It is 12:02 P.M. This is what the blinking display on the clock radio says.
They cut the power a moment ago and the radio quit, the battery apparently too low to pick up immediately.
Now I am waiting.
I sit in a half-lotus position facing the front door. Sitting with my shoes off and enjoying the scent wafting from freshly laundered clothes, drifting through the catalogue of memories from this place.
I am waiting for the boot on the door.
The black, shiny boot. One of a pair of Danner boots, steel-toed leather and 450 grams of Gore-Tex scything through the door with no warning just like on ‘Cops.’
Carving through the cheap pressed wood frame like a chainsaw through flesh, splinters flying in a moment of Brownian motion. The acrylic green of the doorframe mixed with motes of white pine and low gloss latex paint.
Sun shining though the door and illuminating the silhouette of the trooper clad in Nomex and low-viz tactical black ballistic nylon body armor. There will be a line of the figures, each relying on the momentum of his predecessor to carry the breach through to tactical completion.
Once the room is secure and bathed amid the steady flow of radio traffic and the unnatural silence of the moments after another man will arrive. He will wear an unremarkable cheap suit of indistinct origin.
This man will be from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The man will pull a neatly folded bit of paper from his pocket and inform me that I am being deported.
That my six month tourist visa has been revoked.
That the United States of America does not tolerate aliens entering the country illegally.
That my request for political asylum has been denied in absentia.
That I will be immediately returned to the county of Los Angeles, California also known as Bear Republic.
That I am some sort of stupid motherfucker for jumping the fence a second time.
That the INS had no truck with dropping my silly asylum case because I got lippy.
I do not smile at this man as he will kick me in the jaw for my troubles.
They drag me from the second floor apartment, feet bouncing toe first on each of the steps. It occurs to me to invest in footwear more substantial than Chuck Taylor All-Stars next time out of the gate. Fuck it, too late now.
My neighbor’s teenage kid is staring at me. Standing just next to the first floor landing and fumbling for an itchy testicle through the pocket of his jeans. Leering unintentionally with mouth agape. Stupid bastard, yeah they’re dragging your laundry agitating, loud music playing, shitbag weirdo neighbor down the fucking stairs by his armpits.
He’s laughing now, quickly mashing buttons on a mobile to tell all the other Stupid Bastards. Shit for brains. As you dial, the phone begins to quiver in a motion that can only be compared to masturbation.
You’re jerking off your phone in a murderous frenzy and I am being deported. Fuck.
In six months when I hear that you have eaten a double helping of number six bird over some criminal charges stemming from a collection of child-pornography I will heartily laugh for some time.
I am another of the expatriates of California.
Unceremoniously branded across the chest with a five-inch square patch of non-recyclable nylon fabric I am chucked into the waiting van. The sticker is illegal in California because it cannot be reused and the materials from which it was born are vaguely carcinogenic. When we arrive Home they will immediately peel the stickers from our chests and set us free. Before I come to rest after arrival I will manage to collect enough lint to turn the square of residual adhesive gray. This will mark me as a recent failure, permitting my fellow citizens to pass judgment. I could walk down the middle of Melrose with a giant fucking dildo around my neck and attract less attention. The experience is comparable to having some huge goddamn neon sign over your head. It will, in four foot high electric sex maroon letters, state: “I’m an asshole. Fuck with me. No really.”
Nearly half of the square’s area is taken up by a massive grid of parallel lines. My code. Above that, typed in neat lines we have my name. Alien registration number. Court docket. Current Social Security Number. Marital Status. Blood Type. The occupation stands out in crimson against the white-silver background. Oddly, I don’t have a real occupation listed, just two words in block capital letters: SPECIAL CASE.
There is a kid with an aspirin pale face sitting across from me in the van.
Hailing from Anaheim and Imperial County, he rode the cable cars for fun and amusement as a child. He doesn’t remember when Disneyland was a one-sided amusement park and not an adjective for anything growing far beyond reasonable geographical borders to inhabit a purely psychological realm.
His mother sits at his left stroking the pale blonde hair gracing the child’s crown.
The rioters storming the ramparts and shaking down the walls of city hall are nothing but distant memories now, fading like a dust-filtered evening sky back in ’89. The taste of burning plastic mixed with the cool scent of smashed cinderblock coating the back of your throat.
Furtive eyes bouncing from each of us, she contemplates some political move that could possibly merit another trip out of our collective.
The brown heroin, brown pride, brownouts. Gun control, birth control, pest control, abortion control, rent control, population control, mind control, no control.
The two bimbos.
Addlebrained and sun-tanned, refugees of some bikini team who (if you believe it) are both ardently searching for a topic for their doctoral thesis. Or at least they were searching for one.
They’re majoring in either International Law or Porn at GWU, I can’t figure out which. I do remember oil slicks coating bodies on the beach so that we can all turn golden brown and radiate the soft glow of ultra-suede Mach 5 sex. The look that inspires thoughts of large caliber weaponry oiled with nothing but vaginal secretions and the dregs of the lotion not already sprayed onto their bodies. Through it all floats the sickly sweet perfume of fake coconut, that smell that none of us forget as if it is permanently stamped into olifactory memory. In some circles this would be considered Paradise comma Just Like We’ve Always Dreamed Of.
The pair has aimed high and tried for the Reese-Witherspoon-lawyer-mode only to fail miserably. Instead they’ve managed a decidedly low-brow Spelling Company casting call rejects. If you’re going to bring in ‘talent’ for your ‘productions’ then at least have the common courtesy to set them up with decent cover stories. The one with the four-foot long leopard tail and cat ears I think may have a problem getting through Customs when we get Home. From what I hear they have been cracking down on the IM crowd recently. It strikes me suddenly that these two aren’t even old enough to remember what ‘IM’ used to mean, ‘Implant and Modification’ all they have ever known.
The fucking lawyer. They cannot drift beyond the recent without being forgotten. Not now anyway, not sobbing softly in the back of the two-tone green and white van. He says he has a court case, he says he has a good chance of obtaining political asylum. I say he is out of his goddamn mind.
He is another of the expatriates of California.
The ad executive.
This one is hard to read. He has the weathered face and hard eyes pulled down by too many days squinting into the sun and concentrating on detail. He isn’t an ad executive. I don’t particularly care what he is, but he certainly doesn’t determine the placement of some dude’s dick relative to the center of a billboard to achieve maximum visual effect for a living.
This is a holding pen for both my fellow deportees and I. Chain link fence eight foot tall and ten or fifteen feet from the tarmac. About seven hundred square feet of dusty ground, shoots of grass coming up around the weather-beaten picnic tables. This will be home until they can bring the chartered autonomous cargo plane in and pack us all onboard. It may be a matter of hours. Personally I am hoping for them to take us just after sunset so that we can fly west into perpetual evening.
The tables came from California, you can tell. They are the compressed garbage plastic art jobs that used to be all the rage when I was a kid. They’d take and dredge up a few tons of plastic out of the landfill, neutralize any ‘biological’ problems and then pour it all into molds. Once done there you’d have a picnic table, or a desk or whatever else. I always maintained that they looked like they were made out of dog shit and melted crayons.
The one I am sitting at has a doll’s head staring up at me from the table. Half of the face had the heating element to it, burned black and smooth against the surface. The curve of the cheek runs beneath a clear mass of plastic wrap picked at by countless hands.
I can see why they wanted the head. The eyeball. This ridiculous and unnatural blue eyeball that won’t blink and sits judging the loser reject about to have their ass sent Home post haste.
Maybe it’s not like that. Maybe the ones that came before me were trying to take her home somehow. She’s fractured and broken, burned bad and missing most of her soul.
Just like the rest of us. I sat at this table the last time I was at the airport. This face haunted me for the following weeks.
“I hate that face.” The voice is mixed with the wind although still low and thready. The kind of thing you’d expect from one of those avant garde commercials. Like the ones about the common man’s desire for tits, ass, explosions-a-go-go, a bitchin’ ride and an attaché case made from leather so supple you’d think it was cut from the calf not five minutes ago. I look up and find the quote-unquote ad executive staring me down.
“I saw her the last time.” I say and then pause. “I came to say goodbye this time.”
“Special case eh?” He slides the words down a scale in a way that says he wants to talk and isn’t sure about where we go with things next. It makes me uncomfortable because the tone projects a demeanor that screams undercover law enforcement officer.
“Advertising project manager huh?” I spit back referring to his own listed occupation.
“It is sort of magenta,” and he is on to something there. A something stamped out in 72-point bold Hattenschweiler.
“Yours I think is sort of a misnomer.” I mutter quietly though enough to be heard.
“Fair enough.” Pause. Fumbling in the relative silence of the single runway airport I manage to fish out a pack of cigarettes and offer him one.
“Why are you being deported?” He refuses and around the cupped hand and lighter I ask the question that bonds us all together. Inhale.
“You smoke?” By his tone I take it that he thinks this is amazing.
“Huh.” He means that this is no-shit, fucking amazing.
“Huh because it’s dumb or because it’s illegal at home?” Well, it is slightly amazing.
“I see.” I don’t, really.
“So.” He knows this was clumsily inserted, but it gets the conversation back on track a little faster. “What’re you going back for?”
“Two dollars.” I enjoy telling this story more than you would think. More than you would think given that it is the primary reason I am sitting here.
“They’re booting you for two dollars?”
“It took them six months to process a request for a copy of a form that I had a copy of but couldn’t use. See, they only take copies if the form was copied at an authorized INS copy center. I got pissed off and pissed on the desk of the district manager.” So ends my tale.
“Pissed on, as in urinated?”
“Yes.” I give a subtle smile, drag heavily and want for a decent cup of coffee.
“I see.” He doesn’t really, but he imagines it instead. The image blossoms full scale in his head and his face brightens for a moment before hardening again.
“The problem is that you have to submit two copies of the form, one you make a copy of the original of and then submit along with the form, the other you retain as your receipt after the original and first copy have been stamped. The only reason that they do it is to charge you two dollars to make a copy. It’s all bullshit. What about you?” Finishing the second cigarette while babbling, I try to concentrate on the hazy shapes in a hanger on the other side of the runway. Despite this new source of input, my hand continues to work at the ball of plastic securing the doll's head in the table.
“Where’s she at?” I look around and then glance at his tag again, it says single.
“Gone. She had blue eyes. From Vermont. We were coming back.” He stops and stares off into distance at the sound of a turboprop on the other side of the runway. The eyes harden, the body stiffens and I know this is not a cop. If he is I’d be amazed to think that this sort of acting talent was being wasted in front of my eyes. You look at this man’s face right now and the only thing you can think of is fatigue. Mind numbing, soul snatching fatigue that will be borne out simply because it is the only thing left. The end of the thought is announced from a sigh and pours forth, “not anymore though.”
“Sorry.” It is a token thing to say at this point. “Really.”
“S’ok.” He pushes something out that is halfway between a smile and a look of the most base pain that I have ever seen from another human. “It seems right.”
“None of us were born there. It’s fitting that we crawl home like diseased animals to die.”
“Hmm.” I agree and stare down at my plastic lover.
"When they told you that you were going." He stops to let the moment settle between the two of us. "When they told you, that you were being deported
"Yes?" Looking up I find him with tears streaming from eyes clenched shut, face to the last rays of warming sun.
"Did they call it California or Bear Republic?" A whisper, and floating on it the wind of conspiracy
"I see," again in the same quiet tone of voice as before. "Nothing's clear anymore."
"You mind if I ask you something?" My voice seems somehow out of place, strangled and not my own.
"You knew you were going to be deported when you and your wife left?"
"Yes." Something forms behind his eyes with the answer, something that pulls his mouth into a shape roughly resembling a grin. "You wanna know why?"
"Yes, I do," and find myself meaning it without actually trying.
"She didn't want to be recycled. She wanted to be buried." Stifling a laugh he places one foot on the bench opposite mine and rests his folded arms across the now braced thigh. "Soylent Green is made of people you know
"Huh." I mean that this too
is no-shit, fucking amazing. "Learn something new every day."
"It's the point of living." He smiles at this simple observation and begins to walk away, feet shuffling and kicking up halos of dust around his feet. There is something pregnant about the motion and whatever it is stops him a few steps from the table. From over his shoulder in a slight Valley
twang, "you gotta quit them coffin nails brother. All they'll do is kill ya."
Many Happy Returns.
He says nothing more, leaving me to return to picking at the plastic holding my companion's head in place. This time she will join me. This time my little Lolita and I will go home together. This time I will bury her on the beach as the sun sets, this time I will take off all of my clothes and run into the sea. The lukewarm foam and brine washing around me, stripping away the sins I carry.
We are eventually packed into the unmanned transport and strapped down.
One by one our numbers are called and we muster at the cattle gate on the tarmac side of our pen.
The madonna and her child.
The fucking lawyer.
The advertising executive.
Three college professors.
Some random idiot claiming to not only be a carpenter but married to the child and his mother.
The porn stars are pulled aside and taken to another van. So long sister.
Lifting my legs from the bottom I will float free still knowing that this illusion will be shattered the minute I peer toward the shore. This is still better than the alternative.
We are scanned and then carefully bound onto padded metal benches. The rubbery fabric is impervious to blades, nails, firearms and napalm.
I can still hold on to her and if I move quietly.
If I move quietly I can slowly stroke her hair.
As the bench is rolled uncermoniously up the cargo ramp.
Straining toward the sky to watch the clouds rolling in an infinite sea of blue
. Nothing but the sound of the waves crashing in my ears.
We are bolted to the floor of the plane together.
The doors whine shut on hydraulically driven screws. The lights go out for a moment and then click over to visceral red as the plane's engines begin to spool up for taxi.
Jolted and bounced down the runway, the sound of the four turbojets shrieking in our ears the aircraft leaps from the ground and then heels to one side.
Too much yaw.
. The 'Electrical Things That Are Quite Bad Right Now' smell.
Didn't want to go back anyway, did we baby
I don't want to die.
An autonomous cargo plane crashed shortly after takeoff from
Dulles International Airport today, killing all 187 on board.
The passengers were part of an Immigration and Naturalization
Service deportation action under the provisions of the newly
reorganized 'Operation Gatekeeper.'
The deportees were being shuttled to the Bear Republic and
were scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles last night.
The Organization of American States declined comment on questions
concerning the four other fatal deportation flight crashes since
the inception of the program two months ago.
Live Crash Scene and Remains Recovery Footage!
Please Insert Card.