When you can’t bear to see

Music – Louis Armstrong – A Kiss to Build a Dream On

I shudder in the night. Fevered dreams and half-memories swirl about me, blurring the faint line between reality and nightmare.  I cringe from even the dimmest light or faintest sound.  My graying hair comes out in clumps.  My yellowed, twitching eyes can’t focus for more than a few moments.  I have cuts, gashes all up my arms.

My hand shakes uncontrollably, and it’s all I can do to put pen to paper tonight.

Even so, I find myself with a wolf’s grin, joyous and mad merely to be alive.  I’ve cheated death again.

Malaria?  Dementia?  Leprosy?

No.

Houseboats.

——-

As one prone to… exaggeration, or at least mild hyperbole, it’s hard for me to describe the houseboating experience accurately without coming off like a lying sack of shit, or a lunatic.  No way could the things you say be true, Trevor.  That stuff doesn’t happen in the first world. You’re just making shit up again.

And it’s my fault, I understand, for having blown things so out of proportion in the past.  I’ve nerfed my own credibility beyond all repair.

But honestly if I were to have gone to houseboats before Bay to Breakers, the B2B entry would have read something like:

“had a couple chill beers and went for a walk with some friends, and a table.”

as opposed to the bloated, profanity-littered monster it is.

The gap, the fucking GAPING BOTTOMLESS CHASM between the two back to back fiascoes… Jesus.

Bay to Breakers, with 100,000 drunk be-costumed retards marching around, is small motherfucking potatoes.  It’s bush-league.  Comparing B2B to houseboating on Shasta is like comparing a snowball fight at your grandma’s cabin to World War 1-era trench warfare.

No shit.

——

So much about houseboats I can’t put down on paper.  Some I can’t remember.  Some I won’t.  I’ve seen things… Horrible things… Things I can’t unsee.  And it would be wrong, immoral of me to pass that on to you unsuspecting bastards.  The burden of memory is my own.

Hell, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t relate the events in any kind of traditional chronological narrative.  We were fucking wasted for four days straight, without sleep or respite or refueling.  Trying to piece together a chronicle out of my own twisted fucking recollections and the four hundred digital photos on my hard drive would be a god damn herculean task.  I’d need a team of psychic investigators, satellite photos, the cast of CSI and at least one of the fucking Hardy boys just to figure out what we did on Friday night. Fuck that.

Plus everybody I ratted out for hooking up or smoking out or waving their unmentionables at passersby would probably be really pissed.

So you’ll have to settle for anecdotes, without context or continuity. Thank your lucky fucking stars.

——

It’s so easy to lose things, up on the lake.

Peter lost his sunglasses.

Mo lost her sandals.

Thousands lost their dignity, their self-respect, their innocence.

I lost my voice, and my faith in a just universe.

Yeah, it’s that kind of party.

——–

Friday afternoon, the sixteen of us hit Slaughterhouse Island for the first time.  Literally.  We come in at about 15 knots, with our inexperienced and frantic captain Sandy at the helm.

Not that getting on the island is any kind of small feat.  I certainly wouldn’t have taken her place.  Twenty mile an hour winds, a rough cross current, and she’s got to park a 22 foot wide floating building in a 25 foot wide spot.  The fucking thing steers like a blind autistic donkey even on glassy open water.

“There’s no way to do this gracefully.” I tell Sandy, who I keep calling Cindy because I’m retarded.  “No hesitation, no going in slow or we’ll blow right into the boat next to us.  We’ll swing around and grind our prop down to a god damn nub in the mud and probably kill fifteen people in the process. Not to freak you out.”

“Wait let me back up and line up again…”

“NO!” Justin shouts, waving his Bud around angrily.  “JUST FUCKING DO IT.”

Sandy looks close to tears.

“He’s right Cindy.” I say, soothing.  I hand her the pirate hat, for luck.  “Listen, sweetie.  You’re gonna line up with the spot, you’re gonna slam on the throttle, and we’re gonna Normandy this bitch.  Soon as you hit the sand, Peter and Blake will stake us in and we’re home free.”

She curses, and chews her lip.  “Ok.”

“HERE WE GO.” Vroom.

We hit the beach going way too fucking fast. A way, way over-eager Blake leaps from the second story down to the rocky shore and lands in a twisted heap.  So much for the docking crew. I laugh myself stupid.

“Is he dead?” Kim asks.
“NICE ONE BRO.” I hear Justin shout from the sun deck. “SWEET FUCKIN JUMP.”

Peter shoves his way past me as I writhe around, laughing, gasping.  “Good job Sandy. Let’s go stake in.”

——-

Peter, Justin and I wander the Slaughterhouse beach to reconnoiter while the others make dinner.  Neither of them have been here before, and have no idea what to expect.  Already, on Friday afternoon, several hundred boats full of riotous Oregon-staters are moored along the north shore.

“Look at all these fucking people.”
“This is nothing.  Wait till tomorrow. It’ll double, at least.”
Four dudes in oversized sombreros walk by us, each carrying two bags of wine. We scramble up the rocky, muddy slope and look down on the teeming horde below.  Down below us, I watch a chubby girl in a black bikini fall face first off the front of her boat into the shallow water, breaking her nose.

Justin walks up a few more feet, to the treeline.  The lake is so low that the trees we moored to in 2006 are more than a hundred yards up the hill from the current waterline.

“OH SHIT.”
“What?”
“THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE UP THERE FUCKING IN THE BUSHES!”

Sure enough, there were.

“Well, welcome to Slaughterhouse, fellas.  Let’s go meet our neighbors.”

——-

I find Alcorn and Lilley talking to a good looking but bitchy-voiced brunette downstairs.  They’re passing around a handle of tequila, and Alcorn is pouring some of every bottle he can get his hands on into a big ass blender.  It looks and smells like a chemistry experiment.

There’s a dude I don’t know wearing an eyepatch curled up under our table, passed out.

“Sup folks.”

They nod.

I wander up on deck and find Peter and Mo in the hot tub.

“Are y’all having a moment? Cuz that’s awesome and I’ll leave.”

“Nope, come on in.”

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Sandy and Kim and them went off to some neighbor’s boat.  I haven’t seen Becca or Blake for a quite a while.”
Eyebrows raise.
“Here Trevor, have some of this margarita.”
I take a swig.
“This is god awful.”
“I KNOW!” Mo claps her hands and smiles. “It’s so shitty.  Here, have some more.”

We three watch the sun go down behind the clouds, and we hear the blare of fifty conflicting stereos in the distance.  Our first night on Slaughterhouse begins.

——

Ranjit and I are passing the guitar back and forth, taking turns rocking the fuck out.  The girls sing along, except for Sandie and Becca who have passed out clutching empty cans of Coors Light.  They sit, slumped over like discarded puppets.  I have no idea what time it is.  Three AM, at least.

Two dudes in SOU shirts climb up our gangplank, asking us if we’ve seen their girlfriends.  We laugh.

Boozed out and howling, we butcher 90’s hit after 90’s hit.  Our neighbors are so young, they wouldn’t recognize most of these songs.  Even if we didn’t sound like shit.

But it’s good times.

Outside, the party rages.  Shouting, beats, shrieks, all the sounds of youth and chaos, fighting and fucking through the rain and dark.

I vaguely remember jumping off the kitchen table, guitar in hand, roaring out the chorus of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.

Then, black.

——-

I wake to silence.  The party has miraculously exhausted itself, and a brief quiet rests on the lake.  It’s maybe a half-hour before dawn. I hear the waves against the hull.

I look at my left hand, which is burned, and throbs.  I  wonder how that happened.

WHAM.

What the fuck was that?

WHAM DRAG.

“Peter, wake the fuck up.”  I shake him.  “PETER.”

WHAM DRAG.

“Somebody’s on the roof or something.”  Peter doesn’t stir.  I kick him. No effect. “Fucker.”

A pair of legs appear on the stairwell, wobbling.  “Justin? Blake?” I hiss out the front door. No response.

Fucking beer thief!  I grab my maglite and creep out under the stairs.  It’s cold as hell, but the rain has stopped.

The thief lurches down the stairs, one leg at a time.  He’s so wasted he can barely move.  I turn my maglite off.  He makes it to the gangplank, and stops for a breather.  I wait, shivering, unsure of what to do.

After a minute or so, he lets go of the deck and takes a wobbly step forward onto the gangplank.  Unable to maintain his balance, he pitches forward and faceplants hard in the red, gravelly mud.

“Oh shit!” I hiss, hand over mouth.  He struggles to his feet, tries to take a step forward, and tips backwards on to the gangplank, which rings like a gong when his head cracks on the aluminum.

“OH SHIT!”

He lays there, unmoving, spread eagle on our plank.

“Oh shit he’s dead. He fucking died.”  After ten seconds of beer-addled thought, my brain convinces me that we’re all going to jail for this.  Don’t ask me why.  Paranoia and cheap gin are a bad combination, I guess.

I silently slide the glass door open.  “Peter! Get the fuck up man I need you to help me hide a body!” Peter moans and rolls over. “MOTHERFUCKING PETER SERIOUSLY WAKE UP.” I shout, and shake him. I backhand him across the face. Doesn’t fucking stir. “Worthless.”

I go back outside to examine the body.  I creep close.  There’s no noise, except the creaking of the boats and the lapping of the water.

Inch by inch I approach the corpse.  It seems much colder out here, now.

“Muuaaargh!”  The corpse moans, and sits up.
“HOLY SMOKEY BEAR CHRIST.”  I screech, and jump back about ten feet.  “Oh fuck!”  The corpse ignores me, and struggles to its mudcaked feet.  I see two cans of Coors in the front pocket of its sweatshirt, both burst and frothing from the fall.  So much for the stolen beer.

The ghoul lurches forward, creeping on all fours along the shoreline towards the other boats. I dash inside and bar the door.  I grab a bottle of rum and curl up under the table.

“Did you say something dude?” Peter asks, in the dark.

“There might be a zombie outside.”

“Ok.” He goes back to sleep.

———

I wake again an hour later, at dawn.  Still very drunk.  Alcorn is up as well, fussing with buttons and trying to start the boat.

“What the hell time is it?”
“About 6:15.”

I hear the frat guys on the boat next door counting, shouting, doing keg stands.  I stand up slowly.

“Wake Peter up man, we have to get off the island.” Alcorn says.  He’s obviously several sheets to the wind himself, and he can only keep one eye open at a time.
“What for?”
“The cops come at seven. We have to get off the island.”
“Wait…”

Rusted, protesting gears start turning in my brain.  Sparks fly, pistons grind.  I remember. Then, panic.

“OH SHIT you’re right! I totally forgot about that, from last time.  We have to get out of here.”

The cops, ruthless backwoods sherriffs with shotguns and riot helmets, blockade the island with their little cruisers at seven.  Anyone unlucky enough to get caught in the net gets rounded up and put to work cleaning up the island.  I look out at the shore, at the piles of solo cups and broken bottles and ripped bikini tops.

“Fuck that shit. Get us started, we’re peacing the fuck out.”

Ten minutes later, with no small amount of punches to the head and shouting, I’ve got Pete out of bed.  I can see the Sherriff’s boats in the distance, motoring in at high speed across the cold water. We hit the shore and start prying the fifty pound stakes free.

“Faster faster faster, I’m not spending my whole day on some slave detail!”

The boat next to us, engine roaring, drags itself backwards off the beach, to freedom.  A shortish, black-haired naked guy sprints down the beach, shouting WAIT WAIT WAIT.  His friends laugh as he swims desperately out against the tide, trying to catch his boat.

Waist deep, shaking in the frigid water, we struggle with the stakes and knots.  Nothing sobers you up faster, at six in the morning.

We get the huge iron pieces out of the clinging mud and pull the plank in.  We wait in the red, murky water for Alcorn to get the boat started. A young man approaches us along beach.

He shakes, uncontrollably.  He takes slow steps towards us, moving one foot up and then placing the other next to it, like an old man.  He’s soaking wet.

He comes within a few steps of Peter and me, and we stare at each other.  He’s shivering so hard he can barely stand.  Red mud stains his ripped shorts and shirt.

“H-h-h-hey.”
“Hey.” I say.  Peter says nothing.
“C-c-can I sleep on your boat? I need a place to s-s-s-sleep.”

It dawns on me how fucked up this guy is.  Drunk and alone, abandoned by his friends, no doubt he passed out up in the trees somewhere and nearly died of exposure, out in the rain.  No exaggeration.  This kid doesn’t need a cup of coffee he needs a doctor.  The morning gets colder, and Peter and I look at each other.  Fuck.

“We’re shoving off right now, as soon as the boat starts. I’m sorry man.”

He’s awake. He’s standing.  Those are good signs.  If he was going to die, he would have died during the night, not now when he’s up around.

The sun’s even coming out.

He’s going to be all right. Right?

Right?

Fuck man.

The next boat down the beach is quiet.  They must not know the cops are coming. Must be first-timers. Their door is open.

“Here man, let’s go to our neighbor’s. You can rest there, but you need to stay awake and keep moving.  No drinking, no sleeping ok?”

I can’t believe how much he’s shaking. He can barely walk.  His body, betrayed by his dumbass freshman mind and its poor decisions, now refuses to obey his commands. His arms are non-functional, his legs in open revolt.

He doesn’t speak as we lead him next door.

That’s the last we saw of him.

———-

By the time we got back, Alcorn had the boat started.  We shoved off, Peter and I pushing the big floating box we call home, up to our necks in the cold lake.  We clambered back on board as the boat pulled clear.  On shore, the sherriffs had come over the hill, brandishing shotguns and bullhorns.  Pathetic chain gangs of hungover kids in boardshorts and bikinis picked their way along the shore, gathering trash.  Alcorn throttled up and we pulled around out of the cove, free.

We didn’t talk any more about the kid we’d seen. It started to rain, heavily.

Nicola woke up a few minutes later and made us all bloody marys.  We were drunk again by 7:30.

———–

Everyone was up and around by 8 or so, and we got into some heavy drinking.  Cold and exhausted from the night before, we really laid into that morning, playing round after round of dunk the Duchess and sipping tequila. There was nothing else for it.  Blake lost several rounds of Duchess, and decided to swim the half mile to shore.  We fished him out before he drowned.

I felt alright, considering.  At least until I drank a glass of water.  My internals, suddenly reminded that severe dehydration is not the natural state of things, cried out a protest, in chorus.

“Aaaaaah!” I moaned, “This water’s making me hung over, what the hell?!”

“Why are you drinking water?” Lilley asked. Blake, soaked and shaking from his recent attempt to drown himself, grabbed my shoulder and looked me deep in the eyes, as though preparing to dispense some sage advice.

“Why hang over when you can hang on?”  He handed me a beer.

Things went downhill from there.

———-

I tried to keep track, for a while, of how many beers we drank and how many hours of sleep I got.  After the second day, I was up to four hours of sleep and had long lost count on the drinks.

The world becomes distorted after a while.  I remember dancing up on the deck.  I remember backflipping off the waterslide.  There was a crash, at some point… with another boat… Eric cut his foot to the bone, somehow, and we sat around watching it bleed…

I remember watching a guy in flipflops fall out of a tree, somewhere. Possibly on Slaughterhouse.  We called him a dipshit, then offered him a bagel.

———

I woke up in the hot tub.  The water was filthy, and low, barely above my hips.  It was twilight.  Dawn or dusk, I’m not sure.  I was wearing a pair of oversized Gucci sunglasses and a captain’s hat.  I sat in the foul water for a while.  My mind was empty.  Kim came up on deck.

“Hey there.”
“Hey Kim.”
“What’s up?”
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know.  Everyone else is downstairs playing Kings.”

I looked around for a minute.

“I think I have scurvy.  Can you get scurvy in three days?”

“Probably.”

“I think I may die.”

“Maybe.  I’ll go make you a screwdriver.  That has vitamin C.”

“Yes.”

She went below.  I watched the horizon, looking for the sun behind the clouds, trying to figure out what time of day it was.

“Why don’t you get out of the hot tub?” Somebody asked.
“I lost my towel, and it’s cold out there.”

I planned to stay in the hot tub till we docked on Monday.  Kim came back with a screwdriver so strong it could have killed a draft horse.

“Hey Kim, did we eat yesterday? Like, food?”
“I think so.”
“Good.”

I passed out again.

——-

I woke up again on the couch downstairs.  We were back on the island.  Becca was wearing my hat.

“Why the fuck are you wearing my hat?”
“Is it yours?”
“Yes, and its good luck. Take care of it.”

I looked outside.  Out on the bow, Peter was shaking Ranjit like a rag doll, shouting at him.

“WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT TIME TRAVEL?!”
“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT PETER.”
“WHAT’S A PARADOX? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?”

Peter’s lost it.  He’s gone fucking crazy.  I can’t deal with this.

I buried my head under an inflatable orca and blacked out.

——–

We were in somebody else’s boat, Justin and Mo and Sandy and me, and ten or so boat kids.

I have no idea what day it was.  I was drinking white port and lemon juice out of a coffee mug while the others talked.  I think it was night time.  I had my red pants on.

There was a familiar guy with a sombrero I half-recognized.

“What school do you guys go to? Any Greek?”
“Oh, we’re graduated. We live in San Francisco.”
“Graduated? Wait, how old are you guys?”
“26.”
“Holy shit, you guys are old.  Good for you guys, still out partying hearty.  I hope I still come here when I’m 26! Haha!”

Everyone laughed politely. Except for me.

“DON’T TALK TO US ABOUT PARTYING, SON.” I shouted.  I leaped up and grabbed him by his UCD sweatshirt.  Everything went red.  The kid looked terrified.

“Don’t mind him… He’s just…” Sandy started to apologize.

“I WAS TAKING SHOTS OF ABSINTHE IN THE JUNGLE BACK WHEN YOU WERE WATCHING BLUE’S CLUES! BITCH!” I shouted.  Fucking uppity kids trying to talk to us about partying, fuck that.  Goddamn rookies.

“I didn’t mean…”

“DID YOU KNOW THAT MY GENERATION, ME AND MY VENERABLE FRIENDS HERE, INVENTED THE WORD ‘PARTY’?”

He looked at me, wide-eyed.

“We invented beirut and flipcup and turned the word ‘party’ into a verb, motherfucker.”

Silence.  He stared at me with the vacant eyes of a reptile, or an econ major.

“YOU KNOW WHAT A FUCKING VERB IS?!”

“Kind of…”

“WELL GOD DAMMIT, BEFORE US ‘PARTY’ WAS A NOUN, NOT AN ACTION.  All you could do was ‘attend a party’ or ‘host a party’. Now, thanks to US… THANKS TO ME, YOU CAN ‘PARTY’.”

Mo was shaking her head, looking down at the floor. Justin was edging his way toward the door, ready to flee if the bottles started flying.

I whipped out a handle of Smirnoff I had filled up with plain water for just such an occasion, and pounded half of it without breaking eye contact.  His jaw dropped.

“THAT’S FUCKING RIGHT.  THEY USED TO SAY ‘ATTEND A PARTY LIKE A ROCKSTAR’.  YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING RETARDED THAT SOUNDS?”

My voice cracked. I was shouting myself hoarse.  The boat was silent. None answered.

“FUCKING REALLY RETARDED.”

I let go of his hoodie and took a couple of steps back.

“Now you kids need to learn to respect your elders.  Mo here alone could drink you all into rehab without a second thought.”  I started backing towards the door, picking up a box of oreos on my way out.  The kids stared, speechless.

I stepped out the door, Mo right behind me.

I stepped back in.

“WE WERE GETTING IN KNIFE FIGHTS AT STRIP CLUBS WHEN YOU GREENHORN MOTHERFU…”
“TIME TO LEAVE, TREVOR.”  Mo yanked me bodily out on to the deck, and marched me down on to the shore.

“MUCH LOVE, YOUNGSTERS! THE FUTURE IS IN YOUR HANDS! GOD BLESS THE CHILDREN!”

We were both laughing hysterically by the time we reached the bonfire.

We ate the Oreos and I met a guy from Corvallis who had DOUCHEBAG written on his cheeks in permanent marker.

He seemed like a nice guy. We talked about baseball.

———

We made a solemn pact to play Duchess at noon, every day, no matter what.

We did, and it nearly killed us.  On the second to last day, I found Alcorn hiding behind sleeping bags in a cupboard.

“THERE YOU ARE. It’s Duchess time dude.”
“No. Noooooooo. My everything hurts.  Just need a sleep for like ten minutes, maybe… lets wash a movie or see. You know?”

“You’re talking jibberish, brother.  Get the fuck up. The Duchess waits for no man.”

“I have to find some pants.  Any pants.  Ask if there are pants somewhere.  Oh jesus ok let’s go see alright go.”  Justin carried him up on deck, delicate and gentle, like a doting father.

He fucking played it through, though. Didn’t miss a round.  Like a man.

I’ll give him that.

———

It became a routine.  Wake up.  Run from the cops.  Drink.  Drink.  Drink.

Drink.

The tilt of the boat, the rocking, it becomes a part of you.  Such prolongued, relentless exposure to it all, the booze and the cold and the noise, and you get to expect it. To need it. To love it. You get back on land, you dry out, you get a decent amount of sleep and suddenly you feel like something’s missing.

I mean yeah, Slaughterhouse is a nightmare.  It’s a never-ending shitstorm.  People are crazy and out of control and awful.  It walks the line between stupid and dangerous.

Granted.

But in its own horrible, undignified, unbearable pathetic sort of way, it’s fun.  Like a car accident where by sheer fucking luck nobody gets hurt.

———

Near the center of the strip of boats on the island, some impetuous, well-funded fraternity set up 15 or so club speakers and a DJ station.  They brought big plywood dance floors, and long boxes for people to stand on.  They had lights, and a spotlight.

All night every night they blasted trashy hip hop and house.  The dance floors were filled with stumbling, gyrating people, spilling their beer and trying to dance themselves warm in the rain.

Mo and Justin had shoved their way up on to one of the boxes, a plywood and 2×4 monster about 15 feet long and 5 feet wide.  I was standing beside it, dancing with some girl in a white bikini.  She had been dancing with Alcorn, but he’d run off to piss and had given me a long, meaningful stare that said “Babysit this girl till I get back.”  Already the meatheads were circling like vultures around a carcass.  Angry glares would only keep them off for so long.

There must have been a sound.  A creak or a snap or something.  None of us could hear it over the music, though.

The box, soggy and unsafe and stressed far beyond its capacity, gave way.  I looked on in horror.  The girl in the white danced on, eyes closed, in intoxicated revelry.

Twenty odd people, each drunker than the last, dropped four feet onto the rocks below.

Visions of gore and carnage, or mangled limbs and twisted necks entered my head.  They’re all fucking dead.  I knew it, in my heart of hearts.

But then they were all standing, in the same positions they had been mere seconds before.  A little closer to the ground, but unhurt.  Not a scratch on any of them, Mo or Justin or anyone else.

Those that were sober enough to understand what had just happened, to grasp their luck, gave a cheer and kept on dancing.

All in the matter of a few moments.

A guy in a white pinstripe suit and neon yellow flipflops leaned over and shouted in to my ear.

“JUST GOES TO SHOW MAN, IF YOU’RE GONNA BE DUMB, BE LUCKY.”

Truer fucking words were never spoken.

Mo tossed me an unmarked bottle of some purple shit, and I drank deeply.  I took the girl in the white bikini by the arm and solemnly said “GOD HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HIS HEART FOR YOU DUMBSHIT KIDS ON THIS HERE ISLAND.”

Yeah, never saw her again either.

——–

The stage collapse must have been on our last night on the island.  Looking back through these photos, that seems right.  That night was so out of control… it was a crescendo of sorts, so it makes sense that it was the final night.

I remember Blake and Kim running past us, at some point. Kim was in tears, and said they’d been attacked by a lumberjack.  I didn’t even ask what the hell was behind that story.

Some time around dawn, Ranjit got it into his head that he wanted to take a picture of his own ass on Blake’s disposable camera.  He did it right in front of the sliding glass door.  I wasn’t there, but apparently several hundred saw, and applauded.

Peter and I got separated from Justin and Mo.  Justin had gone to try and climb up the boat with the speakers.  He told me he had an important speech he wanted to give.  He told me it was important to our nation.

Peter gave away a pair of tacky two dollar children’s sunglasses to some girl named Ramona, or Melinda or something, and realizing several hours later that his kindness was not in fact going to get him laid, he became furious.  He stormed from boat to boat, throwing elbows, trying to find ‘that greedy bitch that took my shades’.

Peter is generally mild-mannered, but when the sleeping giant awakes, and has had a few jaeger bombs… I think he finally caught up with her, but she’d lost the glasses, and Peter settled for throwing her boat’s couch into the lake and calling her a ‘two-faced hose beast’ and a ‘no-account floozy slut’.  I don’t even think they were his sunglasses, to be honest.

We also found a bag of weed the size of a god damn softball near the tree line.  I wanted to throw it in a bonfire, but I think Blake traded it to the murderous lumberjack for a keg of High Life.

I remember running through the night, being chased by some fat girl I’d spilled a drink on.  She fell down in the rocks every third step. I escaped with ease.

I remember telling Becca about it later.  “Listen honey, I’ve been training capoeira for near a decade now.  I might not be able to do a side flip, or beat up Kimbo Slice, but I’ve got the equilibrium of a god damn Olympic gymnast.  I haven’t fallen down once this trip.”

“That’s great.”

“I know.  You should have seen me out there.  I’m like a fucking mountain goat.  You seen Planet Earth? Fuckin just like that.”

She leaned over the edge of the boat and puked at that point.  So I left.

——-

Slaughterhouse is a little slice of hell.  God knows why people come.  Three thousand kids tie up to this crap island full of jagged rocks, quicksand, and red bogs.  It’s got mosquitos and cops and every thorny fucking shrub imaginable.  People swarm all over it, like ants, bleeding and pissing and screwing in the poison oak.  It’s awful.

It’s an unholy place, like the pet cemetary, or a concentration camp. You can smell the despair and the regret for miles, down-wind. When the water’s low it’s even uglier.

Never go there.

——–

I woke up at dawn and spent a half hour getting a piece of broken glass out of my foot with a kitchen knife.  The shore out front was littered with cups and beers and corpses and paper plates.

“Peter.”
“What.”
“This place is fucking crazy.”
“Yeah.”

I walked along the shore later, as the boats started shoving off.  The cops didn’t bother coming that morning, for whatever reason.  I didn’t question it. The methods and madness of those Redding swine aren’t worthy of contemplation.

The early light is unforgiving, and the people, the boats, the island itself all looked fouled, tainted.

Peter and I ran into a girl with a Save Darfur shirt on, in the middle of it all.  This struck me as infinitely absurd.

I told her she was perfect, and that she should never change.  She took it as a compliment.  I could barely speak as she walked away.

“That’s great.” said Peter.
“Mrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”
“What?”
I stared at the lake for a long moment, and looked back at the girl.
“Fuck Pete.  Seeing that girl… I think my brain just divided by zero.”
“Yeah. Let’s go get a beer.”

We walked together back to the boat.

“You know what?”
“What?”
“I’ve been so drunk for so long, I don’t think I can remember my social security number.”
“Yeah.  I don’t speak Spanish any more. I tried this morning.”
“Fuck.”

———

And so here I am. Back at home.  I’ve partied two, possibly three years off my life.  Without exaggeration.

Without remorse.

The older I get, the more I find I do not have the constitution for these things.  The other folks fair better.  Mo can be in a bikini and a pirate hat for five days, consume nothing but Molson Ice and trail mix, and be ready for work on Tuesday with nary a thought.

Not me.

I pay for every drop, for every moment, in blood.  I am weary to my bones.  I convulse.  My breathing is shallow.  I may not last the week.

Still, it’s beautiful to be somewhere without keys or a cellphone or a wallet or a shirt or a care for five days.  To cast off the evil rusty iron barbed shackles of adult life.

So what if Ranjit took pictures of his own ass?
So what if I may have mooned every boat that drove by, maybe screaming ‘You’re gay for looking!’?
So what if Sandy cougared herself a 19 year old whose name she’ll never know?

It happens to the best of us.

Fuck it, you know?

Who wants to live forever?

See you fuckers next year.

-T.

photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/trevorgregg/Houseboats02

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One Response to “When you can’t bear to see”

  1. Blake Novoa Says:

    Truly a thing of beauty. It reads like an epic saga. Although I didn’t notice a single mention of any bulldogs or their good friends, the awkward turtles….

    Thanks Trevor-you are a class act my friend!

    Blake

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