The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 22
For the first time ever I felt unworthy to even exist under its pure, droning beat, let alone gaze up into its wrathful face. So much shame, guilt, worry. Even the flat, soft sand at the mouth of that backcountry canyon seemed oddly angled now, littered with higher elevation junk carried there after some freak flash flood.
Disappearing, this time, wasn’t like before. I couldn’t tell myself I’d done it to protect someone else. And even though I knew Sandy would get it, in some way—even have fun with the intrigue and the secrets we shared—I had betrayed her.
I’d stolen from people I was contractually obligated to.
She wouldn’t know where the Benz was.
The cops would search my room.
It would appear as if I’d had every intention of returning.
It was complex film noir stuff minus the mournful jazz soundtrack. The pin striped suits and cigarette cases and mixed up dames and white-walled Fords moved through time to late 1990’s L.A, then here—that same sleazy motel hideout in Twentynine Palms, CA.
So I drank, like before. I refused maid service, paid a week in advance. The only food I ate was barbecue flavored Ruffles potato chips and egg salad sandwiches in white, triangular plastic containers with cellophane.
On the day I knew Sandy would be flying home I hired a taxi to take me to Belle campground. Campsite #1 was open. i took it. I’d gotten new tires for the mountain bike and was set to go early the following morning.
Instead of packing up the tent, the campstove, several other items, I threw them into the big metal dumpster and closed the lid. All I took along was what my backpack carried relatively comfortably: sleeping bag, odds/ends, and enough food and water to get me to the Salton Sea.
Seemed as good a destination as any.
Another sleazy motel in Indio. Another couple of drunken nights.
Then a cab to the Morongo Casino in Cabazon.
Satellite horserace wagering from Santa Anita.
I won the only four races I played and was now back up to the amount I’d started with. The exact amount I’d stolen from the condo people.
I got back on the bike and went east on the road that paralleled the I10 to Banning, where I pawned the bike, a buck knife, a walkman and a few CDs. Then I rented another cheap motel, paid a week in advance, refused room service, drank, ate vending machine food, etc..
Two weeks later, down to about $100, I caught a Greyhound to Palm Springs, and from there, another bus back to Twentynine Palms.
Then I walked, all the way from Twentynine Palms to Amboy, a total distance of slightly less than 50 miles.
From there I walked another 25 miles along deserted old Route 66 till it hooked up with the town of Ludlow, a truck stop off I40.
Then I hitchhiked, all the way to the Promenade in Santa Monica.
And from there I called Sandy, collect:
Sandy: Where the fuck are you?
Me: I’m checking myself into a drug and alcohol rehab place. Tomorrow. It doesn’t matter where I am.
Sandy: Where in the fuck is my car?
Me: Jack’s. (I gave her the details)
Sandy: Hold on. I need alcohol. (I held on) The cops searched your room. God, I can’t believe you were living like that! I was there! They said there was no evidence you intended to… what, disappear? Except, see, no one but me knew about your camping shit. And I didn’t say a fucking word!
Me: I betrayed you. I stole…
Sandy: I protected you. The cops said if we, or they, I mean, pressed charges and they found you it was an immediate gun-to-the-head situation.
Sandy: (Crying) Just tell me something. Just admit something?
Sandy: There’s no such thing as a diamond in the rough?
Me: Listen… your world, Sandy? I can’t. I wish I so wish but I just…
Sandy: I know. (Pausing, drinking) I finished your novel.
Me: Then you can accept…
Sandy: No. I don’t know.
(Silence. Never any dial tone. Just lasting silence)
Finally I hung up, then dialed Mike, a longtime friend and collector of my visual art. He agreed to drive me to the rehab place the next day.