Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 7: Darkness Before Dawn

I was cold, and scared. I had been halfway convinced during the first few minutes I was outside that maybe, just maybe, we could pull this off without police intervention. We'd been unbelievably fortunate thus far, and somewhere in my subconscious a countdown to sunrise began ticking.

Because everything looks all normal during the light of day. You know it as well as I do--if you shine enough light on something scary, it becomes mundane. I personally know a couple of acidheads who were completely transfixed with fear for the better part of an hour by a shadowy figure that was revealed to be, at dawn, a large oxygen cylinder. It's there. It will always be there.

So if I could just, by force of will, keep the cops and the other baddies away til the sun came up, the entire evening would be recast as some sort of dreary drug binge, instead of the supernatural experience it had turned out to be. The sirens dashed my hopes of that--and I had to begin planning my escape route again.

This I did NOT want to do, friends. There was a lot of pacing in the back yard, with occasional nervous forays up the driveway to the front corner of the house, where I'd peer out at the nearest intersection. No cops. Yet. Fuck.

I was FREEZING. It was October, and the first cold night in October at that. I was half naked, having shucked my shirt inside, and I don't know when I've felt dirtier. I swear I could feel a kind of shellac of sweat cracking every time I moved my arms. I had long, wild hair, even wilder red eyes; in essence, if I was caught on the street, I was busted. Period. Even if I didn't get tied back to the weird shit going on in the house, I'd be picked up on GP, and taken to the drunk tank. Of course, there was exactly ONE warm beer in my system, but that's never stopped them before. But a night in the pokey followed by crappy breakfast and a brisk walk home was infinitely preferable to getting arrested in a house with a baby and a brick of cocaine. And god knows what else. I also had the inkling that Darlene would lie her ass off to keep Fernando out of jail, since he was the breadwinner and all.

Things got more grim every time I thought about the situation. That's how it works-as soon as you start having hope, the fear is much more powerful.

I counted four seperate instances of sirens wailing by within a couple of blocks, and every time I heard them I scouted the perimeter again. The back fence of this place was the only viable option, and I was going to make a hell of a lot of noise getting over it. I also saw a doghouse in the neighbor's yard, which in that neighborhood did not mean a Pekingnese. I paced through the weeds, and pondered whether it was better to go to jail or take my chances with Killer.

I had three options:

1) Stay, and get at least busted (a beating would probably occur as well, knowing them). I didn't like this one, but it was all tangled up in responsibilities to Jim (he's a delicate soul for all his yammering, and I'm not sure if he could have handled jail that night). However, it's just plain stupid to get arrested (and whipped on by some frustrated wannabe DEA agent), if you're the only one who knows to make bail.

2) Leave, which was a treacherous proposition for reasons already mentioned. If I didn't get picked up by the cops, I would probably be mugged (or worse) by any late partying Locos in the area.

3) Wait, then leave if the police showed. I chose this option, and sat down in the driveway to listen for sirens and look for flashing lights. I sat very still, listening to the wild shrieking that was still erupting from the house periodically. At least audible to the corner, I thought. At least.

For a long time, I sat there, not moving. Every time I heard sirens, I'd go back into the back and eyeball the fence again, just to see if it had gotten any easier. I got cold--very cold, but I didn't have the energy to move around, so I just sort of zoned out, staring at the stop sign down at the corner. I was insensitive to everything around me, except for the intermittent screaming inside the house. I tried not to think. I tried not to imagine what was going on in the house. I tried not to draw any kind of conclusion from the events of the evening until I was able to process them rationally. I tried not to shiver so much. I tried, unsuccessfully, to think of a time when I'd been more miserable. All of these failed, in fact.

Upon hearing the fourth set of sirens and checking my escape route, I realized that I could see the fence a little better. Upon returning to my post by the corner of the house, I could definitely tell a difference in the horizon. It was Sunday morning.

Now that I think about it, my reaction to mornings depends a lot on what had been going on the night before. When I was a kid, sunrises meant the bus was about to come pick me up for school--and there's something about the quality of the air here sometimes that takes me back to those solitary mornings watching for dust on the next section line road. I know that sounds like a country and western song, but it's true--and I like it. There's probably a paragraph I should write about -why- I like that subtle flavor of air, but I'm not quite that arrogant. Yet. You guys keep spoiling me like this, and I might get into it.

The above, of course, predicated that I'd been to sleep the night before. The second type of morning is the morning when you've successfully stayed up all night having a good time with your friends, and sunrise kind of sets it all in stone. You did something not everyone does; you lived life according to your rules, not the rules of a 9 to 5 timeclock, or church goer's mental rulebook, and you had a hell of a good time. Every single morning I can remember at Burning Man has been like this, except the ones I slept through.

Next is that horrible feeling you get when you suddenly realize you're going to have to do something big, and you're completely fucked up and smell like a goat. I sort of eased on into this one when I hit 30 (not too long ago, in fact, not too long after this story happened), and my weekend debauchery (which I call "research for these fucked up stories," thank you very much) left me with hangovers through Monday, instead of my body bouncing back with a nap on Sunday. It's the "fuck, what have I done, AGAIN?" feeling.

Fourth is probably the rarest. As I write this, I think back to one of the few times I heard my dad talk about the Vietnam War with anyone. They were discussing flashbacks. The other guy said "for me it's helicopters. Whenever I hear helicopters, I just get this feeling that everything will be OK."

[those of you who don't know me, please be aware that I'm not comparing what had happened to actually being in a combat zone--it's just the story that jumped into my head.]

It goes back to the beginning. The sun's up, there are no more shadows, and everything you took drugs to escape, or watched horror movies to enliven, or simply railed about being dreary was back to being dreary, only that very dullness made you feel like coming home. There's a reason why they call it an acid trip, folks.

So this morning was a helicopter type of morning (although I hate helicopters--but that's another story), and I watched an old guy across the street come out and pick up his paper, then turn the sprinkler on his lawn. The screaming had stopped.


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