‘Congratulations’, the envelope says. I open it and pull out the letter. It reads, ‘One day you will die and so will everything you love.’ It’s not signed.
I fold it back up and stick it in my back pocket. I pull up the blinds and inspect the dusk and doom. There are streaks of vapor trails in the sky, a man with a construction hat directing a truck into an alley. The beeping sound it makes reminds me of the letter. The letter reminds me of my mother when she was young, long before I was a trail of dirty diapers. The young we all once were, captured on photographic paper, a distant, fading memory.
I pour a glass of wine and think about who would send me a letter like that. The postmark says Idaho. I don’t know anybody in Idaho. I’ve never been there. It’s just that funny-shaped state on the map. I know there are mountains there. I’m sure there are farms and towns and nice people too… but Idaho can go fuck itself!
There is a record that is collecting dust on my stereo. I put the needle down and listen to a worn groove spill out. The singer OD’d in 1973. His voice is just an echo, like passing light through a shade. I drink my wine, think about writing a poem, and then remember poetry is disgust turned inside out. Instead, I get up and put on a suit, and prep myself to go out. I tell myself there is no reason to sit alone and ferment. You need to get out there and experience the rollicking rickshaw. The night is young, you are vibrant, the world is waiting. You know, lie.
The night, actually, is a teeming, claustrophobic nest of anxiety and ego. Buzzing bastards. I should never have gone out on a Friday… by myself. Feeling like this…
I enter a bar and order a glass of Cabernet, smile like a man in possession of counterfeit coins. My teeth and tongue stained by grape. I grab the glass, gobble up the poison, groan inside. The computer program in my brain starts spitting out upside down algorithms. A kiss. Clouds. The sun on the bay. The winning slot machine. The frozen dog. The pretty smile. A ball sailing over the fence. The crowd chanting my name. A message on my answering machine… her voice, 600 miles away. The person in the photograph disappearing like Marty McFly’s brother. Barak Obama. Heath Ledger. Moisturizing Cream. Mint chocolate chip ice cream… gat damn!
A woman in a sheer, cream-colored dress with cowboy boots, a scarf, and a tattoo of a tiger on her arm leans in next to me. “You look perplexed.”
She says this without emotion, like she’s reading it off of a menu.
I reply, “I’m at my best confused…”
She smirks. “Do you do this often?”
“What?” I ask.
“Wallow in your own cuteness…”
I’m not sure if she is flirting or putting me down. There really isn’t a difference most of the time. However old we get, we’re still just kids pinching each other on the playground. Punching each other in the face because we like each other.
She has devious eyes and exfoliated cheeks. Her confidence wafts through the room like a ghost. Part of me wants to marry her; another wants to break into her house and smear shit on her walls, break her favorite possessions.
I answer with more cuteness. “When the moon is the right height,” I say. “What adorable form of voodoo makes you so damn observant?”
She rolls her eyes. “You’re the only one here in a suit.”
I tell her, “I like to dress nice.”
I smile, thinking I have her… She laughs, but not with me — at me.
“It’s weird,” she tells me.
I watch her take her drink back to her table. A group of hostile monkeys surround her. They’re dressed in hoodies and jeans. Everybody is so casual in this town. Talking in elevators. She never looks back. An uneasiness creeps up my spine. I don’t recognize the music playing. Everything is in a foreign language.
I look around the room and everybody is ten years younger me. And lighter. Not in weight, I’m slender and built like a bamboo pole, but in spirit; less burdened by memories and regret.They look like balloons that haven’t drifted too high yet. I want to shoot them down.
Does anybody ever like growing older? Are we not all disgruntled Bukowski’s, waiting for our farewell serenade?
The room grows more crowded and my personal space shrinks until I’m nothing more than a coat rack wedged into the corner. The hands on my watch spin around. Touching me. Touching everybody. Playing ‘ring around the posey’.
What do you know about the circle of life? Hanging out in the corner pocket?
If you drew a picture of my heart, it would be an arrow. Pull it back, release, and watch it spear something… I’m at the end of the radio dial… transmitting fuzz.
I finish my drink and flee…
The night is bleeding. The stars cauterised my wound, but only so much… I drag this hurt to the next bar. I don’t know what I’m looking for. It’s not a girl, it’s not a friend, it’s not even… something.
I’m just riding the carousel. Maybe there is meaning in this rotary? Maybe I will find purpose in the propaganda… part of me wants to move to Peoria and learn accounting, start counting… meet a girl, have a kid, start changing diapers.
Part of me wants another glass of Cab. I drink a Dos Equis instead. Somehow count this as wisdom.
THE FUCK YOU LOOKING AT?!
I end up in line at a taco stand. The man in front of me is wearing a beaver skin hat. I’m wearing a wife-beater underneath a cotton button up. Cars zip by, full of intoxicated assholes. I’m an asshole. The man in the beaver skin hat is an asshole. Finally, I order a burrito.
It’s the only thing about this night that makes sense.
I pull out the letter and hand it to the Mexican man fixing making my burrito. I tell him, ‘I believe in you.’ His eyebrows look like caterpillars. He takes a look, shrugs, and hands it back to me. I don’t think he understands. Neither do I. Maybe he’s Peruvian. I want to move to Peru.
Touch your toes. They’re yours.
Make me holy… order a side of guacamole.
Everybody that loves you will leave you… either in anger or death or that job in Kansas City.
Tattoo a tic-tac-toe board on my chest. Hope for the best.
This isn’t a true story, but it could be…
Plus minus subtract. I love you all.