Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Meeting

She pulled up to the café and saw that the lights inside were on still. It was past nine and all the other small cafes along the street were dark. The corner café was spilling its yellowness onto the sidewalk and into the dark night. Even though the lights were on, she could tell it was closed. It had that feeling, something that was finished, but still lingering. She pulled her car alongside the plate glass windows that acted as a wall. She shut the engine off and looked inside. There were two people inside behind the counter, both of them almost blocked from view by the large industrial coffee grinders and stacks of cups.
She put her purse in the trunk, put her cell phone and car keys in her pocket and then got out of the car. She shoved three twenties into her corduroy jacket pocket. She looked again through the café windows and saw Ronnie inside. The barista, now she could tell it was a young woman with long dark hair, was handing him two white paper cups of coffee over the cappuccino maker.
Suza walked away from the front glass door and strolled the length of the café, the entire front wall was made of plate glass windows. With her hands in her jacket pockets, she looked into the empty seating area at the far end of the narrow building. There were wooden tables and chairs and wooden bench seating built into the walls. On the wall above the bench seating were framed pieces of art arranged in a single row.
She turned to the left, towards the registers and the coffee grinders and equipment and saw Ronni standing in front of a narrow table against the window by the front door, fixing his coffee with cream and sugar. He looked up and they made eye contact. He smiled at her in recognition. She looked again towards the paintings on the wall, semi- abstract mountain scenes painted in a neutral orange and red palette. There was a small cork bulletin board just a few feet from her on the wall. It was crowded with so many paper signs, ads and posters that it seemed more like an interactive collage layered with old announcements and flyers.
She heard the sound of the glass door fifteen feet away and she looked towards it, towards Ronnie coming out of the door with two coffee cups in his hands. She walked towards him and he handed her a cup. “They’re closed but they still had some decaf,” he said.
“That was sweet of you,” she brought the cup to her chest, a source of warmth in the cold misty night. “I can’t even drink decaf, I still feel jittery when I drink it, but that was nice of you.”
She felt a mixture of sadness and harshness inside as she rejected his offering, his thoughtful token of affection.
He walked slightly ahead of her, walking towards a row of tables along the wall of the café perpendicular to the front and the street she had parked along. They sat for less than a minute. A wild gust of wind picked up and she felt the wind go inside her jacket, torturing her chest with an icy touch.
“It’s cold,” she said, grimacing slightly. “Maybe there’s somewhere else we can go.”
She looked around at the darkened neighborhood.
“We can go to my car.”
He led her back around the block to the front of the café. His car was parked about ten feet behind hers, leaving a space between them just big enough for another car to fit in. As they were walking he turned around towards her.
“You look really good,” he said with a smile.
She smiled, “You look skinnier.”
“Yeah, I’ve lost a lot of weight.”
It had been a year since they last met at the same café. He was the same, but different.
He opened the passenger door to his tan Volvo and she slipped inside. Inside was the dog she remembered from the time before, a pug with slightly glazed eyes and stinky fur. She avoided touching it. The last time she pet the dog, over a year ago, the smell had not come off her hands for hours. She had washed her hand with soap, poured Listerine and rubbing alcohol on it, nothing worked immediately. This time she avoided touching him, though he leaned his head towards her, practically begging for affection.
The dog kept his skinny hind legs on the back seat and reached towards the front seats by putting his two front legs on the console between the driver and passenger seat.
Ronnie walked around to the driver’s side and got in. Once inside he handed her a small, folded-up piece of aluminum foil.
“There are two five-strips in there, you’ll need to cut them yourself.”
“Oh, they’re not all cut up?”
“No, it looks like this.”
He opened the glove compartment, pulled out a ziplock bag and procured another small folded-up piece of aluminum. He opened the folds of foil and then moved it towards her. There were three strips of paper inside, each about an inch long and an eighth of an inch thick. Ronnie and Suza both peered in, as though they were looking into a doorway or a flashing tv set.
“Shit,” Ronnie muttered as he lost his grip on the feather-light foil and a little strip fell into the nether-region by the car’s gear shift. She let out a little chuckle, wondering to herself how many illicit substances were lost in the caves of his car. Ronnie pulled up the fake walnut veneer that housed the gear shift and found the white little strip (it looked like cardstock or paper used for watercolors) and put it back into the foil.
“Don’t do what I just did,” he said with a smile, “when you’re cutting them, put on some gloves, you’d be surprised how fast it gets absorbed into your skin.”
She nodded. She was a little surprised by how small the strips were. How could such a small thing produce such profound changes in the person that puts it in their mouth?
“So, cut those into five equal strips…”
“Yeah, exactly.”
“How many do you usually take?”
“I take one.”
He said it with such finality and seriousness, looking into her eyes directly with a slightly tilted head, as though he had to make the point and underline it. She was surprised. He had told her stories of taking 5-10 hits of whatever substance he could find, it made her a little nervous that he limited himself to one tab, how strong were they?
“I haven’t tried these ones, but I took some that looked like this a few weeks ago and within an hour, an hour and a half, I was on the floor. I was glad I only took one because I wouldn’t have been able to handle any more."
They’re strong, she thought. She felt a little nervous, her stomach started to turn, her body finding something to worry about.
“I met someone that is interested in DMT, can I give him your number?” she asked.
“I don’t really want to deal with people I don’t know. I would probably deal with him through you, but I’ve never seen DMT commercially available. I’ve made it, synthesizing it from plants, but I’ve never seen it out there in big quantities.”
He leaned over her and reached into the glove compartment again, it was still open. He got a small bit of folded foil and opened it. He turned on the overhead light, which illuminated the substance in his hand, a small crystal, it was smaller than a grain of rice.
“You do speed?” he asked.
She laughed, “No, do you?”
“Yeah," he said.
Now she understood why he was so skinny. She thought she heard him say something about smoking.
“If you are going to smoke that, I should probably go,” she said looking at the door handle by her left knee.
“No, I’m not going to smoke it now,” he said laughing.
She started to feel a slight sense of nausa.
“Speed is something, I mean, if you can’t just do it once or twice a month, you really shouldn’t do it. It can really mess with you.”
She looked at him moving around all jittery. He kept on looking in his rear view mirror and then looking at her and then looking ahead out through the car’s windshield. There was a stoplight twenty feet away, green light beamed towards them. She started to feel paranoid, like at any moment, a car could pull up next to them and turn on its sirens. They were just sitting there talking, but the glove compartment was full of different baggies and any cop would have been following his right instincts to stop and search them.
Avoiding the dog, she sat slightly tilted in her seat.
“Right now,” he said, “the doors are open. We can get coke, heroin, crack, which is just a few blocks from here. There’s molly. Whatever you want. But not DMT. I’m looking to get a big mimosa tree, the bark has DMT in it. Then I can synthesize my own.”
“I’m sure they have one at the nursery on Water Street.”
“Yeah, I’m sure they do, I just don’t want to attract too much attention, you know? I’ve got a garden full of psychedelic plants already. Did you know that the moment you die, your body releases dmt?”
Through an unlit cigarette in his mouth he said, “I think that’s very interesting.”
He pulled a lighter out of his jacket pocket and lit his cigarette.
“I think I am going to step outside,” she said.
“Oh. Does this bother you? I can put it out.”
“Really, you sure?”
“Yeah, I can wait.”
"I think Valaris has DMT in it. I’ve been looking to find that plant.”
“We have valaris. The variegated kind.”
“Which kind is it, there are lots of varieties.”
“You know,” she said, “I’m not sure, it’s variegated. It’s in my friend’s yard, he planted it, not me.”
“The other day I found some really pure molly. See, me and my girl took some hits, they were ok, but they didn’t quite take us there, and once you start, you really want to get there, so we went down to the Falcon Bar and I started asking different people if they had seen my friend mollie. Some girl said, ‘yeah, I know mollie.’ It was this candy raver girl. You know the Falcon Bar? It’s a raver bar. It was such a clean roll. It was exactly what I’d been looking for. I found her later and asked if she could get some more, she had major quantity. We had a big old-fashioned ecstasy orgy at my house a few days later.”
She started to feel something in her stomach. A general sense of ill ease, like something bad would be drawn towards them. Maybe it was the memories of an old life in Santa Barbara, but sitting with Ronnie in the car, his glove compartment full of enough evidence to warrant years of jail time, it just reminded her of a particular level of existence where you were always scared of the cops, or at least looking for them at every moment.
She wondered if it was just her that was paranoid. He had not been paranoid several weeks before when he was comfortable arranging the substance and payment for it over the phone. No code words, no disguise. ‘It’s white on white, 5 bucks a hit.’
She was the one that was worried about the cops, she who remembered so viscerally her life ten years before. As she sat there, her body tilted avoiding not just the dog, but the situation, she realized she was pulling in, not pushing out. She tried to imitate him a little. She realized she was getting fearful. She reminded herself not to pull in or else she would absorb his atmosphere into herself.
She pushed out. She tried to imitate him a little, but she forgot her intent soon after.
He said “You know, I’m not a drug dealer, I’m not trying to make money off this, I just want people to get high and have a good time. When I do LSD, I do it spiritually. I go into the woods and take it. I don’t fuck around."
“Ronnie, I need to go now, I need to go pick up my goddaughters.”
He looked at her very sweetly, he stared at her like he liked looking at her face. She smiled at him and got out of the car. She checked her pocket to make sure the foil was there, then drove her car around the darkened lake, back to her house.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Bird

Light comes in, bursting through the colored landscape with speckled dots of brightness. Moves in like the unwanted visitors who stalk restful sleep. Soon she will remember where she is. The little white room, the single bed with a tri-colored crocheted quilt over her naked body. The little stars of light break through the story of her dark dream. Images of hillsides and trees and a rusted red car leak from her memory, fading fast, spilling, spilling as the light gets stronger. She cannot fight it, it is day and with day comes a bright reality. Four white walls, a single sized bed, a narrow window that looks out into the long, narrow garden. As the colors of her dream drip back into the unconscious, as she fights the tide of consciousness that rushes in, she finds herself too tired to reach for her pen and notebook just inches from her bed on the wooden nightstand. She cannot will her arm to move. It is all right there, but she lets the dreams slip, just like so many other things that have washed back into the dark unruly waves of her nighttime voyages.

Minutes pass, maybe more. Her eyes are open widely surveying the room. The sky outside is cloudy, a thick blanket of white, the same as most mornings here by the sea. Maybe soon, as all things are temporal, the fog will come in full gusts, will water the plants in her backyard with its fine stingy spray. She pushes the quilt off her body with a shove of impatience, the move, though coming from her own limbs, startles her. The impatience seems foreign, though it is all her own. Suddenly, her skin, all warm from a night of thermal incubation meets the cooler air of the small white walled-room. The meeting of two worlds are like tiny alarm clocks on her skin, a thousand little electric needles to her fleshy whiteness. She tosses her legs off the bed and reaches for the sweatpants and oversized white t-shirt on the carpet, the small pile of clothes she wiggled out of more than eight hours before. The t-shirt is thin and white and soft from bleach and time and washings. The tiny alarm clocks begin to fade as the clothes wrap around the contours of her body, all full of curves and roundness, each one calling out in its own voice for touch.

She stands up and looks at herself in the long mirror nailed to the back of her bedroom door. An image familiar, an image that looks like a vision from a dream. Wild shoulder length hair of dark waves that have taken on a medusa madness in the night. Her brown eyeliner is smudged below her eyes and she looks like she should be on her way to some hole in the wall industrial show in the depths of San Francisco, not waking up in her small white walled room, a ceiling of clouds speaking to her through the window. She is different. A different animal than the one who closed her eyes and fell asleep on a flattened pillow. She searches for what has changed, something beyond the mess of hair and piercing eyes, eyes that saw other worlds during the long dark hours. She looks deeper, but realizes suddenly it is not just her, it has all changed. A new layer of dust added to the bookshelf, the slowly dying geranium outside her window, it was all new and different, as altered as she had become by the dream of a rusty red car that would come for her on the street where she lived.

She walks to her bedroom window. The window is narrow, entry or exit from it barred by a crosshatch of decorative iron bars coated in a whitish oxidation along certain edges. The garden outside is lush. Bright bushes of blue hydrangeas are in full bloom which compete with overgrown weeds competing for the same sun. Along all edges of the wooden fence are bushes of deep red geraniums she planted a few months before and a tiny morning glory in a little plastic container that she hopes will one day cover the yard in its curious creeping vines and purplish blue flowers, though right now, the plant is just a few inches tall. Along the back fence, more than a hundred feet away from her window is a massive black walnut tree whose canopy is so wide it covers much of her yard and much of her neighbor’s too. She stares out into the garden many times a day, her patience sometimes rewarded and surprised by the iridescent green shimmer of hummingbirds as they dart quickly among the azaleas, poking their long beaks into the heart of each flower face. More often though, she watches the tiny song birds, more frequent visitors to the garden. Their little brown bodies and fat breasts make her smile with their constant play.

She’s looking out the window and sees a slight movement along the back fence, just a vibration really against the wooden planks but then two pale hands reach up from the neighbor’s yard and grab onto the fence, within seconds a man easily draws himself over the boundary between the two yards. She is startled and still, her mind actively remembering each lock in the house she secured in the night before she slipped out of her clothes and into her soft bed. She does not make any move, her breathing slows. He looks up into the wide canopy of the black walnut tree, his hands on his hips. He is a white man, thin but not frail, though nowhere close to fit. He’s wearing brown slacks and a short sleeved white button up shirt, his clothes reminding her of a mid-level bureaucrat from the fifties or perhaps a director of a small funeral home in the middle of the country where time and fashion is still decades behind. She has never seen him before, is startled and alarmed at first by his presence, but her fear turns into curiosity when he does not walk towards the house but instead, climbs the black walnut tree along the back fence. He perches on one of the lower branches, squatting slightly. She notices his feet are bare and very white.

Her attention is diverted from the man as a fat songbird flies close to her window, circling in front of a small geranium bush with deep red flowers and then makes a straight line to the man in the tree. The man watches as the bird approaches and he opens up his hands as it flies nearer. The bird lands in his cupped hands and stays for a few moments. Both the man and bird are still, looking at each other until suddenly the bird takes off and flies up, landing on a near vertical branch at the top of the tree.

The man closes his eyes. He stays like that for a while, though she cannot see his slightly creased forehead, she can sense his intense concentration, his stillness, he seems to both expand and contract, yet is still, getting lighter, lifting as though the wind were picking him up in a gentle embrace. Wind full of summer jasmine and the threat of seaweed-scented fog. She watches him through changed eyes, sight altered by dreams and time. She notices his white shirt, the way his chest begins to protrude just a bit more, pushing against the plastic buttons along the front, the same sort of movement she has seen the little brown songbirds doing in the puddles of her concrete patio after a rainstorm. As she watches, his pale white skin turns a pale shade of blue while thin, long blue and brown speckled feathers sprout on his thin arms. His bare feet turn darker, then become black and claw-like. A weak breeze moves through the leaves of the tree, the tiny song bird at the top takes flight. In a moment the man is covered in feathers. He opens his arms wide, ducks below the lowest hanging branch of the black walnut tree and flies away in the direction of the ocean, his blue and brown feathers becoming a dot, then vanishing completely against the white overcast sky.