I rolled underneath the overpass of the six-lane highway. The midday Nevadan sun was beating down heavily. I needed shelter. I was severely dehydrated. My mouth was as dry as an Arabs’ sandal. My head was light and my skin tight and crawling. I had no water, no phone, no wallet, no address or phone number of my brother in Los Angeles. I had not slept the previous two nights and was feeling ill from alcohol and narcotic consumption. I lay under the massive slabs of concrete, listening to the traffic voom by overhead. I was dry retching bile and feeling incapacitated. I was roughly one hour outside Vegas en route to LA. I was alone and starting to panic. The weekend had started out much better than this.
I had arrived in LA three nights previously from Sydney. I had been living in Australia for two and a half years, primarily on a diet of parties, sun and sessions. There had been copious indulgence. There had been uppers, downers and all arounders. There had been severe bouts of chemically induced insomnia. Life had been a constant whirl, where ranting, dancing and laughter were the muesli of the day. I had overstayed my visa and booked a return flight home to Ireland via LA and Miami where I would visit my brother and Aunt respectively. I had a mission and jumped on board.
The flight to LA had been a shuddery one. I was coming down after a three day bender and struggling badly. I had concocted a grand scale story for Australian immigration which they bought and they allowed me to leave the country in peace. I made it through US customs and to the arrivals hall where I met my brother after nearly four years absence. We hugged and clapped hands and it was a great moment. Blood brothers. Our manically different worlds were re-colliding. We went to his office where he had a few things to tie up before making our way out to the suburbs to meet his new family. He was living with a African American girl named Angela with her three kids. We watched a movie and headed to bed early. I was shattered and they were tired too. We had plans to head for Vegas and I fell soundly asleep.
We headed off in the early afternoon in his turbo charged white Trans-Am Pontiac. I sat in the back and dozed as we sped along Route N 110 to Vegas. We arrived as the sun was setting. In the distance you could see the electricity rising through the air, vast, incalculable storms of energy casting a serene glow through the desert. I was excited by the prospects unfolding themselves that weekend. I started singing Viva Las Vegas at the top of my lungs. We were all laughing and in great form. We arrived and checked into the Luxor hotel, a magnificent pyramid shaped building. My self and James, my brother, made our way to the black jack table and began to play. The waitresses brought us over double Chivas Regal’s on the rocks. We looked at each other, raised our glasses and said, this is the life. And it was.
We went for our dinner in a local steakhouse, where we drank fine wine, fine whiskey and ate great steaks. The food was made for beings who were bigger boned than an overweight Russian shot putter. This is the American way though – supersized, gargantuan, biggerer and badderer. We made our way afterwards to the tables again, playing some blackjack, roulette and crabs. We won a little and lost a little and under the bright lights of Vegas felt invincible and full of great energy. We took a walk through the bustling streets. People and cash everywhere. Money changing hands quicker than the neck whip of a paedophile driving past a school yard. We went for a ride on the roller coaster round the hotels and screamed our guts up with delight and wild shriekery.
More drinks were consumed before we returned to our hotel where we went to see a live musical show being performed in the foyer. I was pretty drunk by this time and we plonked ourselves right up next to the stage. The singer was some mid forties woman who barrelled out all the oldies, covers of the greats by Patsy Cline and Frank Sinatra and others. I was whooping and shouting, really buzzing from her renditions, and she singled me out with winks and mentions. I was fired up and she was sweating gasoline. The Vegas magic was coursing through my veins. The show ended and we headed on for another bout of gambling. James and Angela called it a night and headed back to the room. I called for another whiskey and carried on playing against the house. I can’t remember if I won or lost, but after a while I headed out for some fresh air and off to a local strip joint.
In the strip joint I was met by a charming, semi-naked host, who showed me to the bar and gave me some dollars to tip the girls with. I was like the proverbial in the proverbial. I watched the girls like a ravenous dog eyeing a lump of mutton sliding down a tree covered in sheep blood. I was boorish and charming, as only an Irish drunk can be. I had a private dance with a young girl from Kansas City called Crystal. She spoke with an Eastern European accent. For $50 she brought me to a little room and gave me a grinding strip tease for the duration of three songs. She started off with a teasing flirty spin, waggling her ass at me like a naughty little girl. She bent down, touched her toes and looked around at me. She came up to me and rubbed her tits into my face. They were big and soft, like a pair of well used, plasticated double cotton hill walking socks. She took off her skimpy dress and eventually her g-string, all the time waggling to pop music. I got extremely aroused and by the end of the third song she was naked and my cock was peeping out over the top of my jeans. She seemed to love this little surprise and turned around to grind me even more. Just as the music stopped she pushed back hard into me one last time and my waters broke and I showered myself in man juice. I laughed and she giggled and as I got up to hobble out of the joint.
I returned at some ungodly hour to the hotel room and crept into bed and tried for some shut eye. We woke on the Saturday and headed down to the pool in the hotel. The sun rose high in the early afternoon sky and we were suitably in great spirits. We ordered some tropical cocktails and settled into some sun baking. In a show of pomp and splendour I pulled out a couple of Cuban cigars I had brought from Oz and handed one to my brother. I took a dollar bill from my pocket and lit it, handing it to James to light his then back to mine to light mine. We laughed hard and well and again the moments were savoured. We settled into the evening with some showers and food then headed to the tables again to see what we could lose. The night was passing well and I remember winning a few dollars before we decided to head to a nightclub in the hotel. We got inside and started drinking and dancing. James and Angela proceeded to bump and grind each other like two 1970’s disco junkies listening to slowed down jazz, incongruous to the music being played. I took the opportunity to go on a wander and spied a couple of pretty girls who looked like they needed to talk to me.
I wandered over and sat beside them introducing myself and making them laugh at some obscurity I noticed about American culture. They were from New York and over for a good time and I thought I might enjoy myself with them. At that, two guys who had been standing close by came and sat between the girls and me and in big drawly New York accents told me
“Hey Buddy, you’re makin du gurls feel uncom’table”
“Not at all “ I replied “ I’m just saying hello to them”
This time they emphasised a certain potential for violence if I didn’t understand
“We said, you’re makin’ du Gurls feel uncom’table, awrite, now back off…”
“Nah man I’m not, I’m just sayin hello to them, relax will yis”
This time they asked
“Hey where yu fwom?”
“Yu wIris, well, why didn yu say sow? It’s col he’s Iris…don worry aboud ih”
And with that they accepted me into their group as one of their own. God bless being a paddy, no one ever feels threatened by you. We got to talking about drugs and they informed me they had some “X” as the yanks like to call it. I went to find my brother to get some cash from him to purchase said drugs, which he gave me reluctantly, warning me etc etc, as thought this was my first time to pop a pill. I went and popped the pill and headed off into the Vegas night with my new found best buddies.
Now just to clarify one simple fact before I recount the rest of this tale. Prior to heading to Vegas I had agreed with James to borrow as much cash as I needed which I would repay when I returned to the Emerald Isle, as I had funds which couldn’t be accessed overseas.
The night passed on into the early morning and I found myself at a blackjack table with one of the girls from their party. We were having fun and there was an easy sexual tension between us which was growing and growing as the minutes passed. I ran out of money and seeing as we were in the hotel I was staying in decided to head back to the room to hit my brother up for some more cash. Stay here I told her, I’ll be back in ten minutes and we’ll have some fun. She smiled and we kissed quickly before I launched myself up to the room
I opened the door to the room and woke James.
“Hey man, give us a hundred bucks, I’ve run out and have a little honey waiting down stairs for me.”
“John, it’s nine o’clock in the morning, don’t you think you’ve had enough?”
“Come on man, it’s cool, just give me the cash and I’ll see you in a couple of hours”
“No man, call it a day…”
Well, I wasn’t too impressed. I sat on my bed and started singing a low tune, questioning his birth rights, sexual tendencies and abilities as a man. Amanda stirred in the bed beside him and asked me to stop, to quiet, to relent. Alas I did not. I continued to provoke him, needling him, trying to insult him into giving me the money he had promised. James is a third dan black belt in Kempo karate, well built yet naturally a pacifist. He exhibits control and zen like abilities more often than not. This morning was one time when he lost it. He jumped out of the bed and we squared up, shouting at each other, face to face, eyeball to bloodshot eyeball.
“Go on you poofter, hit me” I riled him, safe in the knowledge that he would never hurt his little brother – like Robocop’s inability to override his prime directive – protect humans.
Angela jumped out of bed and was screaming and crying. James stormed into the bathroom and warned me to leave or he would make a mess of me. I stood back and quietened a little. I had almost forgotten about the little honey who was waiting for me. James returned from the toilet and seething like a grilling alligator, leapt back into bed beside his woman.
“Come on man, just give us a few dollars and I’ll be gone” I tried one last time
James simply looked up and shook his head, his eyes filled with venom and rage. As I broke his stare I noticed a $100 chip on his bedside locker. He noticed me noticing it a split second too late and before he could get his shaking hands out from under the nice hotel sheets, I had whipped it into my hands and was running from the room, laughing insanely.
I returned to where I had left the honey, alas she had departed. I had no idea if I had been gone for half and hour or longer, but she was nowhere to be seen. I sat at a blackjack table, ordered a drink and blew the hundred dollars quicker than the drink could get delivered. When the drink did arrive I took it to an outdoor area and in the morning sun, smoked and sipped as slowly as I could, and lapsed into a mournful melancholy, lamenting my brothers inability to provide or consider my point of view.
I dawdled for as long as humanly possible before, sloping back to the hotel room where my James and Angela were in the process of packing their things.
It wasn’t too long before we were arguing again, our respective camps at loggerheads and unable to see the other’s point of view. Angela, it has to be said, was a poor mediator, handling the warring factions with all the skill of a Jihad suicide bomber. We argued and ranted and in a instant I said
“Well fuck you too, see if I give a fuck”
To which James retorted
“Get fucked you little bollix”
And so I stormed out of the room, the foyer, the hotel and Vegas.
It was approaching midday now and I headed out a motorway towards LA. I had my sunnies on, my bandana, but little else – no money, water, sleep, phone or contact details. I was still wired from the pill and severely dehydrated. As I walked I stopped into a lonely looking diner and asked for some water and directions. As I drank from their glass the counterhands told me I was heading in the wrong direction and the LA freeway was two miles in the opposite direction. I headed out, cursing my stupidity but refusing to answer my internal dialogue demanding I return to the hotel find my brother. After almost an hour or so, I found myself at the beginning of the freeway, holding out my thumb, feeling very dazed and slightly confused. Nobody was interested in stopping for a single man, thumbing his way to nowhere in particular- I actually wondered why. After about half an hour or so I was getting pretty despondent, when a pick up truck pulled in past me with an old guy and someone who must have been his grandson in the passenger seat.
“Where you goin’ stranger” He inquired in a soft Southern drawl, chewing on a cud of tobacco
“Headin to LA man, any chance of a lift?”
“Well, I’m headin about thirty miles down the road, hop on the back and I’ll take you as far as I’m goin.”
With that I jumped up onto the back of the pickup and settled in. The truck slowly trundled away and I began to relax. In front of me Vegas was disappearing just as it had appeared two days ago. I was semi hallucinating and it shimmered and moved in the desert heat as we moved into the distance. A strange serenity settled into my mind. I was completely free and at the mercy of the capricious Gods. My ego had battered itself for years and years to this moment where I released myself in drugged up drunken pre destined passivity. I was happy in the knowledge that I knew not where I was going and was no longer in control.
I knew where I was going about thirty minutes later when the pick up truck Grandad took a right off the highway and let me off.
“This is the end of the line for us son, good luck”
“Thanks a lot man”
I headed back up to the freeway and put out my thumb to try and get another hitch.
Nothing. Not even a beep. I was swimming in crazy thoughts now, my lack of sleep and overheating body beginning to cause convulsions in my stomach. After about twenty minutes of hopeless thumbing, I went under the freeway, to an off road underpass, to cool down for a little. The concrete felt so smooth and cold and pacifying. I lay there for some time, shimmering in and out of consciousness, the odd car passing by underneath, the traffic relentless above. My heart rate was thumping and my mouth drier than a camel eating crackers. I sat up to gather my thoughts and began to dry retch, bile and mucous sporadically ejecting themselves over my legs, the concrete and the road below. I was to coin a term, fucked.
As another half hour or so I convinced myself to get back into the murderous sun and try to get to LA, to go to God knows where. I persuaded myself that this was the exact type of adventure I had set myself up for and was what I needed. Suitably self hypnotised and assured, I wandered back to the freeway like some beaten up rent boy, lurching from the shadows. I held out my thumb with a despairing quality that I’m sure the drivers could smell, from inside a moving capsule, travelling at 150kms. I was beginning to dry retch and wobble unconvincingly on the side of the road. I was struggling badly.
With that a car pulled sharply from the speed lane to the middle lane about 200 metres away. It dodged and weaved and almost slammed into a juggernaut right in front of my eyes. It pulled through to the right, to the slow lane and managed to screech to a halt some 200 metres ahead of me on the edge of the freeway. It was my brothers Transam Pontiac. Echoes of a childhood song came flooding back to my ears and mind…From “Two Little Boys”
“Did you think I would leave you dying
When there’s room on my horse for two
Climb up here, we’ll soon be flying
Back to the ranks so blue”
The door opened and my brother jumped out
“Get in the fucking car “ He seethed
“Get fucked “ I quickly informed him and carried on thumbing for a different lift.
He turned and got back into the car. Angela then came out and pleaded with me
“Please John, we’ve been so worried, we’ve been looking for you for four hours in every gaming room in all the casinos, beside every swimming pool, in every pub. Please get into the car. You really don’t look so good”
I accepted some sort of defeat and convinced myself that I should go with them. I got into the car and guzzled some water, while my body rejoiced at the air con that soothed every pore of my being. We drove in tacit silence for a long hour, eventually stopping at a roadside diner and getting some refreshments. It was our father’s birthday and we called him from a payphone there, lying through our teeth about where we were and what was going on. I’m sure he was happy we rang, but I could tell by his tone that he didn’t believe a word. When the respective calls were over I’m sure I saw a little smile creep into my brother’s face, although it could have been him squinting in the sun. We got back into the car, and sped on our way, together as brothers no matter what the cost.