Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Contemplative Tippler

I’ve been wearing the same clothes for too long now. Something woebegone and comforting in it, I suppose. The usual stitched-up and unkempt look, a willful obedience to the strangely commonplace errors of my ways. A crazed mopping of the brow, perhaps? Likely. Just as my love letters are all riddled with typos, I am a man of rumpled deliberateness. Unscathed by the drudge of getting by, I do as I do, and what else batters me or stomps out my will to wish the weather would hold but a sly rumination on the nature of open-all-night neon signs or the tatterdemalion flush of topcoat inklings. I do say. Or, perhaps I do not. 

There are worse ways one could be spending one’s Easter; I am sure of it.

The consolation of ice cubes. The reconciled guilt of another glass’s clink. Sunnier pastures to be out to, that is for certain; but they are not for me to ever be on. There goes another waiter, on a smoke break, off a crying jag or two. I’ll take mine with lime and zeal on a rowboat in the rapids of my head. And I’m getting a bit one-dimensional in my attempts at being free.  

I knew a bum once; he could beg for change in eight languages. Like some ump with a rectangle for a strike zone, everyone hated his guts. I want cheaper truths to slide by on, the scruffy stuff of maudlin afternoons. Busted in, crammed out. That low-and-outside changeup’s just not going to cut it anymore. A rifle shot in the breeze. I am going to put up with a lot less in the days to come: something to bet the over/under on.

So, let’s see here. I am hard at work being lazy. I am taking all chances, and putting aside some drinks for later. The waiters’ little hop-step, harried stirs wake me from a reverie, and something is not right with the way I am seeing things. Blue dots imploding and streaks of blurry rose too. Peace is for the competent, not for those of us weepers whose poker faces have gone south for all seasons. I couldn’t guess at what that barman knows over there, with his bowtie and his shiny auburn vest. I want a bowl of fresh fruit. I want a girl who needs all the things that I’ve got to give. Somewhere there’s a plea cut with absinthe on the longest bar top in the world, and I cannot wait for it to arrive anymore. I nod my head, order another, and make the best of what I know.

Stand around. Make a little sense. Throw a couple of bucks down for a tip. The bannisters are rough with it; the ladies across the bar snack of anchovies and broiled pig hearts. I almost wink at one of them. I almost pretend they’d care. There’ll be wet socks on the floor and a roadblock in the headlights. Nobody to take home. Nobody to go home to. Some inside-the-park job with nowhere left to run. Guess I’ll have that drink now.

Woe is not so me anymore. Jesus. I stop off and ask for a rare steak, and I get eyed and roughed-up by looks. So I stare in the windows some more, and the more I ask for the most I won’t get. The slender women slip by and don’t smile much; they glare at the sidewalk or talk on their phones. I move through the obstacle course of the masses and dream less vividly. There is not a thing left for my sight to catch. The only thing around here that keeps me going is the bottle’s promise of a not-so-terrible night. No Parking signs dot the landscape with worse luck than most, “Or You Will Be Towed” like and epitaph for my darkest hours, drifting with the out-crowd I go.

Sleep’s country is a place I never travel too far in. It is always another wakeful yawn away. Strolling over some water, never enough to drink, and the slake is all that’s left. And so I tremble myself awake again and again. Rest is a place I’ll never know well enough.

Me? I’ll have another of the same.

I knocked over the lamp she gave me, and it cracked and broke all over the floor, and I screamed, “Vida Blue! Smokey Joe Wood! Three-Finger Brown! Kenesaw Mountain Landis!” I righted the thing the best I could. It had sharp edges now. It was a fighter, gone down and back up again with the scars to show for it. I missed her like nothing I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing enough to miss before. Another 100-proof belt of a song I’ve never quite finished knowing. I let go and hung on. I toppled over on the bed and lay there sobbing like a dimwit. The moths swirled and buzzed. I made no move to counter. I sat up, scoured the nightstand for a cigarette, found one, promptly lit it best I could, and sat there on the bed smoking until I felt as close to alright as I could get. It wasn’t the most noble of things to be partaking in, but it was all I had, and I was okay with that.

The tree’s leaves’ glint sunset colors in the way she sued me for a wave and another last time. A cutter on the inside corner. A train-station echo that hollers, “Honus and Ty on the back of a coin! Flip for it!” I thought, ‘Asshole.’ Who am I to make such distinctions? It’ll all peter on out anyway, even before I’m through. Every fathead who walks into this place is just looking for excuses, ways not to have to deal with whatever it is they’re dealing with. The louder they raise their pathetic voices the less they’ve got to say. I get up and lean on the bar. I get the barman’s ear. “Hey, why don’t you guys switch on the ball game? Give us all something to look at.” He winks at me, “The leaves are all brown, sir. All of them, the ones that are left, that is.” He turns the TV above the bar on the ball game. I go back to my seat and get on with my staring at it. Everything is happening as it should.

The homeless lady who sings arias is in the window. Her mound of blue-black hair’s filled with glitter and tickertape. I can see the places she’s been in her widowed eyes. She’s really going for it, hitting notes so high I worry about my highball glass. The rags she wears suit her: some tacky spray-painted silver wedding dress torn in all the wrong places, a whalebone necklace; high heels with broken heels. I don’t want her song to end. A few joggers go by. A horde of tourists on a walking tour. A cop with bad sunglasses and a worse mustache. Sometimes the world’s more wonderful than any of the things in it. I sip and sip at my drink. The aria comes to a sad and beautiful end. The homeless lady walks away with her chin tilted slightly up and her arms akimbo, strutting and smiling a better smile than most could ever dream of. I feel that I’ve been a part of something important.     

The drinks will come.
The drinks will go.
The reasons to live?
Maybe not so.   

Things get hectic and rush. I get removed from my seat. I mumble, “Well…well…you know nobody brings anything…small…into…a bar.” Those who lay their hands upon me do not mind what I say. Those who carry me off to a slumberous place, or a gutter’s comfort. I wish them very well. I wish the traffic, the lampposts, the mail boxes, the dogs being walked, the misanthropic losers like me, the runners of errands, the mostly confused cabbies, the out-of-work right fielders, the musterers of bad dreams, the harlots in drag, the bad waiters, the out-of-town scoreboard watchers, the meek and hale, the whole tempered bullshit ragoutof it all, I wish it all the best; and then I subtly, with great pomp and soigné, go to hell.