7/26/2004

A chronic lack of sleep

The city that never sleeps. Burning lights, moving cars, human beings moving. I have not closed my eyes in two days, my leg is stiff, my back hurts. The lights burn my face, I'm stressed, my fingers are trembling, my thoughts wander and wonder about irrelevant things.

The blues club is empty. The rooms above it are lighted, that is where they live. I call, and the door is opened some 10 minutes later. Yellow light floods out, and that smell that has always been peculiar to this cuban family drifts out.

I carry my bags in, and greet the old man, hug the old woman and kiss the girl who smiles broadly at me. We all know each other very well, they have seen me naked, they have watched over my bed as I lay near to death. I have seen them cry as their son died on that night so long ago, that night I lay with a bullet in my chest and watched my best friend dead with a bullet lodged in his heart.

Like so many things this day, tragedy is the string that ties our hearts together. And they see in my face that I do not come alone, I come with problems that they do not need. They do not ask questions, and I do not say anything.

The girl looks at me with adoration in her eyes, and I look back with lust in my heart. The father looks at us, looks away and spits tobacco into a bucket. I can still remember her saying but I really do love you, John, shortly before I left the family those many years ago. I remember the shame, I remember the self-loathing that followed. I felt I had slapped the family in the face by not staying, and by not loving their daughter.

I was shown up to the small room with scanty funiture and torn posters hanging on the walls. I opened the closet and saw old clothes. I wore them on, the shirts were a little bit large; their son had been bigger than me. I put on the panama hat we had always worn, that one had been mine. The other one was light brown with the dust of years.

I went downstairs and was given a cigar. It was supposed to be like old times, but they saw in my face that the times had changed, and that things had started to fall apart.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimm'd tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

7/25/2004

Country roads

Rain splattered on the car, mud sprung from the roads and hit my windshield. The wipers scrunched and squealed as they fought against the downpour. Occasionally, bright lights of other cars appeared in the windshield, creating many pinpoints of stars along the water droplets clinging on the windshield.

I hardly noticed all that, I was talking to Laura. Laura was a hitch-hiker I had picked up about 50 miles back at a crossroads. She was from france, she was tanned, she had an infectious and loud laugh; she was one of those girls that you feel you would do anything for.

Keith Urban was playing in the radio. Slow country songs about lost love, sad banjo strumming about being lost.

Well, I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right
Yes, I'm stuck in the middle with you
And I'm wonderin' what it is I should do

It's so hard to keep this smile from my face
Losin' control, yeah, I'm all over the place
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right
Here I am stuck in the middle with you


The rain enclosed me and Laura in that small car, the music crafted an atmosphere you could feel, the warmth in the car made it a home. Outside the car, everyone was hunting for me. Outside the car, men in black suits and hats were standing in a line; each of those men had a gun buried somewhere within his clothes, and if I walked where they could see, I'd be ripped to shreds by their combined gunpower.

So I flung myself into the moment, I let my problems go and I spoke to Laura with controlled abandon, I opened my soul to her. She must have felt it, because she replied in kind, and soon it was like we had always know each other. We liked Paris, we liked travel, we liked lemon juice, we liked country music.

Maybe it was the moment, maybe it was the stress, maybe it was something else, but I felt something I have not felt for a woman in a long time. That french accent mixed with the southern twang, the small dimples when she smiled, her way of touching my arm all combined together and became a mighty sledgehammer of affection that procceeded to crush my reason.

I told her who I was and what I had done. She asked me to stop, bundled her things together and stepped out into the teardrops from the sky, illuminated only by the sad smile of the moon. I drove on down those country roads, and realised that they would never take me home.

7/23/2004

The madman dancing on the fence

We took Kirsty back home, and I dressed her wound. She woke up the next morning with a smile on her face, and I looked at her, my face expressionless, my eyes grey. My reflection in the bedside mirror looked around coldly, I looked at myself with hate.

Kirsty shrunk when she saw me, and when I saw fear in her face, a dreadful coldness crept through my body. My stomach tangled itself up, my muscles contracted, and for a short moment, I felt even more fear than she did. Whoever she was, she knew who Johnny boy in the pin striped suit was.

I pulled out my gun and held it to her head.

"You will die, Bitch. Who the fuck sent you? Who the fuck is paying you to be a prostitute, and to inform them about me? Your information is to lead to my death, and you have destroyed your morals for money. I have killed, but I have never been near to the depth you have sunk to"

She cried, I lifted my gun and slammed it against her head. She fell back, yelling and bawling. I hit it again, this time hard. Blood spurted and she passed out. I ripped her dress and tied her hands and legs with it.

I called Pedro, told him to come watch over her, and went out to buy some chemicals. I needed her to talk, but this is America, you cannot simply shoot people and walk away like back home. People die "naturally" here. I could not beat her till she talked, I'd simply make her talk with chemicals. Brain damage might occur, but I didn't care at that point.

-------

Roughly two hours later, I came back to Pedros place. He was not in the living room, so I walked over to the bedroom. I heard it before I saw it.

As I came in, her arms were untied, her legs were untied, and Pedro was licking her pussy. She was moaning with pleasure, and he was muttering in spanish.

The world spun in a circle, pressure built in my head, I felt my eyes turn red as the veins cracked. I blinked slowly, and Pedro turned towards me. Rage gripped me as I looked at the traitor, as I looked at the bitch.

I saw my gun in front of me gripped in my fist, I saw flame jump from the snout, I felt the recoil, I heard bangs. I felt sweat in my palm, I heard a ringing in the small room. I smelled burning cloth, dead bullets and then a thick smell of blood.

I saw two people lying naked on the bed, bleeding. Pedro was still gasping. I placed the pistol on his eyeball and pulled the trigger 3 times. His head jerked to the left each time, and I heard his neck snap.

I saw sweat fall from my palm, saw water fall from my face. Maybe a teardrop, maybe sweat.

-----

4 hours later, I had wrapped both bodies in plastic bags, filled the bathtub with water and put both of them into it. I switched on the TV and left. I had between a few hours and few days before someone noticed that they were dead.

This is America. That was murder. A few moments of madness had turned me into a hunted criminal, and I had to leave. As soon as possible.

So I left, hired a car and started driving towards New York. Towards my old life, towards the small dark blues club in Harlem, and towards people that would help me escape this madness.

7/20/2004

The woman in the mens warehouse

Around 5 in the evening, the door of the warehouse was flung open, and a thick beam of sunlight cut through. Dust slowly floated across the beam. The man operating the planing machine switched it off, and the screaming whine slowly died out. Spots of molten metal glowed on the floor.

The three of us were turned towards the door, looking to see who would come in.

A man came in, speaking loudly in spanish to someone who was still outside the door. Then a second man came in, carrying someone across his shoulder. They hurried in, closed the door after them and dropped the person being carried on the floor. Blood crept out from the person and moved slowly across the floor.

We were all watching, none of us moving. Then Pedro stood up slowly, and in his heavily accented english, asked them what they were doing.

"She is dying, the gal is è dying"

We moved over to her, and I was profoundly shocked. It was Kirsty, the callgirl I had fucked in Los Angeles town. Where did they find her, I said loudly. Where did she come from, I repeated.

She had been in the area, I was told, and people had started shooting. One of the two men had seen her before the gunbattle, and thought she was cute. So her wanted to rescue her.

Take her to a hospital, Pedro said.

No, no, P, I said. You do not meet the same people two times in this city. Something is strange here, let us take her back home, I want to question her.

I looked over her wounds, and I did not think they were too serious. She had a hole on the right side of her chest, but she was not spitting blood, so I thought her lungs had been hit. I would look more carefully when we got home. I have seen many gunshot wounds, and I did not think this one was serious.

We wrapped her in a sheet, dumped her in the car and drove home.

Electronic tags

I went with Pedro to a warehouse, where we spent all day placing electronic tags in cars. The technology is complex, because it uses the body of the car as a frequency modulator, and exact measurements have to be made between locations on the cars so that the tags work. If the car is taken apart, it is very difficult to locate each part of the tags, because they are so wide apart. And if you do locate any part of the circuit, it will not work on its own. If you located all the parts of the circuit, you still would not be able to switch on the tag, because there was a special machine that had to placed on the roof at a particular location to provide power to the tags. Each car had to be customized, and they needed me to help them do this.

A lot of clients had been waiting for my arrival with the neccesary information, which Jacob had given me as I left South Africa.

We had to strip off the roofs of the cars, and make sure they were conductive. Then we had to pinpoint locations on the car which would always guaratee us an appropriate distance to the other components, even if the doors were opened or some minor part of the car was removed. Then we had to start measuring distances, and welding the components on the inside of the cars, at various locations, and then plane the surfaces. After that, the cars would be taken for internal paint jobs, then driven off.

That way, the various bosses could monitor the positions of their cars at predefined intervals, and even if the cars were seized by the cops, they would not only stop broadcasting, but they would be no way to discover if such a car had tags without taking it apart.

It was a lot of work, but interesting.

7/19/2004

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth

The boy was dragged into the room screaming, and flailing his legs. He tried to punch at the men holding him, but they were hulking and efficient, and had done this many times before. He was dumped in a chair, and I heard strap buckles klink. Then I heard his gasp and the creak of leather as the straps were pulled tight.

I turned around holding a syringe in my hand. He stopped moving and looked up at me, his eyes round and big like those of a little boy. He was afraid, probably the most afraid he had ever been in his life, even though a lot of that life had been spent escaping death on the streets. And of course, bringing death, because he was a member of a gang. It was tattood across his bare chest.

I was grim, and my face was furrowed in concentration; he saw that I did not care about him. So he shrunk back in the chair that was nailed to the ground, trying to get away from me.

I squeezed his strapped arm and drove the needle into it, drew a small amount of blood into the syringe, and let him watch. I waited for him to stop jerking around, then emptied the syringe into his body.

He screamed and panted, moving up and down in the chair. I smiled and filled another syringe from a second bottle and injected it into him. Then I inject the contents of a 3rd syringe, this time a green thick liquid into him. Then I connected a computer to his arm, biting the leads into the flesh, and we both watched the graphs run wild.

I spoke.

"You will die the most terrible death you can imagine. Your body will rot, your flesh will start to fall off, your penis will die and decay, your toes will break off, you tongue will turn to slush. You will feel pain in a manner you have never felt before, and you will rip your own flesh off your body. You are doomed.

You have one last chance. In exactly 3 minutes, the chemicals will reach critical mass and from that moment on, you will surely die. Till then, I can inject you with this other chemical, and it will destroy the catalyst, meaning nothing will happen to you. Now, will you tell us what we want to know or not?

If you tell us, your gang may kill you. If you do not tell us, you WILL die. The choice is yours."

He blubbered and drooled and cried at the same time. A streak of blood ran from his nose, he was so nervous a pipe had burst somewhere. And he spoke.

When he was done, I injected him with the last syringe, and watched him being carried away, crying like the little boy he was. He was 16 or 15, an easy job.

The syringes I threw away, the bottle contents I emptied, it was all just water. Torture is a bit like magic, the trick itself is not important, it is the show that makes it worth its while.

7/18/2004

America

I landed in the LA International airport, and checked into my room at the holiday inn. In a few hours, I got a call telling me that my Jeep had arrived, and was parked in the lobby.

An hour before then, I had called up an escort service, and a pretty and slim blonde, called Kirsty had made her way to my room. She had a nice diamond shaped face, wore blue jogging trousers and a pink shirt, and she didn't have anything on underneath the trousers. I spent a nice time with her, spoke a bit about her while watching Fox news.

I bought some bottles of whisky at the bar, took them up to my room, went to the Jeep, pressed a button underneath the dashboard. A part of the engine unlocked, I went over and took out a couple of pistols, an Isreali Uzi, and an AK47 with foldback handle and a small blood stain in the corner. I dropped them into a specially prepared suitcase, and stopped at the hotel shop.

I bough a white shirt with small stripes, bought some cigarettes and went back to my room. Kirsty was still there, so I went into the bathroom and put one pistol in my footstrap, wore a thin bulletproof vest I had brought along from SA, then stuck the other pistol into the shoulderstrap (which is part of the vest). I wore a white shirt on top of that, and put a grey suit on top of that. I stuck on a small hat.

I went back into the room, lit the cigarette and watched Kirsty watch television. I poured some whisky, put some coke inside, and drank.

I switched on my laptop and waited for it to link up to our satellite. We have dedicated channels on some South African satellites. They claim that those channels are used for deforestation work, but some fellow in the tech ministry is getting very rich by allowing us use those channels. Communication is encoded, and it is only with special software that the channels can be used. It takes about 15 minutes before the computers can link up, since they have to wait for some key or something. This message that it is waiting for a "key" is always on the software for ages, before it suddenly starts working. The antennaes are very small.

After I was connected, I referenced a fellow and asked him to provide ID for me. In a day or so, I would get a contact address where I would get fake passports, registered numbers for my guns, police IDs, and the neccesary software to receive relayed American police channels on my computer. The info is not reliable, since it depends on our russian hackers to crack the codes in order for us to be able to observe their satellite broadcasts.

I went down and bought myself a cell phone. I went back up and gave Kirsty $4000, kissed her and told her to leave. I took a photo with her, just to put in my diary. I like keeping my memories in paper. She was a nice girl, a nice lay, and I like her voice.

I went downstairs into the Jeep, took off the hubcabs, scratched the body a bit, made it look a bit old. Then I drove out towards wilmington, called a contact I had been given called Pedro. I landed at his home, a flat in a 3 story building, and went in. He greeted me at the door, and I went in.

We didn't speak too much, he just showed me a room, and I'm sitting in here now, typing this.

7/17/2004

Guns & Sunglasses

Colonel Jacob called me this morning. His voice was hoarse, and he sounded harder and little bit changed. Maybe prison has changed him.

3 hours later, I was sitting in an ice café, watching children kiting and sticking my tongue into a vanilla and chocolate coned ice. I like the mix; it is my small contribution towards racial tolerance.

A black jeep Grand Cherokee stopped in front of me, and obscured my view. The car wasraised from the ground, just a little bit tipped towards the front, and it looked menacing. The low growl of the engine switched off, and the door swung open. A dark green military boot came out,
followed by a large man with a hard face in a Hawaii shirt. Colonel Jacob, the man who had time for everyone, even though he controlled half the security services in southern Africa.

“Roger”, Isaid, stood up and grabbed his hand. “Johnny boy”, he smiled and pumped my hand. When he was done, I had keys in my hand.

“The car is yours, you’ll need it.”

I smiledand thanked him. After some mild pleasantries, we got down to business. I had sent him an email about a job, and he had told me he had one available. And he proceeded to tell me even more.

It is a job in America this time. I expressed surprise, because so far as I knew, Jacob had never done any job in America. Times are changing, he told me. People are no longer fighting here in Africa, they seem to be settling down, and after the fiasco in Congo, tactics have to change.

He gave me the details about the job in America. I bought him an ice cream, and drove off in the Cherokee. Through the rear view mirror, I saw him enter a car that had been parked in front of the café all the while I had been there. I continued, and drove the car to the airport. I handed
it over to some guy, who apparently was expecting it.

Then I went and bought myself 5 pairs of suits, went home, picked up my toothbrush, had a
bath, and then went to the airport.

I’m sitting in the airplane right now, heading towards America. I’m wearing a suit, my guns
are in the Jeep, and my sunglasses are in my pocket.
I can select the songs on the seat. I’m
playing “I feel good”, by James Brown.


7/16/2004

The laughter from the outside

I was sitting yesterday in my compound on my rocking chair, reading From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury. It was a warm day, and the leaves on my trees were swinging along with the slow breeze. I had some music playing on my small radio, it was some soft song about love.

I heard a peal of laughter, it had jumped over my fence, rode the winds and entered my soul. I knew who it was, my neighbour Alexandria. She laughs with genuine emotion, she smiles from within, and transforms herself with her personality.

She is good looking, has a nice body, but she is no extraordinary beauty. Till she laughs, that is, at which time she turns into a being of splendor; just as the personality of cleopatra was an integral part of her beauty, so is the sense of humour of Alexandria the gust that lifts her into the realms of godess-like loveliness.

I called out to Alexandria and her friend, and invited her in for a drink. She came in, and we chatted, We spoke about the Russian Revolution, about her, about my journies, and about a lot of other things, significant or not. It got late, and she left and with her the shine out of my eyes, for the sun had sunk below the trees.

I went back into the house and switched on the television. I watched the news for a bit, stuck in Resevoir dogs and watched a bit of it. After 10 minutes, I switched it off and went to the bar counter, got myself a bitter lemon, stood at the door and drank it. The palm leaves of the neighbours rustled and whispered to themselves. My cat appeared at the top of the fence, in stark profile. It walked slowly up the fence and away.

Home was peaceful, but I was bored. I had nothing to do.

A group of young boys spoke loudly outside, and one of them made some joke, and they burst into laughter. They laughed from outside my fence for a long time, expanding on their joke. Then they left.

I went out and stood by the gate. A few solitary figures strolled along, a child rode a bicycle up the road. From the clubhouse down the road, I heard a group of men roar with laughter, and heard a clink of beer glasses.

I closed the gate, went back into the house and sent an email to Colonel Jacob.

7/13/2004

A small rough diamond

I have this little diamond that I carry around sometimes. I do not wear it, no, I've never worn jewelry, I just carry it loosely in my pocket. It was the diamond I wanted to have cut to give to, and marry the girl I was in love with.

I had been in the diamond mines of Angola at the time, working in security. I got a diamond from one of the workers, who had probably smuggled it in his through the control posts. It was rough and uncut, but one could see that it was a good one, it shone with a special clarity.

I bought it on a whim, and decided that since I had bought it already, I might as well get it cut into a ring. And once I had a ring, I might as well just marry the girl.

After a few weeks, I came home to South Africa, and called up Katie. She did not reply. I called several times, and she didn't reply. After a few days, she sent me a text message saying that she had met someone else, and that she was sorry.

There is no moral to this story, there is no poetic justice, there is no grand ending. In real life, stories do not end on a grand note, they finish with a whimper.

Life writes the beginning of the story, and you make the ending. If I had taken a gun and shot Katie, it would have been a terrible act, but a good story. If I'd have bothered to find out who the man that stole her was, there might have been something interesting there that would make the story interesting.

You see, the stories that life provides us with are like this small diamond - rough, uncut and unspectacular. You decide what decisions you will make, and you can always decide to make the diamond into a jewel.

The story about Katie is not over, life has written the beginning, and I shall finish it up.

7/12/2004

Panic

I woke up last night and jumped out of my bed, shaking with terror. I was in the middle of the dark room, and I could hear movement. There were people in here trying to kill me, and I was defenseless, standing there naked.

My heart pumped, the veins thickened with blood, the thick liquid rose into my head, and swirled about in my mind. The stench of fear drifted from my body and permeated the room, it wafted slowly from me, became heavy and dropped towards the floor. My head swung to the left and to the right, searching in the dark, and the humid air was pushed by the swinging, it oozed over to the left, then oozed over to the right.

My nostrils widened, I expanded my eyes, and tried to see. My ears became sharp tips, they swung around to follow every movement. My pupils flicked all around the room at high speed. My hands were folded up into thick fists, ready to punch into the air. I was crouched, my back bent, my legs quivering. The muscles on my back jerked with the tension. My arms tingled.

But it was nothing. There was nothing in the room. There had never been anything in that room. It was empty, it was safe, it was not dangerous. It was a normal room, with normal funiture, normal closets, my shirts hanging over the chair, my computer sitting idly on the table.

I went back to sleep. Everything in the room was absolutely normal. But not me. Not yet.

7/08/2004

Cape of Storms

I arrived yesterday at the airport, and tasted the air. It was warm and had the special smell that is South Africa. I came out, my rucksack over one shoulder, and stopped for one small moment as I stepped out on the ground.

Everything was so normal, things were moving normally, people were smiling and laughing, nobody looked at me, and there was no fear.

Johnson, my driver was waiting for me at the gates, and smiled broadly when he saw me arrive. He was so happy that I was back, he always was, and I’m not sure I understand why. He is going to have to work now, and not just laze around like he does when I am not there. But he didn’t seem to think in those terms, he just chattered on happily about all the changes that had happened since I had been gone.

He remarked on how I had lost weight as we drove. The air conditioner was on, and that special feeling came across me, that feeling of peace. It comes when you lie back in a large SUV, the air conditioner on, and a driver taking you home. It is the feeling of normality, the feeling that everything will be alright, that nobody will be dying, the feeling that you can relax.

We drove into the gates, and my gateman saluted as he opened the gate. He is old and simple, a little bit strange in the head, but he is dedicated. He seems to live for his work, I have never seen any family, and even though he is not supposed to stay till late, he does so anyways.

He cackled loudly as I drove in, and I waved to him.

We got the things out of the car, and placed them into the house. I live in a bungalow in an estate, reasonably high classed, good surroundings, with a gate, a shared pool, and a clubhouse. It is nice.

I went in, tore off my clothes and threw them into the rubbish bin. I went and took a loose pair of trousers and a Hawaii shirt. I grabbed my wallet and left the house. Outside, my cat spied me and slinked over to rub across my legs. It is a black cat, and we are not particularly close.

I walked out, across to the clubhouse, pulled up a chair next to the pool, dropped myself into it, and ordered a drink. I took out my cell phone, and started calling people I knew.

I was home.

7/04/2004

Isolation

I’m alone. Even as I speak to the people I know, I feel the gap between them and me. They see me laugh and chatter happily, but I believe they also see that even as my face and eyes smile, my soul lies in weary and savage mourning.

I’ve seen too much. Some of the people I have spoken to have seen just as much, many have seen worse, but I believe that they have not _felt_ it quite as bad. They have not touched their lower mental limits; they have not seen the hell that can be produced only in their own minds.

I’m being attacked by my own soul, it is waging a battle against my reason, and it is winning, it is slowly grinding me to dust, to a husk, to a bitter man devoid of feelings. Those same feelings on which I have ridden to high peaks, and sunk into sullen depths, it is those feelings that I have grown to despise.

Winning the battle against my mind will turn me into something I do not want to be. It will turn me into a being without emotion, a cold person. I do not want to be that person, but it seems to me that I cannot continue to be controlled by emotions that despise me, and seem to seek to wreck me.

I have come out of the jungle, I have come out of the situations where I was near my end, where I could have lost my mind, but the situations changed me. They thrust upon me this feeling of isolation, this loneliness of unfathomable depth, the feeling that there will never be anyone who can understand or share my experiences.

Out of the jungle

I hitched a ride with some soldiers and rode into town, from where I made my way home over the course of a week.