The Fine Line
By Tom Foster
At some point in everyone’s life they come to realize several things all at once, and it’s moments like these that they begin to question: Am I really where I want to be? How would I know that? I’ve been there, repeatedly.
Now I know the thoughts that come up in light of such a statement, and I know very well that anyone who reads this, if you get the chance, will think I’m about as nutty as a Payday bar, but hear me out. I’ve said this time and time again, over and over, to people like you who either didn’t want to listen, or couldn’t comprehend and chose instead to call me a kook, a liar, a douchebag even. I’ve gotten it all, and by God I’ll no doubt get it again and again throughout my life, but guess what, I’ll still keep saying it, at least until the loop finally stops.
If it stops.
You go through life and think you know at least enough to get by, but you really don’t. I was told this by someone I can’t fully understand, and I believe it to this day, whatever day it might be to those who get to keep on living out their lives, instead of being stuck in one day, in one place or another, for as long as they can imagine.
Now I know you probably think this sounds like a movie, not one of the greats, but one that was memorable enough to warrant a dip into the old junk pile of nostalgia that goes back to only God knows when. My own is a hodgepodge of crap and other material, but honestly it’s like a briar patch in there any longer. That’s most likely why I don’t tend to venture into the darker recesses any more than I absolutely have to. But yes, it is kind of like a movie, you know, main character is a douche, has a love interest he doesn’t know about yet, an irritating sidekick that’s always there at the wrong time, and a life that, while grand in his mind, is really quite depressing.
Well, I’m two for four I suppose, three if you count the asshole that currently shares this existence with me. I don’t have a love interest that might help get me out of this current funk, though it would be nice to have someone to warm the sheets every now and then, someone that might remember me and how great I was, or wasn’t. Let’s be honest, not everyone rings the bell just right on every night, not even me.
But that ship sailed a long time ago, and despite the fun I did have when this all started, that’s kind of dried up now. Oh, women will still have something to do with me, and I can still get laid whenever I want, but the allure has kind of just, faded, for lack of a better word. I suppose when you spend a lifetime in different places but in the same day that’s bound to happen. God I’m depressed.
Oh I suppose you want to know what happened to me, why I am this way, and why I’m talking in this manner, right? Enough of this pity-party and get to the good stuff, yeah? Well this is my story, my eulogy in a way, so back the hell off and just listen, or put it down and go away, I don’t care.
So here’s how it is, I don’t work for a news station, I’m not a journalist of any sort, and I don’t have a goofy sidekick and a woman that could possibly turn my life around. I left that latter part of my life a long time ago, and at that time thought I was all the better for it.
My name is currently Rodriguez Martine, but I was born Henry Adam Dell. I suppose my initials are a bit ironic at this point, but I digress.
I currently, for this day at least, reside in Puerto Vallarta in good old Me-hi-co, or Mexico to those who might get confused by my attempt at wit. I’ve been here for all of six hours since I woke up in a dingy little basement apartment next to a local woman who, though pretty, doesn’t have a damned tooth in her head. It might be meth, it might be coke, or it might just be she’s never heard the word “hygiene” in her entire life, but the woman’s breath is like the inside of a dumpster in the middle of a heat wave. But hey, she was in a good mood when she woke up, and given that she didn’t mind going ass up and face down, it suited me just fine.
Yesterday I was in Bavaria, and the woman I woke up to then was just, yikes.
That’s how it’s been for me for a while now, I’ve kind of stopped counting how many days have passed, and how many women I’ve woken up to. From one pole to the other and from east to west I’ve had women that I never knew existed, and only a few times have I had women I’ve recognized. Don’t get me wrong, the ones I recognized were no prize really, but damn, if I could write a memoir that would actually stick, I’d probably have an instant bestseller on my hands. Oh if I could only tell you the secrets of some of the current starlets, lord a-mighty.
But enough of that, it’s not just about the sex, but that is a nice part, sometimes it gets me through the day. The real meat of this current existence however is that I can’t seem to find a way out. In the movie that conforms to my life the most, the guy at least was able to figure out what needed to be done to bring the next day rolling over like the next digit on an odometer, but I’ve yet to find anything that might aid me in the same manner.
I’ve done the altruistic and humanitarian bit, and brother let me tell you, it’s not as easy as Hollywood makes it look. If you recall that old show, Quantam Leap, with Scott Bakula and his goofy sidekick, that Dean whats-his-name, you’ll also remember that he too was supposed to make things right before “leaping” to another situation, another time, and another life. At least he got to visit different time periods, hell he even got to be a woman now and then, but I think I’d like to pass on that particular experience. Being a man is good enough for me.
I’ve done what I can to make things better in each new spot I’ve been placed in, and man it’s a headache sometimes. Each time I’ve only ever seen my own face in the mirror, and no one has known me, no matter if they knew someone that interacted with me the day before, which is funny, because the day before never happens any longer.
It’s always sunny, a bit balmy, and with a few clouds drifting in from the west that look vaguely like faces when I’m placed in a position to see them clearly. The date is always March 25th, and the time I wake up, well, that at least varies, but it’s always some time before five o’ clock in the morning.
At one time I woke up in a weather station situated up at the north pole for shit’s sake, snuggled into a cot meant only for one with a very fetching graduate student. The mystery of how I’d gotten there was pretty commonplace to the student, her name was Emily I remember, and I was her teacher, but to me it was hard to imagine. How does one just appear somewhere, and how do the people other than myself know that it’s natural?
If I was really paranoid I might call that a cover up, but honestly, I don’t subscribe to the Roswell Literary Group. I tend to want things to make sense, but I’ve gotten over that now. The year when I somehow slipped into this weird little crack in time and space was 2012, though I kind of wonder when it might be now, if things have really moved on without me. I’m not conceited enough to think that they can’t, I can accept that the world still turns, but in all truthfulness my mind is still attempting to wrap around the fact that I’ve been forgotten so many times that not even a hint of me remains in the world once I wake up the next day.
But that’s how it happens.
Part of me would like to believe it’s some vast, unknowable government conspiracy bent on driving me crazy or experimenting in mind control of some sort. Tell me now just how ridiculous that sounds, go ahead. I’ve had trouble swallowing it for the past who knows how long, and I’m the one who thought up such a screwball theory. Throughout this entire time, however long it’s been, there has only remained one constant, and as God is my witness, I sincerely wish this bastard would leave me be. If I’m going to spend an eternity waking up in a strange place next to a strange woman then dammit I at least want some consistency. I know, weird thought right?
Anyway, this bastard, his name as he claims is Ralph, has been popping up ever since the beginning, when I first stepped into this strange gap in the time continuum. That’s my explanation, not an actual one by the way. But anyway, back to Ralph.
He’s not a bad looking fellow, kind of tall, the type that could blend into most crowds and even go unnoticed in a vacant lot, but he’s still a bit creepy. His words, the few I get, are almost always cryptic, telling me something about this is the day I get, the day I need, or some junk like that. He usually doesn’t say much of anything else, just that and something else equally as vague. It’s irritating really, but I’m always glad to see him leave.
I haven’t seen Ralph now for at least three or four cycles, and honestly I’m beginning to wonder if he’s giving up on me. Strangely enough I don’t know how to feel about that. In the beginning I would have given anything for the guy to let me be, but now, I think I’ve gotten used to him being there, like an annoying noise you can’t silence but can’t stand. Ralph’s like my white noise, and he’s just as eerie.
It’s nearing the end of this day, and I’m wondering why I even bothered to write this little piece of nothing. I won’t be able to pick it up tomorrow, as I’ll no doubt be hundreds, even thousands of miles away. There’s always the chance I’ll be only a few minutes away, but it’s not as likely. I mean come on, I can give you at least the last ten days of where I woke up, the rest is swiftly becoming a not so fond memory, other than the physical gratification of course, but let’s not get into that, I’d be writing until I finally fell asleep, and that would be an even worse waste of time.
Ten days ago, my days mind you, I woke up in one of the higher rent districts in Tokyo, and brother let me tell you, the woman I woke up next to was a freak with a capital F. It was interesting, as was the rest of the day, I went from resting in a penthouse apartment on the top of a skyscraper to jet-setting from noon to midnight with ladies who thought I was simply the hottest thing around. Going to sleep that night had been more of a passing out moment, as I’d been downing enough alcohol to put and Irishman to shame. But waking up hadn’t been that great.
The next day I woke up in a low-rent tenement in Hackensack, New Jersey. I was slapped awake that time, a full five-finger salute to the side of my head following one of the roughest sexual escapades I’ve ever been in. I swear to you now I must have gone the rest of the day with a press-on nail stuck to my ass, and a hickey the size of a tomato on the left side of my neck. It’s always sex when I wake up, no matter if it’s following a fight I don’t understand or a restful night that leads into a very good morning. My current sackmate, Mariah, made up for her rotten breath with her enthusiasm, but hells no I wouldn’t kiss her afterwards.
After Hackensack was Vancouver, Washington, a full two thousand plus miles from where I’d been born. I’m a Midwest boy born and bred, but I’ve always felt the pull of the city, which was what took me away from farm country when I was still seventeen. My parents, may they both rot in the bottles they kept themselves in, didn’t even fight it when I got myself emancipated. There’s a reason I’m so cynical, and if you really look you can see it in the bottom of each bottle my besotted sire and mother ever drank out from.
Anyway, Vancouver, right?
The woman I woke up to that day was, in my opinion, a part of the Prozac nation. Twitchy, amped up, nervous all the time, a true member of the better living through chemistry association. This woman must have had a pill for every last aspect of her day. Even in bed it seemed like she needed a pill. If that was why she was a bit, l don’t know, off, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
After that, oh hold on, my memory is getting a bit fuzzy these days, I want to say it was some no name little burg in Poland, but that could have been just a few days ago for all I’ve been paying attention. I really don’t want to remember the Polish woman, eesh. Can you say cellulite city? She was one hell of a good cook though.
I do recall Los Angeles though, God what a tense place. The bed I woke up in was only slightly removed from Watts, and believe me I know the feeling of a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. That time I woke up in a dominantly black neighborhood, and while a great deal of it was made up of hard-working, decent folk, we were still on the fringe of gangland, and apparently I was boffing the main ho of a notoriously violent drive-by artist.
I am white, not lily-white, I can tan within a half hour in the sun, but I am white enough that a person of mulatto persuasion can make me look pale. And I woke up in a black neighborhood. It doesn’t help to say I’m not racist, which I’m not, but in that place, I felt my heart pounding a mile a minute each second I walked around the ‘hood. With a nine millimeter thrust in the front of my pants, a backwards cap denoting the Raiders, whom I can’t stand, and a heavy jacket that would have been ridiculous even in colder weather, I spent that single day wondering just where the fatal bullet was coming from. But obviously I’m here, and nothing happened, other than the main ho, her name was Taneesha, yeah I know, bitching me out for this and that, mostly about cigarettes, her hair, her nails, and all the other beauty regimens she felt I should pay for. Needless to say I was actually glad when that day was over.
Next up was one of the strangest days I’ve experienced in some time. My eyes opened to see a small child lying between me and the woman I’d apparently appeared by, a younger blonde I found out was named Millicent, an odd name, but still kind of nice. The child, Nathan, was apparently my son.
Yeah, believe me, I know how that sounds.
Ralph had been showing up intermittently throughout all these days, and he was in full force this day as “Uncle Ralph”, which only compounded the strangeness. Millicent treated him as though we’d both known him for a lifetime, and Nathan had cooed and burbled at Ralph as though he was the most trustworthy person on the face of the earth. It jarred me to say the least, that I had a son. A part of me almost didn’t want to give it up, but the rest of me knew I wouldn’t have a choice. That day was hard to leave, especially when I was able to see just how much Millicent loved me, or thought she did.
You know, I’ve tried to figure out if these people still exist the next day? That’s really when Ralph steps in, he lets me know that this is not allowed. That leads me to believe that they do, since he doesn’t seem like he’d be interested in keeping me from harm. He seems more like he’s there to keep me on the straight and narrow, nothing more. I do wonder though what might happen if I pushed my limits. I’m a little nervous putting this all down, thinking like maybe he might just decide to pop in for a surprise visit or something, mash my fingers into the keyboard perhaps to prevent this from going any further.
It’s not a nice thought, but I can’t help it.
Anyway, the next one I woke up to was in Nepal, and she was fourteen God help me. It was considered natural in that part of the world I guess, but to me it was just flat out creepy. That was a long, long day, and not just because of my own inner issues with being married to a child. God it still gives me the creeps just thinking about it.
But moving on, right?
Next was some little mud and straw shack out in the wilds of Ghana, and another black woman, but one that didn’t worry so much about her appearance. I suppose that goes both ways, but this woman was actually not too bad. Oh, did I mention that each place I appear in, I somehow speak the language of their indigenous peoples? In Tokyo I understood and spoke everything from Japanese to Russian, and given that I was apparently something of a businessman, I guess it was fortunate. But speaking Swahili, boy that was, ah, interesting.
Going down the top ten once again I was in Austria just the other day, and hoo boy, I’d like to go back. I woke beneath a mammoth pair of, ah, well, hell I’ll just say it, I woke up under a rack that would have made Anna Nicole Smith weep with envy, and a body that would have been accepted without reservation by any modeling agency on the planet. And not only had Inga been a smoking hot fox, but she’d been a good cook, an insatiable lover, and by and large, someone I could really talk to.
I didn’t want that day to end, and despite doing everything right, being nice to people, being charitable, running around with Inga to do every last NICE thing I could, it still ended. Shit, even Bill Murray eventually got to settle down with his dream girl. I don’t even get a second chance with mine.
But like I already said, yesterday I was in Bavaria, and the nearly toothless hooker I woke to was a nightmare, a kind of payback that I don’t even know what I did to deserve. They say that karma, or fate, is a bitch, and I’d like to amend that. She is a vengeful, hung-over, that time of the month, break it off and stick it in, conniving, man-hating bitch. I’ve done everything right so many times that I can feel a perma-smile trying to etch itself onto my face at times, and still I can’t catch a break. I’ve waited patiently, longingly, never asking for anything and taking all the shit life and fate can both dish out, and still I’m stuck in this cosmic schtick for no better reason I can see than to torment me until I break. Well guess what? It’s going to take more than life can give.
This woman’s breath was worse I think than today’s woman, but at least she had a couple of teeth in her head, I mean when she opened her mouth it didn’t look like a black hole staring back at me. I’ve kind of wondered today how this woman, Mariah, eats anything that’s not a liquid or a soup. Trust me, you don’t want to watch her gumming a chicken leg, it brings to mind some images I’d rather not share. She’s a good lay, but that’s about it. Her cooking sucks next to Inga’s, and the physical part of it, well, let’s just say I’m glad she doesn’t try to talk much and keeps to herself for the most part. If I had to kiss that mouth, ugh.
Today I didn’t do anything NICE, I didn’t do anything BAD either, I just kind of went about my business, I’m a chicken farmer by the way, and avoided pissing anyone off too much. Honestly I used to see Puerto Vallarta as a nice, happening place where Spring Break was king and the liquor flowed like water for anyone with the cash and the lack of shame to enjoy. I’ve been here more than once and never seen where I live now, but then I was always more interested in the night life and the tourist attractions, namely the women that did have teeth and were kissable. I’ve never seen this place, and up until now I can say I’m glad.
You wouldn’t believe how boring the life of a chicken farmer is, walking around feeding the little clucking, pecking, shitting things. Personally I prefer my chickens dead and crispy fried, original or barbecue style. But here, with feathers, beaks, and an overall nasty attitude, I’d just as soon punt one of the little bastards as look at it. Well, it won’t last much longer I suppose, and then, well, I’ll move onto the next woman and the next life. Maybe I’ll luck out again like I did with Inga, or maybe it’ll just get worse. Who knows?
I’m starting to get a little tired, probably going to head off to sleep and whatever comes next soon enough. I hope this plan I came up with today works, otherwise I’ll just keep writing for no reason and getting more and more pissed off that I can’t break this moronic cycle. I’m going to take this memoir with me to bed tonight, and hopefully it will be there with me in the morning. If nothing else, if it does remain behind when I’m gone, it might just confuse the hell out of Mariah and whomever she’s left with. You see, I get the feeling that one of two things happens when I go to sleep.
Obviously I move around, though given the choice I would have stayed with either Inga or Mllicent. What I can’t figure though is who I’m replacing, or if I’m replacing anyone at all. What if, now just follow me for a moment on this, what if the worlds I’m bouncing into every night are either non-existent and void until I arrive, and then gone once I’m taken away, or, even wilder, there are others like me, switching out night after night, but with no real knowledge of how or why? Ralph of course wouldn’t be the only person out there keeping tabs on us, there are more if my theory is correct, but just think about it. The slate has to be wiped clean for each woman I sleep with, and then something written into their lives that let’s them recognize me as their own husband, boyfriend, or whatever. And my son of a few days back, Nathan? I have to admit, if my theory has any merit that bothers me more than a little. He was a cute kid.
Moving on though. If I’m right, and this memoir stays with me, then I will be, well, um, I’ll be right to start with, but, I’ll also, ah, I’ll be scared shitless. Because it means there is no real control in the universe. If this is true and what’s happening to me is real, it means that anything and everything is up for grabs, and no one is safe from this happening. I mean think about it, think about all you do in a day, all the people you interact with even on the most minute level. Everything changes with the most unsuspecting deviance to the routine, and in that one instant, that one defining moment, the fine line between order and utter anarchy is breached, and to be dead honest, true to the soul and bone and whatever else honest, it scares me to think what might happen if that line is crossed by more than one person at a time. It terrifies me to think that such a line might be treated with such indignity, with all that’s riding on it.
I digress again, because I’m starting to scare myself, and Mariah is calling me to bed in her broken, garbled, toothless language. But if this comes with me, I will add to it, and I will continue to catalogue what I’ve done and seen. Trust me on this, the fine line between chaos and order won’t be broken by me, at least not willingly. Someone’s got to keep this place in check.
And it might as well be me.
Good Night, pray for me,
(Henry Adam Dell)
* * *
I’ve been awake for an hour and a half now. The woman next to me is someone I don’t know, but she is at least very pretty, a little heavy, but I can get over that. What I can’t get over is the simple truth: I failed.
The memoirs of yesterday didn’t make it along for the trip, even though my memories did. I wonder what might happen if I try telling my story aloud? Would Ralph come out and stop me? I don’t know, but it’s tempting.
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