It wasn't quite where we'd hoped to be, but I'd seen worse. The time in New Jersey at an adult motel whose true nature wasn't revealed until the light of morning, when the once-packed parking lot had become dangerously empty was worse.
Such are the words one consoles oneself with when plans go awry. Sure, something bad happened but at least it wasn't this other bad thing.
The other problem is that my mind wasn't functioning well. It was stuck in gear, sputtering. It needed to be fixed. It needed a fix, a hit of something warm and soothing. How do people live like this?
“Hey man, you trippin'?” Caldwell's voice was disembodied, floating through clouds. I couldn't find the place where it lived. I fought every step of the way in my search, but the effort was pointless. I had no hope at all.
He was in my face. There was the voice. There he was. And here was I, still without hope.
“Pull it together,” he said, holding me by my shoulders. I think they were my shoulders. They felt like someone else's, and possibly not even shoulders. They felt like a loaf of bread.
Okay, maybe I hadn't seen worse. Maybe I was just lying to myself to make the situation seem less bad than it really was.
“Where the hell are we?” I asked.
Caldwell let me go. His face was distorted, like a kaleidoscope, but I'd come around enough to realize the problem was with my brain and not his face. I'd processed the images wrong. It's a thing that sometimes happened, a job hazard of sorts.
“Where do you think we are?”
“If I knew, I wouldn't have to ask.”
He laughed like thunder. “Hell is right. Welcome back.”