[ToC]

 

THE NO COME DOWN

T Abeyta

 

Parking Lots

Gene and I are sitting in my Civic that is grey-brown with the windows down. This is my first and last new car and when I bought it the guy kept referring to it as Galaxy Gray. That was after I said yes to a 50,000 salary and it seemed as if I was on Mars. Now the car has four times as many miles as that salary and it is a Sunday so we are parked in the bank parking lot. The beach parking, across the street, is crawling with big bugs of shiny cars. Withered beach locals walk around in tank tops under towering trees. Tahoe is weird.
     I want to unzip my cut offs but we aren't there yet. I forgot about holding in gas with a new lover. And the trip is going to be 3 days. We are resting, I say, and put the seat back. We haven't slept since he arrived. We are high on hands that fit right and banter and weed vape pens and espresso and expressions and confessions and decadent and raw foods like the plate of prosciutto we ate the night before.
     Gene is telling me about his orders at fast food places. We passed a Taco Bell hidden in dark brown wood in the Kings Beach shopping strip before we parked at the bank. That's the classiest Taco Bell I ever did see, he said. I just got done discussing my theory on how I could've gotten fat during my depression because I barely ate. He says he doesn't need theories because he's got nine item orders to tell me about. The Taco Bell one starts off with a Frito burrito and ends with a something-something supreme. Frito like the chips?, I ask. Frito like the chips, he confirms. His McDonald's order includes a 20 piece chicken nuggets as a side. Better to have a few left than not enough, he ends. We discuss sweet and sour sauce. He has a little red balloon tattoo behind his right ear that I can't see sitting behind the driver's wheel but I know it's there. Just the way McDonald's fries pop into my mind from time to time.
     Just then, a Scooby Doo van pulls up a few spaces over with an urrrt. A woman with an Amy Winehouse body and tiny tiny shorts shoots right out and a white dog perches out of the driver's side window in immediate nervous anticipation. She has a full-sleeve leopard print tat on her left arm and a snapback hat and she rushes with a big lump of keys in her hand. We are making up things the dog is telling her not to forget at the store while it circles it's little yorkie face around like a crackhead. As we are doing that, a second white dog pops up to the left and says Don't forget the chips! We know this woman doesn't eat chips, that she lives on air and maybe methamphetamines, and that the dogs are worried about their own sustenance.
     My stomach is a leather sack at this point, Gene continues, then tells me about the bags of candy he used to buy in bulk for 15 dollars. This was back in New York where he would ride the subway and eat his candy out of the plastic bag and read comic books with no destination in mind. That was the destination, he doesn't explain, but I get it anyway. 15 dollars doesn't really buy you that much candy—it's not as much as you think—he tells me. I know what he means there, too. We spend a lot of time in parking lots, he points out.
     On the drive over, we hit the vape before backing out of my parking spot in Oakland. Wedding cake, a hybrid, gave me just enough panic to get halfway through 80 and then there was suddenly room between all the things, they got spaced out, suburban, then rural, then just brown. I slowed down with the way of it all and as we snaked down highway after highway, I lost my tail and kept barreling forward to the unknown until I basically didn't know what I was doing in my car. Gene reminded me to exit again and I drove over to a gas station-Starbucks combo. When I turned the car off, which took a concentrated effort, I could finally breathe. It reminded me of that time I was just outside my apartment with keys in the ignition and some guy I was with snatched my keys out and threw them in the backseat because I didn't see the fuzz pull up behind us. Keys out of the ignition or you'll get a dewy, he said.
When I asked Gene if he is getting coffee or something from 7-11, he said we were getting all the things. I followed him around the gas station 7-11 and watched him finally put down lots of waters and then ask the guy for scratchers, a tobacco vape pen, cartridges for the pen. The total came to $75. Rarely does somebody spend $75 at a gas station, but if there was someone to do it, I would put my money on Gene. $75 worth.
     We headed over to the Starbucks next and I got my sobriety to go while Gene engaged in a 12 minute conversation with the heavy eyelinered Mom behind the register about how she was fresh out of pumpkin spice latte mix. The tub didn't come in, she explained. Gene wouldn't have anything then, he joked, but the lady took it seriously and continued explaining how the scarcity of the PSL tubs were causing her to look bad in front of customers. We got sucked into her problems for a while but soon we were back in the car. I turned the ignition on and backed out a few inches and turned it back off, realizing I couldn't drive yet, and also just how far we had come less than 24 hours into our trip. I'd drink my bitter drink and let it burn my throat while my passenger became more and more a reason to drive.

 

Alex

The Airbnb is a cabin above a garage on the lake in Carnelian Bay. There is a lockbox with a code, that gives us a key, that gives us a flight of carpeted stairs. We pad up the stairs in socks and the first thing I see is a dead body of used towels bunched up on the floor of the bathroom. It hadn't been cleaned. Our weed is wearing off and we didn't sleep the night before and I'm having auditory hallucinations. All we want to do is lay down. But we go over to the beds and the sheets are obviously used. The dark blue bed has dandruff all over it, Gene shows me. Fuck, I say. I message Airbnb guy. I call Airbnb guy. We look down from our balcony and see another house so we go down to see if anyone is around. Gene is in front of me calling out Hello and the door to the main house is open just about an inch. He turns to me to check that we can't just go in there, right? Right, I say.
     I can barely handle flip flops, how to walk. Pretty soon, a Hello back and a sprightly and slight man springs up from some stone stairs. Even his hair is springy, grey tinged. He is one of those older guys who is healthy looking, springy and stringy, crispy tee shirt. He follows us up to the cabin, explaining that he is Alex, the brother of the Airbnb guy and deduces out loud that "it might be a problem on our end" that it's not clean. Gene looks like he wants to die and kill at the same time, his eyes sunken in his head while he marches right over to the blue bed and shows off the dandruff. That's not dandruff, Alex argues, those are little balls on the sheets from overuse. Gene looks like he is about to clock Alex with a big book from the shelf right above his head when Alex tells us where we can drink down the road while he gets the cleaning staff over there. Thanks, we say, and as we are about to leave, Alex gets on his cell phone and in perfect Spanish asks the cleaning lady to come down. My wife is from Bolivia, he explains to us, hoping we were impressed. After all that driving, we both get back in the car for more, the promise of alcohol drumming up a bean of energy between the two of us.

 

Knot Sloths

When we are finally told the place is clean, we drive back to the cabin right away. All the windows and doors are open. The blue bed still has the dandruff cover on it, but the big bed looks made so we get in it and make no moves to fuck because we have no energy to move. Instead we look up at the pine ceiling and pine walls and pine bookshelves. I look at my own arm and see it is made of pine. Let's get a cabin like this someday, Gene says. Yeah, I agree, if we sell the script we should just blow it all on a cabin we never come to. Agreed, he says. Then we start doing what I started one time when I pointed to a shape on my bedroom ceiling and asked if he saw a lion. Instead he had seen a huge dragon. Ceiling beings, I call them. Now he is saying a thousand sloths are looking at us . He points to the knots in the wood and a lot of them are in pairs and the paired knots do look like eyes, downturned spaced-apart Kimberly Williams of Father of the Bride sloth eyes. Even with an audience of sloths, we can't muster up the strength to touch each other. We lay on our stomachs with arms at our sides like beached seals and bark to each other. Arr, arr we say. We don't know what we say anymore. It's Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense. It's the come down, but not really. It's the no come down, come down. Just a blip, just a quick rest.

 

Nazis

As we are beached not at the lake, but inside a pine cabin by the lake, where seals do not exist except for us, we start reading the spines of the books from the bed. Our eyes still work. Kind of. I think it's Gene who first spots a swastika on a spine. He picks his head up. Tha fuck. He gets up and walks over to one of the many bookshelves. In the reviews I had read for the cabin, people made comments like they could have stayed in all day reading the great book collection. I had sensed that was a crock of shit, and now I feel I'm onto something. He starts drawing out every Nazi and Hitler book he finds and it's damn near a quarter of the collection, the books pulled out just a little further out from the others, no longer in hiding. They look like fucked up teeth. We are laughing but also not really. He keeps hooking books with his finger and drawing them out. He goes around the room to twelve bookshelves and does it. Aren't you getting tired, I ask. No, he says, all excited. He gets back into bed when he completes his masterpiece and we marvel at the bigotry. They are everywhere, he muses, shocked and disturbed. Tell me about it, I say, nonchalantly. I stretch my brown arms. Welcome to my world, I think.

 

Love Drug Not Sex Drug

I'm supposed to pretend that I don't love drugs anymore because the whole reason we are in Tahoe is because I'm turning 41. Plus Gene and I just met and we are supposed to be on our best behavior. I accidentally fart in bed and it's one of those silent ones you have to acknowledge otherwise it just gets weirder when you see the unprepared take notice. So I feel I can be honest after that. He's the one who got the drugs, after our dinner at Foreign Cinema in the Mission, the first night.

 

A Foreign Cinema

There is a global pandemic and wildfires. Everything is mostly closed. I find out that Foreign Cinema is open. They are a San Francisco staple and I hadn't been there for about fifteen years. We walk up and it's weird to walk in heeled shoes after months in slippers. The homeless dot the street and sometimes the dots move at a rapid pace. At Foreign Cinema, we are treated as if all this is not going on and that our lives are normal now and so is their restaurant. I almost sashay down the hallway, dark but lit in the corners, and I feel Gene sloth eyeing me from behind. We sit at an outside patio and he is still nervous but orders a lot of food and we take pulls off the vape. You can just do this in California? he asks. Yup, I say and then cough my guts out. An anime movie is playing on one wall and in the courtyard there is Father of the Bride. We don't see anything but each other. And the couple at a neighboring table with paisley print long sleeve dress shirts. Water in a glass with ice bobbing up and down is a treat. Carpaccio covers a plate with dollops of good stuff I can't identify in between the wrinkled strips, little peaks and valleys, a pink Mars landscape. He is wearing a white linen shirt and I'm in a black skirt so short that my jacket makes it look like I don't have anything on underneath. The Cake song. We have chemical chemistry and it halos our table. Waiters are annoyed or afraid. Gene is sure when he orders. I get up drunk on white wine and the restroom is wallpapered and the music makes me forget I'm in a public restroom. When I get back, he takes a turn, and I ask him about the music when he returns to the table. What that Moby music?, he asks. Yeah, I say, liking it even more. I'm fine with going back in time, a time before the tech workers took over my city, the former pandemic.

 

Love Drug Not Sex Drug Part II

We met Mando after Foreign Cinema, because he had a treat for Tahoe. He showed up on a motorcycle but everything was closed so he got back on the motorcycle and took off ahead of us to find a place. Cha-cha-chas had a patio set up and the last time I was there was years ago, with Sara. Sara and I were there getting sick drunk off of Sangria after she first met Jack and I knew he was bad news just looking at his picture on her phone. Now here I was, the trip before the trip, shaking the etch- a-sketch anew with Gene and his company and it felt good before leaving town. So much starting over, my skin on my thighs felt softer as I crossed my legs. We left with a little bag of yellow dust and a little bag of white dust. At the cabin, we couldn't remember which was which but I left Gene to figure it out while I tried to get music going. The molly was already kicking in by the time I was unplugging and replugging and reprogramming a speaker I brought. Nothing I did worked and I let myself fall helpless to that, finding a glass bowl and putting my phone inside for acoustics. I could tell Gene was blooming, his eyes grew darker and darker as his pupils spread. He licked his lips and drank water. I tried to have a dance party so we peeled back the big rug by the corner and put on socks. He moved faster in his socks. But it wasn't loud enough and soon I was dancing by myself on the hardwood floor while he laid down on the bed, watching me. I saw his thick dick in his shorts and knew what he wanted so I went over there. He started touching me and trying to get into me. Sitting on top of him clothed, I stretched his arm out behind his head, the white underbelly of it exposed. He watched me with black black eyes that jerked back and forth. He kept trying to touch me and I just laid his arm back down. I don't know how many times we did that. Finally, he stopped and let it be what it was, like the phone blaring at the bottom of the bowl. I cupped my hand into a seashell and placed it inside his hand and just stared at him. He was 39 but he was 17 years old right then and his eyes grew wider as I took my hand and drifted it down his arm. It was a love drug, not a sex drug. And it was then he understood.

 

European Butter

Before molly, we didn't want to eat too much. We were probably both thinking of fucking but also the speedy coke feeling of it. We went to the Safeway that looked like a log cabin and set out to make a charcuterie plate. The thing I wanted to do most on the trip was something normal, like going to a grocery store. When we walk up to Safeway, I see our first reflection of us as a couple and I'm surprised at how much bigger he is than me. Because I'm tall, I always feel big even though I'm thin. Two guys at a party once told me I'm a miniature tall person. After we pass the window, I tell Gene I saw us and we looked fantastic. As soon as we get in there, I try to get a basket but do something weird and the whole store is society and we are the misfits and that's how I always feel at a store or a baby shower. I just don't want to feel alone and with Gene, I finally don't. We meander through the cold aisles in no particular order, just as we remember what we want to get. We look for crackers which I admit that I hate. We get brie and other fancy cheeses. We find french bread infused with rosemary. We decide we need butter and go to the butters. Our longest perusal is spent on butter as we discuss grass fed versus European. I realize they no longer stock Berkeley Farms anything, after seeing it my whole life in California. An era is over as seen in butter. We decide on a European and now I'm thinking of how I want to be in Europe someday with Gene, writing from our apartment with an iron balcony where we sit and do the whole charcuterie plate all over again.

 

Pennies Hammered in the Sun

When I was a kid, my brother and I would take pennies and hammer them down until Lincoln was a nobody. It's not like we had something against Lincoln, we just liked ruining stuff and changing what was normal. Gene and I woke up in the cabin after molly and it was our last hours in Tahoe. The knot sloths were all awake, watching what we'd do. I'll show them, I thought. Don't think about it, put on shorts and let's jump in the lake, I tell Gene. It is going to hurt, I add. But it will be worth it. We put on the shorts and leave our phones and I put a single key in my pocket. Without a phone in our pockets, we are the only ones who could ever have the memory. When we get in the freezing lake, I know the morning will cling clear as the lake bottom, to the bottom of my being. It shocks us with how alive it is, how we are forced to pay attention to the moment, how clean it is. I want to be a cork and bob. I drink the water and now I am the bottle, containing the water that contains us. Gene is a few feet away and he looks like an otter and I love seeing him like that, wet and surprised. There is a glitter running over the top of the water, winking eyes, snapshots and snapshots. My heart is on shutter mode. Our arms smooth out the water, a gigantic bedspread, knives on peanut butter. Eventually, we get out, slumped and shaking and lay down on the pier. The sky isn't clear and blue but the sun finds us anyway, as if we are special, and bolts down onto our bodies while we talk ourselves back into being human. But for now we are pennies hammered by the sun. We are not what we were and have no currency except with each other, and no end to our spending.

 

 

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This piece is about being resurrected in Lake Tahoe, a place where, apparently, many corpses hang out: [link]

Also, shout out to the potent wedding cake strain: [link]