I remember an oxygen-tank lamp in the window. A precursor to less affable thoughts. Kissed in slumber’s grasp, I was dreaming about laundromats with dryers like small ovens with sideways racks to hang your clothes on. I never had enough time for anything. I walked by plum-blue cottages on September Tuesdays, back then when I was still reading all the curb numbers out loud. Sometimes you pay in all ones around midnight for Chinese takeout. Perhaps the fish tank gurgles and burps at you like it’s got something to say after all. Or, maybe, you’re just winded from trying to outrun yourself and all your worst habits that keep catching up with you every time. I don’t know. It’s a gamble whenever I step outside of my apartment.
And so, there I went.
And soon, of course, there was a bar that needed some going into for a moment. A quick, quiet refresher from the doldrums of being me. I strolled by twice before eventually spotting some sitting room inside.
I hunkered down at the end of the bar in the only open seat, right by the doorman, and ordered a Laphroaig, which is the sort of deep, smoky scotch you can smell coming from yards away. The rather short bartender had a tough time procuring the bottle, as it was on the top shelf, a good 5 feet from his reach. But soon he was back with a hardy stool to give him a lift, and he took down that green-tinted bottle, and he poured me a decent amount into a nosing glass, and he gave me a tall glass of water to keep it company. It was a rather gracious act all together — the nose glass and the water — something I didn’t anticipate but appreciated very much upon its deliverance. I tipped him well and sat there inhaling the deep, rich aroma of the scotch, trying to enjoy myself as much as the situation would allow. There was a baseball game on the TV above me, which I couldn’t really follow as I was much too close to the screen for proper viewing, and after craning my neck a few times to catch some glimpses of it, I decided it wasn’t worth getting an aching back over, and so continued to breathe in the scotch’s scent, and I sipped my water, and I steeled myself for the eventual ruining of my evening.
The bar was suddenly filling with Saturday-night imbibers, folks out to get hammered in the commotion of downtown’s strategic bustle and rising pulse. The music quickly got more horrible and much louder. I cringed and settled into my scotch, which, as it never fails to do, filled me with the grandeur and golden glow of being alive. It didn’t last. Nothing good ever does.
The doorman got too friendly with a few ladies just outside, close enough to where I was sitting to be a nuisance to my fading demeanor. They weren’t gabbing quite loud enough for people in the next zip code to listen in to the details of their conversation, but not by much. I took a good, full swallow of the Laphroaig, whispering the name after it tingled its praises on my tongue, “Laaaa-Froig.” I felt much better afterwards. I gulped down some water. I tried to ignore what was going on all around me.
I’m tired of people who drink too much, who go out, “looking for a good time.” I’m tired of crappy loud music blaring at all the bars, of people ordering 4 Coronas for their table, of overpriced cocktails and terrible conversations and worse tippers. I’m tired of not being able to enjoy a good scotch in peace without somebody insisting on pestering me. I’m tired of people in shorts and sandals gabbing about their iPhone-addicted lives while snapping an endless stream of pictures of themselves. I’m tired of boneheaded barkeeps who couldn’t tell a bourbon from a rye, who spill and over-pour, who forget orders and don’t pay attention to detail.
But mostly, I’m just getting real tired of myself.
There was always this lute music drizzling through the complacent bowers of my head’s gashed and beveled estate. All the remnants were for sale, half-off or more, going out of business, as it were, as I mothballed chords and choruses for later use, which never seemed to come. Grander times were when I wasn’t searching for places where I lost those tunes, the depth and feel of them that was so attached to my ways, the way I was, before something I prized above all others was taken from me, stashed away far underground, lost and trapped, held there for an impossible ransom. I’ve been paying for it ever since, with zero netted results. I traipse down and back up, constantly, in search of what I once knew so well. There is no such thing as “close” anymore. There is only “have” and “have not.” And I have so very little of worth. At least nothing to go on about in small-talk’s vicinity.
The bar was now filled with folks of the “party animal” variety. The chatter was deafening along with the throb of the electronic music blasting over the bar’s speakers. I held my head, trying to hang on the best I could to what was left of my resilience. Places to sit were gone. Rudeness and coarse language pervaded. The words “bruh” and “fuck” were involved in all sentences. The crowded confines were doing a real number on my wellbeing. The problem with being around other people is that you’re around other people. And so, as it usually goes, I finished off the last of that wonderfully potent tawny liquid and made a hasty exit from the strain and horror of appearing in public.
Soused citizens were amassing in droves as night pulled away from evening’s lull. I no longer desired to be one of them. I pondered my lack of options for spiritual fulfillment. My truest melody was lost in the shuffle of what it took to return to this cursed backdrop of life in general. Along a ridge’s narrow gap in the indefinable limits of the ever-changing skyline, I wanted to sing all the buildings’ windows to pieces, sing myself to sleep in the comforting rags of a symphony’s borrowed wardrobe; let time berate me — as it surely would — some other day. But being insensible was out of the question. I hopped over a pile of what I hoped was only dog shit, nearly wrecking my face into a telephone pole; and I decided to sell what was left of my eroding sensibilities to the highest bidder.
Then I took a hard left. And I didn’t look back. I swear. Not even once.