Friday, November 2, 2012

lo and behold

            You live in one place long enough and everyone starts to know your name. You can’t hide out. They call to you on the street. They wave and want to have chitchat. They want to talk about your lawn, your car, the upkeep of your roof.
            You go through the motions of your life, and you get by. And the shingles fall off, sure, that’ll happen sometimes, all mildew-green and soft-rot warped. You toss ‘em in the shrubbery and hope nobody notices. And me? I own the least expensive car on the block. Norma swears by it though. So, there you go. Got to keep the windows with a little grime on ‘em, if you ask me. All the rind and pulp, the rust and tears. It all adds up to what you make of yourself. The worn husk of what you’ve been through and where you’ve come from. A .38 special caught in your soul, you know? I heard all kinds of rot get swatted around here. Gets to be so that it’s all there is. Nothing but rot. I just keep mum and go through what I got to go through. I get what’s a coming. Sure. That’s good enough for me. Yep. That’s all okay by me. 
            Strumming through some listless chords for the afternoon’s busted light, broke with the branches after a storm. Most days I’m standing here watching the river rise, and I’m mowed down by 09’s last words, or what I rightly know of ‘em now. Such a spray from the mist I don’t get these here days. Float? I’d rather get sick than drown, I guess. Best to be lush with a sweep and a swab of my forehead, in this weather’s doom at least. Gertrude. Bertram. Big Maybelle. I name ‘em like I never see ‘em.            
            Darker skies fill my time. Mostly trumps what’s bossing a cough like this around. Sewing it all up and together. Make for the mountains just o’re the horizon. That’s what I keep telling myself. And I tell it like it might be.
            Not that it didn’t all start as one big error on my part. I got wished off it, for sure. But I’m not here to make any mending-of-fences decisions. What am I doing here? Shit. That’s an age-older for you. Expect me to answer for it? Who ever could? Not a one, let me tell you that.
            A creak’s all I heard at first. Coming from the floorboards, see? A real freezing cold one was on, and I was wrapped in a sleeping bag on the floor, wrangling nightmares from my dreams, making do, as I do. Seems Sheila was fumbling in the medicine chest for a way to find sleep sooner. I could hear her in the bathroom there dropping things on the floor and banging around. I do my own best to ignore other folk’s plight. But this was keeping me up, and being up late like that makes me lonely as hell. And the company I was craving, well, it’d taken off long ago with no hopes of ever coming on back home to the likes of me. Every time it rains, well, shit, you know I get to pouring out my damn soul to anybody who’s close enough around to have to hear it. There wasn’t enough to go around that night though. I lay there in my sleeping bag, wishing I was in a bar, pretty warm sure, and I stared up at that high ceiling, into the rafters, the spider webs up between the boards in the dark up there. All of that dust probably. Nobody could sweep up that high. Nobody. I swear I was just lying there like that when it all happened. Honest Abe. And, you know, I really never did see a thing. Lord, how I was wishing I was in a bar having a nice tall glass of beer. It was dark. It was so cold. That’s the brunt of it. And nobody cheers you when you’re all alone. I had nothing to do with it all. Ask the dust.
            Well, the noise of late-nights insects. It’s creeping to me. The ticking clock too, and all those other crotchety knocks and crinkles a house makes when it’s trying to settle, and all I want is some shuteye. Really. I know there’s earwigs or fishmoths trapped in the light fixtures in there. Hardly know the difference, so I calls ‘em both mostly. I know they’re there though ‘cause I watched ‘em many a times circling around in there, so many dull afternoons lying on my back trying to reconnoiter my position in this god-forsaken world. Plead the fifth to my better half for me, if you can, right? That sort of thing, for the most. So, my mind’s all uncollected and a-whirring with all this noise, and I can’t get it to shrink back to being calm and drowsy like it had been. Every little thing’s like pinpricking me, like jolts of electricity shocking me more and more towards alert, or on guard and anxious, or something. The tiniest scraps of sound, really, are like orbiting around my head, and it’s hard to negotiate my way away from them. But then there’s Sheila, and she’s really making a racket in the bathroom. I can hear bottles plummeting to the linoleum and rattling around. I’m like very oversensitive to it all, if that makes any sense, and it’s more than I want to be handling just then. My nerves are getting pretty raw. So, I get up, the sleeping bag draped over me like a cape, and get the hell out of there. I’m shaking all over by this point. And all I want to do is finagle my idiot way out of this tense and stormy situation. My head’s a mess, you know? All I want is out.
            The door? Well, it was latched shut, but not locked with the deadbolt. I went wandering about in a daze with that damn sleeping bag draped over me. Lord, I must’ve been a sight. Like some ghostly vagabond or something. An abomination for sure, the sleeping bag dragging through the underbrush and the dirt, and my brains so scrambled that I’m having wild conversations with my self, off to lord knows where in the cold and dark of a moonless midnight. And rightly later some time I came to a place there where I could finally be alone. A small grove of aspens. You’ve heard all about that, though. That’s where they found me, a blood-and-dirt-scabbed mess howling at the deep black belly of the sky. But I made it out, so there you have it. Or you don’t. Whatever you’d prefer. Me? I’m only guilty of selfishness with maybe a touch of insanity on the side. Can’t lock a man up for the thoughts proliferating on like mosquitoes in his dome, can you? Shit. I know what I know about it, that’s my own personal for-sure there. Yep. That old cold-was-the-night-hard-was-the-ground sob story. I know. I know. Hell. I don’t know shit.  
            I underestimate people all the time. Tell my story, or what they get out of me of it, and they go on and tell their own tale all about it. And that’s the kind of sense they call honest? Not a chance I’ll care to corroborate later, you know? If I do. None of them are compatriots of mine. Let me tell you that. You stay in one place long enough and folks start in on thinking they know all about you. All the broken hearts in the world don’t add up to a smidgen of it. Ask any cocktail waitress around. Ask a cabbie or a switchboard operator. Ask the drunk at the end of any bar, begging drinks from the bartender. Just one more. I’m good for it. You know? Well, me? I most certainly don’t. Not that you care. Not that you would. You’ve got your own to lead. Other worries to contend with. I’m just moping for my own ears. I know. But it’s too late to ever be early again for the likes of this former breadwinner. The lord’s seen my best days trail off behind me as the lord sees fit. Leave all the hearts broken in a small grove of aspens or pinned to a roadside cross. Shit. I know what I do, and the rest I just piss away. Just like always. You can say whatever it is you’re going to say. I made my peace with tombstones long ago. May the decent lord be without you, sir. I’m moving on to the next barstool. It’s no matter of yours no more. Not no more. See? Ahem.