When you've read too much Bukowski...it helps

I probably shouldn’t have gone out being that I was already on painkillers and missing three teeth. It was our day of rest. I just needed a beer. I went to the closest dive bar and plugged my nose between my lonely fingers while my heart shouted a nasally “Cannonball!” and plunged into the deep-end. Other than the bartender, a man as old as the wood that ran the length of the bar from the surprisingly sanitized stench of hospital of the bathroom to the rusted sheets of metal and cracked stain glass portrait of Joan of Arc at front door. I sat in the middle. The farmer and the dell, hi-ho the dairy-o. It was after three beers that I needed the taste of liquor to revive my percocet numb tongue. It felt like it was twice the size that should have been. The S.S. Tonguetanic in port, withstanding bourbon squalls and unknowingly melting passing glaciers. Gin sunk my battleship, but instead of waking my tongue up it just forced the rest of my body to the snooze button until m entire body was as numb as my tongue. My lonely fingers, each shunning the company of the other four, even poor runted workhorse of my thumb, tore a soggy napkin into small soggy pellets. I wasn’t lonely for long, but my fingers remained in their solitude. The stench of body odor and mothballs reeked into my nostrils like a Pepe la Peu love story, I could almost see the bouquette of Eau de Attic working it’s way into the only functioning orifice on my body. His face was scarred and battered, like he was wearing a mask of skin colored tin foil that had been unraveled and splayed over his face. None of the galaxy of pockmarks looked fresh. He looked used and tired like a sidewalked couch that never received it’s gold watch. His nose was pointy but not sharp and curved at its bridge. It made me think of a wicked witch, the kind that flies down too low on a broom grazing heads and letting out a bundle of high pitched witch shrieks, completely disregarding FAA fly zone regulations, and accidentally decapitate a young costumed passerby, his pumpkin bursting with candy no one would eat in the first place. But he was a man and men cannot be witches, only assholes and any variation there of, even with a witches nose. He didn’t so much as sit as he fit into the stool beside mine. As if he and the stool were long lost puzzle pieces separated by some evil prankster on the Milton-Bradley assembly line. He mounted the stool like Don Quixote onto some valiant steed, wobbling and swaying in a huff of near defeat. The once plush vinyl seat, now riddled with crusty rimmed cigarette burns exposing it’s innards became his saddle and the four aluminum legs were those of the stallion that would take him somewhere I wish I had been before. He was a foul looking man and reminded me of a Scandinavian wooden gnome, hard and carved from Norse oak, his arms showing off knots that had not been sanded down. From one look I assumed he would take everything I had if he were still young and fast. Watching get onto his still I could see that he was still as nimble as a Romanian child. Come one, come all to the greatest show on Earth! Nothing much came out of him for most of the night other a billow of blue clouds from the smokestack that hung between his lips like an old bridge clinging to a country cliff and some heavy phlegm buckshot. The bartender already knew exactly what he wanted to drink. We both seemed to be in the same place and with a silent nod of acknowledgement we jumped on the same screw and rode it’s threads down a spiral that brought us nowhere near the bottom but a place that I’m sure he had been before. We began to speak. I can’t fully remember the entirety of our conversation, where it led or what it was about, which is the way that most conversations end up, on, the heavy uncompromising veil of codone’s eclipsed my eyes and ears enough that it felt like I was having an one on one with myself:

ACT I

Scene 1

Two men sit next to each other in an otherwise empty bar. It is dark and there is country music playing on the jukebox. The younger man is named Raul, the older is Henry.

RAUL
You know, I never drink alone. My friends all left, my girlfriend left. My place is just empty now. I have pain-killers though, not really a replacement for anything but it seems to numb it up.

HENRY
There are worse things than being alone. You still have your youth.

They each take a sip of their drinks. The music stops. They each look over their shoulders at the jukebox.

RAUL
And now she forgets about me anyway. I thought we were in love you know. She was practically living with me! I mean I spent a lot of money on pregnancy tests. The sex was fucking great though. She used to do things that I would never ask her to do, but you know, she asked me if I wanted to so of course I said yeah. It was great.

HENRY
Sex is interesting, but it’s not totally important. I mean it’s not even as important,physically, as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement. Well, people got attached. Once you cut the umbilical cord they attached to the other things. Sight, sound, sex, money, mirages, mothers, masturbation, murder, and Monday morning hangovers.

Raul finishes his drink and stares at the empty glass. Henry, feeling rushed finishes his and slams it on the bar. Another song comes on the jukebox. It’s Curtis Mayfield.

RAUL
But we wanted to get married, we had plans. I was gonna finish med-school and then kids, I mean these were serious plans.

HENRY
(Laughing quietly)
Married. I would be married, but I’d have no wife, I would be married to a single life.”There are boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth’s swarmed with them. You don’t wanna be one.

RAUL
I’m sorry man, I’ve just been going on and on. You don’t wanna hear any of this shit. We don’t even know each other. I’m Raul.

HENRY
Well Raul, it’s possible to love a human being if you don’t know them too well so let’s keep it like that.

Henry slams his glass down again to get the bartender’s attention. He comes with another drink.

RAUL
I don’t know if it’s the drinking or the pills, I just don’t work right anymore. I’m crawling outta my skin, just going nuts and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m just losing it.

HENRY
But think about it, some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must live. Think about the silver lining, if you’re losing your soul and you know it, then you’ve still got a soul left to lose.

And as quickly as the conversation started, it ended. The horse race of heart-to heart’s and I watched from the sundeck near the stretch run. I sat on my saddle, babbling a brook of bourbon and mixed emotions from my numb muzzle. The phlegmatic disposition of my friend Henry made me jealous and he had nothing to say about that because he was gone. In fact I’m not sure if he was ever even there.

When you've read too much Bukowski...it helps

Jonathan Acosta-Rubio

New Orleans, United States

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