I live for those long 6am cab rides
chasing the sunrise home,
when street lights dim the way
and the world slowly lurches
from the warm shade of night
into the judgmental eyes of morning.
But there's still some time
before guilt and regret come stomping
into our minds like parents, where it's so quiet
you can hear tires sliding
across the concrete and
the soft but steady breath
of your friends become
a melody, become one with your own.
Then somebody laughs
for no apparent or obvious reason,
but there is one,
even if there isn't
or you don't remember it,
so you laugh too.
“He asked me ‘what that mouth do’,” She said.
Zaylee was cut like a ruby, sparkling in a two piece backless dress affair. A Wallmart 7, dead-pale lips like she spent all morning swimming in something other than a bottle. She tastes like two moods you feel between of and can’t decide; strawberry, and a little daddy-never-loved-me. Makes a killing in her Levi’s while Roger’s mumbling into his drink and a platinum blonde haired girl whose name I can't recall, sharing secrets only the wood bar counter behind them will remember.
Thirsty Thursdays are over done; this was a Monday Mutiny refusing to give up the weekend. And like true revolutionist, we were ready to stand tall and take shots for our cause. Because at some time we were all tricked into believing drinking alcohol makes you feel the way you should feel without drinking alcohol. A Breakfast Club cul-de-sac crashing through the monotony of adulthood with nothing but liquid poisons and songs blaring in stereo.
We've all got to find a way through the world. Even the Apostles were tent makers. And sure, maybe we shouldn't resort to such a base desire because Jesus loves you or something. But then again Jesus loves everybody, so it sounds like he has incredibly low standards.
“Drink.” She replied.
“Complain.” The other chimed.
And while I've made a career sneering at atmosphere, that week’s Elysium was my kind of purgatory. Casually caustic, everyone was angry about something and nobody was scared to admit it. Scathing remarks and bad haircuts, cheap dresses still baring receipt tags, and not a soul souring over their job because, hell, we were all there, weren't we?
“I can’t stand you bitches.” Zaylee said, and sipped her Hennessey like Kermit does his meme.
“No, but seriously,” I said.
“What?” She barked.
“What does it do.” Roger laughed, platinum holds her nose and Zaylee slaps me unplayfully on the arm.
After rounds of cat and mouse about Zaylee and her new-found fling, Kenny came around nine when the spirit and spirits were at a peak, high and deluded as the thought we might come out of this life alive. I'd met him only once before, at some other escapade I could probably precise but whose name, place and date are factually and emotionally irrelevant. But I remembered he was quiet, a little frumpy and un-impressionable; always smiling at something somebody else had said. His head nods seemed very eager, and empty, like a dog following a ball.
“Your friend looks sad, Roger,” Zaylee said, with a deep frown chock full of insincerity.
“Yeah I need a drink,” Kenny replied, a little too excited. And I vividly remember thinking, if he had a tail, it would be wagging.
I wasn’t crazy or un-fond of him. Categorically Kenny was just one of those people you vaguely know through a social circle and over time develop a polite indifference to.
“Let’s get another round then,” said Zaylee. “What’re you drinking tonight?”
“Thots, I wanna do thots.”
Poor Kenny, with a lisp and not the slightest notion of being the endless butt of a joke. His eyes lit up like a child who learns a particular word or phrase draws the awe's and laughter of those around him, so he repeated it as often as he could.
“You want to do what?” Zaylee asked. Platinum covered her mouth and Roger looked towards me so Kenny couldn’t see him holding a laugh.
“Thots,” Kenny barked, thinking she couldn’t hear him because of the music. “Thomething throng! Maybe like rum or thome withkey.”
I'd seen this play so many times before in life and high school, the casual crooning of an offbeat kept solely for the amusement of his or her bizarreness. It reminded me of Miguel, poor Miguel, laying at the mercy of public school softcore bullying. When beating somebody up was out of the question so it was more about not-so-subtle public humiliation. Go talk to that girl, Miguel. Tell the janitor you think he’s cute, Miguel.
“Some what?” Zaylee asked.
My personal pains and self-righteous has earned its sovereignty, it doesn't weigh or pollute how I treat the world and those around me. I'd never sit here and narcissistically list my well intentions on a corner like a braggabond. I'm well aware of what I've done and understanding why, how, and when of the good I have accomplished. There were weaker persons I’ve made social victims. Sherry with her stutter and sloppy makeup, Aaron who couldn’t manage to hold a girl to save his life. It’s the dark corners of myself I find need definition, and so I lay my hands around their edges to feel their vague sharpness, to understand how they exist, and where they end and I begin. And my defense to all the wrong I’d done is that those assholes deserved it.
“Rum!” Barked Kenny.
“No, the other thing!”
Sherry used to make fun of Miguel for always smiling and not understanding what they made him do. Aaron had the teenage equivalent of an alcoholic and punched Nelson from the graffiti club so hard he lost a tooth.
Kenny didn’t deserve this.
I wanted to let it alone, but still there came this nagging at my head and heart that would not allow me to just let the circus act run its course. I am not a good man; my faults far outweigh whatever little decency I pretend to have left. And yet faced with letting Kenny debase and devalue his worth for the sake of their condescending smiles, rather than turn away and enjoy the spectacle of human indecency and its dire need for validation, I grew rabid and took it upon myself to defend those who wouldn't defend themselves.
“His lisp is almost as bad as the guys you talk to,” I said to Zaylee. Needless to say, a stupid move. But as goes the crowd, I do not follow.
They say lightning travels down the path of least resistance; I think I must be its natural opposite.
Nobody laughed and Zaylee rolled her eyes at me, no one spoke for a while, and I could tell the awkward wasn’t over the reference or implications of whatever some fuckboi text messaged her at 2AM. I’d ruined the mood and made what was happening obvious, and thuddenly Kenny was thelf-aware enough to thtart avoiding S-words.
So Zaylee tried to ruin me with giving me her back, not realizing I cared more for the view, and allegiances became stifling clear in the following hours on who would sit next to me or ask if I needed another beer. But I sat and remained social, proud despite the chains of social second class, smart enough to keep my mouth shut and only ever laughing at what somebody else had already said. The most awful of faux-pas hardly ever gets addressed in public unless you’re drunk, and stupidly. I had a tab and didn’t plan on leaving until Tuesday didn’t seem like such a far off impossibility. Even if that meant blowing a buzz with people that didn’t deserve it.
Eventually Kenny ended up beside me, but when he realized we were alone, he turned his back and either pretended to or actually started texting on his cell phone. To the leper I was leprous, and he avoided me with the instinct of the healthy. God forbid Zaylee or platinum blonde saw us talking when they came back from talking shit about us.
I hated Kenny then, and to be frank, perhaps I still do. It’s taken many nights for me to admit or even realize that I was wrong for what I’d done- that we take love as it comes, in all its shapes. Even the harmful ones. That maybe he’s not so daft and knew exactly that they were not laughing with, but at him. That he was okay with it, and I only made things worse for him by making it obvious.
The wise man does not attempt to hide, dress, brag, or undo his wounds. But I am not a wise man, and rather than tending to the bleeding, I chose to leave Kenny, Zaylee, Roger, and platinum to their affairs while they were in the bathroom. Paid my tab and stroked into the lonely New York night without so much as a look back or goodbye.
I thought I’d done the right thing, even if the right thing wasn’t right for everyone. It’s what I told myself as I looked out the window, a lonely cab ride home and hangover my only mettles.