Lindsey Walker

Chaos Theory

 

I sang backup for a cover band fronted by a dwarf in Melbourne, and a dingo ate my shoes and my spaghetti.  I bought a keffiyeh off a Bedouin in Palestine and ate cow udders in Jerusalem.  Drinking apfelwein in Frankfurt, I lost my wallet and enlisted the aid of a Nazi to find it.  After a year of rambling, my funds dried up.  I reluctantly slunk back home to Georgia, where the air was thick and sticky as pecan pie filling, where corn-fed dames shook spatulas in truck stop diners, where folks drew out their vowels and bore down on their Rs, where the Klan still held an annual parade, where the coffee was always ghost-thin and whisper-weak.  I returned to my podunk hometown in the north Georgia woods, where cow tipping and chawbaccer was all the rage.  I feared boredom, feared becoming a mediocre person.  I felt as if I was trapped in Plath’s bell jar; my gas oven looked warm and inviting.

The laws of physics dictate a natural tendency toward increased entropy.  Every molecule within my body craved adventure, chaos, action.  I found these qualities in the Atlanta punk scene.  I stole merch with Kitt, danced in graveyards after midnight with Connie, dropped acid with Jesse.  I once yanked a cigarette out of some girl’s mouth and stubbed it out on my wrist just to rattle her nerves.  Sometimes we woke up with glass in our hair without memory of how we got home.

Ally pulled some strings and got me on as a piercing apprentice at a tattoo shop, stabbing people in their faces for cash under the table.  We spent most of our dough down at the 513 on Edgewood Avenue, a dumpy joint in the ghetto no bigger than a

boogeyman’s closet.  The venue lacked a backstage, so the bands mingled with the crowd between sets.  Choking cigarette smoke sinuated like the snaky tendrils of Medusa, and a layer of spilt booze made our shoes cling glutinously to the floor, peeling away like Velcro with every step.  Punks with stiff fluorescent hair pogoed in bullet belts, skins in boots and braces (don’t dare call them suspenders!) fist-pumped, shaggy haired herberts collided with one another, and pompadoured rockabillies chatted up chicks with their cigarette packs rolled up into their sleeves.  Most of these kids, faced with unacceptable societal contradictions, either actively sought something to believe in, or else they engaged in mischievous subversion.   Imagine a platoon of Holden Caulfields and Artful Dodgers.  The ugly honesty attracted them: the zits, the profanity, the violence.  However, these attributes were also a magnet for some unsavory types.

I first met Trent at the 513 during a Vigilantes set, though his reputation preceded him.  He was a legend, a true degenerate and full-time sociopath.  A few weeks back he curbed a guy; that is, he had the guy place his teeth on the curb, then stomped the back of his skull.  He once got so jacked up on speed he masturbated until he bled, passed out, and woke up with the dried blood gluing his hand to his dick.

“So you’re the Trent I been hearing about,” I said, swaggering up to meet the thick-browed, heavy-lidded, dark-haired punk.

“Get lost, hippie.”  He had mistaken my anok & peace patch for some flower power sentiment.  I punched him in the eye (the only way to definitively prove I was no pacifist), then bought him a beer.  “Sorry ’bout that.  Just don’t make me do it again.”

“Don’t apologize.  People will think you’re weak.”  His mouth twisted; his smile walked with a limp.  “You hit like a girl.”

Trent and I were never in love.  It’s hard for me still to peg down my reasons for sticking around.  I believe I felt a little pity, but mostly fascination with a human so detached, so obviously broken.  He became my own personal case study.  Childishly, I wanted to fix him, like mending a broken bird wing, but my nurturing was more akin to stitching up Frankenstein’s monster.

We crashed in one of many rented rooms in a run-down tweaker pad that summer.  The house was owned by Doreen, a meth-head with sunken cheeks and necrotic skin festering around a brown recluse spider bite.  She was engaged to Jesop, an alcoholic who made a hobby of shocking himself with the house’s wiring when he drank.  Doreen’s own red-headed, freckly son couldn’t afford to pay for his room, so she made him sleep on the screened-in porch, earning him the off-color moniker Porchmonkey.  Trent covered rent with his bartending money; my tax-free cash went toward booze, lots and lots of booze.  In this house that never slept, people dropped by at all hours of the night, music blared relentlessly, and slasher flicks splattered across the fuzzy, rabbit-eared TV screen.  Trent slept with a crowbar under his bed, until he got his first gun, a .38 S & W revolver.

“Hey, y’all, listen up,” I announced one Friday night, “As of tomorrow, my apprenticeship is over.  Anybody wants to be a guinea pig, tonight’s the last night for a free piercing.”  Porchmonkey got on the horn, and soon the tweaker house brimmed with weirdos.  I stabbed and jabbed left and right, a horizontal tongue ring, a four leaf clover

(four interlocked bellybutton rings), vertical nipple rings placed behind an already pierced set.  Trent got two nose rings, one behind the other.

Now here’s where I got my math wrong: alcohol thins the blood, plus speed increases heart rate.  Some partygoers combined the two, and I overlooked that inevitability.  I woke up the next morning to find the bathroom looking like Jason Voorhees’ boudoir.  Blood smeared everywhere: doorknob, walls, the mirror, the faucet of the sink.  We moved out that day.  Gotta draw the line somewhere.

We tossed records into wooden fruit crates and shoved raggedy clothes into shiny, black garbage bags.  I found a crumpled paper that turned out to be a psych evaluation from Trent’s former shrink, containing phrases such as “patient exhibits extreme paranoia.”

“Says here you’re supposed to be on meds,” I stated, half-teasing, half-concerned.

“I don’t like ’em,” he raked his fingers through his filthy hair.  “They make me numb.”

“You like other drugs.”

He shrugged and packed the revolver in one of the crates.  We decided to move to Seattle in spring.  Trent’s friend Ajax had moved there and raved about the scene, saying there were shows going on every night.  We loaded my car with records, guitars, my pet snakes Mermaid and Flash, his guns – – Wait…

Guns with an “s” at the end?

“Where’d this come from?” I asked, holding the superfluous sawed-off with both

hands.

“Picked it up a while ago,” he flashed his eyes down, pretending to study his Anti-

Heroes t-shirt.  The presence of the gun did not surprise me as much as his secrecy perturbed me.  I wondered what else he kept from me.

We headed for Seattle, north through blue Kentucky, hugging the heavy, honey contours of the Appalachians.  We plowed westward through flat Nebraska, where the first verdant shoots busted through perfect furrows, like Athena springing from the skull of Zeus.  We barreled through lonesome Wyoming’s rocky expanse of unanswered prayers.  We rolled into Seattle planning to take the scene by storm.  With skinny Ajax, who never wore his curly mohawk upright, we started a band that was the audio equivalent of gargling with broken glass.

In Seattle, illicit drugs fell by the wayside as Trent slid into Powers Whiskey, skipping meals because food cuts the buzz.  We met a few cats at parties and shows, but made no new friends.  It was our own fault; when Trent drank, he liked to show off his guns.  That scared most people away.  Only Ajax was intrepid enough to stay, and it usually took both of us to talk Trent into putting the guns away.

Until the visions started.

At first they seemed typical of a black-out drunk: not being able to figure out where he was or forgetting who he talked to even as he looked right at them.  Soon the visions became quotidian episodes, escalating in intensity and distress.  I loathed nightfall for its lunatic moon and the madness I could not contain.  I felt helpless.  Hopeless.

“She’s so…so beautiful,” he slurred.  His mouth contorted as his eyes misted over and heavy brows furrowed, “No, no…”

“Who’re you talking to?” I asked, feeling my stomach turn.

He turned his face to me, then looked back to the secret being, his arms reaching for some incorporeal gossamer.  He fell to his knees and began to weep.  “No, no! – She…she says I have to…” he blubbered.  He leapt up and made for the bedroom, to the drawer that cradled the revolver.

“Whoa!  Hey -” I followed him, “She says – who says you have to what?”

“Can’t you see her!?  She’s right here!”  He spun the chamber, checking for bullets.  “Mary!” he waved his arms, exasperated with me, voice raised in pitch to match his hysteria.  “Mary says she wants me to die!  I have to kill myself.”

I was small and weak, but he was inebriated and uncoordinated.  I jumped on him, grappled, knocked the gun from his grasp.  I wrestled him like an alligator in an Everglades swamp sideshow, rolling and thrashing and biting.  I managed to pin his shoulders to the ground with my knees.

“I have to!  I have to!” he cried in desperation.  I leaned over, covering his mouth with my forearm, until he passed out.  I put the revolver away.  He wet his pants on the bedroom floor.

I did not sleep that night.  I paced, pulled my hair and plotted my escape, trying to sort my wants from my needs, trying to decide what to cram into my tiny car.  Dread blanched the color from my face; my fingers felt icy.  My chaos infatuation gave way to terrifying nihilism.  I wanted never to come back.

In the morning, Trent claimed not to recall the events of the previous night.  He showered, shaved and left for work.  I waited for the sounds of the clicking lock and the

rumble of his Malibu’s engine to die away.  I threw Zabranjeno Pusenje on the turntable while I packed.  I phoned Ajax and asked him to hold onto the guns.  He reluctantly agreed to pick them up.  I told Mermaid and Flash goodbye and scotch-taped a note for Trent on the TV.

I holed up in a sleazy Aurora Avenue motel for the first week.  The cheap, filthy blinds covering the windows bore a permanent crease from years of paranoid tweakers peering out between the slats.  The remote control was nailed to the nightstand; the obligatory Gideon’s Bible had never been cracked.  I realized that this was the first time in my life that I lived alone.  I had no family here and no friends anymore, just my own echo bouncing off the dingy walls, just my own shadow stalking me, mimicking me.

I wonder sometimes what would have happened if Trent’s hallucinations had been homicidal rather than suicidal in nature.  I’m glad I didn’t stick around to find out, though I used to feel lousy for ditching him in such bad shape.   To this day, I still love the noise of glass breaking, the off-kilter plunking of a band just tuning up, but my romance with chaos has fizzled away.  I don’t have to be in the pit to enjoy the show.

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