Chapter Fifteen: The Twilight Zone
The event itself is far too great, too distant, too remote from the multitude's capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of as having arrived as yet.
Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 343
From our perspective facing West the sunrise lit the sky with shades of blue from the top down. We couldn’t see Delaware across the bay, but I knew it was over there going about its business with people like me waking, stretching, yawning, looking out their windows at this same water.
It didn’t feel like just another day for old Cliff. Being across the water added to the sense I had of being on the other side of the mirror, a transformed Doppelgänger ready to disembark from a foreign land, a shore of new beginnings into a world transformed.
But yet we were in fact on a New Jersey shore. Between the dock and a barricade erected against line-avoiders, there was a small length of beach where Baydacious patrons can sit before bonfires and watch the bay with its diminutive waves that pat the shelly sand. Rayne was sitting on my lap, cuddled beneath a blanket. Sari had her own beach chair and blanket. Nobody was asleep or had slept all night. We were allowed to stay after the place closed down, continuing to dance into the late hours until the remaining employees had enough and went home. Francesco disappeared into the upper reaches of the building after starting the bonfire and supplying us with water bottles and blankets.
Relaxing after our exertions inside and coming down from the drug’s diminishing but still palpable influence, we chilled out in the night air, staring into the bonfire’s infernal core, its pops and mini-fireworks of sparks. In those darkest hours before any sunrise seems possible we talked before the bonfire about whatever came to mind. When Sari went off to use the bathroom I tried to get to the bottom of this Mediterranean man thing.
I whispered to Rayne, “What’s up with Sari and this Francesco guy?”
“Some drug thing. He is some kind of drug dealer, or at least has connections to them, and she needs him for supplies or something.”
“Really. And how does she…pay him?”
Rayne slapped the side of my head lightly, “You’re gross. It’s nothing like that. She might flirt with him, make him think she could be interested, but Sari would never sleep with a guy like that, especially for chemistry equipment or whatever.”
“Well she’s banging Jerry.”
“Yeah, but Jerry’s not like this guy.”
“How so? Seems like pretty much a douche to me.”
She laughed, “A douche?”
“Just surprised that she goes for his type.”
“And what type is she supposed to go for?”
I didn’t mention my increasingly discounted Mediterranean man theory. “I don’t know, somebody more educated, more professional. A bit more intellectually inclined?”
“You mean a guy like you?”
“No I don’t mean…well…I mean… What does she see in him?”
“Maybe he’s a good protector.”
A door opened and slid shut indicating Sari’s return. We got quiet again as she approached and took her seat. A big log shifted on the fire with a gritty slide. Not much was said by anybody as we zoned out before the orange cinders.
In dreams we process and re-sort our experiences, take out the mental trash and start anew next morning. On the mix I did this in a waking state there on that mini beach, contemplating all I had been up to that night and disregarding all that was irrelevant as if in that bonfire I was having my own mental auto-da-fé. I was to be reborn out of that night’s ashes.
Now it was daylight and we were waiting for the first water taxi back to Delaware. Above us a small plane grinded along pulling a banner advertising Geico. It was struggling against the wind, going so slow it seemed to be going backwards, and took forever to leave, giving us back the relative silence. It didn’t last long. A white dot in front of us grew into Cap’n Crunch’s boat and with it the throaty churning of his engines. His boat coasted in and stopped at the end of the dock with hardly an impact. Helping us aboard, the captain looked well-rested, greeting us with a tug on the brim of his hat and a bit of amusement in his smile that knew we crazy kids had been up all night partying.
We were the only passengers on the ride back. I watched those same waters we had transversed the evening before, but now with a Zen detachment, recalling those stories of Buddhas and Masters achieving enlightenment, satori, and afterwards looking upon the trees, the mountains and rivers, hearing the birdsong, all with a same-but-different enlightened state of mind such as I had now.
None of us had much to say getting back to Sari’s car. She drove us up the highway and into Fowl’s Point in a gripping radio-off silence. I finally broke the silence, suggested we go to Graham’s Sandwich Shop for some breakfast, but Sari said she would just drop us off there and get back to the Hairpin.
She parked out front, kept the engine running and got out to say goodbye. She hugged Rayne then me, kissed my cheek, none of which she had ever done before. There was something in her lips on me and the force of her squeeze that sent a tingle down my back and into my groin. She didn’t seem as cold and remote. There certainly had been a shared touchy-feely intimacy on the dance floor. It’s not like we had exchanged bodily fluids, but I felt degrees closer to her than before, just as if we had slept together. She smiled back at us once more before pulling out and driving off.
Inside we waited for our bagels to be prepared. The feeling Sari gave me wasn’t evaporating. There was in general an electric feeling throughout my body, a tactile sensitivity, a pre-arousal titillation.
Rayne held my hand and smiled at me, “How are you feeling?”
“Really good.” To show her what I meant I released my hand from hers and caressed her back and upper butt.
She smiled even more widely, “That’s what happens the next day when you come down from it. Just wait, in a few hours…”
The bagel girl had our order ready, handing us a white bag and two coffees. We decided to go to Betwixt and Between Books and walked toward it. Half an hour remained before it opened so we sat outside on a bench and ate our bagels. Amazing that it was less than one week earlier that I spotted Rayne there under almost identical circumstances. She was wearing the same outfit and most likely at a similar point in the drug experience.
After some more quiet pondering—although I’m not sure what Rayne might have been contemplating—I felt compelled to discuss things with her.
“I think I really had some revelations being on that drug last night.”
She didn’t say anything, just worked at her sandwich, a blob of cream cheese speckled with poppy seeds caught on her upper lip, lips which I thought had tinges of a smile.
I continued. “First of all, I think Leuschner was the model for Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. And I know this is going to sound crazy—but I think I came to understand the eternal recurrence, I think I really get what he meant by transcending our slave morality and our quest for divine order. The absence of God and total lack of extrinsic meaning doesn’t negate our life, it is the ultimate affirmation of it. Embracing amor fati is key. That part of you that still holds onto comforting paternalistic beliefs has to die and you must recreate yourself.”
She looked over at me, licked her finger with a tiny smacking sound and said with food in her mouth, “That’s just the drug.”
I was disappointed, maybe a bit piqued. “But it’s not some fanciful notion. I see things entirely different…things I didn’t understand before I now understand.”
She was more insistent this time, “Yeah, that’s the drug. Part of it is that you think it’s not the drug, but it is. Sari warned you about that.”
“Sari also said that there’s tangible outcomes, real change and improvement. Like the dreams.”
“I know. But what’s the tangible outcome? It’s all in your head.”
“Isn’t being cured of psychological issues in your dreams all in your head?”
“Sure, but that’s different.”
“Look, we still have the drug in our systems. It makes more sense to try to be objective about it when it’s worn off. I don’t want to argue about it. We’ll talk about it later.”
I was bothered, felt my face get red, and hoped she wouldn’t look at me because then she’d know.
She wasn’t noticing it though, more focused on the last bites of her bagel and how she should eat it to prevent any more cream cheese escaping out the sides.
Soon the old man schlepped up to open the shop, pretending he didn’t see us waiting out front. We gave him a few minutes to settle in, then we went in. He barely acknowledged us when we said good morning. Upstairs we went to our favorite sections. I went toward the back and Rayne stayed up front looking through some picture book. I picked up a paperback and flipped through it not registering anything. I was mad at Rayne for not understanding me and writing it off as a mere effect of the drug. I told myself if Sari hadn’t left us she would understand and we could really discuss it.
Rayne found me. “I thought of another name for this place if we installed the coffee bar: ‘Bottom’s up’.”
I smiled only to acknowledge I heard what she said.
“Cliff I really think we should ask him. I’m serious, I could totally see us running this place. What do you think? Huh?”
I turned to her, “I think that’s the drug talking.”
I felt like an asshole as soon as the words came out of my mouth. It was obvious I said it as revenge for her dissing my ideas.
Rayne actually laughed and shook her head slowly, then walked away to another aisle.
I remained in the biography section festering in self-loathing. I thought how it had been between us the last time we were in that bookstore compared to now. I felt petty and childish. Here I am with the woman I love and have always dreamed of being with. Why am I allowing talk about Nietzsche and Leuschner to come between us? Maybe she’s right, maybe I just can’t be objective now. When I’m drunk I know it, can tell myself I shouldn’t drive or make impulsive purchases. But this drug is new. I should trust in those with more experience. This was the our first fight, or at least our first negative experience. I wanted to make up.
I found her. “I’m sorry for saying that.”
She smiled easily and moved close to me. “It’s okay, because you know, I did the same thing to Sari? Her term for this phase of the drug is the Twilight Zone. It’s the part where it’s hardest to tell what’s the drug and what’s not. And as it wears off you have to reconcile drug world and real world. Sometimes there’s conflict. I’ve learned to just go with the flow, try not to take anything too seriously. Make mental notes for later, but don’t get fixated. Your brain’s been through a lot. Give it some downtime to recuperate. By tomorrow you’ll be able to think about it more clearly.”
We kissed and made up. I said I was sorry again and she said it was okay.
Apparently I have a hard time not taking things too seriously. I kept returning to the philosophy section, opening to random pages to run ideas through my current drug filters. I wanted to test in some objective way if my revolution of mind really panned out in how I saw things. It was no good. I was too distracted by thoughts about this twilight zone and couldn’t focus properly.
I found a volume of essays by a contemporary British cultural guru and Rayne got a tattered book on mythology. The owner rang us up in silence.
Rayne tried to start a conversation with him, told him how she loved medieval history, especially how they adapted classical mythology to Christian theology. That got no response. Then she came out with it. “Have you ever thought of retiring, maybe selling this place?”
He had been reaching for a bag and froze midway, looked up at her.
Oh shit, I thought. I couldn’t believe she was asking him that.
He cracked a smile, showed a few remaining brown stumps. “I have as a matter of fact. You interested?”
“Maybe. You have any idea what you’d be asking?”
“No I don’t. I know somebody in the real estate business I want to talk to. Betcha by next week I could talk figures. Stop by then. You two seem like you’ll still be around.”
She thanked him and we headed back to the door. It was probably just paranoia but the gummy smile he gave us as we left seemed to me to be that of a cynic or conman enjoying the ease and gullibility of his marks.
Outside the fresh air felt good. The day had all the bright tones and soft sounds of a summer morning. Before we walked over the bridge I stopped Rayne and pulled her close to me, “I’m really sorry about before. You didn’t deserve me being a dick like that.”
She blew it off and looked into my eyes, “I told you don’t worry about it. I was a real bitch in the Twilight Zone too. Now let’s get back home and get naked.”
She kissed me and pressed herself against me and I felt incredibly horny. I didn’t want to stop kissing her. She unstuck herself from me, “Come on, let’s go.”
We started over the bridge. Beneath us the canal didn’t move, seemed to be a pool of thick black coffee which gave off a heavy odor of rotting vegetation.
Rayne said, “This is the final phase. Sari has called it the Craving,” she looked over at me, “You can get really horny. I bet you she and Jerry are doing it right now.”
“Really. Wow. I’m starting to understand Sari’s situation over at the Hairpin.”
“Yeah, well the basement mad scientist laboratory is certainly a plus.”
That first time Rayne and I had sex was extraordinary for its quantity and quality. This time we outdid that. We were like starving castaways rescued by a cruise ship and given free rein to the sumptuous banquets they had inside. We went at it like animals, gorging ourselves at a whole different level, one that redefined the act itself, an extreme that made it either transcendent or animalistic depending on how you looked at it, but certainly not normal.
We were on our backs, wet with sweat despite the air-conditioning. We had barely caught our breath and I was again stirring, turning toward her. She panted, “We gotta stop. I’m sore.”
She was right. Enough was enough. I stared at the ceiling, a hand resting on my heaving stomach.
“There’s something else I should tell you. We’re going to sleep for a while now. When we wake up reality off the drug can hit you pretty hard. It can cause different levels of moodiness or depression depending on the person. So just be ready for it. Don’t take things too seriously. Pretend it’s the first day back to school after the summer. Things are not as bad as they seem.”
I thought of that time she woke up and had to leave. I thought of those people that killed themselves.
“It’s an unfortunate side effect of the drug that I think Sari is more worried about than she admits.”
The Twilight Zone, The Craving.
“Does she have a name for that phase?”
She nodded her sweaty head in the pillow, “The Low.”