I was on a long flight, the in-flight movie about hapless criminals, depressing. I stared out of the window, the drone of the plane’s engines coming through the fabric walls, and tried to imagine the ocean below. I pictured the ice bobbing in the swells but had the smell of the plane in me, antiseptic, and nothing of that smell was in the ice, and opened my eyes, the interior lights off, and it came to me, that pristine crystalline moment of a thought, something from nothing, the genesis of a book – prostitutes driving across the United States in an 18-wheeler. That was it, prostitutes in an 18-wheeler. And west; they were going west. I knew that too. I had my book just like that, in the thin light, timeless, constant, an arctic summer, my hand down the plastic handle, on the plane over the stark Greenland mountains.*
*Extract from Buzz
The funeral procession started at 4:00 in the morning. Buzz and Maude had been up since 3:00. There was a long shot up a cobbled street into a palace. All the channels were carrying it, commentators stumbling through the silence. A church bell tolled every minute. Mounted horses appeared and then, on a gun carriage, the coffin covered in white flowers. The pace of the cortege was squashed in the zoomed image, the tolling of the bell and the horses’ hooves clip-clopping, somehow all the more beautiful. A woman screamed, “Diana! Oh, Diana!” Flowers and bouquets were tossed at the coffin, toppling off and falling short. The streets were packed, many standing, others running alongside the barricades. There was only the bell and the hooves. Maude was asleep on his chest. He was transfixed by this slow play, simple, the glamorous reduced to such a quiet and regretful scene. The cortege approached Buckingham Palace. The royal family were waiting at the gates. The queen bowed purposefully. Five men followed the coffin: the king, the prince, Diana’s brother and two sons. “Oh, look at them,” Megan cried. “The poor boys.” The cortege came to Westminster. Six Royal Guardsmen struggled to bring their coffin to the shoulders and then carry it inside. It was a long service with hymns and readings. Buzz dozed. When he awoke, Elton John was singing a pop sing. And then there was a final hymn, and again the Guardsmen with the coffin and at the great front doors where they waited in silence. Megan sighed. Early morning light trickled into the living room. A peal of bells poured out of the church as the Guardsmen carried the coffin to the hearse. It eased into the crowded streets, flowers raining down, single roses and gargantuan bouquets. The windshield wipers swung back and forth to clear the windscreen. The crowds grew. Buzz dozed again and awoke to see the car, thick in flowers, slip through the gates of a country estate and vanish from sight. Megan was asleep.* Extract from Buzz (1999)
I’ve made it. The doors open wide, begging, clean against the wall, red coat, and just like that, everything done, everything as it should, turning and my hand cool. She knows me. And that’s it, why for her, she forever, our silent descent, breathing, the glass reflecting us together, backward as forward, not words, but what they might, meaning nothing, tucked into our heads upside down, she out the hall, mine, everything mine, not that, but in me, here, me young, friendly, not wanting to stop, never. My eyes are inside my head. I’m going as I should, thinking as I do anything, on this sidewalk, fading, a door closing, in a room, music, and out.* (Click on the photo and links for video clips.) *Excerpt from Buzz (1999)
I wrote Buzz in three installments, one per year, 1996-99. Leaving documents the main character’s younger years, cycling across Europe to burn off a broken heart. A yellow road turned inland from Valencia, went up into the hills and onto the plateau of La Mancha. The climb out of Chiva was hard, four vast switchbacks to the ridge, a burnt-out tractor-trailer wreck beneath a sign welcoming visitors to the heart of Spain. Sad dusty trees teetered beside rocks and weathered white-washed houses. Maybe here he wouldn’t see so many dead dogs.
Through is a piece in stasis, offering only the illusion of getting anywhere. The monster blackness in the corner of the room, ripping the roof off, vertigo and on forever, beautiful and tiny like a bar of soap, just under foot, holding it, dinosaurs across the island and his mother’s best friend lying with him naked bent over backwards, the curtains and the phone ringing, on a boat, a really nice boat with a super big flag and clean bathrooms or in tatters and leaking a bit.
And Out is the final dissolution, what it is to have thrown everything away for no reason at all. I was trying to understand, meaning to do it right, holding her eyes perfect, leave nothing, not myself, not jumping, not dead, not there, and then just stupid, loving her, stuck in myself, stuck stupid and sad.