Weekly Writing Challenge: Three Ways to Go Gonzo: You’re in a street-side café (in San Diego, California). The couple seated at the next table is breaking up.
“If you’re going to ‘Go Gonzo’ like your dumb blogging site instructs, you have to find some novel you like and type it over a gazillion times until you find your own style. God forbid it’s War and Peace.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” I said. “If I type someone elses’ novel over and over, I’m going to be really good at writing that novel.”
“I agree. It doesn’t. Still, I don’t think Capote would’ve called Hunter Thompson a typist.”
“He was definitely a writer, though he did have a typewriter.” I thought I was funny, but Peter didn’t.
“People make a lot of noise about his drug use, don’t they?”
“So dumb. It was the times. Remember your frantic phone searches back in the day for ‘Vitamin Q’?”
“You’re one to talk, Mr. Amyl Nitrate.”
“Oh yeah.” I laughed at the memory of us in a cavernous black-walled disco passing around a bottle of RUSH. “Oh and the movies!”
“Yeah, I think a lot of young people know Hunter Thompson through Johnny Depp and maybe some English teacher.”
“That’s a laugh, isn’t it? English teachers?”
“Fuck you.” We were, both of us, English teachers.
“Hey, there’s an Edith Wharton novel in progress. Look at those two.” The couple beside us was clearly in the throes of a late morning break up.
“Oh man, I’d never go back to that, would you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Not a chance in hell.” Peter shuddered. Our young love had had enough drama for twenty people.
“Yeah, and they’re always saying, ‘You’d like to be young again, wouldn’t you?’”
“A lot of people would. You sure as hell would prefer walking without a cane, but…”
“Shhh. This is good.” We drank our coffee and watched the sitcom at the table in front of us.
“If I have to explain it, you’ll never understand it.”
“Right. Yeah, I get that. If I understood you and all your deep and meaningful ideas and your precious fucking soul, we wouldn’t be breaking up right now, right? This is all because I don’t understand you. Look, I fucking understand you. I fucking understand that this is only scene one in this stupid ass drama you’re always staging. Once a month, at least. I could schedule it. Well, you know what?”
“I do understand you, and you’re just NOT all that interesting. Hot, yes. Interesting? No.”
Brakes squealed. Glass shattered against a light post. A woman screamed. The white-noise of predictable urban traffic came literally to a screeching halt. Only one car was in motion and it was the one that should not have been. A white Nissan.
“Did you see that?”
“Can’t you pay attention to me for once?”
“I think that guy’s been killed.” Mark dug around in his back pocket and pulled out a Bic pen. He spread his left hand, palm flat, scribbled for a second or two, then wrote.
“What are you doing?”
Peter was already running to the corner. I called 911. “Yeah. A cyclist. Hit. No. The driver left. Backed away from the light post he hit and took off down 6th. No I don’t know if it was a he. It could’ve been a she. We need an ambulance here, sweet-cheeks. Not some PC gender awareness interrogation. White Nissan. I didn’t get the plate number. Vanity plates, but no, I didn’t see it completely. There’s a heart.”
Passersby formed a circle around the body, each person hoping that what they saw on the street between head and helmet was not brains, but it was brains. Peter returned to our table, clearly shaken. “My god,” he said. “Is it so difficult to look out your car window and see a cyclist about to make a LEGAL turn? Did you get the plate number?”
I shook my head. “Vanity plates. A heart. That’s all I saw.”
Sirens screamed all around. The ambulance finally arrived. EMTs pushed the circle of protectors away from the body and lifted it onto a stretcher. Some of the spectators were so shaken they had to be helped back to the sidewalk, safe from the random horror show of life. The ambulance pulled away, no sirens, no lights. Death was no one’s emergency. Fire fighters attached a hose to the hydrant and blasted the brains down the storm drain below the painted a blue dolphin and the words “We live downstream.”
“That’s what you don’t understand,” Mark said, sighing, looking at his hand. “Any minute, any day, any time that could be me or you with our brains splattered on 6th and University, circled by strangers, and some old fag calling 911.”
“It’s not nice to call people fags, Mark.”
“OK look, honey. I was making a point. That guy’s dead. He got up this morning, god knows what happened between here and then — maybe he had a fight with his girlfriend, too, or given the neighborhood…”
“There you go again, gay-bashing.”
“I’m NOT fucking gay-bashing. Why do you keep changing the subject? Wait, I get it. You can’t handle the truth. That’s it.” Mark — the young man — turned around to us and said, “You guys are gay, right? You’re a couple, right?”
“Yes,” said Peter. “Going on — what? Thirty-five years.”
“There, Jessica. They are fags.”
“That’s right, sweetie,” I called out over Peter’s now bald head. “We’re fags.” I looked at Peter. God he’d been a beautiful young man, this great love of my life.
When the police came by asking questions, the young man — Mark — showed his hand.
“This is the license plate.”
“Seriously? Do Me <3?”
“What was the make and model of the car?”
“Nissan. Sentra. Maybe two years old. White.”
“Anything else you remember?”
As the police talked to her boyfriend, the events seemed to finally register in Jessica’s self-absorbed little brain and she began to cry. Mark reached for her hand, leaned forward and whispered in her ear. They stood and prepared to go.
As they walked away I wondered how this smart young guy could take that girl seriously. She was wearing sweatpants with the word “Juicy” silk-screened in glitter across her ass. Peter and I sat together for a few more hours then decided it was time to go to Whole Foods. Peter helped me up from my chair.
“C’mon, cowboy,” he said.