Category Archives: Stories
“If they’re open, I’m going to kiss someone,” he muttered, walking up the deserted street, his voice rumbling in his chest like that of Tom Waits. He lit a cigarette, taking steps slowly, and slowly piecing together their first night spent at the cottage, and the rain that had so subtly crept upon them in their drunken stupor.
It was exactly seven. Who knew when the rest of his party would rise…? Didn’t matter though, they’d be asleep for a while, and hopefully the store would be open, and he could grab a coffee and a newspaper. Along the way, up the deserted street in Sauble beach, his eyes flew about, leaping from crow to seagull to robin, from chirp to chirp and caw to caw; he thought, “All fucking birds are early birds!”
He sighed; or let’s just say that he exhaled his cigarette smoke. He smiled, or better to say that his insides woke, and his eyes grew wider, knowing that he hadn’t been walking without a purpose. The store was open.
A couple of old men, sitting on the bench in front, didn’t even notice him, or so it seemed. It seemed that out there, in the deserted town, life hovered by in utter calm; out there, life was the subtlety of the midnight fog. He thought, “This town belongs to early birds!” and he smiled. It had been a while since he had smiled with such sincerity at something so simple. In the city, it would’ve been too early for such nonsense.
Toronto Star, cup of coffee…He stared at the cashier, smiling still, perhaps even smiling a wider smile, proud of himself and the early birds inside him. He cleared his throat a couple of times, but Tom Waits rumbled still in his chest, as he said, “Walking here I told myself, if the store is open, I’m going to kiss someone!” The lady chuckled, but that was it. She wasn’t interested in his story; cloaked in Toronto from head to toe…She wasn’t interested, she asked nothing. It was too early for conversation perhaps. Perhaps, the thought of a kiss from Tom Waits frightened her. Who knows…?
Newspaper under the arm and coffee in hand, he walked to the beach; or better to say, he hovered back, from crow to seagull to robin, from chirp to chirp and caw to caw. He hovered to the alien beach where lingering flashbacks awaited him. The birds knew all too well, and they might’ve told him as he hovered back, but he’d never know.
“They all just want somebody. Everyone has the same thing…”
“Same thing?” she interrupted, “You make it sound like a disease.”
“It is! It is a disease!” he exclaimed. They drank. He let out his usual theatrical laugh and quickly added, “No…Not a disease.”
His fingers were squirming worms looking for more and more words, and his eyes lowered in the search as well. He said, “It’s just, I see the same things in everyone. I see how haunting loneliness is for them. Everyone wants somebody, and in most cases, it doesn’t matter who. They just want somebody, anybody…” He paused. Hunger had tiptoed back again; a sip of wine to his growling gut…He went on to say, “I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Maybe ‘cause it’s all around us. Everyone has it. And I’ve lost myself while thinking about it, and at times, I aint got a clue what to make of it, and I have been judgmental, looking at them and running my fingers briefly across the haunting fabric that is their solitude. Now I think, it must be love…it has to be…”
“Right,” she said, smiling as she brushed back his wavy hair, in disarray from his semi-drunken rant.
“It has to be love, some kind of true love! Or I guess, better yet, it’s wanting love; wanting love beside you. Wanting it! Who doesn’t want it? It’s love, right? But, you look around, and lots of people these days, wobbling here and crawling there, on the edge of busting with love, for their loneliness is damp and heavy with time. They want somebody, anybody! They can love anyone, and most of them will, gliding from one set of eyes to the next, ready to plunge over and over for any flower that may or may not present itself. They have so much love that they really have no choice…”
There’s no doubt that he could’ve gone further and further, the words would’ve come along the way; his rant would’ve grown with his intoxication…Neither his tongue or the wine would’ve let him down. He could’ve gone on and on…It’s unclear what made him stop. He leaned back; or better to say, he sank softly into himself, in the euphoric air of purple pillows and wavy hair.
“Are you okay love?”
“You have the most incredible ears!” he exclaimed.
“Thanks,” she laughed, brushing her own hair back this time.
“Something in your eyes as well,” he whispered. “It’s as if your eyes have hands and fingers…No,” he said firmly, “Thank you sweetheart, for listening…”
“And… I think we’re done with the wine for tonight!” She laughed…She laughed…The word ‘tonight’ echoed back and forth, back and forth…
“She has the most incredible ears, and there is something in her eyes as well…That’s when I knew how much she loved me…how she’d listen,” he whispered, suddenly gasping into the sound of his own voice and the emptiness he was talking to. Empty alien beach of lingering flashbacks; the lake also possessed incredible ears. The sea, our distant home, knows all too well, the trails and tides that we carry, deep down inside; the flows and falls of living life and wanting to be loved.
“I still can’t believe it,” she said.
“Same here,” he said, putting his arm around her.
“Everything was going so well for him.”
“I hate funerals,” he said, letting out a small cough and continuing, “Seeing his sister was devastating.”
“Poor Stella,” she said.
“I hate having to wear all this black. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Poor, poor Stella,” she said.
“When do you have to be home?”
“Do you think they’ll catch the guy?”
“I don’t know. I hope they do.”
“They usually catch them right?”
“I think so.”
The sky had cleared up through the course of the day. Bobby and Alice spent a couple of hours at the park next to the funeral home. An old man circled around a soccer field with his dog a few paces ahead of him and a small group of guys were passing around a soccer ball. It was a beautiful day. “When do you have to be home?”
“Right now,” she said, pressing herself ever so gently into his side and making him tighten his arm around her.
“We should get going.”
“I don’t feel like going home.”
“I know. I don’t want you to get in trouble.”
“It’s okay. I’d rather stay here.”
“What would your mom do if she found out you were with me?”
“She’d yell, and curse and probably forbid me to go out.”
“I never thought anybody hated me that much.”
“Janice was eyeing me the whole time.”
“What do you mean?”
“She wouldn’t stop looking at me. I had this bad feeling.”
“I don’t know; a bad feeling. There was something about her look. I think she’s jealous of us.”
“Yeah that’s probably it. We should get going Alice.”
“Never leave me Bobby.”
“You know I won’t,” he said.
As soon as he got home, he changed and threw his suit and tie into the closet, hoping never to see them again. Nobody was home. There was a note on the fridge, which read, “Dear Bobby, I’ve gone to Bill and Charlene’s place. I left you some food on the stove. Warm it up and enjoy. Mom…”
Bobby turned on the television and sat there until he fell asleep. He often fell asleep on the couch.
“Hey sweetheart, how are you?”
“It was an awful day,” said Bobby.
“It’s a tragedy. Poor parents,” she sighed. Bobby nodded his head and sat up.
“When did you get home?
“Just now,” she said.
“What time is it?”
“It’s eleven, I think,” she replied as she went into her room. Bobby got up slowly, yawning and stretching out his arms and back. He entered his room and shut the door. The sound of his cellular phone made him jump a little. He grabbed it quickly. There was a text message. ‘Hey, you looked pretty good today. Why can’t you dress sharp all the time? It was nice seeing you. Janice.” Sitting down on the edge of his bed, Bobby read the message a few times.
Staring down at the street below, he saw a police car cruising slowly. It was a beautiful night. When he sat back down he called her. “Hey.”
“Good evening,” she said.
“I just wanted to thank you for the message.”
“Why didn’t you just message me back?”
“My fingers are hurting.”
“You dialed my number didn’t you?”
“I have you on speed dial.”
“I don’t know…”
“What number am I?”
“Four,” he said and cleared his throat.
“What was that?”
“The cough,” she replied.
“What about it?”
“Forget it,” she said calmly. “Four is a good number.”
“I like six better.”
“Who’s number six?”
“Allen,” he whispered.
“You’re not gonna call him anymore.”
Bobby ran his hand up and down his chest and closed his eyes for a moment. All he could hear was Janice breathing over the phone. “Where are you?”
“In my room,” she said.
“Do you wanna go for a walk?”
“Don’t you ever get any sleep Bobby?”
“I already slept. Come on, you wanna come?”
“I don’t think so baby,” she said jokingly with a low tone, trying to imitate a guy. “You’re welcome Bobby.”
“For what?” he asked.
“The message,” replied Janice. “You wanted to thank me, so you’re welcome.”
“I’m telling you, it’s a nice night.”
“A nice night for what?” exclaimed Janice. “You can come over if you like but I’m not going outside.”
“Alright,” he said.
“So, are you coming?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“I’ll give you some time.”
“You know what I was thinking today Janice? I was remembering when I first met you in grade ten, how you’d never stop smiling or laughing. Nothing ever seemed to destroy you. It’s still the same. Still today, sometimes you’re a mystery to me.”
“I do what I can,” said Janice.
“No, you do more. Both of us know you do more.”
“What does this all mean Bobby?” said Janice as delicately and deliberately as she possibly could.
“I don’t know. I was just thinking about back in the day.”
“Oh yes, the good old days!” said Janice.
“Whatever,” Bobby replied.
“Listen, lots of things are happening right now. Good things and bad things, and all these things that are actually all the same. You know what I mean? Everything’s changing and life goes on. That’s just how it is and it’s beautiful. You’ve gotta love it, and if you can’t, then that’s too bad. Better get used to it, because that’s how it really is. Nothing else matters.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Nothing does,” said Bobby in a whisper. “Do you believe in God Janice?”
“Of course, I speak to God!”
“Is that right?”
“Whenever I’m feeling really lonely, I talk to him. I don’t ask him for anything. I just talk to him.”
“So that’s what you do on your spare time.”
“Yeah, what do you do?”
“Nothing,” said Bobby.
“No, you talk to me,” she said.
“You can go to sleep Janice. I don’t want to keep you up.”
“How’s your girlfriend?”
Bobby paused in silence for a quick moment and said, “Growing up slowly.”
“Oh Bobby,” Janice laughed. “I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad.”
“You’re a greedy little dog, aren’t you?”
“Perhaps, but it’s not like you’re Mother Teresa!”
“What about the kid?”
“That’s such an ugly word. ‘It’s such a nice night! She’s so nice!’ you should really stop using that word.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Don’t think about everything, you might get a headache.”
“I already have one.”
“Take a pill.”
“You’re supposed to make it go away.”
“Get some sleep Bobby. I’ll be seeing you.”
It took him a while to move and get under his covers. When he finally did, he fell asleep almost instantly. Another message had come crashing into his phone as it sat idle on the bed, somewhere in the sheets.
Exactly four days later, another funeral was held.
It rained all night long and the old man spent most of his time on the balcony, overlooking the ashy metropolitan. I could hear him cough and spit and I rolled around for a while on the ground before I decided to join him.
“I’m having trouble falling asleep.”
“I thought I woke you up.”
“Not at all,” I said.
“It’s a nice night.”
“It sure is.”
“It’s good that we get the rain,” said the old man as he let out a deep cough and spat off the balcony. “Goddamn, I sure could use a woman.”
“Couldn’t we all,” I said and smiled.
“Oh man, if only I had some young fit-bodied Asian woman around, who’d look after me and the house.”
“Why Asian?” I said.
“I wouldn’t want to marry her.”
“Why Asian though?”
“Because they truly know how to take care,” he said. “They have a simple sense of love and a deep sense of loyalty.”
“Is that right?”
“Oh man,” he exclaimed, “You don’t know. Asian women are the best. They’re simple and beautiful and they really know how to care for men.”
“Asia is pretty big.”
“They’re the best! Anywhere in Asia you can find the best women in the world.”
“What about Africa? Some of them are pretty damn sexy.”
“Yeah, Africa too,” he said.
“They’re everywhere I guess. You’ve just got to look for them.”
“Not around here. It’s different around here and besides you can’t find women like that in any place as much as in Asia.”
The rain was pouring steadily and the old man’s eyes remained transfixed on the view of the city beneath him. Sitting next to him, I could feel his hand groping in his pocket. He did that every so often; he would reach deep into his pants pocket, as if in search of something and his hand would remain there for a while before he’d take it out again. “I lived with a native girl back in the day, when I was up north. I owned a restaurant up there. She’d come there all the time; one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen, but she was very poor. I mean really poor. Practically homeless,” he said as his eyes fell from the view and he slowly took his hand out of his pocket. “Good times,” he muttered gently. “She lived with me for about a year.”
“What happened to your restaurant?”
“Ah, don’t worry about it kid. It’s a long story.”
“I appreciate you letting me stay here Fred.”
“It’s all good kiddo. I understand.”
“You know Fred; you’re actually a whole lot younger than you’re supposed to be.”
“Are you saying that I look old?”
“Not at all,” I said. “You look a lot younger than your age.”
“Which one am I then?”
“You’re young Fred.”
“Damn right I am!”
“Damn right you are,” I said patting him once on his back.
“No kiddo, I’m young and old. I look a lot younger than I am, and I’m a whole lot older than I look.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“You’ve gotta be double,” he said with a laugh and repeated it a couple of times as if singing a blues song.
“You think it’s going to keep raining all through the night?”
“Let it rain. I hope it rains all throughout tomorrow.”
“It gets boring after a while.”
“That’s the problem with you people; you get bored of everything. Everything’s gotta be quick and run by you or else it’s boring.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right.”
“I guess the rain isn’t all that bad.”
“Gotta be glad we got it.”
There was a sudden flash of lightning in the distance that came down upon the earth in a straight line, suddenly bursting in three separate directions. “Whoa, did you see that?”
“Goddamn it. No, I blinked.”
“It looked nice.”
“Listen kid, are you planning on going home tomorrow?”
“I don’t know Fred, the thing is, I…”
“Listen kid, its okay if you want to stay. You’re always welcome to stay. Tomorrow you’ve gotta help me with some shopping. There’s nothing in the house.”
“That’s no problem Fred.”
“Good. Do you know how to cook?”
“Well, it all depends on what you mean by cook.”
“I’ll take that as a no, and boiling eggs doesn’t count. I’ll teach you something tomorrow. Maybe you’ll go home after and surprise your mom.”
“Yeah, maybe I will.”
“Alright, I should be calling it a night.” He got up slowly and stretched his arms into the air and arched his back. “You should try and get some sleep too.”
“Yeah, I will. By the way Fred, what was her name?”
“I don’t remember. It was a long time ago kid.” I got up and followed him inside. He stopped at the hallway that led to his room and said, “Sleep well kiddo, I’ll wake you up at eight.”
It felt strange, staring at the ceiling and knowing that my mother was only four floors above me. She was probably still awake and wondering where I was.
Leaning against a tree inside the park, the pain had started to kick in. He felt around the wound in his arm and the blood trickling down from the side of his head had found a way into his eye. He began to take deeper and slower breaths, keeping his eyes open to the sound of crickets in the grass. Judging by the glitter in the air and the calm it must’ve been a clear night. He began to move his legs ever so slightly. In the process he was suddenly struck by a pain in his back and he felt the gushing warmth of his blood as he leaned back harder against the tree and closed his eyes, grinding his teeth together vigorously. That is how he came across the wound in his back.
Everything that had sped by him so far had settled within his pain and the roaring ache within the depths of his lungs. He let out an empty sigh and could no longer tell whether they were tears or streams of blood that made their way down his face. Strangely enough, for a moment or two, he found it in himself to laugh. He giggled like a retard, drooling bloody saliva with his eyes low and hollow of all sense.
“For how long now have you held out on being who you are?”
“I have no problems in life Jack.”
“I’m telling you as a friend. You have to stop acting.”
“I don’t know who to be man. I just enjoy it every day, wherever and whoever that I am.”
“I see your suffering, your pain. I feel your need to not be lonely and I’ve leaned many times against the wall you have made to keep intruders out.”
“You’re religious my friend. Asides from that, you’re just like me.”
“No two people are the same. We were made different and that’s the beauty of it all Charles.”
“You’re right Jack. There are people like you, true to a bundle of beliefs and words, constantly pouring salvation into people’s drinks and lighting a torch of wisdom. There are also people like me, in love and loving moments as they come, completely impartial to the turning and the time that is lost in useless loves. I know one thing for sure; being so sincerely indifferent to the end and the natural fate of all men is much harder than living life inside a book.”
“Is there anybody here?” he tried to yell and it came out more like a sob as he dropped his head. “Help me. Please help me.” A slight breeze had picked up and the tree against his back was humming a gentle note. “Is there anyone here? I need help,” he cried. “Please God, help me. I want to live God, please. I’ll understand and I’ll tell everyone. I’ll stop and go back. I’ll do anything. Oh dear God please.”
Still to this day Charlie tells the story of how he died once when he was nineteen. He says that he clearly remembers their faces; the men that killed him. “There was three of them,” he says. Charlie also tells everyone all the time that he no longer really cares for money. “It just aint worth it,” he says, but that’s all.
It was getting late. I told Jane that I had to get going. I knew that Sam was probably at home, drinking as usual, and even though he didn’t care where I was, I needed to go back home. Sam and I have an interesting relationship. We’re not married, but we live together. We’re not in love, but we understand one another. Some nights I don’t go home and I stay over at a friend’s house. Many nights Sam does the same. We don’t ask any questions, and everything in our lives is separate except for the bed we sleep in. I wasn’t always like this, but I learned to kill my expectations. I saw Jane pouring me another glass of wine. I said, “Ok, this is the last one. Really I gotta go.”
“Go where?” she asked.
“I have to go home.”
“Oh come on,” she said, “just relax, it’s not like you have work tomorrow morning.”
“I do have work, and plus I have some stuff to do at home.”
“Ok, ok, I’ll let you go…in twenty minutes.” She said and brought me a full glass of wine.
Jane is an artist. I have known her for years now and still have not figured out what specific field of art she specializes in. I also become perplexed every time I try to figure out her source of income and how she pays for her daily expenses. She doesn’t have many expenses though. I have rarely even seen her eat. Asides from the alcohol and cigarettes, I don’t think she consumes much at all. At times I wish I was similar to Jane. She defies every routine known as significant and lives strictly for herself and the interests that occupy her thoughts. That’s how I know she’s an artist, but then again, what do I know about art..? Jane lives in a neighborhood that is always dark, and seems to have no friendly relation with direct sunlight. The entire area feels tight and seems to have a lack of oxygen. Everything is old, from the cars to the houses. It seems as if everyone there is a smoker, and nothing whatsoever seems to bother Jane. I for one am always terrified when I go to visit her. I’m not used to the faces and the accents. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just naturally scared of everything. But Jane’s neighborhood scares me more than anything else.
The thought of leaving her house, going home in a cab was a dreadful one. I drank my glass of wine as quickly as I could and said, “Jane can you call me a cab?” She put down her glass and placed her cigarette in the ashtray.
“What time is it?” said Jane.
“It’s eleven thirty.” She got up and walked toward the kitchen. I could feel the wine going to work in my body. I knew that once I stood up, I would feel how drunk I truly was. I don’t remember why I was so determined to go home. I didn’t have to. I guess I just wanted to get a good night’s sleep. See Sam…
Jane came back and said, “The cab will be here in fifteen, twenty minutes. I guess you have time for another drink.” She said and smiled at me like a devilish teenager.
“No, I’m fine. I have to get up early tomorrow.” Jane said nothing, shrugged her shoulders and poured herself another full glass of wine. Her house was small and had an amazing sense of silence. I watched her as she drank her wine and sparked another cigarette. I felt as if her eyes would zoom on every detail around her. I tried to follow her eyes but never realized exactly what she was looking at. She never stared at anything, she just closed in on it and observed. Perhaps, she did stare…
There was complete silence up until the cab had arrived and the doorbell rang. I got up, grabbed my coat and purse and stood there looking at Jane, who was still sitting down. She was smiling at me. “You know it’s not too late,” she said. “You should spend the night here. I know you worry about Sam, Stella. You can always lie to me and say you have stuff to do at home, but I’ll always know.” I couldn’t say anything. “Stella, believe me, there is so much you need to see, and it’s not at home. But I understand.” Her eyes were low, and I could see the wine flowing inside them. I still didn’t know what to say. I don’t know why, but I felt guilty and somewhat ashamed.
I said, “Really Jane, I should go. Maybe some other time, I promise.” Jane didn’t say anything else. She got up and walked me to the door. I put on my coat and looked at her. I had never seen her the way she was. Somehow I couldn’t tell whether it was the alcohol talking, or just same old Jane. I tried not to think about it. She hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I said, “Try to get some sleep Jane. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay, good night,” she said as she opened the door and let me out. As I started walking, Jane muttered something that I couldn’t make out, but I didn’t bother turning around. I got into the cab and took one last look at Jane who was still standing in the doorway. She waved goodbye and closed the door.
As the cab drove through the inner streets of Jane’s neighborhood, I saw teenagers still out. I didn’t know what they were up to. I couldn’t stop thinking about what she might’ve muttered, or the way her eyes pierced through me.
“This is not a good place,” said the cab driver. He had a weird accent. I reckoned he was probably Arabic. “A lot of bad stuff happens here,” he said. “Look, these kids are out at this time. It is a shame. Only God knows what they doing.”
I wanted to say something, but I was scared. Every single house looked exactly like Jane’s. As soon as we entered a main street, I felt calm and for a moment closed my eyes. Suddenly the cab driver said, “I’m sorry miss, but do you mind if I have a smoke?”
“No, not at all,” I said. ,
“I am sorry, really, but it has been very tiring today,” he said as he rolled down his window. I said nothing and closed my eyes again. I was really tired, or maybe it was just the wine. I couldn’t wait to get home. The empty street made me calm, and I kept hoping that the cab driver wouldn’t speak to me. I always love to talk, with anyone and everyone, but at that point I missed the silence at Jane’s house and for a moment I wished that I hadn’t left. I wondered what Jane was doing. I pictured her drinking another glass of wine, finishing the bottle, smoking another cigarette and going to sleep. She had so much peace all to herself, and I wondered if she ever got lonely. Didn’t she ever feel the need to be with someone? Perhaps, someone who would take care of her and not let her drink so much. A man who would provide for her and buy things for her…
I opened my eyes just as the cab had gotten close to my apartment. The cab driver said, “This is very good neighborhood. A lot of good people live here.”
“Okay, have a good night miss. Take care,” he said. I paid the fare and got out.
“Maybe the cab driver is right,” I thought to myself as I walked into the lobby of my building. It was late and the concierge was asleep behind his desk. “I guess the cab driver was right. There’s no need for security here. This is a good neighborhood full of good people.”
Inside the elevator, I stared at myself in the mirror and it was obvious that I had been drinking. I rarely drink, because I hate myself the day after. I only drink with Jane. Even in the past two years that I’ve lived with Sam, I’ve only drank with him once. I usually sit beside him while he drinks and watches TV. I like to look at him and in a way study his actions. He drinks almost every night when he comes home from work. He works in an office. All I know is that he hates his job and never talks about it. So I’ve never asked him. One time, he came to the café, where I work, and surprised me. It was my birthday, and he had bought me a book. My manager let me leave work early and we walked in the park for hours and just talked. I don’t remember having many days like that, where I smiled and felt so simplistically happy.
I opened the door and walked in to the apartment. It was dark and Sam wasn’t home. I stood there at the door for a moment before I took off my shoes and turned on a light. Even in the depths of complete emptiness my apartment never has the same silence as Jane’s house. At times I wonder how Jane copes with so much silence. It becomes depressing after a while. Doesn’t she ever feel the urge to break it? What does she do with so much silence? Maybe she’s gotten used to it. Or maybe it’s because she’s an artist.
It was late. I didn’t feel like going to bed. I wanted to take a shower and wait for Sam to get home. I wondered where he was, and if he was happy, and if he was thinking about me. For a moment I wanted to be with him, wherever he was. I hoped that he had had a good day. It was nice to see him smile every once in a while, but it was rare, knowing that he hated his job. I try not to hate anything, because it slows me down. Even seeing Sam with such frustration in his eyes every evening after work makes me depressed and brings my thoughts down into a slow pace until they no longer move. Long ago I had tried to talk to him about his job, and through his eyes alone it was evident how he felt. Why can’t we all just be like Jane?
I was no longer drunk. Taking a shower made me feel light, and I came out of the bathroom hoping to see that Sam had arrived. But he hadn’t. I thought about Jane living in a bad neighborhood. I thought about the taxi driver, and where he might live, and if it was a good area with good people. Lying in bed, letting my thoughts float freely from branch to branch, I fell asleep. At times I wish I could have full awareness of the moment that my mind retires to sleep. It would be nice to experience yourself falling into rest, seeing every second of your day pass by again and placing every moment of it onto the shelves of your memory.
I awoke and the lights were still on. I heard the bathroom door close, and smiled knowing that Sam had come home. I was glad that he was home. It didn’t matter what time it was. I didn’t even need to see him. He was home, and that’s all the comfort I needed. I closed my eyes and waited. Once he was in the room I could sense him looking at me. I could smell cigarettes as I heard him taking off his clothes. I didn’t bother opening my eyes. I could see everything; his every single movement, as he turned off the lights and got into bed ever so gently. Lying on his back, I could hear him breathe, and I wondered again why Jane was so lonesome with so much silence. At that point, I could feel myself changing. I could feel new desires wanting to be born.
Slowly, I reached over, put my arm on his chest and we fell asleep.
“Wake up,” he said. “Hey buddy,” he kept shaking me. “End of the the line…”
I grunted, “Fuck…”
“Shit happens,” he chuckled, “You alright?” He was holding his hand out, to help me get up I guess. “Are you drunk? Where do you need to go?”
I remember grunting again repeatedly, “Fuck…Fuck…” and I may have sighed, “Where am I?”
“Downsview, end of the line,” he said.
Sitting up and staring down the deserted subway car, I began searching in my coat pocket for my smokes, took one out and placed it between my lips.
“Hey buddy, you can’t smoke in here.”
“I know. Don’t yell,” I whispered.
“How much have you had to drink?”
“Not much,” I said, getting up.
“Where were you going?”
“Where…” I whispered as I stood, while the cigarette fell from my lips; temptation from heaven vanished…good god, I must’ve been drunk! Drunk enough that I didn’t even notice him bending down and picking up my cigarette… He was laughing though, I remember that. Must’ve been a pleasant laugh, because I smiled awkwardly in my state, as sincerely as I could, while attempting to avoid eye contact, and stumbled my way slowly towards the opened doors of the subway car. Before I knew it, he was holding my right arm and helping me along my drunken way.
“Sit down for a bit,” he said. “I’ll get you some water.”
There I was on the subway platform, my head hanging like the cigarette in between my fingers, with what seemed to be surrender in my muscles and bones, and reverberating in my gut was the echo of an alcoholic’s cry for mercy, or so it seemed. My loneliness, it may have been, but I felt as if winter was waiting for me outside the station. It wasn’t winter yet, but who knew? Years could’ve passed. People may have died. He came back with a bottle of water. I emptied it in a couple of sips, let out an unpleasant burp that easily could’ve become a puddle of vomit on the platform. I gave him back the empty bottle. “You gonna be ok?” he said.
“Ok,” I whispered as I got up and began walking to the stairs.
“Hey buddy,” he called out, “Take care, pretty cold out tonight…”
I didn’t respond, only continued walking, but I remember turning back slightly and giving him a drunken wave or what must’ve seemed like the raising of a lifeless hand, with gratitude in between my cold and crooked fingers.
There is always a vast expanse of forgotten thoughts. That night, humanity poked its head out in a bottle of water. There was a galaxy of forgotten turns, and I could taste still the bitterness of insults on my tongue, but I couldn’t remember them. Humanity poked its head out. Humanity chuckled…That was the only time I visited Downsview station, I think…
Every face was in close up. I could see people’s pores like millions of stars on blown up sheets of sky. Their wrinkles, like canyons with history carved in a unique character of rock and sand. I felt as if I could see thousands of years in people’s faces, all in close up, all passing by, and despite the pleasantly frantic beating within my chest, my mind slowed down and stretched out their passing. All in close up, all in slow motion. Occasionally, for a moment, panic would poke its head out when I’d think of my eyes and those enormously happy pupils, greeting strangers with a sense of fear and curiosity. My mouth was dry. I must’ve looked like an animal, but I’ll never know exactly what. It doesn’t matter though, because I was genuinely happy, stumbling with each step further into the simplest, most sincere sense of acceptance I had ever known. That is the best way I can describe LSD; one can find acceptance.
Here and there, on certain occasions, I have smiled and nodded at the mysteries of life, content with the question marks I see, wearing a cloak of humility that perhaps best belongs to those of true faith. I’m certain that they know what acceptance is, for god seems to have a plan…and so does LSD.
It was pointless, looking back to see how far I had walked. There was no pain in my feet, the cancer in my soles that had raised me was asleep, and so I kept on walking. I must’ve been walking fast. I must’ve looked like an animal. It had been a couple of years since my last trip.
With a smile, one can sit anywhere. Sincerity is the disguise I have often used while sitting in a park getting high, or walking on a crowded street smoking a joint. I won’t go as far as to say that LSD was the cause of all sincerity within me, but it brought it out, and so far, remnants of it that stayed behind have changed my core. I’m generally a nicer person now. At least I hope…
Places and people; I’ve jumped about, and every place had a piece of me that I found. Amusing as fuck! And I have to curse, ‘cause all in all the pieces found were nothing gained, but I still must keep moving. Irony is a killer, amusing as fuck…I’m sure I’ll be laughing when I die, and I hope for it to be a silent laugh. I hope at that point, I will be as content as I was in my past with all the questions marks circling the sphere of my story.
Oh how the mind drifts! Have you ever sat and wondered about the speed of thoughts? Somewhere, spinning in my subconscious might be the secret as to how one can travel at the speed of thought. I hope man never calculates the speed. There should never be a unit for it. Because then, everybody’s gotta have a unit. Some geniuses came up with these numbers, and…
Every moment, in which I mutter, “What is this shit you are writing?” is always brief. My rambling state is rather obvious all the time. Inside the pub, on an autumn Thursday evening, I think I was telling the story of an acid trip…I was walking…people’s faces. “I can write in a crowded pub,” I say to myself, “I can write in a crowded pub. I can write in a…”
“Are you writing your memoirs?” she said suddenly. Her voice rang in my head like the echo of some bell made to subdue animals. Fucking shriek…
(This isn’t the best time I’m sure, but I must apologize every once in a while for my use of curse words; moments bring about things…right now, ten to midnight, I’m at the pub, writing about the other time I was at the pub, on that autumn Thursday evening, and was trying to tell the story of some acid trip I had, and well…fuck is just a word.)
I turned to her slowly, pretending rather skillfully that I had not heard her high pitched question mark piercing my right ear.
“Are you writing your memoirs?”
“No, just a bunch of short stories,” I said.
“Short stories,” she exclaimed. Goddamn her voice was annoying. “So, you’re a writer. This is my friend Dan,” she said, tugging at the arm of the man next to her.
With alcohol painted in his eyes and face he turned and said, “Hey man, you’re a writer?”
“I’m working on it,” I muttered, while on the inside paragraphs of thoughts and buildings of poetry and past days were crumbling and rolling away. I’ll blame that high pitched voice of hers. I’ll blame the sky and the counter of the bar. I’ll blame myself for not being able to write in a crowded pub.
I’ll crawl my way back now, back to square one, then square two and three; back to my three tiny tabs of LSD. Nature is often on our side. I remember how inspiring the winds were that day. Fascinating clouds…I had to sit, for the clouds grounded me. Must’ve been the wind, must’ve been those clouds…
The window, through which I am gazing back at my walk with LSD, is more or less foggy from time to time. The winter that is in my head, has made the children in my thoughts, steam up the window with their mouths and noses pressed foolishly against the glass. I used to do the same, somewhere, back in the day, when childhood was around.
Anyways… either way; here now, I’m thinking, “Goddamn she’s beautiful!” while I stare at her, gliding it seems, behind the bar. “Goddamn…Goddamn,” and the occasional, “Fuck…”
And just like that, flashbacks fade; I put pen to pocket, dedicate these papers to a forgotten autumn Thursday evening. Finish my pint. Smile at her beauty, and try to write a poem to make myself feel better.
This was not supposed to be a story. I am sorry.
“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.