Seventh in a series of installments documenting my failed political ambitions, my warped sensibilities, and my Portland Trail Blazers.
I saw a school of bright blue puffer fish, off in the distance, by the coral. I decided immediately to go check them out. For some reason, I felt this was necessary. My jaws were hurting due to the amount of pressure I was biting down with on my scuba mask. I saw a pink walrus down below, on the ocean floor, playing a tiny piano and wearing a Trilby hat. The sound of the keys were muffled by the deep water, although I could still make out a lovely melody.
What? This isn’t making sense, I thought. I’d better continue towards the puffer fish. Maybe I can mess with their heads, I thought. I came close to the school of fish and reached out my hand. A fish tried to bite me, but my gloves were too thick for me to feel any pain. Ha! I laughed. The fish swam off, having lost interest in me. I saw another human to my left swimming towards me. He came closer and pushed me on the shoulder for no apparent reason. I pushed him back, with two hands. He reached towards his helmet and started to pull it off.
No! We’re too deep! This isn’t a good idea at all! I tried to wordlessly reason with the man, but he continued to pull his mask all the way off.
I floated in shock. Dad!?
He started pushing me again on the shoulder. Harder and harder, shaking me violently now.
I heard: “Tyler!”
I yelled: “WHAT!?!?!?”
I awoke on the couch in the living room of Yang’s bungalow. Yang was home, shaking me awake.
Damn, I thought. That was insane.
“Tyler!” he asked again.
“Yang! Hey man. You just get back?”
“Yes, the Cubans came back with me!” He headed into the kitchen in search of food. I sat up on the couch, rubbing my eyes. The Cubans had indeed literally just now dropped him off at the shore, as I watched them getting out of the boat with some bags, binders, and guitar cases. Yang started to fry up some bacon. “How are you?”
“Oh, fine. Thanks again for letting me stay here, it’s much nicer than at the palace.” I got up to pour some juice, looking out the front bay window at the Cubans, who were gathering their things on the deck. “Are they your friends?”
He nodded and took me out to meet them. They were dirty and unshaven, and dressed identically in denim overalls. They seemed very passive and pretended to not speak or understand English, but before long we were having an impromptu jam session on the deck of the bungalow. I found it difficult to follow the Latin rhythm. I was curious as to what involvement Yang had with these Cubans, but I didn’t want to press him for details – especially this soon after his return to the island. After all, I was Yang’s friend – nothing more, nothing less – and I felt at the time that he could spend his time with whomever he wanted, however unsavory them seemed.
I did let him know that a mysterious looking German man came around to the bungalow looking for him the other day – the day after Ruth returned to the palace. Yang silently absorbed that information with apprehension, but nothing further was mentioned, as he busied himself in his study while myself and the Cubans relaxed on the deck, drinking Bucanero beer, trying to get to know one another. One of the Cubans grabbed a Rubik’s cube out of his bag, and my deftness with the toy garnered strange appreciation among the three strange men.
Ah, yes: Ruth. I was starting to really miss her, and strangely, I didn’t feel guilty for indulging in our acute and absorbing passion. From the first moment, we connected on that supra-sensual plane, that near-mythical emotional warp zone, and it was clear from a very early moment that whatever paths we chose, there would be a collision of sorts – a supernova that was borne not of random chance, but deep, true love. You age, you gain reason, intuition, and wisdom, and one pearl clearly demonstrates that these moments become fewer and further between as you get older. I had to jump on the chance, literally and figuratively.
I said my goodbyes to the Cubans and grabbed my helmet. If I left now, I could get back to the palace by 10, I reasoned. If Ruth was still up, we could go for a late night swim. Before I jumped on the moped, I went into Yang’s study to bid him farewell and thank him for his generosity in letting me use the bungalow.
“By the way, Yang,” I told him, clutching onto my bike helmet, “What’s with the Bellybuster folder?”
He shot around and gave me a menacing glare. “What did you see??” he yelled.
I looked at him, saying nothing. He had obviously been on edge since I mentioned the strange looking German man who had come to the house, looking for him.
“Dammit! I can’t believe you went looking through my documents!”
“They were just sitting on the end table. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.” I was trying to play it cool, but I could feel my face flush bright red. I could never pull off being the smooth criminal.
Yang thought about this for a minute, and apologized for screaming at me. We were friends, after all. It was just an accident, he explained, and he was just on edge because his embassy was putting pressure on him to improve relations with that horse’s ass Mckeeva. That’s it, he promised. We shook hands, I thanked him again, and left the house, hopping on my moped and waving to the Cubans, hoping that the offer to stay at the bungalow whenever I wanted still stood.
The Cubans didn’t see me wave. They were sitting on the deck, animatedly arguing about something in Spanish, with documents scattered all over the ground. The Bellybuster folder was right there in the middle.
We spent the rest of the evening bowling, as I tried to forget the awful night at the awards ceremony. We talked about music, politics, food, space exploration, my involved attempts at wiring an expensive stereo system throughout my house, Kenny’s dapper jacket that always seemed to attract strippers, John Goodman movies, and where to find the freshest vegetables this side of the Willamette. Anything to get that awful experience out of my head, at least for the night. It worked out well – we didn’t keep score, and rolling the ball became a nuisance, as all it did was interrupt a conversation between us. Those, my friends, are the best bowling nights.
Kenny pulled up to my house, and he started to follow me into the house, as I had pestered him to help me figure out something wrong with my expensive stereo system. Something caught my eye as I walked up the driveway, though.
Northwest corner of the house. Definite movement in the bushes. I figured it might be a raccoon or something, but I still motioned for Kenny to be quiet. The damned motion light I had just installed detected us standing in the driveway and lit up the whole front yard, and we saw more movement in the corner, and a loud swishing sound. I immediately ran full force around the corner, only to see his legs briefly as the intruder jumped over the fence to the backyard. I yelled at Kenny, “Other side!” He ran towards the east side of the house, in hopes to trap him in the backyard. I live on an incline facing the Columbia River to the north, and the fence in the backyard facing south was too high to climb.
Or was it? I hopped the first fence, landing on some broken tree branches that made me stumble. I looked up to see the intruder, dressed in all black, balancing on a thick tree branch, judging the distance between the tree branch and the tall back fence. I instinctively yelled out to him, which made him turn around to see Kenny running towards the tree from the opposite direction holding a lawn chair. He tossed the lawn chair and missed, loudly crashing into the side fence and waking up the neighbor’s dog. I ran up to the intruder, hoping to catch him off guard from dodging the flying chair, when at the last second he jumped, grabbed onto the top of the high fence, pulled himself up and over, and scrambled up the hill behind my house.
Kenny and I loudly cursed, and quickly brainstormed. We decided that I would chase him up the hill and Kenny would drive his luxury sedan up to Rose Parkway, which was the street that, a few blocks south, ran parallel with the busy interstate. That’s obviously where he was headed, we thought, and so Kenny left quickly, the tires screeching around the bend as I deftly maneuvered my way up the tree and over the too-high fence. My testicles smashed against the high fence, and I screamed out in pain.
There were houses on the hill behind my property, all fenced in and arranged in an oblique fashion. Who designed this area anyways, Paul Cezanne? I raced through various backyards and through breezeways and side doors, following the sounds of that damned man who was doing something to my house in the dead of night. I lost sight and sound of him, but I continued south to Rose Parkway, where I searched in vain for a shadow. Kenny was already there, out of his car, snooping around the concrete barrier that separated Rose Parkway from the highway. I met up with him and together we looked east alongside the barrier. A dark figure was dangling off the top of the barrier, not fifty feet ahead of us.
I took off sprinting, Kenny right behind me. The intruder lifted his legs above the barrier and was just about to thrust his whole body over when I leaped and grabbed something. I clenched down hard with my fist and pulled hard. A black stocking cap came off his head, and I angrily threw it into the detritus below.
“Dammit! Lift me up,” I directed Kenny, and he boosted me up so I could hang on the barrier and look over onto the highway. I hung there for a second and focused. A slight figure had ran through traffic and was now on the opposite side of the busy street. Without her hat, I saw the back of her head. There was a ponytail.
The intruder was a woman.
I dangled on the barrier a few more seconds, only to watch her jump the opposite barrier and run through the forest that extended for miles beyond the highway.
She was long gone.