This was a real plush hotel the company had him booked into, he had to admit- as if that changed anything. The past six weeks had gone by in such a rush that even he- who was used to and actually encouraged extreme situations in his life- was left totally out of breath by it all.

He was twenty-seven years old yesterday, and the past month and a half had been everything that he had ever dreamed of all rolled into one.

He was McInerney at 29, or F. Scott at 24. He was getting his first novel published. True, it had cost him- and then some!- but he was here now, and it felt damn good. He had come a long way in his pursuit of this.

And now that he was here, he didn’t know what to make of it. His book was sold- it was going to be published, it was going into print, that much he was certain of-and his advance had been huge, by his meager standards.

The book was also something to be proud of. After the seven books written before it, he had produced a wallop of a horror novel- 736 hard bound pages- and he was fucking proud of it. He’d been scared in there, getting the damn thing down, but he’d come out on the other end of things alive and with a manuscript that he was proud of and considered sacred.

His pursuit as a man of letters hadn’t been the choice of many in his generation, and this was a vindication, of sorts. Maybe it was like Diamond Dave had said- that every time you get up on stage, you’re dancing someone into the dirt, someone who had fucked you over, or kept you down, whether they knew about it or not.

He hadn’t really known what to expect when this whole thing started, so he did what he could to keep his expectations low, to lessen the likelihood of being disappointed. He was taking each day, and each experience, at face value and nothing more, discarding the faces and images that passed in front of his eyes as they happened to him. He knew that he couldn’t let himself get disappointed- not if he didn’t really expect anything in the first place.

This was his first time around this particular block and he had been worried that he would get the out-of-towner, crane-neck geek-shuffle routine from people. He had come from a thousand miles away to be here tonight- in this lobby, sipping a double Jagermeister and waiting for his taxi to arrive outside. The doorman would let him know when the cab showed up, and there was, he could see, a huge barrel of umbrellas waiting next to the concierge pedestal by the front door of the hotel, to keep him from getting wet in the rain that was falling outside. It was snowing where he’d come from, and soon that weather would make its way east, following him.

He had all the necessary accoutrement: the dark sunglasses, pushed up on his head; the bandanna that kept his hair from falling into his eyes. When he looked in the mirror after he showered this afternoon he’d looked twenty years older than he had the week before. But he was having a blast.

He was going to have lunch with Barry, his agent, and then they needed to go to the house and review the final galley prints of the book. All in all, he was looking at a twelve or fourteen hour day. It was a good thing he still had most of an ounce of weed on him- it would do wonders for his concentration. The part of it that had him mildly concerned was that pot was a felony to carry here, in New York state.

He was looking at six years in Attica if he was caught with it, which would be a fucking bummer.

Thank God for Tupperware and Buddha bless with the Sneak-A-Toke. He’d bought one at the bodega down the street from his hotel. The Indian guy behind the counter was helpful, to say the least- just like his brethren counterpart back in his hometown- and he left, smiling and waving, twenty minutes later with $35 worth of dope paraphernalia.

You had to have your priorities straight.

He need not have worried how things would turn out- it was just part of his nature. It was everything he could have dreamed it to be. If he was green, and new, it seemed as if people wanted to come next down beside him, and taste the newness of the ride he was on- he had made more friends in the previous two weeks than he had ever bothered with making over his previous lifetime, here on earth.

Their faces might escape him, but he had accumulated such a list of contacts in his notebook- email addresses and websites and phone numbers and P.O. boxes- that he would never need to meet anyone else, and would have a jump on already knowing the people he did need to know.

The surroundings and accommodations here in the hotel were more than plush- they were downright arrogant. The sandwich he had ordered from room service at four-thirty this morning had cost seventeen dollars.

And Rob was sucking it up. The whole of his experience had been nearly out-of-body, but he knew that this was where he was meant to have been all along- he was a lost son coming home to roost, ready to eke out a kingdom of his own. Everything seemed different now. And it really was.

It had only been fifteen months since he’d scribbled his signature across the contract, and here he was. There wasn’t too much time to think here in New York- this was a working holiday, and he needed to squeeze the most out of his minutes- but from time to time he did have a few minutes to himself, and at those times he found his mind returning continually to Elise.

He had broken her heart in leaving the way he did, but he wanted his pre-publication life and his post-publication lives to be bifurcated completely. She seemed to occupy every empty corridor of his heart.

He saw ghosts of her visage flash across the faces of total strangers, everywhere he looked. Everywhere he looked, she was all he could see, and it was so much like a trite song lyric that it made him chuckle. He laughed, but not very loudly- and never as loudly again as when he was with her. Every accusing glance belonged to her; every glance, an intimate damnation.

For weeks- months, perhaps- he had been plagued by recurring dreams and alternating nightmares of her- but he enjoyed them in the same way one can enjoy a dream of falling from an airplane, if one only remembers that it’s just a dream. It was a way to be with her again, after all this time. Even if it was false.

As the pictures of Elise scraped through his mind, he was caught in the grip of each successive memory, wanting to remember more of the minute details than he could. The crinkle in the skin on her nose when she smiled, the crow’s feet beginning to emerge at the corners of her eyes, all that sort of shit.

It was the things you forgot instantly that went to make up a lifetime.

All the scenes of unimportance, like random photos in a frame- were the very things that went to make up a life. It’s the song you remember only half of the chorus to, the movie you can’t remember how it ended, but you know you saw it. These things are all lost in the fullness of time, and only resurrected on rare occasions into the fitful half-life of distorted memories.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, this is rich and full, and it just pulls you through to the end. Bravo.