ABOUT RICHARD HELL'S GO NOW
and its protagonist "Billy Mud"

to Go Now excerpt



"Go Now is vile, scabrous, unforgivable, and deserving of the widest possible audience."
            --William Gibson, author Neuromancer

"...guided by a ranging, meditative mind, the story becomes an emblem of how we live now. With candor the teller transforms blunders into the only shapely and reliably honorable offering that can be made of such materials: art. ...I was captive shortly after word one...makes Beckett's despair seem chirpy. ...Billy's most sordid plunges are rendered in a slit-eyed dryness worthy of Burroughs, but Billy is kin to Kafka and Bartleby, as well... Hell nails the autoerotic urgency of sexual hunger, our ability at the flick of a neuron to find everyone arousing, the landscape morphing into a mirror of our restlessness..."
            --Laurie Stone, The Nation

"...real insight and even beauty, not to mention that there's something perversely fascinating about seeing the depths to which he sinks, resulting in a climax that's by turns thrilling and sad."
            --USA TODAY

"What saves Go Now from becoming a queasy homage to self-indulgence is the clarity and verve of Richard Hell's writing. ...a splenetic journey that delights in changing lanes from one genre to the next without indicating. Hell slews into the oncoming traffic of Hemingway, Henry Miller, and P.J. O'Rourke, but he has sufficient fury to hold his own. Go Now is a lucid, gritty chronicle that flings muck and questions at the reader in equal measure..."
            --Times (London) Literary Supplement

"Hell's brilliant junkie novel, Go Now, is prison writing from the lockup of the head, but unlike the majority of addiction testimony, narrator Billy's sentences are hammered out of hard-won insights, snaking around your basic pillars of consciousness--loneliness, self-disgust, oblivion, and sex."
            --The Village Voice

"Go Now is On the Road updated by punk rocker Richard Hell, but Hell's trip across America, while less epic than Jack Kerouac's, is more deadly fun--and a lot sexier. ...By honestly exposing his own wretched psyche, Hell has produced a truer documentary of an American journey for the '90s than Kerouac did for the '50s."
            --Screw

"Similar in intensity to Hell's work as a musician and to Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, with which it shares a junkie's-eye view of life, Go Now is a strange, scary water slide of a read..."
            --Mim Udovitch, New York Magazine

"Richard Hell's novel is spare, mean and winningly piss elegant."
            --I.D.

"Capable of moments of profound personal insight and revelation as well as acts of profane indecency and sexual deviance, Hell's character both seduces and repels. Yet in the end Mud is Hell's greatest gift as a novelist. In the ambiguity of Mud's characterization lies the power of Hell's language. Only a writer as versatile as Hell could describe Mud's bout with heroin withdrawal with sympathy and pathos, then go on to make us despise his semi-conscious hero. Hell, like Mud, plays a great, bold game with the reader, proving himself as a writer with a vision that is not easy to shake off."
            --BookPage

"Richard Hell's raw, witty and entertaining first novel, a road novel that owes as much to Huck Finn and Jim as it does to Hunter S. Thompson or Jim Carroll... Despite scenes with high potential for distastefulness, Hell writes with insight and a generosity of spirit, often bringing a beauty to scenes fraught with ugliness. ...If, as Blake wrote, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," Billy Mud is driving blind down a blazing interstate. Whether he gains the wisdom to stop is the question forming the substance of an impressive first novel."
            --San Jose Mercury News

"...[S]harp, clear and hysterically funny. With a detached prose style that is both brutally honest and self-conscious, Hell can be frightfully insightful... Forget Jim Carroll, Go Now is the real junkie rock 'n' roll literary masterpiece."
            --James Marshall, High Times

"Go Now is a heart-freezing glimpse into the twisted psyche of a hellbound junkie, and the creative ruin of a once productive artist that will leave you feeling unclean."
            --New Musical Express


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Three chapters from Go Now


Chapter 7


       She travels so much that she hardly ever lives in an apartment for more than a few months. They're always new and bare. Even though she's been in the place on St. Mark's Place awhile it hasn't gotten cluttered. It's a railroad flat: four small rooms falling straight back from her windows overlooking the street--bedroom, livingroom, kitchen, darkroom. The pale wood floors are fresh with polish and the apartment looks both bright and dark. The scent of her toiletries half wakens its own sense of pleasure now and then, like mama's milk. The unmatched curtains on the windows and the few scarves and items of her clothing strewn around are more like highlights than mess. It's so unlike what my place has become I feel like an intruder at first.
       When I open her door she's bent in a red canvas director's chair at a low table covered with pretty junk: a French composition book, some costume jewelry, a half-filled wine glass, 8" x 10" photos, some pastel paper. She's holding a fountain pen. She makes a mark on one of the lined pieces of paper and comes over and hugs me.
       "Hi Mister."
       "Howdy, Ma'am."
       "Want a glass of wine?"
       "...Sure." The wine bottle and an extra glass are on a half-height partition between the bedroom and the livingroom. The black brushed-steel boom box beside them is playing some kind of over-produced slow-dance soul at a low volume.
       I take the glass of red wine she hands me and walk around the room looking at the mostly familiar pictures. I like it that there are a couple of me.
       "What's this?" It's a color photo of two gaudily-dressed women walking towards the camera in the middle of an empty New York street.
       "I just like what's happening with the light. I got it from one of those," she says, pointing to a small stack of thick fashion magazines in a corner.
       I see what she means about the picture. The sun is going down at the end of a street and the clouds around it are blue and purple rimmed with pink. The light is almost gone but still in the foreground the meager flesh and faces and greeny satin clothes of the striding women glow with whiteness.
       "I see what you mean. It couldn't happen, could it?"
       "I know how to do it."
       "You figured it out?"
       "Yeah. It's nothing really. The problem is it's color and I don't know much about color, but I'm learning."
       "You're always learning."
       "Aren't you?"
       "Well, I'm learning how little I know."
       "That's higher learning."
       "Higher's my specialty."
       "Ain't it the truth..."
       Uh huh. It sounded so cool when she used American expressions.
       Apart from the bright canvas chair, the table, and a small file cabinet, there are only a couple of thin rugs and fat pillows on the floor. I sit on a rug against the wall.
       "It's nice in here."
       "Oh you're such a charming guest."
       "Good launching pad for our adventure."
       "Have you been thinking about it?"
       "Not exactly."
       "You haven't?"
       She's gone into the front room. I can see across the partition that she's rummaging in a little carry case.
       "Well, I've got a few ideas, but mostly I've just been grooving on it. It feels so good to have something to... apply myself to. I know we can do a great job. And won't it be fun? It's like a miracle..."
       "Isn't it? That's just what I was thinking." She comes back and sits in the chair. "It actually is like he's God. Reached down to deliver us... If we can handle it. I'm wondering if he likes playing chess with us." She's tapping cocaine from a tiny brown jar onto the cover of her composition book.
       "I'm not that interested in his motives. I think you're much more fascinated by the guy than I am."
       "That's predictable."
       "What--that I would think it, or that it's the case?"
       "Both."
       "...I don't wanna argue."
       "Neither do I."
       She offers me the book and a cut-down straw. I take them and pass the yellow-white ridges of stuff under my face and the fumes have that glittering cat-piss smell that has my heart pounding already. I put the book on the floor in front of me, bend over it, and snort up half of one of the long wobbly lines into a nostril and the other half into the other.
       "Wow, this is really pure... Can I get a glass of water?"
       She nods towards the kitchen and I hand the book back and stand up and go into the kitchen and get a cold glass of drinking water from the tap and then come back and sit on the floor again. I light a cigarette. The rest of the coke is still on the book.
       "You know, Chrissa, this whole thing really makes me feel new. It plays so well to my strengths. A major one of which is you..." I'm looking directly into her eyes and she's taking it and looking back. "It's not something one should dwell on too much, but I think we're being... molded, like shaped. Not shaped exactly...--it's hard to explain. The people we are and the circumstances we're in, and Jack and his needs and position and everything too, are forces that've combined to make this dramatic thing which seems so magical happen. We're creating Jack as much as he's creating us. It's like chemicals or a volcano or something--all the elements take their effect on each other and suddenly there's a new thing in the world, the world is new again. We have it coming and it was meant for us. It was meant to be. Do you know what I mean?"
       The coke has numbed the inside of my nose and I can taste it on the back of my tongue, where the whole hollow is going icy. I feel magnificent: invulnerable; fast and clear as a mountain stream.
       "Do you think we're new again? Do you think we can get along?"
       Argh. She's done it again. I didn't think that was askable. "Well listen, first of all we have to. We're both grown up enough and respect each other enough and want enough for this thing to work don't we?" My heart is curling up. Then a wave of rush pours through and it swells again. "Chrissa, I'm going to tell you honestly: I love you." Fuck, where did that come from? My heart goes crazy for a second, and my throat gets sticky as if I've said something really true and then all of a sudden I feel like one of my fans that I feel sorry for. "I've always loved you." The world has gotten really quiet. "Well maybe I haven't: I know it's what I do that counts, not what I say. But inside myself, it's you that I'm with. Even when I forget it. It doesn't matter what's gone down: because I met you, because you're with me in a way that no one, not even you, can touch or tamper with or damage, I'm... something... I don't know what I am, I'm alive, I've been there and it's in me. Maybe it's just a coincidence that it happened with you, this person that I'm sitting here talking to now, or irrelevent, but I'll take it. I don't understand it, I don't know what it means, I know I'm not making any sense, I don't know where any of it leads or anything, but I don't want to be anywhere but in it, doing it. Shit." I can't stand this. I am in bad territory. Her eyes actually look a little wet and I don't even know whether I mean this shit and God knows I sound like an idiot.
       I get up and go over and she lets me pull her out of her chair and put my arms around her. She even makes it feel real. It becomes real because of how she accepts it. That must be what makes her amazing and why I do actually love her like nothing else. Don't I? If I knew what that fucking word meant.
       "I'm sorry," I whisper, desperately trying to actually know that I'm telling the truth, "I feel like I've cheated or something. I didn't mean to talk like that and mess up your mind or whatever-- Can we just lie down for a minute?"
       She lets me lead her down to the rug. We lie on the floor pressed together on our sides, with her head in the bend of my arm and her face on my chest. In the silence I have this furious sucking want, which feels like it comes from the dry tear manufactury, where my eyes and throat meet, like a kind of purely internal roaring scream that's constant but I only notice in such rare isolated moments, and I feel like we are together each on the other side of a barrier but it's enough but it isn't enough. I go to kiss her and she kisses me back for an insane second and then stops. She sits up and takes a drink of water from the glass on the floor. She looks tired.
       "Billy, not now...I can't let you make this trip into a simple dumb love story. Not from now. Maybe I love you, maybe I don't, maybe it doesn't make any difference." She laughs and I do too because it sounds like a cheap movie. "One thing is that I know you, and I know that you'll take whatever you can get. I don't mean that you're not sincere. You just can't help yourself. I wonder if Jack saw all this happening. There's something like the devil of him."
       I sit back up against the wall. "Fuck Jack. ...Ok. I can't deny there's a lot to what you say. I almost said it myself a few minutes ago. But I swear it's changing. ...Maybe not. Maybe I'm just dreaming out of desire. But I'm sick of the way things have been, the way I am... I know that's true--"
       "Good, and I believe you. And a lot of the way things have been haves been you seducing anyone who could make you like yourself better for a minute or two."
       "You know that's not what was going on here. Don't take that away from me." I shouldn't have said that. I can't stand the way my voice suddenly sounds whiney.
       "There's lots of levels to what was going on here, but they're not where our attention should be."
       My attention is now on the line of coke still waiting on the table. I can't help feeling like a chastised schoolboy, and that tends to send me defiantly into further transgression.
       I say, "Could you put that coke away? I don't like it lurking there."
       We're both surprised.
       "Really? Ok."
       I honestly don't know whether I did that for effect or not. I sip a drink of wine.
       "Woo. Quite a ten minutes."
       
       We start talking about the trip. I do have a few ideas. One is to treat it as a detective story, written warped Raymond Chandler style, about our search for the purpose of the trip. This, I maintain, demands I go incognito and requires a wardrobe budget so that I can dress myself as a normal mid-American. We're laughing and she's caught up in it and advances me $200. A little later I spend five minutes confidently persuading her to take back fifty for half a gram of coke and soon after that I leave.
       With money in my pocket and secure knowledge of where and how to trade it for dope I am a cowboy, cold and serene beneath the stars. I pick up another few bags on the way home. The elements are hard but I can deal with them. I am happy with the only happiness that holds: hard knowledge of the terrain.
       
       No one knows but his horse what a cowboy does alone in the desert. This one brightens the furthest hours of the deep dark night in isolated pleasure, shooting coke and then, breathless, taut, intent, and pure, coaxing his dick into its most naked state as he draws it in the mirror. Drawing it out.
       When, having concentrated all myself in my groin, I finally achieve apotheosis in voluptuous spurts and gushes of blistering milky slime I reward myself with a massive dose of junk for sleep and the day is complete.

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Chapter 8



       The next day: I get my methadone in the morning, but I don't plan to drink it till tomorrow because I still have some dope left.
       Methadone is fucked up. The government has it manufactured to give to addicts, so when I first started using it I assumed it was a cure for addiction, that it blocked withdrawal symptoms without creating a habit itself. Then I find out that not only does it get you smeared-out stoned with a heavier hand than junk itself, but that it's also addictive, with an even worse and longer-lasting withdrawal than dope. It's vicious to push it as a solution to addiction. But at least it's cheap.
       The government clinics give it away supposedly planning to wean clients from it as soon as possible. In fact the clinic staff discourages cutting down. Frustrated, paranoid junkies who really want help in stopping figure that they're kept dependent because the program's funding depends on it but I think it's probably because the doctors in charge know that addiction runs deep and since they aren't supplying real treatment they string along their patients to keep them from going back to street dope. It's all a nasty charade. The program is where old addicts go when they get too tired of the grind. Most of them get high on dope when they can anyway and make a few extra dollars selling surplus milligrams to the needy.
       The bitter-tasting stuff comes suspended in astronaut's orange drink in little plastic bottles. You can't shoot it but only drink it. That's why it's so cheap on the street. If I'm careful I can make one $12 bottle last three days. I can get three bottles a week from a neighbor who's on the program with his wife. It's sweet security for the likes of me.
       I have no methadone habit at the moment, so my plan is to get three bottles this week, make them last in decreasing doses until we leave, and then hit the road clean. The future looks rosy.
       We have two weeks before we fly to California. I buy myself a thick schoolboy notebook to devote to the trip. Spiral binding, red cardboard cover, lined paper. A blank notebook with a definite purpose is pure dreamy power. Its passive fat potential is a self-fulfilling prophesy of potence. I've filled them before, this one has its designation, and thrillingly it will be filled as well, with contents that surprise me. If I tend it a little the notebook itself will take care of the trip.
       I like the approach of imagining myself as Jack's seedy private eye on a conceptual reverse-twist of an assignment to detect the nature of the assignment. It's sort of like Mr. Arkadin where Welles, as one of the world's richest and shadiest men, hires a guy to trace his mysterious origins while his secret purpose is to murder everyone the detective turns up because they know too much. I can get into this.
       But any of that will come later in the framing of what we gather on the road. Chrissa and I discuss what we'll actually be looking for and decide that it must be sort of rockabilly America, where Jack seems fixed: the America of the Fifties, especially in the pockets that are still practically like the 19th century electrified. Right before television and franchise merchants homogenized and cheapened it all. That's what Elvis was and why he was so adored. He redeemed the poor and simple, showed the big shots the beauty of a country boy set loose. The way he dressed and moved like a stud sharp Negro, because he had the same tastes, but always with a disarming little smile that said ain't this funny, and he never ever left any room for doubt that first and most of all he loved his mama. Jack Kerouac worked along similar lines, when you could still be an unapologetic poet of the U.S.A. and do it for your mother.
       That kind of thing. It's a start anyway, it's a lead.
       In another way, the search is as sad and muddled and futile as assassination conspiracy theories, with all the evidence already raked over so endlessly the mere thought of it is depressing. But I trust my instincts well enough to have faith that I'll find a way to salvage a book's worth. Even if the subject isn't new, we're new and that will make the book new.
       The first order of business is to get me a wardrobe, a style, a disguise. I want to look like I belong, I want the Americans I want to talk to to want to talk to me. And I am ready for a new identity.
       I have a goofy time going around to thrift shops and used-clothing places. The East Village is full of them and most of the clerks know me. I walk in and everybody gets to searching for something American. I get me some pointy-toed shoes, and a bunch of dime-store type sport shirts from the 50's and 60's with big patterns and stripes. I think I'll be safe sticking with my tight black levis. I break out the scissors and try to neaten up my hair a little bit, and buy some Dixie Peach pomade to slick it back with. I think I'm remembering back to the seventh grade in Kentucky and then riffing on it. Put me in a '57 DeSoto and I'll light up the map like a pinball machine.

       Of course I have Copley to deal with. We have one gig before I go and one rehearsal.
       The rehearsal is a disaster. I was shooting coke that day and it took everything I had just to force myself to leave the house for the studio. When I get started on coke I don't want to open up a space of even half an hour when I can't get off. The rush is so good and its drop-off so scary. Furthermore I don't want to go outside because all the sensory input is so amplified that the slightest shift in the environment sets off all my threat responses. I'm out there like a flightless bird, my galvanized face swivelling in little jerky arcs, wild-eyed, as I triple-time for safety.
       I bring my works to the rehearsal studio and every thirty or forty minutes I'm walking out of the rehearsal room to go shoot up in the toilet. I am so jittery and wired it takes me forever to find a vein with the needle. Finally I get the shot, half-missing. I run my gory arm under the faucet thinking I have to hurry back to rehearsal to keep the mistrust to a minimum and I stride back all purposeful, heedless that I've left the bathroom splattered red and watery-pink with blood. Then Copley takes a piss himself and when he comes back fuming I can't imagine why he's closed down another five or six excrutiating degrees on his contained fury, and I get more resentful behind it myself. It's a circus inside a warzone inside some nasty weather.
       The other guys deal with it in their individual ways. The second guitar player has his own problems and operates on the assumption that chaos is built into rock 'n' roll anyway, so he gets along. The drummer is a sleepy guy, fairly new to the band, who just puts in his time without complaining, glad to have a paying job with a popular group. The bass player, Larry, on the other hand, is insufferable. He thinks all the pain and insanity are glamorous. It's fascinating--partly disgusting, partly hilarious--to watch him trying eagerly to fit into this atmosphere of depraved hopelessness.
       Copley and I entertain ourselves sometimes by exploiting his determination to belong. I remember one time Copley got him to come over to make a delivery to a girl I'd brought home after a gig. Copley said she'd called for a favor and he asked Larry to take care of it for him. So there's Larry buzzing my door in the middle of the night. He comes upstairs and stalls around, mystifying me, until finally he gets a moment alone with the girl, and, pleased as a proud little puppy, reaches into his magic bag and hands her this huge two-pronged dildo.
       Then, when he's made a fool of himself in whatever manner, he acts as if he's really been in on it from the beginning, that he's done it on purpose for our inner-circle benefit, and no amount of amazed disbelief can penetrate his smirk.
       He is a marvel. You just can't dent his certainty that all human relations, if not existence itself, are based on pretending that you're pretending. It is just about the saddest thing you can imagine and it makes you want to kill him. Though I scorn and despise him, I kind of puritanically, sado-masochistically, like having him around because of the way he's some kind of caricature illustration of what I stand for. I've made him up in a way, like a male version of Merry: I deserve him; he is some kind of appropriately degrading funhouse mirror of me.

       The gig goes well enough and largely wins back Copley. I'd hoped it would work out that way and it does. We open a new club in mid-town and the place is packed. We're past our real prime but uptown doesn't know any better and we also draw all our crowd from the Lower East Side because they're faithful and most of them don't know any better either. Furthermore we have some new material and are tight on the older stuff from sheer repetition. What clinches it for Copley though is that the sound system, mix, and stage sound are good. This makes it possible for him to play really well, and we've been around long enough that--best of all--they applaud his solos and call out his name. Then, too, if how I am drives him crazy offstage, he appreciates those same qualities in performance. He approves my not giving a fuck when it's directed at the crowd.
       Truthfully the audience bewilders me more than anything else. They have ever since we started drawing anyone outside our original core following. I don't know what they are there for and though I want to give them the benefit of the doubt all indications confirm the most cynical and demeaning view. They are stupid. They are fools. But, once again, what does that make me? Either a stupid fool myself or a panderer, unless I valiantly try appealing to the best in them, which I'm incapable of doing in any sustained way, or else ignore them and just release everything in the material, showering them with contempt and anger and stunned amazement at the hopeless emptiness of it all, which is what I end up doing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't; I'm up to it or I'm not. That night it worked, and Copley had his version of a glow, which on Copley is a glower with the e,r smudged, something like a junkyard basset who's just caught a rat. I could just see his mind wavering with the recollection that there is a payoff after all, that maybe he's only forgotten about the good part.
       It's a nice musical note on which to depart.

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Chapter 9



       Today we go.
       Chrissa picks me up early in a cab. It's a tremendous Spring-drenched morning in New York and I blend with it perfectly. I'm freshly washed, fully packed, newly clothed, and eager for adventure. When I get downstairs, Chrissa's standing by the car smoking a cigarette in the sun. She takes one look at me and starts giggling. I look around, not getting it, and she breaks into a laugh. I grin, trying to join in, mumbling something about my hair, which is pomaded back to my scalp in heavy furrows, but it doesn't help. She's laughing at me. I look at my reflection in a window of the car. My distorted face is very pale and a little puffy with my drug-diet and the early hour. The wet hairdo does look a little strange, especially the lesbian-like sideburns, which have nothing to do with facial hair, but are just combings plastered against my jawbone under the sidepieces of my cheap sunglasses. My bone thin torso is draped in a 50's synthetic shirt that I found at a thrift store. The shirt is white with poker chip sized pinwheels of pink and orange woven in. I figured it'd match our Adventurer. I have on my heavy old brown belt with it's big square brass buckle off-center and a length of strap dangling from its cinch down my faithful black jeans. I peer at my lower body. The new orange socks are heavier than the pants and they reach into these cool, slightly scuffed, pointy-toed, old black shoes I bought at a flea-market. I don't think it's so funny. She keeps saying, "Nothing, nothing," as the driver opens the trunk for us, and we put away our couple of bags for the ride to the airport.
       "This is America, Chrissa. You wouldn't understand about that," I say as we get in the back seat of the car. That sets her giggling again.
       I'm scowling.
       "You look...you look noble! It's pleasure... I laugh with pleasure... It's admiration!"
       We sit in the back seat as the driver puts the car in gear and pulls away from the building that holds my insane apartment. I turn to Chrissa, grip her above her collarbones, stare her in the eye significantly, and whisper, "It had to be a comedy, don't you understand?"
       "Yes, yes."
       "Good. Just remember it's bad form to laugh too hard at our own jokes."
       "But of course."
       She, naturally, hasn't made any concessions. She wears perfectly-creased black-on-black slacks with a subtle raised pattern to the weave, pastel socks, and golden slippers. An overlarge shirt with deep stripes of color is tucked into the pants. She looks great. Like some kind of international love imp.
       The husky guy behind the wheel has smiled this canine grin at her as he opened the trunk for us, but I'm pretty sure the dandruff drifting across the dully gleaming shoulders of his cheap suit will have eliminated him. Now filthy plexiglass removes him further, so I dismiss him. We drive up First Avenue towards the Midtown Tunnel.
       "Isn't it good to be leaving," I ask, "I've always loved to leave. It makes you feel so significant and... unknown at the same time. I mean you automatically become a legend in your past, because the real you's not there to ruin it, and then in whatever you're entering you're a mystery, and you can be whatever you want. It's so great."
       "You are a little bit crazy."
       "What do you mean?"
       "Well, it sounds like you want only to be a fantasy."
       "Yikes." I think about that for a second. "That's probably bad isn't it? Oh well. I'll take my relief where I can find it."

       I watch the streets go by. Already, I feel like reaching over and holding her hand but of course that would be out of line. In the quiet I shift shape in a slow-motion shudder to find myself suffocating deliciously in the chill and vacuous cloud of yearning that is produced around me by isolated contact with any half-appealing woman.
       I guess she's right: I am just about 13, like a wide-eyed cartoon batted back and forth by pop-up semi-emotions that squash me through the world and then I come out the other side to Chinese music, stunned and goofy.
       I watch the way I feel like it's the Macy's parade, bored and amazed. I want out of me and into her.
       
       The airport seems alien. All the self-satisfied people annoy me. I get on the plane in a restless minor anger.
       Flying is dead time; it's like going into a closet and waiting for hours until you can step out in another location. Of course the closet is catered, but the caterers treat you like a pod.
       I have most of a bottle of methadone in my carry-on bag, but I haven't used any for over a day and I feel a little nuts. As soon as we're airborne I stand and reach up into my bag for the bottle and take it back to the bathroom where I drink a little. The instant I taste the bitter powdery juice my mood improves.
       There is plenty of room on the plane so when I pull out my notebook Chrissa graciously moves a few seats away. I'm entering my new identity as reporter. I sit with my notebook on my lap, waiting for the drug to warm me. I haven't eaten yet so I know it will come on soon.
       The brutish matrons are slowly careening up the aisle behind me with their cart of fake hospitality. I can remember when the sluts were warm. Once I passed sixteen their hostility rose through. They could sense I'd opted out.
       A rum and coke will do and I damn well want the whole can.
       I have my domain here. It's only three seats wide, but what the hell. I am the Observer and it all belongs to me. I smile at myself, retract my reach, my field, and then, looking out the window, project it out across the clouds.
       I write in my notebook, "Nature is so tolerant." It's comforting and austere and final, the way ones author should be. Curse it and curse it and it holds its peace; you just get your echo. Whatever you do, you do to yourself. Clouds used to drive me crazy, the way they didn't notice me. Now I can relish the secret knowledge that we are family, that the stuff was always there to take me in, and that that is where the future really leads. I love that feeling of emptiness, of just being a mirror for the clouds. I drift. Why did mind, why did life have to enter? The fact is that we are mud, but we are mud that speaks, talking mud. In the beginning was the Word and there is no way out. Too far in to go backwards, and all that is left is language and "death."
       Unfortunately all this chatter isn't going to contribute much to the book I'm afraid. The drug is coming on, seeping through my system from my stomach, calming me and creating a cushion against all nastiness. A rising push of impulse lifts me out of my seat and I move over beside Chrissa, where she's sitting with a drink, and take the back of her neck in my hands and kiss her on the eyelids. She actually blushes.
       "What are you doing," she says.
       "Scuse me while I kiss the sky."
       "I'm not a guy."
       "No, you're the sky."
       "I'm the sky?"
       "Yeah."
       "The sky's the limit."
       "You're the limit."
       "That's what I said," she says.
       I'm smiling. "Ouch. What am I going to do with you?" Which is what she wondered I had in mind to begin with. I tell her I've been communing with the clouds and I've gotten kind of sleepy. I lower my seatback, close my eyes around a nice little lost-lamb-in-the-woods feeling I've located, and let rest my temple against her hair and shoulder to nod for a few thousand miles.

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