Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHAPTER 21

My eyes are very red. I can see all kinds of swirling red veins sprouting in them in the mirror. The mirror is gelatinous and it is moving, waves of motion, a steady current like a large boat makes in a lake as it motors by. I sing to a fire truck that isn’t there. I sing, “Don’t rescue me/ I don’t need any ladders up here/ Don’t rescue me/ just let me burn/ let me burn and burn away…” The shower water is ripping away at the basin behind the closed curtains. Water pressure is a wonderful thing. There is soap here. There is hot water. There are many little bottles of shampoo and conditioner and plenty of nice fluffy towels hanging on polished silver towel racks. I can see red spots floating in my eyes. I stare and stare at myself until my mind goes numb, until I don’t recognize myself, this thing with skin and hair and teeth, this face that grows stubble, and most of all these red eyes that will only open half way, and these drooping bags of sleep that I’ve packed up under them. I feel myself on the other side of the mirror, and soon there are no sides to the mirror. It is all one image, one being, without sense of sides or duality of any kind, any type of backwards world that is not here and is gone somewhere that is here at the same time. Lost. I look at my face and it is no longer a face. Just this chunk of hairy flesh with red holes staring out of it. I pull at it with my fingers. It is nothing. I am not here. In my red eyes is a reflection of more red eyes reflecting back ad infinitum. In my head somewhere is a brain. But none of this exists. I am just this solar-powered slab of flesh with opposable thumbs and no ability to fly or breathe under water. This has been happening over and over again for a very long time.

“What the hell are you doing in there? Did you shower yet?”

“Not yet. I’m just getting in.”

“Hurry the fuck up. This chlorine is melting my brain!”

I get in the shower and stop thinking about things. The hot water feels good on my face and I start to feel clean again. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt clean. The hotel soap is just a thin white bar, like a soda cracker, and I lather myself up. The word “saponaceous” spins around in my head, all the letters coming apart, falling with the shower water and washing down the drain. The steam envelops me and I am happy and all alone. Every little thing is good. I even use conditioner in my hair.

Leroy is next in line for a shower, after I emerge all fresh-as-a-daisy and wrapped in an imperially enormous towel from the steam-filled bathroom, Leroy saying that it’s like a fucking sauna in there, and I proceed to lie lazily on my King-sized bed, complete with all types of blankets and plump pillows and other types of bedding I may just have been unaware of, and break open the Old Overholt and start pouring myself an ice cold glass, having retrieved a glass, an actual glass that was wrapped in a light brown paper along with three others next to it, and ice, from an actual pre-filled ice bucket. I lie back against the big pillows and drink my drink, flick on the mammoth flat-screen TV with an actual remote control, and start flipping through the cable channels. Double Indemnity is on. I leave it there. Fred MacMurray is getting in an elevator and is all dinged up. I look over at Chet to see how his freak-out is going. He’s standing by the table and rifling through all these papers and is cussing and making grunting sounds. He seems very frustrated about something. I love the way Fred MacMurray talks down to the elevator operator. I like his hat, his long coat draped over his back, his shadow on the wall when he walks, the way the light on his desk shines on him when he sits down, and most of all, the way he smokes a cigarette, lighting it with a match all hunched over and suffering, real weltschmerz there in that motion, as he speaks into a Dictaphone and sweats, undoing his tie, the black and white enveloping him like a gray fog. Chet is throwing papers all over the room.

“What the hell is this? Why can’t I…Ahh! What the fuck, what the fuck! What is all of this? I can’t…I can’t get this…straight. I can’t keep…”

I keep watching the movie. Barbara Stanwyck is not fully covered. Nor am I for that matter. I decide to put some clothes on.

Chet keeps blowing his top over in the corner. Sun coming in through the blinds really does show all of the dust. That must’ve been Chandler on that one. Only he could write a line like that. I change into a fresh shirt and some pretty clean pants. Chet is stammering and throwing things around. Murder probably doesn’t smell like honeysuckle.

Chet kept at his paper shuffling, sputtering, “I can’t deal with…things anymore! Damn it! I can’t…”

“Chet! Just drop all of that shit. Get rid of it! You are freaking out and you need to get out of this room. It’s stifling all the you that was every in you. You must get out of here. It’s your only chance.” I really just wanted some peace and quiet and to watch the movie for a while.

Chet looked at me. He couldn’t smile. He said, “Okay. That’s it. That’s probably what…shit…that’s what I can do. I’ll go find my brother. He’s out there somewhere playing poker somewhere…I just can’t…okay, okay.”

He loaded up his pockets and went out.

“We’ll find you later. We’ll eat at the Rain Forest CafĂ© or something,” I yelled after him as he slammed the door.

So I lit a cigarette and lay there watching Fred MacMurray seduce some man’s wife, a very insane-looking Barbara Stanwyck, while he sat on her couch and smoked a cigarette and drank a scotch, calling her baby and dame, talking fast and tough. I fell asleep just as he said, “I watched it get dark outside and didn’t even turn on the light.”