“Such Great Heights”
BY CAROLINE RAYNER
Do you remember calling me the night you left town? You asked if I’d started drinking, if I’d finished a bottle of wine yet, and I told you I was drinking mint tea and reading about life beneath Antarctic ice and thinking about ice inside the rings of Saturn.
I read the same sentence over and over and thought of the whirlpool galaxy tattoo on your shoulder.
You talked about Logan. You said that he was driving, that he was playing music you hated. Rap and space station disco, rewinding and skipping forward at the same time. You said you couldn’t wait to play the lame punk and metal you liked in middle school.
Are you still eating stale Cheerios?
Did you end up stopping for cigarettes?
You’re always almost out of cigarettes.
I like when you talk about chain smoking before shows and writing songs at the last minute. Songs about spiders or surgery or video games or acid. Songs you laugh about and Dan loves and Jesse hates and Logan sometimes forgets. Songs you all sing together, or yell together. Songs you play as fast as you can.
Remember the night you got high and played “Sister Ray” for an hour? In Logan’s basement before he got rid of the antique mirror and traffic cones and lava lamps? Jesse let me play his guitar, and Dan sang. You were wearing black jeans, and you’d just cut your hair into sharp angles that framed your face and fell across your eyes as you played bass.
I haven’t been sleeping. I’ve forgotten how to sleep. I’ve forgotten where to sleep. I tried piling pillows and towels and sweaters in the bathtub and sleeping there. I tried curling up in the argyle armchair on my fire escape. I tried lying on my couch under the puffy blanket you stole from a yard sale.
At four o’clock in the morning, I made chocolate chip pancakes.
I broke a salt shaker.
Do you remember driving through the mountains in the middle of the night? You took all the turns way too fast, and you told stories. About buying records and learning to like whiskey. You pulled over next to an abandoned gas station and spray-painted your name across the back wall. You spray-painted shooting stars and a shark, too.
I drove through the mountains by myself. During the day. I saw red flowers and a crumbling chimney and an old woman wearing a paisley dress and round glasses with turquoise frames and carrying a basket of apples.
You would’ve wanted to stop to talk to her. You would’ve made us stop to talk to her.
You said that you’d been stealing Dan’s clothes. That you were wearing one of his T-shirts. A hot pink one with a ragged V-neck that he cut himself.
Did you take the black sweater I let you borrow? The one that’s too long on you?
You can keep it, if you want.
I don’t know why I called, because you’re playing a show tonight. You’re playing a show right now. You’re playing in some room with a low ceiling and exposed pipes along the walls, some room where everyone crashes into everyone else because you and Logan and Jesse and Dan play so loud and so fast and you hate saying anything between songs.
I bet you’re wearing a jean vest and red lipstick.
You might forget to call back. Sometimes you forget. Usually you forget. You’ll shoot whiskey and shotgun a beer and start an argument about Johnny Thunders and lose your cigarettes and bum one or two or three from someone you don’t know. Someone wearing a leather jacket. Someone skinny. Someone you’ll convince to get a neon blue comet tattooed on his wrist.
It’s almost midnight.
I haven’t eaten yet.
I wish I could remember all the songs you’ve played for me. I wish I could remember what you say about them, too. You say weird things. You say they sound like garage shock treatment and old horror films on coke.
Do you remember sneaking up to the roof where someone always hangs quilts from a clothesline? Do you remember sleeping there?
I should go.