Monday, December 1, 2014

Lost at Sea

Our day off from work found us drifting along the sails and rails and avenues and streets from one quadrant to the next to the next to the next. There was no real direction. Adrift. Adrift on a day off from work. Lost at sea.

Why not? A day binge is one thing. A daily binge is something else. We stood on the pavement outside the neighborhood bar and smoked cigarettes. Liz worked a hotel restaurant. Jamie worked the lighting at the theater. Jerry worked the bar, his girlfriend too. Sarah wandered up the sidewalk from Burnside tamping a box of smokes. She worked the library. As for me, yeah, I worked a restaurant too. It's what we did, it's all we could do. Some people think Ronald Reagan started it when he said we live in a service culture.

All I knew, another spring day, longer light and just as much overcast. I also knew that I would not be polishing wineglasses on this day.

There is something to be said about work. Now, it doesn't much matter if it's your life's calling, or if it's meaningful or menial. Work is work, right? What it really is is a warm dry place where you can't do much damage to yourself or others. It's a place where you go and perform a set list of tasks, hopefully small, easily attainable tasks, for a set amount of time for a set amount of pay. And the longer the amount of hours you spend at work are the less hours you spend on the streets in front of your neighborhood bar, midday, smoking cigarettes with your friends.

Sarah held her cigarette up to her lips. “Sometimes,” she said. “I feel like things gotta change.” I lighted her cigarette. I got close enough to her to smell that first rush of tobacco. I smelled her hair. She exhaled. She started to tell us a story that I was unsure if it had happened to her, someone she knew or something that she had read. It was a racy story that involved a small bet, the removal of panties and fucking in a car. “Yeah, right in front of the Hotel Moderna.”

I had a few more moments outside to listen to her. Liz had already moved back into the bar. I was thinking about leaving the place, the whole neighborhood and walking to the distance out north to meet up with Toby. We were not having to work today, and he was always up for it. We could, in one night, walk from North Portland to Southwest, drink up fifty dollars, see a rock show, go dance at a nightclub, hide a body, go to an art show—and you never know what you'll get with those freaky artists, especially when you still have fresh grave dirty under your nails. If you talk fast, you can probably get one of those types of artists who have a fancy day job to take you home. And if you can talk fast enough, you can get her to to take you home and bring her blonde friend along.

I wanted to say something meaningful to Sarah. There was nothing doing. I could have told her that I have been both the victim of the smooth talk backseat fuck and I have been the smooth talker. It happens like this. And sometimes, some nights, after work, you just find adventure. It's best that the adventure is sex in the backseat and not digging shallow holes in Forest Park.

Then there's always tomorrow. They always say there's tomorrow. Who says this? I don't know, they. What's tomorrow? Who cares? If you're lucky you have a job that pays your way. Hopefully, your work doesn't take too much out of you. Hopefully, your job pays you what you're worth. Hopefully, your job is just that trivial: polishing wineglasses, stuffing envelopes, changing out spent light bulbs. Someone'll have a great idea, eventually.

If you're even luckier, you'll have tomorrow off, you and all your friends. You can stand around and smoke cigarettes. You can drink cheap beer and cheap whiskey. You can fuck in cars. You can do what you want. Perhaps, there will be sunlight. Perhaps they'll be sunlight on flowers, or cactus spines or palm leaves. If you're even luckier tomorrow, it'll be some other stiff doing your job and you'll be free.

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