Noble X — Episode 19: The Guest of Honor
PARTY TIME. Filters off. Living fiction. The collective energy of the Noble Experiment had somehow swirled together and they all rode upon John‘s massive waves of manic activity, an art hospital brought from his imagination into reality on this night.
Performances carried on, uncomfortable at first but then settling into the weird vibe John had set during Roger’s set. Even with the party reaching a somewhat even keel, Thomas, Anthony, and Colin continue to observe cautiously, taking cigarette breaks to discuss if they’ve let things get too out of hand.
Each of them, conflicted in their own way, huddle in a circle in the backyard, their smoke and frozen breath mixing together. They are enjoying themselves along with the rest of the partygoers. They can see how everyone there is feeling free and safe to be as weird as they like. They feel it too, liberated despite their concerns for John.
“He seems to have calmed down a bit,” Anthony said. “Yeah, I saw him sitting on the ground with Kristen, giving each other marker tattoos,” Colin answered. Thomas and Anthony were out of things to say, half-laughing and shaking their heads while they inhaled deeply.
BACK IN THE HOUSE, much like the musical performances, the socialization was evolving in the same pattern. Everyone was opening up more and more as the night transpired. John urged people to accompany musicians by playing the house, knocking on the door frame, knocking where post-its had filled up the walls, treating each colored squares like a different sounding drum. He continued to deliberately provoke reactions from the people around him as his wormy brain attempted to document his infinite research of the human experience.
Paul would be so disgusted but Paul is still not there. Not yet.
During the third performance, Bree pulls John into the spare bedroom to confront him about the way he is acting. "It’s like you’re pretending to have mental illness and that’s really not cool," but she stops mid-sentence as John tries to meet her gaze, eyes twitching madly within their sockets. He is aware of what she’s seeing and “Glitching" is how he attempts to describe it. He adds, "Johnny Five Alive,” uncomfortably. In that moment, Bree things to herself, “Of course this isn’t some extravagant performance art piece," and immediately feels sick to her stomach because she doesn’t know what to do to help John. So she just gives him a hug and says, “Please get some sleep tonight, man. I’m really worried about you.” John’s resolve is shaken and he takes a moment alone.
He is keenly aware that he is hurting his friends as they watch him decline further into his delusions and detach from reality, no longer resembling the person they know. That he knows. And he does feel bad. He tries to capture this part of the experience in words, but this only upsets him further. After taking some deep breaths to calm down, he emerges from the spare bedroom to find that Paul has arrived.
Paul doesn’t look upset. More confused than anything. John heads right to the liquor cabinet and gets the handle of whiskey out. He repeats to the crowded room, “This is the liquor cabinet and you live here now too, so drink whatever you like." Paul slugs a tumbler of the whiskey down greedily which John refills gladly, both saying nothing.
The tension builds. Everyone experiencing this party up to this point has become finely tuned into the rest of the people in the room. It has been disrupted by Paul's arrival and everyone can feel it. Paul is pissed about the Noble Experiment no longer resembling what his vision had been and his mind is filled with anger. The room quiets as he grapples with what he wants to say.
"What the fuck is all of this?" Paul asks John.
John smiles fiendishly and answers with a question of his own. “Where have you been?"
This enrages Paul. "You couldn’t help it, could you? Fucked it all up. This is not the Noble Experiment," slamming down more whiskey, building up steam.
John feels the rage radiating off of Paul Iike heat from a woodstove and continues smiling, goading Paul further. "You want to hit me, don’t you? You’re really mad. I’d let you hit me if it makes you feel better. You’re right." Stepping closer he says, “Go ahead. Hit me.” Not intending to intimidate, John uses an oddly pleasant tone which comes off as creepy and sinister.
And Paul does. Whiskey coursing through his veins, feeling betrayed, Paul punches John square in the cheek. The room freezes. John, unfazed, snaps his burning stare right back at Paul, asking him to do it again. “Turn the other cheek," he says once and before he finishes repeating it a second time, Paul hits him again. John stands firm and smiles again, not even rubbing his face. His wild eyes seem to grow inside their sockets. Paul quickly loses his nerve, launches a string of slurred obscenities, grabs his guitar, and storms out into the freezing March midnight.
John apologizes to the crowd of people, all shocked by the recent turn of events. "I have upset my friend and alas, I must give chase,” John announces, bowing inappropriately and disappearing out the door after Paul.
Colin quickly consults with Anthony and Thomas. They decide Colin would give chase as well to keep an eye on John while Anthony and Thomas would stay put to keep an eye on the house. The Noble Experiment, now on autopilot, continued under their supervision.
Paul, choking back his tears, vision blurry from emotion and whiskey, shambles along, guitar strapped to his back, trying to avoid the large icy patches that had accumulated as the temperature dropped with the sun. After turning the corner, he makes it about half a block before he catches a patch of ice, sending him face first into the concrete, cracking his front tooth badly on impact. And then blackness.
Stay tuned for Episode 20.
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