So I’m in Texas. The flight was fine, although I felt like a rat in a cage being shipped over to a pet store. Besides that, I sat next to a nice old man who talked about building dams. Also, the food was terrible and I had brought my own reverse osmosis water.
I’m now with Chip, the movie producer who was my dad’s friend in high school.
“So you made it,” says Chip, looking out at the Texas flatlands, inhaling the cold winter air as his sunglasses glint with the help of the sun shyly watching through a patch of mist. “Yes, it is a beautiful state. I’ll be curious to see Alex Jones here.”
“Alex who?” I asked my friend, who was leading me to the van that was parked outside of the airport.
“You know, the crackpot.”
Chip opened my door for me, and took my gear to the back, where he slammed that door shut, and he came over to the driver’s door, opened it, and slammed it.
“It’s simple: in every state there is someone who derives attention more than anyone else. For example, in your state, Washington, it’s probably Gary Larson or some crummy writer. For myself, living in New York, it was 911. In that case, an event trumped the person. You understand?”
I listened as the car passed through green, green, and yellow, and finally red light.
“No offense or anything, Chip,” I told him as I rolled down the window, “but I think that New Yorkers do a lot more thinking than Washingtonians. Here’s my example: I have no what you’re talking about, and I was in the Honor’s in high school.”
“High school,” scoffed Chip, as he cut off a car from another lane. “I tell you what, if I finished high school, sat around writing on my ankle, do you really think that I would be in the business that I am in today? No. I’d be in college right now writing up a divorce statement because I’d be in debt so much that my wife wouldn’t feel safe, and I’d feel like a tool.”
“But since you didn’t finish high school or go to college, doesn’t that limit you?”
“Listen, kid, the limits are only in your head. If your head isn’t limited, than neither are your abilities. I’m young, you can see that. Twenty-two. Barely. I have five kids. I do what I love. And my wife is my best friend, and she is younger than me. It’s a dream I just told you. But why should dreams be fiction? You see, God is my drummer, and I follow only to his beat. ‘You walk to a different drummer’ they say, but I just shake my head: I know that I am matching to the right drummer. The Drummer.”
“I thought Christianity wasn’t popular in New York.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear. Where there are souls, there is God. The Shepherd is always looking after his flocks.”
We turned into an underground parking lot, found a place, and walked outside. Texas, as I saw, was a lot like Walla Walla in my home state: there were many new buildings, lots of cement, and far out lands of simply dirt and streaks of sand and grass. The air was getting increasingly chilly, and I turned to Chip, who smiled at me as if I were a player on his rugby team, and he pointed his finger up. I looked at the high hotel before us.
“We have a hotel,” said Chip dryly, despite his smiling face. “We have a hotel. On my honeymoon we didn’t even go to a hotel. We didn’t even have a honeymoon.”
I nodded dumbly, and for some reason I tried to look through Chip’s sunglasses to see his eyes, and the closer I looked, the clearer I could see that beneath the plastic and glass, his eyes were full of remorse.
We sat our gear down in the hotel room, and Chip opened the blinds to see Houston as a bright flickering mass of lights. He stood in front of the window looking out for about five minutes. He turned away from the dark city, and shook his head gravely as he fell on the springy bed and cheap bed sheets. The lamp was between us, and I made way for the remote to the television, but he snatched it before I could touch it. He seemed baffled as he looked the remote over in his hand. Articulately he scanned it with his eyes, and now I could see his eyes clearly: he had large amounts of facial hair, but his eyes lit up these dark features. It was like sticking two Christmas lights in a mound of curly clay. With his eyes, he seemed to express everything that his face couldn’t. Youth was still his, and it dominated any pride to substitute for youthful vigor and the exhilaration that still came from living.
“What do you want this for?” he asked me.
I shrugged my shoulders, peering at him in agitation. “You know, the news, the weather, anything, really. I can stand just doing nothing.”
“Why aren’t you doing anything?”
I was puzzled by this. “What do you mean?”
“Thinking is something. Feeling is something. What else do you need to do right now?”
“Well, I was going to give my brain and emotions a rest, if you know what I mean.”
“What do you mean?”
Again I was puzzled, and my agitation began to rise to my throat. “Give me the remote, Chip, I want to watch something.”
Slowly a smile came on his hairy face, and in the lamplight the facial hair looked like bristles found on an animal that just stands in the clearing of a dewy morning.
“I don’t know what to tell you, kid.” He was silent for a moment. “My wife and my kids. God. God, the Almighty. No, kiddo. You can pray too. You can do thousands of things by just sitting still. Before I married my wife I prayed for her for a year before I actually knew her. Can you believe it? I trusted that God would find me the right woman. At first I tried to pull away from my wife when I first met her because I thought she was dirty, and I thought many more things. That was Doubt. I didn’t need Doubt to guide me through the day. I needed God. When I finally started to get into the rhythm of what God wanted me to do, I found that it wasn’t my decision to marry my wife, it was my discovery. Understand?”
I nearly let my jaw fall to the floor. “Chip, you’re like Buddha or something…”
“Just keep your mouth shut until you want to speak.”
I was silent, confused. I lie back on the bed and put my hands behind my head. All I saw was a fan. I didn’t understand what Chip wanted me to do. I was about to say something but quickly went silent. I continued to observe the fan.
When all the foreigners in our hotel were dragged out of their rooms and put onto trains, this was the first time that I realized I understood very little about the world.
“Why are they doing that?” I asked Chip, who sat on the curb letting the morning breeze slash at his unorderly hair. He rubbed his arms together, trying to stare as close as he could at the soldiers dragging the people, the people, and the trains, that were waiting on the tracks. Houston was full of train tracks, and the city was practically designed around them. Chip shook his head, started to rub his beard intensely. He reached into his pocket and put a beanie on his head. He got up, patting me on my shoulder.
“We still have the shoot today,” he told me, and his voice wasn’t the regular enthusiasm that I had encountered on my usual visits with him.
Days went by, then months. The year was still 2010. We finished with our film, and on driving me back to the airport, it was Chip’s turn to seem like the unlearned one.
“I don’t understand,” he told me as he drove, weaved through traffic, and stopped behind a great truck that billowed out gas from behind like a smoke stack. “I don’t understand why they took all the foreigners away. Do you? It seems like…what?”
I had to hold back my laughter. “Chip, what’s wrong with you? I would think that you were afraid of something!”
For some reason Chip’s face was the grimmest I had ever seen it. He gritted his teeth like a madman and started to accelerate the car at random and dangerous opportunities. He honked when he didn’t have to, and he swore when he usually wouldn’t have. I stared in wonder.
He had tears coming out of his eyes, and still he acted dangerously behind the wheel. Perhaps it was his youth that made him act so immaturely. I heard a deep voice bellow from the inmost part of his soul, and it came out at pained intervals.
“My wife…is foreign. I had never even thought about it after that first day at the hotel when they started to take all of them away. I was so focused on the movie, that I didn’t think anything was wrong.”
“Can you call anyone to make sure she’s alright?”
“I don’t have a phone, you know that. And even if I did, we don’t know any of the neighbors. What have I done? I’m supposed to protect my family!”
I started to get an uneasy feeling. It was true that the foreigners were being taken out of America by the thousands on trains. No one had any real where they were going, but it was told that they were being taken to other places that had better jobs and houses. Still, there was always this odd, question in the air as to where exactly they were being taken.
Chip went his separate way on a plane going to New York, and I headed back to Washington. There was still the swine flu paranoia about the airport, so as I walked through I was observed by hundreds because I wasn’t wearing the standard “I’ve been vaccinated” wristband. I just tried to get along as peacefully as I could. There were many new policemen in the airport, called SPOT officers, or something like it, and they were supposed to detect whether you were a terrorist simply by looking at your face. I tried to be as cheerful as I could, but nonetheless I had many of the SPOT gazes coming my way. My shoulder strap from my backpack made me itch, but if I scratched myself I was worried that they might think that I had on bomb strapped somwhere. I was already an hour behind my regular flight schedule, so I really didn’t want any more delay.
Finally the woman’s voice on the overhead speaker declared that my flight was now boarding, and as if to make up for their tardiness, the airport staff offered free miniature water bottles. But I held onto my pockets carefully, and knew that I still had some reverse osmosis water packed away somewhere on my carry on.
One might think, hey, why does he carry reverse osmosis water all the time? Well, to tell you truthfully, I also carried a water pump purifier with me. Call it occupational habit of traveling. But personally, and I’m not into conspiracies at all, but personally I had learned that fluoride, which was in the water now a days, was actually bad for you, so reverse osmosis took that out, and that’s now what I drank for the rest of my life. To tell you the truth, I even bathed in reverse osmosis.
The flight attendant came over with a plastic plate of plastic looking food, and she slashed it across my plastic table. I thanked her, and sat back in my chair. Plane chairs were always the worst kind of chairs, and I don’t care what you say. Any chair that you have to sit in for hours and hours isn’t a good chair. Even now as I write these memoirs, I do not appreciate my chair. Men were made for standing anyway, weren’t they?
Chip stood in front of the soldier. He slowly took off his sunglasses. “What do you mean?”
The soldier seemed hesitant, but firm, and he repeated what was told back to him. “Your family has been deported.”
The officer didn’t respond, but tried to stare Chip down. When this didn’t work, he started prodding Chip with his assault rifle. After this, he simply started to beat Chip until he was on the cement in front of his house. The soldier walked away, still hesitant, but firm, and he went back into the Humvee, which sprayed its gas vapors over the street, then hissed away to another disgruntled neighborhood subject.
Chip slowly started getting to his feet. The blood that came from his left eye was constant, but he didn’t want to dab at it. He only repeated what he said to the soldier.
A crowd started to develop, and people he had never seen before but lived a few feet away went outside and away from their televisions to watch his agony.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked them, spitting out his blood to clear his throat.
One person stood still, then went closer to him. He was of pudgy build, and he grinned like a pig. “Our television went out!”
That night, the whole neighborhood was loaded onto trucks, and somehow, Chip had made it from New York to tell me this story:
“They used what I think were large microwaves. It made us all sick, but we complied dumbly. It pained us not to respond, because that would mean that they would blow more whistles and that just hurt our heads more. Remembering that head pain would be like to remind you of filling your skull with foam then lighting the foam on fire, and it keeps burning. I hope my headache will go away eventually. Anyway, we were all loaded onto the trucks, the whole neighborhood, and to tell you the truth I had no concept of anything. At that point I didn’t care whether I lived or died. But to everyone else they didn’t seem to understand a thing. I knew that if they could take my family, they could take anyone. I had an of what was going on, but no one else seemed to give it a second thought. It was as if they were at work and going through a fire drill. I remember the faces of the soldiers, and how many of the people seemed foreign, I’m not sure where from. But they could have been American, I don’t know. We were loaded onto the trucks…and finally we were taken to a clearing out in the woods. We were told to dig holes, and that they would be our own graves. Surprisingly everyone agreed to do it willingly. They would take the babies and…I don’t think I should have survived it but I did somehow. I don’t know why God wanted me alive. I was shot in the leg as we were being leveled by the machine gun bullets, and I passed off as dead. Warn I was able to, I hopped away, and every house I found I tried to warn them, but despite my shot leg they still wouldn’t believe me, and I had to avoid getting arrested by hiding in garbage. When I did as much as I could for my leg by strapping it up to stop the bleeding at least, I managed to get to my house again and it is there that I started to get my things for a road trip to Washington. I knew you. You’d always been trustworthy and helpful. Also you were a writer. If I could get my story to you, perhaps someone would believe me.”
I had been recording what he was saying, and now I didn’t quite know what to do with the camera aimed at him. To me it seemed like it was perverting him. Here was a sensible man, who had a bullet wound just the other day, and now he came to me in his madness and it was humiliating for me to listen to not only my mentor, but my close friend lose his mind. I turned off the camera, and felt awkward and ashamed.
“What’s wrong?” he asked me frantically. “I’ve got more to tell you! The checkpoints on the road…”
“Enough, Chip! That’ll do just fine. Don’t you know we don’t live in Word War II! People aren’t evil enough!”
“Evil enough…” he stared at me quietly, and his enthusiastic eyes were simply dots of grey on his hairy face. “Evil enough. They took the babies, threw them in the air…” His eyes were full of tears and he grabbed onto his face. “Listen to me, kid!”
I nodded sadly, and got up from the table, and started to lead him toward the door, which wasn’t easy to do because he was so shaky and heavy. “My advice to you is to get your leg taken care of properly, get a shrink, or someone professional, and call me one day when you want to talk about something sensible.”
Years passed after I had kicked Chip out of my house. Things in America were becoming more different by the day, and I kept calling my family members to ask how things were going. One day I went to my father and asked him whether he’d like to liquidate the business and move far away one day. He laughed off my question.
“I’m in the prime of my life. I’ve never made more money. You kids are in great schools, and you’re learning everything you need to know. No, I don’t know what the concern is.”
I tried to agree, but I still hadn’t told him that I had dropped out of college for personal reasons. There was a certain student I had fallen for, and when I had realized she was...how should I put it? Well, I realized I was just like any other toy on the counter for her to play with, and I couldn’t bare it any longer. Not to mention that I had taken a fancy to old books, and in my opinion, although they were not allowed at the college, in my opinion they were simpler and I felt I learned more from them than from my teachers, who seemed to stand in front of the getting more bored and bored each day.
I decided to call my cousin, but realized she was about seven. I tossed my cell phone away onto the floor next to some popcorn kernels, and I fell asleep on my messy couch.
At about the next day I awoke, and when I groped for my cell phone I found that all the pop corn kernels next to it had popped, and from that day forward I never used a cell phone again, because I couldn&rs