This is a re-write of Chris Ballas' A Trip You May Have Taken. I'm doing it because in spite of the author's manifest best effort, and in spite of the author's resplendent qualifications exactly geared towards helping him succeed in that effort, nevertheless the overwhelming pressure of the drony, neotenic subculturei he finds himself immersed in overwhelms, and jarringly shows through in many places, as this bevvy of passive-agressive and generally neuroticii junk. It's the sort of thing people pay through the nose for, but whatever - I like him, he can have it for free.
He pulls over at the curb. All the shades are pulled down, the place looks dead. The house -- the shack, really -- is on the beach.
He gets out of the car.
"Tracy," he calls out, not expecting much.
He walks to the screen door. It's locked, but the inside door is wide open. He smells pot, and something that is not pot, and something that is feces. He had never seen this place, yet it is, somehow, exactly as he imagined it would be. It is also worse.
Tracy appears in the front yard, behind him. "What are you doing here?" she shrieks. "You weren't supposed to come until Thursday!" She looks exactly like a crack addict.
She runs to the back door, cursing. A man who looks like anyone from Cops except the cops comes and unlocks the screen.
"You're Tom, right? My name's Sam. Pleased to meet you, I've heard a lot of great things about you that for all intensive purposes I feel like I knows you." There is no geographic reason he should speak with a drawl, but he does. For that matter, there's no socio-political or philologico-philosophical reason he wouldn't be wearing a shirt, either. He isn't.
"Where's Tracy?" He walks past Sam. The house is filthy. There's some broken glass from what could have been a crack pipe, pushed to the corner of the room, resting on the scratched floor. What still is a crack pipe sits hopefully on the TV, waiting for someone to hold it. Tracy returns.
"You can't just come by whenever you want! You can't force me to do anything, I told you I wanted to do this but not yet! Fuck! My girlfriend's boyfriend just got locked up, and she needs me--" She yells more words at him. It's altogether unclear whether she thinks they're dating or simply lacks a different track for the occasion.
"Get your stuff, we're going."
"Son of a bitch!" she screams. Eyes on the audience, she slaps a beer bottle off the counter. It smashes into the sink. More glass. She walks off, grandstandingly, while screaming something about a car and a guy from Arkansas. She has an ample supply of words at the ready, if scant else. The way this story ends - she's alone, nothing of her own but her madness and her own happy happy memories of her ruined life. The state buries her in a numbered grave, or her loving family throws her a nice funeral, all very sad and virtuous and angry and relieved. The story ends, eventually... but not just yet.
"Tracy, let's go! Now!"
Apparently that was on Sam's cue card.
"Don't worry about it man, I'll go talk to her. I'm really glad you came, she really needs help right now. Do you want a beer or something?"
Somehow Sam has a beer at the ready. Perhaps it came out of a holster. Sam pops the tab and hands it over, the man takes it for no reason. Sam goes off to make things right, crunching some broken glass underneath his bare feet. His feet do not care enough to bleed. There is more screaming.
A man knocks hard at the screen door; Tom locks it cooly. The man looks like a ex-football player turned pro beer drinker. Big chest, bigger gut. No sleeves. He cups his hand over the screen to look in, then jumps back when he sees Tom standing there. "What's going on in there? Open this fucking door!"
Tom takes one step back, enough to give himself a good six feet, and puts a hand on his belt.
"Who the fuck are you? Where's Tracy?!" Beercunt yanks at the screen door. "Open this goddamn fucking door or I'm going to fucking smash it--" when it bursts open under his own weight.
"Everything okay boss ?"
Another guy that looks like an ex football player, subtract the gut, add a thin tie and cheap suit.
"Everything but the fat fuck on the floor. Why'd you have to knock him out anyway ?"
"He looked like trouble. What do you want me to do with him ?"
The man looks from one to the other, then at the the busted hinges hanging from the door, bits of wood still affixed.
"I dunno, prop him against a pole or something."
The fat fuck on the floor slowly turns and looks up. He seems very confused.
"Who the fuck are you ?!"
"I'm her brother."
"Oh, sorry man, that's cool. Things have been out of control here lately, people, crack, the cops, last week someone set fire to my--"
"Not that it's any of your business, but I'm getting my sister out of here. Now get lost."
"Ok." - and with he picks himself unsteadily off the floor and makes himself scarce. Tracy reappears.
"Shut up. Get in the car."
Sam is overly helpful, he puts her bag in the trunk, goes inside, gets another bag and puts that in, too. Then suddenly he stops, reaches in, and grabs a bottle of pills. He looks around.
"I don't know how you all are getting back home, but... you know she's got an open warrant, right?"
"No, I did not know that."
"It's not a warrant," she says, "the PO violated me because I had a hot urine, but she wasn't allowed to do that because I was already in treatment for it, so I spoke to her supervisor, a guy named Marins, or Marinis, Marins, something like that, I have his name inside with the other papers, and they told me that I had to get a doctor's note verifying that I am in treatment and that I am prescribed the Xanax for my anxiety, one four times a day. I never abuse my medications, I take it only as prescribed. My doctor knows that. That's why he trusts me with the Xanax. But I couldn't get to him because they don't allow walk ins, and the last prescription he wrote by mistake he wrote two times a day instead of four times a day, so the PO said that she had to technically violate me but since she knew that I was telling the truth about the Xanax I wouldn't be arrested. But then she got transferred, and she never changed the order--"
"Tracy," says Sam, "just get in the car. Your brother really cares about you, don't give him a hard time."
Sam looks at him. "She really needs help. She's been diagnosed bipolar schizoaffective, she takes Seroquel but she's supposed to be on lots of other shit, but, you know, she doesn't take them. I always try to get her to take them, and I make sure she doesn't abuse them, and I makes sure she gets to her appointments. She's really lucky to have a brother like you, to come out and do this for her. " He pauses. "Do you want some beers? You know, for the road?"
"No, thanks." He shakes Sam's outstretched hand, but then Sam won't let go. "Look, could you do me a really big favor? It would really help me out a lot. I'm trying to get this apartment but the landlord needs me to verify that--"
The man pulls his hand back. "Sorry, I can't help you."
"No, wait, hold up, it's really not a big deal, all I need is a letter--"
The man's face turns stern.
"So that's it? After all the help I gave you here? I gave you my beer. I moved all this--"
"Dude - I've done all I came here to do. Get lost and I won't have to do any more than that."
The engine revs happily. Sam glares.
"Wait," she yells, "I forgot something, I have a pair of pants inside I have to return to--"
He gets in, the car starts. "Wait," she says, "I forgot my cigarettes-" while trying to open the door past the man in the suit seated in the back, next to her. She doesn't manage, and the car drives off.
Barely a hundred miles later, she says, "I need a beer. We need to stop somewhere."
He shakes his head in disbelief. "Yeah, sure."
"No, seriously, I'm going to have a seizure, I'm coming off it, I'm in withdrawal."
He turns and looks at her. No particular reason, he wouldn't know what withdrawal looked like, if he cared about it one way or the other. The look has some effect, as she seamlessly switches discoursive modes.
"Please, I'm not kidding here, I was taking like 12 Xanax a day, I'm going to have a fucking seizure--"
"I knew I shouldn't have brought the Mercedes." He makes a gesture, the car eases into a gas station. The man in the thin tie brings back a sixpack. She offers him some, but is politely refused.
Within another hundred miles -- "I need to pee." Christ almighty, he's with a three year old. Car stops, and while he wonders whether the Mercedes comment brought about the biological urge, the guy in the suit escorts her to the bathroom. The driver notices that the shiny knob of the window crank is now missing.
But just then, the woman and the man are returning in the strangest arrangement : he's holding her by the scruff of the neck in his right hand, feet off the ground, kicking and screaming. He's holding an immense, three by four foot cheap poster showing Marilyn Monroe, in aluminum framing in the other hand. He pushes the door open.
"What the fuck is this ?!"
"It's all right", she starts. "Don't worry about it. No one will need it."
"What the fuck happened here!"
"She came out holding that, boss. I didn't know what to do. She said she needs it or something and that she wanted me to hide it. Made no sense at all. I didn't know what to do."
"Take that thing to the fucking shop and tell them it fell off the wall or something."
"Come on, I really like it, this is my favorite photo in the whole world. I love Marilyn Monroe, she inspires me, she inspires me to get clean, this photo always reminds me of--"
"If I hear one more word out of you," he snarls, "just as much as a peep, I swear to god I'm giving you a belting on the side of the road."
The suit's coming back, sans inspiration.
"How did that go ?"
"He said he's calling the police."
"I told him I'm the police, and so he said thank you officer and that was that."
"Now give me her purse."
Oddly, she doesn't struggle or protest. The silver knob is waiting sagely, stuffed in the bottom of the purse. The man puts it in the coin slot, and throws the purse out the window. She, remarkably, keeps quiet throughout.
"Call Harrison, see what the fuck about that warrant."
"Hey, Jams, this is Cops. Yeah Jimmy Cops, listen, I'm here with the boss, and he wants a warrant check. That's right." then towards the front seat "Name ? Or what we got ?"
"Give it here." then in the phone "It's Francine A. Hayek. H-A-Y-E-K." and then after a pregnant pause, "No, just a name coincidence." And then "Aha... aha... yeah ok. Send Alex the details... nah, it's good from there. Thanks."
He glares at her.
"When I get out," she says, looking out past the highway into her dreams, "I'm going to move back to the beach, and I think I'm going to get a job working with vets from Iraq who have, like, PTSD, people who are self-medicating."
He says nothing. She eventually looks over at him, honestly perplexed.
"You don't even fucking care about the vets, do you? You voted for Bush, but you don't even--"
"Shut up," he says. "All the time."
"You don't know what it's like for us."
He actually turns in the seat, facing her. "Us vets? Are you a vet now?"
She rolls her eyes, "You just don't fucking get it". Takes a drag from the cigarette and blows it out the window. "You know what your problem is? You don't fucking care about anything, or anyone. That's your problem."
"That's it, gag the stupid fucking bitch and put her in the trunk."
The car stops, there's a light scuffle, the tell-tale screech of duct tape being peeled. The car starts again, and melts in the distance. The purse sags where it landed, slowly, by itself.———
- The US isn't a culture, in the grand, oft capitalized sense of that term. It's merely a subculture, which is why it best finds its needs served by a pigdin.
PS. Anthropologists usually take care to point out that "subculture" and "subcultural" are terms of art, and thus not deprecatory. This is true : when the doctor says you have cancer, he doesn't mean you're a bad person. Yet it still means you should put your affairs in order, for you're not long of this world.
The other prong of that "not deprecatory" bit stems out of a very pedestrian "because all things are the same thing, because socialism", and so the life experiences and world impressions formed by pan troglodytes in the cis-Lualaba and the Ride of the Valkyries are equal, and on and on with that insanity. It is obviously politically motivated - people would still like to study anthropology notwithstanding its major political implications, so they pretend like said implications don't exist and that's that - problem solving skills typical of the Ivory Tower.
As I myself don't share their problems, internal or external, I also see very little need for or utility in their "solutions", and thus as far as I'm concerned the term subculture is exactly and I should hope painfully deprecatory. It simply means "you're the kids that weren't good enough to sling dope", in a different field. [↩]
- If you subscribe to the simple classification that divides mental issues in those of psychotic and those of neurotic issue. [↩]