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.