5.08 / August 2010

So Very Much

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Out there beyond the tables, past the candles and the bar and the chairs and stations, over all the seats with the couples having dinner, over the head of the daughter of J.P.B., this name not stated to protect the person he is, who works at a bar and restaurant on 1st where they actually serve a cocktail called the Master Cleanse, which really is the master cleanse, cayenne and maple syrup and lemon juice, plus liquor, and farther over the bar where the Japanese Commercial Print Photographer keeps drinking Roy Rogers and telling me about the real-deal-Indian-Witchdoctor who showed him how he would die one day but gave him a silver-trinket belt buckle to keep him from it- and towards the door, over the heads of the waiters and waitresses, past the bottles of wine and water and the bread baskets—beyond the tiled floor with the table legs rising—out to where there are no more mosaics or arched passageways, the windows open and where the shutters end and air passes from the bar out into the street—there on the sidewalk is a man struggling to bring himself back into his wheelchair; he is setting his wheel locks and grunts as he swings the chair upon its casters, double-checking the clamps across the wheels, he groans, with his belly and cock and legs all dragging, pulling himself against the weight of failed parts, trying to lift himself, his chest, to seat level, reaching for one padded armrest, he grips the cushion in the rain but he slips, a hand upon the vinyl padding, and falls with his chin cutting across one silver footplate, scrapping his neck and face as he cries to the traffic cursing the rain and the shadows and the headlights in the street, but no one stops to help him, the dirty cement and his lips bubbling, his sweatpants spotted with grime, arms flexed, fists drawn together, neck chorded, he shouts but only to submit back onto his back, wailing, dragging himself across the pebbles and grime and bits of dried tar, spittle, first there is all this—first there is this—but this is not first because before this, before this man and his chair and sidewalk, before the bar and me sitting at the bar, watching kids come running down the street until one collides into the back of this man’s wheelchair and the man is jostled, struggling admirably, terribly, before all this, there is the waitress and there I am out looking for parking, on route to see her, because I should first say I am seeing her; I should tell you I am seeing the waitress, whose name is Maesa, but she is not first, because first is not her, first there is me, and I am the I of this story, and I am first, selfishly, unavoidably, using Maesa for a place to stay and sex and driving through the village alone and finding nowhere to park, trying to get to where Maesa works, but I hardly know the village at all; my father knows the Village well, grew up here, and so maybe my father is first, but how can a father be first when a Mother could really come first, and surely a father can’t know a thing about being first such that a mother does, and so certainly mother must come first, and always did come first, with her giant fortune and her man’s belt and powder case, and if mother comes first then perhaps women come first in this story, and if women come first, then Maesa- but before Maesa, her own mother then, and so this is to get ahead of ourselves, as you will see, because Maesa’s mother means exactly the fat woman suffocating in a photograph on Maesa’s wall, ahead of ourselves now we are, tubes up her nostrils and her in a wheelchair, too, back getting her photograph taken, and so now there is no way but to get ahead of things and say I was with Maesa this night long past when the man was thrown from his wheelchair, after I had been sitting at the bar and saw what happened to the man, and I thought to go and help him and did not and knew that my father, certainly my father would have helped this man because my father is a good man, a Christian man, although he was raised a Jew, but met Jesus or found faith in Jesus, rather, after he found drugs and when he had found drugs was back running around the Village over the same streets as this restaurant is placed, Maesa’s restaurant, with the Japanese Print Photographer in his tight shirt still yack-yacking at me, cartoon bird on his chest, and the man in the wheelchair struggling to rise, pitifully, strongly, on the same sidewalk where as a boy my father went running, and one day stopped running and looked at his young foot and saw that it was made of glass and saw a goldfish swimming inside his foot and this was when he was still very young, and he was excited to have a pet goldfish and he was eating dope, that time before me I am always trying to imagine, and I thought I would imagine better one day, but have not, and years later he was in the Rockies of Canada, lost one night, and someone gave him a Bible and said, “Take this and eat from it, child,” and that was all, he had found Jesus Christ and himself and he is a good man, my father, so certainly he would have helped that man on the sidewalk (let’s not forget this man is real, now, and on the sidewalk), and I was not helping him although I had thought to help him but was too afraid since so much was happening all at once and if the man had something in his pants, a needle I thought, and I got prodded, or if he became violent with me or any number of things and weren’t you supposed to be able and fend for yourself in this town, anyhow, and then I thought about my brother who was also first before me, and certainly my brother would have helped the man out since my brother is strong and lives in Oregon and anyone from Oregon would help anyone- especially a cripple in a wheelchair- who of course had no real power to harm me I thought, surely, and then thought otherwise and didn’t know but what if it had been my mother sitting at the restaurant? What would she would have done- who knows, other than it would have been all about her and she would have made a big production and if her parents had been there, certainly they would have done something to help or made Shy the bartender do it, my Grandmother would have said to him, My God, Shy, do something, the man is hurt, you are strong, or my grandfather would have helped the man and then she would point this out saying, “look he’s however many years old, etc,” but then maybe he would do nothing since he had a once terrifying incident down in New Orleans when he was a boy and besides he’s seventy-eight-or-so years (who knows) and only about five-two which definitely isn’t big enough to help a broken man who needs to be lifted up into his wheelchair and also my grandfather looks like a turtle with white hair combed over and everyone knows that’s not the sort of man to- but I could have helped that man, seeing as how I am six-footed seven and hadn’t even moved from my seat with the Japanese man showing me his belt-buckle again, so proud he wouldn’t have to die and out came Maesa flirting by and she was giving me the eye-lined-sex-eye while this woman in the corner was also giving some other man the sexy eye and I was thinking how there was no way to try and make things work with Maesa, suddenly, when I just and only wanted everyone to get away, back off, and give me some room, to be clean, alone in the desert at night, tingling, but when I said this later on- how I wanted to get alone from her, everyone, Maesa started crying and we struggled for hours in a real pathetic dissagreement that lasted too long and didn’t get to any point and in the middle of fighting she wasn’t wearing anything but these low-rise panties and I got turned on and said I took it all back, “I take it all back,” I said, and put myself inside her so we were having unsafe sex again and lately I’ve been having this thing with condoms and inside Maesa on her giant comfortable bed I looked over and there was the picture of a sort of old woman, not too old, tubes running out her nose and fat, obviously not going to last too long, I figured, and was it a really recent picture, no, which I could tell from the hair and dress and the color, etc and when we were done, not because either of us had climaxed but because Maesa started crying again, I asked her who that woman was with the tubes out of her nose and it turned out, sure enough, her mother, a collapsed lung, lung died and mother started smoking cigarettes and died altogether which made Maesa cry even more in my arms and I started rubbing her back absent-mindedly-like as my father always did for my mother (before she left), and I started thinking about when I die and suddenly it was happening- there was this big Native chief in the desert with a raised mound of dirt and he pointed to the sky and said, “he wants to talk to you,” and I went up and God was huge and fat and smoking a black cigar and laughing at me so I could either start laughing, too, or be left out of the joke entirely and so I started and he said “You’re done” and I said “Great!” and we went into this white space and I was about to disappear when I looked down and Maesa was still crying and there I was having a gas of a time as usual- thinking about dying and meeting with Indian Chiefs and smoking black cigars with God and all of it great and vivid so suddenly it was too late and I was back in my body on the bed feeling so guilty that I started scratching her back again and realized that this very woman with the fishtubes up her nose was who Maesa had come from, the accident miracle of creation and hit me how Maesa’s mom had come first before Maesa and I remembered Maesa telling me her father had been told to leave by Maesa’s mother and then Maesa’s Mother died and Maesa was just about fifteen or so and suddenly she had no father and no mother and was on her own ever since and I thought, Jesus Christ, everything is fit to go wrong with this girl trying to make me her mother and father both at once and she’d take anyone at all and I remembered the man outside his wheelchair who I didn’t help (so much to speak of) but did go stand next to and watched him struggle a while and then I asked him if he needed anything or help, standing six-foot-seven inches beside him, and I remembered, while holding Maesa in bed, how he had said to me, with the light from the streetlamps orange and making the world look so slow, the shadows smaller, “You think I need help from you now? You think I need anything from you? Like I’m the one who’s crippled and you’re the one who isn’t? Well let me tell you, we are all cripples down here, boy, we all! Each and every one of us. Crippled to the death,” he said and started laughing so I started laughing and he lit a black cigar and smoked it, smoking and smoking and smoking until there was nothing but white, or near-yellowish white, and I could see nothing except smoke and I was all so very glad to be out there, with him, us alone past the tables and chairs and the couples fighting and Maesa crying, and my mother with the children running down the street and the bottles of wine and Japanese-fellow talking and all the bread in the baskets (as many as they could fill) and Shy the bartender and my grandparents smiling and waving and really truly I just missed my father a tiny bit, there in the smoke, feeling myself disappearing- I wished I could have seen my father one last time; wished I could have been him all along, which is all I ever wanted, as a boy, as a man even, to be Father and suddenly I thought back to it all and whispered, “So long, I’m off. Thanks for everything. Thank you so terribly much.”


5.08 / August 2010

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