Brig woke up the next day, fully clothed, in his room, on his bed at the ChungKing Mansions, with very little memory of the night before. His mouth was dry but his hangover was surprisingly mild. Getting drunk and blacking out was kinda his thing, but he usually felt much worse.
He swung his feet off the bed, sat up, and tried to remember what had happened…and then his heart sank. Both of his packs now lay stacked together in the corner of his room. He remembered putting the big green pack under his bed when he went out, last night. Who moved it, and why? But what concerned him most was that from about 10 p.m until he woke up on his bed this morning, he had no idea where the smaller pack had been, despite his determination to protect it.
He stood up and stared at the bag, trying to see if there was some bulge, some clue that would confirm that his money and his pills were still in the pack. He picked up the bag and, holding one of the straps, bounced it up and down, weighing it, testing it. Did it feel lighter? His sense of dread continued building. He sat back down on his bed and placed the pack directly in front of him.
“Mother. God. Jesus. Whoever may be listening…please let my money still be inside that pack and I’ll do anything.” He hadn’t prayed for months, maybe years, and his confidence that a higher power was listening to him was low. He disgusted himself. He had zero self-control, zero self-discipline, and he was quite sure that if God or Jesus existed, he had really pissed them off. They were the last entities in the universe that he should be asking for help. His mother was a wild card. Since she had died, she had never really given him any indication that she was still around. Brig knew that if she could see him, she was disappointed, but if anyone still loved him, it would be her.
“Please Mom. If you love me, please let the money still be in there. I’ll try not to do as many drugs, and I’ll even reconsider my…my…(he couldn’t say suicide)…you know…but if I don’t have any money, I literally can’t go on.”
He pulled the bag onto the bed next to him, and slowly, carefully, as if trying not to scare the contents away, unzipped the top. He looked in and saw a red T-shirt that he didn’t recall putting inside. He pulled the shirt out and threw it to the floor. He stuck his hand in again, this time more aggressively, feeling for the large manilla envelope that contained the twenty-nine stacks of US$100 bills. He pulled out a mostly empty bottle of water and threw it across the room. He stuck his hand into the pack again, panicky, aggressive and angry, ripping out a tattered copy of “Into Thin Air,” and flung it in the same direction as the water. He turned the pack upside down and shook it like an empty ketchup bottle, and a few more items plunked to the ground. A map of China, a flashlight without batteries, a pair of shorts, but no envelope, no pills, and no phone.
He threw the pack across the room and smashed his fist into his forehead. He launched himself across the small room, landing on his knees in front of the large green frame pack. Maybe, he thought, he had transferred the money from his small pack to the larger one. Hyperventilating, he untied the top and maniacally pulled out everything without any regard for order. Boots, pants, shorts, shirts, socks, a mess kit, his journal, some climbing gear, but nothing he was looking for. Repeatedly slamming both fists into his forehead, he fell to the ground. He rammed his head into the cold, tiled floor, nearly knocking himself out…and he began to cry. Not from the pain, but from the absolute helplessness consuming him