The heat wave cracked, if not broken, I took a walk down the street to the Liquor Barn, a squalid warehouse storing an immeasurable plethora of booze. From crowd favorites to label whores' most desired and down into stuff sponged from the gutter, the Liquor Barn is a plain testament to the intention: I came to drink. Yet, standing out front, an image popped into my head I couldn't shake. I saw myself sitting in a leather chair sipping fine brandy from a snifter. Wearing a smoking jacket, I sat with a book in my lap and a look of deep introspection on my face. Tonight would be my chance to truly ponder the facets of my life, of existence so far, and I didn't want those contemplations ruined by mainlining 100 proof corn whiskey and firing off homemade car bombs. So, much to the surprise of Hajnalka, the old Hungarian cashier lady, I procured three bottles of wine -- red, white, and interracial -- as opposed to my usual whiskey and a hazel nut chocolate bar.
Normally I would jet home and start the boozing. However, this time I took a moment to set the appropriate mood. Instead of barreling into the evening I prepared things. I bought two packs of cigarettes in advance, a frozen pizza in case I got the nibbles, set out the books I wanted to read and prepared a playlist of the music I wanted to hear. I turned on a few lights, casting the glow one expects in a Fincherian flick, though it pertains to libraries as well, then dressed comfortably. I found an old smoking jacket in the closet, a bit worse for wear, but it would serve its purpose. So, attired in smoking jacket and boxer shorts, I sat down on the couch. I poured a glass of wine; read from a Library of America collection of Mark Twain... started getting bored... finished the red... turned on the melodies of Jean Sibelius... then, half way through the white, I found myself making up words for Sibelius's work.
"Eventually, I'm gonna die, and there's nothing I can do but screw this greasy prostitute, prostitute -- she took my money but not my cum -- prostitute, prostitute. Good god, I don't wanna die, but I look around and can't wait to end. There's that lady with the creepy eye, leaking white. I want candy now..."
You get the idea. (Maybe it sounds better in Spanish -- Con el tiempo, me voy a morir, y no hay nada que yo pueda hacer, pero el tornillo esta prostituta grasa prostituta, - ella tomó mi dinero, pero no es mi cum - prostituta, prostituta. ¡Dios mío, yo no quiero morir, pero miro a mi alrededor y no puedo esperar hasta el final. No es esa señora con la mirada escalofriante, fugas de blanco. I want candy ahora -- but I don't trust my Spanish to be accurate.)
It wasn't that I found Sibelius or Twain meaningless or dull by any stretch. I just felt the overwhelming sense I could be enjoying myself more so. Primarily by not thinking so much. So I turned on the TV.
It took about fifteen minutes to finally settle on some grindhouse classic called Satan's Bloody Fist. The plot centered around a biker gang chasing a group of people through the woods to various stops where varying numbers of people died in exceedingly bloody ways. For instance, a bartender tried to hide one of the sexily dressed victims and was then tortured by having his tongue removed with a broken bottle. (That seemed counterproductive, since how could he say where the girlie had gone, however, she gave herself up by screaming in terror, so the matter falls by the wayside.) But it was a fun ride. Satan's Bloody Fist wrapped up and the station promised to follow it right away with Cutey with a Shotgun. And I quote, "A sassy cheerleader out for revenge. Rah, rah, sis-boom, PAH! Cutey with a Shotgun."
The white bottle drained, I skipped the mixed. There was other booze in the kitchen. I snatched a vodka out of the freezer, cut it with some orange juice, and settled in for Cutey with a Shotgun. Midway through the opening credits -- go-go dancers blended with what looked like stalker footage of a high school -- I had an idea: I wanted to watch TV like when I was a kid. So I jumped off the couch and got down on the floor. Lying on my stomach, I arched my back to stare up at the screen. The TV suddenly seemed taller, a drive-indoors, but I had to support my head with my hands, elbows digging into the rug. Then I thought, "This night needs some rain."
I've always enjoyed the sound of rain on the rooftop. Not the threatening whoosh of torrential downpour, but the steady plink-patter of slow rain. But there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Standing in the driveway, drink in one hand and cigarette in the other, I came up with an idea. I pulled the hose out and slung it over a branch in a low hanging tree. Angling the sprinkler to face the living room window, I turned it on. The spray fell across the one side of the house, and from inside not only sounded like rain but through the open blinds, it even looked like a mild shower.
After refreshing my drink, I plopped back down in front of the TV kid style: stomach flat, back arched, feet kicking air, and head propped up by elbows. It took about twenty minutes before the growing pain in my back prompted, "Aw fuck this shit." I got up, my spine feeling set to snap. How in God's name I spent hours doing that as a kid without incurring back problems that would haunt me all my life is a miracle. Straight miracle.
Cutey with a Shotgun played out. It didn't inspire much more than a desire to tuck a gun into my boxer shorts and go wandering the neighborhood hunting for penis cars. Realizing how foolish that sounded, I put on a pair of jeans before heading out -- no sense in strolling the suburbs in my underwear. I tucked a .45 into my belt and plugged a pair of headphones into my head. I also took a beer, tall boy I found in the fridge hidden behind a great wall of Chinese takeout. I was about to grab an umbrella when I realized, "It's only storming in my backyard."
Still, the heat had mercifully dropped. After several straight days of over one hundred, anything can feel cool, but that doesn't make it any less appreciated. I ambled to a nearby park and sat on the swings, smoking as I listed. My portable jukebox on random, a song started playing I hadn't listened to since high school. I didn't even know I had it in my player -- Metallica's "Wherever I May Roam".
Yes, when I was younger I used to listen to Metallica. It's become something of a sin these days to like Metallica. However, there used to be a time people could only site personal preference against the band instead of moral outrage; and despite the hatred the so-called Black album engendered, the truly regrettable Metallica albums were still off in the distance. But when I was sixteen, I liked little more than to jack in my headphones, crank up "Don't Tread on Me", and wander the streets and alleys. Sitting on the swings, some fourteen years later, some of the old feelings came creeping back. I remembered sneaking out of the house one night, a twenty ounce Sprite full of cheap whiskey, and sitting in the playground near my folks house, listening to hard guitars thunder as I drank and smoked, trying not to think about the girl that just broke my heart; stomping down the alley to "Battery" after fighting with my Pops; doing my best just to enjoy seventeen, rather than worrying about what happens next. Sitting on those swings, I went back and forth between then and now, realizing how little life had changed. Yeah, I don't listen to Metallica anymore, mainly because a burgeoning cynicism sent me down heavier roads, but it still felt like little had really changed.
I still worry about the women I love and have loved and might love, get into fights with people over dumb shit, and I'm still trying not to worry what happens next.
The song ended, changing to Clutch's "Electric Worry". It was a sign not to linger in certain thoughts. I got off the swing, set the empty tall boy on a bench, then got back on the swing. Standing on the swing seat, I got a bit of an arc going, pulled out my gun, and fired away. Hit the can on the second shot then jumped off the swing at perigee, landing just shy of the can. Lights around the block snapped on. I ran back home, cutting down alleys and through dark backyards to keep from being seen.
Laughing, I poured another screwdriver to loosen my screws. Cranking up the stereo, I jumped around on the furniture, yahooing all over the house until my neighbor came along, banging on the front door... I think you know how this ends.
Sometimes you just have to say, "Fuck reality. I'm living strange."