I eat in the base­ment, which is my room, in front of my com­puter. On the screen, I browse He­lena’s web­site and watch a video of her moan­ing for no dis­cernible rea­son while pour­ing a car­ton of fat-free milk over her breasts in an old-look­ing porce­lain, claw-foot bath­tub (that I quite like). I watch this for maybe ten min­utes and think about my dodg­ing of Apple’s drunken ques­tion about my love for her, and then I think deeper about the state of our re­la­tion­ship and how on her twenty-first birth­day I bought all the wrong pre­sents: not her fa­vorite flow­ers, a pair of pur­ple snake­skin heels that were too small and, most im­por­tantly, a sea snail for her salt­wa­ter aquar­ium that later ate a $250 an­gelfish that was in­ci­den­tally an odd pre­sent from her uncle that died. I’m guilty as well, on her twenty-first, of de­sert­ing her in a rain­storm be­cause I ran out of Xanax and found my­self un­able to cope with her drunk and bor­ing art friends in a city we’d never been to be­fore.

He­lena squirts choco­late syrup on her hard body and mas­sive real breasts and rubs maraschino cher­ries on her nip­ples, and I fin­ish my glass of or­ange juice and won­der if the failed mile­stone birth­day party, ear­lier this year, was a world class fuck-up or an at­tempt to sab­o­tage my­self under the weight of an im­pend­ing (and not ev­i­dent) ex­is­ten­tial dread under which I am still—must be—get­ting crushed be­neath.

He­lena is rub­bing Neapoli­tan ice cream over her pussy, and I no­tice that she is scoop­ing, and sub­se­quently fin­ger­ing, mostly the straw­berry and vanilla parts, (which are my fa­vorite) into her vagina. Mo­ti­vated by this I lick most of the maple syrup off of my plate and won­der if per­haps my lack of ef­fort in this re­la­tion­ship is be­cause I re­ally don’t know what love is and, con­versely, nei­ther does Apple, which—I think—could be why she rou­tinely tells me that I don’t love her.

He­lena is now push­ing the maraschino cher­ries into her butt hole and squeez­ing them back out, and I take note that this break­fast has been both sig­nif­i­cant and rev­e­la­tory.

 

In the shower, I think about the shark teeth that I found in Norse Mor­ris’s room, and I openly state to the spi­der (whom I have now named Big­wig) that I plan to pur­chase a tiger shark’s jaw on­line from the salt­wa­ter sup­ply dealer that sold me Apple’s sea snail.

I tell Big­wig that the tiger shark is one of the three sharks con­sid­ered to be most dan­ger­ous to hu­mans—the other two being the bull shark and the oceanic white-tip shark.

Each, I tell him, for their own spe­cific rea­son: the bull shark (Car­charhi­nus leu­cas) can sur­vive in shal­low brack­ish wa­ters and there­fore is ca­pa­ble of tra­vers­ing fresh water rivers and streams and en­coun­ter­ing wad­ing chil­dren or un­sus­pect­ing fish­er­man. The oceanic white-tip shark (Car­charhi­nus longi­manus), I state, was de­scribed by Jacques Cousteau, as “the most dan­ger­ous of all sharks,” and while most peo­ple would as­sume that the great white shark (Car­char­o­don car­charias) is the most dan­ger­ous, they rarely check sta­tis­tics, which often state in plain King’s num­bers that the highly op­por­tunis­tic and wildly ag­gres­sive oceanic white-tip shark is re­spon­si­ble for most all shark at­tacks on hu­mans. Plus, I add, the oceanic white-tip was solely re­spon­si­ble for the 70 or so peo­ple who were con­sumed, at least par­tially, after the tor­pe­do­ing of the USS In­di­anapo­lis.

Now, the tiger shark (Ga­le­o­cerdo cu­vier), the one I want, is among the most dan­ger­ous be­cause of its ac­tual jaw and teeth, which are ser­rated and an­gled like small saw blades that, if pushed onto human flesh, re­quire lit­tle ef­fort to sever limbs or move briskly through bone and mar­row. The rea­son for all of this, I tell Big­wig, as I no­tice I am be­gin­ning to prune and feel hot and faint, is that I plan to cre­ate a real-life shark mask with dor­sal fin, which I will wear at night and use as un­sub­tle dis­trac­tion while peer­ing into the win­dows of peo­ples’ homes in what I be­lieve to be a good at­tempt at sub­ur­ban so­cial com­men­tary com­bined with shock­ing per­for­mance art.

Once I am clean and dressed, I un­dress and mas­tur­bate twice to a video of He­lena slid­ing the gear se­lec­tor on what I think is a 1997 Porsche Boxster con­vert­ible into her­self after hav­ing been lu­bri­cated heav­ily by a vis­i­ble bot­tle of As­troglide that I do not care to see.

I pur­chase the jaw—eth­i­cally re­cy­cled from the legal fish­ing in­dus­try’s caught sharks that are used for meat and hides—for $375 on my fa­ther’s Visa. The jaw is ap­prox­i­mately thir­teen inches wide and nine inches tall with teeth up to one-inch long. Hot, I think. It seems big, but it’s ac­tu­ally quite small for this kind of shark. For ref­er­ence, the biggest for sale is huge at twenty eight inches by sev­en­teen inches with nearly two-inch teeth for $1100, and it’s cer­tainly larger than my head.

Apple calls to tell me that she would like me to go to din­ner with her and Jes­sica, and the Xanax I took must now be in my blood be­cause I agree and sound ex­cited by my own count when I tell her. After I hang up Richard calls me and be­gins to tell me things about last night that I al­ready know and things about last night that seem to be flat out lies (which I kind-of enjoy).

Dude, so these two guys took this drug called salvia, he sounds out salvia (it’s Salvia di­vi­no­rum) like I speak a dif­fer­ent lan­guage, and they were both trip­ping out of their fuck­ing gourds and talk­ing in this in­sane fuck­ing lan­guage like they were from that tat­too planet in Star Wars with two moons and Luke Sky­walker or some shit.

Tatooine, I say. It has two suns, and, as far as I re­call, every­one on that planet spoke per­fect Eng­lish ex­cept for the Jawas, and I re­ally don’t think you even know what I’m talk­ing about any­way.

What­ever, Al­abama. Then these two guys are all high and we’re watch­ing that Dis­ney car­toon with all the racist Roger Rab­bit shit, and the one dude, who I think was a skate­boarder, starts bark­ing at the com­puter screen when they sang “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Like a fuck­ing dog. Dude, I called you. You to­tally should have came. It was awe­some.

Do you mean Song of the South? That’s Br’er Rab­bit, not Roger Rab­bit. He’s a sig­nif­i­cant fig­ure in African Amer­i­can folk­lore from the an­te­bel­lum South.

Al­right, dude. Zip-a-Dee-what­ever-the-fuck. Do you want to go to the bar tonight?

No. Where can I buy this drug?

On­line, dude. It’s to­tally legal. There’s this dude, Wiley, like the coy­ote.

It’s Wile. E. Coy­ote. Not Wiley.

What­ever. Can I get in on that shit?

I’m think­ing about cre­at­ing a mu­seum-qual­ity replica of a tiger shark’s head and dor­sal fin, in con­junc­tion with a sleek-but-still in­tel­li­gent of­fice-ap­pro­pri­ate out­fit, and wear­ing it out in my neigh­bor­hood from time to time. You know, maybe to see if I can make the news or the po­lice blot­ter or some­thing.

Okay. Well. That’s cool, man.

 

I meet Apple for din­ner at a crowded vegan restau­rant called Hunger (it’s out near the city), and I am pleased that she is wear­ing a black and white, asym­met­ri­cally pat­terned top with green skim­mers and a red plas­tic bead neck­lace that doesn’t look as tacky as it prob­a­bly sounds to you.

We kiss and hug and sit in a booth and order two glasses of sul­fite-free Mer­lot and two wa­ters, and while we wait for Jes­sica to ar­rive I ask if I re­ally ru­ined her birth­day or if it was the sea snail plus my over­all ap­a­thetic de­meanor, and if she’s still hold­ing a grudge, which she im­me­di­ately con­firms.

I can­not be­lieve you would bring that up now. Jes­sica is going to be here any minute, and I’m going to look like I was cry­ing be­cause of you.

She stam­mers and spills water on the white part of her top and scowls at me when I re­mark that it was bet­ter than spilling the wine.

You haven’t even apol­o­gized for that. Do you even care, or do you just like to bring it up to tor­ture me?

Well, I’m sorry, I say, and when she isn’t look­ing I slip a sec­ond Xanax into my mouth and wash it down with a sip of wine that is too big for my mouth and some of it drib­bles down my cheek.

I mean, I want to get mar­ried some­day. I don’t want to have things like that still com­ing be­tween us, you know?

Jes­sica ar­rives wear­ing an un­in­ter­est­ing out­fit but I no­tice that her breasts are much larger than Apple’s. This is an il­lu­sion or con­trary to my men­tal record.

Sorry if I’m early, Jes­sica says.

I have no idea why Apple pref­aced my meet­ing Jes­sica by say­ing I am going to love her be­cause as far as I can tell she is fairly bor­ing and semi-pre­ten­tious, even when she isn’t talk­ing.

Do you have plans to­gether later this evening?

Ac­tu­ally, Jes­sica says, Norse Mor­ris from the party, as if I don’t know him, is meet­ing me here, but he might be late be­cause he is work­ing at his in­tern­ship for NASA. Sorry I tried to call and ask you

Oh, that’s cool, Apple says, and I know she doesn’t have a clue.

Is this a date, Jes­sica? Are you dat­ing Arthur Mor­ris? I hope to sur­prise every­one with this shocker.

You’re funny, Davy. No one has called him Arthur since preschool and I’m his cousin so, no. I’m not fuck­ing him.

The waiter ar­rives and I order the bar­be­cue sei­tan sand­wich with grilled red pep­pers. Jes­sica and Apple both order tofu with tomato sauce, vegan moz­zarella and grilled mush­rooms. Jes­sica ex­cuses her­self to the re­stroom and Apple fol­lows her (prob­a­bly to com­plain about the sea snail). While they are gone Norse finds me at the table and sits down across the booth and talks on his cell­phone for what seems like five min­utes be­fore hang­ing up and ac­knowl­edg­ing me.

Sorry. I’m try­ing to turn this NASA op­por­tu­nity into the next step of my ca­reer.

I’m think­ing about telling my par­ents that I like she­males pretty soon.

You aren’t gay, Al­abama. Every­one knows that. All you do is talk about that fuck­ing porn­star girl. I’m sur­prised your girl­friend hasn’t found out about it yet.

Do she­males make you gay?

Does Apple even know about your ob­ses­sion? Did you tell Apple you know where the porn­star lives?

I ice over as he says this. I take a mo­ment to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the grace of Xanax be­fore self-re­leas­ing lit­tle slow-mo­tion heroin streams of angst into my blood stream. I’m un­sure how Norse knows about me at all.

Our food ar­rives and Jes­sica and Apple re­turn, and the con­ver­sa­tion moves to top­ics like movies and music and tele­vi­sion and the vol­ume of the am­bi­ent noise in the restau­rant rises in ex­po­nen­tial banal com­par­i­son, and soon all I hear is the air con­di­tion­ing turn­ing on and off, and I rest my head on the back of the booth and nod, and I let the cool air into me.

Davy, you’ll know. What was The Ele­phant Man’s real name? Some­thing Mer­rick?

Joseph Carey Mer­rick.

No, no it was John Mer­rick, Jes­sica says.

Apple nods at both of our re­sponses, clue­less.

Yeah, I think Jes­sica is right, he says. It was John. Re­mem­ber the Mel Gib­son movie?

I shovel pieces of sei­tan into my mouth: What the fuck are you talk­ing about Mor­ris? Mel Gib­son movie? Do you mean, The Man With­out a Face? He was dis­fig­ured, not dis­eased. And it was about ho­mo­pho­bia. You would know about that with the shit you said to me while they were in the bath­room. That movie was shit. I begin to fum­ble my fork and knife wran­gling, and I shove a slice of broc­coli into my mouth and shoot back half a glass of Mer­lot and swal­low to fur­ther an­nun­ci­ate.

No, I saw that too, Jes­sica says. I’m pretty sure it was about John Mer­rick. The Ele­phant Man.

Jes­sica has red sauce smeared on her face, and I hope no one tells her be­cause she looks ridicu­lous and is clearly de­fend­ing her cousin.

You two are think­ing of The Ele­phant Man with An­thony Hop­kins, not Mel Gib­son. That is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent movie, like, thir­teen years after the An­thony Hop­kins one. And his real name is Joseph Carey fuck­ing Mer­rick.

Apple kicks my shin.

Al­abama, I think maybe we’re both con­fused here. I think maybe Mel Gib­son di­rected The Ele­phant Man and starred in The Man With­out a Face, al­though, what­ever the dude’s fuck­ing name was is be­yond me. Jonas, maybe.

I make a note to con­sume Norse with my shark mask once it is con­structed.

He says: I’m cer­tain Gib­son wrote and di­rected The Ele­phant Man, ac­tu­ally.

David Lynch wrote and di­rected that. And you know, what, Arthur? You are out of your mind. You and your sis­ter. Cousin. What­ever the fuck. A piece of sei­tan flies out of my mouth. No one sees it and it lands on Jes­sica’s plate and no one no­tices still.

You don’t like Mel Gib­son be­cause you hate the Catholi­cism.

You’re Jew­ish!

Apple comes to life: Jesus, Davy. I swear to God if I hear about you hat­ing one more per­son, one more in­sti­tu­tion. You are the mean­est per­son I know.

I scream some­thing. A se­quence of words, I think, but in what lan­guage I ab­solutely do not know, and as I do this I only hear my voice above all of the oth­ers. Apple, at the brink of some­thing bad, pulls me out of the booth by my shirt. I fall out and stum­ble from the Xanax or the Mer­lot or both.

Just get out, Davy

Sea snail, I spit back. Every­one’s eyes bit­ing me, angry lit­tle wasps.

 

At home, I take two shots of vodka and at­tempt to dis­guise my own anger to my­self, and I brush my teeth twice out of sheer frus­tra­tion. I play a pre­vi­ously un­re­leased demo ver­sion of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Star­dust” and lie face­down on the car­pet and at­tempt to cry. I wait two or three min­utes, be­cause I saw that it can be a re­lease.

I go on­line and look up Richard’s salvia con­tact. He hap­pens to be a troll-look­ing has-been aca­d­e­mic Jeop­ardy re­ject re­ally named Wiley Lewis. He’s six hours away, sell­ing the stuff as a liq­uid ex­tract for $120, which I buy im­me­di­ately with my fa­ther’s Visa. I study the web­site (which is ex­ten­sive at least in terms of con­tent) for what seems like an hour, then take an­other shot of vodka when I re­mem­ber what hap­pened at Hunger. While the card is still out, I buy a grap­pling hook from a sur­vival­ist web­site and print out a street map of my neigh­bor­hood.

I feel drunk and my cell­phone con­tin­u­ally vi­brates with text mes­sage no­ti­fi­ca­tions. Norse is a total odd­ball and he couldn’t have sex with a girl if he paid one, but I still imag­ine his face buried in Apple’s sweet hairy crotch, and I want to punch a wall over this but all of my walls are painted cin­derblock, and I’m smarter than that. In­stead, I use a yel­low high­lighter and take the satel­lite map and go out­side.

I start by walk­ing down the side­walk, mak­ing notes of which houses I want to shark at­tack, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the ones that con­tain semi-con­ser­v­a­tive-but-lib­eral-enough-to-be-so­cially-ac­cept­able fam­i­lies, which in­trigue me be­cause, while I am a well-to-do one of that kind, I have no ac­tual val­ues, like I as­sume they do. And I say this not on spec: I’ve used a hand­ful of cri­te­ria to make judg­ments, in­clud­ing types of ve­hi­cles, bumper sticker cre­dos, re­li­gious dan­glers, and lawn health, which, I’ll say now, seemed most de­clar­a­tive of the said de­mo­graphic dur­ing the course of my study.

Wiley Lewis’s web­site de­scribed salvia as an en­theogen de­rived from the in­dige­nous Maza­tec shamans of Oax­aca (wa-hah-kah), Mex­ico. This group used the plant to travel through time and seek spir­i­tual at­tain­ment and in­duce ec­sta­tic states that some­times in­cluded en­coun­ters with God or a god or a God-like/demigod type being.

A few cars pass me as I go and soon I’m on He­lena’s street, out­side of her two-story-with-a-fin­ished-base­ment-and-prob­a­bly-four-bath­room Colo­nial Re­vival (also Neo­colo­nial) that looks like the house from The Ami­tyville Hor­ror.

I cir­cle the house three or four times on the map and walk around to the back. The drugs and al­co­hol are swirling with cen­tury-storm force. Her patio is empty save for a nice grill, un­cov­ered and faded gray. A few empty beer bot­tles. The lights are off, and the hot tub is cov­ered but rum­bling. I scan the back­yard, which is empty. I creep up and gen­tly pull open the slid­ing door.

I note a fact from the web­site that’s been echo­ing in my head: Salvia can sharpen the mind in small doses, giv­ing the user “ser­pent’s sight.”

No one is here. They must be out walk­ing. I sur­vey the liv­ing room: a TV (big­ger than my par­ents’, sur­pris­ingly), a half-cir­cle white leather couch that has two re­clin­ers built into it, one re­clined. Is­sues of Cos­mopoli­tan and Us Weekly . A dis­sected issue of The New York Times. Var­i­ous re­mote con­trols. The cor­ner­stone of the room is a chro­matic and some­what dizzy sort of dot paint­ing that I am cer­tain is by Damien Hirst (who I am in love with), which is very sim­i­lar to one of his fa­mous pieces, LSD. I begin rustling through a stack of movies rest­ing under the TV. I imag­ine He­lena’s hus­band or boyfriend com­ing down the stairs with a base­ball bat or a butcher knife or a gun and mur­der­ing me here, ex­e­cu­tion-style or gang­ster-style straight to my face. I try shrug­ging off this no­tion and in­stead be­come hot in the face when I en­counter an un­la­beled, home com­puter-made disc that I can only hope is what I want it to be and not some child’s birth­day. I pocket this and push my luck no fur­ther, dip­ping back out into the neigh­bor­hood.