I don't know what it is, but tonight's straitjacket of social obligation resignation seems to have a sandspur stuck in its armpit. There's an itch and then a piercing burn with every futile contortion as I hang upside down over the night's plastic baby pool full of baby snakes, an unexpected pre-engagement pain the reward for each attempt to get out. It's the peculiar feeling that I've forgotten something, or I'm missing something, or I ought to be feeling something other than nothing; a reminder string tied around the middle of my life cutting off circulation until somebody wises up, remembers to breathe and gets on with the business of a natural death. Thankfully, I'm not alone in this little dance with crazy.
"I feel like Anna Nicole," comes the instant message I've been waiting for. "All covered in the feces of the Seminole Indian Casino."
"I feel like Carrot Top covered in the same," I prattle back.
"I feel like the ugly Sweet Valley High twin."
"I feel like Cousin Oliver."
And as if by the Wonder Twin powers of bleach magic, the Sexy Savannah has materialized out of very thin air on the couch catty-corner to my corpse.
"We are so dead," she dies. "It's like going to your own funeral every day."
The funny thing is that we're not. Having both ascended the inflatable spiral staircase of chemically assisted media extroversion over the past decade — each with our own take on Baker Act-able offenses covered in secondhand rhinestones — we've both somehow ended up in sober limbo here, hoarsely hacking up phlegmatic splatters of what-used-to-be depression while sipping juice from tumblers.
"God, everybody's depressed," she squawk-whines. "I'm not!"
"I'm not," the squawk continues. "So, here's the deal. I'm just in town for a little while. I'm homeless. I quit the snake-handling job in California. On the way driving here I got pulled over by border patrol in Arizona and they had the dogs sniff my car and they found a little bit of something, so I have to go back to Arizona and get that taken care of, which is fine because I'm totally going to live in Yuma at this separatist commune with a guy I met in the army who has a lot of guns."
"You're pregnant?" I translate.
"Nooooo! I'm serious." She is. "I need someone to keep me in line. Also, seeing as I've already had so many farewell tours from this town, I figure this is a good way to go out."
"No, we're both already dead." Oh.
More twist-tied explanation of stars aligning into dream-catcher formations while "good energy" sucks fireflies into desert symphonies of peace follows until the eyes of the world glaze over and a UFO lands on top of a cherry sundae.
"Well, you've got a good head on your shoulders," I collapse. "You'll do what's right."
"Great. So where are we going?"
On the way to nowhere, or Wally's, the conversation veers away from paranoid science fiction and into paranoid science fact. Nothing is fun anymore, we're observational zombies and there is no small irony to the fact that we now exist only in repetitive vignettes rehashing the same staircase tumbles that would later fashion our notions of regret. Also, we think too much.
"Between all the thinking you and I have done, we could launch the space shuttle." Savannah's head ignites.
"Yep." I am no fire extinguisher.
But we don't drink too much, at least not anymore, which puts us at odds with the swaying hobo saloon scene of Wally's on a Tuesday night. Here, beneath the nicotine-yellowed wallpaper breasts of forgotten time, we sit and watch other lives end. Gold rope chains dangle on chest hairs beneath slyly unbuttoned men's shirts, ladies suck on cigarettes and Michelob Ultras while staring off into "I could do better" thoughts. It's all right. It's all right, the jukebox assures.
"The guy next to me is singing." Savannah nudges my rib. "I knew it. He does move in mysterious ways."
"You like to party?" said guy leers into our blur. "My name's David. I like to have fun." He says this verbatim exactly twice.
"We do, too," we mourn, and mourn again.
"I like y'all's hair."
It isn't so bad, but it isn't us — not the us it used to be, all flipping cars and flirtations, howling at moons for echoed directions to the next place to fall apart. There's a stillness, a muted, hollow whisper to it now, one that even when taken on a tour down the formerly fun thoroughfare of downtown's Orange Avenue can only seem to mumble a lowly conversation about ends justifying means, and do so without stopping anywhere. There are no ends, only means.
"Nobody's pretty anymore." Savannah stares out the window at nothing, feeling nothing. "At least in Huntington Beach all the girls pretend they're Bettie Page. Of course they can't stand me, because I'm blond, but at least that's something."
Inevitably, the end is right back at the beginning, juice tumblers and cigarettes and sad phlegm messes approximating seasoned wisdom, but more honestly betraying a threadbare sense of lacking purpose. It all feels somehow forced, with no effort exerted whatsoever. It feels perfunctory.
"Perfunctory!" Savannah's voice lights up. "I love that word. You know who uses that word? Rufus Wainwright. Want a locket of who made me lose my perfunctory view of all that is around and of all that I dooooo," she starts singing rather beautifully. "Which song is that?"
"'I Don't Know What It Is,'" I reply. And I don't.[email protected]