These Fridays, they keep coming. Thailand remains shut, despite lying news articles claiming expats can get back (the waiting list for a flight is 2 months). I remain trapped in the hellscape of California, where 99% of the population are fucking retards and the only bright spot is easy access to wine. For those of us in purgatory, and anyone else who need distraction from their current predicament, I offer part 2 of Chapter 5 of my underwhelming self-published novel titled “The Suburbs of Babylon”…
“OK, so, what I was doing in Santa Barbara was, there’s this girl—woman, really, though I rarely make the distinction—who I knew briefly as a child. She was sent to the orphanage when her grandmother could no longer care for her, and was waylaid there a mere week before being swept up by a wealthy family. Years passed, and then I ran into her on a fluke at the Getty Museum. We exchanged numbers and have spoken once or twice a year. Three Christmases ago she invited me to her family’s holiday soirée in the Hollywood hills where we got quite drunk and clumsily explored each other’s bodies under a blanket in her father’s study. In the following weeks we perpetrated a romantic relationship, but inevitably of course it fell apart. Somehow, though, this girl managed to fall so in love with me that she has foregone all other pursuits to instead burn a candle in her heart for me, even after I told her I’d never see her again.
Well, her vigil has paid off, since I am once again struggling for purpose, or rather distraction, and so have given in to her persistent pleas to come up and visit as she is attending the university there. For me it is an excuse to get away and to ride the train. For her, it is the Second Coming. It pains me to see such devotion from one who I’ve offered nothing to in contrast with Jane’s indifference, a girl to whom I have given my heart and soul.
When I first set foot on campus, I had the overwhelming urge to dispense with my plans to meet my estranged friend and simply roam around, staying up all night and sheltering under a tree somewhere. Instead of meeting her, I went down to the beach. There was a young couple, obviously students, obviously romantically involved, sitting close together on the sand, no doubt talking about love in some fashion. The male was leaning in, training all his attention on the girl, who never stopped smiling, her shoulders hunched, hands nervously active. It was something I envied and loathed, wanting to be beyond it as pathetically as I was enslaved to it.
Eventually, though, whether from loneliness or self-hate I went and found my hostess. She was quietly awed by my presence, introducing me to every girl in her dorm, each of whom regarded me with reverent anticipation, which initially I surmised was spawned from whatever fiction the girl had spun about me, but was actually because my hostess had never so much as blinked at a man as far as they knew. So for me to be spending a night in her room meant that I must be something quite special indeed.
Eventually she booted her friends out in order to have me all to herself. She seemed unable to speak, so I filled the silence with nonsensical chitchat, hoping for any sort of relief. The scene was actually quite comical now that I’m out of it. Then I remembered that I had brought along an ice-breaker, and after fishing around in my bag a moment I produced a bottle of Beaujolais, which we quickly devoured. I felt a bit like Jim Jones, though I was only poisoning the mood, killing her plans. My hope was to get inebriated enough to withstand whatever onslaught was to come. This made me even more chatty than usual, which kept us rapt in innate conversation into the evening. We had decided to walk to Isla Vista to eat and search for a party, which is never hard to find. I was looking forward to eating a bacon cheeseburger at McBurly’s. It was where, on one occasion years ago while visiting Ben during his schooling here, I had my first ‘Burly burger at two in the morning after a long night of beer binging, half-dead from lack of sleep and gallons of fine keg brew.
But when we got there I found a posh little coffee house where McBurly’s should have been. This shattering discovery combined with the waning effects of the wine sent me sprinting to the liquor store. Instead of beer I bought a cigar (CAO maduro) knowing it would have the doubly-pleasing result of a fine buzz and the revulsion of my companion. Thus there was no kissing, and I was afforded a bit of personal space.
Don’t get me wrong. She is extraordinarily beautiful. Her hair, a flurry of long black curls, falls around caramel eyes, a shining smile. She has a voice like silk that purrs from a mouth that seems made to be kissed. Her perfect breasts blossom aggressively from her trim frame as if to challenge the worth of one’s existence against their own. Her legs are an artwork of seduction. Every man that passed us seemed smitten. Every one of them stared. I told her she could have her pick of any man in this city. She dismissed them, explaining it would be too easy. Which makes sense. Better to waste one’s time chasing what one will never have—though she thinks, at this moment, that she has me. And I suppose for the moment she does.
After wandering aimlessly through the town for three hours, we decided to walk home. Less than a second after shutting the door to her dorm room, she was naked and accosting me, tearing my clothes off with frantic abandon. 20 minutes later, we lay on her bed exhausted, covered in sweat, whereupon I was presented with the dilemma of where to sleep. She was quite clear about her desire to share her bed with me. I was adamant about how comfortable I found the floor. “The concrete floor?” she asked. “It’s—good for my back. Flat surface,” I replied. I invited her to join me there, which she did not do, and feigned instant sleep as she lay awake, watching me from the bed. Occasionally she attempted to provoke a response, but was unsuccessful. As I slept I dreamt over and over of Jane leaving me as I reached for her and fell short, and of being eaten by an enormous blue and white shark while onlookers cheered from metal bleachers between scarfing handfuls of popcorn. This is not a recurring dream, but the theme is a common one. Surprisingly, I didn’t dream about the dark stranger that has almost become a permanent figure in my subconscious. Perhaps he was busy someplace else. Sometime during the night, my hostess did leave her bed, remove her clothes, and wrap herself around me like a python. I ignored her kisses and she finally fell asleep.
We woke late and had to run to make the bus, which luckily only afforded time for a quick kiss and hug and a promise to call. She said to come up for Halloween. I said maybe. She had a look of unfinished words, unfulfilled dreams. She said she would miss me. I did not turn to look as the bus pulled away.
* * *
As the train moves inland, and we trade the coast for corn and strawberry fields, pumpkin and cabbage patches, silos and trailer-parks, I am surprised to find I am anxious to get home. Maybe I’ll be back in time to hook up with Alvin for a trip to King George Pub. Something. Anything. In my head I’m already planning another journey.
We are following a creek that cuts a green streak through the brown countryside. In this setting it’s hard to believe we’re twenty minutes out of L.A. It looks more like some deserted mid-western state. Kansas or somewhere. As we close in on my city, though, the creek is becoming a half-dried series of stagnant pools and ponds full of waste-saturated algae and yellow foam. Litter and rusted metal lie along the banks. Indications of the affliction of man on the landscape. I would rather die than live around so much decay. Such a terminal, desperately lonely place. But it is left behind as we pass through a mountain, emerging into the valley that is my home. The train is slowing to a stop. My trip has ended twenty-six hours after it began, with no catastrophic event that I can detect at the moment. Though with fifteen dollars left to my name, I wonder if the trip was really worth it. I wonder if I’ll even sense a payoff from going.
* * *
Ironically, the only thing I was really home for was a surprise phone call from Jane. I don’t know exactly why she called. She was probably lonely. At any rate, I told her I’d better not talk to her, lest I say something I’d regret, and she said it would be OK, that whatever I said she would deserve. I don’t know what to make of that statement—whether she was atoning in her own unapologetic way, or if she really did feel badly. But either way I blew her off. She hasn’t called since, so I’m thinking it was a moment of weakness—either of selfish loneliness or an actual glimpse of her hidden heart. I was surprised that I could be strong and not beg her to come back. I’m sure that’s what she expected. Maybe I’m making progress after all.
* * *
Well, as if to fly in the face of that last statement, I am sitting up in bed at 3 a.m. having been awakened by nightmares. The first one was of Jane. She had come back to me, but as I rejoiced in her presence, I couldn’t help but notice her seeming indifference. She took money out of my wallet, then phoned some guy and began flirting with him while I sat next to her. I asked her if she was sleeping with him. She told me she was with a nonchalance that chilled my bones. I began to sob uncontrollably. Then Jane and the dream faded to become the orphanage. I was still there, at age 25, waiting for a family to come take me home. Sitting in the sandbox, my eyes widened as a young couple approached. I gazed up hopefully; they looked at me and nodded to each other, as if to say, “Yes, this is the one.” Just then, out of the corner of my eye I saw the dark man, barely visible among the trees. He pulled his hand out of his pocket. It held something silver. A gun. He raised it and fired, killing the woman first, then her husband. They fell in front of me, looking into my eyes with stunned bewilderment, and as the life drained from them, the sandbox filled with blood.
Now, in my awake state, I can’t recall feeling any fear or malice toward him. I don’t know why, since symbolically he seemed to cut down the very axis of my unfulfilled desires. But I got the feeling, even in the midst of it, that he was looking out for me somehow, as if the pain was in some way a benefit, as if I shouldn’t have found parents, as if I was meant to be alone, unaccepted. Then again, maybe I’m wrong about him. Maybe he’s not trying to help. Maybe he’s not my protector, but my destroyer. Maybe the next time he shows up I should kill him.
I think I’m losing my mind.”
If I’m honest, I miss the girl from the above excerpt. She was a filthy whore, and a fantastic bedroom partner. In my stupid youth, I didn’t recognize the value of such a person. I was too busy looking for a girlfriend. What I wouldn’t give to have this casual sex buddy now, as I’m under house arrest in Los Angeles with no access to my Thai harem. Such is life, I suppose. Here’s to the impending lift of the international flight ban, and my blessed return to my home in Thailand. Cheers.