Wednesday, September 12, 2012

forget the handbasket; just go straight to hell

            I tipped the piano man at the hotel bar to play Love Me Tender and then I went back to my room aching for bed but I couldn’t get her off my mind so I opted for whisky instead. I drained about half the bottle while I lay in bed, singing, “I get a crick out of you,” to the wallpaper. Finally, after about 4 rounds through the melody, the liquor’s burst of euphoria wore off and I got drowsy enough to let sleep intrude on my mind’s churning. The last I saw of the clock’s red blur was somewhere around 3:30, though my eyes were mostly useless by that point.
            Kid Ory was blaring on the radio when I woke up. It was awful. I kept my eyes closed as long as I could. But the damn radio wouldn’t shut up, so I thrashed around a bit, chucked the radio against the wall, and made my way to the bathroom. There was probably a more miserable way to be feeling, but I couldn’t think of one.
              I splashed some tepid water on my mug and made a few faces in the mirror, trying to convince myself that it was good to be alive. The smell of loathing was still clinging to what was left of my attire, that and cigarette smoke tinged with dried beer. I found it suitable, just then, and shuffled and dragged my aching self back into the room.
            The bed was a disaster of thrown sheets and a wayward comforter that looked as if somebody’d danced on it all night with muddy shoes and then chucked it into the ceiling fan where it got mangled and tossed around and back down where it lay in a heap along with everything else, including my pants and a half-smoked cigarette that seemed to have been doused out with either water or whisky. The clock’s red digits told me it was 12:12, and that seemed suitable. Just as good a time as any to be standing around in a wrecked hotel room with a hangover the size of Kentucky on my breath and a miserable iota of willpower in my fading constitution. A fly buzzed around the bed for a bit, and then gave up and died. I felt about the same.
            The neon’s dead in the sign’s rusted shell. My gut’s rusted too, and I’ve got about five bucks to my name, ambling about with a noticeable limp, about a week from a shave, and ravaged by a slight case of the DTs along with the crazed rumblings of a much more than mild bout of borborgymus. The sidewalk is not my friend. 
            A picket fence comes around, white as chalk, and I kick at it, futilely, and then find myself KO’d with the dead leaves and the bugs. It’s a bad time all around, and I’m having the most of it. Everything aches. It smells like fall.
            Very much later the day starts getting more shade to it, and I find my time splashed with reverence and holy deceit. Walking is less of a struggle somehow. I plod along on sidewalk-side grass. I start to think that I’m really going places. Really making it. But that, of course, doesn’t last. Soon I’m talking to telephone poles, saying things like, “I don’t want to eat lobster on the beach while the fat boys hide their hangovers beneath sunglasses.” A cop car rolls by. I pretend to be punching myself in the face. It keeps going. So many things go unnoticed. I develop a limp in my left leg, then switch to the right. It’s a little hobble of a thing, a wavering klutzy yaw of my person. After a while it gets more stylish. I begin to wonder how to walk without it. A bee clips my ear and I almost tumble over. But I don’t. I keep moving right along. The pebbles of my existence are squandered in my shoes. Woe is my middle name.
            The last bastion of steam wafting from sewer grates, increased collusion, intrepid and beastly too, I call change like I hear it, and my listening can do me in too, but it’s rather inglorious to be hunky-dory about it, at least while the wagons are squaring pissed wonder like a blind shop steward of a Tuesday morning. Guesses are as good as gone, likely in a huff as I would be too if it’d taken less than a purpose-wielding crowd to wear me out. In a stillness and steadier changing of the guards of my heart’s stash, well, I cuss under the audience’s roar and stab gray at the sky. If it doesn’t suit me? Well, that’s a hurt that won’t change for just any old quaking or standoffish load of my less-than-horrible half. Let us run wild in our nightmares so we can dare to dream a bit better. 
            Ambling does what it can to dispel bad news on the horizon, with or without a noticeable limp. When you get to wearing the same colors too often for too long there are erasures that you get to making out of habit from the locale of milling thoughts, insolvent parameters, and the expression of riled assumptions like cockatiel crests gone amok. Other than that? I’m done for in the midst.
            Slithering along like some electric eel on vacation, there’s less of a mosey in my step, and I trade in my shuffle for a shabbier title. Maybe Volkswagen Vic or Dipshit Ron. I don’t know. I’m scruffy around the frontal lobe. It pays to be broke when the moon’s dealing out aces to the weather. Repair. Duck inside a church to stay warm. Pray for marshmallow pie. This here caboose has never left the station.
            “Let me tell you a story.”
            “Fuck you.”
            “Well, then.”
            A braver man would’ve held his tongue. But me, being a sap and a pusillanimous bastard, of course I had to go and destroy my reputation with these drunken ramblings. I’m a real sucker for gut punching. It was a gruff beginning to things, a stalled start that botched itself like a manure truck stuck in traffic. I wimped out of moving on, and so was left piddling around in the past, jilted and bored with my own sensibilities. God’s running out of patience with me. I am orphaned by a pesky sense of wonder. Yep, that about does it.
            I strolled as best I could down to where the water meets the shoreline. The horizon was tucking in some bleakness behind its brown-ringed collar. Holding up my end of the bargain was getting to be more of a hassle than it was worth. We are suckered with blame, or at least it was starting to seem that way to me. The sand was cold and hard, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. Some crows scared off a passel of scrawny, molting pigeons. I was fed up with disasters. I lay down in the wet sand and closed my eyes.
            A black-and-white scene flitted foggy across my misbehaving vision. Gulls squawked into the colorless sorrow. My limbs were useless weight, taking up space instead of moving through it. Something was wrong with my brain. Everything seemed chancy and out of proportion with what was taking place in my skull. A baboon swallowed a dove. Mosquitoes breakfasted on cold ham slices. A voice rang out, “I want to be my own jury! I am peerless!” I tried to pretend that I was just a retired scarecrow. It didn’t take. I lay there in that muddy terrain and cried made-up tears. When I got bored of that I got up, brushing my clothes off the best I could, and walked back to the beach parking lot up over the concrete pillars where the crows had gathered to enjoy the view. It was better there. Less sandy and deranged.

            I was still a bit legendary in some circles, or at least that’s what I was figuring. Enough so, maybe, that I could weasel my way into the Can’t Make Her Think Club’s Leading Horticulture meeting. I thought that perhaps just mentioning Dorothy Parker to the doorman might do the trick. I’d been lucky before in such situations. Why not now? The difference was in perspective, in hindsight, and now that makes less sense than it did then, if that makes any sense.
            A guy with a bowtie announced my arrival. It was later than usual. Nobody looked. A piece of napkin with possible names for my firstborn scrawled on it fell from my vest pocket to the floor. Under any other circumstances I would’ve been let off rough. But in this case I just threw my hat on the piano and got on with it.
            Nothing worked out. I fell down, again and again, in my attempts to be an upright citizen.               
            “Are you of any value? To anyone? Huh? Are you?”
            “I’m not paid to answer question like that…those, I mean.”
            “What are you paid to do?”
            “Beats me. But I look the part, so I might as well act the part, you know?”
            The tables were full. I was counted out, and then tried to force my way in. That’s about it. The door was shown to me in quite a forceful way, and so I found it.
            Cool air rushed to find me. It found me stricken with a sneeze, and then bowled over down some concrete stairs, and then wobbly and spun towards some grass, where it turns out the sprinklers were plying their trade at the moment. I slipped and trampled my way down the walkway and finally on to the sidewalk. People were staring. I felt rather refined, noble even, in my vain attempts at maintaining balance and valor under these dire circumstances. I felt like giving the finger to the moon. But I didn’t. Instead I drafted up a declaration of independent dipsomania in my head and wandered due east, a direction in stark contrast with the one taken by my ancestors who spent their lives matriculating in a steady drift towards the pacific ocean. This made be feel grand and princely, which was the best I’d felt in a long stretch. It’d do.
            I am not gifted, let’s say, in the ways of most candy asses. I am no sage of any Baltimore. The heady waft of terror that stupefies crowds and elicits screams from flophouse to mansion is nothing more than a parlor trick of mirrored smoke. I could tell myself that. I really could. Who’d care? Not this here sack of anemones. Not this cardiovascular mishap. Not this plug-cut toaster of a guy. Let me, well, just tell you that. Okay?
            Trouncing popcorn makers and counting hubcaps on parked cars until the sewer stink of it all got to me, not tearing up at all while I was at it, also. So be it? Sure. Sure. We are the ones who weep over tinkling nocturnes and olive pits. And yes, we too are the ones who sail paper ships down gasoline gutters. An arabesque for your Mussolini pie? Not quite. It’s forgivable to be clawing towards your destiny one frozen entrée at a time. Trust me. I am made of chrome thumbtacks and licorice rubber bands. Steering comes naturally to me, and there are no question marks left in the smashed-chandelier-littered hallways of my woozy head. Backward and downward I go.     
            It takes all kinds, I guess. But sometimes I just wish it didn’t. Like in the present state of torpor that claws for shadows in tacky x-mas tree light, like that, if one could ponder a name and come up with a solution, a story to go with it, an out and an alibi, well…Chartreuse was a real gas. She’d shoot her own grandmother in the back and then take bets on which we she’s going to fall. A lose-tie situation, that one. And her real name was Marbelle Lyler. Resisting rest and arrest as always, she’d place herself in harms way and go for broke. Always champing at the bit for a little more time. Give it to her and she’ll just run away with a little more. Scrimmaging with high-tide hooligans and Sharpie whiffers, rummaging around for a hook to sink you with while you polished your heart’s anchor and pined for darker glass. Somehow I cannot envision myself violently. Somehow I can be punched blue without color. Get a grip of Chartreuse’s motivation and sink, sink, sink. That’s a bet’s loss, a had’s grip on what’s gone, and, in the end, a scramble for somebody else’s cracked eggs. Just to need direct contact with somebody who gives a shit isn’t enough. Even Chartreuse herself could’ve told you that. And me? I’m all out of hinting.
            There was a voice. It told me this: “Abrogate those dark imaginings. All is drafty and befuddled. Chalk it up to pleasing touch with sight. Storm if you must. But be pleasant about it, at least. That’s it. Tell your stepsons I says hello.”
            I wasn’t hearing things. I was listening to things. I missed a bus and caught a cold. “Figures.” That wasn’t a who-said-that situation. Trust me. Or don’t. It might not matter.
            Suddenly, upon further introspection, I discovered that I was reeling with an overdone sense of facial recognition. I was seeing faces in the strangest places: knots in wood boards, hellos, badly placed guardrails, telephone booth windows, sidewalk weeds, crumpled newspapers, roped off areas, entablature shadows from church lights, trails of ants, rocks, plastic carrots and peas, shredded pages of lost library books, trashcans, mossy archivolts, the discarded covers of dirty magazines. I gave up. I ruined my own understanding of myself.      
            Upon no dowsing or evidence to the contrary I came to a door and knocked and knocked. Somebody who wasn’t home wouldn’t answer. It didn’t matter. A face was there in the door’s stiles and rails. I figured it was never or now.                           
            “I miss you even though I hardly know you. Does that sound possible?”
            “Yes. Too much. And, of course, not enough.”
            “Thank you. That will be all.”
            The door went away, and so did I.