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The nebbishy, mostly silent, kicked puppy dog looking female at the corner of the bar is, inexplicably enough, the only regular here who's name I can remember. Emily. One of my favorites, last year. It's strange, and, I'm sure, potentially depressing, how one name can demagnetize someone for me, soul unmet. So it goes. Since the days are past when I'd just introduce myself to Regular Emily, she probably won't have the opportunity to invite my disdain. My inner circle tightens as it diminishes. Friendships take longer to solidify but remain solid. I have little about which to complain, now.
Things are good, all told. Interaction with Kim is usually easy. Even when it's edgy, it's entertaining. And what's intense tends to be edgy. So I can't, won't, complain, although I still get lost in complex (but stupid) meta-neuroses ("Am I really behind this, really?") when I'm alone and idle. It's—yes—all good. I realized today that this is the first time I've been fully INVOLVED with someone quite this ATTRACTIVE. Shallow or not, that fortifies the ego. And, with it, resistance to infidelity. For now, I'm aging nicely. What will we do about the blood on the sheets?
I'm a fair tipper. Usually a fairly big tipper. Most barkeeps get a dollar per bev off your man, or fifty off the buck-fifty PBRs at joints like these. This particular fellow, a stubbled wax statue known to fancy himself a hipster cassanova, gets a quarter. Because I don't like him. On Mondays (when alone) I'll bring reading material. On weekends I'll at least speak when spoken to, perhaps strike up a conversation. But today is quite obviously a Monday, so I'm keeping busy and keeping to mine own. And what is mine own is, today, muddy and inconclusive. Foggy.
SAY IT WITH ANTHRAX. You misanthropes know that there are SO MANY REASONS to send anthrax. And now you can send anthrax straight from your heart, as the odds are at their historical longest that your identity will be discovered. Because maybe you don't WANT to get fingered. Maybe you don't particularly care for publicity. Or flashbulbs. Or people. Claim a political cause. If you must. Call the paper. MAYBE they'll give a fuck. But if you simply LIKE SENDING ANTRHAX TO PEOPLE, now is your time to shine. To say what you feel. For real. For keeps. With anthrax.
IT WILL BE OVER BEFORE YOU KNOW IT. Death is the great philosophical equalizer. The one thing we ALL share, the thing that puts all our petty concerns in perspective. It's the subject that puts any conversationalist to the test. At one time or another—if lent sufficient consideration—it taps into each dimension of our fascination. The enthralling potency of "death chic" is no more mysterious than the fact that "sex sells," for what topic is truly interesting save those two? Both descend easily into dull frivolity as a function of their ubiquitousness. Nice that we're going to die.
Got a hot one? (Red pepper.) Got a hot potato? (Baked potato with a generous slab of something butter-like.) In a jam? (Jelly jar, ajar, inviting, with a knife jutting out.) Stuck? (Cactus.) For reasons beyond my vocabulary, I'm charmed by this copy shop cuteness. The mark of a good day. Unexciting, to be sure, but I was in the womb the last time I was this much at ease. A day off: Empty, as the big guy intended. After a few, I'll pick Kim up from work, and, like a good man of ease, I'll let her talk. Easily.
For whatever dumb, arbitrary reason, your paramour (the candied apple of your hurricane eye) doesn't give two ferrets fucking for you anymore. And never will again. At all. No memories, no regrets. Would you rather (a) be dumped straight up, honest like, or (b) be cheated on? How much would this pain you? How much do you want—need—to feel you're traveling the high road? What does SHAME mean in your register? Lavarse los dientes, sleep on it, keep it under your hat for 24 hours, and have your answer—your response, at least—ready by this time tomorrow.
I meant every word I said to you. And every word said on your behalf in your absence. Every kind utterance. Would never take word one back. Or rethink any letter, phrasing or indention. You mean all of that and other things far beyond my power or desire to articulate. What changes, changes. What remains reliable may as well be the same. We keep on, we adjust, we change if necessary. We remain what we retain. So think of me when you tuck yourself in. Kiss your hand as you wait in line at the grocery store. Pretend it's me.
We found a cozy, elegant, overpriced li'l shopping district, an area of this town that, in three years, I just yesterday noticed. We saw it as we exited Waffle House, not quite ready to trek home. The beer was a too-sweet, somewhat steep Atlanta micro, but, for the sixer, I spent less scratch than I would've spent on as much PBR at the cheapest el centro watering hole, which makes me (again) question my habit of patronizing the bars. Now, back from Atlanta, after an afternoon of double-helping fucking and an evening of travel and charming French cinema, I doze.
Just as a collegiate material bitch takes the good scissors to her MasterCard when things get embarrassingly lean, so I cut myself off from all opportunities for delusional nostalgia. Pictures. Phone numbers. Addresses. Old e-mails. Old letters, even. I shitcan them all in avoidance of cementing a bullshit self-definition based on fading events and acquaintanceships now outside my control. Keeps the pipes from freezing in the wintertime. Should we cross paths again, I hope you fail to recognize me, or at least forego trying to recognize the person you knew. If you can't start afresh, simply return my respectful snub.
The paint on my bathroom wall peels off in sheets. It leaves one or more of four or five old layers exposed beneath, sometimes in the shape of a jagged, angry cartoon balloon. On that rare, blessed occasion, enough paint peels off to wad into a baseball-sized orb, which I, in my newfound conscious disposal of shit that—let's face it—I'm not going to find practical or amusing uses for, chuck into the trash almost immediately. I doubt my can will get the repainting it needs. That's cool with me. I continue to strip the cinderblocks nude, forcefully curious.
Rubbing the dried sleep from his glazed stoner eyes, Gigolo D rose slowly and forcefully from the unconscious limpness. Did he fuck last night? May as well not have: His memory was blank, and he had a full load in his nuts. He jetted to the pool, 40 in hand. As his Boys From The Bottom album bumped on the boombox, a thick, tanned, blondie Australian bitch, already sauced on the OJ and gin, tripped and impaled herself on his throbbing quartermaster. He fucked her mercilessly as she squealed for mercy. He slapped her thigh and demanded a good asslicking.
You're a spry, wiggly sperm launched from the Big Guy's excandescent testes, dispatched to remake this corner in His intimidating image. But you'd better hope he shot carefully this time. Are you headed for a sloppy, fertile, eager beaver? Or is that a cheap, crusty bedsheet I see in the crystal? Your choice of postcards is curious and tasteful. Your handwriting is legible enough. ‘Preciate that. What now? Will your name scroll across the marquee? Will you build the house, crash on the sofa or split your skull on the shower tile? Shoot skeet. Shoot craps. Shoot your own load.
I've got my own Jigglypuff now. It serves as companion and bodyguard. When some lonely soul that's had a few attempts to strike up a Jabberwockian conversation in the john of a local watering hole, the Puffness sings it into the arms of sweet repose. Discovered asleep in the can come closing time (albeit in a reasonably upbeat frame considering the circumstances—the Jigglypuff sing has that effect) the soul is usually banned from the establishment. Which is perhaps for the best on everyone's register. It's moods are turbulent, but it's good company. Steady entertainment. Perceptive. Fun. And in demand.
Sense indulger! Dress and finesse. Style and profile. Dance and romance. The common toil is a chronological chemical peel. Eight hours. Taxation without stimulation. You get fucked. Up the ass. Fuck back. Chug-a-lug. Mainline. Fuck like it's performance. Without a rubber. Take it out on the feebs. Take it out on the people that ask for it. Burn rubber. Burn something. Throw the first hook. Go down hard. Fast. Too much. Now. Rest. Relax. Get the fuck outta town. Recuperate. Do nothing. Until you're ready to sink those choppers back into the old jugular. Then sink into inky, dreamless sleep.
Self-respect is and forever will be the important thing. It's tricky to maintain the self-respect. But necessary. For sure, for sure, I'm a self-interested bastard. Like you. Which is why I understand. And somewhere way down deep in my cirrhotic soul, I forgive. I'm an HONORABLE bastard, make no mistake. Don't cross that and I'll return your phone calls. It's a loosely organized sequence of makeshift rituals. It keeps my head above the tides. Keeps me calm. And strong. Discipline is good. Self-discipline is best. Outside some other fucker's essentially arbitrary cryptography. Keep what's good. Fuck what ain't. My goodness.
JV died of a heroin overdose. Got some bad shit. When the shit is bad enough—cut with D-Con, in this case—any dose is an overdose. Got admitted to the psychiatric hospital in Sumpter. Doc thought he was catatonic. He was limp. Pale. Poseable. Stopped breathing as the sun came up. JD, another guy, is in prison. For life. Possible parole? Murder one. Beat his girlfriend's mom to death. With a flashlight. JH is in prison for stealing SUVs. And burying them. Under six feet of earth. OH SHIT. We've gotta stash this thing ‘til the heat dies down!
I treat strangers kindly (even obnoxious or mildly troublesome ones) out of basic dignity, nothing more. (Not that there's anything stingy in my basically dignified treatment of strangers.) However, my trust, respect and love must be earned. And it isn't easy. My independence (as much as it's worth beneath these higher strata of causal laws I'll never comprehend) and self-respect are paramount, and they'll crush intruders on their domain. My kids, if I spawn them, will be reared to be the same way. To love themselves, to embrace their lives and indulge their cravings. And to cover their mongrel asses.
APRIL 1, 2002. I have this date dog-eared as one of weighty self-reevaulation. It'll be a Monday. Until then, I'll be in a boot camp of my own design. Self-restraint. Stop. I fancy the fleshier ladies. Always have. Nothing too unconventional. Or unclassy. I'm talking Marilyn Monroe or Bettie Page over everyone in the last twenty years of Playboy centerfolds, together. Stop. Your random disappearances no longer bother me. Fuck me over once and I'll hold you at a distance. Fuck me over again and I slipped. Made an error that mustn't be repeated. I'll ask no favors of you.
Sitting here, under this tin roof, with my soft, sweet skull buried between my knees, taking shelter from this little afternoon shower, I feel it’s time to make changes. Fortifications. Hand a few layabouts their walking papers. Jettison some surplus. Melt down a bell or two. And most of the whistles. Wipe the chihuahua’s blood off my kicks, toss it a little snack to make amends and (correctly) assume all is forgiven. Let a few martyrs fry. It’s what they do well. Keep the need organisms—letting nature determine “need”—alive and healthy. Fed and watered. Keep the bus moving.
I watch and intrepid scout ant scurry a zigzag, and my head fills with laughable pseudo-philosophical bullshit. I flush with envy, and remind myself to seal my cakehole and sidestep regret and humiliation. I keep to mine. I twist a coat-hanger, retrieve a spoon from the sink drain and savor the warm wash of well being that comes with a minor accomplishment of the stripe that invites no second guessing. I ache for something. I know not what. But only when there's nothing better to do. Red wine, sweet soul music and vigorous sex take some of the sting away.
THIS CITY IS YOURS. Take what you want from the world. Piecemeal. Smuggle it back home. You don't have to HIDE it, as such; just don't raise such a clamor about it that the loudmouth assholes (the unscrupulous squealers) down the way catch on. Breathe in. Let the air of this city caress the insides of your lungs. Let it seep into your bloodstream. Course through your veins. And make its way, slowly, to the buldging capillaries in your eyeballs. Then breathe out. Slowly. Savor the sensation of broadcasting your peppermint-scented breath. Of sharing it with this city. Now eat.
When you're the guy nobody likes, nobody cares when bad shit happens to you. So don't expect them to. When the rain pisses down in torrents, ring up Mercer the Mercenary. For a modest fee, Mercer will take your side and get your back, in any situation. Guaranteed. Stop. Then rain is pissing down in torrents. And my windshield wipers are fucked up. I know not why. Stop. Hip-hop beats for those that wistfully wonder: Where did you go, go-go chicks of the sixties? Stop. You're tone-deaf with regards to dignity. But I've always had a fucked respect for shamelessness.
What I didn't dig about him was his ambiguous statements. Always with the esoteric declarations. Always a little snide, a little condescending, when directed toward me. Me at the age where I took EVERYTHING personally. Anyhow, the esoteric declaratives were probably why they called him the Sphynx. Maybe he was trying to constructively criticize me. Most subtle form of flattery. Maybe—more likely—he was blowing smoke out his neck and didn't give a fuck. I guess I always wished, I was always a little pissed at him for not just spitting whatever it was out. Kinda sad, I guess.
I still drink, a lot. Sometimes more than I'd planned on, though I won't call it a PROBLEM so long as my sense of humor and sense of proportion keep pace at their current, consistent clip. I still spend more time than's good for me marveling at the futility of it all. Marveling at the STUPIDITY of, well, ME, mostly. I realize I'm courting a LIFE SENTENCE there, dad. But it's all under control, even when the edges stick out. I'm happy. I like myself, off and on. I'm in steady practice. Happy holidays to you and yours. Stay strong.
Hey. I miss you. Think of you often and fondly. Yes indeed. Salad days. Remarkable how, after a year of silence—on either end—you're left with two options. Talk about things, people, places, bullshit neither one of us gives a fuck about any longer, or start afresh as new acquaintences. Which, my gut tells me, would be worthwhile in this case. So I'll tell you one story for every story you tell me. And none will begin with "remember." I'll go first. Did I tell you about the hospital? Jail? The good times? And you? Fuck it. Good riddance.
At this high an altitude, you can't hold nearly as much liquor, nor can you hold any amount of liquor as well. Rob, narcoleptic, nodding, nursing a Jack and Coke in a Denver piano bar, wondered if he wouldn't have been better off if he'd taken one of those Sunday afternoons in '93 and stretched it out as far as it would go. SHUT UP. NO ONE IS LISTENING. NO ONE GIVES A FUCK. He called out a request. Probably something like "What a Wonderful World." SHUT UP. NO ONE CARES. ONLY YOU. That's not true. Rob cares. His way.
WE'LL SEE HOW IT GOES. I'd draw the worst case scenario for every possible situation, if I thought it'd prevent it. There isn't much doing on Saturn. Hot as shit. There's a lot on the burner—many patties on the burner—I'm going to regret cooking. Hence the ring of—the glimmer of—truth in—honesty in—my otherwise unreliable grin. It's all good, baby. Today's shame slash regret is tomorrow's amusing anecdote. End o' story. We'll see how it goes. Accept my apologies, but between me and anyone else, I don't regret a goddamn molecule of what I've created.
Muttonchop Bob is back on the nose candy. He's ALWAYS had the general look of a man with a perpetual cold, but lately he's been, you know, LAYING IT ON socially. Playing a little too hard. He's excused because he boozes so much. That doesn't explain the blood caked around his nostrils. He either needs an easier nosehair trimmer or he's got his honker in the drifts again. He's still taking pains to be seen with that loudmouthed (albeit stacked) Hawaiian bitch, who tells everyone how he falls asleep before he gets his belt undone. Just doesn't ENJOY fucking, apparently.
Slow the fuck down. Think it through first. And you'll find yourself no longer devaluing the word "friend" to sound more connected than you actually are. That guy that bailed you out of jail was a friend. The intrepid soul that dared you to try that one fun thing that one time was a friend too, perhaps. I'll even count those with whom you stay in communication over time and distance. That pseudo-star with whom you've interacted pleasantly? Fuck you. You're eroding a near-sacred word when you misuse "friend." The keys are exclusivity and honesty. KNOW your circle of friends.
I question my impulse control. Often I'll realize that I have (or just missed) the opportunity to do something cruel, something sickening, and the ALMOST immediate subsequent realization that I'm consciously passing up said opportunity will make me shudder. I don't think I'm a cruel person, in terms of my general nature and, most importantly, my actions. But inexplicable evil swells up in my chest quite often, and when I don't have the energy to take it for granted, its presence frightens me. If I went balls-out, regret-free nihilistic, I'd cause more suffering than I care to ponder. For now.
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