The Wretch In Me

Nothing sounds as sweet as the sound of you asleep. And without a dream to your name, or mine, we could’ve tackled most heavyweight thoughts to the floor. The two to six a.m. hours never pass with any sort of celerity around here — after the bars close, before they open again. The mechanical ding of doors opening, people standing clear, and then you’re in to join the crowd.

Hardly anybody’s obsessed by time more than a real drunk is. Keep the cameras rolling; even out-of-focus, it’s all a rough taxi ride to the finish line.

A real humdinger. Something Aldo-Ray-like about it. Sculpted into the avenues; streets alive with commas and bow-legged trashcan warriors, apparently like the whole world’s misusing homophones. And so much depends on the placement of a comma. And you? You just go with the territory while I’m trying to go the distance. Some secondhand rose to throw at the rain.

This singing canary of a dope’s telling her, “I was just a little out of my precinct there, baby. I’m not parsimonious with my socks. I was with Bruno at the time. He’s a real sucker for a gal in cowboy boots, you know? A crude mockup of a real chimp, that guy. And folks like us, we make trains and buses while we can. Me? I still slice my pie with a stiletto, if you really want to know. The lie is that we are all bona fide citizens of our own subconscious realms. Here? Well, we climb back, the radio tuned to static, a violin in the trunk, waiting around to start having a good time, letting the statute of limitations on prayers elapse. And then, the lent of love’s like gives a wink backwards, and there is a sprinkling of sun after the hail’s let up, and there is hell to never pay.”

Restless in a mulish landscape: caved-in bookie joints warped in a shill’s slimy debts; smashed panamas and dead cigars; shuttered 24-hour diners; a deserted caboose; fried brains with a side of seeing stars.

You see, I’ve taken the drugstore elevator to the gallows, on a bar stool, sad with bad meatloaf and worse beer. But there’s just this girl who was born in a cocktail dress; who’s gone on and on way too far to ever know again. Name in lights. Me at the window, looking in. That’s the only way I’ve ever been. Clearer hazes of what memory makes up for by lacking. Resilience fizzles. A misstep, forward, then to the side of undelivered papers. Spoken-for ladies with too much dance in their shoes.

Put a clamp on it, Horatio. Or spill. The difference is just a matter of what’s related, and to whom it never concerns. Besides, even I want to be taken seriously once in a shovelful of times. All my conversations got nowhere to go. But I’m just a few Bloody Marys away from okay. Really. There’s no piss in my vinegar. Just trying to reconcile the brain and the heart, again. So don’t go getting all “just-a-few-belts” on me. Had to drink our song out of my head. A few more for the sidewalk’s start? I’m as quashed and futile as they come. Gotta get up pretty late in the afternoon to maroon the likes of me. Fishy pretexts fit the mold, or at least adhere to it while the muscle memory of booze lasts. I’m just one hangover away from screaming at strangers. Vacillating ties, let me tell you. Sobering down and luminescent. Waking up in odd quarters, covered with leaves and dirt and weeds, bruised bluer than blacked out. Glass in the ice instead of ice in the glass. Just another faulty partaker. Beyond pleasant at times, and at others?

The hell with it. The altitude of my inebriation wears off thin. Repositioned, taken out, promised to another, already too far to be gone. Dug in. Soft at the core, really, and who cares about the way moonlight shifts in an alley, the lamps hung rugged and mopey, a cagey self-evident burn in the works. The sky’s flush with scarlet terror that cracks the clouds like the varicose veins of a used-up stripper who’s putting off retirement one gin drink at a time. Laid off my baser instincts for another in a long line of lonely curtain-call bows. Coiled to this, under-aware, tanked, and then the avenues fly by like ribald nights or bad friends in worse weather. The clatter of poles, walloped into this, addicted to baseball box scores and bad moods. Realistic at worst. Release the bypass valve, please. I’m curtailing all desires for the moment. Tell it to the shared pretenses of just-barley lit cigarettes. I’m a born rule-breaker anyway. And so. And so. I keep telling myself, “Forget about it, kid. Things are sure to turn shinier any day now. Any day. Keep moving.”

Clearer than this, head’s garbage-crammed. Now’s riveted to later. Smoothed rather than scrubbed. Mud’s in the gears. Malice is on the bathroom mirror. The revving of engines tickles like a soft breeze through smashed afternoons, through a sucker’s love, through gutted places where we’d stay; and we fall all apart eventually. A shot mallard’s crooked colors runny with dead loves still within hearing distance. Mark the place on the pine where we said goodbye with our blood. Test me. Go ahead. I’ll make it out, or at least far enough. Gentler than sparrows. And we get attacked still. Stranger things to not say, dumb or lucky, as it were, get spent and hug the riffraff into submission. Plans? I’ve had plenty. And now all I do is sit around and get older and older all the time. Irresponsible nips from the bottle. A lurch in my step. Colder responses while the masses retreat. Hell, even my socks reek of the bottle. Showered past all oblivion by roseate machetes of too-close-to-call events. I’m not the one whispering midnight shades and matches to sleep. It’s all ice-water headaches and colder music around these misshapen parts. Delivering sentences of howled protest to the bitter and caustic shapes of what I’ve turned to this late in the game.

And then the freezer yawns a breathy white mist at my face as I grab the vodka bottle from it. Penance is wasted on sour afternoons of day games and a rush through the circulars, the staring at cracks in the ceiling’s plaster that for some grim reason no longer bother me at all. Phonation’s left me: the ability to scold myself with recollections and other blurry errata from the dusty errands of my life’s whorl. Everything’s staying-in for a while. The accordion security gates of my mind’s closed-down liquor store are barring me entry for a bit here. It’s okay. The freezer’s bottle ought to last until I can function through the phases of normalcy. The barmen will most likely stand me a few until the supper of things arrives like courage through the mail slot. I am not wed to others’ woes, as it were and is, in the perchance of constantly arriving at nowhere. Clutches are what’s owed and never borrowed, and the piecemeal snag they make through drops of joy are only laughable and somewhat distinguished about it.

My sadness has become wise to my waking, and begins its ritual assault as my red eyes crank open through the crust of another blackout. I recall some joker telling me, “Your face is quite the asymmetrical event, buddy,” through the crude folds of inebriation’s hold. I piped up, “I’ve been to hell and back about a dozen times since I saw you last. This? Hell, it’s a lousy kind of love. And I’m too old to eat candy for dinner. But. But. But, well, I want to be loved more than to love. Sometimes. Just sometimes.” My money seems to have parted from me, without remorse or pity. I am loose. I am — just barely — hanging in there. I am a lot and not much. Shyer than you’d figure. A panicked hunch about steady jolts of embarrassment. Riven through with ineffable radios and rowboats. It is not a thing to be taken heavily. Anything is what could be done. Flip a coin. Call it a night. There is always at least something left, even if that something is only a bit more nothing. Ask any floozy around. Or any kid that colors without regard to space or time. We’re all just waiting inside the lines here.

It’s a breakup’s sudden twinge of horror and loss. That moment of a steering wheel’s control gone. A shuffle into the distance of being alive. Identifying with nothing. The beginnings of another no. Slenderer hopes and a kazoo’s aspirations. We don’t get any messages here. We sleep alone and drool all we want. There is a hello in the dishwater just for me.

I don’t write my own letters anymore. And I only fall out of love. Just another excuse to grovel out of. Just another sucker plowing through the fields of rye without a scythe or even an excuse to my name. Belated doesn’t cut it. Time’s slower than sweet, and the only thing to defeat. Bravery? Unheard of around these parts, but I keep listening nonetheless, foreverthemore. All the way to running from to back around all over again right on over here to where I always seem to be: just that lonely side of never-sober, right to the left of inebriated, in under the banner of beaten and done for, held less than tight, a rift in the gist of it all, expecting nothing and getting even less. Chased. I’d bet against it. All of it. If I only could. If the razors of being sad could speak. But could’s just another won’t here, here where the daffodils wilt under pressures from lobbyists who think it better beauty be sold at a good price than go at it all alone. Better come back on over this-a-way, in the rain or whatever cries or waits or hopes, or, hell, even prays, for Christ’s sake. A thing that stops has at some point been in motion, Darling. And we’re all homeless here. We’re all just shacking up. And nobody knows what it’s like to be dethroned just like this. Nobody. Nobody knows. And the heart’s fire’s been doused. Don’t worry. It’s just another B-Side to not listen to. Everything’s in storage. Everybody’s cussing about it all. I don’t got anywhere here where the rain won’t go. Fuck it. Stop listening. The rain knows. It always does. Plunk, plunk, plunk. There are certain seasons and months and days of the week nobody takes their name from. Fuck it. This floor’s my salvation. I’m through.