I wish that I had stayed with Lee then, quit my job and gotten cleaned up; it would have saved me a lot of time. But I only spent one night there, during which we went for a long, tiring walk with no visits from mysterious entities. We discussed what the presence might have been, but all we agreed on was that the two obvious answers—God and aliens—didn’t satisfy us. God, we thought, would have made himself heard more clearly; and it just didn’t seem like extraterrestrial behavior. There was no abduction, no anal probe, no “take me to your leader.” And how would Martians know about bongo drums?

Shortly after dawn I got back in my car, popped a couple pills, and went back to my speedy, shallow, pointless life. Which was how I ended up in the phone booth, in the rain, if you can remember back that far.

I got out my calling card, picked up the receiver, and punched in Lee’s number. The phone rang a few times, and then rang some more, and kept on ringing. Lee’s not an answering machine kind of guy. I was on the verge of hanging up several times, but since I didn’t have much of a plan B, I stayed on the line. Finally, after what must have been a hundred and fifty rings, Lee picked up. Our conversation was short.


“Lee, it’s Hector. Can I come stay with you for a while?”


“OK. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

After hanging up, I took a deep breath and made a dash for the car. Once I was inside, I started rummaging through the cassettes in the glove compartment. Music was going to be crucial for this journey; my body was in total shutdown mode, but I was stubbornly convinced that I needed to get to Lee’s before I crashed. After rejecting Bauhaus (too dark) and T. Rex (too light), I came across a beat-up copy of the White Album, which was the ideal choice. I started up the car, hoping that the tape would still play.

I was momentarily elated when the airplane sound, followed by the first bars of “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” blared from the speakers. This feeling was soon replaced, however, by the realization that I had an extremely difficult ordeal ahead of me. The rain was still coming down hard, and it was starting to get dark, making visibility very poor. And I wasn’t feeling well, not at all.