And so I went to The Comstock Saloon and sat down in a booth by myself feeling all miserable and lost, and I leaned back and I watched the ceiling fans slowly spin like the arms of maimed centaurs, and it wasn’t late enough to be too crowded in there, and the waiters were spry and attentive and spiffy in their attire, and I didn’t have a wife anymore for the first time in many years, and the whole world was slightly tweaked and askew and crammed with crumbling artifacts of who I used to be, and I sat there in the booth and watched the ceiling fans go about their business of slicing slow and deliberate and calm through the stuffy air, and I didn’t have anywhere to be for the foreseeable future, and this was a small wondrous thing that I didn’t want to let got of, and nobody was cursing my name just then over runny eggs and burnt toast or to the harsh tinny sound of dropped silverware, and soon I had a cocktail in hand and was feeling miles better about myself.
Some wizened bastard with a wilted carnation in his topcoat’s buttonhole came over and sat across from me. There was some commotion of his person, a staggering flourish of indecipherable semaphores and jousts of limbs, and then a flowery suggestion, “You don’t come here quite often enough, do you?”
“Not for my liking.”
“But to everyone else’s.”
“Look. I pulled up a stool here, maybe about quarter-past four. Been here ever since. Been staring at the bottles behind the bar and making new friends and older enemies. Some people, well, they just never can leave me be, can they?”
“Well. Sometimes you look across the street from 9 floors above the pavement and there’s an old man sleeping on a cot with his head in the window of his shared room. Who’s dreaming about him, though? Me? Well, I’ve always been a sucker for a girl in a hard hat.”
“I get it. Famous for your anonymity. Cranky and content. If you can’t even save yourself…”
“Hell, you get to a certain age and all you do is sit around and miss people. And it gets so now that I don’t know rightly where to put my love, so it just keeps spilling out all over the place where it doesn’t belong. It’s embarrassing, these private things sneaking out in public. But what’s the point of doing anything if there’s nobody back home to care?”
“Another query for the angels, huh?”
“Probably. Maybe that’s whom I’d be better off conversing with anyway.”
“We all would.”
“I’ve got to start staying in more.”
The ceiling fans twirled their slow circles above, playing havoc with my line of sight. An empty booth a few booths down was calling me a few names I had never gone by, and so I went over to its plush upholstery to have myself a seat. Being alone seemed a due reward for my services.
I started singing to myself, making it up as I went. It wasn’t the worst way in town to be passing the time.
“I saw your name on the blackboard
I saw your name and I knew it well
Two checks by it
I wanted to know your sins just as well
On the days when you’re counting backwards
On the days when the a.c. is giving you hell
“You can have this brain of mine
It don’t work very fine
It don’t work well at all
“Mothball your thoughts for a rainier day
Of wrecked dancing shoes
And easier ways to say goodbye
“I saw your face in a coffee cup
I saw your eyes in the scrap metal of a construction site
Resting in the clutches of an excavator’s boom
Madly out of love
Relaxed for once at last
Rewriting the bible one curse at a time
Indelible in our similarities
Intent in our disdain for being the same
“I keep calling you names
All the ones that’ll never be in any book
All the ones that’ll keep
Before you spoil
What’s always been ours
Into only mine
“You hear what I hear
What I want
To hear you hear
Where silence is the most frustrating thing
And all the snails follow
Surely and steady
Wherever it is
That I might forever go
“The Bank of Guam closes early on Friday
They’ve got some drinking to do
The branch is closing
And the tellers aren’t buying any rounds
So if you’re in town next Tuesday
I’ll also promise to not be around.”
Then a tidy and stiff waiter came on over and disturbed me mid-verse. I swayed my head to the tune, telling him, “I’ll have all the anothers you’ve got.”
He gave a curt little nod and left me be. It was the finest way to be feeling, that way I was there, song sung, drinks to look forward to, and only a catnap up ahead to bother worrying about. Nobody to answer to. Nobody to come home to. I was free for a moment there. But, of course, this was not to last.
The music played rowdy from a jazz trio who’d started on in upstairs. I got distressed over the dust on the twisted fan blades. I decided all I really wanted from this life was someone to drink scotch with and who’d laugh at my jokes once in a while, maybe read in funny voices to me from the bible when I was feeling down. I don’t know. It didn’t seem like a whole hell of a lot to ask for.
I wished I were an artist. But I wasn’t an artist.
I never get what I want.
Soon enough, the place got all filled up with the high-libido bar-crawling crowd. I was forced from my booth by a group of young and hip nightlife aficionados; and I bowed deeply to these new denizens of life under the twisted dusty fans, “You all enjoy each other’s company. It’s all you’ve got. Remember, you’re always as old as you’ve ever been and as young as you’ll ever be again.” I left without any pomp or farewells. I left out the door without even a wave. I was gone. Another freshly divorced moron out stalking that conceited two-faced moon as it vanished sleepily into what was left of the night, pretending I still had another one left in me when I knew damn well that this was it, this was all we ever get in this world, and, damn it, we better start enjoying it at some point. Damn it.