The Homeliest Woman In Town

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I’m nothing but a shit and piss factory. People come in and out of here, draining me of my sap, nudging my head towards the end of a rifle, and I’m supposed to feel sorry for them? Fuck that. That’s not what I was made for. What was I made for? Beats me. But one of the things I know. And I know it for sure. I know it well. I wasn’t made for doling out pity to strangers. That much I do know.

So, now, well there’s this way I have about me though. Some might call it good old-fashioned generosity of spirit. That’d be okay by me. My footsteps ain’t so hard to follow in. Maybe I’d get clued into the happenings of whatever bash was going on down the hall, you know, with those folks who just can’t keep it down. I could stay up all night. Sure. But that’s a matter of the circumstances being, well, downright accommodating, I guess. Nothing I’m spoiling to get all vexed over. Surely it’ll get to be going that I’ll be digging my own grave before long. I chew machine screws and spit rust at the ruder among us, but still I try to use that halt-who-goes-there strategy often enough for it to matter to the makings of this here personality.

There was a day before when I wasn’t so damn evaporated of them so-called precious bodily fluids and lacking motivation for making things happen in this here life I lead. Can’t rightly remember it exactly, but I know it was there. I know it because I lived it, and living it was all there was to do then. I managed without disco balls and high-wire shit. Sorry for all the rambling. My mouth’s motor is always grinding away. I’ll make it back to the bar at some point. Yep. Back to the bar. Let’s hobble back to the bar then. Buy me a drink and I’ll think it over.

So. Let’s just us see. It was back when I was wearing those thick sideburns, you know, those muttonchops. I’m one hairy s.o.b anyway, and this just added to it. Would hang around with the top two buttons of my shirt undone and this thick mat of scraggy hair straggling out like an ape unleashed. A hirsute drinker of lowbrow spirits. Late nights I’d spend there. Get kicked out most nights in that dreary space when the lights go on after last call. Some times carried out. Ah, that’s the way it goes. Get so soused that you blow your own candle out. Rotten-candy-apple reddish rolling along, you know? Atlas couldn’t a hefted me on some nights, let me tells you. Gorging on about my, you know, self-indulgent ways, that’s what was suiting me at the time. Staying dry was out of the question.

So, I’m hunkering down for another night of whisky and cigarettes, and I’m sort of masquerading as a playboy too. Got my best suit on, double breasted. Shiny shoes and ironed shirt. Necktie in a full Windsor. Feeling swanky for some reason. I don’t know. Sometimes it was just like that. Chase the blues away with some duding up. Every chance I got to run, I took it. That was how it was then. Blabbering on and justifying my life with pretzels. Living one-shot-at-a-time. A beer and a belt and toast to whoever’s around. So, I’m stool-bound and hunting for something eventful. I wasn’t really convinced of my own mortality. Then there’s this chick thumping away and patting herself down next to me. I’m trying not to look. It’s just my way. Don’t want to be too obvious. But I sneak a few glances over, and there’s just this mass of wiry brown curls fuzzed out all over the place, and this snout hooked out from it like a beak almost. The breath was like salami gone bad under a heat lamp. I decided to keep minding my own. Mockingbird wish me luck, you know? As long as I don’t kill it with a stray bullet from what they call friendly fire. But there’s this break in the action. A time when life kind of just settles down, quiets and dims. I was fishing around for a smoke in my vest pocket. I knew there’d be one there. I’d always put one there before I went out just in case I forgot where my pack was or lost it or was just too lazy to go wondering about where it was. Her look was, like, palpable, that witch-like creature on the stool to my right, and I made it a point not to look her way or give her a sign that she was invited to this here party. I found the smoke and stumbled outside to smoke it.

So, outside I was smoking and pondering over the sky going pink just before sunset, lighting up the clouds all salmon and rosé. Don’t know why. Just get to thinking that way sometimes. And I was leaning against a telephone pole and just feeling nice and calm. Nobody was bothering me. This wouldn’t last. Of course. Somebody will always start bothering you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, somebody will always come along and, without asking, destroy your peace of mind for you. That’s for sure. That don’t ever seem to change. Leaves you wiped out and alone in the end too. But that’s nothing to mind. Eyewash, just like the rest.

So, I’m dragging out the smoke there, holding up the telephone pole, and I’m saxophoning my guts up to a tolerable level with fantasies of a life I’m too much of a wimp to actually start leading. It’s passing the time alright. So, this lucky lady of the Medusa curls is, unbeknownst to me, well on her way to cramming herself all-tidy into my situation. At first it’s just a poke in my ribs. I don’t like it. But what’s a guy to do? You know? This hideous lady is jabbing at me, and there’s no ignoring her. So I give her some attention. That’s all some people want in this world. Just a little attention to be paid to them. I gave her a nod. She was grinning like a lunatic. Something had to be done. Irking my way around, you know, I can be a jerk too, but I didn’t want to try any sarcasming on for size just then. Not yet at least. Not right away. I was in a playful mood I guess. That kind of windy feeling you get sometimes after a few beers, stepping outside, being nonchalant and at ease about your ways. People say things like moseying I guess. Moseying in your mind. Something like that. Any whose-it-or-hose-it way, I was being pleasant, and we started chatting, after she bummed a smoke from me of course. There was something bovine about her mouth, like her teeth were too big for it, and her lips seemed to be pulled really tight across, almost like they were going to split if she weren’t careful about her smiling technique. And her ears. They were chewed pepperoni jutting out antennae-like from her hair’s brown stringy tangles. It was like they had a life of their own. Very strange. I couldn’t help staring. I’m quite the ogler any how, but this chick was hard not to look at, though I’d been doing such a fantastic job of it in the bar, but it was dark in there and, well, whatever’s last what. It’s just that way sometimes. Once you start in with the rubbernecking it gets to be addictive, like the more you see the more you want to keep looking. The sharp horrible red veins like cuts in her eyeballs, the gnarled flaking skin all pustuled like Braille on her cheeks, dense fuzzy caterpillar eyebrows that seemed like they might wake up and crawl away any minute. It was ghastly but somehow enjoyable to keep checking out. Was I charmed? I don’t know. Caught in a spell. Warped. Something. Or maybe just groping through shit-stained weather and hoping to renovate my attitude towards strangers in general. Enough said, you know? I kept thinking about that song Chelsea Hotel. Just popped in and looted my best intentions, or worst for that matter. Running for the money and the flesh, and that was called love for the workers in song, and all that, etcetera, etcetera, and all of that jiving around. The chick’s got her sights set on plunder, and she’s asking me about personality disorders and the comfort of long train rides in the rain, the way the drops splatter and stick and drip down the windows. I’m not sure how to respond to anything. The sky’s mending bluebells, and it’s all harps with broken strings and puttered out grain-of-sand mindsets from there on out. I wasn’t too cranky, and we conversed, and I was light and bantery, and she was, well, she was all hoarse and done-in.

There wasn’t much left in the way of copper-plated sunsets and the missing letters of dead theater marquees. Let’s move a rain cloud on over here, huh? But there was a certain doting way she had of dealing with my presence. I’ve got to admit. I was eating it up. I usually do when confronted with stuff like that. It helps my self-esteem out something remarkable. So I let her go on and on, and it’s nothing. It’s not a beveled edge at all. We joke and get along. We have some sort of clapboard-job rapport. Sometimes, well, what else is there? Once you’ve got that. Like singing to crickets. And this gruesome female is wrecking some havoc with my vision. I can’t help but be drawn by this certain terror clapping behind the ravaged theater of her eyes. Some specious lurk packing on the pounds in my baser instincts. A seeing that is pleased by being seen.

So, I flick my cigarette butt into the street, wink around a bit, and she flexes her way back into the bar with me. Nobody’s flipping a lid in there or anything like that, but there’s this stupor of weirdness axing through the remains of what I thought I’d left behind, perhaps in that bar, a long time ago, you know? Young enough at the time, I guess, to pull my dreary ass through the minefields of regret. Jesus. It’s all shit and piss with me. That’s my creed in these drafty times. Gotta rip this hairnet of inanition off my damn skull at some point, right? So we sit on bar stools and we order drinks for each other. Music’s not happening. The dark’s taking over. And we take out our oldest and dearest matchbooks to light melted candles with some sort of lucid care. There’s more than nothing to say, but we don’t say it anyway. ‘Don’t go tipping over,’ I keep telling myself. ‘Don’t toss your cards all over the floor for her to pick up.’ Swearing wouldn’t do any good. I knew that. Fast to start and quicker to end. Just a lot of scenery to ambush. Booming crawls of cunning stepping from diving boards of clemency. ‘Tonight. Tonight,’ I think. ‘A poor border for synchronizing smiles. Come on. Get over your pleads for lasting.’ There was music enough in her name to make me dance. But for the all pumpkins in October, I never got around to remembering her name.

Go ahead. Laugh. See where it gets you.

I care less and more all the time. Don’t mess with my kindness. I spurn all kinds of opportunities. Just get the basics back to additional means to fuck over what’s just a substitute for peripheral sappiness. Don’t get me finished.

So, of course I’m not berating her, or doing any of those too-plowed things like that, you know, for being doe eyed or earnestly disposed or ironically challenged or having that face-smashed-into-concrete look about her. Most of our interacting-type behavior was modified by restraint and hesitation. The levers cranked in our favor, and some light sprinkling rain was slicking the streets, and the moon had a rakishly angled trilby atop its bald pate. It wasn’t anything to get weepy about.

She asked, “Are you famous?”

I told her, “Most likely. Depends whom you ask.”

Fleeting, just like looks, it all is anyway. You pace yourself through walk-of-the-trough circumstances. Me? I try to pay attention to the words people use when they’re talking to me. Sometimes they get mushy. Sometimes they try to shave your face with an axe. “Let it slide,” I usually tell myself. “There are only and always more morons to make hay with.” But soon it gets so that my baggage is perpetually checked for me, and all I do is wonder where that lady named Ilene went: she of the most curious inattention to detail, she who used to run things around here while the tailors and the leniency thieves got in their own way.

The most fun you can have without drinking, they say. Shit. I should’ve been a Hell’s Angel. Wander job-less from place to place anyway. Get a leather jacket and a real spiteful stink going. Ride a Harley from sunup to sundown. Join a gang. Be somebody. But, you know, it gets so that you spend most of your time inside, having enough drinks just so that you’ll feel like going outside again. And so, in fact, that’s where I once came across the love of my life — that godawful wonderful lady by the name of Ilene — all them years ago. Let me tell you, from the shoes to the do, she looked like a million bucks, and was just as hard to get. I was plodding along there, coasting in the crescent and hump of daylight drinks, pestering myself with unintentional questions about the concrete whereabouts of brighter thoughts. She was sloppy enough to dump the contents of her purse on the bar, but not too pickled to spill her pint glass of vodka with a dash of tonic. I was a wash. Content to be malcontent. Somehow we got to some medium-sized gabbing. I told her something along the lines of, “Some days I’d just about kill for another whisky. This is one of those days, I guess,” and ordered another.

“Cheap as the well.”

“Might as well.”

“And you?”

“Sure. Another of the same. On you.”

“Of course.”

“Yup.”

Ilene. I remember the paced hurry in her step. She bought a new car when she was drunk once. I was with her around every curve. The avocado of my eye, I told her. Then she’d stop on a nickel and give me the business about being too sappy and soft. But we never got more than a dozen right turns away from home.

Then she was gone. It just happened. Woke up to an emptier bed one afternoon. And I was bereft of all I’d ever wanted to hoped to have. Damn this world of temporary things. Nothing sticks. Nothing stays.

After that, well, I guess I carried myself around like a parking ticket for a while. That special stink of spent firecrackers sulked into my nostrils, and I held my breath for months against that and the dozens of cigarettes unleashed by smokers in the Chinatown alleys as I hurried as best as I could past up past the huddled crowds. Nothing the liquid weight of a full cocktail glass wouldn’t fix right up. And so that’s how it went, how it goes, and how I ended up in this mess that I am currently residing in.

I run on beer and popcorn most nights. Rest assured, my motivation was not hampered by baser patty-cake instincts or pop-goes-the-weasel sensibilities. I mean, shit, there was a string quartet playing Born to Run in my head. Get it straight. Light the top of my x-mas tree and run for cover. It’s not red, white, or blue in here. It’s mostly gray and royal blue. Nobody understands you when you’re scarred and routed. But there at the bar, back at the bar, well, there’s plenty to go on about, to soak up and enliven your personality with, to suppose with unknown prefixes of habit, to yank and yearn, to understate and munch on about. Tips were not included. You know how that goes. Every low-life needling intimation in the world coming for the lunch special in your soul. Getting a grip? Maybe I was fond of the notion. But mostly with me, as you know, it’s just shit and piss, shit and piss. That’s how it mostly goes. What’s you going to do? Huh? What? Shit and piss. Like a tapping at my stall door. Only this. Merely this, and nothing more. Any what’s-in-a-name way, I planted a bug in the deceptions of whatever the hell I was going to do for my next move. It wasn’t anything plop-heavy. It was a name-dropping urge at best. Beats the Cool Whip out of me what was churning cheap-like around in that rugged female specimen’s soupy demeanor. Dinner was not served. Dessert was not on the way. The bartender was having none of our leftovers. Everyone always gest the best of me. She got me at my worst. Damn it all. Get me to a bathroom. Why would I be a shitter of assumptions? No ways I knows. I just don’t. And nothing was weird at all. Everything was pulsating with a deeper resonance in the dark’s last true enlightenment. Mattering’s for the flapjack artists and the well-heeled croupiers, and for me, well, then I guess I am groped of all inhibition until further notice. So. Yep. Sure. Let there be light, you know? And all that. Shit. And all that. And all that too.

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