BYARM_22

Illustration by Max Currie

What Are You Made of, Rich Man?

Kent felt as if he were on another sort of retreat—more of a camping trip for misanthropes in the solitary mountains. Or worse. Had Renzo duped him? By retreat he meant rehab? Midori the group leader about to guide him through a twelve-step program or prep him for some bizarre plastic surgery, a dramatic identity-altering procedure. In the bathroom, Kent tried to piss but nothing came; still his bladder and kidneys ached. Had the shabu ruined him so? The bathroom was basic, a mineral-stained ceramic hole in the ground that led to a backyard septic tank. The closet-like space smelled of rotting wood and wet earth. He emptied a tin bucket of its stale water and refilled it with water that flowed brown from the faucet. This was no resort. He poured the water into the toilet, watching as it splashed to the bottom. A tiny sink, barely big enough to fit his hands into, was to the right of the toilet, above it a small mirror framed in washed-out pink plastic. He gently removed the eyepatch, his eye still an enflamed mess. And now he had a gash on his forehead, handstitched by a Buddhist monk. Kent splashed mountain-cold water on his face, careful not to wet the bandage. Dark circles had dug in under his eyes like topographical tattoos.

Midori knocked on the bathroom door. “Breakfast is ready when you are.”

“Thanks.” A mosquito buzzed in his ear, reminding him of the pests that had swarmed Ko Chang, leaving him a welty mess in his first week in Thailand. “Another minute.”

“Are you okay?” she said through the door.

Where did this stranger find such tenderness for him? Kent sniffed. Something didn’t smell right. He’d never felt so off, so lopsided. He sank to his knees, couldn’t quite catch his breath, scared of what he’d done, of the emptiness before him, not a hint in this world of what waited for him. Up in the Japanese mountains with a woman he barely knew, a madman on the loose, and Kumi, or the idea of her growing fainter each day. The prospect of a return to Tokyo for a diminished version of what he’d once been, even if the idea of making a career behind the microphone didn’t seem so bad, it left him lonelier than he’d been since Kumi changed the locks on their condominium and dumped the hockey bag in the hall. He’d survive in Tokyo but there was no one save Renzo there to pick him up at the train station when he returned. No apartment to crash in for a few weeks until he got settled. He wanted out but had no home, no place he could land. Still, he guessed he’d need to leave this quiet place in the anonymous mountains. Now, if Kent looked for a starting point, which he knew was foolish, not a reliable beginning but, at least for him, a point of reference, a moment at which he could point his finger and say Ah Ha! this or that is to blame, he ached to hold the gun once more, just as he’d once dreamed of jumping from a couch in a rented beach house on Nags Head and—missing his brother.

What are you made of, Rich Man? Ozman sang.

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