The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 8
External, non-chemical elements capable of altering mood and behavior come from multiple primary sources and utilize multiple delivery systems, meaning: no one had to tell Michele I wasn’t right for her. She’d known it in her bones all along. Words had merely activated that knowledge and by now, late March—desire poisioned from within and without—she moved zombie-like through the house, or watched TV, or stayed late at school working on her doctorate.
I’d known something all along as well: my happiness and contentment and joy depended upon staying within audio range of voices speaking outside the realm of fear and social duty. So I stayed inside my novel. Day and night.
This didn’t mean we weren’t getting along, or not speaking, throwing shit around the house. But Michele had indeed swallowed the second pill and unpredictably slipped into states in which she believed I was using her. Yet the second I’d offer to find work, pay my share, or just leave, she would have none of it. Seemed keeping me around, whoever and whatever I was, was all that mattered, and on April 1, Michele presented me with a gift to that end.
Except for a sluggish first chapter my rewrite was winning high praise in Michele’s circle of published colleagues and friends. Her editorial suggestions had inspired further changes. The ending was simple, enigmatic.
So the very last thing I needed to get right before re-submitting to Knopf was the very first thing, and it occurred to me the way to do that was to emulate the style of the film the book’s title came from, that is—make the first chapter the first part of the last chapter, so that the meat of the story was flashback.
It had nothing to do with Michele, nothing to do even with Texas, but as I reworked that first chapter late one afternoon I began anticipating the freedom finishing it, sending it off would bring. Not so much a matter of moving on, this time, more a matter of motion itself, and of change.
Then, quite unexpectedly, change walked in the door wearing a red dress. Michele introduced her as Melanie, a poet and a colleague at SWTSU. “And guess what else?” asked Michele, suddenly turned sequined gown game show queen about to reveal the big prize: “She’s moving in right next door!”
Secrets. So many secrets. It seemed so odd she’d never let me read her poetry, only offered fragments of her year inside a mental institution.
Me: So you’re fixed.
Melanie: I’m… better. Haven’t you checked my medicine cabinet?
Me: I’m your secret lover, Mel, not a spy.
Melanie: Don’t go back tonight.
Melanie: No. She’ll find out. Wait. We could ditch your car.
So, secret plan concocted, we got dressed and set it in motion. I left through the backdoor, crossed the lawn, opened Michele’s backdoor, left the note (something about going to Austin) on the computer keyboard, exited via the front door, and, just like in the movies: the snag.
Me: (As Mel’s car window rolled down) Sorry, Mel. Forgot. Battery’s dead.
She got out and began looking around her trunk for jumper cables.
Too late. Michele was pulling up.
Was I really in this movie?
Michele: (Suspiciously sniffing the air) What’s going on?
Me: Battery’s dead. Melanie was looking to see if she had jumper…
Michele looked at us, figured it out, rushed inside.
Me: Well, thanks for looking.
Mel: Sure. Anytime. Well, not anytime, because I guess I don’t have jumper cables, but, do you need a ride somewhere?