Jesus. Fifteen years in the life, and it's come to this.
It's 5:49 in the ay-em, and I'm standing here in the alley behind a seedy strip mall on the ass-end of town, waiting for Devin, a pimply-faced little burnout, to show up with the pint of AB positive he owes me. That little shit better show up if he knows what's good for him. I'm not convinced that he does. If he did, he'd have been here at 5:30 like he said he would. Devin's only redeeming quality is that he works at BloodSource, a blood donation place in this very mall, and can occasionally smuggle out some of the good stuff to sell on the side. Other than that, he's a total loss. Some of the people in the life think it's pretty sweet that I have an "inside man" at a blood bank, but they don't know Devin. This arrangement of ours is many things, and "sweet" is not one of them.
I feel like Doc Brown, waiting for Marty McFly. "Damn, where's that kid?!" Jesus, it's cold out here. Damp, too. Shoulda worn something heavier than this windbreaker. Heh. Some badass I am, with this stupid gray Member's Only jacket, faded t-shirt, baggy sweatpants, and flip-flops. Get me, I'm Count Dorkula.
Damn, where's that kid?!
Sunrise is scheduled for 6:44 this morning. You don't last long in the life without two things: a reliable watch and an encyclopedic knowledge of sunrises and sunsets. I think there are two big audiences for The Old Farmer's Almanac: old farmers and us. If it gets to be 6:15 or so and Devin still hasn't shown, I'm bailing. I chose this spot specifically because it's within walking (or running) distance of my apartment, and if Devin flakes on me, I can make it back there and get to my coffin before sunrise. What time is it now? Lemme check my watch.
5:50. It's still dark out. Relax, man. Relax.
Time has a way of screwing with you, no matter who you are. People talk about time being a wise old man, Father Time, but I'm not convinced. No wise old man acts like this. My money's on time being a bratty, spoiled little kid whose parents never punish him. Think about it. You try to make time slow down or stand still, and what does it do? Runs away from you! And when you want or need time to move, then what? You guessed it: it digs in its fat little heels and refuses to budge. No doubt about it, time is in sore need of a good spanking.
C'mon, Devin. Get here! Where are you?
What shall we do to pass the time? What shall we do? If I were Marcel Proust, I'd be sucking down tea and biscuits and rememberancing things past. But I'm not Marcel Proust, and I don't have any tea or biscuits handy. Let's see what I've got in the pockets of my gray windbreaker. A wadded up Kleenex, a fast food receipt, and a stale-looking stick of Juicy Fruit that looks like it's been there awhile. Oh, what the hell. Beggars can't be choosers. This stick of gum'll soften up if I start chewing. Hell, especially with the kind of teeth I've got! Okay...
I guess it was Grandpa who got me chewing Juicy Fruit when I was maybe 6 or 7. That was his brand of gum after he supposedly quit smoking. In reality, he kept smoking and acquired the gum habit, too. But, anyway, he always had a pack of Juicy Fruit in his shirt pocket and would always offer me a stick of it. I didn't really like the taste of it -- that sort of cloying, overly-sweet flavor which quickly fades -- but I always took the gum because I liked my Grandpa, and I guess I got the habit, too, because I still occasionally buy it. My folks were split up by then, and Mom was going through all kinds of stuff, so I spent many evenings and weekends with Gramps in those days. On Saturday nights, one of the local TV stations would show the old horror movies, and we'd watch together. That was how I saw Dracula with Bela Lugosi, and I guess it stuck with me. Well, obviously it did 'cause here I am. I don't know why it had that effect on me, but I saw him and heard him, and I knew. "I am home," I thought.
From that time on, Dracula dominated my fantasy life and my playing. I wasn't just Dracula every Halloween. I was Dracula all year round. You know those fake vampire teeth you can buy at grocery stores in October? Well, Mom got me a pair one year, and I wore them almost constantly. Wore them out, in fact, causing Mom to have to buy me a new pair every year. October was just about the only time you could get them. I remember arguing with my Mom about wearing them to school. She insisted I leave the teeth at home. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing. I had enough trouble getting along with the other kids as it was. But at home, Mom was good about letting me play Dracula. She had this black skirt made out of a shiny material that she let me use as my "cape," and she even let me use her red nail polish as "blood" providing I didn't get any on the carpet. By chance, I found a Dracula action figure at a drug store once, and it became the central item in my play life. My little plastic Dracula would feast on all the other toys in my collection, always purring to them in that suave Transylvanian accent. "Heee-Man, Master uf da Yoo-ni-furss! How naaiiiccce to seeeee you!"
5:52. We're still good. Keep it together. Plenty of time. (Goddamnit, Devin! Get here!)
Where was I? Oh, yeah. My childhood. So the years fast did roll, as they say, but I didn't grow out of the vampire habit. By the time I was visited by the Puberty Fairy, I was trying to be a goth kid. It was tough, though, because by then Mom was remarried to a retired Marine drill sergeant who gave me lots of grief over my "fruity" clothes and "sad sack" music. I guess I just sort of retreated into my own little world during those years. I had a TV and VCR in my room, and I watched my taped-off-late-night-television copy of Dracula just about every day, memorizing the dialogue and playing all the parts in perfect sync with the movie. With my stepdad in the house, I began to spend more and more time alone in my room. Of course, my salvation/downfall came through the Internet. Once I got on Usenet and discovered a vampire discussion group, I found out about "real vampires" who could initiate me into "the life." I started e-mail correspondences with some of them, which led to a series real-world meet-ups. Most turned out to be phonies and fakers -- pervs on the lookout for a fresh piece of chicken -- and I started to doubt the whole "real vampire" thing. In fact, my interest was on the wane when I met Derek and Esmarelda, who were the real deal and who said they could give me The Big Bite if I so desired. Hell, I was 18, stupid, and on the verge of flunking out of community college. I wanted change. I wanted a new life. I didn't know. I still don't know.
The red flashing light apparently hadn't bothered me. It was the siren, that unmistakable Curly Howard whoop sound, which shook me from my reverie and transported me instantly back to the present.
I knew it was a calculated risk meeting in this alley. Like I said, we're on the ass-end of town, and this spot is a notorious hangout for huffers, winos, and teenagers looking a relatively secluded spot where they can screw without interruption. The cops come through every now and again to drive them off, usually because of complaints by neighbors. I say, if you live in this neighborhood, huffers, winos, and horny teens are part of the package, and you should either get used to them or move. But, still, the cops patrol this area so at least they can say they're doing something about it. And here comes one of them now, a big fat John Law type with a flashlight. He wants to talk.
"Excuse me, sir."
I hate when they call you sir. They don't mean it. Why can't they just say, "Hey, shithead?" What am I gonna tell this idiot? Gotta think of an excuse. Something he'll buy. Remember: be nice. Be polite. Don't seem edgy or impatient or he'll know something's up. If he gets suspicious and takes you downtown for questioning, you're screwed. What time is it? 6:03. Oh, Jesus!
"Can I talk to you for a moment?"
"Sure, officer. What's the problem?"
"Problem? Who said anything about a problem? Is there a problem here? Something I should know about?" The tone of his voice tells me I am in trouble here.
I can see the sky is already starting to change colors. I'm screwed. I know it.
Oh, well. Sunrise, sunset, huh?