TGIF, everyone. Thank God It’s Frowback. Below is the continuation of chapter 4 of my blolific (prolific and yet still blows, copyright BKK7) novel, “The Suburbs of Babylon.” I’d say more about it, but 1—I know you’re just aching to get started reading, and 2—I’m too busy getting drunk in celebration of yesterday’s announcement by the Thai government that the lockdown will officially end on July 1. And yes, I intend to remain intoxicated up until that day. Vive la Thailand. Now let’s get back to Los Angeles, circa 2005…
“As murderously divided as this city is, there are times when it behaves like one large organism. Certain moods and colors settle upon it as a whole sometimes, affecting and infecting seemingly all its inhabitants. Like tonight, for example, the collective emotion of the people on the street is agitated, tense masochism. It’s as though each person is waiting for some senseless violent act where he may be the perpetrator as easily as the victim. It’s eerie. Everyone I speak to, while the words are polite enough, leaves me with the urge to wash my hands, to somehow cleanse myself of some grime that has been passed over to me. Evil is so contagious, it’s almost ever-present.
That’s another unique thing about this place. There always seems to be something different going on behind what you see. It doesn’t matter where you look. Every person is putting on a front—whether it’s friendliness, contentment, pride, acceptance, patriotism, or love—behind which lies something thick and oozing and waiting to kill. Sometimes I think I catch myself trying to pass one of these facades over on myself. It’s easy to see this city and the life one lives in it the way the fantasy image of it is projected onto the rest of the world. I used to think that the city depicted in movies really did exist right along with the real one. But now I realize that it’s just the collective unconscious of all of us who live here who are all trying so hard to believe the fiction about it. Two years ago some anxious city official had road workers pave the streets with gold glitter. Talk about audacious. The most it’s done is distract the tourists from the trash lying everywhere. And we, the natives, are so caught up in the unreality that we actually buy into it ourselves. No wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots.
All of life is like that, though. Sometimes I’ll be driving somewhere and it will hit me: I live a completely fabricated existence, and the reason it’s so easy is because everyone I know encourages and facilitates it. It’s amazing how in a moment of clear thinking an entire life, a world complete can lose its truth entirely and leave one without a single thing by which to hang even a thread of hope. And I know what most people would say to that, and you better believe it’s stinkin’ thinkin’ or whatever you want to label it, and I won’t press the issue, since everyone’s trying so hard not to hear that. I don’t want to break down anyone else’s fantasies. But I’ll tell you this much. Today, for me, the difference between having everything to live for and everything to die for was one second of clarity when I saw myself struggling for reason, grasping for love, hoping for completion and realizing that I was never, have never even been close to any of it, and everything is only just an attempt to keep from crying and losing control, and while I’m working so hard for nothing, something somewhere is laughing at me. I know I’ve said this before. Maybe it’s the world or maybe it’s God, or maybe it’s myself. I don’t know which thought I hate more.
* * *
Yesterday I was walking through the mall and I passed a vendor selling Star Wars memorabilia out of one of those mobile kiosks. He was composing a poem on his laptop, no doubt full of dazzling insights. If the mall could evoke a form of art, that art would have to be poetry. I myself have written mall-inspired verse. The work revolved around a girl I’d become fascinated with who was employed at a woman’s clothing store called bebe. In my elaborate efforts to forget Jane, this girl held promise, in spite of the fact that they look remarkably alike. For a long time I simply watched her, catching glimpses as I passed by, afraid to linger too long lest she think I was stalking her, usually peering at her from the store across the way (the Gap, which perfectly fit where I felt I was), idly fingering a sweater or pair of jeans as I rejoiced in every millimeter of her pulchritude. After a time her beauty became too much and I decided I must do something or die trying, which would have been a relief, since the utter impossibility of ever touching her was almost too much to bear. So I excreted a cockamamie plan to bring her flowers along with a stock poem I’ve given to a few other women whom I’ve met and become infatuated with. That poem is as follows:
With you, the end of all my sleep,
Efface the night beneath your skin.
My worthy days to you, my Keep.
The joy is yours alone to reap.
Below the sun my shining sin
Burns brighter still the further deep.
A risk to take, a will to win,
A face to find my passion in,
So loose your heart and let me win,
For love by far is worth the leap.
Anyway, at the time I thought it might win her over. It took me some time to learn that that kind of psychopathic behavior is not attractive to women. But as I am totally inept at approaching them, it was my best effort.
So I had planned, after making this brilliant move, to keep giving her gifts like a mall magi, and eventually win her heart and spend days and days worshipping at her feet. But I’d somehow got it into my head that she knew psychically everything I’d planned to do, so by the time I actually worked up the nerve to go into the store, she had changed shifts, and I could not for the life of me figure out what days she worked. It took half a dozen meaningless excursions to the mall (each fortified with a thorough dressing-up-hairspray-cologne finish) before I finally saw her again. I had decided against bringing her flowers, since that would only embarrass her and me, and would give away my intentions before I even set foot in the place. So at first I was fairly calm. But when I walked in, she promptly strode into the back room. It was like she knew I was there just trembling at her presence and wanted to see if I would explode if she so much as left my sight. So I milled about, pretending to look at skirts and tube tops, trying to affect coolness, till she finally came back out, but by then another employee had asked to help me. And I’m thinking, “Not you, you skank! Aphrodite is over there at the register and I must have her!” but I’m saying, “What kind of stone is in that necklace?” and while she’s telling me it’s garnet, Aphrodite is playing with a bouquet of flowers, and it actually takes me a second to realize that some other assbrain had bought her those and beaten me to my idea. And as I left the store, I clenched the sweaty, folded-up poem in my pocket and tried not to think about her eyes, smile, long dark hair, and delicate frame that seemed to make my very cognizance scream and stretch at the seams. It is possible that the mixed feelings I have about home could simply be a larger manifestation of experiences like this one, as if the characteristics of this world totally revolve around the women who inhabit it. Which, now that I’ve said it, doesn’t seem that shocking a discovery.
* * *
Today is Tuesday. Alvin just phoned to tell me one of the strippers we saw last weekend is in his History class at the university. What’s even more ironic is this particular girl had hung all over us all night trying to solicit a table dance (which never did take place). Now he wants to go back there and, as she’s lying naked on the floor before him, ask if she wants to get together and study for the next exam.
All the hubbub about the stripper made me think back to the night we first saw her, which is when I also first laid eyes on a beauty named Sydney. She was from England, she told me while cooing into my ear, and had only been in the U.S. for a couple years. This news immediately made her more appealing and earned her an extra five bucks, which for some reason made me the very object of her desires for the evening.
Dance after dance she came straight to me, twisting and rippling on the floor, supplicating herself like some kind of desperate envoy. As she moved above me, one foot on either side of my drink, white lights beamed down from the ceiling, falling upon her angelic frame, bathing her skin so that every muscle and sinew was accented. The straining flesh of her back appeared both powerful and fragile, and I felt myself wanting to love her as I followed the silhouette of her hip, inspected the soft tiny white hairs on her arms. It was then that she bent down to my ear and sang along with the song that was playing: “It’s a world gone crazy, keeps a woman in chains.” And for an instant I had the impression that this club was a microcosm of the world, and that she and I were like two countries, one subjecting itself to the will of the other in the guise of desire, but in truth it all smacked of oppression. For a moment I knew I could save her. I would not take advantage but merely protect this delicate entity, mend her wings and see her safely back to heaven. But as the song ended the dream became muddy, and before I knew it, Sydney was gone and a girl in black was strutting to Alice in Chains, a different bondage image altogether.
At that point I knew I had to get out of there, so I tracked Alvin down, who was lounging in a dark corner booth with a black-haired, exotic-looking femme fatale. He was not happy to be pulled away, I can tell you that. But he was out of cash anyway.
As I left the club that night, I tried not to think about what Jane would say if I showed up somewhere with the beautiful Sydney on my arm. But the truth is, it was Jane who I tried to save, who I tried to love when no one else would. In the end, every woman reminds me of her, and all I want is to be with her, for everything to be the way it was, as if history could be rewound and time could stand still. With her gone, I feel like I’m walking around with no arms or legs. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever really love another woman again.”
Knowing that I penned this nearly two decades ago, it’s amazing that I’m still mesmerized by the sight of a beautiful naked woman on a low-lit stage. It doesn’t get old, and my weak tendency to get my heart all a-flutter at a stripper’s wiles is the kind of character flaw I can live with, and have lived with, and will continue to live with. Not in America, where most women have become fat, entitled, over-priced scumbags, but in Thailand, where the working girls are sweet goddesses of the highest order. Tune in next week for part 3 of this chapter, and between now and then keep your balls warm, your babe close, and cheers to the impending ending of all this virus-related nonsense. Peace.