“‘The music,’ he said, he always said, always said, ‘is in the words. Pause. The words, one, the words, one, two, the words. Pause. The music, one, is in, one two, the, one, two, three, words.’ He was right.”
“No. No. I’ll, uh, admit… he had the genius thing you and I didn’t… poor us; had to earn shit; but he was always… I’ll pause here, not to sound, um, musical or anything, always… susceptible. It’s why he got screwed up originally, why he became a Jesus Freak, it’s why he got back into drugs again. Enlightened. Geez. Like, because he could drop too much acid and still seem, uh, lucid, lucid to his drugged-out and, on drugs or not, dumb-ass friends. Geez. Assholes. White trash… He thought; on the drugs thing… God, man; I don’t know what he fuckin’ thought. He thought it was easy. He thought it was all good fun. He thought wrong.”
“You’re right. Susceptible. I always thought; always believed, maybe, he… he was… was he, maybe, ni-eve? Or maybe we were because we believed in the whole ‘work hard and you’ll succeed’ bullshit.”
“Oh. Oh; yeah; yes. Definitely. Us not him. Sure. Sure, but, man; we’re still alive, still struggling. Moreover… is ‘moreover’ the right word here?
“Moreover, what he was was, mostly, he was…susceptible.”
“Susceptible? (there’s a long pause here, during which my youngest brother and I look at each other, look at several surfboards leaned up against a wall in my garage) Yeah, sure. Susceptible.”
My brother, our brother; no, he wasn’t a musician, wasn’t a poet’, maybe; probably wasn’t more than a guy who wanted to form some kind of life that included surfing whenever it was good. I don’t have to argue with our other brother about this; he’s right. Sidney took the easy way out. Well, what he thought was easy. It worked for him; for a while. I still have the board Sid gave me; classic Surfboards Hawaii pintail; no longer the clean white with the fine pin stripe at the overlap, the dings from a couple of sessions at that reef break that really wasn’t a surf spot (but was never crowded) still not patched. Still, since I have this outlet, such as it is, before I go over the story (and it’s a story I’ve told, I’ve written, I’ve re-written); let me publish something my brother did write. Maybe it is poetry. Maybe it’s just words and pauses, that, if read out loud, as poetry should be read; and, say, try this- slur over the words, because, and my brother also believed this, even the actual words aren’t as important as the music- maybe it is music.
A car door will not stop a bullet;
A door and a femur will,
There is pain; the numbness, alleged, promised, that is a lie;
With every car that passes I feel, or hear;
No longer able to discern a difference;
The sound of a wave;
That first sound.
Oh, that’s it, that’s right;
The same bullet that only pierced the front windshield,
My car charging the roadblock, my head down,
Hoping the motor might stop a bullet or two;
That bullet (or those bullets) took out the back window;
Collapsed: diamond chunks not blown out crumbled.
And now, headed for the sea; whoosh;
I hear the sea, whoosh; I hear the sea.
That was fiction. He’d left the back hatch open on his van, imagined the rest. He knew he was running. Or, more correctly, he felt like he’d been running, though he was really just hiding a darker reality behind his visible life with whatever screen** and story*** and as much sheen he could afford. For a while, it was all pretty damn shiny; surf trips, friends with names we might read in a magazine or hear on TV, vehicles that were so impractical, surfboards one should hang on a wall ridden and given as gifts. Secret gifts too good to give back. Or up.
*Changed, by Sid, from Sid, short for Sidney. Yeah; of course. **I’m thinking the facade of a house just west of 101. ***Fictions about background, actual income sources, actual investments, actual relatives; just about everything.
Oh, and I must now say this is fiction. Just a story. Don’t go looking for real life equivalents, for ‘based-on’s, though, yes, the ‘whoosh’ from Sidney’s piece (he only thought he was being chased, only imagined being shot); I did use that in a piece already posted, on the sounds of a rainy Seattle. I stole it; sure; but really, I remembered it, and I believed it to be true. Truth.
SUSCEPTIBLE- Part One- The Devil and the Fear of Darkness
I couldn’t save Sidney. Roger couldn’t save him. By the time Roger called me about the desert airplane drop and the intercept of the small plane, and the attempted bust and the shootout and the escape, Sidney not among the bodies at the… he called it a ‘showdown,’ two guys in a four wheel drive at the junction on miles of dirt roads and the only highway back, two bodies and bags of recovered drugs when the showdown was over; when he realized the escaped member of the party, the guy the other guys tried to kill when they thought he had ratted them out; when he just knew that guy had to be Sidney, possibly wounded, but not at the scene…
“Hi, Laurie; Roger. How’s everything? You barbequing?”
“No. I know you think that’s what we suburbanites…”
“Is my brother around?”
But it was something.
“Don’t fuck with me, Roger. What is it?” The pause here is probably twenty seconds. That’s a long telephone pause. Still pausing, waiting. “It’s Sidney. Sidney, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. So… yeah. Is Mikey around or not? I don’t have time to…”
Years earlier, Sidney turned to Jesus when he decided his life had sunk low enough; about the time, he later told me, when he gave up sniffing glue, not so much because he could hear (or feel) his own brain cells popping, but because his partner-in-sniffing, both sharing the tube and the paper bags, had popped enough that Sidney could no longer understand him. “He was gone.” I should say ‘turned back to Jesus,’ since we all had enough of a religious upbringing to share the beJesus out of us, to convince us that we were probably, most likely, doomed. Because I like to wrap things up in some terse phrase, I began to claim that “we learned guilt and hypocrisy at an early age.” Because I was the oldest, I had to hide or deny (hypocrisy) my intense fear of the dark; because Sidney possibly learned more of the verses of the Bible, or paid more attention, he developed a fear of the actual Devil. Because Roger was much younger, and because our father died while he was younger, and because our mother met up with several (two, really) future step-fathers who couldn’t care less about religion (I was old enough they had little influence on me or my fears), Roger developed only a fear of failure. Intense, actually.
It was cool, in those days, to announce your love of the risen savior, the redeemer, the Lord; but the religion was mixed in with so many other notions that…I shouldn’t discuss religion, really; I had become free (by circumstance more than will) of the trappings and the niceties and the hypocrisy. The Jesus Freaks offered a simple message; as Jesus had; it just became more complicated when groups were formed, organization was needed.
Somewhere in this complexity, Sidney moved up, and, when other simple believers lost their enthusiasm and fell off, he moved on to other groups; cynics, paranoids, studious zealots who could find scripture to back up their own fears. And Sidney could study deeper, explain the subtleties in a seemingly-clear way. Groups became smaller; Sidney moved higher. And funds were needed. Money. The Devil Incarnate; in various incarnations; but real.
Now, it might be easy for you to compare what I just wrote about my brother did in impressing other druggies by merely being able to somewhat communicate. Fine, but, I, the brother with the fear of the dark, still think him a genius; and still feel the loose-but-real restraints of the morals I was taught, the things I believed; goodness and evil and redemption; I held to my fear of the dark; almost savored it. And, after all, my father told both of us how, back in the war, he had seen The Devil. In the Dark.