When people ask me who Owsley is, I tell them he is my estranged web designer. I don’t tell him this though, because it’s not true.
I imagine that Owsley and I weigh about the same and, while 110lbs is a fine weight for a little girl of 5’2”, it makes it easy to count the vertebrae of a 5’11” man. I try not to notice his various bones sticking out all over the place and this is easy enough to do just by concentrating on his half of the conversation and trying to figure out what the hell he’s talking about at any given time.
Owsley knows a little about a lot of things and, like a human edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, he begins his monologue at A and continues until the sun goes down or the drugs wear off, whichever comes first. When Owsley really was my web designer, I let him do pretty much anything he wanted to my website because I was too polite to admit that his explanations sounded like gibberish to me. He doesn’t have a speech impediment, it’s just that, not unlike reading an Encyclopedia, I hear his words and fail to assign meaning to them. All I hear is words words words words words and his oft repeated phrase “if this, then that”, which in his mind explains everything.
Despite our failure to communicate, I actually do like him. We seem to get along better in writing as this gives my slow mind time to formulate a response before he’s ten topics down the road. What Owsley sees in me, I have no idea. Dry humor and the slow speech of a westerner, what’s not to love? I don’t pay him for stuff anymore so I can only assume he enjoys watching me bake in his pool and drink his vodka. Hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?
Speaking of baking in the pool, I was sitting in a windowsill in Owsley’s living room. There are three tall windows side by side that look out onto the peach trees “that the drug dealers planted” he told me. “You mean the other drug dealers?”, I asked him. The property had been seized by the feds for housing a meth lab which later allowed him to purchase it for next to nothing. The tile floor of his home sprawls across 1000’s of square feet into multiple bed and bath rooms and what could almost be considered a commercial kitchen, all of which proved to be nearly impossible to navigate. I was sitting in the windowsill watching the drippers water the trees and Owsley said “we’re gonna get really fucking high.” Here again, I heard the words “really fucking high” but failed to assign meaning to them and, just like with my website, I went along with whatever he said.
I was still sitting on the windowsill when Owsley brought out a collection of baked goods and glass pipes. “Good god man, you’ve got a regular fucking bake sale going on here” I said. He told me I should eat a biscotti which would kick in in an hour and use the bubbler to fill in the blanks. ” This will be good”, I thought, “a twisted experience with the thin man…” Owsley was talking about drugs and pain and rubbing alcohol and since I couldn’t make heads or tails of any of it, I did as he suggested. It was 12:30 in the afternoon.
Owsley does this kind of thing every day, it is his method of managing a chronic pain condition. I don’t. I wasn’t ready. I’m an amateur. Some people like to talk about finding god or opening the doors of perception but let me tell you: there is neither such thing.
Once, when I worked at Kline’s Photography, a shelf holding about 30 big Tupperware containers housing album orders for clients, tipped over and fell on the floor. Every one of those fucking Tupperwares came open; order forms and negatives fluttering together like confetti in a parade. The resulting mess took days to sort out.
I was sitting on Owsley’s windowsill trying to figure out what the fuck he was talking about when a shelf fell over in my mind, flinging boxes of grey matter against the wall and mixing their contents like a bad cocktail. The only thing on the other side of the doors is a whirlwind of doomed voices and blendervison, things you don’t want to see.
The dust was still settling when Owsley offered me more but, fearing for my sanity, I politely declined. “See there what you just did,” he told me, “people with no impulse control can’t do that, drug addicts can’t do that.” “Do what?” “They can’t say no to any offer, doesn’t matter what it is: weed, coke, crack, whores, vodka, they say yes until they end up face down in the pool.” I think this was a compliment. “You’ve no idea who you’re dealing with”, I said, but then realized he was still talking and I hadn’t said a word.
Many years ago, when I lived in Sun Valley, I had to drive some douche bags to L.A. for the filming of a porn flick. The scene: most extreme anal scene for which the girl was paid with tequila, was later nominated for an AVN award. She did shoot bananas and ice cubes from her ass before being gang raped by several guys dressed as circus animals but all I could see when I looked at her was her stubby little fingers. Those beeny weenies will never play piano, I thought, poor stupid bitch. Before I was to drive home by myself, I was laying on the infamous Mick Surewood’s bed in Van Nuys, listening to the sounds of his aquarium and worrying that I would fall asleep on the road. I played the resulting crash out in my mind over and over again. I knew the sounds and just how it would feel when the car landed upside down and crushed my head.
Owsley’s kids were coming to visit at 5:00 and it was already 12:30. With the contents of my mental shoeboxes now strewn across every surface between my ears, the first waves of panic began to set in. The imaginary car accident was back. I didn’t want to die but I sure as hell couldn’t keep the car on the road. 5:00 seemed impossibly early.
People have reported waking in the middle of surgery. They can hear and feel everything but cannot respond to the stimulus. “After I sew her up, let’s take turns eating her pussy”, says the doctor while licking his lips and making shadow puppets on the wall. Paralyzed in a cocoon of hallucination, that shit will never stand up in court.
“Four more hours of going UP!” Owsley gleefully reminded me. I put my sunglasses on so I could stare at his eyes without him noticing. “Let’s swim” he said.
I had already told him that I can’t swim but I had also promised to join him in the water. Were we supposed to fuck? I should really know the answer to this but had completely forgotten the pretense under which I had come over. I stared at his eyes awhile longer, looking for an answer. No, no, pretty sure that wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan. Besides, I might break him or something. Before heading out to the pool I had to change into my bikini and this involved not only remembering where I left it but exhibiting an enormous amount of dexterity. For this I credit my extensive athletic training. Surely only a gifted athlete could shuffle down the hall to change clothes in the bathroom without cracking a skull on the side of the toilet.
Owsley got distracted on the way to the pool. “My yard’s not square, see”, he said holding his arms at right angles, “so I made a zen garden over there.” I had no idea what he was talking about, it looked square to me, but I followed him across the grass anyway to a hole in the fence. “I just put all this together the other day”, he said, “bought it all at Lowe’s”. I don’t remember anything about it except that it seemed like a lot of money and effort to square a yard that was already square.
“Pain doesn’t respond to moderate use.” We were somewhere in the expanse between the zen garden and the pool. I worried that I would step on a bee. “That’s funny, you know, because I can’t respond at all.” I meant to say that but nothing came out. “Bee stings are used to treat MS”, Owsley said. Are we conversing? “Shut the fuck up, I can walk just fine.” I was not walking just fine but it didn’t matter because he was going on about the suspected link between naturally occurring high levels of Vitamin D in people who live near the equator and low diagnoses of MS, and all the while I hadn’t said a word.
“It’s so nice to bake in the pool”, he told me, “I’m going down the slide!” Well flutter by butterfly, I thought, not to Owsley but to the yellow butterfly making it’s way across the yard. Owsley hit the water with a huge splash and suddenly the butterfly was in the pool. Like me, they can’t swim. I wanted to help but ten thousand years passed while I just stood there watching it struggle. Finally Owsley scooped it up with a stick. The tiny creature crawled out of the water with a fierce determination but the butterfly’s wings were saturated and clung to it’s body like wet bed sheets. Owsley set the stick down in a shady part of the lawn.
The water was shockingly blue and up to my armpits. Chorline was leaching into my skin, I was very sure of this because I was once a test subject in just such an experiment. I looked calm but kept swallowing air, and continued to look calm because my other expressions were not working. “Here, take a noodle”, he said tossing me a pool floaty thingy. Dr. Owsley eventually prescribed two noodles and a kick board. It’s not true what they say, I was an island.
From the stereo on the porch I could hear PJ Harvey’s Down By The Water. I think it’s on the album called Songs Of The Drowned. Or not. Little fish big fish swimming in the water, come back here and give me my daughter. Fish, spirit animal of the disturbed and the subject of many a horrifying dream. Beta fish have magnificent technicolor fins. They fly in the water like silk ribbons and when I used to keep them as pets each of my fish lived in a color coordinated bowl and was named accordingly. I was cleaning Red Fish’s bowl one night. You can’t clean fish bowls with the fish in them so I had put Red Fish in a cereal bowl for safe keeping. I scrubbed the glass and changed the water but when I was ready to return Red Fish to his home the cereal bowl was empty. Beta fish jump sometimes, I was wearing cowboy boots and my heart stopped. My eyes swept the counter top and the stove: nothing. I looked down. A terrible painting. Long red fins coated the toe of my boot like wet tissue paper. Red scales and red blood coated the floor in a smattering of footprints. Red head and bulging eyes still gasping for oxygen.
“Why can’t you swim?”, Owsley wanted to know, “was it a sport’s injury?” “No, I just never learned.” My voice sounded dreadful but at least something came out, maybe. “So you were traumatized as child?” What? I never said that. “No, I have very dense bones.” Is there tree bark in my throat? Christ I sound awful. “Well maybe you could see a therapist?” he suggested. This stopped me for a moment. “I have a therapist”, I was going to say but didn’t. It’s too bad I don’t have any business cards for him, I thought. Dean Reynolds: Terrible Therapist. Owsley was jabbering on about who knows what and I decided it best not to refer him to my therapist after all.
I should have left Dean out of it because I suddenly grew very worried that his heart may have stopped and that I would read about it on Twitter. The meanest thing anyone ever said to me was “I hope you die alone because you fucking deserve it.” The asshole that said this and I were both childless only-children so this was a well thought out insult, a legit concern for people like ourselves. He said this in another decade but it still haunts me. As the elders in my family have died off, each of them had their turn in the barrel. Frail bones in beds that smelled of the end, searching the sad faces of their younger relatives and conversing with aberrations. I wondered how old I would be when the last of the people I care about passes away and how slow the days will click by without them. I need some younger friends otherwise, when my time comes, all my visitors will be invisible. So far I only have one younger friend and he’s a porn star. I mean, like, a bona fide, according to Hoyle, porn star. Will he sit with me when I’m old? Don’t count on it. Will he fly across the country, rent a car, and meet me in a ghost town while I’m still young? Probably. My Mom has already told me to meet her at the river. All of this is temporary, temporary, temporary…
“Hey you know, no one ever died from smoking too much weed”, Owsley said before going down the slide again. He was having a terrific time. “And”, he continued, “we still have at least another hour of ascending”. I really wanted to punch him for pointing that out, I thought we were almost done. “I’m the welter weight champion of not talking”, I did actually get the words out but it wasn’t pretty. “That’s ok,” he said, “you’re safe here.”