W. FLOOD : Chapter Ten

W. Flood

Chapter Ten.

Sundeep and I finished our pho and we parted ways.

I couldn’t help it but I felt slightly peeved. I think it’s fair to say that other people’s optimism can be irritating. It is always so easy for others to chime in and say that everything is going to be fine, especially when everything is fine for them, especially when they are not you. I was ready for a pint.

I tried not to fall down the treacherous stairs leading steeply into the cavernous tavern called Anne Bonny’s. I imagined many of the clientele have fallen up the steps after indulging in a jar or two, which is worse than falling down them. It’s easy to fall down. Who tracks the steps of glory to the grave? I suppose I do, Lord Byron. I suppose I do. I happened to enter the dungy establishment by chance, not fate. There was no sign above, no Celtic lettering or neon swoops to inform you of where the fuck you were or what the name of the bar was. You would’ve walked right passed the fucker had it not been for the small, A-frame chalk board. How trendy. It read, in the worst penmanship I’d seen in a long time, and trust me I look out for things like, it said Anne Bonny’s: cheap beers, bad food. The sign spoke to me. I popped in and laid my eyes upon a lass, a gorgeous girl who would not leave my mind, though for her sake I wanted her to. I’m not good for anyone. I damn well knew that. It was in her best interest to not get involved with the likes of me. I have nothing to offer anyone. I am a sinking ship. It’s the best thing for both of us that I simply admire from her afar, to creep rather than to approach, to refrain from taking any action. That’s with the assumption I stood a chance. You have to remember, if you have been paying attention I tend to get ahead of myself.

So I entered that day, some weeks before, to become acquainted with Ms. Bonny. A bar tucked away on the border of the Lower East Side and East Village, the namesake of an Irish woman who solidified her legend in the Caribbean as a pirate, the ever crafty Anne Bonny. I wondered if there was any relation to Billy the kid? Did they even spell it the same way? I couldn’t tell you. Any way, the bar had apparently been the stomping ground of lawless types, thespians, artists and new arrivals from the motherland. It had changed hands a dozen times since its inception, always retaining its name, although, the name was no longer above its blacked out window. The bar itself is made of mahogany imported from Ireland. The walls are lined with bookshelves, pirate gimcracks and Irish keepsakes. Guinness and Jameson are always in attendance, though our good friend Tullamore Dew will always be my favorite. Smithwicks shows also his face. The sign was a liar like one of its patrons,  the burgers and Shepard’s pie were quite delectable. I could vouch for both dishes.

I entered and the usual old men were seated at the bar, talking heatedly about politics or their past, or some shit, I don’t know. I said hello, making one continuous waving motion to all. I think they were debating about the ethics of the government listening to people’s phone conversations. Then I was caught off guard.

“Hey Wilhelm,” said Glory, smiling from behind the taps, pouring a pint. I was still unsettled from the false optimism and irritation of Dr. Ceraso. I wondered if he unwittingly became my own private motivational speaker, or therapist, or was it planned. I was caught off guard by her warm welcome, stunned by her playfulness in her voice, as if we were old friends. My awkwardness was bound to reach new levels.

“Hi,” I said stricken with my introverted tendencies. I attempted to walk to one of the airy booths, when she asked me a question.

“What are you drinking?” It might as well have been a algebra equation. I was stumped.

“Uh, I’ll have, uh. A Stella. Please.” Now was that so hard. “Thanks.”

“Toughy,” she said with a devilish smirk, filling the pint glass to the brim.

I put my things down and gave her money to leave behind the bar, retrieved my pint and cowered all the way to my seat. I wanted to write a novel about us. I wanted to write a novel, period. That was the one thing I desperately wanted to do, Glory was another. Glory. I’ve googled quotes with the word “glory” in it for weeks. Of course, I couldn’t recite majority of them, ok, let’s be honest I probably couldn’t recite any of them. I sipped my beer, wrote a line or two and leered at her, hopefully, without notice or if noticed I prayed to the prince of darkness I was not that creepy. She stood behind the bar in a blue dress, blau, swinging low, with thin straps. Her perfectly palm sized breasts winked at me. Her long black hair, schwartz, probably unnatural but I didn’t mind it one bit, her hair screamed for my fingers to comb through it. She wore tiny diamond earrings. Ocean blue eyes that I swore looked into me and knew everything, all of my sordid thoughts which frightened me more than you knew. The scariest part of it was I felt like she knew me. This woman did something unimaginable to me. This was the kind of woman that did something magical to every man who laid eyes on her. For Glory gives herself only to those who have dreamed of her. Charles De Gaulle said that shit. Well, if you must know, I have dreamed of Glory, I was undoubtedly not the only one dreaming about her.

I thought about writing a letter to her, only never hand it over. To write the love letter there at Anne Bonny’s was in all likelihood, a bad move. A terrible idea. I watched the way she interacted with Mcloughlin, Segal and Brennan. They talked like old friends too, laughing and debating. Those old bastards were real renaissance men, true artists and poets, who sought out higher education and then became expatiates in France, rubbing elbows with Hemingway and Miller between the wars. They left and I envied that about them. They went to France separately, taking in the vitality of the city of lights. They were not the only generation that was lost. Although, the three that lived at this bar did not have the success as some of the others in their exiled community. They get to say they were there. They still made an impression. I thought for a moment, maybe I’m not searching for a place but a time. What if I missed out on my zeitgeist? What if I was supposed to be there then, not now. I’m fucked either way.

I’ve confessed that I have a hard time sleeping. My conscience was steeped in compunction, sleep for me, has routinely been distracted as my faculties are engrossed with worry. If declarations were to be made, I promised I would finally be able to sleep soundly with Glory beside me. I would go to sleep just so I could wake up to her face. Everyday. To wake up beside her would be sublime. These are thoughts and feelings you can’t say to anyone, especially strangers without feeling foolish, or having your honesty turned against you. Much of the way I felt and thought toward aspects of my life normally made me feel stupid, or ashamed. Our feelings are untrustworthy, and at times, my feelings are completely asinine and borderline criminal.

“Hello there. Here,” said Glory, placing a fresh beer on the table. I hadn’t realized I even finished the first pint. How long was I fucking sitting here? She pulled up a chair and had a beer of her own in her half clothed hand. “Are you writing the next great American novel?”

“No. Definitely not. I’d settle for a good novel, or a decent novel. I’d be okay with writing a shitty one too.”

“Shooting for the stars. What is it about?” she asked and sipped her beer. Here we were, bridged by an wobbly table, two pint glasses, an unscented candle, and about one hundred acid free pieces of paper for me to vandalize. What was restraining me from my most animalistic urge to ravish her? Domestication. It was hard enough not to stare. “I’m sorry. I’m Glory. We’ve never formally been introduced.” She offered her hand, a hand I would eat out of. A hand half covered, both hands to be exact were covered in a gray cloth, concealing the knuckles to mid arm. Gräu. Soft linty gauntlets for the lady. What was she hiding?

“I’m Wilhelm.” We shook hands.

“Hello. Do you live the city?”

“I live in Queens.”

“Have you always lived here or are you also a transplant like myself? It seems most people in New York are not actually from New York. City, I mean.”

“It can be problematic. I have lived in Queens my whole life. Where are you from originally?”

“Upstate. A little town called Wells. It’s in Hamilton County. Population six hundred and change. It’s a long drive from here. What do you do for work, Wilhelm?” I loved the way my name sounded out of her mouth. I watched her lips as she spoke. I watched her pronounce each word. I wanted to press my lips to hers, I took a sip instead. Each time I blinked I pictured us, me kicking the table over and grabbing those tiny cloaked hands she let me touch, pulling her into my hold, vise-like, and kissing her. Our mouths, living works or art, opening and closing, a sort of dance, a tango or waltz, you decide. Us, in unison with our frolicking tongues, syncopated in perfect timing. Timing is everything, who said that?

“I am employed but it’s not anything really worth talking about. I’d rather hear about what you do?”

“Well, as you know I tend bar. It’s a place called Anne Bonny’s. You may have been there before.”

“Is it a shit hole?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ve been there. What do you besides bar tending?”

“I am an actress who doesn’t act.”

“That’s wonderful. I am a writer who doesn’t write.”

“Perfect. My roommate just got a part in a commercial. It’s for Apple. You see her for a nanosecond. She’s like famous now!” Sarcasm. We were perfect for each other, I knew it.

“My glass, look, it’s empty.” Said Mcloughlin, from the bar shaking his glass, and turning it upside down. “Mine’s broken.”

“The service here is in a decline,” said Brennan. “A turn for the worst.”

“How does this work?” asked Mcloughlin, staring intently at his empty pint glass. “Pity, I was having such a lovely time.”

“I have to go and enable the drunks. I’ll be right back. I have a million questions. I hope you don’t mind?”

Segal didn’t say a word.

“No, not at all.” I said.

I watched her walk to the bar, and she glanced back at me with a smile. She called them jerks. I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to tell her how I can remember the first time I saw her, what she was wearing, and how she made me feel. I wanted to admit she was the reason I kept coming back to Anne Bonny’s. Glory is the reason. I wanted to write bad poetry about her. I wanted to reveal that I had wondered what it would be like to be with her. I thought of us building a home, kiss by kiss, brick by brick. I pictured us married and traveling together, I even picked out some names for our kids and pets. Does anyone else do this? Why must I always be such a weirdo? I did all that without knowing any thing about her. Was I superficial or just hopeful about her personality? She could be someone I could never be with, someone I might even dislike once I got to know her and yet, I’ve fantasized about her. It wasn’t a conscious decision to invest so much time in the thought of who she is or who I want her to be, Glory just always resurfaced in my mind and grew to goddess proportions. I almost didn’t want to talk to her anymore, I didn’t want to risk destroying the image I created of her. No one ever lives up to the images we conjure up. If you adore someone don’t ever meet them, you will be disappointed. I couldn’t tell her any of this. It was madness. She would think I lost my shit. Straight stalker. The man was obsessed. I didn’t notice it but she poured the guys two drinks each.

W. FLOOD : Chapter Nine

W. Flood

Chapter Nine.

I walked quickly, darting in and out of the hordes of people covering the sidewalks and streets like vermin, whose sole purpose seemed to be to keep me from my destination. Interfering with my food. Hundreds of people walked with no concern or seemingly without any awareness of one another. Beware of the disaster that is the intersection of Roosevelt avenue and Main street in Flushing, Queens. A section of Flushing, A Dutch name as well, could easily be mistaken for a city in Asia, the second largest Chinatown in New York and festering. I’ve watched the neighborhood transform over the years. Ronald and I would take the bus there to rack spray paint and buy butterfly knives. Hattie confiscated my knife, in a feeble  attempt to parent me properly when it was convenient to do so. I still possess the knife, it became our bathroom window handle. Knives out, windows open.

Catherine wanted that fixed. I want a lot of things to be fixed. I haven’t changed or so I thought but this place has, change can be both bad and good. I would deal with the crouching tigers, the feverish chain smoking and involuntary spitting on the ground, I’ll take the bad manners of some select people as long as I get to eat their food.

I opened the door of my favorite Vietnamese restaurant where I was meeting Mr. Sundeep Ceraso. A college professor I had a few classes with. I got him into The Murder City Devils and he explained the importance of The Cure’s Disintegration. The ironically upbeat music offset by some truly morose lyrics. I liked the self consciousness, the vulnerability in Robert Smith’s voice as he shared himself completely with everyone and anyone who cared to listen. That doesn’t always happen. You know what I mean, people don’t always care to listen. People don’t really care, for the most part, they don’t. I wished I didn’t care, but that’s my problem.

A tall brownish man, with a laugh like no other. Braun. A man who had become a true friend to me. He commanded a sharp tongue and without struggle tension easily emanated from him but I’ve grown to love him wholeheartedly. I’ve maintained little contact with him over the past few months, more so, than everyone else I loved in my life. I shared my literary aspirations with him, while his efforts greatly surpassed anything I could ever write or achieve. It was Sundeep’s opinion I highly valued and I appreciated any advice he could give me even if it stung.

Sundeep was born in India, and traveled the world with his Indian father and Italian-Irish mother before settling in Queens. It really is the the world’s borough. He taught English Literature at my CUNY College. He preferred to call all of his students doctors, so as doctors tend to examine things we examined literature and tried to explore the narration and delve into the meaning and subtext as far as possible.

“Table for one?” asked a short man with facial hair worse than my own, staring rudely at my black eye. I understood his failure as a man to produce hair on his face so I forgave his bad manners. He should have seriously reconsidered shaving that weak growth on his chin. E for effort, though.

“No. No, thank you I’m meeting someone here. Uh, there he is. Thanks.” I tipped my head toward Sundeep, acknowledging that I saw him. I walked to the table with the feeling everyone was looking at me. Does that happen to you?

“Ah, Dr.Flood. Running late? I don’t remember you being so tardy.” He said as he shook my hand. I noticed his usual pile of layers on the chair beside him. He didn’t need all those clothes I thought but to each is own.

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. The bus was catastrophic. This world is in absolute ruin.” I said removing my hooded sweatshirt. “But you know what?”

“What?”

“I feel so tall around these parts,” I whispered happily.

“I see. What does that say? Goatwhore? Okay,” said Sundeep long and dismissively. “There is always a chance for a disruption with regards to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. You can’t predict it. Signal problems. Fire on the tracks. Do you want to split an order of spring rolls? I’m also going to get an order of pork and shrimp toast. I love it because it’s crunchy. Are you ready to order or do you need more time? I’m not trying to rush you but seriously I’m rushing you. I’m fucking starving.”

One of the numerous waiters, stood strangely close to me with his black vest over his white shirt. He didn’t say anything just stood there. Why did they have such a large waitstaff?

“Yeah, I’m ready. Do you want to go first?” Sundeep hurriedly motioned for me to go ahead, with his mitten hands clutching succulent bean sprouts, dripping plum sauce. “I would like the tie gau. How do you say that? Tie gau. Am I saying it right?”

“Which one?” asked the bored looking waiter. I pointed to the number on the colorless menu.

“That one. How do you say that?”

“That one is number twelve. What drink?”

“Uh, alright. Number twelve it is. No cultural lessons today. Large. Please with beef balls.”

“What Drink?” he said annoyed.

“I’ll have sriracha.” I said trying to lighten things up, it failed. “I’m good with the water. Thank you. Sorry.” I handed the waiter the menu. Sundeep ordered his food. There were little dishes and plates full of green vegetables and various sauces in abundance. “Geez. He really didn’t want to help me with my Vietnamese, now did he? Your hands are weirding me out. Why do you eat like that? Are your fingers fucking fused together?”

“No,” he said, wiggling his plum sauce stained fingers. “See. I always wonder if these men appear rude because of the language barrier or they just dislike non-asian patrons. Technically, India is located in India. Asia. Asia. I meant in Asia. Anyway, I was thinking to myself about the time you were unprepared for my well prepared exam, with ample time given to study, If I don’t say so myself, while I was waiting for you. Let the record state that I give a fair amount of time for my students to study the material for an examination.”

“I am a horrible human being. I worked nights then, dude. I was exhausted and I didn’t get around to reading the whole thing. What was it? Robert Louis Stevenson. The whole class didn’t need to know that I am a giant idiot. I bet there were some others who didn’t always read all of the required reading assignments besides me, just saying and I read Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. It was just after the fact. I wasn’t going to hand in nothing, I thought fuck it, just write something. Maybe if you enjoyed it, just maybe, I might get a grade for it.”

“A story about a hot dog who wants to learn how to play backgammon. Only after learning how does the hot dog realize he has no arms or hands to play the game with. By the way, what grade did you get?”

“A zero. It was an existential fable. I understand the frustration of that hot dog. Thanks for nothing. I don’t know how to play backgammon.”

“The lowest grade got dropped. Stop crying! How is work going?”

“Don’t ask me about my work.”

“When are you graduating?”

“Never. If everything goes well, it should happen soon, but with my luck who knows. I know I’m making some headway but the progress is so minimal. I’m champing at the bit for some real progression. A career not just a shitty job to barely get me by. I know I just have to stay focused and be patient but still its getting ridiculous.”

“You’re fine. You’re young. So it’s taking longer to establish yourself than you hoped for. It’s not the end of the world. It is the way of the world now. More and more young adults are in your position. Look at the all the people that are unemployed. I’ve spoken with people who have doctorates and they can’t find work, so they are working in coffee houses and they are security guards at the Met. It’s a rough time. You have a job, you might not like it but it’s a living. You’re working towards something. Try to enjoy it. Try to have some fun with it instead of worrying yourself into a panic.”

“I can’t help it. I want more from life. I want to be able to do more for Catherine. Maybe it’s my age but I think about marriage more. I would like to one day get married and have children, is it weird I’m thinking about this shit, but at the rate I’m going I probably won’t get married.” I wouldn’t get married, let alone have children if I remained in that position I was in. I never want to quarrel over money or not be able to completely provide for my family. I will not do that injustice to my unborn children like it was done to my sister and myself.

“Soup’s on!” said Sundeep as a different waiter brought out all our food. “Your what? 28? 29? Why wouldn’t you be able to get married?”

“If I met the right girl.”

“If you met the right girl.”

“I’m 28. Before you know it, I’ll be 40, then 50. And so it goes. I mean, if I am not financially stable enough to support a family then I won’t have one. I don’t want to raise kids with no money like the way Catherine and I were. I also don’t want to fight about money. Ever. I just want to have something for myself. I want to do something with myself. I just want something good to happen for once. I am growing incredibly anxious and uneasy about this whole life thing. I look around and I see potential in spite of the negative elements in this world and I just feel…”

“What? What do you feel, Wilhelm?” Sundeep was genuinely inquisitive.

“Defeated. I feel defeated in most aspects of my life. I know that sounds so melodramatic. I don’t want to have a pity party. I have just been disappointed a lot by everything. Women. Family. Friends. Women. Economically. Financially. Politically. This distance within me is stretching, and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere, I don’t fit into the scheme of things. I’m lost. I’m missing the point of my existence. I am the hot dog.”

“But you have arms. Everyone feels this at some stage in their life. You’re in a rut but you’re young. You have time. So much time. I wish I was your age with the world in front of me instead of looking back on it. You will look back on this spot and see that it was just a transitional period. You will be fine. Just keep working hard. Hard work pays off.”

“I’m not so sure. I want to be happy, Catherine thinks I’m incapable of happiness, like I won’t allow myself to be happy because of some circumstance. I think I could be happy. I know I sound overemotional, and at times I am but I’m happy. I’m not frowning all the time. Writing makes me happy. I want to write something. Rephrase. I want to finish something. I want to meet a nice girl. I sound like the biggest woman. Am I a girl? Am I the only guy who wants this shit? I want a family of my own. I crave my own house. I could tell you exactly what it looks like.”

“Please don’t.”

“Fun fact!” I covered one side my mouth and whispered, “It has a barn. I want all these things that appear completely impossible for me to achieve.”

“There will always be something else that you will want. And that will seem impossible as well. I understand that you work hard, and you want things to happen, I know its a difficult time for you, it hasn’t been an easy ride for you, I know this  but in time you will have the things you want. It just kind of happens. So stop dwelling on it. Right now you just need a sense of purpose.”

“I do want a sense of purpose. Doesn’t everybody? What have I done? I haven’t done anything. I know this.”

“What have I done? Are you looking to change the world?”

“You teach. You have a family. A house. You’ve written a book. You’ve given lectures. Do I want to change the world? No, I’m not that self indulgent or righteous for that matter. I want to create something that makes someone want to create something for themselves. I am so inspired by life, and art, and music and literature I want to contribute and connect with some one. Am I being vague enough for you?”

“I think you’re depressed. You don’t realize your self worth. You have an impact on everyone you come into contact with. Think of the impression you have on your family and your friends. All of the people you ignore love and believe in you. You don’t think they miss your influence and presence in their lives? They do, i’m certain of it. You have aspirations, you just have to do it. Keep writing, keep creating, keep your mind open. It will happen but this experiment, this idiotic thing that you’re doing I don’t quite get it.”

“I have always wanted to leave. To runaway. Immature, yes, but its still something that is always in the back of my mind. I have always loved the mystery behind the reclusive writer, or those protagonists in old movies who live alone in castles. I want to get in their minds, understand the ethos behind their loneliness. I understand loneliness. I get lonely people. Why do people shun other people? The answer is almost always pain. I think I’m too affected, I’ve become frivolous with my emotions.” I need to be more like Mr. Winnifred.

“There is nothing peculiar about emotions, or having them.”

“If I can’t leave this place then I can escape without actually going anywhere. That’s what I’m doing. Hidden in plain sight sort of thing. I just want to be alone and try to work things out within myself. I need some sort of inner peace. I’m sorting it out. Maybe I am depressed, if so, I want to deal with it myself, by myself. I think I need to desensitize, to become colder, more shut down from all the things that haunt me. If Picasso had his blue period, the work that comes out of this timeframe will be my pleistocene epoch, my own little ice age.”

“So you want to be a little recluse. You want isolation. Have you ever read Kant?”

“Funny you say. No, I haven’t. I wish I was a recluse though. A proper recluse.”

“Dr. Flood, do you want that last spring roll?”

“Be my guest.”

“You need to place a raw steak on your eye. I saw it in a movie.”

“Thanks for not bringing it up.”

“You’re welcome. You’re a giant idiot but you’re welcome.” Sundeep ate the spring roll.

W. FLOOD : Chapter Eight

W. Flood

Eight.

I made yet another attempt to read a few more pages of the book in my hands. I needed a distraction from my thoughts. Time to focus on someone else’s for a little. I was rereading Les Fleurs Du Mal. The pages were still blank to me. I didn’t want to be preoccupied with Hattie, I wanted to think about something positive, But was there anything positive, really? We both know it’s not likely.

I was off to somewhere else in my mind. I’m all over the place. A real mess internally. I was unable to concentrate and it’s kind of sad. I remembered feeling I wanted to be someplace quiet, possibly in a hammock, content with just reading, with just being alone with a book. I wished I had the time to read all of those books reaching out to me from the places on the shelves in my room. Some people were reading on the bus, some read on tablets and read others actual books, made out of paper. Relics. Can you believe it? How retro. Why have I always been so easily distracted? Always, so aloof. My mind reeled through the dimensional tangents of what I perceived to be past, daydream and reality, blending and blurring them all in to one at times. Time is relative, after all. That is how I’m put together, hardwired for tangents.

The bus began to move, it became more and more crowded with all sorts of different people. An attractive woman, almost as beautiful as Glory, stood near me at the back of the bus. She had long black hair that looked incredibly soft. I felt the urge to reach out and playfully pull it, lightly at first but harder if she wanted. I spied kissable lips in a quick glance because she was standing with her back to me. She reminded me of an actress, I am a humanoid version of IMDB. Light blue button down with a black skirt halted at the knees. Blau. Schwartz. I wanted to tickle her knees. She wielded an umbrella. There was no chance of rain in the forecast on the news that morning. I double checked my weather app. I had four missed calls, and a bevy of texts to not read. You had to give credit to my friends. They were not going to let me go without a fight.

I was right, no rain. Meteorologists are the worst, so who knows, nevertheless, she was prepared. I liked that about her. I thought about the skies opening up, pouring kittens and puppies down on us, together, under her umbrella. I felt her lips, the coldness of the downpour and the silkiness of her thighs as I ran my hand up her skirt inside my mind. I wanted to write this all down. I wanted to write everything down. I thought about that scenario but with Glory instead, I’ve written about her already, then the back doors of the bus opened.

The Q44 stopped. People exited and others stepped on. People didn’t usually board through the rear, I thought, but shrugged it off. A man in his forties, who looked like he smelled awful, hopped up, my temporary muse moved further away from me. I hoped she couldn’t read my thoughts. The man was dressed in blue Dickies, possibly a mechanic like Ronald’s father or a janitor, like Ronald’s father according to his bedroom door. The man hoisted a large pail onto the top step. A purple five gallon pail that looked like it was used for target practice read flammable. Lila is the german word for purple. I had to look that one up. Flammable in big precarious letters. I didn’t notice it at first because I was thinking about Glory, how to say other colors in german, spring rolls, and my cuticles. The bus had not moved for some time. Most of the other commuters weren’t all that aware either, busy with conversations, plot-lines, pulsating earbuds and daydreams of their own.

“Hey! Hello! You! Yes, you! I’m talking to you.” The bus driver, a behemoth of a man stood, pointed and yelled toward the back of the bus. He caught the attention of us all, confusing some who had no concept of what was transpiring. “Yeah, you! Get off the bus!”

“I not get off bus,” said the man, adding some remarks in Spanish. “I paid.”

“No, you didn’t pay. Plain and simple. Get off of this bus right now. Even if you had paid, which you didn’t, you can’t bring chemicals onto a bus. Any bus. Got it? Get off!”

“I want to go home.”

“I want to go home, too” said some woman I couldn’t see.

“NO!” the man protested, stamping his feet.

“We all have to go somewhere. It’s easy, man. Just get off the bus.”

“I do what I want. I work. I work. I want to go home. Take me to my home.” The man stamped his foot like a child having a tantrum.

“Yo motherfucker! Get off the motherfucking bus! My unborn baby has an appointment with his doctor. I got to get to Booth Memorial now,” said a young pregnant woman standing towards the the front. Had she been closer I would have given her my seat.

“Get off the fucking bus!” the driver was livid. “Fine. Fine. You don’t want to get off. We will not move until you get off. Get comfortable, everybody.”

The janitor and the pregnant young lady traded furious barbs, well, I assumed they did. I couldn’t understand the language, but I know a bit about tension and body language. The volume levels on that bus rose louder and louder, vehement flailing hand gestures ensued. The situation was getting out of hand like me after too much Irish whiskey. Some high school kids with the worst fashion sense I had ever seen, yelled things like “Yo cracker, let my man go home” and “fuck this white dude” toward the driver. I was slightly confused by all this so help me out, at what point did this become a racial issue?  No one sees what the real issues are to anything anymore. We shift the blame and focus to every problem that arises.  Civilization has not gotten very far, have they? I sat there in the midst of the arguing, making eye contact and then breaking eye contact with the other commuters, absorbing the collective disdain. I wasn’t the only human disgusted by our genus. Forget colors for a moment, and you know I love colors, take away our fixations on gender, race, religious or sexual orientation and what are we? We are just humans, ugly ones, at best.

The old jewish lady next to me leaned in, whispering, “Look at how people behave, it’s shameful. I think we have the most idiots per capita in New York City. Lucky for us, though, it could have been another terrorist attack.” I nodded, while a young Indian fellow standing in front of me, shrugged his eyebrows in agreement. He had large headphones on, I guess it wasn’t too loud if he could hear us. I wondered what he was listening to. “Oh, god.”

“Read Dawkins.”

“What?” said the woman, whose eyes reminded me of my Nana.

“Read Hitchens?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing.”

“What happened to your face? Who hurt you?” She asked.

I didn’t want to answer, “Oh, nothing. No one.” The last bit was a lie.

“You need a cold compress and a bowl of soup. That’s what you need, young man.”

It was odd to me how a stubborn Spanish man could remind me of Hattie. Most things did bring Hattie to mind. It was my conscious that stayed heavy. Chalk it up to all of those people who never acknowledged the wrongdoing in their actions, and I had to do it for them, I bear all your guilt.  This mechanic or janitor or whatever the fuck he did as a profession, should’ve understood he was completely wrong and immediately exited the bus. People like that, you know, assholes, and they come in every variety are never wrong in their own eyes. The foul mouth pregnant lady couldn’t get to the hospital. The bearish bus driver couldn’t fulfill his obligations to the riders. I couldn’t go and eat fine Vietnamese cuisine and have my work criticized, I mean my writing was about to be completely ripped to shreds. I hated selfish people, and what makes it worse, this man was bereft of reason and morality. So we all waited. Some waited patiently, others were unruly. That’s life. I wondered if the half-witted punks who chastised the bus driver, for looking after our best interests, putting our safety first, for demanding the mechanic to exit, I wondered would those same dolts hold him responsible if the contents of the green container had ignited or exploded. How many would not be able to wait to sue? The media would portray the bus driver as careless and inept.

If I ever wished for anything or ever asked a false god for one fucking favor. It was then on that dumb old bus. I’d take back the new bicycles, the pleas I desperately made for women not to be pregnant, or the hope for my life to one day be mildly fulfilling. I’d give everything for it. I just wanted one thing. One lousy little thing. I thought as I sat in the middle of all the screaming and cursing, please, anyone, any higher celestial being listening to me, please let this fucking bus explode. I said loud in my head, take me, take the lovely old jewish lady, the Indian kid’s headphones and send us into oblivion. There is nothing after this. Teach these assholes a lesson. There doesn’t seem to be any good here. Let us roast. I’d take one for the team and love every minute of it. Don’t get it misconstrued. No religious crusades here. No genocides. Just a  little mishap that could have been prevented but people don’t know how to act properly. In actuality the bus itself is really a microcosm, a metaphor for the world, a world that if I have come to terms with anything in this lifetime it is that I am good with it ending.

I snapped out of my blissful daydream with a dispute in the front of the bus. A man in a green army jacket holding a cane was fighting with woman in scrubs.

“Get up, bitch. I should be the one sitting. I was born in this country. Whore.” His clothes didn’t fit properly. I hated that. I hated him.

“I was born here, too.”

“You immigrants would let an old man, a veteran, stand.”

“Sir, please just leave me alone.”

“Fuck you, you cunt!” He lifted his cane. I respect my elders but I also respect women, moral dilemma, if ever there was, a decision was made if he hit her I was going to seriously hurt him. Disorder begets disorder. The bus driver intervened and grabbed the cane. The way the veteran spoke reminded me of Hattie’s second husband.  I had a bad taste in my mouth, sir.

“Can you let him sit, please?” The bus driver said to an Asian kid sitting across the recipient of the old man’s insolence. He obliged. Somewhere there is sill decency. “Here. You can sit here. Just stop already. The police are here. Finally.”

The police arrived, and as they lackadasically boarded the front I decided I should just walk to the restaurant. Sundeep Ceraso was waiting for me at Pho Bang. I usually felt ashamed of my actions, and for the actions of those around me, but one short bus ride and I was ashamed to call myself a human being. I want no part of this world.

I got off the bus and for some reason or another Immanuel Kant popped into my head. Have you read him? Me neither. Maybe we should, in my bed together over hot toddies. I walked away, on the side of the bus was a poster for a shitty movie most of humanity will think is wonderful, I envisioned the quote “give me fecal matter, and I will construct a world out of it” written in maroon spray paint across the perfect teeth and inevitable happy ending of the movie that should have never been made in the first place. I don’t know what maroon is in german. Oh well, I would have to google that along with why is it in our nature to be horrid.

W. FLOOD : Chapter Seven

 

W. Flood

 

Seven.

 

The bus proved to be a mistake.

I thought of the houses we lived in and the ones we were evicted from. The thought of that specific house we drove passed is irrelevant since the same events unfolded every place we inhabited. We brought our shenanigans with us everywhere. I’ll provide you with some details. There were couches that smelled like a forest and felt soft against your face, but only in the afternoon. It was a great place to hide behind. I crammed my little frame between the wall and the couch because it felt appropriate to do so, and quite often. The couch was adorned with auburn colored horse and carriage silhouettes. I bet it was my father who picked that shit out. That gaucho wanted to punch and poke cows, and ride off into the sun, leaving the credits in his wake. I am not the only with the constant to urge to leave everything behind.

The lamps were log cabins. I could live in a house like that, one of those tucked far away from here in a desolate forest.

If I was an overdose was a color what would I be? For me, if I had my choice, it’s going to be green. Grün. There is no right or wrong answer to that question. Hattie was fine then, not really, she was reading her magazines, the ones filled with pictures and lies, that was her shit. She loved tabloids and jewelry. My pops sat on the floor watching a Sergio Leone flick. Spaghetti westerns and black coffee for days. Schwarz. Catherine was somewhere, let’s say she was in her playpen. A playpen is a legit spot for a toddler. There were gruff men on the television riding steeds, shooting at each other and striking matches off five o’clock showers. Pops ate sandwiches. Liverwurst. Lindburger cheese. Mom ate some pills. Downers. Pops drank coffee while Hattie had Budweiser and some well brandy, bottom shelf. Mom ate some more pills. A hand full of pills are extremely easy to lose track of, the time wobbles and a few more couldn’t hurt to get you where you need to go. Could it? There was a vinyl shoe rack in the bedroom closet of every house we have ever lived in. Each slot was filled with shoes, except for the two in the top left corner. It was green. Grün. The interior of those two ghastly pockets clutched stimulants, sedatives, opioids  and various over the counter diet pills. Her dependency on pharmaceuticals would destroy her life and grievously damage ours. When you’re broken you need your fix.

“Mommy, do you like Clint Eastwood? Dad loves him, a lot.” I said. “I think he wants to be him.”

“No baby. Westerns aren’t really my thing. Elvis is my guy. He’s the king,” She said tickling my neck. “Are you lonesome tonight? Do you miss me tonight? Are you sorry we drifted apart?”

“You’re funny. Lee van Cleef’s face is kind of messed up. You’re a bad singer.”

“I am? Are you sure? Are we still friends even though I’m a bad singer?”

“Yeah.”

“Will we always be friends?”

“I hope so.”

It would not be long for Hattie’s transformation to begin. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was on. Hattie’s body was defunct, as if she was instantly a paraplegic. My dad was calmly talking to her, opening and closing her eyelids. Her pretty brown eyes whirled around, trying feverish to hold sight, trying to focus onto something, anything I suppose. She didn’t speak. Hattie’s face looked gaunt and frightening to me. I figured she was dying. Death was inevitable. She grunted and groaned. Her body was useless, when he lifted her arm and released his grip, her arm would fall back to the floor. It was a struggle for our Dad to move her, it was as if all of her bones has disintegrated. The pills turned her into an amoeba, a paramecium, a jellyfish, or maybe a worm. None of those things were what I wanted my mother to be. I stood in the doorway, prepared for an earthquake, but not for what was happening to Hattie. I didn’t know what was going on? I didn’t fully understand what was happening to our mother? Pops said she’s sick, she’s sick. He told me to go to my room. He said everything would be fine. I don’t think he consciously intended to lie to me. Nothing was fine, nothing was ever fine nor would it ever be, he had in fact lied to me and probably, himself as well. I had witnessed my first overdose. I was six years old. I’d bet it wasn’t Hattie’s first and sadly it would not be our last together.

I wanted to leave. Pops wanted to leave but Hattie wanted to leave more. The hopeless and the frail.

I waited by the window for ambulance to come and get Hattie. I watched some cars pass by. No one was in the street and it was well past my bed time. I saw the lights and heard the sirens drawing nearer. What is it about flashing lights that is so mesmerizing? They parked right in front of the house next door. Two heavyset guys carried a gurney up the stairs to our apartment. They were equipped with tools and things I didn’t know what their uses were for but loved that they jangled around. These men seemed important. They were going to save her I thought to myself. I was a foolish little boy.

“Okay sir, what is her name?” asked the first paramedic. He had long brown hair and bad skin.

“Hattie. Her name is Hattie. Help her, please.”

“We will,” he said while the other paramedic unstrapped belts and unhooked things.

“Hattie, what did you take?”

“She can’t talk like this.” My father said.

“Hattie, okay Hattie, you can hear me just relax we are going to put you on the gurney and get you to the hospital.”

She made noises, the paramedic looked at me and my glassy eyes. I wondered if he wanted to tell me to go my room, I’d probably disobey him too. They said on three and lifted her on the gurney and off they went to the hospital, Flushing or Booth Memorial. When I went to the window to watch them leave the streets were not desolate like before. All of our neighbors were outside. A nice woman who lived across from us came over and watched Catherine and me while my dad followed the ambulance to the hospital. Hattie came home a few hours later and felt like shit for awhile. Shitty wasn’t shitty enough for her behavior to correct itself. Our days in that apartment were numbered.

There were those mornings where Catherine and I were little and we tried to revive Hattie. Hattie wasted away her days, just like how she wasted away her life in self induced comas. A practitioner of narcosis. We’d prod and shake her, peeling her eyelids apart, again her eyes roiled around in order to avoid us and the daylight. I supposed that we merely ascertained she was just a deep sleeper, but in the advent of the knowledge gained afterwards, it was the lifestyle she lived. I viewed Hattie as this tremendously sweet and beautiful person and then there is other side that makes me wonder if she cared about us at all. I guess I felt that way about a lot of people in my life.

I often thought of the looming trepidation occurring whenever I came home. If I returned home from school or the park I couldn’t help but worry if I would find her dead. Would today be the day? To another person, maybe her behavior was not really alarming or any cause for real concern. Her second husband didn’t give a fuck. When I entered a silent house I expected the worst had finally shown up. I’d call out her name. No response. Hello. Hallo. Nothing. I’d slowly walk towards her bedroom, sometimes the door was ajar, sometimes not. I’d discover her deep into her narcosis, sometimes in her bed, mostly passed out on the floor. The intoxication would kick in and her motor skills would go haywire making it difficult to reach the bed. I’d look at her, feeling a mixture of ennui and enmity. Throughout my life there has been this acrimony towards her. Displeased, I still felt affection for her, no matter what, she was still my mother. I would place a pillow under her head, I’d brush her messy hair out of her perspiring face, clearing any debris from around her eyes. I covered her with a blanket if it was cold, or pulled her nightgown down to cover her up and make her a lady.

There were moments when we used to talk, but I revealed very little and those talks were few and far between. I only spoke to her while she was unconsciousness. I pleaded with her in her slumber. I refused to ever talk about my true feelings to her, I refused to share with her anything meaningful when she was awake. My heart grew increasingly frigid and I became the cruelest person to her. Unlike her second husband, I still attended to her, unlike him I would never just step over her. There were no phone calls to ambulances anymore. My father would call, her second husband would just roll the dice. If she overdosed and died, he would be free of the burden of this woman and her children. He was only concerned with her addiction when he was the target of her gripes and rants. I wanted to clap my hands or click the heels of my feet, I wanted to disappear so badly, to anywhere, just fucking gone. I never had the balls to do it, I still didn’t. I wanted to disappear the way my dad did, not the way Hattie liked to disappear.

I found her once face down, I took masking tape and outlined her body. I pretended it was a crime scene, in a way it was. Hattie played with fire and this could’ve easily been the end result. I wanted her to understand the reality of what she was doing and how it affected us. I don’t know what she thought when she came to, she never said anything about the masking tape. Catherine and I weren’t around much longer anyway.

 

Someone else would find the body.

W. FLOOD : Chapter Six

W. Flood

CHAPTER SIX

As I walked to the bus stop it bothered me that I was unfamiliar with Catherine’s aspirations in life. I should have known her better. I didn’t know what her dreams were. Was it because I never asked or because she never shared? Anyone who has ever engaged me in a conversation for longer than ten minutes knew all I have ever wanted was to write a novel or they know about that one time with the prostitute. Another time. I have a such a big fucking mouth. I knew she was kidding but my question was sincere. I dug her concept of wanting to become a caterpillar, you know at least you’d become something in the end. Caterpillars have a future. I didn’t. Don’t we all want to transform into something else? Don’t we all want to change and grow, grow, grow? So Kafkaesque. The ability to re-invent oneself is so appealing to me. How about you? It’s related to my fascination with escapism. Be who are you, right? Why should it be such a hard thing to be yourself in the first place?

I approached the bus stop, and noticed a guy, an acquaintance from Whitestone. The neighborhood was the smallest of worlds. Deep breaths. Normally, I’d politely chat with him, as I would with anyone I know. We have nothing in common other than a location, a region. Whitestone is our common denominator. Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood for the small talk. Fuck, I thought how I’d have to explain my eye. Dumb things of this nature spread like wild fire in this little degenerate town. The real problem was that I would probably be asked ‘how are you doing?’ or worse, ‘what are you up to?’. My response hasn’t changed in years. I am a broken record. I’ve listened to myself regurgitate about my dead-end job,and those burnt, rotting irons I have in the fire, or my unending academic career. I’ve grown sick of hearing myself and my own stagnation as it grew worse by the second. I’m nauseated at the thought of more blather about my hopes and dreams. I’ve refused to do it any longer. I’ve refused to partake in these pointless exchanges, it would go against the whole objective of my detachment. I pretended I hadn’t seen the guy. I crossed the street skipping the Q14 altogether. I’d rather walk further to Parsons Boulevard and ride the Q44 than to run into anyone I might know.

The Q44, runs the stretch from Jamaica, Queens, where my school is located to the Bronx Zoo, a place I visit once a year. The bus, noisy and beat up, waddled along like a slow obese penguin. The brakes screeched, the doors folded open and released a hiss of annoyance. I, was a pest. I let all the women who stood around me on first. A young girl smiled at me, most likely thinking we were the same age or close. We were not, despite my boyish demeanor.

“Thanks a lot, dude,” I said as I boarded, inserting my scarred Metrocard into it’s slot. I imagined the bus driver wearing hot pink high heels. Driving Shoes. I had to refill the value of the Metrocard soon, the balance was getting low. I used the same card for months, as suggested by the MTA. I thought they suggested that. I might have made that up in my head. I prided myself on that silly little nothing. It was a meager contribution to preserve this planet I ironically detested. From the looks of the main street subway station, I was the only one. Oh, by the way I fucking hate the term “main street” when it’s used in political arenas. I had to get that out of my system.

I used to wait and freak out, obsessing over if I had exact change or not. Do you do that, too? I stood there waiting, counting and recounting the quarters. I acknowledged the possibility of having some psychosis, but I wouldn’t peg myself as the type of person who has OCD. Give me money or involve me in any situation regarding the transference of money and I become a bumbling, even more awkward than usual, a complete fool. I would worry about what would happen to me if got up those two or three steps to face the driver, and didn’t have enough money to pay for the fare. I thought about the humiliation, and blood surged to my face, so I now brood about when was the last time I refilled my card and whether or not I have any balance left.

Public transportation allotted me time to read and a chance to listen to music, sometimes simultaneously. Look, there were two things I could actually do at the same time. I should make a mental note. To be in any kind of motion has always stimulated my mind, my thoughts ventured to strange tangential realms. I tended to wander to weird places inside my head, some good and some, well, not so good. Other commuters in New York City are tolerant and respectful as to not disturb my thoughts. There are the bums who own newer and cleaner sneakers than I do. I didn’t understand that, but I guess being homeless and begging for money was far more lucrative than working at my shit job a minimum of six days a week. Then there are the bums whose stench secures whole train cars to themselves. They are basically paid to get away from people. The Trains I used were the 7, 6, N, R, E, F, L, and C lines. The all have bums. An indication of our declining economy despite what politicians would have you believe with all their bullshit statistics. The trains also have the thugged-out youths of all color and race who suggest you should purchase their junk food, because of their honesty, it’s not for their school or charity, its for self.  It’s a thinly veiled implication that buying a candy bar is better than having them just straight up mug you. No real threat though. Most of these young kids are so soft. The magicians, the drunks, the suits, we all rode the train squished together. I once saw a man on the seven train do a brilliant rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. That was refreshing. I have always appreciated the musicians, well some of them. It’s not easy to get up in front of others and perform. The man departed from the train before I could give him the four single dollar bills I had crumpled up in my pocket.

So back to the bus, getting on was the hardest part for me. If left to my own device I’d turn around, run home and hide under the covers. I had to deliver a late essay to a professor, meet with Sundeep for a late lunch and then stalk a bartender named Glory. I’d probably ignore more phone calls and end up doing shots of Tullamore Dew with McLoughlin. I had to consciously not think about anything, just execute the action at hand. Just get on the fucking bus, Wilhelm. I dreaded the eyes of the passengers. Don’t watch me! I walked along the aisle of the bus and they made up little stories about me while I made up little stories about them. I couldn’t look at pretty women on the bus or train,because it was not uncommon for me to fall in love with them. I wondered about all these different people. What did they want to be when they grew up? Where were they all off to? Where did they come from? I was curious about everything, what was that girl reading? What was that guy listening to? What are they all thinking? What languages are they thinking in? Did they also want to run away? Which one of the six basic roles applied to them? I wanted to write down my stories about them. I made little notes to myself in the cover of my book. I signed my name, W. Flood, in the air with my finger.

I found a seat wedged between the back of the bucket seats and an old lady. I thought of my old couch. She looked sweet but fragile. It was real sad in a way, I think she wanted to talk to me. I think she wanted to talk to anybody. She had long strands of white steel wool sprouting from her chin. I wished for a pair of wire cutters. I’d help her, you now, do my part as a good samaritan. The star of David dangled from her chest, against a pretty floral pattern dress. I wondered if she was widowed or if anyone worried about her getting around by herself. I wanted to read my book, but I couldn’t concentrate. The words expanded and floated right off the page. The bus made its stops, people got on and people got off.

I could have kept my eyes closed, and envisioned the entire bus route to Main Street, Flushing and how it used to look. The old street signs, the houses, the stores, the cars and trucks that never moved, best of all, the graffiti. It was all there inside my head. I guess I’m nostalgic. I have always loved to look out the window, only in buses unlike riding in cars do I not feel like I’m going to fall out and die. I felt I was most certainly risking my life in trains when I stand with my back banging off the doors. I thought about graffiti, how much I’d love to vandalize this forsaken city again. The risk was just not worth it at my age. If there was any hope of me doing anything substantial with my life getting arrested at this point would destroy any last chance of it.

It was such a part of me, most of my formative years were spent writing graff all over my things and Queens. Queens is sort of mine in a way. My friends and I, especially Ronald, walked around Whitestone and it’s adjacent neighborhoods with spray paint, markers, and stickers, anything that we could use to get our dumb names on with. Writing graff was one of the most normal things for us to do in our youth. I looked at most of the shit that was up, and that was all it was, shit. A lot of it lacked style and respect. It’s funny, to use a word like respect, or to suggest there was even respect in an act that was essentially at its foundation disrespectful and offensive to almost everyone removed from the lifestyle. I never had ups outside of Whitestone, really, a few spots here and there but nothing to brag about. I never proclaimed to be anyone special. No kings here. I felt that today all of the writers think they’re special. Some young kid goes and catches one fill-in in his life and writes ‘all-city’ inside it, what a joke. It’s the hubris and entitlement that ruined graffiti for me. I’m not into the egos or those people who sweat themselves. Although, I still look, and enjoy seeing that writer fresh out of retirement. Those guys that were way older than me who still did a little here and there. I loved it. I see what goes on.

Two aromas I had loved since I was young was gasoline, and spray paint: Krylon, Rustoleum, Montana, whatever. Fucking Pergament, remember that place? I have always loved how devilish it was. I had a silver marker in my bag. Silver. Silbern. I haven’t hooked a tag name up in years, but I have caught some tags or written some things I considered funny or clever while out on drunken tears. I’ve put more emphasis on my name, instead of an arbitrary moniker. I’ve written big clean W’s with a half cursive, half hand style FLOOD. W. Flood. There was not much anonymity but at the same time there really was. Who knew me? It meant nothing to the millions of strangers who mindlessly and mechanically walked around New York. Those people had no idea who W. Flood was, so who cared, why not just write that?

The bus passed a house I used to live in. I lived in many. My family moved around a lot, we kept getting evicted. I remembered each house and apartment in great detail down to the scents. That house in particular brought back diaphanous memories of Thundercat Big Wheels and the bogeyman. He lived there with us, inside a shoddy wall that would grumble at night. I always loved the idea of monsters, not so much the reality of them. So I steered clear of whatever it was behind the sheetrock. Every house had their own ghosts, their own tortured souls that mewled from the darkness of lonely rooms. Most monsters are make believe but some are quite real. The living can haunt you as easily as the dead. I remembered the ambulances. I was fascinated by the lights. I had the same exact vehicle, only miniature. Matchbox or Hot Wheels, I not sure, pick one. There were many times flashing lights escorted Hattie away to some hospital , I tended to envision that dungeons and archaic torture devices awaited her.

I remembered how I unintentionally caused a bit of trouble in school the following Monday after one particular incident.

Mrs. Healy, my teacher with her pixie haircut, would greet all of us, after we were settled into class. It was my turn.

“And how are you, Wilhelm?” she asked.

“Good,” I answered shyly.

“And how was your weekend?”

“An ambulance came to my house and my mommy got her stomach pumped.” Big mouth strikes again. How very Morrissey of me. Mrs. Healy didn’t know how to respond.

“She’s ok now.” I said. I was lying.

I wished that bus would just keep going. I wished I could go away.

– Sean Gabler