Saturday, 23 May 2015

Writing to jazz

Early August, 1997. Burroughs is dying in his home in Lawrence, Kansas. 

Eric and Jordan call me to say the great man would be cold & gone tomorrow (how do they know), so we have to hurry to get there on time. Two years ago: Jordan completely naked, reading from Junkie in her wailing whisper, under a tree. Our dream: to see Burroughs. I think I’m in love with Jordan, but Eric is always there and I’m not. Also, he has a car. We get into the car and we drive off. I realise I forgot to tell my parents. I will find a telephone booth at a gas station on our way to Kansas. Jordan tries to read her favourite excerpts from Naked Lunch, but it’s getting dark already, and she can’t make out the words. I think she looks great, in her white blouse and her light yellow pinafore skirt. We missed a few gas stations and I realise I won’t be making that phone call. Jordan lights my cigarette, then Eric’s. First mine, then his. Eric asks us not to fall asleep as that would make him feel lonely. Jordan says we are insane. I think we are all getting tired.

Kansas is colder than Colorado, or maybe it’s just nighttime. Eric plays some insane jazz, fast and nonsensical, and Jordan opens whisky.

Finally, we are in Lawrence, and it’s breaking dawn now. We are exhausted and excited and happy and drunk. We start arguing whether Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch was good or not (I think it’s a masterpiece), and I just imagine Jordan in that scary typewriter scene. Her hair is wet. Finally, we see the great man’s place. Alcohol numbs the effect. It’s early morning, and the house is surrounded by dozens of people. Different ages. With books. Some are crying. One is wearing jeans exactly like mine. There are whispers everywhere: heart attack, dead, dying. Windows are sealed with wood. We are not saying anything, and not even trying to get through. We just stand there for five hours, until it’s confirmed: Burroughs is dead. Some old bearded guy to the left of us says the body has already been ‘removed from the premises’. Such a turn of the phrase. Some remain standing. We stand there for another hour, then leave. Not a word is spoken as we get into the car and drive away. I think my parents called the police. 

Eric breaks the silence: he saw Burroughs as he was carried out of the house, but I just think it’s bullshit. Jordan falls asleep on my shoulder. 

We are leaving Kansas.