The marble hallways were yellowing, and the back of my mind was cussing like a fidgety drunk drying out, and there were no coffins lying around to pose in, and there wasn’t a hardware store open in any neighborhood nearby. I was squinting hard like some dope who’s lost his glasses in a pool hall. The alleys were rife with the secondhand smoke of former labor leaders. There were no places to be, and for this I was eternally and unabashedly thankful. I started singing, “My sweet baby, you’re the one…” but was rudely interrupted by an inept garden-furniture dealer who was suddenly yanking at my coat sleeve.
“You must behave. Marshal the disorder in your shoes to the nearest plain of restrictions. Resistance, rebellions, and death; a testy trinity there for you, if you will. We are not coats, but just the hangers. All of my heroes were either drunks or train robbers.”
Then, in a splash of methuzelah champagne, everything went gold and Victorian green. My retinas were scarred with congratulations way past their due. Saying, “Sure,” to it all was as easy a time as I was going to get. Crawl around and divvy up the crumbs, I guess. I met with a sty of politicos who were rubberstamping their signatures on NDAs. I wanted more bitter melon on my complimentary breakfast plate, but none were in the business of paying me any of their precious mind or time.
There was some roughhousing and splendor in the chatting nook.
“Elections are chippy enough without all this vehicularing around. I’m fine without all the nuisance of nuance you chirpers keep tweaking around with.”
“I resent myself because I’m not you. Does that stick?”
“I don’t appreciate you telling me what I should appreciate. We all put effort into some sort of understanding.”
“Unpaid understudies of the elite.”
“Everybody’s busy with something. We might as well get busy with each other.”
I dipped and drooled and read a sign over the bathroom reading, “Only one toiletry item per customer.”
Shame left its imprint on the manila folder of my least serviceable routine. Driving nails in my coffin, as usual. All bang with no boom. Just an empty space there on that finger where your ring used to go. And soon there’s no “as usual” to refer to. So, take the ring out of your ears, and put them tears back in your eyes.
What’s to know about all you don’t? If you go around giving away your sympathy to people who don’t deserve it, you’re a sucker. That’s a clever enough ruse to fall down the stairs to. Just another tapped natural resource, another former strength gone, and when we’re done here it’ll all be space without time to never have the chance to get more than used to. Crazy wiles to create another bogus whim with. I keep not laughing. There are stretchers to rest on and cutoff men for the cutoff men with bum arms. Just a repercussion never launched into. Take the most of the night out of whatever’s off. Strangle the harmonica player who asks, “What do you do when you’re not spending all of your time in bars, Roy Rogers?” And Roy tells him, “I grumble.” That splits the difference between the rights you never ruled all the way out, while the wife was busy sweeping you off of your petard. Buy the research agent a new ballast and a few starters too. Crab about the day’s sellers and the night’s takers and the morning’s repentant buyers. It’ll tell all about your family’s screwed-up history in bowling alleys all along the Stanislaus County line. Then the river’s flooding again and we’re washed with turpentine and sedimentary wine. Accustomed to the baser things, the delta in you gets what’s not ever coming soon enough. Stand it all sitting down, why don’t you? There might be armchairs in hell too, and the thing of it is, well, some of the elevators just up and quit before the works spread out any casual revenge. Be the worst that you can be, I guess. There’s very little else to do.
I messed around with some jumpy lightweights in the spittoon-littered hallway of a bookie’s paradise. I made cake. Then, without a worried leap, I pounced on an ex-bike messenger, extravagant with heavy brows, of course.
“Your home’s for sale, again. Beam me down. The hills are insincere and mowed. Pass me that bright scarlet vase now only filling with blue.”
“I ain’t in the mood for going anywhere.”
“Okay. Let’s play no-ante Klondike and pose with Cain-and-Abel bobbleheads. There’s a lot of money not coming to me.”
“This all just might kill us, but nobody knows just when.”
“Why you gotta go all pouncing on motherfuckers?”
“Well. Let’s just break it down to subtleties, then, why don’t we? Crawl along on cobwebs of getting along, and then we’ll hide beneath a sink in some moaner’s kitchen.”
“I have not met my love today.”
“Sure. And you hold on and hold on and hold on, and nothing ever comes true, right?”
“Maybe. But just maybe there’s a hole in the regimented structure of it all, and you can squeeze on through to the predilections of another.”
“Maybe. But maybe I’m to blame for it all too. Bed pissing aside, I’ve done my share of name-carving in the stone of who I should’ve been.”
“Nothing. Nothing. It’s all an old folks home of disarray anyway.”
“Exactly. You know, even Barthelme got too drunk in social situations too. Slurred his way through it all, as much as it would take…or wouldn’t. No legs to sit with. Nobody to come home to.”
“Be a much-maligned presser of impertinent information, then.”
“Sure. It’s all just so easy for you, right? So right and so benign. Well, dogs are family to some still. Well, plant your righteous and pious old self right on down at the penultimate supper of your creepiest desires. The pithiest sort of hate, the kind that scrapes the whistle from your lips just as you’re about to impress a crowd of disciples with your special brand of sadness.”
“Last night I was a bike wreck, an uncomplicated blur, for a minute there, and I thought that the world was happening according to Socrates. I was thankful for my almost full head of hair.”
“We’re crashing into each other too often now. We ought to stop it, but we won’t. I know that, at least.”
“Meant to be together?”
“As it weren’t.”
“Ah, shit. You never were.”
I ran somewhat rampant. I lost the stiffed bastard. I mooned a cop and took off. I deciphered the eye-patch sight that I was getting. I got so lost that none of my findings even mattered to me. And the worms, they still make their holes in the prettiest parts of the soil. But me? I do my hardest hitting in the punching bag’s shadow. My fading’s famous around here anyway. Besides, who’s bolting after my keepsakes? I’ll keep pasting my name up in the dullest of spots. A curse word here and there never killed anyone. And, if you’d rather see me peripherally in the switch’s flick, I might as well live on the outskirts of prettier mugs than the ones you’ve been hauling around like they’re excess baggage you’d rather not know so well anymore, right? And soon there will be nobody left to like me. Yup. Sure. But just don’t you dare take my knife away.