Bums, Addicts, Strays, Trophy Wives and Boring Novelists
I flew, intrepidly. A vagabond with wings. High, up above the statue of William Penn. I could see everything, and the streets looked like a grid. Approaching from the Delaware River always made me feel giddy.
Giddy like the bums when they got a cup of ice.
Sometimes they only got a cup.
I'm lying here, dying. Nobody gives a damn. I can smell my crotch and armpits. Smells like a goddamn war zone. My hair's gray. They just keep on walking by me, here, lying on the sidewalk. I've lost my will, I can't stand on my own two feet. Nobody cares. Nobody's helping me. They won't even look at me.
Up the street, a guy on the corner is playing guitar. He's got an electric amplifier.
His notes are echoing and reverberating in the intersection. The chords he plays are soothing and invigorating. I feel uplifted, and I'm soaring with the music underneath me. I'm chirping in tune to the melodic overtones. What a sound! From up here, it's inexplicable...
I'm crawling through the intersection.
In the Wawa, finally. They know me here. I can't tell if they want to kick me out, right away. I have to suck in my pride. My guts are dangling out through my backbone. The whole thing is cockeyed.
"Listen!" I shout. "Where's the bathroom?"
If it's somebody behind the register who doesn't give a fuck, I can usually get a cup in the back of the place. She'll roll her eyes, shrugging her shoulders. She's a sweet angel. I'm limping, lethargic.
"Help!" I yell out up above me at the speaker making terribly loud noises. My nerves are shot. I haven't eaten in days, a decent, hot meal. A steamy shower might save my life.
Instead, I get a cup. Plastic.
I limp back toward the front of the store.
Holding my new treasure above my head, I'm giddy with its prospects.
I'm crossing Broad Street while the light is green. Horns are honking. I don't care. I scream at them.
I get to the other side.
"Listen," I say to the first person I meet, "I'm hungry. I don't mean to bother you. Could you spare somethin', anything?"
A kid in a Beatles T-shirt hands me a dollar. Oh my god.
"You're a Quaker!" I tell him.
I'm doing circles above the city, now. The air is breezy. I don't have to do too much flying. It's more of a swiftly, deft breakdance in the air currents. They're strange, just above the city. The buildings create their own drift, and the air bounces around and, crazily, I've somehow figured it out with years of practice. I even know where all the drug dealers work their best corners.
I gotta have it. I gotta. Just gotta. It's been an hour or two. Is it going to be all night, forever? When can I score?
I get to the corner.
It's late. I'm hungry. I'm fiend-ing. But I've no appetite.
There he is! I can see him.
My hands are calloused. My soul is calloused. My love is an impossible touchdown. Fuck! (My eyes twitch and my lungs are shrouded in heavy breathing.)
He hands me the bag. I hand him the money. He trusts me. I don't know why. I don't care. The only thing I care about is what's in my hands.
I scurry away. Like a rat out of his cage. I'm chewing the inside of my lips. This is the skinniest I've been in my life. There's death. Death everywhere! It's Halloween. My eyeballs are drier than tomatoes. My tongue is full of cotton and bottle caps. I've been swallowing lightning and my own bullshit. Every single nickel, dime, quarter I sling and slang on the streets -- it goes to somebody else.
It goes to my icy veins.
They're now... On fire...
What needle? Whose needle?
I've lost track of time, and space. I stare at the sky. To remember. Remember... Something...
I smell it. I smell everything.
I know these alleyways.
There are others, who trespass where I've laid claim to my territory. I piss all over these ancient stones.
My nose is wet, moist. From the rain.
The steam rises up from the streets.
My belly is aching. I can feel it. I'm hungrier than thirty lions. I'm so hungry I'm yawning and yelping and yammering and yacking and you just wouldn't believe it, how hungry I am.
I come to that familiar stoop.
Where is she? Damnit. She's forgotten about me again.
She's always here at this time. The moon is hovering above the city.
Just then. The door opens! I'm saved! I feel it. She's a good girl, a good human with a heart.
Oh yes. Oh yes. Oh yes. OH YES.
My fur is mangy, matted and mossy. I'm beside myself with delirium, my teeth ache, my legs, feet, ears, tail. Everything. I'm tired. The streets are occidental, accidental. I have no place to belong to, so I strut and strafe and fake it. I'm scared, terrified.
She's the only one who ever looks at me, she cares. Shares. Loves me.
She's petting my head as I'm eating!
"Little kitty! Smile! I'll wake you when you rise! Sleep, pretty darling! Don't cry!"
Okay. Now I'm freaked out.
I scurry away like a flash of lightning. Back to my corridors of darkness.
I CATCH A SNOOZE AWAY FROM HER. JESUS.
When I get back into the room, he's snoozing on the couch. He'd been watching TV for hours. A drink still in his hands. He's snoring like an ape. The white mustache is mocking me with each outburst of his breath. He's gross. A specimen like a dinosaur. I wish he were dead. I hate to say it. But.
I've been drinking.
This is Rittenhouse Square. We're ritzy, here. I'm supposed to be AND act this way. I don't really know. I don't have a personality. I'm dead inside. Who am I? What have I become? What have I allowed myself to become?
"BLUR BLEET BLAH..."
He's snoozing and nearly dead asleep. I walk over to him, pitilessly, and grab the glass from his wilted palm. The drudge. He's nothing but an octopus. A hedge fund big shot. ABC Plunder, Inc. I wonder what he's done with his credit cards, I'm thinking to myself as I'm placing his glass of bourbon down on the coffee table. The carpet in this penthouse is cream-colored. In the kitchen, the floor is shiny and tiled like a pearl necklace. I'm tired of being invisible.
"Listen, daddy," I'm speaking to his face, now. Usually, I don't have the guts. But he's dead asleep. And I'm tight, with six or seven vodkas under my belt. Belt? "BLUP." I giggle.
I smack his face, lightly.
"Oh, you stupid man! You don't care about me!"
I get up and waltz toward the bathroom, switching on the lights.
There's my skin. I'm lying to myself. And I know it.
"What?" he's stirring from the couch. "What's that? Cherrice?"
I sigh. Then I walk out and I'm facing him. He's just barely opening his eyes. He's still in his day suit, with the pinstripes.
"I'm lonely, muffin," he says. Then, within seconds, his neck is bent forward and he's back asleep, nearly drooling on himself.
"All you care about is money!" I shout at the top of my lungs.
But he doesn't hear me.
I walk over to the kitchen, dejected. All my friends go home to their husbands, with bank accounts and neckties. And plans for the future. All I've got is this limp fried fish, a shrimp. What's he so fried from -- stealing other people's money? The bastard.
Oh, this drink. It's much too strong!
"Muffin..." he's mumbling from the couch. "Maggie May, come to bed..."
I pour the whole drink down my throat, shaking slightly afterward.
I slam the glass down on the countertop in the middle of the kitchen.
"Shutup, you stupid surly toad!"
As I'm pouring myself another drink, I can't help smiling. I'd switched some of his Viagra with my Ambien.
"Stupid man," I say, mixing the drink. "Stupid, stupid man..."
The pearls around my neck freckle, flickering underneath the phosphorescent light-bulb.
I'm always pacing around, that's how I spend most of my days.
I'm thinking. About words. How shall I put them all together to form sentences, paragraphs, chapters?
What will my advance look like for my next book?
My hands are behind my back, at the small of my spine. I know I'll come up with something.
I can hear shouting above me...
Maybe I'll write about that!
Quickly, I get to the computer. My big Apple desktop, filled with blood and guts. Dripping with ornery stems of phalluses that came from Ur, 4,000 years of evolution. It's a skyscraper in the sky.
I'm typing about black cats. Pumpkins. Skeletons.
Oh, boy! I've got a story brewing!
I can hear my neighbors fighting, above me. You'd think that paying thousands of dollars each month and you wouldn't have to deal with that sort of thing.
'The Trophy Wife'. That's what I'll call this story. I don't know why. I just feel like it's a suitable title.
I pull a cigar from the ash-tray, half-smoked. Lighting up, I feel it now.
I have nothing else to write about. It's this damned writer's block. The publishers keep on putting out my books, but it's a dull and rote routine that keeps me enmeshed in the world of writers, editors, cocktail parties, and very clean bathrooms where nobody ever vomits, nobody ever loses their mind in any of those bathrooms, bathrooms, yes ... that's it! I'll write about bathrooms!
I won't give my characters any names! HOW EDGY.
A. walked into the bathroom. B. was sitting there, shooting up. Then C. came in and she caught us both. We had hernias, hemorrhoids, hexes with our wives.
"Honey, come to bed!"
"Hold on! I'm on to something, here!"
Just then, a bird comes flying into the window where my office overlooks Rittenhouse Square Park.
"B'Jesus!" I jump up, holding onto my bollocks.
"What is it, Harold?"
"Damn bird just flew right into the window!"
"It's a sign," she replies right away, a little caustically I thought.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, what were you writing about?"
"The hell's that got to do with anything?"
"Harold..." she pauses. "Sometimes, I wish you'd listen to me."
"I'm busy! Writing is hard work! Do you know how long it takes me to write something good?"
"The bird flying into the window, HAROLD, is a sign that YOU SHOULD GIVE IT UP."
"Well, aren't you such the literary critic, tonight..."
A loud pounding on the door.
Harold leaves his office and his story about bathrooms, his previous novels about werewolves, witches, wankers, and other historical fiction troupes.
He opens the door.
It's the girl from above.
"Lucky in the Sky with Diamonds," she says, plainly. Throwing her vodka into his face.
Now Harold has something to write about.
As a bird, I stared upwards from the pavement. The night was cool, the air was filled with particles bouncing off each other. Moon in the sky. Sounds echoing from across the pavement. Around the city, there were people falling in love, protesting, sleeping, writing, drinking, fucking, Tindering, reading, staring at their ceilings.
I was looking up at the sky, the stars were shining. It was strange. To be lying on my back, with my wings sprawled out like a junkie or a drunk. I chirped and sang aloud.
What if, I thought to myself, I could've gotten into his window. I woulda told him to go upstairs and talk to the trophy wife, he could've saved her from herself -- he could've written about her and what her life was like. They could've fallen madly in love with each other, leaving their 'significant' others. Then, they would've adopted a stray cat, and that would've enlightened them into helping somebody else outside of their bubbles. I'd known all night there were other people looking for something more than just a story.
I wanted to get back up on my feet. But, instead. I lay there.
The sky was like a blanket, endless and fierce. I felt comforted by it.
Easily, I fell asleep. On my back.
In the morning, I'd get up.
And fly away.