Manic Mode

Jonathan Shaw

An excerpt from “Narcisa”

“The sick woman especially: no one surpasses her in refinements for ruling, oppressing, tyrannizing.” — Nietzsche

Carnaval was over. Weeks went by. The city of Rio de Janeiro was slowly going back to its normal pace. My life with Narcisa, however, was its own Dark Carnaval of progressive weirdness now. Suddenly, I realized since I’d picked her off the ho-stroll and fallen into Narcisa’s mad trajectory, three whole months had flown by in a surreal haze of passion and drama; a relentless flurry of endless days and nights of terror and danger and unrestrained passions and impending mental collapse.

Sometimes though, between Narcisa’s grueling soul-shattering week-long crack missions, I’d still try to take her out to a movie or for a walk on the beach at night; something safe and stable and normal like a simple quiet água de côco sitting under a palm tree by the gentle waves under vital summer moonlight.

Just Vanished, painting by David West
Just Vanished, painting by David West

Things were steadily getting worse though, I knew, as I realized she wanted to do that sort of thing less and less. I was getting worse too, of course, I admitted reluctantly, as I watched myself like some distant impartial observer running back and forth from the zona to the volatile favela war zones at all hours of day and night, buying and selling drugs and bartering stolen goods for Narcisa.

I knew that I was sinking deeper and deeper into a dark dangerous vortex of petty crime and constant self-doubt and trouble in my frantic effort to keep her voracious crack habit sated. I even feared for my sanity, my own sobriety at times — even though I somehow never felt the urge to pick up a drug myself. But things were getting bad any way you sliced it. That much I knew for certain.

And still, a day at a time, I carefully persistently lovingly tended to Narcisa like a flickering dying flame; still trying desperately to pretend for the moment that everything was fine, that everything was going to go back to normal and turn out all right somehow.

We both knew it wouldn’t be all right. But when all that’s left is the power to pretend, you take what you can get and just do the best you can with it. Narcisa’s malady was progressing, I conceded sadly. She was getting steadily worse, stealthily deteriorating, as was my own seemingly insignificant weakness — my addiction to her and everything that went with it. Soon I realized that my life with Narcisa had now been reduced to a sordid little comedy of four-hour shifts of worried solitude and prayer, broken up only by two to three hour periods we would finally spend together fucking like angry baboons. Or fighting. As if anything we fought about even mattered anymore.

More and more often, I noticed as the days and weeks slithered by that Narcisa was regularly going completely off her head. She would slip away into this crazed excited hyperactive manic mode now whenever she was high, suddenly transforming herself into some crazy alien deity, dancing a wild crazy sensual extraterrestrial angry goddess dance for hours and back-bending hours on end, jumping and writhing and gyrating madly around the cramped little apartment with the music blasting away at top volume… tweeked… spun… musica musica go go go!

I loved it, I realized; and I hated it too at the same time — like everything else about Narcisa whenever she jumped into that mad compulsive Go Go Mode. But like everything else about Narcisa, I concluded, I simply couldn’t change it now even if I wanted to. I didn’t want to. And I certainly couldn’t escape it either, I came to discover. I knew without a doubt now that I was completely and hopelessly strung out on Narcisa’s mad love spell; consumed and drowning in a raging sea of desperate confusion and steadily diminishing hope. And still weakly clinging, still hoping all the while that it would somehow all get better one day. Of course, it never did.

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I was sitting out on my little balcony one day, looking out over the city. One more manic afternoon with Narcisa. My weary sleep-deprived eyes searched the horizon longingly, sadly looking out over the view, desperately seeking some fleeting glimpse of sanity. I stared out over the beautiful vision of Rio de Janeiro… sky, sun, city, sea… It was another fine warm late summer’s day. I could feel the cooling ocean breeze blowing in off the expansive blue of the bay, caressing my tired flesh; a tired mortal shell, beat and worn and pained and spent after fucking Narcisa long and hard into the misty morning’s dawn. More and more now, I knew that sex with Narcisa had become just like smoking crack for me too… powerful, compelling, impossibly ecstatic, debilitating… raw… compulsive… addictive… deadly… and the more I got, I realized, the more I always wanted… just like fucking crack… more more more! Want want want! Go go go… We’d been going at it steadily all night long the night before. I groggily replayed the visions of fucking her brains out again and again until way past dawn. And Narcisa was still going now, I mused bitterly, sitting all alone inside the dark shuttered apartment… fucking her own brains out on crack… she can’t stop… Utterly exhausted at last, I finally went back inside. Walking silently past Narcisa, who was still sitting in a dark little corner doing her thing, I crawled up into the loft bed and collapsed into sleep for a few stolen moments of deep silent rest. Within fifteen minutes though, I was suddenly jolted awake again by the Crack Monster and its endless hyperactive noise machine down below.

Bang!! Boom!! Crash!!

Fuck! She’s just broken something else down there! Shit! Pretty soon there’ll be nothing left to break in this fucking place! At first I didn’t move. I just lay there listening in disgust. I was totally beat, I knew. Narcisa hadn’t slept at all, of course, I mused sadly. And after three days awake without any food or sleep, Narcisa still wasn’t tired at all… of course… fucking crazy little coked-up maniac! When the fuck is she ever gonna give it a fucking break down there and let me get some fucking rest? Jesus!

Finally, unable to rest anymore, I stumbled groggily down from the loft bed again. I walked back out onto the balcony to try to get a break from the madness. Waking up slowly again, I just stood out there for awhile, absently scratching my ass and staring out far away over the sparkling blue infinity of the bay. A parrot flew by overhead, squawking off into the distance. Distant dogs barked. The soft summer breeze rustled pleasantly through the clattering fronds of the scruffy coconut palms in the plaza down below. A ship blew its deep mournful faraway horn… heading out to sea… I watched it on the horizon for awhile, moving slowly, imperceptibly away out there on the blue carpet of ocean, thinking of my own long-ago days as a sailor, remembering my first weeks at sea. And I thought now of how very glad I was to be back in Rio again… even now… even with all of this crazy drama running amok in my life today… this is the place I’ve come home to… to fall in love with Narcisa.

I sat there fuzzily trying to just enjoy the sleepy sights and sounds of the beautiful warm afternoon. I thought of how nice it would be to lay down out there now in the thick raw cotton comfort of my hammock. I longed to go back to sleep for awhile out on the balcony while she clanged and banged around inside, battling the invisible demons of her cracked up crumbling mind. But there was no hammock anymore, I remembered suddenly… shit! Narcisa took the fucking thing down while I was sleeping the other day… to cover the windows and block out the sun, the sea, this beautiful green view of Rio… before she set the fucking thing on fire and converted it all to ashes again… like everything else she fucking touches… Narcisa doesn’t care about any fucking beautiful view anyway… Narcisa only wants to smoke crack now… sitting in there in the fucking dark… fuck! I’m so fucking tired!

I knew that sex with Narcisa had become just like smoking crack for me too… powerful, compelling, impossibly ecstatic, debilitating… raw… compulsive… addictive… deadly… and the more I got, I realized, the more I always wanted

Finally fatigue overcame me again like a shadowy shroud. I went back inside and climbed back up into the loft bed. I laid back and shut my eyes again. She was still down there, I knew, dancing around wildly, her taut wiry young body gyrating like a deranged spring-wound marionette… spinning around in the same fucking pink polka dot bikini she hasn’t changed or taken off for three days now except to get fucked.

And Narcisa was really on fire down there, I knew, twisting and turning and writhing and shimmying across my dirty scuffed up beaten floor, hurtling through time and space, dancing wild and insane to the earsplitting noise and frantic distortion and mindless monkey chatter rattling from the infernal little boom box I’d bought her to listen to after she’d sold my radio up in the favela to buy more crack to smoke in the dark.

The noise assaulted my ears, making me want to kill. I wondered for a moment if Narcisa knew or even cared that I wanted to kill her… it doesn’t matter… I will not kill her… just for today, she will live and I will live… and this is our fucking life here together today… frantic… disturbed… compulsive… deranged… and all this too shall pass… this too shall pass… this too shall pass… please, for the love of God!

Finally Narcisa turned the radio off again, and again there was silence. I tried to take advantage of the quiet lull to fall back into the pillows. But it wasn’t the peaceful silence of before, I knew. This new silence was haunted by the creepy Crack Monster and all its frantic manic insane demands for attention, movement, hyperactivity, action… go go go!

I listened to the sounds of her crashing and banging around the apartment. I knew she was down there desperately dragging the remnants of my wrecked soot-blackened furniture across the floor, scuffing it up, breaking things, building makeshift barricades to hide herself from the phantoms… breaking shit down there… The clumsy violent banging noises all seemed to be rattling outward from the hellish core of her disturbed mind, punctuated only by the sound of her little red plastic Cricket lighter flicking, flicking.

Ssskkk. Ssskkk.

Then silence.

I lay back in the pillows again, too creeped out to even try to sleep anymore.

Ssskkk. Ssskkk.

A moment’s silence.







This time I didn’t answer, didn’t bother. She was tweaking… spun… crazed!



“Where are you?”

“I’m right here.”


“Up in the loft bed, Narcisa. Where I’ve been the whole fucking time!”



Suddenly she appeared at the top of the loft ladder, her eyes darting around like maddened houseflies, her face frozen in a grey mask of terror… demented… frightened… crack paranoia again… great…

She was banging around again down there… breaking more shit… gone!


Flick. Flick. Ssskkk ssskkk.

Her plastic lighter… smoking another fucking hit of crack.








Suddenly she appeared at the top of the loft ladder, her eyes darting around like maddened houseflies, her face frozen in a grey mask of terror… demented… frightened… crack paranoia again… great… She crept up the ladder and crawled across the bed like a crippled spider to where I was lying. She started to examine my tattoos carefully, one by one, checking to see if I was an impostor… thinks I’m a fucking ‘clone’ again… shit… I’ve seen all this shit before… fuck! I sighed loudly. I rolled my tired reddened eyes in frustrated disgust. She picked up on it and sat down beside me, lowering her head like a sick parakeet.

“You are sick of me now, Cigano. I know.”

“What makes ya say that, baby?” I said as I ran my hand lazily through her dirty brown hair. My dick was already getting hard again, like a fleshy compass hand pointing me right back down the road to hell. But even my dick was too tired for more.

–Jonathan Shaw