Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Day 39: When Something is Well Hidden it is Hard to Find (or The Cave You Fear to Enter Holds the Treasure that You Seek)







Inside the Get-a-Way on Western avenue there are always tits and there is always cocaine and there is cool Dan the owner who works as a mechanic and who never grew up and there is always a carousel of blue smoke dangling like a crown of laurel leaves above the far end of the bar  and there is a bald-headed Bookie who swears he has your back and there is Shawn (short for Shawna) the bartender who kinda looks like a more emaciated seemingly strung out version Naomi Campbell.


The Get-a-Way is exactly two blocks east from where I live and the first time I slipped inside Shawn was stationed behind the bar and when I ordered a beer she lifted her top as if playing a rendition of Simon says. Before she placed the sudsy libation in front of me she hiked up the frayed hem of her denim skirt like a flower in spring by the railroad tracks.These are the bars that scream West Peoria, the lone shrill of a date whistle flared in an abandon high school parking lot after the last ember of the Homecoming bonfire has been doused-- the seedy writer bars that are old school blue-collar Cannery Row type o' taverns you can still smoke in that look like something Eugene O’Neil might stumble out of after three days of consecutive imbibing, a draft of Ice Man Cometh tucked beneath the pit of his arm.


Tonight everyone sans penis is flashing inside the bar.

The girl seated next to me has short curly hair. Her tank-top intermittently keeps flapping up like a bedroom shade that won't stick. She is wobbling. There is something about the way she is holding her beer that looks like a car clutch randomly snapped in the grip of her knuckles while shifting into second gear. I have my arm around her in flirtatious manner. My best friend poet Kyle De Valk is in the bar next to me. The girl could be Courtney Love. She is irascible. She is cussing everyone out. Tangential to the bar, near the jukebox are two girls in their mid-forties with loopy earrings and sprtizy hair resembling late-eighties  lunchroom leftovers from a John Hughes film. According to the girl whose top is up they are 'fucking bitches.'  For a moment it seems like a catfight is imminent until Shawn places four diminutive glass cups  in our shadows commanding us to drink up gratis.

Someone is buying a friendship shot. 

Let's all drink up, flash our tits and be friends again.  

Last week Kyle and I came to drink here after stopping at Duffy's in the middle of the day and the manager let us tape fliers for our upcoming poetry event around the bar.  Our names are festooned on a mirror behind us indicating a Poetry reading we held downtown at the Art Show. The first thing Kyle does when he sits at a bar is to open his notebooksand ask whoever is seated next to him if he may read them one of his poems.

The irate girl’s boyfriend is bald and has a tattoo of what looks like is either a crop-circle mandala or a Nazi-affiliated honeycomb etched into the albino copse of his skull. He stands at the bar next to Kyle and for some reason keeps whipping out his buck knife and placing it on the center of the bar like a coaster. There is something almost phallic in the way he slices the blade of his knife out from its sheath and scrutinizes it, commenting to Kyle about the time he scaled the hide from an elk his RV plowed into when he was drunk. I have my arm lassoed around whom I will learn is his girlfriend and am prodding my fingers down the interior of her jeans. She still has her top up, tucked under her chin like a renaissance napkin at brunch. She is cursing.   Everyone is a fucking bitch. Everyone is a cunt. Everyone is a whore.  She is telling the patrons catty-corner from us at the bar that this show over here ain't free. I buy her a beer and she plants a kiss on the side of my face. She still doesn't mind that my hands are all over her. Her boyfriend is pointing the Buck Knife near Kyle’s navel. He tells Kyle that he is a deer hunter and won an award for shooting an eight-point Buck when he was sixteen. He asks Kyle what his favorite Toby Keith song is.  He begins to get truculent since my friend isn't really into country music and/or slaying docile fauna. He makes a comment that most people don’t realize how far the human intestines could stretch if the stomach is sliced open and what is classified as the guts are strewn. That most people don't realize how much shit is inside of us. He says that if he cuts open my friend’s anatomy with his Buck Knife he could tie his small intestines to his large intestines and stretch the elongated digestive tract almost an entire block.  



I try not to think about the innards of my best friend’s anatomy double-knotted to a street post and stretched down the same block where I used to have my paper route twenty years ago. Feeling the compelling urge to intervene I remove my beer-less finger from Turret-syndrome trollop's waistline and point to the skinhead’s knife.
The nerd in me erupts:

“I see you have a Buck Knife, there.” I tell him, tilting my head like I am inquiring about miles to a gallon in a used car parking-lot.

I turn on the wedgie-beckoning pedantic  button. I ask him if he realized that the terms ‘Pass the Buck,’ and ‘Buck stops here,’ had their idiomatic roots in the Buck Knife since that particular dagger was initially employed as a sort of a poker button in the saloons of yesterday used to indicate whose turn it was to deal. He turns the knife on me, slow-motion, spin the bottle style. He presses the blade into my chin. He informs me that he could peel the flesh away from my visage so fast that all I would see is epidermis and cheekbone muscle heaped on the bar floor like freshly clipped hair shearings in a single blink.


  Last week Kyle and I went  to the Get-A-Way to get seismically hammered in the middle of the day and the manager allowed us to tape fliers for our upcoming poetry event around the bar. We drank heavily and trashy girls got naked and no one fought. Everyone seemed quite content to get quaffed off the fizzy drought of enlightenment, weak witticisms blathering Budweiser banter, slapping down tips and bar coasters, ordering another round for everyone.

Today is the complete opposite. The knife seems to jut into my chin in a subtle nick. I have my free arm splayed out futilely endeavoring to get the wanna-be thug to calm down by gesticulating in a fashion that looks like I am trying to train a sophisticated Schnauzer to heel.   I think about the Walt Whitman quote from Song of Joys about struggling against great odds and meeting enemies undaunted and being left entirely all alone with them just to find out how much one can endure. You can tell by the jaded-nickle coloring in his eyes that the tattoo wanna-be-thug wielding the knife in my countenance is the kind of alcoholic who, after three beers you can physicality observe him morph into a disparate identity altogether. The moment it seems that my face is going to be carved up like a rococo jack-o-lantern something white and translucent bullets past me, shattering into glass triangles and glass tears near the jukebox.  The trashy girl next to me is telling whoever she just hurled the shot glass at to bring it on, bitch.  The steady bustle of jousting elbows and scrabbling limbs compliments the sound of vacating bar stools  marshaled and screeched to the side. The Bookie has his hands spread out in wings and is telling everyone to break up. Buck Knife throws a shadow punch that somehow swipes three bottles of beer off the lip of the bar. Trashy Blonde has split through the melee and has already landed at least one blow, her fighting stance looking like a thoroughly imbibed Karate Kid battering limp wax-on wax-off fluttering motions with her wrists. Shawn is mandating that everyone take it outside. Near the door two older black men swipe their heads stating that they sure hope the Po-Po don't show.


I look for Kyle. The bulk of the bar has stampeded toward the back exit and are streaming into the autumnal night air. I find my friend in the corner.  He addresses me as mate and inquires if I am okay. I nod. We each finish our beer in one singular swig. Shawn is near the door smoking a cigarette yelling that if the altercation isn’t taken elsewhere the cops will be here ASAP.  One of the stragglers left in the bar is pogoing from bottle to bottle, quickly chugging whatever alcoholic remnants remain  swilled in the bottom before Shawn comes back in. 



As Kyle and I leave I slip Shawn a five and thank her for her hospitality. We are in search of more beer. The trashy Blonde headed girl apparently chased her culprit down the street.  The sound of a police siren sneezes in the background. The patrons are smoking cigarettes conferring what story to tell the cops. In front of us the girls with the bad crimped 80’s hair stumble out as if they are playing charades impersonating the meted list of a metronome. One of them pricks near the center of her torso, unbuttons, slices her jeans down to her ankles and squats, laughing the entire time, stating that she is so drunk she can’t believe she is peeing in front of everyone. The bald headed Phuck takes out his cell phone and holds it in front of  forehead and clicks, stating that he can’t believe this shit.

I turn to Kyle and make a comment that the girl who is peeing looks like a trapped mermaid as we  walk into the night, past the moat of fresh urine, in search of more beer.

 
    

                                                                     ***                            
I sit on the chipped yellow hyphens passing for parking blocks outside the liquor store on Western avenue seven blocks north of the Get-A-Way. The store is supposed to open at 8am on Sunday morning but most Sunday’s Jim the manager is half an hour late. I like Jim. He is from Pakistan and calls me Chief and we talk about international soccer. Once I purchased a lottery ticket from him and then immediately handed it back to him as a gift, telling him that if he wins he is to quit his job and move to Brazil and just follow South America Soccer clubs for the rest of his life. The Sunday papers arrived in trussed bassinets  resembling Hindu Vedas.   Cruise past the liquor store around 7:45 am on any plucked Sunday and you will find alcoholics waiting in the parking lot to buy booze and get their morning fix. For a while I used to pick up my Sunday New York Times and a twelve pack and then they quit carrying the New York Times because I was the only one who purchased it.
The man sitting next to me this morning has tattoos on his neck which at first glance  resemble varicose veins but is actually some kind of skull with a motorcycle skiing through the left socket. He is in what looks like his early sixties.  I ask him what he does. He tells me that he combs the streets and arteries of West Peoria all day looking for cans.

“It’s not a bad living if you know what you are doing. I mean, you can really make some money at it if you know what you are doing.”
I ask him what kind of beer he drinks. He tells me he buys a fifth of Gin every morning and nurses it all day.
“I’ll buy a fifth of Gordon’s. I used to drink Seagram's but Seagram's ain't worth shit anymore.”
I ask him if he mixes the Gin with tonic. He swipes his head as if he is under oath, reaches in his back pack and pulls out a two liter plastic bottle of Mello-Yellow.
"You get one of these at the dollar store up on Western for 99 cents. Can't beat that now. I'll drink about a third of it then pour the gin in and swirl it around like a thermos. Keeps me going all day."
 I ask him how long he has been drinking every day. He tells me he has been drunk more or less all the time since his wife died five years ago from cancer.

“That and I was sober when I was locked up. I was locked up for four years, now.”

I ask him what he did. The old man tells me that he used to run guns.

“We’d run guns to Indiana and from Chicago to Omaha. There’s real good money in that now. Real good money. But you've got to know what you are doing.”

He stands up and asks me if I have cigarette.  I tell him I only smoke cigars. He gets up and walks to the ashtray next to the trussed stack of Sunday Journal Stars. As if combing for head lice he gently reaches his fingertips into the ashtray plucking out three half-smoked cigarettes, one appearing to be hand-rolled.  He places two of the half-smoked cigarettes in a red-man tobacco pouch and then places the pouch in his front pocket.
He takes hand rolled smoke and lights it after three consecutive snaps with his BIC.
We continue to wait.  He tells me that he's told old for this shit and that Jim the manager should be here on time.

"I was always on time. Even when I was running guns. I was always on time. You just show up for your job."

I ask him what sort of guns he used to run.

“M-16’s Ak-47’s. Anything you need we could just about get them for you.”

He takes another puff off the gnarled cylinder. He tells me that he had an old U-Haul painted with the name of a fictitious moving company on the side.  He tells me that the back of the truck was fraught with mattresses and that burrowed inside mattresses were the cached artillery.

“We did it for several years now and never got caught. We even got pulled over a couple of times cause we didn't have a sticker on that there license plate and the cops didn't notice. I’d still be doing it today but there was a goddam nark in the system."

He nods his head and says yep. He iterates again that there’s always a goddam nark in the fucking system.

Always just a goddam nark.                                                                  



                                                                       ***


For the past ten years every time I get a new computer or a new laptop I always break in the plastic hymen of home row by typing Wittgenstein into the altar of the Keyboard.  “The single thing proves over and over again to be unimportant, but the possibility of every single thing shows us something about the nature of the world.”  Sometimes when the writing is going slow I will stare at the screen of the computer like I am squinting out from a window seat in an airplane and pelt out the sentence by Wittgenstein again and again and again, filling up the computer screen like carbonated sea monkey bubbles, reminding myself that the single thing is always trivial, always petty, that there is something inscrutable dictating our orientation, our corporeal longing, our all.


                                                                         ***






My girlfriend Mariana is sexy and has dark hair and skin that looks like if it could be any more olive-flavored in nature it would by impaled on a Martini toothpick. She teaches English composition at Heartland community college in Normal, Illinois. She is hot and classy and boasts that she has received over 75 diminutive red chili peppers indicative of hotness on Rate My Professor dot com.

“I’m known as the Grammar Bitch, but you love me because of that.” She once told me.

When Mariana was seventeen she dropped out of high school and moved to California and partied on Sunset Strip. One night at Gazzarri’s she spent a whole hour sucking on Bret Michael’s bare chest.
“I made a giant Hickie-shaped Heart. His chest was so yummy. Like slurping a watermelon ring pop off a Ralphael cherub’s ass."

She pauses when she tells me that he’s much more androgynous than people think before pausing again and stating that she supposes everyone was much more androgynous back then.

  Mariana despises 85 % of everything I write. She uses the words ‘magniloquent’ and ‘prolix’ to describe my prose. I praise 85% of everything she writes even though it’s always in the first person feminine and double-spaced and hand-written.

When Mariana was in Hollywood she worked as a stripper and shot up smack. She stripped in limousines while shooting up heroin with record executives who earned seven-figure incomes. She’s been clean for over twenty years and chairs recovery meetings behind a plumbing supply store on the far side of town. She got an MFA and teaches English at the junior college near the University where I used to stand outside the late David Foster Wallace’s office with manuscript tucked under my arms waiting to espy a glimpse of my mentor.


When I started dating Mariana I started attending AA. I bought her a Bar Mitzvah card thanking her for all her help, “Anyone can give a Thank you card. Not everyone gets a Bar Mitzvah card, You make Sobriety sexy!!” At night we lie in bed and light candles and listen to Counting Crows and I do sketch impersonations of fictitious patrons in AA. There is the mime who went to the 12 step meeting who mimes having one beer, then mimes having two beers, then mimes having a third then mimes staggering soused to his vehicle, then mimes starting then ignition before he mimes getting into a car wreck. There is the middle-aged man who, when it is his turn to speak and everyone has said hello followed by first names in muffled unison, tries to solicit the recovering alcoholics in the room into joining a pyramid scheme, “You’ve heard all about of Sobriety, now I’m here to talk about FINANCIAL Sobriety.”   
We laugh and clutch each other and I make out with the bottom of her neck, what the New York Times Style section always refers to as d├ęcolletage.

 Last week we got into an argument over addictions and semantics and David Foster Wallace.I had a friend who was a cafeteria manager at ISU. He was maybe 12 years older than DFW. They got into an arguments and my buddy walked out of class because Foster Wallace kept picking on him.
 The Grammar Bitch says yes, so.

 "Thing is, this guys name was Rick and he told me that his brother-in-law used to chair AA meetings and Foster Wallace was always showing up with a notepad and always claimed just to be randomly scribbling and then  recovering addicts would discover  losses sketches of themselves published in high-brow literary glossies. I told Rick he was full of shit and refused to believe him. Then a couple of weeks ago I read DT Max's biography on Wallace where he talks about how the author immortalized his half-way house roommate Big Craig as Don Gately in the novel, using almost exact elements from Craig's life without having the courtesy to garner permission first."

“All art is an act of appropriation.” Mariana says. "He was just doing what every artist does. What Jack Kerouac did.  What you sometimes do. Vivisecting his environment and transitioning his phenomenological observations of the world on to paper."

I tell Mariana yeah but its different.

“I don’t go to rehabilitation facilities where people who have had a much more arduous life than I can possibly fathom are emotionally incubating and trying to heal and then copy their life story verbatim and present them as thinly veiled fractals of my imagination and then get a 500,000 Whiting grant and then refuse to flippantly acknowledge that you fucked over friends by loosely fictionalizing the rungs of their recovery."

I tell her that it doesn't diminish DFW's greatness as a writer but that it makes him a sociological slimeball as a human being.
I tell her she wouldn't like it if I made money from writing thinly veiled composites of her prostituting her thighs while shooting up heroin.

 “You were shooting heroin. I may drink all day but at least I wasn’t fucking lancing syringes into my veins.

Mariana tells me that she shot heroin by choice but I can't seem to punctuate a goddam sentence without crushing a can of beer.

I tell her to crush this. As a rule I don't drink in front of my recovering opiate girlfriend. I wedge open my fridge, rip out a 24 oz can of beer, chug it in front of her with one tilt of my neck before handing her the empty aluminum silo. 

"Happy anniversary, honey. Now go write about my vices and make fuckin' millions." I say, being facetious, handing her the vacant can. 

Mariana pushes me. She tells me that I am an addict and  am in serious denial and that I am probably going to die. I tell her that I already feel dead and that drinking and writing are the tandem pillars that makes me feel alive. She calls me a dick. The next thing I know Mariana’s palm slices into the side of my face in stuttered snaps and scattered applause.  She is cussing me out for dredging up the past. She is wishing death on me for drinking all the time.  She is on her knees in a fetal posture facing Mecca as if in supplication. She is crying. She is wondering why we fight all the time. She is wondering why things never work out between us. She is quoting step ten from the twelve step program again and again like a prayer bead mantra.


She then asks me simply to hold her.
I tell her no.
I kick the beer can near her feet as if it were a hockey puck. I thunder down the carpeted steps towards the entrance to my apartment. The last thing I want her to hear is the sound the front door to my apartment makes as it  echoes into forlorn syllables christening goodbyes.


                                               

                                                                ***

I am still waiting outside Western Liquors for my Sunday tradition of a 12 pack and a copy of the New York Times. I love everything about the Sunday edition. I love how it’s sprawling and looks like it is about ready to hatch into a narrative embryo of spluttered ink.

The newspaper is an epistle of cultural edification and intellectual growth.

I love the political pandering and social opines of Frank Bruni and Thomas L. Friedman in the Sunday Review. I love the gamboling narratives in the obituaries. I love the Art section and collect the Book Review in a dossier riddled heap in the blue my writing room. I love the Style section and Modern Love. I love reading about how the BOSS culled collected millions in Sunday Business.
I metaphysically masturbate to the prose of the New York Times Magazine: I’m addicted to the WHO MADE THAT column. The ethicist. I have perforated cut outs of recipes culled from the EAT and DRINK columns adorning the interior of my kitchen cabinets.

I love that fifteen years ago I had the privilege of introducing George Saunders at a book signing because no one knew who he was and he appeared on the cover of the magazine heralding him as the great scribe of the American short story.

But every Sunday, after about seven or eight beers, smoking cigars while blasting NPR in the background its always the same. I  get obsessed drooling over the VOWS and WEDDING Announcement section at the back of the style section.  Beautiful men holding men and women holding women and young yuppie couples whose teeth are so white they look like linoleum that has been commissioned and  blessed by the Vatican, incisors resembling crisp ivory stumps culled from the eraser of a #2 grade school pencils. It’s like they gargled with white out or harbored a hardcore make-out session with a bottle of bleach.
 Sixty-five percent of the heterosexual announcements seem to make it a salient point to note the esteemed vocation of the couples progenitors which seems to be Doctors or marketing heads of prestigious companies.   Eighty percent seem to managerial professions in their lid-to-late twenties.

Stop by the corner of Waverly and Ayres in West Peoria any Sunday morning and you will see this writer on his back porch, sipping a cup of coffee while nursing a cigar, a few crushed beer cans splattered on his back porch like aluminum confetti holding the Sunday New York Times in front of him like a glove compartment atlas leading no where, rustling the geometric flap of the page, swiping my head back and forth, wondering how someone gets a life like that.
How the fuck does someone get assigned a life of promise and hope simply by being born.
                                                                       ***


..."Almost in the way a man who is not used to searching in the forest for flowers, berries, or plants will not find any because his eyes are not trained to see them and he does not know where you have to be particularly for the lookout for them. Similarly, someone unpracticed in philosophy passes by all the spots where the difficulties are hidden in the grass, whereas someone who has had the practice will pause and sense that there is a difficulty close by even though he cannot see it yet."
                                                                                ***

After I break up with Mariana Maxie-pad and I go across the street to the Owl’s Nest. It is ten dollar bucket night and after a half-hour I have already drained through two. The lady seated on the corner of the bar with her biker boyfriend looks familiar. She is clad in a leather skirt and black boots. Her skin is the color of a bridal shower doily. I know her somewhere but I just can't put my finger on it. She waves like she is making shadow puppets with her fingers.

She tells me that her name is Cherie-Li.
 "Everyone calls me Cherry-Tree. You know. Like what George Washington refused to tell a lie about after he cut it down."

Her boyfriend seems disgruntled. When I reach to shake his hand he offers a huffing  scowl in return. I look at Christine the bartender and order another bucket. I order a round of shots for the three of us. The girl sitting next to me has he chin slightly tilted like she is looking up.

We clink in stuttered unison and down our shots.  I tell her that I know I know her from somewhere. Cherry-Tree blushes and then looks down.

"I used to clean the building where you worked about three years ago. I was always really shy when I was around you. When we first met you went to shake my hand only I was wearing my disposable gloves and pulled my hand back and you told me not to worry. That you didn't mind latex."

Cherry-Tree continues to laugh. Her boyfriend slams his beer down like he is issuing a court verdict.  Cherry-Tree holds a finger and tells me to wait one minute as she follows him out the side door of the bar. A lone beer idles in the bucket of ice like an artic buoy.
Fifteen minutes later Cherry-Tree reenters the bar. I ask her if her boyfriend is okay. She tells me he is a douchebag.


“He's actually known I've had a crush on you for a while.  You look just like Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. I love your long hair.”

I try to divert attention. I order another bucket and continue to pound beers. I point to her tattoo. Etched into the ashen interior of her left forearm is an upside down velvet cross. At the edge of each plank is a feminine cartoon character from the mid-eighties. Each female cartoon character is caricatured as battered and bruised. Rainbow Brite looks like she is on a three day Chrystal Meth binge. There is a pink  Care Bear with a patch over one eye.  There is Smurfette smoking a clove cigarette. On the top of the upside down cross there is an animated phylum with a tail I can't identify. 

 I point and ask what's that on top.

“It’s a Thunder Cat silly.”

“It looks like a girl.” I say Cherry-Tree laughs again.”

She tells me it’s Cheetara. The female Thundercat. I tell her that I didn't realize there were female Thundercats. 

 “Of course there is. How do you think the male Thundercats get off?"

"Oh," I say again. I touch my hand over Cherry-Tree's kneecap.

She laughs with her head tilted back.

I order another bucket of beer. 

                                                                 ***
 "...And this is no wonder for someone who knows how long even the man with practice, who realizes there is a difficulty, will have to search before he finds it.

" When something is Well Hidden it is hard to find."

                                                                              --Wittgenstein, The Nature of Philosophy.



                                                                       ***
It is fifteen minutes later and we find ourselves ensconced  in the center stall of the Girls' bathroom in the Owls Nest. Cherry-Tree's top is off. Both of us are making panting motions in four-four allegro time signature. Our torso's form a snapping nest, a straddling pentagon of kneecaps and thighs.
Mid-way through what feels like a back seat junior high makeout session Cherry-Tree tells me that she has wanted to do this for so long.
 Two girls enter the stall to our imminent left and clank the door shut, casting sniffling sounds like they are enduring seasonal allergies. Her tongue makes little aquatic squirms and lallation's when she kisses and the next thing I know she is biting into my neck hard, drawing blood.

I push her back. I ask her what the fuck. She smiles. As if in mid head-butt she attacks the side of my jugular again.   There is a corsage of crimson blood dripping from the stump of my neck in splotches. Her lips looks like she just made out with an inbred harlequin. It is all my blood. She is telling me that she want to bite me. That she wants to devour me. She using the phrases from the Eucharist, the poetry of mingled platelets; aesthetic of antibodies.  
I ask her what the hell she is doing. She continues to gnaw.

The girls in the stall over apparently have left. We are the only ones in the restroom. It is still a good twenty minutes until last call.


 I try to grab a stream of toilet paper to daub but she swats my hand.
 
 She invites me over to her apartment and tells me that she wants me to tie her up and eat her out next week while she is having her period. She says she wants to make facemask out of menarche and pad it on my head so I can look like a tribal warrior.

She tells me that she needs fingers inside of her.

She tells me that she needs blood.

I try to get her to calm down. I want to go back to the bar and order another bucket and just watch sports highlights being counted down in reverse.

"Okay," I tell her, looking at her Thudercat tattoo, pressing my forefinger, into her mouth as if I am nursing an ill-piglet.

I can hear an audible crunch as Cherry-Tree masticates into my flesh, rivulets of blood streaming down her chin.

It is like I am trying to feed a toddler with a spoon by playing a game of airplane. It is like I am feeding her medicine.

She is trying to swallow.
 The possibility of every single thing shows us something about the nature of the world
                  
                  
                                                                   ***
 The Sunday New York Times is tucked under my arm like a baguette. There is 12-pack of  PBR dangling gradeschool-lunchbox fashion in the other. Walking home in the alley behind Western Liquors are two men I have never seen before.  Their faces are a mixture of kitty-litter and cardboard. One is wearing a camouflage military coat. One is bent over throwing up what looks like shampoo bubbles.  They both have tousled and oily hair. The one who is not throwing up is patting his companion on the back in almost congratulatory fashion. His ear is bleeding as if it has just been cut.

I set down my newspaper and beer and inquire if they are okay.

The one who was throwing up nods and claims that he just had some shit in his system.
  “I was downtown drinking last night and I actually had a seizure and started foaming from the mouth and all sorts of shit. They even called and ambulance and shit."

I ask them if they are alright. They answer both in unison telling me that they are fine. That this shit happens all the time.

"We had breakfast down at the Mission. You have to sober up first before you go in there for breakfast. If yer drunk they won’t let you in. You also have to stay for chapel but we managed to sneak out since I still had my medical bracelet on showing I was in the E.R last night.”
 I sit down next to them. I want to buy them food but have spent the 20-spot on the beer and the paper. Instead I hand each of them a beer. I ask the gentleman if his ear is okay. The one who has just been throwing up spumes cackles and coughs and points to the top of his friend's forehead.
"The reason his ear bleed is because there is a bullet stuck in the top of his skull. It's some crazy Frankenstein shit. Look."
He lifts up his friend's bangs as if checking his temperature. A cylindrical lump protrudes.
"Watch this shit. This shit will fuck you up."
As if pressing a sticky elevator button in a department store he pushes his finger into the top of his friend's head. He again tells me to look at this shit. Rhetorically inquiring that it is some crazy shit.
I look at the flesh attired bullet in awe. It is the size of the copper I always keep in my pocket that the love of my life gave me at the Art Institute of Chicago as a spiritual talisman long ago.
“I’ve had it in my skull since ’97. We were drunk off  211 playing Rush and Roulette. We weren't really shooting it. Just spinning the gun like a bottle on the top of the bar and it went off. Just exploded in this flash and the next thing I know there is blood everywhere
“Yeah, a doctor once said if he’d remove it I die. I call in my good luck forehead nipple.

 His friend laughs in a little snort at the word nipple.

 He says before he used to drink all the time he used to have girls lick it for good luck.

“Now people just rub it for good luck. You are more than welcome to rub it for good luck if you like.”

“Does it work?” I ask him. He tells me that every time someone rubs it a beer somehow magically appears.

“I think that’s why the good Lord he give me this infliction. Even though I’m ugly as shit and drunk all the time and it hurts so much. I think the good lord he give me this infliction so that people can rub it and have something to give them hope and believe in.”

I press the swirls of my fingers into the top of his forehead.
It feels like I am massaging a nugget of burrowed gold.



                                                                           ***

When I arrive home from the Owls Nest the only thing I can find to wrap my finger in is a copy of the morning paper. I walk to my keyboard and begin to type out my mantra by Wittgenstein, even though I am fairly certain that my forefinger is broken, even though it looks like a white trash sanitary napkin, I continue to write my mantra until I fill up the contours of the page waiting for the narrative breath somehow to arrive.

I continue to type.

I continue to bleed.


                                                             
                                                                                     ***
After I was sexually molested in my early-teens I couldn’t brush my teeth. The toothbrush felt like a cock being rammed down my throat. The paste tasted like minty semen. I would brush my teeth and I would involuntarily gag. I would go through periods where I would only bathe once or twice a week. I limped in languor, wandered around in a torpid daze trying to discern what was wrong with me.  I carved up patches of my skin, watching the blood slit and flare like lines on crimson sheet music inside the albino interior of my arm.

I hurt.

Years later, after collegiate renderings of formative Freud and reading about the psychological correlation between  adolescent molestation and adult addiction I can’t help but note the phallic contours of a bottle of beer, the stale, flat pee-colored waste of  a libation leftover on the windowsill from a night of hedonism. How I wonder if, from a subconscious Freudian pining, the reason I feel the need to drink so much is because I am trying to put something back inside my body that was taken long ago. Like I am trying to give a blowjob to every bottle of beer I press into the split-hyphen my lips. Like I am trying to wash out the pain and the loneliness and the confusion I felt all the years. Like I am trying to baptize my palate with the holy ablution of hops, hoping to slough the identity of the person I have become and hatch into the promise of the man I yearn to be.

Like I am trying to be born again

I think about the yuppies with the perfect teeth in the New York Times Wedding announcements.

I wonder if they ever learned how to hurt.

I wonder if they ever learned how to bleed.

I smile.

          
                                                                        ***  



                       

 I moved back to West Peoria two years ago, exactly one block from where I grew up. Almost every morning someone is outside pilfering through green trash cans dotting the front of the street. There is a man in an electronic wheelchair. His girlfriend is with him. She has bad teeth and a misplaced Dora Maar nose. Beneath her left eyelid is a homemade tattoo that looks like it was made with a blue pen. At first glance it looks like an aquatic string of teal flavored Christmas bulbs. On second assessment it appears to be an inky drip of tears.

  They are beautiful. Part of my chest swells up simply looking at them.

 I ask him what he is doing. He tells me he is canning.

His name is Gus and they are both from southern Illinois.

“We get about three hundred dollars from the state every month due to disability but I’ll be god damned if that even takes care of rent.”

He tells me they need money for food and cigarettes. I ask him how much he makes canning.
“You can make good money if you are willing to work. We normally go out at five in the morning so we can get behind bars and look for whatever’s leftover.

Gus says that the Owls Nest is a gold mine and they can normally find at least 10 crushed cans of BUSCH LIGHT behind the bar at any given time.
I tell him that I will place my cans in a bag and tie it to the green garbage bin and that he can just pick up on Thurs morning before the trash comes. Gus says thanks. I feel moved. I reach in my pocket and give him a complicated handshake while slipping him a twenty.




“It’s not much but I know it’s rough as shit out there. You guys are beautiful people. Hang in there. It gets better, man. I swear. It just fucking does.”