Turtle Enlightenment – Curtis Eggleston
August 22, 2021
Do we decide to believe in unluck? Had this fealty tugged us from faith in preservation before Doc Deliverance could sever our life rope with trust? As some of us might have it, unluck would have me on the opposite side of Avenida Paulista than Augusta, a kilometer or so walk extended by my weakness resident dissuading completion. I felt I was too wind-subjected for home, but necessity convinces feeling otherwise, and while my prevailing mental sentiment remained I could survive one night on the streets, self-coddling, knees in my shirt, arms up my sleeves, curb-nodding off quarter-woke until morning rest provisions spurned me homeward, once is plenty for one to grow accustomed into two, an understanding of myself beyond myself knew deep inside myself lay disrespect for self and a consequent aptitude for shrugging off homeless disgrace, aka, heightened awareness of advantages in not paying Wagner claims on rent, you could find a pillow somewhere, brain suggested, fuck off, stomach´s brain requested I keep on on the walk until bed, siding with present health gamble for future returns by overtaking my head´s, influencing my mental vision into the word walk, snapping off the angled attitudes of k, gluing them vertically sturdily into a lowercase L, to form instead the incorrectly spelled word walll, as I held onward starve-crazed, one leg´s length closer to home at a time, cock metaphorically headstrong in regard to my own determination, seeing the word walll hold upright my energy´s remnants, actualizing what was needed for proper sleep and trans-lesbianic conquest, brickly physical without the wait or the weight of brick-still – but skin remained puncturable, and I screamed ouch, jeez.
I looked down at my knee. I could not recall the last time I had been stung by a bee. My geography is puzzled, my history my own puzzle incorrectly solved of pieced select biographies, my mathematics retarded-impeccable, but my knowledge of biology, perfectly average. Wasps retain their stingers, fly on. Bees depart with their only weapon, and their wingbeats, soon after, felo-de-se poise. I plucked an impressive pinch of a stinger from the bone hillock capping my knee, noted the hooks that had scraped away the innards of my piercer, and said a prayer for him, or her, not knowing how to deduce bees’ genders based on stingers alone. I wondered how far they would fly before stubbornness failed as fuel, where they´d bleed out, land to be crushed underfoot between sole and sidewalk, or plucked by beak from the site of their collision with soil.
As I waited for my wound to swell into a shape, so it may be knee-palm read for future reveals, I pondered on the bumblebee´s suicide defenses, the ultimate price for hive´s protection, trust in its worth, nature-embedded. What meaning had this sting, why me, why here, where´s the nest, and what sense in the suicide of a bee flying solo mistaking my sloped, tired eyes for angry and preparing to attack? Could this sting be reduced to mere accident? What in God´s name was a bee doing flying between the synthetic walls and above the concrete landing strip of Avenida Paulista, with rare leaf in sight, a scene doubtful of flower? Could this suicide have come of sheer laziness? Do bees subscribe to reincarnation? Was I deemed the paired sacrifice to the proprietor of this stinger, for him or her to die more easily, lost and far here, incapable of return home, so he or she could reappear young, energized, and ready to continue to contribute to the hive, honeycombed and freshly of soul? I looked at my kneecap. The swelling had completed by now its notification. From head to tail, foot to foot, and by dint of shell I could tell, no doubt, this sting had manifested into the shape of a turtle. I would live a long time, become wise, patient, stable.
These and other less relevant contemplations as I hungry-strode Paulista were interrupted by a very thick boy with a thin mustache and a backpack designed to look like a turtle´s shell. He asked if I was a gringo. I told him I was not.
“Yes, you are,” he said.
“Bitch.” I said, in English. He laughed.
“Hey man, you wanna hang out tonight?”
I told him I had no money and that I was a huge asshole and workaholic. He said he got it, he was a drug dealer, did I want a bump.
I presumed I knew what he meant. I asked reflexively on the chance of incorrectness.
“Cocaine, brother. What else?”
“See you, man.”
“Come on, man, just a bump. I´ll buy some beers and some fries. You skinny as shit!”
I was starving. And I never had done cocaine obviously because I was a decent human but I heard it killed hunger.
“Alright, I´ll take a bump but then I gotta go.”
“Whatever, man. Alright.”
He checked over both shoulders. People everywhere, squeezing around us and others but especially the turtle shell backpack. Two police cars idling with their lights always fucking on in blinded traffic.
“Perfect,” he said. He barely separated his lips when he talked. He seemed to speak directly out of his wispy mustache hairs like his airy utterances whispered upward, fanning his stache-grass into expressive flutters. Kinda grossly captivating. I was getting my first taste of weird coke dealers. My kind-of friends, the distal ones obliquely attached to me as if I were the sun in a mobile, and they were the moons lingering round my real-friend-planet´s sunly revolutions, had said all coke dealers were annoying but just like gross and weird and underhandedly threatening and like, beguiling and sort of witchy. One had revealed a time when an Armenian man in LA told my lunar friend as he moonly went to go pick up, to bring the dealer a glass of water. He was so skeptical and tinyly afraid and addicted to coke that he´d driven a few minutes with a glass of water in the cupholder, wondering about dust motes and the potential detail orientation of Armenian coke dealers, their propensity for noticing microbes or floaties.
“Are you thirsty?” I asked the thin/thick mustache boy with a turtle shell backpack that looked like it might be an homage to Mario Kart. I didn´t mean to ask him.
“Just thirsty for some hoes,” he approximately said in Portuguese. I pictured sweat dripping from his mustache while I pounded him from behind. Absolutely disgusting. Intrusive thoughts. Happen all the time. Apt to include gay sex and or murder. Not involving me even the majority of the time either. That´s the only one I´ll share.
“You want a cigarette?” he asked.
“You don´t smoke, do you,” he more like stated than asked, handing me a cigarette.
“Um,” I said. I took it. Lit it. Took a drag. Looked at him.
“Just take it, light it anyway,” he said. “It´ll be less sketchy, less obvious (appx.).”
I glanced over at the now two cruisers and one moto cop, all blisteringly bright and ceaseless light-wise and stuck in traffic but for the moto cop who was choosing to kickstand himself neighborly for conversation or murder-or-justice-planning. I looked back to my guy next to me.
“Your turn,” he said, blowing cocaine off his combover fuzz as if his lips were bald head and his fuzz were left hair, as if his lip were a cornice and the cocaine were snow blown over a mountain roller, as if his chin were below, a fifty-two degree slope of perfect powder and I was beginning to feel a bit sick from the cigarette, nauseated and dizzy from starving and homesick of skiing and Turtleboy was looking at me all raised-browed and keen to get me drugged.
“Don´t you trust me,” he more like asked than stated. I never would trust someone because I hold dear cool skepticism, but I never trusted him less than that moment, but I never was hungrier either, but I didn’t want to be a fucking cocaine douchebag but there was no way I would go home and study poetry so hungry and deliriously sleepy and so I took the bag without other options and inhaled a little ivory kneecap hillock deeply up my sinus.
It burned wet out of my eyes and unified my brows. I knew by others´ recollections that good, pure cocaine – the kind great rappers and golfers ride their fames on – didn´t burn like this. Turtleback was on some bad shit. He wouldn´t last long. I could abandon him, follow my initial calling, or alter my course in favor of a less selfish pursuit, nursing him back to sobriety, stability, health, or at least get him pointed in the right direction. He needed support, friendship. Not to mention, we needed to find a way to rid ourselves of the pesky cocaine bag that would surely present itself as an obstacle in one´s pursuit of holy elevation.
“Give me another bump,” I offered. He took one first. The bag was that much closer to empty. I nodded.
“Let´s go find a table, I’ll get us some beers,” Turtleback buggeyedly implored while I organically vacuumed my burden. I didn’t want to be doing this, which I hope-suspected impressed my morals into some God’s eyes’ version (Cyclopsian? Humanly duetted? Arachnidian?). It didn’t matter how He would eventually appear, that was for His God to decide, what mattered was how He interpreted whatever He saw, and while maybe my pursuits were off base, at the very least I´d been acknowledging Him, and Lord knows (sup) attention goes a long way in finessing yourself forgiveness, or, at the very least some apotropaic sky kisses, or, if I hadn´t fucked up already, and hopscotched blindly up all the right stepping stones toward an idealistic supernal finish line, some nearly-sans-pardon transcendence, my only atonement for wasting so much life, not winking up to invite the shrive.
Without speaking, speed-dragging cigs with our backs to police long reconnoitering, another two bumps looted thought, what treasured fraction of mental capacity remained with the dove-coo rhythm of my heartbeat, but I couldn´t fear a heart attack, feeling that good, I could only bemuse myself with potential final words: love her, as I loved her, [insert rest of Princess Bride quote] (too referential); Lacrimosa (too Virgil); lol, lmfao (too meme); [insert Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital coordinates with d.o.b. including time] (too astrologically revealing); I’m sorry (that had a really nice ring to it); I’m so tired, I could sleep a horse (too delirious); The treasure is hidden…(unfunny meanly);
I checked my phone. Five minutes had passed. Turtleback, agog, across the table, joke-blew me kisses, possibly beknownstingly powdering his placemat. Suddenly I was high as a fucking kite on the ground. I would have to be smooth about this.
“You want another bump?” he asked. Guy thought he was a mind reader.
“You know, you really shouldn´t be doing that stuff,” I said. Turtly garment donners abhor bossiness.
He sighed, nodded with the self-awareness of an adult wearing a turtle backpack – a lonely one – and refrained from cowering into his turtle-neck tank top.
“The Ten Crack Commandments,” he said in English, truly disappointed in himself.
“No I mean it´s actually bad for you,” I said, starving again, angry at the abuser across from me.
“It might be,” he said, “but at least this stuff is as pure as it gets.” I knew from my experience with others´ experiences with coke dealers that every coke dealer says their stuff is pure.
“My brain is dripping down my throat,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. “You know what. You´re right. Let´s finish this bag, and then I´m off this shit!” Determinedly. Instilling belief.
I was a disciple, understanding the significance of discipline.
“There´s a rave later,” he said, and he cradled a French-fried serving my way. I took a handful. “You down?”
I wouldn´t go, but I nodded because it´s impossible to answer in the negative with a mouthful of French fries or listen to a question enough to understand enough to have a feeling enough to respond negatively while having been starving this long then chewing cheek-stretches of French fries. Another two handfuls. Oh my baby blushing stomach. Too much to handle. Bulged like a rice-gouged pigeon. A flash of an image, an article mentioning no more rice thrown at weddings, for fear of bird explosions. Let the fuckers burst. God´s plan. I thought rice to birds; cocaine to douchebags. I wondered if Blondies would like that. Needed to write it down. But couldn´t let a self-serving goal overtake altruism, not this deeply quested in good deeddom. I put a hand under the table, tapped the air just below and in front of my chin with my chin, signaling Turtleboy to slip me the bag real discrete-like. He was confused at what I meant, as I was as to how he fit in his chair with his backpack on, but I didn´t mention it, didn´t ever mention the backpack, some disabilities manifest in garments, some personality tics self-reveal beyond skin. Seek to understand, the greats say, don´t judge, help to center the transgressor so they may see their wrongdoing.
“Bag?” I offered.
He stabbed the air in-frontishly below his chin, and right beside my plate, there it was, three-quarters empty. I couldn´t believe he´d already done so much. Terrible chaperoning on my part, he must´ve snuck behind a blink. I told him I was uncomfortable snorting here at the table.
“Nonsense,” he said, “we’ve been snorting at the table. Plus no one cares, they´re all on it anyway, and besides, nobody’ll notice, there´s people everywhere.”
He was right. There were people everywhere. I took the bag into the bathroom and did more than my fair share on the likelihood of Turtleback´s deserving mother.
When I walked out we were on a train. It was terrible. Everyone was looking at me, my head was still bleeding down the face inside my face facing my carbonated brain.
“Where are we going?”
“Mooca,” he said.
I hoped we could find more blow there. The train ride lasted. As travelers leaked away and revealed the floor and re-flooded on and forced my bunched shoulders I disgusted at their schedules, their simultaneous parallels and dissimilarities with my own, how could they, on a – I had no idea what day it was. Technically night, God corrected me. Go find more cocaine, God urged me. I will get you high if you do, He incentivized. I studied back all the passengers near. An absolutely exhausted woman, wrinkled dry of all personality, half-eyedly sold roses to the bunches of us unlucky enough to be squished riding. She wore a bandana over her head. She was black and strong, beautiful, she had been a marvel once, goddesslike, I could tell by the dregs of her aura, which even in life´s desperate twilight held traces of former royalty. She probably woke at 4am, rode a bus an hour to catch an hour train to work for only eight hundred reais a month, she was getting home now at what?, midnight?, one?, to repeat the process to see her kids on Sundays alone. I watched her offer roses to a dull-eyed financier. He adjusted his headphones. I prayed she might catch a break, but I said nothing to her, I doubted she was holding. I judged the rest of them, prayed for all of them, concluded Turtleman remained my best bet, and followed him feeling like a hollowed baton off the train, stiffly hobbling, heartbeat stuttering, remorseful of an oncoming rave.
“Will there be food there?” I asked.
Shelly laughed, waved me up and out after him up seven escalators out of the station into shadowy industry town.
“I don´t know if I can…”
Turtleback numbed his mustache while demonstrating double-jointed shoulders as the elementary school collective used to refer to them, without de-strapping he unzipped and reached in, fumbled, mucked around, inner-unzipped, plucked and revealed a brand new, stuffed full and taped shut, angelly white bag of powder. I closed eyes dark-skyward, projected my thanks.
“You know gringo, I like you man,” he said, shaking, flicking the bag. We stood right outside the metro entrance, diagonally dressed waist down of lamplight´s breadth. Nobody else around, skyscraperless, no apartments, but brittle proofs of industry, warehouses, fábricas and flickered interruptions of pure dark by the few streetlights´ last shuddering functions. I like the buzz of broken lamps.
“Good,” I said.
“This stuff isn´t cut so much as the last stuff, it´s pure. Just for you, alemão, it won´t make you feel like passing out.”
We each took a few bumps for trek inspiration. I followed the green shell into shadows, down a street, a right turn, a shrinkening, an alley, an adjustment of invisible width, felt-soft, unseen claustrophobia of black brick walls passing, unsound muffling our hears. I didn´t know how Franklin saw. A jaw grew out of my jaw. That my brain had blood seemed dangerous. Let vein walls hold thin. I forgot what I was there for, wound on my clench-strung temples, plucking the G of my brain, tinny vibration´s refrain harmonizing our steps, we were moving somewhere, this turtle kid was weird, I trusted him though, I felt great with him by my side, or as the case was proving to be behind him, damn, I was really feeling good now, head pressure whispering gone, making space for thought, for conversation maybe even.
“What´s your name, man?” I asked him.
It didn´t matter what I said. We both forgot each other´s names instantly. We came to the end of the alley, a fence. I had gotten used to silence, darkness. I was power in quiet. Through chain-link past Turtle I caught a taste of moonlight´s warped pasted reflection on cylindrical train cars, perpendicular to us and between the fence and tracks I heard now, as turtle heavy-stepped after a surprisingly athletic climb-leap-crouch, crunched gravel, like a beat beneath the wobble-ring of chain-link warble.
I climbed, straddled, dropped over after, caught up to Hare´s Bane as he squeezed chest down beneath a train car. Army crawling sideways I scraped my back on the metal frame. Homie chuckled as I groaned to a stand, I´d come up with a coke-witted comeback but was taken aback by where we stood – wind wide open, a black field siding the trainyard, space unknown of São Paulo, parallel tracks running longways into dark and shoulder-high grass alive of moonsigh and flushnear friction.
“God damn,” I said.
“Thanks, God,” he said in Portuguese.
One pair of rails ran vacant, gravel lava game, we progressed heel to toe, balancing, adjusted, strode.
“So how´d you start selling drugs?”
We passed over the rails without our arms out. Moon tranced the metal beams, quiets to the hypocrite hush of a field.
“It was all I was good at,” he said.
I saw that. I felt bad, almost offered another bump.
“What?” he asked.
Catch me above my breath muttering to God.
Ahead, crawling out from beneath the ground, a dark tube space like the faceless of a melanistic worm. I flashbacked to driving sixteen hours from Mountain, Colorado to Los Angeles, I didn´t drive a single minute, but out of solidarity with my anorexic roommate, I refrained from even a single slice of pizza, didn´t chew a thing the whole trip, we talked music and who we would rather be if we could trade lives with pasts or presents. Now´s silence was just like that. I lied about intrusive thoughts, but there´s no time to edit.
The tracks led straight into the tunnel. We continued through tenebrous, fidgety silence, until around the required bend sparked, and we looked up to see surprisingly symmetrically arabesquely strung Christmas lights dancing us through an ambery and otherwise abandoned metro tunnel. We followed the tracks, the light. We didn´t turn around, refusing to touch the gravel with childlike stubbornnesses, unspoken rules we both knew applied to both or neither of us. It´s crazy, like, when you imagine your sight as a camera frame, you lean back in your head and watch through it, comes awareness of the beauty of the world can get you through anything, I´ve negated suicides just by forgetting all but to look, focus on a single sense makes worth it, the tracks held triples of trickles of gleams now, refracting Christmas nipple-lights, and I forgot we were moving, stepping over them, on old emanations, recency newing our heels, steel beams passing below me or smoothing me along, speechless reasoning why keep going´s obvious, momentum, but visual hypnosis was broken, replaced by inclusion with sound, reversion to confused senses blended. I looked over to Bro who had stepped off the tracks, which helped me to realize I had. No time for disappointment, he was dancing, or bending his knees to the sunken beat of distant deep house. I thought it should have always been played through a tunnel, the unforgettable proves itself from afar. Crackles of dust chipped, fell silently from the roof, from consistency eventually all caves in, proof´s in the beginning, first step is to dig. I couldn´t help but start dancing along with Turtleman. My accession earned me another bump, and a leveling up.
“What´s this,” I asked, as he squeezed liquid from a dropper into my eye.
“LSD,” he said.
“Oh jeez,” I said, in English.
I blinked away synthetic tears, the world already watery. Guiding tunnel light dripped ceiling to floor. Fastitocalon shelled them away. I avoided them as if they were lasers, my defense, evasion. Repetitious bass notes and silences buffered. The momentary lulls between inevitability´s beats lured us inward. We curved around another bend. I saw our tunnel´s exit into the heart of all of them, a cavernous pentagon, three stories of open space above them, the threshold of humans, celing´d of cement, with breaths of fresh air at a time drifting in through a shattered glass skylight eye-like chaperone or spy, invisible in dark, colored by strobes. They were everywhere, thousands, people, if you could call them so, bodies really, in the state we were in, consciousnesses disconnected from the corporeal. From each of the other four walls, four other tunnels, spitting up more of us into a sulphurous thrum. At the pentagon´s top corner, from my and T-Boi´s POV, towered a stack of rusted metro cars, mazed with graffiti, windowless and hulking their solidities, boasting their collective mystery, who stacked them, when, and how the DJ wasn´t asking, he stood atop it all naked with a black cape and a backpack on over it, attending to his tables like amphetamine´d retirees to fertile soil, attacking vibe orchestration responsibility. Boots and kittens, daemon-humid, unweird nudity, everyone is gay. Dresses of wires from booth to floor, generator’s heartbeats extending chords, united through deference of born-sense inheritance, group-self-reverent unregulated rave.
Five or six hours passed, self-worship I´ll never remember for potential to regret.
I remembered myself by requirements of nutrition. I felt shelled, chewed, swallowed, shit, soiled, seeded, patted, and born into a baby plant, green, soft, exhausted and nauseated. A gunshot went off. DJ Cocksure Schoolboy Batman had launched his morning glory confetti cannon. The frayed crowd rejoiced, the under-drugged realized their whereabouts, wished they´d never come, half-joke-mentioned killing themselves. Little paper tears laid imperceptible weights on our hairs. A blank rectangle slipped from scalp to palm helped recall my purpose. I floundered, panicked, blinked at the wrong time through strobes, bumped luckily into a pulsingly muscular black man wearing nothing but a British flag print thong, the fabric of the Union Jack so stretched it was practically white.
“May I borrow a pen?” I screamed in English.
Hard to tell a nod from a dance. I didn´t watch. I felt something thick slip into my hand. A double-wide sharpie would have to do. I thumbs-upped him, navigated into more space, sat against one fifth of the pentagon and flattened the confetti on my thigh. I stared awhile, holding my canvas there, stilling it against the bass´s shudders. Finally, I wrote, holy fucking shit, I cannot foc—
There was no space to finish the verse, too unwieldy, the marker. I squinted for my lender. Two aliens stepped before me. Both girls had shaved heads and face and neck tattoos, split tongues and completely bare, unmarked torsos: bodies, God-sculpted.
“OMG, we saw you writing!” one screamed approximately in Portuguese.
“Are you a writer? Were you writing a poem?” from the other.
I nodded or danced. The two girls started scissoring their tongue splits, side-eyeing me somewhat invitingly. But between and past their brushing eyebrows: arrhythmic movement, violence, a transgression, a breaking of the oath of PLUR. Four basic dudes sporting sheer white V-necks scratched and tore at another raver´s turtle-shell backpack.
Fifty meters at a rave is like a country mile, I shoved and dashed, gasped and unnecessarily hurdled through gaps in the crowd, gained traction, speed, but interrupting my lane, a mustached Sailor Moon and a cute, petite Mew, making out. There was no time to slow, but for reasons I can only attribute angelically, the two began to separate, allowing but a phew of space, they switched from full tongue twist to timid princess kiss, I ducked and plummeted between them, flexed both thighs and re-propelled my momentum foe-neckward, double clotheslining two of my dealer´s enemies, apparently one of their leaders, because the other two bros scampered. Turtle bro rolled back and forth on his back, looking up past me. I looked up, through the shattered skylight, off teeth left by felled shards came morning dewdrops cradling firstborn light, warmth splashed my forehead, and we both silently expressed our gratitude for another beautiful morning on this Earth.
“Amen,” we said, and Turtle rose on the hold of clasped brotherhood.
Make decisions while the crowd hesitates. A song faded upon first drawn blood of new sun, a pause in the heave of festivity, we were gone before the crowd could choke itself.
He led me out a new exit. We climbed a derailed train, kicked loose a few shingles edging old industrial roofing, tested a ladder’s dedication to its partnering wall, and standing on a bridge, city-distal, I was well into sunsweat, waiting on Turtle’s felicity of movement to lead us to food when instead he offered a hug, and a wish farewell. It occurred to me then, I had no money. I had drained myself of energy, and distanced myself from civility. Like literally, I had no money. I thought I might collapse. I was still tripping from God’s sakes. I had fucked myself.
“Thank you,” he said, “you really saved me from a lot of embarrassment back there.”
“No, thank you. Now I can tell the truth when I say I´ve gotten in a fight before.”
“When they were backing me up, I saw you with those girls. Damn man, if I were you, I would have stayed.”
“Those girls were terrifying.”
“I want you to have this,” he said, reaching deep into his backpack sans-unstrap, and pulling out another, much smaller turtle shell backpack.
“I can´t accept this…this…it´s…”
“It´s full of cocaine,” he said. “Between eighty-seven and ninety-three percent pure. About a third of a kilo. It´s in one bag. Little advice about São Paulo. Say you have three grams, you get caught with three bags, you´re going to jail, but if you put it in one, you won´t get intent to sell. I´ll leave the risks up to you.”
“Thank you, my friend.”
“Thank you, brother.”
We walked the same way together off the bridge to the metro, he paid my trip, we hit his stop first, and he bid me a second, less dramatized farewell.
I loved my tiny backpack for its aesthetic alone. The blow would be more applicable. I put in my headphones and listened to the song that would save you. The best part of using hard drugs is to fill the spooned spaces with traces of young you next day.
I got out at the República stop. It was raining São Paulo into a darker gray. I couldn´t risk the product drenched, and hailed a cab, told him I was only going two blocks, the plea, I had no money.
“Ten reais minimum,” he said.
I asked if he´d accept a line.