Methven - Day Fifteen - Part Three
The Elixir is a thick, gritty, bitter liquid. It looks like dirt suspended in snot and it tastes..well, let's just say it looks better than it tastes.
It's a good thing Mahatna had a second dose available, because the first one made me retch. With the awful flavor of that initial shot still making my eyes water, it took everything I had to choke down the second mouthful. It was a real struggle, but, by holding my nose and pretending it was a raw oyster, I finally managed to force it past my gag reflex.
"Ulch. That certainly hit the spot."
"I do not understand, Mr. Drew."
"It was a joke, Mr. Mahatna. Not a very funny one, I'm afraid."
"As you say, Mr. Drew."
"Now, take your seat in the Chair of Awakening and wait for the Elixir to take effect, Mr. Drew."
"Will you stay with me until then, Mr. Mahatna?"
"And once it hits me?"
"You will want to be alone, Mr. Drew. Now sit."
. . .
What must have been a couple of hours went by.
I tried to engage Mahatna in conversation, but he wasn't having any.
"Chatter is for children, Mr. Drew. Save your strength. You will need it for what lies ahead."
. . .
It began with a slight throbbing sensation behind my eyes. Two minutes later, that mild pulsation exploded into an apocalyptic headache--the kind that takes no prisoners and leaves only scorched earth behind. It felt like my brain was literally trying to batter its way through my forehead.
Abruptly, I vomited.
I managed to miss my boots during the first wave of nausea. By the third spasm, my stomach was empty of both Mahatna's foul Elixir and all the water I'd drunk since I crawled out of bed that morning.
Not that that ended the torture. Far from it. I was as sick as a pack of dogs. The dry heaves grew so bad that, if it weren't for Mahatna hanging onto my belt, I might have pitched over the the precipice in front of me and fallen to my death.
It seemed to take forever, but, eventually, my helpless heaving began to subside toward mere queasiness. It was about that time I thought I heard Mahatna say that he had to leave me, and that he would return later, but I was so miserable that I simply waved him away.
He'd been right. I didn't want him around. I just wanted to die with dignity.
. . .
"You never learn, do you?"
I looked up to my right to see Alison, dressed in her softball uniform, perched on the ledge above me, one leg crossed carelessly over the other, casually filing her nails.
"You heard me perfectly well."
I quickly wiped my mouth on my sleeve.
"Alison? I..but.. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, nothing.. Wasting my breath talking to you. As usual."
Frowning, she held her hand out, fingers splayed, examining her work.
"Alison, I'm so glad to see you! I've missed you so much.."
I started to rise to my feet, intending to take her in my arms.
She uncrossed her legs and planted a size nine Reebok on my shoulder. Exhausted as I was from all the barfing I'd just done, it was more than enough to prevent me from getting up.
"Please--I know it's a stretch for you, but try not to be tiresome."
She sighed and tucked her knees under her chin, wrapping her arms around them to hug herself into a ball. It was a posture I knew all too well from our life together so short a time ago and so immeasurably far away--the "we need to talk" pose.
"You never listen and you never learn, do you, Drew?"
"What do you mean, sweetie?"
She waggled an admonitory finger at me.
"I'm not your 'sweetie', Drew. Remember? It was over between us months ago.."
"Six weeks ago today."
She uncurled, banging her fists on either side of the ledge she sat on and glaring at me.
"You big doofus! That's exactly what I mean! You never listen! Never! Who cares whether it's been six weeks or six months? The point is, it's over! Understand? O-V-E-R. Over."
"But, Ali, how can it be over when I still love you?"
"Because I don't love you, idiot child! It doesn't matter how you feel, because, I've moved on to better things. Much better things."
"Are you talking about that boy I saw you with in Andronicos? You can't ask me to believe you honestly prefer him over me! Hell, he can't be more than a year out of high school!"
"That 'boy' has a name, Drew. It's Devin. And he's been more man to me than you ever were, 'sweetie'."
"You heard me. Unlike you, he's romantic and funny and considerate and devoted to making me happy."
"Now, wait a second..I'm romantic.."
"And I'm funny and..and I'm devoted to making you happy.."
She planted her balled fists on her hips and scowled.
"You wouldn't know what it takes to make me happy if I stripped naked and tattooed it across my tits!"
"That's not true! I always made you come, didn't I?"
She flung her nail file at me. I ducked and covered and it ricocheted off my upflung hand and spun off into the air and down toward the valley below.
"You hopeless, self-centered, self-indulgent, chauvinist pig! Is that what you think 'making me happy' is about? Making me come? What nerve! As if it were another one of your stupid little 'accomplishments', like climbing one of those dreary rocks you're always so proud of--and coming home all smelly and unshaven and expecting me to make a big fuss over you!"
"What about me, Drew? What about what I want to do? What about taking me to a museum? What about taking me out for dinner? What about taking me shopping?"
"I take you out for dinner, Ali.."
"I've got news for you, Drew: the drive-through at Taco Bell is not 'taking me out for dinner'."
"..and we went to the Art Museum in December.."
"Devin took me to the De Young yesterday."
"We went to the Koons exhibit at MOMA last week."
"We're going to the Ansel Adams Center next week."
"Yes, but I love you, Ali!"
She folded her arms across her chest.
"Tomorrow, we're going to BART into the City and spend the day at Crocker Galleria."
The hands I hadn't even realized I'd been holding up in supplication while I pled for our relationship dropped to my sides in defeat.
"Okay. You win. He's better for you than I am..but I still love you, Ali."
"Get over it."
"That's not fair."
"You're damned right it's not."
That was a male voice--one I didn't recognize--coming from my left. I turned to see a dark-haired man in his early twenties standing on the ledge above me. He was dressed in a turtleneck and jeans and blood was pouring out of a gaping wound in his chest.
"It's not fair that you threw as much crap at the pigs as I did, but I'm the one they shot. That's not fair at all, is it?"
Suddenly his features snapped into focus. I remember seeing them, bordered in black, on the cover of the Daily Cal. And I remembered seeing them grimacing in agony, as he lay fatally wounded on the roof of Gramma's Book Store.
Bloody Thursday. The day Heynes had them fence off People's Park. The day the riots started.
"Jim Rector. You ought to know. You were standing on that roof, too. At least, you were standing there until they shot me."
"You ran, didn't you? Like a thief. Like a coward. You ran, didn't you?"
A hot flush of shame swept over me. I'd run all right. Run in terror of being shot down just like Rector; I'd scrambled down off that horribly exposed rooftop and run as far from Telegraph Avenue as I could get, as fast as I could go, shaking in mortal fear for the safety of my one and only irreplaceable life.
Shaking. Just as I was shaking now; my hands trembling ever so slightly, despite my best efforts to stop them.
He was practically screaming in rage, hands clenched into fists. The bright blood streamed down his chest--his shirt and pants were sodden with it.
"Yes! Yes! I ran! Are you happy now? I ran!"
"Look at your hands shake! You chickenshit weekend hippie motherfucker!"
"Fuck you! I'm chickenshit because I didn't want to die over a piece of fucking dirt? Get real, Rector! You know what People's Park is today? It's a park! It's a fucking park! So what the fuck did you die for, huh? What?"
"For a principle, man. Something you wouldn't know anything about. You fuckin' coward."
"So, you're a hero and I'm a coward! And I'm alive and you're dead. So what? What do you want me to do about it? Jump off this cliff and die for nothing, like you did?"
"Of course not, Andrew."
That voice could not have been more familiar. I turned to see her sitting naked on the precipice where Alison had been perched only moments earlier. She was feeding a grape to a black man who lay with his head in her lap, lasciviously nibbling her fingertips as he accepted her offering.
"Nobody wants you to die, dear."
"Mother, for God's sake, cover yourself!"
She plucked another grape from the bunch in her left hand as the man in her lap turned to plant a kiss on her ripe belly.
"Why should I do that, my darling? I'm perfectly comfortable as I am and it would inconvenience Lucius here.."
"It's Khalid X now, Mandy. Remember?"
"Lucius, Khalid X, whatever. It would inconvenience him no end. Wouldn't it?"
"I don't care! Jesus, Mom, you're..this isn't right!"
"Oh, pish! It's nothing you haven't seen before, sweetheart. Remember?"
Her right hand reached down out of my sight. From his sudden groan of pleasure, she must have used it to caress Mr. X's genitals. He reciprocated by lifting his head to lick the underside of her lush breasts.
"Mother! Goddamnit..stop that!"
"Andrew Ryan Wilde! How dare you speak to your mother in that tone!"
I felt hot tears working their way down my cheeks. My head pounded; the pain pulsing fiercely with every beat of my heart.
"Mom..for Chrissakes..why are you acting like such a slut?"
She looked at me sideways, the faintest hint of a smile playing across her shining lips.
"Why..because that's what I am, my dearest. That's what I've always been. Surely you remember?"
I balled my trembling fingers into trembling fists and ground them into my eyes, desperately trying to block out the sight of my mother's depravity, but it was no use. Even with my eyes screwed tightly closed, I couldn't shake that sordid vision.
"This is not happening. This is not happening. You're not my mother, this is not happening. Please, just go away.."
That familiar voice, so low and soothing, insinuated itself into my misery.
"Andrew, darling, look at me. Don't be afraid, sweetheart. Look at Mommy..that's an angel. Look at Mommy."
I lifted my streaming eyes to gaze at her as she fed Mr. X another grape.
"Think back, sweetheart. Don't you remember? When you were just a little boy and Daddy was out of town so often, Mommy would have her gentlemen friends over every afternoon? Remember? We'd be on the couch and you'd be on the floor, playing with your toys, and we'd all be so happy. Remember? And then, when you were older, sometimes you'd come home from school and find us on the couch? Remember?"
"I don't want to remember, Mommy."
"Of course you don't, darling. But you do remember, don't you?"
I nodded, helpless in the grip of long-suppressed memories of cool, gray afternoons and the sounds and sights of my mother's illicit passion.
"Your father didn't want to know about it, either, Andrew, but he did. He always disapproved of my little..adventures..even though he knew what I was when he married me. That's why he was always so cold to you, sweetie--because he was never sure if you were his son or someone else's."
I'd thought there was nothing left of my heart to break, but I was so very, so foolishly wrong about that. And, even so, I had to ask.
I nodded, unable to speak.
"I think so, my darling. The timing was right--he was in town just before I missed my period and I was never unfaithful to him when he was home. Never."
She paused to caress the close-cropped head of Mr. X as he nuzzled her belly.
"But it doesn't matter whether you're his child or not, my sweet Andrew. What matters is that you are my child, and I love you very much."
My sense of loss was overwhelming.
"Then, why did you leave me, Mommy?"
Her voice grew cold as she gestured across the emptiness to where James Rector had stood.
"Why don't you ask your father that question?"
I turned to my left and there he was. His back was turned to me, but I knew it was him.
(Copyright© 1997, 1998 by Thom Stark--all rights reserved)