(photo by Henry Horenstein)

Airplane bottles and a busted gramophone. The most uncomfortable seat by the shore on cracked concrete blocks. No pictures, please. A chunk of obsidian for your barest gesture. A rope swing to hang your novelties from. I should’ve told you that you’re a jerk a long time ago, now. I should’ve murmured to you that I’m trying to break my own heart. But instead I was taming imaginary lions with barstools. Instead I was just drop-dead ordinary, listening to you sigh, “Nights like these, they just never last.” So, Dr. Seuss was your illegitimate uncle, and I was too busy balancing dollar bills on my head to notice the bored suggestions in your wandering lilt. Besides, I’ve always been jealous of people who can lounge leisurely, lunge leisurely, run with ice cream cones — do anything without having to worry about it so much. All the way from Kalamazoo to discuss the busted guts of life’s least mysterious beverages and your own funeral plans in a scruffy cordovan booth. Then you had to go, and I had to go a bit crazy about it. The accordion music plays The Fifth, and of course I’m left with Elvis’s messed-up hair and Charles McGraw’s gruff voice, my back pocket all full of tobacco and stardust and never-left tips. I guess there are just too many ways to not like someone, and not enough to be liked back. Don’t get any ideas. Let’s rake this in fast. Fall’s on the move again, threading its lonesome and mushy way through the eaves and sidewalk trees, and all my rainiest moods are back on display for the whole damn town to take a gander at.

People around here, well, we don’t have very exotic dreams. Maybe we just ponder getting a bit beer-drunk in a park on a Saturday afternoon, still out from the night before, and then falling asleep on the grass in the shade of a cypress tree. The hum of the buses going by keeps us sane enough. But you already knew that. Of course you did.

Let’s just enjoy this while it lasts and try not to worry about how it’ll end up. Let’s ruin the party going on upstairs. Boisterous bastards having all the good times. I call all dogs “shithead” and I don’t own any modes of transportation besides my own two feet. There’s no need to be wild or unpretentious. We’ll play fully clothed poker and stay up all morning sipping whiskey with a spot of coffee. And just in case you’re wondering, I still carry plenty of napkins with me everywhere I go. Let’s be pleasant to each other. Let’s get Johnny Cash to take out the trash. Let’s get married on the back of a flatbed in the middle of a thunderstorm. Let’s crush cans together. Let’s leap over some fire hydrants. Let’s sit by a big window on a sofa in a used furniture store, stare out at the traffic going by, and never buy another ticket back home. Strangers with disheveled misgivings about behaving. We met like field hands in the rough. Pitched our sorrows to junk and made the crappy light leave us alone. And we hunched over dice to make terrible bets on the past. Something better might still come out of it, still. But me, I was born to doubt.

Someone says, “She’s gone,” and, like a spluttering pat of clouds masking the sun’s purpose, I rip my overcoat from the coat rack and make like Farley Granger on parole — off to other misrepresentations of who it is I’m stumbling over myself to be. Her name still forever escaping me. Maybe this show was never so great in the first place. Shot so far down here that all these rusted chandeliers are light years away. From the skirting to the architrave these seeing-eye walls put even acanthus leaves to shame. The boisterous folks caged by them, not as lovely by a longshot. Crap outs of a cantankerous life. Auditioning for a discreet whiff of fame, snapping photos of how it feels to be someone, strapwork figures leading plaster fresco lives. A sign says, “Greetings patrons, it is only 7 O’clock in the evening.” The rheumy eyed moon’s balancing itself on the tip of the Transamerica Pyramid. Mushy and chicken shit all over, I keep thinking, “Ain’t it wonderful to come from no money?” and, with a quick cough and a hard blink, I raise my glass and look away. And I never want to put it back down. And I never want to put it back down.

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