The heat has finally let up and although I’d sooner stay in my room, my demanding stomach forces me out and amongst. Today I dine on seventy-cent vegetable samosas at the Indian store. Not at all a delicacy, far from delicious, but as I am too poor or too lazy I wont walk to the Vietnamese or Ethiopian restaurants. They’re racist anyhow: the Ethiopians, at this particular restaurant. I don’t suppose they’d be very nice to me after the last time I ate there, or didn’t eat there, refused to eat there. So I’ll quiet my hunger, fill my belly with dry dough, potatoes, and peas for the second time today, sadly.
But there is some delight in this evening, entertainment as I am graced by the passing of the sweet young girl: “Bella Noche!” I cry out, mimicking the devastated French strong man screaming for his lost Latin princess. She responds to my well intentioned ridicule though I dubbed her this comic name. I wonder if she is even Spanish. She is certainly a beauty.
“Good evening sweet Bella,” I greet cordially.
“Joseph,” I say cutting her off. “Oh no need for embarrassment, it is quite understandable. Names are difficult to remember and we have only met once or twice before. Once really, though we have been in common company several other times. I myself am horrible with names but you I have found a depth of fondness for and so I remembered yours and have even dubbed you one for story book purposes.” She had not been embarrassed nor had she forgotten my name, but surely now she is struck awkward. But swooned? Her red-flushed face reveals this truth. “Would you care to join me for dinner? I hate dinning alone but I was craving a decent meal. I thought I’d eat at the Vietnamese restaurant. Ha! Ha! I suppose your right I am heading the wrong way. I am lucky to have run into you, delighted.”
We walk together, east as she had been walking before. We are silent: sudden awkward silence. I glance over at her, attempting a degree of stealth. I steal glimpses of her face and her small breasts. I even drop out of step occasionally to watch how her pants shift in the back. I am not horny, no devilish sex fiend. This is more habitual than out of lust.
“Here we are,” I say breaking the agonizing quiet; we had been standing in front of the restaurant staring blankly at the sidewalk for sometime already. “Do you have time to eat with me? I so very much hate dinning alone. I’ve said so before. Are you bound by previous engagements, previous plans? Oh really? You are. No that’s fine, sometimes I prefer eating alone. Ha! Though I’ve just before said otherwise. No, no, I understand. You should feel no pressure in this. It was a mere invitation from a near stranger, one that should not be difficult to turn down.” We both squirm thoroughly agitated by this self-inflicted hell. “Enough! Enough! Go about your way. You had plans, perhaps another time. Go! Go!” I shout laughing. She walks away wearing the burdened something of a smile.
I enter the restaurant, wait a minute, then I exit to go back to the Indian grocery store and my cheap samosas. But she is still here. “Bella Noche!” I cry out again like the idiot fool I am. She’s come back unable to bare the thought of me eating in all of my loneliness.
“Please don’t cry so much,” I barely utter these words, they mechanically spill from my mouth, a half-hearted habit rather than genuine care. She buries her face in her hands wailing in ridiculous hysterics. I tell her it’s not her but me. In fact I think highly of her. She is a wonderful young lady: loving, kind, and inspired. I on the other hand have been struck cold and disillusioned. I can not find joy in life. I can not find reason behind my daily routine. I had hoped that she would cure me of my… boredom? lethargy? I held to that hope during all the moments of courtship. But once I won her heart and nothing had changed I knew I had to end things to avoid a more painful situation. I am sorry I waited so long. My words are little comfort to her. I have devastated her in the middle of the park.
The park itself is lovely, as it most often is; one of the few legacies of times past; of elegance, heroics, of romance. There are others but most are also shrouded in some florescent tacky cloud, lacking formality, aesthetics, or care. I imagine the streets horse and carriage laden, an occasional bicycle; cities existing as cultural centers, focal points for the congregation and creation of authors and literature, musicians and music, artists and art. If only jobs provided honest work with focus on beauty. Surely some exist devoted to such a cause.
Bella has gone. Such relief! Do not misunderstand, I am burdened by some guilt but I had to remedy my mistake and now the dirty act is finished. As a result we are all the better.
There are so many young parent’s here, quite a few delectable mothers at that. Ha! Ha! These stupid couples: life has no purpose, get married. He becomes distant; life has no purpose; how mundane it has all been. “I’ll have a baby to save the relationship,” she thinks. Right, bring another child into this miserable world. Mid-life crisis, the late realization that you have done nothing.
Here comes a beauty. Oh my, she is delightful! Delightful, delightful: she is hot, as are so many girls and I’ve only just a few moments ago ended what I am now just as eager to start. Disillusion (illusion?): that is woman; distractions from any sort of profound existence. So many men are satisfied by the false sense of fulfillment women carry as arms. It perhaps is no fault of theirs (women) but still they are a destructive temptation and as a result artists become art-teachers, authors become journalists, and musicians become noise conscious home owners; the piano collects dust and the drums are in their cases in the basement.
There runs a boy after a ball. Now a flock of children chase the ball. That they do not fight over who should catch it proves somewhat reassuring. And now, oh my! What an awkward thing, an old man dressed up in a fine looking suit, he stands in the dried up fountain with a racket, smacking the ball, it is chased, returned to him, smacked again, here is a slowed game. And off they go to chase it down! What is awkward is his posturing as they are off chasing. These moments between he looks about searching for a thought: the solution to a problem having to do with his career or marriage? He never considers that he is a waste or that he doesn’t matter. Those thoughts have been quieted years ago. He is on top. It is only in these slower moments that he is struck awkward, unsure of how to hold his arms while waiting.
A job, I could do freelance writing for a newspaper. Ha! Ha! I only just moments before insulted journalists. Generally they are a horrid breed: less than skillful in technique, far from lyrical, and suffering from a lifetime drought of imagination, but still it is an outlet that I could take advantage of. Not a road untrod by some of my favorite authors. I could write a series of criticisms called “collective incompetance”.
Life has become exceedingly dull. I have no money and so I have to return to the flower shop to work the holiday. I’ve also regressed to my old occupation of perpetual sleep, a result of perpetual exhaustion. And so it is 10:30 am, I am crawling out of bed to go to work and I should have been there two and a half hours ago.
I hate the subway. The people here are the worst- no not as bad as those on buses. But here I am, in the thick, amongst blank stares from forgotten minds- forgotten by themselves.
I waited an hour for a van and run in the company of trashy poor bastards. I spent an hour and a half stuck in lunch hour traffic, rage swelling at my palms, watching business men swerving between lanes to get nowhere faster. I had to leave three quarters of my deliveries with neighbors and here I am again, in traffic. To hell with these people! To hell with everyone and everything! I give up. I am exhausted by a world lacking meaning. Is there no one who can at least attempt giving a decent argument as to why they should exist?
Oh glory! Lord I thank you now! Never have I had such an immediate answer. Never have I been so quickly relieved of pain. Here before me is an angel on the back of his steed. He stands in the rays of the setting sun as if posed. He is beautiful. A cowboy for Christ’s sake! A black cowboy, riding his horse through this wasteland, this Sodom. He has come to deliver us, a beacon of hope.
I follow him. I follow his galloping horse in this puttering van. Oh they can wait for its return, the flower shop. There is no question as to what is more important: driving flowers or following God’s messenger.
Here we are. It is close to dark. We are far north. There are even fireflies up here. The cowboy walks his horse into an old warehouse; a fortress really, surrounded by barbed wire fences and weed trees.
I have to knock. What should I say? What excuse do I have in following him? I can’t very well ask him if he is God’s messenger. He may be an unsuspecting prophet; I’d sound like a lunatic. The newspaper! I could ask for an interview.
I knock, ready to deliver my line. There is no answer. I knock again and continue knocking until I hear a noise inside. But now I am nervous and filled with fear. Not unlike waiting to see who was entering the house those evenings my parents were away. They trusted me by myself though I was only eight or nine- “Oh I’ll be fine,” I’d assure them though I would then spend the whole evening a nervous wreck fearing the darkness of the hallway leading upstairs. The warehouse door is unlatched and swung open.
He stands there in front of me staring saying nothing, just looking at me. I’m saying nothing. I don’t know what to say. Hello, I suppose. I try to squeeze it out but I am out of breath. He makes me nervous; his pants are too tight and his lean but well built upper body fills his button up shirt too perfectly. I want to be angry with him for he surely takes great care and pride in how he dresses, the boots and hat for Christ’s sake! I can’t manage blurting out anything, not the line about wanting an interview, not even a simple greeting.
He closes the door and I realize that somehow I am inside with him. In only a second he guided me in and just as quickly I had forgotten.
The room is well lit, as in beautifully- softly not brightly. The walls are shelved with books and videos, Westerns of course. There are two desks with papers and journals on them. There is a saddle in the corner and a mandolin leaning against it. We pass through this room and into the next: the stable.
There are three horses. They seem happy; pleased with how they live and with whom they live. He is careful but sure of himself as he brushes them and picks out their shoes (as is to be expected).
Oh it has been a long silence! I will not break it. He makes me feel terribly awkward having me stand in the middle of the room with no where to put my hands.
He feeds and waters them and then we walk deeper still, into a third room. The smell is humid, musty, thick. It is not bad only strong, as there is no ventilation. He notices as well and turns on a fan and lights some incense. The smoke dries the air a bit but I have never been partial to this “fragrance”, and a mild headache now couples the general uneasiness I am subject to. Yes I am uneasy. This man has me terribly confused. Intentions, explanations, ho! These have yet to occur. Emotions, this is perhaps where the confusion lies.
Intentions? I am sitting by him upon his couch. Being this close- nausea can be added to my list of discomforts. My mind is spinning. All this is terribly awkward. Is he going to try and kiss me? I have to close my eyes and pull in my arms and legs. Oh God my eyes burn like they’ve been doused with sulfur! He is close. His hot breath, the strong smell of before, now stronger still, is upon my cheek and neck. I can feel his warmth about my whole body, a quarter inch away. Will he not touch me already? Just grab hard and have your way! This sensitivity, this tension is too much to bear! Kiss me! Kiss me! Force yourself upon me in the stable, upon the hay as if I was a parlor whore! After you’ve finished lull me to sleep with ballads of the prairie on your mandolin.
First light has broken. It will still be some time before the sunrise. The cobblestone streets of the older city district are quiet. A single boat blows its horn to fill the morning with her one tone song. Seagulls call back in response and pigeons coo in their nests beneath bridges and upon building ledges. Men who enjoy the freedom to choose when they’d like to work and when they’d like time to themselves stand at the docks ready to unload fruits and vegetables from the incoming ship. Other men who have always enjoyed varied work and changing environments traveled up and down the coast picking all this produce. They write letters and a man on a bicycle delivers their messages of care to their loved ones. A man who has nothing but a ball and racket, but wants nothing more, sleeps comfortably upon a bench in a park and laughs when the loud bells of a church will later wake him when they ring. A girl reads here too, of Indian practices of Tantric immortality or of Spanish explorers fighting pirates on the search for El Dorado.
From inside an abandoned warehouse, in the far north, a faint cry of laughter emanates. Soon after the doors burst open and a young man tears out of the building flooded with excitement. He is joyous? Surely he should be amidst this lovely morning.
But always a sudden change in events, or does it break themes that he is crushed by a horse and carriage? Is that not romantic as well?