Everybody Gets What They Want, Depending On How Much They Want It...

Twilight and taunting, haze all bleary and cloaking; viewed from within turns men into monsters and women into wraiths. This airport is post-apocalyptic, a grid of rusted razor wire and burned out buildings. I wait, smoking anxiously, poised somewhere in between elucidated and atrophied as my late-arriving friend clears custom. Unsuccessfully, I attempt to avoid gazes.

Everywhere the upset, the outdone and the overcome; those most peculiar of endangered species they that linger here list by as ghosts of their former selves, snaking eyes with hollow repugnance at former indignations.

One approaches, drawn by the micro-second flick of my eyes. Cursing inwardly, I stub out the cigarette and make to move off but he pursues and catches, hungry and helpless. My sensitive soul sours at his appearance, a young negro, no more than I when my lips were first want to press upon anothers, I am curious if he has ever known a pure thing in his life. It turns out to be not that bad; I purchase three pills for thirty dollars and he assures me that they are untainted. I guess my question is answered.

Ruwan comes through with that distant look of life locked in the back of his eye and I hate him for it with a blood shot glare. The yang spins guiltily, and I remind myself to be more open-minded. Secretly siding against myself, I begin to loathe the conversation and time we must share during the journey home. We make haste to the entrance, dusty wind blowing hard and hot against us; the ghosts lingering in clusters close by. Its a lot easier to ignore them when you have another focal point, so I inform my friend about my recent purchase. He is ecstatic; obviously he forgets where he is, but… for a moment, it is infectious and I am happy too – just like old times with tea and backgammon and no more stimulants than nicotine to burn the night with. But then I remember the raging envy, the bitter resentment, his escape; I quickly resume a dour frame of mind. More than anything, I long for a scotch. I casually remark that we should snort now before the homeward trip. Ruwan leaps and I sigh inward with relief. At least now the conversation will be sharp and bright coloured along the edges.

Through a five dollar note the rush consumes us. Half now, half later and one for the early hours when solitude is necessary to solidify my spirit. We walk out the corridor, my soul still dark but dented now at the least; the woes of my heart have kept since this latest adventure and I yearn for the months not so recently passed when nothing and no one could touch me… for a short time, I touched it! That thing which no one has words, colour, sensation for – the infinite other, a guiding force and a knowledge of truth, divine right of passage through a labyrinth twisted with misshapen letters. Oh how it kept me! I believe still that it wanted me too, but perhaps I urge on this sensation simply to indulge my narcissistic nature. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

These are the thoughts which hold me when the first sign of my impending death is lain out upon the stretcher. I am being literal. The boy that sold me the pills lies on the bed, eyes wide and hard; doors of perception forever sealed shut. A gaping wound on his forehead, cracked bone and a touch of brain winds down my pumping heart and reassures my itching senses that the chemicals were not cause. Death is not that uncommon; not since the fall of our beautiful and oh-so-sincere super-society… but in this part of town it is indifferent in selection and particularly brutal. When I was a boy, this thing with a higher heart rate and more inclined toward unfriendly dealings would exist in my head only whilst it was shown in the cinema. Now – it is here, it is touchable, and it is as unreal as ever. Ruwan and I watch, high somewhat diminished. The paramedic draws the sheet and shoos us away and we lethargically pull back like tame pigeons which live in the city. They wheel him out, a white man working and not a tourist, dragging the grateful dead to be tagged and burnt, along with all of the rest. An eyeglance, an exchange of sounds which have no definitive form and we make an executive decision to take the other half.

Up up up! Through blood and bone and brain; crystallised consciousness all chemical and cordial. Now, here, on the streets, we are ready to face reality. The airport has become the epicentre of the weird and exposed in this city. For what reason, I can only guess at the surrounding fields provide excellent land for their makeshift shanty dwellings. The abandoned bunkers work well as drug labs. The police well they are reluctant to do pretty much anything now, let alone try and stop something that will never be burned out. No one comes here unless they absolutely must. Ruwans trip, our trip was somewhat of an exception. Directly outside the main terminal, the ghosts thrive, spilling up and out as though there were a crack in the earth here which lies directly above Hades. A land of sin is indulged without any stops. Whatever your habit, they have it, and all for a very reasonable price. When you see it, this land of vice, you will know it already – it is that back part of your brain which you let loose only late at night when lying in bed and entertaining perversities. But if you think too much about it, it ceases to exist. It becomes just another movie that you saw once with your dad.

Ruwans boundaries have broadened it would appear, for we are outside enjoying the stench of filth and homelessness for only a few moments before he begs his last half and scurries to an alleyway to suck it down. I brood listlessly while I wait, scuffing my shoes and frowning at the rubbish which floats by on the hot, thick wind. Standing by an intersection, to halt from murdering and reanimating my own thoughts ceaselessly inside the hell of my mind, I stare at the people, those that pass by in taxis, returning from their travels, careless and exhausted, minds aboggle with fresh experience. And then those other people; the freaks, the homeless, they that haunt like zombies, examining the threads of their lives, minds aboggle with cocaine, pills and melancholy.

A dark-skinned fellow, sun-blasted and cracked like a statue exposed to the elements, catches my attention as he zips up the sidewalk on a ramshackle motor-scooter all tin and rusted metal. A hot wind picks up and I step aside. Unfortunately, his reaction is similarly timed and we end up still in each others way. I step again and he swerves still and now, he is far too close and moving too fast for reaction. Fear has no time to think for me; I freeze as this demonic vision and his metal horse bears down above me. A truck horn blares, a crash, rattle and too many revs per second. I open my eyes and watch as the homeless man jumps the curb and loses control of his vehicle.

The world descends to filmic properties all sweeping camera movements and long takes; life colour graded black. The truck swerves and clips the scooter which slides like a salamander thrown across a lake of ice; up the bitchimen on its side all sparks and screeching fury. The wind explodes with banshee force and metal sheets of the scooters casing snap and take flight, razor-blade frisbees carelessly thrown into the night. The driver, already a bleeding mess with naught but enough skin left to cover a match book falls prey to the weapons he unwittingly brought into existence and my stomach splits as his arm is lopped off at the shoulder, flying tin cutting through flesh like a knife through polyunsaturated margarine.

The wind subsides and the night tries to crawl back into the terrible hole of time – a mocking rememberance of normality and the ceaseless march of death. The damage becomes apparent. Numbly, I stand at the bottom of the street; the truck has fled and the loitering homeless for the most part are as agape and actionless as I. The scooter, a flaming wreck of mangled metal lies some two to three hundred metres down the street, a trail of busted bitumen and blood its’ wake.

The homeless man, choking on blood, half a body light and twitching lies on the footpath outside a shop. Screaming, my mind staples congruous action to my reflexes and I lurch forward, yelling for help, for an ambulance, for something, anything, anyone!…. But the homeless ghosts are too far gone, too far left outside of our civilised shell, so terrified by my terrified tone that within seconds, the street is empty save for myself and the dying man.

Dizziness consumes me as I run to his side. Adrenalin floods my body, I stare at the blood, purple red in the hazy twilight of ever-night, my reflection shining in his seepiing life force – all that he was now a puddle, soon a stain. We lock eyes and I know that there is nothing now I can do but to hear and remember his last words. He bubbles and gasps like a leaky drain, I remember thinking that I should feel disgusted.

I lean down next to him, stare in his eyes, feel his pain and:

“We are all life.”

His sounds escape and trigger sudden feelings, thought, words, days, months, lifetimes and galaxies of emotion within me. Only earlier today did I long for nothing more of this; only today did I yearn for that next step, the next life; something more and something worthwhile and now! Here! There lies one who begins the sleep of the insomniac! Envy overwhelmed me.

And as it did, a peculiar thing happened. At first I thought it was the drugs finally kicking in. Vertigo tipped the world sideways and I stumbled backwards so as to stand on my hands and perchance regain a balance; white dust exploding like a nebulae all around me, such sickness of thought that I vomited indecency. Somewhere here, I noticed Ruwan join the fray, dilated pupils set like uncut stones in a face hollowed with shock. I ask him, I attempt to ask him to call an ambulance, I try to ask a sound for how to remember the shapes of the words and whether my lips make the same strokes as a pen when I talk… all giddiness keeping my mind rent like a rock blasted from centuries in the sun. I am burning with vertigo and my words die early.

Then I realise. I am lying on the floor staring up and my body; my physical shell is standing above me, next to Ruwan and they are both staring at me. Me. Me. Me… the sound seems foreign. Me – the dead and dying, broken-bodied black man bleeding on the street. Realisation dawns and the mottle-hued iceberg in my soul dissolves in an instant, fades, sucks itself away into the vacuum and “Thank-you! Thank-you! Thank-you!” I think as my being expands and I let go.

From behind my eyes, using my memories to dam up a river, I catch one last glimpse of the black-man smiling sadly at the trip he is missing. My last breath is one of pure joy.

Everybody Gets What They Want, Depending On How Much They Want It...


Hamilton, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A short story I wrote about a dream I had just after my return from San Francisco.

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