Back in my room, with Big Pharmakos still in the passenger’s seat and Large, Creeping Charlie at the wheel, I recline in bed with my socks sticking out from under the comforter. Then I get up, yawning and stretching, and get a mini bottle of vodka from the minibar. I settle back in bed and click on the TV with the remote that’s been laid out for me on the bedside table. I unscrew the cap of the bottle and look into it, like I might see my eye magnified down on the bottom if I look close enough. It smells like gasoline, and I remember that we’re still in the van, speeding away from the pasture that was under the caretaker’s care. I give my attention over to the TV, where a swimming competition is underway. It appears to be on the Baltic Sea coast, probably somewhere like Latvia. The coast is rocky and the sky is overcast and full of moisture. The swimmers are sleek and fit but not exactly graceful. They stumble on their feet like sea lions. On the shore is a bar and a few metal picnic tables. Everyone is loading up on booze before jumping in the water. I’m sitting at one of those tables with another person, my compatriot of sorts, and we’re buying vodka for any of the swimmers that want some. It’s the least we can do, we think. At first, we were caught up in a bad loop of bickering about money, but we’ve established a good rhythm of turn-taking in terms of who’s buying, and things are better between us now. A swimmer sits across from us, downs his portion, and departs to head toward the sea, another swimmer taking his place. We turn our heads to watch the edge of the water and the swimmers submerging themselves whenever the drinking at the table begins to bore us. The swimmers get in the water and from there begin to swim, and just keep swimming, out toward the horizon and then past it, far past it. Soon they’re dead and gone to us. They keep going, out into the open ocean, until they feel like drowning, and then they drown. No one ever comes back once they leave our picnic table and enter the sea. As far as I can tell, that’s the competition. The TV stays on this scene for a while, and then coughs up another.

Advertisements