"And if there's a wish, pay your visit to Mr. Dickens. For he, like many another literary man, is bound to adore you, fatherless child."- Norman Mailer, Marilyn
"You should marry a librarian," she said, lost in some impulse, her eyes half closed, the computer screen some window to a library somewhere, me, older, wiser, quieter, reading some strange book as my wife carefully annotates a newer stock of antiquated stories. I spooned some sugar into my coffee (decaffeinated) and said:
"Nah, I'm gonna marry Rihanna."
She reacted quickly, shaken back to the secure unit where she, guard and protector of the criminally insane, needed to quickly bring me back to reality. The other female staff, tough, black women with a penchant for the needle and the school of hard knocks, looked horrified.
"That's insane," she said, finally looking frightened.
Some moment in the past (by now I had completely lost track of time, my diary would date days past, strange, coded entries, and I would realize that I could not remember writing them) I had overheard the nurses talking about Fifty Shades of Grey with the same reverence as the King James Bible.
"I'm joking," I sighed, and then: "Can I get a light?" The rules of the secure unit were that clients were allowed to use the staff lighters once every half an hour, and, after midnight, on the hour. She looked up at the clock. It was twenty six minutes past nine.
"Five minutes, Andrew," she said, looking hurt.
"Why a librarian?" I asked.
"Oh," she said, lost in that same impulse. "The way you are with all these books..."
A million hours ago (or two weeks, or whenever) I had slid all of my books out of the two inch gap in my window, making a composite artwork and protest of controversial books in the gap between the window and the iron webbing that trapped the unit like some giant metal spider. The Cliff Notes for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest lay proudly in front, announcing to the passing police and security staff that there was at least one client in the secure unit who had a bit of imagination left. As a punishment my window was locked (despite it being August) and my pillow was replaced with a hard blanket. But it was that girl's impulse to dream of my future with some mystery librarian that I am thinking of now, sipping a Sailor Jack's and Coke in a small bar in Furengirola on New Year's Eve 2012. Mick Jagger sings "Keys To Your Heart" on a TV showing a Stones stadium gig somewhere in Japan. My brother (who had a tooth extraction this year, and as a result has quit smoking) is saying: "It's called regressing to the mean," explaining to me a concept in some high class book on the nature of thought he's stoically been reading the past three weeks in Spain.
"See, a pilot may pull off, like a great move, a double spin, and execute it perfectly."
"Uh huh," I say, sipping my rum, staring around in the dim neon light of for women under forty, finding nothing. The bar is like a bad impression of a bar, a bar doing an impression of a hip NY rock pub. It has everything but the Wurlitzer.
"But it's a one off. Afterwards, his maneuvers became a bit shaky again. He's regressed to the mean. On average, he will always return to the same standard. And another pilot may make an error in flight, but, in the same way, his level will always rise again, his mean is higher. He regresses upwards."
My brother (who I can't help but always see as the helpless baby who looked so cute when he cried) has a degree in Neuroscience and is in his final year at medical school. He does not have my permission to become a psychiatrist.
"Interesting. Can you apply that to the notion of humanistic progress?"
My brother now has a habit of unhooking the false tooth in his mouth and clicking it up and down, almost unconsciously. Earlier today he told me he had dreams now where all of his teeth would fall out, usually in the presence of beautiful girls.
"Explain," he says, sipping his drink.
"The idea of human progress. Eventually the standard, the average ability of everybody on the planet regresses to the mean. All things may be possible in the universe, but not for humans. Our mean is too genetically low."
He considers this, smiles sadly. I'm drunk.
"What's the time?"
"Five minutes," I say. 2012 has been the year of personal apocalypse. I lost myself in grief after the Dark Knight Rises Massacre. I have sold copies of my school shooting books, Smoking Is Cool and Fear of a Tabloid Planet in the US, and thought I had given James Holmes the idea, which led me to self harm and offer myself as a karmic sacrifice as I tried to incite the nurses on an acute psychiatric ward to kill me. They did force me to eat a cup of Benzodiazepine tablets (a drug family more addictive than heroin) and then shipped me off to a secure unit. I spent a month there during the Olympics. Two weeks after my eventual discharge an ex-girlfriend of mine hung herself in a psychiatric ward. Then floods, fires, hurricanes, and a final dreadful massacre of children in an American nursery school, in which the babies were each shot twice with an automatic rifle designed for military combat, wielded by a baby faced psychopath who first shot his mother who had bought him the gun.
"Happy new year, dude," I smile, feeling tears well in my eyes. We're now sitting outside, and I'm smoking a cigarette, remembering her words: "You're a really good kisser," spoken softly, shyly, like a little girl who has always had a schoolyard crush on her English teacher. I think about asking my brother to take me to a brothel. I need the feel of a woman to take away this guilt and sadness, even if the intimacy is only commercial.
"Love you dude," he says.
She is sitting across from me on the plane. The takeoff was shaky, and I had gripped my arms in panic, knowing that I had used all the Benzos to help me sleep in Spain. Now we are cruising at altitude, and I am drinking the last of my Euros in miniature bottles of Jack Daniels and cans of lukewarm Pepsi. She is strikingly beautiful, but her eyes betray the evil of her experience. She has taken on many men, and she is young yet, her stamina can take it. Her eyes are pale blue, her skin a china white, lips red like a Greek prostitute who has bled her finger and applied the blood to her mouth. The plane is shaking now, and I am clutching my drink with terror as she opens her mouth. Her teeth are rotten and sharp, one by one they fall from the diseased gums, she will show me this, and then smile a closed lipped smile, opening, closing, opening, closing, and then she says: "Please fasten your seatbelt as we prepare for our descent into London Gatwick..."
I wake with a start. Sitting across from me is a fat, unlovely looking girl, clutching a teddy bear and sobbing. My whisky has leaked onto my trousers like a child's accident and through the earphones in my depressurized eardrums, Marilyn Manson's cover of Carly Simon's poem to Warren Beatty is taunting me with the words: "You walked into the party, like you were walking into a yacht..."
It is 2013 and I am back in London. As soon as the plane lands safely, the girl has packed her teddy bear and is sitting with a soft smile on her face. She has beaten death once more.
"You're so vain... you probably think this song is about you... don't you... don't you..."