Nothing was still enough. Concentrating on an object wasn’t happening. I saw a few old couples standing around outside a burger spot talking about where they were going to go next. How could they talk about that I thought? Just go. Move. Get the hell out of where you were standing. My eyes felt heavier than usual. The sky above wasn’t full black but broken up in pixels like what happens when acid starts to kick in. I was sober since I started working in the office – seeing as how they had drug testing in place – not out of personal choice. I could smell everything. One of the busses had come unglued from the wires above and the driver was out trying to get them back on and get it all going again. I knew the silence everyone was experiencing inside. Walking was very slow for me. Soon I’d have enough to buy another bike and get around the city like it was meant to be got around on – even those damn hills I used to curse -at least they kept me in shape. My editors are going to hate me for these dashes but it’s only the first draft so let them play with it. Concentration was illusive. I walked coat buttoned down Market wondering how far I could get before wanting to turn home to the comfort of Lila grading her papers and the stillness of the couch – that had to be inside before wanting to turn around, but it wasn’t there. Everything was a blur. I stopped inside a phone booth to give her a call and let her know that everything was just fine – that I needed to stretch or something. Can’t remember what I said but I know she wasn’t listening enough to let me pull her out of what she was trying to get at. So hard to just be on one thing – Lila always could do that. Those kids were lucky – I’m sure they weren’t thinking of her – well, there was probably one or two boys thinking of her with their first crushes – but she was so given to her work and felt that she was there to make some kind of dent in the world. I smiled while I hovered on that thought but couldn’t hold it. Not one bit. I found myself back in North Beach somehow – must have just walked there for days. Leaning up against a wall and looking around with the same chicken head motion as I was, I found Valerie looking off into the night searching for what appeared to be the same amount of grounds as I was looking for. Not sure how I found her – wasn’t really looking for a person, but San Francisco was kind of like that – small enough for the people you were looking for to appear if you kept wandering long enough. The city closes in on you quick, because you accept the open arms you think are hugging you until you realize that it’s too tight of a hug. By then it’s too late.
That kid looked tweaked out if you ask me. His head was moving every which way. He was glad to see me. Someone familiar.
“What are you doing up over here,” I asked. “I thought you’d be tucked in with your woman by this time. Someone’s going to get a spanking.”
He didn’t get the joke at all. Damn guys take things the wrong way so many times it doesn’t pay to have a sense of humor on most things. What can you do. He’s stammering all over the place about not being able to concentrate. I felt the same – it was what had me up against the wall to tell you the truth, but I don’t like sharing moments like that with people I only kind of know. I’m made that mistake to let friends inside of me too easily, so I let him think he was alone in his thoughts and had him assume because of my fangs and hair and skin that I was just doing what most vampires would be doing at this time of night. I really don’t like that term you know – so many people are calling themselves vamps these days – damn Anne Rice and her Tom Cruise creations – though I liked that movie no doubt it would plant the seeds in someone’s head to start putting out more vampire fiction in another 20 years or so. My ways weren’t fiction at all – I just lived that live so I would have something to write about. It was all moving through my head quick – digesting so much information at work was pushing out the stuff that really mattered to me. In those early days though we had no idea what was happening to us, only that something was.
I guess people come together on things that aren’t right. A strange way to gather and exchange information if you ask me – though not sure you’re asking me anything. I missed getting high and thought about moving back towards that, but hell, what was I going to do – be 40 plus years old shoving my ass into people’s face and still expect them to pay for it? I had to make a career change and that’s what I was in the middle of – nowhere else was I going to make this kind of money for not doing that much. Hell, I was just on the computer all day – not sure what they were doing, but pretty sure they were watching. Thing is they said whenever we wanted, we’d be able to go back into the office and get on the computers. That we could put in our time however we saw fit to do so.
“Want to head into the office,” Alberto said to me. “Seems like we could knock out some hours now and have the better part of the day to ourselves.”
Sounded like a plan to me. Something inside got a little happy when he mentioned getting back onto the computers, like the feeling that I used to get when I hung up the phone and knew that my dealer was on his way. Minutes to go until I got that fix – though now I’m not sure what I was going to get a fix for, only that my body understood where it needed to go. We split a cab down Montgomery and into the quite night of the shut down financial district. They were filming some movie and had giant lights set up to make downtown San Francisco look like a gotham city of some kind. People like to imagine the American Metropolis and someplace mysterious and haunting, and with the right director it often is – but movie lights and production companies of this scale don’t follow most of us around, so when humans try to instill this in their everyday lives, it comes off more like a low budget porno than what you imagine to unfold on the screen. We zoomed through – the cabbie knew the short-cuts. Off and out south of Market street and into the office. I wore the key around my neck like I did when I was a kid. Latch key kids seem to need that weight to keep them from floating away. The lights were on, food was in the fridge, and we plopped ourselves back in front of the computers. Alberto made a call to his lady who seemed to be a little pissed that he decided to work away from her – but what could she do? Nobody controls anyone who doesn’t want to be controlled. The computers were on. Now, the new thing were these chat rooms were people were just hanging out and talking with each other all over the country. New websites were being created all the time – but in these days, there were no adds on them and most of them were being created by individuals and not companies. Nothing was branded at this point. Nothing.
Above us, video cameras rolled. Has anyone told you that we were being watched the entire time while at work? There were cameras everywhere recording our every move – Not sure what they were studying or why – Our first thoughts were that it was for security reasons but that didn’t make as much sense now. Nothing was making sense, except that it was quite obvious that both Alberto and I, were becoming less and less able to deal with what was happening in the real world and more comfortable when we were sitting in front of the computers. Looks like we weren’t alone, because Pete the Wolf and Vince came in not long after that, followed by a few other the other employees who just couldn’t stay away.
What the hell was happening to us?