9/4/07

story - Vanuatu (part III)


At 8 o’clock sharp, I met Louis at Exorbitante. He came in just as I did. He looked much the worse for wear. He had purple sacks under his eyes. His skin and his eyes were the color of sickly yellow, as if he were jaundiced.

“You look like shit, and you’re my lawyer.”

“I know, I know, I’m in a bit of a bind.”

“What now?”

“Let’s get our table first.”

The maitre d’ was a gaunt, gay individual with a lisp. He had a permanent expression of aloof disdain on his face. His eyelids were half-shut.

“Yeth, table for two, hmmmm. Here we go, Mithter Louis Felloniouth.”

“Felloniousss, yesss,” hissed Louis, stressing the esses.

“Follow me pleathe.”

We sat near one of the windows in Louis’s favorite spot. He came here three times a week with clients or hookers, or both. He excused himself as soon as the waiter brought us the menu and went to the bathroom. The moron was probably still jacking it up in there. Sometimes he went on these binges. I asked for two martinis and gazed blankly at the menu. When Louis got back his face and hair were wet. He still looked messed up, like he’d just stepped out of a washing machine.

“Look Louis, I…” He interrupted me before I could say anything.

“I’m in trouble.”

“In trouble? Why? What?”

“Remember that cop chase?”

“Oh shit. What about it?” I was expecting the worst.

“Well the cops eventually got the car and the fucking assholes told them that I supplied the coke that the cops found on them.”

“But they don’t really know you.”

“They know enough.”

“Have the cops come looking for you? How do you know?”

“My dealer, Chicko.”

“YOUR DEAL-” I realized it was a bit loud and promptly lowered my voice. “Your dealer, Chicko!!!?”

“Yeah, word on the street.”

“Well maybe it’s bullshit.”

“It isn’t.”

“Fuck Louis, I’m so fucking mad with you, you know what this means to me, the implant and all…”

“Look sorry dude, I’ll help how I can, but I can’t give a shit about the implant right now. I’ll definitely lose my license, I’ll be out of the bar, I’ll be out of every bar, I’ll be behind bars…”

“C’mon, it’s your word against theirs, you’ll be fine.”

“Not really.”

“What do you mean, not really?”

“The chick from Tijuana has one of my credit cards.”

“WHAT!” Several people from other tables were giving us suspicious looks.

“We were using it to cut up the shit. I forgot about it.”

“Did you cancel it at least?”

“No, of course not. In fact I’m hoping they use it.”

“Why?”

“So it looks like they stole it. If they use it, that’s good. It’ll corroborate my story.”

“Corroborate huh?”

“Corroborate, that’s right.”

The waiter, who was trying to speak without a Texan accent, came to take our order. He started mouthing off the specials which none of us, including the waiter himself, were in the mood for hearing.

“Ourspecialstodayincludecreamofblahblahblahbatteredwithadaintypigskinsoufflespicedwithparsleysagerosemaryaaaaaaaaandthymeinafreshscallopbisquebrule…”

“I’m not hungry,” blurted Louis as he looked up at the waiter with deranged and dilated eyes.

“Neither am I. Just bring us more martinis.”

“May I suggest some appetizers?”

“No you may not. You may however bring us those martinis.”

“Very well sir.”

We both sat there seething. I was furious. Louis was beyond help, absolutely messed up. I was going to lose my implant. He got up to go to the bathroom yet again. As I waited for him to return, I overheard two old ladies gossiping about dead people behind me.

“Well you know that’s not what I’ve heard. I think there was a little something between Paul and the girl that Friedrich didn’t know about. He was a misogynist and all, that Nietzsche, but he still wanted to get married.”

“I know. Typical Freddy, all hype.”

“Yes dear, hype as in hypocrisy!” They giggled like girls.

“They’re all boys really aren’t they. I mean really, how can you want to marry a woman after everything you’ve said about women!”

“Yes, and what about that photo! Really! The whip and the cart…”

“Yes, well he did have a sense of humor though, didn’t he?”

“Plenty for a sick man. All the sensitivity of a recidivistic convalescent!” They giggled again.

“Yeees, God bless his soul.”

“Yees, God bless him, if only he weren’t dead!”

“Friedrich or God?”

“Both!” They giggled again.

Louis was back in a few minutes.

“So what are you going to do,” I asked him.

“What can I do? Get my story straight and stay out of sight. Maybe it’ll all blow over.”

“Well you should know, you’re supposed to be a lawyer. What about the fucking implant?”

“The implant, right…”

“Remember? THAT’s what we were here to go over!”

“Yes, well, things changed. Um, let’s see. Let’s try to focus here…”

“Yes, let’s.”

“Well, tell them they’ve already taken everything else and that you reached a settlement because you were so, um, cooperative…”

“Pushover, you mean.”

“Yeah, whatever… and…”

“That’s brilliant Louis!”

“Really? Well, thanks…”

“NO, NOT REALLY! Jesus. This is court, not a schoolyard.”

“Ok listen. You know Craig’s fucking the wife, right?”

“The ex.”

“Right. So use that to show she’s been a bad wife, that she’s cheated on you before, and is screwing her own lawyer even before you were legally divorced. She was screwing her lawyer while she was legally your wife. That should sway the jury. They go for that shit. So you can weaken her position while in the meantime using the Vanuatu project, that SHIT Act thing, to show the importance of the implant for your own work. I mean the SHIT Act is a beneficent and patriotic act that the U.S. is undertaking for the benefit of shit-hole countries. You’re going to be the director of Silicone Industries’ operation in the first pilot SHIT Act project. How does it look for a director in such an important operation for both America and Vanuatu and the world to have his implant ripped out of his skull on the eve of taking over the operation? Not a good move for anyone, let alone for AMERICAN PRESTIGE. It takes weeks before a new implant can be installed, so by letting your wife get your implant, the jury would be essentially taking a move that would be detrimental to AMERICAN INTERESTS. Keep the focus on AMERICA and the jury will be like putty in your hands. If there are enough blacks in the jury, use the black Vanuatu card. They’re Melanesians I think, and so as far as any of us bozos can tell, they’re black.”

“Melanesians? What do you call people from Vanuatu anyway?”

“I don’t know. Vanuatuans?”

“Yeah, that’ll do. Ok, we’re on to something then. But I’m not doing this alone, Louis.”

“I have to stay hidden, out of the limelight.”

“Limelight? A divorce settlement and an implant is limelight? It’s hardly breaking-news material.”

“OK, OK, but after that I must live in the shadows.”

“Live in the shadows? What are you, on acid too?”

“Whatever, let’s go. I’m feeling sick. Just one more trip to the bathroom.”

The women were still gossiping about dead people behind me.

“And Ludwig was deaf too. To think he could have written a whole symphony, and he was deaf!”

“Yes… and such an ogre. He was a misogynist as well, but he really had some nice music.”

“Loud music, yes, the sort of thing you’d expect a grumpy deaf man to write. You know apparently he hit Johann over the head just because he bowed to an aristocrat!”

“Really, I mean, such a brute. Johann was always fond for the frills and thrills, though, wasn’t he? Bit of a ladies man, wasn’t he, that Goethe?”

“Hmmm, why he was friends with Ludwig is beyond me…”

My lawyer came back wetter and more messed up than before. Water and sweat and yellow skin and eyes, all contrasted with his red hair and eyelashes and freckles and fat to produce the overall appearance of a malicious wiener that’s escaped and on the run. He now definitely looked jaundiced. We paid the bill – with my credit card – and fled. Louis called for a cab. I guess he still hadn’t found out what happened to his car.

“So give me a call before the trial.”

“What about the hearing?”

“The what?”

“The hearing Louis, what about the hearing?”

“Oh yeah, that too.”

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Louis was sweating all through the hearing. The sight of the judge just seemed to put him even further on edge. Craig and my ex looked tense and spoke to each other a little formally. I could tell right from the get-go that we weren’t going to settle anything here. They were bent on having my implant and I was set on refusing. I made my case the way Louis suggested. She claimed that the implant was not what California state law considered my “separate property” or even “community property,” but separate property belonging to her, because she was the one who bought it, since at that time I was not working and so she was the main money “earner” (if asking for daddy’s handouts could be considered as such). I started working in Silicon Implants after having got the implant, and mostly due to her father’s influence in that company, the president of whom was a freemasonic peer of his who agreed to help my profane self, though I was really not the issue. The issue was that his son-in-law was an extension of himself and his family’s good name and thus had to be helped due to this unique interrelation. So his freemasonic self and his daughter’s primadonnic self pretty much were responsible for my implant. We were given a trial date and all left the courtroom in a bad mood. It was to be a trial by jury. Louis also left in a bad mood and a cold sweat. He was looking worse and worse. The judge kept eyeing him suspiciously, as did Craig and my ex.

Louis looked worried when we left the courthouse.

“You think we’re in the shits?”

“What? The implant?”

“Yeah, the implant. What are you, deaf?”

“Gotta make a call.”

“Go ahead.”

“ROSA? Rosa, don’t hang up… FUCK, she hung up.”

“Who’s…”

“ROSA? LISTEN TO ME BITCH AND LISTEN GOOD, I HEARD WHAT YOU’RE UP TO, YOU BETTER NOT GET ANY FUCKING IDEAS OR I’LL FUCKING…” He became conscious of the fact that he was hurling threats, abuse and foul language in front of a courthouse. When we got in a cab he continued.

“I DON’T CARE. JUST YOU BETTER NOT… WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY? I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU, I HAVE CONNECTIONS TOO, YOU BITCH… YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT… WHAT? MY CREDIT CARD WON’T MEAN SHIT IN YOUR HANDS, YOU FUCKING SPICKS, I’LL SAY YOU STOLE IT… ROSA? HELLO? Fuck.”

“Great. You’re my fucking lawyer, Louis. You just threatened to kill someone. You’ve also fled from the cops, contacted your drug dealer, and left your credit card with some whore you hardly know whom you did coke with. Real nice Louis, real fucking nice.”

The trial day came. I sat in the courtroom and let every image pass through me. I was only thinking of one thing. Vanuatu. I was thinking of catching fish with my spear and cooking coconut crabs over fires on coral islands beneath palm trees and stars. I was thinking about being naked, about not wearing anything anymore, about not caring anymore, about solitude… pure solitude. No people, no civilization… and the ringing was killing me, but I never answered anymore. I stopped talking to those countless voices that kept harassing me, that wouldn’t leave me alone. But escape was near. I would be in Vanuatu. I would be a human being again. I would rediscover myself, my body, my hands and my feet, my eyes and my ears and all my five senses, I would find them all again. Everything would be ok again.

And so the trial unfolded around me. I was there in body, but I was like a ghost. I heard people, I heard them speak to me and ask me questions, I saw the lawyers and the jury and my ex and her family (and none of mine) but I still felt that somehow I wasn’t really there. The ringing didn’t cease either… but for the first time I felt relaxed, easy. As if having decided to give up, I had relieved myself of the burden of responsibility for myself, for my actions, for my rights. Having rights is a burden best undone by indifference. Once I shed my rights I could stop worrying about possessions, about what’s mine and what’s theirs, about who’s guilty and who’s innocent, right and wrong. I could just be again. And the implant didn’t matter either. The only thing that mattered was my dignity now. If I didn’t stand up for it here, I wouldn’t be able to shed it later, because it would have been taken from me, and that’s not the same thing. Sometimes one has to have something just to have the satisfaction of ridding oneself of it. And I wanted to rid myself of the final shackle to my freedom: my dignity.

“And so I ask you, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury,” concluded Louis, sweating profusely. “I ask you. How can such a man as this, such a man as represents the vital interests of America, such a man as is ready to forsake these shores for up to ten years if need be for the sake of helping those – TH-EM…” He looked at the black jury members as he said this. I could tell they all hated him because they all had sour looks on their faces every time he spoke, like they’d all just chewed on a lemon. “…less fortunate than US, those poor Vanuatuans.” Again he looked at the three black jury members. He was interrupted this time by one of them.

“Ni-Vanuatu.”

“Those poor, poor… what did you say?”

“Excuse me your honor,” said one of the black jury members to the judge, “…but it’s not Vanuatuans, it’s Ni-Vanuatu. I’m Fijian, I know.”

“Ah yes, of course, of course, I meant Nay-Vanuatu…”

“NI-Vanuatu, NI, NI, NI!”

“Yes, yes, ok, whatever, the point is…” I had my head in my hands now. This was beyond bad. It was offensive.

“…The Ni-Vanuatu and other SHIT-poor people like them…”

“SHIT-Challenged, Louis,” I mumbled even though I’d pretty much given up all hope. He, of course, didn’t hear me.

“These people need people like my client here,” continued Louis, “a man who is ready for any sacrifice, a man who is ready to give his life living in their squalid little country eating bananas and swinging from trees just for the sake of bringing them into the civilized world.” Now everyone in the courtroom, including the judge, was appalled. They looked at my lawyer like they would look at Adolf Hitler or Ted Bundy if either had been in the courtroom instead of my lawyer. “And you want to take this man’s implant? You want to deprive this man of that which he is going there to give them, to teach them, so that they eventually, one day, can overcome the SHIT-gap with US? And why? Because his ex-wife wants to teach him a lesson? Well I don’t see her doing any patriotic acts for her country, for the world, for the Vanuatuans, I mean the No-Vanuatu… No, no, no…” He paused to wipe all the sweat off his brow. His shirt was soaked. “Ni, ni… I mean no, no, no… And does she deserve this? Of course not. She wasn’t even a faithful wife…”

My ex-wife lost it upon hearing this as her lawyer Craig tried to calm her down.

“HOW DARE YOU LIE!” she screamed.

“Lie? You were sleeping with your lawyer there while you were still legally married!”

My wife lunged at Louis. The security guards wrestled her back. Craig interposed himself.

“Objection your honor, these are unfounded allegations,” he said while trying to hold my ex back.

“Well we did show the photos, and the recorded phone messages, your honor,” said Louis.

“Objection, that doesn’t prove anything…”

“It certainly leaves little doubt though, Craig,” goaded Louis. Craig was now going all red.

“Your honor…”

“I mean you can’t prove you weren’t sleeping with her,” added Louis.

“YES I CAN, WE WERE TOGETHER ON THE NIGHT OF THE 15TH WAS IT, OR THE 16th, LAST WEEK, AT BONGO BONG’S, YOU SAW ME LEAVE WITH THAT GIRL, LOUIS!”

“You see your Honor, he’s even unfaithful to the unfaithful! Such is their unholy, unfaithful alliance!” added Louis with bombastic opportunism.

Amid the gasps of the jury, the onlookers, and myself, and the snapping gavel of the judge as he called for order, there was one face that was now in a choleric rage: that of my ex-wife. Craig realized what he had said, but before he could regain his composure my ex lunged at him this time.

“HOW COULD YOU? YOU FUCKING SON OF A BITCH, YOU FUCKING… “

Now my ex was wrestling with Craig before the guards broke them up. It was obvious from her reaction that they were indeed having an affair. Louis had a broad smile on his face. He smiled and winked at me (though it was more of a twitch) before turning to the judge.

“I’ve made my case your honor.”

The gavel was tap, tap, tapping, “ORDER, ORDER, I WILL HAVE ORDER,” cried the judge in his courtroom. Everything was a mess now. And before Louis even got his fat, sweaty ass back on his seat next to me, the doors of the courtroom flew open and a plainclothes detective and three uniformed cops barged into the courtroom amid even more gasps and blows of the gavel. Louis did not gasp though, he screamed and then he started weeping out loud.

“What is the meaning of this intrusion into my courtroom?!” asked the judge.

“Excuse us your honor but we have a warrant for the arrest of Louis Fellonious…”

“O NO, GOD, NO, PLEASE, IT’S NOT TRUE, IT’S NOT, THE FUCKING SPICK SET ME UP, I SHOULD HAVE KILLED THE BITCH, O GOD NO, I DON’T DO COKE, IT WAS STOLEN, GOD THEY STOLE IT, JESUS, ANTI-SEMITES, YOU FUCKING ANTI-SEMITES, NO, DON’T LET THE NAZI PIGS TAKE ME AWAY!!!”

Louis lost it completely. They took him by the arms, kicking and screaming as he kept weeping and blabbering incoherently. In the meantime, my ex was getting up to leave and drop the whole thing. Craig was trying to tell her to calm down, until he lost it too. I guess it was all the steroids he’d pumped into his head. He started swearing and cursing her.

“IN ALL MY YEARS AS A FUCKING LAWYER…”

“ORDER, THERE WILL BE ORDER IN MY…” cried the judge, ineffectually.

“I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS, FUCK YOU THEN, YES, YES, YES, I WAS FUCKING ANOTHER CHICK, YOU KNOW WHY? YOU WANNA KNOW WHY?”

“ORDER I SAY, GODDAMMIT THERE WILL BE ORDER IN MY FUCKING COURTROOM!”

More gasps emanated from the jury as the judge lost his shit too.

Now my ex’s family members, her mother and father and aunts and uncles, all came storming down and started hitting and kicking and cursing at Craig. The whole courtroom was involved in one big brawl. The two guards were outnumbered. Even the judge lost it. It was like the Benny Hill show in there. He threw his gavel into the melee and started screaming…

“FUCK THIS, FUUUUUCK THIIIIIIS, THIS IS MYYYYYYYYYYY COURTROOM, THIS IS MYYYYYYY COURTROOM, GODDAMMIT…”

And then it happened. Something wonderful. The ringing in my head stopped completely. Nobody wanted to talk to me anymore. And in the midst of this insanity, I was finally, completely alone. Nobody saw me. Nobody looked at me. Nobody cared about me. I was perfectly, completely alone. This is what Vanuatu must be like. This is what being alone must be like. I felt serenity and peace, even tranquility, in a courtroom brawl with my ex, of all places. I made it. I won. I had my dignity.

I walked out, and nobody even saw me leave. It was wonderful.

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A black Jaguar rolled into the gravel driveway of Free-Day Sanitarium. A chauffeur descended and opened the back door as the figure of an elegant lady in her 30s rose out of a pair of turquoise Manolo Blahnik’s that set lighter than a feather on the gravel. She wore sunglasses and a blue dress that was the color of the sky. She took quick and careful steps up the stairs and past the pillars of the 80 year-old building, without saying a word to the two nurses that she passed by. The sound of her quick, smart steps along the polished marble corridors echoed and resonated throughout the building’s dark, depressing, and otherwise quiet interior. She said her name to another nurse – nothing more – and she waited. She entered the director’s office. The director, a skinny, tall, balding man in his late 50s, rose and greeted her obsequiously, bidding her take a seat, which she did without so much as a word. The man nervously blinked and asked if she’d like anything to drink. She said she didn’t. A silence emerged, uncomfortable for the man, annoying for the lady, before the director of the sanitarium decided to finally broach it.

“Thank you so much for coming Mrs., I mean…”

“Yes, I thought I should.”

“Yes, indeed. I know it must have been hard for you. I sincerely apologize for any…”

“What’s done is done, Mr. Weissel.” She pronounced his name weasel.

“Yes, that’s Weissel (He pronounced it as vyzel. She paid no heed). Have you brought the horrible, horrible package, Mrs., I mean…”

“Yes, I have.”

“Would you like to see him?”

“…”

“Mrs., excuse me, I mean Miss…”

“Yes, I’ll see him.”

The director got up and put his jacket on. The lady followed him out of the room, past the nurse and down the corridor where she came, past a stairwell, and out another door and into a large, green garden with lush grass, trees, gravel walking paths with fountains and birdbaths. It was a garden the size of a large park, and it was beautifully kept. There were patients in wheelchairs, or walking, sitting, talking, reading and knitting, attended by white-uniformed nurses. The sky was blue, like the color of the lady’s dress, the sun was warm, it was midday. They walked past people whom the director greeted with hello’s and how-are-you-today’s and smiles. Soon they were past the bulk of people and were walking alone over two green hillocks. There was only the sound of crickets in the distance. As they came over another hillock there came into their sight a man. He was sitting on the grass, his face turned away from the sanitarium, away from the garden, and he was staring out into the distance. He didn’t notice the director and the lady standing beside him. He sat there cross-legged, silent, alone. He had a bandage that wrapped all the way around his head and covered his ears.

“Well Mrs., I mean… well here he is. He’s always here. He always sits here and just stares out into the distance. We thought he’d been making progress when he started eating again. At first he wouldn’t eat anything but coconuts. He likes fish.”

The lady looked at him sitting there. There was silence. A strong breeze rippled through the nearby bushes and the tall grass ahead made a slight, lazy brushing sound that added to the melancholy of midday.

“Do you have the… I mean would you mind if I saw the…”

“No… no of course. Here it is.”

The lady took out an opened white box, wrapped in ripped brown paper. The director took it in his hand and opened the lid. There were two ears smeared in dried blood sitting in the box. On the inside of the lid was written - in what seemed like a child’s handwriting - one word: Vanuatu. He slowly closed the box and handed it back to the lady.

“He mumbles something sometimes about ‘implants’ and ‘dignity,’ and ‘freedom.’ He’s not cogent though. You know, our patients like it when people they know come to visit them. It can help them recover.”

She didn’t respond immediately. She looked at him sitting there with the bandage wrapped around his head, rocking backwards and forwards as if he were in prayer, peacefully staring out at the lush, soothing colors that seemed to stretch out endlessly, as if an emanation of his own gaze. She looked at his face one last time. She’d never seen that look on his face before. That look of serenity seemed so strange, so foreign. For a moment she even felt she envied him. She eventually turned to the nervous director by her side with an uncharacteristically tender gesture which took him by surprise.

“Leave him be doctor. I think he would prefer it that way.”

They left the way they had come. The silence was once again complete.