Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Sleepy, Moody Autumn


"Why do I always look sooooo much better in mirrors?"  

Otherwise, nobody takes photographs of this guy.  I don't blame them, though. As I've said before, I don't like the way men look.  This guy I would photograph.  He is, however, seen only in mirrors.  

"I just want to know if I am still there."

One day, he'll look in the mirror and he won't be.  Might as well leave evidence that he was here somehow.  

Having not slept the night before, I wrote yesterday's blog post and went back to bed. It did no good.  I couldn't fall asleep.  And so, I was a pretty slow and sluggish boy all the live long day.  Still, I made it to the gym.  I was earlier than usual, of course.  None of the gymroids were there.  The place was fairly empty.  That was good.  As punky as I was feeling, I didn't want to do much, and I gave myself the unusual permission to go easy.  I reduced my weights and did more reps and was feeling good and fine.  Maybe it was the season, the weather having turned southern cold, which is a bone chilling cold you don't get in the north, but I had much the same feeling I had about life when I was in college.  What was that, you ask?  I can't explain it, exactly.  It was a shy curiosity about and an intense interest in things.  I was recalling incidents that had been forgotten for decades.  I had an inwardness that I have repressed or lost through public performance.  I have been performing for a very long time.  Isolation during Covid and beyond brought with it a sad contemplation that wore me down, but this feeling I had right now was like the younger me, uncertain but content and curious.  And so I did my exercises without social interaction, an observer of and a wonderer about life.  

Tennessee is a social animal, and when he is in the gym, he likes to get things going.  He's at his peak right now in that he has made his money and is still a good looking fellow with much of his waning physical prowess still intact.  He is an attention whore, though.  So I tell him all the time.  He likes to talk to the women in the gym.  It is mutual.  They enjoy his attention almost as much as he theirs.  He tells me often that so and so was stalking him in the gym, that he went back to the "boom-boom" room, and so and so followed him back.  I never see that and am skeptical that a lot of it isn't in his head, but recently, I have seen it happen.  There is a woman there who I've seen in the gym for years, since she was a young girl working out with her mother and her sisters.  They were all beautiful.  One couldn't help but noticing.  But I also observed that they looked mean and miserable, and in all the years I had seen them there, I had never spoken to them.  Indeed, I hardly spoke to anyone.  When Tennessee tells me the things she says to him, I listen as to a fairy tale.  Because Tennessee brings me into these conversations, though, I've spoken to her now, and I have found that my assessment of her was accurate.   I do not enjoy talking to her.  

The last time I saw Tennessee in the gym, though, he was on a stair stepper with his back to the room.  I saw the woman come in and look around, and when she spied him, she made a beeline for the stair stepper next to him.  She didn't exercise.  She just talked.  

"Well I must say I have thought you half full of shit about all of that. . ." I told him.  I could see the hurt come into his eyes.  

"Why would you say that?  I wouldn't make up this bullshit.  Fuck."

I could tell I had put a dent in the friendship with that one.  A blow to the ego, I guess.  I haven't heard so much from him since.  


Yesterday, between sets, my gaze was somewhere in the ether, my head full of late autumn remembrances of my youth when the world was new and fresh, and everything I came across was a wonder.

The woman came into the room wearing those tights that are mandatory now, the ones that are a second skin that let you be naked with clothes on.  She wore a midriff top.  She is very alluring to look at, or would be if I had never spoken to her.  Not tempted, I kept my gaze to the middle ground happy with the permission I had given myself to go easy.  

But she kept crossing in front of me.  I noticed that her exercise routine was making little sense.  In one pass by, though, she caught my eye, waved, gave a weak smile, and said hello.  I nodded.  

Now this is the sort of story that when Tennessee tells me, I call bullshit on.  It is bullshit, but it is true.  What does it mean?  Nothing to anyone. . . but again, I felt those youthful late autumn days when a new thing would happen, any small thing, maybe a girl in the library smiling at me, and I would feel the glow of being noticed.  I was a very shy boy.  I feel shy again, and I am regaining a naiveté.  

Wow.  I should delete all that.  That's not even a story.  I could have/should have simply said I have begun feeling an odd sense of the shy wonderment of my youth, or something to that effect, and that maybe it is the weather, the fatigue. . . . 

The maids were coming to the house, but they come late now and I don't have to rush to get things put away for them.  When I got home, I was hungry, and since the kitchen was a mess, one more thing wouldn't make much difference.  I cut up an avocado and some garlic, mashed them up with Kosher salt and red pepper, then fried two eggs to put on top.  I poured a big glass of milk.  There was enough fat in that meal to clog an artery, but I can't remember if eggs are good or bad fat now.  The science keeps changing.  I sat down to the computer as I ate to check my email and texts.  I had a photo of my old college roommate getting his new iPhone.  There was a holiday greeting from the drummer in our old band.  My conservative friend had bombarded me with his commentary on the day's headlines.  One of the young girl kids from the factory also had a new iPhone and sent a photo of her cocktail.  

"Oh, god, the portrait mode on this phone is great."

Her cocktail pic looked like one of mine.  

"Oh, shit. . . now everyone can do it!"

"What are you going to do now?  Take up painting?"

My friend in the Midwest who just got back from Iceland sent pictures of her cat. 

There was a picture from a cafe nook from Sky.  "Thinking and writing," she said. 

"Writing is thinking.  Sometimes now, I don't know which I am doing." 

I had a reminder for my next therapy session.  And there was an update on the delivery of my camera.  It was coming a day early, today instead of tomorrow.  They gave me a midday approximate time of arrival.  I'm not biting this time.  I wouldn't hang around the house all day waiting.  It won't be here until the end of the day.   But. . . I am excited.  

The day wasn't getting any warmer.  I took a hot soak in the tub and a shower.  I looked in the mirror.  For some reason, I thought, I looked good.  I put on some groovy clothes and took a drive to the camera repair place.  I wanted to see if he had any Leica camera straps.  I didn't find that out, though.  They are closed on Tuesdays.  

I drove down the street to the carwash.  Berries from the camphor tree are falling and had dotted my car.  I had my camera bag and a courier bag in the car.  I grabbed them to take with me.  When the fellow opened the back hatch, though, I saw two more camera bags I had forgotten about.  I grabbed those, too.  It is no wonder I lose cameras, eh?  

I sat on a bench outside in the waiting area.  A very pretty blonde was there as well, tallish, blade thin, with maybe a nose job and lots of botox.  She was wearing an expensive leather jacket and tight jeans.  She looked at me to see if I was looking at her.  It made me giggle.  I tried not to, of course, but she had made herself something to look at.  She was unlike anything else at the carwash.  She was like Wallace Stevens' jar on a hilltop in Tennessee (link).  She walked by me twice, turned quickly back to see.  Still, my gaze was in the mid ground, somewhere in the sensual autumn of my youth.  For some reason, she made me want to watch a movie I watched only a few months ago (link).  I think she would disappear if no one looked.  Her movements were quick and nervous like a songbird's. 

Car cleaned, camera bags ensconced, I headed for the Cafe Strange.  It was cold.  I wanted a cappuccino.  

When I walked in, there was a line at the counter.  Two teenaged outcast girls in strange garb and septum rings were holding up the line with their inabilities.  A woman with a dog on a leash managed to get him and it tangled around my legs.  The pretty girl in line behind me smiled.  I looked in the mirror and saw I was there.  I took a picture.  

When I got to the counter, the older redhead taking orders smiled, took my order, and kibitzed a bit.  I was shyly amusing and pleased to be remembered.  I took my cappuccino to a sticky table, sat down, and texted my picture to Sky.  

"Adorable," she wrote back.  

Well, yea. . . that's why I sent it.  I took out my notebook, the one I began last autumn with Sky, the one I only write in when I come to the cafe, the one that is nearing the final pages, and I made some notes and confessions.  The notebook is full of confessions.  I have always written journals and girlfriends have always managed to read them.  They have caused me nothing but trouble, but what am I going to do, stop?  I don't know how to do that.  I don't know how to damn the drivel as obviated by this blog.  I do not envy those who do not write.  Jesus, when I got my first laptop and email, I would drink and write long, long missives to people late into the night.  When I cancelled my old Earthlink subscription, I lost thousands of pages of emails, a tragedy I still regret.  

But a cappuccino doesn't last too long, and in a bit, I was back in the car and off to see my mother.  First, however, a stop at the liquor store across the street.  

I was early to my mother's house and the garage door was closed.  I called her cell.  I called her home phone.  No answer.  She must not be home, I thought, but I needed to fix her computer.  She was upset.  A message had come up that said she had been hacked and not to try to shut down her computer.  They wanted a ransom.  I have taught her to just shut down the computer when that happens and not to try to do anything else.  When she tried to reboot it, though, she couldn't.  It said she had the wrong password.  

When I walked in the door, my mother was there.  She had been in the bathroom, she said.  O.K.  Let me look at the computer.  I powered it up.  It asked for the password.  I typed it in and it booted right away.  

"What did you do?" my mother asked.  

"I put in the password."

"I did that.  I did it over and over and it wouldn't take it."

"Hmm."  I grinned.  

She hadn't been able to use her laptop for email.  Every time she tried to send something, she got a message about her SMPTE.  I needed a password to check it, but she had no idea.  I tried fixing it a long time ago, but I got frustrated and quit.  I was feeling ok today, though, so I tackled that again.  I tried every password she had ever written down, and after a quarter hour, miraculously, I hit the right one.  A hundred emails flooded her inbox.  Her FaceBook page came up.  She was ecstatic.  It was a miracle.  I was a genius, a hero.  

"What would I do without you," she asked?

"Just sit here without FaceBook, messaging, or texts, hands in the air saying 'I don't know.'"

"Yes," she said.  

The maids were at my house.  I sat with my mother for a while and chatted.  She had felt good all day, she said.  Her back hadn't bothered her.  She went to two banks to do business, and when she was done, she just wanted to keep going.  

Huh, I thought, maybe there is something in the air.  

When I left her house, I drove to the great Mexican place for dinner.  I had written to Sky that it was a day for cappuccino.  Or Supreme Nachos.  Yes, she said.  She loved nachos.  I guess this put the Mexican place in my head.  

Emily the barmaid was working.  "Hello," she said and smiled.  We picked up the conversation where we had left it a week ago as she made me a spicy skinny Margarita.  My god they are good.  I ordered dinner.  She said she had seen Tennessee a few nights ago.  He had been in with his wife.  I said he was in the Bahamas now, I thought.  He and his wife were going on a little vacation.  Dinner was good.  I texted a pic to Sky.  


Back home, I poured a whiskey and lit a cheroot.  It was cold, but I had on my puffy jacket.  I sat in the early darkness and recounted the day.  It had been a good day for a boy who hadn't slept.  It had slowed me down and made me contemplatively moody.  

Early bed.  

"Nothing good happens after nine," my college roommate had written earlier in the day.  

"You used to say 'midnight.'"

I woke at four-thirty.  Wide awake.  I had slept straight through for seven hours.  I guessed that was good enough.  It is freaking cold this morning.  I have therapy at nine.  It is seven now.  I wonder if I have time to go back to bed.  

I know I said I didn't like the way boys look, but here is one I would photograph.  He was young, shy, and moody, and everything was new.  He wanted to see the world.  His wasn't luxury travel.  This was his room on Duval Street in a rundown off fisherman's hotel.  It was dilapidated now, floors slanting, doors peeling, bathrooms down the hall.  The window unit a.c. would freeze up at night because no one had ever changed the filter.  He carried his things in an old cardboard suitcase.  He took his own photo, camera with a timer on the crooked table.  He was just making sure he was there.  $8/night, but sometimes he'd meet someone who wanted to share a room for $10.  $5 each.  He ate cheap meals at the El Cacique and drank cafe con leche with Cuban toast each morning for breakfast.  Key West was a foreign country then.  He was there the day they blockaded Hwy 1 and seceded from the Union.  The local crowds were wild.  It seemed true.  Captain Tony was mayor, and he would sit in his bar at night listening to Tony tell tales of his rum runner days.  They were making a movie about his life at the time.  He said he could get the boy a part as an extra in the film, but the boy wasn't going to be in town long enough.  

A girl walked past where they sat with their drinks.  She looked at him and smiled.  

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