Friday, December 11, 2009

The Procedure - 8

Alex, my only remaining friend from high school, was the only person I knew well who'd had it done. We used to hang out a lot. Go to bars. Play pool. See bands. Not so much anymore. He got married, I got divorced. Somewhere along the line we let each other go. Still, I managed to enlist him for drinks one night after work.

My last encounter with Shana had left me shaken. From a distance, the Procs seemed fearless and utterly at ease. Idealized human beings. Up close, there was something else about them. Something hard to define. A transcendence bordering on oblivion, maybe. A kind of a disconnectedness from the world but an unconditional embrace of it, too. At least judging from Shana. It was weird. I wanted to see if Alex was the same.

We sat at a table in the back of the biker bar we used to go to. As we made small talk, catching-up talk, I tried not to seem like I was scrutinizing him. He brought up the Procedure himself, without hesitation.

"So you heard I got it, right?"

"Yeah," I said. "How, uh... How do you like it?"

"Man, I don't even know where to begin. I... I know this sounds stupid, but it has solved all my problems."

"Good lord."

"For instance. You know I had a bit of a coke thing. You know. You were there."

"Sure, yeah. You're not doing it anymore?"

Alex suppressed a laugh and made funny waving motions with his hands.

"No, no, no! Check it out. It's even better than that."


"I can do as much of it as I want."


"I can do it, I can not do it. It doesn't fucking matter. I don't even have to think about it."

"Huh. That's interest–"

"Here's what it is, Adam: I'm free. I'm cut loose. No preoccupations and no fixations. Addiction is an illusion. Illusion is an addiction."


"Let's do shots."

Alex ordered a round of tequila and then another and another. We were on our third pitcher of beer, too. Maybe fourth. I was getting hammered. Alex seemed completely immune to the alcohol.

In a sotted and unthinking moment I tried to press him about the Procedure himself.

"Adam, you must know I'm not at liberty to divulge such information," he declared sternly.

"Not at liberty to divulge," I repeated with a hiccup.

"You thinking of getting it?" he asked.

"I'm going in. I got an appointment."

Alex smiled and shook his head.

"My friend, your life is about to completely change. You have no idea what you're in for," he said. "Man, if I could just be you. To experience that feeling for the first time."

He grew quiet for a few moments, looking down at the table. He appeared to be on the verge of tears.

"Sorry. Anyway, cheers. I'm happy for you, bro," he declared, raising his glass.

In an effort to lighten the mood, I asked after his wife, Teri.

"Oh. She's dead," he said.


"Teri's dead," he repeated. He looked dully into the distance and took another sip of beer.

"Jesus Christ, man. I'm sorry."


"How did it happen? What happened?"

"I dunno, Adam. She's just dead."

"She's just dead?"

Alex nodded. I got the feeling that this topic of conversation bored him.

"I'm sorry," I repeated. "You don't really want to talk about it. I understand."

"That's not it. She's just dead, man." Alex shrugged. Then he sat placidly, waiting for the conversation to resume.

"OK. Well again, I'm sorry."

"Dead is dead. Life is life," he declared abruptly. "Beer is beer," he added, clunking his mug against the table to make his point. "Get it?" He smiled the way one might to an errant child.

I nodded, pretending to understand.

A curious event occurred on the way home. I left my car in the parking lot and Alex drove – even at the end of the night, after yet more beer and booze, he appeared to be completely sober. Energetic, inquisitive, sharp. Perfectly alert.

We rode in silence for a while. Suddenly there was an awful thud. I looked in the rear-view mirror to see a four-legged creature limping toward the ditch.

"Jesus! Was that a dog?" I exclaimed.

"I dunno," said Alex.

"Man, stop the car. We have to go see."

"Go see what?" he said with a trace of irritation.

"Go see the dog. Or whatever."

Alex sighed as though he were summoning the stamina to explain something to a fool.

"Adam, trust me on this. There's no point in turning around."

"What if it's not dead? We should put it out of its misery."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dead, not dead. Dog, animal. Misery, suffering, blah blah blah."

"What are you talking about?"

"Adam, this is a little frustrating for me because in a couple weeks you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. But we do not turn around the car."

I relented. I begged him pardon for my ignorance. I admitted I was a little wasted. But I didn't tell him I was scared.