Friday, January 24, 2014

Warehouse



I know that warehouse.  It’s where that crazy party was a few years back.  The one where Anabelle was smacked in the face with a box of mac and cheese thrown from the roof like a grenade.  I lean on a rickety lamppost in a busted up parking lot along Schuyler Street.  It’s a good spot to rest and scan the flat landscape.  I met Monica at this warehouse.

I never understood Monica.  We’d see each other frequently.  All summer we went to pubs, shows, and other events.  The Fallen Angel bar was our hangout and we may or may not end up elsewhere.  Sometimes, we’d plan to meet and she’d never show up.  Never apologize.  Never mention it or even fake an excuse.  It would of drove me crazy if I didn’t think it was a temporary relationship.

Anyway, at that party, I was at the bar/receptionist desk when this girl put her arm around my waist and head against my chest.  I wasn’t complaining when I said, “Yer pretty friendly” thinking it was a case of mistaken identity. 

“Can ya pretend ta be my boyfriend?  Hey Anabelle.” she said under her breath.  I hate getting into the middle of drama, especially at parties.  “These two guys won’t leave me ‘lone ‘nd I told ‘em I was with ya ‘cause I saw ya with Anabelle.”  They looked like ‘roided out creeps with preppy appearances and unblinking stares.  There’s nothing wrong with having a girl on your arm, so I agreed.  “Thank you so much.  I’m Monica, by the way.”

She really wasn’t my type.  Too much of a girly-girl.  Took forever getting ready.  Always worried about her hair, makeup, or whatever.  All dolled up even though we were only going to a dive bar.  How can one person own so many damn shoes?  Her roommates and I became good friends as I took up space on their couch waiting around.  We’d be at least an hour late to everything.  It got to the point that if we were going to something I’d lie and say it started an hour earlier than it really did.  Many times, we’d still be late and it drove me nuts.

Beyond the superficial crap, she was an interesting person.  I have no idea where she’d get this stuff either.  I’d mention I liked some band and she’d give me a bunch of music from all sorts of unknown groups.  She’d loan me books by authors I’ve never heard of or thoughtful movies from strange places.  I’m no artist, but she found some of my junk fascinating.  I still don’t know why.  Monica took a bunch of my doodles and gave them to others. 

One time, we went to a lousy bar because they had some lame promotion.  Of course, there was a line halfway down the block in spite of five better pubs within eyeshot, all with available seating and cheaper, stronger drinks.  Anyway, here we were standing on the sidewalk like idiots when some girl came out of the lounge to talk on the phone and have a cigarette.  No big deal.  So, the girl tries to go back in and Monica pushes her.  Starts mouthing off about cutting in line and all sorts of nonsense.  Obviously, Monica didn’t know she had already been in the bar.  Well, I bear hug Monica and apologize to the girl, allowing her to go back inside.

As I started to explain the situation to Monica, she started hitting me and spouting off about embarrassing her in front of everyone.  Now I’m embarrassed about the both of us.  I hate that bar, I hate fighting, and I hated the whole situation.  So, I just went back to her car and sat until everyone was done and we could go home.  I was a designated driver by default.  Monica loves picking fights.  Would pick a fight with a grizzly if she perceived it wronged her somehow.  No idea what went through her head when she got like that.

Monica’s not crazy, at least not more than the average person.  There were just some topics I learned to avoid.  Hell, I don’t bring up some topics with anyone anymore after her reactions.  She could be extremely sweet too.  Like the time I was sick and she brought me spicy soup I like from the Thai place.  Or when she cleaned my grandpa’s house for him when I had to put in all that overtime.  But, she either ran “hot” or “cold.”  There was nothing in between.

That was two years ago.  It’s funny the things I remember and the stuff I forget.  Thinking about all that’s changed and how everything is the same.  How random it can all be.  All because I hitched a ride with Anabelle and she decided to bring me to this warehouse instead of going home.

It was uneventful when Monica moved to L.A. to be an actress/waitress.  She just told me “I’m goin’ ta Los Angeles ta fulfill a dream” and that was the last time I saw her.  As I said, it was a temporary relationship and I went back to Milwaukee a few weeks later.

Maybe I’ll go to the Fallen Angel for a drink before closing time.  It’s not that much out of the way.  On Station Street, I seem to be the only person around.  It’s eerily quiet as the orange lights obscure the midwestern sky.  I wonder if the bartender is still there; the aspiring singer.  Gave us lots of free drinks while singing along to the jukebox.  Not bad either.  I hope it hasn’t turned into a hipster bar or anything.  Then again, there’s something depressing when nothing’s changed.




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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tattered



I rub my eyes and hardly notice kicking a slipper in the hallway.  The linoleum floor is surprisingly chilly.  A faint light seeps onto it from under the bathroom door.  It holds my attention in the darkness.  Again, I hear a haunting whisper just under the rumble of a running toilet.  I knock on the door and there’s no response.  “Are ya awright in there?”  I crack the door open and peek inside.  “GRANPA!  OH SHIT!  Ya okay?”   His right hand grasps the toilet handle as his body is wrapped around the bowl.  He growls weakly as I untangle him and carry him to bed.

I race into the living room to find painkillers and something for nausea.  Tablets tumble onto the coffee table.  I reference a spreadsheet of times, dates, symptoms, and remedies.  A nurse should be doing this, not an inexperienced, stressed-out, scared family member.  I throw nearly a dozen pills into my pocket, grab a pot from the kitchen, and a sports drink.  I head back to the bedroom and see Grandpa hunched over on the edge of his bed.  He’s shrouded in a tattered blue robe and wearing one slipper.  “Granpa, ya gotta rest.”  I put the spaghetti pot on the floor.  “But, take these first.  Should make ya feel better.”

“Get that shit ‘way from me.  All da goddamn pills are what’s killin’ me.”  I got nothing else.  So, I just stare for a moment before I dump all the pills on the nightstand.  “Sorry…  I don’t mean ta snap at ya.  Just feel awful, that’s all.”

“No worries.”  I sit next to him.  Heat radiates from the down comforter, flannel sheets, and electric blanket in the summer night.  “Anythin’ I can do ta help ya sleep?”  His shaky hand lightly clutches my knee.

“Imma gonna miss ya, Luke.”  I nearly go blind as my eyes instantly tear up.  “Ya’ve always been good ta me.”

“Granpa, it’s too soon fer that.  Yer just havin’ a rough night with da medicine ‘nd all.  Let’s just get ya ta bed, okay?”

“Nah, nah, nah.  I’m dyin’ ‘nd I got some things I gotta tell ya before I can’t.”  I grab his shabby red plaid slipper from the hall and put it on his foot.  Then I wrap him up in an extra blanket as he’s covered in goosebumps.  “Okay, sit down now.  Ya know, I always wanted da best fer ya, right?”

“’Course I do.”

“Well, I don’t know what I’d do without ya.  Yer granma died, then yer mom moved ‘way, ‘nd I was forced ta retire.  Didn’t know what ta do with myself.  Those were some rough times, lonely times.  It wasn’t right she suffered like that.  I sat in this house, by myself, just thinkin’ ‘bout it.  Just years of bein’ torn up inside ‘til yer mom brought ya over.”
            “’Member goin’ ta lunch in da ol’ brown car?  Just packin’ sandwiches ‘nd talkin’ by da river.  Yeah, I liked those.  I’d ask ya ‘bout da stuff ya’d be doin’.  Had a hard time when ya had all that trouble with da school.  It wasn’t right.  Wish I’d done somethin’ dif’rent ‘bout that.”
            “’Nd yer dif’rent.  Ya always have been.  Don’t know why.  Can’t put my finger on it.  Fer some reason, ya’ve always been a target ‘nd I’ve tried ta protect ya.  Maybe too much.  Ya always had a freedom.  Yer not interested in da same things others think are important.  Just yer existence seems to undermine their point-of-view.  Ya challenge people’s beliefs ‘nd opinions without knowin’ it.  It makes ‘em attack ya outta fear.  “Nd maybe that’s it.
            “But, I failed ya, Luke.  I let ya out inta da world without ya even knowin’ who ya are.  Whatcha gonna do with yerself?  Do ya know?”

“Uh…” I’m just thinking how late it is and that I have to work in the morning.  “I dunno…  Everythin’s up in da air right now.  But, I’ll find a good job.  Don’t worry ‘bout that.”

“Job?  I ain’t worried ‘bout no job.  I’m worried ‘bout you.  Do ya know who ya are?”  I yawn and see the clock reads 3am.

“I guess so.”  I fold my hands together and play with my thumbs.

“Ya guess so.”  He scratches his stubble and has a disheartening chuckle.  “Well Luke, I can’t tell ya who ya are either.  I can make some observations ‘nd try ta help ya find a path.  But, that’s all.  Yer lost right now.  All ya seem ta do is work terrible jobs ‘nd watch TV.”  His back becomes arched as he coughs uncontrollably.  There’s an awful phlegm gargle right before he spits into the pot.  “Ya need ta figure out what yer livin’ fer.  If ya got nothin’ ta live fer, yer awready dead.”  What am I going to say to that?  I’m not going to debate the meaning of life with an old man dying of cancer. 

I take a few pills off the nightstand and hand it to him.  I’ll need really strong coffee before I head to work in a few hours.  After a swig of the sports drink he says, “I’m ‘fraid I failed ya.  Not leavin’ ya much when I’m gone.  Nothin’s left really.  But, most of all, I never helped ya find out who ya are.  There’s always been somethin’ dif’rent ‘bout ya.  Yer not fer this world.  Maybe ‘cause of that I wasn’t da right person ta teach ya.  I’m sorry.”

“Okay Granpa, nothin’ ta apologize fer.”  I gently push his shoulders toward the pillow and get him ready to sleep.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll be fine.”

“I sure hope so.”    





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