ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Misérables on its side blocking his view…
“I’m resourceful,” Price is saying, “I’m creative, I’m young, unscrupulous, highly motivated, highly skilled. In essence what I’m saying is that society cannot afford to lose me. I’m an asset.”
All of the men outside Tunnel tonight are for some reason wearing tuxedos, except for a middle-aged homeless bum who sits by a Dumpster, only a few feet away from the ropes, holding out to anyone who pays attention a Styrofoam coffee cup, begging for change, and as Price leads us around the crowd up to the ropes, motioning to one of the doormen, Van Patten waves a crisp one-dollar bill in front of the homeless bum’s face, which momentarily lights up, then Van Patten pockets it as we’re whisked into the club, handed a dozen drink tickets and two VIP Basement passes.
“Don’t wear that outfit again,” I say, looking her over quickly… “do not wear that outfit again. Wear a dress. A skirt or something… You’re prettier than that… And high heels,” I mention. “I like high heels.”
She shakes her head good-naturedly as she exits…
Idly, I wonder if Evelyn would ever sleep with another woman if I brought her over to the brownstone… If they’d let me direct, tell them what to do, position them under hot halogen lamps… But what if I forced her at gunpoint? Threatened to cut them both up, maybe, if they didn’t comply?
“Why don’t you get another one?” I ask. “Why don’t you get another job?”
“I’m not…” He coughs, holding himself, shaking miserably, violently, unable to finish the sentence.
“You’re not what?” I ask softly. “Qualified for anything else?”
“Listen, do you think it’s fair to take money from people who do have jobs? Who do work?”
His face crumples and he gasps, his voice raspy, “What am I gonna do?”
“My life is a living hell,” I mention off the cuff, while casually moving leeks around on my plate, which by the way is a porcelain triangle. “And there are many more people I, uh, want to… want to, well, I guess murder.” I say emphasizing this last word, staring straight into Armstrong’s face.
It hits me that we have something in common, that we share a bond… the audience disappears and the music slows down… everything getting clearer, my body alive and burning, on fire, and from nowhere a flash of white and blinding light envelopes me and I hear it, can actually feel, can even make out the letters of the message hovering above Bono’s head in orange wavy letters: “I … am … the … devil … and I am … just … like … you …”
…I’m sweaty and a pounding migraine thumps dull in my head and I’m experiencing a major-league anxiety attack, searching my pockets for Valium, Xanax, a leftover Halcion, anything… I’ve forgotten who I had lunch with earlier, and even more important, where.
My priorities before Christmas include the following: (1) to get an eight o’clock reservation on a Friday night at Dorsia with Courtney, (2) to get myself invited to the Trump Christmas Party aboard their yacht, (3) to find out as much as humanly possible about Paul Owen’s mysterious Fisher account, (4) to saw a hardbody’s head off and Federal Express it to Robin Barker – the dumb bastard – over at Solomon Brothers and (5) to apologize to Evelyn without making it look like an apology.
“Stop it. Come on, I want this,” I say and then in a last, desperate attempt I smile flirtatiously, kissing her lightly on the lips, and add, “Mrs. Bateman?”
I think about other things while she describes her recent past: air, water, sky, time, a moment, a point somewhere when I wanted to show her everything beautiful in the world. I have no patience for revelations, for new beginnings, for events that take place beyond the realm of my immediate vision.
And though it has been in no way a romantic evening, she embraces me and this time emanates a warmth I’m not familiar with. I am so used to imagining everything happening the way it occurs in movies, visualizing things falling somehow into the shape of events on a screen, that I almost hear the swelling of an orchestra, can almost hallucinate the camera panning low around us, fireworks bursting in slow motion overhead, the seventy-millimeter image of her lips parting and the subsequent murmur of “I want you” in Dolby sound.
During this Christie has kept on a pair of thigh-high suede boots from Henri Bendel that I’ve made her wear.
Elizabeth, naked, running from the bedroom, blood already on her, is moving with difficulty as she screams out something garbled.
I feel empty, hardly here at all, but even the arrival of the police seems insufficient reason to move and I stand with the crowd outside the penguin habitat… until finally I’m walking down Fifth Avenue, surprised by how little blood has stained my jacket, and I stop in a bookstore and buy a book and then at a Dove Bar stand on the corner of Fifty-sixth Street, where I buy a Dove bar – a coconut one – and I imagine a hole, widening in the sun…
…I’m hoping she realizes that this would have happened to her no matter what… if she would simply have not taken a cab with me to the Upper West Side, this all would have happened anyway. I would have still found her. This is the way the earth works.
I can already tell that it’s going to be a characteristically useless, senseless death, but then I’m used to the horror. It seems distilled, even now it fails to upset or bother me.
It’s an isolation ward that serves only to expose my own severely impaired capacity to feel. I am at its center, out of season, and no one ever asks me for any identification. I suddenly imagine Evelyn’s skeleton, twisted and crumbling, and this fills me with glee.
…while I grind the bone and fat and flesh into patties, and though it does sporadically penetrate how unacceptable some of what I’m doing actually is, I just remind myself that this thing, this girl, this meat, is nothing, is shit, and along with a Xanax (which I’m now taking half-hourly) this thought momentarily calms me and then I’m humming…
…and the sun, a planet on fire, gradually rises over Manhattan, another sunrise, and soon the night turns into day so fast it’s like some kind of optical illusion…
“Please do not sit in the same row in court with Janet. When I look over toward you there she sits contemplating me with her mad eyes like a deranged seagull studying a clam… I can feel her spreading hot sauce on me already…”
…it did not occur to me, ever, that people were good or that a man was capable of change or that the world can be a better place through one’s taking pleasure in a feeling or a look or a gesture, of receiving another person’s love or kindness. Nothing was affirmative, the term “generosity of spirit” applied to nothing, was a cliché, was some kind of bad joke. Sex is mathematics. Individuality no longer an issue. What does intelligence signify? Define reason?... Evil is its only purpose. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in.. this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged…
…there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.
Jeannette should be okay – she has her whole life in front of her (that is, if she doesn’t run into me). Besides, this girl’s favorite movie is Pretty in Pink and she thinks Sting is cool, so what is happening to her is, like, not totally undeserved and one shouldn’t feel bad for her. This is no time for the innocent.
“Davis,” he sighs, as if patiently trying to explain something to a child, “I am not one to bad-mouth anyone. Your joke was amusing, but come on, man, you had one fatal flaw: Bateman’s such a bloody ass-kisser, such a brown-nosing goody-goody, that I couldn’t fully appreciate it…. Oh good god, man. Why else would Evelyn Richards dump him? You know, really. He could barely pick up an escort girl, let alone… what was it you said he did to her?”
He stares at me as if we were both underwater and shouts back, very clearly over the din of the club, “Because … I had … dinner … with Paul Owen … in London … just ten days ago.”
While walking back to the highway, I stop, choke back a sob, my throat tightens. “I just want to…” Facing the skyline, through all the baby talk, I murmur, “keep the game going.” As I stand, frozen in my position, an old woman emerges behind a Threepenny Opera poster at a deserted bus stop and she’s homeless and begging, hobbling over, her face covered with sores that look like bugs, holding out a shaking red hand. “Oh will you please go away?” I sigh. She tells me to get a haircut.
“Well, though I know I should have done that instead of not doing it, I’m twenty-seven for Christ sakes and this is, uh, how life presents itself in a bar or in a club in New York, maybe anywhere, at the end of the century and how people, you know, me, behave, and this is what being Patrick means to me, I guess, so, well, yup, uh…” and this is followed by a sigh, then a slight shrug and another sigh, and above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign and on the sign in letters that match the drapes’ color are the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.