An excerpt from
Down to No Good
I wake up looking down at my body, naked on a gurney at the morgue.
That’s a memory.
This has happened to me before.
I was riding my bike, working a case, high as a meteorite that doesn’t yet know it’s about to crash and burn, still happily tooling along in space, at night, wrapped in a warm blanket of summer air, Jack Daniels, and a smidgen of heroin. Some creep shot me in the temple, and I woke up hovering above my own corpse.
This time is different.
Not a gurney. Not the morgue.
A bed. My body, eyes closed, on a bed. I’ve got a bird’s-eye view, hovering like a kite, still tethered, but barely, by an invisible string.
Let’s get clear on my condition. I don’t know what it is, but I know what it is not. I am not a vampire, or a zombie, or a ghost. I’m not a thousand years old, I have no superpowers, and I’ve never been a hero. What I do have is a broken life, a broken family, and, so far, an inexplicable inoculation against dying. And a daughter I would die for—or, in this case, return to life for.
The tether reels me in. I descend toward the body, a mirror image to it, my arms at my sides, my feet slightly apart. Three bullet holes in my face—and one in my gut—are going to need some repair. At contact, I am absorbed and no longer looking down at myself but looking up at the ceiling.
I stretch my fingers, curl them into fists, and stretch them again.
“Jesus holy fucking Christ!”
I know that voice.
I turn my head. It’s awkward, after the lightness of floating, to be in the body, to know its heaviness and vulnerability. There’s a man sitting in a chair next to the bed. He’s a cop, and the first thing I think is: He knows my secret. Now he really knows it. But it’s okay, because he’s also my friend and I trust him. I have to.
“Hey, Dave, how’s it going?” My voice sounds artificial—a forced process of pushing air, modulating vibrations with my vocal cords, shaping syllables with my mouth and tongue. I make my lips grin.
Dave sits there like a stuffed panda in his rumpled white shirt and cheap black sports coat. There’s blood on his clothes. It’s in his fingernails—my blood, dried and caked on his hands. His right hand is clasped around a Heineken, which he finally tilts to his mouth and drains.
I force the body up and into a sitting position, feet on the floor. I flex my fingers a few more times, roll my shoulders, and look at Dave. For a moment, I close my eyes and leave the body, just as an experiment, and roam around the room. From over Dave’s shoulder I watch it slump back into the pillows like a marionette whose strings have been cut. Dave stands and moves toward the bed, but I slip back into the body and work my mouth and tell him it’s okay.
I sit back up and ask Dave, “Why am I naked?”
“Because you were shot full of holes and clinically dead. I brought you back to my place and cleaned you up. I took off your clothes to see how many more bullets there might be in you. Your things are right over there.” He points to a chair in the corner.
“You’re taking this pretty well.”
He shrugs. “I feel like I’m in a bad movie, but hey . . .”
“I appreciate your bringing me here.”
“I knew if I called the paramedics you’d have been sliced and diced at the coroner’s.”
“How long have I been here?”
Dave looks at his watch. “It’s noon. Call it thirty-six hours.”
“What day is it? And date?”
“Wednesday. Last day in August.”
I stand and walk to the chair to get dressed. Roaming—moving freely out of the body—is easier than this, but I’ll adjust. I have before. The gorilla-suit quality of living in the body becomes commonplace, the intentional management of operating the system, beating the heart, making the blood run in the veins, the conscious act of breathing: all of it becomes second nature.
It’s almost like being alive.