thought about how I became so enamored with the part of her ex-junkie character that was sympathetic to the mixed company of Locorado.  Depending on which alcoholic I was around, determined my own character. I was a chameleon who had to fit in with the color of depravity around me—the more fucked up the company was, the more jaded I became—almost as though I had to demonstrate I was at the bottom of a barrel of life no matter what scum-ball was in competition.

But Dark Eyes, yeah she had been there, and yeah she was “experienced” but she was somehow still pure, still a child innocent. I gave her the benefit of believing she could become a better human being—her soul could move toward light.  Maybe I overestimated her strength.  Maybe I disregarded the damage and corruption of spirit pranksters.

Where exactly is my miracle revelation?  When will I know what I’m really doing?  I am on the road of life?  Aren’t all of us?  Yes of course we are.  But in this case I am more so than most people? I mean, I was going to die and now the Docs say, nope, you are going to be alive a long time.

At one point a few years ago I was going to Fargo, North Dakota and leaving Martina, Dark Eyes, freaks of Locorado, and my ex-life behind in New Mexico.  I was leaving it on the asphalt strip of reality mile by mile but fighting the temptation to wander back into the minefield of the past—to forget those sweet lips and sweeter procedures.  I tried to block the high priestess from my memory.  I tried to stop thinking of love.  I tried not to think of those fingernails clawing across my back as I screamed agony and ecstasy.  I tried not to think of lying next to sleek bodies smelling the sex rising from the bed covers. I tried not to hear those words, their words, for those are the memories of a half dozen women.

I rolled on 700 miles, driving into a cold money future trying to escape the cost of a lost past—all the days of getting to Fargo, my mind wandered over those women—my ex-wife Leila—Dark Eyes—Martina – The Stripper – Gypsy –The Teenage Princes and  if only I could put that memory into a computer with the delete button, I would delete them all. 

I’m tired of the cross-reference of today with yesterday.  I am angry that I  play my mind into the future and began a new creation then with a flash of a color or a sound, I am  drawn back to a yellow room in Germany,  an expensive hotel in Paris, a mountaintop in Corsica, a wheat field in Scotland, a mountain in Colorado, the back seat of a 57 Oldsmobile—places that were a brief moment. Where was that woman, a magical goddess, at that moment, who I thought was going to save me from myself?

In the last crazy episode with Dark Eyes, I created a mythology with the exact purpose of a heroine that would come to save me.  Here is an irony.  I got a broken angel who was not a heroine, but had spent most of her adult life on heroin and shot bullets of her disease at me. She missed but I don’t know why.

So mortified, I drove down that asphalt ribbon of reality—that fine line of white stripes that lead me to the edge of my own wilderness—to my discovery or maybe a future.  I wanted to stop the drumming of old drums through my thoughts yet I knew I would only be able to forget when I was dead.

I went through Colorado the first day. The next day I was driving somewhere in Nebraska or maybe it was South Dakota, I tried to redefine the image of the Angel rising from the whiskey cask – the mural I had done in Scotland when Dark Eyes was with me.  My attempt was this: we are children who chase after a momentary pleasure that is so full of ecstasy that if we taste or touch any part of it, we are instantly intoxicated. It captures the thrill of danger, the beauty of life.  Perhaps it is the experience  surfer’s get when they ride 30 foot waves in Hawaii—when they are inside the curl of one million tons of crushing Pacific and they come out alive—they have to do it again and again, and then you see them on the beach years later, and they’re looking way out into the ocean looking for the big one—that thousand yard stare.

The Angel’s Share is all of God’s children that get caught up in the pursuit of the magic moment. We will do anything to get back to it one more time, including doing what will betray us, destroy us—like money, pussy, cocks, whiskey, beer, marijuana, LSD, cocaine, crack and the God Father of all illusion, heroin.

People say crack is the killer, but it is a pop-drug, here today, gone tomorrow—but the big H has legacy, has history, has distance and most of all has Lucifer behind the steering wheel of its direction.  But of course anything could become the pleasurable moment, like food for some people, others material possession, or the five senses of sex.

Here lies my own destiny.  Sex. I cannot do without it.  I cannot stop the memory moments I have played in Paradise. I have always been with women.  Nothing else.  Not a man in search of the unknown.  Not old trucks, not dogs, not even those miles of asphalt reality I’ve driven for so many years.  Only women.  Women are my drug.  I search for the moment again like the surfer on the beach with the hope of the big one.  I look to the horizon for the perfect pussy. I will ride it to the end.

I remember the first days when I arrived in North Dakota. After three days of travel I awakened in fog and hardly could see the immense world.  I had driven 1300 miles to Fargo, North Dakota to paint weird alien images all over a $1 million building.  I was actually being paid to do this and paid a fair wage—more than the average punter makes and it is certainly more than  the workmen on the site made—look at it as 500 bucks a day or 60 an hour,  a dollar a minute.

The first morning at the site, I felt like telling the guy who wanted me to do the alien art work that I had changed my mind – that I had decided to drive to Florida and hangout on a homeless beach.  Only one thing stopped me from doing that.  I needed the money. I was $21,000 in the hole to capitalists in the grid of the matrix world.  I sold my soul to the company store – my ass was grass and the bank was a lawnmower.

Sure I could just walk away from the bills, but I had land I wanted keep it and a daughter with no inheritance. My days of being an outlaw were over.  If I was going leave the country, I should do it for more than $21,000.  I had enough credit with eight bankers to take them for about 100 grand but I didn’t want to do that, because it could amount to grand larceny or high class embezzlement worth five or ten in the joint. 

I wanted to be an artist and there I was bumping 60 years paintings science-fiction bullshit on a restaurant in North Dakota.  The restaurant was a meal ticket.  Our destiny is not what we imagine it will be.

 

July  1, 2004, New  Mexico

Remembering all of my loves now makes me cringe at what I have allowed arrogance and brutality to do. Three times I have nearly murdered because of the betrayal of love and one time I murdered because of patriotism. So I am a murderer. I have had all the lessons I’ll ever need about righteousness, revenge and jealousy.  I was only 21 when I murdered six human beings.  If I ever go there again I’ll not escape my own stupidity. 

I have thought about this was for years.  I don’t remember the exact moment I was a murderer– I remember everything but the insanity.  Years later, how ironic I should sacrifice a Christmas tree instead of chopping a bitch to pieces.  If there is a God, Christian or Buddhist or Islamic or whatever, why did it stop me?  Is it just coincidence or a cosmic joke I am not a multiple murderer?

Murder is an act of insanity. I can look back and say that I was clearly insane with ideology– insane with betrayal—insane with jealousy—insane with my own sense of justified brutality.  I wanted to kill and to wanting to kill is an evil passion.  I wanted to get even, to settle the score, to be on the right side. To play tick for tack is a contest that will never come to an end.  Life is a series of events, some blessed and some cursed– there are no logical explanations. You turn a corner and get run over by a Mack truck for no reason at all except you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Life has nothing to do with being fair.  There is not a single moment one can prove life is justified.  Things just happen and yet, I see my own life as serendipity fortune.  Blind luck stopped my own death.

I wonder about that because I am nearly 60—conscious of the proximity of death, even though now I am told I will live for years–after believing death was at my doorstep for years, now I know it is still there.

I have escaped its grasp too many times.  Why have I lived while other people in the most innocent places were suddenly dead like the World Trade Center? Who of them in their safe ultra-modern fat-cat executive tops floors would visualize a flying bomb coming in through the window?

There is something about that weird sprinkling of death. Take for instance, God’s favorite children, the oppressed salt of the Earth. Why is it they usually suffer the most?  It is the peasants of Mexico earthquakes, the landless of Bangladesh, swept away by hurricane’s, the innocent tribal farmers of Africa who die of starvation—the list so enormous—the innocents who were cracked, shaken and screwed by God’s favoritism.  Oh sure, the rich kids suffer too, like the Kennedy family—the last being John-John who dived into the deep. Are these the people who reap the effects of Karma?

Karma. What a strange idea that we should pay penalty for doing things we never knew about with the past we were mixed up in—being punished because while we were sleepwalking, we stepped on fragile constructions.  In true justice, we should be guilty of our crimes only when we are aware they are crimes. Why should we be punished because of ignorance, family conditioning and DNA in which we were condemned from birth?  What kind of God punishes a child who has no experience of right or wrong?  What kind of man beats a beast when it is too tired to move?  What kind of universe is it that says there’s a reason you were plucked out of life just because you were standing in the wrong spot?

Some people just happen to be in a circle of death—but even stranger are the ones who attempt to pass through. I saw a young man ski down the side of a mountain. He was beautiful to watch; the way he sailed in deep powder—then suddenly without explanation all I could see were upside-down skis in the snow.  By time the rescue team got to him only a few minutes later he had suffocated.  

Another time I hitch-hiked into small mountain town.  I was told that a guy the day before had tried to hitch-hike into the same town.  A local farmer picked him up and took him only a mile down the road before turning off to his farm.  The young man got out of the farmers truck, walked 20 feet to another space just as a logging truck passed.  The chains broke on the logs spilling tons of death-rollers onto the hitch hiker.  He was in the circle of death.  Had he hesitated 10 seconds he could have been writing stories about escaping death.  But he didn’t wait. He kept an appointment designed just for him.  Was that Karma, or was he just one unlucky son of a bitch?  I can’t see the order in this chaos life—this gamble of death.

 

July 14, 2004, New Mexico

I remember more…when I began the work on the dome inside the restaurant in Fargo, North Dakota. I finished the exterior mural the day before. It was useless– just a commercial piece of shit a sign painter could have done—my mind was centered on Martina, on Dark Eyes, on any woman who could kill me again. But in the dome the owners wanted me to paint the night sky.  I had never painted a million galaxies before– and 45 feet up on a electric lift was spooky– what nonsense, trying to find an illusion of the Heavens. That is more than weird.

I got into painting the dome at night.  I had anxiety about the mural. It was the blank infinity of a deep upside down dish—the subject being the observable universe. The challenge of being a painter held my thoughts. I was sick of thinking of women.

Some where at that point I dreamt of JFK’s death. I was a teenager when the assassination happened.  I heard about it on the radio.  Everyone my age in America has that moment frozen in space because it was the moment when we understood that we were living in a pretend world.  Forty some years later, I was still in a pretend world—in Fargo, divorced from reality as well as my wife of 20 years.  I was there with two smelly dogs in an old van—a small box that had my entire history of 40 years and the patterns of my mind.

I was back into a regular work schedule, so I could sit down in the morning for a few precious minutes and write in my journal. At one point there had been the absence of writing for five days, but I remember I was amazed that five days felt like months – the same feeling one has when they have not seen their lover. 

My journal was then and even now is my lover. It is my confessional.  It is my Priest.

The revelation of confessing to myself is not to find out what the metaphor of the Angel’s Share means – it is just analytical moments trying to understand a mans relationship with women.

 I kept trying to make sense of what the lessons had been with women. I didn’t actually understand them as lessons as they were happening.  I thought they were moments I would see again.  But always, it is the dichotomy of the heart and the reality of circumstance. I was always poor and the women I wanted needed more, like a bank account in the black.

But is it the first experience with woman that makes man so incapable of ever having an honest affair?  That is, like all men I have a mother—the Freudian question. Yes, I can blame my mother and say she gave me all the complications that I could have ever have found by myself. Am I another man with a mother problem not able to resolve?  My mother—my women—my catastrophes?

What do I get for thinking? It has taken years to get over Martina.  I bullshit myself on this thinking everyday – all I have, is an overwhelming flatness of an existentialist mind—the mind that Camus and Kafka wrote about. It is the surreal shadow play that we bump around like wooden puppets behind the screen.  Life is a deserted table filled with plaster fruits, plastic cheese, artificial plants and the stomach sensation of anorexic nausea. It is the rehearsal of dysfunctional pretensions.  It is a cold windy winter street in Paris.  It is my heart breaking over and over again.

Yeah, they say it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all – but is it better to have loved and lost, loved and lost, loved and lost, loved and lost?   

Looking back into the social attempt of repetition is placing too much in front of too little.  It is me drinking a bottled whiskey every day for a month.  It is me smoking one Camel after the other.  They say three out of five men who try Camels prefer women. It is me sticking my head out rat-trap apartment windows, blowing smoke into the noisy skies under airport flight paths.  It is me spending $1000 on telephone calls to my beautiful demon Dark Eyes. It is me holding my prick as she whispered all the erotica we had gone through.

Yeah, thinking is only an existential trip into the fringe-land of nothingness.  It always was that experience as early as I can remember– I was only a child when I wished I was dead for the first time—the first time for many times to come.  I don’t remember what caused the emotional outburst or what followed.  I only remember saying to my mother, I wished I was dead.  I meant it.  I was seven years old.  Life was a house full of pain.  I had no idea I had come to truth so early in life. I wanted out. 

Oh sure, there were good days like Thanksgiving. I loved the food, especially sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. I could have all the whipped cream I wanted.  I could even have seconds or thirds.  But like all kids my eyes were always bigger than my stomach so eating turned to shit in more ways than one. 

On a particular Thanksgiving, one of my mother’s boyfriends made me sit at the table all afternoon and would not let me have desert until I finished the enormous turkey leg I had taken.  It became a battle of wills.  I decided the boyfriend would lose.  I sat at the table for hours.  I stared at the turkey leg, knowing it was about life.  I sat there until everyone was gone, thinking I never wanted to experience Thanksgiving again.  My mother finally made the boyfriend give in.  I should have learned then you can’t always have what you want.

If I had learned the lesson to comply with reality perhaps I wouldn’t have been confused with the rest of the tragedy that has surrounded me.  I had no lessons about adjusting to reality. I knew there was something wrong and something people called reality was always going to go the worst possible way.  The only reality I knew in those first years was my mother.  She was sick and bitter.  Her disease was depression and it was contagious. She passed it to me.

 *******************************************

Santiago put down the journal and wondered why he bothered to write. There was no use to think about what had been. What the hell did it matter any way? Perhaps he had years to live, perhaps days–who believes anybody about life and death? Santiago laughed and picked up the journal during the time of Fargo and opened a page.

 

April 21, 1995 Fargo, North Dakota

God has a sense of humor.  I am not sure what that means.  I don’t know if there is a God – but humor relieves tortured souls a few moments from reality—the theater of absurd.  But that is humor.  Yesterday turned to a different experience. I got to play God.  Ever since I arrived in Fargo, the workmen have asked me what was going to be painted on the giant dome over the center of the restaurant.  I would tell them, “I get to be God. I am going to recreate the Universe.”  They would smile but there was little laughter. They considered me nuts.

There was the observable Universe to paint. I was God. I felt overwhelmed with what Ten Power to the Trillion meant. There was only one way to do it. I had to employ the Big Bang Technique. Hey, if the real God could do it why not an imposter?

I dipped a six inch brush into a can of very wet iridescent neon blue glow paint, looked at it for a terrifying moment, then to confirm the joke that was about to happen to the innocent black void of the domed vault above me, I said, “Pop goes the weasel!” I slashed my arm with the exploding brush across the diameter of the half sphere. I watched the devastation of droplets spin of into the trajectory of chaos.

Fuck! It worked. I was completely knocked out with the miracle and nearly fell back to Earth 40 feet below. I began being God. I spread stars across the Observable Universe. I created the heavens. What doesn’t kill you, defines you, someone once said.  Maybe it was God.

On the 7th day, after creating a landscape of Mars around the rim of the dome which is supposed to be the horizon, I painted two more planets in the indigo up 40 feet from the restaurant floor—Mercury and Venus. There was one more planet to paint, which obviously should be at the zenith of the dome– up 50 feet from the ground and as far as the hydraulic scaffold could go. I had to stand on a box and stretch my arm with my fingers wrapped around the end of the brush. I painted Earth with the full Moon orbiting just to right. 

 

May 1, 1995 Fargo

I finished the dome and the Observable Universe. I left a little joke in the night sky with a dotted line of stars that read, SANTIAGO WAS HERE. Fuck them all. I am leaving in the morning.

I worked hard to put the Observable Universe into the dome—but on the last day the owners showed up. I could see by their faces their minds were challenged. None of them liked what they saw. They all blinked with incomprehension when I said it was a Pollack-after-Turner.

Fuck the ignorant  slobs. Take the money and run. Pearls to swine. How many times to this point of anticlimax in a mural? No one knows original work except its creator. Maybe loneliness made God start the whole fucking comedy by cloning Adam. At least God can fuck himself.

Loneliness has always been my experience creating a monumental work. There are few who appreciate the entirety of the work. I am left alone with my imagination—only talking to myself—a monologue not dialogue—a two-dimensional plug of mediocrity.

The other side of being a muralist is that I have done nothing but work for a months. I paint murals while I spin in my mind, sleep in the Dodge with the dogs, or cross the street to eat at the truck stop. Once a day I take the dogs on the walk around the parking lot.  All else has little appeal in Fargo. My search for entertainment has only taken me to Wal-Mart or Blockbuster. I have rented 30 movies so far.  At the end of a day all I want to do is sleep. I have no energy to write about the riddle of the Angel’s Share. Fuck all those women. I am alone—an old man in an old van in the middle of North Dakota. It is a long way from Paris and a longer way from when I used to be innocent.

 

Some where in Nebraska, May 4, 1995

I am out of North Fucking Dakota. I finished painting the walls of million dollar building which opened the day I left. Will the crowd ask what genius painted such masterwork?  Yeah right. It’s not the Sistine Chapel. It’s only a commercial painting but it is well painted. Few artists could match the work in the time frame and crazy working conditions—dealing with storms, rubbing elbows with workmen—the noise, the dirt, the fumes—it was a fucking hump mural—a brand-new building with my art covering 4000 square feet, illuminated at night.  Okay, so it’s just a billboard. But one day, I will make Michelangelo kiss my ass in heaven, or hell.

A strange occurrence happened on the day I finished the dome. The lack of enthusiasm from the owners put me in depression—I tried to ignore it by cleaning the Dodge, doing  laundry and renting  a shower at the truck-stop.  Normally, after the truck stop, I returned to the mural site where there was an electrical hookup. I could have a coffeepot, VCR, lights and act like I was in a house instead of a tin box—but I was doing laundry late so I decided to stay at the truck-stop parking lot. In the morning I went into the facilities to finish my laundry.  On my way out of the building a man stopped me, who was the manager. He asked me if I had the old Dodge van.  I said yes, thinking he was going to make a comment about the mural which had been in newspapers, television and radio. Not much happens in Fargo.

But he said, “Number one, this is not a dog-shit drop-off site, and number two, clean up the dog shit around your old van. Do you understand me?” 

I was shocked. I didn’t do anything but shake my head in affirmative. He said thank you and walked away. I started to walk back to the Dodge, but anger came over me. I had only been there one night and though it was true the dogs did shit somewhere, the entire area was covered in black turds from other people’s dogs. Besides that, I had eaten all my meals, done weekly laundry and bought gas at the truck-stop. I had spent 1,000 bucks in the place minimum.

I went back to the office. I found the man and said, “Mr., number one, you are an asshole, number two, I hope the next guy you insult punches your teeth out. Do you understand me or do you want to try again? He started to say something smart but it occurred to him I might be the next guy who would punch his teeth out. “I can call the police,” he said. “Fine,” I said and walked out the door.

I was in Fargo for several weeks doing the murals. It was a commercial job—not the most brilliant creation. It was as good as I could do even though I had few compliments from the owners– I bitch about the money, but that is a standing experience with murals. I have never got paid too much. Still, it was more money than I had ever made. $36,000 ain’t chicken feed. After I paid off my debts I had a few thousand bucks in my pocket.

I was not at the mythical place every artist desires—Fortune and Fame.  But everything in life is the perception of where you are. My perception was clouded. Artists are children who want to be stars of the show, but if the right limelight doesn’t fall, we are failures.

In Fargo, I was no one special but just tried doing a job I am good at. The reality of each day was trying to witness the perception of what is. I dropped the idea of trying to predict the future or figure out the riddle.  In Fargo I was happy to let each day unfold the way it would.  I was liberated from what could be. I was alive.

I traveled 500 miles today. Somewhere in the middle of the an Indian Reservation— drunks hanging out in front of a gas station saw me coming. It was only seconds before they were on me like flies on shit. Why did they think I had sympathy for them? I am only one step ahead of being a vagrant. I rolled up the window and acted like I didn’t see them as I drove away.

 

Colorado, May 5, 1995

Eastern Colorado at noon. Something has been nagging my thoughts which I dropped from my journal pages ago. It is the metaphor of the mural in Scotland—the Angel’s Share– that thing we all search for in the vaporous 20 percent of existence while the other 80 percent is always taxed by the excise man.  When I first began this story I thought I was writing about a woman—then that one became the six women of my life.  It seemed they were the metaphor I was trying to fit into the confusion of my existence—I thought it was their presence I was trying to describe.  I was wrong.

I created an enigma I am still trying to discover. None of the woman gave me the pain I suffered.  I did it to myself.  I destroyed everything that was precious with delusion. I killed the person that knew truth and replaced him with a liar.  I killed myself.

I have been on the train ride of the mind. Occasionally I have been dropped off at the station called Irony only to wait for the next train that takes my thoughts in a circle back to a station of lessons I have already gone through—the definition of Irony: An outcome of events contrary in what was, or what might have been expected.

In writing about the Angel’s Share, the surprise has been the revelation that I was not writing about Martina or Dark Eyes or any of the women who broke my heart, but about a person I have been hiding. For 30 years I have been passing a sign I never stopped to read. Suddenly an incredibly clear light, almost like one of those giant electric signs that you can see a mile away, I saw the three letters which normally spell EAT, but this time it was YOU. I am the Angel I’ve been trying to discover.

I have told my story many times in drunken variations to people all over the world – a story which I’ve run through my mind so many times it has became the exercise of repeating the same word until you no longer understand what the word means—I not only lost the meaning of the word, but forgot what the story was about—the story of betrayal – a story repeated ten billion times by fools long before me—the story of one man who looked for one woman. It is the same old tale of those who think they are walking to a miracle of love when it was only a mirage they can never get close enough to discover. It is illusion.  I did that. No one forced me to chase phantoms. I got to the edge of that fictitious world and believed I could see love. But I was like the Angel of the whiskey casks rising into a vaporous world.

I don’t remember what persuaded me to search for true love. More than likely I was just a product of teenage conditioning and brainwashed by toothpaste and deodorant ads. I believed some dazzling woman would make me feel I had arrived at Heavens Gates. True Love would save my soul. I was only 18 when Teen Queen rubbed her hands across the zipper of my fly and my dick told me she was the Savior.  How was I to know she was just a frail human who would cheat and lie and tear my heart out and throw it to the swine?

What led me to fall in love with other women, none knowing each other, being in different places at different times, each a lobbyist for the position of my heart?

Maybe I can blame it on a bad timing—it just worked out that way—maybe I can blame it on their fear of the unknown, their fear of my insanity, their fear of my crazed dance—oh yes, I can blame it on a 1000 things and I have, but now I know it was my fear of believing in love that destroyed the chance to love any of them. What irony, when I could have been with one or the other, I simply walked away.  My pride, my defensiveness, my insecurity—what was it?  The truth I can’t define.  I only know that I have lost the chance to love a woman in a complete way.

 *********************************************

Santiago had given up trying to find Martina. He was bored reading the journals he had brought and had not looked at them in weeks. He had been at the farm for three months. For the last two weeks, each day Santiago scribbled down ideas for his novel. Random pages were scattered across the table in front of the large windows. He looked out at the pool and saw Oscar having his evening dip. He stood up and walked into the kitchen and looked at the mirror over the sink. He regarded the wrinkles that were deeper around his eyes and at the thinning hair that showed more of his forehead every day.

“Dude, you are getting to be one ugly old cantankerous son-of-a-bitch.” He laughed at the ridiculousness of the fact that he was still alive, when the doctors had told him told years before he had only months left. “Thank God,” he said to the face in the mirror. “Too bad God couldn’t have made you a little bit better looking as long as you were going to stay alive.” He laughed and knew he was talking to himself again. What did it matter, now that he was almost a senior citizen? Old people talk to themselves.

He still could hardly believe what had been disclosed. He was still alive, and the doctors had just scratched their medical chart balls. They had no explanation. The cancer never was his but another fool who was destined to die. The HIV virus although still present, had just gone to sleep. He was living years after he should have been dead. Santiago should have been happy, but he was almost disappointed. Death would have solved all the puzzles and guilt and heartbreak. But no, he was still alive trying to comprehend his obligation to existence.

He had no idea of where Martina could be. He stopped thinking of suicide. What was the point? If he shot himself no doubt he would fail the attempt and leave his mind intact in a paralyzed body. He stopped thinking about murdering Martina or Neil. What happened had happened. It was over. Nothing could ever resolve or erase the love he had felt for her. She found her destiny. Martina had become a shadow like the setting sun casts, dark and long.

Santiago heard the familiar splash of water against the walls of the pool.

Oscar jumped out of the pool and dried himself with a turquoise towel as he came to the door of the cottage. “Are you just going to piddle with all of this paper or are you ever going to do anything with it?” Oscar was scowling at the rejection letters and typed manuscripts that covered the table.

“Oscar, I have come to the belief, that rejections are a form of recognition. As long as I get a rejection slip once a week, I know somebody out there is trying to deny my existence. You see the utter logic don’t you?”

“Bullocks. It is perfectly obvious you exist, because you are such a pain in the ass. Why don’t you start doing something useful again and paint murals instead of sitting around dashing out self indulgent lamentations?”

“Oh Oscar, you wound me, but I think you have inspired a new chapter.”

“That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. But before you begin writing another pathetic saga come and have supper. I believe the lady has prepared lamb couscous. Also I bought some rather good vintage of Peraldi.”

“The lady? You still don’t call her by name or is that just how the Master addresses his maid?”

“Bugger off. Come when you want, but I warn you, I won’t wait,” Oscar said then turned and walked towards the farm house.

“Okay, I will be up in a few minutes.” Santiago started to go back to the desk but suddenly stopped and shouted at Oscar, “Hey, I forgot something.”

Oscar stopped and turned, “Forgot what?”

Santiago smiled and said, “I got a letter from my London agent today.”

“And…”

“He said the publishers liked the manuscript--they want to publish me. Number thirty-nine Oscar.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really.”

“Splendid, in that case I will bring out the Courvoisier.”

“Well it’s a about time you stingy old bastard,” Santiago laughed bastard,” Santiago laughed.

“I’m only doing it so you can buy me a yacht when you are famous.”

“What color?”

“I always fancied a pink yacht.”

“Nice, it will go with your eyes.”

“Bugger off.” Oscar continued to the house.

Santiago picked up the last few pages he had written and began to read.

 

The Army Story

It was over three decades ago I was in the war.  Somehow I managed to join the American Army, February, 1967. Timing is everything and I would be a trained combat medic walking in the mud of Vietnam by the middle of the Tet Offensive in February, 1968, one of the most brutal battles of the war.  I didn’t know that.  I thought like everyone else the Conflict as it was called, would be over in weeks if not days in late ’66 when I was in my fourth year of college flunking out.  I was twenty-two years old and my ass was about to be drafted into the Army where people would shoot at me.

I had already been shot at once when I was a young boy. I had been riding a buckskin colored horse and three bullets whizzed only inches past my head.  It is a very odd sound close passing bullets make. It sounds like silk ripping. An old man had mistaken the horse for a deer and started punching holes in the sky hoping he could hang a trophy head over his fireplace. He was a crazy old fool and I almost killed him when I ran over the top of him with my buckskin horse. I was so pissed off I could have jammed that rifle up his ass. I was only 13. He was about 60, the age I am now. Anyway, the experience of being shot at made a profound affect on me. The reality that I might get drafted and have a bunch of Vietcong tearing silk around my ears was not a cool idea.

By 1967 there were already protestors on the streets, but I can’t say I was against the war or against the idea of being a soldier. I came from a family of soldiers—my grandfather, father and brothers were proud of being soldiers, and I was conditioned to believe the same.  I felt it was my duty to pay service to my country by giving time as a soldier, but I didn’t see any necessity to die or to kill just because I was a soldier. My oldest brother was killed in WWII and his martyrdom had left a strange legacy on my own existence.  My brother was a war hero, but his death was a curse on my family.

He was my mother’s first child. When he died as a Marine fighter pilot at the age of 21, I was only a month away from being born, the last baby my mother ran through her body.  I was number 11, the last son.  When the first son died, I replaced him in my mother’s heart, but my birth robbed the love and counseling my father needed.  I was an enigma in that moment of death and birth and the whirl of a revolving doors. Two sons, one gone, one arrived.  My family fell apart because of tragedy and resurrection at the same time – the serendipity crossing of stars—it was too much for my innocent mother and way too complicated for my simple father, and too intense for my remaining brothers and sisters.  Because of my brother’s death, we all became orphans of a shattered marriage.

It was my first experience of what this life is. It never occurred to me as a child that my family was dysfunctional. Two babies died at child birth and they were never mentioned. One brother and sister ran away from home, two sisters tried to kill each other, another sister was in electric shock therapy at the state insane asylum. Two brothers joined the service and never came back home. My father returned to Ireland and remarried a toothless woman that was younger than his oldest daughter.  My Mexican mother had several fat ugly lovers. I was the baby of the mob so all of this was normal to me. The one thing they all agreed on was my brother who had been killed was a Saint. Yes, he was perfect and perfectly dead. His picture sat on top of the piano and looked at me everyday of my childhood. I wished I was as perfect as him, and be the thing my family had lost.

I put it this way.  I had very complicated feelings about being a soldier.  I had been my mother’s special baby. That is what she said, “Santiago, you are special.” But she always cried when she talked about the brother who was a war hero and I knew he was her favorite. I knew I had replaced him, so I not only received the love a baby gets, but received the love sent to a fallen Saint. As consequence of that double love, my father was ignored and so he left, leaving me his portion of love too.  Triple love from a mother to a son is a very crippling affection and the resulting prognosis is contagious catastrophe. Death and love was all mixed together for me. It made me do weird things as a child to see if death was better than life.

I once killed a lizard as a boy. I thought his death would reveal to me why my Mother loved my dead brother more than me. I did not enjoy the experience.  The killing left a dark spot on my soul and I couldn’t shake the bad feeling that saturated me. I had killed a living creature and I saw its blood sputtering death.  I hated the tragedy of it and I was left with a heart of guilt.

Bullets of fear crossed with stars of horror.  I was caught in the crossfire and hardly understood the psychological destruction that I had already waded through in the killing fields of my own family. 

I was going to be drafted any moment.  I was with The Stripper, a woman who was as insane as my own family.  I had to do something, I had to escape. I had to go somewhere and so there began the sequence of buying tickets to Irony, the station contrary to what I expected. 

I joined the army first of all to get away from the Stripper and secondly to prevent the possibility of being drafted and made into a combat soldier. 

The Army recruiter told me I was going to be a dental assistant—I would be safe, most likely stationed somewhere in the states, or better, Europe.  But even if worse came to worst and I was sent to Vietnam, the recruiter said, I would be in a nice safe hospital in Saigon.

The recruiter was a liar.  That came as a complete shock to me.  Somehow I had been raised believing if people had diplomas or shiny suits or stripes on their sleeves, they were honest and smart and knew life better than me.  They were to be accepted as guides and superiors.  That was the educational conditioning of my father and mother both taken out of school before they were teenagers.  They were subservient to authority and position and of course they were my first teachers.  An army sergeant lying and being devious was unthinkable. 

I believed the recruiter and signed my name on the dotted line next to 91-A-10.  I was going to be a nice safe dental assistant far from the bombs and the blood.  I did very well and basic training.  I was almost a soldier.  I graduated in second place out of 500 men.  The man in first place beat me by one point.

I was so impressed with the honor being a good soldier, that I was tempted to volunteer for Special Forces, Green Beret. Then something at the last moment reminded me that men who shoot at people find people who shot back.  I told the Special Forces recruiter I needed to think it over for a day or two, but I knew I was never going to volunteer. 

The brainwashing in basic training made me believe I was a soldier and in the process discovered I was stronger and more determined than people I thought superior to me.

The discovery of my own metal was an accident.  My company had been drilled for three days about an upcoming event.  The sergeants would stand us on the parade field and drone the same instructions over and over – their voices running flat with no dips or lifts in scale – repeating what was going to happen when we had to do the 100 yard crawl under barbed wire with live machine gun fire a foot above the wire.

Somewhere in the middle of that experience a noxious gas would descend, not tear gas, which we had already experienced and choked on, but another gas 10 times more volatile. CS gas would be released while the smoke bombs were covering the field. 

We were told the drill over and over and over.  For three days they told us that it would hit us like a truck.  The sergeants told us that we were to immediately stop breathing, close our eyes and reach down and take our gas mask from the pack, put it on our face while keeping our eyes closed and stop breathing, slowly count to 15 before we opened our eyes and another 15 before starting to breath again.

The day came it was cloudy, cold and wet.  Fort Lewis, Washington, 1967.  One company at a time was taken to the 100 yard crawling pit.  We were told real soldiers sat behind 50 caliber machine guns that would shoot tracers over our bodies as we crawled the 100 yards through smoke and mud. 

There was 10 rows and 10 men to a row, we were put in position, the smoke canisters went off and machine guns started firing and the drill sergeants started screaming go, go, go.  We all dropped to our bellies.  All of us were scared shitless not only because of the live machine gun fire, but because of the unknown that was to come—the CS gas—the tear gas had been brutal and everyone had got sick and thrown up.  They told us CS gas was 10 times worse.  They told us it would burn like red hot embers in every moist part of our body, nose to toes.  Our armpits and assholes would feel like they were in a barbecue.  They told us the CS gas could kill us.  This was real training for real war.  Real bullets, real gas, real fear. 

“Remember,” the drill Sergeants said, “Count to 15 after you put the mask on then open your eyes and count to 15 again before you breathe.”

We were scared to death.  “Go, go, go!”  The Sergeants screamed.

I fell to my belly and crawled after the soldier in front of me.  I could hear the bullets rip the silk two feet above.  My heart was in my mouth. My head was at the feet of the soldier crawling in front of me.  Another soldier’s head was at my feet—all of us crawling with 45 lb. field packs, wearing metal helmets with M-16’s in our hands.  The smoke was so thick I could barely see the soldier’s feet only inches from my head.  The pumping zip bullets of the machine gun drowned out the screaming of Sergeant’s.

Then I heard different tones of screaming—the sound of pure agony.  It came somewhere in front of me—then there was another scream—then another.  What the hell was going on?  Were they shooting the soldiers by mistake? 

Then the thing hit me.  Just like the Sergeants said, like a truck.  Like an 18 wheel 60,000 lb. sledgehammer of hellfire fury.  The CS gas had been released. 

My nose was on fire – my mouth was full of molten lead, my eyes were being pulled out of their sockets.  I stopped crawling.  In my mind I heard the drill sergeant run through the pattern.  Stop breathing, close your eyes, deploy gas mask, adjust straps, keep eyes closed, desist breathing, count slowly to the No. 15, then very slowly, began to breathe, if burning continues, adjust straps, stop breathing, and count to 15, count to 15, count to 15…

What the hell are they doing?  My head was on fire! Fucked! My asshole was burning, burning, my arm pits were sizzling.  Bullshit.   1, 2, 3, … oh fuck, my eyes, even though they are closed, fire was in my eyeballs—oh shit, ouch fucking ouch – 4, 5, 6, -- oh shit son-of-a-bitch – fuck it burns – 7, 8, -- What is that noise? People screaming, metal helmets crashing on the ground.—bastard – 9, 10, -- oh motherfucker I am on fire – But who is screaming?  Everybody is screaming?  -- the machine guns have stopped—everyone is screaming --  feet running—crashing—the sound of bodies hitting the ground.  What is that?  -- oh my God, 11, 12, 13 -- it’s the drill sergeants screaming—why are they screaming stop, stop, stop?  That’s the Lieutenant screaming. Everybody is screaming—everywhere rifles, I hear rifles falling on the ground – 14…oh I’m  fucked -- 15, oh yes, 15 -- I began a very, very slowly to take air into my nose.  There was a strong peppery sensation, but compared to the roaring flame that shot up into my nostrils moment before it seemed nothing.  I let out the air and took another small breath—still peppery, but not so bad—then another breath and another.  I could breathe. The fire was gone.  I began to open my eyes.  I couldn’t see.

Everything was blurred—water was pouring out of my tear ducts.  I couldn’t focus and my eyes kept crossing. What I did see was double. My head was on the ground, I was concentrating on breathing, trying to see, but what I was hearing was the madhouse of  hell. 

A cacophonic jumble of noise swirled around me.  It was the sound of running feet, the crazy twang of long wire cables that stretched between the rows in the obstacle course sounding like plucked notes of a giant washtub base, the thud of a bodies attached to heavy backpacks, metal helmets, canteens, rifles, ammo clips all come crashing to the ground, then more agonized screaming. The voices of the sergeants and the officers faded off into the distance screaming, “Stop, halt, comeback.”

I lay on the ground breathing slowly, terrified the flame that was still scorching my asshole and armpits might burn up and out the top of my head—there was more screaming, but all of it was far away from the rows we had crawled down.

My eyes were still watering and I couldn’t see anything but a blue blur inside the gas mask.  I lay there as my mind said the drill over and over, “Count 15, count 15, count 15.”  I went through the numbers again, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine…

The drill sergeants monotonous drone kept running through my head, count 15 before you breathe.  I cautiously began breathing, listening to the sounds of horror around me.  My asshole felt like it was trying to jump between my shoulders.  I squeezed my arms down onto my body tight to keep the sweat out of the air. 

Slowly my eyes began to clear and I could make out the edge of the goggles, then I could see one of the cables at my side that disappeared into the smoke that was blowing over the ground.  I kept my eyes on the cable.  I kept repeating the numbers.  The cable kept getting longer and longer. I began to look to my right and left.  The ground was empty of people, but it was strewn with backpacks, rifles and helmets.  The smoke was blowing away.  I could see across the obstacle course.  There was equipment and gas masks everywhere but there were no soldiers. 

Wait a minute, there was one, off to my right, just a little behind me—yes, and another soldier over on the left.  One, two.  Three.  Where the fuck was everyone?  There were 100 just a few moments before – now, only one, two, and me made three. What the fuck?  Only three of us left lying on the ground? 

The other two had their gas masks on.  Who the fuck?  Had I gone to another planet?  Where the fuck was I?  What the fuck happened? 

I lay there now counting 1 to 15.  I could hear the drill—remember men, do not breathe, or you are dead men.  Count to 15.  If you panic, you are dead.  Count to 15 before you breathe

I looked around me.  One, two, three of us were alive.  97 men were dead.  Three of us survived.  Everybody else was dead.  Just dead.

I lay there stunned and burning but I was alive.  Three of us were alive.  Everybody else was dead. Wait a minute.  What’s that noise, that screaming?  Is it their souls in hell?  What is the screaming everywhere? 

I looked up from the ground out beyond the parameters of the obstacle course.  The smoke from the canisters had stopped and the last ragged edge of the sulfurous yellow was lift from the dark green of forest that surrounded the killing fields I was in.  Then I could see them. 

There they were, rolling on the ground, crashing into trees, wrestling with sergeants and officers.  No, they were not dead.  The other soldiers were still alive. All of them were screaming and tearing their faces with their hands as if to pull off an invisible mask of fire.  The sergeants had aerosol cans in their hands trying to spray the faces of the men they could catch. They were hysterical, screaming, just screaming.

I lay there, me and the other two guys. Who the hell were they?  I turned around to look at the soldier behind me on my right.  He was looking at me through the two round lenses of his gas mask.  We both lay there, afraid to move, afraid to do anything, but just say the fucking numbers. 

I turned to look at the other guy who was still there under the wire cables.  He had jumped up onto his knees.  He was clutching his stomach and had his head down on the ground then suddenly reached up and tore off his mask and vomit flew six feet out.  He was coughing and choking, but he wasn’t screaming.  I watched him like he was some kind of monkey in the laboratory experiments.  He threw up again, but this time small white spurts dribbled between his legs

I don’t know how long it was, him gagging and coughing, me just fixating on his face.  I became aware I was staring at him not because of what he was doing, but because of who he was.  It was Fatty-Sick-Boy.  That’s what the drill sergeant called him.  That’s the name all of the rest of us called him because every time we had to run or do some physical exercise he would fall down the ground and throw up.  We all thought he was a sissy, a pussy, a worm.  What the fuck was he doing in a man’s army? 

We all hated his weakness, his lack of stamina. The sergeant was right—he was a pussy—a Fatty-Sick-Boy.  He was a big fat lazy shit—what the hell was he doing in this army?  I kept staring at him.  He was alive in the army.  He was fucking alive.

He was alive and not screaming—not tearing his face.  The CS gas must be gone.  I gently lifted the bottom of my mask and took in a breath and there was no burning.

I looked at the other guy laying to the left of me as he peeled the mask from his face like a slow motion movie.  I could see the top of his bald shaved head, which was the same shaved head everyone else had.  Who in the fuck?  He began to lift his head and as he did I could see two enormous ears that stuck out like wings.  Jesus Christ. God damn, it was the swamp-billy from Mississippi. We called him Brainless.  He was so fucking dumb he didn’t know how to lace his boots. 

Jesus Christ. Fatty-Sick-Boy, Brainless and me.  I took a breath into my nostrils expecting razor blades to cut at my mind—nothing—the air was strange, but not like it was—I took a slightly larger breath and another.  The air was clear.  I pulled my mask off but kept it in my hands ready to slap it back on.  The fucking numbers were still rolling around -- 14 -- 15 -- and on the other side of my thoughts, was another idea—they are dead, but Fatty-Sick-Boy, Brainless and me—we were  alive. If it had been in a real ambush in Vietnam – the other soldiers would be dead, very dead. 

Three of us were alive laying in the dirt looking at each other.  Three of us had not panicked.  Three of us remembered the drill—stop breathing, deploy gas masks, count 15 slowly.  The fucking numbers had saved us.  Three of us remembered.  Me and these two fucking poor excuses for humanity were live.  What did that mean?  The second 18 wheel truck of experience hit me.  Things aren’t what you think they are.  All of those other guys, who were tough, strong, were fucking dead.  Two fucking losers and me were alive.

We lay on the ground looking at each other.  We didn’t say a word.  Fatty-Sick-Boy stopped throwing up and was just looking at me and Brainless as though we were Martians.

Commotion was going on everywhere around us. The screams had become calmer with gagging coughing sounds.  Suddenly I felt something kick the sole of my boots.  Drill sergeant Jones was standing there, his mouth open and is eyes wide as if he was looking at a ghost.

“Well, God damn,” he said, “if it ain’t the Artist, Fatty-Sick-Boy and Brainless…you guys get your equipment together and get on the bus.”  He walked away still muttering.

I hated the son-of-a-bitch.  He had been on my ass from the first day I was there.  I was alive, we were alive and he knew we were the only soldiers he had left.  His worst were now is best. 

“That’s right,” I said, “for you drill Sergeant Jones.  For you.”

The numbers kept running in my head for days.  No matter what it was we were doing, I kept counting from 1 to 15.  I kept looking at the other soldiers who had died in theory, but were alive in reality. But I knew they were dead or at least of what I once thought they were.  They were ghost files and I had become a soldier by counting numbers and holding my breath.

 *********************************************************

Santiago put down the journal and looked through the windows of the guest house. Cumulous clouds were building in the east. He looked at the pistol laying at the edge of the table. He picked up the pen and continued the thought that was hanging vaporous, and smelling like sulfur and incense.

 

Ghost files, it seems my ancient history keeps coming back like those fucking numbers.

I have been chasing ghost files through numbers on the telephone.  So far I’ve talked to a dozen people.  They are very suspicious and don’t want to give me any information. A couple of them have been helpful, but they are the wrong people.  Only one man has suggested he may know the ghost I am looking for.  He said he thought she had a girl-child in Corsica but he didn’t know where she lived. There are still several numbers on the telephone before I have gone around the whole perimeter.  I continue to search. Fuck it, I will write what I do know about...

 

I never became a soldier, not really, and yet I was an exemplary soldier and an officer candidate- this former me not just a soldier, but a warrior.  The joke of that is the fucking numbers have been running through my head like a loop-tape for 30 years.  Somewhere in those years the numbers went on counting, from 1 to 100 and then started going backwards, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95. At times there was nothing in my mind but numbers.  No thinking, just numbers.  Motor thoughts jammed like a throttle to the floor, the engine trying to twist itself off the mounting blocks, the RPM needle all the way into the red zone— my mind contained by numbers— from  1 to100 and back to 1. Over and over.  One time the experience went on for several days. I had to have something that was real.  The numbers have saved my life more than once.

The numbers.  The fucking numbers.  All I could see after awhile was my feet.  My head felt like it was going to explode.  The air and was tearing my lungs out.  My legs felt like concrete made with lead.

I was running with the whole battalion of 500 men.  It was 1967 in the cold spring rains of Fort Lewis, Washington.  The road we are running on was slippery mud-sucking misery.  We were running with full backpacks, metal helmets and M16s in our hands. Altogether about 65 pounds. After the second mile, invisible hands of hell began pulling men to the ground.  Fatty-Sick-Boy was the first to go down, but he made it almost to the third mile.  Two more fucking miles to run.  But after the second mile you could not say it was running. It was lifting one foot at a time two inches and skidding six inches forward running.  That’s what we were doing.  Skidding along the ground.

Drill Sergeant Jones was running at our side. He was cursing and insulting us, calling us pussies and poor excuses for humanity.  We all hated his fucking guts.  He was running in his campaign hat and starched fatigues with not an ounce of extra equipment.  The bastard was trying to run us into the ground while he was floating. 

Behind, I kept hearing bodies crashing to the ground.  Occasionally someone at my side would suddenly disappear with the splatter of meat and metal sinking into mud..  All I could see were my two are boots skidding along the ground. My lungs felt as though they were going to blow out of my body at any moment.  For the third mile all I could think was how much I hated Drill Sergeant Jones. By the fourth mile, I couldn’t even think of that.  The only thing turning in my brain was 1,2,3,4…1,2,3,4,  the cadence for running.  My feet kept  with the numbers until counting to 4 was more than my brain could do. Then it was 1…2....  My right foot was 1, my left foot was 2.  It was my first binary experience. 

My feet felt as if they were several floors down in the pain.  It was like I was skidding along for somebody else.  I was way up in the sky – like in a stone tower dream watching two mud covered combat boots sliding like dwarf snakes.  1…2…1…2… the distance between the numbers seem liked hours, then days.  Time was no longer measurable.  There was nothing in the world but the number 1, then it slowly dissolved and the remerged as number 2. 

I heard Drill Sergeants Jones voice. It seemed familiar but I could no longer understood the words. “You pussies—run  you mother-fucking losers.” The words went around my head like bubbles—like noise in the world that had nothing to do with me. I no longer knew who or what I was.  There was someone at my side, a phantom. I was skidding, sliding slithering through nothing. I was separate, alone, contained inside the count of 1…2... 

Then I heard a laugh, along incredible crazy laugh.  Something at my left pulled my jacket sleeve.  It was a guy who had been sliding over the ground next to me.  I turned my head to see why he was grabbing me.  On the other side of him, Drill Sergeant Jones was lying on the side of the road.  He had his arms slung over his head and he was gasping and laughing—what the fuck was he laughing about?  I looked down at my feet which were still coming up off the ground but going nowhere.  The guy next to me slumped to the ground.  I turned to my right.  Three more soldiers were gasping with their heads on the butt of their M16s while the muzzles were stuck in the mud.  All I could think was their weapons were in the dirt and Drill Sergeant Jones was going to kill them as soon as he stopped laughing.  I still had my M16 in my hands and the numbers were still swapping positions in my head, 1…2…1…2… 

“Stop!”  The soldier  next to me panted out, “we did it…we did it.” 

I had no idea what we had done—then he began to laugh. The soldiers on the other side of me started laughing.  I started laughing.  Five of us were laughing her asses off.  We had run Drill Sergeant Jones into the ground.  We had won.

Numbers.  500 men.  Only five men kept running at the  front.  Only five of us saw Drill Sergeant Jones in pain, on the ground, gasping, laughing and saying to us, “You did it—you got my black ass—you fuckers killed your Drill Sergeant!”  Only five of us got to hear that.  I slowly turned around and as far as I could see down the muddy road behind us, lay soldiers dead looking, scattered along the earth -- 495 men had fallen to the ground.  Only five of us were standing and laughing.  We were warriors.

This was my first experience of the Angels share.  I was in the vaporous top percent of a dream while the bottom percent of reality lay scattered behind me.  I rolled in the sweet intoxicating fumes of a whiskey barrel Angel.  I experienced a narcotic more addictive and more manipulative than any synthetic drug could ever produce.  The narcotic was my willpower mixed with hatred. 

After that day I never saw Drill Sergeant Jones laugh again.  I remember that moment of being a superior man but it has been an impossible measurement to retain.  The aftermath of that tiny play in time when I was standing there on the road knowing I had conquered a man I fucking hated; after that moment of history, the truth of my will became sin. But for that day it was magic.

In the evening back in the barracks after lights were turned out, I opened my eyes when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Drill Sergeant Jones looking at me with his finger on his lips while silently gesturing for me to follow him.  I got up a moved behind him towards the latrine.  When we got there, the other four guys were there sitting on the floor with cans of beer in front of them.  I couldn’t believe it.  Drill Sergeant Jones had sneaked in booze. He was doing something that could get us all court-martialed. 

Oh it is wonderful, the drug of victory and ignorance of youth.  It was sublime to sit there and drink beer with Drill Sergeant Jones who only hours before we hated so much that if our M16s had full clips, one of us would have cut him down like he was the devil.  But there we were, laughing and drinking beer and listening to Drill Sergeant Jones Vietnam stories.  He was telling us things only warriors told between each other.  We were being initiated into a sacred society by a high priest.  We were being included in an ancient honor roll and our lives would never be the same.  We were sealing the deadly contract with the nectar of alcohol.  We were swallowing the immortal bribe of the Angels Share. Not one of us understood what this ritual would cost us.

 

That moment of being a hero was over thirty years ago. I have no idea of who the other five were or their subsequent history.  They disappeared into yesterday.  Only Drill Sergeant Jones’s name and his face remain like a tattoo behind my eyes along with that late-night in the latrine.  The hatred the five of us shared was dispelled and we came to the phenomena of loving our persecutor.  I was a young man and did not know that love and hate became so interchangeable.  How would I that know someday I would not know the difference of my own heart?  How would I know the fickle influence of youth and the ritual drinking beer would lead to an alcoholic trough.  How would I know how hard it would be to find dignity after years of drowning in alcoholic broth, that I was once a warrior, a soldier.  How could have I known all those years ago I was stepping into arena of love and hate?   How could I have known the magic potion of alcohol and drugs would eventually swallow me?  I was young.  That is my only excuse.

I had no guides who were any stronger than me. The comrades who were there for a moment were five soldiers and Drill Sergeant Jones who disappeared into time.  I am simply a survivor still alive because I happened to be the standing in the right place at the right time. Years ago, I was just beginning the experience of the Angels Share.

 

My women

I want to describe the eyes of the women I have met in life and why I have never been able to forget them.  Yes. Numbers again 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.  Mathematicians say three is the strongest geometrical form in the universe, the triangle, the pyramid, the Trinity, the symbolism of spiritual solidity. Two times three makes six. Am I double strong or just a fool who doesn’t know how to count?

The first woman’s eyes were green, large and clear. Her eyes had no fear, no games , no pretense. They were open doors with warm light beyond them that asked me to walk through.  This was the nature of her eyes but added was the perfect shape of the opening.  They had a beautiful Arabic crescent, the shape of North African women.  It was the shape that hypnotizes, a curve that rides into oblivion.  How is it possible that a man can be captivated by the shape that suggests everything and nothing real?  It was the shape of sex itself—the shape of innocent seduction—those eyes from paintings, sculptures  created with the Egyptian pyramids.

The second woman’s eyes.  Something about them suggests that they have the same origin is the first woman—the through the millennium’s the shape was slowly altered into the perfect tilted arches which are beveled islands that are dark and heavy, repeated again by two beautiful pure black eyebrows.  There’s French term, san pas coupe.  It is the way the iris goes above the eyelid accenting the arch. In Hollywood they called them bedroom eyes.  A perfect harmony of shape.  She had san pas coupe eyes.  Her eyes seemed a deep brown, but in the sunlight they were burnt gold with threads of emerald lace.  It was  like looking at ancient glass surrounding precious gemstones.  Her eyes were open and uninitiated. 

The third woman’s eyes were blue, like a cold moon in northern skies or that blue television light somewhere in a hospital—a blue, flat, cheerless and yet at the same time penetrating and advertising.  Her eyes had a beautiful strength.  The eyes were hard,  set in a young face that could turn into blue flames as though she was cutting a hole through metal.  But so odd, I never felt they were warm.

The fourth woman had gray eyes. Gray as tombstones. If only I could have seen the prophecy of that color.

The fifth and sixth women both had brown eyes so dark, they were almost black, even when the sun sliced into them. Perhaps it was the darkness of their eyes that were like the black holes in the observable universe that swallow whole galaxies, for I lost myself in them. Maybe it was only because of the darkness in my soul, I thought I saw a reflection of love. But yet, it was though there was a diamond glitter in the depth of that blackness. I fell into their eyes with curiosity more than I have ever known. Yeah, the fifth was Martina and the sixth had what better name than Dark Eyes.

My eyes are blue, like dead fish eyes, a kind of blue hell.  Perhaps it was my blue eyes that saw the third woman’s blue eyes.  But I have never enjoyed looking into my own eyes.  I always wanted to be held by warm dark brown eyes. If you look at my eyes you will see my brothers and sisters, but you will see the brother I replaced in particular.  I have his eyes, the last photo taken, looking into the future, just before he flew off into WWII.  It was the look of a warrior that knew he was walking into death. 

We all have funerals in us that bring pain.  I buried my dead a long time ago and tried to delete them from my files of the heart.  How I was to know that is an impossible thing to do unless you disconnect the main energy supply—unless you terminate yourself.  The ghost files are always there and they keep coming back.  Every time I saw a face that was slightly reminiscent my life spun in front of me, my heart went in search to retrieve what was gone.  The tragedy is the only ones that loved me, my wife and child, had a corpse body while my heart was in another world.

Years later I tried find the Gypsy I treated cruelly because the Teen Queen before her had been cruel to me. How revengeful love can be after betrayal.  The revenge of love affected every woman who came into my life including my wife. I tried to cancel women out of my heart by finding other women. I was stacking a house of cards, my love game, my six card casino, playing poker by poking. The dealer was crooked, just like the recruiter sergeant who lied to me, and tricked me into the army.

I spent a week making telephone calls to dozens of names I found on the internet people search programs—names of the coast-to-coast telephone network.  Several names had the first initial and approximate area, but one must be very specific. I was lost in the World Wide Web of infinite human documentation.  I had to find an operator who could assist me.  One morning I came across that person

I bumped into a guy known as Tarzan in Locorado. He looks like the original ape man. I blurted out I had been looking for a friend on the Internet. Tarzan said it was no problem.  I said it was impossible to find people on the Web.  He said no sweat.

I went to Tarzan’s shop where he sells Pueblo Indian pottery and cheap silver and turquoise trinkets made in India, which he buys on EBay. Ten minutes later I was walking out with a telephone number and address of the brother of the Gypsy. At home I looked at the telephone number. It was in the morning of a workday.  He was probably at work. I didn’t want to leave a message on a machine. I wanted to talk to human.  I wanted to encounter whatever reaction my name, my voice had.  I decided to wait until the evening, a number of hours.  I was feeling crazy knowing that numbers were rolling in my head, minutes to hours.

I looked at the clock on my desk every few minutes for the next six hours. At 5 P.M. I decided not to call.  I was going to forget the whole thing.  I sat at my desk looking at the secondhand turn. Minutes dragged through the dashed marks.

At seven P.M. I changed my mind and picked up the telephone and dialed. If it wasn’t her brother then fuck it, and I would drop the whole stupid idea. I pressed the numbers and the telephone rang. It was a God damn answering machine.  I hung up the phone.

Wait a minute.  What did the answer machine say?  What was the message?  There was a word said I didn’t understand—maybe it would give a clue if it was the person I was searching for.  I called again.  The machine came on again and I waited to hear the part I did not understand the first time. Suddenly a real voice interrupted the message.

“Hello this is Julie,” the voice said.

I am sorry to bother you,” I said, “but is there a guy named Max Desmond…who is from California here?”

“Yes,” she said

“Does he have a sister named Rebecca?”

“Why yes, he does.”  She sounded wary.

“This may be just a coincidence, but I am Santiago McBoil. Do you know who I am?”

“Oh my God. Santiago, this Julie. Max is my husband. You were at our wedding. Who could forget you?  Where are you?”

There I was after 30 years. I had found a part of my life I thought was gone forever. But I wasn’t talking to the woman I wanted to talk to, Rebecca, Gypsy of my dead history that had once loved me. I was talking with a thread that was only part of that tapestry of time. Julie and I talked for an hour about what people talk who have known each other years before, about birth of children and death of friends.

 

The Gypsy

Rebecca the Gypsy is alive.  She is alive.  I know where she is.  Three years ago I drove right through the small town where she lives, feeling something special about the town but her face and her name didn’t occur to me.  I learned that she got married and had two children.  She got divorced.  She became an alcoholic and maybe she can thank me for that because I gave her the first drinking lessons.  She found another man.  Her mother died of cancer. Rebecca went way off the tracks after that and became a chronic alcoholic.  She has been sober for seven years.  She became an accountant.  There it is.  The sum total of what I know about a love in my checkered heart for three decades. After Teen Baby and the Stripper, before my wife, before Martina, before Dark Eyes, she was Gypsy I lost by falling asleep in the card game of life. I am an old man remembering a lost fortune.

This is as confusing to me as it is to you. I only came to this understanding in the exile of my last years. But this I will say, I followed Martina and Dark Eyes because I saw Gypsy somewhere in their color, their movement, or the click of an eye. My wife, well I can’t explain that because that gypsy was never there. My wife loved me and refused to let me go until she could no longer stand pain.

I knew it would be impossible for me to call Rebecca directly.  She would probably say why aren’t you dead? I did not want that.  How could I jump out of 30 years and come back into the life I almost destroyed?  What right did I have to come back?  What cruelty would I bring to a healing soul?  I did not want to hurt her again.  I left my number and address with Julie if Rebecca wanted to contact me.  I waited.

Five days went by since the telephone.  Three decades before I had been a big part of Gypsy’s life.  The revelation of her importance in my subconscious had taken a lifetime to unfold.  I tried to see what I had done to myself and what I would do in the future. For a few days it seemed the whole thing was just an enormous melodrama. My actions had all the classic patterns of a lover on the rebound—I had to admit it was far-fetched that a woman from over 30 years before who had been the reason of my repeating lop-sided emotional consciousness— a woman who I had made an invisible a saint in an invisible shrine, where no other woman was allowed.

 ***********************************************************

Santiago stopped writing, trying his best to stop the mad swirling of life and love that submerged him in darkness. Nothing made sense at all, and the words he was scribbling only confused him more. Numbers, just fucking numbers, he thought then continued writing.

 

So what?  All of that was way over 30 years ago. Now I am 60 and Gypsy is 53. Maybe it was just me trying my old trick of losing myself by chasing phantoms.  After 30 years we would have both changed too much to find love as we were.  But shrines exist whether there is reality in the religion or not.  I just happened to notice my shrine in the middle of my disbelief of the human soul. 

When I tried to find the Gypsy/Saint of my shrine, I could see four possibilities.  

1.   No action at all.  That is, I could make the active decision to do nothing about her or my secret sanctuary and simply hope that it had finally been confronted in consciousness, and by that, dispel its power.  By accepting my pain and suffering maybe the blues of heart would go away.

2.   I could take the shrine apart piece by piece, until I found every bit of negative information about my Gypsy/Saint – every little rationale that took me into false hope and then file all those separate pieces in different categories so they can never resemble themselves as a ghost file that haunts me.

3.   I could desanctify the shrine and remove the holy tablets, sacred memories and turn the space into a parking lot with a big sign, OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

4.   I could resurrect my Gypsy/Saint—I could bring her back to life—I could put my finger into the holes of her hands.  If the holes were not there then I would know the truth and find another story between us.

The possibilities of probable action collapsed in my mind as I wrote them down.  I have changed.  She has changed. 30 years have passed and at this point we are walking away from middle age.  We are almost legitimately old. Rebecca is divorced from the man she married after me. Now she has two grown children and is with another man.  It was all just too complicated and messy and impossible to resurrect her ancient shattered shrine of holiness. 

But this is the irony I know for sure. I looked for Gypsy in every woman who ever walked through my life. Before Martina, at the very beginning of my marriage, when I saw a woman, even if it was only the shape of her chin  or eyebrow, some tiny part of Rebecca, and I would be attracted to her.  Yet the woman I married and had a child with never had any part of Rebecca’s physical beauty. Only her character was similar to Rebecca— those things that interested Rebecca, art, a fussy concern for food and the clothes she wore– a kind of glorious feminine nature that was the kind of woman I desired. 

I am rambling. I don’t have the slightest idea of what will happen next – my soul is like a bag of cats dropped into a pit-bull arena, but worse because it is an old lover teasing me to jump in her imaginary open top convertible. I thought we had completed that cycle of uncontained lust—maybe there was more to it than lust.  She is the only woman in this jumbled history that knows the story I buried in 1968-- she keeps coming back to me.  I told her the complete experience, no one else, not even my wife. One side of that secret is like the ghost file of Rebecca—it keeps coming back—the other side is the suspicion of talking too much about a mystery, the secret thing of mine, no one else should know but me and the dead.

Becoming a Killer

It was April 1967. I was a good soldier.  I had reason to think that even if it came by total accident in the final week of Boot Camp tests.  I was one of the five men who ran our drill sergeant into the ground.  The next two days we had all the other tests an infantry soldier has to go through including written tests that measured IQ.  It was no surprise I did excellent on the written tests. Chimpanzees could have answered the questions brilliantly, but I was amazed at the number of men who had trouble answering the questions.  What was surprising happened in the final combat skills tests. 

The first test was the live hand grenade throw. Being live was just a bluff as the grenade  turned out to be a dummy.  The army was good at keeping us completely full of nervous energy. 

We were given three little pineapple bombs one at a time at the grenade range.  We had to toss them at a large tire painted like a red target about 100 feet out.  When it came to my turn, I closed my eyes and tossed the grenades as hard as I could.   As a kid I couldn’t get a basketball in the net even if I stood right under it, so it was a cosmic mystery all three grenades landed in the center of the tire.  Once again I was given maximum score.

The gun range came next. I was going to shoot the M16 rifle I had been polishing and cleaning and sleeping with like a lover.  I shot plenty of rifles as a kid so I had no fear I might not hit the target. But what occurred to me was something I was beginning to resent. The army was training me to be a combat soldier, a killer. The day before we had gone through the drill with the bayonet. The Drill Sergeants screamed at us, “The spirit of the bayonet is to kill.”

It was spooky. Five-hundred men and each man was lunging with his bayonet fixed M16 at the back of a man in front of him. If that man did not lunge forward with his weapon at the man in front of him in the same instant, he would have the bayonet behind him buried between his shoulder blades. But the terrifying part of it was the one voice of 500 men all chanting the same message.  The drill sergeant up on the podium would scream into bullhorn, “What is the spirit of the bayonet?”  We would all lunge forward and chant, “To kill, to kill.”

So there at the rifle range I’m beginning to realize the little boy games of playing at being soldiers are not games—the M16s scatter twenty rounds of ammo faster than an eyewink. Being an excellent marksman would take me to the middle of an advanced case of death wish.  Bullets flew around my head only inches away when I was 13, but that was the inexplicable random choice of the universe that I am still alive.

It  came my turn to shoot a twenty round clip at the target.  The Drill Sergeants gave us the choice of squeezing off single rounds one at a time, or go to full automatic and let a stream of 20 bullets fly in one decision.

The sergeant’s were screaming as we lay down on the ground along the rifle line to take our turn at being marksmen. I was being trained to go and shoot at people. I made my decision right at that instant.  I closed my eyes and pointed the M16 in the general direction of target 600 feet in front me.  There was a large black and white bull’s-eye with the center only six inches in diameter.  I squeezed the trigger and squeezed my eyes even tighter as I heard the 20 metal jackets zip out in less than two seconds.  Everyone else’s rifles popped off one at a time as I lay there in with my eyes still shut until there was only silence and the smell of gunpowder drifting down the line.

I opened my eyes and looked down the range. My target was taken down and in its place a marker came up indicating that all 20 deadly messengers had found the center. Bull’s-eye.  I got maximum score.  I couldn’t believe it.  I wasn’t even looking.  What the fuck was going on? Drill Sergeant Jones slapped me on the back and said, “Good going troupe. You’ll get your share of combat.”  Fantastic, just what I wanted to hear.  I could shoot all the people are wanted.  I had a very bad feeling.

Officers and sergeants have lied to their soldiers in all armies throughout the ages.  It is the technique to keep the soldiers controlled by fear and deception.  Sergeants lied to me.  There was no live ammunition in the machine guns—only an occasional rubber tracer.  The hand grenades were dummies – just a lump of metal.  But the biggest lie I was yet to discover.

The final week of the basic training was the process of being programmed for the next set of indoctrination known as AIT or Advanced Infantry Training.  I should’ve been warned by the title.

Back track the story. I joined the Army believing the recruiter and believing the code 91-A-10 which I signed under meant I would be trained to look down throats as a dental technician in a nice comfortable safe hospital somewhere in a combat free zone. The worst possibility would be that I might get sent to Vietnam anyway – but the recruiter said, “Don’t worry kid, if you do, you will be in the middle of Saigon which the gook’s will never get to.”

In 1967, no one could foresee 1975 with the helicopters on the roof of the American Embassy evacuating the last Americans and desperate Vietnamese and Ho Chi Min down the street marching to victory.  No one saw that in 1967 and especially me a kid of 22.  Saigon sounded no more  dangerous than Honolulu—I forgot about Pearl Harbor—so what did I do,?  I signed my name on the line right next to the big bold printed Army MOS code 91-A-10.

Now jump to the day that us boot camp soldiers are taken to headquarters to be assigned our AIT post.  My turn comes as the soldier before me walks out of the clerk’s cubicle.  I sit down at the desk and the Army clerk whips out my folder and states my name, rank, and serial number and then proceeds to say, “San Antonio, Texas,  Fort Sam Houston, leadership training in NCOS…”

“Wait a minute,” I say.  “What is in NCOS training?”

The clerk goes into a monotone military machine voice, “Three weeks advanced training at Non-Commissioned Officer School…” 

I interrupt again. “An officer school?” 

“Not Officer. It’s a Non-Com school...because of your high marks in basic training…”

“Oh,” I gulp.

The clerk is annoyed he has to explain cryptic Army labels and begins again, “Fort Sam Houston, Medical Brigade, 501 Regiment, First Battalion, 24th Combat Medic Company.”

“What! Wait a minute—I’m not a FUCKING Combat Medic.  I’m a GODDAM DENTAL ASSISTANT.”

Now the battalion clerk is really pissed off. He drops the pen in his hand and the other hand goes into a clinch.  A finger points to the signature on the paper on his desk.  The paper looks vaguely familiar.  He scowls at me and asks, “Are you Santiago McBoil RA1895986671?” I stood there seeing his finger on my upside-down signature. He looks at me with all the love of rattlesnake, and taps his finger on the signature.

“Uh, well yes…” I gulp again. 

“Right,” he says, “91-A-10, MOS status, combat medic.” 

“Wait a fucking minute!  I’m not a fucking combat medic. I’m a fucking dental assistant,”  I tried again.

“Right,” he spits and both hands go into a clinch.  Then he put his hands on the edge of the gray military desk and pushed himself back on the heavy wooden chair.  The feet of the chair screech across the concrete floor, like fingernails on a blackboard.  My spinal cord quivers in a chill. The clerk reaches down at the side of the desk and picks up a huge brown military book.  On its cover in black letters I read, MILITARY OFFICIAL STATUS CODE MANUAL. 

He slams the book down on the desk and flips it into two halves making a sound like distant thudding bombs.  He then tosses the pages rapidly to the right and the left until he suddenly stops. His finger looks like a lance of death as it goes to the top of a column of numbers.  I follow the finger as it comes down the column. The upside down numbers I can read and see as if there was a magnifying glass even though it is four feet away and the numbers are tiny. Then the finger stops and next to it reads, 91-A-10.  The finger slips along the line and then stops at the code description, COMBAT MEDIC.  The clerk smiles. 

The letters looked 10 feet tall and as though they were  printed in fluorescent ink.  My heart dropped and fell right through my asshole and smashed with a sickening thud on the cold concrete floor.  I thought I was going to pass out. 

The clerk looked at me with those rattlesnake eyes again and said with smug satisfaction, “Right, 91-A-10, Combat Medic, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.”  

I walked out of the cubicle in a state of shock.  The next soldier in line looked at me and I hissed, “What’s the spirit of the bayonet?”

“To kill,” he answered like the dog with Pavlov’s bell.

 ************************************************************

Santiago knew that he had never really been “normal.” Ever since early childhood, something always separated him from other children and adults. The only time he felt company understood was a dog. Over the years he had cultivated a character that was chameleon enough to allow him coexistence with other humans, but he knew the pretense.

Still, even though painful and awkward at times, the act allowed him into the vagaries and intrigues of society. In fact he was quite skilled at it, and sometimes months went by before the odd weave of his nature was discovered in the mediocre tapestry of life.

Santiago let the recurrent self observation pass through his thoughts with only slight acknowledgement. It was his nature and so there was no point to continue wishing a leopard could change his spots. He picked up the pen and went back to the world of old lovers who had loved him for a moment or two because he was crazy and the war that made him crazier.

I should have never bought a computer and found out about search engines.

Somehow trying to find an old lover from thirty years ago has opened a Pandora’s Box of another lover of another time.

Vickie Manstalk reappeared from nowhere. She said she found me on the Web. Irony all around. Here I am searching for a lover I can’t find and an old bed buddy I don’t want back finds me. Not a lover, just someone I fucked from time to time. Who is hunting who and who thinks there isn’t cosmic satire? But in truth, Vickie being who she was in my history has never been out of my bed baggage.

How can I begin to ignore Vickie who has seen every crack and scar of my soul? She has taken every disgusting piece of slime I have thrown on her and came back for more. She has remained not only a sometimes screw, but more real, a friend. She has forgiven me too many times to remember. I now realize something that I have tried to ignore for years—some people love you despite your hate.

I wrote  Vickie I was trying to find an old lover who I wanted to apologize to - she thought that was hilarious and wrote back that I was still in a land of fantasy. Maybe she is right. Who knows my bullshit better than her?

Along this frame of reference I thought of Dark Eyes again, and the whole concept of the Angel’s Share—the  metaphor of what the book is about. At the moment I don’t know. I seem to be at a bus station in the middle of the night. All I can do is smell the diesel fumes and look at the other poor wretches stretched out on the hard benches…

 

 

The Gypsy

It has been 12 days since I telephoned.  Gypsy, Rebecca. I have been trying to find her since 1977.  I first looked for her when my daughter was only nine months old.  Rebecca would be having her first child only four months later.  I tried to find her again in 1986 after being an expatriate for 14 years.  I was at Venice Beach and Rebecca was only five miles away at Manhattan Beach, divorced, while my wife was in Scotland fucking my best friend and wanting to divorce me.

Fucking Neil, both my wife and Martina. I guess some men just can’t stop their dicks from doing the thinking. I should know. 

And now 12 days later, I am afraid to call the number again.  Maybe they have told her I’m alive and kicking back into her life again and she wants no part of that history.  I don’t know.  What I do know is this: I have had enough time after the thrill of finding her—enough time to know it is a complicated situation and all the parties are not eager to get back in touch with me.  That brings home the memory of the tortuous love affair it was. I hurt her as much as I could have hurt any human.  I hurt her in a terrible way. I may never be able to apologize or do anything that could remove the  tragedy.

The only thing that I have done consistently over the years has been to document this organized accident of my life. I write and draw which I have done since I was a kid and in the last ten years I have made cassette recordings either talking to myself, or I send them to friends. I have hundreds of tapes of my mumbling. One of my friends tells me he puts my tapes on when he can’t go to sleep, and then he instantly passes out.

I have made the tapes out of loneliness. When I start, I imagine that a friend is there next me listening. By doing that over the years I have become very relaxed and conversational with the machine. Maybe I am more at home speaking to machines. I decided to send a tape to the woman I knew thirty years ago. Where could I send it but to her brother who would not let me know her actual address. I only know she is in northern Montana. I told him he could listen to the tape and if it was okay, he should send it to her.

What could I say to the Gypsy of my youth?  If her brother sends it, she can listen to the tape, or she can look at it and wonder what it is before she throws it away. But whether she listens to it or not I will have said what I wanted to say. I sent the words in her direction. I can’t control the forces of fate, the Angel’s Share.

I’m guilty of a jealous heart that brought the death of my first child.  Abortion…it has taken me thirty years to realize I was responsible for the life of my own baby.  I did it by looking the other way.  I lost not only a child but I killed love. For three decades, I’ve looked for her face in every woman.

I have searched for her in every nuance, every gesture.  I find her in old  rock songs on the radio every day—every station in America—I smell flowers, patchouli oil, marijuana, brown rice, pinewood, chicken manure , fish guts—I touch a piece of wool, or pure cotton—a  list of senses  that trace a measure of Rebecca’s face.  Obsessed?

Yes.  But not the obsession I had for Martina or Dark Eyes. My soul has been so camouflaged—my insanity, my unhappiness, when I looked at it square on, it turned to ashes, the unconscious mind dropped the curtains.  Simply, I could not see the forest for the lover-like trees standing in the way.

How unfair this has been to every woman I have known—and most painful of all, my wife Leila.  She always said to me—you’re not in love with me—you’re searching for a gypsy.  She got it half right in both respects I did love her but not the shrine of love she wanted.  My heart did not have enough room.  I had already had a shrine but lost that love in the nightmare of time. I was not so much searching for that love as it was a desire to return to what was gone.  There is a difference. I was looking for Gypsy who could wash my sins away.

I looked for Rebecca again in 1994 when I had lost my mind and jumped to the provocateur who only needed me for the theater she had running in her head—Martina, a lesson about being lonely and crazy—I searched again for Rebecca in ‘98.  Each time there was no path to follow.  It was as though she never existed. But then it was the coming of the “information age,” the power of the new millennium that brought success to my search.  It was the first time I knew I had to apologize to love. And what about the dead villagers? What kind of apology to them?

 

To Kill

Two days to figure out what to do before Fort Sam Houston, Texas—leadership school training to be temporary a non-commission officer—to be trained as well a combat medic—a runaround firefighter trying to stop sucking chest wounds of 10 men while ducking bullets the Viet Cong were sapping at the bright red cross on the circle of white bull’s-eye configuration that is a medic’s helmet—and even if the bullets missed the head, there are a lot of body parts below.  We were told later by the drill sergeants who’d been in Nam—it demoralizes fuck out of the troops when the doc gets shot—so you better dodge the reception you get with the gooks.

After I got the orders telling me I was going to be one of those lucky individuals I started having nightmares every night, meeting the destiny the lying son-of-a-bitch recruiting sergeant gave me.  The nightmares wouldn’t go way. 

I would wake shouting “No!”  If I went back to sleep, I went back into the same dream—a dream of walking down a dirt road in the jungle with a 100 grunts—everything is beautiful, tropical, heavy-laden-jungle-sweet-sour air.  Something is whistling, someone  screams “incoming” and then the shit comes down, but where the fuck is the incoming coming from?  I hear a AK-47’s, 50 calibers, mortars, Bouncing Betties, you name it, a world of bitter shit falls on us—then next, there’s only moaning, horrible sucking moaning and the smell of cordite and blood—I looked around and there are 99 bodies—each  man’s chest has a meaty foxhole in it—I am surrounded by 99 sucking chest wounds. I don’t know which one to save. I wake-up screaming. 

The nightmares were the first part of the subconscious knee-jerk that propelled me to sign up for Officer Candidate School, OCS.  The rumor was at the 2nd lieutenants were next in line to be plucked off by the Cong sharpshooters—mainly because they were the low peg on the officer totem pole. A 2nd Luey had to work out in the boondocks, usually assigned to search and destroy companies—which usually meant that if the Cong didn’t fuck you because you were running around like an officer, trying to demonstrate your superior training, then one of your own then would frag you full of holes for trying to get them killed.

I was doomed no matter which way I went—medic or infantry officer—but at the time 18 months would go by before I was actually made in officer. According to President Johnson, the conflict would be over by then.

How was I to know that the next three years would be the bloodiest beating American soldiers would experience since the battles in the Pacific—the war that swallowed my dead brother who was only 21.

So it passed the OCS test with flying colors except for one part. I was disqualified from being a helicopter pilot because I had a stigmatism in my right eye.  The idea that I could fly for the war to repeat my dead brother’s career  was out of the question.  It was a 99 percent certainty I would be assigned to an infantry battalion in Viet Nam—where little kids and sweet women in black pajamas would say hello Joe then blow your brains out.  But what to do?  If I stayed a medic I would be in the same situation in four months.  So it was OCS and hope the war would end.

The sergeants told me later—you made it Santiago—you are going into OCS—don’t worry about the primary orders—you have to go through medic school until the secondary OCS orders come through—that might be six or eight months before that happens—you’ll be stationed stateside until then...

It was looking up. I could hang out while the war ended. Great!  Even better than I imagined—it might even be two years before I got through OCS. I would only have six months left in the Army. They wouldn’t send me to Vietnam then, would they?

It was out of my hands.  I was in the Army paper parade and I had to play soldier.  The nightmares continued.

I arrived at leadership school along with 100 other candidates.  The school of non-commissioned officers treated us with this message as we stood at attention before we entered our quarters...

There are 100 of you sorry sons-a-bitches today.  By the end of the first week there’s only going to be 50 of you bags of human vomit.  In the next week 30 of you may be hanging by your little pussy fingers.  If any of you dog shit specimens can still breathe the third week, we might have enough to meat attached to brains to make a leadership squad—14  of you pathetic little girls may still be alive.

In one talk, the sergeants convinced each of us to be one of the little girls still there at the end.  It was the same transparent reverse psychology the drill sergeants played over and over, but it worked.

The talk concluded. They yelled at us to grab our duffel bags and march close order double time to into the building that we would come to know every square inch of in the next 21 days. 

As we came to the front door we were sorted—every other man upstairs. I got to my turn and was pointed to the staircase.  There was a soldier with his bag over his shoulder in front of me and a man behind me tromping up the wooden steps.  It was hypnotic, feet falling in unison like music machines—frompa  , frompa, frompa, soul notes of rubber soles.  My eyes fell to the stair-steps—polished planks and yellow block letters that were stenciled on the front of the steps.  The words came in view with the beat of the booted rhythm; Honor, Duty, Obedience, Justice, Integrity, Sacrifice, Glory, Decency, Discipline.

By the time we got to the top of the steps we were programmed.  Amazing.  They knew every step we made as a group and how to employ the brain washing takeover. It was ironic that the  same two laws they conditioned us, to seduce us, was what we were to learn to control our men. The first being, soldiers were always a group, never an individual. The second was an ancient weapon a leader had over every man; fear.  It was fear that kept us inside the machine—fear that made us jump through hoops of burning hell—and fear that made us want to stay alive.

The words were tattooed into our brains. It was what the sergeants wanted us to think.  It was a simple technique.  Keep us on double time 20 hours a day and make sure our four hours of sleep was interrupted at least twice every night.  In three days there was only 40 of us left.  The meat grinder was worse than anything we had ever experienced in boot camp.  The machine was chewing up and spitting out our minds into close order obedience. It was what the chain of command must have to control the murder and mayhem of organized chaos—the wonderful world of war. 

In the first three days of leadership school, a New Yorker named Dino Del Nero and me buddied-up. He had a fast-clipped NYC accent but was laid-back and in fact, resisting what they were doing to us.  He got picked-on constantly by the sergeants calling him a filthy specimen of contamination.  Often Del Nero had to do punishment exercise because he had a tiny speck on his belt buckle or an unseen wrinkle in his fatigues.  One time he had to run laps until he fell on his face on the parade ground because a particle of dust was on his shirt—another time it was a boot lace tied unevenly. He was the only one chosen for extra duty during our precious four hours of slumber.  In three days I doubt he had four hours sleep.

It didn’t occur to me the sergeants were deliberately persecuting him just so they could demonstrate how they could drive a man into the ground, but they were.  We witnessed Del Nero fall apart day by day, but instead of sympathy from the group he only earned contempt. I was only one that continued to speak to him. By the third day I realized my friendship with him was dangerous.

I avoided him later that afternoon but felt guilty deserting our minimal friendship.  I was relieved the next morning to discover he was the first one to be sent back the regular army.  He was gone but left a seed of cancerous thought in malignant ground.

It wasn’t the propaganda and brainwashing the sergeants did to all of us— Del Nero planted something strange in me.  When a sergeant saw me talking with him we were put on duty of scrubbing the already spotless floors to make them even more spotless.  For a few minutes we were away from the sergeants and the other non-com candidates.

“Don’t you see what this fucking army is doing, man?”  Del Nero whispered conspiratorially to me.

“I guess to wear us down—you  know,  make us soldiers.”

“No, you fucking idiot. You don’t get it—you don’t get it at all—they’re  taking over our minds—they’re fucking brainwashing us—turning us into fucking machines,” he spit out.

“Hey man, they’re just weeding out losers…” I began.

“Bullshit,” he screamed.  “What they’re weeding out is we still have a heart and are human—don’t you see they’re killing our souls?” 

At that moment the sergeant came in and saw us talking and not working. He made us go out to the other men who were scrubbing spotless floors, screaming “We are lazy scum.”

In the morning I knew I might be next victim the sergeants chose. I worked even more diligently at every test given. I did not sympathize with any man who was picked for destruction.  I was going to survive.  I was going to make it in the leadership school. I was going to be there at the end.  I had already run one drill sergeant into the ground.  They were not going to kill me.  I turned my mind to a fine line of wariness.  I could hear the sergeants a 100 feet away and was ready to go through the gates of hell  with any command given.

In the second week I was being picked out by the drill sergeants—not for persecution, but as an example of an excellent specimen—a man who knew how to soldier—but somewhere in the back to my mind, the seed of Del Nero’s  words still were trying to germinate—I could hear his voice—don’t you see, they are killing our soul’s?

I heard the voice—but I didn’t take the time to think about it.  I had no time.  Every second of every day the sergeants were on us.  The men were dropping out of the leadership school every few hours.  By the third week there were only 20 of us left and the sergeants turned on the heat—a boiling competition with each other.  It was dog eat dog—every man for himself.

By the end of the third week I was one of the 14 famous pussy girls. The sergeants congratulated us about our exemplary skills. I listened to them radiating pride in the smug arrogance that I was better than everybody else. I believed the sergeants.  I was a superior being.  I was like them. 

Even if it was only a temporary promotion—I was a non-commissioned officer.  I was happy.  I was amazed I had made it and felt honored among other humans of our small band.  We congratulated each other and slapped backs and laughed and talked using the phrases that had pulled us  onward for three weeks—I was looking at the other guys saying words that sounded right and  they were agreeing with me repeating them.  It was then it happened; Del Nero’s seed bloomed in my head.  My God, we are brainwashed—we are talking like machines.

 ***************************************************************

Santiago did not like what he was writing. All of it just brought him back to what he was trying his best to forget. Yeah, in the end, he had just been a machine. Push the “Kill” button and it kills. There were a thousand reasons why he could have done something different, but the button got pushed and he killed. He pulled the trigger, no one else had his gun. He was the one that lay six bodies down. “Fuck this shit,” he said and picked up one of the journals he had not looked at since he finished it years before.

 

Random notes of six weeks between New Mexico and Montana

I wish I could say I got royally laid but I would be lying and if I did get laid I would probably regret it today. What did happen was only a moderate ego boost.

Of course it was a beautiful young woman. Would I look at an old woman?  What is new? But Yvonne, a wife of a friend gestured for me to join her at the table of an exotic black haired girl (again the black hair gets me) I had noticed when I walked into the Cowgirl Bar. Yvonne introduced me and suddenly the old wit jumped out and I had the young lady laughing and smiling. Even so, she acted a little snooty (well, I am an old goat) but after a few minutes of me galloping down the slopes of oblivion I reminded myself to cool it.

I put my glasses in my vest pocket and sat back in the chair and disengaged. But for some reason I decided to put my glasses in another pocket and when I did I flipped a condom out on the table in front of everybody. I looked at it like it was glowing plutonium for an overlong second, and then picked it up and said, “One never knows.” The young woman smiled but I couldn’t tell if she thought it was funny or she was just embarrassed on my behalf of being an idiot. What was worse as I swept the condom back into my vest pocket my hand brushed my tonic water and it tumbled off right into my lap. I felt the shame of being the absolute fool I was. I could not have done better as a pimpled teenager. I was a nerd to the ninth degree. I went to the bar and got a dry towel and wiped my crotch and cleaned the mess on the table. I shot a look of an advanced moron at Yvonne and the young woman and just accepted the fact old goats like me are fools of a different order. The young woman laughed and looked at me mischievously. I felt more embarrassed than I did at thirteen. I considered the possibility of just turning on my heels and walking out. One can stand only so much humiliation.

But the young woman was so gorgeous and she said, “I thought I was the only person in the world who could destroy a perfect situation. I love you. We are in the same club. Now I don’t feel so lonely.” I looked at her and wondered if she was serious or she was making more fun of me. She reached out her hand and said, “You make me feel a lot better.”

I took her hand and mumbled, “Yeah sure, I make a habit of being a klutz.”

She laughed and said, “Are you  Jewish?”

“No, but I can relate to Woody Allen.”

“Oh I hate that asshole. He is so boring.”

Great, I thought, just slide in then slide out. But then, she asked me another question about where I came from and in few minutes I had her laughing and thinking I was witty again.

I was back up on my two legs even if I was punch-drunk. I asked her if she wanted to dance, being the bar band had just started and they were doing some variation of Jumping Jack Flash, that made my testosterone bubble. She said she wasn’t ready yet but maybe she would after her next drink. Naturally I took the bait and bought her another drink. It was a weird vodka concoction with one of those silly names like Bombay Boogie or such. I got myself a tonic water even though I had the urge to buy a double shot of Jack Daniels.

I set back down at the table, this time right next to her instead the other side where I had been before. I asked what her work was and she said she was an artist. She opened up and started telling me about herself. I wondered if she was stoned on marijuana and had a case of the mouth runs. She said a lot of things that I said when I was her age, which I thought must be her early thirties. We talked on through the music and both of us seemed to forget other people were at the table.

Somehow I could feel her sliding my way, but suddenly the image of Dark Eyes seemed to replace her face, then in a millisecond I could have sworn it was Martina I was talking to – even the inflection in her voice sounded like Martina. Her face morphed again and I swear I could see coals in her eyes. Then it was the Teen Baby,  then the Wife who dissolved into Gypsy.

I felt completely insane and had the sensation I was falling off a very high place. The floor dropped for a moment and I thought I was going to throw up right in her face. I forgot what she was saying and I stood up and said, “Oh, I just remembered I must make a very important telephone call.” I did what I should have done twenty minutes earlier and walked out of the bar.

 

The Gypsy

I have no response from the brother of Gypsy.  I guess he may feel compromised in talking to me or maybe he is nervous what will happen if I find her again.  Maybe he just doesn’t know what to say to someone after so many years.  The fact is I don’t know any of these possibilities.  I have no idea if he has even talked to his sister—30 years is a lifetime ago and his life has its own dimensions.  It could be that I am what most people want to forget. 

I’ve got a computer hooked up so I can e-mail the brother. If nothing else I can send a message which I can request forwarded to Gypsy.  It makes me nervous of what I have to do—an apology is the context but the truth is I want to heal my broken life.

 

The Shrink

I saw the shrink at the VA today.  She is a good woman and an ally.  Her first prescription actually helped make it through the insanity of only a year ago.  At the time I told her what she needed to know, just enough to get the pills. I was thinking it only a trial run— it also helped remaining sober to reclaim reality.

I finally realized there have been more levels of denial than one. When I  began to peel  the first layer off—it was the uncovering of distortions of my soul that were 30 years known—the wreckage of all the women and all the love and all the inability to love anything or anybody started at a point when I was only a child, crystallized from the mistrust and hatred of generations before me—my very own DNA predetermined tragedy. 

Yet the moment that remains terrifying was in the Presidio nuthouse in1968, at a moment I was in a normal condition of being, no holes in my body, no bullets, no dead bodies, no blood flowing like rain water, and none of the drugs that came later—that was the first time I knew I was losing my mind.  Not just one day, but many and the worst part of it was the reality of war in the psychiatric ward full of combat medics.

 

Notes on the Wife  

The year we broke up I dropped the Wife off at the Amtrak station in El Paso Wednesday afternoon.  It made me sad to see her leave on the train. We joked about it being strange. It was me usually leaving her behind. She was returning to Europe for six months, but touring America on her way out. Something she always wanted to do. In Europe she was going to see our daughter in Paris who was studying art at the Sorbonne. I wondered if fate would cross her path with Dark Eyes. Life is that small and the wife always wandered across my old mishaps.

My wife and I were both going to old worlds. Her to European origins and me on a big circle—the  reverse journey of the year before—when I was alone physically and spiritually—a journey that was just beginning of journeys.  But this time I was not so alone.  I had my dog Shadow with me that had loved me through my insanity. This time I knew Gypsy was somewhere in Montana.

 

Traveling

I went first to an old buddy’s house at Imperial  Beach, one of the last undiscovered beaches of California. Most people play north of Imperial Beach, because the fecal count is so high. Tijuana is only 5 miles south and dumps its sewers directly into the ocean. Americans don’t want to swim in Mexican turds so they go to Mission beach or La Jolla.  But it suits me fine. I’ve been in the shit up to my eyeballs for years. 

I arrived at my buddy’s empty house. We were together in My Lai. We never talk about it. We don’t have to. We see all there is to be said in each others eyes. So we always talk about pussy, boats and motorcycles. Jim was nowhere around. It’s funny, you would think we would not want ever to meet again, but somehow we get comfort from each other. We are the only ones who know how it feels. If Jim was not at home, I didn’t care—it was good to be back in California and good to see palm trees, old surfers and bars with open doors in February. If he didn’t appear I would split to Seattle the next day and look up another old survivor, Caesar.

I went down to a cafe at the beach. I had a coffee under an ancient banyan tree.  It was Sunday morning. Not many people were around in this shit stretch of California beach. Later I let Shadow run free and walked about halfway to Tijuana before Border guards showed up and said I couldn’t let the dog run free on the beach. Maybe they were worried that Shadow would step in shit and drag it back to sanitized America.

Jim showed up later in the evening.  He just came back from his work in one of the illegal shanty-towns on the outskirts of Tijuana. He was accompanied by a young New York Jewess  and even younger Jap women form Tokyo.  They were both beautiful and rich and liberal with a need to serve the poor. It was the right idea surrounding his life with young wealthy women. An old man could forget almost anything in such circumstance.

Jim was scattered in his thoughts and made the excuse that he was at the end of a three day fast.  I asked him why he didn’t work out the spiritual stuff in tantric tutoring with young women—he laughed and said that was the problem.  He began talking about his world without one question of what I was up to.  It didn’t bother me Jim was that way— it was a relief to listen to someone without a request to explain my own situation.  Many people are filled with a mantra of me, me, me. I had not lost interest in my me, but it was good to not to hustle it like a flea market barker.

Being that Jim was on a fast, he wasn’t drinking beer and the two young women were hanging on to every word of his, we didn’t go into our favorite topics. The two girls regarded me as a funny old man and never made eye contact. I split the next morning.  

At that point I was almost broke, about hundred bucks away from being homeless except  for the old Dodge van I lived in when I went back to the University. I called it the “Orange Crate” because I got stoned and painted it bright orange in honor of the favorite burn of Nam. It was loaded with three huge paintings and my dog  and a manuscript full of the intention of getting the story down before I died.

I was taking it all on a long lonely road, to the coast, and on to Montana where my long lost love lived. Her brother told me she was there but wouldn’t say what city. So that was why I was back on the road, to look for a needle in the hay stack of Montana and love that had been suspended for 30 years. I didn’t want take the straight path from New Mexico to Montana, but through buddies of My Lai on a journey to an old lover.

Chasing an idea of love was a way of handling the past. It was the technique I used for years to get over pain, using love like morphine, but I didn’t know each woman would take a  chunk of my heart. Okay, it didn’t  make sense being I was actually going backwards even if there was logic to putting out fire with fire.

The first two women in my life were tutors to the world of sex, and the first to teach me the hurt of broken dreams,  but Gypsy was the reason I made such a mess of all the other loves in my life, including the best, the Wife. I had always been trying to replace Gypsy, and that is how it was. Martina and Dark Eyes had the almond eyed beauty of Gypsy. The three could have been sisters.  I knew I was chasing a myth, but I couldn’t stop myself. The road of that myth took me north.

In Seattle I could find the one of us at My Lai who was a multimillionaire. I needed dough.

Caesar De Vinci, not only was given famous names at birth but also 35 million bucks. He had to join the army at nineteen as part of a plea bargain his father had forced on him after getting busted for sticking powder up his nose and his dick up the ass of his 14-year-old sister. He was a nut, and the only one of us not bothered by My Lai. I don’t know if he shot anyone, but that is one thing us survivors had got over. We didn’t judge who was right or wrong, who did, and who didn’t. But Caesar scared me.  He enjoyed that evil day. No ghosts followed him into the night. 

After Nam, Caesar lived in the ski town of Telluride, Colorado. I followed him there when he offered to pay for a two week ski package and stayed there when I had got involved with an evangelical church. I tried to wash my sins away by painting three murals on plywood panels. The panels were thrown out on the street when I got arrested for being drunk and caught with a whore in Durango.  By coincidence many years later I wound up with those panels. Now I had them in the van. I thought Caesar might buy them because I used him as the model for Judas and the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s heart.

All the way north, I knew Caesar would have advanced mental diversions—but his money pillows would help me lose concern with his normal abnormality.  I was taking the paintings to him to see what the future would be.  If I kept them nothing would happen.  They would  continue to rot to the ground.  If I gave them to my daughter or a church or anyone else they would be left with the same future.  Who knows what will happen to them if Caesar buys them ? 

If he gets out of his latest mental condition he may just decide to buy the panels. Caesar is the only one rich enough with connections to actually do something with the panels.  It was my religious period.  When I am dead and at last famous, he can tell the historians.  Who wants pictures of Jesus walking on water these days?  Perhaps Caesar will give them to a metaphysical society.  That would be okay.  He may put them in his bathroom.  I don’t really care.  I just want those paintings out of my life.  I can use the money.

I did the paintings at a time of moral consciousness. It was my spiritual moment in life.  I left them in my Telluride studio, which was a garage of an old lady in the church.  It is strange how the paintings came back as if to remind me to think about my spirit. But it was the weirdness of seeing my Gypsy who I painted as Mary Magdalene.  I never thought I would see that face again. 

I took the paintings and the pain  with me on the road and trotted off  hoping someone could tell me where she was in Montana. My phantom was no where to be found.  I left messages with people at doors I didn’t know.  The last time I saw Gypsy, she was a young girl.  I wondered if she even remembered me, or saw me now as a  wrinkled old fart, alone and drunk perhaps?  Yes, old, alone, wrinkled and still a drunk even though I stopped drinking.

Seattle

Where is Caesar?  I get to his house in the rich hills of Seattle. There is no one answering the gate telephone.  I come back three times and no one answers.  I have no choice but to wait. I spent the hundred bucks on gas and food on the way to Seattle.  I pray to a God I don’t believe in that someone will appear. 

I wait from 1 PM to 11 PM.  Caesar lives in an exclusive prison.  Twenty acres surrounded by a 12 foot stone wall in the middle of Seattle.  It doesn’t inspire me about human grace.  I wonder what got me to come all this distance to hustle my old religious paintings. It is irrational racing.  It was just a gut feeling.  I followed that gut even though the whole exercise seems to be one of letting go—to get rid of something—yet the idea of getting in touch with the love from 30 years ago stays. 

To travel 2000 miles to see a dead love somewhere in Montana is absurd, and 30 years gone by is too much history and too many people between us.

I slept the night in a grocery store parking lot.  I woke up early morning because of a giant vacuum cleaning machine sucking up nothing but time and gasoline.  Who am I to talk about wasting time and gasoline?  I’m the one who has driven endless miles in a gas guzzler going nowhere.

I got up and bought a bad cup of coffee at a gas station with the last buck I had then went back to Caesars gate and buzzed the house again. Caesar answered and didn’t seem surprised at all. The gate swung open and I drove a quarter mile down a maple tree lined lane. He was standing in a pink bath robe in front of the three store brick colonial mansion, looking at me with those myopic eyes and strange sneer smile.

I told him I  brought the panels.

“What the hell did you bring them for?”

“Well, I thought you might be interested in buying them since you are  featured in the Last Supper and Mount Calvary?  So…do you want them?”

“I don’t know, I’m short on money after getting back from Bangkok.”

“Come on Caesar, I don’t want that much for them…”

“You think I have money pouring out my ears?”

“Well don’t you?”

“Look, I had to take a whole entourage of people with me and that cost a fucking fortune, and shit man, the trust board only allows  me to spend so much. I’m already over my monthly allowance.”

“Caesar, don’t give me that bullshit. Remember the times your old man cut you off? Who paid for your fucking powder and vodka?”

Caesar looked at me and frowned. “Okay, okay, okay. So how much do you want, and anyway what am I supposed to do with those fucking enormous Jesus things?”

I hit the money deal right on the nose.  “$10,000—I can do that.”

“$10,000! Are you out of your fucking mind Santiago? What the fuck do you think I am a billionaire?”

“No, only a multi-millionaire, but that will do.”

“Fucking shit. What am I going to do with fucking Jesus?”

“Hey, they are great portraits of you that you can cut out or you can give them to your favorite new age bookstore or whatever.  Caesar I’m broke.”

“Okay, five thousand bucks and that’s all.”

“Deal.”

Caesar screwed around for three days before I got the money. It was after Caesar gave me the five grand, I called Gypsy’s brother again and it slipped out of his mouth that she lived in Helena working for a horse veterinarian. That was when I finally had enough information to Google her. In 10 minutes I located the myth I had been trying to find for over 30 years. 

I phoned Max, another survivor who lived in Idaho, about five hours south of where Gypsy lived in Montana. He told me he would have cold beer when I got there. That was not too hard to oblige being it was February.  The journey was firmly implanted and the future rolled into the journey of each day—the future that is so full of promise—so full of crossroads to the past that reveals heart not anticipated.

Irony again, in the beginning of the journey saying good bye to my wife of 20 years at the train station, it was a double vision—saying  goodbye to my faithful wife not knowing untold things within myself of another journey—the situation of double vision because it was 30 years before I had said goodbye to Gypsy as she climbed on a train in Colorado—me pretending love didn’t exist--yet there was my heart rolling away on steel rails as she sat behind dark windows thinking it was only a farewell.  It was more than I could imagine I would repeat the same pain with another woman who would become my wife in another time.

Everyone in Nam called  Max “Captain” even though was only a staff sergeant. He  was waiting for me in Idaho and to the north breathed my phantom.  Gypsy didn’t know I was only hours away while my wife was in Paris crossing the path of a ghost that came closer to killing me than the bullets of war.  Things were going to happen that no one knew—things were waiting for me.

 

Random notes on the road to Captain Max

The first morning after I left Caesar’s house I was sitting in McDonald’s feeling morose,  not knowing anything in particular other than it was a short life and long questions.  I had to get up an hour before the first light.  I was ticked at the antisocial signs in the parking lot—no parking between 11 PM and 7AM.  The sign was meant for homeless car sleepers such as me who sneak in during  the dark of early morning then move on before the first meter maids arrive.

I felt as lonely as an ice cube in hell.  I was back to being on my own.  The few hundred miles to Idaho stretched ahead in a pattern of meaningless wondering.  I felt not only lonely, but an anxious sense of confusion.  The little island of confidence I’d been standing on since Fargo was melting away. I sat drinking thin American coffee thinking I would be glad when life was over.  There was nothing to do but keep moving, keep moving north.

It was dull hesitation in the land of milk and honey. I felt numb in my beat-up old van that squeaked and leaked and blowed smoke.  Even though I had a home back in New Mexico, I had no desire to keep the material things that most people want. I was in the middle of apathy and all my wrappings were tattered.  It was just another McDonald’s morning—not because I like to them, but because it’s the only breakfast place that guarantees the same taste, one of the few things in the world that is consistent.

So there I was on the road north to Idaho. This was an exercise in  frenzy, like a grizzly bear chasing flying geese, hoping one would drop dead out of the air. 

Idaho

I got to Max’s house after dark going a 268 miles out of my way— I couldn’t face another city, even Boise, after Los Angeles and Seattle.

I live in the psychosis of the present condition like Max who sees the shrink every couple weeks to keep him on antidepressants—and me in my scenario—really laughable—us old farts still in the same boat of this vast life—different  conditions the same.  That is, being in the middle of the night, we are wondering when we will grow up?   It affects all the women in our life.  The calamity of starting another day is too much or starting another love is too much.  If I had a good woman or if he had a good woman our life would be much happier we said to each other as the beer went down.

So I talked to Max and we had the same connection we’ve always had going back to Vietnam—him the war hero who returned with only part of his body—I was the war deserter who returned with only part of my mind.  We have met in other places in this world—once in Colorado when I was with Gypsy and once in Scotland when I had the wife.  It is a long-running friendship. Even though both of us have traveled  our separate nightmares, we still arrive at the same junction of being who we are.

Max has changed little over the years, even with only part of a body—only his face has wrinkled prematurely from drinking too much booze and his compulsive nature of worrying over every detail of the future. He gets angry over laziness and moral decay.  He belts out his opinion denouncing the political leaders.  Once in a while I will say something that lets loose his outrage towards people such as myself who he says are stragglers and strugglers.  Max plays the role of General Patton—I play the role of the lame ducks and blind pigeons in American society.

Last night I mentioned America was owned by the white race—namely the breadbasket of the Midwest and what I saw that existed was an economic racism.  I said I could finally see the outrage and self-destructive nature of inner-city kids. 

Max jumped up and said fuck my liberal bullshit and that there was no excuse for black laziness.  He said Vietnamese and even Mexicans worked hard and they were just as brown as black people. Sure, that made a lot of sense.  My friend bristled at the idea that he was prejudiced towards a person just because of the color of his skin.

It is just as well I have stopped drinking otherwise I would have probably said something that would have brought years of friendship to an end – as it did with another old army buddy  – he was  blabbing his gut about the left-wing commies and black fanatics at which I contradicted his republican mind and we have not spoken since – But Max should know better, being that he has roughed it and lived on the fringe many times – but he still has a blind spot. That is not surprising being he lives deep in the spiritual woods of northern Idaho, which is hardly the most liberal thinking spot in the world – he is in a land where General Patton is still seen as one of the last American heroes.

That kind of ideology is impossible to maintain if one travels only a little distance across this planet.  If you step into the shoes of one of this worlds untouchables for only a moment it is impossible to live without compassion.  But Max is in La-La Land America. He is white, middle-class and always able to jump back into the comfort and safety of Redneckistan.

The American Dream is why everyday people are willing to die of thirst out in the southwestern desert, all the illegal “wetbacks” from the southern lands looking for a little milk and honey of their own.  But this is not the normal experience for the humanity of Juarez, Tijuana, Chiapas, Nicaragua, San Salvador or any other third world person trying to sneak through the paranoid borders of the Land of Opportunity. It is also the condition of the Lakota, the Navajo, the Apache and all the Native people of this bigot world. All people of color are like trapped animals in a poverty zoo even though an occasional individual manages to escape from one cage to another.

Hah, that’s funny, me thinking about crossing borders, real or imagined….or even borders that disappeared 30 years ago…

The talk made me think about the journey to Montana and what it actually represents; crossing ancient borders... the desire to find my myth, who now only 250 miles away scares me. It’s bullshit. Her brother told me she is with a man, she’s happy and LEAVE HER ALONE!  But, it was me that said, LEAVE ME ALONE,” when she asked if we should have the baby, but it was her who had the abortion and her that felt the death immediately. It took me twenty years to figure out it was our baby. Yeah, don’t look back or you will turn into a pillar of salt.

She has been a dream image, an illusion of perfection that kept me believing in a fairytale love.  Whatever I meant to her years ago has now been dormant for three decades, and to try to wake it up is ridiculous.  It is only me who thinks of her. Only 250 miles away I  have to accept I have held a fantasy of love that I will never reach.. She is a myth just like any other fairytale.

How can I go on with a free mind, a free heart? What could bring love into my heart if it is still full of betrayal? There are too many women that I have tangled into my web. What of The Wife who stood by me until she could stand no more? And what of Dark Eyes and Martina and my daughter and my mother and all the females who ever had the sad experience to believe my lies?

 

All of these avenues of consciousness leave me standing at the intersection of a human traffic jam.  It was that realization coming in the last hours that made me turn my old van and point it south. It is better to return to New Mexico.

Maybe it was the tirades of Max, maybe it was just one too many memories or maybe I am running only for the sake of running and have no intention ever of getting to the end.

 

On the road somewhere in Utah.

I am about 100 miles north of Salt Lake City. The winter weather is coming down, probably snow tonight if not in an hour. I stopped driving my old wreck after ten hours and began seeing white rabbits with top hats.

I keep coming back to the thought of all the hearts that have self-destructed around my life – or perhaps I should just be honest and admit that I strangled them all one way or the other—either  through too little attention or too much.

Yeah, divided hearts and fractured romance and aching bones. We went out into the world to play but in the process became old without noticing. It seems that way as I come across all of my old friends. When I last saw them we were all young, but with the weight of a few hundred dead villagers making our souls old, very old.

It was the forced double-time march up that valley with full packs, metal helmets, our weapons in our arms that became the weight of the world – I can hear the ones who passed out in the heat and crashed into the thick dead grass and bamboo along the road. I can hear the ripping silk of the incoming and some that were so dead tired they couldn’t even bother to jump off the road and just stood there. I can see the sucking chest wounds pumping out red gold in the bright noon sun. I see all the equipment scattered along the edge and hear the crackle of the radio set as “Captain”  called in for med-evacs… it is all shit these memories and it is worse to see the young ones now look so old. We were running nowhere.

And now I see I am still running that double-time. If I listen carefully I can hear hearts break as they discover the treason of the road. I can hear the lungs gasp and the electric synapse of the brain cells from too many days of running.

Now, we are not running from the Cong, no we are running from time, or from cancer, or from cataract vision or failed livers and kidneys. The problem is all of our old bones are swollen and arthritic. The advance of our age is as fast as computer calculation. We are growing old and will die. Few of us will retain the magic of love, of romance or find dreams that come  true. But maybe a night of romance in Paris is worth the price…

This is what I think after driving more than three thousand miles in a mad circle. If I drive like a motherfucker I might get back to where I started tomorrow – back to Locorado, New Mexico—back  to a life that is falling apart.  

This journey is not what I anticipated. It has been a story of disappointment–being bored moving 60 MPH. I have been like a passenger on a cruise ship that has stopped at ports long enough to get a view of a harbor city, but the schedule demands that the ship get to the next anchorage because it’s always a day behind schedule going nowhere. I am like one of those tourists who do 21 countries in 21 days.  I have been there but nothing was experienced. I would have been better of to have gone on a journey into my imagination. I wouldn’t have burned 500 gallons of gasoline.

I spent the earlier part of the day thinking of my daughter Tara. I worry that I have shown her all of the wrong dance steps in this ballroom of life. I worry experimentation for her is just not a thing of her youth but it will become a pattern for life.

That is what happened to me. I was a sample merchant, taking a bit of this and a tad of that. Experimenting became an art form for me and then it was like a bag of tricks, because I always had something surprising to show or to say to who ever was unlucky enough to believe there was wisdom involved. I took all of that endless experience of the new for granted. Now, I know eventually everything is consumed. There are no new experiences.

Did I give this disease to my daughter? Maybe she depends too much on her good luck and pretty face. Someday she too will be old, but no one ever believes it will happen to them.

 

GOING HOME 

What was the journey about?  Thousands of miles bouncing around with nowhere to go—a mad journey of nothing…

After Paris, back to America, to fucking freezing North Dakota, then this last 40 days circling the West in a beat old van with my flea-bitten companion. By the time I got home in the Orange Crate it was covered with dirt so thick it looked like it had gone through a monster truck mud drag.

I had spent two days coming down from Max’s home in Idaho. The road had been shitty all the way to New Mexico – about eight hundred miles of sleet, sludge, blowing snow, pelting rain and wind. In Salt Lake the freeways were packed and a dirty sleet was coming down. When big trucks would pass they would blow a layer of freezing muck all over the windscreen. All I could see were the red lights of the truck ahead of me for a brief second before the wipers were clogged again. I wanted to get back to Locorado, but it was the worst experience I ever had on the road.

The storm got worse out of Salt Lake. I was listening to the weather man on the radio. He said it was going to be a “light dusting that will blow over…” But fifteen miles up the road I was in total white-out conditions with a lunatic 18-wheel truck driver six feet behind me trying to ram his prick up my ass. By the time I got to Colorado in the afternoon I pulled off into a rest stop and fell on the floor of the van. I was totally exhausted.

Up nearly nine thousand feet in the Rockies can get serious. I slept for a couple hours and when I woke the sun was out. I drove on getting into Durango at dusk and stopped at a gas station to wash up. I put on some clean clothes so I could go sit in the bar of a fancy hotel—a  pair of old black corduroy trousers, a black turtle neck sweater, a worn out black corduroy jacket topped with a black baseball hat and brushed out the beard grown since Paris. It was the best I could do.

I drove to the center of town and parked. I looked into the big windows at the red velvet flocked walls of the Slater Hotel, went inside and had a shit in the gold and marble toilet. Afterwards I went to the lobby and sunk down into the plush red velvet sofa watching customers in expensive duds shuffle by. I set there like a homeless out of the night blizzard. Within a few minutes the staff started glancing eyeballs my way. I figured it would be only a matter of minutes before they informed me loitering was not allowed.

I started to walk out of the hotel but before I got to the front door heard a honky-tonk piano. I looked in the bar and saw a fellow at the piano. At the side of the room was a beautiful young woman with black hair and jet black eyes. She looked like she was listening to the music but her body language said boredom. An old dude set in front of her talking like he was the most interesting guy in the world. He was rich and she was in for the money. Even though the whole scene was ridiculous, this rich old goat with a young beautiful gold digger, I was jealous and I wished I was him. The phantom of Martina again.

 **************************************************************

Santiago picked up the pistol. It was late in the afternoon and the sun was behind the big chestnut trees on the west side of the farm. He heard Oscar yelling for the young Algerian, Jamaal, to bring more firewood for the barbeque. He could smell the pungent smoke of maqui. He held the pistol in front of his face looking at the dull gleam of the barrel. On the other side of the room something black was moving up the wall. Santiago shifted his eyes from the gun barrel to the dark object and saw that it was a huge scorpion scuttling towards the ceiling. He pointed the gun at the creature, carefully sighting the trajectory that was so familiar to him, even though he had not pulled a trigger since March 1968. He stopped breathing, relaxed and delicately squeezed. The loud crack of the weapon and recoil snapped his mind wide open. On the wall was a large hole and the scorpion was gone.

Oscar appeared at the bungalow door a few seconds later, seeing Santiago looking at his hands. The pistol was back on top of the table.

 “My God man, I thought you had bloody well shot yourself. What in fuck sake are you doing?”

“Went off by accident,” Santiago lied, “sorry about the wall.”

“Damn Santiago. Put that blasted thing away, and you can repair the wall after supper!”

Santiago watched Oscar go off in an angry shamble back to where the barbeque fire was illuminating the avocado tree near the outdoor dining table. He picked up the journal, reading on from where the name of Martina had jumped into his mind.

 

Chama, New Mexico

The scene in the hotel was more than I wanted, so I went back on the road and drove on to nearly midnight. I pulled into a 24 hour gas station numb with road and memories. I had been driving in rotten weather since Seattle – 1,500 miles of shit – but I didn’t think much about the weather because a hurricane was going on in my head—the  women in my life.

I had not been completely alone or I probably would have gone mad. I brought Shadow with me, the dog who had gone to North Dakota with me. I bought some  greasy chicken and fed him outside on a chain so not to be ran over by passing traffic. Mainly I put him outside so he wouldn’t pester me while I ate. That lasted for five minutes before he started scratching at the door. I let him in and he set at my feet with his devoted eyes as chicken went into my mouth.

Shadow is the most road-loving dog I have ever had. He would sit in a car the rest of his life if you left the door open. Even after being in this van for weeks, he acts insulted if you leave him outside more than a few minutes. He is an addict with the rumble of the highway and the vibration of the motor. You can see it in his eye as soon as we get started on the road – he has the look of a lobotomized moron but he is happy. Once the van starts rolling he goes into an advanced trance, and sits with his shoulder to the door snoring.

I had enough for one day. I went to bed and rolled around, aching for a long time before I finally drifted to sleep. I dreamt about Dark Eyes. It was weird. She was speaking Italian and I could understand every word. She was wearing a mask that looked like Martina.

The dream was very sensual. We were in large dark space, like a great hall in a castle that was dimly lit – the only light coming from dying embers in a giant fireplace – there was no floor underneath us. It was as though we were suspended in a warm dry world. There was a strong smell of musk coming from her. We seemed to be dancing, moving around each other, yet we did not touch. Dark Eyes had a transparent veil hanging around her, the kind of veil a Bedouin woman would treasure. The veil shimmered in light.

I felt guilty about being with her, because the Martina mask belonged to Neil, but each time I would breathe, her scent would flush me with lust. I forgot about her being captured territory. She was mine.  My lips came down on the hollow of her shoulder. I could feel electricity run through her body. I could tell she had an orgasm and I was satisfied with her achieving her own need.

I woke up and wondered what time it was. I looked at the clock. 2:45 AM.  I rolled over and went back to sleep. A woman came back into another dream. This time it was Martina wearing a mask that looked like Dark Eyes. She took a long knife out of her mouth, smiled then flicked the blade across my throat. I woke up sweating and looked at the clock. It was 3:48 AM. My house was about 4 hours away and Shadow was farting chicken perfume. I got up and made the last 200 miles to Locorado.

 

Back in Locorado

After a couple days home I went to the VA hospital in Albuquerque to have a blood test. I was wondering if the bug, complements of Dark Eyes, had made its appearance. Do I have the disease? Results will come in a few days. In the mean time I asked the Doc to give me something else; a pill to make my world a little happier. He sent me to a shrink who suggested “mood stabilizers”.

Life got weird after Paris. My mood went from pathetic to intolerable. It seems I got used to being down, but now it is like being under the mud – the subterranean blues Dylan told us about – an ogre climbed on my back.

It is getting a little scary so I was glad about seeing the shrink. She asked me if I was depressed as soon as she saw me. The shrink put me on pills. They make me feel a little drunk in the evening. The bed begins to spin one way and my body spins the other. Like one too many whiskies, but after a few weeks of the pill, the ogre is supposed to go away. The ordeal of being alive will return to plain pathetic without the scary parts.  I take pills and the world is still miserable, but not quite so miserable. It’s fucked.

Instead of being an alcoholic, I am now a pill popping drug addict. I don’t get any physical sensation in a psychedelic way from the pills at all – in fact the only kick is headaches and a slight whiskey affect. I never did like the drunk from whiskey, not even when I was a drunk. Beer was a slow sleepy ride to the numb, but whiskey was always like getting car sick coming down a mountain road. Who ever thought getting drunk, or taking a pill can cure love?

So why do I take this damn pill? It’s called Depocote. And it is not just one pill but a whole train load every day. 1,500 milligrams—enough to make a horse sleep yet anything is better than psychological torture – twenty years of being a depressed-dope-smoking-drunk is enough. A million gallons of beer and a thousand miles of doobies. I made my quota.

So how did I get there in the first place? Maybe I always was tortured—a  tortured child, a tortured adolescent, a tortured angry young man. Is it any wonder I am not a tortured old goat? But in the last few years I developed a perfect technique of being bashed by my own cruelty. Now it is a relief to be free from that depraved side of myself. Who was that masked son-of-a-bitch, I ask myself and will he come back ? Can I make him go away forever?

 

Heading South

Only one week home and I got a phone call from a client to do a restaurant mural near El Paso. I started the process of unloading and cleaning the Orange Crate and getting it ready to go back out on the road.

Shadow hung around waiting for the chance to jump in. I kept telling him, “Not this time Fur-ball.” I had swept out a pile of doggy fluff the size of him.  A dog in such a small space is too much. This time he stays in Locorado. Shadow will pout. He doesn’t know he’s a dog. He has become human to the degree that he sleeps with me in bed and would prefer to sit at the table with his own china.

He will stay home while I go do another small mural commission in Texas. I  hope the dog doesn’t get ran over out on the highway. That is something that haunts me from childhood –so many dogs got splattered by cars. Some people aim for them on the road. But who can keep a dog from wandering without putting them on a chain in a yard? Every time I have fixed the fence around my backyard, Shadow has made an escape. He is a genius of escape so hopefully he can also escape the wheels of a maniac. At this point I am only glad he is not coming with me. I won’t have to sleep in a small box full of stinking dog farts, covered in mutt fuzz.

Shadow looked at me, then the van, then the old sleeping place. “Bullshit,” he said. “A’int no reason I should stay.” He put his tail down and went under the porch.

 ***************************************************************

Oscar called out, “You damned yank if you don’t come soon Jamaal will eat the bloody lot!”

Santiago squeezed his eyes shut and ignored Oscar. He looked at the journal page with one of the dogs in his life. There was that old thing down in his chest, the beginning of pain that he learned to stop years before, by simply turning off his memory, yet this time he couldn’t do it and the ache pinged like a sonar. Blips of his first friends echoed across a fraction of a second.

“Damn it, the definition of my life. I’m a dog.”

It was such a stupid truth it made him laugh. He thumbed the journal to another page.

 

 

Locorado

I spent a couple days cleaning the van. It was road dirt collected from North Dakota and the west coast circuit—over  eight thousand miles of winter road sludge since the last time the Orange Crate was washed—the  body was crusted. But it was the inside that was abominable. 

It looked like the infamous Scottish McBean family cave, who were reportedly the last cannibals of civilized Europe.

The McBeans had so many children and were so impoverished that the father took up highway robbery. He picked off only the well-to-do, taking their 16th century fine embroidered clothing, furs and trinkets. He took it to his cave to bedeck himself and his family.  He not only robbed the gentry, but he killed them and skinned them out, bringing the best meaty cuts home to his starving brats. He told his family it was wild stag. He kept the prized heart for himself and the Mrs.

The children grew rapidly from all of the increased protein and their appetites grew accordingly. Mr. McBean was forced to plunder the highway even more to keep up with the demanding gullets of his family until the local Constabulary noticed important aristocrats were missing. Also it was noticed that Mrs. McBean, though an illiterate peasant, had taken to wearing fine silken dresses and expensive fur shawls into town. Eventually the entire McBean family was captured and brought in by the law to pay for their Godless acts. They were found guilty. Being justice in the 16th century was rather basic, but efficient, the Ma, the Pa and all the kiddies were immediately drawn and quartered – pulled apart in four directions by large draft horses.

Oh yeah, the interior of my van. It was a mess. But I have gone off on a tangent. If you can imagine the cave where the McBeans lived, then you can see the inside of the van that me and my stinky fur ball rambled eight thousand miles together. It was an odor collecting shag carpet the size of a Michael Jordon shoebox. I need to go back to car wash this morning and vacuum the last pounds of extra fine dog hair waiting to ambush me wearing a black silk shirt. It’s probably the dog fur that has clogged the brains of the used computer I bought recently. The damn thing has been driving me crazy.

I got up at 4 AM trying to figure out what was wrong with the computer. I spent the next 18 hours not being able to get away from the Information Highway. I discovered the email circuit, but being such a virgin to this electric intercourse, I was like a young enthusiast who can’t get  his zipper down and ejaculates in his underwear.  The computer keeps crashing or telling me I have done something illegal.

Bill Gates and God, or is it Gates of God? I wonder at the coincidence of name and occupation – for example a chiropractor named I. M. Gear, or a chef named Will Boil. And Gates—at  the entry of the whole computer world, collecting at the gates from each spectator who wants to see the Electric One-Eyed Mistress—the Mistress who has taken over my life.

Every moment I am away from her feels like the distant kiss of a lover who got on a train and rolled away—but  this mistress is in the office, just a electric binary machine. She lets me think I am in control, because she is registered in my name and I have the only password to get into her labyrinth chastity.

It is just over a week she has been in my life. I have been locked in small box office with curtains pulled shut and me tracing my fingers over her petal sensitivities. It takes me back to the first time I was with Martina in her yellow bedroom. But this time the perversion is not Martina, but mine – still, it is only mechanical even if the activity is much the same. It is about lust in the mind and being placed in isolation in the world. The problem here is that it is not just me and my Electric Mistress. There are millions of men, women and even children out there going through the same bazaar lovemaking in this world, this cyber-space fantasy.

That is the difference of the Electric Mistress and the first time with Martina—it  was only Martina and me—just  us two in a yellow room in a blue city who could make such love. Okay, okay, so there lots of lovers who meet and fuck, so why Martina and I so exclusive? It is because no one has the monopoly of love making on human style, each and every set of lovers create their own world – not so the love-making with the Electric Mistress...she is a whore to the world

I don’t know why I compare Martina with this fucking computer that is taking over my life. She is just an electric toy that has lots of parts. I joke about fondling her intimacies, but it is not a woman. It is not Martina—it is only because the last time I isolated myself in a room for more than a day (and that was twenty years ago) it was Martina.

I miss the romance, the intimacy, the magic of what that love was. I miss the familiarity, the comfort, the security of that imperfect love …yet I am getting more accustomed to this solitary journey that the universe seems to support –so, I remain alone. I think about Gypsy and me turning around—it is best that I never saw her. I have this Electric Mistress with one glass eye…

 

Meeting a Kid

I just had the most extraordinary experience this morning – well extraordinary if you take into account I live in Locorado, the middle of nowhere. It had to do with a conversation I had with a young boy who was at the local coffee shop.

He wore a multi-colored woolen  knit hat sitting on a stool knitting what looked like a sock with those long needles. He was about ten years old and had a long blond ponytail, that was long enough that maybe he had never had his first haircut yet. 

Anyway, I had been talking to the waitress about my perverted  experience with the Electric Mistress, saying that I had been playing with her when suddenly on the screen it said, YOU HAVE JUST PERFORMED AN ILLEGAL ACT, AND IF YOU CONTINUE TO DO SUCH THINGS WE WILL CUT YOUR WHING-WHANG OFF…

I told the waitress it made me completely panic. It was just like the sixties in California and the Highway Patrol behind my hippie school bus with red lights on—I  was shitting myself with paranoia.

Suddenly this little ten year old kid whose name I found out is Taylor says,  “That is because blah-blah-blah computer talk blah-blah.” I looked in amazement although I didn’t understand one word of the tech-jargon. He went on talking computer stuff for the next twenty minutes. The kid knew more about cyber-space than I will in the next ten years. I was a child talking to a child who was more advanced and more adult in the push-button world than all of my years.

The good thing is he told how to fix the problem I was having. Now I can start dumping this gibberish into the computers memory.    

 

The Bottle of Whiskey

I was a kid myself, caught loving riddles in front of me—the things in my confused heart that began the whole cycle of loosing myself. In truth it was probably just a bottle of whiskey that started my earthquake of self-destruction–in terms of geology, catastrophism.

Whatever made the Big Bang doesn’t matter. It is complicated enough for humans to guess what little thing started us on a long journey that would go on for years. But for me I can say without doubt, it was a bottle of Lagauvulin Scotch whiskey.

You may pressume it was me drinking that 20 year old Lagauvulin that started my whole career of blunders, but you would be off track. It was not drinking that bottle, but trying to replace the bottle that caused the whole catastrophe of my life.

I had just turned twenty-one. I was in my third year of college in Portland, Oregon. Although I lived the poverty of a true Bohemian, I happened to be staying in the house of a very wealthy corporate lawyer. He had business dealings with the social work department that dealt with the catastrophe of my family. When he was told that I would be going to college in Portland, he generously offered me the entire basement apartment of his luxurious three story house high in the hills overlooking the city.          

The Madam of the mansion, the lawyer’s wife, spent the day practicing operatic scales on the third floor. She could be heard all the way down in the basement. I had a private bedroom, a sauna, a pool room, a laundry room and access to the refrigerators and cold storage room full of enough gourmet food to feed a herd of hippies from Woodstock. It was a freeloading bum’s paradise.

All of this started two years before I became a soldier with a mission to kill. It was 1965 and the Beatles had just created Rubber Soul and no one had yet heard of Flower-Power.

Every morning I would get up before dawn and sneak into the food storage room where I would pilfer a French roll, a piece of sandwich meat, a pickle, a bag of potato chips, a banana and a little packet of peanut butter cookies. I usually tried to vary the selection, and nab separate items from whatever there seemed to be the most of, so that the cook would not notice food evaporating. In fact the cook noticed very little I discovered and eventually began to make more bold liberations. The wife of the lawyer had no idea what the food storage room even looked like, but took great delight in going shopping everyday purchasing boxes full of delicatessen foods.  She left it up to the cook and maids to bring the new food down and cart away food that was beginning to grow stale. I saw it as my duty to use some of that surplus before it went to garbage dumpster.

After I liberated the food I would put it in a little brown paper bag and walk the two mile route down the mountain side into the center of downtown Portland where the college was located. I was a serious student. I studied English literature, philosophy and the French language. I was taking one painting class like it was a hobby hour. I knew I was already an artist and the instructor didn’t have anything to show me. I was just using the facilities and breathing in the oil and turpentine aroma to make me feel I was doing something romantic–my version of Paris, 1920. It was a young view but I discovered as I grew older that I did not want the advice of mediocre painters who chose teaching as a way to survive. Art teachers only wanted to show me how they painted. I didn’t care. I didn’t need to be taught art. I was intent on being a classical scholar.

The time in the painting studio was just to remind myself I was better than them.  I can’t even remember now what I did on canvas, or anything about the teachers. What I remember of college is the academic side and the friendships I established between a few other serious students. 

Steve had been a student for ten years but had not earned a degree from any department. He stayed in college mainly to keep the Draft Board off his back. Steve was sophisticated. He ate French cheese and listened to Bach.  Steve was married and drank German beer. He was cool because he knew he was doing nothing at all but waiting.

Liz had been a philosophy major at Reed College, but got kicked out for causing anti-war riots on campus. Liz was a  true Bohemian. She didn’t wear a bra and constantly read Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alan Ginsburg, Gary Snyder, E. E. Cummings and William Burroughs.  Liz was wild and had irrepressible energy. She was a bit of a lunatic and beginning to have the early symptoms of acute paranoia due to the intake of every drug she could find. I didn’t know about drugs then. I took her serious when she started to rave about being followed by the FBI, that her telephone was tapped and that her name was on the lists of Secret Service Agents. She was a provocateur instrumental in every anti-war rally in Portland at the time.

I thought demonstrations was what happened when you took a new car out for a test drive. Vietnam could have been in South America as far as I knew. I was only concerned with the journey I was on and that was to unravel the process of thinking by reading Plato, Socrates, Goethe and Blake. I could feel the blue of existentialism through Kafka, Camus and Sartre. Demonstrations against war was a planet away.

Liz believed the FBI had her singled out and she would be incarcerated or worse, simply disappear. She insisted hundreds of student from all over America had gone missing. She was right of course but they disappeared for another reason. They had all gone to San Francisco.

Liz had a huge last Greek name. She was proud of her Greekness because it meant she wasn’t so American. She could distance herself from the Politicians war, and the crimes she said the Capitalists-Evil-American-Puppet-Leaders did in Vietnam. I didn’t really know what she was talking about but I liked her bravado. I liked her intensity. Capitalism to me was something that someone else experienced. I was poor and I always had been, even though I was temporarily living in a house that probably cost more money to build than I would earn in the next twenty years.

I listened to Liz’s stories but usually they would just make me laugh. I couldn’t take her serious. Steve agreed with me that Liz was a little bit fanatic, but he said she had a point about Vietnam. After all, that was why he was still in college.

At the end of the school day. The three of us would go to a famous intellectual  pub in the middle of the wino district of downtown Portland. It was called the Spatenhaus. It was owned by a man who would eventually become the Mayor of Portland. We would sit in one of the refurbished Church-pew booths. My friend Steve who always had money would buy a pitcher of beer.  We would talk poetry, philosophy and conspiracy. Sometimes Steve would be flush or Liz would have a couple bucks and we would get a second pitcher of beer. I was always broke. All I could do was apologize and drink the beer.  At the end of the second pitcher we would call it a day and head off to our individual lives.

I walked through mossy air and rain two miles up into the hills that were like giant gnarled fingers with the center of town lying in the palm of an enormous green hand. There were several hundred yards of wooden stairs that clung to the side of a cliff. A busy and noisy road lay at the bottom but the higher I went the quieter it became and the smell of the pungent Northwest rain forest began to overpower the stench of traffic fumes. All of the trees and ferns stayed green right through the winter. There were rock walls covered in moss and fungus. Rhododendrons grew everywhere. It was a walk into a cool green world of meditation, solitude, celibacy and scholarly pursuits to return to the rich mans house. It suited the somber intensity of being a single and serious young man who believed great mysteries were to be revealed.

I would walk through some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the Northwest at the top of those stairs, each house more ornate, more spacious than the next as the hierarchy of wealth ascended the hill. The very richest lived at the top so that they had a complete uncluttered view of the city of Portland and valley below. My millionaire lawyer only had one neighbor above him and then there was a circular park at the top.

I could not help but think about the Capitalist Pigs that Liz swore about each day. The irony was my habit of sneaking into the basement apartment like a mouse going into a cat’s lair. I didn’t have a nickel but lived in the middle of wealth with my own private pool table.

I wanted one of those swank houses one day. I wanted a beautiful wife, a beautiful child, a Dalmatian dog, a Porsche in a circular driveway and a station wagon in the garage. I wanted a boat at the lake and a cabin in the woods. I wanted the American Dream. I wanted it someday.

I would arrive at the millionaires house usually just as it was getting dark. The lights of the house would be turned on in every room. The house looked like a big white Christmas tree, warm, cheery and full of beautiful gifts.

My private entrance was down the side steps of the house to the basement that was bermed into the sloping hill.  I entered quietly so not to alert the lawyer’s wife the mouse had returned to house. She was well meaning, but if she heard me she would always come down and speak to me with that cat smile of hers. She made me feel very uncomfortable, like it was me who was crazy, not her. She had a phony English accent, blue hair, and heavy mascara, three smells of rich and diamonds that cut my eyes. I secretly hated the charity. I wanted to live with Liz and the beatniks who she shared an apartment. The word Capitalist came to my head every time I saw the lawyer’s blue-haired bimbo, The Madam.

The Madam was a do-gooder  society woman. She didn’t have the slightest idea who Sartre was although she might have heard of William Blake. At least that’s what I thought. I was arrogant. How did I know what had gone through her head in her sixty years? She was a rich man’s wife helping the poor child of an ignorant mixed-Mexican peasant. I was young, she was old. I had all kinds of reasons to hate her, but none of them I understood or had the least idea of who she was.

The real reason I didn’t want her to know I was down in the basement was because I wanted to imagine it was my house, my room, my billiard table, my own personal rich quiet sanctuary. I wanted to think it was my own five-star monk’s accommodation and I wanted to have it by myself.

There was another reason I wanted to sneak into the house unnoticed.  I could go to the food storage room and pilfer something for dinner. I had nothing to eat since I had liberated food in the morning from the same storage room. The beer that Steve and Liz bought me only made me hungry.

The same ritual went on for the first six weeks I was in the mansion. Then one night when I sneaked into the basement I found a note tacked to the door written by the Madam. It said, “Please come upstairs when you come in – we want to talk to you.” I thought I had had it. They must have figured out food was disappearing at an abnormal rate from the food pantry. They had noticed missing pickles, salami, Brie cheese, olives, Italian rolls, tomatoes, sardines, peanut butter, apples, oranges and one jar of artichoke hearts. Shit, I didn’t even know what fucking artichoke hearts were. The gig was up and I would be thrown on the street. Christ, what would I do?

There was nothing I could do but admit I was the mouse in their food larder. I could say I had thought the food came with the house. I was a just a boy but I knew admitting my guilt was the right thing to do. But damn. It would be embarrassing and it would prove I was just an ignorant petty thief peasant. What a loss of face. Someone who was really a scholar and sophisticated wouldn’t steal salami and pickles.

With shame I climbed the stairs up to the kitchen door on the first floor. The door opened and the maid looked at me like I was a cockroach trying to pretend I was human. She said, “Oh, it’s you. The Madam is waiting to see you in the library.” I followed the maid as she took me through the beautiful house that was full if French period furniture and sculptures that had been bought in Europe. The inlaid oak floors were covered in expensive huge Persian carpets. Everything around the parameter of the room appeared to be encrusted with gold or crystal. The walls were covered in silk patterns. It was a rich world I was walking through and in a moment I would be packing my bags and wondering out into the cold, wet gray streets. I felt worse by the second. God, stealing fucking salami and buns and pickles and sardines and radishes. How cheap! I should have at least stolen one of their fucking carpets or some of the silverware or the Swiss coo-coo clock, or that big carved Italian desk over there in the corner. There is no justice in small crimes. In fact petty larceny was above the level of thievery I had done. I was a beggar stealing fucking crumbs from the dog bowl.

I felt like running out of the house and just find a car to fall in front of – shit this was just too embarrassing. Maybe I could run down to the river docks and get a job as a merchant marine and ship out before my friends found out what a scum-ball I was. I could sail to a very small Mexican island where no one spoke English and start from scratch.

But I kept following the maid as she took me to the library door. There was the Madam sitting in a huge Louis the 14th armchair smiling at me. “I can explain…” I started to say but she interrupted me. “Oh good, I am so glad you are back early because My husband and I  wanted to ask you if you would be so kind to watch over the house while we are off on a little junket to Europe.” She smiled benignly at me.  “Ubah, ubah, “ I stuttered. She went on to tell me that there were several things that needed to be attended to while they were gone, like the Mercedes had to be serviced, and they needed a few cases of wine and liquor picked up for the party planned on their return. “I do hope you have time to do all that being you are so occupied with your studies,” she said. I couldn’t believe she didn’t know I was a salami thief. “Sure, uh, no problem at all,” I said.

The Madam had not even noticed my pilfering dips into their bread basket. What were a few sardines to her? All she wanted was to use my body for service to their mansion. I was so relieved I could have jumped in her lap and kissed her. “We will be back in two weeks. The staff is going to have a little vacation as well, so you will be responsible for the entire household. Do you think that will be too much for you,” she smiled an operatic flash at me. “Uh, no, no that will be no trouble at all.” I hardly understood what I had just said.

The next day in the cafeteria at the college I told Liz and Steve about the terror I had gone through the night before and the surprise ending.

“Wait a minute, man,” Liz shouted, “you mean those Capitalists Pigs have left you in charge of the house for two weeks?”

I suddenly felt a stab of paranoia and almost said, No, no, I was joking, but my pride and fantasy that the house was truly mine could not prevent my mouth shooting off. At last I was a big shot. “Yeah, the place is all mine for 14 wonderful days!” Somehow in the back of my mind I knew I had just made a very big mistake and something weird was about to happen. I could see absolute craziness in Liz and Steve’s eyes as they said in unison, “Let’s have a party!”

Liz grabbed my arm. “Hey man, this is great. We can have a ball. Shit we can hang out, smoke joints, drink beer, play pool and act like Pigs. Man, it will be cooool….”

“Uh, Liz, I don’t think…”

Steve came to the other side of me and started yelling, “Yeah, like we can invite some musicians and we can get some girls  and get some of those sluts from the French department – and hey, I know this guy that has got some killer weed.”

“Killer weed? What’s that?” I asked like the country bumpkin I was.

“Hey man, you‘re funny,” Steve said and then smacked me on the shoulder.

I looked at Steve very seriously and said, “What are you talking about?”

It occurred to Steve by the look in his eye that I was as stupid as I sounded. He scratched his head and flicked a quick look at Liz before he turned back and said, “You know, marijuana…ganja….grass…shit…”

My mouth must have fallen to the ground. Christ, my mom raised me in the Jehovah Witness doctrine and Steve was talking about DRUGS. “No! Definitely not,” I objected. “There’s no way I’m going to let a bunch of strangers come up to the house, and there’s no way people are going to be taking drugs there…” I was a ignorant boy and the only thing I had ever heard about marijuana was that it was an evil drug and people went crazy when they used it. We were a long ways from San Francisco.

“Ah man, don’t be so square,” Liz complained.

“No way! Do you know how much priceless stuff there is in that house? Christ, if it got broken or stolen I would be in debt the rest of my life.”

“Come on, don’t be such a chicken-shit,” Steve said, “No one is going to steal anything and we’ll be real careful.”

“I’m telling you, there is nothing you can say to change my mind. These rich folks left the place in trust with me and there is no way I’m going to break that trust by letting a bunch of…”

“So you think you are too good for us now that you’ve got the place to yourself?” Liz screamed.

“No, it’s not that – it’s just, well, it’s the honorable thing to do to keep my word and watch their place carefully and…”

“Oh man, you’re so lame,” Steve said. “You can drink beer I buy and then when a chance comes so we can have a little fun at your expense, you forget where all the beer came from.”

I was beginning to feel guilty but I wasn’t going to change my mind. “I’m telling you guys, it ain’t my house and the Madam told me I shouldn’t let anyone come into the house. I promised her I would do that and God damn it, I keep my word.”

“Yeah, you keep your word to a fat Capitalist Pig and forget your friends,” Liz said. “I always suspected Mexicans and Italians were fascists and now I can see that it is true. You are a greedy Capitalist Pig eating at the same trough as the other Pigs–it’s just the same old story, man!”

“No it’s not,” I shouted. “I’m not a fascist and even though I live in that house I’m not a Capitalist. Fuck, I haven’t even got ten cents. You guys just don’t know shit about keeping your word. There was only one thing my dad taught me, if you tell someone you’ll do something, you keep your word no matter how hard it is to do.”

Liz jumped up and said, “Well take your word and stick it up your ass. Man, what a flake you turned out to be!”

Steve looked at me like I was a dog turd. He stood up and left with Liz.

I was confused by what happened. The next day Liz was as sweet to me as she had ever been. She acted like nothing had happened about the house argument. It made me feel worse about turning my friends down. Steve was the same as Liz and didn’t say a word about the incident.

It burned on me for the next couple of days until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I went up to the bohemian corner in the cafeteria where Liz and Steve always set. It was lunch time and the usual scruffy unshaven intellectuals dressed in black were grouped around the tables. They all had the normal composure of a huge cloud of doom over their heads and faces of old people. Most of them looked like they were trying to burn holes through the walls with their eyes.

“Hi. Look, I was kind of thinking about the house…and I guess we could have a little party,” I said to Liz and Steve.

“Oh wow, great,” Liz said and she turned to Steve, “hey we better tell the Gypsy Coyotes before some one else snags them this week end…”

“No – wait a minute – I mean we can have a little party – you know, like small. I still don’t want a bunch of weirdoes in the house I don’t know.”

“Oh man, what a bummer. What kind of party will that be?” Liz moaned.

“Well…a party,” I said, “Just, you know, a small party…”

“Like how small?” Steve asked.

“Uh, geez…I guess if you and Liz want to find some one to bring…and ah shit, I guess I’ll have to find some one…”

“Oh I know the perfect chic for you. We should get B.F. Thaana, right Steve?” Liz said smiling conspiratorially at Steve like this had already been arranged.

Steve smiled. “Yeah, right, B.F. Thaana is the right honey. She’ll love you man. She likes foreigners. And man, there’s a lot of her to love.” Steve laughed and looked back at Liz.

I looked at them both and felt like I had just walked into a setup. “Wait, wait. Who is B.F. Thaana?  And wait, you two guys are…”

“Thaana’s great. You’ll love her, honest you will. She’s the life of the party. Don’t worry. Just sit back and let Thaana do the driving and you’ll be fine,” Liz said. “Hey, but listen, we better tell her, because tomorrow is Friday and she’s probably already booked…”

Steve looked at Liz and they both got up to leave the table.

“But hey, we haven’t worked out what we are going to do or…” I started.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be cool. We’ll just score some beer and listen to music and play at that billiard table you are always talking about,” Liz said.

“Something will fit together,” Steve said. “Yeah, don’t sweat man. It will be great. Hey, like I will bring a new Dylan album we can listen to – it’s called Highway 61.”

*

I worried about the party all day Friday, not so much about the house as the response I got from a couple other friends who heard I had a date with B.F. Thaana.

“So man, you’re next in line, huh? Wow man, I hope you don’t get squashed like Professor Musky, yuk, yuk, yuk…”

“What do you mean squashed?”

“Hey man, why do you think they call her B. F. Thaana?”

“Uh, geez, I don’t know – I hadn’t really thought about that…”

“Hey, try BIG FAT Thaana, yuk, yuk, yuk…”

“You mean…”

“I mean B.F., BIG FAT and you will have your hands on a couple of B-52’s, yuk, yuk, yuk…”

That was it. My insecurity jumped from paranoia to down right terror. There was no way I was going to go through with this ridiculous party. Not with a BIG FAT Thaana, that was for sure. I went to the cafeteria and headed for the bohemian corner.

Liz and Steve were sitting with another young man and woman at our table. I went up to give them the bad news but before I could open my mouth Liz jumped up and gave me a big hug.

“I want you to meet Benny Boy and Hoppy. They are going to come to the party tonight.” Liz ignored me shaking my head in a negative spasm.

“Well, uh yeah about the party, I want to talk to you about that because…”

“Yeah man, and I got a couple of cases of good German beer and some chips and dip and a whole bunch of other stuff,” Steve added.

“Oh, uh, yeah uh, good, uh but, but…” I mumbled and knew I was a coward and knew  my fate was already sealed. I tried one more time. “Yeah, yeah, gee that’s great, uh, but you see…”

“Don’t worry your pretty little head, “Liz said, grabbing my cheek and squeezing it. We got in touch with Thaana…”

“You mean B.F.?” I tried to interrupt.

“Yeah, sure, B.F., so like we got in touch with her and she’s coming down from…or never mind, she’ll be there at your house about eight, and she said she can hardly wait to meet you. She’s a gas man. You’ll love her, I mean, you’ll love all of her.”

Everyone broke into laughter except me. “But that’s it. I don’t want to…” I began.

“Look, if you don’t want to make it with her, you don’t have to. Thaana’s not a rapist, you know.” Liz said.

“Make it?” I suddenly realized what great time I was being promised. I was going to get laid. Everything seemed a lot rosier than a moment before. I was still a virgin whether I wanted that or not. The one and only time I nearly got my noodle in the basket with my cheating girl friend, it went off like a twelve gauge shot gun and I sprayed my desire all over the back window of my old Chevy. At last, this might be the real thing. Who cared if Thaana was a blob? I was eager for the experience and the party sounded like the best idea that had come along since I first got an erection. I began to count the hours until the event.

I got back to the millionaires house on the hill and went into the upstairs quarters. I decided to put objects in a closet with a lock—every object that was breakable, stainable, burnable, or in any way could be altered from its original shape or form. At the very back of the closet was an airtight glassed partition with rows of fur coats on hangers covered in plastic. This seemed the safest place to put all of the treasures. I wanted to remember where to replace everything so I drew a map with corresponding numbers that were on pieces of paper taped to each item.

I went back to the large downstairs lounge and looked around at what else I could stow away. It was impossible. There was priceless stuff everywhere.  What could I do with the Steinway grand piano polished to black lacquered perfection? What about the beautiful 12 by 20 foot Persian carpet? What about the mahogany cabinets full of exotic fine liquors and spirits? There was a shelved wall full of French wines. Jesus, there was no way I was going to let that bohemian bunch of maniacs even near this stuff. We would just have to have the party downstairs in my quarters. Hell,  the basement was bigger and better than what any of them lived in. Besides, there was the pool table. What more would they want?

But who was I kidding? I was really beginning to panic. There was nearly as much stuff in the billiards room they could destroy as upstairs. There was the food storage room full of delicatessen jars. Worse, there was the wine cellar under the basement. I had only gone down there once and saw bottles of French, Italian and Spanish wines from the 40’s and 50’s. They had to be worth a fortune. This was going to be a disaster.

I decided right then and there to write a note and stick it on the outside door. The note explained simply that my entire family had been killed in a car wreck and I had gone back to the Mexico to attend their funerals. I was just opening the door to pin the note on it and there stood Liz with her hand raised to knock. Steve and two other young people I had never seen before stood at her side.

“Ugh, eck, eh, hello,” I said. They looked like they had just dropped out of the sky.

“Hey, man, sorry about being so late – and wow man, Benny and Hoppy got busted by the vice squad, so we got my old pals from Reed to come – uh, this is Meat-Stack and his old lady, Sunshine…” Liz explained.

Meat-Stack and Sunshine stood there with there mouths open and didn’t say a word. They both smelled strange, like really stinky socks and a candy store.

Liz looked at me looking at them. “Hey man, they are great people. Wait till you see Meat-Stack blow fireballs from his asshole–it’s fucking wild man.”

“I, I uh, wait a minute, uh, I decided to…” I began.

“You won’t believe this new German beer I got,” Steve said, as he pushed past me with two cases under his arms.

Before I could do anything else, all of them were in the billiard room, drinking beer and throwing the balls across the room in some kind epileptic tossing game.

“But, but, there is a big problem…”

“Oh man, don’t worry,” Liz interrupted smiling wickedly. “Thaana called and said she is going to be late and she said to tell you when she got here she was going to come all over you.”

“Come over me?” I was as stupid as I was naive, but I was beginning to think I might never get laid, and to be frank it had never occurred to me about girls coming. “Come over me?” I repeated.

“Yeah man, and she said is going to stick your whole head in her cunt,” Liz roared with laughter. “You’re going be so wet with her come you are going to look like a newborn baby when she is through with you.”

I had never heard Liz talk in such a obscene way before, but the affect it had on me was that my erection was already between my ears. I completely forgot about throwing them out of the house. Fuck it. I was going to get laid and get my head stuck inside a pussy. That’s all I could think about.

The cases of beer began to disappear at a phenomenal rate. Forty-eight bottles of strong German beer. I calculated that meant the chick’s got  nine bottles of beer each and us guys got ten. That should keep us going until Thaana got there and she was supposed to bring reinforcements.

“Yeah man, Thaana is bringing another case of Dutch Pilsner. It’s great stuff. Thaana drinks it by the case so I hope we don’t run out of beer. Man, I tell you that girl can drink,” Steve said.

Everything seemed to be going okay and everyone was contented to be around the pool table drinking beer and listening to Bob Dylan. Nobody mentioned upstairs or remembered I had said we could have the party there. But I was beginning to wonder when the famous Thaana would arrive. I was on my fifth beer and beginning to not really give a shit. In fact I was starting to get a little nervous about her and started thinking she was some kind of enormous man-eating pussy. She was intimidating me without even being there. Maybe my virginal status was worth preserving until I found the girl of my dreams. But damn, it would be good to get laid.

Two more beers and I didn’t care one way or the other. The music had switched to the Beatles and the Rolling stones and The Mommas and the Papas. At one point Sunshine put on a Neil Diamond record, but she took it off when we all started booing.

I should have known things were beginning to slip when the cue ball leapt off the pool table and landed on the glass coffee table in front of the couch. A long crack zipped across the table from one side to the other and suddenly the whole table shuttered and the glass fell to the floor. We all laughed. By this time with seven German beers in me a little broken glass table didn’t seem like the end of the world. Hey, maybe I could glue it back together. Anyway, there was so much stuff down in the basement the Madam would never even notice the table. This was only the fanfare of what was to come.

I should have seen. Liz let out a shriek.

“Wow man, I didn’t know that green stuff could tear.”

She had just managed to put a ragged six inch gash in the green clothe of the billiard table. But once again, my ingenious sense of repair came to mind. I reasoned that glue could stick it back together too. No one would know the difference. From that point on the descent to disaster was faster than the speed of sound.  I should have known everything was about to go to hell and put a stop to the whole program. Beer makes life so workable and really, it still wasn’t the end of the world.

Steve gleamed evil eyes at Liz and said, “Shall we dig out the shit now?”

I thought Steve was talking in some kind of New York Beatnik slang and he was thinking of reading some poetry out loud. He and Liz would often fall into that linguistic style in school and both of them would take turns reciting Ferlinghetti or Ginsberg. So I didn’t pay much attention until I smelled the pungent stench coming off a cigarette Steve and Liz were sharing. Liz was passing it on to Meat-Stack, and he was gasping and holding his breath and Sunshine was coughing like she had a chicken bone in her throat.

It wasn’t so much the weird smell I had noticed as it was the way they all took huge sucking drags off the cigarette and then acted like they were diving down under water. They would puff out their cheeks while they held their breath and their eyes would bulge out. One by one, they suddenly let out a long cloud of smoke and then start choking and coughing. I stood there totally bewildered and didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on. Well, it was early 1965 and the only thing I knew about drugs was it required hypodermic needles.

Finally the cigarette made the circle and it came back to Steve. He looked at it like it was a living thing as he uttered between  coughs, “Wow man, that’s heavy shit!”

“Shit? You’re smoking shit?” I asked innocently. I was Snow White waking up from a dream.

Everyone stopped coughing and gagging and looked at me for a split moment, then as if someone pushed a button, they all started cackling insane laughter.

“Shit,” Liz roared, and they all went into delirious hysterics. “Shit,” they all screamed and howled in lunatic laughter.

”Wow, that’s so funny man. Shit…” Meat-Stack fell on his back to floor and started rolling around.

I didn’t see what was so funny about them smoking shit. It seemed completely stupid to me. Then like the white light of a caveman’s first thought, it occurred to me. “Hey, wait just one minute you guys,” I screamed. “You guys are smoking Mary-Ree-Wanna!”

“Mary-Ree-Wanna!” they all screamed, and they all fell on the floor and were rolling from one side of the room to the other.

“Just hold on! What is so God damn funny? And anyway, I said absolutely no drugs…”

“Drugs!” they all screamed and kept rolling across the floor. The laughter went on at such a pitch I was convinced they had all gone instantly crazy just like I had been told drugs would do to people. “DRUGS, HEE, HEE, HAW, HAW, ROAR, ROAR.”

It was obviously right what the government said about drugs. These people were proof. It turns perfectly normal people into raging lunatics. It must be true, because my friends, although they had been a little bit loud and drunk before they started smoking that stuff, they were at least still normal. Now look at them. They were all rolling on the floor laughing at something that wasn’t in the least funny.

Steve stopped laughing gradually and set upright on the floor and stretched out his arm with the smoldering butt of the cigarette in his hand. He pushed it at me and said, “Ah man, don’t be so uptight man. This is good…shit…”and he started laughing like a maniac again.

Everyone else on the floor went into convulsions of laughter like an electrical current had gone through them. They all roared in unison, “SHIT!” They beat their bellies and kicked their feet and tears began streaming down their faces as they continued roaring with laughter.

“What’s the fuck up with you guys? Have you all gone nuts?” I yelled.

“No man,” Liz sputtered, “but it’s just so fucking funny – you thinking we are smoking shit…HAW, HAW, HAW…”

“ROAR, ROAR, ROAR,” they fell back on the floor again, tears down their cheeks.

Steve set up again, “Come on man, take a hit of this – it won’t kill you – it just makes you feel good – you see we feel good…”

“Feel good? Well you all act like you’re stark raving mad.”

“Oh lighten up man,” Liz cut in, “it’s only weed and it doesn’t hurt anybody – why if everyone smoked it there wouldn’t be any fucking war – no one would want to fight – yeah, we would just make love all the time.”

“Love all the time,” I repeated, “make love?” At last they said something that struck a sympathetic chord inside me. I thought of Thaana and was immediately terrified that she might arrive. I felt like my cock had completely shriveled inside my body. I was suffering coitus interuptus without the coitus. The notion that weed might help my sex life suddenly seemed a distinct advantage. I looked at the small black smoldering stub in Steve’s fingers.

“Go ahead, it won’t do anything you don’t want it to do,” he said.

That was the short beginning of my long downfall.

As the evening went along I took four or five puffs of the funny smelling stuff but I couldn’t tell what all the fuss was about. It didn’t do anything for me. All I could feel were the affects of the beer, which was getting me looser by the moment. When someone came back into the billiards room holding a dusty bottle of wine, I thought to myself, Hell, they won’t miss one little bottle of wine – they’ve got hundreds of them stacked up…

Wow,” Meat-Stack said, “look, it says 1936!”

“Jesus, is that safe to drink?” Sunshine asked.

Steve was the connoisseur, “Safe to drink? Don’t be stupid. Man, wine like that you only get once in a lifetime. Let me start the tasting.”

He opened the bottle with great finesse and poured a small amount into a wine glass he had found behind the wet bar. Steve swirled it around in the glass then stuck his nose over the top and took a deep sniff. He then did the thing of swishing and gurgling a mouthful, and then with a mischievous glint in his eye spit out a long stream of red liquid down the front of Liz’s blouse.

“You bastard,” Liz laughed, as she grabbed the bottle and took a large mouthful and started chasing Steve around the room squirting scarlet stains into every corner.

I stood there laughing. It just seemed funny that they were spitting wine at each other. The next thing I know, Meat-Stack had another bottle of wine and he started chasing Sunshine around the room squirting mouth splats at her. I was roaring with laughter. Liz came up behind me and spit a gushy mouthful down the back of my neck. That was it. I went into the wine cellar and grabbed three more bottles and opened them all. Then I came back into the billiard room with one bottle tucked in my belt and one in each hand. I began chasing everyone around the room slinging long liquid slashes of wine at them. In less than 30 seconds the bottles were empty and everyone including myself are burgundy red. The room looked like a Jackson Pollack exorcise in magenta. The green pool table was speckled by a million dark red spots, but instead of being horrified, I was amazed by the contrasting colors of red and green and the perfection of each perfectly round spot. Everyone was laughing.

Liz says, “Oh man, that was a gas – but wow man, I got to get these soggy clothes off – they feel too fucking sticky…”

And with that said, Liz began stripping off. It was the invitation for everyone else to start pulling off their clothes, everyone but me. I just stood there frozen as they piled their wine soaked clothes across the pool table.

Steve who was kind of pudgy and white didn’t look very sexy but he didn’t seem to care. He went over to the music cabinet and turned the volume up as high as it would go. He then set down in front of the speakers began rolling more of the little brown papered cigarettes while the others began dancing like a Voodoo cult.  I gawked at Liz and Sunshine who both looked better than Steve to me, but neither would have made beauty queens. I guess Meat-Stack got his name by irony because he looked like a wiggling light blues skeleton with pimples and kinky black chest hair. I had to look away.

I decided to clean up the floor and pick up the broken bottles before someone cut their feet and stained the furniture even more with their blood.  I noticed that none of the vintage years of the wine was before 1940. Something very ominous began to form in my mind, but before I could register that priceless wine had been used to destroy thousands of dollars worth of decoration and furniture, there was a loud banging on the door. My heart was in my mouth because all I could think the family had come back early and the gig was up. Everyone else was so busy howling and dancing that they ignored the loud thumping.

I went to the door and hesitated for a few seconds before deciding to go to the side window to see who it was on the other side. All I could see was a ratty looking fur coat, and part of an upper arm with a dragon tattoo on it. Suddenly the person turned towards the window and shouted, “Hey, you asshole, let me in!” I could see a deep cut velvet blouse with two enormous breasts nearly hanging out and cleavage like the Grand Canyon.

“It’s Thaana,” I yelled. I turned around from the window, to see what the rest of them wanted to do about Thaana. They were all completely naked.

“Tell Thaana she has to take off her clothes if she wants into the party, HAW, HAW, HAW,” Liz yelled back over the loud music.

I watched Liz as she pushed her body right up next to Steve and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He had an enormous hard-on. I looked at Meat-Stack and at last understood why he was called Meat-Stack. I never knew a dick could get so big. Then I looked at Sunshine. She had her right index finger in her crotch and she was rubbing her breast with her left hand. Her eyes were closed and she was bumping to the music.\

“You assholes let me in,” Thaana screamed from the other side of the door.

I looked through a slit in the Venetian blinds that hung over the door window, and to my utter astonishment, there were Thaana’s giant brown nipples pressed right up against the glass.

“Holy fucking Christ,” I muttered. My mind had stopped working in any rational sense because all of the blood in my body was being pumped into my cock that was growing like Mount Krakatoa. I opened the door just a crack and said, “Liz told me to tell you…”

Thaana gave the door a giant wallop with a straight arm and knocked it wide open. She leapt into the room like a pouncing leopard, but she was the size of an elephant. My God, now I understood why they called her Big Fat Thaana. I mean she was at least six inches taller than me and she was FAT. But with that shaggy fur coat over her shoulders she looked like a hairy football player. She had a large Janis Joplin style hat with a feather dangling off the side. She had so much make-up on her face she looked like a Halloween mask and it looked evil. But I couldn’t take my eyes off her enormous watermelon breasts that were completely hanging out over her stretch-top blouse. The huge tits were packed together by the elastic band and the nipples were point upwards. Those big brown nipples were like search lights and that illuminated my crotch with fire. I was hypnotized into a kind of lustful paralysis. And then Thaana reached up with both of her hands and placed them lovingly on the side of head, and pushed her fingers into my hair. She pulled my face down into those two big brown landing pads. “You must be the man. I am so very pleased to meet you,” she said.

Thaana nuzzled my face in her breast just long enough for me to wonder what to do next – I couldn’t just stand there with my head caught in her cleavage all night. The thing is, what do you do when a really big woman makes the initial move like that? There wasn’t a chance to consider the question long enough to do anything because suddenly Thaana let out a gut busting laugh that popped my head right out of those two suction cup calipers.

“Let’s boogie,” Thaana bellowed out and she jumped to the broken coffee table, picked it up and threw it behind the couch. I heard a shattering crash as it hit the floor. Then Thaana began pulling the Persian carpet that lay half under the pool table. It wouldn’t budge so she made a colossal tug and the rug came away – the problem was that only half came as the other half stayed in a torn rag under the pool table. I didn’t know some could tear a rug in half. It seemed even more difficult than tearing a telephone book in half. Then Thaana picked up the lamp table with the expensive Chinese Lamp Vase wobbling dangerously, but before I could stop her, the lamp still plugged into the wall reached the end of the line and the lamp vase leapt to its death celebrating the occasion by busting to a thousand pieces. “Oops,” said Thaana as she kicked some of the bigger pieces out of the way. She then leaned over the music cabinet and turned all of the knobs to the top, and then she grabbed me by the arm and said, “Come on kid, let’s beat some meat!”

The music was sounding good. Thaana was beginning to look good. Steve kept passing the weed around and Meat-Stack kept the old bottles of wine coming up out of the cellar. I continued thinking I should stop the party, but then we had broken so many things and vanished so many bottles, why worry about closing down? I had a good feeling I would think of something later, but not tonight – it was too late, the music was too hot and Thaana was beginning to look like Sophia Loren. I figured if she lost a hundred pounds she might even be Sophia Loren. The way she danced and the way she let her breasts sway like Goodyear blimps and the way she laughed seduced me without effort. I began to see her as a Giant Goddess. I was in love.

Thaana was washing my eyes with her tongue as her hand slid inside my shirt like a satin snake. The other hand sifted down the crack of my butt and she whispered the fingers around my asshole. Then she slid the snake hand down my chest and into my crotch and cupped my balls in a gentle squeeze before slipping back up the stiff center of my soul that was about ready to explode. Thaana took her tongue out of my eyes and slapped it around my right ear for a few second before she plunged it into the opening like a liquid Roto-Rooter. She then pulled it out with a slurp and said, “Fuck me, boy!”

I looked around in embarrassment – after all, I was till an ignorant  kid who had never been laid, and girls weren’t supposed to talk like that even if they did have their finger in your asshole and stroking your cock like they were jacking up a truck. I looked around and to my amazement I saw the other two couples piled up on the pool table and couldn’t tell what head belonged to what body—a Kama Sutra  entanglement beyond  Anatomy 101.

“Where’s a bed, Kid?” Thaana rasped in my ear. “My delicate little fanny is too refined for the floor and it don’t look like there’s room on the table.” She roared with laughter.

“I eh, I uh…” my mind was coming apart. Wow, was I actually going to get laid? This would be the first milestone of my life. “This way, “I said and threw my head in the direction of my bedroom door.

Thaana kept her left hand with a finger up my sphincter but took her right hand off my dick and swept it out and then under my knees and with a little grunt picked me up in her arms and carried me down the hall. When we got to the bedroom door she said, “Open it Kid,” being her hands were full. In the next minute I was being bounced around the bed like a rubber balls connected to an elastic band on a hard wooden paddle.

I thought Thaana was fat. I was wrong. She was an Amazon. Oh sure, she had a bit of gut and her arms were as big as my legs but she was as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. She wasn’t firm – she was hard. Even her breasts retained the shape of two Liberty Bells when she lay on her back.

In my excitement I tried to return my tongue to her, she pushed me away and grabbed me by the ears and looked me right in the eyes and said, “Whoa Kid! You’re mashing my mouth. Who in the fuck taught you to kiss that way?”

I gulped and thought, Oh shit, I knew I wasn’t going to get laid. “I eh, I uh…” I stuttered.

She laughed and looked at me in a funny and tender kind of way. “Don’t worry Kid. Come on, I’ll show you how. Try to do what I do, okay?”

There was delicate sensuality in her kiss. That was the beginning of women for me and it was the first lesson in making love with a woman, who if not bigger than life, certainly was bigger than me. But the most wonderful and surprising aspect of her was that she was supreme in the art of making slow fucking love.

It was Thaana who introduced me to the world of flesh. I was a sausage in a pancake with her. I was enveloped. She was half again as big as me and so in her arms I felt like a babe in Mama’s cradle. I guess that made me some kind of motherfucker. I did it with the joy of a child.

Thaana had talent between her thighs few women I’ve known in 40 years ever demonstrated. Thaana had muscles inside of muscles and they were trained like exhibitionists at Venice beach. But before I had the actual experience, I had terror of what it might be, in particular because everyone telling me Thaana was BIG.

Even though I had never been laid, I suspected big women had big gardens and they would require a big plow to turn the furrow. That is bullshit. Thaana was as form fitting as tailor made kidskin gloves. When I was inside she began contractions of inner muscles that made me feel my brain was going to be pulled out through the dipstick.

Maybe it was because of the wine and weed, but my introduction went on to somewhere in the middle of the night when we howled like two wolves under a moon and then collapsed in a dead heap.

 

I woke up with a voice in my ear. “Wake up man! Meat-Stack has got the Mercedes in the ditch!” It was Liz. She had a bed sheet wrapped around her naked body and her hair that was normally long, black and beautifully combed was now twisted into knotty tangles and full of all kinds of food stuff like eggs, bread, peanut butter, jelly, pieces of sausage with cucumber and tomato. I thought I was having a very bad dream.

I blinked my eyes and coughed. My lungs felt like they were on fire and my head was banging broken kettle drums. Jesus, I felt like a truck was parked on my stomach. I reached down to relieve the smashed feeling and discovered a very large leg across my belly. I forgot I was in bed with Thaana. At that exact moment a revelation hit me like a bolt of lightening that I was not only in bed with an enormous woman, but I had a very vivid image in my mind of the billiard room looking like Berlin in the last days of WWII.

“Oh no, tell me this is not true,” I said and closed my eyes. I wanted it all to go away.

“Come on, get out of bed man! Meat-Stack has got the Mercedes stuck and I think he’s going to blow the engine if you don’t stop him,” Liz screamed.

I popped an eye open thinking to myself, this cannot be – it is one of those very real dreams and everything will be okay as soon as I wake up…I closed my eye.

Liz became really demented and started whacking me in the head. “Come on man! I mean it! Meat-Stack has got the Mercedes hanging off the side of a cliff and he won’t stop gunning the motor, man – he’s so fucking stoned he thinks he’s flying an airplane!”

This was beginning to feel worse than a nightmare and this moment could possibly be the end of all things good and natural in my life. “Oh double fucking fuck,” I said.

“The Mercedes is in the ditch? What Mercedes?” I said. A horrible thought was in my head, lingering like a rattlesnake in the outhouse. There was only one Mercedes I knew about.  The last time I saw the immaculate brand new sedan, it was parked in the garage, just sitting there sparkling, luxurious, and self content in its mechanical perfection. It wore a glossy black coat of wealth. Wait a minute! Meat Stack didn’t have a Mercedes. The two thoughts balanced in my mind like a skinny kid and a fat kid on opposite ends of a teeter-totter. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!

I opened my eyes again and Liz was still there. She looked worse than I thought I had dreamt. She was covered in food. I saw what looked like whip cream on her shoulders. There was a series of brownish red octopus suction marks on her neck and they disappeared down under the very expensive cashmere blanket that was smeared with mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and Tabasco sauce. Also there were little crusty droplets of pearly jelled  viscosity around her lips.

I thought if I spoke to this apparition it might dissolve in front of my eyes. My head was splitting as I said, “Uh, what Mercedes?”

“Wow man,” Liz screamed again, “Meat-Stack got it out of the garage and he is destroying it, man!”

It was true. Liz existed. Meat-Stack existed. Thaana’s fat leg was crushing my guts which meant she existed. In the distance I could hear a sound that was both terrible and fascinating. It was the sound of a mechanical balanced roar of a fine tuned engine being revved to the top of it’s RPM then let off so it descended quick in a high compression brake, then revved back up to a stratosphere on the edge of oblivion.  As I listened carefully, I could hear little irregular clicks that were beginning to rise in volume – the sound of a perfect machine starting to come apart.

“Come on man, do something! Steve is completely blasted and won’t come out of the God damn hot tub. He thinks he’s Nero and he says he is waiting for Rome to burn. Man, I think everybody went nuts after Meat-Stack gave us that fucking LSD…”

“LSD? Hot tub?  Burn? Oh shit, oh shit…” It was getting more horrible by the second. There was only one hot tub in the house and that was in the master bedroom upstairs – upstairs in the main part of the house where no one was supposed to go. Jesus H. Christ. LSD? Hot tub? Mercedes Benz? Burning?  What was the meaning of this and why did anyone ever leave me in charge of anything? The rattlesnake in the outhouse had just been joined by a bag full of cobras and scorpions and there I was with my ass on the pot and my pants down around my ankles. Oh man, I was going to die.

I started to get out of bed but it was as though I had been hot-glued to the mattress. Two things kept me where I was.  My head felt like I had an axe in it and big Thaana’s leg lay on me like the weight of a dead cow. An immense pulse of pain swept over me as the truth of the hot tub, the Mercedes and Liz decked out like a Danish smorgasbord hit my consciousness. This seemed to be the end of the world. I had a very paranoid feeling that Steve pretending to be Nero up in the hot tub might just manifest into reality if I didn’t pry myself out of bed.

I groaned and pinched Thaana’s leg as hard as I could. She moaned sleepily and slid her monster leg off my belly. I set up on the edge of the bed rubbing my head and closed eyes. When I opened my eyes, Liz was standing in front of me looking down at my crotch.

“Wow man, I had no idea you were hung like that, or I would have come down here after Steve went bananas on me…”

“What?” I was barely able to think but it occurred to me that Liz was looking at my dick. Little-boy bashfulness washed over me. I jumped up and pulled on my Levi’s without underwear.  

I pulled on a sweatshirt and bumped past Liz to the bedroom door. When I got to the hallway I wanted to turn around and go back to bed and crawl into Thaana’s wonderful womb and just keep crawling until I disappeared. The hallway carpet was covered in a slosh of what looked like various animal parts, vegetable matter and the biggest assortment of empty vintage French wine bottles ever assembled. It looked as though the entire wine cellar had been inspected by Steve’s squirting.

The walls and expensive artworks which included a small original Rembrandt etching had been splattered  Jackson Pollack style. I walked through the dead bottles and the rubble of a raided pantry, stumbling in a macabre state of shock towards the door that led upstairs to the main part of the house and the garage. As I ascended the stairs the terrifying whine of an engine on the verge of disintegration screamed somewhere down the street. I got to the garage door and hesitated – maybe there was a chance this was all still a very bad, bad dream and I might wake up sleep walking into the beginning of a brand new day. I opened the garage door and not only was the Mercedes missing but the aluminum double automatic door was hanging crookedly on its hinges with half of its panels bashed  and what looked like a million little diamonds strewn across the floor. I looked at the diamonds, convinced for a millisecond it was a dream. Certainly there shouldn’t be diamonds all over the floor, should there be?

The morning sun was breaking through the big horse chestnut trees in the front yard casting light down on the diamonds which sparkled with incredible beauty. It was as though I could see a galaxy of rainbows coming from each diamond. Even the strange distant screaming of what I thought was a motor began to sound like music that was in complete harmony with the luminous jewel collection lying on the garage floor. Hey, wait a fucking minute! They weren’t diamonds. It was shattered fucking glass – glass from…oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! The roaring engine torment came back loud and clear. I looked up the driveway and at the very top just before it went into the main street, I could see the nose and front wheels of a de-windowed black Mercedes Benz. Great volumes of blue smoke was rising out of it like an Arab oil field fire.

“Meat-Stack!” I screamed just as I heard an amazing metal crack like the biggest baseball bat in the world hitting the ultimate fast ball in the silence of the last play, of the last ending of the last game. It was that incredible grand slam whack with the world holding its breath. It was noise followed by the great quietness of a beautiful thing that has just died. The Mercedes was no more. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit...

The bluish smoke hung around the shiny black skin of the Mercedes for a few seconds then a gentle breeze drifted it away. I could see Meat-Stack was still behind the wheel turning it from left to right as if he found the exact combination he could unlock the car from its teetering position. There was nothing I could do. The car was history. The garage was history. The wine cellar was history. The billiard room was history and so was my life. Wait a minute! Steve was still in the house, in the hot tub with visions of Rome burning.

I rushed back to through the garage door and on into the main part of the house.  I went through the kitchen which had all of the cabinets open and the refrigerator door propped wide with a chair.  I cruised through the house checking out the dining room, the library, the grand salon, the garden room which were all okay. Then I went to the study which also had a Victorian bar built in the corner with walls of wine and liquor shelves. It looked like none of them had been touched.  There was also a large rosewood liquor cabinet in the corner where I had stashed the case of Lagauvulin the Madam had me collect earlier in the week. The door was open. I went up to it and saw the opened box. I counted the bottles...eleven fucking bottles, not twelve. Fucking eleven. Where was number twelve?

I went into the hallway leading upstairs and everything was normal. The problem was there was a madman upstairs. I stepped up the stairs looking at the splatters of mayonnaise, peanut butter and jelly embedded in the staircase Persian carpet.

I went on to the grand hall that separated the five bedrooms. All of the miniature Italian porcelains were still in place and nothing appeared broken. Then I went directly to the master bedroom. On the bed, I couldn’t believe the organic swirl of vegetables, cream and sauces that replaced the gold brocaded silk bedspread which now was hanging loosely over a Louis XIV chair. Aside from the bed looking like an attempt to blend food stuffs by body action, the room looked undisturbed. I went to the bathroom and great clouds of steam came out as I opened the door. The large golden hot tub was filled to the top with mountains of bubble bath.  I could just barely see the top of Steve’s felt hat he always wore.

I yelled at him to raise him from his soapy pleasure, “STEVE, YOU SON OF A BITCH!  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY LIFE?”

There wasn’t even a wiggle in the bath tub. My anger was suddenly replaced with terror. I was afraid now I was going to find a dead body in the bubbles. In a panic I reached down with both hands and began to scoop off the foam to see the corpse. The water was a dark brown and I couldn’t see a thing in its murk. It meant I had to stick my hand in the water to retrieve a body that had its last wash. My hands were trembling as they sunk inch by inch into the evil brine. When I was down all the way to my shoulders I realized nobody was in the tub but me and my panic. Where the fuck was Steve?

I raced from bedroom to bedroom. In each room it appeared the bed had been used for experiments in fruit and vegetable erotica. Where the hell did they find all the damn tomatoes and bananas? That is, what was left of them, for they were squashed and spread like jam across the sheets. There was remnants of what looked like whipped cream that floated on top of the organic rot like foam on waves.

All five bedrooms were variations of sexual couplings using juicy pulp as a replacement for Vaseline, but what I couldn’t understand was the consistent use of peanut butter – at least I thought it was peanut butter until some of it got on my hand. I knew the smell of poop when I smelled it. Someone had got a bad case of the squirting shits and left a trail of brown sludge across Persian carpets from one expensive bed set to the other. Somehow embedded crap in a hand-woven priceless carpet seemed less redeemable than the burnt out Mercedes. My life was forever altered.

“STEVE YOU SON OF A BITCH! I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!” I screamed.

There was no one in the closets, storage rooms or the three bathrooms. I followed my nose and the trail of peanut butter back down the staircase, through the kitchen and to the basement door. That’s when I smelled the acrid wisp of smoke rising from the cellar.

As far as I could see, my life was over. This was the end of the road. I was fucked, done, over, dead. Things seem to go their own way no matter what I planned.

After I managed to put he fire out with a convenient large fire extinguisher I kicked Steve and Liz out of the house. Meat-Stack and Sunshine disappeared like the rats from my sinking ship.

I walked around the scene of the crime between the wine cellar, upstairs and the still smoking wreck of a former sleek Mercedes hanging at a tilt in the driveway – thank God it was behind bushes and out view of the neighbors. I couldn’t figure which was the worst area of devastation. I couldn’t see where it was possible to even begin fixing the catastrophe. I decided to make a list and maybe that would clear my mind.

I found one of my school notebooks on a desk in the billiard room and wrote down the following list:

The Basement and Wine cellar

1.   Ming Dynasty lamp smashed and one expensive looking coffee table.

2.   37 bottles of pre-WWII wine broken or empty.

3.   11 Persian carpets covered in wine, mustard, mayonnaise, peanut butter (maybe shit) and assorted squashed vegetables and fruit. 1 Persian carpet ripped in half.

4.   Pool table cloth ripped, stained and burned with cigarette holes – balls missing.

5.   Food pantry supplies used—mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, Ritz crackers, cans of minestrone soup, jars of pickles, cans of salmon, tins of smoked oysters, plus two dozen sirloin steaks thawed out and spoiled.

6.   Wine cellar racks destroyed and burned. Walls and ceiling charred black.

7.   One very large fire extinguisher empty.

8.   Nearly all of the walls in the house splattered with wine and what looks like shit.

9.   Seven paintings and etchings splattered. One gilt framed painting ripped and frame smashed.

Main house and upstairs

10. Main house staircase carpet tracked with shit (maybe peanut butter).

11. Hall areas covered in vast amounts of shit.

12. Bedroom walls and beds splattered in organic matter. Every bed covered in what looks like petroleum jelly and mayonnaise. Questionable fishy smell.

13. Master bedroom stained, splattered and littered with questionable substance and large mirror in master bathroom covered in Zodiac lipstick designs.

14. One empty bottle of Lagauvulin.

I dropped the pen on the last entry and knew nothing short of a miracle would get me out of the mess I was in. Miracle?  Fuck miracles! I was going to leave the country. I could never pay in a million years for the stuff that was destroyed or used. Me and the house were both in deep shit. I began to groan.

My voice began to sound like an echo. I could hear the sound coming out of my mouth and it vibrated around the room. I swore it had a color to it, kind of a mustard shit brown as it flowed around the room. I surveyed the field of tragedy. I stopped moaning but my voice carried on. It seemed to have a body of its own and I could hear it echoing down the hallway so loud that it was knocking the bottles around. The clacking of the glass got louder and louder, then abruptly my voice stopped moaning and it screamed, “Jesus motherfucking Christ! Ouch! Who the fuck left all this fucking glass here? Ouch! Fucking ouch!”

I came out of the stoned trance and realized it was somebody else who was screaming. My first thought was that it was the Madam and her husband returning early and she had just got her first glimpse of the horror that had no end. For a second or two  I considered jumping under the pool table and act as if I had lost my mind if they found me. The insane asylum had to be a better option than jail. But I just stood there incapable of making one more decision. What ever I did I was still in trouble. I might as well let the wheels of Fate roll over me.

The cursing voice got louder and I could hear feet stepping on broken glass as they approached the billiard room. Hearing those terrible crunches made me tighten my gut and squint my eyes as if a hurricane from hell was about to hit me. I gasped as Thaana skidded into the room.

“Thaana! What the hell? Where did you come from?” I screamed hysterically. I had completely forgotten about leaving her in my bed.

“Hey, man, don’t yell so fucking loud – I’ve got a fucking hangover you wouldn’t believe – Wow, my head is killing me. You got any aspirin?” Thaana said, then her eyes seemed to expand as she looked around the room. “Jesus Christ, what happened to this place?” Thaana in her ostrich feathers and fur coat looked like a really bad day at the zoo.

I was so relieved the Madam had not returned I stood there with my mouth open.

“Jesus, this place is a wreck. I didn’t do this shit, did I?’ Thaana stood there scratching her crotch with one hand and rubbing her head with the other.

I didn’t know what to say as I remembered the night before and what we got up to. She didn’t look so good this morning. I began to worry that I might not be able to get rid of her because we had done it – that she might even insist on marrying me. I was panicking and wanted to run.

Thaana looked at me for a moment and said, “Don’t worry kid. You don’t have to say anything. You’re a good fuck and I like you anyway.”

That did it. I really didn’t have the slightest idea of what to say or what to do.

“Wow – this place is fucked up. We better get it back together or your ass is going to be fried.”

“Fried!” I screeched. I immediately pictured the electric chair. “Thaana, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I whimpered like a kicked puppy. “There is no way to get this place back together. You won’t believe what has happened upstairs...” My voice fell into a great pit of black that was opening in front of me.

“Relax Kid. Mama Thaana will make everything all right. But first things first Kid. Find me some fucking Alka-Seltzer and a jar of aspirin.” She looked at me. “Come on Kid, I’m dying.”

I went upstairs and came back down in a few minutes with a bottle of aspirin, some Alka-Seltzer and a couple of prescription bottles that said they were to be used in extreme pain.

Thaana took the bottles and immediately swallowed eight aspirin followed by a chaser of white wine. I saw a new bottle of German white wine sitting on the pool table.

“Look Thaana, we can’t drink any more...”

“Cool it Kid!” She looked at me like I was out of my mind. Mama Thaana’s got to get herself well, then I promise everything is going to be all right.” She rolled on of the prescription bottles in her hand and eyed it. “Hey look here. Codeine! Fucking far out. We’re in business Kid.”

“Codeine? What’s that? I said as the ignorant kid I was.

“Just wait and see Kid. You’ll like it.”

The Madam and her husband were due back in ten days but even if it were a thousand days I could not fix the damage, let alone replace wine that was thirty years old. But Thaana turned out to be the miracle I wished for.

She stayed with me for a week and with the aid of codeine the pain of reality disappeared. Together we scrubbed the house from top to bottom to bring at least the majority of it back to its original condition. One of Thaana’s “rich old farts” as she called them, had the Mercedes repaired and the garage door replaced.

Thaana was a restoration genius and she put the Ming Dynasty lamp back together with super glue.  A tinted gum mixture from a costume store repaired the pool table so the rip and burns were barely detectable. The Madam and her husband never played pool so I wasn’t too worried. The Persian carpets with enough warm water and soft brushes looked good as antiques—they were made for the passage of time – they were rugs for God sake. One by one the problems were solved or disguised fairly well.

Every morning, afternoon and some point in the middle of night, Thaana would engulf me with her voluminous body and endless enthusiasm of teaching a devoted student sexual acrobatics. With the combined narcotic of codeine and her phenomenal lust I began to imagine every problem was negotiable. Only one big problem remained. The wine cellar that was charred black and the disappearance of over 100 bottles irreplaceable vintage wine (Thaana managed to drink another 15 bottles that week) made things awkward. Some things just can’t be fixed.

“Thaana I don’t know what can be done about the wine – Geez, when they see the wine cellar it won’t make any fucking bit of difference. I should just get out of here before it’s too late. Hey, we could go to Alaska together,” the Klondike or the far reaches of the Hudson Bay were the only answer I could see. “We can hide in the wilderness and hope that after ten or twenty years everyone will have forgotten about this, or maybe they will die of old age...”

“Oh come on Kid, it ain’t that bad. You didn’t believe I could get the Mercedes fixed and it is as good as new now.”

It was true; the Mercedes looked and ran like nothing had ever happened to it. The garage door worked better than it did before, and the house was spotless (well, maybe they wouldn’t notice the white out on the Rembrandt etching) and Thaana even got a Turkish woman to sew the rug back together and a furniture guy Thaana laid once in awhile fixed the coffee table. It was all a miracle except for the wine.

“But  crap, there’s no way we can replace the wine...”

“Hey Kid, forget about replacing the wine,” Thaana went on, “the thing is just to go with the flow man – you know, the art of Jujitsu stuff.”

“Huh?”

“Look kid, we got to just make it look like there was nothing you could do about it – like it was an act of God...”

Now I was beginning to think Thaana had one too many little white pills, which I wasn’t worried about as the Madam had bottles in every one of her bathrooms. I looked at Thaana and thought about slipping out of the house and leaving her with the situation.

“What do you mean?” I croaked, “What act of God?”

“Well you know there is a circuit board in the wine cellar?”

“Yeah, so?”

“It just so happens I have a friend who is an electrician...”

“So?’

“Kid you are one stupid hick!”

The circuit board was the solution with a little help from Thaana’s friend who knew how to make safety switches not safe. It meant I had to bend my good boy ethics, tell a bold face lie and live through it just like it was the truth. So with the aid of the electrician friend, he created a little wiring problem in the circuit board resulting in over heated wires. The fire could easily be blamed on a faulty circuit breaker in close inspection by an insurance detective. It was a disaster just waiting to happen, hence an act of God...

Together with that alibi and a convoluted story that I tried to save the wine but got hooked on the gold framed painting which fell and tripped me, thus not only broke the bottles of wine in the hallway but also splattered walls and destroyed paintings...but me, the hero, saved the house from burning down. How could they be mad at me?

To make it look legitimate I had to replace broken bottles and the burned racks and start the fire all over again, but on a small scale. Together with Thaana and the electric guy we set up the situation, put it out then called the fire department. Thaana and her electric friend wished me luck and disappeared. The fire guys arrived to a smoking but dead fire. All the fire officials, newspaper reporters and gawking neighbors then appeared at the scene. I was all on my own with the story and guts of quivering nerves, but to my relief everyone bought the story. The last thing to do was telephone the Madam in Hawaii and tell her about the disaster and my valiant attempt in saving their world.

“Uh, hello Madam, I hate to interrupt your vacation, but I’m afraid there has been a horrible thing that has happened at the house...” I said cringing and thinking she would instantly recognize the sound of a lie.

“Oh my Lord,” have we been robbed,” she gasped.

“Uh, robbed?” My mind was saying, why yes, you have been robbed and also raped and ravaged, but instead I heard the lie roll off my tongue, “No, not robbed  -- it is worse than that – the house caught on fire and...”

“Fire? Fire...how on earth could the house catch on fire? Is it completely burnt down? Oh God, what a damned nuisance.” Her voice was concerned but it was more like she had heard a muddy dog had jumped in the swimming pool.

“Uh...well, it was a bad circuit breaker in the basement...I mean it was an electrical fire in the basement, but I put it out and...”

“Circuit breaker? What on earth is a circuit breaker? Oh never mind. Did it burn the house down?”

“Uh... no...In fact not much damage except...”

“You mean it was just a little fire,” her voice almost sounded disappointed.

“Yeah, hardly anything was burnt except the wine cellar where the circuit board...”

“The wine cellar. Oh you mean that big electric box thing? I always told my husband we should put that box in the garage workroom. Well....you mean the house did not burn down?”

“No, not at all, but I’m afraid most of the wine was... uh. uh,  destroyed...”

“The wine. Oh my God, oh my God, My husband will be hysterical. I’ve been telling him for years he should drink that dreadful wine, instead of drinking cheap California wine which I am sure does him absolutely no good...oh never mind. What do you mean it has all been destroyed?”

I told her the story that I had rehearsed at least a dozen times before I called her.  She took it all in as gospel, but asked me three more times if the house had burned down. I began to think the Madam was on a triple dose of her codeine pills. After a few minutes she told me it was just too much of a nuisance to change their holiday plans and that they would come home as originally scheduled.

“Oh great! Uh, I mean fine, uh, I’ll be sure everything is cleaned up – I mean the house will be aired out from the smoke and all...”

“Okie-dokie my little student...We will face the nonsense when we return,” the Madam sighed.

“Okay great, I mean fine, uh, yes, that is I will be happy to see you...”

“Oh yes,” the Madam interjected, “I nearly forgot. That case of Lagauvulin...I hope you collected it...”

“Lagavulin?” Suddenly a really annoying problem was in the middle of my lies. “Yes, I did ... uh, collect it...uh, what about it?”

“It wasn’t in the fire was it?”

“Uh no, it was in... uh, I mean it is in the liquor cabinet where you told me to leave it.” Something in the back of my mind was really beginning to scare me.

“Oh good!  My husband would just go mad if anything should happen to his cherished Scottish whiskey.”

As soon as I put the phone down, I ran upstairs to the wet bar and opened the huge rosewood liquor cabinet. The doors creaked like a sound track from a monster movie as they swung open. My eye instantly fell on the wooden case that held the twelve bottles of Lagauvulin. “Oh shit, oh shit,” I heard my voice jump out of my body as I saw the lid lying on the shelf next to the box. One of the slots was empty, and I suddenly remembered when I had first seen it gone in my drunken stupor. “Oh fucking shit,” I screamed.

Everything had been covered except one measly bottle of fucking whiskey. This immediately constituted several problems. I was only twenty years old so I couldn’t just walk to a shop and buy a new bottle. Secondly, this Lagauvulin whiskey was a special edition 20 year old Malt Whiskey imported from Scotland that you couldn’t buy in just any old liquor store. Thirdly, even if I could find a bottle of it and someone to buy it for me, there was no way I had fifty bucks to replace it. I had exactly one dollar and seventy-five cents to my name.

“Oh shit,” I muttered as I paced back and forth around the house looking for the empty bottle. It was not in the Great Wine Cellar Fire, nor could I find it anywhere in the house. Finally after the fifth time of looking in the bedrooms I saw a glimmer of something shiny between a bed and the wall. I pulled the bed out and there it was—a  totally empty bottle of Lagauvulin, with no cap on it.

For some reason I thought if I found the cap it would make a difference – like maybe something magic and it would refill itself. I looked the rest of the day for the cap. Finally I concluded that Thaana must have thrown it out with the trash. It had to be out in the garbage bins on the street. I ran up the driveway to where the three large garbage bins sat, and quickly flipped open the lids. They were empty. The garbage truck had already come. “Oh shit,” I moaned.

I wasn’t even sure what I had in mind if I found the whiskey bottle cap, but somehow it seemed like a place to begin. Perhaps I could take out a bit from each bottle but that would have meant breaking the seals. Maybe I could concoct some kind of weird tea and spice mixture to get the right color and just hope the husband never got around to drinking that bottle, or he might think the whiskey had gone bad or a leprechaun had turned it into shit. I really didn’t care. I just knew I had to replace that bottle of precious Lagauvulin or quite possibly the mythology I had created about the Great Wine Cellar Fire might just blow.

I thought of Thaana. She had been my miracle maker and had saved my ass on all the big things – I mean who else could replace practically an entire Mercedes Benz in just a few days? Surely a bottle of whiskey she could replace in a wink of the eye. There was only one problem. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to find her. I didn’t have her telephone number or her address. I didn’t even know her last name and for all I knew even the name of Thaana might be an alias.

She wasn’t a student but she knew the University I was in and of course it was Steve and Liz who had lined her up with me in the first place. My only hope was find Steve or Liz so I could get to Thaana, but I was so angry about all the bullshit they had brought on I wanted to kill them. Still, they were my only hope. I thought I would look for Liz first. The urge to strangle Steve was too strong.

I went down to the U and it was only once I got there I realized I had missed ten days of classes. I was so perturbed about the house catastrophe I hadn’t even thought of school once. What a nightmare.

Not only had the house got fucked but I had all but blown school too. Finals were only in a few days and I had not picked up a book. I was going to fail every test for and the certainty of that brought me to despair. I was barely surviving Philosophy as it was, and the English literature professor was banal I was usually asleep in his class.

All of this was not good being I was in my fourth year, and I wasn’t even close to graduation. Flunking out would mean only one thing – the draft. My name would go to the top of the list. I was young meat and on my way to war if I flunked out. I may not have known where exactly Vietnam was but I did know that people were shooting at each other there. That did not appeal to me. I had already been shot at once in my life. One experience was enough.

Flunking school was a disaster but the draft was a death sentence. Hysteria was beginning to build in my body and mind. Adrenalin was vibrating the muscles in my guts.

It was as though time had stood still in the school cafeteria. Everything was exactly the same as it had been ten days previous.  The same cluster of students rattled their mouths at the same tables. The same pasty skinned clerks were at the same cash registers and the food retained the same inadequacy. It was comforting to see things had not been burnt, cracked or puked on since my last appearance in the cafeteria. It was only my world that would never be the same again.

I looked over to my corner of the cafeteria. I didn’t see Steve or Liz  or anyone else who could help me find Thaana. I was just about to turn away when something familiar caught my eye. It was a paisley patter of a hippy blouse hidden behind a newspaper that was held in front of a face. Liz was hiding behind a newsprint wall. I walked over to the table and ripped the paper out of the trembling hands. Liz’s eyes were like two full moons with bullet hole centers.

“You…you…God damn you,” I stuttered. If it had been Steve my rage would have been violent but Liz was a girl and I was a good mannered boy. We didn’t hit girls. All I could feel was a crashing anger inside like a freight train that had slammed on its brakes.

“Look man, I’m sorry. I had no idea Steve was going to go fucking nuts on me…and, and I hardly knew Sunshine and her weird boyfriend Meat-Stack. Honestly I had no idea – no idea – I mean really, like wow man, they were really fucked up on smack or something before they even got there…really, wow man like it was heavy…”

“Liz you bitch!” I screamed. “Do you know what you guys did to the house? Do you know what happened to fucking Mercedes? I feel like killing all of you!”

“Oh wow man, don’t get so heavy,” Liz said in her cosmic voice. “Like wow man, I had to work really hard to keep Steve from setting fire to the master bedroom. Man that fucking dude went nuts. He wanted me to sit in the big bed with him and soak it in gasoline and make a protest about this fucking war man…”

“You know what Liz? I almost wish you two shits would have done that—then I wouldn’t feel so bad about not killing you.”

“Hey man, I tried to stop Steve, but really man, he went fucking nuts. He even wanted me to stick a Molotov cocktail in his butt and set him on fire. Man, he got too fucking weird.”

“Well where is that bastard now?” I decided I wanted to kill him anyway. At least then I could get rid of some of the anger in me that was rising like fouled water in a plugged toilet.

“Oh wow man – you won’t believe this, but on the way back home he wanted to be a living candle so he took off all of his clothes and wrapped a T shirt around his head – Man, then he went into Greek Frank’s grocery store—you  know, the one up on Washington street?  And anyways, Steve grabs some lighter fluid and squeezed it all over the T-shirt. Man, like Greek Frank went fucking berserk  and started beating on Steve and yelling at him in Greek. Then Greek Frank called the cops. Wow man, it was fucking heavy. Man, by the time the fucking Pigs got there Steve had his head on fire and he was walking around the parking lot singing ‘I Am the Light’ in this fucking weird voice. Fuck man, the Pigs come and they knocked Steve down on the ground with their fucking big sticks. Then one of the Fucking Pigs had this humongous huge fucking fire extinguisher and completely covered Steve in some kind of icy foam. Man when the ambulance guys got there they had to treat Steve’s head for thirds degree burns and frostbite on his ears and nose. It was heavy man…”

“Well…where is that…that…uh, well where is he now?” I couldn’t even think of what to call Steve in front of a girl. All of the words in my mind were completely forbidden in my mom’s culture to say in front of any kind of female.

“Oh wow, its heavy man. Poor Steve is locked up in the county nut house. His mother who has gone to visit him says he believes he is some kind of reincarnation of a fucking Aztec God. She says he just keeps mumbling in some weird language all the fucking time and he keeps trying to eat his own shit – man that dude is fucked up! His mom said they had to put a straight jacket on him and now they got him locked up in a padded cell. Man it’s heavy…”

“Oh great.” I didn’t know whether to feel bad for him or myself because I was denied the satisfaction of kicking the shit out of Steve. “Well…he deserves what happened to him. He nearly burnt the house down.”

“Yeah man, I heard what happened. Wow man, it’s a good thing that Thaana got things…”

“Thaana!” I screamed. “Where is she? I need to talk to her right now.”

“Oh wow, I don’t know. It was Steve who knew how to get in touch with her. She never gives her number to other chicks…”

“Well where is she? I need her,” I begged.

“It wouldn’t do any good if I knew man – her Thai lover has taken her to Bangkok for a year. He’s a dealer dude and he’s got some kind of drug deal going down and Thaana’s going to run the operation for him…”

I slumped down in the chair next to Liz and put my head in my hands. She asked me what I needed Thaana for and I told her. We talked about it for awhile and discovered between the two of us we had only five bucks. Liz didn’t know anything better than me on how to get the money for the Lagauvulin. But she said she knew a specialty liquor store where they might sell it. We walked to it and found out it cost $51.95 which was  fifty bucks more than I had. The bottle was up on the shelf behind the caged counter and the clerk looked at us suspiciously.

“Jesus, what am I going to do?” I mumbled as we walked back towards the University.

“Yeah man, you’re fucked,” Liz comforted me.

“Thanks a lot you bitch.” My tongue was loosing it’s inhibitions. I was even fantasizing of beating Liz into a pulp just to ease my frustration.

“Hey, wait a minute. I just remembered something,” Liz spit out.

“What?” My hope sprang into an immediate possibility that Liz had a rich Uncle who owned a Lagauvulin distillery.

“I saw an ad in the newspaper this morning. Wow man, I should have thought of it sooner. Wow man, it’s fucking cosmic! You’re the guy for the job…”

“Job, what job?”

“They want an artist man--an artist in a go-go bar and strip joint--a hundred bucks a day, man.” Liz smiled. “Hey man this job is you all over. You’re perfect!”

*************************************************************** 

Santiago forgot about the barbeque and Oscar stopped calling after the third time. The whiskey story had abruptly stopped and Santiago wondered what made him break off. He knew what happened next. It bored him.  He made a lot of money in the strip joint, bought the Lagauvulin and  met the stripper and joined the army. He jumped out of the proverbial frying pan into the proverbial fire.

He thought he should finish the narrative, but not tonight. He flipped through the entries he wrote a few months before he returned to Oscar’s farm.

 

June 1, 2004

It is too early. My brain is fuzzy and in one of those abstract spaces sitting in a fucking Village Inn waiting for breakfast. I got tired of Denny’s. The breakfast is cheaper but wait forever for a coffee refill. At Village Inn you get a whole pot of coffee—okay,  it is still rotten coffee so why would I want a whole pot? I guess it is just the ritual, the thing to do, to be able to replenish my cup when I want–not to be forced to wait for some over-worked waitress to realize you are hanging over your mug.

June 15, 2004

Shrink Day. My doctor scheduled me in for an hour. Our last session I went into tears—it was not a plan but it looked authentic–I had no idea it would come out, the story of the massacre—bullshit, it was assassination and I am an assassin who needs a fucking Angel to get me out of hell… There’s mountain of sorrow.

The shrink told me I was depressed, on the inside and on the outside. What a fucking surprise – Jesus, I would have never guessed, but I sat there and said nothing after that. I let her take the lead. I had a feeling she was right. She prescribed me more crazy pills and said we would talk again once I got my mood stabilized.

So today was the day my mood theoretically stabilized. On the way to the hospital, I thought about it as a cat and mouse game – me the mouse, against the army, the cat, trying to convince them to reinstate my old army discharge medical compensation from over thirty years ago. It seemed to me that I would have to be an actor in a pretend melodrama, but then it occurred to me that maybe I really am crazy, maybe I really am damaged, maybe I really was mortally wounded once upon a time deep in the jungle of this fucking nightmare life.  The questions remain. Why do I feel betrayed? Why am I afraid? What is this strange detachment? What is my destiny? Why am I here, and what does fucking shrink know about treachery, lies and murder? But why not talk to someone? Why not talk to her?

She is a trained psychiatrist, but she doesn’t know a thing about me. What if I told her the truth? What if I told her that innocent children can become evil? What if I showed how fucking crazy I really am? The confessional didn’t get far this time.

“I don’t know where to start,” I said.

“Just take your time, nothing has to make sense just now. Talk when you are ready,” she said.

I started from the psychiatric ward in Germany and worked backwards. In an hour I was in a swamp describing sucking chest wounds, when she said our time was up and we would continue on the next appointment. I walked out of the shrink’s office feeling at least three times crazier than when I walked in.

June 16, 2004 (authors note: double check Vickie Mnas talk entry)

 

June 18, 2004

I dreamt last night about things not working. I went to Europe on a ship and I forgot my passport. I had to come back to America. I bought a car, an old Volkswagen. The police impounded it after I got in a fist fight with a guy because I parked the car illegally. Then I was sitting with a couple of strangers smoking hash when I drank some of the water out of the bubble pipe by mistake. I went back to an apartment I had rented and everything in it had been repossessed. Then I was trying to hook up with a dark haired woman, but I kept getting distracted and would run out on the street and start fighting with the guy that I had been fighting in the beginning of the dream. Strange zoo-like animals were dying all around me. They all had sucking chest wounds. I woke up sweating and I smoked a cigarette and read  Paul Bowle’s Sheltering Sky until four in the morning. I went back to sleep and dreamt Dark Eyes had a sucking chest wound so big that I was being sucked into it. I woke and went for a walk down by the river. The water in the arroyo sounded like it was sucking.

 

 

June 19, 2004

I had dreams, weird dreams all night long. Most of them had evaporated from my memory this morning except for the first part.

There was a flying wing, one of those aircraft with no body just a wing and it was going through what seemed a Martian atmosphere. The wing slowly came down to the ground and then changed into the shape of a giant chrome  spinning top, like a child’s toy. When it hit the ground it transformed into hundreds of little tops which then bubbled into a kind of metallic foam.

Then I was in a blue kitchen and a oriental woman was hiding in a small refrigerator with a glass door. She was bent into a fetus position, but she had a white cat crushed into her lap. Above the refrigerator there was a sink with a large green china plate that had a  black fish head and its skeleton. From the side door of the kitchen there was a figure like a man’s body that walked in, but I couldn’t see his head.

He came to the refrigerator but did not see the woman inside as he opened the door and took a very yellow cube of butter out. At that point the fish head started wiggling on the plate until it flopped into the sink where the entrails and flesh of the fish bubbled up out of the drain and went back onto the skeleton. The mouth of the fish started moving and then it began to shriek in a woman’s voice. The man then noticed the fish and said, “My God, they are eating our people.”

I could then see his face which was half human and half fish. He then took his right hand and looked at it for a moment, and then he wet his index finger with his fish mouth and stuck it in a sucking chest wound in his body. He said, “That will teach them to eat our people.” I woke up sweating. It was 3:35 AM.  I smoked three cigarettes.

 

June 21, 2004

The dreams are becoming more confusing and meaningless to me. Last night I dreamt of a childhood friend and his wife who was completely insane. I kept saying, “There are few loose bolts here.” Then I was standing by an old Chevy, maybe a 51. It was covered in dust out in the desert. A farmer with a donkey pulling a cart was going down a dry riverbed.  But then in another moment, the donkey was shoulder deep in water and the farmer was scrambling up on the river bank. I see that the donkey is very sad and I say, “He is being treated cruelly.” The donkey turned into a woman that was wearing a face mask of beautiful embroidered silk. The woman’s lips were visible through an opening and they were checkerboard patterned. The woman and I go to the farmer’s house. He is gone. She goes down on her hands and knees in the kitchen and I start fucking her donkey style. She starts braying like a donkey and it excites me but I say, “I can’t make love to animals.” I wake up and it is 3:47 AM. I was wet with sweat again.

 

June 22, 2004

All kinds of email today, good and bad. The good news is the Veterans Administration has reinstated my old army discharge compensation. They now say I am 100% defunct which means I disserve 1200 bucks a month. That is what I used to spend on alcohol every month. Just as well I stopped drinking. I can live on that. I am free, maybe. The regular Doc wants to see me about my last blood analysis. Maybe shit is bubbling again. I wondered where it had gone…

Then the insane business of the internet and emails.

Vicki Manstalk wants to see me again. Why not?  She bought me a ticket to Corsica for July—she wants to fuck again no doubt.  Fucking Vicki Manstalk. Fucking Corsica. Fucking Martina.

The emails come every few days now and I am in the mood. Of course I think about Martina. Oscar emailed from the farm. He says he heard she is back on the island. And crazy of all crazies, Vicki paid my way to Corsica. It is gasoline and matches—but  Vicki and I are old evil friends. We were conspirators in all worlds once upon a time.

Sex, literature, psychology, ethos, pathos, laughter, madness and more sex.  We were sexual magnets pulling each other but both saying, “No relationship…” Our alliance was another side of freedom with a one-night-fuck or maybe two here and there.  We always stopped on the brink of disaster. That is until the last time we saw each other in Corsica – just at the end of my marriage to Leila.

The affinity Vicki and I had was always horny. But I was always drunk then. What is my excuse now except I am crazier than Vicki. I am crazier than Martina…

 

June 25, 2004

I was driving my beat old van, the Orange Crate to the mural gig down in the south. It was a five hour drive and there nothing to do but hold the wheel and think. I thought about all the women that continue to roll through my mind. I thought again about the symbolism of the Angel’s Share, but then I realized there is no story that I can connect to anything – anything that seems logical. It is all a chaos. The only pattern is random madness—fractal repetition of disorder.

It is nuts all of it. Too many women who were lovers and too many women I just stuck my dick in. This condition I am in, the lanes of lost love and adventure, I have decided against the journey– to rendezvous with Vicki Manstalk in Corsica. I don’t want to play Vicki’s rich game even if she bought the ticket to see the play.

It is more than that. I don’t want to become an object she has power over. I emailed her today and no doubt she will be angry. Of course that is not it either. I want to see Martina. I don’t want Vicki to destroy a chance that may be there. It is ridiculous. I want to murder Martina, but I can’t stop loving her. I am between all worlds and none of them are sane. And this is only what is on the surface of my thoughts. I have no idea what I will do.

How did I come to this place, this desolate land of nothing? I got here all by myself it appears and I am still alive but my soul is more than dead. I have killed and yet I remain alive. I am an assassin carrying the baggage of a failed life. I have betrayed love and still all I seek is love. Nothing but dead women behind me physically and literally.

Crazy. It is not the real hearts I stopped, it is the hearts of romance that haunt me. My six phantoms. I killed their hearts and then they conspired and found the one woman who could kill me. No, maybe I have been wrong. Maybe they are all phantoms—even  Vicki. How many women are there? Has it been more than I want to count?

In the beginning when I was clear and young, there was only one. Now I am old and clouded and there are too many. What catalyst? Was it that little pebble at the top of the mountain that caused this slag heap of broken stone at the base of the valley? How did the avalanche begin?  If it was a pebble, it lay in the bottom of a bottle of whiskey – like the famous worm in a bottle of Tequila?  Ah yes, alcohol. How peaceful the world may have been if that nectar never was found…

 

June 28, 2004

I have had no relationship with women except drunken caprices  since Martina and then Dark Eyes walked out of my life. It has been ten years since they disappeared.

I keep a notion in my mind some day I will meet the woman that is my destiny. I thought that about Martina. I almost began to think that way about Dark Eyes. Over thirty years ago, when this madness started I thought  that about Gypsy—then  I lost her—all  my life I have lost them…

But I want to find that woman. That woman, who looks right, sounds right. She smells and tastes right. I want the woman who arouses my curiosity. Yes I want the ideal.

After  discovering Gypsy was in Montana, I let my fantasies loose. I hoped she would be glad I was back in America, leave her husband and run to me. In fact, I have wished that ever since I lost her. But she has not contacted me. Her brother has never told her of my resurrection. I don’t blame him. Considering there has been 30 years of silence from me is it any surprise the silence should continue?

I am in the limbo, not only about her, but also all of the other women who have been part of my consciousness. Teen Baby’s puppy love on to Big Fat Thaana and the Stripper’s  sex lessons.  I think of my ex-wife Leila, sad that I never was able to give her true love. Martina, I threw all my love to, and nothing was returned. Then Dark Eyes, an enigma…all of the women, never the right one or the right time. Yet, I keep looking at the floating females drifting past me like leaves on a river. I have made every choice without spiritual consideration.

I have been an old buck goat on his last rutting season. My style has been both attractive and repelling to women. The smell of musk glands is strong—combined  with the crazy request for God to send me an Angel has put female fiascos at my door. But a young woman attracted to an old man is always an ego trap.

The longer my old goat beard gets, the more varied young temptations are in front of me. Probable, it is my testosterone delusion that allows me to think these young women are interested. Why should they be? I have no money. But there they are, always on the horizon. It is always the mystery of romance. Why do we notice who we notice and why am I caught like a fly in the tangled web of so many spider women? 

I forgot the heartbreak of Martina, long enough to fall in the sack with Dark Eyes. She was a fuck  experimentation the whole time in Scotland. And yet, what could be new to a whore, fucked in every position by every kind of dick, big and small, rich and poor? What was it about her that captured me?

She was skinny, small breasted, boney legs but still feminine in a young girl way. Our bodies joined together spoon to spoon. Dark Eyes felt right. Her skin was almost silky even though the years of drugs had pock-marked it. When I closed my eyes she was like a deep memory of ancient history—my body was in natural syncopation, finally after all those weeks of toying with each other, my cock inside her mysterious cunt—we  would groan and roll in a wheel of sex—with eyes closed, we were almost one. We talked about everything—all fantasies allowed. There were no demands from Dark Eyes—no expectations. She was free of the love jails.

Maybe she was just horny and that was why she was a prostitute. She could not fuck enough perhaps. Maybe she is one of those fabled nymphomaniacs men dream about. But she didn’t want another relationship with a man. She was a better lover with her own hand. For all the pleasure she gave me in the flesh, she did her best to put me down with her words. She said I was better than a dildo.

She gave me a book about female erotica, before we had actually made love. I suspect it was her plot in hooking me into sex with her. After I read the book in Paris, I began having fantasies about her. Then each time we met at the corner café and she gave me her little French cheek kisses and warm hugs, I became hotter about her. It was only a matter of time of us sharing the same floor in that cheap hotel before the gravity of lust pulled us to dark moist panting.

The wheel turned and I left Europe. Now in America another carnival goes on. I travel to the south end of the state, a little town near El Paso, where I have become a new person. Nobody knows my past one way or the other. Nobody knows I was once an assassin, a murderer, a drug addict, a despicable drunk, a liar and a cheat. Nobody knows shit about me.

They know what they see. That’s it. They only see me as I have been in front of them. So in a sense, I have been reborn as the young innocent man I once was. That young side of me has had a curious affect. Young women have been hovering around me delicately.

One is only 18 years old. She is a tall black beauty and it is impossible to ignore her. There are two other young females, but they are less courageous in their approach than the black beauty. All of these girls are working at a restaurant where I am painting a mural. So it is not only the age difference between us, but a work ethic situation that would make everything very cluttered if I pursued this frivolous little flirtation.

I talked myself out of acting on impulse with the 18 year black beauty not just because of that but also because she has older brothers and a white fool like me could get his throat cut. Am I crazy? So, it is only a game, and I flirted back with her trying to be a nice guy and let it go at that.

But then one night at the restaurant I was having my dinner after finishing a section of the mural. Black Beauty comes up and she is more provocative than ever, and I keep ordering more food, eating real slow so I have a legitimate excuse to stay there without acting like I am taking her bait. At least I think it looks like I’m really hungry. But she works there and she knows the food isn’t that good. She keeps coming by the table and our little chat gets cozier and cozier. I begin thinking maybe a cut throat only hurts for a little while. Yes, one night of romance is worth the price, but in Paris, not in a rinky-dink town in New Mexico.

Why is this young thing so interested in an old goat like me? Maybe I am an old mythology and her youthful sexual curiosity is putting a polished veneer over my wrinkled face. Am I only lusting after her young body, or could it be possible there is a small chance miracles exist? Am I too sexy for my pants, and she needs me to save her life? What are the odds?  Riddles like this just piss me off.

In an ideal world, where no one is afraid or intimidated to let urges voice their tongue, this young woman could invite me to her thighs. We could roll for a brief moment for the sake of her curiosity, to see if this wild old man could match the fantasy of her mind. I could say and do what I would want with her. I could play her like a nine pound trout on the end of a one pound line. I could use multi-colored French ticklers and let the smell of her pussy stay in my beard--a whiff  of pure fornication…

But it is a real world. No one takes kindly to old goats seducing young women, unless they are multimillionaires and everyone gets a piece of pie. And I have reformed myself in this little town. In fact I am almost a Saint here. I am through with my devious games of the past. So instead of playing the Devil, I make polite talk if a bit flirty. I ask her how her day in high school goes. I ask her about her grandparents. I bring up my aching back and my stiff joints. I act surprised as hell that she is already going to college. In short I do everything I can to remind her how young she is and how old I am. So we both eventually drop the façade of making it. We both understand a taboo is bigger than we are. But it is only right. She is a child. I am an old man with a very old and evil history. She doesn’t know how lucky she is. She escaped the mind of an assassin.    

 

July 1, 2004

I gave up the idea of murdering Martina and Neil, after meeting Dark Eyes. She was a break in the weather of my soul. A hurricane had been going on and suddenly it was as though the wind had dropped to a dead calm. I didn’t know if I was in the eye of the storm and or the storm had skirted me and it was dancing away to wreck another land. Most of it had to do with exile that had led us to her bed.

It was like arriving in a foreign country being with Dark Eyes. Everything is the same but everything is different. What was most surprising was to be with someone that was completely outside of my experience and yet she became intriguing.

The last night in Scotland Dark Eyes told me something strange after we had made love for the third time. It came after sweating chest farts and laughing–she said softly that we were lovers. I hesitated with what I was doing for a moment by what she had just said, but then I realized she meant only that. We were lovers and we might make love other times, but there was no ownership attached to the statement. When she left in the morning, I felt good but I did not miss her. That was ten years ago. Now I miss her.

 

July 2, 2004

I found out why Gypsy has not been in touch—not contacted me in any way – because her brother kept the news of me from her. I feel somehow she has known. She must have known all these years that I was still alive—she must have known I have been trying to reach her for years. She must know.

I called her brother Pete several times but each time only got the answering machine. I always hung up, never leaving a message. The last time I called, I got a live voice. It was his wife and she yelled to Pete who I was. Even though it had been thirty years we talked as old friends and he didn’t try to avoid the reason I had called. Pete was as forthright as he had been all those years ago.

“I didn't tell Janie that you are back in America because I don’t know if she could handle it. You affected her life too much and I am concerned with her emotional response.”

Pete went on to tell me she had been in the Mayo Clinic several times for acute alcoholism and depression. He said she was married now to a really nice guy and he didn’t want to see that life upset. Pete liked the husband and he knew I wouldn’t do their marriage any good.

“I want her to get well and have a happy life,” Pete said.

“Look, really that is my concern too – but I need to say something to her that I should have said thirty years ago,” I said

“Kind of late, isn’t it Santiago?”

“Yeah, well maybe better late than never…”

“Fuck you Santiago. I might give her that message someday if I want to kill her.” The phone clicked hard on the receiver.

He was still honest. How could he know what had happened to me, or what revelation had made me want to come back into her life. He was her brother and all he wanted was to protect her from monsters like me. It sounded like I had already nearly killed her.

I don’t know why I wanted to reclaim a stake on her consciousness, except that I had built a shrine to her in my own mind. I wanted to put my Goddess in that Shrine—worshipped since the beginning of time—an invention of my need.

It was about tape recording I sent it Pete. Maybe if he listened to me, without reacting…I didn’t know. What did I want? Why was I digging up love I had murdered ? For awhile I almost fooled myself, thinking that I just wanted to apologize for the death of our child. What a bastard I can be. My mind was spinning.

How can a person destroy love and think it will not come back to them. I had lost my wife Leila because she couldn’t take my pain any longer. I had asked for the beating Martina had given me. Even Dark Eyes had only given sarcasm back to me. What the hell was wrong with me?

And for Gypsy, Christ was I mad? I had not seen her since she was twenty when I was twenty-five. We were both only kids even though I was a kid who had already murdered innocent people. What did I know about truth? I killed for my country then, but who would I kill for now? Anyway, I turned around 250 miles from her and here I was again back at the crossroads of lost love.

 

July 7, 2004

I had to see the shrink at the beginning of the week. It was only a few days after I had talked to Gypsy’s brother. I debated of whether to tell her about the whole stinking mess – I had already got my reinstatement for compensation, so I was no longer worried about saying the wrong thing. In the beginning I had to play up a bit  about what happened to me in Nam, but really I never even got near the truth. The thing was, each time I got near revealing my part of the assassination, my mouth rambled words telling her bullshit about being suicidal and depressed. That worked for the compensation but it didn’t give me any tools to fix my brain – the shrink did nothing for truth.

I noticed a couple of new things about her. She had frosted her hair, put make-up on and her skirt was decidedly shorter than the one she had the previous times I saw her. Also she held my hand for just a fraction longer than was politely necessary and when she set down she seemed to make a special effort to cross her legs and pull her skirt down far enough so I wouldn’t see her ass. She smiled at me and caught my eye drifting up her leg line.

She seemed to take special interest in the fact I was an artist, and also that I had been a medic in Vietnam. She asked me if I had been an artist before I went to Vietnam, and she was even more interested when told I was an artist when I was three. She asked me how did I know I was an artist when I was that young. Because nothing else made sense, I said.

She crossed her legs again and looked at me for a few seconds longer before she stood and smiled and said she wanted to see me again the following week. She put both of her hands on mine. There was something not very professional about that. She has become interested in me. She had to make a special arrangement with the scheduling officer to slip me in between the other destroyed vets. When she walked in front of me on the way out, there was a sway in her hips I had not noticed before. She actually had a pretty nice ass. I began to worry about myself.

Okay. I worry about this fucking obsession with women since the age of three as well (did my art begin when I realized there was a difference between boys and girls?) but then I ask myself, surely a psychiatrist has enough training to know when her subconscious desires are dictating her conscious decisions? It would seem certain she would be aware of how unethical an extra interest in patient is and also that it is just a little bit crazy.

Well, a thing I have already observed in this world is that psychiatrists are prone to be as crazy as their patients and they are not beyond falling in love with one of the inmates. I know from experience. I was once before the patient of a beautiful psychiatrist, but I am detouring the tale of now. I will stay at the moment with the present phenomena of attraction.

So there I am going to the VA hospital and I open up a whole can of worms to the situation not only of my physical state, but also the erosion of my mind. I go there to find out about one thing that becomes several other things.

You are depressed, the doctor told me in the first clinic. He sent me to the psychiatric ward. There the shrink began the negotiation for me to be reinstated into the club of wounded warriors. Eventually I will get a little pension—little  in America but if I moved to Nepal it could support a peasant woman like she was a queen – yet being a King in Nepal is still poor by American standards.

I go back to the hospital every few weeks because they keep discovering new problems each time they suck blood. The shrinks concur that I am far crazier than they are. In the end I become a statistic and the pill pushers in the loony lab decide I need long term medication and analysis. The medical doctors said I have cancer and some other form of HIV that doesn’t look too good.

Both departments back then concurred that I would be dead soon. Exactly what they told me ten years ago. One, because my body was full of disease and the other because my mind wanted to close the house down. I only mentioned suicide casually to them in hopes the compensation might be a little more generous, but they took my word seriously. My lies compounded with their mistake of identity.

All of this is shit. But I am not where I was a ten years ago. I am better off with the counseling and pills of the shrink than the drunken car wreck I had become. That wreck did not kill me, just a paralysis from the soul up, put my mind in evil soup and left my finger unable to pull the suicide trigger.

The shrink and her pills seemed the most tangible thing to do at that point – to see if the therapy could evaporate the funk that had gloomed around my life. It worked. After many weeks it seemed worse to die than it did to stay alive. I chose to keep breathing.

Negotiation with the government meant I had to take a new position with the shrink. At first I considered lying to her but there was no point to make up anything – hell, reality is the best fantasy going – all I had to do was tell her the truth. It was then I began to get scared. I knew to return to the past and what happened in Nam was a journey into the fringe of madness – madness I thought I had left behind in 1968 – the madness I left when I had walked out of the army and into the Funny Farm. I woke up on that first morning in the rubber room of the psychiatric ward, thinking I was the only one sane, in an insane world.

As for the weeks with this female vamp shrink, I realize I don’t even know where to begin. How can I begin a story that starts, I don’t know how I became an assassin?

I sat with her listening to me, not  taking notes  or even looking at the clock, but her just looking and listening. From time to time she would rephrase what I said. It seemed more for the purpose to understood the chronology and context than to design analysis. Each time I saw her, I could not remember where I had jumped off the merry-go-round of my life. She remembered exactly without notes. I have a hard time believing she remembered without assistance, and yet that seems to be the case. I was amazed.

And then, there was the last time she saw me. I am not too sure what it was, maybe that lingering holding of my hand, the wiggle in short skirt, the way she looked at me, that certain softness that spoke of bed sheets and hot sweat. But it was when she led me out in the hall, hesitating in the dark end of the corridor, that funny way she licked her lips when she said goodbye – the way she traced her fingers over the silk covered nipple of her left breast. Not again, I thought.

 

July 10, 2004

I am waiting to see what mystery of man and woman will be next. Last week I mailed the tape recording that I had been trying to put together for over a month. I don’t how many times I told my story, then erased it before I felt like I finally said what I wanted to say in the way that seemed right. Finally I got sentiment without the drama and the guilt laden subterfuge of the previous tapes. When I played them back, I was shocked to discover I was still trying to manipulate a woman, still insecure still proud and still full of just plain old bullshit.

On the umpteenth attempt I got as close to a real heart as I could and still be the person I am now. I felt if I took it too far from the person I used to be, then she would only hear a machine speaking – I would be a stranger to Gypsy. I wanted her to remember who I was, but I wanted her to know I had grown, I had changed. And then too, after all of these years there is the mystery of how she has changed and what she has become. Who are we after 30 years of separate lives?

I thought again of Dark Eyes and what she and taught me. We had become so sensual, and comfortable with each sexual interlude during that time in Paris, then in Scotland. But it was not just the enjoyment of sex and truly there was much explored, but it was because she stimulated my thinking. We became confidants – even more than I had once been with Vickie Manstalk. Dark Eyes was not a cannibal like her. Vicki should have been named Ima Maneater. Vicki only wanted to consume me, but Dark Eyes wanted me to wake up.

I wondered then and now, how could I have a sexual liaison with a whore—a woman who had every Tom’s hairy dick in her. She said she had to make up her mind to enjoy what she was doing or she would have gone crazy, yet each time we fell to bed, usually I was the one to hang at the edge of her entrance and it was her who couldn’t wait to usher me into the theater of desire. I wondered if she wanted to take on the male role.

I was intrigued with Dark Eyes. I liked her character, rough and hard. I loved her humorous enthusiasm despite her cynicism of men. At first I wasn’t interested in the act of sex with her, and then it became almost a game we had to play out because of the weirdness of where it might lead us. It was the touching and lingering with the idea, feeling each others flesh through layers of clothes, and then one day she came to my apartment to ask me a question. I was lying on my bed when she knocked on the door and I yelled for her to come in. She came in and looked at me with a puzzled expression and it seemed natural for me to move over and just as natural when she lay down beside me and we snuggled. It seemed a little less natural that she would want to fuck for free when she was off duty, but still she sucked the sap of my joystick and I was grateful. Much later, at the first actual fuck it seemed a single event that wouldn’t happen again, but then something happened. I had never felt the sex of a woman quite as strange as Dark Eyes. It was as though she had both genders. I liked what I felt and couldn’t stop myself from looking for it again, and again.

 

July 15, 2004  Returning to the Village of Locorado

It has been a long time since I have thought about the local mad-house and my fellow inmates of the soul. It has indeed been months that my mind has not been here although When I am home, I visit the inhabitants of this gentle asylum almost every day. On the way here this morning it occurred to me that soon I will be leaving again, to be gone for months, maybe for years, or forever. In two months I will return to Corsica. Possibly I will end everything there.

That causes me some consternation for even though I often recommended to my fellow lunatics in this village they should check out of the lonely planet hotel,  I am not sure I want to do that myself.

You know, leave everything before the last island of sanity is swamped by the flood of common quagmire generated by the hopeless existential nihilism of America’s walking wounded. I am talking about the middle-class political mindset of an empire determined to repeat Rome. I want to get out of this country before it robs me of the privilege of killing myself – like having a really shitty job and getting fired just a couple of seconds before you get to say, “I  quit boss-man and you can stick this job up your ass.” That kind of timing pisses me off.

I began to think about my Locorado buddies and I realized I would miss this nuthouse village for the same reasons I condemn it. We locals are all weird and I am seldom noticed except by tourists (who gawk at the other residents too) and when I am seen by a local it is to be greeted as one of them – a fellow sardine in the barracuda seas.

Yes, I will miss this village, high in more ways than one, in the hills of Northern New Mexico, where the best ganja north of Columbia is grown. One-hit shit. The local herb farmers grow something that looks like broccoli. They hide it between the branches of low growing cedar. It is sought after by the Hollywood crowd at $2,000 a pound. If you looked at that herb all clean and packed like the average bale of hay, say around fifty pounds then that bale would represent $100,000 wholesale. Once it gets parceled out and sold to the jet-set and stars there is no telling how much money passed hands.

If you looked at the Locorado inhabitants you would never know these people are making that kind of money growing Wacky-Backy. There are two reasons for that.

One, it is not like Hollywood, where people cover up their insecurity and lack of humanity by exaggerated opulence. People may be crazy here, but they are in a place where they can be simple human paranoids who can share conspiracy plots and abstract platitudes without anyone raising an eyebrow.

The second reason is that if someone here actually grows fifty pounds of high priced weed, they are most certainly sure to hold back at least forty-eight pounds to get through winter. Quite often the other two pounds they give to friends, use as samples for future sales promotion, or simply forget where they stashed it until two years later when they discover it has been eaten by stoned mice.

Locorado is not the Bogotá of the South American drug cartel. It is only a little village where a lost tribe of crazy hippies hang out everyday in the morning sun like pensioned lizards. They talk of CIA conspiracies and the crassness of the tour buses who dump the fat culture consumers off at the local bar for lunch and a view of the hippie zoo.

 

July 16 Dark Eyes

I remember a night in Edinburgh falling into love circles with Dark Eyes – her showing me the secrets of her profession and yet a tenderness and timing of going slow, ah so slow – she played me like the low notes of a cello in a cathedral. We talked after our love making.

She glued florescent plastic stars to the ceiling and we looked up into them just like we were under a night sky in Arizona. She talked of her little sister she left in Italy for the first time . The little girl had been cursed with a mysterious disease from the age of three. Some years the sickness disappeared and then would reappear when they thought a cure had been found.

Dark Eyes told me the only way she could “touch” the money the extra care her sister needed was by being a whore. Her voice broke and I could feel in the darkness the tears that were filling her eyes, She said, “It is worse to see a child suffer than it is to be the child who suffers…” I thought about the soldiers I had seen on the way out of the army who suffered and would always be crazier than me. It hurt me more to see them, than my own pain.

Dark Eyes lay in my arms that night, soft and complete in her sadness. Each moment she was in my life she gave me a new portion of her sorrow and showed me how big this world of suffering is. And in a strange kind of way, she was intrigued by what I was and what pain I had gone through. I never told her the whole story of Nam, or what kind of man I had been, but she knew. She knew I had the same sadness. We were both survivors of a disappointing world. We had both been in the killing fields.

I began to believe I was showing her a man not seen in her professional carnival of love by revealing myself.  She forced me to see my life from the outside. She made me observe who I was.

She made me understand no one really is who they think they are. She disarmed me. After hours of making love and talk she got up and put her working clothes and street paint on. She said, “Listen to me, I probably have a disease. Now you have it. Time is money,” and walked out. I lay there thinking, not understanding what she had just said. I was a man laying in bed thinking about a whore, but I was bigger whore. She was inside me with her touch of love, but I did not how much.

 

July 20, 2004  Letter to Dark Eyes

I returned to the job in southern New Mexico. The restaurant did so much new business after the mural, they commissioned another wall. I arrived late Saturday night and took Sunday off, just laying around, thinking.

The day was uneventful other than the weather warming to summer proportions. I did nothing but look at the sky. There were beautiful reflections of light in the sky from the underside of the pecan trees surrounded by flooded irrigation water.

Everything was calm until the in afternoon when I set at the computer and tried to locate Dark Eyes on Google. In about 15 minutes a name came up in Paris with a telephone number, email and street address on Rue St. Denis. It was the right part of town, whore alley. Sure it was crazy to dig her up after ten years but not any more crazy than trying to resurrect Gypsy after 30 years—but maybe it wasn’t even the right person. What the hell, I wrote anyway.

It was a paper love letter–but as I wrote I realized an old part of me was trying to equivocate the words like a lawyer in litigation case–saying some sentiment with intent, but not implicating myself that at some later date I could not qualify. I tore it up.

That was the first part of the afternoon. Towards sunset I wrote an email. It was the true side of me; the angry killer. Mostly it was due to the memory of a brief letter Dark Eyes sent ten years before accusing me of being a self-serving lying chauvinist.

My Dearest Beautiful Foreign Whore,

I was not unfair to you the time we were together. I went more than half way to understand your world, but quite frankly, you were a control freak – unless things went your way you became a bitch.

Another thing My Beautiful Whore–you saw what you wanted to see as opposed to what existed. You were young, but unfortunately what you were, was what I got. Although whores may have a golden hearts, at the bottom whores confuse human interaction. It seems you don’t get it.

     Ten years later I am still waiting for you to educate my ignorance.

     Talk to me. It has been too long.  Santiago

I read my email three times, wondering why I was writing a whore who probably still worked in the street everyday, over four thousand miles away. What point was there feel anything? And what about AIDS? She was probably dead. Maybe I was writing  because of guilt. Maybe it is me who gave it to her? Maybe it wasn’t even the right person.

I felt totally insane. I cancelled the letter and logged off the internet. Fuck communicating. I went to Victoria’s Secret shop at the Las Cruces Mall. I bought Dark Eyes an expensive sexy black thing and sent it to her via Fed-Ex—the  note in it with my telephone number plus a few words—I think of you.

 

July 21, 2004

I woke in the middle of the night. I lay there thinking, not being able to go back to sleep. I kept running the experience with a whore–a woman who told me she had no choice—she  would always go back to the street–that is unless I had the money to pay her for world of troubles.

Fat chance I could even buy one night with a whore. I am in the shit. My money is gone and I am coming to the last of bouncing six credit cards around, each paying the other off.  So I am on the minus side of more things than just bank account.

We were rascals who loved fucking each other. That blurred what could have been a decent friendship. This heart of mine is pulled along by my pecker, but there was more than just the Kama Sutra studies–more because we were a story regaining trust that was destroyed so long ago that neither of us could point our finger at the original betrayal.  Maybe my whore was preparing me to be the man I was meant to be with a woman. It is a strange idea and yet she gave me love when I did not love myself.

I thought I was better than prostitutes until...when?  Until I was at the bottom of the proverbial barrel. The only person who forgave me for my ugliness–the whore who knew what it was to be nothing. She understand my self-destruction.

I have the Ghost Files of too many old loves. Dark Eyes gave herself an escape route by saying she would always return to the streets. I retreated from love with Dark Eyes  by not forgetting the search for the perfect phantom love.

Before I returned to America, I told Dark Eyes  I was searching and if I found the woman of my Dreams I would go to her as soon as I could pack my bags. Dark Eyes called on the telephone after I got to New Mexico and said, “I know that,” and hung up.

But what woke me was not a whore-love but a dream.

I was standing at the bottom of a large tower that looked like Antonio Gaudi’s church in Barcelona, that is a sculptural metamorphosis from mineral to organic. I looked at the tower and I saw that it was not carved of stone, but in fact it was the stacked bodies of all the women I have ever slept with. At the top was the psychiatrist seeing me once a week. She was whispering something. I crawled up the bodies who were all whimpering the same phrase but it wasn’t until I got to the shrink I understood what she was saying.

The words came out of her eyes, “Please give me water.” I looked down onto the ground and saw the ocean had come around the tower and it was rising, drowning all of the women underneath.

I woke up sweating. It was 3:15 AM.

 ***************************************************************

Santiago put down the journal. The dream was another version of a nightmare that always had water at the center of its fear. For the first time in over thirty years of night sweats it suddenly hit him. He knew why the nightmares always came around 3 in the morning. It was three in the afternoon in Viet Nam.

What bothered Santiago was not so much that he killed 6 people in cold blood, but because he denied them a drink of water before he shot them. His anguish was not the assassination, but his victims died thirsty. Santiago now could hear what their eyes said in 1968...please, just a drink of water before we die...

He thought about what that meant. He could see all of their eyes, and all of the people, all of the souls that had actually touched his life – all of them – their eyes had always said almost the same sentiment – please just some kindness before you kill me... Santiago put his head down on the journal and closed his eyes.  

 

August 4, 2004

Women in My Life

The more a man has to tumble dice in the game of love, the more exciting it is. That is what I am doing–tumbling my balls like dice.

I have not heard from Dark Eyes for ten years—no point thinking of what she does now. It will only make me crazy. I don’t give a damn if she is lying on her back. It is a relief to have a sexual journey with a woman and not smell jealousy hanging on the bedpost. We had a grownup romance, what we did for each other. We were free to explore, to examine, to even play with who-ever as long as we didn’t lie about it, or drag disease into the remainder of what life we have. But one of us failed in all respects. I am not sure which one.

I have not lied, nor has she. Or have we? I have explored the young women that flutter around my old age like moths to the flame. Dark Eyes said she just turned her emotion off when she fucked for money—but  here we are—I  think of her being with men everyday, and she wrote mean letters and made one short telephone call and banged the receiver down.

 

August 6, 2004

Dark Eyes

A fucking miracle. I talked to Dark Eyes yesterday. She called from Milan. One of her “colleagues” forwarded the fancy underwear.  She couldn’t take Paris or being a whore another day, she said.  She stopped hooking 5 years ago. She said she had to do something else to take care of her sister. She left a long space for me to fill in the blank, but I said nothing. She said an uncle gave her an apartment, and helped her find work. Yeah, right, I know her kind of uncles. She said Milan was a lot like Paris. It was good to be in Italy.

I didn’t know what to say; even though I had been going nuts thinking of her since the time the doctor had confirmed cancer, then said I had dormant HIV which in all probability would become AIDS.

Ten years since we had seen each other so she might as well be on another planet. I mumbled a whole string of thoughts but I can’t even remember because all I could think about was I had to say something about AIDS. I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to scream at her.

I wanted to tell her the world was going to come to an end. I couldn’t say a thing. It was all a fucking joke because it was the other poor slob that had cancer and AIDS. It was just my mind that went on a merry-go-round of death no matter what Dark Eyes had or who she gave it to. The only thing sick about me was my mind.

Her voice was odd. I didn’t know whether it was me or her. It flashed in my mind that she wasn’t in Milan and that she was strung out on heroin again. She was trying to sound positive about her change of life, but when I didn’t respond, she suddenly became vindictive. “I hated fucking Paris, and I hated all those assholes, and I’m glad you are in America because you are an asshole too...”

I wondered why she called. What did she expect me to do?

But here she was, asking questions without asking. For a brief moment it seemed we would carry old romance a step further. Then she slammed the phone down. I called the number right back using the Caller ID. She was in Milan, but the phone rang and rang. The image of Martina and Neil in the bath tub came to my mind. I felt lonelier and crazier than Paris.

 

August 10, 2004 Back in Locorado

I finished the mural at the restaurant, then came home to Locorado. What is it about this little village that pulls me back? It is not just me. The village attracts lunatics from all parts of the world and then it holds us like bugs in a spider web–a web that everyone resents and yet refuses to cut. A microscopic view of the inhabitants of Locorado would show the common denominator of  dope-smoking purple haze refugees. Another characteristic is our path to the future. Nearly all of us are going nowhere and in no hurry to get there. Once again, the old grunts sing, “No matter where you go, there you are...”

Every morning, nearly every man and woman who populate this gentle asylum can be seen at the local coffee shop with apparently all the time in the world to do nothing. Only after the 11 AM mail is there any visible migration of a work day. I am here like everybody else, because I have no idea what I am supposed to do or be, and no one here really seems to mind.

It doesn’t matter to me either. In a month I leave for Corsica. Vicki Manstalk never asked me to return the ticket she bought. It is a cosmic conspiracy, after I got the ticket, Oscar called and said he saw Martina in the farmers market, or at least he thought it was her. He said she looked much older and tired. God what is going on? One by one the phantoms are returning.

 

August 11, 2004

The Shrink vs. Dark Eyes

I went to the shrink today. She told me I really looked good and let her face slide into a momentary smile that betrayed professional courtesy. But she knows the law of fraternization with the troops. Besides that, the wedding band on her finger makes another conflict of interests. That is the case, but there is something about me that has struck a fantasy note in her life orchestration.

We were scheduled for an hour but it had to be cut short. She apologized that an emergency had come up and then she asked me if I would like to reschedule another hour for next week. I knew she was being polite, but another part of my subconscious felt a kind of submissive dance between male and female. I mean hell, she is the doctor and I am the patient.  Does she need my permission? Of course she would accuse me of being in the manic part of my delusion if I told her my suspicion.

I question my observation of her body language and eye contact. I am trying not to be subjective even though I am the subject of her suggestive patterns. I have read Krishnamurti’s  famous  phrase, perceive what is. It is infrequent, but sometimes my brain actually gets in the way of my prick. The Doc does have a certain sensual curiosity  and hell, what’s another tumble between the sheets?

Bullshit. How can I step outside this dance of life? It is impossible. No matter which direction I step, there is always an opposite reaction by the fate I tried to step around. That realization brings me to the current state of affairs with the whore of my life.

Dark Eyes called again. Ten years later and she gives me another tirade—now after her professional life, she told me she would not have sex unless her heart goes along--the reverse of how I am. I won’t commit my heart unless there is hypnotic sex. The new path with my street-walker is detoured by her mind demanding tribute of my heart. What we had once now is a talking affair. It has made me conscious of my inability to give my heart. She wanted to know if I would come to Italy and help with her sister. I said I didn’t know. She slammed the phone down.

The hardened hooker, couldn’t help but act like a woman and tossed out the rules of our previous game of man and woman.

I stepped onto the trapdoor I could see with my eyes wide open. I went looking for it. I could have forgotten Dark Eyes and that strange wonderful pussy was ever in my life—the narcotic nookie affect and another mythology of fucking--I  see the hanging gallows and yearn for that brief moment of freefall.

I am back to square one. I believed my own lies--the conversion of a whore into a saint, but all I did was remind her she was a woman.

Okay. I’ll go back to reading books of spiritualism and seeking enlightenment, pretending there is a quest of soul. Women will not interest me. If I pretend hard enough I might be able to convince my balls. Hey, but what about the psychiatrist?  What about one last little fling before I become a monk? I am arguing with myself to stop all the shit I am dumping on my mind.

Dark Eyes seduced me – admittedly she didn’t have to work very hard at it – but once she got past that initial flurry of hot sex, her mind went back to the ways of being a normal woman with normal boundaries and demands.

Ten years ago we had some very tender moments. We were drifting into a romance that neither of us imagined. I was more surprised than her because really all I wanted was to get laid and forget Martina. I wanted to get laid without conditions, without talk. What better woman to strike that bargain than a whore? But Dark Eyes wanted to talk and I told her some things I wish I would have kept secret. Why sputter over life when there is no explanation of carnage in war?

Love is another kind of war, another kind of hate and violence. How can love exist without the opposite of hate? But my Angel was too female, too much a woman—she could not stop her nature. She wanted not only my love, but my soul. I don’t have a soul. I believe in nothing. I ran away ten years ago, and I should have never looked back.

 

August 14, 2004

I left Locorado at five in the morning for the journey back to Corsica. I awakened with another dream. I couldn’t remember the dream except for the sucking chest wounds and water as usual. I was wet with sweat and it was 3:15 AM again. I called Milan and told Dark Eyes I was headed her way and I would call again once I was in her neighborhood. There was a long pause of icy silence—the  cold shoulder treatment. When I didn’t respond she said in an acid voice, “Have a good journey and good luck.” I put the phone down and groaned. What the hell was I doing? Jesus, was I jumping into oblivion? Nothing had changed in this life of confusion—just another cranky bitch to complicate the day...

Guilt is never far away. I was going on a journey with smoldering ruins around me—like  a pirate ship full of loot but the plundering had left the sails in tatters and the hull leaking. The pain of Dark Eyes—the  beauty inside her without exterior attraction–the soul grace—but  her will and my ego was a lousy love match.

I dumped my old van at the Albuquerque airport parking complex knowing I would never see it again. I went to the departure terminal and checked the three bags full of life journals to Nice, France. Within Fifteen minutes I was shooting down the runway and on my way to Paris and try to meet my daughter Tara for a few hours between the layover.  I was disserting