“Of course I did,” he says to his friend. He searches his glass like its empty, even though there’s still enough in there to spill. “You know me.” He flaps his hand open and closed as he talks, touching the fingertips together like the mouth of a puppet that’s not there.
“Sure,” the man beside him says, scratching his beard.
“He’s not kidding,” a third says.
“No way!” the second man jumps back in surprise. Now the second and third hold a conversation about the first; though he’s right there, he has buried himself in his cell phone.
He’s escaped from something. I don’t know from what, and he doesn’t know for how long.
Across the table from me, I can see a pair of glasses resting atop a shiny, bald head. As if to confirm that I am, in fact, looking at a person rather than an exceptionally social piece of eyewear, a man pops up beneath them periodically like a green-shirted gopher, emulating basketball players in the middle of the fairway where he nearly knocks over a waitress. Repeatedly.
She’s beautiful, at that. She weaves through the crowd like she knows it well. That’s really impressive, if I think about it long enough – or really sad, if you consider the people who come here often enough on a Saturday night to be predictable.
She is a pink pixy, and she sweeps golden dust wherever she turns her head. She keeps people happy simply by walking to and fro – she keeps drinks cold, and blood hot.
She is lovely. And the more I think about that, the more I realize that I don’t want her – I haven’t since I walked in the door, and I will not by the end of the night.
It has surprisingly little to do with the fact that her jeans end before her pockets do, or that I can see more of what’s holding her up than what’s holding her in.No, it’s because, when her eyes meet mine, it affirms for me what I already know, what I’ve long since decided:
She is not perfect. She cannot be. It’s not her fault – perfect simply belongs to another person, someone who is already mine, someone who is far away, and who I miss terribly, and she is all the lovelier for it.
Sometimes I fear to miss her, even more than I actually miss her, and sometimes that makes her ugly in ways that she is not. And then I remember that I’m not perfect.
The blue-shirted man with the puppet-hand is awake again. He sips a dark drink, headed with enough foam that I know it will leave a mustache when he takes it from his lips. I hope it pleases him, gives him courage in some primal, Freudian way – Lord knows he could use the help in the facial-hair department.
My drink is not so dark. It’s more a color I don’t care to consider too hard, and in just saying that I do it anyway – it’s the color of my piss after I haven’t been too good to my body. It doesn’t taste as bad as that though, though the first drink was the best and it is, regrettably, going downhill from there.
It’s crisp,though, and refreshing and bitter. If I’m going to eat something, it should be now, while I’m drinking something like this.
The girl who brought it to me is pretty too, very much so. I hope she comes back soon –when she’s around it reminds me that I’m not completely lost in this place that I don’t know very well. (I know that that’s a stretch, but it’s a first thought that comes to mind – it’s a primal one, and the person on this page needs to feel something.)
Yes, she’s very pretty – and, again, she’s not perfect. Nobody here is – I know, because they are too close, and there is no shortage of them. Perfection is, by definition –no, by necessity (as I redact such a nebulous, purposeless concept as a “definition”)– Perfect is either far away and out of reach, or closer to you than your own heart. There is no in-between, and in each way, it is one of a kind.
This room is filled with beautiful people. But they are neither close, nor far away, and each one looks just enough like the one next to them to make me smile.
On the television, a scorpion snips the string of a woman’s bikini top as a black sports car flies by, catching her attention, and she instantly falls in love with the driver whom she can’t see.
Damn, that little arachnid is a pervert.
The glasses have stood up now, and are making the green-shirted man dance to a beat that has no music. I expected as much, but it still makes me blush with that special embarrassment that you can only feel on behalf of another person.
I just realized I’m here paying for a drink again, and for food that I could make better myself. I’m alive and awake the way I should have been five hours ago. I needed those five hours to get me to now, when I should be closing my eyes, falling asleep, asking to be forgiven for what I’ve done today and asking for mercy when I wake up.
I am nowhere close to any of those things right now. How am I ever going to go to work on Monday?
Sitting in a place like this, I thought I’d see at least one person crying. Maybe it’s because I want to myself, a little. Either way, it’s a full bar, and I’m staring at a lot of backs.
A girl starts dancing close to her friend. She looks like a snake before a piper.
The piper always believes she’s in control, but does the snake believe the same thing? Does the piper mistake curiosity and calculation for passivity?
When she wraps her arms around the person with her, is it a gesture of vulnerability, of unguarded calm?
Or is she quietly setting her fangs, unnoticed, seemingly tamed but ready to push them in when the time comes?
Biting into this burger teaches me something – I actually wanted chicken, and I want something darker to drink once the piss is gone.
I also realize why I’m sitting here, enjoying it not so much but still paying for it.
I still want to be well. It’s something I can’t stop thinking about. I am here because I want to be not the person I am when I’m alone in my room with two lights on and alternately opening and closing the window on the chance that the wet night-time air might be what’s interfering with my holiness, and I want so much to not be afraid anymore.
And now I betray the fact that, in my mind, holiness is defined by a lack of fear, a lack of anxiety and distrust. I don’t know that. This may very well be the agony of my own perfection.
I say I want to trust. But trust burns, because it is rooted in not knowing. I don’t want to burn. I would rather not burn than learn how to burn well.
“All that is gold does not glitter” – No, sometimes it glows white-hot as it’s thrust into blue flames, and does anyone ever ask it how it’s feeling then, as they fawn over it, imagining how beautiful it will be?
Maybe it doesn’t want to be beautiful, if this is what it takes, what it costs. Certainly, if I were ever melted down, stretched, beaten, frozen solid and then adorned with gems for the sake of representing someone else’s eternal love, I would feel cheated.
Is it worth it, to simply be that beautiful? To be perfect?
I sit in a corner, at a watering-hole for people who only become thirstier the more they drink. They drink loudly, wanting more, because what’s there is not enough. Dead things are never enough. The glasses make their green shirt dance to Michael Jackson, and he is joined by a proud white boy as they both try to keep the King of Pop alive through clumsy feet. But he’s deader than anything. Nothing is changing that.
Dead things are never enough, and I would make sense of that to each of them if I could.
I sit here, where there is drought. There is a book in my backpack that talks about living things – living words, living dances, living people, life in full, for the price of repentance and rest, quietness and trust. These things draw the tears I wasn’t sure I wanted.
I will pretend that it is quiet, recalling that I have been led to Living Water and have refused to drink.