Driving at night, one night, one of many, many, all black pearls strung together, all death instinct skies. Julia, sitting in the passenger seat beside self, is not liking any of it, she doesn't want to know. I said I don’t want to talk about it, she said. A while back. She is leaving, she is tightlipped, she looks out her window at the black masses we are passing with a gaze that endows the general landscape with the malediction of her present anger and unhappiness. Self has been drinking, self, in fact, is drinking, - he holds a Fosters oil can with one hand, he holds the wheel with the other. He'd had several scotches with his pasta and clams, he'd revved himself up to a pitch of jollity as Julia sipped her white wine, lingered on her one glass, become, before self’s very eyes, what with his newfound ability to see the very pith of the human soul, colder and colder, crystal and crystalline.
You're the ice queen, he says once, to state a fact. Let’s not forget that, he says. Let’s not forget who’s forgotten, uh, how to have fun.
The drunkenness, lately, has had a cosmological aspect - really, it has! The drinks segue into the road, the darkness, the speed, the music, motion and the space a certain black throb he can wring out of the radio when it is late and the DJ can play what he wants to, going out to nobody, homeless listeners out there, in their cars, the congregation, or out of all of his old tapes, which he keeps in a brown paper sack in the back seat and roots through, one hand still on the wheel. Surprise me, he says outloud. And before his eyes he sees ... he sees the road uncoil, alive. The road, a creature dry and dead by day, a sloughed skin, twitches now, come back from its mock death, which of course self, magus that he is becoming, sees through anyway. The road is hostile, prepared to do battle, self has felt this through miles of asphalt and on up through the engine and the steering column and the spinal column and through the neck bone and through the medulla oblongata and the pineal gland, where he is connected to the divine, he has felt it in his palms, he gets in a sweat about it; his idea is that the hostility is so specifically, personally directed like a ray at him because he knows, having been witness many times in the past couple of weeks to that moment after sunset when the road gets up on its hind legs for a second and gazes around with its own viperish purposes out of eyes all black, pixellated pupil. It is then that he feels the road working on his car - taking the lining out of his brakes, putting a tiny hole of rust in his radiator, its weevil, evil consciousness fucking with his machinery. The road’s eyes and his have met, and for a moment he’ll be ... nothing at all. The car ploughs between mountains, the road twitches, and the car soars, an invisible man at the wheel. Wreck the ship, scuttle the barnacled, the oh so corrupted soul here! And then the ancient mariner returns. Yes, then self rematerializes, the moment passes. And self is like a lovely bottle on these nights, tonight too, filled up with a golden liquid. In fact, coming out of the restaurant self ran into a table and the contact resulted in a thick, glassy clink. He distinctly heard it, he would have pointed it out but, but what’s the point of that? They have spiritually castrated themselves, they refuse the evidence of their senses. He’s a sailor of glass, a vase Popeye, and if the road leaps upon him, he will shatter. Julia doesn’t see the poetry in this, and self likes to think that he doesn’t tell her things, why worry her, but sometimes things get out of the gate, sometimes he doesn’t even realize it, she’ll repeat to him later come crucial bit of esoteric wisdom self has cultivated for his lonesome and he’ll think damn, why’d I tell her that. These lyrical nights, these white nights, the white the other side of black, how his body becomes a fractaled line holding to the pattern of a former transparent cohesiveness by thousands of thin, icy filaments - an image self has carried away from junk yards where cars, twisted and crushed hulks from accidents, will have webs of blind broken glass hanging low over dashboards where the windshields once were. Classical, isn’t it? Michaelangelo finds the body of the mangod in the raw block of marble, Street Early finds the wreck in the windshield. The golden liquid in self's mind splashes out into the cold night, splashes headlong out over the hood of the car, and freezes into tiny pearls as it drops.
Once you ‑ now we have to imagine you as a little fellow, a tyke, a Mommy's helper, a little man, the train that could, Pooh, Street‑come‑here! ‑ once you were locked outside the house on a very cold winter's evening. It was snowing, and you had been thrust into your clumsy mittens, your furry hat with the button on the band to make the visor stiffer or (unbuttoned) looser, your heavy blue coat with black checks like a checker board, your clunky boots which made diamond patterns in the snow or the mud, and kicked outside by Dita, shoved out the door, told to play.
Dita loves snow, she loves making snowballs and bombarding her friends with them and being bombarded in shrieking turn by them and smooshing one down your collar (you darting away I'll‑tell‑Mom), Dita says she loves the hills covered with snow, isn't it pretty, Dita says her favorite picture (it is up in her room, over her bed) is a Winter Wonderland, which shows a country landscape, a sleigh pulled by horses (arrested, here, in mid prance, the bells on the harnesses in mid jingle) passing through it, and the snow, in easy drifts, extending way back through some pine trees and one deciduous tree radiating woeful, leafless dignity to a house, curls of smoke cosily rising over its chimney from a cherry red fire you can just imagine crackling in the fireplace, Dita loves warm breath becoming smoke in the cold air, she loves coming in and saying see how cold it is and without any more warning than that putting her cold hand on your warm cheek, she likes igloos and Eskimos and says when I'm eighteen, I'm going to move to Canada, she likes ice skating, she likes to whiz around on the Robbins' pond which freezes up at the end of December, she likes saying I can't wait until winter when it is autumn (you like autumn), Dita likes to trudge home over a snowy path around six o'clock, unabashed by the winter darkness, not to be swallowed up in the big open jaws of winter, not she (unlike you, who are too small, who have to hurry behind Dita, worried that like Pinocchio and Jonah you too might be a mouthful for some giant creature, wait‑up‑Dita‑wait‑up), Dita likes to go over to the Laramies who own horses, four of them, on December days and creep into the stable with Sarah Laramie where when you shut the rickety wooden door it is shadowy and the light only comes in through the narrow, transom windows up overhead and there is a smell of sour, mildewing straw and horsepiss and the cold is fleeced through only by the warmth that comes out of the grill of the electric floor heater glowing angry orange in a corner, and Sarah and she like to pat the horses, Dita likes to roll in the snow and make snow angels, Dita likes coming home and taking a warm bath, leaving a puddle of skirt socks and boots on the bathroom floor like the dregs of a body left by some angel risen to heaven, and she likes to come to the table in dry clothes with her long blond hair wet.
Self finds a parking place, everything is fine, Goddamn fine, I got you here in one piece didn’t I? and Julia, who can’t put her life in his hands (isn’t that the only thing that counts - putting your life in somebody’s hands?) taking her suitcase out of the back, her eyes blazing up (the beauty of which does not, even in the slightly disordered state of mind self finds himself in, go either unnoticed or unappreciated) I don’t want to talk about it now, and self, doggedly, wait, going over to a pillar what is it, ten o clock? and pulling down his zipper, the stream of piss God it is nippy tonight sending up smoke in the air, wait, turning at the smart rap of Julia’s heels on the concrete among the pillars one side burdened down with her suitcase, wait, and he turns back, go faster, jiggling his pizzle, then zipping and rushing to catch up with her, echoes in the cold vaulted air, then out into the street between parking lot and the glass doors of the lobby, I got you here in one piece Goddamn it, knowing that this is a stupid thing to say, let me help you with that, hand on the handle and her hand not loosening its grip, Julia still blazing even here (where the wind is tackling a potato chip bag and tackling it again all the way down to where the street curves under the cone of light from a streetlamp) turning don’t touch me, I don’t want your help, for God’s sake Street if you don’t give a damn about yourself I don’t at least want you killing some innocent driver, don’t drive back to Santa Fe tonight!
Around her mouth there are lines. Lately self has noticed that she has started to frown in her sleep ‑ a deep, painful frown.
You stand there, immobile, wondering what you did. I‑didn't‑do‑anything, filling the phrase with a tearful indignation and astonishment that is natural, because you really didn't do anything. I‑didn't‑do‑anything is sometimes filled with hollower tears because you really did do something and you know you really did do something and the I‑didn't‑do‑anything is a way of calling on an organic depth of essential innocence that will wipe away the verbal level, where you really did this thing, for instance did‑you‑kick‑your‑sister‑Street, or did‑you‑throw‑a‑rock‑at‑the‑Laramies ‑truck. No, this time what were you doing, you were sitting there placidly, minding your own business, watching the last cartoon show of the day, which is right before the news. The next thing you know you are descended upon by a lot of wraps and scooted outside and the door shuts. You hear the lock click. Dita‑Dita, you say, and try to turn the doorknob. The knob doesn't budge, your hand in its mitten slides around it, Dita through the door says play.
Well, with who? Looking around, you notice lights in the other houses on the street. This stabs you right in the heart (under the coat, the shirt, the undershirt), because you know in each of these houses people are sitting down to dinner in their warm dining rooms. Some of them are watching tv. If Mom and Dad were here, this is exactly what you would be doing. Mom and Dad, though, have gone out, so you had macaroni and cheese, which Dita made. Now, suddenly, you are out in this terrible weather. When it gets too cold in the house, there's a sound, like a metal hiccup, then there's the sound of air coming out of the vents, and it gets warm again. But outside it gets colder and colder, that's all. So probably, like the little matchstick girl, this is it. The little matchstick girl, at least, had matches. You, on the other hand, are going to die without a chance. Like a match soaked in water before it's had a chance to be lit and burn its fool head off.
It is hopeless.
This is such a sad thought that you have to cry. Crying makes a blur out of the snow and the house. The blur gets interrupted when you slip on the icy front porch stairs. You barely catch
yourself on the handrail. Then, still crying, you head out into the snowdrifts in the yard. Then you fall, plop, right into a snowdrift that is pretty deep. Snow gets inside your boots, your mittens, and paws down your back. You swing your arms around, kick your legs, Dita‑Dita‑please. The echo of your total innocence bounces around inside you like the bouncing ball in those cartoons where they say follow the bouncing ball and this little ball bounces from one word to another of a song, so you know which word to sing.
Self has a bad night.
He decides Julia's right, why make that drive? It isn't just Santa Fe, then it's twenty five more miles to the Glorieta exit, and ten more miles from there, up an unpaved mountain road, used to be a lumber road, which can flip a Cherokee Rover like that. He's seen it happen. That is, once he passed a Jeep that was upside down by the side of the road. It had started to snow when he left Glorieta this morning. Best find a hotel. Best go to Jack's and have a few drinks. Best explain the mountain road, explain his artistic vision, politics, language, peculiarities of women, to Freddy. Freddy and self swap drinks. Sweeping gestures sweep a Busch and a tumbler of scotch off the bar and into Freddy's lap. Freddy rises, the bartender comes over, I'm cutting you off. Inexplicable, the likes and dislikes of bartenders. Self puts down his money, I want one more, one more for my buddy, and the bartender just looks at him.
I want one more, one more for my buddy.
I said, the bartender says slowly, that I'm cutting you off. Get out of here.
There's a Mexican guy in a stained white apron behind self's chair. He just appears there. He doesn't say anything. Freddy and self go out to the parking lot. Self is screaming, he's been screaming since he got off his bar stool. Sometimes self wants to murder everybody. Sometimes he has rage fantasies. The last six months he's had more rage fantasies than sex fantasies. He will be up in a tower with a rifle, his targets in Brownian motion below him, dots he is disconnecting from the picture. Or he will have a rifle, make that an AK‑47, an Uzi, and numerous explosives, and he's walking down the street tossing fizzing sticks of dynamite in open doorways of shops and houses. He has a picture of this in his mind, slabs of conflicting perspective and cartoon colors showing houses in flames ‑three orangish spikes‑ bodies of men and women and children falling through the air, lying dismembered in the street or hanging out of windows like limp dolls, dots of red everywhere. He will run berserk with a butcher knife, gouging, cutting through to the spinal cord, crack, feeling in his hand and arm the momentum of the blade meeting the bone, crack, and with maniacal strength plunging the knife into and out of bodies, getting through the fatty outer layers to the unnameable inner gore. These fantasies pass, they are over in a second, but sometimes self is vaguely shaken that he entertains them so much. He has elaborated the imagery of them for his own amusement, but what if this is how it starts? No, he knows himself, this can't be serious, right?
Freddy seems to know self too. He seems to think that swapping beers gives him the right. What the fuck is this? Maybe it does, but Freddy doesn't know self. Self finds himself making the point. You don't know me, man, you think you know me but you don't. Self has given up the idea of a brick through the window. The Mexican guy is standing there at the door with his arms crossed, first of all, second of all, where is he going to find a brick? And if he is going to murder everybody he is going to have to concentrate, go down the line. Freddy, for instance, his erstwhile ally, would be there. Freddy just materialized there in the barseat next to him and now, out in the parking lot, Freddy thinks this gives him the right to boss self around. Cool it, man, he keeps saying. Freddy doesn't get it. Self says, I didn't do anything, I didn't fucking do anything. So self slams off to his own car and he's out on the road again, which is bad. He goes past the University, there are stop lights in this part of town every two blocks, and a huge lid keeps shutting down on everything. Self is attached to that huge lid, a fluttering appendage. Self's idea is that Julia is right, best not go home with that huge lid falling and blotting everything out, but he never remembers how to get around Albuquerque, he has a tendency to get on roads that start going exactly opposite of where he wants to go and that won't let him off, he has to go ten, fifteen miles before he finds an exit to take him to the highway going the other way, which means he makes big circles. He thinks go east, and he thinks is this east? Because sometimes the world turns around on self, it is a subtle thing, the directions out there in the world get misaligned with his deep intuitions about space. There's a glitch in the inner radar. Maybe he has gotten too dizzy too often in his life. Count up the forms of dizziness: Pot, Rimbaud, painting, alcohol, sex, Jan, Bella, Julia, go way on back and its glue, go up money, success, failure, go on and on and he begins to get dizzy counting up.
But the main question now, before the lid shuts entirely, is: does dizziness have a form? Interesting question, but now self is pondering a sign. If the letters on the sign were all lit up, they'd say Happy Trails Hotel. The R is out, though. For some reason pulling in to the parking lot self thought this was funny. Now he is outside the car, shivering, and snow is sifting down. Self has on a big black coat which smells. He'd left it on the porch a couple of nights ago and when he came out in the morning, some creature had pissed on it. Self looks at that sign, and all the snow coming down from the dreary sky, and he thinks why not here? Although he knows the answer to that question, he isn't capable of putting together such things as answers and questions. He's part of a different grammatical tribe. Right, in this tribe, see, you can't pick out any bit of speech and say: here's a question. There are only statements that point to something and sort of broken statements, which don't point to anything.
Walking across the parking lot, self is trying to figure out if that makes sense.
The lobby of the hotel is the size of a bathroom, and it smells like one too, acrid odor of a debauched sea. A seaman, a peeman. He does have to take another leak. They have a greasy green felt carpet on the floor, and a counter to divide the small space into two even smaller ones, and a man behind the counter who is fat and bored and doesn't check self's identification. He asks for twenty dollars, which self fishes out of his wallet, and then he just gives self his keys and goes back to watching his television show. There is a cardboard sign up that says in magic marker there are no, absolutely no, refunds for rooms. There is another cardboard sign up that says you can rent a video in another room in the back, and there's an arrow to point you back there. Self goes back there and it is all x rated films. Hm, self is not feeling physically up to an x rated film, the rub his poker until he gets something out of it, that would completely drain him, cerebral sex diminishing his lobal capacities for normal genital stimulation and response, for load and launch, for rooting and tooting, as the good doctor says, but he takes a look at the boxes. Amazing how the colors of these pictures seem to be keyed by the color of dick on a bad day for dick ‑ it is exactly that dull frumpy pink and flesh and slightly purplish grayish color. The shadow of dick is on every picture, on the paneling of the walls, on the face of the man who, it turns out, has two counters he stands at, one in the lobby and one back here. The shadow of dick is not happy tonight, self feels it seeping into himself. Self gives the guy a ghastly smile, so long. Then he takes his key and walks out of the lobby into a burst of cold, cold wind, and goes the wrong way twice around the building which hides room 20B, his coat flapping madly in the wind. The smell of the coat bothers him more and more.
You are in bed now letting your hands hang down. They are so heavy, like they are made of concrete, and they keep growing. They are almost as big as you are, how are you going to hold them up? So you scream, you want Mom to make them stop growing. But Mom comes in and claims that they aren’t growing, and then she takes your temperature. The tip of the thermometer feels funny under your tongue, it runs into a thing under the tongue and makes it feel like you are choking.
One thing at least is that you don’t have to go to school. You have to go to Doctor Schrapper, though, which is alright. You understand, you are green‑around‑the‑gills. Dad says that about gills, it means that somebody is sick. If you really had gills, you d have a big problem. You ve proved this experimentally. Once you had a goldfish and you took it out of the bowl to have a look at it. Then you put it on the carpet, you were going to do something. But for some reason you had to leave for a while, go to another room. Something you had to do. Anyway, when you came back it looked like the goldfish had run away, because it wasn’t there anymore. The next day Mom was vacuuming and she found it in a corner. She said it must have jumped out of its bowl, and you said, slyly, that you didn’t know that fish could jump that far. This was one of those times when you had to forget something fast. You had to remember something, too ‑ putting the goldfish back in the bowl. When you pictured yourself putting the goldfish back in the bowl, that meant the fish could only get out by jumping, which is how it died in the corner. Mom said that was what the fishs’ gills were all about ‑ we have lungs, so we can’t breath underwater, but water is like air to fishes. You told yourself that maybe when you were sleepwalking you put the fish back into the bowl. You were fascinated with sleepwalking, thinking that people did things when they were sleepwalking that they didn’t remember. So maybe you had a whole other life sleepwalking, which you would never know about. In any case, you got the pictue in your mind of putting the goldfish back in the bowl instead of losing it on the carpet, and this made you feel better.
In Doctor Schrapper’s office you spotted a jigsaw puzzle box and started putting the puzzle together. Mom was sniffling. She had a feeling about you the way felt about the goldfish, namely if you hadn t had to do something in another room and left the goldfish alone, the goldfish would never have gotten lost and died. Not that you cried about it, but Mom cried about things. In your opinion, since your hands had shrunk back to normal size and you didn’t have to go to school, things were in pretty good shape. What you really wish is that you were going to Doctor Schrapper’s office with a bullet in your arm. Then, through clenched teeth, you’d say take‑it‑out‑Doc, and he d give you a shot of whiskey. This might hurt a bit, Kid, he d say, and roll up his sleeves. Then he d take some hot pliers looking things and he d pull the bullet out. You’d scream: AHHHHHHHHH!
But Doctor Schrapper isn’t about to give you whiskey. Instead, he brings you into a cold room and asks you to take off your shirt and undershirt, and your pants. Doctor Schrapper is a
balding old man with nose hair and gray hair on his arms, and he makes you lay down on a reclining chair which, for some reason, is covered with a white sheet of paper. Then he sticks a stick in your mouth and he takes a little flashlight and he peers into your mouth and up your nose and in your ear, like he s looking for a quarter that he lost inside your head. Then he kneads your chest and he makes you cough. He goes out then, and leaves you there to contemplate your underwear. You have on the pair that has bears printed on it. Then he comes back with Mom. He says our little boy here has pneumonia.
Self finds his room, finally, and the first thing he notices is the door’s splintered on the bottom. Closing it he kneels on creaky joints and sees that it is more than splintered, there is a hole kicked in it. A violent moment in some booted scene. He relates, probably he could find a scene not unlike it in one of the films they’re renting in the main office. He is too tired, he gets up and sheds his coat, passing by a battered dresser with a tv on it and a dusty, cracked mirror, some dim vampire back there, baby, not me, and hurries into the bathroom, where he is suddenly looking down into a copious evacuation settled in the very maw of the toilet. Great, he thinks, getting, now, an answer to a question asked a while back, the answer being because it is a shithole! And there is another question, too, not fully formed but now answered in the bright indecent glare of the bathroom’s light ‑ so this is why there are no refunds. The handle produces a drizzle in which the coils of excrement are sucked reluctantly down, and he pisses, starting to wake up to his surroundings. It is cold in here with the hole in the door letting in the wind. He goes over and turns the faucet on. The cold water handle comes off in his hand. The hot water comes out cold, and he stoops and tries to suck some of it into his mouth. The water tastes like rust, and it runs down his chin. He gargles and spits the water out, then checks out the shower. The shower stall has mud, or maybe a more dubious substance on the floor of it. Self says outloud they must have been renting this place to escaping cons or something. To have orgies in. He turns the water on in the shower, checks it with his hand. It comes out cold, so he decides to check out his room again while it heats up. By that time, too, the water will have washed away the dirt, he’s decided it’s dirt, on the stall floor.
Self goes back and takes as sturdy a look around as he is capable of. His magus powers are definitely low watt tonight. The hole in the door, he now sees, was not kicked in, but kicked out. Interesting, not something he wants to think about. There is a television and a VCR, both coin operated, on a stand in one corner. There is the bed.
Self squeemishly settles his hams on the bed. The mattress is soft. The cover is thin and red, and dotted over with cigarette burn marks. Self stands up and lifts the cover and gazes at the sheet underneath. The sheet is covered with yellowish stains. Self puts back down the cover.
Then self goes back into the bathroom. His clothes drop. He tears a sheet of toilet paper off the roll, lays it on the counter, and blink, drops a contact, and blink, drops the other. Then he barreled into the shower. The water is lukewarm, and as he lets himself get soaked ‑ oh for the water of life! ‑ it turns, with a malice expressive of the whole world’s resistance to him tonight, cold. He turns off the shower and comes out and he sees that he made a mistake not to look around for the towels. There is only one cloth in the bathroom, which is a washrag. He mops himself with that. Then he takes the toilet paper roll and winds a skein around his hand. He tries to dry himself with the toilet paper. The paper keeps breaking off and sticking to him. He is starting to shiver. Oh shit, he says outloud. Oh fucking shit.
Finally he dries himself with his pants and shirt.
He is shivering violently now. At first he sort of likes it. When self was a kid he liked to play with trembling. He’d let his hands tremble and he’d let his voice tremble and he’d be an old man. He’d watch his hands do this thing, holding them up, the hands shaking. It was as if he’d opened up his chest and was watching his heart pump ‑ the sensation he got was of that same irretrievable objectness of the body engaged in a blind, autonomous rhythm upon which the consciousness could only settle as a supervenient irritant, a sort of mosquito on the very skin of being. All the same, from another angle these were his hands. He and his body, at these times, formed a peculiar, totemic bond, like the bond between a player and his marker on the Monopoly board, or between a chess player and the piece he just touched. Go up twenty‑three years or so and here self is, again, fascinated with the tremble running over his body, half willing it. A moment later, though, he regrets having been complicit with the shaking, because he can’t stop it. Even his teeth are chattering.
He strides naked into the bedroom. There must be a heater in this place. He goes over to what looks like the heat, a box with a grill and a panel that hangs under the window, and he opens the panel. Yes. He turns on the heat, but nothing happens.
If only he could murder somebody right now.
Instead, he essays the vain gesture of gnashing his chattering teeth, and thinks why do the heathen rage? I can tell you. He sees himself standing there naked, drunk and freezing. He ll either die of exposure or use the bed. He retrieves his coat from the floor and shakes it out, letting it settle full length on the bed. The coat is heavy and damp and seems to smell more and more. The smell kills him. What is it, wool? Some wet wool smell and some animal trace. Disgusting. He turns out the lights, then lays himself gingerly down on the coat and wraps the blanket around him. It is as if he were lying on a cliff over an abyss. As if he would be injured if he crawled beneath the cover. Well, now, who knows just what is crawling beneath the cover. His legs are shaking and he feels light, and there is enough alcohol in his body that, closing his eyes, he falls headward in the unbalanced dark for years.
Self wakes up and the room is dark and his feeling is that it is still dark outside.
Self is in a panic. He is freezing. The shakes seem to spring awake all at once along with self, and he can't stop them. He has a minor problem with where he is. He doesn't know where he is.
However, self has made a big decision. It came to him in the aimless interval of sleep, from which he is emerging all charged up with fear, as if sleep had suddenly shaped itself to this purpose and shook him awake. All he has to do is wait for the shakes to subside.
He waits for a couple of minutes. It is cold, but he is paniced to the point where he is actually sweating. He thinks maybe he will go back to sleep and wake up tomorrow and from whereever he is he will depart, with calmness and dignity. But even though he closes his eyes, it doesn't help.
He's awake, and now is now.
Now is now, he says to himself, getting out of bed and turning on the lights. What I need is a knife, he thinks. He looks in the drawers of the dresser. In one of the drawers there is a mousetrap with a fuzzy thing in it; maybe the thing used to be a mouse. There is a candy bar wrapper in another drawer.
The dresser is useless.
If only he'd packed a razor. Packed, he thinks, as if I came here with anything packed at all.
There is nothing sharp in the bathroom, either. There's only a large puddle of water in there. Self bangs around the one drawer in the commode, he pulls it out and flings it down. It makes an amazingly loud sound. He kicks it. AHHHH! he's broken his fucking foot. No, it doesn't matter. He goes back in the bedroom and takes the drawers out of the dresser in there and flings them around. The mousetrap and the thing that is in it fly out, landing somewhere on the floor. Probably I'll step on that thing, he thinks. It would be just like my life to do a thing like that.
Self stood there, and then he thought my keys. He went into the bathroom and searched in his pants and came up with his keys. Maybe this will work. He went back into the bedroom and sat down on the bed, next to one of the overturned drawers. He looked at each key. The car key. No good. The mailbox key. No good. The back door key. Now the backdoor key was new, he'd had it made about two weeks ago. He ran a finger over the teeth and decided to try.
He took the key off the ring and held his left arm out stiffly. He waited to see if the arm would shake. It didn't shake. Taking a firm grip of the key with his right hand, he went to work, sawing at the wrist of his left arm.
After a couple of minutes he stopped and looked at the marks on his wrist. His skin was pink and abraded, but it didn't look serious.
Self thought has anybody ever slit his wrists with a key? Surely somebody. Mayakovsky ‑ how did he die? Stepped on the throat of his own song, or something, but probably not with a key. Who was it, Cicero? Seneca? Slit his wrists. Probably used an obsidian blade. One thing this room isn't going to yield up, obsidian blades. Perhaps he should have asked in the video place. Got any obsidian blades, buddy?
No this is ridiculous, nobody in history ever slit his wrists with a key. Self looks around the room wildly. His wrist hurt a little from all the friction, and there was a tiny track of small red beads where he'd been sawing, but you'd have to wait years to bleed to death this way. Well, what if I eat my own shit, he thinks. Self considers this, then thinks about all he knows about E coli. He doesn't know anything about E. Coli. Gives you the trots or something. Die on the john like Elvis Presley. Then he considers the bed. What if I ate that disgusting sheet? There was probably new mega sexually transmitted diseases all over that sheet, ones they've been breeding in prisons, from shower rape to shower rape, for years. Self does his old‑miner‑come‑to‑town cackle. There's gold in them thar sheets! he says aloud. But the idea of eating the sheets might be considered insane. Really, the super AIDS virus lurking in the sheets, even if it really were lurking in the sheets, would have to be a true monster to knock him off all at once. Probably he'd have a decade to wither and weather in. And by his reckoning, even doing nothing he surely wasn't going to last a whole decade. He'd die, in other words, before his suicide was finished, which would give God a problem. And God has such a bureaucracy set up it probably wouldn't even do that, self thought, probably the devil has merely to fill out a change order form, one prematurely dead suicide.
It wouldn't do to eat the sheets.
Suddenly self gets up. Sometimes he cracks himself up. He stands in front of the mirror and he closes his eyes. Don't think. He balls up his fist and swings with all his might at the mirror. AHHHH! The impact hurts, and when he looks at his fist there's a cut running across the fingers. It was bloody. Finally, some blood. Just a little stupid pain, get over it.
He'd made a big crack in the mirror. Hitting it again, same hand, real pain this time, he cracked a piece out of it. He picked it up, don't think, don't think, sat down on the bed, don't think, don't think, and closed his eyes. Raising the piece of mirror, he slashed down at his arm.
The mirror made a jagged cut that slid down over his left arm and slid over his left thigh. Seering pain, an assembly line bringing sheet after bonging sheet of pain up the nerves. A charivari of pain banging after self who is up on his feet now, in the bathroom. Shit, he can't believe it, head bent over arm, other hand with a broken faucet handle in it, shit, throwing it down and not even hearing it hit the floor, barging over to the shower. Shit, sticking his arm out, the shock of the cold water nearly decimating him. Blood in earnest now, the comedy is over. Self kneels in a puddle of water on the bathroom floor. His blood, which he can't seem to stop, is dripping in the puddle, turning it red. He is trying to whip the belt off his pants which are sopping wet, so that he can bind the arm.
The main thing is not to bleed to death.
Which is how self came to emerge, oh vita nuova! pantless, wrapped in a bloody coat (smelling of wet wool and some animal trace) to greet a cold gust like all the bitterness in the world and the sun rising up above the taco place across the street on his thirty‑third birthday.
St. Nicholas Day, December sixth, 1993.