Writer’s note: I typed this thing before seeing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and then after I saw it I felt scooped. So don’t get hung-up about it, just be fascinated by how much all this stuff is in the ether, as they say.
PART ONE: PRENATAL
“… We’re the ones on the run
We’re the girls with the diamond dolls
It’s a ravenous world
And the ceiling is very tall
(do do do do do do do)
There’s a weight and a climb
And a ladder and many fall
But the cream of crop never stop
Not the diamond dolls!!!!… ”
– “Diamond Dolls”, The Chipettes,
The Chipmunk Adventure (1987)
I’d murder the kid who had it in his basement. Thirty years hence, clear in my sights, drawing a bead on Alan Wonderfeld. But now I lay shuddering under thin white sheets, tubes coiled around my arms, electrodes pressed against my forehead flecked with dried bits of conductive gel. Sweating cold through my paper sick-shroud, retching at the touch of the sponge, bracing wracked jaws with the consolation that this was all a good sign, that the internal chemistry was turning aptly (the worse it hurts the sooner it’s through). Alan Wonderfeld. The name stretched out as I chanted it, slurred, under faint and foul breaths. I confronted his agents and broken doubles in fevered dreams. The biographies, anecdotes, the blurred photos of his friends and theirs – my shifting nighttime Alan appeared before me as a dumbly written book report, half blown-off, improvised in a different way each time by the nervous child, anxious and disturbed.
In time, the anesthetic blotto – the cold sweat shivers and dready dreams of an unmet Alan Wonderfeld – subsided. Spoonfed and dull, I garbled drooly come-ons at the nurses and was hushed, my chin dabbed with a bib. I stared at reruns on the TV and nothing registered. My sleep was now crisp, blank, cool and deep. I awoke more and more every day. One day the specialists came in to sit at the foot of my bed, legs crossed. Not too long after, I was hoisted up out of the bed. My arms slung over shoulders on either side, I stumbled down hallways and greeted the pleasant mewing of spoken nonsense with sweet smiles and nods.
The mid-morning brightness was all in the room as my Filipino physical therapist guided me through exercises. By the long shadows of afternoon I was well into my gadgets lesson. A reasonable dinner, some pills and shots to make for a strung-out sunset, and next thing I knew it would be time for my night of study, poring over page after page until lights-out. Every other day I was bathed, and the nurses were now slower to hush me as they ran their cozy-warm sponges over my increasingly ripped physique. And one day, after some uncomfortable tests, I was deemed ready.
Reports had come in from reliable sources. The indicators were checked and re-checked and various clearances were issued. Room after room of writhing men still soaked in their bitter cocoons, but it was me they pulled me out. My man, Alan Wonderfeld, was a match. Not Patrick Fitzplendid, Ron Magikowsky, or Grigori Superduperov. Not Hiyuki Niftyawa or Alessandro DiNeato. It was Alan Wonderfeld. I would go into the future. Take out Alan Wonderfeld. Bring back his vest. It brought me excitement to no end, the knowledge that, riding back home, I could briefly wear the vest of Alan Wonderfeld. Encased, I would swagger around like a big bruiser, grinning through windows. Making sick grins at the suckers of the future- until they made me hand it over, until I would I have to place the vest into some research receptacle bin and return to my fluid sleep. Yeah. I would flick up the collar with my thumbs and sneer. Keep that vest as long as possible. Avoid the staining spatter of Alan Wonderfeld. Remember to sneer.
I was pumped, I was geared up, I was talking a mile a minute. The prep pills had me motored. Goodbye nurses too bad we never goodbye Filipino see ya doc send my regards to all the rest of the vegetables you’ve got cooking up here. At the elevator I was met by two overly stern-faced men. (Hey guys, you my chaperones for the dance, you sad-sack babysitters-cum-actuaries!? Lighten up, guys! Being all procedural only makes you a henchman and a lackey, and that’s all. Look at me – I’m the one going down the tubes, the big operator here, the big shot – and everyone upstairs was cake and candles for me – but you have the nerve, you fucks, to get off on being mister serioso in front of me, in front of me!? Goof off – I command you!) We rode down and down and down. (I bet your apartment smells like cat piss! You tie your sweatshirt around your waist on the weekends! Come on, guys. Nothing out of ’em. Robots. High-functioning retards.) Then past the checkpoints along narrow corridors until finally an iris opened up onto the immense spherical chamber. The technicians were standing by for activation, all faceless and powder blue in their cleansuits, staring. They sent me down the tubes.
I came to in a bubblebath, stroking a bubblebeard and singing fake Italian in a basso profundo voice. I was in a small pink bathroom – pink bathtub and coral-pink walls marked here and there by scraps of wallpaper, pink plastic marble fixtures. An electric chandelier hung from the ceiling giving off a not-too-dim light that yellowed the room. I cut the operatic blaring. “Ah!” My body went into spasms at the shock of my coming back into myself. The bubblebeard flew off of my face and out over the tub-edge where it landed softly on the cracked pearly tiles. As the spasms were subsiding there came two knocks on the door. The door opened to reveal a thin and nearly-noseless woman with a feathered blonde hairdo, her bare shoulders slender and tan above the line of a cut t-shirt. She took some short, vacant steps into the bathroom, slim legs cased in confetti-print spandex. Looking down at the bathub, the woman leaned against the countertop, braced by a stiff golden arm. She began to speak.
– You’re quite a gifted singer.
– It’s the echo in here. Flattering acoustics.
– I heard you thrashing around and decided to check up on you. I hope you don’t mind.
– Not unless you’re seriously put off by a man taking a bubblebath in a pink bathroom.
– I’m just glad you aren’t a pile of seaweed.
– Half of the time you guys come out the tubes looking like manatee shit and it takes me fucking forever to clean up the mess.
– That must be a drag.
– Yeah, it is. When you get out of the bathub, come downstairs into the kitchen. I’m making waffles.
She turned and walked out the door, and I was left alone with the sound of the bubblebeard on the floor slowly crackling its way out of existence.
Lisa Frank fed me waffles for a week. She ran the safehouse in the city of the future where Alan Wonderfeld lived. It was a week of acclimation filled with instructive videos, rote drills, and unfamiliar forms of sex with Lisa Frank and her neon-haired friends. We ordered take-out when we tired of waffles. I took in the sights and points of interest and Lisa and I rode old dirtbikes through the outlying districts where the traffic was lighter and we could really zip down the street, the wind blowing out our now-matching feathered hairdos. Gold stars soon marked all the appropriate boxes of the Readiness Chart on the refrigerator. It was time for my mission.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)