Sunday, May 18, 2014

a squeezed-out tube of toothpaste & a broken saxophone

I went down to Market and watched the F-Line trolleys go by for a while. The clank and whirr and screech of those rattling ex-deathtraps made me sullen, even more so than I’d been moved to as of late, and my tendency to shrink from company and wallow alone and isolated in despondency rose with the taste of bile in my throat; and so I just stood there on the crowded rush-hour sidewalk, pulled a napkin I’d swiped from Sam’s Grill from my vest pocket, and cried softly into it.

She was tearing through my mind at a good clip, hat off, hair wild, pants rolled, makeup smeared and runny. “Then there was the high-jacked knack you had for the dramatic— falling, caught, or listing between storms, while I duct-taped my shoes and ran red lights with a shrug. With a grain of salt and a shovelful of earth, just the space between a hiccup and a sigh. Shattered low. Incompatible. And then there are those ruinous hospitable instincts to contend with. Shared hittable pitches like emotional moments in the history of bad luck. Rusty and shot down. Looking astute in the hurrying clod of hobbling gaits and hollowed-out reminiscences.” I had better thoughts to think, sure, but I just couldn’t get myself to get around to thinking them. Some mendacious scumbag in rags with a few broken teeth and a shattered personality was begging self-serving alms from me in the guise of spare-a-dime-for-the-old-guy logic, while the only thing he wanted was a cold beer and a colder pickle, really. I fished around in my pockets but all that turned up was a bent cigarette and a discount pass to The Garden Of Eden. I sheepishly half-grimaced in his general direction and mumbled, “Sorry, kid. I’m the stuff regret’s made on.” The cigarette was too busted up to smoke and the pass to the strip joint was expired. I put them both back in my jacket pocket and walked east on Market towards the Embarcadero.

Somebody’d homered down at AT&T, and you could hear the fog horns blaring and a bit of the crowd going wild. It made me wince, and I hunched and shuffled, and I felt bad all over, and then a tad worse. I was getting touchy and morose as the years passed. I didn’t like it. Something soft and cravenly sulking about in there too much, like some dead pigeon rotting and festering in the ruffled places of my weary disposition’s crutch. I’d like to think that with the passing of years one acquires wisdom and perspective and a certain grace that comes with experience’s accrued knowledge, but unfortunately I’ve only found myself growing more petty and stupid and witless with each year tacked on to this life I lead. I wanted a hot dog. I wanted to take the ferry to Angel Island. I wanted a nice place to sit and watch Yerba Buena and the bridge and the boats go by on the bay, a dozen oysters and an ice-cold vodka tonic, maybe a waitress with a few specks of leftover glitter from the night before on her cheeks and a rum-laced smile. I wanted to live in an old piano warehouse. But I was sick of asking for things. My buttonhole was spoken-for by a rusted safety pin. Things could’ve been better, I suppose, but it wasn’t something I was letting myself let on about.

The street vendors were out in full force all along the Embarcadero. I ambled by them, glancing at their wares and attempting to reconfigure my notion of what it meant to be alive. A stooped Italian in a butcher’s white smock was yodeling on about onions and peppers and sausage: some lurid testament to more guts-and-grit times. Everything smelled like cocoa butter and lard with a hint of jasmine. Carefully disobeying the traffic signal, I moseyed quite carelessly across the trolley tracks, knowing that it didn’t matter, that I didn’t matter, and therefore anything that could possibly happen to me— whether of my own volition or not— could not matter in the slightest. It was quite freeing. The clock tower loomed up above me, and I looked at it, just as millions of others had for over a century as it ticked away the remainder of their lives and continued on with its own. I looked at it— that ancient sentinel of strict and steady passionless structure; that block of cement and wood, never worried, never in love, never in debt or wandering aimlessly through listless ways of trying and not. I looked at that damn clock tower casting a big shadow over all of these small creatures down here whimpering around, getting on with our small lives, conversing with our small voices; and I thought, ‘I don’t care. Run off to the circus. Put the boot in the door. I just don’t care. I do not care, not at all.’ Then some crazed rollerblading lunatic wearing short-shorts, a midriff-exposing tank top, and a pink bandana came rifling at me, slaloming madly through the throngs, his headphones pumping into his ears what was to him the only sound in the world. Luckily I tripped on my own feet and stumbled out of his way as he blared past without even noticing anything outside of his narrow cubicled strip of world.

I steadied myself, leaned against the wall, wiped the dust from my pants, and felt extremely joyous and grateful for being who I was for the first time in a long, long while.