Thursday, December 20, 2012

baby, they all have heart attacks

              I was frying bacon. I opened the window. There was a guy out there pouring a beer on his head. He offered me a surcingle for my thoughts. I told him it was too early to start in with that stuff. Let a guy have a few beers first, you know? So, I had a few beers, first.
            I went back to the window with my bacon. I ate the bacon. It was damn good bacon. The guy was still out there, not making any haste that I could tell. I was aware of tree branches and everything smelled like burnt marshmallows. I was playing it nice. Not even dipping into the whisky yet. The morning was golden and dead.    
            There were x-mas lights on the palm trees, an alibi in the rose bushes, a hard-to-sell reason not to make it through the day again. Fall’s down. The more we get dry, the more soaked the world wants us. Summer’s gone fishing. Winter ain’t making any amends. Bored as a doorknob. Nobody understands the way things went sour, heart wrenched out, head smashed.  
            I’ve had a hard time seeing myself lately. I don’t know what it is. The person I was and am is suddenly different from the person I’ve always thought of as being me. What’ll become of this person? It doesn’t matter; I’ve resigned myself to that.

            There’s this guy behind the counter at the deli I frequent. He’s the type who wouldn’t know The Bill Cosby Show from the Cosby Show. And who’s so busy that he doesn’t even have time to wake up in the morning. We have a respective always-flipping-you-off relationship.
            So, I’m in there today, and the guy behind the counter’s loudly proclaiming to a bishop-- who might only move diagonally for all I know-- he’s telling the Bishop: “You should avail yourself of our valet bike parking services. Don’t worry. I’ve got a helmet. And I won’t adjust the seat or nothing. It’s just a service we offer.” The bishop doesn’t utter a syllable. Instead, he smiles, idiotically, and moves away from the counter. I move ahead in line to pay for my roast beef on rye and bottle of Old Grand-Dad. This gregarious counterman starts in on the yapping, now directed towards my personal space, while I shuffle along and riffle through my pockets for my money to pay him. Scrounging has become my natural state.
            “Don’t worry,” he proclaims (this guy’s quite the proclaimer), “There are no higher hats than these.”
             I mutter back, “There’s nothing subtle about dying.”
            He scans my bottle and types in the code for my sandwich into the register, looks at me squint eyed, and then proclaims, “Or living, too, right?”
             He does one of those laughs that tries to get me to laugh with it. I don’t. Instead I put a twenty on the counter and then shove my hands deep into my coat pockets. I look everywhere except at him. He’s shaking his head with this phony smile plastered there like something somebody’s trying to pawn to settle a gambling debt. I can tell he wants me to respond to him. There’s a jabber in him that’s just itching to erupt. I take my change and my sandwich and my bottle of hope, schlepping away from the counter mildly disappointed by everything, as usual, and for some reason-- almost under my breath, but not quite-- mutter in his general direction, “Slept out and woke up in. Only dreamt off and crippled on other disasters. One times twelve times itself again. The fight’s a disappointed run at being early. I’m breathing through my nose from here on out.”
            I walk out into the bitter cold, the lazy scraps of fall’s gone decking the sidewalk in cracked and crumbled leaves. The wind’s not cold enough to keep ground beef for a year, but it’s close. I start to sing, just to have something to do: “The clouds are dandruff in cheaply dyed blue felt. Go on and eat a hamburger. A dead bus is coming up on the right. Nobody’s getting on or off. A coffee shop’s setting a pick for the lazy. I’m sipping rust-infused dandelion juice from a Buffalo-Bill mug. Wassail all over town with a bowl made of green maple trees. Heave and haul, boys, the capstan, boys, all the way up the trawl. The tired shrug of hatted men in raincoats. Anchors home. It’s me, shouldered less broad or out to sea. You’ve got to keep the bowlers happy with rye and roast beef, maybe a slick coat of horseradish. The ways we get less marvelous. The old outs we count as in now. Pepper the rest of your nights with a hint of loneliness. O’er shame and shadow, drawn bolt upright and indifferent, the mask of being social cracks and blows away with insincerity and licked pride. Car exhaust and choked epodes scuttle off towards the grates of sewer drains. We’re all insane here.”
            I arrive home before noon, or try to. The guy on the sidewalk is gone. I get a phone call while I’m taking bites out of my sandwich. It’s a friend of an enemy. A guy named Spuds. I hang up on him twice. The third time’s his charm though. He starts in on telling me all about some nonsense to do with some situation I have absolutely zero interest in. It’s gritty, the way I make my way through these things. A grueling test of my patience with people who are not me. I give in. I listen. It’s all going the wrong way down a dead-end alley. I bite at my sandwich and attempt to behave civilly. He goes on:
            “Man, I’m poaching moods from dead mailboxes. Got me these inscrutable trivialities moping all over town, and I’ll be damned if some licked spitter of a rodeo clown’s going to go playing a box-in-one on me. Shit. Not around here. Not until the mobs begin to howl, ‘More cabbage! Less cake!’ You know? Hah Bumbug and a ton of feathers on the side. Well, it gets nippy and your toes freeze, and a yellow glob of moon’s slopped beneath night’s black eyes. Pour the piss from the pot before the dogs escape and hang themselves from the fence with their leashes. I’m opened all night for your consideration, you know that, huh? You? Considerate? Shit. I place it in the blame of total strangers sitting in your already-chewed-gum deposits on the bus seats. Unlocked and never to be loaded. Ha. I’m distressed, damn it! Can’t keep arguing with somebody who thinks she’s never ever wrong. It just gets me shivering and alone. But really, shit, all you need’s hot water. Maybe some music late at night, and a way to do a bit of a public disservice every now’s again. So what? The dog stings. The bee bites. It’s all a nonsense spoon-metal suit to deflect daily humiliations, and maybe I’m hoofing around with a tarantula brooch in my lapel. So what? I don’t use other people’s trashcans as if they were public ones. I’m mindful of my manners when it behooves the good of the whole Allies-won world. Yep. Toot darning, dash-dot-dash. I’m down and leaving, and more to the minus of begrudging the sad heavy heaving of being. A headlights-in-the-daytime sort of hold on things. Something that winces beneath the silvery light of the moon. All the trees gone. Maybe. Or just another at-last I’m praying for nightly. I’m closing my eyes to all these newfangled ways of seeing, see? I’m misrepresented in a congress of idiots I’ve never heard of, and who’ve got no idea of who I perhaps might be. If we are to die tonight? Well, flowers and flowers and flowers, and followers, and flowers following more flowers, and flowers too. Pound the piano keys like a wild boar might. We are different only in the ways we distract ourselves with plodding and plotting our ways through the weeks. Fry me a bat with some canola oil. Dip the wings in vinegar. I misuse temperance and pay little heed to temptation’s guile. My microwave’s got a head-sized hole in it. I make spaghetti sauce from motor oil and iguana blood. When the earth gets to knowing my name in the places that matter, all draped in hoisin sauce, run amok in depressed seagull guano, cantilevered in the ways I ain’t quite got used to yet. I’ve forgotten your name again, sir. I am in trouble deep, but too shallow to care. Woe is my middle name. I’ve already misused all my alibis. Get me to Coronary Lane and shave the barnacles from my sides. I’m all out of being in.”
            I’ve never been so glad to hear the click of a phone hanging up. Static was my new best friend. There was little time left in my life for these things. Besides, I had a sandwich to finish. I was a busy man.