“You haven’t convinced me you’re a vampire yet,” He said, “but I’ll admit you’ve thought about this kind of thing a lot.”
“There is nothing else to think about. I’m not so smart or so special, I’m just ordinary. But the world is so treacherous. It’s like there is this hole, and you fall into the hole and you can’t get out and your whole life changes upside down. The world is full of these holes. A person kills someone, who never killed before. Or he loves his wife but he performs the adultery or some unnatural thing and he’s caught and he’s fallen through to the other side and his life is over and will never be the same. I fell in this hole very long ago and can’t get out.” She poured herself some more tea, emptied the pot. “But you? What is it you want?”
“I want a miracle!” He blurted out and realized it was true.
“What kind of a miracle do you want?” She said.
Nixie and Father Delmar
from “The Dying Light”
A man walks into a kitchen of a suburban house, somewhere outside of Baltimore. The man is about 40 or so, and the person he has come to meet is a girl of about fourteen. To make things worse, he’s naked.
This guy, you can hardly call him a man, this wretch, this doofus, this monster is standing in this nice looking kitchen waiting for his girl to show up and keep their rendezvous. But then a bunch of klieg lights come on pinning the guy in their righteous heat. A big man with a very big video camera on his shoulder comes out of the living room door, followed by a guy with a boom microphone and this TV correspondent named Chris Hansen. This ass-clown isn’t just busted. He’s busted on national television, the MSNBC show “Dateline”. All these people walk up to him and the camera zooms into his face. His eyes. They’re haunting. Once you see those eyes, you’ll see them in your worst dreams.
This isn’t terror the dingbat showy screamy way it’s depicted in the movies. No, this is what it really looks like when a human being witnesses his life implode right out from under him. This is the face of the mother on the phone at three in the morning when the Georgia State Highway Patrol calls and her daughter isn’t home yet. This is the guy sitting in the doctor’s examination room with the X ray of his balls pinned on the light panel on the wall. The face of parents looking out the window as the grim faced messenger in dress blues comes up the sidewalk with a doleful letter from the Office of the Secretary of Defense in his hands.
Real world ape-shit terror is this naked guy on TV. Silent. Almost calm. He’s emotionally shutting down, blue screened, memory dumped, totally honked, a skull full of quivering white noise in which thought is off line and dropping into free fall.
His eyes jitterbug from face to face. His lower lip trembles. It doesn’t even occur to him to scream because screaming or crying out to God or his life passing in front of his eyes, none of that bullshit will get him out of this. He stands in the hot silver lights and goes on breathing. It is the revelation that his life is over and from this instant on he will be one of the walking dead and the human cry will pursue him like the eye of God followed Cain across the wilderness. Now he will be defined by only one event. Life as he has always known it has collapsed in an instant. He will never get it back. Not ever.
Don’t get me wrong. This guy, and all the other guys who melt and whimper and threaten and sometimes plead for mercy in the stern presence of this camera crew from Hell, they deserve it. That’s not what we’re talking about here. There is something horribly visceral and communal about witnessing another man’s nightmare. This idiot, this cringing little fiend, had a life up until that moment. A job. A future with plans for the summer. Friends. Neighbors with barbeques. Trash pickup on Wednesday. Alternate parking on Sundays. A wife. Maybe even, the mind boggles, a little girl. But in one instant, all that is swept away. Its different from having a hurricane drown your family or losing them in a car wreck. You can’t help those things. This guy saw Nixie’s Hole and jumped right in.
I’ve had dreams at night where I did things that were seriously weird. Really deranged things that in past times might have landed you on a therapist’s couch. But that’s not it either – it’s the feeling you have in your dream when you know you’ve done something pretty dammed strange or just plain wrong and you’re scared you’ll never get it back – but wait! Ah! Your eyes open in the dark. Your wife slumbers next to you. The ceiling fan turns overhead. A glance at the clock and the alarm will be going off in one more hour. Aw shit! Aw thank you God. Oh it was just a dream. I didn’t screw my mother. I didn’t murder the pope. The world is not being attacked by ravenous vampire armies. Oh Jesus, I’ll be a good boy from now on I promise I will. Thankyouthankyou.
For the guy on the TV screen – it’s all over but the suicide. He stands nude in the hot lights like a hideous silly dream with the news guy in the suit and the yammering voices asking him questions he can’t hear for the sound of his own heart pounding in his ears and the insane world just keeps going on and on and it never stops. That look in the suit’s eyes – it’s the first time he’ll be seeing that look. He’ll be seeing that look in the eyes of every person he knows from now on, forever.
John Edwards, running for president. His staff knows about what he’s doing with that Hunter woman. They’re so terrified of what can happen this has become their nightmare too. They’re seriously thinking of sabotaging this campaign just to make sure he doesn’t actually win and have all this insanity come out after he’s the goddamn president. They’re running in circles because the see the cloud of Nightmare gathering over their own heads. Republican politicians, dragging them under like schools of ravenous piranhas, sticking them up in front of Senate Hearing Committees on CSPAN: “What did you know and when did you know it?” Their own careers ruined. These guys didn’t fall in Nixie’s Hole, they never asked for it, they’re chained like galley slaves to the randy boner of their leader and he’s heading right for it.
The last night, as Edwards leaves the woman’s room, feeling slick from her juices down below. Feeling stud.
“Excuse me Mr. Edwards.” A stranger waiting for him as he steps off the elevator.
The tabloid reporter chasing him down the hotel hallway, the sonuvabitch knows - everything! – and Edwards scuttling like a roach into the men’s toilet near the lobby in the early morning with this Enquirer reporter and his howling crew throwing their shoulders on the door. From this moment on, his accomplishments, his plans to help the poor, all of that will mean nothing. He will be defined forever by this one thing. The men’s toilet with the smell of piss on the floor. The face in the gilt edged mirror over the gold plated faucets. He has those eyes.
Not only does he not wake up from this nightmare, but the fun never stops. The woman’s confession. She’s pregnant and claims it’s his. He refuses DNA tests. His best buddy rats him out and writes a book about it and makes a zillion dollars while Elizabeth Edwards wastes away from cancer on the cover of People magazine. And there are tapes. Tapes!
I’ve had those eyes too, but so far only in dreams. Sometimes when I watch these human implosions on the news I think “There but for God’s mercy it could be me.” And a little voice in the back of my mind whispers “It can still be you, little buddy. Your own vanities are just waiting to be thrown on the bonfire.”