The Plus One

It was the usual boring gala, this time for charity benefitting the impoverished cataractous  Jewish children of the world, Krystal Klear Kids. It was the kind of event that happens incessantly in this part of Los Angeles at this time of year. The food was the same, the same tired hollow women, glowing in jewels and sequins. The old Hollywood with their fishbowl glasses, the climbers, the desperate wait staff. This could have been anywhere, but it was likely the Beverly Hilton. Or maybe it was the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The droning presentation over, the social hour commenced. He sat alone at the table, the cold plastic chicken in front of him still and his wine glass nearing empty. He was wearing an expensive suit he’d had tailored. He looked good and uncomfortable, but he was playing a role and this was important that he come and support her and drink as much as he could without drawing negative attention to himself. That was his sole duty at these things.

He couldn’t spot her anywhere. She always disappeared like this leaving him to drink alone. These weren’t his circles, his events or people. He was a heartbeat at a table. Mulling this over he drained his wine and asked for more. Anonymity provided him a certain comfort, so he continued to get drunk completely unnoticed by everyone aside from the awkward waiter who continued to fill his cup. The waiter probably thought he was someone. The idea made him laugh. The idiot probably came from Bumfuck Indiana to make his Hollywood dreams come true and here he was: trying to impress a ghost by being prompt with the cheap wine.

The minutes flowed into what felt like an eternity as his contempt grew with the drink. Why did he agree to this? He wasn’t the only one, true, but these appendage men – these plus ones – didn’t have soul left to befriend one another. This terrified him. He didn’t want to die like that. He didn’t want to sit here like that. He needed to get up and move around at least. Feel the blood move through his legs. He decided  he had to go to the bathroom. The first time he was on his feet since he’d sat down nearly two hours ago. It would be good to stretch and maybe catch an eyeful of some of the trophies bursting from their dresses as they milled dully about.

Weaving silently through the crowd he looked at all the breasts and legs and asses of the young women who were invariably attached to much older, richer and uglier men. He hated these people and the women in particular. He would have never asked any one of them out. They had never been an option for him and he hated them – and himself – for it.

Hot and angry he entered the empty bathroom. Pure silence. Was he truly alone? He glanced at himself in the mirror and thought more about the women and the city and being broke and never sleeping enough. He still looked okay, but that would fade. He would just continue to fade and fade a bit more each day until he was part of the landscape. No more than a pebble or a discarded can or a used condom drying in the sun.

Glancing around he noticed that the door to the last stall was open. He went over to investigate and was surprised to find it being cleaned by a young Hispanic woman. He knew nothing of these people; the people that clean and cook and fix everything. They too were part of the landscape, their brown skin matching the city. He looked curiously down at her. She was pretty in a simple peasant way and tried to apologize unintelligibly as he closed the door behind them.

The terror in her eyes froze her tongue as he pushed her back over the open toilet and tore open her uniform. He stared down into the quivering brown and black pools, daring a tear to come out. None came as he worked away her panties revealing a large mass of pubic hair. The sight of the tufted hair disgusted him as did her small flat breasts in their dirty,  too-large bra. Yet he’d gone too far to quit now and he pushed through and forced his way inside her the dry coarse heat giving way to slippery warmth.

As quickly as it had begun, it was over.  His hand had moved away from her mouth and still she made no sound, only heaved softly. As he zipped himself he felt a mix of pity and regret for the creature that sat crumpled quietly before him. Had she enjoyed any of it? What he knew is that now he felt nothing for the women outside, rather a feeling of shame set in.

She began to say something as she feebly attempted to pull her torn uniform up around herself. She seemed somewhat annoyed in a simple way that was somehow worse. He realized that he had nothing for her so took a utility knife from her cleaning bucket and sawed her throat open as cleanly as he could, pushing her head into the toilet to catch the blood like the slaughtering of a sacrificial goat.

Cautiously he peeked out of the stall and found that he was still alone. He thought it was curious that at no point had she made a noise. The whole ordeal transpired as if she expected it.  Had she made a noise he would have spared her. He didn’t intend on killing anyone but now that he had he was exhilarated. He smoothed his hair and checked his tuxedo for evidence. In no time he looked perhaps better than when he’s entered the bathroom. As he was drying his hands another man walked in, and his blood ran cold.

He looked about desperately for something to bludgeon the old man with but the man did nothing to acknowledge him as  he brushed past to the end stall. After an instant the old man muttered something about  ”someone should clean that up” before moving several stalls down and closing the door. He couldn’t believe his luck. Had the old man seen what he’d left or had it been a dream? He finished straightening up as the sound of flatulence and diarrhea echoed through the bathroom and he left.

Back in the ballroom nothing had changed. He scanned once again for his date and didn’t recognize anyone among the plastic sea of faces. Back at the table he gathered his coat and drained the remaining glasses of wine. He decided it was time to leave. Motioning for another glass of wine he began to rifle through the pockets of a jacket belonging to the man who was assigned the seat next to him. He hadn’t seen the man in a while but he had looked rich, so he took his valet ticket and was gone.

The lobby was no different, the faces talking at each other, saying nothing. The laugh-yelling and lack of communication was deafening. Still being relatively early, the valet line was short as he handed the ticked to the bored Mexican who passed a set of keys quickly to another boy who immediately vanished.

“Did you enjoy yourself, sir?” The Mexican asked in perfect English.

“You know, it was okay.” He responded as he looked down and absently scraped dried come from his suit .

“Excellent.”

The arrival of a Bentley Continental pleased him slightly while eliciting exactly no reaction whatsoever from anyone else. He fished in his coat pocket for a tip and gave the indifferent youth a twenty dollar bill before climbing into his new car. Not quite sure how to drive it, he assumed that it would be more difficult than in reality it was. After a few excruciating moments in front of the growing valet line he pulled the car off into the dusty black night.

Once free from the gala he was gripped by another anxiety, that of what or where he should go next. His phone was blank and with no date or friends, the entire city was his for the taking. The issue at present, of course was direction. Deciding to maximize the use of his vehicle he took a northeastern route to Sunset Boulevard where he would likely find what he desired.

Being a Saturday night the strip between Sunset West and Fairfax was, incredibly crowded with every sort of the worst people; tourists, poseurs and derelicts of every stripe. The Bentley blended in with all the other comparable cars as he somewhat disinterestedly scanned the sidewalk, looking for what, he couldn’t be sure. Then an idea crystallized in his mind, consuming his being. He knew what he had to do, and at the stoplight on La Cienega  he contemplated how best to kill as many of them as possible.

The size and weight of the vehicle he was in would likely afford him the most firepower, so he surveyed his options. As luck would have it, a large group was gathered in front of the Mondrian and he felt in his blood that it would be good and decent of him to relieve several of them from this world.  Pressing the throttle to the floor, the two ton beast roared to life and off of the street, onto the sidewalk and through the crowd. The image reminded him of Sean Connery spooking a flock of birds into the propellers on an oncoming Fokker. Like the Fokker, the Bentley lost momentum in the gore and suddenly slammed to a halt against one of the large and completely useless decorative doors the hotel displays at its entrance.

Mildly dazed, he opened the door to survey his work. Screams filled the air and a general sense of excitement stirred his adrenaline further. Now feeling on the verge of mania, he had to decide his next move. The voices and screaming came from everywhere, surrounding him and his crime. Yet no one even so much as questioned him, or checked to see if he was injured. No, in fact he had managed to appear as one of the victims himself.

Then he noticed something else, something disturbingly odd. Of all the screams and movement, he didn’t sense one iota of panic. No, in fact the whole scene contained a much different tone and vibration than a reasonable person might expect. He looked down at the partially crushed head of a man, comfortably nestled between the tire and the sidewalk. The one exposed eye gleamed up, almost approvingly, thankfully. In death, he had made it. In certain circles, the opulence of his demise would be the thing of legend.

The crowd then quickened to a rush and  the screaming swelled to a fever pitch. Women slipped in the blood and broken bodies, pulling off their heels and running barefoot; the wet slapping of perfectly pedicured and bunioned feet. The security showed up and kept everyone at bay as the surging crowd continued away from the wrecked Bentley. He was at a loss. The scene was surreal. Until he finally understood what was going on.

The reason accident had gone completely unnoticed was drown out by the powerful hum and chug of a diesel engine. A diesel engine that just happened to be attached to a large tour bus that had just pulled in front of the House of Blues. This was where the crowd was going and this was what must have caused the driver of the Bentley to swerve off the road. As it would happen, LMFAO was on tour.

Working his way down Olive to Santa Monica Boulevard he was astonished that lighting had struck twice for him, but rationalized that it often does for well-dressed men who prefer to stay quiet. The rush of killing en mass had completely eclipsed his murder of the maid. He had achieved a higher state of being and awakened a lust that he must satisfy immediately. The issue at present was that now he was without vehicle and his phone still showed no calls.

He paused for a moment at Fountain and beheld the city from there. Expansive and full, it glimmered with possibility. This was the medium view, however. The finest views are reserved for those who can afford the hills or top floor offices. Those who furnish their homes at Restoration Hardware and prefer the “bespoke” options of the mass produced. He sighed in resigned anger and continued down.

The East didn’t hold anything for him so he turned West. Quite soon he came to the Beanery, where, being a Saturday night, the drunken assholes from Universities and crowded apartments far and wide came to wallow in each other.  The usual group looked through him from the deck, sucking their beers and talking as he went inside. He felt overdressed as he looked for anyone that he might possibly know. He had gotten lucky. He had to think and be smart about his next steps. The blood pulsed in his ears and he wished he had a gun or a blade or the Bentley back. But wait, he had to get a hold of himself…

Then he saw a neighbor of his, a man he topically knew as a musical arranger who worked from home. He approached him and was surprised to find that he was recognized.

” How’re you doing, man? I never thought you’d actually make it!”

“I wouldn’t dream of missing another invitation.”

“Good man, that’s good. Sit down, grab yourself a beer.”

He was introduced as an old college buddy which was a lie. He barely knew this guy. Fortunately, this was a game he knew well and he settled back with a drink to listen and think. He even loosened his tie. The festivities continued for some time as the conversation shifted to various topics such as music and writing and women. He felt oddly comfortable and was thankful none of the conversation involved him.

Several drinks later his head was in a swim and he had to use the bathroom. Perhaps he would find what he needed there. Working his way through the yammering, snapping crowd, a sudden commotion erupted as several uniformed policemen entered. From the door they surveyed the crowd and  everyone froze in their own guilt. Outside, the lights flashed on their cars. There was a third stopped by the side door effectively blocking all exits.

One of the cops, a bull-necked cock of a man set his gaze straight on him and motioned his partner who quickly said something into his radio. The cock strutted mechanically towards him, the crowd parting before him. His right hand went down to his sidearm. He knew it had all been too good to be true. A sick and beautiful dream come to a close. He thought about prison and what it would mean. He thought about his bills and who would feed his fish.

The cop handily pushed him aside and went into the bathroom where after a brief struggle and as flush of the toilet he led out a scraggly bastard in cornrows and a tank top. He leaned against the shuffleboard and watched in quiet amazement. The cops, whose routine was dialed precisely, then left with their suspect and gradually the hush turned to a hum then turned to a conversation as speculation ran wild. For those in the know, the arrested man was a known marijuana dealer and they lamented the extra effort they would have to put into completing their evening.

Breathing hard, he went to the bathroom and decided on the stall. Though safe, there was the mixture of anguish and beer that caused him to feel sick. He faced the toilet and began to wretch. Wisely acknowledging that it would only be a matter of moments before he was joined in the bathroom by any number of drunken baboons, he settled on just pissing instead.

As he finished up he noticed something behind the toilet. Something different. He leaned in to inspect closer and found that it was a pistol and it was loaded. He’d found what he needed in the bathroom after all! With a renewed sense of hope, he holstered the gun. He splashed water on his face and straightened his hair before cutting across through to the side exit and back into the night.

Several blocks west, Santa Monica Blvd turns decidedly gayer. The sidewalks alive and the shuffle and music are everywhere. At first he felt the eyes, then a quiet comment or two, then not so quiet. He felt acutely aware of himself here and the effect was unsettling. Then came a catcall and he quickened his pace.

Passing by the patio area of one of the larger venues, he heard the wailing of more sirens and turned to see several squad cars rushing West. A reddish Midwestern queen who had been watching, saw his opportunity.

“Why don’t you step inside hon. You’ll be safe here and may even get a drink or two out of it if you’re good.”

Before he had a chance to work his reeling mind into an answer he was swept inside. The queen had been absolutely right, he was lost immediately in the driving music. The queen had also been truthful about the drink which he produced as if by magic. He knew the stories and eyed it skeptically.

“Don’t worry honey, I’ve never had to resort to that.”

The reply wasn’t ideal.  Glancing back outside the last of the police cars sped by. The queen took him by the hand, which he immediately withdrew. The queen sensed a flirtation that wasn’t there, and then led him over to a table of his friends. All pleasant, and all quite drunk. He fumbled absently for the pistol in his coat which was interpreted as a search for a cigarette. Like the drink, the cigarette was procured instantaneously and just as quickly lit for him.

Not a smoker, he puffed feebly on the cigarette and sipped the sugary strong cocktail. He felt he needed the fortification so he drained it to the great delight of his hosts. The strong drink took only moments to re-ignite his previous intake. A strong buzz came over quick and suddenly the place was completely unbearable.

“I need to get out of here.” He said.

The Queen suggested that they go back to his place. A feeling of flattery and nausea came over him as he thought about the fag’s car and how he might be able to use it. Then he decided against it. The buses were still running so he excused himself and left the bar.

Back on the sidewalk the air was clearer but his head was still feeling the swim and he now had another feel of fire inside of him. Still nothing on his phone which didn’t surprise him much whatsoever. He doubted if he would or could have ever truly been missed at a place like that.

Several bums at the bus stop reeked of hot shit and garbage. Fuck, he didn’t want to have to deal with this sort of wretchedness in an enclosed area. But he had thought about his next move and it was now imperative that he backtrack and push west, west as far as he could go.

He got on and looked around at all the miserable bastards relegated to riding a bus at this time of night. A Mexican laughed at something on his phone. More Mexican teenagers sniggered and carried on amongst themselves. He noticed a large, quiet black and a few Indians or Arabs of some sort. In fact, he was the only white person on the bus aside from the bums. He moved to the back and sat down.

The bus ride down Santa Monica boulevard is a tedious stop and go insulated from the chaos outside. The gay bars melt into the corridor through Beverly Hills which is carefully insulated from the road. A large sedan screeched into the back of a small hatchback, crumpling the rear end and sending the smaller car spinning off to the side of the road. He saw numb terror in the driver’s eyes and everyone moved on as if nothing happened.

As the bus moved into the west side Mexicans got off and more got on. Some hipsters and college age kids as well. He was the only person dressed up as well. He hated the west side and the people that lived here. He sat and he pondered and grew angry and felt that a personal emergency was imminent. At the next stop most of the other passengers got off and the lights began to flicker.

Slowly the bus moved out back along and he remembered a hookah bar that was just up ahead on this side of the street. He was confident it would be full and it was. He called out to the driver and said he had an emergency. She made no acknowledgement whatsoever as he stumbled up and towards the front of the bus. He had to get to her if he was going to steer the bus into the sidewalk seating of the bar.

The bus bore down steadily when gunfire burst from an SUV into the front of the bar, mowing down the patrons in a satisfying mist of blood and gore and bone. Several of the gunmen had jumped out and with precision pumped more rounds into the scattered bodies, some writhing and screaming, but most dead. One of the men turned to the bus as it bore down on them and shot through the windshield, blowing the driver’s head apart as the bus slammed into the SUV and over the sidewalk.

He couldn’t believe his eyes. It appeared everyone was dead. He looked back into the bus and saw the big black get up and walk off the bus. An old woman sat staring forward silently. He opened the door and stepped out into the blood. Not everyone was dead, but they soon would be. Apparently there were others that had had the urge to take out the hookah bar. He was furious. No matter what he did, there were always others out to do the same. Often better.

Amongst the bits of human meat that littered the sidewalk and the front of the café he found something that would make his night infinitely better. A sign from God and the sort of thing that can turn a man’s mood quickly around. The Tech 9 was beautiful and loaded. He looked around and found another couple of magazines that he stuffed into his pants. Traffic went on as usual but in the distance sirens could be heard approaching so he ducked off into the alleys and continued west.

Now it was just a matter of impulse. He hadn’t the luxury to think anymore, he had to act or others would act for him. He found a group of college boys walking drunkenly and killed them. He knew he would have hated them and felt nothing aside from the thrill of satisfaction. A girl was arguing with her boyfriend and he forced her to strip down before shooting him in the throat. Then he shot her too. They fell like pins. He giggled with manic glee and rushed on.

Down into the state streets there were more college kids and other types that he couldn’t relate to. They made him sick. If he caught any alone or off away from the street he would kill them where they stood. The death aroused him but once the girls fell broken and dead like deer he didn’t want them anymore. Still no calls on his cell phone. No sirens either. In fact the noise from the cars and people and music and everything seemed to drown out his actions. Despite it all, he still felt silenced.

His wake was terrible. The carnage climaxed within him and suddenly he felt nothing anymore as he continued put rounds from the into anyone and everyone he could find. The pause caused people to turn uninterestedly and then turn back to what they were doing. He killed them too, sending brains onto their friends before they too were killed. What had gone wrong in him? Was he sick? Something was dying in him and now his actions took on the mania of a dying animal.

Angrily passing a sports bar he now understood what was happening. A USC football game was on. Again he  was slighted by forces far superior and out of his control. He wished his guns were bombs. He wished he could tear everyone limb from limb and eat their bodies and reduce them to his shit. He couldn’t kill enough of them. He was losing control and couldn’t focus. He had to escape this hell he was in.

Just then, he was out of bullets and onto the sea. Nothing further out save the blinking lights of ships and oil rigs. He tossed the Tech 9 at a taxi and walked down onto the sand. The beach was dark and quiet, the rolling of the waves beckoning him closer. He pulled out the tiny worn Glock and turned it over in his hands. He looked at his cell phone again; still nothing. He pitched it into the black water. His pulse began to slow, but he felt empty, defeated.

He stared at the water for a long time with the gun still tightly in his hand. He turned behind him and down the coast and saw the city aglow reddish-orange as if it were burning. He knew it was hell. All of it was beyond him and he wondered if he had ever met another human being and decided he had not. He let the city burn as he turned back to the ocean and the Glock, which was all he had left.

He’d been a plus one his entire life and truly felt he was out of options. Alone with his thoughts at last, he didn’t know what to do. Then a splash. He turned and saw a girl looking out into the ocean as well. Naturally she didn’t notice him. Then another splash coming from the other side. It was the black man from the bus. He too stared at the ocean and turned to him and nodded before walking in.

Another splash and he turned back to the girl who was now in the water. The man was gone. A teenage boy threw his phone in and marched into the sea. It was incredible. Dozens of people were now marching in around him. Old, young, black, white, brown, yellow. Suddenly the beach was aglow as the hellfire of Los Angeles shone on them all. He decided to throw the Glock into the water. He wouldn’t be needing it any longer.

As he walked into the ocean the water was clogged with the drowned and drowning being tossed in the surf. The cold water splashed and pulled at him as he worked his way out until his feet no longer touched and the sea entered his lungs and he no longer cared about the other people or his phone or hate or any of it. The tide sucked at his legs and he felt warm before everything went dark and silent.