I sit at home
most every night;
some think I'm happy
if they think of me at all.
Alone in the dark,
the t.v. on,
I think of you,
or not at all.
I barely moved for two days, a slug, a mope. Then, from some glimmer of an idea of self-preservation, I guess, I forced myself to get dressed and go to the gym. It was late in the afternoon. The air was damp and cool and everything hurt, my neck and shoulders and upper back, my ribs and lower back and knees. I'd seen too many photos of me lately. I felt depressed. I'd seen too many pictures of me "back then." What happened to me? Could I put a date on it?
It didn't matter.
In the cold, I packed for a cardio workout and a schvitz. I'd need to layer for the ride home.
It was late when I called my mother.
"You don't need to worry about coming over," she said.
I didn't go over, but I still worried about it. I was a bum, slug of a human, and a slothful son.
I soaked in the tub. I took a shower and washed my hair. I was limp with the heat of the sauna and steam room, the bath and the shower. I didn't want to look in the mirror, but I had to. Maybe I had lost weight. I didn't know. Mirrors are unreliable things, depending.
I didn't wish to cook. I would need to go to the store. A frozen pizza topped with eggs and jalapeños and a Guinness. "0".
When I got to the store, I found I had not brought my "wallet." I still haven't bought one. Just a rubber band. I looked in the visor compartment. $8. That's all I had. Shit. How much was a frozen pizza? When I got out of the car, I wasn't limping, exactly, just moving very, very slowly. I tried to quicken my pace, increase my stride as people passed me by. Jesus.
One jalapeño wasn't much. But first, the pizza. I had only enough to buy the store brand, a small Margarita pizza. Surely it would be O.K. This chain has quit carrying most of the brands I like now in favor of their own, profit-laden ones. They did this after running out all the competition.
Back home, the cats showed up, so I lit a smoke, poured a Guinness "0", and gave the food. I sat outside in the brisk air and last light of the day. I checked my phone. It was a big, black hole. I stepped back inside for a moment and turned the stove to 425 degrees and went back out. It was definitely getting colder. When the oven beeped, I went back in and unwrapped the pizza. Christ on a cross, it looked like shit. There was hardly anything on it. Those cheap assed fuckers--shit piss goddamn and go to hell, piss-ant greed mongers. I sliced up the jalapeño, spread it across the top, and slipped the shitty pizza into the oven.
I got a text. C.C. had watched "The Maltese Falcon" in preparation for watching the new series, "Monsieur Spade" with Clive Owen. I was excited to see this new series. If I could. Fucking t.v. is a cluster of subscription sites now--Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Apple, Peacock, Max, Paramount, AMC, Acorn--the list goes on forever, each of them charging, each with one or two things you might like to see. It is a crime against humanity, I think, but they will not be regulated. They have deep pockets open to corrupt politicos. It will take an uprising on the reservation to force these shitheads into action.
I watched YouTube until the pizza was ready. I sliced it, fried the eggs and put them on top. I shook on red pepper flakes.
The pizza tasted like it looked.
For unknown reasons, I am able to watch Max. I don't think I'm paying for it, but who knows? Every pay entity sneaks in charges for things you don't know you've chosen. I've watched a couple movies including "Blue Valentine" which was a downer but good. I've been watching "The Golden Age," a Max series. I put on episode three. The series is a stage play with stilted acting. So I think, anyway. The sets are lovely but the lines are delivered stiffly as in a high school drama. I don't get it. . . but I watch it out of. . . something.
I asked Alexa for "Monsieur Spade." Oh, wow. . . I could watch it on. . . AMC. I pulled up the app. It asked me to sign in on a webpage. It gave me a code to enter. I picked up my phone and did just that. Yay. Sort of. I couldn't stream, but I could watch "Live T.V." Spade was coming on at nine. There would be the dastardly commercials, I was certain, but I wasn't willing to pay for the streaming service for this one thing. Not yet, anyway. Maybe if the show was good. I texted C.C. He said it was well written, and that it was weekly and couldn't be binged. Fuck. That means I'd have to pay for the duration of the series. Nope. I'd watch the commercials.
At nine, I went to the channel. But it asked me to login again. Same deal. Go to the website, yada, yada, yada. The phone rang. It was Q. He had called earlier when I was in the tub, so I hadn't answered. I didn't want to be rude, so I picked up.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm getting ready to watch something. I'm old. I have 'my shows.'"
"Have you seen Orson Welles' last film?"
"I tried. I couldn't get into it."
"Yea, it is difficult, but once you do, it is genius. It is a film within a film. . . . "
"I don't really like Welles, to tell the truth. I like that he had dangerously illicit parties where they did things that could have had terrible consequences, but other than that. . . ."
"Who do you think is a great director."
I thought for awhile. He mentioned John Huston.
"Yea, I think Huston is one of the best."
"He did some good films," he said, "but he made a lot of bad ones."
We were on FaceTime. When I answered, I was slumped on the couch in the semi-dark with a low lamp casting shadows over my craggy face.
"You look like shit," he told me.
"Yea. I know."
So, I can see him typing. His computer screen keeps changing illumination. I think he is looking up the films of John Huston, but I am wrong. He is texting some friend.
"Look at the photo I just sent you. This is my friend. He is the same age as me. Look at him!"
WTF? I look at the photo.
"He looks like me."
"That's what I mean. He looks like shit and he's my age."
I look at the time. I've already missed the start of the show. All I can hope for is that I can start it at the beginning, but I know deep down that I won't be able to do that. It's a lost cause. Q begins to berate me. He says I told him to go to film school when he was accepted rather than getting a degree in lit. I don't think that is accurate but he shouts me down. What I probably told him was that he wouldn't like grading freshman papers, that it was a deadly dull activity that was endless and brain numbing.
"Which do you think is a better reflection of genius, literature or film?"
"Obviously literature. Making a film is like recording music with the band. It is collaborative. Nobody gets what they absolutely want. There are too many egos and compromises for it to be the work of one person. Literature is simply one person to another."
It didn't matter which I chose. He would argue. And he did. He was happy. It was just after dinnertime there as evidenced by his toothpick. The contrast made him feel better, I think. He, having just had dinner with the family was now sitting back and texting friends, "catching up," so to speak, with "his people" while I sat in the dark with the light of the t.v., dieting without food or liquor or a girl to keep me warm.
His computer screen blinked a few more times, and he sat back like a smoker finishing a cigarette.
"O.K. Well. . . I'll talk to you later. . . ."
I had a text from Travis.
"Are you watching Sam Spade on AMC?"
"I tried, but I got a phone call from a friend."
"It is damned good. You should try to catch a repeat. The atmosphere and mood are great."
Shit piss fuck goddamn.
It was getting to be bedtime. I turned the t.v. to my favorite stupid idiotic reality show. I'd watch one episode. First, though, I cleaned the kitchen and set the coffee maker for the morning.
"See," I said. "You're fine."
"Yes," I replied. "I'm fit as a fucking fiddle."
It was one of my favorite lines from "Wonder Boys."
After t.v., there were the bedtime ablutions. I stood before the mirror without looking. I took a Tylenol and an Advil to offset the inevitable pain and swelling I was beginning to experience after running a bit on the treadmill that day. Shuffling, rather. But that is a secret story to be told only in the future if nothing goes terribly wrong. Which, I am absolutely certain, it will. But I was taking only those without any "sleep aids" this evening. So, I climbed into bed and turned off the light. Then I remembered something. Switching the light back on, I reached into the drawer of the bedside table and pulled out the box of Moon Drops. I popped a lozenge into my mouth, turned off the light and began making my pleas to the cosmos. I don't ask for a lot. I don't ask for happiness, just an absence of sorrow. I want to be more productive, and I ask for that, too. The room is dead quiet but for the humming of the air purifiers.
"And all he heard in return was the cold twinkling of a distant star."
Another favorite line. Almost.