"in the land of the blind..."


No, on second thought, I didn't want any coffee. I wanted a shower, a smoke, a few shots of tequila and the pleasant little death of sleep. That's what I really needed to do, retreat from the bullshit of what happened on the beach in that place where only I could go, deep, dark sleep. I wasn't paying particular attention to where I was and found myself a block from Jake's place, where the cops had closed off the street to vehicles. The artsy-fartsy crowd was out in full force, setting up their tables and displays, and the street was crowded with people out for a day of culture. I left the sidewalk and melted into the throng, hoping I could slip past Jake's and Karen and sneak up the back stairs. I made it to about fifty feet or so from Jake's and saw Del's hot pink t-shirt. Shit, she must have gotten ahead of me when I was at the drug store, handing out joints and wishing the little hippie cashier with the braces was just a few years older... She and Karen were engaged in what was most certainly a heated conversation. Del was flapping her arms like a fledgling bird, trying to take to the air, while Karen was most definitely doing most of the talking, her right hand on her hip and her left index finger wagging about a hair's breadth from Del's face. I was always amazed, for some strange reason, with Karen's being left handed. Don't know why, right now I didn't care, I just wanted to get past this unseen and unscathed and get up to Karen's place. Maybe crashing there wasn't a good idea. Maybe I should just get my stuff and wander back to my room at Oliver's parents place and call it a day, but I really didn't think I had it in me to walk all the way across Coronado in what was promising, with no regrets, to be a scorcher of a day. Fuck. Double fuck. Actually, I thought that other than me walking right up to them and joining in the fun, they weren't likely to notice me, so I filtered by way past them, through the crowd and walked a full block past the cafe, cut over, went around the block behind Jake's and sneaked through the property that adjoined the back of his, and climbed over the fence that bordered his back parking lot. I practically had to pull myself up the stairs, dug around in the sand in my pockets, found the key and let myself in. It was still pretty early in the morning, but the place was stupidly hot. I pushed the living room windows open all the way and put the box fan that was in the hallway in one of them, turned it on exhaust and went into the kitchen and opened the windows facing the ocean. If the place didn't cool down, at least the ocean air would be a little refreshing. I went back into the living room, stepping over Del's stuff and grabbed the half empty bottle of Gavilan tequila from the bookcase, took it back into the kitchen and went out on the back porch. I sat down on the porch floor, propped myself up against the outside kitchen wall, opened my new pack of smokes and lit one. Man, did it taste good. I leaned my head back, exhaled and opened the bottle. I lifted it, took a long swig and enjoyed the burn and the feeling of my mucus membranes revolting against the sour taste. I chased it with another drag, then sucked down some more. The sun was just high enough to be hidden by the porch roof, but the combined heat of it and the tequila was making me sweat even more. I closed my eyes and breathed deep, trying to force evil from my soul, trying to purge myself of all the anger and confusion and just as I was starting to relax behind the dark of my eyelids, I heard the sound of Della's cowboy boots coming up the stairs. I let out a long, slow breath, and opened my eyes just as she mounted the steps enough to come eye to eye with me as I sat there. She stopped her ascent and just looked at me. Her eyes were red and swollen and wet and tears had streaked her face with shiny trails. She opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but nothing came out. She looked like a hot fish gasping it's last. I wanted to laugh at her and I wanted to throw the bottle at her and I wanted to get up and maybe unload on her like Karen obviously had, but I remembered what Jake has told me yesterday afternoon,
"Don't be a fucker."
I took another deep breath, slid sideways a bit, held the bottle out to her with my left hand and patted the floor with my right, bidding her have a seat. She looked down a bit, the came the rest of the way up the stairs and leaned her back against the wall next to me, then slid down to sitting. I handed the bottle to her, lit a smoke and handed that to her, pulled my knees up so I could rest my arms on them and continued smoking and staring out into the day. She took a few long draughts, a drag on her smoke and handed the bottle back to me. I guess the tequila was having the desired effect on me, I wasn't really so pissed anymore and I looked over at her. She looked like hell. I guessed I didn't look much better. Well, I supposed I should be the bigger of the two of us, so I took another swig and a drag and said,
"I guess we're not going to be best friends, huh?"
Nothing. I tried again.
"Cat got your tongue this time?"
She turned and look at me with that same look her sister conjured up once in a while, that drilling right though you look, when those dark brown eyes turned almost black and the Mexican blood in her rose to the surface. I half smiled, handed the bottle back and tried again.
"Ok... you let me know when you feel like talking. Have some more of this rot gut, it helps. I saw you and Karen were having a little chat out front, I guess it didn't go well, huh? Well, that's between you and her, I suppose, but we have some unfinished business of our own. Maybe later. Do you need the bathroom? I'm really wanting to take a shower. I have sand everywhere and I'm sure I smell like something the gulls might want to pick over on the beach. Save me some of that crap, ok?"
Her look softened a bit and she looked like she was going to start crying again, which was my cue to get up and head inside. There are a few thing I'm not good at handling, and crying girls are up near the top of that list. I stood up, held out my pack of smokes and my matches and she took them from me in silence. I went inside, found my bag and got out some clean clothes, took them into the bathroom, undressed and stood in the shower for what seemed like an hour, the hot water and steam melting away the last of my bad mood. I finally had enough, got as dry as I could and pulled on a clean pair of jeans and t-shirt and walked out into the hallway, letting out a cloud of steam that just hung for a moment in the heat, the started to drift toward the living room, being pulled by the fan. I had rolled up my old clothes into a ball with the intention of taking them out on the back porch, shaking the sand out of them and hanging over the railing to air out and when I walked into the kitchen, Del was sitting there, her head down on the table, sound asleep. I stood there and looked at her for a long time. Personalities aside, they really were carbon copies of each other. I leaned against the kitchen door jamb, watching her and I wondered what it was like, growing up with a living, breathing mirror always there. It must have been strange, almost like never being able to get away from yourself. I promised to give that some more thought, right after I got some sleep. I was beginning to feel hollow and metallic and that can only be cured by a long, long sleep. I finally broke my stare and went into the bedroom, dropped the dirty clothes on the floor, turned on the window fan, pulled down the shades, got undressed and crawled into Karen's bed, pulling the top sheet over me and one of the pillows over my head. I remember thinking about Karen and what she was going to say about all this, but I was so tired, I didn't really care right then. I closed my eyes and fell away almost immediately.

I dreamed.

I'm sitting on a blanket spread out on the deck of a small sailboat, sun and sea all around, sails furled, rising and falling slowly on the swells, I look up and there's a trio of gulls floating overhead, facing the breeze, hanging there, just hanging there, occasionally one or the other momentarily blocking out the sun, the sun that reflects in and reflects on the points of the little swells, I'm far enough out from the breakers so the water is just almost calm, I can see the land off to starboard and off to port it's just water and sky and I'm staring at a spread out collection of postcards on the blanket in front of me, old black and white postcards with photos of places I know and places I don't know and places I'd like to know and, like the magician's volunteer called up from the audience, I reach out and take one at random, bring it up to my face and see a poorly shot photograph of an old brick building, with cars of an uncertain vintage parked at the curb in front of it and struck into the sky in letterpress impressions is the title of the postcard, "An Old Brick Building with Cars", broken and black type, Goudy Oldstyle, worn and used and I turn the card over and it's addressed to me, in care of an address I do not know, with a penny stamp with a gray ink cancellation that says "Bryce County Post Office", I don't know where Bryce County is and I read the message and it's hand written in little girls hand and it says, "I made it, I'm here with Grandmother and I'm the first girl in our family that they've ever seen with red hair! and I miss you and I will see you soon, love Lauren (bloodworm! xoxoxo)", "I miss you too, bloodworm", I say to the postcard and I drop it over the side and it lands in the water and floats in and out of the sun sparkles and I reach out and pick up another postcard, "show it to the audience, but don't let me see it", says the magician and I hold it up for the gulls and god and the sky to see and I bring it up to look at it and it's a pencil sketch of of a family standing in front of a small, twisted tree and it's Karen as a little girl and her father the New Mexico State Forest Ranger and her mother the homemaker and they're all squinty smiling into the sun and standing off in the background almost hidden by the dull mountains in the distance is Della, just seven minutes older and she's holding a small suitcase with two hands, it's hanging down in front of her and she's looking off the her left and it's like she's not even there and the pencil sketch postcard turns into a faded color photograph, the kind that has the white border with the rounded pinked edges and little girl Karen and her father the New Mexico State Forest Ranger and her mother the homemaker are all talking to each other at the same time and laughing and the waves of heat from the sun baked sand are wavering up in front of them, making them look like bad reception on an old television and I look past them and Della's placed the suitcase on the ground and has taken a sweater out of it and is pulling it on over her head and she looks cold and shivering and and the sweater doesn't look like it's seen very many good days and it's full of holes and it's red and yellow and gray and blue plaid and it looks funny against her white shorts and brown from the desert sun arms and legs and she looks up at me and just stares at me and I feel like I've done something wrong and I throw the postcard turned picture overboard and stand up on the deck of the sailboat and almost fall over, I grab the boom and steady myself and close my eyes to steady myself and then I'm sitting in the passenger seat of an old car parked on the side of the road by the ocean and I'm looking out at the water, watching myself standing on the deck of the boat, and the boat and me and the waves are all bobbing up and down and I turn away and look at the driver and it's an old black man, in a stained white shirt and stained striped trousers and a stained old pork pie hat, pushed far back on his head and he's really sweating and he holding the last of a fat cigar out the driver side window and he's holding an old, worn and dogeared bible in his right hand and he's reading verses aloud in low soft voice that sounds like a bullfrog, and at the end of each verse he looks over at me, his eyes full and wet and his eyelids rimmed in the red of too much drink and not enough sleep and he brings in the cigar, takes a drag, blows the smoke out the side of his mouth out the window and laughs at me, then turns back to the book and reads again and again and again, then he closes the bible, drops his cigar into the street and puts the bible on the dashboard, turns sideways in the seat, his big stomach barely fits the space between the seat and the steering wheel and he reaches over the back of the front seat, grabs a smelly old blanket, throws it over me and wraps it around my shoulders and my head and reaches across me and opens my door and says "it's time to go", and pushes me out onto the sidewalk and pulls the door shut and then he rolls up both front windows and picks up the bible from the dashboard and puts it on the seat next to him and turns back to me and mouths through the glass, "it's time to go", and he starts the car and pulls away, and I'm sitting there and I'm cold and scared and I fall over and lay flat out on my back, squeeze my eyes shut and pull the blanket tighter around me and suddenly it's night and I'm hot and I smell fried food and cigarette smoke and baby powder and suddenly I'm ok and I can feel someone very near me and I open my eyes and it's still dark and I want to shake everything away from me and then I'm awake...

I think...

The room is dark except for the streetlight that steals in through the sides of the pulled shade, I'm in bed and there's someone laying half on top of me and it's Karen and she's sound asleep, her left leg thrown across my legs, her left arm across my chest, her hand on my shoulder and I'm smelling Jake's cooking in her hair and smoke in her hair and the baby powder she doused herself with to slide between the sheets. I suddenly have this ridiculous urge to bolt out of bed, but I just lay there and stare up at the ceiling and listen to her long shallow breathing and try to make some sense of what I was dreaming, I'm sure it's nothing good. Why I dreamed about Lauren I can't even imagine, I thought I'd pushed that part of my life down deep enough to keep it away for a while, I thought I'd have to work on that a bit more. I really didn't get the part with Karen and Della and their parents and I really didn't know if I wanted to, but it's something to ponder, maybe tomorrow. Or later today or whenever, I wasn't ever sure, I realized, what day it was or what time it was, other than dark time. It must be either Saturday night or early Sunday morning, I guessed. I must have slept the day away into the night. The all night on the beach thing and the tequila really knocked me for a long one. I really needed to pee. Now what? I didn't want to wake up Karen, she was probably dead beat from working all day waiting on the art crowd. I gently picked up her arm and started to slide out from under her when she stirred and looked at me and said,
"Where are you going? Don't leave..."
"I'm not leaving, I have to pee. I'll be right back."
But she was already falling back to sleep and I eased out of bed and stood up and patted around the floor for my pants and crept out of the bedroom in the hall and into the bathroom and stood there in the dark till I got my bearings and peed by sound and washed my hands and threw some water on my face and went back out into the dark hallway. I tiptoed past the living room, I was sure Della was crashed out on the couch there and into the kitchen. There was enough light coming in from the spot by the back door of the cafe downstairs to see around and my cigarettes were laying on the kitchen table. I picked up the pack, went out on the back porch and sat at the top of the stairs. I looked across the island to the city, it was still going pretty good, it must still be Saturday night. I stuck my finger into the pack to pull out a smoke and felt a rolled up piece of paper. I pulled it out and unrolled it. It was a long cash register receipt and looked like Karen's writing, as best as I could see by the little light the night afforded, but I couldn't tell. I walked down the stairs to where there was some more light and read.

I'm sorry. All
I wanted to do was
talk her into coming
home. I don't know
why, I think it was
because I was
worried about what
she had gotten
herself into with
you, and I think
it was because I'm
maybe a little
jealous and maybe
I need to mind
my own business,
I don't know. She's
really, really
dangerous to herself
sometimes and she's
done some bad things
and maybe she's over
that and maybe not.
Maybe you know the
answer to that
better than I do.
I didn't come out
here to fuck things
up, but I hope I
didn't and I was
right, she's really
in love with you
and if you're
really in love with
her you need to tell
her that and I know
she told you to never
tell her that and
she meant that and
I know why and you
don't, but you need
to tell her anyway,
if that's what you
need to do. This
isn't making much
sense, is it?
You talk in your
sleep, just like she
does, do you know
that? I went in to
wake you up and tell you
this in person, but you
were sound asleep and
you were talking in
your sleep and it
sounded like you were
singing and I just sat
there for a long time
looking at you and
listening to you
until she came home and
we talked and drank
and I think things
are ok with us for now
and she went to bed
and I went downstairs
and asked her boss
to drive me to the bus
station in town and
you can tell her I
said goodbye in the
morning and I hope
everything is ok with
you two in spite of
what I did. I left
you some tequila.
Please don't show
her this note.
It's time to go.
Oh, I'm leaving
my car, just in case
she needs it one
of these days.


I took out a smoke, lit it and held the match to the bottom of Della's little scroll and let it burn and I dropped it in the parking lot and let it turn to ash, then walked back up the stairs and sat on the porch and finished my cigarette. It was just starting to turn dark blue in the East, morning was coming and what better way to start the day than finishing a bottle of tequila, smoking some more cigarettes, watching the beginning of another scorching day happen and ponder the last forty eight hours.
I went inside after a while, put on a shirt and my boots, went back out and walked down the street to the drug store to buy the Sunday LA Times. Whenever Karen finally woke up, she'd want to do her usual Sunday thing, sitting naked on the couch, drinking coffee and doing the crossword puzzle and I'd do my usual Sunday thing, sitting on the couch next to her, drinking coffee and watching her do the crossword puzzle. Maybe. After I tell her that Della had left, who knows what might happen. Maybe nothing. Maybe it's been like this between them all along and maybe she'll just shrug it off and maybe, at least from her point of view, things will be the same. I guess we'll see.


Anonymous Gothic said...

Wow, this is a throwback to the early/mid 90's gothic literature blogs! With the gothic animated gifs and all. Thanks for the precious memories and the interesting writing.

1:05 AM  

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