Sunday, June 10, 2012

atmospheric refraction

            Hank started a forklift company down in Yulestown, right around the time construction had pretty much dried up. But people still remembered the sound of jackhammers. Other ways of things-- the stuffing knocked right out of you, too-- well, there are mailmen who keep their routes way past retirement age. It’s the part you don’t return, the one with the faded address and the postmark-smeared stamp. It’s a hampered whimpering, and you know what that’ll lead to; or if it don’t, well, we’ll pass it on to the next generation or two. Never fails. Sins of your father, and all them hawked lugies we pretend mean a dog’s breakfast of anything to…well, any chipped-paint sad-sack who wanders in. That’s more of it.      
            Don’t start to think I’ve been coddled or anything. The nerve I got comes hard earned. You check your name at the kitchen door around here, and we don’t spit in the coffee afterwards. Christ, folks get bent out of shape over the most picayune b.s., and I’m supposed to just lie back and put up with it, or so it seems to go. I’m lunching with bottlebrush. I’m lacking a certain charm. Barely, though, I fare well enough. People tell me I look like the type, at least.
            I’ve sat in bars in every state in the this goddamn country. I’ve got drunk all over America, puked in gutters and toilets from sea to shining sea. Every single dram of whisky, bourboned to lost shores, sometimes lonely enough, tossing all the golden doorknobs into the junk heap of the world along my way. Met my share of damn lonely souls. One thing about lonely people is they talk too much. Spouting off to anybody that pulls into a barstool close to their vicinity. They’ll lay it all out for you, whatever it is they’ve got-- usually not much more than the baling wire of some minor gripes and sores. Dour victims of circumstance. I’m wise to it, though, and I don’t bite off more than my gut’ll accept without a curt vomit. I am vile when pushed. I am sordid when need be. Here, the way I see it, the sky’s crammed with berry weather, and I’m just a goof swimming in the indigo blur of it all, for now. A spun sign reading, “You are here.” It’s just the sad thwack of forgiveness sneaking up on me, most mornings, and it’s basically putting a mite more than a red-cent of distance between me and the rest of it. Shit, just sitting around at bars making myself soggy and sad. Punching out the lights every night. Staying all closed up and rotting away inside. You light a cigarette. You take a swig of scotch with just a hairline of water in it. You make believe that you don’t exist. It’s all subtracting down, and there’s little left to do, so you just sit there watching the fans spin, gazing at the thicket of bottles behind the bar, making faces in the bar mirror, tipping back and forth on the stool. And you just sit there.           
            Well, Hank, you see, he was not quite what you’d call rolling in the dough around this time. But he was reliable. Hesitation may have hampered him a bit. I know what I know, like kin almost, because I’m privy to it, for reasons I won’t right now let on about. June won’t whisper to July about May, you know. It’s all a sloughy trudge towards bleakness.
            Husked time, retracing what’s gone from what’ll never be. Shimmering’s done for. Dimes luck out. I spread my wings and fall. Nobody wants what’s gift-wrapped for somebody else’s destiny.
            I don’t get teary over Hank’s departure from capital, from means and necessity. Beyond me, if you ask. Depart without spelling goodbye. That’s the tune we’ll all be singing soon, even if we weren’t then. Who knew that scrubbing dishes could leave you shaky and at a loss for your own personality? Oh well, paint me a red-rumped swallow and pull the fire alarm while you’re at it. Well, well. Just like spilled insulin smells like band-aids, for some inexplicable, brutally gorgeous reason I get deranged for mismatching my thoughts like this. Lies strained from the truth’s pulp. It froths up from the boil of it. I do as everyone else pleases. It’s like waiting for an artichoke to fart. So, me, I get my kicks the old fashion way: neat. My hold on what’s ended shut up and rolled is crammed with lent ideas, and the concrete trucks spin, and the mulberries sing their troubles to no end. Indifference sinks in at some point, I guess, and I pluck my words from dead branches of things I’m too weary to think of anymore. It’ll come up to, without being down or out, this clipped shudder that I’m the only true friend I’ve got.
            There’s this day that comes, and I’m sure that I’ve seen a Polaroid of a dog, but upon closer inspection it’s really just a hamburger. Some part of me must’ve just known, “Yep, here goes some rough stuff.” Something crawfished to the warbling crunch of my path: a wayward tug of distance and obsolescence, and nothing doing in the tides of where I’ve been. Gone and splat, I’m done in and out too.
            Somehow it was a thought of Hank that brought me to this sort of grand notion that this one here day wasn’t going to slip on away from me all that much as normal. I got to recapping our famed escapades in Bunyan Canyon. Hank and I gone apeshit out there, lo-and-beholding wormy daggers and gut-punched sissies. We had it made, but weren’t making it. As if anyone could tell anyway. Had it become treacherous maybe we could’ve staggered our way into a greasy diner and knocked off a few crickets of worry, but we had other noons and midnights to comprehend and take care of at the time, and so weren’t so quick to grow fond and fleecy with a bunch of grade-school hijinks-- which is what it all was to us at the time. The sun warped our sense of wrong. We cast thin shadows. We trod ground-liver terrain barefoot. We made frog tongue sandwiches and sipped gooseberry wine. It was leaner times than those I’d so far known. The terrain of our lives was scattered with lug nuts and acorns. Nobody even noticed we’d gone away.
            Hank got to feeling jilted. It was his capability in question, and he knew bristling from a welter. So he went crossing holdovers off his To-Not-Do list. It got too hot for pants, so he took to wearing swim trunks. Wanted to start a pie farm, or it was just a never-mind to hold back the flood of maybes, when he should’ve been concentrating on reconfiguring his lifestyle. He was unstable in the meantime. Got so bad, as he regressed into boredom, that he forgot his own phone number. Should’ve known what’d happen. Getting sharded and lumped over the orphaned evidence he couldn’t really have known was coming up, without much fanfare or interference from the greatest of great beyonds. Any legitimate claim of four-by-forty luck, something cupped but never ladled, would’ve spit unnoticed by. His head would nod. We’d go stag through the wilderness, and it wasn’t much for the fuss, really, the way things got welded into being.   
            Trouble’s skating pie-eyed with the past. I know luck welshes at times. I know stripped hope. Undiscoverable guesses curdling moonlight and all that. And there were days more broke than those coming, and we both knew that too. Ignored it and thrashed around in the thin of it. Eventually Hank got himself a ransacked way of looking at the present. It become a sort of stick-it-to-you sort of trouble that messed lightly with less-than-shiny dimes of doing. The leaves of us were so bright. I know. I know. But they were. “Stand short,” I told myself. “It’ll all be chainsawed to daylight in the short run.” I told Hank the exact opposite. You see, there was still use in hiding then. Now? Not an egg’s chance in a poach factory.
            The tenor of this place crawls into you; it cuts and scabs your experience of it. Breathing is scent and mood scurrying towards a lifted grace, a conniving pissed-away attitude that one might attribute to the stink of old cigarette butts in a tin can, or lye and ammonia slopped over mildew and wet bundles of linty dust. There’s no hurry in any of it. I’ve come to lean heavily on the slow rot and even slope of time passing, not with a whimper but with a squelched moan. Eventfulness has gone away, and here I stay, nudged towards longing with a lengthy swipe of the present. Motion stays put while I go on and on, and I call the storms of my life home.
            I am not gone. The forklifts of chance are masking what’s not hidden in the sealed crates of my history. Nothing’s shipped. Nothing’s hurled spitting at the drone of fans. My amends make themselves. Woody Guthrie’s singing all about me. It’s over. It’s over. Going under. Carried up to die, like a spiraled prayer. I count railroad ties in the dark. I mistake love for buried lust. The moon’s making faces at the cattle again. I am not so heroic. I am not juniper punch. Get the scuttling done. I’m not moving on just yet. Not, just, yet.