A Long, Slow Descent (Part 1)

CHAPTER 1: WE OWN THE NIGHT

The staccato knock on my door pulled me from my half-sleep, and I took it as a sign that I should probably be doing something more productive than taking a nap on this weekday afternoon. The cleaning ladies probably wanted their money, or at least to let me know that they were leaving,  and that they had once again done their best to bring order to this warzone of an abode. I jumped out of bed, opened the door, and was greeted by nobody. I glanced towards the front door, which was open, as they usually left it when they departed, and concluded they had just walked out.

Groggily, I stumbled around the house, until, a minute into my deliberations as to what I was going to do now that napping was off the table, the answer dawned on me: I needed a cup of coffee. Caffeine and tobacco, the most powerful sources of energy known to man, would no doubt invigorate my spirit and refresh my mind. Plus, coffee makes you shit, so that’s another activity lined up right there.

Since no one was around, I opted against my usual straight black, and added a little cream in my cup. Off I went towards the front door, lighting up my smoke on the way, and there I stood, watching the stillness of my suburban block on this not-quite-summery afternoon, basking in the inconsistent glow of a peekaboo-playing sun. There were more cars than usual parked on the street today, no doubt due to the construction being done on a nearby avenue. They were building a sidewalk on the left side of the street, since clearly, the one on the right side of the street was insufficient to accommodate the Shanghai-esque levels of pedestrian traffic the suburbs are known for. Man, this neighborhood’s really coming up.

My uncle had gone out, my brother had gone out. Where was not really important, what was important was the sound of silence which now turned this house into a sanctuary of sorts. The old me, meaning the me from last week, would’ve immediately jumped on this opportunity to roll up a little greenery, and get in harmony with nature and the universe. By which I mean listen to Bob Dylan and down a box of KD or two, before sitting down at my workstation and finding new and innovative ways to kill time. Yes, it was one of those days, one of those you feel you won’t really remember, one of those days us young people take for granted because it’s implied that we’ve got ten thousand more. But botany was off the table now, since apparently too much astral travelling can turn you into a vegetable. Being more of a meat-eater myself, I had resolved to quit what I am just not learning was a pretty well-entrenched habit, and, thus, here I found myself sitting around, counting the seconds, wondering when the last of the THC would’ve dissipated from my bloodstream, or fat cells, or wherever it gets stored. Wondering when I would be normal again. Maybe a nap wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

CHAPTER 2: THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW

After an hour or so, I awoke once more, from a bizarre dream in which, as best I can remember, had me riding a horse towards some kind of massive clock, out in the middle of nowhere, with strange beasts running behind me. I remember wondering whether they were chasing me or not, and where the hell I had learned to ride a horse. Man, dreams are weird.

The caffeine was doing its thing now, I felt alert, almost productive. My phone informed me that it was now 11:00, a reasonable hour to go to bed for those who subscribe to the normal approach to time management, and a doubly-reasonable time to wake up for those who, in common parlance, are fucked up. It felt like I had slept for all of a minute, which is why I was surprised to find that the sun had definitely retired for the night, and that its lazy replacement, the moon, was now, in James Brown’s words, the only light we see. Since breakfast is the most important part of the day, I headed for the pantry, with my mind on my Cheerios and my Cheerios on my mind. The house was still empty, which added a kind of surreal vibe to this already bizarre day of half-naps and non-smoking. Given that the night was young, I called up a few buddies, trying to rustle up a posse with which to hit some bar, or lounge, or other socially-endorsed location of enjoyment. It felt like a whisky night, though, given that you can buy Ireland for the price of two or three doubles at the local bars, and that the gummint don’t sell no booze after 11, I settled upon beer as the more advantageous investment. Life is all about compromises.

Louie Rich’s phone was off, so fuck him. Raji was supposed to be back in town, but a robot lady who answered his phone told me his number was not in service, which I assume meant that wherever in the world he had ended up, he had gotten jacked. And I had to content myself with leaving a voicemail on Escobar’s machine, in which, as per protocol, I questioned his sexuality for being such an asshole and not answering. So much for that.

Outside was still the same, not cold, not hot. In a fit of initiative, I resolved to burn a little fossil fuel and take a drive around town. Anything to get my mind off the herb, and most importantly, off her. The pleasant suburban landscape unfurled before me, with the tree-house-two-cars-in-driveway template repeating itself ad nauseam. The streets were empty, of course, and even the dog-walkers seemed to have given in to laziness tonight. Yes, the good people of Westside were fast asleep, no doubt dreaming about their day, or their next day, or their previous day. In other words, dreaming about nothing.

They were doing what I should’ve been doing. Believe it or not, I am actually gainfully employed, in a corporation of note and repute, which legally, though, I am not allowed to name. I do also participate in what is dismissed as the rat race, for the simple reason that I have an incurable condition, since birth, which needs constant attention. My doctors have advised me that, if I do not eat at least once or twice a day, I might die. Given that in this land of capitalism, even food isn’t free, I found myself with no other choice than to pledge allegiance to some corporation, rendering a service I could not care less for in exchange for numbered pieces of paper, which I can then exchange for food. It’s not an ideal situation, but you have to work with what you got.

As I drove past the copy-pasted backdrop that was my neighborhood, I found a strange comfort in the lights which emanated from certain living rooms. I was not the only one left, there were other brave souls, then. Burning the midnight oil, standing up to the system. Watching Jay Leno or some other asshole plug this or that celebrity’s latest movie, book, addiction, whatever. That thought actually reminded me that I was also addicted to cigarettes, and that, in order to remain an addict, you have to indulge in your habit at regular intervals. Now armed with a destination, I headed towards that oasis in the desert of the nocturnal urban décor, that land of plenty amidst a sea of closed shops, the convenience store run by my old neighbor Mr. Calza. It was open, in his words, 26 hours a day. Because everyone was doing 25 hours now, 25 was a cliché. Mr. Calza, with that zest for excess enthusiasm characteristic of old Italian men, originally wanted to make it 27 hours a day, until he was advised of how dumb that sounded. Marketing gimmicks aside, I genuinely enjoyed walking in there at random hours, and having him ask me, in his Old-World accent, just what in the name of this or that saint I was doing running around the dangerous streets at this time. Everyone likes to feel an interest in them, even me.

I pulled up, guided in by the light of the thousand or so neons he has running at all times around his property. Mr. Calza seemed to think that if he blinded the neighborhood enough, people would think twice about trying to rob him in the middle of the night. In a way, he was right, as he had never been robbed in his 30 or so years in the neighborhood. He had been sued twice by neighbors over that nuclear sun that constantly kept them awake, but such was the price of safety. Of course, the fact that the old folks who lived around his shop were in bed by 5 P.M. probably factored into the equation as well.

I walked in, past the stands of potato chips that have been on special for the last 15 years, and leaned on the counter, waiting for old man Calza to come around. Seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes added up, until I resolved to go interrupt whatever XXX video he was watching that night. Peeking into the backstore, I found nobody, and even after shouting his name a few times, I still remained all by my lonesome in the store. Given that I knew him, and that he probably wouldn`t mind, and that he probably wouldn`t know it was me, I left a ten beside his register and reached for the smokes. Tax be damned, I was going premium tonight. Call it the self-service discount.

The car started up again, and as per custom, I thanked God for allowing it this most recent ignition. My phone, resuming where it had left off, blasted out the melody of a song I used to love, but which I had been wanting to remove from the playlist for oh, 6 months. Back on the deserted road I went, steadily inching towards the city. Of course, I didn’t really feel like taking the twenty-minute drive all the way out there, to drive around and watch the momos and momettes strut around from club to club in their designer, standard-issue party clothes. Or the big bosses sitting in expensive restaurants, stuffing their faces with overpriced, undersized foods prepared by illegal immigrant chefs from all over the world. And even though I was riding clean, I still didn’t feel comfortable around such a high concentration of cops as that which you find in the city.

I drove past the suburb’s main party boulevard, which was actually that stretch of 44th Ave where there are two bars, one across the street from the other. The funny thing about that was that, each bar had its regulars, who showed loyalty to their taverns which bordered on fanaticism. Of course, it was not exactly a guarded secret that both bars were owned by the same guy, but it was still not uncommon to witness barrages of insults, threats, and, on ladies’nights, bottles. One day, and I remember it being the day that our local hockey team moved into the finals, I saw the leaders of both cliques come together in embrace in the middle of the street. I doubt that peace between Israel and Palestine could produce the level of emotions I saw that night. But then again, that night was also ladies’night, and when a group of six or so girls chose the Hangeo instead of the Crib, it was the Intifada all over again.

Today it appeared as though the Praetorian Guard of smokers which fortified the respective entrances of both places had retreated to the inner sanctum. Must’ve been a special on shots, or maybe some girl had gotten wasted and was now flashing her goodies. Nevertheless, I stood at the red light, watching the two bars as they continued their eternal staring contest.  Red turned to green, and off I went, deeper into the night. I was surprised at how little traffic there was, it’s as if there had been a PSA advising everyone to stay off the roads, which I of course missed. Maybe there was something really good on TV tonight.

It was midnight now, and I was hungry. I was somewhat bored, too, and, thanking God once again for living in a society where the one thing we definitely do not lack is entertainment, I hit the switch on my radio, feeling the need to plug in to the sound of the city. The city sounded dead that night. Or at least, the radio did, because all I heard was, once again, the sound of silence. No static, no choppy music, not even an emergency broadcast advising everyone to head to their nearest bomb shelter. Straight nothingness. I pulled over to take a look at the radio, and played around with the switches for a bit, trying fruitlessly to tune in to something, anything. The lights were all on at the right places, so I troubleshooted the sound system by slamming down on the buttons a few times. Peine perdue, as they say in French. The silence and the stillness of what surrounded me unnerved me somewhat, and gave this overly familiar environment an aura of bizarreness.

Thinking quickly, as always, I plugged the phone back in, and was comforted by the voice of some rapper on some remix proclaiming his disdain for ‘deez bitches’. Yes, if this man was to be believed, bitches shouldn`t even be trusted to wash one’s car. And why wouldn’t I believe him, since he claimed to be a ‘mighty pimpchief of the Smackaho tribe’. Solid credentials, if you asked me. But then again, in this day and age, what with the Internet and all, anyone can claim to be a pimpchief.

I was still bored, though, and, dismayed by the fact that no one had bothered to call me back, and depressed by the total graveyard-like stillness of my neck of the urban woods, I decided to go that extra twenty miles, and hit the city. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet the girl of my dreams.

/////////////

Check out part two at https://elperezoso.wordpress.com/a-long-slow-descent-part-2

 

PoSho

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Food for thought

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