Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Trouble With Narrators (Or, Salinger's head on a platter)

Hope all is contestable. You who shudder more than most. You who dare the rafter-divers. I am not blazing any trails for no man. Wildly appropriate at all times. 

I married a girl who was in the Gestapo. It didn’t last. I didn’t know what to tell my parents. Lucky for me, people’ve got very short memories. And I’m a guy who gets his feelings hurt over the placement of a comma. Now I just sit around and stew, practicing my semaphores incase anybody ever wants me to land a plane.

Jerry was a good kid. He had manners, a way of comporting himself that made others notice, but not want to seem as if they were noticing. He’d make you clam up if it suited him, and in the forest of his charm you’d have to make do with a small campfire of unreturned sentiments. His handshake was not soon forgotten.

Be that as it might, we had good times too. Anybody’d get depressed being inside all day.

When you call the New York Times out of the blue…and they answer. It sure beats the life of the recluse. An interview here; a stroll through the post office there. Maybe brunch. I do more than most think. I fill the gaps between crowds. It is ever so lenient of me to be so unwary. I am not so cool. I am not much more than the untested soldier they dropped of at Normandy's beaches to writhe among bullets and falling bodies to his way ashore. There’s no sky up there. Nothing’s blue, now.   

How many people know that Lincoln’s mom died of milk sickness? Or that Hitler’s nephew wrote an article for Look magazine in 1938 entitled Why I Hate My Uncle? Well, there you go. If people aren’t at least a little twisted and deranged they bore me to smiles. Fleeing a bit more from it all every day. Suckers out there patrolling the sidewalks with their window-ogling souls, getting the most out of their hairdos. I am made of used coffee grounds and bent paperclips. Operations of normalcy are sleeping-in while the fluted chrome smokestack belches through another day. It is with weariness that we leave holes in the way others know us. The daily crucifixion of walking through the public’s untrained eye. Well, there you go.

The supple jade carved into the light fixtures, those dappled struts of continuity flustered with trying too hard and not often enough. A thousand dead pineapples rotting in a Bolivian dump among gaudy jewelry and tacky nylons. Over achieving in the embattled clusters, the creeping weeds of age, and overtaken in an ankle’s turn on a curbstone. Arms and legs dangling over the cool pool water as you lie prone on a diving board made just for one, the clean stink of chlorine wafting through the pitch-massed, mosquito-infested crepuscular array of your attempt at being alone. A bridge sunk, leading from nowhere to nowhere, and you go down with it for one final hurrah into the dark. You always were a sucker for cowboy hats and black leather jackets.

Check back later for less results.

Ready but not set. Gone but never going.  

Thirst gets you. It will. And it does. Why’d they turn you into a lie? It’s a cover for being more real than you’d let on. It shuts the store and closes the lights. Be a worm if you will, shoed and horned, it plays itself out; you should’ve seen me, then, I typed through it all. I still do. The sound of the keys would kill a stronger man. It is playful at best and hardshipped out to other shores at worst. We keep the sadder of them in Full Nelsons of remorse. Summer’s only brought more broken hearts. The heat only brings more ways to avoid going outside and floods the streets with idiots. We’re all suckers plied with spurious directions to dead-end demotions. Wake up. Sleep. Wake up again.

When the good lord was passing out a conscience I went out for a beer. Nothing but a quiet dignity to sink in the river with a “Like New” sign hung around my neck. A likewise dull business struggling towards an effortless transaction: an oil well of moods gone dry. I cannot tell the truth. My song’s my dance’s lie. Cheat along. Drift and dwell. Sub par as always, in the midst of calamity, exaggeratedly hustled, and rotten as a car salesman pouring hot butter into a wildcat’s ear. Trot out the strings and all. I’m moving out of the whole into half of everything but the truth.   

I sit stately and distant on an obtuse bench in the park, gazing at the girls running around the park’s edges. The sun’s at my back. If, in the haste of lost courage, I spit into the wind, it is, at last, without thought. Kowtowing with the worst of them, the horseshoe crabs and the brine flies and eagles tossing ducks to each other in midair. I’m rankled at the sight of sandals and shorts in public, jeans and people who don’t wear socks. The feasibility of my way of life has taken a nosedive. 

The kids don’t yell, “Fins!” with their fingers crossed. Go ahead and step on a crack and tell me the name of a doctor or two. It finds me, this polished and lazy brand of hedonism that takes itself too seriously and doesn’t evoke even a thimbleful of joy or freedom. Expanding isolation to cover large swaths of other people’s occupied spaces. It is tasking to be in retreat all of the time. A woman, perhaps, holding flowers wrapped in newspaper while seated on the bus’s facing seats. There are no recriminations to paddle around in. I am fit for nothing.

“He’s showing off his socks like he’s Jacques Tati or something.”    
“Great. Goat, got.”
“Sure as Shinola. I am on to the races. I am off to everything else. Check that the orderlies assign their own tasks. Calistoga for the poor, the wretched, and the unique. Bathwater for the sappy and the clinically sane.”
“Greats of lesser Gods get smashed too.” 

His friends all called him Jerry; not J.D. The New Yorker rejected his stories so much that he used to write them letters telling them how crappy the stories they ran were compared with the ones of his that they’d rejected. They even rejected a few more after he got famous. He craved fame until he got it, and then he discovered it was too much for him. He hated being famous, but rode it out for 14 years before going into a phony exile.

To cheat or be harassed. No time to not wait.   

She ages about as well as a used Honda but she's built like a Buick, and I'm riding on the passenger side. To the run-of-the-mill testiness that gets plundered before you sauté it with burning gasoline, to the hard-to-find fog that does nothing but drift and mull, to plastic’s cheap staying power, to ruled-out rolls of anywhere you might go. 

It was recounted more then. There were places still without names, and when you came to one you got stuck. You see, the Resting Spots were owned by the Bathroom Keepers, who also owned the Parklet Play Areas and the Clay Entablatures Of Posterity’s Clutches. Where the bafflement went, it was hard enough to tell without jailing your emotions for the remainder of whatever service it was you were either being harangued by or just mildly and slightly paying attention to at the moment’s current residual value. Bass thumping from above. Always bass thumping from above. It was the worst of the worst of times, and it got better but never became best, or anywhere near it. There was so much; there was so little. You just get used to washing your thoughts in bleach, somehow; and the scent of it is forgetful, so you clamor for that much-needed how in a world of only whys. There’s where the recounting helped, it seems, or seemed: over the pressing affairs, under the tidal schism of justice and forbearance, without glabrous hopes and deferred decision-making processes. The slap and thunder of money making, it labels the evenings ordinary while it dilates the motions that make imprints on the cloudy, shagreen surface. Mistakes find their level, and stay.

“The moviegoers got gassed. Do not be teased with plots that drizzle on. Lie a bit more, and lower too.”
“Shake! Shake! Shake!” 
“Misery comes and misery goes. Play that shoddy strain of another lousy tune and sing some other song.”
“That makes more sense, now.”
“In the brushed fall fire of orange-tinted windows, we lose our capacity to change, and in doing so, well, there’s a call not being made, still. We know the arrival of differing. We do.”
“Let’s cut to the chopped liver of the matter. Be harrowing and vacant. Recumbent and stowed away. Stare uncomfortably ahead. The shore birds have picked me clean, again.”
“And in the first place, we’ve been swallowed up by preying gales into icy parlors of inanition. My lassitude sweeps the floor with me. God’s guess is at least as good as mine.”
“Shepherds who crawl, who seem very much singular and weak, inflated with opera, shy and motivationally stunted. We caress refusals from their indecision.”
“I was a mouse for a small time in the backwoods of our affairs. Something to get through the murk of endless afternoons with. The pirate’s lullaby. Listen. I went back to that Chinatown alley we used to stroll down. The Godmother of Grant Street recognized me. We had a laugh. The windows in the decomposing brick buildings were filled with laundry hung out to dry. There was nowhere left to go. All of my ups were down. The moon was the color of a dead pigeon. Everything was dead. The walls here are drowned in the hustle of fall’s scour. Listen. Retaliate. It’s at least charming.”
“It is, or was, delinquent of me to understate my case for carpet and/or rug burns. Posterity is garbled at best. We're made for dancing, and possibly nothing else. Spores of happiness warbled in with the mailman’s crying. Scales that won’t register your measly brand of hyperbole. Lock horns with a vanquished trolley operator. Rooms are being unmade down for you. I don’t swear too often, but believe me. Please?” 
“Sad as a foray into the blunt operations of our mettle can be, we’ve got to believe in each other. Yes?”
“No. But we do. We do. Really. We do.”
“I don’t. I never did. I watch the taxis scream by with vicious, petulant honks. I see lights change and people cross against them. Nowhere is a place too, you know?”
“Roll up your sleeves, baby. You’ll never guess who I’m in love with these days.”
“A macho stance and a wimpy alibi.”
“And I get more nonetheless. More. More. All the time. Nothing but more and more. I am so sick of more.”
“Wipe that Charlie Chaplin mustache off your face.”
“Oona! Oona. Your daddy was not only born but did his dying in a hotel room too. Oona!”
“We are asking for it, you and I.”
“Good. I’m tired of just being given things. Let’s do some serious asking, why don’t we?”
“The pixels are lost. The movie’s shot on film. And us? Hell, we’re all out of questions.”
“Wait for the dailies. Remove yourself from the act. Accompany yourself, in spirit at least, wherever it all my go-- or take you.”
“Yep. It covers the sun and masks your sympathy with pity. Nothing but bullshit pity.”
“We’ve got bed pans that make better pals than the ones we’ve got.”
“Trade you a wink for the semblance of a smile’s terror. How about it, huh?”
“I have a belt buckle with her name scratched into it. That’d do in a pinch, wouldn’t it?”
“Pitching in a pinch has never been my best asset. Who do you think I am, Christy Mathewson?”
“No. Iron Man McGinnity.”
“And if we both die before we wake?”
“This. Just…this”
“This is some serious shit. Don’t just dismiss it, okay?”
“And the blind typers continued typing.”
“Write what’s wrong or right and blow your motherfucking horn all over town about it already. Bullshit. Fuck it. Watch it. Just watch it. You might get what’s coming to you after all.”
“I doubt that very much.”
“Yeah. Me too.”