Sunday, September 1, 2013

It Was Christmas

            It was Christmas and the light coming in the window was too bright but it was Christmas and we sat at the oak table by the window that was too bright in the just dark enough bar and drank our manhattans and we didn’t talk too much not more than the sound rain makes on concrete or silverware while people eat and it was Christmas and we were sad and we sat there feeling bad and dull all through and nobody else in the place was talking much. 
            “For artists like us it’s apropos. We don’t have placemats with our names on them anymore. We get hungry and go out for a drink.”
            “Just base your opinion on something else, please. I’ve got polka-dot vision. I’ve got rabbit’s blood in my cocktail.”
            I reached up and pulled the shade down as much as it would go. I stopped noticing tiny things, like winged bugs fluttering about and the face of my friend sitting across from me.
            “It’s likely I’ll start in with some of that. Or stop in. What’s the exchange rate on bonhomie these days, huh? Thirty goodbyes for a Lexus?”
            “I’m dreaming in copper and mauve tones. I’m hallucinating in black and white. There are morons knocking on the floor to see if it’ll stir up the possibility of war coming to an end.”
            “There will always be war. There must be. It is part of our social structure. Without it we could never have a moment’s peace.”
            “Stand up. Sit down. Drink up. Do what you’re not told. It’s a choleric whim that substitutes our laziest moods for top-shelf ambition. I relent. I pass. I make a drink and stop thinking it over.”
            “In the beginning, I’m not me anymore. I’m a stranger with coffee stains on his socks. I’m loafing through sweetness and stomach-wrenching deceit. Let’s toast to newer days than these, and older nights.”
            “The plans we’ve never made. The schemes we’ve never thought to hatch. It is not who you are, but who you lose on the way to being you. I’m startled by the scuffling of small animals. My bedroom walls are a cemetery for mosquitoes.”
            “Tell the sun to get lost. Dark’s my milieu.”
            “The artists come and go, whining on in stereo.”
            “And me stumbling around with a sprained ankle and a misrepresented heart. I want salt-and-pepper gum and séances run by circus clowns. And so there we all go again, round the proverbial mulberry bush. I can’t help being grateful for these medium-sized, decent things we still have. My mind’s in the meadows.”
            A glass went to pieces on the floor. The chill of darkness felt good in our bones.
            “There is nothing tragic in your life. No real wallop of hurt that allows you the room to be morose or rotten to others. Please, no more scowling at the dinner table. We are tawdry with plush living.”
            “I am who I appear not to be. There are strangled hushes in my wealthiest tears. Don’t judge my exterior by my interior’s standards. There are more coffee cups in my willpower than you’ll ever dare guess.”
            “Farewell, beard. Hello, mustache.”  
            “Poop and scoot. Pee and flee. Snack and skedaddle. It’s a selfish plunge into annihilation. We can’t get by without the comfort of others.”
            It was Christmas and we’d never felt so small and the card players sneezed at the flies and I hung my topcoat on a doorknob and nobody was singing and there wasn’t a good thing going on anywhere. It was Christmas and I played dumb for the bartender and the out-of-work fireman and the saddest jockey in all the world.
            “I’m all shrugged out. The municipals and me. Distress is for the seagulls. Make the coffee stronger. Just don’t let the pawnshop hold me up. The sky’s like a tuba and my viola’s disappeared. Let’s pretend we’re still friends, and that the letters have all been sent and read. I don’t mistake roads for reasons anymore. I don’t read the want ads. Hang my hat in the hallway and call me later for breakfast than usual. I notice smaller things than ever. In the distance Chinese ricochets off alley walls and careens into the spaces that get made. Not like me at all. Not like you and me. The ceiling’s rough with what it’s heard. Beneath the chords, beyond the recent transactions of prayer, and into the words of quiet. I continue to be baffled and clobbered. Let the good lord do the driving. Let the kneelers stop their meddling. It is what’s up that keeps us down. You believe. You run from clouds and winds. The pull of fog carries you away. This broken-down computer’s brain’s not much of a friend, poorer for it, of course. Take a splash on the Pacific’s best tide. Streets named after deserters. Life culled from reasonableness. It is all gassed and gambled. We’ve got other things to be and see, here. We’ve got more than just life to lead. The days ahead are greedy, my friend. The leaves are hanging on like broken fingers on the branches. Don’t stop the presses or anything. Don’t lead with the left. My shoes are in the shower. My gloves are lost to the rain. Light’s turned to green, again, but not going anywhere. Stifling runs its course. Sidewalk’s a curse. Less than low and more to it too. Like Phineas Gage and his tamping iron, I keep my enemies close. Counting the cabs going by, it gets less miserable as the sky’s weaned off clouds. The proletariat’s in funeral-procession mode. Gifts are on loan to the schemers of Glib Town. We get mesmerized by the stupidest things. Micromanaged desire gets its brush with fame while the scorched day’s exhaust fumes fill every breath with diesel. I’m not through.”
             “Talk, talk, talk. It’s runoff from the waxworks factory in your gut. Raise that glass, old pal. We’ll make it. We will.”
            It was Christmas and we raised our glasses. We were serious. It was Christmas and everything was made of polymers. Nobody was listening. The vinyl booths were ruined with us. It was Christmas and everyone was dying.
            “Amen to the bloodletters. Kiss the cruel and the sheepish and the malleable on the back of the head. We want our rights to be left alone; so does it go, and so it doesn’t.”  
            “I’ll drink to that.”