There would be roses. Giant velvety petals in deep crimson swept cyclonically into an immersive symphony of misery. The thorns of doubt pushing blood into the temples and out of the eyes, shirts ripped open to heaving chests, hearts falling off sleeves and slapping wet against the walls. "And if a double-decker bus crashes into us," would be the last, wailing emission, "to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die!" All busy, busy busy, hairdressers on fire and November-spawned monsters collapsing into a heap of hyper-romantic overstatement, sated and knowing it's over. Sigh. Please, please, please let me, let me …


"Morrissey just canceled," my shaking fingers cried into my iPhone.

"What?" David's bubble of retort popped up soon after. "Are you fucking with me?"

The first stage of grief is anger, he would later apologize (though it's actually denial), and being a somewhat overreactive chemical experiment myself, I was more than ready to throw tears at the situation, piss on it and claim it as my own again. We had been planning this sad sojourn of late-30s balding nostalgia for two months, intermittently texting lyrics as we heard them blaring from our car stereos, sharing love-crossed notes across the cellular ether like suicide letters on our Trapper Keeper notebooks. "There is no love in modern life," popped up more than once, and we took comfort that our workaday fading existences were but stopgaps awaiting a return to Suedehead form. This was going to be our every day, which is like Sunday, silent and gray. Now, we're just here with tears, piss and anger.

"I've got it," I lovelessly lovelorn love's bitter end. "If meat is in fact murder, then Morrissey is dead! Let's go eat bloody-rare steaks and laugh at the pieces."

It's time to be men again.

To that end, we've assembled our requisite masculine circle-jerk of ourselves plus fellow Moz-disappointees Justin and Australian Neil into a Sunday-night slouch of blazers and getting too old for this. Our meeting place is the early-bird nicotine rasp of Linda's La Cantina over on East Colonial Drive, mostly because they once burned down yet still maintain a sunken fire pit in the middle of the bar. It's a defiance of elemental science, a poetic phoenix thing, a place to eat steak on Sunday.

"Hey," Justin motions towards the fire-and-water feature spectacle. "That water's on fire."

Indeed. We, however, are not. Except for some tasteful fellating of fried mushroom caps and the dull hum of derision upon the realization that our waiter is named Stephen, which is not unlike Steven Patrick Morrissey, we're a withered mess of depressed but remarkably dressed hubris.

The inevitable Australian "Do you reckon we should just order a bottle?" is followed by a pale discussion about the nature of zinfandel. Neil quietly protests the poison, imagining the giggling hiccups of pudgy college girls throwing back a blush, while David makes an argument for a red zin and scoffs at Neil's ill-informed class distinctions. Justin cocks a brow, because that's what Justin does. I'm busy lubricating my mouth with vodka while my mandibles make mincemeat of a tiny, bloody filet mignon. It isn't as gratifying as I expected it to be, considering that right now I could be dying in rhyme on the floor of the Hard Rock, not trying hard to swallow.

"You know, with the economy like it is today … " pops out of one of our mouths, and I quickly withdraw for a digestive cigarette.

Then something actually happens. Outside, I have a moment with a cat. I hate cats (Morrissey loves them!) but this one seems to have some infinite wisdom to impart, even if he or she is currently residing beneath the sedans of an old lady's steak joint. The Morrissey-cat jumps up onto the bench next to me, sits there and stares me down. "You were good in your time," it purrs.


Shaken, I gather my wits, return to our table and suggest that maybe we should go somewhere else, somewhere more alive, you know, in case this really is us dying like grumpy old men with economic concerns. Also, there is no such thing as water on fire.

Back out front, a homeless guy on a bike pulls up, borrows two cigarettes and then scratches an offer out of his throat. "Hey, any of you guys wanna buy a cat?"

No. I'd rather die, thank you.

Our romantic descent into irrelevance lands us in the smoke cloud of the new Will's Pub, where denizens half our age are chalking up pool cues and wallowing in intentional swirls of youthful disrepair. It's my old friend Jeff Nolan's birthday party, and despite the disparity of old friends and shiny new dirtbags, it really does feel like we've stepped into a time warp dated 1999. Skeeter Biscuit is playing on stage. I think I might overdose … again.

"I remember when I first met you," Jeff wraps his arm around my shoulder. "I had just moved onto Hibiscus Court and there you were running around with a poster of Bananarama!" Right.

David, Justin and I form a man-square off to the side and discuss the awkwardness of aging and some other heterosexual bullshit about how easy it is to get laid in here. Then, everything stops and my eyes glaze over.

"Billy," Neil Aussies. "I reckon you've made it about as far in life as you want to, right? I mean, you don't want to go any further, do you?"

"I guess you're right."

And just then, like a thrift-store collage of gonzo crazy, artist Morgan Steele spins by with a can held out in his hand. "Billy M.!" he screams, before covering me and my friends not in rose petals, but in toxic yellow silly string. As far as I want to go, indeed.

Now my heart is full.

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