The room is full of flies. One zips across me, then another, and I can hear the drone of many more inside of the bathroom. I don’t know where they are coming from, they’re all over the room. I kill a thousand a day. I walk toward the bathroom and throw open the door and there is this great black mass, forty thousand of them, and I spray fly-killer into it until the death fumes burn my eyes and nose.
I walk over to the window to try to air out the room. It is hot, god damn it’s hot, the streets are steaming, there is no breeze, and I’m shut away, no place to go, muffled voices through walls, arguing, it seems, and everywhere I look there are flies.
There is this pretty little thing down there on the street and I think of Anna. I think of the first time I saw her, the morning she had come down to the pool in which Doug and I were standing, sat along its edge, so beautiful, half-Korean, her skin dark and her hair black and her eyes fierce and full of fire like the eyes of a tigress, and then I remember what she did to me, no, no, she shouldn’t have done that and all at once I loathe her and I want to hurt her, and now I am trapped, o Anna, I love you, love you, love love.
I had this dream that I would one day wake up without the anxiety, somehow, there would be no money worries, no doubts or anxieties or existential fears, and Anna and I would live happy lives together, because, you know, sometimes it is like being in a microwave oven and the timer is counting down and the uncertainties are bubbling away inside of you and the timer is running down and the bubbling is becoming ever greater and you don’t know how you’re going to make it.
The aesthetic quality of the cold shower disappears as soon as I turn off the water, and that’s when I hear the deafening drone coming from the bedroom, so loud the walls are shaking, the whole earth is moving, buildings are cracking and chimneys toppling, men shouting, women screaming, a B52 bomber passing straight through my room, I am Afghanistan, I am Vietnam, and I peek out from behind the shower curtain a little and there he is, bastard, a great big one, the biggest of the lot, a freak, hairy blackness, roving about the room cutting through the air as thick as paste with ease.
I duck back behind the curtain. COCKSUCKER! The fly spray is on the bed, god, he has me, I’m done for, but then the noise stops and the tremors are over and it is quiet, an uneasy quiet not made to last, and when I look out again he is rested on the far wall, black on white, not moving, except for his head… and he looks up at me and grins – mother!
I pull back behind the curtain, gripping to it like life, panic-stricken, eyes wide. I don’t know how long it has been but each time I look out from the curtain it is the same, he looks at me and grins and I’m sweating, sweating, trapped, can’t stay here forever, maybe he’ll leave through the window, maybe he is an old fly, he must be old to be so big, and will simply die from natural causes; maybe he knows, and I can’t take that chance and let him get away, so I burst from the shower and I run at him and still he sits there and I swing with great inaccuracy and my fist meets the wall and there is a flash of white light ARGHHHHHHHHHH
Once again the room is filled with his laughter. He circles the air above me, I am Laos, I am a tiny peasant village, I am the object of your scorn.
God she was beautiful, spiritual and impulsive, so alive that next to her Doug and I were simply dead trees. Her lightness both animated me and depressed me for I felt that I knew the world and you immediately wanted to protect her from it so that it wouldn’t beat her down too. She showed me a picture of the boyfriend she was leaving and there he was, the stupid bastard, she said that he wanted to keep her locked up like some kind of slave; and we talked, o how we talked! And I knew immediately that I was in love with this girl and that this time would be different, I wouldn’t be a frozen man, a man of inaction, impotent, o yes, yes, I would be brave, yes, and we could live together, make love every night, or just sit and hold hands and feel her small and tiny in my arms, sharing in all the little things that make us happy, every day another miracle. Naturally I was nervous, but it wasn’t only nerves, there was excitement too, because the future was exciting and happy and I desperately wanted it but I decided to wait some time until it was proper.
How did I ever believe that I could compete with Doug?
Jesus my hand hurts. I rub it gently, sitting on the end of the bed. The sweat pours out of me. Nobody knows my suffering. It was nothing new, the rejection, but that didn’t make it any less painful or lonely. I guess I’m tired of feeling this way; I feel like an old lampshade coated with ten years’ worth of bachelor dust and the light isn’t shining through quite so well anymore.
Meanwhile, the bastard is dead, on the floor, I brought him his own death, I thought about not killing him, but his noise was too much and how was I supposed to think with all that going on? He had to go. I gassed him. He had it all right.
There was nobody else in the car park for the national park. We packed bottles of water and sun cream and took a trail that led us to the top of the gorge. It didn’t take us long to reach the top, and from it we could see the low brown river meandering through the sandstone cliffs. The path was loose and it was like walking on some alien planet devoid of life, just sprinklings of dry scrub here and there, and the sun fell straight down on us.
We all agreed that as we were passing through the national park we should stop and get out of the RV for a while. Doug and Anna walked ahead of me, chatting, hesitantly now, timidly, and I watched them say something and laugh. I saw them together by the lake, the images wouldn’t leave me, I saw them lain down, kissing, he covered her almost completely, his elbows fastened to the soft ground; I saw them undressed, the lower part of their bodies going in a deep movement and it didn’t matter how hard I breathed through my nose or how many times I closed my eyes and counted to ten I couldn’t separate myself from them, and in the fading light Anna could be seen, tiny, dark, her eyes closed, mouth half open and moist, breathing, panting, her legs alighted on Doug’s back, next to the lake, a beating in my temples, nauseous…
We walked with the early afternoon sun falling straight down on us. Eventually Doug slowed so that he would be beside me.
“Does this remind you of Peru?” I ignored his question. I wasn’t interested in his small talk. Bastard. He looked at me funny, “Does this re-”
“I heard you the first time.” I don’t think I ever felt as bitter. “Nothing will ever be the way it was, you know, not after this”
“What you did with Anna. The lake.”
“We went for a walk”
“Well, what about it?”
“SHE WAS MINE AND YOU TOOK HER FROM ME, YOU KNEW THAT I LOVED HER”
“What are you talking about?”
“I know what happened”
“We went for a walk, then saw you back at the van”
“God damn you, still lying to me… keep saying it and I might eventually believe it!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“DO YOU THINK I AM MAKING IT ALL UP?”
“I don’t understand it. What’s happening here? This is the reason why you’ve been acting nuts, because Anna and I went for a walk together?”
“YOU THINK I WAS BORN A FOOL?”
“You’re crazy, you’re fucking crazy…”
“AH HA YES! YOU WOULD SAY THAT! Because who will believe the story of an insane man?”
“You only stayed behind because you were cooking! …Please, let’s not argue”
“TELL ME THE TRUTH GODAMMIT!”
“I already have”
“I told you, WE WENT FOR A WALK. THAT’S IT.”
I was riling him up, I wanted him all out of control, then he would admit it and perhaps he would hit me but it pleased me to see him squirm. Anna had stopped walking and was watching us with wonder and concern.
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Not now.” I said, then, “I never really did, you know. I always knew you were a snake”
“Listen, he said, we’ve been friends a long time, we’ve travelled the world together, I knew that you liked Anna, do you really believe that I would do this to you?”
Without a word I left him there standing in his place and I walked away feeling very pleased with myself. I felt wonderful. I had an easy calm about me now, a swagger, I knew that I had him, and he screamed “GOD DAMN IT”, angry at last, “what have I done? What more can I say?”
I turned. “Don’t give me that shit. You know exactly what you did.”
“WE WENT FOR A WALK”
“I don’t want to hear your shit anymore, you understand? I KNOW”
“YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING YOU SON OF A BITCH”
“I know that your sister has got a tight box!”
“I’LL KILL YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH!!”
“Hahahaha yeah right, you should be wearing women’s panties!”
And now in this hotel room, oven hot, the ceiling fan above simply making the warm air a little more lively, I wait alone for the knock at the door, wait for somebody to notice the buzzards gathering behind the big boulder, or Doug, perhaps he will break, he isn’t as strong as me, he admitted it didn’t he? Right before the fight. Yes. He did. I’m sure… I’m sure… Yes I heard him… no NO! O God no!! I’m not sure oh mother I don’t know what I am going to do, I am trapped, trapped, trapped with the flies and nobody ever finally loses their soul, right? And the memories of my beautiful sweet half-Korean girl, as peaceful as gentle fairy lights in the bright flooding sunlight
And under the sun Doug pushed me and I pushed him, hard, and then grappling, pushing, clutching, pulling, swirling fists and arms and hands and heads, the sun falling straight down onto us, and Anna just watching, shouting, shouting STOP, over and over, it happened fast, almost too quick to register, spinning, all meaning completely lost, and then Anna trying to separate us, STOP IT, and momentum throwing us into her knocking her down,
her head snapping violently off a rock.