“You’ve been missing for days,” Lil Mountain said when he opened the door and saw me there.
“Nah, dude I’ve been right under your sniffly red nose the whole time.”
He squinted and stared, not at my face but at my forehead, where a mound had formed in the center. At first, I thought it was a pimple or a boil but it never turned red, it just grew in a perfect circle. We stood there, close to one another for the first time since I kicked him out of my room a couple of weeks prior. He probably already knew the reason I knocked was because The Babies had cut me off– since I got back from the forest the shelves and cabinets were bare: there was no weed, no shrooms–not even a little organic wine. I got by scavenging ashtrays for bits of blends but then those were gone and I was fucked. The ashtrays were not only emptied but someone cleaned and polished them, to underline the point. Lil Mountain stared unabashedly at my head and made no move to lower the volume on the heavy, hyper pop beats that dropped behind him. It was a track waiting for rhymes, and for a second I felt a flood of nostalgia for our road trip, for the cloud-shaped shadows racing across the mesa and the all-sugar bottoms of the hotel coffees that scorched my throat, readying me (along with consistent, one might say, maniacal pulls on JUULs) to sing/scream to the prolific spew of tracks he busted out on his laptop. It all seemed so golden and sweet–a charmed time I longed to return to–but it was just a trick my mind was playing, one I quickly dismantled by reminding myself of all the fucked up moments, like hydroplaning on the turnpike in PA or getting lost on a mountain in Arkansas with confederate flags looming in the mist or becoming so dehydrated my eyelid got stuck to my eye and it tore a little when I finally got it off. There I was out West, with tree bark and roads and dirt all the same pale brown that turned yellow in the sunlight. An empty scroll unrolled before me, ready and waiting for me to invent a new language in speakeasies with heavy red landline phones and security cameras and secret airfields behind tiny motels but I couldn’t make it happen because my mind was busy endlessly missing and mourning Odious and Heir Max back in New York.
“What do you mean you were here? Em and 3 came back days ago and no one knew where you were.”
“It’s not important,” I said, noticing that his nails were big and ragged from biting them. “I need you to hook me up, whatever you can spare.”
“Oh, hey, I’d like to–really, I would. But I can’t. You know, The Babies have concerns.”
“Concerns? About what?” It hadn’t occurred to me that he and The Babies were talking. After I told him he couldn’t stay in my room, The Babies met and held a vote over whether to kick him out altogether, a measure that passed but in typical fashion was never enacted. Instead, he moved his few belongings into this room, which he had already co-opted as his studio.
“They’re going straight, homes. They say the drugs and drinking are obstacles. You know, blockades set up by the forces that are out to stop us.”
I opened my mouth and then closed it. I couldn’t deny what he said, and in some ways it was even a relief to hear it, as I had just spent weeks battling a darkness that was trying to control my mind.
“What about you?” I said, determined to stay on task. “You’re high right now.”
“Yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “But not as a way of escaping. For me the drugs are tools. I use them to create my art.”
“Fucking hell!” I hissed and slammed the wall with my palm.
“That’s a line from Odious. The character Casper said it, about how he needs to drink to write.”
“So what?” he said, holding up one of his THC vapes to the light so he could check the setting. Clearly, he wanted to fuck with me. He hadn’t looked me in the eyes for a single second.
“So, you’re saying them like it’s coming from you.”
“It iscoming from me. I’m the one saying it. I’ve said it tons of times as it’s true for me. You yourself have called me a functioning addict tons of times.”
“You’re just fucking with me.”
“You should already know I’m doing the opposite of fucking with you. But I guess you’re too crazy to see it. It was YOU who wrote about Casper and The Roses, just like it was you who wrote every chapter of King of Spain. You used that and other things I say and put it in there. Because that’s what vampire writers like you do–they steal and copy the things their friends say for their so-called fiction.”
“No. Those words were beamed into Odious’s mind by Heir Max. Words based on his synthesis of everything on Odious’s hard drives and cloud storage.”
“You mean everything on YOUR hard drives. And in all those different colored notebooks. Things you read over–notes you make that help you figure out what to write.”
“I was faxing with Odious, remember? I had those long thin sheets. Obviously, they had to be there, they had to exist on the other side to send them to me.”
“We all saw how you kept all those pages, yours and what were supposed to be Odious’s in one big stack. They were all the same, they all came from you. The Babies drove you into town because unlike me they don’t care if Odious is real.”
He said some more but I tuned out and listened to the beats instead, trying to get them to fill my brain like in those early mornings in the motel rooms, but other thoughts persisted:
What is actually happening and what is a joke about what is happening
(summer’s not done when you need someone)
Image: Mike Gross
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