To You, My Unenviable Reader
Let’s not fool ourselves. You are not reading this.
There is absolutely no chance of it. I could quit my night job, attempt another failed novel, fall on hard times, again. But, still, no matter what force any of this might carry, you’ll never notice.
“Who’s your reader?” Asks my compeer the puppeteer.
I tell him, “I don’t know. Some asshole I’ll never meet. A self-centered materialistic ego-maniac suffering from Coney Island of the Sphincter.”
He strings along his work and goes back to ignoring my presence. I can’t stop watching TV long enough to care much about anything, or devote much time to reaching a deeper understanding of people’s motivation for caring about the things that they end up caring about. It’s a disgusting trade-off. I know. Chances are it’s deteriorating my senses. But, nevertheless, I change channels and stare between commercials. There is always something else to do.
You are not listening. You are paying absolutely zero attention. If you were, you might hear something like this:
“Dropped the Gumby shoulders on the asshole. Yet it was as if nothing ever happened, to a stray sway away. Throw a little water on him, why don’t you? It is panic in its rawest form. Anxiety in all caps. Spit on it. There’ll be more room in heaven for us all. He’s just some 24th round draft pick. Don’t give up on the slow stuff, though. It’ll break. Or just take one for the team. Dippy jerks lose teeth speaking of such things. Pinched. Gaudy patter reeking of cheapness. A disenchanted trollop spit out like some distressed puker on the mend. The sort of drifty gal who’ll really get your circulation going. A place just happens to you sometimes. The past is all you’ve got. So, you start to toss the new and build back up with the old. And let me tell you, this here jacket’s got a lot of wear left in it. Believe me, you, like a galley kitchen without a window, somebody’s got to stay on and endure this. All along the seafloor seeps, the methane spews, the heart of other matters. Rec-room coffee made with industrial-size filters in silvery metal vats. The grit of taste. A moron’s prayer. Or just some two-handed mug drinker to piss off the true of heart. Topsy’s my only turvy, Frankfurter. I hawk loogies in the dandelions for luck. A gangly scarecrow dreaming in the straw for my trouble. That’s a real cook without the pressure for you. Give me a hand or two, something that speaks for me, or to me, and never mind what it says or doesn’t. Lie down for the anthem. I’ve got me a sweetheart out in the avenues; and she won’t be around long enough to commit my number to her head; and she won’t spell misery without Kansas City still on her mind; and me, I haven’t been carefree since ’97. A cab motoring all over with its trunk open. A dead and no longer breathing duck in the Y’s canteen. I’m thinking about shimmying on to braver pastures, thumbing down and up through the broken rules, and maybe dispersing a little graft to the needy with my lonely dalliances in the right field of growing old. I don’t psst in anybody’s ear anymore. The jokes just keep getting dirtier as the women get colder, and the nights don’t fall so easy as they used to. A lady named Ruth. A dog named Maurice. Doctor’s marching orders. The easy spiel of it. And the whole town smelled like bay rum and Bulgari perfume. And in an attic room below a silver-dollar moon some poor sap’s leaking sweat on the floorboards, cradling a Glock 22, and hugging his knees. But his distress is no longer necessary. Living’s for the sane and competent. I found a picture of my ma swilling from a fifth of Old Crow while she was still carrying me around in her belly. Maybe this explains some of it. Maybe I’m sick of digging around for reasons and whys. Put a hat on the bed and chalk it all up to serendipity. Slick the tiles with snake oil. All of my thoughts are doing 99 years, in all the degrees of a mind’s slaughter. Honeyed and husky howls. Barnyard manners and all. I don’t want to be associated with my name anymore. Fuckers. I am slurring through most evenings. I have given up mixers. I am headed for Morocco — to be nothing.”
But you don’t. Or won’t. I’m not sure that there’s even a difference. Perhaps I’m just gaslighting myself. Don’t concern yourself over it. It doesn’t matter.
Gaining popularity is such a bogus occupation to put oneself through. To try with all your mustard and grease to make others like you. It’s a real damn drag. Me? I get less done before 2 pm than most people accomplish before 9 am. All I do is grow angrier with isolation’s constant ebb. One of these afternoons I’m going to really make something out of myself: tip a rifle to a temple and pull. Until then? Guess I’ll just keep hitting snooze on it all.
You are not recommending me to your acquaintances or telling strangers to pick up a copy of one of my books — of the few that remain in print, that is. Nobody is calling from the Pulitzer committee to tell me I’ve just been short-listed for an award. There are no letters from adoring fans in my mailbox anymore. I once rode in a white limousine to a ceremony where they were honoring me with a trophy. I got too drunk to speak and was offered condolences and ushered off backstage to puke in a dressing-room sink instead. Now my trashcans are the only monuments left of the life I’ve lived. I am fleeced with misunderstanding and ill will.
But you find none of this interesting in the least. “Poor, poor bastard. He’s too smashed to sleep.” That’s about all the sympathy you’d probably ever muster for me. And you’d be correct.
The cornicione of the situation? It’s that I’m dragging myself to the same old plate, too weary to field even an exhausted grounder. I’m like a parked Buick with a boot on its front tire and its car alarm constantly blaring until some sicko comes along and breaks its windows with a wrench. A real bona fide chump, this guy who I keep referring to as myself.
I’ll say this to you, “It’s you, you cantankerous asshole,” and afterwards be done with it — slightly overheard:
“There’s nothing that sounds as sweet as cracking open a cold can of beer to chase away a hangover on a sullen Saturday afternoon. Nothing. Fred Neil’s on the radio singing about a little bit of rain, and I’m over-inflated and gassed, but guessing myself back to life, as it were, again. My aches are abating. The room’s less stuffy. The blaring of a burglar alarm barely bothers me. There’s probably someplace I’d rather be, but I no longer care to contemplate such things. I’m playing records and dreaming about cigarettes. Nobody’s currently at my door pounding for my attention. And the magazine editors are all on unpaid leave as far as I’m concerned. Write me a damn letter sometime, why don’t you? We’re suffering through clerical errors or something here, after a dead fashion. I am lying on the floor and balancing a beer can on my chest. It is something to do, and it is grand in its own way. I’m not praying, but perhaps I’m close. Nothing’s too substantial around these cut-up parts I keep not playing. Like the piano I gave up when I was fourteen. Nothing too hopeless or anything like that. I am that crazy person on the bus talking to himself, and I don’t give a shit. I am singing way too loud for the occasion. I am heavily populated with irresponsibility. All the daylight’s blasted right out of my savings. Give me another shot and I will slowly backtrack away from it.
“If I were a possibility, river rafted through White-Russian rapids, I’d shake the bread crumbs from the tablecloth and move on. The union’s on the horn again. The seat of my pants is so worn you could serve lunch on it. That’s my empathy talking. Again, we’ve got to lose our faith in the minor things, the events like ice in a urinal: slowly melting and reeking away. Me? I need ideals like I need a Salisbury steak. I can rest less assured. I can sell 5-buck jokes to every mealy mouthed jerk in town. Nothing but a crowd of lunchroom loudmouths in grocery-store shoes, if you ask this barrel of beer about it. I’m not bawling over it or nothing. That’s pretty for sure. Not at a win for it, if that’d matter anyhow. And the way I can’t stand commercials on the TV shouldn’t be lost on any of the Samsonite-lugging bastards briefly in town. Like clapping hands when the trash trucks arrive. Irregularities in the manner of composition? Take time. Lend a stiff lower lip to a truer means of being you. Roll without it. I’m canted with fumble-fingered joy. Rum on the horizon, notes of resin in my wisdom teeth. It’s been so long since I’ve bathed or had a nap. There’s only difference left, now; and the air balls I’ve been shooting around here are only commuter frenzies of dissatisfaction with the way this busy world’s left me: a perfect lost purity like a 4th story window on a rainy night. I’m not supposed to be going on like this. But I’m not tearing up over it or anything. It’s evening in Chinatown again. So soon. So for never. There are dingy shadows in my whitest wine.
“I don’t own things; I lease with no option to buy. Like having something stuck in your eye, it’s the most frustrating thing on the planet sometimes to be volleyed back and forth by these incompetent swatters. To have to look morons in the face every day, to waste time and be ruined by it. These things I just keep putting up with. The same places to die in. The same stories to forget or never tell. The spirit leaves me coughing up memories and misery. I used to be a night Miltonist, damn it. All these damn too-comfortable people. All of these piss ants in search of nothing but money’s spoiled incompetence. I go on and on. Say it’s so. I know it’s difficult, but stay with me. I’ll drag this bag of bones all the way across the state and then some. Drinking Hamm’s from a ten-cent glass. The vices I keep. Shit. You don’t got to go all around town shouting about it. We’re all insane when we’re left on our own. I should know my own instincts better, but I keep not doing it. Will somebody bring me a sandwich, please? Leave a tip for the bellhop on the way down. I’m done with harassing the seagull assassins around here. I have a thunderous voice when it’s called for. You bet. In the meantime I’m just strolling down another street that’s not named after me. And it’s quite miraculous that I’m still here, really. Like dusting crown molding. The things that nobody ever notices. And I’m still here. I’m still here.
“Tell the president to go to hell. I’m sapped with inhibition’s toll. Everything’s out of tune and going the wrong way as I croon old feelings long-gone, all horrible and wonderful. Scratch your name into my calf with an ink-less ball point pen. Typos asides, you’ve got to admit we were held together with gorilla glue. You, who used to be so much more than my everything. And I’m sure now that they don’t write letters in heaven, but sometimes I still wish they did. And I also wish, while we’re at it, that you were here causing a ruckus by my side again, just an uppercut or a karaoke song away. Thank all the landlords that it’s only the 15th. A bit of respite from it all, a touch of freedom in the gut, a spit of worry gone from the care. So, okay, I’ll go on ahead and write you that love letter now. Beer, please.”