|The Transformation Story Archive||The Blind Pig|
I emerge from the looming bulk of the overpass into the night and into the choke of streaking carbon monoxide and ozone. For a moment, my silhouette can be seen, backlit by the ubiquitous gastric-peach sodium-vapor lamps which lurk in the shelter of the freeway bridge, but then, I am gone, lost to the shadows of the high gravel shoulder. The dull shriek of the passing traffic, thick even at this hour in honor of the holidays, is vibrating my skull and inching me ever-closer to the white-hot pain of migraine. It seems somehow fitting that I should go into this with a headache. Things have conspired against me tonight. The geriatric washing machine down in the mold-crusted root cellar of my apartment house decided to almost-quit halfway through the washing of this, my only white shirt. A good solid kick set it right. By the way, you see this limp? A badge of this same war, I tell you. My next conquest was of the Visa Cash Network, which refused, through some massive routing error, to give me the money to buy the roll of reflective tape which I now carry. Not that anyone in the whole damn city but Mr. Shalhoub had anything of the description in the first place, and I always hate going into his filthy road-shop because he's a squat, oily little mother who practices a dedicated morning regimen of leers and greasy winks just to keep in shape for the workday.
Behold the Urban Warrior Princess. Behold her struggle against the forces of Darkness and Coin-Op Laundry. Swoon to her tales of high romance and high-school date rape. Stand in rapture of her epic quest to scrape in enough digits on the paycheck to buy some chocolate sauce for the plain white bread this week.
And, watch, WATCH, you bastards, as she comes home tonight upon her own shield. Yes, that's right, kids; it's time for another episode of Suicide, Thick and Chunky American-Style.
The time ticks away in my head as the tape flies from the roll in strips around my disease-twisted limbs. Another moment, another minute, another strap of reflective matter on the threadbare whiteness that is my shirt. Another prayer.
I do not pray for salvation of any sort. I'm beyond salvation. Salvation implies that someone, somewhere, out in the great bastard Hell Town, gives a fuck. And they don't. You know they don't. AND DON'T YOU GIVE ME ANY SHIT ABOUT IT. I mean it. One of my "friends" tried that once. As this is a written medium, rather than my traditional hot-brass verbal, you're just going to have to use your damn imagination to fill in the stupid squeaky-ass voice. 'Just go to the West Street Shelter!' She said. 'EVERYONE loves the West Street Shelter! They've got people there! Trained people! I fought against it too, when they first started talking to me! But that was because I was just too blind to see that they really loved me there!'
Here I would mimic being shaken wildly back and forth by my shoulders, head flailing, while continuing with the happy-squeak voice.
"WEEE AAALLL LUUUVVV YEEEW!"
Granted, it loses something in the transition to written words, but trust me, back in my usual digs at the Soho Club, you'd be laughing your ass off. I do that to you people. It's a small form of power I have over your sorry little shit-kissed lives.
Yeah. Everybody loves it at West Street. It's the forgotten ones' hooker-widda-hearta-gold wet dream, all wrapped up in a thousand and one yards of piss-stained asphalt. There's a sanguine bitch what runs it and a fuzzy little don'itmakeya'awlHAPPY'inside widdle fuzzy lapine to talk your ear off about what ails you.
Once, not so long ago, in a moment of weakness, I fell for the myth. I'd like to think of myself as smarter than that, but there you have it. I thought, sure, they'd be different. I've heard all the Three-A.M. sauced-off-the-ass tales; blubbering clubgoers, too drunk to even stand, praising God for West Street and weeping delicate tears of joy for all the family and community they've found at that goddamn Mormon-run bar on the South Side. One night, a night not unlike tonight, I had been infected by one particularly misguided telling of the old yarn, and I found myself desperately seeking out the same high. It never happened. The joy never showed up. There were no magic switches tripped in me that night. I didn't "find myself" in one, shining burst of light. It's those people that make me want to spit, by the way. I've had to fight tooth to jaw for every single step along that journey, so 'scuse me if I'm a little bitter at all of you who make claims of finding The Miracle Glow just by walking over the threshold of one of your tired old holy places.
It's a journey that ends tonight.
So yes, the manager of the Shelter is a bitch. On the other hand, at least she's an honest bitch. You ask me which one of the two is scarier, my Lincolns are on the fuzzy guy with delusions of sympathy who wants to look as though he's your friend. But that's neither here nor there. Everybody else loves him. So it must be me who's screwed up, right?
Everybody loves a cute little bunny to pull 'em up by the bootstraps. Everybody loves a model self-starter ex-whore in the hot seat, a shining icon of how much (snort) 'we SCABS' can do with our lives. Everybody loves West Street and everybody loves Good old Mister Sinclair's Bar and Traveling Freak show.
Everybody except Mara LeSard.
And yes, that is my real name. It's French. Look it up.
Or don't. I don't expect you to care, of all people.
Another strap of reflective tape from the roll. Bitter is the wrath of the cynic; when and if they hit me, I want to make damn sure that they're given ample time to see me beforehand. I want to create the false impression in their innocent little minds that they could have somehow prevented it. If Fate decides that this is my night to go, I want to go with the certain-sure knowledge that I've caused some unknown person some horrible psychological trauma. Preferably one that it will take them a long, long time to get over.
For this same aim, I am dressed all in white. Your classic sacrificial white it ain't. My laundry detergent isn't really all that good. I don't really own any Elizabethan gowns, either, so Fate and my reflective tape will have to make do with an absurdly baggy cotton shirt and some decaying acid-washed-white denim pants.
And in rhythm to my tape-strapping, I pray. And these are the words of my prayer.
Hit me. Just hit me. Please. One of you bastards, lose control and just hit me. Wipe me out. Feel a twinge of guilt? I don't give a fuck, frankly. Tell it to your own "therapist". Or maybe you'll be the kind of person who won't. What's one more rat-thing, here or there, after all? Who cares that she's five feet tall and walks around on hind legs. Most apartments in this city 'got scarier vermin than me. Lay out the D-Con. Or just run me down. All it matters is where the corpse lies. Just hit me. Hit me. Hit me.
Hit me. Hit me. Hit me.
You say it enough, it becomes a kind of a sea chanty. Wea, hoo, an' oop she roizes, all that shit. Fucking jolly, ya know. Hell. More than jolly. Say it enough, and it takes on a sort of... fierceness.
It's a good sort of fierceness. I like it.
I finish my meager preparations. Without hesitation, I clamber up the steep gravel bank, my clawed and unrecognizable limbs scratching and dislodging stones. SCABS, glorious SCABS. The same disease which sees fit to effortlessly transfigure people around the globe into wolves and eagles and leopards and such failed to get excited enough over little Miss LeSard to come up with anything more than a decidedly half-hearted "sorta rodent-like creature" before calling it quits for the evening. If this goddamn disease were a contractor, I'd sue its ass for breach. I make a damn ugly half-rat, 's all I can say..
FUCK IT ALL!
My facade almost breaks. If you're keeping a tick sheet of my character traits, feel free to check off "Moody." A scream is doused in the firebucket of my throat and leaks out as nothing more than a weak hiss. Everywhere my brain goes, every thought it tries to explore, I find pain, anger, black bile, and chickenshit. There is no route open save one.
The highway is clear. Its color is a warm, soothing blue in my mind. I have reached a moment where the thought of death is the only balm that the world offers.
Not ten feet before me is the broad, night-darkened ribbon of freeway. Speeding vehicles raise great gusts of winterlaid salt and sand into my eyes. My shirt billows and flutters like a torn parachute, its flight unhindered by the weight of a jacket, even in this wind. The streaking headlights barely illuminate my form, here, reflectors aside.
Hit me. Hit me. Hit me.
I raise my chin in rhythm to my internal chant. My breathing is deep and sibilant through my rodentine nostrils.
Hit me. Hit me. HIT ME.
Positively shining in proud anger, I step forward into the wailing expressway, my brain singing glory and hallelujah.
And my thoughts become a blur.
Random thoughts on the occasion of my own death, mused into being while walking across a busy freeway at night:
My life should be passing before my eyes here. That's what it's supposed to do, isn't it? Mine doesn't. Maybe I'm just fucked up enough to be exempt from that. Maybe cliches about human death don't apply equally well to rat-things.
There is, however, a certain clarity to this all.
Hey, I should try this more often.
He he. I kill me.
God, the jokes just keep coming! Who knew? Being close to death is, apparently, a great source of comic inspiration!
Actually, that would explain a lot about the business. It would explain the weird link between pain and laughter that we call Black Comedy; my own personal shtick, don'tchaknow. They eat it up. Perhaps they love to see more darkness than is in themselves slapped up on stage. I, ever the humble servant, oblige. I try to make them laugh, to laugh so hard that they don't see that I'm up here cutting their balls off, while they sit there grinning into their gin and tonics, the shitheads.
Honking. My pace never slows. You wanna swerve, you go right ahead, but I'm not stopping. Play chicken with me, willya. I tell you something. I got nothing to lose. I got nothing left to take. All I have is my own perverted sense of humor, and all you can do to that is amuse it more. I will laugh at your face as you cut me down, because it is all that remains to me to do. Whoever you are.
I feel your lights bearing down upon me. You lean in on your horn. Stupid bastard, do you think I don't hear you already? What, d'you think this is all some big accident? Just let the poor little rat-bitch know that she's in mortal danger and she'll clear right away for you, eh? FUCK YOU. You have no idea what it's like. It's not even crossing your fucking mind right now that I might have a perfectly good reason for being up here, you white-assed pansy. It's like, oh, God, the poor stupid girl doesn't even realize that she's trying to cross the expressway at night! Lemme play the Samaritan here and let her know of her error.
I HATE YOU for your ASSUMPTIONS. You ALREADY think the worst of me, and... we only just met. Wink, smile. Hello, stranger.
It's just as well. I have no regrets. No regrets.
Molecules of rain and salt lick around me in super-slow-motion as the headlights bear down.
And suddenly, I realize, that this isn't oblivion at all.
It's a stupid thought. When you kill yourself, that's supposed to be that, right? You take the action, and your death follows. Technically, if you're going to have any consistency to your definitions at all, I committed suicide the moment I stepped onto the freeway here. But I'm not dead. Oh, sure, when this car hits me, then I'll be dead. But...
This is so weird.
I have two seconds now, between my committing suicide... and my death. I had never really planned much beyond my last actions. But now... I've got a whole two seconds, and I don't know what the hell to do with them. It's like those damn Wednesday nights when there's nothing good on the 'feed and you're sitting home alone in your shithole apartment, and there's nobody on the other end of the phone lines, so you just sit there staring at the walls, watching the paint peel until you eventually up and go to sleep where you sit. But until that time, there's... hours of time. Full of nothing.
I've got two seconds left of life. And I'm bored.
I almost want to check my wristwatch or something. But I know that I wouldn't even really have the time to find the cheap little backlight button, press it, and read the face before the car that I have chosen to be my executioner finds me. All physical activity is out of the question. So why the hell is this taking so long? Has my brain sped up or something?
I run over the possibilities a few times. Yup. All I've got time left to do is to think. And I'm bored with it.
The headlights inch closer, to the noise of many horns wailing in the darkness.
COME ON! This is so fucking STUPID! Nobody told me that I'd have to plan for this time! I just thought, step, bam, DONE! It's... well, fuck, it's not FAIR!
This suggests for me a new idea. Most of us are amateurs to the whole suicide thing. I mean, if you're any good at it, you don't get much experience. So there's no possibility for hands-on learning, really. So you say to me, Mara, what does it matter? You're dead, right? Yes, I reply, but you're missing a whole lot of subtlety there. It's like sex. You can ask, 'did you finish?' Well, yes. And, I mean, there's a time and place for that kind of question. But even more important is the ever-lovely, 'was it good for you?' That's kind of what I'm facing here. This is going to be one bad-ass orgasm of a suicide. A real let-downer.
No one ever told me that I had to think about it!
This suggests for me another idea -- GUIDE BOOKS! 'Suicide for Morons'! Guaranteed to have you dead, and what's more, happily dead, within the hour! Were I writing this book, I think that, in retrospect, I would definitely recommend the firearm method. Lucky bastards. You kill yourself with a gun, I bet you don't have to go through this shit. Your basic forty-four to the mouth, that's your Cadillac of suicides. Kinda presumes that you have enough capital to buy or enough stones to purloin a weapon of your own, though.
You know what must suck? Trying to steal a gun to kill yourself and getting busted for it. 'Coz, like, they'd throw you in jail and stuff. And then, I'd imagine it's a helluva lot harder to kill yourself in the clink.
I chose the cheap way. Let the other guy buy the weapon. I guess you get what you pay for, eh? Fucking Value-Sav'r brand suicide, this is. Fucking Bargain Basement shit. That's a note that really has to be included in my guidebook. 'Folks,' the guidebook would say, 'There are some times when frugality is a virtue. But, your first suicide should not be one of those times. Please remember, if all goes well, this will be your only chance to do things exactly as you want them.'
I would then go on to say, 'If you feel you must cut corners, here is a list of effective, yet cost-efficient ideas for self- eradication. Try one! You might be surprised!'
I'd write it real perky like that, just because I'm that kind of person.
Damn it! I'm not dead yet? I check. Nope.
How long is that car going to fucking take?
I would be tapping my foot right now. See above caveat about real physical activity.
Let's see. What the hell can I think about now?
I don't know. How 'bout Regr--
No. I already said that. No regrets.. GODDAMN IT, no regrets.
I do not regret never walking naked down a public street. I do not regret never taking my act anywhere other than the goddamn Soho club. I do not regret never buying a can of aerosol whipped cream and eating it in its entirety, straight up and out of the bottle. Someone once told me that you could get a nitrous high from eating a whole can of aerosol whipped cream, is all, that's the only reason I mention that. I figger, if I was going to do drugs, that's the way I'd do 'em. None of this fucking-arse Bohemian glamour act with the needles and the mirrors and the steel razors. Just li'l old me and my can of whipped cream. They'd all laugh at me, of course, them and their two-hundred dollar luxury crack pipes, but in the end, all they'd have is a cheap high, while me, I'd have a cheap high... and a whole mess of whipped cream. I'll let you do the math. Mm mm, good.
I do not regret that I have never seen the horizon, except in photographs. 'Slike a fucking celebrity, I'd recognize it if I saw it. Plenty of pictures in the travel magazines. Like that one in the Texas brochure. 'Sunset over San Jacinto.' I recall that one, I think, because, as a name, 'San Jacinto' rocks my ass hard a' starboard. Not that I'd ever name anything of mine 'San Jacinto.' Perhaps a fish, or something, nothing I'd have to call in from the yard or pick up at school. Yep, just me and my fish, San Jacinto, sitting here in our shitty little apartment, getting high on Reddi-Whip and looking at State of Texas promotional literature. Sure, laugh if you must. But know that me and San Jacinto, we're laughing right back at you. Might be the nitrous, might not, but believe me, we are laughing.
I will never see a sunset over San Jacinto. I will never own a pet of any description, and I will never get high on whipped topping. My last meal will have been a chocolate sandwich.
Somebody once told me that lobster has a real nice flavor to it. Most of that hoity-ass food, I could do without. But lobster, now, that, that's a rich folk's meal that makes sense. Got some serious heft to it, you know? Not this little dainty shit on square china plates. And you know what must be even better? You get to pick the one that's going to die. It's got such a fucking Roman feel to it. Your capricious whims directly dictating the life and death of your food. You see it swimming around in the goddamn tank, alive and well. You pay them fifty bucks, and for this privilege, you get the magic finger. Half an hour later, the very one you've pointed to is dead on the plate in front of you. GOD, that must feel good, in a pitiful bourgeois sort of way.
It's very sweet meat, they always say. Subtle. Tastes kind of like vanilla, but not really, because nothing quite tastes like lobster. Funny. I almost kind of wish someone would have come up with a better descriptor, so I could now say, oh, well, that must be what it tastes like, pfft, whoop de shit.
But no one ever did. And because of that, the little pigeonhole in the roll-top desk of my head which is marked "What Lobster Tastes Like" is barren, black, and empty.
And then, I look, and I see exactly how many of these holes are just that same way.
And suddenly, I realize... when people say that somebody's life is 'hollow'... that... maybe, they don't mean it metaphorically at all.
And as my mind's eye expands, I am treated to a vision of thousands and thousands of little pigeonholes, cold and dark, all carefully wrought of the old oak of my neural net, each carefully inscribed with a brass plate. Sounds unheard, smells unsmelled, feelings unfelt. Ponies and mountains and Niagra Falls and the touch of velveteen. All empty. Others are occupied, but shallowly, with contents strange to their labels. Love, for example -- a sordid string of codependencies and abuses and marginally consentual sex. Family -- well, we shan't touch that one. Suffice to say that there is something in that pigeonhole, and let's leave it there. And then there's one that says 'Sunset over San Jacinto'. And all that's there is a cheap, wrinkled old travel brochure with a well-thumbed picture, its inks rubbed away with a thousand aching tou--
I let out a quick gasp, and with that one action, my remaining time comes to a close.
The lights are upon me.
There is a hair's-breadth glimpse of a face. Then, a billowing rush of air, pressed forward by the car's progress. It leaves me breathless, sucks wind from my lungs, shatters my ears with a roar undercut with the still-constant wail of the horn. There is a whmp, a soft, sickening one. It's nothing special, really; years and years of Foley art have conditioned me to expect more out of catastrophic impact than a dull bumping noise, but, well, there you have it. Another topic for the suicide manual to cover; what will it sound like?
It'll sound like whmp.
I expected there to be pain. There is none. I cannot even orient myself for a moment, but I know that my arm is not where it is supposed to be.
I stagger. Which means I am still standing.
This condition is jeopardized a few milliseconds later, as, sucking oil-black spray, I am pulled into the wake of the passing vehicle. Two half-stumbles, and then... I recover.
And I am looking at taillights. They waver left and right as the car frantically attempts to recover from the catastrophic last-moment swerve which redirected its path scarce inches to the left of my position. I could have touched it. I could have fucking touched it, two tons of glass and steel and rubber, roaring past at sixty-odd miles per hour. I could have lifted a finger.
I am standing.
"BASTARD!" I scream, at last.
I saw your fucking face, you SHIT-LICKING PROLE! YOU WERE ON MY OWN PERSONAL CANDID FUCKING CAMERA! I SAW YOUR GODDAMNED 'concern', YOUR 'shock' AND 'horror.'
I WASN'T FUCKING IMPRESSED!
I SPIT ON YOU. GODFUCKING DAMN YOU, don't you dare look crosswise at me like that! I'm the fucking Indefinable Rodent from Hell. I'll gnaw your scrotum off and like it too, because I'm too lacking in self-awareness to know any better. Beat me damn senseless, 'coz ya know what? I've got the knife, and I'll fucking stab you in the back. Tonight, two nights from now, three, four, somewhere, I will burn you. I will scathe you and scald you and twist your name and actions in front of twenty-five to fifty rapt paying customers, and I will make you BLEED, and they will laugh, AT YOU. Go on. Hurt me now. You will CURSE THE DAY you ever crossed an angst-ridden COMEDIENNE!
"BASTARD!" I scream again, the tears blossoming, not out of any sorrow or remorse, but of sheer frustration at my inability to articulate anything more than this one word. Wildly, I go stumbling forward and crosswise, breaching the median and the opposing lanes, shirt billowing out around me, my weak rodentine chin frozen high. More cars swerve and turn, but none are so close as that first. DAMN THIS JOGGER'S TAPE! I had to make a statement! I had to go out fighting! I STRAPPED MYSELF UP like a FUCKING CHRISTMAS TREE! I should have just done it in black, 'coz then he would have HIT ME! HE NEVER would've SEEN ME! How FUCKING STUPID of me!
"BASTARD!" Comes the scream, a third time, and suddenly, I have reached the opposite shoulder before actually realizing that it was coming. The gravel catches my foot, my balance is thrown, and I go tumbling tits-up down the opposite side of the overpass, coming to rest eventually in the darkness and weedy grasses in the shadow of the off-ramp.
I lay still in the weeds for a long time, letting the ancient winds scour my body. I begin to be conscious of pain, for the first time, bruises all about from my tumble down the hill, and a seizing, sharp hellfire in the area of my left arm. But I do not move, save for my mouth, which, amidst my flooding tears, mouths the single, silent word 'Bastard' over and over again as though it were the only word in creation.
"Susan!" Comes a voice from above. "Here she is."
A female, then, from farther off, taking up the opposite end of the conversation.
"Tell me she's all right."
The first voice kneels down near me. Scattered light from somewhere illuminates one half of his face enough to show me a glimpse of whisker and creamy-brown fur the color of pale chocolate. Also, an ear, a very distinctive one, rabbitish. He's SCAB. Lapine. The chick looks Norm. I'm not in my best of minds right now, though, so I'm not really trusting any of this.
"She's hurt." He says, in a deep, resonant voice. That said, he turns his attention back to me. "We have a phone in the car. The ambulances should be on their way. You're going to be just fine, hear me?"
My mouth stops moving. I swallow, hard. Then I nod.
"Arm... hurststs." I finally manage, and by the time I do so, the rabbit-like figure has already removed his scarf, folded it into a sort of pouch, and stuffed it with a few bits of the icy slush that surrounds us. He presses it to my aggrieved wrist with a firm, steady hand. Almost simultaneously, his coat is off and is down upon me; faint scraps of warmth begin to accumulate around my person.
Meanwhile, the female voice approaches. "Carmel?"
"Just what it looked like." Says the one named Carmel, his lips tight, responding to the question before it's even asked. "The side-mirror clipped her arm. She's damn lucky." He turns his face back to me. "You're damn lucky, you know that?"
"...bastard." I finish.
"It didn't look like he even stopped." Says Carmel, nodding faintly. Naturally, he misunderstands me. I'm used to it. "What were you doing up there?"
I pause. I think. I think hard.
"I dunno." I say, at last, in complete truth.
The one named Susan leans down over me. "Mara." She notes, casually, almost unthinkingly. Carmel nods to her.
I blink. "How d'you... know... name?"
"That's your name?" Says Carmel, raising his "eyebrows" at me, faintly.
"Yeah." I say. "How... d'you know."
"I didn't, really." Says Susan, concern still clearly audible in her voice. "I meant to say, that's what you are, isn't it?"
"'Mara'?" I murmur, trying to forget about the pain in my arm.
"Type of Large South American rodent." Says Susan. "If no-one's told you differently, I'd swear dollars to doughnuts that you've got some in you. Pretty distinctive look."
"Hehe." I say. "Funny. Coinkydink." I cough once or twice. "S'what I get for going to cheap doctors, 'guess. Can' even tell me wh'I am."
And then I begin crying again, afresh.
In a moment, I begin to hear distant sirens. Carmel and Susan crouch close.
"They're on their way." Says Carmel. "Just relax. We'll make sure they take good care of you."
"Carmel?" I say.
"Mm hm?" He says, keeping one eye and one ear on the direction of the approaching sirens.
"You got me at a bad time." I say. "'M not like this. Crying an' stuff."
A faint trace of amusement crosses his lapine muzzle. "I'm sure you aren't." He says.
I dither for a moment, my tears falling into the dirty slush. "'Mara.'" I say, at last.
"Yes." Says Susan.
"I never been anything before." I say, at last, as though this alone should explain it all. Carmel smiles faintly, again.
I summon my energy into my one good arm, and extend it up into the cold winter night.
"It's nice to meet you." I say.
TBP- Jaywalking copyright 1999 by Channing.
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