HOLLYWOOD—No sooner had the doctors acknowledged their failure to save Suzanne, and a strange figure appeared. A long muslin robe fell around his willowy body, and long flaxen hair fell around his clean-shaven face in golden waves. In a soothing, honeyed voice he repeated:
“There is no birth. . . no death.” Over and over, “There is no birth. . . no death,” wailing and walking through the blue-hued hospital hall a radiant image, haloed in a Buddha indifference.
He went to a weeping Candy, kneeled and repeated, “We are not born. We do not die.” Thank heaven, her English left many cracks of understanding, and this divine effrontery that life was deathless and that her tears were wasted, fell through the cracks. Candy shook her head, and gave a doe-eyed glance that the guru took for understanding. When the robed figure turned to Jason and said, “We are not born, we do not die,” he put a benedictory hand on Jason's forehead and added:
“Suzanne's energy has joined the universal oneness.”
Jason, ever the actor, even in this moment of grief, made like he was going to shake this holy fool's hand, and instead he shoved his sunken chest out of the way. Jason wandered down the hospital hall. His face showed no expression. Soon Jason was on his knees, scavenging through the garbage to find the purple packet of Indica he had discarded there in a moment of supreme self-assurance and declaration of his independence from cannabis.
He was angry, furious at not finding the baggie, shaking his fists, almost foaming at the mouth. Kit, Jason's daughter, came out into the hall, dressed and ready to go.
“Oh, disgusting,” said Kit. “Why are you doing that?”
He would go through ten dumpsters if he had to find the Indica. He grunted, groped and groveled, his fingers lifted a banana peel and seized the baggie smeared by rotting yogurt.
“Can we see Mommy now?” she said, still unaware of what had happened.
“Mommy is gone,” Jason said, angrily.
“Did she go home already?”
“Not exactly. . .” He slipped the yogurt-smeared packet into his pocket.
“What Daddy means. . .” Helene, Jason's mother too Kit's still little hand and turned her around to explain what daddy meant in better words than Jason could ever find.
He slid through a buttonhole in the fabric of reality, and swam in womb-dark space. The next 49 hours passed in a blizzard of obliviousness and numb ache, assuaged by the Indica and then, as by slight of hand, there was also white powder to snort and tequila to drink, the amber kind. He surrendered. He now knew that he had met and shook hands with a snowy substance that he had heroically resisted and strived to avoid, and even as this delicious poison went up his nose, he was plotting how to get more of it. Surrender granted the knowledge that it would could cause him to meet his maker, Jason found a strange solace in this knowledge; it was a pillow he could rest his vexed soul on.
Where he was or what happened during those 49 hours he could not say. It was a total void. The next thing he knew, they were pitching dark moist brown shovelfuls over an empty pit, and it fell with heavy thuds as the clumps fell apart and blotted the brassy gleams of an ornate casket. It was a blindingly bright, hot day—unseasonably hot in the middle of the June gloom. The crowd, exiled by the overflow from the VIP tent, migrated and clung to the spindly shade cast by the palm trees or else stood sweating and fanning themselves with the funeral program.
Some wore sunglasses out of solar necessity; some to hide the tears they shed; others to hide the tears they didn't shed. Behind Jason's dark lenses, which masked the bluish circles around his deep red eyes, sweat mingled with tears and trickled down his unshaven cheeks. The dirt rasped against the casket bronze with dull rhythmic thuds.
Even in this solemn moment, of shoveling dirt into Suzanne's grave, over the high walls surrounding the graveyard glided the top deck of a double-decker
London bus. The unsmiling tourists gawked and pointed their cameras and subjected Suzanne to one final intrusion by an adoring public.
(to be continued)