HATE EIGHT TRIPS / 5 June 1999
People go outside on sunny Sunday afternoons and they walk slowly and they idly rub at invisible blemishes on their warmly bare shoulders and they sip at chilled versions of beverages that are usually served hot. Sometimes low-impact sports are involved. It hurts my head to think about.
I ate an unbelievably overcomplex sandwich at a place where the menu was written in colored chalk. The girl working there and I both knew that she belonged in a horror film as the busty best friend and not in some cafe taking my order. Everyone there was either talking or pretending to listen. I’ve been single for so long — or rather, for such an unprecedented length of time for someone who grew up ensconced in serial long-term monogamy — that the interactions between lovers (and I use that word all smirky-like, as if “lovers” could never be applied to these worn-down couples in large, tight denim shorts with thick cuffs, trying to obliterate time in suburban California) seem scarily transparent. Like: I will agree to believe that if you agree to believe this. You know.
I went to the used bookstore and picked up some more novels I’ll probably only get halfway through and I also picked up an audiocassette of Dale Cooper’s tape-recorded messages to Diane. I got the box set of Twin Peaks recently and as I was watching it I thought, “You know, I think I’ll be Agent Cooper for Halloween.” It seemed easy enough since he pretty much just wears a suit and slicked-back hair. But then I realized that I didn’t want to be him for Halloween, I wanted to be him all the time.
On the way back home I noticed a miniature Stonehenge in this little park. Instead of a hollow center, though, there was a tall, flat monolith, red-orange, with silver-dollar-sized holes punched in it. I walked within the ring of stones and sat down before the centerpiece. I noticed that the grass around the base of this thing was sickly white.
When I said, “What are you?” the sky throbbed as if some giant entity had grabbed its hem and flipped it like a carpet, and a tidy shower of interstellar grit had flown eastward.
“One-eighty,” it told me, in a voice that was husky and too-prolonged, like a phone-sex girl’s.
I took its advice and walked around to the other side and sat there. That’s when I realized that a large billboard could be viewed through the punch-holes from this angle. I slid myself back to the outer perimeter of stones and saw that the holes lined up with certain word-fragments in the billboard, filtering out the coke-fueled last-minute efforts of the copywriters
Hanny: Do you mind if I take a moment to vomit?
Lundy: How about, “It’s like injecting your eyes with pure chocolate goodness.”
Hanny: Hey, asshole, I came up with that like five hours ago and you shot it down.
Lundy: OK, how about, “The taste goes straight to your nipples.”
Hanny: I’m listening.
Lundy: We could bring back that animated character from a few years ago.
Hanny: Cap’n Caprophage.
Lundy: You hear what I’m saying?
Hanny: This room is dense with the unholy stench of pure genius.
and revealing just the message of the monolith:
H A TE E IGHT T
I’ve promised myself maybe infinity times to buy a small, concealable notebook and an even smaller black, fine-point pen and carry it with me at all times to jot down various ideas or intentions, perhaps some simple sketches or blueprints or schematics, or, as in this case, a series of letters that need to be parsed into separate and meaningful words (which reminds me, per Mark Leyner’s book, I want to always have two fancy, heavy-stock business cards [this touch of class is my addition to his original idea], one of which says, “You wanna get high?” and another that says, “Be my sweaty bosomy lover?” which I would carry in my wallet and hand out to appropriate parties at appropriate parties). Alas, there was no paper or pen to be had so I had to squint and mentally organize; not my strong suit. Luckily the message didn’t require unscrambling, just a careful separation of letters, so after a few minutes I was able to decipher it:
HATE EIGHT TRIPS!
As with all mystical pronouncements, though, getting an accurate interpretation of the words is just the beginning. The hard part, and the part that is always up to you and you alone, is figuring out what to do with this information.
The future seemed suddenly fraught with misunderstanding.
Dana R. says she will soon be moving to a place within walking distance of my apartment, and as I stroll home past the Seventh-day Adventist school, I remember that that is approximately where she will be living.
Several of us meet weekly at Dana R.’s home to watch Twin Peaks and maybe one evening (next Saturday?) after taking in 3-4 episodes I will walk home but stop off at the school, where, even though students will probably not be there, there may be some faculty members around planning syllabi or smoking or grading papers
Jesus has helped me accomplish many things. One time I was playing soccer against Sacred Heart and got to be the goalie because Mitch hurt his leg and Jesus told me to wear shin guards because Mitch didn’t and now his leg was hurt and bleeding. Jesus said I know your scared when Big Ray is coming right at you but its all mind games and you just stare right back at him and keep your knees bent and wear shin guards. But Jesus coach says to keep my eyes on the ball and Jesus says, Chris, no, you watch Big Ray’s eyes because they will tell you more than anything his foots do. You will know even before he does where that ball is going to go and you just go there and catch it. We lost the game but it was close and I know that next time I wont be as scared and will look Big Ray right in the eyes.
and I’ll knock on the door and someone will answer and I’ll say, “Hi, it’s me, Jesus!” And they’ll say, “What?” And I’ll say, “I’m Jesus. You were right, my advent was nigh. I’ve been stopping in at all the local places and saying hi and that we’re going to have a meeting at some point in the next couple of weeks to discuss strategies.” And they’ll say, “You’re that fat kid that lives a few blocks away. You’re not fooling anybody.” And I guess then I’ll just shrug and try to make an expression on my face that implies something like, “OK, whatever, brother, have it your way.” Maybe raise a hand in a lackadaisical manner like Jesus does in the pictures.
I ran into one of my neighbors as I wandered back into the complex. She was pouring a huge amount of empty glass bottles into the recycling bin. These bins are right outside my window so every now and then I’ll get an earful of this trebly racket and it always seems to bring a smile to my face, knowing that my neighbors are also going through a large amount of alcoholic beverages.
“Nice day,” the neighbor says.
“Gorgeous,” I say, which is a word, like “hilarious,” that I try to avoid using but can’t help when caught off-guard.
“Sunday afternoons are a time for walking slowly and drinking something cool,” the neighbor says.
“I was just thinking that. Say, you do crossword puzzles right?” I had never seen this person doing crossword puzzles but I thought saying something like that was a win-win situation. Either I’d be right and they’d be a little freaked out (“…was HE the one who was spying in my window late last night…?”) or I’d be wrong but they’d still have to be accommodating, like, “Uh, well, no, not really, why do you ask?” since that was the sort of purely neighborly relationship we had (though I had, by the way, driven this particular neighbor to Kaiser on two separate occasions because of some mysterious “stomach problem” that required her to get some sort of potent medication that worked its magic so thoroughly that she wasn’t allowed to drive herself back home).
“Uh, well, yes, I do, actually,” she says. “I’m throwing away the Sunday edition right now.”
Why did she lie straight to my face? She was obviously throwing away that week’s collection of beer and wine bottles (far more genteel than the gross of miniature airline-style liquor bottles that I toss on Sundays [though, admittedly, mine make for a much more mellifluous tone than hers]) with nary a paper in sight.
“I’m trying to figure out this clue,” I say, my slightly raised eyebrow letting her know that I know that she’s lying. “It goes like this: HATE EIGHT TRIPS.”
“Hate eight trips?”
“Is this like one of those cryptic crosswords? Like with all the clever clues?”
I just fucking stand there and let her answer her own goddamn stupid questions.
She tucks the now-empty cardboard box under one arm and looks skyward. “Let’s see. Hate eight trips. You know, I think there’s a word for that. Like octoviagophobia. Come on up and I can check my crossword dictionary.”
I’m wasn’t going to fall for that one, so I make some quick deflective words and sidle into my apartment. My apartment, of the four in our little unit, is the only one on the ground floor and as a result I get a good deal of “attitude” from the other tenants which I frankly think is a little unfair.
Back in the cool darkness of my home, I check my calendar that was sent to me, unrequested and for free, by my old high school (Crystal Springs Uplands, which I recently read about in the San Francisco Chronicle because they evidently have an unstoppable badminton team, and by unstoppable I mean they haven’t lost a single match in seven years), and I flip through the past year. Since it’s a high school calendar, it runs from August of 1998 to July of 1999. I note the times that I have scrawled, almost illegibly, the flight times of various excursions I’ve gone on:
08.98: Denver, CO
I have taken seven trips during the course of my high school’s school year. I feel close, but the real import still eludes me.
It’s this third question that’s been really bothering me since I got home. The optimist in me wants to believe that after the eighth trip (and let it be known that I currently have no plans to go anywhere after my Seattle trip), the hate will disappear and a new era of love, hope, and compassion will begin. But the pessimist says something about how most of the previous six trips I’ve gone on have been enjoyable enough, not worthy of hating, and that the punch-hole monolith is just trying to plant some dark seeds within my mind, sowing the pliable earth of my psyche, as it were, for future tilling, which will then, come harvest season, sprout twisted and pronged plants that will, in turn, give birth to sour and destructive fruit.
I’m so sick of shit like this happening when I go to get something to eat on Sunday afternoons.