[excerpt from Overcast: The Unauthorized Biography of Sunshine Rodriguez]
Pages 136 – 38.
Alternatively, if you take that solo hike, or if you live alone, you get no help, or hindrance, with all those troublesome choices. If things go awry you’ve no one to blame. You’ve got to work, clean, cook, talk, shop, and listen only to yourself. There are no enablers or disablers. Just you. Smoke or don’t. Have a drink, or not. Buy this or that or don’t. Go out, stay in. Read, watch TV or not. Dress the way you want. Brush your teeth five times a day or never or anything in between. You decide. Look in the mirror and who do you see?
Do I miss it—getting high? What I miss is Sunshine. There was overnight rain last night and I know I’ll probably never see her again. I don’t think she’s replaceable by a better model. She has perfect DNA. What does that mean? Well, women get breast implants and breast reductions, wear cosmetics (make up) put on a face, if you will, color their hair, go on diets and exercise programs, buy expensive clothes and shoes. They have expensive dental work done. They study hard and practice their posture and their smile. And then, there is perfect DNA, where all of that fixing and fussing and pretending would be a downgrade. When I knew her – that was Sunshine: A naturally perfect piece of DNA. Once, after a lunch out, we went shopping, which we often did, and Sunshine went into a boutique and bought some pants. At the register the clerk, a woman, said, “There’s very few people that can pull those pants on and look good in ‘em. But you can. Yep, You can sure pull it off.” Yes, she could, pull those pants on and pull IT off, at the same time. Yep, perfect DNA. The most fun I’ve ever had on the planet has been with her, but usually the fun was predicated by altered state’s of our brains. Often she would call in the AM and there would be gaps in her chatter, or her listening to me when she would light up and/or cough; and I knew she was smoking, in order to face the day and to ward off the loneliness that she hated. Sometimes, I wouldn’t hear for days, from her, that was when she was shacking up and shagging some dude. Now, she says, she doesn’t need me or my “bullshit” ever again. She’s in love and loved back she says. She was my “Big Lie.” The lie was that she really ever cared at all. But as long as I had some way to alter my brain’s state, I could pretend otherwise, and delude myself into thinking she would come around. She was the girl in the ad selling the fantasy. The prettiest, sexiest, smartest girl of all time and I was so special that she chose me to smile at, even though that smile was fake. If I was high enough I could pretend. She was a Twenty-First Century Scarlet O’Hara and I was Rhett Butler. Why not?
Sunshine’s canvas, ‘CHAOS,’ shows a girl sitting demurely under a barren tree holding an apple with a snake on a branch above her just watching (her, the girl) as the roots of the tree snake up the bemused girl and circle her neck. The girl is under water, and behind her are mountains and waterfalls. Above those are a large torn heart inside a clown. There is what looks like a zygote waiting its turn, and the laughing mouth of God. The bottom third of the canvas is painted black, the dark underworld. That is the story, isn’t it? The girl is oblivious to it because she has the apple. She has that bemused look on her face — the look of the girl on the catwalk — hollow but teasingly promising hope of escape and innocence and sunshine and light. Better is coming, whatever better may be. I bought the painting from her right before I left her with him one year ago, or rather she sold it to me as compensation for a loan I had given her. No matter. I own it now and it is the story.
MAY 22, 2011
What really happened is this: I was naked, sprawled on the cool, linoleum fake-tiled, bathroom floor of my apartment, barely alive. It was January 22, 2011, a Saturday night, exactly four months ago. The bathroom floor was the only place I could get relief. I was paralyzed, except for my thoughts, my brain. I had closed my eyes, a long, long time ago, back in my bedroom, and could not open them because when I had tried to, very, very slowly, to peek out at the world—the world around me—the four walls of my bedroom began to spin so fast that I lost my balance and my sense of being-ness. And also, I couldn’t hear, except for some sort of a static sound that sounded like a TV with no reception, just white and gray dots and the sound of fzzzzzz, which was loud and vibrating. It wasn’t white noise, or black noise – it was just fzzzzzz. It was the vibration of the universe and I did not belong. I was an intruder. It was overwhelming. I had turned off my beloved music because it sounded the same—fzzzzzz. The music was simply a vibration. My clothes irritated me. They felt not soft. They felt like a cheese grater tearing at my skin. It was then that I closed my eyes and pulled off my shirt and stepped out of my jeans and boxers. I did this with my eyes closed. Then I felt my way along the walls and through the doorways until I reached the bathroom. I thought, my brain was still working, it was me, the essence of me that was discordant. If I could just take a shit everything would return to normal. And so then when I reached the bathroom, I sat on the toilet and did, shit, a little, but I could not move my arms from where they were resting on my knees holding myself up. I looked like this ¬. Wiping my ass was out of the question. It was not so far to fall to the floor, which I decided to do and did. I now had reduced the world to nothing except the cool tile and the soft woven silk-like cotton, of a small area rug that Sunshine had given me years ago when we had camped on the Big South. I was almost content, thinking of her, remembering her smile. Every so often, maybe once in a thousand thoughts, I would take a shallow breath. I knew I was not dead yet. And it was then I said to myself ,
“I will not die like this. I won’t.”
PS perfect DNA: