Wednesday, June 5, 2013

too much makeup and a broken shoe

That girl, she had a face that’d stop a clock. With brass knuckles on both hands and a few black teeth splitting up her smile, she whispered to me, “Be a dear and keep my switchblade in your pocket, please.”

All I had were punch lines without jokes. Things like, “I said, ‘Bury her,’ not, ‘Marry her.’” It was never a tell to get panicky over horoscopes and crossword clues, but the motions I kept making were too routine and ordinary to mistake for genuflections or semaphores that’d land a Boeing 747. They were enough to keep me busy.

Well, they’re singing operettas in the streets and the moon’s tongue’s hanging out like a tired dog's. And I just get a little, well, nervous on the weekends. So I’m trying to watch the Twilight Zone on a 9” Panasonic portable, drinking warm beer and sweating through my undershirt with all the windows up, and nobody’s staying in tonight, and everyone’s behaving like circus animals run amok. The sky’s turning over salmon and rose hues, grumbling a few soapy clouds through the musky firmament of it all. And me? I’m bleeding static and pinball buzzers while Fred Neil sings the ceiling blue. Won over with bad ties and worse hair. Too tired to sleep at night, it’s all through a concave mirror without a way to shave. Hell, it’s been a two-burrito kind of day so far, and I’m misting up over a car commercial and laughing at the evening news, and I guess I'll be lounging around here in a thrift-store suit for the remainder of the evening. You see, the fridge is running out of beer, my dear. And I can’t call it quits just yet. Nope. I’m going all out from here on out. No more settling for mushy apples and Tampico-and-cheap-vodka screwdrivers for breakfast. It’s all high-class cocktail hours that never end, spats-only occasions, and bathroom attendants with pencil-thin mustaches who smile calmly, hand you a towel, and call you Sir. But hell, who am I fooling? Really, I’m just a creampuff of a retired bootblack who’s faking out the cold-and-colder running ghosts in the walls. Shit. I still can get lively from time to time when the neon signs flicker to life outside my window, but it doesn’t last for longer than a commercial break. I kick the fan over and scramble towards the door. It’ll have to do. There are getting to be less and less ways to make rent around here, and it’s getting so bad that you can’t even afford a decent prostitute in the this town anymore. So, well, you know, maybe I’ll head on down to the wax museum and try to score with Marie Antoinette or Marilyn Monroe. But some joker of a security guard keeps calling the cops. Shit. Guys like that always call the cops. So, well, it gets so bad that you’re walking around in everybody else’s shoes but your own, trying to wear out somebody else’s soles. It’s no use, kid. You’re a dropped pass in the end zone on 4th and goal; a no-brainer gone down the drain to fouler pastures. Don’t be scared; be terrified. The dew will scent your days with murder and honeysuckle. But me? I’m a believer in eternal inflation, universes trapped in and bruised by other universes in the cosmic muck, the concentric Russian doll of it all, you know? That gets me up and at ‘em most late afternoons. Battle the bottle for a shot at reconstructing the Big Bang’s echo in my no-way-to-hold-that-doesn’t-hurt head. Once it’s all over it’ll all happen again, you know? Cyclical figuring and sussing out of ways that Mars-bound sailing ships still float, adrift on dream smoke and amethyst hearts. Can’t find out what you already know you’ll never get back to not knowing, like kicking a mule. Still, I wait it out and hunker down in the toothpicks of my days, in the Tupperware of my afternoons, and in the silverware of my nights. I regress to safer haunts: the possibility of oysters on a bed of ice, a seat on the bus, a love letter in my mailbox written on an old never-sent Paris postcard from a girl with hair the color of diamonds. But really, there ain’t a way in purgatory that I’m getting out of any of this alive. And, well, that’s enough to make it all worthwhile. Shit. That’s the point, really.                

She had a cast on one arm and a hospital wristband on the other, and came burping and cussing her way on the bus with a head full of speed. We’d had the law from far back, at least a cursory fling with it, and it kept us honest enough. With a scratchy throat and eyes like rhinestones, she had too many tricks to fit up both sleeves and tuck away in her boots. Still, she didn’t get away with as much as she should have.  

Don’t be cross with me. I’m having breakfast later and later each day. Maybe some marble cake with Sprite. I don’t know. Same new, different old. Something inside of me is broken. Street sweeping bastards, hat full of dimes, and the hardest thing about doing good is being better at being alive. There’s a place out of the sun that’s withdrawing from the rest of what used to keep me going. Shit. We’ve all known those bad times when you’re mixing Tampico with the cheapest vodka you can find for breakfast. And the worse times too, like now, when you’ve run out of both and don’t have the wherewithal to go out and get more.

Oh, I don’t know. I met this girl out in Tupelo and we sort of hit it on and off, you know? There ain’t a lot to it, really. You point the chassis of your love life over in one direction and then you lose the brakes. And it’s me who’s left sniveling. “Just great,” you say to yourself, as she runs off with that fire inspector from Tallahassee. It’s all bullshit. Raise my rent and call the cops. Shit. I really just don’t know about any of it anymore. I split for Tuscaloosa and then shifted my weight over to Pensacola. Nothing changed. I was still really fucking sad all the time. Bitter? Me? I’ve been bitter since I was 4 years old. Sometimes it’s hard to judge the distance between events in your life. The Spa King of New Jersey, and all that. How long’s it been? Really? 

We’ve got hats to lift without glasses or any of it. A hard roll to put a spin on. Let’s drive the bar from the drink and set the cigarette machine on fire. I’m only left handed on good days, and the spit’s still wet on the lip, and the moon dies a little more with each November night. No more waiting around. No more to not do. Staving off a mental breakdown one nervous sip of bourbon at a time. Most likely there are other bathrooms to pursue, other bathtubs to share, and all the bats have left for other belfries.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to be bombarded by God’s love? Do you? Everyone’s got their own damn opinion. Everybody knows what’s what, according to them, you know? It’s all bad, and worse too, and I get mine just like the rest. Me too, you know? And all that. Yep. And all that too. Shakespeare’s okay, but I’m better. I get my grip, get the job done. I give in and out all the time. I use my delusions too, not that I’m sweating the large stuff for any bits-and-pieces man or nothing. I grow old just like the rest. The rest. Shit. Who gives a care about the rest? An inside the park job gone to waste. I’d finance a dozen opinions about what makes it all super. In the neighborhood we all go down swinging, though. And nobody around here reads horoscopes.   
I’m making this up.

So, sitting in the darkest bar on the planet I made plans to recover what I could. I undid a few noble aspirations. The ploy to carefully bruise my ego with bitter complaints against the maker wasn’t working. Nothing was working. Perusing the solace and comfort of a bottle, I concocted a better way to be complacent: something satin-lined and fenced in with rattan. I moved some more over, and then some more. We all squint the best we can at it, I figured. This would have to do. I guess foul balls on 3-2 counts every time. Moon Over Dog Street, and all that. And all that.

The damn red car’s been parked there for three weeks. I know the girl who left it. I wish they’d give it the boot, sometimes. But sometimes I don’t.

She was a sparrow-faced girl with bad dreams in her back pocket and a jump-start in her knees. There wasn’t much she hadn’t done and gotten over. The hard-boiled disaster of her days was over-cooked and done well enough to matter. Never married. Never single. A worn-on-your-socks sort who wouldn’t test the answers until she’d get what wasn’t shaking. She wasn’t paired to take a perfect swill of streaks of misery, but she’d make a case for it anyway. A radio-only broadcast of her life’s final tale. Nothing too sad or happy about any of it. With a purple eye and an ebony heart she rolled her way down the international zone. Nobody was recording anything. We all repaired to the bar one more time. It was all we had, and so we took it and ran with it too. There’s nowhere left to run to, now. A wino’s shot at a violin solo. That’s all that we’ve got. The wind’s magic. All we’ve got is rare rings around no more Rosies. It is up all night and dead to the day.

The wind isn’t up to any trickling today. It’s heaving, if anything, through the blinds. A real chamber-of-commerce day built for cotton candy and at-‘em balls. And some greasy, mole-of-a-guy hands me a pamphlet telling me that the holy lord will bring his judgment and wrath upon me, but it seems that I've left my good intentions in the backseat of a '57 Chrysler New Yorker. So, let’s shed some serious light on the subject. Let’s crochet limelight into the hem of things. Let’s buy ourselves a round, on us. It’s lighter to be shedding dark, or about to. Kiss me a river. It’s buyout time in Hooverville. Drinking beer in the shower. Drinking brandy from a tin cup. Listening to another Rockefeller have his say, as always. It’s blotched and Hudsoned and borrowed back at least a few times. We’ve had bad years and worse all the time. We’ve had bushels of death tumbled onto the highway. Hell, we all miss once in a while. But, maybe, just maybe, it’s not quite time to drag the couch cushions and count up all my change just yet, because maybe there’s one more race left in these worn and wobbly legs, and in the end, maybe we all make it back to our grandmother’s porch at some point, and the rest? Well, then, like my grandmother used to say, “The rest is just poppycock and gruel.” That about does it.