I smoke for the sound of it. That crackling sound when you take a solid drag. I listen for the sound. Sometimes it takes more than one cigarette to get it right. I don't care. However many it takes.
There was one time I was on the bus. I was a kid, fifteen maybe. I saw this kid outside. He was wearing one of those karate uniforms, and he was doing little moves for his mother. Right there outside the bus, on the sidewalk, he was putting on a show and she was taking pictures. Taking pictures. He was lost in it, in whatever that uniform made him feel. His mother was egging him on, come on show me, yeah that's the way, attaboy. She changed angles and blocked out the sun and followed him around. She was a heavy set one. Looked she liked to be tied up.
Anyways, then there was this kid who sat in front of me, a brown kid. He was skinny. Beside him sat a girl, seventeen or so. How was school, what's your name she asked him. She was on the phone, said I got him. Are you okay, she asked him. He nodded. Then he just looked out the window. Didn't say anything, just looked out there, at the world, the street, the trees. What did he see. What was he looking for. His neck was so skinny. He leaned his head against the window and looked out. She kept babbling on the phone. Perfume, blond hair. She was irritating. One of those girls has a great image of herself. Grows up to be a woman who has affairs.
What was the kid seeing, what was he thinking. I remember his head bouncing against the window with the bus. He just kept looking out the window.
Back then I used to think I was invincible. I couldn't imagine not being. What's the point of not being. You go on thinking you're invincible until you die, and then you don't change your mind, you just stop thinking. That's one of those things people only pretend to change their mind about. Anyone who thinks they're invincible as a kid still believes it in secret. Secretly they all think that. What's the point in not.
I used to have a dreams where somebody tried to kill me and they couldn't.
In one of them, it was me and my sisters sitting on a bench, and in front of us stood this monster. A giant werewolf. He was caught in a spiderweb, and he struggled to free himself, and we knew eventually he would. My sisters were scared, but I wasn't. I didn't know how I was going to defeat the monster, but I knew he couldn't defeat me. I just knew he couldn't. I wasn't afraid.
Then there was one where I had a girlfriend. I had a motorcycle, and I'd take her on it to the beach, to the woods. She was a great girl, a dream of a girl. But her old man didn't like me. Just hated me. And I hated him. He tried everything. He tried to shoot me. He did shoot me. It was over an argument over dinner. It just went in and out and left no trace. The look he gave me. I didn't give him a look. To me it was normal. I just left. Then when she was riding with me on my motorcycle he tried to run me over. She was on the back, terrified. She had that look on her face, that look of disillusionment. I still remember that from the dream, her look. Like it would never be the same after this. This was it, the last straw. She held me so tight. He followed us and followed us, and then he did it, he hit us hard. I remember that we both went flying in the air. We left the bike and we just flew. I saw her land, she was done for. But I never landed. The angels picked me up before I could fall, they lifted me in the air and gently set me down. I looked down at her, at him. That idiotic look on his face. I will never forget that look on his face.
The secretaries, oh the secretaries. The ones I don't like already know the game when they come. That knowing look, like they'd been through it before. They expected something from me. What did they expect. Fuck them.
The only people worth thinking about were the ones you could watch learning. You could see it. The real story came out, the real thing showed its face.
First the eagerness. They were all eager. That's why you were hired, the eagerness, don't you know that? Well.
Then the came the puzzle. This was the longest part, the hardest. If you were smart enough to be eager, but dumb enough to never put the pieces together, you'd last.
At some point there is that look of realization. I watched for it, watched for the pain. They were something before, now they were different. The had a fantasy of themselves that was different front where they were going. The death of a fantasy. I felt their pain. I wonder if they knew I knew. Then you fire them. That's something very few know.
We had one guy, Tim, who was an idiot. Just a real idiot. Certain things would never cross his mind.
There was one time of me and him at the bar. He stood there, and he said, I don't know what to do. He said that. He had that look he got after we called him vice president, that idiot look. He decided to get black out drunk, like a college student, because he could not choose between his secretary and his wife. I patted him on the back, I know said. It's hard, I said. The idiot.
His secretary was just like him, easily motivated. She was with me at the bar one night, and I laid it on thick with her. I told her what separates winners from losers, and why she had it. Real thick. What you do in that case is you lean in, and you whisper it. Like a secret. Like you're only telling her because you're drunk. I could feel a heat coming from her whenever we were in the same room, like a radiator, like a lily in the sun. I ignored the fuck out of her. I hardly said hello, hardly looked at her. The week after she was fucking the shit out of Tim.
I had this fantasy in my head, of a secretary who wouldn't break. I would sit there and think about her. She'd know the game, but she wouldn't play it. You'd give her a look, and she'd look away before it got hot. She'd be graceful about it. You could take her to the bar, and she'd drink a virgin bloody marry, and she'd laugh about it. You'd laugh about it. You could be close to her, close to her smile. You'd know her scent, she'd know yours. But she was always look away before it got hot.
No one like that ever showed up. How could I ask for so much.
Hotels are a perfect thing. They will never go away. Every hotel is the same, whether they like it or not.
There is a feeling of being in a hotel. It's something like a Hopper painting. When you get in, around five or six, and the light coming in is yellow and warm, and it's just you, just you and the bed with the patch of light on it, and you throw your things on the bed and look out the window. You always throw your things on the bed, and look out the window with your hands on the window sill.
I told Tim to move into a hotel room. His wife wasn't having him, and so I said, just get a hotel room for a couple of weeks. It'll be good for you. He said hotels make him lonely. He said he didn't like the yellow wall paper, said he started to drink all day. He called his wife, called his secretary. His wife dumped him, the idiot. Guys named Tim are always idiots.
The thing about a hotel room is that you always know what to expect. Sometimes you'll hear someone walking in the hallway. The sound will be muffled, like a whisper. Sometimes a cleaning lady will come in, but only if you don't leave a do not disturb sign. Can you believe it. A woman will come to clean your mess, unless you tell her not to. That's beautiful. Hotels are a beautiful thing.
Looking out a hotel window, you feel good. You always feel good. A new perspective on the world. The world out there at an angle you hadn't looked at it, there for you to gawk at from the hotel room.
Hotels are a perfect thing. They will never go away. Every hotel the same, whether they like it or not.
A guy named Hopper made a painting of a woman in a hotel room. She's just sitting on the bed there, looking out the window. The light is hazy, the wallpaper is yellow, and there's that stillness, that newness. That's the feeling I love.
When I walk into a hotel room, I throw my things on the bed, and then I go to the window. You always throw your things on the bed