Memoir

249. Scratch the Ice Let the Telephone Ring

Natalia Britt, Flickr Creative Commons

Natalia Britt, Flickr Creative Commons

Int., Su Casa Apartment #207, Night:

Peter Gabriel’s Passion on the stereo. I walk to the kitchen and grab a knife from the silverware drawer. It is cheap and dull. I carve a cross into my side.

Int. Insomnia Cafe, Night:

I draw variations of 47 repeatedly. Four years seven months: My time with Jody. Four years seven months: My time in Los Angeles. I repeat the figures over and over until they are abstracted into a blend of a Kanji character and the Dodgers logo. No 4 or 7 remains, just an abstract symbol, a mantra.

Int. Su Casa, Night:

I secure the three locks on my front door; the door that faces onto the alley where the police helicopters shine their spotlights. “The door is locked,” I say to no one, and then I lie down in my bed and cover myself with the sheet before getting up and repeating the process. This is my nightly ritual, but on this night I stop by the kitchen on my way back to the locks. I grab the dull knife and carve the 47 symbol into my right shoulder. Click click click. “The door is locked,” I say again to no one.

Int. Sunset Tattoo, Night:

What is it?” the artist asks.

“Just a symbol,” I say.

“It doesn’t mean anything?”

“No. Well yes, but only to me.”

“That’s the best kind. Where did you get it?”

“I drew it.”

“Really? This is nice. Have you ever thought about designing flash?”

“What’s that?”

“Pages of tattoo designs like these,” she says, and she motions to the wall behind her.

“Cool. No, I haven’t. Seems like a tattoo should be personal.”

“Yeah, that’s the best kind. Where do you want it?”

“Left shoulder,” I say.

Int. Su Casa, Night:

The scabs on my cuts and tattoo are gone. I stare into the mirror. I don’t know who stares back. My electric beard trimmer sits on the bathroom counter. I pick it up and shave my head.

Int. Bob’s Frolic Room, Night:

I stuff the CD jukebox full of coins and play every track on Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die! This is the album Sabbath fans are supposed to hate, but I dig it. When I was a kid, which was about ten years prior, I played the 8-track incessantly.

I sit at a table by the front door and drink my beer. The place is packed, but nobody notices me. I have become a ghost, just like my friend Kelly. If I can’t talk to anyone I’ll talk to myself. I don’t have my black notebook but I have a pen. I grab an LA Weekly and write in the margins. The writing begins as it always does: snippets of overheard dialog, room descriptions, bits of lyrics that spill from the jukebox.

I get to The Hum, to the moment when the machine takes over, that rare place where I’m no longer writing but transcribing. There’s nothing mystical about it: This is simply the moment when the right brain dominates the left. A different “I” is writing now, but it’s still me.

Do it, my hand writes. Cross the yellow line. End this. One quick ride the wrong way down Hollywood Boulevard. Suicide by motorcycle. You are worthless. This is worthless. She never loved you. No one will ever love you. You are nothing. It’s time to go. My hand fills up the margins of the LA Weekly with the words “end this.” The whole thing is a scene from a bad “ABC After School Special.”

Ext. Hollywood Boulevard, Night:

I fire up the bike and gun it down Hollywood Boulevard. The Hum is gone. This is permanent, my left brain says. Maybe you should go home first and see if you feel any different there. If not, come back and cross the yellow line.

Int. Su Casa, Night:

I set my helmet down and pick up the phone.

“Information, what listing please?”

“United Airlines.”

“Please hold while I connect you.” Ten minutes later I have a full fare ticket to Greenville/Spartanburg Airport, leaving in five hours.

I call Kelly. “Hey, can you watch my cats? I need to get out of here.”

“Himes? What time is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sure, I’ll watch them. When?”

“Right now.”

“Everything okay?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t move. I’ll be right there,” Kelly says. Twenty minutes later she’s knocking on my triple-locked door. We stay up talking the rest of the night, and then she drives me to the airport.

Categories: Memoir

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3 replies »

  1. You remind me of some of my dark times, except you took action. I descended into withdrawal and passivity. I’m glad you survived, but I worry when I read this that your own darkness is descending again.

    Like

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