I’m surprised I’m not seeing little piles of gluteus maximus all over downtown. I almost froze my ass off last night.
I texted Dr T; “If Giggles is still there, tell him I’m gonna punch him in the head if he’s late tonight. We had to sit almost two hours to catch the last and only bus. That ain’t happenin’ again.”
I was pissed.
I had a feeling the day would be atypical when I saw the Heavy Duty fire truck driving the wrong way up the Avenue. I was coming out of the office with my cash drawer, ready to start a swing-shift at the Nightclub Store.
I followed my early routine, getting my shift’s accoutrements together. People kept asking me what was going on next door. “I dunno! I just got here. Probably a fire drill. They have them all the time. Or somebody is cooking bacon in their room. That’s the biggest “emergency” most of the time.”
Except… The street doesn’t usually fill with fire trucks, and fire marshals in red Jeeps don’t usually come in such numbers. Time to stick my head out and see what was happening.
How was work? Oh, just another night in the funhouse.
This was life around the Nightclub Store. The evening started quietly, but halfway through lunch I heard the helicopters, and then the jeers. Yup, we’re doing it again.
I had my store key on a lanyard, and when the throng would pass I’d lock the door, picking and choosing who I’d let in. Flash grenades didn’t bother Festus, but he wisely chose to come in when the tear gas crept near. A couple regulars made coffee, and I released them when no one was near the door.
Sister came to the store to hang out, and rode home with me. Our commute was calm, and halfway home Bro-In-Law joined us. I had dinner and watched the above recap of my day.
I hope this isn’t happening every fucking night for the next four years.
It’s been a long, miserable year. I’m sick of politics. I’ve seen far too many favorite people die. Laws have changed, some for the better, some not so much. It’s like the deck has been shuffled. I have the same amount of a stake, but the game has been changed.
Drugs in general have gotten harder to come by, and I’m trying to stay away from anything stronger than ibuprofen. I have my days, but I’ve been mostly good. But I *do* depend on my little green friend to get me through the day, and I don’t know what I would do without my medical card.
But there’s a chance I’m gonna find out…
A celebration of life was held in our backyard this morning. It was attended by Sister and I, as well as animal representatives Luna and Django. Luna, the ADHD-addled teenager, was all over the place, not understanding what was going on but having a great time helping. “We’re digging holes in the back yard?” Luna loves the dirt, and she loves rootballs that resemble human hearts. With her all-black coloring and demon-eyes, watching her rip and tear makes me proud, and a bit nervous.
I would use a three-pronged prospector’s pick to loosen the clay, until Luna would get nosy. Then I’d shovel some dirt out, toss an empty plastic bottle across the yard and shovel some more, before Luna would come dashing back to the top of the dirt-pile, knocking a bunch of dirt back into the hole. At one point I would pick with my left hand while she attacked the shovel in my right. Some days this might make me cranky and impatient, but today I was enjoying her insolent distractions.
The time had come to bury Sandy.
Chuckles and I worked at a store before Master P’s, and over time I brought along him and Uncle Cliffy. While Chuckles was mostly immobile, he was as honest as the overnight is long. His inability to move was his downfall; Chuckles weighed over 600 pounds the last time I saw him, and he was walking then. Sorta.
The first time I saw Chuckles was a mindbender. I was in a roadside convenience store, being interviewed by Guy and Gayle, the names of my sister and brother-in-law. A huge redheaded guy named Chuck walked in, and by huge I mean jaw-dropping huge. I could tell by the look on his face that my shock had registered. Being fat at the time myself, about 450, it at once made me feel better and horrified about myself. I’d already lived through one hospital life-saving, where I weighed in at 528. Chuckles was walking around with about 150 more pounds than that. The fact that he could walk at all amazed people.
Chuckles loved guns and Jesus, hated drugs and hookers. I was cool with all of the above. (That was how people told us giant redheads apart. My hair was buzzcut to a quarter-inch, he was bald.) We both had a thing for black girls, but his took him for his life savings, so he hated black people too. This caused minor problems in conversation, because his racist commentaries would conflict dearly with what I had learned in life. I wouldn’t allow him to bag on people for being different. He was blessed to be born white, but cursed with the affliction that is mocked universally. He was fat.
I had some good times working with Chuckles. Whether pranking him, or pranking him, I always had him on alert. He needed it working the overnight shift at the Mothership. Eventually Master P had to let him go, and because of which, Master P even changed his store hours. Because he’d “eliminated the position” Chuckles could collect unemployment for upwards of a year while looking for a job closer to his home in the mountains. It’s the only time I know of Master P helping someone get unemployment. He also helped with Chuckles Social Security. Most bosses wouldn’t go out of their way like that.
And now, Chuckles has gone off to that great graveyard shift in the sky. Him and Jesus, hanging out, talking guns and eating pork ribs. Aim your guns at the south, Chuckles. RIP.
I hate it when things don’t work out. You think you see what is a good fit, and maybe it was for a while. But things change, things get old, we grow. As we get older, we discover what’s important to us. I have discovered, for instance, that a job and a home and a sorta-well-taken-care-of family is my goal, and what I have attained. It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well for me.
Therefore, I must do what I have to to protect it.
“Neptune’s not doing so good.” Sister met me at the door. I went down the hallway and saw an all-too-familiar sight in the bathroom. One of our animals, curled up on the floor under a blanket.
“What happened?” Nobody seemed to know. He was old, at least ten. He’d been getting skinny, to the point where Sis would buy him canned cat food, but mostly he mooched human food. The last few months he wanted a taste of everything. He’d be underfoot to the point of irritation, but so lovable about it I couldn’t just boot him out of the way.
We shared many moments in the hallway, or late at night in the kitchen, when he’d be on-point, waiting for a flicker of movement, then a pounce! He’d come out with a ball of fur and a tail, and after a couple hard bites, if the mouse was small enough, it would disappear. If it was too big? It ended up on Sister’s pillow as a token of affection.
I’m going to miss my buddy. When I saw him on the floor, I knew I couldn’t just hang out and watch. “I’ll see you around, buddy.” I stroked behind his ears the way he liked. He raised his head a little, gave me a mew, and laid back down. I walked under the overpass as nightfall approached, and the lights dimmed briefly. At that point I knew. When I got back home, Sister again met me at the door. “Neptune has moved on to greener pastures.” I didn’t need to hear more.
I got up at dawn. My niece was crying quietly. My sister was in the backyard, adding another stone to the Pet Sematary. I am grateful she took care of this one. I would have taken care of it, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.
It’s just gonna be weird not seeing him outside my door every night.
I could tell by the look on her face that things weren’t right. My usually happy-go-lucky sister had been blue. If I could get her talking, I could figure out what was wrong.
There have been lots of major life obstacles and changes the past couple years. My sister, who is stoic in the worst of times, was beginning to wear down. If it’s showing, it must be bad. She and my Bro-in-law took a mini-vacation to the beach, but at the last minute the kids decided they didn’t want to go. When Bro-in-law drives, it comes with a stream-of-consciousness dialogue that sounds like stating things aloud to see if they make sense. I avoid car rides with my Bro-in-law for just such reasons. A four-hour car ride? That’s a lot of vitriol. Without the kids to soften the dialogue, I imagine it was a lot of intense psychotherapy for my sister to have to absorb.
And absorb she does. She is the one who takes all the hits for the family. She’s the last one to eat. She’s the one who gets up out of a sound sleep to fetch my niece a glass of water, because that’s just who she is. So when I asked “What’s up?” in a certain way as we stood in the hallway of our home for the past fifteen years, she started to crack.
“Remember when I almost drowned? I was about nine or so, and got taken out to sea? I was out a couple hundred yards, and thought I was a goner, then a bright light came from above. It was like God cast his eye upon me, looked down and said, ‘Hey Jackass, stop that. Your mother needs you.’ I didn’t know if it was god or Mom, but I took it as a sign, and at that moment the tide pushed me back in.”
“Mom would be proud you confused her for God, but would probably have slapped you for blasphemy.”
That got a laugh. She took a deep breath. “I haven’t drank for about six months now. I don’t want to, hate the thought, but STILL it calls to me. The last night I worked, someone left an almost-full half-gallon jug of vodka in a room. If we’d gone back to the beach that night, I’d have drank that bottle and gone for a long swim in the ocean. I just got to where I…don’t… give…a…fuck.”
By now tears were streaming down her face. “I love my life, I love my kids, I love you, I love it all, but lately I’ve been so goddamned depressed! And as I am thinking about jumping in the ocean for that final swim, the sky out the window to the backyard lit up, like the eye in the sky. God or Mom was looking down, then a hummingbird popped up in my face. It was just so random and beautiful, and just when I needed it most. It was like getting a hug from Mom.”
Mom gave spectacular hugs, and I knew better than to compare, but if anyone needed a hug at that moment, it was us. We held each other like the two scared kids we once were. The world is coming to an end, but not the way we’d been told. This wasn’t Armageddon. This was nature’s way. People and things are born, and then they die. We can only hope our time here is pleasant. I flashed back to times in hospital waiting rooms when we waited for word on mom or dad. Of course, we didn’t hug or show emotion. I was a tough Irish kid, and Sister followed my example. It’s not pussyish to cry, unless you’re in public. We sat there stone-faced and waited. We still do, in a way.
After a moment of reassurances, and about a five-minute mopdown period, we were back to normal. I think just getting it out of her system helped a lot. The look of frustration she’d been carrying is gone, and the smiles are genuine again. Bro-in-law has been in a better mood. He’s about done with vacation, and while we love him, he needs to be out of the house more. We do best when we are ships that pass in the night, but we are still there for each other, because that’s who WE are. WE are family.
And we still have Mom watching over us. Thanks for the hug, Mom. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Update: After I wrote this piece, and was walking to work, the sky parted for a minute and the sun shone down on me. It may have been a meteorological coincidence, but it felt like a hug to me. Thanks, Mom.
The Fourth of July isn’t my favorite holiday, but I try to make the best of it.
I don’t care for fireworks. I like pretty lights, but the smoke, noise and PTSD from neighborhood beefs isn’t worth the payoff.
I made plans to visit Dr T and Jem for the fireworks display. They live on the edge of the Pearl, up the street from Rain. Their view from the terrace is a sight to behold. It looks over the back side of the main post office toward the whole of downtown. The fireworks would backlight the city from that angle. It sounded lovely.
We’d talked of getting together as couples, maybe a dinner out? I liked the sound of it, but questioned the likelihood. I know what it’s like to get Rain to show up for something just involving me. Before planning something grand, perhaps a small test. Would she be able to be ready and down the street by nightfall?
Short answer, no.
Plans changed, from meeting downtown at 7 PM, to come to my house, to be right there, to me on the sofa waiting. I’d timed my drugs for nightfall, so I was having fun, but getting bluer by the minute. My visit with Rain was nice enough, everything was friendly. Salty came and went, I gave him a good luck joint, which I’m sure he’s promptly lost. As 9 PM approached, I began to feel claustrophobic. The room collapsed inward when Rain said, “Well, let’s hurry this up so I can go kick it with my friend.”
I deflated. She said “friend” in a way that made my heart sink and my balls ascend. I have tried not to be jealous when she flirts or talks with other guys. I don’t get jealous of the past, at least not anymore. This particular friend is an old buddy of her ex-boyfriend’s, and has had his prostate and a lung removed, so he’s not a threat. I’m proud of Rain in a way.
But there’s my cost.
I don’t want to have to wait until I’m damn near dead to feel her love and admiration. Good old Joe was a saint and a lovely guy and she misses him and they were soul mates and shit, but she left him for me and he didn’t start getting her attention until he had six feet of real estate to call his own forever. I don’t want to spend a lot of time regretting not doing more because I was waiting for someone to come with me. And… I want someone who wants to be there with me, not just to accommodate me once in a while and claim the memories.
So I gave Rain one of the joints, and told her I had to go. “Okay… Well, Imma just gonna go over to my friend’s house then. See ya Charlie Brown!”
I closed the door behind me, feeling a lot different about Rain. I still loved her, but there was a shift in the tectonic plate. It was time to start walking away. I pulled out the other joint meant for the rooftop, and smoked it as I walked down the streets of the Pearl. I caught a trolley eventually, which dropped me on Burnside. A five-block dash got me on an eastbound Green Line MAX. I texted apologies to Dr and Mrs T. I will make other plans soon, maybe without Rain next time.
The joint relaxed me to the point of nods, I drifted in and out until suddenly it was my stop. I felt so sorry for the Belmont Goats. It was like a psychedelic war zone in Felony Flats. I had been carrying a $2 pack of day-old cookies from the Upscale Mall in my vest all day. I untied them and ate all four as I meandered home, flinching under the explosions. It sounded like cannon fire outside my house, backed by Mariachi music. Hispanic men in cowboy hats chugged Coronas, and a fat kid almost shot himself in the face with a bottle rocket. (“How does this work?”) I went inside, chugged some milk and went to bed. Fuck the world.
This morning, I wake up one step closer to freedom, just like our forefathers. I have to set free the past, and move into the future.
And I have to go now.