Saturday, January 15, 2011

I'm Changed In the Dark

Before they were the best band in the world, XTC was a jumpy punk band

The first time I saw her, she was leaning against a wall, singing.

Well, not really singing. More like chanting. With a hint of melody that disappeared if you listened hard enough.

And it was a song that sounded familiar. But at the same time I knew I'd never heard it before:

There's a hole at the bottom of my brain
At the bottom of my heart
At the bottom of the sea
That's right!

The second time I saw her, she was leaning against a wall, humming.

The same song. Except when it got to the end and she'd say very softly "That's right."

The third time I saw her was at a party. She was leaning against the keg.

I went up to her and said hi.

She looked at me and said "You know why Chinese kids don't like skateboards?"

I didn't.

But she did. Or at least she had a theory. Which unfolded over the course of 27 minutes, during which time she probably only inhaled 2 or 3 times.

It was something to do with Mao and ballbearings. And the chemical composition of rice.

And I listened. Because she was pretty. And because she was different. And because I suddenly got sucked into her monologue and desperately needed to know why Chinese kids don't like skateboards.

When she was done, she smiled and looked at me like she'd just noticed I was there.

"That's interesting," I said. Not because it was interesting (or even comprehensible), but because she had a nose ring that reflected light in a mesmerizing way and when she'd jerk her head to the left and right it would shine into my eyes just long enough to distract me from thoughts of what she'd looked like naked.

"There's a hole in the bottom of the ocean," she said, leaning over to whisper in my ear. "NASA put it in there, so they'd have someplace to bury all the rockets. Didn't you ever wonder what happens to the rockets that fall to Earth? They had to go somewhere, so they dug a hole in the ocean. But now they can't plug it up because they aren't sending up enough rockets, so the oceans are slowly draining into the center of the Earth."

Her exploration of this topic lasted 32 minutes. I nodded 163 times.

She yawned, took a pill from her pocket and drank it with a swig of beer.

"If I have a baby," she announced, "it won't be born in a hospital. Because the hospitals drill holes in the bottom of babies' brains and insert a tiny chip. It doesn't do anything yet, but one day someone in Montana will flip a switch and the chip will activate. Only it won't be babies anymore, it'll be grown-ups, an army of grown-ups following the commands of that guy. In North Dakota."

"You mean Montana?" I asked.

She leaned into me again. "They want you to think it's Montana. They're very clever that way. You'll spend all your time looking in Montana and won't ever suspect they packed everything up and moved it to Fargo."

10 minutes into that conversation I started to back away. The nose ring no longer reflected light in my eyes. I realized her legs were too thin. And I knew that no matter how naked she got, she'd never stop talking.

Jumpy, nervy, disjointed, disconnected talking.

This wasn't drug-taking as a way of opening the "Doors of Perception." It wasn't the cool, trippy, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" drug-taking.

This was a rambling, incoherent, paranoid schizophrenic, speed-freak marathon, drug-taking. (And I don't mean that in a good way.)

And when she stopped, I said "Nice talking to you," even though it wasn't. Even though I'd hardly done any talking.

And she started to chant, wanting to sing:
There's a hole at the bottom of my brain
At the bottom of my heart
At the bottom of the sea...

So before I turned away, I smiled a sad smile for her.

And said "That's right!"


ssspune said...

Ooooohhh! Beautifully written. Thank you. And I think she must be friends with the girl from "Helicopter." Oh, heli.

Steven said...

Wow. Great story.

And yes, XTC is a fantastic band!!