Sodden compassion lacks dignity. I’ve been sore with more. Unless less were to become more. But it never seems to in the experience that’s been mine. But I have none that is otherwise. What cannot one do? Be humble and try to keep moving.
Strange memories on this nervous night in Los Angeles. Something comes tumbling, troubling from the streets. Mariachi music wafts up from a car stereo: a steady rhythm to fall into a trance to. I dry my socks in the open window, and some guy’s got the Eifel tower painted on his balcony wall. The buses make their noise and wheeze by on the street six flights down while a man in a white cowboy hat sells carne asada from a barbeque stand on the corner. A nun escapes from a rundown apartment complex and crosses herself at the light. The stifling drone of a helicopter’s whirling flight Dopplers back and forth in a smog-smeared sky. Nobody’s paying attention to the laws. A giant crane is stalled above a church like some lunatic god gone fishing. I lie back and stare at a palm tree that’s got nothing but wilted, white fronds to show for itself. The tall buildings gleam almost downright resplendent in the afternoon’s hazy sunshine, their windows like shiny scales of some ancient reptilian thing petrified for a brief eternity here where I just so happen to be doing my existing for the moment. I’ve got sunglasses on, a salmon shirt with silver buttons, green and yellow argyles, and a powder-blue suit jacket that smells like a girl I used to be in love with. My head’s all mush and strangled courage. I’ve got nothing to do but wander and get drunk; and that seems a suitable enough proposition for this here battered bunch of hurt. There’s no way in or out that I don’t got. There are no accordions left around these parts. The hat’s on the bed. The taxi lights have all gone out. A fly’s joined the party in through the window: another paying customer to witness my doom and disposal. Cussing out everything and handling nothing very well. There’s a detour sign in my heart. It reroutes my hopes and tells my love to take a left. I’m sure there are guts I’m in need of. I’m sure that I might not ever get the hell out of here. There’s violin music coming from the room next door. Two ladies who know what’s better left not done and then done again, I suspect. An airy moment to enjoy in this temporary abode between what’s gone and what’s on its way out.
I am not thwarted by inanition. There are more prevaricating forces at work than just some mild lassitude spelled by indifference. The choices I don’t make keep piling up, behind and ahead of me. I am hemmed in on all sides by stagnant gulfs between decisions.
And so it is that I teeter back on my heels, reminisce, attempt to hold on to fuliginous memories that haunt me like some Murfreesboro barkeep with whom I am forever never settling up my tab. My mind steers steadier than you’d imagine, waylaid and rollicking over this rocky terrain.
I remember mother, aging as she was, bandy-legged (or was it bow?) delivering soup to the tenants, the one’s in need of caretaking—or perhaps they should be considered boarders—, all of whom were left less well than the drooling palaver of their situation should’ve conscripted them to. Radios scruffy and crackly with overuse, piping out dreams hot and cold for rapid consumption. “How’s that?” is the belated refrain that wanes sluggishly through the shrubs of all my tenses: presently just the past. To the patois of children go the lowly and crushed, and I am forever dour about the clemency of the surrounding troops.
Fooled to the common errands, I root about for bunchgrass before the gardener arrives, stymied to concoct Maileresque advertisements for myself in this back-soaking humidity. I am lost. The butler moans irreverence from bad spaces in the universe. Crayons heal themselves, wrapper and all. I am snagged by some common Falstaff into blame’s verisimilitude. Nobody home? Well, I believe mother would have lurched, albeit steady and subdued, like some bibulous funambulist arching towards blurred pit stops on the way to hell—or gasping with a sudden fall’s terror, perhaps. But I’ve forsworn all hindsight peeks, at least until every notice has gone to further.
We are suckers for cloud coverage, spotty and transient as it can be. A teal, like baize, that swamps and lurks and spindles and then fades to a clumpy pewter. Surrounded. A glimpse or a wink’s twinge. Melted butter baked into pastry soaked golden by sharp javelins of sun. And it is I who tend towards scurrilousness as the crepuscular insects arise. Waiting. Shod softly to barefooted times. When the room wages war on bits and flecks of nostalgia locked holy and away in motes and beams of distraction, of television’s warm glow. We are dirt sprinkled and spread over the beveled, shiny, marble lid of a coffin. The spit of the world is mine to swallow. A slim share of sky. A rough-hewn burst of cloud bottom scudding through. A latticed groom over sleeker shapes, and the stalled company of being between spaces: ever longing for never.
Drapery’s thick folds hold illicit memories, ancient and arranged, pulled to rest, and at times reined in to gaze at restful moments.
Mother’s queries would trim the lard from the most brazen of the boarders. I (the “who” who is meddling in all dramatis personæ) attain reports nightly of what that business previously entailed. It is lapidary, it turns out, and its tides are the cheer of blame and turnstile humor. What mother held closer than breath was the cloying rant of her inheritors. “It’ll steam you some, son,” she’d chance in the rout of her possessions. A scuffle of dreamy buyers, a spill of droopy silver ringlets from a formerly regal head of yellow curls. Top light. I have forever been returned to sender.
A keeling sigh palpitates from the room next door. The two ladies are ushering off their farewells, blighted with a balmy sort of pleasure that comes from balancing pleases on the edge of a razor. Soon the music dies down, as do they, and all context returns to its usual forms. I hereby absquatulate from the race of all things, abjure all sentiments and concordant instructions on what it is to be alive, to be a slight wince among those who cultivate food and raise animals just so they can consume them— those who believe that they own things.
There are no rafters left in my drafty torment; only the crumbling sliding-dovetail joints of my ruination remain, along with some wind-lofted pages ripped from a King James Bible. I do not wish to lead any person to believe that I will just up and Bojangles my way away from these parts. There are ants between the tiles in wait of wayward crumbs. The windows haven’t been washed in 18 years. I’ve forgotten what rain sounds like. Mother would tell me to just be kind to myself, to go about half-flummoxed and a bit drunk, remembering the different names for flowers and insects, clumsily drafting and rearranging whatever’s sulking its way through me; and I’d take her cliff diving now, if I could. Maybe all the way to Dover. But I am all out of feeling like home. And I am just dashed against the rocks for all my trouble.Only a shredded tie and a torn panama left to take care of, to notice or appreciate. I’ll take it. I will. It is probably just another fall to be wrecked at the end of. For all matters at hand I am just a rattletrap scream barreling down the tracks on a clattery old steam locomotive forever headed through smoky tunnels of what it used to mean to be me. The hour’s grave. All the roads are closed. And for me? Nobody knows. And nobody knows.