A wonderfully original tale of the disintegration and mutation of an apparently ordinary American family.--Alison Lurie.
- Little, Brown and Company
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You Are HereA Memoir of Arrival
By Wesley Gibson
Back Bay BooksCopyright © 2004 Wesley Gibson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThat second day, I knew something was wrong. The apartment seemed, not quiet, but desolate. I was looking around, trying to feel at home. But it's hard to feel at home when you've moved in with a stranger named John, a man as pale and waxy and elongated as a candle, a man you met through a gay roommating service, a man who had seemed touchingly eager when he'd interviewed you, and you'd perched there on the edge of the love seat, giving the usual performance, trying to convey that you paid the bills on time but were also good for a few laughs, that you were a gourmet cook who liked nothing better than to whip up coquilles St. Jacques for yourself and whomever happened to be around, but that you wouldn't ever consider using his cream for your coquilles, that you were never there, at least not when he was, unless he wanted you to be, in which case you hoped you hadn't given the wrong impression, you actually were a homebody, someone who liked nothing better than to curl up around the VCR with a new friend and microwave popcorn, watching, what a coincidence, Home for the Holidays was your favorite movie too (note to self: find out what Home for the Holidays is).
I'd just moved back to New York. Studios were going for fifteen hundred. After first month's, last month's, a deposit, 10 percent for the agent, you were looking at five thousand dollars just to get in. That was my whole budget. That was if I was picked from the restless mob crowded around me with its own marked-up Village Voices, in a room the size of a golf cart with a view of someone's filthy venetian blinds. People kid about New York; but they're not kidding.
John bit and invited me to rent a room in his apartment on the Upper East Side. It was larger than any studio I'd seen, and cheaper too, with a view of someone's garden. An elevator, a bathroom I shared with the other roommate - some guy named Alan, who actually was never there. A real live kitchen. Most of the kitchens I'd seen had been appliances shoved into closets. I'd marveled over this place to everyone I knew, and they'd listened with the polite disinterest of people who have apartments, before steering the conversation back to their more established lives.
But now the euphoria was wearing off, and the first thing I had noticed was that this place was not really my taste. I actually don't know what my taste is, or if I even have taste, but this was not it. This was suburban, but stitched through with New Age Kitsch. Who even knew there was New Age Kitsch? There was a plaid living-room suite, circa 19-hideous-something; but little wizards made from crystals formed tiny gesticulating groups on end tables, on top of the gigantic TV. They were arranged in a lit brass-and-glass sort of exhibition case. There were vases of bridesmaid's-dress-pink cloth flowers; but dreamcatchers were nailed to the wall. An answering machine blinking its red light with about sixty messages sat next to ... Wait. An answering machine with sixty messages.
It was probably nothing; maybe he just didn't erase. But something, the hazy August day (that was another thing, it turned out the central air-conditioning didn't work), the morguelike calm, the disconcerting juxtapositions - Southwestern prayer rugs hanging next to reproductions of enormous-eyed-children paintings ... The day was a conspiracy, and my mind was weak from the dislocations of moving.
John was a serial killer. Of course. Innocent boy from small city. Next thing you know you're nothing but a few hacked-off limbs and severed eyeballs charred beyond recognition in the incinerator conveniently located down the hall. I called Jo Ann.
"Hello?" She sounded like what she was: mildly depressed, somnolently moving through her life under the suicide gray of the Ithaca skies.
"It's me." I probably sounded like what I was too - mildly panicked, flutteringly paranoid (business as usual, really) - because she was suddenly alert and saying, "What's wrong?"
"I think the guy I moved in with is a serial killer," I whispered, looking around for a blunt object to stun him with in case he had the seismographic hearing nine out of ten psychopaths seem blessed with. The air conditioner was too heavy.
The ashtray was vintage. I finally settled on a lamp, knowing it would be no match for his superhuman strength.
"Why?" Unlike most of my friends, Jo Ann took me seriously when I called to say for the fourteenth time that week that I had cancer. That's because she'd had it fourteen times that week too.
"I don't know. It's eerie, like nobody really lives here. There are sixty messages on his machine. Sixty. Exactly." "Check 'em," she said firmly.
"I can't do that." I was still whispering. "What if he's in the bedroom right now getting messages from Plato and the Virgin Mary?"
"You'll just say you left his number with some people and you're checking to see if they called." Quick, decisive, a prize-fighter of deception. I was usually not bad myself, but I was out of my element.
"I don't know." "Do it," she ordered.
I crept with my phone cradled against me. My bedroom door, having read the script, squeaked ominously. I stopped, waiting for him to burst out of his room with a straight razor and a macabre laugh. Nothing. Nothing but that awful grove of silence.
Excerpted from You Are Here by Wesley Gibson Copyright © 2004 by Wesley Gibson. Excerpted by permission.
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