“The wind is changing,” the Kid threw into the open window and all of us nodded and grunted in agreement, as if we had any idea as to what he really meant, “Fuck the wind. Fuck Gibson. Let’s get out of here.”
He pushed away from the window sill, measured us with the usual look of fever drenched in boredom, accepted his jacket from the Beaver’s hands, graced the bearded man with a twitch of razorblade lips in return and headed for the hotel room door. We all were on our feet then, roosters at a peacock’s command.
“Heckler,” the Kid paused, half turned to me and said, “You’re riding with me.”
I grinned and strode past the others, smug and content, out of the suite, down the hall and assumed the position in the elevator, just behind the Kid’s right shoulder.
I was late to the Kid party, I’ll admit. At first he was just the quiet and stern young man in my class at Western Cape State, the only one out of the seven students that displayed any real interest. Well, ‘real’ was a relative term with the Kid. By then he was already a hero on the Cryptokids scene, part underground philosopher, part cult leader, and attended my lectures more out of the sporting interest of a man who’s been there, done that and now wants to see what the old guard could do. Towards the end of two months of our class, I was convinced that he was studying me, not my subject.
I was late to the Kid party, yes, but I tongued his asshole harder and more convincingly than anyone from his entourage, something I’ll admit without shame. Sometimes a great man needs a muse, sometimes many muses, and, in my seventy odd years, I’ve realized that not all muses need to spread their legs to make inspiration flow. Why did I? By gods, I loved him! Believed in him! He was the last hope for guys like me, for the old school. I studied to teach Multilingual Literature, I dreamt of words, of their power, and for a whole five years, I did teach it, until the attendance numbers first fell into the double, then into single digits. I teach now what is called Applied Script and have not had a post-graduate student in fifteen years. So when the Kid appeared, he was it – that lost hope; and I surrendered all I had to him.
“Heckler,” the Kid pushed the ‘stop’ button on the panel, slumped his shoulders as the cabin whooshed to a halt and produced forth something I thought I’d never hear him actually say, “I’m nervous, man.”
“Ah, kiddo,” I put on my fatherly tone, knowing how much he liked that, “you should be. Christ, I’d be on my third pair of pants by now. But think, kid, when you unveiled ‘War and Peace’ on Times Square, were you not also nervous?”
“Not like this…”
“Course not, that was child’s play, but that was two years ago, you are now a lion, a beast, a giant among men! This will go down without a hitch. You’ll blow everyone’s mind.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” the Kid nodded, indicating that the lapse into weakness was over, raised his hand to push the button and continue our descent to the lobby, where the media people and the limousines waited, then froze, turned his face to me and almost whispered, “You’re a good man, Heckler, thank you. For everything.”
“Gods,” I thought staring into the back of his head, where the tattoos crept out from under the hair and snaked down the neck, “why does he go to his biggest exhibition yet as to a funeral?”