Author Archives: Sasan Beni
“What do you want me to tell you? You want me to say yes? Alright, if you like to hear words I can go on and on and…”
“Not all words.”
“They’re all the same when none of them are real.”
“I hate it when you talk about things.”
“That’s fair. I tend to…”
“Nothing makes sense. You just talk.”
“I just talk.”
“Don’t get mad Charlie, it’s what you do.”
“I’m not mad, it’s what I do. Excuse me sir, I tend to talk. I’m a talker. She hates what I do.”
“Charlie, stop,” she whispered with a smile.
“What’s your occupation sir?”
“What’s it to you kid?”
“Well, this girl and I were just talking. You see I’m a talker. It’s what I do. What do you do?”
“Curious kid eh?” said the man. “What I do for a living. Well, I’m married to a witch!”
“Really?” said Charlie.
“How do you think I lost all my hair?”
“Genetics maybe?” said Charlie.
The man ran his fingers across his mustache to the corners of his lips and reached for his drink. “No way, my father and his father had lots of hair. They had lots of hair.”
“My sympathies,” said Charlie.
“Charlie, don’t,” she whispered.
“It’s okay little lady. I like your friend. Say, what’s your name kid?”
“I’m Charlie. This is Alice. You come here often?”
“As often as I can get away.”
“I’m sorry sir, what was your name?”
“Just call me Buddy. Everybody calls me Buddy. Charlie…Curious Charlie; CC, Canadian Club…”
“That’s a good drink,” said Charlie.
“You’re a drinker too huh?”
“An occasional one,” he said.
“Everyday’s an occasion kid.”
“Well, in that case we should have one right now.”
“Hell, it suits me. How old are you kid? Ah forget it, it don’t matter.”
“I’m twenty two. She’s eighteen.”
“You’re eighteen? Damn!”
“That’s right, I’m eighteen.”
“I’m fifty two, and I’ve been with a witch for thirty years.”
“You were my age when you got married.”
“I was twenty when it happened.”
“So, you’ve been married for thirty two…”
“Well yeah, but I was in jail for a couple of years. What a witch!”
“Why do you call her that? You shouldn’t call her that,” said Alice.
“I’m just saying. Just saying some words,” he said.
“These aren’t nice words,” said Alice.
“Yeah, but they’re only words.”
“Don’t you love your wife?”
“Hell! Now I know for sure that you’re only eighteen! Do I love my wife? My wife…do I love…love….”
“You shouldn’t have to think that long,” said Alice.
“Love doesn’t make you stick to someone for thirty years. It’s fear, it isn’t love.”
They fell silent, all three of them. I was standing behind the bar with my arms crossed. The little TV was on in the corner and the place was empty. I was staring at the three of them and I could almost feel the silence between them. Buddy gulped down the rest of his drink and Charlie caught me staring. “Hey Frank, can you come here for a second?”
“What can I get you Charlie?”
“My friend, Buddy here will have a refill and I’ll have a shot of what he’s having and Alice here will…well, what would you like?”
“I’ll have a diet coke. Thank you.”
“Is that all?”
“That’s all Frank. Thanks a lot man. By the way, how’s your pops doing? Is he still in the hospital?”
“He’s getting out tomorrow.”
“That’s great Frank. Tell him I said hello.”
“I’ll go get you your drinks.”
“Plenty of ice,” said Buddy.
“Sure thing Buddy,” I replied and walked away.
I closed up at midnight. There were groups of people out in the parking lot; scattered glowing flames traveling in disoriented circles amongst them. There are people here always. It is at its emptiest early in the morning, and even then one can witness a few homeless men and a couple of cabbies sitting idle.
“Hey Frank!” A car pulled up beside me and Charlie’s voice took a hold of my collar. There was a girl sitting beside him who seemed to have bathed in perfume. I could smell it even before the car came to a stop next to me.
“Hey Charlie,” I said.
“How’s it going Frank?”
“I’m alright. You okay?”
“How was work?”
“Same as always,” I said.
“Frank, this is Jane. Jane, say hello to Frank.”
“Hello,” she said with a smile that resembled that of a bitter sixty year old.
“Get in Frank. We’ll drop you.”
“That’s alright. I’m going to walk it.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll give you a ride.”
“I’m serious. It’s alright Charlie.”
“Don’t worry about it Frank.”
I got inside the car and Charlie took off and swerved through the parking lot and out onto the street. The smell of perfume was slowly getting to me. “Do you guys hang out here often?”
“I know the scene but I’d rather be indoors. I came to pick up Jane. She likes to hang out with her psycho friends.”
“At least I got some friends,” said Jane.
“I have friends too. Hell, Frank’s my friend. Right Frank?” he said looking back at me and smiling.
“Yeah, we’re friends.”
“That’s right. I got plenty of friends.”
“Are you gonna come over tomorrow?”
“Only if your mom’s home,” said Charlie with a smirk.
“Yeah right,” she said. “They’re gone out of town. I invited some people. You can bring your friend Frank.”
“I don’t know about Frank,” he said, smiling and throwing me a glance in the rear view mirror. “I’ve got some things to do.”
“Whatever,” she said. “You never come.”
“I came tonight, didn’t I? I’ve got some things to do tomorrow. What about you Frank?”
“I’ve got work.”
“There you have it. He has to work. It’s what people do.”
“Whatever,” she said. Charlie smiled at me again in the rear view mirror and I shrugged my shoulders. It was silent in the car until we reached my apartment.
“Hey, thanks a lot Charlie.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“It was nice meeting you,” I said to Jane as I got out of the car. “Hey, do you guys want to come up for a bit? I mean if you don’t have to be somewhere.” Charlie gave me the same smile that I knew him by and threw Jane the slightest look from the corner of his eye. There came over us a swift and thin layer of silence.
“I don’t know Frank,” he said looking at Jane and continuing, “Do you want to go up?”
“I guess,” she said, taking me by surprise.
“Why the hell not!” said Charlie all of a sudden. “Do you have any whiskey Frank?”
“I’ve got some Canadian Club.”
“Canadian Club!” he exclaimed. “Good man! I’m gonna park the car.”
It was one of those things; one of those things that you do and turn away instantly. It was like throwing a rock in the air without wanting to see where it lands. It was like being someone else. Charlie knew it as well as I did, and so he played along.
Two hours later, they were gone. I remained awake for a while, reminiscing on high school. Drunkenly, I staggered down a narrow corridor of memory, to one night, one unexpected party, where Charlie and I had become friends.
Come to think of it, I never did learn a lot of what they tried to give me, but I managed to get my diploma. My mother was smiling again and my father eased into himself. That was right around the time that my sister had found a boyfriend. Everyone almost was filled with air and no more wanting.
“Frank? Can I come in?”
“The door is open,”
“I thought you were still asleep.”
“I’ve been up for a while.”
“How’re you feeling?”
“You went to sleep late again.”
“I was finishing a book.”
“A book about books,” I replied.
“That sounds interesting.”
“Oh, it was.”
“You really should get a new mattress or something.”
“This thing’s all lumpy and hard.”
“What is it Janice?”
“Paul’s birthday is tomorrow.”
“How is Paul?”
“He’s okay. Been pretty busy lately, applying to different colleges.”
“What does he want to go into?”
“Civil engineering,” she said. “He’s throwing a party tomorrow. He asked me to invite you and said that he’ll love it if you came. You haven’t made any plans, have you?”
“No,” I said and continued, “I don’t think I can make it though.”
“Why?” she said.
“I’m not a big fan of these things.”
“You have to come. Dad says I can go only if you come along.”
“Dad said that?”
“Yeah, you know how he feels about Paul.”
“What, he doesn’t like Paul?”
“Frank, don’t act like you don’t know. Dad hates all the guys from school.”
“I think you’re exaggerating Janice.”
“Whatever. All I know is that he hates Paul.”
“Why don’t you talk to mom? She’ll let you go.”
“Why can’t you just come? Why doesn’t anyone understand that I actually like this guy? Why can’t anybody see that he’s a nice guy?”
“I understand. Take it easy Janice. When is the party?”
“Who’s going to be there?”
“A whole bunch of people,” she said, “people from school, his friends and mine, his cousins; a whole bunch of people.”
“I’m sure if you talk to mom she’ll…”
“No Frank, I’ve talked to her already. You have to come.”
“I guess I’m coming then.”
There I was, drowned in the sound of music, watching everyone else jumping up and down and dancing. I had no idea that Paul had invited the entire school. Everyone was different though. Maybe it was just the fact that nobody had any books and a bell wasn’t about to ring.
“Hey Frank, why don’t you get up and dance with us?”
“Oh, I’m alright.”
“Come on Frank! Don’t be such a little girl! Come dance with us.”
“I’m really alright.”
“There’s booze in the kitchen. Feel free to help yourself,” said Paul as he winked at me and danced my sister away.
I nodded and that was it. They turned and moved amongst a crowd that swayed from side to side in the roar of music. I’m not a big fan of music that yells at you. I’ve got to hand it to them though, they really knew how to dance to it. It is fairly normal for a girl to be dancing by herself in a crowd, but not a guy. For the girl it echoes like a roar of confidence and strength; like a predator appearing to be vulnerable and desirable. For a guy it is merely weakness and desperation. He doesn’t show himself to be vulnerable. He truly is. But what do I know? I don’t even dance.
The kitchen was fairly small. Most of the space was taken up by a rectangular wooden table. There was a guy sitting there with a cigarette in between his fingers. He smiled at me but said nothing as I came in; something about his smile. There were a few bottles of liquor scattered on the counter and one in front of the guy behind the table. There was also a keg of beer in the corner of the kitchen.
“You’re Janice’s brother, right? You’re Fred, right?”
“Frank,” I said. “My name’s Frank.”
“My bad Frank, you know I’ve seen you around in school.”
“I don’t know. I don’t quite remember you.”
“Either way, my name’s Charlie,” he said, stretching out his arm and smiling.
Something about his smile told me that he was drinking but wasn’t drunk at all. It was in his eyes as well.
“What are you drinking?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“Care to join me?”
“Sure,” I said.
“There are glasses in the cupboard over there and ice in the freezer.”
“I don’t usually drink liquor.”
“There’s beer too if you like.”
“I was hoping I’d find some instant coffee.”
“Coffee?” he exclaimed with a laugh. “Why don’t you drink liquor?”
“It puts me to sleep.”
“You can make an exception, can’t you? Don’t worry, I’ll keep you awake. Here, sit down,” he said as he got up and pulled a chair out for me. I sat down and watched as he went over to the cupboard, grabbed a glass, filled it with plenty of ice and sat down again. He poured me a decent drink and placed the glass in front of me. “I’m not gonna offer you any cigarettes, ‘cause I know you don’t smoke.”
“How do you know that?”
“Smokers can always tell.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah, it’s nothing to be proud of. Smokers give off a vibe,” he said as he put out his cigarette in a crystal ashtray. “How do you like the party?”
“It’s alright, I guess.”
“Your sister is a hell of a dancer.”
“Yeah, she’s alright.”
“Girls nowadays,” he said with a sigh.
“What about girls nowadays?”
“I don’t know man. Everybody’s growing up faster.”
“How do you mean?”
“Ah forget it. It’s all the same. Tell me Frank, do you have a girl?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Lucky you,” he said.
“I used to go out with Kate. I don’t know if you know her.”
“Kate the blond?” he said, his eyes opening up a bit and his smile getting ready to burst.
“Yeah, you know her?”
“Crazy Katie,” he said and I began to laugh and so did he. “Why’d you go out with her?”
“I don’t know,” I said and shook my head several times as I took a small sip from my drink.
“You were bored, huh?”
“I guess so.”
“How long did that last?”
“A couple of weeks” I said.
“The shorter the better,” he replied quickly.
“It wasn’t anything serious.”
“It never should be. Girls are good,” he said, “but girlfriends, not so much.”
“That’s an interesting thought.”
“What do you say we go check out some girls?”
There were more people dancing now as we made our way through the living room, towards a set of couches that seemed to be calling me. Charlie sat down; actually he dropped himself and stretched out his feet before putting one up on the coffee table. Too many smiles and too many eyes hovered back and forth and around us. The kitchen had seemed just fine to me, even though I was there to keep an eye on Janice. “Get up Charlie! Dance with me Charlie!” said some girl as she approached us. She grabbed Charlie’s hand and on it went. “Please Charlie, I love this song!”
“Yeah, it’s a good song,” he said.
“Oh, come on then. Dance with me.”
“I would, but I don’t want to make anyone look bad.”
“I swear you’re such a punk Charlie!”
“Watching you dance is all I need sweetheart. I want to watch you. You really know how to do your thing, and I love to watch you do it.” I smiled instantly and noticed that he was looking at me from the corner of his eye. “Would you look at that!” he said, letting out a cough and clearing his throat excitedly. We both stared at her like some sort of live show. I wondered what her name was. “Nobody hates to smile,” he said.
“Sometimes there isn’t a choice.”
“There is always a choice Frank. All feelings aside; within all reality, reason tends to branch out.”
“I think I read that quote somewhere.”
“No, you just heard it, because I just said it.”
“Something very similar maybe,” I said as I ran my finger around the rectangular frame of my wrist watch, and for a moment I counted the seconds before he looked away. It was exactly six. I started to gaze again at the girl, struggling to stumble upon a name in those murky waters. The drink had begun to sink in. She was in a whole different world; gliding through clouds of paleness. She was probably numb to all the motion and the occasional bump-ins, let alone the drops of sweat sitting on her skin from the humid heat all around. She had skin of leather. Suddenly I was forced to blink. “It’s unbelievable how tremendously powerful we are. Everyone has the power to make people smile, no matter who they are. We’re all condemned to this power, and attached to this link.”
“What do you do Charlie? I mean, what is it that you’re into?”
“Is this an interview? Can I pour another drink?”
“I’m not stopping you,” I said.
“Look at you! All serious now,” he exclaimed. “You’re not gonna film this are you?”
“I don’t think anybody would want to see it.”
“Damn straight!” He burst with a laugh and continued, “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He got up swiftly, still looking at me and said, “Alright, hand me your glass partner!”
“Oh I’m alright. I still got some.”
“I’ll fill it up for you.” He walked away with the two glasses, making way causally through the people in the living room. “Partner…” I’ve always liked the word comrade better. There is more love in comrade. I leaned back and my eyes landed on Paul and Janice. He was sitting down on a chair and she was sitting on his lap. There were a few of their friends in front of them. Janice was laughing. It was nice seeing it. I feared Paul’s hands for a quick moment. It came as a surprise and I realized that I really shouldn’t care. It came and went, smearing a thick residue of stinking thoughts across my perfectly drunk state of mind. My drink was on its way. I even thought why it was taking so long.
There she was again, that same girl. She sat down next to me and said, “Are these your cigarettes?”
“No, they’re not mine. Charlie left them there,” I whispered for some reason. I don’t even think she heard me. But either way, she was going to have a smoke.
“Where is Charlie?”
“In the kitchen I think.” I stared at her skin closely while she was busy lighting a cigarette. Her eyes moved quickly across the room and she’d laugh at certain people and every now and then she’d sing along a line or two. I was still leaning back, watching her while playing with my watch.
“I love it!” Charlie yelled as he approached the couch. “Frankie, I see you’ve met the dancing angel!”
“You weren’t even watching me Charlie.”
“How do you know that? Your eyes were closed half the time,” he said as he handed me my drink and made me move a little so he could seat himself in between us. He put his arm around her and padded me a couple of times on my back as I was now leaning forward again. The iciness of the glass in my hand felt nice. “What are you doing, smoking?” he said to her. She only smiled and exhaled in slow motion a wave of smoke that traveled upwards in a ghostly fashion. “How many drinks have you had?”
“Take it easy Charlie.”
“How many drinks have you had?” he grabbed her arm and placed his drink down on the coffee table, and in one smooth motion, which I didn’t completely catch, he snatched the cigarette from in between her fingers.
“What’s wrong?” she said in a snappy voice.
“What did you do?” he moved closer and closer to her and it seemed as if he was tightening his grip, staring into her eyes and her face. “You’re all messed up! Look at you! I told you not to go near that crap!”
“It’s only one night Charlie.”
“Yeah, it’s always one night. Come on,” he shouted softly as he got up and pulled her by the arm.
“What are you doing?” she cried violently and tired to pull away.
“I just wanna talk to you,” said Charlie, and I’m sure he looked at everyone, who was staring at them, straight in the eye as he pulled her away out of the living room and into the kitchen. I took a long and comforting sip of my drink and it helped me to finally see what had happened. Some of the people dancing and standing around were talking now. The music was still yelling. Janice suddenly appeared to my right as she stumbled passed and laughed at her own dizziness. Paul grabbed her hands and they started to dance. I returned to the cold sweat on the glass in my hand. The ice had practically all melted. For some reason, the ice in my glass always melts faster than others. The couch had cloaked me within itself. Frozen still, my mouth partially open and gazing hypnotically at the glass, I barely even noticed when Charlie came back and sat down with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He downed his drink in a single gulp. “So, how’re you doing Frank? Not falling asleep on me now, are you?” he wasn’t even looking at me. He was scanning the room like a robot. His left leg was shaking gently and he was biting on the corner of his bottom lip.
“I’m fine,” I said.
“That’s good to hear,” he replied almost instantly. “Half the people here don’t know left form right. Most of the girls are…”
“What?” I interrupted.
“I don’t mean your sister!” he said just as quick as before.
“Probably my sister too,” I said, smiling and my teeth revealing the bitter stains of a sense of humor not so often seen. He was silent and he shook his head from side to side as he let out a sigh and reached for his cigarettes.
“Keep surprising me Frank. I wasn’t even going to come. You wanna know why I’m here?”
“Why is that?”
“Because I’m addicted to anger!” he said out loud. I mean really loud. “You know what I’m talking about; the adrenaline, the rush I get from the moment. Let me tell you something. Almost everybody here is addicted, but not to anything like this.” He was whispering now, going on and on with words that possessed open arms, which grabbed you and provoked a deep silent thought. “I know everyone here better than they know themselves. It isn’t that hard, is it Frank? It aint just me is it? I mean, if you look at these people, really closely, what do you see? Oblivious characters, bent up and twisted, inside some story, which is extremely simple altogether, am I right? You know what I hate? People that spend every miserable second of their natural lives pretending to listen, when in reality they’re all caught up with the thought of what to say next. So many shifty eyes around here; you start to notice them after awhile. They’re all after the same things. Around here, after awhile, people start sounding like a one sided tape. It’s good that you don’t come to these parties that often.”
“I’m not a big fan of these things.”
“You probably get your fix somewhere else, by yourself. Am I right?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you do? What’s your choice of temptation?”
“Nothing,” I replied, clearing my throat and sipping on my drink.
“Everybody does something.”
He poured himself a drink and raised his glass towards me, filling my glass ever so smoothly as I lifted my arm. “Salute,” he said and continued, “to Shakespeare!”
“Cheers,” I replied.
“To anyone who can see all the people and feel all the things and squeeze every breast!” he shouted. I couldn’t help but laugh. He laughed too, if only temporarily. “Goddamn,” he said, “I wonder where the hell Christina went.”
‘Girl with leather skin; she’ll be alright,’ I thought to myself. Charlie managed to smile for a bit, and everything about his smile was still the same. The corners of his eyes and the movement of his head however, partially revealed his intoxication. He was no longer just drinking. At one point he said something that I didn’t quite hear that well. I think I heard him say, “It’s hard being double.” I’m not sure. Maybe he said something else.
They sat me down and so it started. I had just woken up from a dream that was all too real, yet which I don’t remember. Either way, I was still caught up in the vibe and my eyes hadn’t yet fully returned to their sharp edge of focus. It was just the three of them; my father, my mother and her eldest brother, my bald headed uncle. “Come sit down,” said my father and my mother smiled and the bald man reached for his cigarettes as he downed the rest of his tea.
“You should have breakfast,” she said and I refused with the shaking of my head.
“It’s too late now,” said my father and continued instantly, “Might as well wait to have lunch.” I nodded my head gently in agreement and tried to keep hidden the primitive yawn within me.
“You went to sleep late,” my uncle said.
“I would have too, if I’d been on the phone for three hours,” said my father. I smiled in agreement but said nothing. “So,” he said, “you must’ve had a very interesting conversation.”
“Paul, please,” she said and my father turned to her and she made a face that said, “Take it easy,” or something of the sort.
“What?” he said. “I just want to know what it was that really kept him awake. It must’ve have been one hell of a conversation, right John?” I still said nothing and my hollow smile faded away ever so quickly and my eyes fell to the floor. “Well John?”
“Well what?” I replied, clearing my throat.
“How is she?”
“What were you talking about last night?”
I threw a glance at my uncle and mother, and I knew that their silence belonged to that moment alone. They were most likely singing their brains out before I came out of my room. The head speaker is always Paul; the man behind every item in the house, the man who lives life within the realm of reason and thought and cherishes whatever happens to make money or energy. Yes, my father. He’s the chairman at our family conferences; brilliant man altogether, really.
“Well John, what were you and her talking about?”
My mother’s eyes were half open and she kept shaking her head while her hands were locked together on her lap. “We were talking about you.” My smile came back, although it was no longer of the same kind; it was still a smile nevertheless. My words made him lean back and he let out a sigh as he began to play along.
“Talking about me,” he said. “What did she have to say?”
“Nothing much,” I replied instantly. “She said nothing.”
“You were on the phone all night long and she said nothing?”
“Nothing about you,” I said and continued, “We were trying to talk with silence.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” he said and the look I had provoked within his eyes reminded me of a couple of years back and my imprisonment.
“We only want to help you John,” she said. “There are lots of girls out there, girls that come from respectable families, girls with jobs and responsibilities that are well mannered and…”
“Ok hold on,” I interrupted, “Is she, what this is all about? You’re heavily mistaken. You think I’m in love with her? That’s absurd.”
“I told you,” said my uncle as he put out his cigarette. My father looked over at him quickly and turned back to me as I let out an abrupt laugh.
“I still have a lot of questions John.” I shrugged my shoulders and raised my hands and tilted my neck, all so rhythmically, trying desperately to keep my smile where it was. “I still have a lot of questions,” repeated Paul. “For example, what advantages does this relationship offer you? You can’t see this person or be with her physically, because she is half way across the world. It’s fair to say that neither of you see anything from one another’s daily life nor do you know anything about each other, except for your voices.” He paused for a moment, as if devouring the silence in between my mother and uncle with pleasure and continued, “It’s merely nothing but a long distance and expensive relationship built on nothing but words. I’ve been trying to figure it out for a while now John. As an old man who attempts to be extremely modern, I have tried and tried to understand your way of thinking and I feel that I’ve failed. There’s no doubt that I could’ve succeeded, similar to every other challenge in my life. There’s no help from you. You shut every door there is and close your eyes on everybody around you. Well I’m damn tired! You hear me? Stop looking at the ground!”
I looked up at him, but only for a split second and my eyes flew over to the silent brother and sister that were sitting next to each other; my mother with her hands still locked together smiled depressingly and my uncle was running his hand back and forth on the few hairs upon his head. “So,” I said, “how long were you guys at it?”
“Don’t get smart with me John.”
“I was talking to the silent crowd.”
“We’re worried for…”
“Who the hell do you think you are? Huh? I’ll tell you. You’re nobody, nothing; a lazy sac of crap with nothing to show. You want to know why? It’s because you haven’t done shit!”
“Paul Please,” my mother interrupted.
“Hold on,” he said, stretching his arm out towards her with his index finger raised. “I just want to know; at what point in time did you get the idea that you were such an important being? That’s all I want to know. When did you get such an absurd thought in your tiny hollow brain?”
“Paul, you promised,” she said and added, “John, sweetheart, we want the best for you. Don’t take your father’s words to heart. We’ve all been very worried and we all love you so very much.”
I turned my head towards her again, this time slowly. She smiled and there was somewhat of a glitter inside her eyes. “I think it’s best if you just stay silent,” I said, scratching my head with my right hand while my left was inside my pants pocket pricking the side of my leg. “You sound like some mother in a soap opera. I’m not a goddamn drug addict for god sake!”
“Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad,” said Paul and I heard my uncle sigh and his hand was still running on top of his head. For some reason, I couldn’t curse. It wasn’t at all out of respect. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, so instead I turned back to look at my father and squinted my eyes and as I turned away I kissed my teeth and shook my head. ‘The game’s over,’ I thought. “Give me your cell phone,” he said.
“Paul, I don’t think that’s necessary,” said my mother.
“If it was up to you, nothing would be necessary. Give me your phone.” I smiled as I got up, finally finding it in me to look him directly in the eyes and stare. “Keep smiling,” he said, “Keep smiling you selfish piece of crap! What the hell is the matter with you?”
“There wasn’t any matter until I woke up.”
“You didn’t wake up!” he shouted. “I’ve been trying to wake you up. You’ve been drowning and I’ve been trying to pull you out. I wouldn’t be making jokes if I were you, Mr. Knowitall!”
I walked away and into my room. My cell phone was on my desk, on top of a copy of “The Clown” by Heinrich Boll. I saw my cigarettes and I swear they winked at me and assured me that everything would fall again. I smiled as I came back out into the living room and handed Paul my phone. He grabbed it and tossed it impartially to his side. “I’m not going to pay for you to talk on the phone anymore. Matter of fact I’m not going to pay for you to do anything and quite frankly, I’m not going to give a crap what you do and how you live. Those days are over John. Nobody is going to want anything from you anymore, especially me. Nothing whatsoever,” he exclaimed, making the last two words and the point clear with his hands raised towards me.
“Are we done?”
“You’re never going to care are you?”
“I only care for this to be done.”
“You’re always going to be so selfish, aren’t you?
The truth is, I’d seen much worse in the past and a whole lot more was yet to come. But when I came back into my room, I swear to god, my cigarettes told me that everything would fall again and that ultimately, nothing ever really mattered.
“What the hell is the matter with me?”
“Ah, you’re alright. Don’t stress it.”
“No man, I want to know! Tell me.”
“You shouldn’t think about it so much. You’ve got to look ahead. What’s your next move? You know?”
“I can’t predict anything anymore. Not after tonight.”
“Do you want a cigarette?”
“What? No, I thought I told you, I don’t smoke.”
“It seems like a pretty decent time to start.” Roger laughed and placed his face in his hands as he leaned forward. Donald lit his cigarette, sitting casually with his legs stretched out and his left arm resting on the back of the bench. He let out his first drag with a sigh and said, “It’s a calm night.”
“Not so pleasant, but yeah sure, it’s calm.”
“Come on Roger, let me enjoy the moment, will you? Just relax man. Do you want a beer?”
“You have beer on you?”
“You’ve still gotta get to know me my friend,” said Donald with a laugh as he bent down to his side and grabbed his bag.
“What else do you keep in that thing?”
“This bag is my protection.”
“Protection against what?” said Roger.
“Forget about it. I’ve had this bag since my school days. It’s been my most faithful friend when I come to think of it.” He handed Roger a beer and shortly after he opened his own. They saluted each other with their cans and took their first sips. A fragile silence then fell between them like frost in between two blades of grass. Roger was still leaning forward and staring at his feet.
“I don’t understand it Don.”
“Listen, I don’t know what to say to you man. Nobody ever comes to me to talk. Just stop stressing yourself. You’re human. You snapped; everybody snaps every once in a while. It’s normal. The ones that never snap are the ones to look out for.” Donald took a sip of his beer as he finished his cigarette and dedicated the end of it to the field of grass in front of them. “Why are you getting so worked up over some girl anyways? Is it the real thing? You love Katie?”
“She’s not just some girl man.”
“Whatever,” said Donald abruptly and added after taking another sip, “is Katie the real thing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Ah forget about it,” said Donald.
“I don’t know why I thought there was some other guy. I’d been thinking it for a while. You’re right, I snapped. But I just don’t know why.”
“So what, you’re a paranoid guy!” Donald exclaimed. “Everybody’s paranoid in this day and age. You can’t trust anyone or anything, because everything changes and sooner or later, it turns against you.”
“What’re you saying? We’ve got to live alone all our lives?”
“You don’t have to live alone. You just have to know that you are alone.” Donald lifted his can along with his eyebrows and kissed his teeth while smiling at Roger. They both drank and a few moments were spent in silence when Donald said, “That’s the bitter truth my friend.”
“You give great advice,” said Roger as he tried to smile.
“You should wait till I’m an old man!”
“It’s great being able to talk to you, even though we don’t know each other that well.”
“I’d say we know each other well enough that we’re hanging out like this.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“That’s it,” said Donald as he fell silent into his can of beer.
“You should’ve seen her crying. She was a mess. I’ve never seen anyone cry like that.”
“Why was she crying?”
“I’m an idiot Don. I was yelling at the poor girl for god knows how long. I should never have accused her.”
“Like I said, you’re human, and paranoid.”
“It’ll never be the way it was.”
“Sure it will,” Donald exclaimed, “and if it doesn’t, life will…”
“Katie’s all I have right now man.”
“Can I tell you something Roger, straight up?”
“Sure thing Don.”
“Let her go.”
“Just let her go,” Donald repeated. “It’s not worth it man.”
“I love Katie.”
“I’m sure that you do, but what about her? Lets say that both of you are deeply in love with each other; is that all that matters? It’s all up and down and back and forth all the time. You shouldn’t care so much.”
“Haven’t you ever felt for someone?”
“Of course I have,” Donald exclaimed and added quickly, “I’m not a goddamn robot Roger. I’ve been in love before, several times. I’ve wasted time for love. There is no absolute truth my friend and love, well, it comes and goes. Are you really in love with Katie, or are you just in love with being in love? See now, that’s what my problem was. Slowly I’ve reached the thought that I’m going to love either way. You should enjoy every day, within reality.”
“You should open up a help line!”
“You think so?” Donald laughed.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Roger somewhat excitedly. “You could have your own studio where people come to share their troubles with you over beers and smokes.”
“That’d be something,” said Donald as he lit another cigarette and just about finished the rest of his beer. “I told you, I’m not the type to give advice. I don’t enjoy doing it.”
“Just tell me what I should do. I can’t think about letting her go. I really need her Don.”
“How do you know that?”
“I feel it,” said Roger.
“You need love my friend, not Katie. Love is everywhere.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“I am right,” said Donald. “Katie’s not the end Roger. Everything changes, even love.”
“She’s been so great to me. I don’t know why I came down on her like this.”
“Love can become the most selfish web at times. You should move on Roger. One day you’ll laugh at how stupid you were and the time will never come back. We should enjoy it as it turns around. Shouldn’t we? Am I wrong Roger?”
“I understand what you’re saying.”
“Whether you stay with Katie or not, whether or not you both love each other, everything will still turn and change. Life never stops for love, or anything else for that matter.”
“I hope she’s alright.”
“Oh she’ll be fine and so will you.”
“I begged her to stay, but she cried and left. I hate to make people cry.”
“Crying always makes me laugh. It brings out a whole different look in people.”
“I hope she’s asleep. I hope she forgets everything I said to her tonight.”
“She probably will, in time.”
“I don’t want to lose her.”
“You probably won’t.”
They left the bench and the field of grass as they walked in sheer silence down the street. Donald was smoking yet another cigarette, holding his head up high while exhaling his habit. Roger took calculated steps and continued to stare at his feet. They approached his building and stopped by the front door. “You should take it easy Roger. Get some rest. It’s a new day!”
“Thank you Donald, for everything.”
“Ah, don’t thank me. I’m here for you pal.”
“Everything will be alright.”
“Damn right it will,” Donald exclaimed. “Take it easy.”
“Yeah you too,” said Roger as they shook hands and he watched Donald as he walked away towards the bus stop. Just about half an hour later, Donald arrived to his basement hole of a home, where Katie had long been sound asleep.
She was a fine piece of ass,
With the most confident tits I’ve ever seen!
I’d be thankful later on,
I guess thankful is the word; thankful for the sex,
And thankful for her body, filling up my time spent.
There was smoke,
As in every scene that I play my role,
And her speech was high,
And her limbs let loose,
But her eyes were safe;
The pair she had stolen from an Owl,
She had a pair of Owl’s eyes,
As round as despair, and made to pity…
They will probably say, “He was rarely the quiet one.”
But I want them to say, “He usually kept to himself,”
And I want them all to say, “There was always music playing in his room,
All kinds of music…
“He always spoke of a few faces that he knew,
And he carried in his walk, a whole other continent; not to mention,
He was usually calm in the winter.”
I want the store owner to say, “He was a polite young man,
Always quick with his shopping,”
And I want the doctor to say, “He tried to be funny with his words,
Living in his fields of pain,”
I’m so very sure that my barber will say, “He never really cared for his hair,
Bunch of dead cells, he used to call it.”
I want the pizza delivery guy to say, “I knew him,
He was generous and extremely fond of mushrooms, yeah I knew him.”
Deep down inside, I want them all to say, “We saw it coming,
He was troubled in some ways, and now that he’s gone,
What can we say?”
I feel the pain of every piece of paper,
People praise the pen,
A picture portrayed, a photograph,
Of a patch of grass, an earthly path,
Present always, inside my mind,
I’m in a place, poised with peace,
I no longer feel the power,
But I feel for the pain of paper,
and so I pledge to the peaks of poems,
As I pace in line,
Soon to reach a practiced prose,
Save me this white land,
I have been here before,
And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
They asked me to hell,
“Welcome! Welcome!” I was welcomed well…
A few days and nights, a room was set,
A miniature wooden desk,
A board of a bed, from which sleep had long drifted off…
They admired me, everyone that I met there,
And I was given the creamiest of chocolate ice creams;
Astounded by the taste with flying eyes,
I asked what it was and from where…?
They laughed; a few hands stroked my face,
I was told it was time for sleep.
What a great hotel!
So many people of many stories; no matter what you want to hear,
I’ve got a story to tell…
This right here feels similar,
To the last line of some story that I read,
The finishing credits of some movie.
This right here is my haven of faces,
It is my shrine of solitude.
Every time I enter my room,
John and Yoko wish me merry Christmas,
And they tell me that war is over but only if I want it.
On the other side, Sartre is puffing on his pipe
And his eyes seem to be judging Dali by the flowers on his mustache.
Brando is the Wild One to me still,
And he stares at me from behind his motorcycle.
This right here, is what has made Borges fall asleep in his library,
He looks peaceful, and above him,
Camus is wide awake, alert as he asks me for a light,
And Picasso is playing with his food staring at cubes in the corner.
Alfred has crossed his arms and there’s a crow upon his knee,
While he’s staring at me,
This right here is how,
I’ve come to fill the void of not being who I am
Frank constantly keeps telling me to do it My Way,
And The Beatles believe that love is all I need,
And it seems that Bob Marley tends to agree.
Hemingway’s drowned in work,
And I try not to disturb him or Dickens, sitting behind his desk.
Carver is here, and he looks all too serious for me to joke with,
And so, I look passed and drift to Marquez, oh Marquez!
I can always rely upon your smile.
I can always hear Malraux saying,
“There’s always a need for intoxication,”
Well, this right here is mine.
She’s far too cool to be played,
And she’s far too smooth to stay the same,
Look at her now,
Little skinny Sara is no longer shy,
Much like everyone else, she’s learned to lie,
She used to paint, rivers and lakes,
Majestic mountains, she had never seen.
Look at her now, no longer afraid of hate.
Somehow, little skinny Sara is a woman now,
Constantly counting her numbers and flipping through invitations,
Keeping all eyes where she wants them,
She’s far too cool.
Somehow, I can’t understand it,
All the things we do, and how we change, just trying not to be alone.
“Come on in,” said the Doctor. Vincent walked into the room, brushing his wavy brown hair back and closed the door quickly behind him.
“Hello Doctor Kowalski,” he said as he stood motionless for a moment.
“Come on in. Have a seat. It’s Vincent right?”
“Yes it is sir. My name is Vincent Miller,” he said, approaching the doctor’s table, slowly stretching his hand out towards him.
“You have a hell of a handshake.” The doctor exclaimed smiling. “Please sit down. It is such a treat to meet you; the son of a great writer.”
“Yes, yes” Vincent replied as he sat down and cleared his throat. “My father is of course Joseph Miller.”
“I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him. I have seen your mother a couple of times and she’s told me a whole lot about you.”
“She speaks very fondly of you,” said Vincent.
“She’s very kind,” said the doctor. “I’m glad that you decided to meet me.”
“Well, sure,” said Vincent and added hesitantly, “I must say, I don’t know where to go from here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, she’s been on my case to come see you for a while. Now that I’m here, I don’t know what comes next.”
The doctor let out a laugh as he leaned back in his leather chair behind his desk. He was a fat man with lovable cheeks that revealed many intriguing wrinkles whenever he smiled or laughed from his gut. “You’re here so we can get to know each other.”
“That’s fair,” Vincent replied.
“I want you to tell me about yourself.”
“How many ears are in on this?”
“I mean, is it just us?”
“Well of course,” said the Doctor as he smiled. “What you say will stay here.”
“So it’s just us and the walls.”
“And of course my desk,” said the Doctor jokingly.
“I’m not sure if desks hear anything, but I’m certain that walls do.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Desks are soft and moody. They’re good for writing on,” said Vincent looking directly at the Doctor’s wooden table. “Words and emotions cling onto the walls. That’s how every room tells a story.”
“That’s actually very interesting. Do you really believe it though?”
“To be honest, I just made it up.”
“Clever,” said the Doctor. “Would you like to sit by the window?”
“Sure,” said Vincent.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said the Doctor as he seated himself in a leather sofa, ever so casually stretching his legs out. Vincent sat down across from him, while observing constantly the trees and the streets below. “Your mother gave me one of your stories to read. You write very articulately and you have so many comedic insights. How long have you been writing?”
“Since I was a kid,” Vincent replied.
“Personally, I think your story was brilliant.”
“My mother gave it to you to read?”
“That’s right,” said the Doctor. “She said you’re a fine young writer. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, is what I told her.”
“I guess so,” said Vincent. “Thank you Doctor.”
“I’m guessing from your story that you smoke.”
“Yes, and I’m guessing that my mother told you all about my habits long before she gave you the story.”
“That’s true. Why do I feel that you’re offended by this?”
“I’m not offended at all. I just feel that she has told you a lot of what she knows and all about who I am. As a result, we can skip a whole lot of introductory talk. I know my mother.”
“I know that you do,” said the Doctor. “Your mother has lots of love.”
“Yes, yes she does.”
“So there’s absolutely nothing wrong at all?”
“There probably is. There always is, isn’t there?”
“Can I ask you something Vincent?”
“Of course Doctor,” he replied.
“Will you answer me truthfully?”
“Of course I will.”
“How often do you make things up?”
“That all depends on how often I feel the need to be somewhere else.”
“Where would you want to be?”
“I don’t know. I mean, there are a lot of places I haven’t been.”
“So you plan on traveling.”
“I wouldn’t mind seeing some places.”
“Who would you take with you on your travels?”
“Why would I take anyone?”
“Oh I’m just guessing,” said the Doctor as he cleared his throat and continued, “I figured you to have a girlfriend if not a bunch of them.”
“Why would I take my girlfriend?”
“I don’t know,” said the Doctor and added quickly, “Lots of people travel with their girlfriends or lovers.”
“Lots of people travel alone as well,” Vincent replied instantly.
“I suppose you’re right. But isn’t it more fun to be with your girlfriend when you’re traveling the world?”
“Fun,” said Vincent. “It is fun, there’s no doubt about it. It’s great to have that fun as company while you’re flying all across the world, but you can’t have all the other stuff.”
“What other stuff?”
“When you want to fly all around, every day of the week will quickly seem the same even though your mobile world keeps changing from the inside out. Traveling turns foggy all the meaning and depth within a relationship, but there always is that fun. Wherever you go, you can find that fun and it won’t mean a thing.”
“Do you feel the need to be somewhere else right now?”
“Perhaps,” Vincent replied.
“How often do you feel like that at home?”
“I don’t know, every once in a while, everyone wants to get away.”
“Have you been up north?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“I would love to see it for myself.”
“It’s the perfect place to take your girlfriend. There’s a lot of space and a lot of quiet for having fun!”
Vincent laughed as he turned his look to the window for a moment and stretched his arms upwards and behind his head. He leaned back comfortably and let out a sigh. “I have yet to meet a girl who isn’t a fan of city life.”
“Ah, you’re only nineteen my friend! Tell me, what’s her name?”
“Your girlfriend’s name,” said the Doctor. “What is her name Vincent?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend doctor. I’ve had a few, one not very long ago.”
“What are you going to tell me; that you’ve lost faith in it all?”
“That’s exactly what I was going to say.”
“Well, like I said before, you’re only nineteen.”
“I’m not a branch hopper Doctor Kowalski.”
“That’s not what I think of you Vincent, but please continue. What do you mean?”
“I’m not the type who chases girls. I don’t jump from emotion to emotion whenever I get tired. I’ve come to realize that love lives and dies much like all else. All that stuff spoken about in poems and romantic verses of the past has long been a fantasy. It was a fantasy then and it’s a fantasy now; a fantasy that fulfills a great need. There’s no way around it.”
“Don’t you think romance is beautiful?”
“Sure I do,” replied Vincent. “I’m probably a romantic at heart.”
“Yes, I believe you are.”
“It’s funny,” said Vincent, his eyes falling still into a blurry gaze. “There was this girl; a friend of a friend. I’ve seen her plenty of times, but I’ve never really spoken with her. I’ve never stumbled upon what it is about her that nests her within my thoughts, all day long. Something in her smile, something about her eyes and the way she moves, attracts my brain from so far away. My brain, Doctor Kowalski…For the first time it’s the other way around.”
“I know what you mean. Usually it’s the heart that injects the mind with love.”
“My heart is satisfied with everything.”
“Is that true?”
“I’m quite sure.”
“Carelessness isn’t satisfaction.”
“I’m not careless,” Vincent exclaimed. “I just rather not pursue certain emotions anymore. Am I not allowed to declare this in my actions, or my words? What if, at any point in time I feel to have seen enough of the same scene? What if I’ve sincerely reached the conclusion that it’s not for me?”
“That isn’t the most important decision to be made,” said Doctor Kowalski. “A much better question to ask is, ‘What do you want?’ What drives you Vincent? Once you realize what that is, it becomes much easier to focus on acquiring all the necessary items and luxuries that will help you reach what you want in the long run.”
“You’re right,” said Vincent. “Who was your favorite character?”
“In your story?” said the Doctor, smiling as he started to think. “If I were to choose one, I’d say, the grandmother.”
“Wow,” said Vincent and added with a laugh, “Nobody likes the grandmother, you wouldn’t either Doctor, if you got to meet her.”
“Are all of your characters based on people that you know?”
“Pretty much all of them,” Vincent replied.
“So you don’t just make everything up as you go along.”
“No, I’m not able to do so because everything I write has already been made up.”
“So you don’t believe in self control?”
“No Doctor, I’m all about control. I control my emotions. That’s what I’ve been saying. I control them and I try to hold my words.”
“So that’s your way around it! I guess you’re right Vincent. Personally I still think you should approach the girl you keep thinking about.”
“Is that so?” said Vincent.
“I think you’re better off that way.”
“Maybe I will.”
“You should,” said the Doctor excitedly. “Like I said before, you’re only nineteen!”
“I should be going now,” said Vincent after having looked at his watch over and over again.
“You know, you’re my last session today. How about some coffee? If you want you can stay a little longer to talk.”
“Thanks a lot Doctor,” said Vincent, as he stood up slowly and pressed his index finger to the side of his head and added, “In my mind, I already stepped out the door.”
“Well then, bon voyage Vincent!” he shouted with a laugh from his gut as he shook his hand. “You’ve got a hell of a handshake kid.”
“Your handshake is never really important when you’re ‘the son of a great writer,’” said Vincent as he walked over to the door.
“Oh Vincent, before you go,” said the Doctor. “How come your story doesn’t have a title?”
Vincent shrugged his shoulders, threw up his eyebrows and tilted his head slightly to the right. “I don’t know Doctor, but I’ll make something up.”