Deep Ellum, Downtown Dallas.
Tuesday morning . . .
Neither Ricky nor I are saying much as we make our drive through Deep Ellum. We’re both locked in our thoughts. For me, I’ve decided to be proactive about this whole ordeal. No more running. No retreat.
Ricky, I’m not sure what he’s feeling. I know he’s questioning the things in his life he thought he could count on. For the most part, up to this point, he was just having fun with all of this. To him I was probably some guy, down on his luck, with an interesting delusion to ponder. And he kind of promoted it, let it run wild. But it was just a way to pass the time.
People like him, they have a hard time making friends because others can’t think on his wavelength. Ricky is literally a genius. And guys like that, they know pretty much everything. Knowing what’s always going to happen next takes the fun out of living. There’s no adventure. No surprise. So a guy like me comes along, and his personality feeds off of it.
And I like having him around. He keeps my feet on the ground. If I didn’t have somebody to bounce my crazy ideas off of, I would be a card-carrying lunatic by now. I’m not smart like him, but I’m basically sensible. I’d like to think that he sees in me the kind of person who is what he appears to be.
All those times I was staring in the mirror, trying to figure out who I am . . . this is who I am. For whatever reason, I have been chosen to do this sordid task. Whether or not this is fantasy, fiction, delusion, or a miracle, I am very much a part of it. I don’t know if there is anything like fate and destiny in this life, but I’m damn sure going to try and find out.
Ricky is driving much more sensibly, as his eyes scan back and forth like those Blue Sharks we were watching in the shark tank. I’m seeing a different side of him. The facet of his personality that I realize would have made him a good doctor. Exceptional, even. The funny, yuckster has been replaced with a calculating machine.
The team of Ricky and I, it’s a formidable one.
As we’re slowing for a red light he says, “I’m rich.”
“That’s awesome. What do you mean?” I say. “Rich . . . is that a trendy expression?”
“No, Jack,” he says shaking his head. “I’m loaded. As in, I have lots of money. My dad invented a kind of heart stint that has revolutionized heart surgery.”
He explains to me that a heart stint is like a pair of Chinese finger-cuffs, although very small, and it goes into a clogged artery and opens it up. It’s made of very fine wire or fabric, or some other kind of space-age material that I’ll never comprehend.
But I don’t know what Chinese finger-cuffs are.
“Look,” he says, “. . . it’s not important. I just wanted you to know that I’m not some drug dealer, or stolen property fence. I’m a trust-fund baby. Every month I get fourteen thousand dollars if I keep a job.”
“Any job,” I ask. “At all?”
McDonald’s? I ask.
“Yes, Jack. Any job.”
Now I don’t feel so bad about letting him buy all of those frozen pizzas for me.
“Do you have any idea what we are getting ourselves into?” he asks rhetorically.
And we both sit there, just the sounds of the seedier part of Dallas life resonating around us. I see homeless people walking in no particular direction, wearing torn socks for gloves. There are overflowing trash bins, and bits of paper and trash blowing here and there. All of this—the people and the trash—they’re the parts of our lives we no longer need, discarded out of our timelines.
This part of Dallas, Ricky explained to me, was once the place to be. All the trendy clubs were located here. The restaurants were top notch. Valet service, the whole 9-yards. But Dallas expanded in every direction. And traffic swelled. And new hot-spots were born. And this place, that was once a mecca of social interaction, it became a forgotten wasteland.
Like a garden, left untended for several years.
A ship left at sea, just rocking back and forth with nobody at the helm.
And now it’s this sad, grey part of the city where only people looking for a cheap drink, or a hit of something, come. It is aching, Deep Ellum. Moaning for rebirth. For another chance at greatness. But as we near Ms. Josephine’s small shop, I realize that positive growth always leaves somebody behind.
I wonder if my life, and this entire world, if I am about to leave all of it behind. The way that Dallas left this district. Or is it leaving me behind?
Will I be the only living thing in that forgotten garden?
The only one left on that lonely ship at sea?
We pull to a stop at the curb. I see the familiar red neon marijuana plant. Columbian Red, I joke to Ricky motioning toward the sign. He nods and then shuts off the truck.
We both sit there, not unhooking our seatbelts. Not opening the doors just yet. It’s like we want to savor this last moment. This last quiet time on our planet before our reality forever changes. Once we pull back the curtain, that’s it. Nothing will ever look the same.
We both sense each other’s apprehension.
“This is what you’re supposed to do,” he says, staring out into the traffic.
“I know,” I say, my eyes cast downward. I’m looking at the leather dashboard. Smelling the various scents that make up the interior of Ricky’s truck. This is like a safe place. Where nothing can get to us. I slowly reach down and press a button that releases the seatbelt.
He does the same.
I look over at Ricky, and I tell him, if this all goes tits-up, to get out of here. Take off. Don’t get caught up in my mess. I never meant to drag him into all of this supernatural crap. It isn’t fair of me to ask him to continue. I’m giving him the opportunity to walk away from all of this.
He reaches down and frees his seatbelt, letting the buckle pull violently to the side where some coil is finally at rest. Thump. It dangles near his left shoulder. And then he stares at me, the way I stare at myself in the mirror—trying to see what others see.
“This is our mess, now, Jack,” he says. “I’m with you to the end.” He shrugs, “. . . hell, maybe this is my destiny, too.”
And I feel pride well-up inside of me. Ricky, he leans toward the radio, which had been set so low that we couldn’t hear it when the truck was running. And he half smiles, bobbing his head to the beat. He looks at me and turns it up a bit.
“It’s the Rolling Stones, he tells me.” Despite being heterosexually challenged, Ricky says, “Mick Jagger is a fucking prophet!”
The song that’s playing . . . it’s called, Sympathy for the Devil.