Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHAPTER 11

Chet came back all dressed for the pool: swimsuit, sunglasses, flip-flops, t-shirt, a weary smile and a few white towels that he’d taken from his room draped over his shoulder. Leroy and I just sat there for a while wondering if the arcade would ever come to life. The pool wasn’t opened yet, but we saw some early risers creeping outside and lying out on the deck chairs, and after wondering about what kind of people get up this early on a Saturday to go to the pool, we made our way out there too. We lay around on the chairs, cranking the rusted metal levers on the backs to put them in the all-the-way lying down position, and after also laying our towels down on them, we looked up at the morning sun and ate the rest of the pot cookies that had crumbled inside the vest pocket of Leroy ’s suit jacket. Leroy was not happy about the mess in his pocket and he kept screaming, “What kind of bizarre idiot put this fucking cookie in my pocket! It’s all crumbs, damn crumbs everywhere! Eat them you nitwits! Eat all these fucking crumbs. Get them out of my fucking pocket,” and then went on grunting and having fake mini-seizures and convulsions as he threw all the bits of cookie at us. I ended up eating a lot of cookie crumbs lying there half asleep on the deck chair. I was downright hypnagogic at this point, and I kept having waking dreams about gargoyles eating mice out of my hair, and I’d jump up and start thrashing my fingers around in my hair screaming something like, “You can have them! Here! I’ll get them all out for you! Assholes! Eat all you want!” Leroy and Chet would start laughing uncontrollably in their respective deck chairs every time I’d do something like this. They hadn’t eaten as many of the cookie crumbs as I had.

The next time I looked up, somewhat momentarily free of my stupor, I saw Chet swimming around in the pool. Then I saw Leroy jump in after him. Then I was in the pool, and it was a little chilly, and we were all in our underwear, and we were just floating around in circles there trying not to drown too fast. We swam over to the fake rock formation that usually had a waterfall pouring over it, but there was no waterfall. Some lifeguard started yelling at us, “The pool is closed you guys. Out.” We tried to argue, but I guess the pool opened an hour later on the weekend, which really pissed us off, but we got out and went back to lying in the deck chairs, maybe hoping to sleep for the whole hour until the pool actually opened.

The shakes started hitting me. I was just lying there, recumbent, having my own insane little visions and snake-filled dreams, when I started shaking uncontrollably. And I don’t mean just physically. It was as if my whole mind were rattling around, all my thoughts getting shot across my head like popcorn shooting around in a glass popcorn maker. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, and I started gathering up all my stuff, which was difficult because every time I’d think of one thing to grab I’d also start thinking about another thing I needed to take with me, and soon I was putting stuff down and picking up other stuff at the same time, and I couldn’t control how fast I was moving, which was pretty damn quick, and I just ended up screaming at Leroy to, “Wake the fuck up and give all my stuff to me!” I’d pick up my towel, then try to grab my shoes, but then I’d think damn I need to wear shoes to get out of here, and then I’d think, shit I need to put my pants on, I’m in my fucking underwear here, and then I’d start putting my pants on only to discover that I’d put my towel down, and I needed to take my towel with me, but then I’d think, this isn’t even my towel, it’s the hotel’s towel that Chet had brought down for me from his room, so I’d concentrate on my pants, and then I’d start thinking about my shoes, and then my wallet which was in my shoes, and then I’d look at a palm tree and think about what a palm tree was, and fronds, and then the sun would be there and I’d start wondering about the sun and how it might be burning my skin, and maybe melting my skin, and then I’d start rubbing the skin on my face to make sure it wasn’t melting, and it maybe could be melting, I couldn’t convince myself of anything. I did this for what seemed like a really long time. Somehow this wave of decisiveness shot through me. I bundled up all my stuff in my arms and strode off sedulously on the hot cement. I was still in my underwear, but I had my shoes on, and I walked briskly through a concrete tunnel, coming out where the spa was, and I kept heading towards the hotel lobby. It was then that I looked across the pool at where Leroy and Chet were now sitting up in their deck chairs. I looked at them staring at me and for some reason I started mouthing, “Chaise lounge,” to myself. Their heads looked to big for their bodies, like paper heads on Popsicle sticks, and it seemed like both their mouths were empty ovoid holes, like that guy in the Munch painting. It was then that the waterfall came on. I smiled at the sight of water falling into more water. Chet and Leroy were now both yelling at me to come back. I started to think about swimming again. Things were going to be alright. I could swim and go under the waterfall and all that water would just rush over me and pound on my head and everything would be better from now on.

I walked back around the pool, through the tunnel again, this time thinking about how foolish I must have looked carrying around all this stuff in my arms with this wet underwear on, and in my shoes with these strange multi-colored socks I’d chosen to wear the night before. Then I stopped caring and joined the guys back at the pool. They were happy I hadn’t left them. I threw all of my stuff back down and it was back to lying in the deck chair.

I opened my eyes and people were swimming in the pool. Chet was swimming around in the pool. I wanted to dive in. It was too shallow for a good dive. I slowly submerged myself in the cool water. The whole world was a sarcophagus and I was trapped inside, and it was cold inside.

Leroy got me swimming and we went over to the waterfall where the water was a little warmer. I was pissing like crazy at this point. I couldn’t get it all out for some reason, and I kept letting out little spurts here and there all over the pool. Everything smelled really strongly of chlorine. I started talking again.

“Leroy, my friend in Riverside has a salt water pool.”

“Huh. What?”

“Yeah. It’s got no chemicals. All natural.”

“Is it clean.”

“Yeah. Super clean. The salt cleans it. Salt is actually really similar to chlorine, I mean, chemically. Shit it’s cold.”

“Come over here by the waterfall you moron. You insane person. Come over here where the water is warm.”

A guy and a girl entered the pool across from us. I kept staring at the girl in her two-piece.

“Stop staring at her,” Leroy growled. “You’ll get us killed.”

I heeded his advice and said to him very low, “Let’s go in the spa”

Leroy ’s eyes lit up and he whispered conspiratorially, “You think it’s on?”

“Only one way to find out.”

We hopped out of the pool shivering and jumped into the spa. It was nice and hot. No bubbles though, and the bottom scratched my feet up something awful, and it was really dirty with all kinds of leaves floating around in it. The water was kind of brownish-yellow. All my piss finally left me in one final gush.

We yelled at Chet to join us and he ran over shivering and leapt in, splashing the tepid water all over the fake rock walls around us. We just sat there enjoying the warm water. I took my hand out of the water and tried to hold it straight, but it was shaking so bad it actually went down and splashed water all over Chet and Leroy. I decided to keep it submerged for a while.

My eyes weren’t right. Every time I closed them I saw red blurs seeping into my eyelids, and there were all kinds of things around that I shouldn’t have been seeing, like mutant moths devouring my fingers. I kept trying to hide my hand under the water, but it didn’t help. The damn moths kept swimming underwater to bite me. Chet got out and figured out how to turn the bubbles on. Every time a bubble popped I thought my head would explode. An old man with a cane kept hitting me on the head. Or was that a tree branch? A palm frond? A kid with a hammer? I couldn’t tell, couldn’t keep anything straight. Was Chet just floating there across from me? Was he still breathing? He must be breathing because he’s afloat. Air keeps you afloat in water, right? Do dead bodies float to the surface? Yes. Like that game we’d play in my mom’s pool when we were kids, dead man or something, where you’d take a deep breath and float there on your stomach for as long as you could hold your breath. Like doing the back float. I was always good at doing the back float. I should have a fucking gold metal that says, ‘Back Float Champion of the 5th Grade,’ on it.

The water was getting too hot, and my feet kept getting cut on the bottom of the spa. I started thinking there was sandpaper down there. So I got up out of the spa and sat on the side dangling my legs in the water. Chet and Leroy were cooking in there like it was a muddy stew big enough to feed a couple of armies. I started trying to stir the water with my legs. I’d make those two dolts get caught up in a whirlpool and send them sinking down to the bottom in the eye of the thing. I got back in and started swimming around in a circle really fast. Soon they joined me and I thought, “Suckers. They don’t even know they’re bringing about their own demise.” In my mind ten-foot roiling waves started splashing around, and then it was like a black hole, all this water going around and down into a fine point, into a nothing that sucked in everything around it. We were all going to go swirling down and around until we got sucked into the pit in the middle, until the violent storm sucked us all up and the world would go on without us, whatever was left of it. I was mad with circling, faster and faster, and I was so dizzy that I felt like my eyes were crossing over to different sides of my face. Somehow I leapt out. I lay there panting on the pavement, water dripping off of me, my head spinning like a top, like I was stuck on a merry-go-round that some stupid person kept pushing faster and faster around.

My head is the rolling drum of a dryer…no, a washing machine whirring on the spin cycle.

Every single neuron in my brain, all 100 billion of them, is pulsating. I can feel every single one. All my synapses are flashing, febrile and fantastically, all these neurotransmitters just flowing, and this randomly shifting chaos of depolarizing and hyperpolarizing of my shit-faced post-synaptic membranes is making me crazy. I know this. It’s the fucking pot cookies. I ate too much. My gears are grinding, all the cogs going crazy with mis-use, turning in on themselves. All these strange and hollow synaptic voices getting lost over the hillocks of cannabinoids. My brain cells are eating themselves rather than go crazy.

It becomes hard to convince myself of anything. My head is expanding. Everything is soft and growing and quickly vanishing to be replaced by some other weirdly formed shape that then re-adjusts and fills out and then goes too into the dust of things. Bees with faces like undertakers bite my toes. I put my feet in the water but the bees just change into eels with thousands of claws, sharp thin talons that cut into me and send electric shocks through me, burning the hair on my legs. I feel flies landing on me. But then they aren’t flies, they’re gobs of spit. Is it raining? Is rain just God spitting on us? The spit turns into lava as it melts and rolls off of me. I’m be burnt alive! Good thing these boils on my skin are giving birth to bubble gum balls. I try to take one and put it in my mouth to chew, only to discover that it’s changed into a chicken egg. The taste of the raw egg is so horrible I try to vomit it out, but all that comes out is a deep black oily liquid that grows into a huge oil slick covering the surface of the spa water. I yell at Chet and Leroy, “Get out or you’ll both turn into oil-covered birds!” They stare at me and then go back to floating in the spa. I’m happy. I’ve recovered my ability to speak. “Come on. We’ve got to go. Now. The sun is burning all the lilies in my brain!”

I get up and walk over to the deck chairs. Again I go through the tunnel that leads back there. It’s like I’m in some underground cave. It seems to take a really long time to walk through the tunnel. I feel really ashamed of being in my underwear. I try to walk really fast but it’s no use. The tunnel keeps getting longer and longer. I start to think it will never end. I’ll just be walking through this tunnel forever, cursed like Sisyphus, walking the same trail over and over again for all of eternity. I start to think about sleeping dogs, about letting them lie, but what if those same dogs are really telling the truth?

The tunnel ends. I gather up my stuff. Chet and Leroy took a short cut, swimming across the pool, and are already getting their stuff together. At least Leroy is. Chet is just lying there with his sunglasses on. I hate him for being so damned relaxed. Then he gets up. He turns his pockets inside out. He goes rummaging through all his stuff and then he jumps back in the pool madly diving all over the place and scouring the bottom, staying underwater for a long time. I start to yell, “I can hold my breath for a really, really, really long time!” I believe that I am Ted Danson.

Chet comes out of the water looking very dejected, like a truck has just run over his favorite pet turtle. He says, “My ID is gone. My room key is gone. Where’d they go?” He looks under all the deck chairs but to no avail. Leroy and I look around too but we can’t find anything.

I start to talk again. “Chet, um, sorry, but we’ve got to go. I’m kind of freaking out.”

“That’s cool. I’m going to stay here and keep looking. Fuck. I’ve got to meet up with my brother. He wants to get breakfast.”

Leroy tells him, “Don’t worry. They’ll turn up. Some kid with a scuba mask will probably find them down at the bottom of the pool. Kids love doing shit like that.”

“Yeah. Fuck. I can’t believe I lost my ID. I kept checking for it like every five minutes to make sure it was still in my pocket, and now it’s not. See you guys later.”

The next thing I know Leroy and I are wandering around in some odd building and he keeps telling me that we’ll just get a taxi, it’ll be soon, and we’ll be out of this place. And we’re walking through a glass bridge and I look out and there’s the pool beneath us, and we look for Chet but he’s not there. That bastard’s left. He’s gone. Where’d he go? Why did he leave us? But then we keep walking and inside the hotel there are all these postcards on a turning rack, and we see Chet with his brother and they are both looking at postcards. I don’t want to see this. I can’t see things like this right now, not with all these parrots eating my shoulders and this rat trapped in my mouth chewing up my gums. We walk by waving at Chet and he kind of smiles at us in recognition. Does he not recognize us? Was that really Chet? Maybe it was a phony, a doppelganger, a guy that just kind of seems to look like Chet. What color hair does Chet have? Blonde? Do I even really know who Chet is? Does he have ID to prove who he really is?

Somehow we get in a taxi. I can’t talk. Everything is too loud. I can hear the little chime of wind slipping in the crack in the window. I try to get the window all the way up, but I still hear the noise. The infinitesimal space where no two objects can ever really touch is too much space to block out the noise. I can hear the power lines buzzing, the street lights clicking when they change, cells dividing in my nostrils, long, long, long distances and even longer thoughts about those distances, the clicking of the cab meter as we go along, every click taking hours to click up the fare. Leroy tries to talk but I just ignore him. It’s all too much. My head against the glass is a symphony. The glass is becoming part of my hairline. Every few minutes I come out of my trance and mumble something and fake laugh about some other thing, and the cab driver must really think I’m a nitwit. He may be right. He may be crazy. But it just might be a lunatic that I’m looking for. What? What was that? Easy there. Did I say that out loud? Is this a cop car or a taxi?

It was a very long taxi ride. That guy must have driven us to Jersey City or something.

Blundering somehow into the hotel we headed straight for the elevators. All around me were unimaginable monsters lurking in the shadows of slot machines. I didn’t have time to contemplate them. I wanted a bed and I wanted sleep and I wanted it right away. Up we went in the hot elevator with the stupid fan buzzing in the roof.

I am finally in a bed. I have taken two 15mg Restoril capsules. At least I hope that is what they were. They were in a small white bottle that was supposed to have words like “temazepam” and “bedtime” and “for sleep” and “may cause drowsiness,” printed on it somewhere. There is no way to tell for sure. My eyes have gone bad. They were the last two pills in the bottle. They should help to slow my brain’s circuitry down. Leroy is pacing around madly and everything is coming in and out of focus, melting, changing size, turning into other things. Mirrors blend in with the wall. I scream out, “You’ve got long hair!” to Leroy, and then I realize Leroy doesn’t actually have long hair, and I look again and the long hair is gone. It’s just Leroy with his mustache and his tight plaid pants that I keep thinking are his pajamas, and I keep wanting to ask him why he brought fucking pjs to Vegas, but before I get a chance to talk I’m distracted by the air conditioner, which sounds like an airplane taking off. I am here in this bed with these shitty, paper-thin sheets, this disgusting comforter, this rock of a pillow under my head, lying prone in my wet underwear, listening to Leroy yap on and on about things I can’t understand, words that don’t make sentences, just words with no meaning, and all around me ordinary objects are taking on all kinds of shapes they’re not supposed to have. The roof is coming down. The cottage cheese on the ceiling is attacking me. It keeps getting closer. It will suffocate me. I yell at Leroy, “The cottage cheese is eating my face! Stop it! Get it away!” Leroy laughs and goes on talking. He seems to be getting ready to go somewhere. He seems to be excited about going out. What kind of maniac goes out after being up all night, after taking loads of drugs and booze and with the ceiling coming down to eat my face and all these little gossamer tails of dust mites shooting like rockets all over this place? What a dope. He’ll never make it. I try to communicate with him but it is no use. My mouth has been glued shut by the lampshade-headed man’s glue gun. He gets me to shut up finally. What a brave man with a lampshade for a head. No more lights. No more noise. Leroy is gone. I pull the thick curtain over the window and throw my immalleable…coarse…stiff, stuffed…unfluffy?...no…burdensome comforter over the curtain to keep it that way. Words don’t matter. Everything is quiet except for the roar of the air conditioner. I can stop hearing it if I hear it consistently for long enough. I won’t notice it after a while. I am certain of this. I close my eyes and I see images that fall through time and space so gracefully I am at once at peace, grateful for them, lost in this world of chaos where nothing makes sense, where colors are dark and dark is light and everything moves on its own volition, everything done without my having anything to do with the doing of it, every last velliety completely out of my powers of control. Star-shaped creatures with bicycle pumps for arms turn me over and put me to sleep on a bed of soft heather and rose petals.



Somebody is knocking softly. Is it too soft to wake me up? Can I be awakened from a dead sleep by soft knocking? Do I wake or sleep…?……I am moving towards the door and my body is very heavy. Leroy’s face. Leroy. Who am I? He’s talking but it is far away, like a bad overdub in a foreign movie. I am in bed again. I see Leroy taking his room key. He forgot his room key. He is laughing and then he is gone. I stop thinking again. Everything is heavy and soft and everything is blackness. I no longer care about the world I live in.