The day before Halloween

The day before Halloween.

I went to Venice Beach today. I was there all on my own and I took the bus to get there from way out in Pomona. I wore cargo shorts. Sports socks. And a white t-shirt that shrunk from a dryer that got too hot. In my backpack was a sweatshirt, baseball cap and a bottle of tequila. It’s my zombie apocalypse bug-out-bag.

The ride felt like it took many hours. These rides usually do. I stood as my stop was coming up. The driver let me off. I exited from the back of the bus so I didn’t have to face the driver again. I was drunk and had pissed my seat. I was on the sidewalk and the sun and the day were very bright. I wiped my hands on my shorts. Took a long drag from the bottle. I’m not sure why it came to mind when it did, but as I stood there, I thought about my empty refrigerator. And the empty seat of piss that I left on that bus. The bus pulled away.

I walked 2 blocks south, 4 west, till I was on the boardwalk and the Pacific welcomed me back.

There was a woman. She claimed to be a clairvoyant. She wanted $5 and a drink from my bottle. I told her I’d give her both if she’d let me hit her joint and tell me something that I didn’t already know about myself. She said she’d tell me about my past life, but made no promise about the weed. And she opened her legs and what I saw both repulsed me, but also drew me to sit with her.

I gave her the bottle. She pulled down from it 4 or 5 big chugs. I had to yank it from her mouth. I heard it hit her teeth. She just laughed. And I thought about that awful thing I saw between her legs. Like a bird’s nest that fell from a tree.

She watched my face and wiped her lips and her laughter came to an end as she told me that maybe I should go home. I gave her the $5 and told her to pass the smoke. She lit the thin hand rolled cigarette, took a hit and handed it to me.

I took a long, deep drag. She told me that I was a dog in my former life. She said that my name was Barkie. I felt drunk and the weed hit me fast. She held out her hand for me to return the cigarette. I twisted away and hit it again. She yelled loudly and lunged at me. Scratched my nose as she snatched the joint from my fingers. I wanted her bird’s nest. She told me to fuck off. Made a scene. People stared at us. I walked away.

I stomped out across the sand. My shoes and socks were under water as the Pacific lapped at my ankles. There were children laughing and screaming. There were plump and fleshy teen girls in bikinis. 50 year old couples jogging through the damp sand.

I slipped off the backpack to get to my bottle. I closed my eyes and drank. When I opened my eyes again, the water was still there. So were the kids. The young girls. The sun. And so was I, but I didn’t want to be. So, I put the bottle away, onto my back and headed for the bus to take me home. I hoped that it wouldn’t be the same bus I’d pissed on, but even if not, I knew my refrigerator would still be empty.

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Ants in my leg hair

Ants in my leg hair.

My name is Canterbury. I can’t remember who it was that nicknamed me that. I guess they thought it was funny. I guess it kind of is.

Summer will be coming to an end soon. It’s 730 in the evening and it’s cooler outside than it is in my apartment. The sun is out of sight, but the sky is still bright with its glow.

I’ve gone for a walk. I needed to get out of the apartment. My kitchen smells of stale beer, but the dishes have been washed and are drying in the rack. My breath smells of stale beer as well, but I have chewing gum in my pocket.

I used to be beautiful. But when I was, I didn’t know it back then. I have trouble sleeping these days. My head and my heart race with in me. Back and forth, bumping into each other all day, and into the night. 2am. 3am. 4. Then the sun comes again.

At first, I blamed the pillows. Then, I thought it might be the sheets. Or the bed itself. So I bought a double-thick inflatable mattress and when I can’t sleep in my regular bed, I’ll go out to the living room and sleep on the inflated bed. The living room began to lose its magic too. Now I have an inflatable bed in almost every room and I am an insomniac nomad within my own apartment.

Later, when the rain comes, I’ll have forgotten how much I enjoy listening to it fall and splash as it gathers where it will. It will bring bittersweet emotion with its bittersweet fragrant of freshly wet streets and sidewalks.

As the rain carries on through the fall and winter, my mood will be melancholy. I won’t remember the spring. But I will always love and miss my summer.

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In for the night

In for the night.

Tonight I ate good pizza. I pulled down from the cupboard a biodegradable disposable plate made of potato for the pizza. I went into the living room and turned on the t.v. Back in the kitchen, I poured a drink and cracked a beer. The night before I drank more than I should have. It was two weeks since I had a drink and then I fell off of that wagon again. Wouldn’t be the worst of my bad decisions, but it did make for a lousy morning. The t.v. and the couch and the old t.v. tray waited for me. I poured another drink.

The t.v. tray used to have my signature scrawled into one corner with a cheap ball point pen. This was something I did on another drunken night. The signature has worn away. In it’s place there is a tiny sticker of a simple cartoon drawing of a yellow baby chick. A woman whom I loved placed it there one night much like this one. It was a sticker given to her by her 7 year old nephew. I loved her nephew too. I first met him when he was only 5 months old. I haven’t seen him in years. That too broke away a little part of my heart. We would babysit him often. I was there when he took his first steps and spoke his first word, when not even his own parents had been. Now the sticker is still with me, but not my love, nor the boy.

While I ate the pizza and drank, I watched a German movie. It co-stared an American actress, unknown by me. She was an older woman, maybe in her mid to late 50’s. An attractive woman that was in Vienna because her name and number was the only found on her cousin that had fallen into a coma. The woman would spend time in the Vienna art museum when she wasn’t at the hospital with her cousin. At the museum she became friends with a museum security guard. The couple in the movie made me feel lonely. But the pizza was very good and the tequila and beer helped to make up for it.

In the German movie, the museum guard told the woman the story of a Vienna legend, St. Augustine. He was a notorious drunkard. He lived during the time of the black plague. One night he was found so drunk, he’d passed out and had been mistaken for dead. They carried him off and tossed him into a mass grave. He woke and, apparently, began to play his bagpipes and the people pulled him out again. He made money and a living from the re-telling of his story and playing his bagpipes.

I’m going to drink as much as possible tonight. I don’t know how to play the bagpipes, but if you happen to stumble across me and I’m not heeding to you, be sure to give me a good nudge or two, just to make sure that the plague hadn’t taken me when I wasn’t looking.

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Candle in the window

Candle in the window.

It was 10 to 9, Monday night. I just finished watching a movie when I started with another. The first, I hadn’t seen before. The second was an old favorite. While watching, I had a cup of tea and 5 chocolate cookies. After the tea and cookies I ate a drumstick ice cream cone, strawberry.

Today was warmer than the last few. I slept in my shorts. I turned on the little air conditioner hanging in my living room window. On its own it only keeps the living room cool. I use a box fan to circulate the air to the rest of the apartment. It works ok, but there will be a few days throughout the coming summer when it’s just so damn hot, the fan and A/C will make noise and little more.

After the strawberry ice cream I popped a Xanex and went to bed. As I lay there, I thought about a dream I once had. In the dream I found myself in pajamas with tiny passenger planes and cruise ships printed on them. They were a two piece set with pockets in the pants and the shirt buttoned up the front with a little pocket over my heart. Very comfy. It was daytime and I was in a twin bed, in a long row of twin beds. There was no one else in the large room of beds except for me. I was in a mental hospital. As soon as that realization sunk in, I thought to myself, “Aaahh… Finally.” and I snuggled in for a nice afternoon nap. Then, from under the bed someone called out to me. I leaned over to look under the bed and I could feel the blood rushing to my face. Under the bed there was what appeared to be one of the doctors. He reached up and held the cuff of my pajama sleeve and said, “Madness is like being in a small boat in the middle of the sea and the water slowly seeps in through the uneven seams in the floor boards. Maybe there are paddles in the boat with you, but maybe not. Maybe the water is calm and still, or maybe it’s rough and angry and knocks you about. Maybe there is sun and far off you can see land, or maybe it’s dark and all there is, is black water and stars. What is happening outside of the boat doesn’t matter. What really matters is that the madness comes in all the while through the seams, little by little.” I’m not sure if that was a good dream or bad.

It had been about 20 minutes of laying in bed and I began to drift off. It was the Xanex and I was glad. I’d hoped to be asleep early. The earlier, the better and the earlier I’d get out of bed the next morning. As sleep took me away, I thought about my friend. I know that I’m still here. I wondered where was she. I’d never know where she was or will I ever again. I think maybe that’s what that doctor that hid under my bed was getting at. It’s those thoughts that are the seams in the floorboards. But damn my soul and damn the boat too. Love is madness. Let it sink me, dear God, may love sink me after all.

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When I was a young boy, my parents and my older sisters would leave the house for work and school so early, I was left to get myself up, dressed, fed and to school. I hated school. Some days I would walk extra slow so that I would purposely miss the bus. Some days I would eat my morning cereal one marshmallow at a time, till I knew the bus would, again, leave me behind. Some days I just didn’t give a fuck, one way or the other, and have my cereal while watching cartoons on the floor all day, never leaving the house. No one else seemed to give a fuck either. And little ever really changes.

These days I don’t sleep very well. I eat only once a day. There has been a day or two that slipped by where I didn’t sleep or eat at all. In the night I read and drink tea. In the day I watch t.v. in my socks. In between, I try to keep busy and try not the think about the walls of my apartment. Today I cleaned the microwave. I pulled the plug from the socket. Took the glass plate and washed it in hot soapy water. I soaked the sponge in the hot water too. I used it to wipe down the inside of the box.

I had an uncle that seemed like he had always been married to his wife. She was a friendly woman. A nice lady. Small, thin, dark red hair and drove a chocolate brown 944. My uncle loved her very much and not long after she died, he would call my mom at 3 in the morning to tell her that a UFO hides in his backyard at night.

My uncle died alone on his couch. We had to empty his old place. Under his bed were worn out slippers. On the bath room sink, sat a pink, dried and split bar of soap. In the hall was a junk drawer filled with matchbooks, rubber bands and batteries. And in the kitchen was an unplugged microwave, spotless inside and out. I never believed in UFO’s or ghosts. I figured it wasn’t any ghoul or alien that was going to get me in the end. But lately, I’ve started to keep an eye in the sky just in case.

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Just a little more

Just a little more.

It’s a real shame. The best part of the day is feeling the Xanax starting to kick in. But even that I’m grateful for. It’s 11 after 1 am and if not for that tiny pill I’d be up till 4. I’ll sleep and there’ll only be nothing for me between the time my eyes fall shut and when they open in the morning. There used to be wonderful vivid dreams. They’ve left me too. Left me for better nights. For better men. The floor of my apartment is unswept. My bare feet pick of whatever is there. The broom is in the closet and a large thin legged spider lives between its handle and the wall it leans against. I’ve stopped going outside. The mailman is an asshole. He gets a kick out of cramming letters and weekly adverts and sample voter ballots into my mailbox. The longer I ignore the mail the more the mailman crumples and stuffs into the box. I hate him and the bills and pre-approved credit card offers he never stops bringing. The cat finally came back. He was gone for more than a week. I figured him dead. But he came back. He looked like shit. So thin his ratty black fur clung tight over his hips. My guess is he accidentally got locked in somewhere. Maybe someone’s garage. It was good to see him at the back porch. If he made his way out maybe he’ll help me find my way out too. But probably not because he knows if I find my escape who’ll be here to keep him fed.

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Radio silence

Radio silence.

I do not talk to myself. When I talk and I am alone, I am speaking to those that were once with me. They may have been here many years ago, or they may have been here 16 days ago. But I talk to them still.

Last night it rained. It came down unexpectedly. I ignored the familiar sounds. I shut the window because my bare feet were getting cold. It was late and I pulled the covers in around me and I told my head to tell my heart to calm itself so I could sleep. It had been a long 16 days and I was tired and needed rest.

When I woke up, it was morning and the sun was bright and the birds sang loud in the little tree outside my room. I never pulled back the curtains, but I could tell that it was beautiful out there. And there was a wind blowing against the windows. I knew it would be a lonely night to follow.

That afternoon I read the book given to me by a woman that once loved me. Holding it in my lap made me remember when we had our good times and I wished that it was she in my lap instead.

The wind grew quiet and the sun rolled out west again. And it was time for a drink. I poured the drink and toasted to my love. Then as it burned down my throat and into my belly, it became obvious that I was only talking to myself after all.


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The beautiful

The beautiful.

I am waiting for them. I can feel them in the sun. They are in the clicking sound of her clipping her toenails and they are in the way she ignores me when she is angry. They are under the car where the cat sleeps its days away. They are in a baby’s tears and in his fat little hands. They are in the night when you are alone and no one loves you. And they are in the graveyard. In the bakery window. On the shelf, in the cupboard with the teacup with the chip in its handle. They are in the spilled over bottle of beer. They are all out there. I am waiting for them. And they are waiting for me. Waiting for me to catch them up and let them all go again.

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Leslie Burke was my first love

Leslie Burke was my first love.

It was grade school. I had a teacher named Mrs. Ruby. Before her there were none like her. None since. She was older. Maybe in her 50’s. She was tall and thin. Probably in her younger years, a very pretty woman. Plain, but always a lady, smiling and kind. I knew that she was special. She enjoyed her job and enjoyed children. Maybe it was easier back then. I cannot say, but she seemed to like us. She would invite musicians and artists and other interesting people to visit our class. I remember more art projects than I do almost anything else. But what I remember most, was her reading to us. It would happen every day after lunch recess.

After we ate, we were allowed 35 minutes playtime. Tag. Football. Kickball. Whatever it was, we went at it full speed. When we came back to class we would be charged full of energy. Mrs. Ruby would have us rest our heads on our desks for 5 minutes. Then, she would bring us to the front of the class forming a semi-circle, all facing her, her facing us. She would open the book in her lap and read to us.

Perfect stories. I never wanted to leave the worlds that she would take us to in those wonderful stories. I cannot remember them all, but there was, A Wrinkle in Time. Of course, Where the Red Fern Grows. And my favorite, A Bridge to Terabithia. My beautiful Leslie Burke. Even now, thinking of her breaks my heart.

Sometimes during, sometimes after reading, Mrs. Ruby would open discussions with the class. Most times we would talk about the story, different characters or how we might handle being in their shoes. I cannot recall how the subject came up, but one afternoon she told us about her husband. She told us that he died.

She did not say where he was coming back from, but she was picking him up from the airport. It was out on the tarmac. Like in the movies, she explained. The day was bright. He was wearing his light blue cotton suit, her favorite. He was tall and handsome. He had exited the plane and just stepped away from the rolling stairway. She was happy to see him and he was looking forward to coming home. He was smiling at her. Their eyes had just met when his expression fell away from his face and then he crumpled to the ground. She ran for him, but he was already gone.

Mrs. Ruby had been trying to stifle her tears as she was finishing the story of her husband dying before her eyes, but she could no longer hold back. She pulled a tissue from her dress pocket and wept. Through the tears, she choked out the words, “I loved him so much…” I wanted to run to her and put my head in her lap and tell her not to cry. I wanted to tell her that I loved her, even if I really had not. But I could not do any of those things, I just sat in my seat and watched her. She did not say why he fell that day, or how long it had been. I guess that did not matter. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and composed herself. She apologized to us, but none of us saw anything to be sorry for and she sent us back to our desks.

All the years since then, I was never much of a good student. I barely made it through high school. Had dumb job after dumb job. Years later, one of those jobs was delivering flowers. I was in my late 20’s. Each morning I was given a list of names and addresses. I loaded my van and went out to do my deliveries. One morning, there was a Ruby on my list. Of course the name made me think of her, but my van was full and it would be a long day. I did not give it much thought that early in the morning.

Almost finished with my route, Ruby was my next drop. The address was a secured building. I had to be buzzed in. Took an elevator to the 3rd floor. Rang the bell. It was her, Mrs. Ruby.

She was much older and did not recognize me. People are usually happy to get flowers and so was she. It was amazing to see that smile again. She would have no idea how it affected me. She signed for the delivery, thanked me and started to close the door. I gently raised my hand to stop her. I told her that I knew that she would not remember me and I told her that I was a former student of hers. I told her that I did not want to take up too much of her time, but I wanted her to know how much she meant to me and that I would never forget her. I told her how much the reading meant. And I told her that she was my favorite teacher.

She did it again. Mrs. Ruby began to cry. She set the flowers on the floor between us. I was a stranger to her, but she hugged me. She was very thin and felt fragile. I stood in the hall and she just inside her apartment door. Then, she stepped back again, wiped her tears and thanked me. I thanked her. We said to good bye to each other and I headed back to the van and I felt grateful. I finished that day’s route and turned in the van and my clipboard. The dispatcher, the floral designers nor the other drivers had ever heard Mrs. Ruby read to them. But I have and that dumb job was the best dumb job I ever had.

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Holding on

Holding on.

I could not sleep. The whole week has been a struggle. But last night was the worst. I was up at 2am. I sat up because my heart was throbbing in my ears and neck. The sheets and my back were soaked with sweat. The night was a dark pit. Even though I’d told myself to ease up, I drank from early that day and into the night. I got up and wandered through my apartment looking for an escape. All the windows and doors were shut tight. I peeked through the curtains and realized that it was for the best. At least I know the darkness on this side of the door. So I made up the couch and huddled there like a runaway or an unexpected cousin from out of town. I also took a pill to calm my heart. I waited and worried that the morning may never come. The room was empty and so was I. My mind drifted back to a memory of when I was a young boy. I was having trouble sleeping even back then. My parents were splitting up and one night neither of them were home. I lay on their bed waiting and listening to music on the clock radio. I watched the minutes go by and it hurt a little more with each number that flipped over to the next. Back on the couch, I got up for a drink of water from the fridge. It was after 5 now and I was relieved that the sun was on its way. I’d made it and now it’s night again as I am writing this. I hadn’t a drink all day. The couch is still made and doesn’t look so bad, but you better wish me luck anyway.

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