Sunday, April 23, 2006

Arrivals and Departures

Two hours until take-off. My traveling companion keeps to himself, which is a good thing. In fact, he seems to want absolutely nothing to do with me. Great. As long as I'm insured usage of the rental car in the evening and he asks no questions.

I remember how I used to come to the airport when I was younger and simply "hang out." I'd sit by myself and watch everyone coming and going, coming and going, coming and going. I'd often wonder where they were off to and whom they were planning on seeing. My friend Mark told me once about how he met an older woman at the airport, she was married, while waiting to pick up a friend of his and they fucked. I've heard many similar stories. Perhaps this was my motivation back then. Today, I'm hoping I may somehow score a bag of blow.

I also wish my traveling companion wasn't such a square.

Layover... OR things to do in Denver when you're dead...

Feeling numb. In lieu of an actual lunch I opted to buy two Corona's. $4.50 per bottle at Denver International airport, what a fucking rip-off. Desperation causes us to do stupid things though like spend money we really don't have. The firm doesn't reimburse alcohol so I should have bought a Taco or something. But instead, I slammed the two bottles back to back and now all I have left ahead of me is a 2 hour wait and a cool buzz shrouded around ringing ears like a blanket. On recommend of Ruksak, I'm reading "Hunger" by Knut Hamsen. I'm about 30 pages in. It's about a starving writer living in Oslo at the turn of the twentieth century. This poor fuck owns nothing, he's pawned all of his worldly possessions so he can eat and make rent. He's starving and flat broke and on the verge of complete insanity.

I can relate. Somehow.

"Hunger." It goes kind of like this ---------> Empty belly dull throbbing ache comes and goes in pulsating waves. Keeps me alert and distrustful. Luckily, I ditched my traveling companion, Josh. He has to take a different flight than I do. I earn a brief respite from his beady eyes unblinking reptile gaze so full of judgment - that dumbfuck. Next to me a fat man inhales juicy bacon-burger goodness smothered in dripping cheese. My knees knock and shake like I have to piss really bad. Tap dancing like Sammy Davis Jr as I stare at his burger like a hungry dog licking it's chops with wet, intrusive slurps.

God, I'd love a couple of Lortabs.

I brought my ipod but I haven't listened to it. I have yet to figure out the soundtrack for this trip. See, there's always a soundtrack - a specific tune or an album. I'll remain patient. We'll see how things go in Dallas. I sure hope there are some interesting people in my training class. I'd like to hit some local bars or clubs during my downtime. Meanwhile, I'll continue to take advantage of the hotel's shitty work-out facilities, high-speed wireless internet, free continental breakfast, and complimentary coffee.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Quick and the Dead

When the weather is this beautiful, even the rats and roaches dare to venture out.

A Spring afternoon and I find myself at the grocery store buying some lunch. I'm standing in line reading a gossip mag as my basket rests on the floor at my feet. I'm behind a tired looking Mexican woman with two screaming kids. I'm tuning them out though, rocking the ipod with some “Buena Vista Social Club.” In my basket I have a banana, an apple, some sliced turkey, a couple of rolls, and a 40 ounce Miller High Life... we used to call these over-sized bottles “cauguama's.” I'm not really reading the magazine, I keep thinking about that day in 2003 when my cousin and I drove around all day looking for opium.

“ Why do you want opium so bad?”

“ Why not Cabron?”

“ But why opium? Why don't we pick up some blow and a couple of beers? Opium?! It's not like we we live in the fuckin' orient.”

“ Orient... What's that? What are you talking about?”

“ Fuck it, nothing.”

We drove around all day. My cousin had me on the horn calling everyone I know and making them, in turn, call everyone they know. For some strange reason, tracking down some opium that day in 2003 was like finding the lost Ark of the Covenant. We finally decided to bag it and instead wound up scoring some snow and then getting tossed out of the strip club, battered and bloody, because I decided to light up one of the bouncers

As I'm walking out of the store I'm shaking my head and silently chuckling to myself when a bum approaches me. I can't stop staring at the billions of tiny beads of sweat, like a micro-universe, on his forehead and all over his greasy neck.

“ Excuse me sir, do you have any spare change?”

I peer at him from underneath my over-sized Willy Wonka shades. I always get so fucking annoyed when the homeless pester me for money.

“ Maybe. What do you plan on buying?”

He opens his mouth, ready to give me his usual rehearsed, bullshit story. I interrupt him mid-sentence.

“ Be real with me. If you plan on buying some booze, or dope, or whatever just tell me. Don't lie to me or I'm not giving you shit. However if you tell me the truth, if you're real with me, I'll give you five bucks.” I set down my bags and pop the white buds out of my ears.

Next to us some seagulls squawk, fighting over a bag of discarded French fries.

“ Well...” He speaks very slowly now, carefully choosing his words. “ I need bus fare. My mother lives across town and I promised her I'd come and see her.”

I lower my shades and study his features, gazing at him through squinted eyes like a poker master who carefully reads his opponent. I'm not convinced. I bend over and pick up my bags. “ Nope, wrong answer bucko. You're lying to me.”

As I begin to walk away he holds out his hands and quickly closes the distance between us. He starts stuttering, stumbling over his words now. “ Hey, wait, wait, wait. Where are you going man? I told you the truth, I swear to God! I – I r-r-really need to see my mom, I do need bus fair. I need some help h-here man. I... “

“ All right shut the fuck up!" Pause. " I'm giving you one more chance. You can't con a con you ever hear that saying? So this time, you tell me the truth if you want to make an easy five bucks. Oh, and maybe you should put that shirt back on, your track marks are showing.”

He looks down at his arms then quickly shoves them into his pockets, the insides of his forearms are pressed tightly against his sides. His face turns beet red. He doesn't answer.

I turn away. “ Good luck.”

“ All right! O.K, O.K ... I-I needed to buy some smack. You happy now? I need to buy some more junk... a-and fast.”

I smile... a victorious, contemptible smile. I whip my wallet out of my back pocket and tear out a five dollar bill. I reach out my hand, the fiver folded in half sticking out from between my index and bird finger. He quickly snatches it out of my hand like Oliver Twist grabbing a roll from the workhouse headmaster.

“ Thanks man! Seriously, I really appreciate this. God bless!”

His gaze drifts to a bald, fat man climbing out of an SUV so I peel out a ten dollar bill and lazily wave it around in a circle in front of his face to hold his attention. His mouth slackens and plops open with a wet smack. His eyes widen, pupils dilating like dissipating blood in a syringe needle. He doesn't say anything at all. He just dumbly stares at me in disbelief and I coolly stare back. Our eyes carry on an unspoken conversation.

We're really starting to communicate now.

The sun beats down on both of us as the salty breeze lazily blows asphodel blossoms about creating a swirling snowstorm. We face each other in silence like two gunfighters settling a score on an abandoned, dusty street. Beads of sweat begin to creep onto my own brow now like a crackling blanket of army ants slowly invading a sleeping newborns' crib.

The shrill scream of a dying spider then a thump, followed immediately by the slow shuffling of a million spiny legs covered in tight wire-hair approaching Bethlehem - to be reborn again and again. My head's pounding. I can hear the distant drums luring out the beast who lurks in the jungle just beyond the reassuring torchlight... a sequential, slow coaxing.

“ He dead you know. Oh yes, oh yes, yes, yes...” The old Indian turns and repeatedly mutters through rotten teeth as he hides behind a swirling smoke curtain. Mexican desert wigwam peyote nightmare, the old man's head is spinning really really fast now and all around me stuffed dogs nip at my tattered clothes. Tired, so tired. “ Ha! That bastard thought he knew... that son of a bitch thought he had it figgered out. That God-damned maggot... Maggot!”

Somewhere in a quiet operating room a reticulated, squirming mass is held aloft like a human sacrifice as a c-sectioned mother wails to heaven in desperate horror...

The day started out so nice. Today was one of those days when the weather was so beautiful, the weather was so friendly, so accomodating, even the rats and roaches dared to venture out.

Junkie and I, we face each other and my jaw clenches and unclenches matching the beat of the drums. I stutter, now in marionette trance-mode:

“ I - I'll give you this ten and possibly more later if... and only if... you find me a bag as well.”

Friday, April 14, 2006

Appearances

I’ve started carrying around a “messenger” bag. A handsome black number I picked up at one of the superstores. It travels with me everywhere I go, slung around my neck with the black strap resting just above my right collarbone. I don’t particularly have any important documents to tote so I’ll typically toss in a sandwich, my camera, and an empty notepad. Everyone I know keeps asking me: “ So, what’s with the man-purse?” And I smile, more like a half-smile really, and patiently reply: “ It’s called a messenger bag.” The other day my little sister followed this statement with another question: “ Well what’s your message?”

I was at a loss for words. The answer is I truthfully don’t know.

Perhaps this thusly explains why my notepad still sits untouched neatly packed away in my bag on the floor next to my feet. However, some might argue, the absence of writing could be a message unto itself.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

a kite tale

Amir brings the jalopy to a slow stop and we sit in silence staring at the dilapidated house. We do not speak. The only sound is the soft tink-tink of the engine cooling under the sweltering Afghani sky. We are both lost in our respective thoughts as our eyes carefully study the old house flitting from window to window, from room to room. It’s like seeing a fallen Titan, a once mighty deity, a grandiose figment of our memory that fell from heaven and crashed into the dry earth engulfed in flames, and now… just a stinking rotting corpse. The house we once knew in youth destroyed by Taliban gunfire. The house Baba proudly built brick by brick, from a conceptual rough draft scribbled on a blueprint to later become the glorious envy of the neighborhood, now a ruinous heap covered in indiscernible graffiti. Shattered glass and splintered wood. The gardens we meticulously tended long ago overrun with dry yellowed weeds and dirt and strewn garbage.

I hear the creak of leather. Out of the corner of my eye I vaguely see Amir’s silhouette restlessly shift in the approaching gathering dusk. His voice sounds cracked and distant.

" Hassan, they say those who drink from the same breast are united as brothers. They say… there exists a kinship that not even time can break… ”

My eyes remain fixed forward. I cannot muster the appropriate words so I allow my silence to speak for me. Amir coughs and continues.

“ Hassan-jan, I need to tell you this… I must. I… I’m so sorry… for everything. I truly am. It is as though I’ve awakened from a dream - nay a torturous nightmare, and I now realize you have taught me everything I will need to ever know. You have taught me how to live. Through your eyes, in your heart, I have discovered blessed salvation.”

I swallow hard. I remain silent.

“ I…I don’t know what to say. Usually words come so very easily to me. All I’m asking is that you forgive me. I ask for your bakhshesh. Please, for fucks sake, forgive me Hassan-jan! I am sorry and I grieve and I hurt and I….”

Amir hunches over the steering wheel, his body racked with convulsive sobs. He punches the dashboard in frustration and angry guilt.

I see Amir's pain, it glows like a dull blue aura. I understand why he hurts. I have always understood Amir and I always will. I gently lay my hand on his shoulder. I feel his muscles slacken.

“ Amir-sahib. I could never remain angry with you. I forgive you Amir and things may one day be the same as they were but it will take some time. We will have to wait but it will be worth it in the end. I pause and Amir looks up at me with tears in his eyes. I meekly smile. “Remember, Amir-sahib… sour apples.”

“ So you forgive me?”

“ For you… a thousand times over.”

Friday, April 07, 2006

Escherian

A year ago today...

It's pretty scary being completely broke.

The other day I got a post-dated check loan at a place cleverly named, "Check City" which is smack dab on the boulevard of broken dreams, criss-crossing wino alley. I always swore to myself I'd never take out one of these ridiculous loans, yet here I am, slapping down my car title for an extra 200 bucks so I can eat.

Upon completing my business I quickly leave. As I'm getting into my car a homeless man approaches me and asks for money. He can tell by the pissed off look on my face that I'm put out. So he quickly follows his initial query with "I mean no disrespect, but if you have even a quarter you'd spare so I can buy a burger or something I'd really appreciate it." Coincidentally, in my center console I had 2 quarters, some pennies, and a pocketful of lint which I was saving specifically to use at the car wash. I hand him the quarters and say:

"It looks like you could use this more than me."

Nothing has changed.

I'm still poor. I'm still hungry.

Here's to another year on the moebius strip super-highway.

Monday, April 03, 2006

like riding a bike.

I’m immersed in Reggaet├│n bass lines. I stand in the shadows watching sweaty bodies grind and twist to the primitive beat. I think I’m falling in love with this music… with this scene… once again.

Faces, people I knew back in the day appear out of the darkness to shake my hand and buy me a drink. They all invariably ask the same two questions: “ Hey, where have you been? You lose weight?” I politely smile and give the same simple answer as to avoid any unnecessary confusion, overlapped stories, or lengthy explanations. “ I’ve been traveling.” The reaction is universal. A quiet nod and three words: “ You look good.”

For most of the evening I hide near the back of the club leaning against the bar chatting it up with one of the cocktail waitresses, S____, a stunning Bosnian girl I used to date. She asks me why I’m not dancing and I ignore the question. She persists. “ Have you noticed that all of these girls keep looking over here? Why don’t you get out there and dance?”

I sharply inhale ready to give another rehearsed answer. S___ reads my eyes and continues.

“ …and I know you know how to dance, don’t deny it.”

I pause and lower my Red-Bull/jaeger in mock defeat. I lean in closer. Her eyes playfully smile at me under the low lights of the club. There’s no cocaine in my blood, yet my heart beats rapidly against my chest and my senses are heightened. I'm fully aware of my surroundings. Her sweet perfume swirls in my head along with the smoke of my clove. For the first time in what seems like decades I feel alive. The rusted gears and cogs have begun to rumble to life.

I narrow my eyes and grin at her from beneath the brim of my vintage fedora. “Because I’m too old.”

She leans in close, playing the game expertly. “You can never be too old to dance.”

“Yeah, who told you that?”

“ Someone I used to know... somebody wise.”