9/5/07

story - Vanuatu (part II)


Louis of course put shit up his nose and called me 8 hours later, plastered off his tits, babbling something incoherently with what sounded like a rowdy group of people around him. The good thing about implants is that not a lot of outside noise can be heard on the other end, but when it’s noisy there’s this general humming that sounds like it’s coming through a wall – in the case of implants, through a wall of skin and bone. I could hear it now, and so surmised that my lawyer was fucked up. It was 2 a.m. and he was at a bar and going ape-shit. He started every sentence with “you know something man,” or “I tell ya.” Pure cocaine bollocks. He says he was still with that dickhead Craig.

I’d been alone and lost in thought, despite all the incessant ringing in my head. I felt sad, I felt a little depressed, more so than usual, and I knew it was more than just the side-effect of those tablets I was taking for the migraines. Then I had the most ridiculous urge to call the last person I would ever have imagined calling. No, not Stormweather, and not that weasel Stenoson either. I wanted to call my ex-wife and talk to her. I couldn’t trust Louis on this, I didn’t even really care for anything at that moment. Maybe I was lonely, but I just wanted to call her.

“YES?” she answered.

“Hey it’s me.”

“You? What do you want now? I didn’t think we had anything left to discuss.”

“No, no, I’m not calling for any reason.”

“So why are you calling then?”

“I don’t really know. Like I said, no reason.”

“Are you drunk? You’re drunk, aren’t you?”

“No, not really. Where’s your boyfriend Craig, is he next to you?”

She hesitated a bit.

“…Yes, he is… he’s just gone downstairs in fact.”

“I see.”

“What are you, lonely?”

“Sort of… I just… I sort of just wanted to stop being a prick and immature and all. I wanted to be civil.”

“Well maybe you should have thought of that before you decided to humiliate me and yourself in front of everyone at my parents’ house, in a party they threw to celebrate YOUR new job by getting drunk and confessing that you were sick of everything, sick of me, sick of them, sick of your job, sick of life, and having an affair with a 20 year-old Romanian whore…”

“Ukrainian.”

“Whatever! How do you expect me to forgive that?”

“Well it’s time somebody put your parents in their place. I felt like I was in the fucking Truman Show, everyone organizing everything around me, watching and making sure I never strayed from their path. And you always took their side…”

“Look, I’m not going to discuss this anymore. What’s done is done, ok? You can’t expect sympathy from me now. You could have done things the civilized way instead of letting everything build up inside you until you lost it. Why didn’t you ever talk? Why didn’t you? Nothing. You come up to me one day, in front of me, my family, my friends and declare your love for a Russian whore!”

“Yes that’s right, YOUR friends, YOUR family, you still don’t see do you? You’re still…”

“Like I said…” She sounded upset. “I don’t want to talk about this. Don’t expect sympathy from me. Craig’s coming back now. We have a whole weekend planned. So go now and don’t call me.”

“Right, Craig. Ok. Well sorry. Hey you know I’m going to Vanuatu?”

“Vanuatu?”

“Yeah, with Silicon Implants, the SHIT Act, you know.”

“Right. Well, maybe it’ll do you good. I hope it does.”

“Yeah, coconuts and trees…”

“I have to go now…” I fancied I heard her voice tremble a little.

“Ok, right, well goodbye.”

“…”

“Goodbye,” I repeated.

“Yes, yes, bye.”

Somehow, talking to her made me feel even more depressed. I wished she hadn’t lied about Craig. I knew Craig was out with Louis. I really wished she was well, that she wasn’t alone, that she didn’t need to lie. I had lied all my life, I needed to, and I knew how hard it was to live with, how hard it was to live with myself. I wished I was the only miserable person that I had to think about. I thought that if everyone else in the world was happy and if only I was miserable, I wouldn’t care. And now I couldn’t help think about her too, lonely, broken, lying, after it was too late, after nothing could be done about it. That was the saddest part of all. I went to bed but stayed awake all night thinking of Vanuatu.

RINGRINGRINGRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGRINGRING

“HELLO?”

“Hey it’s me, where are you?”

“Home. Is everything ok?”

“Aaaa, not really.”

“What happened?”

“Well remember I called you from the… the…”

“Bongo Bong’s?”

“That’s it Bongo’s… well I met this girl there who said she could get us some more blow. Some chick from Tijuana. We go to this seedy club where we meet the owner, some mafioso guy with a blue silk shirt and gold medallions dangling from his neck. He goes on about how many guys he’s whacked in his time. He takes out a brick – I kid you not – a veritable BRICK of coke and slams it on the table with powder flying around and shit. He says he’ll give us as much as we want as long as the chick sleeps with him. I’m drunk and I get up all indignant and shit, and I guess maybe I swore at him…”

“You don’t say.”

“Yeah, I don’t remember too well. So next thing we know I’m being kicked by some big-ass apes with sideburns and we’re thrown out. When I get out I can’t find my car. It’s probably been towed ’cause I left it in front of the club and thought we wouldn’t be more than 5 minutes, right. Anyway, we find friends of hers who take us to some other party in a house up in the hills. We get more yayo from them. As we’re driving to another club, around 5 a.m., the cops spot us going the wrong way down a one-way street. So what does her fucked up friend do? He’s got coke on him, and he’s packing heat…”

“Packing heat?”

“Yeah, he’s got a gun, and he’s probably got a history with the law. So anyway, this guy ain’t stoppin’, right. He starts screeching around corners, going the wrong way down other one-way streets. I’m paranoid at this point. The coke high’s worn off and I’m paranoid. I could be out of the bar, lose my license to sue, you know…”

“Your license to sue?”

“My license to sue, man, that’s right. So what do I do? I open the door after we’ve just turned a corner and throw myself out, rolling into a bunch of trash cans as the pigs round the corner…”

The PIGS? You’re supposed to be a fucking lawyer!”

“The pigs, man, they round the corner and both cars are gone. So I find a cab and get home around 6 a.m., bruised and fucked up. I think I may have cracked a rib.”

“Does it hurt when you laugh?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t been laughing much since I jumped out the car. Say something funny…”

“I was kidding. So you haven’t even slept yet, have you?”

“He, he, he, hey it does hurt… No, haven’t slept yet.”

“And how ’bout the slickster?”

“Craig? He left a long time ago. At Bongo Bong’s. Picked up some chick…”

“…”

“You there?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m here. So when are we going over this implant suit?”

“I gotta take a shower, jack off and get some sleep. So how ’bout in the evening?”

“Fine. And drink some Quenchezade or Chemicade or something.”

“I’m drinking water.”

“Who the fuck drinks water?”

“Anyway, see you tonight at Exorbitante. 8 o’clock good?”

“Fine, see you there.”

I had a meeting with Stenoson at Silicon Implants that same day, and I’d hardly slept at all. The implant kept ringing, on and on, RING RING RING RING… But I didn’t answer. I just kept quiet and tried to relax, maybe even get some sleep in the cab. But it didn’t work. I kept thinking about that party, and my ex, and Craig, and mafia, and coconuts, one big jumble of incongruent thoughts floating around with an incessant, universal, background radiation of ringing to accompany them.

“Stenoson, hello.”

“Ah, yes, I’ve been trying to get in touch with you but you weren’t answering…” He was expecting an explanation, which I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of receiving.

“…”

“Yes, well, anyway, now that you’re here, a little thing has come up. Not important really, just some more, uh, paperwork.”

“About Vanuatu?”

“Yes, precisely, about Vanuatu.”

“Is there a problem with Vanuatu?”

“Oh there’s nothing wrong with Vanuatu, except that it’s shit-poor,” he thought this an amusing joke. He always found his jokes amusing.

“Challenged, SHIT-challenged. No I meant, is there a problem with Operation SHIT.”

“Oh no, like I said, just a little formality really. You see, before we start mapping out our strategy and the scope of the operation, we will need a, uh, well Mr. Stormweather in particular requested a… well that you undergo some minor examinations, just standard really, you know, to… uh…”

“What? To figure out if I’m crazy? Is that it, you think I’m CRAZY!?”

“NO, of course not, gosh, HAHAHAHA, that’s rich, really, that’s…” Not only was his pathetic attempt at a laugh unnatural, it was painful to us both.

“What then?”

“Look it’s just standard…”

“Standard? What standard?”

“I mean before we send someone on such an important job as this to a foreign country…”

“What are you talking about, this is the first time, how can there be a standard?”

“Well of course there can’t be a standard unless we aim for one right from the first operation, so for there to be a standard we’re going to have to set one and thus standardize for posterity’s sake. And this… is the standard… a, uh, Standard Capacity Test, it’s called.”

“A crazy test eh? You want me to undergo a crazy test. Where?”

“AH! Good, I’m glad you understand. Well with our own company psychologist of course, Dr. Peniferathawt.”

“Did you say Dr. Penny-For-A-Thought? Never heard of him.”

“He’s new. He’s Squaw.”

“He’s what?”

“Squaw.”

“Squaw?”

“Squaw.”

“To help you standardize, I take it?”

“Precisely.”

“When can I see him and get this over with?”

“He’s on his lunch break for now. He’ll be back in half an hour.”

“Oh.”

“Yep.”

“Ok.”

“…”

“…”

“So, um, how’s the family?”

“WHAT?”

“Oh, right. Sorry.”

“I’ll wait outside his office, Stenoson.”

“Yes, sure, see me when you’re done!”

“Sure, I’ll let you know if I’m insane.”

“HAHA, what a sense of… Haha, really… hmm.”

I stood outside the doctor’s door no more than five minutes before a large, fat, stoic, white man with a beard and a cup of coffee in his hand came hobbling up the carpeted, air-conditioned, sterile labyrinth of cubicles. He brushed right past me as if he didn’t see me, shut his door, and took a seat as he started sipping on his plastic cup of coffee. I tapped on the window of the door and a somber voice from inside declared that I may enter. I went in and, with the index finger of the hand that was otherwise burdened by the weight of a cup of coffee, he signaled me to take a seat in front of him without so much as looking up at me. He was fiddling with a bunch of papers in front of him. Taking one, glancing at it, putting it on top, and then taking another and doing the same, before going back to the first piece of paper that was underneath and doing it all over again.

“Dr. Pennyweight?”

“Dr. Peniferathawt, yes.”

“Yes, excuse me, Dr. Peniferathawt…”

“It’s Squaw.”

“Yes so I’ve heard. Pardon me for saying so, but you don’t really look Squaw.”

“Well I am. 1/16th pure Squaw.”

“Right.”

“What can I do for you?”

“My name is…”

“Oh yes, youuuuu’re…” He glanced at a piece of paper on which the writing was upside down to him. “Yes, they told me you’d be coming for an examination.”

“Yes, for a Standard Capaci…”

“Yes, they want to know if you’re crazy.”

“You said it doc.”

“Are you?”

“Am I what? Crazy?”

“Yes, are you crazy?”

“Of course not.”

“Ah, well that’s the first sign of craziness.”

“What, not being crazy?”

“No, not thinking one is crazy. Crazy people never think they’re crazy, you see. I’ve studied many cases and can safely conclude that crazy people always think they’re sane.”

“Right, I guess. But sane people can think they’re sane too, right?”

“Of course, but not all people who think they’re sane are sane, are they?”

“Well, no.”

“That’s right, some of them can be – and are – in-sane, crazy, mad, kookoo, un poco loco…”

“Yes, ok, I get the point Dr. Pepperfart.”

“Dr. Peniferathawt.”

“Yes, sorry. Ok, can I have the exam now? I have an appointment tonight with my lawyer and have to run a few errands before then, so…”

“Of course. Tell me, can you act like a chicken?”

“Excuse me?”

“A chicken... Can you act like one?”

“You want me to act like a chicken?”

“No, that wasn’t the question.” He gave me a condescending smile. “The question was…”

“Yes, yes, I know the question Dr. Pfeffernought…”

“Dr. Peniferathawt.”

“Yes, sorry. The answer is that I never have acted like a chicken.”

“No, but can you?”

“I don’t know, I suppose so…”

“How do you know?”

“How do I know what?”

“If you can act like a chicken?”

“Well I’ve seen chickens before and I know how they act…”

“Ah, so you assume you can act like one then?”

“Look, Dr Paperweight…”

“Dr. Peniferathawt.”

“Yes, sorry, Dr. Peniferathawt, I don’t understand where you’re going with all this…”

“Well of course you wouldn’t. I’m the psychologist, not you.”

“Ok, well, yes, the answer is yes, I can act like a chicken.”

“Well go ahead then.”

“What?”

“Act like a chicken.”

“Here? Now?”

“Yes. Go ahead. Let’s see it.”

“Ooookay.”

I stood up nervously. I paused for a moment. The doctor looked at me without any expression on his face. He seemed neither serious nor jocular. He just waited for my chicken act. I hesitatingly bent my upper body down, tucked my hands under my armpits and started jerking my head from side to side as I carefully placed one foot before another, as if I were walking through a minefield.

“Why don’t you cluck?”

“Cluck?”

“Yes, chickens cluck you know.”

“Ok, ok… cluck, cluck, cluck.”

“And throw in the odd gawk, you know like…”

“Yes, I know, guuaaaaawk… buk, buk, buk, guaaaawk, buk, buk.”

As I performed this ridiculous routine – feeling like a right idiot – the doctor calmly opened his top drawer and pulled out a Polaroid camera with which he promptly took a photo.

“Now can you tell me you’re not crazy?”

“What? Of course not.”

Fanning the Polaroid photo up and down, he said:

“Look at this, you’re acting like a chicken in my office. Do you think that’s sane?”

“WHAT? What are you talking about? You ASKED me to do this! It’s part of your examination!”

“Examination? What examination? We haven’t even started the examination yet.”

“You mean you’ve just been wasting my time?”

“No not at all. It’s been very valuable for me. I now have two indications that point strongly toward the possibility of craziness.”

“I don’t believe this.”

“One, you think you’re sane, and two, you act like a chicken in my office while still claiming that you’re sane! Now tell me that’s not crazy!”

“I don’t fucking believe this.”

“Please, try to watch your language in here.”

“LISTEN HERE DR. SQUAWSHITFERABRAIN, I’M NOT CRAZY! YOU FUCKING QUACK, YOU’RE JUST SETTING ME UP. YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S CRAZY…”

A man behind me cleared his throat. I turned and saw Stenoson with a disturbed look on his face.

“Hey Stenoson, what kind of quack did you set me up with here?” I asked, but he quickly left the room and closed the door behind him. I turned again to the doctor.

“You’re trying to set me up for something aren’t you? I know what’s going on here. You people have been talking to my ex-wife haven’t you? She put you up to this shit, didn’t she? What is she, fucking Stormweather now? You’re going to use that photo and your bullshit report against me in court as evidence, aren’t you? Like I’m too crazy to be allowed to have a phoneplant or something, right? My ex-wife and her fucking slickster lawyer, Craig, they’re behind this. Of course! I told her about Vanuatu and she had this sudden ‘standard procedure’ come up. I see it all now!”

The doctor had started writing something on a piece of paper a few seconds ago, mumbling to himself the words “paranoia” and “conspiracy” as he did. The ringing intensified in my head and I needed my tablets. RINGRINGRINGRING… I was fumbling in my pockets for my tablets… RINGRINGRINGRING… WHERE WERE THOSE FUCKING TABLETS!

“What’s wrong with you, what are you looking for?” asked the doctor.

“My tablets, my fucking tablets, what do you think I’m looking for?”

“Tablets? What tablets?”

“The migraine tablets, what do you think?”

“Migraine tablets? I didn’t know you suffered from migraines.” He wrote that down immediately on the same piece of paper.

“Of course you didn’t know, you were too busy asking me to act like a fucking chicken.”

“Excuse me?”

“CHICKEN! CAN YOU ACT LIKE ONE? REMEMBER?!”

“I never asked you if you could act like a chicken.”

“What? Are you serious? Ok, this is starting to get a little creepy. Please, really doc, tell me what’s going on here.”

“There’s nothing going on here. I began by asking you if you had been recently grief-stricken. Then you started arguing with me and acting like a chicken.”

I was speechless. They were really out to get me. This was so blatant, so shameless a set-up that I was almost beginning to doubt my very self. I suddenly felt afraid. I… the ringing again… the incessant ringing… RINGRINGRINGRINGRING… RINGRINGRING… I let out a scream, my hands started shaking and I fumbled around in my pockets for my tablets.

“Are you looking for those tablets again?” He was acting alarmed now.

“Yes, yes, doc, yes, my special migraine tablets.”

The doctor tried to calm me down and looked into my pockets. He took out a packet of aspirin pills.”

“These tablets?”

“Yes, wait no, those are just aspirin pills. I had special migraine tablets…”

“How many of these do you take a day?”

“I take six a day, one every four hours.”

“And when did you open this box?”

“Two days ago.”

“And let’s see… you’re missing…”

“Wait a minute…”

“…you’re missing 12, three today, six yesterday, three the day before that…”

“But, I had migraine tablets… I…”

“Why do you take these ‘tablets’?”

“For the… for the ringing, the endless ringing…”

“Ringing?”

“In my head, yes, the ringing in my head.”

“You hear ringing in your head?”

“Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody? The implants? The implants keep ringing…”

“The… implants?”

“YOU BASTARD! YOU REPLACED THEM WITH THE ASPIRIN, DIDN’T YOU? You replaced the special tablets with aspirin. You knew how much I took because my ex-wife told you, or her lawyer, Craig…”

“Craig?”

“CRAIG!”

“You’re going to have to calm down Mr…”

“DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN YOU FUCKING SQUAW!”

I suddenly felt a set of strong hands grip me by the arms and neck and start wrestling me out of the room. Before I had any idea what was going on, I was being dragged by physical force amid the pitying gaze of my co-workers, past the maze of plastic cubicles, down the sterile, carpeted, plastic, air-conditioned corridors, past the white, hollow, plastic walls of the office, past the bubbling plastic water fountain, past the little kitchenette with the ever-gurgling coffee machine, the plastic refrigerator with the plastic magnets, the plastic plates, the plastic knives and plastic forks and plastic spoons, the plastic packages and plastic sandwich boxes, the plastic cups and the plastic trash cans, in plastic bags, on plastic seats, with plastic faces giving me plastic stares, behind plastic blinds that were accounted for by plastic pens that sat in plastic containers on plastic desks, with plastic name tags, and plastic titles, speaking on plastic phones connected with plastic wires, and plastic computers that printed out spread sheets that were stored in plastic files and plastic portfolios in plastic drawers… RING RING RING… And plastic plants, everywhere, plastic plants, plastic palm trees, plastic flowers, plastic picture frames with plastic faces, plastic families, plastic smiles, plastic sons and plastic daughters and plastic dogs, and plastic wives with plastic hair-dos and plastic eyelashes… RINGRINGRINGRINGRING… RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING, RINGRINGRING… out a plastic door, past a file of plastic cars, into a plastic ambulance, with a wailing plastic siren, surrounded by plastic apparatuses, conducted by plastic men in plastic uniforms, with plastic syringes, and plastic name tags, holding me down with plastic straps… RING RING RING… RING RING RING… fading, fading… ring, ring… ring… fading, dark… palm trees, smiles, coconuts, canoes… fading… sun, water… fading… Vanuatu… cannibals… flesh, meat, nails, bone, blood… smell, smell, smell… salt, sea, sand, trees… smell… the welcome smell of blood and earth in a fucking world of plastic.

I was losing consciousness. The last thing I saw before I blacked out was a giant smiling plastic Barbie doll dangling from a plastic Lego tower in the middle of a tropical island scooping up little screaming black children and eating them like candy.