“I’m sorry, but I can’t permit you people to sleep in the church again tonight,” the Armenian priest in Mashad informs the English couple, the young Canadian and me.
“I wonder why he’s asking us to leave,” says the English girl..
“Possibly because he saw you prancing about in your panties last night,” I say.
“Three nights more we have to spend in this place to take those fucking cholera pills they’ve given us,” she says. “Are you guys taking yours?”
“No, I threw mine away as soon as I got them?” I say.
“So, what are we going to do now?”
“Let’s find a park to relax in,” I suggest.
“You people have no place, you stay with us,” says a young Iranian, one of a group we’re smoking Afghani with in the park.
“Thanks, but some students have already offered us a room,” I tell him.
“Aw, those students don’t smoke,” the Canadian says.
“Yes, let’s stay with these guys,” seconds the English girl..
“Come, we take you nice house.”
Everyone rises to leave. The Canadian gets up, then topples forward onto the ground.
“He smoke too much,” an Iranian laughs, the Canadian is helped to his feet.
“You people don’t know how to smoke,” the Canadian chides us. “I’m not afraid to go all the way.”
“Cigar, dari?” the English girl asks one of the Iranians for another cigarette, and she is quickly given one.
Her boyfriend busily rolls joints, while the Canadian is passed out.
It seems that I’m the only one who sees that the dozen or so Iranians in the room with us are not entirely friendly. Some of them have been trying to stare me down while we’ve been smoking.
“What is your name?” the Iranian who has told us he’s a boxer asks the English boy.
“And your woman’s name?”
“My name is Cheryl.”
“And I’m Eddie.”
“Tom, you have photo of you for me?” asks the Iranian.
“No, I haven’t.” An obvious lie; he must have visa photos.
“You give me your address, Tom?”
“Sure.” Tom stops rolling to write.
“Tom Dooley,” the Iranian reads. “Fuck you, England. What is fuck you, Tom?”
“My home in England.”
What kind of dumb game is Tom playing? Isn’t he aware of the kind of people he’s dealing with?
“Eddie, you have photo for me?”
“Yeah.” I hand him a photo. “And here’s a photo of my ten year old son.”
“Very good looking boy.” The boxer, impressed, hands the photo of Vincent around.
Tom and Cheryl, having fallen asleep, the attention of the Iranians focuses on me. Some of them are still trying to freak me out by glaring at me when I take a hit, but I smile and pass the joint back to them until they finally relax and smile back at me.
“Look, Eddie.” The boxer rolls up the sleeve of his shirt to show me a very long scar with widely spaced stitch marks on his upper arm. “We are all brothers here. You want to become one of us?”
“I don’t have to do that to be your brother.”
“Have these boys given you alcohol?” the police chief of Mashad asks us the following evening, after we’ve been rounded up at the hotel the Iranian gang moved us to.
“Have you any complaint to make against them?”
“All right, leave.”
“What was that all about?” Cheryl asks.
“I think it means that if this gang makes trouble for us now, we can forget about asking the police for help. Look, Cheryl, this is a gang known to the police. I think we should stay with those students who invited us.”
“Why? We’re getting everything from these guys: food, drink, drugs. ”
“But they are smokers, Cheryl, and their smokers’ eyes assess what we take and what we give.”
“What’s wrong these people, Eddie?” the boxer asks, nodding toward the sleeping Cheryl and Tom, as he and I cut vegetables for the evening meal. “They sleep too much. You always laugh, sing, bring things to eat.”
“I’ve been doing drugs longer than they have.”
Tom, opening his eyes, sits up groggily.
“Look, Tom, I make special joint for you.” The boxer hands Tom a joint.
“Thanks,” Tom says, lighting up. “Today, I smoke with you; tomorrow, I cut your throat.”
I’m stunned by what Tom has said.
“What you say, Tom?” asks the boxer, leaning toward him.
“Today, I smoke with you; tomorrow, I cut your throat.”
What world is Tom living in? Does he imagine that he can take on this gang? He’s seems to be totally unaware of the situation that he is in. This is why I prefer to travel alone. Being with people like Tom can get me into a lot of unnecessary trouble.
“Tom, don’t you think it would be better for Cheryl to sleep between you and me, rather than on the other side of you where one of the Iranians could lie next to her?” I ask in the dormitory of the hotel.
“I don’t think that’s necessary, Eddie.”
Cheryl, not wearing a skirt, rises and saunters out of the room. Two gang members nudge each other as they watch her leave. Now, they move over to lie down on either side of Tom who is lying on his mattress. Laughingly, they prod Tom with their elbows, again and again. Looking down on Tom’s face, I see that he’s afraid. So much for, “Tomorrow, I cut your throat.”
“Here’s our chief!” announces a young gang member, barging into the dormitory early in the morning.
A thin man in a dark blue pinstriped suit appears, pulls out a big roll of banknotes and flicks through them.
“You want drink, charas, opium?” he asks Cheryl, and she nods yes to everything.
“You,” the chief turns to Tom, “you want drink, charas, opium?”
“Yeah, that would be greatly appreciated.”
“You also want everything?” the chief asks the Canadian.
“I don’t want anything,” I tell the chief.
“Take something, please.”
“No, I have to go this morning to the Afghan consulate to get a visa.”
Leaving the Afghan consulate, I think it would be safer for me to go to Afghanistan without returning to the dormitory. I’m almost certain there’s going to be trouble at the hotel today, and I don’t want to be there for it.
But perhaps I’m being paranoid. The situation may not be as bad as I imagine it to be. And if I do return to the hotel, I’ll at least discover whether or not I’m paranoid. I’ll also be able to pick up my bag.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” I greet, walking into the dormitory.
A man, wearing an American movie gangster hat, sits on a chair in the center of the room. Behind him sits the boxer. The chief sits on the edge of the mattress upon which Tom and Cheryl are lying, both asleep. The Canadian is passed out in a corner.
I empty a bag of biscuits and one of grapes onto the table and motion to the Iranians to help themselves. They nod but do not move. I hold out a packet of cigarettes to the man in the hat. He takes two. Yes, there’s going to be trouble this afternoon. It’s gratifying, at least, to learn that I’ve not been paranoid.
“Sit down,” says the chief. “Show me your hand. What happened?”
“Nothing, I was born with it.”
“You are very lucky man.”
“Um, these people making me feel very sleepy.” The chief nods his head toward the sleeping Tom and Cheryl. “I think I go in bed with them. You sit here where I sit.”
I sit on the edge of the mattress, faced by the hatted man and the boxer who lean toward me, ready to strike if I make a move. Except for the noise of traffic outside, all is quiet in the room.
“Oh, you filthy man,” I hear Cheryl cry. “Tom, wake up, wake up. I thought it was you, but it was this dirty man who slipped in behind me.”
“Uh, what?” mutters Tom.
“Tom, do I have to say it again? This pig has fucked me from behind.”
“So?” the chief says, holding open his arms and smiling into Tom’s face.
“Don’t do that again,” is the best that Tom can come up with.
“Okay, you two, leave this hotel,” the chief tells Tom and Cheryl.
“Eddie, why didn’t you stop him?” Cheryl asks.
“I’d already warned you that it would be better not to stay with these guys, but you wouldn’t listen to me. The next time you’re with smokers, try not to be so obviously greedy and vain.”
“Where you go?” the chief asks, seeing me pick up my bag.
“My bus to the Afghan border leaves early in the morning, so I want to stay in hotel closer to the bus stand.”
“I’m leaving, too,” the Canadian says.
“Wait.” The chief pulls out his roll of banknotes. “How much you want?”
“For what?” I ask.
The chief raises a finger to his lips.
“Oh, man, we’re not going to talk,” I say, laughing.
“Take something,” the chief says.
“No, it’s okay.”
The Canadian and I walk down the stairs together.
“Why didn’t you want to take his money?” the Canadian asks me.
“Man, I was just happy to get out of there.”
1966 - 1967
My spirit leaps when my passport is stamped in Amritsar airport. I’m safe and snug again in good old India where I’m just one amongst hundreds of millions of Indians and where foreign agents are not allowed to operate.
Christmas in Kathmandu is the happening thing for the hippies this winter, but that’s the last place I want to be. I hate cold weather, and I don’t want to be taken for a hippy. I head south for the warmth of Goa.
“Are there any guest houses or hotels here?” I ask a small group of Goan boys sitting near the entrance to Colva Beach.
“It’s not season now. Tourists come here only in April and May,” one of the boys tells me.
“Sleep on the porch of an empty house,” suggests another boy.
“Or break in and sleep inside,” says a third boy.
“Where are you from?” asks the first boy.
“What is your name?”
“Eddie. And yours?”
“Anthony. Okay, you can stay in my house for three nights with my mother, my younger brother and two sisters.”
“And your father?”
“He’s at sea. He’s home only about one month each year. Come, my house is here,”
Great, I’ve found the distant palm-treed beach I’d pictured in my head as Roger was telling me of the man who would beat me to within an inch of my life. Let that man try to find me here.
Lying in bed and hearing a car drive up to the beach, I become anxious. If I should be discovered here, it would be so easy for them to beat up on me. I thought I’d be safe when I arrived, but being the only foreigner here makes me very conspicuous.
I must start doing pushups and other exercises to prepare my body to withstand a beating.
I’m awakened by a jolt. The entire house is shaking. It must be an earthquake.
“Who’s there?” members of the family shout.
Who do they imagine to be so powerful that he can make the entire house tremble by knocking on the door?
“It’s an earthquake,” I tell them as they scurry about the house in confusion, but they don’t seem to understand what I’m telling them. “There’s no one at the door. The ground under the house is shaking. This is what is known as an earthquake.”
I give up trying to explain. In the morning they’ll learn what an earthquake is from their neighbors.
“The police were here today, wanting to know what you are doing here at this time of year,” Anthony tells me. “Tourists come here in April and May only. They suspect that you’re a spy.”
“What could I be spying on? The sand, the sea, the sky?”
Whenever I burn a piece of hash to make a joint, Anthony’s brother and sisters, attracted by the smell, come to watch.
“What are you putting in that cigarette?” they ask.
“A little something to make it stronger.”
“Why you’re going Bombay?” Anthony’s five-year old sister asks me.
“I’m going only to get some money and coming right back.”
“No, you don’t come back,” she says. “When you gone who bring biscuits and bananas for us?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.”
“Why you don’t go Margao to get money?”
“I’ve been expecting you people to come to Colva,” I tell American Dave, having run into him at American Express in Bombay. “In Kabul you told me you’d be coming.”
“We were, but then Mary found this great bamboo house on Juhu Beach, and we’ve got a nice little scene there with about fifteen or twenty freaks coming and going. We’ve got lots of great sounds and good food. Come and stay with us. We’re driving back in Mary’s van.”
“No, the Goan family I’m staying with in Colva expects me back soon,” I say, not eager to stay with hippies.
“At least come for a few days. I’m sure you’ll have a good time”.
“Al right, I’ll come, but only for a few days.”
“You still thinking of going back to Colva?” asks Dave.
“Less and less each day. This is the first time I’ve spent time with freaks, and it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I like hearing the lyrics to some of the Dylan and Beatles songs.”
What I don’t tell Dave is that when I listen to him and Mary sing I feel that their lyrics are aimed at me. That, behind their smiles, they’re waiting to come down hard on me for some crime they believe I committed against freaks while I was in custody in Copenhagen.
“Wow, Camilla, is that you? I hardly recognize you. You’ve lost so much weight since I saw you in Copenhagen.”
“I’ve had a difficult time on the road, Eddie. Not taking such good care of myself: not eating well, becoming dehydrated, taking too many drugs, running out of money, stuff like that.”
“Well, you’ll be able to rest here and get yourself together.”
“Yeah, it’s good to be with friends again.”
“What’s happening?” I ask, returning to the bamboo house and finding the boys gathered in the front yard.
“Camilla’s been screaming. And we’re trying to decide whether or not we should take her to the Danish consulate in Bombay and have her sent home. What do you think, Eddie?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should give her a few days to see if she pulls out of it.”
“Camilla wants to speak with you,” her friend Lone tells me. “She’s in the dining room.”
I go to the dining room and sit beside Camilla at the table.
“You wanted to see me, Camilla?”
“I don’t know what it is, Eddie,” she says, peering at me through her blonde hair fallen over her face,” but I dig you.”
At one time, if such a girl had said this to me, I would have shrugged her off, but after all I’ve been through I no longer feel that way.
“You dig me, Camilla? Well, I dig you, too.”
A rustle behind me makes me turn in my seat. Doris, the girl who has been spending some evenings talking with me walks by the open door, looking concerned. I’ve known for some time that Doris is fond of me, known too that her boyfriend knows that she is. But he’s the gentle kind of freak who wouldn’t stand in her way if I should ask her to come to me.
“Look, Camilla, it’s a nice sunny day; let’s go have ice cream at the Sun ‘n Sands.”
“You see, Camilla, there are only sights and sounds,” I say, as we sit at a table overlooking the sea. “Only what you see and what you hear is real. What you think about what you see and what you hear is not real.”
Down on the beach, Doris and her boyfriend are going into the water together. She’s with her boyfriend because she assumes that I’m coming on to Camilla. She doesn’t understand that I’m only trying to help a friend who is troubled. And the freaks in the house, what are they saying? “Oh, we thought Eddie was a cool guy, but look at him trying make out with that flip-out Camilla.” At one time, influenced by what others thought of me, I would have distanced myself from Camilla. But now I don’t care what anyone thinks. It’s enough that I know I want nothing from her.
“You see the leaves on top of the palm trees, Eddie? I’m making them move.”
“I thought it was the wind that made them move.”
“No, it’s me.”
“Shall we walk back to the house through the village, Camilla?”
“I don’t care.”
“They’re spying on me!” Camilla shrieks.
“Who’s spying on you?”
“The Indians in their shops. They’re spying on me through their radios.”
“They’re only listening to their radios while they work. They’re not even looking at you. I also listen to my radio. Am I spying on you?”
“You’re not an Indian.” Camilla stops and puts her hands to her head. “Eddie, I want to scream.”
“Look, Camilla, what a peaceful sunny day it is, the sky so blue and the rice fields so green” I talk in order to divert Camilla’s thoughts from herself. I must get her back to the house before she breaks down.
A helicopter passes overhead, and Camilla grabs my arm.
“You see!” She points to the sky. “They’re still spying on me.”
“Why are they spying on you, Camilla? Is there something you’re hiding from them?”
Camilla sits beside me, listening to Mary play guitar and sing. A girl comes into the room carrying a lit candelabrum.
“Take away the fire! Take the fire away!” screams Camilla, covering her eyes. “Take it away. Please take the fire away.”
Finally Dave blows out the candles, and Camilla becomes calm.
Mary begins to play again. Camilla rises from my side and goes to the couch to lie down.
Happy to see her resting after many sleepless nights, I go to kiss her forehead. She opens her eyes as I’m leaning over her and she screams.
My mistake, but at least I learn that there’s something about sex that is disturbing to her.
“I notice that Camilla wears a St. Christopher medal,” a girl tells me in the morning.
“What’s a St. Christopher medal?”
“St. Christopher is the saint who protects children and travelers.”
That evening, during an interval in the music making, I get on my knees before Camilla who has been sitting beside me.
“Camilla, is there anyone you hate so much that you’d like to put into a fire to burn for all time?”
“Is there anyone you dislike enough to put into a fire for just a moment?”
“Well, Camilla, if there is a God, and I don’t know if there is one, it must be at least as nice as you. And I don’t think any God would ever put anyone into a fire.”
Next morning, I watch Camilla remove the chain with the St. Christopher medal on it from around her neck and drop it onto the table.
“There’s something in the dark outside, Eddie. Will you come out with me?”
“Of course, Camilla”
Leaving the house, we walk a short distance on the sand. Camilla stops, and covering her eyes with her hands, she begins to shriek.
“What is it, Camilla?” I ask, taking hold of her shoulders. “Tell me what it is.”
“No, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Something happened to you a long time ago. Tell me what it was.”
“No, I can’t. I don’t want to.”
“It happened in the dark like this. Tell me and it will be all over.”
“Tell me, Camilla, tell me.”
“One night when I was a young girl I came out of a cinema and a man jumped out of a doorway and - ”
“And what, Camilla? Tell me.”
“He tried to grab me and I ran and ran, but he kept coming after me. I was so frightened, so afraid.”
“All right, Camilla, open your eyes. What do you see? You see me, you see the stars in the sky, you the see the moonlight on the sea. What happened to you happened a long time ago, when you were a little girl. But you’re not a little girl now; you’re a twenty-one year old woman. You understand?”
“Good, then let’s go back to the house.”
Walking back to the house through Juhu village, it strikes me that I don’t know what to do with Camilla. Nobody in the whole world knows what to do with Camilla is the next thought that strikes me and almost makes me topple forward onto my face. Without being aware of it I’ve been seeking security in knowledge: that someone somewhere knows something.
“I’m sorry, madam, but there’s no book that contains the whole truth,” I recall having overheard a librarian telling an old woman, and how that statement had jolted me into asking myself if I was reading in order to discover the entire truth in a book.
Ultimately, no one truly knows anything. All the sciences are incomplete: new theories arise to supplant previous ones.
So, I can’t rely on knowledge in my relationship with Camilla. All I can do is to simply see her as she is, and not try to analyze her nor to judge her nor to expect her to behave as I would want her to behave. It’s like I’m on a tightrope with her, and one false step on my part could send her hurtling to the ground below.
“Pull yourself together, you bitch,” the girls shout at Camilla.
Standing beside her, I see what Camilla sees: the angry eyes of the girls. Surely, those hate-filled eyes won’t help her to recover.
“How are you, Camilla?” Dave asked the other evening, kneeling before her and his eyes boring into her as though he was diabolically pleased to witness her distress.
“Don’t look at me like that, Dave,” Camilla had pleaded. “Please look away.”
I saw what Camilla saw in Dave’s eyes, but she didn’t see that Dave was so unnerved that he didn’t know how to look at her. I used to be like Dave: hearing the laugh of someone mad would set thing unpleasant off in my own head.
“It’s all right, Camilla.” I say, kneeling before her and pressing her trembling body close to mine. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
The deep silence in the room makes me look about. Some girls are sitting quietly against a wall and watching Camilla and me as they would a movie romance. Yes, this is what most of them want: to be in someone’s arms. They’re wishing to be where Camilla is at this moment. For some time I refused to believe what I was seeing, telling myself that they couldn’t all be hung-up on me, that it was my ego seeing things as it wished them to be. But I’ve seen it so often now that I can no longer deny what I’m seeing.
Oh, what a loveless world this is. So many wishing to be loved and so few capable of loving.
Camilla, smiling as though she’s harboring a mischievous thought, walks into the main room and sits in an armchair near me.
I turn to look at her. “Oh, Camilla, you’re so beautiful, baby.”
Sitting up, she becomes a very lovely girl. And all the other girls leave the room.
Camilla is a number of women. Sometimes, she’s the young student who can speak intelligently with me on a number of subjects; at other times, she’s the lesbian who looks at me with eyes that doubt that I care for her; often she’s the dumb blonde, hiding her face behind her disheveled hair. That’s when she’s horny and feeling guilty about it. Being with her is like being in a hotel corridor and waiting to see which Camilla is going to pop out of which door. The five year old Camilla from the second door on the right; the seventeen year old Camilla from the fourth door on the left; the twelve year old Camilla from the last door on the right.
Watching her from moment to moment, day after day, I’m feeling as though I’m on acid. I go to sleep feeling high and wake up feeling the same. I wonder if I’m still getting high on smoke? I should stop smoking to see how that feels.
Three days without drugs and I still feel high. So, it seems that I no longer need to smoke. That simplifies my life considerably, as I no longer have to score drugs nor be concerned about concealing them.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I ask, coming into the kitchen and finding Camilla sawing away at her wrist with a knife.
“I’m killing myself.” She looks up at me through her blonde hair, ashamed again of feeling sexy.
“Why are you doing that, Camilla? I don’t want you to die. No one here wants you to die.”
“But I want to die.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then, why don’t you use this knife? It’s much sharper than the one you’re using,” I hand her the sharper knife and leave the kitchen.
A few moments later, Camilla comes quietly into the main room.
“I’m leaving the house for a few days, Eddie,” Mary tells me. “You and Camilla may use my bedroom while I’m away.”
“Oh, that’s nice. I haven’t slept in a bed for some time.”
“But don’t think, Eddie, that I’m leaving because I can’t take what’s going on in this house.”
“That thought didn’t occur to me, Mary, until you just said it.”
“I look like an old bag,” Camilla says, looking at the image of her naked body in the full-length mirror in Mary’s room. “A boyfriend told me that.”
“You see how we try to destroy one another; if not with weapons, then with words. You don’t look like an old bag to me.”
“Look all these spots on my body.”
“Those spots are only temporary.”
She comes to lie beside me in the bed. I take her in my arms and kiss her, something I would never have done before with someone who didn’t truly turn me on. I rise above her, frame her face with my hands and enter her. She becomes as lovely as a princess.
“So, this is what fucking is,” she says.
Later, after we’ve been lying peacefully together, Camilla takes hold of my cock.
“Go to sleep, Camilla.” I push away her hand.
I will no longer to be the obliging lover, always ready to do as my partner bids. I’ll fuck only when I feel like fucking.
“Let’s leave this house, Eddie.”
“Why should we do that, Camilla? Here we have friends, food, music, the beach.”
“But I’m bringing everyone down. I can see it in their eyes.”
“You’re not bringing anyone down. What you’re seeing in their eyes what was in them before they ever saw you. What about my eyes, can you look at them?”
“Your eyes I can look at.”
“Well then, Camilla, stick around until you have eyes like mine, and then we’ll help the others to get eyes like ours.”
“You’re crazy, Eddie.”
“Camilla tells me that she wants to leave,” I inform the others in the house, some of whom would love to have her go. “But I don’t want any of you to help her to go. If she leaves, she leaves on her own.”
“You all listen to the love songs of Dylan, the Beatles and the others,” I say to the people in the house seated before me. “And the word love is often on your lips. But I didn’t see much love from any of you for Camilla while she was here. You girls just wanted to get her out of the way to get to me. So, here I am. What do you want from me?
“You know, if I wished to, I could fuck you on Monday, you on Tuesday, you on Wednesday, you on Thursday, you on Friday, and you would not resist me.” Their boyfriends are listening, and they know what I’m saying is true. “But, you know something? I wouldn’t fuck any of you, because I don’t want to be responsible for having made mothers of you. I’m certainly glad that not one of you is my mother nor my father.
“You all know that I don’t dislike you and that I’m not putting you down. I’m just telling you how I see [t.
“And forget about this love thing. It’s based only on the illusions you have of one another. We’re all mad, right? So, how can mad people love? Say sex and not love, because sex is all there is. Sex is what you truly want. Would any of you agree to live with someone who refuses to have sex with you?”
I can no longer play the love game. I have no illusions about them, but they can have illusions about me. I can’t possibly fall in love with them, whereas they are capable of falling in love with me. To have sex with them would be to take advantage of them, causing them unnecessary grief. No, I can’t become sexually involved with anyone.
With no need of sex nor of drugs, I feel incredibly free.
The others having gone to Bombay to score hash, I sit alone in the house, feeling so absolutely serene that one moment such as this seems enough for a lifetime
“Before we came to Juhu, Eddie, we met this wonderful old enlightened man.”
“What’s an enlightened man?”
“Eddie doesn’t know about these things, Mary, “ Dave says. “He’s the one person I‘ve met who hasn’t come to India looking for anything spiritual.”
“An enlightened person is one who has no ego, no sense of self,” explains Mary. “The man we met had the gentle eyes of an innocent child. He seemed so at ease, as though nothing could possibly annoy him. It was hard to imagine him ever speaking a harsh word. He seemed to be enjoying every moment to the full. You remind me a lot of him.”
“Yeah Eddie,” Dave says. “You don’t complain or get uptight or become bored. And some of the things you say are like what the old man says.”
“Lately, some of the things I say just come out of me, like it’s not me saying them.”
“You may be enlightened and not know it.”
“Mary said an enlightened person has no sense of self, so I can’t be enlightened because I have a strong sense of self.”
“This sure is a great house,” says Bill, a diminutive American newcomer to the house. “This table is always loaded with fruit, biscuits, nuts, cigarettes. I just have to reach out and take whatever I want.”
“Yeah, Bill, most people bring those things when they return to the house from outside.”
“I’m sure gonna miss this house when I leave.”
“Where you going from here, Bill?”
“To Italy. To live with my sister.”
“Your sister is rich?”
“What is she, a movie star or something? Or did she marry someone with money?”
“She’s a nurse.”
“A nurse? I never heard of a rich nurse, Bill. How old are you?”
“You’re twenty-three years old, and you’re going to live with a sister who’s a nurse? When are you going to grow up, Bill?”
He blinks at me.
“Listen, man, you’re welcome to help yourself to anything that’s on that table, but I, personally, wn’t give you a single penny.”
“Why were you court-martialed out of the navy, Bill?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Come on, Bill, you were arrested, you spent time in the brig, you sat in a courtroom where you were tried. You must remember some of all that.”
Bill, his eyes open, is blanked out. Then seems to be back.
“Where did I go? How long have I been away?”
“Only a moment.”
“What were you saying?”
“I was asking you why you were dismissed from the navy.”
“One night, I was reading a comic book in my bunk . . .”
Again he blanks out, but only for a moment.
“How long was I gone this time?”
“Only some seconds.”
I look at Bill; he blanks out. He’s blanking out whenever I look into his eyes and returning when I look away. I must avoid looking into his eyes.
“You were in your bunk reading a comic book.”
“Yeah, and an officer came by and shouted at me to turn off my light and go to sleep. I became so furious that I jumped out of bed and punched him in the face.” So, Bill’s jovial exterior conceals a strong aggression.
“I’m coming with you,” Bill tells me.
“No, Bill, I’m just going out to eat.”
“That’s all right, I only want to come along.”
“I’ve told you already that I’m not buying you anything.”
“I don’t want anything.”
“Okay then, let’s go.”
As we begin our walk through Juhu village, I see that Bill shows no interest in what is happening around us. All he wants to do is lean forward and try to look into my eyes.
“This is what I’ve been doing all my life, Eddie,” Bill says, as we’re about to leave the restaurant.
“What’s that, Bill?”
“Standing and waiting for someone else to pay the bill.”
“And you never liked it, did you, Bill?”
“I know what you’re doing, Eddie. You’re trying to make a man of me.”
“I’ve been wanting to speak with you for days, Eddie,” Mary says.
“I’ve been spending so much time with Bill that I haven’t been available for anyone else. What did you want to speak about with me?”
“Yes, what I‘d like to know is . . .”
“I just remembered something, Eddie,” Bill says, interrupting Mary.
“Mary was trying to say something to me, Bill.”
“No, what I have to tell you is more important.”
“Tell me later. Look, food is being served. You must be very hungry. Go to the dining room and eat.”
“We just saw Bill,” a girl tells me. “We were on our way here from Bombay when we met him, and he told us he was on his way there.”
“Oh, that’s terrible news.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because he’s been going on my eyes for the past few days. Now, what kind of eyes is he going to see in Bombay? Angry eyes, greedy eyes, envious eyes, all kinds of insane eyes. He could flip completely.”
The next morning, many of the residents of the house gather in the main room to meet a couple who have just arrived.
“We’ve come all the way from Delhi to meet Eddie,” announces the young man.
“Oh, we’ve heard so much about you,” his girlfriend says.
“Don’t believe all those lies.”
“But there were only nice things said about you.”
“All the more reason to believe they were lies. Anyway, are you people planning to stay here?”
“No, we’re on our way to Australia to get married,“ he says.
“Why would you want to get married?”
“To get piles of expensive marriage gifts,” she says.
“I guess that’s a good enough reason as any to . . .”
I’m rocked by a hard thump on my back. I rise to my feet, my little radio falling from my lap onto the floor. I stoop, pick it up and put it on the table. Standing erect and looking about, I see Bill standing in the backyard and, mouth open, staring wild-eyed over dark glasses at me. He has a knife in his hand. He must have stabbed me.
“Give me that knife, motherfucker!”
I pull off my shirt to keep it from becoming bloodied, then try to make my way through the small space between the chairs to the backyard. Realizing that some people in the house may be in shock, I stop to announce, “Don’t be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen, this is just another performance of the living theater.”
I rush out, but Bill has fled.
Dave and some of the others come out to inspect my knife-wound.
“You’re so lucky, Eddie,” Dave says. “Bill hit you smack on the backbone. An inch or so to either side, and that dirty old blade of his would have gone deep into you.”
“Does this sort of thing happen here often?” asks the Australian girl.
“Only on Sunday mornings,” I say. “I felt that going to Bombay wasn’t
“You said that going to Bombay wasn’t going to do Bill much good, “Mary says.
“If any of you run into Bill, tell him that I want to see him and that I don’t want to hurt him.”
“There are four policemen checking passports in the house,” Mary says, interrupting my rest in the hammock. “They want to see yours.”
I go into the house with Mary.
“Has anyone checked the identity papers of these men?” I ask. “No? Show me your papers, and I’ll show you my passport.”
They show their papers to everyone.
“Is it true,” I ask the officer checking my visa, “that an enlightened person may stay in India indefinitely?”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“Good. Then, I’m enlightened.”
“Prove it. Make a golden tree appear in this room.”
“That’s only magic. But look into my eyes. You can see that I love you.”
His eyes become glazed and he becomes silent.
“Tea and biscuits, everyone,” Mary invites, laying a laden tray upon a low table.
Three of the police officers sit on the floor before the table. The fourth remains apart.
The youngest officer points to a medal that Dave is wearing. “That’s Saint Prebananda.”
“Yes, a minor saint,” David says.
The young officer turns his eyes to me.
“Eddie,” he says, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” I say, laughing.
“Can we come here, not as police, but just as men?” asks another officer.
“Of course, come whenever you like,” Mary says.
“All right, all right, that’s enough,” says the officer who’s been sitting apart from everyone. “Let’s clear out of here.”
“Too much,” David says, watching the police leave. “Just give them some bhakti and a little prasad, and an Indian will become your devotee.”
“The police must have been told there’s something going on in this house by the locals,” I say. “The other day I saw a couple of the girls in the house refusing entrance at the gate to Conrad Rook who also must have heard that something was happening here.”
“I have an idea of how we can all be permitted to stay in India,” Dave says. “Eddie, if you can convince the Indian government that you’re enlightened, you may be granted the right to set up an ashram, and then we’ll all be able to stay in India as your devotees.”
“But I won’t be giving you love and biscuits.”
“We’re not expecting anything. Just go to that enlightened man and see if he’ll confirm that you’re enlightened. If he does so, go to the Indian government with his confirmation and see what happens. I’ll tell you how to find the old man in Delhi.”
“It’s sad to see that some of you are going to miss me when I’m gone,” I tell some of the freaks staying of the house. “But I’ll tell you something: I won’t be missing any of you. When I step out that door, I’ll be stepping into a completely new scene with different characters. Then, it will be one scene after another, and I’ll be so totally into each of those scenes that I won’t be able to think of past scenes.”
“So, you’re happy to be leaving us, Eddie.”
“No, Mary, I’m not happy and I’m not unhappy. It’s simply time for me to leave. I’ll be seeing some of you in Kathmandu and elsewhere.”
“So, Eddie, tell us what happened in Delhi?” ask Mary and Dave in The Blue Tibetan Restaurant in Kathmandu.
“The first thing I did in Delhi was something I’d been dreading to do for months: go to The American Consulate to ask for a new passport. I’d been afraid that I might not only be denied a passport, but be apprehended by the Embassy and sent back to the States to face trial. But now, ready for any eventuality, I walked into The Consulate, asked for a new passport and was given one in a few minutes.”
“Did you meet the holy man?” asks Dave.
“Yeah, I met him at a meeting with his followers. Being the only foreigner there, he motioned to me to come up to him. When I told him that some of my friends thought that I might be enlightened and wanted to know his opinion about that, he asked me if I’d seen the light. I said that I sometimes saw flashes of light and at other times a flickering light. He didn’t seem to be impressed by what I said, so I dropped the matter.”
“That was it for having an ashram,” Dave says.
“No, I went to the Lok Saba and made an appointment to see someone about that. Then, back in Connaught Place, I ran into Nigel who’d been staying with us in the Juhu house, and told him that I had sores on my penis that made me afraid that I had a venereal disease. He told me that he also had sores on his dick and had gone to a doctor that very day and learned that he had scabies, a common disease in India. He’d bought a bottle of escabial lotion and was going to the flat of a young English couple to take a warm shower and to use the lotion. I was welcome to come along to do the treatment.
“The English couple were really sweet. They’d just heard about Mellow Yellow – you know smoking the inside of banana peels- and were eager to try doing that.”
“That would be too much if it really worked and bananas became illegal all over the world,” Mary says.
“Yeah, imagine trying to smuggle banana peels before they spoil,” says Dave. “But tell us what happened at the Lok Saba.”
“The minister I was assigned to meet was the son of Radakrishnan, the Indian philosopher. I told him that my friends thought I was enlightened and that I should be permitted to have an ashram in India. He said he was also enlightened but he didn’t wish to have an ashram. ‘If your friends want you to have an ashram, they should build it in your own country,’ he said.”
“Yes, it’s better this way,” Mary says. “If the Indian government granted you the right to have an ashram, the police would be coming often to see what’s going on. That wouldn’t be very free or much fun.”
“Wherever Eddie happens to be is his ashram,” Dave says.
When Mary and Dave play their guitars in The Blue Tibetan it becomes jammed, the crowd overflowing onto the street.
Apparently Mary and Dave have been talking about me because a number of freaks have questions for me.
“What can I do to become enlightened?”
“Nothing. Don’t want to become enlightened.”
“What will happen to us after we die?”
“Most likely we’ll be forgotten.”
“But I’m an artist and I want to be remembered.”
“What difference will it make when you’re dead and gone what people say about you?”
“Plenty of difference. I want my work to be known and appreciated.”
“For how long? Forever? But there is no forever. This earth, this solar system and this universe are destined to die.”
“You’re bringing me down, man.”
“No, I’m only reminding you of the way it is. Just enjoy making your art and forget about becoming famous.”
“Eddie, what is your sign?”
I scat sing to rhythms I tap out on a tabletop in the Blue Tibetan.
“Eddie, I really dig you.”
Looking up, I see Swedish Ingella sitting beside me.
“Hey, Ingella, you’re out of the hospital. Are you fully recovered?”
“Almost. When I left they gave me a list of medicines I should take, but my friend Greg doesn’t want to get them for me because they are chemical.”
“That’s okay, so long he gets you the non-chemical equivalents.”
“I was so glad you came to visit me in the hospital. I liked talking with you when I came to the house in Juhu. You speak to me simply as a friend with no game involved.”
Greg stands before our table.
“Let’s go home, Ingella,” he says.
“I’m talking with Eddie, Greg.”
“I said, let’s go home.”
Don’t do this, Greg. I pray silently.
“You go, Greg; I’ll come later.”
“Come now, or pack your bags and leave when you finally do come.”
Ingella makes no move, and Greg stomps out.
“Does he mean what he says, Ingella?”
“So, what will you do? Do you have somewhere to stay?”
“I’ll have to look for one.”
“If you like, you can stay in the dormitory where I stay. It’s a rupee a night, but I can pay for you until you have your own money.”
“That sounds cool, Eddie.”
“It’s outrageous what he’s doing.”
“ . . . a girl less than half his age.”
“ . . . hard to believe unless you see it.”
The boys, lying on mattresses on the opposite wall of The Dormitory, whisper about Ingella occupying a mattress beside mine.
It’s disappointing to hear such comments coming from supposedly freedom- loving hippies. They’re not as hip as they think they are. They may smoke pot, but they’re as conventional in their thinking as their alcohol- using parents.
I lie back and shut my eyes. Vivid colors swirl upon the screen in my head. A man’s frowning face forms amongst the colors, then slowly glides from view to be replaced by an angry face and a phantasmagoria of faces - ugly, leering, glowering - blending into one another or pushing each other aside. It’s like I’m on an acid. Did someone drop a trip into my tea? These faces must be manifestations of the emotions of the boys across the room?
“Listen, Ingella, I’m not into having sex any longer. So, if you have eyes for anyone, feel free to go for him.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. I know how to go for what I like.”
“I just heard that Roger and Gisella are in jail in Spain for practicing black magic,” Dave tells me.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“You’re sorry, after what you said they’d done to you?”
“I thought at first they’d done a most terrible thing to me, sending me into the deepest despair, even bringing me to the brink of killing myself. But it seems now to be the best thing that anyone could have done for me. Because if I hadn’t gone down to that lowest point of my mind, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
“But Roger and Gisella never intended that you benefit from what they did.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’m grateful for what happened.”
“Another anti-hippy article in the paper today.” A young freak drops the newspaper onto the floor of the Blue Tibetan. “Why don’t they get off our backs?” “Why does that article disturb you?” I ask. “Do you think you’re a hippy?”
“Of course I do. You don’t?”
“I never wish to be anyone but me.”
“Well, they think you’re a hippy.”
“It doesn’t matter to me what anyone thinks I am. But why do you want to be known as a hippy? Is it because you’ll feel stronger if you belong to a group? But you can never belong to anyone but yourself. No matter how tight you hug someone, you remain separate. You are alone, you have always been alone and you will always be alone. No one else can taste an apple for you, nor have an orgasm for you, nor die in your place.”
“These are great times we’re livin’ in, man,” another freak chimes in. “We’re all going to be enlightened soon.”
“Sure, we’re all going to take a train and arrive in Nirvana station together?” I laugh. “That’s a lot of wishful thinking.”
“No, there’s going to be a great blast of light in the sky which we’re all going to see and become enlightened.”
“I’ll give you odds of a million to one that it doesn’t happen.”
“The Beatles are into it.”
“So what? Are they an authority on enlightenment? They’re just riding on the crest of a fad, man.”
“I’m moving into a nice little house in Swayambhu,” Ingella tells me. “You want to stay there with me?”
“No, I want to be in town where I can meet more freaks.”
“Mary, David and many other freaks are leaving Kathmandu to avoid the monsoon.”
“I know that, but student on vacation from Europe are arriving.”
“Where can I meet this doctor who gives heroin injections?” a freak asks me in The Blue Tibetan.
“His place is not far from here, but it’s not easy to tell you how to get there. I’ll have take you.”
“Good, let’s go.”
“Wait!” another freak pipes up. “Do you think it’s moral of you to take this dude to Doctor Smack?”
“Would it be more moral to know the way and not to tell him? Look, I’m not trying to persuade him to go there, and I’m not going to give him the fix. I’m merely showing him the way. I took you to the black market money changer, didn’t I?. Was that being immoral?”
“Ingella collapsed in the street this afternoon,” a French freak living in Swayambhu tells me. “We had to take her to the hospital.”
“Do you know the visiting hours there?”
“This time, Ingella, stay in the hospital until you’re fully recovered. I’ll try to visit you as often as I can.”
“But it’s boring in here, Eddie.”
“Look, there’s nothing happening for you anywhere but where you happen to be. Just now you have to be here, so this is where it’s happening for you. If you can’t bear to be with yourself, how can you expect anyone else to bear being with you?”
“The nurses and attendants aren’t real here, Eddie. They wish me good morning and ask me how I feel, but they’re not even looking at me when they speak. It’s like they’re robots, just repeating things they’ve been taught to say.”
“Make the best of it, Ingella. Look, you have a nice bed facing the whole room. Everything in this room is going on before you.”
“Yes, sometimes it’s funny watching the other patients. A woman can be laughing and joking with the other patients, but as soon as she sees the doctor coming to her bed she’ll become quiet and look like she’s in pain so she can keep him by her bedside.
“And a young girl who was going to get married talked only about all the things she was going to get and not a word about the man she was going to marry. You’re right, Eddie, most people in the East don’t believe in romantic love.”
“Some men in Nepal do. They have two wives: the arranged marriage wife followed by the love wife.”
A tall man wearing robes walks up to my table in The Blue Tibetan. “Eddie!” It’s the Michael I’d met in Athens and later at the hotel in Heart.
“What’s happening, Michael?”
“I’m not Michael any longer. I’m Bhagvan Das, an ordained Sri Lankan Buddhist monk. And you, how are you, Eddie? Heard you did a little time in Copenhagen.”
“Yeah, three months.”
I see that Michael in his robes impresses the freaks present. How gullible these hippies are. I can see guys like Michael going to the West to become hippy authorities on Eastern religions.
“I’m gonna do a little chanting to help you get better, Ingella,” Bhagavan Das says in the hospital.
He lays an animal skin on the floor at the foot of her bed, then sits on it in like a yogi. Producing a candle from within his robes, he lights it and sets it on the floor.
A nurse approaches to watch over his shoulder.
“Put out that candle,” she orders. “You can’t perform a Buddhist ceremony here.”
“This is a Christian hospital and it’s not permitted.”
“What harm is there in my saying a few prayers for the sick girl?”
“Please put out the candle.”
“How can you people be so intolerant of the practices of other religions?”
“And how can you be so disrespectful of the rules of this hospital? We believe in God; you Buddhists do not.”
“Come on, Bhagavan, give it up, man,” I tell him.
“All right, I see it’s useless to reason with these people. Ingella, you must leave this place immediately.”
“No, she stays here until she’s fully fit.”
“If Buddhists don’t believe there’s a god, who were you going to pray to?” asks Ingella.
“Hey, Eddie, Richard Alpert is in town,” a young freak tells me.
“I know he came to The Blue Tibetan with an Indian guide.”
“And, like I heard he did in Benares, he’s giving a trip of acid and one of STP to any freak who wants. All we have to do is go to The Soaltee Hotel to get them”
“I’m going to visit Richard Alpert and his friend at the Soaltee,” Bhagavan Das tells me.
“Are you buying yourself a pair of shoes?”
“No, why should I?”
“So many barefoot freaks have been going to the hotel to pick up their free trips of acid and STP that the hotel management has decided not to allow shoeless freaks to enter.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get in, Eddie. By the way, I heard Ingella is out of the hosspital. How is she?”
“She seems to be as well as can be.”
“Hey, Eddie, I just saw an article in The London Sunday Times about the white tribes overland trek to India and Nepal,” a young freak tells me. “It was a four page article with color photographs. At the end of the article there was a photo of you. ‘Eight Finger Eddie, Uncle of the Hippies’ was printed under it. Your going to be famous, Eddie. Almost every freak coming to India from Britain will have seen that article and will want to meet you.”
Entering The Blue Tibetan, I find Bhagavan Das sitting at a table with a number of freaks.
“Alpert gave me some money and trips to distribute, Eddie,” he says. “You need anything?”
“No, I’m all right. You were a long time in the Soaltee. You must’ve been having a ball?”
“Not at all. Those guys played tapes of their acid trips, and you wouldn’t hear anything for an hour or so until someone would go, ‘Wow!’ or ‘Phew’. But it’s going to get better now; Alpert and I are going to a Zen Buddhist conference in Kyoto. And we’ll be stopping in Calcutta to catch the October Indian classical music concerts.”
“I’m going to Benares and then to Goa, Ingella. You feel like coming with me?” I ask.
“I want to come with you.”
“What is your relationship to this girl?” asks one of a group of rowdy teen-age students on the train to Benares.
“She’s my daughter,” I say, and that silences them.
That’s a good one; I’ll use it whenever a girl travels with me.
In Benares, Ingella and I stay on one of the houseboats on rented to freaks on the Ganges. We meet a number of Benares freaks: some going to university or studying Indian classical music or dance and others just hanging out.
“Why won’t you let anyone put a tika on your forehead?” asks Ingella.
“I don’t want anyone to think I’m Hindu.”
Someone enters the houseboat while I’m just falling asleep and goes to where Ingella lies. It’s Australian John I can tell by the sound of his voice. Assuming that he’s here to come on to her, I tune off.
He’s not here in the morning.
“What happened to John, Ingella?”
“He got bored and left.”
“He seemed to be far from bored when I fell asleep last night.”
“I was hitch-hiking in India with a boyfriend once and we got picked up by a lorry. The sound of the engine was so deafening in the driver’s cabin that I asked to go on the back of the lorry. My friend stayed with the driver. While the lorry was in motion the driver’s assistant crawled up to me and told me that he was going to fuck me. ‘Go ahead,’ I said, and lay there like a limp pancake. It was such a turnoff that he left.”
“Is that what you did to John last night?”
“That shouldn’t concern you, Eddie.”
Turning, I find Alice.
“Hi, Alice, you just arriving?” I nod toward the bag she’s carrying.
“Yes, glad I can stop for awhile. But who is this?”
“This is Ingella. She’s been traveling with me.”
“Oh, and where are you staying?”
“On a houseboat.”
“May I see?”
“Sure, we’re going there now.”
“Yes it’s a cosy little boat you have,” Alice says, dropping her bag on the floor. “I’m staying here, too.”
“Good. So, if you’re going to stay with us, I’d better tell you about our sleeping arrangements. Ingella sleeps on the raised floor in the front end of the boat, I sleep on the floor of the main section, and you can sleep either on the floor or on the benches along the sides of the boat.”
“There’s no toilet on the boat, I see.”
“We go outside.”
“Anywhere. Also, some of the other boats have toilets. If you make friends with the freaks staying on those boats, they might let you use their toilet.”
“This Alice seems to be very hung-up on you,” Ingella says when Alice has gone out the following morning.
“Yes, she didn’t sleep at all last night. Just smoked one cigarette after another.”
“What did you do to her?”
“Nothing special. Just treated her the way I do anyone else. One afternoon in The Blue Tibetan I heard a girl at another table laughing at almost everything I said, and I knew that she’d heard about me before coming to Kathmandu. That was Alice. She quickly became one of those freaks who went wherever I went. She even moved into The Dormitory later.”
“She doesn’t seem to be a freak.”
“She isn’t. She’s a Peace Corps dropout who became discouraged when she couldn’t get anything done in India because of the incompetence of the Indian and American governments.”
“So, she left the Peace Corps and found you.”
“It seems that she wants to be a part of some great endeavor.”
“You are engaged in a great endeavor, Eddie?”
“Of course, I’m constantly endeavoring to remain entirely unemployed.”
“Ingella must leave this boat,” Alice declares to us. “ She just walks off the boat whenever she pleases without saying a word to you.”
“Ingella’s free to come and go as she likes.”
“She’s not aware of what great man you are. She’s not devoted to you at all.”
“I don’t expect anyone to be devoted to me. Are you devoted to me, Alice?”
“Certainly, I am.”
“I don’t believe you are.”
“I am totally devoted to you.”
“Let’s see how devoted you are. Take off your clothes, lie on the floor and let’s fuck. Ingella won’t mind.”
Alice hesitates, then stares at me until tears appear in her eyes. Sobbing, she picks up her bag and leaves the boat.
“What would you have done if she’d taken off her clothes, Eddie?”
“I would have shit.”
“Why does Ingella have to be sent back to Sweden?” I ask the Swedish delegate who’s come onto our houseboat with an Indian police officer.
“She’s a minor, and her family is worried that she may be dying of drug abuse.”
“Look at her. Does she look like she’s dying?”
“No, but what can I do? I have my orders.”
“Can’t you assure her family that you’ve found her that she’s in good health?”
“I sincerely wish I could do that, but. . . ”
“What if I don’t want to go back?” asks Ingella.
“You’re only seventeen and not old enough to decide that for yourself.”
“Well, Ingella, it looks like we’ve reached the end of this particular road. But I’m sure I’ll be seeing you back in India soon.”
1967 - 1968
“We hate to disturb your peace, Eddie, but we heard you were in Colva and we wanted to see you” American Steve says, coming up to me on the beach with his wife and ten year old daughter. “This Colva is really a fine beach. Are you alone here?”
“I was last season, but this year there are a couple of huts on the beach,”
“We’re staying in Calungate, but it’s nowhere as nice as this.”
“You’re staying near the beach, Eddie?”
“The first occupied house on your right as you’re leaving the beach. The same family I stayed with last season. They invited me to stay for three nights; I stayed three months, and they were begging me not to go when I left. Now, they are happy I’m back.”
“What do you do all day?” asks Odile, Steve’s wife.
“Only what I like to do. I read, I listen to music, I go on the beach, I eat.”
“Don’t you get bored, with so little to do?”
“I get bored only when there’s something to do.”
“I hope you don’t mind, Eddie, but we’ve decided to move to this beach,” Steve tells me a few days later. “Do you know of any good houses for rent?”
“No one rents houses this time of year, but I’ll show you around.”
“We like the house,” Steve says to the landlady of the first house I take them to. “How much money you want for one month?”
The landlady hesitates for some moments, then says, “Fifty rupees,” and quickly covers her mouth as though she’s uttered a great sin.
“That seems reasonable,” Steve says, not even trying to bargain with the woman. Assuming that he knew how to do business in India I hadn’t bothered to tell him that the Goans paid only five rupees a month for such a house.
“With people like Steve arriving it won’t be long before I’ll be asked to pay rent.
“The little blonde girl living in a hut on the beach is Mia Farrow,” Big Eddie tells.
“How do you know?”
“We used to live next door to each other in California.”
“Were you lovers?”
“Are you now?”
“I asked her if she’d like to get it on with me, but she told we’d known each other too long for that. What’s too long, man?”
“When the mystery is gone, it seems.”
After having had dinner at Steve and Odile’s. I lie exhausted on my mattress at home. My body is tired, but my mind is fully awake. A light, as though coming from an adjoining room, shines within my head. And I become aware that my consciousness is imprisoned in this animal, the body. It’s tired so I have to lie down with it. Actyally, the body is king. It dictates almost all that I do. When it’s hungry I must stop to eat, when it’s thirsty I must drink, when it needs to go to the toilet I must go with it. I’m imprisoned within this animal which will outlive me. When my consciousness dies the elements that comprise the body will live forever in other forms.
“My mother says we need your room, Eddie, because some of our relatives are arriving,” Anthony tells me.
“Okay, I’ll move out right away.”
I can’t blame the family for asking me to leave when they see how much Steve and the the others who are arriving are willing to pay for a house.
I move to the outdoor bar on the beach, closed for the season, to use one of their tables to sleep on.
“I don’t like it, Eddie,” Steve says. “All these people: petty gangsters from New York; idiots who shoot LSD in the vein; assholes who frighten the Goan landladies by insisting on standing naked before them; shitheads who’ve only heard of you running around and shouting Eight Finger Eddie all over the place. They’re making you into a cult figure.”
“What should I do, Steve? Disappear? At least, they’re not on spiritual trips.”
“I’m not blaming you, Eddie. You can’t help what they do. I just can’t stand having them around.”
“Is that why you never come to my house?”
“Why did you have to rent that place? It was so quiet here before. Now there’s noise coming from your place almost all night long.”
“It’s cold here at night, Steve, so I’m providing shelter for those who have little or no money to rent a room. Come over sometime; you might enjoy it. ”
“I don’t want to associate with those young shitasses. I don’t see how you can bear to be with them.”
“Because of the way I choose to live, it’s inevitable that I must spend almost all my time with people half my age. I only wonder how they can bear to be with me.”
“But what can you learn from them?”
“I always assume that everyone I meet knows all that I know, plus what they know. So, I can learn something from everyone I meet.”
“But what do these young shits learn from you?”
“How they can still be freaks when they’re twice as old as they are. How old are you, Steve? Early thirties, right? About fifteen years younger than me. So, if I felt as you do, I wouldn’t be associating with a young shitass like you.”
“You people are so lucky to be able to live as you do,” Mia Farrow tells us on Steve’s porch. “I wish I could do it, but I have to work.”
“You must have enough money to drop everything and just hang out for the rest of your life.” I say. “Garbo did it,”
“But I’m not Garbo. It’s not so easy for me to break out of my contracts and other commitments.”
“It wouldn’t be difficult if you didn’t have the desire to further your career. But what are you doing in India?”
“Waiting to go to Rishikesh with the Beatles and the others to meet our guru. A woman at the Indian Tourist Bureau suggested that I come to Goa to wait. But I’ll be leaving soon. Will any of you be coming to Rishikesh?”
“Not me,” says Steve.
“Nor me,” I say. “If you were to tell me that a living Buddha was standing under that tree in the garden, I wouldn’t step off this porch to look at him. What can a Buddha do for me?”
“You don’t think a guru can help you to understand yourself?”
“You were probably into being psychoanalized before you got on this guru trip, and you’ll probably return to it when you become disillusioned with the spiritual quest. No, no one can help me to understand myself. To me, these Indian gurus are con men who take advantage of starry-eyed believers, especially those from the West who have the most money. Religion is a very profitable business, selling a product that costs nothing.”
“You’re being quite cynical, Eddie? What product does religion have to sell?”
“Hope, what else. Hope of rebirth into a better life; hope of a life everlasting in heaven above.”
“These are exciting times, Eddie,” Nigel, who had been a regular at Mary’s house in Juhu. “So many freaks are into spirituality, and the Mahesh Yogi is getting a large following now that The Beatles are into him.
“I don’t see this as a spiritual time at all but as a hopelessly naïve one. And I deplore the coupling of religion with enlightenment.”
“That’s because you’re enlightened but not religious.”
“Some of my friends say that, but I don’t know enough about it to say I am or not. If I am, then how did it happen? I wasn’t religious nor was I looking for enlightenment. In fact, I didn’t learn about it until I was in Mary’s house. Judging by that, there must have been enlightened beings on earth before religion discovered them.”
“That’s right, it couldn’t have been the other way around. That means that an enlightened being cannot belong to any religion. And yet, some religions claim to know the way to enlightenment.”
“If there were such a path, we could all go on it and reach the goal”
Returned to Kathmandu, I’m back in The Dormitory and spending much time in The Blue Tibetan. One afternoon, a Nepalese man who seems familiar to me walks into the restaurant, drops a paper bag on top of a table and orders tea. From within the bag he removes chunks of hashish and lays them on the table. A couple of freaks go over to inspect his wares.
Now I remember the man. The season before he’d sometimes sit in The Blue Tibetan packed with smokers and contemptuously drink American beer from a can. His way of protesting against the smokers. And here he is not only smoking the stuff but pushing it as well.
A girl approaches me in The Dormitory.
“Can I speak to you?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“Some of the guys around here have me totally upset, telling me this is the era of free sex and that I should get with it. When I tell them I would if I found someone I liked they accuse me of being a discriminating bitch, a frigid nun masquerading as a freak and that I should get free or leave the scene. They make me feel so unsure of myself.”
“You are free. You’re free to say no.”
“That’s right, isn’t it: I’m free to say no.”
Tibetan Joe, the proprieter of The Blue Tibetan, approaches the man sitting with his hash on the table.
“I told you one time, I told you two times, keep your hashish off my table.”
“There’s no law aganst having the stuff on the table.”
“This is my shop, and I am the law here. So, take your bag off the table.”
The man simply stares up at Joe. Joe picks up the bag and drops it in the man’s lap. The man plops the bag back onto the table.
“I’m a Rana and you’re only a refugee, so go back to your cash counter,” the man says, and Tibetan Joe retreats.
Many freaks, sitting on the floor of the new art gallery, wait to see Jean Cocteau’s film “Beauty and the Beast”.
“Eddie,” the lady who owns the gallery calls out. “Tell your people to not smoke in the gallery.”
“My people, don’t smoke in the gallery.” There is much laughter. “You see, madam, these are not my people; they are their own people.”
I’m suatting on the toilet in The Dormitory when there is a lod banging on the door.
“Eddie, Eddie, come out quick,” members of the Nepali shout to me.
“Wait awhile; let me finish.”
“Sir, much danger, come out.”
I pull up my pants and open the door. The landlady’s son grabs my arm and pulls me out. A man with a flashlight in one hand and a stick in the other enters the toilet.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“You’ll see, sir.”
The man comes out of the toilet, a snake dangling from his stick. The two Nepalis beat the snake to death.
“Very poisonous snake, sir.”
“How did you know he was in there?”
“We saw him go in. You very lucky he didn’t bite you.”
“You’re not paying attention, my boy,” Ganesh Baba says, singling me out from the freaks gathered around him in The Matchbox Lodge.
“Don’t mind me. Continue with your comments on Immanuel Kant. I’m no longer interested in philosophy.”
“And why have you lost your interest in philosophy?”
“Because it’s nothing but ideas strung together by the mind and whatever the mind concocts is not true ultimately.”
“All right, that’s enough. You’re talking rubbish because your spine is not straight. A bent spine produces bent thought. But tell us something: what does interest you?”
“I’ll show you.”
I rise from the floor and sit in a chair. Taking out the radio from my bag, I find a station broadcasting Indian raga being played on the sarod. Sitting, I move my arms and the upper part of my body to the music.
“Ah, look how gracefully his body moves. It flows with effortless ease,” Ganesh Baba says. “He could dance in a number of ensembles in India. And, you see. he dances so well because his spine is straight.”
I begin to sing along with the music on the radio.
“Oh, such a wonderful voice. It raises the hair on the back of my neck. And, look again at how straight his spine is. When he sings, when he dances, it is heavenly because his spine is straight. But when he speaks his spine is crooked, so he speaks bullshit.”
I slide off the chair and sit on the floor.
“What is your name, my friend?”
“Ah, but you’re not Eight Finger Eddie, are you?”
I hold up my hands.
“Oh, please forget any criticism I’ve made of you. I’ve heard so many good things about you. Whatever you’re doing is fine. Be just as you are.”
“Eddie, I never met anyone like you,” Tibetan Joe tells me before anyone has arrived one early morning in The Blue Tibetan. “You never sad, you never complain, you always singing. In Tibetan Buddhism we have five Buddhas. I think you are the Yellow Buddha. He also have same two fingers as you missing his right hand.”
Actually, I don’t want to be known as the Yellow Buddha.
“I not call you Mr. Eddie any more; I call you Mr. Buddha.”
“Sounds like a good title for a book, Joe.”
The man who calls himself a Rana enters The Blue Tibetan and drops his bag of hash onto a table. It’s early morning and I’m the only customer there. Tibetan Joe pick up Rana’s hash bag and throws it on the floor.
The Rana pushes Joe who fights back and they grapple. The cook comes running down the stairs, takes out the long sword from the scabard hanging on the wall and places its pointed end against The Rana’s body.
“Stop it, you guys, before somebody gets hurt,” I say, and they back away from each other. “Rana pick up your bag and get out of here.”
“Come with me,” he says, and we leave together. “If I want to sell hash I must have my own place. You help me look for a place?”
“Yeah, sure. In fact, I think I know a good place for a club.”
Sitting on my bed, I move my arms and the upper part of my body to the Indian classical music on my radio. From an adjoining room come sounds of a female moaning sexually. One of the landlady’s daughters probably, entertaning a client. Quite a number of freaks moved out of The Dormitory as soon as they suspected it to be a brothel as well as a tourist lodge. What would they think of me if they knew of my life with Gwen? They probably wouldn’t believe it if I told them.
What’s this? My arms are moving with incredible speed with hardly any effort on my part. I look at them with amazement as they fly about me. I’ve never experienced such tremendous energy. My eyes shut, a vision of my spine weaving to the music like the body of a snake appears within me. An upward rush of energy makes my head seem that it is the top of a tower capable of receiving pictures and of sending messages. I seem to see freaks stoned out in various chi shops around Kathmandu.
A large sun appears before me in my room. It is very bright, but it doesn’t hurt my eyes to look at it. In fact, it’s impossible not to look at it. No matter where I look it’s there before me. I shut my eyes and the sun, unchanged, shines within me.
The sun is power, sheer power. It must be the core of all life. All living things must spring from this sun. And if it’s in me, it must be in everyone.
The sun is drawing me to it. An invisible cord attached to my body just below my right rib is pulling me toward it.
If I allow myself to be drawn into the sun, its great power will surely burn out my brain, destroy my body. This is a moment of truth for me. There is only the sun and me, and it’s impossible for me to lie to myself. I can’t tell myself that I’m not afraid of becoming insane, that I’m not afraid of dying, when I am. No, I’m not ready to die. I still have things I wish to do in life.
I pull back from the sun, and it vanishes.
I sit with my back against the wall of my room, disappointed that I’ve failed to join the sun. But I wasn’t ready to risk dying to do that.
At least I know that I’m not enlightened. That’s a relief. Some people had me half-believing that I was. But how can I tell them what happened tonight. It would be too embarrassing to say that I backed away from the sun when I had the opportunity to go to the other side. I could simply say that the sun is in everyone and that it seems one must risk dying to become enlightened. And if I’m asked how I know that?
Why not tell what happened? How many people have I met who’ve been where I’ve been tonight? Not one, right? So, why should I be ashamed to simply tell it as it was?
What happened to me last night? I wonder the following morning. In the dorm there are many books dealing with spirituality the freaks leave when they go to town. I go there to look through their titles until I find one that interests me: “The Secret Oral teachings of Tibetan Buddhism” by Alexandre David-Neal. Reading, I come upon the word Kundalini and learn that my Kundalini had risen to the top of my head last night. Kundalini, the Serpent Power. Yes, and hadn’t I visualized my spine weaving like the body of a snake? So, one doesn’t have to believe in Buddhism to have one’s Kundalini rise.
I learn also that there are two teachngs in Tibetan Buddhism: an exoteric teaching meant for the masses, with belief in rebirth and all that; and an esoteric teaching for the elite, without a belief in rebirth. I’d been wondering how the Tibetan Buddhists could speak of reincarnation when the Buddha had pronounced that there was nothing permanent in life, no Atman to travel from this life to the next.
Also, I learn that there are two main teachings in Hinduism: Yoga and Sankiya. Yoga is the way of doing: reading the sacred books, meditating, performing puja, following a guru and so on. Sankiya is the way of not doing: not reading the sacred books, not meditating, not doing puja, not looking for a guru, not seeking enlightenment because it can only come to you; you can’t go to it. Seems I’ve been a Sankia person and not known it
“So you say that all the spiritual disciplines I’m practicing are a waste of time,” a freak tells me on a houseboat on the Gunga in Benares.
“Sankiya states that. But it won’t be a total waste of time if you go all the way with those disciplines and end up where Sankiya begins.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Okay, you read the sacred books until you realize that they don’t get you anywhere and you throw them out. And you do puja until you see it doesn’t work and you throw it out. You do this and you do that and, seeing they don’t help, you drop them. Finally, like a junkie kicking an addiction, you kick the guru. And where are you? You’re where Sankiya begins when it states that nothing you do will get you anywhere.”
“So all Indian gurus teach the way of Yoga.?”
“Some of them may have been espousing Sankiya before they became discouraged by seeinging those they spoke to nod in agreement with what was being said and then run after the first guru who happened along. Deciding that most people are incapable of learning by hearing alone, that they think they must make an effort to achieve enlightenment, these individuals stop speaking of Sankiya to become gurus in the hope that they will win fame and fortune and Western pussy. They will teach their followers to make an effort. All to no avail. Because who will make the effort? Ego will. But Ego doesn’t know what enlightenment is nor where it is. But in the end, it seems we will all become one with the sun without making the slightest effort.
“What does that mean?”
“If we’ve all come from the sun, then we will all return to it an instant before we die.”
“I hope you don’t mind if I say that I’m not ready to give up me guru nor my practices just yet.”
“Why should I mind? Look, I have not the slightest interest in what you do or of what becomes of you. I don’t want to change you or to save you. And I don’t want to save humankind nor to do anything to save the environment. It’s too late for all that. The human mind and the environment are polluted and they’re becoming more polluted by the day. No, everything is all right just as it is.”
“Spoken like a truly pessimistic and unenlightened being.”
“Pessimist, realist, I’m not enlightened and I don’t want to be.”
1968 - 1969
“I’ve rented the first house when you leave the beach,” I tell a number of freaks on Colva. “And any who wishes is welcome to stay there.”
“You mean that abandoned house some Goans are using to piss on?”
“They won’t be doing that when we’re there. Have you noticed how large place is? We could have up to a hundred freaks staying there.”
“You gonna be serving food?”
“If someone wants to make food, they may.”
“I guess we could collect money for the food.”
“No, this will be a free house. There’ll be no collecting money. Voluntary contributions will be accepted. Otherwise, I’ll pay for everything.”
“Something scary happened to me on Christmas Eve, Eddie,” Dutch Harry tells me. “I went to midnight mass in the church here in Colva and, before I knew what was happening, I found myself lying flat on my face on the floor of the church and crying like a baby.”
“I guess you were brought up a Catholic, right? So you may been crying because you think you haven’t been a good Catholic. Or you may have been crying for your self, afraid that you will burn in hell forever.”
“Ah, I have to go now.”
“How‘re you getting along in the house, Harry.”
“Oh, fine, I like being with a lot of people.”
“Don’t listen to Eddie,” Dutch Harry advises. “He talks bullshit. He’s an old man afraid to be alone, so he gives us food and a place to stay to keep him company. Don’t listen to him; listen to me.”
For days, Harry has been sitting across the room from me and watching as I speak to those who come to me. It seems that Harry is the lonely one who wishes to have people around him.
“Look, everybody, look!” Harry, standing, extends his arms as far as he can to the right and to the left. Hanging his head, grunting and seeming to make a great effort, he pulls his arms down to his hips.
“Don’t play with the fire!” Harry shouts, charging into the room where the freaks, candles burning before them, sit on the floor along the walls of the main room.
He runs around the room and kicks out the candles one after another.
“Only I can play with the fire.”
Harry picks up a candle, lights it and holding it before him, he rubs his thumb and forefinger in the flame.
“You see? Only I can play with the fire.”
“Eddie’s lonely hearts’ club home,” Harry taunts the others in the house. “Look at him. He’s the only one who dances, the only one who’s happy, while the rest of you are lonely bleeding hearts.”
As he raises his fist to strike someone, I rush toward him, and he backs away.
“Harry,” I say, “quite a number of people are making music ot listening to music in the house.”
“That’s not music; that’s fucking noise.”
I’ve noticed that some of the boys playing instruments seem to direct their aggressive sounds at Harry.
“Eddie! Save me.”
Returning to the house after shopping, I find Harry being chased around the room by a number of the boys. Harry runs to me and uses me as a shield.
“What are you guys doing?” I ask the irate boys. “Why are you beating up on Harry?”
“We can’t take his bullshit any more. He’s got it coming to him.”
“What’s wrong with you people? You complain about the way mental patients are mistreated in hospitals, and here you are mistreating Harry.”
“Aw, he’s not crazy. He’s only acting.”
“Anyone who acts as he does must be crazy. Don’t forget, what’s happening to Harry could happen to any one of us. Would we like to be treated the way you’re treating Harry?”
“He’s a menace; he should be hospitalized.”
“No, he stays, and we stop him only when he tries to hurt someone. If you object to that, you’re free to leave.”
“What is the significance of that?” An Indian tourist, who has casually walked into the house, points at a colored design painted on the wall.
“It has no significance other than what you see,” I explain.
“Look at the hippies making chapaties,” a lady tourist’s voice comes from the kitchen.
“We’ve come more than a thousand miles to see this house,” one of the tourists tells me.
Recently, numbers of Indian tourists, all seeming to have prior knowledge of the house, have been descending from buses and entering the house as though it’s a museum. Are all Indians clairvoyant?
“The police put me jail in Margao, and look how they beat me.” Harry rolls up his shirt to show us the lash marks on his back.
“Oh, Harry, how awful,” says a young girl. ”But why were you jailed, Harry?”
“I attacked a priest in his church.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Because he refused to recognize me.”
“I am the now,” Harry announces, seeming to use all his strength to force his arms down beside him. “I am the now.”
“What’s Harry trying to tell us, Eddie?” asks Felicity.
“I don’t know. Nothing comes to me. I’m not trying to analyze him.”
“You know, watching what Harry is going through teaches me a lot about madness and of how my own mind works. I see now how madness can happen to anyone.”
“We’re all mad to some degree or other.”
Two girls rush toward me as I’m returning to the house.
“The police are here to take Dutch Harry away.”
“Don’t let them do it, Eddie.”
A Sikh police officer in civilian clothes approaches me.
“There has been a complaint made against this man by your Goan neighbors. They say he has been desecrating Christian symbols. We are obliged to take him with us.”
“Don’t you think it would be better for him to stay with us?”
“No, he’ll be safer in our custody. Do you know how the local people treat a mad person? They beat him until he becomes sane.”
“But his cellmates or the police may beat him if he’s locked up in a cell. He’s already been beaten while in police custody. Here, at least, he has a number of friends who like him and are willing to take care of him.”
“That would be contrary to all regulations. He must come with us.”
“But Harry may break down completely if he’s placed in an hostile environment.”
The officer looks at me for some time.
“If he’s allowed to stay with you people, can you guarantee to prevent him from going out and doing things that would antagonize the locals”
“We’ll do the best we can.”
“Harry, I’m tired of always sitting in this spot. You sit in my place.” I say, moving to one side and allowing Harry to sit in the space he mistakenly believes belongs to the leader of the house.
“I am the new leader here,” Harry announces to those waiting for the evening meal. “You will all do as I order.”
“Eat shit, Harry,” shouts Danish Stuff.
Harry jumps to his feet and stands before Stuff.
“You tell your new leader to eat shit?”
“Sit down and shut up, Harry. We don’t need any leader here.”
“I’ll teach you that you need me as your leader.”
Harry kicks out at Stuff, but Stuff leaps up, to take hold of Harry’s leg and push him back to sit him down beside me.
“Can I get you something, Harry?” I ask.
“A glass of water, please.”
“What can I get you now, Harry?” I ask that evening.
“Another glass of water.”
I go for the tenth or so glass of water.
Someone puts on the Beatles’ “White Album”.
“Here’s your water, Harry. Drink it and let’s dance.”
Dancing with Harry, I realize that if I’d had the understanding then that I have now, I would not have been annoyed by the way Gwen had reacted when I’d begun my affair with Debbie. I would have remembered how shaken up I’d been when I’d first discovered Gwen with another man, and I would have sympathized with her and tried to reassure her. But there’s no use in regretting what’s been done. I’m in a good space now.
“You win, Eddie.” Harry says, having stopped dancing.
“Come, Harry, I’ll stay with you tonight.” A young German girl leads Harry away.
“You wanted to see me?” I ask the police chief of Margao who happens to be a Sikh. All the officers seem to be Sikhs.
“Have you seen this?” He unfolds a newspaper and lays it flat upon his desk. “Do you recognize what is photographed here?”
“It’s a house.”
“It’s your house in Colva Beach,” he says proudly. “A full page article about you and your house in the Indian Express, a newspaper published in every state of India.” He’s more impressed by the article than I am.
So, the Indian tourists who had been visiting the house had not been clairvoyant after all.
“Is it a positive article?” I ask.
“Do you know what it is when I do this?” Harry asks me, extending his arms and forcibly lowering them.
“No, what is it, Harry?”
“It’s me, the new Christ, coming off the cross.”
“I was wondering what it meant.”
“And do you know what I see when I look into the flame of a candle? I see Christ in the center of the fire.”
Christ in the center of the flame is untouched by the fire. Harry, the new Christ, by rubbing his thumb and fingers in the candleflame tries to reassure himself that he will not be burned by the fires of hell.
That evening, Harry sits beside me to wait for the evening meal. When he’s settled I lower my hand to the candle on the floor before us and rub my thumb and forefinger in its flame.
“You are the Father!” Harry exclaims, leaning away from me.
“We’re all the Father here, Harry. We can all play with the fire.”
Spotty Dick walks into the room, followed, step by step and as closely as it’s possible by Harry. Dick sits down before me. Harry sits down beside Dick and arranges his body as Dick’s body is arranged. Dick clears his throat. Harry, not removing his eyes from Dick, clears his throat.
“How are you, Dick?” I ask.
“How are you, Harry?”
“Ah, what did he say?” Harry asks, nodding toward Dick.
“He said he’s fine.”
“Does it bother you, Dick, that Harry is following you about all day and mimicing all your movements?”
“No, but I won’t allow him to get into bed with me.”
“Eddie, come here,” Felicity calls from outside..
I go to the front porch.
“Look!” She points to Harry marching in step behind a young American who is leaving. “Do you think Harry will come back?”
Some nights as I turn in my sleep I hear Felicity, Stuff and young Jean Luc talking in the back room. Jean Luc often says complimentary things about me.
“Eddie!” Jean Luc greets from the porch as I return to the house. “You didn’t kill yourself in Margao.”
“No, I didn’t even think of it, Jean Luc.”
What makes him think that I’d want to kill myself?
“Look at this, Eddie?” Jean Luc stops me, an open copy of Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” in his hand. The book has been burned from the binding out, so that only the first words of phrases appear on one page and only the last words remain on the page opposite.
“Look, Eddie!” Jean Luc points to the word felicity.
I’m awakened by a scraping sound in the back room.
“You shit!” I hear Jean Luc shout. “You fucking shit!”
I rise and hurry into the back room. Jean Luc, squatting and glarng at Stuff who cowers before him, scrapes the long blade of a knife on the stone floor.
“What’s going on, Jean Luc?”
“Oh, good morning, Eddie. I hope I’ve not disturbed your sleep, but night after night I’ve been listening to this shit asking me why I’m afraid to die. Now, regard.”
Jean Luc, knife extended before him, lunges toward Stuff who covers his eyes and backs against the wall.
“You see, Eddie, how this hypocrite is not afraid to die.”
“Okay, now that we know that Stuff’s afraid to die, you can put the knife away.”
“Ah, but how nice to watch him cringe. No more lectures from him at night. Actually, I don’t want to see his ugly face in this house.”
Jean Luc grabs Stuff, lifts him to his feet, drags him to the front door and kicks him out of the house.
“There, we are rid of the dog.”
As Felicity speaks with me, Jean Luc waves his finger at us from across the room.
“Eddie and Felicity, the father and the mother of the universe. Eddie with his beedies and Felicity with her opium.”
“Eddie, here’s a postcard from Dutch Harry,” Spotty Dick says. “And it’s addressed to Eddie’s Happy Hippy Home.”
“What does he write?”
“He’s under observation in a hospital in Bangalore and is feeling well. He hopes we’re all okay and thanks us for what we’ve done for him. And he’d appreciate it if we’d send him some sweets.”
“Eat the shit food that your Eddie cooks for you,” Jean Luc sneers, marching to and fro like a storm trooper before us as we eat.
“Sit down and eat, Jean Luc,” I say.
“No! I don’t eat the food you make. I know what you’re putting in it. Aphro-dafro, you know what I mean? Yes, you do, bastard. Oh, I know you so well. Eddie.”
Jean Luc leans forward to glare at me.
“Tic-toc, tic-toc, you know what is tic-toc? Tic-toc, Swiss clock, Swiss bank. With all the money you have in your tic-toc bank you serve us rice and dal and vegetables, you miser, when you should be serving us lobster and chicken and champagne every night.”
He points his finger at me.
“Next full moon, Eddie, I’m putting you under the ground where you belong.”
“Look at the hippies. Aren’t they having a good time,” announces the Sikh police chief of Margao, having come into the house with his wife and with a number of his officers and their wives. The ladies are dressed in expensive saris. “Mr. Eddie, it’s just like a night club here. Some people are making music, others are dancing. You people always make your own music?”
“Not always. There’s a record player and records in the house and I have a radio.”
Jean Luc comes in, making faces and lewd gestures, but the police don’t seem to notice him.
“You people shouldn’t smoke too much of that stuff,” the chief says, leaning over some freaks who are lighting a chillum. “It is very bad for your health.”
The smokers laugh at him.
“So, Mr. Eddie, good night.”
“You’re going so soon? You just arrived.”
“We just came to see how you are all doing. And now we have seen, we can go and allow you to carry on with your merrymaking.”
“You killed Dutch Harry and then sent that postcard addressed to Eddie’s Happy Hippy Home, you murderer,” Jean Luc snarls. “But you’re not going to kill me like you did poor Harry. I’m going to kill you before you can kill me. Do you hear me? I’m going to kill you, bastard. Look at him, he doesn’t seem to understand that I’m going to kill him.”
Jean Luc picks up a sandal and throws it at me, hitting me above my right eye. Two freaks jump him and pull him to the floor.
“Don’t hurt him,” I say. “Let him go.”
“Watch out, Eddie!”
Carrying a bucket of water in each hand, I turn to see Jean Luc charging toward me. He comes to a stop before me and looks into my eyes. Now, he places is hands on my shoulders, leans toward me and kisses me on the mouth.
The boy’s in love with me! Why haven’t I seen it? That’s why he’s been angry angry at me like a young girl being ignored by the one she adores.”
“Jean Luc grabbed my arm as I was walking by him this afternoon,” Felicity tells me. “ ‘Let go of me, you psycho,’ I shouted at him, and he removed his hand from me. But I almost passed out when I saw that he’d had a knife in his hand all the time.”
“Then what happened?”
“He followed me to my room and fell asleep on the floor as he’s been doing lately.”
“But he doesn’t try to have sex with you, does he?”
“No, not at all.”
“Yes, he’s in your room to prevent us from getting it on together.”
“Why would he do that when he doesn’t seem to be interested in me? Oh, I see, he’s interested in you!”
“I was born under a bad star,” Jean Luc declares. “And you, Eddie, you were born under a black hole. Be prepared, your last days are near. I’m burying you deep in the ground to rid the universe of you.”
I look up at Jean Luc who stands over me.
“Don’t look at me with those eyes,” he warns, cocking his fist. “Look away.”
Whack! Jean Luc punches me hard on the cheek almost toppling me onto my side.
The boys pull him away from me.
I’m surprised that I feel no pain from his blow.
“Yah!” Jean Luc leaps out at me from Felicity’s door. “Ah-hah, I scared you, didn’t I, you shit?”
“Jean Luc, go inside and leave Eddie alone,” Felicity orders.
“So, the mother of the universe wishes to speak to the father before he dies,” Jean Luc says, doing as she’s said.
“He seems to listen to you, Felicity.”
“He sleeps on my floor at night, but he often goes out before he sleeps.”
“I happened to see him one night, standing naked under the moon and speaking to it.”
“But I have a feeling he’s going down into our well to shit in it.”
“That’s bad news, Felicity. I hope it’s not true. We’ll have to watch him closely from now on.”
“Ah-ha.” Jean Luc, turning from the front door, glares at me. “So, Eddie, you’ve called the Indian army to take me prisoner.”
A group of soldiers are marching by the house to do their usual training exercises on the beach.
“But I’m leaving, Eddie, before they capture me.”
Jean Luc is not going anywhere. I’ve seen him too afraid to step off the front porch.
“I want you guys to invite Jean Luc to the bar for a drink,” I tell a group of the boys. “Tell him you’re on his side against me, and ask him what he thinks you should do about me.”
“Jean Luc told us that he doesn’t want to dirty his hands with your blood. What he wants us to do is to ignore you, to not speak to you, so that you’ll become so depressed you’ll go to Margao to kill yourself.”
“So, that’s what we’ll do. Tell everyone in the house to stay away from me for now.”
“You’re dying, Eddie.” Jean Luc smiles in at me as I cook. “You’re dying alone in your kitchen.”
Jean Luc, looking into the kitchen, sees Felicity with me. “Yah!” he exclaims, poking a finger of his right hand into the circle formed by the index finger and thumb of his left hand.
“He thinks of fucking as being dirty,” Felicity remarks.
“He’s reverted to his childhood self.”
“All right, everyone, the season’s almost over and it’s time for me to go,” I announce. “There’s still some rent left, so those who wish to stay can do so until the owner comes.”
“Where are you going, Eddie?” Jean Luc asks.
“I’m going to Margao to kill myself.”
“Too late, you bastard, too late.”
In Kathmandu I discover that Tibetan Joe has a new place called The Ling Kesar which has a comfortable room upstairs where freaks can smoke, make music and discuss issues of the day. And Rana’s Cabin Restaurant is in full swing, small scales on the counter to weigh grams of hashish along with a record player and a number of recent discs. I decide to spend afternoons in The Ling Kesar and evenings in The Cabin.
“Beady eyed Nepalis, rice, dal, chapatti; I hate it all,” young German Karl complains, as we walk through downtown Kathmandu..
“So, why are you here?”
“Because you are.”
“Why? I don’t owe you money, do I?”
“Eddie, those mountains in the distance, are they coming toward us and receding like they’re breathing?”
“No, Karl, I don’t see them doing that.”
“There must be something wrong with my eyesight, then.”
“Eddie, do you think I should take LSD?” asks young Brigitte.
“You’ve never had it before?”
“No, but almost everyone I know has.”
“It‘s up to you to decide whether or not to take it. But if you do take it, just go where the acid takes you; don’t fight it.”
“Eddie, please come out to Swayambhu,” pleads an American Freak. “Black Jim, you know the one who was a fighter pilot in Viet Nam, has freaked, and everyone is avoiding him because he’s so big,”
“What’s happening with his little Japanese wife?”
“She’s staying with some friends. She’s safe because Jim doesn’t want to to have anything to do with her,”
“”I don’t have to come to Swayambhu; I’m sure Jim will come to town to see me.”
“I took the LSD, Eddie,” Brigitte says. “It was a very strange experience. Sometimes, I was very frightened, and at other times I felt like I was in some wonderland. And often everything would seem so ridiculous that I wouldn’t be able to stop laughing. Also, I took some STP a few days ago, and I’m not quite back to my usual self yet.”
“I hope my next life will be better than this one,” Karl tells me.
“What makes you think will be a next life, Karl?”
“Don’t you think so, Eddie?”
“Isn’t one life enough to do all that you want to do?”
“But if there is no next life, what will happen when I die?”
“What happened to you before you were born?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s what will probably happen after you die.”
“You mean, I’ll just become nothing?”
“Isn’t that the ultimate goal of most Eastern religions?”
“I thought enlightenment was the goal.”
“Enlightenment is the ending of thinking of yourself.”
I look out the front window of the Dormitory at dawn and see Brigitte, wearing a long Afghan fur coat, walking sedately across the street before a number of Nepali men who are silently following her. Now, she stops, whirls about to face her followers who have also stopped. and opens wide her coat. The men cover their eyes and shrink back from the sight of her nakedness. Brigitte buttons her coat and turns to resume her stately walk, the men following quietly.
“Hey, Eddie, what’s wrong with these sorry fuckers in Kathmandu?” Black American Jim says, entering the upstairs room of The Ling Kesar. “In this shop down the street, I find a bolt of cloth which is just the right color for my devotees to wear. So, I pick up the bolt and I’m walkin’ out with it when the shopkeepers stop me and ask me for money. I try to explain to them that my followers are gonna look great all decked out in this material, but that don’t mean nothin’ to them. They want money and start makin’ noises about police and all that shit. So, I decide to split the shop without the cloth.”
“Sit down, Jim, and tell me what else has been happening.”
“After I piss.” Jim, undoing his pants, walks into a corner of the room.
“Not there, Jim; there’s a toilet downstairs.”
“This afternoon, I lost all my money, my passport and all the clothes I was wearing,” Karl tells me.
“How’d you manage to do that?”
“I was in Swayambhu, and I suddenly I felt like running. I ran through the rice fields, hissng all the while to ward off the snakes. When I came to the river it looked so clear and cool that I took off all my clothes, dropped them on the riverbank and dove into the water. I must have been taken downstream by the river, because when I came out of the water I couldn’t find my things.”
“Ah, so you’ve come to visit me in my palatial abode,” laughs Brigitte, walking naked in the dormitory of the hotel where she’s staying. “Excuse me, while I complete my soliloquy.”
She strolls about the room, speaking French.
“This is worse than the worst soap opera,” a French freak tells me. “All day and all night she’s crying, ‘Rick, Rick, Rick.’ Who is this fucking Rick? He never comes to see her.”
Brigitte picks up a very large pair of scissors from the floor and, smiling to herself, slashes at a mobile hanging before her.
“Has she been violent?”
“She was peaceful until she began to go out into the street and swing at people with a metal bar. Now, we have to keep an eye on her.”
“Come, Eddie, let us begin a meaningful conversation in English,” Brigitte says, sitting beside me and rubbing her body with the inside of a mango skin.
Tears form in Jim’s eyes as I sing a blues-like melody to him. The upstairs room of The Ling Kesar is packed with freaks watching us. Some of them are probably waiting to see Jim smash me.
“You wake up in the morning, and the whole miserable scene in Kathmandu comes spinning out of your head: the Nepalis, the freaks, all nd everything,” Karl tells me. “ And you create us separated from one another so we’re unable to have sex. You have us imprisoned in Davey Jones’ locker at the bottom of the sea. Free us, Eddie, release us.”
“Do you actually believe that I can release you, Karl?”
“If you can imprison us, you can release us.”
“All right, then, I release you.”
“Hey, Eddie, come over here and sit by me,” Jim calls to me in The Ling Kesar. “Yeah, you sit by the window.”
The window overlooks a busy little square.
Jim holds the handle of an umbrella he has placed in a standing position between our two chairs. He begins to move the handle back slowly, then forward and back again, to one side and then to the other, all the while looking past me and out the window at the activity in the square below. Abruptly, he turns his head to look into my eyes questioningly. He’s looking to see if I’m afraid. He’s seeing me as his co-pilot in Viet Nam.
“I hope you’re enjoying your meal, Brigitte,” I say, having invited her to bathe and to have food at The Dormitory.
“Oh, I am enjoying very much, Eddie,” she laughs, throwing the dessert plate over her shoulder and smashing it against the wall behind her, just as she has done to the soup bowl and to all the plates and cups served her.
Seeing what Brigitte is doing and confident that I will pay for all that she destroys, the family continue to bring her food on their costliest dinnerware.
“I suggest, Mr. Eddie, that you cultivate a few enemies,“ a Nepali friend tells me.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you have aroused the suspicion of the police. They’re asking who is this man who is friendly with everyone, making himself unusually popular. They’re wondering what you’re game is.”
“Yes, the police assume that everyone is engaged in some sort of criminal activity.”
“Eddie, until two days ago I thought I was in an ashram, but I see now that I’m in jail,” Brigitte tells me when I visit her. “Please get me out of here.”
“What are those straight bitches doin’ in here?” Jim says as we’re about to take our seats in The Cabin. “I think I’ll go do a number on them.”
“Sit down, Jim.” I take hold of his arm. “Save your energy for greater things.”
Karl staggers in, passes our table, then turns to face us. Wavering as though he’s about to collapse, he unbuckles his belt and begins to pull down his pants.
“I rush up to him.” What’re you trying to do? Get yourself in jail? Pull up your pants and come sit with us.”
Karl pulls up his pants but goes to sit at a table away from us.
“Who is that motherfucker, Eddie? I catch him staring at me all the time.”
“His name is Karl.”
“That’s his fuckin’ name, is it? He’d better stay away from me if he doesn’t want to get his face bashed.”
“I’ve met her, Eddie, the girl beyond all my expectations,” German Harry says. “She’s beautiful, sensitive, deep.”
“Is that why you’re looking so fucked up, unshaven and with dark circles under your eyes?”
“I can’t sleep thinking about her.”
“If you’re only thinking about her, you’re not seeing her.”
“She refuses to see me, Eddie. She just sits in her hotel room and doesn’t come out. I know she’s freaking out in there, but all I can do is stand outside and shout up to her window.”
“Why do you shout up to her from the street instead of going up to see her?”
“She’s ordered the hotel manager not to let me in.”
“What have you done to this girl, Harry?”
“She became hysterical on an acid trip in Pokara, and I had to punck her to calm her down. She hasn’t wanted to speak to me since then. Oh, Eddie, what am I going to do?”
“Just wait. She can’t stay in her room forever.”
“I want to be fucked in the ass by black JIm,” Karl tells me in my room at The Dormitory. “I’m going to get my guitar and sing a song about that.”
Jim’s voice comes to us from the restaurant downstairs.
“That’s Jim,” Karl says. “I’m going down there.”
“No, Karl, it’s better you stay here.”
“Better to stay here with you while Jim is down there? You must be mad.”
Karl hurries out, and I lie back to rest.
“Get that fucker away from me,” I hear Jim shout.
I’m awakened by voices in the dorm room, but I continue to lie in bed, hoping to be left alone.
“Jim wants to see you, Eddie,” Karl says in a voice deceitfully sweet.
I rise reluctantly, yawn and stretch before entering the dorm. It’s German Kurt who’s been speaking with Jim.
“Hey, Eddie, good you’re here, man,” Jim greets. Then, nodding toward Kurt, he says, “I think this is the blue-eyed killer who’s out to get me.”
I look at Kurt whose eyes reveal fear of Jim. Jim’s eyes, mistaking the fear in Kurt’s eyes for that of malevolence, reflect fear of Kurt. Kurt fears Jim who fears Kurt. Paranoia whirls around the room.
“What is this place, Eddie?” asks Jim, looking at the walls apprehensively.
“This is where I stay, Jim.”
“Oh yeah, I should’ve figured that.”
Karl leans toward Jim and says, “Eddie must go.”
Jim looks long at Karl.
“Eddie don’t go,” he says.
Karl, as though struck a blow, backs away and, sobbimg, falls onto a mattress on the floor.
I go to Karl. “It’s all right, Karl, there’s nothing to cry about.”
“You leave me alone, Eddie.”
“I’m gettin’ the fuck outta here,” Jim says, rising to his feet
“You don’t have to go, Jim,” Kurt says. “You can sleep here.”
“Keep an eye on these fuckers for me, Eddie.” Jim nods toward Kurt and Karl. “Make sure they don’t follow me.”
“I just saw Jim comin’ to town, wavin’ a big stick and talkin’ to himself,” a young freak announces in The Ling Kesar the next morning. “He looked totally freaked out.”
“Did you try to talk to him?”
“No, man, he was too out there to talk to.”
“Mr. Buddha!” Tibetan Joe calls me. “Come downstairs. American Embassy send car for you.”
“What’s goin’ on in Kathmandu, Eddie?” Jim asks in the office of the American Vice Consul. “This mornin’ the army was shoot’n’ at me in Swayambhu.”
“They weren’t shooting at you, Jim. They were just doing their usual target practice.”
“Bullets were ricocheting all around me. I’m a livin’ Buddha; they shouldn’t be shootin’ at me.”
“Their shots often go wild, Jim.”
“Would you like a burger and coke, Jim?” asks the Vice Consul.
“Yeah, great. Listen, can I talk to Eddie alone?”
“Sure, just go into the next office.”
Jim and I go into an unoccupied room.
“Be careful, Eddie, you don’t touch me. I’m contaminated with nuclear fallout. We dropped atom bombs on Japan, right? And my wife is Japanese, right? So, every time I touch her, I get contaminated with that crap.”
I lay my hand down on Jim’s hand. “Don’t worry, Jim, I’m not afraid of getting contaminated by you.”
“I just wanted to warn you, that’s all.”
“Thanks, Jim. Now, let’s go back.”
“Your burger and coke are here, Jim,” the Vice Consul says as we return.
Jim, sitting down, bites into his burger.
“Just as I thought, Eddie.” Jim looks at me. “Cyanide!”
“You don’t have to worry, Jim. You’re a living Buddha, right, and cyanide can’t touch you.”
“I know that, Eddie, but why do they have to play these games with me?”
“Jim wants to be repatriated,” the Vice Consul tells me, “but the American government is reluctant to do that because Jim already owes it seven thousand dollars.”
“He’ll probably recover as soon as he’s back in the States, and the government can recover its money from him at that time,” I say.
Stepping out of The Cabin Restaurant at closing time, I see Karl sitting under a running water tap.
“Come on home, Karl. You’re going to freeze to death under there.”
“Go away, Eddie. I’ll kill you.”
“Would you want to fly back to the States with Jim in a military transport plane, Eddie?” asks the Vice Consul. “You’re the only one he seems to trust. You’d be flown back here directly, of course.”
“I’d rather not.”
“We’ll have to think of some other arrangement, then.”
In the office of a police station, Karl, sitting before me, stares out unblinkingly with eyes that register nothing.
“How did he come to be arrested?” I ask the police officer who sits nearby.
“Two nights ago, he was throwing stones at innocent passersby in the street, and he had to be subdued.”
“How long has he been like this?”
“Since his arrest.”
“It looks like he’ll have to be sent home.”
“The German Embassy is making arrangements for that.”
“Jim’s flying back to the States with the embassy doctor,” the Vice Consul tells me in Jim’s hospital room.
“That’s good news, huh, Jim,” I say.
“Jim, there are a few more questions I have to ask you to complete this report. Who do you wish informed in the event of death?”
“No, Jim,” I laugh. “Your mother, man.”
“Oh yeah, my mother.”
“Isn’t Valerie beautiful, Eddie?” German Harry says, having persuaded me to meet her in a little restaurant around the corner from The Ling Kesar.
“Yes, but her eyes are unsteady and her hands are shaking,” I observe. Harry tells me you’re flying back to Paris, Valery.”
“Yes, but I’m afraid I may explode in the plane.”
“You’re afraid that the plane may explode?”
“No, that I will explode.”
“But why do you think that?”
“Because I feel even now that I may explode at any moment. I know it will be much worse on the plane.”
“All right, I’ll give you this.” I hand her a tab of Thorazine that someone has recently given me.
“What is it?”
“Something to make you feel calm. But don’t take it unless it’s absolutely necessary. You may not feel as shaky on the plane as you now imagine.”
“Valerie is going to get back safely,” Harry says. “Then, she’s going to send me money to fly to Paris.”
“I wish I could be sure of Harry.” Valerie says, looking at me.
“I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should trust Harry. You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Remember his good points, but don’t forget his not so good ones.”
“But I love Valerie, and that’s what counts most.”
“Listen, Harry, as long as Valerie feels as she does now, you shouldn’t have sex with her.”
“I’ll do anything to help her, Eddie, anything.”
“But, Harry, I may feel this way for the rest of my life.”
“No, you won’t,” I say. “You’ll come out of it.”
“How can you know that?”
“Because I used to feel as you’re feeling, and I came out of it.”
“You give me some hope.”
“You see, Valerie, I told you that Eddie would help you.”
“How does it feel to be a living legend?” a girl asks me on Calungate Beach.
“It doesn’t feel like anything at all. I live and I sleep in this body, so even if every human being in the world were worshipping me day and night, I would not be aware of it. Fame, I used to want so much to be famous and to have many lovers, but now that I can have such things I no longer want them.”
“So, you’re staying in Baga, Eddie,” says David.
“Yeah, when I learned that our house in Colva had been made into a bar I decided to come here instead. I’ve been staying with different people almost every night. ‘We all stayed in your house last season, Eddie, so this season you can stay in all our houses.’ They tell me.”
“David and I were looking forward to having a house again this year,” Sheri says “We brought pots, pans and other utensils with us.”
“So. you were intending to do the cooking. That’s fine, but there are no large houses left to rent in Baga.”
“The scopolamine boys struck again yesterday,” a freak tells me. “Another one of their victims is wandering about out of his head today.”
“Who are the scopolamine boys?”
“A German, a Swiss and a French national who invite new arrivals to their house for tea, then spike them with scopolamine, a truth serum used by the Nazis to get information from their captives. But these three bastards are not interested in acquiring information. They only want to rob and rape.”
“Hasn’t anyone asked them to stop doing what they’re doing?”
“More than once, but all they say is, ‘We don’t believe in love like you stupid hippies.’ What do you think we should do about them, Eddie?” “Me, I don’t want to do anything about them.”
“That’s kind of a wishy-washy stance, don’t you think, Eddie?”
“I’m not interested in policing the scene. Whatever happens will happen without my having taken part in it.”
“I say we stop those bastards before they pollute all the wells in Baga for Christmas,” a tattooed freak exhorts the people gathered around him on the beach in Baga. “We should grab the fuckers, tie them to a tree, then tar and feather them. Then, we should go into their house to find and destroy their scopolamine. They must haveripped that stuff off from a lab in Germany, and they’re probably all wanted in their own countries. So. let’s grab their passports and mail them to their respective embassies and escort those fuckers out of Goa. How’s that sound?”
It all sounds quite illegal to me.
“Oh, it was awful, Eddie, awful and also ludicrous,” a girl says. “First of all, this Nigerian boy was guarding the door of the scopolamine house, and he wasn’t letting anyone in, the crowd shouting at him to get out of the way. But what hardly anyone noticed was that the scopolamine guys had joined the crowd and were shouting to be allowed into the house, making a mockery of the proceedings.
“Finally, the Nigerian was pushed aside, and a great number of boys rushed into the house. Then they came rushing out again. Someone in the house had shot off a tear gas gun. Everyone had to wait for the air to clear before they could go into the house again. The one who found the bottle of scopolamine wanted to keep it, saying we could get high on the stuff if we used it judiciously, but he was ordered to smash it against a rock.
“And you should’ve seen the stack of passports, cash and travelers checks they found in that house, Eddie.
“Then the scopolamine guys were seized and forced to begin marching to Panjim where they’ll be put on tomorrow’s boat to Bombay. But they were as defiant as ever, stopping every few steps to raise their arms in a Nazi salute and to shout, ‘Where is your love now, you dunb hippies? We’ve succeeded in destroying it.’ ”
“Jack, many people have told us that Anjuna Beach is beautiful, but they’ve always said that there are no houses there. Yesterday, a Japanese girl, who had just returned from Anjuna, told me that she did see houses there. I know you’re one of those who want us to have a house like the one we had in Colva last season, so why don’t you go to Anjuna and see if you can find a house to rent.”
“I got a five room house, “ Jack tells me that evening. “We can move in right away.”
“Since the owner doesn’t live there, the lady caretaker gave me the keys without asking for money.”
“Good whoever wants to can move in. I want to stay in Baga for the New Year’s Eve party. There should be hundreds of people here for that. Quite a change from a couple of seasons ago when I was almost alone in Colva.”
After I’ve eaten my first meal in Anjuna a young man rises and says, “ All right, let’s get some money together for our next meal.”
“No,” I say. “We won’t ask for money and we won’t ask for anyoneto work in this house. Those who wish to contribute may do so. If there’s not enough money, I’ll provide it. That’s how we did it in Colva last season, and that’s how we’ll do it here.”
“It looks like Ray has found us, Jack, Isn’t that so, Ray?” I say, but he looks at me uncomprehendingly.
“He’s really out of it,” Jack says.
“He’s been running around Baga freaked out on scopolamine for more than a month.”
Ray looks warily at the white walls and the darkness outside the windows. Now, he puts his arms around me from behind and tries to wrestle me to the floor. Jack takes hold of one of his arms, while I take the other, and we force him to the floor. He doesn’t try to resist.
“It’s all right, Ray,” I try to reassure him. “This is not a prison. Look, there are no bars on the windows and the door is always open. You can leave whenever you want to.”
“I know I’m not dead now because I can feel pain,” Ray says, relaxing.
“When do you people go naked on the beach?” asks one of the two Goan boys who have spent night with us.
“There’s no set time,” I say. “People go to the beach whenever they feel like going.”
“Can’t you ask some of them to go now?”
“I never ask anyone to do anything.”
“Are you afraid of the police coming? They are such a nuisance, don’t you think?”
“If complaints are made, the police are obliged to act.”
“You are a very nice man, Eddie.”
And you boys are a couple of nice cops, I say to myself.
Mary arrives with a number of people from Baga.
“We thought we’d come to Eddie’s Beach and see how you people ate doing,” she says. “We brought some rice, dal, vegetables and other things.”
“Come in the big room and sit,” I say. “You must be tired after walking over the hill.”
Ray walks in and sits on the floor in the center of the room.
“So, Ray, this is where you’ve been,” Mary says. “Are you all right?”
Ray makes grotesque faces and contorts his body into a succession of ungainly postures.
One of the girl who has come with Mary seems shocked to see Ray’s condition.
“Ray’s allowed to do anything he wishes as long as he doesn’t try to hurt anyone,” I tell the girl.
“Are spending as much time with Ray as you did with Camilla?” asks Mary.
“Ray doesn’t want to open up as much as she did.”
A tall attractive girl approaches Ray and says, “Would you like to step out wath me, Ray?”
Ray rises, puts an arm around the girl”s waist and leads her out.”
“That Rosalinde is so wnderful,” says Mary.
Having distributed the forty trips of acid smeone has donated to the house, I watch the ensuing chaos. The boys are rushing here and there while some of the girls are sitting and smiling beatifically. Dinner is announced and I wonder who will eat. The chapattis come in varios sizes and shapes.
“Eddie, smell the whipped cream on this pie I made and tell me if you think it’s spoiled,” Spotty Dick says, presenting the pie for my inspection.
I lean forward to smell the pie, and Spotty Dick pushes it into my face.
“Hey, this stuff isn’t whipped cream; what is it?”
“It’s shaving cream.”
“I guess I may as well shave.”
“Here, take this,” German Kurt says the next morning, proffering me a packet.
“What is it?”
“It’s all my money.”
“Don’t you need it?”
“I came all the way from Germany with this money nine months ago and managed to get by without spending any of it by pretending I didn’t have it. Now, I want to stop pretending and truly live without money.”
“Qkay, but don’t ask me to return it to you later.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
“Ray’s taking brown sugar from the kitchen,” David tells me.
“Let him. I’ll buy an extra kilo for him.”
“L et him have whatever he wants until he sees that it’s not what he truly wants, right?””
“Right, David. By the way, I don’t see Sheri working in the kitchen with you.”
“Her pregnancy is making her very tired.”
“Which means I’ll have to help you in the kitchen.”
“Isn’t it a shame, Eddie,” Ray says, biting into a piece of molasses sugar in his hand.
“You’d better look out for worms in that sugar, Ray.”
Ray looks at the sugar and, to my surprise, there is a white worm in it.
“I’ll go next door and pick up the bananas and papaya from Joe Bananas,” says Spotty Dick.
“Ray’s in jail for causing a disturbance in a bar,” Andrea tells us.
“Ah, good,” an Italian freak says “Now I can get a good night’s sleep for a change. That bastard’s been keeping me awake night after night with his wandering about the house and talking to himself.”
“You won’t believe the horrible place where they’re keeping. It’s a dark dank dungeon. He’ll die in there. I”ve got to get him out.”
“Leave him there for God’s sake.”
“You needn’t worry, I’ll take care of him.”
“Fuck off, Andrea,” Ray shouts. “Leave me alone.”
“But you’re filthy, Ray. You’ll feel so much better if you’ll take a bath.”
“What makes you think I want to feel better, you bitch?”
“I’m only concerned for your welfare, Ray.”
“I’m not looking for welfare.”
“It’s admirable that you’re not expecting Ray to be grateful to you for getting him out of prison,” I say to Andrea.
“I got him out for his sake; not for mine.”
“I’ve heard Ray’s been going into Goan houses during the day and frightening the housewives,” Jack announces.
“Oh, shit, he’s going to land his ass in jail again,” Andrea remarks.
“I have an idea,” Jack says. “Let’s give Ray an acid trip.”
“What good will that do?” asks Andrea.
“The acid will take him up, and maybe he’ll come down in a better space than the one he’s in now. What’s the alternative? Have him get picked up by the police again?”
“How can we get him to take the acid?” Andrea asks.
“We can give him a banana coated with it.”
“But what if he should come down in a worse space?”
“Can it be much worse than the one he’s in now?”
Ray comes to the house colorfully attired and with a large sombrero on his head. Humming a tune, he strums a pretend guitar in his lap.
“You see, Ray’s still freaked out even after the acid,” Andrea observes.
“Yes, but at least he’s happily freaked.”
“Hey, you’re the one we really want to interview,” says the leader of the BBC film crew, who has been in the kitchen and heard me talking while I’ve been preparing the evening meal.
“No, you really don’t want to interview me because I won’t do it for ten or twenty rupees like some of the others.”
“How much do you want?”
“Five thousand dollars.”
“We don’t have that kind of money with us.”
“Then, forget about interviewing me.”
“Let me go see how much I can dig up. We’ve got to have you on film.”
“Five thousand dollars is a lot of money to ask for,” David says.
“Yeah, I’m sure they won’t come up with it, saving me the bother of having to be interviewed.”
“All we can manage is three thousand rupees,” the interviewer says.
“Look, the sun’s about to set. There’s only a few minutes of light for shooting. Three thousand rupees is quite a lot of money for a short interview.”
“I don’t want to do it,”
Freaks sitting in the kitchen stare at me with their mouths open.
“All right, let’s do it,” I say, having decided to distribute the three thousand rupees to those in the house in need of money.
“So, what did they ask you. Eddie?”
“They wanted to know what we’re doing here and why and inevitably, of course, they asked about sex and drugs. I told them there was more sex amongst the upper-middle classes in Los Angeles in the fifties and sixties
than there is on the scene here. We see each other in the nude every day and that’s a sexual turnoff. And as for drugs, I said thare was probably as much drug consumption on the street where they lived on in Britain as there was here. The light weakened and that was bout it. So, who needs money?”
“This is sure some fucked up house, Eddie,” Ray says. “I don’t know what you guy’s are trying to do here.”
“Well, you won’t have to wonder much longer, Ray, because it’ll be all over soon.”
“You’re closing the house?” he asks, suddenly sobered.
“No, David and Sheri are going to stay, but they’re going to have a baby and they probably won’t have anyone staying with them.
“Oh,” Ray says, suddenly sobered.
“All things, good and bad, come eventually to an end, Ray.”
“Are you people coming back next season?” Joe Bananas wants to know.
“Looks like it,” I say.
“Do you think I should buy a fridge and make a grocery and bagi shop?”
“Yeah, why not.”
“Valerie and I are married,” Harry tells me in The Cabin.
“Why’d you do that?”
“So, we can be together if we get busted. Being with Valerie has been good for me, Eddie. Look at me, I’m completely clean: no drugs, no alcohol, not even cigarettes.”
“Valerie, you’re looking much better than the last time I saw you.”
“Yes, I’m feeling better now.”
“Eddie,” Harry says, “in our flat in London we had a picture of Buddha on one wall and a photo of you on the opposite one.”
“I hope you didn’t pray to me, because I don’t answer prayers.”
“Valerie and I are going to London, Eddie.”
“Already? You just got here, Harry.”
“We’ll only be gone for a short while. We’re doing a run for this guy who’s shipping one of those big Tibetan dogs in a cage rigged with hash. We go to Calcutta first, then catch a flight to London. The timing of the flights has to be perfect and the pickup in London must be done as soon as we arrive, so the dog doesn’t dehydrate.”
“Wouldn’t it be better for Valerie to stay here? Then, if you should go down, she’d be on the outside to try to help you.”
“No, we’ll look more straight going as a couple.”
I wake up to find the dimensions of my room completely altered. It seems to be much longer with one upper corner higher than the others.
Having to piss, I go out, hurry along the balcony and down the steps leading to the toilet. I feel strange, as though my body control of itself. Going back to my room along the balcony, I suddenly realize that my body is totally irresponsible. It is capable of playfully leaping off the balcony onto the paved courtyard below, unmindful of what may happen to it. It’s as if I’m have to take my body by the hand to lead it safely back to my room.
Lying in bed, I hear voices and see faces. Someone accuses me of being the undercover narc on the scene in Kathmandu. I see the face of the freak whom I believe to be that narc. More faces appear, more voices sound, until my head seems about to burst.
I fall prostrate onto the floor, completely surrendered. The voices and visions in my head dissolve. My room becomes again the one I’m used to seeing. Calmed, I’m thankful that the storm in my head has ceased. Perhaps every living person may somrday have to go through what I’ve just been through, so how can I possibly dislike anyone. I feel that this, my not disliking anyone, has pulled me through. If I hadn’t surrendered, if I’d been full of hate or fear, I may have become insane.
Harry and Valerie walk into The Cabin.
“You guys back already,” I say. “That was quick.”
“We only got as far as Calcutta, Eddie,” Harry says. “As soon as we entered the airport the fucking dog cage started to fall apart. There I was on the floor of the lobby trying to hammer the cage together again with my bare hands, travelers coming and going staring at me. I couldn’t get anywhere, so we decided that the best thing to do was to return here safely with the dog.”
“Now the man refuses to pay us unless we try again to go to London.” Valerie says.
“But, Eddie, we don’t want to try again,” Harry says. “We have someone else to do the run, but the man still doesn’t want to pay us. He even threatened me with a gun”
“That shit-face Harry comes to my house after he’s fucked up what he was supposed to do and wants money from me,” the man tells me. “ ‘What money?’ I ask him. ‘All your travel expenses were covered. including your bill at that fancy hotel in Calcutta. You’ll get money when you get the dog to London.’ No, he’s got someone else lined up who’s willing to do that. He wants money for getting the dog back to Kathmandu. I tell him he’s wasting my time.
“And do you know what the simple fuck has the stupidity to say to me? Sitting in my house, he tells me, ‘If I should go to the American Embassy and tell . . .’ He never gets to complete that sentence. In a flash, I’ve got the nozzle of my revolver placed right between his eyes. ‘Don’t ever let a thought like that cross your mind, Harry,’ I warn the little fink bastard. You should’ve seen the color drain from his face. His body was trembling even after I’d put down the gun.”
“Valerie, what are you doing here?” I ask, finding her sitting on the doorstep of a shop in town. “You’re so pale. Are you ill?”
“The doctor says I’m anemic. I seem to become ill whenever I’m in Kathmandu.”
“Yes, I’ve known people who feel bad as soon as they arrive here. Too many positive ions, they say.”
“Eddie, do you think the doctors know I’m dying and won’t tell me?”
“If they knew that, they’d probably have you hospitalized.”
“Or maybe I have a disease that they don’t know anything about.”
“It may be that you have a morbid imagination.”
“Do you know what I fear more than anything else? Of being buried alive.”
“These days they usually drain the body before its buried.”
“I hope that’s so.”
“I don’t know. He’s tired of going to doctors with me.”
“Go home and feed the dog, Valerie,” Harry orders in The Cabin.
“You come with me.”
“I want to stay here for awhile with Eddie and the guys.”
“I’d like to stay, too.”
“Valerie, the dog may starve to death if you don’t feed it.”
“But it’s your dog, Harry. You’re the one who brought it to the house.”
“Now we have it, it’s our dog. So, don’t make a scene about feeding it. I’ll be there soon.”
Valerie, looking unhappy, leaves.
“Why don’t you go with her, Harry? You know she’s not feeling well.”
“Oh, how I know it, Eddie. She’s always not feeling well. I’m sick of her being sick. She comes to The Cabin and, instead of dancing with us, she sits and mopes. If she’d just get up and shake her ass, she’d feel better. No doctor is able to find anything wrong with her because she’s just worrying herself into being sick.”
“Sometimes I feel a need to lay my head on someone’s shoulder,” Valerie tells me.
“You have Harry’s shoulder to lay your head on.”
“Harry’s shoulder is not wide enough. He’d rather lay his head on mine. Or on yours. He likes you much more than he does me.”
“Eddie, you won’t believe what happened,” Harry announces, standing before my table at The Ling Kesar. “After Valerie and I left your room last night, we went to hear Chris play guitar in his room. It became too late to go home, so we slept there. This morning, Eddie, there was money missing from Valerie’s bag. I never suspected that Chris was a thief.”
“Couldn’t someone else have entered the room and taken the money?”
“No, the door was locked the whole night. Only Chris could have taken it. I’m going all around town to warn everyone about him. I’ll see you later, Eddie.”
“That guy’s just too much,” scoffs a girl sitting at another table.
“Why do you say that?” someone asks.
“If you knew Harry, then you’d guess what probably went down last night. Harry sees that Valerie is attracted to Chris, so he takes her money and accuses Chris of having taken it. Neat, huh.”
“There’s only one thing in life that I want, Eddie,” Harry says while he’s on acid.
“What’s that, Harry?”
“To be living in this room with you.”
“What about Valerie, Harry?”
“Oh yeah, there’s Valerie. I forgot about her.”
“Are you still in love with her?”
“Now, Valerie doesn’t want to have sex with me.”
“But you can understand that when you see how ill she is.”
“What’s the point of our being married if we’re not going to fuck?”
“Only a year ago you said you’d do anything to be with Valerie.”
“Yeah, that was a year ago.”
“Eddie, Valerie is passing out,” Rana tells me, interrupting my dancing in The Cabin. “She’s upstairs in my room.”
“Okay, I’ll go up.”
I kneel by the side of the bed upon which Valerie is lying. Turning her head to me, she opens her eyes. “Am I dying, Eddie?”
“No, you’re not dying, Valerie.”
Harry comes in and, not looking at Valerie, he sits on the floor with his back against the wall.
“Eddie, I want to tell you about a weird dream I had last night,” he says.
With not the slightest concern for Valerie’s condition, he wants to tell me about his dream. Is he incapable of looking after her or simply unwilling to do so? Is he leaving it to me to do that? Am I to assume that responsibility? If not me, then who will ?
“Valerie, do you want to come with me when you feel strong enough to get up?”
“What’s going to happen to you, Eddie?” a girl asks.
“Nothing’s going to happen to me. Why’re you asking that?”
“We’ve never seen you with a girl before.”
“I’m not with her; she’s with me. I’m taking care of until she feels better.”
Seeing Valerie with me, everyone seems to conclude that we are lovers. Tibetan Joe no longer calls me Mr. Buddha.
“Harry’s moved in two doors away from us, Valerie.”
“It didn’t take him long to do that, did it?”
“The manager’s worried about him. He says Harry is looking very troubled, that he’s trying to listen at our door or to look into our room through a crack in the paneling. But when I see Harry later and ask him if he’s upset, he says, ‘Why should I be upset? You’re not fucking Valerie.’ Actually, he seems to be proud of the fact that you’re with me. Remember the other night in The Cabin when we heard his voice at another table saying, “And that girl sitting with Eight Finger Eddie is my wife.’ ”
“Harry told me you flipped on acid when you were in Pokara, Do you want to tell me what happened on that trip, Valerie?”
“Actually, there were two trips. The first one was lovely. Everything: the lake, the forest, the Annapurna peak, was vibrating with amazing colors. And Harry was looking like a saint with a halo around his head. I was breathlessly joyfull.
“The next day, Harry wanted us to trip again, but I told him it was too soon, that I hadn’t fully recovered from the trip of the day before. But he continued to insist until I gave in to him.
“This trip put me straight into a hellish place. Everything seemed dark, murky, sinister. I felt I was crushing thousands of insects with each step I took. There was a German couple tripping with us, and the man seemed to be infatuated with all things dead. Whatever he picked up to show us was skeletal, dead. And I suddenly realized that I was alone with three Germans and remembered how frightened I’d been as a child when I’d hear the explosion of German bombs.
“Harry no longer looked like a saint, but like someone I didn’t want to know. At one point, while he had his arms around me, I looked up and saw a large swastika spinning down toward us from the sun. The hub of the swastika encircled our waists as it spun around us, and I wanted to get away from Harry and the German couple, but I was afraid to be alone.
“Later, we all went rowing on the lake and Harry pushed me out of the boat even though he knew I couldn’t swim. I screamed for him to pull me out of the water, but he just laughed at me for the longest time. Finally, he did help me to climb onto the boat.
“By the time Harry and I got back to our hotel room, I was so hysterical that he had to punch me in the face. When we got back to Kathmandu I locked myself in my room and didn’t want to see anyone, especially Harry. For days I sat on the edge of my bed, unable to see the floor because it was covered by a heavy mist, like when you look down from an airplane onto the tops of clouds.”
“Had you ever taken acid before?”
“Yes, a few times. Once, I took a trip with the boyfriend before Harry, and it was very different from the two in Pokara. I felt calm, so very calm, just sitting and looking at everything before me.. My boyfriend was standing a short distance away and, seeing me so unperturbed, he began to scowl and to shake his fist at me. I could see he was having a bad time and wanted to bring me down, but he was unable to frighten me as he usually did.”
. “That’s where acid should take you, Valerie. Not to heaven and not to hell but to a neutral place beyond good and evil.”
“While I was asleep, I saw myself lying in this bed,” Valerie tells me. “Then, I saw the door open and you come in. I opened my eyes and here you are! It’s like there are two of me: the one sleeping and the one seeing me sleeping.”
“But there was a third seer: the one who saw all that. It’s called the final seer, the one who sees all but cannot see itself.”
Valerie and I move to Benares to stay on a houseboat on the Ganga, Harry and some others tagging along.
“Look at him,” Valerie says, nodding toward Harry who is shouting at those on shore as he marches to and fro on the roof of the houseboat. “He looks just like a little Hitler.
“Again and again I make the mistake of choosing the young handsome boy over the more mature and understanding man. And the young ones always end up by mistreating me. I must dislike myself very much to allow myself to be punished like that. Have you read ‘The Story of O’?”
“Some time ago.”
“It’s my favorite book. The way that girl is systematically enslaved by the man she loves fascinates me. Once . . . But maybe I shouldn’t tell you this.”
“That’s up to you.”
“Once, I had my boyfriend take me to this forest near Paris where people go at night to look for unusual sex. I wanted him to tie me to a tree and leave me there so that whoever came along could do whatever he wished to me.”
“You could have been a great temple prostitute, Valerie. Did your boyfriend try to talk you out of it?”
“No, he said he would watch from a distance. He enjoyed to see me being humiliated. Once, he asked me to persuade my innocent little neice to have sex with him. I didn’t want to do it, but he insisted until I gave in. And my neice didn’t want to do it either until I induced her to change her mind. I was in the room while they did it together and, watching them, I had the only orgasm I’ve ever had.”
“You’ve never masturbated?”
“The only orgasm I’ve ever had with other people involved.”
“Right. So, what happened back at the forest? Did you get tied to a tree and left there?”
“No, I changed my mind at he last moment.”
“Eddie, you deserve to be with a nice happy healthy girl and not with a broken down wreck like me.”
“You know that I’m not looking for anyone to be with.”
“Yes, but you have better things to do than to look after me.”
“I’m not doing anything I don’t wish to do.”
“Something about these streets jammed with so many Indians makes me feel very uneasy. Someone once told me that if I went to India, I would die there.”
“And you believed it. You see how we try to destroy each other; if not with weapons, then with words or thoughts.”
“Sometimes when we’re walking through these narrow alleyways my consciousness rises high overhead and I can see forward to the next intersection.”
“That’s great, Valerie. You can see who we’re going to run into when we arrive there. It’s like seeing into the future. You could be the envy of many a spiritual seeker.”
“But I don’t like it whan it happens.”
“Don’t give any importance to these unusual ways of seeing, Valerie. Just let them slide by.”
“I found my money bag lying on the floor in the front room of the boat,” Valerie tells me early one morning. “Only my Indian rupees are missing.”
“And so is Harry.”
“That no good ripoff, stealing from his wife,” comments a freak staying on the boat.
“Let’s hold the bastard’s head under water when he comes back until he coughs up her money,” suggests someone else.
“No, let’s not say a word to him and see what happens,” I say.
“Hi, Eddie,” Harry greets, stepping into the boat.
He sits on the other side of the boat and watches the tourist boats glide by. Now, he walks into the front room, then returns to the main room. The freaks on the boat, occupied with their chores or speaking quietly with one another, pay no attention to him. He walks out onto the deck but not for long. He returns and sits down beside me. I continue to read. He leans toward me and whispers, “Was there much money missing from Valerie’s wallet?”
“Who said there was money missing from Valerie’s wallet, Harry?”
“I saw it lying on the floor near the toilet this morning.”
“You saw it lying there, and you didn’t pick it up to return to her? If any of us had found your wallet lying on the floor, we certainly would have returned it to you. Now, everyone here suspects that you took Valerie’s money.”
“I don’t care what anyone else thinks. What do you think?”
“I don’t know.”
“Believe me, Eddie, I didn’t take her money. Say you believe me.”
“How can I say that when I don’t believe it?”
“It’s easy, just say you do.”
“Harry, it doesn’t matter to me at all whether or not you took Valerie’s money.”
“Why won’t you believe me when I tell you I didn’t take it?”
“Because I’m not a believer, Harry.”
1970 - 1971
"Eddie, it's so good seeing you again," David says after welcoming Valerie and me to the Anjuna house.
"It's not as if we weren't expecting you," Sheri says. "The local ladies told us you'd be coming today. I swear they must be clairvoyant. You've heard we have a baby boy. We'll show him to you when he wakes up."
"Something else that's new is Joe Bananas' shop," David says.
"Yes, we stopped by there before we came here."
"Are you and Valerie lovers?" asks Sheri.
"No, she's traveling with me for now."
"Hello! Is anybody there?"Someone calls from outside.
"It's Jerry," David says, having gone to the door "Come on in, Jerry."
"Wow, it sure good to be on this scene again," Jerry says. "Oh, hi, Sheri."
"Before we go any further, Jerry," Sheri says, "I have to tell you that I have a child now, and that I can’t have all sorts of people staying here who might leave matches and razor blades lying around on the floor.”
"This is Eddie's house, right?"
"Eddie and his friend Valerie may stay here, but no one else."
"One moment, Sheri," I say. "As I prefer to stay where everyone is welcome, I won't be staying here."
"But David and I are looking forward to having you with us.”
“I know, but so many people will want to visit me that my being here will become an imposition upon you.”
“No, Eddie,” David says, “this is your house. Sheri and I will move out.”
“You and Sheri are already settled here, while I have all of Anjuna in which to look for a place."
The next morning Valerie and I and a number of others stumble into Joe Bananas.
"Where you people coming from?" asks Joe.
"We tried to sleep on the beach, " I say, but it was so cold and the surf was so loud that we didn't get much rest."
"To sleep on beach you need heavy clothes and good sleeping bag," Joe says. "Where you sleeping tonight?"
"Somewhere near a well and also close to your shop," I say. "Hey, whose house is this just before your place?"
"Some people living in London."
"You think we could stay on their porch?"
"Who's to complain?"
"Great, we've got a place."
“Valerie, look how relaxed Eddie's leg is,” Harry says, tapping my calf, as the three of us sit on the floor of the porch.
"Stop annoying Eddie," Valerie says.
"Eddie doesn't get annoyed so easily. You still refuse to believe me when I say that I didn’t take Valerie’s money, Eddie?”
"Very wise of you not to believe that; because I did take the money. Do you believe me when I tell you that?"
"I'll never believe anything you say."
“While you were on your morning walk on the beach Valery asked me to go with her to a hospital in Mapusa,” Jack tells me.
"So, did they find anything wrong with her?"
"I didn't wait around for that because she wanted to stay there."
"What? She intends to spend the season in a hospital?"
“She wants you to visit her.”
“I came to Goa to be on the beach and not in some dismal hospital.”
“I’ve been to see Valerie in the hospital,” says Maggie, a London friend of Valerie and Harry. “She’s not feeling well enough to come out yet. She would like to see you.”
“She can see me when she returns to the beach.”
“Eddie, she needs someone to go out and buy the medication perscribed for her. I would do it, but I have a child to look after.”
"She can hire someone to run errands for her."
"Eddie, go and get her out of there."
"So. Valerie, you may think you've found a safe haven here, but you know of course that there are more germs and microbes in hospitals than anywhere else. Of course, there is the consolation of hearing the moans and shrieks of those suffering more than yourself."
“Eddie, see that cot in the corner of the room? That's there for friends of the patient to spend the night on."
"You can't possibly expect me to sleep here."
"Just for a night or two, Eddie. Someone has to help me eat all the food they give me."
"Have you been having any of your dying attacks here, Valerie?" I ask the following day.
"Yes, and the nurses can't understand why I'm so afraid to die. 'What is so wonderful about being alive,?' they want to know.
Yeah, Valerie, what is so wonderful about being alive? You don't dance, you don't play sports, you don't do anything but worry over your symptoms.
If you could resist fighting your fear of dying, you might be able to overcome it. For years I was very afraid of dying. If I’d known then to confront my fear, I would have saved myself a lot of needless suffering.”
“But I don't think I can do that.”
"Valerie, let's get a fruit juice before we take the bus to Anjuna," I suggest after we leave the hospital.
"Oh, do you know the name of the song that's playing, Eddie?"
"No, and I don't ever wish to know it."
“You don’t care at all for popular music, do you?"
“What’s there to care for in that sentimental crap the music industry churns out to make a fast buck. I like to listen to music with more substance, like jazz or Indian classical music.”
“But most people like pop music.”
“I don’t like what most people like. Best sellers turn me off. Do you enjoy listening to that drivel?”
“You’re not at all romantic.”
“You mean I have no illusions about so-called love.”
“You’re a killer, Eddie. You’re killing all that I believe in and hope for. Do you remember the day Harry introduced you to me and I told you I was going to fly to Paris but that I was afraid of blowing up in the plane? You gave me a tablet, saying it would calm me down, but adding that I should not take it unless it was absolutely necessary. And I thought you were the kindest killer of them all, giving me the poison and telling me not to take it unless it was absolutely necessary.”
“There’s a vision I often have that puzzles me,” Valerie tells me on the bus to Anjuna. “It’s of a hand seen through a pastel shaded transparent veil. It's a well-formed hand and gentle seeming, but there's something very sinister about it. I wish I knew what lay behind that vision. Oh, and there’s something more: whenever that vision appears I feel like screaming, but I can’t manage to make a sound."
While I'm preparing the evening meal I hear voices approaching the porch. Soon Mataji appears accompanied by a number of foreign freaks.
"I find you, Mr. Fingers," she laughs, shaking her fist at me.
"What are you doing here, Mataji? Last season you were begging me for money to leave Goa."
"These boys bring me in car from Benares to cook for you."
"Tonight, I'm already cooking, so you'll eat with us."
"Then tomorrow, I cook for everyone," Mataji says.
"Good, we'll help you."
"How you can let this man cook?" Mataji shouts at Valerie. "Why you're not cooking for him?"
“It’s okay, Mataji,” I say, “I usually do the cooking."
"Okay, I make chillum."
Valerie edges closer to me. “Eddie, who’s the one sitting on the end of the porch?"
“German Wolf, why? ”
“Because he has those crazy eyes that I can’t look away from. I don’t know why I find them to be so fascinating. It’s almost impossible for me to resist a man who has those eyes, but it’a disaster if I don’t.”
A middle-aged Indian couple approach the porch.
“It seems you people are camping here,” the man says.
“We have been for some time,” I tell him. "Why do you ask?"
“Because we are the proprieters of this house.”
“If you’ve come to occupy the house, we’ll move.”
“There’s no need for you to move; you may remain on the porch while my wife and I occupy the house.”
“Thank you but no, that would be too inconvenient for you. We'll look for another place.”
“We looked here and there and everywhere before we discovered the ruins just next to the porch,” I tell Harry who has been away all day. “The front porch of the ruins is set high and can serve as a stage, and there are three rooms and a kitchen area inside. Man, I suspect that we’re going to have lots of visitors.”
"Hey, Eddie, aren't you afraid of being so conspicuous on those ruins?" asks New Yorker Ron. "Somebody could stand in the dark and pop you off."
"Who would want to waste a bullet on me?"
"Me, maybe. I hear you been telling people that I'm a gangster."
“That's what you are, isn't it, with your ill-concealed revolver and your heavy vibes?"
“What's a gangster, Eddie? Someone who hangs in gangs, right? Well, no one here has got a bigger gang than you have. So, that makes you the gangster on the scene."
“You don’t know what to do with me, do you, Eddie," Valery says. "No one in the whole world knows what to do with you."
"I wish I knew what is wrong with me."
"Many of the doctors you've been to have told you that, but you've chosen not to hear them. Do you think you'd feel better if you knew what's bothering you?"
"I know what it is. Shall I tell you?"
"You're suffering from hypochondria. Does knowing that make you feel better?"
"But you haven't told me anything."
"You see, Valerie, no matter what anyone calls your malady, it'll only be words to you."
"What makes you think I'm suffering from hypochondria?"
"Time and again you tell me you're dying, and time and again I hold you in my arms and you're no longer dying. How can that be? How can you stop dying simply because I’m hugging you? It signifies that you’re not actually dying but imagining that you are.”
“How can I stop imagining that?”
"You can't; there's no cure for hypochondria."
"Knowing that, why are you with me?"
"That's not the question you should be asking. Better to ask yourself why you are with me. I know where I'm going. In some days I'll be heading back to Kathmandu. And where will you be going?"
"With you, I guess."
“You’re very ill, Eddie,” Valery tells me. “Go to the Bir hospital and see the French Embassy doctor who’s working there. I’ve told him about your condition, and he says you should go to him.”
“I’ll be all right, Valerie. The body knows how to cure itself.”
“Sometimes the body needs help from outside, especially in a place like Kathmandu. Take help when it’s offered to you.”
“The French doctor has seen your chest X-ray, and he thinks you have a very bad case of tuberculosis or maybe of lung cancer,” Valerie tells me. “He says it’s imperative that you to go to a sanitarium, preferably one that he recommends in the French Alps. He told me not to tell you this, but he says you may have only six months more to live.”
“Six more months!” I clap my hands. “Wow, Valerie, no one has ever promised me six months more of life.”
“So, you don’t intend to go to a sanitarium.”
“No, I intend to begin celebrating my final six months.”
Valerie returns to our room while I’m dancing with the upper part of my body to Indian music on the radio.
“I spoil everything,” she says, listlessly dropping her bag on the floor and dropping onto the bed.
“Why do you say that, Valerie?”
“I let someone have sex with me. I was so disgusted with myself that I almost passed out.”
“Why feel guilty about having sex, Valerie? You’re free to do as you like.”
“No, what disgusted me is why I did it. Like me, he's an extra in that movie they're shooting here, so I see him often. He keeps telling me he wants to take me to live on his farm in America which is located in a fabulous countryside with the air so fresh and the water so sweet. And that's why I let him have me: for security, like a whore.”
"Just as you're getting over your illness, I fall ill," Valerie tells me. "I must go to a hosptal in Delhi."
“But why go to a hospital in Dehlii when there are hospitals here? It costs money to fly to Delhi.”
“I don’t trust the hospitals in Kathmandu.”
"Listen, Valerie, I'm almost certain that you have hepatitus, a common illness amonst freaks. The cure is rest and a good diet. We've taken care of many people who've had it."
"How can you say that; you're not a doctor? You just want me to die."
“Okay, so I got two airline tickets to Delhi,” I tell Valerie. “But before we go, will you let them check you at the hospital here?
“Can’t you see that she’s got hepatitus?” the doctor snarls at me.
“Okay, sorry. That's what I've been telling her. Thanks, Doctor. Let’s go. Valerie.”
“That’s what you wanted to hear, isn’t it, Eddie.”
“I can't deny it. Now, we don’t have to go to Delhi in the rainy season. Do you know how hot it can get there? And, best of all, I can get a refund on those airline tickets.”
“What about my illness?”
“It'll take care of iself. Ask any freak."
“My American lover came to see me, but he didn't sit close to me, probably because he was afraid of catching what I have,” Valery tells me. “That’s how much he loves me. You don’t love me, but you sleep in the same bed with me.”
“That’s because I’m reckless. And because you make no sexual demands upon me.”
“So, Mr. Eddie, why are you here?” asks the Chief of the Immigration Department.
“I’d like to have a one month visa extension.”
“For you, Mr. Eddie, nothing. You have been a great disappointment to us. We believed you to be a kind of holy man, but now we see you for what you truly are.”
I get up to leave.
“What is that in your bag. Mr. Eddie?”
“An X-ray of my lungs.”
“Give it to me.”
Taking the photo, he studies it as though he’s able to decipher it.
“Um, very bad,” he nods his head and clucks his tongue. “I’ll give you seven days more. No, take fourteen days. Wait, twenty-one days and leave Nepal.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You see, Mr. Eddie, to what a state your way of life has brought you to. Now, all the medicine in the world cannot help you. It will be like pouring a cup of water onto desert sands. Your days of merry-making have come to an end.”
“So, you and Valery must leave Nepal soon,” says French Henri. “That’s not so good. My wife and I wished to see more of you. But I think I can offer you some solace to your woes. I have a used Mercedes mail van which my friend Didier drove here from Europe and which we intended to sell here, but now we find that it's better to sell it in Kabul. Didier will drive it there, taking passengers to there or to anywhere along the way. Of course, you and Valery will go without having to pay. How does that sound?”
“It couldn't sound better, Henri. Thanks.”
“Also, my wife and I would be very pleased if you and Valery would stay with us until you leave Nepal.”
A small boy comes running onto the road from an embankment on our right. Didier, braking, swerves the van as far to the left of the road as is possible to avoid hitting the boy. But the child, seemingly determined to run into us, disappears with a thunp under the left front of the van.
A number of Indian men rush forward and begin to strike the windshield of the van with long wooden poles, but fail to cause any damage. Other men shove their poles through the open side windows of the van and try to poke the passengers.
Didier is trying to open his door.
“Are you crazy, Didier?” I shout. “You can’t go out there; you’ll get killed.”
“But the child is stuck around the wheel.”
“He’s dead already. There’s nothing to do but get us out of here.”
Didier steps on the gas, and we start off. But soon we hear a siren, and a police jeep overtakes us and makes us stop.
“Get out and come with us,” a police officer orders Didier, leading him away.
“Where are you taking our driver?” asks a girl passenger.
“Back to the scene of the accident,” an officer answers. “He will go on trial tomorrow.”
“And we’re taking you people to a government guest house where you'll spend the night,” says another officer, getting into the van and starting the motor
“I don’t ever want to drive again,” Didier says when he returns to us in the evening.
“You mustn’t let this incident create a block in your mind, Didier,” I’m surprised to hear Valery say. “It was not your fault. You did all you could to avoid hitting that boy. Come, Eddie and I will go with you to the court in the morning, and then you’ll drive the van to Delhi and to Kabul.”
“During the monsoon floods these country people move to the elevated roadsides, but they are not accustomed to living near the highway, so I'm inclined believe your account of what happened,” the police chief tells Didier. “You are free to go.”
“Thank you, sir,” Didier says. “I’d like to leave some money for the parents of the boy.”
“No need; they are of the very lowest caste.”
“All the more reason to give them money.”
“Isn't Kabul great, Eddie?” Harry says. “What a scene. We know so many freaks here. Every time we turn around someone or other is inviting us to their place. Some freaks have such nice houses just outside the city. And Ziggy's is a great place to hang out. I’ll be able to make money dealing there and get my own room."
As I'm returning to my hotel room, I hear someone coming up the stairs and bawling loudly. I wait to see who it is.
“Harry, what’s happened, man?”
“Oh, Eddie, you won’t believe it,” he sobs. “It's the worst thing that could happen to me. Let’s go to the room.”
“Why are crying like that, Harry?” asks Valery. “Were you rejected by a lover?"
“It’s worse than that, much worse. O wah!”
“Tell us what it is.”
“Okay. I was coming home on Chicken Street when I decided to have a curd. After I had the curd, paid for it, left the shop and was walking here the feeling came over me that something was not right. I reached into my pocket and –WOW!- my wallet was missing. Adrenalin charged, I rushed back to the curd shop and asked for my wallet. ‘What wallet?’ they wanted to know. ‘My brown wallet, the one I remember distinctly laying on this counter to take out the money to pay for the curd I bought here just a short while ago. Please give it back to me.’ No, they hadn’t seen any wallet. ‘It's brown, it's mine! All the money I have in the world is in it! Pease return it to me,' I begged, but they just shook their heads. How could they do that, Eddie: having my wallet, but looking me straight in the face and saying that they hadn’t seen it?”
“You know very well how that’s done, Harry,” Valery says.
“When I began to shout and bang the counter with my fists they came at me with big sticks and chased me out of the shop and down the street. O, what am I going to do? All my money is gone. Oh, wah!”
“Stop crying, Harry. One day you’re going to lose your life,“ Valery says. “Look, here’s about fifty trips of acid you can have to get yourself started again.”
“Thanks, Valery,” Harry says, wiping his nose on the back of his hand. “I’ll pay you back soon.”
“I don’t care to be disappointed, so I won’t be expecting you to do that.”
“Where’d you get the acid, Valerie?”
“Someone gave it to me before leaving Afghanistan.”
“Do you know what those French freaks just said to me, Eddie?” Valerie says as we walk to our hotel in Kabul. “They said that they respect you very much and are happy to see me with you, but they think it’s a shame for a beautiful girl like me to be living without sex.”
“But you’re free to have sex, Valerie.”
“I know, but I don’t want them to know that.”
“I went to this Afghan doctor that someone recommended to me and told him what was bothering me, "Valerie tells me. "And he told me to take off my clothes. Take off my clothes for a mental problem! These doctors don't know any more than I do. I'm not going to waste any more time going to them."
"Let's hope so."
“I dread this bus trip back to Pakistan,” Valerie tells me.
“Would you rather be working in an office, sitting in jail or lying ill on a hospital bed?" I ask. "Not very likely. So just sit back and enjoy your good fortune.”
“You people are crazy, wanting to go to India?” the Pakistani border guard tells us. “Don’t you know we’re going give India a good beating?”
"I've been meaning to speak with you two, but something has always interfered," Australian Jenny says, coimng up to Valerie and me on the beach in Anjuna. “Those rumors of Pakistani bombers coming this way really frightened me. And the blackouts at night were quite a nuisance.”
“The war was over soon enough, Jenny.”
“You know, Eddie, you remind me very much of my sister’s husband. Oh, I was so in love with him, but my sister got to marry him. I hated her for that.”
“Do you still hate your sister?”
“I don’t think so.” Jenny glances at Valerie. “I’ll see you later.”
“You can see she’s infatuated with you, so why do you encourage her by speaking to her?” Valerie asks.
“Hey, Valerie, don’t tell me who I can and cannot speak to. I’ll speak to anyone I wish. What can Jenny possibly get from me?”
“Oh, merde, here comes the one we met in Kabul.”
“I don’t care what her name is. She’s ambitious that one, and she’d also like to get close to you. She copies the way I dress, the way I do my hair, the way I speak.”
“She must admire you very much.”
“No, she only copies those things that she thinks you find attractive in me. She’s so stupid.”
“Look at that young Vias work,” Valerie remarks. “Every day he carries all those huge stones to make improvements to the ruins.”
“He’s working so hard because he’s seeing the ruins as a temple, his temple. He’s still a bit freaked by what he experienced in Delhi during the war with Pakistan. He gave me a garbled account of how spooked he became in a blacked-out hotel hearing the sounds of bombers overhead.”
“Every evening, he lies on his side before us and stares up into our faces. I wonder what he’s seeing,”
“We’ll soon find out.”
“And Harry’s back to his old ways: spending most of his time with the junkies in the back room. Monique has left her boyfriend to be with him.“
“Monique’s the one you bring around when she passes out after shooting up, right?”
“No one else knows how to bring her out of it.”
“What’s up, Jenny?”
“Oh, nothing, Eddie, nothing at all,” she laughs and, raising her hands, she makes scratching movements before Valerie’s eyes. Then, frowning as though she recalls something, she hurries away.
“She’s seeing me as the sister who robbed her of the man she loved.”
“Did you have a sister that you disliked, Valerie?”
“I had two sisters, one older and one younger, and I liked them both. But I wanted very much to have a younger brother, so I could teach him all about sex.”
“So, that’s where it comes from?”
“Where what comes from?”
“Your preference for lovers younger than yourself.”
“Yes, that must be so.”
“Soon will come the time to crack the coconut,” Vias says as he lies before Valerie and me on the porch of the ruins.
He says that so often that I suspect the coconut he means to crack is my head.
“Do you see the face?” he asks.
“What face, Vias?” I ask.
“A man’s face, floating above the entrance to this compound.”
“I don’t see anything, Vias,” I say.
“Neither do I,” says Valerie.
“Jenny’s jumped into Joe Bananas' well,” Cindy says, coming winded to the ruins. “One of the boys went down, tied a rope around her waist and had her pulled out. Didn't you hear all the commotion, Eddie?"
"There's commotion every day."
"Anyway, Jenny's lying on the porch next door and asking to see you.”
“Okay, I’ll go see her.”
“Do you think Jenny jumped into the well so she could gain some affection from you, Eddie?”
“I hope not, Cindy."
Jenny opens her eyes when we arrive.
“Is there much pain, Jenny?” I ask.
“There was, but now that you’re here, the pain is gone.”
“Why’d you do it, Jenny?”
“I heard a voice telling me to jump.”
There’s a crash of pots and pans being thrown about in the kitchen. I get there just as Pierre, one of the junkies staying in the back room, is hurling the small kerosene stove out the window.
“I’m sorry, Eddie, but I can’t take any more. Every time we go out, that bastard Vias goes through our bags, takes what he likes and throws the rest all about the place.”
“That’s what some flipouts do, Pierre.”
“Not to me, not to us. We do not support such behavior. We will beat the bastard shitless.”
“The face is there again tonight,” Vias says on the ruins.
“Yes, Vias, I see it now,” Valerie says
“You see the face?” gasps Vias. “What does it look like?”
“It’s big and round and it shines like a bright moon. Its eyes are shut, and it has a mustache that curls down and around the end of his lips.”
“Ahhh!” Vias falls back.
“And I see the rope, too.”
“You see the rope?”
“Yes, it floats beneath the face, and it has a series of loops in it with tiny medallions hanging from each loop.”
Vias hurries to his mat and lies down.
“Are you afraid?” Valerie asks, going to him.
“Don’t lie, Vias.”
“Eddie, you should’ve been here to see Valerie this afternoon,” Jack says. “She was too much.”
“Why? What did she do?”
“The junkies had Vias up against the wall and were about to wail into him with big sticks when Valerie stepped before him and told the junkies that if they wanted to hit Vias, they would have to hit her first. That stopped them cold. They begged and begged Valerie to step aside, but she wouldn’t move. They couldn’t do anything against her because she’s the only one able to bring Monique around when she’s passed out."
“I hear I may have to go to The States to get a new passport.” I tell Valerie.
“I’ll go with you.”
“How can you go? You have no money.”
Turning in my sleep, I hear Valerie whispering with Chris who is lying on the other side of her. As she speaks to him, she holds onto my arm behind her back.
“You are the father, Eddie, and Valerie is the daughter you’re going to present to me as my bride,” Vias says.
“But you’re already married, Vias.”
“That was in a much duller time, Eddie, but now is the time of the cracking of the coconut. Valerie belongs to me because she saw the vision of the face I projected.”
“Vias is following us again, Eddie,” Valerie says, as we walk along the beach.
“Yeah, he’s quite out of it, waving his arms about and talking to himself."
Reaching the north end of the beach, we turn and head back for the ruins.
"Where's Vias? I don't see him any more," Valerie says.
"Look, he's standing behind that tree and sending arm signals to the ships at sea."
"I don't see any ships at sea."
"You don't and I don't, but Vias does."
“Do you remember your first sexual experience, Valerie? Sometimes that first one determines subsequent experiences.”
“Let me think.” Valerie pauses, then gasps. “Oh, Eddie, that’s what's behind the vision of the hand!
“I was thirteen years old and staying with my older married sister who was pregnant, when I woke up gradually one night to a most pleasurable sensation. I lay back and enjoyed the feeling. But when I saw that it was caused by the hand of my sister’s husband lying between my legs I became frightened was about to scream. But, not wishing to disturb my sister, I swallowed it. And that must be why I feel like screaming sometimes but am not able to make a sound. Anyway, the gentle touch of my brother-in-law’s hand was making me feel so good that I wanted it to continue touching me.
“The next day, I tried to catch his eye, hoping for a wink or a nod to signal that he would touch me again that night. But he refused to even glance at me. I couldn't understand, but I realized later that he must have been terrified of being discovered that he had toyed with a minor.”
Valerie and I are awakened before dawn by Vias, standing before the porch of the ruins.
“Oh, Valerie, how I have suffered for you. Today, I went to Mapusa to look for you, but not finding you anywhere, I became furious. The police picked me up, beat me viciously and didn’t release me until after midnight. I’ve walked all the way here from Mapusa in the dark hearing the snarls of wild animals nearby. I have suffered all this for you.”
Vias leans forward onto the porch and takes Valerie’s foot in his hand.
“Don’t touch me, Vias.” She kicks his hand away.
“Why do you make me suffer even more, Valerie?”
Vias notices my hand resting on Valerie’s thigh.
“Take your filthy hand off my love.!”
My hand remains on Valerie’s thigh. Vias rushes toward the steps leading up to the porch, but stops to pick up a large rock. “The time has come to crack the coconut,” he says, resuming his ascent, the rock hoisted above his head.
We’re going all the way, Vias and I. I’m not removing my hand from Valerie’s thigh, and Vias seems determined to drop the stone on my head.
Without warning, Chris and a second freak charge Vias, knocking the rock out of his hands and pushing him back off the porch. Vias picks up a long pole in the yard and, pointing it at me, he charges forward. Chris and the boy hold up a blanket and shield me from the oncoming pole. Now Chris jumps off the porch and takes hold of Vias. Some of the others, awake now, help Chris to tie him up.
“Oh, Valerie, help me,” Vias pleads.
Valerie goes to Vias, inspects the rope that binds him and tightens it.
“You got him, huh,” Joe Bananas says, appearing in the yard. ”Good, he make too much trouble my shop. I take him to Mapusa and put him in mental hospital.”
"Have you noticed the boy who arrived this morning, Eddie?" asks Valerie.
"What about him?"
"He's got those crazy eyes I can't resist."
"I think I'll go to the beach with him tonight to see if I can discover why I'm so attracted to eyes like his."
“I’m really proud of myself tonight,” Valerie tells me. “This was the first time I’ve been with a boy who has those eyes and not given myself to him.”
“You had no difficulty in resisting those eyes?”
“No so much, probably because I was trying to see what it was about them that attracted me.”
“And did you find out what that was?”
“No, the answer seemed to be so close, so close.”
“What about your father’s eyes, Valerie?”
“Oh, Eddie!" she gasps. "That's it! The last time I saw my father his eyes were like that. I was eleven years old and at home alone with my younger sister when my father came home drunk and in a very bad mood. He was always drunk in those days, but this night he was in a rage. He led my sister and me into the kitchen and ordered us to stand still while he wet a towel in the sink and began to wring it menacingly before us. I looked up at his face and I saw his eyes, his angry crazy eyes, and I became more afraid than I had ever been. ‘Run,’ I shouted to my sister, and we both ran out of that flat and all the way to our grandmother’s house. ‘That man is too dangerous for you children to be with,’ my grandmother said, and she had us removed from his custody. For years I walked the streets of Paris, looking for my father and those crazy eyes of his. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
“You two are constantly arguing with each other and disrupting the scene around me,” I tell Valerie and Chris. “So, why don’t you go off somewhere together?”
“But I want to be with you,” Valerie says.
“I want to be with you, too,” says Chris.
“So, move to the porch of the house next to the ruins. There you can argue as much as you like.”
“No, I want to be close to you,” Valerie says.
“I also want to be close to you.”
“All right, since you both insist on being near to me, I forbid you to speak to each other while you’re in my presence.”
“Oh, so where’s our freedom, then?” Valerie asks. “You’re always telling us how important it is to be free.”
“You are free, Valerie, free to leave.”
“You can’t seem to stop arguing. So, from now on, you will sleep on my left, Valerie, and Chris will sleep on my right. And please don’t argue over my body.”
“Eddie, Valerie’s been talking to herself and walking near the well the last few nights,” Cindy reports. “I’m afraid she may jump in.”
“Okay, I’ll go see what she’s up to.”
I go out through the back of the ruins and find Valerie by the well.
“What are you doing out here, Valerie?”
“Come to the porch. There’s a fine guitarist who’s going to play, and someone's brought lots of sweets.”
“I don’t want to come.”
“Why not, Valerie?”
“Because they’re all talking about me.”
“No one’s talking about you.”
“Yes, they are.”
“And what are they saying about you?”
“I don’t know. They’re whispering.”
“Oh, come on, Valerie, it’s not important what anyone is saying about you. Come to the porch.” I take her arm to lead her away.
With a determined jerk, she frees her arm from my hand.
And that is it!
With that movement of her arm out of my grasp, she reveals to me the mistake I’ve been making these past few years. Although I’ve been telling those around me not to follow anyone, I’ve failed to see that they’ve been following me. Without intending to, I have become a kind of drug to them. I must bring an end to this.
“The Eight Finger Eddie you’ve known is no more,” I announce to those on the ruins after dinner that evening. “I’m still here, but I’m no longer listening to your problems. You must solve your own problems. No one else can solve them for you. And I'm not listening to your dreams. My mistake was that I didn’t notice how many of you had become dependent on me. I thought because the scene broke up periodically that there was no danger of that happening. I was very mistaken. But from this moment on, you’re on your own.”
“Chris, don’t go to her whenever she calls for you. Let her go through what she’s going through.”
“But she might jump into the well, Eddie.”
“We have to give her the opportunity not to jump into the well. Don’t make the mistake I’ve been making. If you try to help her, she’ll become attached to you.”
Chris goes to Valerie.
“I’ve told you two not to argue over my body, and still you do. So, from now on Johanna sleeps on my left and you, Valerie, on the other side of her.”
“Ooof!” Valerie makes a sound of exasperation then, rising, she rushes off the porch, through the yard and on toward the beach.
“You stay here this time, Chris,” I say, turning to him. “You’ve been blocking Valerie’s way for days now.”
I turn to look at Cindy, then instantly look back at Chris, but he’s already slipped out the back way.
“It was terrible, Eddie,” Valerie says, having returned alone. “There were lights exploding everywhere, in the sky and in my head. And my body was shaking from head to toe. Then Chris came and touched me. His hands were as cold as ice. He spoke to me, but I couldn’t speak to him. My lips were sealed, and it seemed as though there was a block of ice from my throat down to my heart. I had to get away from him and come back here. Oh, Eddie, what point is there to this life?”
“No point at all. But you can give it any meaning you wish.”
“What about the couple in the house, Eddie?”
“So, that’s your final dream, Valerie. Forget about the couple in the house. You have go on living on without that dream.”
“Then, I want to die.”
“No, you don’t. You don’t want to die and you don’t want to live. Actually, you don’t want anything at all. So, just go to sleep.”
Lying down, Valerie assumes a fetal position.
Valerie is deathly pale in the morning, so I allow her to face her misery and head for the beach. Johanna, sitting on the sand, watches me as I come up to her.
“I don’t want this,” she says, looking up at me petulantly.
“You don’t want what?”
“This!” She waves her arm at the scene before us.
“Take it, baby. What do you think I’m seeing?” I say and walk away.
“I felt so good after you told me to, ‘Take it, baby. What do you think I’m seeing?’ that I just went to a quiet place and took it. And it was terrible: the light was blinding and the sounds were deafening.
“You know what some of us are going through, Eddie, lying in a fetal position, burning with fever and smelling of sulphur, fire and brimstone iy says in The Bible? We’re dying. And it’s important that we see our suffering through to the end and not try to escape from it. When the fever comes to an end it feels so good. We may have found a way to die and to return, Eddie.”
“Do you think so, Johanna?”
“And it was all brought on by your rejection of us. You know the grief we suffer when someone we’re fond of leaves us or dies? Well, that’s the grief that some of us are suffering now.”
“Valerie’s gone off with Chris for a few days to help him kick his habit,” Cindy tells me. “You know, Eddie, sometimes I see her eyes become unclear again.”
“Yes, I’ve seen that in your eyes, too, Cindy. You and Johanna and Valerie had such clear eyes when you came out of what we dub the Death Trip that I almost believed that there might be something to it. But soon doubt and uncertainty began to reappear in your eyes, and it became obvious that the trip had no lasting effect."
“Chris wants to tell you about a dream he had, Eddie,” Valerie says.
"No, I don't want to hear any more dreams."
"Just this last one, Eddie.Tell it, Chris.”
“I dreamt that I was in a hot desert. The sun was beating down on me, and I was incredibly thirsty. Suddenly, I came upon a Goan ice cream vendor lying dead on the sand, his bicycle down beside him and his ice cream boxes scattered all about. He looked just like you, Eddie. I reached into one of the boxes and frantically pulled out an ice cream stick. But when I went to eat it I couldn’t open my mouth.”
“The meaning of the dream seems to be quite clear, Chris. The dead ice cream man was the Eddie you killed when you spoke to Valerie after I’d told you both not to speak to each other. Valerie, did what I’d asked her to do and was unable to open her mouth to speak to you. But you spoke to her. So, in your dream you were punished for that by not being able to open your mouth to eat the ice cream you craved. Finally, the torrid heat of the desert was a result of the guilt you felt for being untrue to me.”
“I’m not afraid of becoming pregnant any longer,” Valerie says to no one in particular, as she comes skipping out of the house next to Joe Bananas where she’s staying with Chris.
She’s living out her dream of the couple in the house. It seems that most people must try to make their dreams come true until they realize that those dreams are actually nightmares.
As for me, without dreams and with nothing to live for, I'm just gong on nicely for no reason at all. I could have been here four years ago, in '68, when the sun came to me, but no regrets. No, I'm grateful for all that has happened to me because it has resulted in my becoming who I am.