Cutting. Carving. Have you ever seen what it looks like to cut the cheek off a man’s face with a fishing scythe? It looks like a flap of skin, that’s what. I was in the skin-flapping business. I had a double-scythe setup, duct taped to the wrists. I would hide on rooftops three times too high to jump from and I would wait. And wait. And wait. Then the next contestant would creep along downstairs, like he couldn’t see anybody—but I could see him. And I would jump. And sometimes I would break my leg but I would slice that motherfucker across the face and the blood loss would be phenomenal. That’s a wrap. That’s a wrap, people. Medics would come in and carry me off to the rapid clinic. Medics would carry him off to the morgue. And you want to ask me how I feel? When you’re put on television—taken from school—and put on television for The Cutting Show, you don’t really have time to feel. I felt like a killer, that’s what I felt like—which is to say I felt like nothing. I felt like a man with one way out. So I took the one way out. Is that what you wanted to hear? Sometimes I’d slice ’em up the side of the ribs, and man that’ll take a guy to his knees. The first week, you know how I won my fame? I cut a guy’s head off—straight off—with a double-scythe move, straight from Gladiator. Fuck the crowds. But they loved it. This country has a fetish for kids who kill. It’s like worse than our babydoll sex fetish. Kids who kill each other, kids who kill their parents. Kids who blow up their entire motherfucking school—CAN WE GET MORE OF THOSE PLEASE?? Fuck. Do you want to know what it feels like to see a man’s head roll off his neck and hit the ground, then for a half second his hands try to catch his balance, then the body falls. Drone cams in your face, spiraling around you standing over a dead body in two parts. Then you hear in your earpiece the show credits running, next on is Chopped! (the cooking show). And who came up with The Cutting Show? Some twelve-year-old kid named Andrew. Want to know how many Twitter followers Andrew has? 2,146,768. Two-million followers for being the producer of a show where American teens cut each other, cut themselves, maybe a little at first, but all to the point of death. They wanted meek little kids, so they chose kids with high test scores. But I can tell you now that they should have chose kids with slightly lower scores—I had perfect scores—and once they let me on the show, that first episode—it was on. They expected us to mow each other down gradually—the civilized way—but when I jumped off that roof breaking my leg and Gladiator-ing that motherfucker, ratings went through the roof, and Andrew the twelve-year-old had his new motherfucking hero. They had a psychologist interview me after the show to determine if I was a danger to myself or any of the show’s staff. We spoke for three hours and he determined that I completely understood the rules of The Show, and that I was only playing the game while on the show. There was no danger of me harming the show’s staff or myself while not on the show. While the show was on, all bets were off. The psychologist couldn’t determine that I wouldn’t hurt PAs—even though production assistants weren’t supposed to be in the cage—or myself, in order to gain some sort of a perception of a win by pure ill. That is, he could not rule out the event of a gruesome suicide by me that was designed to win the respect of the audience. Andrew the billionaire said he was ok with that. Sticks. Marker. End of episode one. But you might imagine I spent most of my time thinking. I watched people to see how to cut them in the way they would find most humiliating. A girl: cut off her boobs or cut off the whore’s stinking clit? If I could get her in the bathroom—the set was an old school—and I could get inside the stall before she could get out, she would already have her pants down, and all I had to do was swipe right up the middle, cut the top of that bitch’s vagina, split her pee hole in two, and come all the way up and do a swiggly motion with the scythe to try to do as much damage to that bitch’s clitoris as possible. Then get out of the stall before she could cut me—go in through the top, come out through the bottom. Then for the rest of the show that girl could hardly walk and she’d be thinking, Even if I get off this show, I’m not sure I can ever cum again, so what’s the point? Got her suicidal. Despondent. In touch with her emotional centers. And if I get in and out without a cut to myself, then she thinks I’m some type of hero (which of course I’m not) and she stays the fuck away from me because she knows if she gets too close I’m coming for her nipples next. That’s what I mean when I say that’s the type of stuff I would think about on the show. I would sit up on a rooftop or stand behind an auditorium curtain and be aware of everything that was happening on all sides of me, and I would think.
Mostly what I would think about is Andrew, and his Twitter avi, which was shot in a wide-angle lens and made him look like a king of the world, this kid who “produced” this show—which I wasn’t even sure what that meant. And I wondered what he told his mother when he went to Thanksgiving, about what he did for a living out in LA. What would he say? I produce a TV show about people cutting each other to death with edged weapons? Do you say that before or after you carve the turkey? His Twitter bio said, “The Year of Andrew” like he had somehow just decided that this was his year, the year his show would be picked to be produced, the year he would become a billionaire, and somehow I was sure The Year of Andrew was going to last more than one year. Could you just decide that, that you were going to be rich, and somehow by will alone gain all the necessary skills to do so? Apparently there were things I did not know about the world. I just wonder..how you can go home and be proud to tell your mother that you produce such drivel. That was the main thing I wondered. It would be like bragging to your mother that you “produced” The Bachelor—better to be decapitated. Which by the way was my speciality. We had more decapitations on that show—and all but one by me—than in any other season that has run since. I don’t know what it is about American TV audiences, but they love to see a kid with a really high SAT score decapitate one with an average SAT score. And we love to see women killed. Girls, primarily. The shows where I killed or sexually maimed girls armed with swords, girls armed with knives, girls armed with exposed, motorized blender blades—those are the shows where we got the highest ratings. I got some education at school. But after I cut a girl’s hands off at the wrists who had been outfitted with motorized blender blades, and the producer of the show was running around outside the cage screaming, “Highest ratings yet! Highest ratings yet!”—that was my real education. To see this poor little bitch—her name was Diana—sitting on a bench, handless for life, and the PAs unwrapping the duct tape that held on her battery pack. She seemed to have the better weapon—everyone was waiting for her to bore those blender blades into someone’s eyes or groin. But that’s not what happened. They carried her hands, blades still attached, off set in a Rubbermaid container, and I saw Diana on that bench with cleanly sliced wrists, see right through the cross section, muscle, blood, bone. I imagined if she had an itch on her lip. I would be willing to scratch it with the tip of my scythe if she would let me. She never looked at me; she wasn’t mad. She just sat hunched over and panted, staring straight forward. She didn’t even look at her hands. I looked down at mine: solidly fixed with scythes that took an hour to remove after every show. Oh well, at least when I went to wipe my butt next time I took a shit..I would still have hands to do it with. I pictured Diana after she took a piss, trying to grab a piece of toilet paper with her bandaged-up stumps of hands. And if she could do that, then trying to wipe her vag with the piece of paper that she held between those stumps of hands. It was going to be a hard life. But notice what I was learning: an audience can understand a targeted injury or killing like that: decapitation, a simple maiming. I paid attention to the ratings, too—we got bonuses based on the ratings. And I learned that if you just sat next to someone’s unrecognizable carcass and sliced and sliced and made them even more unrecognizable (David) that was worth less ratings that if you sliced an X deep into someone’s back, through their clothes, so deep he couldn’t hold himself upright anymore and other contestants temporarily called truce to help the motherfucker (that was Braxton). That second was worth more ratings than the first. People want things they can understand. If I come up behind you and scythe your left eye—just scythe the motherfucker in half—and while you’re holding your eye going, “Ahhhhhhh!” I slice up your right eye in the same fashion..well..that’s something that people can understand. And it’s important to get the slashes at the same angle with respect to the face, so it looks like a superhero mask—cockeyed angles is mere brutality, even angles is art. People love symmetry, what can I say? I mean if any of these other motherfuckers paid attention in class they would know how to cut. It was all geometry, it was painting. Mostly I thought of great painters and borrowed. When you crucify a kid who had been an actual basketball star before he came here, and you do it on the basketball post in the court in our caged school—well, that’s fucking art. That’s why Andrew liked me: gave the commentators something to talk about. And I like basketball—the Lakers anyway—but if you think I had a problem hanging that kid from the backboard, his head sticking through the net, using a meat tenderizer from the cafeteria to run twelve-inch screws through this kid’s wrists, then de-pants him, cut off his balls, take his dick in my mouth, sever his dick from his body with my scythes, and spit his dick on the court in front of eight billion viewers..well, let’s just remember that this game is everyone for themself and he was armed with a fucking gladiator sword. He had just as much chance to kill me as I had to kill him. But Andrew liked my way better because my way was poetry. And poetry meant ratings.
It got down to two guys. Well: one plus me. The other guy’s name was Damien and outside the cage we used to laugh and joke about the show’s ridiculous credit sequence. Damien’s weapon was a screw—like a spear with a giant screw on the end. And the rivulets of that screw could have cut paper if you had only gently touched it to them. It’s too bad I had to slice up Damien in front of all those fans. Because after I sliced him up, there was no more Damien to talk to after the show. And more importantly, there was no more show, because I won. Then they were onto their next set of contestants and their second season and aside from the prize money there’s not much use for the winner of The Cutting Show. See, as long as there’s at least two of you in the ring, everybody’s a good guy. But once there’s only one of you left, and nobody left to kill, the only good guys are the ones who are dead. You can reminisce about them. Tell old stories about when Diana was hiding under some fold-out bleachers and I came up behind her and did my famous calling card—a slice across the back of the neck—to let her and everyone know that she would be the next one I killed. That’s a story. That’s fun. That’s dramatic. Close up on me. Close up on Diana’s face. Close up on the back of Diana’s neck. But once it’s just one person, there’s no hero. There’s no winning. There’s just getting on to the next show as soon as possible so we can forget what we all just communally did by watching that show. This ain’t The Hunger Games—it’s not good guys and bad guys and some killing is right and some killing is wrong because Jennifer Lawrence plays the beautiful, noble killer. No. This is just a bunch of high-school teenagers picked for their academic skills, basically, to become America’s next psychopaths. And when there’s one psychopath standing, we change the channel. Unfortunately, I had to take Damien’s ears off first, like in Reservoir Dogs, just held his head between my scythes and sliced those motherfuckers off like they were soft cheese. That fucked with his sense of direction. Then I walked around him and he kept trying to stab me with that screw thing and all I had to do was lift my foot, bat him away with a scythe. And every time he tried to hit me, I reached out with my extended arm and sliced him a little—maybe a centimeter deep. I decided to do him the most awful way: slice, by slice, by slice. Cut him so many times that eventually the whole of him bled away. No real killing wound, just so many little wounds that the blood loss counted up and eventually his heart didn’t have enough of the stuff to pump. You can see a victim like this getting tireder and tireder, like he was running a race, breaths become pants, and he was looking me in the eye and you could tell there was something he wanted to say and I figured it was something like, “Just kill me,” some kind of begging for a final wound. But he couldn’t speak. He just dropped his spear and—oh, man, I can tell you—that made it harder for me to slice that motherfucker. But a show is a show, and a show has to end. I thought it would give that audience something to think about: something like you can die from a thousand tiny paper cuts. I was making a statement, and I knew Andrew would like that. So, you might not like to hear it, but I kept circling that bent-over motherfucker and giving him these tiny cuts all over his body until he looked like the victim of a shark attack—bloated and shredded. I shredded all his clothes off in the process (everyone loves a naked murder victim). Then Damien was on his hands and knees and he was looking up at me and I was slicing his face and he was buckling at his elbows and his face was so low to the ground I could hardly hear him. A drone cam flew in for a wide angle on Damien’s face. And what he was saying, over and over, with blood dripping out of his shredded lips, was, “What was it like for you?” Oh, a philosopher, eh? But he kept saying that shit, and it got under my skin. What was it like for you? What was it like for you? What was it like for you? And I just sat down cross-legged next to my victim and I told him the truth. I said, “I hated every minute.” Then something jostled loose within me, and I remembered that before The Show I hadn’t killed anyone—in fact the only fights I had ever been in I had lost—and those were four-against-one-type deals. Now, as soon as Damien stopped breathing, I was about to be the winner of The Cutting Show. I got up. I left that sad sack of shit on the concrete to breathe it out, breathe it all the way out, and die. And I let the drone cams zip around us, trying to figure out the best angle for the end of the show, and I ran. I ran inside to the auditorium, took the small stairs up to the balcony, and pulled down an escape hatch to the roof. Those drone cams were already on me, but I stood up on top of the school where the cage was only seven or eight feet above the roof of the auditorium and I bore my way through the chainlink fence that surrounded the entire set until I had a flap of fence I could pull down, climb up, and be free of the cage. I stood on top of the cage that had contained us all for so many episodes, and I gave Andrew just what he wanted: ratings. The winner not only kills to victory, but escapes the very bounds of the show. Wind was swirling around me. I held my scythes up in infamy—this is what I would always be remembered for. An LAPD helicopter was thirty feet from where I stood. I was a killer now. Some tactical shooter dressed in all black with black wrap-around goggles had the laser crosshairs trained on me. The whole world was watching as this FPS-playing motherfucker pulled the trigger that fired the gun that shot the bullet that struck me and killed me atop the infamous cage of The Cutting Show. I fell to the ground. The LAPD helicopter swooped off in another direction. A few seconds of consciousness before I could see it was fading from the edges like the vignette feature from some photo-editing program. Darkness, growing, that I couldn’t control. And then I died—I guess—you never really know when you die. Except I did—because I woke up eighty years later.
I’m in a stretcher. All I can see is ceiling lights, and people rushing around. “He’s waking.” “Hello Mr. Temple, can you see me, can you hear me?” “Of course I can see you.” “Can you hear me?” “If I couldn’t hear you, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?” Laughter. “Good, you haven’t lost your sense of humor.” “If I’d lost that, I’d be dead, wouldn’t I?” “That’s the spirit, Mr. Temple, that’s the spirit.” I look up at these faces. They’re like mine, except more beautiful, like someone has taken a radial sander to their skin and polished it. There are four of them. They’re checking things in my arms, my pulse, my oxygen. “What’s the last thing you remember, Mr. Temple?” “Please, stop calling me Mr. Temple. Just call me Matthew.” “You got it, Matthew. Was just trying to show you the respect you deserve.” “Respect? For killing eighteen people with a pair of scythes and winning that stupid show? There’s nothing in that to respect.” “What’s he talking about?” “Some old show—haven’t you seen it? This is the winner of the original Cutting Show.” “What do you mean, the original Cutting Show?” “It’s been a long time since The Cutting Show. You seem to remember it like it was yesterday.” “Wait. Where the fuck am I?” “You’re in UCLA Psych.” “What is UCLA Psych?” “It’s a psychiatric hospital, Mr. Temple.” “Matthew, please. You act like I’m some sort of living relic.” “I’m just trying to be respectful, that’s all.” “You don’t have to be respectful of me. I’m a degenerate.” Everyone laughs. “And what’s wrong with my voice? Did the bullet hit my larynx or something?” “What bullet, Matthew?” “The bullet that the LAPD shot at me.” “When he escaped the show,” one of these people says to the others. I realize we are rapidly moving down a hallway. All I can see are the faces of these four nurses and fluorescent ceiling lights zooming by. “Must be pretty bad if it takes four nurses to push my stretcher. Are we going to surgery?” “We’re not nurses. We’re mental health technicians. And we’re not going to surgery. You don’t require any surgery.” “Am I out of surgery, then?” “You haven’t had surgery in a long time, Mr. Temple.” “What about the bullet?” I ask. And one of them says to the other, “The bullet the LAPD put into him after he escaped the cage on that show.” “Oh!” “Mr. Temple, look at your arms again. How old do you think you are?” I look at my arms. They’re veiny and marked. No hair. My hands are wrinkly and cracked. “I’m an old man!” “You’re in your nineties,” says one of the techs. “Is this part of the makeup?” I ask. “What makeup?” “The makeup for the next show.” “There is no next show, as far as I’m aware.” “Then what is this??” “Those are your arms. How old do you think you are?” “Well, I’m seventeen. I’m the same age as you.” “No you’re not. You’re well into your nineties now.” I lean up as far as I can. Look down. Old man legs. Old man chest. My feet are old man, too. “WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?!” “You’re alright, Matthew.” “Why are we in a psychiatric hospital?” “Because you had a psychotic episode. You’ve been here before, many times. You have bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder, Mr. Temple. Do you remember that? That bullet you say hit you from the LAPD helicopter? That’s part of your delusions.” “So did the LAPD shoot me or not?” “No. But don’t worry, you won the show. You killed Damien and escaped the cage. You won the show!” “You say that like it’s something to be proud of. The only reason I won that show is because of my schizoaffective. They put a crazy person in the ring with a bunch of neurotypicals. They had no chance. Am I remembering that right? I have bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder?” “Yes, but they don’t call it schizoaffective anymore. And we don’t say ‘typical.’ ” “Why not?” “Because no one’s typical.” “I could have told you that eighty years ago.” The techs laugh. “So you’re remembering?” “Remembering what? Do I have amnesia? Was I in a coma?” “No, Mr. Temple, you’ve just had a psychotic episode. Do you remember I told you that about a minute ago?” “When did I have the psychotic episode?” “Two weeks ago.” “WHY DON’T I REMEMBER MY LIFE!!??” “Stay calm, Matthew, or we’ll have to sedate you. It’s part of your delusion, that you’ve been in a coma.” “I haven’t been in a coma?” “No. Look at where we’re taking you from: a psychiatric ward. See the signs? UCLA Psych. Do you think they keep people with comas in psych hospitals? It’s a delusion, it’s one of your persistent delusions, that you’ve just woken from a coma.”
“My delusion..I have a persistent delusion that I just woke from a coma?” “Yes, Mr. Temple.” “Don’t you think that’s kind of weird?” “You’re weird, Mr. Temple.” “Can you even do that, delude yourself that..what?..you don’t know certain things that you really do know?” “No one really knows. Doctors have been studying you for years.” “They have?” All four of the mental health techs nod. I sit up. “Don’t you think that’s a waste of time?” They all shrug. “But it’s partial, you see? A minute ago you said, The only reason I won that show is because of my schizoaffective. So. On some level you know you’re ill.” “Of course I know I have schizoaffective—I see what you mean.” “But we don’t call it schizoaffective anymore.” “Well what do you call it?” “It’s a number.” “It’s a very long number that none of us can remember,” laughs one of the mental health techs. Would you lie back down now? Procedures dictate that we cannot continue with you sitting up.” They push me back down on the stretcher and we continue down some very long hallway in UCLA Psych. “See, everyone’s mental illness is different, so everyone has a different number. It’s basically a number that represents the medicines you take..because that’s what really characterizes your illness.” “How old am I?” “You’re ninety-seven.” I almost shout out against this, shout out that I have been in a coma for eighty years—but that’s my delusion, right? “Where are you taking me?” “To a hotel.” “What hotel.” “The Crown Royal.” “Now you’re fucking with me. Isn’t Crown Royal a whiskey or a cognac or something?” “Yes but it’s also the name of a hotel. And you should know it’s a whiskey because you’ve appeared in some of their advertisements.” “I what? You can’t take me to a hotel—I don’t know anybody.” “You know more people than all of us combined,” they say, and I start to get dizzy. We get to the end of the hallway and the black one says, “Where the fuck is my ambulance?” “Hold on,” says the one that looks like a skinny Dash Mihok. “I’ll call it in.” I look at the black one. She looks like a woman I knew in my youth—skinny and in control and with braids as thin as a string that go to her waist. Beads in her hair. With one of those smiles that could command a stage. “You should have been an actor,” I say. She touches my head with her hand. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s said to me all year.” British accent. “Well for your sake I hope it’s January.” “It’s September,” she says. “Why don’t I know that?” I ask. “You’re not oriented,” she says. “And there’s a number that represents my mental illness?” “Yes, you want to see it?” I nod. And magically, the number appears in my head. Between fifteen and twenty digits long. “And that means what I have?” “Mmm hmm.” “But it’s like schizoaffective.” “In your youth you were diagnosed bipolar-type schizoaffective. Actually you were diagnosed some other things but that was the last diagnosis before the numbers started coming in.” “Go easy on me,” I say. “I’ve been in a coma for eighty years.” “No you haven’t. You’ve never been in a coma. You’ve been out and about, living an active life. A very active life. You just had an episode two weeks ago that caused you to think you were in a coma for eighty years. Where is that ambulance?” The skinny Dash Mihok guy says, “There are none.” “Well,” my girl says, “let’s get him a taxi. I don’t know about you but this isn’t the only thing I have to do this morning.” “Wanna walk him to fourth and fifth?” Mihok nods. The other two techs are at my feet and I sit up to look at them but my girl with braids pushes me back down. “You wanna roll him or carry him?” “Roll.” “Carry.” “Carry.” “Carry.” “I guess that’s carry.” Bump. They unlatch me from the wheely part of the stretcher and now I’m much lower, passing by the corner of someone else’s ambulance, movements jerky, the result of four different people walking at four different gaits. I can feel the knee movements and ankle movements of each one. “Shouldn’t fourth and fifth run parallel?” I ask. “They should,” someone says. “But they don’t.” “So tell me about my life.” “You wanna know about your life.” “Yeah, the last thing I remember I was mutilating the clitoris of some girl named Krey.” “What’s he talking about?” “It was on the show. Haven’t you ever seen reruns of The Cutting Show? Look, what they did to you was fucked up. You don’t put a bunch of seventeen year olds in a cage with edged weapons, point a camera at them, and see what happens. Since then you’ve been..grown?..been or grown..quite eccentric, Mr. Temple. You had eighty nipple skins sewn into each of your breasts with silk from a spider’s web so your nipples would be extra sensitive—for example.” Somehow they’re able to project an image of this into my mind. “I’m a woman!” “You had a male-to-female sex change operation.” “But I feel like a man now.” “You changed back.” I look closely at some text at the bottom of the image: “Copyright Sony Pictures!? Why does Sony Pictures own this image of my breast?” “ ‘Cause you’re famous, Mr. Temple!!” The tech laughs. She has light brown skin, pitch black hair, and a laugh that could put one last breath of air in your lungs right before you died. I know I have a look of shock on my face. “Well, what else have I been up to?” “Well,” she says, “let me tell you.”
“You were famous since you won The Cutting Show.” “Did I kill that kid Damien? What about Diana? Were they able to replace her hands?” “Damien died of blood loss, but Diana survived her wounds from the show.” “So is she alive? Can we go see her?” “She killed herself later.” “How does a woman..with no hands..kill herself?” I say. “She jumped in front of a truck.” “What??” “Yeah she stepped onto the highway. A truck driver struck her—she was killed instantly. Then a week later the truck driver killed himself.” “Fuck. How’d he do it?” “He gave himself a bleach injection with one of his insulin needles.” “Fuck me! How come I never killed myself?” “Oh, you tried.” “What does that mean? Like I tried a lot?” My girl looks at me and nods. They’re carrying me across an intersection, everything is jerky, there are skyscrapers but the streets are clear. “We’re about to have a storm,” my girl says. “Did I have a wife?” I say. “You know all this,” says the fat redhead freckled tech at my right foot. “I feel like the last thing is I got shot by a police helicopter on top of the cage. But I believe you. I believe you about the common delusion and everything. I’m trying to break through it. That’s why I’m asking you questions—what’s your name?” “Maggie.” “Well, Maggie, did I have a wife.” “Um..you’ve had seven.” “Is that an exact figure?” All four of the techs nod in unison. “How do you know this?” “Because you’re famous!!” “Everyone knows,” they say. “And why am I famous again?” “You’re famous for everything. You’re famous for having seven wives. You’re famous for winning The Cutting Show.” “Doesn’t that seem like an especially bad reason for being famous?” “It may be, but that’s what got it all started for you.” “So then what?” “What what?” “What did I get famous for next?” All the techs look at each other like it’s a big joke. They say, in parallel, “Cindy Suzy Helen Megan Victoria Mercy and Andrew.” Then they all laugh. “Andrew? Is that a boy or a a girl?” “Mmm..” “Hard to say. But she had a pussy, if that’s what you’re wondering!!” “Actually..she had a few!” “What makes me famous about that..there have to be a lot of people with seven wives.” “Yes but all yours were rich or royalty under seventeen. That was your rule.” “Yeah, you only fuck sixteen year olds, you perv.” That was Maggie. “You look about sixteen. Maybe when we get to my hotel room I can fuck the fat out of you.” Maggie tilts her head and looks at me like, Yeah, maybe. I smile. Then I look up at my girl, the one with the hair beads. She looks like she’s sixteen or seventeen and her I’d like to fuck the most. She looks down at me and she can see what I’m thinking. A friendly smirk wipes across her face. “Oh, god, I want to fuck you.” “Stop it, Mr. Temple, you’re making my vagina salivate.” I want to tell her how I want to tickle her vagina with my finger, cock, tongue. But I don’t want to leave the others out. “Tell me more about me!” I shout through the empty streets. “You really don’t know who you are?” “Could he have amnesia?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because it’s incredibly permeable. He’ll not know some huge detail like he likes to fuck little kids and then he can recite the license plate to his Kompressor 9.” “Sixteen is hardly a little kid,” I say. “Anyway, I only fuck emotionally mature sixteen year olds. Judging by the street signs I can see we’re in America.” “Also! UCLA Psych!!” “Anyway, sixteen should be the age of consent everywhere. Or maybe fifteen.” “It’s sixteen. They changed it.” “Are drugs legal now?” “The kind you like? No.” “What kind do I like?” “Cocaine and alcohol. But you’ve been clean for like a hundred years.” “I wish you wouldn’t make fun of my age like that.” “Oh, because you’re so sensitive.” “I think I remember Victoria—she was Russian?” “Yes!” “Well she bled when I fucked her.” “Did you fuck her for the first time?” my girl asks. “Yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean for months after we started fucking, we would fuck so much I would tear her vaginal wall and she would bleed and we’d have to stop fucking for a few days while she healed. That’s how much we liked to fuck. So she was a princess or something?” “Something in Russia.” “How do I even know you’re telling me the truth? Do you sometimes take advantage of patients with dementia just to get your kicks?” “See? That’s how you can tell it’s a delusion. One minute he thinks he got out of a coma, the next he thinks he had dementia.” “But if he had dementia, wouldn’t that be the behavior he displayed?” “You’re getting caught up in his delusion. We know he doesn’t have dementia.” “Because he doesn’t! He’s never tested positive for it! He’s clear as a bell except for this morphic delusion that he can’t remember his whole life. It’s probably his way of dealing with the fact that he can’t handle what he’s done!” “What have I done?” “What haven’t you done.” “Look, I’m relying on you, Maggie. I’m not trying to have a delusion here. I’m just going along with whatever you say. I can’t remember—” “That’s not true. Tell me you don’t remember assassinating a Panamanian dictator by throwing grenades through the open windows of his limousine. Tell me you don’t remember impregnating an already-pregnant fifteen-year-old girl in Tucson, Arizona.” “Yeah, I remember that girl.” “See? If you were in a coma how were you fucking that girl?” “Yeah, no, she’s coming back to me. She was an excellent artist. She started to work at the Casbah. She showed me her drawings. We had coffee. I felt embarrassed when the owner..Sadie..Sally..I don’t know but I had to explain to the owner that this was just a platonic sit down, that I wasn’t trying to get with this girl. Then she explained to me her awful childhood.” “Then what?” “Then I went to her mom’s house and fucked the shit out of that pussy.” “Well, she was already pregnant. And by some miracle you got her pregnant again.” “Don’t tell me. I do remember. She died giving birth to the first child. The child died. Then my child with her..she died too.” “All three of them died. You are famous for being the hand of death. You have Midas’ touch in one hand, and your other hand is the hand of death. You are a killer and a lover. You make things.” “Sculptures.” “Yes, mechanical sculptures. Automata that are the present-day equivalent of a Rube Goldberg.” “Except mine are considered alive.” “Yes. Yes they are. Now how do you think you’ve been making automata that are considered alive if you were in a coma!!??”
“I see your point. I remember the automata. So I can’t have been in a coma. And the fact that I remember the automata but not other parts of my life..that can’t be an indicator of dementia?” “You’ve had this delusion, Mr. Temple, many times before.” “Well that’s weird. What need do you think I’m serving, subconsciously, by deluding myself that I’ve just woken from a coma?” “Maybe your conscience can’t bear to believe some of the things you’ve done,” says this skinny redhead boy who’s at my left foot. “Hey. Hey. Let’s be nice,” says my girl, at my right shoulder. “We’ve all done things we’re not proud of.” I look up at her in shock. “What have I done that I might not be proud of?” She laughs, a godlike laugh, swinging her braids and looking up at the heavens. “Well, to start with, what you did on The Cutting Show! That’s when you started having these delusions. After the show your mind wouldn’t let you believe what you had done, that’s when you started having these delusions—that’s my theory anyway.” “Did I live too wild that I couldn’t believe my own self?” “That’s one way of putting it.” “So what did I do on the show?” “Well,” says the braided one. “It was supposed to be a nice, family show about a cage of kids locked up cutting themselves to death until one of them is left, à la The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, Lord of the Flies..there’s been a million books in a million cultures about this idea of youth forced into a survival situation. Well The Cutting Show was supposed to be the first real Hunger Games..like Survivor but what Survivor should have been. Real life and death at stake. I mean with Survivor just off screen there was a craft services table and a row of Port-O-Lets. Those people weren’t surviving. Then Andrew Mercer came along. He wanted it to be real. No gimmicks. Surround the school in a cage. No crew inside the cage—no medics, no sound people, no camera crews. Rig the whole thing with drone cams. This is when drones first came out. There’s no way anyone could have done what Mercer did before his time. It was the right place and the right time.” I clear my throat. “Um..can you explain to me..what a nice, family show about a bunch of high school kids locked in a cage cutting themselves to death is?! I mean how do you execute that concept in a nice, family way?” “Well, if they had support staff inside the cage.” “That would make it nice?” “Yeah, to bandage the kids up and give them Red Bull after they just got their neck sliced by some bully classmate asshole. But Mercer said no. This guy was a true producer. He had his finger on the pulse of the nation—the pulse of the world, really. Got all the right permits and everything. Had to get special dispensations from the US government just to do the show.” “Why did they let him do it?” “He gave them a cut. See, this shit was gonna generate more revenue than like..cigarettes and alcohol and pot combined, so of course they were happy to make it happen. Oh yeah, The Cutting Show was gonna happen. One way or another, the world was gonna see that shit.” “Ok, but you were supposed to be telling me what I had to be sorry for that I constructed a delusion that I had been in a coma.” “Well, you were the perfect kid.” “Ok.” “I mean, you were like this little blond-haired white male kid who scored perfect on everything—you were supposed to be the first one dead. You came out totally nonviolent on the pre-game testing. Totally nonviolent. Like you have a tendency to sacrifice yourself just to end a violent game..you would consider that a win. But when they put you in the cage, it’s like you were suddenly a completely different person. And you didn’t just cut, you didn’t just kill, you mutilated and maimed and tortured and made a motherfucking art out of the thing. And what was supposed to be a nice, little American TV show turned into like eight billion people tuned in every day to see what this crazy unexpected psychopath was going to do next.” “Beads. What’s your name?” “Triumph.” “Well, Triumph, let me tell you that when your life goes from filling in little circles on Scantron forms to being fitted with a pair of razor-sharp scythes and locked in a cage with a bunch of murderous strangers, and there’s no way to get out until the hour ends, you become an artful killer of the first degree.” “No,” Triumph says. “Not necessarily. But you did.”
Let me explain the techs. Like Oscar Wilde, “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” And the tech situation bears explaining. My bead-haired girl is on my right shoulder—the beautiful one? She’s light skin black—with the laugh that could give you an extra breath of air right at the moment of your death? That’s Triumph. Then to my right foot is the plump redhead Maggie. She’s skeptical and disapproving of everything I say. She has freckles. To her right, my left, is Ross, the lanky redhead also with freckles—it’s a pale white person freckle fest down there. Then on my left shoulder is a big black guy named Verdine. Medium dark skin. Got it? Counterclockwise from my right shoulder: Triumph, Maggie, Ross, Verdine? Are we clear, because I don’t like explaining things. And I want to make this so simple that even Oscar Fucking Wilde would understand it. We are on the street in the middle of a large city—skyscrapers. And these four techs are taking me away from the hospital where it will be easier for me to catch a cab. At least that’s what I understand. I was not in a coma. I was never in a coma. Yeah. You should have that part by now. But while it’s partially coming back to me—or while my mind is entertaining the delusion that memory was lost and that memory is coming back to me, I still need these techs to explain my life to me so that I will remember—or delude myself that I am remembering. “So Beads—” “Triumph, but that’s ok.” “Beads. Triumph. You’re saying this reality TV show experience had such an effect on me, that—you know how people’s personality type isn’t supposed to change?” “Right.” “So this experience shifted mine—” “More like toppled.” “Ok, toppled. So it toppled my personality type? Then what? Did I get out of the cage and become like a just-for-fun serial killer or something?” She laughs. “Hardly. You became a pleasure seeker. It’s as if you decided based on the experience of all that killing that the only thing in life worth spending time doing was seeking pleasure.” “Those words sound so familiar.” “They should. I’m quoting you.” “The only thing in life worth doing is seeking pleasure. Yes! I remember! Or I delude myself that I remember. But either way, I re-acquaint myself with those words of mine. Yes. Yes! This is how I have lived. To seek pleasure. That is the only thing that gives life meaning—well, forgive me that—that last isn’t exactly true.” “You’re getting it, though,” says Triumph. She seems to be the only encouraging one. “I’m not the only encouraging one,” she says. And I’m like, “What? I don’t want to sound crazy or anything—” “God forbid.” “—but did you just read my mind? I thought, ’She seems to be the only encouraging one,’ and you responded as if you had heard those exact words said aloud.” Triumph is laughing. “I’m serious. Did you read my mind? Am I deluded that you’re reading my mind?” “No, silly, I got it through the internet.” “The internet?” “I’ll explain it to you later, if you don’t delude yourself into remembering the internet.” “No, I know what the internet is—hehe—but you read my mind.” “That’s the internet,” says Triumph. I am staggered. It’s like the information won’t compute, like a fish seeing a typewriter. “Triumph,” I say quietly. “Yes?” “Will you tell me something good about my life? ’Cause all I can remember and all I know is that I’m a ninety-year-old former teen psychopath who’s now being released from UCLA psych and those details aren’t exactly comforting me. Other than having eighty nipples sewn into my breasts with the silk of a spider, did anything good happen in my life?” Mr. Temple, she says, and I can hear her directly in my head without her lips moving, you had the most extravagant life that a person can expect to have. You put rock musicians to shame. You mean like drugs? I mean like enjoyment*. You’re a learner. You learned everything you could. After you made the automata series, you got into extreme skydiving techniques.* Oh, boring, I hate extreme skydiving. No, you don’t hate it. You love it. You mean like wing suits and shit? No, like you invented a technique for falling or flying using a large number of strings. The strings were twisted—they were more like rubber bands, but a type of plastic—and as you fell, the strings would each twist one way, then over-twist themselves the other way, though not quite as far, then they would twist themselves back, and this twisting motion let you control the air in a way that you..flew. It sounds beautiful. It was. And you didn’t do it with strings of all the same color. You did it with a rainbow of colors, even though it was totally unnecessary, just for the beauty of the thing. How do you know it was unnecessary? For it’s not just air and gravity that affect flight, but light, as well. A rainbow-colored chute flies with a wholly different dynamic than a monochromatic one. I’m having a delusion right now, aren’t I? You’re not really talking to me through my head, and this is just me being psychotic having a conversation with myself. Triumph shakes her head. “No,” she says. “It’s not a delusion. It’s the internet.” “Ok, you keep saying that, but I don’t get what you mean. How is the internet giving us telepathic thoughts?” “It’s in your head. Didn’t you notice, in the hospital, there were no computers? The internet is in everyone’s head now. That’s something else you’ve deluded yourself not to remember. I think it’s because you long for a simpler time. A time when you were in the cage, and all you had to think about was fucking up some kid with a pair of scythes.”
“So what exactly am I famous for?” “Well, mainly, for being famous. It’s like that guy on TV who shows up in one commercial and everyone likes his voice ’cause he’s got an Australian accent. Then he shows up in a second commercial. The only reason he got that second job is because people liked him in the first one. And pretty soon he’s got five or six. And then he’s got a string of nationals just off that one commercial. What’s he famous for? For being famous. Right? Aren’t people famous just for the last thing they did?” “What’s the last thing I did?” “You were in a movie.” “I’m ninety-seven goddamn years of age? What kind of movie was this? Some kind of fetish porn about old people?” Triumph laughs. “No,” she says. “Then what was it?” “Remember Michael Cane?” she says. “Of course.” “Well you’re sort of like today’s Michael Caine.” “Mixed with Dennis Rodman,” says Maggie. “Mixed with Anne Heche,” says Ross. “Mixed with Bobby Fischer,” says Verdine. “So I’m an actor?” “Among..other things,” says sweet Triumph. “Like what kind of other things?” I say. “Well you dabble in politics,” Triumph says. “Just tell him,” says Maggie. “You’re an assassin,” says Triumph. “Like a double-o?” “Like a double-o who never retired.” “So who did I kill?” All four of the techs look at each other like they’ve got some kind of big secret. “You kill a lot of people,” they say in unison. “Well no wonder I’ve got a delusion that I just got out of a coma! Do I seem like the kind of guy who would kill people? Of course I wouldn’t want to remember that. Who do I kill.” “Luminaries.” “Well if everyone knows I’m an assassin—like all of you obviously know—then how can I possibly get close enough to the person I’m trying to kill? Wouldn’t they know me—since you say I’m famous, the Michael Caine Dennis Rodman Anne Heche Bobby Fischer of the day—and wouldn’t they simply not let me come near them? That’s what I would do.” “They basically let you,” Triumph says. “It’s just like the guy on the commercial. He’s famous just for being famous. Well these people are in awe of you from winning The Cutting Show and then they became in awe of you for the first president you killed, and they know if they avoid you, you’ll just come at them in the darkness. It’s inevitable. So they invite you over. If the IAA promotes that you’ll be killing someone, they just give up. They invite you over for tea, or pigs’ brains, or whatever is the culture where they’re from. They enjoy it. They enjoy their last minutes with you. In fact they’re glad you’re there to kill them, because it gives them..it gives them..” “The certainty,” says Ross. “Right,” Triumph continues. “It gives them the certainty that death is coming..when and where it is coming, and they actually enjoy their deaths more than if they didn’t know, because you’re such a charming person.” “Now you’re just trying to butter me up.” “No I’m not. I would be honored to be killed by you, Mr. Temple.” “So would I,” says Verdine. “Well no such luck, because today I didn’t wake up as a killer. I’m a ninety-year-old man on a stretcher in the middle of Manhattan being carried to my own death, as far as I can tell. So find someone else to kill you, please.” “But you will kill me when the time comes, won’t you, Mr. Temple.” “Triumph. You’ll be living for another eighty years. I’ll be living for another eighty minutes. You’re going to die of old age, or whatever people die of now. What do people die of now?” “Suicide,” Maggie says. “Why,” I say, “do they die of suicide?” “Because. We live too long. There’s too much medicine to keep the body going, most people get sick of living and throw a toaster in the bathtub. Or jump. A lot of people jump.” “You’re fucking me.” But she’s not. I can see how serious she is. “HA!!” I yell to the streets and to the buildings above me! “You’ve invented so much technology to help people live that they no longer want to live! The irony is so perfect it has to be true. It is true, isn’t it, Triumph? And I am the assassin of kings, who die in their loneliness? A hundred-year-old man who’s killed so many people in his life and apparently sampled so many pleasures that he’s developed a delusion that he’s been in a coma his whole life, just to be able to forget what he’s done! Whatever numerical code for my illness was born in my brain before any doctor ever assigned it to me—I made up my own illness! We all did!!” “Try to stay calm, Mr. Temple.” “Why? You said there’s enough medicine to keep everyone alive. You prob’ly have a program buried under your pinkie nail that will cure me of a heart attack. WHY NOT GET EXCITED?! Let’s go kill some presidents!” “You’re not a serial killer. You’re an assassin. You have to wait for the IAA.” “What the fuck is the IAA?” “The International Agency Agency. It’s Security for Everyone.” “What do you mean it’s security for everyone?” “No. That’s their slogan: Security for Everyone.” “You guys are pulling my leg.” “No,” says Maggie, all serious. “Well fuck, I know by now if Maggie says it’s no shit then it’s no shit. The IAA. Sounds like a fucking joke. How many presidents have I killed?” “That we know of? The public ones? About a hundred and fifty.” “Wait. Aren’t there only like three-hundred countries?” “There are thousands now.” “And I can just call up President Mojito from the Republic of Fuck Me Now and be like, Bitch you better make me a mojito, and then I go to his house and kill him?” “Well, I wouldn’t put it in those terms, but yes, Mr. Temple, that’s exactly what you’d do.”
“Well tell me, at least, there was something good about my life—at least tell me that.” We’re at the street corner now, and the techs set down my stretcher. I’m still lying down, so it’s all buildings from the lower view and people walking along whose heads are small and their hands are big, and I’m thinking, This is all a dream. A delusion is like a dream—but it’s a dream you can never wake up from. It’s like, if life is a dream, then I’m dreaming differently than everyone else—trapped in my own dream that I can never get out of. I try to believe what the techs said: I wasn’t in a coma. Which means that my whole life, I’ve been living and remembering, living and remembering, and some of the time, at least, I haven’t thought I just woke up from a coma, and I knew my life!—If only I could do that now! The techs are leaning around on street poles doing some kind of drug where you peel a stick of gum and then stick the gum onto your skin—except it isn’t gum. It’s some kind of supercharged jolt they get from this strip that sticks to your arm, or neck, or wherever you put it. “I can tell you something good about your life,” Triumph says. “So you’re the one.” “You made people happy.” “How did I do that?” “Well, how does anyone make anyone happy? You changed their experience. Even if it is just the death thing, you made them happy right before they died—happy as they died. You were like the honorable grim reaper, or a grim reaper from Cirque du Soleil. If they saw you coming, they at least knew you were going to make them famous.” “Because they died by me.” “Exactly.” “And the women. Oh the women you killed in their sleep, in their beds, killed them right as they came, took them off at just the right moment. I don’t know. If I had to go, I wouldn’t mind it having been with a famous he-she thing with nipples sewn into its chest, fucking me, fucking me and fucking me with its hands around my throat and then depriving me of air as I came from my pussy all the way up to my brain.” “That’s hot,” says Ross. Verdine nods. He’s gone all the way into his drug space, and I think he’s half nodding at me, half nodding at the drugs. Maggie stands against an electric pole, her arms crossed, the drug across her neck, looking the other way. “How about you, Maggie? Does someone make you cum?” She doesn’t move. “If I were a younger me, would you let me take you off in just the right way, die at the point of orgasm, make your pussy sing right up to your brain as my friend says, then slice your head off with one of my scythes? Carry you home in a box, save you in some museum of people Matthew Temple killed, so people could look at your face forever right at the moment of orgasm. Would you like that?” “I would love it,” she says, and I wonder if she’s joking. She turns her head and looks me in the eyes. “I would love it. And it wouldn’t have to be a younger you.” “A rare moment of honesty,” Triumph sings. “I’m not going to lie to the man,” Maggie says. “I can’t say I like him—” She turns to me. “—I can’t say that I like you. But to be killed by you? Of course. Of course I would. They say it’s the best way to go.” “Who says that?” “Everyone. That’s what everyone says, ok? Do you know how many websites there are, devoted to people begging to have themselves killed by you? Hundreds. Hundreds of lists of people’s testimonials of why they should be killed by you, people listing their accolades and trying to create a sense of status so that you’ll be interested in killing them. I read a post by a four year old that was like, Dear Mr. Temple, I have wanted to be killed by you since I was two. I mean..that’s how deep this goes. You’ve created a cultural phenomenon. There are imitators, teenage boys with vats of women’s heads in formaldehyde. Their mothers love them for it. They don’t report it to the police. The police wouldn’t care! They want to be killed by you, too! You can’t be arrested! You know that? You didn’t get shot by a police bullet, that day atop the cage at the end of The Cutting Show. An LAPD helicopter hung there, sniper leaned out of the bird with his laser pointed on you and he didn’t take the shot. You want to know how this all blew up?” Maggie says, coming toward me. “You won that damn game and the sniper didn’t take the shot. You had the sympathy of the whole world. And that sympathy has only grown. But it set a precedent. Be cool enough, be entertaining enough, and you are above the law. It’s not just you the police won’t arrest—and it didn’t start with you. It started with ancients like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes—they were above the law. Anyone rich or famous is above the law. The trick is to entertain the police officers. Because the more you entertain a judge, or a lawyer, or a cop—the more entertained they are by you—the less likely they are to apply the law—the law—to your privileged ass.”
But I didn’t mean to be psychologically privileged. We know. I didn’t mean to be able to own any man, woman, or child by being charming. We know. Isn’t that just part of the nature of things, that with a fat girl I might not have sex with her, but if Scarlett Johansson wanted to have sex with me, I wouldn’t be able to say no! Isn’t that just part of the basic power of the world—and by power I mean imbalance? Hasn’t it been there since the dawn of genetics? Hey, I had the same dream in a row two nights, do you think it means anything? Depends on the dream. Well, in this one I’m standing above the commode with this ambassador’s head in my hands, and he’s still talking, even though he’s dead—obviously, right?—I mean you can’t live with just a severed head. What’s he saying? He’s saying I’m fired from my job as an assassin. He’s like—as if he were my boss, “You know we’ve tried and we’ve tried with you, Temple, but something about us just isn’t a match.” So last night in the dream, he gives me this severance check. This night in the dream he gives me two—like they’re really desperate to have me quit the company that they’re basically paying me to leave. It isn’t that I haven’t done a good job. No. It’s that everyone else is younger. Even the boss is younger. And a new culture has developed, and I don’t fit in anymore. I don’t get the jokes—I certainly can’t make them. The timing of the world has changed. Like you know how everyone now says, “is an asshole?” Like, the title of an article when I grew up might say, “I have trouble at home because of my problematic family.” Today the title of the article might say, “I can’t hack it ’cause my family is an asshole.” Is an asshole. Where did that get started? When did it become ok—like ok in newspapers ok—to say “is an asshole?” To describe something as “is an asshole?” That’s the kind of mismatch I’m talking about. And that’s the kind of mismatch I have in my dream. It’s not that I can’t do my job. It’s that I don’t fit in, culturally—and they’d rather not have someone around who doesn’t fit in, if it’s all the same..so much that they’re willing to pay me not to come to work. What do you think that means? It’s like that chewing gum you’re putting on your neck. You say drugs are illegal, but that’s a drug, isn’t it? Depends on what you call a drug. Drugs have always been illegal. A few of them. They just switch around which 97% are commercial and which 3% are banned. Say, can I have a stick of that bubble gum? At your age, Triumph says, it would probably kill you. But that’s the whole point, I say, at my age it doesn’t matter. I’m about to die anyway. I’m out, she lies. Besides, I’d like to keep you around a little longer for entertainment purposes. You and the rest of the world, it sounds like. We’re talking in our heads, without speaking, and I assume that the other techs can hear us. They’ve got some kind of strange gear inside our heads— That’s the internet, Triumph says. It’s inside your head now. Just think of what you want it to do, and that’s what it’ll do. So I think, Search for something good and right and beautiful I did in my life. And like that, flowering out from the middle of my eyes, come scenes from—I assume my life—they’re first-person and they have all the senses with them, so I can tell by how my knees and elbows feel just how old I am, and I’m lying in the grass, talking on my first cell phone. And I’m not alone. The Most Beautiful Woman in the World is lying next to me, and I put down the phone, and we’re kissing. What’s her name? Tuesday Walker, the internet says. You were in love with her. But I knew that already by reviewing the scene. And some question flashes through my mind about how if you didn’t know your life, but you had access to all your memories through the internet, wouldn’t you know your life? And there’s more. There’s lots of me kissing. Some girl named Anna, and we’re kissing in one of the private lesson rooms in the music department of the high school we went to. And somehow I know that that high school has been torn down, made into apartment buildings, but I can’t tell if it’s me remembering or the internet remembering for me. But I think of that high school, and I try to imagine the apartment buildings that stand there now—and that’s what I mean: the world I grew up in, that taught me how to act and cope and be myself..that world is gone. But I’m still here, walking around and cracking jokes and thinking of drugs in a certain way when everything has changed. And I’m lying on a stretcher on the sidewalk of an intersection, and everything is windy, and these four techs are leaning against various poles enjoying their bubble gum high, with me completely sober except whatever psychiatric drugs I’m on, and Triumph is calling a taxi, in her head, and I can hear her. Yes, this is UCLA Psych, we need a taxi to take a psychotic patient to the Crown Royal tout de suite. Yeah, pronto mate. I can’t tell you the patient’s name because he’s been classified. Yes, male, ninety-seven years in age, psychotic but nonviolent. You say you’ll be here in five minutes? You said that eight minutes ago! No it ain’t like I’m trying to get him off my hands but I got a job to do and it ain’t standin’ on the corner waitin’ for your ass. Understood?
Triumph is pacing. She slaps another gum on her neck. The other three techs tell me details of my life. And I say to Triumph, “But it wasn’t all bad, was it? It was wild famous crazy and connected, right? Love and laughter. Right?” Triumph walks up to me, and I’m looking in her beautiful face, and she says, “You may have had some love and you may have had some laughter, yes, but I couldn’t call it connected, no. Wild and famous, yes. Connected, no.” “Well didn’t I have any friends?” “Friends,” Triumph says, as though she’s studied my whole life. “I wouldn’t say you had friends. You had company, but you’re unable to let down your guard, to let people know you. Friendship is two ways, you know,” this teenager tells me. “You have let yourself get to know but not to be known. You think you’re so different, that you’re unknowable—but you’re not. You’re just as knowable as the rest of us, Mr. Temple.” Just then I realize we’re on a street corner, and it’s the same intersection where The Cutting Show was held. Except that’s impossible, Triumph tells me. The Cutting Show was held in Los Angeles. This is New York, she says directly into my mind. But it looks the same to me, except the arena is gone: no chain-link fences, no white-painted ramps and walls. It’s a high-rise apartment building. Every window has thick, woven wire grating on it, all the way to the very top floor. All of a sudden I have suitcases and piles of paper. The suitcases are set beside the stretcher. The papers are held by my every possible appendage. And I’m reaching for them, trying not to let them blow away in the wind. Where did all this come from? You wrote that. But I have no memory of writing it. Wasn’t this not here a minute ago? It’s your delusion, Mr. Temple. How do I trust you, how do I trust that which is just a voice in my head, to tell me that these suitcases and this mess of printouts has been here the whole time? Who was carrying it? We were. We’ve been carrying your bags for you this whole time. The printouts are not printouts—that’s your handwriting and those are things you wrote while in the hospital. There must be two-thousand pages here. How long was I in the hospital? Two weeks. I wrote two-thousand pages of notes in a two-week stay in UCLA Psych? It’s a feature of your illness. You might call it manic graphomania or something like that. What would you call it? I call it a crazy old man who finds comfort in working out his thoughts on paper. Writing might have been your closest friend. So when will this delusion end—the coma delusion? It might never. Then my whole life is gone after the age of seventeen. I look to the techs for an answer. Am I a man being abandoned on a street corner by hot medical technicians? To wait for a taxi to take me to my death room? While I want to fuck you each, boy and girl? And the black one with beads pushes down her pants and I see her beautiful ass and she looks over her shoulder and simply tells me: “Stick it in!” She smiles. She says, “Sex is no big deal in the future.” “It’s not your future!” I say. “Right,” she says. “It’s only yours cause you’re crazy.” “I thought we didn’t say ’crazy’ anymore.” “Oh no we say that. We’re technically off duty and when we’re off duty we say whatever we want.” So then Verdine lowers his pants and Ross lowers his pants and even chubby Maggie shuffles off her jeans and pushes down her white underwear and there are male and female genitals with their caves and their protrusions and Maggie and Verdine take off their shirts and Maggie’s tit is so big she can pick it up and hold it to her mouth and lick her own nipple. And everyone gets close and huddles against the wind. And it’s an orgy on this random street corner while we wait for my cab and I’m fucking all these boys and girls with their perfect genitals and my old-man pants are around my ankles and my wrinkled cock is hard but I can’t cum. I’m sticking it up the picture-perfect asses of teenage boys and then directly into Triumph’s pussy. And everything about her is right, her width, her length, her wetness. “Tell me why I can’t cum. Tell me why I can’t cum!!” I’m fucking Triumph from behind and she holds onto a light pole and her vagina is so perfect it’s like fucking on crystal or X. “Is it an antidepressant they have me on?” “Oh,” Triumph says, “antidepressants don’t exist in the future. They’re not needed. You wanna know why you can’t cum?” “Yes. I want to know.” “Watch one of the documentaries on yourself. You can’t cum unless the person you’re fucking is your friend. It’s a proclivity you developed in your teens—some say even earlier, when you were just a little kid.” “I was fucking people when I was a little kid?” “No, but you developed the proclivity when you were a little kid. You don’t know us well enough to cum. You can fuck us all you want, but you’d have to love us in order to cum in us.” “I could love you,” I say. Triumph touches my face, and I can feel that it’s her smooth skin against my rough and spotty beardless cheek. “I could love you too,” she says.
Just as I’m scrumping Ross up the ass, the taxi comes. His ass feels so good on my ninety-seven-year-old cock that I feel like I’m stealing fruit from the Garden of Eden. My cab comes to a stop in the street and the driver looks out the window at our orgy like it’s the most nothing thing in the world—just nods his head and slaps the side of the door with the palm of his hand. Gently, as though he’s listening to music and that one beat needed the emphasis of his hand on the car metal. The wind blows and we lose some of the drawings as they blow down the street, my notes—notes of my life, created in a mental hospital, zooming down the street as if they had been propelled there by some spell from Harry Potter. Triumph and Maggie and Ross and Verdine load my bags into the trunk and stack stacks of paper on the floor of the back seat and then hold my arms as I stand—an old man!—from my rest on the stretcher and creak myself, halting, into the cab. I end up sort of falling over so I’m propped up at the torso with one arm and laid flat on the seat at my legs. Papers are everywhere, and I’m trying to sort the ones in my arms so that they maintain the order in which I wrote them in the hospital. Someone slams the door. I look back. My psych techs are pulling up their pants and walking down the sidewalk like the most deadly of any deadly crew—all has the one’s back and the one has the backs of all. My angle is skewed like some shot from Natural Born Killers. I see the world in different films, cut together in spasms, covered with gels, lit by a cinematographer. My whole life is a movie—past, present, and future. And it’s not quite over. No. There is the torture of the delusion unraveling. And I can no longer tell the difference between a memory and some piece of film that’s playing on the internet. Triumph had said, “Just think internet and then whatever you want to search for.” And she was right. In fact the “internet” part of the thought became so subtle that I was never really thinking the word internet, my mind just became accustomed to thinking about the internet as one of the many other things I might think about, and I could call up any image, any headline, any post, any Tweet. Triumph had said, “It’s all around us,” when I asked her who was taking all these pictures. Every device, every watch, every phone, every set of eyes—they were all around us. And that’s what I was searching. I saw a story of me having broken into an empty mansion, having done so much crystal that I was hardly recognizable. The police thought they were there to investigate a burglary, since the family who lived in this house came home to find the front door open. But as the police searched room after room, nothing was missing and nothing was awry. Then they heard a squeaking sound, like a mouse. They went to the bed where it was coming from and shined a flashlight underneath it. There I was, cheeks sunk in, hardly human, squeaking to myself in a language for a mouse. Lying next to me were syringes and a bag of crystal meth. I was so high I thought the police were angels come to take me to heaven. They held the family aside and asked the children to cover their eyes as they led me from the house, barely able to walk, into yet another stretcher, and the media caught the famous killer from that old series The Cutting Show being loaded into the back of an ambulance, looking more like ET than a human being. I could see this from every angle, including my own head, played back to me in reverse so I saw the progression from mouse language to being so high I could hardly shoot myself up anymore to sneaking into the house, hallucinating off the drug some slow-motion terror that I cannot explain to you in English, to before that, when I first shot the drug, to before that, when I first shot a drug, to before that, when I did my first drug, to before that, when my friends committed suicide preemptively so I wouldn’t kill them. My friends hung themselves and shot themselves due to the terror of being my friend. Those were the early executioner days, when I learned something very important: how crucial it is that someone believe what it is you’re going to do to them. When a person thinks they’re going to die, they give up their defenses. That’s assassin rule number one in my book. “Hey cabbie, where we going?” “Crown Royal, you know that.” “Do I?” He turns around while he’s driving. “Do you?” “Yeah. I know that. I’ve known that all along. From the very beginning of this day, when they released me from the hospital, I’ve known that,” I say. He says, “Say! You’re the most famous person I’ve ever had in my cab.” “Oh? Do you claim that as a good thing, having me in your cab? Haven’t you seen the films?” “I’ve seen the films, I’ve seen the films—even the very rough stuff. But a person ain’t the sum total of all the films they have on the internet. You is you. You is the person your mother loved when you first came out of her. You is you on the first day of kindergarten. You know what a person is? Their love. Their love,” this cabbie says, but his coming out of mothers and first days of kindergarten felt so far away. So far away.
But I’m at the elevators and the cabbie speeds away and I’m an old man and there are two people, each waiting for a separate elevator even though we’re on the first floor so the only way there is is up! We each say nothing to each other, like the strangest thing to do in this universe of people would be to ask a question or start a conversation. I’m not in the world of the bubble gum-popping techs anymore, I’m in the world of the normals again, husband and wife standing on either side of me—three elevators, three people. Each one waiting for a different one to come. One entire wall—this thirty foot by thirty foot piece of glass—is missing, and before it stands a reception desk with no one to welcome us. The wind is rising outside and I can only think they sent the receptionist home with the storm, but this is the famous Crown Royal I’ve been destined to go to by the instructions of UCLA Psych Discharge. Someone in an office somewhere decided that this patient would be released to that hotel, his suitcases and stacks of paper carried with him, and that decision, made by someone I will never meet, is why I am standing before my own personal elevator that never comes. I’m thinking in this whole hotel where the only people who are waiting to get in are me and two other people..in this whole hotel, there’s got to be an elevator free to make a trip to the lobby. The wind has robbed us the pleasantry of a receptionist, it is robbing me of my handwritten notes on life, and now some cooperating force is conspiring against three senior citizens against an elevator ride to our rooms. I wait, and I remember my meditation. I remember how I learned to meditate. It was on a game show for little kids who kill each other. I learned to meditate—to focus—on just one thing: killing. Being the one who ended up on top of the cage with a police helicopter, daring it to shoot me. That’s how I learned to clear my mind, to know that each moment might be the moment before my death, that each breath I took could be my last. And I carried that with me, my whole life, in waiting rooms, during sex, even when I was doing drugs, I was meditating. Even when I was at my craziest, it was always spiritual to me. Everything a discovery. Standing here in front of these elevators was the same thing..it was the same as the moment of climax, it was the same as being born or dying, some fleeting hallucination making that easier on your brain. But the man and woman were never on The Cutting Show. They had never, likely, been forced to meditate in their lives. “What the fuck is this fouling elevator doing?” asked the man. And he has this little ritual where he steps up to the elevator doors to examine them, says something like, “Dad gummit, can’t they get these things inspected?” Then he walks himself back to an appropriate waiting distance. I can feel his tension, not just through his rising actions but through the internet. Everything is connected, I’m discovering. Everyone has a tiny internet server in their head. What they used to call clairvoyance—it has somehow become real and I can hear this man’s internal monologue about the elevator inspector and I can feel his anger about being made to wait in a hotel lobby with no fourth wall. In the wind. Never should have rented here in the first place. Damn second honeymoon. Who has a second honeymoon anyway? And I can hear the woman’s thoughts. She’s thinking about her husband, and she’s glad she’s not standing next to him, and his name is Earl, and Earl never even wanted to come on this second honeymoon and that makes her feel that he doesn’t love her—not love the way teenagers do, when you’re willing to do anything to be with a person. When did she become so useless? she’s thinking. When did I lose my value? Is that all I was ever worth, was fucking in the fourteen to thirty-five-year-old range? Just a piece of ass? What is a woman good for if you can’t fuck her? If her face is so grotesque with age that the thought of sticking your cock in her sagging pussy makes you gag? That’s what she was thinking, and I wanted to hug her, to hold her head in my hands and make it all different. Better. Show her not to think of herself as a piece of ass, that her worth was partially in her ass, partially in her smile, partially in her wisdom, and that stupid cabbie had gotten it right—partly in her love. But the wind is rising and we are three strangers facing our own elevator, no one saying anything. The elevators never come and my papers are jumping off my stacks like the books in Ghostbusters and flying out the huge open space behind the reception desk and there it goes—my wisdom and my speculation, my design for the world—stolen from me by howling wind and shot from the hotel lobby into the street, getting wrapped around poles and carried off to the sky and I’m setting my bags on top of the piles to keep some of my knowledge with me but the wind is so strong it can push over a suitcase and I feel like I’m in one of these dreams I have sometimes where I’m on the subway and the next stop is mine but I have thousands of Legos spread out on the floor of the train car—I’ve been building throughout the ride—and the task of collecting all my Legos before the next stop and carrying all of these little many possessions with me becomes the choice of staying on the train and missing my stop (but retaining my things) and the choice of letting go my things and getting off the train..at the right stop..traveling lightly..and moving on with my life. The old woman to my right says, “Weren’t you that little boy on The Cutting Show who turned into a madman?” and the old man to my left starts pressing, then punching, then kicking the shit out of the elevator button. “Floor eighteen,” he’s decided he wants. “I’ve almost got it!!” he claims, but he’s knocking himself down with his own force and decimating this elevator control panel to the point that I remember the scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker has some impossible chasm to cross within the Death Star, but instead of simply pressing the button that would extend the bridge, he shoots the control panel with a blaster. Now he has a smoking remnant of a button that would have operated the machine, and that’s what this old man’s elevator button looks like.
All I am trying to do is hold on to my papers. I need to get them scanned into the net before I die. And I see some of them, describing my perfect plans—plans for books, plans for games I once wanted to make but that I realize someone else has already made in the time that I was missing! But I was never missing! I was conscious all that time. I only feel that I just woke up, ninety-seven years old. But all that time was real, to me, while it was happening. And I’m tapping into the net in my brain and I’m watching the documentary of me—if I look into the sky it makes it easier to see. And all that’s up there is one gray wall, two made of glass and the one that is missing its pane, and through the glass and the empty space I can see the walls of buildings around us, and waaay at the top is the lighter gray of the storm. I look out the missing window and it’s like my TV. Pictures of me, coming at rapid speeds, videos. All playing against the backdrop of the storm. It looks like I did what I always did, from when I was little—my character was formed at four, at three, at two years old. I see myself directing films, even me and my sisters putting on plays in the basement for our parents to see. I think my sisters must be dead by now, since I’ve traveled eighty years into the future..but no..I haven’t traveled at all..I’ve just lost my mind..and they’re probably still alive. But there’s me, and I see births and I see deaths—all in fast motion—I see that a second lover of mine died, not from bulimia this time but by suicide. All I have of her is pictures from a documentary that was made in a time I can’t remember. It looks like I had a life with this woman, but the only thing that exists of us now is me re-creating memories, but not of being with her, only of seeing us together in this documentary. And Triumph was right, sex is no big deal in the future. There are shots of me licking and biting and sucking this woman’s clitoris while I have two fingers inside her till she cums. And she has a beautiful fucking face and her arms are covered with self-harm scars—at least that’s what we used to call them. And that’s how she killed herself, with a million tiny cuts across the arms, but deep cuts—and that’s how I killed that guy, on the show, with a million deep gashes into his body. We all killed each other until only one was left. I mean that’s what happened on the show. I wish I had that last guy here with me now, waiting for this elevator. That guy had spunk, he had guts, he was a fighter. Something from a David Mamet play: It’s alright. There’s no one here but the fighters. Well now there’s no one here at all except me. Except me and these two old people waiting for the elevator, a husband and wife pair that don’t talk to each other. And I play the films, and I see myself as a child, dressed in an orange snowsuit sticking my tongue out with snow in my mouth. Happy as can be. No idea that I’m fucking mentally ill, that genetics have already determined that whatever I got from my mother and whatever I got from my father, while in them perhaps were small doses, would turn me into a maniac, and no one would know until my teens. The Cutting Show didn’t make me crazy. I had a fairly rare mental disorder going into that show, and none of those producers caught it. Or maybe, somewhere in their secret meetings, they said, Yes, let this kid with bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder, occurring in 0.3% of the population, go on this show. And then they shredded the psych report that had given them this information, and by god, they had a winner. Maybe that’s how it happened. Because these diseases are kindled, you see—they’re genetics plus stress—and being on The Cutting Show, I can assure you, was stress the likes that only certain war veterans can imagine. And I think that cutting, that killing, day after day, seeing the faces of those I had sent to their graves, kindled the fuck out of that little seventeen-year-old kid. And then, since the conclusion of the show, every event in my life had kindled, and kindled, and kindled, until I was no longer human in the normal sense of the word, but literally someone so familiar with death that he was completely, utterly unafraid of it.
The elevator comes and the guy and the gal get in. They’re standing on the back wall with their arms crossed, both wearing trench coats and here’s me, ninety-seven years old, when they’re not a day older than eighty, and I make one trip into the elevator with a suitcase and then another trip into the elevator with another suitcase and then I’m out there in the lobby in the wind and rain coming through that huge window missing and I’m thinking they were smart to wear trench coats, it’s a fucking storm and I’m wearing a pair of Mickey Mouse boxers and a hospital gown. There are still still stacks of papers and rolled-up posters and notebooks and I’m trying to grab it all and get it into the elevator before it blows away or gets soaked to death. I’m back in every dream I’ve ever had where I have too much stuff and I have to move and I can’t move fast enough to get it all and I’m gonna lose some of my stuff if I don’t!! I’m back in the subway car with all my Legos out—some loose, some built into buildings and tanks and fighter planes—and the signal dings and the next stop is mine and I’m trying to get all those Legos in the bag but I can’t. I cannot. I cannot do it. I cannot get them all into my bag before the next stop. I’m going to have to leave some of them behind—my Legos, my most prized possessions, left on the floor of some subway car that I’ll never see again if I ride the New York transit system for a hundred years. I always have these dreams: I have too much stuff, and I’m going to have to leave some of it behind. Maybe I’m having one of those dreams now. But the elevator dings and I manage to make it inside myself. Some of my papers are still out there and I imagine them dispersing from the lobby with the storm, until there is nothing there but rain-pelted glass and a floor that needs to be mopped of dead birds and all the translucent sheets of paper that held all my most precious plans for the future. Those will be mopped up by someone who doesn’t even speak the language they’re written in—he’ll have no idea what he’s destroying with that industrial-sized broom. He won’t even read it. To him a scribbled drawing is the same as a dead bird lost its way in the storm—detritus. I’m in the elevator, rising. With these two people who are angry and fascinated. One is angry at the elevator button—this one he kicks in also. One is fascinated with me, still asking questions about my life and every time she asks a question I go into the net, through my head, and I look up the answer and tell her. Everything she’s asking me about is nothing I know! We’re learning together. She asks: How did you..? and I quickly go to the net in my head and look up some Sony Pictures footage of myself and watch the documentary really fast and come back to this woman with an answer. She’s completely into me but she wouldn’t pick up a single piece of paper and help me move it into the elevator. She’s not a friend, she’s a fan. A fan is kind of like a person who’s using pornography. They don’t really give a shit about you once they cum. They don’t even watch the end of the movie. As soon as they get off, they close the tab and you are gone to them—they’ll never see you again. You’re their drug. They’re just using you to get high. How do I know this? I must have been famous—that must be the truth, because only a famous person would really know that. Then it occurs to me that more people know me than I know myself. There is more knowledge about me stored in hard drives and other people’s heads than in my own fucking head. Then I realize Triumph was right—I haven’t seen a computer this whole time, from the beginning I remember—there hasn’t been a single computer. Then I start getting scared. I start looking at footage of my children’s weddings—and I’m the last person on the guest list. I’m the most popular person there with everybody except anybody who knows me. And with seven wives, seven girlfriends, seven mothers of my children, that’s a lot of little boys who have become men who hate their father and a lot of little girls become women who don’t speak to their father. And not only that, but it’s a lot of wives who avoid their babies’ daddy like they’re avoiding the plague. I must have been a monster—I must have been evil—but by my life I can’t remember a single thing I ever did to these kids to make them want to hate me. Didn’t we have fun? I see us doing all the usual things, going to Disney World and France and all that fucking stuff. Then I find the footage—there it is. It’s taken from within me, from my own eyes and my own mind and everything is warped like music where you can hear the artifacts of the compression. It’s garbled. Chopped and screwed. I see that I’m hallucinating. And my little children have devil faces to me, swirled and growing fangs and horns and they’re trying to sit on daddy’s lap but daddy literally kicks them off his knees when they sit there because he thinks they are demons come to take him to hell..or police, there to arrest him for possession of drugs. Some poor little kids want some attention from their daddy—unfortunately their daddy is me..a crazy meth addict for years, it seems from the video. And the worst kind. The kind with money, so he never has the governance of running out of money to buy meth with. And he’s—I—am on it for years, from that rat-monkey hiding under the bed in the strangers’ house to the supposed man sitting in a chair in the living room—a monster to whatever kids he had happened to have with whatever current girlfriend or wife—and it starts to make sense why I never walked any of my daughters down the aisles, why some of my sons technically invited me to their wedding but never actually introduced me to their brides. It’s because their father was a monster. A charming, famous, rich, fucking monster.
Imagine a hallway so long that you can’t see the end of it. That’s what I have to go through to get to my room. There are bell boys and bus boys and..just..fucking..boys! everywhere. Fuck me. This must be hell. An infinite hallway. An old man. Too much to carry. And no pussy in sight. It sounds like the tagline from the next release from Sony Pictures. And on top of that, these boys won’t talk to me. I’ve lived a life such that my children and my girlfriends won’t talk to me—now the bellboys won’t talk to me either. One of my little girls told me once It wasn’t the meth, it wasn’t the killing, it was the fact that her daddy didn’t say goodnight to her anymore because he was in Buenos Aires. Well fuck, I’m sorry, but I had to move out of Tempe ’cause your mother is a bitch. They all had reasons. One told me it was because of the porn. That a normal man looks at some porn, but I looked at far too much, was developing relationships with it and shit. It made her wonder how I felt about her, whether I ever thought about her in that way. I said, “Honey, you’re my daughter.” But she didn’t believe me—that’s what another one said. She said, “I’ve always felt you were someone I couldn’t trust.” That one stung the most. I’m the fucking master at getting people to trust me. Now this little girl, couldn’t have been four years old, says for as long as she’s known me she hasn’t been able to trust me. For as long as she’s known me! She’s four fucking years old! Wait till you grow up, sweets, you’ll find there are less trustworthy people than me. At least I send the checks. So I’m in this hallway at the Crown Royal, and like I said there are a million types of boys and they’re carrying trays of dirty dishes from rooms and I can tell by looking at the dirt on the dishes which celebrity they belong to. Let’s say there’s a knife. And there’s peanut butter left on this knife like from after you make a sandwich—well that’s Alec Baldwin, obviously. Or there’s this bagel with no cream cheese, no jelly, nothing silly like that. No. This bagel..it’s just half a bagel, ’cause she ate the other half..this bagel just has the shiny evidence of melted butter..real butter..and the bagel is toasted just the right way..never blackened, no part left untouched, but just this perfect wave of brown toasting covering maybe one third of the surface of the bagel. Oh. Also. This is not an everything bagel, this is not a sesame seed bagel, this is not a poppy seed bagel, this is not a bagel that had lox on it. It’s the plainest bagel you can find, prepared in the subtlest, classiest way. Well. That bagel is obviously Jennifer Lawrence. And so on and so fucking forth. I know with one-hundred percent certainty that Jennifer Lawrence and Alec Baldwin are behind those doors. That’s the kind of skill I’ve always had. I can look at a twig and tell you what kind of tree it’s from. I can see a fingerprint on a glass and tell you if a person has made love that day. If I ride a public bus, or sit at a bus stop, or a bar, I can tell just by looking at them if a person likes to be choked out when they’re fucking. I’m like that character in that one movie: she can tell what color and type of underwear a guy has on just by looking at the essence of the guy. Well I’m like that except not with underwear—with more important things. Like if I look at your receipt history from the week, I can tell if you’re going to church on Sunday..which is a very useful thing to know if you’re planning on killing someone. My kids grow up, they all get to a certain age where they learn to use the net and they learn who their father is. Then they don’t like me as much. It tends to create a conflict for a person when they find out the food on their table was payed for by me killing someone. Then it’s subtle changes. It’s not like they come to you and confront you about that shit—not most of them. They just get to that age where they stop talking to me, and I stop getting invitations to graduations, and my email is never returned. And as soon as they can, they stop cashing the checks, too. A hall full of busboys, each one—each time they pass me—asking me what he can do for me and I just think: If you were my son, you’d have nothing to do with me. If you were my daughter, you’d be embarrassed to look at pictures of us together when you were a child.
Hotel rooms don’t have numbers on them in the future for security reasons. Your head just purrs at you softly when you have arrived. It reminds me of something from my childhood, before The Cutting Show. When I would drive myself home from the psychiatrist (when I was still allowed to drive), when I got home the GPS would say, very proudly: You have arrived at your destination. It made me laugh every time because I took it in the deepest possible manner, which of course the GPS did not intend, and that was hilarious to me, that this non-conscious being might be proud of me (in a grand sense) for arriving at my destination. Usually people’s destinations are success and death. Mine is just a room in the Crown Royal. Have you seen Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola? Well have you seen the cover? Right. It’s a picture of one of the most serious people who ever lived, a self-hater..so..naturally, a comedian. Bill Murray, straight-faced, sitting on the edge of a hotel room in Japan. I’m not saying I’m Bill Murray, ok, so just cool it. All I’m saying is that this hotel room is like that hotel room. Except mine doesn’t have a film crew. Lance Acord did not shoot my life. There’s no production assistants. No photographers. No pink-haired girlfriends. There’s nobody, ok, just me. The shades are drawn, which makes my room even more depressing than Bill Murray’s. I am afraid to open them because..I am..afraid. Of what? I guess..of being assassinated? Heh. You can see why that would trouble me, yes? I’m afraid of being reminded that there are bars on all the windows in the future, even thirty floors up, and what does that mean? I assume it means people burglarize hotel rooms at thirty floors up. There’s a mirror in my head, somehow, and I see a cold sore developing on my lip. It looks familiar. I think I’ve had it before. Exact same one. Exact same spot. But I don’t have herpes. Can you have cold sores without herpes? How have I gotten to be ninety-seven years old without knowing this? In my brain, Google overlays my question, in the exact words I thought it: Can you have cold sores without herpes? I panic, which Google interprets as a cancel. Thank you. It might not even be a cold sore, I might just need some ChapStick. But that’s how it starts, these things, it’s like unraveling a ball of string. One thing goes wrong: one stinking cold sore or the flu or, you know, whatever..fucking..Ebola..and you’re dead. At least you start the slide. What do you think is the average age at which a thinking person realizes that life is the process of dying? That life (the whole arc of it) and death (the whole arc of it) are overlappable. They’re the exact same thing. Because you can’t die if you’re not alive, and you can’t live without someday dying..so they are the exact, same, fucking, thing. Like if you get a scab, don’t pick at it. If you do it makes it larger. If you pick long enough your leg falls off. So I’m in this hotel room with imaginary Bill Murray, imaginary Sofia Coppola, imaginary Lance Acord. Imaginary Scarlett Johansson is standing in the bathroom brushing her teeth and thinking: Who is Matthew Temple? Isn’t he that guy who won The Cutting Show? He must be like a hundred years old by now. Is he even still alive? And she’s holding this book in the other hand—the hand she’s not brushing her teeth with—and imaginary Scarlett Johansson turns around slowly and the bathroom door is open and she sees me sitting on the bed. I’m real though and she’s imaginary so I can’t see her but she can see me. She turns around and goes back to brushing her teeth and reading this book. And her brow crunches down and she’s like: What am I doing in this psychotic book by psychotic Matthew Temple? And then she starts to wonder if that’s the real her, the one she’s reading about in the book, not the one reading the book. “In the future, if you want to know if you’re a vampire, you Google yourself and if no results come back, then you are.” “What?” imaginary Scarlet Johansson says. And I say, “In the future, if you want to know if you’re a vampire, you Google yourself and if no results come back, then you are a vampire.” “Hmm,” she says, around the toothbrush. She spits. “Have you tried this lately?” I laugh. “I wish I was a vampire,” I say. “I wish I was, too,” she says. “Do you Google yourself often?” I ask. “I used to, when I first got started, but now I’ll go a year, two years, maybe more before I can no longer resist the temptation. What about you?” “Same. Used to all the time. Then everything I got back was all so boring because it was—well, I don’t know if this is true in your case but in my case it was all slanders of me. Like none of it was even true. So I stopped and I don’t know if you know this but I just got out of a coma.” “Oh, really,” says imaginary Scarlett Johansson. “Well not really, but a deluded coma.” She smirks. “What is..a deluded coma?” “Oldest trick in the book,” says imaginary Bill Murray. “You’re having a delusion that you just got out of a coma, to block out your life.” “You’ve heard of this?” I say. And imaginary Bill Murray says, “It’s actually a lot more common than you’d think.” “Do you Google yourself?” I say. Imaginary Bill Murray says, “No. But there’s this imaginary documentary on Caddyshack that I watch over and over. Scarlett’s seen it.” “Oh, it’s incredibly slow. It’s incredibly slow. I don’t know why you watch it. All it says is that everyone on the cast was on cocaine the whole time you were shooting. Is that true?” “Well, yes, but you make it sound so two dimensional. In reality—in the real Caddyshack, not the imaginary one—it was a lot more visceral, a lot more tactile. I mean you can say we were on the set of a movie doing cocaine, but that reduces it to a statement. When you’re there, in the moment, it’s here, it’s now, it’s the immediacy of the present.” That’s what imaginary Bill Murray said while he sat on my bed in the cover of Lost in Translation while Lance Acord and Sophia Coppola and a handful of PAs got ready for the shot.
And I sit in this room forever, you see, because you are reading about it. Because there’s a book. And as I sit here I can access the archives of everything that’s ever been recorded. I remember that beautiful girl my dick was just in—Triumph. We’ll never have sex again. We’ll never have the chance to cum together. And I wanted, oh I wanted so much to see her face when she reached the point. That girl back there, the best one, the one my dick was in..she was..you know like if one of the four was going to become a movie star, it would be her. Then my memory switched. This time it was to my friend Zochae—he’s dead—we changed our names together and shaved our heads together and painted abstract expressionism and took mushrooms together and we mixed music specially for the purpose of listening to it while we were painting, while we ate mushrooms. We played the same song on two devices, out of sync, on repeat, to increase the trip factor. It worked. And there was Rebecca—she’s the first person I knew closely who died. She died when I was twenty-three. I can remember everything from when I was kid right up to the moment just before I met Rebecca—that was sometime when I was twenty-two. After that, the only memory I have is in the archives. Rebecca warped me..or maybe I’m giving her too much credit. But I don’t think so. I think I met an angel. That must sound strange: the assassin who met an angel. Maybe it only sounds strange to me. I mean that, I guess, in some sort of metaphor, because I don’t think of myself as the kind of person who believes in angels. But I do. I have to, because I met one. She told me children came up to her in a park and said she was an angel. And she fucking was. She was. You know how when someone moves to your town from another town and every time you say or do anything, the person remembers something related to that thing that happened in their old town, and they’re always telling you stories about their old town and after a while you kind of take it as an insult? That’s how I am with Rebecca. I know this painful fact about myself from the archives. I know I’ve written about her before. I know I bring her up all the time, in a way that devalues the present. But I’m still living back then, you see? In some ways I think the me that I am now, as opposed to the childhood me, was formed on the day we met. I can’t describe how I felt because I don’t remember anything from that day on. I can only tell you what my face looks like on old video of me chasing her around a warehouse with my paintings all over the walls. And this photo I found that’s widely circulated on my fan sites where Rebecca is meditating, with her eyes closed, in that same warehouse. I’m going through every still photo of her that I can find and trying to glean the essence of her, find the most quintessential Rebecca face, but I can’t find one. I don’t know which one is most really her. There are cassette tapes of me talking, while I stand in the stairwell of my friend Matt’s warehouse across town, waiting with Matt’s girlfriend for the police. It’s just an audio tape but you can tell that I’m in a stairwell and that I’m at Matt’s warehouse and all those other details because I explain it on the tape. The tape is for Rebecca’s sister, one of them, and I never sent it. I was trying to fix something that was forever going to be broken, saying how sorry I was her sister died. There are audio tapes of me in high school, in the tenth grade, masturbating in the bottom bunk of my bunk beds (top bunk was empty), and I’m recording my breathing and moaning through the whole process of initial stimulation until finally to orgasm. I did this out of a certain love for myself. I never intended the tapes to become public—but I never cared that they did. You know how the NSA is able to control all the cameras on all our devices and record us without turning on the record light? Well, I found this video of myself saying that the NSA had come to me and threatened to release videos of me jerking off to porn unless I redacted this sentence that you’re reading right now. How did they know way back then that I was someday going to write that sentence? Because the US government has time travel. They’ve had it forever. Got it from the aliens, or Tesla, or somewhere. Anyway in this interview I told them to go ahead and release all my masturbation videos. I didn’t care. How does that hurt me, if you see me ejaculate? Only if I’m a control freak, if I have a big ego, if I’m trying to manipulate your impression of me. My friend Julian, in high school, he was always worried about which song he would first become famous for, because (as he said) the first song someone hears of an artist, it colors their expectations of what the second song and the third song and all the other songs will be like, and if they’re too different, they might not like you anymore and it could fuck up your whole career. True. It’s true. What he said was true. But I never liked the premise of the whole question. First of all, it assumes you’re going to become famous, and for me, that means you’re misfocused from the start. You can’t control other people’s impressions of you. Some people think I’m crazy. Who cares? It has absolutely no effect on me. That’s not true. But it has little effect. And it is certainly not important enough to direct your life around.
I mean, look how I got famous: I won the motherfucking Cutting Game. The Cutting Show. Now outlawed in all countries. And now played in secret in all countries. Watchable only on the deep web. If I look at enough footage of myself, will I become myself again? I don’t feel like someone who legally murdered multiple people on what was the greatest reality TV show of all time. You’ve got to think about statements like that and check your ego. Every year, a new movie comes out that is touted as the biggest box-office hit ever!! Wow, yeah, that’s because last year there were six billion people on the planet and this year there’s twenty-two. More people, more tickets, more “money”..it doesn’t mean anything about your movie!! It doesn’t mean it’s good. It doesn’t even mean people like it. It just means it was there. Why does Coke sell more than Pepsi? Because it’s there in more restaurants, movie theaters, fast food places, vending machines. It’s just more there. It’s like food companies paying for the primo spots in grocery stores or publishing companies paying for the primo tables at Barnes & Noble, the ones up front, in the middle of the aisles, that you have to see both coming and going. That’s why those books sell tons of copies—somebody paid to have them right in your face. The guy, my friend Matt, who me and Matt’s girlfriend were searching for, was inside his warehouse, hanging by his neck from a beam across the ceiling. There was a large A-frame ladder next to him. There was a cow’s head covered in tar, that had started to decompose, and was stinking. It was an art piece by Matt. Hand written in a journal from the archive: Note to self: when your friend cuts the head off a cow with a chainsaw, covers it in tar, lights it on fire, and wheels it in on a dolly to his art opening, ask him how he’s feeling. He might not be doing well. Yeah. I know that now. But at twenty-two, twenty-three, I didn’t know that. And I remember from the archive, spots like this all over the place, my life becoming permeable as hell, the coma delusion holding up not at all. Clearly there was no coma. I haven’t been lying safely in a hospital bed all these years, aging innocently. No. I’ve been out in the world, fucking things up. And when I say that, I don’t mean it as a cool figure of speech. I mean when my life comes back to me it comes back as all the places where if I had acted, then somebody would be alive. The more I remembered, the more selfish I was; the more I remembered, the more careless I had been. I wanted a way to turn off the archive where pieces of my life kept coming through. It’s just the internet, right? It’s just in my mind. I closed all the tabs in my head. I don’t even know how I did it, they just closed because I wanted them to. Google informed me that I was fourteen minutes from home and I was like: Holy fuck, this hotel room is my home. Right? I got dispatched from the hospital, fucked some mental health techs with really smooth skin, after a life of making a shit-ton of art and killing a few people in the process. That’s ego, right? Over-self-importance? Like they died because of me, because I handed them the drug or neglected to recognize their bulimia? Or in Matt’s case, I knew he was stressed over his debts, so I say all the usual things, like: I should have known, all the signs were there. They are always there, but even psychiatrists don’t see them all the time. All you get is a general feeling of something’s not right. Or you’re worried—but you don’t know exactly why you’re worried and you don’t follow that question to see where it goes. That’s the problem. You sense an itch with someone, but you don’t sleuth it out to figure out if it’s nothing or if it’s like..the signs of suicide. You are fourteen minutes from home. What does that mean? Follow the question. I look around the room and all my imaginary friends are gone. I wonder if it means I’m going to kill myself in fourteen minutes. Or die in fourteen minutes or whatever. Flashback to The Cutting Show. When I killed that last guy. It could have gone either way. I’ve never told anyone this before but you know..he kind of wanted it to be over. I don’t think he wanted to die for it to be over, but that was, by the rules, the only way out. We were looking at each other, eye to eye, hand to hand, knife to knife baby. And his eyes told me to do it. It was just this little downward shift and then he looked back at me and his brown eyes said: do it. Fucking kill me. This show must not go on. Look at us, we’re killing each other for the entertainment of teenagers who don’t even know what death is. And I was younger. I was seventeen, he was thirty-three, so that was Jesus’ age when he died and this guy’s name might have been Jesus, I don’t know, but he was saying kill me. Kill me and let’s force these motherfuckers to change the channel.
I turned on the TV in the hotel room. I don’t know what I expected to see there—reruns of The Cutting Show? It was complete static, there was static on every channel!! And that’s when I started to realize I might be in a dream. You have to look for the signs. We believe the reality we’re presented with..yes. That is true. But if you learn not to do that, you’ll start to see the cracks in the wall, the places where the wallpaper is peeling. Every channel on TV was static. Yeah. It’s true. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I am in a dream. You know what my latest thing is, when I “wake up” like this inside a dream? I go up to people and I inform them that they are a figment of my imagination. And these fuckers talk back! They find it interesting that I think they aren’t real..!!..my brain, who is making all this shit up, imagines that figments of my imagination would be surprised to think that I think that they are not real!! My brain thinks that it would be interesting for me if the other characters in my dreams absolutely thought they were real. So they argue with me!! They make the case for their own reality. I sit and listen quietly. Then I tell them that I can prove they aren’t real. How? Because once I realize I’m dreaming, it’s never long before I wake up. I tell them they’ll be going away soon. And soon enough, I’ll wake up, leaving behind that numberless hotel room which I am sure is a preview of how the real me will die, psychotic, alone, with more stuff than I can carry. And I’m going to have to leave some of it behind. Let’s be real: I’m going to have to leave all of it behind, the two suitcases, all the paper drawings, everything I’m wearing, my body, my brain, the mind it supports, all the thoughts contained in it, all its connections to other computers, my knowledge of the archive. My whole life..will be gone. And the only place I’ll be is in your head, because you’re reading this, because you watched some movie I made, some poem I wrote. Because you watched all my YouTube videos. I’m not alive in the videos, but I’m alive when you watch them. I tell myself: you’re in a dream!! I have to wake up before my fourteen minutes are up. Once Google decides I’m zero minutes from home, I’m sure I will die in this hotel room, and I’ll never wake up, I’ll die in my bed and this will be my last dream. Remember, if you die in the Matrix, you die in real life. So I scream at myself to wake up. But I don’t wake up. Something else happens—the TV gets signal. And I’m leaning in. And looking. And somewhere in there, police footage of me, as the camera-mounted spotlight finds a one-hundred-pound me hiding under a bed, body shaking, holding five hypodermic needles in one hand, mouth grinning wide, and the scariest eyes you’ve ever seen. I’m holding my dick in my other hand, jerking it, trying to cum. Desperately, desperately trying to cum. From the outside the situation looks horrible, and as the police cuff this Smeagol-looking creature that even I don’t recognize as myself, I see that his (my?) dick is bleeding. I’ve been jerking off so long on crystal meth that my fucking dick is bleeding! Change the channel! Audio of me picking up a political robocall, captured by the NSA, where it starts out with some kids talking and I answer and I’m talking to them saying “Who are you looking for?” trying to help them by telling them they have the wrong number. Then a politician, their mom, comes on and asks me if I can have her vote. She’s a computer, too. I can be heard saying “It’s a computer.” Then I hang up. I’m not even talking to people. The person reading this isn’t even a person, you’re a computer, in the future, when there are no people. My whole life I’ve just been talking to computers. I change the channel. I run across LifeLock, a plan for $19.95 a month to restore your identity—I wonder if I need that? Maybe I call to get the plan and I explain what my problem is (missing eighty years in a delusion of semi-permeable coma) and they try to explain that they can’t restore that kind of identity. I offer to pay more, but they won’t take it. They say they can’t do the job. I say to change the channel. I’m talking with perhaps imaginary Scarlett Johansson and telling her she’s a figment of my imagination as I’ve just realized I’m dreaming..she says I feel real, I can remember my whole life, how could your subconscious know my whole life?..you probably don’t remember shit, no offense, imaginary Scarlett Johansson, but my subconscious is probably just making you say that to me to keep me interested..in me?..in this whole dream..how do you know, though, that I’m not real?..I can prove it to you..in a minute I’m going to wake up, because once I realize I’m dreaming I always wake up pretty quickly thereafter..and I’ll be awake, and this dream will be gone, and, sadly, you will be gone with it..but how do you know I will be gone? and on that tip, how do you know that you will wake up? maybe this isn’t a dream within a dream, but it’s the so-called dream that makes up your whole life, and this time, instead of waking up, you’ll die, and I’ll still be here in this bathroom brushing my teeth and reading your book.
“You wanna know why I call that book THE LONELINESS?” I ask imaginary Scarlett Johansson. “Why?” she says, all puffy-lipped and elegant. “Because, that’s how I felt winning the awards. You might feel this way yourself.” “I might,” she says. “Go on.” “Well, it feels lonely after winning a film or writing award. I’d not even be sure I was going to the award ceremony for whatever it was. I mean the first time, yes, because it’s new and you don’t know what to expect. But then I’m giving my speech, and I’m saying, ‘..those who made it possible and those who were there for me throughout the process, from conception to..’ And I’d just stop in the middle of the speech to silence, a silence that ensues when you’re the speaker and the speaker stops speaking.” And I say, “You know what that was.” “What?” imaginary Scarlett Johansson says. “It’s how almost no one cares about each other. ‘Most of you came here to be part of a prestigious event, not to connect over a piece of art. How many of you actually read this book? Hold up your hands.’ About forty, fifty percent.” “That’s actually not bad,” says the imaginary Scarlett Johansson. “You want to know what it feels like to be a writer?” “It feels lonely?” she says. “Goddamn right. And that’s why I call that book—this book you’re reading while you brush your teeth—that’s why I call that book THE LONELINESS.” “I see. That makes sense.” “You know what else I call THE LONELINESS?” “What’s that?” “Crystal. Meth.” “Oh, yeah.” “So I saunter up to the glass counter at the smoke shop and buy a couple packs of Kamel Reds and a torch. ‘That all?’ ‘No, I’ll have an oil burner. Two.’ And with a knowing look the guy goes into the back of the store to get what I asked for. He knows what I’m about to do. And I do too: I have work tomorrow—some shitty gig with David Mamet—old David Mamet. In a minute I won’t have enough cash even to pay for another week at GIDEON’s. I’ll be masturbating till I bleed. I’ll be leaning against fences next to gaping construction holes—that spot on that sidewalk leaning on that fence will be as much my home as anywhere. I’ll use myself up, all my potential (which is bullshit to me at the moment). I’ll never be in love again with the love of my life (who is dead). And, yeah, maybe I’m over-emotional, but when the love of your life dies, that is the end to you. All rules are off at that point. You’re allowed to kill yourself—and I certainly wanted to, when that goddess died—that simple, beautiful, spiritual woman. I say this at the expense of all my other relationships, at the cost of never moving on, but I’ll never meet anyone like her again. How long has it been? How many years? And I’m stuck in Hollywood on Ivar, in my plush apartment, with my girlfriend going into convulsions, seizures, and sometime a few days later her parents decide to pull the plug. And that was the end of Rebecca. ‘This what you’re looking for?’ The guy holds out my ‘oil burners’—my meth pipes. ‘That be all?’ ‘Yep.’ He bags ‘em up, opens one of my Kamels and hands me the first cigarette. Bags up the cigarettes and that little paper bag disappears into my cargo pocket, the lowest one, down by the shoe. I nod at the guy. We’ll never see each other again. I light my cigarette while I’m still in the shop, walk out, the guy gives me a knowing, ’Have a good night!’ and I spin around while I’m walking, raise an arm and give him the peace sign. Back on Hollywood Boulevard, my whole back crawls with the excitement of what I’m about to do. My only friends are guys in smoke shops selling me meth pipes, strangers named Kevin selling me crystal meth, ice, the finest shit I’ve seen in the whole country, and it all comes from one place, and I’ve been inside and out of mid-level meth dealers who get this same stuff. It’s almost necessary for meth to exist in Los Angeles. It’s such a place for individuals. Even corporate CEOs look like they’re from burning man. When I buy two-hundred dollars of crystal from Kevin he will be able to pay his rent at GIDEON’S for one more week and I will be able to pay mine for one less. But I will be high and it won’t matter—high on one of the deadliest and most dangerous and sickest and most lofty highs there is. On that angel high, that high that gives wings to your lungs and lightens even the air you breathe. I’ll be high on pure crystal, the drug that even hard drug users don’t do. There’s such a stigma against it—even among coke and heroin users—and there should be. That’s because the pleasure it gives you is so intense and so immediate, and so sexual, and the way it warps your mind so severe, that you will, given the choice between two masters, always choose meth. And that is why, sick, fucked, broke, sore, and bleeding in a motel room, degenerate porn playing on the television, no money for rent, in absolutely no shape to work a day at your job, to have friends, to eat, to make love, to have a deep conversation, write, go to school..it pushes you to the point where after you lose your parents and your sisters and your nephews and your old school professors who will no longer meet you for lunch even though they used to call you the most talented student in their class..now no one will take your calls, not even your old drug friends, and the fucked-up thing is you feel superior to all of them, you’re proud of that shit..you’re proud of that shit you’re doing..you feel like God but you’re acting like Adonis Charlie Sheen. And given that profile, that little informal profile of that drug, I can only call it THE LONELINESS.”
“So you’ve been poor?” “You’re talking to a drug addict, woman—of course I’ve been poor.” “All that prize money from The Cutting Show?” “I got one word for you: Crystal. Meth.” “But you won it all back.” “I worked to get it back. Let me tell you something: Once you’re rich, you’re always rich, whether you have money or not, because you learn to feel entitled to the amenities that rich people have. You find a way to get it back. Rich is just the belief that you can walk through that door. Once you’ve been through the door, you can always go through it again—if you want to. But no. I wasn’t going to stay poor forever.” “So you stopped with the drugs?” “Fuck no, honey. That’s most people’s solution to having no money: spend less. For me the only solution to that little problem was make more.” “So you’re rich again?” “To be honest I haven’t checked my balance since I got out of the hospital. Do you have a phone I can use?” “Just use the internet. Think ‘check balance internet’ and it’ll come right up.” I’m silent for a minute. “We ok?” says the imaginary Scarlett Johansson. “Oh. Yeah. We’re ok. We’re ok.” “What does that mean? Are we hitting up the casinos in Europe?” “It means..I have enough..to keep me floating..before I die..which according to Google is going to be in fourteen minutes.” “Google told you that?” “It said I would reach my destination in fourteen minutes.” “How long ago was this?” “I don’t know. Three or four minutes.” “Well reach your destination..don’t you think that’s a little vague?” “I wanna tell you something, imaginary Scarlett Johansson.” “I’m not imaginary.” “Ok, then, non-imaginary Scarlett Johansson, this hotel room..is..my destination. The itinerary for my trip..ends in this room. So when Google says in fourteen minutes I’m going to reach my destination, and I’m already here, I think Google is being a little tongue-in-cheek, don’t you? A little double entendre?” “I haven’t known Google to be double entendre before,” she says. “Maybe it’s a bug.” “It could be a bug,” I say. “Or it could mean something deeper, like I’m going to die in this room.” “Well,” says the imaginary Scarlet Johansson, “I’m no psychiatrist, but don’t you think it’s odd that between the choices of Google having a bug and Google prophetically telling you the minute of your death that you choose the way more complex one and the one that serves you the most. What is that called? Occam’s razor or something?” “I don’t think that holds true except with natural systems.” “Google isn’t a natural system?” “I mean where people aren’t involved.” “Why is that?” “Because when people are involved, the simplest explanation is not the one likely to be true. It is not the one that tends to be true. No. When people are involved, what’s likely to be true is some fuck ball of a fur ball. Especially if it involves the alphabet people.” “Oh, so you think the IAA manipulated Google to tell you that you would be arriving at your destination to make you think you’d be dying in fourteen minutes. And why would they do this?” “The fake heart attack thing.” “The fake heart attack thing—what?” “Guy comes in, presses a thumb-sized pinprick into your shoulder, it induces a heart attack, then when you die all anyone ever thinks is he had a heart attack. See?! There’s a case where Occam’s razor does not hold up. Is not true.” “Well. Ask Google how long it will be until you arrive at your destination now.” I ask. “They said ten minutes.” “Well that’s too bad, Mr. Temple. I’m enjoying our conversation. I would hate for you to die in just ten minutes.” “Well don’t you have a movie to be shooting? I really like Lost in Translation and I would hate to mess up your shot.” “Lance, Sophia, do you need me to shoot?” I look over to where—believe me, imaginary—Scarlett Johansson is looking and there’s Lance Acord and Sophia Coppola again, crouched on one side of the hotel room with bounce cards and cameras and a handful of PAs walking in and out of the hallway, bringing lattes and fucking sushi and fucking boxes of sesame seaweed and Sophia Coppola is smoking a spliff which she hands to Scarlett Johansson who takes a nice drag and her cheeks sink in and her lipstick gets all over the tip of the thing and she holds it out to me and I wave my hand no. “Come on, if you’re arriving at your destination in ten minutes, don’t you want to do it high?” I think about it a minute. “Actually, since we’re talking about it, I always thought I’d go out high on mushrooms in a hot bath.” “Mmm,” Scarlett says, “that sounds nice. Sexy. Aldous Huxley went out high on LSD. Did you know that?” I take the cigarette from her. “Yes, I did.” “You seem like a learned man. Is there anything you don’t know?” “Any truly learned man would tell you that the more he knows, the less he understands, and vice versa.” “Touché.” She takes the spliff back. “Tell me this, imaginary Scarlett Johansson—” “I wish you’d stop calling me imaginary Scarlett Johansson.” “Alright, what should I call you?” “Call me Jo.” “Alright, Jo, tell me this..” “Anything you want,” she says. “Do you think we could get some LSD or mushrooms up here and fill a bath in less than ten minutes?” Scarlett—Jo—nods at Sophia. Sophia flags down one of the PAs. She’s talking to her. Sophia nods to Scarlett. Scarlett hands me the spliff. “You can have the rest of that. I think we’ve got you taken care of.” I look at her surprised. “I’ll go run a bath,” I say, and I stand. “Jo.” “Hm?” “Thank you.” And Jo just smiles.
The LSD hits, and I mean it hits quick. Miss Scarlett Jo is sitting next to me, her outside the bath, and every move she makes it’s like she’s a little movie and imaginary Bill Murray..he’s like a little movie, too, and I recognize that since I have a film crew and actors in my room that that is the theme the LSD has decided to take: I’m seeing everything through the lens of moviemaking and everything feels like a movie, even Lance Acord and Sophia Coppola out there. They’re already quintessentially movie, but in light of this LSD they’ve become even more so. “This must me some fast-acting shit.” “What do you mean?” says Scarlett Jo in that voice you just want to bottle and take with you for eternity. “I mean it’s been less than ten minutes and this stuff’s already majorly kicking in!” “Why do you say it’s been less than ten minutes?” She says it like a doctor, diagnosing. “Because I’m still here! I haven’t died yet! Google, remember? I haven’t reached my final destination! Why are you looking at me like that?” She drapes her fingers into the bath water. “It’s been almost an hour,” she says. “Looks like Google was wrong. I would show you a clock but it would just look like a movie to you in your current state.” “Did I tell you—?” “Yes, you’re having a movie trip. You told me. You told imaginary Bill Murray. You even told imaginary Sophia Coppola and imaginary Lance Acord.” “Don’t you think that’s weird?” “What would that be?” “I’m tripping about something..that it actually is. I mean you and imaginary Bill Murray and imaginary Sophia Coppola and imaginary Lance Acord already are movies—movie people—and I’m tripping that you are further in the same vein. Isn’t that weird? Seems like a waste.” “I don’t think it’s a waste,” imaginary Scarlett Johansson says, her voice intrinsically authoritative. “I think it’s profound.” “Why profound?” “Because. You have..instead of your trip being a denial of reality—or of your delusion, technically—I think you’re finally accepting the nature of your own mind. We are all movie related—especially you—and you’ve chosen to see us as more of our own self-nature, rather than less, as would’ve been the case if you’d seen us as dinosaurs or Teletubbies or something.” “Can you please not mention Teletubbies while I’m tripping.” “Oh, yes, sorry, right—’cause if I mention them then you’ll start to trip them, and then we might have to call an ambulance and send you back to UCLA Psych.” “I’m sure they would love that shit. Patient is gone for an hour. Returned to Psych with Teletubby hallucination.” Scarlett Johansson laughs. “That would be bad.” “Yes,” I say, “that would be bad. The only good part would be if Triumph was there.” Jo blushes. “Who’s Triumph?” “A very sexy nurse. Or. Mental health technician. Is it true that in the future sex means nothing, that people just drop trou on street corners and fuck it up—” “If you’re asking me to give you a hand job, Mr. Temple—” “No. That’s not what I’m asking. I quite like you sitting here beside me, as my trip guide. I just wonder if people from the future really have sex more liberally—like—just anywhere and everywhere, because on the way here my tech crew and I had an orgy—” “An orgy, really—sounds exciting!” “Well it was. And you have to meet this woman they call Triumph. She really is something, mind and body, this one, the total package, if you’ll allow me to be rude.” “No you’re not being rude—it sounds like you really like her.” I look at Scarlett Jo. She’s undulating and pulsating and moving like Shiva the Destroyer, with fuckin’ eight arms and shit. Then her tongue comes out—fuckin’ unfurls itself and it’s like a red carpet leading into the maw of some creature from Ghostbusters—“Imaginary Bill Murray!! Imaginary Bill Murray!! We need you in here!!” “What do you need?” He pops his head in the bathroom. I’m scrunched up in the corner of the bathtub with one hand over my mouth and one hand pointing at imaginary Scarlett Johansson and I say: “Her. Her. Does she look like something from Ghostbusters to you?!” Imaginary Bill Murray runs his hands through imaginary Scarlett Johansson’s hair and cocks his head and smiles. “No. No. She looks like the beautiful creature she always is.” And as he strokes her, she fades out Shiva the Destroyer and becomes beautiful Scarlett Jo once more. “Thank you,” I say. She and Bill Murray both say, “For what?” “For making her—for becoming Jo again and not Shiva the Destroyer. Thank you for transforming yourself back..into..yourself. This is strong LSD or I’m an old man, either one is true!” “You don’t have to thank me,” says a perfectly reasonable Scarlett Jo. “Why not?” “Well, since I’m one of your delusions, everything I know, you know, so technically I don’t think you have to say thank you.” “So! You admit you’re not real!!” “I never said I wasn’t real! I just don’t like being called imaginary. Those are two entirely different things.”
Imaginary Bill Murray says, “What’s this?” I’m drying off with one of the Crown Royal bath robes. Scarlett Johansson reclines on the bed smoking her mixture of pot and tobacco and Bill Murray holds up something like a telescope, something he got from within my things. “It’s a scope I got..from a war I was in.” Bill Murray looks through the scope at me. “And what war would that have been?” And I say, “It was one that no one ever heard about.” “Oh, they have wars like that?” “Most of the wars that are fought, no one ever heard about,” I say. “For instance do you know that there are things in the ocean, mechanical beasts that look like the devil with two horns, huge animals that only come out in certain latitudes—” “Well how do they keep the rest of us from seeing them?” asks imaginary Bill Murray. “Have you ever been to the equator?” I say. “No.” “Know anyone who ever has?” “No.” “That’s how. Try to go there sometime, the equator off the west coast of Ecuador..you won’t be able to. They present the map, a global map, as though you can pick a point and go! You can’t go! They present space as one or two or three dimensions to you in school. Like it’s all continuous! Just because it’s connected on a map doesn’t mean it’s connected in your ability to go there!” “Sit down,” says imaginary Scarlett Jo. “You’re still tripping.” I sit on the foot of the bed. Scarlett Jo is in the other bathrobe, leaned back against the pillows, smoking her spliff. Lance Acord and Sophia Coppola are still there, still setting up the shot, doing some nebulous work of filmmaking that seems to take forever and mostly involves sending PAs out for lattes but they still call it work. “So I was in this war,” I say, “that you’ve never heard of, and there were many time travelers there, and I was shooting them with old-timey rifles so I could blend in, and there was a soldier in a window and he wouldn’t respond to bullets—” “What do you mean he wouldn’t respond to bullets?” “I mean he was like a hologram. You could see him but he wasn’t really there. I kept shooting him in the face and it was like my bullet disappeared on the way there. I went up to check him out, and he saw me right away and left—by the time I got to the window he was sitting in, he was gone. And when I say window, I mean this is a four-story stone building and there’s a window-shaped hole cut out of the stone. It wasn’t like some Victorian wooden sashed lacy window, it was just a slab of stone where he was sitting, and when I got there I saw that this invincible soldier had left his scope behind.” “Are you sure this wasn’t just a dream? If it was a dream, how would you ever know the difference?” says the imaginary Scarlett Johansson. And I look at her, full-lipped, leaned on the headboard, wrapped in a bathrobe and I say, “You know you’re beautiful, right?” She ashes the cigarette. “You’ve mentioned it a few times.” “So what about this scope?” says imaginary Bill Murray. “Well, I looked through it, and let’s say there was a circle of statues of demons holding hands, submerged halfway in the ocean—” “Off the west coast of Ecuador.” “Right. And to the naked eye one demon is facing one direction and the next demon is facing the other direction and they’re all scrambled up like as if they were the numbers to a combination lock, holding hands and dancing evil all throughout the ocean. But, when seen through this invincible soldier’s scope, all the demons are facing the same way—it’s like the combination has been unlocked, and that circle of demons is a portal to the undersea. Or if I looked at this woman, her face and dress were clean, but when I looked at her through the scope, her face and dress were splattered with blood. So I took her up to her room, cleaned her up and when her roommate left I fucked her. She could only have been seventeen, and her panties were clipped to her leggings, and I fucked her pussy so good she didn’t squirt but there was this hot rush when she came and her cheeks blushed at the same time and her embarrassment made me cum inside her and the whole time we were fucking, she was looking at me through the scope and seeing every truth of the man I really was.” “And what was that? What was the man you really were?” “I was a gentle man, who had no business being in a war.” “You know what I think,” imaginary Scarlett Jo says. “I think that you’re still tripping..and your story..is just a story of the mind.” “You think there was no war, no time-traveling invincible soldier, no mechanical beasts doing devil dances at the equator?” She nods. “Then how did I get this scope?” I say. And she says, “I don’t know, off of Pawn Stars or something. Let me see that.” Bill Murray hands it to her. “Then try it out,” I say. “Point it at me, and see what it shows you.” So she lifts it to her eye, still holding the spliff, and she quints her other one, and I say, “What do you see?” And imaginary Scarlett Johansson says, “I see..an old man..dripping in a bath robe..completely sober..sitting on the end of the bed in a hotel room—” and she swings the scope around “—and there’s no Bill Murray..and there’s no Sophia Coppola or Lance Acord, and no one’s setting up a shot—” she points the scope at her lap “—and there’s no imaginary Scarlett Johansson to be your trip guide. In fact it doesn’t look as if I’m here at all..so I’m not sure who’s holding this scope, but it looks as though it’s authentic and you probably did get it from some secret government war involving time travel and portals to the underworld..” Scarlett Jo looks very confused and she sets the scope on the bed between us. I pick it up and aim it at her, and it is as she says—there is no Scarlett Jo smoking a spliff in a bathrobe. The headboard is bare. Imaginary Bill Murray is nowhere in sight. I point the scope at the film crew—not there. Then I point it at my own legs: hairless veiny calves of an old man. I never took any LSD. I never reached my destination, as Google had promised me. I didn’t know if hours had passed—or minutes—but I saw for a second that I was hallucinating off my own mental illness—whatever they called it—and that they had sent me here because I had no family, no friends, and even though I was technically alive, this is what death is: waiting around a hotel room tripping your balls off on the chemicals of your own mind, unable to tell which way is up, and the only thing my magic scope could tell me for sure is that there was nobody in this room but me.
It’s too bad because I was just about to tell Scarlett Johansson my Sheriff of Akum County story. It’s a story I tell at parties about how I’m actually a sheriff of this tiny county in Ohio called Akum County. I was in a McDonald’s one night and this guy comes up to the counter and shoots this little girl in the side of the head ’cause he’s on crack and he wants some onion rings. So being an international assassin at the time I pulled out my piece and shot the guy point blank in the side of his head. Body hit the ground before I pulled the trigger. So this little town in Akum County, Ohio that’s so small it doesn’t even have a name wants to make me an honorary police officer but they don’t have any regular police badges so they make me a sheriff because they do have one of those. I’m a sheriff of this know-nothing town in Fuckhole County, Ohio just because some crackhead couldn’t get his onion rings fast enough. I’ve told that story at maybe eighty-five parties and gotten laid maybe fifteen times over it. And the kind of girl that lets you fuck her ’cause you shot a crackhead in the head is usually a pretty desperate kind of girl, so I guess it’s better that I never got to tell it to imaginary Scarlett Jo anyway. I wasn’t trying to get down her pants. I was trying to get down her head. But since she was in my head I guess in a weird way I was trying to get down my own head, trying to impress myself with my own story enough that I would respect myself more, which is pretty fucking weird if you think about it. I sit on the empty bed holding the spyglass I got from that time-traveling soldier in the Ecuadorian war and I wish it worked the other way around. I wish it would take this empty room and when I looked through it I would see the party: everything I imagined, imaginary Scarlett Johansson and imaginary Bill Murray and imaginary Sophia Coppola and imaginary Lance Acord and the imaginary PAs going to and fro carrying lattes for everyone—I wished it worked that way. But I didn’t even dare to look through it now—I knew that overlaid on top of this empty room, my spyglass would show what it always had—the truth—and it would overlay emptiness and silence with emptiness and silence, and what I would see through that lens would be exactly what I finally saw with my eyes: the reality that I’m sitting at the foot of the bed with wrinkled fingertips from the bath I took in the hotel bathroom entirely alone. In fact I had to guard against further hallucinations—if there was an especially interesting busboy he was likely to be fake. I had had as a problem now for more years than I knew how to count that the reality being produced inside my head was a lot more interesting than the reality unfolding without. This is a very serious problem, because it makes participating in the real world—the world shared with others—less than rewarding. When what you’re making up is more interesting than the totality of what everyone out there is making up by the fact of their actions and movements and talkings and wantings..you tend to go deep within your own mind, so deep you don’t even know you’re there, and you tend to live with your own creations as your only company. I don’t know when I’m doing this and when I’m not. I don’t know when the story I see unfolding is quote unquote real or is something I am producing with my imagination. I don’t know where the line between them is. A psychiatrist explained this to me once, in my early thirties, and I don’t think I quite understood what she meant. She meant the stories I’m making up inside my head about what’s going on—about what reality is—are somewhat indistinguishable to me from what most other people are calling reality. And even though I understood her words, I don’t think I really understood how true they were before many more decades of experience had passed.
“You can think about lots of things. You can think about your first kiss, how wet and washy it was, not knowing what to do with your tongue, not really having the saliva control that you have now. And now is great. Now you can kiss like an expert. You can think of the first time your first girlfriend had her first baby, and how you ran around telling everyone it was the most profound moment in your life. And it was—it was the most profound moment in your life. Until the second one, and then that became the most profound moment in your life, until the third, and so on. Or you can think about when you started to lose your hair—that’s something you can think about. Or in my case, you can think about when you tried to go to Paris and be a philosopher..but something, some..magnetism..in this world..said: you’re gonna be a movie star. And then you tried to make serious movies. And that didn’t work. You can try to push in this life, but pushing this life don’t work. This life pushes you..or..more it’s like a lazy river and it lazes this way and it lazes that way and sometimes you’re in the shallows and sometimes you’re in the deeps. Sometimes there are leaves on top of the water. Sometimes the water is clear. But you and I are not the current, my friend—we’re not the boat. We’re just the guy sitting in the boat. And if we’re lucky we have one oar—nobody has two. You can think about a lot of things but it doesn’t make sense to think too far upstream, and it doesn’t make sense to think too far downstream. So if I were you, my friend, if you’ll take advice from someone who life told, ’You’re going to be a comedian,’ to the last person who wanted to be a comedian, I would think about what brought me to this room..today..because..whether you like it or not..this is where you are.” Imaginary Bill Murray puts his hand on my knee. “Can you bring back Scarlett Jo?” “Scarlett Johansson is dead, my friend. So am I. So is Coppola. So is Acord. Why you’ve chosen to bring us back in your delusion or coma or whatever it is—” “I think it’s the DMT experience at the end of my life. I think I’ve come to this room to die, and I think I am already dying, and I’ve brought you and Jo and Sophia and Lance into it because I really liked Lost in Translation in my youth. I watched it twice a night every night when it came out on DVD and it was the only thing that could open me up emotionally after a hard death and a hard breakup and a hard job and just a hard everything that made up my life for about a decade..no..a series of decades. Anyway I think I’m dying, and instead of seeing the white light or the self-replicating munchkin people, DMT is bringing me you and Jo and Sophia and Lance, because that’s more comforting to me than any white light would be. I mean imagine..if I could have real Bill Murray with me in my last moments of life to explain it all—” “Like I just did.” “Wouldn’t that be great.” “I’d kind of like to have the real Bill Murray there to explain it to me, too, at the end,” says the imaginary Bill Murray. “Especially the part about the lazy river and you not being the current or the boat but only the passenger—” “That was good. It sounded just like something the real Bill Murray would say.” “Well think about it,” says the imaginary Bill Murray. “Think of all the hundreds of hours of footage you’ve seen of the real Bill Murray. It would be pretty easy for your brain to come up with something that sounds like something the real Bill Murray would say.” “Do you think that assholes—like—reality TV assassin assholes—wish that they could have me on their deathbed explaining life to them at the end.” “Ehh..not just assholes,” the imaginary Bill Murray says. “Regular people too. I’d say eighty-twenty.” He pauses. “Sixty-forty?” He gets me to laugh, just like the real Bill Murray would have. “Have you tried the door?” he asks. “Maybe you can reverse out of this DMT experience, come back to life, and get back to being your ninety-seven-year-old self.” “Ha. Yeah, that’s riveting. No, I tried the door. There’s an incredible wind howling up it in one direction. There’s busboys pushing trays against the wind, and even their twenty-year-old bodies can hardly stay straight against that wind. And old man like me—I’d be sucked down it like the flush of the toilet and I think it would upset the delicate balance of this end-of-life hallucination we’re having here.” “You’re having.” “Right. I’m having a conversation with imaginary Bill Murray. I’m the one who’s dead. I’m the one who’s hallucinating. You’re completely innocent. You’re blameless. You’re part of my goddamn subconscious.” Bill Murray gives me that Bill Murray look that says, “You’re the one who said it, not me.” Then he says, “You know what I think you should do?” “What.” “You remember what I was saying a minute ago? You can think of anything? I think you should do that with me.” “Like a guided meditation?” “Sure, if you want to call it that.” “Ok. Get me started.” “Alright..well..mine is..think of a world where a man who wants to be a philosopher becomes a comedian.” “And mine is..” “Be bold, Matthew, you don’t know how long this DMT will hold out.” “Ok, mine is: think of a world where a man who wants to create ends up being a destroyer..” Bill Murray looks at me. “But,” I say, “in his destruction he creates more than if he had never been a destroyer at all.” And Bill Murray nods at me, and nods at me, and the more he nods the less he’s there, until all that’s left is the nod, and not even the imaginary Bill Murray, disappeared on me like some high-tech version of the Cheshire Cat.
I go to my notebooks—they are the only constant. This shredded corpus of looseleaf and Moleskines that I’ve somehow made it to the hotel room with, with some casualties to the wind as the four techs brought me from the UCLA Psych ward to the corner where we waited for the taxi, then from there to the canyon lobby of the Crown Royal, one whole side of the building missing its glass and my writings taking the hit. But what I have left, I look through, and in what I know are my last few seconds of drug-fueled consciousness, I try to piece it together. I try to think back to when this all began, how I ended up being released from a psych hospital at ninety-something years old, totally on the wrong track, totally lonely because no one, not even my kids, would deal with me anymore. There had to be a starting point to this that came sometime after my very birth. Had to be a moment where it had all gone wrong—and I don’t mean The Cutting Show. I mean before that. ’Cause what kind of kid says yes to an invitation to be on The Cutting Show anyway? You have to already be disenfranchised. You have to already hate your life. To say yes to a thing like that? You must have been born a psychopath, or made one. If anything, my notes held the clue. But it was just a mass of formulas which barely made sense to the me who was trying to read them now, and which I wondered if had made sense to the me I was when I wrote them. Triangular series of numbers, color coded in blocks, but I had no idea what the colors meant. Giant fields of polyominoes, grouped in red pen into families of seven. Something held all seven figures as one—but the present me was clueless to what. Then a recollection, crafted as an interview, written in the tiniest type you can imagine, the letters not only small but the stroke of the pen no more than two-tenths of a millimeter, creating a dizzying read. It said something to the effect of: I inhale that smoke, that releases me from the truth that I’ll never be in the in crowd because I have no college degree, I’m not beautiful enough to be a movie star, my dad isn’t rich enough for me to be a director, and my books are too “experimental” to be published by Harper & Row. I might actually be too smart (or have too wide a view) to work as a programmer for anybody else but me. Every boss I’ve ever had, every co-worker, when they open their mouth, after they’re done speaking, I’m like: Oh-kay. Right. (Takes two steps back.) People make no goddamn sense. I’ve felt that way about almost every conversation I’ve ever had since the dawn of my first memories. It took cops to carry me from my apartment and take me into a mental hospital in handcuffs for me to start to understand that it was me who was crazy. And I mean that just by comparison. When I was twenty years old I revolutionized real time product monitoring at Mead Research. Did stuff for them that no one in that three-thousand person company ever thought of before I got there, with all their programmers and all their experience and all their degrees. In terms of being able to out-create and out-engineer everyone I’ve ever worked with, it’s only me—it’s always ever been only me. My mind is deeper and wider than any of those motherfuckers. But with that—let’s call it brilliance—comes a—let’s call it wildness. And for people with bipolar schizophrenia, that’s your career arc: Brilliant as a child, then at some point you reject school because from your point of view it loses its value, it becomes absurd and you act out because it’s like someone’s asking you not to feel amazement at the circus, or not to laugh at a comedy. They’re being serious and you’re like: This is a joke, right? Your whole life is a joke. And they take that as an insult and suspend you. Jobs are a mess..at my early jobs I must not have developed enough personality to be offensive. Oh, yeah, they knew I was weird at Mead Research (part of the reason I got the job was that I won The Cutting Show), but a) I made them mad money so they didn’t care, and b) I was a lot weirder at twenty-three than I was at seventeen. More of my personality, and more of my sickness, had taken hold. These were the stories told to me by my notebooks. These were the memories alluded to in 0.2 millimeter script on cream-colored Moleskine pages and I wept in that Crown Royal apartment, for brilliance was a trap in this world, a shiny fishing lure more patterned and iridescent than any natural thing in the sea, and if you were a fish who had the capacity to be attracted by such shimmer and such shine, and had the boldness to bite down on it, you would capture the most glorious thing in the sea—and die by that capture. The road to Oz passes through the most perilous forests in the land, remember. And by putting your foot on the brightest brick you send your living in a spiral of danger going right into the sea, full of sharks and jellyfish and the most brilliant lures ever invented for a creature of your kind. And if you manage to pass that way without ever biting one, then you are the miracle of miracles that history has never seen.
After that it was the alphabet people. I was Belize. I was Madrid. I guess it doesn’t matter if I tell you about the Americans we killed since I’m dead anyway. I’ve spent my whole life wishing that someone or something else would kill me first, but it was always me doing the killing. I put myself in situations where I was sure to die but I didn’t. Now I don’t even know what got me—old age obviously. Something quick like an aneurysm, since I have no memory of how I entered this cage of hallucination, these last few seconds of life that are sure to seem like forever but are sure to be over, to an outside observer, in seconds. That’s how people die: alone, in a hotel room. Alone, in an elevator. For most of us there ain’t no fanfare, no emergency room, we’re not generally dying on movie sets where there’s a lot of people watching. I’m probably on the floor in the bathroom of my hotel room in the Crown Royal, and the first person to see me will be the maid, tomorrow at 10am, and I will have been dead all night and all morning, lying there with my eyes fogged over. At least I’m not in any pain. This dying thing is set up pretty well. The moment your brain knows it’s dying, it releases a massive dose of the most powerful hallucinogen known to human kind, and you spend your last few seconds blissfully unaware that you are passing from this world. Evolution has it set up brilliantly. We are the perfect machine—we even die perfectly. It’s like at the last minute your body throws an afghan over your consciousness to warm it—to comfort it—while it dies. I wondered what happens to people like Porsche girl..does she get the same comfort of a DMT release or does her consciousness split in two, like her head—does she become two people for the tiny epoch before she dies? Or is there even time for that? Does her brain get dismantled so quickly that there’s no death-consciousness, no final seconds that seem like eons? I mean part of her brain is somewhere—surely it must be firing for a second or two and that firing can rightly be defined as Porsche girl. And now that more and more of us know about the DMT release, do more and more of us know that we’re dying while we’re going through our last few seconds—become aware, as I am now, that some huge portion of this night has been my brain silently rocking me to sleep with imaginary Scarlett Johansson and imaginary Bill Murray and imaginary Sophia Coppola and imaginary Lance Acord? I feel like there’s so much more I had to say—but time is up. Even my hallucinations have bowed out on me, leaving me sitting on the bed in this shitty hotel room among a thousand others, each one holding people fucking and eating and bathing and sleeping and dying and mopping up accidents with towels. Maybe I’ve been dying all day, and my delusion-of-a-coma was the counterpart to the DMT moment—just a way to make it easier for me to live through my final moments, not have to worry about all the people whose eyes I made glassy while working for the alphabet people, nor all the women who raised my children while I wasn’t there—and I don’t just mean wasn’t there helping with the diapers, I mean wasn’t there like we never saw each other again. All I was to them was a check in the mail. Whenever possible, I made sure I wasn’t even at the divorce proceedings—I sent my lawyers instead. And all those kids out there, with the semi-famous father, the uncatchable criminal, the hero-killer, the psychopathic druggie agent for the IAA. I don’t even deserve my death trip—that’s how many drugs I’ve done. Maybe it would take a druggie to recognize this night for what it was: the last rumbles of a dying brain, taking seconds and feeling like hours and hours and hours of strangely comforting consciousness. They pulled in the big guns—which for me was Bill Murray and Scarlett Jo—probably the most comforting place I could imagine being, in Lost in Translation, singing karaoke with Bob Harris and Charlotte in some Japanese apartment, smoking a cigarette together in the hallway with the zebra rug and the pink wig and she lays her head on his shoulder. I’m not sure who I would be in that scene—probably both, my consciousness split in two like Porsche girl’s brain, both Bob Harris and Charlotte. And like Charlotte I’d be a casual smoker (“I’ll stop later.”) not a real smoker who sits on the porch with a box of Kamels and a fifth of whiskey and the device of the day, spending my life smoking and drinking while I look up pictures of women smoking and drinking, wishing I was a woman—and when the technology was available having a thousand nipples sewn into my breasts so that I could have more than any human deserves of my favorite sensation. I could feel myself going, feel the moment ending. Like Charlotte, “I went to this temple and all these monks were chanting and I didn’t feel anything.” I am starting not to feel anything. And my trip becomes composed entirely of lines from Lost in Translation and they’re coming faster and faster and somehow all those little tidbits written ages ago by a living Sophia Coppola are summing up my entire existence and I know that this is the DMT running out and I’ll be dead soon and the last thing I hear is Charlotte while the two of them are in the room together watching Fellini films and drinking sake out of wooden boxes and Charlotte says, “Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun.” And I think to myself: that’s why we die—that’s why life is a one-way trip—because if we came here again it would never be as much fun.
I wake up in my bed, at home, stabbing Jesus—or a man whose name could have been Jesus. It’s my regular room, my regular bed—which is an air mattress—and I’m holding this four-inch yellow kitchen knife and I’m stabbing Our Lord Jesus, Lord and Savior. There’s blood coming out of the guy’s torso, his neck, spurting out and I stop for a second and say, “Are you the real Jesus? Or just some guy whose name could be Jesus?” “Nah, I’m the real Jesus, mate!” “What? Is Jesus Australian?” “Well they need savin’ down under, too, I reckon!” “Who the fuck are you??” “You’re the one’s stabbin’ me wit’ the knife..I suppose it should be me the one askin’ you who the fuck you is!!” “What is up with your accent? Are you from London or Australia?” “If I answer one way or the other, will you stop stabbing me with that little yellow knife?” I look at the knife. “No!” I say, and I go back to stabbing the man. I’m in my own room. Mom doesn’t seem to have been awakened by this man named Jesus pretending to be Jesus having slipped into the house in the early morning. Mom and I were kind of in a transitional period, so we both slept on air mattresses. We were moving once a year. I was stabbing Jesus so hard the blade was going all the way through his body and into the air mattress, so we were both slowly sinking to the floor. Jesus’ blood was everywhere. “It don’t work the same if you sacrifice me,” he was saying. “I’ve got to sacrifice myself to get rid of your sins.” “Get rid of this,” I said, and I stabbed him right through the cheek into the base of his brain. But that fucker didn’t die!! “Jesus you’re one hell of a prophet!” “That’s ’cause I’ve got a 200 IQ, bitch!! You didn’t think all that wisdom came from my Heavenly Father above, did you? That shit’s from my motherfuckin’ brain.” “I had an IQ test done at the institution. I’m way smarter than you!” I say—then I remember I’m 17, I’ve never been to any institution. “Your IQ isn’t even 140,” this robber says. “Mine’s higher than Leonardo da Vinci!” “But I’m the one with the knife in my hand, bitch!!” And I keep stabbing this fuckin’ pretender. The hotel room is gone. I am not an 97-year-old man. I’m in my bed, in my room in my mom’s apartment, because I am a 17 year old with straight As and an absent father and my mother and I hold it together on our own. There is hair on my legs. I am trying to categorize the weirdness of the dream I just had among my weirdest dreams of all time. I hear Regina Spektor playing on Pandora on my iPad which is in bed with me. And I am kneeling over Jesus. The dying man gives me that look that says: kill me. I am holding a real knife. There is real blood. My mom leans into the room. “Matthew?” I look down. There’s no Jesus. There was never any Cutting Game. My bed looks like a battle zone. The quilt I sleep on is halfway off the bed. My pillows are crunched to half their original size. My mom is in her bathrobe. She says, “Are you alright?” There’s no blood. I had thought I was holding a knife—the little yellow one we use to cut potatoes. I lie down. My hands are empty. I look over at the iPad. There’s a Tweet, one I wrote. It says: 3am. Racing thoughts. Off my medicine bc the insurance company didn’t approve what my doctor prescribed. Then the thumbs up emoji. “Mom, yes, I’m ok. I can see why you’re not supposed to stop Klonopin suddenly. I feel cold, but that’s the only physical symptom that I have, and I have no reason to believe that anything is wrong with my body. I went to sleep around four-thirty, I think, and I just had the weirdest dream.” She speaks in a groggy voice: “Oh, I’m sorry. We’ll call your doctor Monday and see if we can get this straightened out.” “I’ve been mostly awake all night. It feels like taking a tiny bit of hallucinogen.” “And you would know that how?” “Mom, we can’t do this again. I know for you and the doctor this is a problem but for me, stopping these medicines suddenly is a psychological ordeal. It’s harder than any drug I’ve come down off. I’m telling you, it’s insane.” “I’m sorry, baby, you want some eggs?” “Sure,” I say. Then the iPad purrs. I pick it up, kneeling on my bed. It’s an email, sent directly to me, from Andrew Mercer Games in Burbank California, inviting people with 3.7 or higher GPAs to apply for a game show—name confidential—to be shot on location in New York City. No other details will be disclosed at this time. I checked out their website and they looked legit. There was a picture of Andrew Mercer, the producer of the show. He looked about twelve. I clicked on his Twitter and he had over two-million followers. Back to the note. Apply through your agent or visit this address? Must be willing to lose it all to gain it all. I think for a second. “To lose it all again,” I say, and hit reply.