The Observer

by Jay Marvin

I grabbed her and slammed her up against the motel room closet, the doors straining against their hinges, and moved into her. We ended up on the floor and when it was over I paid her in pesos and kicked her out. She wanted to stay and show me the city's crumbling night life, but I took a pass. After washing the smell of her off me, I went outside to sit by the pool with my tape recorder. The water was green, and the pool's once white sides slimed with alga. It lay there in a helpless state looking up at me. I dipped my toes in the water wishing a strange grotesque monster would yank me in. In the distance there were small arms' fire and like the roll of a sick drum, a motor shell would send people scurrying for cover like human cockroaches under a harsh light. The guerrillas couldn't be more than a mile away from the city now. In twenty-four hours it would be over; over for the island, over for me. I turned the machine on and spoke into the tiny mic. In a sick twisted way I wanted to document these last hours; my last hours.

I had managed to get on the last flight out of the mainland by sweet talking my way into a ticket. All I had brought were two changes of clothes, a tape recorder, and my kit stuffed in my sock. I had come here to die. Death was something I had thought a lot about. It was like a giant comet heading my way, and no matter what I tried to do about it, and no matter how many times I tried to get well and avoid it, I knew it was coming to get me. So fuck it-- why not here and now? The palm trees started to move in the wind and the clouds had grayed up since I'd come outside. It smelled like rain. Strange, I never knew what that meant. I could never in all my life recall what rain smelled like. I remembered what it smelled like after it rained. A kind of damp, musty smell that always reminded me of childhood, and all the bullshit that went with it like appointments on a new car. Only, in my case, I didn't get the stripped down model. I always got the add-ons in the form of constant crap day in and day out. Like the time I came home to find my mother locked in the bathroom stuffing pills down her mouth, while my stepfather sat in the backyard laughing like it was a joke. I was thirteen, and I broke down the bathroom door, wrestled the pills out of my mother's hands, scattering the little colored capsules everywhere, and then went outside to face this man whom I thought about killing every waking hour of my life. He rose to meet me and I ended up punching his fucking head so hard, he buckled and fell to the ground. I did six months in the hall for it. It was there I first learned about getting high.

The radio squawked and crashed a mixture of static and Spanish, arching across in rapid bursts like lighting. Outside the rain started to come down, beating the palm tress into a gray, wet submission. I pulled out the works and fixed to the sounds of the radio and rain lapsing into looseness the pain of moving air in and out of my body and the struggle against boredom and grief easing to the point of a dull ache wrapped in chemical gauze. Whenever I got high I always felt safe and warm. It could be thirty below fucking zero and I would have this inner glow so intense I wanted to run naked down the streets, and one time I stood outside a drugstore eating an ice cream cone with a sixty below wind-chill factor.

So fucking what? Soon it would be all over. All my experiences, thoughts, wants, needs-- all gone and silent as if they never happened. I took a drink of rum and tracked the amber fluid down my throat into my stomach. Picking up the mic to the recorder, I documented my latest thoughts on drugs and cold weather. Why not? I had been documenting the sound of things most of my life in the news business, why stop now? Outside the rain had let up to a light shower and the gun fire had grown louder. I turned on the television, but there was nothing except static racing across the screen like gray, angry ants. I pulled out my wallet and emptied it on the bed-nothing but bullshit like people's cards from the last twenty years. I had used them; they had used me. We used each other because we were all so god damn scared of losing our jobs, the roofs over our heads-- everything. It was all crap. I held a scrap of paper with a phone number written on it. This is where it all started and ended. Her number, a number lost in the swirl of travel, career, and junk. A number I called and got no answer. A person who was in the arms of another someone who was there when I never was. I read the number into the mic and took another hit of rum.

I rolled over on my side facing the door. The gunfire was getting close now. Life is a matter of choices and even at the end I had mine. Rebel radio had broadcast for weeks: any Gringos caught in the country after the fighting stopped would be shot. The North was evil! Yankees no! We were the exploiters! Never mind the fact someone was always exploiting the shit out of me every time I turned around, and I exploited other people and their miseries feeding off their tragedies out of need for money and belonging. I was sick of it like a huge snake that's eaten a rat I felt bloated and sick. How many times had I tried to kick? How many times had I called her and said it would be better and things were going to change. The only thing that changed was the fucking landscape. I had run the string out all the way down to this: I could go out with a good shot of junk, I could shoot myself, plastering my brains all over the fucking shit stained carpet or let the guerrillas get me. There was a fourth option: I could pack up, run and take my chances trying to get the hell out of here, but to what? The continued documenting of the human condition while adding more scabs to my arm and moving closer to jail, and more false promises to someone I cared deeply about. Like it or not, all doors slammed shut and there was no way out.

I thought I heard strange voices speaking Spanish. There was a knock on the door that became a pounding. I turned the recorder off and rolled off the bed. The pounding continued. My options were starting to narrow. I backed into the tiny bathroom and stood among the fungus infected color tiles waiting. The last thing I remember was the door bursting open, flashes of green. I yelled Fuck you, turning on the tape recorder and letting it roll.. At last the observer had become the participant..

Jay Marvin is a twenty two year veteran of radio. His poems and short stories have been accepted and published in: Sign of The Times, Sign of the Times Ten Year Anthology, Ishmael Reed's Konch, Black Bear Review, San Fernando Poetry Journal, Nihilistic Review, Blank Gun Silencer, Impetus, Point Of Interest and numerous other periodicals.....