Friday, October 1, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

On my elbow, trussed and truculent, I tap the bar with the corner of a card and try to smile. The smile is rusty, jagged like a torn stop-sign. The barkeep knows I’m waiting, but he likes to toy with me, his kitten, with this ignoring schtick, his piece of string. He knows that I am a barnacle. He is not afraid of losing custom, he just likes to mess with the old drunks - the ones he knows will never leave. 

I pour the whiskey past my teeth and shudder, kick one leg out until it hits the rail. There is an old song playing, but I can’t place it. I sing snippets of lyric and try to make them fit. The young woman two stools over watches my mumbling lips and turns her gaze to the construction workers drinking loud draft beers at the other end of the bar. She is not looking for company - she is looking for something to stare at while she drinks. Something that is not me. I

t has been so long it’s fuzzy, but I remember who I was before I came into this bar. I was a married man. A father. I had a woman who loved me. Kids that drove me crazy. Until they were gone, and drinks at home turned into… this. 

I drink because I am a coward. Drinking is easier than suicide. The cycle of hangover depression gives me something to do. Something to think about. Something to run from. The loss I feel turns into a coat of melancholy: old, worn, familiar. It protects me, or lends the illusion of protection. The loss and the drink are married in a death spiral that will outlast everything but me. 

On some future day, I will lay down my glass and die. And, with my last breath, I will thank the drink, the only constant friend I ever had. 


  1. Ooof. If that doeant tell it, I dont know what does. Wickedly on point.

    1. One word with such a powerful impact: barnacle. This reminds me of the old folk song "Moonshiner," covered by Dylan and many others. It has that same matter-of-fact quality.

  2. Jesus tells me I should testify why I committed the sin of abortion...three times...

    My husband and I weren't church goers, but had a strong sense of right and wrong, morality.

    We were both the victims of horribly abusive alcoholics. Children of violent, substance abusing parents are highly likely to mature into violent, substance abusing parents themselves. This terrified us. We did everything we could, tried everything we could try to prevent pregnancy. NOTHING worked. Each time I became pregnant we upped the game with more desperate prevention methods to no avail.

    Don't even try to tell me God intended us to bear children. Given how our lives played out that would have been a tragedy of epic proportions.

    Pregnant at 17, barely out of childhood myself. Already addicted to drugs & alcohol, my substance abuse would have birthed addicted babies with health issues and future health and mental issues, a predisposition to continue the cycle I myself was continuing. My addictions and mental instability while raising children would be a disaster in the making. Abortion was the only choice; adoption options for a damaged baby were few. Child Social Services at that time were no better than they are today.

    Escalating our prevention efforts was unsuccessful. If we were religious about ANYTHING, it was our efforts to prevent pregnancy.

    In the next two years the rabbit died two more times. At neither time were either of us clean & sober. By the age of 20 I was a three time aborter.

    My life COULD have been:

    1979: 20 year old mother. Three children under the age of four. Drinking and drugging myself to the point where I couldn't care for my babies if my—or their—lives depended on it while my similarly impaired husband attempts to earn enough money to support our dysfunctional family of five.

    Oblivious & short tempered me, my children are abused, sometimes physically, sometimes *only* mentally, every time parenthood frustrates me which is all day long. Hey, I'm just like my mom—and something I never wanted to be! They get no relief when their father is present after working long, hard hours physically laboring to make a living. Hey, he's just like his dad—something he never wanted to be!

    My husband makes good money, just like my dad, so our children never want for material things. They are well dressed & groomed. They attend school, get good grades until their late teens, when they are mature enough to realize that their home situation is not "normal/right" like many of their friends. They drift into their own substance abuse issues. One of them dies at the age of ??-teen in a drunk driving accident (like my husband's brother in 1960-something; like my brother in 1981). We have perpetuated a cycle that we actively tried to prevent, dooming the next generation to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.

    If there is a God, and I am punished for this, I gladly take the punishment knowing I spared at least three lives a lifetime of misery and pain.

    1. This reflects the complexities of human reproduction and shows up how cartoonishly simplistic pro-life vs. pro-choice posturing really is.

  3. Ruby ruined throats. Nightmarish. Hold my mutilations, love, the same way you hold your tongue. Be here for me. Find us.

    South Dakota. The rose-pearl light drained from the sky about the time we made it to Wall. The Badlands spectral, faraway shadows moving as dreamland shades, interstate habitats, sunflower blends, prairie dog shenanigans.

    We knew it, we fought it, but all things fade. Always we reach too high, always we risk one more dumbfuck slam dunk, wrapped up in layers of stupid, artlessly enraptured.

    Say what you will, and you will, but this, this, is Cypress fucking Avenue. Half a world away, expressed, like Shalimar. Bombay Beach steaming and reeking, stowaway weed and ATVs, the blurred-dream Salton Sea fading from all memory, belligerent, alkaline, someplace hoarse with fragmented breath both carious and allegorical.

    Thirst was our thing, five cent coffee theirs.

    Old polaroids. Scorched corners curling like entreaties.

    The bison spread like punctuation on the plains. Scatter these commas across my mind’s tongue. Wreak those front-loaded viral retaliatory blastocysts. Open your face to murmurations, a spiral forsaken dance routine we forgot inside our asylums of sleep.

    Burned grass, smudged sage, improbably unlikely corn palaces, scuffed and singed adrenalized snakeskin. Plug in and play and grow triumphant and lost. Please. Attack someone else’s dream.

    Always, beauty lurks amid idiocy. Everyplace it can.

    “I couldn’t find her tonight. Will you help?”

    “Be my guest.”

    “She came here to find herself. Be herself. Hollywood, yes?”


    “So… you’ll help?”

    “I don’t know. I heard things. Likely none of it means all that much. It’s just a thing.”

    “The diamonds? The guest? The rust?”

    “What of them?”

    “Well. Do they matter?”

    “No. No. None of them.”

    “None of them what?”

    “Matter. None of them matter.”

    A trail lies abandoned, not much more than lines in dust, a notion not a creed.

    Watch this. Please watch. Watch that sundown leaking like an embryo in a bloodred uterine dusk.

  4. (Meant to toss this up yesterday and got sidetracked)

    deceit of self, these sheets
    sheep defeating sleep, the teeth
    grinding down beneath

    exposing nerves despite belief
    discarding thoughts of brief relief
    censured ideas shatter peace

    truth to speak, barrier reef
    building walls seal the breach

    learn the lessons
    grief will teach


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