I have a high fever and can’t stop coughing, but Martha’s drunk and America is 242 years old. She calls me from her tiny house compound and says, “Get over here, dummy. There’s a party. Everybody’s here.” I want to tell her I have bronchitis, but instead I say, “On my way.”
The drive from my apartment to Martha’s compound is a straight shot down Columbia Boulevard. Every few seconds the sky lights up with patriotic explosions. People wrapped in blankets sit on roofs, watching. I’m medium drunk, but the Robitussin makes me see angels every time I cough—fifty of them, lined up like stars in the corner of the American flag.
A text appears: “Where are you, dork? We’re drinking expensive Japanese whiskey and dancing on the kitchen counter. Somebody just got pregnant on my couch.”
“Almost there,” I text while driving drunk, high on cough syrup.
When I get there, Martha’s tiny house doors are open. People are sitting and standing in various positions, doing drugs. I can’t find Martha, which is strange because the house is 150 square feet. I try the bathroom, but it’s occupied by a bike messenger throwing up in a composting toilet.
“Hey, where’s Martha?” I ask.
The bike messenger points at the sky, which I interpreted to mean, “Dancing on the roof with God.”
I climb a stepladder and find Martha. I’m right. She’s wearing a see-through bra and United States flag underwear and appears to be dancing to a portable Bluetooth speaker blasting Tom Petty’s “Refugee.”
I try to talk to her, but alcohol has inhibited certain important passageways in her brain, causing her to temporarily achieve satori.
“Shhhhhhh!” she says. “Just dance. No words.”
We dance. Gunpowder explodes over the Columbia River. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson and his friends told England to piss off. There was a war. The colonies won and named themselves America. Tom Petty felt like a refugee all these years later, not because of politics, but because of love.
Martha dances like somebody is holding a gun to her head while she holds a gun to my head. She says, “Dance like John Travolta or I’ll kill you.”
She has all the moves, ones she couldn’t possibly know except for the state of fervor caused by Japanese whiskey.
I do my best to keep up. I do “shake these wild hands” and “ride the invisible pony,” but Martha is dancing with dead people and God.
I cough and see them.
“Don’t dance like that,” says Martha. “Like this.”
I dance the way she shows me. It’s better.
Martha looks me in the eyes and makes swimming gestures with her arms.
I make swimming gestures.
The angels go crazy. They love it. They clap and say, “Look at those humans go! That’s more like it!”
All the party guests leave. It’s July 5th, which doesn’t mean anything. Martha lays a blanket on the grass and says, “It’s time to fuck me.”
I get behind her. She pulls down her flag underwear. Moving in and out, I look up at the stars and think of colonists dressed up as Indians dumping Earl Gray into Boston Harbor. I think of George Washington crossing the Delaware looking like a badass, even though he was a motherfucker with dentures and slaves.
I’m too drunk and sick to come. Martha and I lie next to each other on the blanket. She squeezes my flaccid penis and says, “What’s wrong with you?”
I say, “I have bronchitis.”
She says, “You’re so stupid.”
I say, “You couldn’t be dumber.”
I put my arm around her. I’m 42 years old. Martha’s 39. We’re starry-eyed but not really. Mostly wounded and distrustful, using alcohol to impair our brains for a few seconds to feel young again.
I fall asleep with an empty bottle of Suntory in my hand, coughing. America won the Revolutionary War, but there were slaves and then white people killed the indigenous population. Everything is terrible, which is why alcohol will always be holy. I want somebody to murder me, but first I want Martha.
We are the last people in this experiment. Everybody else is dead. You can tell from their eyes. They look hopeful.
“Move toward doom,” I say to the Big Dipper. The stars laugh. They know.