When I related the short version of this part of the story to some friends in Bar Harbor, three years after the fact, two of them dropped their cigarettes and said, “Oh my god, YOU’RE the naked guy!” I don’t go to Bar Harbor much anymore, so I don’t know how long the story lasted, but it survived at least five or six years past my time.
When I first related this part of the story to my dad, he just said, “Lucky you didn’t think you were a bird.”
Part 7, or “The Naked Guy”
Another sleepless night. I had to figure out what to do with the message from the stars. I chose to drink my roommate’s soul.
As mentioned before, my roommate was black, and I happened to have a bottle of Blackstone merlot sitting around. Clearly, it was the holder of my roommate’s soul, and in order to become him, and achieve whatever it was I was bent on achieving, I had to drink his soul. Because everything with the word “black” in it is clearly connected to anything possessing the property of being black, right?1 I consumed most of the bottle, then, at the last minute realized this was a trick implanted in my mind by The Evil, and I actually needed JD to complete my mission, so I stopped about two gulps from the bottom and left it on the table.
The next couple of hours are hazy. Eventually, I recall wandering around my room in a pair of shorts and underwear, desperately trying to figure out what the next step was. I was reading the patterns in my rug, looking over my remaining possessions with a dark light, and scattering change on the floor in some kind of capitalist I Ching. The coins told me nothing, but then staring out the window told me I had to sleep with the EarthMother.
Unfortunately for everyone, I decided my roommate’s on and off girlfriend was the EarthMother. Of all the hippies I’ve met under forty in my day, EarthMother was the closest to the real thing. Impeccably chill, lazily wise, constantly stoned, efficiently crunchy, and into quiet moments on the beach. We were decent friends at that point.2
That evening, my roommate was hanging out with a couple of friends, and EarthMother was already trying to pass out. ‘Twas not to be. I ran out of my room in my shorts, went into my roommate’s room, and hopped into bed with her.
JD later described the conversation after this.
Friend of JD: “What the fuck?”
JD (lighting bowl): “She can take care of herself.”
Once I was in bed, EarthMother looked over.
I said nothing.
“You need something?”
I started crying, and gripping her arm.
“Okay, Pete, you’re scaring me.”
I backed off, confused. What was I supposed to be doing here? I’d forgotten, but it was really important.
“Okay. Let’s go outside.”
I jumped up, she sighed and wrapped the sheet around herself, then led me outside into the night.
Once we were outside, she looked up at the stars, then looked at me. “Nice night. Why don’t you take a walk, get some air.”
And she went inside. That was the last I ever saw of her, and out of everybody, I’m saddest about that, because we had good rapport, and I never got the chance to explain how nuts I was.
I didn’t go for a walk right away. I went to my neighbors’ apartments, but there’d been a sort of exodus recently, what with the summer ending and the work drying up. This is probably for the best. With no one to get orders from, I started walking down the road.
I felt dehydrated. This is probably from consuming nothing but a bottle of red wine all day, but at the time, I thought it was because my body was aging rapidly. I started walking like an old man, hunched over, crouched, the moisture being sucked out of my body like I’d just opened the arc of the covenant. I felt I was aging and dying in a second, then I was regressing back through my genes, and I was suddenly a monkey.
This is where I stripped off my clothes and started making monkey noises. At two in the morning on the main drag of Bar Harbor. I ran about six blocks, and my first witnesses turned a corner in front of me.
“What the fuck…?” was the first response.
“Fucking right dude!” was the second, then they started cheering and clapping.
Being a monkey, I was afraid.
There’s a small square in Bar Harbor, that’s gated off during the night. There’s a walkway above it, separated by a two food gap of wood. In order to escape the witnesses, I lunged over to the gate, climbed up it, jumped up and grabbed the railing along the walkway, hoisted myself over, ran around the walkway on all fours to the other side, hopped over the rail, and shimmied down one of the pillars on the other side.
I’ve often gone back to look at that gate and consider how incredibly stupid it would be to do something like that, even if I was in shape, and I wasn’t when I did it. Had I missed grabbing the lip above the gate, I would have fallen backwards about ten feet, breaking my fall with the back of my skull on the curb.
I made it, which is the important thing.3 I ran across the parking lot behind the square, and dashed down to the end of the pier. And I sat, crouched, at the very edge, above a fifteen foot drop to the water below.
I knew that after monkey came fish. I knew I had to truly, truly believe I was a fish. And once I was, I could jump, swim to the center of the earth, and restart creation as it should have been, once I took on the primal form, the first life, the first hint of awareness. This was what needed to be done.
When I was a kid, I saw a Gem cartoon where one of the characters had been dosed with a hallucinogen. Of course, they didn’t say it was a hallucinogen, since they weren’t in business of spreading accurate information, they were in the business of telling children all small brown pills will wreck your life. At some point she’s dancing around like a drunk teenager on a balcony, shouting, “Weee, I can fly, I can fly!”
This is not how it works.
I sat for a long time, breathing the universe in with each breath, breathing out the air of creation and acceptance. I felt my hands merge together in front of me. I felt my fins grow out. I felt my legs turning scaly, a tail growing.
I tipped myself, ever so slowly, off the end of the pier.
HOLY FUCK THIS IS COLD.
I have no idea how, but I climbed back up the pier without so much as a splinter. I got to the top, and started breathing, heavily, leaning over the edge. I breathed, and the madness took over over again, I was dead, dying, crossing over, reborn, seeing the universe, insane, what the fuck.
A truck pulled into the parking lot and shined its high beams on me. Someone shouted from it, “Hey, are you the naked guy?”
“Yeah!” I gasped. “That’s me.”
“You okay man? You need any help?”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
And they drove away.
I made my way back, hiding in bushes, since I’d fooled the first patrol, but clearly there were men in pickup trucks with shotguns trying to kill me and stop the mission. The now very unclear mission.6 I picked up my clothes and made it back to my apartment, where I tried to put it all together. Guess how successful that effort was.
The last mission. Home. I kill Jake and turn myself in as somebody else.
1 Some interesting implicit racism here. It’s not like everything that was white ran together for me. Maybe it’s defensible in that the white over black population in Bar Harbor is about a million to one during the summer, but I can only offer up psychotic episode plus middle-class guilt.
2 Between her and JD, the fact is my most consistent companions may have been a little bit too chill.
3 Kind of. I’m not sure what the important thing was that night.
4 And hopefully not even then, as I’d much prefer to tap out in my sleep or during an orgasm involving the Dallas cheerleaders.
5 Water in Maine is frigid all the way through summer.
6 It was clear to me then, but looking back, there was a new end game every half hour, and they run together.