“Is that a shadow of impatience under your eyes, John?” said Travelli, raising an eyebrow.
John looked up and smiled. “Is that comprehension in your pocket?”Travelli gave John a smugly reassuring look. He pushed a bottle of Old Fitzgerald into John’s hands and fiddled in his pockets. The pungent smell of bourbon was a remedy for the senses.
“Aha.” Travelli took John’s hands and placed a piece of blotter paper on his palm. “Time to re-light the kindling in your mind, John.”The two Manhattan bred vagabonds each put their respective tab under their tongues. John suddenly felt a weight lifted. He had really been craving it this time. “Tastes sweet bitter, man, sweet bitter,” he laughed.They sat and leaned casually against a tree, watching and waiting on the park’s changing scenery. It was peaceful here in the gloomy evenings. Or rather there was an artificial tranquilness about the place. You could hear the hustle and bustle of the city not so far off. John and Travelli’s previous hang-outs, the formerly accommodating Fugazzi’s and Bickford’s, neighboured just down the track.Few people were walking by, but the free, the drunk and the wild. Couples strolled hand in hand or ambled through Central Park, entwined. Travelli had something to say about them all, as he did every night, wherever they were.
“These people, hipsters, private publicizers, hoi polloi, you and I, we’re living in a world bereft of meaning. We try to bring meaning to the meaningless. We make a point of the pointless.” He rambled on and on.John couldn’t find his voice. He looked down at the bottle he continued to clutch. The label glowed red. He spat out the tab in his mouth and swallowed a mouthful of bourbon. He turned to Travelli, whose slurred expression had become somewhat of an impromptu, poetic rant.
Travelli’s words would escape his lips leaving a phantasm trail behind as John watched on. He spoke boldly with ever-increasing enthusiasm and force.
“Our whole lives we search for a reason to live and that becomes our whole reason to continue living.”John thought about every word, wondering what was meant by them. They were a touch peculiar; a trifle unsettling. ‘There is no reason for living?’
“Eli eli lamma lamma sabachthani! How can we, should we, do we live in this society?” Travelli demanded.
John’s eyes widened. He just noticed his heart pounding against his chest like an M60.
‘Why am I living is what he’s asking. Why is he asking such a thing?’
“This pseudo-democratic society gets swept underneath and downtown. So how to seek this sought by us and find what is to be found? Look on from our own decrepit hole in the ground, which by the oppressors, to oppress us, the oppressed, was dug out!”
John stood up, sweating and stiff with fear. He kept noticing movement in the corner of his eye. There was somebody else nearby. Could they be coming for him?
“Who walked all night with shoes full of blood.”
‘Whose blood? They’ve come for my blood!’
“We walk on to make a point; pin-prick anti-pacifist, peccant, pitch-black purgatory.”
‘Where, though? It’s pitch-black. I can’t see them.’
“This here and now, this is not how we want it. We want change. We want a movement!”
‘They’re moving all around me.’John tried desperately to see through the darkness. His eyes darted across the area taking in the obvious; tree, Balto, tree, tree, nothing. ‘Where are they?’Panic set in. People were watching him from places hidden from his view. Who the hell were they? Were they were going to hurt him? They must be coming to kill him.
Travelli lumbered over, mumbling, “Hey, John, chill out.”
“No!” cried John, backing away, terror-stricken. “Not you! Get away!”
“Why don’t you hand me that bottle?” said Travelli, dumbfounded.John, only just reminded of the bottle of bourbon he was holding, took a wild swing with it at Travelli. He missed and smashed the bottle against the tree. The bourbon inside spattered over and on the ground in a bright blue, hazy mist. John eyeballed the drink, as if entranced, while still clinging on to the broken bottle it had erupted from.Travelli discerned a moment to seize the glass weapon. He lunged forward and in an instant had grabbed hold of John’s good arm. They furiously struggled against each other to take control.
“Help, he’s trying to kill me!” John sobbed.
“I’m not trying to kill you, man!” Travelli pleaded. “Let go of the bottle!”John let out a shriek and jolted forward into Travelli, who tried frantically to keep John’s weapon at bay. The two of them toppled over and hit the earth floor with a thud. They suffered gashes on their arms, wrists and torsos from shards of glass scattered on the ground.John lurched forward still more and bit his teeth into Travelli’s hand. Travelli was forced to loosen his grip on John’s arm. He screamed incessantly as John edged the bottle closer and closer to threatening his throat. He held his eyes wide with fear, goggling at his brainsick friend. John’s eyes were nailed closed to the terror in front of him.Travelli stopped screaming. He had lost his voice. He could only hear John’s shrill whimpers and cries; John’s hysterical breathing. He felt the agony of having Old Fitzgerald’s debris tearing lesions in his back and he felt his strength wavering. There was no way out of this that he could possibly see. He could only see his friend, distraught and blind to the horrors he was facing. The fire burnt out. He lost his grip.
I tried to create a setting from the 1960s. At the time I had recently begun learning about (and being facsinated by) the Beat generation. So, the characters are a reflection on that. What happens to John is an LSD induced ‘bad trip’, which I tried to convey as accurately as I could.