The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 1, No. 3

Red Spiral Notebook

by Cintra Wilson

What kind of person are you anyway,
reading somebody else's personal stuff.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself.


OCT. 6 95
      This is not how I see myself. I never thought I'd be the guy in the suit, Associate Brand Managing with some other guy in a suit, rattling around in a cubicle making important decisions insuring the absolute product superiority of LATHER 2000 high-tech deodorant soap for 43 hours every week, via fax, phone, ad company, and depressing promotional coupon-clowns in finer stores, all for a mere $45,000, dental, and medical. Gary, the Senior Brand Manager, isn't a bad guy, for a married BMW squash racquet triangle-jawed replicant who sneaks into peep shows at lunch.
      Bridget thinks I'm eventually going to see the light and succumb to being more like Gary. Bridget's in love with the idea that we are successfully successful and In Love, and she buys me Sharper Image geegaws like single-malt golf tees and leather-beveled executive shiatsu phone-cozies and such.
      Only three months until my three-week vacation. I will sit on a remote island beach and attempt to locate my soul. I think all the LATHER 2000 may have banished it down the drain with all of the dangerous bacteria on my hands.


OCT 9, 1995
      Happy Birthday to me. Bridget bought me a very complicated-looking pair of hiking boots, for all the savage terrain I am likely to encounter between the parking garage and the NordicTrack. Too bad she didn't get me a machete.
      I am 27 years old now, and I have never written a poem, nor been sufficiently moved to write one. Whose fault is that? Is my life actually devoid of color, or is my brain just color-blind and missing all the richness and beauty and emotion in the world? With the exception, of course, of all the motherfucking outstanding properties of LATHER 2000, the deodorantly miraculous inspirer of chest-beating soap-awe. I think I'll have Gary sodomize me with a bar of it tomorrow, just to feel its power inside of me. Bridget is in the bathtub, humming something, and I can't help thinking that she's trying to be juuust audible enough for me to hear her and think to myself "What a great wife/mom she'd make. Like a bird, or angel, she sings in my bathtub." Am I incapable of tenderness? Maybe I missed my true calling, clubbing orphans.


OCT 15 95
      Steve called me from New York. He sounded totally fucked up. He wants me to ruin my cherished and long-awaited vacation by coming to stay with him. I should think not.
      He moved into this apartment several months ago as a roommate to this Jenna woman who is 32, and now they're fucking, so there's a spare room with a dirty little bed and all the garbage that he no longer uses, that he wants me to sleep in.
      I totally loved Steve when we were into the same evil fascinations-spelunking around in abandoned projects, getting in fights-that was fun when we were kids, but he's still doing it. And I've never seen the romance that he does in the world of drugs. Steve kept doing drugs when the rest of us stopped experimenting, and we all watched him get his phone turned off and lose jobs and girls and whirl loose in that bad, dumb orbit. I miss him, actually. It's weird thinking how long we've known each other, how long our moms have been friends. How our paths have been so inversely proportional.


      Remind me to never go home for the holidays. I am just recovering from the amazing whiplash manipulations they were trying to pull on me. Margaret kept tugging on my sleeve and burbling over into tears, while Mom would look on with her look of momly concern. Margaret believes Steve is in Terrible Danger. So like an idiot, I told her that I'd talked to him and he invited me to New York. Then she got a dreadful gleam of ill-placed hope in her eye. When I mentioned that I couldn't go, because Bridget and I were going to Hawaii, Dad started looking at me sideways, like I had just deeply abused him on some fundamental level he couldn't quite put into words. Then Mom and Bridget spent a lot of time tittering and playing with food, and I got the ugly sensation that because I brought Bridget home for Thanksgiving, they both think we might be tiptoeing onto the path that has a view of Marriage on the not-too-distant horizon, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
      What a way to celebrate the genocide of all those Indians: two different flavors of huge, ulcerous, festering guilt trips.


NOVEMBER 30, 1995
      Bridget can spiral into a whine that would shred a phone book, particularly when I leave the tops off of her facial/tooth/hair products. I get primed to go out for a pack of cigarettes and never return, but then she gets in bed at night and her perfume and shampoo and skin fuse together into this big, sweet, heart-breaking scent that makes my sinuses dance and my groin throb and her thighs melt under me and I bite her buttery neck and I forget to move out. So, Margaret called to beg me to go Save Steve from Himself, then Mom called and said SHE wants me to go to NYC because Margaret keeps pestering her about it, then BRIDGET of all people says she'll gladly forfeit Hawaii for me to go see Steve because she's sucking up to my mother! What do they think I can do?! Ride in on some kind of clean, moralistic steed with a fire hose of Righteous Living and blast all of the Danger off him? Margaret thinks I can convince him to come back. Hah! Maybe I can convince Steve that it's an imperative part of the New York Acting Experience to fuck up really badly and crawl back home to live in your parents' garage in Shame.
      The best reason I can think of for going, at this point, is three weeks without Bridget. Hopefully I'd miss her, then I'd come back and everything would be OK.


      We got in a fight, and I shoved the tree over and broke a bunch of Bridget's ornaments, including the glass elf from her grandmother, a BIG DEAL, apparently. She ran out crying; she's probably gone to get a drink and feel sorry for herself. All is vanity and vexation of the spirit, sayeth the Lord.


XMAS 1995
      Happy Birthday to Jesus. She bought me rollerblades. Rollerblades! I guess she thinks I should be playing hockey in the park with all those other Thermolite execu-pricks like Gary. Who the fuck does she think I am?! She was clearly depressed that the angora dress I got her wasn't a ring-I watched the shades flip down over her face when she saw the size of the box.


DECEMBER 31, 1995
      New Year's resolution: I'll go to NYC, or Bridget and I will carve each other into sashimi.
      Happy New Year. Only 1,460 shopping days until Armageddon.


JAN 3, 1996
      I leave in three days. I'm sure Bridget is glad I'm leaving. Margaret gave me a watch. I guess it is my booby prize. I wanted to go to the fucking beach.


      The plane started shuddering and flipping around over the Rockies, and the stewardesses stopped smiling and the captain made them strap themselves into the stewardess Death Seats, and I imagined Bridget at my funeral, hyperventilating, inside out with grief, hanging on to people's elbows for support, that unreasonable smell of hers going to waste. I called her on the $15 phone, because I needed to hear that somebody loved me in a crazed, unhealthy way, beyond all reason, before I died. She instantly knew I was drunk.
      "It's turbulence! There's always turbulence! Quit being such a baby!"
      We're about to land. I can see the lights of Newark spread below like a rhinestone scarf. I hope the plane doesn't slam nose-first into the ground and explode, raining blood and fire and metal all over the tarmac.


      Steve is a hopeless, fucked-up shell of a man, a wiped-out little freak: gray skin, pointy shoulders, straggly hair, even his teeth look wrong. Worst of all, though, is his new personality: Defeated Yet Tragically Amused. Laughing at himself swirling down the pipes. Shrug, heh heh, heheh, chainsmokechainsmoke. He was a detestable collegiate asshole before: baseball hat, microbreweries, arrogant, loud, rude, prone to flights of silly theatrics-a dipshit, but healthy. Now half of his brawn has evaporated, and the other half has this sick leer and looks possessed by some hobbling vampire lackey.
      And I don't know what Jenna used to be-maybe she had a rich family once. She doesn't anymore. She walks around the apartment in black cotton underwear and a tank top most of the time, but it's not sexy, it's more like an insult. Her limbs are all little and white with yellow bruises and black stubble and her blue poisoned blood shows through; hair like one of those fancy buffet-cut radishes, blue-black like her eyes and heart and future. She's the only woman I've ever seen hang around with a cigarette in the corner of her mouth all day, ashes wafting into her half-closed eyes. She barely even blinks, like an iguana. I was alone with her for about five minutes today.
      "So Steve kinda likes you, huh?" I said, like a moron.
      She emphasizes the front part of every word in this affected way; some New England junkie patois she invented: "Yah well, HOStages often learn to LOve their CAPtors. He must be SUFfering from STOCKholm SYNdrome." Snort.
      They're in the other room now, rolled up on their nasty old couch full of cigarette burns, watching a black-and-white TV. As soon as one of them gets home, they practically try to crawl into each other's bodies. It's not sexual, it's something abandoned kittens would do in a hailstorm, sucking each other's thumbs.
      I haven't seen them doing any drugs yet.


JAN 10 96
      Jenna's "clothing store." It's a greasy little box of a storefront in the Lower East Side, full of garbage and rags she either finds on the street or picks out of crates at Catholic thrift stores. All over the floor are open cardboard boxes distractedly filled with junk covered by a thin moss of waxy dust. She doesn't know what half of the stuff is. She ought to soak it all in gasoline and light a match.


      There's this girl in the corner, in her 20s. She gives me this erotic emergency pain: a lost, porcelain Ophelia girl, in a light-blue angora sweater-big damaged ringlets of pinkish-orange hair, tiny gingery arches drawn over each eye. She is with a gaggle of gay fashion freaks who are sprawled around her in a membrane, protecting the nucleus of their exclusive world which is her EYES, the color of cyanide swimming pools, turquoise church windows with Caribbean light pulsing through them.
      She keeps drifting back and forth in her chair as if pulled by an invisible current of thicker, warmer air, the slow autistic dance of heavy seaweed. Her eyes go all white and ghostly under their frosty blue lids, her lashes are reddish blonde. Right when you think she's going to topple out of her chair, she starts laughing at some comment one of the twits around her just made. I have to dig my fingers into the table, I have to hook my legs around the chair, not to be pulled into her, I can't look at her or I'll just drift into the deep, irresistible undertow of her. She and I belong in a gondola on the Nile with the stars forming a halo around Cheops; there are bells and ancient incantations lacing through the holy quiet and I pull the sheer white scarf that covers the pearly phosphorescence of her sleeping body off slowly, slowly, and she gives a soft half smile and her eyes melt open, blue cognac flames shooting up and through me and I am pulled inexorably out of my body and into her watery Atlantean soul. . . . Yah. In my wildest. Let's see if I can walk out of here without calling attention to the stun baton in my slacks.


JAN 13 96
      Finally caught them at it. I walk in and there's this smell like burning candy. Steve and Jenna were with this other couple: a horribly thin girl with bleach-desiccated blonde hair in a tissue-thin dress, and a guy with a goatee and khaki pants and no socks. All of them were laying like sun-baked reptiles in the freezing apartment.
      "This is DANny and YVEtte. They do INstalLAtions," brayed Jenna. Danny looked like he was made of melted wax. He had the limpest, clammiest handshake I've ever had the pleasure of. I could not for the life of me imagine what people like that would "Install." Steve started licking his lips and cowering around me like Peter Lorre. "Well, shit. . . . " he giggled, awash in the toxic shock of his fetid shame/opium nausea cocktail, " . . . wanna try it, Carl?"
      "Ahhhh . . . no."
      They had made tubes out of foil, and were holding strips of foil under each other's chins. The person doing the smack would run a match under the line of dope on the foil and then suck up the smoke with the foil tube when it bubbled and fried off. Once it was in their lungs they would reverently hold it there as long as possible, lost in prayer, finally letting the smoke drool out of their lips with all of their inhibitions, ambitions, cares, hopes, and self-respect, itching themselves reeeeal slow. What a wonderful narcotic. They looked like feverish premature newborns, with fingers like pods, everything hot and red and sensitive. Oh, and then they threw up.


JAN 14
      Bridget announced over the phone to me that she is pregnant. I felt my bowels twist and a cold arm of horror shoot up my spine and grab my neck. She asked me what I want her to do. I said I really didn't feel like it was my decision. That wasn't the answer she wanted. I told her we'd talk about it extensively when I got back.
      I went back to Cafe Twin Donut to see if I could see Ophelia again, but she wasn't there. Probably floating on an inflatable shell-shaped raft in some indoor Paris swimming pool, under a golden skylight.


JAN 15
      Jenna was "sick" today, so Steve and I had a long talk over at Jenna's "store"-a conversation of the "Man, what happened to you?!" variety, initiated by myself. He said a lot of bullshit. Jenna this, Jenna that. He talked about the drugs; something about always having felt like a fraud, deep down, overstepping his assigned role in life, always having been falsely inflated and now having sunk to the level of his true nature, or something to that infuriatingly wrong and denial-laden effect.
      "Margaret really wants you to come back to the Bay Area," I finally told him.
      He looks 7 years sadder and older than he should. He clacked his tongue, saying without saying, I'm not the guy that my mother wants back. He HAS changed. I don't know enough to know whether he'll ever change back. He's not even Steve, here. Apparently, Jenna and all of his friends call him "Jelkes."
      Steve (Jelkes) is idiotically consumed with this idea that Jenna is so flowerlike and helpless, and that he is a Man, a Provider for the first time in his life. I didn't point out to him that what he's providing her with seems to be the very thing that's going to make her dead soon, but I figure that irony wasn't exactly lost on him, either.
      I told him about Bridget. He started laughing. I realized that one of his bicuspids was dead, turning the green-gray of dead teeth. "What're you gonna do? Be a corporation Dad for the rest of your life?"
      Is there nothing to be said for honor, duty, safety, blah blah? No, there isn't, but the one thing I keep asking myself is: What would happen to me if I lost access to her smell?


JAN 17
      I fell off the world.
      Last night I came back to the apartment, and who opens the door but Yvette, the Installer. She's high, carrying a glassine bag in her teeth, smiling the loose, geening smile of the doped. "Oh hi, Carl. . . . "
      I walk in. Stop, gulp, shock, freeze, hammer, sweat, freeze. Ophelia is sitting on the couch with her shoes off, her hair pulled on top of her head and squiggling down over her face and neck, her shoulders are covered by a white knitted shawl. I can see the whites of her eyes: she is very, very, very high. "Hi," I offer weakly, imploding with a deadly collision of feelings.
      "Hi," she says, softly.
      Yvette: "This is my friend Lee; Lee, Carl; Carl, Lee; Lee, Carl."
      After 178 years of excruciating silence, Jenna breezes into the room, completely recovered from her "illness" of the other day, smoking with a long cigarette holder, wearing a kimono over her normal uniform of undress. She invites me to sit down. Because every alarm in my psyche is simultaneously clanging and all of my nerve endings are frizzing like lightning balls, I accept a cup of tea.
      I anemically made monosyllabic comments like "Yah" and "Huh" for a while, while Yvette and Jenna chattered endlessly, slicing up people they knew. Lee sat silent-Lee, enjoying an enclosed hermetic world among us. My heart was wringing its hands. Why is this radiant angel dozing on dope in this bat's nest? I started hating Yvette with glare and intensity, because I recognized her as the Corruptor; now I know what she Installs. Lee slowly drank her tea, curls bumbling into her face, with propriety and shame and politeness at an almost Japanese level.
      "Jelkes" walked in, with a half a bottle of vodka and some Oreos; a trade, apparently, for a broken lamp in Jenna's store-a cracked ceramic thing shaped like a weepy mime. I end up doing several shots of the vodka, watching Lee do the foil-tube dance on the couch, with Yvette holding the lighter under the roiling smack. There she was, right in front of me, a wild, mythical, unpossessable thing, a Pegasus or panther or stunt plane, a whole new, heart-shattering vista of desire.
      "I had the funniest nod. . . . " she said, her voice toodley and tonelessly musical, like water poured slowly. "I was in the middle of an orchard full of pineapple trees."
      "Pineapples are the international symbol of Welcome," I stupidly helpfulled.
      She loop-de-looped in and out of images like those old Merrie Melodie cartoons from the '30s where all inanimate things come to life and sing rascally songs-houses bobbing alongside musical cars, flowers whistling. A part of my mind said No Wonder. It was around that time that I started getting drunk and curious.
      My brain started filling in with the Major and Minor Arcana of Heroin All-Stars: William Burroughs. Lou Reed. Miles Davis. Jim Carroll. Years upon years of abuse, having junk-sculpted them into Icons of the Untouchable Coolness that some people only get by dying young.
      "I think Carl wants to try it," sayeth Jelkes.
      "I think Carl would be too susceptible," sayeth Carl.
      "It's not like some ANti-DRUg film you saw in SEventh GRAde. You can't get HOOked just SMOking it ONCE."
      "You'd have to smoke it like every day for like three months to even BEGIN to get any kind of habit," whines expert Jelkes.
      "Two months," whispers Lee.
      "Three." Jelkes, giving me the Mephistophelian leer.
      "It's an experience everyone should have once," murmured Lee hypnotically, turning her face to me, her endless eyes wrapping me in haunt and lust and defenselessness. She could have been saying, "Join me on my island of gardens, where the sun is ablaze in perpetual setting and the sea is warm as blood."
      I felt like a mosquito being sucked into a jet engine.
      It reminded me a little bit of hashish-same kind of taste. I noticed that my feet were purring and some foreign delight was tickling up my knees and into my balls and stomach and at that point my head began vibrating with subtle extraterrestrial wizardry. As I had feared, all of the miserable tense and squeamish feelings that normally hold me in check as a person sailed away. The whole lens of my outlook was squeegeed clear into total benign objectivity, and I found my psyche loosening and limbering and I started to talk like an expert skier floating down a virgin hill of powder. The most horrifying thing about the experience (besides the vomiting, which was actually kind of enjoyable) was how effortlessly I could understand and express myself; it didn't matter that I was the non-junk-community Outsider, friend of extinct mastodon Steve, or that I didn't want to pay attention to anybody but Lee-this confessional behavior was totally appropriate. I told Lee things I never could have said if I was straight; how breathtaking I thought she was, how I'd seen her and how she had stopped me cold and invaded my thoughts ever since and how stupid I must sound, how she must hear that kind of thing all the time, and. . . .
      Oh, heaven, she put her hand on my knee, and gave it a lovely squeeeeeeze. Diamonds were whirling out of my skull with the joy of dervishes. Suns consumed suns in erotic union. That was the point at which I guess I nodded out. I think my head tipped back and I jettisoned into a quiet supernova.
      Bridget called, late that night. I heard her voice imploring on the machine, from my shipwrecked disaster zone alone on the couch. I could feel the tug of a part of me inside of her in fetal slumber.

JAN 19
      There are now three things I can't stop thinking about, in this order: Lee (fucking Jenna won't give me her phone number, she doesn't have it, she won't call Yvette, bitch), dope (a vague . . . restless yearning, certainly not a "hooked" feeling-barely even a "wow I'd like to do that again" feeling), and Bridget, bearing my unborn progeny. I am shamefully paralyzed. When Bridget calls I can't even pick up the phone, that's what kind of hero I am. I am feeling duped by her irresistible pheromone; it got what it biologically wanted.


JAN 20
      Yvette came over again with Danny, who has the creepy quality of one of those children with that accelerated aging disease. Lee is living uptown with some investment banker/junk fiend-one of those hip rich white guys in a suit from Barney's that drives through Spanish Harlem in his new Land Rover and knows all the guys on the corner by name. He keeps her locked in some icy penthouse, like Tinkerbell in the pirate's cage. I smoked some H again. Just a tiny bit, just to see if it was the same. It was. Like the beach I was yearning for-floating on my back in warm waves under a soft blue dome.


JAN 21
      I am besieged with fretful masturbation fantasies of rescuing Lee from the evil banker, and taking her someplace like North Carolina and nursing her into a better life, and watching those sad cyan eyes unshutter from the grip of her inner monsters and yield unto ME.
      I'll only be in NYC six more days.
      I haven't spoken to Bridget in one week now, since she told me the News.


JAN 22
      Today I was sitting in Cafe Twin Donut for three hours, trying to force the hand of fate. I read every newspaper and magazine they had, and I missed all the sunlight. When I got back to the apartment, I could tell that Jenna and Steve had been fighting; open suitcase on the floor with clothes still on their hangers stuffed angrily into it, cartons of Chinese food dumped on the floor. I listened at their room door and heard Jenna giggling, Steve mumbling, and Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane mournful love songs. On the table was a burnt spoon with a little wad of cotton in it, and a candle, and three little baggies. I sat for hours at the window, thinking.


JAN 23
      Steve was working in Jenna's store, and I was absentmindedly rummaging through old shirts when Lee walked in, looking for Jenna. I nearly wet my pants. She looked really depressed, her eyes were red and puffy, she looked as if she were about to break into several untidy pieces. I wagged in front of her like a golden retriever, my whole dumbstruck body shuddering.
      She gave me a very sad smile.
      "I wanted to go to the beach today, but look at it," she said, all forlorn. It had been raining, the sky outside was the color of graphite, the streets ribbons of oil.
      "I was actually on my way to Coney Island," I said in a stroke of unbelievable genius.
      "I love a wet beach."
      Ten minutes later we were on the subway. It was that easy. She didn't talk much, allowing me to project worlds of intelligence and depth onto her, which could very well be there, for all I know. She was really down, but I got her to laugh a couple of times by telling her about the daredevil, swashbuckling world of antibacterial soap marketing.
      Coney Island is a depressing eyesore; the roller coaster is spongy with termites, everything is fenced in like an abandoned prison yard, with dead trees and rusty projects lurking over it. The beach was slick and gray and reflective as stainless steel, the dark sky hung in threatening layers over a strip of thick yellow mist, but it could have been the candied shores of Xanadu, considering how my heart was yawning desperately to widen itself, to take in all of the terribly disorienting, irrational leaps of feeling. Lee staggered around the windy beach clutching her clothes like an orphan.
      "You seem sad today," I offered. Here I am, I was really saying, use me, tell me anything, launder your worries in me. She shrugged.
      There was a dock, and a patch of sand that wasn't all the way wet underneath it, so we crawled under to watch the winter sun get swallowed by the iron horizon. It was cold, but I spread my overcoat out longwise so we could sit on it at a respectable distance. Lee was crying, making no sounds at all, just hurt scuttling down her cheeks, her throat moving its painful knot around.
      "Hey," I said. "Hey now."
      I reached over and touched her soft little curls, to which she responded by collapsing her head into my lap, and we just sat there for a while, me stroking her shoulder and her head as nonsexually as possible and her rattling in silent grief, which I couldn't hear against the wind and the steady metallic gnashing of the sea. It started getting really cold. I said "Hey" again and made a slight move.
      "Oh, please, we don't have to go yet, do we?" she said in such a frail voice that as cold as I was, I wanted to tell her I'd sit there until the ocean crystallized into towers of salt.
      "I don't have to leave until Friday," I said, and she laughed through her sniffling.
      "Do you want to get high?"
      That was weird, how the question hit me like a damp sack of meat. It just didn't seem like the logical next thing.
      "You have stuff with you?" I found myself asking, more out of curiosity.
      "Let's do some," she said, she'd made up our minds. She pulled a little baggie out of her pocket, and a short cocktail straw. The powder was white. She snorted a little blast of it, wincing from the burn, then handed the bag to me.
      I didn't want to refuse, but I didn't want the day to end, but I didn't really want to be high, but I wanted to get closer to her, so badly. . . .
      This stuff affected me way more than either of the other times I'd done it-it hit my cerebral cortex like an open-palmed slap and coldcocked me with its stunning electroglide mercy, and its horrible unfairness: how could evil scourge heroin be the glorious unbuckler of all those painful little belts that have always constricted my entire psyche? Suddenly my brain wasn't a sack of rotting clams and old machinery and dogs barking and women and children screaming; all that remained was this smooth, delirious calm.
      Lee, with the faintest smile, turned toward me and brushed the tip of her nose against mine. She lay down and I ran my fingers carefully into her hair, and her hands dug under my shirt, and we kissed and pulled together so tightly, so instinctually, that parts of me I didn't know I had went ahead and moved in with her; all of the glue that held the atoms of our bodies together started to shake loose and suddenly we were bonding on some molecular level-invisible parts of me that weren't my voice were saying things you can't say, with the intrinsic weight of "Come live with me and be my love . . . " and parts in her knew, and said "Yes," and inaccessible parts in me said impossible things like "Forever and ever," and deep secret things in her unlocked and bloomed and said "Yes," and I wanted her so unbelievably, I practically lost my mind when I loped back into semiconsciousness to discover that parts of her I thought I'd never see, parts of her I'd only achingly daydreamed about, were somehow unbuttoned and somehow in my mouth. . . .
      It's now five A.M. We're back at Steve and Jenna's. She's asleep in my bed and I'm wired out of my skull on the strange beauty of it all.


JAN 24
      Holy Mother of God. When I woke up this morning and saw those pink-orange curls, it was the total Christmas of my adult life. This is the plan: she's shacking up here with me for a few days, until I leave. Then, I dunno. . . .


JAN 25
      The thing about sex on smack is you can go at it for hours and hours and hours, and somehow it removes all of the things you don't need anymore, like your appetite and your personality and whatever else might be bothering you. We just lie in bed for hours and hours and endlessly adore each other and there are no obstructions or limits to this intimacy, just Man and Woman and this all-consuming erotica, like archetypes instead of singular personalities. I feel like I'm glimpsing womanly primordial secrets, like I'm witnessing the unfolding of a huge lotus/mandala. It's not even human: we pull together like the two universal elements of binary code and ancient geomancy and it's insanely, scarily, mathematically perfect.
      Three weeks ago, if I'd read this, I'd have been laughing my ass off, but right now it actually makes sense.
      I'm actually glad I'm leaving the day after tomorrow, because I know I can't handle much more of this.


JAN 26
      Ha ha ha ha, oh ha ha ha ha.
      That Steve. Fucking fucking fucking Steve. Oh, "Jelkes" ha. That amazing fuck. What did he steal from me? Not only my plane ticket home. No. He also stole ALL MY ID: driver's license, checkbook, credit cards, ATM, library card. In essence: everything that makes me a human being.
      Where is he now? He is sitting on my plane, with my wallet. Undoubtedly buying drinks with my money. Introducing himself as ME.
      Lee and I were high for the last two days. We finished up the great stuff she stole from Darrel, her boyfriend, and Steve scored more mediocre stuff for us yesterday. He and Jenna started fighting miserably while Lee and I were trying to say goodbye. Lee was crying, and I was gearing up to going back to the Miseries of Real Life, and facing the specter of Bridget, etc. So anyway we went out for a farewell dinner last night, which she paid for (evidently her family will still wire her cash for emergencies-they were only too glad to hear she was leaving Darrel. She's going to move in here with Jenna) and we tried to eat and talked about How She's Going To Be All Right. We woke up early this morning so I could go, and then I discovered that everything was missing, especially Steve, who I guess had the ultimate fight with Jenna while we were out and decided to do what his mother wanted him to do. For fuck's sake! I'd have given him the money!
      I called my mother to tell her what had happened and she was so disgusted with my treatment of Bridget (Bridget CALLED her!), she didn't even want to talk to me. Fucking dreadful, but she's wiring me a bit of cash to live on until Steve can be located, on the condition that I call Bridget (Jesus H. on a flaming Ferris wheel). I told her I would. I called Senior Brand Manager Gary, and he seemed personally affronted, as if I had done this to mock him. Then he put me on with Head Brand Manager Paul, who said he'd have to tell His Royal Highness Mike, the Category Manager of All Soap, a guy who is evidently so immensely important it's like putting a call in to Desmond Tutu. I made around 47 phone calls and helped set Gary up with a temp.
      Lee is happy I'm not leaving yet. When I got back from the Western Union office she had cleaned and swept everything and was sitting on the bed in one of my T-shirts with her hair down. I said "No dope tonight," and she said OK but I noticed her eyes were too shiny and gathered she'd already done some.


JAN 29
      No sign of Steve. I'm sick as a dog; I got the flu. My body was staving off collapse until I got on the plane. I called work and told Gary's temp I probably wouldn't be in until next week, and hung up before she could get Gary or ask me anything else. Lee lays around with me and brings me juice and smiles.


JAN 31
      Jenna weepily begged me to go out and score for her. It was fucking terrifying how sick she was. She turned light green and her eyes were filled with horror and she started sweating this greasy sweat and she lost control of her limbs. Evidently, Jenna can't score for herself, because the Latin guys won't sell smack to women-they just don't trust them, even super-obvious career junkies like Jenna. You have to be a guy, and look the part; hooded sweatshirt, stained pants.
      So I find this guy "Molo" that Jenna described, on the corner of Rivington and Norfolk, and he said "Hey" and I asked him "Whatcha got?" and he said the brand name ("Lion King"-there are countless others. Cyclone. Fuji Power. D.O.A.) and I said OK, then "Molo" ran off and came back five minutes later with the bags. I got back and Jenna and Lee were sitting anxiously on the couch. Jenna looked like a duck that had been pulled from an oil spill, but Lee had the strangling Hunger in her eyes, too. It wasn't until that moment I realized I was copping for the both of them.


FEB 2 96
      I'm in this strange limbo: now I've got Steve's old job, running around procuring salvage for Jenna, selling a little pot, or other stuff here and there. I have not dealt with the ID/wallet situation. You can't get on a plane without ID, and at this point, I'd really only be going back to a world of shit, so I've been procrastinating. I think I'm actually in love for the first time, anyway. My old world is receding, and I'm not doing anything about it, and there is a strange wonder to this.

Dear Carl:
      I don't even know how to begin to address the issue of your leaving me without so much as a word, without acknowledging our baby at all, and leaving me with all of your belongings to deal with. But none of these things are why I'm writing to you now. I talked to your mom, and she said that Steve (who is in rehab now) told Margaret that you had gotten involved with some girl who is a junkie, and that you were doing heroin with her. I can't tell you how much hearing this hurt me. At first I was jealous and outraged, but then I realized that I was just terrified for you. Gary called to say that you've been fired, and he's really sorry, and he hopes you're OK. What in God's name are you doing to yourself? I don't think you realize how many people care about you, and care what happens to your life.
      I'm having an abortion on the ninth. Your mother offered me money, but I felt too humiliated to accept. Your father is coming tomorrow to get all of your things out of the house tomorrow. Please mail me the key. Needless to say, you should never come here again, and please don't ever call me.
      I didn't dream that in my life I could ever be as angry and hurt and disappointed as you have made me, Carl, and the worst thing is that I still love you. But you are clearly not who I thought you were.
      I hope you find happiness in your life and nobody ever puts you through the kind of pain you've caused me


FEB 9, 1996
      Nothing seems like enough; life is too stimulating without enough outlet for expression. All that stunning input is lost in the body; filtered through that gray shit 10% of the brain we use, and then lost; eaten by the lack of clarity, the ineffectualness of human action. Liquid diamond is poured into the soul and the human digests it and spits it out as gravel.


FEB 16, 1996
      Sometimes I come so hard, I cry and laugh simultaneously like I've suddenly been let in on the whole joke, like I've suddenly stuck my head through the ceiling-membrane of human drama and been allowed to see the whole world play at once instead of just my maddening little role and I realize for a few minutes that it's all a comedy of crystal clean, clear zen nothingness. It's an unsarcastic pure bliss that only comes in these little glimpses, it's too much for the body to handle, really, it's the laugh of death, only a skull can smile that wide for too long. . . .


      Jenna OD'd the day before yesterday and we had to take her to the emergency room in a cab. I think she was really depressed about Jelkes and was trying to kill herself. She's OK now, but it was a creepy omen. I told Lee we should stop peddling smack and gack for a while. . . .
      Lee went to go get her stuff back from Darrel and hasn't come back yet. I wouldn't be fretting about it, but she left yesterday afternoon. I was afraid this would happen. Jesus, what am I doing?


      Oh, I have to do LAUNDRY says the head, and then the stomach and the bowels say Oh heavens, we can't do laundry without Um, a little something something. The bliss possible of a day bleaching whites and sinking into the petal-soft fury of the poppy! All the limp-wristed gray-skinned constipated clichés of junkiedom have pulled apart for me like heavy red curtains and revealed something much more sinister and interesting: the deliberate free fall-the liberating atheism and shrugging off of conventional life that it implies. The wondrous lack of caring.

      Lee finally calls, all tears and apologies. "So are you coming back?" I ask.
      More tears. No answer. Just "I'm sorry."
      "So am I," I say, although I'm not sure what for.
      "It's ME," she says.
      "Don't you know how much I . . . ?" I ask. "Don't you know what I gave UP for . . . ? Don't you . . . ?"
      It hit me that she wasn't coming back, and I lost everything inside. I started somersaulting into worlds beneath the floor, and I slammed into some pivotal zenith of total human power-lessness. I cried so hard I gave myself dry heaves.
      I am crying so hard I can't see the page, but it feels like I'm really seeing under my skin for the first time.


APRIL 1, 1996
      Jenna points to this semi-abandoned building and says, "It's up there on the fourth floor at the end of the hallway," and obviously I'm the one who's got to go get it. So I start up these creepy dark stairs that haven't been swept since 1947 and the place is deadly still, and my stomach is going "wrong, wrong, wrong" but I keep going, and my lungs are squeezing into fists and I get to the top and I look down the hall and these two spics in their big jackets are just standing there, staring, and I walk down toward them, thinking, "I'm fucked, this is a setup" and right as I think they're going to shoot me or arrest me, we simply do the deal. And I run back down the stairs with the bags, happy as hell.
      I got beat after all that; the shit was cut into flea powder. April Fools'.


      Jenna lost the lease on the store. Now she spreads all the clothes and trash out every day on the sidewalk and sits there with it. Good thing it's getting warmer.
      I don't like leaving the house anymore. Since Lee left I am so unreasonably depressed I can barely get out of bed. I finally took a shower and tried to go out to Central Park to get some air, but as soon as I ate something I realized how miserable I was, so I came back and traded all the X and pot I had left to "Molo" for 10 bags of H and I think I'm just going to take a little vacation, here, and lay low a bit in a fetal position.


      Lee stopped by with a bag of H and some cream puffs from the Italian bakery. She looked like she'd been drinking a lot, but she was still too beautiful to look straight at, like a blow to the chest. We did some of that good white junk (her boyfriend's uncut personal stash straight from the eel-skin briefcase of some sheik) and the truth just rolled out and I told her how I can't stop thinking about her, how much I've missed her, and we kissed and had amazing slow, slow sex, and my heart was in smithereens when it was over, because I was already thinking of her leaving again, and she said "Shhhhhhh," and when I woke up, she was gone. I wish she hadn't done that.


      Steve called. He talked to me and Jenna for the better part of an hour. Jenna and I were looking at each other like "Can you believe this shit?" He was spouting off Narcotics Anonymous. He used to HATE people who did that; it's the classic story: guy gets clean, guy turns into anti-drug-Nazi-hypocrite asshole, renouncing everything. We were passing a cigarette and the phone back and forth, trying to sound like we were taking him seriously.
      "I really love you guys, and I can't stand the idea that you're still Out There. . . . " he was saying.
      "You didn't think too much of leaving me Out Here when you stole my wallet, Steve," I deigned to remind him.
      "You didn't seem to love me enough to take me with you," chastened Jenna.
      It was good to hear her be righteous about it-I know what she went through. I put an arm around her to show her how I was proud of her. She's a tough cookie; really indestructible.
      Evidently, my mom really wants me to come back.


      Needles are a taboo that seems perfectly disgusting and repellant to anybody who hasn't done it before-defacing yourself in that way. Impaling your skin and introducing dangerous substances directly into your blood. However, at a certain point your body WANTS drugs in it. There is a direct invitation issued from the bloodstream.
      Jenna did it for me, first. Boy howdy . . . you do it once, you realize how much of your dope you waste doing it any other way. Then you start to develop a genuine fondness for those charming little orange plastic 1-100 insulin hypos, the ritual of mixing in the spoon, the little cotton squeezing sound, the tap-tap-tapping, the sticking in and watching the red jump into the tube and turn it swirly, then plunging ever so slowly in. It's quite the gorgeous little procedure. I'm writing Lee a poem in my blood.


      Yvette came over crying, with Danny. They looked at me. My heart cowered like an animal. What they said has to be some venal lie; she just doesn't want to see me anymore. They are fucking liars.


JULY 15, 1996
      Hello, Carl. It's been a rough couple of weeks, hasn't it? After hearing that Lee died, the next thing I remember was waking up in Cabrini Hospital to see my Dad's face. Jenna called him in hysterics after the ambulance came, because I guess she thought I was dead. I guess I shot up everything I had left . . . something like four bags? I don't even remember anything, except wanting to die.
      As soon as I woke up I noticed that Dad had all of my stuff that was at Jenna's house, in a suitcase. The doctors at Cabrini gave him some Valium and chloral hydrate for me so that he could get me on the plane.
      The plane ride back to California was the most miserable experience of my life. I was violently sick; my stomach was cramping itself inside out and I was freezing and sweating and crying and pleading with my father as silently as possible to give me more pills. My old dad couldn't bear to look at me, he was practically in tears himself, but he held my hand tightly the whole way, whispering, "We're gonna get through this, Carl. Hang in there." I was so ashamed and sick and grief-stricken I wanted someone to kill me; the stewardesses kept looking at me with their terrible professional pity. I did convince Dad to let me drink a bit, so I could try to get to sleep. There was no hope, though, the withdrawal was way too intense. I shit my pants when the plane landed at SFO, and then I kind of blacked out or something-I can't remember anything about getting here.
      The detox was pretty bad. I'm glad I was here so the doctors could give me various painkillers and sleeping aids and whatever. When I was finally reasonably ambulatory after the fourth day or so, I had to sit in on the group AA meetings.
      Either my mom or my dad has visited me here every day-they've been frightfully supportive. I guess I am "grateful" that I am so "privileged." It's hard not to resent their serious interference in my life right now, but then again, I was in no position to refuse it. I feel like a real pussy in this nice hospital, with my caring parents footing the bill, especially when I think of someone like Jenna.
      Steve came in yesterday. He's been Clean & Sober for like three months-seriously Working the Program. When he walked in the door and said "Aw, man, I'm so sorry about your girl," with this real look in his eye, I just broke down, shaking and sobbing like a kid. I can't reconcile the idea that I'll never see that beautiful face again.
      Steve said that Jenna's on a methadone program, trying to get her life back together. They're friends, now, I guess. He told me that Jenna found out that Lee's body was picked up by her family, and taken somewhere in upstate New York. She was wearing the watch Margaret had given me. She was 24. I guess her parents are trying to prosecute Darrel, but how can they? He wasn't forcing her to take anything, just providing it.
      I want to call Bridget and ask her to forgive me, but how could she? Nobody is that understanding or enlightened; nobody is that much of an adult about things.
      Steve gave me my wallet back yesterday, with all my ID. I opened it and looked at my driver's license photo and just started laughing at the ignorant, existential sneer on my face.