Authors: Blair Mastbaum
Clay and I are doomed. Someone or something out there sees our inevitable demise. I zip up the tent door, leaving only a small-screened window to look through.
A strong wind picks up. The tent would fly away if we weren’t inside. This storm could cut us off from the world by covering the tall mountains in orange, slippery, impassable mud.
Clay won't be able to fend for himself in his new weakened state. He’ll starve.
“Let’s go outside!” He says like a little boy, as he sits up with a hopeful expression. His surge of energy comes from nowhere that I understand.
I look out the window flap, half-expecting some guy to be out there casting a spell on our tent, an explanation for Clay’s burst of energy.
He sits up and looks intently out the window beside me. “Come on.”
I feel heat radiating from his face and a glimpse of strange naiveté in his expression. “No. You have to rest. You don’t know what you’re saying. Something happened to you.” I stop myself from saying any more.
He looks at me, confused.
Chanting echoes off the cliff walls. Primal pond scum is organizing and forming multi-cellular creatures right before my eyes. The world is re-beginning. I don’t believe in God, but this is an awful lot like what those Christian freaks said would happen at the year two thousand.
I need to calm down. I light the lantern with my “Hang Loose Hawaii” lighter and look into Clay’s eyes.
He looks back at me unabashedly and romantically. His eyes reflect the lantern’s glow. He looks innocently in love with me. It’s not real.
Clay’s nowhere in sight. His skin might as well be cold and blue.
Tears blur my vision before I feel them coming. My chest constricts. I might throw up. I need to see something I recognize. I’m homesick. I never thought this would happen with Clay around. I can’t explain this. I look out toward sea, where the sky is black. It’s the same ocean I stare at during some point every day of my life. I feel nothing. I’ve never seen such black clouds. This isn’t my ocean. “Stay here, please,” I say forcefully to Clay and I run over to Anar’s tent, lit by yellow lantern from inside.
A tan muscular guy runs past me, calling Hawaiian words, like a tribal chief. Tea leaves tied around his biceps and red lines painted on his body accentuate his muscles. He looks like a warrior.
A naked girl runs towards me. She turns quickly, to avoid smashing into me. Her long, black hair slaps me in the face stinging my eyes and skin.
My face feels hot and red.
She runs away like a maniac, without saying sorry or acknowledging me. Primitive-looking fire torches burn fiercely in a grass hut that’s probably been here since the ‘60s. Hawaiian guys with green, leafy leis lying on their shoulders stand around in a semi-circle flexing their chests, calling out chants in scratchy, guttural Hawaiian, like they’re preparing for a sacrifice.
A chill runs up my spine, like when I was a kid running down a dark hallway, imagining a murderer running up behind me. I lean down and peak inside Anar’s tent. Dark red candles are burning. I don’t know where the hell they came from.
They look up at me. Anar lies on his stomach, in his shorts, and his sister and her blonde friend sit Indian-style, playing “hangman” on a piece of crinkled notebook paper.
Anar smiles at me. He looks happy that I came over here, and it makes me sick. He should want me with Clay, watching over him, making sure he’s all right. Anar has no sort of real sense of right and wrong. That’s a hippie trait.
I wish he would rape me or punch me really hard or kiss me or tell me to get the fuck out.
“Hi Sam.” He sits up and reaches to his feet, doing some Tai Chi stretch. He doesn’t notice what’s going on outside. He’s so unaware.
I sit down next to him, close enough to make him feel like I don’t hate him. I might need him later to make sense of all this, or for a hug, or a final disappointed look that lets me know I’m full of shit and shouldn’t bother to continue trying to be a part of society. “Clay’s acting really strange. I think something might be wrong with him.”
“How’s he acting?” Luna asks with a professional tone in her voice.
I don’t know how to answer. I don’t want these three to know anything about our lives. I have a hard enough time facing these things with Clay. “I’m not sure how to put it. He’s just not himself.”
“Is he mumbling, having trouble breathing?”
“No, he’s talking normal. It’s what he’s talking
“I deal with a lot of near-drowning victims. Tourists trying to swim at Jaws, getting caught by riptides. Sometimes they’re in a degree of shock for days. It’s not unusual for him to be out of it, lethargic, tired. He may seem dull or even dumb. The brain needs quite a long time to recover parts that were on the brink of being shut off.”
I don’t want to tell them this, but I have to get Clay back. “He says he
“Understands what?” Anar interrupts, intrigued by the spiritual sound of this, I guess.
. Like, everything… with people, life… ”
Luna’s friend sits up and acts interested, even though she was in a pot-induced nap during the tragedy. “Maybe, he, like, saw the other side.” She says this with a stupid, fake-mysterious tone in her voice.
I get a chill. I hope not. I don’t want him to know the outcome of everything before he has a chance to live things out,
Clay bursts into the tent. His bare chest drips with big, clear drops of water. He looks shiny and clean and magically vibrant. His skin glows a healthy brightness. He looks at Luna, then to her friend, a longer look at Anar, then his eyes stop on me.
I can’t have eye contact with him in front of these freaks. I look at Anar, then at his sister. I close my eyes. I can’t find a place to look that doesn’t have some sort of meaning. I look at the tent door, through Clay’s legs.
He tilts his head sideways. “What’s up?” he asks like he wants to party.
I want out of here. Everything’s colliding. I don’t want to share Clay with them, especially in his current and possibly impressionable state. I get up and duck out the door. “Come on, Clay.”
I want Anar and Luna to know that I’m not on their side. I run out into the pouring rain. I like being able to switch sides so easily. It makes me feel cool. They’ll think I’m as chameleon-like as Clay. I guess I understand why he changes so often. Changing frees you.
He follows me out, runs behind me, and tackles me onto the sand.
I fall sideways with him on top of me into the wet sand. The tiny grains stick to my skin. My arms look like a sand monster’s, covered with tiny round jewel-like pebbles. It’s like the whole universe is sticking to me. Each grain of sand is different. Infinite possibilities of color and size and shape. Each contains the world.
He lies on top of me and breathes into my ear. The drawn out pulses of air feel like they’re penetrating me, calming my tense muscles and spine, making me go limp. It feels like good drugs.
My body makes an indentation in the sand.
Clay rolls off of me and I roll over next to him.
Seawater rushes in and fills the mold of me. I’m water--salty, buoyant, cleansing, with the ability to disguise and dilute small amounts of pollution. I could harbor animals that glow in the dark that have more tentacles than octopuses and fish the color of fire. I could flow, according to moon phases and tidal rhythms, and I could build up into waves for dolphins and surfers to catch.
Clay opens his eyes and looks up into the rain. He breathes in the freshness of the water. Some was on my skin, my balls, my hair, my tongue, and in my blood. He looks at my face, like he’s looking into a mirror. “Do you wanna go?” he asks.
The fire torches are finally snuffed out by the rain. The guys holding them walk gently back to their tents. Naked girls and guys hug and talk in couples scattered around the beach. Nothing looks so macabre anymore.
The rain tapers off and then stops. All the fucked-up shit that happened on this haunted beach could disappear if we just walked away and never said a word about it every again. The fast relationships that were formed out of insecurity, revenge, and hopelessness could vanish with a couple hundred steps into the valley, but I don’t want to let myself off so easy. I would be escaping the way Clay always did. There was always a monster inside me waiting to break hearts and create distrust. I’m not a Samurai. My devotions go only as deep as I can understand them. “Yeah, I wanna go, but I’m not sure we should.” I’m afraid that an innocent, trusting part of me will be left behind here, and I’m not sure I know how to get it back. I can’t let the old Clay be left here to join the spirits. I’m not willing to give away large chunks of his personality to the universe, to the hippie ghosts that still haunt this valley and this beach. I’m too possessive for that to happen. “We have to stay here till this is figured out. Don’t we?”
“Oh, Sam. I love you.”
I can’t even fathom that he said that. I want to hurl but I haven’t eaten the whole day. I almost don’t even want to hear it now. He’s not himself. I want to bring out the passionate insecurity and anger of the Clay I fell in love with. I need to provoke him. “You’re acting really weird. I can’t handle this.”
He rolls back and giggles. “I know. I love you.”
I sit up and look at him to see if he’s being sarcastic. His skin looks baby blue. “You think you’ll be OK getting back by yourself?”
I look up to the sky to find the North Star. “What do you mean? Where are you going?”
A light sprinkle starts.
“I have to find out where I went when I was underwater.”
where you went. Underwater. It’s not that complicated.” I sound mean.
“I think I was an animal, like a seal or maybe a whale.”
Just the mention of a whale makes me think of the lame ‘70s when everyone was painting those creepy murals on every building. Huge paintings of whales and dolphins diving through perfect waves with planets and moons and unicorns and rainbows above them. “A whale? Dude, you almost drowned. If you were a whale, you could have used your blowhole.” I totally set him up for a dumb-ass Clay joke.
He just looks at me, wondering why I would say such a stupid thing. “Yeah, a whale.”
I feel like I’m talking to some hippie boy who thinks he’s so deep and in touch with nature and the universe he simply can’t be bothered by such a materialistic, superficial, judgmental little brat. He’s giving me a hopeless, floundering feeling that has no resolution. I try harder to be smart and cool, and I just end up more shallow and fake.
“I’m going on a vision quest,” he proudly announces.
I can tell he thought of this right on the spot. “Is that a Nintendo game?”
“It has nothing to do with you. Don’t be so defensive.”
“See. There you go.”
I hate this trap I’m in. I have to slow down. “What’s a vision quest?”
He sits up, as if he’ll think clearer looking out to sea. “It’s a Native American journey that every boy takes once before being accepted into his pueblo as a man. They would to take peyote, then walk alone into the wilderness to learn about themselves and their place in the order of things. Also, you learn to identify with an animal that rules your spirit. You find out where you came from, and maybe, where you’re headed. But I’ll just get high.”
I hide my smirk with my hand. My fingers smell like Clay’s dick. “How do you know about this?” If he says, “There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” I’ll freak out.
“I read about it when I was taking classes at Pacific.”
Oh, I see. Community college wisdom. I burst out laughing at the thought of him with eye paint and feathers on his head. I’m such an asshole.
“If you’re gonna be judgmental, then I shouldn’t have even told you. I feel like a cloud has been lifted. I’ve never been so focused.”
“You’re fucking crazy. Do you even know what you’re saying? What’s your name? Do you know your name?” I hate the sky for letting me stand and the earth for keeping me up. I’m worse than organized religion. He’s trying to find himself and I’m being an asshole.
“Don’t doubt me now. I’m Clay. The one with fire in his eyes.”
I can’t deal with this. I want to run away into the woods, but I don’t know where to go and I’d get scared. It’s only one more night. That’s all I have to handle.
He’ll be back to normal when he comes back. He has to be.
I don’t know what I’ll do if he isn’t. I can do this. Breathe. “When are you going?”
“Morning, I guess.”
He should be worried about me and Anar being left alone together. We might jerk each other off, come on each other like horny monkeys.
“You don’t sound very sure.”
“I’m sure.” He squeezes my shoulder firmly with his hand and smiles, like he’s been trapped in a cult so long he’s been brainwashed.
Maybe it’s Clay that caused the craziness on the beach. He walks slowly to the tent.