(rough early draft)
SYNOPSIS: A neo-noir transgressive thriller about a man who has taken himself off the grid and punishes those that the law has overlooked or failed to prosecute. Altered and breaking apart, he follows orders while questioning the reality and motivation of those people that are in his life. A dark past filled with tragedy looms over him while he tries to embrace the ghost of Holly, his only female connection, under orders from Vlad, while taking care of his bedraggled cat, Luscious. At what point does he just end it all? Or does he stay in his role as judge, jury and executioner for the rest of his life?
[ INTRODUCTION ]
There is no past. My heart was ripped from me in a rush of flashing lights and sticky, yellow tape. There is no future. Vision would require hope, and that stealthy whore eludes me at every turn. So I float in the ether, pasty skin crawling with regret, eyes gouged out by my own shaking hands.
[ 1. ]
The manila envelope slides under my apartment door, like the wrinkled skin of a rattlesnake, shed in a hurry. I don’t even turn to look, although my clenched fists are shaking, my eyes pressed shut. Sitting in the living room, darkness around me like an flea-infested blanket, my forearms rest on the mahogany table, my ass trembling in the high backed leather chair. I am full again, about to overflow, and I’ve been waiting for that envelope for hours.
I don’t know. I don’t know what day it is. I grit my teeth and take a deep breath. The muscles in my lower back are tightly coiled springs, ropes with knots tied that I’ll never get undone.
I know the bottles sit in the medicine cabinet. I know those tiny black bottles are sitting there. Much like Vlad slides the envelope under my door, my next assignment, much like he provides for me this luxurious squalor within which to disintegrate, he is also my pusher. He also provides my escape. Or maintenance, depending on how you look at it. Two very average, very normal bottles. They could be aspirin, or acetaminophen, or naproxen. But they are not. They are two dark tunnels, bottomless pits, and I stand at the openings breathing in the musty air, rich with soil and rotting bones.
The masking tape he rubbed on them with his filthy thumb and forefinger is slowly losing its tack. With a black Sharpie he writes two words, and every time I look at them I see Alice dropping down the rabbit hole. And I want to join her.
One says: Happy.
The other: Sad.
It’s time for a bus ride. Soon.
I stand up slowly and open my eyes. The streetlights outside push in pale light, the blinds glowing as if the desert sun waits just outside then. My bare feet on the hardwood floor grounds me again. It’s why I keep them clean. A faint whiff of lemon and orange, oils that reek of naked flesh and release. I need to touch things, sometimes. I breathe again, brushing the wrinkles out of my jeans, running my hands down my thighs, again and again. It relaxes me. Shirtless, I run my hands over my bare chest, back and forth, to make the blood flow again.
There are only three choices. The French doors to my bedroom. The manila envelope that rests by the door, a door that leads out to the hallway of this six-flat. And the opening to the kitchen. The lone window in the kitchen is cracked open, and a soft, cool breeze pushes the blind aside. A flash, and bare tree branches. A glimmer and the telephone lines. A gust and wrought iron, green feline eyes and a blur of fur. My stalker. She won’t stay, I know that much. I will myself forward to the open space of the kitchen. A sawhorse sits in the middle of the room. A two-by-four lies on top of it, nailed into it by tall, grey nails. I pick up the hammer, an old friend from a different life, and the weight in my hands is comforting. A dozen metal heads poke out of the mangled piece of wood, riddled with holes, and dents. In quick succession I pound them flat.
A skittering on the back porch as my friend runs away. My bicep flex, forearms tight as I bring the silver hammer head down again and again. It is louder than the peace I just disturbed, but surprisingly muffled by the old apartment walls. A sheen of sweat breaks out on my forehead as I make them disappear. The retort echoes off the gunmetal walls, my feet growing colder on the faded tile floor. The floor is the color of a sidewalk covered with grime the day after the snow melts, littered with debris, scratched and ignored. It meets the walls like an ocean floor, and I feel myself going under. I grunt in the dark room, raising the hammer over my head slamming it down with a sharp bang, fighting the currents, wincing in the night. And they are gone.
I drop the hammer on the floor, out of breath, chest rising. With a snap of my neck I turn to the slice of yellow that purrs to me from the other room. My enabler, my cure.
His name isn’t really Vlad. I just call him that. Tall and gangly, hawkish nose, and an eastern accent, the buzzcut came up to me at Nick’s Package Liquors. They open early. That’s about the only nice thing I can say about them. And two blocks away on Division Street, it’s easy. Down sixty-four steps, out the front door, up Milwaukee a block and turn left.
Just past the Polish diner, meaty perogies, for when I can actually keep food down, with applesauce and sour cream. Past the Taqueria with burritos as big as your head. They sell cigarettes too. Sometimes I can’t make it across Ashland, it’s just too much – screaming metal flying by, streams of mannequins stomping past, some place to be, as fast as they can, and I can barely walk.
I try not to be a regular, any place. But Nick’s is as bad as I get. Sometimes the fridge of beer doesn’t make it to the next day. When you drink your dinner you don’t do it half-assed. So sometimes I end up at Nick’s.
“Comrade, how are you,” he says, the first time we meet.
Hunched over a pint of swill, this gaping wound carved out of the store, this long piece of wood that props up many a liver, it isn’t really a bar. It’s an extension. It’s ten feet away, a place to stumble to.
“Fuck off,” I mumble.
“My friend, I understand. You are busy. I am busy man too. I have a proposition for you.”
I turn my eyes up to him, bloodshot and bleary, pushing down the liquid that is my only sustenance.
“I’m not like that, Vlad. Move it on down the bar.”
“Ha…Vlad. I like that. No sir. Not like that. Just a little legwork. A little muscle.”
I have $14 in my pocket. I’d been living on the street, shelters, stealing, the last of my 401k now gone.
“Real simple like. Take a package, bring a package.”
“Drugs,” I say.
“No. Not quite. Lets just say an acquired taste.”
“And why would I want to help you, Vlad? For a few lousy bucks.”
“I just have a feeling about you. And I have an apartment, a place you can stay. I see you are committed to the drink. At least you are committed to something.”
I hold the pint in my left hand, and reach over for the shot with my right. This liquid, this numbing.
“You think about it, my friend. I’ll be down here at the end of this lovely bar. But the offer won’t last for long. Just until I finish my vodka and am out that door.”
I kept the answering machine. It sits on the shelf in the stone wasteland that is my kitchen. And I press the button. Way too often. I press the button when I am drunk out of my head. When I’m bouncing off the walls, tearing at my skin. I press it and become a marble statue, completely still, eternally cold, and empty inside. I stand next to the sawhorse, with its mangled bits of wood and metal shards sticking out of it and I press it again.
“Hey baby, I guess you’re working late again…”
I should be dehydrated by now, but I’m not. It’s been three years. I ache as if I’ve been punched in the gut, my head swimming. It’s like she’s right there. Just up the street. Be home in a minute. And I see the house in the suburbs, the green grass, the red mailbox flag sticking straight up, the blue siding a calming presence.
I head to the bathroom. Happy is calling.
I don’t know what it is. It could be speed, crystal meth, ecstacy, LSD, Special K, or all of the above. I opt for the latter. I can’t talk about Sad right now. I’m too fluid.
Completely naked now, I lay on the hardwood floor, fully erect, as if I could slide it between the slats. One cheek is pressed against the ground, my eyes counting the individual fibers in the yellow, manila envelope. It isn’t really yellow really. More like a rust. A burnt sienna, peach, tangerine, a bit of sandalwood, tan, beige, it keeps changing in the light. I run my tongue over the edge of it, the corner, slowly, very slowly as it creases my flesh. I can feel the tiny capillaries, each one a skyscraper in my mouth. I close my mouth and swallow, the copper gliding down, the paper thin cut a grand canyon, gaping wide for the world to see. I smack my lips, and run my tongue over my lips. They are parchment, flaky and dry, now moist and plump. I wish that Holly was here to kiss me, to slide her perfect pink bit of flesh in my mouth.
Holly is not my wife. She is my guardian angel. She lies in my bed with me, running her fingers over the tattoos on my arms, my chest, my wrists, my back. She says she can save me. I have no phone, no television set, no computer, and no mail comes to me. I have a key. And I close my eyes and summon her. I want to see her perfect face, the pale sharp angles, the short black bob, the frosty skin with the creamy filling. She could show up at any time, any minute. I drift off into a black hole, I become one with the gaps in the ancient hardwood, my cells merging into the swirls and grooves and as I go, I kill again. I see the bodies stacked to the ceiling, broken bones, bullet holes, dented skulls and bruised necks. Knife wounds and thumbprints and a baseball bat with long black strands of hair glued to the end by a sticky red syrup. I whimper and go over.
I’m warm and dry and her moist breath is on my neck. I don’t feel the world around us, we are floating on a cloud, her body pressed up against my back, her every curve etched into my memory. Her heat is soft against my shoulders, my arms, and I can feel the soft fur of her decadence pressed up against the curve of my ass. Her hand reaches around me, her tiny hand and long fingers grabbing a hold of my turgid erection. Her touch makes me cry and as the tears run down my face, as she rubs up and down, her tongue in my ear. She whispers to me, says all the things I need to hear, her musk and sweet perfume intoxicating. I feel her other hand busy between her legs and she is a machine, pistons pumping, her hot gasps filling my ear, and the sky parts, erupting in sunshine and white light, an explosion of white scattered against the black felt, her body pressed against mine, trembling in unison, and I am filled with her. I am overloaded. My circuits shut down and I go blank.
A cat yowls outside, waking me up. My friend, the stalker. She gets jealous, and yet, still plays hard to get. I roll over to stare at my naughty elf, but she is not there. On the nightstand sits a solitary tube of lipstick. She has left me a memento, a purplish red tint called Bruise. I stare at it in wonder, but I am light today. I am a feather. I float for a moment, the darkness pushed to the edges, the clouds only fringed in gray.
But I know what they day holds.