Vapor, page 23
“He’s dangerous. You can’t be safe with him,” said my father.
“Yes, I can be, and I have been, and I will be.”
“Don’t you care what this does to us? You are ruining our health. Not one moment passes these days when we are not stressed.”
“He’s not dangerous anymore,” I said. “What made him dangerous has been resolved. He can even wear opaque clothing now.”
“Oh boy, the mere thought of that dinner and his striptease gives me a headache. It’s easy to say he’s not dangerous, until we find you lying dead in a ditch somewhere.”
“And then won’t you wish you had listened to us,” interjected my mother.
“He’s an extraordinary person,” I said meekly.
“Why? Because he can make small clouds?” said my father. “That’s the most useless thing anyone could ever do. What good is it to anyone?”
“And he’s working on an invention now that sounds very remarkable,” I said.
“I’m sure humanity can do without it.”
Neither they, nor I, made any progress. Perhaps they softened a little more than I did, but they refused to make any promises to behave in a more civilized manner, to stop chasing me in cabs, to stop stalking my building, etc.
The next person I had to deal with was Nathaniel. I had seen him on rare occasions, and he had been acting so miserable since I broke up with him, despite my willingness to remain friends of sorts, that I asked him about it. He finally said: “You broke up with me. I accepted it. You agreed to remain friends. But you haven’t been acting like a friend. You’ve become secretive and uncommunicative.”
“I told you it would be different,” I said. Nevertheless, to make him feel better—or worse, I’m not sure—I told him all about my involvement with Damon.
To my surprise, he was entertained by my story of the cage, and of my meetings with Damon in public places for safety reasons, and of my overall love affair with my own kidnapper.
The only thing he reproached me for was having introduced Damon to my parents.
“What were you thinking?” he said, a bit harshly. “That was an ill-thought-out move on your part; it was bound to fail miserably. Now you may have alienated him.”
I was annoyed by his pessimistic attitude, but said nothing. The visit ended well; Nathaniel seemed in good spirits—considerably cheered up, in fact—to my slight confusion. I wondered if I understood anything about people.
While Damon was away, my friend Jeremy asked me to baby-sit his cat, Minou, for a while. I missed Damon and welcomed the company, even though I was busily working on a film almost every day.
Three weeks after Damon left me and the city, he finished his invention. He still wouldn’t tell me what it was, but said he’d be back in a week and would show it to me then, after doing some more tests on it. He added that he couldn’t wait to see me.
To my surprise, when Damon came back, he was wearing his old transparent clothes. But now he was also wearing huge, clunky metal shoes. I was very happy to see him and hugged him as soon as he walked in the door—or rather, as soon as he wobbled in (due to his weighty shoes). He kissed me and held me tightly. In my arms he felt unsteady, as if tipsy or tired. He sat down in a chair and was smiling expectantly, perhaps waiting for me to say something.
“How’ve you been?” I asked.
“Very well,” he said, nodding and still grinning.
“Have you had trouble wearing opaque clothing?”
“No trouble at all. I’m dressed like this today out of necessity. But don’t ask me about it right now.”
“Did you bring your invention?” I looked at his big shoes.
He got up and walked to the middle of the room. He unlaced his shoes. So I was right: the invention involved his shoes.
He slipped one of his feet out of one shoe, and then slowly, delicately, slipped the other foot out of the other shoe.
“Do you remember how badly I wanted to make clouds solid?” he asked.
“Well, I failed. So then I thought: if you can’t solidify them, join them.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He gently hopped once. But the word hop is not accurate because it implies coming back down right away, which he did not do, at least not very quickly and not before having practically reached the ceiling. I understood then what he meant when he said he had joined them.
I felt weak.
Still, the explanation for what I was seeing had to be less far-fetched than that Damon had become a cloud. “Have you become bionic?” I asked.
“No. Just light.”
And he hopped again, and started leaping around the room, like a gazelle, practically hitting the ceiling each time, and doing it in slight slow-motion at that. His white flimsy clothes were fluttering and his blond hair was flowing. He looked like a privileged person.
After a while he stopped and stood in front of me. He took my hand.
“Raise me,” he said.
He was indeed very light. He couldn’t have weighed more than two or three pounds. I continued raising him until he was above my head. I slowly waved him over me.
Once down, he said he wanted to go to the car to get his accessories. He put his shoes back on and went clunking out. I went with him.
He took some bags out of his car, and we went back upstairs.
He opened his carrying case and out drifted a live rat. It floated in the air around us, trying to run away, but going nowhere, really. Minou, the cat I was baby-sitting, was transfixed. I had never seen a more miserable rat or a more excited cat.
“I had to experiment on rats before experimenting on myself,” explained Damon. “I’m sorry about it. I’m not in favor of testing on animals, but I didn’t know what else to do in this case.”
He then pulled out of his shoulder bag some hypodermic needles and a tourniquet.
“Bring out the scales!” he exclaimed.
“I know you have scales.”
“I just have one.”
“No kitchen scale?”
I brought out my human scale and my kitchen scale.
He got undressed and stepped on the human scale. He weighed two pounds. He wrapped the tourniquet around his arm and injected himself with a clear solution. We watched the scale, and within a few seconds he lost one pound.
“I want you to bring me closer,” he said, stepping off the scale.
“To what?” I said.
“Cause then I can do even more fun things.”
“Like swim in air or be blown by your breath and stuff like that. The lower the weight, the more fun it gets. But don’t let it reach zero or I’ll die.”
“Do you mean you’ll die, as in: you’ll be upset, or you’ll die literally?”
“I mean the latter, and therefore the former as well. If I become completely weightless, I’ll be more cloud than human, and there’s no turning back. I won’t regain my weight, I’ll just eventually rain. Not right away. It takes a few days or weeks. But once you rain, you lose your life. You become a puddle.”
He placed one needle and the tourniquet on my kitchen scale, which he then set to zero.
He stepped onto the kitchen scale himself, trying to find his balance.
“Watch the scale and tell me what you see,” he said.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I said.
“What if my scale is inaccurate and you’ve reached zero and it says you haven’t?”
“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
He was about to inject himself, when I shouted, “Wait! Are you sure you got all the air bubbles out?”
“The liquid is weightless. You can’t get the air bubbles out.”
“But if you inject yourself with air, it can be fatal.”
“I am air, or rather, cloud. It
He injected part of the solution into his arm, and waited.
After a few seconds the scale steadied at eight ounces.
He injected himself again, and his weight went down to four ounces. He continued giving himself tiny doses of the solution, bringing himself closer and closer to zero.
“How close do you want to get?” I asked.
“Quarter of an ounce.”
“That’s crazy. My scale’s not that good. You can’t trust it at that level.”
“I’ve done it before on my own kitchen scale, which is no better than yours.”
“I don’t believe you. How could you tell how close you were getting if you had no one to tell you?”
“I used mirrors.”
He kept injecting himself with small doses until I lied to him and told him he had reached a quarter of an ounce, when he actually weighed half an ounce.
“Are you sure you’re not fibbing?” he said. “I think you’re fibbing, but let’s try it anyway.”
He stepped off the scale. “Oh yes, I feel heavy.”
Naked, he jumped in the air, reached the ceiling, and slowly drifted back down like a balloon. Before he landed, he started kicking his legs vigorously and doing the breast stroke with his arms, as if trying to swim in air. And then he landed.
“An-na. You fibbed. I’m not supposed to land when I do this.”
He went back on the scale and said, “I’m sure I weigh at least three-quarters of an ounce, which means I will inject myself with enough serum to eliminate half an ounce.”
“If you do that you’ll be dead. You weighed half an ounce, okay?”
“Okay. Don’t lie to me anymore, or it can be dangerous. Be very truthful, very accurate.”
He injected himself and we waited a few seconds. I then told him he had reached his ideal weight.
“Good. Now I’m as heavy as a Bic pen.”
He stepped off the scale, jumped toward the ceiling, and did the breast stroke and kicked his legs. He succeeded in not landing. He slowly, very slowly, advanced in air.
After a minute, he stopped and landed. He was panting from the exertion.
“You know, I’ll have to get a more sensitive scale so I can get closer to zero, because a quarter ounce still requires too much effort to stay up in the air for long. I bet that if I could get down to one-twentieth of an ounce, I could stay up in the air with as little effort as staying afloat in water.”
We then played around. He asked me to blow on him, and I did: I blew him upward, I blew him away. I fanned him away. I opened the window slightly to create a draft. I tapped him like a balloon. He swam after the rat.
We even tried to have sex. When he was on top, he weighed nothing, which was pleasant on the one hand, but impractical on the other. The way we finally managed to do it was with me on top, pinning him down so he wouldn’t float away.
Then came the serious question, as we laid side by side, the weight of my arm holding him down.
“Do you want me to try it too?” I asked.
“That’s not up to me. It’s entirely up to you if you want to try becoming light. I’m not going to pressure you or even encourage you. I’m pretty sure it’s safe, health-wise, even in the long run, but I can’t be absolutely certain.”
For a moment I had a horrible vision of ourselves, a few months down the line, vomiting and shriveling up, due to having been injected with this potion.
“Is it fun? Becoming light?” I asked.
“Yes. It’s like being an astronaut. But God forbid, if you reach zero by accident, you’ll be like that rat, doomed to rain and die any day. I’ve already had three rats rain on me. It’s something to think about.”
“You won’t let me reach zero, right?”
“No. I would rather rain a thousand times than let you drizzle once.”
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
Damon made me light. He gave me a tiny dose at first, to see if I tolerated it, and if I wanted to go further. With that first injection, he made me lose ten pounds in about fifteen seconds. I giggled nervously. I felt giddy and, of course, light. It felt good.
As I soon found out, being twenty pounds lighter felt even better. But no matter how good that felt, it was nothing compared to getting down to a quarter of an ounce. I had to perform the injections on myself, after a certain point, because any touch from Damon would have altered my weight on the scale.
Being light, very light, was not much like anything I had ever experienced. It reminded me vaguely of the liberating feeling one gets when someone offers to carry one’s bag.
We bounced in slow motion around the apartment, danced and swam in the air.
Then we walked down the street with our heavy shoes (he gave me a pair of shoes like his) and took Damon’s car out to the country, to a deserted road, and while one of us drove, the other was pulled through the air by a thread attached with Scotch tape to the roof of the car. When we had exhausted the fun in that, we left the car and climbed trees using only the tips of our fingers and the lightest pressure. We sat on branches no thicker than chopsticks. We swung off leaves.
When the weight came back, it came back slowly, which meant we started landing just a little quicker than usual when we jumped off the top of trees. We drove back to the city and injected ourselves again and waited till night so we’d be less visible when we drifted outside. We went to deserted streets and made sure no one was around, and then climbed up the walls of buildings. We lowered ourselves down to the East River. We held on to threads that we tied to the railing, so as not to be blown away. It was a very warm night.
The next day Damon bought a scale that allowed us to get down to one-tenth of an ounce: the weight of a jumbo-sized paper clip. And later that day we weighed in at one-twentieth of an ounce. We had so much fun at that weight. We didn’t need to be any lighter.
That night the rat rained.
We spent the next two weeks enjoying our weight loss, playing with the freedom it gave us, injecting ourselves frequently and not spending much time at our regular weight. It was wonderful to hang on to birds. Or kites. Or one of those helium-filled party balloons, which would carry us up. When we’d let go of the string, we’d drift around or back down (depending on the breeze), like ordinary balloons. We rode on the backs of dogs and other small animals.
Walking on our hands was no problem anymore. Even walking on our fingers. We could run on the points of our toes, and jump that way, like ballerinas without needing toe shoes, and land that way. We could walk down the street on our bare points for hours if we wanted to and didn’t care what people thought.
We could do flips in the air, and if we fell on our faces, it didn’t hurt, and if we fell on our heads, we didn’t break our necks.
As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t possible for anyone to overestimate how much fun this was. If there was a heaven, weightlessness must be what it consisted of.
Due to our tremendously light weight, we were able to walk on water. And sit on it. We sat on rivers and took long walks on lakes and short walks on ponds and puddles.
We liked to sit on electric wires, like birds, and smooch. And then, when we got bored of sitting, we walked on those wires like circus performers, and when we lost our balance, we didn’t fall, but drifted to the side.
The one thing we couldn’t do was fly in rain. A few dozen raindrops weighed more than we did and made us sink to the ground, unless the breeze was strong enough to compensate.
The only really dangerous thing for us to do was to jump off the edge of a cliff or a roof or a tree while absentmindedly holding something in our hands, like a rock. Then, of course, we plummeted to the ground unless we had the presence of mind to let go of the rock before crashing.
But otherwise, walking off cliffs was fun. We called it “diving.” We’d stand on the edge, take off our shoes, and push off for the wind to carry us.
Gliding until our weight returned was exciting, but we invariably regretted it
Once, we landed in the middle of a forest. The ground was prickly, which, while we were still relatively light, was fine, but as our weight increased, our bare soles began to sting.
A note about our shoes: I preferred the loafer style, to the style with laces, like Damon’s. He liked to hang on to the laces with his toes while he bobbed in the breeze. I liked to be able to slip out of my shoes in a bookstore and float up to a high shelf. There was a big risk of getting caught, of course, which was why I always made sure to pretend I was climbing up the shelves, not floating up.
Damon and I also did some weightless socializing. For fun we went to cast parties, wrap parties, and every other sort of movie party. We wore normal clothes and our heavy shoes. I think people noticed that we moved strangely. We had to be careful not to leave our muscles relaxed, otherwise our arms would be floating at our sides, like in a bath. It required hard work and concentration to look heavy when we were light. Of course, since our hair was weightless too and floating around our heads as if we were under water, we had to do something about it. We wore wigs in the style of our own hair. Sometimes we wore hoods instead. At home, after the parties, I loved to stand in front of the mirror and whip off my wig or hood and see my hair drifting around.
It was so sensual to cavort around weightless that we often became extremely aroused. But it was hard to have sex while being light; a bit like being on Prozac, from what I’d heard. To replace gravity, we had to use sheer muscles—but a whole different set of muscles than those required for traditional, weighty sex. We had trouble making each other stay in place. We were like two big balloons, laughing with exasperation, laughing so hard we’d feel spent, as if we’d succeeded.
Eventually we figured out we had to be intertwined in order to have light sex; I had to wrap my legs around his like vines. And once we got the hang of it, the floor was what became annoying. Our smallest movement would make us bounce up in the air, for many long seconds, and then we’d land. It was distracting to have the floor bump into us repeatedly during sex. We’d land in unexpected ways, like on our sides, but only for a moment, because we’d pop up again at the next movement. Sometimes we would slowly drift back down head first. When this wasn’t the case, I’d kick the floor away impatiently with one foot, but when I did that too hard, we’d hit the ceiling, which could also be irritating. And, like a fly buzzing around us, the floor always came back, no matter how many times we’d shoo it away.
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