(Part II is a survivor, pen–written in unlikely locales and on unlikely sources. The back of a ticket book, belly-up to the bar of Bottletree, during the set of Bison AD, who sound like an introduction to Viking war. The counter of the UAB Trauma Center following three shootings in three minutes. The papers were stuck in my pocket for editing and that was interrupted by a 2-alarm Woodlawn house fire. Dried out, typed and… finally posted.)
I write from the end of a sledgehammer.
I write from…
There was something in her eyes at the kitchen table. Black-starved glare for attention, cum-starved needs attention. It was sexual, or chemical, or both, and I didn’t get it. I was too young, too naive. A pleasant reminder of how desperate people can be. Exene mumbled that “we’re all desperate” and “get used to it” before 1,2,3 counts for a band called X in seedy Los Angeles bars a chainsmoke-junkie’s lifetime ago. Yes, I write the memories of others and yes, I was only seven-years-old in 1980, and nowhere near California, but I can fade away to anytime anyplace with a pen and paper and the cursed gift of not being able to forget, or to let it go.
I want to write fiction, I’ve typed that before, but fiction just seems so uneven. I may be melodramatic… I may use homemade adjectives and street-born adverbs to get what I want. Broken English, broken speech, imaginary punctuation.
But I don’t lie.
Snapshot 1: Two men, one woman sat around a coffee table outside the first unit banging dominoes. Two, wearing all red, sat in chairs, the other sat on the stairs. A pitbull puppy rolled on his back in the weeds. Extension cords ran across the courtyard, pushing power from one address to another, the stairs in the back units resembled loading docks.
Jason and I saw the car flipped over, headlights still on, wheels spinning. Before midnight I’d hold the names of the dead. Rich boy drinking again, driving again and killing again. He and I paralleled two paths of similar goals, with significant differences. I fought for my bars with credit card bills and bank loans, his bars were parents’ gifts to steer him out of trouble’s way. When we said our “hellos” in public I was usually throwing away beer bottles, sweeping up broken glass. He was busy swiping plastic and smiling teeth at young Southside skirts. Trouble, as they say, finds those that are truly troubled.
The static of my truck radio and “Glory Days” and yeah yeah yeah. Jason and I, bored with straightedge but not going anywhere, drove aimlessly in large January circles up and over Birmingham’s hills. The headlights over the bend in the road hit first, the upside down headlights. It was him, the rich boy, on his path. Reiterating, he had killed before, waking up sober behind prison’s cell-gray bars in a year-and-a-half of bad mornings.
The bad look in his eye, it was the devil inside.
Embrace excess. Die for the troubles.
I don’t smile over the dead, I can’t. But that night and now I embrace his death. And I write about it, nothing uneven this time.
Snapshot 2: The inside of the house was just a means to cross from the courtyard to the alley. A rotten mattress tucked away in the living room behind a dresser missing two drawers. Roaches walked over walls, ants crawled through open containers of food in a three-foot-wide kitchen. A pile of decade-ago magazines scattered on the floors. A college report card hung by magnets on the refrigerator, 4.0 average.
White is the minority in this neighborhood and she was white. The voices battling for her conscious had dialed 911. She was scared. It was painful, or psychosomatic, or both and I get it. Everyone else went outside, waiting on her Rescue taxi to Belleview. I stayed inside, looking through dust shelves of trinkets and photos of probably-dead people.
“So... voices… what do they say?”
“They say kill yourself. Over and over. Negative things like that.”
I nodded. “I hear them too ma’am. I just write away the voices.”
She nodded back, “I paint them”, pointing to a wall full of art. It wasn’t my kind of style, but A for effort, right?
Snapshot 3: The outside alley was rowed with garbage bags ripped open by cats, rats and dogs. A stack of one hundred Cobra brand beers piled up outside the bedroom window. A couch, faced back to the alley, was surrounded with bent or broken toys. Her husband misheard “vitals” for “violent”, and would not let go thinking that we were accusing him of abuse. We were not. He called someone on his cell and quit his job.
The wife sat in a folding chair next to a stack of a hundred Cobra cans, arms zombie straight, eyes looking through something that wasn’t there, embraced in her own madness.
I wrote snapshots and inked notes on the back of my hand.
I'm going to keep screwing around and end up writing a 100,000 word short story: full of verses about love, a buildup to pages about loss, and a twist ending about death. I’ll wipe the bloodied handprints down my jeans, heart beating so fast it cracks ribs. Arms are still wide and, sometimes, there’s even a slight smile… if just for a moment. This is really me, writing with a Polaroid memory and scrap pieces.
Band-aid looking things taped across my nose.
Anything it takes to keep breathing, keep going, keep fighting, writing, loving, living, dying. Over and over and over again.
This is really me. The lungs, the sledgehammer, and the snarl.
And I’ll embrace it all.
“They cover their eyes, for who wants to be sad? Life is sweet at the bottom of the sea. So don’t tread on me, for I am your brother, I was born with an American heart.” – Scott Bondy