The Next Thing

My phone rings at 2 a.m., but that’s okay, I’m up already, writing. I love the middle of the night, because it’s timeless. The sun isn’t pushing itself across the sky, a giant clock reminding you it’s time to move on to the next thing. In the middle of the night, it’s always now.

It’s my ex calling.

“Hey,” he says with a nervous giggle in his voice. “Dude….”

“What?”

“I took PCP, man, and this shit….” He takes a huge breath, lets it out. “It’s messed up.”

I snort. “Why the fuck did you take that stuff?”

“Dude.” He giggles again. “Oh, man.”

“You’re a fucking stoner,” I say.

“I’m a seeker after knowledge. I’m on a quest.”

I snort again.

“What are you doing right now?” he asks.

“I’m in Vegas.”

“What?” he groans. “Oh man, why are you in Vegas? Gracie, are you flipping your shit again?”

“Naw, I love this place. I just wanted to come.”

He rants at me about my impulsive and unhealthy behavior as I go into the bathroom and stare at my wide-eyed self in the mirror.

“You’re the one on PCP,” I say as I put on some lipstick. “Why can’t I go to Vegas?”

I grab my keycard, my ID and my credit card and head out the door as Fred tells me about the PCP experience. “It’s like an infinitely repeating loop in my head, and my body feels like it’s made of pure energy. Like nothing can hurt it. I can totally see why people throw themselves out windows on this stuff.”

I pause outside the elevator. “Don’t throw yourself out a window,” I say. “You should probably drink some water and chill out watching Adventure Time, instead.”

He laughs his high, cackling laugh. “Oh, Gracie, you just gave me a soulgasm. Water and Adventure Time, oh my God, you and I, our souls, like, go together.”

“Like chicken and bacon,” I say, because when we were a couple he wanted those two things for every meal.

“Oh my God, yes,” he says. “I love you so much, Gracie.”

“I love you too,” I say, but I’m ready for the next thing now. I hit the elevator button. “I gotta go. I’m gonna get in the elevator and my phone will cut out.”

“What? Where are you going? It’s the middle of the night.”

“There’s no time in Vegas. This place is like the Bardo. It’s a niche between worlds where the laws of physics are twisted.”

He starts ranting again but I get rid of him. The elevator door opens, and I shove my phone in my back pocket.

There’s a boy leaning in the corner, watching me as I get in. His lips curve up in a half smile that makes my breath stop.

“Hey,” he says.

“Uh, hey,” I say.

I’m not generally into younger dudes, but this one has blonde hair curling over his ears and lips that I want pressed everywhere all over me. His eyes are blue with huge pupils, and I know something is up with him, because dudes like him don’t look at me the way he is, unless they’re somehow impaired.

“Where are you going?” he asks, still smiling in a way I can’t look away from.

“I thought I’d get some coffee.”

He laughs, and his teeth are straight and perfect. “You don’t need any coffee,” he says. The elevator door opens and he grabs my hand. “Come on.”

I didn’t get where I am today by saying no in situations like these. “Where are we going?” I ask.

“Away,” he says, and drags me half-running through the burbling slot machines.

The hard gamblers are slumped on their stools, performing their rituals, and don’t seem to notice us pass.

He pulls me into a hallway by the cashier window and fishes in his pocket, pulls out a tiny baggie full of white powder, decorated with little red chili peppers. The coke flingers get so fancy with their packaging now.

“What’s your name?” he asks.

“Gracie,” I say, my eyes on the baggie.

“Nice to meet you, Gracie, I’m Jordan.” He sticks his thumb into the bag and brings it out coated in a thick layer of coke. He holds it under my nose, and I look up into his blown blue eyes.

“This is better than coffee, Gracie,” he says, giving me that beautiful, sly smile again.

I always thought that one day I’d realize I’m an adult, and that I would stop chasing after life and sit down to live it. But that moment has never come, because the things that make up an adult’s life seem like a living death to me. My generation wears their immaturity as a badge of honor, just like their track marks, tattoos, and psychiatric diagnoses. We will never grow up.

And so I’m still running. One thing always leads into the next thing, time pushing me relentlessly onwards, telling me that it’s all about to happen. That soon it will not be the next thing, but it will be the thing. And, every so often it is, like right now in this timeless night here in Vegas.

The beautiful boy raises his eyebrows, and I press my finger over one nostril and snort the coke off of his thumb. Then he dips it back in the bag, grinning, and gives me another hit.

I lean my head back and let it drip bitter down the back of my throat. He puts a long finger back in the baggie and snorts some himself.

Then he tosses his head back and laughs, and I watch him, exhilaration creeping through my limbs until it explodes into a burst of raw joy in my breast. I feel my pores open and my heart race, and know I have finally reached now.

Jordan catches my hand and pulls me against him. His body is warm and solid and alive, and holy Jesus he can’t be older than twenty-two. He kisses me, and his lips feel good. I can taste the coke on his tongue, and it numbs my mouth. When he finally takes his lips from mine, I must have a dazed look, because he giggles.

“Come on, Gracie,” he says, and pulls me out of the hallway.

We run through the maze of slots and through the front entrance, onto the Strip. We sprint down the sidewalk, laughing. The lights are beautiful. An oncoming cop car slows down, the officer peering out the windshield at our faces. I smile at him, because the world is perfect right now. He smiles back and doesn’t stop.

I lift my face up towards the sky, where the desert stars are hidden behind the orange stain of city lights. I howl. Jordan joins me, our voices intertwining and reaching up into the heavens like a prayer of thanks to God.

I know that soon I’ll have to move on to the next thing. But for now, this moment lasts forever.

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