“I´m sweatin´ cobs, ´ere!”
Doctor Winston O´Boogie was kneeling nude on the apartment floor, his Mother-validated lover changing the hexagrams he´d cast. His old yins became young yangs in the time it took to wipe his glasses on the batik throw. Down below, outside the wide-open window, New York City hummed and horned in the humid August night.
The apartment smelled of scrambled eggs, cigarettes and incense. The good Doctor lit his ninth Winston of the day.
“Get the fan, baby,” asked his lover from behind dark curtains of hair. She was wearing a robe, tied loose, with nothing underneath but the truth. One hand was correcting the hexagram, the other holding open the i-ching.
The good Doctor stood, hands on his narrow hips. “I mean,” he began, continuing the conversation they´d been having, “I´ve always known I´m weird. I´ve always been weird. I´m always gonna be weird. That´s just me, right. I know what I am. I´m a freak. I know that. But am I? Am I really? Or are they the freaks?”
“This looks kinda neat. Interesting.”
“I mean, when I was five, mum told me happiness was the key to life. Then, when I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life. You see? I knew then it was a waste of time being there. I should´ve listened to meself.”
“Ah, school is just a sausage factory that prepares you for work.”
“Right. That´s it. Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives, isn´t it? We’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that, if I say that on telly or in the papers. That’s what’s so insane about it.”
“Why are you letting it bother you now, my love?” She reached up for his hand but he pulled it away.
“Just give me a minute. I´m collecting me thoughts, here. Or trying to.”
The Doctor had woken up in a strange mood.
For the past few days he´d felt flat. Listless. Booze hadn´t worked. Drugs and music neither. He´d felt tired, weary and spent. Old. Worn out.
He was sick of feeling hungover. Sick of worrying about Mother. Sick of missing her, thinking about her. She lived behind his eyelids, had become the voice in his mind.
He was sick of talking to deadbeats. Sick of feeling guilty about things he could remember – things that stopped him in his tracks, took him right back. Sick of his old life. His old gone life. Sick of thinking up answers he´d never given. Sick of people and – for damn sure – sick to the back teeth of himself.
Sometimes this type of mood lasted a day or two, sometimes longer, but this time it had been a week, maybe more. Felt like forever. Felt like calling up The Man. Getting some rest. Some sleep. Some peace.
Major and Minor were scratching at the toilet door but O´Boogie ignored them. He was staring at the broken bottles in the bath-tub. When had that happened last night? Brown glass, no blood, strong smell of beer.
As the toilet flushed he folded up the News and let the cats in. They danced on his toes, straightened their tails and begged, mewling and pleading.
“I´m going out on the deck,” the Doc told his lover as he walked back through to the main room. She was on the floor with the hexagrams, smoking.
“I´m almost through here, baby. Really interesting.”
“Cool. Tell me when you´re done. I need some air. It´s like the black hole of Calcutta in here.”
Minor skittered around the Doctor´s ankles as he stepped up through the window and contorted his body through the gap. Down, far below, someone screamed and the sound of garbage cans clattering and an angry male voice echoed up.
The thing is, the Doc was telling himself, it got to a point where I suddenly found myself surrounded by all the types of people I used to hate when I was twelve. All the people I´d always hated. And there I was, dancing and prancing around for them. What´s someone supposed to think of themselves when that happens? What happens to your soul if you carry on with that palava?
And there she is, ladies and gennlemen: Noo Yark City.
O´Boogie stared down at the standing stones of Manhattan: somewhere down there was a bar stool in front of a drink that had his name on. A brandy Alexander, please, sir. Thanguverymush.
No, give over. Have one night off. Get your ´ead straight.
Arrow through the heart: somewhere out there was Mother.
“What are you trying to do? Kill me?”
O´Boogie patted his naked skin for his cigarettes: of course he had none. Hey people, it was hot out here. And almost dead still. Perhaps he´d left a roach by the plant pot he used as an ashtray? Maybe he should stick to ciggies but who was keeping count? There were no rules anyway, were there?
Who´d said that? Zimmy on the Isle of Wight when they´d played tennis?
Walking around the edge of the roof the Doctor made the welcome acquaintance of a dirty breeze coming up from the East River. At the same time, he saw it. Saw it just hanging in the air not far from him. It was so close he could have thrown a brick at it and hit the mother.
The Doc swore. The UFO hung in the air. It looked just like something from a late-night film. It had lights flashing on and off right along the bottom.
The Doctor called out to his lover. Quietly first, but then, moving quickly back to the kitchen window, he screamed like he was back on Janov´s floor.
“Oh, my God, what is that thing?”
“What is it? It´s a UFO, that´s what it is. What do you think it is?” O´Boogie danced a little jig of delight. “I can´t believe I´m seeing this! This is great! A real UFO. Amazing. You can see it, right?”
“I can see it!”
“There you go!”
“That´s so cool.”
“What time is it? We have to remember this. Be scientific, like.”
“Nine. Just after nine.”
“Nine.” O´Boogie nodded, a toothy smile breaking out under his bony nose. “Of course it is.” Nine. Nine. Nine. Born on Wednesday 9 October. Lived at number 9. Meets Mother 9 November. Sees UFO at nine o´clock at night. “This is a blast, eh?”
And as his lover watched, the Doctor began to gesticulate and shout at the UFO. “Take me with you!” he screamed. “Hey! Hey! Come down here and take me with you, la! Come and get me! I´m ready! Come and pick me up!” As his lover watched he seemed to talk in tongues, a strange, crazed, skinny white man shouting on the roof of a skyscraper: “You with me take! I want to come with you! There´s nothing here for me, they´re all crazy!”
The craft, instead of obeying the naked man, drifted very slowly away, lights flashing all the while, gliding towards the East River and onwards, gradually slipping out of sight, subsiding into the inky ooze of night.
“Hey man, what´s up?”
“I just saw a UFO!”
“No. No, really, brother. I´m not messin´. I´m straight, man. No booze, no drugs. Seriously. We just saw a freakin´ UFO, right on the roof.”
“We did, Bob,” shouted O´Boogie´s lover, cradling a cat.
“Well, uh…” The photographer friend of O´Boogie´s, rubbed his eyes and turned down the volume on the television. “I mean, what do you guys wanna do? I mean, what did it look like?”
“It looked exactly like they do in the films, man. It was just floating, silent. Magical. Majestic, man.”
“It was like a flattened cone, Bob,” added the Doc´s lover, stroking Major, leaning over the coiled white wire.
“Yeah, you´re right. It was like a flattened cone, with a big red light on top.”
“Flashing?” asked the photographer.
“No, no. I know what you´re thinking. When they come into Newark they´re always flashing. Ours wasn´t. This wasn´t. It was dead still, on all the time. And it had loads of little white lights around the bottom of it.”
“I think I just blew my mind,” sighed O´Boogie´s lover. She was leaning against the counter where the cats were eating. “Oh my God. I just saw a UFO. That´s so nuts!”
“It was crazy, man,” laughed the Doc, coiling his naked body in the phone wire. He puffed blue smoke. “I lost it, brother. Blew my mind, man.”
“Holy crap,” the journalist said. “How big was this thing?”
“I dunno. Like a Lear jet? Big enough, you know. Big but not crazy big. Round, kinda. A ship, you know. A real ship. Flying and hovering.”
“Well, guys, I don´t know. Maybe you could, like, call the cops? Ring it in?”
“Bob? Are you serious? Hi, it´s Doctor Winston O´Boogie here and I´d like to report a UFO sighting. I can imagine what they´d think. What everyone would think. They all think I´m a whacko anyway, without this.”
“Well, I dunno, brother. That´s what I´d do.”
O´Boogie accepted a cigarette. “I got the telescope out and had a look at it, later, you know. Because it was just hanging over the river.”
“It was so bright you couldn´t see anything. No details.”
“You don´t know how much I wanted to go with them, man.” The Doctor had a sad flash of precognition (not the first time this had happened). He saw – felt – a grim premonition. A dark cloud on his horizon. He knew then the problem: that most of his life he´d spent waiting for the next bad thing to happen. That he knew bad things happened. That more bad things were going to happen. Something very bad was going to happen. “I might´ve escaped my, you know, destiny, man,” he trailed off weakly. He stared at his lover, embarrassed, but she was looking at the cats.
“We need you here on Earth, buddy.”
“Thanks, Bob.” O´Boogie exhaled. “I really saw it, Bob. I know what you´re thinking but I really saw it.”
“I believe you, buddy. Hell, I don´t know. Maybe get some sleep or something? Have a brew. Watch some TV. Get some rest.”
“Get some rest? Hell, Bob: I feel like I just woke up!”
John Lennon´s drawing of the UFO he saw, NYC, 1974.