I was suffering from a mild bout of vertigo which just so happened to coincide with the fact that I hadn’t had a drink since my first of the day at 8 am, roughly six hours previous. My moods and mental health were so debilitated by this point that everything about me was determined by what drugs were flowing through me or wearing off. I dressed well, but rarely showered.
The afternoon was shot. I wanted reasons to move through it. A dinner party invitation had my name on it, so I figured I’d take my time with the remainder of my motions. There weren’t many left to make anyway. A psilocybin-infused tea for lunch. A drop of morphine for dessert. And so I got roughed-up by some gauche specter of a true insider who mesmerized my hazy wherewithal with intermittent jabs at my ability to recognize false sensibilities. Also of note: I’ve always been a sucker for a girl in a cowboy hat.
“You’re just like a lady in a book I’ve never read. Hold me far. April’s just the worst.”
“Let’s find some loud place to whisper.”
“Just up here.” I tapped my temple with a thumb.
“I know precisely what you’re going to spew out, even before you do. And now? Now this lady’s whereabouts just happen to be vanishing.”
I got all scrunched up inside. Couldn’t help it. The world worries me this way, the way I get. Dangerously close to scrubbed away. I made whatever haste there was to make of the situation. I desired barer walls. The ones I was bearing witness to were hung with blood-spattered spatulas and solid-gold flyswatters. I didn’t like the certain peculiar peel that my eyes were currently on a mission to take me to the circumstances of. Some chatter seemed appropriate.
“Let’s run like little kids. Scare up some courage. Wild and free. Arms flailing. Concentrate!”
There was little left for me to do. Drift. Settle. Moan about it. Always beleaguered and distressed. I wanted to sit in a small café with a few odd characters and plan a heist. Maybe play a game of Eight-ball on a moss-and-ivory table with a bone-spur victim who was getting in the habit of telling my own lies back to me. Or don a passport-plum overcoat and stare stilettos at a soused infantryman who keeps telling me, “You, you’re almost good enough to be good enough.” The reek of snubbed-out cigars was weakening my knees, making my discreet shuffling more bowlegged than I cared for. I also noticed that my composure was no longer mine to hold or have. I was starting to distrust my own face.
“Regained composure. Huh. It stands but doesn’t reason. You’re just a con job waiting to occur. Composure? Lose it. You can stand with a lot less.”
“I’ll be…your accomplice tonight.”
“Your unhappiness is as good as mine, as far as jiffies and brake jobs are concerned. Hear that? Pop. Pop. Pop. It’s either champagne or saffron-coated corn. Nobody should know for sure, though.”
“Call it off. Nothing I say needs to be heard. I’ve gotta get in more.”
After regrouping with much intent and not an upchuck to mention, I staved off a few drinks with some opium butter, and then I didn’t feel much of anything at all except lonely and romantic. It was like winning all the bread but losing the only toaster. And then? And then I felt like dancing.
Night’s coal-black ruin cloaked nicked thoughts. Crepitation was casting aspersions in the woodwork’s frets and dips. Mildly wild with thwarted stomps, I was…or am…or could be. Then, of course, there was the crippling chatoyancy of mercy to contend with. Somewhere behind the curtains of my inhibition’s stage, formerly puckered vile lips shushed me.
“Quiet. Please. I can never remember Cecil B. DeMille’s name. I can think of his face, his bald pate, his gubernatorial presence, the way his puffy delicate hands sliced through black-and-white daydreams. But his name always eludes me. Even after I say it, it just doesn’t stick. Nothing internalizes. Just whiffs and wafts.”
A balance struck, another misstep of my consciousness in its rush to be at an equilibrium with the always-changing world that was being built with prevaricated fury upon it. The scent of just-trimmed tree branches laid claim to my olfactory reputation like borrowed cologne. Voices didn’t carry; they stayed and echoed on as if being played in rough unison on a piano with its damper pedal damaged by overuse and pressed all the way down.
“Speaking of hearing things: you’re distracted from the declination in your mind’s grade. The steamy thwack of another solid crack at being yourself. Mercy is only as bountiful as you make it, or as it’s made, in an infinite amount, per se, as electricity manufactured at just the right time for the lights in the high-wire act of your suffering. Lessen the cause, lessen the effect. Now. Go forth, decent-enough sir, and be kind if not holy about it.”
To sit here, glass of sprig water and cantaloupe rind at rest on the dusty sill, typing, checking the window for signs of death, messing around, really. Not much of a someone. Just your garden-variety hack, distracted and defunct. Cheered down. In love with a Bolshevik girl named Ana who can’t be counted on to relate the hour, but who’s relatable, just in less than a few ways. Damn it. The pool water is boiling. The wallpaper is stronger than all yellow chrysanthemums. I am no longer locking any doors.
“It’s like falling asleep to people softly speaking a language that you don’t understand. A lulled incomprehension that leads to no follow-up questions. The television’s at church.”
“The cameras here are all crooked. Some are planted beneath the floorboards. Some are hanging in trees. Peek around. The angles won’t add up.”
“Spill some of that over this a way, like an angel would, for one whom she loved.”
“What’s it you, Ma Damn? What is it to you?”
“Who. That’s who.”
Reeling forwards. A corny lob of body parts. Stirred. Chased. Straightened. It was damn windy out, late and later as it all went. I never could stand wind. Shadows were punches that kept getting pulled. I began to feel an internal burgeoning, some badgering of my better half that wound around me and then left me blown away and struck down, flat and beseeching and, sadly, innocuous too.
Recalling comes and recanting goes. I am part of what I am always halfway saying that I almost am. Perhaps there is a mistake here. But I am no longer concerned about who it is who is making it or who is not. Or if there even is a who to be in first place. I am all “or” for a time, said time which soon becomes forever, and then I am light and spooning “so on” into my sand salad. Why are there rats who lasso popcorn with their tails and quote Christopher Marlowe? But as mischief adds the salt, I am capable of only dull decision-making, crunching along on the gravel of a crocodile-skin-lined path, wondering if I am still capable of being myself.
In the throes of nightmare’s fighters, crueler than indifference makes a difference, I swallowed hard and wrestled with the ghosts of bishops and barbers. When I woke up I shouted out the date. Then I went back to sleep. Then it was lighter. I drew the shades. Then I opened them. The light was just another thing to no longer avoid. I walked around screaming the date: “Sunday, April 3rd!” It was nice out. It was horrible in. I took care when pouring vodka from a bottle labeled, “For Emergency Use Only!” into a tiny glass. I held the glass high. Raised it up; raised it down. Flinched twice. Drank it off cleanly. I shook my head and didn’t waver from my task. Poured another. I whispered, “Mission accomplished,” as I raised it. I drank that one down too. And then another. And then another. And then? Don’t worry about it. The flags are all blowing the wrong way, Your Heinous. Hold the standing ovations and those teary funeral eyes. I’m someone I’d never imagined could exist. I’m enlightened in a bare-knuckled sort of way. With skin like voile and breath as sweet as relish, I’m pushing my worst memories off skyscraper rooftops. I’m knighted with a giant swell of good new-fashioned magnanimity. I’m plucky and caring and careful about it too. I’m…about to puke. Okay. I’m through.