Author: Guede Mazaka
Paul is not an alcoholic.
He doesn’t drink to excess however many times a week determines that particular disease of humanity. He does take a glass of red wine every now and then, and he does get himself stupefied a handful of times a year. But he doesn’t drink to function—hell, he drinks so he doesn’t function. Can’t function.
He’s not an alcoholic. He’s already homosexual with a genius-level I. Q. and an “abnormal tendency towards negative feelings,” as one of his passing bedmates had told him ( passing as in the guy started talking about meeting Paul at his office and Paul rolled the man off the bed with the clutchy bastard’s own pants), so the last thing, absolute fucking last if he wants to die with some shred of dignity, he needs is a reason to move his life from hell down into melodrama. Hell is classical and has some implications of nobility, even if it’s misconstrued or misaimed or mis-something—witness Dante, who turned his pathetic inability to deconstruct a virgin complex into actual satisfying sex into a glorious paean to the illusions of the Catholic mythology.
Paul does get laid, somehow—he’d been told he can be “charming,” and by people that aren’t superiors he once upon a time had to kiss up to (there’s less of them now, and they all are too hard and blunt-skinned for the softness of flattery—he’s incisive to them and they appreciate those paper-cuts because that way they know they’re not yet stone). He gets to fuck a hell of a lot. He supposes that sarcasm is very funny and appealing and attractive right up until the fairy-bell moment when the ugly façade doesn’t drop away, when the magic doesn’t rise to show the prince. Because he’s not one. He’s exactly what he says he is, and it’s everyone else’s fault for not paying attention. Too bad that leaves them in some minor hell of embarrassment or humiliation or outrage, and him only on the in-between level that’s earth. Even eternal torture requires some delusion: that you actually deserve all of it, or that you deserve none of it.
Which, he supposes, is why he’s in Vegas. It’s a cut-down hack’s version of the Divine Comedy, what with its replicas of history and their deliberate sheen that lets the passerby—screams, really—know that it’s all fakery. And what’s more, proud fakery, for God knows what ethereal heights of spot-on imitation humans can manufacture now. All Paul has to do to remind himself of that is stroll around with one of the agents working Counterfeiting.
Christ, if Aristotle were alive, he’d be fucking overjoyed at Vegas. Somehow Paul thinks the man who was both capable of the mimetic form theory and the tutoring of the world’s most golden, drunken conqueror would appreciate this city, with its neon and its plastic and its gleeful crass mining of the work of greater minds. It’s brash and bold and unashamed, spewing its fountains of everything in the middle of the bleak desert.
The lights are long streaks of fluorescence outside the car windows, and the music’s one cacophonic merge from the ignorable shit choreographing the Bellagio’s sprays to the newest baby-face singer trash blaring from the lesser ends of the Strip. And there’s not a sign of righteousness anywhere, as far as Paul can see. Everything’s secular easy, wheeling and dealing and damn proud of its compromising.
It’s a working vacation, maybe. It was a double murder that had everyone stunned with its stark simplicity till Paul walked in and just…it was like going back to grade-school and marveling at how everything that was out of reach then is far below him now. It was a fucking cakewalk.
And now, having amazed them all, what is the eastern magician doing with his time? He’s driving back and forth down the boulevard, cruising this world that’s so in tune with him, that doesn’t make him weep into the hard floor of a confessional of a religion he doesn’t even believe. That doesn’t make him drink till he can’t stand himself, and then drink some more till he doesn’t care whether he can’t stand himself. It’s not even a fight here. All he has to do is what he does best, and it all falls into place. His dreamland, his heaven, his green pastures, and for once the prize matches with the life-condition, because he’s got the experience and the rank and the connections to get himself transferred out here.
But Paul’s doing his fifth go-around in two hours, dawn just beginning to break, and he knows that this time he will turn off onto Paradise and head for first the airport Rent-a-Car, and then his gate. He’ll get on his plane, and he’ll fly back to Boston where nothing awaits but the struggle and the torment and the exhaustion of a place where nothing’s a precise match. Where goofy jackasses can bring him coffee and catcalls and leave with his hand groping the vacated spot in the bed, where good intelligent men can subvert his reason to their religion and drop him aching and alone and inadequate on the curbside of a murder that may have a culprit and a method but that doesn’t have a real, true solution.
This time, when he drives down the road, he’s saying goodbye, and he knows that he’s doing it. If he’s ever walked (back) into something with clear eyes, it’s now.
Paul is not an alcoholic. But he’s got a problem.