Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The Bullfight, The Goring

I like my quiet life.  It is sweet and lovely.  I like leaving it from time to time for a moment, too, but I like coming back to it soon enough.  I'm a "homeboy," if that is what the term means.  I've never really known.  When I hear someone say, "He's my homeboy," I am pretty sure I don't understand.  When I read "A Farewell to Arms," I understood that completely.  Fredric and Catherine's "world" away from the chaos.  A sense of order of one's own making.  Refuge.  

But, you know, you need the bullfights, too.  

I went out for a second night in a row.  Larger group last night.  More gymroids.  Money boys and the famous d.j.  When I walked into the bar, the waiter came over and said, "There he is, handsome as ever.  What can I get you?"  I hardly ever go to this bar anymore, but I get this often enough much to my surprise.  Last night the waiter told the boys, "I've known him longer than you guys have.  What's it been now. . . eighteen years?"

My brain was doing flips.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Then it became clear.  He worked at the old bar before they moved here.  Oohhhh.  

"Yea. . . it's been awhile," I said in relief.  

"Was his hair blond back then?" one of the gymroids asked.  So. . . it is not just the hair, I guess.  

Ili and I used to go in sometimes, and we were always remembered.  I thought we made a striking couple wherever we went, but I was still always quite amazed.  Pleased, of course.  We just got better service.  

Maybe I'm just an odd looking fellow.  You never forget the circus freak sort of thing.  I worked with a guy at the factory for years.  One day he said, "I remember you from playing basketball at the university.  You have a certain walk." 

What the fuck, I thought.  I have a certain walk?  Well, that's gone now, I would imagine.  Maybe I am remembered for my limp.  

I want to be flattered by it all, but I worry that it is not a flattering thing but a freakish thing.  It sure sends my "homeboys" over the edge.  

"He's famous.  He's the shaman."

And again, I wonder what they mean.  Is it like a group of boys taking up a little guy with glasses as their "mascot"?  

Such things.  

I wonder a lot of things.  I get texts.  

"Happy Monday!  What do you have planned?"

Later that night, "How was your evening?"  Then, "That sounds nice."

In the morning, "Good Morning!  I think I'm going to the beach today.  I've taken the whole week off."

"Sounds nice," I say.  "Send pics."  

The line goes dead.  I probably won't have another message for weeks.  Am I just imagining things, or what?

I went to the cafe yesterday afternoon for some jasmine green tea.  The woman behind the counter is very friendly, the one with the beautiful almond eyes, the one with the kids who are getting big.  She surprises me every time.  Women can do that if they wish, make you feel they are whispering in your ear secret things when they speak.  I've met women who I think cannot help but do that.  Others, I think, can turn it on and off.  It is not that I desire this woman in any special way, but she can make my knees rather buckle.  It is unnerving and I become awkward and speak with a halting stutter.  I am only ever confident with men.  Women unnerve me completely.  

I asked her if she ever works mornings.  In this cafe, if you came every day, you would never see the same person behind the counter.  I only go afternoons, so I don't know if they work some morning shifts, some at night.  When I write "the woman behind the counter" here, it is one of a dozen.  That is why I get confused that they know what I want to order.  

"Not really. . . sometimes but not often."

"What time does the place open?

"Officially eight, but the owner gets here earlier.  He is usually here at seven, but he doesn't turn the lights on until eight.  If you came up, though, he'd serve you coffee, but don't tell anybody."

I've known the owner since he opened the place what. . . Jesus. . . maybe over thirty years ago.  He's never here in the afternoons except on some rare occasion, but he always comes over to say hello.

"Are there many people here in the morning?"

"Not a lot. . . usually the same people, probably twenty or so, regulars. . . people from the neighborhood."

I try to go only occasionally.  I dread the word "regular."  I'd rather be an "irregular."  Fingers crossed.  

"I was wanting to use that wall in there to make some photos," I said.  I had to screw up a lot of courage for that one.  The wall is great, and I have envisioned making portraits against it.  It is a world class wall, I think, and the light falls in gently from the huge plate glass window.  

"Oh. . . he'll let you do that.  Sure."  

While she is making my tea, I walk into the other room with my phone.  I want to take a light reading off the wall.  The app on my phone lets me preview what the photo will look like with different formats and lenses.  I dial up "4x5" and "f5.6" at iso 125.  That's what I would be shooting.  The exposure would be 1/4 second.  Tripod.  It is exciting.  I have an idea.  

I just may not have the chutzpah.  

As always, the little voice in my head starts working.  "You're a fucking moron.  What do you think you're doing?  What's the point of that?  It's stupid.  You're worse than a moron.  People will laugh at you more than they do now."

I hate that voice.  

I go back to get my tea.  I've asked for a medium and she's given me a large.  It is cheap.  The cafe is inexpensive.  The owner has always been a bit of a proletariat.  I think he sees himself unselfconsciously as a patron saint of leftovers and freaks, but I don't really know.  The place was originally a video rental store.  He had every good, weird, and strange movie you couldn't get at Blockbuster, mostly bootleg copies.  He did a good job of changing with the times.  When I first met him, he was an aspiring Bohemian.  He read all the beats.  He had a tall, strikingly good looking woman working there.  They got married and had children.  I remember the day he told me he threw all his Bukowski books away.  

"They weren't good for me," he said.  He seemed to have a conversion of some sort.  Not many months ago, I was in my friend's camera store when his wife walked in.  I hadn't seen her for years, but she recognized me right away and said hi, much to my usual surprise.  She was looking for a camera for her daughter who was in college now.  When she left, my camera friend told me that she and her husband had become conspiracy theorists.  


"Yea.  They got really weird."

Crazy how people change.  And yet. . . he still runs the strangest place in town.  

I took my tea to a table and took out my journal.  I had things to say.  What I say in an analogue journal writing with pen and ink in a freakish cafe differs from what I write at home.  As weird as the place is, though, I feel like the freak.  

As I write, I look up to see the back of a girl, and for some reason, I am taken with the image.  I can only see her back, but I am moved.  She picks up her can of something to drink, holding it between her thumb, forefinger, and middle finger.  She holds her ring and little fingers in the air.  She tips her head back noticeably as she drinks.  Her finger are long and seem familiar, and I recognize them as resembling Skylar's fingers.  Her fair hair is fine like Sky's, too.  She wears very short shorts, and her left thigh has large, rather pretty tattoo that extends under her shorts.  Her legs are thin and long.  She writes with a stylus on her iPad, then puts it down and stares out the window across the parking lot.  At her right elbow sits a book on the occult.  In a bit, she picks up a deck of cards and shuffles them gently.  She sits alone and I wonder if she is waiting on someone or if she is just another lost soul.  I am looking at her back and writing these details when she turns around.  I am looking at her and she catches my eye directly.  It is like touching an electric wire.  I am jolted.  I look down and she turns back.  Jesus, I think, she is psychic for real. 

Her eyes are large.  I should ask her to throw the tarot for me, I think.  Maybe she'd stand against the wall for a portrait.  

It is time to visit my mother.  

My mother is tired of being alone, I can tell.  It is not good for her now, and every time I leave, I feel guilty.  She tells me she is getting "antsy."  I understand.  She goes through a litany of what her friends are doing tomorrow. 

"Marlene's daughter is coming to take her out.  Dorothy is going to her card group. Ethel is going to be with her sight impaired class. . . ."

I get it.  

"You used to go to art classes.  You quit that.  Maybe you should find another group or club."

"Like what," she snarls.  

"I don't know. . . a garden club or a bridge club or. . . I don't know. . . what are you interested in?"

The problem is that my mother doesn't really have any interests.  Going to the gym and working in the yard was about the extent of things, and now she can't really do either.  But she has never been a curious person, not even about shows on television.  Now she watches the same reruns over and over and over.  What she wants, I know, is for me to be her social director, to come over and spend hours a day entertaining her, to take her places that I don't want to go and do things I have no interest in doing.  I've always felt myself to be a good son.  I used to take my mother to see the band perform when it was a large venue and not in some dingy club.  Since I made her 90th birthday, she says now knows everybody in her neighborhood.  But now, I think, she would like for me to come over for lunch and dinner and to sit and watch television with her at night.  It is wrecking me.  

When I meet the boys at the bar afterwards, they ask how my mother is doing.  I tell them what I just told you.  

"Maybe it's time for her to move into that place over by the Y.  It is really nice."

"Yea, but I don't want her spending all my inheritance," I laugh.  

"Now don't be an asshole." 

We eat oysters.  I order an Americano and the boys laugh and ask the waiter if he can put a little paper umbrella in it.  When he brings the drink, he lays a paper umbrella beside it.  The boys whoop it up.  They get burgers and I get the shrimp tacos.  I steal truffle fries from their plates.  When we are done, they want to go for one more across the street, the Irish pub where we ended our epic five bar crawl a week and a half ago.  

"Just one," they say.  

The place is empty.  The same waitress we had last time is there.  They love her and she gives them all hugs.  It doesn't look right to me.  I fist bump her.  She brings drinks.  They kibitz.  She is her normal self at first, but I notice at some point that she checks out.  She's done.  Something happened, but I don't know what.  I have not been paying attention.  T has had three gummies.  The dj has been drinking all day.  They keep telling me the same story over and over because I wasn't there when they all went to some weekend rock concert and stayed in the car guys condo at the beach.  Frat boy shit.  I was pretty checked out so I missed something.  And I said so. 

"She's done with us, dudes.  She's checked out.  I don't know what happened, but it's over."

"T was rubbing her hand when she put it on the railing."

"What? I did not."

"Yes you did," the other chimed in.  "She put her hand on the railing and you put your's on hers."

"I think that was after he was pulling on his pecker or adjusting his shorts or whatever he was doing just before that when he was talking to her." 

"Did I?  I didn't do that."

"No. I mean, yea, you put your hand on hers."

Everybody was fucked up but me, I think.  It was time to go home.  The waitress brought the check and asked who got it.  They all pointed to me.  I gave her my card and then came the "Oh, no. . . we were kidding. . . ."

"I got this.  My old, dead, ex-friend Brando taught me to always pick up the cheap ones."

I was glad that they wanted to leave the tip because I can never read the check.  All I had to do was sign this one.  I had no idea how much it was, but I was pretty sure they threw down more money than I had paid.  Maybe they'd buy back her affection.  

When we stood up to go, she still gave hugs.  Sure, I thought, looking at the wad of green on the table.  I was the last one as I scooted out of the booth.  I stood up gingerly letting my knee take the weight gradually.  Again, I gave the waitress the Obama fist bump.  

"Why do they pick on you?" she asked.  

"Because they are stupid and jealous," I laughed.  "Look at them."

She laughed.  

The sun was just going down.  It was almost nine when I drove the few blocks back to my house.  I was glad to be home.  

I'll be off the hook with the boys now.  They will all be with their wives for the 4th.  I will make a party for my mother and wonder if anybody is ever thinking about me.  I've always believed that no one thinks of me unless I am standing right in front of them.  

"And you'r lucky if they are thinking about you even then,"

Like the waitress, I wonder why people say such things to me.  

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