Everyone is tech savvy these
Days, like the man under the Route
13 overpass shopping for
A used cardboard box on his phone.
The best deals are online; they
Just drone that shit into you
Like you were Taliban with good
Credit, or no credit at all.
None of us start out with grand ambitions, we back-fill that memory like a wave crashing the beach, surf eddying around our ankles until the sand gets sucked out from under our heels and we totter. The water is not blue. Jellyfish take a long time to die. Sharks never swim in the shallow pools until they do.
I was here, on the beach at 52nd and Surf, at the end of the world, hung over, waking up next to what at first appeared to be a dead Mexican. But then his cheeks puffed out and he whimpered into the sand. I smelled my hands for blood but only inhaled a faint aroma of buffalo sauce that inspired no recollection.
Acting on a hunch I reached into the pocket of my neighbor’s jeans and BINGO! Found a packet of Alka-Seltzer tablets. And my car keys. I took another look at the prostrate Mexican and searched for a name. Empty. Empty as my pockets. Empty as my head save for the screeching of seagulls hovering above us like they were auditioning to be vultures. Everyone wants to be someone else it seems.
Suddenly it felt like the day was resting, in all its damnable weight, across my eyebrows. I was either having a stroke or a religious experience without the patience to witness either come to fruition. I had heard that if you fed a seagull Alka-Seltzer their stomach would explode. So, bereft of water, and refusing, even at this late stage to drink my own tears, I tore open the packet, whistled as if calling an old favorite dog to the barn, and looking up into the screeching miasma of seagulls that was chopping up the daylight into flashes and explosions of heated air, then tossed the tablet towards the heavens and cowered for cover next to the Mexican. And waited. For the deluge.
When it hit me: maybe Henry? Henry was my cousin but he had that swarthy complexion, “Gypsy blood,” my mother claimed, in contrast to our paler, blonde inflected pallor. At least I hoped it was him. If it wasn’t, I was truly screwed. I practiced my Spanish, which consisted of insults and made up holy days, just in case. The gulls swarmed.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss getting drunk. I even miss the general dissolution that overtakes you gradually once you’re off innocently enough with friends for wings and beer, movie and a beer, a ballgame and a beer, a beer and beers, because to drink is to know where it’s going but to not know how or when you’ll get there; knowing that is has to stop and it will one way or another. I don’t miss the guilt hang-over, though, when your entire body is off base, wobbly, weak, and creaking like a dry sponge. That’s a feeling more helpless-inspiring than not giving a rat’s ass enough to begin with. Despair is one thing, fear is another thing entirely; fear of knowing that it isn’t just the drinking that’s bad but that the drinking is really only a symptom of something even more ingrained, habituated and insidious. But there is a reward is not giving a fuck if you play it right. Not giving a fuck about how you feel about what you want to do as long as it’s productive. Compose a sonata. Walk to the mailbox. Write a failed poem. Make macaroni and cheese out of a box! I’ve found Life isn’t a competition, it isn’t a constant evaluation, it isn’t a comparison and contrast between the person you are, the person you could be and the person you think you should be. Life isn’t stopping your habits; it’s replacing them while you still have the time, the wit and the will to replace them with something, anything other than what kills you quicker drink by drink, dose by dose, thought but thought, action by action because even negation can have its positives. Sing your song then shut the fuck up. You’re not the only one with a voice. And neither am I.