My heart has a hole and black blood runs out of it hot.
Sometimes life looks like black and white. Other times I can't stand the vivid, vibrant, melting glow of everything. The city is a beast but it's sleeping. Life is a dragon's dream. In the heat the black tar of the streets steams up like waves and it looks like the asphalt is churning and moving. The city realigns itself when I'm not looking.
I have a little gun. A little needle gun and when I'm not using it I plug it into the cigarette lighter so its battery can charge.
The battery runs down fast when it gets used.
The cigarette lighter is blessedly reliable.
The rest of this car is not. This car is a piece of shit.
But I'm running it into the ground. It has no oil, just cylinders thunking and gears grinding. No tune ups, no scheduled maintenance, no time, no money, no inclination. One day this car will die with a hot exhalation of fumes. Like the dragon dying in its sleep.
When that happens I'll steal a new car. Maybe I'll steal a nicer car. Maybe go to the parking lot of an ad agency and boost a fucking silver bullet of a BMW. I'll smoke in the car with the windows up and the air conditioner blowing jets of ice at me. And when that car dies, I'll steal another.
Some of the new jet cars look fun. The partners at big law firms flit by in the skies and look down at the rest of us, still earthbound and melting on the serpentine freeways. Maybe I'll steal one of those. Enough time has gone by, apparently, for BMW and Mitsubishi to get back into the aircraft business.
I used to drive a van. A delivery van and we delivered scooters to old people. I wore a khaki colored jumpsuit with lots of pockets. The old people were so happy when we showed up, each one hoping that it was finally their day to get a scooter. They hoped that the government that they'd spent so much time and energy and blood defending, had finally approved the requests, stamped the documents and dispatched us to deliver the prized scooters.
Old people make me feel funny. Make me curl my toes up inside my boots. Each and every day, at each and every one of the homes, they'd be sitting there in the lobby, waiting. Eagerly waiting. And for every one of them that we made happy, we made the rest of them sad and there's nothing worse that a sad old person. I always wanted to look each and every one of them deeply in their old, saggy eyes. I wanted to smile and say, "Be happy. You're going to die soon. What's the point of spending your time being sad?"
But I never did that.
One of the nights I still had a few scooters left in the back of the van and I went home and my neighbors were sitting in front of their shitty apartment when I was walking up to mine. They were outside because the power was out again in the city and in the early evening the apartments were still filled with heat from the day.
My neighbors were terribly cliche Mexicans. He was named Chezz and he was huge and his head shaved bald and he had Catholic prison tats. His girlfriend was Celia and she had a face of funny angles and eyes that were too big but the other shapes of her body were nice. When they would have sex it was very loud and grunty, but it didn't last long.
Chezz and Celia were sitting outside on the concrete drinking beers from cans and there were a couple of Chezz's friends there. They looked just like him but smaller.
They nodded to me and I nodded back. Since the power was out, Chezz had his shotgun out and it was laying across his lap. It was a small, ugly shot gun.
I went into my apartment and it was hotter than a room so small should be. So I opened the two windows and went back outside. I lit a cigarette and then Chezz called to me. He offered me a beer. I took one and thanked him.
He introduced his friends whose names I don't remember. They made fun of my jumpsuit. I told them how useful all of the pockets were. Chezz helped me out and agreed that the pockets seemed very useful.
We drank a lot and then they asked my why I wear a jumpsuit in the first place. I told them about the old people and they didn't - or pretended that they didn't - believe me, so we stumbled out to the van and I opened it up and dragged out one of the scooters. I set it up and then Chezz had the greatest fucking idea.
We set up the other scooters and we started to race up and down the street. The little electric motors make a great ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZing noise when they're cranked all the way up and we raced each other up and over curbs and through bushes and Chezz ran into a telephone pole.
And this is how I know that god has a sense of humor that only he finds funny.
A completely random cop car turned onto the street and when they saw us zigzagging around like locust, the car flipped on its lights. One of the cops hopped out and he seemed to think that we'd stolen the scooters. That we had been looting since the power was out and he pulled out his gun and impolitely yelled, "Get off the scooters and get on the fucking ground!"
Well, one of Chezz's friends had a pistol and he pulled it out and pointed it back at the cop and said, "These are our fucking scooters so you get on the fucking ground!"
And then the other cop got out of the car and with a shotgun and he said, "No, you fucking get on the fucking ground!"
And then Chezz zipped up in front of the cop car and he stood up on his scooter and leveled his shotgun and said, "No, you fucking get on the fucking ground motherfucker!"
And I waived my arms in the air and said, "Hey, it's okay. These are my scooters. Look at my jumpsuit!" and I pointed to the patch on my jumpsuit that said Scooter Movers, which was the name of the business.
And then the cop with a little gun said to the cop with the big gun, "Fuck, that one even stole a uniform!"
They radioed for back up and Chezz and his friends traded permeating verbal harpoons with the cops until the thwut-thwut of a helicopter can from overhead and then the cop chopper flipped on its big light and shined it down on all of us.
"We have a fucking helicopter so get down on the fucking ground already!" one of the cops shouted.
Chezz and his friends, not having a helicopter of their own with which to match the one-ups-manship of the cops, just started shooting. And shooting and shooting and the cops were shooting and I think that the helicopter was shooting and I turned my little scooter around and zipped the fuck away from there as fast as it would go. The sizzling zzzzzzzzzzz of the motor drown out by the boom-chick-boom of the shot guns.
The helicopter came after me.
It threw a wide halo of light around me as I fled away. The swirl from the rotors was blowing trash and dust all around me and overhead I could hear its voice booming, "Pull the scooter over and get on the fucking ground!"
But I couldn't. I was filled with beer and fear and adrenaline and anger. Anger at my shitty job and my shitty apartment and my shitty life and this shitty city that didn't even have enough electricity. And I was angry at people who were better looking than me and had more money than me. I was angry at a system that didn't even allow guys in jumpsuits to electric-scooter race gangbanging thugs in the street at night while drunk.
So I zagged down an alley and the light followed me and I zigged through an intersection with real cars hurtling by and the light followed me and I imagined that the little electric motor was glowing red because I was racing as fast as the thing could go and then ...
Then a cop car pulled out in front of me and stopped and my scooter smashed into the side of the car and I flew across the hood and one leg of my jumpsuit ripped open against the handlebar of the scooter and I landed face-to-asphalt on the other side of the car and I slid for ten feet. I was a crumpled bloody, faceless pile and blood was gushing out of me all over the place and instead of tossing me into the back of the cop car, they waited for the ambulance to show up.
So, then I was in the hospital with one wrist handcuffed to the bed and I was all good and doped up for a couple of days and I think some different lawyers and cops and doctors and nurses came in to see me, but I don't remember.
But I do remember, sort of like a fever dream, a girl with very red hair. It was short red hair and I remember that she had a little silver hoop through her lower lip. She never said anything. I would wake up and think that I'd dreamed her. I wish I had only dreamed her.
One night she was in my room, with her lips and her hot breath very close to my ear and she said to me, "Escape."
When I woke up again she was gone but the word pulsated on the side of my brain like a burnt heart beating. Escape.
She came to me again. In the daylight. I wasn't as doped up and even though my face ached, I said, "Who are you?"
She smiled and leaned down right above my face, so that her hair fell around us and our noses almost touched. "Escape?"
"Yes," I said.
This made her eyes smile and she looked at me like a lover.
"I want to escape. Who are you? Will you escape with me?"
And then, quite suddenly, she left.
A man came into the room. He was in a suit. He looked like a lawyer, he had that look, like he drove a flying BMW. He pulled a chair up next to my bed. He set his briefcase on his lap and opened it.
"Mister Masterpool," he said, "I have an offer for you."
"Okay," I said.
"Do you want to be on TV?"
I thought about what my face must look like, all broken and sour and bruised and asphalt-y. "Why?" I asked.
"Well, your antics the other night were caught on film. We have a deal with the police department. Every car, helicopter, gun and uniformed officer is fitted with a camera so we catch everything. We aired your segment and people just loved it. You're huge on the internet. We want to do a show on you. You and your fleeing-from-the-cops shenanigans."
"But I don't really have any shenanigans."
"No, our people say you're a natural. So that's the deal."
"What's the deal?"
"We'll fit you with a camera and you just do your thing."
"But what's my thing?" I ask.
"You know, doing stupid things and nearly getting caught."
"People will love it. Here, sign this." He handed me a clip board and a very nice pen.
Then the red haired girl came back into the room. She looked staright at me and mouthed the word. The word she mouthed was: escape.
"Who's she?" I asked.
"She'll be your field producer. She doesn't talk much." The lawyer pointed at the clipboard. "Sign, sign please."
So I signed and the lawyer stood up. "So understand, you're going to be a real fugitive. So the danger you're in is real. In a few minutes they'll start the surgery and then your producer will find a way to get you out of here."
A nurse can into the room with a long syringe and pulled up my sleeve to shoot me up in the arm.
"What surgery?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah, sorry. They're going to take out your eyes and replace them with cameras. It was in the contract you signed."
The nurse injected me and I faded to black.
I've been two seasons on the lamb.
I want it to stop but it won't.
I have no friends and no money. The implants don't focus as fast as my eyes used to. When the streets get hot and pour waves of heat back at the sun, I can barely see.
I can't hide because I'm on TV once a week and the cops are always just a couple hours behind. When the show got good ratings in the first season, the FBI was called in. The season finale was me leaping off a bridge onto a passing tanker bound for the high seas. Most people had to wait months to see what happened. I only had to wait for that terrible two seconds while I fell from the bridge onto the steel deck of the ship and one of my legs broke in half with a sickening sound.
At the beginning of the second season, the government revoked all of my rights under the PATRIOT Act. So if they catch me, I won't even get a trial.
I'm always on the run.
Sometimes she comes to me at night. Her hair as red as ever and her lips plump and her eyes beckoning.
"What's your name?" I ask.
She never says.
I call her Escape.
After my leg broke and the bone shot out through my skin, she brought me a doctor who screwed steel pins into my bone with a machine like a drill. She had stoked my sweating face and smiled at me. She smiled at me like she loved me.
Meanwhile, I was getting famous. There were billboards and commercials.
I stole cars and I stole food and I stole the occasional bottle of whiskey.
Sometimes when people on the street recognized me, they would cheer or take pictures with me. Sometimes they would give me money. Sometimes people would offer to let me stay with them for a night of two. Most of these were out of work actors trying to get on TV. One was a hot young blonde with a sort of plastic face and vapid eyes and she took me back to her little apartment and when she peeled her clothes off she guided my hands over her soft body. She insisted that we have sex in front of a mirror so that I could watch everything. So that you could watch everything, dear viewer.
The next time that Escape came to me she looked kind of hurt. I hoped that it was jealousy, but she didn't say anything. She stroked my face, which had never healed quite right. "One day," she said, "you'll escape us all."
I flee all the time. Even when I'm not being pursued.
I want to make this stop.
But I can't.
One day I steal a green pickup and in the glove box is the little needle gun. I plug it into the cigarette adapter and its little light blinks on, showing me it's charging.
A few days later I get the idea.
The next time Escape comes, I'm going to take her hostage and force her to make it stop.
But she doesn't come.
So I drive around and I look for her. She must live in the city, right? I drive up into the hills and look for her. I look for the kind of house that she might live in. I start breaking into houses. I wave the little gun around and people scream and some of them shoot at me and sometimes I shoot back.
I read in the paper that the ratings have gone through the roof.
One night I rob a liquor store and take cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey. I find a U-haul on the street and I steal it. I park it under an overpass and crawl into the back. Luckily its not that full and there's a mattress in it. I curl up on the mattress and fall asleep.
And then she comes to me.
I open my camera eyes and even in the darkness of the back of the truck, I can see her red hair burning brightly.
"I want to escape this," I say to her. I fumble in my pocket, trying to find the little gun. But it's gone.
I look up at her and she is holding it.
She looks down at me and it's the same kind of tender look that she always gives me. She presses the sharp, thin barrel over my heart.
"I want you to escape, too."
She shoots me and it rips a hole through me. I can feel my blood gushing out all over the mattress and she kisses me on my sweaty forehead. She sets the gun on my chest and I hear the sound of her leaving.
"Escape ..." I try and call after her.
I manage to crawl after her and pull myself out of the truck. I fall down onto the ground. She seems to be gone.
I'm wheezing and my heart is rippling around the hole. I'm pouring blood out onto the asphalt. I crawl on my hands and knees out from under the overpass and I flop onto my back on the hot asphalt and look up at the sky, only the lights of the city are too bright and I can't see and stars.
When I try to breathe, I make a gurgling noise.
I press my hands to my chest and then look at my palms. I'm pumping blood that is pure black. And it's hot.
I smile. I smile at her memory. I smile at this gift. She is my Escape. She is my escape. This is my escape.
My heart has a hole and black blood runs out of it hot.