The Conversation of Angels
I was unstoppable in my truck. My heart was a cylinder and turbine engine; petrol and caffeine and amphetamines ran through my blood. I would have liked to run over funny people. I wanted to. I had run over dogs and cats and crates. My truck trampled them like a bull trampling over a slow Spaniard in the running of the bulls. Not that I would last in the running of the bulls. I’m too fat.
I remembered my father and one of the fights I had with him. I ducked from his punch and his fist broke through the door.
Boy would I like to run him over.
I sped my truck across an old industrial landscape in the Ukrainian countryside, this stretch now reduced to a goddamned wasteland. The factories ate up all nature here like a centipede eats up the inside of a toadstool. Miles and miles of black dust and ghostly abandoned factories with little cracked dust-darkened windows.
I had a hole drilled through the partition of my truck into the cargo compartment. When I was parked or stuck in traffic I could look through the hole and see the whores or whores-to-be that I often smuggled. Sometimes I would masturbate. Often they were nice-looking with torpedo-tits and thick lips. Hungarian harlots, Rumanian whores, and of course, my favorite, the Russian ladies of the White Night. (I call them Ladies of the White Night because of the White Night in St. Petersburg during the summer. Isn’t that clever?)
But today I wasn’t transporting tarts, instead just a bunch of stinking Rumanian immigrants. I tried not to think of the chore of emptying the bucket and hosing off the cargo-hold. I looked through the hole and saw thick-browed Rumanians, one of them an older man with a fuzzy broom-like mustache and an accordion hanging from his neck. There was a gypsy woman who made me think of soothsayers—not because she looked like gypsies in the old movies, she just looked like a middle-aged brown woman, sweating and scared shitless like every other immigrant I ever hauled. There was also a gypsy boy, with amber eyes. He spat in the bucket. I don’t know why but he got my attention. I could easily imagine the little bastard with a switchblade in his hand. Something dangerous slithered like a garden snake under his young surface. While staring at him I felt a sensation pass through my testicles, like a little shooting star.
I rolled a shag with one hand, while with my other hand I dipped a key into a baggie of speed on my right knee and snorted the speed off the key while I drove with my left knee. An hour after crossing borders I met the Croats with their vans on the side of the road by a meadow at night. The whispering wind blew through and in some places parted the tall grass, making the field resemble a roiling nocturnal sea.
“Bok,” I said.
“Bok,” one of the Croats answered.
I unloaded the trash and indicated to the Croats where I had hid the pack of Russian acid papers. They looked like stamps; they depicted a cartoon man on a bicycle flying through space. I prefer smuggling psychedelics, which are only attractive to smelly, lazy, pathetic hippies (we get a lot of those in Amsterdam)—if I smuggled the good stuff, the speed and Russian coke, I might be tempted to dip into it myself, which would mean lousy business prospects.
One of the Croats, Fran, a bald ape (whom I called Ape-face) ripped the old Rumanian’s accordion from his stubby little hands and smote it onto the ground. Ape-face stamped on the accordion with his steel-toed work-booted foot, making a foot-sized hole in it. I chuckled. The Rumanian folded his hands without raising his head. The Croats herded the immigrants into their vans, paid me, shook my hand—which I then wiped off on my jeans—and it was done.
A few nights later I was in Amsterdam and my mother, Renske Kiegote, was taking me to bible study. I didn’t want to go to church on my off-day. I wanted to stay home and read Stephen King. He should win the Nobel Prize, or be president of America, because he’s a genius, a great man. I remember this movie called “Trucks”—I don’t know if he wrote it or if it was based on one of his books—about trucks that have a mind of their own and terrorize a town of American rednecks. A masterpiece. Or I could eat chips while watching Renegade on TV and roll a joint of Dutch Passion, and my mother could join me. But no, I have to go to that stinking congregation with the moaning retards and the wheelchair-vegetables and the old ladies. Who the hell ever heard of Dutch people being religious?
I have three words for my mother: absolutely fucking insane. She was a messianic Jew for a year, even though she didn’t have a single drop of Jewish blood in the family. She was a Jehovah’s Witness too for some time, always talking about how Satan is the ruler of the world (I think Stephen King should be the ruler of the world) and how the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. (I know the Whore of Babylon, this Thai whore I poked in Amsterdam. “You ouch me,” she said. For forty euros I damn well better ouch you, you saucy kutwijf.)
She was even New Age for a while, Feng-Shui’ing everything she could get her hands on, doing yoga with these damn crystals and making me hold them to feel their energy—all I could really do was look at them and imagine they were cocaine-hydrochloride crystal. Talking about angels; hugging me and telling me I was a caterpillar who would one day metamorphose into a beautiful butterfly—and the stink of that incense.
I wore a tie with little carrots on it and walked with my mother along the canal. I hadn’t slept for forty hours but that was OK because the speed was keeping me up. With her permed, puffed-up red-dyed hair and her long, thin pasty white body and long dress she resembled a toadstool—for some reason I imagined a centipede eating her from the inside. I decided to walk because I had just sniffed so I had a walking kick and besides my mother claimed her bone problems made it difficult to climb into my truck. I observed the patterns of the cobblestone and enjoyed tracing them with my eyes—I liked doing that after sniffing—as my mother yakked away about God. We took a tram at De Pijp. The tram wriggled like a great steel millipede along the rails on the cobblestone streets. We got off the tram, walked into a side street, wormed through crowds of young stoned tourists smelling of diverse breeds of marijuana, and got into the church. The retards, the vegetables, and the old ladies were there as usual. My mother took out her white-jacketed bible from her handbag and we shared it the way schoolchildren do when one of them has forgotten his textbook.
“Today we are going to discuss the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,” the discussion-leader said. His eyes were bloodshot. “Two angels came to Sodom in the evening; and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said: My Lords, turn aside, I pray you, to your servant’s house and spend the night….”
Basically the angels wanted to spend the night in the street, but Lot convinced them to stay at his house for a game of dominoes or whatnot. “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house, and they called to Lot: Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may have intercourse with them.”
I imagined these rapacious homosexuals dressed in S&M gear, and one of them carrying a stereo playing the techno music and popping designer drugs. “I want to have intercourse with them”—that’s a good one. Don’t waste any time.
“Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said: I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two virgin daughters, let me bring them to you, and do to them as you please….”
This business was finally getting interesting.
“….only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof. But they said: ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came to sojourn, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door.”
The preacher went on about how the angels struck the Sodomites with blindness and told Lot to flee from the city because the angels were going to destroy it. Lot and his family ran away from the city; it went up in a mushroom cloud under a rain of fire from the sky, and I imagined the angels in an invisible jet like Wonder-Woman’s napalming the city flat. Lot’s wife looked back at the city and turned into a pillar of salt. Then Lot and his daughters found shelter in a cave, Lot got drunk and impregnated them. The end.
Preacher-man looked up from his bible at the spectators.
“Sodomy is an abomination! A gross sin, worthy of death!” he screamed. The retards and old whores nodded their heads; the veggies moved whatever they could to show how excited they were.
“Today’s sodomites will be cast into the Lake of Fire on Judgment Day!”
My mother nodded. The amphetamines, shag, and coffee were affecting my stomach, and I abruptly farted. At this the discussion-leader had a puzzled expression on his bearded face and looked about with shifty blue eyes.
“That concludes our Bible study tonight,” he said nervously, perhaps sensing my intestinal emanations violating his sacred space. “Thank you all for coming.”
I walked out of there with my brain turned upside-down in my head, like a tortoise fallen on its back and squirming to get back on its legs. All I could think about was homosexuals. Gays. Roman Catholic priests are gay. That discussion leader is probably gay. Pim Fortuyn is gay. Everybody’s fuckin gay these days.
My mother and I took the tram back to her neighborhood. Sitting in the tram, stuck in this metal caterpillar, made me think of prison. Every prison is a goddamn Sodom City. If some good-looking angelic males went there, they’d have a conga-line of fruits lining up for a piece of ass.
We got to Mama’s house. I rolled a shag on the kitchen table while talking to her.
“Mama, ever since my father died you’ve been obsessing with this religion crap. It’s starting to scare me.”
“Why do you always say “my father”? Why don’t you say “Papa”?”
“He never deserved to be called that. The man was a pig.”
“He was an angel!” my mother yelled. “He was an angel on earth. He smuggled immigrants from the Soviet Union into Western Europe. He saved people from Godless communists!”
“He was a bitter old drunk.”
“At least he wasn’t a drug addict like you! Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, I can tell when you’re high, and can see your pupils dilated. I know! I don’t know how you could make all that money, how you could afford a Harvey Johnson motorcycle—”
“Harley Davidson,” I corrected her, as I finished rolling the cigarette.
“I know you’re doing something wicked to make all that money.”
“I support you with it, so stop complaining. Without me, you would be on welfare. I support you, not Papa,” I spat out the last word with vicious bitterness.
“He was an angel—and you used to be like him in so many ways, when you were young….” her voice quieted down and she stared blankly at the table, lost in her nostalgic state, like a seer gazing into a fire. “You, Donald, you are a fallen angel….”
I walked out of her apartment and down the narrow, steep staircase with the shag still burning between my fingers, occasionally taking a drag. I felt enormous stress, memories of my father, the conversation with my mother, not having slept for days, worries about my health, my hatred for my father, the white noise of the bible sermon, all these were scorpions stinging me from the inside. My father, he used to tell me, “You’re not my son! You’re The Devil’s son!”
My heart was beating fast.
I threw the shag into the canal and suddenly I saw the canal turn red. It was blood. I felt sick. I saw penises wriggling like caterpillars on the sidewalk. I began to run. People in the street were staring at me. I wondered if they saw the blood. I saw a young Moroccan with the sides of his head shaved, his hair cropped on top and long in the back. I tried to talk to him.
“What color is the canal?” I asked him. He ignored me and kept on walking.
I looked at the canal and it was no longer red.
I walked home, anxiety under my frigid necklace. Once I got to my apartment I watched TV for a few hours—the blur of images, leaving their tracks on my brain like the tail-lights of a speeding motorcycle leaves a trail of light in the eye—and finally managed to fall asleep.
Some days later I got a call from Mama.
“Don, I’m calling you to announce that I am no longer a Christian.”
“What? That’s great! I’m so glad to hear that you finally—”
“I’m a Muslim now, I’ve become a Shiite Muslim. I go to the mosque and the Imam and the other Muslims are so understanding. We sing suras.”
Imam. I got yer Imam right here, lady.
“I read the qur’an,” she said. “Did you know that before the coming of Mohammed—peace be upon him—” she added with motor-warm relish, “his coming was prophesied by soothsayers. Soothsayers obtained this knowledge from demons who had overheard it by spying on the conversations of angels. Islam has been so misunderstood by the West, you know.”
While I was on the phone, I cut myself a line of speed with my other hand and started sniffing through a rolled-up 10-euro bill. I needed this now. In my coke-mirror I saw reflected a sparkling shooting star, a comet of Sodom-incineration, I looked up at the skylight over my head but the stars were not visible.
“But it is really a wonderful religion,” she went on. “Did you know—”
I hung up.
The Turks are muslim. They stand on street corners, smoking and spitting, singing suras or whatever and trying to get into Dutch people’s nightclubs. John Walker’s muslim, Middle East is muslim, Indonesia is muslim, my mother is muslim. Everybody’s fuckin muslim these days.
A week had passed since my mother called me. I was driving a human cargo of Turkish illegal immigrants from the Croatian coast into Germany when I began to see spots, little squiggles in my field of vision like the dangling hair that comes on the screen of an old cartoon. I was seeing small, black creatures darting around: horseflies or something like that. It went on for five minutes. I felt I couldn’t drive like this.
I parked in the back of a gas-station, closed my eyes for a moment or two and looked through the hole in the headboard. Some young men sat on the floor, staring at the metal walls with their beetle-black eyes. The older men were praying. There were some women as well who wore headscarves. One of them had bright blue eyes—which I thought was rare among Turks—and full lips. The other one had high cheekbones, and teeth that were dun like a flock of sheep. The two women spoke to each other in Turkish. I took a hit of speed. I had been up for thirty hours.Then it occurred to me that the women were not speaking Turkish but rather some angelic language.
“He is a fallen angel. He is a demon,” I heard them say.
“God will give him one last chance. God will entrust him with His angel.”
I rushed out of the cab and walked around the truck, my steps scraping against the gravel, opened the storage compartment and climbed in. The smell was that of a circus elephant stable. I walked up to the two angelic girls, shoe-soles scraping against the pebbles and making the metal floor clang.
“Are you angels?” I asked them. I imagined haloes pin-tucked under their larval cocoon headscarves.
They stared at me. They somehow reminded me of the female martyrs depicted in statues I had seen in German cathedrals. I looked in the blue eyes, irises with a hue I had never seen on Dutch or Germanic people, they were of such a beautiful color that one would try to guard them with sunglasses lest some cruel thief try to steal them and sell them. Her eye-color conveyed some kind of tranquility, the way the melting, sunset clouds must have looked before they rained manna over the desert in the verses the Bible Study lector recited described, serene, no cokehead hurry or impatience, no childish struggle or hysteria or resistance, like clouds as they accept the fading sunlight and pollution which adorn them with psychedelic tie-dye streaks of color. I saw heaven in their eyes,and I cried, because I knew that what I saw was so far away from me: for I was in hell, driving on the winding freeways of the bottomless pit and the highways of Babylon.
They said nothing and I left the storage compartment and went back to the steering wheel.
“What should I do?” I thought.
“It is not time yet,” I heard them say, and I started the engine, which roared to mechanical life.
A few nights after smuggling the Turks and the two veiled women who I believed were angels, I called my mother.
“Mama, something is happening to me.”
“What is happening to you, Donald?”
“I’m like Alice in fucking wonderland here. I’m hearing beings speak to me.”
She paused as if to reflect serenely, like some patient bhuddist. Then she said,
“Mohammed, Peace be Upon Him, heard the voice of the angel Jibril.”
“But I’m not Mohammed,” I blurted, my voice breaking, almost crying. I felt ashamed that she could hear my anxiety.
“Are you lost, Don?” She sounded empathic, but there was something odd about her empathy, it was like a mechanical wind-up animal.
“Yes, I am lost, godverdomme.”
“Let God be your barometer in the black forest you have blindly wandered into. Let His Word steer you towards fulfilling his mandate. He put you in my womb to perform a mission for him.”
In the past I would have been annoyed at her chatter about God or Allah, but now I thought that perhaps Mama was communicating to me on some more profound wavelength or level of consciousness she had attained while meditating and singing suras from the Koran. My heart and jugular veins raced and my palm sweated against the telephone’s plastic. I nodded, thinking perhaps she was speaking to me from some mystical plane of wisdom and insight, some windy afterlife field where she’d stroll amongst the flowers and singing nightingales.
This last sentence of hers echoed in my brain. I decided I must perform my mission.
I had my car parked on the side of an East European highway by a ghost-town of abandoned factories while some men who worked with the Croats filled up the haul with a new bunch of migrant aspiring prostitutes. When they finished loading the truck one of the men gave me the thumbs up sign and I drove off.
There was a storm brewing. The gray clouds rumbled like the stomach of Leviathan from the litanies of the reverend at Mama’s former church.
I drove past the wasteland, the black dust like gunpowder residue of countless forgotten wars. After a few hours of driving, I parked my truck on the roadside and looked through the headboard hole. There were mostly women, but there was a boy of about fifteen among them—he had dirty blond curls and blue eyes. When I looked at him I felt something in my testicles but didn’t know why. He reminded me of the gypsy boy I had smuggled some weeks before. All I knew was that this boy was an angel, and that Fran and the other Croats wanted me to drop the boy off near the Rumanian border from where they would take him to a Western European city, probably Berlin, and Berlin was Sodom, the Berliners were Sodomites and they wanted to rape this angel just like the Sodomites the preacher spoke of.
I knew that this was the test: if I protected this angel I would no longer be a demon but an angel, or at least a man like Lot, chosen by God.
I turned up the metal music on my radio, blazing guitars and thundering drums. (I knew Stephen King had listened to such music while penning his magnum opus, about trucks with a will of their own, a work written in blood.) I saw Fran’s men signaling me on the side of the road.
I stomped on the gas, sped past them with all my might. I had a sensation that with being propelled so fast in my truck my eyes turned into sparkling flames like meteors hurled through the atmosphere, blazing with energy of Sodom-incineration: this was the final stage of my becoming a warrior of the light. The corroded shell of my past was cast into the dark sea of the bottomless pit to sink forever. Gunshots went off.
Lightning began to strike—fire from the sky. I couldn’t see the Croats in my rear-view mirror anymore. I saw some hitchhikers standing by the road. I rammed the breaks, making the tires squeal like swine to the slaughter, and pulled over. It was a young couple, both of them carrying backpacks. Adam and Eve cast out of Eden.
“Which way is the Holy Land?” I asked them.
“What?” Their faces were scared, sweaty and wide-eyed.
“The Holy Land! Jerusalem!” I said.
They looked at each other and then they pointed southeast.
I turned my truck around and sped southeast, the opposite direction of where I had come from. I was going well past two hundred and fifty kilometers per hour. I saw one of Fran’s men standing outside of a van. I didn’t stop. For a moment a fear scurried through me, an electric wave of anxiety in my solar plexus as I knew I would likely end up in a foreign prison, a walled-in city of corrupted men who grunted and leered hyena-like in the filthy night, their neurons numb from white powder and tainted with the wine of forced love –my Sodom, my Gomorrah.
Soon I was driving by a mountain range. Lightning struck again over the hills and for a second all I could see was white light. I saw a barricade of police cars blocking my way. I realized these were corrupt cops in cahoots with the smugglers. Fran must have contacted them to stop me. But they were operating on short notice and therefore were only a few. Their sirens blinked blue and red.
I hated cops.
I imagined my truck as a doom machine with huge gnashing metal teeth in front, breathing fire and red burning eyes emanating smoke.
A bullet shot through my window but it didn’t touch me. I hit the gas with all my strength and sped on, smashing through the patrol cars, a fat policeman frantically waving a sign reading “Uwaga!” as he tried to get out of the way, like a slow Spaniard in the running of the bulls.