Now I was inside Sailor. I walked around the cabin, rail thin, a ragged T-shirt hanging from my bones, my eyes clouded and gaunt, flesh drawn back under my cheekbones. Through Sailor’s eyes, I saw myself, also in a T-shirt, no underwear, wearing old sneakers, squatting on the back step of the cabin, huffing gas, fingernails long and dirty on the can.
Later I got cold and sick and took to hiding myself under a blanket on our dingy, battered sofa. I lay in squalor; I didn’t get up to change rooms at bedtime. Days and nights blurred together. I only bathed occasionally. Our hot water heater failed, but I didn’t care if the water was only luke warm. Old food stank up the kitchen; dirty pots and pans that had been hidden away in cupboards lay untouched, undiscovered. We didn’t care. All we wanted to do was huff gas.
Sometimes Sailor would write notes and pass them to me, but the words she wrote were not words at all. They barely even had discernible letters. I would stare for hours at the little loops and jots, trying to understand nothing. Sometimes we would share cigarettes after huffing…hotboxing and blowbacking until we passed out. We had no idea how close we came to dying in a gas explosion. We were oblivious, sleeping at all hours of day or night. Sometimes we would wake up and have intercourse. Our sex was carnal, mechanical. We would eat each other until our private parts stank of gas…then we would squat down and connect, popping our crotches together crudely until one of us hunched up with a stiffening, genital orgasm. Afterwards we would huff more gas.
We grew afraid to go outside, to feel the sun on our skin. Even when we ran out of cigarettes, we could not bear to go down to the village anymore; we were afraid to show our faces. We huddled inside. My hair began to fall out in clumps. Sailor’s teeth went bad; I could see them when we would try to talk, our mouths moving, our words coming out like sounds from underwater, far away, as if our lips were connected to some other remote brain in some other place…our consciousness witnessing but not comprehending…the words left meaningless, our bodies’ movements and need for more fumes the only thing we could truly feel.
We’d found a cache of gasoline in an old shed near the cabin…and we thought it would be enough for us…enough to last until we were dead. But it wasn’t; it didn’t. We ran out of money. We thought we’d hid some someplace, our money from the time with Harlin Coke, cash we’d hid in the bed, or under the bed…
We took the bed apart, slowly, weakly, desperately, over the course of 8, 10, 12 hours. No, maybe it was days. Later we sat listlessly, strung-out, on the yellow grass outside the back door…in the middle of the day. We didn’t know how we landed there, or whether it was warm or cold outside; we didn’t care. Then we were walking down into the village…to steal gas, our self consciousness now gone. We were numb, poisoned animals, walking skeletons.
We had not been able to steal. We had run out. We had failed. We had survived.
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