Me and Keaton watched the first game of the NLCS (do I blame Dave Roberts again…or admit that at least some of it was that they played better than we did?) at his place, and, well, let’s just say that neither of us went to bed happy Monday night.
I was fast asleep when I heard a knock at my front door. I looked at my phone: it was after 2 AM. I figured it might be some kind of emergency…so I leapt out of bed and ran to open the door, still only in boxers.
It was Travis.
He looked like shit. His shirt was torn and it looked as though he’d fallen in the bushes somewhere. He was in shorts and flip-flops, and something told me I should be grateful that he still had both of those on his feet.
“Dude!,” I exclaimed. “What the…?”
“Can I come in?,” he asked.
“Of course,” I said. I told him to sit down and dashed into the bedroom to grab a robe. While I was there I shot Keaton a quick text: “Travis is here…I don’t know why.” It’s not that I didn’t think I could handle Travis by myself…but Keaton has been in on everything we’ve done for him, so I figured he should be in on finding out how Travis ended up on my doorstep in the middle of the night.
“Can I get you something? I’d offer you a beer but I don’t have any in the house. I’m on starvation rations. Most of what I got is cereal and ramen.”
“I thought Maya Bedrossian was paying you well…”
“Yeah, she is,” I explained, “but it’s still only four afternoons a week, and, if I’m going to have money for rent, I don’t exactly have a whole lot of money for food. But my Fruity Dino-Bites are your Fruity Dino-Bites.” Travis looked puzzled “Cheap Fruity Pebbles,” I explained.
While I was getting Travis his cereal there was a knock at the door.
“Who’s that?,” Travis said, with a jump.
“It’s just Keaton. I texted him to come over. No need to freak out.”
“Oh…ok. I was just…nothing.”
Clearly it wasn’t nothing, but I went to let Keaton in. He looked very tousled in a bathrobe, mask and flip-flops.
When I saw Keaton had a mask on, I realized that Travis didn’t.
“Where’s your mask, man?,” I asked.
“My…?” He looked puzzled. I wondered whether he was on something, although I thought he knew better than to fuck around with drugs on top of his other problems. “Oh. my mask. It… I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I’m not sure how this happened, either.” He indicated his torn shirt.
I brought Travis his cereal. Then I held up the bag to Keaton, offering him some.
“Yeah, bubba, thanks. It’s the least you can do for waking me up in the middle of the night.”
“Hey, I’m sorry,” Travis said. “I never meant to…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Keaton said, sitting down at the table.
“But what’s up?,” I said, bringing Keaton and me bowls and putting the milk and the bag of cereal on the table.
“Well…I’m AWOL from Las Brisas. We have a curfew and I should be there, and…well…I’m not”
There was obviously a lot of story behind that.
“I’m probably going to get kicked out. And then where am I gonna go? Back to the loony bin, I guess.”
“Whoa, hoss,” Keaton said. “One thing at a time. Do they at least know where you are?”
“Then maybe you should call them before it gets any later,” I suggested. “You must have their number on your phone.”
“Yeah…but…I kinda lost my phone.”
“Use mine,” I said, going to get it from the bedroom. “We can look up the number on the internet. I’m sure they’ve got a website.”
“Yeah, it’s lasbrisas.org.”
“Are you ok?,” Keaton asked Travis while I was looking for the number. “I mean, you don’t need to go to the hospital or anything? You’re safe with us…but we’re not a mental health facility.”
“Dude, I’m on the run from a mental health facility.”
“Hello?,” I said into the phone, “is this Las Brisas? Yeah, I’m a friend of Travis Freed, and he’s here with me in my apartment….Me? My name’s Hunter Block…I’m in East Pasadena… Yes, he looks fine.” A little worse for wear, I thought, but I didn’t want to give out more information than was absolutely necessary until I heard Travis’ story. “He’s ok, from what I can tell. No, I don’t know what happened, he was about to tell us, but I wanted to make sure first that y’all knew he was ok.”
The person at Las Brisas – she said he was the overnight staff – said that, yes, they were worried about him and were considering calling the police.
“No need to do that,” I said, thinking that the police would be sure to take him back to the loony bin. “He’s safe here until morning. I can bring him back then, if that’s ok….Yes?…I’ll put him on.”
I handed Travis my phone.
“Hey…Victoria?…Yeah, it’s me…No, I’m ok. I’m here with two of my friends. I didn’t know where to go, so I came here. I knew they’d be ok with me showing up in the middle of the night…Yeah, they’re really great friends. I’m very safe here. My buddies will kick my ass if I try anything stupid tonight… Ok…Thanks, Victoria…Wait, you what? You called Sheila and told her I was missing?” He mouthed ‘fuck’ into the phone. “If you think you need to call her again, tell her I’m safe and I’ll be back in the morning…to…to face the consequences. Thanks, Victoria. Bye.”
He fumbled with my phone trying to hang up, so I helped him with it.
“Ok, man. What’s the story?”
“I fucked up big time, that’s the story.”
“There’s gotta be more to it than that,” said Keaton. “Let’s have it.”
“Ok,” Travis began, “so there’s this park a couple blocks from Las Brisas. You probably know it’s not in the best neighborhood, and the park is pretty sketchy after dark. The people who hang out in the parking lot are pretty sketchy too. Anyway, we’re encouraged to take walks, and I went on one a couple weeks ago with some other inmates who were playing Pokemon Go. I know shit about the game but apparently there are some interesting monsters you can capture – or whatever the fuck it is you do with them – at the park.
“So, anyway, the two people I was with were walking around looking at their phones, and I was looking around at nothing until these girls come up to me. One of them was seriously checking me out, and I guess she liked what she saw…since she started talking to me. It was the first time that a girl’s shown any interest in me since before the quarantine, so, well…”
“Bubba the horndog understands,” said Keaton.
“Were they hot?”
“I thought the one who seemed to be into me was. She said her name was Lola. Nobody really talks about sex at Las Brisas, and, well… I mean…”
“You’re a red-blooded 22 year old boy,” I contributed. “I get it.”
“Told you he would,” said Keaton.
I gave him the two word answer to lighten the atmosphere.
“So there’s this chick and you think she’s hot and she’s into you, and she hangs out in this park near where you’re living…where’s the problem?”
“I didn’t think there was one. At first. She gave me her number that first night, and I started texting her. We met in the park a few times after that and kinda hung out.”
“Like hung out hung out…or like you just hung out?,” Keaton asked.
“A little of both,” Travis said, looking real uncomfortable. “It was the first time I did anything with a girl since my girlfriend fucked me over last summer. It wasn’t much, but…”
“Sure, man. You don’t need to justify it.”
“The only thing is, well, I kinda knew she was a druggy loser, but a couple days ago she said she wanted to hook up…the only question was where.” He paused. “It starts getting really sketchy here; I’m not sure why I went along with it. She said she wanted to get a motel room. There’s a bunch of cheap motels near Las Brisas. My car’s over at my parents’, but the motels are in walking distance…and it’s okay for me to be out until 10. You kinda have to tell them where you’re going, but it’s easy to lie. They don’t care too much where you go as long as you’re back on time. I made up a story about Dylan taking me out for a good meal. That was easy.
“So I go to meet Lola and part of me was thinking, shit, I should be careful. I barely know this chick, and I knew she’s got some sketchy friends. I met a few of them when I was hanging out with her at the park.”
“Did she know you were from…where you were from?,” I asked, pouring myself more cereal absentmindedly.
“We never really discussed it, although I did tell her I had a curfew, so she must have suspected something. In any case, we got together with plenty of time for me to make it back by 10.”
“Was this a manic thing?,” Keaton asked. “It kinda sounds it.”
“Yeah…I don’t know…probably. The high-risk sexual behavior is pretty typical of it, although I didn’t feel like I was off-the-charts manic or anything. And it’s hard to tell where I am now because…I’m getting ahead of myself,” he said. “My brain is fuzzy enough without my getting all mixed up.
“So we met up at the park and went to this motel…it was pretty awful. It’s not that I don’t have money – Mom and Dad are still giving me my allowance, and I have nothing to spend it on, so we could have gotten a nice hotel room on everything I’ve got saved up, but Lola wanted this place. I wasn’t sure why. Then I kinda found out. There was a dude there who sold drugs.”
Big pause while me and Keaton looked at each other…and then at Travis. Both me and Keaton are good ole Southern boys, meaning that, while it’s ok to get drunk, drugs are bad news. Of course I’ve smoked weed in the past, but I never really liked it. It just made me tired and hungry, while a few beers just make me feel good. Maybe I’ve got a weird metabolism when it comes to alcohol and drugs – remember what hard liquor does to me – but Keaton’s as anti-drug as I am.
“Lola asked me for twenty bucks and came back with a couple of joints. I figured they were regular joints, and – stop me if this is too much information – I used to like having sex when I was high. And I figured this was the kind of motel where you could smoke weed in the room. So we lit up one of the joints and smoked it…”
“This is where it turns out not to be a normal joint,” said Keaton. “Fuck, hoss…what were you thinking, taking a joint from some sketchy bitch you picked up in a park?”
“I…don’t know. I really don’t. Except…”
“You were thinking with your dick and not your brain,” I said. “We’ve all done stupid shit because of that.”
“Yeah, bubba…but not smoke joints from people you hardly know that you do know were bought in a cheap motel.”
“Give him a break, man,” I said. “You can tell he feels bad enough.”
“Ok,” Keaton said. “Sorry for coming down on you so hard, hoss. But somebody needs to talk some sense into you. Shit…”
“You’re not telling me anything I haven’t told myself,” Travis said. “You’re 100% right. Maybe I was manic to do something stupid like that. But it seemed kinda exciting at the time.”
“So you smoked the joint and…let me guess…there was some other shit in it besides weed.”
“Yeah,” he said, “but I don’t know what it was. All Lola would tell me was that it had some ‘extra spice’ in it.”
“Probably laced with angel dust,” Keaton said. “It’s the kind of shit you find in joints you get in sleazy places like motels in wherever the fuck it is you’re living.”
Of course that was only half the story.