DeKalb, Illinois is a Paradise
What Eats its Own
Everything I am about to write is one hundred percent the Gods-honest gospel truth, so far as I can recall it to tell. (This is a complete work of fiction and anyone who says different is a down-low dirty liar.) It happened, all of it, and anyone who tries to refute this account right here is either shamed, a born-and-bred liar, or in a kind of self-preservation mode because this shit right here, it is ugly, and it happened.
DeKalb, Illinois is 60 miles west of Chicago (64.4 miles), and anyone who is from there will tell you that when you ask where they’re from. They’ll say, “DeKalb, it’s just 60 miles west of Chicago,” or, “I’m from the Chicago area,” then, when pressed, they’ll admit, “Actually, DeKalb, it’s just 60 miles west.” Dekalb, Illinois is where the suburbs end and the great expanse of corn begins. The whole city is surrounded by the stuff (corn) but, contrary to the belief of the people who live there, DeKalb, Illinois is not a small town. 35,000 people. That’s pretty healthy by corn-country standards.
DeKalb is also a college town, which is another factor in making it what it is, and there is a symbiotic but mutually disdainful relationship between the townie-kids (me and mine) and the college-kids (them assholes that treat this place exactly like what it actually is and poke fun at it in a hurtful way). But for this perfect confluence of shitbag circumstances to exist each side, the townies and the interlopers, need to be there. It’s imperative to the story.
Some quick things about me (Andrew Krimmer in case you were wondering): the first time I consciously thought about quitting drinking, like really gave it proper consideration, and then dried out, I was 15 and living in Dekalb, Illinois. Another quick thing about me: I stopped doing acid at 17 because there are only so many times you can go down that road before you can no longer find your way home — know what I’m saying? Which brings us to:
The Ballad of Dickless Jones
Dickless Jones had a dick and it was big, that was the joke, that he had a dick so big it was like he had no dick at all because the girls he’d date would refuse to touch the thing after becoming acquainted with it and the novelty of seeing the thing wore off and all that was left was the harsh reality of the meaty thing staring them down, expectantly, and the prospect of somehow trying to accommodate it inside themselves became a reality — some blessings are a curse and whatnot. Let’s see, far as I can remember Dickless Jones was the nicest sonofabitch DeKalb, Illinois ever gave the world. I mean just flat out nice, considerate even, always trying to make sure the rest of us were having a good time, being included, and getting our rocks off without breaking our banks. I could tell you about the time the group got mad at me because I hadn’t bought any pot to share for over three months and I was being actively excluded from the group and not invited around anymore and Dickless, he recognized that this was making me feel bad, so he gave me, just gave me, a quarter ounce of weed and told me to show up to the spot with it and to smoke it with the group until it was gone, but, that’s not really the point here. Weed wasn’t necessarily Dickless’ thing. The point I’m going to be driving at is the booze. That was Dickless’ thing —booze and cocaine. He was a champion drinker and so-so coke-head.
So, there was this older girl, she was 19 when we were 17, and she had a real shitty and scummy second-floor apartment over by the railroad tracks in downtown DeKalb and she would have all of us over (especially Dickless) to party on like a nightly basis. She was tall, broad in a way that was solid but not big, and she had that kind of black hair that looked dyed but really wasn’t, which, she wore in the standard goth-girl bang cut — Dickless called her Nae-Nae. Nae-Nae’s boyfriend, Anatoli, was a writer and an artist and him and Dickless got along famously, until they didn’t, which all had to do with a bet that Anatoli made with Dickless when Nae-Nae was at work. Anatoli bet that Dickless could not break the top log of the log fence over at the park two blocks away using just a karate chop. Dickless being a former tournament-winning Kjukenbo fighter (aged 11) said, “Like hell I can’t,” and they debated the matter for a long time while finishing off some Jack Daniels and about a case of Busch Ice. Neverminding the fact that Kjukenbo isn’t exactly known for its training in breaking things, the fence was one of those fences put together with zig-zag offset stacked and pegged logs that were at least five inches thick. There was literally no way that Dickless was going to be able to break it and Anatoli knew that.
“Okay,” said Anatoli eventually, “time to show me what’s what.” The stakes of the bet were such that Dickless would have to show Nae-Nae and Anatoli his penis (Nae-Nae had always been curious but owing to the fact that the two were so close, brother and sister close, she was always afraid of offending Dickless by actually coming straight out and asking to see the penis and Anatoli, himself being bisexual, was certain that he could convince both Nae-Nae and Dickless to get into some kind of three-way situation if only the circumstance was charged enough) and remain with it (the penis) out for at least twenty minutes while they all did lines of yak (Dickless usually abstained from cocaine these days so as to not then spend weeks chasing money and the drug all over DeKalb, Illinois, and Anatoli recognizing this fact knew that if he wanted both himself and Nae-Nae to suck Dickless’ dick his best chance would be if everyone involved was yakked to the gills). So off to the park they go.
And that’s where I come into this story, having been walking through the park, high as all get out, and buzzing a little off some Mickey’s Grenades, and just having been ditched by the rest of The 40oz Crew because I had bogarted the joint a little too long. I yell out “DICKLESS JONES,” as way of greeting just as he’s taking his chop. I am here to tell you he chopped as hard as he could chop, and the sound that was made when his forearm connected with that log could be heard for at least two-hundred yards and it was a pop so sickening that I’m not ashamed to tell you I almost threw up and I am also not ashamed to say that I did throw up (just a little and in my mouth and I swallowed it before Dickless or Anatoli could see and think me a pussy) when I saw Dickless’ arm hanging limp and unnatural in the middle of his forearm and the shard of bone sticking through the skin. But what got me wasn’t the gore of it, it was Dickless’ laughing and the sheet-white look Anatoli was wearing. The scene was all wrong. Backward. Incongruous.
Dickless drove a late 80s Caprice Classic and he wouldn’t let us (meaning Anatoli and myself) call him an ambulance because: a) an ambulance ride cost something like $300 U.S., and b) Dickless was pissed off and embarrassed at the stupidity of his own self having believed that he was capable of pulling off such a feat of strength. After a few, Dickless became red in the face, and he was wailing, and he was screaming, “Fuck!” and “Cocksucker!”, and he was storming around acting like he wasn’t hurt. That is when I lost my lunch. Anatoli grabbed Dickless about his shoulders, careful of the arm, and he whispered something in his ear that I could barely make out, and what he said calmed Dickless, at least a little. He said, “It’s okay, you are loved.” Well, the calm, it only lasted a few short minutes before the self-rejection and the hurt and the embarrassment and the extreme anger came roaring back and Dickless made the decision that Anatoli was just making fun of him and that no one could love him and that his bone-exposed arm would heal better if he went to his own house, where his parents and his sister still lived (but he did not, having run away some time ago, and despite being a minor, his parents never even came looking for him, which, thinking on it, probably goes to explaining Dickless’ extreme reaction to Anatoli’s insistence that he (Dickless) was loved), and went to sleep in his old bed, and woke up in his old house, and had his mother cook for him waffles and eggs and bacon, and squeeze him some OJ like she did sometimes.
“Fuck you, Toli! Fuck you, Drew! I’m going fucking home!” He ran faster than a man with a dangle-arm should run, and we chased him, and chased him, and chased him, but it may have been the shock, or the adrenaline, or something neither Anatoli nor myself could really understand, but something gave old Dickless the power of fleet-feet and we could not catch him, and he was in his late 80s, maroon-red, Caprice Classic with the key turned and the radio blaring before we could even reach Nae-Nae’s apartment, and he was taking off and we were left to make a decision, chase him down (risking our own selves), or wait it out (and hope for the best) — we gave chase.
Anatoli drove a 1992 Geo Metro convertible in a sun-faded red that was more than up to the task of catching the lumbering Caprice Classic, but Dickless was driving recklessly and Anatoli was smart enough to know he was not trying to catch Dickless, just meet him at a red-light and talk some sense, but Dickless increased his speed as we tailed him closely and he blew a red-light that Anatoli then also had to oblige himself to blow, then the swerving began, which manifested in the non-straight way that Dickless’ rear-end tailed-fish across the white lane-lines. This was getting ugly and scary. I don’t mind saying, my pulse quickened and I was sweating in fear for Dickless’ safety and when I think about it, even now, I can still feel that fear, still conjure up the free-fall feeling of watching something (someone) truly out of control. It all came to an end when Dickless’ Caprice took one giant swerve to the right, and with another sickening sound (this time a beautiful bang, and crunch, and sonic-boom like pop-snap) went headlong at 65 MPH into a telephone pole. We were about a football field behind and by the time we got to the scene (15 seconds max) Dickless was outside the Caprice, on his knees, and he was frantically ditching empties that had been scattered during the crash with the one good arm that he had left to him, and he was crying and cursing softly — whispering “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” under his breath. The telephone pole was shattered in half, and the top hung from strained lines. The Caprice looked like somebody had karate chopped the front end almost clear in half (lengthwise), but Dickless was unharmed, excepting, of course, for the compound fracture in his arm. We drove past and kept going. When the sirens came, Dickless ran the rest of the way home and his mother let him in. She called the police and turned her son in after he’d fallen asleep while sitting up at the kitchen table. He was out after a 72-hour hold and back at Nae-Nae’s the day after that.
I was there to see Dickless make good on the bet he had lost to Anatoli. Nae-Nae was cooking Ketamine on the stove. Nae-Nae skeeved cocaine, even when laced into a joint, I was omnivorous (drug-wise) and would do whatever (no heroin), and Anatoli and Dickless wouldn’t touch the K, so the night went something like this:
8:00 P.M: The apartment was kind of full. There were some of the hangers-on from Anatoli’s art class (which he taught at the learning annex), myself, and the other five or six members of the 40oz Crew, and like three girls from Sycamore High who Nae-Nae knew, having graduated from there two years prior. Most of us were drinking cheap (but strong) malt liquor from large bottles, and the Sycamore girls drank Southern comfort, and Nae-Nae began the process of cooking the Ketamine. The process of cooking K is fairly straightforward. She started a pot of low-boiling water and when she had a good steam going, she put a plate on top of the pot and poured the liquid Ketamine on top of the plate as evenly as possible, then she waited for the water that the Ketamine was diluted in to evaporate, leaving behind the pure shit. The only real trick being having the patience to wait for the Ketamine to cool before scraping it, and snorting it, and going to that beautiful hole where you can barely feel anything and can’t move and are happy.
I am sitting in a corner by myself and I am smoking a Camel Light and I am drinking a King Cobra 40oz bottle of malt liquor and it is my second such bottle. Jeremy (a 40oz member in name only as he doesn’t drink) is smoking a beautifully blown glass bowl of marijuana and talking to a girl named Roxy that he knows from when he went to Sycamore before he moved to DeKalb and met us — they both have the same haircut, shaved baled except for the bangs, which they both wear long and died, hers black with dark blue tips you can only really see in the right light, and his bleached blond. She is considerably taller than he is. I watch them talk and smile, and I watch him pointing towards me and I wonder what the fuck is going on with all these people, why they are all here, and I also wonder if Dickless is loved by Anatoli. When Roxy comes over to where I am sitting, I am happy, and when she asks me for a cigarette, I oblige her and tell her my name. She says she knows my name and she sits on my lap. She says I am a present for her birthday — from Jeremy.
9:00 P.M: It was her birthday and she wanted to make out and I was just sitting there, smoking, and looking like I wasn’t enjoying myself and she found that to be intriguing and seeing as how Jeremy had been rebuking her advances since like the third grade, and she had long since given up on him making his move and taking her virginity, and she was now figuring him queer, she figured that I would do — not to take her virginity, but to make out a little. It was at this point that I kind of lost track of Dickless.
The living room was small and cramped and I had Roxy on my lap and her face was in my face and everything else was less important than my growing erection and the fact that she adjusted said erection with her hands and then positioned her denim on top of the spot where my erection pressed against my denim and was dry-humping me. I was pretty sure that Dickless had left the room some time ago with Anatoli. We (Roxy and I) were making out in an armchair for well over an hour. Two things finally broke us apart: one) Jeremy became sick of glancing over and seeing Roxy making out with my face and gyrating her denim-covered vagina on my denim-covered penis in full view of the party. I assume he thought we’d go into Nae-Nae’s room but, I believe, that not going into Nae-Nae’s room may have been some sort of purposeful plan-thing cooked up by Roxy to test Jeremy’s jealousy. Jeremy did finally come over and grab Roxy by the crook of her elbow and told her she was behaving like a cock-starved whore. And, two) Nae-Nae finally came into the living room holding the plate of freshly dried out and crystallized Special K that she was chopping with her ID badge from the nursing home at which she was a Nurse’s Assistant, drawing the powder into long lines and offering it up for snorting. I was particularly interested in snorting some K because I liked becoming lost and numbed and damn-near paralyzed. And also, I could feel that my balls would soon begin to ache something hellish and fierce and I believed the K would help with that. This is when I regained my awareness of Dickless Jones.
10:00 P.M: Dickless Jones is moving his jaw in an unnaturally grindy way and his pupils are like black holes and he is sitting in the living room and he is talking very fast with Anatoli (whose hand is resting on Dickless’ thigh) and Nae-Nae is sitting next to the pair and she is still dishing out lines of Special K to anyone who approaches her and asks “pretty-please.” I want a big fat line and I want to be made to ask “pretty-please,” but I know Nae-Nae won’t make me say the words. It occurs to me now that I should probably describe Dickless Jones. He is tall, he is shaven of head, he wears super-baggy jeans and a tee shirt no matter what time of year it is, and he wears skate shoes though he does not, in fact, skate. He has a goofy but lovable face, and he smokes his Winston Full Flavored Cigarettes using his thumb and forefinger like you would a joint.
“Pretty-please,” I call across the room in a voice booming and deep. It’s purposefully loud so everyone can hear me and so the noise causes one of those moments where everyone else stops talking, and I feel a red-rush of embarrassment in my cheeks — this feeling does not help the ache in my balls. Nae-Nae stands and comes and she sits on the arm of my armchair, carving a fat line of Special K as she does.
“I saw you and Roxy… that’s new.”
“Please, you can act like it wasn’t the highlight of your year, but that would be a lie, and we don’t lie to each other, can’t lie to each other, seen too much, you and me.”
“I saw more, you left.”
“Yeah, but now I’m here and you can look cool and bring your friends over and sit in the corner and act like your above it all and having no fun and watch all the girls wonder about you.”
“What’s Toli want with Dickless.”
“Do me a favor and don’t call him that, he won’t tell you guys, but it actually makes him feel like shit, just call him Luke.”
“Yeah, he likes to go by Luke but you guys have been calling him Dickless for so long and thinking it’s so funny that he plays along but it makes him feel like shit and he thinks you guys are actually making fun of him.”
“But, we’re not.”
“Yeah, I get it, boys and nicknames and self-deprecation, but it doesn’t really matter what your intention is, he finds it hurtful, so please, for me, call him Luke, and maybe the others will call him Luke too.”
“I mean, okay, but no one else is going to call him Luke. He’s Dickless, it’s been too long.”
“Just do it.”
“You never answered my question, what’s Toli want with Luke?”
“Same thing he wanted with Jeremy, and with Nick, and with Jake, and with Ben… he thinks one of your friends will consent to his whole three-way couple fantasy and he’ll have his cake and eat me too.”
“You gotta have a dream, I guess. Why don’t you stop it?”
“Because it won’t happen, not really, he may get a night, maybe even with Luke, but it’s not like a teenage boy is going to openly participate in a bisexual three-way relationship with a twenty-four-year-old man and then go back to school on Monday and face that kind of abuse, especially not a boy as kind as Luke.”
“I’m sorry your dad’s dead. I don’t know if I actually ever said so.”
“Well, I am.”
“Thank you. How’s your mom.”
“She was that way before he died though.”
“It’s worse now.”
The line Nae-Nae prepared for me was the biggest line of Special K I’d done up to that point and the world went tunnel vision and I couldn’t move and it felt so perfect that I never wanted to do anything else in my life ever again. I wanted to be eaten by that feeling, scary though it was, and never again come out from the hole and have to again experience the scene in the living room. Roxy sat on the floor next to Jeremy’s chair with her legs tucked under her, jutting out to one side, leaning on one arm, and her ankles crossed. I couldn’t really move my neck to look away, so that is what I saw.
2:00 A.M: The girls were gone and Jeremy was gone and Dickless Jones was in the bathroom with Anatoli. He went in there with the older man of his own free will and Nae-Nae sat on her living room floor with her back resting against her couch and she smoked a cigarette called DEATH. She had the jewel-case for a compact disc by a band named Primus in front of her — the album, Sailing the Seas of Cheese — on which were the last two fat lines of Anatoli’s cocaine, which he’d been doing almost exclusively with Dickless right up unto the point that the two men went into the bathroom to suck each other off. Nae-Nae held up the jewel case to me and I take the smaller of the two lines because that was the line that was clearly intended for me and she smiles and pulls the jewel case back and takes her line because she wants to come back to even. She leans back against the couch and her head falls back and her eyes close. She is relaxed and clearly comfortable around me after all these years. After some time, Anatoli leaves the bathroom but Dickless does not.
“Passed out. He had fun.”
Nae-Nae and I both go to the bathroom. We want to see if we can maneuver Dickless to the couch to sleep, but he is too heavy and too naked to make the attempt. There is also some first-timer’s blood on the back of his thighs and neither of us want to contend with that. We assume that he passed out only afterward. I don’t know why we assume this.