too many words by laura lemay

Night blindness

“I hear Nick’s having really weird dreams again,” Sarah said, leaning into Matt’s bathroom mirror and drawing an even thicker line of makeup under her right eye. “When I called him today, he mentioned something about it. He was pissed at me that I woke him up.”

“Oh?” said Matt, wandering into the doorway in a white shirt, tight black jeans, and a black vest. His hair was tied back off his face. “Do you think this would better with or without the vest?” Sarah lowered her pencil, looking critically at his reflection him in the mirror.

“Without. And take your hair down.”

“But it doesn’t tangle this way,” Matt mumbled, reaching behind him and tugging at the elastic.

“But it looks much prettier that way. And besides, you’re a hair-fuck, darling, you have to learn to take advantage of your assets.”

“Not in the mood to take advantage of anything,” Matt said, out of earshot of the bathroom, where Sarah was now putting on lipstick. He had had a bad day at work; he didn’t even know why he had let Sarah talk him into going out to the clubs tonight. But it was a Friday, and they always went to the clubs on Friday.

“I thought when Nick stopped taking so much speed he stopped having freaky dreams,” Matt said, louder, picking up on her previous comments.

“I’m not sure. I remember him having fucked up dreams before, though, when I was with him, and that was before he got into speed. Maybe Nick is just fucked up. Are you ready?”

“Yeah, I’m ready. I guess.” Matt presented himself for her approval — vestless, with his hair down over his shoulders. Sarah crossed the room to him and fluffed it. “Much better,” she commented. “Do you want eyeliner?”

“Nah,” Matt replied. “Stuff hurts my eyes.”

There was a buzz from the intercom on the wall and Sarah turned to answer it. “Mzzr fmmmn nurvnm,” spat the tiny speaker on the wall, and Sarah put her thumb down on the buzzer. “His lordship is here,” she commented to Matt.

Some moments later there was a pounding on the door. Sarah had vanished once more into the bathroom, so Matt answered it. It was Nick, in a long grey trench coat, his short black hair flattened down on his head. He had a motorcycle helmet dangling from one hand. Nick was the consummate goth: an almost constant supply of drugs had made him scrawny; sleeping during the day had kept him pale. “Nick,” Matt said in greeting, “you look like shit, man.”

“Haven’t been sleeping well,” Nick mumbled, pushing past him, tossing his helmet down on a chair. He crossed to the couch and flopped down on it pushing one hand absently through his hair in an attempt to make it stand up in whatever style he had it in before he put on his helmet. Matt noticed his eyes had a strange tint to them. Nick had apparently started the night early, which would explain why he was late. He was waiting for the drugs to kick in. “What’ve you been up to?”

“Not much,” Matt replied, rummaging through the closet for his favorite boots. “Working, mostly. Man’s gotta make a living.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Nick said, with a rueful smile. He wouldn’t know, of course. Nick’s lifestyle was supported by the computer software patents his father had willed him. Nick got royalty checks once a month, forwarded through his father’s legal firm. The firm didn’t care that Nick spent most of his money on drugs and motorcycles; they had their commissions, and Nick didn’t bother them. Nick didn’t understand what it was like to work six days a week, ten hours a day in order to make rent every month; Nick had never had to work.

Sarah came out of the bathroom with a rush, a grin on her face, and gave Nick a long hug and a kiss on the lips. Matt blinked, uncomfortably, looking down at the laces on his boots so he wouldn’t have to watch. The intimacy shouldn’t bother him that much — after all, Sarah had been lovers with Nick before she had been lovers with Matt. But now both of them were her past history. Yet she gave Nick hugs and kisses, but stayed distant from Matt. The disparity in her behavior towards the two of them only served to remind him that even though they had called it quits eight months ago, he still wanted her. Yet another thing to brood on his mind. It was going to be a lousy night.

“How are you, Nick?” she asked, smiling, but looking concerned.

“I’m okay,” Nick shrugged.

“You look horrible.”

“I’ve looked worse.”

“Very true,” Sarah agreed, smiling. Nick smiled back. They were so comfortable together, Matt realized. More comfortable than he would ever be with her, although she spent most of her time at his apartment, and gave him advice on clothes and hair and anything else that sprung into her mind. Sarah and Nick had a bond. All Sarah and Matt had was a past relationship.

“Sorry I’m late,” Nick apologized to Sarah as Matt retrieved his jacket from the closet. “I overslept.”

“Oh yeah,” Matt said, “I hear you’ve been having weird dreams again?”

Nick was silent for several seconds, as Matt emptied the pockets of his jacket onto the table — spare change, flyers for upcoming shows, napkins with hastily scribbled phone numbers on them from women he had already forgotten. “Oh yeah, the dreams,” Nick finally replied. “Yeah, I’ve been having a lot of them lately.”

“I thought when you gave up speed you stopped having weird dreams, Nick,” Matt commented, putting the cash and his driver’s license back into the jacket.

“No man, you got it backwards,” Nick looked up at him, and his black eyes bored into Matt’s face. He wore a faint smile as he said, “I didn’t quit speed to get rid of the dreams. I quit speed because it was _preventing_ the dreams. But now we’re really going to be late. Shall we go?” He stood up, stuffing his hands once more into his pockets.

“No, wait,” Matt said, holding out a hand. “Now I’m really curious. What the hell are these dreams all about?”

Nick shrugged, and looked absently at Sarah, who was adjusting her skirt under her jacket. “I’ve had them pretty much all my life. It’s always pretty much the same thing: I’m in this room with no windows, or door, painted white. I’m sitting cross-legged on this futon thing. A woman is there. She’s completely naked. She sits down across from me, cross-legged, so our knees are touching. She tells me to close my eyes and she’ll give me the most incredible experience of my life.”

“Oh, I’ve had these dreams,” Matt laughed, putting his own jacket on.

“I’m not finished.” Nick said, in a voice that made Matt stop moving and listen. “She tells me to close my eyes, and I do. But I can still see everything. I can see her, and I can see my own body, sitting there, across from her. Her hands touch my face. She kisses my eyelids. I can feel her hair on my skin. And then she reaches with her fingernails and pulls one of my eyeballs out of the socket.”

“Jesus,” Matt said.

“It doesn’t hurt. In fact, it feels great. and I mean _great_, man. I’m practically coming right there. And I can still see everything. There’s no blood. My eye looks kind of strange, resting in her palm like that.

“Then she holds one of them up to my face, and tells me to open my mouth, and when I do, she places one of my eyeballs into it.”

“Yecchh, I don’t want to hear this,” Sarah held up her hands in defeat and moves to the kitchen, out of earshot. Matt turned expectantly back to Nick. He’d heard this much — he might as well follow through. “Go on,” he urged.

“Its an odd feeling, holding your own eye in your mouth. Its kind of slippery, and squishes in your teeth, like a grape. The woman tells me to bite down, and when I do, there’s a squirt of liquid. But it doesn’t taste too bad, and its chewey.

“And then the rush hits. And if it was good before, its incredible now. Its like no drug I’ve ever had. Its all your best lays, all your best trips on all the best and purest drugs, all at once, multiplied by about about ten. And it goes on and on and on, just washing over you over and over again, for what seems like hours. I usually wake up on the tail end of it. Leaves you a fucking wreck for an hour.”

Matt was silent for a while, digesting Nick’s story. Finally, he took a deep breath. “If its all the same to you,” he finally said, “I’d rather stick with your basic dime-a-dozen wet dreams. You’re a sick man, Nick.”

Nick laughed. “Yeah, but at least I’m sick in a major way. None of this fucking around.”

* * * *

They arrived at Shades of Midnight just before eleven, and parked their motorcycles along the curb; Matt’s ratty old Honda CB750 in stark contrast to Nick’s brand-new tricked out CBR900. There were times Matt could be very jealous of Nick’s money and the carelessness with which he handled it. Sarah had ridden with Nick on the way over. Matt knew that although she complained about how uncomfortable the sportbike’s passenger seat was, Nicks bike would always been much more preferable to Matt’s. Although Matt was not altogether jealous about that; it distracted him to have Sarah’s arms around his hips when he rode.

There were surprisingly little people at the nightclub, for a Friday night. They only had to wait a short time in line before getting in. They went straight to the bar to order a drink before the prices went up; Matt and Nick had beers, Sarah a fruity mixed drink.

They had only been there a few minutes before a short woman with long curly black hair wandered up to them. “Nicholas, darling,” she said, snaking an arm with many silver bangles on it around his thin waist. “I bear gifts for you.” Her smile was flirty, the look in her eyes brutally sensual.

“Brenda, my love,” Nick replied, bending down to her level and sweeping her into his arms. “Tell me, what kind of gifts?”

“Red gifts, blue gifts, purple gifts,” Brenda replied, shamelessly feeding him pills she had already in her hand, her face less than an inch from his. Nick look them from her, sucking at her fingertips, grinning insanely, and leaning forward for a messy kiss, even more intimate than his friendly kisses with Sarah. Brenda squealed as he picked her up, but Matt noted she was unsurprised enough to curl one leg around his hips as he swung her around. He also noted Sarah’s scowl even before he had turned to look at her.

“You are my goddess,” Nick breathed out loud, and Brenda giggled stupidly. Matt felt like an idiot, being a part of this stupid seduction game. Brenda tried this every week, with varying intensity; this time it was especially bad. Matt didn’t trust her. Especially since she had tried to seduce him not more than three weeks before then, and with the same tactics — drugs, lots of them of dubious quality and dosage, given for free with a complete lack of interest in their actual effects as long as they helped her get her own way. And Nick was certainly the most appropriate victim for her tactics. “Come downstairs and dance with me.” Without even checking to make sure she was following him, Nick took off for the stairs. Brenda stood and laughed as he departed, then turned back to look at Matt and Sarah.

“It was nice seeing you two,” she said, in fake politeness, tilting her head in greeting.

“You know, there are better ways to get Nick into bed, Brenda,” Sarah said, icily.

“Well, this one seems to be working pretty well,” Brenda replied, smiling without amusement, her eyes locked with Sarah’s, her body drawn up to its full height. “You aren’t jealous, are you?”

“Of course not,” Sarah replied. “But surely even you would prefer it if Nick were sober enough to be able to get it up.”

“Trust me, Sarah,” Brenda replied, cattily, “Around me, that is not a problem.” And with a small grin, Brenda made her exit down the stairs after Nick.

“Bitch,” Sarah swore under her breath. “I hate her.”

“So you are jealous?” Matt asked, teasingly.

“Of course not,” Sarah said, frowning at him. “I don’t care who Nick fucks. But I wish she didn’t feed him so many drugs. Its bad enough he can afford them all on his own without having them pushed down his throat at every turn.”

“She didn’t force them on him. He took them willingly.”

“Yeah, I know. But that’s Nick. He doesn’t give a shit about his health. But someone’s gotta look out for him, if he won’t do it himself.”

* * * *

They saw Nick a few more times in their passes between the upstairs and downstairs levels of the nightclub. Brenda was always close to him, with a smug look on her face. He was laughing, almost hysterically at times, with a strange crazed look on his face. Matt wondered if perhaps Sarah was right, that Brenda was feeding him too many drugs. At it appeared as if Brenda didn’t really care what she fed him. He noted that she rarely took any of the drugs she fed him herself.

* * * *

“Boy, did you fuck that one up,” Sarah commented as Matt came off the dance floor to where Sarah was standing by the bar, guarding his drink.

“Huh?” said Matt, looking at her quizzically.

“That girl over there, by the wall,” Sarah tilted her head to the left. Matt looked to where she was gesturing; there was a young blonde woman in a very short miniskirt and black fishnet hose leaning against the wall, watching him idly. “She was dancing right at you. And you ignored her. Hell, you not only ignored her, you practically snubbed her.”

“I didn’t even know she was there.”

“How could you not know she was there? She was all over you.”

“I swear it, I wasn’t paying attention.” Matt shrugged, taking a long drink from his beer.”

“Well then, go over there and introduce yourself.”

Matt paused, then shook his head. “I’m really not interested.”

“Not interested?” Sarah said, aghast. “She just your type! She’s even blonde, come on? How could you not be interested in her?”

“I’m just not interested, at all. Not tonight.”

“Come on, Matt –”

“Not now, Sarah, just let it drop,” Matt retorted, angrily. Sarah could be far too pushy at times.

Sarah held up her hands in concession, and leaned back against the bar. Several moments passed. “I know the real reason you’re not interested.” She finally stated, a small smile on her face.

“Why’s that?” Matt took the bait.

“Because you’re holding a torch for me,” she replied, laughing, and reaching out to caress the back of his neck. Matt smiled back, but remained silent.

The joke was interrupted, suddenly, when the upstairs bartender crossed the floor to where they were standing. “You’re the people with the tall gothic friend, aren’t you?” he asked them. “The one who looks like Peter Murphy, aren’t you?” he asked, and they nodded, amused at the comparison. “You’d better come up. He’s fucked up pretty badly.”

Matt sighed. This was usual for Nick; barely a month went by that he didn’t get too drunk or too stoned to be able to stand. And his tantrums were legendary; he had trashed many a club in his time. Some clubs wouldn’t even let him in anymore, he had caused so much damage.

But something in the way the bartender had explained it this time was different. Sarah had noticed it, too. As they crossed to the stairs she groped for Matt’s hand, and he squeezed it reassuringly.

Brenda was standing at the top of the stairs. A man Matt didn’t know stood next to her, with his arm around her shoulders. She was sobbing, wiping her hands over and over in her skirt. Matt noted the smears of blood on her wrists. Just down the hall there a group of people clustered around the door to the bathroom. Sarah broke away from Matt and pushed anxiously through the crowd.

“Brenda,” Matt asked the distraught young woman. “Brenda,” he said again, catching her hand in his. It felt sticky and hot. “Brenda, what happened?”

“Ambulance on its way,” the bartender who had led them upstairs noted, and Matt felt a sick feeling start in his stomach. This was wrong, very very wrong. He looked back to Brenda, and to the unknown man who was standing even closer and more protectively beside her. “What –” Nick started again.

“Nick,” Brenda blurted out, and then began to cry again. The man standing next to her shot Matt an angry look as if it were all Matt’s fault.

“What about Nick, what has he done?” Matt repeated, gripping her wrist in his hand until she cried out with the pain.

“Your friend is sick, man.” The unknown man spat at him. “She doesn’t need to tell you what happened, go down and look for yourself.” He gestured with his shoulder and wrapped his arms even more protectively around Brenda. Matt wondered if Brenda actually knew him.

Letting go of her hand, he nodded and pushed past the crowd that had gathered around the door. “Let me through,” he said, shouldering past men and women who were pressing in towards the door.

Finally, he fought his way through. and then stopped stock still in the doorway. Nick was there, kneeling on the floor of the bathroom in the corner by the sink. He was bent over, his head and arm in Sarah’s lap. His right arm lay on the floor, opening and closing slowly. Both of them were sitting in a thick smear of blood, and Sarah’s hands were coated with it. She was shaking on the floor, shaking as she held Nick in her arms, soothing his hair back from his face, and murmuring quiet words to him.

“Fuck,” Matt said, falling sideways in shock against the doorjamb. “What the hell happened?”

But Sarah was past talking; all she could do was shake and hold Nick’s head in her arms. At the sound of Matt’s voice, Nick’s hand closed into a fist. With a jerk, he pushed himself upright, his right eye covered with his other hand. Blood oozed between his fingers. “I wanted to see,” explained Nick, his left eye still bright with whatever combination of drugs he had taken that night. “The dreams. I wanted to find out, if it was that good. But I botched it, and Brenda wouldn’t help me.”

Sadly, Nick let his hand fall to his lap, and Matt reeled back at the sight. The left side of Nick’s face was streaming with blood, all of it from his tortured right eye. His eyelid hung in tatters, and his eyeball had been neatly cut through the iris. The liquid within it oozed down his face, leaving a slightly translucent smear through the blood. The deflated balloon of his eyeball still hung within his eye cavity. Matt knew that the anguished, bloodied expression would be a vision he would see in his nightmares for years to come.