A moment may contain many other moments. In fact, it is rare to have a moment that is devoid of references, representations, ponderings and memories of other moments. Those few blank slate moments are called Ecstasy, Nirvana, trancelike states. Most of the time, acts and thoughts repeat, ape, continue, complement and complete other acts and thoughts. A street in Madrid merges into another in Santiago, something she said is deja-vu, the artist starts putting paint to canvas and when he takes a step back to look at her work, 10 years have gone by, a man eats a mushroom in Oaxaca and the same creatures that came out of another mushroom, years before, in Chiapas, sit on his lap and tell him the same exact things, or maybe the trickster amongst them says a slightly different version of it, with a fundamental detail changed, to confuse the traveler and break his perfect high.
One picks and chooses moments to be cherished and remembered, has them lined up and ready for one last look before the film ends. Because one never knows if the end will be sudden or slow, the most important have to be on top, they work their way to the top of the pile naturally, ready to go: a young redheaded boy kicks it into the goal in the last minute, a little girl asleep in a hammock that rocks in the heat, a hike with Gramps in the mountains and he’s telling me a war story in his thickly accented Spanish, Mom plays Chopin on the piano and I’m sitting there with a book, or I’m young, high and walking alone in the city I used to love, a book in my hand, as the moon rises. All those moments are always ready to flow through me one last time, as soon as The End appears on the screen. I visit them all the time, and will visit them again before the movie’s over, if I have a half second to realize what’s going on. There’s something else that’s found a way into this list, against my will, randomly, and it’s a pair of eyes looking at me, a pair of eyes like no other.
I’m reduced to create ever more intricate worlds, ever more complex games with time and space, in order to be around those eyes. It’s been decided that, once again, the time is not right to look into them in the real world. Conversations can’t happen, phone and video and internet chats are off limits… this is all that’s left, and I find myself, like the guru in “the circular ruins”, the Borges story, dreaming an avatar into existence, a |me| that has found a way to keep those eyes engaged and is, therefore, more complete than this other me, the dreamer.
It has occurred to me that the owner of the eyes might think I’m creating these ghostly, unreal scenarios for her enjoyment. She would be wrong. Of course she’s the only other possible reader to this, of course there’s questions that only she could answer, bottles laden with messages that only she could pick up from the beach. But unfortunately, at this point I have to keep adding layers to this onion of a virtual world for my own sake, as my own therapy and self medication, because I find not having a chance with her and her eyes in the real world so painful that I can’t contemplate it. Unbearable. So I fly to faux Buenos Aires and fake London, ersatz Miami and unreal Amsterdam, to be there for a while sometimes. Be there with her.
Fucked up as it is, it could get even worse: she could decide she’s had enough of these universes in nutshells and that, for our own good and many worthwhile etceteras, she’s pulling away, not reading anymore. In that case, I would still have to write, just as I have to shave and piss and eat and shit, because there’s no alternative. As a bodily function, as taking an aspirin when my head aches. Create moments with her and enjoy them like one enjoys an opera on the radio, driving alone on the highway, not sharing it with anyone. Now that would be lonely. Fucked up, lonely, and indescribably elegant.
Years of thought and experience, then, can be distilled, condensed into moments. Years of thoughts and struggles and searching – for meaning, for kicks, for one’s place in the world, for something to believe in, for love – boil down to perfect nutshells where everything inside makes sense and is right and good. As the sun sinks over the Gulf, Miami starts glowing in the East, over the Everglades, and he opens the cylinder to make sure the revolver is loaded. Satisfied that all 5 bullets are in, he takes a swig of tequila as she looks at him from the battered Adirondack chair she’s perched on. He raises a finger and recites, “Oh, Lord, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and think myself a king of infinite space”, smiles and walks to the hog pen. A moment later, the brief, metallic sound as the hammer gets cocked, the humanlike cacophony of alarmed pigs, and a shot. She half smiles as she hears these sounds, and tucks her legs inside the sweater, as the night chill creeps, looking over the roof of the shed towards the glow of the big city.
Using a winchlike contraption, some heavy chain and a hook, he lifts the heavy, dead animal onto a workbench first, where it’s quickly gutted. Large dogs wait impatiently for genitals and intestines. The hog is then raised higher and lowered into a huge vat full of boiling water, shaved, and thoroughly pressure hosed.
– You should have them do it. It’s their feast, anyway. Neither Argies nor Americans celebrate the Day of the Dead.
– But I like doing it myself. Makes me feel the king of my nutshell.
– Shakespeares, bloody clothes and tequila in your breath, you’re quite the character, aren’t you… you think you’re cool, don’t you…
– Hey! Last person who dissed me like that ended as hog feed. You’ve seen all those gangster movies, “always distrust men who own pig farms” and so on. Be careful.
– You don’t have a pig farm, you just have a few pigs that you recite crap to when you’re drunk and think nobody’s looking. And enough talk, go wash for fuck’s sake, you’re disgusting.
The night is dark, except towards the East, where the big city glows.
– I wonder how much longer the cities will glow like this
– You mean you think they’ll go dark?
– Not totally dark, not for a long while anyway. But I think we’re on the downward slope. Downsize’s the word.
– Why do you say that?
– Well, it’s not a big world. And there’s too many of us, using up too much of it. That’s the briefest I can boil it down to.
– Fuckin’ ‘ell, dude. Always so cheerful to be around you. Pass the tequila, and those limes. Cheerio. Yay! Hooray!
An hour later, a new log has been added to the fire, and she’s sitting on top of R, facing him. They’ve been sitting like that for a while, she getting slowly moist, rubbing against his half hard on, slowly grinding, he smelling her neck and chest, caressing her without a hurry, both taking turns at the Conmemorativo Sauza, tasting the blue agave in each other’s tongues. After a short swig, she puts the bottle down and focuses on the wall behind him; with a shriek, she jumps up and walks back a few steps, pointing to something there. He turns around and there’s a spider walking towards the floodlight, probably hunting at this time of night.
– Is it a bad one? It’s big, but not that big… Am I wrong to freak out?
– No, you’re not wrong to freak out. It is a bad one. See the violin mark on her back? Brown recluse. Very nasty.
He rolls the newspaper that the limes came wrapped in and whacks the thing, hard. She shivers and faces the fire.
– Long day mañana, Dia de Muertos. We have guests, my Mexican friends and Cuban competitors and some of the redneck Rhodrys and gentlemen farmers from the area too.
Still later, they are in bed, the ceiling fan lazily, slowly spinning above them. There’s only the faint glow of a computer screen to light the room. They are using the MacBook to play some music. It’s been a long day, and a long night, but they don’t feel like sleeping yet. They have probably been drunk at some point, earlier on, but it has faded away after dinner and coffee and sex.
There was thunder
There was lightning
Then the stars went out
And the moon fell from the sky
It rained mackerel
It rained trout
And the great day of wrath has come
And here’s mud in your big red eye
The poker’s in the fire
And the locusts take the sky
And the earth died screaming
While I lay dreaming of you
– So you reckon there’s trouble ahead?
– Is it the music makes you ask that?
– No, what you said before… too many of us, resources depleting fast. I’ve seen it in Asia and some other places I traveled to years ago. They seemed so crowded to me, I had to wonder, how do all these people eat without fishing every last fish out of the ocean, and cutting down every last tree to build huts?
– Exactly. It’s not only Asia, actually. Everywhere is overpopulated, pretty much. Except for parts of Canada, Australia, Argentina… the US, I guess, but the problem here is that we consume so much, it doesn’t matter there’s only about 300 million of us…
– Only 300 million… that’s funny…
– Well, yeah. I mean you look at China, India, they are in the billions, right? But here… The sense of entitlement, the waste, the obesity, the greed and gluttony… the bubbles, inflating and crashing ever so faster…
– Rome. Babylon.
– Rome, no doubt. I’m sure at the height of the Empire there were entire classes of citizens that thought it was perfectly normal and natural to make a living as Vegas croupiers, pet groomers, closet organizers, pole dancers…
– The point?
– Point is, millions going through life without ever producing anything of value, oblivious to the world, counting on imperial troops to keep the peace in an angry world and guarantee the supply of fresh energy and cheap Wal Mart crap. The World Series of Poker, reality TV. That’s hubris, and hubris is always punished in the end…
– …the soap box, Hyde Park, you…
– Nice one, L. – yeah, you’re right. Saks Fifth Avenue is a better venue for enlightment I’m sure. That’s where you’re going tomorrow?
– Ouch. Not sure. Whatever’s on special at the Waterside Shops. I have all these friends I want to get nice presents for. Friends, you know. You know?
– How would I know? I have less friends than fingers. And I keep chopping off fingers all the time. But you? Ms Popularity – I remember this from when I first met you: you never said “I”, you said “we”. There was always an invisible entourage around you….
– Yep, that’s me allright…. nothing wrong about that…
– Nothing wrong at all. You’re you, I’m me. It’s all good… peace…kiss kiss…
– Kiss kiss…
– You’re sleeping?
– I thought I’d share something with you…
– Right. It’s what my plan was to bring you here. The long term strategy. I’m very proud of my thinking, actually. It went something like this: on a scale from 1 to 100, not talking long distance to Lily hurts me around 90. If it hurts me that much, it means there must be some hurt on her side too. I reckon it’s bothering her in the 20-to-30 range. As in, not real pain but some uneasyness, maybe. Some sense of lost opportunity, some longing, curiosity. Whatever. Now if I can live in the 90 level of hurt and keep it in the basement somewhere and look like nothing’s the matter and keep my mouth shut long enough, eventually she’ll forget all my mad statements of the past and assume I’m at a similar range of let’s not call it hurt, let’s call it discomfort about not being together, curiosity. On the same page so to speak. And maybe at some point it will bother her enough, that curiosity, that low level 20 range of emotion but that goes on and on and on, to talk to me and come spend a couple weeks in the jungle to work it out of her system. See what the hell it’s all about. My plan was sound. After all, I have a lot of experience in living with that particular bruise and keeping quiet about it, so I felt I could do it again. I accomplished my goal. You’re here.
– You’re mad, and you don’t make any sense… you’re so wrong…
– And I discarded or compromised a lot of what I achieved here in the last 10 years too, of course. Not sure I’m so proud of that. But it’s a price that had to be paid. Not for the certainty, mind you. Nothing’s certain. All that’s certain is that you have to be at an airport in 8 days. For the chance. It’s a lottery ticket that had to be bought. Happy to pay the price. Not happy, maybe, OK. But it’s worth it, in my mind. What’s the alternative? I didn’t want to be a fucking old man walking hand in hand with an old lady. I mean, wait. That would be better than nothing. But this, -he buried his face in her neck, she stroked his hair- this is better… much much better… mucho mejor… makes me feel my life was for something. I felt this way just a few times. Stong psychodelics made me feel like this in the past. Mushrooms and ancient ruins in Mexico. Also, kids being born, all shrieking and bloody, flesh of my flesh. And you. Now, you, here with me. This moment.
– If it makes you any happier, my thing back there didn’t go too well either. Maybe you were a factor. But not the most important. I guess I was fed up and took me a while to admit it. After investing a lot of time and effort into something or someone, it’s not easy to just let go. The psychology of previous investment. I’ve invested so much, I need to keep investing so as not to lose all that’s been invested already. I don’t think it has to do with levels of pain. Friendship, OK, love if you will, doesn’t have to be painful. You need to see it more as a game and something pleasurable. Please, with your 1 to 100 charts, you’re so immature sometimes… don’t you realize I have my own issues about you? It’s all there, the attraction, the guilt, the sadness. Don’t you see how tough it has been, and is, for me to accept and trust you? Do you have any fucking idea of how… how… uncommon, wild, extreme, your feelings are towards me? How you sound, the things you say? Look, all your strategies are rubbish. The reason I’m here is because… damn… you bring out something in me that no one else has, OK? You showed up at just the right time to topple the whole edifice, that’s all. Talk about ancient ruins, dude… is there any Sauza left?
Civilizations build their most extreme monuments at the very moment of collapse. Think Rome, think the Maya, think Vegas. Fuck, but then… what about the little ones? Well, are the little ones imbeciles? Are they idiots? Have we done our part, have we taught them what we could, skills and smarts, give them the way-outs we could, the plan b’s and c’s that we could? The roots in different parts of the world so they can choose the least bad if and when shit hits the fan? Oh, you think shit won’t hit the fan? You think it’s business as usual, forever and ever. OK. The Emperor will take care of you, you reckon. Barbarians are not at the gates, the noise is just a rugby game outside. Whatever. Doesn’t make a difference. Because it’s nice to have options, right? Look, he has Britain. Europe, to a point. Fine. That’s good. We can figure out something, and give him America too. Bigger. Patagonia, and the whole Spanish speaking world, too, how about that. That’s a lot of options, L. We can do it. But we’d need to get to work on it right away. Raúl, Rulo, dear, you’re giving me a headache. The world’s not gonna end anytime soon, and nobody needs to go live in Montana or Patagonia. Sleep…
Morning, crisp, perfect. Red cardinals outside, woodpeckers knock-knock-knocking on palm and pine and cypress. No hangovers! One and a half bottles of Sauza, and no hangovers! Praised be baby jeebus! She’s looking so smart, in her heavy frame glasses and blue jeans, drinking tea. Cortez burned his ships when he decided to conquer Tenochtitlán, the great city of the Aztec. Rulo looks at her as he shaves and he’s glad he’s put the torch to his ships conquering Lily. It’s a sublime moment: Spanish ships burning on the beach near Veracruz, cold determination, only one way, forward. It’s all well spent. She’s worth every dime.
Dimes, quarters, nickels… look at Lily counting her riches… hitting the shops, then? I’ll see you here later, OK? I’m picking up Jack and Lisa. They will be staying with us tonight, remember? Get them a little something to buy their trust. Spongebob’s probably a good idea, he’s popular around here. Take your time. Take the car, I’ll take the truck. I left a map right on the dash. Hope you can drive stick. Tank is full. Just get on Oil Well Road, and then US 41. Call me if you get in trouble. Ciao, ciao, adios. And don’t spoil your appetite! We have Dia de Muertos and roasted pig tonight! WAIT! Don’t you dare drive away without a kiss… and a hug… another hug… another kiss… how do you say it in Spanish? Yes? Yes? You forgot? No you didn’t – un beso, si! Un beso, un beso, un besito…